Joseph Skipsey: 'Songs and Lyrics'

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[Contents]


On Bardon Hill.


OH!  I think, think still, how, on Bardon Hill,
    He stood beneath a golden cloud;
And bold as a hawk, with his head thrown back,
    A merry tune whistled aloud.

That hour on the height, in his blink so bright,
    Lo!  I marked not the sun go down;
But felt to my cost that my heart was lost,
    And my peace with my heart had flown.



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Stanzas.


THE hopes that allured me
    To cope with the worst,
At length have secured me
    The tortures accurst,
Of fever and grief,
    And frenzy—in brief,

Ills—ills from which Death is the only relief.


But Titan-like lieth
    My soul in her chains—
Hourly she sigheth,
    The answer she gains,
But adds night and day
    To pain and dismay—

'Tis the scream of the vulture—Despair at his prey!



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Lo! the Day.


LO! the day begins to rise,
    And the shadows of the night,
Overtaken with surprise,
    Blushing fly his presence bright;
Cease thy briny tears to flow,
    Not another murmur sigh;
Thine hath been the cup of woe,
    Now be thine the cup of joy.

Wakened by the voice of morn,
    See, the little urchin Mirth,
How she, laughing Care to scorn,
    Skippeth o'er the jocund earth;
Don, O, don thy best attire,
    Snatch, O, snatch this balm to pain,
Ere the beams of day retire,
    And thy night sets in again.



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A Golden Lot.


IN the coal-pit, or the factory,
    I toil by night or day,
And still to the music of labour
    I lilt my heart-felt lay;

I lilt my heart-felt lay—
    And the gloom of the deep, deep mine,
Or the din of the factory dieth away,
    And a Golden Lot is mine.



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Life and Death.


OH, what is Life?   A magic night
    In which we still to phantoms yield;
And what is Death, if not the light
    By which the real truth's reveal'd?



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The Mysterious Rider.


UPON a steed he came with speed,
    The Day behind him breaking;
And still he sped when Day o'erhead
    Her last farewell was taking.

"Ah, whither fliest?—Name thy goal!"
    "The Dark from which I bounded!"
He spake and fled; and in my soul
    The voice night-long resounded.



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All Night-Long.


ALL night-long I heard the blast,
And the sea-birds as they pass'd

With a yell up from the granite-guarded shore,

And the waves the fierce winds lash'd,
As against the rocks they dash'd,

And whose roar the caverns answer'd with a roar!


Long years since then have flown,
But the bitter blast then blown,

And that roar upon the shore, and that wild yell

Yet re-echo in my brain,
And I sigh and sigh in vain

For the hopes to which their mad song proved a knell!



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The Wounded Bird.


"WHY thus ever on the wing?
Why those woful notes that bring

To the eyes of one and all a briny tear?

Down into thy nest alight;
Rest, and in the morning bright,

We'll yet hear from thee a carol sweet to hear!"


"Ah, an arrow's in my breast;
And when I but touch my nest

I'm e'er deeper pain'd and wounded, and must fly

And wail, and fly and wail,
Till, lo, my pinions fail,

When adown into my nest I'll drop and die!"



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The Collier Lad.


MY lad he is a Collier Lad,
    And ere the lark awakes,
He's up and away to spend the day
    Where daylight never breaks;
But when at last the day has pass'd,
    Clean washed and cleanly clad,
He courts his Nell who loveth well
    Her handsome Collier Lad.


Chorus—There's not his match in smoky Shields;
                    Newcastle never had
                A lad more tight, more trim, nor bright
                    Than is my Collier Lad.


Tho' doomed to labour under ground,
    A merry lad is be;
And when a holiday comes round,
    He'll spend that day in glee;
He'll tell his tale o'er a pint of ale,
    And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
    To hear the Collier Lad.

At bowling matches on the green
    He ever takes the lead,
For none can swing his arm and fling
    With such a pith and speed:
His bowl is seen to skim the green,
    And bound as if right glad
To hear the cry of victory
    Salute the Collier Lad.

When 'gainst the wall they play the ball,
    He's never known to lag,
But up and down he gars it bound,
    Till all his rivals fag;
When deftly—lo! he strikes a blow
    Which gars them all look sad,
And wonder how it came to pass
    They play'd the Collier Lad.

The quoits are out, the hobs are fix'd,
    The first round quoit he flings
Enrings the hob; and lo! the next
    The hob again enrings;
And thus he'll play the summer day,
    The theme of those who gad;
And youngsters shrink to bet their brass
    Against the Collier Lad.

When in the dance he doth advance,
    The rest all sigh to see
How he can spring and kick his heels,
    When they a-wearied be;
Your one-two-three, with either knee
    He'll beat, and then, glee-mad,
A heel-o'er-head leap crowns the dance
    Danced by the Collier Lad.

Besides a will and pith and skill,
    My laddie owns a heart
That never once would suffer him
    To act a cruel part;
That to the poor would ope the door
    To share the last he had;
And many a secret blessing's pour'd
    Upon my Collier Lad.

He seldom goes to church, I own,
    And when he does, why then,
He with a leer will sit and hear,
    And doubt the holy men;
This very much annoys my heart;
    But soon as we are wed,
To please the priest, I'll do my best
    To tame my Collier Lad.



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Dolly Dare.


THO' Lizzy's sweet and Polly's neat,
    And Fanny she is fair,
In all our street there's none to meet
    So blithe as Dolly Dare.

In doors and out she stirs about
    As if she felt aware,
By labour glows more red the rose
    That dowereth Dolly Dare.

She, knitting, will a ditty trill;
    And to an old, old air,
The needles bright dance left and right
    Of sweet-tongued Dolly Dare.

The pots and mugs and pans and jugs
    Into their places fare,
And clearer glow and dearer grow
    When touched by Dolly Dare.

The bread she bakes, the beds she makes,
    And up and down the stair
On tripping toe will dancing go
    The tidy Dolly Dare.

To words of mirth she scours the hearth,
    While in his easy-chair
Old Robin lies and, smoking, eyes
    With pride his Dolly Dare.

Her pail to fill she'll to the rill,
    Or to the well, and there
Doth clearly see Truth's self, for she
    Therein sees Dolly Dare.

'Tis thus away she'll while the day,
    And then to me repair,
When envy smit the moments flit
    O'er me and Dolly Dare.



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The Blackbird.


        OH, my wee, wee bonnibell,
        Do to me the riddle tell;
Say to whom pipes yon piper on the tree?
        And for what I'd like to know,
        Can his silver carol flow,
Save for what yet fills his little heart with glee?"

        "Ah, your riddle, I'm afraid,
        Sir, may not to-night be read;
But a pebble for your cobble take—and go;
        Show me why no bird can sing
        When a wild hawk's on the wing?
This back, hobble back to-morrow night and
        show!"

        —Now the sun has left the hill,
        And the blackbird's note so shrill
Sends a silver-ringing echo down the dell;
        Yet the golden pipe's unheard
        Of my own heart-witching bird;
And what whistler ever whistled half so well?

        He avowed he'd meet me here,
        And he comes not, and I fear
That his pipe is not so golden after all;
        Hark!—ah, no!—Yes, hark!—I hear
        A sweet whistle, sweet and clear,
That no blackbird ever blew in bower or hall!

        —Yes, a bird of wing may fly
        To the apple of his eye;
But how, if he's inclined a wee prank to play?
        What if wild-wing'd bird proceed
        Just to wet his charming reed,
From a little crimson cherry on the way?

        Ah, you've heard a cruel word?
        La, no hornet's nest is stirr'd!
But out a bonny bee from its hive here flew;
        Where a sweeter wine you'll get
        Now your golden reed to wet,
Than a whistler from a cherry ever drew!

        —To draw water from the well
        Down I went into the dell,
Just ere the yellow moon in the sky did glow,
        When a blackbird's wily song
        Won and kept my ear so long,
That my wee heart went a-maying to my woe!

        Now I know what to do—
        I a weary way pursue;
Nor the plight of her pet can my dear Aunt tell;
        Yet somehow she lets me know
        When I next for water go,
I'll not hear a blackbird whistle at the well!



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Baloo.


BALOO, my sweet baby—the blossom!
    I dandle't till weary, and sigh,
With not a bare drop in my bosom
    To silence its pitiful cry.

And had he but thought of the trouble;
    And had he but thought on the pain:
Tho' green in the blade with the stubble,
    I'm fated to bleach on the plain.

Erewhile yet the lauded of many,
    A flower in the garden was I;
Denied now a kind word from any,
    A weed on the common I lie.

But let anguish thus my heart rend, and
    The briny tear thus my cheek lave;
The longest lane yet has an end, and
    The weary sleep sound in the grave.



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The Wind-Bag.


HE praised my eyes, so bright and black;
    He praised my locks, so crisp and brown;
My silence sweet—nor was he slack
    My smile to praise—to praise my frown.

From top to toe, me o'er and o'er,
    He praised till—tut! I laugh'd outright;
Against the wind-bag clash'd the door,
    And thro' the key-hole squealed "Good-Night!"



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The Curtsey.


SHE dropt a curtsey as she went,
    And look'd—no cloud e'er look'd so black;
I half suspect the angel meant
    To put my heart upon the rack.

And yet not so. Did she not know,
    One year ago, by her disdain,
Too well this deed was done to need
    The least bit doing o'er again?



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The Posy-Gift.

1.


YOU quite mistake the sprite you chase—
    I'm of the under, not the upper
Order of the fairy race;
    And cannot go with you to supper.

"You silly elf, Titania's self
    Will"—Tut, be there! My mirth she quenches;
    And her stiff airs kick me downstairs
To my dear kitchen cats and wenches.


2.


HA, ha! last night I served you right;
    The kick I gave—tho' I was sorry
I gave it you—but come and view
    What will allay your wrath and worry.

"That posy gay?  Well, I daresay—
    Who gave it you?  A lady?"  Truly!
"What lady, pray?"  That I will say,
    When you have learned your manners duly.


3.


THESE gems of grace unutterable
    Were pull'd within her very bowers;
Smell, senseless villain! smell them, smell!
    Say didst thou ever smell such flowers?

"Such flowers?"—the fellow seized his hat—
    "Such flowers?" he answer'd in derision;
"Well, I've heard questions strange, but that—
    I'd better run for—a physician!"


4.


COME, pretty flowers, and drink my tears;
    'Tis well my better reason chided,
Or I had box'd the rascal's ears,
    That so the little dears derided!

My ruth, not ire, the wretch demands;
    The magic every cup adorning,
How could he feel?—saw he the hands
    That placed them into mine this morning?


5.


WHAT fancies throng into the mind,
    When one upon this posy gazeth;
The more I look, the more I find
    Some semblance that one quite amazeth.

"What semblance, man? to what? to whom?"
    Go, lack-a-brain, and sweep the stable;
A wooden head must not presume
    To chatter at the Muse's Table!


6.


ONE fancy kicks another's heel;
    But let us seize one while it trembles
In act to fly, and make't reveal
    Wherein each bloom her charms resembles.

These violets blue, not filled with dew,
    But with my tears—are not these weepers—
"What would you say? her eyes are grey,
    And never flash'd two merrier peepers! "


7.


ONCE more, sweet Muse, a fancy choose;
    Seize by the heels that winged fellow,
And he'll declare how this her hair
    "Her hair is brown, that broom is yellow!"

Then that one try, I know he'll cry
    This bean-bloom's like her lips. "Sweet booby!
That runner's quite a scarlet bright,
    Thy lady's lips are very ruby."


8.


GO, Musie, go! you like, I know,
    To throw a glamour o'er my vision;
And I but want the truth to chant,
    And Truth shall do it with precision!

He'll not aver this rose-bloom's her,
    This lily-bell, he knows not whether,
But he will tell she's lily-bell
    And red, red rose-bloom, both together!


9.


THESE flowers that so reflect the Grace
    Of one who is the Queen of Graces!
I'll pop into my richest vase,
    Where I may watch their pretty faces.

And should a fly approach their lips,
    Then, Mercy, shield the little sinner;
For if I catch him on the hips,
    He'll never need another dinner!


10.


ALL things of beauty seek to draw
    Unto themselves like things of beauty
In homage to an inner law,
    And which to own's their bounden duty.

So deems my nose—this beauteous nose!
    That out of love and admiration
So oft, before this wall-flower, bows,—
    Or homage yields to this carnation.


11.


COME, let me smell thee, lily-bell;
    Another smell, my silver lily!
And thou, sweet rose, come to my nose—
    Ah, whence those feelings, soft and silly?

She smell'd you so? the lady? No?
    I know she did; her charming nosy
Drew nectar up from every cup,
    Before she handed me the posy!


12.


THESE lovely blooms, their rich perfumes
    And many colours, rich and glorious,
My soul illume, o'er care and gloom
    To move a king—a king victorious!

To me things seem, as in a stream,
   Or on the person of my idol,
To wear a sheen before unseen,
    E'en by the gifted bard of Rydal!


13.


BLIND as the wretch who mock'd my flowers;
    Or rather mock'd their well-won praises,
And swore what came from Eden-bowers
    Were only buttercups and daisies—

As blind was I till—till—A hare!
    The thought is off, nor can I win it
Back to—well, to—I declare
    This stave must end with nothing in it!


14.


O DEAR, dear, dear! what shall ensue?
    My only thoughts are off, that clearly
Might have express'd the praises due
    To one I prize, and prize so dearly!

The wine has vanished, and the lees
    To serve up these, would leave one undone,
Not of the flock of chick-a-dees,
    That chirrup to the folk of London.


15.


HA, You, ha! ola! yet phantom led,
    You, with your capers high and airy,
Must kick your heels till, heels o'erhead,
    You're kick'd into this fine quandary!

"You banged me off with scorn and scoff,
    Then spurn'd the aid—the Muse romantic's—
Dame's bonny brow to crown, and now
    You pay the piper for your antics!"


16.


'TIS quite a treat, as singer knows,
    To have to own one's fairly beaten,
And council's held among the crows
    To learn how soon one may be eaten.

The owl also—But, let that go,
    And ere, with patience all expended,
You cry Forbear! let me declare
    This carol of the Posy ended.



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The Silent Bird.


WHAT wonder if sad,
    Or silent my strain,
For what can be had
    From a bird in pain?

On a vanished day,
    On my thorny bush,
From my heart, the lay,
    A rillet would gush.

Then I piped, day-long,
    In shade or shine;
Ah, my life was a song,
    And that song divine!

From love, not duty,
    The music sprung;
And I sang of Earth's beauty,
    Her glory I sung:

Of the morning light,
    And the dying day,
—When heard a-right—
    Yet rang my lay:

Of the heath-clad hill,
    Of the primrose dell,
And the dancing rill,
    My song would swell;

Of the swan-haunted mere
    Wherein—spell-bound—
Would the daffodil peer,
    My song would sound;

Of the lily who'd yearn
    Day-long on the lake,
For the moon's return,
    Would my song awake;

Of each flower that blows;
    Of the bee that clung
To the mouth of the rose,
    I piped and sung!

And many who heard
    Were touch'd with the lay,
And blessed the bird,
    As they went their way.

Then a joy was born
     In the drooping heart
Of the weary and worn
     And woe-engirt:

Nay, my song had a ,spell
    To soothe the pain
And the trouble to quell
    Of the madden'd brain—

Then under the sway
    Of the heart-trill'd stave,
The giddy were gay,
    The gay were grave;

And fickle youth
    And uncouth mays,
Grew noble in truth,
    Or golden in grace;

Nor could evil plight
    Befall the young,
Who heard aright
    The song I sung!

So I bless'd and was blest
    Till, ah, by the thorn
'Gainst which it prest,
    My heart was torn!

Heart-bleeding, now sad
    Or silent my strain,
But what can be had
    From a bird in pain?



END OF SONGS AND LYRICS.
_________________


OTHER POEMS.

Thistle and Nettle.


'TWAS on a night, with sleet and snow
    From out the north a tempest blew,
When Thistle gathered nerve to go
    The little Nettle's self to woo.

Within her father's cottage soon
    He found the ever-dreaded maid;
She then was knitting to a tune
    The wind upon the window played.

His errand known, she, with a frown,
    Up from the oaken table sprung,
Down took the broom and swept the room,
    While like a bell her clapper rung.

"Have I not seen enough to be
    Convinced for ever, soon or late,
The maid shall rue the moment she
    Attendeth to a wooer's prate?

"How long ago since Phemie Hay
    To Harry at the Mill fell wrong?
How long since Hall a prank did play
    On silly Nelly Brown?—how long?

"How long ago since Adam Smith
    Wooed Annie on the Moor, and left
The lassie with a stain? yea, with
    A heart of every hope bereft?

"But what need instance cases? lo?
    Have I not heard thee chaunt the lay,
'The fraud of men was ever so
    Since summer first was leafy?'  eh?

When men are to be trusted, then,
    —But never may that time befall;
Of five times five-and-twenty men,
    There's barely five are men at all.

"Before the timid maid they'll fall,
    And smile and weep and sigh and sue,
Till once they get her in their thrall,
    And then she's doomed her lot to rue.

"For her a subtle snare they weave,
    And when the bonny bird is caught,
Then, then they giggle in their sleeve;
    Then laugh to scorn the ill they've wrought.

"As other weary winds, they woo
    The bloom its treasures to unfold;
Extract its wealth—their way pursue,
    And leave her pining on the wold.

"When poppies fell like lilies smell,
    When cherries grow on brambles, when—
When grapes adorn the common thorn,
    Then women may have faith in men.

"Then may we hear what they may swear;
    Till then, sir, know I'm on my guard,
And he, the loon that brings me down,
    He, he'll be pardoned, on my word.

"Thus for an hour her tongue was heard;
    By this, her words grown faint and few,
She raised the broom at every word,
    And thumped the floor to prove it true.

In ardent words the youth replied:
    "Dread hollow-hearted guile thou must;
But deem not all of honour void,
    Nor punish all with thy mistrust.

"A few, not all, the lash have earn'd,
    Let but that few the lash assail;
The world were topsy-turvy turned,
    Did not some sense of right prevail.

"Destroy the weed, but spare the flower;
    Consume the chaff, but keep the grain;
Nor harry one who'd die before
    He'd give thy little finger pain."

On hearing this, she sat her down,
    Took up her needlework again,
And tho' she strove to wear a frown
    Made answer in a milder strain.

"Forego thy quest.   Deceitful words
    May yet, as they have been, may be
A fatal lure to lighter birds;
    They'll never prove the like to me.

"Still by my chastity I vow,
    As I have kept the cheat at bay,
So, should I keep my senses, so
    I'll keep him till my dying day.

"The best that man can do or say,
    The love of gold or rubies rare,—
Not all that wealth can furnish, may
    Once lure to leave me in a snare.

"So end thy quest."   He only prest
    His ardent suit the more, while she
At every word he uttered, garr'd
    Her fleeing needles faster flee.

"My quest by honour's justified;
    I long have eyed and found thee still
The maid I'd like to be my bride;
    Would I could say the maid that will.

"Hadst thou but been a daffodil
    That with the breezes sport and play,
For all thy suitor valued, still
    Thou so hadst danced thy life away.

"But thou so fair art chaste."   Thus he
    Unto her answer answers e'er,
And that too in a way that she
    Must will or nill his answer hear.

And then a chair he'd ta'en, his chair
    Unto her side he nearer drew;
Recurr'd to memories sweet and rare,
    And in a softer key did woo.

"Must all the passion which I've sought
    So long to hide be paid with scorn?
A heart with pure affection fraught
    Be doomed a hopeless love to mourn?

"And must thou still its homage spurn?
    And must thou still my suit reject?
And be to me this cruel thorn?
    Reflect upon the past, reflect!

"A time there was, and time shall pass
    To me ere that forgotten be,
When side by side from tide to tide
    We played and sported on the lea.

"Ay, then have I not chased the bee
    From bloom to bloom—oft chased and caught,
And having drawn its sting in glee,
    To thee the little body brought?

"Then when a bloom of rarer dyes
    Into my busy fingers fell,
To whom was reached the lucky prize?
    Can not thy recollection tell?

"As oft away as summer went,
    Who pulled with thee the haw, bright, brown—
Brown as thy own bright eyes—and bent
    For thee the richest branches down?

"With blooms I've graced thy yellow hair,
    With berries filled thy lap, thy hand,—
That hand as alabaster fair,
    Had every gift at my command.

"Nay, tho' to others dour, yet meek
    I ever was to thee, and kind;
And when we played at hide-and-seek,
    I hid where thou would'st seek to find.

"Upon the playground still unmatched
    Was I, unless my loved one played;
And then it seem'd to those who watched
    My failures were on purpose made.

"As sure as e'er a race began,
    The palm was mine unless she joined,
And then I always was out-ran,
    For still with her I lagged behind.

"The ball I drove to others, mocked
    Their efforts to arrest its flight;
But when my ball to her was knocked,
    It would upon her lap alight.

"None, up and down so well I bobbed,
    To skip the rope with me would try;
Did she attempt? my skill was robbed;
    Another skipped her out—not I.

"At play thus was't; but childhood past,
    And ere the lasses reach their teens,
Atween them and the lads a vast
    Mysterious distance intervenes.

"They seldom on the green appear
    In careless sport and play; and if
They join the throng erect they wear
    Their head, and still their air is stiff 

"They ail they know not what.   And such
    The change that on my, lassie fell;
Then would she shrink my hand to touch,
    And I half feared her touch as well.

"Had I changed too?   This, I can tell,—
    That touch o'er me a spell would cast;
And did I pass her in the dell,
    With slow and snail-like pace I pass'd.

"Her voice had lost its former ring,
    Yet, in that voice such power was flung,
I better liked to hear her sing,
    Than when of old to me she sung.

"Her touch, her tone, would make or mar
    My bliss, and tho' with all my skill
I strove to please, and please but her,
    I in her presence blundered still.

"When by the hearth she sewing sat,
    Did I to thread her needle try?
Still, still my heart played pit-a-pat,
    And still I miss'd the needle's eye.

"As with the needle-threading, so
    We with the skein a-winding fared,
And Auntie's dreaded tongue would go
    Before the dancing end appeared.

"'What ails the lass?' she often said
    'She's sound asleep!' once said, and flew,
And snatched and snapt the tangled thread,
    While I—I know not how—withdrew.

"Away, too, fled those hours!   Alack!
    They came and went like visions rare,
To mock the heart, delude and wrack,
    And leave the gazer in despair.

"Ah, less—tho' sun-illumed—less fair
    The blobs that dance adown the burn,
And let them burst they'll re-appear
    Ere those delightsome hours return.

"Yet they may live in thought, and could
    They live in Nettle's thought again,
Would she not change her bearing? would—
    Would she not change this bitter strain?

"Would she her lover still disdain?
    Would she continue thus to gall
And put him to this cruel pain?
    —Recall to mind the past, recall!"

Thus onward, on, his ditty flows,
    Until—her ruffled brow is sleek,—
Till, lo! the lily drives the rose,
    The rose the lily from her cheek.

And now the iron, sparkling hot,
    Around with might and main he swings,
And down upon the proper spot
    With bang on bang the hammer brings!

"O, be my suit but undenied,
    And, ere the moon is on the wane,
A knot shall by the priest be tied,
    The priest shall never loose again.

"In heart and hand excell'd by none,
    Henceforth I'd front the ills of life;
And every victory I won
    Should be a jewel for my wife.

"So should the people of the dell,
    When they convened to gossip, say
For harmony we bore the bell,
    And bore it with a grace away.

"Nay, lift thy head, be not ashamed,
    If thus to feel—and thus, and—O!
As matters sinful might be blamed,
    Our saints were sinners long ago."

Deep silence here ensued. The cat,
    That lately to the nook had crept
To mark the sequel of their chat,
    Came forth—lay on the hearth and slept.

The needles bright, that left and right,
    As if with elfish glee possest,
Had gleamed and glanced, and frisked and
        danced,
    In quiet on her apron rest.

In concert with the storm within,
    The storm without forbears to blow;
And 'tween the sailing clouds, begin
    The joyous stars to come and go.

O'er all delight and silence brood,
    While to her wooer's bosom prest,
Poor Nettle's heart beats, beats aloud
    The tune that pleases lovers best.

And Thistle's pleased and Thistle's blest,
    And Thistle's is a joy supreme;
Ay! now of Nettle's smiles possest,
    He revels in a golden dream.

Dream on, brave youth:—An hour like this
    Annuls an age of cark and strife,
And turns into a drop of bliss
    The bitter cup of human life.

The tear is by a halo gilt,
    The thorns of life are turned to flowers,
The dirge into a merry lilt,
    When love returned for love is ours.

"I've heard," in language low and soft,
    Now Nettle's heart begins to flow;
I've I've heard of honey'd tongues full oft,
    But never felt their force till now.

"Still would I fume, as day by day
    I've seen the lasses bought and sold
By some I'd scorn'd to own, had they
    Outweighed their very weight in gold.

"My hour of triumph's o'er.   In vain
    Did I my fellow-maids abuse;
I've snatched the cup, and drank the bane
    Which sets me in their very shoes;

"That turns a heart of adamant
    To pliant wax; and, in my turn,
Subjects me to the bitter taunt,
    The vanquished victor's ever borne;

That leaveth Nettle satisfied
    To leave her kith and kin, and by
Her ever-faithful Thistle's side,
    To shelter till the day they die."


_________________

To W. R.

A Friend in Australia.


O WILY Willie Reay, I've read
Your book of rhymes, and be it said
Few sweeter rhymes were ever made
                        To grace our tongue
Since Burns, with Scotia's Muse's aid,
                        His ditties sung.

The bonnie banks of Wanie's burn,
With Bothal's Castle, old and stern,
And fane revered where in an urn
                        Of fame's yet shown,
Engage your charming muse in turn
                        With scenes less known.

The coy bell-blooms in purple dark,—
Shade-loving mays that seem to hark
To what the skyward soaring lark
                        May o'er them sing,—
You in the wood with pleasure mark
                        Return each Spring.

Delighted, too, you see unclose
The petals of the pale primrose;
The sweetest flower that comes and goes,
                        While—life to bear!
Yet down the glen the blackbird blows
                        His whistle clear.

E'en so your heart dirls to behold
The little daisy's charms unfold,
As when with me in days of old,
                        Its blooms among,
You heard the linnet's love-tale told
                        In many a song.

O'er these and scenes like these you brood;
And when wrapt in a higher mood,
The aidance of the muse is sued,
                        Then, then behold;
Their living pictures many-hued
                        Your lines unfold.

Nor less to you than Wanie rare,
The banks of Wear, beyond compare,
For castles grand, whose towers yet wear
                        The airs they wore,
When steel-girt enemies drew near,
                        In days of yore.

There Lumley bold to Lambton shows
A front that almost threatens blows;
And Lambton up the valley throws
                        A look at him,
With which her lords once answered foes
                        In battle grim.

But scenes of war and war's alarms,
Proud prancing steeds and knights at arms,
And other founts of human harms,
                        Ah, let us fly
To scenes of peace;—still, these have charms
                        Far you and I.

Away, away then let us steer
Our courses higher up the Wear,
To where old Finchale's ruins dear,
                        For ages vast,
Have looked into the waters clear,
                        That gurgle past.

Beneath yon trees once grim and stern—
Which seem in fancy's ken to yearn
For days that were when they would spurn
                        And backward beat
The fiercest blast that blew—we'll turn
                        And take a seat.

Upon the crispy fern we'll rest
And gaze upon the scene possest
Of what is sweetest, dearest, best,
                        To souls like ours;
The winding slopes in verdure drest—
                        The trees and flowers.

Hard by in shade the foxglove dwells,
And rears on high her purple bells,
From which, when wind-a-dangled, wells
                        In fancy's ear
An air no mortal air excels,
                        Nor yet can peer.

There may one see the poppy burn
Amid the yet green waving corn;
And when the yellow grain is shorn,
                        We yet may see
This black-eyed crimson queen adorn
                        In tufts the lea.

Blue-bottles too, whose tender hue
Will match the sky's own lovely blue,
Upon an early morn, we'll view,
                        A pleasure rare:
But how can I describe to you
                        What we'll see there?

There, there upon a holiday,
Will toilers in their best array,
Come with their little ones to play,
                        A pleasant sight;
And many a prank is played ere day
                        Hath taken flight.

There, on some bonnie afternoon,
While bees awake a drowsy tune;
Or, later on, while cushats croon
                        A heartfelt lay,
And o'er them hangs the yellow moon,
                        Will lovers stray.

In such an hour it were a treat
To hear our minstrel's self repeat
His May Morning, in accents meet;
                        That carol true,
And one more musical and sweet,
                        I never knew.

The gift to warble such a song
Can but to Nature's bards belong,
With whom we'd rather dree the prong
                        Of Want's grim self,
Than revel with you gilded throng
                        That worship pelf.

Ah! never crony let us fash
Our heads about a lot of cash;
Nor seek with sparks to cut a dash;
                        Compared, I say,
What are the gauds they prize but trash
                        To one sweet lay.

This, when away yon castles proud
Have vanished like some ragged cloud,
That nor'-land winds a-piping loud
                        Have o'er them blown,
May yet to hearts by labour bowed
                        A joy be known.

And such a lay let me aver
Will prove "May Morning" or I err;
And "Jenny," too, tho' I prefer
                        To this a third;
E'en that wherein you curse the cur
                        That shot the bird.

All these are very sweet and fine,
And to my palate, precious wine,
And every stanza, every line,
                        As water clear,
Awakes a melody divine
                        To charm the ear.

But end I must; awhile adieu
To you and those so dear to you;
And hinney, Willie, kiss them, do,
                        Your bairns and wife,
In kind remembrance of your true,
                        Fond friend for life.


 

_______________________

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