Poets & Poetry of Blackburn (10)

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-XLIII-

John Pickup.

("Jean Piko.")

 

Among all the living poets of Blackburn I do not think there is one who is more beloved by his "brother bards" than the one whose name and nom-de-plume head this chapter.  Not that John Pickup is a frequent singer, by any means.  He has written comparatively little, and published still less.  But he is a true poet all the same, and an ardent lover of nature; as his "troops of friends" can testify.  He is a delightful companion for a country ramble, and a very instructive one also; for his knowledge of natural history and his powers of observation are little less than wonderful.

    He is a native of Blackburn, having been born at 74, Cleaver-street, on February 13th, 1860.  Like many of our local poets, he is to a great extent self-taught; having received in his boy-hood only the ordinary teaching of an elementary school, and having been sent to the mill, when only ten years of age, to learn weaving.  It is now about eighteen years since he left the mill to take up an insurance agency.  He has since been very successful, being now District Manager at Glasgow for the London, Edinburgh and Glasgow Assurance Company.  Though residing, and busily employed, so far away from Blackburn he frequently "makes time" for a visit to his native district, where he is always eagerly welcomed by his friends and former companions.  He is a great admirer of the poetry of Billington, whom he first met in or about 1881; and he is personally acquainted with all the local writers who have "struck the tuneful lyre" from that time to the present.

    Here are three typical examples of his poetic work:—


WHEN HAWTHORNS ARE BLOOMING.


When hawthorns are blooming and hedges are gay,
And the lark soars aloft as he heralds the day,
I love to be out in the country—away
        From the hurry and bustle of men.
Where the daisy and buttercup deck the green meads,
And the dragon-fly glances above the tall reeds,
Then, meteor-like, flashes as onward he speeds
        To a pool in the dingle or glen.

I am happy when breasting the heather-clad moor,
Where the honey-bee daily increases his store
Of rich amber honey, that weathers him o'er
        The Winter till coming of Spring.
I love, too, the shade of a winding old lane,
Whose hedges 'ford shelter in sunshine or rain;
Enraptured I list to the soul-stirring strain
        Of the heaven-born warblers that sing.

Where the brooklet meanders through wood and ravine,
And the water hen's nest in the sedges is seen,
I oftentimes follow from morning till e'en
        Nor e'er think of seeking my home.
Where the clustering hazel nuts peep at the morn,
Where the berries are red on the wicken and thorn,
And a richer perfume on the breezes is borne,
        Oh, there I am happy to roam!
.                .                .                .                .                .                .
When the starlings have gathered together in flocks,
And the caw of the jackdaw is heard from the rocks,
And the hunter is hotly pursuing the fox
        O'er meadow, and pasture, and lane.
When hoar frosts of Winter have mantled the ground,
And Nature is wrapt in a slumber profound,
By my home fireside, with loved ones around,
        I am happy—'tis summer again.

 


SONG.


Though short is the time since we parted.
    An age it seems almost to me;
And often the tear-drop has started—
    The tear of affection for thee.

Since I bade thee good-bye and caressed thee
    I have travelled by mountain and sea,
And whene'er a fine scene has impressed me
    I've wished I could share it with thee.

In fancy sometimes I can see thee
    With our dear little babe on thy knee;
And when to thy breast he is lovingly pressed
    Methinks thou art thinking of me.

At morn when the lark is aspiring
    To Heaven's blue gates o'er the lea:
At night when alone I'm retiring
    My thoughts are of thee, love—of thee!

 


COLD WINTER IS WITH US AGAIN.


Cold, cheerless and dark are the flowerless meads.
    Deserted and lone is the plain;
No more sports the troutlet among the broad reeds,
    Cold Winter is with us again.

The wren and the redstart together are fled
    To sunnier lands o'er the main;
The rose and the lily are withered and dead,
    Cold Winter is with us again.

The robin re-visits the cottager's sill,
    Nor pleads for a morsel in vain;
The icy-crowned tyrant holds captive the rill,
    Cold Winter is with us again.

The bard may delight in the beauties of snow,
    Or the fanciful frost-figured pane;
But, oh! for the poorly-clad children of woe,
    Cold Winter is with us again.


    Here is another song, in which youthful Love and kindly Nature make music together—


THE LASS O' RIBBLESIDE.


At foot of yonder wood-crowned hill there stands a little cot,
And nigh a crystal stream, where blooms the sweet forget-me-not.
The woodbine climbs the lattice porch, where oft at eventide
We sit together—I and Nell, the Lass o' Ribbleside.

Her cheeks are like the fresh wild rose that drinks the morning dew;
Her hair unto the raven's wing could lend a deeper hue.
Her bonny face is fair to see, but, what is more beside,
A loyal heart and true has Nell, the Lass o' Ribbleside.

When Summer scents the zephyr breeze, with rich perfume of flowers,
And birds are singing merrily in woods and leafy bowers—
Then has she promised to be mine, my own, my barmy bride;
Contentedly I'll toil for Nell, the Lass o' Ribbleside.


    A very different kind of "lass" is the subject of our next example, which was written to illustrate a type, and not a person.  The fact that the writer had no particular person in his mind, when he wrote "Yon Lass o' Top o' Mellor," did not prevent the busybodies from describing the piece as a "skit" on a certain farmer's daughter who answered in some respects to the laughable description which follows:—


YON LASS O' TOP O' MELLOR.


Aw've heeard a deeol o' toke abeawt the Belles o' Sunny France;
An' Spanish maidens, dark and tall, wi' fierce an' flashing glance.
Bud aw know one as licks 'em o; for gowd aw wod'nd sell her;
Hoo's t' farmer's douther, Mary Jane, yon lass a' top o' Mellor.

Her face is like a winther's sun, an' varra near as big;
Hoo's arms as red as any hep, an' fat as Kesmus pig.
No cheeany chops or donkey fringe, or flimsy pride to swell her;
Hoo's fourteen stooan if hoo's a peawnd—yon lass o' top o' Mellor.

Her fayther keeps a tidy farm o' twelve or fourteen acres;
An' every mornin' Mary Jane, wi' t' shandry, co's at baker's.
For, mind yo, hoo con shift a bit, but dorn'd yo' goo an' tell her,
Or else hoo'll happen gi' mo t' seck—yon lass o' top a' Mellor.

Fost time aw ever met her hoo wor rakin' hay i' t' meadow,
An' t' sun id wer so scorchin' hot, aw sheltered in her shadow.
Hoo really looked so plump an' sweet, aw cuddn'd help but tell her,
An' ax her iv hoo'd woke thad neet, wi' me, o' top o' Mellor.

Aw'm bod a little chap misel', but Mary Jane's a thumper;
An' iv yo'll co on t' weddin' day, aw'll stan' yo' o a bumper.
My luv for hor 'll ne'er go cowd, nod even in a cellar;
Aw really think a deol abeawt yon lass o' top o' Mellor.


    But perhaps the best of Mr. Pickup's dialect pieces is the touching picture of homely life, entitled:—


WE S' SEE A BREETER DAY.


Come, Jack, lad, just cheer up a bit, dorn'd look so glum an' sad;
Although we're deawn i' th' world just neaw, there's lots o' fooak as bad.
Wen hed a deol o' t' rough, it's true, an' things hes gooan t' rung way
Bud then we s' nod be olus deawn, we s' see a breeter day.

We'n struggled herd, hes thee an' me, fro t' day as wey wer wed;
An' olus tried to pay eawr rooad, in t' little hooam we'n med.
We've olus hed enough to heyt, though nowt to throw away;
Just keep thi spirits up, mi lad, we s' see a breeter day.

There's childer growin' up, tha knows, an' dooin' weel at schoo';
Fine healthy lads as favvors thee, an' bonny lasses too.
We'n olus done eawr best for them, an' 'fooar we're owd an' grey
They'll happen do a bit for us, we s' see a breeter day.

Ther's lots a' wark wheer childer is, an' lots o' trouble too;
But then id's nobbut like a cleawd wi t' sunshine peepin' through.
"Id's olus dark befooar it's leet," mi mother used to say;
Be patient, lad, dorn'd give up heart, we s' see a breeter day.

Eawr Tam 'll soon be wurkin' neaw, he's bin an' getten th' job;
Next week he's gooin' to mek a start, an' learn wi' Uncle Bob.
He's bin a rough un up to neaw, an' middlin' fond o' play;
But then he'll mend o' thad, tha'll see, we s' see a breeter day.

Sooa cheer up lad, an' smook thi pipe, an' set thi mind at rest;
To comfort tha an' mek tha snug tha knows aw do mi best.
Eawr Ailse hes bin this afternoon, an' axed us booath to tay;
Bi sharp an' ged tha ready, mon,—we s' see a breeter day.


    "I attach a little interest to this piece,"—wrote its author to the present writer,—"from the fact that our own 'days' have been very much 'breeter' since the time when it was first written."

    Heaven blesses the trustful heart.  May the days of this cheerful singer continue to grow 'breeter' still, for many a long year; and may he gladden us oftener in the future with his hopeful songs.

__________________________

 
-XLIV-

Charles F. J. N. Stott.


Charles Frederick James Nightingale Stott was born at Melbourne an September 24th, 1861, but was brought to, England when only nine months old.  In 1884 he published a slender volume, entitled "Tentative Poems."  This was followed in 1886, by "Stepping Stones in Rippling Streams," containing many of his "Tentative Poems," reprinted after revision, with other pieces of later date.  From this later volume are taken the poems which follow:—


MAY-DAY.
(M
USIC BY JOHN GILLIBRAND.)


Welcome, Queen of bright spring-tide,
    Coming in with gentle breath
O'er the dewy mountain side,
    Checking Winter's dearth and death.

All around in Nature's world
    Visions sweet are seen to-day,
Blossoms—lovely flowers-unfurled
    Tell the soul 'tis gladsome May.

From its lowly, grassy bed,
    Every flower we mortals ken
Raises high a tinted head
    In each valley, dale, or glen.

When in March the glebe was ploughed
    Crops were sown that now appear,
Through the frost-laid, yielding shroud,
    Speaking of the Spring-time near.

With the merry festal throng
    Souls unnumbered laud its sway;
As with lightsome dance and song
    Sport they on the grassy way.

In the well of every heart
    Ecstacy supremely reigns,
And the world its joyous part
    Takes in snapping Winter's chains.

Mingled with these pleasures sweet,
    Let this adage touch the mind:—
"Life is short," but death is fleet
    Claiming homage of mankind.

'Tis not that we live for strife,
    Ever flowing, never done;
But to seek eternal life
    Offered freely through G
OD'S SON.

In each circle of life's course
    Let us common blessings share;
'Tis the law of light and source,
    Each was made the other's care.

To the Author of our Race
    Send we then one joyful lay,
With the heart returning grace,
    For the glories of May-Day.


    Stott was for a few years at St. Boniface's College, Warminster, in training for mission work in Zanzibar; but was not considered strong enough for the life.  While at Warminster he wrote many religious poems, some of which rank with his best work.  The following is a characteristic example of his lyrical style:—


MESSENGERS FROM EDEN.


Messengers from Eden—came with silent feet
In my chamber treading, sent by God to greet
Me with visions pleasant, vivid, soft and bright,
Light from Him attending throught the livelong night.

Though my thoughts and dream songs never long remain
In these happy moments, still my verses gain
Many mystic sayings registered above
By the soul in dream-land, whisperings of love.

Could I write the fancies of my mind at night
They would please me greatly in the morning light,
But their strain doth vanish ere the coming day,
And the Dream-land Angels quickly fly away.

Then my soul, no longer held entranced and near
To and by those Spirits, wakes my breast in fear,
Raises me from slumbers bless'd and calm and light,
As they leave me lonely—"Pilgrims of the Night."


    In striking contrast to many of Stott's other pieces,—and very much more vigorous,—is the poem entitled:—


THE DEATH OF THE BORDER EAGLE.

(Suggested by the opening chapters of "Idalia," by
        "Ouida.")


In the wild moorland of the Scottish Plain,
    When the summer days had waned,
Roved a Border Knight in his search for game,
    With his faithful dogs, well trained.

The locks were serene in the amber light,
    The mist was o'er fen and fell,
The salmon streams leaped, for the ocean bound,
    From their rock-bed down the dell.

