BETA

To a Wounded Ptarmigan.

1.

Haunter of the herbless peak,1
Habitant ’ twixt earth and sky,2
Snow-white bird of bloodless beak,3
Rushing wing, and rapid eye,4
Hath the Fowler’s fatal aim5
Of thy freeborn rights bereft thee,6
And, ‘mid natures curb’d or tame,7
Thus encaged, a captive left thee ? —8
Thou who, Earth’s low valleys scorn-
ing
,
9
From thy cloud-embattled nest,10
Wont to catch the earliest morning11
Sunbeam on-thy breast !12

II.

Where did first the light of day13
See thee bursting from thy shell ?14
Was it where Ben-Nevis grey15
Towers aloft o’er flood and fell ?16
Or where down upon the storm17
Plaided shepherds gaze in wonder,18
Round thy rocky sides, Cairngorm,19
Rolling with its clouds and thunder ?20
Or with summit, heaven-directed,21
Where Benvoirlich views, in pride,22
All his skiey groves reflected23
In Loch Ketturin’s tide ?24

III.

Boots it not—but this we know,25
That a wild free life was thine,26
Whether on the peak of snow,27
Or amid the clumps of pine ;28
Now on high begirt with heath,29
Now, decoy’d by cloudless weather,30
To the golden broom beneath,31
Happy with thy mates together ;32
Yours were every cliff and cranny33
Of your birth’s majestic hill ;34
Tameless flock ! and ye were many,35
Ere the spoiler came to kill !36

IV.

Gazing, wintry bird, at thee,37
Thou dost bring the wandering mind38
Visions of the Polar Sea39
Where, impell’d by wave and wind,40
Drift the icebergs to and fro,41
Crashing oft in fieree commotion,42
While the snorting whale below,43
In its anger tumults ocean ; —44
Naked treeless shores, where howl-
ing
45
Tempests vex the brumal air,46
And the famish’d wolf-cub prowling47
Shuns the fiercer bear.48

V.

And far north the daylight dies49
And the twinkling stars alone50
Glitter through the icy skies,51
Down from mid-day’s ghastly
throne ; —
52
And the moon is in her cave ; —53
And no living sound intruding,54
Save the howling wind and wave,55
’Mid that darkness ever brooding ;56
Morn as ’ twere in anger blotted57
From creation’s wistful sight,58
And time’s progress only noted59
By the northern light.60

VI.

Sure ‘twas sweet for thee, in spring,61
Nature’s earliest green to hail,62
As the cuckoo’s slumberous wing63
Dreamt along the sunny yale ;64
As the blackbird from the brake65
Hymn’d the Morning-Star serenely ;66
And the wild swan o’er the lake,67
Ice-unfetter’d, oar’d it queenly ;68
Brightest which ? —the concave o’er
thee
69
Deepening to its summer hue,70
Or the boundless moors before thee,71
With their bells of blue ?72

VII.

Then from larchen grove to grove,73
And from wild-flower glen to glen,74
Thine it was.in bliss to rove,75
High o’er hills, and far from men ;76
Wilds Elysian ! not a sound77
Heard except the torrents booming ;78
Nought beheld for leagues around,79
Save the heath in purple blooming :80
Why that startle ? From their shealing81
On the hazel girded mount,82
Tis the doe and fawn down stealing83
To the silvery fount.84

VIII.

Sweet to all the summer time85
But how sweeter far to thee,86
Sitting in thy home sublime,87
High o’er cloud-land’s soundless sea ;88
Or if morn, by July drest,89
Steep’d the hill-tops in vermilion,90
Or the sunset made the west,91
Even like Glory’s own pavilion ;92
While were fix’d thine ardent eyes on93
Realms, outspread in blooming
mirth,
94
Bounded but by the horizon95
Belting Heaven to Earth.96

IX.

Did the Genius of the place,97
Which of living things but you98
Had for long beheld no trace,99
That unhallow’d visit rue ?100
Did the gather’d snow of years101
Which begirt that mountain’s fore-
head
,
102
Thawing, melt as ‘twere in tears,103
O’er that natural outrage horrid ?104
Did the lady-fern hang drooping,105
And the quivering pine-trees sigh,106
As, to cheer his game-dogs whooping,107
Pass’d the spoiler by ?108

X.

None may know—the dream is o’er109
Bliss and beauty cannot last ;110
To that haunt, for evermore,111
Ye are creatures of the past !112
And for you it mourns in vain,113
While the dirgeful night-breeze
only
114
Sings, and falls the fitful rain,115
’Mid your homes forlorn and lonely.116
Ye have pass’d—the bonds enthral you117
Of supine and wakeless death ;118
Never more shall spring recall you119
To the scented heath !120

XI.

Such their fate—but unto thee,121
Blood-soil’d plume, protracted
breath,
122
Hopeless, drear captivity,123
Life which in itself is death.124
Yet alike the fate of him125
Who, when all his views are
thwarted,
126
Finds earth but a desert dim,127
Relatives and race departed ;128
Soon are fancy’s realms Elysian129
Peopled by the brood of care ;130
And truth finds hope’s gilded vision131
Painted but—in air.132