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Poem by Duncan Campbell Scott

In the Country Churchyard


This is the acre of unfathomed rest,
  These stones, with weed and lichen bound, enclose
  No active grief, no uncompleted woes,
But only finished work and harboured quest,
And balm for ills;
And the last gold that smote the ashen west
Lies garnered here between the harvest hills.

This spot has never known the heat of toil,
  Save when the angel with the mighty spade
  Has turned the sod and built the house of shade;
But here old chance is guardian of the soil;
Green leaf and grey,
The barrows blossom with the tangled spoil,
And Gods own weeds are fair in Gods own way.

Sweet flowers may gather in the ferny wood:
  Hepaticas, the morning stars of spring;
  The bloodroots with their milder ministering,
Like planets in the lonelier solitude;
And that white throng,
Which shakes the dingles with a starry brood,
And tells the robin his forgotten song.

These flowers may rise amid the dewy fern,
  They may not root within this antique wall,
  The dead have chosen for their coronal,
No buds that flaunt of life and flare and burn;
They have agreed,
To choose a beauty puritan and stern,
The universal grass, the homely weed.

This is the paradise of common things,
  The scourged and trampled here find peace to grow,
  The frost to furrow and the wind to sow,
The mighty sun to time their blossomings;
And now they keep
A crown reflowering on the tombs of kings,
Who earned their triumph and have claimed their sleep.

Yea, each is here a prince in his own right,
  Who dwelt disguised amid the multitude,
  And when his time was come, in haughty mood,
Shook off his motley and reclaimed his might;
His sombre throne
In the vast province of perpetual night,
He holds secure, inviolate, alone.

The poor forgets that ever he was poor,
  The priest has lost his science of the truth,
  The maid her beauty, and the youth his youth,
The statesman has forgot his subtle lure,
The old his age,
The sick his suffering, and the leech his cure,
The poet his perplexed and vacant page.

These swains that tilled the uplands in the sun
  Have all forgot the fields familiar face,
  And lie content within this ancient place,
Whereto when hands were tired their thought would run
To dream of rest,
When the last furrow was turned down, and won
The last harsh harvest from the earths patient breast.

O dwellers in the valley vast and fair,
  I would that calling from your tranquil clime,
  You make a truce for me with cruel time;
For I am weary of this eager care
That never dies;
I would be born into your tranquil air,
Your deserts crowned and sovereign silences.

I would, but that the world is beautiful,
  And I am more in love with the sliding years,
  They have not brought me frantic joy or tears,
But only moderate state and temperate rule;
Not to forget
This quiet beauty, not to be Times fool,
I will be man a little longer yet.

For lo, what beauty crowns the harvest hills!--
  The buckwheat acres gleam like silver shields;
  The oats hang tarnished in the golden fields;
Between the elms the yellow wheat-land fills;
The apples drop
Within the orchard, where the red tree spills,
The fragrant fruitage over branch and prop.

The cows go lowing through the lovely vale;
  The clarion peacock warns the world of rain,
  Perched on the barn a gaudy weather-vane;
The farm lad holloes from the shifted rail,
Along the grove
He beats a measure on his ringing pail,
And sings the heart-song of his early love.

There is a honey scent along the air;
  The hermit thrush has tuned his fleeting note.
  Among the silver birches far remote
His spirit voice appeareth here and there,
To fail and fade,
A visionary cadence falling fair,
That lifts and lingers in the hollow shade.

And now a spirit in the east, unseen,
  Raises the moon above her misty eyes,
  And travels up the veiled and starless skies,
Viewing the quietude of her demesne;
Stainless and slow,
I watch the lustre of her planets sheen,
From burnished gold to liquid silver flow.

And now I leave the dead with you, O night;
  You wear the semblance of their fathomless state,
  For you we long when the days fire is great,
And when stern life is cruellest in his might,
Of death we dream:
A country of dim plain and shadowy height,
Crowned with strange stars and silences supreme:

Rest here, for day is hot to follow you,
  Rest here until the morning star has come,
  Until is risen aloft dawns rosy dome,
Based deep on buried crimson into blue,
And morns desire
Has made the fragile cobweb drenched with dew
A net of opals veiled with dreamy fire.

Duncan Campbell Scott

Duncan Campbell Scott's other poems:
  1. Avis
  2. At William Maclennan's Grave
  3. To Winter (Come, O thou season of intense repose)
  4. Off the Isle Aux Coudres
  5. The Harvest

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