Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
Innocence
By Charles Mair (1838–1927)
 
    OFT have I met her
In openings of the woods and pleasant ways,
    Where leaves beset her,
And hanging branches crowned her head with bays.
 
    Oft have I seen her walk        5
Through flower-deck’d fields unto the oaken pass
    Where knelt the chewing flock,
And lambkins gambolled round her on the grass.
 
    Oft have I seen her stand
By wandering brooks o’er which the willows met,        10
    Or where the meadow-land
Balmed the soft air with dew-mist drapery wet.
 
    Much patting of the wind
Had bloomed her cheek with colour of the rose;
    Rare beauty was entwined        15
With locks and looks in movement or repose.
 
    Beneath her sloping neck
Her bosom-gourds swelled chastely, white as spray,
    Wind-tost—without a fleck—
The air which heaved them was less pure than they.        20
 
    Strolling in Evening’s eye
There came unto her airy laughter-chimes,
    Nature’s night-hymn and cry,
The music of the leaves and river rhymes.
 
    The floriage of Spring        25
And Summer’s coronals were hers in trust,
    Till came the Winter-King
To droop their sweetness into native dust.
 
    His sharp, embracing wind,
And wavering snow, or heaped in rimy hills,        30
    She loved; aye! she could bind
On Fancy’s brow his charmèd icicles.
 
    The dingle and the glade,
The rock-ribbed wilderness, the talking trees
    Seemed fairer while she stayed,        35
And drank of their dim meanings and old ease.
 
    For Nature craved her, nursed
Her spirit at her mighty breast as one
    Who felt the forests’ thirst,
The hunger of the mountains for the sun.        40
 
    Thoughts such as day unfolds
From starry quietude and noiseless sleep;
    Scenes which the Fancy holds
In easy thraldom in her joyous keep.
 
    Visions of Duty’s height,        45
And pious legends told at dimmest eve,
    Came thronging, faintly bright,
The habit of her inner life to weave.
 
    Thus chiefly did she love
To soothe the hidden ruth, the bridled tear;        50
    With counsel from above,
Alleviating woe, allaying fear.
 
    For all alive to pain,
Another’s was her own; Life’s ceaseless care,
    Which loads with chain on chain        55
The heavenward spirit, she was wont to share.
 
    All this, and more, was hers—
What the sad soul remits to God alone;
    What the fond heart avers
In secret helplessness before His throne.        60
 
    For He who made the light,
Earth and the biding stars, was all her guide.
    She worshipped in his sight,
She joyed, she wept, she flung away her pride.
 
    She thought of One who bore        65
The awful burden of the world’s despair;
    What could she give him more
Than helpful deeds, a simple life and fair?
 
    She was, and is, for still
She lives and moves upon the grass-green earth,        70
    And, as of old, doth fill
Her heart with love, still mingling tears with mirth.
 
    So wherefore cast about
For sect or creed from which no rancour spreads,
    Since we can make her out        75
By following the peaceful path she treads?
 
    Though Truth is hard to find,
And blind belief is oft in error’s thrall;
    Though unbelief is blind,
Though we who know a portion know not all—        80
 
    Yet she is self-revealed
Throughout the puzzled world we wander in,
    And free—though unrepealed
Her statutes—since she hath the power to sin.
 
    For what should not be makes        85
Her life sublime by putting it to test;
    And in this wise awakes
The evil that is in us for the best.
 
 
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