Mary Botham Howitt.

Ballads and other poems .. online

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iswa TOT?


It is perhaps needless to say, that I have been all my life a passionate
admirer of ballad-poetry. Brought up, as a child, in a picturesque, old-
feishioned part of England, remote from books and from the world, and
under circumstances of almost conventual seclusion, the echoes of this
old, traditional literature found their way to my ear and my heart. Few
books, excepting those of a religious and somewhat mystical character,
reached me ; but an old domestic, with every requisite for a German
MdrcJien-Frau, who had a memory stored with ballads, old songs, and
legends, inflamed my youthful imagination by her wild chants and re-
citations, and caused it to take very early flights into the regions of

When I married, under circumstances the most favorable for a young
poetical spirit, the world of literature was at once opened before me ;
and to mark the still prevailing character of my taste, I may say that
the first book I read, when I had my free choice in a large library, was
Percy's Relics of Ancient English Poetry, of which I had heard, but
till then had never seen. The first fifteen years of my married life were
devoted to poetry. My husband and I published two joint volumes of
poems within the first few years of our marriage ; and then, giving
freer vent to my own peculiar fancies, 1 again took to writing ballads,
which were published in various periodicals of the day, and the favorable
reception they met with gave me the utmost encouragement. The hap-
piest period, however, of my literary life was when, gladdened by the
praise of the public, and encouraged by my husband, on whose taste
and judgment I had the gi-eatest dependence, I resolved to put forth my
whole strength into one effort, which should afford me free scope for
working out character, and for dramatic effect, at which I had always


aimed, even in the simplest ballad. My hopes were high, and I thoujrht
to achieve a name among the poets of my country. I accordingly
wrote the " Seven Temptations" — a poem faulty in many respects, and
different to what I would now do, but with which at that time I spared
no pains. Authors will therefore understand my feelings when I say
that the first review I read of this work was so unfavorable, and that
without giving a single quotation in proof of its opinion, that I was cut
to the heart. I never experienced a sensation like that before, and I
pray that I never may again. The book, however, had its share of
praise, and made me many dear and valuable friends. But from that
day I tremble at the name of critic, and feel a peculiar sensation of
heart when public judgment is about to be passed upon me. I have
somewhat of this feeling at this moment, because, although the critics
have praised my ballads, and many of them have called upon me to give
them to the public in a collected form, still, I myself am not precisely
the same person that I was ten or fifteen years ago, when the greater
number were written. Life teaches many lessons in that time ; the
tastes and the feelings become matured, or perhaps greatly changed ;
and I, also, now require in poetry, to say nothing of its subject, a degree
of polish and finish which in my younger years I cared little about.
My next volume of poetry must be different in many respects from any-
thing which I have yet done, though it still retain that love of
Christ, of the poor, and of little children, which always was and will be
a ruling sentiment of my soul.

This is an egotistical preface, but I trust I shall be pardoned. And
in conclusion, dear reader, while you receive in many of these poems a
faithful transcript of myself ten or fifteen years ago, the volume will be
found to contain also portions of my later self, in which I hope there
are some breathings of that philosophy of life which is true religion —
that spirit of love which knows a sympathy and fellowship with all who
suffer as well as with all who rejoice.


The Elms, Clapton, Dec. 1, 1846.




Lady Magdalene 1

Tibbie Inglis . . . . . . . . . . 12

Elian Grky 17

The Sale of the Pet Lamb -26

The Old Man's Story 29

The Hunter's Linn ..... . . 39

Thf Fairies of the Caldon Low ...... 43

Dolores Maris 47

Delici^ Maris 50

LiLiEN May ....... . . 54

A Tale of the Woods ..... .65

May Maxwell 73

The Isles of the Sea Fairies ...... 77

Willie o' Wyburn ......... 84

The Younger Son . . . . . . , . .105

The Voyage with the Nautilus . . . . . .110

Dives and Lazarus . . . '. . . . . .115

A Forest Scene in the Days of Wickliffe . . . 118

The Boy of Heaven ........ 125

The Forest Lord 130

The Three Guests 140

The Countess Lamberti . . . . . . .153

Carlovan ......... . 159

The Sin of Earl Walter . 164

Beatrice . 175




The Spirit of Poetry ........ ISl

The Dying S^sTER ......... 184

Birds in Summer ......... 1S7

Lyrics of Life : —

I. Father is Coming . . . . . . .100

n. True Love 19'd

III. The Dying Child ........ l'.)-4

IV. Judgment . 196

V. A Sunday 199

The Barley-Mowers' Song ...... 202

Mountain Children . . ....... 204

The Mother and the Angels ...... 20G

The Rich and the Poor ........ 20'J

The Ascent of the Spirit . . . . . . . 21fT

Far-off Visions ......... 210

A Life ... 221

The Faery Oath 230

Village Children 236

The Sea Fowler 23S

The Fishing-Boat 239

The Preacher's Story . 240

The Golden Age , . 24G

Death .... . 249

Spring Crocuses ......... 252

The Lost One 25.5


The Sorrow of the German Weaver Boy in the Moun-
tains OF SiLESI.V ....... 259

Requiescat . ' 262

The Joiners' Apprentices ....... 26.'j

The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar ...... 267


E A L L A DS .



In a large old house dwells Magdalene,
And with her there are three :

A blithe old man the gardener ;
And good Dame Margery ;

And a priest, who cometh now and then,
With a high and shaven crown,

With a foot that treads so silently.
And a long black camlet gown.

All up and down the galleries

Went the Lady Magdalene,
A-looking at the pictures old.

That on the walls were seen.


" And who is this, Dame Margery,

With the gold chain and the sword ?"

" That was thy father, Magdalene ;
He was a noble lord !"

" And who is this boy. Dame Margery,
With the greyhound at his side ?"

" That was thy brother, Magdalene ;
At four years old he died !"

" And tell me, I pr'ythee, Margery,
Who's this with the downcast eye ?
It troubles my heart. Dame Margery,
And yet I know not why."

No answer at all made Margery,

For a little season's space ;
And again the maiden, Magdalene,

Looked up into her face.

" There are chambers many," quoth Magdalene,
" And many a stately bed ;
And many a room so beautiful.
All green, and gold, and red.

" How is it, I pray. Dame Margery,
That all alone I dwell ?
I have asked the question of myself,
And I'm sure I cannot tell.

" In the village street. Dame Margery,
Even in winter weather,
I see the children, sevens and eights.
All playing there together :


" But in this large and grand old house,
I pray, how may it be,
That I am thus alone, alone,
With none for company ?

" I look into the distant fields.
On the terrace as I stand,
And see the mothers walking there,
And children hand in hand.

" And now, I pray, Dame Margery,
This mystery make clear ;
What spell is it, so sad yet sweet,
That ever draws me here ?

" The face is very fair to see.
And so is many another ;
But the spell is like the yearning love
Which bindeth child and mother."

Sore troubled was Dame Margery,

The tears were in her eye.
And she wiped them with her withered hand,

As thus she made reply.

" Yes, she was fair, sweet Magdalene,
Like an angel fair and mild !
And she was thy mother, Magdalene ;
I nursed her as a child.

" Ah me ! I can remember well
Those times for ever fled,
When there were children and friends enow
To sleep in every bed.


" When the hall table was too small
For those who sate to meat ;
And serving-men went to and fro
With rapid, noiseless feet.

" There were thirty horses then in stall,
And grooms nigh half a score ;
Even I was gay and handsome then —
But all those times are o'er !

" The house, in troth, is silent now,

And hath a look of gloom ;

I can remember dance and song

And liglits in every room !

" The jackdaws now, and swallows, build
In the chimneys cold and tall ;
The ivy creeps o'er the window-glass,
And green damps on the wall.

** I can remember, Magdalene,

When the trees, that grow so wild
Along the shrubbery paths, were set ;
Thy mother was then a child.

" He thinks, old John the gardener,
Those times may come again ;
Mayhap they will, sweet Magdalene, —
But ah ! I know not when !"


On the terrace broad walked Magdalene,
With gentle steps and slow ;

And blithe old John the gardener
Was working down below.


And he sang, the blithe old gardener —
" The bird upon the tree
Is merry in budding spring-time,
And I'm as merry as he."

He cut the leaves of the snowdrop down,

And tied up the daffodilly ;
And then he sang, as he bent to work,

With a " Heigho ! willy, nilly !"

Down the broad stone steps went Magdalene,
And stood by the old flower-bed :

Still at his work the old man bent,
Nor once raised up his head.

" 'Tis a lonesome place !" said Magdalene,
" A lonesome dreary place !"
The blithe old man he ceased his work,
And gazed into her face.

" Ay, lone enough, my lady fair !"

Said the cheerful gardener ;
" But I can remember yon terrace steps

With children all astir.

" There was my Lady Isabel,

With hair like the raven's wing;
And the second sister, Adeline,
A wilful, proud young thing.

There was Lord Francis, and Lady Jane,
And your blessed lady-mother ;

Two younger brothers besides, and he
That was dearer than a brother.


" He was your father afterwards —
Good lack ! how time moves on ! —

There were seven children then i' th' house,
And now there is but one !

And all those happy children,

Like flowers of spring, are gone !

" What troops of ladies I have seen
Go walking up and down,
Each softly fanning of herself,
In a shining silken gown !

" What gay and gallant gentlemen,
All clad in velvet fine ;
What riding in and out there was ;
What drinking of the wine !

" Ay, sure enough, the place is still —
Stiller than it was then ;
But perchance, my Lady Magdalene,
It may be blithe again !"

With that he stooped down to his work,

And harder worked than ever,
Nodding his head to his favorite song,

" Let care drown in the river !"

And as he sang he cleared the leaves
From the crocus, mattifed and wan ;

The Lady Magdalene walked away.
But he kept singing on.



In a stately room, at eventide,

The old priest sate and read
In an old and large black-letter book,

O'er which he bent his head.

In a painted oriel window stood

Beside him Magdalene,
And o'er her streamed the sunset light,

Rose-tinted, gold, and green.

" Put down thy books," said Magdalene,
" Thou must not read to-day ;
Put down thy books, good father,
And hearken what I say !"

Roused by her words, the grave old man

His eyelids slowly raised.
And silently at Magdalene

In calm surprise he gazed.

" Now, father good," said Magdalene,
" This hour, I pray thee, tell,
Why in this grand old house, alone,
Year after year I dwell.

" Thou hast taught me both to read and write.
Hast taught me all I know.
Yet kept me from my kind apart,
I pray, why is it so ?

" Why ? when the lore which thou hast taught
Is love in each degree.
From God down to the meanest thing
Of his great family ?


*' Father, I've seen the children poor,
Glad sisters with their brothers ;
Have seen the joy within the heart
Of lowly village mothers ;

" Have seen, upon the Sabbath mom,
How many a loving band
Of Christian people churchward go,
And children hand in hand.

" Have seen them kneeling, side by side,
Each to the other known.
Like groups of saints together set,
But I kneel all alone !

*' Oh, 't is a pleasant sight to me !
And yet my heart doth ache.
To see such holy happiness
Which I cannot partake !

" Why is it thus ? I pray thee tell
Why none with me abide.
Oh, for a loving sister
To worship at my side !

" Father, I scarce know who I am,
Save that my line is great.
And that some heavy household woe
Hath made me desolate.

" Thou art a righteous man and wise,
Thy teachings I revere ;
But why I dwell in solitude,
I pray thee, let me hear !"


For a moment's space the grave old man

No answer made at' all ;
The tears were in his mild grey eyes,

Yet he no tear let fall.

" Hearken to me, my Magdalene,"

At length he calmly spake ;
" Thou hast been nurtured in this wise

For thy well-being's sake.

" I can remember when this house
Was full of sons and daughters,
When its fortunes all seemed flourishing,
As willows by the waters.

" Daughters and sons, I mind me well
What a noble band was there ;
The sons all goodly men of might,
The daughters wondrous fair.

" I can recall this solitude
An ever-changing crowd,
And the silence of these chambers vast,
Was riot long and loud.

" I will not tell thee, Magdalene,
Of heartlessness and crime ;
Enough, the wrath of Heaven hath scourged
The evil of that time.

" There was a blight upon the race,
They one by one did fall ;
Sorrow and sin had stricken them,
And death consumed them all.


