The Ways Are Green

The Ways Are Green is a dedication - a token of gratitude - for the nourishing and transformative power of nature.

The Words are from Ernest William Henley, author of the famous Invictus poem ('I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul'). Invictus is revered for its stirring invocation of courage and determination. It's an impassioned dedication to the strength of the human soul in adversity. Henley was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis from the age of twelve which necessitated the amputation of one of his legs. His critically lauded Hospital poems were written during a lengthy stay in the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, where his one remaining foot was also threatened with amputation. These works are vivid, ambigious and filled with subtle truth and courage. Henley's poem on The Ways Are Green gives us an insight into another side of his character. It shows us perhaps a counterbalancing source of inspiration for his powerful work on courage, inner strength and perserverence - i.e. his capacity for great joy and profound love of Nature. His Hopital poems conclude happily with the patient's joyful release:

"Carry me out

Into the wind and the sunshine,

Into the beautiful world."

Our poem is a continuation and acceleration of this. It's a work of bubbling joy, a cry of delight, soft fizzy laughter, a jig, unashamed revelling in the glory of Nature and therefore of being alive. 

Thompson's response to Nature is as deeply passionate. He expresses it through broad brush strokes and thick paint to capture the stark, wild beauty and pulsing colours of the Canadian landscape.

It was this landscape which inspired the relatively late flourishing of Tom Thomson into becoming one of the Canada's greatest ever artists. Decorative Panel III is painted from a lower-angle vantage point, typical for Thomson, with trees and foliage densely filling the frame. Blue sky flashes through the gaps. A sense of mystery and adventure is conjured and, as with Henley's poem, a youthful sense of magic. They radiate a belief that nature holds the key, that The Ways Are Green...

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The Artwork

The Artist

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The Words

The Writer

"I'll stick to painting as long as I can.” 
 said to his father

"Take everything as it comes; the wave passes, deal with the next one."

"Say Mark... you know just what I want, three trees... Black spruce rough cold looking trees you know what I mean. Trees against a cold green grey northern sky - where can I get them at once?” 
― said to Algonquin Park Ranger and close friend Mark Robinson

“O, it's die we must, but it's live we can, 
And the marvel of earth and sun 
Is all for the joy of woman and man 
And the longing that makes them one.” 
― Hawthorn and Lavender: With Other Verses

“Thick is the darkness--
Sunward, O, sunward!
Rough is the highway--
Onward, still onward!
Dawn harbors surely
East of the shadows.
Facing us somewhere
Spread the sweet meadows.
Upward and forward!
Time will restore us:
Light is above us,
Rest is before us.” 
XI from A Book Of Verses, 1876

"Far in the stillness a cat
Languishes loudly. A cinder 
Falls, and the shadows 
Lurch to the leap of the flame.” 

"Life - give me life until the end,
That at the very top of being,
The battle-spirit shouting in my blood,
Out of the reddest hell of the fight
I may be snatched and flung
Into the everlasting lull,
The immortal incommunicable dream.” 
 London Voluntaries; The Song of the Sword, and Other Verses

"This is the merit and distinction of art: to be more real than reality, to be not nature but nature's essence.” 
Views and reviews; essays in appreciation: I. Literature. II. Art

"The nightingale has a lyre of gold,
The lark’s is a clarion call,
And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute,
But I love him best of all.

For his song is all of the joy of life,
And we in the mad, spring weather,
We two have listened till he sang
Our hearts and lips together.” 
The Blackbird

"Open your heart and take us in,
Love - love and me” 
Why, My Heart, Do We Love Her So?


Out of the night that covers me, 
     Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
     For my unconquerable soul. 

In the fell clutch of circumstance 
     I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
     My head is bloody, but unbowed. 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
     Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
     Finds and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gate, 
     How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
     I am the captain of my soul. 

The ways are green with the gladdening sheen
Of the young year's fairest daughter.
O, the shadows that fleet o'er the springing wheat!
O, the magic of running water!
The spirit of spring is in every thing,
The banners of spring are streaming,
We march to a tune from the fifes of June,
And life's a dream worth dreaming.

It's all very well to sit and spell
At the lesson there's no gainsaying;
But what the deuce are wont and use
When the whole mad world's a-maying?
When the meadow glows, and the orchard snows,
And the air's with love-motes teeming,
When fancies break, and the senses wake,
O, life's a dream worth dreaming!

What Nature has writ with her lusty wit
Is worded so wisely and kindly
That whoever has dipped in her manuscript
Must up and follow her blindly.
Now the summer prime is her blithest rhyme
In the being and the seeming,
And they that have heard the overword
Know life's a dream worth dreaming.

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