John Alexander Ferguson.

On Vimy Ridge and other poems online

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And Other Poems



On Vimy Ridge

And other Poems

On Vimy Ridge

And Other Poems


John Ferguson

London and Glasgow

Gowans and Gray, Ltd.



F. S. Jarvis



I. — On Vimy 'Ridge and Other Poems

On Vimy Ridge


1 1

Song - _ _ -



Callander - -



To Burns - - -



Beauty - - - -



"Missing" - _ -



Evil . - - .



The Lion Rampant -



Miles, Comes - - -



St. Augustine of Hippo -



Delirium _ - _



To Joan - ~ - -



A Songless Bird



//. — Criticism

The Inebriated Stockbroker



The Rationalist



The Optimist - - -



Curiosity _ _ -



What the Tinker asked the
Professor - - - - 31


///. — What the Tailor said about the
What the Tailor said about

the Provost - - ' - Z5

IF. — A Last Thought

A Last Thought - - . ^j


On Vimy Ridge

On Vimy Ridge

April, 1917

Oh, Angus Cameron, my lad,

Is't lying there you are so still,

You who had left the Rannoch moor and

wander'd far !
How young you are,
You of the restless heart that Rannoch could

not fill !

Oh, Angus Cameron, my lad.

The drums and pipes will call no more.

Nor guns shall waken you at dawn on Vimy

Ridge, ...
And Rannoch Bridge
Shall know you not again, nor yet the green

Craig Vhor.



To the high green hills of Moidart
I went with my love one morn.

Oh, my love that lov'd me truly,
That time when May is born !

He lighted a fire of brown heather

For the good of his young white sheep ;

And I lighted a fire of brown heather
For his heart that I would keep.

On the high, high hills of Moidart
We watch'd the clouds sail by

On the blue and deep sea-waters,
To the far-off hills in Skye.

I watch the hills of Moidart,

I watch them through the years;

And I watch the deep sea-waters,
And I see them through my tears.

Note. — The first of May was, in the Celtic calendar, the first
day of summer. A little heather, sop seilbhe, burned
on that day brought good fortune to a herdsman,
and also, in the case of a prospective tenant, ensured
possession at the following Whitsuntide.



Old Callander's a sleepy place,
Where old men sit about and doze,
And old dogs lie with paws together.
And dream away the sunny weather.
And wait for the long day's close.

Old Callander has one old bridge ;

The river, it goes quiet below

Till past the grey old stones near by.

Where all the grey old people lie ;

And the wind moves the grass to and fro.

And down the waters, by a wood

Of young green oaks that make a glade,

There is a shadow-haunted pool.

And shouting boys go there from school,

And bathe in the green-lit shade.

And with deep breathings they will run
Along the wood, with joyous screams,
Half-frighten'd by the murmuring bees,
Young naked boys among green trees ;
And the old men will stir in their dreams.

Old Callander's a sleepy place.
The quiet river, it runs slow
Till past the grey old stones near by.
Where all the old grey people lie.
And a boy that was drown'd, long ago.


To Burns

Oh, you that are too great for me to praise.
Being almost too great but to adore.

Do you know why it is that in our days
There is no singing any more ?

So tir'd must be your ear of all the throng
Who praise in you that which in you
was least,

And little echoes of your once-new song,
Pale echoes that have never ceas'd.

Oh, you that for a poor dead poet's praise
Did build his tomb from your own
meagre store,

How you must sorrow for our silent days !
There is no singing any more.

Perhaps before a Scottish muse can bring
A new authentic song for our new days.

Perhaps she must forget you ere she sing,
Oh, you that are too great for me to
praise !



Beyond dark hills

The sunset pales to amethyst and rose,

The shadows deepen and the trees grow dim ;

With lonely hymn

One late bird thrills

The hushed silence of the long day's lovely

From the green sods.

From curled fern and the brown earth arise
Odours of evening, and the evening star
Broodeth afar. . . .
No need of gods
With archaic attributes for me : the nights

It is enough

That I discern the Beauty in fair things,
The Sacraments of sight and scent and sound;
So they be found,
They are enough :
The splendour of His robe, the quiver of

His wings.


