Later Poems (3)
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WELL worth the climbing—what a glorious sight!
An empire all beneath us. Far away,
In the bright sunshine of the summer day,
Loch Awe, one blaze of silver, lies in sight,
With all its islands narrowed from this height
To dots like shadows. Westward, we survey
Loch Etive, and still farther Oban bay,
Morven, and other hills in lonely night,
Gray with old legends, nearer streams that bound
'Mid rocks, as if strong Thor had once held high
Revel with thunder hammer far and near,
Glorious! I stand and bare my brow, and cry
In wild delight at all I see around,
"Well worth the toil to be one moment here."




WHAT lark remembers when he sings,
    From where the clouds are dim and grey,
His brothers of the former springs,
    Who sang their songs and passed away?

They shrank unseen within the night,
    Like hearts that sicken at a wrong,
Or mounting in the open light
    Fell from their world of happy song.

Some feathers, left for winds to blow
    Among the hills where shepherds tread,
Is all that Nature keeps to show
    A little bunch of song is dead.

For she is lavish: all the year
    Her splendid service daily sings;
And perfect to her perfect ear
    Her immemorial music rings.

If one should fail from out the band,
    He sinks unknown and dies unwept;
And she—she only waves her wand,
    And still the perfect chord is kept.

But we who stand with feet on earth,
    The lesser poets of our time,
Whose songs have most imperfect birth,
    And jarring music in their rhyme,

We sing; and discords only rise,
    Because our hearts are out of tune,
And cannot touch the harmonies
    That round a summer day in June.

Our songs are but of doubts and fears
    That haunt us with their shadowy wing;
The rainbows that we see through tears
    Fade into sadness as we sing.

The sorrows of the singing race
    Are with us turn we as we may;
We touch the strings, and only trace
    The plaint of others passed away.

The riper spirits sing their songs;
    They watch the ever-changing show,
Like Nature, who can see no wrongs,
    But lets her seasons come and go.

The weaklings we—our piping bears
    Half-light, half-shadow, and the gleam
So mingles with our little cares,
    And colours all our daily dream.

Not so the lark.   To-day he sings,
    Unmindful of—though others may—
His brethren of the former springs
    Who sang their songs and passed away.




THE dead man in the chamber dim
Lay, with the silence over him.

The weary feet and weary breast
Of eighty-five were now at rest.

Peace held him in its clasp.   His face
Wore that sad pity for our race

Which seems in gentle words to call,
"Thou knowest nothing: I know all."

The bird beside the window sang,
Till all the little chamber rang—

Sang with his fullest voice and breath,
A song that had no touch of death.

"So strange," I said, in awe and fear,
"This song is for his Master's ear,

"Who took delight in him, and brought
The little daily wants he sought;

"And for that reason should be known
Unto his Master's ear alone."

I crept out of the little room,
And left it to its sacred gloom.

Outside the light that summer yields
Was resting on the woods and fields.

The hills took shadows, and they drew
Upon themselves a greener hue.

The winds were playing soft and low
The music of long years ago.

No leaf was stirless in the mirth
That overran the joyous earth.

A tiny speck of soft delight,
The daisy at my feet was white.

The lark, a higher poet, strong,
Sent down his rippling showers of song,

The very stream by which I stood
Had lost for once its sadder mood;

And flung a liquid finger up
To tempt a backward butter-cup

To blossom, so that it might rest
A shadow on its limpid breast.

There was no death in all I saw—
Life, full life, was the common law.

I was the only thing that stood
An alien from the general good.

For still I saw through all and these
The shadows of the mysteries

That follow men from birth to death,
To watch the passing of their breath.

And so, as background to the day,
With all its manifold display,

I saw a grave beside the wall,
Within the distant river's call,

And in a chamber hushed and dim,
The dead man—silence over him—

Whose weary feet and weary breast
Of eighty-five had now their rest.

And by the window, loud and clear,
As though to reach the dead man's ear,

A little bird whose spirit sang
Till all the silent chamber rang.




AH, what to me is Homer's song
    With Greek and Trojan life alive,
Virgil's that flood-like bears along
    The fall of Troy, and all the strive
Of gods and men that now survive
    Within its music's rise and fall—
Two eyes when one is twenty-five,
    Two soft brown eyes are worth them all.

The Roman Livy, Xenophon,
    Whose pages teem with fighting Greeks,
Catullus, with his amorous tone
    For lovers whose sweet plaint he speaks.
He sings of soft, warm blushing cheeks,
    And hearts that throb at love's sweet call
All in dead tongues the scholar seeks—
    But two brown eyes are worth them all.

I toss aside my weary books,
    Like Faust, and say let others strive
For money, and wear misers' looks,
    And all their days and nights contrive
To add a little to their hive,
    For me I sing this madrigal,
Two eyes when one is twenty-five,
    Two soft brown eyes are worth them all.




(From the German of Schienenleger.)

OVER the meadow is singing
    A lark as loud as can be;
He is lord of the air, and his music
    Falls down with the sunshine an me.

It falls as soft as the murmur
    Of faint sweet summer rain,
But the mirth that lies hid in its rapture,
    Is a mirth that brings me pain.

I turn away from the river,
    For its music is sad and strange;
It, too, has a whisper of sorrow,
    And that whisper speaks of change.

I turn from the hills around me,
    For every one that I see
Seems to have a rift in its friendship,
    And its looks have altered to me.

But still above the meadow
    The lark is singing his song;
There is no jar in his music,
    For his little soul is strong.

And I, who listen, a dreamer,
    That is thinking of human things,
Were that heart of his in my bosom,
    I could sing to-day as he sings.




WHISPER, dear, that love is sweet,
    Sweeter far than anything;
Brighter than the flowers that grow
    In the nooks of happy spring.
            Love is sweet,
    Sweeter far than anything;
Whisper, dear, that love is sweet.

Whisper, dear, that love is sweet,
    Sweeter than when poets sing;
And the music wanders near,
    Soft as waftings of a wing.
        Love is sweet,
    Sweeter far than anything;
Whisper, dear, that love is sweet.

Whisper, dear, that love is sweet,
    Naught upon this earth can bring
Such delight as heart to heart,
    When their thoughts together cling.
            Love is sweet,
    Sweeter far than anything;
Whisper, dear, that love is sweet.




THE gods that dwell within the calm
    Where winds have never lifted wings,
Hear, as they bend, a moaning psalm
    From lips of men and human things.

It bears the burden of despair,
    That finds an ample voice in songs,
The high gods hear it in that air,
    And know it speaks a thousand wrongs.

It wails—"Our life is far too brief,
    Grant us a little longer day;
Or make us equal with the leaf,
    It comes again, we pass away.

"There is so much for us to know—
    The wider bounds of growing powers;
The infant harvests that we sow
    Are reaped by other hands than ours.

"So much to do, so much to feel,
    With men still seeking higher goals,
Who spin their spider webs of steel
    To clutch this planet as it rolls;

"Who slowly move amid our fears
    At all the wild results we see,
Who work within the toiling years
    And shape the miracles to be.

"So much to do for all our kind,
    To widen love, to lighten pain,
To move the heart, to shape the mind,
    And stand upon a nobler plane.

"Let us but see the end of all,
    When brain and thought have had their way,
Let not the shadows on us fall—
    Grant us a little longer day."

The gods that dwell without our reach,
    They bend and listen all the while;
They answer not—the lips of each
    Have scorn that mingles with their smile.




FAREWEEL to my hame at the fit o' the glen,
To the red rowan tree hingin' owre at the en',
To the burnie near by, that, wi' saft, happy sang,
Made it heaven to me when the simmer was lang.
What though I may rove to far lan's that are fine,
They canna bring back ae sweet glint o' langsyne;
The lintie that sings when the sunshine is braw
Is dearer, an' better, an' sweeter than a'.

The sky may be bricht, an' nae clud may be seen,
An' richer the fields an' far deeper the green;
But the grey licht o' hame is the licht I wad see,
An' the coo o' the cushies are sweeter to me.
My father and mother are baith lyin' still
In the quate auld kirkyaird on the tap o' the hill;
They sleep free frae cares that ha'e now flown awa',
Oh! sair is my heart—yet fareweel to them a'.

Though I maunna come back, yet in dreams o' the nicht
I will still see their graves lyin' warm in the licht,
An' dear will they be in the sunshine or rain,
As things that I never may look on again.
Fareweel to my hame at the fit o' the glen,
To the burnies an' wuds, an' to a' that I ken;
My heart grows fu' sair, an' the sad tears doon fa',
For noo I maun tak' fond fareweel o' them a'.




HOW sweet was life langsyne, langsyne,
    When youth was in its May;
When tears were tears, and love was love,
    An' flowers grew all the way;
When hopes were thick as simmer dews,
    An' thochts cam' half-divine;
An' a' the nicht wi' dreams was bricht—
    How sweet was life langsyne.

How sweet was life langsyne, langsyne,
    The sky was blue abune;
The thrush, although nae leaf was seen,
    Had simmer in his tune.
He brocht the wast win' as he sang,
    The gowans white an' fine;
The heavens cam' nearer to the earth—
    How sweet was life langsyne.

How sweet was life langsyne, langsyne,
    It had nae thocht o' wrang;
The pulse was fleet, an' led the feet
    To realms o' love an' sang.
No shadow had the light that fell,
    No fennel had the wine—
The glow of heaven was over all—
    How sweet was life langsyne.




