(4 November 1872 - 1934 / Scotia, Lake Erie, Ontario)

Poynings

Do you remember that June day among
The hills, the high, far-reaching Sussex hills?
Above, the straggling flocks of fleecy clouds
That skipped and chased each other merrily
In God's warm pasturage, the azure sky;
Below, the hills that stretched their mighty heads
As though they fain would neighbor with that sky.
Deep, vivid green, save where the flocks showed white;
The wise ewes hiding from the glow of noon
In shady spots, the short-wooled lambs at play,
And over all the stillness of the hills,
The sweet and solemn stillness of the hills.

The shepherds gave us just such looks of mild
Surprise as did the sheep they shepherded.
'Ye are not of the hills,' so said the looks,
'Not of our kind, but strangers come from out
The busy, bustling world to taste the sweets
Of silence and of peace. We wish you well.'
In eager quest of what the hills might hide,
Some valley of content, some spring of youth,
Some deep, enchanted dell filled to the brim
With subtle mysteries, allurement rare,
We followed down a path, a little crooked,
Wand'ring path that lost itself and found itself
So oft we knew it for the playmate of the stream
That went with us and sang a clamorous song-
A never-ending song of flock and fold
Of sea-mist and of sun-until at length
We came into a valley warm and wide,
A cradle 'mong the hills. In it there lay
No infant hamlet, but one gray and old
That dozed and dreamed the soft June hours away.

Gardens there were with fragrant wall-flowers filled,
And daffodils, and rhododendrons pale,
And sweet, old-fashioned pinks, phlox, rosemary;
An avenue of elms, with cottages,
And barefoot children sporting on the green.
''Tis Poynings,' said the rustic, 'see, the church
Lies yonder, and the graveyard just beyond;
This path will lead you straight to it.'

Do you remember-rather, will you e'er forget?-
That gray church built, how many centuries
Ago? The worn stone steps, the oaken door,
The crumbling walls, the altar carved,
The stories told by stained-glass windows set
Deep in the walls; the ivy, thick and green,
Which crept and hid the grayness quite from sight.
Within, the smell of roses from the sheaf
Of scarlet bloom before the altar laid,
Close mingled with the mould and must of age;
On wall and floor memorials to the dead,
Who, unafraid, had slumbered there so long.

And then the graveyard out among the trees-
No graveyard, but a garden, flower filled-
Moss roses white as moth wings in the night,
And lilies sorrowful but very sweet,
Low-growing violets in grasses hid,
And rue which spoke of some heart's bitterness.
Old Time had decked the stones with lichens rare,
Rubbed out with careless hand the lettering:
In memory of someone's life and love
Each stood, but whose we might not know.

And while we lingered in the perfumed gloom,
And watched the golden sunshine smite the hills,
An English blackbird straight began a song
So sweet, so high, so shrill, so wondrous clear,
That! listening, our eyes grew dim the while
Our hearts did thrill. Whoe'er has heard the song
An English blackbird carols forth in June
Knows well the power it has, the wondrous charm!
Strangers were we within the gates, and so
He gave us welcome, clearer, warmer still,
A welcome to the beauty and the bloom,
The silence of the churchyard old and gray,
A welcome to the grasses and the brook,
The shade of feathery elm trees, and the glow
Of sunlight quivering, golden on the sward,
A welcome to the valley dim, and to
The hills, the high, far-reaching Sussex hills.

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