SONGS

OF

THE GREY COUNTRY

 

BY

JOAN RUNDALL.

 

 

 

 

LONDON :

THE YEAR BOOK PRESS,

31, MUSEUM STREET.

1916.

 

 

 

 


 

CONTENTS

 

DEDICATION 3

COVENANTER SONGS 4

THE SONG OF THE BROWNIE OF BODESBECK 5

THE GARDEN OF THE DEAD 7

TINKER SONGS 8

THE TINKER'S MARRIAGE SONG 9

THE PLACE WHERE TEARS ARE BORN. 10

FAREWELL, MORÀGH 11

SONGS OF THE MOFFAT WOODS 12

THE BEECH WOOD 13

THE GALLOWS WOOD 14

THE LARCHWOOD 15

SONGS OF THE WAYSIDE 16

ON WINDY WAY 17

HOMEWARD 18

GOLD OF THE KING'S HIGHWAY 19

THE ECHO TOWERS OF THE BORDER 20

SHEPHERD SONGS 21

THE RED LOVER 22

MICHAEL COMES HOME NO MORE 23

THE OLD SHEPHERD 24

SONGS OF THE NORTH SEA 25

THE GRAVE BY THE SEA 26

A BROKEN BRANCH 27

THE BELL 28

GREY STONES 29

GREY STONES 30

ONE LAST SONG. 34

L'ENVOI 35

NOTES. 35

 


 

DEDICATION

 

 

FROM the Land you left behind you,

Where the mountains gird our home

Stray my errant songs to find you—

Will you read them where you roam?

 

Songs of how we fared together

O'er the hills and far away,

Through the glory of the heather

Many a golden Autumn day.

 

Will you read, with eyes a-dreaming

Of the windy woods we knew,

And the grassy uplands gleaming

In the twilight—starred with dew,

 

Till you hear the brown burns brawling

O'er the grey rocks, and the scream

Of the peewit and the calling

Of the hill-wind, through your dream,

 

Till the half-forgotten faces

And the voices that are gone

Call you o'er the desert places

Where you dwell—afar, alone

 

Will my stray songs set the ember

Of your dying dreams aglow,

Help you sometimes to remember

Dreams that faded long ago ?

 


 

COVENANTER SONGS

 

 

 


 

THE SONG OF THE BROWNIE OF BODESBECK

 

STILL are the woods and silent all the vale,

The wan stars fade, the grey hills dream beneath

Where far faint moon-beams glimmer cold and pale

Athwart the dark cave where I wait for death—

Death that is on the dawn-winds' icy breath.

 

Morn is not yet, and all the Lowland plain

Dreams to the sky—a silent soul asleep.

I wake, with eyes that look beyond their pain

Into the stars a last long watch to keep—

A last long watch above a world asleep.

 

How long, how long I watched this Moffat-dale

By foaming Grey Mare's Tail and Blacks-hope Glen,

While Clavers' soldiers rode by hill and vale,

Seeking with bloody sword the weary men

Who worshipped God in yonder hidden glen.

 

How long we trod, as Scotland's men should tread,

By glen and gully through the starless night,

Onward to Thee, by faith for ever led,

Onward to Thee, O God, through well-fought fight,

Bearing Thy Covenant toward the light.

 

So long, so long! and purer blood has flowed

And braver hearts than mine will throb no more—

Stilled for the cause wherein my head was bowed.

And these poor features—stained with their own gore—

Were burnt and tortured till they smiled no more.

 

Changeless the valley lies and o'er the hill

The red dawn wakens, day by day the same

As when it shone o'er bloodstained fields and still,

Dead men who died for God when Clavers' came

God's Covenant " to-day is but a name.

 

Unchanged, unchanged the wild white orchids blow,

Starring the crimson mosses.  As of yore

The blue hills dream, the Moffat waters flow

Where once we prayed beside their reedy shore.

Do they forget the sorrows gone before ?

 

Not so, not so, o'er yonder purple heath,

Where other men shall pass through peaceful years,

Will linger dreams of those who sleep beneath—

Song in the sunshine, in the raincloud—tears,

And, over all, the triumph of their death.

 

Still shine the stars, the Eastern clouds grow pale,

The wan light wakens over all the sky,

A far faint dawnlight glimmers o'er the vale.

I am content—content at last to die,

Where God's dim hills are watching with the sky.

 

 

See Note.


 

THE GARDEN OF THE DEAD

 

I TROD the Lowland hills when twilight grew

To that wan spirit hour of faded sky

Of dreaming wind and slowly falling dew

And sweet faint scent where broken blossoms die.

 

Dim Hartfell, whence the brown burns fling their spray,

Dark Swatfell, watching o'er the Lowland plains,

And haunted Gallows Wood where storm-winds play

Remorseless havoc ere the Winter wanes.

 

Dim hills and haunted woods at Eventide,

I followed where you called through brake and fern,

But shadows wandered, voiceless, at my side,

And shadows met me by the rushy burn.

 

What shades are these who pass me slowly by

And draw me on o'er pathways old and dim ?

The shades of those who sought the hills to die

For Covenanting psalm and honoured hymn.

 

Is Heaven dreamless and the grave a goal,

Which, having won, its victors reck no more

Of all the loved Earth thought that stirred their soul

And raised their heart to ecstasy before ?

 

Is Heaven dreamless, that the strong, proud men,

Who fled Dundee, yet fleeing, still defied,

In death should dream not of the misty glen

Which echoed to their psalm and bred their pride ?

 

Nay, Bodesbeck's Brownie sleeps and Effie's love

Kept tragic tryst in De'il's Tub long ago ;

O'er nameless graves men tread the heath above,

Where greater men lie sleeping far below.

 

They sleep, but still they gaze with yearning eyes,

Across the gateless bars that bound their shore,

Toward the purple hills and faded skies,

And misty woodlands that they loved of yore.

 

Still in the twilit hour, through brake and fern,

They stray where once they prayed and loved and bled,

Dim voiceless shadows by the rushy burn,

Pale blossoms in the Garden of the Dead.

 

See Note.

 


 

TINKER SONGS

 


 

THE TINKER'S MARRIAGE SONG

 

IN the crimson fire of dawnlight I have

  seen thy dark eyes shine

With laughter of the morning, I have seen

  those hands of thine

Stretched up toward the sunrise, adoring

  Gods unknown,

In the red fire of the morning I have claimed

   thee for my own.

Moràgh—my Tinker Lass.

 

In the glory of the mountains I have seen

    thee tramping by

With thy pack upon thy shoulder and thy

    proud head held so high,

I heard thee sing of faery folk and Gods of

    old who rise

To bless thee by the pathway for the laughter

    in thine eyes.

Moràgh—my Tinker Lass.

 

In the grey dusk of the gleaming, alone I

     saw thee stray

By crag and torrent mourning for the passing

     of the day,

Till shadows from the twilight stole and

     called thee by thy name,

And the laughter of thine eyes, lass, flashed

     a greeting when they came.

Moràgh—my Tinker Lass.

 

In the crimson fire of morning thy hands

have sought my own—

No more, no more to wander or worship

Gods unknown.

The dawn of Love is rising, Moràgh, within

     thine eyes,

The dawn that shines, for ever, beyond the

     farthest skies.

Moràgh, my Tinker Lass.

 


 

THE PLACE WHERE TEARS ARE BORN.

(A Song by the Road).

 

COME, lass of mine, the dewy dusk is falling,

The peat-smoke heavenward curls in wreathing spires ;

Homeward, again, our hearts the hills are calling,

Who ask no hearthlight but the clear star fires,

Only the clear star fires.

 

Come, Moràgh lass, the long road lies before us—

The rugged pathway by our footsteps worn

Tramping along with God's clear starlight oer us,

To rest beside the pool where tears are born,

The place where tears are born.

 

Who but a tinker ever came to love them ?

The still dark waters whence, at close of day,

The tears of earth are born and, far above them,

Blow on the breezes o'er the world away,

So far, so far away.

 

There bloom no star-white flowers, no purple heather,

Only the reeds beside the marshy brim,

Unresting, rustle in the wind together

Through dreamless years by waters old and dim,

By waters old and dim.

 

On whirring wings above the silent water

The wild bird hastens in the winter's mom,

For there no echoing gun-shot ever sought her—

Who hunts beside the pool where tears are born ?

