A Celebration of Women Writers

"Lloyd Roberts" (1884- ) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 429-436.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 429]

man looking downward

Lloyd Roberts

Mr. Roberts as a poet is fundamentally a word-painter, a nature colourist, rather than a lilter or verbal musician. By this it is not meant that his verse does not appeal by its rhythmic swing and vowel music, consonance, assonance and alliteration. As a verbal musician his rhythms are limited, quite conventional, though not artificial; he employs rhythms suited to his subjects, and he is adept in the use of pure terminal rhymes, assonance, and alliteration, gifted in this respect, somewhat like Swinburne. But essentially Mr. Roberts shows distinction as a colourist, using words with the same beauty and power that a master-painter in oils uses pigments. He is a master of vivid colourful diction and phrase. . . . . Mr. Lloyd Roberts is a genuine poet because he sings with the poet's chief inspiration, namely: ecstasy of delight in the magic and mystery of earth, and in the lust of life. He is a poet of exceeding great promise.J. D. LOGAN, PH.D., in the Montreal 'Herald.'

[Page 430]

BECAUSE of the warm place held in the hearts of Canadian readers, by Charles G. D. Roberts, a first volume of poems from the pen of his eldest living son, Mr. Lloyd Roberts, was a matter of national interest.

This volume, England Over Seas, published in the spring of 1914, at once attracted wide attention. It was soon discovered that the son is as true a poet as the father, possessing the same unerring vision and sureness of touch in nature description, and the same fine mastery of words and of rhythmic effects.

In an excellent review in the Halifax Herald, appears this passage:

It is the simplicity of statement, the lyric charm and the spontaneous joy of its utterance which make Mr. Roberts' work such a pleasure and a profit to read. This simplicity is obviously Mr. Roberts' ideal, and with such an ideal held steadily before him, there is no distance he may not travel and no height he may not climb to deliver his message to the world . . . . . Lloyd Roberts comes upon the scene as a writer of true lyric poetry, singing the song of his native land, and with each successive poem fulfilling the promise of becoming one of the way-marks of Canadian literature.

Mr. Roberts was born in Fredericton, N.B., October 31st, 1884. He was educated in the schools of his native city and subsequently at Windsor, N.S. When eighteen years of age, he broke away from the class-room and began his career of self-directed effort. In 1904 he joined the staff of Outing Magazine, New York, as assistant editor; and later became an editorial writer for 'The National Encyclopaedia of American Biography.' Since then he has done newspaper work in British Columbia and in Ontario, and is now occupied in the Department of the Interior, at Ottawa, as editor of immigration literature.

Mr. Roberts has been twice married,–in 1908, to Helen Hope Farquhar Balmain, of England, to whom his first volume is dedicated, and who died in 1912, leaving him with one little daughter, Patricia–and in 1914, to Lila White, of New York State.

The readers of England Over Seas will learn with very real pleasure that Mr. Roberts' second book of verse is ready for the press.

[Page 431]

The Fruit-Rancher

HE sees the rosy apples cling like flowers to the bough:
  He plucks the purple plums and spills the cherries on the grass;
He wanted peace and silence,–God gives him plenty now–
  His feet upon the mountain and his shadow on the pass.

He built himself a cabin from red cedars of his own;
  He blasted out the stumps and twitched the boulders from the soil;
And with an axe and chisel he fashioned out a throne
  Where he might dine in grandeur off the first fruits of his toil.

His orchard is a treasure-house alive with song and sun,
  Where currants ripe as rubies gleam and golden pippins glow;
His servants are the wind and rain whose work is never done,
  Till winter rends the scarlet roof and banks the halls with snow.

He shouts across the valley, and the ranges answer back;
  His brushwood smoke at evening lifts a column to the moon;
And dim beyond the distance where the Kootenai snakes black,
  He hears the silence shattered by the laughter of the loon.

Miss Pixie

DID you ever meet Miss Pixie of the Spruces,
  Did you ever glimpse her mocking elfin face,
Did you ever hear her calling while the whip-poor-wills were calling,
  And slipped your pack and taken up the chase?

Her feet are clad in moccasins and beads.
  Her dress? Oh, next to nothing! Though undressed,
Her slender arms are circled round with vine
  And dusky locks cling close about her breast.

Red berries droop below each pointed ear;
  Her nut-brown legs are criss-crossed white with scratches;
Her merry laughter sifts among the pines;
  Her eager face gleams pale from milk-weed patches.

[Page 432]

And though I never yet have reached her hand–
  God knows I've tried with all my heart's desire,–
One morning just at dawn she caught me sleeping
  And with her soft lips touched my soul with fire.

And once when camping near a foaming rip,
  Lying wide-eyed beneath the milky stars,
Sudden I heard her voice ring sweet and clear,
  Calling my soul beyond the river bars.

Dear, dancing Pixie of the wind and weather,
  Aglow with love and merriment and sun,
I chase thee down my dreams, but catch thee never–
  God grant I catch thee ere the trail is done!

Did you ever meet Miss Pixie of the Thickets,
  Where the scarlet leaves leap tinkling from your feet,
Have you ever heard her calling while a million feet were falling,
  And a million lights were crowding all the street?

England's Fields

ENGLAND'S cliffs are white like milk,
  But England's fields are green;
The grey fogs creep across the moors,
  But warm suns stand between.
And not so far from London town, beyond the brimming street,
A thousand little summer winds are singing in the wheat.

