It is upon the Sabbath-day, at rising of the sun,
That to Glenmore's black forest-side a Shepherdess hath gone,
From eagle and from raven to guard her little flock,
And read her Bible as she sits on greensward or on rock.
Her Widow-mother wept to hear her whispered prayer so sweet,
Then through the silence blessed the sound of her soft parting feet;
And thought, 'while thou art praising God amid the hills so calm,
Far off this broken voice, my child! will join the morning psalm.'
So down upon her rushy couch her moistened cheek she laid,
And away into the morning hush is flown her Highland Maid;
In heaven the stars are all bedimmed, but in its dewy mirth
A star more beautiful than they is shining on the earth.
—In the deep mountain-hollow the dreamy day is done,
For close the peace of Sabbath brings the rise and set of sun;
The mother through her lowly door looks forth unto the green,
Yet the shadow of her Shepherdess is nowhere to be seen.
Within her loving bosom stirs one faint throb of fear—
'Oh! why so late!' a footstep—and she knows her child is near;
So out into the evening the gladdened mother goes,
And between her and the crimson light her daughter's beauty glows.
The heather-balm is fragrant—the heather-bloom is fair,
But 'tis neither heather-balm nor bloom that wreathes round Mhairi's hair;
Round her white brows so innocent, and her blue quiet eyes,
That look out bright, in smiling light, beneath the flowery dyes.
These flowers by far too beautiful among our hills to grow,
These gem-crowned stalks too tender to bear one flake of snow,
Not all the glens of Caledon could yield so bright a band,
That in its lustre breathes and blooms of some warm foreign land.
'The hawk hath long been sleeping upon the pillar-stone,
And what hath kept my Mhairi in the moorlands all alone?
And where got she those lovely flowers mine old eyes dimly see?
Where'er they grew, it must have been upon a lovely tree.'
'Sit down beneath our elder-shade, and I my tale will tell'—
And speaking, on her mother's lap the wondrous chaplet fell;
It seemed as if its blissful breath did her worn heart restore,
Till the faded eyes of age did beam as they had beamed of yore.
'The day was something dim—but the gracious sunshine fell
On me, and on my sheep and lambs, and our own little dell;
Some lay down in the warmth, and some began to feed,
And I took out the Holy Book, and thereupon did read.
'And while that I was reading of Him who for us died,
And blood and water shed for us from out His blessed side,
An angel's voice above my head came singing o'er and o'er,
In Abernethy-wood it sank, now rose in dark Glenmore.
''Mid lonely hills, on Sabbath, all by myself, to hear
That voice, unto my beating heart did bring a joyful fear;
For well I knew the wild song that wavered o'er my head,
Must be from some celestial thing, or from the happy dead.
'I looked up from my Bible—and lo! before me stood,
In her green graceful garments, the Lady of the Wood;
Silent she was and motionless, but when her eyes met mine,
I knew she came to do me good, her smile was so divine.
'She laid her hand as soft as light upon your daughter's hair,
And up that white arm flowed my heart into her bosom fair;
And all at once I loved her well as she my mate had been,
Though she had come from Fairy-Land and was the Fairy-Queen.'
Then started Mhairi's mother at that wild word of fear,
For a daughter had been lost to her for many a hopeless year;
The child had gone at sunrise among the hills to roam,
But many a sunset since had been, and none hath brought her home.
Some thought that Fhaum, the savage shape that on the mountain dwells,
Had somewhere left her lying dead among the heather-bells,
And others said the River red had caught her in her glee,
And her fair body swept unseen into the unseen Sea.
But thoughts come to a mother's breast a mother only knows,
And grief, although it never dies, in fancy finds repose;
By day she feels the dismal truth that death has ta'en her child,
68 At night she hears her singing still and dancing o'er the wild.
And then her Country's legends lend all their lovely faith,
Till sleep reveals a silent land, but not a land of death—
Where, happy in her innocence, her living child doth play
With those fair Elves that wafted her from her own world away.
'Look not so mournful, mother! 'tis not a Tale of woe—
The Fairy-Queen stooped down and left a kiss upon my brow,
And faster than mine own two doves e'er stooped unto my hand,
Our flight was through the ether—then we dropt on Fairy-Land.
'Along a river-side that ran wide-winding through a wood,
We walked, the Fairy-Queen and I, in loving solitude;
And there serenely on the trees, in all their rich attire,
Sat crested birds whose plumage seemed to burn with harmless fire.
'No sound was in our steps,—as on the ether mute—
For the velvet moss lay greenly deep beneath the gliding foot,
Till we came to a Waterfall, and 'mid the Rainbows there,
The Mermaids and the Fairies played in Water and in Air.
'And sure there was sweet singing, for it at once did breathe
From all the Woods and Waters, and from the Caves beneath,
But when those happy creatures beheld their lovely Queen,
The music died away at once, as if it ne'er had been,—
'And hovering in the Rainbow, and floating on the Wave,
Each little head so beautiful some show of homage gave,
And bending down bright lengths of hair that glistened in its dew,
Seemed as the Sun ten thousand rays against the Water threw.
'Soft the music rose again—but we left it far behind,
Though strains o'ertook us now and then, on some small breath of wind;
Our guide into that brightening bliss was aye that brightening stream,
Till lo! a Palace silently unfolded like a dream.
'Then thought I of the lovely tales, and music lovelier still,
My elder sister used to sing at evening on the Hill,
When I was but a little child too young to watch the sheep,
And on her kind knees laid my head in very joy to sleep.
'Tales of the silent people, and their green silent Land!
—But the gates of that bright Palace did suddenly expand,
And filled with green-robed Fairies was seen an ample hall,
Where she who held my hand in hers was the loveliest of them all.
'Round her in happy heavings flowed that bright glistering crowd,
Yet though a thousand voices hailed, the murmur was not loud,
And o'er their plumed and flowery heads there sang a whispering breeze,
When as before their Queen all sank, down slowly on their knees.
'Then said the Queen, 'Seven years to-day since mine own infant's birth—
And we must send her Nourice this evening back to earth;
Though sweet her home beneath the sun—far other home than this—
So I have brought her sister small, to see her in her bliss.
''Luhana! bind thy frontlet upon my Mhairi's brow,
That she on earth may show the flowers that in our gardens grow.’
And from the heavenly odours breathed around my head I knew
How delicate must be their shape, how beautiful their hue!
'Then near and nearer still I heard small peals of laughter sweet,
And the infant Fay came dancing in with her white twinkling feet,
While in green rows the smiling Elves fell back on either side,
And up that avenue the Fay did like a sunbeam glide.
'But who came then into the Hall? One long since mourned as dead!
Oh! never had the mould been strewn o'er such a starlike head!
On me alone she poured her voice, on me alone her eyes,
And, as she gazed, I thought upon the deep-blue cloudless skies.
'Well knew I my fair sister! and her unforgotten face!
Strange meeting one so beautiful in that bewildering place!
And like two solitary rills that by themselves flowed on,
And had been long divided—we melted into one.
'When that the shower was all wept out of our delightful tears,
And love rose in our hearts that had been buried there for years,
You well may think another shower straightway began to fall,
Even for our mother and our home to leave that heavenly Hall.
'I may not tell the sobbing and weeping that was there,
And how the mortal Nourice left her Fairy in despair,
But promised, duly every year, to visit the sad child,
As soon as by our forest-side the first pale primrose smiled.
'While they two were embracing, the Palace it was gone,
And I and my dear sister stood by the Great Burial-stone;
While both of us our river saw in twilight glimmering by,
And knew at once the dark Cairngorm in his own silent sky.'
The Child hath long been speaking to one who may not hear,
For a deadly Joy came suddenly upon a deadly Fear,
And though the Mother fell not down, she lay on Mhairi's breast,
And her face was white as that of one whose soul has gone to rest.
She sits beneath the Elder-shade in that long mortal swoon,
And piteously on her wan cheek looks down the gentle Moon;
And when her senses are restored, whom sees she at her side,
But Her believed in childhood to have wandered off and died!
In these small hands, so lily-white, is water from the spring,
And a grateful coolness drops from it as from an angel's wing,
And to her Mother's pale lips her rosy lips are laid,
While these long soft eyelashes drop tears on her hoary head.
She stirs not in her Child's embrace, but yields her old grey hairs
Unto the heavenly dew of tears, the heavenly breath of prayers—
No voice hath she to bless her child, till that strong fit go by,
But gazeth on the long lost face, and then upon the sky.
The Sabbath-morn was beautiful—and the long Sabbath-day—
The Evening-star rose beautiful when daylight died away;
Morn, day, and twilight, this lone Glen flowed over with delight,
But the fulness of all mortal Joy hath blessed the Sabbath-night.