BETA

To Burns’s Highland Mary.

I.

O loved by him whom Scotland loves,1
Long loved, and honoured duly2
By all who love the bard who sang3
So sweetly and so truly !4
In cultured dales his song prevails,5
Thrills o’er the eagle’s aëry,—6
Ah !  who that strain has caught, nor sighed7
For Burns’s “ Highland Mary ?”8

II.

I wandered on from hill to hill,9
I feared nor wind nor weather ;10
For Burns beside me trode the moor,11
Beside me pressed the heather.12
I read his verse—his life—alas !13
O’er that dark shades extended :—14
With thee at last, and him in thee,15
My thoughts their wanderings ended.16

III.

His golden hours of youth were thine—17
Those hours whose flight is fleetest ;18
Of all his songs to thee he gave19
The freshest and the sweetest.20
Ere ripe the fruit, one branch he brake,21
All rich with bloom and blossom ;22
And shook its dews, its incense shook,23
Above thy brow and bosom.24

IV.

And when his Spring, alas, how soon !25
Had been by care subverted,26
His Summer, like a god repulsed,27
Had from his gates departed ;28
Beneath the evening star, once more,29
Star of his morn and even !30
To thee his suppliant hands he spread,31
And hailed his love “ in heaven,”32

V.

And if his spirit in “ a waste33
Of shame” too oft was squandered,34
And if too oft his feet ill-starred35
In ways erroneous wandered ;36
Yet still his spirit’s spirit bathed37
In purity eternal ;38
And all fair things through thee retained39
For him their aspect vernal.40

VI.

Nor less that tenderness remained41
Thy favouring love implanted ;42
Compunctious pity, yearnings vague43
For love to earth not granted ;44
Reserve with freedom, female grace45
Well matched with manly vigour,46
In songs where faney twined her wreaths47
Round judgment’s stalwart rigour.48

VII.

A mute but strong appeal was made49
To him by feeblest creatures ;50
In his large heart had each a part51
That part had found in Nature’s,52
The wildered sheep, sagacious dog,53
Old horse reduced and crazy,54
The field-mouse by the plough upturned,55
And violated daisy.56

VIII.

In him there burned that passionate glow,57
All Nature’s soul and savour,58
Which gives its hue to every flower,59
To every fruit its flavour.60
Nor less the kindred power he felt,61
That love of all things human,62
Whereof the fiery centre is63
The love man bears to woman.64

IX.

He sang the dignity of man,65
Sang woman’s grace and goodness ;66
Passed by the world’s half-truths, her lies67
Pierced through with lance-like shrewdness,68
Upon life’s broad highways he stood,69
And aped nor Greek nor Roman ;70
But snatched from heaven Promethean fire71
To glorify things common.72

X.

He sang of youth, he sang of age,73
Their joys, their griefs, their labours ;74
Felt with, not for, the people ; hailed75
All Scotland’s sons his neighbours ;76
And therefore all repeat his verse—77
Hot youth, or graybeard steady,78
The boat-man on Loch Etive’s wave,79
The shepherd on Ben Ledi.80

XI.

He sang from love of song ; his name81
Dunedin’s cliff resounded :—82
He left her, faithful to a fame83
On truth and nature founded.84
He sought true fame, not loud acclaim ;85
Himself and Time he trusted :86
For laurels crackling in the flame87
His fine ear never lusted.88

XII.

He loved, and reason had to love,89
The illustrious land that bore him :90
Where’er he went, like heaven’s broad tent91
A star-bright Past hung o’er him,92
Each isle had fenced saint recluse,93
Each tower a hero dying ;94
Down every mountain-gorge had rolled.95
The flood of foemen flying.96

XIII.

From age to age that land had paid97
No alien throne submission,98
For feudal faith had been her Law,99
And freedom her Tradition, :100
Where frowned the rocks had Freedom smiled,101
Sung, mid the shrill wind’s whistle102
So England prized her garden Rose,103
But Scotland loved her Thistle.104

XIV.

The land thus pure from foreign foot,105
Her growing powers thus centred106
Around her heart, with other lands107
The race historic entered.108
Her struggling dawn, convulsed or bright,109
Worker on through storms and troubles,110
Whilst a heroie line of kings111
Strove with heroic nobles.112

XV.

Fair field alone the brave demand,113
And Scotland ne’er had Jost it :114
And honest prove the hate and love115
To objects meet adjusted.116
Intelligible course was hers ;117
By safety tried or danger :118
The native was for native known119
The stranger known for stranger.120

XVI.

Honour in her a sphere had found,121
Nobility a station,122
The patriot’s thought the task it sought,123
And virtue—toleration.124
Her will and way had ne’er been crossed125
In fatal contradiction ;126
Nor loyalty to treason soured,127
Nor faith abused with fiction.128

XVII.

Can song be mute where hearts are sound ?129
Weak doubts—away we fling them !130
The land that breeds great men, great deeds131
Should ne’er lack bards to sing them,132
That vigour, sense, and mutual truth133
Which bafiled each invader,134
Shall fill her marts, and feed her arts,135
While peaceful olives shade her.136

XVII.

Honour to Scotland and to Burns !137
In him she stands collected.138
A thousand streams one river make139
Thus Genius, heaven-directed,140
Conjoins all separate veins of power141
The one great-soul creation ;142
And blends a million men to make143
The Poet of the nation.144

XIX.

Honour to Burns !  and her who first145
Let loose the abounding river146
Of music from the Poet’s heart,147
Borne through all lands for ever !148
How much to her mankind has owed149
Of song’s selectest treasures !150
Unsweetened by her kiss, his lips151
Had sung far other measures.152

XX.

Be green for aye, green bank and brae153
Around Mongomery’s Castle !154
Blow there, ye earliest flowers !  and there,155
Ye sweetest song-birds, nestle !156
For there was ta’en that last farewell157
In hope, indulged how blindly ;158
And there was given that long last gaze159
That dwelt” on him “ sae kindly.”160

XXI.

No word of thine recorded stands ;161
Few words that hour were spoken :162
Two Bibles there were interchanged,163
And some slight love-gift broken.164
And there thy cold faint hands he pressed,165
Thy head by dewdrops misted ;166
And kisses, ill-resisted first,167
At last were unresisted.168

XXII.

Ah cease !— she died. He too is dead,169
Of all her girlish graces170
Perhaps one nameless lock remains :171
The rest stern Time effaces172
Dust lost in dust. Not so : a bloom173
Is hers that ne’er can wither ;174
And in that lay which lives for aye175
The twain live on together.176