Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

Scotia: A Vision

Midnight's solemn peal had rung;
My drowsy spirit listless hung
Between the certain and unreal,
When visioned forms and shapes ideal
Come floating from the dreamy cells
Where vagrant fancy ever dwells.
And thus, half-conscious, in my ear
A wailing voice I seemed to hear;
Its tones were thrilling, sad, and wild,
Like mother's anguish o'er her child.
Methought my casement opened wide,
A female form, that seemed to glide
On air, within my chamber stood.
I knew her by the plaid and snood
That bound her streaming, golden hair,
With rainbow hues all checker'd fair.
Her flowing robe around her fell;
Entranced I lay, as if a spell
Had bound me. On her mournful face
Love, sorrow, majesty, and grace
Were blended: she the silence broke;
My heart leaped up, 'twas Scotia spoke.
'Where shall I hide my world-wide shame?'
She cried; 'Ye jewels of my fame,
My virtuous maidens, fair and bright,
Come forth and bless your Scotia's sight-
Come dressed in Virtue's spotless charms,
To honour, grace, and bless the arms
Of wedded love. The wound is deep
That pains my heart; I mourn and weep
This sad reproach above all others,
My nameless babes and unwed mothers.
This plague-sore eats away my life;
Stand up and answer, mother, wife-
Have you by teaching, watching, prayer,
By fair example, ceaseless care,
Trained up your child that she should go
In Virtue's path-say, is it so?
Let conscience speak, the roll of time
Is black with shame and red with crime.'
She paused, my bosom heaved and thrilled.
When next she spoke, her eyes were filled
With burning tears of grief and shame.
'Lost is the prestige of my name;
My daughters, modest, pure, and good-
What hand shall save from ruin's flood
The fair frail barks it soon would whelm?
Mothers, good mothers, at the helm!'
She ceased, she vanished, and my room
Seemed wrapt in sadder, deeper gloom.
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