“God is Departed from Me, and Answereth Me No More”

11-27 Hamilton
Janet Hamilton
Scots
1795 – 1873

 

A King has sought at midnight hour
The sorceress in her cell,
And bids invoke the Prophet’s shade,
His coming doom to tell.
He bows before the spectral form,
He speaks in anguish sore—
“God is departed from me,
And answereth me no more.”

Dark words—how pregnant with despair!
How fraught with hopeless woe!
Stern spake the spirit-seer—”What hope
When God He is thy foe?
And wherefore seek to know thy doom,
For this thou knew’st before?
“ ‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“The word which God hath spoke by me
He hath confirmed and done—
He rends the kingdom from thy hand;
His own anointed one,
Even David, he shall fill thy throne;
Thy reign, thy life is o’er—
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more!’

“Since thou obey’dst not God, nor didst
His high behest fulfil,
He gives thy host, thy sons, thy life,
Up to the enemies’ will.
Thy soul, ere midnight glooms again,
Shall wing th’ eternal shore.
‘God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.’“

He faints, he falls, on earth he lies,
That stately, peerless form,
Which oft had tower’d in Israel’s van
And ruled in battles’ storm.
Oh kingly oak! the thunder fires
Have scathed thine inmost core.
“God is departed from thee,
And answereth thee no more.”

Who runs may read this awful truth,
In lines of lightning traced,
The spoken, written Word of God,
Though trampled, scorn’d, defaced
By men of sin and pride, the earth
Shall burn, the heavens decay,
Ere Word of God, to man reveal’d,
Shall fail or pass away.

Late Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 60th birthday.

11-09 Kay
Jackie Kay
Scots
b. 1961

 

How they strut about, people in love,
How tall they grow, pleased with themselves,
Their hair, glossy, their skin shining.
They don’t remember who they have been.

How filmic they are just for this time.
How important they’ve become – secret, above
The order of things, the dreary mundane.
Every church bell ringing, a fresh sign.
How dull the lot that are not in love.
Their clothes shabby, their skin lustreless;
How clueless they are, hair a mess; how they trudge
Up and down the streets in the rain,

remembering one kiss in a dark alley,
A touch in a changing room, if lucky, a lovely wait
For the phone to ring, maybe, baby.
The past with its rush of velvet, its secret hush
Already miles away, dimming now, in the late day.

Mrs. Tilscher’s Class

We present this work in honor of the International Day of the Girl.

10-11 Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy
Scots
b. 1955

 

You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery.
Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswân.
That for an hour, then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweet shop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she’d left a good gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone’s nonsense heard from another form.

Over the Easter term, the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce,
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.

That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.

Pirate Story

We present this work in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

09-19 Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson
Scots
1850 – 1894

 

Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us aboard in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.

Where shall we adventure, to-day that we’re afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?

Hi! but here’s a squadron a-rowing on the sea—
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we’ll escape them, they’re as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.

The Maiden’s Vow

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 255th birthday.

Carolina Oliphant
Scots
1766 – 1845

I’ve made a vow, I’ll keep it true,
I’ll never married be;
For the only ane that I think on
Will never think o’ me.

Now gane to a far distant shore,
Their face nae mair I’ll see;
But often will I think o’ them,
That winna think o’ me.

Gae owre, gae owre noo, gude Sir John,
Oh, dinna follow me;
For the only ane I ere thocht on,
Lies buried in the sea.

from The Lay of the Last Minstrel

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 250th birthday.

Sir Walter Scott
Scots
1771 – 1832

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

The Banks o’ Doon

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-21 Burns
Robert Burns
Scots
1759 – 1796

 

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Aft hae I rov’d by Bonie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine:
And ilka bird sang o’ its Luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine;
Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree!
And may fause Luver staw my rose,
But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.

Ilka Blade o’ Grass Keps Its Ain Drap o’ Dew

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 215th birthday.

06-11 Ballantine
James Ballantine
Scots
1806 – 1877

 

Confide ye aye in Providence, for Providence is kind,
And bear ye a’ life’s changes, wi’ a calm and tranquil mind,
Though pressed and hemmed on every side, ha’e faith and ye ‘ll win through,
For ilka blade o’ grass keps its ain drap o’ dew.

Gin reft frae friends or crest in love, as whiles nae doubt ye’ve been,
Grief lies deep hidden in your heart or tears flow frae your een,
Believe it for the best, and trow there’s good in store for you,
For ilka blade o’ grass keps its ain drap o’ dew.
In lang, lang days o’ simmer, when the clear and cloudless sky
Refuses ae wee drap o’ rain to nature parched and dry,
The genial night, wi’ balmy breath, gars verdure spring anew,
And ilka blade o’ grass keps its ain drap o’ dew.

Sae, lest ‘mid fortune’s sunshine we should feel owre proud and hie,
And in our pride forget to wipe the tear frae poortith’s ee,
Some wee dark clouds o’ sorrow come, we ken na whence or hoo,
But ilka blade o’ grass keps its ain drap o’ dew.

Music, in a Foreign Language

Andrew Crumey
Scots
b. 1961

 

In a cafe, once more I heard
Your voice – those sparse and frugal notes.
Do they not say that you spoke your native Greek
With an English accent?

Briefest of visions: eyes meet across the cafe;
A man of about my age – eyelids heavy,
Perhaps from recent pleasures.
I begin the most innocent of conversations.
Again I see that image;
Ancient delight of flesh
Against guiltless flesh.
Sweeter still, in its remembering.

Most innocent of conversations: once more, I am mistaken.
He leaves; the moment lost – and to forego
The squalor of this place, I read again your lines; those sparse and frugal notes.
In a taverna, you found beauty, long ago.
And when you draw, with your slim, swift pen
The image of that memory – time’s patient hostage;
Then how can I forget him, that boy whom you could not forget,
Or that music, in a foreign language?

Weathering

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

Alastair Reid
Scots
1926 – 2014

 

I am old enough now for a tree
once planted, knee high, to have grown to be
twenty times me,
and to have seen babies marry, and heroes grow deaf –
but that’s enough meaning-of-life.
It’s living through time we ought to be connoisseurs of.
From wearing a face all this time, I am made aware
of the maps faces are, of the inside wear and tear.
I take to faces that have come far.
In my father’s carved face, the bright eye
he sometimes would look out of, seeing a long way
through all the tree-rings of his history.
I am awed by how things weather: an oak mantel
in the house in Spain, fingered to a sheen,
the marks of hands leaned into the lintel,
the tokens in the drawer I sometimes touch –
a crystal lived-in on a trip, the watch
my father’s wrist wore to a thin gold sandwich.
It is an equilibrium
which breasts the cresting seasons but still stays calm
and keeps warm. It deserves a good name.
Weathering. Patina, gloss, and whorl.
The trunk of the almond tree, gnarled but still fruitful.
Weathering is what I would like to do well.