Where Bothwell had swept with his troopers bold,
    Where the White Queen once held sway,
Where the Belted Tower had erstwhile stood,
    There the sportsman sought his prey.

On the distant seas, which the pirate ships
    Of the Norsemen once made dark,
There was nought in sight save the offing course,
    Or a fisher's humble barque.

In the skies above, on the earth beneath,
    There was stillness felt around,
As the sportsman glanced with an eager eye
    O'er the thickly covered ground.

He had spent all the summer soft and bright,
    With the black-cock, fowl, and snipe:
For he loved the sport as a tender child
    Does his play ere youth is ripe.

With his gun he made for a lone retreat,
    Where the heather thickly grew,
And there, on his knee, in silence wrapped
    He gazed on the heavenly blue.

Ah! see! now he starts! for an eagle sweeps
    From his nest in the grey rock's height,
But he feels no dread of the sportsman's bent
    As he wings his upward flight.

Far beneath, far down are the crested waves,
    And the earth so full of grace;
Still the kingly bird soars ever aloft
    In his monarchy of space.

To the sun, which blindeth the gaze of man,
    He turns with his fearless eye,
And joys in his glorious fancy free,
    High up in the golden sky.

In his kingship lone with the noble sun,
    How can he think that the quest
Of the shining tube which is gleaming bright
    Is his own dark plumaged breast?

The sportsman raised his murderous gun,
    And the silent air was stirred
By a puff of smoke—by a sharp report—
    And the death-cry of the bird.

Through the gorse and heather, a hundred yards;
    The marksman ran to his prey.
And the purple heather was deeply dyed
    In the blood-streams where it lay.

The kingly bird with his pinions crushed
    And his breast-plumes bathed in gore;
And the light of life from his powerful eyes
    Had faded for evermore.

Then the young knight leaned on his gun and sighed,
    And his eyes with tears were wet.
As he looked on the eagle still in death,
    As he said in deep regret:—

"O God, who created the life now gone,
    Forgive by Thy grace Divine
My unthoughtful act, for it was, I feel,
    But a cruel deed of mine."


    "The Death of the Border Eagle" first appeared in print on October 4th, 1884, after the issue of its author's first volume.  It was hailed as a great advance on Stott's previous work, and as full of hope and promise for the future.  But alas! that hope and promise were not destined to be fulfilled; for the last eight lines of the closing poem in the earlier book proved mournfully prophetical:—


"But there comes a time of sadness;
     For the Poet lives no more—
 Sings no more his lays of gladness,
     As his custom was of yore.
 Then ah! then his words are treasured,
     And his name in memory's breath
 Lives too, late for him now measured
     In the grave of early Death."


    The young poet's mortal remains lie, with those of his father, in the Blackburn Cemetery; "Charlie"—as his many friends called him—having been interred there in November, 1894.

__________________________

 
-XLV-

Gideon Isherwood.


This humble poetic aspirant was born at Blackburn on March 29th, 1860.  He in due course became a plumber; serving his apprenticeship with Mr. Edwin Cunliffe.  Less than two years after attaining his majority he was appointed a Water Inspector for the Blackburn Corporation; but, soon after receiving that appointment, he was taken seriously ill, and became not only a confirmed invalid, but a cripple.  This sad state of things is supposed to have been due to lead paralysis and rheumatism combined.  His hands became much deformed; but he was able to hold a pen, and he spent a great deal of his time in writing for the press: contributing both prose and verse to the Blackburn newspapers; and also writing for "Tit-Bits," "Answers," and similar publications.  He was the holder of a "Tit-Bits" silver medal awarded to competitors winning a certain number of prizes, and would have been entitled to the gold medal had not some of his contributions appeared over pen-names.

    The following is one of the most pleasing of his published lyrics:—


THOSE BONNY OLD CHURCH BELLS.


I wandered away on a sweet Sabbath morn,
    For my footsteps I'd never a care;
With sorrow and trouble my heart was nigh torn,
    It was almost too bitter to bear.
I rambled for miles, right away up the hill—
    The home of my childhood was there,
When, suddenly, music, which caused me to thrill,
    Rang out on the clear morning air.


Chorus:

    List! list! list!
            The old church bells are ringing,
            To me dear mem'ries bringing;
        Their chimes resound o'er dales and dells,
        O'er smiling vales and frowning fells;
            Those clanging, merry bells,
            Those bonny old church bells!


I saw the old homestead, I passed through the gate,
    Looked in vain for the dear old swing,
Then on by the forge, where both early and late
    The smith used to lustily sing.
To the ivy-clad church I next wended my way
    By its lichgate and great waving trees,
"Come and pray, come and pray," those bells seemed to say
    To me on the fresh morning breeze.

I heard the good pastor there preach and pray,
    And the choir boys sweetly sang;
My burden of trouble was wafted away
    As with music the old church rang.
I listened, enraptured, to "Lead kindly Light;"
    The old pastor his blessing he gave;
Then, outside, the bells, where all seemed so bright,
    Rang out over wildwood and grave.


    Among his few surviving papers I find a considerable proportion of elegiac stanzas; chiefly upon departed personal friends.  The writing of hymns,—some of them being adaptations of old favourites; others original,—was another of his favourite occupations.  Here is a very touching example of his own work in this latter department:—


AT THY CROSS I PLEAD.


Waning fast is now the day,
Darksome night seems now my way;
Jesu!   Jesu!   Thou me hear,
'Tis the gathering gloom I fear!
Humbly to Thy cross I cling;
Blessèd Saviour, peace me bring.

Shadows deep around me glide,
As though sorrow's night to hide,
But my sins thou well dost know—
Broad my journey here below;
Lowly at Thy cross I kneel,
Praying Thee my sins to heal.

Light in darkness I would find;
Yet, a sinner, I am blind
To the ray that few can see—
Only they who live in Thee:
At Thy cross that gleam I seek,
Yea, Lord, earnestly and meek.

Much I fear the breathless hour;
O Redeemer, mightiest Power!
Calm this weary heart, sore tossed;
Tell me not my soul is lost!
In Thy mercy touch my hand;
Grant me by Thy throne to stand.


    This hymn is dated 7th May, 1893; but poor Gideon had to endure much longer suffering; for "the breathless hour" did not come until Monday, May 14th, 1900, when he passed away at 6, Park-road, Blackburn, where he had lived with his mother and sister.  His mortal remains were laid to rest, in the Church of England portion of the Blackburn Cemetery, on Thursday, May 17th, and on Saturday, the 19th, the "Blackburn Times" published the following beautiful—


"IN MEMORIAM"

POEM.

B
Y JOHN T. BARON.


There's a shadow grim which exiles Mirth afar, and leaves its smart;—
'Tis the hand of Death which gathers blooms that beautify the heart.

He is dead.   Poor Gid, the cripple, now he treads the mystic shore,
And this earth, bedecked with beauty, will behold him nevermore.

Weak in frame, and worn and feeble, with limbs fixed beyond control;
All who knew him felt the vigour of his true and trustful soul.

Fancies come and memories wander 'mid the sweets of vanished time,
When our hearts beat pleasant music to the swinging flow of rhyme.

To those hours of happy converse Memory fondly, sadly clings,
For they bourgeoned forth with smilings; fruited in imaginings.

Ever bright and ever cheerful, with a glance that flashed his mind;
Ever patient in his sufferings, and forgiving to his kind.

His it was to soothe and comfort with a gentle tongue and pen,
Tho' he shared not in the bustle nor the active sports of men.

Tears may sanctify our sorrows, yet Love's links will never part,
Twined round Friendship's bands they stronger bind his memory to the heart.

He has gone.   Calm, trustful pilot of the nobler life to be;
Will he steer my ship to harbour when I face the mystic sea?

Will his voice, so low and gentle, whisper, "Welcome! here is rest"?
Ah! that Power which gave its mercy to poor Gideon, knoweth best.

Let no hand disturb his slumbers, let no voice sound his dispraise,
For his life's white record rises high o'er all that Art can raise.

__________________________

 
-XLVI-

William Bolton.

 

William Bolton was born at the Straits, Hoghton, on December 5th, 1861.  He is a son of James Bolton, a hand-loom weaver, and his wife Ellen (formerly Atkinson).  His early education was received at St. Joseph's School, Brindle; but on November 16th, 1874, he was sent to Ampleforth College, near York, at which institution he remained until July, 1879.  He subsequently spent a couple of years at Ushaw College, near Durham.  After leaving Ushaw he became connected with the coal business; commencing at Moss Collieries, Skelmersdale, and going from there to Duxbury Park Collieries, near Chorley, where he spent six years in the office and another six as salesman.  From Duxbury Park he went to Messrs. Richard Evans and Co., of Haydock, as their representative for the North-East Lancashire district; and when, in 1896, Messrs. Evans and Co. opened a depot and a wharf at Blackburn, these were placed under his charge.

    He has contributed many poems of sterling merit to the "Blackburn Times," "Preston Guardian," "Catholic News", "Chorley Standard," and "Chorley Guardian",—and some of his best stanzas are reminiscent of his association with the districts served by those journals.  Here, for instance, are two beautiful pieces descriptive of a peaceful spot, on the Hoghton side of Brindle, which may be seen from the railway, about halfway between Hoghton Station and Gregson Lane crossing:—


MY FATHER'S HOME.


The low-built cot, and the familiar sight
    Of faces loved, in dreams before me rise.
    The belfried house, and church attached, that prize
The shelter of tall lime trees, from the blight
Of winter storms.   The slope upon the right,
    Where, laved by rippling stream, God's acre lies.
    Hard by, the rookery pointing to the skies,
Whence cawing birds proclaim th' approaching night.

The dreams pass o'er; yet memories freshly cling
    To that lone spot, most hallowed of all earth;
Afar, swift thought will take the trusty wing,
    And soaring 'loft, survey its land of birth.
My Father's Home!   How sweet the name to-day!
Thrice sweet when life is ebbing fast away.

 


THE VALE OF REST.


The shining river flows along that happy, peaceful vale;
It dances where the pebbles throng, and leaps where rocks assail.
Like sentries, guard tall poplar trees, the right bank of the stream;
They nod their heads as the gentle breeze disturbs their mid-day dream.
The ivied church, high on the left, stands like a castled keep,
Of drawbridge and of moat bereft, cast in a deathlike sleep.
And nigh the church the vale of rest, peopled with forms of stone;
That preach the lives of those loved best,—departed ones and lone.
Ah, me! what thoughts rush o'er the mind, as I survey the scene;
Like floodgates opened by the wind, to wash the pastures green.
Beside their tombstones slowly rise the loved and soulless dead;
The grandsire, who, 'neath summer skies, laid down his hoary head.
The mother who looked on her child, fresh kissed by earthly light;
O'erburdened by her pains, yet smiled, and calmly passed from sight.
The brother nature had endowed with many a perfect gift;
Whose days were shadowed by a cloud, which sunbeams could not lift.
The babe, that lingered for awhile, to soothe a parent's grief;
Then, stolen from temptation's guile, had its young life cut brief.
And as I turn my steps to trace, back to the spot I crave,
I see the sexton digging space for yet another grave.


    But perhaps the best of his "poems of places" is the following description of that stately mansion, near Chorley, known as—


ASTLEY HALL.


By the grass-grown roadway leading through the lonesome woodlands green,
Stands the mansion—stately, spacious, bursting suddenly between
Belts of oak, and beech, and ash trees, ivy-traced and mossy-bound,
Like a jewel on a broadsword, lighting up the hilt around.
From its basement slopes the greensward, terrace-shaped and decked with urns
Of an ancient mould and pattern; set with flowers and plumèd ferns.
Gently therefrom slide the lake-banks, where the water-lilies ride
Safe at anchor, like some warships, waiting for the battle's tide;
Where the row-boat, oarless, olden, hugs the still forsaken land;
Like a derelict, ever sighing for a captain's vanished hand;
Where the maiden, pale of visage, sank, no more to rise again;
And by moonlight runs the legend, flits about the quaint domain.
Quaint and noble, rich in memories, is that proud ancestral seat,
Fronted by a ponderous doorway, where twin lions entrance greet
To the hall with leathern ceiling, Cupid-groined and webbed with age
Walled by pictures of famed persons, who have dotted history's page.
Some have walked that State apartment, draped in tapestry of gold,
One the Golden Fleece depicting, one St. George's onslaught bold.
Some have stepped the oaken staircase, flanked by massive rails of wood,
Reaching to the five-doored chamber, where old Cromwell's poster stood.
Leading to where stands the table on which shovel-groat was played,
And the spring-chair, rusty, creaky, for a crippled lady made,
Stretching upwards to the dormer; to the leaden roof above,
Where by sylvan beauty ravished, eager eyes may dwell with love;
Or, by pensive thoughts arrested—thoughts of dames and knights of yore,
Who have lived and left their memory, haunting Astley evermore.
Oh! that we could call their spirits to this land of speech again,
To unravel mysteries hidden from the keen historian's brain.
Maybe Nature acts most wisely in preserving on these walls
Silent witnesses of ages on which modern search-light falls.
They are lifeless, yet engross us, more than human language could;
Like the speech of grateful children, unexpressed, but understood.


    Here is a touching sonnet: a sort of companion-piece to the one already quoted:—


MY MOTHER'S FACE.


Observe the furrow lines, upon that face
    Which cares have sear'd, the eyes of blue grown
             weak
    With age's film; divided lips, that speak
Of innate love, no sorrows could displace;
The erstwhile ruddy cheeks, that added grace
    To nature, blanch'd; save here and there a streak
    Of parting bloom.   Forbear the cause to seek
Of tresses grey,—the heirloom of her race.

'Tis mother's face, still beckoning on to good,
    Still bidding me the days of youth recall.
Despite or good or ill report, me 'twould
    Pursue, to highest peak or lowest fall.
Thou wilt forget?   I trow not if I could;
    The picture hangs upon fond memory's wall.


    The first of our next three examples (I should explain) is not intended for a sonnet; though it happens to be of sonnet length:—


VIRTUE.


Sweet virtue hath a good reward on earth,
For sceptred King, or man of humble birth.
For, as the sage's stone, in days of old,
Was said to change, by touch, dust into gold;
Or, as the beacon light shines on the main,
And rocks betrays, ere port is won again;
Or, as the sun at morn looks from his bower,
And opes the eyelid of the drooping flower;
So virtue paves with gold the rugged way,
Enlightens mankind in an evil day.
All priceless jewel! may thy charms be found
In mines, of which hearts are the mineral ground.
Lamp of all ages! beat with ever brilliant light
On us, belated pilgrims, through the blackest night.

 


THE CHILD'S QUERY.


What are those like fires, father, burning in the midnight sky,
Lighting up the heaven above me, making it appear so nigh?

Often from my cot I see them, peeping through my window sly;
I imagine they are angels, and each fire is an eye.

Eyes of angels I shall call them, ever watching from on high;
Noting every deed of darkness, as the silent hours go by.

 


BOYHOOD'S HOME.


Home of my boyhood! memory's ivied leaf
    Still clings with freshening tenderness to thee!
    And, like the rivulet rushing to the sea,
My thoughts will homeward flow, in plaintive grief,
    Or silent reverie.

Amid the turmoil of life's chequered race,
    When sorrow's deep-spent shafts cleave hearts atwain,
    Remembrance of the years, so freed from pain,
Passed 'neath the shadow of that hallowed place,
    Wells up with force again.

Or, when the sun hath shed his radiant beams,
    And pleasure fills its cup unto the brim;
    When day and night seem one perpetual hymn—
I doubt not, that past joys, retold in dreams
    Excel sweet fortune's whim.

Youth's joys have fascinations for the man,
    Which serve to reap up fond regrets anew;
    As when some object, pleasing to the view,
Departs, forsooth, beyond the visual span,
    Yet haunts and lures you.

They who have well nigh run their mortal course,
    Dwell not on younger days with sole delight;
    The beauties of the sun's all-glorious flight
At birth of morn—upstartled from his source—
    Are oft surpassed at night.

Each period has its own attractions dear,—
    The beacons lighting up the ways we roam;
    But, starlike, shining in our memory's dome,
As distance leads, more bright and still more clear,—
    Are joys of boyhood's home.


    As the reader will have noticed, there is nothing ambitious about William Bolton's poems.  They deal, in a clear and simple way, with the homeliest of themes.  But those themes (as more pretentious writers sometimes forget) are just the kind which possess the most lasting interest; and moreover, the most lasting value.  We need to be reminded, as we travel through a world of temptation, of the innocent joys of childhood; the mother's faithful love; and the holy aspirations of our heaven-blessed early days.  And the poet who sings worthily of these things will never want for sympathetic listeners; and will have the consolation, through all his days, of having helped to uplift, as well as to cheer, many a sorely-tried and wearied fellow traveller.

    With one more example I must complete my present selection:—


AN EVENING AT SUNSET.


The sun sets angry; and, volcano-like,
In quick succession belches spike on spike
Of fiery beams against the troubled sky;
And o'er the sea's expanse, spreads rapidly
Its ruddy lava, till the waters seem
New-plaited with a rare resplendent gleam.
Betimes the arch of heaven is mirrored o'er,
In golden setting, like the sand-grained shore;
As realistic as that rainbow will
Impress its hues on the brow of yonder hill.
Both peace and plenty reign supreme.   The calm
Is broken only by the fluted psalm
Of a mottled thrush, perched an a willow tree.
The fields of nodding grain, upraised to be
The granaries round our homes,—the new mown hay
Now ready for the harvesting of day,—
The smiling patch of orchard with its trees
Of mellow fruit swayed frowards by the breeze,—
All bordered by some verdant tall hedgerows
Of honeysuckle, brier, and wild rose,—
Fulfil the hopes of man.   The morrow's sun
May hide, or smile on labours almost done.
Thrice happy we, if fortune waits alway,
And like yon spire, reflects Sol's parting ray.

__________________________

 
-XLVII-

Cornelius McManus.

 

Much of Mr. McManus's best poetry goes about disguised as prose.  In his early manhood he renounced verse altogether, and devoted his leisure to story-writing.  His first tale appeared in "Ben Brierley's journal," about 1880.  He has since produced an immense number of stories, both long and short; some under his own name, and others under various pen-names.  His best known nom-de-plume, probably, is "Luke Aloft"; but some of his writings are signed "Ink Slinger," and others "John Lancaster."  Among his local stories, as many readers will recollect, are same capital tales and character-sketches dealing with old Blackburn manners and customs; the most notable being his "Adventures of Kit Wild" and "Tales of Old Blackburn."  He has also written many short stories for the "Preston Guardian," including some "Tales from the Ribble Valley," which have been reprinted.  That he is a born humorist no one who has read his stories will need to be told; and that his humour is often blended with the truest pathos is only what one might expect from so devoted a disciple of Charles Dickens.  I remember one local story—"Christmas All Alone"—which, in all but the mere form, is one of the sweetest poems that ever was written.  It appeared in the "Blackburn Times" several years ago; but it is to be hoped that it will,—along with much other admirable work from the same pen,—be issued before long in a more permanent form.

    The six early pieces which follow form the best selection that I am able to give; for Mr. McManus has thought so little of his verses that he has kept no copies or cuttings of them.


IN MEMORIAM—CHARLES DICKENS.

D
IED JUNE 9TH, 1870.


The scent of the hawthorn is filling the glade,
While a hundred bright anthems enliven the shade;
O'er hill and through valley the songster's sweet tune
Sings praise to the joys that are garnered in June.

There's a wood-spirit glides on the wings of the wind,
To the hearts that were torn in the city's rude grind;
And a voice, whose intoning the coldest heart thrills,
Gives these captives the freedom and life of the hills.

But a cloud has o'ershadow'd the summer's bright glow,
And a low muffled peal tolls its long dirge of woe;
And scarcely the echoes rebound on the shore,
For that magical voice shall be never heard more.

Charles Dickens was dead,—and the words that had broken
The bands of the heart—bid the dungeon re-open—
Gave place to the wailings of heart-strings that sever
When a mind truly noble has vanished for ever.

Through years that have passed since the master's heart stilled,
And the world with a deluge of mourning was filled;
A voice breaks the silence the echoes wild roll,
And his name and his fame are kept green in the soul.

 


GOOD-BYE!


"God be with you till we meet!" was the pious Saxon's prayer;
"May He guide thy steps aright—give thy joys and soothe thy care."

"Good be with you, parting friend!" was the hope of stricter days;
"Till the vale of death o'erpast, we shall join in endless praise."

"God be wi' you, ever, brother!" farewell of a hundred years;
Comrades-many seas divided—gave to Him their hopes and fears.

"Good-bye, friend!"   From Saxon fathers, love and life to us descend;
With their watchword we may travel varying ways to one great end.

 


JOHN BARLEYCORN'S DIARY.

(A
N UNCOLOURED PICTURE.)


John Barleycorn walked eawt one morn,
While th' dew clung weet to th' ripenin' corn;
He sang reet cheerily, dud John,
An' fooak o wondered wod were on.
One says to him, "Thae'rt early eawt;
"It's soon for thee to be abeawt."
"The birds come eawt ere th' worms be gone,
Aw'm gooin' a-huntin' foo's," says John.

An' deawn bi th' wood walked Harry Hood;
Nooan liked ale moor than Harry dud;
But neaw he'd settled deawn to wark,
He sung as merry as a lark.
He'd med a vow he'd drink no moor,
Nor be the foo' he'd bin befoor.
"Just wait till we pass th' 'Public' yon;
Aw think aw've fun' a mate," says John.

"Here, Harry, let's co' here an' sup,
A drop ov ale 'll set tho up."
"O reet," says Harry, "as it's thee;
To tell tho th' truth aw do feel dree."
They supped a while, an' John says, "Well,
Tha'll never leave mo to misel'."
"Nowe," Harry says, "Aw'll werk to-morn,
Thae'rt a rare owd friend, John Barleycorn."

Hood sheawts "Hurray"—he feels so gay
At sich a lucky holiday;
John Barleycorn fotched him a cleawt
As med Hood's senses reel quite eawt.
"Ged hooam, tha drunken foo'!" says he,
"There's nowt but pigs 'll stop wi' thee.
Thi heyd 'll werch reet weel i' th' morn,
Tha'll remember owd John Barleycorn."

John went eawt, an' looked abeawt;
He spied a farmer, hale an' steawt.
He'd done a rare good trade thad day
I' horses, cattle, coats an' hay.
"Here," says the tempter, "come wi' me,
We'll hev a day o' mirth an' glee;
Moor than tha's hed sin' tha were born;
Come, sit deawn wi' John Barleycorn!"

Wi' no alarm at ony harm
This victim took his tempter's arm.
He went away so drunk thad day,
Th' owd farmer could'nd see his way.
John Barleycorn laughed at his plight;
He laughed so leawd 'at th' hoss took fright.
Id' maister were fun' killed i' th' morn;
He were murdered bi John Barleycorn.

He'd bait to draw booath heigh an' low,—
He tackled th' better end an' o,—
Wi' costly wines he started th' game,
Then robbed their money an' good name.
Fro' palaces he took his slaves,
Then landed 'em i' paupers' graves.
That's one day's werk; one page aw've torn
Fro' th' diary o' John Barleycorn.

 


"'TIS THE HAND, NOT THE HEART."


'Tis the hand, not the heart, thou would'st offer to me,—
The heart, not the hand, I would ask for from thee;
One course or another our feelings must tend,
Give the hand of a stranger or heart of a friend.

Together we've battled the stormy seas o'er,
Together returned,—shall we part on the shore?
Through the darkness—twin-spirits—we've trodden the way,
Shall the morning's first beam drive our friendship away?

Give the hand and the heart, and a union blest
Shall array in its sweetness the eve of our rest;
Or, if from each other 'tis need they must part,
Give, my friend, oh my friend! not the hand but the heart!

 


THREE THRONES.


"Since first the dominion of man was asserted over the ocean,  three thrones, of especial mark beyond all others, have been set upon  its sands, the thrones of Tyre, Venice, and England."—R
USKIN.


