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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

British America: Chaleur, the Bay, Canada

In Chaleur Bay

By Hezekiah Butterworth (1839–1905)

THE BIRDS no more in dooryard trees are singing,

The purple swallows all have left the eaves,

And, thwart the sky, the broken clouds are winging,

Shading the land-slopes bright with harvest sheaves.

Old Hannah waits her sailor boy returning,

His fair young brow to-day she hopes to bless;

But sees the red sun on the hill-tops burning,

The flying cloud, the wild, cold gloominess

Of Chaleur Bay.

The silver crown has touched her forehead lightly

Since last his hand was laid upon her hair,

The golden crown will touch her brow more brightly

Ere he again shall print his kisses there.

The night comes on, the village sinks in slumber,

The rounded moon illumes the water’s rim;

Each evening hour she hears the old clock number,

But brings the evening no return of him

To Chaleur Bay.

She heard low murmurs in the sandy reaches,

And knew the sea no longer was at rest,

The black clouds scudded o’er the level beaches,

And barred the moonlight on the ocean’s breast.

The night wore on, and grew the shadows longer;

Far in the distance of the silvered seas,

Tides lapped the rocks, and blew the night-wind stronger,

Bending the pines and stripping bare the trees,

Round Chaleur Bay.

Then Alice came; on Hannah’s breast reclining,

She heard the leaves swift whistling in the breeze,

And, through the lattice, saw the moon declining

In the deep shadows of the rainy seas.

The fire burned warm,—upon the hearth was sleeping

The faithful dog that used his steps to follow.

“’T is almost midnight,” whispered Alice, weeping,

While blew the winds more drearily and hollow

O’er Chaleur Bay.

No organ stands beneath the bust of Pallas,

No painted Marius to the ruin clings,

No Ganymede, borne up from airy Hellas,

Looks through the darkness ’neath the eagles’ wings.

But the sweet pictures from the shadowed ceiling

Reflect the firelight near old Hannah’s chair,—

One a fair girl with features full of feeling,

And one a boy, a fisher, young and fair,

Of Chaleur Bay.

That boy returns with humble presents laden,

For on the morrow is his wedding morn;

To the old church he hopes to lead the maiden

Whose head now rests his mother’s breast upon.

Now Hannah drops her cheek—the maiden presses—

“He will return when come the morning hours,

And he will greet thee with his fond caresses,

And thou shalt meet him diademed with flowers,”

Sweet Chaleur Bay!

Gray was the morning, but a light more tender

Parted at last the storm-clouds’ lingering glooms,

The sun looked forth in mellowness and splendor,

Drying the leaves amid the gentian blooms,

And wrecks came drifting to the sandy reaches,

As inward rolled the tide with sullen roar;

The fishers wandered o’er the sea-washed beaches

And gathered fragments as they reached the shore

Of Chaleur Bay.

Then Alice, with the village maidens roaming

Upon the beaches where the breakers swirl,

Espied a fragment mid the waters foaming,

And found a casket, overlaid with pearl.

It was a treasure. “Happy he who claimed it,”

A maiden said; “’t is worthy of a bride.”

Another maid “the ocean’s dowry” named it,

But gentle Alice, weeping, turned aside—

Sad Chaleur Bay!—

And went to Hannah with the new-found treasure,

And stood again beside the old arm-chair;

The maids stood round her radiant with pleasure,

And playful wove the gentians in her hair.

Then Hannah said, her feelings ill dissembling,

“Some sailor lad this treasure once possessed;

And now, perhaps,” she added, pale and trembling,

“His form lies sleeping ’neath the ocean’s breast,

In Chaleur Bay.”

Now on her knee the opened box she places,—

Her trembling hand falls helpless to her breast,

Into her face look up two pictured faces,

The faces that her sailor-boy loved best.

One picture bears the written words, “My Mother,”

Old Hannah drops her wrinkled cheek in pain;

“Alice”—sweet name—is writ beneath the other,—

Old Hannah’s tears fall over it like rain—

Dark Chaleur Bay!

The spring will come, the purple swallow bringing,

The green leaves glitter where the gold leaves fell,

But nevermore the time of flowers and singing

Will hope revive in her poor heart to dwell.

Life ne’er had brought to her so dark a chalice,

But from her lips escaped no bitter groan;

They mid the gentians made the grave of Alice,

And Hannah lives in her old cot alone

On Chaleur Bay.