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{The Book of Orm 1870}






Thou who the Face Divine wouldst see,
Think,—couldst thou bear the sight, and be?
O waves of life and thought and dream,
Darkening in one mysterious Stream,
Flow on, flow loudly; nor become
A glassy Mirror sad and dumb,
Whereon for evermore might shine
The dread peace of the Face Divine!—
Children of earth whose spirits fail,
Revere the Face, but bless the Veil!


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. 10: Beware the Lifting of the Veil! ]









My Soul had a vision,
And in my Soul’s vision
The Veil was lifted,
     And the Face was there!

There was no portent
Of fire or thunder,
The wind was sleeping,
And above and under                                                            [2:4]
     All things lookt fair.
And the change came softly
On a golden morrow                                                               120
The Veil was lifted,
And yea! the ineffable Face was there.

My Soul saw the vision
     From a silent spot—
Nay, of its likeness
     Ask me not—
How should my Soul fathom
The formless features?
Gaze at the Master
     How should it dare?
Only I flutter’d
To my knees and mutter’d
     A moan, a prayer—
Silent, ineffable,
Gazing downward,
     The Face was there!

This let me whisper:
It stirred not, changed not,
Tho’ the world stood still, amazed;                                          121
But the Eyes within it,
Like the eyes of a painted picture,
Met and followed
     The eyes of each that gazed.


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 2, l. 4: Above and under ]






Then my Soul heard a voice
     Crying—“Wander forth
O’er hill and valley,
     O’er the earth—
Behold the mortals
     How they fare—
Now the great Father
     Grants their prayer;
Now every spirit
     Of mortal race,
Since the Veil is lifted,
     Beholds the Face!

I awoke my body,
And up the mountains,
With the sweet sun shining,                                                      123
     I wander’d free—
And the hills were pleasant,
Knee-deep in heather,
And the yellow eagle
     Wheel’d over me—
And the streams were flowing,
And the lambs were leaping

But on the hill-tops
The shepherds gather’d,
Up-gazing dreamily
     Into the silent air,
And close beside them
The eagle butcher’d
The crying lambkin,
     But they did not see, nor care.
I saw the white flocks of the shepherds,
Like snow wind-lifted and driven,                                            124
     Blow by, blow by!
And the terrible wolves behind them,
As wild as the winds, pursuing
     With a rush and a tramp and a cry!

I passed the places
     Of ice and snow,
And I saw a Hunter
Lying frozen,—
His eyes were sealëd—
     He did not know;
Drinking his heart’s-blood,
Not looking upward,
Sat the soot-black raven
     And the corby crow.

Then I knew they linger’d,
Tho’ the Veil was lifted,
     Death and Decay,
And my Spirit was heavy                                                        125
     As I turned away;
But my Spirit was brighter
As I saw below me
The glassy Ocean
With a white sail dipping
Against the azure
     Like a sea-bird’s wing—
And all look’d pleasant,
     On sea and land,
The white cloud brooding,
And the white sail dipping,
And the village sitting
     On the yellow sand.

And beside the waters
My Soul saw the fishers
Staring upward,
     With dumb desire,
Tho’ a mile to seaward,                                                          126
With the gulls pursuing,
Shot past the herring
     With a trail like fire;
Tho’ the mighty Sea-snake
With her young was stranded
In the fatal shallows
     Of the shingly bay—
Tho’ their bellies hunger’d,—
     What cared they?

Hard by I noted
Little children,
Toddling and playing
     In a field o’ hay—
The Face was looking,
But they were gazing
At one another,
     And what cared they?
But one I noted,
A little Maiden,                                                                       127
Look’d up o’ sudden
     And ceased her play,
And she dropt her garland
And stood upgazing,
With hair like sunlight,
     And face like clay.

All was most quiet
     In the air,
Save the children’s voices
And the cry of dumb beasts,—
’Twas a weary Sabbath
Each soul an eyeball,
     Each face a stare;—
And I left the place,
     And I wander’d free,
And the Eyes of the Face
     Still followed me!

