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Short poem

Duncan Campbell Scott (1862-1947)

The Half-Breed Girl

              1She is free of the trap and the paddle,
              2    The portage and the trail,
              3But something behind her savage life
              4    Shines like a fragile veil.

              5Her dreams are undiscovered,
              6    Shadows trouble her breast,
              7When the time for resting cometh
              8    Then least is she at rest.

              9Oft in the morns of winter,
            10    When she visits the rabbit snares,
            11An appearance floats in the crystal air
            12    Beyond the balsam firs.

            13Oft in the summer mornings
            14    When she strips the nets of fish,
            15The smell of the dripping net-twine
            16    Gives to her heart a wish.

            17But she cannot learn the meaning
            18    Of the shadows in her soul,
            19The lights that break and gather,
            20    The clouds that part and roll,

            21The reek of rock-built cities,
            22    Where her fathers dwelt of yore,
            23The gleam of loch and shealing,
            24    The mist on the moor,

            25Frail traces of kindred kindness,
            26    Of feud by hill and strand,
            27The heritage of an age-long life
            28    In a legendary land.

            29She wakes in the stifling wigwam,
            30    Where the air is heavy and wild,
            31She fears for something or nothing
            32    With the heart of a frightened child.

            33She sees the stars turn slowly
            34    Past the tangle of the poles,
            35Through the smoke of the dying embers,
            36    Like the eyes of dead souls.

            37Her heart is shaken with longing
            38    For the strange, still years,
            39For what she knows and knows not,
            40    For the wells of ancient tears.

            41A voice calls from the rapids,
            42    Deep, careless and free,
            43A voice that is larger than her life
            44    Or than her death shall be.

            45She covers her face with her blanket,
            46    Her fierce soul hates her breath,
            47As it cries with a sudden passion
            48    For life or death.


2] portage: the carrying of a canoe across land from one lake or river to another.

23] loch: lake (Scottish).
shealing: sheiling, pasture.

29] wigwam: native hut made of wood poles, rushes, bark, hides, etc.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Poems of Duncan Campbell Scott (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1926): 55-56. PS 8487 C6 A17 1926 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1906
Publication date note: Via Borealis (1906).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/10

Rhyme: abcb

Other poems by Duncan Campbell Scott