Loch Uisk, Isle Of Mull.

A poem by John Campbell

Yon vale among the mountains,
So sheltered from the sea,
That lake which lies so lonely,
Shall tell their tale to thee.

Here stood a stately convent
Where now the waters sleep,
Here floated sweeter music
Than comes from yonder deep.
Above the holy building
The summer cloud would rest,
And listen where to heaven
Rose hymns to God addressed;
For the hills took up the chanting,
And from their emerald wall
The sounds they loved, would, lingering,
In fainter accents fall.

Hard by, beside a streamlet
Fast flowing from a well,
A nun, in long past ages,
Had built her sainted cell:
To her in dreams 'twas given
As sacred task and charge,
To keep unchanged for ever
The bright Spring's mossy marge.
"Peace shall with joys attendant
For ever here abide,
While reverently and faithfully
You guard its taintless tide."

And when she knew her spirit
Was summoned to its rest,
To all around her gathered
She gave that high behest;
And many followed after
To seek the life she chose,
Till, like a flower, in glory
The cloistered convent rose.

Through Scotland's times of bloodshed,
Of foray, feud, and raid,
Their home became the haven
Where storm and strife were stayed.
Men blessed each dark-robed Sister,
And thought an angel trod,
Where walked in love and meekness
A lowly maid of God!

Right happy were they, lighting
With love those days of doom;
For heart need ne'er be darkened
By any garment's gloom.
Yes, often life thereafter
Was here with gladness crowned,
For, sad as seemed their vesture
The peace of God was found
His holiness in beauty
Made every trial seem
A rock that lies all harmless
Deep hidden in a stream.
While life was pure there never
Was wish in thought to gain
The world, where far behind them
The black nuns left their pain;
And time but flew too quickly
O'er that friend-circle small,
Where each one loved her neighbour,
And God was loved of all.

Still from its beauteous chalice,
That well's unceasing store
Poured forth, through whispering channels,
The crystal load it bore.
Hope seemed to bring the fountain
To seek the light of day;
Faith made it bright; Obedience
Smoothed, hallowing, its way.
Full many a gorgeous Summer
Woke heather into bloom,
And oft cold stars in Winter
Looked on a Sister's tomb;
Before the joy had withered
That virtue once had nursed;
Before their Lord and Master
Grew love for things accursed.
Lo! then the stream neglected
Forsook its wonted way:
In stagnant pools, dark-tainted,
Its wandering waters lay.

There choked by moorland ridges,
Black with the growth of peat,
Beneath the quaking surface
The fetid floods would meet;
Till rising, spreading ever
Above the chalice green
Of that fair Well, they covered
The place where it had been.
Then, near the careless convent,
Within the hill's deep shade,
The Fate which works in silence
A lake had slowly made.
As evil knows not halting
When passions strongly flow,
So daily deeper, deeper
Would those dark waters grow;
Till on an awful midnight,
When red the windows flamed
And song and jest and revel
The Vesper hour had shamed,
And wanton sin dishonoured
The time Christ's birth had crowned,
They burst their banks in darkness,
And with their raging sound
The rocks of all the valley
Rung for a few hours' space;
Then the wide Loch at morning
Reflected heaven's face.

Few voices now are heard there,
Around the wild deer feed;
And winds sigh loud in Autumn
Through copse, and rush, and reed.
Men say that when in darkness
They pass the water's verge,
Each hears, mid sounds of revel
The "Miserere's" dirge;
That faintly, strangely, ever
Upon the Loch's dark breast,
Beneath, above, around it
Shine lights that never rest.

Of all such ghastly phantoms,
Bred of the night and fear,
By hope of our salvation
None meets the noontide clear!
The blue sky's tender beauties
Upon the strong floods shine,
As God's eternal mercy
Dwells with His might divine!
Pure as their mystic fountain
They sleep and flow unstained,
Although the hue of sorrow
Hath in their depths remained.

The swallow, swiftly passing
Flies low to kiss the wave
When rippling gently over
Some pure saint's holy grave:
The hunter's eyes discover
Beneath those waters still
The walls of that proud convent,
Where God hath worked His will.

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