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THE MOODY SEER,
1 "THE sun shines in a cloudless sky,
2 The lake is blue and still;
3 Up, Flora! on thine errand hie,
4 And climb the eyrie hill;
5 "And tell my ancient kinsman there
6 To leave his lonely tower,
7 And at our yearly feast to share
8 The merry social hour."
9 "Oh mother! do not bid me go;
10 I scarce can draw my breath,
11 When I see his eyes move to and fro,
12 His lowering brows beneath;
13 "His moving lips, that give no sound
14 My very spirits quell,
15 When he stares upon the harmless ground
16 As 'twere the mouth of hell."
17 "Fy, foolish child! — on such a day
18 Aught ill thou need'st not fear,
19 And thy cousin Malcom will the way
20 With tale or ballad cheer."
21 The maiden blushed and turned her head,
22 And saw young Malcom near,
23 And she thought no more of scathe or dread,
24 Or the looks of the moody Seer.
25 And now, bound for the mountain hold,
26 The youthful pair are seen,
27 He like a stripling frank and bold,
28 She like a fairy queen.
29 With merry songs and merry talk
30 The long way cheated he,
31 And plucked her blue-bells from the stalk,
32 And blossoms from the tree.
33 Time (how they wist not) swiftly ran,
34 Till scarcely half a rood
35 From the opening gate of the gifted man
36 With beating hearts they stood.
37 Then issued from that creaking gate
38 A figure bent and spare,
39 In checkered garb of ancient state,
40 With grizzled, shaggy hair.
41 By motion, look and mien, he seemed
42 Of gentle pedigree,
43 Well struck with years, you might have deemed,
44 But more with misery.
45 He raised his face to the youthful pair,
46 Grammercie! can it be?
47 There passeth a glance of pleasure there
48 And a smile of courtesy.
49 "My cousin's daughter near my hold!
50 Some message kind, I trow.
51 But no, fair maid, I am too old
52 To mix in revels now.
53 "And who is this so gay and young? —
54 No no! thou need'st not tell;
55 His mother is from Garelace sprung,
56 His sire from bold Glenfell.
57 "His mother's smile is on his face,
58 His father's form I see,
59 Those well-knit limbs of active grace,
60 Those feet — it cannot be!
61 Out out! mine eyes see falsely! tossed
62 And drifted by the wind,
63 Some beldame's kerchief hath been lost,
64 And round his brogues hath twined. "
65 Thus muttering low, with voice unsweet,
66 He turned his face aside,
67 And hastily snatched at Malcom's feet,
68 But the close-clutched palm was void. *
* When a person, gifted with the second sight, sees a person who is to die within a year, he perceives the shroud covering his feet; as the time becomes less distant, it appears to cover his body higher, and if the death is close at hand, it covers his shoulders or his head. In short, the shroud rises gradually higher upon the body as the time for death approaches.
69 "Why gropest thou with thy trembling hand?
70 Think'st thou my feet are bound?
71 Let loose thy house-guard, famous Brand,
72 And I'll out-run the hound."
73 "Ah! swiftest race is soonest o'er,
74 Like stream of the mountain brook:
75 Go home, and con some sober lore,
76 Betake thee to bead and book."
77 "Yes, I will pray to Mary mild,
78 And my first request shall be,
79 That from all fancies grim and wild,
80 Thou mayst delivered be."
81 Then anger tinged the maid's round cheek —
82 "Come, Malcom, come away!
83 When Hallow-e'en blows chill and bleak,
84 Macvorely will join our play."
85 "When Hallow-e'en blows bleak and chill
86 An old man's seat prepare,
87 For if life and strength be in him still,
88 Macvorely will be there."
89 The old man sighed, as down the hill
90 They took their homeward way,
91 And he heard afar so loud and shrill
92 Young Malcom's joyous lay.
93 'Tis Hallow-e'en in Flora's home,
94 Bright shines the fir-wood flame;
95 From distant halls and holds are come
96 Maid, youngster, laird and dame.
97 Their friets*
* Friets, superstitious spells.are tried true-love to prove —
98 Friets taught by warlock lore,
99 And mingled lovers gladly move
100 Upon the crowded floor.
101 And flaming nuts are keenly watched
102 By many a youthful eye,
103 And colworts, from the dark mould snatched,
104 Are borne triumphantly.
105 Then gay strathspeys are featly danced
106 To the pibroch's gallant sound,
107 While the sighted man, like one entranced,
108 In the honoured chair is found.
109 But who comes now so buoyantly,
110 In flaunting kirtle dressed,
111 Who snaps her fingers, capers high,
112 And foots it with the best?
113 She leaps and crosses, wheels and turns,
114 Like mawkin on the lea,
115 Till every kindred bosom burns
116 Such joyous sight to see.
117 Her dark eyes gleamed, and her ribands streamed,
118 And bells and bracelets rung,
119 And the charmed rout raised a joyous shout
120 As her arms aloft she flung.
121 Out spoke a bachelor, Glenore,
122 Of threescore years and ten,
123 And well respected heretofore
124 By prudent, wary men:
125 "O were I now as I have been
126 (Vain wish! alas how vain!)
127 I would plight my faith to that winsome queen,
128 And with my freedom twain."
129 But naught cared she for laugh or shout
130 And cheers from every tongue;
131 She circled in, and she circled out,
132 Through all the yielding throng,
133 Until before the honoured chair
134 With sliding step she came,
135 And dropped a sober curtsey there
136 To the Seer of eldrich fame.
137 But ah! how different is his face
138 From those so blithe and boon!
139 Tears down his cheeks the big tears chase,
140 Like thunder-drops in June.
141 "Nay, weep not, kind though hapless Seer;
142 Forgive my foolish glee,
143 That, flaunting thus in woman's gear,
144 Thought to deceive even thee.
145 "I've danced before thee, vain and proud,
146 In crimson kirtle drest."
147 "Thou'st danced before me in a shroud,
148 Raised midway to thy breast."
149 Dull grew the sound of the crowded hall,
150 Yet Malcom danced again,
151 And did for rousing pibrochs call,
152 But pipers piped in vain.
153 Before the early cock had crowed,
154 Withdrawn was every guest;
155 Ere on high Ben a sun-beam glowed,
156 All were retired to rest.
157 A goodly ship at anchor rides,
158 With freight of British store,
159 And a little boat from her shadow glides,
160 Swift nearing to the shore.
161 And, on that shore, kind hearts and true,
162 Small groups of kinsfolk stand,
163 To bid a much-loved youth adieu,
164 Who quits his native land.
165 There Flora and her mother dear
166 Heave many a heavy sigh,
167 And by them is the moody Seer,
168 With red and lowering eye.
169 "Weep not, dear aunt!" says the parting wight,
170 "Weep not, my play-mate sweet!
171 Hope beckons me to fortune bright,
172 And we again shall meet.
173 "And, good Macvorely, send me hence
174 With thy blessing; on me pour
175 Some muttered spell of sure defence,
176 When wild waves round me roar.
177 "This band that round my neck is tied,
178 Is the gift of a maiden dear,
179 Fenced with thy potent spell beside,
180 What danger need I fear?"
181 "I see no band around thy neck,
182 But the white shroud gathered high:
183 Yon breakers rage, and a stranded wreck
184 Doth on the dark rocks lie.
185 "A solemn requiem for the dead
186 Is the gift I will give to thee;
187 O that, to save thee, in thy stead,
188 The same were sung for me!"
189 Yet still the youth, with parting cheer,
190 Extends to all his hand;
191 Embraces those who are most dear,
192 And hastens from the land.
193 His form reflected on the wave,
194 As the lessening boat withdrew,
195 Of that joyous youth, so boon and brave,
196 Was their last heart-moving view.
197 In Flora's home the midnight blast
198 Rose with a wailing moan,
199 And all had to their chambers past,
200 And the maiden sat alone.
201 She thought of the seaman's perilous case
202 As the loud gust went and came,
203 And she gazed on the fire with a woeful face
204 And watched the flickering flame.
205 The flickering flame burnt dull and blue,
206 And the icy chill of fear
207 Passed o'er her head; then well she knew
208 Some ghastly thing was near.
209 She turned her head the room to scan,
210 To wot if aught was there;
211 And she saw a figure wet and wan
212 Three paces from her chair.
213 Fixed were the eyes of its pallid face,
214 Like those who walk in sleep,
215 And she started up and prayed for grace
216 With a voice suppressed and deep.
217 Then gazing on that face, at length,
218 She knew the features dear;
219 She spoke, — affection lent her strength,
220 "Malcom, how cam'st thou here?"
221 "How spirits travel, dear, dear maid!
222 No living wight may know,
223 But far from hence my corse is laid,
224 The deep green waves below."
225 "O Malcom say, in this world of care
226 Is there aught I can do for thee?"
227 "When thou bendest thy knees in humble prayer,
228 My Flora, pray for me;
229 "And let my kinsfolk know the fate
230 Of one so young and vain.
231 And now farewell, till time's last date,
232 When we shall meet again."
233 The figure faded from her sight,
234 And the angry tempest fell,
235 And she heard through the stilly air of night
236 A distant passing bell.
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About this text
Author: Joanna Baillie
Genres: ballad metre
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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. 168-183. (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)
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.
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