" Missing


If I but knew the place he's laid,

It's not so much I would be minding ;

I'd know him wrapp'd in his green plaid.
Although, maybe, beyond my finding.

When he was small he'd often go

Amissing from the house till darkening.

And still I'd work away, although

For him I would be always hearkening.

Aye, once when he was smaller still.
And I not us'd to find him missing,

I found him crying on a hill,

Found him unmindful theti of kissing.

It's not so sore I'd find the cost.

It's not so much I'd mind him falling, . . ,
It's thinking him a small boy lost,

And on his mother calling, calling !


When Adam delv'd and young Eve span
The shining masses of her hair
Around her shoulder to her knees,
There was a gentleman.
He stood among the trees, and watch'd from

He saw her yellow head down bent.
Her moving arms, her body's grace,
Her red young mouth. The innocent
Hid face, he guess'd at will . . .
In the high south the startled sun stood

He stood among the trees unseen,
And nothing stirr'd. His jewell'd eyes
Beneath the apple-leaves were green
And small, exceeding wise. . . .
O'erhead a bird there was that made low


The Lion Rampant

The Lion on the yellow field is red.
In this her hour Scotland remembereth.
" The Lion is not dead. My sons," she saith,
"Almost we had become unspirited.
Now give me men. Once more shall they

be led
Where Freedom bleedeth and Triumphant

Boasteth itself afar." With eyes aflame
The Lion leadeth on, rampant and red.

The Scarlet Lion on the field of gold

Is red with wounds ; and icy-finger 'd

His blacken'd banner flourisheth on high.
Hush ! We had known content, been blind,

grown cold.
Ah, sons afar, Scotland remembereth !
While Scotland lives her dead sons cannot



Miles, Comes

Gheluvelt, April 22nd, 191 5

The April lark is singing overhead,
The stricken trees stand sentry on the way,
As side by side we tramp behind the dead,
As side by side we leave the Menin way.
Above the rattle of the cart there come
No wailing clarinet, no deep bassoon,
No clangour of the brass, no sobbing drum
Proclaiming Death. — Dear lad, how soon !
How soon the glory and the grace must

From life, brief life that's fashioned of

grass !
Along the dusty highway see us go,
With two sick horse to draw the carriage

A score of ragged men, with rhythmic

To that dark pit prepar'd for him ahead.


St. Augustine of Hippo

*• Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, O my God."

— Confessions.

Oh, brave, strong soul, who drov'st thy

way to Christ
So fiercely, trampling down thy heart*s

So sweet ; who for the Sacred Blood un-

Didst even try to quench the blistering fires
That glow'd, aye, red like hell and white like

Has yet thy heart found rest ? Is victory

won ?
Or dost thou think of Carthage in the sun.
Of Carthage and a girl, though both are

dust ?

Thou walkest on the sea of mingled glass

and fire,
Which is the symbol of man's still'd desire.
Yet is there never moment when thy song

is mute.
And thy pale hand uprais'd to strike the

golden lute
Falters, and memory brings back the

vanish'd years,
And Carthage, and a child who went from

thee with tears ?


Dearest, your dark eyes bending o'er
me . . .

Tremulous with unshed tears . . .
Silver stars in the gloom before me . . .

Lights for this place of fears . . .

Dearest, your low voice whispering by
me . . .

One faint flute on a lonely plain . . ,
Cool and sweet it cometh to me . . .

Night in summer after rain . . .

Dearest, your shadowy face, that gleaming
White flower set in your dusky hair . . .

Ah^ God, my sweet, I have long been dreaming
Of red wounds seen in a roc^ef s Jiare !

To Joan

Since first I saw you in the Pleiades,
Standing amid the snow and tall dark trees,
So many times you've chang'd, so many

From maid to bride, from dancing-girl to

Who could have told how mutable you

But for your red hair, flaming like a star !


A Songless Bird

Folkestone. May, 1917

Blue the sky and the day long.

