Charles Sangster

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Rating: 4.33

Charles Sangster Poems


One voice, one people, one in heart
And soul and feeling and desire.
Re-light the smouldering martial fire

GOD of the Harvest, Thou, whose sun
Has ripened all the golden grain,
We bless Thee for Thy bounteous store,

Her thoughts are sweet glimpses of heaven,
Her life is that heaven brought down;
Oh, never to mortal was given
So rare and bejewelled a crown!

NO maiden dream, nor fancy theme,
Brown Labour's muse would sing;
Her stately mien and russet sheen
Demand a stronger wing.

When the heavens throb and vibrate
All along their silver veins,
To the mellow storm of music
Sweeping o'er the starry trains,

ALL peacefully gliding,
The waters dividing,
The indolent batteau moved slowly along,
The rowers, light-hearted,

'They run! they run!'-'Who run?' Not they
Who faced that decimating fire
As coolly as if human ire
Were rooted from their hearts;

England's Hope and England's Heir!
Head and crown of Britain's glory,
Be thy future half so fair
As her past is famed in story,

We never say, 'Good Night;'
For our eager lips are fleeter
Than the tongue, and a kiss is sweeter
Than parting words,


My footsteps press where, centuries ago,
The Red Men fought and conquered; lost and won.

I am happier for the Spring;
For my heart is like a bird
That has many songs to sing,
But whose voice is never heard

Dark, dismal day-the first of many such!
The wind is sighing through the plaintive trees,
In fitful gusts of a half-frenzied woe;
Affrighted clouds the hand might almost touch,

Another day of rest, and I sit here
Among the trees, green mounds, and leaves as sere
As my own blasted hopes. There was a time
When Love and perfect Happiness did chime

That morn our hearts were like artesian wells,
Both deep and calm, and brimming with pure love.
And in each one, like to an April day,
Truth smiled and wept, while Courage wound his horn,


If seasons, like the human race, had souls,
Then two artistic spirits live within
The Chameleon mind of Autumn-these,
The Poet's mentor and the Painter's guide.

Bird of the fanciful plumage,
That foldest thy wings in the west,
Imbuing the shimmering ocean
With the hues of thy delicate breast,

Thank God I love the Flowers!
Mute voices of the Spring,
That gladden all her bowers
With their varied blossoming;

Underneath the maple-tree
Gertrude worked her filigree,
All the summer long;
To sweet airs her voice was wed,

I think through the long, long evenings,
Such thoughts of intensest pain,
And I hope and watch for her coming,
But I hope and watch in vain

There is no sadness here. Oh, that my heart
Were calm and peaceful as these dreamy groves!
That all my hopes and passions, and deep loves,

