The Old Canoe
Where the rocks are gray, and the shore is steep,
And the waters below look dark and deep;
Where the rugged pine in its lonely pride
Leans gloomily over the murky tide;
Where the reeds and rushes are long and lank,
And the weeds grow thick on the winding bank;
Where the shadow is heavy the whole day through,—
There lies at its moorings the old canoe.
The useless paddles are idly dropped,
Like a sea-bird’s wing that the storm has lopped,
And crossed on the railing one o’er one,
Like the folded hands when the work is done;
While busily back and forth between
The spider stretches his silvery screen,
And the solemn owl, with its dull tu-whoo,
Settles down on the side of the old canoe.
The stern half sunk in the slimy wave
Rots slowly away in its living grave,
And the green moss creeps o’er its dull decay,
Hiding its mouldering dust away,
Like the hand that plants o’er the tomb a flower,
Or the ivy that mantles the falling tower;
While many a blossom of loveliest hue
Springs up o’er the stern of the old canoe.
The currentless waters are dead and still,
The twilight-wind plays with the boat at will,
And lazily in and out again
It floats the length of its rusty chain;
Like the weary march of the hands of Time
That meet and part at the noontide chime,
As the shore is kissed at each turn anew,
By the dripping bow of the old canoe.
Oh, many a time, with careless hand,
I have pushed it away from the pebbly strand!
And paddled it down where the stream runs quick,
Where the whirls are wild and the eddies thick.
And laughed as I leaned o’er the rocking side,
And looked below in the broken tide,
To see that the faces and boats were two
That were mirrored back from the old canoe.
But now, as I lean o’er the crumbling side
And look below in the sluggish tide,
The face that I see there is graver grown,
And the laugh that I hear has a soberer tone,
And the hands that lent to the light skiff wings
Have grown familiar with sterner things.
But I love to think of the hours that sped
As I rocked where the whirls their white spray shed,
Ere the blossom waved or the green grass grew
O’er the mouldering stern of the old canoe.