A New Year's Address, 1870.

A poem by Nora Pembroke

With noiseless footstep, like the white-robed snow,
The old year with closed record steals away;
Record of gladness, suffering, joy, and woe,
Of all that goes to make life's little day.

Here, in this bright and pleasant little town,
As everywhere, a noiseless scythe hath swept;
The bright, the green, the flow'ret all cut down,
For heart ties severed loving hearts have wept.

And some are gone we very ill can spare,
And some we gladly would have died to save,
And the young blossom of the hearth, so fair;
But all alike have passed thy gates, oh, grave!

We see so many sable signs of woe,
Each, with mute voice, memento mori saith;
As if our town that erst has sparkled so
Were passing through the vale and shade of death.

But louder rumours from a far-off world
Come to our valley, where secure and free,
With the sword sheathed, the flag of battle furled,
We sit in peace beneath our emblem tree.

At peace, because the madly-wicked men
Who sought to kindle flames of border war
Have in confusion failed yet, once again,
Their braggart plans dissolved in empty air.

In the Nor' West threat'nings of strife arose,
The muttered thunders all have died away;
Unstained by blood may sleep their mantling snows;
Unmarred by civil strife their wintry day.

War clouds seemed o'er the hapless land to brood,
The warning bugle sounded far abroad;
Red River might have ran with kindred blood,
But Manitoba heard the speaking God.

Our summer skies were clouded dark and low;
'Twas not the blessed rain that bowed them down,
But smoke wreaths rolling heavy, huge, and slow,
And thick as rising from a conquered town.

And where rich crops, and wealthy orchards fair,
Spread to the sun, rustled in breeze of morn,
The fire passed through, and left them black and bare,
Rushing like Samson's foxes through the corn.

Then, like a giant roused, it onward came,
With red arm reaching to the trees on high;
Till the whole landscape in one sheet of flame,
Glowed like a furnace 'neath a brazen sky.

O'er many a hearth red, burning ruin swept,
Till people fancied 'twas a flaming world;
All labour gained, and prudent care had kept,
And precious life were in one ruin hurled.

But as the fire fast spread, 'tis sweet to know,
So loving kindness and sweet pity ran;
This wide spread wail of human want and woe,
Served to bring out the brotherhood of man.

Here, on the lovely pine-fringed Allumette,
We hear the distant echoes of the jar,
Where Galile pluck and Teuton drill have met
In the long shock of cruel murderous war.

We only read of fields heaped high with slain,
Of vineyards flooded red, but not with wine,
Of writhing heaps of groaning anguished pain,
Of wounded carted off in endless line.

We read of all the stern eyed pomp of war,
The list of wounded and the number slain,
But know not what war's desolations are,
How much one battle costs of human pain.

All the sweet homes beneath the chestnut trees
Blackened and waste, the hearth light quenched in gore;
What hecatombs of human agonies
Are laid war's demon-chariot wheels before

When a few deaths so shadow a whole place,
Let us but think of that beleaguered town
Where famine's blackness sits in every face,
War cutting thousands, want ten thousands down.

And France is one great grave, her native clay
Top dressed with human flesh and steeped in blood;
Hushed are the sounds of little ones at play,
And blackened wastes where pleasant hamlets stood.

In spots the grain will yet grow rank and strong,
Over brave hearts that conquered as they fell;
Falling, left hearts to sorrow for them long,
By the swift Rhine, or by the blue Moselle.

When will the nations learn to war no more,
Nor with red hands adore the God of peace?
O Thou, most merciful, whom we adore,
Bid this unnecessary war to cease!

And look upon our country, young and strong,
With prospects of a future great and grand;
Grant us that Right still triumph over Wrong,
That Righteousness exalt and bless the land.

That here where smiling peace and plenty reign,
Beneath the glory of unclouded skies
A Nation that shall know no honour stain
Girt by sons pure and peaceful, shall arise

O! Canada our own beloved land,
Land of free homes, and hearts uncowed by fear,
Refuge of many, be it thine to stand
Foremost among the nations each New Year!

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