AULD Johnnie Noddle sleeps through a' the day,
Sleeps until the sun gangs doon an' a' the licht away;
Then he waukens up an' niddles up an' doon,
On his heid a great big hat wi' a lang croon.

When a wean begins to nod an' spurls wi' legs an' han's
Auld Johnnie Noddle at the window stan's,
Pits his face against the peen to see what he can see,
For Auld Johnnie Noddle—a queer man is he.

Auld Johnnie Noddle do ye no' think shame?
Stan'in' glowrin' in at weans when ye should be at hame,
Weel I ken what mak's ye wear sic a lang, lang croon—
It's to pit the weans in that winna sleep fu' soun'.

Auld Johnnie Noddle gang awa' this nicht,
Twenty bairns are waur than mine—gie them a' a fricht;
If a wean, an' I ha'e ane lyin' on my knee,
Tries wi' a' his micht to sleep, ye should let him be.

Auld Johnnie Noddle—see I draw the blin',
Sic a face as yours I ken frichts this bairn o' mine,
Daur ye come aboot the door when the wean is soun',
Aff will gang your big hat wi' the lang croon.




A ROOFLESS Border keep that once
    Held reiver bold its walls within,
Heard question high and stern response,
    And clash of spear and battle din.

To-day there is no sound at all
    Save sounds that hint of perfect peace;
The cattle grazing by the wall,
    The stream whose murmurs never cease.

The bird that whistles for his mate,
    A low sweet whistle half-aloud;
The lark that sings in lonely state
    Far up upon his throne of cloud.




I PUSH the little gate aside,
I leave behind all human pride,
For here the grass is waving wide.

With careless eye I read each name
That seems to crave a moment's claim
From dull oblivion's heavy blame.

And underneath in quiet lie,
With faces to the silent sky,
The villagers of times gone by.

Vain hope!   They cannot come again;
They hold no place in field or glen,
Nor in the daily talk of men.

Only, perchance, when nights are long,
And fires in shepherds' cots are strong,
Between the pauses of a song

A name or two may rise and fall,
But half remembered at the call—
A moment's pause, and that is all.

Enough, they lived their little life,
Where pleasant ways and speech were rife,
Far from the city's grinding strife.

A simple faith, to soothe and guide,
Was theirs from youth to manhood's pride,
And closed their eyelids when they died.

I pace a little farther on,
Then pause beside a simple stone,
Where all the grass is overgrown;

A simple stone whose records keep
The tender names of those that sleep,
Unheeding time that still will creep.

With dull slow footsteps over all
They sleep, nor answer any call,
Close to the old, grey churchyard wall.

I read each name through misty tears,
Their pilgrimage of weary years,
With all its little hopes and fears.

At length I reach my father's name,
An open space below the same
That waits for mine—that space I claim.




A BIRD on the moorland is calling
    As a spirit may shriek in its dream,
Or a ghost wail forth in the darkness
    For a touch of a single beam.

I know not what lonely secret
    May be hid in that weary cry,
But it chords with the winds and their music,
    And the wide grey vault of the sky.

Can that bird be the spirit of sorrow
    That dwells on the moors and the hills,
Where the clouds have darker shadows,
    And a sadder voice in the rills?

Can it be that, when crying, he voices
    A touch of that dim despair
In the long, wide stretch of the moorland
    And the lone mute things that are there?

I know not; but still, as I listen
    To the sorrow I hear in his call,
I bear the half in my bosom,
    And it gives a colour to all.





A LITTLE cottage just atop the brae,
    That now within its patch of ground is shown,
    Stood for long years unnoted and unknown,
And light and shadow each in turn did play
Through one small window, till there came a day
    When one came upward, not as by his own
    Fancy but by genius led alone.
He paused like one whose feet are far astray,
Then reaching forth a consecrating hand
    Touched the low walls, and lo! each little room
Became immortal with its humble band.
    For Hendry still will bend above his loom,
Jess ever watch, and Leebie take a part
In all; a yearning in her sister's heart.


I will not enter; I but came to see
    One little window and the humble door
    That now is as a temple—nothing more—
I want to keep my dream, for unto me
The beings at whose touch they were to be,
    Live in our fancy, and by fancy's shore,
    Dwell in the light that crowns them evermore,
And makes them part of our humanity.
Hush! standing here in all this summer day,
    Light all around and glorious clouds above,
I hear faint spirit whispers all around,
As if that little patch were holy ground,
    And tender with a dear unspoken love,
And see one sad face as I turn away.


Nay, but another look before we part,
    A day-dream we may fashion as we will,
    And see with open eyes before us still,
As fancy comes and goes and plies her art,
Hendry and Jess, and Leeb of loyal heart,
    Rich in all homely ways of homely skill—
    These are not visions that the light can kill,
They stay with us, and in a higher air,
    Touched with that light which genius only gives,
    Live, not the common round that mortal lives.
Shall we think of that other* standing there,
    Bearing the burden of his inward pain,
    And desolate amid the desolate rain?

* Jamie.




IF any song that I have sung
    Should rest a moment on the lips,
Or linger kindly on the tongue
    Of friends, when death, whose finger tips

Creep over mouths of men, has set
    His icy touch against my own,
And I have passed beyond the fret
    Of life, and am no longer known

Or seen within the simple street,
    Or by the meadows and the rills;
But sunk within the past, as fleet
    As shadows fade among the hills.

If such a song should linger still
    On lips behind me, let it be
A voice that wakens at its will,
    And, singing, brings no thought of me.




WE left the dear old house behind,
    And where the moon was glancing,
We stood amid the low soft wind,
    To hear the feet still dancing.
The moonlight fell upon her hair,
    Made golden still more golden;
There are no pleasures half so fair
    As pleasures that are olden.

For what to us were dancing feet,
    And what the fiddle playing,
When all the moonlight fell so sweet
    And soft the winds were straying.
I felt her hair upon my cheek
    Touch like an angel's blessing;
My heart had not one wish to speak,
    So sweet was the caressing.

The years they come, the years they go,
    And as they still go stealing,
They take away the early glow
    And all the finer feeling.
But still I feel against my cheek
    That touch of hair so golden;
There are no pleasures that can speak
    Like pleasures that are olden.




HE sleeps among the hills he knew,
    They look upon his early rest,
The winds that in his childhood blew—
    They stir the grass upon his breast.

His grave is green in that sweet vale
    Where the fair river flows the same;
It rolls, and gathers to its tale
    The added memory of his name.

And youth is his: though time extends
    The growing years from spring to spring,
He still will be to all his friends
    Secure from what their touches bring.

Calm then will be his wished for rest
    After the weary toil of feet,
To sleep—the grass above his breast—
    And know that perfect peace is sweet.

O better thus than he should lie,
    To mingle with no kindred earth,
In the lone desert where the sky
    Burns all things into fiery dearth,

And where not even one kindly eye
    Could note the grave wherein he slept;
The dusky savage passing by
    Would heed it not as on he swept.

But this was not to be: he lies
    Near to the murmur of his rills;
He rests beneath our Scottish skies,
    And in the silence of his hills.

His feet had travelled far in lands
    Where all was strange and ever new;
And he was girt by swarthy bands
    That round his eager footsteps drew.

But yet, when spending all his strength,
    And when the shadow by his side
The beckoning finger raised at length,
    It was not in those lands he died.

The roar of London and the rush
    Of all that mighty life he heard—
And then the silence and the hush
    By which his early youth was stirred.

Within this hush he sleeps; no call
    To feel the wild desire to roam
Around the hills he knew, and all
    The well-known fields and paths of home.

His grave is green in that sweet vale
    Where the fair Nith flows on the same;
It rolls, and gathers to its tale
    The dear possession of his name.




SAM ADAMSON, the driver, he
Flung a bunch of waste to me.

"That's to keep your hands," he said,
Then he turned and looked ahead.

What a night it was!   The rain
Dashed against the cabin pane,

While the wind's in frenzy flew—
Tore the very clouds in two.

"Stand well in," said Sam, " I fear
You will find it stormy here.

"Now, then, Jim, the brake," and he
Drew the levers back, and we

With a rush, and roar, and grind,
Plunged into the rain and wind.

Then I stood well in.   Ahead
Naught but lights—green, white, and red.

Changing as we came in view,
When the shrieking whistle blew.

Over all the sweep and dash
Of the storm I heard the crash

Of the great wheels that, with a clang,
Struck the rails until they rang—

Rang and clicked, as if to beat
Time to the huge demon's feet.

The red spirit hid in steam
From footplate to buffer beam

Bound him till, in very ire,
This swart god of steel and fire,

Each huge muscle, white with strength,
Shook through all his mighty length,

Till his deep breath growing red
Made it crimson overhead.

And at times as on we swung,
Back the furnace doors were flung.

Then the stoker bent and fed
Coiling flames of molten red,

Licking tongues, with hiss and glare,
Like a knot of pythons there.

I, who sang the engine long
Years before in many a song,

Felt the old desire to sing
As I saw him rush and swing;

Felt the grinding of each wheel
Answer piston-strokes of steel;

Felt his molten bosom beat
Till it shook my very feet;

Knew that all this mass of might
By a fellow on my right

Could be led at his command
Like an infant by the hand.

How this miracle of man,
With a brain to shape and plan,

How he works till everywhere
Genii of the earth and air

Come.   He rubs the lamp, and, lo!
Mightier than Prospero,

Bends them with his potent mind
To knee-service of his kind.

