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Margaret Dixon McDougall 1826 (Belfast, ) – 1898 (Seattle, Washington, )
Away up on the River aux Lievres,
That is foaming and surging always,
And from rock to rock leaping through rapids,
Which are curtained by showers of spray;
That is eddying, whirling and chasing
All the white swells that break on the shore;
And then dashing and thundering onward,
With the sound of a cataract's roar.
And up here is the Buckingham village,
Which is built on these waters of strife,
It was here that the minister Babin,
Stood and preached of the Gospel of Life,
Of the message of love and of mercy,
The glad tidings of freedom and peace,
Of help for the hopeless and helpless,
For all weary ones rest and relief.
Was his message all noise like the rapids?
Was it empty and light as the foam?
Ah me! what thought the desolate inmate
Of the still upper room of his home?
One too many, one sad and unwelcome,
That reclined in his invalid's chair,
With her pale, busy fingers still knitting
Yarn mingled with sorrow and care.
And the brother stood up in the pulpit,
Stood up there in the neat village church,
And he preached of the pool of Bethesda,
Where the poor lame man lay in the porch
Waiting for the invisible mercy,
That shall healing and blessedness bring,
For those soft waters never were troubled,
Until swept by the life angel's wing.
But was that cottage home a Bethesda?
Was the porch up the dark narrow stair?
Were the thoughts of the lonely sister
Brighter made by a fond brother's care?
Ah who knows!--for the chair now is empty,
And the impotent girl is away,
While the night and the darkness covered
Such a deed from the light of the day.
Did she struggle for her dear existence?
Did the wild night winds bear off her cry?
Ere the pitiless, swift surging waters,
Caught and smothered her agony;
And again when the black, whirling eddy,
Drew her down to its cold, rocky bed,
Who was it that stood so remorseless
On the strong ice arched over her head?
Men may join and strike hands to hide it,
And agree to say evil is good;
Mingled with the loud roar of the waters,
Rings the cry of our lost sister's blood.
Mirth and song, and untimely music,
May sound up to the starry skies;
Nought of earth can stifle the gnawing
Of that dread worm that never dies.
Away in a distant city,
Is a stranger all unknown;
Far, far from the leaping river,
That is rushing past his home.
He lay in the stilly silence
Of a quiet, darkened room,
Feeling that the dread death angel
Stands in the gathering gloom.
One foot on shadowy waters,
One foot on the earthly shore;
He swears to the shrinking mortal,
That his time shall be no more.
The spray of the silent river,
Is cold beaded on his brow,
For Jordan's billowy swellings
Are bearing him onward now
He is floating into darkness,
Going with the shifting tide,
And there is the seat of judgment,
Waits him at the further side.
But his eyes are looking backward,
In pauses of mortal strife,
And he sees the quiet village,
Where he preached the word of life.
And he sees the pleasant cottage,
To which in the flush of pride,
The popular village pastor,
Brought home a most haughty bride
But ever there comes another,
With a pale and pleading face,
So helpless, and so unwelcome,
A burden and a disgrace
And the river roars and rushes,
Leaping past with fearful din,
Its ever foaming caldron
Suggesting a deadly sin.
Saying, "I am partially sheeted,
In the winter's ice and snow,
What's plunged in my dashing waters,
No mortal shall ever know"
So ever with nervous fingers,
He harnesses up his sleigh;
So ever with stealthy movements,
He travels the icy way.
And stops where the yawning chasm,
Shows the yawning wave beneath,
And she knows with sudden horror,
That she has been brought to her death
Her weak hands cling to his bosom,
His ears are thrilled with her cry;
When the last struggling strength went forth
In that shriek of agony.
So his most unwilling spirit,
Still travels memory's track,
Despair staring blindly forward,
Remorse ever dragging back.
Again he walks by the waters,
While innocent mortals sleep,
Asking the pitiless river,
The horrible deed to keep.
Spring comes and the ice is breaking,
Does it break before its time?
Then he knows on God's fair footstool
No shelter there is for crime.
For the rushing, tempting waters,
Have got an accusing roar;
The treacherous sweeping eddy
Has brought the crime to his door.
Then he lives over and over,
That moment of anguished dread,
When the cry arose--awestruck hands
Had found and borne oft his dead.
Thus he, conscience-lashed and goaded,
Feeling as the murderer feels,
Has reached the last, last spot of earth,
The Avenger at his heels
Ah me! to plunge in those swellings,
Along with that ghastly face,
Going out on unknown waters
In that clinging dread embrace
So he floated on to judgment,
What award may meet him there,
Who knows--but his earthly punishment
Was greater than he could bear
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"A Legend Of Buckingham Village." Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 24 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/56276/a-legend-of-buckingham-village.>.