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Enigma -- Duncan Campbell Scott

Guest poem submitted by Raghavendra Udupa:
(Poem #478) Enigma
 Some men are born to gather women's tears,
 To give a harbour to their timorous fears,
 To take them as the dry earth takes the rain,
 As the dark wood the warm wind from the plain;
 Yet their own tears remain unshed,
 Their own tumultuous fears unsaid,
 And, seeming steadfast as the forest and the earth,
 Shaken are they with pain.
 They cry for voice as earth might cry for the sea
 Or the wood for consuming fire;
 Unanswered they remain
 Subject to the sorrows of women utterly --
 Heart and mind,
 Subject as the dry earth to the rain
 Or the dark wood to the wind.
-- Duncan Campbell Scott
I stumbled upon this beautiful piece of work when I was browsing the University
of Toronto's Representative Poetry Online [1]. Apart from the theme, what I
liked most about the poem is its simplicity. In fact, each word contributes to
the central theme (perhaps Scott picked this up from the Imagists who were his
contemporaries). For instance, the poet describes the fears of women as timorous
and  those of men as tumultuous...  the metaphors are simple but powerful. The
two lines that appealed to me the most are:
        "They cry for voice as earth might cry for the sea
        Or the wood for consuming fire;"




Born in Ottawa in 1862, educated at Smith's Falls, Ontario, and Stanstead,
Quebec, Scott obtained a position at 17 years old as a clerk in the Indian
Branch of the federal government and before his retirement in 1932 had risen to
become deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs. In this
position he developed an understanding of and sympathy with the native peoples
of Canada, some of which appears in his poems about Amerindians, and much in his
book, The Administration of Indian Affairs in Canada (1931). From 1893 to 1947
he published nine volumes of poetry, as well as two books of short stories and a
play. As the literary executor of Archibald Lampman, Scott edited, published and
popularized his poetry. The two men had jointly published essays in a Toronto
Globe column in 1892-93. Scott was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of
Canada in 1899, and he acted as its president in 1921. The University of Toronto
and Queens' University gave him honorary degrees in 1922 and 1939. He married
Belle Warner Botsford in 1894 and they had one daughter, who died in 1907. After
his wife's death in 1929, he remarried Elise Aylen in 1931. His death came at 85
in 1947.


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