David Herschell Edwards.

One hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) online

. (page 9 of 29)
Online LibraryDavid Herschell EdwardsOne hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 29)
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When liK'ht the longest lies on this dark land of ours :

When redolent of glee

Are earth and air and sea,
And all Creation's force expands itself in Howers.

It was that season fair :

Behiild, with pondering air,
Two foresters regard the lonesome upland glen —

Hearts without guile or fear,

The guardians of the deer
'Gainst hurt from stealthy act of lawless graceless men.

Silent they sat, and eyed

Tombuie's sallow side,
And scanned the Corrie's rocks, in many a splinter thrown :

When sudden, in surprise,

One to the other cries : —
" What, what is that I see, beside yon great grey stone ! "

'Twas a mere strip of rag

That fluttered like a flag,
As, with unwonted swirl, there blew a passing breeze.

But whence came human dress

Amidst that loneliness ?
None cast away their garb amidst such wilds as these.

With lingering steps and slow,

To the great stone they go ;
Oppressed with anxious thought, — for well their souls divined

That, though the granite bore

All peaceful as of yore
Its front to face tlie light, dark mystery hid behind.

They looked : and there they viewed

A sight to chill the blood.
Stretched flat upon its back beside that great grey stone,

A woman s bodj- lay, —

Part with'ring in decay.
Part wasted of its flesh down to the naked bone.

Her clothes about her spread

Torn rags. Upon her head
The jetty silken hair was defty coiled and tied.

One small white tender hand

Was raised, as in command,
Pure from all taint or spot as if she ne'er had died.

But on that hand no ring.

Nor found they anything
That might her name, or rank, or aught of her declai'e ;

And naught of her is known :

Besitle the great grey stone
She died. It thus befell about her coming there : —



EARL OF SOUTHESK. 113

Beyond the heiglits that rise

Above Glen Clova, lies
A neighbouring mountain glen where Prosen's waters roam ;

Far up the river stood

A worthy man's abode, —
A humble place, yet blest, a peaceful Scottish home.

One early Ap-ril noon.

When sunshine brought its boon
To trick the hopeful hearts of those expecting Spring,

A woman stopped before

That quiet cottage door,
And craved to rest a while from weary wandering.

Noble her countenance,

Although the troubled glance
Of her dark eyes bespake her spirit much distraught ;

Tall, stately, cold, and proud,

Her presence disallowed
The poorness of her dress, in plain town-fashion wrought.

Kight welcome was she made.

Boon on the board was laid
The best of fare — milk, cakes, heath-honey sweetly strong.

She stayed but little space ;

Then with a haughty grace,
She i"ose, and said, — " Farewell. Steep is my path and long :

" It lies o'er yonder hill."

Said the good-wife, — " It's ill
At any time to cross, unless the road is known.

I wish that you would stay.

Pray do not go away
Till my good-man retui-ns — you must not go alone.

" Oh ! woman, do not go :

The clouds are full of snow ■' —
In vain she spoke to one who scorned to make reply ;

The wanderer went forth

To brave the bitter Xortli,
The majesty of doom resplendent in her eye.

Forth up the glen she went ;

Her aim, or vague intent,
No mortal tongue hath told, and none will ever tell ;

Perchance she went to seek —

Beyond the mountains bleak
And o'er the Isla's stream— .some lost one loved too well.

Still onward does she keep.

She climbs Drumfulla's steep,
And panting gains the ridge ; but as she left the lee,

Aidund her tempests broke.

While, like a cloud of smoke,
The mist came rolling up from cragged Corrie Fee.



114 MODERN SCOTTISH 1-OKTS.

No thmiffht lia,* she to turn :

The fever-flames that burn
In her bewildered brain a maddening imiiulse send

Throu^rh all her frame. She speeds

Impetuous on, nor heeds
Or risk, or pain, or toil, so she but reach her end.

More thic;kthejmist-clouds rise,

Obscuring earth and skies.
Alas I poor wandeier, most sorely dost thou lack

A strong and friendly hand,

To help thee to withstand
The fury of the blast, and keep thee to the track.

She struggles on and on.

The last faint light is gone :
Full in her tender face come blinding clouds of sleet :

Stunned, stupified, and dazed.

Her whole perception mazed.
No more can she control the strayings of her feet ;

And — ever making press

Against the tempest's stress,
Instinctively impelled by stubbornness of pride. —

She quits the narrow path.

And staggers straight for death,
Nearing the awful rocks that bound Craig llennet's side.

Not yet her hour has tolled —

Some secret voice cries, Hold I
And guides her faltering steps along the Uounatfs height,

Above the great rock-rifts.

To where Craig Mawd uplifts
His scarped, tremendous form — black as the shades of night.

Hark to that piercing shriek I

The eagle's ravening beak
Throws to the gale that cry : wild screams his answering mate.

Smitten with sudden fears,

The wanderer flees : she nears
Fialzioch's splash and glide o'er the smooth walls of slate.

