A Celebration of Women Writers

"Thomas O'Hagan" (1855-1939) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 213-220.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 213]

Thomas O'Hagan

Of the merits of the poems it is only necessary to say that while most of the poetry of our day seems to have buried itself in obscurity, Mr. O'Hagan's poems come freely from the thought and imagination . . . . and can be understood by any person of intelligence, who is fond of poetry and believes that it springs from the heart . . . . and the best wishes of all will be that the immortality which we all so ardently crave, may crown his efforts to endow mankind with sweetest and purest sentiments.–HON. JUSTICE LONGLEY, D.C.L., LL.D.

Tenderness, piety, friendship, filial affection, love that conquers death and lasts beyond the grave, the call of the 'Settlement,' loyalty to the college that has been the poet's Alma Mater: all these we have in Dr. O'Hagan's volume, 'In the Heart of the Meadow,' and not often in recent years have they been more poetically or more gracefully phrased.–P. J. LENNOX, LITT.D., Washington, D.C.

[Page 214]

THOMAS O'HAGAN, the youngest son of John and Bridget (O'Reilly) O'Hagan, natives of County Kerry, Ireland, was born in 'the Gore of Toronto,' on the 6th of March, 1855, and was a babe in arms, when his parents, three brothers, a sister and himself, moved into the wilderness of the county of Bruce, Ontario. They located in the township of Elderslie, three miles from the village of Paisley. The other settlers were mostly Highland Scotch, and Thomas as a lad learned to speak quite fluently not only the Gaelic tongue of his neighbours, but also the Keltic Irish, which was spoken freely by his parents. He attended the public school of the settlement where the teachers were Scotch, and where he applied himself with such diligence and ability that he won a Second Class Teacher's Certificate at the early age of sixteen

Few Canadians have devoted so much time to academic study as Dr. O'Hagan. After graduating from St. Michael's College, a prize winner in Latin and English, he entered the Ottawa University and graduated B.A., in 1882, with honours in English, Latin, French and German. Three years later the same University conferred on him the degree of M.A. In 1889, he received the degree of Ph.D. from Syracuse University: and in subsequent years took postgraduate work at Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Louvain, Grenoble and Fribourg Universities. In September, 1914, Laval University, Montreal, conferred on him the honorary degree of Litt.D.

During his young manhood he taught for some years in Separate Schools and High Schools of Ontario.

Dr. O'Hagan is widely known as a scholarly and popular lecturer on many literary themes.

Recently (1910-13), he was Chief Editor and Director of the New World, Chicago, but is now resident in Toronto.

The following is a list of Dr. O'Hagan's books of verse: A Gate of Flowers, 1887; In Dreamland and Other Poems, 1893; Songs of the Settlement, 1899; In the heart of the Meadow, 1914; and Songs of Heroic Days, 1916. He has also published several volumes of interesting and instructive essays: Studies in Poetry; Canadian Essays; Essays Literary, Critical and Historical; Chats by the Fireside; and, in 1916, Essays of Catholic Life.

[Page 215]

An Idyl of the Farm

O THERE'S joy in every sphere of life from cottage unto throne,
But the sweetest smiles of nature beam upon the farm alone;
And in memory I go back to the days of long ago,
When the teamster shouted 'Haw, Buck!' 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

I see out in the logging-field the heroes of our land,
With their strong and sturdy faces, each with handspike in his hand;
With shoulders strong as Hercules, they feared no giant foe,
As the teamster shouted 'Haw, Buck!' 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

The logging-bees are over, and the woodlands all are cleared,
The face that then was young and fair is silvered o'er with beard;
The handspike now holds not the place it did long years ago,
When the teamster shouted 'Haw, Buck!' 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

On meadow land and orchard field there rests a glory round,
Sweet as the memory of the dead that haunts some holy ground;
And yet there's wanting to my heart some joy of long ago,
When the teamster shouted 'Haw, Buck!' 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

