[Transcriber's Note: Two small volumes of Violet Jacob's poetry have been combined together to produce this text.]
SONGS OF ANGUS
Author of "Flemington"
London John Murray, Albemarle Street, W. 1919
(First published in 1915)
I have to thank the Editors of the Cornhill Magazine, Country Life, and The Outlook, respectively, for their permission to reprint in this Collection such of the following poems as they have published.
There are few poets to-day who write in the Scots vernacular, and the modesty of the supply is perhaps determined by the slenderness of the demand, for pure Scots is a tongue which in the changes of the age is not widely understood, even in Scotland. The various accents remain, but the old words tend to be forgotten, and we may be in sight of the time when that noble speech shall be degraded to a northern dialect of English. The love of all vanishing things burns most strongly in those to whom they are a memory rather than a presence, and it is not unnatural that the best Scots poetry of our day should have been written by exiles. Stevenson, wearying for his "hills of home," found a romance in the wet Edinburgh streets, which might have passed unnoticed had he been condemned to live in the grim reality. And we have Mr. Charles Murray, who in the South African veld writes Scots, not as an exercise, but as a living speech, and recaptures old moods and scenes with a freshness which is hardly possible for those who with their own eyes have watched the fading of the outlines. It is the rarest thing, this use of Scots as a living tongue, and perhaps only the exile can achieve it, for the Scot at home is apt to write it with an antiquarian zest, as one polishes Latin hexameters, or with the exaggerations which are permissible in what does not touch life too nearly. But the exile uses the Doric because it is the means by which he can best express his importunate longing.
Mrs. Jacob has this rare distinction. She writes Scots because what she has to say could not be written otherwise and retain its peculiar quality. It is good Scots, quite free from misspelt English or that perverted slang which too often nowadays is vulgarising the old tongue. But above all it is a living speech, with the accent of the natural voice, and not a skilful mosaic of robust words, which, as in sundry poems of Stevenson, for all the wit and skill remains a mosaic. The dialect is Angus, with unfamiliar notes to my Border ear, and in every song there is the sound of the east wind and the rain. Its chief note is longing, like all the poetry of exiles, a chastened melancholy which finds comfort in the memory of old unhappy things as well as of the beatitudes of youth. The metres are cunningly chosen, and are most artful when they are simplest; and in every case they provide the exact musical counterpart to the thought. Mrs. Jacob has an austere conscience. She eschews facile rhymes and worn epithets, and escapes the easy cadences of hymnology which are apt to be a snare to the writer of folk-songs. She has many moods, from the stalwart humour of "The Beadle o' Drumlee," and "Jeemsie Miller," to the haunting lilt of "The Gean-Trees," and the pathos of "Craigo Woods" and "The Lang Road." But in them all are the same clarity and sincerity of vision and clean beauty of phrase.
Some of us who love the old speech have in our heads or in our note-books an anthology of modern Scots verse. It is a small collection if we would keep it select. Beginning with Principal Shairp's "Bush aboon Traquair," it would include the wonderful Nithsdale ballad of "Kirkbride," a few pieces from Underwoods, Mr. Hamish Hendry's "Beadle," one or two of Hugh Haliburton's Ochil poems, Mr. Charles Murray's "Whistle" and his versions of Horace, and a few fragments from the "poet's corners" of country newspapers. To my own edition of this anthology I would add unhesitatingly Mrs. Jacob's "Tam i' the Kirk," and "The Gowk."
TAM I' THE KIRK THE HOWE O' THE MEARNS THE LANG ROAD THE BEADLE O' DRUMLEE THE WATER-HEN THE HEID HORSEMAN JEEMSIE MILLER THE GEAN-TREES THE TOD THE BLIND SHEPHERD THE DOO'COT UP THE BRAES LOGIE KIRK THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE DITCH THE LOST LICHT THE LAD I' THE MUNE THE GOWK THE JACOBITE LASS MAGGIE THE WHUSTLIN' LAD HOGMANAY CRAIGO WOODS THE WILD GEESE
TAM I' THE KIRK
O Jean, my Jean, when the bell ca's the congregation Owre valley an' hill wi' the ding frae its iron mou', When a'body's thochts is set on his ain salvation, Mine's set on you.
There's a reid rose lies on the Buik o' the Word 'afore ye That was growin' braw on its bush at the keek o' day, But the lad that pu'd yon flower i' the mornin's glory, He canna pray.
He canna pray; but there's nane i' the kirk will heed him Whaur he sits sae still his lane at the side o' the wa, For nane but the reid rose kens what my lassie gie'd him— It an' us twa!
He canna sing for the sang that his ain he'rt raises, He canna see for the mist that's 'afore his een, An a voice drouns the hale o' the psalms an' the paraphrases, Cryin' "Jean, Jean, Jean!"
THE HOWE O' THE MEARNS
Laddie, my lad, when ye gang at the tail o' the plough An' the days draw in, When the burnin' yellow's awa' that was aince a-lowe On the braes o' whin, Do ye mind o' me that's deaved wi' the wearyfu' south An' it's puir concairns While the weepies fade on the knowes at the river's mouth In the Howe o' the Mearns?
There was nae twa lads frae the Grampians doon to the Tay That could best us twa; At bothie or dance, or the field on a fitba' day, We could sort them a'; An' at courtin'-time when the stars keeked doon on the glen An' its theek o' fairns, It was you an' me got the pick o' the basket then In the Howe o' the Mearns.
London is fine, an' for ilk o' the lasses at hame There'll be saxty here, But the springtime comes an' the hairst—an it's aye the same Through the changefu year. O, a lad thinks lang o' hame ere he thinks his fill As his breid he airns— An' they're thrashin' noo at the white fairm up on the hill In the Howe o' the Mearns.
Gin I mind mysel' an' toil for the lave o' my days While I've een to see, When I'm auld an' done wi' the fash o' their English ways I'll come hame to dee; For the lad dreams aye o' the prize that the man'll get, But he lives an' lairns, An' it's far, far 'ayont him still—but it's farther yet To the Howe o' the Mearns.
Laddie, my lad, when the hair is white on yer pow An' the work's put past, When yer hand's owre auld an' heavy to haud the plough I'll win hame at last, An we'll bide our time on the knowes whaur the broom stands braw An' we played as bairns, Till the last lang gloamin' shall creep on us baith an' fa' On the Howe o' the Mearns.
THE LANG ROAD
Below the braes o' heather, and far alang the glen, The road rins southward, southward, that grips the souls o' men, That draws their fitsteps aye awa' frae hearth and frae fauld, That pairts ilk freen' frae ither, and the young frae the auld. And whiles I stand at mornin' and whiles I stand at nicht, To see it through the gaisty gloom, gang slippin oot o sicht; There's mony a lad will ne'er come back amang his ain to lie, An' its lang, lang waitin' till the time gangs by.
An far ayont the bit o' sky that lies abune the hills, There is the black toon standin' mid the roarin' o' the mills. Whaur the reek frae mony engines hangs 'atween it and the sun An the lives are weary, weary, that are just begun. Doon yon lang road that winds awa' my ain three sons they went, They turned their faces southward frae the glens they aye had kent, And twa will never see the hills wi' livin' een again, An' it's lang, lang waitin' while I sit my lane.