Safely she passes : then

Descends unto the den
Where lawless men of old would oft in secret dwell :

There, plunging o'er the steep.

White- Water shapes his leap
Like to Death's courser's tail emergent from black Hell.

She feels her strength abate.

And now, to ease the weight
That clogs her tender limbs, their covering off she throws :

Then— by some mystic force

Impelled to kee]i her course.
And aided with new prnvers-— barefooted on she gugh

And chuckled in his play;
Above the distant mountain's brow

A golden glory lay.

The fir-tree breathed its balsam balm.
With heather scents united,

The liappy skies were Inished in calm -
Ami so the troth was plighted.



EARL OF SOUTHESK. 119

N O V E M B E R ' S C! A D E N C E .

The bees about the Linden-tree,
W}ien blithely summer blof)nis were springing',
Wdiilil hum a heartsome melody,
'I'he simjjle baby-soul of singing :
And thus my spirit sang to me
When youth its wanton way was winging ;
" Be glad, be sad — thou hast the choice —
But mingle music with thy voice."

The linnets on the Linden-tree,
Among the leaves in autumn dying,
Are making gentle melody,
xV«mild, mysterious, mournful sighing :
And thus my spirit sings to me
While years are flying, flying, flying ;
" Be sad, be sad — thou hast no choice—
But mourn with music in thy voice."

"Resides liis published works, Lord Soutliesk has
printed several small volumes for private circulatiou.
Willi the author's consent, we have already given
a specimen from one of these (Various Verses,"
printed 1879), and we shall now conclude with
another extract fi-omthe same collection, a little poem
of which an incomplete version a])peared in " Cxreen-
wood's Farewell."

HIDDEN NOT ,S T O L lO N.

Dearest, Death could have no terror

Either for myself or you.

Save for this our simple error,

That his coming parts us two.

Whether you or I be taken,

Wherefore should the other sigh ?

One ^blind-folded, not for.saken ;

One — unseen, but not less nigh.

True-loving souls each other close enfold.

For aye, 'mid earthly gray or heavenly gold.

As the bud that blooms to petal,

iilossoni souls in heaven above :

Hut, as magnet draws the metal.

Love will draw its fellow-Iovo ;

Even so when sense is shroudi'd,

'i'ombed in trance or slumljor's night.

Soul draws sold in realms unclo'ided.

Loving tliete in limpid light.

Our faitliful souls no destiny shall sever.

For fast they cling, at last to join for ever.



120 MODERN SCOTTISH I'OETS.

The Earl of Soiithesk will be remembered as a man
of beautiful and gentle spirit, full of tenderness, and
singularly imbued both with sweetness and light.
Familiar with every aspect of Nature, he sees in her
the expression of that love which is infinite as it is
divine ; and while reverence, purity, and affection
breatlies around the mild and eloquent poet, he gives
expression to his feelings in golden utterances. That
he has also deeply studied human nature is distinctly
shown in ''Jonas Fisher," especially where he so
graphieall}' describes the scenes common to the low
slums of a great city. In the words of one of his
reviewers, he is entitled to be called not only " a poet
among lords, but a lord among poets."




.\rAKY GKANT. 121



MARY GRANT



O S a native of Fraserburgli, but in lier babyliood
^j her parents removed to Aberdeen. On her
father's side she is descended from a family of the
ohl Scotch nobility ; while her maternal grandfather
belonged to an Italian family of respectability and
good standing. She received an education fitting
her to become a governess, and it was while wait-
ing for a situation, after leaving school, that she
began to write tales and poems.

In her preface to her "Lays of the Affections,"
she writes: — "With lessons and needle-wort, yet in
their schoolroom freshness ; living away in the cold,
breezy north, waiting hopefully, _yet wearily, for the
teacher's place so often promised me, but never ob-
tained for me, I drifted into authorship. At first I
had no other aim than merely to while away those
melancholy days till that teacher's place should
come. P)}' and bye when I wrote a column for a
newspaper and got praised and paid for it, and when
a little story appeared, (anonymously) here and there,
even though there were long intervals between, and
the remuneration was slender, thoughts of following
the whims of naughty pupils l)ecame very distasteful
to me, and I ceased to regret what appeared the care-
lessness and heartlessness of interested friends. If I
am spared, I intend to issue my tales, essays, and
poems, in successive volumes." For the past ten
years she has contributed poems, tales, essays, and
dramas to the magazines and ne\\sj)upers. Although
she has experienced a few of the difficulties common
to a young and struggling author, she has always
had the comfort and protection of the parental roof,
and has never endured tliose extronu^s of poverty
peculiar to many of her vocation.

In 1871 she published her first literary produc-
tion, "Eva, and other Poems" — the leading piece



122 \1(ii)i:i;n scoriisii i-okts.

being- ti dramatic [)



Online LibraryDavid Herschell EdwardsOne hundred modern Scottish poets : with biographical and critical notices (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 29)