Agnes Maule Machar (Fidelis), for over half a century, was one of the leading Canadian writers in prose and verse. In the eighteen eighties, when the Little Englanders were suggesting the break-up of the Empire, abd Canadian annexationists were advocating the severence of Canada from England, Miss Machar in season and out of season held high the torch of Imperialism and Canadian Nationalism. As a result she produced a body of patriotic poetry in volume and power greater than any other of our writers. She is entitled to rank as Canada’s supreme patriotic poet, sane in outlook and free from extravagant jingoism. As she said of herself:
Canadensis sum, et nihil Canadense alienum a me pulo.
As a poet Miss Machar excels as an interpreter of nature. One field she has made peculiarly her own, The Thousand Islands. In a simple, direct way, with charming lyrical insight, every aspect of this beautyspot is revealed. She makes lake, river and woodland live, and this alone entitles her to an abiding place Canadian among poets.
– T.G. Marquis
DRIFTING AMONG THE THOUSAND ISLANDS
NEVER a ripple on all the river,
As it lies like a mirror beneath the moon,
Only the shadows tremble and quiver
‘Neath the balmy breath of a night in June!
All dark and silent, each shadowy island
Like a silhouette lies on its silver ground,
While just above us a rocky highland
Towers grim and dusk, with its pine-trees crowned.
Never a sound but the waves’ soft splashing,
As the boat drifts idly the shore along,
And the darting fireflies, silently flashing,
Gleam—living diamonds—the woods among,
And the night-hawk flits o’er the bay’s deep bosom,
And the loon’s laugh breaks through the midnight calm,
And. the luscious breath of the wild vine’s blossom
Wafts from the rocks like a tide of balm!
Drifting—why may we not drift forever?
Let all the world and its warfare go;
Let us float and drift with the flowing river,
Whither—we neither care nor know!
Dreaming a dream—might we ne’er awaken!
There’s joy enough in this passive bliss,
The wrestling crowd and its cares forsaking,
Was ever Nirvana more blest than this?
Nay! but our hearts are ever lifting
The veil of the present, however fair;
Not long—not long can we go on drifting,
Not long enjoy surcease from care!
Ours is a nobler task and guerdon
Than aimless drifting, however blest;
Only the heart that can bear the burden
Shall share the joy of the victor’s rest!
Featuring cover artwork by Stephanie Dowell.