Charles G. D. Roberts (1860-1943)
Notes on Life and Works (University of Toronto)
The Potato Harvest
A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne
Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky
Washing the ridge; a clamour of crows that fly
In from the wide flats where the spent tides mourn
To yon their rocking roosts in pines wind-torn;
A line of gray snake-fence, that zigzags by
A pond, and cattle; from the homestead nigh
The long deep summonings of the supper horn.
Black on the ridge, against that lonely flush,
A cart, and stoop-necked oxen; ranged beside,
Some barrels; and the day-worn harvest folk,
Here emptying their baskets, jar the hush
With hollow thunders; down the dusk hillside
Lumbers the wain; and day fades out like smoke.
A brown sad-coloured hillside, where the soil,
Fresh from the frequent harrow, deep and fine,
Lies bare; no break in the remote sky-line,
Save where a flock of pigeons streams aloft,
Startled from feed in some low-lying croft,
Or far-off spires with yellow of sunset shine;
And here the Sower, unwittingly divine,
Exerts the silent forethought of his toil.
Alone he treads the glebe, his measured stride
Dumb in the yielding soil; and tho' small joy
Dwell in his heavy face, as spreads the blind
Pale grain from his dispensing palm aside,
This plodding churl grows great in his employ;--
Godlike, he makes provision for mankind.
Through the still dusk how sighs the ebb-tide out
Reluctant for the reed-beds! Down the sands
It washes. Hark! Beyond the wan gray strand's
Low limits how the winding channels grieve,
Aware the evasive waters soon will leave
Them void amid the waste of desolate lands,
Where shadowless to the sky the marsh expands,
And the noon-heats must scar them, and the drought.
Yet soon for them the solacing tide returns
To quench their thirst of longing. Ah, not so
Works the stern law our tides of life obey!
Ebbing in the night-watches swift away,
Scarce known ere fled for ever is the flow;
And in parched channel still the shrunk stream mourns.
(Texts above from American Sonnets)
On other fields and other scenes the morn
Laughs from her blue,--but not such scenes as these,
Where comes no cheer of summer leaves and bees,
And no shade mitigates the day's white scorn.
These serious acres vast no groves adorn;
But giant trunks, bleak shapes that once were trees,
Tow'r naked, unassuaged of rain or breeze,
Their stern grey isolation grimly borne.
The months roll over them and mark no change;
But when spring stirs, or autumn stills, the year,
Perchance some phantom leafage rustles faint
Through their parched dreams--some old-time notes ring strange,
When, in his slender treble, far and clear,
Reiterates the rain-bird his complaint.
("Burnt Trees" from The Conditions of a Colonial Literature.