Some Embers & Sonnets of Gilbert Parker


Sir Horatio Gilbert George Parker (1862-1932)


Gilbert Parker of Ontario, Canada, is known primarily as a novelist and politician. He was also a poet. The below selection of his poetry is from his collections, Embers and A Lover’s Diary.




Your voice I knew, its cadences and thrill;
It stilled the tumult and the overthrow
When Athens trembled to the people’s will;
I knew it–’twas a thousand years ago.

I see the fountains, and the gardens where
You sang the fury from the Satrap’s brow;
I feel the quiver in the raptured air,
I heard it in the Athenian grove–I hear you now.



The Camel-Driver to His Camel

Fleet is thy foot: thou shalt rest by the etl tree;
Water shalt thou drink from the blue-deep well;
Allah send his gard’ner with the green bersim,
For thy comfort, fleet one, by the etl tree.
As the stars fly, have thy footsteps flown–
Deep is the well, drink, and be still once more;
Till the pursuing winds, panting, have found thee
And, defeated, sink still beside thee–
By the well and the etl tree.



The Choice

If Death should come to me to-night, and say:
“I weigh thy destiny; behold, I give
One little day with this thy love to live,
Then, my embrace; or, leave her for alway,

And thou shalt walk a full array of years;
Upon thee shall the world’s large honours fall,
And praises clamorous shall make for all
Thy strivings rich amends.” If in my ears

Thou saidst, “I love thee!” I would straightway cry,
“A thousand years upon this barren earth
Is death without her: for that day I die,

And count my life for it of poorest worth.”
Love’s reckoning is too noble to be told
By Time’s slow fingers on its sands of gold.



L’Empereur, Mort (M. H., Aged Five)

My dear, I was thy lover,
A man of spring-time years;
I sang thee songs, gave gifts and songs most poor,
But they were signs; and now, for evermore,
Thou farest forth! My heart is full of tears,
My dear, my very dear.

My dear, I was thy lover,
I wrote thee on my shield,
I cried thy name in goodly fealty,
Thy champion I. And now, no more for me
Thy face, thy smile: thou goest far afield,
My dear, my very dear.

My dear, I am thy lover:
Afield thy spirit goes,
And thou shalt find that Inn of God’s delight,
Where thou wilt wait for us who say good night,
To thy sweet soul. The rest–the rest, God knows,
My dear, my dear!



Eyes Like the Sea

Eyes like the sea, look up, the beacons brighten,
        Home comes the sailor, home across the tide!
Back drifts the cloud, behold the heavens whiten,
        The port of Love is open, he anchors at thy side.



A Farewell From the Harem

Take thou thy flight, O soul! Thou hast no more
The gladness of the morning: ah, the perfumed roses
My love laid on my bosom as I slept!
How did he wake me with his lips upon mine eyes,
How did the singers carol, the singers of my soul,
That nest among the thoughts of my beloved!
All silent now, the choruses are gone,
The windows of my soul are closed; no more
Mine eyes look gladly out to see my lover come.
There is no more to do, no more to say
Take flight, my soul, my love returns no more!



The Fighter

Blows I have struck, and blows a-many taken,
Wrestling I’ve fallen, and I’ve rose up again;
Mostly I’ve stood–
I’ve had good bone and blood;
Others went down though fighting might and main.
Now Death steps in,
Death the price of sin:
The fall it will be his; and though I strive and strain,
One blow will close my eyes, and I shall never waken.



The Forgotten Word

Once in the twilight of the Austrian hills,
A word came to me, wonderful and good;
If I had spoken it–that message of the stars–
Love would have filled thy blood;
Love would have sent thee pulsing to my arms,
Laughing with joy, thy heart a nestling bird
An instant passed–it fled; and now I seek in vain
For that forgotten word.




He’s the man that killed Black Care,
            He’s the pride of all Kildare;
Shure the devil takes his hat off whin he comes:
            ‘Tis the clargy bow before him,
            ‘Tis the women they adore him,
And the Lord Lieutenant orders out the drums–
            For his hangin’, all the drums,
                        All the drums!



The Last Dream

One more dream in the slow night watches,
        One more sleep when the world is dumb,
And his soul leans out to the sweet wild snatches
        Of song that up from dreamland come.

Pale, pale face with a golden setting,
        Deep, deep glow of stedfast eyes;
Form of one there is no forgetting,
        Wandering out of Paradise.

Breath of balm, and a languor falling
        Out of the gleam of a sunset sky;
Peace, deep peace and a seraph’s calling,
        Folded hands and a pleading cry.

One more dream for the patient singer,
        Weary with songs he loved so well;
Sleeping now–will the vision bring her?
        Hark, ’tis the sound of the passing bell!



The Little House


Children, the house is empty,
The house behind the tall hill;
Lonely and still is the empty house.
There is no face in the doorway,
There is no fire in the chimney–
Come and gather beside the gate,
Little Good Folk of the Scarlet Hills.

Where has the wild dog vanished?
Where has the swift foot gone?
Where is the hand that found the good fruit,
That made a garret of wholesome herbs?
Where is the voice that awoke the morn,
The tongue that defied the terrible beasts?
Come and listen beside the door,
Little Good Folk of the Scarlet Hills.


Sorrowful is the little house,
The little house by the winding stream;
All the laughter has died away
Out of the little house.
But down there come from the lofty hills
Footsteps and eyes agleam,
Bringing the laughter of yesterday
Into the little house,
By the winding stream and the hills.
Di ron, di ron, di ron-don!