For ane lies whaur the grass is hiech abune the gallant deid, An ane whaur England's michty ships sail proud abune his heid, They couldna' sleep mair saft at hame, the twa that sairved their king, Were they laid aside their ain kirk yett, i' the flower o' the ling. But whaur the road is twistin' through yon streets o' care an' sin, My third braw son toils nicht and day for the gowd he fain would win, Whaur ilka man grapes i' the dark to get his neebour's share, An' it's lang, lang strivin' i' the mirk that's there.
The een o' love can pierce the mools that hide a sodger's grave, An' love that doesna' heed the sod will naither hear the wave, But it canna' see 'ayont the cloud that hauds my youngest doon Wi' its mist o' greed an' sorrow i' the smokin' toon. An whiles, when through the open door there fades the deein' licht, I think I hear my ain twa men come up the road at nicht, But him that bides the nearest seems the furthest aye frae me— And it's lang, lang listenin' till I hear the three!
THE BEADLE O' DRUMLEE
Them that's as highly placed as me (Wha am the beadle o' Drumlee) Should na be prood, nor yet owre free.
Me an' the meenister, ye ken, Are no the same as a' thae men We hae for neebours i' the glen.
The Lord gie'd him some lairnin' sma' An me guid sense abune them a', An them nae wuts to ken wha's wha.
Ye'd think, to hear the lees they tell, The Sawbath day could mind itsel' Withoot a hand to rug the bell,
Ye'd think the Reverend Paitrick Broun Could ca' the Bible up an' doon An' loup his lane in till his goon.
Whiles, gin he didna get frae me The wicelike wird I weel can gie, Whaur wad the puir bit callant be?
The elders, Ross an' Weellum Aird, An' fowk like Alexander Caird, That think they're cocks o' ilka yaird,
Fegs aye! they'd na be sweir to rule A lad sae newly frae the schule Gin my auld bonnet crooned a fule!
But oh! Jehovah's unco' kind! Whaur wad this doited pairish find A man wi' sic a powerfu' mind?
Sae, let the pairish sleep at nicht Blind wi' the elders' shinin' licht, Nor ken wha's hand keeps a' things richt.
It's what they canna understan' That brains hae ruled since time began, An' that the beadle is the man!
As I gae'd doon by the twa mill dams i' the mornin' The water-hen cam' oot like a passin' wraith And her voice cam' through the reeds wi' a sound of warnin', "Faith—keep faith!" "Aye, bird, tho' ye see but ane ye may cry on baith!"
As I gae'd doon the field when the dew was lyin', My ain love stood whaur the road an' the mill-lade met, An it seemed to me that the rowin' wheel was cryin', "Forgi'e—forget, An turn, man, turn, for ye ken that ye lo'e her yet!"
As I gae'd doon the road 'twas a weary meetin', For the ill words said yest're'en they were aye the same, And my het he'rt drouned the wheel wi' its heavy beatin'. "Lass, think shame, It's no for me to speak, for it's you to blame!"
As I gae'd doon by the toon when the day was springin' The Baltic brigs lay thick by the soundin' quay And the riggin' hummed wi' the sang that the wind was singin', "Free—gang free, For there's mony a load on shore may be skailed at sea!"
* * * * * *
When I cam' hame wi' the thrang o' the years 'ahint me There was naucht to see for the weeds and the lade in spate, But the water-hen by the dams she seemed aye to mind me, Cryin' "Hope—wait!" "Aye, bird, but my een grow dim, an' it's late—late!"
THE HEID HORSEMAN
O Alec, up at Soutar's fairm, You, that's sae licht o' he'rt, I ken ye passin' by the tune Ye whustle i' the cairt;
I hear the rowin' o' the wheels, The clink o' haims an' chain, And set abune yer stampin' team I see ye sit yer lane.
Ilk morn, agin' the kindlin' sky Yer liftit heid is black, Ilk nicht I watch ye hameward ride Wi' the sunset at yer back.
For wark's yer meat and wark's yer play, Heid horseman tho' ye be, Ye've ne'er a glance for wife nor maid, Ye tak nae tent o' me.
An' man, ye'll no suspec' the truth, Tho' weel I ken it's true, There's mony ane that trails in silk Wha fain wad gang wi' you.
But I am just a serving lass, Wha toils to get her breid, An' O! ye're sweir to see the gowd I braid about my heid.
My cheek is like the brier rose, That scents the simmer wind, An fine I'd keep the wee bit hoose, 'Gin I'd a man to mind!
It's sair to see, when ilka lad Is dreamin' o' his joe, The bonnie mear that leads yer team Is a' ye're thinkin' o'.
Like fire upon her satin coat Ye gar the harness shine, But, lad, there is a safter licht In thae twa een o' mine!
Aye—wark yer best—but youth is short, An' shorter ilka year— There's ane wad gar ye sune forget Yon limmer o' a mear!
There's some that mak' themsels a name Wi' preachin', business, or a game, There's some wi' drink hae gotten fame And some wi' siller: I kent a man got glory cheap, For nane frae him their een could keep, Losh! he was shapit like a neep, Was Jeemsie Miller!
When he gaed drivin' doon the street Wi' cairt an' sheltie, a' complete, The plankie whaur he had his seat Was bent near double; And gin yon wood had na been strang It hadna held oor Jeemsie lang, He had been landit wi' a bang, And there'd been trouble.
Ye could but mind, to see his face, The reid mune glowerin' on the place, Nae man had e'er sic muckle space To haud his bonnet: An owre yon bonnet on his brow, Set cockit up owre Jeemsie's pow, There waggit, reid as lichtit tow, The toorie on it.
And Jeemsie's poke was brawly lined, There wasna mony couldna' find His cantie hoosie i' the wynd, "The Salutation": For there ye'd get, wi' sang and clink, What some ca'd comfort, wi' a wink, And some that didna care for drink Wad ca' damnation!
But dinna think, altho' he made Sae grand a profit o' his trade, An' muckle i' the bank had laid, He wadna spare o't, For, happit whaur it wasna seen, He'd aye a dram in his machine, An' never did he meet a freen' But got a share o't.
Ae day he let the sheltie fa' (Whisht, sirs! he wasna' fou—na, na! A wee thing pleasant—that was a', An' drivin' canny) Fegs! he cam' hurlin' owre the front An' struck the road wi' sic a dunt, Ye'd thocht the causey got the brunt And no the mannie!
Aweel, it was his hin'most drive, Aifter yon clour he couldna thrive, For twa pairts deid, an' ane alive, His billies foond him: And, bedded then, puir Jeemsie lay, And a' the nicht and a' the day Relations cam' to greet an' pray An' gaither roond him.
Said Jeemsie, "Cousins, gie's a pen, Awa' an' bring the writer ben, What I hae spent wi' sinfu' men I weel regret it; In daith I'm sweir to be disgrac't, I've plenty left forby my waste, An them that I've negleckit maist It's them'll get it."
It was a sicht to see them rin To save him frae the sense o' sin, Fu' sune they got the writer in His mind to settle; And O their loss! sae sair they felt it To a' the toon wi' tears they tell't it, Their dule for Jeemsie wad hae meltit A he'rt o' metal!
Puir Jeemsie dee'd. In a' their braws The faim'ly cam' as black as craws, Men, wifes, an' weans wi' their mamas That scarce could toddle! They grat—an' they had cause to greet; The wull was read that garred them meet— The U. P. Kirk, just up the street, Got ilka bodle!
