YARROW REVISITED, AND OTHER POEMS
COMPOSED (TWO EXCEPTED) DURING A TOUR IN SCOTLAND AND ON THE ENGLISH
BORDER, IN THE AUTUMN OF 1831.
In the autumn of 1831, my daughter and I set off from Rydal to
visit Sir Walter Scott before his departure for Italy. This
journey had been delayed by an inflammation in my eyes till we
found that the time appointed for his leaving home would be too
near for him to receive us without considerable inconvenience.
Nevertheless we proceeded and reached Abbotsford on Monday. I was
then scarcely able to lift up my eyes to the light. How sadly
changed did I find him from the man I had seen so healthy, gay,
and hopeful, a few years before, when he said at the inn at
Paterdale, in my presence, his daughter Anne also being there,
with Mr. Lockhart, my own wife and daughter, and Mr. Quillinan,--
"I mean to live till I am 'eighty', and shall write as long as I
live." But to return to Abbotsford, the inmates and guests we
found there were Sir Walter, Major Scott, Anne Scott, and Mr. and
Mrs. Lockhart, Mr. Liddell, his Lady and Brother, and Mr. Allan
the painter, and Mr. Laidlow, a very old friend of Sir Walter's.
One of Burns's sons, an officer in the Indian service, had left
the house a day or two before, and had kindly expressed his regret
that he could not await my arrival, a regret that I may truly say
was mutual. In the evening, Mr. and Mrs. Liddell sang, and Mrs.
Lockhart chanted old ballads to her harp; and Mr. Allan, hanging
over the back of a chair, told and acted odd stories in a humorous
way. With this exhibition and his daughter's singing, Sir Walter
was much amused, as indeed were we all as far as circumstances
would allow. But what is most worthy of mention is the admirable
demeanour of Major Scott during the following evening, when the
Liddells were gone and only ourselves and Mr. Allan were present.
He had much to suffer from the sight of his father's infirmities
and from the great change that was about to take place at the
residence he had built, and where he had long lived in so much
prosperity and happiness. But what struck me most was the patient
kindness with which he supported himself under the many fretful
expressions that his sister Anne addressed to him or uttered in
his hearing. She, poor thing, as mistress of that house, had been
subject, after her mother's death, to a heavier load of care and
responsibility and greater sacrifices of time than one of such a
constitution of body and mind was able to bear. Of this, Dora and
I were made so sensible, that, as soon as we had crossed the Tweed
on our departure, we gave vent at the same moment to our
apprehensions that her brain would fail and she would go out of
her mind, or that she would sink under the trials she had passed
and those which awaited her. On Tuesday morning Sir Walter Scott
accompanied us and most of the party to Newark Castle on the
Yarrow. When we alighted from the carriages he walked pretty
stoutly, and had great pleasure in revisiting those his favourite
haunts. Of that excursion the verses "Yarrow revisited" are a
memorial. Notwithstanding the romance that pervades Sir Walter's
works and attaches to many of his habits, there is too much
pressure of fact for these verses to harmonise as much as I could
wish with other poems. On our return in the afternoon we had to
cross the Tweed directly opposite Abbotsford. The wheels of our
carriage grated upon the pebbles in the bed of the stream, that
there flows somewhat rapidly; a rich but sad light of rather a
purple than a golden hue was spread over the Eildon hills at that
moment; and, thinking it probable that it might be the last time
Sir Walter would cross the stream, I was not a little moved, and
expressed some of my feelings in the sonnet beginning--"A trouble,
not of clouds, or weeping rain." At noon on Thursday we left
Abbotsford, and in the morning of that day Sir Walter and I had a
serious conversation 'tete-a-tete', when he spoke with gratitude
of the happy life which upon the whole he had led. He had written
in my daughter's Album, before he came into the breakfast-room
that morning, a few stanzas addressed to her, and, while putting
the book into her hand, in his own study, standing by his desk, he
said to her in my presence--"I should not have done anything of
this kind but for your father's sake: they are probably the last
verses I shall ever write." They show how much his mind was
impaired, not by the strain of thought but by the execution, some
of the lines being imperfect, and one stanza wanting corresponding
rhymes: one letter, the initial S, had been omitted in the
spelling of his own name. In this interview also it was that, upon
my expressing a hope of his health being benefited by the climate
of the country to which he was going, and by the interest he would
take in the classic remembrances of Italy, he made use of the
quotation from "Yarrow unvisited" as recorded by me in the
"Musings at Aquapendente" six years afterwards. Mr. Lockhart has
mentioned in his Life of him what I heard from several quarters
while abroad, both at Rome and elsewhere, that little seemed to
interest him but what he could collect or heard of the fugitive
Stuarts and their adherents who had followed them into exile. Both
the "Yarrow revisited" and the "Sonnet" were sent him before his
departure from England. Some further particulars of the
conversations which occurred during this visit I should have set
down had they not been already accurately recorded by Mr.
Lockhart. I first became acquainted with this great and amiable
man--Sir Walter Scott--in the year 1803, when my sister and I,
making a tour in Scotland, were hospitably received by him in
Lasswade upon the banks of the Esk, where he was then living. We
saw a good deal of him in the course of the following week: the
particulars are given in my sister's Journal of that tour.
SAMUEL ROGERS, ESQ.,
AS A TESTIMONY OF FRIENDSHIP, AND
OF INTELLECTUAL OBLIGATIONS,
THESE MEMORIALS ARE AFFECTIONATELY
RYDAL MOUNT, Dec. 11, 1834.
The following Stanzas are a memorial of a day passed with Sir
Walter Scott and other Friends visiting the Banks of the Yarrow
under his guidance, immediately before his departure from
Abbotsford, for Naples.
The title "Yarrow Revisited" will stand in no need of
explanation for Readers acquainted with the Author's previous
poems suggested by that celebrated Stream.
THE gallant Youth, who may have gained,
Or seeks, a "winsome Marrow,"
Was but an Infant in the lap
When first I looked on Yarrow;
Once more, by Newark's Castle-gate
Long left without a warder,
I stood, looked, listened, and with Thee,
Great Minstrel of the Border!
Grave thoughts ruled wide on that sweet day,
Their dignity installing
In gentle bosoms, while sere leaves
Were on the bough, or falling;
But breezes played, and sunshine gleamed--
The forest to embolden;
Reddened the fiery hues, and shot
Transparence through the golden.
For busy thoughts the Stream flowed on
In foamy agitation;
And slept in many a crystal pool
For quiet contemplation:
No public and no private care
The freeborn mind enthralling,
We made a day of happy hours,
Our happy days recalling.
Brisk Youth appeared, the Morn of youth,
With freaks of graceful folly,--
Life's temperate Noon, her sober Eve,
Her Night not melancholy;
Past, present, future, all appeared
In harmony united,
Like guests that meet, and some from far,
By cordial love invited.
And if, as Yarrow, through the woods
And down the meadow ranging,
Did meet us with unaltered face,
Though we were changed and changing;
If, 'then', some natural shadows spread
Our inward prospect over,
The soul's deep valley was not slow
Its brightness to recover.
Eternal blessings on the Muse,
And her divine employment!
The blameless Muse, who trains her Sons
For hope and calm enjoyment;
Albeit sickness, lingering yet,
Has o'er their pillow brooded;
And Care waylays their steps--a Sprite
Not easily eluded.
For thee, O SCOTT! compelled to change
Green Eildon-hill and Cheviot
For warm Vesuvio's vine-clad slopes;
And leave thy Tweed and Tiviot
For mild Sorento's breezy waves;
May classic Fancy, linking
With native Fancy her fresh aid,
Preserve thy heart from sinking!
Oh! while they minister to thee,
Each vying with the other,
May Health return to mellow Age
With Strength, her venturous brother;
And Tiber, and each brook and rill
Renowned in song and story,
With unimagined beauty shine,
Nor lose one ray of glory!
For Thou, upon a hundred streams,
By tales of love and sorrow,
Of faithful love, undaunted truth,
Hast shed the power of Yarrow;
And streams unknown, hills yet unseen,
Wherever they invite Thee,
At parent Nature's grateful call,
With gladness must requite Thee.
A gracious welcome shall be thine,
Such looks of love and honour
As thy own Yarrow gave to me
When first I gazed upon her;
Beheld what I had feared to see,
Unwilling to surrender
Dreams treasured up from early days,
The holy and the tender.
And what, for this frail world, were all
That mortals do or suffer,
Did no responsive harp, no pen,
Memorial tribute offer?
Yea, what were mighty Nature's self?
Her features, could they win us,
Unhelped by the poetic voice
That hourly speaks within us?
Nor deem that localised Romance
Plays false with our affections;
Unsanctifies our tears--made sport
For fanciful dejections:
Ah, no! the visions of the past
Sustain the heart in feeling
Life as she is--our changeful Life,
With friends and kindred dealing.
Bear witness, Ye, whose thoughts that day
In Yarrow's groves were centred;
Who through the silent portal arch
Of mouldering Newark entered; 0
And clomb the winding stair that once
Too timidly was mounted
By the "last Minstrel," (not the last!)
Ere he his Tale recounted.
Flow on for ever, Yarrow Stream!
Fulfil thy pensive duty,
Well pleased that future Bards should chant
For simple hearts thy beauty;
To dream-light dear while yet unseen,
Dear to the common sunshine,
And dearer still, as now I feel,
To memory's shadowy moonshine!