West by East

west by East

West by East and other poems by J.E.H. MacDonald was published by the Ryerson Press in 1933

West by East and other poems by J.E.H. MacDonald was published by The Ryerson Press in 1933. Five hundred copies of this chap-book were printed; 250 of which were presented for sale. The quote opposite the title page by Henry David Thoreau, one of J.E.H. MacDonald’s favourite authors, reads: The Universal Soul has an interest in the stacking and the foddering of cattle. This quote may reflect some of J.E.H. MacDonald’s own philosophy of living a simple life, happily capturing and reflecting on the natural beauty of the landscape he painted so eloquently during his lifetime.



West by EastWest by East 1

A swaying car,

Grinding on roughened rails,

And one who reads the tales

Of Buddha far

Dreaming of earth and star

In a still Orient avatar


Restless and rude our land,

And tossed by Winter’s hand

With pools and many a ragged snowy band

And grey,

The folded sky, and wet rutted way.

And drear the wind tumult of the day.


The dark barn broods, lofty and wide

Over the crops within, and by its side

The banded silo leans and cattle shove

To feed beneath the straw-stack’s hollowed cove.


Shaggy as bears the fur-clad farmers lurchWest by East 2

Along the car stopping beside a church,

A father carries a white bundled child;

The gravestones lean like trees before the wild

Wind nipping the church smoke at the chimney edge

And flinging it by wall and window ledge.


But Buddha sits afar

Dreaming of sun and star

Making a flying thought of heavy earth

And labour, death and birth

And the hour has a light sublime

And the wind is a broad wind of time

Blowing us all like thistle-down away

To seed in uplands by the springs of day.



J.E.H. MacDonald, courtesy Wikipedia

J.E.H. MacDonald was born in Durham, England in 1873 and emigrated to Canada in 1887 at the age of 14. He completed his studies in Hamilton and Toronto and worked for Grip Limited, a leading commercial printer in Toronto.

Later, as Art Director, he encouraged other designers to pursue their sketching and painting. In 1911, he joined the Arts and Letters club where he met fellow artist, Lawren Harris. Together, in 1921, they formed the Group of Seven and made numerous trips north and west with fellow artists, Arthur Lismer, Frank Carmichael, A.Y. Jackson, A.J. Casson and Frank Johnson to capture the grandeur of the Canadian landscape. After the death of his good friend and fellow artist Tom Thomson in 1917, MacDonald took time off his painting to write poetry. These poems are presented in West by East and are accompanied by illustrations by MacDonald’s son, Thoreau MacDonald.

J.E.H. MacDonald died at Toronto in 1933 at the age of 59.




About The Ryerson Press Archive

My name is Clive Powell. I worked for McGraw-Hill Ryerson for 35 years. Recently I was asked to find a home for 3000 publications that represent the Ryerson Press Archive. I am happy to share my discoveries.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s