A Celebration of Women Writers

"Frederick George Scott" (1861-) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 75-86.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 75]

Frederick George Scott

Frederick George Scott's poetry has followed three or four well-defined lines of thought. He has reflected in turn the academic subjects of a library, the majesty of nature, the tender love of his fellowmen, and the vision and enthusiasm of an Imperialist. His work in any one field would attract attention; taken in mass it marks him as a sturdy, developing interpreter of his country and of his times. Whether he writes of 'Samson' and 'Thor,' of the 'Little River,' or whether he expands his soul in a 'Hymn of Empire,' his lines are marked by imagination, melody, sympathy and often wistfulness. Living on the edge of the shadow-flecked Laurentians, he constantly draws inspiration from them, and more than any other has made articulate their lonely beauties. His pastoral relations with a city flock give colour and tenderness to not a few of his poems of human relationships. His ardent love of the Empire gives rein to his restless, roving thoughts and has finally drawn him to the battle-front as a chaplain. . .–M. O. HAMMOND, of 'The Globe,' Toronto.

[Page 76]

FREDERICK GEORGE SCOTT, "The Poet of the Laurentians," has this supreme gift as a writer: the art of expressing noble, beautiful and often profound thoughts, in simple, appropriate words which all who read can understand. His poems uplift the spirit and enrich the heart.

He was born in Montreal, April 7th, 1861, son of the late Dr. William Edward Scott, for nearly forty years Professor of Anatomy, in McGill University, and Elizabeth Sproston. Both parents were of English birth.

He was educated at the Montreal High School, at Bishop's College, Lennoxville (B.A., 1881; M.A., 1884 ; D.C.L., honorary, 1902), and at King's College, London, England.

Ordained deacon, 1884, and priest, 1886, his subsequent clerical career is indicated by the following: curate at Coggeshall, Essex, England, 1886-7; Rector of Drummondville, P.Q., 1887-96; curate, St. Mathews, Quebec, 1896-9, and then Rector; Canon, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Quebec, 1906, and ever since; Provincial Superior, Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

As an author, Canon Scott has won distinction by these publications: The Soul's Quest, and Other Poems, 1888; Elton Haslewood, 1892; My Lattice, and Other Poems, 1894; The Unnamed Lake, and Other Poems, 1897; Poems Old and New, 1900; The Hymn of Empire, and Other Poems, 1906; The Key of Life, a Mystery Play, 1907; Collected Poems, 1910.

At a special meeting of the Royal Society of Canada,–of which he was elected a Fellow in 1900,–held during the Quebec Tercentenary, he read an ode, Canada, written for the occasion.

His marriage to Amy, eldest daughter of the late George Brooks, of Barnet, England, took place in April, 1887. Of this union there are six children living, five boys and one girl. The two eldest sons are practising lawyers in Montreal.

This hero-poet at the Front–he is Major and Senior Chaplain of the 1st Canadian Division–is more than an eminent writer of verse and an impressive preacher, he is as the Montreal Star has said:

A man of liberal culture and wide sympathies, a patriot whose heart has thrilled with the truth of the larger life, political, social and religious, a man of strong courage born of reverent unquestioning faith.

[Page 77]

The Feud

I HEAR a cry from the Sansard cave,
  O mother, will no one hearken?
A cry of the lost, will no one save?
A cry of the dead, though the oceans rave,
And the scream of a gull as he wheels o'er a grave,
  While the shadows darken and darken.

'Oh, hush thee, child, for the night is wet,
  And the cloud-caves split asunder,
With lightning in a jagged fret,
Like the gleam of a salmon in the net,
When the rocks are rich in the red sunset,
  And the stream rolls down in thunder.'

'Mother, O mother, a pain at my heart,
  A pang like the pang of dying.'
'Oh, hush thee, child, for the wild birds dart
Up and down, and close and part,
Wheeling round where the black cliffs start,
  And the foam at their feet is flying.'

