« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
“September, and the sun was low,
The tender greens were flecked with yellow, And Autumn's ardent after-glow
Made Yarrow's uplands rich and mellow.
Between me and the sunken sun,
Where gloaming gathered in the meadows, Contented cattle, red and dun, Were slowly browsing in the shadows.
And out beyond them Newark reared
Its quiet tower against the sky, As if its walls had never heard
Of wassail-rout or battle cry.
O'er moss.grown roofs that once had rung,
To reiver's riot, Border brawl,
And silence deepened over all.
Above the high horizon bar
A cloud of golden mist was lying, And over it a single star
Soared heavenward as the day was dying.
No sound, no word, from field or ford,
Nor breath of wind to float a feather, While Yarrow's murmuring waters poured
A lonely music through the heather.
In silent fascination bound,
As if some mighty spell obeying, The hills stood listening to the sound,
And wondering what the stream was saying.".
But the laureate of this literary guild is undoubtedly the gifted and cultured writer who does not veil his identity under the pen-name of "J. B. Selkirk.” Born and bred on the banks of the Ettrick Mr. Brown has received from it and its sister streams, the Yarrow and the Tweed, some of the inspiration which these ballad-haunted waters gave to the minstrels of old. Especially has he entered to the full into the spirit of the Yarrow. It is not the present writer's purpose to discuss at length the causes of the spell which that famous stream has exercised over so many minds. Much has been written regarding the “secret” of the Yarrow, but nothing has approached, in happy brevity, the lines in which Wordsworth's fine sympathy enabled him at once to sum up the characteristics of the valley.
“Meek loveliness is round thee spread,
A softness still and holy,
And pastoral melancholy.” It was perhaps this “meek loveliness” and “ pastoral melancholy” which helped to soothe the physical distraction of the writers of our old ballads in former centuries, and which, in the mental unrest of these latter days, still strike a deep and sympathetic note of poesy. To him who can exclaim with Horace, although not in any misanthropic spirit,
“Odi profanum vulgus et arceo," a sojourn in Yarrow is as“ poppy and mandragora," for not yet does the shriek of the railway whistle disturb the solitude of St. Mary's, nor the cry of “Change here for Tibby Shiels" re-echo from the wooded slopes of Blackandra !
In addition to many contributions to “Blackwood" and “The Scotsman" Mr. Brown has published two volumes of verse and two prose works—“Ethics and Aesthetics of Modern Poetry," and“ Bible Truths and Shakesperean Parallels." We speak here however only of the poems, and of these only in so far as they relate to the Border country. Had space permitted, something might have been said of the lines “Written at Darwin's grave," or that fine poem “ The Soul's Atlantis.” One would like to quote the excellent description of “A man without an enemy," the lines “On a popular character," or the wholly delightful “Epistle to Clara ” from an estimable young lady who “did not answer 'no'" when the question of questions was put to her.
It is however in his own countryside that our author is most at home, and it is in dealing with Border subjects that his poetic spirit is most deeply stirred. We do not think that it is rating them too high to say that Mr. Brown's Yarrow poems are not unworthy successors of the old ballads. One can fancy the warm enthusiasm with which honest Sir Walter would have received them, noting their delicacy of touch, their close observation of Nature, and the vivid realisation of scene and incident which destine the author to occupy a high place among the poetic diï minores of our country. Take for example the “ Song of Yarrow” with its fine description (particularly in the fourth and fifth verses) of what anyone acquainted with the valley has so often seen, but would find so difficult to describe, even in prose.
In quite a different style is the “ The Reiver's Ride." It is the tale of an old world elopement, and is redolent of the heather. Indeed it might have been written by either Mr. Blackmore or Mr. Crockett, if both of these novelists had not shown that poetry is not their strong point. “Oh day of days, when we were young !
With hearts that laughed at wind and weather,
And rode into the rain together.
With vengeance vowed in every weather,
But rode into the rain together.
And dark and sunless was the weather,
And rode into the rain together." And a rough ride they had ; but “love was strong, and life was sweet," so on they went over “Minchmuir's misty height," through “Yarrow's reddening waters” and “Ettrick's deeper flood,” until they
"reached the chapel in the wood,
That night we rode in rain together.
But days have come and days have gone,
With summer suns and winter weather,
Since we two rode in rain together.
His mother's son in any weather,
And rode into the rain together.” “An appeal from Yarrow” written while one of the Edinburgh water schemes was before Parliament is hardly successful, but a much happier effort is “Love in Yarrow" the familiar story of a philosophic misogynist, much given to burning the midnight oil, who
“met his fate on Yarrow braes,
Small blame to me or credit ;
An unseen trifle did it.
Dealt out from silken lashes,
Philosophy to ashes!
He tried again his studious joys
When comfortably married,
But deep are Nature's forces !-
They said the game 'was horses.'" The last line is a delightful touch, worthy of the author of “The Professor's Love Story" himself. And then there is “Autumn Leaves," a fine poem dealing with an incident akin to that which Hamilton of Bangour has treated in his familiar “Braes of Yarrow."
"'Twas down beside the Fairy well,
Alone came gentle Isobel
When evening winds were softly calling.
While Autumn leaves were falling."
“Where restless waters whirl and rave
In foam about the Druid's Cave,
The moaning winds about him calling-
The Autumn leaves are falling.
Through Life and Death forever calling,
And Autumn leaves are falling.” “Retreat in Yarrow" a poem inspired by the solitudes of Dobb's Linn contains two especially fine
arses in which a thought is expressed very similiar
to that contained in Professor's Nichols poem
Disturbs not thee,
Of heaven's blue sea.
Of God for ever!" Passing now to the consideration of the poems our author has written in the Scottish dialect we find in them the same characteristics which we have noted in his other poems with the added beauty of pathos which the vernacular is so well able to convey. "Death in Yarrow" is the story of a young life prematurely clouded, “The Emigrant's Letter" is an epistle from one who had crossed the seas, and “Looking back in Yarrow--A Golden Wedding," is a charming description of the feelings of an aged couple on celebrating their golden wedding, an event which causes them to take a retrospect of the changes which have occurred in their native vale since
“The day we took oor chance
As man an' wife thegither." The conservatism of age is certainly strong in this Darby and his Joan. “Say not that the old times were better than these,” is not an injunction which they could accept. Of the benefits of new fangled things, from slated roofs to reaping machines, they are exceeding sceptical, and as for modern education they will have none of it.
“Just look at oor new schulin'
I carena hoo it's honour't ;
And knocks the bairn donnart.
The system forces forrit :
The bulk o' them's the waur o't.
Can aye be for the better,
The speerit for the letter.
On endless information-
It's no richt eddication.
Where ilka little bantam
The regulation quantum ;
Inspector for adviser,
But deil a ane's the wiser." After this it is not surprising to be told that the fin-de siecle novelists are “puir beside the Shirra" and that
“Anglicee'd fine mainners
And clippit ways o' speakin,"
do not find so much favour as they did with the lady who opened the door to Mrs. Curly of Tilliedrum ; moreover in these days of railway racing it is interesting to be reminded that
“ Lang syne, aboon the brig,
Nae wheel but on a barrow
Was ever seen in Yarrow.
And carriages galore,
Gang rumlin' by the door.” It is however in “Selkirk after Flodden-A Widow's Dirge October 1513” that our author reaches the high water mark of his powers as a poet. The title of the poem is self-explanatory and if it be the case, as Mr. Lang has declared, that Shairp's “Bush aboon Traquair," is the most beautiful song written since those of Burns ; then it may truly be said that since Jean Elliot composed her lament for Forest Flowers “a'wede away” nothing more tender and pathetic has been written than “ Selkirk after Flodden."
“It's but a month the morn,
Sin' a' was peace and plenty,
Eident men, and lassies denty;
Never mair a merry meetin';
0, Flodden Field !
Where forest flowers are fairest,
Withe fate that fa's the sairest.
By Ettrick Braes or Yarrow,
O, Flodden Field !
For countrie and for croon,
Till the last was hackit doon :
They maun fa' that canna flee-
0, Flodden Field !" The temptation is strong to quote the whole of the poem, but the exigencies of space forbid us to do more than add the last three verses.
“ Then I turn to sister Jean,
And my airms aboot her twine,
For her hairt's as sair as mine-
And hands that ne'er were idle,
O, Flodden Field !
In oor grief the wark's forgotten,
And the craps are lyin' rotten.
War's awesome blast's gane by,
And left a land forlorn ;
O, Flodden Field !
When the nichts are drear an'lang,
On the weary gate we gang!
Sin' oor ain we canna see,
Far, far, frae Flodden Field !” Surely this is indeed a vivid picture of the terrible havoc wrought on that red September day
“When shivered was fair Scotland's spear,
And broken was her shield.” From what has been said and quoted it will be seen that if “ J. B. Selkirk's” is but a minor poetic note, it is nevertheless a note of great sweetness and beauty rising at times to considerable power. Certainly of all of our modern Border bards he it is who most closely unites us to the past-to the time when “Perys of Cokburne and hys wife Marjorie ” were laid to rest at Henderland, to the time when the scattered remnant returned to the Forest from the blood-stained banks of the Fill, and even to the remoter time when the dead Douglas won a field, and shadows of crimson stained the ripples of Otterburn. And this brings me to ask, in conclusion, a question which is after all the raison-d'être of this article. When are we to have a new collected edition of Mr. Brown's verses, a book which would be prized by many, and for which I, at anyrate, have looked "fu' lang”?
W. E, WILSON.
Strike the Border barp Again !
STRIKE the Border Harp again !
Tell the thrilling story ;
From the ages hoary.
O'er the English Border,
Every law and order.
And the chords are broken,
Some grand tale unspoken.
Ruined peel and shieling ;
Poet dreams revealing.
Down the ages ringing,
Or his voice cease singing ?
In the season vernal;
All communications relating to Literary and Business matters should be addressed to the Editor, Mr. NICHOLAS Dickson, 19 Waverley Gardens, Crossmyloof, Glasgow.
TERMS OF SUBSCRIPTION. THE BORDER MAGAZINE will be sent post ¡ree to any part of the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and all Countries included in the Postal Union, .or one year, 45.
THE BORDER MAGAZINE.
LIST OF CONTENTS.
. . . . .
OUR NEW MAGAZINE. T HE Prospectus announcing the preparation seek rather to illustrate what is passing in the
of a Border Magazine gives way this day present. The former, however, cannot be wholly
to the Magazine itself. We make no left out: for the past and the present are so inapology to our readers for introducing this new separably united in the history of the Border candidate for their favour and support. Though Country, that the one is simply the complement we cannot say that it is intended to supply the of the other. orthodox and time-honoured institution “a The Prospectus of every new work is apt to felt want," we yet believe that it will find a place promise too much. A glance at the above List for itself in the heart and home of all who are of Contents will serve at least to indicate what interested in, or in any way connected with, the has been attempted. We ask the kind indulgence Border Counties of Scotland. For this is the day of our readers for the inevitable short-comings of Magazines : they are multiplying around us of a first part. The second will, we trust, show in every department of Literature, Art and a marked improvement. While the third, and Science. While the newspapers keep us abreast succeeding issues, we hope, will reach such a of all that is going on from day to day in every respectable high-water mark that everybody quarter of the globe, there is, at the same time, “alang the Marches ” will begin to feel that an earnest longing for something less exciting they cannot do without their Border Magazine. during the leisure hours at home when the work Owing to the great pressure on our space in of the day is done. Books are not always at this opening number, we have been obliged to hand, and here it is where the Magazine comes in. hold over several Articles, Reviews of Border
There is, perhaps, no district in Scotland Books, etc. These, however, we hope to overmore worthy of having a Magazine all to itself take next month. Meantime we have to express than the Border Country. Rich and varied as our warmest thanks for the encouragement that are its Literary, Historical and Romantic has reached us from many unexpected quarters : Associations of the past, the new Magazine will notably from the Border Country itself.
Tbe Quarry Master,
“Hulloa !” cried one of the boys, running
his fingers along a course of green moss on the A BORDER STORY.
crust of the pudding nearest to his touch. BY ALEXANDER SELKIRK.
“Hulloa ! here's the letter B cut in the rock,
and here's another, and another, and lots more!" CHAP. I.
The boy's companion rose to examine the THE GRAND DISCOVERY.
moss-grown letters. What was his astonish
ment in turn to find that these letters formed NE Saturday afternoon some eight or ten several words : that the words formed themO boys were returning to their homes after a selves into something like a couplet, and that
splendid run with the Duke's fox-hounds. the couplet, with a missing link or two, ran thus: For miles and miles across country, the young “Blest be the man.........turns me......... hunters had followed the chase on foot, never For underneath.........gold.........found.” thinking of the weary trudging that lay behind Here was a great and grand adventure! them after the excitement of the day was past. Weariness, hunger, and hail-storm were all forThe sport had been excellent, and the weather gotten in the excitement of the great discovery. was all that could be wished. There had never Visions of wealth and wonder rose before the before been such a large and distinguished eyes and filled the imaginations of the young “meet” of ladies and gentlemen as had that discoverers ! Bagfuls of gold were probably morning assembled at the “ Pincushion Cover” lying below the rock in such number and on the hillside, about a mile and a half above quantity as to require removal in carts, lorries, the quaint old-fashioned town of St. Johns. railway trucks, and wheelbarrows. A prodigious
Reynard, poor fellow, had exerted himself to discovery truly—by far the greatest event that the utmost, you may be sure, to make the run had taken place in the Border Country for many as long as possible. He was tracked to earth a long day. at last, however, and with his capture and death But how was the buried treasure to be got at! the run was over. Ladies and gentlemen were That was the question—a question that would riding homeward, with appetites such as those require the most earnest consideration and no only feel who have been in the saddle all day, end of caution in carrying into execution. and tasted nothing since breakfast except, per. While the boys were still discussing the matter, haps, a hurried pull at a flask of sherry and a the twilight came on, and rapidly deepened into snap at a beef or tongue sandwich.
darkness. That put an end to speculation and But the boys! Wearied, foot-sore, hungrier consideration for the time being : but only for than hawks, and more travel-stained than the time being. Groping their way out of the tramps, they were trudging homeward in the quarry workings, the youthful discoverers set out most piteous plight that can well be imagined. for home-overjoyed, elated beyond measure. Gradually the party of eight or ten diminished Each of them felt himself a millionaire in proin number as boy after boy "hirpled” downward spect-richer in thousands than any sum in to the hamlets in the valley, or crawled upwards arithmetic that they had ever wrought out on to the farm-onsteads on the hills. At last there their slate at school. were left but two, and these two kept plodding As they hurried homeward, the boys frequently steadily onward and forward in the direction of halted, proposed, and composed, a vow of the St. Johns.
most solemn secrecy over the grand discovery. While still a good mile from the town, a Not a living soul was ever to hear the faintest sudden hailstorm came down-so sharp and whisper about it. They alone had discovered fierce and violent in its intensity as to force the it: death was even hinted at as the punishment wearied foxhunters to seek the shelter of an of the one who should breathe the slightest old disused quarry which happened, fortunately, inkling of the matter. The survivor was to to be near at hand. Almost blocking up the become the sole partner of the tremendous entrance to the old quarry was a tremendous wealth that lay beneath the boulder at the mass of rock, round in shape, and resembling a mouth of the quarry at Eildonlea. gigantic plum-pudding. While the storm was The storm was past : the night had set in : still raging outside, the two boys seated them the stars were glittering in all their splendour, selves behind the plum-pudding and amused and hanging like lamps out of heaven. As the themselves with speculating how short-lived boys walked homeward, speculation crowded would be its existence there, were it really a upon speculation, and excited their imagination pudding, smoking hot and ready for the on- to such a degree as to make them feel that the slaught.
Border Country was far too small to hold them.