This post connects to the new blog www.unpoetrytrails.wordpress.com as well as with the accompanying guide books which will be available soon.
Here you will find all the poems which are included on the second of the Upper Nithsdale Poetry Trails. Many of them are quite long, hence the reason I have decided not to reproduce the full versions in print but have added them here for reference.
***This is still a work in progress – all poems will appear here by the end of Feb 2020***
- Location 1 – Hair & Corson Monument
The Martyr’s Grave – Cushie Knowe
“’Tis written here, “They lived unknown”,
For passing eyes to see,
Upon this plain memorial stone,
Beside the verdant lea;
But o’ what volumes these words speak.
To them who for the Truth still seek.
The wind it sweeps the Waistland height,
Sure softer than of yore,
When men stood firm for what was right,
E’en though it cost them sore;
They shared alike, glens, moors and caves,
And of times too these hillside graves.
Green is the swar ‘neath which they lie,
And countless daisies bloom,
With open bosoms toward the sky,
Around this hillside tomb;
Here wrapped in Scotia’s soil they share,
The confines of this lonely lair.
Dark was the hour, much darker still,
The foul deed done that day,
The harried hillmen o’er this hill,
Were swiftly brought to bay;
Could we but change this sorry tale,
That then took place in Fair Nithsdale.
But nay – the fatal shots were fired,
The echoing muskets roared,
So too the souls of those inspired, Away to Heaven soared;
A grave on earth, a crown in Heaven,
Was to the faithful hillmen given.
We looked again, “They lived unknown”,
But then we further read,
Engraved thereon the simple stone,
Just where they fell and bled,
‘Twas “persecution brought them fame”,
And thus enshrined the rustic’s name.
O’ could their sacrifice now raise,
In lukewarm hearts this hour,
A singular, triumphant note of praise,
With Holy Spirit Power;
Then keep aglow, and with others share,
The Faith of Corson and John Hair.
- Location 2 – Hare Hill Windfarm
Dinnae let that bonnie view blind ye – Katryn Edwards
- Location 3 – Polstatcher burn
Polstatcher – Cushie Knowe
Yowes lazin’ on the bonnie braes,
Cross the strea the sunshine plays,
On this kindest o’ June days,
Here let me dream;
Let me wander back tae when,
Happy days that I did spen’,
Rovin’ far frae haunts o’ men,
By this hill stream.
Only fishers then be sure,
Would the tiresome hike endure,
A rich harvest tae secure,
An angler’s dream;
Gurglin’ waters splashin’ doon,
Into pools a mossy broon,
There tae eddy roon’ and roon’,
In this hill stream.
I remember the first I saw,
Polstatcher on a day as brave
That on mortal could befa’,
So it would seem,
Hills aroon’ were emerald green,
Waters shed a silver sheen,
As fair a sicht as tae be seen,
By this hill stream.
O that I could better tell,
But you’d hae tae see yoursel’,
Crag, and fern, and heatherbell,
Glow and gleam;
‘Neath the sky an azure blue,
Where the sun wi’ golden hue,
Dancin’ beams tae shed and strew,
On this hill stream.
But the past and present fade, when I see what man has made,
Soon ‘twill be a forest glade,
So it would seem,
Fir trees towerin’ e’er sae high,
Shade Polstatcher rumblin’ by,
Shuttin’ oot the very sky,
O’er this hill stream.
Convert then for corbie craw,
Wealel, stoat, the fox and a’
Cruel nature in the raw,
The place will teem;
Gone the plovers weaving cry,
Gone the lark, noo trilling high
O’er this hill stream.
- Location 4 – Euchanhead
The Old Ruins – Alexander Anderson
Ah, the stream by the ruin in the wood
Has long ago run dry,
And the only voice in the solitude
Is the wind that rushes by.
And human work has shared its fate,
And the ruins are old and green,
And you push aside the rotten gate,
But no living form is seen.
And you step where weeds spring into birth,
Where flowers grew up of yore,
But you look in vain for human mirth
Through the nettles at the door.
Yet I like to come in the sober eve
And stand in this decay,
And build from out the things that grieve
A gladness pass’d away.
Then I see in those quaint dreamings still
A cottage neat and fair,
With a window looking to the hill,
And a rose tree climbing there.
And I see in the doorway a maiden meek,
In her novel duty rife,
With the blushes yet upon her cheek
At the gentle name of wife.
Then I hear, as the night comes stealing on,
The prattle of little words,
And a manly voice that takes up the tone,
And echoes in deeper chords.
Then I see before the half-shut door,
In the wavy heat of day.
Just by the stream that leaps no more,
A band of children play.
And I hear the light sweet laugh that springs
From the prison of the breast,
Like a bird that leaps with joyous wings
Above her hidden nest.
Then I see tall youths and maidens fair
Around the evening hearth,
And a grey-hair’d sire and a mother there,
Who smile on their happy mirth.
But a shadow creeps down on the light I see,
And withers as with a blight
The once-sweet picture, that never can be
Brought out from the past’s still night.
Then I waken up from my dreams at this,
As if a voice had said,
“Now what is the sum of human bliss
When that which had life is dead?”
So I turn away from the ruins again,
Half-wroth that I should dream,
But stop where the footbridge steps in vain
Across the vanish’d stream.
I look for a moment over the ledge
To see the grasses spring,
And trail their length within the edge,
Where the stream was wont to sing.
But a sadder question within me starts,
As I turn from all I view;
For where, O where, are human hearts,
When they dry their channels too?
- Location 5 – Allen’s Cairn
Allen’s Cairn – Cushie Knowe
To stand beside that time worn stone
That shades the mossy bed;
Where lie the pious, now long gone,
Whose blood the moss dyed red
Hunted and harried chased away
From the cruel world of “their today”.
To stand I said, we should have knelt,
By that lone hallowed spot;
Where Lag, his own brand justice dealt,
Against the Covenanting lot;
Now there they lie in lowly guise,
Dear to those who freedom prize.
We scanned the far horizon’s rim,
That distant hazy blue,
The hill outlines be somewhat dim,
Against’ skies of varied hue,
Dark had they been on that sad day,
That saw those youthful lives away.
How leisurely we looked around,
Where moss and forest blend;
The hovering hawk swooped to the ground,
Some hapless victim rend;
Just as in far off day’s ‘twould be,
When human hawks swept moor and scree.
Ken water wimpled down the vale,
We crossed its waters clear,
But then, it was a different tale,
When hillfolk fled in fear;
Hounded and hunted till they lay,
In the hunter’s cruel grasp that day.
The dark Black Craig like a sentry stands,
The sun slips o’ er its crest,
Where in darker days marauding bands,
Sped o’ er it through the west;
Now sacred spots, marked or unknown,
Fell harvest of a Godless throne.
We left them there in mossy bed,
And sped down Shinnel glen,
“Lag has somewhat to answer” Jimmie said,
Full sure, and only when,
He stands, before God’s judgement bar,
That will expose then, what men are.
- Location 6 – Overlooking Sanquhar
Sanquhar – George Logan
Where were ye the ither nicht
When stars abin were shining bright
Were ye walkin beneath the licht
Of the silvery moon.
Or sittin huggin
The fire ticht,
Or in the Kroon.
Tae the Folly top I made my way
The nicht was clear as ony day
I looked upon the scenery
A’ white wi’ snow
Sanquhar in a’ its finery
Lay doon below.
Ayont the toon a pale moonbeam
Upon the River Nith did gleam
Where fisher fol they stand and dream
Of their dearest wish,
A rod that’s bent and a reel that screams
Wi’ a fresh run fish.
Further still lies the golf course
Where men of yore played in plus fours
Driving a wee roon baw wi’ force
Doon the fairway
And oh! Ye want tae hear their roars
When it gangs astray.
