Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumn's Orchestra / Pauline Johnson


(Inscribed to One Beyond Seas)

Know by the thread of music woven through
This fragile web of cadences I spin,
That I have only caught these songs since you
Voiced them upon your haunting violin.

The Overture

October’s orchestra plays softly on
The northern forest with its thousand strings,
And Autumn, the conductor wields anon
The Golden-rod — The baton that he swings.

     The Firs

     There is a lonely minor chord that sings
     Faintly and far along the forest ways,
     When the firs finger faintly on the strings
     Of that rare violin the night wind plays,
     Just as it whispered once to you and me
     Beneath the English pines beyond the sea.


          The lost wind wandering, forever grieves
               Low overhead,
          Above grey mosses whispering of leaves
               Fallen and dead.
          And through the lonely night sweeps their refrain
          Like Chopin’s prelude, sobbing ’neath the rain.

The Vine

The wild grape mantling the trail and tree,
Festoons in graceful veils its drapery,
Its tendrils cling, as clings the memory stirred
By some evasive haunting tune, twice heard.

The Maple


It is the blood-hued maple straight and strong,
Voicing abroad its patriot songs.


Its daring colours bravely flinging forth
The ensign of the Nation of the North.


          Elfin bell in azure dress,
          Chiming all day long,
          Ringing through the wilderness
          Dulcet notes of song.
          Daintiest of forest flowers
          Weaving like a spell —
          Music through the Autumn hours,
          Little Elfin bell.

The Giant Oak

And then the sound of marching armies woke
Amid the branches of the soldier oak,
And tempests ceased their warring cry, and dumb
The lashing storms that muttered, overcome,
Choked by the heralding of the battle smoke,
When these gnarled branches beat their martial drum.


     A sweet high treble threads its silvery song,
     Voice of the restless aspen, fine and thin
     It thrills its pure soprano, light and long —
     Like the vibretto of a mandolin.


The cedar trees have sung their vesper hymn,
And now the music sleeps —
Its benediction falling where the dim
Dusk of the forest creeps.
Mute grows the great concerto — and the light
Of day is darkening. Good-night, Good-night.

But through the night time I shall hear within
The murmur of these trees,
The calling of your distant violin
Sobbing across the seas,
And waking wind, and star-reflected light
Shall voice my answering, Good-night, Good-night.

E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)
from Flint and Feather, 1912

[All rights reserved by the author's estate - Please do not copy]

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