The Pigeons’ Parliament; a Poem of the Year 1845. In Four Cantos, With Notes. To which is added, Thoughts on the Wairarapa and other Stanzas
To — Mr. James Nicholson, — Strathaven, Scotland, — author of “Weeds and Wild Flowers.”
Mr. James Nicholson,
author of “Weeds and Wild Flowers.”
Hail! brother Bard;—by this endearing name
Allow me thus to call thee;—for my soul
With thine full kindred would it fondly claim,
Though thee I cannot to my mind recall
In school-boy days;—though oft my fellows all
I have recounted, as in full array
My thoughts would from the distant past them call,
As risen from the dead. Such visions gay
Have gladden’d me,—though grieved to think they could not stay.
Yes, brother Bard, with pleasure thee I hail!
Your “Weeds and Wild Flowers” shed a sweet perfume
Regaling to my soul; nor do they fail
To wake each dormant thought, and would illume
My dark forgetfulness, so as t’ assume
New life, fresh vigour, to retrace my steps
In retrospect;—reviewing scenes, whilom
Frequented in my youth, where you, perhaps,
Have wander’d as ye sung, with no less buoyant hopes !
“Let Straven prosper!” is my earnest prayer;—
And may it own a bard that’s worth the name;
In thee, may it have honour, thus to share
In the mementos of thy future fame!
page 103 And may kind Heaven still impart that flame
Of love divine, ye foster in your soul,
So worthy of the muse; and may no shame
Detract from those pure pleasures which console
Thy passions, as ye sing of Nature’s ample whole.
Strathaven?—Yes!—to me that name is dear,
’Tis written on the tablet of my heart!
The object of all filial love sincere
There dwells—a faithful Mother!—whose desert
Is ’bove expression! May she long impart
To all the social meetings of my Brothers,
As they assemble round her, that best part
Of earthly joys, “Affection’s bond!” that gathers
In one embrace their hearts, ’mid fortune’s changeful weathers.
And there the ashes of my kin outworn
Lie mingled. Thither to their resting-place
By six young sons* a father once was borne
In mournful silence. Now his hopeful race
Around have risen. May no sad disgrace
E’er blot his name, who long has been revered
By all that knew him well—nor yet deface
From memory his virtues, which have cheered
His rising scions as they’ve onward persevered.
But me! ah, me! a wand’rer far removed—
The “Georgium Sidus” of that circle, where
My Brothers, with their satellites beloved,
Around that only centre left, now share
In its attractive influence—nay, there
I’m oft in spirit, though in body far;—
May Heav’n still bless them all! and from all care
Defend them in their sojourn through life’s war;
And crown their hopes with joys that last for ever-more.
* The seventh then lay in his cradle, but is now (at the age of 18 years) lying with his father.
The “weeds and wild flowers” of my native vale,
Would form a wreath entwining round my heart!
Though many cares would daily me assail,
Their fragrance of remembrances impart
A soothing balm!—a pleasing counterpart
Of heav’nly blessings, granted to the soul!
May still such happiness be thy desert
When painful cares, usurping, dare control
Thy peace, through Him who best can prove thy all in all!
And what are garden flowers? but only weeds
Where not required, though rear’d by careful toil
In flow’ring plots! While those of other seeds,
Which have no claim to any foreign soil
And are call’d weeds,—they beauties have the while
That native are, attractive to the eye
Of nature’s true admirers; fit to foil
The fancies of a novice, who’d decry
Those counted common, though unbred to culture high.
The mountain daisy, and the primrose meek,
Have beauties rivalling the choicest rose;
Even carnations gay, which would bespeak
Much admiration, can they well oppose
The water-lily, as it humbly grows
By the way side? or cowslips of the dell?
Or golden crowfoot, as it sweetly blows
’Mid verdant meads? or many more which dwell
Beneath the shelt’ring hedge? or moorland heather- bell?
All such have beauties, ’tractive to the eye,
Though humble be the stations they assume;
Such teach us lessons fraught with morals high
In worth and true sublimity; through whom
The laws of Providence, proclaim’d, illume
The meditative soul with truths sincere
And not to be mista’en. May we presume
One truth to draw, amongst the many—clear
As evidence could have, or demonstration sheer!
The labour’d muse may boast of letter’d lore
And swell his numbers to a lofty strain,
And sing of scenes affecting not the shore
Of his nativity,—though these complain
Of his neglect—desirous to attain
A lofty station in the courts of fame.
And what though he, through struggles hard, should gain
The height attempted, and assume a name
Of pride, while the learn’d world is fill’d with his acclaim?
Th’unletter’d muse, affecting no such heights,
And scarcely soars beyond his native vale
Speaks to the heart his rapturous delights
In sweet simplicity;—or if the tale
Of woe is sung, his sympathies prevail
O’er rougher natures, till the starting tear
Of pity, would declare with great avail
The humble minstrel’s power in language clear,—
Which shews him “the true born” above his high compeer!
What multitudes would imitate the strain
Of the true bard! and such declare their own!
To what may they be liken’d? To that train
Of artificials, nature would disown
As of her workmanship!—Though there be shewn
The near resemblance of her tints, so fine
To pleasure vanity: yet having none
Of all those living virtues, which combine
To mock pretension’s aim, unstamp’d by “truth divine!”
But thou, if thou hast been the village child,
Led by the impulse of thy innate muse
Abroad contemplating those scenes, now wild,
Which spoke of former days, then quite abstruse
To thy young wondering thoughts; who can refuse
T’ admit the truth of heavenly gifts bestow’d
Upon thy soul.—And such may ye still use
As strengthen’d by thy years, t’ observe abroad
And sing of nature’s charms, which point to nature’s God.