While o'er thy head the stormy waves, O Tyre,
    The story of thy fallen pride rehearse,
And speak the mingled voices of thy power,
    Thy thirst for fame—dry bauble!—and thy curse;
In thundering roll that heaves the whitened spray,
    Like upturned voices of thy thousand slain,
Echo thy peerless grandeur in their swell,
    And wail thy fall with ebbing cries of pain.

And thou, O mistress of the gilded crowd,
    Whose power was parent to thy deeper fall,
Thy silent halls resist the crumbling time.
    Thy weeping aisles a radiant past recall.
From out thy stones a thousand sculptured tongues
    One universal admonition spread,
Telling from that high throne which proved thy grave
    Ascending tyrants crushed thy nobler head.

And foremost in the festival or fight,
    England! why link thy splendid name with those?
No life like thine in sturdy warfare nursed
    Can share their long, inglorious repose.
While the proud eagle holds unchequered flight,
    With her thine eye unnumbered empires scan,
Beware, with her, the fowler's hidden snare,
    Thy name shall live and thrive while man is man.

 


DIES IRÆ.


Tell, thou wild and changing sea,
O'er thy empire wide and free,
When the dull sun far away
Sinks into thy western spray,
Of that last and awful night
Sages whisper with affright,
When the days of earth are fled
And thou givest up thy dead.

While the earth beneath thy wave
Slowly finds a hidden grave,
So the mountain might of wrongs
Each neglectful age prolongs,
Cannot from its height descry
Yon cloud that hides the northern sky,
Till the days of earth are fled
And the sea gives up its dead.

Pride and avarice, hand in hand,
Drive weak and poor from strand to strand,
With worse than Helot's song and shout,
Feast and dance the daylight out.
Their song, at night, an echo finds,
Creeping dirge-like in the winds,
As when the days of earth are fled
And the sea gives up its dead.

Toilers in this woeful world,
From wrong to wrong by despots hurled,
Free in conscience, slaves to none,
Save the fading flesh alone,
By the word that God has given,
Thundered from the topmost heaven,
To the thrones shall ye be led
When the sea gives up its dead.

Time is short and hidden, right
Forth shall come at morning's light
From the waters dark and still,
From the cold and frowning hill;
For that morn the angels wait,
To greet their Lord in judgment state,
When the bonds of earth are fled
And the sea gives up its dead.


    Mr. McManus is a native of Brindle, having been born at Jack Green, in that parish, on June 14th, 1863.  He was educated partly at St. Joseph's School, Brindle, and partly at Preston.  He has spent the greater part of his work-day life in Blackburn; but is at present residing at Wigan.

__________________________

 
XLVIII.

William Baron.
("Bill o' Jack's")

 

This writer,—a poet of the people, in the truest and worthiest sense,—was born at Blackpool on April 19th, 1865; and came to Blackburn, with his brother "Jack o' Ann's" and the rest of their family, in 1870.  Here William was sent to Nova Scotia School, which, however, he had to leave, when he was only twelve years of age, on "passing full time" and becoming a factory worker.

    In November, 1888, he published at Blackburn a little volume of dialect poems entitled "Bits o' Broad Lancashire."  These poems had previously appeared, week by week, in the "Blackburn Standard"; and the book containing them was dedicated to Edwin Waugh, who, along with Ben Brierley and Samuel Laycock, had written, in terms of praise and approval, of the poems and their publication.

    This is one of the two pieces which Waugh liked best:—


OWD AILSE'S THRIFT.


"What meks tha sit so quate, to-neet?   Come, hesta nowt to say?
Tha coom i' th' heawse an' never spooak o t' time tha geet thi tay.
An' when aw looked up i' thi e'en, aw seed tears peepin' throo.
Neaw, lad, ther's summat troubles tha, sooa tell me what's to do."

"Well, lass, aw mut as weel speyk eawt—aw've some bad news to tell;
An' when aw've towd mi tale, aw know tha'll be upset thisel.
Life's bin just like a sunny dreeam, but neaw it's drear an' dark;
An' t' cause ov o mi trouble, lass, is this—aw'm eawt o' wark.

"Aw've woven deawn at t' factory yon for close on forty year;
But age an' service ceawnt as nowt if th' average isn't theer.
For neaw, because aw've getten owd, an' corn'd keep up wi' t' pace,
Aw hev to shift for younger fooak to come an' tek mi place.

"When t' tackler coom wi' t' slate, to-day, he fairly carried on;
An' towd me he'd be like to try an' find a better mon.
He waited for me comin' eawt, as soon as th' engine stopped;
An' sed aw needn't gooa no mooar, because mi looms wur shopped.

"An' that's what's med me sit so quate, sin' aw coom hooam, toneet;
We've nowt i' t' world to save us neaw fro' bein' turned i' t' street.
For t' bits o' goods 'll soon be gone—an' when they've o bin sowd,
Ther'll be nowt left but t' warkheawse, then, an' t' thowt on't meks me cowd."

"Tha needn't look so deawn, owd lad, just hear what aw've to say:
We'st never gooa to th' warkheawse, mon, sooa drive sich thowts away.
An' as far bein' turned i' t' street—that's what 'll never be;
For this owd heawse we're livin' in belongs to thee an' me.

"Aw've t' deeds for 't locked i' t' dresser-drawer, they've bin theer mony a while;
An' sitha what aw've getten here—aw knew aw'd mek tha smile!
It's t' bank book, showin' t' brass aw've saved—neaw! what's ta think o' thad?
Enuff to keep us booath for life, an' mooar beside, owd lad."

"God bless thee, Ailse.   Tha good owd wife, aw never thowt o' this;
Mi feelin's cornd be towd i' words—sooa, come, let's hev a kiss!
Tha's bin t' good angel o' mi life—a priceless, Heaven-sent gift;
An' breetened up life's closin' days wi' t' fruits o' luv an' thrift."


    Personally, I like "Owd Ailse's Thrift" as well as Waugh liked it.  But I have an idea that some readers may regard it as "too good to be true"; and may think that women like "Owd Ailse," though well known in poetry and fiction, are not to be met with in real life.  That this opinion is quite erroneous is shown by the fact that, on a certain Monday in 1883, it was proved, in the very unpoetical atmosphere of the Blackburn County Court, that a Mrs. Houlgrave, whose husband never earned more than twenty-two shillings a week, had not only brought up a family, but had, unknown to her husband, saved £364 out of his earnings.

    We cannot do better than take as our next example the second of the two poems, by our author, which Edwin Waugh singled out for special commendation:—


TH' OWD FAMILY BIBLE.


Ther's an owd family relic on t' bookshelf up theer,
    An' aw'll keep id till t' day as aw dee;
Aw know 'at id wodn'd be wo'th mich to yo',
    But gowd couldn'd buy id fro' me.
Its nowt but a bible o' th' owd-fashioned sooart,
    Wi' some uv id leeaves loce an' torn;
An' mi granfeyther bowt id, aw've oft heeard id sed,
    On t' day 'at mi mother wur born.

God bless mi owd grondad! an' gronny an' o,
    They've booath bin i' t' grave mony a year;
If yo'll oppen th' owd book eawt, an' look deawn t' fly leeaf,
    Yo'll see booath ther names written theer.
Aw know mony a time, when aw wur but a lad,
    Aw've set on my gronfeyther's knee;
While mi gronny's bin set readin' t' book through her specs,
    To teych some good lesson to me.

Just under ther names, yo'll see t' date written deawn,
    When mi grondad an' gronny wur wed;
An' below id, ther's t' names 'at mi grondad wrooate in,
    Uv o t' childer 'at ever they hed.
It meks me feel sad when aw read 'em at times,
    An' often aw corn'd stop a tear;
For o 'at remains to tell t' tale o' ther lives,
    Is t' names 'at yo'll see written theer.

Mi mother geet t' bible, when th' owd fooak wur gone,
    An' hoo keerfully put id away;
But oft-times hood reych id, to read id a bit,
    When hoo'd finished her labours for t' day.
Aw fancy, at times, aw con see her i' t' cheear,
    Wi' t' book oppen'd eawt on hur knee;
But fancy soon flies as aw cast a sad glance
    On t' spot wheer hoo once used to be.

Aw corn'd help but think o' thoose days long gone by,
    For mi heart dwells so fondly on t' past;
Mi mother med life like a Heaven to me,
    But owd age crept o'er hur at last.
Still hoo never despaired, tho' hoo knew th' end wur near,
    But hoo'd smile in hur cheear up i' t' nook;
An' sometimes hoo'd ax me to sit deawn, an' read
    A chapter or two fro' th' owd book.

Aw'st allus remember that sad winter's day,
    When aw knelt dawn bi t' side uv hur bed;
"Keep th' owd family Bible, an' bless thee, mi lad!"
    Wur t' last wards 'at ever hoo sed.
Hoo sank like a babby 'at's gooin' to sleep,
    An' t' tears deawn mi cheeks trickled fast;
For aw knew hoo wur leeavin' earth's sorrows behynt,
    To rest fro' hur labours at last.

Ther's an' owd family relic on t' bookshelf up theer,
    Far dearer than treasures o' gowd;
For id brings back to memory thoose luv'd ones o' t' past,
    'At lie i' ther graves, damp an' cowd.
It's nowt but a Bible o' th' owd fashioned sooart,
    But gowd couldn't buy id fro' me,
For it's sacred to hur aw luv'd dearest uv o,
    An' aw'll keep id till t' day as aw dee.


    On renewing my acquaintance with William Baron's delightful little volume, the one thing that impresses me most strongly is the real wisdom shown in many of the poems; especially in view of the fact that their author was so young when he wrote them.  Few persons, for instance, would ever guess that the following stanzas were the work of a young man of 23:—


A WARKIN' MON'S REFLECTIONS.


Sometimes, when wearied eawt at neet,
    Aw sit me deawn i' th' owd arm cheear,
Bi t' fire 'at bruns so warm an' breet,
    An' think o' t' joy an' comfort theer.
An' strange reflections cross mi mind,
    When studyin' t' ways o' human life;
An' oft, aw try some rooad to find,
    To leeten t' toil an' strife.

Aw think a' fooak 'at fret an' pine,
    An' uv ther envy mek a show;
Because they corn'd turn eawt as fine
    As somebry else they chance to know.
Wod foo's sich fooak mun be, for sure,
    To sigh for things they corn'd command!
A man may be, though ragged an' poor,
    As good as t' best i' t' land.

A mon 'at's blessed wi' strength an' health,
    To toil an' earn his daily bread,
Should envy nobry o' ther wealth,
    Nor grieve for things 'at he corn'd ged.
Breet gowd con gain respect, aw know,
    While poverty grins deawn on t' poor,
But rank an' titles, after o,
    Are empty seawnds—no mooar.

Th' owd squire 'at lives i' th' ho' up yon,
    Surreawnded wi' id park an' greawnds!
Con co o t' land for miles, his own,
    An' gooa eawt huntin' wi' his heawnds.
But when he roams thro' t' meadows green,
    Or throo' his woods, weel stacked wi' game;
He con but feeast his e'en on t' scene,
    An' sooa con aw, just t' same.

Because he's deawn i' t' world a bit,
    A mon's no reason to give way;
Be brave i' t' strife, dorn'd mope an' sit,
    For after t' darkness follows t' day.
Cheer up, an' banish care away,
    An' o'er yo'r troubles gaily sing;
Ther's many a warkin' mon to-day,
    Far happier than a king.

We've o eawr ups an' deawns to face,
    Sooa buckle to an' mek yo'r mark;
An' fortune's sun 'll shine i' t' place
    O' t' cleawds 'at mek life drear an' dark.
Heawever hard yo'r lot may be,
    Keep courage, tho' yd chance to fo';
For just look reawnd yo', an' yo'll see
    There's plenty woss than yo'.

Sooa do yo'r duty while yo' con,
    An' let this be yo'r daily creed—
To act to every fella mon,
    Wi' truth an' reet, i' ward an' deed.
An' aw'll do t' same misel, an' o,
    Until aw tek mi final rest;
An' then when t' judgment comes, aw know
    Aw'st stan' mi chance wi' t' best.


    The poems descriptive of factory life are among the most faithful word-pictures I have ever seen.  The mere titles of some of them are sufficient to suggest the touch of a master hand; as witness, "Eawr Turn's Getten Tacklin' To-Day," "Six o'clock at Mornin'," "Yon Weyver as Warks t' Beeams to Me," and


HAWF-PAST FIVE AT NEET.


