Page images
PDF
EPUB

And coarsest speargrass; next, the inner work
With finer, and still finer fibres lays,
Rounding it curious with his speckled breast.
How strange this untaught art ! it is the gift,
The gift innate of Him, without whose will
Not even a sparrow falleth to the ground.

And now the assiduous dam her red-specked trea

sure,
From day to day increases, till complete
The wonted number, blythe, beneath her breast,
She cherishes from morn to eve,-from eve
To morn shields from the dew, that globuled lies
Upon her mottled plumes : then with the dawn
Upsprings her mate, and wakes her with his song.
His
song

full well she knows, even when the sun,
High in his morning course, is hailed at once
By all the lofty warblers of the sky:
But most his downward-veering song she loves;
Slow the descent at first, then, by degrees,
Quick, and more quick, till suddenly the note
Ceases; and, like an arrow-fledge, he darts,
And, softly lighting, perches by her side.

But now no time for hovering welkin high, Or downward-gliding strain; the young have chipped, Have burst the brittle cage, and gaping bills

Claim all the labour of the parent pair.
Ah, labour vain! the herd-boy long has marked
His future prize; the ascent, and glad return,
Oft has he viewed; at last, with prying eyes,
He found the spot, and joyful thought he held
The full-ripe young already in his hand,
Or bore them lightly to his broom-roofed bield:
Even now he sits, amid the rushy mead,
Half-hid, and warps the skep with willow rind,
Or rounds the lid, still adding coil to coil,
Then joins the osier hinge: the work complete
Surveying, oft he turns, and much admires,
Complacent with himself; then hies away
With plundering intent. Ah, little think
The harmless family of love, how near
The robber treads! he stoops, and parts the grass,
And looks with eager eye upon

his

prey.
Quick round and round the parents fluttering wheel,
Now high, now low, and utter shrill the plaint
Of deep distress.—But soon forgot their woe:
Not so with man! year

after
year

he mourns, Year after

year
the mother

weeps

her

son, Torn from her struggling arms by ruffian grasp, By robbery legalised.

Low in a glen, Down which a little stream had furrowed deep, "Tween meeting birchen boughs, a shelvy channel,

And brawling mingled with the western tide;
Far

up that stream, almost beyond the roar
Of storm-bulged breakers, foaming o'er the rocks
With furious dash, a lowly dwelling lurked,
Surrounded by a circlet of the stream.
Before the wattled door, a greensward plat,
With daisies gay, pastured a playful lamb;
A pebbly path, deep-worn, led up the hill,
Winding among the trees, by wheel untouched,
Save when the winter fuel was brought home,-
One of the poor man's yearly festivals.
On
every

side it was a sheltered spot, So high and suddenly the woody steeps Arose. One only way, downward the stream, Just o'er the hollow, 'tween the meeting boughs, The distant wave was seen, with, now and then, The glimpse of passing sail; but, when the breeze Crested the distant wave, this little nook Was all so calm, that, on the limberest spray, The sweet bird chaunted motionless, the leaves At times scarce fluttering. Here dwelt a pair, Poor, humble, and content: one son alone, Their William, happy lived at home to bless Their downward years; he, simple youth, With boyish fondness, fancied he would love A seaman's life, and with the fishers sailed,

their

ways, far 'mong the western isles,

To try

Far as Saint Kilda's rock-walled shore abrupt,
O’er which he saw ten thousand pinions wheel
Confused, dimming the sky: These dreary shores
Gladly he left; he had a homeward heart:
No more his wishes wander to the waves.
But still he loves to cast a backward look,
And tell of all he saw, of all he learned ;
Of pillared Staffa, lone Iona's isle,
Where Scotland's kings are laid; of Lewis, Sky,
And of the mainland mountain-circled lochs;
And he would sing the rowers timing chaunt,
And chorus wild. Once on a summer's eve,
When low the sun behind the highland hills
Was almost set, he sung that song, to cheer
The aged folks : upon the inverted quern
The father sat; the mother's spindle hung
Forgot, and backward twirled the half-spun thread;
Listening with partial well-pleased look, she gazed
Upon her son, and inly blessed the Lord,
That he was safe returned: Sudden a noise
Bursts rushing through the trees; a glance of steel
Dazzles the eye, and fierce the savage band
Glare all around, then single out their prey.
In vain the mother clasps her darling boy,
In vain the sire offers their little all:
William is bound; they follow to the shore,

Implore, and weep, and pray; knee-deep they stand, And view, in mute despair, the boat recede.

But let me quit this scene, and bend my way Back to the inland vales, and up the heights, (Erst by the plough usurped,) where now the heath, Thin scattered up and down, blooming begins To re-appear: Stillness, heart-soothing, reigns, , Save, now and then, the PARTRIDGE's late call; Featly athwart the ridge she runs, now seen, Now in the furrow hid ; then, screaming, springs, Joined by her mate, and to the grass-field flies : There, 'neath the blade, rudely she forms Her shallow nest, humble as is the lark's, But thrice more numerous her freckled store, Careful she turns them to her breast, and soft, With lightest pressure sits, scarce to be moved; Yes, she will sit, regardless of the scythe, That nearer, and still nearer, sweep by sweep, Levels the swarthe : Bold with a mother's fears, She, faithful to the last, maintains her post, And, with her blood, sprinkles a deeper red Upon the falling blossoms of the field ;While others, of her kind, content to haunt The upland ferny braes, remote from man, Behold a plenteous brood burst from the shell, And run; but soon, poor helpless things, return,

« PreviousContinue »