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Poems, &c. (1790)
by Joanna Baillie
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But, lo! the moon looks forth in splendour bright, Fair and unclouded, from her middle height. The passing cloud unveils her kindly ray, And slowly sails its weary length away; While broken fragments from its fleecy side, In dusky bands before it swiftly glide; Their misty texture changing with the wind, A strange and scatter'd group, of motley kind As ever earth or fruitful ocean fed, Or ever youthful poets fancy bred. His surgy length the wreathing serpent trails, And by his side the rugged camel sails: The winged griffith follows close behind, And spreads his dusky pinions to the wind. Athwart the sky in scatter'd bands they range From shape to shape, transform'd in endless change; Then piece meal torn, in ragged portions stray, Or thinly spreading, slowly melt away. A softer brightness covers all below; Hill, dale, and wood, in mellow'd colour's glow. High tow'rs the whiten'd rock in added strength; The brown heath shews afar its dreary length. The winding river glitters on the vale; And gilded trees wave in the passing gale. Upon the ground each black'ning shadow lies, And hasty darkness o'er the valley flies. Wide sheeting shadows travel o'er the plain, And swiftly close upon the varied scene. Return, O lovely moon! and look from high, All stately riding in thy motled sky, Yet, O thy beams in hasty visits come! As swiftly follow'd by the fleeting gloom. O Night! thy smiles are short, and short thy shade; Thou art a freakish friend, and all unstay'd: Yet from thy varied changes who are free? Full many an honest friend resembles thee. Then let my doubtful footsteps darkling stray, Thy next fair beam will set me on my way: E'en take thy freedom, whether rough or kind, I came not forth to quarrel with the wind.



TO FEAR.

O thou! before whose haggard eyes A thousand images arise, Whose forms of horror none may see, But with a soul disturb'd by thee! Wilt thon for ever haunt mankind, And glare upon the darken'd mind! Whene'er thou enterest a breast, Thou robb'st it of its joy and rest; And terrible, and strange to tell, On what that mind delights to dwell. The ruffian's knife with reeking blade, The stranger murder'd in his bed: The howling wind, the raging deep, The sailor's cries, the sinking ship: The awful thunder breaking round: The yauning gulf, the rocking ground: The precipice, whose low'ring brow O'erhangs the horrid deep below; And tempts the wretch, worn out with strife, Of worldly cares, to end his life.

But when thou raisest to the fight Unearthly forms that walk the night, The chilly blood, with magic art, Runs backward on the stoutest heart. Lo! in his post the soldier stands[See Spectator, No. 12.]! The deadly weapon in his hands. In front of death he rushes on, Renown with life is cheaply won, Whilst all his soul with ardour burns, And to the thickest danger turns. But see the man alone, unbent, A church-yard near, and twilight spent, Returning late to his abode, Upon an unfrequented road: No choice is left, his feet must tread The awful dwelling of the dead. In foul mist doth the pale moon wade, No twinkling star breaks thro' the shade: Thick rows of trees increase the gloom, And awful silence of the tomb. Swift to his thoughts, unbidden, throng Full many a tale, forgotten long, Of ghosts, who at the dead of night Walk round their graves all wrapt in white, And o'er the church-yard dark and drear, Becken the traveller to draw near: And restless sprites, who from the ground, Just as the midnight clock doth sound, Rise slowly to a dreadful height, Then vanish quickly from the fight: And wretches who, returning home, By chance have stumbled near some tomb, Athwart a coffin or a bone, And three times heard a hollow groan; With fearful steps he takes his way, And shrinks, and wishes it were day. He starts and quakes at his own tread, But dare not turn about his head. Some sound he hears on ev'ry side; And thro' the trees strange phantoms glide. His heart beats thick against his breast, And hardly stays within its chest: Wild and unsettled are his eyes; His quicken'd hairs begin to rise: Ghastly and strong his features grow; The cold dew trickles from his brow; Whilst grinning beat his clatt'ring teeth, And loosen'd knock his joints beneath. As to the charnel he draws nigh The whiten'd tomb-stone strikes his eye: He starts, he stops, his eye-balls glare, And settle in a death-like stare: Deep hollow sounds ring in his ear; Such sounds as dying wretches hear When the grim dreaded tyrant calls, A horrid sound, he groans and falls.