     At the good Priest’s cottage                                              128
The gray-hair’d grandsire
Lay stiff in the garden—
     For his Soul had fled—
And I cried in passing,
“Oh ye within there,
Come forth in sorrow
     And bury your dead.”
With his flock around him
Praying bareheaded,
The pale Priest, kneeling
     All gaunt and gray,
Answer’d, “Look upward!
Leave the dead to heaven!
God is yonder!
     Behold, and pray!”

I was sick at heart
     To hear and see,
And to feel the Face                                                               129
     Still following me.
And all seemed darkening,
     And my heart sank down,—
As I saw afar off
     A mighty Town—
When with no warning,
Slowly and softly
     The beautiful Face withdrew,
And the whole world darken’d,
And the silence deepen’d,
And the Veil fell downward
     With a silver glimmer of dew.
And I was calmer
As, slowly and sweetly,
Gather’d above me
     Mysterious Light on Light,—
And weary with watching
I lay and slumber’d
In the mellow stillness                                                            130
     Of the blessëd night.

. . When my Soul awaken’d
     In the lonely place,
The Veil was lifted,
     And, behold! the Face—
And sick, heart-weary,
     Onward I ran,
Thro’ fields of harvest
Where the wheat hung wither’d,
     Unreapt by man;
And a ragged Idiot
Went gibbering gaily
     Among the wheat,
In moist palms rubbing
The ears together;
And he laugh’d, and beckon’d
     That I should eat.

     At the city gateway                                                           131
The Sentinels gather’d,
Fearful and drunken
     With eyes like glass—
Look up they dared not,
Lest, to their terror,
Some luminous Angel
     Of awe should pass;
And my Soul passed swiftly
     With a prayer,
And entered the City:—
Still and awful
     Were street and square.
’Twas a piteous Sabbath
Each soul an eyeball,
     Each face a stare.

In pale groups gather’d
     The Citizens,
The rich and poor men,                                                           132
The lords, the lepers
     From their loathsome dens.
There was no traffic,
The heart of the City
     Stood silently;
How could they barter,
How could they traffic,
     With the terrible Eyes to see.
Nay! each man brooded
     On the Face alone,
Each Soul was an eyeball,
     Each Shape was a stone;
And I saw the faces,
     And some were glad,
And some were pensive,
     And some were mad;
But in all places,
     Hall, street, and lane,—
’Twas a frozen pleasure,                                                         133
     A frozen pain.

I passed the bearers
     Of a sable bier,
They had dropt their burthen
     To gaze in fear;
From under the trappings
     Of the death-cloth grand,
With a ring on the finger,
Glimmer’d the corpse’s
     Decaying hand.
I passed the bridal,
     Clad bright and gay,
Frozen to marble
     Upon its way.

Freely I wandered
No mortal heeded                                                                   134
The passing footstep,
Palace and hovel
     Were free as the mountain air.
Aye! softly I enter’d
     The carven court of stone,
And the fountains were splashing,
And the pale King sitting
     Upon his jewell’d throne—
And before him gather’d
The Frail and Sickly,
     The Poor and Old;
And he open’d great coffers,
And gave thence freely
     Fine gear and gold,—
Saying, “’Tis written,
Who giveth freely
Shall in sooth be blessëd
But he look’d not upward,
And seem’d unconscious                                                         135
Of the strange Eyes watching
     O’er sea and land;
Yet his eyelids quiver’d,
And his eyes looked sidelong,
And he hid in his bosom
     A blood-stained hand;
But the beggar people
Let the gold and raiment
Lie all unheeded;
     While with no speech,
Upward they lifted
Their wild pale features,
For the Face was mirror’d
     In the eyes of each.

With the Face pursuing
I wandered onward,
     Heart-sick, heart-sore,
And entered the fretted
     Cathedral door;                                                                 136
And I found the people
Huddled together,
Hiding their faces
     In shame and sin,
For thro’ the painted
Cathedral windows
The Eyes of Wonder
     Were looking in!
And on the Altar
The wild Priest, startled,
Was gazing round him
     With sickly stare,
And his limbs were palsied,
And he moaned for mercy—
More wonder-stricken
     Than any there.