For fooak 'at's slaves to t' factory bell, life's nooan so breet nor gay;
For every morn they start at six, an' wark like foo's o t' day.
Bud when id geds tort stoppin' time, ther sinkin' hearts grow leet;
An' sich a change comes o'er 'em o at hawf-past five at neet.

Id meks 'em feel so glad, to know ther labour's o'er once mooar;
An' lots a' faces breeten up, 'at looked quite sad befoor.
They swarm like bees throo' t' factory gate, to th' oppen air i' t' street;
An' leeave o t' cares o' toil behind, at hawf-past five at neet.

There's t' chap as fuddled t' neet afooar, an' geet aboon his share;
He's ready, soon as th' engine stops, to dart off like a hare.
Another pint or two, he ses, ull mek him feel o reet;
An' in he pops at t' nearest "pub," at hawf-past five at neet.

Yo'll see young lasses decked i' smiles, o rushin' fro' ther wark;
To ged donned up to meet ther chaps, an' ramble reawnd bi t' park.
It's t' thowts o' t' walk, an' t' pleasant talk, 'at mek ther faces breet;
An' fills ther hearts wi' sweet content, at hawf-past five at neet.

For t' chap 'at's fagged an' wearied eawt, wi' t' toil he's done throo t' day;
Id brings a spell o' welcome rest, to drive o t' gloom away.
An' when he reyches th' hooam fireside, wheer o's so snug an' breet,
He feels 'at's life's wo'th livin' for, at hawf-past five at neet.

It's th' only time as warkin' fooak con tek life as they choose,
An' sit an' smook, or read some book, or talk o'er th' latest news.
Or ramble eawt, at t' clooase o' day, when t' summer air smells sweet;
For slavery's theirs—an' nowt no moor, till hawf-past five at neet.

To t' sons o' toil, wode'er they be, id flings id joys areawnd;
Id cheers up mony a weary heart, an' meks ther sperrits beawnd.
Id brings 'em t' tidin's 'at they're free, an' meks ther burdens leet;
Hey! t' richest gem o' factory life is hawf-past five at neet.


    "Bits o' Broad Lancashire" contains many pieces which have become favourites with reciters.  Some of these are of special local interest, such as "Th' Pell Mell Boggart," "Luv in a Chimley," "Feniscliffe Gate," "Shootin' Owd Turpin," "Owd Isaac an' t' Bum-Bailiffs," "Th' Owd Neet-Watch," and "Owd Putty's Race."  Others, not on local subjects, but full of genuine humour, include "Yon Troublesome Lad," "Heaw Johnny Kept His Promise," "Eawr Moll's Hed a Raw Wi' Her Chap," and "Heaw Owd Jerry Geet a Wife."

    Subsequent to the publication of the poems already mentioned Mr. William Baron contributed to the "Northern Daily Telegraph " and the "Sunday Chronicle."  He also started "Bill o' Jack's Journal," an admirable little monthly magazine; but this had to be abandoned, at an early period, owing to his being stricken with a serious illness.  From "Bill o' Jack's Journal" I have taken a dainty love-lyric, entitled:—


WHAT COULD AW SAY?


Aw'd just stopped to rest me, a bit past th' owd farm;
For t' basket wur heavy, an' t' weather wur warm.
Aw wur listenin' to t' woodlark i' t' thicket beyond;
While t' sunbeams danced gaily on t' surface o' t' pond.
But o ov a sudden a footstep drew near;
An' when aw looked reawnd me blithe Roger wur theer,
He smiled—eh, so kindly, an' bid me "Good day!"
Then he axed to goo wi' me—an' what could aw say?

When aw stooped down for t' basket "Howd on theer," said he;
"Aw'll carry it for tha—tha'rt tired, aw can see."
Sooa he took it up leetly, an' gaily he talked:
But his language grew sweeter as farther we walked.
When t' market wur ended, we walked back once mooar,
An' he clung to me closely till reychin' th' heawse dooar.
Then he axed me to meet him on some other day;
An' aw raised no objections—for what could aw say?

We met two days after—aw'd gone deawn to t' well;
But soon aw discovered aw weren't bi misel.
Oh! he mun ha' bin watchin', for me he espied;
An' afore aw'd filled t' buckets he stood bi mi side.
"Eh, do let me drink, lass!" he sed wi' a grin;
But he none wanted t' wayter—'twur me at he'd sin.
An' while aw hoisted t' well rope, he chatted quite gay;
Then he bent o'er and kissed me—an' what could aw say?

That wur but th' beginnin' o' what had to be;
For mony a ramble had Roger an' me.
June changed to December—December to May,
An' eawr luv, wi' acquaintance, grew stronger each day.
But one neet, when ramblin' throo t' meadows so green;
He pressed mi hand softly, an' glanced i' mi een.
An' he talked, an' he pleaded, in such a nice way;
Then he axed me to wed him—an' what could aw say?


    Of his non-dialect poetry I have only space for a couple of examples.  The dell described in the first is situated about three miles from Rochdale; and "Rained In," the series of sketches in which the song is embodied,—was written expressly for, and appeared in "The Rochdale Times" at the end of 1889:—


HEALEY DELL.


O, sweet to the vision is Healey's famed dell,
    With its shady retreats, and its pathways so green!
What pen can describe it?—What language can tell
    The charms and the beauties surrounding the scene?
'Tis a picture as fair as the Eden of old
    Where mankind's first parents were tempted and fell;
Our hearts are enraptured whene'er we behold
    The rich works of nature in Healey's cool dell.

How grand to stroll there at the coming of Spring,
    When the buds and the blossoms are fresh on the trees!
To list to the song birds, that soar as they sing,
    And inhale the pure fragrance that comes on the breeze.
Our fancies, our thoughts, how delightful they are!—
    Too deep for expression, our bosoms they swell;
Life brings many pleasures, but dearest by far
    To me is a ramble through Healey's sweet dell.

When the leaves by the zephyrs at night-fall are stirred,
    And darkness is lowering upon the earth's breast;
The voice of the cuckoo may often be heard
    As he calls for the mate of his choice to his nest.
And the murmuring stream as it ripples along,
    Looks up at the daisy, and nodding blue-bell,
Which open their petals to list to its song
    That awakens their slumbers in Healey's fair dell.

When the moon sheds her rays an the old ruined mill,
    There the maiden of Shawclough roams forth with her swain;
And with breast beating high, in that spot calm and still—
    He pleads for her hand, and he pleads not in vain.
When troubles oppress me I thither repair,
    And roam o'er the scenes that I love, oh, so well!
For the Almighty's goodness is shown to me there,
    In the unrivalled beauties of famed Healey Dell!


    The second needs no explanation, in view of the publication of this volume just after the crowning of King Edward VII.


A CORONATION ODE.


Sovereign lord of the Empire!—King of our Isle of the Sea!—
The eyes of thy countless subjects to-day are turned on thee—
On thee and thy Royal Consort, who with thee shares the throne.
Within her veins flows the blood of the Danes, but her love is ours alone.
List to the drums' loud beating!—List to the trumpets' blare!—
List to the sounds of rejoicing that rise on the balmy air!
Banished is care and sadness, gaily the joy bells ring,
In every heart reigns gladness at the crowning of thee—our King!

Great son of a greater mother!—a heritage vast is thine!
On thy dominions the sun ne'er sets, but ever and aye doth shine.
Thy sphere of rule is boundless—it stretches across the seas
Away to the Land of the Maple, and the far Antipodes.
No single point of the compass, but thy flag is flying there;
In north and south, in the torrid zone—it flutters everywhere!
From the towering minarets of the east, to the wigwams of the west,
Thou wieldest sway o'er millions who obey thy least behest.

Remember that those of thy subjects who dwell o'er the rolling foam,
Are as staunch in their allegiance as those in our island-home;
They have proved both ready and willing to take up the Empire's cause,
And have shed their life-blood freely in battle against its foes.
Nobly they came to the rescue!—and wherever our flag is unfurled
We have kinsmen ready to answer the call, and show unto all the world
That those who would seek our downfall, and wrest from us pride of place,
Must fight and vanquish, not Britain alone, but the whole of her dauntless
        race!

The sons of the Mother-country, who cling to their native share,
Are made of the stuff their fathers were, in the by-gone days of yore;
With the self-same warrior spirit, and the bulldog courage, too,
That won our battles on Crecy's plains at Blenheim and Waterloo.
No quarrel is of their seeking; no malice lives in their hearts;
But, once aroused to action, right well do they play their parts!
When danger threatens the dear old flag, to arms they eagerly spring
Ready to fight for England!—Ready to die for their King!

Many and great are the burdens of him who fills a throne!
Our prestige is in thy keeping, so guard it as thy own;
Keep thou its honour unsullied, preserve its spotless fame,
That those who come hereafter may have cause to revere thy name.
Light up the land with learning, bid strife and discard cease;
Encourage the march of Progress, and foster the arts of Peace!
Follow the golden footsteps of her who has gone before,
And the hearts of a grateful people shall bless thee evermore.

Seventh of the line of Edwards!—and noblest of all the seven—
Our love and our allegiance to thee is freely given!
The charge of a mighty Empire is handed unto thee,
And we feel thou wilt guide us safely, hard though thy task may be.
Gladly thy subjects hail thee as ruler of the realm;
With shouts of acclamation they see thee take the helm!
Through the lips of thy loyal millions this prayer is passed between:—
"Long live our new-crowned monarch!—God save the King and Queen!"


    Many readers will be glad to learn that Mr. William Baron has now in the press a second volume of poems, to be issued shortly under the title of "Echoes from the Loom."

__________________________

 
-XLIX-

Thomas Clounie.

 

This earnest and praiseworthy writer was born at Kirkcudbright, in the South of Scotland, in 1867.  As a boy, he attended the Board School at Glenlochar, in the Parish of Balmaghie, about ten miles from his birthplace, and close to the parental roof of Crockett, the novelist.  Mr. Clounie came to Blackburn in 1885, and, with the exception of two years spent in Australia, has resided in the neighbourhood ever since, and has followed the trade of a draper.  As some readers will remember, he contributed a very pleasing story of Australian life to the "Blackburn Times," at Christmas, 1901, while some of his most meritorious poems have also appeared in the Poets' Corner of the same journal.  The following are characteristic examples:—
 

 
THE RESCUE.


Man the lifeboat! man the lifeboat! o'er the wild waves' foam and spray;
Hark! the signal gun is booming, there are lives to save to-day;
Just in sight of home and harbour, shall our brothers perish now?
Not if boat or crew can save them, though no man on earth knows how.

Brave tars kiss their wives and sweethearts, bid the weeping ones good-bye;
Quickly leap into the lifeboat—pull to rescue or to die;
While their anxious friends stand watching, heedless of the raging storm,
Till no longer in the darkness can they trace each well-known form.

Are they mortal?   Are they human?   Have they in their hearts no fear
Of the yawning grave around them, of the rocks and breakers near?
No! those daring men are Britons, and the abyss of the deep
For each brave heart has no terror, though within it many sleep.

Filled with awe the crowd stands waiting, and each heart scarce dares to hope
That the lifeboat will be able with the elements to cope;
Far into the darkness peering, where the boat is last to view,
Long they stand there, doubting, fearing for the brave and gallant crew:

And the hearts of wives and mothers in the dread suspense grow cold,
And hope well-nigh dies within them for the dear ones brave and bold;
Was the recent parting final?   Shall they see them, then, no more?
Do the cruel waves enfold them?   Are their toils and trials o'er?

No! for, see! a gleam of moonlight through the dark clouds hurrying by,
Glancing on the murky waters, shows the lifeboat tossing nigh,
With the brave crew, hale and hearty, and the rescued from the ship;
What a shout of glad hurrahing bursts from every tongue and lip!

Now the wife will kiss her husband, and the mother kiss her son,
And the people, crowding round them, bless them for the deed they've done;
They are Britain's pride and glory, they, her offspring true and brave,
And with pride we tell the story how they conquer wind and wave.


Ed.—if you found this poem interesting you might wish to read Samuel Laycock's A Tribute to the Drowned.

