THE GLOOMY FOREST
By John MacLean
Lone, brooding mid the gloom of forest verdure, My moods are fitful, and my soul is wan;
I've got this place which stands at strife with nature, And all my native powers of mind are gone.
I cannot now construct a song with order; And if I should begin the heart grows sore;
The Gaelic too, I've lost, as used o'er yonder, In that far mountain land in years of yore.
My thought will not resume it's ordered vigour, Although I once was skilled in forming rhyme;
My joys grow less, my sorrows always bigger, Cut off from converse filling full the time.
Each day, each night with every new adventure, Come back those cherished memories of thee,
The land I left beside the old salt water, Though I am in a valley far from the sea.
It is small wonder then that I am weary In this poor bothie here behind the hill,
By Barney's River, on a desert dreary, With naught but bare potatoes for us still.
Before I plough the ground and reap it's fruitage, Or fearsome wood be rooted from his base,
My arms, despite their strength, will lost their vantage And fail before my children find their place.
Her lies the land wherein is cruel hardship, Which people coming hither do not know;
And evil be their deeds in guise of friendship, Who their false allurements wrought our woe.
No good that lasts, will unto them be given, Nor will whatever gains they've won endure,
For from each point to which their pawns are driven Shall come a curse upon their heads for sure.
They with such pledges strong their words as sever That things seem great by virtue of their name,
They tell you that your erstwhile friends'endeavour Has brought them freedom, happiness and fame.
Each story strange is told in such a fashion That you might wish to follow in their trail;
Yet if you could but once behold their portion You'd find it worse than yonder without fail.
And when these human drovers hunt their quarry It is with lies alone they will succeed;
Without a word of truth their tale they carry, The heart condemning what the tongue doth speed.
And though they value things beyond believing, As best of all on which the sun shines bright,
Yet little you would see upon arriving But standing forest shutting out the light.
When winter comes, the time when tempests hover, The snows mount to the branches up, and through;
Rise, thick and heavy, to the knees and over, And good though trousers be they will not do,
Apart from moccasins, to stand the weather; Thongs tightly drawn, and double stockings worn,
Complete the style, with hairy hide for leather But yesterday from off the brute fresh torn.
Unless I guard myself 'gainst winter's anger My nose and mouth will suffer from the blast;
The bitter North wind roars with constant danger, And oft upon my face doth whiteness cast,
The frost is fierce and keen beyond all speaking, And though the axe of hardest steel be made,
By warmth alone can one prevent it's breaking, Or blunting, till the smith must mend the blade.
When summer comes, in May, with heat and moisture, The sultry sunshine leaves me faint and spent;
But it puts spirit into every creature, Which in his den of sleep has long been pent.
The brutish bear, at last aroused from slumber, Goes forth amid the flock to kill and eat;
The insects, swift and pointed, without number, Like poisoned arrows, wound from head to feet
So deeply and so harshly am I bitten I cannot see the world in which I move;
Their weapons have my face so fiercely smitten That venom enters every secret groove.
I cannot count in verse the beasts on pinions, Nor all the loathsome brutes that lift their heads-
Like plagues that followed Pharaoh and his minions Till in the sea they drowned with those they led.
So many changes are there now to ponder, Of which I scarce had dreamed far over sea;
For I had thought that when I chose to wander, I would full soon be noble, rich and free.
Yet all the moves I made brought little profit; This trip across the ocean was absurd-
I reached a land of trees but chained my spirit, And found myself with neither clothes nor herd.
I must take many steps, and these the hardest, Before I have my property in hand;
Rough toil must come before I reap a harvest, Or plough can find a clearing on the land.
The piling of burnt logs upon each other, Doth weaken all the sinews of my back;
The grime and charcoal so upon me gather, That, like a common chimney-sweep, I'm black.
Great stories were they which they told in Scotland, Although events have proven them untrue,
Of dollars green, in motion by the thousand, Which none this side the water ever knew.
What bargains did we hear of before leaving! But price cannot be gauged unto this hour;
If aught from us the shops will be receiving They'll pay for it with butter or with flour.
I shall not see a market here, nor ever Behold the cattle driven to the fair;
The things that we had prized the cost come never, For people are reduced beyond repair.
The grudge against the poor continues steady, Though yielding what belongs to them by right;
And creditors, still counting heads, are ready, With prison threats, to take their utmost mite.
Before the case to court-house is remitted, That justice may receive a two-fold meed,
By law and through the jury is permitted, That plundering, unrestricted, might proceed.
Both up and down the sheriff stalks the country, Demanding that the uttermost be paid;
And I am more than fearful lest his entry, Upon my land would leave me all unmade.
In such a song as this I cannot mention, Nor order all the things I have to tell,
To which I wish to call my friends' attention, With whom when I was young I loved to dwell.
Attend to reason all who hear my story, And do not hearken to the tempters' lies;
False prophets they, who lure you by vain glory; Your gold alone, not you, they seek and prize.
Although my greatest effort I should proffer, Extending to a month of time or more,
I could not finish what I have to offer, Nor give to you the language of my lore.
A secret sadness moves in all my being, For I must yield through life to forces wrong;
Nor doth the wood delight the soul with seeing, Since none desires the music of our song.
One finds it not as in the land long vanished, Where all could join in jest and mirthful glee,
At tables from which every care was banished, By gentle, joyous friends in converse free;
And though I turned from these my heart was failing, With deep and tearful grief the eyes were sore,
That Thursday morning, far from Caolas sailing, To moaning winds that blew from off the shore.