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Dear Agnes, gleamed with joy and dashed with
O'er us have glided almost fifty years,
Since we on Bothwell's bonny braes were seen,
By those whose eyes long closed in death have
Two tiny imps, who scarcely stooped to gather
The slender hare-bell or the purple heather;
No taller than the fox-gloves spiky stem,
That dew of morning studs with silvery gem.
Then every butterfly that crossed our view
With joyful shout was greeted as it flew,
And moth and lady-bird and beetle bright
In sheeny gold were each a wondrous sight.
Then as we paddled barefoot, side by side,
Among the sunny shallows of the Clyde,
Minnows or spotted par with twinkling fin,
Swimming in mazy rings the pool within,
A thrill of gladness through our bosoms sent
Seen in the power of early wonderment.
A long perspective in my mind appears,
Looking behind me to that line of years,
And yet through every stage I still can trace
Thv visioned form, from childhood's morning
To woman's early bloom, changing how soon!
To the expressive glow of woman's noon;
And now to what thou art, in comely age,
Active and ardent. · Let what will engage
Thy present moment, whether hopeful seeds
In garden-plat thou sow, or noxious weeds
From the fair flower remove, or ancient lore,
In chronicle or legend rare explore,
Or on the parlour hearth with kitten play,
Stroking its tabby sides, or take thy way
To gain with hasty steps some cottage door,
On helpful errand to the neighbouring poor
Active and ardent-to my fancy's eye
Thou still art young in spite of time gone by
Though oft of patience brief and temper keer.
Well may it please me in life's latter scene,
To think what now thou art and long to me hast
'Twas thou who woo’d'st me first to look
Upon the page of printed book,
That thing by me abhorr'd, and with address
Didst win me from my thoughtless idleness,
When all too old become with bootless haste
In fitful sports the precious time to waste.
Thy love of tale and story was the stroke
At which my dormant fancy first awoke,
And ghosts and witches in my busy brain
Arose in sombre show, a motley train.
This new-found path attempting, proud was I,
Lurking approval on thy face to spy,
Or hear thee say, as grew thy roused attention, “What! is this story all thine own invention ?"
Then as advancing through this mortal span, Our intercourse with the mix'd world began, Thy fairer face and sprightlier courtesy (A truth that from my youthful vanity Lay not concealed) did for the sisters twain, Where'er we went, the greater favour gain ; While, but for thee, vex'd with its tossing tide, I from the busy world had shrunk aside ; And now in later years, with better grace, Thou help'st me still to hold a welcome place With those whom nearer neigbourhood have made The friendly cheerers of our evening shade.
With thee my humours, whether grave or gay, Or gracious or untoward, have their way. Silent if dull, oh, precious privilege! I sit by thee; or, if called from the page Of some huge, ponderous tome which, but thyself, None e'er had taken from its dusty shelf, Thou read me curious passages to speed The winter night, I take but little heed, And thankless say, “I cannot listen now," 'Tis no offence; albeit much do I owe To these, thy nightly offerings of affection, Drawn from thy ready talent for selection; For still it seemed in theo a natural gift, The letter'd grain from letter'd chaff to sift.
By daily use and circumstance endear'd, Things are of value now that once appear'd
Of no account, and without notice past,
Which o'er dull life a simple cheering cast;
To hear thy morning steps the stairs descending,
Thy voice with other sounds domestic blending;
After each stated nightly absence met,
To see thee by the morning table set,
Pouring from smoky spout the amber stream
Which sends from saucered cup its fragrant steam:
To see thee cheerly on the threshold stand,
On summer morn, with trowel in thy hand,
Far garden work prepared ; in winter's gloom,
From thy cool noon-day walk to see thee come,
In furry garment lapp'd, with spatter'd feet,
And by the fire resume thy wonted seat;
Ay, even o'er things like these, soothed age has
A sober charm they did not always own.
As winter hoar-frost makes minutest spray
Of bush or hedge-weed sparkle to the day
In magnitude and beauty, which bereaved
Of such investment, eye had ne'er perceived.
The change of good and evil to abide,
As partners link'd, long have we side by side
Our earthly journey held, and who can say
How near the end of our appointed way?
By nature's course not distant:-- sad and reft
Will she remain,--the lonely pilgrim left.
If thou art taken first, who can to me
Like sister, friend, and home-companion bei
Or who, of wonted daily kindness shori., .
Shall feel such loss, or mourn as I shall mourn
And if I should be fated first to leave
This earthly house, though gentle friends max
And he above them all, so truly proved
A friend and brother, long and justly loved,
There is no living wight, of woman born,
Who then shall mourn for me as thou wilt mourn
Thou ardent, liberal spirit! quickly feeling
The touch of sympathy, and kindly dealing
With sorrow and distress, for ever sharing
The unhoarded mite, nor for to-morrow caring
Accept, dear Agnes, on thy natal day,
An unadorned but not a careless lay,
Nor think this tribute to thy virtues paid
From tardy love proceeds, though long delay'd.
Words of affection, howsoe'er express'd,
The latest spoken still are deem'd the best :
Few are the measured rhymes I now may write
These are, perhaps, the last I shall indite.
The dearest friend to me, the kindest man,
The best condition'd and unwearied spirit
In doing courtesies; and one in whom
The ancient Roman honour more appears,
Than any that draws breath in Italy.