Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

The Gaberlunzie's Walk - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell

The Laird is dead, the laird is dead,
An' dead is cousin John,
His henchmen ten, an' his sax merrie men,
Forbye the steward's son.


An' his ain guid gray that he strode sae gay
When hunt was up an' on,
An' the win' blew fair, an' the grews pu'd sair,
An' dawn was on Maol-don,
An' the skeigh steeds neigh'd, an' the slot-hounds bay'd,
An' up gaed the mornin' sun,
An' awa' gaed the deer wi' the merrie men's cheer,
Awa' owre the auld Maol-don,
An' awa' wi' a shout ran the rabble an' the rout,
An' awa' rode cousin John,
Wi' his horn, his horn, thro' the merry merry morn,
His hunter's horn sae shrill!
An' 't was 'Ho, heigho, hereawa',
Hereawa', hereawa'!
Ho, heigho, hereawa'!'
A' roun' the hill!


Walie! walie! they're a' gane dead,
A' owre the seas an' awa'
The laird an' his men, the sax an' the ten,
They gaed to fight and to fa'.
An' walie, an' wae, an' hech! the weary day!
The laird is dead an' a'!


A' in ae grave by the margent o' the wave
Thegither they lay doun,
Sax feet deep, where dead men sleep,
A' i' the faeman's grun'.


Foremost i' the van, wi' his bagpipes i' his han',
The steward's ae braw son,
An' next the young laird-gin the guid Lord had spared!-
A' as he led them on,
Wi' his bonnie brow bare an' his lang fair hair,
An' his bluidy braid-sword drawn;
An' hard by his chief, that in life was sae lief,
In death cam cousin John,
Wi' his horn, his horn, thro' the merry merry morn,
His hunter's horn sae shrill
When 't was 'Ho, heigho, hereawa',
Hereawa', hereawa'!'
Ho, heigho, hereawa'!'
A' roun' the hill!


Gin ony uphauld the young Laird lies cauld,
An' cauld lies cousin John,
Sax feet deep, as dead men sleep,
A' i' the faeman's grun,'
A' in ae grave by the margent o' the wave,
Where doun they lay that day,
Wi' the henchmen ten, an' the sax merrie men,
Ask the gaberlunzie gray.
Step an' step, step an' step, gaed the gaberlunzie gray,
Faint an lame, wi' empty wame, he hirples on his way.
Step an' step, step an' step, an' owre the hill maun he,
His head is bent, his pipe is brent, he has na a bawbee.
Step an' step, step an' step, he totters thro' the mirk,
He hears the fox amang the cocks, the houlet by the kirk.
Step an' step, step an' step, an' as he climbs the hill
The auld auld moon is gaun doun; the nicht grows cauld an' still,
The breathin' kye aroun' him lie, the ingle-light is gane,
He wakes the yowes amang the knowes, an' still he gangs his lane.
His slow steps rouse the blethrin' grouse, the peewit fa's an' squeals,
The nicht-goat bleats amang the peats, an' still he speils an' speils,
Step an' step, step an' step, an' up the craigie stark,
An' mony a stane ane after ane gangs snirtlin' doun the dark.
Step an' step, step an' step, that gaberlunzie gray,
A' win's seem tint far far ahint as he gangs on his way.
He hears the burn amang the fern, he hears the stoatie cheep,
He hears the rustle, an' flit an' fussle, as the kae shifts her roost in her sleep.
Step an' step, step an' step, he gangs wi' troubled breath,
He feels the silence a' aboon, he feels the warl beneath;
Wheet an' wheet about his feet the startit mousie ran,
An' as he gaes his riskin' claes aye gar him start an' stan';
An' as he stan's wi' knotted han's, an' leans his chitterin' head,
He hears the sod his steps have trod a-tirlin' to his tread;
An' crisp foot-fa', an' sibblin sma' o' stealthy cony crappin',
An' click o' bat aboon his hat, like fairy fingers snappin',
An' ilka yird that ticked an' stirred, where swairdie there is nae,
As elfin shools the tittlin' mools gar'd rinkle doun the brae;
An' safter soun' alang the groun' the grass-taps thro' an' thro',
Gin owre the fiel's the wee bit chiel's were dealin' out the dew.
Step an' step, step an' step, an' hech! his freezin' bluid!
He gaes into the silence as ane gaes into a wood.
The mair the height, mair still the nicht, an' faster did he gang,
Step an' step, an' then a step, an' he listens hard an' lang!
He listens twice, he listens thrice, but why he disna ken;
His cauld skin skeared, an' clipped his beard; he stops an' lists agen.
There's somethin' creepin' thro' his banes, there's somethin' stirs his hair:
'Tis mair than use, he canna choose, he listens ten times mair!
He pits his pack fra his auld back, he sits him on a stane,
His eyelids fa', he gapes his jaw, an' harks wi' might an' main,
The mair he list the mair uprist his gray-locks wi' affright,
Till ilka hair that he might wear was stiff an' stark upright.
His sick heart stops, the low moon drops, the nicht is eerie chill!
Wi' sudden shout the dead cry out, like hunters at a kill,
Full cry, full cry, the win's sweep by, a horn, a horn is shrill!
An' 'tis 'Ho, heigho, hereawa',
Hereawa', hereawa'!
Ho, heigho, hereawa'!'
A' roun' the hill!


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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