A Winter's Day in California
(Santa Clara Valley)
This afternoon upon the hills
The winter sun rests strangely sweet
The valley, dreaming at their feet,
With murm'rous music thrills.
Music of zephyrs in the palms,
And scented eucalyptus trees;
And chattering of shrill kildees
Round distant reedy dams;
And where the pine's dark flag unfurls,
And blood-red holly-berries shine,
And bay and chapparal intertwine,
The chirruping of squirrels.
Far off, the mountains, lapped in haze,
High-throned – like hoary kings of old,
Girt in their purple and their gold –
Look forth with lofty gaze:–
Forth o'er dominions rich in stores
Of corn and oil, and gold and wine,
And flocks of sheep and herds of kine,
Clasped round by shining shores.
But sitting at the casement here,
Where swims the tremulous rich delight
Of slumb'rous sound and smell and sight,
This last day of the year:–
What son of Canada could forget,
'Mid all the sensuous charm and glow,
That frugal land of sun and snow
That holds his heart-strings yet?
That land where first he heard the song
Of Robin Redbreast on the tree,
When the late grass sprang tenderly
And days were waxing long;
That land of river, forest, rock, –
Stern country! hallow'd by the tears
And toils of simple pioneers,
The blood of Wolfe and Brock!
No, mid this lavish, rare display
Of Nature's bounties, rich and free,
My heart, dear country, turns to thee
In love this winter's day;
And would not give one foot of thy
Rude soil, one white December blast,
For all the valleys, verdant, vast,
For all this languid sky!
These make not nations, only hearts
Strong as the basal rocks, and pure
As limpid northern streams endure
When all else sinks and parts.
And such may flourish where the year
Is chill, and Nature's iron hand
Rules sternly o'er the sluggish land,–
As vigorously as here;–
Yea, more; for strength is born of toil,–
In bitter sweat man eats his bread;
And where the sweets too thick are spread
The virtues rot and spoil.
O Canada, think not thy creed
Must rest on cities, factories, gold;
If rich in men of liberal mould
Thou has no further need.
Pray, therefore, for true men and strong –
Men who would dare to die for right,
Who love and court God's searching light
Because they shield no wrong.
James Alexander Tucker
from Poems, 1904
[Poem is in the public domain worldwide]