Then I fell at the Altar,
     And wept, and murmur’d,
“My Soul, how fares it,                                                            137
     This day, with thee?
Art thou contented
     To live and see,
Or were it better
     Not to be?”
And my pale Soul whisper’d:
“Like a band that holdeth                                                      [17:10]
And keepeth from growing
     A goodly tree,—
A terror hath me—
I feel not, stir not—
’Twere surely better
     Not to be!”

Then a rush of visions
     Went wildly by—
My Soul beheld the marble World,
     And the luminous Face on high.
And methought, affrighted,                                                     138
     That the mortal race
Built cover’d cities
     To hide the Face;
And gather’d their treasures
     Of silver and gold,
And sat amid them
     In caverns cold;
And ever nightly,
When the Face of Wonder
     Withdrew from man,
Many started,
And hideous revel
     Of the dark began.
And men no longer
Knew the common sorrow,
The common yearning,
     The common love,
But each man’s features
Were turn’d to marble,
Changelessly watching                                                            139
     The Face above—
A nameless trouble
     Was in the air—
The heart of the World
Had no pulsation—
’Twas a piteous Sabbath


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 17, l. 10: ‘Like a band that holdest ]






I awoke.                                                                               [1:1]

                   And rising,
     My Soul look’d forth—
’Twas the dewy darkness,
And the Veil was glittering
     Over the earth;
But afar off eastward
The Dawn was glimmering,
     All silver pale,
And slowly fading
With a mystic tremor,
The Lights gleam’d beautiful
     In the wondrous Veil.
Yea, Dawn came cheerly,                                                      [2:13]
And the hill-tops brighten’d,
And the shepherds shouted,                                                   141
     And a trumpet blew,
And the misty Ocean
Caught silver tremors,
With the brown-sail’d fish-boats
     Glimmering thro’—
And the City murmur’d
As I ran unto it,
And my heart was merry,
     And my fears were few;
And singing gaily
The lark rose upward,
Its brown wings gleaming
     With the morning dew!


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. 1: [verse break omitted] I AWOKE. And rising,
v. 2, l. 13: Yea, Dawn came cheerily, ]






Late in the gloaming of the year,
Orm haunts the melancholy Mere,
A phantom he, where phantoms brood,
In that soul-searching solitude.
To the cold Spirit far away
He prayeth, all an autumn day.


In Volume III of the 1874 Poetical Works (H. S. King) the ‘Coruisken Sonnets’ were separated from ‘The Book of Orm’ and were preceded by the Proem which introduced ‘The Book of Orm’ section in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan. The title page (following the ‘Proem’) appears as follows, with an amended introductory verse:





Late in the gloaming of the year,
I haunt the melancholy Mere;
A Phantom I, where phantoms brood,
In that soul-searching solitude.
Hiding my forehead in the dim
Hem of His robe, I question Him!

On the following page there is this note:

‘For a detailed description of Loch Coruisk, see the writer’s Prose Works, Volume 5 of this collection.’

A collected edition of Buchanan’s ‘Prose Works’ was never published, but this note probably refers to The Land of Lorne: including the cruise of the ‘Tern’ to the Outer Hebrides (Chapman and Hall, 1871). In the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan, the arrangement is the same (apart from the ‘Proem’), the ‘Coruisken Sonnets’ appearing as a separate section before ‘The Book of Orm’, with the addition of the date, ‘1870’ and an amended footnote:

‘For a detailed description of Loch Coruisk, see the writer’s Prose Works, Volume v.’

For a photo of Loch Coruisk, details of how to get there, and a description of ‘that dread lake’ from Picturesque Scotland (published in 1887), click the link below.]

Loch Coruisk









Lord, is it Thou? God, do I touch indeed
     Thy raiment hem, that melts like vapour dark?                               [2]
O homeless Spirit, that fleest us in our need,
     Pause! answer! while I kneel, remain and mark. . .
     Father! . . Ere back they bear me, cold and stark,
Across Thy darken’d threshold,—ere I plead
     For love no longer, pity me, and heark!
Surviving the long tale of craft and creed,
The gaunt Hills gather round me, dumb and grey,—                           [9]
     The Waters utter their monotonous moan,—
     The immemorial Heavens, with no groan,
Bent sweet eyes down, as on their natal day:                                     [12]
     Cold are all these as clay, and still as stone;                                   [13]
But I have found a voice, and I will pray.                                            [14]


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 2: Thy raiment hem, that rolls like vapour dark?
l. 9: The dumb Hills gather round me, gaunt and gray,—
l. 12: Bend dim eyes down, as on their natal day:
l. 13: Cold are all these as snow, and still as stone;
l. 14: But I have found a voice—to plead, to pray. ]






I found Thee not by the starved widow’s bed,
     Nor in the sick-rooms where my dear ones died;
In Cities vast I hearken’d for Thy tread,
     And heard a thousand call Thee, wretched-eyed,
Worn out, and bitter. But the Heavens denied
     Their melancholy Maker. From the Dead
     Assurance came, nor answer. Then I fled
Into these wastes, and raised my hands, and cried:
“The seasons pass—the sky is as a pall—
     Thin wasted hands on withering hearts we press—
There is no God—in vain we plead and call,
     In vain with weary eyes we search and guess—
Like children in an empty house sit all,
     Cast-away children, lorn and fatherless.”






Children indeed are we—children that wait
     Within a wondrous dwelling, while on high
     Stretch the sad vapours and the homeless sky;                               [3]
The House is fair, yet all is desolate
Because our Father comes not; clouds of fate
     Sadden above us—shivering we hear                                           [6]
The passing rain, the wind that shakes the gate,                                   [7]
     And cry to one another “He is near!”                                            [8]
At early morning, with a shining Face,
     He left us innocent and lily-crown’d;
And now ’tis late—night cometh on apace—
     We hold each other’s hands and look around,
Frighted at our own shades! Heaven send us grace!
     When He returns, all will be sleeping sound.


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 3: Stretch the sad vapours and the voiceless sky;
l. 6: Sadden above us—shivering we espy
l. 7: The passing rain, the cloud before the gate,
l. 8: And cry to one another, ‘He is nigh!’ ]






When He returns, and finds all sleeping here—                                  [1]
Some old, some young, some fair, and some not fair,                    [2]
Will He stoop down and whisper in each ear
     “Awaken!” or for pity’s sake forbear,—
     Saying, “How shall I meet their frozen stare
Of wonder, and their eyes so woebegone?                                        [6]
     How shall I comfort them in their despair,
If they cry out, ‘too late! let us sleep on?’”                                         [8]
Perchance He will not wake us up, but when
     He sees us look so happy in our rest,
Will murmur, “Poor dead women and dead men!
     Dire was their doom, and weary was their quest.
Wherefore awake them unto life again?
     Let them sleep on untroubled—it is best.”


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 1: WHEN He returns, and finds the World so drear—
l. 2: All sleeping,—young and old, unfair and fair,
l. 6: Of wonder, and their eyes so full of fear?
l. 8: If they cry out, “Too late! let us sleep here”?’ ]






But ye,—ye Hills that gather round this day,
     Ye Mountains, and ye Vapours, and ye Waves,
Ye will attest the wrongs of men of clay,
     When, in a World all hush’d, sits on our graves
     The melancholy Maker. From your caves
Strange echoes of our old lost life shall come;
     With still eyes fixed on your vast architraves,
Nature shall speak, though mortal lips be dumb.
Then God will cry: “Sadly the Waters fall,
     Sadly the Mountains keep their snowy state,
The Clouds pass on, the Winds and Echoes call,
     The World is sweet, yet wearily I wait.
Tho’ all is fair, and I am Lord of all,
     Without my Children I am desolate.”