Whush—the brake—a shriek or two
From the whistle; we are due,

And at last we stand within
The wild city's restless din.

While the engine, back again,
All his black girth drenched with rain,

Glad to see his journey through,
Gives a weary sigh or two.

Said Sam Adamson, as he
Took the bunch of waste from me,

"Hope you feel yourself all right;
We have had a dirty night;"

Adding, as he wiped his brow,
"Seems a little better now."




O, THERE'S nocht can tak' us back like the broom upon
            the brae,
In the auld, auld times that are noo sae far away,
When we gaed an' cam' thegither frae the schule in
            summer heat,
It's an auld, auld story, but it's sweet, sweet, sweet.

Is the broom still growin' bonnie on the brae abune
            the burn?
If I thocht it was as yellow—O, it's there my feet
            would turn,
For my heart is thick wi' fancies, an' a saft, sweet
            westlin' win'
Brings its scent up through the years that are noo sae
            far ahin'.

It canna be sae yellow as it used to be langsyne—
An' the burn has lost its music that was aye sae sweet
            an' fine.
I winna gang an' listen, it wad only mak' me sair,
For the voice it had in boyhood, is a voice it has nae

We canna noo turn back, for it wad only bring us pain.
We've left a something far ahin' we canna fin' again.
But let the broom wave yellow, an' the burn blink in
            the heat,
It's an auld, auld story, but it's sweet, sweet, sweet.




THIS is a perfect day to lie
Without one single thought but eye
The wonder of the earth and sky.

The clouds that slowly form above,
Or like to snowy vessels move
Through silent seas of peace and love.

The leaf that sways upon the tree,
The very blade of grass I see,
And how it ever came to be.

The streamlets tinkling as they fall,
The birds half hidden as they call,
The winds that send a thrill through all.

The impulse that unfolds the flowers,
By cot or hall or palace towers,
This little fleeting life of ours.

I wonder for I cannot grasp
The secret hidden in their clasp—
Death only can undo the hasp.

It is enough to-day for me
To put aside the mystery,
And wonder at the things I see.




"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it."

TWO sisters stood by the window.
    The winds were in their hair;
And cheek to cheek they watched and saw,
    The smooth sea sleeping there.

"O sister," said one, "my heart beats high
    For the moving of the sea;
I wait for the rising of the dead,
    That will bring my lover to me.

"But the sea is calm and no stir is seen,
    Yet I know the breath of the Lord
Will blow like a wind on the depths and bring
    My lover to keep his word."

"And I," said the other sister, "wait
    For the moving of the sea;
For there, far down in its gulfs, is one
    Who on earth was false to me.

"He sleeps in the depths, with a thousand things
    That lie in the caverns there;
And I know, as he sleeps, that upon his breast
    Is a lock of my sister's hair."

And cheek to cheek the sisters stood,
    And breathed as with one breath;
Their eyes set fast on the sleeping sea,
    With its hidden things of death.




WHEN first I saw the Tweed, the light
    Of autumn, tender, sad and grey,
Lay on the Eildon's triple height,
    And lent a sadness to the day.

It fell on field and wood around,
    Soft as a single leaf may fall;
It mingled with the river's sound,
    And gave a meaning unto all.

And, as I slowly walked, I felt
    An unseen presence step with me,
That gave to field and woodland belt
    A universal memory.

I heard the Tweed, but in its voice
    That came to me another rang;
I lent myself to dreams by choice—
    I knew the mighty minstrel sang.

And, lo, as at a trumpet call,
    I saw knights, grim of look, and bold,
Crash through the lists, or, dying, fall
    Within their harness as of old;

I saw the royal pageant glide
    In pennoned and in plumed array,
And barons in their armoured pride,
    And silken ladies, glad and gay;

Grim warders on each Border keep,
    To cry the foray when it nears—
I saw the rough-clad troopers sweep,
    The moonlight gleaming on their spears.

All this, as in a mirror, passed,
    A dim old world of sunken things,
To waken, as it did at last,
    When one great Wizard touched the strings.

He sleeps beside the Tweed to-day,
    Whose music mingles with his dream;
And this is why my footsteps stray,
    And why I linger by the stream.

Thou river of the minstrel's heart,
    Whose latest murmur reached his ear,
Thou soundest, as though far apart—
    His only is the voice I hear.

Flow, then, around his sacred dust,
    Through the long years that are to be,
And leave the Eildons to their trust,
    To sentinel his memory.




I NEVER see a castle
    That is gaunt and grey and grim,
But my thoughts at once go backward
    To the past so misty and dim.

To the time when tower and turret,
    Kept watch far over the vale;
And along the sounding draw-bridge
    Rode knights in their suits of mail.

I see the sunshine glancing
    On helmet, pennon, and spear;
And hear from the depth of the forest,
    A bugle calling clear.

I fill the halt with visions
    Of ladies rich in their bloom;
And stately knights in armour,
    And waving with feather and plume.

If I climb the broken stairway,
    Where the stone is smooth and fine,
I hear a rustle and whisper,
    And footsteps in front of mine.

Whisper of youth and maiden,
    As they met in the long ago;
His deep and strong and manly,
    Hers tender and sweet and low.

But maiden and youth have vanished,
    Away from the scene and the light;
Gone, too, the high-born lady,
    And the plumed and armoured knight.

Only the grey old castle,
    Of crumbling stone and lime,
Still stands to speak of the ages,
    And the iron footsteps of Time.




WITHIN an unseen cage he sings,
    Hung high above the rush of feet,
He ruffles up his little wings,
    This poet of the noisy street.

I stop and look, but all in vain,
    He pipes not near a single cloud,
And yet though soft as April rain
    His melody is clear and loud.

What makes him sing?   He cannot see
    The green fields of his native place,
Nor hill and stream, nor glen and tree,
    Nor haunts that suit his singing race.

Perchance a single sunbeam floats
    About him where the space is dim;
He feels the light, and all his notes
    Gush out: it is enough for him.

Bold heart! he knows in his own way
    What that sweet touch of sunshine brings
From far-off fields the summer day
    Whose light is that to which he sings.

Ah, would that I who stand and hear
    His music, he himself unseen,
Could make my doubting heart his peer,
    And sing of seasons that have been.

In vain.   The narrow streets surround
    A dull unthinking brain, and I
Can only touch a note where sound
    Is heard, and only heard to die.

But he—he is so strong, and rife
    With that large heart of his, that he
Draws from a spot of early life
    Enough to make his melody.

And so he sings, hung far above
    The daily round of eager feet,
And pours out from his heart of love
    A gush of song upon the street.




I HEARD a voice—the voice of Fate—
That whispered when the hour was late—
"The past claims all things soon or late.

"The little children on the street,
The youth, strong-limbed and swift of feet,
The bridegroom and the bride so sweet.

"The old man and his life-long mate,
Who watch the fire within the grate
At night when shadows form and wait.

"The king, who wears but for an hour
The golden circle of his power
And feels it a most dangerous dower.

"The warrior, who lays aside
The blood-red banner of his pride,
The sword whose steel perchance is dyed."

All these and more—they pass from view,
But Life, still eager to pursue,
Whispers, "Shall we the game renew?"

So this came from the lips of Fate
"Make the first move, I only wait,
The past claims all things soon or late."




WHAT of the dim old legends,
    What of the story and song
That put this planet to slumber
    Ere it grew to be mighty and strong?

Far back in the misty ages
    It heard them in its sleep,
And it smiled, as smiles an infant
    When its hand has something to keep.

It played with the toys of childhood,
    And found such playing sweet,
And then when it grew to be older
    It flung them down at its feet.

It grew into youth and manhood
    When higher needs had to be,
And fashioned for prayer and worship
    The gods and the creeds we see.

And slowly growing upward
    It flung those creeds away,
And hurled from column and temple
    The gods of marble and clay.

Then it saw with clearer vision
    The forces of things that move,
And built high fanes to a worship
    Of a wider and deeper love.

It moves with the roll of the ages,
    It has faith in what is unseen,
It gathers the long procession
    Of the years and what they mean.

But does it ever look backward
    In this march of the mighty mind,
To see the wreck of its playthings
    It has left so far behind?




WAS it of wine and all its purple glow,
Or roses when the seasons bade them blow,
    That Omar Khayyam, he of Nashapur,
Sang in the centuries of long ago?

Or was the wine and blossom but a veil
To hide the doubts that fight and still prevail;
    That life is but a rose that fades and dies,
And all the leaves are scattered to the gale;

That we but live a moment ere we die,
Let not the fleeting days go idly by;
    But seize the cup and blossom ere they shrink,
And all the odours and the incense fly.

Or did the Preacher from another land
Reach forth, and touch him with a brother's hand,
    Saying, "I touch thee with my spirit, and lo!
Come thou, and be with us, and all our band."

Or he who, in despair, once thought to fight
The Voice that answered from the whirlwind's might;
    Did he too touch him from the mystic east,
And set his spirit yearning for the light?

We know not; rather unto human things,
He looked himself and, touching all the strings,
    Sang till his fingers struck the lower chords—
The hope that wavers, and the doubt that stings.

Perchance he saw with eager, open eyes,
This web of human life with all its dyes,
    Woven with hand unseen within the dark,
And no one sees the shuttle as it flies.

This web of human life, so interwrought,
With warp and woof and colours rarely sought;
    We see it being woven and in our heart
There lives the hunger of all eager thought.