The place where tears are born,

 

Only the tinker seeks that place of sorrows,

And dreams beside the waters dark and still

Of sunlit yesterdays and dark tomorrows,

And winter days that creep across the hill,

Of snow upon the hill.

 

Rest, lass, awhile—the weary stars are dying,

Too soon they fade amid the mists of morn—

Dream on, Moràgh, where winds of sleep are sighing

Around the pool where tears of Earth are born,

The place where tears are born.

 

Some day, lass, in the silence of the heather,

We two must meet the night that knows no morn ;

Ah ! Moràgh, might we tread that road together !

Here by the silent pool where tears are born,

The place where tears are born.

 


 

FAREWELL, MORÀGH

 

YOU are dying, will you leave behind you

All the memories of the vanished years,

All the laughter and the foolish tears,

The joy that charmed, the pain that came to blind you ?

 

When I lay your body in the heather

By the sheepfold, will you never hear

My footsteps on the roadway—far or near—

Tramping alone where once we tramped together ?

 

You who loved, in June as in December,

The windy upland and the silent vale,

The ragged pine-wood where the hill winds wail,

O ! can it be that you will not remember ?

 

You always slept with God's clear stars above you,

Dim hills about you and your hand in mine.

Yet you will sleep tonight where no stars shine

And only darkness gathers round to love you.

 

And I shall listen vainly for your laughter,

Or vainly seek the softness of your hair.

O ! Can it be that you will never share

My night of pain and hopeless dawnlight after ?

 

Heart of the hills in June as in December !

O, carry with you to the Silent Land

Dreams of the road we followed hand in hand—

That when I join you we may both remember.

 

Moràgh, I lay your body in the heather

And tramp my lone trail, dreaming of your eyes.

Oh, draw me homeward when the long day dies

That we may tramp the hills of God together.

 


 

SONGS OF THE MOFFAT WOODS

 

 

 


 

THE BEECH WOOD

(A Sacrifice to War.)

 

Too sad for sighs, and far too proud for tears

You fell, great grove, upon the silent hill,

When Red War laid your splendour low and still

Claiming your service in your evening years.

 

Dim dreams of childhood woke beneath your sway,

Laughter of lovers whispered through your leaves,

And gracious sorrow when the old year grieves

At Autumntide was yours until today.

 

Far, far away, you heard the song of strife,

Of mighty tumult e'er your dead leaves fell

Through winter days—each folded in the shell—

Your young buds dreamed of War and shattered life.

 

Pale Spring awoke, with sorrow in her eyes,

To bring you death before your leaves were born.

No more you heard the bird-songs in the morn,

But ringing axes and the woodmen's cries.

 

Too sad for sighs and far too proud for tears,

Great grove, you yielded all your splendid life

To serve your country in her hour of strife

And find fulfilment in your evening years.

 

Moffat.  1915.

 


 

THE GALLOWS WOOD

 

DARK wood, dim wood where shadowy pathways wind

Through dusky brackens up the windy hill,

In summer days thy trees are never still

And winter gales to thee are never kind,

But all day long they murmur as they blow

Of how they laid thy woody summit bare,

Of how they wreaked remorseless havoc there

With shattered tree and many a broken bough.

 

And all day long they whisper thy grim name—

The name a felon left thee long ago,

Who trod his weary path of sin and woe

And died upon thy Gallows-tree of shame.

Still haunts his last prayer on thine errant breeze

With old, dead smiles and half-forgotten fears

And deathless echoes of the dying years

Under the twilight of thy windy trees.

 

Who dreams of faeryland below thy shade

Hath surely seen some faery faces shine

Amid thy golden fern and ragged pine

In twilit hours that all too swiftly fade.

And who has heard the restless winds that blow

Thy boughs—for ever hears them in his sleep,

Blended with voices of the trees that weep

Their sister trees that fell so long ago.

 

Today, new boughs of green are spreading forth

On thy lone summit.  O'er that place of death

New life awakes—O storm wind, guard thy breath

Nor blow too fiercely from the bitter North

That o'er the woodland old, in distant years,

On yonder windy summit—as a crown—

The younger wood may stand and—smiling down—

Bless the old wood and its grim name of tears.

 

See Note.

 


 

THE LARCHWOOD

 

LITTLE green larchwood, where bird-song and wind song

Carol their joy in the dew of the morn,

What would I give for a sight of your beauty,

The flush of your green on the gold of the corn !

Far, far below you a brown burn is singing

Over the rocks in the heart of the glen,

The hills and the heather are shining above you

Blessing the field they have yielded to men.

 

Golden the dawnlight breaks o'er you and pierces

The gloom of your shadow with shimmering bars.

Golden the last rays of dying day linger

Over your boughs that are seeking the stars.

Little green larchwood where wild flowers are blowing,

Where bird-song and wind-song are sweet in the morn,

What would I give for a sight of your beauty.

The flush of your green on the gold of the corn !

 


 

SONGS OF THE WAYSIDE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

ON WINDY WAY

 

ON Windy Way when morning breaks

Across the dreaming sky,

A little drifting wind awakes

To kiss the stars goodbye.

On shining wing the sunbeams pass

Across a world of grey

To steal the jewels from the grass

On Windy Way, on Windy Way.

 

On Windy Way your heart will sing

Through sunlight and through shade,

Where harebells through the heather spring

And fallen brackens fade.

But where the winds of weary years

Through broken branches stray,

Perchance your heart will dream of tears

On Windy Way, on Windy Way.

 

On Windy Way when daylight dies

And shadows fall too soon,

Though tears are shining in your eyes

Yet seek the rising moon.

On silver wing her beam will pass

Across a world of grey

To scatter jewels o'er the grass

On Windy Way, on Windy Way.

 


 

HOMEWARD

 

WILL you come homeward to the Silent Valley ?

Home to the Borderland you used to love,

When winds of Autumn fill the glen with weeping

And grey mist veils the mountain tops above.

Come home, with springing footstep on the pathway

That skirts the shaggy wood and broken wall.

You used to love the pine trees' ragged beauty,

The plaintive sorrow of the curlew's call.

 

Come home, and tell the story of your wandering,

Smile in our eyes and charm away our tears,

Sing us the songs we cannot sing without you,

Waken the echoes of the vanished years.

Will you come homeward to the Silent Valley

Home to the Borderland of clouded skies ?

You used to love our purple hills of sorrow—

Have they no charm now for your Southern eyes ?

 

 


 

GOLD OF THE KING'S HIGHWAY

 

WHEN the young moon wakes on the water,

Where lake reeds rustle and sway,

Come seek, come seek for the treasure—

The Gold of the King's Highway.

 

When heather-winds blow on the hillside

Come, gather the gold of the plain.

Though you rifle the travellers' treasure

Twill bloom by the lake again.

 

Does it fade away in your fingers

And die in the dim dawnlight ?

What matter ! 'Twas gold in the moon-hour

And you were a King—for a night.

 

When the King-cups blow by the water

Where lake-reeds rustle and sway,

Come gather them in the moonlight,

They are Gold of the King's Highway.

 

See Note.


 

THE ECHO TOWERS OF THE BORDER

 

O'ER windy plains of the Lowland

By heathery hill they rise,

The old grey towers of the Border,

The grim grey towers of the Border,

The beacon towers of the Border

Under the windy skies.

 

They stand by the long white roadway,

In fields of daisied grass,

And over the plains they echo

Echo the traveller's greeting,

The greeting cried from the roadway

By travelling men who pass.

 

And still in the twilit gloaming

They dream of the raider bands,

Of marching feet on the roadway

Of flashing spears on the roadway,

Carrying Death by the roadway

Into the Borderlands.

 

The blood-red blaze of the beacons

Burns for a dreaming hour,

While the clash of mortal combat,

The clash of a long-dead combat

Echoes across the silence

Over the Border Tower.

 

Song that is blent with sorrow,

Laughter and battle cry,

Voices born of the Border—

From old grey Towers of the Border

Echo across the Border

Under the windy sky.

 


 

SHEPHERD SONGS

 

 

 

 


 

THE RED LOVER

 

CAN I forget thee, Red Lover of mine,

When the peat fire burns no more

On the empty hearth and the sheeling door

Stands wide and dark, when the dawn-stars shine,

And the grief of a lonely heart is thine ?

Red Lover, Ohone !  Ohone !