Desolate! How the Peaks of ashen grey,
     The smoky Mists that drift from hill to hill,
The Waters dark, anticipate this day
     That sullen desolation. O how still
     The shadows come and vanish, with no will!
How still the melancholy Waters lie                                                    [6]
How still the vapours of the under-sky                                               [7]
     Mirror’d below, drift onward, and fulfil                                        [8]
Thy mandate as they mingle!—Not a sound,
     Save that deep murmur of a torrent near,
Deepening silence. Hush! the dark profound
     Groans, as some grey crag loosens and falls sheer
To the abyss. Wildly I look around.
     O Spirit of the Human, art Thou here?                                         [14]


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 6: How still the Waters watch the heaven’s array!
l. 7: How still the melancholy vapours stray,
l. 8: Mirror’d below, and drifting on, fulfil
l. 14: O Spirit of the Human, are Thou here? ]






Lord, art Thou here? far from the busy crowd,                                  [1]
Brooding in melancholy solitude;
Darkening Thy visage with a thunder-cloud,                                       [3]
Holding Thy breath, if mortal foot intrude.                                    [4]
Father, how shall I meet Thee in this mood?
How shall I ask Thee why Thou dwell’st with stones,
While far away the world, like Lazarus, groans,
     Sick for Thy healing. Father, if Thou be’st good,
And wise, and gentle, O come down, come down!
     Come like an Angel with a human face,
Pass thro’ the gates into the hungry Town,
     Comfort the weary, send the afflicted grace,
Shine brighter on the Graves where we lay down
     Our dear ones, cheer them in the narrow place!


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 1: LORD
, art Thou here? far from the citied zones,
l. 3: Hushing Thy breath to awful undertones,
l. 4: Darkening Thy face, if mortal foot intrude. ]






O Thou art beautiful! and Thou dost bestow
     Thy beauty on this stillness—still as sheep
     The Hills lie under Thee; the Waters deep
Murmur for joy of Thee; the voids below
Mirror Thy strange fair Vapours as they flow;
     And now, afar upon the ashen height,                                            [6]
     Thou sendest down a radiant look of light,
So that the still Peaks glisten, and a glow
Rose-colour’d tints the little snowy cloud
     That poises on the highest peak of all.
O Thou art beautiful!—the Hills are bowed
     Beneath Thee; on Thy name the soft Winds call—
The monstrous Ocean trumpets it aloud,
     The Rains and Snows intone it as they fall.


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 6: And now, afar upon the barren height, ]






Here by the sunless Lake there is no air,
     Yet with how ceaseless motion, with how strange                         [2]
     Flowing and fading, do the high Mists range                                 [3]
The gloomy gorges of the Mountains bare.                                         [4]
Some weary breathing never ceases there,—
     The ashen peaks can feel it hour by hour;                                     [6]
     The purple depths are darken’d by its power;
A soundless breath, a trouble all things share
That feel it come and go. See! onward swim
     The ghostly Mists, from silent land to land,
From gulf to gulf; now the whole air grows dim—
     Like living men, darkling a space, they stand.
But lo! a Sunbeam, like a Cherubim,                                                  [13]
     Scatters them onward with a flaming brand.


Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 2: Yet with how ceaseless motion, like a shower
l. 3: Flowing and fading, do the high Mists lower
l. 4: Amid the gorges of the Mountains bare.
l. 6: The barren peaks can feel it hour by hour;
l. 13: But lo! a Sunbeam, like the Cherubim, ]






I think this is the very stillest place
     On all God’s earth, and yet no rest is here.
The Vapours mirror’d in the black loch’s face
     Drift on like frantic shapes and disappear;
     A never-ceasing murmur in mine ear
Tells me of Waters wild that flow and flow.                                        [6]
     There is no rest at all afar or near,
Only a sense of things that moan and go.
And lo! the still small life these limbs contain
     I feel flows on like those, restless and proud;                                 [10]
Before that breathing nought within my brain
     Pauses, but all drifts on like mist and cloud;
Only the bald Peaks and the Stones remain,
     Frozen before Thee, desolate and bowed.                                     [14]


