Birch and Paddle

By Sir Charles George Douglas Roberts

Friend, those delights of ours
Under the sun and showers,—
Athrough the noonday blue
Sliding our light canoe,
Or floating, hushed, at eve,
When the dim pine-tops grieve!
What tonic days were they
Where shy streams dart and play,—
Where rivers brown and strong
As caribou bound along,
Break into angry parle
Where wildcat rapids snarl,
Subside, and like a snake
Wind to the quiet lake!
We’ve paddled furtively,
Where giant boughs hide the sky,—
Have stolen, and held our breath,
Thro’ coverts still as death,—
Have left with wing unstirred
The brooding phoebe-bird,
And hardly caused a care
In the water-spider’s lair.
For love of his clear pipe
We’ve flushed the zigzag snipe,—
Have chased in wilful mood
The wood-duck’s flapping brood,—
Have spied the antlered moose
Cropping the young green spruce,
And watched him till betrayed
By the kingfisher’s sharp tirade.
Quitting the bodeful shades
We’ve run thro’ sunnier glades,
And dropping craft and heed
Have bid our paddles speed.
Where the mad rapids chafe
We’ve shouted, steering safe,—
With sinew tense, nerve keen,
Shot thro’ the roar, and seen,
With spirit wild as theirs,
The white waves leap-like hares.
And then, with souls grown clear
In that sweet atmosphere,
With influences serene
Our blood and brain washed clean,
We’ve idled down the breast
Of broadening tides at rest,
And marked the winds, the birds,
The bees, the far-off herds,
Into a drowsy tune
Transmute the afternoon.
So, Friend, with ears and eyes
Which shy divinities
Have opened with their kiss,
We need no balm but this,—
A little space for dreams
On care-unsullied streams,—
‘Mid task and toil, a space
To dream on Nature’s face!

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