Lyra Celtica

                                        III

MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY SCOTO-CELTIC

 

ANON.  (217)

        Monaltri.

There's a sound on the hill,
    Not of joy but of ailing;
Dark-hair'd women mourn--
    Beat their hands, with loud wailing.

They cry out, Ochon!
    For the young Monaltri,
Who went to the hill;
    But home came not he.

Without snood, without plaid
    Katrina's gone roaming.
O Katrina, my dear!
    Homeward be coming.

Och! hear, on the castle
    Yon pretty bird singing,
"Snoodless and plaidless,
    Her hands she is ringing."

An Coineachan--A Highland Lullaby.  (218)

H-bhan, h-bhan, Goiridh g O,
Goiridh g O, Goiridh g O;
H-bhan, h-bhan, Goiridh g O,
I've lost my darling baby O!

I left my darling lying here,
A-lying here, a-lying here;
I left my darling lying here,
    To go and gather blaeberries.

I've found the wee brown otter's track,
The otter's track, the otter's track;
I've found the wee brown otter's track,
    But ne'er a trace of baby O!

I found the track of the swan on the lake,
The swan on the lake, the swan on the lake;
I found the track of the swan on the lake,
    But not the track of baby O!

I found the track of the yellow fawn
The yellow fawn, the yellow fawn;
I found the track of the yellow fawn,
    But could not trace my baby O!

I 've found the trail of the mountain mist,
The mountain mist, the mountain mist;
I 've found the trail of the mountain mist,
    But ne'er a trace of baby O!

ANON. (219)

A Boat Song.

Ho, my bonnie boatie,
Thou bonnie boatie mine!
So trim and tight a boatie
Was never launched on brine.
Ho, my bonnie boatie,
My praise is justly thine
Above all bonnie boaties
Were builded on Loch Fyne!

H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
Mo bhta boidheach laghach,
Thogadh taobh Loch Fin.

To build thee up so firmly,
I knew the stuff was good
Thy keel of stoutest elm-tree,
Well fixed in oaken wood;
Thy timbers ripely seasoned
Of cleanest Norway pine
Well cased in ruddy copper,
To plough the deep were thine!

H mo bhta, etc.

How lovely was my boatie
At rest upon the shore,
Before my bonnie boatie
Had known wild ocean's roar.
Thy deck so smooth and stainless,
With such fine bend thy rim,
Thy seams that know no gaping,
Thy masts so tall and trim.

H mo bhta, etc.

And bonnie was my boatie
Afloat upon the bay,
When smooth as mirror round her
The heaving ocean lay;
While round the cradled boatie
Light troops of plumy things
To praise the bonnie boatie
Made music with their wings.

H mo bhta, etc.

How eager was my boatie
To plough the swelling seas,
When o'er the curling waters
Full sharply blew the breeze!
O, 'twas she that stood to windward,
The first among her peers,
When shrill the blasty music
Came piping round her ears!

H mo bhta, etc.

And where the sea came surging
In mountains from the west,
And reared the racing billow
Its high and hissing crest;
She turned her head so deftly,
With skill so firmly shown,
The billows they went their way
The boatie went her own.

H mo bhta, etc.

And when the sudden squall came
Black swooping from the Ben,
And white the foam was spinning
Around thy topmast then,
O never knew my boatie
A thought of ugly dread,
But dashed right through the billow,
With the spray-shower round her head!

H mo bhta, etc.

Yet wert thou never headstrong
To stand with forward will,
When yielding was thy wisdom
And caution was my skill.
How neatly and how nimbly
Thou turned thee to the wind,
With thy leeside in the water
And a swirling trail behind!

H mo bhta, etc.

What though a lonely dwelling
On barren shore I own,
My kingdom is the blue wave,
My boatie is my throne!
I'll never want a dainty dish
To breakfast or to dine,
While men may man my boatie
And fish swim in Loch Fiyne!

