Lays from the West
M. A. Nicholl

Part 3 out of 3

And the text the preacher gave us
Was, "Rejoice in the Lord always,"
Alike in the summer sunshine,
And the gloom of winter days.
And the clouds of our gloom were banished
Like the mists from the morning air;
We had strength for the untried future
For God is everywhere.


Slowly along the darkening sky
The twilight comes with stealthy tread;
Far out to west great cloud-ranks lie,
By sunset flushed a rosy red.
Oh! shadows of the gloaming time,
Gather, and loom, and darkly fall,
The winding path to Fancy's clime,
Lies hidden 'neath your dusky pall.

Pent in the city, now I dream
Of country scenes, of lanes and flowers,
Of woodland glen, and woodland stream,
Pictures of bygone sunset hours!
Oh, bygone! mighty claims you own,
That summon me to seek your shrine,
I hear the call and wait alone,
Until the charmed light shall shine.

'Tis breaking! Glistening near and far
A radiance floats, of dazzling light
Untouched by Time, or Tempest-scar
I view my past again to-night!
Oh! fair, false hope, your fruit is pain,
Oh, Love! when life's spring leaves were green,
Sweet, e'en in thought to see again
Th' Elysian called "what might have been."

"What might have been," we scan it o'er
And charmed we live the dreams in thought,
But wake to find that mist-world shore,
Like cloudy vapor melt to nought--
The brightness fades, the sweet rays die,
Deep darkness falls and night is come;
A wan new moon looks down the sky,
And stars are trembling in the gloom.

Morning, and noon, and evening grey,
And mystic twilight, all are flown;
And e'en my dreams are pass'd away,--
Again I find myself alone!
Young love's sweet morn, when hope was nigh.
Stern noonday toiling, which is best?
Ah! me, they all must fade and die,--
'Tis but the end can give us rest.


The name, the age, and a sentence written
On a marble cross o'er a grassy mound,
Where, calmly beneath sleeps the tired heart smitten,
Cruelly pierced by a dastard wound,
At peace in the heart of the restless city.
She slumbers well in her lowly bed,
With never a tear of love or pity
By kindly mourner above her shed.

High birth is safely, its rank and splendor,
Blazoned lineage, pride and show,
Scorn coward justice, who fears to tender,
The lash to vice, in this world below,
What matter--a thousand such things have happened
Man has been false since woman was fair;--
But say, must he stand at yon High Tribunal,
And what account shall he render there?


'Tis eventide and the sun is dying,
Painting the sky in its roseate beam,
And out to sea-ward the cloud-ranks lying,
Are crimson-bright in his parting beam;
In dazzling light o'er the waves extending,
In burnished glow on each foamy crest,
At the golden portals of sunset ending,
Its pathway illumines the ocean's breast.
Oh! light of the sunset, soft and tender,
Oh! waves that shine in the rosy glow,
Oh! mountains, so grand in your hoary splendour,
Oh! billowy ocean that heaves below!

Oh! rolling waves, that are ever beating,
In wild, sweet music along the shore,
Tell me tales ye are still repeating,
Sighing and moaning forever more;
In seething foam 'mong the grey rocks meeting,
Where, rushing, ye break in doleful roar!

Sighing on in your restless roaming
Wailing so wildly and ceaselessly;
In the morning light, or the shadowy gloaming,
Tell me, what are thy songs, oh, sea!

Is thine the wail of a life-long sorrow,
The hopeless crying of hope long dead;
The dearth of loneness that cannot borrow
One beam of light from the brightness fed,
To point to the dawn of a fairer morrow
Far away in the future spread?

But, heedless, it rolls in its wonderous splendour,
Onward, in cadence sublime and vast;
Are these ocean-songs, in their mystic grandeur
Requiems sung for the vanished past?
It is buried and dead, yet still unsmitten,
It lives and blooms in one hidden spot,
Where in Memory's chamber each scene is written,
Graven too deeply for Time to blot!

But see! o'er the waters the light grows dimmer,
The white-winged sea-gulls to Westward fly;
Pale stars look down in a fitful glimmer
As the crimson fades from the opal sky.
I soon shall sleep, and perchance in dreaming,
I'll live again in the time that's fled,
And fancy the rays of its brightness beaming
In mellow radiance around my bed
And it may be I'll dream not of bliss that's fleeting
But of that fair life that is yet to be,
Where no cloud can arise to dim our meeting
As I stand with _him_ by the Jasper Sea!


"Mine," saith the Lord, "these jewels bright and pearless.
Mine, in the day when I shall count mine own!"
So He has called them, and the hearts left cheerless
Sad and bereaved, must mourn the loved ones flown
"Mine," saith the Lord, He gave, and He has taken
In wisdom infinite He dealt the blow;
And round our hearth their places are forsaken
But _they_ are gathered to His fold, we know!

