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.
 
Our Fathers
By Joseph Howe (1804–1873)
 
ROOM for the dead! Your living hands may pile
  Treasures of art the stately tents within,
Beauty may grace them with her richest smile,
  And genius there spontaneous plaudits win:
But yet amidst the tumult and the din        5
  Of gathering thousands, let me audience crave!
Place claim I for the Dead—’twere mortal sin,
  When banners o’er our country’s treasures wave,
  Unmarked to leave the wealth, safe garnered in the grave.
 
The fields may furnish forth their lowing kine,        10
  The forest spoils in rich abundance lie,
The mellow fruitage of the clustered vine
  Mingle with flowers of every varied dye;
Swart artisans their rival skill may try,
  And while the rhetorician wins the ear,        15
The pencil’s graceful shadows charm the eye;
  But yet, do not withhold the grateful tear
  For those, and for their works, who are not here.
 
Not here? O yes! our hearts their presence feel,
  Viewless, not voiceless; from the deepest shells        20
On memory’s shore harmonious echoes steal,
  And names which in the days gone by were spells
Are blent with that soft music. If there dwells
  The spirit here our country’s fame to spread,
While every breast with joy and triumph swells,        25
  And earth reverberates to our measured tread,
  Banner and wreath will own our reverence for the Dead.
 
Look up! their walls enclose us. Look around!
  Who won the verdant meadows from the sea?
Whose sturdy hands the noble highways wound        30
  Through forest dense, o’er mountain, moor, and lea?
Who spanned the streams? Tell me, whose work they be,
  The busy marts where commerce ebbs and flows?
Who quelled the savage? And who spared the tree
  That pleasant shelter o’er the pathway throws?        35
  Who made the land they loved to blossom as the rose?
 
Who, in frail barks, the ocean surge defied,
  And trained the race that live upon the wave?
What shore so distant where they have not died?
  In every sea they found a watery grave.        40
Honour for ever to the true and brave,
  Who seaward led their sons with spirits high,
Bearing the red-cross flag their fathers gave;
  Long as the billows flout the arching sky,
  They’ll seaward bear it still—to venture or to die.        45
 
The Roman gathered in a stately urn
  The dust he honoured, while the sacred fire,
Nourished by vestal hands, was made to burn
  From age to age. If fitly you’ld aspire,
Honour the Dead; and let the sounding lyre        50
  Recount their virtues in your festal hours.
Gather their ashes; higher still, and higher
  Nourish the patriot flame that history dowers,
  And o’er the old men’s graves go strew your choicest flowers.
 
 
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