But it’s the closing of the day
And I must homeward make my way,
Tae Renwick Place where I stay
Beside the park,
Where the bairnies laugh and play
Frae morn till dark.
- Location 7 – Cameron Monument, Sanquhar
Sanquharian Dream – William Dalgleish
In a dream of the night, I was wafted away
To the thoughts of our folks, and the price they did pay
O’er valley and hill, through river and flood
They paid for their faith, in battle and blood.
Where Cameron’s sword, and his people have been
Here sculptured in stone, his words can be seen
While hidden in depths, are items so rare
A record of times, to be cherished with care.
In a vessel of steel, are treatures that fix
The way that we lived, in two thousand and six
This casket it holds, the record of time
These papers and books, preserved in this shrine.
Sleep on through the years, continue the dream
As Cameron did, on Airdsmoss so green
Be a credit to all, and never let down
Your country and kin, and HONOUR YOUR TOWN.
- Location 8 – Sanquhar Castle
Caladonia – James Kennedy
- Location 9 – Pamphy Linns
A Walk to Pamphy Linns – Alexander Anderson
We took a walk to Pamphy linns—
Three other friends and I,
Glad-hearted as when day begins
With summer in the sky.
Our talk was edged with homely wit,
The banter flew apace,
And ever at a happy hit
The laughter clad our face.
But we were used to each, and knew
The harmless fence of tongue;
So quip and jest rose up and flew
And prick’d, but never stung.
The lark was far above our head,
The daisy at our feet,
The heather show’d a coming red
Of tiny blossom sweet.
The sheep turn’d round to see us pass,
The milky snow-white lambs
Gamboll’d and sniff’d the growing grass,
Or nestled by their dams.
The pure air brought the far hills near,
Their furrows came to sight;
And here and there a stream grew clear,
And smiled in the sunlight.
“O, friend of mine, who late,” I said,
“Has left the streets of men,
Let all this quiet overhead
Bring back thine own again.
Look how the Earth puts forth her pride
And blooms around, to draw
Thy soul out till it toss aside
The phrases of the law.
For what are musty words to this—
Your writs and pros and cons—
When Nature, full of summer bliss,
Her summer vesture dons?
So, Faust-like, own her quiet power,
And let her have her will,
And let thy fingers clasp a flower,
Instead of inky quill.”
Our path lay through the sunny fields,
In gentle ups and downs;
Dear heart! I thought, but nature yields
A bliss unmatch’d in towns.
At length we reach’d a shepherd’s cot,
That sat between two woods—
Fit home for all the stirless thought
That, dove-like, sits and broods.
I knew the shepherd; for a space
We rested by his hearth,
And saw the moorland on his face,
And in his honest mirth.
O! blessings on a hillside life
That trammels not the heart,
But in its gentle pleasures rife
Stands with its back to art.
How far above the studied speech
Of empty polish’d sound,
That glides within a proper reach,
Where rule has set the bound.
And blessings on the girl who stood
In better garb than silk,
And proffer’d to us, shy of mood,
A glass of cooling milk.
Her cheek was soft with health’s fair tint,
And in her drooping eye
Sweet thoughts came up that fain would hint
That maidenhood was nigh.
Her brow was open, frank, and free,
Half-hid by wealth of tress—
A very Wordsworth’s girl was she
For woodland simpleness.
So, Janet, half-way through thy teens,
And all the world to learn,
Lean to thine own sweet heart, as leans
From moss-clad rock the fern:
And hear the wish that springs from mine
Before I pass away—
Keep thou that simple life of thine,
Take to the town who may.
We reach’d a belt of wood at last,
And with a lusty cheer
I cried, “Now all our toil is past,
For Pamphy linns are here.”
We took the shaded path that led
To the turf-clad foot-bridge,
Then struck into the streamlet’s bed,
And held along its edge.
We reach’d the falls, and, looking round,
On either side were trees,
And at our feet the hurrying sound
Of water ill at ease.
Huge rocks with moss half-cover’d dipt
Or in the stream reclined,
As if they once had partly stript
To bathe, but changed their mind.
O’er these the water foam’d and splash’d
In many a whirl and turn,
Or from moss’d outlets peep’d and dash’d
To kiss a wander’d fern.
We clomb the highest peak of rock,
And, halting there to breathe,
Heard with continual splash and shock
The water run beneath.
Then, rising, down the fretted steep
To reach the base below
We struggled, careful heed to keep,
As Alpine hunters go.
We reach’d the foot, and found a rest
Beneath the trees’ sweet shade,
Where Nature for her woodland guest
A flower-deck’d seat had made.
From there we watch’d the falls above,
The rocks half-worn and gray,
That still, like shapeless Sphinxes, strove
To tear their veils of spray.
A dreamy, cooling murmur went,
Like winds when spring is near,
Through all the trees, that stood intent,
And prick’d their leaves to hear.
I leant back in a shady place,
Where sunlight could not gleam:
If poets are a dreaming race,
Then here they well might dream.
But “Further down” was still the cry—
“Down to the seat,” they said;
“There let another hour go by—
The hanging rocks o’erhead.
So there we went, and with our knives
We roughly carved our names,
As some carve out their shorten’d lives
With vacillating aims.
And as I carv’d, a primrose bright
Look’d on with wondrous eye,
As if for ever in its sight
A troop of fays pass’d by.
Upon the rocks, from German rhyme,
I writ two lines to say—
“O, happy time of love’s young prime,
Would it could last alway.”
But ere we turn’d our path to trace,
I cried, “Farewell, thou stream!
If poets are a dreaming race,
Then here they well might dream.”
So through the woods we went, but still
What German Schiller sung
Came ever up against my will,
And somewhat lightly stung.
O, happy time when love is sweet,
And life takes little heed,
But rolls a rainbow at our feet,
Would it could last indeed!
And every flower in shaded nook,
Speedwell and violet,
Cried, with a wonder in their look—
So big, and dreaming yet?
Then out at last into the fields,
Tinged with the daisy’s dyes;
Dear heart! I said, but nature yields
A bliss the town denies.
O fair is Edina, I said,
And took my young friend’s arm,
For there the magic past hath shed
An ever-growing charm.
Twice have I trod its streets, and heard
In fancy all the while
Legends in hints and whisper’d word
From narrow street and pile.
But still the eye from every quest
Would stop, to wander on
To those gray rocks that had for crest
The lordly pile of stone.
Up, up it tower’d, as if in rage
The modern change to view;
Like Carlyle, from the middle age,
With brow knit at the new.
I, too, have touch’d Queen Mary’s robe,
With well-shaped Darnley nigh;
Have heard the murder’d Rizzio sob
With blood-choked, helpless cry.
While through this war of uncheck’d will,
Its battles, broils, and shocks,
A stirring voice was speaking still—
The voice of fearless Knox.
God! when upon his grave I stood—
Now daily trod by feet—
His soul went flashing through my blood
In mighty waves of heat.
For great, good men can never die,
Howbeit the ages roll;
But still unseen are ever nigh,
To strengthen soul by soul.
But past is all that reign of force,
Its deeds of blood and pain,
Gone as a river dries its source,
Never to fill again.
For lo! to hide each bloody spot
A nobler comes behind;
The curbless sway of growing thought,
The dynasty of mind:
Which changes, and hath changed the earth,
As gods the sculptor’s stone;
A universal Protean birth,
Whose ~ifiat~i thunders on.
There, too, beneath the statued dome
He sits, the Scott we claim;
Fit Mahomet for those who come
As pilgrims of his fame.
Light was his task, some cry, but he,
He changed the novel’s bent;
And with its Gothic tracery
A chaster purpose blent.
I pass those mighty ones, who then
Were ever in my sight—
Strong kings who struggled with the pen
To widen human right.
Yes! Edina is fair, and sweet
This summer day would be
If I could lie on Arthur’s Seat,
And my schoolmate with me.
For still her magic power prevails,
And still my thoughts take wing
To her, the city of the tales,
Without its roving king.
But shame on me that I should prate
Of all that city’s grace
And beauty in such quiet state
Around my own sweet place.
For look! three miles adown the vale
Sanquhar lies in gray light;
And further on, time-struck and frail,
The castle lifts its height.
Bones of the iron age, it stands,
And, as to madness grown,
Flings down each year, from powerless hands,
A crutch of scatter’d stone.
And right before us, near yet far,
Furrow’d with winter rills,
That dry in summer like some scar,
Stretch out the Todholes hills.
And speck-like at their base is seen
The cot of shepherd Dryfe—
True soul of honest heart and mien,
And simple mountain life.
But here is Killo bridge, and there
Nestles old Killoside;
My blessings on the homely pair
Who ‘neath its roof abide.
And right in line that puff of smoke
That every moment comes,
Is Bankhead, where, in ceaseless yoke,
The engine clanks and hums.
A little further on we pace,
Then through a field again,
And all at once, before our face,
Kirkconnel full and plain.
I see the churchyard and the church,
The gravestones standing by;
You need not through our Scotland search
For sweeter place to lie.
And further up I catch the gleam
Upon the pastor’s pool;
The manse above, still as a dream,
Stands in the shadows cool.
But there, from schoolhouse to the mill,
Our hamlet stretches out;
Without one stir it slumbers still,
Save when the schoolboys shout.
And now we cross the new foot-bridge,
And shun the stepping-stones;
Nor loiter to lean o’er the edge
To hearken Nith’s sweet tones;
But hasten on, when just behind
That line of thatch and slate,
An express train tears like the wind,
And twenty minutes late.
- The following poem was the result of a visit which I, along with three others, paid to Pamphy linns, a romantic spot lying hidden in a wood which stretches along the Barr Moor in the neighbourhood of Sanquhar. I have availed myself of a poetical license, and described the linns as swollen by rains, and foaming down the waterfall which forms the pièce de resistance of the place. The friends who accompanied me will pardon me where I have deviated from fact to fiction, especially my young Edinburgh friend whom I have bored in the text. The poem is warmly dedicated to the three.2. I writ two lines to say–
‘O, happy time of love’s young prime,
Would it could last alway.’ —
‘O, das sie ewig grünen bliebe,
Die schöne zeit der yungen liebe.’
- Location 10 – Euchan GlenFair Euchan Glen – Robert Cluckie
- Location 15 – James Hyslop’s Memorial
By Hyslop’s Memorial – Cushie Knowe
Quietly the leaves are falling,
In the vale below,
Beyond me a voice is calling
The cattle, as they go
From sodden fields, and squelchy mire,
To the warmth and shelter of the byre.
Nothing rare, just a homely scene:
‘mong rural folks or sages,
What now I see, so oft’ has been,
Throughout the rolling ages,
Be it cattle or men, field or fold,
What is today, was there of old.
But lingering beside this stone,
Poorer I’d be to fail,
To share the memory of one,
Who ranged this very vale,
And ‘mid such scenes that me inspire
He caught like mood with purer lyre.
Kind singer of a day long gone,
Sprung from humble bield,
Rising as bird to greet the dawn,
Your sweet lyrics peeled,
O’er moor and fen, hill and dale,
To linger long in Crawick vale.
Shy genius of those distant years,
Too soon to haste away,
As the flashing meteor disappears,
Short thy fragrant day;
But passing – you left indelibly behind,
The Cameronian Dream, ‘to all mankind.
Immortal lines on days of blood,
Piercing to the core,
When tyranny swept like a flood,
Wounding poor Scotia sore;
Her pious sons pursued by knaves,
And hastened oft’ to moorland graves.
Not so for you, ‘tis rolling wave,
‘Neath which somewhere you lie,
Nor Scotia’s soil, nor moorland grave,
Nor kindly mother sky,
Your rest unknown, unseen, instead
Wrapt in some cave in ocean bed.