The Violinist

I just want to share this poem by Archibald Lampman (1861-1899).

I can remember enjoying the drive east on Highway Three from Blenheim to Morpeth. Just before you reach the turn-off for Rondeau Park, you will see a small church- memorial and beautiful sloping farmland down to Lake Erie.

While living in Chatham we would crave this drive for a look at land which was neither flat nor covered with corn. One could go inside the chapel and feel the warm and reverent spirit of rural Kent County folk. A blue Ontario historical plaque featuring Lampman was just outside.

The following poem displays the large heart of this "Confederation Poet". Note the short span of his life. Interesting name, "Lampman".

Banner: Canadian Poetry Archive
Lampman, Archibald

In Dresden in the square one day,
His face of parchment, seamed and gray,
With wheezy bow and proffered hat,
An old blind violinist sat.

Like one from whose worn heart the heat
Of life had long ago retired,
He played to the unheeding street
Until the thin old hands were tired.

Few marked the player how he played,
Or how the child beside his knee
Besought the passers-by for aid
So softly and so wistfully.

A stranger passed. The little hand
Went forth, so often checked and spurned.
The stranger wavered, came to stand,
Looked round with absent eyes and turned.

He saw the sightless withered face,
The tired old hands, the whitened hair,
The child with such a mournful grace,
The little features pinched and spare.

"I have no money, but," said he,
"Give me the violin and bow.
I'll play a little, we shall see,
Whether the gold will come or no."

With lifted brow and flashing eyes
He faced the noisy street and played.
The people turned in quick surprise,
And every foot drew near and stayed.

First from the shouting bow he sent
A summons, an impetuous call;
Then some old store of grief long pent
Broke from his heart and mastered all.

The tumult sank at his command,
The passing wheels were hushed and stilled;
The burning soul, the sweeping hand
A sacred ecstasy fulfilled.

The darkness of the outer strife,
The weariness and want within,
The giant wrongfulness of life,
Leaped storming from the violin.

Th jingling round of pleasure broke,
Gay carriages were drawn anear,
And all the proud and haughty folk
Leaned from their cushioned seats to hear.

And then the player changed his tone,
And wrought another miracle
Of music, half a prayer, half moan,
A cry exceeding sorrowful.

A strain of pity for the weak,
The poor that fall without a cry,
The common hearts that never speak,
But break beneath the press and die.

Throughout the great and silent crowd
The music fell on human ears,
And many kindly heads were bowed,
And many eyes were warm with tears.

"And now your gold," the player cried,
"While love is master of your mood;"
He bowed, and turned, and slipped aside,
And vanished in the multitude.

And all the people flocked at that,
The money like a torrent rolled,
Until the gray old battered hat
Was bursting to the brim with gold.

And loudly as the giving grew,
The question rose on every part,
If any named or any knew
The stranger with so great a heart,

Or what the moving wonder meant,
Such playing never heard before;
A lady from her carriage leant,
And murmured softly, "It was Spohr."

(Ludwig Spohr, 1784-1855, was a great German composer, conductor and violinist)


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