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Earlier versions of poems in Ballads of Life, Love, and Humour


Stanley Farm - first version


Cassell’s Magazine (December, 1873)




COME, love, and while the landscape glows
     Red in the setting sun,
Let us repair to Stanley Farm,
     Where thou wert wooed and won.

The River runs through a narrow glen,
     And shooting past the mill,
It prattles past the burial-ground
     Where the village dead lie still.

Narrow and fresh it shooteth through
     The bridge at headlong speed;
But when the village bridge is past,
     It comes to marsh and mead;

And broadening out with slacken’d pace,
     It fringes green flat land,
Where, blanchèd white by frequent floods,
     Long lines of pollards stand.

And now within its shallow pools,
     The blue-winged heron doth wade,
Still as a stone, with crooked neck
     Above his floating shade.

And water-lilies fringe the brim,
     And all is sedge and reed,
Save one small stream within the midst,
     That winds and winds with speed.

Then down comes Thornby Burn and gains
     The River with a cry,
And on the two together run,
     Under the English sky.

And strong and deep the stream has grown,
     As well as broad and wide,
On reaching Stanley Farm, that sits
     Upon the water’s side.

How still it is! how bright it is,
     These happy summer weeks,
When cattle wade, in the dark blue pools
     Are broke to silvern streaks!

But, love, hast thou forgot the Yule,
     Twenty long years ago?
The level meads around the stream
     Were white with ice and snow.

The River was frozen white and blue,
     In its cold weedy bed;
A deep black fog filled all the air,
     And in the fog, o’er head,

Just hovering close to earth, as small
     As a schoolboy’s pink balloon,
The wandering Sun looked small and cold
     As the red wintry Moon.

The fog was dark, and darkest there
     Above the River’s bed,
And from the windows of the farm,
     All day the lights gleamed red.

But when the Sun’s ball rolled from sight,
     The wind began to blow,
The chilly fog was cleft in twain,
     And the Moon lit up the snow!

Like a deep blue flower with a golden heart,
     Hung downwards, was the sky,
And white and cold in swathes of snow
     Did mead and hamlet lie.

And ever and anon the wind
     Blew up a cloud so pale,
And held it o’er the yellow Moon,
     Like a thin lawny veil.

And the Moon looked through with dimmer gaze,
     And breath’d there soft and low;
Till, melted with her breath, the cloud
     Was shriven into Snow.

And ever in the brightening beam,
     As each small cloud passed by,
We saw dark figures on the stream
     Gliding with merry cry.

Men and maidens, old and young,
     The skaters frolicked there;
Like shapes within a dream, their forms
     Stole through the mystic air.

But thy small hand was linked in mine,
     And down the stream we sped,
Until we found a silent place
     Where those soft words were said.

Which made us one; the hour, the place,
     All seem a dream this day—
But see! there sitteth Stanley Farm
     In the red sunset ray!

There sits the farm, there steals the stream,
     And all looks young and fair;
The winter now is on our lives,
     The Snow upon our hair!

                                                                         ROBERT BUCHANAN.


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The Fisherman - first version


From A Round of Days (George Routledge and Sons, 1866 - pp.83-84):




THE sea is moaning, the new-born cries,
In her child-bed sorrow the mother lies,—
And the fisher fisheth afar away,
         In the morning grey.

The lift is laden, the dawn appears,—
Is it the moan o’ the wind he hears?
Is it the splash o’ the ocean foam?
         Or a cry from home?

The wind is whistling in shroud and sheet,—
He fisheth there that the babe may eat;
He gazeth down from the side of his bark
         On the waters dark.

Sees he the gleam o’ the foam-flake there,
Or a white white face in its floating hair?
Salt seaweeds that are shoreward drifted,
         Or arms uplifted?


His heart is heavy, his lips are set,
He sighs as he draggeth in his net;
The dawning brightens, the water screams,
         And the white face gleams!

’Tis chill, so chill, as he shoreward flies;
The boat is laden, the new-born cries,—
But the wraith of the mother fades far away
         In the morning grey!

                                                                       Robert Buchanan.

* Wraith, the apparition of one on the point of death.


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VANITY FAIR - first version


Good Words (February, 1872)



               HERE’S a babble
                   In Vanity Fair!
               Here’s a rabble
                   Of folk on the stare!
               Here’s a crying,
               Selling and buying,
               Groaning and grumbling,
               Pushing and stumbling!
               They blow the flute,
                   And they beat the drum.
               And yonder in rows
               Are the painted shows,
               Where zany and clown
                   With “Walk in, walk in!”
               Stalk up and down,
                   While the people grin.
     Hold me tighter, my pretty one,
     We’ll elbow our way and see the fun.
     In we go, where they scramble and scream—
     What a rabble! it’s like a dream!

               Here is old
                   Aunt Sal in a corner—
               Crimson and gold
                   Rags adorn her.
               How droll looks she,
               With her rusty Key!
               In spite of all shying
                   There’s Mitre and Crown,
               And none are trying
                   To knock them down.
               The game was hearty
                   In days gone by,
               But now no party
                   Cares for a shy.
     Don’t be downcast, my grey-hair’d lad—
     Here’s a copper since trade is bad.
     Try, my man of melancholy,
     To pocket pence by some other folly.
     Carry the poor old Pope elsewhere,
     She only spoils the fun of the Fair.

