Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BIRTHDAY LINES TO AGNES BAILLIE, by JOANNA BAILLIE



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BIRTHDAY LINES TO AGNES BAILLIE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Dear agnes, gleam'd with joy and dash'd with tears
Last Line: Of such investment, eye had ne'er perceived.
Subject(s): Birthdays


DEAR Agnes, gleam'd with joy and dash'd with tears,
O'er us have glided almost sixty years
Since we on Bothwell's bonny braes were seen,
By those whose eyes long closed in death have been,
Two tiny imps, who scarcely stoop'd to gather
The slender hair-bell on the purple heather;
No taller than the foxglove's spiky stem,
That dew of morning studs with silvery gem.
Then every butterfly that cross'd our view
With joyful shout was greeted as it flew,
And moth and lady-bird and beetle bright
In sheeny gold were each a wondrous sight.
Then as we paddled barefoot, side by side,
Among the sunny shallows of the Clyde,
Minnows or spotted paur with twinkling fin,
Swimming in mazzy rings the pool within,
A thrill of gladness through our bosom sent,
Seen in the power of early wonderment. . . .

'T was thou who woo'dst me first to look
Upon the page of printed book,
That thing by me abhorred, and with address
Didst win me from my thoughtless idleness,
When all too old become with bootless haste
In fitful sports the precious time to waste.
Thy love of tale and story was the stroke
At which my dormant fancy first awoke,
And ghosts and witches in my busy brain
Arose in sombre show, a motley train.
This new-found path attempting, proud was I,
Lurking approval on thy face to spy,
Or hear thee say, as grew thy roused attention,
"What! is this story all thine own invention!"

Then, as advancing through this mortal span,
Our intercourse with the mix'd world began,
Thy fairer face and sprightlier courtesy,
(A truth that from my youthful vanity
Lay not concealed) did for the sisters twain,
Where'er we went, the greater favour gain;
While, but for thee, vex'd with its tossing tide,
I from the busy world had shrunk aside.
And how in later years, with better grace
Thou help'st me still to hold a welcome place
With those whom nearer neighbourhood has made
The friendly cheerers of our evening shade.

With thee my humours, whether grave or gay,
Or gracious or untoward, have their way.
Silent, if dull -- O precious privilege!
I sit by thee; or if, cull'd from the page
Of some huge, ponderous tome which, but thyself,
None e'er had taken from its dusty shelf,
Thou read me curious passages to speed
The winter night, I take but little heed
And thankless say, "I cannot listen now,"
'T is no offence; albeit, much do I owe
To these, thy nightly offerings of affection,
Drawn from thy ready talent for selection;
For still it seem'd in thee a natural gift
The letter'd grain from letter'd chaff to sift.

By daily use and circumstance endear'd,
Things are of value now that once appear'd
Of no account, and without notice past,
Which o'er dull life a simple cheering cast;
To hear thy morning steps the stair descending,
Thy voice with other sounds domestic blending;
After each stated nightly absence, met
To see thee by the morning table set,
Pouring from smoky spout the amber stream
Which sends from saucered cup its fragrant steam,
To see thee cheerly on the threshold stand,
On summer morn, with trowel in thy hand
For garden-work prepared; in winter's gloom
From thy cold noon-day walk to see thee come,
In furry garment lapt, with spatter'd feet,
And by the fire resume thy wonted seat;
Ay, even o'er things like these, soothed age has thrown
A sober charm they did not always own,
As winter hoar-frost makes minutest spray
Of bush or hedge-weed sparkle to the day,
In magnitude and beauty, which bereaved
Of such investment, eye had ne'er perceived.





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