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Anna Jane Vardill

The Traveller’s Story

There is a willow in old Glenalm
 Where the brooks glimmer;—
When the wind wakes not, and cool and calm
 Evening grows dimmer.
Still that Willow waves, though no breath
Of air is near it, and mute as death,
Sleep the rills and the sedges green,
That hang their heads at its root unseen:
And when not a flower is in the mead,
When the myrtle droops, and the rose is dead,
There is a garland fresh and young,
Every morn on that willow hung.

None can tell us how many days
 Memory has cherish’d,
Since in the glen where that willow stays
 A sweet bud flourish’d;
A maiden whose young heart was given
To peace and hope, such as live in heaven;
Whose eye was the light of summer-mirth,
And the lamp of her grey-hair kinsman’s hearth;
But his hearth was in Raeburn’s lordly tower,
And the maiden thought of Glenalm’s green bower,
Where a violet every morn in May,
Hung on a bough of the willow grey.

Lonely and long over Raeburn’s gate
 Sits the death-raven;—
Who is the guest that comes so late
 Welcome still craving?
There is no heir to this barren land,—
There lies on the hearth a dying brand;
The hall is desolate, and the hound
Moans the forgotten portal round.—
The pride of Raeburn’s race is past,
But one, the loveliest and the last,
Clung to these ruin’d walls to keep
Watch by a kinsman’s bed, and weep.
His hearth is silent now, and all
Lies hidden beneath that snow-white pall;
There is no life in the maiden’s breast,
Only the flowers laid there to rest;
A willow-leaf and a violet,
Live in her sheeted coffin yet.

O Traveller!—hasten thy steed away,—
 Death is before thee!
Bid yon mound of the churchyard clay
 Cover thy story:—
Thou comest again too late to save
The flower that falls into Raeburn’s grave!
Thou gavest the orphan’s birthright back,
And the land of her sires shall bless thy track;
But a hope more dear than their heritage
Died in the dull cold damps of age:
And the love that in thy blushing youth
Fear’d to utter its own fair truth,
Must live unseen in thy widowed heart,
In a secret cleft from the world apart,
As the lonely violet drops its balm
On the withering willow of old Glenalm.


The European Magazine, Vol. 80, October 1821, p. 320