Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"The Covenanters Tryst" by Alexander Anderson

Alexander Anderson (1845 - 1909 / shown right) was a poet from the south west of Scotland, and was widely published during his lifetime. Hope you can understand this - my favourite portion is the bold bit in verse 14.


I am auld an' frail, an' I scarce can gang,
Though whiles when I tak' a turn,
It's only when the sun blinks oot
On the braes by the Vennel Burn.
Then I tak' a look at the Kirkland Heichts,
An' up at Glen Aylmer Hill,
Then a kinder look at the auld kirkyaird
Where the dead sleep soun' an' still.

It's a dear kirkyaird at the fit o' the hills,
For it hauds the dust o' ane
Wha was true as the steel o' his ain gude sword,
An' stood by his kith an' kin.
He tak's his rest, wi' nae stane at his heid,
But I ken that Ane in the skies
Could come this nicht to the auld kirkyaird
An' point oot where he lies.

O, sleep ye soun', bauld Patrick Laing,
As ye ha'e been sleepin' for years;
I am frail and feckless, but still in my heart
Your name is saft wi' my tears.
The sands o' my life are unco few,
An' I ha'ena an hour to tyne,
But I ken fu' weel in the auld kirkyaird
Your dust will welcome mine.

An' there we twa will sleep fu' soun'
Wi' the green grass owre oor head,
Till the years bring roun' the richt to a'
For which Scottish bluid ran red.
Then the Lord will come doon in the licht o' the sun,
When the last sweet day shall dawn;
An' we'll rise frae oor graves, an' He'll meet us there,
An' tak' us baith by the han'.

The Cairn Hills lie on the other side
Wi' the sweet Nith rowin' atween,
An' there sleep twa leal frien's o' mine—
Aul' frien's o' the days that ha'e been.
They are waitin' for me as I for them,
An' it canna langer be,
For I ken that baith ha'e a tryst wi' the Lord,
An' He has a tryst wi' me.

I ken fu' weel that they wait an' wait
Till they hear the trumpet ca',
Then Hair an' Corson will rise an' cry—
"The time has come for us a'."
An' I mysel', a frail, auld man
That unco weel can be spared,
Will meet them baith at the fit o' the hill,
At the tree in the auld kirkyaird.

They dee'd as only men should dee,
For their faither's faith an' hame,
An' they lie wi' their face to the open sky,
Wi' nae touch on their cheek o' shame.
It will a' come richt, when the Lord in his micht,
Comes doon frae heaven to see,
For I ha'e a tryst in the auld kirkyaird,
An' the Lord has a tryst wi' me.

I ha'e heard bauld Cameron preach the Word
On the side o' a Sanquhar brae,
While I sat wi' the sword atween my knees,
As ane wha should watch an' pray;
An' I had my plaid drawn owre my heid,
An' open upon my knee
The Word o' Ane that I brawly kenned
Wad keep min' o' His tryst wi' me.

I ha'e lain in hags when the winter nicht
Was bitter an' lang an' cauld,
I ha'e shared my plaid wi' Renwick, too,
When the winds were snell an' bauld;
An' Peden, worn wi' the fire o' the Word,
An' thinly cled for the storm—
I ha'e lain a' nicht wi' my back to the win'
To keep puir Sandy warm.

I ha'e seen dark Clavers turn his back,
On his lips the snarl o' a dog,
An' strike spurs deep in his deein' steed
As he fled frae wild Drumclog;
But I saw him again at Bothwell Brig,
An' the hilt an' point o' his sword
Were red with the blood o' the saints that day
That fell with their trust in the Lord.

I am stiff wi' the midnicht rains that fell
As I lay in Blagannoch Moss;
But little I care for a rickle o' banes—
I gi'ed them a' for the Cross.
I ha'e focht the fecht, I ha'e set my faith
Where I trust though I canna see—
It wad be a ferly, atweel, if the Lord
Should fail in His tryst wi' me.

A' the leal, true hearts that were ance wi' me
They are free frae their care an' pain,
An' I am the last that is left to tell
O' the things that are sunk an' gane.
There is peace ance mair, an' I sleep in a bed
As soun' as soun' can be;
But this nicht I fin' that I canna lie doon,
For the Lord has a tryst wi' me.

Could my wife but lay her han' in mine,
As she used to do langsyne;
But Marion Dryfe is years in her grave,
An' a lanely hearth is mine.
But her dochter's weans are unco guid,
An' do a' they can for me;
I hear her speak an' I hear her fit
As they hing about my knee.

Hark! voices are comin' doon in the win',
I ha'e heard them mony a day—
Peden, Renwick, Corson, an' Hair,
An' Cameron shout for the fray.
But higher an' sweeter abune them a'
A Voice keeps cryin' to me -

"John Harkness, hast thou min' o' our tryst
That I set langsyne wi' thee?"

Pit the weans to their bed—gang a' to your bed,
I canna langer be spared;
I hear a Voice that nane o' ye hear,
An' it comes frae the auld kirkyaird.
It's growin' dark—pit some peats on the fire,
An' lay the Book on my knee;
For I ha'e a tryst wi' the Lord this nicht,
An' the Lord has a tryst wi' me.


(And if you have any weans, you'll enjoy this yin, also written by Anderson. You can read more about him, and his work, here.