Rose Bell 1907 – 1981


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In the early 1930’s, a writer named Rose Bell wrote a poem called Unto the Plow. It was never published but read and enjoyed by friends and family. For over thirty-four years, I believed the poem was written by Ellen Friesen, my mother. Several weeks ago, I dug out her old book of poetry. It is tattered and yellow but I love it. It brings back many wonderful memories. Memories of my mother, sitting in a chair with scraps of paper and a pencil, writing. She wrote about love, family life, hardships, and disappointments. The old scrapbook of poetry  has dozens of slips of paper with rows and rows of words that rhyme. It wasn’t until lately that I saw something in small writing after the poem – ‘By Rose Bell. Pen name for Ellen Friesen’. She had even picked out a pen name! I don’t believe my mother ever had anything published except perhaps in the small town local newspaper so I’ve decided to publish her poem now. My parents homesteaded in the 1930’s in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. They cleared the land and built a log house. Life was hard. My mother wrote about what she knew! I hope you enjoy her poem.

Unto the Plow

Unto the plow we laid our hands

In these fair fertile prairie lands

The virgin soil was so rich and free

It brought forth wheat abundantly.

But there came fire and drought and flood

We plowed with oxen through seas of mud

Yes, we who pioneered on the prairie lands

Dreamed of the future and toiled with our hands.

The long slow journey to the raw new town

We made in the fall when the leaves were brown

And what better cheer has a traveler known

Than the lamplight that in the window shone

And showed us that home was close at hand

In our crude new shack on the prairie land?

Tired were we but our hopes the same

As sure and as strong as when first we came.

Nostalgic memories! Those golden days

When we set our feet in the untrod ways

And heart to heart and hand in hand

We walked the paths of the goodly land.

Where we plowed and fought prairie fires

Go the trim new tractors with rubber tires

And now through the golden fields and brown

The combines mow the ripe grain down.

We labored hard for the harvest fruits

And in these prairies set our roots.

Our sons have it easier yet we know

That their restless feet to the cities go.

But the earth was made for the plow and share

God made the earth and put man there.

Beyond this hour of trouble and pain

Will not man go back to the land again?

When sword turns to plowshare as says God’s book

And the spear is turned into the pruning hook

The tractors shall turn beneath peaceful skies

The good rich furrows of Paradise.

By Rose Bell (penname for Ellen Friesen)


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