Thou do'st our fairest hope destroy; Thou art a gloom o'er ev'ry joy; Unheeded let my dwelling be, O Fear! but far remov'd from thee!



A STORY OF OTHER TIMES.

SOMEWHAT IN IMITATION OF THE POEMS OF OSSIAN.

LATHMOR. But why do'st thou stop on the way, and hold me thus hard in thy grasp? It was but the voice of the winds from the deep narrow glens of Glanarven.

ALLEN. The heath is unruffled around, and the oak o'er thy head is at rest: Calm swells the moon on the lake, and nothing is heard in the reeds. Sad was the sound, O my father! but it was not the voice of the wind.

LATHMOR. What dark tow'ring rock do I see 'midst the grey spreading mist of the hills? This is not the vale of Clanarven: my son, we have err'd from the way,

ALLEN. It is not a dark tow'ring rock, 'midst the grey settled mist of the hills. 'Tis a dark tow'r of strength which thou seest, and the ocean spreads dimly behind it.

LATHMOR. Then here will we stop for the night, for the tow'r of Arthula is near. Proceed not, my son, on the way, for it was not the voice of the wind. The ghost of the valliant is forth; and it mourns round the place of its woe. The tray'ller oft' hears it at midnight, and turns him aside from its haunt. The sharp moon is spent in her course, and the way of the desert is doubtful. This oak with his wide leavy branches will shelter our heads from the night; And I'll tell thee a story of old, since the tow'r of Arthula is near.

From the walls of his strength came Lochallen, with his broad chested sons of the hills. He was strong as a bull of the forest, and keen as a bird of the rock. His friends of the chace were around him, the sons of the heroes of Mora. They were clad in the strength of their youth; and the sound of their arms rung afar. For Uthal had led his dark host from the blue misty isle of his power; And o'erspread like a cloud of the desert, the land of the white-headed Lorma. Of Lorma who sat in the hall, and lamented the sons of his youth; For Orvina remained alone to support the frail steps of his age. He sent to the king of Ithona: he remembered the love of his father: And Lochallen soon join'd him on Loarn with the high minded chieftains of Mora.

Loud was the sound of the battle, and many the slain of the field. Red was the sword of Lochallen: it was red with the blood of the brave. For his eye sought the combat of heroes, and the mighty withstood not his arm. He rag'd like a flame on the heath; and the enemy fled from his face.

But short was the triumph of Lorma; the hour of his fading was near. Whilst a bard rais'd the song of the battle, his dim eyes were closed in death. He fell like a ruined tow'r; like a fragment of times that are past: Like a rock whose foundation is worn with the lashes of many a wave. Four grey head warriors of Lorma remain'd from the days of his youth: They mourn'd o'er the fall of their lord; and they bore him to his dark narrow house. His memorial was rais'd on the hill; and the lovely Orvina wept over it. She bent her fair form o'er the heap; and her sorrow was silent, and gentle. It flow'd like the pure twinkling dream beneath the green shade of the fern. The hunters oft bless it at noon, tho' the strangers perceive not its course. The wind of the hill rais'd her locks, and Lochallen beheld her in grief. The soul of the hero was knit to the tear-eyed daughter of Lorma. She was graceful and tall as the willow, that bends o'er the deep shady stream. Her eye like a sun-beam on water, that gleams thro' the dark skirting reeds. Her hair like the light wreathing cloud, that floats on the brow of the hill, When the beam of the morning is there, and it scatters its skirts to the wind. Lovely and soft were her smiles, like a glimpse from the white riven cloud, When the sun hastens over the lake, and a summer show'r ruffles its bosom. Her voice was the sweet sound of midnight, that visits the ear of the bard, When he darts from the place of his slumber, and calls on some far distant friend. She was fair 'mongst the maids of her time; and she soften'd the wrath of the mighty. Their eyes lighten'd up in her presence; they dropt their dark spears as she spoke. Lochallen was firm in his strength, and unmov'd in the battle of heroes; Like a rock-fenced isle of the ocean, that shews its dark head thro' the storm. His brow was like a cliff on the shore, that fore-warneth the hunters of Ithona; For there gleams the first ray of morning, and there broods the mist ere the storm: It shone, and it darken'd by turns, as the strength of his passions arose. He was terrible as a gathering storm, when his soul learnt the wrongs of the feeble. His eye was the lightning of shields; he was swift as a blast in its course. When the warriours return'd from the field, and the sons of the mighty assembled, He was graceful as the light tow'ring cloud that rises from the blue bounded main. Gentle and fair was his form in the tow'rs of the hilly Ithona. His voice cheer'd the soul of the sad; he would sport with a child in the hall.

