These are the top twenty (20) most popular poems of Violet Jacob.
From Fringford Brook to Craigo Woods.
If you want to know her greatest poems of all time, then this poetry collection is for you.
The willows stand by Fringford brook,
From Fringford up to Hethe,
Sun on their cloudy silver heads,
And shadow underneath.
They ripple to the silent airs
That stir the lazy day,
Now whitened by their passing hands,
Now turned again to grey.
The slim marsh-thistle’s purple plume
Droops tasselled on the stem,
The golden hawkweeds pierce like flame
The grass that harbours them;
Long drowning tresses of the weeds
Trail where the stream is slow,
The vapoured mauves of water-mint
Melt in the pools below;
Serenely soft September sheds
On earth her slumberous look,
The heartbreak of an anguished world
Throbs not by Fringford brook.
All peace is here. Beyond our range,
Yet ‘neath the selfsame sky,
The boys that knew these fields of home
By Flemish willows lie.
They waded in the sun-shot flow,
They loitered in the shade,
Who trod the heavy road of death,
Jesting and unafraid.
Peace! What of peace? This glimpse of peace
Lies at the heart of pain,
For respite, ere the spirit’s load
We stoop to lift again.
O load of grief, of faith, of wrath,
Of patient, quenchless will,
Till God shall ease us of your weight
We’ll bear you higher still!
O ghosts that walk by Fringford brook,
‘Tis more than peace you give,
For you, who knew so well to die,
Shall teach us how to live.
I dreamed that life and time and space were one,
And the pure trance of dawn;
The increase drawn
From all the journeys of the travelling sun,
And the long mysteries of sound and sight,
The whispering rains,
And far, calm waters set in lonely plains,
And cry of birds at night.
I dreamed that these and love and death were one,
And all eternity,
The life to be
Therewith entwined, throughout the ages spun;
And so with Grief, my playmate; him I knew
One with the rest, –
One with the mounting day, the east and west –
Lord, is it true?
Lord, do I dream? Methinks a key unlocks
Some dungeon door, in thrall of blackened towers,
On ecstasies, half hid, like chill white flowers
Blown in the secret places of the rocks.
The Scarlet Lilies
I see her as though she were standing yet
In her tower at the end of the town,
When the hot sun mounts and when dusk comes down,
With her two hands laid on the parapet;
The curve of her throat as she turns this way,
The bend of her body – I see it all;
And the watching eyes that look day by day
O’er the flood that runs by the city wall.
The winds by the river would come and go
On the flame-red gown she was wont to wear,
And the scarlet lilies that crowned her hair,
And the scarlet lilies that grew below.
I used to lie like a wolf in his lair,
With a burning heart and a soul in thrall,
Gazing across in a fume of despair
O’er the flood that runs by the river wall.
I saw when he came with his tiger’s eyes,
That held you still in the grip of their glance,
And the cat-smooth air he had learned in France,
The light on his sword from the evening skies;
When the heron stood at the water’s edge,
And the sun went down in a crimson ball,
I crouched in a thicket of rush and sedge
By the flood that runs by the river wall.
He knew where the stone lay loose in its place,
And a foot might hold in the chink between,
The carven niche where the arms had been,
And the iron rings in the tower’s face;
For the scarlet lilies lay broken round,
Snapped through at the place where his tread would fall,
As he slipped at dawn to the yielding ground,
Near the flood that runs by the river wall.
I gave the warning – I ambushed the band
In the alder-clump – he was one to ten –
Shall I fight for my soul as he fought then,
Lord God, in the grasp of the devil’s hand?
As the cock crew up in the morning chill,
And the city waked to the watchman’s call,
There were four left lying to sleep their fill
At the flood that runs by the city wall.
Had I owned this world to its farthest part,
I had bartered all to have had his share;
Yet he died that night in the city square,
With a scarlet lily above his heart.
And she? Where the torrent goes by the slope,
There rose in the river a stifled call,
And two white hands strove with a knotted rope
In the flood that runs by the river wall.
Christ! I had thought I should die like a man,Violet Jacob
And that death, grim death, might himself be sweet,
When the red sod rocked to the horses’ feet,
And the knights went down as they led the van; –
But the end that waits like a trap for me,
Will come when I fight for my latest breath,
With a white face drowned between God and me
In the flood that runs by the banks of death.
The Howe O’ The Mearns
Laddie, my lad, when ye gang at the tail o’ the plough
An’ the days draw in,
When the burnin’ yellow’s awa’ that was aince a-lowe
On the braes o’ whin,
Do ye mind o’ me that’s deaved wi’ the wearyfu’ south
An’ it’s puir concairns
While the weepies fade on the knowes at the river’s mouth
In the Howe o’ the Mearns?