Demosthenes had silvery tongue, and Cicero knew Greek,
The Gracchi brothers loved old Rome and always helped the weak;
But there's not a Grecian hero, nor Roman high or low,
Whose heart spake braver patriot words than 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

They wore no coat of armour, the boys in twilight days–
They sang no classic music, but the old 'Come all ye' lays;
For armed with axe and handspike, each giant tree their foe,
They rallied to the battle-cry of 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

[Page 216]

And so they smote the forest down, and rolled the logs in heaps,
And brought our country to the front in mighty strides and leaps;
And left upon the altar of each home wherein you go,
Some fragrance of the flowers that bloom through 'Gee!' 'G'lang!' and 'Whoa!'

The Old Brindle Cow

OF all old memories that cluster round my heart,
  With their root in my boyhood days,
The quaintest is linked to the old brindle cow
  With sly and mysterious ways.
She'd linger round the lot near the old potato patch,
  A sentinel by night and by day,
Watching for the hour when all eyes were asleep,
  To start on her predatory way.

The old brush fence she would scorn in her course,
  With turnips and cabbage just beyond,
And corn that was blooming through the halo of the night–
  What a banquet so choice and so fond!
But when the stars of morn were paling in the sky
  The old brindle cow would take the cue,
And dressing up her line she'd retreat beyond the fence,
  For the old cow knew just what to do.

What breed did you say? Why the very best blood
  That could flow in a democratic cow;
No herd-book could tell of the glory in her horns
  Or whence came her pedigree or how:
She was Jersey in her milk and Durham in her build,
  And Ayrshire when she happened in a row,
But when it came to storming the old 'slash' fence
  She was simply the old brindle cow.

It seems but a day since I drove her to the gate
  To yield up her rich and creamy prize;
For her theft at midnight hour she would yield a double dower,
  With peace of conscience lurking in her eyes.

[Page 217]

But she's gone–disappeared with the ripened years of time,
  Whose memories my heart enthrall e'en now;
And I never hear a bell tinkling through the forest dell
  But I think of that old brindle cow.

The Dance at McDougall's

IN a little log house near the rim of the forest
  With its windows of sunlight, its threshold of stone,
Lived Donald McDougall, the quaintest of Scotchmen,
  And Janet his wife, in their shanty, alone:
By day the birds sang them a chorus of welcome,
  At night they saw Scotland again in their dreams;
They toiled full of hope 'mid the sunshine of friendship,
  Their hearts leaping onward like troutlets in streams,
        In the little log home of McDougall's.

At evening the boys and the girls would all gather
  To dance and to court 'neath McDougall's rooftree;
They were wild as the tide that rushes up Solway
  When lashed by the tempests that sweep the dark sea:
There Malcolm and Flora and Angus and Katie
  With laughter-timed paces came tripping along,
And Pat, whose gay heart had been nursed in Old Erin,
  Would link each Scotch reel with a good Irish song,
        Down at the dance at McDougall's.

For the night was as day at McDougall's log shanty,
  The blaze on the hearth shed its halo around,
While the feet that tripped lightly the reel 'Tullagorum,'
  Pattered each measure with 'ooch!' and with bound;
No 'Lancers' nor 'Jerseys' were danced at McDougall's,
  Nor the latest waltz-step found a place on the floor,
But reels and strathspeys and the liveliest hornpipes
  Shook the room to its centre from fireplace to door,
        In the little log house at McDougall's.

Gone now is the light in McDougall's log shanty,
  The blaze on the hearth long has sunk into gloom,
And Donald and Janet who dreamed of 'Auld Scotia'
  Are dreaming of Heaven in the dust of the tomb.

[Page 218]

While the boys and the girls–the 'balachs' and 'calahs'–
  Who toiled during day and danced through the night,
Live again in bright dreams of Memory's morning
  When their hearts beat to music of life, love and light,
        Down at the dance at McDougall's.