Matchless in the days of their love were Lochallen and the daughter of Lorma. But their beauty has ceas'd on Arthula; and the place of their rest is unknown. The family of Lorma has fail'd, and strangers rejoice in his hall: But voices of sorrow are heard when the stillness of midnight is there; The stranger is wak'd with the sound, and enquires of the race that is gone. But wherefore thus doleful and sad, do ye wander alone on Arthula? Why look ye thus lonely and sad, ye children of the dark narrow house? Your names shall be known in the song, when the fame of the mighty is low.

ALLEN. From what cloud of the hills do they look? for I see not their forms, O my father!

LATHMOR. Why do'st thou tremble my son? thou hast fought in the battle of shields. They look'd from no cloud of the hills; but the soul of thy father beheld them. Lochallen return'd from the field, to the sea-beaten tower of Arthula. Five days he abode in the hall, and they pass'd like a glimpse of the sun, When the clouds of the tempest are rent, and the green island smiles 'midst the storm. On the sixth a cloud hung on his brow, and his eye shun'd the looks of his friends. He spoke to the maid of his soul, and the trouble of his bosom was great. Pleasant is the hall of my love; but the storm gathers round us, Orvina. I must go to the island of Uthal, and scatter his gathering force. But like a cleft oak of the forest, I'll quickly return to my love: When the hard wedge is drawn from its side, it returns to itself again. The daughter of Lorma was silent: she turn'd her fair face from his sight. Go to the war, son of Mora; and the strength of thy fathers go with thee. I will sit on the high rocky shore, and look o'er the wide foaming sea. I will watch ev'ry blue rising cloud, till I see thy dark vessels return.

He gather'd his warriours around him; they darken'd the brown rugged shore. The rocks echo'd wide to their cries, and loud was the dashing of oars. Orvina stood high on a rock, that hung o'er the deep lashing main; Big swell'd the tear in her eye, and high heav'd the sighs of her bosom; As she saw the white billows encreasing between his dark ship and the shore. Her fixed eye follow'd its course o'er many a far distant wave, Till its broad sails, and high tow'ring mast but appear'd like a speck on the waters; Yet still she beheld in her fancy the form of her love on its side; And she stretched her white arms to the ocean, and wav'd her loose girdle on high.

Soon reach'd the sons of Ithona the blue misty isle of their foe. Like the pent up dogs of the hunter when let loose from their prison of night; Who snuff up the air of the morning, and rejoice at the voice of the chace; They leapt from the sides of their vessels, and spread o'er the wide sounding shore. Thick on the brown heathy plain, were spread the dark thousands of Uthal. The warriours of Lochallen were few, but their fathers were known in the song. Like a small rapid stream of the hills when it falls on the broad settled lake, And troubles its dark muddy bosom, and dashes its waters aloft, So rush'd the keen sons of Ithona on the thick gather'd host of the foe. Red gleam'd the arms of the brave thro' the brown rising dust of the field. Fierce glar'd the eyes of Lochallen; he fought the dark face of his enemy. He found the grim king of the isle; but the strength of his chieftains was round him. Come forth in thy might, said Lochallen; come forth to the combat of kings. Great is the might of thy warriours; but where is the strength of thine arms? Youth of Ithona, said Uthal, thy fathers were mighty in battle, Return to thy brown woody hills, till the hair is grown dark on thy cheek; Then come from the tow'rs of thy safety, a foe less unworthy of Uthal. But thou lovest a weakly enemy, foe of the white haired chief. Thou lovest a foe that is weak, said the red swelling pride of Lochallen. Seest thou this sword of my youth? it is red with the blood of thy heroes. Come forth in the strength of thine years, and hand its dark blade in thy hall. He lifted a spear in his wrath o'er the head of his high worded foe; But the strength of his chieftains was there, and it rung on their broad spreading shields. He turned himself scornful away, to look for some nobler enemy; He met thee fair son of Hidallo, as chaffing he strode in his wrath; But thou never did'st turn from the valiant, youth of the far distant land. Fierce fought the heroes, and wonder'd each chief at the might of his foe. They found themselves matched in strength, and they fought in the pride of their souls. Bloody and long was the fight, but the arm of Lochallen prevail'd. Ah, why did you combat, ye heroes! ah, why did ye meet in the field! Your souls had been brothers of love, had ye met in the dwellings of peace. He was like to thyself, son of Mora, where his voice cheer'd the heart of the stranger In the far distant hall of his father, who never shall hear it again; He was like to thyself whom thou slewest; and he fell in his youth like thee. The maid of thy bosom is lovely, thou fair fallen son of the stranger. She sits on her high hanging bower, and looks to the way of thy promise. She combs down her long yellow hair; and prepares a fine robe for thy coming. She starts at the voice of the breeze, and runs to the door of her bow'r. But thou art a dim misty form on the clouds of far distant hills.

Fierce was the rage of the battle, and terrible the clanging of arms. Loud were the shouts of the mighty, like the wide scatter'd thunder of Lora, When its voice is return'd from the rocks, and it strengthens in its broad spreading course. Heavy were the groans of the dying; the voice of the fallen was sad, Like the deep 'prison'd winds of the cavern, when the roar of the tempest is laid. The sons of Ithona were terrible: the enemy fled from before them, Like the dark gather'd fowls of the ocean, that flock to the shore ere a storm. They fled from the might of their foes, and the darkness of night clos'd around them.

Cold rose the wind of the desert, and blew o'er the dark bloody field. Sad was its voice on the heath, where it lifted the locks of the dead. Hollow roar'd the sea at a distance: the ghosts of the slain shriek'd aloud. Pale shady forms stalk'd around, and their airy swords gleam'd thro' the night; For the spirits of warriours departed came born on the deep rushing blast; There hail'd they their new fallen sons, and the sound of their meeting was terrible. At a distance was gather'd Ithona round many a bright flaming oak; Till morning rose red o'er the main, like a new bloody field of battle.

Lochallen assembled his heroes; they rang'd o'er the land of their enemy. But they found not the king in the field; and the walls of his strength were deserted. Then spoke the friend of his bosom, the dark haired chief of Trevallen; Why seek you the king in his tow'rs? he is fled to the caves of his fear. Let us fly, said the chief of Ithona, let us fly to the daughter of Lorma! Let us fight with man in the field, but pull not a deer from his den.

