Robert Louis Stevenson > A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods > V. A Lowden Sabbath Morn
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Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894).  A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods.  1913.
  
V. A Lowden Sabbath Morn

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         5
      Its tale o’ cheer. 
  
An’ noo, to that melodious play, 
A’ deidly awn the quiet sway— 
A’ ken their solemn holiday, 
      Bestial an’ human,  10
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,  15
      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;  20
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,  25
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.  30
  
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  35
      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,  40
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  45
      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,  50
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;  55
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.  60
  
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  65
      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  70
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;  75
      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  80
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,  85
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.  90
  
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  95
      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, 100
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 105
      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; 110
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: 115
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. 120
  
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 125
      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 130
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, 135
      Nor steer the sleeper; 
And in their restin’ graves, the deid 
      Sleep aye the deeper. 


  NOTE.—It may be guessed by some that I had a certain parish in my eye, and this makes it proper I should add a word of disclamation. In my time there have been two ministers in that parish. Of the first I have a special reason to speak well, even had there been any to think ill. The second I have often met in private and long (in the due phrase) “sat under” in his church, and neither here nor there have I heard an unkind or ugly word upon his lips. The preacher of the text had thus no original in that particular parish; but when I was a boy, he might have been observed in many others; he was then (like the schoolmaster) abroad; and by recent advices, it would seem he has not yet entirely disappeared.

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