There was nae twa lads frae the Grampians doon to the Tay
That could best us twa;
At bothie or dance, or the field on a fitba’ day,
We could sort them a’;
An’ at courtin’-time when the stars keeked doon on the glen
An’ its theek o’ fairns,
It was you an’ me got the pick o’ the basket then
In the Howe o’ the Mearns.
London is fine, an’ for ilk o’ the lasses at hame
There’ll be saxty here,
But the springtime comes an’ the hairst – an it’s aye the same
Through the changefu year.
O, a lad thinks lang o’ hame ere he thinks his fill
As his breid he airns –
An’ they’re thrashin’ noo at the white fairm up on the hill
In the Howe o’ the Mearns.
Gin I mind mysel’ an’ toil for the lave o’ my days
While I’ve een to see,
When I’m auld an’ done wi’ the fash o’ their English ways
I’ll come hame to dee;
For the lad dreams aye o’ the prize that the man’ll get,
But he lives an’ lairns,
An’ it’s far, far ‘ayont him still – but it’s farther yet
To the Howe o’ the Mearns.
Laddie, my lad, when the hair is white on yer pow
An’ the work’s put past,
When yer hand’s owre auld an’ heavy to haud the plough
I’ll win hame at last,
An we’ll bide our time on the knowes whaur the broom stands braw
An’ we played as bairns,
Till the last lang gloamin’ shall creep on us baith an’ fa’
On the Howe o’ the Mearns.
A Change O’ Deils
“A change o’ deils is lichtsome.” –
My Grannie spent a merry youth,
She niver wantit for a joe,
An gin she tell’t me aye the truth,
Richt little was’t she kent na o’.
An’ whiles afore she gae’d awa’
To bed her doon below the grass,
Says she, “Guidmen I’ve kistit twa,
But a change o’ deils is lichtsome, lass!”
Sae dinna think to maister me,
For Scotland’s fu’ o’ brawlike chiels,
And aiblins ither folk ye’ll see
Are fine an’ pleased to change their deils.
Aye, set yer bonnet on yer heid,
An’ cock it up upon yer bree,
O’ a’ yer tricks ye’ll hae some need
Afore ye get the best o’ me!
Sma’ wark to fill yer place I’d hae,
I’ll seek a sweethe’rt i’ the toon,
Or cast my he’rt across the Spey
An’ tak’ some pridefu’ Hieland loon.
I ken a man has hoose an’ land,
His airm is stoot, his een are blue,
A ring o’ gowd is on his hand,
An’ he’s a bonnier man nor you!
But hoose an’ gear an’ land an’ mair,
He’d gie them a’ to get the preen
That preened the flowers in till my hair
Beside the may-bush yestre’en.
Jist tak’ you tent, an’ mind forbye,Violet Jacob
The braw guid sense my Grannie had,
My Grannie’s dochter’s bairn am I,
And a change o’ deils is lichtsome, lad!
Give me to-night to hide me in the shade,
That neither moon nor star
May see the secret place where I am laid,
Nor watch me from afar.
Let not the dark its prying ghosts employ
To peer on my retreat,
And see the fragments of my broken toy
Lie scattered at my feet.
I fashioned it, that idol of my own,
Of metal strange and bright;
I made my toy a god – I raised a throne
To honour my delight.
This haunted byway of the grove was lit
With lamps my hand had trimmed,
Before the altar in the midst of it
I kept their flame undimmed.
My steps turned ever to the hidden shrine;
Aware or unaware,
My soul dwelt only in that spot divine,
And now a wreck lies there.
Give me to-night to weep – when dawn is spread
Beyond the heavy trees,
And in the east the day is heralded
By cloud-wrought companies,
I shall have gathered up my heart’s desire,
Broken, destroyed, adored,
And from its splinters, in a deathless fire,
I shall have forged a sword.
Back To The Land
Out in the upland places,
I see both dale and down,
And the ploughed earth with open scores
Turning the green to brown.
The bare bones of the country
Lie gaunt in winter days,
Grim fastnesses of rock and scaur,
Sure, while the year decays.
And, as the autumn withers,
And the winds strip the tree,
The companies of buried folk
Rise up and speak with me; –
From homesteads long forgotten,
From graves by church and yew,
They come to walk with noiseless tread
Upon the land they knew; –
Men who have tilled the pasture
The writhen thorn beside,
Women within grey vanished walls
Who bore and loved and died.
