Charles G. D. Roberts

Here you will find the Long Poem Ave! (An Ode for the Shelley Centenary, 1892) of poet Charles G. D. Roberts

Ave! (An Ode for the Shelley Centenary, 1892)

 O tranquil meadows, grassy Tantramar, 
 Wide marshes ever washed in clearest air, 
 Whether beneath the sole and spectral star 
 The dear severity of dawn you wear, 
 Or whether in the joy of ample day 
 And speechless ecstasy of growing June 
 You lie and dream the long blue hours away 
 Till nightfall comes too soon, 
 Or whether, naked to the unstarred night, 
 You strike with wondering awe my inward sight, --

 You know how I have loved you, how my dreams 
 Go forth to you with longing, though the years 
 That turn not back like your returning streams 
 And fain would mist the memory with tears, 
 Though the inexorable years deny 
 My feet the fellowship of your deep grass, 
 O'er which, as o'er another, tenderer sky, 
 Cloud phantoms drift and pass, --
 You know my confident love, since first, a child, 
 Amid your wastes of green I wandered wild.

 Inconstant, eager, curious, I roamed; 
 And ever your long reaches lured me on; 
 And ever o'er my feet your grasses foamed, 
 And in my eyes your far horizons shone. 
 But sometimes would you (as a stillness fell 
 And on my pulse you laid a soothing palm) 
 Instruct my ears in your most secret spell; 
 And sometimes in the calm 
 Initiate my young and wondering eyes 
 Until my spirit grew more still and wise.

 Purged with high thoughts and infinite desire 
 I entered fearless the most holy place, 
 Received between my lips the secret fire, 
 The breath of inspiration on my face. 
 But not for long these rare illumined hours, 
 The deep surprise and rapture not for long. 
 Again I saw the common, kindly flowers, 
 Again I heard the song 
 Of the glad bobolink, whose lyric throat 
 Peeled like a tangle of small bells afloat.

 The pounce of mottled marsh-hawk on his prey; 
 The flicker of sand-pipers in from sea 
 In gusty flocks that puffed and fled; the play 
 Of field-mice in the vetches, -- these to me 
 Were memorable events. But most availed 
 Your strange unquiet waters to engage 
 My kindred heart's companionship; nor failed 
 To grant this heritage, --
 That in my veins forever must abide 
 The urge and fluctuation of the tide. 

 The mystic river whence you take your name, 
 River of hubbub, raucous Tantramar, 
 Untamable and changeable as flame, 
 It called me and compelled me from afar, 
 Shaping my soul with its impetuous stress. 
 When in its gaping channel deeps withdrawn 
 Its waves ran crying of the wilderness 
 And winds and stars and dawn, 
 How I companioned them in speed sublime, 
 Led out a vagrant on the hills of Time! 

 And when the orange flood came roaring in 
 From Fundy's tumbling troughs and tide-worn caves, 
 While red Minudie's flats were drowned with din 
 And rough Chignecto's front oppugned the waves, 
 How blithely with the refluent foam I raced 
 Inland along the radiant chasm, exploring 
 The green solemnity with boisterous haste; 
 My pulse of joy outpouring 
 To visit all the creeks that twist and shine 
 From Beauséjour to utmost Tormentine.

 And after, when the tide was full, and stilled 
 A little while the seething and the hiss, 
 And every tributary channel filled 
 To the brim with rosy streams that swelled to kiss 
 The grass-roots all awash and goose-tongue wild 
 And salt-sap rosemary, -- then how well content 
 I was to rest me like a breathless child 
 With play-time rapture spent, --
 To lapse and loiter till the change should come
 And the great floods turn seaward, roaring home. 

 And now, O tranquil marshes, in your vast 
 Serenity of vision and of dream, 
 Wherethrough by every intricate vein have passed 
 With joy impetuous and pain supreme 
 The sharp, fierce tides that chafe the shores of earth 
 In endless and controlless ebb and flow, 
 Strangely akin you seem to him whose birth 
 One hundred years ago 
 With fiery succour to the ranks of song 
 Defied the ancient gates of wrath and wrong. 

 Like yours, O marshes, his compassionate breast, 
 Wherein abode all dreams of love and peace, 
 Was tortured with perpetual unrest. 
 Now loud with flood, now languid with release, 
 Now poignant with the lonely ebb, the strife 
 Of tides from the salt sea of human pain 
 That hiss along the perilous coasts of life 
 Beat in his eager brain; 
 But all about the tumult of his heart 
 Stretched the great calm of his celestial art. 

 Therefore with no far flight, from Tantramar 
 And my still world of ecstasy, to thee, 
 Shelley, to thee I turn, the avatar 
 Of Song, Love, Dream, Desire, and Liberty; 
 To thee I turn with reverent hands of prayer 
 And lips that fain would ease my heart o