Did Omar fail to catch the world-wide light,
And failing, could not read the problem right,
    But left us, groping for the single path
That leads us from the shadows of the night?

Not sure himself, and hearing no reply
To questions put with eager lip and eye,
    He turned to watch the roses bud and blow,
And all the idle moments saunter by.




HE sleeps beneath the violets,
That grow above him like regrets,
That he, so sick at heart should come
Here in the splendid past of Rome,
And lay him down to rest, nor crave
The glory of an English grave,
Where Fame might whisper soft and clear—
"An English poet's dust is here."

But the gods loved him, and they drew
His spirit to theirs as winds the dew,
Until his music took the tone
And changing sorrow of their own.
Such sorrow as the waves will make,
When winds from slumber half awake,
And overhead is spread on high
The lonely distance of the sky.

They beat above him with the wreath
Of early song and early death;
They wove it round pale brows that
The glory of the doom they dealt.
That he should find an early home
Within their past and that of Rome,
Whose fading splendour should receive
The melody for which they grieve.

"Sleep then," they said, "with flowers above,
And feel the doom of those we love—
Immortal youth apart from fears,
No dread of slowly waning years,
No time to touch the pulse or shake
The dews from off the heart, nor wake
The shadows into life, but be
Immortal as our love for thee."

He sleeps with violets above
Whom Shelley's heart and England love.
He sleeps.   O let him slumber on,
The past of Rome around him thrown.
So let him rest, nor for him crave
The glory of an English grave;
For Fame will whisper soft and clear—
"An English poet's dust is here."




LIFE said to the soul of the poet—
    "Of the gifts I can offer to thee,
Thou hast turned from them all, and taken
    A touch of sweet melody.

"Thine is the choice and thine only,
    The Joy and shadow it brings,
For by singing comes the sorrow
    That is heard through human things.

"But I cannot give thee the laurel,
    I can only inspire thy song;
And stand by thy side in battles
    On the fields of right and wrong.

"Another than I must crown thee,
    He must by thee be unseen,
Thou shalt only hear his whispers,
    And thy heart shall know what they mean.

"Thou shalt see a brighter sunshine
    Resting on wood and field;
And also a deeper shadow
    With the fears that it may yield.

"In thy breast shall be the longing
    For that which can never be known;
And the sorrows that fall on thy fellows
    Shall be lighter than thine own.

"Thou shalt have to wrestle with passions
    Far deeper and stronger than theirs;
If thou fallest thine is the burden
    And the deep, long shame that it bears.

"Thou shalt ever be inly haunted,
    As the low-winds haunt the trees,
With life and its wonderful changes,
    And its endless mysteries.

"And ghostly feet shall follow,
    To be heard of the inner ear,
Thine own, wherever they wander,
    And none but thyself shall hear."




BESIDE the manse the river flows
    This sweet and tender summer day,
While soft winds wanton round the rose,
    Or dally with the leaves and play.

There is so much of life to meet
    The compass of the dreaming eye;
So much of what is fair and sweet
    To linger for a moment by.

I sit upon the old stone seat,
    I watch the valley far below
Through which, as if on silver feet,
    The rippling wavelets dance and flow.

I know the woods, I know the fields,
    And, as the brooding eye is cast
Upon them, each in silence yields
    A something from the fading past.

A sense of youth when hope was high,
    And life was sweet as sweet could be,
When overhead the smiling sky
    Was blue and very fair to see.

I turn away: I slowly walk
    The garden path; the scent of flowers
That hang upon the dewy stalk
    Sheds sweetness through the summer hours.

The slightest stir is in the air;
    Like nuns with hands upon their breast
Each blossom hangs, and everywhere
    There is the perfect sleep of rest.

I pace the garden walk—I hear
    A well-known whisper as I go;
It lingers gently in my ear,
    Although the sound is faint and low.

I know the voice, and as I stand
    I question half in doubt and fear—
"Now, where should be the kindly hand
    When voice and footsteps are so near?"

No answer.   Could there only be
    One single touch, as friends may give
Each unto each, with "Lo! you see,
    I touch thee knowing that I live."

I know what spirit walks with me
    This tender, silent summer day,
Though from one blossom that I see
    A single petal drops away.




HE will not sing his loudest song,
    This poet full of love and mirth,
Until the shadows which belong
    To night are deep upon the hearth.

And then he sings; the little room
    Is full of his persistent glee;
I almost fancy that the gloom
    Trembles, so loud of voice is he.

He fills the space around; his spell
    Is over all in perfect bliss,
He pipes, and yet I could not tell
    A single moment where he is.

And as I listen, far away,
    I stray to dearer, earlier years,
When other hearts by night and day
    Took kindly to his former peers.

They fed them, and when all the night
    Drew down to make the shadows cling,
The room was full of their delight,
    Such joy if was for them to sing.

Those hearts, alas! have done with time;
    This latest singer of his race,
After long silence, comes to chime
    This carol and to take their place.

And how he chirps!   The little room
    Is all too narrow for his mirth;
But let him sing to cheer the gloom,
    This one true poet of the hearth.

I hear him; I am full of tears,
    And cannot share his shrill delight;
Those hands that fed his early peers
    Are lying on my own to-night.




LAST year I sat within my room,
    And heard the cricket in the gloom
Chirp out his palpitating lay,
    As if he were on holiday.

I sat and heard him, for he brought
    Sad things to sadden all my thought,
And, full of fancy, I could hear
    Whispers that caught my eager ear.

And I was touched by ghostly hands
    That reached to me from higher lands;
One touched me on the head; I bent,
    I knew the touch and what it meant.

To-night no cricket can be seen
    Or heard to chirp and trill between
The pauses; and the lonely hearth
    Is lonelier wanting all his mirth.

Can he have met that fate which flings
    Its shadow over human things,
And fled away from all I view,
    Silent, like other voices, too?

I know not; only as I sit
    And watch the firelight shadows flit,
The voice that trilled its rich delight
    Last year is dumb to me to-night.




WE are but shadows, and we pass
Like sunshine on the waving grass;

Shadows that live a little time,
As summer lives and breathes her prime.

We go; but she—she never grieves,
But forms her birth of infant leaves

For the next season, and they blow
Full, as a thousand years ago

They grew, and spread to winds unseen
Their paradise of dewy green.

So be it.   In their high estate
The gods that rule our human fate

Have fixed it; and their high stern doom
Is, that our race must have a tomb.

Ah, who so bold of heart can say
The high gods shall not have their sway.

We fight in vain; our paltry life
Sinks like a bubble in the strife.

But all the seasons still renew
The colour which they hold their due.

But man.   He only lives to pass
Like floating shadows on the grass.




NEVER through all the years to be
    Can there be such a night as that night we know,
When we two stood by a hawthorn tree,
    High up on a hill where the night winds blow.
Never can come such another night,
    When your whisper was warm with a maiden's love,
And the stars above us were burning bright,
    They will never again shine so sweet above.

Well, well, it is something after all,
    In the short fleet years that the high gods give,
If into our lives some moments fall,
    So full and sweet that we know we live.
And such was that night when the wind was south,
    Soft as your breath, and the sighs between,
And I clasped you, dear, and felt on my mouth
    The kiss of a girl of seventeen.

The years may come, and the years may go,
    Draw strength from the blood and light from the eye;
There is something yet that they do not know,
    A something that will not fade or die.
And I turn myself to the gods and say,
    If they hear in their halls of idle bliss,
It is out of your power to snatch away
    That starry night and that long sweet kiss.




I'M growin' auld, an' no' sae yauld,
    Nor yet sae gleg as I ha'e been;
But whiles, when I am a' my lane,
    I licht my pipe an' steek my een.

Then in a crack auld things come back—
    Auld things I canna weel forget;
An' in my ear at ance I hear
    Blithe Willie Stewart's fiddle yet.

O, weel could Willie Stewart play,
    An' jig his elbow gleg an' fell—
The best bow han' in a' Scotlan',
    He aften tauld me sae himsel'.

An' wha like him could start a reel,
    Or country dance in barn or ha'?
It weel was kent through a' the toon
    That Willie Stewart beat them a'.

What nichts we had in Willie's hoose
    When by the fire we gathered roun',
When he spak' oot fu' sharp an' croose—
    "Nellie, come rax the fiddle doon."

An' he would gi'e the bow a screw,
    An' then, wi' mony a jink an' sweep,
Play till we daun'ered to oor beds
    To hear him playin' in' our sleep.

He learnt us a', forbye, to dance,
    For nane could teach like him ava';
His gleg blue een would gi'e a glance
    Alang the couples in a raw.

An' "Move away," he cried, an' laid
    The bow upon the fiddle strings;
An, though I ha'e to say't mysel',
    We did some maist surprisin' things.

I min' a waddin' I was at,
    A dozen guid Scotch miles away;
I danced until they a' did glowre,
    An' whisper—"Whaur does he come frae?"

I think they thocht that I had come
    Across the seas frae foreign lan's,
Till ane came up and said—"I see
    Ye've been through Willie Stewart's han's."

He hasna left his like ahin',
    An' wha are they that tak' his place?
Ane wan'ered half a mile frae hame,
    Anither lost his fiddle-case.

They can do nocht but scart an' scrape
    Among the strings like ony hen;
To hear them at it is eneuch
    To pit what hair ane has on en'.

I carena for your foreign airs
    Wi' names that break your jaws to speak;
Wi' a' their quavers an' their slides,
    They turn my heart to hear their squeak.

But gi'e me Willie at his best,
    His brain clear wi' a glass or twa;
An' I wad wager half a croon
    That he wad fairly ding them a'.

I'm growin' auld, an' no' sae yauld,
    An' gettin' stiff aboot the knee;
An' whiles I think a foursome reel
    Wad be the very death o' me.

But if blithe Willie could come back
    To lift the bow and play the reel—
Say "Lady Mary Ramsay"—fegs!
    I think I yet could shake my heel.

Auld Willie's gane wi' a' his fun,
    The fate o' men an' human things;
His fiddle's hingin' on the wa',
    An' wha is left to touch its strings?

The best bow han' in a' the lan'
    Is kirkyaird dust, as we maun be;
But still we'll min' the sweet langsyne,
    An' Willie wi' his gleg blue ee.



Man and Poet.

TRUE man and poet, in whose verse is seen
    The golden tints of autumn and the thought
    That links these unto man and to his lot,
That passes as the shadow that has been;
Thine eyes have sentinelled the changeful scene
    In which we live and pass, as doth the mote
    Within the beam, yet ever quick to note
Hope bending over graves whose grass is green.
There be far louder voices on the hill
    Of which Fame shrills her trumpet.   Let it be.
    Calm only follows when the clamours end,
And in that tender calm thou singest still;
    But sweeter than thy singing unto me
    Is this—the boon of calling thee my friend.

ED.—possibly the 'Alexander Brown' who compiled this edition.




ISA in the garden stands,
And the winds, with unseen hands,
Lift the midnight of her hair
From her brow so white and fair.

Isa plucks with finger-tips
One sweet rose; her crimson lips
Match the colour and the tone,
But the dew is all their own.

And I think, as Isa stands
With the rose within her hands,
Other sounds are in her ear
Than the river's gliding near.

Whispers soft as whispers be
When love lends its voice, and she
Hears its thrilling music stream
Through the wonder-gate of dream.

And then gentle whispers say—
"Isa, Isa, come away,
We have in our fairy bower
One sweet spray of orange flower;

"This we keep to clasp your brow
When your heart has breathed its vow,
And you move away beside
One who claims you as his bride."

Isa smiles as still she stands
With the rose within her hands,
So I turn away and leave
Isa yet a maiden Eve.




(Recited by the poet on the occasion o f the presentation of his Portrait, painted by W. S. MacGeorge, R.S.A., December 16th, 1891.)

So thanks again; in after years
    That down the slope of time will range,
With fading hopes and many fears,
    And the slow certitude of change.

When fancy veils with folded wing
    Her dreamless eyes, and drops her wand,
She will not stoop to lift and bring
    One vision from her fairy land.

When the dull blood takes languid pace,
    And all the weary brain will tire;
When thoughts but kindle up a space,
    Then flicker like a sinking fire.

When looking backward here we see
    A narrow strip of dusty road,
Now dim within the past, that we
    From boyhood up to manhood trod.

Along that road were toil and strife
    And clang from dusky things of steam,
But still to sweeten all that life
    Was something of the poet's dream.

And this made all things sweet and fair,
    Touched the hard hours with glowing
Made other sunshine in the air,
    And moonshine on our dreams by night.

What though those dreams of heart and
    Have fled with all the goals they miss;
The toil was nothing—rather gain—
    When it has led us up to this.

And so in after years, when I
    Am busy with the fading past,
And dreaming as the shadows fly,
    Like ghosts, from sinking embers cast,

Then it may be that, looking on
    This other self, my thoughts will range
And whisper to myself alone,
    "Thou changest," this can never change.

And gazing still at what I see,
    The past with all this night shall blend,
Until it fades and leaves with me
    The dream-face of each kindly friend.



At High Creoch, Gatehouse.

You ask me for a line or two—
    I never write in rainy weather—
But I suppose that I must do
    My best to string some rhymes together.
What shall it be?   "A song," you say,
    "Stuck full of doves and all that fashion;"
Alas! I cannot pipe that way,
    Or imitate an early passion.

Besides, to really write a song
    To some young maiden who could love me;
Two double verses—not too long—
    I'd like to have the sun above me.
I'd like to have him shine upon
    The paper—and if this were granted,
The rhymes would trip up, one by one,
    In order just as they were wanted.

Of course I own that you have heard
    Of poets who were more unbending,
Who could at any time, when stirred,
    Spin out their couplets without ending.
All this I grant, but bear in mind
    My muse has but a humble pinion,
And cannot reach her higher kind,
    Or even sit in their dominion.

But look! against the window pane
    The wind like any fiend is dashing;
A steady flood of drenching rain,
    Which saves, of course, a lot of washing.
But, for a poet out of town
    For holiday, it stands to reason,
To ask his muse to flutter down
    'Tis scarcely just the proper season.

Enough, I say, come Muse of mine—
    Who, strange to say, has lately missed me—
And give me something in the line
    Of Leigh Hunt's charming "Jenny Kissed Me."
A fact! she did, or, let me see,
    I think we both laid lips together.
At anyrate, take this from me—
    I never write in rainy weather.




I AM auld an' frail, an' I scarce can gang,
    Though whiles when I tak' a turn,
It's only when the sun blinks oot
    On the braes by the Vennel Burn.
Then I tak' a look at the Kirkland Heichts,
    An' up at Glen Aylmer Hill,
Then a kinder look at the auld kirkyaird
    Where the dead sleep soun' an' still.

It's a dear kirkyaird at the fit o' the hills,
    For it hauds the dust o' ane
Wha was true as the steel o' his ain gude sword,
    An' stood by his kith an' kin.
He tak's his rest, wi' nae stane at his heid,
    But I ken that Ane in the skies
Could come this nicht to the auld kirkyaird
    An' point oot where he lies.

O, sleep ye soun', bauld Patrick Laing,
    As ye ha'e been sleepin' for years;
I am frail and feckless, but still in my heart
    Your name is saft wi' my tears.
The sands o' my life are unco few,
    An' I ha'ena an hour to tyne,
But I ken fu' weel in the auld kirkyaird
    Your dust will welcome mine.

An' there we twa will sleep fu' soun'
    Wi' the green grass owre oor head,
'Till the years bring roun' the richt to a'
    For which Scottish bluid ran red.
Then the Lord will come doon in the licht o'
            the sun,
    When the last sweet day shall dawn;
An' we'll rise frae oor graves, an' He'll meet us
    An' tak' us baith by the han'.

The Cairn Hills lie on the other side
    Wi' the sweet Nith rowin' atween,
An' there sleep twa leal frien's o' mine—
    Aul' frien's o' the days that ha'e been.
They are waitin' for me as I for them,
    An' it canna langer be,
For I ken that baith ha'e a tryst wi' the Lord,
    An' He has a tryst wi' me.

I ken fu' weel that they wait an' wait
    Till they hear the trumpet ca',
Then Hair an' Corson will rise an' cry—
    "The time has come for us a'."
An' I mysel', a frail, auld man
    That unco weel can be spared,
Will meet them baith at the fit o' the hill,
    At the tree in the auld kirkyaird.

They dee'd as only men should dee,
    For their faither's faith an' hame,
An' they lie wi' their face to the open sky,
    Wi' nae touch on their cheek o' shame.
It will a' come richt, when the Lord in his micht,
    Comes doon frae heaven to see,
For I ha'e a tryst in the auld kirkyaird,
    An' the Lord has a tryst wi' me.

I ha'e heard bauld Cameron preach the Word
    On the side o' a Sanquhar brae,
While I sat wi' the sword atween my knees,
    As ane wha should watch an' pray;
An' I had my plaid drawn owre my heid,
    An' open upon my knee
The Word o' Ane that I brawly kenned
    Wad keep min' o' His tryst wi' me.

I ha'e lain in hags when the winter nicht
    Was bitter an' lang an' cauld,
I ha'e shared my plaid wi' Renwick, too,
    When the winds were snell an' bauld;
An' Peden, worn wi' the fire o' the Word,
    An' thinly cled for the storm—
I ha'e lain a' nicht wi' my back to the win'
    To keep puir Sandy warm.

I ha'e seen dark Clavers turn his back,
    On his lips the snarl o' a dog,
An' strike spurs deep in his deein' steed
    As he fled frae wild Drumclog;
But I saw him again at Bothwell Brig,
    An' the hilt an' point o' his sword
Were red with the blood o' the saints that day
    That fell with their trust in the Lord.

I am stiff wi' the midnicht rains that fell
    As I lay in Blagannoch Moss;
But little I care for a rickle o' banes—
    I gi'ed them a' for the Cross.
I ha'e focht the fecht, I ha'e set my faith
    Where I trust though I canna see—
It wad be a ferly, atweel, if the Lord
    Should fail in His tryst wi' me.

A' the teal, true hearts that were ance wi' me
    They are free frae their care an' pain,
An' I am the last that is left to tell
    O' the things that are sunk an' gane.
There is peace ance mair, an' I sleep in a bed
    As soun' as soun' can be;
But this nicht I fin' that I canna lie doon,
    For the Lord has a tryst wi' me.

Could my wife but lay her han' in mine,
    As she used to do langsyne;
But Marion Dryfe is years in her grave,
    An' a lanely hearth is mine.
But her dochter's weans are unco guid,
    An' do a' they can for me;
I hear her speak an' I hear her fit
    As they hing about my knee.

Hark! voices are comin' doon in the win',
    I ha'e heard them mony a day—
Peden, Renwick, Corson, an' Hair,
    An' Cameron shout for the fray.
But higher an' sweeter abune them a'
    A Voice keeps cryin' to me—
"John Harkness, hast thou min' o' our tryst
    That I set langsyne wi' thee?"

Pit the weans to their bed—gang a' to your bed,
    I canna langer be spared;
I hear a Voice that nane o' ye hear,
    An' it comes frae the auld kirkyaird.
It's growin' dark—pit some peats on the fire,
    An' lay the Book on my knee;
For I ha'e a tryst wi' the Lord this nicht,
    An' the Lord has a tryst wi' me.




THE silent dead go marching down,
With not a single banner flown;
But if you only bend your ear
Their funeral marches you can hear.

They step to time; the march is slow,
In deep, thick columns as they go;
And over all the still, thick air
Falls with a silence everywhere.

The living meet them on their way,
With banners flying, and display;
Quick step and sounds of drum and fife
Lead out the teaming ranks of life.

You hear the shout of quick command,
You see the lifting of a hand;
But ever on they press to see
The hidden goals of things to be.

The armies of the quick and dead
They pass each other; one with tread
Joyous to meet the coming fight
That looms before their eager sight.

The other marches deep and slow,
But ever voiceless as they go,
With not a single banner flown,
And not a single trumpet blown.




ANE sings the lassie that he lo'es,
    Gangs daft aboot her lips an' een;
Anither, burns, an' heichts, an' howes,
    An' a' the places he has seen.
For me, sic things I dinna heed;
    But could I lilt an' raise a tune,
I'd do my best to gi'e a screed,
    An' try an' sing John Crosbie's shoon.

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.

Your toon folk that are unco fine
    Maun ha'e thin soles be't wat or fair;
But let a month gang by, an' syne
    They ha'e to buy anither pair,
Forbye a dizzen caulds to thole,
    An' by the fire to boast an' croon—
The doctor's fee was unco wee
    When ane had on John Crosbie's shoon.

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.

Aboot their shape he didna care,
    For that he never fashed his thoom;
A' that he wanted to be there
    Was rowth o' ease an' rowth o' room.
What though the taes were no' alike,
    Ane maybe square, the ither roun',
Ye had nae corns to mak' ye fyke,
    When ye had on John Crosbie's shoon.

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.

If John at times micht tak' a dram
    To keep fu' saft this human clay,
He settled ony inward qualm
    By just "a tastin'"—he wad say,
"What ser's an' honest, social drap,
    It helps to keep the denner doon"—
Then took the lapstane on his lap,
    An' yerkit aff a pair o' shoon.

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.

They say that aince—it's a' a lee,
    An' yet sic things get easy oot—
When John had something in his ee
    He sewed twa soles upon ae boot.
What though he did, then nocht was wrang
    The pair o' soles were firm an' soun',
An' fit wi' onywhere to gang,
    For nae sma' drink was Crosbie's shoon.

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.

John tak's his rest noo free frae a'
    Within the kirkyaird on the hill,
But though for years he's been awa'
    The hamely proverb lingers still.
When fowk bring hame—say some gudewife—
    A dizzen bargains frae the toon,
The neebors say, "They'll last your life,
    Like gude auld Johnnie Crosbie's shoon."

John Crosbie's shoon, John Crosbie's shoon,
A wealth was in John Crosbie's shoon;
For wear them late or wear them sune,
They never, never wad gang dune.




I SIT upon a shattered shaft, as if Time, worn and blind,
Had smote himself in sudden rage and left one limb behind.
And lo the morn comes slowly up with sweet and saintly pace,
While all the crowding stars draw near to gaze upon her face.
O solemn moon, O sad sweet stars, thus looked ye in that time
When the dim years were red with blood, and drunk with lust and crime.
Come, let their spirit touch my brow, and let their spells be cast,
And fold me in their ghostly arms, and lay me in the past.

Ho! let there be a holiday that we may see once more
The wild arena thick with dust we soon shall lay with gore.
What! shall a Roman suckle not his iron strength that makes
His shield-fenced phalanx like the rock on which the ocean breaks?
Yea! by the gods, let all our veins leap with that blood anew,
Which from the she-wolf's dugs the twins in their wild hunger drew.
Hark! as a long deep sudden peal of thunder rolls along,
So through the corridors a hundred thousand footsteps throng.

Here proud imperial Titus sweeps for one swift hour a god,
And all the mightiest of Rome impatient wait his nod.
The bolts are drawn, and forth at once a hundred lions spring,
That, like a tawny whirlwind, sweep in rage around the ring.
Their naked fangs drip blood but still amid their savage play,
The Romans whisper each; "what gladiators fight to-day?"

Clear the arena! we must see the muscles stretch and start,
Or heave in death; a life is naught if sculptors learn their art.
And forth each gladiator steps a proud look in his eye,
For well they know that Rome to-day looks on to see them die.
They fight.   One falls, and falling, turns to make his last appeal,
In vain, there thunders forth the cry, "Thou slave receive the steel."
The victor strikes, the victim sinks—my God! what faith can come
To wrench this blood-thirst from the heart and strike the tiger dumb.

Lo, as an earthquake rends the hills that hem an inland lake,
And downward through each yawning gulf the black waves foam and shake,
So sinks the human tide, while Time, still faithful to his trust,
Rains through the years that muffle him a silent storm of dust.
Till, as a rainbow bends itself, so through the wasting night
There bursts, inwoven with keen stars, a bow of living light;
And underneath, the Cross on which with brow all dim and torn,
The Christ of sorrow, toil and pain, and of the crown of thorn,
At whom the gods of Rome fall down and shiver as they lie,
Or lift in white despair their shattered hands against the sky.
And from those grand eyes dark with love, a glorious light is shed,
The far-off nations feel its beams and bow in awe their head.

And now—as when a slave, set free from the corroding load
Of chains, springs up and in that love stands with his face to God—
"Behold our God!" they cry, and all the eager heavens above
Send on from spinning sun to sun the victor-shout of love;
For lo, the light that crowns the Cross shoots through the starry scope,
And rears against the rising years a golden arch of hope,
Through which, as when some mighty host looms upwards huge and dim,
March the great destinies to shape this God-made world and him.




BONNIE May Wyllie cam' oot o' the toun
    When the deein' sunlicht lay
On the lang green howms o' the windin' Nith,
    An' on deep green wud an' brae.

It fell fu' saft on the auld castle wa'
    At the fit o' Sanquhar toun,
As if blessin' the ruin, wi' unseen hands,
    That time had tummeled doun.

It fell fu' saft on the Elwick wud,
    Where, sweet an' lood an' lang,
The mavis sittin' a' by himsel'
    Was singin' his ain sweet sang.

He sang fu' lood an' he sang fu' sweet,
    An' his sang was unco fain,
That he started anither in Mennock Glen,
    Wha answered him back again.

The licht lay sweet on howm an' brae,
    An' ilka thing was braw;
But bonnie May Wyllie o' Sanquhar toun
    Was the bonniest o' them a'.

But where is she gaun when the gloamin' rests
    On the hill o' Knockenhair?
Is she gaun to look at the De'il's Big Stane,
    Or juist to the Witches' Stair?

Wha sleeps, they say, by the Witches' Stair,
    Dreams mony a strange, sweet dream,
When the mune comes up an' looks owre the trees,
    An' Crawick begins to gleam.

Then the fairies wha bide by the side o' the burn,
    Where the grass boos doon an' dips,
Come into the licht, an' they smile to fin'
    The dew licht on their lips.

But bonnie May Wyllie still hauds her way,
    Tiff she reaches the Laigh Wud En',
Then she turns, an' licht as a fairy hersel',
    Gangs doon Crawick's bonnie glen.

O sweet is the glen in the simmer nicht,
    When ilka thing is still,
Save Crawick wha's rowin' frae side to side,
    An' singin' his ain sweet fill.

The primroses an' violets,
    That were hid in the lang deep grass,
Cam' oot an' noddit their bonnie heids
    To see May Wyllie pass.

The robin, thrang wi' his ain bit ways,
    Lookit up wi' his bricht, bricht ee,
Then dookit his heid, an' wi' ae quick spring
    Cam' a wee bit nearer to see.

He lookit fu' wistfu'-like at her,
    An' his dark ee was bricht as a bead;
An' nearer he cam' as he'd fain alicht
    On bonnie May Wyllie's heid.

An' she smiled to hersel' an' sang to hersel'
    Till she cam' to the Witches' Stair;
Then she set her doon on the laighmost step,
    An' her dreams were sweet an' fair.

The mune cam' up a lichtsome grace,
    An' her beams fell saft an' sweet,
An' ilka pool that they kissed became
    As bricht as a silver sheet.

An' the murmurs grew saft an' safter still,
    An' the win' could only stir,
A primrose that bonnie May Wyllie had touched,
    It was looking up at her.




A SINGER in the street to-day,
    He sings a song; and as I hear
I dream and wander far away,
    And still his song is in my ear.

Snatches of dim forgotten things
    Are in it; such as throb and glow
In nameless poets and their rhymes,
    For simple hearers long ago.

That was their art; they died unknown,
    Not caring, if they left behind
A single snatch, a tender tone,
    To linger with their fellow kind.

And this they did, like birds that pipe,
    By lonely stream or misty hill,
A chord or two, but full and ripe,
    Then seem forever to be still.

