Later Poems (1)
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A VOICE FROM DREAMLAND.

A VOICE from dreamland said to me—
"Poet, what music is in thee ?
Ring it out until it find
A nook for rest within thy kind."

I stood and heard the voice speak out,
Then answered, bowing low in doubt,
"Of what use is a simple song,
That vainly wrestles to be strong?"

For, ever as I shape my lips,
A darkness comes and, rising, dips
In misty folds the vain, weak words
That creep by fits along the chords."

The voice then questioned, "Art thou sure
If all thy purposes be pure?
If whim or low conceit is in
Thy singing: singing thus is sin."

I answered to that ready voice,
"I sing not as if making choice;
The impulse bearing me along
Has driven me against my song,

"And all my soul, like flax at fire,
Leaps up to grasp but one desire—
That I may touch the lower strings,
And fit them unto noble things."

I waited for the voice again,
But silence fell between us twain;
At last, like a low breath in spring,
The voice made answer, saying, "Sing!"

 

 


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CUDDLE DOON.


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 gi'e 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' 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 gi'e owre 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.
"Ha'e 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 rules aboon
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald,
    "O, bairnies, cuddle doon."

 


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WAUKEN UP.

A Sequel to "Cuddle Doon."


WULL I ha'e to speak again
    To thae weans o' mine?
Eicht o'clock, an' weel I ken
    The schule gangs in at nine.
Little hauds me but to gang
    An' fetch the muckle whup—
O, ye sleepy-heidit rogues,
    Wull ye wauken up?

Never mither had sic faught—
    No' a moment's ease;
Cleed Tam as ye like, at nicht
    His breeks are through the knees.
Thread is no' for him ava'—
    It never hauds the grup;
Maun I speak again ye rogues—
    Wull ye wauken up?

Tam, the very last to bed,
    He winna rise ava'
Last to get his books an' sklate—
    Last to won awa'.
Sic a limb for tricks an' fun—
    Heeds na' what I say,
Rab and Jamie—but thae plagues—
    Wull they sleep a' day?

Here they come, the three at ance,
    Lookin' gleg an' fell,
Hoo they ken their bits o' claes
    Beats me fair to tell.
Wash your wee bit faces clean,
    An' here's your bite an' sup—
Never was mair wiselike bairns
    Noo they've waukened up.

There, the three are aff at last,
    I watch them frae the door,
That Tam, he's at his tricks again,
    I coont them by the score.
He's put his fit afore wee Rab,
    An' coupit Jamie doon,
Could I but lay my han's on him
    I'd mak' him claw his croon.

Noo to get my wark on han'
    I'll ha'e a busy day,
But losh! the hoose is unco quate
    Since they are a' away.
A dizzen times I'll look the clock
    When it comes roun' to three,
For, cuddlin' doon, or waukenin' up,
    They're dear, dear bairns to me.

 


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THE LAST TO CUDDLE DOON.


I SIT afore a half-oot fire,
    An' I am a' my lane,
Nae frien' or fremit daun'ers in,
    For a' my fowk are gane.
An' John, that was my ain gudeman,
    He sleeps the mools amang—
An auld frail body like mysel'—
    It's time that I should gang.

The win' moans roun' the auld hoose en',
    An' shakes the ae fir tree,
An' as it sughs it waukens up
    Auld things fu' dear to me.
If I could only greet, my heart
    It wadna be sae sair;
But tears are gane, an' bairns are gane,
    An' baith come back nae mair.

Ay, Tam, puir Tam, sae fu' o' fun,
    He faun' this warld a fecht,
An' sair, sair he was hauden doon,
    Wi' mony a weary wecht.
He bore it a' until the en',
    But, when we laid him doon,
The grey hairs there afore their time
    Were thick amang the broon.

An' Jamie wi' the curly heid,
    Sae buirdly, big an' braw,
Was cut doon in the pride o' youth
    The first amang them a'.
If I had tears for thae auld een,
    Then could I greet fu' weel,
To think o' Jamie lyin' deid
    Aneath the engine wheel.

Wee Rab—what can I say o' him?
    He's waur than deid to me,
Nae word frae him thae weary years
    Has come across the sea.
Could I but ken that he was weel,
    As here I sit this nicht,
This warld wi' a' its faucht an' care
    Wad look a wee thing richt.

I sit afore a half-oot fire
    An' I am a' my lane,
Nae frien' ha'e I to daun'er in,
    For a' my fowk are gane.
I wuss that He wha rules us a',
    Frae where He dwalls aboon,
Wad touch my auld grey heid, and say—
    "It's time to cuddle doon."

 


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RAB COMES HAME.


WAS that a knock?  Wha can it be?
    I hirple to the door;
A buirdly chiel' is stan'in' there,
    I never saw afore.
He tak's a lang, lang look at me,
    An' in his kindly een
A something lies I canna name,
    That somewhere I ha'e seen.

I bid him ben; he tak's a chair,
    My heart loups up wi' fricht,
For he sits doon as John wad do
    When he cam' hame at nicht.
He spreads baith han's upon his knees,
    But no' ae word he speaks;
Yet I can see the big, roun' tears
    Come happin' doon his cheeks.

Then a' at ance his big, strong airms
    Are streekit out to me
"Mither, I'm Rab, come hame at last,
    An' can ye welcome me?"
"O, Rab!"—my airms are roun' his neck—
    "The Lord is kind indeed;"
Then hunker doon, an' on his knees
    I lay my auld grey heid.

"Hoo could ye bide sae lang frae me,
    Thae weary, weary years,
An' no' ae word—but I maun greet,
    My heart is fu' o' tears;
It does an' auld, frail body guid,
    An' oh! it's unco sweet.
To see ye there, though through my tears,
    Sae I maun ha'e my greet.

"Your faither's lang since in his grave
    Within the auld kirkyaird,
Jamie an' Tam they lie by him—
    They werena to be spared;
An' I was left to sit my lane
    To think on what had been,
An' wussin' only for the time
    To come an' close my een.

"But noo ye're back, I ken fu' weel
    That no' a fremit han'
Will lay me, when my time comes roun',
    Beside my ain gudeman."
Noo, wad it be a sin to ask
    O' Him that rules aboon,
To gi'e me yet a year or twa
    Afore I cuddle doon?

 


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THE TWO SOWERS.


DEATH came to the earth, by his side was Spring,
    They came from God's own bowers,
And the earth was full of their wandering,
    For they both were sowing flowers.

"I sow," said Spring, "by the stream and the wood,
    And the village children know
The gay glad time of my own sweet prime,
    And where my blossoms grow.

"There is not a spot in the quiet wood
    But hath heard the sound of my feet,
And the violets come from their solitude
    When my tears have made them sweet."

"I sow," said Death, "where the hamlet stands,
    I sow in the churchyard drear;
I drop in the grave with gentle hands,
    My flowers from year to year.

"The young and the old go into their rest,
    To the sleep that awaits them below;
But I clasp the children unto my breast,
    And kiss them before I go."

"I sow," said Spring, "but my flowers decay
    When the year turns weak and old,
When the breath of the bleak wind wears them away,
    And they wither and droop in the mould.

"But they come again when the young earth feels
    The new blood leap in her veins,
When the fountain of wonderful life unseals,
    And the earth is alive with the rains."

"I sow," said Death; "but my flowers unseen
    Pass away from the land of men,
Nor sighs nor tears through the long sad years
    Ever bring back their bloom again.

"But I know they are wondrous bright and fair
    In the fields of their high abode;
Your flowers are the flowers that a child may wear,
    But mine are the blossoms of God."

Death came to the earth, by his side was Spring;
    The two came from God's own bowers;
One sowed in night and the other in light,
    Yet they both were sowing flowers.

 


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CARLYLE.
 

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian.


ENGLAND, amid thy great in this great time
    One man, white-haired, with misty, flashing eyes
Looms from the rest, in his life's toil sublime,
    And all that hath the power to make us wise.

We hail him teacher, not as now they teach,
    With soulless flow of ever-ready words;
He shapes his own life to his uttered speech,
    As deft musicians to the air the chords.

So in this age when the quick growth of creeds
    Grows up, as if to choke God's primal plan,
Ye who still waver in your higher needs,
    Come and look nearer at this grey old man.

The Hebrew spirit, with its fervent fire,
    Its vatic utterances of rapt word force
Is in him, bursting in explosive ire,
    Like lightning when it takes its blinding course.

And Cant, girt in her armour o'er and o'er,
    Lifting her putrid wings as if to fly,
Sinks in the slime of her own tracks, before
    The word bolts of this thunderer to die.

He will not rest himself on other ground
    Than that which God's own workers have made
            smooth;
All other is to him the heave and bound,
    And the volcanic motion of untruth.

This struggle for firm footing for his feet
    Hath made his inner vision far and clear,
Piercing the under current, and the heat
    That nourishes the action we have here.

Stern Cromwells, Luthers, Knoxes unto him
    Rise from the world's wild clamour, and serene
Stand in heroic light that cannot dim
    The virtue and the duty that have been.

All work is noble, but a nobler kind
    Is that whose task is ever piercing through
The mummy folds of ignorance to find
    True worth in man and hold it up to view.

High privilege this; but he upon whose head
    It lights must ever walk and speak in fear,
Knowing the ages listen what is said,
    And God above him bending down his ear.

Thus has he ever written, knowing well
    What kind of heed to give the countless strings
Of those who, like the Corybantes, yell
    When some slow good grows out of human things.

Not looking to the right nor to the left,
    But conscious of the guide he had within,
He, armed with his strong battle words, has cleft
    Paths for the feebler soul to take and win.

"Thou shalt believe in God," he cries, "and own
    The sacredness of this poor life, though dim;
It is a part of His, in darkness thrown
    Upon the earth to wander back to Him.

"Let no cant be within thy soul, but stand
    Upon thy manhood, thy most sure defence,
Working at all true work with willing hand,
    And growing up to God-like reverence."