I mind, when I dream at nicht, Whaur the bonnie Sidlaws stand Wi' their feet on the dark'nin' land An their heids i' the licht; An the thochts o' youth roll back Like wreaths frae the hillside track In the Vale o' Strathmore; And the autumn leaves are turnin' And the flame o' the gean-trees burnin' Roond the white hoose door.
Aye me, when spring cam' green And May-month decked the shaws There was scarce a blink o' the wa's For the flower o' the gean; But when the hills were blue Ye could see them glintin' through An the sun i' the lift; An the flower o' the gean-trees fa'in' Was like pairls frae the branches snawin' In a lang white drift.
Thae trees are fair and gay When May-month's in her prime, But I'm thrawn wi' the blasts o' time An my heid's white as they; But an auld man aye thinks lang O' the hauchs he played amang In his braw youth-tide; An there's ane that aye keeps yearnin' For a hoose whaur the leaves are turnin' An the flame o' the gean-tree burnin' By the Sidlaws' side.
There's a tod aye blinkin' when the nicht comes doon, Blinkin' wi' his lang een an' keekin' roond an' roon', Creepin' by the fairmyaird when gloamin' is to fa', And syne there'll be a chicken or a deuk awa'— Aye, when the guidwife rises, there's a deuk awa'!
There's a lass sits greetin' ben the hoose at hame, For when the guidwife's cankered she gie's her aye the blame, An' sair the lassie's sabbin' an' fast the tears fa', For the guidwife's tint her bonnie hen an' it's awa'— Aye, she's no sae easy dealt wi' when her gear's awa'!
There's a lad aye roamin' when the day gets late, A lang-leggit deevil wi' his hand upon the gate, And aye the guidwife cries to him to gar the toddie fa', For she canna thole to let her deuks an' hens awa'— Aye, the muckle bubbly-jock himsel' is ca'd awa'!
The laddie saw the tod gang by an' killed him wi' a stane And the bonnie lass that grat sae sair she sabs nae mair her lane, But the guidwife's no contentit yet, her like ye never saw! Cries she—"This time it is the lass, an' she's awa'! Aye, yon laddie's waur nor ony tod, for Bell's awa'!"
THE BLIND SHEPHERD
The land is white, an' far awa' Abune ae bush an' tree Nae fit is movin' i' the snaw On the hills I canna see; For the sun may shine an' the darkness fa', But aye it's nicht to me.
I hear the whaup on windy days Cry up amang the peat Whaur, on the road that speels the braes, I've heard my ain sheep's feet, An' the bonnie lambs wi' their canny ways An' the silly yowes that bleat.
But noo wi' them I mauna' be, An' by the fire I bide, To sit and listen patiently For a fit on the great hillside, A fit that'll come to the door for me Doon through the pasture wide,
Maybe I'll hear the baa'in' flocks Ae nicht when time seems lang, An' ken there's a step on the scattered rocks The fleggit sheep amang, An' a voice that cries an' a hand that knocks To bid me rise an' gang.
Then to the hills I'll lift my een Nae matter tho' they're blind, For Ane will treid the stanes between And I will walk behind, Till up, far up i' the midnicht keen The licht o' Heaven I'll find.
An' maybe, when I'm up the hill An' stand abune the steep, I'll turn aince mair to look my fill On my ain auld flock o' sheep, An' I'll leave them lyin' sae white an' still On the quiet braes asleep.
THE DOO'UCOT UP THE BRAES
Beside the doo'cot up the braes The fields slope doon frae me, An fine's the glint on blawin' days O' the bonnie plains o' sea.
Below's my mither's hoosie sma', The smiddy by the byre Whaur aye my feyther dings awa' And my brither blaws the fire.
For Lachlan lo'es the smiddy's reek, An' Geordie's but a fule Wha' drives the plough his breid to seek, And Rob's to teach the schule;
He'll haver roond the schulehoose wa's, And ring the schulehoose bell, He'll skelp the scholars wi' the tawse (I'd like that fine mysel'!)
They're easy pleased, my brithers three— I hate the smiddy's lowe, A weary dominie I'd be, An' I canna thole the plough.
But by the doo'cot up the braes There's nane frae me can steal The blue sea an' the ocean haze An' the ships I like sae weel.
The brigs ride oot past Ferryden Ahint the girnin' tugs, And the lasses wave to the Baltic men Wi' the gowd rings i' their lugs.
My mither's sweir to let me gang. My feyther gi'es me blame, But youth is sair and life is lang When yer he'rt's sae far frae hame.
But i' the doo'cot up the braes, When a'tumn nichts are mirk, I've hid my pennies an' my claes An' the Buik I read at kirk,
An' come ae nicht when a' fowks sleep, I'll lift them whaur they lie, An' to the harbour-side I'll creep I' the dim licht o' the sky;
An' when the eastern blink grows wide, An' dark still smoors the west, A Baltic brig will tak' the tide Wi' a lad that canna rest!
O Logie Kirk amang the braes, I'm thinkin' o' the merry days Afore I trod thae weary ways That led me far frae Logie!
Fine do I mind when I was young Abune thy graves the mavis sung An' ilka birdie had a tongue To ca' me back to Logie.
O Logie Kirk, tho' aye the same The burn sings ae remembered name, There's ne'er a voice to cry "Come hame To bonnie Bess at Logie!"
Far, far awa' the years decline That took the lassie wha was mine An' laid her sleepin' lang, lang syne Amang the braes at Logie.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE DITCH
Aweel, I'm couped. But wha' could tell The road wad rin sae sair? I couldna gang yon pace mysel', An' I winna try nae mair!
There's them wad coonsel me to stan', But this is what I say: When Natur's forces fecht wi' man, Dod, he maun just give way!
If man's nae framed to lift his fit Agin' a nat'ral law, I winna' lift my heid, for it Wad dae nae guid ava'.
Puir worms are we; the poo'pit rings Ilk Sawbath wi' the same, Gin airth's the place for sic-like things, I'm no sae far frae hame!
Yon's guid plain raes'nin'; an' forby, This pairish has nae sense, There's mony traiv'lin wad deny Natur and Providence;
For loud an' bauld the leears wage On men like me their war, Elected saints to thole their rage Is what they're seekin' for.
But tho' a man wha's drink's his tea Their malice maun despise, It's no for naething, div ye see, That I'm sae sweir to rise!
THE LOST LICHT
(A PERTHSHIRE LEGEND)
The weary, weary days gang by, The weary nichts they fa', I mauna rest, I canna lie Since my ain bairn's awa'.
The soughing o' the springtide breeze Abune her heid blaws sweet, There's nests amang the kirkyaird trees And gowans at her feet.
She gae'd awa' when winds were hie, When the deein' year was cauld, An noo the young year seems to me A waur ane nor the auld.
And, bedded, 'twixt the nicht an' day, Yest're'en, I couldna bide For thinkin', thinkin' as I lay O' the wean that lies outside.
O, mickle licht to me was gie'n To reach my bairn's abode, But heaven micht blast a mither's een And her feet wad find the road.
The kirkyaird loan alang the brae Was choked wi' brier and whin, A' i' the dark the stanes were grey As wraiths when I gae'd in.
