Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  Between the Rapids

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Archibald Lampman 1861–99

Between the Rapids


THE POINT is turned; the twilight shadow fills

The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore,

And on our ears from deep among the hills

Breaks now the rapids’ sudden quickening roar.

Ah, yet the same! or have they changed their face,

The fair green fields, and can it still be seen,

The white log cottage near the mountain’s base,

So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene?

Ah, well I question, for as five years go,

How many blessings fall, and how much woe.

Aye there they are, nor have they changed their cheer,

The fields, the hut, the leafy mountain brows;

Across the lonely dusk again I hear

The loitering bells, the lowing of the cows,

The bleat of many sheep, the stilly rush

Of the low whispering river, and, through all,

Soft human tongues that break the deepening hush

With faint-heard song or desultory call:

O comrades, hold! the longest reach is past;

The stream runs swift, and we are flying fast.

The shore, the fields, the cottage, just the same,

But how with them whose memory makes them sweet?

Oh, if I called them, hailing name by name,

Would the same lips the same old shouts repeat?

Have the rough years, so big with death and ill,

Gone lightly by and left them smiling yet?

Wild black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still,

Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre and pale Lisette,

The homely hearts that never cared to range,

While life’s wide fields were filled with rush and change.

And where is Jacques, and where is Verginie?

I cannot tell; the fields are all a blur.

The lowing cows whose shapes I scarcely see,

Oh, do they wait and do they call for her?

And is she changed, or is her heart still clear

As wind or morning, light as river foam?

Or have life’s changes borne her far from here,

And far from rest, and far from help and home?

Ah comrades, soft, and let us rest awhile,

For arms grow tired with paddling many a mile.

The woods grow wild, and from the rising shore

The cool wind creeps, the faint wood odors steal;

Like ghosts adown the river’s blackening floor

The misty fumes begin to creep and reel.

Once more I leave you, wandering toward the night,

Sweet home, sweet heart, that would have held me in;

Whither I go I know not, and the light

Is faint before, and rest is hard to win.

Ah, sweet ye were and near to heaven’s gate;

But youth is blind and wisdom comes too late.

Blacker and loftier grow the woods, and hark!

The freshening roar! The chute is near us now,

And dim the canyon grows, and inky dark

The water whispering from the birchen prow.

One long last look, and many a sad adieu,

While eyes can see and heart can feel you yet,

I leave sweet home and sweeter hearts to you,

A prayer for Picaud, one for pale Lisette,

A kiss for Pierre, my little Jacques, and thee,

A sigh for Jeanne, a sob for Verginie.

Oh, does she still remember? Is the dream

Now dead, or has she found another mate?

So near, so dear; and ah, so swift the stream;

Even now perhaps it were not yet too late.

But, oh, what matter; for, before the night

Has reached its middle, we have far to go:

Bend to your paddles, comrades; see, the light

Ebbs off apace; we must not linger so.

Aye thus it is! Heaven gleams and then is gone.

Once, twice, it smiles, and still we wander on.