" There was but one of all her house
Whom folly did not win,
An angel in a woman's form,
Thy mother, Magdalene !

" And when upon her bed of death
In her bright youth she lay,
An angel to her native skies
About to pass away,

" She made me promise solemnly.
Before our imaged Lord,
That tliou, my precious Magdalene,
Shouldst be my sacred ward.

" She gave me rules to guide my will.
Prescribed a course whereby
Thy heart should be enlarged by love.
Thy mind have purpose high.

" ' Thou know'st the follies of this house,'
Said she, ' its woe, its pride ;
And through these errors of the past
Let her be sanctified !'

*' She died ! the place was desolate,
Her kindred all were gone,
There was but I, her ghostly friend.
And thou, her orphaned one !

" Their thriftless lives had made thee poor,
Their shame thy name had shent,
Sorely run out were all thy lands.
And mortgaged all thy rent.


" I trained thee in this sober wise,
And in this solitude,
That thou mightst grow up innocent,
Sedate, and wise, and good.

" Thy manors now lie far and wide,
Thy noble lands are free.
And young and old, my Magdalene,
Are looking up to thee.

" Ere long thou wilt have friends enow,
And, so Heaven give thee grace,
The sounds of joy may ring again
From this deserted place.

" It has been stripped and desolate,
Its want laid open wide.
But a youthful spirit's innocence
The place hath purified !

*' Be patient yet, my Magdalene,

Please God the time draws near.
When blameless mirth and many friends
Shall gather round thee here !"





THE scholar's WOOING

Bonny Tibbie Inglis !

Through sun and stormy weather,
She kept upon the broomy hills

Her father's flock together.

Sixteen summers had she seen,
A rose-bud just unsealing,

Without sorrow, without fear.
In her mountain shieling.

She was made for happy thoughts,
For playful wit and laughter.

Singing on the hills alone,
With echo singing after.

She had hair as deeply black

As the cloud of thunder ;
She had brows so beautiful.

And dark eyes flashing under.


Bright and witty shepherd girl !

Beside a mountain water
I found her, whom a king himself

Would proudly call his daughter.

She was sitting 'mong the crags,

Wild and mossed and hoary,
Reading in an ancient book

Some old martyr story.

Tears were starting to her eyes.

Solemn thought was o'er her ;
When she saw in that lone place

A stranger stand before her.

Crimson was her sunny cheek,

And her lips seemed moving
With the beatings of her heart —

How could I help loving !

On a crag I sat me down.

Upon the mountain hoary,
And made her read again to me

That old pathetic story.

Then she sang me mountain songs.

Till the air was ringing
With her clear and warbling voice,

Like a sky-lark singing.

And when eve came on at length,

Among the blooming heather,
We herded on the mountain side

Her father's flock together.


And near unto her father's house

I said " Good night " with sorrow,
And inly wished that I might say,
" We'll meet again to-morrow !"

I watched her tripping to her home ;
I saw her meet her mother ;
" Among a thousand maids," I cried,
" There is not such another !"

I wandered to my scholar's home.
It lonesome looked and dreary ;

I took my books but could not read,
Methought that I was weary.

I laid me down upon my bed,
My heart with sadness laden ;

I dreamed but of the mountain wild.
And of the mountain maiden.

I saw her of her ancient book
The pages turning slowly ;

I saw her lovely crimson cheek.
And dark eye drooping lowly.

The dream was, like the day's delight,
A life of pain's o'erpayment.

I rose, and with unwonted care
Put on my sabbath-raiment.

To none I told my secret thoughts,
Not even to my mother.

Nor to the friend who, from my youth,
Was dear as is a brother.


I got me to the hills again,

The little flock was feeding,
And there young Tibbie Inglis sate, -P-

But not the old book reading.

She sate, as if absorbing thought

With heavy spells had bound her.
As silent as the mossy crags

Upon the mountains round her.

I thought not of my sabbath dress ;

I thought not of my learning ;
I thought but of the gentle maid,

Who, I believed, was mourning.

Bonny Tibbie Inglis !

How her beauty brightened.
Looking at me, half-abashed,

With eyes that flashed and lightened !

There was no sorrow then I saw.

