Hector MacNeill Poems >>
The Links O' Forth : Or, A Parting Peep At The Carse O' Sterling

Ah! winding Forth! --- smooth wandering tide!
O' Strevlin's peerless plain the pride;
How pleas'd alang thy verdant side,
     Whar floweries spring,
The muse her untaught numbers tried,
     And learnt to sing!

Whan ardent youth, wi' boiling blood,
Ilk trace o' glowing passion loo'd,
How aft aside thy silver flood,
     Unseen, alane,
The bardin, rapt in pensive mood,
     Has pour'd the strain!

To beauteous Laura, aft an lang,
His artless lyre he trembling strang;--
Close to his beating heart it hang,
     While glen, and grove,
And craig, and echoing valley, rang
     Wi' fervent love--

Poor, fond enthusiast! whither stray?
By wimpling burn or broomy brae?
Wasting, I ween, the live-lang day
     In am'rous rhime?--
The hour will come, thou'lt sigh, and say,
     What loss o' time!

Yet, wharfore shou'd nae youth engage
In pleasures suited to its age?
To catch the tids o' life is sage,
     Some joys to save:
Wha kens the fights he's doom'd to wage
     This side the grave!

To sport on fancy's flowery brink,
And beek a wee in love's warm blink,
Is wiser far, I'm sure, than think
     O' distant harm,
Whan eild and cauld indiff'rence shrink,
     Frae pleasure's charm.

Then strike, sweet muse, the trembling lyre,
Ance mair do thou the sang inspire ;--
Ah! check nae yet the glowing fire,
     Though health divine,
And youth, and pleasure's fond desire
     Fast, fast decline!

Attune the lay! whan nature's charm
Eirst seized his bosom fluttering warm;
Ere care yet came, w' dread alarm,
     Or friendship's guile;
Or fortune, wi' uplifted arm,
     And treach'rous smile.

Attune the lay that should adorn
Ilk verse descriptive o' the morn;
Whan round Forth's Links o' waving corn,
     At peep o' dawn
Frae broomy know the whitening thorn
     He raptur'd ran:

Or fragrant whar, at opening day,
The whins bloom sweet on Aichil brae;
There, whan inspir'd by lofty lay,
     He'd tak his flight;
And towering climb, wi' spirits gay,
     Demyit's height.

O! grandeur far than Windsor's brow!
And sweeter too the vale below!
Whar Forth's unrivall'd windings flow
     Through varied grain,
Brightening, I ween, wi' glittering glow
     Strevlina's plain!

There raptur'd trace (enthron'd on hie)
The landscape stretching on the ee
Frae Grampian heights down to the sea,
     (A dazzling view!)
Corn, meadow, mansion, water, tree,
     In varying hue---

Owre lofty here, ilk charm to trace,
That deck, sweet plain! thy cultur'd face;
Aft down the steep he'd tak a race,
     Nor, rinning, flag,
Till up he'd climb, wi' rapid pace
     Yon 'abbey craig.'

There seated, mark, wi' ardour keen,
The skelloch bright 'mang corn sae green,
The purpled pea, and speckled bean;
     A fragrant store!
And vessels sailing, morn, and een,
     To 'Stirling shore.'

But aftner far, he'd late and air,
To yonder castled height repair,
Whar youth's gay sports, relax'd frae care,
     Cheat learning's toils,
And round her Doig's classic chair
     Fond genius smiles!

'Twas here, O Forth! for luve o' thee,
Frae wine, and mirth, and cards he'd flee;
Here too, unskill'd, sweet Poesy!
     He woo'd thy art--
Alas! nor skill nor guide had he,
     Save warmth o' heart!

Yet feckless as his numbers fell,
Nae tongue his peacefu' joys can tell,
Whan crooning quiet by himsel,
     He fram'd the lay
On Gowland's whin-beflowered hill
     And rocky brae.

How richly then the landscape glow'd
As fast the welcome numbers flow'd!
How smooth the plying bargie row'd
     Frae shore to shore!
How saft the kye in King's park low'd,
     At milking hour!

And ah! how sweet the murmur rang
Frae busy labour's rural thrang!
That sta' the upland heights amang'
     And echoing spread
Owre Castle, Butts, and Knott, alang
     The Backwalk shade;

Dear, peacefu' scenes! how sweet to sing!
Whan youth and luve are on the wing;
Whan morn's fresh gales their fragrance bring,
     Wi' balmy sough,
And e'ening paints (how green in spring!)
     The 'braes o' Tough!'

But sweet, thro' a' the varying year
Will Airthrie's banks and woods appear;
And crouse Craigforth, and princely Keir,
     That crowns the scene;
And Allan water, glittering near
     Its bleaching green.

And Blair, half hid in Silvan shade,
Where Taste and Home delighted stray'd;
What time? whan Lare and Genius fled
     Frae bar and town,
To Teath's clear stream, that babbling play'd
     By Castle Down--

And Shaw-park, gilt wi' e'ening's ray;
And Embro's castle, distant grey;
Wi' Alva, screen'd near Aichil brae,
     'Mang grove and bower!
And rich Clackmannan, rising gay,
     Wi' woods and tower;

--These, aft he trac'd, fond nature's child!
But maist at e'ening blushing mild,
As owre the western cliffs sae wild
     O' Lomond's height
The sun in setting glory smil'd
     Wi' purple light!

'Twas then, by gloaming's sober hour,
He'd court some solitude obscure;
Or round Cam'skenneth's ancient tower,
     Whar winds Forth's stream,
He'd wander, meditate, and pour
     This moral theme :--

'How still and solemn steals the gloom
Mild owre the garden's fading bloom!
Dim flits the bat athwart the tomb,
     On leathern wing ;--
--Hark! what bemoan'd the slaughter'd doom
     O' Scotia's king?--

'Twas but the dove that woos his mate,
Unmindfu' o' the monarch's fate:
Whar, Grandeur, now thy regal state?--
     Unmarkt! -- and gane!
Nor sculptur'd verse records thy date,
     Nor moss-grown-stane!'

Yet regal pomp, and courtly show,
Aft graced yon castle's princely brow,
Whan Scotland's kings, wi' patriot glow,
     Delight'd woo'd
Strevlina's fertile fields below,
     And winding flood!

Sublime retreat! belov'd! admir'd!
Whase rural charms sae aft conspir'd
To calm the raging breast, whan fir'd
     'Gainst lawless power,
And yield, mid social sweets retir'd
     Life's happier hour!

To sheathe in peace war's slaughtering sword;
To drap the king at friendship's board;
To draw frae luve's delicious hoard
     Her honey'd sweet!
And chain fierce valour's lofty lord
     At beauty's feet.

Or join the chace, at purple morn,
Owre lawns, and heath-bloom'd mountains borne;
Wi' hound, and hawk, and bugle horn,
     And shouting thrang;
While Sauchie's glens, beflower'd wi' thorn,
     The notes prolang;

Or break the lance, and couch the spear
At tilts and tournaments o' weir,
Whar mony a valiant knight and peer
     Display'd their skill,
To courtly beauty, blushing near,
     On Lady's hill.

Thus, tun'd to pastime's peacefu' string,
Strevlina's craigs and valley ring;
Blithe was the courtier and the king
     By Fortha's flood,
Till Faction soar'd on raven wing,
     Bedrapt wi' blood!

'Twas then ilk sport and rural charm
Fled court, and plain, and cheerless farm!--
Rebellion loud, wi' dread alarm,
     Skreigh'd wild her cry,
And murder dark, wi' dagger'd arm
     Stood watching by!

O Treason! -- ranc'rous, ruthless fae!
Sad source o' Scotland's wars and wae!
Not guiltless power, here chang'd to clay,
     Could calm thy strife,
Nor ward thy boiling bloody fray
     And butchering knife!

Alas! nor he, whase youthfu' bloom
Lang felt oppression's tyrant doom;
Though science, mid the captive gloom,
     And genius bright,
And fancy, at her fairy loom
     Shot radiant light!--

--Insatiate fiend! could nought allay
The rebel rage 'gainst regal sway!--
Not Flodden-Field, whase fatal day
     Brought drool and care,
Whan Scotland's Flowers were wed away,
     To bloom nae mair.

Nor Solway's heart-break, and disgrace,
Nor Mary's tears, nor beauteous face,
Could stop, fell fae! thy furious pace
     Bestain'd wi' crime,
Till Stuart's royal, luckless race!
     Fled Scotia's clime.

--Dark gloom'd the morn, owre land and sea,
Whan Scotia, sad, wi' tearfu' ee,
Saw, frae her pine-wav'd cliffs on hie,
     And aiken bowers
Her king, and independence flee
     Strevlina's towers!

Not sae the morn, that beaming shed
A blaze round Wallace' helmed head,
As bald in freedom's cause he led
     His patriot train,
And dy'd these blood-drench'd furrows red
     Wi' hostile slain!

'Nor yet, O Bruce! the morn that shone
Bright, bright! whan (Edward's host ow'r-thrown)
High, on yon proud hill' Standard Stone,
     Thy banners flew!
While freedom, loud, in raptur'd tone
     Her clarion blew!

--Enchanting morn! whase magic reign
Brak forging thraldom's galling chain;
Led Ceres, wi' her laughing train
     And gowden store
Round Bannockburn's ensanguin'd plain,
     And Carron's shore.

Round 'Carun's stream,' o' classic name,
Whar Fingal fought, and ay ow'rcame;
Whar Ossian walk'd, wi' kindling flame,
     His heav'n-taught lays,
And sang his Oscar's deathless fame
     At Dunipace!

--Names, gratefu' to the patriot's ear!
Which Scotia's sons delight to hear!--
Names, that the brave will lang revere
     Wi' valour's sigh!
--Dear to the Muse! -- but doubly dear
     To Liberty!'

Thus, (blind to prudence' warning light)
Aft sigh'd and sang the pensive wight!--
Reckless, alas! o' fortune's blight,
    O wardly blame
He'd muse, and dream, till dark midnight,
     Then daunder hame!

Ye flowering plains and winding stream!
Ye stately towers! whar morn's first beam
Mild glittering glints wi' gowden gleam!
     Yours was the crime:
Ye first entic'd his youth to dream
     In thriftless rhime!

Ye first unlock'd the secret door
That led to nature's varied store:
And taught him early to adore
     Her tempting smile,
Whether on India's pictur'd shore
     Or Britain's isle--

Ye classic fields, whar valour bled!
Whar patriots strave, but never fled!
Ye plains, wi' smiling plenty clad,
     A lang adieu!
A dark'ning cloud wi' ills ow'respread
     Obscures the view!

A warning voice, sad owre the main
Cries, Haste ye! -- haste! -- break aff the strain:
Strevlina's towers and peerless plain
     Ye'll ne'er review!--
Dear haunts o' youth, and luve's saft pain,
     A last adieu!