And when the great town closes
Upon me like a sea,
Daylong, above its weary din,
I hear them call to me.
Dead folk, the roofs are round me,
To bar out field and hill,
And yet I hear you on the wind
Calling and calling still;
And while, by street and pavement,Violet Jacob
The day runs slowly through,
My soul, across these haunted downs,
Goes forth and walks with you.
When winter’s pulse seems dead beneath the snow,
And has no throb to give,
Warm your cold heart at mine, beloved, and so
Shall your heart live.
For mine is fire – a furnace strong and red;
Look up into my eyes,
There shall you see a flame to make the dead
Take life and rise.
My eyes are brown, and yours are still and grey,
Still as the frostbound lake
Whose depths are sleeping in the icy sway,
And will not wake.
Soundless they are below the leaden sky,
Bound with that silent chain;
Yet chains may fall, and those that fettered lie
May live again.
Yes, turn away, grey eyes, you dare not face
In mine the flame of life;
When frost meets fire, ’tis but a little space
That ends the strife.
Then comes the hour, when, breaking from their bands,
The swirling floods run free,
And you, beloved, shall stretch your drowning hands,
And cling to me.
In the prison-house of the dark
I lay with open eyes,
And pale beyond the pale windows
I saw the dawn rise.
From past the bounds of space
Where earthly vapours climb,
There stirred the voice I shall not hear
On this side Time.
There is one death for the body,
And one death for the heart,
And one prayer for the hope of the end,
When some links part.
Christ, from uncounted leagues,
Beyond the sun and moon,
Strike with the sword of Thine own pity –
Bring the dawn soon.
The Wild Geese
“O tell me what was on yer road, ye roarin’ norlan’ Wind,
As ye cam’ blawin’ frae the land that’s niver frae my mind?
My feet they traivel England, but I’m dee’in for the north.”
“My man, I heard the siller tides rin up the Firth o’ Forth.”
“Aye, Wind, I ken them weel eneuch, and fine they fa’ an’ rise,
And fain I’d feel the creepin’ mist on yonder shore that lies,
But tell me, ere ye passed them by, what saw ye on the way?”
“My man, I rocked the rovin’ gulls that sail abune the Tay.”
“But saw ye naething, leein’ Wind, afore ye cam’ to Fife?
There’s muckle lyin’ ‘yont the Tay that’s mair to me nor life.”
“My man, I swept the Angus braes ye hae’na trod for years.”
“O Wind, forgi’e a hameless loon that canna see for tears!”
“And far abune the Angus straths I saw the wild geese flee,
A lang, lang skein o’ beatin’ wings, wi’ their heids towards the sea,
And aye their cryin’ voices trailed ahint them on the air – “
“O Wind, hae maircy, haud yer whisht, for I daurna listen mair!”
I canna’ see ye, lad, I canna’ see ye,
For a’ yon glory that’s aboot yer heid,
Yon licht that haps ye, an’ the hosts that’s wi’ ye,
Aye, but ye live, an’ it’s mysel’ that’s deid!
They gae’d frae mill and mart; frae wind-blawn places,
And grey toon-closes; i’ the empty street
Nae mair the bairns ken their steps, their faces,
Nor stand to listen to the trampin’ feet.
Beside the brae, and soughin’ through the rashes,
Yer voice comes back to me at ilka turn,
Amang the whins, an’ whaur the water washes
The arn-tree wi’ its feet amangst the burn.
Whiles ye come back to me when day is fleein’,
And a’ the road oot-by is dim wi’ nicht,
But weary een like mine is no for seein’,
An’, gin they saw, they wad be blind wi’ licht.
Daith canna’ kill. The mools o’ France lie o’er ye,
An’ yet ye live, O sodger o’ the Lord!
For Him that focht wi’ daith an’ dule afore ye,
He gie’d the life – ’twas Him that gie’d the sword.
But gin ye see my face or gin ye hear me,
I daurna’ ask, I maunna’ seek to ken,
Though I should dee, wi’ sic a glory near me,
By nicht or day, come ben, my bairn, come ben!
The Bird In The Valley
Above the darkened house the night is spread,
The hidden valley holds
Vapour and dew and silence in its folds,
And waters sighing on the river-bed.
No wandering wind there is
To swing the star-wreaths of the clematis
Against the stone;
Out of the hanging woods, above the shores,
One liquid voice of throbbing crystal pours,
A stream of magic through the heart of night
Its unseen passage cleaves;
Into the darkened room below the eaves
It falls from out the woods upon the height,
A strain of ecstasy
Wrought on the confines of eternity,
Glamour and pain,
And echoes gathered from a world of years,
Old phantoms, dim like mirage seen through tears,
But young again.
