First appeared in the Quiver, and taken from that
kind permission of Messrs. Cassell, Petter, & Galpin.
BLIND Matthew, coming
down the village street
With slow, sure footsteps, pauses for a while,
And in the sunlight falling soft and sweet
His features brighten to a kindly smile.
Upon his ear the sounds of toil and gain,
Clanking from wood-girt shop and smithy, steal,
And soft he whispers, "O my fellow-men,
I cannot see you, but I hear and feel."
Then smiling still he slowly steps along,
And every kindly word and friendly tone,
Like the old fragment of an early song,
Wakes thoughts that make the past again his own.
The children see him, and in merry band
Come shouting from their glad and healthy play,
"Here is blind Matthew, let us take his hand,
And see if he can guess our names to-day."
Then all around him throng, and run, and press,
And lead him to his seat beneath the tree,
Each striving to be first, for his caress,
Or gain the favour'd seat upon his knee.
And Matthew, happy in their artless prate,
Cries, as he slips into their guileless plan,
"Now she who holds my right hand is sweet Kate,
And she who holds my left is little Anne."
Then all the children leap with joyful cries,
Till one fair prattler nestling on his breast
Whispers, "Blind Matthew, tell us when your eyes
Shall have their light, and open like the rest?"
Then closer still he draws the little one,
Laying his hand upon her golden head;
Then speaks with low, soft, sweet and solemn tone,
While all the rest range round with quiet tread.
He tells how Christ, in ages long ago,
Came down to earth in human shape and name,
Walking his pilgrimage, begirt with woe,
And laying healing hands on blind and lame.
Then of blind Bartimeus, the beggar, he
Who by the wayside sat, and cried in awe,
Jesus, thou Son of David, look on me;"
And Jesus look'd and touch'd him, and he saw.
"But not on earth these eyes of mine shall fill
With light," thus Matthew ends, "for in this night
I must grope on with Christ to guide me still,
And He will lead me through the grave to light.
"So when you miss old Matthew from the street,
And in the quiet of the churchyard lies
A new-made grave, to draw your timid feet,
Then will you know that Christ has touch'd my eyes."
LYING full-length upon
the summer grass,
And by the murmur of a summer stream,
I heard the village bell, and turning round
To him who sat beside me with his feet
Touching the ripple of the brook, I said,
"Who sinks into the churchyard rest to-day?"
Then he, half lifting up his earnest face,
Paused for a little while, and then replied
"Ada, whose beauty was a fairy thing,
But brighter now by Death, whose pencil tints
His marks with such sweet colours."
Then he sunk
Into that dreamy reverie which shuts
All thought from out its vision, and so thinks,
And thinks, and thinks, and yet thinks naught at all;
But I, half-answer'd, could but ill abide
His silentness, and so I question'd still:
"But who is Ada? you have never said;
And there you dream, and think, and all the while
The tolling of the bell within my ear,
And yet I know not unto whom it offers
Such sweet and stirless rest."
Then starting up
From all his fit of mute philosophy
He said, "Why, surely you have not forgot
Ada, who flash'd upon you like a star
Three months ago, when you were in the woods.
At your old rambles, and she knew it not,
But pass'd you in her beauty by, and you
Fell half in love with her and writ a song?"
Then all at once came, like remember'd dreams,
The solitude around the woodland walk,
And all the fringing of the idle rhyme
(Now something better by the help of Death),
Which I had made in haste, and sung to him
A half-hour after. "Now, what better time
Than this," I cried, "to sing that song again,
When she is passing from all mortal view
Into the shady quietness." And he,
Catching the broader finish of the plan,
Said, "Let the song be sung, but make a pause
Between each stanza, that the bell may chime
Its echoes at the finish of each verse,
And let your poet's fancy shape the words."
So, with the humming idyll of the brook
As an accompaniment I sang the song:
Ada came down by the path in the wood,
In the flush and the warmth of the day,
And the spirits that live in the solitude
(For there be such they say)
Came out from their haunts by tree and brook,
And wherever sunbeams play,
To gaze, as she pass'd like a bud on the lake—
A sweet Diana of earthly make—
In the clasp of the amorous day.
I ceased, and the sad bell took up the pause,
And sang an answer to its solemn chime:
Ada walks no earthly path,
Other things are hers this hour;
She has all an angel hath—
Glory and celestial power;
Nought may look on her but eyes
Purged from aught of mortal sight,
As she walks in balmy light
In the halls of Paradise.
So the dust may shrink, but she
Through the years, in the spheres,
Is one great type of immortality.
So sang the bell, and when its echo died
I took my part in turn, and sang again:
I was out in the wood when she pass'd me by,
Half-hid that she could not see,
So a woman's wish was in her eye,
And a smile that made me, I know not why,
Guess and dream that she
Was far away in the golden hope
Of the coming time, and the novel scope
Of wifehood, and the prattling bliss
Of little lips, and this, and this
Was the light and colour within her eye,
And the smile as she pass'd me by.
