A Celebration of Women Writers

"Florence Randal Livesay" (1874-1953) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 371-376.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 371]

woman with short hair and necklace

Florence Randal Livesay


We ought to be proud that the foreign folk among us have found a sympathetic voice singing in our language the songs of their fatherland. Mrs. Livesay composes as easily as William Morris. She has the lyric gift, and she has the feeling for these people that gives her verse vitality. . .

Her verses have the singing quality and the true feeling. . . . . In her translations Mrs. Livesay has certainly entered into the spirit of the original, reproducing the passion, the patriotism, and the very song itself. . . . . 'The Young Recruits' is a genuine dramatic lyric. Read it twice and you will read it three times. . . . .

She has surely captured throughout the number and variety of her translations, –love-songs, war cries, heart-break, dance–the peculiar wit and wisdom of the Ukrainian nation, the twist of the national temperament. She has given to them again their claim to poetry, and has retained 'the tang of race.' –The Bookman, in the 'Manitoba Free Press.'

[Page 372]

FLORENCE RANDAL LIVESAY, daughter of Stephen and Mary Louisa Randal, was born at Compton, P. Q., and educated at Compton Ladies' College, now King's Hall. She taught for one year in a private school in New York, and subsequently for seven years was a member of the staff of the Evening Journal, Ottawa,–editor of the Woman's Page.

In 1902, the Hon. Joseph Chamberlain requested Canada to send some teachers to the Boer Concentration Camps and Miss Randal, offering her services, was one of the forty chosen. She remained for one year and then returned to Canada, locating at Winnipeg. She joined the staff of the Winnipeg Telegram, and three years later that of the Manitoba Free Press. For several years she edited the Children's Department of the latter, but now writes as a 'free lance.'

In 1908, she married Mr. J. Fred. B. Livesay of Winnipeg, Manager and Secretary of the Western Associated Press, Limited, and is now the mother of two girls.

Of recent years, Mrs. Livesay has contributed poems, short stories and articles to Canadian and American magazines and journals, and a volume of her verse, entitled Songs of Ukraina is now being published by J. M. Dent & Sons.

Mrs. Livesay's folk songs translated from the Ruthenian are unusual and notable, but her poetical gift is quite as discernible in her other poems. She has the imagination and the practiced touch of the artist.


I DIED once, but I came to life
With pain that stabbed me like a knife;

And once again I know I died–
Afraid! And yet that shell flew wide.

A singing bullet cut the air;
I said a catch of a childish prayer–

If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

'Before I wake–'

[Page 373]

The Young Recruits

(Cossack Song)

ALONG the hills lies the snow,
But the streams they melt and flow;
By the road the poppies blow–
Poppies? Nay, scarlet though they glow,
These are no flowers–the young recruits!
  They are the young recruits!

  To Krym, to Krym they ride,
  The soldiers, side by side–
  And over the country wide
  Sounds the beat of the horse's stride.

One calls to her soldier son:
'Return, O careless one!
Of scrubbing wilt have none?
Let me wash thy head–then run!'

'Nay, mother, wash thine own,
Or make my sister groan.
Leave thou thy son alone!
Too swift the time has flown.

'My head the fine spring rain
Will soon wash clean again,
And stout thorns will be fain
To comb what rough has lain.

'The sun will make it dry,
Wind-parted it will lie–
So, mother mine, good-bye!'
. . . . .
He could not hear her cry.

Song of the Cossack

(Ruthenian Folk Song)

HEAVILY hangs the rye
  Bent to the trampled ground;
While brave men fighting die
  Through blood the horses bound.

[Page 374]

Under the white-stemmed tree
  A Cossack bold is slain–
They lift him tenderly
  Into the ruined grain.

Some one has borne him there,
  Someone has put in place
A scarlet cloth, with prayer,
  Over the up-turned face.

Softly a girl has come–
  Dove-like she looks; all gray–
Stares at the soldier dumb
  And, crying, goes away.

Then, swift, another maid–
  Ah, how unlike she is!–
With grief and passion swayed
  Gives him her farewell kiss

The third one does not cry,
  Caresses none has she:
'Three girls thy love flung by–
  Death rightly came to thee!'

Khustina–The Kerchief

(From the Ukrainian of Pedkovich)

[It is the custom among Ukrainian maidens to embroider such a kerchief for the betrothal, and then it is bound upon the arm or worn in some noticeable way on the man's person.]

THE sun was drowning in the ocean's brim
   Red, red as blood;
   And in the crimson flood
A young girl sewed a handkerchief with gold.

Embroidering in gold with stitches fine–
   Like lilies white
   Her cheeks will look to-night,
Like pure-white lilies washed with tears.

And as she sewed she pressed it to her heart;
   Then, weeping sore,
   She opened wide the door:
'Strong wind, my Eagle, take this on your wings!'

[Page 373]

'Strong as the Dunai swiftly onward flows,
   O Wind so free
   Deliver this for me
Where now he serves, yea, where the heart well knows!

'He in the Uhlans' ranks is fighting now–
   Go, Golden One,
   From sun to sun
Float on the wind until that place you find!

'And, Golden One, when you shall hear one call
   Even as a dove,
   Rest, for my love,
My loved one will be waiting there below!

'He has a bay horse, and his weapons are
   Shining as gold.
   Wind, free and bold,
Fall to his heart as the rose petals fall!

'If sleeping, wake him not; and if–O God!–
   If slain he lie,
   For your good-bye
O Golden One, cover his sweet dead face!'

At Vieille Chapelle

"At Vieille Chapelle there was a furious encounter in a cemetery."

BURYING, burying
  Clods are we, clods we toss.
The children weave flower garlands in the sun
For this or that dead one
  Or make a cross,
While we are burying.

Listening, listening,
  The dead men heard the battle overhead.
The gravestones fell in ruins to the ground–
  Beneath, more dead we found.

Fighting on, fighting on,
  The rest passed by–or halted here–
We buried two, up in the graveyard there.
  German and French they were.

Pitiless, merciless,
  But well-matched, too, they cut and thrust,

[Page 376]

Until they reached that little cottage door–
  They never came out more.

Lying so–buried so–
  I sometimes think, at night, of how they must
Hate still, and struggle to arise
  Death-fury in their eyes.

Side by side, side by side,
  Surely they would not, think you, rest in peace?
Too near was dug each grave.
  Eh bien, they both were brave!

The Bride of the Sea

(The Titanic)

DECKED as a bride with charms
  She left her ancient isle
To come unto my arms–
  I waited, mile on mile.

A maiden ship, all gay
  With gilt and 'broidery,
She sang, upon her way,
  'Neptune, I come to thee!'

But all the journey long
  Spite of her revelry,
I heard her undersong,
  'Nay, but I would be free!'

Then I sent curtseying hosts
  To greet her as she came–
Soundless and white as ghosts
  And terrible as flame.

They drew her to my side,
  Fair in her wedding dress,
Where every lapping tide
  Shall give her my caress.

. . . .

'God of all souls forlorn,'–
  The cry comes piteously
  From hearts by anguish torn–
'Restore my dead to me!'


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom