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Though varying wishes, hopes, and fears;
Fevered the progress of these years,
Yet now, days, weeks, and months, but seem
The recollection of a dream,
So still we glide down to the sea
Of fathomless eternity.
E’en now, it scarcely seems a day,
Since first I tuned this idle lay;
A task so often thrown aside,
When leisure graver cares denied,
That now, November's dreary gale,
Whose voice inspired my opening tale,
That same November gale once more
Whirls the dry leaves on Yarrow shore;
Their vexed boughs streaming to the sky,
Once more our naked birches sigh;
And Blackhouse heights, and Ettricke Pen,
Have don'd their wintry shrouds again; .
And mountain dark, and flooded mead,
Bid us forsake the banks of Tweed.
Earlier than wont along the sky,
Mixed with the rack, the snow-mists fly:-
The shepherd, who, in summer sun,
Has something of our envy won,
As thou with pencil, I with pen,
The features traced of hill and glen;
He who, outstretched, the livelong day,
At ease among the heath-flower lay,
Viewed the light clouds with vacant look,
Or slumbered o'er his tattered book,
Or idly busied him to guide
His angle o'er the lessened tide;—
At midnight now, the snowy plain
Finds sterner labour for the swain.
When red hath set the beamless sun,
Through heavy vapours dank and dun;
When the tired ploughman, dry and warm,
Hears, half asleep, the rising storm
Hurling the hail, and sleeted rain,
Against the casement's tinkling pane;
The sounds that drive wild deer, and fox,
To shelter in the brake and rocks,
Are warnings which the shepherd ask,
To dismal, and to dangerous task.
Oft he looks forth, and hopes, in vain,
The blast may sink in mellowing rain,
Till, dark above, and white below,
Decided drives the flaky snow,
And forth the hardy swain must go.
Long, with dejected look and whine,
To leave the hearth his dogs repine;
Whistling, and cheering them to aid,
Around his back he wreathes the plaid:
His flock he gathers, and he guides
To open downs, and mountain sides,
Where, fiercest though the tempest blow,
Least deeply lies the drift below.
The blast, that whistles o'er the fals,
Stiffens hjs locks to icicles;
Oft he looks back, while, streaming far,
His cottage window seems a star,
Loses its feeble gleam, and then
Turns patient to the blast again,
And, facing to the tempest's sweep,
Drives through the gloom his lagging sheep:
If fails his heart, if his limbs fail,
Benumbing death is in the gale;
His paths, his landmarks, all unknown,
Close to the hut, no more his own,
Close to the aid he sought in vain,
The morn may find the stiffened swain:
His widow sees, at dawning pale,
His orphans raise their feeble wall;
And, close beside him, in the snow,
Poor Yarrow, partner of their wo,
Couches upon his master's breast,
And licks his cheek to break his rest.
Who envies now the shepherd's lot,
His healthy fare, his rural cot,
His summer couch by greenwood tree,
His rustic kirn's" loud revelry,
His native hill-notes, tuned on high,
To Marian of the blithsome eye;
His crobk, his scrip, his oaten reed,
"And all Arcadia's golden creed.
Changes not so with us, my Skene,
Of human life the varying scene?
* The Scottish harvest-home.
Our youthful summer oft we see
Dance by on wings of game and glee,
While the dark storm reserves its rage,
Against the winter of our age:
As he, the ancient chief of Troy,
His manhood spent in peace and joy;
But Grecian fires, and loud alarms,
Called ancient Priam forth to arms,
Then happy those, since each must drain
His share of pleasure, share of pain,_
Then happy those, beloved of heaven,
To whom the mingled cup is given;
Whose lenient sorrows find relief, -
Whose joys are chastened by their grief.
And such a lot, my Skene, was thine,
When thou of late wert doomed to twine,w-
Just when thy bridal hour was by,
The cypress with the myrtle tie;
Just on thy bride her Sire had smiled,
And blessed the unlon of his child,
When love must change its joyous cheer;
And wipe affection's filial tear.
Nor did the actions next his end,
Speak more the father than the friend:
Scarce had lamented Forbes paid
The tribute to his minstrel's shade; -
The tale of friendship scarce was told,
Ere the narrator's heart was cold.
Far may we search, before we find
Aheart so manly and so kind.
But not around his honoured urn,
Shall friends alone, and kindred mourn;
The thousand eyes his care had dried,
Pour at his name a bitter tide;
And frequent falls the grateful dew,
For benefits the world ne'er knew.
If mortal charity dare claim
The Almighty's attributed name,
Inscribe above his mouldering clay,
“The widow's shield, the orphan's stay."
Nor, though it wake thy sorrow, deem
My verse intrudes on this sad theme;
For sacred was the pen that wrote,
“Thy father's friend forget thou not:”
And grateful title may I plead,
For many a kindly word and deed,
To bring my tribute to his grave:-
'Tis little—but 'tis all I have.
To thee, perchance, this rambling strain
Recalls our summer walks again;
When doing nought, and, to speak true,
Not anxious to find aught to do,
The wild unbounded hills we ranged;
While oft our talk its topic changed,
And desultory, as our way,
*Ranged unconfined from grave to gay.
E’en when it flagged, as oft will chance,
No effort made to break its trance,
We could right pleasantly pursue
Our sports, in social silence too.