(Poem #1717) The Joys of the Road
Now the joys of the road are chiefly these: A crimson touch on the hard-wood trees; A vagrant's morning wide and blue, In early fall, when the wind walks too; A shadowy highway cool and brown, Alluring up and enticing down From rippled water to dappled swamp, From purple glory to scarlet pomp; The outward eye, the quiet will, And the striding heart from hill to hill; The tempter apple over the fence; The cobweb bloom on the yellow quince; The palish asters along the wood,-- A lyric touch of solitude; An open hand, an easy shoe, And a hope to make the day go through,-- Another to sleep with, and a third To wake me up at the voice of a bird; A scrap of gossip at the ferry; A comrade neither glum nor merry, Who never defers and never demands, But, smiling, takes the world in his hands,-- Seeing it good as when God first saw And gave it the weight of his will for law. And oh, the joy that is never won, But follows and follows the journeying sun, By marsh and tide, by meadow and stream, A will-o'-the-wind, a light-o'-dream, The racy smell of the forest loam, When the stealthy sad-heart leaves go home; The broad gold wake of the afternoon; The silent fleck of the cold new moon; The sound of the hollow sea's release From stormy tumult to starry peace; With only another league to wend; And two brown arms at the journey's end! These are the joys of the open road-- For him who travels without a load.
I was rather surprised not to find any of Carman's poems in the archive - I distinctly remembered earmarking him, along with Lampman and Pratt, for the long-ago Canadian theme, though now that I go back and check, I see that I omitted him for lack of familiarity. Today's long-overdue poem should finally address this omission. Moving on to the poem itself, I enjoyed it for its easy, meandering flow through the quiet pleasures of the open road. I couldn't help contrasting it with Stevenson's "From a Railway Carriage" [Poem #84], which uses a similar pattern of cascading couplets - read the two poems side by side for a fascinating look at how the latter evokes a sense of tumbling haste and the former unhurried leisure with what is superficially a very similar form. A better companion piece to today's poem is perhaps Robert Francis's "Silent Poem" [Poem #323], a poem with a different focus but a very similar sense of quiet backroad beauty. And finally, a nice piece of trivia for all you Wodehouse fans - the poet Ralston McTodd (of "pale parabola of joy" fame) was, apparently, a caricature of Carman: It seems more than likely that P.G. Wodehouse had Carman in mind (and perhaps Robert Service and Wilson MacDonald as well) when he created the Ralston McTodd of Leave It to Psmith (1924); the author of "Songs Squalor" and other volumes, McTodd is a "powerful young singer of Saskatoon," a "gloomy looking young man with long and disordered hair," whose "wonderful poems . . . are, of course, known the whole world over" (so at least says one of his admirers). -- http://www.canadianpoetry.ca/cpjrn/vol14/bentley.htm martin [Links] Biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_Carman http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/garvin/poets/carman.html Some brief but enthusiastic assessments: 'In his time, he was arguably Canada's best known poet, and was dubbed by some the "unofficial poet laureate of Canada."' -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_Carman A recent reading of the published verse of Bliss Carman, has convinced me that he must soon be more widely recognized as a poet of preëminent genius. He is greater than some of more extended fame for the reason that his poetry expresses a nobler and more comprehensive philosophy of life and being. Bliss Carman has achieved more greatly than many others of this generation, because he has realized more fully than they that the Infinite Poet is constantly and eternally seeking media for expression, and that the function of a finite poet is to steadily improve the instrument, to keep it expectantly in tune, and to record the masterpieces. -- http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/garvin/poets/canadian-poets.html