A Celebration of Women Writers

"Theodore Goodridge Roberts" (1877-1953) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 377-382.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 377]

Theodore Goodridge Roberts

For recognition as a poet Theodore Goodridge Roberts has had to stand comparison with the high achievements of his distinguished brother. Yet, as poets, he and Charles G. D. differ widely. Charles began on Pierus, but wandered off into the more practical realm of prose, where, apart from occasional diversions, he has remained. Theodore, on the other hand, attacked the novel at the beginning of his literary career, and it is on the novel that he has had to depend for most of his reputation. . . . As yet a book of his poems has not appeared. Nevertheless, the results of his muse so far, though vagrant, are sufficient to display a quality which, if not peculiar to the author, is at least vigorous and refreshing. And there are touches, even some fine conceits, in such poems as 'The Blind Sailor,' 'Private North,' and 'The Lost Shipmate' that seem to distinguish him from other poets, and to make him a man's poet. And it is on his achievements as a man's poet, and not as a novelist, that Theodore Roberts undoubtedly will stake his final reputation.–NEWTON MACTAVISH, editor of the 'Canadian Magazine.'

[Page 378]

THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS, as a poet and novelist, is not the least great of a distinguished family. His poetry has strength and originality and should develop into lyrics, ballads and epics very much worth while.

It has been pointed out that he is a man's poet; he is also a man's novelist. His many novels of adventure and romance have wide popularity in English-speaking lands. These are a few of the best known: Hemming, the Adventurer, 1904; Brothers of Peril, 1905; The Red Feathers, 1907; A Cavalier of Virginia, 1910; A Captain of Raleigh's, 1911; The Wasp, 1913; and The Toll of the Tides, 1914.

Mr. Roberts was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, July 7th, 1877. He is the youngest of four brothers of which Charles G. D. Roberts (q.v.) is the eldest. His education was received at the Fredericton Collegiate School, and at the University of New Brunswick, but, like his sister, he did not complete the University course.

In November, 1903, he married Frances Seymore Allen, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Allen. Since their marriage they have lived in Barbados, England, France, and much of the time in and near Fredericton, N.B. They have three children living, a boy and two girls.

Captain Theodore Goodridge Roberts is now at the Front, serving as 'Assistant Canadian Eye-Witness.'

The Maid

THUNDER of riotous hoofs over the quaking sod;
Clash of reeking squadrons, steel-capped, iron-shod;
The White Maid, and the white horse, and the flapping banner of God.

Black hearts riding for money; red hearts riding for fame;
The maid who rides for France and the king who rides for shame.
Gentlemen, fools and a saint, riding in Christ's high name!

Dust to dust it is written! Wind-scattered are lance and bow.
Dust, the Cross of St. George; dust, the banner of snow.

[Page 379]

The bones of the king are crumbled and rotted the shafts of the foe.

Forgotten, the young knight's valour. Forgotten, the captain's skill.
Forgotten, the fear and the hate and the mailed hands raised to kill.
Forgotten, the shields that clashed and the arrows that cried so shrill.

Like a story from some old book, that battle of Long Ago!
Shadows, the poor French King and the might of his English Foe:
Shadows, the charging nobles and the archers kneeling a-row–
But a flame in my heart and my eyes, the Maid with the banner of snow.

The Blind Sailor

'STRIKE me blind!' we swore.
God, and I was stricken!
I have seen the morning fade
And noonday thicken.

Be merciful, O God, that I have named in vain.
I am blind in the eyes; but spare the gleam in my brain.
Though my footsteps falter, let my soul still sight
The things that were my life before you hid the light.

Little things were they, Lord, too small to be denied:
The green of roadstead waters, where the tired ships ride,
Bark and brig and barkentine, blown from near and far,
Safe inside the spouting reef and the sobbing bar.

Leave to me my pictures, Lord, leave my memories bright:
The twisted palms are clashing, and the sand is white.
The shore-boats crowd around us, the skipper's gig is manned,
The nutmegs spice the little wind that baffles off the land.

The negro girls are singing in the fields of cane,
The lizards dart on that white path I'll not walk again,

[Page 380]

The opal blinds melt up at dawn, the crimson blinds flare down,
And white against the mountains flash the street-lamps of the town.

Leave to me my pictures, Lord, spare my mind to see
The shimmer of the water and the shadow of the tree,
The cables roaring down, the gray sails swiftly furled,
A riding-light ablink in some far corner of the world.

Leave to me my pictures, Lord: the islands and the main,
The little things a sailorman must out to see again;
The beggars in the market-place, the oxen in the streets,
The bitter, black tobacco and the women selling sweets.

I have fed my vision, Lord; now I pray to hold
The blue and gray and silver, the green and brown and gold.
I have filled my heart, Lord; now I pray to keep
The laughter and the colour through this unlifting sleep.

'Strike me blind!' we swore.
God, and I am blind!
But leave me still, O Lord,
The pictures in the mind!

Private North

HUNCHED in his greatcoat, there he stands,
Sullen of face and rough of hands,
Ready to fight, unready to drill,
Willing to suffer and ready to kill.

He isn't our best; he isn't our worst;
He won't be the last, and he wasn't the first.

What does he offer to you, O king?
Himself–an humble and uncouth thing.
What does he offer you fit to take?
A life to spend, a body to break.

His brow is sullen, his ways are rough;
But his heart, I'll warrant, is true enough.

[Page 381]

I've seen his shack, low-set and gray,
In the black woods thousands of miles away
Where he lived, from the mad, loud world removed,
Masterless, eager, and greatly loved.

Hunched in his greatcoat, there he stands,
Offering all with his heart and hands.

He offers his life to your needs, O King!–
A sullen, humble, and untrained thing–
And with it, for chance to spare or take,
A woman's spirit to wring and break.

The Lost Shipmate

SOMEWHERE he failed me, somewhere he slipped away–
Youth, in his ignorant faith and his bright array.
The tides go out; the tides come flooding in;
Still the old years die and the new begin;
But youth?–
Somewhere we lost each other, last year or yesterday.

Somewhere he failed me. Down at the harbour-side
I waited for him a-little, where the anchored argosies ride.
I thought he came–the steady 'trade' blew free–
I thought he came–'twas but the shadow of me!
And Youth?–
Somewhere he turned and left me, about the turn of the tide.

Perhaps I shall find him. It may be he waits for me,
Sipping those wines we knew, beside some tropic sea;
The tides still serve, and I am out and away
To search the spicy harbours of yesterday
For Youth,
Where the lamps of the town are yellow beyond the lamps on the quay.

Somewhere he failed me, somewhere he slipped away–
Youth, in his ignorant heart and his bright array.
Was it in Bados? God, I would pay to know!

[Page 382]

Was it on Spanish Hill, where the roses blow?
Ah, Youth!
Shall I hear your laughter to-morrow, in painted Olivio?

Somewhere I failed him. Somewhere I let him depart–
Youth, who would only sleep for the morn's fresh start.
The tides slipped out, the tides washed out and in,
And Youth and I rejoiced in their wastrel din.
Ah, Youth!
Shall I find you south of the Gulf?–or are you dead in my heart?

The Reckoning

YE who reckon with England–
  Ye who sweep the seas
Of the flag that Rodney nailed aloft
  And Nelson flung to the breeze–
Count well your ships and your men,
  Count well your horse and your guns,
For they who reckon with England
  Must reckon with England's sons.

Ye who would challenge England–
  Ye who would break the might
Of the little isle in the foggy sea
  And the lion-heart in the fight–
Count well your horse and your swords,
  Weigh well your valour and guns,
For they who would ride against England
  Must sabre her million sons.

Ye who would roll to warfare
  Your hordes of peasants and slaves,
To crush the pride of an empire
  And sink her fame in the waves–
Test well your blood and your mettle,
  Count well your troops and your guns,
For they who battle with England
  Must war with a Mother's sons.

[Next]

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom