Ballad IV.

The Doom of Nithsdale.

Pronounced by Alexander Peden, Preacher of the Word.


I stood and gazed—from Dalswinton wood1
To Criffel’s green mountain and Solway flood2
Was quiet and joyous. The merry loud horn3
Called the mirthsome reapers in bands to the corn ;4
The plaided swain, with his dogs, was seen5
Looking down on the vale from the mountain green ;6
The lark with her note, now lowne, now loud,7
The blue heaven breasted through the white cloud,8
Round a smiling maid, white as winter snowing,9
The Nith clasped its army, and went singing and flowing10
Yet all the green valley, so lovely and broad,11
Lay in black-nature, nor breathed of a God.12


And yet it was sweet, as the rising sun shone,13
To stand and look this fair land upon,14
The stream kissed my feet, and away to the sea15
Flew, where the wild sea-fowl went swimming free.16
In the town the lordly trumpet was blowing,17
From the hill the meek pipe sent its sweet notes flowing,18
And a fair damsel sat her brown tresses a-wreathing,19
And looking of heaven, and perfume breathing,20
And, stretched at her feet, despairing and sighing,21
Lay a youth on the grass, like a creature dying.22
But mocked was the Preacher, and scorned was the Word,23
Green Nithsdale, I yield thee to gunshot and sword.24


And yet, green valley, though thou art sunk dark,25
And deep as the waters that flowed round the ark ;26
Though none of thy flocks, from the Nith to the Scaur,27
Wear Calvin’s choice keel or the Covenant’s tar28
Come, shear thy bright love-locks, and bow thy head low,29
And fold thy white arms o’er thy bosom of snow,30
And kneel, till the summer pass. with its sweet flowers,—31
And kneel, till the autumn go with her gold bowers,—32
And kneel, till rough winter grows weary with flinging33
Her snows upon thee, and the lily is springing,34
And fill the green land with thy woe and complaining ;35
And let thine eyes drop like two summer clouds raining36
And ye may have hope, in the dread dooms-day morning,37
To be snatched as a brand from the sacrifice burning.38


But if ye kneel not, nor in blood-tears make moan,39
And harden your heart like the steel and the stone,40
Oh ! then, lovely Nithsdale—even as I now cast41
My shrunk hand to heaven, thy doom shall be passed ;42
Through thy best blood the war horse shall snort and career43
Thy breast shall be gored with the brand and the spear44
Thy bonnie love-locks shall be ragged and reft45
The babe at thy bosom be cloven and cleft ;46
From Queensberrie’s mountain to Criffel below,47
Nought shall live but the blood-footed hawk and the crow !48
Farewell thou doomed Nithsdale—in sin and asleep49
Lie still—and awaken to wail and to weep.50


I tried much to bless thee, fair Nithsdale, there came51
Nought but curses to lay on thy fate and thy fame !52
Yet still do I mind—for the follies of youth53
Mix their meteor gleams with the sunshine of truth54
A fair one, and some blessed moments ; aboon,55
Gleaming down the green mountain gazed on us the moon,56
The kisses and vows were unnumbered and sweet,57
And the flower at our side, and the stream at our feet58
Seemed to swell and to flow so divinely.—Oh ! never,59
Thou lovely green land, and thou fair flowing river,60
Can man gaze upon you and curse you. In vain61
Doth he make his heart hard.—So I bless you again.62