Night Hymns on Lake Nipigon

Original Text: 
The Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1926): 23-24. PS 8487 C6 A17 1926 Robarts Library.
1Here in the midnight, where the dark mainland and island
2Shadows mingle in shadow deeper, profounder,
3Sing we the hymns of the churches, while the dead water
4Whispers before us.
5Thunder is travelling slow on the path of the lightning;
6One after one the stars and the beaming planets
7Look serene in the lake from the edge of the storm-cloud,
8Then have they vanished.
9While our canoe, that floats dumb in the bursting thunder,
10Gathers her voice in the quiet and thrills and whispers,
11Presses her prow in the star-gleam, and all her ripple
12Lapses in blackness.
13Sing we the sacred ancient hymns of the churches,
14Chanted first in old-world nooks of the desert,
16Hunted the savage.
17Now have the ages met in the Northern midnight,
18And on the lonely, loon-haunted Nipigon reaches
19Rises the hymn of triumph and courage and comfort,
21Tones that were fashioned when the faith brooded in darkness,
22Joined with sonorous vowels in the noble Latin,
24Uncouth and mournful.
25Soft with the silver drip of the regular paddles
26Falling in rhythm, timed with the liquid, plangent
28Down into darkness;
29Each long cadence, flying like a dove from her shelter
30Deep in the shadow, wheels for a throbbing moment,
31Poises in utterance, returning in circles of silver
32To nest in the silence.
33All wild nature stirs with the infinite, tender
34Plaint of a bygone age whose soul is eternal,
35Bound in the lonely phrases that thrill and falter
36Back into quiet.
37Back they falter as the deep storm overtakes them,
38Whelms them in splendid hollows of booming thunder,
39Wraps them in rain, that, sweeping, breaks and onrushes
40Ringing like cymbals.


15] Nipigon: lake in western Ontario north of Lake Superior. Back to Line
20] Adestes Fideles: Latin hymn of great antiquity, known in English as "O come all ye faithful." Back to Line
23] Ojibwa: native people living north of Sault St. Marie between eastern Lake Superior and northeastern Georgian Bay. Back to Line
27] where: "were" in original text. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
New World Lyrics and Ballads (1905).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.