For reverence with this man is the source
    Of all those virtues which, like golden threads,
Draw man still upward with an unseen force
    To where his spirit with the higher weds.

Be thou real also, be no sham or quack,
    Half seen as manhood sickens and expires,
Two beings in thee resting back to back,
    And turning vane-like as the world desires.

It may be that the force in him for this
    Has borne him past his distance, as a steed,
The nostrils filling out with snorting hiss,
    Tears up the ground before he checks his speed.

For all the early earnestness to wage
    Battle with evil, is in him the soul
Of all his thought and life, that now in age
    Moves grandly ripening to the wrought-for goal.

Then, brother, take him for thy teacher, let
    The spirit of his words flash full on thine,
And thou shalt feel a dignity in sweat,
    And all thy life and labour half divine.

I too can feel a pride to think I stand
    A worker on a dusty railway here,
Pointing to this man with a feeble hand,
    As one by whom the weaker ought to steer.

But he has strengthened me, as teachers ought
    Who wrestle onward to the purer change,
Has fused more earnestness into my thought,
    And made this manhood take a higher range.

Enough, the shadows lengthen far ahead
    When the sun turns his feet to meet the west;
So this man's power shall broaden out and spread
    When he, too, takes his well-earned sleep and rest.

But the full day beats on us, and the night
    Is yet afar; so with strong heart and limb
Let us go onward, upward, and upright,
    Until we take a twilight rest like him.

 


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A VILLAGE SCENE—EVENING.


THE merry children are playing
    In the little village street;
The old men sit by the doorway:
    Their evening rest is sweet.

And careful mothers are busy,
    They hurry out and in;
Or pause by the door for a moment
    To smile at their children's din.

And farther away in the distance,
    From the playground comes a shout,
As quick-eyed youths at their pastimes
    Run, strong of limb, about.

The old men sit by the doorway;
    The children play in the street;
The dead are up in the churchyard,
    Their rest is long and sweet.

 


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OH, FOR THOSE DAYS.


OH, for those days that had no doubt,
    When I, a simple village laddie,
Sang with much glee the rhyme about
    The devil's grave in old "Kirkcaldy!"
"Some say the de'il's dead," thus it ran;
    I thought it very nice and witty,
So sang, unwitting, when a man,
    He'd rise and pay me for my ditty.

Of course, I knew not then how much
    He works with men and all their actions—
How all their plans are at a touch
    Split into half-a-dozen factions.
Nor had I read those books that teach
    The line between the good and evil;
Nor knew I what poor Faust could preach
    When in the clutches of the devil.

I sang with little thought of this,
    Or any such dim speculations;
And proved that ignorance was bliss
    By very candid demonstrations.
He never came to me, nor did
    I bother him with my intrusions,
But followed where I wished, and hid
    Myself from all his deep illusions.

At last when halfway through my 'teens,
    And life became a shade impassioned,
He rose up, full of all his spleen,
    Just as my various bents were fashioned.
Then found I, to my grief, that he
    Had risen from his grave, to wander,
A very poodle, after me,
    To act as sworn and faithful pander.

He seemed at first so very sweet,
    So full of nice polite attention,
I could have kissed his very feet,
    Like others whom I need not mention.
He led me into many things,
    Each very simple, fresh and pleasing,
Yet leaving always after stings,
    That at the first were very teasing.

But in a little while they ceased,
    And left me to my own enjoyment;
Nor did they come to mar my feast,
    Like Banquo at the same employment
Of pale Macbeth; but, if their sting
    I felt, true to my human nature,
I bounced and blamed some other thing
    In philosophic nomenclature.

Ah, well, I'm rough and bearded now,
    And given less to quick impulses;
Nor can I run away and bow
    To that which one swift moment dulces.
But still I yearn to have that heart
    I had when, yet a simple laddie,
I sang that song with little art
    About that grave in old Kirkcaldy.

 


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THE DYING COVENANTER.


LET me lie upon the heather
    Where the heath fowl have abode,
In my hand the open Bible,
    On my lip the psalm of God.
I have kept the faith and conquered,
    Slipped not foot nor quailed an eye;
Gather round, and in the moorland
    See a Covenanter die.

In the might of kingly sanction,
    As the mountain torrents sweep,
Came the foe, athirst for slaughter,
    And their oaths were loud and deep.
But we drew ourselves together,
    Broke the still, yet pitying calm
With the music of our fathers,
    And the worship of the psalm.

Then we heard our leader's question,
    "Is there one within our band
Faint of heart to go to battle
    For his God and for his land?
Is there one who, seeing foemen
    Coming from the plain below,
Puts his sword back in the scabbard?"
    And we sternly answered, "No.

"For we fight against oppression,
    For the weak against the strong,
For the right to God's own freedom,
    And against the wrong of wrong,
For our homes in glen and valley,
    For a thing of grander worth,
The old worship of our fathers
    In the kirk and by the hearth."

Then we took a deeper breathing
    For the fight that was so near,
Put our Bibles in our bosoms,
    With no sign of doubt or fear,
Felt upon our lips a prayer,
    Drew forth to a man the sword,
Rushed upon the ranks of Satan,
    For our Covenant and the Lord.

Ye have seen, beside the river.
    The tall bulrush, thick and strong,
Bend before the summer whirlwind
    As it swept in might along.
Lo, the foe at the first onslaught
    Backward went in their alarm,
Ours we knew would be the battle,
    For the Lord held up His arm.

Ay, we knew that He was with us,
    Israel's mighty God of old,
Felt His spirit clasp our spirit,
    And His presence made us bold;
And we raised our thrilling slogan
    Till it ran from tongue to tongue—
"God and Covenant, God and Covenant!"
    And the bleak, bare moorland rung.

Had you seen the wild rough troopers,
    Pale with very rage and hate,
As our steel still sent them backwards
    To a flight or sterner fate.
"Canting dogs!" they cried, "and martyrs
    For their heaven's paltry crown."
"Soldiers now," we hurled for answer,
    And we shore the godless down.

Ay, they well may con their lessons
    In their revels of to-night,
Tell, with all their newest curses,
    That the babes of God can fight.
Did they think us sheep for slaughter,
    Weak as weakest children be?
So they want that question answered,
    Let them turn to their Dundee.

How the frown upon his forehead
    (For I saw him in the fight)
Deepened till it burst in anger,
    As the thunder peals by night!
And, when column after column
    Shrank and withered at our brunt,
Onward came he like some devil,
    With his black steed to the front.

"Are ye cowards?" forth he thundered,
    As he rallied back his men.
"Fly from those that ye have hunted
    Like the hare by field and glen?
What am I to send for answer
    In your own, and in my name?
Give me better, or, by heaven!
    Die, and so escape the shame!"

Ye have seen, beside the river,
    The tall bulrush, thick and strong,
Springing upward when the whirlwind
    Spent its force and passed along;
So came backward horse and trooper
    On our firm, yet desperate few,
But our trust was not in princes,
    And we knew what God could do.

Wild and high the conflict thickened
    As a thunder-spout adds force
To the stream, and in the struggle
    Down went rider, down went horse.
Foot by foot we drove them backward,
    But they went like sullen seas,
Till I came against a war-horse,
    And I knew it was Dundee's.

Swift as lightning's gleam at midnight,
    When the stars are hidden dark,
Swift my sword upon the charger,
    And I did not miss my mark.
Back he reared upon his rider,
    And the two fell on the plain;
Had we not been such a handful
    Black Dundee was with the slain.

But his troopers rallied round him,
    Fought like devils at their need,
Drove us back and raised their master,
    Brought him up another steed,
Made a front to stand our onset;
    But they shrank as on they came,
Like the willow in the winter,
    Like the heath before the flame.

Then we raised a shout of triumph
    As the whelps of Satan fled,
But my death-wound came that moment,
    And I fell among the dead.
Steeds and men, like one great whirlwind,
    Thundered o'er me, and I knew
That our God had swept the godless
    As the sun sweeps off the dew.

Closer, closer come around me,
    Lift the grand old psalm again,
For I want to hear its music
    Ere I pass away from men.
Shame to Scotland and to Scotsmen,
    If they turn away in pride
From the songs that were our bucklers
    On the bare, bleak mountain-side.

Let the Bible still lie open,
    That my failing sight may see
My own blood upon that promise
    Of the crown awaiting me.
I have kept the faith nor faltered,
    Slipped not foot nor quailed an eye;
Gather round, and in the moorland
    See a Covenanter die.

 


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ROBERT BURNS.

On the Inauguration of the Burns' Monument at Kilmarnock,
August, 1879.


"See projected through time
 For
HIM an audience interminable."

WALT WHITMAN.


Ho! stand bare-browed with me to-day, no common name we sing,
And let the music in your hearts like thunder-marches ring;
We hymn a name to which the heart of Scotland ever turns,
The master singer of us all, the ploughman—ROBERT BURNS.

How shall we greet such name that stands a beacon in the years?
With smiles of joy and love, or bursts of laughter and sweet tears?
Greet him with all—a fitting meed for him who came along,
And wove around our lowly life the splendours of his song.

What toil was his; but, know ye not, that ever in their pride
The unseen heaven-sent messengers were walking side by side;
He felt their leaping fire, and heard far whispers shake and roll,
While visions, like the march of kings, went surging through his soul.

"Thou shalt not sing," they cried, "of men low set in sordid life,
Nor statesmen strutting their brief hour in rancour and in strife,
Nor the wild battle-field where death stalks red, and where the slain
Lie thicker than in harvest fields the sheaves of shining grain.

"Sing thou the thoughts that come to thee, to lighten all thy brow,
When, with a glory all around, thou standest by the plough,
Sing the sweet loves of youth and maid, the streams that glide along,
And let the music of the lark leap up within thy song.

"Sing thou of Scotland till she feels the rich blood fill her veins,
And rush along like mimic storms at all thy glorious strains;
A thousand years will come and pass, and other poets be,
But still within her heart of hearts shall beat the soul of thee."

He came, and on his lips lay fire that winged his fervid song,
And scathed like lightning all that rose to walk behind a wrong;
He sang, and on the lowly cot beside the happy stream,
A halo fell upon the thatch, with heaven in its gleam.

And love grew sweeter at his touch, for full in him there lay
A mighty wealth of melting tones, and all their soft sweet way;
He shapes their rapture and delight, for unto him was given
The power to wed to burning words the sweetest gift of heaven.

O blessing on this swarthy seer, who gave us such a boon,
And still kept in his royal breast his royal soul in tune;
Men looked with kindlier looks on men, and in far distant lands
His very name made brighter eyes and firmer clasp of hands.

The ploughman strode behind his plough, and felt within his heart
A glory like a crown descend upon his peaceful art;
The hardy cotter, bare of arm, who wrestled with the soil,
Rose up his rugged height, and blessed the kingly guild of toil.

And sun-browned maidens in the field among the swaying corn,
Their pulses beating with the soft delight of love new born,
Felt his warm music thrill their hearts, and glow to finger tips,
As if the spirit of him who sang was throbbing on their lips.

What gift was this of his to hold his country's cherished lyre,
And strike, with glowing eye, the chords of passion's purest fire;
Say, who can guess what light was shed upon his upturned brow,
When in the glory of his youth he walked behind the plough?

What visions girt with glorious things, what whispers of far fame,
That from the Sinai of his dreams like radiant angels came;
What potent spells that held him bound, or swift, and keen and strong,
Lifted to mighty heights of thought this peasant king of song!

Hush, think not of that time when Fame her rainbow colours spread,
And all the rustling laurel-wreath was bound about his head;
When in the city, 'mid the glare of fashion's living light,
He moved—the whim of those that wished to see the novel sight.

Oh, heavens! and was this all they sought? to please a moment's pride,
Nor cared to know for one short hour this grand soul by their side;
But shook him off with dainty touch of well-gloved hand, and now—
Oh, would to God that all his life had been behind the plough?

And dare we hint that after this a bitter canker grew,
That all his aspirations sank, and took a paler hue;
That dark and darker grew the gloom till in the heedless town,
The struggling giant in his youth heart-wearied laid him down ?

What were his thoughts, that sad last hour, of earth—ah, who can tell!
When, by the column of his song our laurelled Cæsar fell ?
We ask but questions of the Sphinx; we only know that death,
Unclasped his singing robes in tears, but left untouched the wreath.

Thou carper; well we know at times he sung in wilder mirth,
Till the rapt angel of his song had one wing on the earth;
But canst thou wild volcanoes tame, to belch their hidden fire,
Without one stain of darker red to shame its glowing pyre ?

Back to thy native herd, and spend thy little shrunken day,
And if thou sting—for sting thou must—let it be common clay;
There live, nor step across this pale, but leave the right to heaven
To judge how far this soul has dimmed the splendours it has given.

For us who look with other eyes he stands in other light,
A great one stumbling on with hands outstretched to all the right;
Who, though his heart had shrunk beneath the doom that withers all,
Still wove a golden thread of song to stretch from cot to hall.

And now as when the mighty gods had fanes in ancient days,
And up the fluted columns swept great storms of throbbing praise,
So we to all, as in our heart this day with tender hand,
Uprear the marble shape of him, the Memnon of our land.

And sweeter sounds are ours than those which from that statue came,
When the red archer in the East smote it with shafts of flame;
We hear those melodies that made a glory crown our youth,
And wove around the staider man their spells of love and truth.

And still we walk within their light—a light that cannot die;
It streams forth from a purer sun and from a wider sky;
It crowns this heaven-born deputy of Song's supremest chords,
And leaps like altar flame along his soul-entrancing words.

Lo! take the prophet's reach of sight, and pass beyond the gloom,
Where thousands of our coming kind in thronging legions loom;
They, too, will come as we this hour with passionate worship wrung,
And place upon those mute, white lips, the grand great songs he sung.

Ho! then, stand bare of brow with me, no common name we sing,
And let the music in your hearts like thunder marches ring;
We hymn a name to which the heart of Scotland ever turns,
The master singer of us all, our ploughman—ROBERT BURNS!

 


__________________________

 
WALT WHITMAN.


STRONG poet of the sleepless gods that dwell
    As far above the stars as we beneath,
    Whose melody disdaining the soft sheath
Of dainty modern music, snaps the spell,
And careless of all form or fettering plan
    Clothes itself slovenly in rough, free words,
    And strikes with no soft touch the inner chords
That vibrate with the strong and healthy man.
    What if the ages that are yet to be,
    Emerging from the bloodless wars of thought,
Seize hollow custom, and at one keen blow
    Smite off its seven heads, and having smote,
Turn round, and with their larger veins aglow
    With new found vigour mould themselves to thee?

 


__________________________

 
GOETHE.


UP went the finger, but that royal eye,
    Whose cunning saw through human life, was dim,
    And fast becoming traitor unto him
Who used it with such magic.   Ever nigh
And nigher, death crept to the feeble heart;
    But, as the misty darkness came apace,
    There slowly rose upon the sinking face
The soul's desire of Faust—the better part,
Which, working through a long, long life, became
    A second being.   Wrapt in earthly bands,
    That now were giving way for other lands,
Whose light, slow dawning, was not held the same
As his—but as a darkness unto him—
"More light."   It came, and all grew still and dim.

 


__________________________

 
GETHSEMANE.


I WILL go into dark Gethsemane,
    In the night when none can see;
I will kneel by the side of Christ my Lord,
    And He will kneel down with me.

I will bow my head, for I may not look
    On that brow with its bloody dew,
Nor into those eyes of awful pain,
    With the dread cross shining through.

Then my soul rose up, as a man will rise
    Who hath high, stern words to speak,
And said, "Now what wilt thou do by Him
    With that sweat on brow and cheek?

"Canst thou drink from the cup he proffers thee?
    Canst thou quaff it at a breath?
For the dregs are sorrow and scorn and shame,
    The crown of thorns and death.

"Stand thou from afar, for thou canst not know
    That hour in Gethsemane.
Thou canst only know, in thine own dim way,
    That He strove that night for thee."

So I stand afar, and I bow my head;
    But I dare not look into those eyes,
Whose depths have the depths of the night
            around,
    With the starlight in the skies.

And my soul, as a friend will talk to a friend,
    Still whispers and speaks unto me,
"Thou canst only know in thine own dim way
    That hour in Gethsemane."

 


__________________________

 
THE POET.


LIKE a great tree beside the stream of life
    The visioned poet stands,
And scatters forth his leaves of thought all rife,
    As if from fairy hands.

And down, forever down the stream they float,
    And work into the heart,
And there, by virtue of the magic thought,
    Can never more depart.

But sleep unseen through all the weary day,
    And waken up betimes
In the sweet night to cheer our gloom away
    With their most pleasant chimes.

And in the hurry and the fret, the jar
    Of restless things they come,
And act like oil upon the tempest's war
    Till all the strife is dumb.

The labour of the wood and field, the slim
    White clouds within the sky,
Have secrets Nature only shows to him
    Who hath a poet's eye.

The unheard music and the gentle tones
    Which float along her breast,
Give up their being unto him alone,
    To tell it to the rest.

He is the necromancer who hath thrown
    Open a wealth untold,
And placed within our hands the fabled stone
    Whose touch turns all to gold.

O, noble poet, firm in thy great faith,
    And in thy truth and love,
I prize thee as I do the dead, whose death
    Has swelled the ranks above.

So in all earnestness my spirit sends
    Its homage unto thee;
But this is naught, for from the sky descends
    Thine immortality.

 


__________________________

 
ON THE STATUES OF
GOETHE AND SCHILLER
AT FRANKFORT-ON-THE MAINE.

 


TWO master spirits of German song, they stand
    Each by the side of each; the sculptor's thought
    Has guided the sure chisel, as it ought,
And placed the laurel wreath in Goethe's hand.
He holds it with that calm repose of face,
    True reflex of his life, and looks straight on;
    While Schiller, as if hearing some high tone
Playing within his life, has time to place
His finger tips within the wreath, but lifts
    His vision upward; type, too, of his life,
    That struggled, through thick clouds of early strife,
To the calm sunshine of all noble gifts.
Two spirits of melody—one broad and wise,
The other pure, and yearning still to rise.

 


__________________________

 
SHE'S AN AWFU' LASSIE JENNY.


SHE'S an awfu' lassie, Jenny,
    No' her like in a' the toon,
For her heid is fu' o' mischief,
    And her hair is hingin' doon.
What a faught maun ha'e her mither
    Frae the mornin' till the nicht,
But she's awfu' like her granny,
    An' that pits wee Jenny richt.

I ha'e tried to coort wee Jenny
    But she'll no' ha'e me ava',
She wad raither ha'e a penny
    To buy sweeties or a ba',
When I speak o' oor sweetheartin',
    Just as lown as lown can be,
Wad ye think it for a moment?
    She pits oot her tongue at me.

She's an awfu' lassie Jenny,
    Yet a denty, bonnie quean,
An' there's licht, an' love, an' lauchter
    A' at ance within her een.
Yet I ken fu' weel her mither
    Maun get mony an unco fricht,
But she's awfu' like her granny
    An' that pits wee Jenny richt.

 


__________________________

 
YARROW.


THE simmer day was sweet an' lang,
    It had nae thocht o' sorrow,
As my true love and I stood on
    The bonnie banks o' Yarrow.

I took her han' in mine an' said,
    "Noo smile, my winsome marrow;
The next time that we come again
    You'll be my bride on Yarrow."

A tear stood in her sweet blue ee,
    An' sair she sighed in sorrow,
"I dinna like the sugh that rins
    Alang your bonnie Yarrow.

"It soun's like some auld dirge o' wae,
    If chills my bosom thorough,
An' it makes me creep close to your side;
    Oh, I dinna like your Yarrow.

"For aye I think on the wae an' dule
    That auld, auld sang brings o'er me;
An' aye I see that bluidy fecht,
    An' the deid, deid men afore me."

I clasped my true love in my arms,
    I kissed her sweet lips thorough,
Her breast lay saft against my ain,
    On the bonnie banks o' Yarrow.

"A tear is in your sweet blue ee,
    A tear that speaks o' sadness.
Noo what should dim its happy hue,
    This simmer day o' gladness?

"The Yarrow rins fu' fresh an' sweet,
    The licht shines bricht an' clearly,
An' why should ae sad thocht be ours,
    We wha lo'e ither dearly?

"The Yarrow rins, an' as it rins
    Nae sadness can it borrow
Frae that auld sang that's far awa',
    When I'm wi' thee on Yarrow."

I pu'd a daisy at my feet,
    A daisy sweet an' bonnie,
I put it in my true love's breast,
    For she was fair as ony.

But aye she sighed, an' aye she said,
    "I fear me for the morrow.
Oh, tak' awa' your bonnie flower,
    For see, it grew on Yarrow.

"The bluid still dyes its crimson tips,
    It speaks o' dule an' sadness,
An' the deid that lay on the gowany brae,
    An' woman's wailing madness."

I took the daisy from her breast,
    I flung it into Yarrow,
An' doon the stream wi' heavy heart
    I cam' wi' my sweet marrow.

Oh simmer months, hoo swift ye flew,
    Wi' a' your bloom an' blossom!
Oh Death, how waefu' was thy touch
    That took her to thy bosom!

For my true love, sae sweet an' fair,
    Lies in her grave sae narrow,
An' in my heart is that eerie moan
    She heard that day in Yarrow.


ED.—The Yarrow is a river in the Borders in the south east of Scotland.  A tributary of the River Ettrick, it is renowned for its salmon fishing.

 


__________________________

 
THE STEPPING STONES.


WE met upon the stepping stones,
    She blushed and looked at me;
The river turned its short, sharp moans
    Into sweet melody.

I heard the music in my heart,
    I said, "Sweet maid, I find
That I will have to turn again,
    And let you come behind."

Thereat she hung her dainty head,
    The river's melody
Grew sweeter, and methought it said,
    "The maid will follow thee."

I turned upon the stepping stone,
    The maiden came behind;
She whispered in her sweetest tone,
    "Dear sir, but you are kind."

"Nay, nay," I said, and took her hand;
    "But shall I turn again,
Or wait until a tender band
    Be bound about us twain?"

She hung her head, then, blushing, said,
    "Dear sir, but you are kind;
If you will cross the stepping stones,
    I will not stay behind."

 


__________________________

 
ROW, KELLO, ROW.


ROW, Kello, row frae rocky linns,
    An' through amang thy grassy braes,
Where gowans grow an' hawthorns blaw,
    An' sunshine sleeps on summer days.
Slip saftly by the quarry howm,
    Where hingin' hazels hap thy tides;
Then murmur through aneath the brig,
    An' by the cot where Annie bides.

Row, Kello, row to where the Nith
    Half waits to clasp thy floods sae clear,
But leave ahin' the happy soun'
    That Annie still delights to hear.
She walks by thee when gloamin' dims
    An' darkens doon the vocal glen,
But what her ain sweet thochts can be
    Nane but hersel' an' thee may ken.

Row, Kello, row when summer flings
    A wealth o' licht the hills alang,
An' row when autumn's yellow han'
    Shakes doon the nits the leaves amang.
An' row when winter's rouky breath
    Strips a' the cleedin' frae the tree,
But leave to Annie still the thochts
    At gloamin' when she walks by thee.

 


__________________________

 
THE DOVE.


A DOVE went up, and struck the air
    Impatiently with all her wing;
    I said, "O bird thy journeying
Is like the flight of thought.   But where,

"In all the regions of the sky,
    When weary, and you wish to roam
    No longer, do you find a home?"
And meekly did the dove reply—

"I own no fancy; I am free,
    And, shooting through the yielding air,
    I look and find that all is fair,
And beautiful and sweet to me.

"And wish, when tired, no sweeter rest
    Than drooping down with folded wing
    Within a wood whose shadows cling
Across the river's dreaming breast."

"Well said, O bird, whose days are rife
    With all the peace of rest and love,
    And linked to quiet things that move
Around the orb of poet-life."

 


__________________________

 
THE PIPER'S TREE.


COME in, gudeman, to your ain fireside,
    There's a cauld, cauld grup in the air,
An' the win' blaws snell frae Corsencon,
    For the winter's snaw is there.

It sughs down Glenmuckloch Dryfestane glens
    Wi' an eerie, eerie soun',
It whussles an' roars in the muckle tree
    That stan's afore Nethertoon.

Come in, come in to the weans an' me,
    The fire is lowin' bricht;
If ye stan' ony langer there, ye'll get
    Your death o' cauld this nicht.

Do you hear me speak?   What can mak' him turn
    His back on his ain dear wife,
Wha has stood by him through mony a faucht
    For fifty years o' her life?

Is he coontin' his purse?   Oh, waes me noo,
    Oh, wae for my bairns an' me;
The curse that my grannie tauld me has come—
    He has sat on the Piper's Tree!

For after she tauld me, when I was a wean,
    That, whaever sat by nicht
On the Piper's Tree, took a lust for gowd,
    And made it their hale delicht.

An' the sign o' the Piper's curse was this:
    That, whaever it micht be,
They wad coont their purse at pleuch or cairt,
    Wi' a greedy look in their ee.

Come in, gudeman, for my heart is sair,
    Come in to the lowin' licht,
An' "I'll tell ye the doom o' the Piper's Tree,
    For the gude o' us a' this nicht.

Langsyne, afore my grannie was born,
    On a nicht o' win' an' rain,
Auld Eadie Buchan, the miser, was faun',
    Lyin' dead on his ain hearthstane.

He was killed for the sake o' the siller he had,
    For he made it his only pride,
But, whaever it was that had dune the deed,
    They fled frae the kintra side.

An' years an' years gaed by, until
    The tale took anither turn,
An' they said that his gowd was aneath a tree
    By the side o' the Laggeray Burn.

But a curse wad be sure to fa' on him
    Wha wad try to howk for it there,
For ilk' coin was red wi' bluid, and still
    The miser's ghaist was there.

But lang Tam Cringan lauched an' lauched,
    An' said, wi' a lood guffaw,
"It's an auld wife's story to fricht the bairns,
    As a bogle frichts a craw."

But aye after that he was seen to stan'
    By himsel' an' coont his purse,
While the look in his ee was the look that comes
    At the back o' the Piper's curse.

In a week after that what a change took place,
    For white, white grew his hair;
He never lookit ye straucht in the face,
    An' he jokit an' leuch nae mair.

He dwined and dwined on his feet, until
    He took to his bed an' lay,
But the neebors whispered, "Afore he dees
    He has something yet to say."

So ae drear nicht, as they sat by his bed,
    He said, wi' mony a mane,
"Since the nicht that I socht for the miser's gowd
    My peace o' mind has been gane.

"An' I canna rest wi' this wecht on my breast,
    Sae, afore I steek my ee,
I maun tell ye sichts that I saw, an' the soun's
    That I heard by the Piper's Tree.

"For days an' days, like ane in a dream,
    I daun'ered oot an' in;
For my heart was set on the miser's wealth,
    Though I kenned fu' weel 'twas a sin.

"I coontit my purse ilk' hour o' the day,
    An' whenever I heard the clink
O' the siller I faun' my heart grow hard,
    An' closer an' closer shrink,

"Till at length, with an aith, I said to mysel',
    In the heicht o' greed an' despair,
'I will venture the lastin' gude o' my saul,
    For the sake o' the siller there.'

"Sae I slippit oot on a munelicht nicht,
    Took a gude stoot pick an' shule,
Stood aneath the Piper's Tree an' heard
    The Laggeray Burn sing dule.

"I wrocht, an' I wrocht, as ane will work
    Wha works for life an' death,
Till the black sweat fell in draps frae my brow,
    An' I scarce could draw my breath.

"But, aye the deeper I howkit, my heart
    Grew harder an' harder still;
An' every thocht that cam' into my heid
    Was a thocht o' sin an' ill.

"I faun' that if even a brither o' mine
    Had come to help me there,
The sin o' his bluid wad been on my heid,
    For the sake o' gettin' his share.

"But a' at ance, an' abune my heid,
    I heard the bagpipes play,
An' at the soun' the munelicht fled
    Frae hill, an' glen, an' brae.

"An' I saw the glint o' an eerie licht,
    That seemed like a ghaist to rise
Frae the breckaned heicht o' the steep Knowe Hill,
    Where gude Saint Connel lies.

"An' doon it cam' like a wauf o' the win',
    Wi' the sugh o' the Laggeray Burn,
An' aye the bagpipes skirled an' played,
    But my heid I couldna turn.

"I faun' the sweat rin cauld doon my back,
    An' trickle into my shune,
But I hadna the power to lift my heid,
    To see wha played abune.

"But, just as that licht gaed flauffin' by,
    I saw what made me grue,
A lang, thin shape, wi' its heid bent doon,
    An' a red, red mark on its broo.

"An' I saw its han's gang up an' doon,
    What they did I couldna tell,
But I thocht they were coontin' the ghaists o' coin,
    As I used to do mysel'.

"It glided doon to the side o' the Nith,
    Then turned as if to come back,
But the win' took it doon till it sank frae my sicht
    On the lang green howms o' the Rack.

"An' aye the bagpipes skirled an' played,
    An' looder an' looder grew;
An' aye the hair stood up on my heid,
    An' the cauld sweat fell frae my broo.

"Then a' at ance the bagpipes ceased,
    While an eerie, ghaistly cry
Rang oot on the nicht, an' took to the air
    To dee on the hills ootbye.

" 'Howk on,' it said, 'an' gang deeper yet,
    It wants but an hour o' twal';
I wuss ye may licht on the miser's gowd,
    For I want to be sure o' yer saul.'

