36 Spenserians with interpolated lyrics: Hector Macneill celebrates the powers of bardic and pastoral song in three cantos that follow at a distance the design of Beattie's The Minstrel. This ambitious poem appears to have been a complete failure; it was not reprinted and while Macneill was a very popular writer it seems to have been unknown even among his contemporaries.
The first canto describes the primitive conditions in which Scottish poetry arose after the demise of the elder bards, the second relates a progress of poetry in the form of a prophecy given to the minstrel who would found Scottish poetry, and the third relates a ballad intended to illustrate the social harmony engendered by poetry. In the second canto the Muse utters a prophecy which recounts to the young bard the progress of Scottish poetry from rude times down to the triumph of liberty during the Napoleonic wars. The model here appears to be Thomas Gray's The Bard, though William Collins's allegorical odes are alluded to also. The third canto relates a ballad of elder times, in which an old man whose daughter has been stolen by the evil baron Guy, at length finds comfort and peace in the bosom of his family. The poem concludes by praising the powers of song to stifle discord and warfare.
Preface: "It is almost unnecessary to remark, that the frequent change of measure in the versification was adopted merely to give the corresponding effect to the different subjects introduced in the Poem. The Spenserian stanza, with all its advantages for harmony and sententiousness, is, however, apt to become languid in productions of any length; and exclusively of the difficulty annexed to a judicious and musical construction of this measure in our language, it can never prove favourable to Lyrical composition, which requires one more light and airy to render the subject sufficiently interesting" p. vi.
The "Ednam bard" is James Thomson, "moral bard" is James Beattie, "heav'n-taught rustic swain" is Robert Burns; "pastoral warbler" is Allan Ramsay, the "songstress of the modest brow" is Joanna Baillie.
Scots Magazine: "We confess we have some duobts, whether, in employing himself upon didactic poetry, Mr. Macneill has altogether consulted the bent of his genius. In song, in narrative, in domestic pictures, he appears to us more completely at home.... The plan of the poem resembles somewhat that of the Minstrel. It represents an aged sire, who, driven from his home by midnight assault and conflagration, fled to a sequestered spot, with an infant boy, 'alone saved of all his store.' This boy growing up in tranquility, amid scenes of rural life, is supposed to become the founder of the pastoral poetry of Scotland. The first canto describes his education, and the first efforts of his muse" 71 (1809) 39.
British Critic "With a little ingenuity, an allegory of this kind might have been rendered interesting; and would have proved a sufficient apology for adopting the Spenserian stanza, which long custom has allotted to allegorical poetry; but which is rather an unwieldy instrument on common occasions. From its very complicated structure it requires an unusual facility in versification to render it smooth and natural; and on account of the Alexandrine with which it terminates, there must be a swell of sentiment gradually increasing to the termination, otherwise the impression will be completely feeble, and partaking much of the effect of the bathos. Mr. MacNeill seems by no means at home with this stanza; and is sometimes obliged to have recourse to expletives and unmeaning epithets to eke out his lines" 34 (1809) 599.
John Wilson: "SHEPHERD. Scotland has produced some bad aneuch writers — but the verra worst o' them hae aye a character o' originality. For if ony ane of our authors hae aye a character o' originality. For if ony ane of our authors hae mannerism — it's at least mannerism o' his ain. The difference between us and them [English], is just the difference atween a man and a monkey" Blackwood's Magazine (November 1826) in Noctes Ambrosianae (1857) 2:284.
C. H. Timperley: "Hector Macneil, one of the most deservedly popular poets of Scotland, and author of Scotland's Scaith, and the Waes of War, of which 10,000 copies were sold in one month. He died at Edinburgh, March 15, 1818" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:889n.
Thomas Constable: "The Pastoral or Lyric Muse of Scotland, published by my father (in 1809) attracted comparatively little attention, and was not included in the collected edition of Mr. Macneill's works. In a letter dated 18th May 1811 he intimates that he is engaged in writing a series of 'stories or histories illustrative of the effects of improper instruction in youth,' which he intends to be an improvement on Miss Edgeworth. His Scottish Adventures, or the Way to Rise, published in the following year, were perhaps the first and only fruits of this project. More than half of his long life was spent in Jamaica as a slave-driver, and he is said to have been a zealous advocate of the system of slavery. Mr. Macneill died in poverty, at the age of seventy-two years" Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents (1873) 2:236.
Eleanor Maria Sickels: "MacNeill hints in several poems that he himself was a sort of Edwin" Gloomy Egoists (1932) 413n.
When shall the woes of War and Discord cease!
When shall the morn of Harmony arise!
When shall the dawn of CONCORD, LOVE, and PEACE,
Break through the gloom, and light dark Europe's skies!—
Vain dream! — for see! to grasp the blood-stain'd prize,
Ambition, maddening, wades through seas of gore,
Lists, careless, to the groans and dying sighs
Of myriads overwhelm'd, to rise no more;
And none but BRITONS smile, around their parent shore!
Oh, deaf to nature! and to bliss unknown!
How long shall carnage brutify mankind?
Whirl'd in tempestuous storms, by pride upblown,
How long shall phantoms fascinate and blind?
Health — comfort — hope; a gay contented mind,
Are all we here can want, or need to crave;
And may not these delight, if friendship twined
The bonds of love, life's social sweets to save,
And gild the traveller's path with sunshine to the grave?
One sportive summer's day is all that's given
To cheer the transient gleam of insect bliss,
Warm'd by the genial influence of Heaven,
They burst to life, and love, and happiness:
Roving on raptured wing, no ills oppress;
Fruition bounds the circuit of their joy;—
Shall MAN alone no kindred charms possess?
Must storm and gloom his summer's day destroy,
Nor peace nor social sweets his fleeting hours employ?—
Ah me! encompass'd with afflictions drear!
Pain — sickness — sorrow, and disastrous fate;
The want of friendship's aid, to sooth and cheer,
And softening still the murmurs of regret;
The loss of all we loved, and prized so late,
Torn from the breast, where hope and transport smiled!—
Are these not ills enow? — must rage, and hate,
And strife, and uproar join in discord wild,
Steel the relentless heart, and spurn affections mild?
Can nought compose these tumults that repel
The gentler throbs of nature, and prevent
The playful current of our joys to swell
In fond delight, or glide in calm content?—
Yes! — Heaven, with all her bounties, kindly sent
To mitigate the pangs of human pain,
Has given the MUSE, with tones mellifluent,
To cheer, inspire, and charm in varied strain,
With fancy, virtue, peace, and all her smiling train!
Lapt in her lays, that cherish and reform,
And lure the mind to all that's guiltless fair,
Lull'd are the tempests that upheave, and storm
The labouring breast of avarice and care;
RETIREMENT'S calm is all he longs to share
Who thrills at nature's glow, and woos her charms;
Hails her excitements; paints her beauties rare;
Thoughtless of want; unruffled with alarms;
And such the bard, I ween! whose breast true passion warms.
A time there was: — alas! how changed! — how gone!
When worth and friendship link'd each social heart,
Awaked by nature's call, in powerful tone
The numbers flow'd; free, negligent of art;
Warm was the strain! impetuous to impart
Whate'er for love or virtue could inspire
Affections strong; each MINSTREL felt the dart
Of passion, kindling with poetic fire,
While Pity struck the chords, and tuned the OSSIANIC lyre.
But scared by feud, that gen'rates war and crime,
And sweeps the loves and virtues soon away,
The MUSES, trembling, fled their hostile clime,
And wandering, skulk'd, where power, with ruffian sway
O'erawed the minstrel band. — Quick changed the lay;
Servile and mean, arose a mongrel crew;
And, as they sung of spoil and midnight fray,
Waked the discordant tones, untuned, untrue,
Which Nature never own'd, nor Pity ever drew!
Stung with the sounds, oppress'd with grief and pain,
Sad, o'er the wild, a sister mourner fled;
Her robe, neglected, swept the desert plain,
The bleak wind whistling round her laurell'd head;
Fast down her faded cheek, late rosy red,
The tide of silent sorrow trickling fell!—
Ask you the mourner's name? — 'twas MUSIC, led
By wilder'd grief, her plaintive notes to swell
Safe where the Muses sung, within their shelter'd dell.
Near to the choral band, embower'd and hid
From rapine, hate, and feud's relentless ire;
Low in a grassy vale, where, tame, the kid
And lambkin dancing play'd, a ruin'd sire
Secluded lived. Escaped from whelming fire
At midnight's murdering hour, swift, through the roar
Of wintry storms, he fled from horrors dire,
And with an infant — saved of all his store!
To YARROW'S sylvan banks the blooming treasure bore.
Here, lonely screen'd, affection urged to save
The helpless life dependent on his aid;
His sheltering roof, the bank's deep echoing cave;
His food, the wild fruits glean'd around the glade!—
Heaven, favouring, smiled. A lamb, that wilder'd, stray'd
Within the grot, th' experienced sire retain'd,
Lured by its bleating cries, fond, undismay'd,
The dam swift follow'd, answering as it plain'd,
And with her milky store two helpless lives sustain'd.
Thus nightly lured, the wintry season past;
Returning spring increased the fleecy fold;
Contentment soothed, and deaden'd woes at last,
While years untroubled came, and passing roll'd:
The stripling grew; the sire, though frail and old,
Beheld, with cheering hope, his shepherd boy
Secured from want. Each eve the warrior told
The tales of former happiness and joy,
And all the woes of feud, that ruin and destroy!
