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// c?^.



M E E L I N



AND OTHER POEMS



MERLIN



AND OTHER POEMS



MERLIN



AND OTHER POEMS



JOHN VEITCH

PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW;

AUTHOR OF 'the HISTORY AND POETRY

OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER,' ETC.



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBUliGH AND LONDON

MDCCCLXXXIX



All Eights reserved



LOAN STACK



CONTENTS.



95-3



FIRST WORDS

MERLIN,

I. A BAPTISM AT ST GOEDIAN's CROSS,
II. IN MEMOEIAM : JOCKIE,

III. OCTOBER IN THE SCOTTISH LOWLANDS,

IV. GLENHEURIE, ....
V. A PICTURE AT GLOAMIN',

VI. THE VOICE OF THE DANISH BOY, .
VII. THE CLOUDBERRY,
VIII. ANDREW HISLOP — MARTYR, .
IX. THE RETURN OF SPRING,

X. OCTOBER,

XI. A PASSING SCENE ON THE HILLS, ,
XII. IN MEMORIAM : JOHN BROWN, M.D.,

XIII. MY OWN FAMILIAR HILLS, .

XIV. TO ,

XV. THE CYMRIC TOWN,

XVI. IN MEMORIAM : REV. JAMES RUSSELL,



PAGE

1

4
37
41
45
48
55
57
60
62
66
69
71
72
75
83
86
91



46^



CONTENTS.



XVII. THE SYCAMOEE BEFORE MY WINDOW,
XVIII. THE HUNDLESHOPES,
XIX. A REMINISCENCE, ....
XX. MY REPLY TO THE SHEPHERD, .
XXI. SMAYLHOLM TOWER,
XXII. IN MEMORIAM : WILLIAM BURNETT OF
EARNS,

XXIII. IN THE rhymer's GLEN, .

XXIV. ST mary's loch, ....

XXV. ON FIRST HEARING THE NOTE OF THE
CUCKOO THIS SPRING, .
XXVI. ON THE GLENRATH HEIGHTS, .
XXVII. IN MEMORIAM : JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP-

XXVIII. ON CADEMUIR,

XXIX. IN YARROW,

XXX. IN MEMORIAM : LAURA, .

XXXI. THE TWEED,

XXXII. IN MEMORIAM : LORD DALKEITH,

XXXIII. IN MANOR,

XXXIV. IN MANOR,

XXXV. THE ECLIPSE OF THE MOON,

XXXVI. THE SEVEN SPEARS OF WEDDERBURN,
XXXVII. A LEGEND OF NEIDPATH CASTLE,
XXXVIII. THE LAIRD OF SCHELYNLAW, .
XXXIX. THE DOW GLEN, ....

XL. TAMMAS TRAILSTICKS, THE DOCTOR'S MAN

XLI. TO REDCAP,

LAST WORDS,



94

98

99

101

105

108
111
115

117
119
122
127
130
134
140
143
147
149
153
155
160
165
173
179
183
191



FIEST WOEDS.

What hills and streams have taught to me,
Hoiv Heaven's face hath touched my heart,

In summer shine, 'neath lointer sides,
To those loho care, this I imjmrt,

Soine straitis from Border days of old ;

Weird visions e'en of earlier time !
High daring, glamour, hapless fate, —

These mingle in the changing rhyme.



Esteem or slight the simple song,
To me is nought, I thee assure ;

Enough those thr tilings of my heart —
Those Nature-breathings, sacred, pure ,

A



FIRST WORDS.

On heights withdrawal, where hum-heads croon

To loneliness a music meet.
Where tormentil, and heather-hell,

And hlaeherry crown the wild retreat :



While gleams glide o'er the silent hills,
And touch them with a golden grace ;

And up their cUmhing trodden ways
In single-file the lohite sheep pass.



Tims I have known the summer peace —
No purer treasure soul can find ;

Yet oft with Thee my heart has sped,
Thou Spirit of the mountain wiiul.



Wlien clouds were driven, mists were cleft,
And the bent tossed in stormy mood ;

Mine ear alone to list thy voice
Upon the moorland solitude.



FIRST WORDS.

Thus would I touch each living soul
To know and feel as I have known,

On sun-smit height, in lonely glen,
The vision from the Eternal Throne/



MERLIN.



The Merlin of tliis poem is Merlin Caledonius,
known also as Merlin Wylt and Silvestris. He
ought not to be identified with Myrdin Emrys, or
Merlin Amhrosius, who was the vates of Vortigern,
and also apparently of Aurelius Ambrosianus, —
the man of Eoman descent who superseded Vor-
tigern in the Cymric supremacy, and lost it again
about 465. This Myrdin Emrys was probably also
the Merlin of Uther Pendragon and of Arthur.
While the name of the latter is associated with
Dinas Emrys, or Fort of Emrys, in the Vale of
the Waters — Nant Gwynant, which circles round



MERLIN. 5

the rugged grandeur of the southern slopes of
Snowdon — that of the former, Merlin Caledonius,
is inseparably joined to the wavy, far-spreading,
and heather-streaked hiUs between which the Pow-
sail Bum makes its way to the Tweed in the haugh
of Drummelzier. Out of the two Merlins — the
earlier and the later — the romancers of the eleventh
and following centuries formed a third or legendary
Merlin. ISTow the personage appears as a vulgar
wizard and soothsayer, master of the art of glam-
oury, to be finally overcome by a woman's wiles,
and kept for ever in hopeless captivity.

The Caledonian Merlin is a sufficiently distinct
historical personage. He was the son of Morvryn,
who was descended from Coel Godebawc, the head
of one of the main royal lines of the Cymri. He
had a twin-sister Gwendydd. He was the friend
of the Prince Gwenddoleu, a lord or king of the
N"orth, and he was present at the decisive battle of
Ardderyd in 573, when the contest lay between the
Pagan and Christian forces of the time. Merlin



6 MERLIN.

was on the Pagan or losing side. After the defeat
and the death of his leader Gwenddoleu, he fled
to the wilds of Drmnmelzier, in the wood of Cale-
don. There he spent some years, reputed insane,
probably only heart-broken, and despairing of the
Cymric cause and his OAvn fortunes, — perhaps
doubting the trustworthiness of his original faith
or I^aturq-worship. Finally, he is said to have died
at the hands — rather stones and clubs — of the herds-
men of a princeling of the district, then incorporated
in the kingdom afterwards known as Strathclyde,
and ruled over by Eydderch Hael, originally lord of
Llanerch, or Lanark. INIerlin's grave is pointed out
by tradition near the village of Drummelzier, by
the side of the Powsail Burn as it joins the Tweed,
There can be little doubt, looking to external
and internal evidence, that this MerUn was the
author of certain poems now preserved in the ' Four
Ancient Books of Wales,' and that to him also are
to be assigned portions of the Merlinian poems,
in which there occur interpolations of a later date.



MERLIN. 7

The poems show a peculiarly delicate feeling for
nature and natural objects — tree, hill, and fountain
— and they are pervaded by a cry of wailing and
despair for the fortunes of the Cymric race. Many
of the lines show the deepest pathos ; some of them
are incorporated in the following poem.

Merlin's relation to the Christianity of the time
is indicated in the poem. Originally a ISTature-
worshipper — probably with priestly functions — one
who reverenced the powers and objects of JSTature,
and the sun above all, as the lord and symbol of
creative and sustaining power, he was more or less
affected by the Christianity of the time, but he
never fully embraced it. If it ever had a hold on
him, he appears to have relapsed from it in his later
years; although conceptions from the faith which
was making progress around him mingled with his
original beliefs and pretensions to supernatural
power and prophetic insight. This is the Merlin
as depicted in the poem. It opens immediately
after the battle of Ardderyd, when, in doubt and



8 MERLIN.

despair, the hopes of his life broken, he had fled to
the retreat and shelter afforded by the .hills and glens
of Upper Tweeddale, where, more than a thousand
years afterwards, men whose faith was of quite an-
other type found refuge. Here, in the centre of the
wood of Caledon, frequenting a fountain on the
hills, he is said to have lived for some years ere he
met his violent fate. Merlin was to a certain ex-
tent contemporary with Kentigern, who is said to
have met him on the wUds which he haunted, and
sought to convert him to the Christianity of the
time, with, however, but partial and temporary
effect. The details of the interview, as given hun-
dreds of years afterwards in the * Scotichronicon,'
are of course a priestly invention, and wholly un-
trustworthy. The character of the Merlin of the
poem is, I venture to thiuk, in accordance with all
the earliest and genuine information we have regard-
ing him. His sister Gwendydd, The Dawn, — her
affection and companionship in his life and troubles
— and his early love, Hwimleian, The Gleam, — have



MERLIN. 9

their warrant in the original poems, and in the
later ones, still of a very early time, in which ref-
erence is made to the Bard and Seer of this semi-
historic, semi-mythic epoch of the ancient Cymri.

2ith October 1888.



10



MERLIN.



PERSONS.

Merlin — Bard, Seer, Wizard,
GwENDYDD (The Dawn)— His twin-sister.
HwiMLEiAN (Tlie Gleam) — His early love.



Merlin {in the Glen, and on Drummelzier Law).

All night I've wandered in the glen, 'mid hum

Of hidden waters moving in the gloom,

And eerie sounds, strange voices from th' unseen.

And things have shaped themselves upon the air,

Some mocking me, and some soliciting

My evil will ; — dim, weird sprites, that pass

'Twixt sky and earth in dark hours ere the morn,-



MERLIN. 11

Form after form in crowding mystery,

Where none can mark the mien of living tiling,

Or pause upon a face for love or light ;

But all that seems to be doth also pass

In mockery of show to mortal eye.

The hill-top now is gained, and lo ! afar
The eastern summits redden with the dawn ;
The moor around me wakes to growing sound
And stir of life, all tremulous before
The high on-coming of the lord of day.

This morn I bow before thee, lord of light
And life ! — my hope, my fear, my reverence !
Of thee unworthy, and my early vows.
Far-gleaming arrows, piercing feeble mists,
Herald thine uprise ; low down in the vales,
That pour their loving tribute to the Tweed,
The waters shimmer 'mid the morning's joy ;
Around me burn-heads croon, and moorland bhds
Awake, a-wing, pipe brief glad notes to thee,



12 MERLIN.

The brightening lord of happy melody.
Now part in twain the curtains of the dawn,
Each hill-top is aflame, and thou hast set
Thyself, fiill-orhed, in empire o'er the day : —
Aglow as in that dawn when first enthroned,
The wasting ages taking nought from thee,
Nor tainted by the evil of this earth,
Thou layest now, as new birth of the morn,
Thy strength of glory on the circling hills.
I worship thee, sovereign of the sky.
The symbol of the God who is unseen.

Inspirer, thou, of life and hope and joy,
My pulses beat with thine. Again I feel
The blood that leaps to high ambition's quest,
And wakes, as sudden flash, my vanished dream,
To hold in leash the powers of all this world,
Be lord of nature and of human lives, —
Phantasm of youth that beckoned and beguiled
To empire and emprise, wild, subtle, vain —
As if this feeble hand could pluck from thee.



MERLIN. 13

king of (lay, thy lofty radiance,
And usurp thy throne.

To know the soul of things has been my quest,

To feel the beating of the inmost heart

That pulses through the world,— to know and be

As God, — a kmg o'er kings, with subtler power

Than that of lords who rule by force of arm.

Or wavering tie of human sympathy, —

This, this, the dream that dazzled all my youth ;

And I have dared and done, in this my quest,

What no man knows, seen what no eye hath seen —

Weird sights not utterable in mortal words,

Strange forms o' morn, shapes in the weather-gleam.

That silent move and pass along the rim,

Clear-set, of the dim world that engirds the hills.

Ay, at grey dawn, I've struggled with the bird

Of wrath, until the sun came to mine aid,

And smote the hovering shadow, beak and wing. —

And now the dream is riven, shattered.

As when the great west wind in strength has struck



14 MERLIN.

The summer heaven ; and lo ! we see but shreds
Of all its gilded towers, and broken shapes
Athwart the storm-cleft sky.

To stand supreme in mystery of might ;

To lead the battle on to victory ;

Mine was the pledge, assurance, and the hope,

The inspiration, and the faith of men.

Their trusting look to me as on the morn

They passed, fiend - blessed, to that green plain

that lay
Between the Liddel's tide and Carwinelow ;
This lives for aye deep scarred upon my heart,
I see the shock, and hear the frusch of spears.
Edge grinding edge, all through the fatal hours ;
Twice seven armies locked in deadly grip,
Until at length that Cross, upraised against
The evening sky, shot o'er the struggling hosts
One blinding ray, as of the wrath of heaven ;
And in that hour supremo of fate my power
Was stricken, and each sprite grew palsied-pale,



MERLIN. 15

And passed away before my 'wildered eye,
Dissolved as phantom of the feeble air ;
And then — was nought but faces of the dead,
Upturned, upbraiding, in the gloamin' grey ;
And all was laid 'neath cover of the shade,
And all was hushed save the unheeding stream.

My prince, my Gwenddoleu, whose golden torques

I wore, and thou, well-loved Gwendydd's son,

Thou fearless bearer of the white-rimmed shield,

Where may I seek you now ? Where are my dead,

The dead of Ardderyd 1 To me ye come

No more ; no more again your hands I touch, —

To me your eyes glance never light of life !

" Hath not the burden been consigned to earth 1

And every one must give up what he loves."

The budding thorn is green, the birch is blest,

And sweet the melody and chirp of birds ;

But ye are still, my ]\Ioryen and Mordav !

Are ye now spirits of the nerveless clouds

That speck the shadowed hills and sweep the moor ;



16 MERLIN.

That dwell in air, and come, and passing wail.
Behold the misery of race and kin.
But have no power to stretch a hand in aid
Of their fell lot ? Oft I hear a voice
A-crying in the night, see glimpsing forms
In outbreak of the moon through riven sky.
Oh ! unavailing wail and stricken arm !
Is this your heaven ?

Or are these seemings of the strained sense —

The fond heart's quickening of the hopeless dead ?

And is it so that all are surely gone,

As is the creed of that far Orient,

Whence my race has sprung — to Nirvana's shade.

The formless state where nought is marked or

known,
N"o sense, no thought, pain, pleasure, or desire ;
Where keen emotion hath no quickening,
And resolute will, unstrung, can dare no deed
Of good or ill, and hath no fate to bear :
Where comes not e'en a passing dream to stir



MERLIN, 17

The imconscioiis brain, or glint of memory
Across the darkened past ; but all is one —
An absolute repose, alike for those
Once harassed by the pains of earthly life,
And souls that lived spell-bound in human bliss,
Heroes in battle slain, the weak who passed
From cottage couch, the proud from palace-hall,
The maiden in her bloom, the mother, child ;
In the absorbing All are life and death ahke, — •
Close folded in unconscious unity ?

What, then, this life of ours but pain and wreck ! —
Mirage that hovers fair o'er youthful sky ;
Inwoven dream that parts as mist before
The sun of noon ; mid-life a battle 'gainst
Fierce striving powers for issues no one knows
Are in their final outcome good or ill, —
None seeing whither tends the deed we do
In the mysterious process of the world !



18 MERLIN.



GwENDYDD {Tlie Dawn — his twin-sister — sings ;
she addresses liim as Lallogen, twin-brother).

Lallogen ! princely JNIorvryii's son,

Of olden heroes born,
Spirit divine, incarnate god,

To thee I bow this morn !



Thou, lord of airy powers, that dwell
In speed of the towering cloud,

In far oiit-flash of the levin fell.
In the croak of the raven brood ;



In the hurrying mist of the moor,

Thy vassal spirits troop,
In the striving blast that tears the pine,

In eagle forms that swoop



MERLIN. 19

From their course in the rack of the sky —
Playmates of the stormy gleam —

"Winging to earth the stroke of fate,
As well to thee may beseem !



At thy bidding the wrath of the storm
Suddenly smites earth's rest,

And swiftly the burns arise and roar
In awe of thy dread behest.



The gentle milkwort bows its head,
Cowering beneath the hour,

When thy spirit feels not a bound
To its lust of evil power.

All unlovely, brother, is might.
When slave of the wayward will ;

And passion that knows but to smite
Is self-accursed with its ill.



