MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS,
ON THE APPROACH OF SPRING.
[The poet communicated this "Lament" to his friend, Dr. Moore, in
February, 1791, but it was composed about the close of the preceding
year, at the request of Lady Winifred Maxwell Constable, of
Terreagles, the last in direct descent of the noble and ancient house
of Maxwell, of Nithsdale. Burns expressed himself more than commonly
pleased with this composition; nor was he unrewarded, for Lady
Winifred gave him a valuable snuff-box, with the portrait of the
unfortunate Mary on the lid. The bed still keeps its place in
Terreagles, on which the queen slept as she was on her way to take
refuge with her cruel and treacherous cousin, Elizabeth; and a letter
from her no less unfortunate grandson, Charles the First, calling the
Maxwells to arm in his cause, is preserved in the family archives.]
Now Nature hangs her mantle green
On every blooming tree,
And spreads her sheets o' daisies white
Out o'er the grassy lea:
Now Phoebus cheers the crystal streams,
And glads the azure skies;
But nought can glad the weary wight
That fast in durance lies.
Now lav'rocks wake the merry morn,
Aloft on dewy wing;
The merle, in his noontide bow'r,
Makes woodland echoes ring;
The mavis wild wi' mony a note,
Sings drowsy day to rest:
In love and freedom they rejoice,
Wi' care nor thrall opprest.
Now blooms the lily by the bank,
The primrose down the brae;
The hawthorn's budding in the glen,
And milk-white is the slae;
The meanest hind in fair Scotland
May rove their sweets amang;
But I, the Queen of a' Scotland,
Maun lie in prison strang!
I was the Queen o' bonnie France,
Where happy I hae been;
Fu' lightly rase I in the morn,
As blythe lay down at e'en:
And I'm the sov'reign o' Scotland,
And mony a traitor there;
Yet here I lie in foreign bands
And never-ending care.
But as for thee, thou false woman!
My sister and my fae,
Grim vengeance yet shall whet a sword
That thro' thy soul shall gae!
The weeping blood in woman's breast
Was never known to thee;
Nor th' balm that draps on wounds of woe
Frae woman's pitying e'e.
My son! my son! may kinder stars
Upon thy fortune shine;
And may those pleasures gild thy reign,
That ne'er wad blink on mine!
God keep thee frae thy mother's faes,
Or turn their hearts to thee:
And where thou meet'st thy mother's friend
Remember him for me!
O! soon, to me, may summer suns
Nae mair light up the morn!
Nae mair, to me, the autumn winds
Wave o'er the yellow corn!
And in the narrow house o' death
Let winter round me rave;
And the next flow'rs that deck the spring
Bloom on my peaceful grave!