1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Glen-Lynden. A Tale of Teviotdale. [The Emigrants.]

Friendship's Offering: a Literary Album, and Christmas and New Year's Present. For MDCCCXXIX.

Thomas Pringle


Published in 1829: a narrative fragment in 47 Spenserians with an interpolated lyric. Thomas Pringle's account of a Scottish family that emigrates to South Africa is both fictionalized autobiography (the poet, a farmer's son, emigrated to Africa in 1820 and settled at a farm they called Glen-Lynden) and a melange of imitations — of Goldsmith's The Deserted Village, Beattie's The Minstrel, Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night, and Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming. The theme of emigration had been treated in a series of Spenserian poems, many of which imitate The Minstrel. A slightly different version of the poem was published as "The Emigrants" in Poetical Works (1838); some stanzas The stanzas were previously published as "Youthful Love" in Alaric Alexander Watts's Literary Souvenir for 1827.

Author's note: "In explanation of some expressions in the preceding poem, it may be proper, perhaps, to mention, that it was composed in the interior of South Africa, in 1824, while the author was detained at one of the Moravian Missionary settlements, by the effects of a dangerous accident; and that the portion here given is only the first part of a projected poem (not now likely to be resumed), of which the concluding scenes were intended to be laid near the frontier of Cafferland. Six stanzas beginning ''Tis Autumn's pensive noon,' and the lyrical verses near the close, have appeared in print elsewhere; but, as their exclusion would have injured the poem, they have, notwithstanding, been retained. It is almost unnecessary to add, that the incidents introduced are entirely fictitious" p. 35.

New Monthly Magazine: "The best piece in the volume, to our taste, is the Editor's own, entitled Glen-Lynden. It is of that sweet, tranquil, beautiful order of writing, which the public taste did ill to abandon, for a time, for the wishy-washy sentimental, poured forth, like an inundation, the poetry of assumed feeling and affected voluptuousness. This poem, we are informed, is part of a larger one, projected in South Africa, in 1824, and not likely (which we regret) ever to be completed. The tale is simple: The owner of the ruins of Lynden, now a farmer, surrounded by his offspring, and a friendless girl, to whom he has supplied the want of a parent, meets disappointment at home, and emigrates to South Africa. Here the fragment concludes" NS 28 (November 1828) 461-62.

La Belle Assemblee: "Glen-Lynden, a landscape with ruins, designed and engraved in mezzotint by Martin, is a fine bold subject, treated with great breadth and simplicity; but, unexceptionally good as is the execution, we cannot persuade ourselves that mezzotint scrapings can ever be brought to harmonize with engravings in the higher classes of art. The plate is illustrated by a sweet poem from the pen of the editor" S3 8 (November 1828) 193.

Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction: "Powerful as may be the aid which the editor has received from the contributors to the Friendship's Offering, we are bound to distinguish one of his own pieces — Glen Lydnen, a Tale of Teviot-dale, as the sun of the volume. It is in Spenserian verse, and a more graceful composition cannot be found in either of the annuals" 12 (Supplement, 1828) 377.

Headnote in Ladies' Literary Port Folio [Philadelphia]: "The following extract is from a fragment under the above title, in the Friendship's Offering, and is written by Mr. Pringle, the editor of that work. It is of that sweet, tranquil, beautiful order of writing, which the public taste did ill to abandon, for a time, for the wishy-washy sentimental, poured forth, like an inundation — the poetry of assumed feeling and affected voluptuousness" 1 (21 January 1829) 44.

Author's note (1838): "I propose, if I can find time, to complete my original design with regard to the fragment entitled 'Glen-Lynden,' namely, to make it the first part of a Poem to be entitled 'The Emigrants,' and which will comprise two, or perhaps three, parts of a similar length. This, with my juvenile and miscellaneous Poetry, might make a moderate-sized Volume. My African Poetry to make another Volume by itself" p. 99.