JENNY WI' THE AIRN TEETH.
WHAT a plague is this
Winna steek his e'e,
Though I hap him ow'r the head
As cosie as can be.
Sleep! an' let me to my wark,
A' thae claes to airn;
Jenny wi' the airn teeth,
Come an' tak' the bairn:
Tak' him to your ain den,
Where the bowgie bides,
But first put baith your big teeth
In his wee plump sides;
Gie your auld grey pow a shake,
Rive him frae my grup—
Tak' him where nae kiss is gaun
When he waukens up.
Whatna noise is that I hear
Comin' doon the street?
Weel I ken the dump-dump
O' her beetle feet.
Mercy me, she's at the door,
Hear her lift the sneck;
Whisht! an' cuddle mammy noo
Closer roun' the neck.
Jenny wi' the airn teeth,
The bairn has aff his claes,
Sleepin' safe an' soun', I think—
Dinna touch his taes;
Sleepin' weans are no for you;
Ye may turn about
An' tak' awa' wee Tam next door—
I hear him screichin' oot.
Dump, dump, awa' she gangs
Back the road she cam';
I hear her at the ither door,
Speirin' after Tam.
He's a crabbit, greetin' thing,
The warst in a' the toon;
Little like my ain wee wean—
Losh, he's sleepin' soun'.
Mithers hae an awfu' wark
Wi' their bairns at nicht—
Chappin' on the chair wi' tangs
To gi'e the rogues a fricht.
Aulder weans are fley'd wi' less,
Weel aneuch we ken—
Bigger bowgies, bigger Jennies,
Frichten muckle men.
JAMIE'S WEE CHAIR.
THE snawdrap was oot,
and the primrose was seen
In the cleuch, while the side o' the burnie was green;
The mavis was heard singin' sweet in the wud,
While a safter licht fell frae the edge o' the clud;
The whaups an' the peaseweeps skirl'd lood on the hill,
When the pride o' the hoose, oor wee Jamie, fell ill;
But lang ere that snawdrap had wither'd an' gane,
A wee grave was a' we had left o' oor wean.
'Twas an unco sair trial for baith John an' me,
For the bairnie was just the tae licht o' my e'e.
As for him, he scarce ken'd what he whiles wud be at,
Wi' his wee Jamie this and his wee Jamie that;
But that nicht when Death cam' in white licht owre his broo,
He said, takin' my han', "Jean, that's owre wi' us noo;"
Then he sat down an' grat, cryin', half in despair,
"We hae naebody noo to fill Jamie's wee chair."
I bore up mysel', wi' the tear on my cheek,
An' the thochts in my heart that I couldna weel speak,
An' aften I took a step ben to the room
To kiss the wee lips that still keepit their bloom;
But at last, when the day cam' to tak' him away,
An' the last o' the fouk was seen climbin' the brae,
I cam' in frae the door, an' I grat lang an' sair,
Wi' my heid on the airm o' my Jamie's wee chair.
O, the bliss o' warm tears when the sair heart is fu',
Fa'in' saft on oor grief like kind Heaven's ain dew,
Till, as rain lowns the win', so the sorrow that fain
Wad rise up against God settles calmly again;
An', as saft, siller cluds an' the wide, happy sky
Turn the brichter and bluer when storms hae gaen by,
Sae the gloom roun' my life lichten'd up everywhere
As I rase an' took ben my deid Jamie's wee chair.
Then I took doon the plaicks frae the shelf on the wa',
The whussle, the peerie, the pony, an' ba',
Put them safe in the drawer; an', when I had dune,
The door saftly open'd, an' John steppit in.
He stood just awee, then began to look roun',
But stoppit on seein' the plaicks a' ta'en doon;
Then he spier'd, his voice shakin' wi' grief mair an' mair,
"Jean, where hae ye puttin oor Jamie's wee chair?"
I rase, as he spoke, frae the cheerless fire en',
Gaed into the room, brocht the chair quately ben,
Put it into its place, never liftin' an e'e,
But sat doon, while John drew himsel' nearer to me;
Then I fan' his braid ban' tak' a grup o' my ain,
As he said, "Jean, it's a' for the sake o' the wean,
For ye ken weel aneuch that the bairn last sat there,
So atween us this forenicht we'll keep his wee chair."
We drew near the hearth, the tears fillin' oor een
As we sat han'-in-han' wi' the wee chair atween;
An' aye as we thocht on a bricht lauchin' face,
An' a curly bit heid noo nae mair in its place,
We turn'd, as if a' oor sair loss was a name,
An' wee Jamie wad juist be aside us the same.
O, it tak's unco schulin', an' God's help an' care,
To mak' mithers believe in an empty wee chair.
We sat, while the hills creepit close in the nicht;
But the stars, lookin' doon, kent that a' wasna richt,
For they whisper'd to me o' a joy yet in store,
An' a something abune them I ne'er had afore.
I turn'd roun' to John, laid my ban' on his knee,
As I tell 't what the stars keepit sayin' to me;
Then we kneel'd doon, oor hearts risin' up in a prayer,
As oor heids met aboon oor deid Jamie's wee chair.
Years hae gaen by since thaun, but still warm in oor heart
What the stars said has aye been fulfillin' its pairt;
An' we see noo that a' was intended for guid,
Though God's han' at the time by oor sorrow was hid;
But as rainbows are brichter against a black sky,
So God's meanin's grow clear when His shadow gangs by;
An' in a' the bit trials that fa' to oor share,
We aye keep atween us oor Jamie's wee chair.
A WALK TO PAMPHY LINNS.
The following poem was the result of a visit which I, along
with three others, paid to Pamphy linns, a romantic spot lying hidden in a
wood which stretches along the Barr Moor in the neighbourhood of Sanquhar.
I have availed myself of a poetical license, and described the linns as
swollen by rains, and foaming down the waterfall which forms the pièce
de resistance of the place. The friends who accompanied me will
pardon me where I have deviated from fact to fiction, especially my young
Edinburgh friend whom I have bored in the text. The poem is warmly
dedicated to the three.
We took a walk to Pamphy linns—
Three other friends and I,
Glad-hearted as when day begins
With summer in the sky.
Our talk was edged with homely wit,
The banter flew apace,
And ever at a happy hit
The laughter clad our face.
But we were used to each, and knew
The harmless fence of tongue;
So quip and jest rose up and flew
And prick'd, but never stung.
The lark was far above our head,
The daisy at our feet,
The heather show'd a coming red
Of tiny blossom sweet.
The sheep turn'd round to see us pass,
The milky snow-white lambs
Gamboll'd and sniff'd the growing grass,
Or nestled by their dams.
The pure air brought the far hills near,
Their furrows came to sight;
And here and there a stream grew clear,
And smiled in the sunlight.
"O, friend of mine, who late," I said,
"Has left the streets of men,
Let all this quiet overhead
Bring back thine own again.
Look how the Earth puts forth her pride
And blooms around, to draw
Thy soul out till it toss aside
The phrases of the law.
For what are musty words to this—
Your writs and pros and cons—
When Nature, full of summer bliss,
Her summer vesture dons?
So, Faust-like, own her quiet power,
And let her have her will,
And let thy fingers clasp a flower,
Instead of inky quill."
Our path lay through the sunny fields,
In gentle ups and downs;
Dear heart! I thought, but nature yields
A bliss unmatch'd in towns.
At length we reach'd a shepherd's cot,
That sat between two woods—
Fit home for all the stirless thought
That, dove-like, sits and broods.
I knew the shepherd; for a space
We rested by his hearth,
And saw the moorland on his face,
And in his honest mirth.
O! blessings on a hillside life
That trammels not the heart,
But in its gentle pleasures rife
Stands with its back to art.
How far above the studied speech
Of empty polish'd sound,
That glides within a proper reach,
Where rule has set the bound.
And blessings on the girl who stood
In better garb than silk,
And proffer'd to us, shy of mood,
A glass of cooling milk.
Her cheek was soft with health's fair tint,
And in her drooping eye
Sweet thoughts came up that fain would hint
That maidenhood was nigh.
Her brow was open, frank, and free,
Half-hid by wealth of tress—
A very Wordsworth's girl was she
For woodland simpleness.
So, Janet, half-way through thy teens,
And all the world to learn,
Lean to thine own sweet heart, as leans
From moss-clad rock the fern:
And hear the wish that springs from mine
Before I pass away—
Keep thou that simple life of thine,
Take to the town who may.
We reach'd a belt of wood at last,
And with a lusty cheer
I cried, "Now all our toil is past,
For Pamphy linns are here."
We took the shaded path that led
To the turf clad foot-bridge,
Then struck into the streamlet's bed,
And held along its edge.
We reach'd the falls, and, looking round,
On either side were trees,
And at our feet the hurrying sound
Of water ill at ease.
Huge rocks with moss half-cover'd dipt
Or in the stream reclined,
As if they once had partly stript
To bathe, but changed their mind.
O'er these the water foam'd and splash'd
In many a whirl and turn,
Or from moss'd outlets peep'd and dash'd
To kiss a wander'd fern.
We clomb the highest peak of rock,
And, halting there to breathe,
Heard with continual splash and shock
The water run beneath.
Then, rising, down the fretted steep
To reach the base below
We struggled, careful heed to keep,
As Alpine hunters go.
We reach'd the foot, and found a rest
Beneath the trees' sweet shade,
Where Nature for her woodland guest
A flower-deck'd seat had made.
From there we watch'd the falls above,
The rocks half-worn and gray,
That still, like shapeless Sphinxes, strove
To tear their veils of spray.
A dreamy, cooling murmur went,
Like winds when spring is near,
Through all the trees, that stood intent,
And prick'd their leaves to hear.
I leant back in a shady place,
Where sunlight could not gleam:
If poets are a dreaming race,
Then here they well might dream.
But "Further down," was still the cry—
"Down to the seat," they said;
"There let another hour go by—
The hanging rocks o'erhead."
So there we went, and with our knives
We roughly carved our names,
As some carve out their shorten'd lives
With vacillating aims.
And as I carved, a primrose bright
Look'd on with wondrous eye,
As if for ever in its sight
A troop of fays pass'd by.
Upon the rocks, from German rhyme,
I writ two lines to say—
"O, happy time of love's young prime,
Would it could last alway?" [1.]
But ere we turn'd our path to trace,
I cried, "Farewell, thou stream!
If poets are a dreaming race,
Then here they well might dream."
So through the woods we went, but still
What German Schiller sung
Came ever up against my will,
And somewhat lightly stung.
O, happy time when love is sweet,
And life takes little heed,
But rolls a rainbow at our feet,
Would it could last indeed!
And every flower in shaded nook,
Speedwell and violet,
Cried, with a wonder in their look—
So big, and dreaming yet?
Then out at last into the fields,
Tinged with the daisy's dyes;
Dear heart! I said, but Nature yields
A bliss the town denies;
For here she dwells, and keeps apart
From all the busy street,
Still talking with her own rich heart,
Whose lightest thought is sweet.
And yet, as when in dreams we see
A city built of air,
So rose a vision unto me
That sent my thoughts elsewhere.
Edina too is fair, I said,
And took my young friend's arm,
For there the magic past hath shed
An ever-growing charm.
Twice have I trod its streets, and heard
In fancy all the while
Legends in hints and whisper'd word
From narrow street and pile.
But still the eye from every quest
Would stop, to wander on
To those gray rocks that had for crest
The lordly pile of stone.
Up, up it tower'd, as if in rage
The modern, change to view;
Like Carlyle, from the middle age,
With brow knit at the new.
I, too, have touch'd Queen Mary's robe,
With well-shaped Darnley nigh;
Have heard the murder'd Rizzio sob
With blood-choked, helpless cry.
While through this war of uncheck'd will,
Its battles, broils, and shocks,
A stirring voice was speaking still—
The voice of fearless Knox.
God! when upon his grave I stood—
Now daily trod by feet—
His soul went flashing through my blood
In mighty waves of heat.
For great, good men can never die,
Howbeit the ages roll;
But still unseen are ever nigh,
To strengthen soul by soul.
But past is all that reign of force,
Its deeds of blood and pain,
Gone as a river dries its source,
Never to fill again.
For lo! to hide each bloody spot
A nobler comes behind;
The curbless sway of growing thought,
The dynasty of mind:
Which changes, and hath changed the earth,
As gods the sculptor's stone;
A universal Protean birth,
Whose fiat thunders on.
There, too, beneath the statued dome
He sits, the Scott we claim;
Fit Mahomet for those who come
As pilgrims of his fame.
Light was his task, some cry, but he,
He changed the novel's bent;
And with its Gothic tracery
A chaster purpose blent.
I pass those mighty ones, who then
Were ever in my sight—
Strong kings who struggled with the pen
To widen human right.
Yes! She is wondrous fair, and sweet
This summer day would be
If I could lie on Arthur's Seat,
And my schoolmate with me.
For still her magic power prevails.
And still my thoughts take wing
To her, the city of the tales,
Without its roving king.
But shame on me that I should prate
Of all that city's grace
And beauty in such quiet state
Around my own sweet place.
For look! three miles adown the vale
Sanquhar lies in gray light;
And further on, time-struck and frail,
The castle lifts its height.
Bones of the iron age, it stands,
And, as to madness grown,
Flings down each year, from powerless hands,
A crutch of scatter'd stone.
And right before us, near yet far,
Furrow'd with winter rills,
That dry in summer like some scar;
Stretch out the Todholes hills.
And speck-like at their base is seen
The cot of shepherd Dryfe—
True soul of honest heart and mien,
And simple mountain life.
But here is Killo bridge, and there
Nestles old Killoside;
My blessings on the homely pair
Who 'neath its roof abide.
And right in line that puff of smoke
That every moment comes,
Is Bankhead, where, in ceaseless yoke,
The engine clanks and hums.
A little further on we pace,
Then through a field again,
And all at once, before our face,
Kirkconnel full and plain.
I see the churchyard and the church,
The gravestones standing by;
You need not through our Scotland search
For sweeter place to lie.
And further up I catch the gleam
Upon the pastor's pool;
The manse above, still as a dream,
Stands in the shadows cool.
But there, from schoolhouse to the mill,
Our hamlet stretches out;
Without one stir it slumbers still,
Save when the schoolboys shout.
And now we cross the new foot-bridge,
That spans the Nith below,
Nor loiter to lean o'er the edge
To watch the water flow;
But hasten up the narrow road
To reach the old stone seat
Beside the door, there rest and nod
To friends across the street.
1. "O, das sie ewig grünen
Zeit der jungen Liebe." —Das Lied von der Glocke.
THE bairnies cuddle
doon at nicht,
Wi' muckle faucht an' din;
O, try and sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither's comin' in.
They never heed a word I speak;
I try to gie a froon,
But aye I hap them up, an' cry,
"O, bairnies, cuddle doon."
Wee Jamie wi' the curly heid—
He aye sleeps next the wa',
Bangs up an' cries, "I want a piece"—
The rascal starts them a'.
I rin an' and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop awee the soun',
Then draw the blankets up an' cry,
"Noo, weanies, cuddle doon."
But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot, frae 'neath the claes,
"Mither, mak' Tam gie ower at ance,
He's kittlin' wi' his taes."
The mischief's in that Tam for tricks,
He'd bother half the toon;
But aye I hap them up an' cry,
"O, bairnies, cuddle doon."
At length they hear their faither's fit,
An', as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces to the wa',
While Tam pretends to snore.
"Hae a' the weans been gude?" he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
"The bairnies, John, are in their beds,
An' lang since cuddled doon."
An' just afore we bed oorsel's,
We look at oor wee lambs;
Tam has his airm roun' wee Rab's neck,
An' Rab his airm roun' Tam's.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed,
An' as I straik each croon,
I whisper, till my heart fills up,
"O, bairnies, cuddle doon."
The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi' mirth that's dear to me;
But sune the big warl's cark an' care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet, come what will to ilka ane,
May He who sits aboon
Aye whisper, though their pows be bauld,
"O, bairnies, cuddle doon."
A passing glimpse into the life of one
Who went apart—a dreamer of fair dreams,
That fell upon his heart and made sweet spots,
As when the summer beams slip through the leaves
And pitch their camps of light upon the grass.
He went apart, for he had still within
The fair rich company of noble things,
And all that converse which belongs to youth
When hope is high and wears its fullest flower;
But he will pass, as footprints pass away,
Beneath the tread of all the hungry years
Who will not wait a moment on a name;
And with him too shall pass the many dreams
That bent their bow above his life, and drew
The heavens nearer—these will fade, and he
Will shroud himself within the past, nor leave
A light to break or line to mar that sky
Which bends a common shadow over all.
So be it. And that little space wherein
We took our daily dower of life, may grow
A ranker growth of grass or trailing weed,
Or harden with the tread of stranger feet.
What boots it, if the common grey comes down
To shade the life we led, if all the years
That lead the future onward, lift the thread
Of that fair purpose which ran through his life,
And wind it into that great cord which draws
The rough world onward to the good to be.
ALEXIS grew apace, and
through his youth
Ran dreams and splendours, as a summer bow
Lighting upon two hills uprears its arch
Against the clouds, and all the space below
Lies warm within its shadow: So his life,
Beneath such dreams, took golden hues of light,
And beat in wonder. He was yet a child,
Standing upon the flower-grown edge of life,
Yearning for manhood, which was seen afar,
Half-veil'd 'd in shadow. Eager looks he cast
Before him to that wonder-land which sent
Sweet echoes onward, that, to his rapt ear,
Were perfect music. To his soul within,
Expanding like a bud, these sounds became
Sure guides, that led his glowing thoughts away
To sunny regions, where the Beautiful,
Armida-like, sat canopied with roofs
Of dazzling golden fretwork. Life to him
Was the pure surface of a glossy shell,
Seen with the eye, but felt with no rough touch.
He knew not mankind, for the gift that looks
Beneath, and shapes from word and look the key
To open beings, was not his. He stood
A dreamer in the land of dreams, nor felt
The world jar with their action, but like one
Who feels himself drawn into some delight
And cannot turn, he went, and all the way
He had the unseen company of song,
Which, like low breathings coming from the sea,
Touch'd him to a new being, and he smiled
To think the gods had, in their idle moods,
Leant from their windless halls to touch his lips
With consecrating fire and make him sing—
A working priest of song amid his kind.
And with this thought there came to open up
His life a vision of high fame, as in the night
When the swift lightning runs a fiery track
To earth, and all the night grows white with fear:
So in Alexis rose the sudden hope
Of what might be when all this office fill'd
With the pure reaching forward of the thought
Which makes the poet; energies which strive,
Like some impulsive touch of God's, to shape
A higher life, which he forecasts himself,
And works out as he sings, still looking back
To see if any follow. Thus in him
There was continual bud and bloom, as in
A wood that slopes to catch the first of spring,
When unseen angels open up the flowers,
And bid them turn their clear wet eyes to God.
Fancies were his which like strong sunlight made
Within his heart the prints of joy and love,
As angels' footsteps print the floor of heaven.
So he grew up, and everywhere he found
A wealth of friends, who smiling seem'd to him
The early reflex of those times when truth
Was uppermost—the strength and soul of speech.
He bent himself to all their wish, he found
A pleasure in forestalling purpose, took
Words as a pledge for the fair truth, and smiled
To see the earth roll back to all its plan.
"Then fell across his path a brighter beam,
From which his heart drank sweeter melody,
As when a sunbeam falls across a brook,
And gives a lighter music to its sound.
And she, the maiden who upon his life
Came like a wave of sunshine, as it slips
Along a field rich with the look of May,
Was fair and beautiful, and her sweet eyes
Look'd like a spirit's but half an hour in heaven.
What rapture was within him when he saw
This maiden rising up through all his dreams
To crown the inmost thoughts within his soul.
What worship shook his heart, when all the earth
Rose up, like some great organ, in whose tone
He heard the prelude to his life—we know
But cannot utter; for our deepest thoughts
Are known but to ourselves, and will not take
The garb of words. This much we know, that she
Glided throughout his life in light and love,
As down the Ganges floats the steady light
Of one frail lamp, still telling those who watch
Far off upon the bank that all is well.
He now was in the higher bounds, and saw
The early meaning of the glorious earth
Unveil itself, and in his soul there stirr'd
A sweet unrest, that was so sweet to him;
He wish'd no other for his paradise.
This was the golden summer of his life;
The mirror of his being, in whose light
He saw the very gods pass on with smiles
And music, leaving in their odorous tracks
The incense of Olympus. What to him
Was all the daily life of living men,
The custom and the course of earthly things?
He saw them not, for like the flower that turns
Its blossoms to the sun it follows still,
So all the thoughts and visions of the soul
Turn'd to that maiden, who for ever stood
Before him, the divinest of all things
That God hath sent into this world of ours.
We pause before we touch the other life,
To dream again the dreams Alexis dreamt;
For life moves on in change, but still the heart
Turns to the softer as the purest, best.
And thus at times our own will muse, and think
Upon Alexis, and his early dreams
So purely fashion'd; and the new-found song
That in his bosom leapt, as when a stream
Slips down a few feet into foam, and makes
A lulling music through the day and night.
This was a golden season in his life
When all the chords of being, beat as one,
And hope and love their fingers touching, each
Made melody from which sweet thoughts uprose
To fall in light upon his heart, as, when
Far off where earth and heaven seem to meet
Patches of sunlight, God's own gardening, fall
In slips of sliding glory on the hills.
He stood blindfolded with his dreams, until
The rude fact coming, with unsparing hand,
Snatch'd at the bandage which, unloosen'd, fell,
And left him face to face with sterner life.
Oh! the harsh truth that must be learn'd with tears
By those who stand a step within the pale
Of life's strange mysteries. As a towering tree,
Struck by a sudden blight, though yet in prime,
Shakes, at the sudden breathing of a wind,
Its leaves from branches shrunk and dry, so at
The shock of real life all the golden thought
Fell off, and left him with a naked heart
To front the rough world with. He stood and saw
His life-dreams lying at his very feet
Shrunk into ashes; for the one high idol
He worshipp'd, took the common form of earth,
And dwindled into a more human shape,
Laying aside divinity as one
Flings off cast clothing. All those attributes
Which he, as pilgrims deck the shrine of saints,
Had given to that maiden, fell away,
Leaving her Lamia-like to stand and prick
His dreams, until, like other human things,
They warr'd upon each other. Then he turn'd
As one may who has fought for years to reach
His life's aim but to fail, and turn away
A calm face but a bleeding heart within,
The world not heeding of it. Then his life
Fell into gaps and chasms he could not step
Or even bridge, and in him the dislike
For fellowship rose up, and made his heart
A hermit in the breast, nor gave himself
To aims and purposes that work with men,
Drawing them on and up. He made himself
An adept in tongue-fence, and stung with words
The lighter fools around him. Out of this
He made a kind of armour, under which
He found such shelter that they let him pass,
Dreading its sting. But still with this there came,
From the night-time that lay around his heart,
Voices that whisper'd higher things, and sent
A yearning through his being, felt as yet
Like idle sounds that strike upon the ear
When one lies in the shade for summer-heat,
Feeling around the edges of a dream.
Put from this sting and idle quip of tongue.
As only fit for those who deftly move
Small puppets at a village fair, he turn'd,
And made himself the guest of other minds
In other language. He was strangely stirr'd
To find the same young worship in their hearts,
The same fond idols lying in the dust,
Like broken masterpieces of dead times
When gods had temples: then the fire and heat
Of all their youth-time, sinking down to warm
The roots of manhood, growing out to flower
In high endeavour. It may be that this,
And the contagion shooting from the soul
(For all true souls stand girt in their own heat,
Warming all those who stand within it), made
Alexis find his depth, and shape his life
In other channels. In those noble ones
Who stereotype themselves in words he found
The aspirations and the high desire
To make the human take celestial shape,
And stand a little nearer to the gods.
