Newspaper articles and poetry are two quite different styles of writing. It’s probably not a common thing to be well-versed (pardon the mild pun) in both, but a century ago, a North Country man enjoyed a regular following in both arenas. One of his poems struck me as capturing nature with beautiful prose, while at the same time recalling a great pleasure that so many Adirondack folks have experienced.
First, a bit about the writer. Harvey Kane was born in 1861 in Burke, New York, half way between Malone and Chateaugay in Franklin County. At age 18 he began working as a printer’s apprentice for the Franklin Gazette, a weekly newspaper based in Malone. In 1885 he joined St. Lawrence County’s Antwerp Gazette, where he progressed from printer to reporter and became foreman of the business office. Excellent writing skills earned him a solid reputation, and in 1888 he returned to the Franklin Gazette, this time as editor, a position he held for the next 22 years.
In 1910, he left the weekly Gazette to work as a reporter for the Malone Telegram, a daily that was launched in 1905 and had continued to prosper despite predictions of failure. He soon became city editor, gained a wide following, and served the Telegram in that capacity for nearly 27 years. Due to ill health, he retired in September 1936, and died just two months later.
Kane was widely admired and praised for benevolence, friendliness, and charm. Telegram employee Del Forkey wrote of him after Kane’s passing: “In manner he was becomingly modest and warmly affable. He never failed in courtesy, nor was he ever slow in lending to those less fortunate a helping hand in a time of need. His friends were legion. They ranged from the highest officials down to the lowest laborer, and there was no scale, set by class or position or creed, by which his friendship for others ever varied.”
Harvey was also an eloquent wordsmith, evidenced in the column he wrote for eight years under the pen name “Billiken.” The tone was uplifting and inspirational, particularly when he addressed nature, his favorite subject.
Kane’s coverage of certain topics suggested a sensitivity that enabled him to maximize even casual experiences in the forest. For me, that trait is epitomized in the following piece.
The Song of the Hermit Thrush
by Harvey A. Kane
Far in the depths of the forest
At the dawn of a cloudless day,
When the sun gilds the swaying tree-tops
With the gold of its first bright ray.
When the woodland life awakens
At the touch of the morning breeze
And night’s shadows fade and vanish
Down long aisles of stately trees.
Where the sound of the brook’s low murmur
Falls soft on the listener’s ear
And the mossy bank at the water’s edge
Shows the trail of the thirsty deer.
It is there in that sylvan silence,
Where the world, with its noise and strife,
Is all for the moment forgotten
In the charm of the woodland life.
I have heard the divinest music
That ever enraptured the soul;
Music that no earthly minstrel
E’er sang from his master’s scroll.
It touches the chord of sadness
With a tenderness all its own,
Then, rising in strains of gladness,
Tells the story of love and home!
All that Mendelssohn dreamed of
Or Mozart in rhapsody wrote,
With the poet’s song of the ages,
Is ’shrined in that flute-like note.
And when the singer has ended,
I can feel in that moment’s hush,
I have listened to God’s own music—
’Tis the song of the hermit thrush.
Photo: “Hermit thrush qmnonic” by Matt MacGillivray (Flickr Creative Commons License)