 


SAVED.


An outcast creature stood alone,
    At midnight, by the river's brink,
And, oh! she longed to end her cares,
    And 'neath the cold, dark waters sink;
For life to her was but a void,
    And seared the heart that beat within
With many a wrong since childhood's days,
    And many a stain of crime and sin.

The busy city's maddening din
    Still sounded on her weary ears,
The lurid glare from haunts of sin
    She faintly saw through falling tears;
Repentant now, she stood alone,
    And who shall say it was too late?
The angels bright were watching her,
    And Christ was waiting at the gate.

Down to the ground she sank, and breathed
    The only prayer she ever knew,
'Twas learned upon her mother's knee—
    It was so old, and yet so new;
'Twas given by that loving Lord,
    Who ne'er refused to lend His aid
To lift a ruined creature up,
    Or lead a wanderer who had strayed.

The winter night was cold and chill;
    Her garments, meagre, worn, and scant,
Could not protect her wasted form,
    So frail and weak with bitter want;
But, heeding not the cold, she knelt,
    With eyes uplifted to the sky,
And pleaded 'fore her Maker there,
    The mighty judge who sits on High.

They found her, when the morning dawned,
    Still on her knees, but cold and dead;
The sin-stained soul had been made pure,
    And all her guilt and shame had fled.
They laid her in a pauper's grave,
    Her soul is now at peace in Heaven;
A brand was from the burning plucked,—
    A wretched sinner was forgiven.

 


PATRIOTISM.


Men of Britain, wake from slumber,
In your sea-girt island home,
Nor forget the years to number
While ye sleep as they of Rome.
Heirs of Empire, will ye forfeit
All the fruits your fathers won,
And, in apathy and surfeit,
Rest until your course is run?
Wake! to music that is sweeter
Than the brazen pipe of Mars,
And to objects that are meeter
For your pride than cruel wars.
In the workshop, oh ye toilers,
See ye lay the Empire's base!
Strong to baffle all despoilers,
Who the fabric seek to raze.
Tell your children well the story
How the Empire has been made—
Not by lust of martial glory,
Not by gun and gleaming blade;
But by earnest, faithful working;
Each one in his humble sphere;
Neither toil nor labour shirking,
For the homes you love so dear.
And the toilers are the vanguard
Of a nation's fighting host,
Their true happiness the standard
Of the fame we cherish most.

 


SOUTH AFRICA, 1900-1901.

I
N MEMORY OF THE FALLEN.


                              Weep now no more,
Oh!   Fathers and mothers no longer weep
For the youth who lies in his long last sleep,
On the lonely plain, 'neath the burning sun,
He lies at peace and his work is done.
Though no marble stone marks his place of rest
His name is hallowed, his soul is blessed;
"He fought for his country!"   This still shall be
His epitaph, carved on hearts that are free.
                              Then weep, oh, weep no more.

                              Weep now no more.
Sweethearts and wives, remember with pride
How the one that you loved so nobly died
In the flower of manhood, the bloom of life.
The call of duty, the signal of strife,
Was a sacred summons to such as him,
Though hearts were aching and eyes were dim,
Though ties were strong with the love of the years
And farewells were spoken through blinding tears.
                              Now weep, oh, weep no more.

                              Old England's foes
Have learned to honour the lads who went
From their dear English homes on Glory bent.
Blood of our blood, aye, and kin of our kin,
From the North and South in the Battle's din
Have mingled together—from East and West,
To fight for the flag they love the best.
And the race that rears such a noble stock
When gathered together the world shall shock,
                              Were all the world our foes.

                              Over the sea
Our thoughts will go, and our memories speed,
And the old heart wounds, they afresh will bleed,
And our pride will aye be hallowed by pain
When we think of faces unseen again.
The moon and the stars God's lights they will be
To those lonely graves o'er the sighing sea,
And children will whisper in days to come,
When they hear the roll of the rousing drum,
                              Of the graves across the sea.

 


BETTER THAN GOLD.


Better than gold, or what gold can buy,
Is the tender light in a loving eye—
The winsome smile and the word whispered law,
The answer that only the one may know.

Better than gold is the mystical tie
That binds two fond hearts as the years roll by;
In woe or in weal, in sorrow or joy,
No troubles of earth can this bond destroy.

Better than gold?   Yes, better than gold
And more precious far than treasures untold—
Is the happy household where true love reigns,
Calming life's sorrows and soothing its pains.

Better than gold are the bairnies that run
To welcome their dad when the day is done;
When the weary toil for a while is o'er,
How sweet are the pleasures of home once more!

Better than gold is the placid content
Of a humble life thus serenely spent,
Seeking no perilous summit to climb—
Lonely the pathway, though still sublime.

Then, when at last the grim shadow doth fall,
And the workman awaiteth the Master's call
To a better home in that land so fair,
Vain gold will not purchase a passport there.

 


THE DYING YEAR.


See! the old year now is dying, and the trees, with branches bare,
Mourning are for beauty faded, foliage once so rich and rare.
Now the blighted leaves are fallen, on the ground they faded lie,
Soil'd and trampled 'neath the footsteps of the careless passer-by.

The old year dies and warns us of the fate we all must meet;
Grim Death is ever marching with his swift though silent feet,
And the hours are ever forming, link by link, life's weary chain,
Days of bygone joy or sorrow we can never live again.

Soon it will be gone for ever, and, with many a fleeting dream,
Downward sink beneath the current of Time's dark relentless stream.
Friends have faded 'neath our tending, eyes are dim that once were bright,
Some are weak and helpless lying, tired and weary with the fight.

Now the fallen leaves around us sad and solemn memories bring
That we wish could be forgotten, for our hearts with pain they wring;
And the trees, with naked branches pointing to the wintry sky,
Seem like prophets old, foretelling that all things on Earth must die.


    There are several other poems, by Mr. Clounie, which I greatly regret being unable to give here.  But, as he has scarcely reached the noon of life, we shall, I hope, hear more of him and his work in the early future.

__________________________

 
-L-

Margaret Munro.
 


Among its large company of poets, Blackburn counts singularly few ladies.  With the exception of writers of fugitive pieces of very early dates, I can only recall the names of Rachel Prescott, Sarah Louisa Moore, and the two melodious singers noticed in this and the succeeding chapter.  With Rachel Prescott and Sarah L. Moore we have briefly dealt in our second and thirty-first chapters respectively.  Miss Munro, however, belongs to a much later period, and is, I hope, destined to live and sing for many a long year, to the joy of an ever-widening circle of grateful listeners.

    Margaret Munro, though of Scottish parentage, is a native of Holywell, North Wales; but left there in infancy.  She attended first a private school at Darley Abbey, near Derby; next the National School at Ulverston; and finally the National School at Rishton: coming from this adjacent village to Blackburn about 18 years ago.  She was for same time at Messrs. Johnson's establishment in Preston New-road, learning dressmaking, and has now been in that business, on her own account, for about 12 years.

    The first poem Miss Munro ever wrote was upon the subject of the Industrial Exhibition which was held, in 1894, in connection with James Street School, Blackburn, chiefly for the purpose of raising money for a cot at the Wilpshire Orphanage.  Prizes were on that occasion offered for original poems by members of the school or congregation; and Miss Munro's first attempt gained the first prize.  Her next poem, "Friends for Life," won a prize from "Melia's Magazine," in which other promising poems and essays from her pen afterwards appeared.  Miss Munro has been connected with James Street Sunday School for 8 or 9 years, and for five years has taught a Young Women's Class there.

    The six short poems which follow are good examples of her briefer pieces; but there are several others, of greater length, which I should have liked to quote had space permitted:—


A SPRING DAY.


Now comes the merrie, merrie May,
    The birds are singing, singing;
The very air seems glad to-day,
    Wild flowers are springing, springing.

Even in busy, smoky town
    The sweet spring sunshine lingers,
And thro' the din comes floating down
    Faint echoes of the singers.

So all thro' life, day follows night;
    When life is dreary, dreary,
There comes a shaft of sunshine bright,
    Reviving hearts a-weary.

And words of love, in wintry days,
    May set the heart a-singing,
As thro' the "homely household ways"
    Hope sends her bright thoughts winging.

 


"A HEART OF GOLD."


These words fell on my ears to-day,
    And I pictured a garden old.
And a friend of mine with a bright, fresh face,
    And a genuine "heart of gold."

There are warm, true hearts in the city's din,
    But we carelessly pass them by;
Perhaps the caskets are plain or old,
    And common-place to the eye.

Yet though the world may not count them fair,
    Or worthy an honoured place;
We may see the glow of noble thoughts
    In many a careworn face.

I think of friends who have passed away,
    And the "Searcher of Hearts," I ween,
Thro' days of sorrow, joy, or pain,
    Their sterling worth hath seen.

And other faces smile thro' the dusk,
    Faces of friends, young and old;
And this truth springs to my lips anew,
    Hearts of love are "hearts of gold."

So, though the world may not count them fair,
    Their ways are ever kind;
Their eyes have a light not born of earth,
    'Tis the light of gold refined.

 


WALL-FLOWERS.


The sweet wall-flowers in their homely dresses
    Adorn our garden-paths once more;
Each passing breeze their petals caresses,
    And the birds seem singing "Grim Winter is o'er."

To the passer-by their fragrance flinging,
    Even in crowded city streets;
To careworn faces some brightness bringing,
    As the generous flowers send forth their sweets.

Ah! other flowers may be brighter, fairer;
    The lily with statelier grace may bend,
The rose's scent may be richer, rarer,
    Yet the wall-flower comes as a dear old friend:

A friend that will stay when others leave us,
    In its dear old dress of sober hue,
Like a trusty soul,—when others grieve us,—
    With a helping hand and sympathy true.

So, dear old friend, I must sing your praises
    In country garden or city street,
With the gladsome lark who his song upraises
    To the Giver of all things good and sweet.

And when is ended Life's voyage stormy,
    And I calmly sleep in earthy bed,
May you, dear wall-flowers, then nod o'er me,
    And over "God's acre" your fragrance shed.

 


AN EASTER THOUGHT.


In sauntering down the old, familiar path,
    Where years agone I had been wont to tread,
The birds soft twittering in their tiny nests
    Bear back my heart towards the quiet dead.

I ask: Upon the Resurrection Morn,
    When we and they shall rise again once more,
Shall we all know and love each other then?
    Be friends the same as in the days of yore?

The same sweet flowers are sent us every spring,—
    Not strangers, but the flowers we know and love:
They rise from Winter's sleep to guide anew
    Our hearts and minds to thoughts of Life Above.

And so I love to think that we shall see
    Our dead again,—the dear, belovèd friend
Whose longed-for face shall be the first to greet
    Us in the After-Life that knows no end.

And as I walk beside the hawthorn hedge,
    My weary heart with sudden gladness fills,
For 'mid the boughs of dewy, budding trees,
    Some joyous, wooing bird his love-song trills.

Sing on, sweet happy bird, the Spring has come—
    Glad promised time of hope for thee and me;
The seasons never fail—God never can—
    And I, too, sing my thanks as well as thee.

 


THE SEASONS.


The Spring, she is a tricky sprite.
We hail her advent with delight.
She comes, in tender green arrayed,
With smiles and frowns,—this merry maid,—
    And airy; fairy tread.
She taps the flow'rets in the grass,
Just peeping up to watch her pass;
"Sleepers, awake!" she gaily cries;
But ere they open wide their eyes
    The laughing sprite has fled.

And now a calmer maid is seen,
Arrayed in robes of golden sheen,
Who moves with Summer's languorous grace,
And holds the earth in love's embrace,
    With warm and kindly glance.
And o'er green fields and rippling stream
She throws anon a golden gleam;
Where'er she waves her magic wand,
She sends a gladness o'er the land
    That causes hearts to dance.

Then Autumn comes, with sober tread,
And puts the little flowers to bed;
She works away with right good will,
Her warning voice comes from the hill,
    "Hark!   Winter's at the door."
In russet brown she walks along
And leads awhile the reapers' song:
We join with thankful, cheery voice,
Give thanks to God (while hearts rejoice)
    For daily bread once more.

