By the Marshes of Tantramar

Original Text: 
Mary Electa Adams, From Distant Shores: Poems ([Toronto: 1898]): [5-7]. Internet Archive
1Evening is falling with a star:
2I wander lonely and afar
4The broad, red west like a furnace glows,
5And the wind like a Titan's bellows blows,
6'Till one could not tell if it burned or froze.
8A-gleam with the sinking light of day,
9As the tide-wave--spent--it rolls away.
11And spans awry, an ancient wrack,
12I cross it over the turbid track.
13The gurgling growl of the muddy tide
14Creeps up by the bridge's leaning side,
15And a sound, like the voice of one who cried,
16Turns the spectral bridge to a haunted tower,
17Where the bravest heart would be like to cower,
18If he chanced that way at a darker hour.
19The grasses are moving to and fro,
20Where the wild geese cackled long ago,
22From up where the rivers rushed so brave,
23'Twixt the red-lipped shores, the tidal wave
24Comes crawling back to its ocean grave.
25I muse on the life that has no stay;
26With the steadfast look it is here and away,
27And whither it goes I cannot say.
28The years and the sea and the star are the same,
29And the broad, red west hath been often aflame,
30But it standeth still in the mighty frame.
31O Eye that can see through the æons dim,
32Through the realms of space to the farthest rim;
33Where the universe stretches filled to the brim;
34O Ear that can hear the gurgling tide,
35And the music of stars in the spaces wide,
36Almighty! Behold, doth aught abide?
37I listen, I fear, I fall on my face;
38The darkness is coming with silence apace--
39O, who can the shadows and mystery chase?
40Bow lowly, O spirit, bow low in the dust.
41Shall the coming of changes invade with distrust?
42Bow lowly, what folly to think that it must.
43What folly! It shames me to round in with sense
44The limitless work of omnipotence,
45Or fear for the changes that bear us hence.
46What wouldst thou, through earth and the heavens to plod?
47The universe changeless would be but a clod,
48And change is the name of the working of God.


3] Tantramar: a river flowing by Sackville, New Brunswick, and a saltwater tidal marsh on the isthmus connecting it and Nova Scotia. The name is from the French tintamarre, `din' (from the sound of the tide rushing in and out). Adams taught in Sackville from 1854 to 1857. Back to Line
7] Fundy's Bay: south off Nova Scotia, with tides that are among the highest in the world. Back to Line
10] timbered bridge: opened about 1840. Back to Line
21] aboitreaux: culverts under a dyke with a flap gate on the tidal side to allow fresh water to discharge, and to prevent salt water from coming in. Acadian dykework goes back to the 17th century. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
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