Page images
PDF
EPUB

Where humble lore is learnt, where humble worth
Pines unrewarded by a thankless state.
Thus reading, hymning, all alone, unseen,
The shepherd-boy the Sabbath holy keeps,
Till on the heights he marks the straggling bands
Returning homeward from the house of prayer.
In peace they home resort. O blissful day!
When all men worship God as conscience wills.
Far other times our fathers' grandsires knew,
A virtuous race, to godliness devote.
What though the sceptic's scorn hath dared to soil
The record of their fame! What though the men
Of worldly minds have dared to stigmatize
The sister-cause, Religion and the Law,
With Superstition's name! yet, yet their deeds,
Their constancy in torture, and in death,
These on tradition's tongue still live, these shall
On history's honest page be pictured bright
To latest times. Perhaps some bard, whose muse
Disdains the servile strain of Fashion's quire,
May celebrate their unambitious names.
With them each day was holy, every hour
They stood prepared to die, a people doomed
To death:--old men, and youths, and simple maids.
With them each day was holy; but that morn
On which the angel said, See where the Lord

green sward

Was laid, joyous arose; to die that day
Was bliss. Long ere the dawn, by devious ways,
O'er hills, thro' woods, o'er dreary wastes, they sought
The upland moors, where rivers, there but brooks,
Dispart to different seas: Fast by such brooks,
A little glen is sometimes scooped, a plat
With

gay, and flowers that strangers seem
Amid the heathery wild, that all around
Fatigues the eye: in solitudes like these
Thy persecuted children, Scotia, foiled
A tyrant's and a bigot's bloody laws :
There, leaning on his spear, (one of the array,
Whose gleam, in former days, had scathed the rose
On England's banner, and had powerless struck
The infatuate monarch and his wavering host,)
The lyart veteran heard the word of God
By Cameron thundered, or by Renwick poured
In gentle stream: then rose the song,

the loud Acclaim of praise; the wheeling plover ceased Her plaint; the solitary place was glad, And on the distant cairns, the watcher's ear Caught doubtfully at times the breeze-borne note. But years more gloomy followed; and no more

* Sentinels were placed on the surrounding hills, to give warning of the approach of the military.

The assembled people dared, in face of day,
To worship God, or even at the dead
Of night, save when the wintry storm raved fierce,
And thunder-peals compelled the men of blood
To couch within their dens; then dauntlessly
The scattered few would meet, in some deep dell
By rocks o'er-canopied, to hear the voice,
Their faithful pastor's voice : He by the gleam
Of sheeted lightning oped the sacred book,
And words of comfort spake : Over their souls
His accents soothing came,--as to her young
The heathfowl's plumes, when, at the close of eve,
She gathers in, mournful, her brood dispersed
By murderous sport, and o'er the remnant spreads
Fondly her wings; close nestling 'neath her breast,
They, cherished, cower amid the purple blooms.

But wood and wild, the mountain and the dale, The house of prayer itself,—no place inspires Emotions more accordant with the day, Than does the field of graves, the land of rest :Oft at the close of evening-prayer, the toll, The solemn funeral-toll, pausing, proclaims The service of the tomb; the homeward crowds Divide on either hand; the pomp

draws near; The choir to meet the dead go forth, and sing,

I am the resurrection and the life.
Ah me! these youthful bearers robed in white,
They tell a mournful tale; some blooming friend
Is gone, dead in her prime of years :-'twas she,
The poor man's friend, who, when she could not give,
With angel tongue pleaded to those who could;
With angel tongue and mild beseeching eye,
That ne'er besought in vain, save when she prayed
For longer life, with heart resigned to die,-
Rejoiced to die; for happy visions blessed
Her voyage's last days, * and, hovering round,
Alighted on her soul, giving presage
That heaven was nigh:-

-O what a burst
Of rapture from her lips ! what tears of joy
Her heavenward eyes suffused! Those

eyes

closed! But all her loveliness is not yet flown: She smiled in death, and still her cold pale face Retains that smile; as when a waveless lake, In which the wintry stars all bright appear,

are

* Towards the end of Columbus's voyage to the new world, when he was already near, but not in sight of land, the drooping hopes of his mariners (for his own confidence seems to have remained unmoved) were revived by the appearance of birds, at first hovering round the ship, and then lighting on the rige ging.

Is sheeted by a nightly frost with ice,
Still it reflects the face of heaven unchanged,
Unruffled by the breeze or sweeping blast.
Again that knell! The slow procession stops :
The pall withdrawn, Death's altar, thick-embossed
With melancholy ornaments,– (the name,
The record of her blossoming age) appears
Unveiled, and on it dust to dust is thrown,
The final ríte. Oh! hark that sullen sound !
Upon the lowered bier the shovelled clay
Falls fast, and fills the void.

But who is he,
That stands aloof, with haggard wistful eye,
As if he coveted the closing grave?
And he does covet it; his wish is death:
The dread resolve is fixed; his own right-hand
Is sworn to do the deed: The day of rest
No peace, no comfort, brings his woe-worn spirit;
Self cursed, the hallowed dome he dreads to enter;
He dares not pray; he dares not sigh a hope;
Annihilation is his only heaven.
Loathsome the converse of his friends! he shuns
The human face; in every careless eye
Suspicion of his purpose seems to lurk.
Deep piny shades he loves, where no sweet note
Is warbled, where the rook unceasing caws :

« PreviousContinue »