Now Winter comes, with visage thin,
We take her hand and lead her in;
With kindness thaw her frosty face,
Till e'en in her we see some grace,
    As round the fire we sit,
Recalling thoughts and memories old,—
Of dreary days and days of gold;—
We meet dear friends, not seen for long,
The dark nights pass with mirth and song,
    While hearts are closer knit.

 


THE LAST LOOK.


One last, long look ere the grave seals up
    Our dead till the judgment Day.
The earthly garb of the soul we loved
    Will soon be with the clay.

Dear One! thou liest so pale and still,
    The face love made so sweet;
No more I shall clasp thy warm, true hand,
    Or hear those eager feet.

With thy peaceful face and folded hands—
    Earth's joy and sorrow past,
The eyes that were wont to smile on me,
    Alas! they have looked their last.

I shall meet no more that answering look
    From the "windows of the soul";
They have closed for aye on earthly things,
    And see the heavenly goal.

'Tis hard to place in the cold, cold earth
    The form we loved,—the shell,—
To think of the lonely years in store,
    Yet "H
E doeth all things well."

But the soul?   Ah! that is with its God,
    From earthly bonds set free;
As the dove returned to the ark at last
    From that trackless waste of sea.

Not dead, but risen!   That Easter song
    Comes back with a glad refrain:
Yea, risen with Christ, who conquered death,
    And weariness, and pain.


    The Bible, referred to in our concluding poem, is now in Miss Munro's possession, and it formerly belonged to an ancestor of hers named Gilbert Gillespie, a Covenanter, who as a youth was present with his father at, and took part in, the battle of Sheriffmuir, near Falkirk:—


THE COVENANTER'S BIBLE.


I read of kingly, noble deeds they did in days of yore;
Of Bruce and Wallace, brave and true,—of these and many more.
I feel my very heart is stirred by knightly deeds of old;
They fought for Scotland's liberty, untouched by love of gold.

But when I think of those who left their homes and all things dear,
Ah! then my heart within me burns; I see the blazing bier
From which those heroes mount to heaven, their latest word a prayer,
Commending to their Saviour's hands their every earthly care.

And proud am I to be akin to noble hearts like these;
The thought is lifeblood to my own, forbidding slothful ease.
Of one I think: he left his home to fight for truth and God;
This book sole treasure he had prized: though now beneath the sod
He lies at rest for centuries past, his memory's dear to me;
Nor fire nor sword could make him flinch; may I be true as he.
With reverent hand I turn the page, while slowly reading there
The leaf; so frail and dim with age, he hoarded with such care.

All honour to that covenant to which they were so true;
For not alone the men stood there, but tender women too.
Dearer to them than lands or wealth, their faith shone bright and clear;
Steadfast they stood, and let life go, for what I'm holding here.

 

__________________________

 
-LI-

Clara Eveline Ramskill.
 


Miss Ramskill is, so far as I know, the youngest of Blackburn's poetic children, having been born here in the year 1880.  She is the youngest child of James and Margaret Ramskill.  Her mother was a native of Oozehead, near Billinge, and has spent the greater part of her life in Blackburn.  As a child, Clara attended the St. Peter's-street Wesleyan Day School from the time she began to go to school until it went out of existence.  In 1893 her father died; and in the following year her mother, her sister, and herself removed to Chicago, and in that thriving American city they have made their home ever since.

    When our young authoress graduated from High School in 1900, she was chosen Class Poet, and at that time wrote "Commencement," the blank-verse poem which closes this chapter.

    "Barring that attempt at verse," she writes, "what I have written has been written merely for my own pleasure, and not for publication.  "A Cliff" and "To H.L.T." have, however, been published, the first in a Canadian magazine, and the second in a Chicago school paper."

    I am sure all cultured readers will agree that the poems which follow are quite worthy of permanent preservation; and that if the writer of them will continue to sing "for her own pleasure," she may well be encouraged to publish, for the pleasure and lasting benefit of others:—


A CLIFF.


That ancient watcher by the rolling tide,
    Grim wave-washed cliff in silv'ry lichens dressed,
    Steadfastly buffeting the angry crest
Of reckless waves, which gather far and wide
To dash their baffled waters 'gainst its side,
    Stands still serene, as if they but caressed
    Its giant form.   Like one with them at rest
It seems to stand; for ever to abide.
Ah! that I, too, amid the world's dark waves,
    Surging in angry billows round my life,
With steadfast hope, and faith serene that braves
    Oncoming tides of quickly gath'ring strife,
Might calmly rest upon a strength not mine,
A rock secure, eternal, and Divine!

 


TO H. L. T.


Lassie with the earnest eyes
    Shaded by their long, black lashes,
Are your thoughts as beautiful
    As the light that from them flashes?

Are you longing to be great
    As you ponder o'er that history?
Are you longing to be wise
    Fathoming some ancient mystery?

Girlish fancies soon will pass,
    Will you reach some height as glorious
As the one you dream of now,
    Picturing yourself victorious?

 


LILIES OF THE VALLEY.


Like the first gleam of the spear heads
    Which Cadmus' warriors bore.
Who sprang from the teeth of the dragon
    Sown on the Theban shore,
Are the first green shoots of the lily
    As they come through the brown earth's crust
To spring into light and beauty
    From their prison in the dust.

Caressed by the sun and the showers
    They grow in their purity,
And unfold from their dainty bosoms
    Their blossoms for you and me.
They teach us many lessons
    These fragile flowers of the vale,
And bring us beautiful music
    In their perfumed bells so pale.

Hark! in the sweet, spring morning,
    When the soft, south breezes blow!
They are singing a jubilant chorus
    In a merry measure, though low.
But when the purple shadows
    Of evening begin to fall
From the lilies drowsily closing
    Comes the sweetest music of all.

Soft as a ring-dove's cooing,
    Tender as mother's song,
Sweet as the nightingale's echo
    The woods and the hills among;
Like the chant of a fairy chorus
    Under a sunset sky,
Is the song in the garden at evening—
    Is the lilies' lullaby.

 


RECOLLECTION.


O quiet spot and limpid stream,
A childish memory or a dream,
Where murmuring waters gently glide
Between green banks on either side;

And ancient trees their branches spread
Between me and the blue o'erhead,
Your tranquil air of summer peace
Floods all my soul with restfulness,

When I in fancy seem to be
Beneath that ancient spreading tree,
Where murmuring waters gently glide
Between green banks on either side.

 


COMMENCEMENT.

[Recited at the Commencement Exercises of the John Marshall High School of Chicago, Class of 1900.]


Here meeting in the pale twilight of June,
While time with wingèd feet hurries us on
To that sad time when we shall meet no more,
We fain would pause for one brief moment's space
And cast a backward glance over the path
We've travelled.   Pleasant has the journey been
Through meadows fair and green, by gentle slopes.
To where the heights of knowledge upward tower
Beyond the mists of time to endless day.
Here voices like the whisperings of a breeze
First faint, then growing stronger, seem to call
And bid us wander o'er their vast domain.
Just as a child who plays along the shore
Lingers at first beside some shallow pool
And fancies it the sea, till, clasped in hers
The mother takes his hand and leads him where
The deep lies stretched before him, so had we
Like heedless children, played about the pools
We thought were seas of knowledge, until she
Our Alma Mater, led us from them, showed
Us wisdom's sea in awful grandeur rolling.
And now when she has shown us where to look
For knowledge, when the possibilities
Of life begin to dawn upon our minds,
She sends us forth to find our place of toil,
Which waits for us amid the strife and din
Of daily life.   Let us go forth like knights
Of old, to do our part, to suffer, fight,
Wherever truth or duty call.   For armed
We go, by her kind, loving hands who sends
Us forth.   She can but watch us now and bless
Our going.   Hark!   Can we not hear her say:
"Go then.   Use well what you have learned.  The world
Has need of earnest lives.   I dedicate
Your youth and strength to service for mankind.
Henceforth you stand alone.   My task is done.
Farewell!"

                A few brave souls whose ampler fates
Are calling them to venture from the path
Worn by the tread of many passing feet,
May choose the rugged steep, whose shining heights
O'erlook life's humbler plains.   To them we say
"God grant you may not falter, or turn back
When once your path is chosen.   Rest not till
The highest point is gained."

                                                          But most of us
Must tread life's common, dusty road, amid
A mighty throng of wayfarers, and close
By some who falter 'neath their weight of care;
Or some in whose sad hearts the song of hope
Has trembled into silence, hushed because
Earth's weary tasks leave them no time to catch
Its cheering notes, or learn its bright refrain.
Oh! let us strive, that we ourselves lose not
Hope's cheering strain, to wake in answ'ring chords
The sleeping echoes, till those lives again
Shall ring with music as in other days.
Let not our lives be spent in idle search
For swiftly fleeting pleasures.   Let our aims
Be kept above the world's low aim of self
And gain.   Oh! let us live that when at last
Stern Death's cold hand shall still the beating heart,
Some one may say, "The world was brighter where
He moved amid the common ways of life."

__________________________

 
-LII-

Poetic After-math.


This last chapter is intended to contain very brief notices of two Blackburn poets- who have only lately became known to the present writer, and of two others who, though previously known, have been left unnoticed until the close, in the hope that (as the result of repeated inquiries) further information, relating to them or their work, might be obtained.  They are here dealt with in chronological order, the earliest bearing the name of—

 
Henry Burgess.


The Reverend Henry Burgess, LL.D., some time Curate of St. Mary's Parish Church, Blackburn, was the author of several volumes of prose, and also of at least one little volume of verse.  His prose works include "The Amateur Gardener's Year Book" (1854), and a smaller work, entitled "Eminent Personal Religion the Want of the Times," published in 1849, by Benjamin L. Green, of London.  The small volume of his poems, now before me, was issued by the same publisher in 1850, and this particular copy belongs to the lending department of the Blackburn Free Library.  It is one of several books, by Blackburn writers previously unknown to me, to which the Librarian, Mr. Richard Ashton, has kindly directed my attention.  The two pieces which next follow are taken from this little volume:—


THE SLIGHTED LOCK.

O
N FINDING A LOCK OF HAIR
OF A DECEASED FRIEND.


I took thee from the hand that gave
    To me the precious treasure,
And on my breast I wore thee long,
    With blighted love's sad pleasure.

But other eyes soon smiled on me,
    New hopes before me brightened;
I took thee, slighted relic! forth,
    Of thee my heart I lightened.

I would not that new friends should view
    This early mournful token;
And thus affection proved untrue,
    And former vows were broken.

Ah, man! thy friendship ardent seems
    O'er buried love while weeping;
But soon thy faith grows cold and dead
    To one in darkness sleeping.

Had woman claimed one lock of mine,
    When in the grave I slumbered,
Her heart the farewell gift had kept
    Till all her days were numbered.

 


THE MUMMY OF ISRAEL.

"And the physicians embalmed Israel."—Gen. i. 2.


In some lone cave the Patriarch still
    In decent order lies!
Great Egypt's ancient healing skill
    Corruption's power defies.

Thy fathers have to dust returned
    Their forms for ever fled;
But thou, great saint! art still inurned,
    Thou art but partly dead.

O could some angel now disclose
    Thy spot of lonely rest!
What hand might break thy long repose
    Or rend thy swathing vest?

While Copts with pompous art enshrined
    To curious eyes are given;
Father of Israel's tribes, we wait
    To see thy form in heaven!


    Our third and last example of Henry Burgess's poetry seems to have been written after the publication of his little volume; for it was dated "Blackburn. January 10, 1852," and appeared in the "Blackburn Standard":—


TRUTH.


I sought her in the haunts of men.
    Where senates boast of patriot fire;
Where Genius guides the aspiring pen,
    Or poets touch the tuneful lyre;
But though I saw her image fair
I sought in vain—she was not there.

To, holy temples then I strayed,
    For surely there the truth must be!
Since thousands to the heavenly maid
    With fond allegiance bow the knee.
Her prayer, like incense, filled the air,
And yet she was not always there.

But when in solitary thought
    I meekly read God's holy word,
Her presence to my view was brought
    And all my inmost spirit stirred.
Where Revelation's leaves declare
The Truth to be, I found her there.

As sometimes flowers their grace conceal
    When placed beneath the blaze of day,
And only then their charms reveal
    When milder beams around them play:—
So truth avoids the world's proud glare;
She shuns the crowd—she is not there.


