And out of the glow, the children: a whoop and
a calling gay,
A clink of lunch-pails swinging as they clash in mimic fray,
A shout and a shouting echo from a world as young as they!
The prairie school! The well-tramped earth, so
ugly and so dear,
The piney steps where teacher stands, a saucy gopher near,
A rough-cut pole where the flag flies up to a shrill voiced children’s cheer.
So stands the outpost! Time and change will crowd
its widening door,
Big with the dreams we visioned and the hopes we battled for—
A legacy to those who come from those who come no more.
Dazzled by sun and drugged by space they wait,
These homeless peoples, at our prairie gate;
Dumb with the awe of those whom fate has hurled,
Breathless, upon the threshold of a world!
From near-horizoned, little lands they come,
From barren country-side and deathly slum,
From bleakest wastes, from lands of aching drouth,
From grape-hung valleys of the smiling South,
From chains and prisons, ay, from horrid fear,
(Mark you the furtive eye, the listening ear!)
And all amazed and silent, scared and shy—
An alien group beneath an alien sky!
See—on that bench beside the busy door—
There sleeps a Roman born: upon the floor
His wife, dark-haired and handsome, takes her rest,
Their black-eyed baby tugging at her breast.
Her hands lie still. Her brooding glances roam
Above the pushing crowd to her far home,
And slow she smiles to think how fine ’twill be
When they (so rich!) return to Italy.
Yonder, with stolid face and tragic eye,
Sits a lone Russian; as we pass him by
He neither stirs nor looks; his inner gaze
Sees not the future fair, but, troubled, strays
To the dark land he left but can’t forget,
Whose bonds, though broken, hold him prisoner yet.
Here is a Pole—a worker; though so slim
His muscle is of steel—no fear for him;
He is the breed which conquers; he is nerved
To fight and fight again. Too long he served,
Man of a subject race! His fierce, blue eye
Roams like a homing eagle o’er the sky,
So limitless, so deep! for such as he
Life has no higher bliss than to be free.
This little Englishman with jaunty air
And tweed cap perched awry on close-trimmed hair—
He, with his faded wife and noisy band,
Has come from Home to seek a promised land—
He feels himself aggrieved, for no one said
That things would be so big and so—outspread!
He thinks of London with a pang of grief;
His wife is sobbing in her handkerchief.
But all his children stare with eager eyes.
This is their land. Already they surmise
Their heritage, their chance to live and grow,
Won for them by their fathers, long ago!
Another generation, and this Scot,
Whose longing for the hills is ne’er forgot,
Shall rear a son whose eye will never be
Dim with a craving for that distant sea,
Those barren rocks, that heather’s purple glow—
The ache, the burn that only exiles know!