20 MERLIN.

Once blameless wert thou in thy strength,

As on that eve of old,
When Saxons fierce from the Frisian Sea

Crept in the mist's grey fold,



And sudden swooped on the IMeldon green,

From old Penjacob glen, —
Thou and I in the lonely Caer, —

'So hope or help from men !



At calm upraising of thy hand.
And far gleam of tliine eye.

The rainbow rose round that any Caer
In sacred majesty.



And Ave two forms within its rim
Shone god-like on the gaze,

And every sieging eye was held
In wild and weird amaze !



MERLIN. 21

So arched in splendour Meldon's top,

Our blinded foes dismayed,
Paled, fled before the Power of Heaven

In its awesome robe arrayed.



Now turn thee from the tempter's thrall,

Dream of one bygone day, —
The flickering shade o'er the woodland glade

AYlien thou and I were at play, —

And thou touched thy harp to a gentle tune

Of happy melody ;
The deer stood charmed ; the golden leaves

Dropped from the quivering tree.

Oh, brother ! take that harp once more,

All-thriUing to the gleams
That pass now o'er the mountain's brow,

'Mid the music of the streams :



22 MERLIN.

As from the heaven's height they come,
Bright messengers to earth r

Ethereal love doth shine in them,
They speak a god-like hirth.

And high they bear our human heart
O'er grief, and fear, and pain :

Ah, l^rother ! shall thy harp resound
No more in holy strain !

Merlin.

My heart is dust,
And callous is the soul that once was thrilled
By every pure and gentle thing of earth ;
No more for me is blessing or to bless, —
Mine, — the power that smites, but cannot save ;
Mine, — dreaded memory that wakes to hate ;
Mine, — vision more than man's that can foresee
The future of my race, and what befalls
Of fateful contest and of storied deed.



MERLIN. 23

Ghosts of the mountain mutter in mine ear ;
Sea-birds, sky-bome, aye clang it on my brain,—
The Bard dishonoured, worthless Priest extolled,
The kingless Cymri trampled on the plain.
Blood-spilling from the sea to shoreless land,
Their Caers all desolate on the windy hills,
Haunted by wailing spuits of the dead, —
This powerless I behold in my despair.
Once I could bend each sprite to subtle art,
And I could sport with aU their fiendish power.
And sway it to mine end, but now,— so ripe
In me the habit of the evil will,—
Each mocks my fainting purpose after good,
And I, proud master once, am now the slave !

GwENDYDD {takes Merlin's liarp and sings).

Fresh as of old the breeze of the morn,

Plaintive the notes that float
O'er the moor with the sunny thjone,

And the blue forget-me-not.



24 MERLIN.

The rock-rose lifts its face to the sun,
It droops when its lord is set ;

The tornientil peers, the heather-beU glows ;
Sweet-eyed is the violet.



The lowly gale looks forth from the grass,

Silver-starring the brae ;
Th' Idsean vine holds its cup for the dew.

High where the burn-heads play,



As they flash in ripples of light,
Ere down they break to the glen

By green bank, red scaur, and grey rock.
Where the rowan shades the linn :



And the sun o'er all is moving in joy.

The strong lord of the sky ;
He stoops to bless the earth with his love,

Benign in his majesty.



MERLIN. 25

And nought but raises its face to him,

Both herb and flower of earth ;
He, lord of all, that rules in heaven,

Hath care for the lowhest birth.

And thou art far from the face of God —

Whate'er thy craft or power —
Who knowest not first to bless with thy might,

As the sun in the morning hour.

Merlin.

Ah ! gentle sister, thou hast touched my heart ;
I live, again, in the green fields of memory,
A swift-winged hour of bright enchanting hope.
"Would I were clothed again in innocence
Of youth, when every breeze was life and love,
Each ripple of the stream a soothing sound.
Each sparkle leapt to joy before mine eye ;
Each mountain flower the darling of my heart ;
When, with my shield on shoulder, sword on thigh,

D



26 MERLIN.

I roamed by day the wood of Caledon,
And in the silence of the summer night
Lay folded in a dreamless sleep, — the hours
Unvisited by ghostly forms of air.
E'en now the vision rises, — that fair form.
The sportive maid, the Gleam amid the trees.
Whereon the spring had spread the apple-bloom.
Low by the river's side, — my Hwimleian,
Earth's paragon of movement and of grace,
The jewel of this heart, a faithless guardian !
Stale heart of mine ! now no dew of heaven
Can freshen thee, no dawn bring quickening.
Ah me ! the blossoms were untimely frayed,
Ne'er golden autumn theirs ; and yet 'twas well,
Hwimleian, thou didst not wed ■with devil's son !