    We come now to a writer who was well known in Blackburn literary circles little more than twenty years ago; but about whom, during the last three years, I have made many inquiries with extremely little success.  I refer to—

___________

E. S. Littleton.


    He is thought to have been the son of a Mr. Littleton who was at one period a minister of the congregation of Particular Baptists in Islington, Blackburn; and to have been born here during his father's pastorate.  In or about 1877 he was at Tunbridge Wells, engaged in journalistic work, in connection with which he edited a small monthly magazine called "The Pantiles Papers," the title being derived from a well known street in that famous watering place.  In the summer of 1877 he published his "Hamand, and other Poems," a little work of 64 pages, and evidently a youthful production.  "Hamand," a dramatic piece; "To Hope"; "Cerus and the 'Goddess of Poesy,' a Vision"; and the "Passage of the Red Sea" make up its contents, which, however, do not include anything suitable for brief quotation here.

    During the general election of 1880 Mr. Littleton was so inflamed with disgust at what he regarded as the wickedness of politics, that he issued in Blackburn a short prose pamphlet, entitled "The General Election: Politics and Perdition."  This was printed by Messrs. Kellett and White, and was dedicated to the members of the Blackburn Literary Club.  The President of the Club, at that time, was Mr. T. J. Sycklemoore, B.A., to whom I am indebted for such information, relating to Mr. Littleton, as I possess.  On the title-page of this pamphlet the writer describes himself as author or editor of the prints already mentioned, and also as Co-Editor of "Kensington" magazines (London).

    On July 4th, 1879, Mr. Littleton forwarded to the Empress Eugenie a poem, upon the death of her unfortunate son, which was suitably acknowledged, on her behalf, by the Duc de Bassano.  This poem, which subsequently appeared in the "Blackburn Times," is the only locally-published piece, by Littleton, that I have seen.  Here is a copy of it:—


THE DEATH OF PRINCE LOUIS NAPOLEON.


He fell; and o'er the spot a settled gloom arose.
    Then the slow spirit of that deep dismay,
Waked as from stupor, o'er the regions flows,
    Half loth to mingle with the beams of day.

By sorrow clogged, as some sick bird would fly
    With slothful wings o'er ocean to its home;
Or as some sleepy billow like to die,
    That sluggishly the lisping sea doth roam,

Moved this sad spirit, filled with pregnant pain,
    And hesitating ere it struck the world
Till, touched as with an urging throb again,
    It flew apace, and o'er the main was hurled:

Then with ethereal swiftness flashed away
    Along the earth—to England and to France!
Till with a sphere-like touch, in darkening day
    The world stood stupor'd in a sudden trance!

Men scanned and spent their spirits o'er the page:
    Till forth they wandered on the waking tongue,
And there the youth, the stoic and the sage,
    In unsophisticated sorrow hung!

Swiftly the generous thought was turned to you,
    Bereaved Lady! o'er whose tender heart
Such awful pangs of dreadful terror flew—
    Whose breast was pierced with so sublime a dart!

Show me who grudged the swelling sympathy
    Which as a world-wide incense then was born!
Have such men life?—then did the shamed earth see
    Monsters in flesh! on that most cruel morn.

Oh! that the teeming sympathy of souls
    Yearning to comfort you, could yield relief!
Then such a voice as through dear England rolls
    Would heal for ever your immortal grief!

___________


    Nearly at the last moment I have come across an addition to our small choir of lady-singers.  There is little time for careful perusal of Miss Ling's pieces, and extremely little space available for their inclusion here; but I think it much better to give this hasty and inadequate notice than to omit all reference to a praiseworthy and promising writer:—

 
Ellen Ling
 


is a native of Oakley, in Suffolk, but came to this district in 1875, having since that year resided at Feniscawles.  She has contributed poems to the Blackburn "Weekly Standard," "Weekly Telegraph," and "Times"; and on the anniversary of Queen Victoria's death she addressed an "In Memoriam" poem to the present Queen, its receipt being acknowledged by the Hon. Sidney Greville.

    She has been writing since she was eleven years of age, and one of her recent pieces—"A Prayer for King Edward"—has been set to music by Mr. J. E. Layton, organist of St. James's Church, Lower Darwen.  Here is my too-brief selection from her poetry:—


AUTUMN LEAVES.


Leaves of Autumn, sadly falling,
    Slow and solemn, one by one,
Are you to us mortals calling,
    Telling us your work is done?

Autumn leaves, is this the story
    That you tell to one and all:—
"While the sun shines in its glory,
    Work, for you like us must fall.

"When the glorious Spring and Summer
    Of your life has passed away,
You, like us, will sink to slumber,
    And in earth be hid away.

"In life's spring-time, O remember!—
    Youth and beauty fade away;
Soon will came the chill December,—
    Soon will fade life's little day.

"O remember your Creator
    In the happy days of youth,
Evil days may find you later,
    Serve Him now in deed and truth."

Autumn leaves, we'll heed your warning
    And the lesson you have taught,
And in this, our life's glad morning,
    We will serve Him as we ought.

Then, when we have passed Death's Portal,
    And the graves our bodies hide,
We shall rise to life immortal,
    Through the blood of Him who died.

 


TO A MOTHER ON THE DEATH OF A CHILD.


By the stream of death the Shepherd stood,
    And a mother stood weeping by:
For the Shepherd had taken her lamb in his arms,
    And the mother's anguished cry
Arose in a swift and fervent prayer,
    "Lord, spare my child to me!''
But the Shepherd answered, "I take the lambs
    That the sheep may follow me."

 


THE THRUSH ON THE OLD HAWTHORN.


A thrush sings clear on our hawthorn tree,
And I wonder what his song can he,
For be the weather foul or fair,
That bird is sweetly singing there.

As his notes ring out, clear as a bell,
What is his message?   Ah, who can tell!
Is he singing of sweet spring days to come,
When he and his mate will build their home?

O he sings so sweet in the old hawthorn,
He waits not for sun, he waits not for dawn,
In the cold dark morn as he trills his song,
He knows that summer will not be long.

So while he is waiting for brighter days,
He cheerily sings to his Maker's praise,
And he brings a message of trust to me,
As he sings his song in the hawthorn tree.

And this is the message he brings to me,
As his notes ring out, so wild and free,
"When thy heart is heavy with care or sorrow,
Trust thou in God for a brighter morrow.

"For Winter will pass, and Summer will come,
And God will watch o'er thy friends and home;
So trust thou in Him, whate'er may betide,
Who cares for the birds for thee will provide."

 


GOD'S HARVEST FIELD.


Go, work for God,—there's work for all,—
Go ere the shades of evening fall;
Go ere the sun sinks in the west,
For when night comes, then comes thy rest.

O haste then to the field away,
And labour on while it is day:
God's harvest field with corn is white,
Thrust in the scythe with all thy might.

But if He hath not given thee power
To wield the scythe till evening's hour,
Then be thy work to bind the sheaves
Or glean the ears the binder leaves.

If thou canst neither glean nor reap,
No need to "fold thy hands in sleep";
Go to the field, with courage strong,
And cheer the reapers with a song.

However small thy part may be,
God will remember it, and thee,
When all who laboured here shall stand
Before the throne at His right hand.

___________


    Circumstances of a particularly mournful character have induced me, before closing this volume, to make a single exception to my usual rule, by including a brief notice of a young writer who (strictly speaking) was neither a native of Blackburn nor a contributor to its journals.

    On Saturday, August 2nd, 1902, the Modern Poets of Blackburn met together to show, in an especially pleasing way, their appreciation of the present work.  Among the merriest of that mirthful company was Mr. Joseph Jardine, who had journeyed specially from Annan to Blackburn in order to be present.  He had left his youngest son, Joseph, to attend to certain duties about his farm; the land attached to which is divided by a line of railway.  In crossing or walking home down this line, the unfortunate young man (who had, only two days earlier, completed his twenty-first year) was killed by a passing train during his father's absence; and, in all probability, about 11-30 p.m.  This tragic event has robbed us of a writer, who, though young and inexperienced, had already given promise of becoming a melodious singer, and who was looking forward to the appearance of the present work with eagerness and pleasure.


Joseph Jardine, Junior,


was born at the house of his maternal grandparents, in Evesham Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, U.S.A., on July 31st, 1881.  He was brought to Blackburn, on the return of his parents, when he was only a few weeks old; and here he remained until the family removed (as mentioned in the chapter on his father) to Croftheads, near Annan.  He was educated, for the most part, at Annan Academy, but it was not until he had left school for a year or so that he manifested that love for nature, for books, and for contemplative study, that characterised him ever afterwards.  His love for poetry was genuine and unaffected; and the productions of his Muse were the outcome of his own study, reading, observation, and reflection.  This first little poem was written when he had only just attained the age of fifteen years:—


AUTUMN.


Now radiant Autumn brings Harvest again;
For the fields are all shining with ripe golden grain.
While the sound of the reaper fills woodland and glen,
As we welcome sweet Autumn, with heart, voice, and pen.

The birds we hear singing, with greatest delight,
And the world is so heartsome in Autumn so bright;
The waters make music down each little brook,
And grandeur is seen in the lone shady nook.

Oh! all things are changed, in Autumn so gay,
And unto thee, dear season, my tribute I pay.
For the Poet of Nature loves gaily to sing
Of the comforts, the pleasures, the joys, thou dost bring.

Our eyes are delighted, our hearts filled with mirth,
What time thy rare beauties are seen on the earth.
So while we adore thee, glad songs let us raise,
For Autumn's a season most worthy of praise.


    He seems to have excelled in the writing of new songs to old and favourite airs, as witness this fresh, boyish picture of homely life, written to the tune of "The Laird o' Cockpen":—


MY MITHER'S FRAE HAME.


Oh! my mither's frae hame,—'tis too plainly seen,
By the weans that torment me at morn and at e'en.
And how they abuse me 'tis really a shame,
And tak sic advantage when mither's frae hame.

They say that I'm simple and lazy and daft,
They also declare I'm a wee kennin saft.
And if I dared to say that they were the same,
Why, they'd nearly half kill me, when mither's frae hame.

Yes, my mither's frae hame, and it aye vexes me
When the weans in her absence they canna agree.
And the way they gaun on, oh! I canna but blame,
For they steal a' my comfort when mither's frae hame.

Oh! my mither's frae hame,—'tis plain to be seen,
By the way I'm tormented at morn and at e'en.
And, until she comes back, it will aye be the same,
For they're masterfu' craturs when mither's frae hame.


    Here is another characteristic example of his promising efforts in song-writing:—


THE RIGHT GOOD FELLOW.


Oh! listen, all good fellows, to you a song I'll sing;
    A hearty song, and it shan't be long,
        Though it treats of a right good thing.
Come, all ye merry fellows, and join me while I sing:
    Oh! join in, strong, with a blithesome song,
        Till the roof and the rafters ring.

            So chorus, all good fellows,
                A rousing song we'll sing;
            We'll join in, strong, with a right good song,
                Till the roof and the rafters ring.

I'll sing the right good fellow, with honest heart and head,
    Who thinks no scorn, in the coarsest morn,
        To work for his daily bread.
He owns no great fine houses, no wealth has he to scan;
    But yet, I'm sure, if he's true and pure,
        He is God's own nobleman.

            So chorus, all good fellows,
                A rousing song we'll sing;
            We'll join in, strong, with a right good song,
                Till the roof and the rafters ring.

For thrusting, lifting, straining, with every nerve and limb,
    In cold and wet,—in the harvest sweat,—
        How vast is the work for him!
But ever to His noblest God gives the hardest deed;
    These years of toil, on the Master's soil,
        Shall win His grandest meed.

            Then a health to all good fellows,
                A health! a health! we sing;
            May they all live long that have sung this song
                Till the roof and the rafters ring.


    "May they all live long that have sung this song."  It is dated, "September, 1901."  Alas! for the youthful singer.  He sleeps his last, long sleep in the midst of that "Border-land of old romance" which shared with "loyal Lancashire" his warm heart's love.—


"And the stately ships go on
     To their haven under the hill;
 But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
     And the sound of a voice that is still!"



FINIS.

 


 

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