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A Lowden Sabbath Morn

by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885

The clinkum-clank o' Sabbath bells
Noo to the hoastin' rookery swells,
Noo faintin' laigh in shady dells,
      Sounds far an' near,
An' through the simmer kintry tells
      Its tale o' cheer.

An' noo, to that melodious play,
A' deidly awn the quiet sway—
A' ken their solemn holiday,
      Bestial an' human,
The singin' lintie on the brae,
      The restin' plou'man.

He, mair than a' the lave o' men,
His week completit joys to ken;
Half-dressed, he daunders out an' in,
      Perplext wi' leisure;
An' his raxt limbs he'll rax again
      Wi' painfü' pleesure.

The steerin' mither strang afit
Noo shoos the bairnies but a bit;
Noo cries them ben, their Sinday shüit
      To scart upon them,
Or sweeties in their pouch to pit,
      Wi' blessin's on them.

The lasses, clean frae tap to taes,
Are busked in crunklin' underclaes;
The gartened hose, the weel-filled stays,
      The nakit shift,
A' bleached on bonny greens for days,
      An' white's the drift.

An' noo to face the kirkward mile:
The guidman's hat o' dacent style,
The blackit shoon, we noo maun fyle
      As white's the miller:
A waefü' peety tae, to spile
      The warth o' siller.

Our Marg'et, aye sae keen to crack
Douce-stappin' in the stoury track
Her emeralt goun a' kiltit back
      Frae snawy coats,
White-ankled, leads the kirkward pack
      Wi' Dauvit Groats.

A' thocht ahint, in runkled breeks,
A' spiled wi' lyin' by for weeks,
The guidman follows closs, an' cleiks
      The sonsie missis;
His sarious face at aince bespeaks
      The day that this is.

And aye an' while we nearer draw
To whaur the kirkton lies alaw,
Mair neebours, comin' saft an' slaw
      Frae here an' there,
The thicker thrang the gate an' caw
      The stour in air.

But hark! the bells frae nearer clang;
To rowst the slaw, their sides they bang;
An' see! black coats a'ready thrang
      The green kirkyaird;
And at the yett, the chestnuts spang
      That brocht the laird.

The solemn elders at the plate
Stand drinkin' deep the pride o' state:
The practised hands as gash an' great
      As Lords o' Session;
The later named, a wee thing blate
      In their expression.

The prentit stanes that mark the deid,
Wi' lengthened lip, the sarious read;
Syne wag a moraleesin' heid,
      An' then an' there
Their hirplin' practice an' their creed
      Try hard to square.

It's here our Merren lang has lain,
A wee bewast the table-stane;
An' yon's the grave o' Sandy Blane;
      An' further ower,
The mither's brithers, dacent men!
      Lie a' the fower.

Here the guidman sall bide awee
To dwall amang the deid; to see
Auld faces clear in fancy's e'e;
      Belike to hear
Auld voices fa'in saft an' slee
      On fancy's ear.

Thus, on the day o' solemn things,
The bell that in the steeple swings
To fauld a scaittered faim'ly rings
      Its walcome screed;
An' just a wee thing nearer brings
      The quick an' deid.

But noo the bell is ringin' in;
To tak their places, folk begin;
The minister himsel' will shüne
      Be up the gate,
Filled fu' wi' clavers about sin
      An' man's estate.

The tünes are up—French, to be shüre,
The faithfü' French, an' twa-three mair;
The auld prezentor, hoastin' sair,
      Wales out the portions,
An' yirks the tüne into the air
      Wi' queer contortions.

Follows the prayer, the readin' next,
An' than the fisslin' for the text—
The twa-three last to find it, vext
      But kind o' proud;
An' than the peppermints are raxed,
      An' southernwood.

For noo's the time whan pows are seen
Nid-noddin' like a mandareen;
When tenty mithers stap a preen
      In sleepin' weans;
An' nearly half the parochine
      Forget their pains.

There's just a waukrif' twa or three:
Thrawn commentautors sweer to 'gree,
Weans glowrin' at the bumlin' bee
      On windie-glasses,
Or lads that tak a keek a-glee
      At sonsie lasses.

Himsel', meanwhile, frae whaur he cocks
An' bobs belaw the soundin'-box,
The treesures of his words unlocks
      Wi' prodigality,
An' deals some unco dingin' knocks
      To infidality.

Wi' sappy unction, hoo he burkes
The hopes o' men that trust in works,
Expound the fau'ts o' ither kirks,
      An' shaws the best o' them
No muckle better than mere Turks,
      When a's confessed o' them.

Bethankit! what a bonny creed!
What mair would ony Christian need?—
The braw words rumm'le ower his heid,
      Nor steer the sleeper;
And in their restin' graves, the deid
      Sleep aye the deeper.

Published in A Child's Garden of Verses

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