Biography of Peter McArthur
Peter Gilchrist McArthur (March 10, 1866 - October 10, 1924) was a Canadian poet, writer, and farmer.
McArthur was born in Ekfrid, in Middlesex County, Upper Canada (now Ontario), to Peter and Catherine (McLennan) McArthur, immigrants from Scotland. He was educated at Strathroy Collegiate Institute and later at University College, University of Toronto. While in university he contributed to Grip magazine, and in 1889 he left to become a reporter with the Toronto Daily Mail.
McArthur became assistant editor of Truth magazine in March 1895, and editor-in-cheif that August. As editor of Truth from 1895 to 1897, he published work by Roberts, Carman, Stephen Leacock, and Duncan Campbell Scott. (One of the poems McArthur published was ["The Piper of Arll" by Scott, which was read by a teenaged John Masefield and which awakened Masefield's interest in poetry.)
In September 1895 McArthur married Mabel C. Waters, of Niagara Falls, Ontario, who would bear him four sons and one daughter.
From 1902 to 1904 the McArthurs lived in London, England, where McArthur contributed to Punch and to the Review of Reviews. In 1904 they returned to New York, where McArthur became a partner in the publishing firm of McArthur and Ryder.
R.H. Hathaway: "Perhaps the first thing that strikes the reader of his poetry–and his prose as well, for the matter of that–is that it possesses that rare enough quality,–zest. Mr. McArthur is no mere æsthete, no lackadaisical dilettante, but is alive to his finger tips; and all his writings fairly tingle with life. The next thing one perceives is that a strong human feeling runs through his work. Mr. McArthur is above all things else a human being, and a lover of all things human. But he loves nature, too, and manages to get very close to her: we can fairly smell the good brown earth in every out-of-doors poem of his. Naturalness is another of his qualities. He is ever himself: affectation of all kinds is anathema to him. His work is marked also by a lambent, playful humour, which, however, can become sardonic enough when occasion requires."
Peter McArthur's Works:
The Prodigal and Other Poems. 1907.
To Be Taken with Salt: Being an Essay on Teaching One's Grandmother to Suck Eggs. 1903.
In Pastures Green. 1915.
The Red Cow and Her Friends. 1919.
The Affable Stranger. Toronto, 1920.
Around Home. 1925.
Familiar Fields. 1925.
Friendly Acres. 1927.
The Best of Peter McArthur (edited by Alec Lucas). Toronto, 1967.
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Peter McArthur Poems
The Salt Marshes
There was a light upon the sea that made Familiar things mysterious, which to teach, With inarticulate, alluring speech, The living wind with lisping tongue essayed.
My little boy is eight years old, He goes to school each day; He doesn't mind the tasks they set- They seem to him but play.
When snow-balls on the horses' hoofs And the wind from the south blows warm, When the cattle stand where the sunbeams beat And the noon has a dreamy charm,
A man! A man! There is a man loose in Canada, A man of heroic mould, a 'throwback' of earlier ages, Vigorous, public-spirited, not afraid of work! A doer of deeds, not a dreamer and babbler;
Toiling through ruined temple-halls, where Time Had dwelt with Havoc, eager searchers found, With shattered idols that bestrewed the ground, An image strange, of lineaments sublime.
How blest is he that can but love and do And has no skill of speech nor trick of art Wherewith to tell what faith approveth true And show for fame the treasures of his heart.
The End Of The Drought
Last night we marked the twinkling stars, This morn no dew revived the grass, And oft across the parching fields We see the dusty eddies pass;
An Indian Wind Song
The wolf of the winter wind is swift, And hearts are still and cheeks are pale, When we hear his howl in the ghostly drift As he rushes past on a phantom trail;
The earth is awake and the birds have come, There is life in the beat of the breeze, And the basswood tops are alive with the hum And the flash of the hungry bees;
Hurled back, defeated, like a child I sought The loving shelter of my native fields, Where Fancy still her magic sceptre wields, And still the miracles of youth are wrought. '
Come, friend, there's going to be a merry meeting After the play. Our masks we'll throw aside, And after chaff and chat and friendly greeting Our glasses fill and all, like cronies tried,
Birds Of Passage
When the maples flame with crimson And the nights are still with frost, Ere the summer's luring beauty Is in autumn glory lost,
The farm-house fire is dull and black, The trailing smoke rolls white and low Along the fields till by the wood It banks and floats unshaken, slow;
In some strange way God understands Her dreaming lips were fondly pressed, The playful touch of childish hands Her wan cheek lingeringly caressed.
The End Of The Drought
Last night we marked the twinkling stars,
This morn no dew revived the grass,
And oft across the parching fields
We see the dusty eddies pass;
The eager hawk forgets to swing
And scream across the burning sky,
And from the oak's slow-dying crest
Sends forth a strange and plaintive cry.