Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Ayr, the River


By Joaquin Miller (1837–1913)

I LINGER in the autumn noon,

I listen to the partridge call,

I watch the yellow leaflets fall

And drift adown the dimpled Doon.

I lean me o’er the ivy-grown

Old brig, where Vandal tourists’ tools

Have ribbed out names that would be known,

Are known,—known as a herd of fools.

Down Ailsa Craig the sun declines,

With lances levelled here and there,—

The tinted thorns! the trailing vines!

O braes of Doon! so fond, so fair!

So passing fair, so more than fond!

The Poet’s place of birth beyond,

Beyond the mellow bells of Ayr!

I hear the milkmaid’s twilight song

Come bravely through the storm-bent oaks;

Beyond, the white surf’s sullen strokes

Beat in a chorus deep and strong;

I hear the sounding forge afar,

And rush and rumble of the car,

The steady tinkle of the bell

Of lazy, laden, home-bound cows

That stop to bellow and to browse;

I breathe the soft sea-wind as well,

And now would fain arouse, arise;

I count the red lights in the skies;

I yield as to a fairy spell.

Heard ye the feet of flying horse?

Heard ye the bogles in the air

That clutch at Tam O’Shanter’s mare,

That flies this mossy brig across?


O Burns! another name for song,

Another name for passion,—pride;

For love and poesy allied;

For strangely blended right and wrong.

I picture you as one who kneeled

A stranger at his own hearthstone;

One knowing all, yet all unknown,

One seeing all, yet all concealed;

The fitful years you lingered here,

A lease of peril and of pain;

And I am thankful yet again

The gods did love you, ploughman! peer!

In all your own and other lands,

I hear your touching songs of cheer;

The peasant and the lordly peer

Above your honored dust strike hands.

A touch of tenderness is shown

In this unselfish love of Ayr,

And it is well, you earned it fair;

For all unhelmeted, alone,

You proved a ploughman’s honest claim

To battle in the lists of fame;

You earned it as a warrior earns

His laurels fighting for his land,

And died,—it was your right to go.

O eloquence of silent woe!

The Master leaning reached a hand,

And whispered, “It is finished, Burns!”

O sad, sweet singer of a Spring!

Yours was a chill, uncheerful May,

And you knew no full days of June;

You ran too swiftly up the way,

And wearied soon, so over-soon!

You sang in weariness and woe;

You faltered, and God heard you sing,

Then touched your hand and led you so,

You found life’s hill-top low, so low,

You crossed its summit long ere noon.

Thus sooner than one would suppose

Some weary feet will find repose.