Poetry by William Menzies Duff
William Menzies Duff was my 2x-great-grand-uncle, the son of Reverend William Duff and Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks. He was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in 1849 (his death record says 12 Apr 1849 and his tombstone says 27 Jan 1849). William married Elizabeth Harriet “Bessie” Hunter in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia on 6 Mar 1877, and they had six children: William Fairbanks Duff (1881-1942), Jean Hunter Duff (b 1882), Prescott Blagdon Duff (1884-1959), Robert Hunter Duff (1888-1917) who was killed in WWI, Kenneth Gordon Duff (1890-1967) and Annie Fairbanks Duff (b1892).
My cousin Catherine is descended from Prescott Duff, and her line of the family has preserved a vast archive of genealogical material, some of which I’ve shared here previously. Recently she sent me a hand-written poem from WMD (as she calls him), and I thought I’d share it here because I found it interesting in any number of ways. A transcription is below the image. My cousin Catherine points out, “This poem is interesting in that Bessie Hunter, WMD’s wife, died Feb. 10, 1909 and the poem was written to a friend at Easter 1909. It seems WMD had a friend who hoped to be more than a friend. This person was obviously not wasting time!”
Reply to an Earlier Card from
a Lady friend much admired.
Could I but live my life again
With knowledge I possess
I’d stake my claim in Love’s domain
And battle for success;
But lackaday [alas], my hair is gray
I’ve passed the half way stage
To meet my soul’s performance goal
Friend of my middle age.
For Passions Joy’s contain alloys
Such Pleasures have their end
He only wins th’enduring prize
Who boasts a faithful friend
With such a bond between us dear
We’re after all allied
And thus my vagrant muse returns
Greetings of Easter-tide.
Here is another of his poems entitled “Faith”:
From out the dust of their creator’s World
The Great Designer in His image formed
Mankind! Well pleased with this His last and best
Creation, the almighty Father God
Into that senseless clay His spirit breathed
And Man began mysterious Life on Earth
Free Will He gave him, but alas man used
It to destroy himself, undoing thus
The Work of the Great Architect. And Death
Claims Empire, when ere Life had ruled Supreme.
But what, for man, is Life? Or what is Death?
What mortal can the mystery unfold?
Even they who live and move on this vast globe
Or they, who, done with Life, sleep in the tomb
Ah no! No living sage, nor mighty dead
Has e’re, or can for man, His riddle solve.
Yet we have Faith, Faith in a life beyond
And Strength to Welcome Death, that sets us Free