The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

Site Diary
Site Search

{White Rose and Red 1873}





DIMPLED, dainty, one-and-twenty,
     Rosy-faced and round of limb,
Warm’d with mother-wit in plenty,
     Prudent, modest, spry yet prim,
Lily-handed, tiny-footed,
     With an ankle clean and neat,
Neatly gloved and trimly booted,
     Looking nice and smelling sweet!
Self-possess’d, subduing beauty
To a sober sense of duty,
Chaste as Dian, plump as Hebe,
Such I guess was little Phśbe.
O how different a creature                                                           124
     From that other wondrous woman!
Not a feeling, not a feature,
     Had these two fair flowers in common.
One was tall and moulded finely,
     Large of limb, and grand of gaze,
Rich with incense, and divinely
     Throbbing into passionate rays,—
Lustrous-eyed and luscious-bosom’d,
     Beautiful, and richly rare,
As a passion-flower full blossom’d,
     Born to Love and Love’s despair.
Such was Red Rose; and the other?
     Tiny, prudish, if you please,
Meant to be a happy mother,
     With a bunch of huswife’s keys.
Prudent, not to be deluded,
Happy-eyed and sober-mooded,
Dainty, mild, yet self-reliant,
     She, as I’m a worthy singer,
Wound our vacillating giant                                                          125
     Round her little dimpled finger.

Bit by bit, a bashful wooer,
     Fascinated unaware,
Did Eureka draw unto her,
     Tame as any dancing bear.
Not a finger did she stir,
Yet he glow’d and gazed at her!
Not a loving look she gave,
Yet he watch’d her like a slave!
He, who had been used to having
Pleasures past all human craving,
Who had idly sat and taken
Showers of kisses on him shaken,
Who had fairly tired of passion
Ever felt in passive fashion,
Now stood blushing like a baby
In the careless eyes of Phśbe!

Fare ye well, O scenes of glory,
One bright sheet of golden sheen!
Love, the spirit of my story,                                                          126
     Wakens in a different scene.
Down the lanes, so tall and leafy,
     Falls Eureka’s loving feet,
Following Phśbe’s, but in chief he
     In the kitchen loves to sit,—
Loves to watch her, tripping ruddy
     In the rosy firelight glow,
Loves to watch, in a brown study,
     The warm figure come and go.

Half indifferent unto him,
Far too wise to coax and woo him,
Ill-disposed to waste affection,
Full of modest circumspection,
Quite the bright superior being,
Tho’ so tiny to the seeing,
With a mind which penetrated,
     In a sly and rosy mirth,
Thro’ the face, and estimated                                                      127
     Grain by grain the spirit’s worth,
Phśbe Anna, unenraptured,
Led the creature she had captured.

What is Love? A shooting star,
Flying, flashing, lost afar.
What is Man? A fretful boy,
Ever seeking some new toy.
What is Memory? Alas!
’Tis a strange magician’s glass,
Where you pictures bright may mark
If you hold it in the dark.
Thrust it out into the sun,
All the picturing is done,
And the magic dies away
In the golden glow of day!

Coming back to civilisation,
     Petted, fęted, shone on daily,
Was a novel dissipation,                                                             128
     And Eureka revell’d gaily.
Friendly faces flash’d around him,
     Church-bells tinkled in his ear,
Cosy cronies sought and found him,
     Drowsietown look’d bright and clear.
Parson Pendon and his lady
     (Respectability embodied)
Welcom’d the stray sheep already,
     Matrons smiled, and deacons nodded.
Uncle Pete had left him lately
     Malden Farm and all its store,
And he found himself prized greatly
     As a worthy bachelor.
All his roaming days seem’d over!
     Like a beast without a load,
Grazing in the golden clover,
     In the village he abode!
And he loved the tilth and tillage,
All the bustle of the village—
Loved the reaping and the sowing,                                              129
     Loved the music of the mill,
Loved to see the mowers mowing,
And the golden grasses growing,
     Breast-deep, near the river still.
Civilisation altogether
     Seem’d exactly to his notion!
Life was like good harvest weather,
     Faintly flavoured with devotion.
Ruefully he cogitated,
     With the peaceful spire in sight:—
“Waal, I guess the thing was fated,
     And it’s hard to set it right.
Seems a dream, too! now, I wonder
     If it seems a dream to her!
After that first parting stunn’d her,
     For a time she’d make a stir;
P’raps, tho’, when the shock was over,
Other sentiments might move her!
First she’d cry, next, she’d grow fretful,
Thirdly, riled, and then forgetful.                                                  130
After all that’s done and said,
     Injin blood is Injin ever!
I’m a white skin, she’s a red;
     Providence just made us sever.
Parson says that sort of thing
Isn’t moral marrying!
Tho’ the simple creature yonder
     Had no better education—
Ignorance jest made her fonder,
     And I yielded to temptation.
Here’s the question: I’ve been sinning—
Wrong, clean wrong, from the beginning;
Can I make my blunder better
     By repeating it again?
When mere Nature, if I let her,
     Soon can cure the creature’s pain;
She’ll forget me fast enough—
     And she’s no religious feeling;
Injin hearts are always tough,
     And their wounds are quick of healing.                                  131
Heigho!”—here he sighed; then seeing
     Phśbe Ann trip by in laughter,
Brightening up, the bother’d being
     Shook off care, and trotted after!

Had this final complication
     Not been added to the rest;
Had not Fate with new temptation
     Drugg’d the conscience of his breast,
Possibly his better nature
     Might have triumph’d o’er the treason;
But the passions of the creature
     Rose in league with his false reason;
On the side of civilisation
     Rose the pretty Civilisee:
In a flush of new sensation,
     Conscience died, and Shame did flee.
That bright picture, many-colour’d,
Nature had flash’d before the dullard;
That wild ecstasy and rapture                                                      132
She had tamed unto his capture—
That grand form, intensely burning
To a lightning-flash of yearning—
That fair face transfigur’d brightly
Into starry rapture nightly—
Those large limbs of living lustre,
     Moving with a flower-like grace—
Those great joys which hung in cluster,
     Like ripe fruit in a green place—
All had faded from his vision,
     And instead, before his sight,
Tript the pretty-faced precisian,
     Deep and dimpled, warm and white!

In her very style of looking
There was cognisance of cooking!
From her very dress were peeping
Indications of housekeeping!
You might gather in a minute,                                                      133
     As she lightly passed you by,
She could (with her whole heart in it!)
     Nurse a babe or make a pie.
Yet her manner and expression
     Shook the foolish giant’s nerve,
With their quiet self-possession
     And their infinite reserve.
In his former time the wooing
Had been all the female’s doing;
He had waited while the other
Did his soul with raptures smother!
But ’twas quite another matter,
     Here in civilisation’s school!
And his heart went pitter-patter,
     And he trembled like a fool.
Thro’ the church the road lay to her;—
     That was written on her face,
Lawfully the man must woo her
     In the manner of her race.
So by slow degrees he enter’d                                                    134
Courtship’s Maze so mystic-centred!
Round and round the pathways wander’d,
Made his blunders, puzzled, ponder’d;
Laugh’d at, laughing, scorn’d, imploring,
Mad, enraged, distraught, adoring;
This way, that way, turning, twisting;
Yielding oft, and oft resisting:
Gasping while the voice of Cupid
Madden’d him with “Hither, stupid!”
Seeking ever for the middle
Of the green and golden riddle—
Oft, just as he cried, “I’ve got it!”
Finding culs de sac, and not it!
Till at last his blunders ended
On a summer morning splendid,
When with vision glad and hazy,
     Seeing Phśbe blushing falter,
In the centre of the Maze, he
     Found himself before—an Altar!





Where were they wedded? In the holy house
     Built up by busy fingers?                                                         [l.ii]
All Drowsietown was quiet as a mouse
     To hear the village singers.

Who was the Priest? ’Twas Parson Pendon, dress’d
     In surplice to the knuckles,
Wig powder’d, snowy cambric on his breast,
     Silk stockings, pumps, and buckles.

What was the service? ’Twas the solemn, stale,
     Old-fashion’d, English measure:
“Wilt thou this woman take? and thou this male?”
     “I will”—“I will”—with pleasure.

Who saw it done? The countless rustic eyes                                 136
     Of folk around them thronging.
Who shared the joy? The matrons with soft sighs,
     The girls with bright looks longing.

Who was the bride? Sweet Phśbe, dress’d in clothes
     As white as she who wore ’em,
Sweet-scented, self-possess’d,—one bright White Rose
     Of virtue and decorum.

Her consecration? Peaceful self-control,
     And modest circumspection—
The sweet old service softening her soul
     To formulised affection.

Surveying with calm eyes the long, straight road
     Of matrimonial being,
She wore her wedding clothes, trusting in God,
     Domestic, and far-seeing.

With steady little hand she sign’d her name,                                 137
     Nor trembled at the venture.
What did the Bridegroom? Blush’d with sheepish shame,
     Endorsing the indenture.

O Hymen, Hymen! In the church so calm
     Began the old sweet story,
The parson smiled, the summer fields breathed balm,
     The crops were in their glory.

Out from the portal came the wedding crew,
     All smiling, palpitating;—
And there was Jacob with the cart, bran new,
     And the white pony, waiting.

The girls waved handkerchiefs, the village boys
     Shouted, around them rushing,
And off they trotted thro’ the light and noise,
     She calm, the giant blushing.

Down the green road, along by glade and grove,                         138
     They jog, with rein-bells jingling,
The orchards pink all round, the sun above,
     She cold, Eureka tingling.

And round her waist his arm becomes entwined,
     But still her ways are coolish—
“There’s old Dame Dartle looking! Don’t now! Mind
     The pony! Guess you’re foolish!”

Who rang the bells? The ringers with a will
     Set them in soft vibration.
Hark! loud and clear, there chimes o’er vale and hill
     The nuptial jubilation.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 135, l. ii: Built up by busy fingers. ]




Part IV.






’TWAS the year of the Great Snow.

First the East began to blow
Chill and shrill for many days,
On the wild wet woodland ways.
Then the North, with crimson cheeks,
Blew upon the pond for weeks,
Chill’d the water thro’ and thro’,
Till the first thin ice-crust grew
Blue and filmy; then at last
All the pond was frosted fast,
Prison’d, smother’d, fetter’d tight,
Let it struggle as it might.
And the first Snow drifted down                                                  142
On the roofs of Drowsietown.