 

Thy love is born of the silent fog

And the burning birth of the day,

Of the restless sea far, far away

And the dark still pools of the reedy bog,

The voiceless love in the eyes of a dog,

This is thy love for me.

 

When the cold grey mist comes out of the West

And the wan stars fade in the sky,

Tramping the dark hills—thou and I,

We gather the strayed sheep home to rest,

A dew-drenched lamb in the warmth of my breast.

Red Lover, Horo ! Horo !

 

Far have we followed the path of the wind

Over the purple heather,

Over the hills together.

Under the sun when skies are kind

Into the storm when snow-clouds blind

Red Lover, Horo ! Horo !

 

The love and the laughter have seen their day

And the joys of my youth are o'er,

Death stands in the dusk at the sheeling door

Waving the dreams of youth away,

Only thy love lives on for aye

Red Lover, Ohone ! Ohone !

 

Can I forget thee, Red Lover, of mine?

Nay, to the distant shore

Thy love will follow me ever more,

Afar, afar, when the dawn stars shine

And the grief of a lonely heart is thine,

Red Lover, Ohone!  Ohone!

 

 


 

MICHAEL COMES HOME NO MORE

 

LEAN down, O Mother, to the glowing coal,

The red flames light your dim eyes for a space,

But they will light no more your darkened soul

That yearns in vain for Michael's absent face.

 

He will not come.  Watch not the fast shut door

With longing eyes.  Oh, whisper not his name

With eager lips, for Michael comes no more

Home from the mountains as of old he came.

 

Mother, the winter moon was newly born

When Michael's life-blood stained the virgin snow.

Wrapped in his plaid he fell and, e'er the morn,

The hand of Death had stanched the crimson flow.

 

Now wanes the moon and Michael comes no more.

I dug his grave. Another herds his sheep.

Yet still you watch for him and, by the door,

His old dog mourns with eyes that cannot weep.

 

Ah ! Michael sleeps below the snow to-night—

Gaze not, O Mother, through the frozen pane.

The morn will bring him not to thee. The white

Still stars he loved will shine for him in vain.

 

The clock ticks on.  The dying embers fall.

Lean down, O Mother, to the glowing bars.

Michael will never hear you when you call,

His love is hidden in the cold white stars.

 


 

THE OLD SHEPHERD

 

BESIDE the grey stone dyke he stands—so still—

He seems a statue on the Mountainside

Hewn from the dark rocks scattered o'er the hill.

Weary he bends above his staff.  His wide

Eyes roam the purple heath, the golden fern,

The faded tree that whispers by the burn.

 

The dead leaves rustle down like fallen tears,

A wan light glimmers in the Western skies.

Into the growing dusk the old man peers—

Visions of vanished ages in his eyes—

Dreams of dead youth and words of love that died

By yonder burn some distant eventide.

 

Far in the vale his cottage window gleams,

A wan star wakens where the twilight dies

Amid the faded clouds.  His gathered dreams

Fall from the lonely sorrow of his eyes,

Homeward he turns. The dead, sweet days he knew

Still wand'ring by him through the starry dew.

 


 

SONGS OF THE NORTH SEA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

THE GRAVE BY THE SEA

 

THERE is a grave where I have knelt in prayer

In the North land upon the wild sea shore,

Oft have I wept for those who slumber there,

But now I know that I shall weep no more.

For hearts are light beneath your Southern sky

And little joys will swiftly banish pain,

Yet, pray for me that once before I die

I may stand weeping by that grave again—

That lonely grave where lies the hope of years,

That silent grave beside the great North Sea.

 

There are no blossoms in that place of sleep,

Only the brown weed yielded by the tide,

Only the tall green sand-bents vigil keep

And wailing sea birds wheel their courses wide.

Here, in your Southern garden roses glow,

A thousand birds make music in the trees,

Yet, ah, for one breath of the winds which blow

About that grave beside the great North Seas

That lonely grave where lies the hope of years,

That silent grave beside the great North Sea.

 

 

 


 

A BROKEN BRANCH

 

WIND on the sand and white, wind-driven foam,

Blanching the black rocks in the wan dawn-light.

And still the curling waves draw home, draw home

That which the storm-wind gave them in the night—

A broken branch.

 

Upon the wide wet sand it lay at noon,

Torn from the Pine-wood on the steep hillside,

Stripped of its sweet green beauty, soon, too soon,

Tossed on the gale and yielded to the tide—

A broken branch.

 

Never again to rise !  Ah! broken bough—

Cast by the fierce gale to the hungry main—

Pride of the woodland once, and now, and now

Bird song and wind-song call to you in vain !

A broken branch.

 

Golden the young day when the storm-winds fall,

Black, sodden drift-logs float upon the tide

Commingling with the waves, they call, they call

Little dark pinewood on the far hillside,

Farewell, Farewell."

 


 

THE BELL

 

AH ! cold grey sea that sweeps the lonely shore,

And fills the hollows of the rocks with foam,

What bells are those I hear amid the roar

Of thy great voice ; as sailors, drawing home

Hear oer the water from some steepled tower

Sweet, distant bells ? In this wan twilit hour,

No land bells ring.  The storm has spent its wrath.

Yet still thy grey waves thunder, and the swell

Sweeps up and turns to that which sent it forth.

Lo, as it turns, there tolls a mighty bell

Amid the hollows of thy watery caves

Where pale immortals dwell beneath the waves—

Kings of the sea below the blinding spray

They weep the ships that steer for home no more :

And o'er the crested wave for ever sway

The bells of ocean to the lonely shore—

Tolling a knell across the flying foam

For drowning men who dream in vain of home.

 

 

See Note


 

GREY STONES

 

 


 

GREY STONES

 

DREAM-HAUNTED memories of an outworn world,

Dim tears that fall, unseen, in twilit hours

And far, faint voices from the vanished years

Of old, dead loves that wake at eventide.

Such memories bravely builded still endure

When shrines of youth are falling to decay,

No hand can crush or seize them—they remain

Changeless through changing years as grey stones stand

Deathless, in dying woods by waters old.

 

Some souls there be that suffer instantly

The agony of Life's chastising blow

Upon their heart—suffer with blinding tears,

With hot remorse and anguish of regret

Which, passing swiftly, leave no scar behind,

No kinder tears to fall by lonely fires,

No mellowed grief to haunt an old, sweet dream.

Such spirits weep and soon forget their pain.

Not so the Wanderer—Grief seared his soul.

No sudden pain was his, no swift return

To lighter joy. He strayed across the World,

Seeking a balm to heal his heart—too full

Of woe to find relief in tears—a balm

To soothe his soul and bring forgetfulness

Of all the dead life he would know no more.

He came by long white roadways from the sea,

Through purple mountains in the twilit hour,

With weary feet, to his forgotten home-

The Silent Valley of the Borderland-

High on the hillside e'er the darkness fell

He stood—alone—amid the fading world.

 

Far, far below the Silent Valley lay—

Locked in the hills—serene and sorrowful—

His old loved home, forgotten in glad years,

Now grown most precious to his empty heart.

There, surely, I shall find, at last, he cried,

The balm I seek—erstwhile in vain, in vain—

Goodnight, dark hills, the Silent Valley calls

And I would follow through the growing gloom

Because the mountains are too sad at night

For any restless soul to share their sleep.

Deep in the Valley tears are shed, unseen,

And shadows fall—Blest veil for weary eyes

Which yearn, in vain, toward the troublous sky

Where high above the clouds white stars are born

To sing the songs that I have longed to learn—

World-gladdening music I can never hear

Save in a broken lilt—too far away

For any star-born note to fill my soul

Or still the voice of memory that I dread.

Deep in the Valley by the silent loch

Come weary hearts to pray and there—at last—

I too shall rest upon the reedy shore,

Pouring my pent-up sorrow in the ground,

The ground that bore my boyhood's eager dream.

 

So mused he—stepping homeward through the gloom

O'er rugged pathways down the mountainside.

Fast-falling shadows drew him on apace,

Southward the drifting mist arose and fell—

Wraithlike and joyless on the loch's green shore

Where ripples brimming to the rushy strand

Died with the dying wind amid the reeds.

Sudden—across the sky the full moon gleamed,

The clouds rolled back. The Valley—filled with light

Lay radiant and Danae to the hills.

With dim home-yearning eyes the Wanderer sought

The dark bird-haunted woods he knew of old,

The long green pathway through the dewy fern,

The old familiar landmarks on the road.

