Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sarah Binks, Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan

Since we're talking about poetry -- and also about the unforgiving wilds of Canada -- I can't help mentioning Sarah Binks, the "sweet songstress of Saskatchewan" who wrote such eerie poetry during her P.R. ("Post-Regina") period:
"They Arose"

They arose, three dead men,
Stiff and dank,
From the gloomy depths
Of a water tank;
And they bowed full soon
To the rising moon,
For the one was Bill,
And the other two, Hank.
"(Untitled Fragment)"

When I'm buried in a graveyard,
And this feeble flame is snuffed,
Will a spottled magpie murmur,
Mutely sigh with ruff unfluffed?
Who can forget this stanza from "Hymn to Rover?"
When on that day the last bark rings
To call the dog-like throng,
Rover shall rise and don his wings,
And raise his voice in song;
He'll raise his voice in song and sing,
In ecstasy of dog-like things.
Eventually Sarah rebounded from her misery and gave us some of her best work. As her biographer Paul Hiebert notes, "sheer exuberance of joy is expressed in that paean of praise to the hunt":
"The Duck Hunt"

The duck hunt, the duck hunt,
Ahoy, for the duck hunt,
Yahoo, the duck hunt so fine;
With my shot gun and duck-dog,
I'm off for the duck-bog,
And I leave for the duck hunt,
While yet there is time;
My loved one is weeping,
And clings to my side;
"Oh stay with me Oscar,
The duck hunt can ride,
Remain with me Oscar,
And let the duck hunt slide."
But hark, in the gloaming,
The moor-hens are moaning,
The marshes are sighing,
The sea gulls are groaning,
So I'm off for the duck hunt,
The duck hunt, the duck hunt,
I'm off for the duck hunt,
While yet in my prime.
I leave you with the first stanza of Sarah's acknowledged epic, "Hordes of Sheep":
'Tis night on the prairie and night on the plain,
And all is still--no sign of rain--
And all is peace, and deep in his teepee
The red man sleeps and his squaw is sleepy;
The red man snores with the red man's cunning;
But hark, what's that? 'tis the sound of running,
'Tis the sound of rushing, of hurrying feet,
And hark, what's that? 'tis the sound of bleat;
Louder it comes, it rises wild,
Ah, the mother hears it and grabs her child,
Louder still, the frantic mother,
Grabs her child, and another and another;
And the red man waked by that hurrying tread,
Turns deadly pale beneath his red;
The Indian Brave is roused from sleep;
"Run for your life boys, here come sheep!"

3 comments:

Eric Little said...

All I can do is repeat the praise of another critic over an equally fine poem, "Because you took advantage of a sinner":

"Oh, grand stuff!"

VanillaJ said...

"Little birdie in da sky
Little white wash in me eye
Me no laugh
Me no cry
-Me just glad that cow don't fly!"

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Sorry VJ, you're no Sarah Binks.