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The Old Canoe

From The Birmingham Age-Herald, September 5, 1913. By Albert Pike.

Where the rocks are gray and the shore is steep,
And the waters below look dark and deep,
Where the rugged pine, in its lonely pride
Leans gloomily over the murky tide,
Where the reeds and rushes are long and rank
And the weeds grow thick on the winding bank,
Where the shadow is heavy the whole day through,
There lies at its moorings the old canoe.

The useless paddles are idly dropped,
Like a sea bird’s wings that the storms had lopped,
And crossed o’er the railings one o’er one,
Like the folded hands when the work is done;
While busily back and forth between
The spider stretches his silvery screen,
And the solemn owl, with his dull “too-hoo,”
Settles down on the side of the old canoe.

The stern, half sunk in the slimy wave
Rots slowly away in its living grave,
And the green moss creeps o’er its dull decay
Hiding its moldering dust away
Like the hand that plants o’er the tomb a flower
Or the ivy that mantles the falling tower,
While many a blossom of loveliest hue
Springs up o’er the stern of the old canoe.

The currentless waters are dead and still,
But the light wind plays with the boat at will,
And lazily in and out again
It floats the length of the rusty chain
Like the weary march of the hands of time
That meet and part at the noontide chime,
And the shore is kissed at each turning anew
By the dripping bow of the old canoe.

Oh, many a time, with a careless hand
I have pushed it away from the pebbly strand,
And paddled it down where the stream runs quick
Where the whirls are wide and the eddies thick,
And laughed as I leaned o’er the rocking side
And looked below in the broken tide
The see that the faces and boats were two,
That were mirrored back from the old canoe.

But now, as I lean o’er the crumbling side,
And look below in the broken tide,
The face that I see there is graver grown,
And the laugh that I hear has a sobered tone,
And the hanks that lent to the light skiff wings
Have grown familiar with sterner things.
But I love to think of the hours that sped
As I rocked where the whirls their white spray shed,
Ere the blossoms waved, or the green grass grew
O’er the moldering stern of the old canoe.

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