How changed, he murmured, by the passing years,

Old trees cut down and young plantations grown

To early beauty.  Houses built anew

And old, loved homesteads fallen to decay.

New fields are claimed from out the heather waste

And new built dykes about new sheepfolds stand.

Only the grey stones by the loch remain—

Unchanged, unchanging—sentinels of Time—

The Watchers of the World, remembering all

And building memory to a structure fair,

Not fleeing from it as I seek to flee,

Nor seeking dumb forgetfulness and void

Far peace that knows no thought of pain.

Grey stones ! he cried, you hold the balm I seek,

Now are my wanderings ended, now I know

Tis memory—not oblivion I need.

This balm I seek—deep in my heart it dwells

Where grievous memories to glorious dreams

Would turn, could I but face them as these stones

Have faced each memory for a thousand years

And woven visions by the waters old.

Deep in the Silent Valley, far away

From all the outworn world where young dreams die,

They stand when Spring irradiates the Earth,

And watch each day pass by on shining wings.

The summer blossoms round them.  They alone

Bloom not nor die.  They have no tears to shed

When flowers fade and swallows fly away

And winter falls.  Unchanging still they stand.

Are they too sad to weep, too old to smile ?

Or does death hold them ever in his grasp ?

Nay, dead men oftimes seem to breathe a sigh

Through pallid lips—These are too still for death.

Theirs is the quietude of memory,

The knowledge that all things on Earth are old,

That each new day which breaks across the world

Is but the counterpart of long-dead days—

Born of dead centuries and dying time.

That every day men love and women bear

With agony new men into the world

To work, to wonder and to pass away—

Leaving no trace behind, no thought, no word

Except a name to linger with a smile

On lips that smile at nought but memory.

Perpetual memory, perpetual stones—

Deep in the Silent Valley still they stand,

Keeping their watch where strong men come to pray

Above the green grave of some dead desire,

Or women, weeping, learn to smile again

And then, courageous, grasp at Life anew

Defiant of the sweeping scythe of Time

Which, having broken, wounds no more the heart

Whose great hours pass away to come no more

Save in the guise of deathless memory

Which stands unchanging as th' unchanging stones—

A monument beside a broken road,

Engraven— I have touched the heights of bliss

And heard the white stars sing—I too have known

One great adventure in a little life.

 

           *         *         *          *

 

Then came the Wanderer down the mountainside

And paused—where moon-winds o'er water strayed—

He saw his broken dreams pass bravely by,

Listened in vain for one beloved voice,

One step that came no more across the grass.

Then built a strange new dream within his heart

Where sorrow dwelt—admitted as a friend—

Where joy and peace were reconciled at last

To share their little sovereignty with pain.

He dared to resurrect that memory

Which he had feared and striven to forget.

He found her—not the sad-eyed ghost of old

But radiant, fair, yet deathless as the stones

Which stand for ever by the misty loch—

Unmoved, unchanging, all consolidate

Symbols of memory, of days that died

Within his arms yet will not pass away

From out his heart which holds them 'gainst the world—

His memory, his stone, his monument,

His fragment of the songs the white stars sing,

The great adventure of his little life.

 

*         *         *          *

 

The moon rode high—the dark rocks darker grew.

Far, far away one friendly window glowed—

Calling him home to warmth of fire and friend,

To well-spread board and laughter of bright eyes.

To-night, he cried, I face my life anew

With shining eyes and swift steps o'er the grass.

For I have realized my inmost soul

And I have grasped my own heart's deepest wound,

Oh, I have dared to look on memory

And, having dared, shall look and look again

Till all that was will rise within my heart—

Dear, glad-eyed ghost !  Dear voice, ah dear, dear eyes

That weep no more but ever watch with me

Through passing years—unchanging and unmoved

As these grey stones that watch the world grow old

Yet still remember her first maidenhood.

Oh! I could sleep to-night amid the hills—

No more, no more are they too sad for me.

Nay, I should hear each song the white stars sing

And join with them in perfect unison

Till dawn-wind whispered to the breaking day.

My crown of sorrow is my crown of life

Drawn from the shadow to the light I pass—

Toward my home.

 


 

ONE LAST SONG.