And oft, to cheat and cheer the lingering hour,
The hoary sage would wake the legend strain;
Recount the marvellous deeds of martial power,
And paint the tumult of th' embattled plain;
Yet, while he sung the carnage of the slain,
In sorrow's tone, soft pity's sighs he drew;
And checking rising fervour, shew'd how vain
The pride of conquest, slaughtering to subdue!
Compared with virtue's charms, unchanging — ever new.
And oft, I ween! to warm impassion'd youth
With all that's courteous, generous, just, and brave,
Instructive age would blend with moral truth
Romantic feats, when dauntless KNIGHTHOOD gave
Its bright example to reform; and save
Unshelter'd virtue from oppression's power;
Chastised dishonour; freed the injured slave
Of tyrant thrall; attack'd the dragon-bower;
Broke beauty's captive spell, and storm'd th' enchanted tower.
Touch'd with the subject of the evening's lay,
The stripling caught the sorrows that were sung,
And wandering, lonely, with his flock by day,
Conn'd the sad tales, o'er which he nightly hung;
And much he wish'd (unpractised yet and young)
In suited strains, emotions to unfold,
When from the neighb'ring dell, sweet warbling rung
The MUSES' varied notes — now soft, now bold,
And to his ravish'd ear th' important secret told.
'Twas then arose, united, and refined,
The witching strains of MELODY and SONG!
True to each note the charms of verse combined
The power of thought, impassion'd — moral — strong;
Through wood and vale, re-echoed sweet among
The haunts of quiet, soft the warbling rose:—
Flocks listening gaze; arrested oft, and long,
The bounding roe-buck and his woodland does
Turn, captived by the sound harmonious as it flows!
Thrill'd with the charm! — enchanted with the art!
The fond enthusiast, listening to the choir,
Felt the warm flash of genius shoot athwart
His ardent brain, and caught th' electric fire;
And as he listening heard the changing lyre,
Sweet as the Muses sung the PASTORAL lay,
Now melting soft to passion's warm desire;
Now lightly brisk to rural joys and play,
Whole nights and summer days past unperceived away!
They sung of love, and lover's pains,
Their joys, and softened sorrow;
They sung contentment's rural strains
Around the "Braes o' Yarrow;"
On "Etterick banks" was heard the reed
That piped to pastoral leisure,
And echoing sweet round winding Tweed
Was heard the varying measure;
And Teviotdale returned the sound
With all its groves embowering,
And "Galla water's" green hills crown'd
With whins and wild thyme flowering;
Blithe were the strains by "Cowden knows"
And "Leader's haughs" and river!
But sad! where Jed's stream murm'ring flows
The blythe notes echoed never!
For war with blood stained Jed's sweet shore
When love oft wail'd her marrow,
And wafted mid the tempest's roar
The sound was heard at Yarrow.
Sad o'er the lone vales as it swept,
And thrill'd the heart with anguish,
The Muses changed the lyre, and wept;
Love's notes were heard to languish;
The rural pipe neglected lay!
No sound was heard by night or day
But melting "dule and sorrow!"
Beside some bank or willow'd stream
Soft PITY tuned the mournful theme,
And starting, saw in frightful dream
Some lover drown'd in Yarrow!
But had you seen the Shepherd boy
When SONG and MUSIC fired his breast,
Tune the loved instruments with joy
That by the Muses' skill express'd
The varied Passions that confess'd
The power of Nature's artless sway;
You would have sworn the ruin'd mind
To reason lost — wild — unconfined
Had wing'd its maniac way!
Oh! had you seen him as he stray'd,
Rapt, through the greenwood's lonely shade,
When silence reign'd at even,
And heard him pour his varied song
Descriptive — moral — melting — strong!
Inspired by favouring Heaven,
You would have hail'd him as he stood
Entranced in fond poetic mood,
The genius of the grove;
And thought you heard by bank and spring
Responsive sweet! the wood-nymphs sing
Of rural peace and love!
The Muses markt, and raptured smiled,
And as they claspt loved Nature's child
Delighted to their breast,
In tears of joy they blest the morn
On which a Shepherd bard was born
To charm rude minds to rest.
"And take," they cried, "the pastoral reed
That pipes to peace and pleasure,
And sing while flocks round Yarrow feed
The sweets of rural leisure;
Yet midst the charms that song bestows
Think of the child of sorrow,
Who whelm'd to-night with warfare's woes,
Weeps o'er her lot to-morrow!
Attune the lyre! but let it sound
To every answering dale around
The melody of woe!
For melody and song assail
The frozen heart, when miseries fail
To melt th' infuriate foe:
Sad let it ring! to Nature free!