The Song My Mother Sings

SWEET unto my heart is the song my mother sings
As eventide is brooding on its dark and noiseless wings;
Every note is charged with memory–every memory bright with rays
Of the golden hours of promise in the lap of childhood's days;
The orchard blooms anew and each blossom scents the way,
And I feel again the breath of eve among the new-mown hay;
While through the halls of memory in happy notes there rings
All the life-joy of the past in the song my mother sings.

I have listened to the dreamy notes of Chopin and of Liszt,
As they dripped and drooped about my heart and filled my eyes with mist;
I have wept strong tears of pathos 'neath the spell of Verdi's power,
As I heard the tenor voice of grief from out the donjon tower;
And Gounod's oratorios are full of notes sublime
That stir the heart with rapture through the sacred pulse of time;
But all the music of the past and the wealth that memory brings
Seem as nothing when I listen to the song my mother sings.

It's a song of love and triumph, it's a song of toil and care;
It is filled with chords of pathos and it's set in notes of prayer;
It is bright with dreams and visions of the days that are to be,
And as strong in faith's devotion as the heart-beat of the sea;
It is linked in mystic measure to sweet voices from above,
And is starred with ripest blessing through a mother's sacred love;
Oh, sweet and strong and tender are the memories that it brings,
As I list in joy and rapture to the song my mother sings.

[Page 219]

Ripened Fruit

I KNOW not what my heart hath lost;
  I cannot strike the chords of old,
The breath that charmed my morning life
  Hath chilled each leaf within the wold.

The swallows twitter in the sky,
  But bare the nest within the eaves;
The fledglings of my care are gone,
  And left me but the rustling leaves.

And yet, I know my life hath strength,
  And firmer hope and sweeter prayer,
For leaves that murmur on the ground
  Have now for me a double care.

I see in them the hope of spring,
  That erst did plan the autumn day;
I see in them each gift of man
  Grow strong in years, then turn to clay.

Not all is lost–the fruit remains
  That ripened through the summer's ray;
The nurslings of the nest are gone,
  Yet hear we still their warbling lay.

The glory of the summer sky
  May change to tints of autumn hue;
But faith that sheds its amber light
  Will lend our heaven a tender blue.

O altar of eternal youth!
  O faith that beckons from afar,
Give to our lives a blossomed fruit–
  Give to our morns an evening star!

The Bugle Call

DO you hear the call of our Mother
  From over the sea, from over the sea?
The call to her children in every land;
To her sons on Afric's far-stretched veldt;
To her dark-skinned children on India's shore,
Whose souls are nourished on Aryan lore;
To her sons of the Northland where frosty stars

[Page 220]

Glitter and shine like a helmet of Mars;
  Do you hear the call of our Mother?

Do you hear the call of our Mother
  From over the sea, from over the sea?
The call to Australia's legions strong,
That move with the might and stealth of a wave;
To the men of the camp and men of the field,
Whose courage has taught them never to yield;
To the men whose counsel has saved the State
And thwarted the plans of impending fate;
  Do you hear the call of our Mother?

Do you hear the call of our Mother
  From over the sea, from over the sea?
To the little cot on the wind-swept hill;
To the lordly hall in the city street;
To her sons who toil in the forest deep
Or bind the sheaves where the reapers reap;
To her children scattered far East and West;
To her sons who joy in her Freedom Blest;
  Do you hear the call of our Mother?

The Chrism of Kings

IN the morn of the world, at the day break of time,
  When kingdoms were few and empires unknown,
God searched for a Ruler to sceptre the land,
  And gather the harvest from the seed He had sown.
He found a young shepherd boy watching his flock
  Where the mountains looked down on deep meadows of green;
He hailed the young shepherd boy king of the land
  And anointed his brow with a Chrism unseen.

He placed in his frail hands the sceptre of power,
  And taught his young heart all the wisdom of love;
He gave him the vision of prophet and priest,
  And dowered him with counsel and light from above.
But alas! came a day when the shepherd forgot
  And heaped on his realm all the woes that war brings,
And bartering his purple for the greed of his heart
  He lost both the sceptre and Chrism of Kings.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom