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Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago :
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending ;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending ;-
I listened, motionless and still ;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
[See the various poems the scene of which is laid upon the banks of the Yarrow; in particular, the exquisite ballad of Hamilton, beginning
‘Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny Bride,
Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome Marrow!']
From Stirling's castle we had seen
The mazy Forth unravelled ;
Had trod the banks of Clyde, and Tay,
And with the Tweed had travelled ;
And when we came to Clovenford,
Then said my 'winsome Marrow,
“Whate'er betide, we'll turn aside,
And see the Braes of Yarrow.'
* Let Yarrow folk, frae Selkirk town,
Who have been buying, selling,
Go back to Yarrow, 'tis their own ;
Each maiden to her dwelling !
On Yarrow's banks let herons feed,
Hares couch, and rabbits burrow !
But we will downwards with the Tweed,
Nor turn aside to Yarrow.
“There's Galla Water, Leader Haughs,
Both lying right before us;
And Dryborough, where with chiming Tweed
The lintwhites sing in chorus ;
There's pleasant Tiviot-dale, a land
Made blithe with plough and harrow:
Why throw away a needful day
To go in search of Yarrow ?
"What's Yarrow but a river bare,
That glides the dark hills under ?
There are a thousand such elsewhere
As worthy of your wonder.'
-Strange words they seemed of slight and scorn ;
My True-love sighed for sorrow;
And looked me in the face, to think
I thus could speak of Yarrow !
"Oh! green,' said I, “are Yarrow's holms,
And sweet is Yarrow flowing !
Fair hangs the apple frae the rock,
But we will leave it growing.
O'er hilly path, and open strath,
We'll wander Scotland thorough ;
But, though so near, we will not turn
Into the dale of Yarrow.
'Let beeves and home-bred kine partake
The sweets of Burn-mill meadow ;
The swan on still Saint Mary's Lake
Float double, swan and shadow !
We will not see them ; will not go
To-day, nor yet to-morrow ;
Enough if in our hearts we know
There's such a place as Yarrow.
See Hamilton's ballad, as above.
• Be Yarrow stream unseen, unknown !
It must, or we shall rue it;
We have a vision of our own;
Ah! why should we undo it ?
The treasured dreams of times long past,
We'll keep them, winsome Marrow !
For when we're there, although 'tis fair,
'Twill be another Yarrow !
'If Care with freezing years should come,
And wandering seem but folly,-
Should we be loath to stir from home,
And yet be melancholy ;
Should life be dull, and spirits low,
'Twill soothe us in our sorrow,
That earth has something yet to show,
The bonny holms of Yarrow.'
O blithe New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo ! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice ?
While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear,
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.
Though babbling only to the Vale,
Of sunshine and of flowers,
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.
· Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring !
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery ;
The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky.
To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green ;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.
And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.
O blessed Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be
An unsubstantial, faery place :
That is fit home for Thee !
AT THE GRAVE OF BURNS. 1803.
(Seven Years after his Death.)
I shiver, Spirit fierce and bold,
At thought of what I now behold :
As vapours breathed from dungeons cold
Strike pleasure dead,
So sadness comes from out the mould
Where Burns is laid.
And have I then thy bones so near,
And thou forbidden to appear?
As if it were thyself that's here
I shrink with pain ;
And both my wishes and my fear
Alike are vain.
Off weight-nor press on weight !-away
Dark thoughts !-they came, but not to stay;
With chastened feelings would I pay
The tribute due
To him, and aught that hides his clay
From mortal view.
Fresh as the flower, whose modest worth
He sang, his genius 'glinted' forth,
Rose like a star that touching earth,
For so it seems,
Doth glorify its humble birth
With matchless beams.
The piercing eye, the thoughtful brow,
The struggling heart, where be they now?-
Full soon the Aspirant of the plough,
The prompt, the brave,
Slept, with the obscurest, in the low
And silent grave.
I mourned with thousands, but as one
More deeply grieved, for He was gone
Whose light I hailed when first it shone,
And showed my youth
How Verse may build a princely throne
On humble truth.
Alas! where'er the current tends,
Regret pursues and with it blends,-
Huge Criffel's hoary top ascends
By Skiddaw seen,-
Neighbours we were, and loving friends
We might have been :
True friends though diversely inclined ;
But heart with heart and mind with mind,
Where the main fibres are entwined,
Through Nature's skill,
May even by contraries be joined
More closely still