So this grew in him also, as a bud
Swaying beneath the love-sigh of the spring
Swells out the livelong day, until he found
The looking backward not for any life
Upon this earth. He flung away those dreams
Which lay within the past, as when a rainbow
Fades, leaving one small speck against a cloud,
Pledge of its disappearance, and rose up
To battle manlike—to do what he could
To help his fellows, having in his heart
Those words of Goethe—"One should know his fellows,
And knowing, also learn not to despise"—
A higher wisdom still.
So there is now
In this Alexis better thought in germ
To meet the future with. For from his life
The noonday glare has fled, and left behind
The quieter light that draws the eye, as when
We stand and for a moment face the sun,
Seeming to sink between the hill and sky,
Then turn to view the chasten'd light behind—
Faint harbinger of twilight. Life to him
Has half unveil'd its meaning, and he sees
No puppet show to make a wrinkle live
About the lip and eye, but earnest work
For earnest men, within whose band must be
No dainty worker, gloved, and ever strong
In idle words, but bare-arm'd fighters, swift
To take advantage of the rising ground
And wave their fellows onward. He has learnt,
Though he is yet what some call young, that men
Are ever to be on this miraculous earth
To make it better, working hand and brain
To lift it higher, standing firm of foot,
Shoulder to shoulder, striving for all good,
And keeping God and duty in the eye,
As sailors keep the light that marks their port
For guide and haven. Shame on him if he
Should stand an idle Memnon in the crowd,
Giving responses to each one who strikes,
For the mere whim of hearing sound, and thus
Be jester to his fellows, as a mother
May hum a cradle-song to please her child
Fretful with sleep. What need of nursery rhyme
In this great age of sounding wire and wheel,
Science and all her handmaids? Rather toil,
And manly living, manly thought, and all
Those grander interests ever moving on
To where we strive for. Crude and vaguely dim
Is this life of Alexis yet, but still
It rises slowly upward, as the moon
Bound in a slip of crescent rises up
And shines a silver sickle in the sky.
He may fail in the task of working out
What he has laid before him as a plan,
And sink before the crescent culminate,
And shines an orb, as vessels sink at sea,
Reaching no port. But now he tears away
The dreamer from his being, calling out
To all his fellows (for in him the wish
To see them reach the purer heights of life
Shoots from the rest, and claims his deepest thought,
As high hills claim the sun) to rise and take
The nobler pathway, working on and up;
Not resting, though the sweat be in our eyes
Blinding our motions, till the brute be shorn
From out our being, and we stand erect,
The earth beneath our feet, the sky above,
And right before us all the nobler path
That narrows not as earthly pathways do,
But ever broadens as it reaches up
Until it ends beside the feet of God.
DAFT Ailie cam' in by
the auld brig-en'
As the sunlicht, saft an' sweet,
Fell doon on the laigh, white wa's o' the toon,
An' the lang, quate, single street.
It fell on her sair-worn, wrinkled face,
An' on her thin gray hair;
But the licht that lay in her een was a licht
That shouldna hae been there.
An' aye she lookit roun' an' roun',
An' aye a waefu' smile
Lay on her lips, that were thin an' white,
As she mum'led an' sang the while.
Then the weans cam' runnin' oot o' the schule—
The schule had scaled for the nicht—
An' they a' cam' roun' Daft Ailie, an' cried
An' laup in their mad delicht.
Then they took a hand o' ecah ither's han's,
An' made her gang in the ring,
An' they danced roun' aboot her, an' sang a sang
That made the hooses ring.
But when they had danced an' jamp their fill,
They closer an' closer drew,
Cryin', "Ailie, afore we let you oot,
Ye maun make us a bonnie boo."
Then she boo'd to them a' as they stood aroun',
Wi' the boo o' a leddy born,
An' said, "O, weanies, baith ane an' a',
Ye maun come to my bridal the morn.
But I maun away to the auld wud brig,
An' sit 'neath the rowan tree,
An' there I will wait till my bonnie bridegroom
Comes ower to marry me."
"An' what is your bonnie bridegroom like?
Is he strong, an' braid, an' braw?
An' wha is he that will come an' tak'
Auld Ailie frae us a'?"
"Oh, my ain bridegroom is tall an' fair,
An' straucht as a hazel tree,
An' licht is the touch o' his han' in mine,
When he speaks in the gloamin' to me.
An' weel he likes me, I ken, an' weel
Can he whisper his manly voo;
An' weel I like to listen to him—
I can hear his voice the noo.
I saw ane laid oot in white deid-claes,
But my een were unco dim,
An' I couldna hear a word that was said,
Though they tauld me it was him.
But I turn'd my heid frae the cauld, white deid,
That was quate as quate could be,
An' turn'd an' gaed doon to the brig, to wait
For my bridegroom comin' to me.