First the vanguard of the Snow;
Falling flakes, whirling slow,
Drifting darkness, troubled dream;
Then a motion and a gleam;
Sprinkling with a carpet white
     Orchards, swamps, and woodland ways,
Thus the first Snow took its flight,
     And there was a hush for days.

Mid that hush the Spectre dim,
Faint of breath and thin of limb,
HOAR-FROST, like a maiden’s ghost,
Nightly o’er the marshes crost
In the moonlight: where she flew,
     At the touch of her chill dress
Cobwebs of the glimmering dew
     Froze to silvern loveliness.

All the night, in the dim light,                                                         143
Quietly she took her flight;
Thro’ the streets she crept, and stayed
In each silent window shade,
With her finger moist as rain
Drawing flowers upon the pane;—
On the phantom flowers so drawn
     With her frozen breath breath’d she;
And each window-pane at dawn
     Turn’d to crystal tracery!

Then the Phantom Fog came forth,
Following slowly from the North;
Wheezing, coughing, blown, and damp,
He sat sullen in the swamp,
Scowling with a blood-shot eye;
As the canvas-backs went by;
Till the North Wind, with a shout,
Thrust his pole and poked him out;
And the Phantom with a scowl,                                                    144
     Black’ning night and dark’ning day,
Hooted after by the owl,
     Lamely halted on his way.

Now in flocks that ever increase
Honk the armies of the geese,
’Gainst a sky of crimson red
Silhouetted overhead.
After them in a dark mass,
Sleet and hail hiss as they pass,
Rattling on the frozen lea
With their shrill artillery.
Then a silence: then comes on
Frost, the steel-bright Skeleton!
Silent in the night he steals,
With wolves howling at his heels,
Seeing to the locks and keys
On the ponds and on the leas.
Touching with his tingling wand
Trees and shrubs on every hand,
Till they change, transform’d to sight,                                      145
Into dwarfs and druids white,—
Icicle-bearded, frosty-shrouded
Underneath his mantle clouded;
And on many of their shoulders,
Chill, indifferent to beholders,
Sits the barr’d owl in a heap,
Ruffled, dumb, and fast asleep.
There the legions of the trees
Gather ghost-like round his knees;
While in cloudy cloak and hood,
Cold he creeps to the great wood:—
Lying there in a half-doze,
While on finger-tips and toes
Squirrels turn their wheels, and jays
Flutter in a wild amaze,
And the foxes, lean and foul,
Look out of their holes and growl.
There he waiteth, breathing cold
On the white and silent wold.

In a silence sat the Thing,                                                              146
Looking north, and listening!
And the farmers drave their teams
Past the woods and by the streams,
Crying as they met together,
With chill noses, “Frosty weather!”
And along the iron ways
Tinkle, tinkle, went the sleighs.
And the wood-chopper did hie,
Leather stockings to the thigh,
Crouching on the snow that strew’d
Every corner of the wood.
Still Frost waited, very still;
Then he whistled, loud and shrill;
Then he pointed north, and lo!
The main Army of the Snow.

Black as Erebus afar,
Blotting sun, and moon, and star,
Drifting, in confusion driven,                                                         147
Screaming, straggling, rent and riven,
Whirling, wailing, blown afar
In an awful wind of War,
Dragging drifts of dead beneath,                                                   [l.v]
     With a melancholy groan,
While the fierce Frost set his teeth,
     Rose erect, and waved them on!

All day long the legions passed
On an ever-gathering blast;
In an ever-gathering night,
Fast they eddied on their flight.
With a tramping and a roar,
Like the waves on a wild shore;
With a motion and a gleam,
Whirling, driven in a dream;
On they drave in drifts of white,
Burying Drowsietown from sight,
Covering ponds, and woods and roads,                                       148
Shrouding trees and men’s abodes;
While the great Pond loaded deep,
Turning over in its sleep,
Groaned;—but when night came, forsooth,
     Grew the tramp unto a thunder;
Wind met wind with wail uncouth,
Frost and Storm fought nail and tooth,
     Shrieking, and the roofs rock’d under.
Scared out of its sleep that night,
Drowsietown awoke in fright;
Chimney-pots above it flying,
     Windows crashing to the ground,
Snow-flakes blinding, multiplying,
     Snow-drift whirling round and round;
While, whene’er the strife seemed dying,
The great North-wind, shrilly crying,
     Clash’d his shield in battle-sound!

Multitudinous and vast,
Legions after legions passed.
Still the air behind was drear                                                       149
With new legions coming near;
Still they waver’d, wander’d on,
Glimmer’d, trembled, and were gone.
While the drift grew deeper, deeper,
     On the roofs and at the doors,
While the wind awoke each sleeper
     With its melancholy roars.
Once the Moon looked out, and lo!
Blind against her face the Snow
Like a wild white grave-cloth lay,
Till she shuddering crept away.
Then thro’ darkness like the grave,
On and on the legions drave.

