A Lay of Fairy Land,

It is upon the Sabbath-day, at rising of the sun,1
That to Glenmore’s black forest side a Shepherdess hath gone,2
From eagle and from raven to guard her little flock,3
And read her Bible as she sits on greensward or on rock.4
Her Widow-mother wept to hear her whispered prayer so sweet,5
Then through the silence bless’d the sound of her soft parting feet ;6
And thought, “ while thou art praising God amid the hills so calm,7
Far off this broken voice, my child ! will join the morning psalm.”8
So down upon her rushy couch her moisten’d cheek she laid,9
And away into the morning hush is flown her Highland Maid ;10
In heaven the stars are all bedim’d, but in its dewy mirth11
A star more beautiful than they is shining on the earth.12
—In the deep mountain-hollow the dreamy day is done,13
For close the peace of Sabbath brings the rise and set of sun ;14
The mother through her lowly door looks forth unto the green,15
Yet the shadow of her Shepherdess is no where to be seen.16
Within her loving bosom stirs one faint throb of fear17
Oh ! why so late !” a footstep—and she knows her child is near ;18
So out into the evening the gladden’d mother goes,19
And between her and the crimson light her daughter’s beauty glows.20
The heather-balm is fragrant—the heather-bloom is fair,21
But ’tis neither heather-balm nor bloom that wreathes round Mhairi’s hair ;22
Round her white brows so innocent, and her blue quiet eyes,23
That look out bright, in smiling light, beneath the flowery dyes.24
These flowers by far too beautiful among our hills to grow,25
These gem-crowned stalks too tender to bear one flake of snow,26
Not all the glens of Caledon could yield so bright a band,27
That in its lustre breathes and blooms of some warm foreign land.28
The hawk hath long been sleeping upon the pillar-stone,29
And what hath kept my Mhairi in the moorlands all alone ?30
And where got she those lovely flowers mine old eyes dimly see ?31
Where’er they grew, it must have been upon a lovely tree. ”32
Sit down beneath our elder-shade, and I my tale will tell”—33
And speaking, on her mother’s lap the wonderous chaplet fell ;34
It seemed as if its blissful breath did her worn heart restore,35
Till the faded eyes of age did beam as they had beamed of yore.36
The day was something dim—but the gracious sunshine fell37
On me, and on my sheep and lambs, and our own little dell ;38
Some lay down in the warmth, and some began to feed,39
And I took out the Holy Book, and thereupon did read.40
And while that I was reading of Him who for us died,41
And blood and water shed for us from out his blessed side,42
An angel’s voice above my head came singing o’er and o’er,43
In Abernethy-wood it sank, now rose in dark Glenmore.44
Mid lonely hills, on Sabbath, all by myself, to hear45
That voice, unto my beating heart did bring a joyful fear ;46
For well I knew the wild song that wavered o’er my head,47
Must be from some celestial thing, or from the happy dead.48
I looked up from my Bible—and lo ! before me stood,49
In her green graceful garments, the Lady of the Wood ;50
Silent she was and motionless, but when her eyes met mine,51
I knew she came to do me good, her smile was so divine.52
She laid her hand as soft as light upon your daughter’s hair,53
And up that white arm flowed my heart into her bosom fair ;54
And all at once I loved her well as she my mate had been,55
Though she had come from Fairy-Land and was the Fairy-Queen.”56
Then started Mhairi’s mother at that wild word of fear,57
For a daughter had been lost to her for many a hopeless year ;58
The child had gone at sunrise among the hills to roam,59
But many a sunset since had been, and none hath brought her home.60
Some thought that Fhaum, the savage Shape that on the mountain dwells,61
Had somewhere left her lying dead among the heather-bells,62
And others said the River red had caught her in her glee,63
And her fair body swept unseen into the unseen Sea.64
But thoughts come to a mother’s breast a mother only knows,65
And grief, although it never dies, in fancy finds repose ;66
By day she feels the dismal truth that death has ta’en her child,67
At night she hears her singing still and dancing o’er the wild.68
And then her Country’s legends lend all their lovely faith,69
Till sleep reveals a silent land, but not a land of death70
Where, happy in her innocence, her living child doth play71
With those fair Elves that wafted her from her own world away.72
Look not so mournful mother ! ’tis not a Tale of woe73
The Fairy-Queen stoop’d down and left a kiss upon my brow,74
And faster than mine own two doves e’er stoop’d unto my hand,75
Our flight was through the ether—then we dropt on Fairy-Land.76
Along a river-side that ran wide-winding thro’ a wood,77
We walked, the Fairy-Queen and I, in loving solitude ;78
And there serenely on the trees, in all their rich attire,79
Sat crested birds whose plumage seem’d to burn with harmless fire.80
No sound was in our steps,—as on the ether mute81