W. Davenport Adams: "Thomas Pringle, Scottish poet and miscellaneous writer (b. 1788, d. 1834). The Poetical Works of Pringle were published in 1839, with a Life by Leitch Ritchie. They include African Sketches, Scenes of Teviotdale, Ephemerides, and other poems. See Grant Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland. 'Pringle's poetry,' says a brother poet, 'has great merit. It is distinguished by elegance rather than strength, but he has many forcible passages. The versification is sweet, the style simple and free from all superfluous epithets, and the descriptions are the result of his own observations. His African Sketches, which consist of poetical exhibitions of the scenery, the characteristic habits of animals, and the modes of native life in South Africa, are alone sufficient to entitle him to no mean rank as a poet'" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 498.



Sweet Teviot, by adventurous Leyden sung,
And famed by mighty Scott in deathless lays,
I may not hope, with far less gifted tongue,
Aught higher to advance thy classic praise;
Yet, as a son his pious tribute pays
To the loved mother he has left behind,
I fain some grateful monument would raise,
Which in far foreign lands may call to mind
The scenes that Scottish hearts to their dear country bind.

And, though the last and lowliest of the train
By haunted Teviot smit with love of song,
(Sweet witchery that charms full many a pain!)
I join with venturous voice the minstrel throng:
For NATURE is the nurse to whom belong
Alike the thrush that cheers the broomy dale,
And the proud swan that, on bold pinions strong,
Through the far tracts of ether dares to sail,
And pours 'mid scenes sublime his soul-subduing wail.

No perilous theme I meditate: to me
To soar 'mid clouds and storms hath not been given;
Or through the gates of Dread and Mystery
To gaze — like those dark spirits who have striven
To rend the veil that severs Earth from Heaven:
For I have loved with simple hearts to dwell,
That ne'er to Doubt's forbidden springs were driven
But lived sequestered in life's lowly dell,
And drank the untroubled stream from Inspiration's well.

Such were thy virtuous sons, fair Teviotdale,
While old simplicity was yet in prime;
But now among thy glens the faithful fail,
Forgetful of our sires in olden time:
That grey-haired race is gone — of look sublime,
Calm in demeanour, courteous, and sincere;
Yet stern, when duty called them, as their clime
When it flings off the autumnal foliage sere,
And shakes the shuddering woods with solemn voice severe.

And such were they whose tale I now rehearse—
But not to fashion's minions, who in vain
Would ask amusement from the artless verse
Of one who sings to sooth long hours of pain:
A nameless exile o'er the southern main,
I pour 'mid savage wilds my pensive song;
And if some gentle spirits love the strain,
Enough for me, though midst the louder throng
Few may be found to prize, or listen to it long.

A rustic home in Lynden's pastoral dell
With modest pride a verdant hillock crowned;
Where the bold stream, like dragon from the fell,
Came glittering forth, and, gently gliding round
The broom-clad skirts of that fair spot of ground,
Danced down the vale, in wanton mazes bending;
Till finding, where it reached the meadow's bound,
Romantic Teviot on his bright course wending,
It joined the sounding streams — with his blue waters blending.

Behind, a lofty wood along the steep
Fenced from the chill north-east this quiet glen;
And green hills, gaily sprinkled o'er with sheep,
Spread to the south; while, by the bughting-pen,
Rose the blithe sound of flocks and hounds and men,
At summer dawn and gloaming; of the voice
Of children nutting in the hazelly den,
Sweet mingling with the wind's and water's noise,
Attuned the softened heart with Nature to rejoice.

Upon the upland height a mouldering Tower,
By time and outrage marked with many a scar,
Told of past days of feudal pomp and power
When its proud chieftains ruled the dales afar.
But that was long gone by: and waste and war,
And civil strife more ruthless still than they,
Had quenched the lustre of Glen-Lynden's star—
Which glimmered now, with dim declining ray,
O'er this secluded spot, — sole remnant of their sway.

A grave mild husbandman was Lynden's lord,
Who, smiling o'er these wrecks of grandeur gone,
Had for the plough-share changed the warrior's sword
Which, like his sires, he erst had girded on.
And on his toils relenting Fortune shone,
And blessed his fruitful fields and fleecy store;
And she he loved in youth, and loved alone,
Was his: ah, what could wealth have added more,
Save pride and peevish cares which haunt the rich man's door?

Vain wealth or rank could ne'er have won such love
As that devoted bosom's, — lofty, warm,—
Which, while it blooms below, puts forth above
Celestial shoots secure from earthly harm.
And now his pleasant home and pastoral farm
Are all the world to him: he feels no sting
Of restless passions; but, with grateful arm,
Clasps the twin cherubs around his neck that cling,
Breathing their innocent thoughts like violets in Spring.

Another prattler, too, lisps on his knee,
The orphan daughter of a hapless pair,
Who, voyaging upon the Indian sea,
Met the fierce typhon-blast — and perished there:
But she was left the rustic home to share
Of those who her young mother's friends had been;
And old affection thus enhanced the care
With which those faithful guardians loved to screen
This sweet forsaken flower, in their wild arbours green.

With their twin children dark-eyed Helen grew—
(Arthur and Anna were the kindred twain)—
And she, the engrafted germ, appeared to view
So like a younger sister, that 'twere pain
To think that group should ever part again:
They grew, like three fair roses on one stalk,
In budding beauty yet without a stain:
So the fond parents oft in kindly talk
Would say — nor dreamt how fate their blooming hopes might balk.

But dark calamity comes aye too soon—
And why anticipate its evil day?
Ah, rather let us now in lovely June
O'er look these happy children at their play:
Lo, where they gambol through the garden gay,
Or round the hoary hawthorn dance and sing,
Or, 'neath yon moss-grown cliff, grotesque and grey,
Sit plaiting flowery wreathes in social ring,
And telling wondrous tales of the green Elfin King.

And Elfin lore and ancient Border song
The mother, smiling o'er the eager train,
Would often chaunt in winter evenings long—
And oft they pressed the pleasing task again:
But still she warned them that such tales were vain,
And but the dotage of a darker time;
And urged them better knowledge to attain
While yet their pliant minds were in their prime,
And open for the seed of scripture truth sublime.

Then would she tell — and in far other tone—
Of evil times gone by and evil men—
"When they who worshipped God must meet alone
At midnight, in the cleugh or quaking fen,
In peril and alarm, — for round them then
Were ranging those who hunted for their blood:
Ay! long shall we remember! — In this glen,
From yon grim cavern where the screech-owls brood
Our ancestor was dragged, like outlaw from the wood!

"He died a victim; and his ancient lands,
Held by Glen-Lynden's lords since Bruce's day,
Have passed for ever to the spoiler's hands!"—
—"Hush thee!" the father then would gently say;
"'Twas Heaven's good pleasure we that debt should pay—
Perchance for guilt of those fierce feudal lords,
Who, void of pity, when they shared the prey
Full often in the balance flung their swords,
And wasted orphans' lands with their marauding hordes."

Such was their talk around the evening hearth:
And mildly thus, as the young playmates grew,
They taught them to join trembling with their mirth;
For life is but a pilgrim's passage through
A waste, where springs of joy are faint and few:
Yet, lest this thought their hearts too much o'ercast,
They oft would turn to lightsome themes anew;
For youth's hilarity we must not blast,
But lead it kindly on to wisdom's paths at last.

Fain would I linger 'mong those fairy bowers,
Aloof from manhood's feverish hopes and fears,
Where Innocence among the vernal flowers
Leads young Delight, aye laughing through his tears:
But lo! the cruel spectre Time appears,
Half hid amidst the foliage bright with bloom,
Weaving his ceaseless web of hours and years,
Still onward dyed with deeper hues of gloom—
And Death behind stands darkly — pointing to the tomb!

