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HomeWorld Tour > ScotlandPoetry & PoetsSong of Yarrow

A Song of Yarrow Poem

by J B Selkirk

September, and the sun was low,
the tender greens were flecked with yellow,
and autumn's ardent after glow,
made yarrow's uplands rich and mellow.

Between me and the sunken sun,
where gloaming gathered in the meadows,
contended cattle red and dun,
were slowly browsing in the shadows.

And out beyond them Newark reared,
it's quiet tower against the sky,
as if it's walls had never heard,
of wassail - rout or battle cry.

O'er moss-grown roofs that once had rung,
to Reiver's riot, Border brawl,
the slumberous shadows mutely hung,
and silence deepened over all.

Above the high horizon bar,
a cloud of golden mist was lying,
and over it a single star,
soared heavenward as the day was dying.

No sound, no word, from field or ford,
nor breath of wind to float a feather,
while Yarrow's murmuring waters poured,
a lonely music through the heather.

In silent fascination bound,
as if some mighty spell obeying,
the hills stood listening to the sound,
and wondering what the stream was saying.

What secret to the inner ear,
what happier message was it bringing?
with more of hope and less of fear,
than men dare mix with earthly singing?

Earths song it was yet heavenly growth -
it was not joy it was not sorrow,
a strange heartfulness of them both,
the wandering singer seemed to borrow.

Like one that sings and does not know,
but in a dream hears voices calling,
of those that died long years ago,
and sings although the tears be falling.

Oh Yarrow! garlanded with rhyme,
that clothes thee in a mournful glory,
though sunsets of an elder time,
had never crowned thee with a story -

Still would I wander by the stream?
still listen to the lonely singing,
that gives me back the golden dream,
through which old echoed yet are ringing.

Love's sunshine! sorrows bitter blast!
dear Yarrow we have seen together,
for years have come and years have past,
since first we met among the heather.

Ah! those indeed were happy hours,
when first I knew thee gentle river,
but now thy bonny birken bowers,
to me alas are changed forever.

The best the dearest all have gone,
gone like the bloom upon the heather,
and left us singing here alone,
beside life's cold and winter weather.

I too pass on but when I'm dead,
thou still shalt sing by night and morrow,
and help the aching heart and head,
to bear the burden of it's sorrow.

And summers flowers shall linger yet,
where all thy mossy margins guide thee,
and minstrels met as we have met,
shall sit and sing their songs beside thee.

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