The Chambly Rapid (Poem by Frank Oliver Call)

Daily Classic Poem

The Chambly Rapid
By Frank Oliver Call


There's a spirit in the rapid, calling, calling through the night,
There's a gleam upon the water, burning pale and burning bright.
Woe to him who hears the calling! Woe to him who sees the light!



    My son and I had left St. Jean,
        Our paddles dipping in the blue,
    And many miles to north had gone
        Along the silent Richelieu;
    The night came down, we thought of rest;
    A threatening cloud hung in the west.

    No warning sound the river made
        Save for the rapid's muffled roar,
    As 'neath the pine-trees' deepening shade
        We camped upon that luckless shore;
    No sound the night-wind bore to me
    Save one weird echo from Chambly.

    The night grew dark and darker still,
        The pale-faced moon was hid from sight,
    When o'er the waters black and chill
        We saw a ghastly, gleaming light, — 
    A fitful fire, pale and blue,
    That burned my inmost spirit through.

    And like some baleful gleaming eye
        It shone beneath night's heavy pall;
    Then high above the loon's lone cry
        Afar we heard the spirit call;
    It called us from the other shore.
    Ah, Jean will never hear it more!

    I could not seize or hold him back,
        For while the light burned pale and blue,
    A heavy hand from out the black
        Held me beside my own canoe,
    And ere I stirred, the other barque
    Had silent sped into the dark.

    Adown the river's drifting tide
        To where the wild, mad rapids run,
    Past pine-trees towering on each side
        His frail canoe had drifted on;
    He did not look to left or right
    But gazed upon that hell-born light.

    And ever swifter with the flow
        He drifted where the rapids play,
    His eyes still on that awful glow;
        Ah, God! my life seemed snatched away!
    I saw a gleam far up the sky
    And heard the echo of a cry.



There's a spirit in the rapid, calling, calling through the night,
There's a gleam upon the water, burning pale and burning bright.
Woe to him who hears the calling! Woe to him who sees the light!

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