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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 wail ;
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 crook, 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, 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 A heart 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,
16 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,
6 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.
Thou gravely labouring to portray
The blighted oak’s fantastic spray;
I spelling o'er, with much delight,
The legend of that antique knight,
Tirante by name, ycleped the White.
At either's feet a trusty squire,
Pandour and Camp, with eyes of fire,
Jealous, each other's motions viewed,
And scarce suppressed their ancient feud.
The laverock whistled from the cloud;
The stream was lively, but not loud;
From the white-thorn the May-flower shed
Its dewy fragrance round our head:
Not Ariel lived more merrily
Under the blossomed bough, than we.
And blithsome nights, too, have been ours,
When Winter stript the summer's bowers;
Careless we heard, what now I hear,
The wild blast sighing deep and drear,
When fires were bright, and lamps beamed gay,
And ladies tuned the lovely lay ;
And he was held a laggard soul,
Who shunned to quaff the sparkling bowl.
Then he, whose absence we deplore,
Who breathes the gales of Devon's shore,
The longer missed, bewailed the more ;
And thou, and I, and dear loved R-
And one whose name I may not say,
For not Mimosa's tender tree
Shrinks sooner from the touch than he,
In merry chorus, well combined,
With laughter drowned the whistling wind.
Mirth was within; and Care without
Might gnaw her nails to hear our shout.
Not but amid the buxom scene
Some grave discourse might intervene-
Of the good horse that bore him best,
His shoulder, hoof, and arching crest:
For like mad Tom's,* our chiefest care,
Was horse to ride, and weapon wear.
Such nights we've had, and though the game
Of manhood be more sober tame,
And though the field-day, or the drill,
Seem less important now-yet still
Such may we hope to share again.
The sprightly thought inspires my strain;
And mark, how, like a horseman true,
Lord Marmion's march I thus renew.