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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.
1 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.