Laurentian Shield

Hidden in wonder and snow, or sudden with summer,

This land stares at the sun in a huge silence

Endlessly repeating something we cannot hear.

Inarticulate, arctic,

Not written on by history, empty as paper,

It leans away from the world with songs in its lakes

Older than love, and lost in the miles.

 

This waiting is wanting.

It will choose its language

When it has chosen its technic,

A tongue to shape the vowels of its productivity.

 

A language of flesh and of roses.

 

Now there are pre-words,

Cabin syllables,

Nouns of settlement

Slowly forming, with steel syntax,

The long sentence of its exploitation.

 

The first cry was the hunter, hungry for fur,

And the digger for gold, nomad, no-man, a particle;

Then the bold commands of monopoly, big with machines,

Carving its kingdoms out of the public wealth;

And now the drone of the plane, scouting the ice,

Fills all the emptiness with neighbourhood

And links our future over the vanished pole.

 

But a deeper note is sounding, heard in the mines,

The scattered camps and the mills, a language of life,

And what will be written in the full culture of occupation

Will come, presently, tomorrow,

From millions whose hands can turn this rock into children.

F. R. Scott, “Laurentian Shield” from Collected Poems of F. R. Scott. Reprinted by permission of William Toye, literary executor for the Estate of F. R. Scott.

Source: The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English (Oxford University Press, 1983).