High, so high !

Pois'd in the shimmering sky.

Upon the unheeding town

The little lark, he raincth down


Blue the sky and the day long.

High, so high!

Pois'd on outspread wing

There is a Thing, it doth not sing.

It cannot sing : it hath no breath.

Upon the unheeding town

It raineth down —

Death ! !



The Inebriated Stockbroker

If I knew why a blackbird sings,
I'd cease to think of bulls and bears ;
I'd go and make tobacco rings
Instead of points in stocks and shares.

I'd leave the City and its mines,
Its trunks and oils and rubber field,
Its wheat and rails and Argentines,
And know my own cow's monthly yield.

I'd go and dabble in the dews,
And rise to see the gilt-edg'd morn,
And watch the young lambs with the ewes,
And watch the south wind sway the corn.

I'd cease to dream of things deferr'd,
The ups and downs I would forget ;
I'd know the things to be preferr'd
Were gillyflowers and mignonette.

I'd know, at least, where hope abides ;
Would find, at least, the peace it brings;
And see at last where joy resides.
If I knew why a blackbird sings.

The Rationalist

I HEARD a fat man in the Park

In high crusade against men's faith

In God. He ask'd them now to mark

A certain foolish text which saith

The heirs of earth shall be the meek.

He laugh'd at this, since Science shows

That they survive who have a beak,

And strength, and teeth, and steel-clad toes.

He'd ask which side would hearers back
In any sheep v. tiger scrap ?

Who would lay money on the sheep
And not think any odds too steep ?

Why did not men use commonsense.
And consult their experience?

The people laugh'd and cheer'd at that.
He mopp'd his purple face, and hat,
Passing a hand through his wild hair.
And at the ceasing of his voice.
Or startled by the people's noise.
Some grazing sheep look'd up to stare . . ,
I saw no tigers anywhere.


The Optimist

For miles around the parish steeple

The curate he goes in and out,

And up and down and round about

The houses of the working-people;

He listens to their newest bickers,

Smiles wanly to the merry fire.

And hopes they'll come to hear The Vicar's

Impromptu thoughts on Jeremiah.



It *s just a younger kind of Hope,
And both are antidotes to Care,
No more.

If you lose either you will mope.
Or sit, like father, in a chair,
And snore.


What the Tinker asked
the Professor

I MET an old man once, up by Loch Aylort,
And ask'd him could I walk, or would he sit
Upon the heather. He said that he would

I found he was a very learned sort
Of man. He had a good face, and a bit
Of feather, which he twiddled in his hand.
I ask'd him was he rich. He shook his head,
And told me he belong'd to Glasgow College.
This was a famous place for knowledge.
Or so he said.

Then he began to talk of different things.
Like aqueducts and vertigo and etiquette
And cheese and mosses, shells and kings
And Space ; and lots more I forget.
And bees he knew about, spavin and Turks,
And falling stars and trees and jet,
And why the sea is blue, and how it works.
And all about the insides of great whales
He knew ; and pictures in Japan.
He was a learned man ! His tales
Went back to where the world began.
Indeed you'd swear he had been there.
Or near at hand, where he'd a view.
But when I ask'd him if he knew
Himself at all, he shook his head ;
The little feather dropp'd like lead.

c 31

" Some things," he answered very slow,
" About myself I know ; myself
I do not know." . . .

Like that . . . just mild.
I lifted up my load of dclf
And stuck his feather in my hat.
And left him crying like a child.



W^hat the Tailor said about

the Provost

What the Tailor said about
the Provost

The Provost should be hauden doon.
(It's weel kenn'd this tae a' the toon,

I needna' say.)
At kirk and council and at hame
It's him tae blame,

Whatever gangs astray.

The Provost is a gomm'ril loon ;
Sae weel its kenn'd tae a' the toon

Ye'd wunner whac
Gae him poseetion, and control,
(Sae hard tae thole,)

C things in Auchenblae.

That weskit, it needs takin' in ;
I doot your gettin' rayther thin.

