Home  »  Yale Book of American Verse  »  73 Barclay of Ury

Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse. 1912.

John Greenleaf Whittier 1807–1892

John Greenleaf Whittier

73 Barclay of Ury

UP the streets of Aberdeen,

By the kirk and college green,

Rode the Laird of Ury;

Close behind him, close beside,

Foul of mouth and evil-eyed,

Pressed the mob in fury.

Flouted him the drunken churl,

Jeered at him the serving-girl,

Prompt to please her master;

And the begging carlin, late

Fed and clothed at Ury’s gate,

Cursed him as he passed her.

Yet, with calm and stately mien,

Up the streets of Aberdeen

Came he slowly riding;

And, to all he saw and heard,

Answering not with bitter word,

Turning not for chiding.

Came a troop with broadswords swinging,

Bits and bridles sharply ringing,

Loose and free and froward;

Quoth the foremost, “Ride him down!

Push him! prick him! through the town

Drive the Quaker coward!”

But from out the thickening crowd

Cried a sudden voice and loud:

“Barclay! Ho! a Barclay!”

And the old man at his side

Saw a comrade, battle tried,

Scarred and sunburned darkly;

Who with ready weapon bare,

Fronting to the troopers there,

Cried aloud: “God save us,

Call ye coward him who stood

Ankle deep in Lutzen’s blood,

With the brave Gustavus?”

“Nay, I do not need thy sword,

Comrade mine,” said Ury’s lord;

“Put it up, I pray thee:

Passive to his holy will,

Trust I in my Master still,

Even though he slay me.”

“Pledges of thy love and faith,

Proved on many a field of death,

Not by me are needed.”

Marvelled much that henchman bold,

That his laird, so stout of old,

Now so meekly pleaded.

“Wo ’s the day!” he sadly said,

With a slowly-shaking head,

And a look of pity;

“Ury’s honest lord reviled,

Mock of knave and sport of child,

In his own good city!

“Speak the word, and, master mine,

As we charged on Tilly’s line,

And his Walloon lancers,

Smiting through their midst we ’ll teach

Civil look and decent speech

To these boyish prancers!”

“Marvel not, mine ancient friend,

Like beginning, like the end:”

Quoth the Laird of Ury,

“Is the sinful servant more

Than his gracious Lord who bore

Bonds and stripes in Jewry?

“Give me joy that in his name

I can bear, with patient frame,

All these vain ones offer;

While for them he suffereth long,

Shall I answer wrong with wrong,

Scoffing with the scoffer?

“Happier I, with loss of all,

Hunted, outlawed, held in thrall,

With few friends to greet me,

Than when reeve and squire were seen,

Riding out from Aberdeen,

With bared heads to meet me.

“When each good wife, o’er and o’er,

Blessed me as I passed her door;

And the snooded daughter,

Through her casement glancing down,

Smiled on him who bore renown

From red fields of slaughter.

“Hard to feel the stranger’s scoff,

Hard the old friend’s falling off,

Hard to learn forgiving:

But the Lord his own rewards,

And his love with theirs accords,

Warm and fresh and living.

“Through this dark and stormy night

Faith beholds a feeble light

Up the blackness streaking;

Knowing God’s own time is best,

In a patient hope I rest

For the full day-breaking!”

So the Laird of Ury said,

Turning slow his horse’s head

Towards the Tolbooth prison,

Where, through iron grates, he heard

Poor disciples of the Word

Preach of Christ arisen!

Not in vain, Confessor old,

Unto us the tale is told

Of thy day of trial;

Every age on him who strays

From its broad and beaten ways

Pours its sevenfold vial.

Happy he whose inward ear

Angels’ comfortings can hear,

O’er the rabble’s laughter;

And, while Hatred’s fagots burn,

Glimpses through the smoke discern

Of the good hereafter.

Knowing this, that never yet

Share of Truth was vainly set

In the world’s wide fallow;

After hands shall sow the seed,

After hands from hill and mead

Reap the harvests yellow.

Thus, with somewhat of the Seer,

Must the moral pioneer

From the Future borrow;

Clothe the waste with dreams of grain,

And, on midnight’s sky of rain,

Paint the golden morrow!