Margaret Chalmers

A Fire Side Vocal Concert

THE low'ring, leaden-colour'd evening cloud,
The chilling frost, the billows breaking loud,
The wish excite, contented to retire,
"To pause from toil, and trim the evening fire."
Snowy triangles clothe each window pane,
The drear outside makes bright the inside scene;
The kettle on the clean-swept hearth is plac'd,
The table with the social tea-cups grac'd;
The needle and the wire now forward brought,
Employ the fingers, yet leave free the thought.
A general consultation next takes place,
Whether, the while, the historic page to trace,
Or in Udolphean Mysteries engage;
But to elude the blustering tempest's rage,
'Tis soon agreed to call the power of song,
Which cheats the winter's night though e'er so long.
Tay, Tweed, and Yarrow's celebrated streams,
Where the pleas'd muses whisper sylvan themes,
Glide thro' the pastoral vale and flowery mead,
Thro' which the passive fancy pleas'd they lead;
And, in their tranquil murmurings, is drown'd
The wild, the wintry roar of Bressa Sound.
Amid these scenes, each Caledonian swain,
Of Royal Mary breath'd the tuneful strain;
Ah! fair unfortunate! who did inspire
The lovers' tender sigh, the poet's lyre,
Who reign'd alike or in the court or grove;
At once a Queen by majesty and love!
Boreas, for a while, thy howl refrain,
And thou shalt be rewarded by the strain
Of Gallowshiels, where Rizzio vents his flame,
In daring language for the Royal Dame.
Even Italy's musicians, as 'tis said,
To this sweet strain superior suffrage paid.
Let Caledonia compliment again,
That candour which could prejudice disdain,
And gave the plaudit to a foreign strain.
Let us attend the swain with yellow hair,*
Who seeks the hawthorn glen to sing his fair;
And listen, while he doth the balance hold,
'Twixt native charms and those of powerful gold.
Thy Bush, Traquair, the moment now beguiles,
Which blooms and fades, as Peggie frowns or smiles.                      
What heavenly strain ascends from Alloa's Grove,+
While all the strings of melody do move!
Such powerful pleasure thro' the heart doth glow,
The pulse forgets to beat! the blood to flow!                   
Can it be doubted that the lays of Burns,
Through the Domestic Concert take their turns?
But these are touch'd with far superior skill,
By the sweet lyre of tuneful Tannahill.
A youthful auditor prepares to speak,
While suing smiles adorn her blooming cheek;
"Now, since to each you give the song they chuse;
"To me, I hope you will not one refuse."
Her choice demanded, doth in favour go
Of cruel Carpenter; sad tale of woe!
Or love-lorn fair, whose spirit plough'd the main,
In vengeful quest of' her perfidious swain,
Who caught, sunk with her in the closing flood,
(Listen, ye swains,) while sailors trembling stood.
See now o'er-ruling Providence preside,
Conducting Bothwell to his heir and bride;
And through the medium of the ring and glove,*
Decide the doubtful object of his love.           
Full many a virtuous pang the heart assails,
And sympathetic tenderness prevails,
While the performer doth the tale unfold
Of the wood-wilder'd babes, betray'd for gold.
Sweet sufferers! lamented by your peers,
Who write your elegy in sighs and tears.
But, lo! the Historic muse now treads the stage,
See Royal Eleonora's jealous rage,
That wildly spurns humanity's controul,
Arm'd with the dagger and the poison'd bowl.
Ah, fell revenge! could not that beauteous face,
Where youthful charms triumph in blooming grace,
Divert thy purpose dire? Ah! no--they give
New force, and stern forbid the fair to live;
Each avenue to pity these seal up,
The poniard point, and urge the deadly cup.
Vengeance self-wrought, O most unhallow'd draught,
To human mind with mental poison fraught!
O sated Queen, what treasures wouldst thou give,
These last, these horrid moments to retrieve!
More kind the cup thou gav'st than didst retain,
While pleas'd was seen thy rival victim's pain;
And ghastly paleness chace the lively bloom,
While love-inspiring eyes repose in death's dark gloom.
The injurer with the injur'd changing part,
Works revolution in the youthful heart;
And even the feelings of maturer age,
All on the side of Rosamond engage;
Who had not sorrow'd for the injur'd wife,
Had she but spar'd her helpless rival's life;
Thus those, who cruelly revenge pursue,
Lose even that sympathy which is their due.
Not more heart-felt delight can he inspire,
Who "wakes to exstacy the living lyre,"
Than do such lays around the evening fire;
While "virtue's advocates" they prove to youth,
Insinuating still some moral truth;
Alike with pleasure and improvement fraught,
The useful lesson with success is taught.
Obvious the cause, they in amusement's veil
Excite to virtue, yet the drift conceal.
The tale adventurous suits the eager mind,
The strain impressive which the tale doth bind
On the imagination, which retains
The strain, the tale, and 'companying scenes.
Thus far 'tis well; but, ah! the counterpart,
Impressing terror on the ductile heart;
For 'tis the supernatural gives the charm
Coercive, and from whence flows all the harm;
Hence superstition's teeming altars rise,
On which through life the votaries sacrifice.
The bane and antidote so closely link,
To disunite them 'tis in vain we think;
Could they a partial drop from Lethe steal,
Retain the moral and forget the tale,
'Twere well; but these together still unite,
And rouse the mind to weak or wild affright;
But since from youthful hearers 'tis confest,
The nurse gains more attention than the priest,
'Twere to be wish'd she would her power address,
Virtue to aid, but horror to repress.
The dreadful spectre and the beckoning ghost,
Delight the wondering hearers to their cost.
The Fairy system better is design'd
Fancy to please, nor terrify the mind;
Besides, as fiction it they ever view,
But oft believe the goblin story true;
The startled slumber, and the scaring dream,
Too highly tax the legendary theme.

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