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Anna Jane Vardill

The Hermit of Loch Lomond

The second-sighted boatman of Loch Lomond was living in October 1821.

           It may be that the soul
Comes from that blessed world to which at last
It hopes to pass:—therefore in childhood dwells
A spirit bland and blissful, as the light
Rosy and glowing glances from the east,
Till mingled in the common glare of day;
But in the last sweet hour of quiet eve,
Comes once again.—On Lomond’s loneliest isle
There sits an aged man, whose eyes have look’d
On fourscore summer suns, when their best noon
Scarce reach’d amidst brown crags, and knotted pines,
The sullen streamlet murmuring at his door.
And when the shrieking eagle shunn’d the storm,
His oar has guided through dark Lomond’s waves
The traveller to his hut: and then his locks,
White as the foam shower’d on them, he would shake
Over his brimming cup, with gleeful tales
Making the long night frolic.—When he hears
The hundred voices of the echoing hills,
He dreams it is the music of a throng
Of happy spirits, waiting to begin
Their fellowship with man. ’Tis thought at eve,
When the dim purple mists of autumn wrap
These giant mountain tops, he sits beneath
The shadow of their thrones, and holds strange talk
With beings not yet earthly in their forms.
And he will tell you how, on the first morn
Of jocund May, he walks among the flowers
That carpet these low dells, and in the core
Of the sky daisy, sees the spirit lurk,
Whose meekness in some distant year will grace
A cottage matron’s hearth. Or in the fold
The violet opens, finds the hiding place
Of Beauty yet unborn, whose holy essence
Is wafted on the rosiest cloud of morn;
And long before it fills a maiden’s breast,
It is a breathing sweetness in the air,
Which men believe the blessing of the spring,
And feel their hearts grow young. The joyous throng
Of all the innocent spirits meant to dwell
In lovely shapes on earth, he says, were once
With him in heaven, before in its frail clay
His own was prison’d.—Therefore, though his age
To us seems friendless, and his desolate home
Is far from man’s abode, he hath a troop
Of fair and pure companions; and he dwells
Amidst a rich creation, every morn
Peopled for him alone.
           One summer night,
When the bright moon stoop’d to look nearer earth,
And wood birds sang their bridal; while the steam
Of fragrance mounted on the dewy dale,
He lean’d on Lomond’s brink, and smiled to see
The deep blue waters in their guileful calm
Sparkling like Beauty’s eye;—and thus he told
A happy old man’s dream.—

“There is upon my brow the weight
 Of fourscore years and ten,
Yet I am in my cot more great
 Than monarchs among men.

When I the thousand lights behold
 That follow yonder star,
I think, although my frame be old,
 My soul is older far.

They tell me I shall find my goal
 A brighter world than this;
But well I know my busy soul
 Came from that place of bliss:

For ever in my childhood glow’d
 A rapture in my breast,
As if in some more bright abode
 My soul had been a guest.

To all my manhood’s toilsome day
 That spring of joy was lent,
And now, when strength and life decay,
 It is not wholly spent.

I deem’d it once the gladdening glow
 From spring’s sweet freshness caught,
Or morning’s breath,—but now I know
 ’Twas from my birthplace brought.

I love this solitary glen,
 This beech-bower, and this stream;
For here I think my soul again
 Had of that place a dream.

There was a voice,—’tis heard no more,—
 It thrill’d, as if its tone
Had been a thousand years before
 In youth and gladness known.

But once I look’d on Phemie’s face,
 Yet every pulse it moved,
As if in some sweet distant place
 It had been long beloved.

And still my heart leaps at the touch
 Of hands in friendship given;
And sparkling eyes I love, for such
 I think I met in heaven.

To-night, while thus our converse runs,
 It burns with strange delight,
As if a soul, my partner once,
 Again was in my sight.

Men gaze upon my mouldering shed,
 And wonder at my glee;
But there is on my hoary head
 A crown they cannot see.

Their babes come smiling to my seat
 In Lomond’s mossy cleft,
As if they brought me tidings sweet
 From angels lately left.

I love the new-born babe to press,
 I hail the passing bier:—
The dead man goes to blessedness,
 The infant brings it here.

At eve, while giant shadows fall,
 I watch the bright sun’s track;
And pause, and sigh, as if to call
 Some lost remembrance back:

Then soon a glory dimly bright
 Around me seems to roll,
And visions of long past delight
 Return upon my soul.

Oh! then I feel that blessed place,
 The heaven to which I go,
Has in it many a gentle face
 Which I again shall know.

But while this feeble shape I fill,
 My origin I prove;
For all things earthly love me still,
 And all that live, I love!”


The European Magazine, Vol. 80, December 1821, pp. 508-510