A Scottish Eclogue

" The Lord on him forgot to put His mark ."

SANDIE .

O Lord above, swift is Thy wrath and deep!
And yet by grace Thou sanctionest Thy sheep;
And blest are they who till the day o' doom
Like haddocks bear the marking of Thy thoomb;
And curst, in spite of works and prayers, are they
On whom Thy mark has ne'er been printed sae.
For while the non-elected lie beneath,
And fast in flaming fire, and gnash their teeth,
Above their heads, where streams of honey spring,
Thine Elders stand in shining sarks, and sing,
Blessing Thy Name for present gifts and past ...
O wife, John Galloway is gone, at last!

JEANIE .

Dead? Weel, we all are bound to God'S abode,
And John has started first upon the road.
A Christian man and kind was John, indeed,
And free of siller unto folk in need:
Ay, many a hearth will want now John is cold!
But God will give him back his gifts tenfold.

SANDIE .

O Jeanie Gourlay! keep thy clapper still;
It talks o' things you understand but ill:
I doubt, I sorely doubt, John Galloway
Is 'neath the oxter o' the De'il this day!
True, in the way of sinful flesh, his mind
Was charitable, and his heart was kind;
But Light he lacked as long as he drew breath,
And lost the Eldership before his death;
And he had many a ghostly whispering
To tell he was a miserable thing,
Doom'd by the Wisdom of the Just to be
Condemn'd with those who graceless live and dee.
Ay, grace, I fear, John Galloway was denied,
Though loud and oft for grace he groaned and cried.
" Sandie," he used to say, " I fear, I fear
I have no right among the holy here;
I fear, I fear that I am in the dark —
The Lord on me forgot to put His mark!
I canna steel my heart to folk who sin,
I canna put my thoughts to discipline;
Oft when I pray, I hear Him whisper plain,
" Jock Galloway, pray awa', but 'tis in vain; " —
Nae sweet assurance arms me 'gainst the De'il,
Nae happy faith, like that my fellows feel;
I long for God , I beg Him on my knee,
But fear He hath to wrath prevision'd me!"

JEANIE .

Poor man! his strife was sore; but, Sandie, mind,
Nae man can tell what folks are predestined;
Ev'n Sandie Gourlay may be one the De'il
Hath liberty to catch within his creel!

SANDIE .

Oh, blasphemy! Thou fool, forbear and cease!
The sign o' grace is perfect faith and peace,
Such as the Lord , in spite o' many a cross,
Vouchsafes to men like me and neighbour Ross.
But Galloway ever was a braxie sheep,
A whining thing who dug his doubts too deep.
Why, mind ye, when old Robin Caird himsel' —
A heretic, a rogue, a man o' Bel,
Averring written Scripture was a lee,
And doubting God , stretch'd out his limbs to dee,
John by the sinner knelt and offered prayers:
" Lord God ," he said, " pity his old white hairs!
Be kind unto him! Take him unto Thee!"
And bought the coffin, paid the burial fee.
" Sandie," he said, when Caird was in his grave,
" I doubt I am less holy than the lave:
My blood is water, I am weak o' brain, —
O Lord , it broke my heart to see his pain!
I thought — I dared to think — if I were God ,
Poor Caird should never gang so dark a road;
I thought — ay, dared to think, the Lord forgi'e! —
The Lord was crueller than I could be;
Forgetting God is just, and knoweth best
What folk should burn in fire, what folk be blest."
Such was his nature, neither strong nor deep, —
Unlike the stern strong shepherds of His sheep.
We made an Elder of John Galloway!
Large seemed his heart, he ne'er was known to stray;
But he had little strength or wrath severe —
He soften'd at the sinful pauper's tear;
He push'd his purse and pleaded like a fool
For every lassie on the cuttie-stool.

JEANIE .

Where had the parish bairns sae kind a friend?

SANDIE .

Bairns? did he teach them grace , and make them mend?
At Sunday School what lad or lass had care
For fear of flaming Hell, if John was there, —
Questioning blushing brats upon his knees,
And slyly slipping in their hands — bawbees?
Once while he talked to me o' life and death,
I smelt the smell o' whisky in his breath.
" Drinking again, John Galloway?" I said;
As gray as this pipe-reek, he hung his head.
" O Sandie. Sandie!" he replied, " I ken
I am indeed the weakest man of men.
Strange doubts torment me daily, and, alas!
I try to drown them in the poison'd glass.
By fits I fear, and in my soul I say,
Lord , is Thy mark on poor John Galloway?
And sorely troubled, stealing slyly out,
I try in drink to drown the imp o' Doubt."
Woman, is this the man ye would defend?
Nay, wheesht awhile, and hearken to his end.
When he fell sick in Martinmas, his fears
Grew deeper far; I found him oft in tears;
Though from the Prophets of God's wrath I read,
He hearken'd, but was little comforted,
And even " Revelations" had no power
To soothe the pangs of his departing hour.
A week before he left this vale of woe,
He at his window sat, and watched the Snow
Falling and falling down without a sound,
Poured slowly from God 's hand upon the ground:
" See, Sandie, how it snaws!" I heard him say;
" How many folk are cold, cold, cold this day!
How many want the fire that's warming me!
How many starve! — and yet — why should it be?"
And when I took the Book, explained, and read,
He only gave a groan and shook his head.
" Clearer and clearer I perceive my sin,
How I to grace may never enter in;
That Book is for the strong, but I am weak,"
And trembled, and a tear was on his cheek.

JEANIE .

Poor man! poor man! small peace on earth he found.

SANDIE .

The day he died, he called the Elders round,
Shook hands, and said, " Friends, though I gang from here,
Down under earth, all will at last be clear.
Too long have I been dwelling in the dark,
The Lord on me forgot to put His mark,
God help me!" And, till he was cold as clay,
His foolish lips had little more to say;
Yet after we had laid him down in dust,
Weak to the last we found him, and unjust;
For when his will was read, unto our shame,
No holy man was mentioned in the same!
But he had left what little gold he had
To Caird's sick widow and her lass and lad!
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