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Frederick George Scott 1861 (Montreal, Quebec) – 1944 (Quebec City, Quebec)

GREAT mother! from the depths of forest wilds,
From mountain pass and burning sunset plain,
We, thine unlettered children of the woods,
Upraise to thee the everlasting hymn
Of nature, language of the skies and seas,
Voice of the birds and sighing of the pine
In wintry wastes. We know none other tongue,
Nor the smooth speech that, like the shining leaves,
Hides the rough stems beneath. We bring our song,
Wood-fragrant, rough, yet autumn-streaked with love,
And lay it as a tribute at thy feet.
But should it vex thee thus to hear us sing,
Sad in the universal joy that crowns
This year of years, and shouldst thou deem our voice
But death-cry of the ages that are past,
Bear with us—say, "My children of the woods,
In language learnt from bird and wood and stream,
From changing moons and stars and misty lakes,
Pour forth their love, and lay it at my feet;
The voice is wild and strange, untuned to ear
Of majesty, ill-timed to fevered pulse
Of this young age, and meteor-souls that flash
New paths upon night's dome; yet will I hear
This singing of my children ere they die."
Great mother! thou art wise, they say, and good,
And reignest like the moon in autumn skies,
The world about thy feet. We have not seen
Thy face, nor the wild seas of life that surge
Around thy throne; but we have stood by falls,
Deep-shadowed in the silence of the woods,
And heard the water-thunders, and have said,
Thus is the voice of men about our Queen.
What is the red man but the forest stream,
The cry of screech-owl in the desert wilds?
This flood that overflows the hills and plains
Is not for us. Back, Westward, Northward, ay,
Up to eternal winter 'neath the stars,
Our path must be in silence, till the snows
And sun and wind have bleached our children's bones.
The red must go; the axe and plough and plane
Are not for him. We perish with the pine,
We vanish in the silence of the woods;
Our footsteps, like the war-trail in the snow,
Grow fainter while the new spring buds with life.
Great mother! the white faces came with words
Of love and hope, and pointed to the skies,
And in the sunrise splendour set the throne
Of the Great Spirit, and upon the cross
Showed us His Son, and asked a throne for Him.
Their speech was music; but in camp at night
We brooded o'er the matter round the fire,
The shadowy pines about us, and the stars,
Set in the silent heavens, looking down.
We brooded o'er the matter days and years,
For thus each thought and thus each spake in words:
"We children of the woods have lived and died
In these our forests, since the first moon tipped
Their thousand lakes and rivers with her beams,
Pale silver in the fading sky of even.
Our fathers' faces kindled in the glow
Of setting suns; they read the starlit sky;
They heard the Spirit's breathing on the storm,
And on the quaking earth they felt His tread;
But never yet the story of His Son
Was wafted to them from the sighing woods,
Or bird or stream. Our fathers' God is ours;
And as for these new words, we watch and wait."
Great mother! we have waited days and years,
Thro' spring and summer—summer, autumn, spring;
Brooding in silence, for anon we dreamed
A bird's voice in our hearts half sung, "'Tis true."
We listened and we watched the pale face come,
When, lo! new gods came with them—gods of iron
And fire, that shook the forests as they rushed,
Filling with thunder and loud screeching, plains,
Mountains, and woods, and dimming with their breath
The shining skies. These new gods, who were they,
That came devouring all, and blackening earth
And sky with smoke and thunder? We knew not,
But fled in terror further from the face
Of these white children and their gods of iron;
We heard no more their story of the Son,
And words of love. Their own lives were not love,
But war concealed and fire beneath the ash.
Thus ever now the burden of our speech—
We perish with the pine tree and the bird,
We vanish in the silence of the woods,
The white man's hunting-ground, it is not ours;
We care not for his gods of iron and fire;
Our home is in the trackless wilds, the depths
Of mountain solitudes, by starlit lakes,
By noise of waters in the unchanging woods.
Great mother! we have wondered that thy sons,
Thy pale sons, should have left thy side and come
To these wild plains, and sought the haunts of bears
And red men. Why their battle with the woods?
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:09 min read

Frederick George Scott

Frederick George Scott was a Canadian poet and author, known as the Poet of the Laurentians. He is sometimes associated with Canada's Confederation Poets, a group that included Charles G. D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Duncan Campbell Scott. Scott published 13 books of Christian and patriotic poetry. Scott was a British imperialist who wrote many hymns to the British Empire—eulogizing his country's roles in the Boer Wars and World War I. Many of his poems use the natural world symbolically to convey deeper spiritual meaning. Frederick George Scott was the father of poet F. R. Scott. more…

All Frederick George Scott poems | Frederick George Scott Books

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