I’m a-sitting by the tow-path
‡‡Of the days of long ago,
Where the long, green grass is growing
‡‡And the ox-eye daisies blow,
And I see a fading vision,
‡‡‘Gainst the sun’s last westward glow,
Of the schooners and the horses
‡‡In the days I used to know.
Big-boned horses, drooping, weary,
‡‡As they drew the tow-line taut;
Idle sailors, singing, cheery,
‡‡Lounging where the decks are hot;
Trudging tow-boys, cracking whips,
‡‡Cursing when a tow-horse slips;
And the rattling rustling, creaking
‡‡Of the gear upon the ships.
Little schooners with their lumber,
‡‡Going down the narrow ditch,
Out of Michigan and Huron
‡‡Bringing ashes, staves and pitch;
All the forests of the inland
‡‡Floating seaward, hour by hour,
Making way for farms and millers
‡‡To send down their wheat and flour.
And the immigrants go upward,
‡‡Irish, Scot, and Norse and Swede,
Looking to the land of promise
‡‡Where hard work is all they need
For the carving of a future
‡‡And the foundation of a race,
Facing westward, keen and eager,
‡‡To their new, free dwelling-place.
But the sailing ships have vanished,
‡‡And the tow-path sod is green,
Gone are horses, whips and shoutings,
‡‡Giving place to steel and steam,
Rusty plates and smoke and smother,
‡‡Sixteen hatchways in a row,
And a welkin-splitting clamor
‡‡That pursues me as I go.
I have seen as rare a vision
‡‡As the ancient prophets saw,
I have seen mankind in action
‡‡Working out the ancient law,—
“You shall all this earth replenish
‡‡“And subdue its every sod,”—
‘Tis mankind that builds our nation
‡‡But the architect, is God.
Source: McCabe, Kevin (ed.) The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, 1999.
Originally published in the St. Catharines Standard, November 29, 1924