Menella Bute Smedley

The Lay of King James I in his Captivity

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Morn to eve, and eve to morn,
Listless heart and eyes unsleeping—
Want, or woe, or pain, or scorn,
O'er this lifeless desert sweeping,
Welcome were, as pangs, for me
Breaking death's dread lethargy.
Like the wretch, whose weary pace
To and fro, for years alone,
Left at length an awful trace
Printed on the unyielding stone,
Time's slow footsteps, day by day,
Wear my very soul away.
Creeping through this narrow grate,
Stretching o'er these walls of gloom,
Even the air is like a weight,
Even the sky is like a tomb;
Nature's noble things and free
Put on dreariness for me.
Nay, it is not thus! I have
Empire o'er a world within;
Lo, my kingly wand I wave,
Lo, the shadowy scenes begin!
Veilèd shapes of hours unknown
Stand before my spirit's throne.
Life—mine own, my coming life!
Well I know what thou shalt be;
Shining bliss and stormy strife,
Labour, hope, and victory!
Ceaseless efforts upward tending,
And at last in triumph ending!
Thou hast gifts, and thou hast tasks,—
Give the last—mine aim is won!
Only this my spirit asks,
Strength and space to labour on;
Lo, mine eyes exulting see
Scotland blest, and blest through me!
Ah, my country! Prostrate now,
Vex'd by pity, stung by scorn,
Like a noble stag brought low,
Striving, sinking, bleeding, torn;
All thine ancient honour dies,
In the dust thy glory lies!
Mine to staunch those gaping wounds,
Mine to raise that shadowed face,
Mine to chain those ruthless hounds,
Baying on their bloody chase;
Mine to wreath thy brows once more
With the bays which once they wore.
Oh, for power! But it shall come!
By thy woods, and steeps, and seas,
Every hearth shall be a home,
Every heart shall be at peace;
In thy huts no slaves shall be,
In thy halls no tyranny!
If then, night and day alike,
I a wakeful warder stand,
Swift to spare, yet prompt to strike,
Calm of heart and strong of hand;
Lone were such a lot, and hard,
Were itself its sole reward.
But a dearer hope is mine,
Not unshared my toils shall be—
Shining as a star may shine
O'er the stern and troubled sea,
Hope, and guide, and goal thou art
In the brightness of thy heart!
Known but dimly from afar,
Seen but through a dungeon-grate,
Still thine eye hath been my star,—
Still thy smile shall be my fate,
Throned upon that brow serene,
Strength, hope, purity, are seen.
Wherefore rise those blushes bright,
Half ashamed, beneath my gazing?
Wherefore sink thine eyes of light
Scarce their ivory veil upraising?
'Tis the future stirs within thee,
Thou shalt love, and I shall win thee!
Fare thee well! God's favour rest
On thy home, thy heart, and thee!
Still thou leav'st my spirit blest,
Blest in hope and memory;
Past and Future round me seem,
While the Present is a dream.
Dungeon-bar and galling chain,
Are ye past away from me?
Ay, for outward bonds are vain
While the kingly heart is free!
Father, to my spirit's night
Thou hast spoken—there is light!

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Menella Bute Smedley