Charles Sangster Biography

Charles Sangster was a Canadian poet whose 1856 volume, The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, "was received with unanimous acclaim as the best and most important book of poetry produced in Canada until that time." He was "the first poet who made appreciative use of Canadian subjects in his poetical work." The Dictionary of Canadian Biography calls him "the best of the pre-confederation poets." Life Sangster was born at the Navy Yard on Point Frederick (now the site of Royal Military College of Canada), near Kingston, Ontario, the son of Ann Ross and James Sangster. A twin sister died in infancy. His father, a "joiner" or shipbuilder who worked for the British Navy around the Great Lakes, died at Penetanguishene just before Charles turned 2. His mother raised Charles and his 4 siblings on her own. Sangster was an indifferent student, finding "the school curriculum irrelevant and his masters stern and uninspiring." At 15 years old, he left school to help provide for the family. He took a job in the naval lab making cartridges at Fort Henry and two years later was transferred to the Ordnance office at the fort. About this time (1839) Sangster wrote his first serious poem, a 700-line narrative in rhyming couplets called "The Rebel." The poem "contains an extensive vocabulary and rich and imaginative historical and geographical allusions, ... beyond what might be expected of a boy ... who had so little formal education.... the content and form suggest considerable previous writing." During the 12 years he worked at the Ordinance office Sangster began doing part-time work for a Kingston newspaper, the British Whig. He also continued writing poetry and submitting it, anonymously or pseudonymously, to the local papers. Writing Career and Success In 1849 Sangster quit his job at Fort Henry and moved to Amherstburg, Ontario, where he became editor of the Amherstburg Courier. When James Reeves, owner of the Courier, died the same year, Sangster returned to Kingston, to work as a proofreader and bookkeeper for the British Whig. Sangster first gained national attention as a poet in 1850, when his poetry began appearing in Canada's Literary Garland magazine. Soon he was publishing in other magazines, such as Anglo-American Magazine, as well. In 1853 Sangster took a steamship excursion down the St. Lawrence River and up the Saguenay River in Quebec, which he wrote about for the Whig in a series of travel letters called "Etchings by the Way" -- material he would also use in his long poem, "The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay". Sangster published his first book of poetry, The St Lawrence and the Saguenay, and Other Poems, in 1856. The book was widely praised by reviewers and readers. Susanna Moodie wrote to Sangster; "If a native of Canada, [one] may well be proud of her Bard, who has sung in such lofty strains the natural beauties of his native land." The National Magazine of London echoed the same sentiment: "Well may the Canadians be proud of such contributions to their infant literature.... In some sort, and according to his degree, Mr. Sangster may be regarded as the Wordsworth of Canada." Charles Sangster "married 21-year-old Mary Kilborn of Kingston on Sept. 16, 1856, and the newlyweds moved into a brick house at 144 Barrie Street across from the grassy park. (An historical plaque directly across the street honours the Sangster home.)" Mary was to die of pneumonia just 16 months later. In 1859, Sangster wrote the poem "Brock", commissioned for the inauguration of the monument to General Isaac Brock at Queenston Heights. Sangster's second book of poetry, Hesperus and Other Poems and Lyrics, appeared in 1860, published in Kingston and Montreal. "A rousing success, Hesperus ... received even more approval than his first book." "Hesperus was well received, and many critics considered it superior to The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, as did Sangster himself." The same year, Sangster remarried, to Henrietta Charlotte Mary Meagher, who was only 17 years of age (to his 38). In 1864, Sangster became a reporter for the Kingston Daily News, and 16 of his poems appeared in the first-ever anthology of Canadian poetry, Selections from Canadian Poets. The same year, the Sangsters celebrated the birth of their first child, Charlotte Mary. Post Office and Retirement By 1867, Sangster "was in a poor financial situation and suffered increasingly from ill health, depression, and a nervous disorder that would cause him deep mental pain the rest of his life." To help him out his neighbor, the new Postmaster-General Alexander Campbell arranged a job for Sangster with Canada's new Post Office Department. Accordingly, in 1868, at 46, Sangster "accepted a position in the Post-Office Department at Ottawa, where his poetic energy and ambition succumbed, apparently, to the incessant drudgery and to the hampering cares of ill-paid employment.", "With his appointment ... Sangster's life became characterized by overwork, ill health and scant literary output." He remained with the Post Office until his retirement in 1886. Sangster was also kept busy by a growing family. Sadly, Charlotte died in 1868, shortly after the