by Archibald Lampman
A moment the wild swallows like a flight
Of withered gust-caught leaves, serenely high,
Toss in the windrack up the muttering sky.
The leaves hang still. Above the weird twilight,
The hurrying centres of the storm unite
And spreading with huge trunk and rolling fringe,
Each wheeled upon its own tremendous hinge,
Tower darkening on. And now from heaven’s height,
With the long roar of elm trees swept and swayed,
And pelted waters, on the vanished plain
Plunges the blast. Behind the wild white flash
That splits abroad the pealing thunder-crash,
Over bleared fields and gardens disarrayed,
Column on column comes the drenching rain.
Archibald Lampman was a Canadian poet briefly popular in the early 19th century. He died young of complications from cardiac issues as the result of childhood illnesses that was compounded by depression from the deaths of several of his children.
One of his most famous poems, Morning on the Liever, was made into a short film. It has a nostalgic quality for me. It reminds me of some of the slightly corny environmental movies that were popular in grade school in the early 1970’s, like “Paddle to the Sea” that were trying to raise awareness around environmental degradation and the need for conservation.
What’s the connection between those two movies? Canoes! One real, one a little wood carving. I am a lover of canoes and paddling rivers. A canoe or a kayak is the simplest and most thrilling way to see a river, gliding along silently, making pace with the current, looking ahead to see what’s around the next bend. Every summer in July I go paddle a short day trip on the St. Croix, starting at Taylors Falls and floating down 8 or 9 miles. The St. Croix is the river that separates a portion of Minnesota and Wisconsin before it enters the Mississippi. It is a clean, sandy bottom river that heats up in July to be a perfect place to float, picnic and swim, with only a few horse flies to fend off for the pleasure of it. If you are ever visiting the Twin Cities and have a day for adventure that’s sunny and warm, head to the State Park just south of Taylor’s Falls on the Minnesota side. There are canoe and kayak rentals there with round trip passage back to your car waiting for you at the take out point. Wear your swim suit, pack a hat, sun screen and a picnic in a zip lock bag and enjoy one of the great scenic rivers that is easily accessible in the upper Midwest.
Here’s a link to the short movie with a narration of Lampman’s poem. His description of the thrill of canoeing and his favorite river is spot on from my perspective.
by Archibald Lampman
Or whether sad or joyous be her hours,
Yet ever is she good and ever fair.
If she be glad, ’tis like a child’s wild air,
Who claps her hands above a heap of flowers;
And if she’s sad, it is no cloud that lowers,
Rather a saint’s pale grace, whose golden hair
Gleams like a crown, whose eyes are like a prayer
From some quiet window under minister towers.
But ah, Beloved, how shall I be taught
To tell this truth in any rhymed line?
For words and woven phrases fall to naught,
Lost in the silence of one dream divine,
Wrapped in the beating wonder of this thought:
Even thou, who art so precious, thou art mine!