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The Database of Ornament

THE wind went gently round
to the South, and the sky
hung low and grey and
ribbed like sea sand; and
the frost went suddenly
before the warmth. All
night soft rain fell, and in
the morning the rattle of
the cabs on the stone
streets was heard again,
for the snow had been
wiped clean away. Faint
signs of Spring were discern-
able. The fires heated the
house, and the drafts that formerly
felt piercingly cold were soft and

Mark in his studio felt the Spring in his bones, as the young
grass feels it beneath the ground when it is still far off.
He took his travelling-box and his paints and pencils,
and went away to the North to wait there for the Spring
coming…. On his way he found the wife that had long
been expecting him, and they continued their journey

Far away they went, and left trains and steamers behind them
and travelled over thawing roads, through pine forests and

melting snowdrifts, till at last they made up on Winter and
took sleigh and passed it. Far away they journeyed with the
sleigh and two servants, till they came to a log-hut at the edge
of a great frozen river, set all round with broad lakes and low
hills. There they sat down and the attendants went South
again to their people, and Mark and his wife lived simply and

Not before the sun rose did they waken, and when it gleamed
hot on snow at mid-day they prepared their coffee and went
out to watch Nature their friend putting on her Spring gar-
ments. First of its ornaments were the tiny creeping birds,
delicate and bold, that came travelling from the South, feeding
on invisible food in clefts of bark and fir twigs, making a tasty
living when big birds would starve. Then came the King of
the swans and the Prince of geese, and again they sang on
their lighting, as they had sung before when they left Mark’s
country in the South. And here is their song, so our people
say, and you may play it and sing it till it grows in your mind.
But beware of the melody, lest it make you restless as the
swans, and you become a wanderer, or worse, a would-be

            Guileag Eala seinn a ceo
            Sa comun grai an cian a trial
            Le ceol tha fao an ard na’ nial.1

Great was Mark’s life there, and long the day that Mark and
his wife spent with guns, chasing their fair food. Brown they
became with the glare of the sunlight, with the smoke of their
fires and the cooking. Beautiful they seemed to each other,
so fit were they to their surroundings—so free. Long were the
nights spent, when, their rich food cooked, they rested and

            ¹ The notes of the swan singing in the mist
            With her loved companion travelling afar
            With melody that grows in the heights of the clouds.


told each other tales by the burning birch logs. Mark would
then draw pictures in black and white, of the life in woods,
and write of the ways of the creatures they chased in the
daytime. And the best of the pictures of all that he drew,
was that for the frontispiece of the book that he printed; and
that was himself on the hearth with his pipe in his teeth, by
the big open fireplace. And the point of the picture was the
face of his wife asleep on his breast, with the firelight upon it.

       .             .             .             .             .             .            .

Warmer the Summer grew—hot and still hotter, till at mid-day
all Nature seemed fainted. More and more life came northwards,
till in midsummer the sweet bells of the cows of the
girls at the Saeter were heard at times clanging sweetly in
the birch woods. Then came the salmon fresh and strong up
the river, and Mark and his wife had choice of food, of fish,
and the meat of reindeer and sweet berries.
Such was their life in the nightless Summer of the far north.
Then the nights came, and the birch leaves grew yellow again.
  And the peasants and the sleigh and Mark and his wife
   journeyed southwards, further and further South, till
      they stopped in London. And Mark printed his
         book, and the people read it with pleasure.

                                                                                                W. G. BURN-MURDOCH.


MLA citation:

Burn-Murdoch, W.G. “Lengthening Days.” The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, vol. 1, Spring 1895, pp. 44-46. Evergreen Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2016-2018. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.