Here have ye struck the chords, that sweetly thrill
Their symphonies upon my throbbing heart;
And would call up remembrances which will
Be ever sacred held, when I apart
From playmates oft would roam, but still alert
T’enjoy those pleasures solitude bestows
On thoughtful minds, oft wandering athwart
Some flowery field, or where the streamlet flows,
Or by some lonely dell which ragged scenes disclose.
Strathaven castle! hoary, ancient pile!
Which long has stood the ravages of time;
Its legend, in my schoolboy days would wile
Some tedious hours away!—a truant’s crime!—
There oft I’ve linger’d, marking the snblime
Of frowning ruin, on its greensward hill,
And wond’ring sadly if its tales could chime
With honest truth, while clambering with goodwill
The grassy steeps above Pomillion’s winding rill.
Long after nightfall have I stay’d to hear
The lullaby, oft talk’d of being heard,
With sound of cradle rocking;*—but my ear
Was ne’er by such accosted; though oft scared
By wild imagination, which ne’er spared
More cowardly companions for a run;—
When stopping, one, aghast, would have declared
How he had seen a ghost—and how undone
He felt—to him “no joke,”—though others would make fun!
* There is an old tradition, connected with feudal times of the old castle, still handed down from one generation to another, with which I have often been treated in my school-boy days by those who lived in the neighbourhood of the old ruin—namely, Lord Avondale’s only daughter, having bestowed her affections on his hated rival, young Lord Hardiknute, of Craignathan, and to whom she had yielded herself beyond the dictates of prudence, was—in a fit of the old Lord’s indignation—built up alive in a niche in one of the castle’s dungeons with her babe. On that account, it is said, that a lullaby is heard in the dead hour of night, &c.
Methinks, e’en now, I see some daring youth,
As oft I’ve seen, scale high its rugged wall
To rob the martin’s nest—too bad, forsooth!—
Or on the staircase top some standard tall
Be planting, or a windmill ricket-call,
Whirling to ev’ry breeze with rattling noise,
Heard far and near; but as the midnight squall
Increases, how the neighbours it annoys,
Who, sleepless, toss and growl, and scorn the rascal boys.
What deeds are done in youth, which riper age
Would hold in scorn, so follow’d with regret;
Oh! had he but the wisdom of the sage
To curb unruly passions, which beset
His ardent nature! and which oft will whet
More keenly the desire for other deeds
More daring—how such wisdom would beget
A readiness to crush at once the seeds
Of crime triumphant, which oft grow as rankling weeds.
With thee, in thy excursion, I could join,
Cheer’d with thy company; and with goodwill
Extend it to the Clyde, where woodbines twine
The leafy bowers, where flowers above the rill
Look down on their reflected beauties, still
Enamour’d with their charms. Or westward rove
To Drumclog heath, or climb up Loudon hill,
There viewing scenes that might our feelings move,
Enraptur’d with their tales, which passions sweet behove.
Ah! brother bard, in this far southern clime,
Amid primeval forests though I roam,
Or where the mountains rear their heights sublime,
Whose woody grandeur well the scenes become;—
page 108 My upmost thoughts are oft afar “at home,”
’Mid pleasing walks, where tender friendships grew;
While flowery lawns and sunny braes, where some
Most joyous hours were spent, would rise in view,
Aye, then I’ve felt it hard my feelings to subdue.
Though sweet to sing the pleasing scenes of youth
With such enjoyments, to remembrance dear!
Yet there are themes possessing weightier truth,
Regard demanding from the muse sincere;
Nor can we but such calls from Him revere,
Who did our souls with such a gift inspire.
And with it His command’s imposed, as clear,
His praise to publish as we tune the lyre,
In others’ souls, so frigid, light love’s sacred fire.
’Tis needful, too, as incidents require,
To tune the harp with independent mind,
And so decry, with true satiric fire,
The glaring follies of the wilful blind;—
Which as a mirror serves! to show defined
The real character he would abhor
In others! howe’er much he’s disinclined
To see himself portray’d.—Yet ne’er the more
Tis duty! to make others their foul deeds deplore.
But sweeter far to tune the sacred lyre!
To sing the anthems of redeeming love!
Such themes sublime! to which we would aspire,
Though feeble the attempt; let it behove
Us here to learn, until we’re call’d above:—
Ah! then our harps will ring a loftier strain;
No sad emotions, then, our hearts shall move;
No earthly crosses, then, shall give us pain,
Where endless joy abounds, and raptures high obtain!
Sing on! my brother,—let the worldling sneer;—
Improve the talent God to thee has given.
Though weak the effort, onward persevere!
Assured of the approving smiles of Heaven!
page 109 What though with earthly cares thou mayst have striven?
’Tis but the lot of many a high-born soul!
Have courage! be not back by trials driven,
Nor let despair becloud from sight the goal,
Where joy triumphant shall inspire thy passions all.
Aye me!—I’ve need of such advice myself,
As I’ve my share of trials to endure
Other than what concerns pursuit of pelf—
Though hard my daily toil, but to procure
Life’s sustenance. Yet thee I can assure
That gives me pleasure,—’tis the lot of man,
By Heav’n’s decree; and that, with motives pure!
Oh! let us then submit to His wise plan,
Nor dare with discontent presume His ways to scan!
But let me close;—with hopes your muse shall cull
More posies from the weeds that round you grow,
And wild flowers, whose abundance, ever full,
Your meads bespangle and where streamlets flow;
And with such pleasing’ploy may thy heart glow
With warm delights, becoming the unfolder
Of nature’s hidden beauties;—and bestow
On me one “bab,”* who’d grateful be a holder,
Your humble and obedient servant,
* A nosegay, or posy of flowers.