"Then I lookit up, an' abune my heid
    (Oh, whatna sicht did I see
In the mirk, mirk nicht by the deein' mune,
    On the tap o' the Piper's Tree!)

"I saw twa een that werena like een,
    They were red as a lowin' peat;
A pair o' horns that were three feet lang,
    An' feet that werena like feet.

"But I saw nae mair, for, wi' ae lood cry
    That took the last o' my breath,
I lap frae the hole that was like my grave,
    An' I ran for life an' death."

Oh, ye needna lauch at me, gudeman,
    For grannie wadna lee,
An' said there was mair than fowk wad own
    O' truth in the Piper's Tree.

That nicht Tam Cringan dee'd, an' juist
    As they laid him oot in his shrood,
They heard a soun' like the bagpipes skirl,
    An' it cam' frae the Laggeray Wood.

Fu' weel did they ken wha was playin' there;
    The thocht sent the bluid frae their cheek,
An' siccan a fear was on ane an' a'
    That nane o' them daur to speak.

The soun' cam' up like a risin' win'
    When the winter nichts are lang,
They heard it skirl at the chimla tap,
    Till a voice was heard in the thrang—

"Howk on," it cried, " for the miser's gowd,
    Howk on wi' a' your micht;
Had the deid ye watch got my wuss, I ken
    Where his saul wad ha'e been the nicht."

The win' fell doon, an' the eerie soun'
    Creepit up to the hills ootbye,
An' there they sat wi' the deid at their side
    Till the licht cam' into the sky.

It's an auld wife's havers, ye say, gudeman!
    But still, to this very day,
When the mune draps owre the Kirkland Hills
    Ye can hear the bagpipes play.

But nane daur venture up the burn
    To see wha is playin' there,
For they ken o' the curse that is sure to fa'
    Wi' its weird baith lang an' sair.

Sae ye needna lauch at me, gudeman,
    For my grannie wadna lee,
An' said there was mair than fowk wad own
    O' truth in the Piper's Tree.

 


__________________________

 
AIMLESS LONGINGS.


I AM full of an aimless longing
    As I wander about to-day;
I turn from the light and shadow
    As they chase each other at play.

I hear a wild bird calling—
    A lonely cry from the hill;
And the haunting sense in my bosom,
    Grows deeper and lonelier still.

What it can be I know not,
    I cannot read it aright;
And I wander as men will wander
    That stray from the path in the night.

Is it a sense of something
    That to-day still follows me;
That out of my life has vanished,
    As a ship goes down at sea?

 


__________________________

 
BALLOCHMYLE.


A SWEET love-song, whose early touch—
    Ere yet the master-hand grew strong
To strike the chords that felt at such
    The wondrous magic of his song—
Was with me, speaking soft and sweet
    From leaf-clad tree, and from the smile
Of half-hid flowers among my feet,
    That summer night in Ballochmyle.

The Ayr was hushed from bank to bank;
    Its murmur, coming through the trees.
Was as of fairies when they prank
    Their moonlight revels o'er the leas.
It mingled with the tender tone
    Of lover's earnest plea and wile,
As I stood listening all alone,
    That summer night in BallochmyIe.

There was no breath of wind to stir
    The grass that grew beside my feet,
But silent as a worshipper,
    When thought and silence are most sweet,
I stood: I felt my heart grow warm
    With that soft dew of unshed tears
That comes, when, as beneath a charm,
    We slip back into vanished years.

The spot was fair, but fairer still
    In that high light which falls from song—
So fair that, bending to its will,
    I only did this gentle wrong—
I plucked some grass, a token meet,
    To take with me.   No idle toil!
Since it perchance had kissed the feet
    Of her, the "Lass o' Ballochmyle.''

The night came on, and in the sky,
    A little space of which was seen
Between the trees, upon the eye
    One star shone out with wondrous sheen.
It wore the tender look of love,
    As if some link to me unknown
Had bound it to this spot, and strove
    To make this haunted place its own.

Sweet dream! for here love's very soul
    Might dwell, and feel no taint of earth,
But wander to its passionate goal,
    Or dream, and, dreaming grow to birth.
Here might his feet for ever stay,
    And here his heart for ever dream,
Without one wish to roam or stray
    Beyond the music of the stream.

The moon rose up, and, all at once,
    From leafy branch and trembling grass,
A murmur, like a sweet response,
    Came forth, and sweet to hear it was.
And with that murmur came the light,
    That flung o'er all a tender smile;
And deepened still the fairy sight
    That held me bound in Ballochmyle.

But is there not a softer gleam,
    Which is not of the moon, that lies
On grassy bank and wood and stream,
    And touching makes them sanctities—
A light that, shining far apart,
    Is only for the inner eye,
That sees the glory of that art
    Which speaks in burning melody?

Hush! do I wake or dream? for lo!
    A spirit wanders up the glen,
And as he comes a deeper glow
    Bathes all that lies within his ken.
He moves as in some mood of thought,
    And in the glory which he throws
Around him his dark eye has caught
    That frenzy which the poet knows.

He leans against a tree, he turns
    His eye upon the shining stream,
And in its burning depths there yearns
    The first sunrise of passion's dream.
Where have I seen that swarthy face
    Which now is radiant with the light
Of that high look that wears no trace
    Of earth or death to mortal sight?

Lo! yet another spirit comes
    With lighter foot and fairer face,
Each leaf in murmurous music hums
    As on she moves with pensive pace.
The Ayr grows hushed, and will not speak,
    And only one sweet breath of wind
Kisses the roses on her cheek,
    And sways the grass that throbs behind.

She pauses, slowly turns her eye
    On him, the poet spirit, bent
In half-adoring ecstasy,
    As to some angels heaven-sent.
Then with a low yet tender sigh
    She beckons him: they both pass on,
And all the light grows dim, and I
    Am left in Ballochmyle alone.

I wake up.   Am I still beneath
    The spell of all that early tone,
Whose music, like the spring's sweet breath,
    Hath made this fairy spot its own?
The star shines through the open space,
    The moonlight quivers all around,
And lays sweet hands of tender grace
    Upon this consecrated ground.

Oh, early love-song haunting yet
    The spot where the immortal trod,
And breathing, where his feet were set,
    The music of the singing god.
Oh, maid for ever young! for who,
    When caught and held by magic song,
Can feel the years that bear from view
    The common lot that plods along?

Ah me! we pass.   But through this wood
    Our swarthy singer still will roam,
And muse in high poetic mood
    Apart from all the years to come.
While she, his sister-spirit, strong
    In her unfading beauty's smile,
Will move throughout the land of song,
    "The bonnie lass o' Ballochmyle."

 


__________________________

 
THINKING OF MICHAEL.


(A Letter from the "Dead."—Upon the tin water-bottle of one of the dead men brought out of the Seaham Pit, Michael Smith, there was scratched, evidently with a nail, the following letter to his wife:—"Dear Margaret,—There was forty of us altogether at 7 a.m., some was singing hymns, but my thought was on my little Michael, I thought that him and I would meet in heaven at the same time.  Oh, my dear wife, God save you and the children.  Be sure and learn the children to pray for me.  Oh, what a terrible position we are in.—Michael Smith, 54, Henry Street."  The Little Michael he refers to was his child whom he had left at home ill.  The lad died on the day of the explosion.)


IN the chamber of death underground,
    Came these words to touch men to the heart,
Bring tears to the eyes, and a sound
    Of a sorrow that strikes like a dart.
Hear you not that low wail coming through
    The death-gloom of that chamber so grim?
"I was thinking of Michael and you
    When the others were singing a hymn.

"I thought—not of death that would come—
    It was nothing, dear wife, unto me;
I was thinking of you and our home,
    And how little Michael would be.
My God, what a fate we can view
    In this deep vault that drips like our tears!
But still I was thinking of Michael and you,
    With the sound of a hymn in my ears.

"Then I thought I would meet him above,
    Both at once enter in at the gate,
Clasp his hand, hear his whisper of love,
    With no hint of the earth and my fate,
Lead him into the light of that land,
    Where no shadow may enter to dim—
All this in the midst of a band
    Of my mates who were singing a hymn.

"Oh, pray for me, wife, when at night
    Our children climb up on your knee;
When the hearth is still dark from the blight,
    Oh, teach them a prayer for me!
Let their voices go up to our God,
    Who through this dark shadow can see;
He will hear from the heights of His sinless abode
    Their prayers for you and for me.

"Farewell! and afar in the years
    That will deaden thy sorrow's deep smart,
And thine eyes only soften with tears
    When my name stirs and leaps at thy heart,
You will say, when you think upon me
    And this death-cavern, rugged and grim,
'He was thinking how Michael would be
    When the others were singing a hymn.'

"Oh, fathers and mothers that peer
    Down into that terrible mine,
See ye not, far too deep for a tear,
    A love that was almost divine?
That father, waiting for death to come,
    But still, in the midst of his fears,
Thinking of poor little Michael at home,
    With the sound of a hymn in his ears.


ED.—a massive explosion occurred at Seaham Pit, County Durham, on the 8th September 1880, claiming 164 lives out of a shift of 230 men.  It happened, without warning, at 2.20 a.m. in the morning, during a maintenance shift, when no coal was being worked and thus no escape of explosive gas was expected.  The cause seems to have been a shot fired in an area of stone, where there was a considerable amount of dust on the ground that was disturbed during the work preparing a 'refuge hole'; and it was this dust suspended in the air that ignited with tremendous effect.  No one from the immediate area survived; many others were trapped and died before rescuers could unblock the shafts and reach them.

See also Joseph Skipsey, "The Hartley Calamity"

 


__________________________

 
CONNELBUSH.


I HEAR the winds of summer rush
    Above my head to-day,
As here I sit by Connelbush
    To dream one hour away.

Beside the old green walls are seen,
    Half hid amid the grass,
Stray flowers that peep out from their
            screen
    In sorrow as you pass.

The garden lies a wilderness
    Of growth untrained and free;
There is no hand to touch and dress
    To bounds the life I see.

The walls still stand to mourn and sigh
    For mirth that once was there,
In other years when youth was high
    And days and nights were fair.

And still the winds round Connelbush
    Blow sweet through glen and wood,
As when we heard them with the rush
    Of youth through all our blood.

But still they do not seem to blow
    With that sweet force we felt
When, in the years of long ago,
    Our hearts were quick to melt.

The garden fence is broken down,
    Unhinged the garden gate,
The roof of thatch has sunk and flown,
    And all is desolate.

There is no welcome at the door,
    No kindly voice to greet;
And on the path is heard no more
    The sound of human feet.

I hear the tinkle of the stream
    That slips beneath the grass;
I hear, and as I hear I dream,
    And into visions pass.

I enter through the narrow door,
    The fire gleams bright within;
And all, as it was once of yore,
    Is full of mirth and din.

I hear the sound of dancing feet,
    Of rustic revelry,
Of voices rising clear and sweet—
    And each is known to me.

Beside the fire, and in her place,
    Sits one to sympathise;
The light is on her kindly face,
    And in her kindly eyes.

She watches with a quiet smile
    The mirth and pastime there,
And, watching, she is young the while,
    Though snow-white is her hair.

Beside her, in the hearth's sweet blaze
    And leaning on her knee,
Is one—a woman in her ways—
    Though but a child is she.

She, too, is full of quick reply
    When laughing questions pass;
And catches with a ready eye
    The wiles of lad and lass.

Another, too, who bears a part
    In all this rustic life—
True woman of a daughter's heart,
    Who art as true a wife.

Thou walkest other paths this hour,
    For life's paths so divide;
And thine are full of gracious dower,
    With children by thy side.

What can I wish to-day for thee,
    If human joys should last,
But that the future years may be
    As calm as were the past.

Hush, as I look a strange sad shade
    Falls down upon the hearth,
And dame and grandchild slowly fade,
    And pass from all the mirth.

Ah, me, that shade is death, and they
    Look through its tender haze
With that half-joy that fades away,
    And saddens as we gaze.

Fades, too, the sound of dance and song
    The last good-night is said,
And up the pathway pass along
    The last fond youth and maid.

The twilight sinks, the shadows fall,
    A sense of something lost
Comes down and settles over all,
    And haunts it like a ghost.

The ashes dwindle in the grate,
    The last dull spark is gone,
The walls and roof are desolate,
    And here I stand alone.

The winds blow sweet by Connelbush,
    They fan my brow and cheek,
And in the pauses, when they hush,
    I hear the streamlet speak.

I mark on hills the shadowings
    That march in sad array
From clouds that float above, like wings
    Of angels flung away.

And from low-lying meadow lands
    Along the Nith I hear,
Uprising from haymaking bands,
    Sweet laughter swift and clear.

And down the valley, further on,
    Lies Sanquhar dim, and grey,
Still guarded by its pile of stone,
    That crumbles day by day.

I look, and right in front is seen,
    Beyond the wood and stream,
A long and narrow bank of green,
    On which the metals gleam.

And up and down, with rush and roar,
    Trains crash with seven-leagued stride;
Ah me, this moaning human shore
    Must have its iron tide.

But here from lonely Connelbush
    All life has fled away,
And nought is heard but winds that rush
    And sport with its decay.

No welcome at the door to wake
    The silence into mirth;
No sound but that of winds that shake
    The weeds upon the hearth.

Farewell, but as I turn, my thought
    Perforce is backward set,
And shadows all this lonely cot
    With mists of vain regret.

Alas for human dreams that leave,
    Instead of after-glow,
Cold memories that pine and grieve,
    And sadden as we go.

Till, battling with the years, at last
    They sink into decay,
And lie a ruin in the past,
    Like Connelbush to-day.

 


__________________________

 
A VOICE IS IN THE WIND TO-DAY.


A VOICE is in the wind to-day,
    And sweet its breath is blowing;
O, welcome summer wind I say,
    From where the flowers are growing.

I feel the smell of meadows sweet,
    With many blossoms showing,
As if the touch of fairy feet,
    Set all their beauty glowing.

I know each spot where violets peep,
    I bless them in their growing;
But O their breath is sweet to keep,
    When summer winds are blowing.

"What makes them smell so sweet to-day?
    Say wind, and good betide thee;"
And the wind came like a child from play,
    And laughed and stood beside me.

The wind said, "I am from the hill,
    With scents of blossom laden;
But I, to make them sweeter still,
    In passing kissed a maiden."

 


__________________________

 
THE SORROW OF THE SEA.


A DAY of fading light upon the sea;
    Of sea-birds winging to their rocky caves;
And ever, with its monotone to me,
    The sorrow of the waves.

They leap and lash among the rocks and sands,
    White-lipped, as with a guilty secret tossed,
Forever feeling with their foamy hands
    For something they have lost.

Far out, and swaying in a sweet unrest,
    A boat or two against the light are seen,
Dipping their sides within the liquid breast
    Of waters dark and green.

And farther still, where sea and sky have kissed,
    There falls as if from heaven's own threshold, light
Upon faint hills that, half-enswathed in mist,
    Wait for the coming night.

But still, though all this life and motion meet,
    My thoughts are wingless and lie dead in me,
Or dimly stir to answer, at my feet,
    The sorrow of the sea.

 


__________________________

 
ONE STAR ALONE.


ONE star alone from the blue sky
    Looks down upon the simple stream,
With such a quiet, loving eye,
    That I perforce must dream.

And so I wish, if my rough brow
    Should seam and furrow with the strife,
The star that leaps and kindles now
    Might light my path of life.

That I, when weary with the fight,
    And wishing for a rest at length,
Might look and draw from out its light
    A comfort and a strength.

And gird my soul with stronger powers
    To fight the lower thought and deed,
That agitate this life of ours
    As winds will shake the reed.

But still in moods of calmer tone,
    I feel a longing to retire,
And watch the broad world all alone,
    And plod, but not aspire.

For I have thought, and still I think,
    'Tis wiser that our lives should be
Like this fair stream within its brink,
    So quiet, so calm and free.

Or like that star above, which beams
    For ever down in holy mirth,
Than wed the heart to idle dreams,
    Whose goal is still the earth.

O let me spend my little hour
    In all the calm that Nature gives—
Profuse in plenitude of dower
    Where each mute being lives.

For in the hush of her sweet face,
    The soul will burst its earth-forged hands,
And wing its flight to purer space
    In other purer lands.

Therefore it comes that still I love
    The dim, sweet twilight, and the light
That comes, like whispers, from above,
    And shines on me to-night.

 


__________________________

 
A SOUND IS IN MY EAR TO-DAY.


A SOUND is in my ear to-day,
    And playful fancies with it throng;
It follows me and all the way
    It haunts me like a snatch of song.

I know not what it all may mean,
    I dimly ask myself, and say,
"Something that thou hast heard or seen,
    In some forgotten summer day.

"A summer day when paradise
    Lay near to earth as near could be,
When all the hills were red with fire,
    And heather humming with the bee."

And it is this; an upland gleam
    Of sunshine such as warms and thrills;
The tinkle of a quiet stream,
    That broke the stillness of the hills.

 


__________________________

 
THE LIFE-BOAT.


THE sea, as by some inner demon stung,
    Hath burst its glassy prison, and on high
A thousand waves in black despair are flung
    In foaming supplication to the sky.

They yawn with fangs half-hidden by the spray,
    And hiss and roar with madness in their breath,
And, blind with hate, for ever seek their prey,
    To drag it downward to their gulfs of death.

The winds are in high holiday; they shear
    Their way through spray and cloud, and high and
            strong
Put forth their mighty strength until they bear
    The billows downward as they roar along.

Between the waves there seethes a mimic hell,
    Gaping with foam-flecked maw to swallow all—
For who can quench such thirst? or weave a spell
    Over the anger of their carnival?

Lo, how they toss, as if from hand to hand,
    That ship far out where help seems all in vain,
And thin white faces turning to the land
    Whose only hope is to despair again.

Their ship is but a plaything for the sea,
    A speck for winds to buffet and to toss—
Who will put out! although his life should be
    Within his hand, to fling away like dross?

"Out with the life-boat!   Willing hands are here,
    Stout muscles, ay, and stouter hearts to fight,
Give way, give way, and with a voice of cheer,
    We must save lives before the fall of night."

Between them and the ship that staggers on,
    The waves like liquid phalanxes of steel
Rise up to bar their way with hiss and moan,
    Till the staunch life-boat shakes from deck to keel.

But still she cleaves her way through stormy rifts;
    In front the swooping sea-gulls show her path,
Until she seems a speck that sinks and lifts
    Amid a thousand howling gulfs of wrath.

And those who stand in horror on the shore,
    Watching the hell of shaking darkness there,
Hear their hearts throb an answer to its roar,
    Now touching hope and now again despair.

Will they come back?   The moments lengthen out,
    Until they seem like hours to those who wait.
At last that far-off speck has put about;
    But who can say what yet shall be its fate?

The storm, as if unconscious of defeat,
    Re-marshals all its seething ranks of waves,
And, led by shrieking winds with foam-hid feet,
    Swoops on the staunch true hearts, and roars and
            raves.

But battling still with every wave that strives
    To bear them back with rushing surge and sweep,
They gain the shore at last with human lives
    Wrenched from the white teeth of the tigerish deep.

Brave hearts beneath rough bosoms!   Well we knew
    How ye would rise to God and Christ's own plan,
And stand heroic in the tasks ye do.
    Grand is the sea, but grander still is man!

ED.—see also Samuel Layock, A Tribute to the Drowned and Prologue; and
Thomas Clounie's The Rescue

 


__________________________

 
WILD FLOWERS FROM ALLOWAY AND DOON.


NO book to-night; but let me sit
And watch the firelight change and flit,
And let me think of other lays
Than those that shake our modern days.
Outside, the tread of passing feet
Along the unsympathetic street
Is naught to me; I sit and hear
Far other music in my ear,
That, keeping perfect time and tune,
Whispers of Alloway and Doon.