'O mother, a strife like the black clouds' strife,
  And a peace that cometh after.'
'Hush, child, for peace is the end of life,
And the heart of a maiden finds peace as a wife,
But the sky and the cliffs and the ocean are rife
  With the storm and thunder's laughter.'

'Come in, my sons, come in and rest,
  For the shadows darken and darken,
And your sister is pale as the white swan's breast,
And her eyes are fixed and her lips are pressed
In the death of a name ye might have guessed,
  Had ye twain been here to hearken.'

'Hush, mother, a corpse lies on the sand,
  And the spray is round it driven,
It lies on its face, and one white hand
Points through the mist on the belt of strand
To where the cliffs of Sansard stand,
  And the ocean's strength is riven.'

[Page 78]

'Was it God, my sons, who laid him there?
  Or the sea that left him sleeping?'
'Nay, mother, our dirks where his heart was bare,
As swift as the rain through the teeth of the air;
And the foam-fingers play in the Saxon's hair,
  While the tides are round him creeping.'

'Oh, curses on you, hand and head,
  Like the rains in this wild weather,
The guilt of blood is swift and dread,
Your sister's face is cold and dead,
Ye may not part whom God would wed
  And love hath knit together.'

Samson

PLUNGED in night, I sit alone
Eyeless on this dungeon stone,
Naked, shaggy, and unkempt,
Dreaming dreams no soul hath dreamt.

Rats and vermin round my feet
Play unharmed, companions sweet;
Spiders weave me overhead
Silken curtains for my bed.

Day by day the mould I smell
Of this fungus-blistered cell;
Nightly in my haunted sleep
O'er my face the lizards creep.

Gyves of iron scrape and burn
Wrists and ankles when I turn,
And my collared neck is raw
With the teeth of brass that gnaw.

God of Israel, canst Thou see
All my fierce captivity?
Do Thy sinews feel my pains?
Hearest Thou the clanking chains?

Thou who madest me so fair,
Strong and buoyant as the air,
Tall and noble as a tree,
With the passions of the sea,

[Page 79]

Swift as horse upon my feet,
Fierce as lion in my heat,
Rending, like a wisp of hay,
All that dared withstand my way,

Canst Thou see me through the gloom
Of this subterranean tomb,–
Blinded tiger in his den,
Once the lord and prince of men?

Clay was I; the potter Thou
With Thy thumb-nail smooth'dst my brow,
Roll'dst the spittle-moistened sands
Into limbs between Thy hands.

Thou didst pour into my blood
Fury of the fire and flood,
And upon the boundless skies
Thou didst first unclose my eyes.

And my breath of life was flame,
God-like from the source it came,
Whirling round like furious wind,
Though upgathered in the mind.

Strong Thou mad'st me, till at length
All my weakness was my strength;
Tortured am I, blind and wrecked,
For a faulty architect.

From the woman at my side,
Was I woman-like to hide
What she asked me, as if fear
Could my iron heart come near?

Nay, I scorned and scorn again
Cowards who their tongues restrain;
Cared I no more for Thy laws
Than a wind of scattered straws.

When the earth quaked at my name
And my blood was all aflame,
Who was I to lie, and cheat
Her who clung about my feet?

[Page 80]

From Thy open nostrils blow
Wind and tempest, rain and snow;
Dost Thou curse them on their course,
For the fury of their force?

Tortured am I, wracked and bowed,
But the soul within is proud;
Dungeon fetters cannot still
Forces of the tameless will.

Israel's God, come down and see
All my fierce captivity;
Let Thy sinews feel my pains,
With Thy fingers lift my chains,

Then, with thunder loud and wild,
Comfort Thou Thy rebel child,
And with lightning split in twain
Loveless heart and sightless brain.

Give me splendour in my death–
Not this sickening dungeon breath,
Creeping down my blood like slime,
Till it wastes me in my prime.

