The Canoe

Original Text: 
Isabella Valancy Crawford, "Old Spookses' Pass," "Malcolm's Katie" and other Poems (Toronto: James Bain and Son, 1884): 197-99. PR 4518 C17 O5 1884 Canadiana (Victoria College Library)
1My masters twain made me a bed
2Of pine-boughs resinous, and cedar;
3Of moss, a soft and gentle breeder
4Of dreams of rest; and me they spread
5With furry skins, and laughing said,
6"Now she shall lay her polish'd sides,
7As queens do rest, or dainty brides,
8Our slender lady of the tides!"
9My masters twain their camp-soul lit,
11Large, crimson flashes grew and whirl'd
12Thin, golden nerves of sly light curl'd
13Round the dun camp, and rose faint zones,
14Half way about each grim bole knit,
15Like a shy child that would bedeck
16With its soft clasp a Brave's red neck;
17Yet sees the rough shield on his breast,
18The awful plumes shake on his crest,
19And fearful drops his timid face,
20Nor dares complete the sweet embrace.
21Into the hollow hearts of brakes,
22Yet warm from sides of does and stags,
23Pass'd to the crisp dark river flags;
25Sharp-headed serpents, made of light,
26Glided and hid themselves in night.
27My masters twain, the slaughter'd deer
28Hung on fork'd boughs-with thongs of leather.
29Bound were his stiff, slim feet together-
30His eyes like dead stars cold and drear;
31The wand'ring firelight drew near
32And laid its wide palm, red and anxious,
33On the sharp splendor of his branches;
34On the white foam grown hard and sere
35    On flank and shoulder.
36Death-hard as breast of granite boulder,
37    And under his lashes
38Peer'd thro' his eyes at his life's gray ashes.
39My masters twain sang songs that wove
40(As they burnish'd hunting blade and rifle)
41A golden thread with a cobweb trifle-
42Loud of the chase, and low of love.
43"O Love, art thou a silver fish ?
45Which we do follow, fierce, yet laughing,
46Casting at thee the light-wing'd wish,
47And at the last shall we bring thee up
48From the crystal darkness under the cup
49    Of lily folden,
50    On broad leaves golden ?
51"O Love! art thou a silver deer,
52Swift thy starr'd feet as wing of swallow,
53While we with rushing arrows follow;
54And at the last shall we draw near,
55And over thy velvet neck cast thongs-
56Woven of roses, of stars, of songs ?
57    New chains all molden
58    Of rare gems olden!"
59They hung the slaughter'd fish like swords
60On saplings slender-like scimitars
61Bright, and ruddied from new-dead wars,
62Blaz'd in the light--the scaly hordes.
63They pil'd up boughs beneath the trees,
64Of cedar-web and green fir tassel;
65Low did the pointed pine tops rustle,
66The camp fire blush'd to the tender breeze.
68With needles of pine sweet, soft, and rusty-
69Dream'd of the dead stag stout and lusty;
70A bat by the red flames wove its round.
72Close round the camp, and at its curtain
73Press'd shapes, thin woven and uncertain,
74As white locks of tall waterfalls.

Notes

10] cones: pine cones. Back to Line
24] copper snakes: copperheads, or copperhead moccasins, North American poisonous snakes Back to Line
44] gaffing: catching with a spear-hook. Back to Line
67] dew-laps: skin-folds hanging from under the neck. Back to Line
71] wigwam: bark- and branch-formed hut made by Great Lakes Amerindian peoples. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1884
Publication Notes: 
In The Evening Telegram (Toronto)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997.
Rhyme: