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The Joys of the Road -- Bliss Carman

(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.
-- Bliss Carman
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).




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."'

  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.

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Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this very much, but I would like to know more about the rhythm this poem is written in.

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