               On we go,
                   Through the rabble straying. . .
               Here’s a show
                   Where things seem paying!
               See the creature
                   Painted there—
               Wild of feature
                   Covered with hair:—
               The Missing Link
                   Between Monkey and Mortal!
                   Go the pence at the portal;
               But look at the folk
                   Who out are stumbling—
               Some full of a joke,
                   Some audibly grumbling.
               Here’s a fellow—
                   We’ll speak to him:
               His face looks yellow
                   And dark and grim:
     Clari, you hear him? a swindle, is it?
     A hocus-pocus! not worth a visit!
     This is a Yankee, and in he went,
     And recognised, to his wonderment,
     In the “Missing Link to be seen for a Cent”
     The last—American President!

               Trip it merrily,
                   Pretty one,
               On we stray cheerily
                   Full of the fun:
               Punch and Judy;
               Acrobats moody
                   Making a ring;
               Clowns cutting capers
                   At every show;
               Bucolic gapers
                   Grinning below;
     Quiet conjurers quick and sly
     Making the public halfpence fly;
     Quacks with boluses, nostrums, and pills,
     Vending cures for the flesh and its ills;
     Every one bawling—(O the din!)
     Every voice calling—“Walk in, walk in.”
     “Stop the thief!”—how they carry the shout!
     How the crowd eddies in and out!
     Lean and thin with quivering lip
     The rascal writhes in that fat man’s grip:
     He looks all round with a hungry stare;
     The mob groans round him and longs to tear—
     Off to the gaol the scarecrow bear!
     We’re virtuous people in Vanity Fair!

               All together,
                   Christian and Jew,
               Birds of fine feather,
                   And ragged too,
               Dukes and earls,
               And ballet girls,
               And patterers;
               The poor from the city,
                   The wild sea-rover,
               The beggar witty
                   Half-seas over,
               The gipsy pretty
                   Red from a romp in the clover.
     Right foot, light foot, we trip it and toe it,
     You the pretty girl, I your poet,
     Rubbing sleeves with great and small,
     Jostling along through the heart of them all.
     Our hearts are leaping, our heads are dizzy,
     The trade’s so merry, the mirth so busy,
     We sqùeeze along and we gasp for air,
     In the hurry and flurry of Vanity Fair.

               Stop, my dear!
                   How the trumpets blow!
               What have we here?
                   Why, the great French show!
               O paint and padding!
                   With what an air
               They are promenading
                   Outside, up there—
               Zany and hero
                   (Birds of a feather),
               Scapin and Nero
                   Grinning together;
               Spanish gipsy
                   With tambourine;
               Gaoler tipsy,
                   And proud-faced Queen,—
               And overhead,
               Painted blood-red,
                   The jolly old Guillotine!
     See that fellow in tatters and rags—
     His cry to the people never flags;
     Poor though he is, and dirty, and low,
     He seems the master of the show.
     “O yes,” he cries, with a voice of power,
     “Drama and pantomime every half hour,
     And at each performance, trust to me,
     A change of the total Companie!”

         *          *         *          *

               Clari, my sweetest,
               Trimmest and neatest,
                   Why this alarm?
             Why are you sighing,
             Fluttering and crying,
                   And gripping my arm?
               “Come away! come away!
                   ’Tis so sad! ’tis so loud!
               My heart aches, my head aches
                   To look at the crowd.
               The mad folk, the bad folk,
               The poor folk, the sad folk,
                   Like waters that call,
               Their sadness and badness
               Are strange, but their gladness
                   Is strangest of all.
               O hear how they cry—
               I am sick, let us fly!”

O Clari, sweet blending of fire and of air,
Come along, come along, out of Vanity Fair.
Out yonder are fields and the sky and the trees—
And the only sounds there are the birds and the breeze,
And the water that beats in its green woodland nest
Like the heart that is beating so loud in your breast.


               . . . Breathless, flushing,
               Faint with the crushing,
                   Here we are—
               Night is coming,
               Droning and humming
                   Sounds Vanity Fair afar;
               And its light, as the night
               Cometh down, is cast bright
               On the sky far away—
                   How strange feels this stillness!
               Grey and more grey
                   Comes the night with its chillness.
Clari, where are we? Outside the Fair,
In the great black earth and the sky and the air,
All alone—Hold me tighter! The noise of the rout
Was dreadful within, but more dreadful without
Seems the stillness. O God! see the pale moon arise,
And the hills black as ink in the shade, and the eyes
Of the stars fix’d on ours from the terrible skies.

               What is this glooming
                   Against the light,
               Silent and looming
                   In the chilly night?
               And what are these clinging,
                   Three in a row,
               O’erhead and swinging
                   When the wind doth blow?
     Three black figures against the light,
     Their faces white and their legs strapt tight,
     Having a swing in the wind this night!
     O hold me faster, who is he
     That stands at the foot of the cross-shaped tree?
     Cowl’d, barefooted, with hooded face,
     What doth he in the ghostly place?
     Silent he stands, a sad beholder!
     Stop, let me touch him on the shoulder!

               The moon shines cold
                   On the silent place—
               O God, I behold
                   The Eyes! the Face!
               He turns unto me
                   Calm and white,
               His eyes thrill through me
                   With piteous light.
               Ah, how cold yet how sweet
                   In the night-wind He stands!
               See, the nail-pierced feet!
                   See, the nail-pierced hands!
Is it He? Kneel and pray! O my love, have no care,
Clasp me close—Hath He fled? Did I dream? Was He there?
O cold is the night, and the earth lieth bare,
And distant and deep, a dull sound fills the air—
The wash of the waters of Vanity Fair.

                                                                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.


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Harriett Jay


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