  Red-lipped poppies stand and burn,
    The hedges are aglow;
  The daisies climb the windy hills
    Till all grow white like snow.
And when the slim, pale moon slides down, and dreamy night is near,
There's a whisper in the beeches for lonely hearts to hear.

  Poppies burn in Italy,
    And suns grow round and high;
  The black pines of Posilipo
    Are gaunt upon the sky–

[Page 433]

And yet I know an English elm beside an English lane
That calls me through the twilight and the miles of misty rain.

  Tell me why the meadow-lands
    Become so warm in June;
  Why the tangled roses breathe
    So softly to the moon;
And when the sunset bars come down to pass the feet of day,
Why the singing thrushes slide between the sprigs of May?

  Weary, we have wandered back–
    And we have travelled far–
  Above the storms and over seas
    Gleamed ever one bright star–
O England! when our feet grow cold and will no longer roam,
We see beyond your milk-white cliffs the round, green fields of home.

Husbands Over Seas

EACH morning they sit down to their little bites of bread,
  To six warm bowls of porridge and a broken mug or two.
And each simple soul is happy and each hungry mouth is fed–
  Then why should she be smiling as the weary-hearted do?

All day the house has echoed to their tiny, treble laughter
  (Six little rose-faced cherubs who trip shouting through the day),
Till the candle lights the cradle and runs dark along the rafter–
  Then why should she be watching while the long night wastes away?

She tells them how their daddy has sailed out across the seas,
  And they'd be going after when the May begins to bloom.
Oh, they clap their hands together as they cluster round her knees–
  Then why should she be weeping as they tumble from the room?

The May has bloomed and withered and the haws are clinging red,

[Page 434]

  The winter winds are talking in the dead ranks of the trees;
And still she tells of daddy as she tucks each tot in bed–
  God pity all dear women who have husbands over seas!

The Winter Harvest

BETWEEN the blackened curbs lie stacked the harvest of the skies,
  Long lines of frozen, grimy cocks befouled by city feet;
On either side the racing throngs, the crowding cliffs, the cries,
  And ceaseless winds that eddy down to whip the iron street.

The wagons whine beneath their loads, the raw-boned horses strain;
  A hundred sullen shovels claw and heave the sodden mass–
There lifts no dust of scented moats, no cheery call of swain,
  Nor birds that pipe from border brush across the yellow grass.

No cow-bells honk from upland fields, no sunset thrushes call
  To swarthy, bare-limbed harvesters beyond the stubble roads;
But flanges grind on frosted steel, the weary snow-picks fall,
  And twisted, toiling backs are bent to pile the bitter loads.

No shouting from the intervales, no singing from the hill,
  No scent of trodden tansy weeds among the golden grain–
Only the silent, cringing forms beneath the aching chill.
  Only the hungry eyes of want in haggard cheeks of pain.

Come Quietly, Britain!

COME quietly, Britain, all together, come!
It is time!
We have waited, weighed, and wondered
Who had blundered;
Stared askance at one another
As our brother slew our brother,
And went about our business,
Saying: 'It will all be right–some day.
Let the soldiers do the killing–

[Page 435]

If they're willing–
Let the sailors do the manning,
Let the Cabinets do the planning,
Let the bankers do the paying,
And the clergy do the praying.
The Empire is a fixture–
Walled and welded by five oceans,
And a little blood won't move it,
Nor a flood-tide of emotions.'

Well, now we know the truth
And the facts of all this fighting;
How 'tis not for England's glory
But for all a wide world's righting;
Not for George nor party power,
Not for conquest nor for dower,
Not for fear of our last hour,
But the lone star of liberty and light.
What the Puritans left England for,
What the Irish their green isle;
What Adolphus pledged his life to,
And Orange took from Spain–
The Spain that Grenville throttled,
And Frankie broke in twain–
What Washington starved and strove for
In the long winter night;
Lincoln wept for, died for–
Do we doubt if he were right?

Ah! It is time, if the soul of these is ours–
Time to put an end to reason
And take the field for right.
They will lead us, never fear it,
They will lead us through the night.
They will steel the soul and sinew
Of the legions of the land;
They will pilot up the Dreadnoughts
With the tillers in their hand–
Howard and Frobisher and Drake–
And who would fear to follow

[Page 436]

When Nelson sets the course?
And who would turn his eyes away
From Wellington's white horse?

Not one, I warrant, now–
Not one at home to-day;
In England? In Scotland?
In the Green Isle 'cross the way?
No, nor far away to westward
Beyond the leagues of foam–
They are coming, they are coming,
Their feet are turning home.
In Canada they're singing,
And love lies like a flame
About their hearts this morning
That sea-winds cannot tame.
Africa? Australia?
Aye, a million throats proclaim
That their Motherland is Mother still
In something more than name!

It is time! Come, all together, come!
Not to the fife's call, not to the drum;
Right needs you; Truth claims you–
That's a call indeed
One must heed!
Not for the weeping
(God knows there is weeping!);
Not for the horrors
That are blotting out the page;
Not for our comrades
(How many now are sleeping!)
Nor for the pity nor the rage,
But for the sake of simple goodness
And His 1aws,
We shall sacrifice our all
For The Cause!


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom