1822 ca.

To Anna.

Poems by James Hyslop ... with a Sketch of his Life, and Notes on his Poems, by the Rev. Peter Mearns.

James Hyslop

Thirteen Spenserians: a sea-going Scottish tutor reflects on what he has left behind: "Oh! that I could recall those early days | When first thy glance did young ambition wake, | When, lingering 'midst the woods and broomie braes, | I studied Tasso's Pastorals for thy sake, | When rustling heath-bells o'er my head would shake." The poem, written during Hyslop's South-American cruise (1821-24) was first published from manuscript in 1887.

Peter Mearns: "This long poetical letter to Miss Barker is descriptive of Mr. Hyslop's voyage to South America, and appears in the MS. book (p. 101). It seems to have been totally unknown to his friends, and it exhibits a good specimen of graphic description. Several expressions in it remind us of 'The Cameronian Dream'" Poems, ed. Mearns (1887) 114.

Peter Mearns: "From several personal friends of Mr. Hyslop I had learned that he had revised some of his early poems two or three years before his death; but it was in conversation with Mrs. Otto ["Anna"], at Sanquhar, that I first learned that he had copied into a book such of his poems as he deemed worthy of preservation. She supposed at that time that the book had been lost by being lent to some one who had not returned it to her; but when she died, six years after my visit, the book was found among her things. It is now in possession of D. Barker, Esq., lately of Arundel House, Dumfries, but now in Australia" (1887) 85.

Lady, could time and distance break the chain
That link'd thy minstrel's heart in youth to thee,
The seal of softest love had come in vain
Across the climates of the south to me.
But 'tis not time, nor distance, nor the sea
Can ever sever from a heart like mine
The thoughts of days we never more can see,
The thoughts of friendship fond and pure as thine,
Warm as the genial suns that brightly o'er me shine.

Thou say'st that I must sing thee many a song
Of all the loveliness of Chilian bowers,
The vineyards, and the sunshine, and the long,
Long endless years of verdure, fruits, and flowers.
This Paradise might waken songs like yours,
Could I but chain my spirit for a while;
But still it wanders to the crags and moors,
Where milder suns in days of summer smile
O'er the green breckan glens of my dear northern isle.

Those who have no remembrances of youth,
Hallowed and sacred for the heart's repose,
Basking amidst the blossoms of the south,
May soon forget the thistle and the rose,
In climes where never-fading beauty glows.
They may forget the land of clouds and rain,
The autumn's yellow woods, the winter's snows,
The gladness when the spring comes back again,
And summer's sunny days wi' daisies deck the plain.

But 'tis not thus with wanderers who have drank
In youth, like me, the spirit of the wood,
In dreams of love beside the hazel bank,
Listening the voice of mountain solitude,
The rustling of the green branch o'er the flood,
The blue hawk's scream, 'midst cliffs of hoary gray,
The lark's blythe song far in the moorland cloud,
Breaking the silence of the Sabbath-day:—
Oh! these are dreams of youth that never can decay.

Oh! that I could recall those early days
When first thy glance did young ambition wake,
When, lingering 'midst the woods and broomie braes,
I studied Tasso's Pastorals for thy sake,
When rustling heath-bells o'er my head would shake,
And white flocks fed around me in the sun,
When stealing softly thro' the leafy brake,
Came thy light footstep when the day was done,
To share sweet moonlight walks with me and me alone.

These were sweet days, my dear one! but they're past:
They owe thee much — more than can be repaid.
Over my life a brightness they have cast,
Which but for thee had wither'd in the shade.
Thou wast my patroness, when some assayed
To check my roving spirit in its birth.
Thy favour made it soar above their aid,
And, like the winds of heaven, burst freely forth
To revel 'midst the blooms and brightness of the earth.

How spirit-stirring to the heart of youth
To change green pastures, flocks, and flowers, and bees,
For the arm'd frigate destined for the south!
To see her broad sails first spread to the breeze!
To see green England's corn-fields, and its trees,
Like the last glimpse of sunset, fade away!—
The first encircling grandeur of the seas,
When waves are white with storm in Biscay's Bay,
The distant coast of France gilt with the sunny ray!

To see its vineyards vanish from the glance,
Like clouds behind the waters of the main;
And think of the sad look sweet Mary once
Cast on that land she never saw again!
To see afar the hills of vine-clad Spain,
And think of all its knights and dames of yore,
Its tales of chivalry, its fields of slain,
And the brave warriors sleeping on its shore,
Corunna's bloody plain, the death-devoted Moore!

And oh! how bright and beautiful to him
Whose youth was passed 'midst crags and moorlands gray,
To see Madeira's blue isle rising dim,
Amidst the mist and dews of breaking day!
View'd from the distant sea in twilight ray,
How bleak it seem'd, of brown and barren hue;
But as it, brightening in the sunshine, lay,
What glad creations rose upon the view,
White cottages, green glens, and cliffs and peaks of blue!

Like chalk-rocks scatter'd at the mountain's base
Funchal's white walls were thro' the darkness seen,
But dazzling and distinct in morning's rays
Rose foreign casements mix'd with orchards green;
And to the youth of Melrose who has been
Bewitch'd with northern minstrel's wizard spell,
It is a sweet and thrilling sound, I ween,
To hear the first notes of the convent bell,
And listen beauty's hymn in sacred, hallow'd cell.

'Tis like the renovation of that age
When Scotland's glens had many a cloister gray,
And knights and ladies, fam'd in classic page,
Join'd at the vesper-bell to chant and pray.
One's heart would sigh to think of the decay
Of all those temples hallow'd now by time;
But that their fall from Scotland chas'd away
Those dreary days of darkness, blood, and crime,
Whose gloom is lingering still on many a foreign clime.

Yet aye Madeira, beautiful green isle!
Reverting memory loves to dwell on thee:
I'll ne'er forget the soft and sunny smile
With which thou gavest me welcome from the sea;
Nor that delicious thrill of novelty
With which I first set foot on foreign earth,
That dream of lands far lovelier still to be,
Far in the south, that fancy pictur'd forth,
Blent with remembrance dear from islands in the north.

The Sabbath morning ride, how calm and sweet!
Up to our Lady's Convent on the hill,
Half-hid amidst the fruit trees, 'neath our feet
The ocean's glassy waters calm and still,
The vineyard's creeping clusters, that distil,
Amidst brown sunny rocks, the bursting wine,
The schoolboys gathering peaches at their will,
Apples whose red cheeks thro' the green leaves shine,
And fruits from Grecian isles of beverage divine.

Lady, farewell! for mine is not the lyre,
Nor mine the studious minstrel's polish'd art
That thro' long melodies sustains its fire,
Pouring a flood of sweetness on the heart.
But tho' Madeira's sunshine now depart,
The bright dream broke by waters wide and blue,
Some calmer, happier hour, I will revert
To songs of home, of happiness, and you:
The storm is waxing loud — thou lovely one, adieu!

[pp. 177-80]