A Tragedy of the Wheat Fields

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A Tragedy of the Wheat Fields


A Tragedy of the Wheat Fields

by O. W.
Over the fields of rippling gold,
Bright the Alberta sun
Lingered above the ripening grain,
The farmer’s work, well done.
Thick as a forest, smooth and strong,
Stood the marvellous wheat,
Restlessly stirring and seeming to sway
Under the summer heat.
Wide spreading fields to the skyline stretched,
Over a prairie clean,
Ne’er such a crop in all of the years,
Had come to this land, I ween.
Bent was her back and gray was her head,
Rough her hands and chaffed,
But she looked at the wheat and her eyes were bright,
As she softly, proudly laughed.
Out in the fields the binder whirled;
The harvest had just begun.
Like music, the grind of the blithe, sharp blades,
Whistling under that sun.
Suddenly out of a bright, blue sky,
Like an evil sprite, there sprung
A great black hand, that shut out the sun,
And over the fields it hung.
Still and suspended in the sky,
The black cloud paused apace,
And then with fury, its fingers spread,
In a vast vindictive race.
Down spat the hail, in a biting storm,
Bullets of ice and snow,
And over the trembling, shaking wheat,
The frozen rocks plunged low.
Shivering and trapped the sensitive grain,
Cringed and crouched to the ground,
While the storm hissed over the slender stalks,
And covered them in a mound.
Oh! never was crop more gracious or strong,
Or work that was better done
Than under that false and smiling sky
And bright Alberta sun.
And now in the fields where the grain had been
But now in the fields where the grain had been
Only stubble and stalk;
A barren field, bare, bleak and dry,
A bitter waste and mock.
Her man rode in from the harvest fields,
Tired, haggard and grey.
He tried to smile, as he patted her back,
In his rough yet tender way.
But her hands went out with a mothering cry,
As she drew his head to her breast,
And she said with a smile that was sadder than tears:
Let’s pretend it was for the best!”
Calgary 1922.


If you'd like to write a headnote for this text (that would be peer-reviewed before publication), please contact the Project Director Mary Chapman to discuss.

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People Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Organizations Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton Reeve Fonds

Collection of Winnifred Eaton’s papers and unpublished manuscripts, which were transferred to the University of Calgary in 1982. The finding aid for this material is located here: https://searcharchives.ucalgary.ca/winnifred-eaton-reeve-fonds
Written by Joey Takeda