There was no thought of sadness.
Oh life ! what after-joy hast thou

Like love's first certain gladness !

I sate me down among the crags,

Upon the mountain hoary ;
But read not then the ancient book, —

Love was our pleasant story.

And then she sang me songs again,

Old songs of love and sorrow.
For our sufficient happiness

Great charm from woe could borrow.



And many hours we talked in joy,
Yet too much blessed for laughter

I was a happy man that day,
And happy ever after !




" Oh ! Elian Gray, rise up, rise up !"

His neighbors cried. " Still dost thou sleep ?
The bloody Indians are come down.
Flames rise from the near English town ;

And hark ! — the war-whoop, wild and deep !"

" I sleep not," said the ancient man.
" Fly you ; but tarry not for me !
I dare not quit this lonely ground.
Though the wild Indians camp around,
For God commands me not to flee.

" I know not what may be his will ;

But, when I rose up to depart, —
' Fly not, thou hast no cause to fear.
Thy place of duty still is here,' —

Like lightning- words passed through my heart.

" Therefore I dare not quit this place :
But you, whom no commands delay.
Haste and secure by timely flight
Your wives and little ones this night ;
Fly, fly, my children ! while you may."


They fled like wild deer through the woods ;

And saw, from each commanding height,
Afar, and all around, aspire
The red flames of consuming fire.

Marking the Indians' course that night.

Alone, alone, sat Elian Gray,

With unbarred door, beside his fire,

Thoughtful, yet cheerfully resigned,

Awaiting with submissive mind

What the Great Master might require.

Seven days went on, and where is he ?

A captive, travel-worn, and spent
With weary marchings, night and day,
Through the far wilderness, away

To a wild Indian settlement.

And now the old man's strength had failed ;

And, powerless as a child new-born,
Stretched in that lonely forest-place,
Among a fierce and savage race

He lay, as if of God forlorn !

Forlorn ! And yet he prayed to live.

With a wild feverish agony ;
And fearful, doubting, grew his mind ;
And for a moment he repined

That God had brought him there to die.

When, lowly murmured by the door

Of the rude wigwam where he lay,
He heard, as if in dreams he heard,
Mournfully many an English word
Cast to the desert winds away.


He looked ; it was an Indian woman
Singing, as if to soothe some woe
Which at her very heart was strong,
The sad words of an English song
That he remembered long ago, —

The ballad of a broken heart ;

But how could her soul understand
The sadness of that story old ?
How could an Indian tongue unfold

The language of another land ?

Ere long the mystery was revealed ;

And then the old man, Elian Gray,
Saw the great work of mercy clear.
And this was the poor stricken deer

For whom his path through peril lay.

" No, I am not of Indian birth !"

Said she : "I have an English name,

Though now none give it unto me ;

Mahontis, ' child of misery,'

They gave me for my Indian name,
And 'tis the only one I claim.

" And yet I love the English tongue ;

And let us two our converse hold
In that dear unforgotten speech,
For it hath words my griefs to reach, —

The Indian tongue is harsh and cold.

*' No, I am not of Indian blood,

My native home is far from here,
Nor is there on the face of earth
A fairer spot than gave me birth,
The English vale of Windermere.


" Oh, pleasant vale of Windermere !

There was my birthplace ; there I grew,
Without a care my youth to dim,
A mountain maiden strong of limb,
And free as the wild winds that blew.

" My step was firm, my heart was bold,
I crossed the lake, I clomb the rock ;

Clad in that simple country's dress,

I was a mountain shepherdess,

And there I kept my father's flock.

" I grew, and I became a wife ;

And he who was my chosen mate.
Though midst our lonely mountains bred.
Much knowledge had, and much had read,

Too much for one of his estate.

"He knew all lands, all histories old ;
He understood whate'er he saw ;
His words poured out like waters free ;
His was that native dignity

Which could respect from all men draw.

" Wise as he was, he could not toil,

And all went wrong about our place :
The years were wet ; we had naught to reap ;
Amid the snows we lost our sheep,
And misery stared us in the face,

" We left the land that gave us birth ;

And I, who was become a mother.
Within my inmost heart kept deep
My burning tears, I did not weep ;

'Tis hard our bitterest griefs to smother !


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