New Brunswick Author Portal

Bliss  Carman
Categories: Male AuthorsAnglophone AuthorsPoetsSaint John River Valley

photo of author
Source: McMaster University


William Bliss Carman, the “Poet Laureate of Canada,” was born April 15, 1861 to William Carman and Sophia Mary Bliss in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The great-grandson of Loyalists who fled to Canada following the American Revolution, Carman was also the first cousin of Sir Charles G.D. Roberts, and shared a common ancestor with Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Educated at the Collegiate Grammar School in Fredericton, Carman attended the University of New Brunswick, where he excelled in classics, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1881, and Master of Arts in 1884. During the same period he also studied at Edinburgh University, read law, and taught at the Collegiate Grammar School. He then attended Harvard from 1886 – 1888.

Carman’s first published poem (Ma belle Canadienne) came while he was editor of Goldwin Smith’s The Week in 1884. He worked as an editor in Boston and New York for journals including The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, Current Literature, The Chapbook, The Independent, Literary World, and The Outlook. His first collection of poetry, Low Tide on Grand Pré (1893), won international recognition; it was followed by Songs from Vagabondia, a three-volume series between 1894 and 1900.

In 1908 Carman moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where he published 5 books of essays, three dozen books of poetry, and countless limited editions. He was awarded a Doctor of Law by the University of New Brunswick in 1906, and took a coast-to-coast reading tour of Canada in 1921. He was made a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1925, and awarded the Lorne Pierce Medal by the Royal Society of Canada in 1928. He was known and widely read on both sides of the Atlantic, and considered a premiere poet of the Romantic tradition.

Bliss Carman died suddenly on June 8, 1929. He was posthumously awarded a medal by the Poetry Society of America.

Literary Prizes

Posthumous Medal, Poetry Society of America - 1929
Lorne Pierce Medal, Royal Society of Canada - 1928 
Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada - 1909 

Featured Publication

Low Tide on Grand Pré: A Book of Lyrics

Low Tide on Grand Pré

THE sun goes down, and over all
These barren reaches by the tide
Such unelusive glories fall,
I almost dream they yet will bidw
Until the coming of the tide.

And yet I know that not for us,
By any ecstasy of dream,
He lingers to keep luminous
A little while the grievous stream,
Which frets, uncomforted of dream–

A grievous stream, that to and fro,
Athrough the fields of Acadie
Goes wandering, as if to know
Why one belovèd face should be
So long from home and Acadie.

Was it a year or lives ago
We took the grasses in our hands,
And caught the summer flying low
Over the waving meadow lands,
And held it there between our hands?

The while the river at our feet–
A drowsy inland meadow stream–
At set of sun the after-heat
Made running gold, and in the gleam
We freed our birch upon the stream.

There down along the elms at dusk
We lifted dripping blade to drift,
Through twilight scented fine like musk,
Where night and gloom awhile uplift,
Nor sunder soul and soul adrift.

And that we took into our hands–
Spirit of life or subtler thing–
Breathed on us there, and loosed the bands
Of death, and taught us, whispering,
The secret of some wonder-thing.

Then all your face grew light, and seemed
To hold the shadow of the sun;
The evening faltered, and I deemed
That time was ripe, and years had done
Their wheeling underneath the sun.

So all desire and all regret,
And fear and memory, were naught;
One to remember or forget
The keen delight our hands had caught;
Morrow and yesterday were naught.

The night has fallen, and the tide. . .
Now and again comes drifting home,
Across these aching barrens wide,
A sigh like driven wind or foam:
In grief the flood is bursting home.

Find this author in the New Brunswick public libraries catalogue.


  • Cogswell, Frederick, Marguerite Maillet and Nancy Miller Chénier. New Brunswick Authors/Écrivains du Nouveau-Brunswick. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1984.
  • Maxwell, Lilian M. B., The River St. John and its Poets. Sackville: Tribune Press, 1947
  • Lancashire, Ian, ed. “Selected Poetry of Bliss Carmen.” Representative Poetry Online. 2003.