Home-gathered early, when the sun so brightly
In life's fair morning tinged their curls with gold,
And o'er their snowy brows all calm and lightly--
The joyous span of earth's brief time had roll'd.
Home-gathered early; fair to mortal seeming,
The promises that o'er their pathway hung,
But ah! we cannot e'en in fondest dreaming
Conceive their bliss amid the cherub throng.

Eye hath not seen, nor to man's heart is given,
To know what to His loved one He bestows
What joys untold the ransomed band in heaven,
Through the eternal, blissful ages knows.
And the bereavement is no hopeless sorrow,
No lasting parting, but an ending pain;
We feel that upward, toward the glad to-morrow
Are drawn these links of the earth-binding chain.

For well we know that these, our darlings, entered,
Into His joy, shall be at last restored
So while our hope in perfect faith is centred
We wait for resurrection in the Lord.


Worn and wearied on earth's road
Oft with stumbling feet I go;
Eyes that fain would look to God
Dim and weak with sin and woe.
But when, all my guilty stains
Rise in dread immensity,
Then I know my Saviour's pains
Took the load of guilt from me.
Pardoned, healed, redeemed, restored,
Then I look to Christ, my Lord!

When the clouds of sorrow rise,
And the light of woe is dim,
When the subtle Tempter tries
To win back my soul to him.
Then I look to One Who said,
"All things I have overcome;
Onward go, be not afraid
I shall guide to yonder Home!"
Then what evil can betide
While I lean on Christ, my Guide?

Worn with toil of earthly strife--
Wearied hands and heart grown faint,
Tired of all the ills of life,
For the water brooks I pant,
Then above the world's wild din,
I can hear "Come unto Me;
I shall heal these wounds of sin,
Give you rest, and make you free!"
When my doubting soul is blest
When I look to Christ my Rest.

Journeying o'er this path of tears
Oft my doubting heart is cold,
Far away my Home appears--
The gates of pearl--the street of gold.
Can I ever enter there?
All the way with danger rife,--
Then the Master's voice I hear,

"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life!
Ah! what doubt can then dismay
While I walk with Christ, the Way!

"Looking unto Jesus" still
I can bid my doubting cease,
Joyful, though beset with ill,
Fighting, yet at perfect peace--
Sorrowful, yet filled with joy,
Tossed, yet feeling all secure;
Earth nor Hell cannot annoy
While my peace with Him is sure!
"Looking unto Jesus," blest!
Soul at anchor, heart at rest!


A merry leap on the sunny air,
And a gleam of tresses, golden bright;
A 'witching face that is wonderous fair,
A creature of beauty and joy and light.

A rocky coast with the waves at play,
Wild wandering waves that are mad with glee;
"Tell me, what do the wild waves say,
Are their words in their music?" she asks of me.

I start and shiver, my heart grows cold,
Aye, cold in the flush of the August sun,
Whose glory lies on the sea like gold,
In farewell radiance, ere day is done.

The eager smile from her lips has died,
For the pain on my face was plain to see,
And she turns to pace the sand by my side
Watching the billows silently.

She does not know--could my darling dream,
Of lost, dead love in her golden world,
Where the hope-flowers bloom, and the joy-lights gleam
'Neath the rosy light of Love's flag unfurled!

Oh! girlie mine, with the true brown eyes,
And the perfect faith in your fair to be,
Could I lead you back o'er the bridge of sighs
That spans the gulf 'tween the past and me.

I could show you love in its full-tide swell,
Its syren beauty its dream-world light;
Then, the gathering storm, and the deep-toned knell,
As Love lies bleeding in clouds and night!

Would you step aside from the shining coils
That circle to-day round your dainty feet,
Could I show you the woes without the wiles,
In the dregs of that chalice, bitter-sweet?

Ah! no, sweet maid, you must "live and learn,"
Though experience is bought, it cannot be sold;
And the heart joy's thrill, and the heartache's burn,
Must needs be felt, they were never told!

So live and smile in your fair to-day
And wear the jewel of maiden-faith;
May its diadem gleam on your brow for aye,
And Truth with your Love walks in step with death.

A. S.

Oh! land of partings, brief and sad probation--
When all is brightest, then farewell must come!
And the lone mourner weeps in desolation,
Earth's fairest seeping in the silent tomb.

Far from her home, where kindly hands have tendered
As graceful tribute, to her well-loved name;
Not by chill stranger-feeling coldly rendered,
But by the care respect and love can claim.

And still her memory shall be loved and cherished,
By all who knew her in her sojourn here;
Like some fair flower that in the morning perished
In spring's bright hours when skies were blue and clear

Oh' widowed mother-heart! dead e'en to hoping
Longing to leave the life whence joy has flown.
The eager hands through earth's grim shadows groping!
"Darling, come back to me, I am alone!"