HO mo bhAta laghach,

'S tu mo bhAta grinn;

H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
H mo bhta laghach,
'S tu mo bhta grinn;
Mo bhta boidheach laghach,
Thogadh taobh Loch Fin.

JOHN STUART BLACKIE (222)

The Old Soldier of the Gareloch Head.

I've wander'd east and west,
    And a soldier I hae been;
The scars upon my breast
    Tell the wars that I have seen.
But now I'm old and worn,
    And my locks are thinly spread,
And I'm come to die in peace,
    By the Gareloch Head.

When I was young and strong,
    Oft a wandering I would go,
By the rough shores of Loch Long,
    Up to lone Glencroe.
But now I'm fain to rest,
    And my resting-place I've made,
On the green and gentle bosom
    Of the Gareloch Head.

'Twas here my Jeanie grew,
    Like a lamb amid the flocks,
With her eyes of bonnie blue,
    And her gowden locks.
And here we often met,
    When with lightsome foot we sped,
O'er the green and grassy knolls
    At the Gareloch Head.

'Twas here she pined and died--
    O! the salt tear in my e'e
Forbids my heart to hide
    What Jeanie was to me!
'Twas here my Jeanie died,
    And they scoop'd her lowly bed,
'Neath the green and grassy turf
    At the Gareloch Head.

Like a leaf in leafy June,
    From the leafy forest torn,
She fell, and I'll fall soon
    Like a sheaf of yellow corn.
For I'm sere and weary now,
    And I soon shall make my bed
With my Jeanie 'neath the turf
    At the Gareloch Head.

ROBERT BUCHANAN (224)

Flower of the World.

Wherever men sinned and wept,
I wandered in my quest;
At last in a Garden of God
I saw the Flower of the World.

This Flower had human eyes,
Its breath was the breath of the mouth
Sunlight and starlight came,
And the Flower drank bliss from both.

Whatever was base and unclean,
Whatever was sad and strange,
Was piled around its roots;
It drew its strength from the same.

Whatever was formless and base
Pass'd into fineness and form;
Whatever was lifeless and mean
Grew into beautiful bloom.

Then I thought "O Flower of the World,
Miraculous Blossom of things,
Light as a faint wreath of snow
Thou tremblest to fall in the wind:

"O beautiful Flower of the World,
Fall not nor wither away;
He is coming--He cannot be far--
The Lord of the Flow'rs and the Stars."

And I cried, "O Spirit divine!
That walkest the Garden unseen,
Come hither, and bless, ere it dies,
The beautiful Flower of the World."

       
The Strange Country.

I have come from a mystical Land of Light
    To a Strange Country;
The Land I have left is forgotten quite
    In the Land I see.

The round Earth rolls beneath my feet,
    And the still Stars glow,
The murmuring Waters rise and retreat,
    The Winds come and go.

Sure as a heart-beat all things seem
    In this Strange Country;
So sure, so still, in a dazzle of dream,
    All things flow free.

'Tis life, all life, be it pleasure or pain,
    In the Field and the Flood,
In the beating Heart, in the burning Brain,
    In the Flesh and the Blood.

Deep as Death is the daily strife
    Of this Strange Country:
All things thrill up till they blossom in Life,
    And flutter and flee.

Nothing is stranger than the rest,
    From the pole to the pole,
The weed by the way, the eggs in the nest,
    The Flesh and the Soul.

Look in mine eyes, O Man I meet
    In this Strange Country!
Lie in my arms, O Maiden sweet,
    With thy mouth kiss me!

Go by, O King, with thy crownd brow
    And thy sceptred hand--
Thou art a straggler too, I vow,
    From the same, strange Land.

Owondrous Faces that upstart
    In this Strange Country!
OSouls, O Shades, that become a part
    Of my Soul and me!

What are ye working so fast and fleet,
    O Humankind?
"We are building Cities for those whose feet
    Are coming behind;

"Our stay is short, we must fly again
    From this Strange Country;
But others are growing, women and men,
    Eternally!"