For the velvet moss lay greenly deep beneath the gliding foot,82
Till we came to a Waterfall, and mid the Rainbows there,83
The Mermaids and the Fairies played in Water and in Air.84
And sure there was sweet singing, for it at once did breathe85
From all the Woods and Waters, and from the Caves beneath,86
But when those happy creatures beheld their lovely Queen,87
The music died away at once, as if it ne’er had been,—88
And hovering in the Rainbow, and floating on the Wave,89
Each little head so beautiful some shew of homage gave,90
And bending down bright lengths of hair that glisten’d in its dew,91
Seemed as the Sun ten thousand rays against the Water threw.92
Soft the music rose again—but we left it far behind,93
Though strains o’ertook us now and then, on some small breath of wind ;94
Our guide into that brightning bliss was aye that brightning stream,95
Till lo ! a Palace silently unfolded like a dream.96
Then thought I of the lovely tales, and music lovelier still,97
That my dead sister used to sing at evening on the Hill,98
When I was but a little child too young to watch the sheep,99
And on her kind knees laid my head in very joy to sleep.100
Tales of the silent people, and their green silent Land !101
—But the gates of that bright Palace did suddenly expand,102
And filled with green-robed Fairies was seen an ample hall,103
Where she who held my hand in hers was the loveliest of them all.104
Round her in happy heavings flowed that bright glistering crowd,105
Yet though a thousand voices hailed, the murmur was not loud,106
And o’er their plumed and flowery heads there sang a whispering breeze,107
When—as before their Queen all sank, down slowly on their knees.108
Then,” said the queen, “seven years to-day since mine own infant’s birth109
And we must send her nourice this evening back to earth ;110
Though sweet her home beneath the sun—far other home than this111
So I have brought her sister small, to see her in her bliss.112
Luhana ! bind thy frontlet upon my Mhairi’s brow,113
That she on earth shew the flowers that in our gardens grow.”114
And from the heavenly odours breathed o’er my head I knew115
How delicate must be their shape, how beautiful their hue !116
Then near and nearer still I heard small peals of laughter sweet,117
And the infant Fay came dancing in with her white-twinkling feet,118
While in green rows the smiling Elves fell back on either side,119
And up that avenue the Fay did like a sun-beam glide.120
But who came then into the Hall? One long since mourned as dead !121
Oh ! never had the mould been strewn o’er such a star-like head !122
On me alone she poured her voice, on me alone her eyes,123
And, as she gazed, I thought upon the deep-blue cloudless skies.124
Well knew I my fair sister ! and her unforgotten face !125
Strange meeting one so beautiful in that bewildering place !126
And like two solitary rills that by themselves flowed on,127
And had been long divided—we melted into one.128
When that the shower was all wept out of our delightful tears,129
And love rose in our hearts that had been buried there for years,130
You well may think another shower straight-way began to fall,131
Even for our mother and our home to leave that heavenly Hall !132
I may not tell the sobbing and weeping that was there,133
And how the mortal nourice left that Fairy in despair,134
But promised, duly every year, to visit the sad child,135
As soon as by our forest-side the first pale primrose smiled.136
While they two were embracing, the Palace it was gone,137
And I and my sweet sister stood by the Great Burial-stone,138
While both of us our river saw in twilight glimmering by,139
And knew at once the dark Cairngorm in his own silent sky.”140
The Child hath long been speaking to one who may not hear,141
For a deadly Joy came suddenly upon a deadly Fear,142
And though the Mother fell not down, she lay on Mhairi’s breast,143
And her face was white as that of one whose soul has gone to rest.144
She sits beneath the Elder-shade in that long mortal swoon,145
And piteously on her wan cheek looks down the gentle Moon ;146
And when her senses are restored, whom sees she at her side,147
But her believed in childhood to have wandered off and died !148
In these small hands, so lily-white, is water from the spring,149
And a grateful coolness drops from it as from an angel’s wing,150
And to her Mother’s pale lips her rosy lips are laid,151
While these long soft eye-lashes drop tears on her hoary head.152
She stirs not in her Child’s embrace, but yields her old grey hairs153
Unto the heavenly dew of tears, the heavenly breath of prayers154
No voice hath she to bless her child, till that strong fit go by,155
But gazeth on the long-lost face, and then upon the sky.156
The Sabbath-morn was beautiful—and the long Sabbath-day157
The Evening-star rose beautiful when day-light died away ;158
Morn, day, and twilight, this lone Glen flowed over with delight,159
But the fulness of all mortal Joy hath blessed the Sabbath-night.160