“Peace, peace,” the bird sings on amid the woods,Violet Jacob
“Peace, from the land that is the spirit’s goal, –
The land that nonce may see but with his soul, –
Peace on the darkened house above the floods.”
Pale constellations of the clematis,
Hark to that voice of his
That will not cease,
Swing low, droop low your spray,
Light with your white stars all the shadowed way
To peace, peace!
(To A Pipe Tune)
O, it’s fine when the New and the Auld Year meet,
An’ the lads gang roarin’ i’ the lichtit street,
An’ there’s me and there’s Alick an’ the miller’s loon,
An’ Geordie that’s the piper oot o’ Forfar toon.
Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa!
Up wi’ the chanter, lad, an’ gie’s a blaw!
For we’ll step to the tune while we’ve feet in till oor shune,
Tho’ the bailies an’ the provost be to sort us a’!
We’ve three bonnie bottles, but the third ane’s toom,
Gin’ the road ran whisky, it’s mysel’ wad soom!
But we’ll stan’ while we can, an’ be dancin’ while we may,
For there’s twa we hae to finish, an’ it’s Hogmanay.
Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa!
There’s an auld carle glow’rin’ oot ahint yon wa’,
But we’ll sune gar him loup to the pipin’ till he coup,
For we’ll gi’e him just a drappie, an’ he’ll no say na!
My heid’s dementit an’ my feet’s the same,
When they’ll no wark thegither it’s a lang road hame;
An’ we’ve twa mile to traivel or it’s mair like three,
But I’ve got a grip o’ Alick, an’ ye’d best grip me.
Geordie Faa! Geordie Faa!
The morn’s near brakin’ an’ we’ll need awa’,
Gin ye’re aye blawin’ strang, then we’ll maybe get alang,
An’ the deevil tak’ the laddie that’s the first to fa’!
I whiles gang to the brig-side
That’s past the briar tree,
Alang the road when the licht is wide
Owre Angus an’ the sea.
In by the dyke yon briar grows
Wi’ leaf an’ thorn, it’s lane
Whaur the spunk o’ flame o’ the briar rose
Burns saft agin the stane.
An’ whiles a step treids on by me,
I mauna hear its fa’;
And atween the brig an’ the briar tree
Ther gangs na’ ane, but twa.
Oot owre yon sea, through dule an’ strife,
Ye tak’ yer road nae mair,
For ye’ve crossed the brig to the fields o’ life,
An’ ye walk for iver there.
I traivel on to the brig-side,
Whaur ilka road maun cease,
My weary war may be lang to bide,
An’ you hae won to peace.
There’s ne’er a nicht but turns to day,
Nor a load that’s niver cast;
An’ there’s nae wind cries on the winter brae,
But it spends itsel’ at last.
O you that niver failed me yet,
Gin aince my step ye hear,
Come to yon brig atween us set,
An’ bide till I win near!
O weel, aye, weel, ye’ll ken my treid,
Ye’ll seek nae word nor sign,
An’ I’ll no can fail at the Brig o’ Dreid,
For yer hand will be in mine.
Maggie, I ken that ye are happ’d in glory
And nane can gar ye greet;
The joys o’ Heaven are evermair afore ye,
It’s licht about yer feet.
I ken nae waefu’ thochts can e’er be near ye
Nor sorrow fash yer mind,
In yon braw place they winna let ye weary
For him ye left behind.
Thae nichts an’ days when dule seems mair nor double
I’ll need to dae my best,
For aye ye took the half o’ ilka trouble,
And noo I’d hae ye rest.
Yer he’rt’ll be the same he’rt since yer flittin’,
Gin auld love doesna tire,
Sae dinna look an’ see yer lad that’s sittin’
His lane aside the fire.
The sky is keen wi’ dancin’ stars in plenty,
The New Year frost is strang;
But, O my lass! because the Auld Year kent ye
I’m sweir to let it gang!
But time drives forrit; and on ilk December
There waits a New Year yet,
An naething bides but what our he’rts remember –
Maggie, ye’ll na forget?
The year declines, and yet there is
A clearness, as of hinted spring;
And chilly, like a virgin’s kiss,
The cold light touches everything.
The world seems dazed with purity,
There hangs, this spell-bound afternoon,
Beyond the naked cherry tree
The new-wrought sickle of the moon.
What is this thraldom, pale and still,
That holds so passionless a sway?
Lies death in this ethereal chill,
New life, or prelude of decay?
In the frail rapture of the sky
There bodes, transfigured, far aloof,
The veil that hides eternity,
With life for warp and death for woof.
We see the presage – not with eyes,
But dimly, with the shrinking soul –
Scarce guessing, in this fateful guise,
The glory that enwraps the whole,
The light no flesh may apprehend,
Lent but to spirit-eyes, to give
Sign of that splendour of the end
That none may look upon and live.
The Happy Warrior
I have brought no store from the field now the day is ended,
The harvest moon is up and I bear no sheaves;
When the toilers carry the fruits hanging gold and splendid,
I have but leaves.
When the saints pass by in the pride of their stainless raiment,
Their brave hearts high with the joy of the gifts they bring,
I have saved no whit from the sum of my daily payment
Not there is my place where the workman his toil delivers,
I scarce can see the ground where the hero stands,
I must wait as the one poor fool in that host of givers,
With empty hands.
There was no time lent to me that my skill might fashion
Some work of praise, some glory, some thing of light,
For the swarms of hell came on in their power and passion,
I could but fight.
I am maimed and spent, I am broken and trodden under,
With wheel and horseman the battle has swept me o’er,
And the long, vain warfare has riven my heart asunder,
I can no more.
But my soul is still; though the sundering door has hidden
The mirth and glitter, the sound of the lighted feast,
Though the guests go in and I stand in the night, unbidden,
The worst, the least.
My soul is still. I have gotten nor fame nor treasure,
Let all men spurn me, let devils and angels frown,
But the scars I bear are a guerdon of royal measure,
My stars – my crown.
To A. H. J.
Past life, past tears, far past the grave,
The tryst is set for me,
Since, for our all, your all you gave
On the slopes of Picardy.
On Angus, in the autumn nights,
The ice-green light shall lie,
Beyond the trees the Northern Lights
Slant on the belts of sky.
But miles on miles from Scottish soil
You sleep, past war and scaith,
Your country’s freedman, loosed from toil,
In honour and in faith.
For Angus held you in her spell,
Her Grampians, faint and blue,
Her ways, the speech you knew so well,
Were half the world to you.
Yet rest, my son; our souls are those
Nor time nor death can part,
And lie you proudly, folded close
To France’s deathless heart.
The Field By The Lirk O’ The Hill
Daytime an’ nicht,
Sun, wind an’ rain;
The lang, cauld licht
O’ the spring months again.
The yaird’s a’ weed,
An’ the fairm’s a’ still –
Wha’ll sow the seed
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill?
Prood maun ye lie,
Prood did ye gang;
Auld, auld am I,
But O! life’s lang!
Gaists i’ the air,
Whaups cryin’ shrill,
An’ you nae mair
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill –
Aye, bairn, nae mair, nae mair,
I’ the field by the lirk o’ the hill!
Craigo Woods, wi’ the splash o’ the cauld rain beatin’
I’ the back end o’ the year,
When the clouds hang laigh wi’ the weicht o’ their load o’ greetin’
And the autumn wind’s asteer;
Ye may stand like gaists, ye may fa’ i’ the blast that’s cleft ye
To rot i’ the chilly dew,
But when will I mind on aucht since the day I left ye
Like I mind on you – on you?
Craigo Woods, i’ the licht o’ September sleepin’
And the saft mist o’ the morn,
When the hairst climbs to yer feet, an’ the sound o’ reapin’
Comes up frae the stookit corn,
And the braw reid puddock-stules are like jewels blinkin’
And the bramble happs ye baith,
O what do I see, i’ the lang nicht, lyin’ an’ thinkin’
As I see yer wraith – yer wraith?
There’s a road to a far-aff land, an’ the land is yonder
Whaur a’ men’s hopes are set;
We dinna ken foo lang we maun hae to wander,
But we’ll a’ win to it yet;
An’ gin there’s woods o’ fir an’ the licht atween them,
I winna speir its name,
But I’ll lay me doon by the puddock-stules when I’ve seen them,
An’ I’ll cry “I’m hame – I’m hame!”
Wow! No wonder she’s considered one of “the most considerable of contemporary vernacular poets.” Most of her poems are in Angus dialect, but it’s agreeable that all of her poems are truly outstanding!
Well, of course, I wouldn’t miss reading my most favorite work of hers―Unity. Her wishes were what I also wish to happen someday.
What about you? What’s your most favorite poem of Violet Jacob?
Do you still want to add another of her poem to this list? Let me know in the comment section below! 😉