Ay! Time's harsh hand for youth nor age will stay—
And I must hasten with my lagging strain.
Years steal on years: the locks are wearing grey
On either parent's brow: the youthful train
Have long outgrown their childish pastimes vain:
On Arthur's manly features we may trace
High thought and feeling, checked by anxious pain;
And, in each timid maiden's milder face,
Some shade of pensive care with woman's opening grace.

So young — so innocent — can grief's dark cloud
Thus early o'er their hearts its shadow fling?
Affliction's angel, though he crush the proud,
Might pass the humble with relenting wing!
Yet death has not been here; nor hath the sting
Of baleful passion touched one gentle breast:
Whence then can venomed care and sorrow spring,
In this calm seat of love and pious rest?
And the dear parent twain — why look they so distressed?

Ah! evil days have fallen upon the land:
A storm that brooded long has burst at last;
And friends, like forest trees that closely stand
With roots and branches interwoven fast,
May aid awhile each other in the blast;
But as when giant pines at length give way
The groves below must share the ruin vast,
So men who seemed aloof from Fortune's sway
Fall crushed beneath the shock of loftier than they.

Even so it fared. And dark round Lynden grew
Misfortune's troubles; and foreboding fears,
That rose like distant shadows, nearer drew,
O'ercasting the calm evening of his years:
Yet still amidst the gloom fair hope appears,
A rainbow in the cloud. And, for a space,
Till the horizon closes round, or clears,
Returns our tale the enchanted paths to trace
Where youth's fond visions rise with fair but fleeting grace.

Far up the dale, where Lynden's ruined towers
O'erlooked the valley from the old oak wood,
A lake, blue-gleaming from deep forest bowers,
Spread its fair mirror to the landscape rude:
Oft by the margin of that quiet flood,
And through the groves and hoary ruins round,
Young Arthur loved to roam in lonely mood;
Or, here amid tradition's haunted ground,
Long silent hours to lie in mystic musings drowned.

Bold feats of war, fierce feuds of elder times,
And wilder Elfin legends, — half forgot,
And half preserved in uncouth ballad rhymes,—
Had peopled with romantic tales the spot:
And, here, save bleat of sheep, or simple note
Of shepherd's pipe far on the upland lone,
Or linnet in the bush and lark afloat
Blithe carolling, or stockdove's plaintive moan,
No sound of living thing through the long day was known.

No sound — save, aye, one small brook's tinkling dash
Down the grey mossy cliffs; and, midst the lake,
The quick trout springing oft with gamesome plash;
And wild ducks rustling in the sedgy brake;
And sighing winds that scarce the willows shake;
And hum of bees among the blossomed thyme;
And pittering song of grasshoppers that make
Throughout the glowing meads their mirthful chime:
All rich and soothing sounds of summer's fragrant prime.

Here Arthur loved to roam — a dreaming boy—
Erewhile romantic reveries to frame,
Or read adventurous tales with thrilling joy,
Till his young breast throbbed high with thirst of fame:
But with fair manhood's dawn a softer flame
'Gan mingle with his martial musings high;
And trembling wishes, — which he feared to name,
Yet oft betrayed in many a half-drawn sigh,—
Told that the hidden shaft deep in his heart did lie.

And there were eyes that from long silken lashes
With stolen glance could spy his secret pain,—
Sweet hazel eyes, whose dewy light out-flashed
Like joyous day-spring after summer rain:
And she, the enchantress, loved the youth again
With maiden's first affection, fond and true.
—Ah! youthful love is like the tranquil main
Heaving 'neath smiling skies its bosom blue—
Beautiful as a spirit — calm but fearful too!

And forth they wander, that fair girl and boy,
To roam in gladness through the summer bowers;
Of love they talk not, but love's tender joy
Breathes from their hearts like fragrance from the flowers:
Elysium opens round them; and the hours
Glide on unheeded, till grey Twilight's shade
Wraps in its wizard shroud the ivyed towers,
And fills with mystic shapes the forest glade—
And wakes "thick-coming fancies" in strange guise arrayed.

And oft they linger those lone haunts among,
Though darker fall the shadows of the wood,
And the witch-owl invokes with fitful song
The phantom train of Superstition's brood.
A gentle Star lights up their solitude,
And lends fair hues to all created things;
And dreams alone of beings pure and good
Hover around their hearts with angel wings—
Hearts, like sweet fountains sealed, where silent rapture springs.

I may not here their growing passion paint,
Or their day-dreams of cloudless bliss disclose:
I may not tell how hope deferred grew faint,
When griefs and troubles in far vista rose:
As the woods tremble ere the tempest blows,
How quaked their hearts (misled by treacherous fears)
When that fell nightmare of the soul's repose,
Green Jealousy his snaky crest uprears,
Whose breath of mildew blights the cherished faith of years.

———*———*———*———*———*———

'Tis Autumn's pensive noon: no zephyr's breath
The withered foliage in the woods is shaking;
Their feeble song the mournful birds bequeath
To the sere coverts they are fast forsaking:
And now their last farewell that pair are taking;
For Arthur, bound to Indian climes, must leave
These early haunts. Each silent heart is breaking—
Yet both attempt to hide how much they grieve—
And each, deceived in turn, the other doth deceive.

How can they part? — The lake, the woods, the hills,
Speak to their pensive hearts of early days;
Remembrance woos them from the haunted rills,
And hallows every spot their eye surveys;
Some sweet memorial of their infant plays,
Some tender token of their bashful loves,
Each rock, and tree, and sheltered nook displays:
How can they part? — Nature the crime reproves,
And their commingling souls to milder purpose moves!

For what were life — ah what were weary life,
Without each other, in this world of care?
A voyage through wild seas of storm and strife,
Without an aim for which to struggle there.
But, blessed in wedded bands, how sweet to share
The gladness or the grief that life may bring!
Then join, relenting Love! this gentle pair;
Let worldly hearts to gold and grandeur cling;
Around the lowly cot thy turtles sweetest sing.

Yes! they shall part no more! Those downcast eyes,
And blushes mantling o'er the changeful cheek—
The plighted kiss — the tears — the trembling sighs—
The head upon his arms reclining meek—
Tell far more tenderly than words can speak,
How that devoted heart is all his own!
Oh, Love is eloquent — but language weak
To paint the feelings to pure bosoms known,
When Transport's heavenly wings are sweetly round them thrown!

And now the lake, the hills, the yellow woods,
Are bathed in beauty by the parting ray:
Through earth and air a hallowed rapture broods,
And starting tears confess its mystic sway:
As home they wend, amidst the year's decay,
Some magic spell the hues of Eden throws
O'er every scene that, on their outward way,
Told but of pleasures past and coming woes:
Such the enchanted radiance heart-felt bliss bestows.

Oh Nature! by impassioned hearts alone
Thy genuine charms are felt. The vulgar mind
Sees but the shadow of a Power unknown:
Thy loftier beauties beam not to the blind
And sensual throng, to grovelling hopes resigned:
But they whom high and holy thoughts inspire
Adore thee, in celestial glory shrined,
In that diviner fane where Love's pure fire
Burns bright, and Genius tunes his loud immortal lyre!

———*———*———*———*———*———

Change we once more the strain. The sire has told
The heart-struck group of dark disaster nigh:
Their old paternal home must now be sold,
And that last relic of their ancestry
Resigned to strangers. Long and strenuously
He strove to stem the flood's o'erwhelming mass;
But still some fresh unseen calamity
Burst like a foaming billow — till, alas!
No hope remains that this their sorest grief may pass.

"Yet be not thus dismayed. Our altered lot
He that ordains will brace us to endure.
This changeful world affords no sheltered spot
Where man may count his frail possessions sure.
Our better birthright, noble, precious, pure,
May well console for earthly treasures marred,
Treasures, alas! how vain and insecure,
Where none from rust and robbery can guard:
The wise man looks to heaven alone for his reward."