The wind cried frae the western airt Like warlock tongues at strife, But the hand o' fear hauds aff the he'rt That's lost its care for life.
I sat me lang upon the green, A stanethraw frae the kirk, And syne a licht shone dim between The shaws o' yew and birk.
'Twas na the wildfire's flame that played Alang the kirkyaird land, It was a band o' bairns that gae'd Wi' lichts in till their hand.
O white they cam', yon babie thrang, A' silent o'er the sod; Ye couldna hear their feet amang The graves, sae saft they trod.
And aye the can'les flickered pale Below the darkened sky, But the licht was like a broken trail When the third wee bairn gae'd by.
For whaur the can'le-flame should be Was naither blink nor shine— The bairnie turned its face to me An' I kent that it was mine.
An' O! my broken he'rt was sair, I cried, "My ain! my doo'! For a' thae weans the licht burns fair, But it winna' burn for you!"
She smiled to me, my little Jean, Said she, "The dule and pain, O mither! frae your waefu' een They strike on me again:
"For ither babes the flame leaps bricht And fair and braw appears, But I canna keep my bonnie licht, For it's droukit wi' your tears!"
There blew across my outstreeked hand The white mist o' her sark, But I couldna reach yon babie band For it faded i' the dark.
My ain, my dear, your licht shall burn Although my een grow blind, Although they twa to saut should turn Wi' the tears that lie behind.
O Jeanie, on my bended knee I'll pray I may forget, My grief is a' that's left to me, But there's something dearer yet!
THE LAD I' THE MUNE
O gin I lived i' the gowden mune Like the mannie that smiles at me, I'd sit a' nicht in my hoose abune An the wee-bit stars they wad ken me sune, For I'd sup my brose wi' a gowden spune And they wad come out to see!
For weel I ken that the mune's his ain And he is the maister there; A' nicht he's lauchin', for, fegs, there's nane To draw the blind on his windy-pane And tak' an' bed him, to lie his lane And pleasure himsel' nae mair.
Says I to Grannie, "Keek up the glen Abune by the rodden tree, There's a braw lad 'yont i' the mune, ye ken." Says she, "Awa' wi' ye, bairn, gang ben, For noo it's little I fash wi' men An' it's less that they fash wi' me!"
When I'm as big as the tinkler-man That sings i' the loan a' day, I'll bide wi' him i' the tinkler-van Wi' a wee-bit pot an' a wee-bit pan; But I'll no tell Grannie my bonnie plan, For I dinna ken what she'll say.
And, nicht by nicht, we will a' convene And we'll be a cantie three; We'll lauch an' crack i' the loanin' green, The kindest billies that ever was seen, The tinkler-man wi' his twinklin' een And the lad i' the mune an' me!
I see the Gowk an' the Gowk sees me Beside a berry-bush by the aipple-tree. Old Scots Rhyme.
'Tib, my auntie's a deil to wark, Has me risin' 'afore the sun; Aince her heid is abune her sark Then the clash o' her tongue's begun! Warslin', steerin' wi' hens an' swine, Naucht kens she o' a freend o' mine— But the Gowk that bides i' the woods o' Dun He kens him fine!
Past the yaird an' ahint the stye, O the aipples grow bonnilie! Tib, my auntie, she canna' spy Wha comes creepin' to kep wi' me. Aye! she'd sort him, for, dod, she's fell! Whisht nou, Jimmie, an' hide yersel' An' the wice-like bird i' the aipple-tree He winna' tell!
Aprile-month, or the aipples flower, Tib, my auntie, will rage an' ca'; Jimmie lad, she may rin an' glower— What care I? We'll be far awa'! Let her seek me the leelang day, Wha's to tell her the road we'll gae? For the cannie Gowk, tho' he kens it a', He winna' say!
THE JACOBITE LASS
My love stood at the loanin' side An' held me by the hand, The bonniest lad that e'er did bide In a' this waefu' land— There's but ae bonnier to be seen Frae Pentland to the sea, And for his sake but yestre'en I sent my love frae me.
I gi'ed my love the white white rose That's at my feyther's wa', It is the bonniest flower that grows Whaur ilka flower is braw; There's but ae bonnier that I ken Frae Perth unto the main, An' that's the flower o' Scotland's men That's fechtin' for his ain.
Gin I had kept whate'er was mine As I hae gie'd my best, My he'rt were licht by day, and syne The nicht wad bring me rest; There is nae heavier he'rt to find Frae Forfar toon to Ayr, As aye I sit me doon to mind On him I see nae mair.
Lad, gin ye fa' by Chairlie's side To rid this land o' shame, There winna be a prooder bride Than her ye left at hame, But I will seek ye whaur ye sleep Frae lawlands to the peat, An ilka nicht at mirk I'll creep To lay me at yer feet.
Maggie, I ken that ye are happ'd in glory And nane can gar ye greet; The joys o' Heaven are evermair afore ye, It's licht about yer feet.
I ken nae waefu' thochts can e'er be near ye Nor sorrow fash yer mind, In yon braw place they winna let ye weary For him ye left behind.
Thae nichts an' days when dule seems mair nor double I'll need to dae my best, For aye ye took the half o' ilka trouble, And noo I'd hae ye rest.
Yer he'rt'll be the same he'rt since yer flittin', Gin auld love doesna tire, Sae dinna look an' see yer lad that's sittin' His lane aside the fire.
The sky is keen wi' dancin' stars in plenty, The New Year frost is strang; But, O my lass! because the Auld Year kent ye I'm sweir to let it gang!
But time drives forrit; and on ilk December There waits a New Year yet, An naething bides but what our he'rts remember— Maggie, ye'll na forget?
THE WHUSTLIN' LAD
There's a wind comes doon frae the braes when the licht is spreadin' Chilly an' grey, An' the auld cock craws at the yett o' the muirland steadin' Cryin' on day; The hoose lies sound an' the sma' mune's deein' an' weary Watchin' her lane, The shadows creep by the dyke an' the time seems eerie, But the lad i' the fields he is whustlin' cheery, cheery, 'Yont i' the rain.
My mither stirs as she wauks wi' her twa een blinkin', Bedded she'll bide, For foo can an auld wife ken what a lassie's thinkin' Close at her side? Mither, lie still, for ye're needin' a rest fu' sairly, Weary an' worn, Mither, I'll rise, an' ye ken I'll be warkin' fairly— An' I dinna ken wha can be whustlin', whustlin', aerly, Lang or it's morn!
Gin ye hear a sound like the sneck o' the backdoor turnin', Fash na for it; It's just the crack i' the lum o' the green wood burnin', Ill to be lit; Gin ye hear a step, it's the auld mear loose i' the stable Stampin' the strae, Or mysel' that's settin' the parritch-spunes on the table, Sae turn ye aboot an' sleep, mither, sleep while ye're able, Rest while ye may.
Up at the steadin' the trail o' the mist has liftit Clear frae the grund, Mither breathes saft an' her face to the wa' she's shiftit— Aye, but she's sound! Lad, ye may come, for there's nane but mysel' will hear ye Oot by the stair, But whustle you on an' I winna hae need to fear ye, For, laddie, the lips that keep whustlin', whustlin' cheery Canna dae mair!