But not the notes that are so sweet,
    They live and shift as sunshine slips;
Till here to-day within the street
    They rest upon a singer's lips.




IT is naething but a lilt,
    Yet its rinnin' in my heid;
Just a lilt, an' that is a',
    O' an auld auld-warld screed.
Yet it haunts me ben the hoose,
    An' it follows me ootby,
The sang that Jenny sings,
    When she's milkin' the kye.

An' it's a' made oot o' nocht;
    Just a lad an' lassie fair,
Doon beside a wee bit burn
    No' to meet ilk ither mair.
An' they pu' the birk sae green,
    Wi' mony a weary sigh;
That is a' that Jenny sings,
    When she's milkin' the kye.

Nae ane kens wha made the lilt,
    Deid the singer lang, langsyne,
But a lassie sings his sang
    Wi' her heart in ilka line.
An' I hear it ben the hoose,
    An' it follows me ootby,
The sang that Jenny sings,
    When she's milkin' the kye.




HERE as I sit this summer day,
    On a seat at a door in a little town,
Trains, about fifty yards away,
    With a rattle and roar rush up and down.

They carry to all the ends of the earth,
    The restless hearts that must ever roam;
But happier they who were touched at birth,
    With the simple wish for their land at home.

Better by far is the homely speech,
    The street and the fields their boyhood knew;
Than the hurry of feet, and the toil to reach
    The visions that vanish as visions do.




SWEET Jenny by the Solway Sands,
    Fair Jenny by the Cree;
This rose that once lay in thy hands,
    Still speaks and breathes of thee.

Again the spell my fancies weave
    Still shows thee standing there,
While all the winds of summer leave
    A glory round thy hair.

The winds come from the Solway Sands,
    They touch thy gentle cheek,
Then bear away to other lands
    The thoughts I fain would speak.

Ah! hope that comes, and hope that grows,
    With visions sweet to see;
Thou paler sister of the rose,
    Thou lily not for me.

But I shall dream, and, in my dreams,
    Shall see thee standing there,
The flowers beside thee and the beams
    Of summer in thy hair.

Sweet Jenny by the Solway Sands,
    Fair Jenny by the Cree,
Ah! that this rose that left thy hands
    Is all I have of thee.




I WAS alone with the Master,
    I was weary and sick with pain,
For the fight with the passions had left me
    With many a wound and stain.

And I bowed my head in the shadows,
    To wrestle and fight with despair,
Till I knew by the light around me,
    That the Master Himself was there.

I felt His hand on my shoulder,
    As He whispered, "Speak to Me."
But I said in my fear, "O, Master,
    How can I speak to Thee?

"How can one that is mortal
    Look into those eyes of Thine?
I of the earth and earthly,
    And Thou, Thyself, Divine."

Then methought His voice grew sweeter,
    And in richer music ran,
"Stand up as a man to another,
    And speak as a man to man."

Then I rose with my burden of sorrow,
    And lifted my shame-struck eyes;
And looked in the face of the Master
    That was tender and sweet and wise.

One hand was still on my shoulder,
    The other He put in mine;
His voice was the voice of friendship,
    But the words He spoke were divine.

The words that were said can only
    Be known to the Master and me,
When the dark hours come with their shadows,
    And the lights die out that I see.




WHEN life is young, and dreams are sweet,
    And golden light is in the sky,
And Hope, with flowers about her feet,
    Smiles and is ever standing nigh,
Then all the earth is very fair,
And joy is dancing everywhere.

When life is cold, and all the skies
    Have lost their glory, and the light
Dims as a taper's ere it dies,
    And ghostly shadows whisper night,
Then Death may have within his call,
Something far sweeter than them all.




No sounds are heard from Yarrow Vale,
    But summer sounds to-day;
The Yarrow whispers forth his tale,
    And sweeps and glides away.

The sunshine falls, and through the leaves
    A dainty light doth pass,
That, falling, like a fairy weaves
    Lithe shadows on the grass.

Against the sky the hills are thrown,
    They shimmer in the heat,
Green footstools for the clouds whereon
    To set their fleecy feet.

The lark has lost himself in mirth,
    He never looks around;
But, half in heaven, pours down to earth
    An ecstasy of sound.

The winds have laid them down to dream
    In hollows long and deep;
As if they thought of Yarrow stream,
    And murmured in their sleep.

I, too, perforce, must take the tone
    And colour of the hour,
And dream my day-dream all alone
    By Newark's Border Tower.*

But not of feuds, or midnight wrong
    Done in the long ago,
When hearts were rough and arms were strong
    For either friend or foe.

I only think how sweet to reap
    This day of sunny gleams;
And hear the Yarrow, half-asleep,
    Make music to my dreams.

* ED.—Newark Castle dates from about 1400 and is located on a bend of the River Yarrow in the south-east borders of Scotland. A stronghold of the Douglases before passing to the Scotts of Buccleuch, the castle has a grizzly past.  Following the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645 the defeated Royalists took refuge in the castle but were then killed brutally by the Covenanters.  This is also the stately tower mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel.




AT God's right hand the angels stand
    In the courts of Heaven above,
They bow with folded wings ere they fly
    On their missions of pity and love.
There are many who wait for His high commands,
    And each has his own full powers,
But the sweetest of all the angels there
    Is the one who sows the flowers.

He stands the nearest unto God,
    He can almost touch His hand;
His hair is golden, and his wings
    Are the whitest of all the band.
But his brothers know not even his name
    As we on this earth know ours;
They only know him in that high land
    As the one that sows the flowers.

When the winds of earth are soft and low,
    And the fields are moist with the rain,
This angel bends his radiant head
    On wood and field and plain.
Then his eyes look right into those of God
    While his wings he gently lowers;
And this whisper is heard through the whole
            of heaven
    "Is it time to sow the flowers?"

Then God said, touching his golden head,
    "Go down to the haunts of men;
Let the flowers grow up like my love for them,
    By wood and stream and glen.
Go down; and wherever thy feet shall stray
    The flowers will spring into birth,
To teach the heart that is doubting still
    The love I have for the earth."

So the angel that sows the flowers came down
    With a deep rich light in his eyes,
And the clouds took a softer look as they spread
    Their white wings over the skies.
They wept sweet tears on the angel's head,
    Till around him, as he stood,
A full green glory of birds and flowers
    Burst forth by meadow and wood.

They grew into life at the touch of his feet,
    Or wherever his wings were thrown;
And their eyes grew wet with the purest of dews,
    And they turned and looked into his own.
But sweetest of all the blossoms that grew
    In the soft spring winds to wave,
Were those that smiled like an infant child,
    From grass that was over a grave.

And wherever the angel laid him down
    For a moment to rest his feet,
A glory of blooms burst forth, till the wind
    With their very breath was sweet.
And this is why, when you come to a spot
    Where the blossoms are thick and fair,
You know the angel that sows the flowers
    Has lain for a moment there.

Through this earth of ours, on his mission of love,
    The angel went his way;
And sunshine and song went along with him,
    Till the earth was glad and gay.
Then he knelt him down with his hands on his
    And turned his face to the skies,
And as soft as dew in the hush of the night
    Rose the tears into his eyes.

"Farewell, my flowers, for my task is done,
    Till the time that I come again,
I leave you to sway when the west winds play,
    And your thoughts in the hearts of men.
So that, when you feel their incense steal
    From the wings of the dewy showers,
They will think of the love of the Master above,
    Who sent me to sow the flowers."




HERE'S wee Tam aside the fire,
    Soun' as soun' can be,
Tangs across his wee fat legs,
    Heid upon his knee.
Wauken, Tam; you'll burn your croon—
    Canna hear what's said—
Mammy's unco wearit wean—
    Pit him to his bed.

Come his wa's on mammy's knee—
    What a heavy lump—
Claes a' wat wi' makin' dams
    Roun' aboot the pump;
Glaur frae very heid to fit
    Wi' rinnin', micht an' main,
Efter coudlin' paper boats
    Sailin' doon the drain.

Pit his buits upon the stule,
    See they're through the taes,
Hing his stockin's owre the swey,
    But dinna heed his claes.
I maun wash this very nicht—
    Od, the dirty loon,
I wad skelp his doup if he
    Werena sleepin' soun'.

Here's a naked man at last
    Ready for a scrub,
A' owre frae the heid to fit—
    Bring the washing tub.
There noo he's as ticht an' clean
    As ony could desire,
Rin an' fetch his red nicht goon,
    An' heat it at the fire.

Wauken, Tam, an' say your prayer—
    See, he screws his face,
Mummles, "Now I lay me down—
    I beat big Jock a race."
Losh me, what is this I hear
    Frae the heathen limb?
But askin' sic a plague to pray
    Makes me waur than him.

Spread the blankets doon, I say,
    An' wheel the chair aboot,
Here I'm comin' wi' a man
    Fairly fochten oot.
There he's in amang the claes,
    Ye scarce can see his croon;
Mammy's unco wearit wean
    Cuddles safe an' soun'.




BAULD Robin Ford, frae Glasgow toon,
    Cam' here an' spent a nicht wi' me;
An' wow, he is an unco chield,
    An' fu' o' meikle fun an' glee.
He tauld us stories till the tears
    Cam' rinnin' owre oor cheeks fu' clear;
But aye I wussed atween each lauch,
    That Sandy Murdoch had been here.

He sang his ain bit cantie sangs,
    The lilts that tak' your heart alang,
An' what wi' ither things, I wat,
    Oor lungs were keepit unco thrang.
We sat an' smokit, knee to knee,
    An' meikle we had baith to speir;
But aye I wussed, atween each puff,
    That Sandy Murdoch had been here.

We crackit on until the nicht
    Took thochts on giein' twal' a ca';
But what cared we aboot the clocks—
    Let clocks, I say, gang to the wa'—
Come, Robin, crack anither joke,
    Or spin some story, auld an' queer;
But, losh, I tell ye ance again,
    I wish that Murdoch had been here.

O, Sandy is a sturdy chield,
    Wi' honest face an' swarthy broo,
An' weel he woos the Nine that sit
    Upon the hill that poets view.
I wuss him health an' strength to sing
    Till he be fourscore years an' mair,
Wi' wreaths aboot his heid to hide
    Time's fingers when they wan'er there.

So, Robin, let us fill oor pipes,
    An' tak' anither hearty blaw,
But first let Sandy Murdoch ken
    The wuss that's shared between us twa.
May aye his heart be hale an' green,
    An' aye the Muse beside him gang,
To touch him when he lifts his heid
    To strike the strings o' sturdy sang.

An', Robin, when ye gang awa',
    To toil within the busy toon,
If, when your heart begins to loup,
    An' cry oot, "Robin start an' croon,"
Then think upon the simmer licht
    That lies in Crawick's bonnie glen,
An' gie's a hame-spun, couthie 'lilt,
    For weel it's worthy o't, ye ken.

Fareweel—an' maun we say fareweel?
    I doot it—time, an' tide, an' trains,
They winna wait, do what ye may—
    They only lauch at a' your pains.
Fareweel, but min' that saxty miles
    Is nocht to gi'e ye ony fear;
An' so you'll surely come again,
    But first send Sandy Murdoch here.




THOU city of my boyhood!   Ere I dreamt
My footsteps yet would be upon thy streets
My thoughts were with thee, and thy name to me
Was as a spell to waken up the great
Who made thee great, and left behind the spell
To draw the pilgrim.   In my heart I heard
The many voices speak that spoke to thee
In the far past, and all their echoes rang
From hill to hill of history.   I became
Familiar with thy face though never seen,
And all my worship—as a lover dreams
And pictures to himself some dear, sweet face
To bend above his life-was sweeter thus.
Then, in the pauses of my daily toil,
In quiet moments when the village slept,
I was with thee; and in my nightly dreams
I walked the storied pavement of thy streets—
And now I am a citizen of thine.




In September 1880, about a month before the poet left Kirkconnel for Edinburgh, to take up the duties of Sub-librarian in the University Library; his friend Mr Andrew Stewart, of Dundee, paid him a visit in his Dumfriesshire home.  After a long ramble among the hills toward Wanlock-head, the two friends sat down beside a clear cool spring, to rest and smoke; and spent a sweet half-hour.  The only sound that broke the stillness of this retreat was the mirth of the poet, cracking jokes, and perpetrating puns, upon his tired and jaded friend, as he lay limp and languid on the moss; and the poet finished up by deliberately composing; and reciting this mock-heroic poem after the manner of Macaulay:—

THE great Lars Andersonicus,
    Who dwelleth in the South,
Who hath the front of Grecian Jove
    And the heavy bearded mouth,
He strode into his dwelling,
    That white-washed humble home
That overlooks the Tiber,
    That rolls round seven-hilled Rome.
And there he found a missive,
    Which, when he oped, did say
"Greetings, Lars Andersonicus,
    Taymanium comes your way.
He comes as comes a victor,
    Who rides in triumph home,
To pledge in red Falernian juice,
    The Romans and their Rome.
So let the streets in gladness
    Put forth their best array,
And let the Romans line each side
    Along the Appian way."

The great Lars Andersonicus,
    A mighty oath he swore
That he would greet Taymanium
    As he ne'er had been before;
So he donned his lordly toga,
    And with triumphant soul,
Went forth with haughty royal stride
    Till he came to the Capitol.
And then he cried, "O, Romans,
    Come hearken unto me,
Greetings from great Taymanium
    To you and unto me.
How shall we give him welcome,
    Who comes from far away?
Step forth, thou clear-souled Capys,
    And let us hear thy say."

Forth stept at once bold Capys;
    A light shone in his eye,
And he swore by the gods that a
            Roman swears,
    As he raised his hand on high
"O, great Lars Andersonicus,
    Thus shall we greet thy friend,
Let flags along the Sacred Way
    Be hung from end to end;
And let the Vestal Virgins,
    Who watch the burning shrine,
Twine a wreath of the glorious laurel
    From the hill of the Sacred Nine,
And crown him like a victor
    Who for our Rome has bled,
Then take him to the banquet,
    And let the wine be shed."

Then said Lars Andersonicus,
    "As thou say'st, so let it be."
And he strode down the stairs of the
    With a heart that beat for glee.

O brave and high Taymanium,
    Right welcome shall ye be,
When ye sit beneath my roof-tree
    And smoke a pipe with me.
Unto my whitewashed dwelling
    What glory shall you lend,
The tribune of the people,
    The dauntless "People's Friend."

Hurrah for the Roman matron
    Who hath upon her knee
The sturdy brood that warms the heart
    Of a Roman's wife to see.
Hurrah for her voice's music,
    And her soft, dark, sparkling eye,
By the gods! if Andersonicus
    Could get—get—.

*                *                *                *                *

    Here the soaring wing of the poet seemed as if it had been shot through by some tender regret, and he came flop down to common earth, with all the fun knocked out of him, and no amount of persuasion on the part of his friend, would induce him to finish the stanza.




I WEARY to-night, I weary,
    I weary, I know not why,
And a sadness fills me slowly
    As the twilight fills the sky.

I feel far down in my bosom
    A shadow that haunts me still,
And strange and restless wishes,
    That come and go at their will.

I wander as clouds will wander,
    Ere the night and the storm come on;
I start at the sound of gladness,
    And wish to be alone.

Then I think of a dream I cherished,
    Of a purpose that was crossed,
And a far-off fading sweetness
    That my own dim life has lost.

A sweetness, as if of a vision
    Of a saint coming down from the skies,
With her hands clasped over her bosom,
    And love in her dark, sweet eyes,

Of my life with its early promise,
    Which now to myself is seen,
Like the covers of some old volume,
    With the title-page between.

So I weary, O, I weary,
    I weary, I know not why,
And a sadness fills me slowly
    As the twilight fills the sky.




AT rest amid the flush of golden corn,
    When rest is short and sweet;
At rest from toil begun at early morn
    By willing hands and feet.

Above, the sky, in all its wide expanse,
    Laughs with its deepest blue,
And stray winds waking upward from their
    Scarce stir a stalk or two.

How sweet such rest is to each working one!
    That mother sitting there
Suckles a tender babe but late begun
    This life so strange and fair.

And he, the father, looking down can feel
    A new strength in his arm,
And life and toil in softer tones reveal
    A deeper sacred charm.

O weary ones that rise at labour's call!
    Toil on in hope and pain;
A sure rest cometh when at evenfall
    Death stoops to reap his grain.




HOO cantie was I in my youth,
    Afore I ever thocht to range,
Or leave my hame, an' be, in sooth,
    A weary pilgrim seeking change.
O, little do we ken what turns
    Life sets afore us in oor track;
An' noo, when life is wearin' dune,
    I fain wad turn an' wan'er back.

I want to see ance mair the hills
    Where every heicht an' howe is kent—
The hills that I a laddie speiled,
    To spread the muir-burn on the bent.
We saw Todholes tak' up the sign,
    The Knowe range answered back wi' pride,
An' far across the Vale o' Nith
    The Cairn hills spread it far an' wide.

I want to daun'er by the burns
    In which I paidled up an' doun,
Or fished when, like a heaven on earth,
    Some glorious holiday cam' roun'.
I want to see them ane an' a',
    To meet auld friends an' ha'e a crack,
For noo, when life is wearin' dune,
    I fain wad turn an' wan'er back.

What need to tell that I have seen
    The Mississipi roll along;
Have heard Niagara toss on high
    The thunder of his mighty song?
Have seen Missouri, broad and deep,
    Roll worthy of its sounding name;
Ah, still I fain wad wan'er back
    To see the wee bit burns at hame.

What though my home has been beside
    Huge mountains tumbled to the skies,
That loomed far up amid the clouds
    To veil their heads from human eyes—
Or where, like oceans, lakes spread out
    As wide as eye could range or see?
But yet, when life is wearin' dune,
    The hills an' burns at hame for me!

Ay, we may wander far and wide
    When youth is high and hopes are fair,
Nor cast one look behind to see
    The light of boyhood gleaming there.
But press amid the throng, and join
    The rough, wild marching of our kind,
Till, footsore with the weary way,
    We leave the ranks and lag behind.

And then our dreams, that led us on,
    Take voice, and, in their murmurings,
Whisper of other days and years,
    When life was rich with golden things.
Then we in fancy see again
    The hills around our early home,
And, as the vision grows, we feel
    No more the forward wish to roam.

An' will I turn an' wan'er back
    To where my life began, an' see
Ance mair the frien's that I wad like
    To ha'e around me when I dee?
For oh, I weary an' grow fain,
    Though I am gettin' auld an' lame,
To see auld places ance again
    Beside the burns an' hills at hame.

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