Unmarr'd by art-trick'd minstrelsy;
For art and nature ill agree
When passion bursting speaks;
While left alone to play her part,
Deep-melting sorrow wrings the heart,
And oft the heart too, breaks!
But when Pleasure's warm sensation
Prompts the mirth-inspiring strain,
Snatch fond Youth! the blest occasion
To light transport up again!
Pleasure's joys may flie to-morrow,
Hail them while they kindling move!
Life was ne'er foredoom'd to sorrow
Cheer'd with melody and love!
Ever changing-ever fleeting,
Life is but an April day,
Smiling — frowning — tempting — cheating!
Hail its sun-beams while they play.
Song and melody can lighten
Loads that bend the drooping soul,
Gild the gloom of fate, and brighten
Regions darkling round the pole;
Cheering with their warm intrusion
ICELAND shivering feels the glow,
LAPLAND, yielding to illusion
Smiles amid eternal snow:
Nor freezing blasts from Alpine height
Can chill the fervent pleasure;
Nor climes where softer charms invite,
Obliterate the measure:
Where'er he roams, bold, calm, or gay,
Re-wake the strain which youth's blithe day
Heard round HELVETIA'S steeps,
Tho' nursed in war — to valour bred,
The soldier gone! — fame-glory fled,
Thinks of his home, and weeps!
O patriot passion! close intwin'd
With friendship warm, and love refined,
Resistless is thy power!
Let wealth with grandeur gild his lot,
The wanderer still sighs for his cot,
His hill and native bower!
And while he sighs, and frequent turns
With ardent mind, and breast that burns,
To scenes no longer near!
Each simple air his mother sung,
Placed on her knee when helpless young,
Still vibrates on his ear!
Strike then the lyre, and raise the song
Attuned to joy or sorrow;
Oh! pour it melting sweet along
The answering banks of Yarrow!
Till shepherds listening, catch the strain
As flocks are careless roaming,
And milk-maids lilt it soft again
At ewe-bughts in the gloaming;
Till love and friendship on the wing
Waft concord to disorder,
And teach e'en Rapine's hordes to sing
"PEACE TO THE TROUBLED BORDER!"
Blest be the song! (a bard, though humble, cries),
That moves by Pity's power th' infuriate breast;
Lures Mercy beaming from her native skies
To soften rage, and shelter the oppress'd;
And guide to Peace, where Concord, warm caress'd
By friendship, tunes in harmony the string
To love and pastime, innocence and rest,
As shepherds pipe, and rural poets sing
Till cliffs reverberate round, and answering vallies ring!
"Smit with the love of song," by bank and stream
The Stripling framed the subject of the lay,
And while the loves and virtues warm'd his theme,
Nor care nor sorrow cross'd his flowery way;
But, when the clang of carnage and affray
Assail'd his ear, his throbbing heart would swell;
For, reft of all by rapine's savage sway,
The houseless wanderer fled from murder's yell,
And shivering roam'd the wild, or weeping skulk'd the dell!
Ah! what could he, who burn'd to yield relief
Without the power to succour, or to save?
But tune the lyre to sympathy and grief,
And sing the virtues of the fall'n and brave!
But weave the partial theme, where pity gave
Unblemish'd valour to the warrior slain;
Or, strew with flowers of praise the lover's grave,
Unbless'd with hallow'd dust, or funeral train,
And chaunt each mournful dirge in sorrow's doleful strain!
Lured by the sounds, sad floating on the gale,
Accordant to the breast of plaintive woe,
The neighb'ring shepherds sought the tuneful vale,
And melting heard compassion's numbers flow;
And as they felt the charm, and wept the blow
Of adverse fate, they loved the lay that shed
Th' embalming dew of praise on those laid low;
For sorrow loves to hear the favourite dead
Receive the look'd for meed that cheers death's gloomy bed!
Listening they caught the melody of song,
While mem'ry held the moral of the lay;
And circling wide the pastoral haunts among,
Love nightly heard what passion framed by day:
For as each songster, save from war's dismay
By secret bank and streamlet mused alone,
Flowing the numbers came; — now sad — now gay,
As warm emotions burst in varied tone
To love's enchanting joys, or grief's lamenting moan.
Spreading, at length they reach'd the banner'd hall
Of plundering chief, and haughty baron bold,
Dead'ning the pangs of guilt in festive brawl
As round in savage mirth intemperance roll'd;
More savage still, the minstrel strains extoll'd
The crimes of midnight deeds and horrors fell!
When thrilling warm through breasts insensate cold,
The moral Muse transfused her magic spell,
Waked the lost mind to thought, and struck the PASTORAL shell!
Sweet is the charm! when round the social board
Pure friendship weaves the myrtle with the vine;
But sweeter still, when o'er each trembling chord
Soft SYMPATHY awaked by strains divine
Steals kindling warm; created to refine,
And light th' expanding soul, released and free
From sordid lusts, and selfish cares that twine
Around th' unfeeling heart, shut out — ah me!
From ev'ry sound of woe, love, mirth, or melody!
Deep rung the lyre! for dismal was the tale
That chronicled the ills of feudal waste!
Wild rose the strain! but soft as summer's gale
Came Pity wafted to the conscious breast;
And while the theme with artless truth impress'd
The wants and woes that spring from warfare's spoil,
It pointed cheering to the path, where blest
With annual plenty, INDUSTRY and TOIL
Smile round their cultured lawns, and rich rewarding soil.
It sung of joys — unknown to carnage dread!
Of charms, that soothing, gild life's frequent gloom;
CONTENT, mild beaming round the peasant's shed,
Comforts that cheer, and prospects that illume;
LABOUR unfretful, yielding to the doom
That mingles worldly ill with heavenly good;
Till resignation, smiling to the tomb,
Sheds mellow'd lustre o'er vicissitude
Soft as mild Cynthia's rays o'er upland, lake, and wood!
It sung of war; — but war unstain'd with crime!
It sung of strife; — but strife with glory crown'd;
Of spoils — but spoils obtained by feats sublime,
SLAVERY o'erwhelm'd — her captured leaders bound;
BANNERS, high waved to victory's gladd'ning sound
Triumphant swell'd to liberty and pride,
As from th' insanguined field, and corse-strew'd ground
(Changing to blood famed BANNOCKBURN! thy tide)
Strode Scotia's patriot sons; — with freedom by their side.
But mournful was the strain, and wailing wild
The sound of Scotia's loss, and Scotia's woe!
When lifeless strew'd, unhonour'd and defiled,
On FLOWDEN'S field she saw her warriors low.
Her "forest flowers" no more in vernal blow!
Dazzling the raptured eye as bright they shed
Their radiance round, to warm with martial glow
Each patriot breast; while waving o'er their head
High tower'd the monarch oak in regal grandeur spread.
Yet, while in sorrow's tone the numbers roll'd,
Plaining and wild to faithless Fortune's frown,
Prophetic struck, the Scottish Muse foretold
Succeeding days of glory and renown,
When link'd in Union, laurell'd wreaths should crown
Her valiant sons, and minstrels of the dale,
And future bards in powerful accents drown
Desponding murmurs, and lamenting wail,
And weave on Flodden-Field a MARMION'S pictured tale.
Rapt in successive visions as they rose,
She sung of deeds conceal'd from mortal eye,
Of heroes, doom'd oppression to oppose,
Bounding o'er waves, to conquer or to die!
"On EGYPT'S shore," she cried, "shall valour, high
Upborne by freedom, guard what freemen prize,
With phalanx firm, and dauntless look defy
Outnumber'd legions, and inclement skies,
Till awed on MAIDA'S plain proud Gallia shrinks and — flies.
"A time will come, when roused by treachery's guile,
An injured land, determined to be free,
Shall turn for aid to Britain's guardian isle,
The fostering home of long-nursed Liberty!—
Swift at the call, IBERIA arm'd, shall see
Congenial bands, by valour waved o'er,
Rush onward as the shout of victory
Rings from VIMEIRA'S heights to Tagus' shore,
While distant vales repeat — BRAGANZA reigns once more!
"Fame to the brave! (she sung in ardent tone!)
Who for their country's safety nobly fall;
Revered tho' lost; 'graved on no mouldering stone,
Their names still live! adored and loved by all:
Unwarp'd by interest, deaf to party brawl,
Aroused by danger, warm'd by valour's flame,
Pure honour glowing, lists but to the call
Of duty's sacred, never-ceasing claim,
Till virtue rears the tomb, and 'graves — a PATRIOT'S name!
"And fame," she cried, "shall sound her clarion long
For those, who, warm'd by truth, the lyre shall string
To peace and concord, wove in deathless song,
As love and friendship sail on downy wing:—
And such shall come! — I see by bank and spring
Deckt in their rosy wreaths, the tuneful train!
My Ednam bard, by Nature woo'd to sing
Her unmark'd beauties in unrivall'd strain;
My moral minstrel bold; my heav'n-taught rustic swain!
"And thee! my pastoral warbler, in whose lays
My airs, revived, shall ring round burn and knowe,
Blithe as the "Gentle Shepherd" piping strays
O'er Pentland's height, or sings in "Habbie's How;"
But chief my songstress! on whose modest brow
I see the tragic muse the chaplet bind,
Fresh as when cull'd from Avon's mulberry bough
And meads bright varied as her Shakespeare's mind,
Th' unfading wreath she wove, and round his temples twined!"
More had she sung; — but mindful of the lot
Of measured life, she droopt, and heaved a sigh,
Condemn'd her pride, and turning to each spot
Where mute one day each tuneful bard would lie
Her sorrows flow'd! — yet while they dimm'd her eye,
Re-cheer'd she saw, bright thro' the gathering gloom,
A favourite's blossom'd grave in vernal dye,
Where new-blown roses, fresh in annual bloom,
Bedeck'd the wintry turf that wrapt her aged HOME.
Touch'd with her praise, and emulous of fame,
(Dear to the heart that owns poetic charms!)
The Shepherds listening, felt ambition's flame,
Guiltless of aught that fires to slaughtering arms:
PEACE lent the glow; — oppress'd with wild alarms,
And stung with crimes that rent the mourner's breast,
Each strove to light the genial flame that warms
To social joy, when love smiles war to rest,
Unbinds the scaring helm, and hides the blood-dyed crest.
And first, to wake COMPASSION, dead
In breasts long torn asunder
With ranc'rous hate, and carnage dread
Mid uproar, rage, and plunder,
They tuned the chord to misery's moan,
A wild, disorder'd, melting tone!
Which grief alone can swell,
And joining numbers, sadly true,
In artless strains described, what few
Skill'd bards can paint so well.
Urged by the Muse, who never speaks
To feeling breasts in vain,
The shepherds touch'd the string that wakes
To Penitence and Pain;
And as the BALLAD lay they sung,
And o'er the lyre impressive hung
With sighs responsive deep;
Each mournful tale resistless drew
The drops of Pity's heavenly dew
From eyes unused to weep!—
Wild rose the Passions free
Bursting in sorrow!
Sad was each melody
Wafted round Yarrow!
Deep, deep! the tragic lay
Fram'd to feud's deadly fray,
Pouring Love's welladay!
O'er murder'd marrow!—
Changed are the notes of cheerless woe,
The strains of sorrow cease;
A softer theme is heard to flow,
The heav'n-tuned song of PEACE!
When Pity moves the ruthless breast,
Like Love's star glittering in the west
Peace gilds the lurid gloom,
A rosy dawn succeeds the night,
A cheering sun beams radiant bright,
All nature breathes perfume!
O Thou! with olive garland crown'd,
Meek shelt'rer of despair!
Sweet SYMPATHY! with robe unbound
And throbbing bosom bare!
How oft, when fury lights the eye,
And dark revenge broods threat'ning nigh,
Thy angel form appears
Gliding amid the dismal gloom,
To lull the storm, and soft illume
With sun-beams glanced thro' tears!
Then springs the soul to raptures new,
Unfelt by murder's slaught'ring crew,
Till touch'd with pity's smart,
Mild MERCY then resumes her tone,
And Friendship smiling on his throne,
Clasps Concord to his heart!
For touch the soul with soft delight
That flows from guiltless pleasure,
Swift, kindred charms with smiles invite
To Love and social leisure;
Compared with strife, new pictures rise
To strike, astonish, and entice
From crimes, that blackening scare!
Till shudd'ring at each horror past,
The ruffian turns to Heaven at last
With penitence and pray'r.
Nor ceas'd the band, till sprightly sweet
The Pastoral strains arose
In cadence brisk, and numbers meet,
Care's murmurs to compose;
Each songster warbling, trill'd the wires
That rung to Pleasure's chaste desires
By streamlet, bank, and grove,
And echoing round the cheerless dome
Of gloomy Discord's hostile home
Breath'd HARMONY and LOVE!
From southern Cheviot's war-stain'd hills
To broom-flower'd Pentland's heights and rills,
No other tales were told
But milk-maids lilting at their pail,
And shepherds piping in the dale,
Or wooing at the fold:
Sweet were the sounds by stream and glade
As pastimes echoed in the shade
While flocks and herds were roaming!
But sweeter still, the trysted hour
When lovers met in secret bower
Or ewe-bughts in the gloaming!
But when they sung how love beguiled
Each dark, ungentle passion;
How Nature woo'd, and sigh'd, and smiled,
And jeer'd in am'rous fashion;
A warmer strain was heard to ring
From every sweet accordant string
To harmonize disorder,
Till far and near the swelling sound
Was heard the answering hills around,
"PEACE TO THE TROUBLED BORDER!"
Moved with the shepherds' artless lays,
War smooth'd his rugged feature;
A softening murmur whisper'd praise,
Waked by the strains of nature;
The youthful warior felt love's flame,
The plund'rer, blushing deep with shame,
Forgot his purpose dire;
And deeper still, the Minstrel crew
Blush'd, conscience struck! — in haste withdrew,
And dropt the BORDER LYRE.