(TO A PIPE TUNE)
O, it's fine when the New and the Auld Year meet, An' the lads gang roarin' i' the lichtit street, An' there's me and there's Alick an' the miller's loon, An' Geordie that's the piper oot o' Forfar toon. Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa! Up wi' the chanter, lad, an' gie's a blaw! For we'll step to the tune while we've feet in till oor shune, Tho' the bailies an' the provost be to sort us a'!
We've three bonnie bottles, but the third ane's toom, Gin' the road ran whisky, it's mysel' wad soom! But we'll stan' while we can, an' be dancin' while we may, For there's twa we hae to finish, an' it's Hogmanay. Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa! There's an auld carle glow'rin' oot ahint yon wa', But we'll sune gar him loup to the pipin' till he coup, For we'll gi'e him just a drappie, an' he'll no say na!
My heid's dementit an' my feet's the same, When they'll no wark thegither it's a lang road hame; An' we've twa mile to traivel or it's mair like three, But I've got a grip o' Alick, an' ye'd best grip me. Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa! The morn's near brakin' an' we'll need awa', Gin ye're aye blawin' strang, then we'll maybe get alang, An' the deevil tak' the laddie that's the first to fa'!
Craigo Woods, wi' the splash o' the cauld rain beatin' I' the back end o' the year, When the clouds hang laigh wi' the weicht o' their load o' greetin' And the autumn wind's asteer; Ye may stand like gaists, ye may fa' i' the blast that's cleft ye To rot i' the chilly dew, But when will I mind on aucht since the day I left ye Like I mind on you—on you?
Craigo Woods, i' the licht o' September sleepin' And the saft mist o' the morn, When the hairst climbs to yer feet, an' the sound o' reapin' Comes up frae the stookit corn, And the braw reid puddock-stules are like jewels blinkin' And the bramble happs ye baith, O what do I see, i' the lang nicht, lyin' an' thinkin' As I see yer wraith—yer wraith?
There's a road to a far-aff land, an' the land is yonder Whaur a' men's hopes are set; We dinna ken foo lang we maun hae to wander, But we'll a' win to it yet; An' gin there's woods o' fir an' the licht atween them, I winna speir its name, But I'll lay me doon by the puddock-stules when I've seen them, An' I'll cry "I'm hame—I'm hame!"
THE WILD GEESE
"O tell me what was on yer road, ye roarin' norlan' Wind, As ye cam' blawin' frae the land that's niver frae my mind? My feet they traivel England, but I'm dee'in for the north." "My man, I heard the siller tides rin up the Firth o' Forth."
"Aye, Wind, I ken them weel eneuch, and fine they fa' an' rise, And fain I'd feel the creepin' mist on yonder shore that lies, But tell me, ere ye passed them by, what saw ye on the way?" "My man, I rocked the rovin' gulls that sail abune the Tay."
"But saw ye naething, leein' Wind, afore ye cam' to Fife? There's muckle lyin' 'yont the Tay that's mair to me nor life." "My man, I swept the Angus braes ye hae'na trod for years." "O Wind, forgi'e a hameless loon that canna see for tears!"
"And far abune the Angus straths I saw the wild geese flee, A lang, lang skein o' beatin' wings, wi' their heids towards the sea, And aye their cryin' voices trailed ahint them on the air—" "O Wind, hae maircy, haud yer whisht, for I daurna listen mair!"
Airt, point (of compass). Billies, cronies. Braws, finery. Bubbly-jock, turkey-cock. Cankered, cross-grained. Causey, paved edge of a street. Chanter, mouth-piece of a bag-pipe. Clour, a blow. Coup, to fall. Deaved, deafened, bewildered. Droukit, soaked. Dunt, a blow. Fit, foot. Fleggit, frightened. Gean-tree, a wild cheerry-tree. Girnin', groaning. Gowk, a cuckoo. Grapes, gropes. Hairst, harvest. Happit, happ'd, wrapped. Haughs, low-lying lands. Keek, peer. Kep, meet. Laigh, low. Lane, his lane, alone. Loan, disused, overgrown road, a waste place. Loon, a fellow. Lowe, flame. Lum, chimney. Mear, mare. Mill-lade, mill-race. Neep, turnip. Poke, pocket. Puddock-stules, toadstools. Rodden-tree, rowan-tree. Rug, to pull. Sark, shift, smock. Shaws, small woods. Sheltie, pony. Skailed, split, dispersed. Smoors, smothers. Sneck, latch. Soom, swim. Sort them, deal with them. Speels, climbs. Speir, to inquire. Steerin', stirring. Sweir, loth. Syne, since, ago, then. Tawse, a leather strap used for correcting children. Thole, to endure. Thrawn, twisted. Tint, lost. Tod, fox. Toom, empty. Toorie, a knob, a topknot. Traivel, to go afoot; literally, to go at a foot's pace. Warslin', wrestling. Wauks, wakes. Waur, worse. Wean, infant. Weepies, rag-wort. Whaup, curlew. Wildfire, summer lightning. Writer, attorney. Yett, gate.
MORE SONGS OF ANGUS AND OTHERS
By VIOLET JACOB
Published at the offices of "Country Life," 20 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C. 2, and by George Newnes, LTD., 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, W.C. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons MCMXVIII
To A. H. J.
Past life, past tears, far past the grave, The tryst is set for me, Since, for our all, your all you gave On the slopes of Picardy.
On Angus, in the autumn nights, The ice-green light shall lie, Beyond the trees the Northern Lights Slant on the belts of sky.
But miles on miles from Scottish soil You sleep, past war and scaith, Your country's freedman, loosed from toil, In honour and in faith.
For Angus held you in her spell, Her Grampians, faint and blue, Her ways, the speech you knew so well, Were half the world to you.
Yet rest, my son; our souls are those Nor time nor death can part, And lie you proudly, folded close To France's deathless heart.
The whole of the poems under the heading In Scots appeared in Country Life. Of the others, one or two have appeared in The Cornhill or The Outlook. They are all reprinted by kind permission of the respective editors.
JOCK, TO THE FIRST ARMY THE TWA WEELUMS THE FIELD BY THE LIRK O' THE HILL MONTROSE THE ROAD TO MARYKIRK KIRSTY'S OPINION THE BRIG THE KIRK BESIDE THE SANDS GLORY THE SHEPHERD TO HIS LOVE A CHANGE O' DEILS REJECTED THE LAST O' THE TINKLER
FRINGFORD BROOK PRISON PRESAGE THE BIRD IN THE VALLEY BACK TO THE LAND THE SCARLET LILIES FROSTBOUND ARMED "THE HAPPY WARRIOR" UNITY
JOCK, TO THE FIRST ARMY
O Rab an' Dave an' rantin' Jim, The geans were turnin' reid When Scotland saw yer line grow dim, Wi' the pipers at its heid; Noo, i' yon warld we dinna ken, Like strangers ye maun gang— "We've sic a wale o' Angus men That we canna weary lang."
An' little Wat—my brither Wat— Man, are ye aye the same? Or is yon sma' white hoose forgot Doon by the strath at hame? An' div' ye mind foo aft we trod The Isla's banks before?— —"My place is wi' the Hosts o' God, But I mind me o' Strathmore."
It's daith comes skirling through the sky, Below there's naucht but pain, We canna see whaur deid men lie For the drivin' o' the rain; Ye a' hae passed frae fear an' doot. Ye're far frae airthly ill— —"We're near, we're here, my wee recruit, An' we fecht for Scotland still."
