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

Esk, the River

Sonnets on the Scenery of the Esk

By David Macbeth Moir (1798–1851)

A MOUNTAIN child, mid Pentland’s solitudes,

Thou risest, murmuring Esk, and, lapsing on,

Between rude banks, o’er rock and mossy stone,

Glitterest remote, where seldom step intrudes;

Nor unrenowned, as, with an ampler tide,

Thou windest through the glens of Woodhouselee,

Where mid the song of bird, the hum of bee,

With soft Arcadian pictures clothed thy side

The pastoral Ramsay. Lofty woods embower

Thy rocky bed mid Roslin’s crannies deep,

While proud on high time-hallowed ruins peep

Of castle and chapelle; yea, to this hour

Gray Hawthornden smiles downward from its steep,

To tell of Drummond’s poesy’s spring flower.

NOT lovelier to the bard’s enamored gaze,

Winded Italian Mincio o’er its bed,

By whispering reeds o’erhung, when calmly led

To meditate what rural life displays;

Trees statelier do not canopy with gloom

The brooks of Valombrosa; nor do flowers,

Beneath Ausonia’s sky that seldom lowers,

Empurple deep-dyed Brenta’s banks with bloom

Fairer than thine at sweet Lasswade: so bright

Thou gleam’st, a mirror for the cooing dove,

That sidelong eyes its purpling form with love

Well pleased; mid blossomy brakes, with bosom light,

All day the linnet carols; and from grove

The blackbird sings to thee at fall of night.

DOWN from the old oak forests of Dalkeith,

Where majesty surrounds a ducal home,

Between fresh pastures gleaming thou dost come,

Bush, scaur, and rock, and hazelly shaw beneath,

Till, greeting thee from slopes of orchard ground,

Towers Inveresk with its proud villas fair,

Scotland’s Montpelier, for salubrious air

And beauteous prospect wide and far renowned.

What else could be, since thou with winding tide

Below dost ripple pleasantly, thy green

And osiered banks outspread, where, frequent seen,

The browsing heifer shows her dappled side,

And mid the bloom-bright furze are oft descried

Anglers, that patient o’er thy mirror lean?

DELIGHTFUL ’t is, and soothing sweet, at eve,

When sunlight like a dream hath passed away

O’er Pentland’s far-off peaks, and shades of gray

Around the landscape enviously weave,

To saunter o’er this high walk canopied

With scented hawthorn, while the trellised bowers

Are rich with rose and honeysuckle flowers,

And gaze o’er plains and woods outstretching wide

Till bounded by the Morphoot’s heights of blue,

That range along the low southwest afar;

And thee, translucent Esk, with face of blue;

While, as enamored, evening’s first fair star

Looks on thy pool its loveliness to view.

A BEECH-TREE o’er the mill-stream spreads its boughs,

In many an eddy whirls the wave beneath;

From Stony-bank the west-wind’s perfumed breath

Sighs past,—’t is summer’s gentle evening close;

Smooth Esk, above thy tide the midges weave,

Mixing and meeting oft, their fairy dance;

While o’er the crown of Arthur’s Seat a glance

Of crimson plays,—the sunshine’s glorious leave;

Except the blackbird from the dim Shire Wood,

All else is still. So passes human life

From us away,—a dream within a dream:

Ah! where are they, who with me, by this stream,

Roamed ere this world was known as one of strife?

Comes not an answer from the solitude!

LEANING upon the time-worn parapet

Of this old Roman bridge, that to the bay

Of Forth hath seen thee, Esk, gliding away

From age to age, and spans thee gliding yet,—

Before me I behold thy sea-most town,

Yclept in Saxon Chronicles Eske-mouthe,—

Its venerable roofs, its spire uncouth,

And Pinkie’s field of sorrowful renown.

Scenes of my childhood, manhood, and decline,—

Scenes that my sorrows and my joys have known,

Ye saw my birth, and be my dust your own,

When, as these waters mingle with the sea,

To look upon the light no more is mine,

And time is swallowed in eternity!