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 6: Tells me of waters wild that ebb and flow;
l. 10: Is flowing on as those, restless and proud;
l. 14: Frozen and silent, desolate and bow’d. ]






And whither, O ye Vapours! do ye wend?
     Stirred by that weary breathing, whither away?
     And whither, O ye Dreams! that night and day
Drift o’er the troublous life, tremble, and blend
To broken lineaments of that far Friend,
     Whose strange breath’s come and go ye feel so deep?                 [6]
     O Soul! that hast no rest and seekest sleep,                                  [7]
Whither? and will thy wanderings ever end?
All things that be are full of a quick pain;
     Onward we fleet, swift as the running rill,—
The vapours drift, the mists within the brain
     Float on obscuringly and have no will.
Only the bare Peaks and the Stones remain;
     These only,—and a God sublime and still.                                    [14]


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 6: Whose strange breath’s flux and reflux ye obey?
l. 7: O sleepless Soul! in the world's waste astray,
l. 14: These only,—and a God sublimely still.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 6: Whose strange breath’s come and go ye must obey? ]






O Thou art pitiless! They call Thee Light,
     Law, Justice, Love; but Thou art pitiless.
What thing of earth is precious in Thy sight,
     But weary waiting on and soul’s distress?
     When dost Thou come with glorious hands to bless
The good man that dies cold for lack of Thee?
     When bring’st Thou garlands for our happiness?
Whom dost Thou send but Death to set us free?
Blood runs like wine—foul spirits sit and rule—
     The weak are crushed in every street and lane—
He who is generous becomes the fool
     Of all the world, and gives his life in vain.
Wert Thou as good as Thou art beautiful,
     Thou couldst not bear to look upon such pain.






Yea, Thou art pitiless—Thou dost permit
     The Priest to use Thee as a hangman’s cord—
Thou proppest up the Layman’s shallow wit,
     Driving the Beggar from the laden board,
     Thou art the easy text of those who hoard
Their gifts in secret chests for Death to see.
     “Mighty and strong and glorious is the Lord!”
The Prophet cries, gone mad for lack of Thee;
While good men dying deem thy grace a dream,
While sick men wail for Thee and mad blaspheme,
     A thousand forms of Thee the foolish preach—
Fair stretch Thy temples over all the lands,
In each of these some barbarous Image stands,
     And men grow atheists in the shrine of each.






Can I be calm, beholding everywhere
     Disease and Anguish busy, early and late?
     Can I be silent, nor compassionate
The evils that both Soul and Body bear?
O what have sickly Children done, to share
     Thy cup of sorrows? yet their dull, sad pain
Makes the earth awful;—on the tomb’s dark stair
     Moan Idiots, with no glimmer in the brain.
No shrill Priest with his hangman’s cord can beat
     Thy mercy into these—ah nay, ah nay!
The Angels Thou hast sent to haunt the street
     Are Hunger and Distortion and Decay.
Lord! that mad’st Man, and send’st him foes so fleet,
     Who shall judge Thee upon Thy judgment-day?






Ghostly and livid, robed with shadow, see!
     Each mighty Mountain silent on its throne,
     From foot to scalp one stretch of livid stone,
Without one gleam of grass or greenery.
Silent they take the immutable decree—
     Darkness or sunlight come,—they do not stir;
Each bare brow lifted desolately free,
     Keepeth the silence of a death-chamber.
Silent they watch each other until doom;
     They see each other’s phantoms come and go,
Yet stir not. Now the stormy hour brings gloom,
     Now all things grow confused and black below,
Specific through the cloudy Drift they loom,
     And each accepts his individual woe.






Monarch of these is Blaabhein. On his height
     The lightning and the snow sleep side by side,
Like snake and lamb; he broodeth in a white                                      [3]
     And wintry consecration. All his pride
Is husht this dimly-gleaming autumn day—
     He thinketh of the things he hath beheld—                                     [6]
Beneath his feet the Rains crawl still and grey,
     Like phantoms of the mighty men of eld;
A quiet awe the dreadful heights doth fill,
     The high clouds pause and brood above their King;
The torrent murmurs gently as a rill;
     Softly and low the winds are murmuring;
A small black speck above the snow, how still
     Hovers the Eagle, with no stir of wing!


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems and the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 3: Like snake and lamb; he waiteth in a white
l. 6: He broodeth o’er the things he hath beheld— ]






Watch but a moment—all is changed! A moan
     Breaketh the beauty of that noonday dream;
The hoary Titan darkens on his throne,
     And with an indistinct and senile scream
     Gazes at the wild Rains as past they stream,
Thro’ vaporous air wild-blowing on his brow;
     All black, from scalp to base there is no gleam,
Even his silent snows are faded now.
Watch yet!—and yet!—Behold, and all is done—
     ’Twas but the shallow shapes that come and go,
         Troubling the mimic picture in the eye.
Still and untroubled sits the kingly one.
     Yonder the Eagle floats—there sleeps the Snow
         Against the pale green of the cloudless sky.





O hoary Hills, tho’ ye look aged, ye
     Are but the children of a latter time—
     Methinks I see ye in that hour sublime
When from the hissing cauldron of the Sea
Ye were upheaven, while so terribly
     The Clouds boiled, and the Lightning scorched ye bare.                [6]
Wild, new-born, blind, Titans in agony,
     Ye glared at heaven through folds of fiery hair! . .
Then, in an instant, while ye trembled thus
A Hand from heaven, white and luminous,
     Pass’d o’er your brows, and husht your fiery breath.
Lo! one by one the still Stars gather’d round,
The great Deep glass’d itself, and with no sound
     A cold Snow glimmering fell, and all was still as death.                [14]


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 6: The clouds boil’d, and the lightning scorch’d you bare.
l. 14: A cold snow fell, till all was still as death.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 14: A cold Snow fell, and all was still as death. ]






All power, all virtue, is repression—ye
     Are stationary, and God keeps ye great;                                     [2]
Around your heads the fretful winds play free;
     Ye change not—ye are calm and desolate.                                  [4]
     What seems to us a trouble and a fate,
Is but the loose fog streaming from your feet                                      [6]
     And drifting onward—early ye sit and late,
While unseen Winds waft past the things that fleet.
So sit for ever, still and passionless
As He that made ye—thought and soul’s distress                             [10]
     Ye know not, though ye contemplate the strife;
Better to share the Spirit’s bitterest aches—
Better to be the weakest Wave that breaks
     On a wild Ocean of mysterious Life.                                           [14]


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 2: Are stationary, and God keeps you great;
l. 4: You change not—you are calm and desolate.
l. 6: Is but the loose dust streaming from your feet
l. 10 : As He that made you!—thought and soul’s distress
l. 14: On a wild Ocean of tempestuous Life.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
l. 6: Is but the loose dust streaming from your feet
l. 10 : As He that made you!—thought and soul’s distress
l. 14: On a wild Ocean of tempestuous Life. ]






Father, if Thou imperturbable art,                                                       [1]
     Passive as these, lords of a lonely land—
If, having laboured, Thou must sit apart—
     If having once open’d the void, and planned
     This tragedy, Thou must impassive stand
Spectator of the scenic flow of things,
     Then I—a drop of dew, a grain of sand—
Pity Thy lot, poor palsied King of Kings.
Better to fail and fail, to shriek and shriek,
     Better to break, like any Wave, and go,—                                    [10]
Impotent godhead, let Thy slave be weak!—
     Yea, do not freeze my Soul, but let it flow—
O wherefore call to Thee, a mountain Peak
     Impassive, beautiful, serene with snow?


Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
l. 1: Father, if imperturbable thou art,
l. 10: Better to break, break like a wave, and go,— ]



The Book of Orm - ‘Coruisken Sonnets’ continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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