THE TWA WEELUMS
I'm Sairgeant Weelum Henderson frae Pairth, That's wha I am! There's jist ae bluidy regiment on airth That's worth a damn; An' gin the bonniest fechter o' the lot Ye seek to see, Him that's the best—whaur ilka man's a Scot— Speir you at me!
Gin there's a hash o' Gairmans pitten oot By aichts an' tens, That Wully Henderson's been thereaboot A'body kens. Fegs-aye! Yon Weelum that's in Gairmanie, He hadna reckoned Wi' Sairgeant Weelum Henderson, an' wi' The Forty-Second!
Yon day we lichtit on the shores o' France, The lassies standin' Trod ilk on ither's taes to get the chance To see us landin'; The besoms! O they smiled to me—an' yet They couldna' help it, (Mysel', I just was thinkin' foo we'd get The Gairmans skelpit.)
I'm wearied wi' them, for it's aye the same Whaure'er we gang, Oor Captain thinks we've got his een to blame, But, man! he's wrang; I winna say he's no as smairt a lad As ye micht see Atween twa Sawbaths—aye, he's no sae bad, But he's no me!
Weel, let the limmers bide; their bonnie lips Are fine an' reid; But me an' Weelum's got to get to grips Afore we're deid; An' gin he thinks he hasn't met his match He'll sune be wiser. Here's to mysel'! Here's to the auld Black Watch! An' damn the Kaiser!
THE FIELD BY THE LIRK O' THE HILL
Daytime an' nicht, Sun, wind an' rain; The lang, cauld licht O' the spring months again. The yaird's a' weed, An' the fairm's a' still— Wha'll sow the seed I' the field by the lirk o' the hill?
Prood maun ye lie, Prood did ye gang; Auld, auld am I, But O! life's lang! Gaists i' the air, Whaups cryin' shrill, An' you nae mair I' the field by the lirk o' the hill— Aye, bairn, nae mair, nae mair, I' the field by the lirk o' the hill!
Gin I should fa', Lord, by ony chance, And they howms o' France Haud me for guid an' a'; And gin I gang to Thee, Lord, dinna blame, But oh! tak' tent, tak' tent o' an Angus lad like me An' let me hame!
I winna seek to bide Awa owre lang, Gin but Ye'll let me gang Back to yon rowin' tide Whaur aye Montrose—my ain— Sits like a queen, The Esk ae side, ae side the sea whaur she's set her lane On the bents between.
I'll hear the bar Loupin' in its place, An' see the steeple's face Dim i' the creepin' haar; And the toon-clock's sang Will cry through the weit, And the coal-bells ring, aye ring, on the cairts as they gang I' the drookit street.
Heaven's hosts are glad, Heaven's hames are bricht, And in yon streets o' licht Walks mony an Angus lad; But my he'rt's aye back Whaur my ain toon stands, And the steeple's shade is laid when the tide's at the slack On the lang sands.
THE ROAD TO MARYKIRK
To Marykirk ye'll set ye forth, An' whustle as ye step alang, An' aye the Grampians i' the North Are glow'rin' on ye as ye gang. By Martin's Den, through beech an' birk, A breith comes soughin', sweet an' strang, Alang the road to Marykirk.
Frae mony a field ye'll hear the cry O' teuchits, skirlin' on the wing, Noo East, noo West, amang the kye, An smell o' whins the wind 'll bring; Aye, lad, it blaws a thocht to mock The licht o' day on ilka thing— For you, that went yon road last spring, Are lying deid in Flanders, Jock.
Fine div I ken what ails yon puddock, Janet, That aince would hae her neb set up sae hie; There's them that disna' seem to understan' it, I'se warrant ye it's plain eneuch to me!
Maybe ye'll mind her man—a fine wee cratur, Owre blate to speak (puir thing, he didna' daur); What gar'd him fecht was jist his douce-like natur'; Gairmans is bad, but Janet's tongue was waur.
But noo he's hame again, ye wadna ken her, He isna' feared to contradic' her flat; He smokes a' day, comes late to get his denner, (I mind the time she'd sort him weel for that!)
What's gar'd her turn an' tak' a road divairgint? Ye think she's wae because he wants a limb? Ach! haud yer tongue, ye fule—the man's a sairgint, An' there's nae argy-bargyin' wi' him!
I whiles gang to the brig-side That's past the briar tree, Alang the road when the licht is wide Owre Angus an' the sea.
In by the dyke yon briar grows Wi' leaf an' thorn, it's lane Whaur the spunk o' flame o' the briar rose Burns saft agin the stane.
An' whiles a step treids on by me, I mauna hear its fa'; And atween the brig an' the briar tree Ther gangs na' ane, but twa.
Oot owre yon sea, through dule an' strife, Ye tak' yer road nae mair, For ye've crossed the brig to the fields o' life, An' ye walk for iver there.
I traivel on to the brig-side, Whaur ilka road maun cease, My weary war may be lang to bide, An' you hae won to peace.
There's ne'er a nicht but turns to day, Nor a load that's niver cast; An' there's nae wind cries on the winter brae, But it spends itsel' at last.
O you that niver failed me yet, Gin aince my step ye hear, Come to yon brig atween us set, An' bide till I win near!
O weel, aye, weel, ye'll ken my treid, Ye'll seek nae word nor sign, An' I'll no can fail at the Brig o' Dreid, For yer hand will be in mine.
THE KIRK BESIDE THE SANDS
It was faur-ye-weel, my dear, that the gulls were cryin' At the kirk beside the sands, Whaur the saumon-nets lay oot on the bents for dryin', Wi' the tar upon their strands;
A roofless kirk i' the bield o' the cliff-fit bidin', And the deid laid near the wa'; A wheen auld coupit stanes i' the sea-grass hidin', Wi' the sea-sound ower them a'.
But it's mair nor daith that's here on the hauchs o' Flanders, And the deid lie closer in; It's no the gull, but the hoodit craw that wanders When the lang, lang nichts begin.
It's ill to dee, but there's waur things yet nor deein'; And the warst o' a's disgrace; For there's nae grave deep eneuch 'mang the graves in bein' To cover a coward's face.
Syne, a' is weel, though my banes lie here for iver, An' hame is no for me, Till the reid tide brak's like the spate in a roarin' river O'er the micht o' Gairmanie.
Sae gang you back, my dear, whaur the gulls are cryin', Gie thanks by kirk an' grave, That yer man keeps faith wi' the land whaur his he'rt is lyin', An' the Lord will keep the lave.
I canna' see ye, lad, I canna' see ye, For a' yon glory that's aboot yer heid, Yon licht that haps ye, an' the hosts that's wi' ye, Aye, but ye live, an' it's mysel' that's deid!
They gae'd frae mill and mart; frae wind-blawn places, And grey toon-closes; i' the empty street Nae mair the bairns ken their steps, their faces, Nor stand to listen to the trampin' feet.
Beside the brae, and soughin' through the rashes, Yer voice comes back to me at ilka turn, Amang the whins, an' whaur the water washes The arn-tree wi' its feet amangst the burn.
Whiles ye come back to me when day is fleein', And a' the road oot-by is dim wi' nicht, But weary een like mine is no for seein', An', gin they saw, they wad be blind wi' licht.
