Legend Of The Canadian Robin

A poem by John Campbell

Is it Man alone who merits
Immortality or death?
Each created thing inherits
Equal air and common breath.

Souls pass onward: some are ranging
Happy hunting-grounds, and some
Are as joyous, though in changing
Form be altered, language dumb.

Beauteous all, if fur or feather,
Strength or gift of song be theirs;
He who planted all together
Equally their fate prepares.

Like to Time, that dies not, living
Through the change the seasons bring,
So men, dying, are but giving
Life to some fleet foot or wing.

Bird and beast the Savage cherished,
But the Robins loved he best;
O'er the grave where he has perished
They shall thrive and build their nest.

Hunted by the white invader,
Vanish ancient races all;
Yet no ruthless foe or trader
Silences the songster's call.

For the white man too rejoices,
Welcoming Spring's herald bird,
When the ice breaks, and the voices
From the rushing streams are heard.

Where the Indian's head-dress fluttered,
Pale the settler would recoil,
And his deepest curse was uttered
On the Red Son of the soil.

Later knew he not, when often
Gladness with the Robin came,
How a spirit-change could soften
Hate to dear affection's flame:

Knew not, as he heard, delighted,
Mellow notes in woodlands die,
How his heart had leaped, affrighted
At that voice in battle-cry.

For a youthful Savage, keeping
Long his cruel fast, had prayed,
All his soul in yearning steeping,
Not for glory, chase, or maid;

But to sing in joy, and wander,
Following the summer hours,
Drinking where the streams meander,
Feasting with the leaves and flowers.

Once his people saw him painting
Red his sides and red his breast,
Said: "His soul for fight is fainting,
War-paint suits the hero best;"

Went, when passed the night, loud calling,
Found him not, but where he lay
Saw a Robin, whose enthralling
Carol seemed to them to say;

"I have left you! I am going
Far from fast and winter pain;
When the laughing water's flowing
Hither I will come again!"

Thus his ebon locks still wearing,
With the war-paint on his breast,
Still he comes, our summer sharing,
And the lands he once possessed.

Finding in the white man's regions
Foemen none, but friends whose heart
Loves the Robins' happy legions,
Mourns when, silent, they depart.

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