The scent of withered flowers has brought
A fresher atmosphere of thought,
In which I make a realm, and see
A fairer world unfold to me;
For grew they not upon that spot
Of sacred soil that loses naught
Of sanctity by all the years
That come and pass like human fears?
They grew beneath the light of June,
And blossomed on the banks of Doon.

The waving woods are rich with green,
And sweet the Doon flows on between;
The winds tread light upon the grass,
That shakes with joy to feel them pass;
The sky, in its expanse of blue,
Has but a single cloud or two;
The lark, in raptures clear and long,
Shakes out his little soul in song,
But far above his notes, I hear
Another song within my ear
Rich, soft, and sweet, and deep by turns—
The quick, wild passion-throbs of Burns.

Ah! were it not that he has flung
A sunshine by the songs he sung
On fields and woods of "Bonnie Doon,"
These simple flowers had been a boon
Less dear to me; but since they grew
On sacred spots which once he knew,
They breathe, though crushed and shorn of bloom,
To-night within this lonely room,
Such perfumes, that to me prolong
The passionate sweetness of his song.
The glory of an early death
Was his; and the immortal wreath
Was wrought round brows that had not felt
The furrows that are roughly dealt
To age; nor had the heart grown cold
With haunting fears that, taking hold,
Cast shadows downward from their wing,
Until we doubt the songs we sing.
But his was lighter doom of pain,
To pass in youth, and to remain
For ever fair and fresh and young,
Encircled by the youth he sung.

And so to me these simple flowers
Have sent through all my dreaming hours
His songs again, which, when a boy,
Made day and night a double joy.
Nor did they sink and die away
When manhood came with sterner day,
But still amid the jar and strife,
The rush and clang of railway life,
They rose up, and at all their words
I felt my spirit's inner chords
Thrill with their old sweet touch, as now,
Though middle manhood shades my brow;
For though I hear the tread of feet
Along the unsympathetic street,
And all the city's din to-night,
My heart warms with that old delight,
In which I sit and, dreaming, hear
Singing to all the inner ear,
Rich, clear, and soft, and sweet by turns,
The deep, wild passion-throbs of Burns.

 


__________________________

 
A BLACKBIRD'S NEST.


(In the month of May, 1884, might be seen, at the Forth Bridge Works, South Queensferry, a blackbird sitting on her nest, which was built on an elevated projecting beam in the engineering shed, in close proximity to the driving-shed, and immediately above a powerful steam-engine.)


SHE sits upon her nest all day,
    Secure amid the toiling din
Of serpent belts that coil and play,
    And, moaning, ever twist and spin.

What cares she for the noise and whirr
    Of clanking hammers sounding near?
A mother's heart has lifted her
    Beyond a single touch of fear.

Beneath her, throbbing anvils shout,
    And lift their voice with ringing peal,
While engines groan and toss about
    Their tentacles of gleaming steel.

Around her, plates of metal, smote
    And beat upon by clutch and strain,
Take shape beneath the grasp of thought—
    The mute Napoleon of the brain.

She careth in nowise for this,
    But, as an anxious mother should,
Dreams of a certain coming bliss—
    The rearing of her callow brood.

Thou little rebel, thus to fly
    The summer shadows of the trees,
The sunlight of the gracious sky,
    The tender toying of the breeze.

What made thee leave thy leafy home,
    The deep hid shelter of the tree,
The sounds of wind and stream, and come
    To where all sounds are strange to thee?

Thou wilt not answer anything;
    Thy thoughts from these are far away;
Five little globes beneath thy wing,
    Are all thou thinkest on to-day.

 


__________________________

 
ONE RED ROSE.


ONE red rose you took from my hand—
    O the light was sweet that summer day—
One red rose from her queenly band,
    That was far too sweet to pine away.

"Come I will pluck thee," I said to the rose—
    O the light was sweet that summer day—
"And give thee to one who is pure, God knows,
    To wear thee though blooming from May to May."

I plucked the rose with a leaf or two—
    O the light was sweet that summer day—
Rose bloom on the breast of one who is true,
    Whatever her sisters may hint or say.

Then the rose made answer, "What if I fade"—
    O the light was sweet that summer day—
"Fade on the breast on which I am laid,
    And my beams grow dark in their sad decay."

Then I thus made answer and said to the rose—
    O the light was sweet that summer day—
"Die, and the breath of your incense grows
    A memory sweet, that shall last for aye."

 


__________________________

 
THE POET'S VISION.


THE poet looks on human things,
And, as his mood is, so he sings,
And lets his fingers touch the strings.

And as they stray the chords along,
He gives the passionate lover song,
And greater strength to help the strong.

He lifts the weak; with flashing eye,
He launches bolts at tyranny
That slowly withers ere it die.

When war looms like a red eclipse,
He grasps with whitening finger tips
The sword—the bugle at his lips.

And when 'mid wheeling drifts of smoke,
The charging front ranks interlock,
His is the spirit in each stroke.

He sees beneath the veil of things,
The undercurrent as it swings;
The touch that heals, the prick that stings.

The inward wound that inward bleeds,
The doubts that undermine our creeds,
Our holiest faiths, our highest needs.

The madness and the dull despair,
The bitter canker everywhere,
He sees and builds a beacon there.

He sees through life, he sees afar,
And at the end death as a bar,
And stopping there he lights a star.

For unto him is freely given
The fire that flashed, and fell from heaven,
To make him strive as he has striven.

 


__________________________

 
MARY MORRISON.


THAT nicht the dancin' schule was dune,
    We had a ball to end the spree;
An' Willie Stewart played the tune,
    An' cockit up fu' gleg his ee.
But dim that nicht an' a' I see,
    An' gane that time o' mirth an' fun;
But ae thing still comes back to me,
    I danced wi' Mary Morrison.

Noo, could it be an auld love sang
    The Master-spirit left us here
Was in my head an' workin' thrang—
    I hadna time to think or spier?
It took me a' my time to steer
    Through couples till the dance was dune;
But aye a voice was in my ear,
    Ye've danced wi' Mary Morrison.

What lang dreich years ha'e fled since then,
    What things ha'e come, what things ha'e gane,
And some are in a foreign lan',
    Some sleep aneath their ain heid stane.
The lads an' lasses unco fain
    Are far an' wide as leaves are blown,
An' here I'm sittin' a' my lane,
    But where is Mary Morrison?

 


__________________________

 
THE AUTUMN LEAF.


AH, dear, we part for ever,
    You with a longing sigh,
I with a heart that never
    Can thrill with beauty nigh.
I know that time discloses
    Brief joy and longer grief;
To you the time of roses
    To me the autumn leaf.

I take the leaf and wear it,
    With all the pain it brings;
The bitter winds they tear it
    As to my brow it clings.
But time, the still offender,
    Gives of his gifts the chief;
To you the rose's splendour,
    To me the autumn leaf.

A little time for mating
    Is all the gods allow,
A little room for hating
    And then they veil the brow.
They give where love reposes
    A space as swift and brief
To you the time of roses
    To me the autumn leaf.

 


__________________________

 
A DREAM OF YARROW.


UPON the rails I work away,
    The rails sae slim an' narrow,
But in my heart this summer day
    I hear the rush o' Yarrow.

I hum the sang, the auld, auld sang,
    That thrills us to the marrow,
An' as I sing I lie in thocht
    Upon the Banks o' Yarrow.

What care I for the ringin' clank
    O' rail, an' key, an' hammer;
The engines roarin' up an' doon,
    Wi' shriek an' dusty clamour?

Up Mail an' doon Express may pass
    Wi' roar, an' shriek, an' rattle,
An' smoke an' steam may whirl aboot,
    As over some wild battle;

But I have still my double life
    To cheer me in my sorrow,
An' so within my heart to-day
    I hear the rush o' Yarrow.

I see the birks wave in the win',
    The simmer sunshine glintin',
The flowers that keek frae oot each nook,
    Wi' a' their gowden tintin';

I hear the birds amang the trees
    Sing with a touch of sorrow,
For still I think that as they sing,
    They ken they lilt in Yarrow.

O, sweet love-sang o' auld, auld days,
    What hauntin' magic hovers
Around each simple note an' line,
    An' speaks of love and lovers!

Hush, who is this frae Tinnis' Bank,
    That comes with wail an' weeping,
An' kneels to clasp within her arms
    A form that still seems sleeping?

Her hair hings doon upon his face—
    (He never heeds his marrow);
Her pale lips redden wi' the blood
    O' him that lies in Yarrow.

Wha can it be that lifts his heid,
    An' kisses his lips thorough?
But Mary Scott, the boast o' a',
    The bonnie Flower o' Yarrow.

The very birks they ken her name,
    They sigh it in their sorrow;
It's in the win' frae Yarrow braes;
    It's in the rush o' Yarrow.

O, sweet love-sang o' auld, auld days,
    What hauntin' magic hovers
Around each simple note an' line,
    An' speaks of love an' lovers!

That as I work an' toil away
    Upon the rails sae narrow,
I hear far down within my heart
    The soughin' o' the Yarrow.

But as I dream within my ear,
    The engines as they thunder
Along the gleaming of the rail
    Shriek out in smoky wonder:—

"What! in this time of rail and wheel,
    When brain meets brain to marrow,
Can there still be a single fool
    Who thinks and dreams of Yarrow?"

Ah, yes, I whisper to myself,
    The music that has bound us,
Has tones that will not chord with those
    The past has flung around us.

The solo of the sounding wire,
    The smoky engine's whistle,
Have drowned the sound of Yarrow
            stream,
    The green trees' waving rustle.

But I have still my double life
    To cheer me in my sorrow,
An' so within my heart to-day
    I hear the rush o' Yarrow.

 


__________________________

 
IN YARROW.


A DREAM of youth has grown to fruit,
    Though years it was in blossom;
It lay, like touch of summer light,
    Far down within my bosom:
It led me on from hope to hope,
    Made rainbows of each morrow,
And now my heart has had its wish—
    I stood to-day in Yarrow.

And as I stood, my old sweet dreams
    Look back their long-lost brightness;
My boyhood came, and in my heart
    Rose up a summer lightness.
I heard faint echoes of far song
    Grow rich and deep, and borrow
The low, sweet tones. of early years—
    I stood to-day in Yarrow.

O, dreams of youth, dreamed long ago,
    When every hour was pleasure!
O, hopes that came when Hope was high,
    Nor niggard of her treasure!—
Ye came to-day, and, as of old,
    I could not find your marrow;
Ye made my heart grow warm with tears—
    I stood to-day in Yarrow.

That touch of sorrow when our youth
    Was in its phase of sadness,
For which no speech was on the lip
    To frame its gentle madness,
Rests on each hill I saw to-day,
    Till I was left with only
That pleasure which is almost pain,
    The sense of being lonely.

The haunting sense of love, that now
    Beats with a feebler pinion
Above the shattered domes that once
    Soared high in his dominion,
And in the air of all that time,
    Nor joy nor sadness wholly,
Seem all to mix and melt away
    In pleasing melancholy.

Why should it be that, as we dream,
    A tender song of passion,
Of lovers loving long ago
    In the old Border fashion,
Should touch and hallow every spot,
    Until its presence thorough
Is in the very grass that throbs
    With thoughts of love and Yarrow?

We know not; we can only deem
    The heart lives in the story,
And gives to stream and hill around
    A lover's tearful glory,
Until it bears us back to feel
    The light of that far morrow
That touched the ridge on Tinnis
    Then fell on winding Yarrow.

Ah, not on Yarrow stream alone
    Fell that most tender feeling,
But like a light from out a light,
    An inmost charm revealing,
It lay, and lies on vale and hill,
    On waters in their flowing;
And only can the heart discern
    The source of its bestowing.

Yes! we may walk by Yarrow stream
    With speech, and song, and laughter,
But still far down a sadness sleeps,
    To wake and follow after.
And soft regrets that come and go,
    The light and shade of sorrow,
Are with me still, that I may know
    I stood to-day in Yarrow.

 


__________________________

 
JOE SIEG.


WHO are the heroes we hail to-day,
And circle their brows with wreaths of bay?

Is it the warrior back again,
To be girt by throngs of his fellowmen?

The statesman fighting in keen debate
For the laws that will make his country great?

Or the poet, whose spirit in his song
Withers like fire the front of wrong?

Yes, these are heroes on whom we may call,
But a greater still is behind them all.

Who?   And we shout, with a ringing cheer,
"Joe Sieg, the railway engineer,

"Who did his duty and never thought
He did any more than a driver ought.

Look at Sieg, I say, as he stands
With the levers clutched in his oily hands,

And hearing naught but the grind of the wheel
On the clanking rail underneath his heel;

Or, lighting his pipe for a whiff or two,
Yet looking ahead as drivers do.

Now, any one seeing him thus would have said,
With a very doubtful shake of the head:—

"Poor stuff after all out of which to plan
Your hero when action calls for the man."

So you would think, but listen and hear
The story of Sieg, the engineer.

Down the Pennsylvanian line,
In the light of an afternoon's sunshine,

Came Sieg with a train of cars behind,
And hundreds of lives that were his to mind.

Little thought he of danger near
As he watched for signals set at clear.

If he thought at all, and that thought could be
            said!
As he stood on the footplate looking ahead,

It was this: to do what a driver could do—
Run sharp to his time, nor be overdue.

So along the metals in smoke and glare,
With Sieg at his post by the levers there,

Engine and cars like a whirlwind tore
Till, just as the stoker threw open the door

Of the furnace, at once through each black flue
            came
The quick back-draught, bringing with it the
            flame

That, scorching with lightning fingers of pain,
Drove Sieg and his stoker back in the train.

Back they went, bearing all the brunt
Of the fiery tongues that were hissing in front.

They caught at the cars in their wild desire,
That in less than a moment were muffled in fire.

The engine like some wild steed that is free,
Shot ahead with a shriek of defiant glee.

Behind were hundreds of lives in a tomb
That was hot with the breath of their awful doom.

To leap from the train would be certain death,
To stay would be food for the flame's wild breath.

Now was the time for your hero to plan;
The hour had come, and Sieg was the man.

Not a moment he stood, for at once he saw
His duty before him, and that was law.

Not a single thought of himself came near
To shake his grand brave spirit with fear.

Only there rose, like a flash, in his eye,
As in those when the last stern moment is nigh,

A look that would do all that duty could claim,
And with one wild rush Sieg was into the flame.

The red tongues quivered and clutched at him;
They tore the flesh from his arm and limb;

They wove, like scarlet demons, between
The engine and him a fiery screen.

But he fought his way to his terrible fate
Till he felt his feet touch the tender plate.

Then, blind with the flame and its scorching
            breath,
And weak from his terrible struggle with death,

He groped for the levers, clutched them at length,
And, with one wild effort of failing strength,

'Mid the hissing of fire and the engine's roar,
Threw off the steam, and could do no more.

When the engine at last was brought to a stand,
Not a life was lost out of all that band.

No life, did I say?   Alas! there was one,
But not till his duty was nobly done.

For, back in the tender, silent and grim,
Blackened and scalded in body and limb,

Lay Sieg, who had without aid, and alone,
Saved hundreds of lives and lost his own.

That is the story, plain and clear,
Of Sieg, the railway engineer.

Honour to him, and no stint of praise
From the best of hearts in these modern days.

Honour to Sieg! I say, and hail
This last Jim Bludso of the rail,

Who did his duty, and never thought
He did any more than a driver ought."

 


__________________________

 
BANNOCKBURN.


I HEARD beneath my feet the clear sharp ring
    Of grinding rail and wheel,
I felt, as on we sped with rush and swing,
    The carriage sway and reel.

Outside, the metals on the other track
    Like two thin lights were seen;
Ahead the signals, on a ground of black,
    Glimmered red, white, and green.

I saw from windows, as if hung in air,
    'Mid handles gleaming white,
Pointsmen that clutched and drew the levers there,
    And set the points aright.

At times from out the dark there roared and crashed,
    With sudden whistle blast,
An engine, and a gleaming head-light flashed
    A moment, then shot past;

But not until I saw, as in a land
    Misty with whirling steam,
Driver and stoker on the footplate stand
    Ghost-like as in a dream.

Then all my thoughts began to wander out
    To meet the march of Time,
With all his triumph poets rave about
    And prophesy in rhyme.

The higher man, the broader laws to be;
    The life of larger powers,
A furlong farther from the moaning sea
    Of what to-day is ours.

Till, fraught with wonder at such Atlas-toil,
    Wherever I might turn,
A voice said, "We are passing sacred soil,
    The Field of Bannockburn."

"The Field of Bannockburn!" that name to me
    Came like a spell of might;
I rose and put the window down, to see
    That glorious spot by night.

Ahead, the dark, as in a sudden breeze
    Went swaying up and down;
Behind, but faint and dim, by twos and threes,
    The lights of Stirling town.

To right and left I shot an eager glance;
    A heavy murky wall
Rose up, and spread a drear and cold expanse
    Of darkness over all:

Not over all; for, when the stoker drew
    The furnace doors apart,
A shaft of light rose upward, and shot through
    The clouds like some huge dart.

Then I drew back, but as I took my seat
    My former dream was gone;
The iron music underneath my feet
    Sang with another tone.

The roar of wheel on rail had now become
    One long continuous tread
Of thirty thousand men by trump and drum
    To battle sternly led.

The engine's whistle was the trumpet shout,
    The mighty battle cry,
Calling on men to sternly face about
    And for their country die.

My blood was up.   I saw the standard shake
    Its folds upon the breeze,
And men from out the heavy columns break,
    And fall upon their knees.

I saw the glitter of an axe on high,
    And, keen to overwhelm,
Flash like a sudden bolt from out the sky,
    And crush a shining helm;

A war-steed, rearing with his nostrils burst,
    And eye-balls gleaming white,
Rush from beneath his falling rider, first
    Fruit of the coming fight;

Then rolling onward full of death and doom,
    A flood of chivalry,
Led on by streaming flags that rose like spume
    Thrown from a roaring sea;

A billowy sea of steeds and riders grim
    Mailed to the very lips—
Each one the bearer of some doom, like him
    In the Apocalypse.

A sound of cutting hoofs that mar and smite
    The turf; a long deep roar,
As if a muffled ocean smote by night
    Upon an unseen shore!

From right to left with trumpet blast and blare,
    A gleam of English steel
Sweeping on thirty thousand Scotsmen there,
    On fire from head to heel!

On, on they came.   At last they reach the pits,
    A quiver and a shock
Breaks through the front rank, as a river splits
    Upon a stubborn rock.

Then with one shout that quivered with its wrath
    Our Scottish lions leapt,
And, like a torrent from its mountain path,
    Down on the foe they swept.

A clash of sword and spear, of shield on shield,
    The flash of eye to eye,
Wherein was but one thought, to keep the field,
    Or, losing it, to die!

So went the storm of battle, fever red,
    From thinning rank to rank;
The careless earth beneath the heaps of dead
    Their life-blood slowly drank.

A waver through the English hosts, and then,
    Like some retreating sea,
They fled, and, fleeing, left their heaps of slain,
    And Scotland once more free.

Hark! that long shout from thousands as they yearn
    To make their hearts as one,
That shout has made this Field of Bannockburn
    Another Marathon!

I wake up from my dream.   I hear no more
    The battle shout prevail,
Nor underneath my feet the rush and roar
    Of wheels upon the rail.

Far other music now is mine again;
    The battle clangours cease,
With all the wiser years that proffer men
    The white results of peace.

For lo! I hear on either side of me
    The busy tramp of feet,
And, like a lower lane of stars, I see
    The lights of Princes Street.



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