Daith canna' kill. The mools o' France lie o'er ye, An' yet ye live, O sodger o' the Lord! For Him that focht wi' daith an' dule afore ye, He gie'd the life—'twas Him that gie'd the sword.
But gin ye see my face or gin ye hear me, I daurna' ask, I maunna' seek to ken, Though I should dee, wi' sic a glory near me, By nicht or day, come ben, my bairn, come ben!
THE SHEPHERD TO HIS LOVE
Abune the hill ae muckle star is burnin', Sae saft an' still, my dear, sae far awa, There's ne'er a wind, noo day to nicht is turnin', To lift the brainches o' the whisperin' shaw; Aye, Jess, there's nane to see, There's just the sheep an' me, And ane's fair wastit when there micht be twa!
Alang the knowes there's no a beast that's movin', They sheep o' mine lie sleepin' i' the dew; There's jist ae thing that's wearyin' an' rovin', An' that's mysel', that wearies, wantin' you. What ails ye, that ye bide In-by—an' me ootside To curse an' daunder a' the gloamin' through?
To haud my tongue an' aye hae patience wi' ye Is waur nor what a lass like you can guess; For a' yer pranks I canna but forgi'e ye, I'fegs! there's naucht can gar me lo'e ye less; Heaven's i' yer een, an' whiles There's heaven i' yer smiles, But oh! ye tak' a deal o' courtin', Jess!
A CHANGE O' DEILS
"A change o' deils is lichtsome."— Scots Proverb.
My Grannie spent a merry youth, She niver wantit for a joe, An gin she tell't me aye the truth, Richt little was't she kent na o'.
An' whiles afore she gae'd awa' To bed her doon below the grass, Says she, "Guidmen I've kistit twa, But a change o' deils is lichtsome, lass!"
Sae dinna think to maister me, For Scotland's fu' o' brawlike chiels, And aiblins ither folk ye'll see Are fine an' pleased to change their deils.
Aye, set yer bonnet on yer heid, An' cock it up upon yer bree, O' a' yer tricks ye'll hae some need Afore ye get the best o' me!
Sma' wark to fill yer place I'd hae, I'll seek a sweethe'rt i' the toon, Or cast my he'rt across the Spey An' tak' some pridefu' Hieland loon.
I ken a man has hoose an' land, His airm is stoot, his een are blue, A ring o' gowd is on his hand, An' he's a bonnier man nor you!
But hoose an' gear an' land an' mair, He'd gie them a' to get the preen That preened the flowers in till my hair Beside the may-bush yestre'en.
Jist tak' you tent, an' mind forbye, The braw guid sense my Grannie had, My Grannie's dochter's bairn am I, And a change o' deils is lichtsome, lad!
 Coffined.  Sometimes.
I'm fairly disjaskit, Christina, The warld an' its glories are toom; I'm laid like a stane whaur ye left me, To greet wi' my heid i' the broom.
A' day has the lav'rock been singin' Up yont, far awa' i' the blue, I thocht that his sang was sae bonnie, Bit it disna' seem bonnie the noo!
A' day has the cushie been courtin' His joe i' the boughs o' the ash, But gin Love was wheeped frae the pairish, It isn't mysel' that wad fash!
For losh! what a wark I've had wi' ye! At mairkit, at kirk, an' at fair, I've ne'er let anither lad near ye— An' what can a lassie need mair?
An' oh! but I've socht ye an' watched ye, Whauriver yer fitsteps was set, Gin ye had but yer neb i' the gairden I was aye glowerin' in at the yett!
Ye'll mind when ye sat at the windy, Dressed oot in yer fine Sawbath black, Richt brawly I kent that ye saw me, But ye just slippit oot at the back.
Christina, 'twas shamefu'—aye was it! Affrontin' a man like mysel', I'm thinkin' ye're daft, for what ails ye Is past comprehension to tell.
Guid stuff's no sae common, Christina, And whiles it's no easy to see; Ye micht tryst wi' the Laird or the Provost, But ye'll no find the marrows o' me!
THE LAST O' THE TINKLER
Lay me in yon place, lad, The gloamin's thick wi' nicht; I canna' see yer face, lad, For my een's no richt, But it's owre late for leein', An' I ken fine I'm deein', Like an auld craw fleein' To the last o' the licht.
The kye gang to the byre, lad, An' the sheep to the fauld, Ye'll mak' a spunk o' fire, lad, For my he'rt's turned cauld; An' whaur the trees are meetin', There's a sound like waters beatin', An' the bird seems near to greetin', That was aye singin' bauld.
There's jist the tent to leave, lad, I've gaithered little gear, There's jist yersel' to grieve, lad, An' the auld dug here; An' when the morn comes creepin', An' the waukw'nin' birds are cheipin', It'll find me lyin' sleepin' As I've slept saxty year.
Ye'll rise to meet the sun, lad, An' baith be traiv'lin west, But me that's auld an' done, lad, I'll bide an' tak' my rest; For the grey heid is bendin', An' the auld shune's needin' mendin', But the traiv'lin's near its endin', And the end's aye the best.
The willows stand by Fringford brook, From Fringford up to Hethe, Sun on their cloudy silver heads, And shadow underneath.
They ripple to the silent airs That stir the lazy day, Now whitened by their passing hands, Now turned again to grey.
The slim marsh-thistle's purple plume Droops tasselled on the stem, The golden hawkweeds pierce like flame The grass that harbours them;
Long drowning tresses of the weeds Trail where the stream is slow, The vapoured mauves of water-mint Melt in the pools below;
Serenely soft September sheds On earth her slumberous look, The heartbreak of an anguished world Throbs not by Fringford brook.
All peace is here. Beyond our range, Yet 'neath the selfsame sky, The boys that knew these fields of home By Flemish willows lie.
They waded in the sun-shot flow, They loitered in the shade, Who trod the heavy road of death, Jesting and unafraid.
Peace! What of peace? This glimpse of peace Lies at the heart of pain, For respite, ere the spirit's load We stoop to lift again.
O load of grief, of faith, of wrath, Of patient, quenchless will, Till God shall ease us of your weight We'll bear you higher still!
O ghosts that walk by Fringford brook, 'Tis more than peace you give, For you, who knew so well to die, Shall teach us how to live.
In the prison-house of the dark I lay with open eyes, And pale beyond the pale windows I saw the dawn rise. From past the bounds of space Where earthly vapours climb, There stirred the voice I shall not hear On this side Time. There is one death for the body, And one death for the heart, And one prayer for the hope of the end, When some links part. Christ, from uncounted leagues, Beyond the sun and moon, Strike with the sword of Thine own pity— Bring the dawn soon.
The year declines, and yet there is A clearness, as of hinted spring; And chilly, like a virgin's kiss, The cold light touches everything.
The world seems dazed with purity, There hangs, this spell-bound afternoon, Beyond the naked cherry tree The new-wrought sickle of the moon.
What is this thraldom, pale and still, That holds so passionless a sway? Lies death in this ethereal chill, New life, or prelude of decay?
In the frail rapture of the sky There bodes, transfigured, far aloof, The veil that hides eternity, With life for warp and death for woof.
