[Page 219]


1 DEAR Agnes, gleamed with joy and dashed with tears,
2 O'er us have glided almost sixty years
3 Since we on Bothwell's bonny braes were seen,
4 By those whose eyes long closed in death have been,
5 Two tiny imps, who scarcely stooped to gather
6 The slender hair-bell on the purple heather;
7 No taller than the foxglove's spiky stem,
8 That dew of morning studs with silvery gem.
9 Then every butterfly that crossed our view
10 With joyful shout was greeted as it flew,
11 And moth and lady-bird and beetle bright
[Page 220]
12 Then as we paddled barefoot, side by side,
13 Among the sunny shallows of the Clyde
* The Manse of Bothwell was at some considerable distance from the Clyde, but the two little girls were sometimes sent there in summer to bathe and wade about.
14 Minnows or spotted paur with twinkling fin,
15 Swimming in mazy rings the pool within,
16 A thrill of gladness through our bosoms sent,
17 Seen in the power of early wonderment.
18 A long perspective to my mind appears,
19 Looking behind me to that line of years,
20 And yet through every stage I still can trace
21 Thy visioned form, from childhood's morning grace
22 To woman's early bloom, changing how soon!
23 To the expressive glow of woman's noon;
24 And now to what thou art, in comely age,
25 Active and ardent. Let what will engage
26 Thy present moment, whether hopeful seeds
27 In garden-plat thou sow, or noxious weeds
28 From the fair flower remove, or ancient lore
29 In chronicle or legend rare explore,
[Page 221]
30 Or on the parlour hearth with kitten play,
31 Stroking its tabby sides, or take thy way
32 To gain with hasty steps some cottage door,
33 On helpful errand to the neighbouring poor,
34 Active and ardent, to my fancy's eye,
35 Thou still art young in spite of time gone by.
36 Though oft of patience brief and temper keen,
37 Well may it please me, in life's latter scene,
38 To think what now thou art and long to me hast been.
39 'Twas thou who woo'dst me first to look
40 Upon the page of printed book,
41 That thing by me abhorred, and with address
42 Didst win me from my thoughtless idleness,
43 When all too old become with bootless haste
44 In fitful sports the precious time to waste.
45 Thy love of tale and story was the stroke
46 At which my dormant fancy first awoke,
47 And ghosts and witches in my busy brain
48 Arose in sombre show, a motley train.
49 This new-found path attempting, proud was I,
50 Lurking approval on thy face to spy,
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51 Or hear thee say, as grew thy roused attention,
52 "What! is this story all thine own invention?"
53 Then, as advancing through this mortal span,
54 Our intercourse with the mixed world began,
55 Thy fairer face and sprightlier courtesy,
56 (A truth that from my youthful vanity
57 Lay not concealed) did for the sisters twain,
58 Where'er we went, the greater favour gain;
59 While, but for thee, vexed with its tossing tide,
60 I from the busy world had shrunk aside.
61 And now in later years, with better grace
62 Thou helpest me still to hold a welcome place
63 With those whom nearer neighbourhood have made
64 The friendly cheerers of our evening shade.
65 With thee my humours, whether grave or gay,
66 Or gracious or untoward, have their way.
67 Silent if dull O precious privilege!
68 I sit by thee; or if, culled from the page
69 Of some huge, ponderous tome which, but thyself,
70 None e'er had taken from its dusty shelf,
[Page 223]
71 Thou read me curious passages to speed
72 The winter night, I take but little heed
73 And thankless say "I cannot listen now,"
74 'Tis no offence; albeit, much do I owe
75 To these, thy nightly offerings of affection,
76 Drawn from thy ready talent for selection;
77 For still it seemed in thee a natural gift
78 The lettered grain from lettered chaff to sift.
79 By daily use and circumstance endeared,
80 Things are of value now that once appeared
81 Of no account, and without notice past,
82 Which o'er dull life a simple cheering cast;
83 To hear thy morning steps the stair descending,
84 Thy voice with other sounds domestic blending;
85 After each stated nightly absence, met
86 To see thee by the morning table set,
87 Pouring from smoky spout the amber stream
88 Which sends from saucered cup its fragrant steam;
89 To see thee cheerly on the threshold stand,
90 On summer morn, with trowel in thy hand
[Page 224]
91 For garden-work prepared; in winter's gloom
92 From thy cold noonday walk to see thee come,
93 In furry garment lapt, with spattered feet
94 And by the fire resume thy wonted seat;
95 Aye even o'er things like these, soothed age has thrown
96 A sober charm they did not always own.
97 As winter-hoarfrost makes minutest spray
98 Of bush or hedge-weed sparkle to the day,
99 In magnitude and beauty, which bereaved
100 Of such investment, eye had ne'er perceived.
101 The change of good and evil to abide,
102 As partners linked, long have we side by side
103 Our earthly journey held, and who can say
104 How near the end of our united way?
105 By nature's course not distant; sad and 'reft
106 Will she remain, the lonely pilgrim left.
107 If thou art taken first, who can to me
108 Like sister, friend and home-companion be?
109 Or who, of wonted daily kindness shorn,
110 Shall feel such loss, or mourn as I shall mourn?
[Page 225]
111 And if I should be fated first to leave
112 This earthly house, though gentle friends may grieve,
113 And he above them all, so truly proved
114 A friend and brother, long and justly loved,
115 There is no living wight, of woman born,
116 Who then shall mourn for me as thou wilt mourn.
117 Thou ardent, liberal spirit! quickly feeling
118 The touch of sympathy and kindly dealing
119 With sorrow or distress, for ever sharing
120 The unhoarded mite, nor for to morrow caring,
121 Accept, dear Agnes, on thy natal day,
122 An unadorned but not a careless lay.
123 Nor think this tribute to thy virtues paid
124 From tardy love proceeds, though long delayed.
125 Words of affection, howsoe'er expressed,
126 The latest spoken still are deemed the best:
127 Few are the measured rhymes I now may write;
128 These are, perhaps, the last I shall endite.


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Genres: address; occasional poem

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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. 219-225.  (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