A Celebration of Women Writers

"Norah M. Holland" [Norah Mary Holland] (1876-1925) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 407-412.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 407]

drawing of woman with cross necklace

Norah M. Holland

Linked close by ties of blood to Ireland, where the veil is thin between the earth and the spirit world, and the fairy rings upon the grass attest the fairy revels, Norah Holland must have early glimpsed the vision of the Unseen things and known them for the Real, and been made free of the country which lies behind the gates of gold and ivory where the fairy folk welcome the children, and their elders who keep a child-like heart. . . . . But this singer of Canadian birth and nurturing has tender care also for the little things of earth, and her dog's devotion and the dancing feet of Kitty O'Neil are dear to her. . . . . Her verses show that she has encountered sorrow and met the trials of a toiling world, but these have never checked the play of humour, which dances irrepressibly among them, nor clouded a clarity of judgment as shrewd and guileless as a child's. The hand of Materialism has never touched her, and there is none of the soil of sordidness upon her garments. – CECILIA MARY WHITE, of 'The Globe,' Toronto.

[Page 408]

HOW interesting to know that among Canada's women poets is a cousin of W. B. Yeats–Miss Norah Mary Holland, a native Canadian, born at Collingwood, Ontario, and, since 1889, a resident of Toronto.

Miss Holland's mother (deceased), née Elizabeth Yeats, was a first cousin of the Irish poet, and her eldest daughter's lyrical gift is akin to that of the distinguished relative. From her father, Mr. John H. Holland, she also inherits poetic talent, as he is a nephew of the late Chief Justice Hagarty.

Miss Holland was educated in the public school and the collegiate institute of Port Dover, and in the Parkdale collegiate of Toronto.

Until recently she was for eight years employed as a reader by the Dominion Press Clipping Bureau, but is now on the staff of The Daily News, Toronto.

In 1904, she toured on foot the whole of the south and west of Ireland, and a considerable portion of England; and while she was a guest of the father of W. B. Yeats, he made the crayon sketch reproduced on the preceding page.

The old homes of both families from which she has sprung are in Sligo County, Ireland.

'Home Thoughts from Abroad' comes from the heart, as Miss Holland has two brothers at the Front.

To W. B. Yeats

A WIND of dreams comes singing over sea,
  From where the white waves kiss the coasts of home,
Bringing upon its rainbow wings to me
  Glimpses of days gone by,
Of wastes of water, where the sea-gulls cry
  Above the sounding foam.

Or through the mists do Finn and Usheen ride
  With all their men along some faery shore,
While Bran and Sgeolan follow at their side,
  Adown the shadowy track,
Till in the sunset Caoilte's hair blows back,
  And Niamh calls once more.

Or the brown bees hum through the drowsy day
  In glades of Inisfree, where sunlight gleams,

[Page 409]

The bean-flower scents again the dear old way,
  Once more the turf fire burns,
The memory of the long dead past returns
  Borne on that wind of dreams.

The Unchristened Child

ALANNA! Alanna! Within the churchyard's round
There's many graves of childer there; they lie in holy ground.
But yours is on the mountain side beneath the hawthorn tree,
O sweet one, my fleet one, that's gone so far from me.

Alanna! Alanna! When that small mound was made
No mass was sung, no bell was rung, no priest above it prayed;
Unchristened childer's souls they say may ne'er see Heaven's light–
O lone one, my own one, where strays your soul to-night?

Alanna! Alanna! This life's a weary one,
And there's little time for thinkin' when the hours of work are done,
And the others have forgotten, but there's times I sit apart,
O fair one, my dear one, and hold you in my heart.

Alanna! Alanna ! If I were Mary mild
And heard outside the gates of Heaven a little cryin' child,
What though its brow the chrisom lacked, I'd lift the golden pin,
O bright one, my white one, and bid you enter in.

Alanna! Alanna! The mountain side is bare,
And the winds they do be blowing and the snows be lying there,
And unchristened childer's souls, they say, may ne'er see Heaven's light,
O lone one, my own one, where strays your soul to-night?

