The Highland Girl's Lament.

A poem by Mary Gardiner Horsford

The ancient Highlanders believed the spirits of their departed friends continually present, and that their imagined appearances and voices communicated warnings of approaching death.

Oh! set the bridal feast aside,
And bear the harp away;
The coronach must sound instead,
From solemn kirk-yard gray.

I heard last eve, at set of sun,
The death-bell on the gale.
It was no earthly melody:--
The eglantine grew pale;

And leaf and blossom seemed to thrill
With an unuttered prayer,
As, fraught with desolateness wild,
The strange notes stirred the air.

And on the rugged mountain height,
Where snow and sunbeam meet,
That never yet in storm or shine
Was trod by human feet,

A weird and spectral presence came
Between me and the light;
The waving of a shadowy hand
That faded into night.

I felt it was the first who left
Our little household band,--
The child, with waving locks of gold,
Now in the silent land.

And when the mist at morn arose
From Katrine's silvery wave,
A form of aspect ominous,
With pensive look and grave,

Moved from the waters towards the glen
Where stands the holly-tree;
'T was the brother who is sleeping low
Beneath the stormy sea.

And while to-night the curfew bell
Rang out with solemn chime,
As soundeth o'er the buried year,
The organ peal of time,

And, near the fragrant jessamine,
I mused in garden glade,
A phantom form appeared to me
Beneath the hawthorn shade.

The dews had wept their silent tears,
The moon was up on high,
And every star was sphered with calm,
Like an archangel's eye;

And melancholy music swept
With cadence low and sweet,
Such as ascends when spirit-wings
Around a death-bed meet.

O was it not a mother's heart
That gave that warning sign;
The loving heart that used to thrill
To every grief of mine?

I oft have deemed, in sunny hours,
When life with love was fraught,
The nearness of the dead to us
A fantasy of thought.

But, standing on the barrier
I used to view with pain,
I feel the chains of severed love
Are linking close again.

Another hand must smooth and bless
My father's silver hair;
Another voice must read to him
At morn and evening prayer.

The flowers that I have trained will bloom,
But at another's side;
And he I love will seek perchance,
A gentler, fairer bride.

And soon another shade will haunt
The echo and the gloom,
With pining heart of restless love,
And omens of the tomb.

Then set the festal board aside,
And bear the harp away;
The coronach must sound instead
From solemn kirk-yard gray.

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