A Lowden Sabbath Morn

Robert Louis Stevenson

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

A Lowden Sabbath Morn


The clinkum-clank o’ Sabbath bells

Noo to the hoastin’ rookery swells,

Noo faintin’ laigh in shady dells,

Sounds far an’ near,

An’ through the simmer kintry tells

Its tale o’ cheer.


An’ noo, to that melodious play,

A deidly awn the quiet sway —

A’ ken their solemn holiday,

Bestial an’ human,

The singin’ lintie on the brae,

The restin’ plou’man.


He, mair than a’ the lave o’ men,

His week completit joys to ken;

Half-dressed, he daunders out an’ in,

Perplext wi’ leisure;

An’ his raxt limbs he’ll rax again

Wi’ painfu’ pleesure.


The steerin’ mither strang afit

Noo shoos the bairnies but a bit;

Noo cries them ben, their Sinday shuit

To scart upon them,

Or sweeties in their pouch to pit,

Wi’ blessin’s on them.


The lasses, clean frae tap to taes,

Are busked in crunklin’ underclaes;

The gartened hose, the weel-filled stays,

The nakit shift,

A’ bleached on bonny greens for days,

An’ white’s the drift.


An’ noo to face the kirkward mile

The guidman’s hat o’ dacent style,

The blackit shoon, we noon maun fyle

As white’s the miller:

A waefu’ peety tae, to spile

The warth o’ siller.


Our Marg’et, aye sae keen to crack,

Douce-stappin’ in the stoury track,

Her emeralt goun a’ kiltit back

Frae snawy coats,

White-ankled, leads the kirkward pack

Wi’ Dauvit Groats.


A thocht ahint, in runkled breeks,

A’ spiled wi’ lyin’ by for weeks,

The guidman follows closs, an’ cleiks

The sonsie misses;

His sarious face at aince bespeaks

The day that this is.


And aye an’ while we nearer draw

To whaur the kirkton lies alaw,

Mair neebours, comin’ saft an’ slaw

Frae here an’ there,

The thicker thrang the gate, an’ caw

The stour in air.


But hark! the bells frae nearer clang

To rowst the slaw, their sides they bang

An’ see! black coats a’ready thrang

The green kirkyaird;

And at the yett, the chestnuts spang

That brocht the laird.


The solemn elders at the plate

Stand drinkin’ deep the pride o’ state:

The practised hands as gash an’ great

As Lords o’ Session;

The later named, a wee thing blate

In their expression.


The prentit stanes that mark the deid,

Wi’ lengthened lip, the sarious read;

Syne way a moraleesin’ heid,

An then an’ there

Their hirplin’ practice an’ their creed

Try hard to square.


It’s here our Merren lang has lain,

A wee bewast the table-stane;

An’ yon’s the grave o’ Sandy Blane;

An’ further ower,

The mither’s brithers, dacent men!

Lie a’ the fower.


Here the guidman sall bide awee

To dwall amang the deid; to see

Auld faces clear in fancy’s e’e;

Belike to hear

Auld voices fa’in saft an’ slee

On fancy’s ear.


Thus, on the day o’ solemn things,

The bell that in the steeple swings

To fauld a scaittered faim’ly rings

Its walcome screed;

An’ just a wee thing nearer brings

The quick an’ deid.


But noo the bell is ringin’ in;

To tak their places, folk begin;

The minister himsel’ will shune

Be up the gate,

Filled fu’ wi’ clavers about sin

An’ man’s estate.


The tunes are up — French, to be shure,

The faithfu’ French, an’ twa-three mair;

The auld prezentor, hoastin’ sair,

Wales out the portions,

An’ yirks the tune into the air

Wi’ queer contortions.


Follows the prayer, the readin’ next,

An’ than the fisslin’ for the text —

The twa-three last to find it, vext

But kind o’ proud;

An’ than the peppermints are raxed,

An’ southernwood.


For noo’s the time whan pows are seen

Nid-noddin’ like a mandareen;

When tenty mithers stap a preen

In sleepin’ weans;

An’ nearly half the parochine

Forget their pains.


There’s just a waukrif’ twa or three:

Thrawn commentautors sweer to ‘gree,

Weans glowrin’ at the bumlin’ bee

On windie-glasses,

Or lads that tak a keek a-glee

At sonsie lasses.


Himsel’, meanwhile, frae whaur he cocks

An’ bobs belaw the soundin’-box,

The treesures of his words unlocks

Wi’ prodigality,

An’ deals some unco dingin’ knocks

To infidality.


Wi’ snappy unction, hoo he burkes

The hopes o’ men that trust in works,

Expounds the fau’ts o’ ither kirks,

An’ shaws the best o’ them

No muckle better than mere Turks,

When a’s confessed o’ them.


Bethankit! what a bonny creed!

What mair would ony Christian need? —

The braw words rumm’le ower his heid,

Nor steer the sleeper;

And in their restin’ graves, the deid

Sleep aye the deeper.

Author’s Note

It may be guessed by some that I had a certain parish in my eye, and this makes it proper I should add a word of disclamation. In my time there have been two ministers in that parish. Of the first I have a special reason to speak well, even had there been any to think ill. The second I have often met in private and long (in the due phrase) “sat under” in his church, and neither here nor there have I heard an unkind or ugly word upon his lips. The preacher of the text had thus no original in that particular parish; but when I was a boy he might have been observed in many others; he was then (like the schoolmaster) abroad; and by recent advices, it would seem he has not yet entirely disappeared.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005