When the dawn came, Drowsietown
     Smother’d in the snow-drift lay.
Still the swarms were drifting down
     In a dark and dreadful day.
On the blinds the whole day long                                                 150
     Thro’ the red light shadows flitted.
At the inn in a great throng
     Gossips gather’d drowsy-witted.
All around on the white lea
Farm-lamps twinkled drearily;
Not a road was now revealed,
     Drift, deep drift, at every door;
Field was mingled up with field,
     Stream and pond were smother’d o’er,
Trees and fences fled from sight
In the deep wan waste of white.

Many a night, many a day,
Pass’d the wonderful array,
Sometimes in confusion driven,
By the dreadful winds of heaven;
Sometimes gently wavering by
With a gleam and smothered sigh,
While the lean Frost still did stand                                               151
Pointing with his skinny hand
Northward, with the shrubs and trees
Buried deep below his knees.
Still the Snow passed; deeper down
In the snow sank Drowsietown.
Not a bird stayed, big or small,
Not a team could stir at all.
Round the cottage window-frame
Barking foxes nightly came,
Scowling in a spectral ring
At the ghostly glimmering.
Old Abe Sinker at the Inn
Heap’d his fire up with a grin,
For the great room, warm and bright,
Never emptied morn or night.
Old folks shiver’d with their bones
Full of pains and cold as stones.
Nought was doing, nought was done,
From the rise to set of sun.
Yawning in the ale-house heat,                                                     152
Shivering in the snowy street,
Like dream-shadows, up and down,
     With their footprints black below,
Moved the folk of Drowsietown,
     In the Year of the Great Snow!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 147, l. v: Dragging drifts of death beneath, ]





SNOWING and blowing, roaring and rattle,
Frost, snow, and wind are all busy at battle!
O what a quaking, and shaking, and calling,
Whitely, so whitely, the snow still is falling;
Stone-dead the earth is, shrouded all over,
White, stiff, and hard is the snow-sheet above her,
Deep, deep the drift is; and tho’ it is snowing,
Blacker, yet blacker, the heavens are growing.
Oh, what a night! gather nearer the fire!
Pile the warm pine-logs higher and higher;
Shut the black storm out, close tight the shutters,
Hark! how without there it moans and it mutters,
Tearing with teeth, claws, and fingers tremendous,                         154
Roof, wall, and gable!—now Angels defend us!
There was a roar!—how it crashes and darkens!
No wonder that Phśbe stops, trembles, and hearkens.

For black as the skies are, tho’ hueless and ghastly,
Stretches the wold, ’mid the snow falling fastly,
Here in the homestead by Phśbe made cosy,
All is so pleasant, so ruddy, and rosy.
All by herself in the tile-paven kitchen,
In white huswife’s gown, and in apron bewitching,
Flits little Phśbe, so busily making
Corn bread and rye bread for Saturday’s baking.
See! in the firelight that round her is gleaming,
How she is glowing, and glancing, and beaming,
While all around her, in sheer perspiration
Of an ecstatic and warm admiration,
Plates, cups, and dishes, delightedly glowing,                               155
Watch her sweet shade as ’tis coming and going,
Catch her bright image as lightly she passes,
Shine it about in plates, dishes, and glasses!
Often in wonder all trembling and quaking,
To feel how the homestead is swaying and shaking,
All in a clatter they cry out together,
“The roof will be off in a minute! What weather!”

. . . . A face in the darkness, a foot on the Snow,
I it there? Dost thou hear? Doth it come? Doth it go?
Hush! only the gusts as they gather and grow.

O Phśbe is busy!—with little flour’d fingers,
Like rosebuds in snow, o’er her labour she lingers;
And oft when the tumult is loudest she listens,                              156
Her eyes are intent, and her pretty face glistens
So warm in the firelight. Despite the storm’s crying,
Sound, sound in their slumbers the farm-maids are lying;
The clock with its round face perspiring and blinking,
Is pointing to bed-time, and sleepily winking.
The sheep-dog lies basking, the grey cat is purring,
Only the tempest is crying and stirring.
The minutes creep on, and the wind still is busy,
And Phśbe still hearkens, perplex’d, and uneasy.

. . . . A face in the wold where the snowdrift lies low.
A footfall by night?—or the winds as they blow?
O hush! it comes nearer, a foot on the Snow.

Phśbe’s fond heart is beginning to flutter,                                    157
She hearks for a footfall, a tap on the shutter;
She lists for a voice while the storm gathers shriller,
The drift’s at the door, and the frost groweth chiller.
She looks at the clock, and she starteth back sighing,
While the cuckoo leaps out from his hole in it, crying
His name ten times over; past ten, little singer!
“O what keeps Eureka? and where can he linger?”
The snow is so deep, and the ways are so dire,
She thinks; and a footfall comes nigher and nigher.

. . . . A face in the darkness, a face full of woe,
A face and a footfall—they come and they go,
Still nearer and nearer—a foot on the Snow!

Eureka’s abroad in the town,—but ’tis later                                158
Than Drowsietown’s bed-time. Still greater and greater
The fears of poor Phśbe each moment are growing;
And sadder and paler her features are glowing.
She steps to the door—lifts the latch—with wild scolding
The door is dashed open, and torn from her holding,
While shivering she peers on the blackness, vibrating
With a trouble of whiteness within it pulsating!
The wind piles the drift at the threshold before her,
The snow swarms upon her, around her, and o’er her,
But melts on the warmth of her face and her hands.
A moment in trouble she hearkens and stands.

All black and all still, save the storm’s wild tabor!                          159
And she closes the door, and comes back to her labour.
In vain—she grows paler—her heart sinks within her,
The cuckoo bursts out in a flutter (the sinner),
And chimes the half-hour—she sits now awaiting,
Her heart forebodes evil, her mind still debating;
The drift is so deep—could a false step within it
Have led to his grave in one terrible minute?
Could his foot have gone wand’ring away in the wold there,
While frozen and feeble he sank in the cold there?
’Tis his foot! . . . Nay, not yet! . . . There he’s tapping, to summon
His wife to the door! Nay, indeed, little woman!.
’Tis his foot at the door!—and he listens to hear her!                     160
Nay, not yet; yet a footfall there is, coming nearer.

A face in the darkness, a foot on the Snow,
Nearer it comes to the warm window-glow;
O hush! thro’ the wind, a foot-fall on the Snow.

Now heark, Phśbe, heark!—But she hearks not; for dreaming,
Her soft eyes are fixed on the fire’s rosy gleaming;
Hands crossed on her knees she rocks to and fro;
O heark! Phśbe, heark! ’tis a foot on the Snow.
O heark! Phśbe, heark! and flit over the floor,
’Tis a foot on the Snow! ’tis a tap at the door!
Low, faint as hail tapping. . . Upstarting, she hearkens.
It ceases. The firelight sinks low, the room darkens.
She listens again. All is still. The wind blowing,                             161
The thrill of the tempest, the sound of the snowing.
Hush again! something taps—a low murmur is heard.
“Come in,” Phśbe cries; but the latch is not stirred.

Her heart’s failing fast; superstitious and mute
She stands and she trembles, and stirs not a foot.
She hears a low breathing, a moaning, a knock,
Between the wind’s cry and the tick of the clock:
Tap! tap! . . with an effort she shakes off her fear,
Makes one step to the door; again pauses to hear.
The latch stirs; in terror and desperate haste
She opens the door, shrinking back pallid-faced,
And sees at the porch, with a thrill of affright,
’Mid the gleaming of snow and the darkness of night,
A shape like a Woman’s, a tremulous form                                   162
White with the snow-flakes and bent with the storm!
Great eyes looking out through a black tatter’d hood,
With a gleam of wild sorrow that thrills through the blood,
A hand that outreaches, a voice sadly strung,
That speaks to her soul in some mystical tongue!

The face in the darkness, the foot on the Snow,
They have come, they are here, with their weal and their woe:
O long was the journey! the wayfarer slow!

Now Phśbe hath courage, for plainly the being
She looks on is mortal, though wild to the seeing—
Tall, spectral, and strange, yet in sorrow so human—                   163
And the eyes, though so wild, are the eyes of a woman.
Her face is all hid; but her brow and her hands,
And the quaint ancient cloak that she wears as she stands,
Are those of the red race who still wander scatter’d—
The gipsies of white towns, dishonour’d, drink-shatter’d.
And strange, too, she seems by her tongue; yet her words are
As liquid and soft as the notes of a bird are.
All this in a moment sees Phśbe; then lo!
She sees the shape staggering in from the snow,
Revealing, as in to the fire-gleam she goes,
A face wild with famine, and haggard with woes,
For her hood falls away, and her head glimmers bare,                   164
And loosen’d around falls her dank dripping hair,
And her eyes gleam like death—she would fall to the earth,
But the soft little hands of kind Phśbe reach forth,
And lead her, half swooning, half conscious, until
She sinks in a chair by the fire and is still;
Still, death-like,—while Phśbe kneels down by her chair,
And chafes her chill hands with a motherly care.

The face is upon her, it gleams in the glow,
She hears a voice warning, still dreadful and low,
Far back lies the footprint, a track in the Snow.

The woman was ghost-like, yet wondrously fair                            165
Through the gray cloud of famine, the dews of despair,
Her face hunger’d forth—’twas a red woman’s face,
Without the sunk eyeball, the taint of the race;
With strange gentle lines round the mouth of her, cast
By moments of being too blissful to last.
Her cloak fallen wide, as she sat there distraught,
Revealed a strange garment with figures enwrought
In silk and old beads—it had once been most bright—
But frayed with long wearing by day and by night.
Mocassins she wore, and they, too, had been gay,
But now they were ragged and rent by the way;                            [l.xii]
And bare to the cold was one foot, soft and red,                           166
And frozen felt both, and one trickled and bled.

The face of the stranger, ’tis worn with its woe,
It comes to thee, Phśbe, but when shall it go?
Far back go the footprints; see! black in the Snow.

