[Page [119]]


1 THOU pleasant noble Bard of fame far spread,
2 Now art thou gathered to the mighty dead,
3 And the dark coffin and the girdling mould
4 All that of thee is perishable, hold.
5 Mourners and mutes and weeping friends are gone;
6 The pageant closed, and thou art left alone,
7 The covered treasure of a sacred spot,
8 That in the course of time shall never be forgot.
9 Soon those who loved, admired and honoured thee,
10 In death's still garner-house will gathered be;
11 And great their number is, who have with pride
12 Looked in thy manly face, sat by thy side,
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13 And heard thy social converse, words of cheer,
14 And words of power to charm the listening ear!
15 At death's despotic summons will they come,
16 Each in his turn from many a different home:
17 From town and muirland, cot and mansion warm,
18 The regal palace, and the homely farm.
19 Soldier and lawyer, merchant, priest and peer,
20 The squire, the laird of forty pounds a-year,
21 The crowned monarch and the simple hind,
22 Did all in thee a meet companion find.
23 For thee the peasant's wife her elbow chair,
24 Smiling a welcome, kindly set, and there
25 With fair exchange of story, saw and jest,
26 Thou wert to her a free and pleasant guest;
27 While nature, undisguised, repaid thee well
28 For time so spent. She and her mate could tell
29 Unawed, to such a man, their inmost mind;
30 They claimed thee as their own, their kin their kind.
31 From nature's book thou couldst extract a store,
32 More precious than the scholar's classic lore.
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33 And how felt he, whose early rhymes had been
34 To perilous inspection given, and seen
35 By one whose brows were graced from every land,
36 With chaplets twined by many a skilful hand?
37 How beat his heart, as with the morning ray,
38 To Abbotsford he took his anxious way,
39 Imagining what shortly he must see,
40 Him in whose presence he so soon will be?
41 And how felt he, thy study's threshold passed,
42 When on thy real face his eyes were cast?
43 Thine open brow with glow of fancy heated;
44 Thy purring cat upon the table seated;
45 Thy sleeping hound that hath his easy lair
46 Close on the precincts of his master's chair;
47 The honest welcome of that sudden smile,
48 And outstretched hand, misgiving thoughts beguile.
49 But when thy cheerful greeting met his ear,
50 "Fie on thee! foolish heart, a man like this to fear!"
51 Thou wert to him, when blushed the eastern sky,
52 A sage of awful mien and lofty eye;
53 When noon-day heat called forth th' industrious bee,
54 Thou wert the monitor both kind and free;
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55 But when the changeful day was at an end,
56 Thou wert his easy cheerful host, his friend.
57 When all whose eyes have e'er beheld thy face,
58 Departed are to their long resting-place,
59 Thou wilt exist in all thy magic then,
60 The cherished, speaking friend of living men.
61 In torrid climes, in regions cold and bleak,
62 In every land and language wilt thou speak.
63 Within the sick man's curtained couch thou'lt dwell;
64 Within the languid prisoner's cheerless cell;
65 Within the seaman's cabin, where the sound
66 Of many leagues of water murmurs round.
67 The buoyant school-boy will forego his play,
68 In secret nook alone with thee to stray;
69 The sober sage wise tomes will cast aside,
70 An hour with thee a pleasant hour to bide.
71 Men of all nations, of all creeds, all ranks,
72 Will owe to thee an endless meed of thanks,
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73 Which more than in thy passing, checkered day
74 Of mortal life, they will delight to pay.
75 For who shall virtuous sympathies resign,
76 Or feed foul fancies from a page of thine?
77 No, none! thy writings as thy life are pure,
78 And their fair fame and influence will endure.
79 Not so with those where perverse skill pourtrays
80 Distorted, blighting passions; and displays,
81 Wild, maniac, selfish fiends to be admired,
82 As heroes with sublimest ardour fired.
83 Such are, to what thy faithful pen hath traced,
84 With all the shades of varied nature graced,
85 Like grim cartoons, for Flemish looms prepared,
86 To Titian's or Murillo's forms compared;
87 Stately or mean, theirs still are forms of truth,
88 Charming, unlearned, and learned age and youth:
89 Not extacies expressed in critic phrase,
90 But silent smiles of pleasure speak their praise.
91 When those, who now thy recent death deplore,
92 Lie in the dust, thought of and known no more,
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93 As poet and romancer, thy great name
94 Will brightly shine with undiminished fame;
95 And future sons of fancy fondly strive
96 To their compatriots works like thine to give.
97 But of the many who on her wide sea
98 Shall boldly spread their sails to follow thee,
99 More as romancers on thy track will gain,
100 Than those who emulate the poet's strain.
101 A tale like Waverley we yet may con,
102 But shall we read a lay like Marmion?
103 And fearlessly I say it, though I know
104 The voice of public favour says not so:
105 For story-telling is an art, I ween,
106 Which hath of old most fascinating been,
107 And will be ever, strong in ready power,
108 To combat languor and the present hour;
109 And o'er these common foes will oft prevail,
110 When Homer's theme and Milton's song would fail.
111 But strong in both, there is in sooth no need
112 Against thy left hand for thy right to plead:
113 Think as we list, one truth, alas! is plain,
114 We ne'er shall look upon thy like again.
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115 Thy country, bounded by her subject sea,
116 Adds to her fame by giving birth to thee;
117 In distant lands yon fancied group behold,
118 Where busy traders meet in quest of gold;
119 Motley and keen, all gathered round a youth,
120 Who simply stands unconscious of the truth,
121 Look at him wistfully, and hark, they speak
122 The Turk and Jew, Armenian and Greek,
123 Their rapid lips the whispered words betraying
124 "He's from the land of Walter Scott," they're saying.
125 That Caledonian, too, with more good will
126 They greet as of thy closer kindred still:
127 But who is he, who, standing by their side,
128 Raises his head with quickly-kindled pride,
129 As if he meant to look the others down?
130 Ay; he is from thine own romantic town.
131 Thou art in time's long course a land-mark high,
132 A beacon blazing to the nether sky,
133 To which, as far and wide it shoots its rays,
134 Landsmen and mariners, with wistful gaze,
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135 From ship, and shore, and mountain turn their sight,
136 And hail the glorious signal of the night.
137 Oh Dryburgh! often trode by pilgrim feet
138 Shall be thy hallowed sod; solemn and sweet,
139 Will be the gentle sorrow uttered there,
140 The whispered blessing and the quiet prayer.
141 Flower, herb, or leaf by children yet unborn
142 Will often from thy verdant turf be torn,
143 And kept in dear memorial of the place
144 Where thou art laid with a departed race;
145 Where every thing around, tower, turret, tree,
146 River, and glen, and mountain, wood and lea,
147 And ancient ruin, by the moonlight made
148 More stately with alternate light and shade,
149 Thy once beloved Melrose, all speak of thee,
150 With mingled voices through the gale of morn,
151 Of evening, noon, and night, most sadly borne,
152 A dirge-like wailing, a mysterious moan,
153 That sadly seems to utter "He is gone!"
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154 To God's forgiving mercy and his love
155 To fellowship with blessed souls above
156 Bright hosts redeemed by him whose voice of hope
157 Revealed th' immortal spirit's boundless scope
158 We leave thee, though within its narrow cell,
159 Thy honoured dust must for a season dwell
160 Our friend, our bard, our brother, fare thee well!
Hampstead, November, 1832.


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About this text

Themes: death
Genres: heroic couplet; occasional poem; eulogy

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Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. [119]-127.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Joanna Baillie