Tantramar Revisited

Original Text: 
Selected Poems of Sir Charles G. D. Roberts (Toronto: Ryerson, 1936): 50-52. PS 8485 O22A17 Robarts Library.
2Sunshine and thunder have been, storm, and winter, and frost;
3Many and many a sorrow has all but died from remembrance,
4Many a dream of joy fall'n in the shadow of pain.
5Hands of chance and change have marred, or moulded, or broken,
6Busy with spirit or flesh, all I most have adored;
7Even the bosom of Earth is strewn with heavier shadows, --
8Only in these green hills, aslant to the sea, no change!
9Here where the road that has climbed from the inland valleys and woodlands,
10Dips from the hill-tops down, straight to the base of the hills, --
11Here, from my vantage-ground, I can see the scattering houses,
12Stained with time, set warm in orchards, meadows, and wheat,
13Dotting the broad bright slopes outspread to southward and eastward,
14Wind-swept all day long, blown by the south-east wind.
15Skirting the sunbright uplands stretches a riband of meadow,
16Shorn of the labouring grass, bulwarked well from the sea,
17Fenced on its seaward border with long clay dykes from the turbid
19Yonder, toward the left, lie broad the Westmoreland marshes, --
20Miles on miles they extend, level, and grassy, and dim,
21Clear from the long red sweep of flats to the sky in the distance,
23Miles on miles outrolled, and the river-channels divide them, --
24Miles on miles of green, barred by the hurtling gusts.
26There are the low blue hills; villages gleam at their feet.
27Nearer a white sail shines across the water, and nearer
28Still are the slim, grey masts of fishing boats dry on the flats.
29Ah, how well I remember those wide red flats, above tide-mark
31Well I remember the piles of blocks and ropes, and the net-reels
32Wound with the beaded nets, dripping and dark from the sea!
33Now at this season the nets are unwound; they hang from the rafters
34Over the fresh-stowed hay in upland barns, and the wind
35Blows all day through the chinks, with the streaks of sunlight, and sways them
36Softly at will; or they lie heaped in the gloom of a loft.
37Now at this season the reels are empty and idle; I see them
38Over the lines of the dykes, over the gossiping grass.
39Now at this season they swing in the long strong wind, thro' the lonesome
40Golden afternoon, shunned by the foraging gulls.
41Near about sunset the crane will journey homeward above them;
42Round them, under the moon, all the calm night long,
43Winnowing soft grey wings of marsh-owls wander and wander,
44Now to the broad, lit marsh, now to the dusk of the dike.
45Soon, thro' their dew-wet frames, in the live keen freshness of morning,
46Out of the teeth of the dawn blows back the awakening wind.
47Then, as the blue day mounts, and the low-shot shafts of the sunlight
48Glance from the tide to the shore, gossamers jewelled with dew
49Sparkle and wave, where late sea-spoiling fathoms of drift-net
50Myriad-meshed, uploomed sombrely over the land.
51Well I remember it all. The salt, raw scent of the margin;
53Surging in ponderous lengths, uprose and coiled in its station;
54Then each man to his home, -- well I remember it all!
55Yet, as I sit and watch, this present peace of the landscape, --
56Stranded boats, these reels empty and idle, the hush,
57One grey hawk slow-wheeling above yon cluster of haystacks, --
58More than the old-time stir this stillness welcomes me home.
59Ah, the old-time stir, how once it stung me with rapture, --
60Old-time sweetness, the winds freighted with honey and salt!
61Yet will I stay my steps and not go down to the marshland, --
62Muse and recall far off, rather remember than see, --
63Lest on too close sight I miss the darling illusion,
64Spy at their task even here the hands of chance and change.


1] Tantramar, a river flowing by Sackville, and a saltwater tidal marsh on the isthmus connecting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The name is from the French tintamarre, `din' (from the sound of the tide rushing in and out). Back to Line
18] Westmoreland: a county in New Brunswick, predominantly Acadian. Back to Line
22] Cumberland Point: Dorchester, a town near Cumberland Basin, leading into the Bay of Fundy. Back to Line
25] Minudie: Nova Scotia village across the Bay of Fundy from Dorchester. Back to Line
30] scurf: flaky or scaly surface. Back to Line
52] windlass: winch to raise a ship's nets or anchor. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Week (December 1883).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.