Monday, April 8, 2013

Charles G.D. Roberts

Sir Charles G.D. Roberts (1860—1943) is often called the father of Canadian literature because he was one of Canada’s first poets to receive international acclaim, and because of the work he did to promote Canadian literature. He was born in New Brunswick, and grew up in Sackville and Fredericton where his father served as a church rector. He and his cousin, the poet Bliss Carman, attended school together. Roberts is the first of a group now known as the Confederation poets. His first collection Orion and Other Poems appeared in 1879. It was a significant influence on Archibald Lampman.

Roberts also wrote fiction, which was more lucrative than poetry; he became a pioneer in writing stories that avoided the anthropomorphism of other animal stories of the time. He lived for a time in New York City, in Europe, in London, and eventually settled in Toronto. He was knighted in 1935. The following poem is from his 1896 collection, The Book of the Native.


Daffodil, lily, and crocus,
---They stir, they break from the sod,
They are glad of the sun, and they open
---Their golden hearts to God.

They, and the wilding families,—
---Windflower, violet, may,—
They rise from the long, long dark
---To the ecstasy of day.

We, scattering troops and kindreds,
---From out of the stars wind-blown
To this wayside corner of space,
---This world that we call our own,—

We, of the hedge-rows of Time,
---We, too, shall divide the sod,
Emerge to the light, and blossom,
---With our hearts held up to God.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: