SCOTS
CMSW

Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-Loom Weaver

Author(s): Thom, Mr William

Text

RHYMES
AND
RECOLLECTIONS
OF
A HAND-LOOM WEAVER.
BY WILLIAM THOM,
OF INVERURY.
"An' syne whan nichts grew cauld an' lang,
Ae while he sicht — ae while he sang." — Old Ballad.
LONDON:
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., AND SAMUEL CLARKE.
EDINBURGH: JOHN MENZIES; GLASGOW: DAVID ROBERTSON.
ABERDEEN: W. RUSSEL; INVERURY: R. EMSLIE.
MDCCCXLIV.
ABERDEEN:
PRINTED AT THE HERALD OFFICE,
BY JOHN FINLAYSON.
TO
MRS. GORDON
OF KNOCKESPOCK,
THE LADY OF MY EARLIEST PATRON,
SHARER OF HIS BLESSINGS,
WORTHY ASSOCIATE IN HIS VIRTUES,
This Little Book
IS GRATEFULLY INSCRIBED BY
THE AUTHOR.
CONTENTS.
PAGE
DEDICATION, 3
TO THE READER, 7
RECOLLECTIONS, 11
THE BLIND BOY'S PRANKS. — NO. I., 33
NO. II., 36
NO. III., 40
KNOCKESPOCK'S LADY, 43
THE MANIAC MOTHER'S DREAM, 47
OLD FATHER FROST AND HIS FAMILY, 51
AUTUMN WINDS, 53
O, MARY, WHEN YOU THINK OF ME, 55
I'VE SOUGHT IN LANDS AYONT THE SEA, 57
I WOULDNA — O, I COULDNA LOOK, 59
JEANIE'S GRAVE, 61
THEY SPEAK O' WYLES, 63
THE LAST TRYST, 65
ONE OF THE HEART'S STRUGGLES, 67
YE DINNA KEN YON BOWER, 69
BONNIE MAY, 71
LINES WRITTEN AT RAVENSCRAIG, 73
A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE ———, 75
YTHANSIDE, 78
A CHIEFTAIN UNKNOWN TO THE QUEEN, 80
THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM, 82
CAN YE FORGET, 84
THE LASS O' KINTORE, 86
DID THEY MEET AGAIN? 88
WHAUR DOES THE BLYTHE BEE SIP? 90
THE LASS WI' THE WANDERIN' E'E 92
MY HEATHER LAND, 94
MY HAMELESS HA' 96
LETTER TO J. ROBERTSON, ESQ. LONDON, 98
ADDRESS TO WILLIE, 99
HOSPITAL CHARITIES, 100
DREAMINGS OF THE BEREAVED, 102
THE MITHERLESS BAIRN, 104
THE WEDDED WATERS, 106
O, THAT MY LOVE WAS SO EASILY WON, 108
A WISH, 110
SECOND LOVE, 112
ADDRESS TO THE DON, 114
NOTES, 117
TO THE READER.
IF, in my song or in my saying, there appears
more of egotism than enough, how can I avoid it
and speak at all? The narrative portion of these
pages is a record of scenes and circumstances interwoven
with my experience — with my destiny. Hence
the necessity of my telling my own tale. Then the
feelings and fancies, the pleasure and the pain, that
for a time hovered about my aimless existence were
all my own — my property. These aerial investments
I held and fashioned into measured verse.
Thus, by the self-derived authority whereby I
tell my own tale, do I sing my own song; so that I,
We, and Us, are the all and all of the matter. The
self-portraiture herein attempted, is not altogether
egotism neither, inasmuch as the main lineaments of
the sketch are to be found in the separate histories
of a thousand families in Scotland within these last
ten years. That fact, however, being contemplated
in mass, and in reference to its bulk only, acts more
on the wonder than on the pity of mankind, as if
human sympathies, like the human eye, could not
compass an object exceedingly large. and same time
exceedingly near. It is no small share in the end
and aim of the present little work, to impart to one
portion of the community a glimpse of what is sometimes
going on in another; and even if only that is
accomplished, some good service is done. I have
long had a notion that many of the heartburnings that
run through the SOCIAL WHOLE, spring, not so much
from the distinctiveness of classes, as their mutual
ignorance of each other. The miserably rich look
on the miserably poor with distrust and dread, scarcely
giving them credit for sensibility sufficient to feel
their own sorrows. That is ignorance with its gilded
side. The poor, in turn, foster a hatred of the
wealthy as a sole inheritance — look on grandeur as
their natural enemy, and bend to the rich man's rule
in gall and bleeding scorn. Puppies on the one side,
and demagogues on the other, are the portions that
come oftenest into contact. These are the luckless
things that skirt the great divisions, exchanging all
that is offensive therein. "Man know thyself"
should be written on the right hand; on the left,
"Men know each other." It is a subject worthy of
a wise head and a pithy pen. To these I leave it,
and turn to tell my readers a few words more about
this book. With very little exception, every thing
here presented was written in Inverury, and within
these last three years. The "Recollections" are introduced
for the sake of the "Rhymes," and in the
same relationship as parent and child — one the offspring
of the other; and in that association alone
can they be interesting. I write no more in either
than what I knew — and not all of that — so feeling
has left fancy little to do in the matter.
While in London, I was introduced to Mr.
Robert Chambers of the Edinburgh Journal. In
course of gossip, I related to him what led to the
production of an "Ode to my Flute." He liked the
story, and, at his request, I wrote it. It appeared in
the Edinburgh Journal, and is here reprinted in a
more extended form.
RECOLLECTIONS.
IN the spring of 18—, the failure of certain
great commercial establishments in America, combining
with other causes, silenced, in one week, upwards
of 6000 looms in Dundee, and the various
agencies in its connexion, and spread dismay throughout
the whole county of Forfar. Amongst the many
villages thus trade-stricken, none felt the blow more
severely than that of Newtyle, near Cupar-Angus.
This village was new, having sprung up since the
completion of the Dundee Railway, a few years ago.
It consisted chiefly of weaving-shops and dwellings
for the weavers. The inhabitants, about two hundred
in number, were strangers to the place and to
each other, having been recently collected from distant
places by advertisements promising them many
advantages, but which, when the evil day came,
were little regarded. While employers were, some
unwilling and many unable, to do anything for
the relief of those whom they had brought together
for their own purposes, the people of the neighbourhood,
including those of the old village of Newtyle,
regarded them with stern prejudice, as intruders
"that naebody kent naething about." It were too
much to say that they were positively persecuted by
their neighbours, but certainly they received no sympathy
in their distresses from that quarter, much less
any relief.
A little while thinned the village, those only remaining
who had many children, and were obliged
to consider well before they started. To these (and
I was of the number) one web was supplied weekly,
bringing five shillings. The weaver will know what
sort of job the weaving of an "Osnaburg" was at
that price. It had been a stiff winter and unkindly
spring, but it passed away, as other winters and
springs must do. I will not expatiate on six human
lives subsisted on five shillings weekly — on babies
prematurely thoughtful — on comely faces withering
— on desponding youth and too quickly declining
age. These things are perhaps too often talked of.
Let me describe but one morning of modified starvation
at Newtyle, and then pass on.
Imagine a cold spring forenoon. It is eleven
o'clock, but our little dwelling shows none of the
signs of that time of day. The four children are still
asleep. There is a bed-cover hung before the window,
to keep all within as much like night as possible;
and the mother sits beside the beds of her
children, to lull them back to sleep whenever any
shows an inclination to awake. For this there is a
cause, for our weekly five shillings have not come as
expected, and the only food in the house consists of
a handful of oatmeal saved from the supper of last
night. Our fuel is also exhausted. My wife and I
were conversing in sunken whispers about making
an attempt to cook the handful of meal, when the
youngest child awoke beyond its mother's power to
hush it again to sleep, and then fell a whimpering,
and finally broke out in a steady scream, which, of
course, rendered it impossible any longer to keep the
rest in a state of unconsciousness. Face after face
sprung up, each with one consent exclaiming, "Oh,
mother, mother, gie me a piece!" How weak a
word is sorrow to apply to the feelings of myself and
wife during the remainder of that dreary forenoon!
We thus lingered on during the spring, still
hoping that things would come a little round, or that
at least warmer weather would enable us, with more
safety, to venture on a change of residence. At
length, seeing that our strength was rapidly declining,
I resolved to wait no longer. Proceeding to
Dundee, I there exchanged, at a pawnbroker's, a last
and most valued relic of better days, for ten shillings,
four of which I spent on such little articles as
usually constitute "a pack," designing this to be
carried by my wife, while other four shillings I expended
on second-hand books, as a stock of merchandize
for myself; but I was very unfortunate in my
selection, which consisted chiefly of little volumes,
containing abridgements of modern authors, these
authors being generally of a kind little to the taste
of a rustic population.
On a Thursday morning, we forsook our melancholy
habitation, leaving in it my two looms and
some furniture (for we thought of returning to it),
and the key with the landlord. On the third day,
Saturday, we passed through the village of Inchture,
in the Carse of Gowrie, and proceeded towards Kinnaird.
Sunset was followed by cold, sour east winds
and rain. The children becoming weary and fretful,
we made frequent inquiries of other forlorn-looking
beings whom we met, to ascertain which farm-town
in the vicinity was most likely to afford us quarters.
Jean was sorely exhausted, bearing an infant constantly
at the breast, and often carrying the youngest
boy also, who had fairly broken down in the
course of the day. It was nine o'clock when we
approached the large and comfortable-looking steading
of B—, standing about a quarter of a mile
off the road. Leaving my poor flock on the wayside,
I pushed down the path to the farm-house with considerable
confidence, for I had been informed that
B— (meaning, by this local appellation, the
farmer) was a humane man who never turned the
wanderer from his door. Unfortunately for us, the
worthy farmer was from home, and not expected to
return that night. His housekeeper had admitted
several poor people already, and could admit no
more. I pleaded with her the infancy of my family,
the lateness of the night, and their utter unfitness to
proceed — that we sought nothing but shelter — that
the meanest shed would be a blessing. Heaven's
mercy was never more earnestly pleaded for than was
a night's lodging by me on that occasion; but "No,
no, no," was the unvarying answer to all my entreaties.

I returned to my family. They had kept closer
together, and all, except the mother, were fast asleep.
"Oh, Willie, Willie, what keepit ye?" inquired the
trembling woman; "I'm dootfu' o' Jeanie," she
added; "isna she waesome like? Let's in frae the
cauld." "We've nae way to gang, lass," said I,
"whate'er come o' us. Yon folk winna hae us."
Few more words passed. I drew her mantle over
the wet and chilled sleepers, and sat down beside
them. My head throbbed with pain, and for a time
became the tenement of thoughts I would not now
reveal. They partook less of sorrow than of indignation,
and it seemed to me that this same world was
a thing very much to be hated; and, on the whole,
the sooner that one like me could get out of it, the
better for its sake and mine own. I felt myself, as
it were, shut out from mankind — enclosed — prisoned
in misery — no outlook — none! My miserable wife
and little ones, who alone cared for me — what would
I not have done for their sakes at that hour! Here
let me speak out — and be heard, too, while I tell it
— that the world does not at all times know how unsafely
it sits — when Despair has loosed Honour's last
hold upon the heart — when transcendent wretchedness
lays weeping Reason in the dust — when every
unsympathizing onlooker is deemed an enemy — who
THEN can limit the consequences? For my own part.
I confess that, ever since that dreadful night, I can
never hear of an extraordinary criminal, without the
wish to pierce through the mere judicial view of his
career, under which, I am persuaded, there would
often be found to exist an unseen impulse — a chain,
with one end fixed in Nature's holiest ground, that
drew him on to his destiny.
The gloamin' light was scarcely sufficient to allow
me to write a note, which I carried to a stately mansion
hard by. It was to entreat what we had been
denied at B—. This application was also fruitless.
The servant had been ordered to take in no such notes,
and he could not break through the rule. On rejoining
my little group, my heart lightened at the presence of
a serving-man, who at that moment came near, and
who, observing our wretchedness, could not pass without
endeavouring to succour us. The kind words of
this worthy peasant sunk deep into our hearts. I do
not know his name; but never can I forget him. Assisted
by him, we arrived, about eleven o'clock, at
the farm-house of John Cooper, West-town of Kinnaird,
where we were immediately admitted. The
accommodation, we were told, was poor — but what
an alternative from the storm-beaten wayside! The
servants were not yet in bed; and we were permitted
a short time to warm ourselves at the bothy fire.
During this interval, the infant seemed to revive; it
fastened heartily to the breast, and soon fell asleep.
We were next led to an out-house. A man stood
by with a lantern, while, with straw and blankets, we
made a pretty fair bed In less than half an hour,
the whole slept sweetly in their dark and almost
roofless dormitory. I think it must have been between
three and four o'clock when Jean wakened me.
Oh, that scream! — I think I can hear it now. The
other children, startled from sleep, joined in frightful
wail over their dead sister. Our poor Jeanie had,
unobserved by us, sunk during the night under the
effects of the exposure of the preceding evening, following,
as it did, a long course of hardship, too great
to be borne by a young frame. Such a visitation
could only be sustained by one hardened to misery
and wearied of existence. I sat a while and looked
on them; comfort I had none to give — none to take;
I spake not — what could be said — words? Oh, no!
the worst is over when words can serve us. And
yet it is not just when the wound is given that pain
is felt. How comes it, I wonder, that minor evils
will affect even to agony, while paramount sorrow
overdoes itself, and stands in stultified calmness?
Strange to say, on first becoming aware of the bereavement
of that terrible night, I sat for some minutes
gazing upwards at the fluttering and wheeling
movements of a party of swallows, our fellow-lodgers,
which had been disturbed by our unearthly outcry.
After a while, I proceeded to awaken the people in
the house, who entered at once into our feelings, and
did every thing which Christian kindness could dictate
as proper to be done on the occasion. A numerous
and respectable party of neighbours assembled
that day to assist at the funeral. In an obscure
corner of Kinnaird churchyard lies our favourite, little
Jeanie.
Early on Monday, we resumed our heartless
pilgrimage — wandering onwards, without any settled
purpose or end. The busy, singing world above
us was a nuisance; and around, the loaded fields
bore nothing for us — we were things apart. Nor
knew we where that night our couch might be, or
where to-morrow our grave. 'Tis but fair to say,
however, that our children never were ill-off during
the day-time. Where our goods were not bought,
we were, nevertheless, offered "a piece to the bairnies."
One thing which might contribute to this was,
that our appearance, as yet, was respectable, and it
seemed as if the people saw in us neither the shrewd
hawker nor the habitual mendicant, so that we were
better supplied with food than had been our lot for
many a month before. But oh, the ever-recurring
sunset! Then came the hour of sad conjecturing
and sorrowful outlook. To seek lodging at a farm
before sunset, was to insure refusal. After nightfall,
the children, worn out with the day's wanderings,
turned fretful, and slept whenever we sat down,
After experience taught us cunning in this, as in
other things — the tactics of habitual vagrants being
to remain in concealment near a farm of good name,
until a suitable lateness warranted the attack. This
night, however, we felt so much in need of a comfortable
resting-place, that it was agreed we should
make for Errol. There we settled for the night in a
house kept for the humblest description of "travellers."
It is one of those places of entertainment
whose most engaging feature is the easy price. Its
inmates, unaccustomed even to the luxury of a fire,
easily enough dispense with seats; and where five
or six people are packed up alive in one box, a superabundance
of bed-clothes would be found uncomfortable.
Hence the easy charges. Our fellow--
lodgers were of all nations, to the amount of two
dozen or so. As it has been my lot, since then, to
pass many a night and day in similar society, and,
having somewhat of a turn for observation, my memory
could furnish many records of "gangrel bodies,"
that are not altogether wanting in interest; but of
that another time. One case, however, has, in some
points, so much of resemblance to my own, at one
period, that I would fain notice it here. At the
gloamin' hour, we entered the village of Errol. In
the main street, a group of people had gathered
round a man, and stood silent and attentive, as if
expecting some display or another. I wondered, for
a moment, whether the man was a preacher, and at
a dead stop for material. The grave and benevolent
expression on his comely face, as well as the dark
hue of his apparel, misled me so far; and for the
rest, the bewilderment of his look certainly intimated
that, whatever the employment, his lips had "closed
for the season." It was not so. I knew it all afterwards.
He had been just then singing — for the
first time, singing on the streets. I heard his song.
Surely, surely, thought I, it comes from his very heart;
such earnestness, such sorrowful sweetness! Misery
makes niggards of us, and at times sympathies will
actually become self-consumed; yet the man and his
"Light of other days," haunted my fancy, even to
my motley lodgings — my caravansary — my bield of
meal-bags and monsters. Here, aside from the
coarse and bloated inmates of our dwelling, a respectable-looking
woman sat nursing a sick infant —
a poor, withered, corpse-like baby, with little of life
there but the wailing, wailing, that would not be
stilled. One or two of our neighbours seemed to
sympathize with the young and lonely mother;
others grumbled harshly to want their sleep. By
and by, another lodger entered. It was the man —
the very singing man — I heard in the gloamin'. In
a moment he was in our group, leaning over his dying
infant! Now, just think of singing, and that
the key-note! I will not bother you with remarks.
"I have wearied sadly for your coming, James,"
said the woman. "Its so dark out bye the nicht,"
he replied, "I only faund out this door by our wean
greetin'."
Many a time, since that sad night, have I seen
him and his interesting family snug and happy at
their own hearth. A feeling unknown to the many,
sprung up between us — it endures for life — like that
of creatures who had met in a desert. Fain would
at this moment introduce his story, for it is a sad
one — his name, his sufferings, and his amiabilities.
But no; there are minds anew in the world little
enough — cruel enough, to remind him, as they have
me, of the desolate day that was never chosen; and
envy sufficient to blot his prosperity — to find invidious
causes for his calamity — for sorrows and circumstances
that no man would seek. With minds like
these, to be once down, is never to look up again —
once humbled, nothing after is sufficiently low. His
infant died ere he left that lodging-house. In justice
to silent sufferers, as well as to the unwary benevolent,
it is well to mention here a cast of imposture carried
on by the thoroughbred, never-give-up, "all right"
class of beggarhood. In common tramp-houses,
wherein this class mostly harbour, a death is, in a
double sense, a godsend — such, indeed, is to them a
gracious notice, even when it comes in a "fair strae"
kind of way. But if the decease has aught about it
of the extraordinary, so as to attract local sympathy,
out of that comes a true Christmas. Every crutch
is on end — every bag hoisted — every face stretched
to the nonce, and these things spread to every point,
each wailing the loss of child, mother, brother, sister,
or wife — or all together, rather than not melt.
This and shipwrecks, form a kind of staple in the
commonwealth of Gaberlunzie.
Leaving Errol next day, we passed up the Carse
to Perth, were kept there a few days by some old
acquaintances, started from thence towards Methven,
sold little on the way thither, but were kindly treated
by the workers at Huntingtower and Cromwell Park.
The people there were themselves on limited work
— indeed, many of them had none; yet they shared
their little substance with those that had less. It is
always so; but for the poor, the poorer would perish.
Just before entering Methven, I sold a small
book to a person breaking stones for the road. After
some conversation, I discovered he was musical, and
was strongly tempted to sell him my flute. He had
taken a fancy to it, and offered a good price. I resisted;
it had long been my companion, and sometimes
my solace; and, indeed, to speak truth, I had,
for some days past, attended to certain "forlorn
hope" whisperings, implying the possible necessity of
using that instrument in a way more to be lamented
than admired. The sum-total of my earthly moneys
was fivepence-halfpenny, which my little volume had
seduced from the pocket of the musical lapidary. With
this treasure, we sat by the fireside of Mrs. L.'s
lodging-house in Methven. The good woman gave us
to understand that our entertainment would cost sixpence,
at the same time declaring it to be a standing
rule in her establishment to see payment made of all
such matters before the parties "took aff their shoon."
I only wondered, when I looked round on the bare feet
that luxuriated about her hearth, how she contrived
to put this test into execution. The demand for our
lodging-money was decided, and so was I. I took
my woe-worn partner aside, whispered her to pick
my flute from out our "budgets," put on her mantle,
and follow me. As we went along, I disclosed my
purpose of playing in the outskirts of the village.
This was a new line of action, not to be taken without
some qualms. But then the landlady! Besides,
nobler natures, and higher names than I could ever
aim at, had betaken themselves to similar means.
Homer had sung his epics for a morsel of bread;
Goldsmith had piped his way over half the Continent.
These were precedents indeed! Moreover, neither of
these worthies had children in Methven or elsewhere,
that ever I heard of. Nor is it recorded in the history
of those great men, whether they had at any
time been under the compulsion of a landlady who
attached a special consequence to the moment that
undid the shoe-tie.
Musing over these and many other considerations,
we found ourselves in a beautiful green lane,
fairly out of the town, and opposite a genteel-looking
house, at the windows of which sat several well--
dressed people. I think that it might be our bewildered
and hesitating movements that attracted their
notice — perhaps not favourably. "A quarter of an
hour longer," said I, "and it will be darker; let us
walk out a bit." The sun had been down a good
while, and the gloamin' was lovely. In spite of
everything, I felt a momentary reprieve. I dipped
my dry flute in a little burn, and began to play. It
rang sweetly amongst the trees. I moved on and
on, still playing, and still facing the town. "The
flowers of the forest" brought me before the house
lately mentioned. My music raised one window after
another * * * Shall I not bless the
good folk of Methven? Let me ever chance to meet
a Methven weaver in distress, and I will share my
last bannock with him. These men — for I knew
them, as they knew me, by instinct — these men not
only helped me themselves, but testified their gratitude
to every one that did so. There was enough to
encourage further perseverance; but I felt, after all,
that I had begun too late in life ever to acquire that
"ease and grace" indispensable to him who would
successfully "carry the gaberlunzie on." I felt I
must forego it, at least in a downright street capacity.

After some consideration, another mode of exercising
my talents for support occurred to me. I had,
ever since I remember, an irrepressible tendency to
make verses, and many of these had won applause
from my friends and fellow-workmen, so I determined
to press this faculty into my service on the present
occasion. Accordingly, after sundry downsittings
and contemplations, by waysides and in barns,
my Muse produced the following ode
TO MY FLUTE.
'Tis nae to harp, to lyre, nor lute,
I ettle now to sing;
To thee alane, my lo'esome flute,
This hamely strain I bring!
Oh! let us flee on memory's wing,
O'er twice ten winters flee,
An' try ance mair that ae sweet spring
Whilk young love breathed in thee.
Companion o' my happy then,
Wi' smilin' frien's around;
In ilka but, in ilka ben,
A couthie welcome found —
Ere yet thy master proved the wound
That ne'er gaed skaithless by;
That gies to flutes their saftest sound,
To hearts their saddest sigh.
Since then, my bairns hae danced to thee,
To thee my Jean has sung;
And monie a nicht, wi' guiltless glee,
Our hearty hallan rung.
But noo, wi' hardship worn and wrung,
I'll roam the warld about;
For her and for our friendless young,
Come forth, my faithful flute!
Your artless notes may win the ear
That wadna hear me speak,
And for your sake that pity spare,
My full heart couldna seek.
And whan the winter's cranreuch bleak
Drives houseless bodies in,
We'll aiblins get the ingle-cheek,
A' for your lichtsome din.
This I designed to be printed on fine paper, with a
fly-leaf attached, and folded in the style of a note, to
be presented to none under a footman, by a decently--
dressed, modest-looking man (myself, of course),
who, after waiting ten minutes, the time wanted to
utter the "Oh, la's!" and "Who may he be's?"
would, I expected, be asked into the drawing-room.
where the admiring circle should be ravished with his
sweet-toned minstrelsy. After compliments sufficient
for any mere man, this person I supposed to retire
with that in his pocket that could not rightly be expended
without a great deal of prudent consideration.
Such was my dream. I accordingly proceeded to act
as I had designed. With a few copies of my poem,
I set out once more upon my travels, and, to do justice
to the scheme, it was, on several occasions,
successful to the extent anticipated. In one laird's
house I received a guerdon of half a guinea; but,
after all, it was but beggar's work, and my soul in
time grew sick of it. It was with no sighings after
flesh-pots that, in a few weeks, on times becoming a
little better, I settled down once more to my loom.
Weaving about a year in Aberdeen, I accidentally
obtained a job from a customary weaver in the
Garioch — a district bordering on Mar and Strathbogie,
in Aberdeenshire. This proving far more
profitable than factory work, induced me to remove
my family from Aberdeen to Inverury, a place centrical
and convenient to the call of employers in the
customary line. Nine months after our settlement
here, she died — Jean — the mother of my family —
partner of my wanderings — the unmurmuring sharer
in all my difficulties, left us — left us, too, just as the
last cold cloud was passing, ere the outbreak of a
brighter day. That cloud passed, but the warmth
that followed lost half its value to me, she being no
partaker therein.
In January, 1841, precisely one year after having
taken residence at Inverury, my better star had,
all unknown to me, determined to take a turn on the
upward way. Customary work almost ceases here
at this season, and remains dull for several months.
I had been unemployed thus for two weeks. To lull
the weariness, and make away with very tedious
hours, I composed small poems, on subjects that
pleased me. This I did, without a glance beyond the
selfish pleasure one finds in shaping out a fixed and
tangible abode to feelings and fancies dear to the
memory. One of these compositions I sent to the
Aberdeen Herald. It appeared anonymously in that
paper, ushered by a flattering notice from the Editor
— a gentleman to whom I was then entirely unknown.
This poem, No. I. of "The Blind Boy's
Pranks," was copied into most newspapers in the
kingdom. With a rather full average of human vanity
in my disposition, all this, at another time, would
have been pleasing enough; but as it was, the first
gleam of public favour had not power to withdraw
my mind from what was before me, nor to brighten
the dreary outlook.
On a cold, cold winter day, we sat alone, my
little ones and I, looking on the last meal procurable
by honourable means. My purpose was settled —
our wearables, such as they were, lay packed up for
the journey — Aberdeen and the House of Refuge our
next home. I felt resigned. True, we might have
breathed on a little while longer, had I been able to
worm through all the creeping intricacies that lie
between starvation and parish charities. But oh!
how preferable, surely, the unseen, silent, sadness in
a House of Refuge to the thousand and one heartless
queries, taunts, and grumblings that accompany the
elder's "eighteenpence." Heaven averted all these,
at any rate. On the foreooon of that same day,
there came to me a post letter, dated "Aberdeen
Journal Office." The nature of that letter will be
sufficiently understood by the following extract: —
The beautiful verses entitled "The Blind Boy's Pranks," the production
of a "Serf,"* which appeared in our paper of the 20th January
[copied from the Herald, whore the production of the "Serf" first
appeared], are, we doubt not, fresh in the memory of many of our
readers; and it will delight them to learn that the humble yet gifted
author has not passed unnoticed or unrewarded. We have had the
pleasure of conveying to him, from a gentleman of this county, the
friend and patron of humble merit and of native genius, a very substantial
token of his admiration; and make no apology for submitting
*The signature originally appended to the verses.
to our readers the simple tale of thanks with which it has been received.
The genuine spirit of poetry pervades "The Blind Boy's Pranks;"
and is no less conspicuous in the lines which follow. They cannot fail
to create an interest in the welfare of the hard-working and talented
"Serf": —
Inverury, February 7, 1841.
DEAR SIR, — I have this hour received your kind letter, enclosing
another, with five pounds, from Knockespock. Unaccustomed
— utterly unaccustomed as I have been to such correspondents,
and with such accompaniments, what shall I say? Nothing
now — indeed, I cannot; neither can I delay this acknowledgment
— but after hours will speak my gratitude. That gentleman
shall hear from me soon. Meantime, I subjoin a little thing*
that happened to be in the "loom" when yours came to hand.
You are fairly entitled to the freshest of my homely productions.
Through your hand, for the first time in my life, has my rhyming
brought me aught beyond "fusionless" praise — indeed, beyond
that, I have never hoped nor wished; but now that, through the
munificence of Knockespock, my physical struggle is slackened, I
foresee that my pursuits (mentally) may be less fettered and have
a wider range. O! Sir, it is difficult for those in other circumstances
to think what a strife is his who has to battle lip-deep in
poverty, with a motherless family and a poetical temperament!
The last item the worst — inasmuch as it enhances tenfold the
pain that is frequent, and the joy that is rare. Let sincerity atone
for the want of elegance in,
DEAR SIR,
Your grateful and obliged
W. THOM.
To D. CHALMERS, Esq. Aberdeen,
Editor of the Journal.
I wrote my thanks to Mr. Gordon, who, soon
after, sent a letter containing many inquiries concerning
my situation and prospects. My reply may be
acceptable at this point of the story, as it embodies
the pith of his letter, and exhibits that kind of family
statistics which his amiable nature seeks out, in every
instance, to help and to heal. It would fill a volume
what I have witnessed of that gentleman's benevolent
doings, and of the delight he enjoys in the happiness
*"o, Mary, when ye think of me."
of a fellow-creature; but let me speak now only of
the instance at hand. After chastising myself for
not attending more promptly to his very first communication,
my reply to his second one runs thus: —
As to the long silence that ensued, I must recur to my former
plea — namely, my inability to express my own feelings, with
a certainty all the while, that I did not trespass on those of my
benefactor. Again I sincerely ask pardon; and let this farther
consideration plead for me, that my lowly breeding has hid from
me those nice and proper distinctions recognized by people of
education and superior training — even now, I know not, thus
speaking, how far I may commit myself, and beg leave to proceed
to the queries as they stand in your letter, replying to all
in single-hearted sincerity. "What was you bred to?" Born in
Aberdeen, the son of a widow unable to keep me at home idle,
I was, when ten years of age, placed in a public factory, where I
served an apprenticeship of four years, at the end of which I entered
another great weaving establishment, "Gordon, Barron, &
Co." where I continued seventeen years. During my apprenticeship,
I had picked up a little reading and writing. Afterwards
set about studying Latin — went so far, but was fairly defeated
through want of time, &c. — having the while to support my
mother, who was getting frail. However, I continued to gather
something of arithmetic and music, both of which I have mastered
so far as to render further progress easy did I see it requisite.
I play the German flute tolerably in general subjects, but in my
native melodies, lively or pathetic, to few will I lay it down. I
have every Scotch song that is worth singing; and though my
vocal capability is somewhat limited, I can convey a pretty fair
idea of what a Scotch song ought to be.
So much for "acquirements." You next ask my "age and
state health?" I am forty two — my health not robust but evenly;
a lameness of one leg occasioned by my being, when in infancy,
crushed under the wheel of a carriage. This unfits me for work
requiring extra personal strength; and indeed it is mostly owing
to little mechanical appliances of my own contriving, that I am
enabled to subject the more laborious parts of my calling to the
limits of my very stinted bodily power.
"The number and age of my family?" Three — Elizabeth, aged
ten and a-half years, William eight, and James five.
My wife died in childbed, last November; my girl does the
best she can by way of housekeeper; the boys are at school. I
cannot spare the lassie, so she gets a lesson at home.
"Description of my dwelling" — I occupy two trim little garrets
in a house belonging to Sir Robert Elphinstone, lately built
on the market stance of Inverury. We have everything required
in our humble way — perhaps our blankets pressed a little too
lightly during the late severe winter, but then we crept closer
together — that is gone — 'tis summer now, and we are hopeful
that next winter will bring better things. "Means of Living" —
employed seven or eight months yearly in customary weaving —
that is, a country weaver who wants a journeyman sends for me.
I assist in making bedding, shirting, and other household stuffs.
When his customers are served, I am discharged, and so ends the
season. During that time I earn from ten to twelve shillings a--
week; pay the master generally four shillings for my "keep,"
and remit the rest to my family. In this way, we moved on
happy enough. Ambition, or something like it, would now and
then whisper me into discontent. But now, how blest would I
deem myself had I my beloved partner again, and the same difficulties
to retrace. I eke out the blank portions of the season by
going into a factory. Here the young and vigorous only can exceed
six shillings weekly. This alone is my period of privation;
however, it is wonderful how nicely we get on. A little job now
and then, in the musical way, puts all right again. I don't drink,
as little at any rate as possible. I have been vain enough to set
some value on my mind, and it being all that I possess now, and
the only thing likely to put me in possession of aught afterwards,
I would not willingly drown it. "My Books" — I have few of my
own — pick up a loan where it can be had; so of course my reading
is without choice or system. Your question with regard to
"Religion" — I believe in God, and in Christ the Saviour of mankind.
"What do I look forward to in life?" Lately I looked to
nothing but increasing labour and decreasing strength — interminable
toil and ultimate starvation — such is the fate of nine--
tenths of my brethren — but now daylight breaks on my destiny.
Since you wrote me, my verses have attracted the notice of several
literary gentlemen in Edinburgh, who have tendered friendship
to me — and are to use their influence in my behalf in the
event of my publishing. Mr. M. of the Weekly Chronicle, has
frequently mentioned me in kindness.* Hence I dream of
making my "escape" from the loom; and of being enabled to
*LITERATURE, when pursued as a profession, confers dignity on its
votary; but when, as in the case of the amiable and gifted Thom of
Inverury, Aberdeenshire, and many others of his class similarly situated,
it is resorted to amid the little relaxation which a laborious profession
allows, we confess we reverence that man who can thus vindicate
the superiority of mind over matter. Many are content to eat, to sleep,
and do a little work again; who, when the sun shines, feel no other
pleasure than that of being dry and warm; who, when the storm roars
and the thunder and lightning are raging around the heavens, hie to
some dark retreat and there fancy themselves secure; the day-spring
conveys to such minds no other feeling than that they must rise and
work; and the evening closes around them and glads their dull faculties
with only the visions of a supper and a bed. This is the animal,
the vegetable life which but too many live, to the utter abasement of
intellect and elevated feeling. — Edinburgh Weekly Chronicle, Feb. 1841.
pull my little ones out from amongst "folk's feet." I fully appreciate
your friendly counsel regarding premature publication,
and shall attend to it — also to the selection of subjects, but I
would not be diverted from my original purpose anent the dedication
to you. God knows, I have been taught the value of a
shilling, but have never yet stooped to an unbecoming action to
obtain one; and although they were in my neighbourhood (as I
don't know if they are) that would better me* — yet, Sir, permit
me to abide by my first notion.
I had nearly forgot that you ask me whether I possess "Good
common sense as well as poetical ability?" Well, really, Sir, I cannot
say — most people erect their own standard in that matter,
and generally award to themselves a pretty fair share; and few
are found grumbling with the distribution. I have looked as
closely as my degree permitted, upon man; his ways and his
wishes, and I have tasted in my own experience some of life's
bitterest tastings; hence I have obtained some shrewd glimpses
of what calls common sense into action, and what follows the action
wherein common sense has no share.
You speak of "respectable references;" Dr. Thomson here
has known me these two years, being the amount of my residence
in this place; Mr. M'Naughtan, manager to Gordon, Barron,
& Co. Aberdeen. To these I can refer, and if they do not call
me a good, I dare them to call me a bad man. By the way, I
have never sought to cultivate amongst those not in my immediate
degree, and am little known — my hands recommended me
to my employers, and beyond that I seldom thought. I have recovered
the number of copies you requested, and shall remit the
rest whenever they come to hand.
I am, &c. &c.
Ten days after sending the above letter, I and
my daughter were dashing it in a gilded carriage
through the streets of London. Here was a change
sufficient to turn the head of a bewildered weaver.
Under the protection of my patron, Mr. Gordon, I
remained there, and in other parts of England, upwards
of four months, and paid great attention to all
I saw and heard. I was introduced to many of the
master minds of yon great city. In the studio of Sir
*Knockespock had suggested to me that there might be others
to whom I might dedicate more advantageously than to him.
Francis Chantrey, I conversed with the lamented
Allan Cunningham. I have listened to the eloquence,
and heard the nonsense of those who give laws to
the people. I saw Majesty and Misery, and many
of the paths between. There is not a purchaseable
pleasure but was put within my power; and many
are the delights of happy England, and kind the
hearts therein; yet I longed for Scotland, and am
again upon my heather and at my loom. Alas! for
the loom though! Hitherto it has been to me the
ship on which I voyaged o'er life — Happiness and
Hardship alternate steersmen — the Lyre and a light
heart my fellow-passengers. Now, amid the giant
waves of monopoly the solitary loom is fast sinking.
Thus must the Lyre, like a hencoop, be thrown on
the wrecking waters, to float its owner ashore.
POEMS.
THE BLIND BOY'S PRANKS.
NO. I.
"I'll tell some ither time, quo' he,
How we love an' laugh in the north countrie." — Legend.
MEN grew sae cauld, maids sae unkind,
Love kentna whaur to stay.
Wi' fient an arrow, bow, or stringWi'
droopin' heart an' drizzled wing,
He faught his lonely way.
"Is there nae mair, in Garioch fair,
Ae spotless hame for me?
Hae politics, an' corn, an' kye,
Ilk bosom stappit? Fie, O fie!
I'll swithe me o'er the sea."
He launched a leaf o' jessamine,
On whilk he dared to swim,
An' pillowed his head on a wee rosebud,
Syne laithfu', lanely, Love 'gan scud
Down Ury's waefu' stream.
The birds sang bonnie as Love drew near,
But dowie when he gaed by;
Till lull'd wi' the sough o' monie a sang,
He sleepit fu' soun' an' sailed alang
'Neath heav'n's gowden sky!
'Twas just whaur creepin' Ury greets
Its mountain cousin Don,
There wandered forth a weelfaur'd dame,
Wha listless gazed on the bonnie stream,
That flirted an' played wi' a sunny beam
Whilk flickered its bosom upon.
Love happit his head, I trow, that time,
When the jessamine bark drew nigh,
An' the lassie espied the wee rosebud,
An' aye her heart gae thud for thud,
An' quiet it wadna lie.
"O gin I but had yon wearie wee flower
That floats on the Ury sae fair!"
She lootit her hand for the silly rose-leaf,
But little kent she o' the pawkie thief,
That was lurkin' an' laughin' there!
Love glower'd when he saw her bonnie dark e'e,
An' swore by Heaven's grace
He ne'er had seen nor thought to see.
Since e'er he left the Paphian lea,*
Mair lovely a dwallin' place.
Syne, first of a', in her blythesome breast,
He built a bower, I ween;
An' what did the waefu' devilick neist?
But kindled a gleam like the rosy east,
That sparkled frae baith her een.
An' then beneath ilk high e'e bree
He placed a quiver there;
His bow? What but her shinin' brow?
An' O sic deadly strings he drew
Frae out her silken hair.
God be our guard! sic deeds waur deen,
Roun' a' our countrie then;
An' monie a hangin' lug was seen
'Mang farmers fat, an' lawyers lean,
An' herds o' common men!
*See Note A.
THE BLIND BOY'S PRANKS.
NO. II.
LOVE roam'd awa frae Uryside,
Wi' bow an' barbet keen,
Nor car'd a daisy whaur he gaed;
"Auld Scotland's mine, howe, heath, and
And I'll trock that wi' nane.
"Yon Ury damsel's diamond e'e,
I've left it evermair;
She gied her heart unkent to me;
Noo prees what wedded wichts maun pree,
When I'm unpriested there.
"That time by Ury's glowing stream,
In sunny hour we met;
A lichter beild, a kinder hame
Than in the breast o' that fair dame,
I'll never, never get.
"I kenn'd her meet wi' kindly say,
A lov'd, a lowly name;
The heartless ruled poor Jean — an' they
Hae doom'd a loveless bride, for aye
To busk a loveless hame.
"I'll seek bauld Benachie's proud pow,
Grey king o' common hills!
And try hoo bodies hearts may lowe
Beneath thy shadeless, shaggy brow,
Whaur dance a hundred rills."
Noo trampin' bits, noo fleein' miles,
Frae aff the common road,
To keek at cadgers loupin' styles,
Wha try the virtue an' the wyles
O' maidens lichtly shod,
He passed Pittodrie's haunted wood,*
Whaur devils dwalt langsyne;
He heard the Ury's timid flood,
An' Gadie's heigh an' hurrit scud,
In playfu' sweetness twine.
An' there he saw (for Love has een,
Tho' whiles nae gleg at seein'),
He saw an' kenn'd a kind auld frien',
Wha wander'd ghaistlike an' alane,
Forsaken, shunn'd, an' deein'.
*See Note B.
Her look ance gay as gleams o' gowd
Upon a silver sea;
Noo dark an' dowie as the cloud
That creeps athwart yon leafless wood,
In cauld December's e'e.
Hear ye the heartsick soun's that fa'
Frae lips that bless nae mair?
Like beildless birdies when they ca'
Frae wet, wee wing the batted snaw,
Her sang soughs o' despair.
Song of the Forsaken.
MY cheek is faded sair love,
An' lichtless fa's my e'e;
My breast a' lane and bare, love,
Has aye a beild for thee.
My breast, though lane and bare, love,
The hame o' cauld despair, love,
Yet ye've a dwallin' there, love,
A' darksome though it be.
Yon guarded roses glowin',
Its wha daur min't to pu'?
But aye the wee bit gowan
Ilk reckless hand may strew.
An' aye the wee, wee gowan,
Unsheltered, lanely growin',
Unkent, uncared its ruin,
Sae marklessly it grew.
An' am I left to rue, then,
Wha ne'er kent Love but thee;
An' gae a love as true, then,
As woman's heart can gie?
But can ye cauldly view, then,
A bosom burstin' fu' then?
An' hae ye broken noo, then,
The heart ye sought frae me?
THE BLIND BOY'S PRANKS.
NO. III.
BY the lowe o' a lawyer's ingle bricht,
Wi' gruesome looks an' dark,
The deil sat pickin' his thum's ae nicht
Wi' evendoun want o' wark.
At length in the learn'd lug to hark
He cannilie screw'd him roun',
Syne clew his elbow an' leuch to mark
The lang-leaft buik brocht doun.
Wi' outshot een, o'er leaf an' line,
Sae keenly did they leuk,
An' o' there was ae waefu' sign
Within that wearie buik,
Whan Hornie gae his mou a cruik
An' whisper'd, "Look ye, here's
A crafter carl upon our hook
Ahint these twa 'ha'f years.'
"Gae harry him, man, an' gar him dee —
The lave is your's an' mine;
His daisy dochter's scornfu' e'e
Will blink less saucy syne.
In beinless wa's just lat her pine,
Sic lanesome hardships pree;
An' here's my loof the haughty quean
Will fa' afore she flee."
Love heard, an' scunnert wi' the plot
Swore grey the very moon,
But he would hae the lawyer shot,
An' gar the deevil droun.
He flaft his wing o'er brae, an' boun'
O'er bank an' burn wide;
In lowly biggin lichted doun
An' knelt by Annie's side.
O, whaur is love maist lovely seen?
In timorous glances stealing —
Half-hid, half-own'd, in diamond e'en
The soul-fraught look revealing?
No; see it there — a daughter kneeling
A father's sick-bed near;
With upraised heart to Heaven appealing,
That — that's the look for angel's wear.
Sic look was thine, poor Ann that nicht,
Yon waesome watchfu' hour;
The man o' buiks thow'd at the sicht —
He tint a' pith an' pow'r.
The very deil forthwith 'gan scour
By heicht an' howe — an' then
At Cardin's brig he tumbl't o'er
An' never raise again.
The lanefu' lawyer held his breath,
An' word might utter nane;
But lookit aye — grew aye mair laith
To bland her bonnie een.
Love threw a shaft, sae curst an' keen,
It trembled in his heart;
An' might a deen, altho' a stane
Had dwallin in the part.
Syne, dull an' dowie, wending hame,
Wi' cares ne'er kent afore,
His heart a' sunken down wi' shame —
Wi' new love gushing o'er.
By book or bond he held nae store,
Sith bound enough was he;
Nor could he read aught ither lore
Than beam'd in yon bricht e'e.
A saftness hangs on ilka word,
A wish on ilka hour;
A sang is sought frae every bird,
A sick frae every flower.
Now briefs forsaken, rot an' sour —
A sonnet rules a summons;
E'en Blackstone's weighty wit maun cour
To far mair weighty woman's.
KNOCKESPOCK'S LADY.
AN ancestor of JAMES ADAM GORDON, Esquire, the present Laird of
Knockespock, about a century and a-half ago, in a second marriage,
had taken to wife the lovely Jean Leith of Harthill. His affectionate
lady, notwithstanding their great disparity of age, watched the chamber
of her sick husband by day and by night, and would not divide her care
with any one. Worn out and wasted from continued attendance on her
husband, she fell into a sleep, and was awakened only by the smoke and
flames of their burning mansion; the menials had fled — the doom of the
dying laird and his lady seemed fixed. In her heroic affections she bore
her husband from the burning house — laid him in a sheltered spot, and
forced through the very flames for "plaids to wrap him in."
AE wastefu' howl o'er earth an' sea,
Nae gleam o' heaven's licht
Might mark the bounds o' Benachie
That black an' starless nicht.
Siclike the nicht, siclike the hour,
Siclike the was they ken,
Wha watch till those lov'd eyes shall close
That ne'er may ope again.
As gin to tak' the last lang look,
He raised a lichtless e'e;
Now list, O, thou, his lady wife,
Knockespock speaks to thee!
"Sit doun, my Jeanie Gordon, love,
Sit doun an' haud my head;
There's sic a lowe beneath my brow
Maun soon, soon be my dead.
"Aye whaur ye find the stoun, oh, Jean,
Press tae your kindly han';
I wadna gie ae breath o' thee
For a' else on my lan'.
Your couthie word dreeps medicine,
Your very touch can heal;
An', oh, your e'e does mair for me
Than a' our doctor's skill!"
She leant athwart his burnin' brow,
Her tears lap lichtly doun;
Beneath her saft, saft, dautin' han'
Knockespock sleepit soun'.
For woman's watch is holiness —
In woman's heart, sae rare,
When a' the warld is cauld an' dark,
There's licht an' litheness there!
What's yon that tints the deep dark brae,
An' flichers on the green?
It's no the rays o' morning grey,
Nor yet the bonnie meen!
That licht that flares on Benachie
Knockespock weel may rue;
Nor Gadie's stream would dit yon gleam
That wraps his dwallin' now.
But what recks she how fast they flee —
The heartless hinds are gane;
Are nane to help their listless laird?
Their friendless lady? Nane!
Yet woman's love, O, woman's love,
The wide unmeasured sea
Is nae so deep as woman's love,
As her sweet sympathy!
Upon the wet an' windy sward
She wadna lat him down,
But wiled an' wiled the lithest beild
Wi' breckans happet roun'.
Knockespock's cauld, he's deadly cauld —
Whaur has his lady gane?
How has she left him in the loan
A' tremblin' there alane?
An' has she gane for feckless gowd,
To tempt yon fearfu' lowe?
Or is her fair mind, wreck'd an wrang,
Forgane its guidance now?
She fearless speels the reekin' tow'r,
Tho' red, red is the wa',
An' braves the deaf'nin' din an' stour,
Whare cracklin' rafters fa'.
It is na gowd, nor gallant robes,
Gars Jeanie Gordon rin;
But she has wiled the saftest plaids
To wrap her leal lord in.
For woman's heart is tenderness,
Yet woman weel may dare
The deftest deed, an' tremble nane,
Gin true love be her care.
"The lowe has scaith'd your locks, my Jean,
An' scorch'd your bonnie brow;
The graceless flame consumes our hame —
What thinks my lady now?"
"My locks will grow again, my love,
My broken brow will men',
Your kindly breast's the lealest hame
That I can ever ken;
"But, O, that waesome look o' thine,
Knockespock, I wad gie
The livin' heart frae out my breast
For aught to pleasure thee!"
Weel, woman's heart! ay, woman's heart!
There grows a something there,
The sweetest flower on bank or bower
Maun nane wi' that compare.
THE MANIAC MOTHER'S DREAM.
WHEN sunlight leaves the lea,
And songless birds would rest,
When sleeping dews there be
Upon the gowan's breast —
Who, like the dark'ning west,
That lone one? Who is she?
'Tis sorrow's fated guest,
And this her revelry: —
Through crumbling tombs, o'er boneless graves
The wrathful wind in that hour that raves,
Shall mingling, mingling, moan and sigh,
To the maniac mother's lullaby.
While cow'ring 'neath the ruined wall
Of Elgin's dark Cathedral.*
As o'er her burning brow
She laves yon holy spring.
And down her cheek of snow
The big tear mingling —
*See Note C.
Would some mild spirit bring
The heart-wrung living gem,
And place it sparkling
In sorrow's diadem!
Well might the sallow goddess wear
In her cold coronal that tear!
The tear of tears is her's, all shed
On sireless son's unshelter'd head.
When misery's guideless gush is o'er,
And drowning reason speaks no more;
When broken, withered, one by one,
All, all earth-bounded wish is gone;
When woe is wearied, nor can tell
On the scaithed breast another knell —
O, mother's heart! up-welling there,
Affection wrestles with despair,
And measureless that burning flow
A mother's heart alone may know.
"Bairnie, mine, be hush'd to me,
An' I'll tell you a dream that I dreamt o' thee,
As we lay in the lythe o' you bare graif-stane —
O me, 'twas an unco dream yestreen!
Yon gruesome spirit that haunts our hame,
Wi'ither eldrich goblins came;
They pu'd my heart and they dimm'd my e'e,
Till my baby bairn I cou'dna see:
But aye I heard your waesome cry,
As they bore me o'er yon dreamy sky;
And weel, frae the height o' my heavenly ha',
On sorrowin' earth my bairn I saw;
I saw you conjured — kent your greet,
As you crouch'd and cower'd at the carlin's feet;
Ilk tear that sped frae your sleepless e'e
Were draps like the livin' bleed frae me,
Till toil'd and torn, and wan and wae,
Ye wandered far frae your heather brae.
The shrifted souls that dwelt wi' me,
Looked wistfu' o'er your destiny;
And O to me their holy sang
In changefu' sweetness swelled alang!
And aye their godward melody
Breathed watchfu' benisons on thee.
I saw the warl' gang rowin' by,
And you beneath its kindest sky;
I marked the hue o' crimson weir,
Bedeck the breast o' my bairnie dear;
Till the highest head in yon jewelled land,
Bent to the beck o' my Andrew's hand.
Ae time the warld came rowin' by,
We missed ye in yon lo'esome sky,
But tracked your keel across the main,
To your hameless Highland braes again,
And bonnie was the bough and fair
Your brave hand brought and planted there!
Braid, braid its branch o' fadeless green,
Wi streaks o' sunny light between,
As, laughing frae their yellow sky,
They kissed the leaves that loot them by.
There smiling Plenty safely laid
In Mercy's lap her gowden head;
The fiercest winter winds that rair
Could never fauld a sna'-wreath there;
E'en Misery's cauld and withering e'e
Fell feckless o'er your stately tree.
The stricken deer weel there might rest,
And lap the bleed frae its dapple breast;
The wingless doo would leap and splash
A' drippin' frae the hunter's flash,
Safe shelter'd in yon shady fa',
To croon its little heart awa';
And wee, wee birdies, nane could name,
Came flutterin' there, and found a hame;
E'en rooks and ravens, tired o' bleed,
Sought shelter there in time o' need.
But O, that wind! its harrying scream,
Reive through the rest o' my bonnie dream."
OLD FATHER FROST AND HIS FAMILY.
GRIM father Frost, he hath children twain,
The cloud-born daughters of Lady Rain;
The elder a coquetish, pattering thing,
Would woo you in winter and pelt you in spring;
At times you might scarce feel her feathery fall,
Anon she will beard you with icicle ball;
When the warrings of heaven roll higher and higher,
She, coward-like, flees from the conflict of fire —
Yet heightens the havoc, for her feeble power,
Tho' scaithless the oak, how it fells the frail flower!
And the bud of the berry, the bloom of the bean,
Are founder'd to earth by the merciless quean;
E'en the stout stems of summer full often must quail
To this rattling, brattling, head-breaking hail.
I'll not say a word of how rudely she breaks
On the dream of the garret-doomed maid, and awakes
A thousand regrets in the marrowless* lass,
And cruelly mimics the "touch on the glass,"
With her cold little pearls, that dance, bound, and play,
Like our ain bonnie bairns on Candlemas day.
*Marrowless — ummarried.
You know her meek sister? O, soft is the fall
Of her fairy footsteps on hut and on hall!
To hide the old father's bleak doings below,
In pity she cometh, the minist'ring snow.
With her mantle she covers the shelterless trees,
As they groan to the howl of the Borean breeze;
And baffles the search of the subtle wind,
Guarding each crevice lest it should find
Its moaning way to the fireless fold
Of the trembling young and the weeping old,
When through her white bosom the daisy appears,
She greets the fair stranger with motherly tears!
And they mingle so sweet with the golden ray
Of the struggling beam that chides her away.
But where's the last speck of her brightness seen,
Mid the bursting spring and its saucy green?
In the coldest side of yon lone churchyard,
Neglected graves she loveth to ward;
But not where gorgeous marble pleads,
And frequent foot of mourner treads;
But down by the stranger's noteless lair,
Where sighs are few and footsteps rare —
She loveth — she loveth to linger there!
O'er hearts forgotten that sleep below,
There is none to weep but the friendly snow.
AUTUMN WINDS.
AIR — "Bonnie House o' Airly."
O, YE waesome winds, hoo yer mourning grieves,
Hoo yer sighing an' moaning fear me;
As ye toss an' tear the trembling leaves
That ye cherished when he was near me.
I've kent ye woo them — I've heard ye woo,
As saftly as woman's lane sighing;
Whan ye slyly kissed the cozie dew
Frae their faulded bosoms lying.
Now nightly athwart the naked plain,
Yer whirling the saucy snaw in;
Ye've changed the dew to the pelting rain,
Till yer poor droukit leaves are fa'in.
Hae ye fausely strayed 'mang misty groves,
Wi' ice-wreathed maidens to marrow?
O, they've come an' slain yer bonnie summer loves,
An' driven ye daft wi' sorrow.
But my love is true, ye winds that blaw,
An' yer fauseness maunna fear me;
His kind heart never will flit nor fa',
Tho' he daurna own his dearie.
There's ae green branch on yon blighted tree,
An' the lave a' darkly dwining;
There's a bricht e'e looks love to me,
Like the weird licht o'er me shining.
Yet O, ye winds, hoo yer wailing grieves,
Hoo yer sighing and moaning fear me!
As ye toss an' tear the dowie grey leaves
That waur green, green, when he was near me.
O, MARY, WHEN YOU THINK OF ME.*
O, MARY, when you think of me,
Let pity hae its share, love;
Tho' others mock my misery,
Do you in mercy spare, love.
My heart, O, Mary, own'd but thee,
And sought for thine so fervently!
The saddest tear e'er wet my e'e,
Ye ken wha brocht it there, love.
O, lookna wi' that witching look,
That wiled my peace awa, love!
An' dinna let me hear you sigh,
It tears my heart in twa, love!
Resume the frown ye wont to wear!
Nor shed the unavailing tear!
The hour of doom is drawing near,
An' welcome be its ca', love!
*See Note D.
How could ye hide a thought sae kind,
Beneath sae cauld a brow, love?
The broken heart it winna bind
Wi' gowden bandage, now, love.
No, Mary! mark yon reckless shower!
It hung aloof in scorching hour,
An' helps nae now the feckless flower
That sinks beneath its flow, love.
I'VE SOUGHT IN LANDS AYONT THE SEA.
AIR — "My Normandie."
I'VE sought in lands ayont the sea
A hame — a couthie hame for thee,
An' honeysickle bursts around
The blithesome hame that I hae found;
Then dinna grudge your heather bell —
O, fretna for your flowerless fell —
Here dale an' down mair fair to see,
Than ought in our bleak countrie!
Come o'er the waters, dinna fear,
The lav'rock lilts as lo'esome here,
An' mony a sweet, around, above,
Shall welcome o'er my Jessie, love,
My hame wi' halesome gear is fu',
My heart wi' loweing love for you;
O haste, my Jessie, come an' see
The hame — the heart that wants but thee!
But mind ye, lass, the fleetfu' hours,
They wait nae — spare nae fouk nor flowers,
An' sair are fouk and flowers to blame,
Wha wishfu', wastefu' wait for them.
O, bide nae lang in swither, then,
Since flowers an' fouk may wither, then,
But come, as lang's I hae to gie
A hame, a heart to welcome thee!
I WOULDNA — O, I COULDNA LOOK.
I WOULDNA — O, I couldna look
On that sweet face again;
I daurna trust my simple heart,
Now it's ance mair my ain.
I wouldna thole what I hae thol'd,
Sic dule I wouldna dree,
For a' that love could now unfold
Frae woman's witchfu' e'e.
I've mourn'd until the waesome moon
Has sunk ahint the hill,
An' seen ilk sparkling licht aboon
Creep o'er me, mournin' still.
I've thocht my very mither's hame
Was hameless-like to me;
Nor could I think this warld the same
That I was wont to see.
But years o' mingled care hae past,
Wi' blinks o' joy between;
An' yon heart-hoarded form at last
Forsakes my doited een.
Sae cauld and dark my bosom now,
Sic hopes lie buried there!
That sepulchre whare love's saft lowe
May never kindle mair.
I couldna trust this foolish heart
When its ance mair my ain;
I couldna — O! I daurna look
On Mary's face again!
JEANIE'S GRAVE.
I SAW my true Love first on the banks of queenly Tay,
Nor did I deem it yielding my trembling heart away;
I feasted on her deep dark eye, and loved it more and
more,
For, oh! I thought I ne'er had seen a look so kind
before!
I heard my true love sing, and she taught me many a
strain,
But a voice so sweet, oh! never shall my cold ear hear
again.
In all our friendless wanderings — in homeless penury —
Her gentle song and jetty eye, were all unchanged to
me.
I saw my true Love fade — I heard her latest sigh —
I wept no friv'lous weeping when I closed her lightless
eye;
Far from her native Tay she sleeps, and other waters
lave
The markless spot where Ury creeps around my Jeanie's
grave.
Move noiseless, gentle Ury! around my Jeanie's bed,
And I'll love thee, gentle Ury! where'er my footsteps
tread;
For sooner shall thy fairy wave return from yonder sea,
Than I forget yon lowly grave, and all it hides from
me.*
*See Note E.
THEY SPEAK O' WYLES.
AIR — "Gin a bodie meet a bodie."
THEY speak o' wyles in woman's smiles,
An' ruin in her e'e —
I ken they bring a pang at whiles
That's unco sair to dree;
But mind ye this, the half-ta'en kiss,
The first fond fa'in' tear,
Is, Heaven kens, fu' sweet amen's,
An' tints o' heaven here.
When twa leal hearts in fondness meet,
Life's tempests howl in vain —
The very tears o' love are sweet
When paid with tears again.
Shall sapless prudence shake its pow,
Shall cauldrife caution fear?
O, dinna, dinna droun the lowe
That lichts a heaven here!
What tho' we're ca'd a wee before
The stale "threescore an' ten;"
When "Joy" keeks kindly at your door,
Aye bid her welcome ben.
About yon blissfu' bowers above
Let doubtfu' mortals speir,
Sae weel ken we that "heaven is love,"
Since love maks heaven here.
THE LAST TRYST.
THIS nicht ye'll cross the bosky glen,
Ance mair, O would ye meet me then?
I'll seem as bygane bliss an' pain
Were a' forgot;
I winna weep to weary thee,
Nor seek the love ye canna gie; —
Whaur first we met, O let that be
The parting spot!
The hour just when the faithless licht
O' yon pale star forsakes the nicht;
I wouldna pain ye wi' the blicht
Ye've brought to me.
Nor would I that yon proud cauld ray
Should mock me wi' its scornfu' play; —
The sunken een and tresses grey
Ye maunna see.
Wi' sindered hearts few words will sair,
An' brain-dried grief nae tears can spare;
These bluidless lips shall never mair
Name thine or thee.
At murky nicht, O meet me then!
Restore my plighted troth again;
Your bonnie bride shall never ken
Your wrangs to me.
ONE OF THE HEART'S STRUGGLES.
AIR — "Willie was a wanton wag."
"O! LET me gang, ye dinna ken
How sair my mither flate yestreen —
An', mournin' o'er and o'er again,
Speir'd whaur I gaed sae late at e'en.
An' aye I saw her dicht her een —
My very heart maist brak to see't —
I'll byde a flyte tho' e'er sae keen,
But canna, canna thole her greet."
"O! blessings guard my lassie's brow,
And fend her couthie heart frae care;
Her lowein' breast o' love sae fu' —
How can I grudge a mither's share?
The hinnysuckle's no sae fair,
In gloamin's dewy pearl weet,
As my love's e'e when tremblin' there
The tear that owns a mither's greet.
"A heart a' warmed to mither's love —
O! that's the heart whaur I wad be;
An' when a mither's lips reprove,
O! gie me then the glist'nin' e'e.
For feckless fa's that look on me,
Howe'er sae feigned in cunning's sweet —
And loveless — luckless — is the e'e
That, tearless, kens a mither greet."
YE DINNA KEN YON BOWER.
AIR — "Jenny Nettles."
YE dinna ken yon bower,
Frae the glow'rin' warl' hidden,
Ye maunna ken yon bower,
Bonnie in the gloamin'.
Nae woodbine sheds a fragrance there,
Nae rose, nae daffodillie fair;
But, O! yon flow'r beyond compare,
That blossoms in the gloamin'.
There's little licht in yon bower,
Day and darkness elbow ither,
That's the licht in yon bower,
Bonnie in the gloamin'.
Awa', ye sun, wi' lavish licht.
And bid brown Benachie guid nicht;
To me a star mair dearly bricht
Aye glimmers in the gloamin'.
There's nae a sound in yon bower,
Merl's sough nor mavis singin';
Whispers saft in yon bower,
Mingle in the gloamin'.
What tho' drowsie lav'rocks rest,
Cow'rin' in their sangless nest?
When, O! the voice that I like best,
Cheers me in the gloamin'.
There's artless truth in yon bower,
Sweeter than the scented blossom;
Bindin' hearts in yon bower,
Glowin' in the gloamin'.
The freshness o' the upland lea,
The fragrance o' the blossom'd pea,
A' mingle in her breath to me,
Sichin' in the gloamin'.
Concluding Chorus.
Then hand awa frae yon bower,
Cauldrife breast or loveless bosom;
True love dwells in yon bower,
Gladdest in the gloamin'.
BONNIE MAY.
Note to a Friend, with the accompanying verses.
The Muse made a short and surly "drop in," yesterday morning —
quite unsexed as to apparel — greatcoat buttoned over Taglioni, superinvolved
by a Kilmarnock cravat. Several apologies for absence of late,
bad cold, &c. &c. Asked, with rueful solemnity, whether I had heard
anything of May? Hinted at certain scandals current in the "twelve
signs," bearing unfavourably on the repute of our darling month. In
short, that she had made off and away with that bloodless old fool,
January. Poor thing, how she wailed — her May, her May! Well, I
picked up so many tears from a fold of the Kilmarnock, strung them
on as many sighs, and here they are, to the tune of "The year that's
awa'."
O, WHAUR hae ye gane, bonnie May?
Hae ye left us for ever an' aye?
Yer daft brither, June, brak in wi' a stoun,
Maist frichtit our birdies away,
O, May!
An' feint a bit liltie hae they.
Our gowans droop wither'd an' grey,
Our bairnies creep sullen an' blae;
Thro' blifferts o' caul' they yaumer an' yaul,
An' want ye to warm them, May,
O, May!
Our dear, duddie bairnies, May.
The whir o' the witherin' win',
Drives madly o'er burn an' brae;
The tremblin' brierd fa's sodden an' sear'd,
An' kens nae the nicht frae the day,
O, May!
An' hae ye forsaken us, May?
Our crafters look crabbit an' fey,
Our wee bits o' bushes decay;
They crouch in the yard, cauld blabs on ilk baird,
An' greet to the mornin' grey,
O, May!
They miss the lythe Licht o' their May.
I've nae mair to sing or to say,
But come, gin yer comin', sweet May,
E'er Martinmas drear, set the factor asteer,
An' then there's the deevil to pay,
O, May!
Our stools an' our tubbies away!
LINES WRITTEN AT RAVENSCRAIG,
A RUIN ON THE BANKS OF UGIE, NEAR PETERHEAD, ABERDEENSHIRE.
"A building — such a one
As age to age might add for uses vile,
A windowless, deformed, and dreary pile."
YON'S Ravenscraig, wi' riven ha',
A thousand winters shook its wa' —
Tired Time let scythe an' san'glass fa',
To breathe awhile at Ugie.
For here, by brake, by burn an' lea,
Fair Nature freaks sae changefullie,
Now laughin' daft, syne greets to see
Yon grim, grey towers at Ugie.
An' wha can mark yon dungeon dour,
Unmindfu' o' the waesome hour,
When man o'er man, wi' fiendish power,
Made sick the tremblin' Ugie.
Bring ivy wi' its peacefu' green,
Gae hide ilk hoar, unhallow'd stane;
They maunna bloat yon bonnie een
That watch the gushin' Ugie.
For yonder's she, in love's loved dress,
In youth, in truth, in tenderness —
Has Heaven lent that bonnie face
To bless the tearfu' Ugie?
'Tis sic a face, 'tis sic a mein,
An' O, sic wylie, witchin' een,
Gars Time upon his elbow lean,
An' sich to cross the Ugie.
A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE —
Inverury, March 1, 1844.
SIR, — In your paper, the other week, I read of a woman, Cameron,
Overgate, Dundee, found dead — her child, a boy of seven years, sleeping
beside her. She expired unknown to any — she and her little son
lying on a shakedown in a wretched hovel — not a morsel of food, but
every mark of starvation, cold and hunger. Now, sir, having myself
tasted the bitter cup — having seen death at work in this same hideous
form — the above tragedy affected me very much. I do not think ill of
mankind, but the contrary. I would not reflect on the good-will of
those who undertake, and whose duty it then is, to watch the abodes of
misery. Reproach may not apply to the will of parties so placed; but
what could the mildest say of that blameable and fatal ignorance that
thus defeats the very best ends of mercy — leaving a human creature to
struggle with death in its most revolting attitude — then mock the
whole with a sort of posthumous wail? I sincerely believe that there
was not one in Dundee, that night — whether on hardest pallet or softest
down — but would have started in the dark hour, ministered to yon
perishing woman, soothed the little trembler at her cold breast, and
been happy. But who knew of it? Why, everybody, next day, when
the white coffin* is seen borne along by a troop of pale-faced existences,
whose present suffering is nowise smoothed by the prospect offered in
their then dowie occupation, and the fate that may be their own one
cold dark night, ere long. Starvation to death is not uncommon
amongst us; yet we are in the nineteenth century — the pearl age of
benevolent societies, charity schools, and "useful knowledge." Would
*In Dundee, it lately was the case, if not still, that paupers' coffins
were not allowed to be blackened.
benevolence be perverted, charity made colder, or the knowledge useless,
that made us timeously acquainted with catastrophes like these?
In Aberdeen, the other week, an aged man was found dead in his garret,
with every appearance of want and wretchedness! How came it
to be known? Did the elder of the district discover it while on his
round of Christian inquiry? Did some benevolent ruler in a benevolent
society miss his poor old neighbour? Weeks and weeks his tottering
footsteps had not been seen on the pavement, or heard in his
naked abode. He is dead — starved dead — and the stench of his half--
consumed body gave notice that, however man may act by man, death
is at its post. O! that some kind-hearted creature, with a turn for statistical
computation, would lend me a hand! It might be made clear,
I think, that, in a population of sixty thousand, one hundred could be
spared (by regular changes) to hunt misery to its very heels, and scare
it, at least, from its more hideous feasts. Say that districts are subdivided
into wards, each ward having its appointed inspector, whose
duty it should be to observe earnestly, and report faithfully, all concerning
the poverty-stricken residents in his charge. That the murder
of neglect is perpetrated in this land, is one terrible fact, and it is as
true, though, alas! not so terrifying, that he who is ignorant of it, or,
knowing it, feels it only as an incident per course, bestowing upon it
a fusionless shrug, and a "woes me," that man has blood upon his
head! We are the children of one Father, travelling together on the
broad and brief way to eternity. Alas! for such unequal equipment —
seeing we must at last pull up at one stage! You will forgive me all
this preaching, but my soul is into it, and, last night, I composed the
following lines bearing that way. If you think these, or any sentiments
here expressed, would, if made public, in any way move an additional
feeling in favour of the "Overgate Orphan," I would be proud
and happy.
'Tis the lone wail of woman, a mother's last woe,
And tearless the eye when the soul weepeth so —
Nor fuel nor food in you windowless lair,
The sleeping is watched by the dying one there.
"O, wauken nae, wauken nae, my dowie dear,
My dead look would wither your wee heart wi' fear;
Sleep on till yon cauld moon is set in the sea,
Gin mornin', hoo cauld will yer wauknin' be!
"Ye creep to a breast, Jamie, cauld as the snaw,
Ye hang roun' a heart, Jamie, sinkin' awa';
I'm laith, laith to leave ye, tho' fain would I dee,
Gin Heaven would lat my lost laddie wi' me!"
Awaken, lone trembler, the moon has no licht,
And the grey glint of morning drives back the fell
nicht;
The last look is fixing in yon frozen tear —
Awaken, lone trembler, thy home is not here!
The death-cling awoke him — the struggle is o'er,
He moans to the ear that will listen no more;
"You're caulder than me, mither, cauld though I be,
And that look is nae like yer ain look to me.
"I dreamt hoo my father came back frae the deid,
A' waesome an' eerie the looks that he gied;
He wyled ye awa till ye sindered frae me —
O, hap me, my mither, I'm cauld — like to dee!"
YTHANSIDE.
I HAD ae nicht, and only ane,
On flow'ry Ythanside,
An' kith or kindred I hae nane
That dwall by Ythanside;
Yet midnicht dream and morning vow
At hame they winna bide,
But pu', and pu' my willing heart
Awa' to Ythanside.
What gars ilk restless, wand'ring wish
Seek aye to Ythanside,
An' hover round yon fairy bush
That spreads o'er Ythanside?
I think I see its pawkie boughs,
Whaur lovers weel might hide;
An' O! what heart could safely sit
You nicht at Ythanside?
Could I return and own the scaith
I thole frae Ythanside,
Would her mild e'e bend lythe on me
Ance mair on Ythanside?
Or, would she crush my lowly love
Beneath a brow o' pride?
I daurna claim, and maunna blame,
Her heart on Ythanside.
I'll rue yon high and heathy seat*
That hangs o'er Ythanside;
I'll rue the mill whaur burnies meet;
I'll rue ye, Ythanside.
An' you, ye Moon, wi' luckless Licht,
Pour'd a' yer gowden tide
O'er sic a brow ! — sic een, you nicht! —
Oh, weary Ythanside!
*In the woods of Eslemont, there is a most romantic looking pinnacle
overhangs the water Ythan. Nature has scooped in it a beautiful
little gallery. There the late Miss Gordon was daily seen, surrounded
by the children of the neighbouring peasantry, teaching them all
things needful to their situation in life — their duty to God and the
world.
A CHIEFTAIN UNKNOWN TO THE QUEEN.*
AULD Scotland cried "Welcome your Queen!"
Ilk glen echoed "Welcome your Queen!"
While turret and tower to mountain and moor,
Cried"Wauken and welcome our Queen!"
Syne, O sic deray was exprest,
As Scotland for lang hadna seen;
When bodies cam bickerin' a' clad in their best —
To beck to their bonnie young Queen.
When a' kinds o' colours cam south,
An' scarlet frae sly Aberdeen;
Ilk flutterin' heart flitted up to the mouth,
A' pantin' to peep at our Queen.
There were Earls on that glitterin' strand,
Wi' diamonded Dame mony ane;
An' weel might it seem that the happiest land
Was trod by the happiest Queen.
*See Note F.
Then mony a chieftain's heart
Beat high 'neath its proud tartan screen;
But one sullen chief stood afar and apart,
Nor recked he the smile o' a Queen.
"Wha's he winna blink on our Queen,
Wi' his haffets sae lyart and lean?"
O ho! it is Want, wi' his gathering gaunt,
An' million of mourners unseen.
Proud Scotland cried "Hide them, O hide!
An' lat nae them licht on her een;
Wi' their bairnies bare, it would sorrow her sair!
For a mither's heart moves in our Queen."
THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM.
"Who hath woe? Who hath sorrows? They that tarry long at the
wine."
PROVERBS xxiii. 29, 30.
O TEMPT me not to the drunkard's draught,
With its soul-consuming gleam!
O hide me from the woes that waft
Around the drunkard's dream!
When night in holy silence brings
The God-willed hour of sleep,
Then, then the red-eyed revel swings
Its bowl of poison deep.
When morning waves its golden hair,
And smiles o'er hill and lea,
One sick'ning ray is doomed to glare
On you rude revelry.
The rocket's flary moment sped,
Sinks black'ning back to earth;
Yet darker — deeper sinks his head
Who shares in drunkard's mirth!
Know ye the sleep the drunkard knows?
That sleep, O who may tell!
Or who can speak the fiendful throes
Of his self-heated hell!
The soul all reft of heav'nly mark —
Defaced God's image there —
Rolls down and down yon abyss dark,
Thy howling home, Despair!
Or bedded his head on broken hearts,
Where slimy reptiles creep;
And the ball-less eye of Death still darts
Black fire on the drunkard's sleep.
And lo! their coffin'd bosoms rife,
That bled in his ruin wild!
The cold, cold lips of his shrouded wife,
Press lips of his shrouded child
So fast — so deep the hold they keep;
Hark his unhallow'd scream!
Guard us, O God, from the drunkard's sleep —
From the drunkard's demon-dream!
CAN YE FORGET.
— "My sight
Is dim to see that charactered in vain
On this unfeeling leaf, which burns the brain
And eats into it, blotting all things fair
And wise and good, which time had written there."
CAN ye forget yon sunny day
Whan sparkling Ury murmured by;
Whaur birdies in their blythest way
Poured April sangs athwart the sky.
How little, little then kent I
Sae fause the lip that prest to mine;
Oh, wha could think you fever'd sigh
Cam frae a breast sae cauld as thine!
But weel mind I as o'er my head
A wee, wee lanesome birdie sang;
Sae waesome did its music plead,
I scarce could hide the tear it brang.
My heart maist frae my bosom sprang,
Syne trembling sank wi' bodefu' knell
For oh! I feared that I ere lang
Micht maen in siclike lonely wail.
Sinsyne I've kent could gloamin' come
Whan blae and wae the Ury ran;
Whan cow'rin' birds a' nestled dumb,
An' cheerless nicht lower'd o'er the lawn.
Sic time my bursting bosom faun'
The slack'ning gush that nane micht see!
And aye the licht's unlo'esome dawn
Brang life an' love to a' but me.
I had nae hinnied words to woo,
Nae gainfu' gifts had I to spare;
But oh! I had a heart sae true
That nocht could shift, that nane should share.
Ae trembling wish alane lived there —
Ae hope that held the witless way;
That hope is gane, an' evermair
Left darkness owre life's dowie day.
THE LASS O' KINTORE.
AIR — "O as I was kiss'd yestreen."
AT hame or afield I am cheerless an' lone,
I'm dull on the Ury an' droop by the Don;
Their murmur is noisy an' fashions to hear,
An' the lay o' the lintie fa's deid on my ear.
I hide frae the moon, and whaur naebody sees,
I greet to the burnie an' sich to the breeze;
Tho' I sich till I'm silly, an' greet till I dee,
Kintore is the spot in this world for me.
But the lass o' Kintore, oh the lass o' Kintore,
Be warned awa frae the lass o' Kintore;
There's a love-luring look that I ne'er kent afore,
Steals cannily hame to the heart at Kintore.
They bid me forget her — oh! how can it be?
In kindness or scorn she's ever wi' me;
I feel her fell frown in the lift's frosty blue,
An' I weel ken her smile in the lily's saft hue.
I try to forget her, but canna forget —
I've liket her lang, an' I aye like her yet;
My poor heart may wither — may waste to its core,
But forget her? oh never! the lass o' Kintore!
Oh the wood o' Kintore — the holmes o' Kintore!
The love-lichtin' e'e that I ken at Kintore;
I'll wander afar, an' I'll never look more
On the grey glance o' Peggy or bonnie Kintore!
DID THEY MEET AGAIN?
AWA ye weary licht,
Nae moon nor starnie bricht;
Oh! for thy midwatch nicht
An' rayless hour;
Whan I may gang alane,
Unmarked by mortal een,
An' meet my bosom queen
In her murky bower.
I ken she's waitin' there —
She's faithfu' as she's fair —
I'll twine her raven hair
Roun' her snawie brow
An' vow by earth an' sea
Hoo dear she's been to me,
An' thou lone Benachie
Maun hear that vow.
We loved — alas! sae leal!
But this sad nicht maun seal
The lang — the last fareweel
'Tween her an' me.
Whaur e'er my fate may guide
Or weel or was betide,
I'll mind wha dwalls beside
Dark Benachie.
WHAUR DOES THE BLYTHE BEE SIP?
"WHAUR does the blythe bee sip"
Whan it laves in the lo'esome honey?
It may lair itsel'
In the bricht blue bell,
But I ken a lip
Whaur nane daur sip —
Whaur sweets are twice as monie.
There are wyles in yon peerless mou,
Whan her sang in the heart rings bonnie,
An' I daurna think
O' the witchfu' blink
Frae an e'e as blest
As the draps that rest
On the gowan's breast sae cannie.
I may sigh whan my heart is sair,
I may rue unkent to onie;
But O come again
Wi' yer 'wilderin' strain,
An' the balmy lip
Whaur angels wad sip
Whan sair'd o' their heaven's honey!
THE LASS WI' THE WANDERIN' E'E.
"O WHA that sang yon sang to me
That I can ne'er forget?
Wha is't that aucht you lo'esome e'e?
Sae weel's I see it yet!
An' cam she frae the far, far east.
The lass wi' the wanderin' e'e;
The heart lay tremblin' in my breast
To the sang she sung to me!"
"Haud doun sic hope ye fond, fond man,
For loveless is her strain;
She feasts on hearts aroun' her fa'in,
Yet scaithless keeps her ain.
She laughs to ken the bleed-drap fa',
An' gladdens at ilka woun';
O turn yer wishfu' heart awa,
There's was in yon sweet soun'."
"I maunna mind what may betide —
Oh! send that maid to me,
An' place her near this beating side,
Sae like to gar me dee;
For I would feast on her fair look
An' lavish on her sang; —
Her dark e'e is a holy book
In whilk I read nae wrang."
MY HEATHER LAND.
AIR — "The Highland Watch."
MY heather land, my heather land!
My dearest pray'r be thine;
Altho' upon thy hapless heath,
There breathes nae friend o' mine.
The lanely few that Heaven has spar'd
Fend on a foreign strand;
And I maun wait to weep wi' thee,
My hameless heather land!
My heather land, my heather land!
Though fairer lands there be,
Thy gow'nie braes in early days,
Were gowden ways to me.
Maun life's poor boon gae dark'ning doun
Nor die whaur it had dawn'd,
But claught a grave ayont the wave,
Alas! my heather land!
My heather land, my heather land!
Though chilling winter pours
Her freezing breath roun' fireless hearth,
Whaur breadless misery cow'rs;
Yet breaks the light that soon shall blight
The godless reivin' hand —
Whan wither'd tyranny shall reel
Frae our rous'd heather land!
MY HAMELESS HA'.
OH! how can I be cheerie in this hameless ha';
The very sun glints eerie on the gilded wa';
An' aye the nicht sae drearie,
Ere the dowie morn daw,
Whan I canna win to see you
My Jamie, ava.
Tho' monie miles between us, an' far, far frae me,
The bush that wont to screen us frae the cauld warl's
e'e,
Its leaves may waste and wither,
But its branches winna fa',
An' hearts may haud thegither
Tho' frien's drap awa.
Ye promis'd to speak o' me to the lanesome moon,
An' weird kind wishes to me, in the lark's saft soun';
I doat upon that moon,
Till my very heart fills fou,
An' aye yon birdie's tune
Gars me greet for you.
Then how can I be cheerie in the stranger's ha'?
A gowden prison drearie, my luckless fa'!
'Tween leavin' o' you Jamie,
An' ills that sorrow me,
I'm wearie o' the warl'
An' carena tho' I dee.
Extract from a Letter to J. ROBERTSON, Esq. London.
INSTANTLY on receipt of yours, expressing a wish to see some of
my pieces, I made search and recovered copies of a few which had been
printed by friends for private circulation. Enclosed is one piece written
about two years ago, my wife lately before having died in child-bed.
At the time of her decease, although our dwelling was at Inverury,
my place of employment was in a village nine miles distant,
whence I came once a fortnight, to enjoy the ineffable couthieness that
swims around "ane's ain fireside," and is nowhere else to be found.
For many months, we knew comfort and happiness — our daughter
Betsy, about ten years of age, was in country service, two boys, younger
still, kept at home with their mother. The last Sabbath we ever
met, Jean spoke calmly and earnestly of matters connected with our
little home and family — bade me remain a day or two with them yet,
as she felt a foreboding that the approaching event would be too much
for her enfeebled constitution. It was so. She died two days thereafter.
On returning from the kirkyard, I shut up our desolate dwelling,
and never more owned it as a home. We were but as strangers in the
village, so the elder boy and I put over that night in a common tramp
house. A neighbour undertook to keep the other little fellow, but he,
somehow, slipped away unobserved, and was found fast asleep at the
door of our tenantless home. Next morning, having secured a boarding-house
for him (the youngest), I took the road to resume labour at
the usual place — poor, soft-hearted Willie by my side — a trifle of sad
thinking within, and the dowie mists of Benachie right before me.
We travelled off our road some miles to the glen where Betsy was
"herdin'."* Poor Bet knew nothing of what had happened at Inverury.
Her mother had visited her three weeks before — had promised to
return with some wearables, for winter was setting in fast and bitterly.
The day and very hour we approached her bleak residence, that
was their trysted time. She saw us as we stood on the knowe hesitating
— ran towards us — "O whaur is my mither? foo is nae she here?
Speak, father! speak, Willie!" Poetry, indeed! Poetry, I fear, has
little to do with moments like these. Oh, no! When the bewildering
gush has passed away, and a kind of grey light has settled on the
"Herdin'" — tending cows.
ruin, one may then number the drops as they fall, but the cisterns of
sorrow echo not when full — hence my idealized address to Willie was
written long after the event that gave it existence. With feelings
more tranquil, and condition every way better, it came thus —
THE ae dark spot in this loveless world,
That spot maun ever be, Willie,
Whaur she sat an' dauted yer bonnie brown hair,
An' lithely looket to me, Willie;
An' oh! my heart owned a' the power
Of your mither's gifted e'e, Willie.
There's now nae blink at our slacken'd hearth,
Nor kindred breathing there, Willie;
But cauld and still our hame of Death,
Wi' its darkness evermair, Willie;
For she wha lived in our love, is cauld,
An' her grave the stranger's lair, Willie.
The sleepless nicht, the dowie dawn,
A' stormy tho' it be, Willie,
Ye'll buckle ye in yer weet wee plaid,
An' wander awa wi' me, Willie;
Yer lonesome sister little kens
Sic tidings we hae to gie, Willie.
The promised day, the trysted hour,
She'll strain her watchfu' e'e, Willie;
Seeking that mither's look of love,
She ne'er again maun see, Willie;
Kiss aye the tear frae her whitening cheek,
An' speak awhile for me, Willie.
Look kindly, kindly when ye meet,
But speak nae of the dead, Willie;
An' when yer heart would gar you greet,
Aye turn awa yer head, Willie;
That waesome look ye look to me
Would gar her young heart bleed, Willie.
Whan e'er she names a mither's name,
An' sairly presseth thee, Willie,
O tell her of a happy hame
Far, far o'er earth an' sea, Willie;
An' ane that waits to welcome them —
Her hameless bairns an' me, Willie.
I shall just mention another incident, though, in point of order, it
should have been told before. After many months of hopeless wanderings,
my family and I at length found a settled home at Inverury.
Comparative rest and warmth succeeding to watchful misery, we were.
one and all, afflicted with dishealth. Willie, especially, suffered long,
and, at last, had to be conveyed to the Aberdeen Infirmary. There he
had to undergo a serious operation. I knew his timid nature, and
went thither to sustain and comfort him through that severe trial.
The operation took place a day earlier than that mentioned to me, so
all was over ere I arrived. I found him asleep in his little chamber,
and the feelings of that moment are partially embodied in the following
lines: —
"Hospital charities for devastated homes? Faugh! Give me my
wages; have I not laboured?" — Moliere.
WAKE ye — sleep ye, my hapless boy,
In that homeless house of care?
Lack ye the warmth of a mother's eye
On thy cauldrife, lonely lair?
Dost thou strain in thy dream a brother's hand,
Yet waken thee all alone?
Thy deep dark eye, shall it open unblest?
Nor father? — nor sister? None!
Thy father's board is too narrow my child,
For ills like thine to be there;
The comfortless hearth of thy parents is cold,
And their light but the light of despair.
Has God disown'd them, the children of toil?
Is the promise of Heaven no more?
Shall industry weep — shall the pamper'd suppress
The sweat-earned bread of the poor?
Alas! and the wind as it blew and blew
On the famished and houseless, then,
Has blighted that bud of my heart's best hope,
And it never may blossom again.
'Twas so. In my very, very heart I found it. Who are they that
beat about in the substanceless regions of fancy for material to move a
tear? Who but the silken bandaged sons of comfort? — ink-bleeders
whose sorrows are stereotyped — they who see life only through the
hazy medium of theory, and do at farthest obtain but a mellow blink
of those sickening realities that settle around the poor man's hearth.
DREAMINGS OF THE BEREAVED.
THE morning breaks bonnie o'er mountain an' stream,
An' troubles the hallowed breath o' my dream!
The gowd light of morning is sweet to the e'e,
But, ghost-gathering midnight, thou'rt dearer to me
The dull common world then sinks from my sight,
An' fairer creations arise to the night;
When drowsy oppression has sleep sealed my e'e,
Then bright are the visions awaken'd to me!
O! come spirit mother — discourse of the hours,
My young bosom beat all its beatings to yours,
When heart-woven wishes in soft counsel fell,
On ears — how unheedful prov'd sorrow might tell!
That deathless affection — nae trial could break,
When a' else forsook me ye wouldna forsake,
Then come, O! my mother, come often to me,
An' soon an' for ever I'll come unto thee!
An' thou shrouded loveliness! soul-winning Jean,
How cold was thy hand on my bosom yestreen!
'Twas kind — for the lowe that your e'e kindled there,
Will burn — ay, an' burn, till that breast beat nae mair.
Our bairnies sleep round me, O! bless ye their sleep,
Your ain dark-e'ed Willie will wauken an' weep,
But blythe in his weepin' he'll tell me how you,
His heaven-hamed mammie was "dautin' his brou."*
Tho' dark be our dwallin' — our happin' tho' bare,
An' night closes round us in cauldness an' care;
Affection will warm us — an' bricht are the beams
That halo our hame in yon dear land of dreams.
Then weel may I welcome the night's deathy reign,
Wi' souls of the dearest I mingle me then,
The gowd light of morning is lightless to me,
But oh for the night wi' its ghost revelrie!
* Patting his forehead.
THE MITHERLESS BAIRN.
WHEN a' ither bairnies are hushed to their hame,
By aunty, or cousin, or frecky grand-dame;
Wha stan's last an' lanely, an' naebody carin'?
'Tis the puir doited loonie — the mitherless bairn!
The mitherless bairn gangs till his lane bed,
Nane covers his cauld back, or haps his bare head;
His wee, hackit heelies are hard as the airn,
An' litheless the lair o' the mitherless bairn!
Aneath his cauld brow, siccan dreams tremble there,
O' hands that wont kindly to kame his dark hair!
But mornin' brings clutches, a' reckless an' stern,
That lo'e nae the locks o' the mitherless bairn!
Yon sister, wha sang o'er his saftly-rocked bed,
Noo rests in the mools whaur her mammie is laid;
The father toils sair their wee bannock to earn,
An' kens nae the wrangs o' his mitherless bairn!
Her spirit, that pass'd in you hour o' his birth,
Still watches his lone, lorn wand'rings on earth,
Recording in heaven the blessings they earn,
Wha couthilie deal wi' the mitherless bairn!
Oh! speak him nae harshly — he trembles the while —
He bends to your bidding, and blesses your smile!
In their dark hour o' anguish, the heartless shall learn
That God deals the blow for the mitherless bairn!
THE WEDDED WATERS.
AIR — "Kind Robin lo'es me."
GADIE wi' its waters fleet,
Ury wi' its murmur sweet,
They hae trysted aye to meet
Among the woods o' Logie.
Like bride an' bridegroom happy they,
Wooing smiles frae bank an' brae,
Their wedded waters wind an' play
Round leafy bowers at Logie.
O'er brashy linn, o'er meadow fine,
They never sinder, never tyne,
An' oh! I thought sic meetings mine,
Yon happy hours at Logie.
But Fortune's cauld an' changefu' e'e,
Gloomed bitterly on mine an' me,
I looket syne, but cou'dna see
My sworn love at Logie.
Now lowly, lanely, I may rue
The guilefu' look, the guilefu' vow,
That fled as flees the feckless dew
Frae withered leaves at Logie.
But Gadie wi' its torrents keen,
An' Ury wi' its braes sae green,
They a' can tell how true I've been
To my lost love in Logie.
"O THAT MY LOVE WAS SO EASILY WON."*
O THAT my love was so easily won!
Whaur nae love word was spoken;
Unsought — unwoo'd, my heart had flown —
I canna hide, I daurna own
How that poor heart is broken.
O that my love was so easily won!
The gay an' the gallant hae woo'd me;
But he — O he never sought to share
The envied smile, yet mair an' mair
Yon wordless look subdued me.
O that my love was so easily won!
O that my life would restore him!
He lightlied the love o' my pridefu' clan —
My dreams are fu' o' yon friendless man,
For the wrath o' my kindred hangs o'er him.
*The burden line of a very old song.
O that my love was so easily won!
My kin will ye never forgie me?
I've gien my heart to a hameless man,
But I'll wander far frae this friendless lan',
An' it never mair shall see me.
A WISH.
O PEGGY waur yer heart as free,
As free as it is rare;
I'd be the saint to worship thee,
And build an altar there.
Or could I wyle that heart awa,
An' haud it aye my ain;
Within this bosom's benmost ha',
Never to flit again.
I saw yon gleam o' sunny licht
Spread o'er yer gladsome brow,
An' O! love lurks wi' fatal micht
Aroun' yer comely mou.
Yet frae the brichtness o' that brow,
There fa's nae licht for me;
An' O! its sair to doat, I trow,
On lips we daurna pree!
Ye bid me sing, an' fain would I
Do a' ye bid me do;
But aye my tremblin' lips deny —
My tremblin' heart fills fou.
But aft I'll sing the sang ye lo'e
When yer nae bye to hear,
An' ilka soun' that pleasur'd you
I'll welcome wi' a tear.
SECOND LOVE.
"THE breast that has felt love, justly shrinks from the idea of its
total extinction, as from annihilation itself."
O SAY not Love will never
Breathe in that breast again;
That where he bled must ever
All pleasureless remain.
Shall tempest-riven blossom,
When fair leaves fall away,
In coldness close its bosom
'Gainst beams of milder day?
O never, nay!
It blooms where'er it may.
Though ruthless tempest tear —
Though biting frosts subdue,
And leave no tendril where
Love's pretty flow'rets grew;
The soil all ravaged so
Will nurture more and more,
And stately roses blow
Where gowans droop'd before;
Then why, O why
Should sweet love ever die!
ADDRESS TO THE DON.
"Will it fair up do you think?" "Aye will't yet."
"THE deil an' Don came down that day,
Wi' a' their highland fury;
An' vowed to 'bear the Bass away,'
Frae bonnie tremblin' Ury."
DARK Don, thy water's rude repulsive scowl
And frothy margin, all too well bespeak
The upland ravages, the conflict bleak
Of mountain winter — the maddened howl
Of bruiting elements, distraught and foul
Have ruffled thy fair course and chok'd thy braes.
Love flies affrightened at thy swollen look,
The laverock may not hear its own sweet lays
O'er thy rough grumblings, and the timid brook
Sinks tremblingly amid thy surfy maze,
Thou cold remembrancer of wilder human ways!
So soiled the social tide, by some curst deed
Of ancient ruffian or fool — so ages read
To weeping worlds, of hearts that bleed —
Of patriots — sages that have died
Ere that broad stream was half repurified.
Roll thy dark waters Don — we yet shall see
On thy bright bosom the fair symmetry
Of vaulted heaven, when the shrill lark pours
Voluptuous melody to listening flowers,
And all of man, of earth, and air shall feel
What hate and darkness hurteth, love and light can
heal!
For who so dull that may not now behold
Yon cloud-repelling light, yon moral ray
Scatter the dingy mist, the murky fold
That aye obscured the intellectual day?
God breathes again in man — those melt, decay,
Preparing, purifying to the sacred birth
Of virtues hitherto undared on earth.
NOTES.
See p.35 — A.
Since e'er he left the Paphian lea.
"PAPHOS, a very ancient city of Cyrus, on the western side of
the island, situate in a height near the little river Bocarus. It
was said to have been founded by Cinyras, the reputed father of
Adonis. It was celebrated for its beautiful temple of Venus,
built on the spot where she landed when she rose from the sea.
There were one hundred altars in her temple, which smoked
daily, with a profusion of frankincense, and though exposed to
the open air, they were never wetted by rain. Annual festivals
were held here in honour of the goddess, and her oracle, which
was connected with the temple, acquired for it considerable reputation."
So here it was that this same little urchin, Cupid,
imbibed a taste for bow-bending; and getting thereat so expert,
and withal so troublesome, it was resolved by certain infirm
gods and ugly goddesses, to do for him. One night, then, when
Venus, his mother, was invisible (Adonis had been seen skulking
in a wood close by), the aforementioned divinities laid hands on
Master Mischief — " skelpt" him rarely — ordered Father Time to
clip the little rascal's wings, and lay him down somewhere about
the Garioch. Here he wandered so long and wept so sorely,
that his "blear'd een" obtained for him the name of the "Blind
Boy."
See p.37 — B.
He passed Pittodrie's haunted wood,
Whaur devils dwalt langsyne.
AMONG the many pretty legends and stories that affix to almost
every hill and water, wood and howe of the Garioch, the
following is often heard: — Upon a time far, far gone by, the
enemy of mankind took a fancy, it seems, to amuse himself
awhile in the neighbourhood of Benachie — a portion of our
fallen world he had scarcely looked upon since the days of Harlaw.
Now, to put matters astirring again in his own way, he
just took a stroll into the woods of Pittodrie. There let him
walk, while we take a hasty look at those upon whom he is said
to have recommenced his dark doings. The boasted beauty of
five parishes was the "Maiden of Drumdurno." A farmer's only
daughter she — a cantie, clever, hame-bred Scotch lassie. Three
notions, in particular, appear to have held uppermost keeping
in her bonnie brow — to wit, that her father had the sharpest
outlook, Benachie the highest tap, and her ain Jamie, the kindest
heart in the whole world.
Aware (and why not?) of her own personal loveliness, she
wisely made all within as fair and fitting. She lived a creature
full of soul — her breast the tenement of love and happiness —
gaiety and tenderness hovered in her eye, like watchful spirits,
ready to minister — waiting, as it were, just to see what was
wanted — a laugh or a tear. Many, many had wooed — one, at
last, had won her. The unsuccessful went, each according to
his way, in these cases — some sighing, some singing, some drawing
comfort from a new purpose, some from an old pipe — all,
however, wishing happy days to the betrothed "Maiden of Drumdurno."
One alone — one fed the hope of vengeance — one grim,
horse-shoe-hearted rascal of a smith. Parish smith and precentor,
too, he was. This rejected ruffian watched that night in
Pittodrie woods, in thought that "Jamie" would, as usual, in
leaving Drumdurno, pass that way. "O that my eternal destruction
could plague their earthly peace," cried he, "how soon and
sure the bargain would be mine!" "Capital wish!" cried the
seducer of Eve, "I'll do the thing for you on your own conditions."
Perpetual vassalage on the part of the "red wud"
smith — written desolation to the luckless lovers of Drumdurno,
was compact and settlement that night, in the black woods of
Pittodrie. * * * The bonniest and the blythest lass
within sight of Benachie was drifting up the bridal baking — and
the bridal and the bannocks "baith her ain." "It sets ye weel
to work, lass, gin ye had onie mair speed at it." This compound
of taunt and compliment was uttered by a stranger, who had
been hanging on about the kitchen, the last hour or so — a queer,
rollicking, funny, lump of a "roader," and, by his own story, in
search of work. "I kenna whether it sets me or no," quoth the
maiden, "but I think nane could grudge wi' my speed." It is
clear by this, that the complimentary portion of the stranger's remark
had found its way. Alas! the pitiable truth! Alas! for
humanity! When it would be flattered, the poison is more surely
imparted beneath the roughest coverture. In faulting that which
is blameless, the flatterer assumes the hue and weight of honesty,
and works securely there.
The jest and banter was exchanged, with mingled glee and
earnestness, till at length the lass, all thoughtlessly, was inveigled
into the fatal wager. The terms of that fearful agreement
are stated at varied points of the horrible. The most temperate
reciters insist that HE undertook to "lay" a road from
bottom to top of Benachie ere she baked up her firlot of meal.
The forfeiture hazarded on his part is not on record. Most
likely the light-hearted, happy bride regarded the whole as one
of the merry jokes that rang from that merry old man, and
heeded not exacting conditions in a matter she conceived to be
impossible. Her part of the pledge, however, was, "that she become
his own if the road is laid ere the meal be baken." * * *
Now, now, the last bannock is on the girdle, but for the past
hour her mind was filling, in the gush of that tearful sweetness
that pours o'er the heart of a willing bride, so the hill, the road,
the wager, old man and all — all were forgotten — all overshaded
that shared of earth — but one — one only, one darling thought.
The hour of tryst was near. The lowering, gloomy-like fall
of the night dismayed her, and she looked wistfully at the cloud
settling on the hill. "Its nae that, nor mony siclike 'ill gar
him bide frae me; but I'm was to see him weet. God of my
heart," she cried, "what's yon I see!" * * * The road is
to be seen to this day. She fled towards the woods of Pittodrie,
pursued. The prayer she could not utter was answered. With
the last bound the demon grasped a stone. Such the transformed
bride. So she stands there even now.
And quick the pace, and quick the pulse,
Wha wanders there alane,
Atween Pittodrie's drearie wood
An' the dowie "maiden's stane."
See p.47 — C.
While cow'ring 'neath the ruined wall
Of Elgin's dark cathedral.
THIS venerable and magnificent relic of cathedral grandeur
is situated in Elgin, Morayshire, on the banks of the river Lossie.
It was built early in the thirteenth century. About a hundred
and fifty years after the foundation, it was entirely burned down
by the ruffian son of a Scottish king. The creature — a common
destroyer — lives yet in hateful record, as "The Wolf of Badenoch."

"The cathedral is surrounded by a burying-ground, one of
the largest churchyards, perhaps, in Great Britain. In it are
interred the remains of many distinguished persons, including
several of the kings of Scotland. The churchyard is enclosed
by a stone wall. What with the number of graves, the beauty
and variety of the sculptured memorials of departed worth and
greatness, and the grandeur of the dilapidated cathedral — a
building which is, indeed, pre-eminently magnificent, even in
ruins — the scene is calculated to make a strong impression on
the spectator."
It is not all of its early grandeur, nor of its latter desolation,
its splendour nor its ruin — not all the historian has told or antiquarian
minuted — will impart an interest to the spot, like what
it derives now from a maniac — an outcast mother and her orphan
boy. It fell out thus: — In 1745, Marjory Gillan, a young
woman, resided in Elgin — she was well connected and good--
looking — was privately married to a young man who had enlisted
in a regiment then quartered in the town — she went
abroad with her husband, followed by the bitter reproach of her
relatives and friends, who considered the step she had taken a
discredit and an affront to all connected. In the same spirit of
unrelenting harshness, was she received on her return, which
occurred about two years from the time she left. It was rumoured
that her husband had used her ill, had left her behind,
and was killed in battle. The forlorn one now sought her
homeless native, unsettled in mind, and carrying a baby in her
arms. [Let me here copy, occasionally verbatim, from Chambers'
Edinburgh Journal, No. 385, where the story is so beautifully
told. I regret to break it down, but my readers may not all of
them have that very number at hand.] "The reception she
met with, and the wild fancies of a wandering mind, induced
her to take a strange step. Close beside the burgh are the yet
majestic remains of an ancient cathedral, the area and precincts
of which have continued since the Reformation to be used as a
burying-ground. Amidst these crumbling ruins, there is one
chamber still entire, a small, cellar-like room, about five feet
square, with scarcely any light, and which is said, in ancient
times, to have been the sacristy, or place for keeping the vessels
used in the offices of religion. Here the poor outcast took up
her abode, rendered insensible, by her obscured reason, to the
nocturnal horrors of a place which, in a better state of mind, she
would have dreaded to approach after dusk. There was, in this
room, an ancient sculptured font, which she used as a bed to
her infant; other furniture she had none. When it was known
that she had gone to reside in this dismal place, the people felt
as if it were an imputation against their Christian feelings. She
and her babe were repeatedly carried, by some one or other of
them, to their houses, but she always made her way back to the
sacristy. At length, finding her determined to live there, they
contented themselves with giving her food and alms, and, for
several years, she wandered about with her boy, under the appellation
of 'Daft May Gilzean'* — a harmless creature, that
wept and sang by turns. Her lover or husband was no more
heard of in the country, although he had several relations living
in the neighbourhood, with whom he might have been expected
to correspond, if he had remained in life. Andrew Anderson,
the son of May Gilzean, grew up in all the raggedness and
misery which might be expected under such circumstances to
fall to his lot. It is questionable if he ever knew the comforts
of a bed, or of a cooked meal of any kind, till his boyhood was
far advanced. The one solacement of his forlorn existence was
the affection which his mother always continued to feel for him."
May Gillan dies — Andrew Anderson, her ragged and bewildered
*The z in this name is not pronounced.
boy, is forced, by ungracious treatment, from an uncle with
whom he dwelt, to cast himself upon the world. Fortunately,
he had obtained some education, gratuitously, in his native place.
With this, his only wealth, "he made his way to Leith, and
thence to London, where he was taken into the workshop of a
tailor, who, finding that he wrote neatly, and had a knowledge
of accounts, began, after some time, to employ him as a clerk.
He was, one day, commissioned to take home a suit of clothes to
a military gentleman, and to grant a discharge for the account.
This gentleman was himself a Scotsman, and bore a commission
in a regiment about to proceed to the East Indies. He was,
like all Scotsmen at a distance from home, interested in hearing
his native tongue spoken, by however humble a person. When,
in addition to this, he observed the pleasing countenance and
manners of the youth, and found that the discharge appended
by him to the account was in a good regular hand, he entered
into conversation, asked whence he came, what were his prospects,
and other such questions, and finally inquired if he
would like to go abroad as a soldier and officer's servant. Anderson,
who was not perhaps disinclined to leave a country in
which there was at least one individual whom he had reason to
dread, required little persuasion to induce him to enter into the
stranger's views. He enlisted as a private, and immediately
after set sail with the regiment, in the capacity of drummer,
acting, at the same time, according to previous agreement, as
the valet or servant of his patron." A singularly marked Providence
guided the footsteps of "Daft May's loonie," and, after
an absence of sixty years, he returned to his remorseless nativity
the renowned and wealthy Lieutenant-General Anderson of the
East India Company's Service. He "founded and endowed,
within the burgh of Elgin, an hospital for the maintenance of
indigent men and women not under fifty years of age, also a
school of industry for the maintenance and education of male
and female children of the labouring classes whose parents are
unable to maintain and educate them, and for putting out the
said children, when fit to be so, as apprentices to some trade or
occupation, or employing them in such a manner as may enable
them to earn a livelihood by their lawful industry, and make
them useful members of society."
See p.51 — "Old Father Frost."
With her cold little pearls that dance, bound and play,
Like our ain bonnie bairns on Candlemas day.
ERE yet the schoolmaster was so much abroad, the schoolmistress
was very much at home. In Aberdeen, about thirty
years ago, at any of fifty lowly firesides, could be found one of
these simple academies yclept a "Wifie's Squeel." In one of
those was imparted to me all the tuition I ever received in the
way of letters — gatherings in after-life being only "crumbs from
the rich man's table." Our Wifie had always twenty scholars,
one cat, one taurds, and one opinion. The scholars exercised
her patience, the cat her affections, and the opinion, simply that
the taurds (a cordovan improvement on the feebler birch) was,
as an exercise, the best panacea on earth for rheumatism in the
right shoulder. When Elspet Gillespie wanted a bit of exercise
in this way, there was no long waiting for a defaulter to
give a duty-like interest to her emotions. The evolutions of the
taurds then awakened some excitement throughout the establishment,
accompanied by strong marks of disapproval in the party
honoured by her immediate regard, and stirred curious sympathies,
even in those who sat by in safety — if, indeed, safety
could be coupled with such an hour. When the pangs of rheumatism
were lulled by a sense of weariness about the shoulder
blade, Elspet resumed her proud elevation above the trembling
assembly, who felt there was one great woman in the world,
and there sat she. Boys five years old and upwards brought
the fee of three "bawbees" and a peat weekly. Our junior class
was composed of little ones, who were too young to talk, but
who, of course, made most noise. These were charged sixpence.
I cannot say what portion of that sum was entered to "din."
She had, indeed, much trouble with these, and longer time of
it, having to tend them during the whole day, until their poor
mothers returned from the spinning-mill or the field. The outfit
for grown-up students was a Bible, a Westminster Catechism,
and a stool, all of which were removed on Saturday, and fetched
again on Monday. O that I could tell, and tell it rightly,
the "skailing of the squeel," or paint yon joyous little mob,
gushing forth from the laigh door of Elspet Gillespie! Every
living face a commentary on the "rights of man" — every little
head crowned with a three-footed stool, its "cap of liberty."
There they go, a living forest, less leafy, less orderly than the
Birnam wood that moved to Dunsinane. Thus should it be —
this left a tyrant — that sought one. But the day of days, in
Elspet Gillespie's ragamuffin college, was Candlemas day. Then
the very madness of young mirth prevailed, washing off the jagged
recollections of bygone sufferings, and sweetening down the
three hundred and sixty-four sorrows of the season. Elspet, on
that day, wore a smile on her face, and a high caul cap on her
head — the taurds and cat invisible — locked up, it may be, in passive
unity — the envied brute and detested leather. No matter
how wrapped, our vulgar days, Candlemas claimed a clean sark
to every laddie — to every lassie a white frock, and to each a
white pocket napkin. A king and queen were, by the breath of
Elspet, created on the spot. Who the distinguished? It was
the undeviatable custom for parents to tender, on Candlemas eve,
a guerdon to our tutoress, less or lesser, as earthly means permitted.
So it fell out somehow that, in every rememberable instance,
either the baker or the butcher rejoiced in the royal
issue. Hence our gossiping mothers of meaner note did, in
their envy, whisper that Eppie's royal rule was, "Wha buys the
whistle?" Never mind that, we've seen the like since then — no
disparagement to "the powers that breathe." Two tea spoonfuls
of sweeties and an orange was laid on every happy hand.
The fiddler comes — all on foot at once — all at once in motion—
twenty white napkins flutter over twenty pretty heads. Fiddler!
what care they for a fiddler? They see the fiddle! The
dance started when he began to tune — the dance continues — he
is tuning still — hands up! Patter, patter, patter — forty little feet
pattering! Think of that when you see the hail dance to the
whirr of a May shower! Oh! the days of childhood! Voyage
thereafter as we may, on smooth or on broken water, these are
the landmarks that will never fade. The blue of our native hills
may be lost to the eye for long, long years, yet once again we
press their heathy belts; but you, ye sunny scenes of infancy,
though ye glimmer through every darkness, and at every distance,
we meet never again. "Old Father Frost" was the result
of a sportive contest in rhyming between the author and Mr. A.
whose verses are subjoined, as well for their native prettiness,
as their giving interest and character to the whole.
OLD Father Frost hath children twain,
Begotten 'twixt him and his Lady Rain;
Though he is harsh, yet mild is she,
And this is seen in their family,
Old Father Frost and his family.
Yes, Father Frost is a hard old churl,
On his upper lip there's a bitter curl;
And his black ill-favoured visage throws
A sombre shade o'er his pale blue nose.
Old Father Frost and his family.
When the summer heat hath passed away,
And gentle Rain gives up her sway,
Old Father Frost, with his iron hand,
Seizes and binds each northern land.
Old Father Frost and his family.
And hard it were for the creatures of earth,
Were it not that Lady Rain gives birth
To her chaste and kindly daughter, Snow,
Who throws her mantle o'er all below.
Old Father Frost and his family.
For stern is the fiat of Father Frost,
He chains the waters though tempest tost;
And he freezes up the very ground
Till it yields a ringing metal sound.
Old Father Frost and his family.
But like the Paynim maid in the Minstrel tale,
Who released the knight from her father's jail,
Sweet sister Snow sets prisoners free,
And mitigates Frost's severity.
Old Father Frost and his family.
Not so kind by half is brother Hail,
Who rattles about in his coat of mail,
And bends and shatters both shrub and flower,
In the wanton display of his father's power.
Old Father Frost and his family.
But Frost, and Rain, and Hail, and Snow,
Come at your time when you come below;
And we'll welcome you all with a cheerful smile,
And drink and laugh and sing the while.
Old Father Frost and his family.
See p.55 — D.
O Mary, when you think of me!
FOR a period of seventeen years, I was employed in a great
weaving factory in Aberdeen. It contained upwards of three
hundred looms, worked by as many male and female weavers.
'Twas a sad place, indeed, and many a curiosity sort of man and
woman entered that blue gate. Amongst the rest, that little,
sly fellow Cupid would steal past "Willie, the porter" (who
never dreamed of such a being) — steal in amongst us, and make a
very harvest of it. Upon the remembrance of one of his rather
graver doings, the song of "Mary" is composed. One of our
shopmates, a virtuous young woman, fairly, though unconsciously,
carried away the whole bulk and value of a poor weaver's
heart. He became restless and miserable, but could never muster
spirit to speak his flame. "He never told his love to any" —
yes, he told it to me. At his request, I told it to Mary, and she
laughed. Five weeks passed away, and I saw him to the churchyard.
For many days ere he died, Mary watched by his bedside,
a sorrowful woman, indeed. Never did widow's tears fall more
burningly. 'Tis twenty years since then. She is now a wife and
a mother; but the remembrance of that, their last meeting, still
haunts her sensitive nature, as if she had done a deed of blood.
See p.62 — E.
For sooner shall thy fairy wave return from yonder sea,
Than I forget yon lowly grave, and all it hides from me.
THREE mountain streamlets brawl separately down their
break-neck journey, and tumble in peace together at the woods
of Newton, just by Old Rayne, Aberdeenshire. This quiet confluence
is the Ury. Like worn-out racers, these boisterous burns
take breath, gliding along in harmonious languor some two miles
or so, when the peaceful Ury is, as it were, cut through by the
Gadie, a desperately crabbed-looking rivulet, raging and rumbling
from Benachie. From this last annoyance, Ury moves onward
in noiseless sweetness, winding and winding, as if aware of
its own brief course, and all unwilling to leave the braes that
hap the heroes of Harlaw. By and by, it creeps mournfully
past the sequestered graveyard of Inverury, kisses the "Bass,"
and is swallowed up in the blue waters of the Don, its whole extent
being only ten miles. Close by the graveyard, stands the
Bass of Inverury — a conical-shaped hill, thickly studded with
trees. The gloomy legends told of its origin and subsequent
uses, would make one readily own its fitting neighbourhood to
a place of skulls. One will tell you that, once upon a time, the
Plague came upon Scotland, and Inverury had its share — that a
deserted house stood then on the banks of the Ury — thither was
carried the infected till the number of patients outran the skill and
resources of their friends, who assembled to deliberate on "ways
and means." It was then settled upon, that, to shorten present suffering,
and to secure future safety, the best way was to bury them
forthwith, house and all. It was done then. Hence the "Bass."
The "Donside Guide" has the following notice of this beautiful
mound: — "Some maintain that the Bass has been used for judicial
purposes. By others, it is supposed to be of a sepulchral character;
and then the question comes, Whose remains does it contain?
Mr. Pinkerton says of the Picts, when the bodies of the
chiefs were burnt, 'a barrow of earth, in proportion to their
rank, was thrown up. That of a beloved king was sometimes
like a little hill.' Chalmers, in his 'Caledonia,' describing the
short reign of Eth (in the list of Pictish kings called 'Aoth'),
surnamed the Swift-foot, says, 'It was his misfortune to reign
while Grig was Maormer (ruler or earl) of the extensive country
between the Don and the Spey. This artful chieftain found
no great difficulty to raise up a competitor, with a faction, to oppose
the king. The contending parties met at Strathullan (or
the bloody field), where Eth was wounded, and, being carried to
Inverurin, died two months after this fatal conflict, and one
year after his sad accession, during wretched times, in 881.'
'On the whole,' says the author of the Statistical Account,
'looking to the sepulchral character of the Bass, and to the
high probability that Eth finished his days here, I am inclined
to believe that this barrow holds the remains of that unfortunate
Pictish monarch.' The old rhyme,
When Dee and Don shall run in one,
And Tweed shall run in Tay,
The bonnie water of Ury
Shall bear the Bass away.
is in every one's mouth in this district."
See p.80 — F.
A Chieftain unknown to the Queen.
ON reconsidering the note prepared for this poem, I fear it
comes within the heap of forbidden matter — neither politics nor
polemics being permitted to make carping residence of my humble
page. How can one eschew these stinging topics, while
speaking of a royal visit and knowing of the Paisley weavers?
PRINTED AT THE ABERDEEN HERALD OFFICE,
BY JOHN FINLAYSON.

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Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-Loom Weaver

Document Information

Document ID 113
Title Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-Loom Weaver
Year group 1800-1850
Genre Verse/drama
Year of publication 1844
Wordcount 22344

Author information: Thom, Mr William

Author ID 255
Title Mr
Forenames William
Surname Thom
Gender Male
Year of birth 1798
Place of birth Aberdeen, Scotland
Occupation Author, weaver
Father's occupation Merchant