We see the presage—not with eyes, But dimly, with the shrinking soul— Scarce guessing, in this fateful guise, The glory that enwraps the whole,
The light no flesh may apprehend, Lent but to spirit-eyes, to give Sign of that splendour of the end That none may look upon and live.
THE BIRD IN THE VALLEY
Above the darkened house the night is spread, The hidden valley holds Vapour and dew and silence in its folds, And waters sighing on the river-bed. No wandering wind there is To swing the star-wreaths of the clematis Against the stone; Out of the hanging woods, above the shores, One liquid voice of throbbing crystal pours, Singing alone.
A stream of magic through the heart of night Its unseen passage cleaves; Into the darkened room below the eaves It falls from out the woods upon the height, A strain of ecstasy Wrought on the confines of eternity, Glamour and pain, And echoes gathered from a world of years, Old phantoms, dim like mirage seen through tears, But young again.
"Peace, peace," the bird sings on amid the woods, "Peace, from the land that is the spirit's goal,— The land that nonce may see but with his soul,— Peace on the darkened house above the floods." Pale constellations of the clematis, Hark to that voice of his That will not cease, Swing low, droop low your spray, Light with your white stars all the shadowed way To peace, peace!
BACK TO THE LAND
Out in the upland places, I see both dale and down, And the ploughed earth with open scores Turning the green to brown.
The bare bones of the country Lie gaunt in winter days, Grim fastnesses of rock and scaur, Sure, while the year decays.
And, as the autumn withers, And the winds strip the tree, The companies of buried folk Rise up and speak with me;—
From homesteads long forgotten, From graves by church and yew, They come to walk with noiseless tread Upon the land they knew;—
Men who have tilled the pasture The writhen thorn beside, Women within grey vanished walls Who bore and loved and died.
And when the great town closes Upon me like a sea, Daylong, above its weary din, I hear them call to me.
Dead folk, the roofs are round me, To bar out field and hill, And yet I hear you on the wind Calling and calling still;
And while, by street and pavement, The day runs slowly through, My soul, across these haunted downs, Goes forth and walks with you.
THE SCARLET LILIES
I see her as though she were standing yet In her tower at the end of the town, When the hot sun mounts and when dusk comes down, With her two hands laid on the parapet; The curve of her throat as she turns this way, The bend of her body—I see it all; And the watching eyes that look day by day O'er the flood that runs by the city wall.
The winds by the river would come and go On the flame-red gown she was wont to wear, And the scarlet lilies that crowned her hair, And the scarlet lilies that grew below. I used to lie like a wolf in his lair, With a burning heart and a soul in thrall, Gazing across in a fume of despair O'er the flood that runs by the river wall.
I saw when he came with his tiger's eyes, That held you still in the grip of their glance, And the cat-smooth air he had learned in France, The light on his sword from the evening skies; When the heron stood at the water's edge, And the sun went down in a crimson ball, I crouched in a thicket of rush and sedge By the flood that runs by the river wall.
He knew where the stone lay loose in its place, And a foot might hold in the chink between, The carven niche where the arms had been, And the iron rings in the tower's face; For the scarlet lilies lay broken round, Snapped through at the place where his tread would fall, As he slipped at dawn to the yielding ground, Near the flood that runs by the river wall.
I gave the warning—I ambushed the band In the alder-clump—he was one to ten— Shall I fight for my soul as he fought then, Lord God, in the grasp of the devil's hand? As the cock crew up in the morning chill, And the city waked to the watchman's call, There were four left lying to sleep their fill At the flood that runs by the city wall.
Had I owned this world to its farthest part, I had bartered all to have had his share; Yet he died that night in the city square, With a scarlet lily above his heart. And she? Where the torrent goes by the slope, There rose in the river a stifled call, And two white hands strove with a knotted rope In the flood that runs by the river wall.
Christ! I had thought I should die like a man, And that death, grim death, might himself be sweet, When the red sod rocked to the horses' feet, And the knights went down as they led the van;— But the end that waits like a trap for me, Will come when I fight for my latest breath, With a white face drowned between God and me In the flood that runs by the banks of death.
When winter's pulse seems dead beneath the snow, And has no throb to give, Warm your cold heart at mine, beloved, and so Shall your heart live.
For mine is fire—a furnace strong and red; Look up into my eyes, There shall you see a flame to make the dead Take life and rise.
My eyes are brown, and yours are still and grey, Still as the frostbound lake Whose depths are sleeping in the icy sway, And will not wake.
Soundless they are below the leaden sky, Bound with that silent chain; Yet chains may fall, and those that fettered lie May live again.
Yes, turn away, grey eyes, you dare not face In mine the flame of life; When frost meets fire, 'tis but a little space That ends the strife.
Then comes the hour, when, breaking from their bands, The swirling floods run free, And you, beloved, shall stretch your drowning hands, And cling to me.
Give me to-night to hide me in the shade, That neither moon nor star May see the secret place where I am laid, Nor watch me from afar.
Let not the dark its prying ghosts employ To peer on my retreat, And see the fragments of my broken toy Lie scattered at my feet.
I fashioned it, that idol of my own, Of metal strange and bright; I made my toy a god—I raised a throne To honour my delight.
This haunted byway of the grove was lit With lamps my hand had trimmed, Before the altar in the midst of it I kept their flame undimmed.
My steps turned ever to the hidden shrine; Aware or unaware, My soul dwelt only in that spot divine, And now a wreck lies there.
Give me to-night to weep—when dawn is spread Beyond the heavy trees, And in the east the day is heralded By cloud-wrought companies,
I shall have gathered up my heart's desire, Broken, destroyed, adored, And from its splinters, in a deathless fire, I shall have forged a sword.
"THE HAPPY WARRIOR"
I have brought no store from the field now the day is ended, The harvest moon is up and I bear no sheaves; When the toilers carry the fruits hanging gold and splendid, I have but leaves.
When the saints pass by in the pride of their stainless raiment, Their brave hearts high with the joy of the gifts they bring, I have saved no whit from the sum of my daily payment For offering.
Not there is my place where the workman his toil delivers, I scarce can see the ground where the hero stands, I must wait as the one poor fool in that host of givers, With empty hands.
There was no time lent to me that my skill might fashion Some work of praise, some glory, some thing of light, For the swarms of hell came on in their power and passion, I could but fight.
I am maimed and spent, I am broken and trodden under, With wheel and horseman the battle has swept me o'er, And the long, vain warfare has riven my heart asunder, I can no more.
But my soul is still; though the sundering door has hidden The mirth and glitter, the sound of the lighted feast, Though the guests go in and I stand in the night, unbidden, The worst, the least.
My soul is still. I have gotten nor fame nor treasure, Let all men spurn me, let devils and angels frown, But the scars I bear are a guerdon of royal measure, My stars—my crown.
I dreamed that life and time and space were one, And the pure trance of dawn; The increase drawn From all the journeys of the travelling sun, And the long mysteries of sound and sight, The whispering rains, And far, calm waters set in lonely plains, And cry of birds at night.
I dreamed that these and love and death were one, And all eternity, The life to be Therewith entwined, throughout the ages spun; And so with Grief, my playmate; him I knew One with the rest,— One with the mounting day, the east and west— Lord, is it true? Lord, do I dream? Methinks a key unlocks Some dungeon door, in thrall of blackened towers, On ecstasies, half hid, like chill white flowers Blown in the secret places of the rocks.