What is there like to the cry of the bird
That sings in its nest in the lilac tree?
A voice the sweetest you ever have heard;
It is there, it is here, ci, ci!
It is there, it is here, it must roam and roam,
And wander from shore to shore,
Till I travel the hills and bring it home,
And enter and close my door–
Row along, row along home, ci, ci!

What is there like to the laughing star,
Far up from the lilac tree?
A face that’s brighter and finer far;
It laughs and it shines, ci, ci!
It laughs and it shines, it must roam and roam,
And travel from shore to shore,
Till I get me forth and bring it home,
And house it within my door–
Row along, row along home, ci, ci!






Love’s Language

Just now a wave of perfume floated up
To greet my senses as I broke the seal
Of her short letter; and I still can feel
It stir me as a saint the holy cup.

The missive lies there,–but a few plain words:
A thought about a song, a note of praise,
And social duties such as fill the days
Of women; then a thing that undergirds

The phrases like a psalm: a line that reads–
“I wish that you were coming!” Why, it lies
Upon my heart like blossoms on the skies,

Like breath of balm upon the clover meads.
The perfumed words soothe me into a dream;
My thoughts float to her on the scented stream.



The Maid

A little while I saw the world go by–
A little doorway that I called my own,
A loaf, a cup of water, and a bed had I,
A shrine of Jesus, where I knelt alone
And now, alone, I bid the world good-bye.



The North Trail

“Oh, where did you get them, the bonny, bonny roses
            That blossom in your cheeks, and the morning in your eyes?”
“I got them on the North Trail, the road that never closes,
            That widens to the seven gold gates of Paradise.”
“O come, let us camp in the North Trail together,
            With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.”




And the Angel said:
        “What hast thou for all thy travail–
        what dost thou bring with thee out
        of the dust of the world?”

And the man answered:
        “Behold, I bring one perfect yesterday!”

And the Angel questioned:
        “Hast thou then no to-morrow?
        Hast thou no hope?”

And the man replied:
        “Who am I that I should hope!
        Out of all my life I have been granted one
        sheaf of memory.”

And the Angel said:
        “Is this all!”

And the man answered:
        “Of all else was I robbed by the way:
        but Memory was hidden safely
        in my heart–the world found it not.”



Qui Vive

Qui vive!
Who is it cries in the dawn,
Cries when the stars go down?
Who is it comes through the mist,
The mist that is fine like lawn,
The mist like an angel’s gown?
Who is it comes in the dawn?
Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn.

Qui vive!
Who is it passeth us by,
Still in the dawn and the mist–
Tall seigneur of the dawn,
A two-edged sword at his thigh,
A shield of gold at his wrist?
Who is it hurrieth by?
Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn.

Qui vive!
Who saileth into the morn,
Out of the wind of the dawn?
“Follow, oh, follow me on!”
Calleth a distant horn.
He is here–he is there–he is gone,
Tall seigneur of the dawn!
Qui vive! Qui vive! in the dawn.



The Sea-Reapers

When the Four Winds, the Wrestlers, strive with the Sun,
When the Sun is slain in the dark;
When the stars burn out, and the night cries
To the blind sea-reapers, and they rise,
And the water-ways are stark–
God save us when the reapers reap!
When the ships sweep in with the tide to the shore,
And the little white boats return no more;
When the reapers reap,
Lord, give Thy sailors sleep,
If Thou cast us not upon the shore,
To bless Thee evermore
To walk in Thy sight as heretofore,
Though the way of the Lord be steep!
By Thy grace,
Show Thy face,
Lord of the land and the deep!



A Son of the Nile

Oh, the garden where to-day we, sow and to-morrow we reap;
Oh, the sakkia turning by the garden walls;
Oh, the onion-field and the date-tree growing,
And my hand on the plough–by the blessing of God;
Strength of my soul, O my brother, all’s well!



Summer is Come

Summer is come; the corn is in the ear,
        The haze is swimming where the beeches stand;
Summer is come, though winter months be here–
        My love is summer passing through the land.

Summer is come; I hear the skylarks sing,
        The honeysuckle flaunts it to the bees;
Summer is come, and ’tis not yet the spring–
        My love is summer blessing all she sees.

Summer is come; I see an open door,
        A sweet hand beckons, and I know
That, winter or summer, I shall go forth no more–
        My heart is homing where her summer-roses grow.



The Torch

Art’s use what is it but to touch the springs
Of nature? But to hold a torch up for
Humanity in Life’s large corridor,
To guide the feet of peasants and of kings!

What is it but to carry union through
Thoughts alien to thoughts kindred, and to merge
The lines of colour that should not diverge,
And give the sun a window to shine through!

What is it but to make the world have heed
For what its dull eyes else would hardly scan,
To draw in a stark light a shameless deed,

And show the fashion of a kingly man!
To cherish honour, and to smite all shame,
To lend hearts voices, and give thoughts a name!



Under the Cliff

The sands and the sea, and the white gulls fleeting,
        The mist on the island, the cloud on the hill;
The song in my heart, and the old hope beating
        Its life ‘gainst the bars of thy will.



The Waking

To be young is to dream, and I dreamed no more;
        I had smothered my heart as the fighter can:
I toiled, and I looked not behind or before–
        I was stone; but I waked with the heart of a man.

By the soul at her lips, by the light of her eyes,
        I dreamed a new dream as the sleeper can,
That the heavenly folly of youth was wise–
        I was stone; but I waked with the heart of a man.

She came like a song, she will go like a star:
        I shall tread the hills as the hunter can,
Mine eyes to the hunt, and my soul afar–
        I was stone; but I waked with the heart of a man.






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