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Favorite Reading

Some poetry and whatnot that I enjoy. I hope you will, too.

An Excerpt from Evangeline – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I can picture Sidonie McShannon reading this to her twins, Trey and Chelle, telling them about their Acadian heritage. Longfellow’s description of the Annapolis Valley captures the essence of the place perfectly.

In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Midas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand Pre
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields
Spreading afar and unfenced o’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne’er from their stations descended.

There Was A Child Went Forth – Walt Whitman

This piece suits my idea of Trey as a boy.

There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of
the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there–and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads–all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward,
and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d–and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls–and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.

His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day–they became part of him.

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words–clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor
falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture–the yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay’d–the sense of what is real–the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time–the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets–if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?

The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves–the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset–the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,

The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide–the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away
solitary by itself–the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

High waving heather, ‘neath stormy blasts bending – E. Bronte

This poem by Emily Bronte seems to suit the mood of Chelle McShannon’s first walk on the fell outside of Mallonby.

High waving heather, ‘neath stormy blasts bending,
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man’s spirit away from its deep dungeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.

All down the mountain sides, wild forests lending
One mighty voice to the lifegiving wind;
Rivers their banks in the jubilee rending,
Fast thru the valleys a reckless course wending,
Wider and deeper their valleys extending,
Leaving a desolate desert behind.

Shining and lowering and swelling and dying
Changing forever from midnight to noon;
Roaring like thunder like soft music sighing,
Shadows on shadows advancing and flying,
Lightning-bright flashes the deep gloom defying,
Coming as swiftly and fading as soon.

The Outside Track

A nod to my Down Under heritage. This is by nineteenth-century Australian poet Henry Lawson. It’s been recorded as a song by Garnet Rogers among others. It’s debatable what Lawson meant by ‘the outside track’, but to me the poem says we’re only young once.

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
And one on the for’ard hatch;
No straighter mate to his mates than he
Had ever said: ‘Len’s a match!’
“’Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
’Twill be long ere we grip your hand!”—
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
Till the whole wide world seemed grand.
For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
They marry and vanish and die;
But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
As long as the years go by.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
That rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
As the dark tide came between.
We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
And the land he had left behind.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
But my heart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell
When the steamer had passed the point
We drifted home through the public bars,
We were ten times less by one
Who sailed out under the morning stars,
And under the rising sun.

And one by one, and two by two,
They have sailed from the wharf since then;
I have said good-bye to the last I knew,
The last of the careless men.
And I can’t but think that the times we had
Were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass
And drink to the bar-room wall.

But I’ll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
Then a last good-bye to the bush;
For my heart’s away on the Outside Track,
On the track of the steerage push.