 

ONE last song when day is dying,

One last tale by twilight told,

See, the leaves are turning gold !

Down the glen the wind is sighing,

Ah ! the year is growing old,

Come away, the light is dying.

 

Come, your footsteps on the heather,

Crush the brackens where they lie,

Heed no more the yearning cry,

Wind and water blend together

In your heart— Goodbye, goodbye !

Darkness hides the dying heather.

 

Come away, the songs are ended,

All the dreams we wove are flown

All the flowers we plucked are blown,

Purple hills in grey mist blended

Wait the winter's icy gown.

Come away, the dreams are ended,

 

Who will gather o'er the heather

Ragged robin, scented fern,

Who will cross the foaming burn

By stepping stones we laid together.

When we dream with hearts that yearn

Far away from hills and heather ?

 

Come away, the day is dying,

Fades the last song with the gold

Of the West.  The tale is told,

Down the glen the winds are sighing,

See, the year is growing old,

Close the book, the light is dying.

 


 

L'ENVOI

 

 

FAREWELL, farewell,

Ah ! faery dream of faery hour,

Ah ! dim Grey Land where Faeries dwell

Still in the heart of every flower,

Still in the windy grasses swell.

Though gathered sorrows dim the West

And veils of dusk the hills enfold,

Grey Land where dreams come home to rest

Thy woof of tears is warped with gold.

Farewell, Grey Land, farewell.

 

 

NOTES.

 

THE BROWNIE OF BODESBECK

In the days of his youth the Brownie was a handsome manwell-known and famous in the Lowland Valleys. Claverhouses men twisted and distorted him with rack and fire, but denied him the death he craved. He sought refuge in the hills that surround the Moffat Valley and hid in a cave whence he emerged under cover of darkness to render services to the farmers in return for food left on the doorstep. For a long while people feared him, taking him for one of the faery folk of the glens, and supposing him to possess evil powers. Slowly he won his way to their hearts till the children would come to his cave and listen to his stories, though they never lost their belief in his supernormal powers. Perhaps they were right. To-day he sleeps in the shadow of the dark hill which bears his name. This is the story as I have gathered it from the people of his own Valley.

 

 

THE GARDEN OF THE DEAD

Deils Tub, or the Devils Beef Tub, was surely designed by God as a stage setting for tragedy. The miniature valley lies black and sunless under the dark hills, where here and there grey boulders and stunted trees break the steep slopes.  Here, by night, came the men of the Covenant, singing their psalms under the friendly stars.

Effie, a farm lassie, made a tryst to meet there her lover, whom the Dundees men were harrying through the glens ; but her secret was betrayed, and she kept her tryst only to see her man shot down before her eyes in Deils Tub.

In those lonely places the shadows of the men who gave their life for their faith have been very real to me.

 

 

THE GALLOWS WOOD

       The Gallow's Wood at Moffat and the hill on which it stands take their name from the Gallows Tree which was once upon its summit.  The tree was blown down in a great storm, and little now remains save the grim name and a shadowy tradition of one felon who climbed the hill to his death, and who now, some say, comes to stand by the gate in the darkness and tread the fatal path he trod long since. I have called him a felon, but I would do him justice. He was only a sheep-stealerprobably a thief hanged by a rascal.

 


GOLD OF THE KING'S HIGHWAY

This is a very old legend which I had from my Highland nurse. King Cups or Marsh Marigolds turn to gold in the light of the young moon.

                Many a beggar, she told me, knows this and pulls the flowers. Then he is rich as the king himself all night. But in the morning the gold is gone.

 

 

                        THE RED LOVER

A sable collie has brown eyes that flash garnet-red in the light. His brown coat is red against the darker brown of the moors when he drives the sheep homeward at set of sun.  It was for this reason that Red Lover came by his name and because of the love which he bore his master-passing the love of any man. When the Shepherd died in the sheeling, the Red Lover did not tarry long before he went away to seek his master on those hills which are beyond our sight

 

 

THE BELLS

The idea of the Bell should not be taken in any mystical sense. It is an actual fact. Others with whom I have spoken have heard the same sound of bells in the rolling of great waters as the waves draw back from the shoreparticularly at night when the Earth sounds are still. It seems as though the waves tolled a knell for the lives they had claimed.

                                                                J. R.