But look! what is that? lo! it lies on her breast,
A small living creature, an infant at rest!
So tiny, so shrivell’d, a mite of red clay,
Warm, mummied, and wrapt in the Indian way.
It opens its eyes, and it shrivels red cheeks;
It thrusts out its hand to the face, and it speaks
With a cry to the heart of the mother; and lo!
She stirs from her swoon, and her famish’d cheeks glow,
She rolls her wild eyes at the cry of distress,
And her weak hands instinctively open her dress
That the babe may be fed; and the touch of the child                     167
When it comes to her bosom, warm, milky, and mild,
Seems blissful—she smiles—O, so faintly!—is blest
To feel its lips draw at the poor weary breast.
She closes her eyes, she is soothed, and her form
Within the great firelight grows happy and warm.
She hears not the wind, and she seems in a dream,
Till her orbs startle open amid the glad gleam;
Her looks fall on Phśbe, who trembles for pity;
She holds out her hands with a cry of entreaty;
Her thoughts flow together—she knows the bright place,
She feels the sweet firelight, she sees the kind face—
For Phśbe unloosens her poor dripping cloak,                             168
And its damp rises up in the kitchen like smoke;
And Phśbe, with tender and matronly grace,
Is wiping the snow and the wet from her face.
She looks, sinks again, speaks with quick birdlike cries,
In her own thrilling speech; but her voice breaks and dies,
And her tears, through shut eyelids, ooze slowly and blindly
On the white little hands that are touching her kindly.

A face in the darkness, a face full of woe,
Deep, deep, are the white ways, and bleak the winds blow;
O, long was the journey, the wayfarer slow,
O, look! black as death, stretch the prints in the Snow.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 165, l. xii: And now they were ragged and rent by the way; ]





A FOOTPRINT—trace it back. O God!
The bleeding feet, the weary road.
Fly, Fancy, as the eagle flies,
With beating heart and burning eyes,
Fly on the north-wind’s breath of power,
Beat mile by mile, and hour by hour,
Southward, still southward: shouldst thou tire,
Rest with the solar sphere of fire,
Then rise again and take thy flight
Across the continent in white,
And track, still track, as thou dost go
This bleeding footprint in the snow!
Fly night by night, or day by day,
Count the long hours, watch the wild way;
Then see, beneath thee sailing swift                                               170
The white way melteth, and the drift
Gathers no longer; and instead
Of snow a dreary rain is shed,
On grassy ways, on dreary leas,
And sullen pools that do not freeze.
Now must thy keen eye look more near
To trace the bloody footprint here;
But see! still see! it can be traced
On the wet pastures of the waste;
On! on, still on! still southward sail,
While tall trees shake in the shrill gale,
And great streams gather, and things green
Begin to show thro’ the dim sheen.
Here thro’ a mighty wood the track
Errs like a silk thread slowly back,
And here birds singing go and come,
Tho’ far away the world is dumb.
A river, and the track is lost.
But when the stream is safely cross’d
Again, upon the further brim,                                                        171
The drop of blood, the footprint dim!
O wingëd thought, o’er half a world
Thou sailest with great wings unfurl’d,
From white to dark, from dark to bright,
From north to south, thou takest flight,
Passing with constant waft of wing
From winter climes to climes of spring,
Swiftly thou goest, and still thy gaze
Follows the footprint thro’ wild ways;
Swiftly thou speedest south—O God!
A thousand leagues of weary road!

A thousand leagues! O see, the track,
Clear to the soul’s eye, wavers back
Dim yet unbroken, linking slow
Winter with spring, sunshine with snow,
The dead leaf with the leaf still blowing,
The frozen stream with the stream flowing;
Linking and binding silently
Forgetfulness with memory,
Love living with love long at rest,                                                  172
A burning with a frozen breast,
A Sunbeam Soul all light and seeing
With a mere Beaver of a being.

Turn back, my Spirit, turn and trace
The woman from her starting place,
Whence with fix’d features and feet free
She plunged into the world’s great Sea,—
A fair sweet swimmer, strong of limb,
Most confident in God, and him,
And found herself by wild winds blown,
In a great waste, alone, alone!

Long with the patience of her race,
Had Red Rose waited for the face
That came not, listen’d for the voice
That made her soul leap and rejoice.
They came not: all was still. For days,
She like a fawn in the green ways
Wander’d alone; and night by night                                               173
She watch’d heaven’s eye of liquid light
With eyes as luminous as theirs,
’Mid tremulous sighs and panted prayers.
He came not: all was still: her tread
Grew heavier on the earth, her head
Hung sadder, and her weeping eyes,
Look’d more on earth than on the skies:
Like a dead leaf she droop’d in woe,
Until one day, with a quick throe,
She turn’d to crimson as she wept,
And lo! within her something leapt!

Flesh of her flesh, the blossom broke,
     Blood of her blood, she felt it stir,
Within her life another woke
     With still small eyes, and look’d at her!
And with a strange ecstatic pain,
She breathed, and felt it breathe again.
She seem’d to see it night and day,                                              174
Coming along from far away
Down a green path, and with fierce flame
She rush’d to meet it as it came,
But as she rush’d the shape did seem
Suddenly to dissolve in dream,
And daily she stood hungering sore,
Till far off it arose once more.

But as the life within her grew
     A horror took away her breath,
Lest when her cruel kinsmen knew
     Her secret, they should deal her death.
For now the aged Chief, with whom
Her happy life had broke to bloom,
Along the dark deep path had wound
That leads to God’s great hunting-ground;
And a young brave of the red band
Was proudly wooing for her hand;—
Not in white fashion fervently,                                                      175
Not with wild vows and on his knee;
Rather a proud majestic wooer
Who felt his suit an honour to her,
And who his formal presents sent
In calm assumption of consent,
And never dream’d the maid would dare
To turn her tender eyes elsewhere;—
Nor dared she openly disdain
A suit so solemn and so plain;
But with a smile half agonized
She (as we whites say) temporized!

