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- Fleurs de lys and other poems - 5/16 -


The water was turned to gold; But as he pursued, they fled, Till his vessels at last were led Where, cold and sullen and dead, The Saguenay River rolled.

Chill blew the wind in his face, As, still on his treasure chase, He entered that gloomy place Whose mountains in stony pride, Still, soulless, merciless, sheer, Their adamant sides uprear, Naked and brown and drear, High over the murky tide.

No longer the sun shone bright On the sails that, full and white, Like sea gulls winging their flight, Dipped into the silent wave; But shadows fell thick around, Till feeling and sight and sound In their awful gloom were drowned, And sank in a depthless grave.

Far over the topmost height Great eagles had wheeled in flight, But, wrapped in the gloom of night, They ceased to circle and soar: Grim silence reigned over all, Save that from a rocky wall A murmuring waterfall Leapt down to the river shore.

O merciless walls of stone! What happened that night is known By you, and by you alone: Though the eagles unceasing scream, How once through that midnight air, For an instant a trumpet's blare, And the voices of men in prayer, Arose from the murky stream.

_JULES' LETTER._

MA CHÈRE,

Since the morning we parted On the slippery docks of Rochelle, I have wandered, well nigh broken-hearted, Through many a tree-shadowed dell: I've hunted the otter and beaver, Have tracked the brown bear and the deer, And have lain almost dying with fever, While not a companion was near.

I've toiled in the fierce heat of summer Under skies like a great dome of gold, And have tramped, growing number and number, In winter through snowstorm and cold. Yet the love in my heart was far hotter, The fear of my soul far more chill, As my thoughts crossed the wild waste of water To your little home on the hill.

But now Father Time in a measure Has reconciled me to my fate, For I know he will bring my dear treasure Back into my arms soon or late. And, besides, every evening, when, weary, I lie on my soft couch of pine, Sleep wafts me again to my dearie, And your heart once more beats against mine.

You never have heard of such doings As those that are going on here; We've nothing but weddings and wooings From dawn till the stars reappear. For the king, gracious monarch, a vessel Has sent, bearing widows and maids Within our rough bosoms to nestle, And make us a home in the glades.

They are tall and short, ugly and pretty, There are blondes and brunettes by the score: Some silent and dull, others witty, And made for mankind to adore. Some round as an apple, some slender-- In fact--so he be not in haste-- Any man with a heart at all tender Can pick out a wife to his taste.

Now, darling, don't pout and grow jealous, I still am a bachelor free, In spite of the governor's zealous And extra-judicial decree, Commanding all men to be married In less than two weeks from this date, And promising all who have tarried Shall feel the full strength of his hate:

In spite of his maddening order, That none in the country may trade With the tribes on our side of the border, Who is not a benedict staid; In spite of a clause, far the sorest, That none past his twentieth year, And single, shall enter the forest On any pretext whatsoe'er.

Now, you know I was ever a rover, Half stifled by cities or towns, Of nature--and you--a warm lover, Wooing both in despite of your frowns, So you well may imagine my sorrow When fettered and threatened like this-- Oh! Marie, dear, pack up to-morrow, And bring me back freedom and bliss.

If you do not, who knows but some morning I'll waken and find a decree Has been passed, that, without any warning, Has wedded some woman to me? Oh! Marie, chère Marie, have pity; You only my woes can assuage; I'm confined, till I wed, to the city, And feel like a bird in a cage.

Then come, nor give heed to the billows That tumble between you and Jules. I know a sweet spot where lithe willows Bend over a silvery pool, And there we will dwell, dear, defying Misfortune to tear us apart. My darling, come to me, I'm dying To press you again to my heart.

_THE OAK._

Last of its race, beside our college There stands an Oak Tree, centuries old, Which, could it voice its stores of knowledge, Might many a wondrous tale unfold. It marked the birth of two fair towns, And mourned the cruel fate of one, Yet still withstands grim Winter's frowns, And glories in the Summer sun.

Jacques Cartier passed, its branches under, Up yonder mount one autumn day, And viewed, with ever-growing wonder, The scene that spread beneath him lay. He was the first from Europe's shore To pass beneath the Oak Tree's shade, The first whose vision wandered o'er Such boundless wealth of stream and glade.

Beneath his feet a little village Lay, like a field-lark in her nest, Amid the treasures of its tillage, The maize in golden colors dressed. Years passed; and when again there came A stranger to that peaceful spot, Gone was the village and its name, Save by a few gray-heads, forgot.

But soon beneath the Oak, another, And sturdier village took its place; One that the gentle Virgin mother Has kept from ruin by her grace. She saved it from the dusky foes Who thirsted for its heroes' blood, And when December waters rose About its walls she stilled the flood.

What noble deeds and cruel, stranger Than aught in fiction ere befell, What weary years of war and danger That village knew, the Oak might tell. Perchance, brave Dollard sat of yore Beneath its very shade, and planned A deed should make for evermore His name a trumpet in the land.

Perchance, beneath its gloomy shadows De Vaudreuil sat that bitter day When round about him, in the meadows Encamped, the British forces lay; And as he wrote the fatal word That gave an Empire to the foe, The Old Oak's noble heart was stirred With an unutterable woe.

The army of a hostile nation


Fleurs de lys and other poems - 5/16

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