The Christian father thus. But whither now
Shall the bewildered band their course direct?
What home shall shield that matron's honoured brow,
And those dear pensive maids from wrong protect?
Or cheer them 'mid the world's unkind neglect?
That world to the unfortunate so cold,
While lavish of its smiles and fair respect
Unto the proud, the prosperous, the bold;
Still shunning want and woe; still courting pomp and gold.

Shall they adopt the poor retainer's trade,
And sue for pity from the great and proud?
No! never shall ungenerous souls upbraid
Their conduct in adversity — which bowed
But not debased them. Or, amidst the crowd,
In noisome towns shall they themselves immure,
Their wants, their woes, their weary ways to shroud
In some mean melancholy nook obscure?
No! worthier tasks await, and brighter scenes allure,

A land of climate fair, and fertile soil,
Teeming with milk and wine and waving corn,
Invites from far the venturous Briton's toil:
And thousands, long by fruitless cares foreworn,
Are now across the wide Atlantic borne,
To seek new homes on Afric's southern strand:
Better to launch with them than sink forlorn
To vile dependence in our native land;
Better to fall in God's than man's unfeeling hand!

With hearts resigned they tranquilly prepare
To share the fortunes of that exile train.
And soon, with many a follower, forth they fare—
High hope and courage in their hearts again:
And now, afloat upon the dark-blue main,
They gaze upon the fast-receding shore
With tearful eyes — while thus the ballad strain,
Half-heard amidst the ocean's weltering roar,
Bids farewell to the scenes they ne'er shall visit more:—

"Our native Land, our native Vale,
A long and last adieu!
Farewell to bonny Lynden-dale,
And Cheviot-mountains blue!

"Farewell, ye hills of glorious deeds,
And streams renowned in song;
Farewell, ye blithesome braes and meads
Our hearts have loved so long.

"Farewell, ye broomy elfin knowes,
Where thyme and harebells grow;
Farewell, ye hoary haunted howes,
O'er hung with birk and sloe.

"The battle-mound, the Border-tower,
That Scotia's annals tell;
The martyr's grave, the lover's bower—
To each — to all — farewell!

"Home of our hearts! our fathers' home!
Land of the brave and free
The keel is flashing through the foam
That bears us far from thee.

"We seek a wild and distant shore
Beyond the Atlantic main;
We leave thee to return no more,
Nor view thy cliffs again.

"But may dishonour blight our fame,
And quench our household fires
When we, or ours, forget thy name,
Green Island of our Sires!

"Our native Land — our native Vale—
A long, a last adieu!
Farewell to bonny Lynden-dale,
And Scotland's mountains blue!"

Sweet Teviot, fare thee well. Less gentle themes
Abruptly call me from thy pastoral vale,
To where far Amakosa's woods and streams
Spread faint before me in the moonlight pale,
And from deep wildering dales I hear the wail
Of broken hearts — the mother and the child:
How can I dally with a lover's tale,
In Fiction's bowers — while peals in anguish wild
To heaven the bitter cry of Afric's race reviled?

From Keissi's meads, from Chumi's hoary woods,
Bleak Tarka's dens, and Stormberg's rugged fells,
To where Gariep pours down his sounding floods
Through regions where the hunted Bushman dwells,
That bitter cry wide o'er the desert swells,
And, like a spirit's voice, demands the song
That of these savage haunts the story tells—
A tale of foul oppression, fraud, and wrong,
By Afric's sons endured from Christian Europe long.

Adieu, soft lays, to love and fancy dear:
Let darker themes a sterner verse inspire,
While I attune to strains that tyrants fear
The louder murmurs of the British lyre,—
And from a loftier altar ask the fire
To point the indignant line with heavenly light,
(Though soon again in darkness to expire!)
That I may blast Oppression's cruel might,
By flashing TRUTH'S full blaze on deeds deep hid in night!

[pp. 19-35]