Two days they buried their dead, and rais'd their memorial on high. On the third day they loosen'd their vessels, and left the blue isle of their fame. The darkness of night was around when the bay of Arthula receiv'd them. Thick beat the joy of his bosom, as he drew near the place of his love; But the strength of his limbs was unloos'd, as he trode on the dark sounding shore. Thou did'st promise, O maid of my soul! thou did'st promise to watch for thy love! But no kindly messenger waits to hail my return from the war. The tow'r of Arthula is dark; and I hear not the sound of its hall. The watch dog howls to the night, nor heeds the approach of our feet. He seized a bright flaming brand, and he hasten'd his steps to the tow'r. Wide stood the black low'ring gate; and deep was the silence within. Hollow and loud rung his steps, as he trode thro' the dark empty hall. He flew to the bow'r of his love; it was still as the chamber of death. His eyes search'd wildly around him; he call'd on the name of his love; But his own voice returned alone from the deep-sounding walls of the tow'r. He leant with his back to the wall, and cross'd his arms over his breast. Heavy sunk his head on his shoulder: the blue flame burnt double before him. A voice, like the evening breeze when it steals down the bed of the river, Came softly and sad to his ear, and he raised his drooping head. The form of his love stood before him: yet it was not the form of his love; For fixed and dim was her eye, and the beams of her beauty were fled. She was pale as the white frozen lake, when it gleams to the light of the moon. Her garments were heavy and drench'd, and the streams trickled fast from her hair. She was like a snow-crusted tree in winter, when it drops to the mid-day sun. O seek not for me, son of Moro, in the light cheerful dwellings of men! For low is my bed in the deep, and cold is the place of my rest. The sea monster sports by my side, and the water-snake twines round my neck. But do not forget me, Lochallen: O think on the days of our love! I sat on the high rocky shore, mine eyes look'd afar o'er the ocean. I saw two dark ships on the waves, and quick beat the joy of my breast. One vessel drew near to the shore, and six warriours leapt from its side. I hasten'd to meet thee, my love; but mine ear met the stern voice of Uthal. I thought that my hero was slain, and I felt me alone in my weakness. I felt me deserted and lonely: I flew to the steep hanging rock: I threw my robe over my head; and I hid me in the dark closing deep. Yet O do not leave me, Lochallen, to waste in my watery bed! But raise me a tomb on the hill, where the daughter of Lorma should lie. The voice of her sorrow did cease; and her form passed quickly away. It pass'd like the pale shiv'ring light, that is lost in the dark closing cloud.

But, lo! the first light of the morning is red on the skirts of the heavens. Let us go on my journey, my son, for the length of the heath is before us.

ALLEN. It is not the light of the morn which thou see'st on the skirts of the heavens; It is but a clear shiv'ring brightness, that changes its hue to the night. I have seen it like a bloody-spread robe when it hung o'er the waves of the North. Sad was the fate of his love, but how fell the king of Ithona? I have heard of the strength of his arm; did he fall in the battle of heroes?

LATHMOR. He fell in the strength of his youth, but he fell not in battle, my son. He knew not the sword of a foe, yet he died not the death of the peaceful. They carried them both to the hill, but the place of their rest is unknown.

ALLEN. But feeble and spent is thy voice, thou grey haired bard of the hill.

LATHMOR. Long is this song of the night, and I feel not the strength of my youth.

ALLEN. Then let us go on our way: let us go by the way of the heath. For it is the fair light of the morning which thou see'st on the far bounding waves. Slowly it grows in its beauty, and promises good to the traveller. Red are the small broken clouds that hang on the skirts of the heavens. Deep glows the clear open sky with the light of the yet hidden sun, Save where the dark narrow cloud hath stretched its vast length o'er the heavens; And the clear ruddy brightness behind it looks fair thro' its blue streaming lines. A bloom like the far distant heath is dark on the wide roving clouds. The broad wavy breast of the ocean is grand in the beauty of morning. Thick rests the white settled mist on the deep rugged clifts of the shore; And the grey rocks look dimly between, like the high distant isles in a calm. But grim low'r the walks of Arthula; the light of the morn is behind them.

LATHMOR. Dark low'rs the tow'r of Arthula: the time of its glory is past. The valiant have ceas'd from its hall; and the son of the stranger is there. The works of the mighty remain, but they are the vapour of morning.



A MOTHER TO HER WAKING INFANT.

Now in thy dazzling half-op'd eye, Thy curled nose, and lip awry, Thy up-hoist arms, and noddling head, And little chin with crystal spread, Poor helpless thing! what do I see, That I should sing of thee?

From thy poor tongue no accents come, Which can but rub thy toothless gum: Small understanding boast thy face, Thy shapeless limbs nor step, nor grace: A few short words thy feats may tell, And yet I love thee well.