Child, what art thou? and what am I?
    But a breaking wave!
Rising and rolling on, we hie
    To the shore of the grave.

I have come from a mystical Land of Light
    To this Strange Country;
This dawn I came, I shall go to-night,
    Ay me! ay me!

I hold my hand to my head and stand
    'Neath the air's blue arc,
I try to remember the mystical Land,
    But all is dark.

And all around me swim Shapes like mine
    In this Strange Country;--
They break in the glamour of gleams divine,
    And they moan "Ay me!'

Like waves in the cold Moon's silvern breath
    They gather and roll,
Each crest of white is a birth or a death
    Each sound is a Soul.

Oh, whose is the Eye that gleams so bright
    O'er this Strange Country?
It draws us along with a chain of light,
    As the Moon the Sea!

The Dream of the World without Death.

Now, sitting by her side worn out with weeping,
Behold, I fell to sleep, and had a vision,
Wherein I heard a wondrous Voice intoning:

Crying aloud, "The Master on His throne
Openeth now the seventh seal of wonder,
And beckoneth back the angel men name Death.

And at His feet the mighty Angel kneeleth,
Breathing not; and the Lord doth look upon him,
Saying, 'Thy wanderings on earth are ended."'

And lo! the mighty Shadow sitteth idle
Even at the silver gates of heaven,
Drowsily looking in on quiet waters,
And puts his silence among men no longer.

*

The world was very quiet. Men in traffic
Cast looks over their shoulders; pallid seamen
Shivered to walk upon the decks alone;

And women barred their doors with bars of iron,
In the silence of the night; and at the sunrise
Trembled behind the husbandman afield.

I could not see a kirkyard near or far
I thirsted for a green grave, and my vision
Was weary for the white gleam of a tombstone.

But hearkening dumbly, ever and anon
I heard a cry out of a human dwelling,
And felt the cold wind of a lost one's going.

One struck a brother fiercely, and he fell,
And faded in a darkness; and that other
Tore his hair, and was afraid, and could not perish

One struck his aged mother on the mouth,
And she vanished with a gray grief from his hearth-stone.
One melted from her bairn, and on the ground

With sweet unconscious eyes the bairn lay smiling.
And many made a weeping among mountains,
And hid themselves in caverns, and were drunken.

I heard a voice from out the beauteous earth,
Whose side rolled up from winter into summer,
Crying, "I am grievous for my children."

I heard a voice from out the hoary ocean
Crying, "Burial in the breast of me were better,--
Yea, burial in the salt flags and green crystals."

I heard a voice from out the hollow ether,
Saying, "The thing ye cursed hath been abolished--
Corruption, and decay, and dissolution!"

And the world shrieked, and the summer-time was bitter,
And men and women feared the air behind them;
And for lack of its green graves the world was hateful.

*

Now at the bottom of a snowy mountain
I came upon a woman thin with sorrow,
Whose voice was like the crying of a sea-gull:

Saying, "O Angel of the Lord, come hither,
And bring me him I seek for on thy bosom,
That I may close his eyelids and embrace him.

"I curse thee that I cannot look upon him!
I curse thee that I know not he is sleeping!
Yet know that he has vanished upon God!

"I laid my little girl upon a wood-bier,
And very sweet she seemed, and near unto me;
And slipping flowers into her shroud was comfort.

"I put my silver mother in the darkness,
And kissed her, and was solaced by her kisses,
And set a stone, to mark the place, above her.

"And green, green were their quiet sleeping places,
So green that it was pleasant to remember
That I and my tall man would sleep beside them.

"The closing of dead eyelids is not dreadful,
For comfort comes upon us when we close them,
And tears fall, and our sorrow grows familiar;

"And we can sit above them where they slumber,
And spin a dreamy pain into a sweetness,
And know indeed that we are very near them.

But to reach out empty arms is surely dreadful,
And to feel the hollow empty world is awful,
And bitter grow the silence and the distance.

There is no space for grieving or for weeping
No touch, no cold, no agony to strive with,
And nothing but a horror and a blankness!"

*

Now behold I saw a woman in a mud-hut
Raking the white spent embers with her fingers,
And fouling her bright hair with the white ashes.

Her mouth was very bitter with the ashes;
Her eyes with dust were blinded; and her sorrow
Sobbed in the throat of her like gurgling water.

And, all around, the voiceless hills were hoary,
But red light scorched their edges; and above her
There was a soundless trouble of the vapours.

"Whither, and O whither," said the woman,
"O Spirit of the Lord, hast Thou conveyed them,
My little ones, my little son and daughter?

"For, lo! we wandered forth at early morning,
And winds were blowing round us, and their mouths
Blew rose-buds to the rose-buds, and their eyes

"Looked violets at the violets, and their hair
Made sunshine in the sunshine, and their passing
Left a pleasure in the dewy leaves behind them;

"And suddenly my little son looked upward,
And his eyes were dried like dew-drops; and his going
Was like a blow of fire upon my face.

"And my little son was gone. My little daughter
Looked round me for him, clinging to my vesture;
But the Lord had drawn him from me, and I knew it

"By the sign He gives the stricken, that the lost one
Lingers nowhere on the earth, on hill or valley,
Neither underneath the grasses nor the tree-roots.

"And my shriek was like the splitting of an ice-reef,
And I sank among my hair, and all my palm
Was moist and warm where the little hand had filled it.

"Then I fled and sought him wildly, hither and thither
Though I knew that he was stricken from me wholly
By the token that the Spirit gives the stricken.

"I sought him in the sunlight and the starlight
I sought him in great forests, and in waters
Where I saw mine own pale image looking at me.

"And I forgot my little bright-haired daughter,
Though her voice was like a wild-bird's far behind me,
Till the voice ceased, and the universe was silent.

"And stilly, in the starlight, came I backward
To the forest where I missed him; and no voices
Brake the stillness as I stooped down in the starlight,

"And saw two little shoes filled up with dew,
And no mark of little footsteps any farther,
And knew my little daughter had gone also."

*

But beasts died; yea, the cattle in the yoke,
The milk-cow in the meadow, and the sheep,
And the dog upon the doorstep: and men envied.

And birds died; yea, the eagle at the sun-gate,
The swan upon the waters, and the farm-fowl,
And the swallows on the housetops: and men envied.

And reptiles; yea, the toad upon the roadside,
The slimy, speckled snake among the grass,
The lizard on the ruin: and men envied.

The dog in lonely places cried not over
The body of his master; but it missed him,
And whined into the air, and died, and rotted.

The traveller's horse lay swollen in the pathway,
And the blue fly fed upon it; but no traveller
Was there; nay, not his footprint on the ground.

The cat mewed in the midnight, and the blind
Gave a rustle, and the lamp burned blue and faint,
And the father's bed was empty in the morning.

The mother fell to sleep beside the cradle,
Rocking it, while she slumbered, with her foot,
And wakened,--and the cradle there was empty.

I saw a two-years' child, and he was playing;
And he found a dead white bird upon the doorway,
And laughed, and ran to show it to his mother.

The mother moaned, and clutched him, and was bitter,
And flung the dead white bird across the threshold;
And another white bird flitted round and round it,

And uttered a sharp cry, and twittered and twittered,
And lit beside its dead mate, and grew busy,
Strewing it over with green leaves and yellow.

*

So far, so far to seek for were the limits
Of affliction; and men's terror grew a homeless
Terror, yea, and a fatal sense of blankness.

There was no little token of distraction,
There was no visible presence of bereavement,
Such as the mourner easeth out his heart on.

There was no comfort in the slow farewell,
Nor gentle shutting of belovd eyes,
Nor beautiful broodings over sleeping features.

There were no kisses on familiar faces,
No weaving of white grave-clothes, no last pondering
Over the still wax cheeks and folded fingers.