The songsters smiling, raptured saw
The power of nature's sovereign law,
And blest the pastoral strain;
And as they swept with willing hand
The sounding chords, around the land
The Virtues bloom'd again;
And as they bloom'd, they odours shed
Rich o'er the wild, where MERCY led
Her train to social rest,
And PEACE, long doom'd by strife to roam,
Call'd love and friendship to her home,
And nursed them at her breast.
Among the band that softened rage,
Was one, whose skill and reverend age
Attracted notice due;
For, as he struck his Doric lyre,
His sparkling eye shot youthful fire,
As rapt, his numbers flew;
Prepared to sound a warning call
At once to soften and appal
The turbulence of feud,
He tuned his voice to sorrow's wail,
And bending to his mournful tale,
Thus sung in pensive mood.
DORNOCK HA'. A BALLAD.
The night blew cauld thro' snaw and sleet,
Loud rair'd the blast wi' deaf'ning din;
A voice cam' sad, yet mournfu' sweet;
"Unbar the door, and let me in!
"On feckless eild, wi' waes down borne,
Bereft o' hame, friends, kith or kin,
Some pity tak'! — till cheering morn
Unbar the door! — Oh let me in!"
"To feckless eild, or sorrow's mane
My door was aye unbarr'd and free,
Come in auld man! — tho' left alane,
The friends o' pity here ye'll see:
"Come in auld man! our house, tho' sma',
Has aye a nook for want and wae;
There's shelter here frae wind and snaw,
And kindness too, for night and day."
We led him to our cozie nook;
His cheek was wan — his strength was gane!
My GRIZZIE cast saft pity's look,
As frae her heart burst sorrow's mane;
She brought the best things frae her hoard,
The bicker ream'd wi' nappy brown,
And smiles o' kindness round the board
Made welcome's feast gang sweeter down.
Cheer'd wi' my Grizzie's kindly treat,
The carle's heart began to glow;
Our wee-things crap around his seat,
Our ingle bleez'd a canty low;
Aft times he sigh'd, and sometimes smil'd,
Then shook his head as white as snaw;
And aft a thought his peace beguil'd,
Whan down a tear wad trickling fa'!
"Blissfu' the lot!" at length he cries,
"When kindred virtues mingle round;
Unbind the cords that misery ties,
And pour their balm in sorrow's wound!—
"'Twas sae alas! when plenty shed
Her heart'ning joys within my ha';
Ilk strave to mak' the mourner glad,
And dry the tears that grief let fa'!
"The cauldest night snell winter blaws
Could warm the freezing heart o' care;
Skreen'd safe within my sheltering wa's,
Smiles bright'ning brak' through mirk despair;
"The feast, the sang, the tale gae'd round
To cheat the pang that sorrow gae,
And aye wi' cheering, saftening sound
I waked to mirth the minstrel lay!"
"What brak the joys that plenty shed?—
What banish'd safety frae your ha'?—
Was't poortith, aye in sorrow clad,
That sent ye mourning thro' the snaw?"
"It was na poortith wrought the change;
It was na want owrturn'd my ha';
'Twas deadly feud, and black revenge
Sent frail fourscore thro' blast and snaw!
"Ae fearfu' night — (oh! night of fate!)
Loud beat the storm wi' thund'ring thud,
The waters raise, and in a spate
Updash'd in foam the neighb'ring flood;
"A cry o' horror through the blast
Reach'd where my family quak'd wi' fear;
Starting I raise in wilder'd haste,
And frae the wa' upsnatch'd my spear;
"'Oh gang na forth! my MARIAN cried,
As fast she held me to her breast,
The rain has swell'd the raging tide—
Oh gang na forth!' she sigh'd and prest.
"'A horseman rides the roaring flood
Loud cried our warden frae the tower,
He's miss'd the ford at Dornock wood,
Nor horse, nor man, will reach the shore!'
"Fearless I flew whar danger led,
The horse was gane; the rider seen
Struggling for life in death's deep bed,
Dash'd round in Kirtle's whirling linn!—
"Oh! had the life that then remain'd
Sunk in the flood I desp'rate braved,
What ills and waes that since hae pain'd
This bleeding heart had then been saved!
"Senseless and pale we bare him hame;
My HELEN fair, prepared his bed!
We waked ere lang life's smother'd flame;
My Marian kind, band up his head!
"Three weeks we cherish'd in our ha'
This fause Earl's son o' high degree,
The fourth, the traitor stal awa'
A treasure rich, and dear to me!
"The lily pure that decks the vale
Fresh gilt wi' morning's beams and dew,
The rose that blushing scents the gale,
Wi' Helen match'd would tyne their hue!—
"Ah me! e'en now, cheer'd in this nook,
Wi' thae sweet young things round my chair,
Methinks I see her artless look;—
Sae ance she smiled wha — smiles nae mair!"