Hwimleian {The Gleam — Merlin's early love—
appearing as a glint on the Mil, sings).

The daughter of the Sun, I come.
His joy, his free first-born ; .



MERLIN. 27

As birthright fair the gleam I wear
Of the golden hair of morn.

Above the earth's dark orb I soar,

Nought there eludes my ken ;
The wide o'erarching heaven is mine —

The Queen of hill and glen.

I smite the darkness from the cloud,

And pierce its dusky fold ;
I lay my hand on the dark-browed storm.

And charm it into gold.

The grey moor mists transfigured pass,

And every evil sprite
And power of air, that threatened earth.

Flees stricken in my sight.

Over the mottled hills I fly,
My brother shade with me ;



28 MERLIN.

With light wing drape the peace that broods
O'er the moorland spaces free.

.0' night my paler robe is cast

O'er the trembling waters clear ;

I peer into depths of the silent glen,
The lonely herdsman's cheer.

The brow of pain I touch with joy ;

My face — my power unfurled,
Dark spirits coAvering pass away —

Mine homage of the world !

Merlin.

Ah me ! this voice once more — this voice to me —

The faithless to the truest love on earth !

She has conquered death, and calls from th' unseen

To me, dim groper after truth and power,

Yet missing bliss ! man mocked and satisfied

With outward show and sensual pageantry.



MERLIN. 29

The outer seeming, not the truth itself,
Has been my portion; husk, not fruit, was mine,—
The trick of art which awes, destroys, but builds
Not for the world : when it hath passed, remain
The waste of ashes, cowering dread, despair,
The glare of power that briefly flames in space,
Its whole reward— the dazzling snare whereby
The spirit of the world leads captive souls
Whose trust is in their strength, divorced from

love.
And silent working, patient thought and faith,
That move the springs of progress and of hope-
Not waited on by fame or noisy talk
Of buzzing tongues, or clamour of the crowd —
Yet ia the course of ages moulding men
To noble likeness, life of higher grade.
The stream of order from th' Eternal Fount
Flows free and full, unmeasured in its might,
Unthwarted, suffering not disharmony,
But thrusting all our rebel strokes aside,
And mocking all our puny might to grasp,



30 MERLIN.

And turn aside from its unerring aim.

One Will there is in heaven and on earth —

'Tis mirrored in the open-visioned soul.

Who waits the revelation only knows,

Who bows before the Power hath true control.

GWENDYDD.

The dew is on the grave that holds my son ;
The grass upon the mound is green where lies
Our Gwenddoleu. They have no ear to list
The twittering birds at opening of the dawn.
But, LaUogen, lord of lucid verse,
Thgu wise diviner, fearless in the fight,
" The fosterer of song among the streams,"
Thy locks are hoar as when the winter lays
Its snowy fingers on Trahenna's brow ;
And thou art nearing mortal's dreaded doom,
And saddest to my sight will be the cairn
Of thine entrenchment, — there my heart will
yearn



MERLIN. 31

For tliee in separation long and cold.
I pray thee, loved one, pass not from the "world
In mood of wrath, vengeful, unreconciled ;
The Priest shall bear to thee the sacred rite
That heals and saves.

Merlin.

Sister ! no rite shall be for me at hand
Of cloak-draped monk, the ally of our foes.
He gives, forgives, as he were Lord — purblind :
" May my communion be with God alone ! "

[After an interval.)

Gwendydd ! to my fountain lead me once again.
Then leave me, — I would see once more alone
The weU-eye 'mong the hiUs that has for fringe
The solitary fern of tender mien.
That bends, leaf-charmed, o'er the gleam it loves.
Where birk and hazel fleck with shifting shades
The waters, as they move in gentle rise



32 MERLIN.

And fall, and pour soft music ceaselessly ;
Where mosses, green and brown, cling to the stones.
And eyes of fair forget-me-not are bright


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