Oh! yearning heart-cry, in deep anguish spoken,
In sleepless midnights, or in twilight dreams!
Oh! aching pain-throb of the spirit broken,
Soon shall these clouds be pierced by Mercy's beams.

These deep, dense clouds of anguish and repining--
Darkness and gloom that but the present show
E'en now, behind them, in the brightness shining.
Wait angel-bands that minister to woe.

Soon shall they come, and bring the consolation,
When the first burst of agony is o'er,
Then when thy soul is calmed by resignation,
Point to the meeting on the other shore:--

Where safe at home, in Christ's eternal keeping,
Celestial joy her ransomed being fills,
She waits, when thou hast left this vale of weeping
To greet thee on the Everlasting Hills.



Christmas! why child, can this be Christmas Eve?
Ah, me! the years run swiftly on;
Threads in the warp of this short life we live.
And now my chequered web is well nigh spun.

And Christmas seems not what it used to be,--
The good old customs all are changed, I wean;
Yet memory of old times is left with me--
The days whose brightness these dimm'd eyes have seen.

Come, Elsie, bring your stool beside my chair,
Stir up the fire to shine with brighter glow,
And while it flickers on your sunny hair,
I'll tell a Christmas-tale of long ago--

Full fifty years ago, when I was young,
And this grey hair like yours was golden-bright,
When mirth and laughter dwelt on brow and tongue,
In fleet winged hours, that sped with magic flight.

Sometimes, in waking dreams it all comes back,--
Familiar forms move softly through the room,
Then leave me, gliding up the moonlight track,
Wafting sweet music down the twilight gloom.

And at these times I see the home that stood,
In the lone highland valley far away;
The snow-crowned hills, the lake, the lonely wood,
Through which I wandered many a summer day.

And I was happy in those summers, child!--
Life in its morning brightness knows not gloom,
The rose-tinged future-mists hide waste and wild
As sharp thorns hide beneath the rose's bloom.

And girlhood seemed like some fair sunny day
Without a cloud to mar the summer sky.
On pleasure's airy pinions borne away
Too swiftly far the winged hours sped by.

Then came a glory-crown to gild the years,--
I loved; but 'twas no fancy of the hour,
No fleeting day-dream fraught with hopes and fears,
But Love, that ruled my soul with sovereign power.

A love that strengthened as the days went past,--
Dearer and holier far than all beside;
An Eden-world of beauty grand and vast,
With joys new-born, out spreading far and wide.

Seemed then mine own; and the long years to be,
Would fill my life with happiness and light,
While this great love would shed its beams on me
In glad refulgence making all things bright

For he--the hero of my life's romance,
Was dear to me--ah! words can never show
That passion'd love, how every tone and glance
Tender or cold, brought happiness or woe

But cherished hatred goads to bitter end
And, mocking, fain would quench youth's ardent fire
We saw a shadow on our life descend--
The full charged storm-cloud of long-gathering ire.

My father boasted his high birth and name
And owned a pedigree that he could trace,
Back to the stern old chiefs, whose hostile fame--
He held the pride and honor of our race.

And still when Christmas came he loved to see
All the old customs of our sires kept up,
Huge yule-logs graced the hearth, and Christmas glee
Rang high, 'mid merry song and festal cup.

And on that Christmas day of which I tell
The seasons revelry was held the same;
The stately hall with guests was furnished well
And, 'mong, the rest, was bidden Hector Graem

He drank to me--"his lady fair and bright,"
As was the custom of the olden time,
"Your lady! never, while the sun gives light
Shall Graem ever wed with child of mine!"

And pointing to the door with haughty mein
My father bade him from his board begone;--
And then a curtain fell upon life's scene--
Blackness of darkness where Hope's sun had shone

Some family-feud, in days long passed away
Between the Graems and the MacDonnell's rose.
And still its memory in his bosom lay
Though seeming peace was made between the foes

But ah! my child, how can I tell the rest?
I lived; but Heaven in mercy spared the blow
Of thought and memory then, and weeks that pass'd
Were one drear blank--I felt not then my woe.

Child, you have never loved, and cannot know
How drear and hopeless youth itself may seem;
The long, blank loveless years to wonder through,
With nought, save memory of a bygone dream.

But sorrow kills not, we may laugh or weep,
Still Time by stealthy gliding steals away;
And Winter snows again lay white and deep,
And once again they welcomed Christmas day.

I watched them with sad eyes that knew no smile,
And a dull mind from which all hope had flown,
A listless heart that nothing could beguile
Back to the gladness that it once had known.

The dull December twilight grey and cold,
Fell weird and grim upon the lonely moor;
The wild wind raged o'er wintry waste and old,
And in the storm a stranger sought our door.

He asked a shelter from the bitter night
My father's brown cheek blanched to hear _that_ tone,
He led him forward to the yule-log's light,
A lost--a mourned, but now a new-found son!

Oh! sweetest welcomes on the wanderer fell!
The last of our long race--returning home;
Home to the long-tired hearts that loved him well
No more an exile, by strange shores to roam.

"Bid me not rest" he said, "until you know,
I have a friend who claims his welcome now,
For, but for him, the depth of Alpines snow
Had been my grave, and you had lost your son."

"Then wherefore wait?" my mother gently said,
"Let him come hither till I bless his name!"
And Roderick turned, and forth the stranger led
And once again, I looked on Hector Graem.

No welcome-glow lit up the old man's eye,
Surprise or anger seemed to hold him dumb,
My mother clasped his hand with sob and sigh,
But to full hearts the fewest words will come

Then Hector kissed her hand with courtly grace,--
Bowed lowly to my father, half in scorn,
"Old ills" he said "are hardest to erase
From hearts where gratitude was never born"

But as he spoke the glistening tear drops fell
From those old eyes, that seldom tear drops know.
"You here" he said "love breaks hates baleful spell,
And gratitude comes forth to yield her due!"

"Let feuds and errors perish with the Past,--
'Tis thus I lay them in a deep dug-grave'"
And, beckoning me beside him, there, at last,
His blessing, once refused, he fondly gave!

Ah! life is very fair, and love is sweet!
The dark sky cleared, the sun shone out again,
Earth seemed a heaven, with perfect bliss replete,
And new-born gladness healed the sting of pain

And standing by the window hand in hand,
Hearing the storm howl o'er the wastes of snow.
We were the happiest of the happy band
That merry Christmas fifty years ago!


At dawn sweet flushes softly creep
Along the brightening sky,
Pale watchers whom lone vigils keep
Perceive the sign, and cry,
The night is gone, the bright day comes,
And gladsome light the East illumes!

Bright blossoms on the branches burst,
Then Autumn fruits grow there;
So, dreams that sickly hope had burst
Grown real, make life fair.
And dreams we prize as holy things
That haunt our path on mystic wings.

And so, across life's weary road,
Made dark by many a woe,
We hear the tender words of God,
"Come, follow where I go!"
And listening to that gentle voice
Is fixed the best and earliest choice.

First, we must pray, and watch, and wait,
And bear the daily cross,
And, till we reach the Master's gate,
Count earthly gain as lost,
Then hear, "good servant, nobly done,"
By patience hath the crown been won.


It is the joyous time of June,
And Nature glads the smiling land
Arrayed in garments gay and green
Bestowed by nature's lavish hand.
Oh! soft the lullaby of streams
'Neath shadow of o'er arching trees,
When all sweet, summer music seems
To float around us on the breeze.
It greets us in the greenwood glades--
By forest aisles and alleys lone,
Where, wandering in the twilight shades
The poet calls the hour his own.
Perchance he dreams some minstrel hand,
Wakes woodland harps to heavenly song,
While spirits from the golden land
On white wings bear the notes along.

But to thine eyes the world is grim,
And life is dark through falling tears;
Hath Hope's soft ray grown dull and dim
And paled the brightness of your years?
I know your woe--for I have knelt
Beside the new made, grassy mound--
The anguish of bereavement felt
And moaned beneath the piercing wound.

Through the soft azur veil of e'en
The stars look down with watching eyes,
Beacons to life our souls to heaven
And tell of love beyond the skies
To tell, tho' earth is bright and fair,
Still Heaven must be our lasting home;
A land untouched by sin and care
Where pain and parting never come.

Not far away; scarce out of sight,
A shadowy veil, a misty cloud,
Is roll'd between us and the light,
From mortal eyes the bliss to shroud.

Oh, thou whose poet-mind can feel
The magic spell of beauty's powers
Let these, His "meaner works" reveal
That fairer life that shall be ours.
Where we shall find in fadeless bloom
The love Time's withering blast had slain,
Restored from death and from the tomb
To life, immortal life again.
And while we weep for earth-joys fled,
Or sigh to feel ourselves "alone,"
While fragrant memories of the dead,
Like perfumes round our path are strewn;
Let us not think them wholly lost;--
These flowers that glad the wondering vision,
Slept 'neath the winter storm and frost
Then sprung to beauty half Elysian.
Fair blossoms deck the orchard bough
The promise-fruit of harvest hours;
Nought have we but that promise now,
Yet faith already shows it ours.
Oh! sweet the light around our tombs,
Where promise-buds in faith are sown;
Faith's eye descerns eternal blooms,
In stature of God's fullness blown.
Still ours--the true and tender heart,--
The form that trod these paths awhile;
We said "good-night" content to part
Until the morning light shall shine.
Oh! blessed hope! Oh! promise sweet
The harvest of the Lord is sure;
His Hand shall give the guerdon meet
To all that to the end endure!


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