She found two friendly women, who,
Tho’ hags in form, were kind and true,
And with their aid, when the hour came,
She bare her child and hid her shame.
As Eve bare Cain, upon a bed
Of balsam and of hemlock, spread
By those kind hands, in the deep woods,
Amid the forest solitudes,
With myriad creatures round her flying,                                        176
And every creature multiplying;
In the warm greenwood, hid from sight,
She held her babe to the glad light,
And brighten’d. As she linger’d there,
She had a dream most sadly fair:
She seem’d upon a river-side,
Gazing across a crystal tide,
And o’er the tide in dying swells
There came a burthen as of bells
Out of a mist; then the mist clear’d,
And on the further bank appear’d
A dim shape fondly beckoning—
Her warrior tall, her heart’s white King!
She cried, and woke; the dream was nought;
But ever after her wild thought
Yearn’d with an instinct mad and dumb
To seek him, since he did not come.
She thought, “My warrior beckons me!
He would be here if he were free.
And if I stay my kinsmen wild                                                      177
Will surely slay me and the child;
But there, with him in that fair place,
Where he is chief of his own race,
All will be well; for he is good,
Of milder race and gentler blood;
And tho’ I die upon the way
’Twill not be worse than if I stay,
Butcher’d and shamed in all men’s sight
When my sad secret comes to light.
’Tis well! this paper in my hand
Will guide my footsteps thro’ the land,
And when I strengthen I will fly,
And I will find my lord, or die!”
’Twas thought, ’twas done; at dead of night,
She clasp’d her infant and took flight.

One guide she had—the luminous star,
On the horizon line afar;
For thither oft Eureka’s hand                                                      178
Had pointed, telling her his land
Lay thitherward: gazing thereon,
That night she busied to be gone,
It seem’d a lamp that he had placed
To guide her footsteps o’er the waste.
She gather’d food, then to her back
Attach’d the babe, and took the track,
Waving her hands in wild “adieu”
To those kind women dark of hue,
Who crouching on a dark ascent
Moan’d low, and watch’d her as she went.
There shone the star liquid and clear,
His voice seem’d calling in her ear,
The night was warm as her desire,
And forth she fled on feet of fire.

One guide; she had another too:
A crumpled paper coarse to view,
Wherein she had kept with tender care
A little lock of precious hair,
And on the paper this was written plain:                                       179

O poor dark bird, nought still knew she
Of this wild world’s geography!
Less than the swallow sailing home,
Less than the petrel ’mid the foam,
Less than the mallard winging fast
O’er solitary fens and vast,
To seek his birthplace far away
In regions of the midnight day.
She only knew that somewhere there,
     In some strange land afar or near,
Under that star serene and fair,
     He waited; and her soul could hear
His summons; even as a dove
     Her soul’s wild pinions she unfurl’d,
And sought in constancy and love
     Her only refuge in the world!

A footprint—trace it on!—                                                          180

                                         For days
Her path was on great pasture ways:
League after league of verdurous bloom
Of star-like flowers and faint perfume,
And from her coming leapt in fear
The antelope and dappled deer;
And everywhere around her grew
Ripe fruit and berries that she knew,
While glistening in the golden gleam
Glanced many a mere and running stream.
A happy land of flocks and herds,
And many-colour’d water-birds!
Oft, sailing with her as she went,
The eagle eddied indolent
On soft swift wing; and with his wild
Dark dewy eye glanced at her child,
Nor till she scream’d and arms upthrew,
Turn’d, and on sullen wing withdrew.
But sweet it was by night to rest                                                  181
And give her little babe the breast,
And O each night with eyes most dim
She felt one night more near to him:
And all the pains of the past day,
With all the perils of the way,
Seem’d as a dream; and lo! afar
She saw the smiling of the Star.

’Twere but a weary task to trace
Her footprint on from place to place,
From day to day; to sing and tell
What daily accidents befell,
What dangers threaten’d her, what eyes
Watch’d her go by in wild surprise,
What prospects blest her, where and when
She look’d on life and met with men.
Enough to say, tho’ light and dark,
Straight, as an arrow to its mark,
The woman flew; wise in the ways                                               182
Of her own race, she hid from gaze
When flitting forms against the sky
Warn’d her that Indians might be nigh;
And when the wild beast dreadful-eyed
Approach’d her, with shrill shriek she cried,
Until the bloody coward shook
Before the red rage of her look.
And tho’ the prospect changed all days,
It did not change to her; whose gaze
Saw these things only: the white star
On the horizon line afar,
And the quick beckoning of a hand
Out of another, sweeter land.

The long sad road—the way so dreary
The very Fancy falters weary!
The very soul is dazed, and shows
Only a gleam of wild tableaux:
In midst of each that shape of woe
Still straggling northward—slow, slow, slow.