But I sometimes think he is unco lang,
An' I weary a' the day,
Waitin' here for my bonnie bridegroom to come
An' tak his Ailie away."
"But, Ailie, Ailie," the weans cry out,
"Your hair is gray an' thin,
An' your cheeks are sae sunk that nae bonnie
Will come sic a bride to win."
"O, weanies, weanies! haud a' your tongues;
Ye dinna ken what ye say;
My cheek is reid, an' my e'e is bricht,
For I'm twenty-ane this day.
Put I maun away to the auld wud brig,
An' sit 'neath the rowan tree;
Dinna gang to the schule the morn, but come
An' see my bridegroom an' me."
Then they let her oot o' the ring, an' she gangs
Wi' the same strange, waefu' smile,
Doon the lang quate street, an' she sings a sang
As they follow her a' the while.
But she hauds her way to the en' o' the toon,
An' aye she sorts her hair,
Wi' the same wild licht flaffin' up in her een
That shouldna hae been there.
O weans! O weans! gang a' to your hames,
An' let puir Ailie alane;
She gangs to sit by the auld wud brig
To settle her wan'erin' brain.
She sits for hoors by that auld, frail brig,
Ow'r the braid, deep, dookin' pool,
But a weary, weary wait she will hae,
As she sings her sangs o' dool;
For nae bonnie bridegroom will ever come
To tak' her by the han',
Save ane that comes frae the lan' o' the deid,
When the last lang breath is drawn.
But weel I min that, in a' the toon,
The brawest amang them a'
Was Ailie, what noo gangs frae hoose to
Giein' ilka body a ca'.
Her cheeks had the saft, sweet bloom o' youth,
An' gowden her lang, thick hair,
An' bricht was the look o' her bonnie blue e'e,
For a sweet life-dream was there.
Ay, weel micht they glance like the simmer licht,
When the sun gangs doon in the west,
For the first pure dream o' love was there,
An' it wadna gie her rest.
But her bridal day cam' quickly roun',
An' mirth an' daffin' was rife,
As we sat ben the room for the hoor to come
That wad see sweet Ailie a wife.
An' O! but she lookit bonnie an' braw
In the flush o' her maiden pride;
An' should I live to a hunner long years,
I shall ne'er see a bonnier bride.
But waes me! whaten a storm cam' on
On that happy afternoon;
The Nith rase up wi' an angry sough,
An' reid wi wrath cam' doon.
The nicht drappit doon, and it grew sae dark
That the hill abune the brae,
Where ye gather in simmer the berries sac black,
Was hid as if ta'en away.
An' never a single star was seen
In the heaven sae dark an' wide,
Yet lichtly the bridegroom cam' doon the path,
To claim his winsome bride.
The lave that were wi' him thet talkit an' lauch'd
In a' their youth an' glee,
Till they cam' to the brig ow'r the dookin' pool,
By the lang, braid rowan tree.
Then the young gudeman that was soon to be
Gaed on't wi' a lichtsome spang;
An' he cried to the lave to come on behin',
For Ailie wad think them lang.
But alake! what a cry gaed up through the nicht,
To the heicht o' the stars aboon—
Sic a cry never rase to their flickerin' licht
Save frae lips o' men that droon.
For half o' the brig had been torn away
By the angry strength o' the spate,
An' the young bridegroom slippit ow'r in the
To his quick an' awfu' fate.
They faun' him next day in the minister's holm,
Where the water had flung him oot;
An' they brocht him up to the far toon-en',
But they happit his bridal suit.
They laid him doon, an' they took it aff,
An' dress'd him frae heid to feet
In the dress they put on when we're wedded to
The lang, white windin' sheet.
Then Ailie cam' in, but O, what a change
Had come on her through the nicht;
Her gowden hair had a scance o' gray,
An' her een had a strange wild licht.
An' aye she lookit, an' turn'd roun' an' roun'.
While they watch'd her a' the while;
"O, where is my bonnie bridegroom?" she ask'd,
An' her lips had a waefu' smile.
"O Ailie, this is your bonnie bridegroom
That lies in the airms o' death;
Will ye no tak' a look at his face, an' kiss
The lips that hae nae breath?"
"O haud your tongues, haud a' your tongues,
Dinna tell sic lees to me;
I will gang mysel' to the auld wud brig,
My ain bridegroom to see.
I will wait by the rowan tree till he comes—
I ken that he winna be late,
An' I'll sing the sangs I hae heard him sing,
They will cheer me as I wait."
So she turn'd an' gaed doon to the auld wud
As ye see her gang the noo,
Wi' the same waefu' smile on her thin white lips,
An' the sorrow upon her broo.
An' aye she wan'ers aboot the brig,
Ye may see her late an' sune,
Still waitin' for him wha is in his grave,
An' the green, green grass abune.
Then, weanies, weanies, gang a' to your hames,
An' let puir Ailie be;
Ye little ken what a weird she drees,
By the auld braid rowan tree.