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Poem by Margaret Chalmers
On the Banks of the Esk
WHILE Tweed's fam'd stream in numbers rolls along, And Tay's meanders sweetly glide in song; Thy windings Esk, in silence should not flow, If the coy Nine would numbers fit bestow; Fain would my humble muse thy beauties sing, Would sing thy banks, thy groves, and silver spring; Thy nymphs and swains, whose social converse gay Beguil'd the winter's night, the summer's day. Here hath kind heaven a chosen agent plac'd, Noble Buccleugh, with every virtue grac'd, Who, on exalted rank, a lustre throws Brighter, than or from wealth or title flows. Sorrow from thee full oft relief hath found, While aid and comfort wide are spread around. Thy dome, well known to all the wand'ring poor, Who dread not being driven from thy door. Approving angels on thy steps attend, And round thy couch their sheltering wings extend, Drawn from their skies by prayers of the distrest, Whose griefs by thee have often been redrest. Hail happiest spot of Caledonia's coast! Is not fair Stuart* "thine, and nature's boast?" And doth not lovely Scott+ thy bowers grace Whose gentle virtues with delight we trace? How oft, sweet friend, would we together stray, Where Pinkie's milky turrets mark the way; Or wander by the margin of the stream, Through scenes which well might form Elysian dream, While still by thee was fram'd each varying theme. O say, Helena say, when thou art by, How dost thou teach the rapid hours to fly? What rosy pinion dost thou lend the night When each new moment brings some new delight? 'Tis Friendship's charm, exprest by lively sense, Kindly uniting with benevolence; These thro' thy converse reign, and round thee throw Peace, pleasure, joy, and make a heaven below. How swiftly wheels the social hour along, If Smith+ consent to crown it with a song; In soothing strains he softly sings of love, Quick to the sound th' obedient feelings move: Now fairer blooms the Broom when sung by thee, And gliding thro' its birks sweet Yarrow's stream we see. Anon! aloft the dancing spirits soar, While we Lunardi's airy course explore; His rapid progress we attend, and soon With him arrive in safety at the moon.* "Lunardi's gone up to the Moon." Fain would I sing the praise of gallant Hay,+ Did not the timid muse forbid th' essay, Nor cross th' Atlantic dare to trust her way; Unequal she to sing of camps and wars, Or thee, the son of Neptune and of Mars. And thou, O Wemyss,+ the generous and the brave, Who, when attack'd upon the eastern wave, By bands of swarthy pirates, fierce and strong, To whom superior numbers did belong, Thy steady courage and thy dauntless crew Did soon the daring savages subdue. The Northern muse now feels a pleasing pride, While she declares herself to Boyle* allied, By ties of blood; ah, could she also claim As kindred virtues those which grace his name. Here, as I stray, fann'd by the evening breeze, The spire arises, pointing o'er the trees, Where Inveresk's time-shatter'd hallowed fane "With venerable grandeur marks the scene;" Where Carlyle,+ graceful 'midst the load of time, Demonstrates moral truth in style sublime. The ascending and descending crowds impart Reflections various to the musing heart, Each rising step seems nearer heaven to draw, And strikes the advancing worshipper with awe Saying to worldly cares, "Remain below, While to God's hill and to his house we go." And, in descent , the strengthen'd lighten'd mind Feels, (by Devotion's exercise refin'd) More apt in social duties to engage, And meet the cares of life's still varying stage. Here has full many a race successive rose, In life they worshipp'd, and in death repose; Sons o'er the ashes of their slumb'ring sires Their homage pay to heaven,--the thought inspires Solemnity, and gives devotion aid, Drawn from the sacred relics of the dead. The spot whereon this sacred pile is plac'd, Is by the landscape's fairest features grac'd; The view of such a structure, mark'd by time, Awakes to contemplation all sublime! Imagination traces with delight, (As back it wanders thro' with rapid flight,) The unnumber'd multitudes who did resort To worship God, in this his outer court, Now in the heavenly temple sing his praise, And bear a part in everlasting lays. Farewell, sweet Esk! thy lovely varying scenes Demand the meed of higher warbled strains, Than the weak effort of my untaught lyre, Urg'd by the pleasure thy lov'd banks inspire; Farewell, dear scenes! peace dwell amid your bowers, And stamp'd with social comfort roll the hours; May innocence and joy maintain their reign, And Ceres' smiles adorn the happy plain; And still to bless the country far around, May Virtue's temple at Dalkeith be found! * Miss Mary Stuart, daughter of Mr. John Stuart, Surgeon, Musselburgh.
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