. . . A river deep. She cannot find                                                183
A wading-place to suit her mind;
But on the bank sets quietly,
Amid the sunflowers tall as she,
Her little babe: then slips her dress
And stands in mother-nakedness;
Then in a bundle on her head
She ties her raiment yellow and red,
And swimming o’er the waters bright,
With glistening limbs of liquid light,
Sets down her burden dry, and then,
With swift stroke sailing back again,
Seeks the small babe where it doth lie,
And with her right hand holds it high,
While with the other slow she swims,
Trailing her large and liquid limbs;
Then dripping wades to the far shore,
And clothes her loveliness once more . . .

. . . On a lone plain she now is found,
Where troglodytes dwell underground.
Wild settlers peering from their caves,                                          184
Like dead men moving in their graves,
Rise round her as she comes, and glare
With hungry eyes thro’ horrent hair;
But they are gentle, and they give
Herbs and black bread that she may live,
And in their caves the weary one
Rests till the rising of the sun;
Then the wild shapes around her stand
Reading the paper in her hand,
And point her northward; and she flies
Fleet-footed, while with wandering eyes
They stand and watch her shape fade dim
Across the dark horizon-rim . . .

. . . She stands on a great river’s bank,
’Mid noxious weeds and sedges dank;
And on the yellow river’s track,
Jagged with teeth like snags jet black,
The ferryman in his great boat,                                                    185
A speck on the broad waste, doth float,
Approaching to the water’s side,
But lengthways drifting with the tide.
She leaps into the boat, and o’er
The waste to the dark further shore,
Slowly they journey; as he rows
The paper to the man she shows,
Who reads; and as she springs to land,
He too points northward with his hand . . .

. . . See, with a crimson glare of light,
A log-town burneth in the night!
And flying forth with all their goods
Into the sandy solitudes,
The people wild, with bloodless cheeks,
Glare at a wanderer who speaks
In a strange tongue; but as they fly
Are dumb, and answer not her cry . . .

. . . Now thro’ a land by the red sun                                            186
Scorch’d as with fire, the lonely one
Treads slowly; and ere long she hears
The sharp cry of shrill overseers,
Driving black gangs that toiling tramp
Thro’ cotton fields and sugar swamp.
Here first the hand of man is raised
To harm her—for with eyes amazed
She nears a City, and is cast
Into a slave-pen foul and vast,
Seized as an Ethiop slave. From thence
She in an agony intense
Is thrust; but not ere eager eyes
Have mark’d her beauty as a prize.
But God is good, and one blest day
She hears upon the burning way
An aged half-caste burnt and black
Speak in her tongue and answer back.
These twain wring hands upon the road,
And in the stranger’s poor abode
She sleeps that night; but with the sun                                          187
She wakens, and is pointed on . . .

. . . Now in a waggon great she lies,
And shaded from the brazen skies,
Slowly she jogs, and all at rest
She gives her little babe the breast.
Happy she rests; hears in her dream
The driver’s song, the jingling team.
With jet black cheek and bright red lip,
The negro drives and cracks his whip,
Singing plantation hymns to God,
And grinning greetings with a nod . . .

. . . Now, toiling on a dusty way,
She begs her bread from day to day,
And some are good to her and mild,
And most are soften’d by the child.
Once, as she halts at a great door,
Hungry and weary, sick and sore,
A lovely lady white as milk                                                          188
Glides past her in her rustling silk;
Then pauses, questioning, and sees
The sleeping babe upon her knees,
And takes the paper from her hand,
And reading it doth understand;
Then stoops to kiss the child with cold
Kind lips, and gives the mother gold . . .

. . . Now in a mighty boat, among
A crowd of people strange of tongue,
She saileth slow, with wandering sight,
On a vast river day and night;
All day the prospect drifteth past—
Swamp, wood, and meadow, fading fast,—
With lonely huts, and shapes that stand
On the stream’s bank, and wave the hand;
All night with eyes that look aloft,
Or close in sleep, she sails; but oft
The blackness takes a deeper frown,                                            189
And the wild eyeballs of a town
Flash open as the boat goes by,
And she awakens with a cry . . .

On, on, and on—O the blind quest,
The throbbing heart, the aching breast!
And O the faith, more steadfast far
Then aught on earth, or any star;
The faith that never ceased to shine,
The strength of constancy divine,
The will that warm’d her as she went
Across a mighty continent,
Unknown, scarce help’d, from land to land,
With that poor paper in her hand!

The vision falls. The figure fades
Amid the lonely forest glades,
Fringing the mightly inland seas.
I see her still; and still she flees
Onward, still onward; tho’ the wind                                            190
Blows cold, and nature looks unkind:
The dead leaves fall and rot; the chill
Damp earth-breath clings to vale and hill,
The birds are sailing south; and hark!
As she fares onward thro’ the dark,
The honking wild geese swiftly sail
Amid a slowly gathering gale.
All darkens; and around her flow
The cold and silence of the Snow.

There, she is lost; in that white gleam
She fadeth, let her fade, in dream!
Poor bird of the bright summer, now
She feels the kisses on her brow
Of Frost and Fog; and at her back
Another Shadow keeps the track.
’Tis winter now; and birds have flown
Southward, to seek a gladder zone;
One, only one, doth northward fare,                                            191
And dreams to find her summer there.
God help her! look not! let her go
Into the realm of the Great Snow!



White Rose and Red continued

or back to White Rose and Red - Contents








The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


Site Diary
Site Search