The King of Erin's Daughter

THE King of Erin's Daughter had wind-blown hair and bright,
The King of Erin's Daughter, her eyes were like the sea;

[Page 410]

(O Rose of all the roses, have you forgotten quite
The story of the days of old that once you told to me?)

The King of Erin's Daughter went up the mountain side
And who but she was singing as she went upon her way,
'O somewhere waits a King's Son and I shall be his bride,
And tall he is and fair he is and none shall say him nay.'

The King of Erin's Daughter–O fair was she and sweet–
Went laughing up the mountain without a look behind
Till on the lofty summit that lay beneath her feet
She found a King's Son waiting there, his brows with poppies twined.

O tall was he and fair was he. He looked into her face
And whispered in her ear a word un-named of mortal breath
And very still she rested, clasped close in his embrace,
The King of Erin's Daughter, for the bridegroom's name was Death.

My Dog and I

MY dog and I, the hills we know
Where the first faint wild roses blow,
  We know the shadowy paths and cool
That wind across the woodland dim,
And where the water beetles swim
  Upon the surface of the pool.

My dog and I, our feet brush through
Full oft the fragrant morning dew,
  Or when the summer sun is high
We linger where the river flows,
Chattering and chuckling as it goes,
  Two happy tramps, my dog and I.

Or, when the winter snows are deep,
Into some fire-lit nook we creep
  And, while the north wind howls outside,
See castles in the dancing blaze,
Or, dozing, dream of summer days
  And woodland stretches, wild and wide.

My dog and I are friends till death,
And when the chill, dark angel's breath
  Shall call him from me, still I know

[Page 411]

Somewhere within the shadowy land
Waiting his master he will stand
  Until my summons comes to go.

And, in that life so strange and new,
We'll tramp the fields of heaven through,
  Loiter the crystal river by,
Together walk the hills of God
As when the hills of earth we trod,
  Forever friends, my dog and I.

Cradle Song

LITTLE brown feet, that have grown so weary
  Plodding on through the heat of day,
Mother will hold you, mother will fold you
Safe to her breast; little feet, rest;
  Now is the time to cease from play.

Little brown hands, that through day's long hours
  Never rested, be still at last;
Mother will rest you; come, then, and nest you
Here by her side, nestle and hide;
  Creep to her heart and hold it fast.

Little brown head, on my shoulder lying,
  Night is falling and day is dead;
Mother will sing you songs that shall bring you
Childhood's soft sleep, quiet and deep;
  Sweet be your dreams, O dear brown head!

Home Thoughts from Abroad

APRIL in England–daffodils are growing
  By every wayside, golden, tall and fair;
April–and all the little winds are blowing
  The scents of springtime through the sunny air.
April in England–God, that we were there!

April in England–and her sons are lying
  On these red fields, and dreaming of her shore;
April–we hear the thrushes' songs replying
  Each unto each, above the cannons' roar;
April in England–shall we see it more?

[Page 412]

April in England–there's the cuckoo calling
  Down in her meadows where the cowslip gleams;
April–and little showers are softly falling,
  Dimpling the surface of her babbling streams;
April in England–how the shrapnel screams!

April in England–blood and dust and smother,
  Screaming of horses, men in agony.
April–full many of thy sons, O Mother,
  Never again those dewy dawns shall see.
April in England–God, keep England free!

Sea Song

I WILL go down to the sea again, to the waste of waters, wild and wide;
I am tired–so tired–of hill and plain and the dull tame face of the country-side.

I will go out across the bar, with a swoop like the flight of a sea-bird's wings,
To where the winds and the waters are, with their multitudinous thunderings.

My prow shall furrow the whitening sea, out into the teeth of the lashing wind,
Where a thousand billows snarl and flee and break in a smother of foam behind.

O strong and terrible Mother Sea, let me lie once more on your cool white breast,
Your winds have blown through the heart of me and called me back from the land's dull rest.

For night by night they blow through my sleep, the voice of waves through my slumber rings,
I feel the spell of the steadfast deep; I hear its tramplings and triumphings.

And at last when my hours of life are sped let them make me no grave by hill or plain,
Thy waves, O Mother, shall guard my head; I will go down to my sea again.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom