Ballads & Sonnets (3)
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MAY MIDDLETON'S TAM.


FRAE the schulehoose that sat at the heid o' the green,
To the fit o' the toon where the smiddy was seen—
Frae the narrow close mooth to the hoose on the brae,
Where the weans at odd times met to scamper an' play—
Frae the heid o' the parish to a' the laigh boun',
In a word, tak' at ance the hale country-side roun',
Frae the laird to the joiner that cooper'd a tram,
A' had an ill word o' May Middleton's Tam.

He had gleg een, an' mooth that was aye on the gape,
But his face for sax months hadna lookit on saip;
An' Nature hersel' had supplied him wi' shoon,
Sae waukit he'd dee maist afore they wore dune.
His knees play'd bo-keek through a rive in his breeks,
For his mither lang sync had lost a' faith in steeks;
But he scamper'd aboot fu' o' glee as a lamb—
'Od, an awfu' ill plague was May Middleton's Tam.

The back o' his han' was as broon as a taid,
An', as he had grown since his jacket was made,
The half o' his airm to the elbow was bare,
An' a scrimpit bit sark half in tatters was there;
While, what wi' the dichtin' his nose noo and thaun,
The tae sleeve was bricht as the lid o' a can—
There was nae washin' day to mak' dirt tak' a dwam
But wear on an' wear dune wi' May Middleton's Tam.

Had a stane been sent through ony window within
A mile frae his hoose, or some mischief been dune;
The mooth o' the pump stappit up, or a score,
Or the heid o' a man drawn wi' chalk on the door;
A deuk or a hen gotten deid, or a wean
Knockit into the siver when flowin' wi' rain—
"Wha could hae dune this?"   An' the answer aye cam'—
"Deil tak' him, wha else but May Middleton's Tam!"

He stole a' the bools frae the rest o' the weans,
An' pelted the big anes wha fash'd him wi' stanes;
He knockit aff bonnets, he ran ahint gigs,
He climb'd up on cairts, an' he ran alang brigs;
He jaggit the cuddy o' big ragman Jock
Till the croons that it made nearly frichten'd the folk;
An' yet, at the schule, nane could say verse or psalm
Freer aff heart an' tongue than May Middleton's Tam.

He was heid o' a' ill baith at mornin' an' late,
Sae that maist o' the folk wish'd him oot o' the gate,
But Birky, the maister, wha keepit the schule,
Said, aye when they ca'd him a rascal an' fule—
'There is something in Tam, if ye just wait a wee,
That will mak' ye a' glower, ill an' a' though he be."
But I wat Birky's faith was consider'd a sham,
For the deevil's ain bird was May Middleton's Tam.

He was twice carried hame wi' a cut in his heid,
Ony ithers but him 'twad hae streekit them deid;
But the eggs o' a corbie or piat to him
Were something worth while to risk life for an' limb.
He was catch'd by the miller gaun doon the mill race,
A' the hairm was a fricht, an' less dirt on the face;
An' thrice he was brocht half-droon'd oot o' the dam—
Od, the hangman was sure o' May Middleton's Tam.

His mither, puir woman, did a' that she could
To keep him in boun's, as a richt mither should;
But ance ower the door, she was oot o' his thocht,
An' a crony gaun by he was ready for ocht.
Then bare-leggit weans at the door micht look oot
To get, in the by-gaun, a push or a cloot;
But they took to their heels wi' a jump like a ram—
They a' stood in fear o' May Middleton's Tam.

But ill as he was, he grew up stoot an' steive,
Braid shuider'd, big baned, an' a dawd o' a neive;
Then he wrocht noo an' thaun, when the simmer
            cam roun',
Howin' turnips, or drivin' some nowte to the toon;
But as yet wark an' him werena like to agree,
A' his talk was 'boot sailors an' storms at the sea,
Till ae day he left withoot tears or a qualm,
An' the village was rid o' May Middleton's Tam.

Years gaed by, an' nae word cam' frae Tam, till at last
His mither hersel' thocht that a' hope was past,
When ae day the postman gaed in at the door—
A thing the douce neebours had ne'er ken'd afore;
But aye after that a blin' man micht hae seen
That her hoose an' hersel' were mair cheerfu' an' bien.
"Lod," quo' ane, as she lean'd hersel' 'gainst the door
            jamb,
"Has ocht been sent hame by her ne'er-dae-weel Tam?"

But a greater surprise they were a' yet to get,
When the handy bit farm o' Whaupfields was to let;
Neebours ran into neebours wi' weans in their arm,
Cryin', "Help us, May Middleton's Tam's got the farm;"
An' after awee, it was heard Tam himsel'
Wad be back in his ain native clachan to dwell.
He cam', an' the doors were as fu' as could cram
Wi' folk keen to look at May Middleton's Tam.

But losh? what a braw, strappin' fellow they saw,
Broon-faced, and a beard that was black as a craw;
Lang, lang did they glower, till the blacksmith said
            "Fegs,
What a change since he broke wi' a stane Whaupey's
            legs."
Here it cam' to his min' o' the wark on the farm,
Sae he added, "But Tam never did ony harm."
Then he ended by makin' a sort o' salaam
Doon the street to the hoose o' May Middleton's Tam.

But when ance Tam was into his farm, an' had made
A' things snod, an' his mither as mistress array'd,
He tea'd a' the neebours, and tellt them what wark
He had makin' a fortune that cost him much cark.
Then he turn'd roun' to Birky, the maister, wha sat
By his side, lookin' up as if prood aboot that,
An' said, clappin' his back, "Here's your health in a dram,
For ye aye took the pairt o' May Middleton's Tam."

An' frae that day to this ilka body speaks weel
O' Tam, while they praise his guid praties an' meal;
An' mithers, who ance could hae seen his neck thrawn,
Gie him days at the hay when there's ower muckle mawn.
E'en the landlord himsel' comes an' cries, unco big,
"Here, boy, come an' haud Mr. Middleton's gig."
For since things took a turn, an' his guid fortune cam',
He is noo nae mair ken'd as May Middleton's Tam.


________________________

 
JOHN KEATS.
 

"He is made one with Nature; there is heard
 His voice in all her music."—Shelley.


THERE be more things within that far-off breast,
    Whereon the flowers grow,
Of the boy poet, in his Roman rest,
    Than hearts like ours can know.

He slumbers, but his sleep hath not our fears,
    For all aside is thrown;
And from the gateway of his tombèd years
    A power is moving on.

And in that power is hid a voice that speaks
    To hearts that throb and rise
From common earth, and worship that which seeks
    The wider sympathies.

For he is silent not; and from the bounds
    Wherein his footsteps move
Come, like the wind at morn, all summer sounds
    Of boyhood thought and love.

So he to us is as an oracle
    Whose words bedrip with youth;
The latest spirit, bathing in the well
    Of Pagan shape and truth.

A passionate existence which we scan;
    But first must lay aside
The rougher thinking that belongs to man,
    And take the unsettled pride

Of eager youth and fancy, and a strength
    Misled by the fond zeal
For Grecian look and light, yet found at length
    The power to touch and feel.

So, taking this into thy thought, ye trace
    His wealth of opening lore;
He bursts upon you with his freshest grace,
    And moves a man no more—

But a bright shadow in the heart's expanse
    Crown'd with the tenderest rays
Of love, and thought of as the far-off glance
    Of early summer days.

So bring him from beneath the sky of Rome,
    From all her youngest flowers.
I weep that there his dust should find a home,
    And all his spirit ours!

But no! ye cannot; for a bond he keeps
    Whose ties are firmly strung—
The lone yet passionate heart of Shelley sleeps
    Beside the dust he sung.

And it were vain to leave him there and foil
    His rest—so let them sleep
Within the silence of that glorious soil,
    Whose inspirations steep

Their songs in colours like the summer boughs,
    Whose freshness ever strives,
And blooms, like asphodels, upon the brows
    Of two immortal lives.

And there they sleep, as if their fates had said
    They shall not sleep alone;
The singer and the sung must fill one bed,
    And make their ashes one.

And so it is; and through the years that roll,
    That sepulchre of theirs
Is as a passionate and wish'd-for goal
    To which all thought repairs—

While in our hearts, as is their dust at Rome,
    Their spirits feel no wrong;
But shine to us like gods serenely from
    The Pantheon of Song.


________________________

 
THE ENGINE.

"On fire-horses and wind-horses we career."—Carlyle.


HURRAH! for the mighty engine,
    As he bounds along his track:
Hurrah, for the life that is in him,
    And his breath so thick and black.
And hurrah for our fellows, who in their need
    Could fashion a thing like him—
With a heart of fire, and a soul of steel,
    And a Samson in every limb.

Ho! stand from that narrow path of his,
    Lest his gleaming muscles smite,
Like the flaming sword the archangel drew
    When Eden lay wrapped in night;
For he cares, not he, for a paltry life
    As he rushes along to the goal,
It but costs him a shake of his iron limb,
    And a shriek from his mighty soul.

Yet I glory to think that I help to keep
    His footsteps a little in place,
And he thunders his thanks as he rushes on
    In the lightning speed of his race,
And I think that he knows when he looks at me,
    That, though made of clay as I stand,
I could make him as weak as a three hours' child
    With a paltry twitch of my hand.

But I trust in his strength, and he trusts in me,
    Though made but of brittle clay,
While he is bound up in the toughest of steel,
    That tires not night or day;
But for ever flashes, and stretches, and strives,
    While he shrieks in his smoky glee—
Hurrah for the puppets that, lost in their
             thoughts,
    Could rub the lamp for me!

O that some Roman—when Rome was great—
    Some quick, light Greek or two—
Could come from their graves for one half-hour
    To see what my fellows can do;
I would take them with me on this world's wild
             steed,
    And give him a little rein;
Then rush with his clanking hoofs through space,
    With a wreath of smoke for his mane.

I would say to them as they shook in their fear,
    "Now what is your paltry book,
Or the Phidian touch of the chisel's point,
    That can make the marble look,
To this monster of ours, that for ages lay
    In the depths of the dreaming earth,
Till we brought him out with a cheer and a shout,
    And hammer'd him into birth?"

Clank, clank went the hammer in dusty shops,
    The forge-flare went to the sky,
While still, like the monster of Frankenstein's,
    This great wild being was nigh;
Till at length he rose up in his sinew and
             strength,
    And our fellows could see with pride
Their grimy brows and their bare, slight arms,
    In the depths of his glancing side.

Then there rose to their lips a dread question of
             fear—
    "Who has in him the nerve to start
In this mass a soul that will shake and roll
    A river of life to his heart?"
Then a pigmy by jerks went up his side,
    Flung a globe of fire in his breast,
And cities leapt nearer by hundred of miles
    At the first wild snort from his chest.

Then away he rush'd to his mission of toil,
    Wherever lay guiding rods,
And the work he could do at each throb of his
             pulse
    Flung a blush on the face of the gods.
And Atlas himself, when he felt his weight,
    Bent lower his quaking limb,
Then shook himself free from this earth, and left
    The grand old planet to him.

But well can he bear it, this Titan of toil,
    When his pathway yields to his tread;
And the vigour within him flares up to its height,
    Till the smoke of his breath grows red;
Then he shrieks in delight, as an athlete might,
    When he reaches his wild desire,
And from head to heel, through each muscle of
             steel,
    Runs the cunning and clasp of the fire.

Or, see how he tosses aside the night,
    And roars in his thirsty wrath,
While his one great eye gleams white with rage
    At the darkness that muffles his path;
And lo! as the pent-up flame of his heart
    Flashes out from behind its bars,
It gleams like a bolt flung from heaven, and rears
    A ladder of light to the stars.

Talk of the sea flung back in its wrath
    By a line of unyielding stone,
Or the slender clutch of a thread-like bridge,
    That knits two valleys in one!
Talk of your miracle-working wires,
    And their world-embracing force,
But himmel! give me the bits of steel
    In the mouth of the thunder-horse!

Ay, give me the beat of his fire-fed breast,
    And the shake of his giant frame,
And the sinews that work like the shoulders of
             Jove
    When he launches a bolt of flame;
And give me that Lilliput rider of his,
    Stout and wiry and grim,
Who can vault on his back as he puffs his pipe,
    And whisk the breath from him.

Then hurrah for our mighty engine, boys;
    He may roar and fume along
For a hundred years ere a poet arise
    To shrine him in worthy song;
Yet if one with the touch of the gods on his lips,
    And his heart beating wildly and quick,
Should rush into song at this demon of ours,
    Let him sing, too, the shovel and pick.


________________________

 
THE CUCKOO.


AMID the sound of picks to-day,
    And shovels rasping on the rail,
A sweet voice came from far away,
    From out a gladly greening vale.

My mate look'd up in some surprise;
    I half stopp'd humming idle rhyme:
Then said, the moisture in my eyes,
    "The cuckoo, Jack, for the first time."

How sweet he sang!   I could have stood
    For hours, and heard that simple strain;
An early gladness throng'd my blood,
    And brought my boyhood back again.

The primrose took a deeper hue,
    The dewy grass a greener look;
The violet wore a deeper blue,
    A lighter music led the brook.

Each thing to its own depth was stirr'd,
    Leaf, flower, and heaven's moving cloud,
As still he piped, that stranger bird,
    His mellow May-song clear and loud.

Would I could see him as he sings,
    When, as if thought and act were one,
He came; the gray on neck and wings
    Turn'd white against the happy sun.

I knew his well-known sober flight,
    That boyhood made so dear to me;
And, blessings on him! he stopp'd in sight,
    And sang where I could hear and see.

Two simple notes were all he sang,
    And yet my manhood fled away;
Dear God! The earth is always young,
    And I am young with it to-day.

A wondrous realm of early joy
    Grew all around as I became
Among my mates a bearded boy,
    That could have wept but for the shame.

For all my purer life, now dead,
    Rose up, fair-fashion'd, at the call
Of that gray bird, whose voice had shed
    The charm of boyhood over all.

O early hopes and sweet spring tears!
    That heart has never known its prime
That stands without a tear and hears
    The cuckoo's voice for the first time.


________________________

 
LOOK TO THE EAST.


THE dead man came from out the grave,
He grasp'd my hand, and said, "Be brave."

I cried, "So very far away,
Yet thou hast sympathy with clay."

He said, "What would it profit me
To turn from thy humanity?"

"Alas!" I sigh'd, "I am but dust,
And the old failing of mistrust

Comes up within me, and I fear
I falter with no purpose here."

The dead man stood like one who saith
A prayer, then ask'd, "Hast thou no faith?"

I look'd at him; within his eyes
The tears rose up as in surprise.

Then I made answer to his thought—
"Thou knowest all, and I know nought."

Across his brow a shade of pain
Pass'd, but to leave it clear again.

He ask'd, reproach his voice within,
"Art thou, too, smitten with that sin

Which looks before this life, to seek,
What God himself will never speak,

Until this death we paint so grim,
Guide thee through the dread grave to Him?"

I bow'd my head as if in shame
To hear the dead man's gentle blame.

Then, sweet and low, he spoke again,
"Hast thou faith in thy fellow men?"

"Yea," I return'd, "for still my kind
Toil to leave something good behind,

Which, in the unborn after years,
Will ripen kindly with their peers."

I paused, and he, when this was said,
Laid one soft hand upon my head,

And thus made answer ere I wist,
"Behind thy kind work God and Christ,

And all the marvels men can do,
Are but the shadow of these Two.

Whom, then, deserves thy greater trust,
God, Christ, or men who are but dust?

"I knelt down at the dead man's feet;
His tears fell on me soft and sweet.

He raised me up, and hand in hand
We stood, as two together stand.

Then breast to breast, within my ear
He whisper'd words of love and cheer.

Such words a living mortal may
Not whisper, but the dead can say.

Then said, as he touch'd lips and eyes,
"Look to the east; the sun will rise."

I turn'd; my soul was strong again
To trust God, Christ, and toiling men.

And still when doubt wakes from its rest
That dead man clasps me to his breast,

And soul to soul like friends respond:
Mine from this earth; his from beyond.

Mine sighs, "I falter;" his replies,
"Look to the east; the sun will rise."


________________________

 
THE DEIL'S STANE.


"In the very centre of the deep gorge of this linn is an immense boulder, estimated at thirty tons weight.  It is a mass of water-worn granite, probably from the Isle of Arran, as its granulated particles seem to be precisely of the same character of those that compose the granite of Goatfell.  It must have been conveyed in the age of the northern drift, or dropped from the base of some massive iceberg as it sailed the waters that erst covered these heights.  It is rounded like an egg, and has a belt of finer grain begirding its bulk like an iron hoop around a barrel."—Simpson's "Voice from the Desert."  Such is the account given by the late Dr. Simpson of Sanquhar; but in the neighbourhood the boulder in question is known by the dignified appellation of the "Deil's Stane."  How it came to get such a title I have not been able to learn.  Long ago, a pedlar was murdered near the spot for the sake of the petty wares he traded with among the hills.  They still show you his blood in the channel of the Orchard burn, close to where the stone is lying.  This, like all other blood shed in like circumstances, will not wash out.  I have in the following poem, with the license usually granted to rhymers, wandered from received tradition in order to "point a moral and adorn a tale."


"O WHAUR hae ye been, my bonnie,
            bonnie bairns,
    Sae lang awa' frae me?
Come in, come in, for I'm weary to hae
    Wee Jeanie upon my knee.

I lookit lang doon the howms o' the Craw'ck,
    Where the fairies by munelicht play,
Then up to the daisies that grow sae white
    On the side o' the Carco brae.

For I thocht that ye micht be pooin' flooers,
    An' weavin' them into a croon
For wee Jeanie's heid! but I saw na ane,
    Though I lookit roun' an roun'."

"O, grannie, grannie, we werena there,
    Nor yet in the howms doon by;
For we sat by the edge o' the Orchard burn,
    An' we heard the cushie's cry.

Then we frichten'd the troots oor wee white
            feet,
    As we paidled up the burn,
Till they splutter'd to win frae oor sicht in the
            broo,
    Wi' mony a jouk an' turn.

But at last we waded nae farrer up,
    But set wee Jeanie her lane,
Wi' a bunch o' primroses in her han',
    On the tap o' the deil's big stane."

"O bairnies, bairnies, what is't ye say?
    An' what does your grannie hear?
What made ye gang up to the deil's big stane—
    That place sae dark an' drear?

Alake, alake, when the clock strikes twal,
    What soun's an' what sichts are there;
When the howlet flaps wi' an eerie cry,
    Through the woods o' Knockenhair!

Then chields that hae drucken baith lang an'
            late
    At their howfs in Sanquhar toon,
As they staucher by hear the paidlar's cry,
    An' the big stane rumblin' doon.

But here, as we're a' sittin' roun' the fire,
    An' wee Jeanie upon my knee,
I will tell ye the tale o' the paidlar's death,
    As my mither tauld it to me.

Wee Mungo Girr was an auld, auld man,
    Wi' a hump upon his back;
But fu' yauld was he at speelin' a brae
    To a herd's house wi' his pack.

For the clink o' siller put smiles on his face,
    An' a gleg look in his e'e;
But wae to the greed that brocht on his doom,
    An' the death he had to dee.

He keepit his purse in a stockin' fit—
    A purse fu' heavy an' lang;
An' ilka mornin' he counted it ow'r,
    For fear that it micht gang wrang.

An' aye as the shillin's play'd slip aff his loof,
    An' jingled into the lave,
He scartit his heid, an' he hotch'd an' lauch'd
    Till he scarce could weel behave.

O, bairnies, bairnies, the love o' gowd
    Turns into an awfu' sin,
For the heart grows hard, an' lies dead in the
            breast,
    Like the bouk o' my nieve o' whin.

An' we canna look straicht in oor neebor's
            face.
    For oor human love gets thrawn;
An' we canna look up to the sky abune,
    For oor heid is downward drawn.

Sae Mungo, the paidlar, gaed aye half boo'd,
    Comin' up or gaun doon a brae;
For the luve o' the siller he liket sae weel
    Was in him by nicht an' day.

An' weel could he manage to wheedle an' sell,
    To the lassies oot on the hill,
A brooch for their shawls, or a finger ring,
    That was gowd in their simple skill.

But alake for the greed that hung ow'r his heid
    To bring him meikle woe,
As a thunder cloud rests on the high Bale Hill,
    An' darkens the fields below.

But I'll tell ye the tale that my mither tauld,
    When I was a toddlin' wean;
It will mak' ye nae mair tak' the Orchard burn
    To sit on the deil's big stane.

Ae afternoon, as Mungo, half boo'd,
    Held alang steep Carco brae,
Croon into himsel', for his heart was glad
    Ow'r the bargains he'd made that day;

A' at ance, afore ever he kent, a han'
    Touch'd the hump that was on his back,
An', turnin' roun', no a yaird frae himsel'
    Was a man that was cled in black."

"O, Mungo, Mungo, pit doon yer pack,
    An' sell to me," said he,
"A necklace for ane o' the witches o' Craw'ck,
    Wha has dune gude wark for me."

Then the paidlar open'd his pack in a glint,
    An' oot wi' the wanted gear;
"A shillin's the price;" said the man in black—
    "O, Mungo, your shillin's here."

Then he slippit the shillin' into his han',
    An' steppit alang the brae;
But what made Mungo jump up an' dance,
    Like schule weans at their play?

Ay, weel micht he jump like daft, for he saw
    A joyfu' sicht, I wis;
Instead o' the shillin' a guinea lay there,
    That by nae kent law was his.

Yet he row'd it up in a cloot by itsel',
    For fear it micht grow dim,
An' never let on to the neebors he met
    O' the luck that had fa'en to him.

The next time gangin' ow'r Carco heicht,
    A han' was laid on his back,
An', lookin' aroun', no a yaird frae himsel'
    Was the same man cled in black.

Then the paidlar's heart sank doon like a
            stane
    As he thocht to himsel', nae doot,
He has come again to tak' back his ain,
    That I canna dae withoot.

But he juist said, " Mungo, come doon wi'
            your pack,
    An' sell me richt speedily
A necklace for ane o' the witches o' Craw'ck,
    Wha has dune gude wark for me."

Then Mungo, richt happy that this was a',
    Cam' oot wi' the wanted gear;
A shillin's the price;" said the man in black—
    "O, Mungo, your shillin's here."

Then he slippit the shillin' into his loof,
    While the paidlar steekit his een;
Nor open'd them up till the man in black
    Was naewhere to be seen.

Then he keekit into his loof, an' there
    Lay anither gowd guinea bricht;
Sae he row'd it up wi' the first in a cloot,
    An' thocht that a' was richt.

The next time gangin' ow'r Carco hill,
    A han' was laid on his back,
An', lookin roun', no a yaird frae himsel'
    Was the same man cled in black.

But a frichtfu' look was upon his broo,
    As he leant against a stane
That Mungo had never seen there afore,
    An' thirty tons if ane.

A fear lay cauld at the paidlar's heart,
    As he sank doon on his knee—
"Come ye here to work me scaith or ill,
    Or to buy a necklace frae me?"

The froon grew black on the stranger's broo
    As he cried, like a thunder-peal,
"A necklace o' fire for the neck o' him
    Wha cheats baith man an' deil."

Then the lowe cam' oot at his mouth an' een,
    On ilk side o' his heid grew a horn;
As he seized the paidlar an' whirl'd him ow'r
    The hill wi' a lauch o' scorn.

Doon, doon the hill, as ye ca' a gird,
    Gaed Mungo, flung by the deil;
An' doon row'd that big stane after him,
    As steady as some mill-wheel.

Then, keep us a'! what a soun' cam' up
    Wi' the paidlar's deein' cry;
It gaed doon the Craw'ck an' doon the Nith,
    An' awa' ow'r the hills oot by.

The big stane fell in the Orchard burn,
    It lies there till this day;
An' still at its fit is the paidlar's bluid,
    That winna was away.

O, bairnies, bairnies, when ye grow up
    To be lads an' lasses fair,
Keep min' o' the death o' Mungo Girr,
    An' aye deal frank an' fair.

An' bairnies, be sure an' keep this in min',
    For I canna lang be here,
That the deil's big stane is on ilka ane's back
    Wha has love for notch but gear.


________________________

 
THE MOTHER AND THE ANGEL.

First appeared in Good Words, and taken from that Magazine by
kind permission of Messrs. Strahan & Co.


"I WANT my child," the mother said, as through
    The deep sweet air of purple-breathing morn
She rose mid clouds of most celestial hue,
    By the soft strength of angels' wings upborne.

Then he who bore her to her heavenly rest
    Drew back the hand that hid her weeping eyes,
And said, "I cannot alter the request
    Of him whose glory lights the earth and skies.

For ere I came, and, as I paused again,
    To hear His omnipresent words, He said,
'Take thou the root, but let the bud remain,
    To perfect into blossom in its stead.'

And so I bear thee, that in our sweet land
    You may be one of our immortal kind,
With not one task but to reach forth thy hand
    And guide the footsteps of thy child behind."

He ceased, and winging, reach'd those realms
            on high,
    Whose lustre we half see through stars below,
And all the light that fills our earthly sky
    Is but a shadow to its mighty glow.

Now whether that the mother in this light
    Stood yearning for her treasure in our hands,
Or whether God saw fitting in His might
    To reunite again the broken bands

We know not; but when night had come at last,
    And wore to clasp the first embrace of day.
An angel enter'd, though the door was fast,
    And all unseen took what we held away.

One took the mother from all earthly claim,
    From out the bounds of life and all its harms;
But still I think 'twas God Himself that came,
    And took the child and laid it in her arms.


________________________

 
THE OPEN SECRET.


GOD said, "I take my stand behind
Men, Nature, and the shaping mind.

And cry, 'The open secret lies
To him who reads with proper eyes.'"

Then thought came boldly forth, and lent
Its strength to conquer what was meant,

The Hebrew with his passionate heart
Came on, and solved it part by part.

The high Greek saw, but turn'd aside,
With beauty walking by his side.

At last came One, upon whose head
The light of God Himself was shed.

He read the secret, and divine
For ever after grew each line.

Then sullen cycles follow'd Him,
In which His reading would not dim.

The ages sped, but still took heed
To wait, and mould a band at need,

Whose worded cunning might lay bare
The omnific secret everywhere.

Stern Dante saw it, though his face
Was darken'd by the nether place.

Next Shakespeare, who, before his kind,
Stept with it forming in his mind.

Then Milton, blind and old in years,
Stood nearer to it than his peers.

Later a Goethe wander'd by,
To see it only with his eye.

At last the nineteenth century came,
With railway track and furnace flame,

At which, as at a mighty need,
Men's thoughts flew into headlong speed.

Then one rose up, whose northern ire
Smote shams, like sudden bursts of fire.

A rouglily-block'd Apollo, strong
To pierce the coiling Python, Wrong.

Last Science, waking from her sleep,
Sent forth her thought to sound the deep,

But, like the dove sent from the ark,
It came back, having found no mark,

Then she stood up and proudly said,
"The open secret is not read."

O foolish one!   Wrap weeds of shame
Around that keen device you claim.

"Behold!" cries God, "I stand and teach,
The open secret is for each.

I slip my own wide soul behind
Men, nature, and the shaping mind,

And he who can unite these three,
Until they lose themselves in me,

The same hath in him, night and day,
The open secret I display."


________________________

 
THE SPIRIT OF THE WATERS.


HOW quick, and yet how soft
Comes the moonlight from aloft—
From the happy starry skies,
Like the smiles of angels' eyes,
Flinging all the silvery whiteness
Of its purity and brightness
                        On the stream
That dances up with laughter
As the wavelets follow after
Each other in the glee
Of a pleasant symphony.

I stand upon the bridge,
Leaning on its narrow ledge,
Keeping watch with dreaming eye
On the river gliding by,
Till I fancy from the deeps,
Where the moonlight sits and sleeps,
I can hear a whisper say—
"Come away, come away,
Come, and never know decay,
Come, and rest beneath the stream,
And for ever smile and dream.
Through the night and sunny day,
Dream of things with joyance rife,
Dream of all that makes this life
                        Bright and gay.
While the waters ebb and creep
With their murmurs o'er thy sleep—
While the moonlight from above
Rains the pale wealth of her love
On the wave, on thy grave—
                        Come away."

And I feel a strong desire
Burning in me to inquire
What this gentle sprite may be,
Who sings such a song to me
                        From the stream.
For, as I hear his lay,
Like a voice from far away,
With its burden, "Come away,"
I can reason thus how sweet
To let all the waters meet
O'er the weary, dreamy head;
And to sink, as in a bed,
In the tide, and there to lie
All the night and watch the sky;
Or sleep, sleep, sleep,
While the breezes come and creep—
And what mortal would not sleep
To such soothing lullaby,
While the happy moon above
Would fling down her wealth of love
On the wave, on my grave,
                        On my dream.


________________________

 
NOTTMAN.


THAT was Nottman waving at me,
But the steam fell down, so you could not see;
He is out to-day with the fast express,
And running a mile in the minute, I guess.

Danger? none in the least, for the way
Is good, though the curves are sharp as you say,
But bless you, when trains are a little behind,
They thunder around them—a match for the wind.

Nottman himself is a devil to drive,
But cool and steady, and ever alive
To whatever danger is looming in front,
When a train has run hard to gain time for a shunt.

But he once got a fear, though, that shook him with
            pain,
Like sleepers beneath the weight of a train.
I remember the story well, for, you see,
His stoker, Jack Martin, told it to me.

Nottman had sent down the wife for a change
To the old folks living at Riverly Grange,
A quiet sleepy sort of a town,
Save when the engines went up and down.

For close behind it the railway ran
In a mile of a straight if a single span;
Three bridges were over the straight, and between
Two the distant signal was seen.

She had with her her boy—a nice little chit
Full of romp and mischief, and childish wit,
And every time that we thunder'd by,
Both were out on the watch for Nottman and I.

"Well, one day," said Jack, "on our journey down,
Coming round on the straight at the back of the town,
I saw right ahead, in front of our track,
In the haze on the rail something dim-like and black.

"I look'd over at Nottman, but ere I could speak,
He shut off the steam, and with one wild shriek,
A whistle took to the air with a bound;
But the object ahead never stirr'd at the sound.

"In a moment he flung himself down on his knee,
Leant over the side of the engine to see,
Took one look, then sprung up, crying, breathless and
            pale,
Brake, Jack, it is some one asleep on the rail!'

"The rear brakes were whistled on in a trice
While I screw'd on the tender brake firm as a vice,
But still we tore on with this terrible thought
Sending fear to our hearts—'Can we stop her or not?'

"I took one look again, then sung out to my mate,
'We can never draw up, we have seen it too late.'
When, sudden and swift, like the change in a dream,
Nottman drew back the lever, and flung on the steam.

"The great wheels stagger'd and span with the strain,
While the spray from the steam fell around us like rain,
But we slacken'd our speed, till we saw with a wild
Throb at the heart, right before us,—a child!

"It was lying asleep on the rail, with no fear
Of the terrible death that was looming so near;
The sweat on us both broke as cold as the dew
Of death as we question'd—'What can we do?'

"It was done—swift as acts that take place in a dream—
Nottman rush'd to the front and knelt down on the
            beam,
Put one foot in the couplings; the other he kept
Right in front of the wheel for the child that still slept.

"'Saved!' I burst forth, my heart leaping with pride,
For one touch of the foot sent the child to the side,
But Nottman look'd up, his lips white as with foam,
'My God, Jack,' he cried, 'It's my own little Tom!'

"He shrunk, would have slipp'd, but one grasp of my
            hand,
Held him firm till the engine was brought to a stand,
Then I heard from behind a shriek take to the air,
And I knew that the voice of a mother was there.

"The boy was all right, had got off with a scratch:
He had crept through the fence in his frolic to watch
For his father; but, wearied with mischief and play,
Had fallen asleep on the rail where he lay.

"For days after that on our journey down,
Ere we came to the straight at the back of the town,
As if the signal were up with its gleam
Of red, Nottman always shut off the steam."



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