Algy was fascinated by the way the clouds rolled around the mountaintops, drifting and swirling in an elaborate dance that never seemed to repeat itself. Sometimes patches of cloud broke away from the sky and slithered down the steep slopes into the glen, or vanished through a narrow pass, never to re-emerge. Algy wondered whether he could ride on a cloud to find his way back home, but decided that it would be more likely to take him deeper into the mountains, so that he too might never return.
As he watched the endless dance of the clouds, Algy thought of his oldest friends, who were about to leave Scotland to return to a softer land, and he remembered a poem by Neil Munro:
Are you not weary in your distant places,
Far, far from Scotland of the mist and storm,
In drowsy airs, the sun-smite on your faces,
The days so long and warm?
When all around you lie the strange fields sleeping,
The dreary woods where no fond memories roam,
Do not your sad hearts over seas come leaping
To the highlands and the lowlands of your Home?
Wild cries the Winter, loud through all our valleys:
The midnights roar, the grey noons echo back;
Round steep storm-bitten coasts the eager galleys
Beat for kind harbours from horizons black;
We tread the miry roads, the rain-drenched heather,
We are the men, we battle, we endure!
God’s pity for you people in your weather
Of swooning winds, calm seas, and skies demure!
Wild cries the Winter, and we walk song-haunted
Over the moors and by the thundering falls,
Or where the dirge of a brave past is chaunted
In dolorous dusks by immemorial walls.
Though rains may thrash on us, the great mists blind us,
And lightning rend the pine-tree on the hill,
Yet we are strong, yet shall the morning find us
Children of tempest all unshaken still.
We wander where the little grey towns cluster
Deep in the hills, or selvedging the sea,
By farm-lands lone, by woods where wildfowl muster
To shelter from the day’s inclemency;
And night will come, and then far through the darkling,
A light will shine out in the sounding glen,
And it will mind us of some fond eye’s sparkling,
And we’ll be happy then.
Let torrents pour then, let the great winds rally,
Snow-silence fall, or lightning blast the pine;
That light of Home shines warmly in the valley,
And, exiled son of Scotland, it is thine.
Far have you wandered over seas of longing,
And now you drowse, and now you well may weep,
When all the recollections come a-thronging
Of this rude country where your fathers sleep.
They sleep, but still the hearth is warmly glowing,
While the wild Winter blusters round their land:
That light of Home, the wind so bitter blowing –
Do they not haunt your dreams on alien strand?
Love, strength, and tempest – oh, come back and share them!
Here’s the old cottage, here the open door;
Fond are our hearts although we do not bare them, –
They’re yours, and you are ours for ever-more.
This post is dedicated especially to Algy’s oldest friends, and also to self-xpression and to any other of Algy’s Scottish friends whose “sad hearts over seas come leaping to the highlands and the lowlands” of their home xoxo
[Algy is quoting the poem To Exiles by the late 19th/early 20th century Scottish writer Neil Munro.]