When sudden wakes the bitter shriek, And redder swells thy little cheek; When rattled keys thy woe beguile, And thro' the wet eye gleams the smile, Still for thy weakly self is spent Thy little silly plaint.

But when thy friends are in distress, Thou'lt laugh and chuckle ne'er the less; Nor e'en with sympathy be smitten, Tho' all are sad but thee and kitten; Yet little varlet that thou art, Thou twitchest at the heart.

Thy rosy cheek so soft and warm; Thy pinky hand, and dimpled arm; Thy silken locks that scantly peep, With gold-tip'd ends, where circle deep Around thy neck in harmless grace So soft and sleekly hold their place, Might harder hearts with kindness fill, And gain our right good will.

Each passing clown bestows his blessing, Thy mouth is worn with old wives' kissing: E'en lighter looks the gloomy eye Of surly sense, when thou art by; And yet I think whoe'er they be, They love thee not like me.

Perhaps when time shall add a few Short years to thee, thou'lt love me too. Then wilt thou thro' life's weary way Become my sure and cheering stay: Wilt care, for me, and be my hold, When I am weak and old.

Thou'lt listen to my lengthen'd tale, And pity me when I am frail— But see, the sweepy spinning fly Upon the window takes thine eye. Go to thy little senseless play— Thou doest not heed my lay.



A CHILD TO HIS SICK GRANDFATHER.

Grand-dad, they say your old and frail, Your stocked legs begin to fail: Your knobbed stick (that was my horse) Can scarce support your bended corse; While back to wall, you lean so sad, I'm vex'd to see you, dad.

You us'd to smile, and stroke my head, And tell me how good children did; But now I wot not how it be, You take me seldom on your knee; Yet ne'ertheless I am right glad To sit beside you, dad.

How lank and thin your beard hangs down! Scant are the white hairs on your crown: How wan and hollow are your cheeks! Your brow is rough with crossing breaks; But yet, for all his strength is fled, I love my own old dad.

The housewives round their potions brew, And gossips come to ask for you: And for your weal each neighbour cares, And good men kneel, and say their pray'rs: And ev'ry body looks so sad, When you are ailing, dad.

You will not die, and leave us then? Rouse up and be our dad again. When you are quiet and laid in bed, We'll doff our shoes and softly tread; And when you wake we'll aye be near, To fill old dad his cheer.

When thro' the house you shift your stand, I'll lead you kindly by the hand: When dinner's set, I'll with you bide, And aye be serving by your side: And when the weary fire burns blue, I'll sit and talk with you.

I have a tale both long and good, About a partlet and her brood; And cunning greedy fox, that stole, By dead of midnight thro' a hole, Which slyly to the hen-roost led— You love a story, dad?

And then I have a wond'rous tale Of men all clad in coats of mail. With glitt'ring swords——you nod, I think? Your fixed eyes begin to wink: Down on your bosom sinks your head: You do not hear me, dad.



THE HORSE AND HIS RIDER.

Brac'd in the sinewy vigour of thy breed, In pride of gen'rous strength, thou stately steed, Thy broad chest to the battle's front is given, Thy mane fair floating to the winds of heaven. Thy champing hoofs the flinty pebbles break; Graceful the rising of thine arched neck. White churning foam thy chaffed bits enlock; And from thy nostril bursts the curling smoke. Thy kindling eye-balls brave the glaring south; And dreadful is the thunder of thy mouth: Whilst low to earth thy curving haunches bend, Thy sweepy tail involv'd in clouds of sand; Erect in air thou rear'st thy front of pride, And ring'st the plated harness on thy side. But, lo! what creature, goodly to the sight, Dares thus bestride thee, chaffing in thy might? Of portly stature, and determin'd mien? Whose dark eye dwells beneath a brow serene? And forward looks unmov'd to fields of death: And smiling, gently strokes thee in thy wrath? Whose brandish'd falch'on dreaded gleams afar? It is a British soldier, arm'd for war!

FINIS.

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