(Puff oot your chest!)
Ye see the Provost's but a grocer,
And has nae style, for which ye know, sir,
A tailor's best.

Dod, as ye say, I'd had him oot

Ere this. C that there's nae misdoot.

He canna' fecht.
It's no' I bear him ony rancour,
Altho' the mannie's jist a canker.

And I have wecht.


Except when he's upo' the spree
He's no' that bad in committee,

I sometimes think.
Elsewhere, the man's no' worth a docken,
There's no' a rule he hasna' broken.

Without a wink.

Od aye, but for them Burns's suppers
(It's them puts me upon ma uppers),

I'd fill the chair.
The twenty-fifth, ye understand,
The Provost then ! Ech man, he's grand!

(I manna' swear.)

Some fauts the Provost hiz acknowledg'd ;
And tho' some great men ne'er were colleg'd,

Yet still, ye see,
I baud that, as a gen'ral rule,
A Provost ocht have been to school

When he was wee.

And he's a man o' bad report.
I canna' say I'm sorry for't ;

And richtly sae.
It couldna' fairly be expec'it,
Wi' me neglec'it

For him in Auchenblae.

And hoo is that ? Ach, weel, ye ken
It's true the body's but a hen,

Wi' steek'it e'en.
Aye, even in his ain bit hoose
He's but a saft unbreekit goose.

No worth a preen.

But still — the Burns's supper nicht !
It's that brings him intil the licht. . .

His only time!
Tae hear his illustrative comments!
(It's then I have ma' dreichest moments.)

Sublime! Sublime!

He soars, he sings, he cites and quotes
Baith Burns and a' the ither poets

Wi' grace and ease.
He makes ye het and cauld by turns ;
But aye, ye ken, there's Burns, but Burns,

The rest — just fleas.

Aye, then the Provost's up like pouther.
(The collar fits upon the shouther ;

A nate lapel.)
Man, when he rises tae orate
He's like a secretar' o' state . . .

He's no' himsel'.


D'ye think I then mind he's a grocer,

Or ony o' the things I've said? No, no, sir!

Hech, hech, ma' man,
Gin ye could hear him ding us crazy
Wi' WuU'te^ or the Mountain-'Daisy,

Ye'd understan'.

It's then your world gangs tapsilteerie;

It's then that schemes become just dreary.

Ye clever schemer!
The room goes dim: the folks, they disappear.
(Ye manna' laugh!) It's queer, it's queer! . . .

Oh, poet-dreamer

That tak's oor measure ; snicks
The tailor soul frae ilka breest ;
That quicks the fire o' deid desire,

And lichts us far ;
Shows in us something like a beast,

And something like a star.

Himsel'? It's no' himsel' ye see ;
He's but a voice that's us'd a wee!

(I canna' tell ye why.)
It's something grander than he's known ;
It's some far horn that's softly blown.

(I canna' tell wha' by.)


It*s but a memory next morn ;

A thing that dc'ed afore 'twas born

To ony po'or.
But something bides ! Something that grows.
Not maybe to a muckle rose,

But some sma' floo'r.

Dod man, you've brocht a' back ance mair!
I ken I'd decorate the chair,

Were he debarr'd ;
But still, this Provost half asleep , . .
I leave him there . . . (Am I a sheep ?)

Ech, man . . . it's hard.



A Last Thought

A Last Thought

Garrold Woods at close of day.
Dark firs standing tall.
Larch and oak and sycamore
Into silence fall.

Silver stars above the wood,
Glimmering and dim ;
Far away beyond the stars
Singing Seraphim!





Stealthy Terror

Crown 8vo. o/-

Is an in^eniotis story of the "detective'''' type, though
it is not exactly a detective story ; it tells of the
adventures of a youn^ student of medicine living in
Berlin at the otitbi-eak of war, and how he becofnes
possessed 0/ a German plan for the invasion of England,
New, constant, dead y perils succeed one another, and
the excitement is sustained to the very end.



3 1205 00466 3553


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Online LibraryJohn Alexander FergusonOn Vimy Ridge and other poems → online text (page 1 of 1)