There was no putting tokens under pillows,
There was no dreadful beauty slowly fading,
Fading like moonlight softly into darkness.

There were no churchyard paths to walk on, thinking
How near the well-beloved ones are lying.
There were no sweet green graves to sit and muse on,

Till grief should grow a summer meditation,
The shadow of the passing of an angel,
And sleeping should seem easy, and not cruel.

Nothing but wondrous parting and a blankness.

*

But I woke,
                      And, lo! the burthen was uplifted,
And I prayed within the chamber where she slumbered,
And my tears flowed fast and free, but were not bitter.

I eased my heart three days by watching near her,
And made her pillow sweet with scent and flowers,
And could bear at last to put her in the darkness.

And I heard the kirk-bells ringing very slowly,
And the priests were in their vestments, and the earth
Dripped awful on the hard wood, yet I bore it.

And I cried, "O unseen Sender of Corruption,
I bless Thee for the wonder of Thy mercy,
Which softeneth the mystery and the parting.

"I bless Thee for the change and for the comfort,
The bloomiess face, shut eyes, and waxen fingers,--
For Sleeping, and for Silence, and Corruption."

            The Fary Foster-Mother.

Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! Daughter of a Fay!
I had not been a wedde'd wife a twelvemonth and a day,
I had not nurs'd my little one a month upon my knee,
When down among the blue-bell banks rose elfins three times three,
They gripp'd me by the raven hair, I could not cry for fear,
They put a hempen rope around my waist and dragg'd me here,
They made me sit and give thee suck as mortal mothers can,
Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! strange and weak and wan!

Dim Face, Grim Face! lie ye there so still?
Thy red, red lips are at my breast, and thou may'st suck thy fill;
But know ye, tho' I hold thee firm, and rock thee to and fro,
'Tis not to soothe thee into sleep, but just to still my woe?
And know ye, when I lean so calm against the wall of stone,
'Tis when I shut my eyes and try to think thou art mine own?
And know ye, tho' my milk be here, my heart is far away,
Dim Face, Grim Face! Daughter of a Fay!

Gold Hair, Cold Hair! Daughter to a King!
Wrapp'd in bands of snow-white silk with jewels glittering,
Tiny slippers of the gold upon thy feet so thin,
Silver cradle velvet-lin'd for thee to slumber in,
Pygmy pages, crimson-hair'd, to serve thee on their knees,
To fan thy face with ferns and bring thee honey bagsof bees,--
I was but a peasant lass, my babe had but the milk,
Gold Hair, Cold Hair! raimented in silk!

Pale Thing, Frail Thing! dumb and weak and thin,
Altho' thou ne'er dost utter sigh thou'rt shadow'd with a sin;
Thy minnie scorns to suckle thee, thy minnie is an elf,
Upon a bed of rose's-leaves she lies and fans herself;
And though my heart is aching so for one afar from me,
I often look into thy face and drop a tear for thee,
And I am but a peasant born, a lowly cottar's wife,
Pale Thing, Frail Thing! sucking at my life!

Weak Thing, Meek Thing! take no blame from me,
Altho' my babe may moan for lack of what I give to thee;
For though thou art a faery child, and though thou art my woe,
To feel thee sucking at my breast is all the bliss I know;
It soothes me, though afar away I hear my daughter call,
My heart were broken if I felt no little lips at all!
If I had none to tend at all, to be its nurse and slave,
Weak Thing, Meek Thing! I should shriek and rave!

Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! lying on my knee!
If soon I be not taken back unto mine own countree,
To feel my own babe's little lips, as I am feeling thine,
To smooth the golden threads of hair, to see the blue eyes shine,--
I'll lean my head against the wall and close my weary eyes,
And think my own babe draws the milk with balmy pants and sighs,
And smile and bless my little one and sweetly pass away,
Bright Eyes, Light Eyes! Daughter of a Fay!

 Return to Lyra Celtica, Contents