"O waefu' mourner! — yet disclose
What cam o' Helen stown awa'?"
"Our Warder brought the tale o' woes
Loud echoing thro' my sorrowing ha'—
"Bowne! — bowne! — to horse! I raging cried,
To horse! my gallant friends and true,
Ere night I guess, if swift we ride,
The traitor thief the deed shall rue!
"Lang, lang I sought my darling child,
(The gem was hid in secret bowers.)
At length 'mang glens, and forests wild,
We spied the raver's castled towers:
"'I come to warn ye o' your fate,'
Outspak a herald loud and bauld,
'Nae careless watchmen guard yon gate,
Nae worn-out warriors frail and auld;
"'Full fifty spearmen, stoops o' weir,
Guard round; — their leader bad me say,
Come to your Helen kind and fair,
The bridal feast shall crown the day.'
"Gae, tell your fause and taunting lord
To keep his feasts for them wha crave!—
I cam na here to grace his board,
His life, or her he's stown I'll have!
"His fifty warriors let him guide,
Wi' thirty leil I'll meet him here;
Justice and heaven are on our side,
The base alane hae cause to fear!
"The bugles rang thro' glen and wood;
Our spearmen fought wi' might and main;
I sought fause GUY — he fell in blood;—
My faithfu', valiant friends war slain!"
My Grizzie's colour fled, and came,
Her heaving sighs fast rise, and fa';
"Speak! is na GREGORY your name,
The Baron ance o' DORNOCK HA'?"
"What boots it what I ance possest!
My name, my lineage wherefore tell!—
They've lang lain buried in this breast,
In flames o' fire my family fell!—
"Oh barb'rous deed! to smother life
Guiltless o' harm — to virtue true!—
Inhuman fiends! I brunt nae wife,
Nor blooming babes that round ye grew;
"I cam na at the dead o' night
Wi' fire to flame your ancient ha',
Drive frailty's eild to winter's blight,
And send it mourning thro' the snaw!—
"What boots it what I ance possest!
My birth I've lang conceal'd in shame,
A wand'rer houseless, and distress'd,
Could ill bruik Dornock's baron'd name!"
His streaming griefs my Grizzie sees,
She sprang like light'ning frae her seat,
Cried, while she claspt the mourner's knees,
"Your Helen's daughter's at your feet!"
"My Helen's daughter!" skreech'd he wild,
As sair wi' warring thoughts he strave;—
"Rise — rise! nor mock my helpless eild;—
My Helen's lang syne in her grave!"
"Lang, lang I ken! — and weel I might!
Her death has lang been mourn'd by me;
But maist o' what ye've tauld this night
I've heard upon my mither's knee;
"Aft, aft in sorrow's waefu' mood
When winter's nights blew drifts o' snaw,
She'd tell of Guy's red field o' blood,
And a' the waes o' Dornock Ha'!
"And aft (when driven frae house and hame
By Guy's rough sire, wha nought could move.)
She'd talk o' GREGORY'S ancient fame,
And weep his death in tears o' love!
"Till worn wi' grief and mirk despair
She died! and left her child forlorn,
Till Kenneth's love, and tender care
Dried up the tears that now return:—
"But blest the night that blew the blast
And sent ye wandering thro' the snaw
To find a kindred hame at last
To cheat the waes o' DORNOCK HA'!"
'Twas thus, I ween! in times of old
The Lyric Muse impassion'd told
In simple, varied strain,
Her melting tales to touch the heart
With sympathy, and warm impart
Affliction's woes and pain:
And as she sung her moving theme
By broomy bank, and limpid stream,
The PASSIONS, ever true
To Pity's tones, resumed their sway,
Long check'd by war, and feudal fray,
And strong, and stronger grew;
And as they swell'd, and throbbing beat,
Fond from their rural hid retreat
The Loves came smiling by,
And joining Friendship, hand in hand
Danced raptured round in choral band
To PEACE and HARMONY!
Each softening virtue claim'd a place,
Warm Charity with angel face,
Compassion, heavenly meek!
And Modesty, in blushing traits,
Scarce seen in these new-fashion'd days
To deck youth's virgin cheek!
Blest be the song! and blest the lyre!
That warm the soul with passion's fire,
Again a poet cries;
Lure Peace and Concord, to assuage
With lenient balm infuriate rage,
And Mercy from the skies!
For till they join, by Virtue twined,
DISCORD and WARFARE crush the mind,
While Ruin sweeps along;
Nor LOVE, nor HARMONY divine
Bend, wooing from their radiant shrine
To prompt the poet's song.