This post connects to the new static web page 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 third of the Upper Nithsdale Poetry Trails.  Some 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 as many of the poems of the Poetry Trails are not available anywhere else online.

***This is still a work in progress – all poems will appear here by the end of Feb 2020***

  • Location 1 – Alexander Anderson memorial, Kirkconnel

Son O’ the Rail – Cushie Knowe

Far and wide my eyes may range,

Yet “hills o’ hame” show little change,

And still Nith courses doon the vale,

O’ the lang gone “Surfaceman” o’ the rail.

 

And land decades ha’e come and gane,

That saw the advent o’ the train,

They too ha’e sped the bonnie dale,

O’ the lang gane Surfaceman o’ the rail.

 

But changes noo frae steam tae oil,

Ha’e marked the days o’ sons o’ toil.

Tae speed at length the metal rail,

O’ the lang gane Surfaceman o’ the rail.

 

But he like changes never saw,

When trains roared by the “Water Wa”,

Such progress, I feel he’d sure bewail,

The lang gane Surfaceman o’ the rail.

 

For man as boy their fondest dream.

Was drive a monster powered by steam,

And thunder through the bonnie dale,

O’ the lang gane Surfaceman o’ the rail.

 

  • Location 2 – Auld St Conal’s Kirk

In Kirkconnel’s Old Churchyard – Alexander Anderson

Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.—

Gray’s Elegy

The mist lies on Glen Aymer hill,
Listless as if asleep,
Below the silence quivers still
With bleatings of the sheep.

I hear the curlew’s sudden call,
The lapwing follows suit;
The little streamlet’s tiny fall,
The distance makes half mute.

Afar upon the hills I hear
The shepherd’s whistle keen;
A dog’s bark faintly strikes the ear
From uplands fresh and green.

And here, beneath the summer sky,
With all my thoughts at rest,
The sunshine falling from on high
On brow and face and breast

I lie, within the old churchyard
Of fair Kirkconnel town,
Where simple names can yet be read
On stones half-worn and brown.

I take my knife and scratch the moss
From names and dates, to see
A vanish’d time restore its loss
And hold converse with me.

O wondrous dates that find a tongue,
And ever speak in strange
Sweet syllables, distinctly sung,
The mystery of change!

Close by my feet, half-hid in grass,
The skull and cross-bones peer,
For man, where’er he lives, must pass
To death by symbols drear.

O mighty mystery, unread
By sage’s tongue or pen,
The sloping sunshine overhead,
Beneath the bones of men!

I rise and pace the narrow round,
Then come like one in search,
And step across the circling mound
That marks the vanish’d church.

Within the mound I lie, and see
Before me in the wall
The narrow gate that used to be,
Ere time had wasted all.

Now, if within my dreaming brain
The German Uhland’s pow’r
Could be, then would I paint again
That Sabbath and that hour;

Or, if this tree whose shadows bland
Are on my face, could be
A voice to whisper things, and stand
A talking tree to me.

But, hush! my eyes are softly shut
By gently-falling beams,
And underneath their lids are put
The germ of noonday dreams.

O wondrous mystery, unread
By tongue of sage or pen,
The happy sunshine overhead,
Beneath the dust of men!

I sleep, but all my pow’rs are fix’d
Upon a space half-clear,
Where, partly with dim shadows mix’d,
Faces rise up and peer.

Then floats the psalm upon the air,
And all the place around
Is breathing worship everywhere,
And drinking in the sound.

I, too, join in the soothing song,
And in the solemn prayer;
I bow together with the throng
That meet to worship there.

The homely face of sire and wife
Glows as upon their ear
The promise, quieting all strife,
Falls soft and sweet to hear.

O faces full of trust and love,
O looks that had no doubt,
My heart beat like a saint’s above,
And grew at once devout!

Beside me aged mothers bent,
Whose lives had reach’d their term;
And one sweet bride in fondness leant
Upon her husband’s arm.

I saw the blushes on her cheek,
The light within her eye,
The thoughts that were too fond to speak,
But utter’d in a sigh.

Sweet maidens in their bloom were there,
Within whose drooping eyes
The sun of dawning love was fair,
As stars within the skies.

And youths, strong limb’d, with frank, bold look,
That seem’d to pierce beyond
The future darkness, and rebuke
Aught wishing to despond.

And still the white-hair’d pastor’s voice
Fell on the ear, and still
A curlew would make sudden noise,
And swoop around the hill.

But now they rise with bended head,
The old and young to hear
The simple benediction said
In reverential fear.

Then through the gateway open’d wide
They take their winding way—
Sire, mother, bridegroom, and sweet bride,
Youth, maid, and children gay.

Last came the pastor, and I saw
His white hair in the wind
Move, as he turn’d in holy awe
And left the church behind.

Then all the silence came again,
And, for the want of sound,
I woke: my heart was full of pain,
And sadly I look’d round.

I heard the swaying of the tree,
I saw the grasses wave,
By fits on either side of me,
Above each lonely grave.

The sheep were on the mountain side,
Dotting its breast like snow;
I heard the low of kine, descried
In meadows far below.

‘O dead!’ I said, ‘sleep on and rest
In all thy quiet here;
The great world, in its eager quest,
Can never come anear.’

But, lo! from out the distant vale
An engine’s whistle keen
Comes sharply up, as to assail
The silence that had been.

O mighty mystery, unread
By tongue of sage or pen,
The change that rolls with iron tread
Above the dust of men!

 

  • Location 3 – St Conal’s Cross, Halfmerk Hill

St Conal’s Cross – Rab Wilson

Hidden awa here, in this gowstie cleugh,

St Conal’s Cross keeps its eydent vigil;

Stern gaird o Upper Nithsdale’s green idyll,

Glimmerin, unblinking, unmuived bi souch

O wuns that seduce, an’ storms that threiten,

Whaur aince the fuitsteps o the herdsboy trod,

Tae keep lambs siccar frae the reivin tod,

Twa leggit flocks?  Thaimye ne’er did reck oan!

Bi chance ye goat hapt in thon haly plaid,

Wi’ Kentigern sojournt, an eftirhint

Ye cam hame fired wi’ missionary zeal,

Nou, waukrife years syne, here’s her warks revealt,

The faur-aff triptychs trinity descernt;

St Conals, St Brides, and lanely Kirkbride.

 

  • Location 4 – Glen Aylmer

The Fair Hills of Nithsdale – Robert Cluckie

The fair hills of Nithsdale magestically stand,

A symbol of strength in a much beloved land,

No walls built by man ever looked more sublime,

The emblems of patience, the landmarks of time.

 

Oft times in my youth I have wandered those hills,

And drank the pure water from its sparkling rills,

Or climbed to the summit, a real winding stair,

To gaze at the landscape from fair Knockenhair.

 

The scenery so lovely, with hillsides so broad,

Depicting so clearly the old Muirkird road,

Where stage coaches travelled, a gallant display,

There was much adventure upon that highway.

 

Let’s now turn our course to Crawick’s long glen,

Where Hyslop the poet gainied fame among men,

‘Twas here by the banks of Crawick’s fair stream,

His thoughts were expressed in ‘he Cameronian’s Dream’.

 

‘Twas here in the hillside fresh courage was sought,

Where the brave covenanters so valiantly fought,

For freedom to follow the faith they loved best,

In the ‘God of their Fathers’ they felt truly blest.

 

All nature resplendent is here on all sides,

The hills smiling down where the silver stream glides,

The wild flowers’ beauty, the birds in sweet song,

No wonder the people are proud to belong.

 

I have always admired the hills clad with heather,

So dear unto me is the lovely Dalpeddar,

With its purple hued slopes a beautiful sheen,

To blend with the valley of Mennock so green.

 

A whole world of beauty is herein portrayed,

A garden of Eden to both man and maid,

While the ages and youthful may sweetly reside,

Where Nith onward flows to join Solway’s fleet tide.

 

The fair hills of Nithsdale great stories could tell,

Of men of great valour, and women as well,

Who claimed Nithsdale Valley the place of their birth,

As the dearest and kindliest place on this earth.

 

  • Location 5 – Kirkland Hill

Kirkconnel Hills – Alexander Anderson

There’s nae hills like Kirkconnel Hills,
By which the Nith rows on,
An’ still my dreams brings back to me.
The top o’ Corsencon.
I see Glen Aylmer in the licht,
The burn that wimples there
An auld man dreamin’ o’ langoyne
Has never seen sae fair.

There’s nae burns like Kirkconnel burns
Among the glens oot bye,
Or in the mossy muir, where lood the whaups
an’ peeseweeps cry,
Or toddle doon to reach the toon,
Where Nith runs braid an’ braw,
An auld man dreaming o’ langoyne
O’ weel he kens them a’.

There’s nae hills like Kirkconnel Hills
Sae green an’ fresh an’ fair.
There’s nae burns like Kirkconnel burns
That croon amang them there.
I see them still, the very same
That in boyhood saw,
An auld man dreamin’ o’ langsyne
O’ weel he kens them a’.

  • Location 6 – Looking out to Todholes

Low Todholes – Tam Sykes

Awake up auld muse, exert thy mettle,

Throw off thy cloak, get into fettle

An’ neither shiver, shake, nor cour,

But come the best that’s in your pow’r

With combined vengence, wit and pith

Describe the Shepherd’s Cots on Nith

If Dukes an’ Factors at your gloom.

Just rhyme away. ne’er fash yer thoum,

But come wi’ naething that’s uncouth,

Stick tae the honest, gospel truth,

Tho’ Leagues of Nations at ye scowl,

They dare not touch you for their sowl,

Rouse up yer wit and here compare,

This auld ramshakle on the mair,

By conceptions past controls,

The wreck and ruin of Todholes,

A pure collapse from foun’ to funnel,

Sits on the mair abin’ Kirkconnel,

Twa hunner year I’ve heard it said,

Since yer foundation stane was laid,

In those aul’ days I hae tae swither,

That man and beast lived up through ither,

But fled since then four generations.

But still here there seems nae alterations.

The man, the wife, the stirk, the coo,

The cats, the hens, the dog and soo,

The weasels, rats, the mice and moles,

A’ find a den at Low Todholes.

An’ whiles at nicht a lonely hurchin,

Frae oot his den comes canty crouchin’,

An’ this at leasts no’ near them a’.

 

There’s swallows, mavis, and jackdaw,

There’s snails and worms and clocks and clegs,

Forbye the ten Egyptian Plagues,

I’ll heave on high this wouked loof,

An’ sware there a’ below this roof,

Come on aul’ muse, a little patience,

An’ read them a’ in their rotations,

Aul’ Crummy she’s tied tae a stake,

Then up she gets her chains doth shake,

When chains and links begin taerattle,

The Bugle blows, then begins the battle,

The rats above the aul’ patched ceilin’

Baith nicht and day continue squealin’;

They try the Lancers and Quadrilles,

Fox-trots, rat-trots and Scotch reels,

They loop the loop, they ride Postillion,

Advance, retire in half a million,

Frae en’ tae en’ they race an’ dart,

They bite, they squeal, they jump an’ fart,

While in below them I lie quakin’

An’ hear the roof and rafters shakin’,

For from the foon’ up tae the riggin’.

They ha’e holes that run throughout the biggin’,

An’ behind us through the wa’,

The cocks an’ hens begin tae craw,

An’ then the dogs join in the fray,

Then on this goes till break o’ day.

 

Wi’ weary limbs an’ sleepy eyes,

The hour approaches, I must rise,

So when you spring on tae the floor,

The win’ blaws strong frae door tae door,

If from the East there blaws a gale,

Oot ower yer head goes yer sairk tail,

Like some balloon wi’ gas blawn up,

Its tail cracks like a showman’s whup,

They talk o’ laws to clear the slums,

When on that day that law it comes,

An’ holes like this, be all demolished,

For when the order strictly given,

Then blast her tae the win’s o’ heaven,

Let Summer Tourists pass in shoals,

An’ view the last o’ Low Todholes.

 

No’ pair aul’ muse I hae na doot,

This tale o’ truth some will dispute,

But just ask them tae spen’ a nicht,

An’ heaven’s lang afore daylicht,

They’ll tak’ leg bail in their bare soles,

An’ fly for dear life frae Low Todholes.

The puir aul’ doors baith dazed an’ frail,

Upon one hinge alang they trail,

An’ crumblin’ doon a proper wreck,

Without a lock, a bar, or sneck,

The windows tae baith large an’ sma’,

They are but a hole out through the wa’,

Their moulderin’ frames hae hung for ages,

thro’ broken panes, the storm it rages,

Oh ye wha’ hae the chief direction,

Come here an hae yin hoor’s inspection,

An’ bring His Grace the Noble Duke,

Aroun’ the place tae hae a look,

You’re welcome here tae spen’ a nicht,

But by the lord lang e’er daylicht,

Ye’ll tak’ leg bail in yer bare soles,

An’ curse the day ye saw Todholes.

 

Cheer up, cheer up, a tune be hummin’,

We hear at last the Factor’s comin’,

Alang wi’ him we may expect,

His richt han’ man the Architect,

Tae plan and build some new erection,

Some day before the Resurrection,

But which comes first a coin be tossed,

Them or the day of Penticost,

The one may come afore the ither,

In fact they may come baith th’ gither,

When a’ repairs are past their po’or,

She’ll disappear in brimstone stoor,

An’ vanish ‘mongst the smoke sae dense,

An’ save his Noble Grace expense,

She’ll disappear ower Corsincone,

An’ far beyond the Torrid Zone,

Like distant thunder on she rolls,

The last on earth of LOW TODHOLES.

 

  • Location 7 – Top of Baker’s Burn

The Bridge – Alexander Anderson

I went to-night by the wooden bridge

That steps across the stream;

And I leant a little over its ledge

To take a half-hour’s dream.

 

For sweetly to their depths were stirr’d

Our hearts two nights ago,

When she and I stood still and heard

The stream sing on below.

 

But all was changed and cold to me,

The charm had fled away;

The light that lit up hill and tree

Had lost its old display.

 

And yet the moon was in the sky,

The stream sang sweet and clear;

Now, heart, canst thou not tell me why

I held that night so dear?

 

Was it that she beside me stood,

Like some one from above,

And sent through all my rougher mood

The gentleness of love?

 

Or that mine eyes partook the tone

Of hers, and saw the earth

Like one great book wide open thrown

Beneath a better birth?

 

To this my heart would not reply,

Nor speak its thoughts to me;

And still the stream and field and sky

Grew strange and cold to see.

 

Now what, I question’d still, can bring

The old look back again,

And place as in a fairy ring

This spot, and still my pain.

 

Then some sweet spirit in the air,

Whose mission is to move

Around young bosoms, heard my pray’r,

And whisper’d “One you love”.

 

O sudden voice of sweet surprise,

What truth is in thy tone,

That two can find a paradise

Where one – but gloom alone.

 

Thine, then, was all the light and bliss

That made that night so dear;

Come! wake me with thy sweetest kiss,

And let thy soul be here.

 

Vain wish! yet strange that two sweet eyes

And brow and neck of snow

Could make the moon within the skies

Pour down her softest glow;

 

And stranger still one form held dear,

Standing beside my own,

Had pow’r to make the stream so clear,

And sing with such a tone.

 

  • Location 7 – Along Baker’s Burn

The Old Mill – Cushie Knowe

 

  • Location 8 – Kirkconnel village

Kirkconnel – Cushie Knowe

 

  • Location 9 – Mavis Bank

Summer Dreamings – Alexander Anderson

There seems a moving life to-day
In everything I see,
The stream that laughs and leaps away,
The grass beside the tree;

The birds that, like to some swift thought,
Flash through the sweet green boughs,
And pay in every leafy spot
The music of their vows;

The clouds, too, resting on the hill,
Seem to my dreaming eye
Like angels coming to us still
With pardon from on high.

And as I clasp all this at once,
And feeling no alloy,
I teach my heart to give response
To each sweet call of joy.

So, dreaming idly as I sit,
And idly dreaming see
The sunny landscape wink and flit
In silent ecstacy:

I think that all that can rejoice
This long sweet summer day
Hath power to frame a gentle voice,
And sing in love away.

So from the wood, and from the grass,
And from the shady tree
Words come that like to whispers pass,
Yet all are known to me.

And smiling as I catch their truth,
I build upon their lore
A world again, and give it youth,
And love, and something more.

But doubts will warp themselves through all,
And each bright vision rears
A fairy temple but to fall,
And leave me to my tears.

Now strange that from such dreams should rise
Such shadows to betray
The summer brightness of the skies,
And dull this breathing day.

Yet I might know that Nature still
Will work and work alone,
And will not blend her perfect skill
With what she must disown.

 

  • Location 10 – Alexander Anderson memorial

Cuddle Doon – Alexander Anderson

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi muckle faught and din.
“Oh try an’ sleep, ye waukrife rogues,
Your faither’s comin’ in.”
They niver heed a word I speak,
I try tae gie a froon,
But aye I hap’ them up an’ cry
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

Wee Jamie wi’ the curly heid,
He aye sleeps next the wa’
Bangs up and cries, “I want a piece!”
The rascal starts them a’.
I rin and fetch them pieces, drinks,
They stop a wee the soun’,
Then draw the blankets up an’ cry,
“Noo, weanies, cuddle doon.”

But ere five minutes gang, wee Rab
Cries oot frae neath the claes,
“Mither, mak’ Tam gie ower at aince,
He’s kittlin’ wi’ his taes.”
The mischief in that Tam for tricks,
He’d bother half the toon,
But aye I hap them up an’ cry,
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

At length they hear their faither’s fit
An’ as he steeks the door,
They turn their faces tae the wa’
An Tam pretends tae snore.
“Hae a’ the weans been gude?” he asks,
As he pits aff his shoon.
“The bairnies, John, are in their beds
An’ lang since cuddled doon!”

An’ just afore we bed oorsel’s
We look at oor wee lambs,
Tam has his airm roun’ wee Rab’s neck
An Rab his airm roun’ Tam’s.
I lift wee Jamie up the bed
An’ as I straik each croon,
I whisper till my heart fills up:
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”

The bairnies cuddle doon at nicht
Wi’ mirth that’s dear tae me.
But soon the big warl’s cark an’ care
Will quaten doon their glee.
Yet come what will to ilka ane,
May He who rules aboon,
Aye whisper, though their pows be bald:
“Oh, bairnies, cuddle doon!”