Give me back for one blind hour,
Half my former rage and power,
And some giant crisis send,
Meet to prove a hero's end.

Then, O God, Thy mercy show–
Crush him in the overthrow
At whose life they scorn and point,
By its greatness out of joint.

Dawn

THE immortal spirit hath no bars
  To circumscribe its dwelling place;
My soul hath pastured with the stars
  Upon the meadow-lands of space.

My mind and ear at times have caught,
  From realms beyond our mortal reach,

[Page 81]

The utterance of Eternal Thought
  Of which all nature is the speech.

And high above the seas and lands,
  On peaks just tipped with morning light,
My dauntless spirit mutely stands
  With eagle wings outspread for flight.

The River

WHY hurry, little river,
  Why hurry to the sea?
There is nothing there to do
But to sink into the blue
  And all forgotten be.
There is nothing on that shore
But the tides for evermore,
And the faint and far-off line
Where the winds across the brine
For ever, ever roam
And never find a home.

Why hurry, little river,
  From the mountains and the mead,
Where the graceful elms are sleeping
  And the quiet cattle feed?
The loving shadows cool
The deep and restful pool;
And every tribute stream
Brings its own sweet woodland dream
Of the mighty woods that sleep
Where the sighs of earth are deep,
And the silent skies look down
On the savage mountain's frown.

Oh, linger, little river,
  Your banks are all so fair,
Each morning is a hymn of praise,
  Each evening is a prayer.
All day the sunbeams glitter
  On your shallows and your bars,
And at night the dear God stills you
With the music of the stars.

[Page 82]

The Storm

O GRIP the earth, ye forest trees,
  Grip well the earth to-night,
The Storm-God rides across the seas
  To greet the morning light.

All clouds that wander through the skies
  Are tangled in his net,
The frightened stars have shut their eyes,
  The breakers fume and fret.

The birds that cheer the woods all day
  Now tremble in their nests,
The giant branches round them sway,
  The wild wind never rests.

The squirrel and the cunning fox
  Have hurried to their holes,
Far off, like distant earthquake shocks,
  The muffled thunder rolls.

In scores of hidden woodland dells,
  Where no rough winds can harm,
The timid wild-flowers toss their bells
  In reasonless alarm.

Only the mountains rear their forms,
  Silent and grim and bold;
To them the voices of the storms
  Are as a tale re-told.

They saw the stars in heaven hung,
  They heard the great Sea's birth,
They know the ancient pain that wrung
  The entrails of the Earth.

Sprung from great Nature's royal lines,
  They share her deep repose,–
Their rugged shoulders robed in pines,
  Their foreheads crowned with snows.

But now there comes a lightning flash,
  And now on hill and plain
The charging clouds in fury dash,
  And blind the world with rain.

[Page 83]

In the Winter Woods

WINTER forests mutely standing
  Naked on your bed of snow,
Wide your knotted arms expanding
  To the biting winds that blow,
Nought ye heed of storm or stress,
Stubborn, silent, passionless.

Buried is each woodland treasure,
  Gone the leaves and mossy rills,
Gone the birds that filled with pleasure
  All the valleys and the hills;
Ye alone of all that host
Stand like soldiers at your post.

Grand old trees, the words ye mutter,
  Nodding in the frosty wind,
Wake some thoughts I cannot utter,
  But which haunt the heart and mind,
With a meaning, strange and deep,
As of visions seen in sleep.

Something in my inmost thinking
  Tells me I am one with you,
For a subtle bond is linking
  Nature's offspring through and through,
And your spirit like a flood
Stirs the pulses of my blood.

While I linger here and listen
  To the crackling boughs above,
Hung with icicles that glisten
  As if kindling into love,
Human heart and soul unite
With your majesty and might.

Horizontal, rich with glory,
  Through the boughs the red sun's rays
Clothe you as some grand life-story
  Robes an aged man with praise,
When, before his setting sun,
Men recount what he has done.

