Robert Gray - Verses Written on a Hill Near Yetholm 1819
Many of the poems in Gray's first collection Poems, On Various Subjects, Kelso, 1813 are humorous and are written in dialect. This poem has a local setting, but is in standard English and aims at a more elevated tone. Itwas published in Gray's final collection A Poem on the Death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales; with other poems, Jedburgh, 1820. He must have taken to a wandering life soon after this date. The records show that as well as way-laying passing strangers to recite his verse, he also targeted the houses of the local gentry where he would declaim specially composed verses in praise the resident householder - and hope for some food and a cash donation.
VERSES WRITTEN ON A HILL NEAR YETHOLM, 1819. While others court the shady grove, Or seek the bubbling rill, The lone retreats of hapless love, I’ll climb the cloud-cap’d hill.
There, seated on its verdant side, The beauteous landscape see, Nor envy monarchs in their pride, Since few so high as me.
Let them recline on beds of down, In all the pomp of state, See subjects tremble at their frown, And dread a tyrant’s hate.
Cursed with ambitious thirst of power Implanted in their mind, Sent by the gods in evil hour To rule o’er mankind.
Can they with joy and heartfelt ease Their actions past recal; For that alone the soul can please And make life’s burden small.
Around I throw my ravish’d eye, And nature’s works adore, While art with nature seem to vie, And I admire the more.
Behold, the smiling fields appear In summer’s rich array, Each thing seems the mind to cheer, And drive dull care away.
Beyond, the ocean calmly flows, Smooth as the polish’d glass, The gentle zephyr scarcely blows To move the tender grass.
Unnumber’d villas gayly rise Along the fertile plain, The fancy’s pleased, though I despise The owner’s rich domain.
For riches seldom bring content, And pride will have its fall, The blessings that the gods have lent, Are ever at their call.
The owner of yo[n] stately [dome], May not such pleasures know, As does the swain, in’s humble home, That rents the cot below.
Then why should I envy the lot That’s to my neighbour given, Since wealth and power I have not got, Shall I repine at heaven?
Let resignation sway my mind, Though fortune smile or frown, Not much elated when she’s kind, Or when she’s cross, cast down.
Even now all nature smiles around, Scarce is the cooling breeze On this aerial region found, And silent stand the trees.
But soon, too soon, the pleasing scene May vanish from my sight, And all the glories of the plain Be hid in gloomy night.
The howling wind succeeds the gale That cools the sultry day, And almost bursts the swelling sod That crowds the watery way.
The stormy tempest soon may rise, The beauteous prospect’s gone, The lightnings dart along the skies Where Sol so brightly shone.
Thus, when in life’s most happy state, We all its sweets enjoy, Sudden, the changing turns of fate Our fairest hopes destroy.
Dipper, linocut by Beatrice Smith - one of the illustrations in The Last of the Wandering Minstrels.