move to Ottawa. The same year, though, Mrs. Sangster gave birth to a second daughter, Florence. Two years later, in 1870, their third daughter, Gertrude was born, followed in 1879 by a son, Roderick. Sangster published 16 poems in magazines between 1868 and 1878, most of which he had written before moving to Ottawa. He wrote virtually nothing for the 18 years he worked at the Post Office. As he later wrote: "When I went down to Ottawa ... I took a pile of M.S. of a third volume with me, as I thought 'ready for the press', but in all the 18 years I remained there I did little more than correct.... When they get a man into the Civil Service, their first duty is to crush him flat, and if he is a fool of a Poet, or dares to think of any nonsense of that kind, draw him through a Knot or a gimlet hole a few times, pile with agony of toil, toil, toil until his nerves are flattened out, all the rebound knocked out of him, and then – superannuate him ... and tell him he should be thankful." Sangster had a nervous breakdown in 1875, and developed a chronic nervous system condition during the 1880s. To make matters worse, Henrietta died sometime between 1883 and 1886, leaving him to raise his new family alone. After another breakdown in March 1886, he took a six-month leave of absence, and also resigned from the Royal Society of Canada (which had elected him in 1882). Finally, that September he retired and moved back to Kingston. For the first years of retirement, Sangster did little but convalesce. In July 1888, he received a letter from W.D. Lighthall, inquiring about new poems for an upcoming anthology (most likely Lighthall's 1889 Songs of the Great Dominion. Sangster replied the next day, and the two men struck up a friendship by mail. Revitalized, Sangster began revising his poetry. He doubled the size of "The Saint Lawrence and the Saguenay" to over 200 stanzas, and sent the manuscript to his cousin Amos Sangster to illustrate. When Amos died, the manuscript and the new poem was lost. However, 40 of the new stanzas survived thanks to being published in various magazines. Charles Sangster also cut many of the "other" poems in the first volume, and made over 2,000 changes to the ones he kept. Hesperus got off easier, but Sangster still made more than 200 revisions to the work. As well, Sangster prepared two more volumes for publication, mostly from poems he'd written before moving to Ottawa: Norland Echoes & Other Strains, and The Angel Guest & Other Poems. By the summer of 1871, all four manuscripts were complete, and Sangster sent them off to Lighthall (who had become his literary executor). However, before any of them could be published, Sangster died. None of them were published until the 1970s. Charles Sangster died in Kingston in 1893, and is buried in the city's Cataraqui Cemetery. Writing The Canadian Encyclopedia says that "Sangster's poetry distinguishes him as a lover and keen observer of the natural world. He displays overwhelming passion in some poems and equally extreme melancholy in others. Whatever his mood he is consistently and intensely serious and deeply religious." Sangster’s inspiration was drawn from three themes he was passionate about: love, nature and religion. He wrote many poems about his experiences and was commended for his ability to express the beauty of Canada’s landscapes. Sangster was often called the “father of Canadian poetry” because of this. Many of the love poems from his first book were directed towards his first wife; the nature poems were of his travels. For a man with limited educational training, Charles Sangster had a vast vocabulary and an extraordinary knowledge of history, classics, mythology and authors. His poems include an extensive knowledge of classic, historic, and mythological works. Recognition Sangster was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1892)

The Best Poem Of Charles Sangster


One voice, one people, one in heart
And soul and feeling and desire.
Re-light the smouldering martial fire
And sound the mute trumpet! Strike the lyre!
The hero dead cannot expire:
The dead still play their part.

Raise high the monumental stone!
A nation's fealty is theirs,
And we are the rejoicing heirs,
The honoured sons of sires whose cares
We take upon us unawares
As freely as our own.

We boast not of the victory,
But render homage, deep and just,
To his–to their–immortal dust,
Who proved so worthy of their trust;
No lofty pile nor sculptured bust
Can herald their degree.

No tongue can blazon forth their fame–
The cheers that stir the sacred hill
Are but mere promptings of the will
That conquered them, that conquers still;
And generations yet shall thrill
At Brock's remembered name.

Some souls are the Hesperides
Heaven sends to guard the golden age,
Illumining the historic page
With record of their pilgrimage.
True martyr, hero, poet, sage,–
And he was one of these.

Each in his lofty sphere, sublime,
Sits crowned above the common throng:
Wrestling with some pythonic wrong
In prayer, in thunders, thought or song,
Briareus-limbed, they sweep along,
The Typhons of the time.

Charles Sangster Comments

Nancy Henderson 23 January 2018

My Great Great Grandfather

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