[Page 84]

But the light is swiftly fading,
  And the wind is icy cold,
And a mist the moon is shading,
  Pallid in the western gold;
In the night-winds still ye nod,
Sentinels of Nature's God.

Now with laggard steps returning
  To the world from whence I came,
Leave I all the great West burning
    With the day that died in flame, .
And the stars, with silver ray,
Light me on my homeward way.

The Unnamed Lake

IT sleeps among the thousand hills
  Where no man ever trod,
And only nature's music fills
  The silences of God.

Great mountains tower above its shore,
  Green rushes fringe its brim,
And o'er its breast for evermore
  The wanton breezes skim.

Dark clouds that intercept the sun
  Go there in Spring to weep,
And there, when Autumn days are done,
  White mists lie down to sleep.

Sunrise and sunset crown with gold
  The pinks of ageless stone,
Her winds have thundered from of old
  And storms have set their throne.

No echoes of the world afar
  Disturb it night or day,
The sun and shadow, moon and star
  Pass and repass for aye.

'Twas in the grey of early dawn,
  When first the lake we spied,
And fragments of a cloud were drawn
  Half down the mountain side.

[Page 85]

Along the shore a heron flew,
  And from a speck on high,
That hovered in the deepening blue,
  We heard the fish-hawk's cry.

Among the cloud-capt solitudes,
  No sound the silence broke,
Save when, in whispers down the woods,
  The guardian mountains spoke.

Through tangled brush and dewy brake,
  Returning whence we came,
We passed in silence, and the lake
  We left without a name.

The Burden of Time

BEFORE the seas and mountains were brought forth,
  I reigned. I hung the universe in space,
I capped earth's poles with ice to South and North,
  And set the moving tides their bounds and place.

I smoothed the granite mountains with my hand,
  My fingers gave the continents their form;
I rent the heavens and loosed upon the land
  The fury of the whirlwind and the storm.

I stretched the dark sea like a nether sky
  Fronting the stars between the ice-clad zones;
I gave the deep his thunder; the Most High
  Knows well the voice that shakes His mountain thrones.

I trod the ocean caverns black as night,
  And silent as the bounds of outer space,
And where great peaks rose darkly towards the light
  I planted life to root and grow apace.

Then through a stillness deeper than the grave's,
  The coral spires rose slowly one by one,
Until the white shafts pierced the upper waves
  And shone like silver in the tropic sun.

I ploughed with glaciers down the mountain glen,
  And graved the iron shore with stream and tide;

[Page 86]

I gave the bird her nest, the lion his den,
  The snake long jungle-grass wherein to hide.

In lonely gorge and over hill and plain,
  I sowed the giant forests of the world;
The great earth like a human heart in pain
  Has quivered with the meteors I have hurled.

I plunged whole continents beneath the deep,
  And left them sepulchred a million years;
I called, and lo, the drowned lands rose from sleep,
  Sundering the waters of the hemispheres.

I am the lord and arbiter of man–
  I hold and crush between my finger-tips
Wild hordes that drive the desert caravan,
  Great nations that go down to sea in ships.

In sovereign scorn I tread the races down,
  As each its puny destiny fulfils,
On plain and island, or where huge cliffs frown,
  Wrapt in the deep thought of the ancient hills.

The wild sea searches vainly round the land
  For those proud fleets my arm has swept away;
Vainly the wind along the desert sand
  Calls the great names of kings who once held sway.

Yea, Nineveh and Babylon the great
  Are fallen–like ripe ears at harvest-tide;
I set my heel upon their pomp and state,
  The people's serfdom and the monarch's pride.

One doom waits all–art, speech, law, gods, and men,
  Forests and mountains, stars and shining sun,–
The hand that made them shall unmake again,
  I curse them and they wither one by one.

Waste altars, tombs, dead cities where men trod,
  Shall roll through space upon the darkened globe,
Till I myself be overthrown, and God
  Cast off creation like an outworn robe.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom