Manx Song and Maiden Song


The Editor and Publisher of this definitive series of contemporary verse hope that by judicious and sympathetic selection of the volumes the confidence of the discriminating public interested in new poetry will be gained, that each little volume of authentic promise or distinctive achievement will be found to contain something really notable and precious, in the best sense of the term that without recourse to meretricious methods or grotesque tricks or flatulent pretensions they will prove that new verse as well as more utilitarian books can be published successfully at a low price. We believe that, exploited though it has been by notoriety-seekers and experiment-mongers and made cautious by immature offerings, there is a wide if scattered public eager to welcome and appreciate the fine work of this generation,— a body of readers more responsive now than at any previous time to the spirit of poetry. Not in affectation or arrogance has the title of the series been adopted. It is used in its exact and literal sense, defining work produced in our own immediate day by writers who for the most part have only recently found expression. To emphasise this, we begin this series with the work of a girl of sixteen, to be succeeded by the first published volume of a young army officer. We do not claim that this postulates any abrupt new epoch in English poetry, —we would rather believe in and help to prove its continuity in the heart and brain of the legitimate successors of Shakespeare and Milton, Keats and Shelley, Wordsworth and Tennyson, whose influence and value cannot be destroyed by clamorous usurpers and iconoclasts with studied strivings after “originality.” The present stupendous war is likely to influence poetry more than is the accession of kings. An Amurath to Amurath succeeds, but no old period in poetry is closed, no new period opens automatically or violently. And before the Victorian and Edwardian influences have become merged and crystallised into a distinctive Georgian epoch, —even the youngest and most impressionable of us whose work is responsive to the formative influences of the immediate present cannot yet claim to be definitely “Georgian” in more than date of publication—the cataclysmal war has overtaken us, precipitating an epoch that cannot be a mere artificial term. Most certainly poetry will be tremendously affected. As Mr. James Mackereth finely said in the “Poetry Review,” “Out of this travail of nations, out of the bloody pain and ardour of men, will spring a saner and grander conception of life, a deeper and wider soul-consciousness, a higher and more universal poetry.” We cannot offer even the first fruits of that renaissance yet, but we can hope that these early “Georgians” will be among the poets of the new epoch, and will be found the spiritual children of the new age, luminously, passionately vocal and rich in the music and beauty that have distinguished English poetry.
We have hinted already that in point of date Miss Mona Douglas is a “Georgian” writer. Some four years ago, in the course of my work as a critic of the essays in verse-writing of more than a hundred and fifty young people, I had occasion to read her first ” low beginnings,” and found her work noteworthy, even then, as the spontaneous poetic utterance of a child of twelve. Since then most of her verses have passed through my hands, many of them have found their way into print,- and in all the impulse to poetry has been consistently sustained and developed. They are reproduced as they reached me, with scarcely the alteration of a word in the whole collection. In her own words for the most part, too, I give the writer’s brief life-story, which lends, to our thinking, additional interest to her work:—
“I was born,” she says, “on September 18th, 1899, at Liverpool, but both by descent and upbringing I am Manx, and when only a few months old was taken to the island to live. Then, being rather delicate, I was allowed to run wild on the hills. I have never been to school , but have practised a mixture of occupations, from voluntary ‘ odd jobbing’ about a Manx farm to driving a bread-cart. At present I am helping in our own bakehouse in Birkenhead, in order to free a man for the front, doing housework as well, going to the School of Art and having other lessons at home, and writing in between times. I play no games (there are no hockey-grounds or tennis courts at my old home at Ballaragh), but am very fond of walking, driving and, particularly, sailing— indeed I am never happier than when on the water, and spend most of my leisure there. I write about the Island just because it is the Island, and because I am Manx and proud of it.”
“Manx-Song and Maiden-Song,” it will be seen, is the unforced product of a young girl’s heart and mind, the reflex of spontaneous thought and inborn feeling, for country, for Nature, and for art. It seems to us reasonable to hope that in so young a muse, uttering already so clear a note, a music yet unborn may not improbaly

“Lie hidden as the music of the moon
Sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale.”

S. G. F.


My thanks are due to the Editors of the following publications for their courtesy in permitting me to include in this collection poems which have already appeared in their pages: The Girl’s Realm, the Woman at Home, the Bookman, the Gentlewoman, the Isle of Man Times, Home Life, and the Lady’s Companion.

The Exile

Brother, ’tis wise to dream not overlong
Of rock-bound, spray-swept islands far away,
Where men may sail upon the seas by day,
And sleep at night hushed by the waves’ low song.
Yet you look Northwards, whence the gale blows strong —
Northwards, to where the oceans wild and grey
Fret in the tempest’s grip, and toss their spray
In clouds, where the swift-following breakers throng ….

Brother, I know! ‘Tis not for me to chide,
I, too, have dreamed of spaces wide and free —
Of open seas, where brown-sailed vessels ride,
And dim grey cliffs, where gulls cry mournfully.
Alike our wild blood answers wind and tide —
Prisoned, we hunger for the boundless sea!

In Memoriam: “Ellan Vannin”

Starlight, and then the dark—
But o’er the stormy waters, hark!
There rings a cry of joy,
Speaking a glad release.
For low she lies where gales no more annoy,
At peace!

O winds that chant of death!
Send forth upon your icy breath
Glad songs from sea to sea:
Mourn not our ship as lost—
From the wild Bar to calm Eternity
She crossed.

O winds that roam the deep!
Blow softly where she lies asleep
Beneath the waves afar,
O sing across the foam—
Our ship is safe at last within the Bar,
At home!

The Weaver

Into her web she weaves
Starlight and dawn,
Glory of golden leaves
From the woods drawn.
Sea-mists of blue and grey,
Sheen of the rain,
Scent of the new-mown hay,
Rustle of grain.

Into her web are wrought
Songs of the grass —
Soft elfin-music, caught
As the winds pass,
In it, as in a shell,
Deep music roars,
Speaking the ocean-swell
On unseen shores.

Into her warp she winds
A wreath of dreams,
And in the weft she binds
Starry thought-gleams:
All the embroidery rare
Upon her fleece
Is sewn with threads of prayer,
And love, and peace!

I asked her, Who art thou,
O Weaver fair,
With tender, wrinkled brow
And silver hair?
Bending as though she prayed,
Low answered she:
“I am the Mother-maid
Called Memory”!


I can hear the fairies calling from the meadows far away,
Where the daffodils are gleaming through a veil of misty grey,
In the magic of the morning, when the joyous sea-winds blow
Over mountain-tops with golden gorse aglow!

I can hear the fairies calling from the king-cups all a-sheen
Through a mist of white spray falling down a glen of flickering green,
Where a blue-bell carpet covers all the ground beneath their feet,
And the blackbirds call a greeting loud and sweet.

Fairies, if I heed your calling, if I take your out-stretched hands,
Will you lead me through the sunrise to your wondrous golden lands?
“If your heart is as a child’s heart, you shall cross the sunrise bar,
And the ocean that is lighted by a star,

“You shall see our lands of gladness — hills all green and gold and grey,
And shall wander in the bluebell-glens beside the tossing spray!”
So I go to meet the fairies, childhood’s joys once more to find,
With the world and care and trouble left behind!

The Angel of the Woods

She walks, white-gowned, amid the glades of fir,
Hushed by the music of the breeze among
The fretted leaves; one bird her chorister,
At hour of evensong.

Her robin sings upon a budding thorn
His vesper hymn, while in the radiant west
The red light dies, and purple shades are drawn
O’er forest aisles of rest.

Say, hath she come from some bright world unseen?
Her sweet grey eyes glow with a steadfast light,
As glow the stars, the altar-lights serene,
The Easter lilies white.

Yes! for she is the Angel of the Woods,
Into her charge are given the fir-trees tall,
The sweet-voiced birds, the tender primrose buds —
She loves and tends them all!

Two Twilights

Mist on the fields, and a deepening summer twilight,
Cattle passing homeward along the narrow lane;
Lily-pools that gleam in the darkness of the meadows,
Music of the night-breeze in fields of ripening grain.
Far above the mountains the last red light is dying,
Goat-bells chime faintly in pastures far away —
Nature is at rest, and the busy world lies dreaming
In the magic hour of twilight, at the closing of the day.

Shadow on the rocks, and a wind across the water;
Glimmers of light in the eastern skies afar, —
High rides the moon, her pale shafts of radiance gleaming,
Where the seething tide frets across the harbour-bar.
Over the wild waves comes the call of the great spaces,
White breakers leap from a plain of silver-grey —
Dreaming lies the world, but the restless sea still moveth,
In the mystic hour of twilight, at the dawning of the day.

T. E. Brown: A Memorial Sonnet to the Poet of Manxland

There is a grave beneath a sheltering spire,
Where strangers pass, who glance and then forget,
But Manxmen linger, filled with keen regret:
For there lies one who blended dreams with fire
And action, taught his people to aspire
To things above life’s common jar and fret,
But who would have them pure and lowly yet —
True to themselves, while aiming ever higher.

O Singer of a people strong and free!
O Man, on whom this land could never frown
Who knew’st it all, and loved’st it perfectly,
Virtues and faults, — country and busy town:—
As long as round our Island beats the sea
Thy people’s love shall be thy laurel-crown!


Grey figures move across the fields of dawn —
Dim figures fleeing from the darkened west,
Where in hushed woodlands curtains dimly drawn
Enfold the aisles of rest.

Before them, mountain-tops of fire and snow,
Whose farthest peaks the coming dawn has kissed, —
Above them, hurricanes that shriek and blow, —
Around them, rain and mist.

But, low-hung in the eastern skies afar,
There glows a light, as from a hidden fire —
A light more wonderful than sun or star,
Which does not fade nor tire.

Onward they go, together, yet alone—
Dim figures fleeing from the lands of night,
With bleeding feet, and many a fall and groan,
Pressing towards the light.

Clay Head

When the cold moonlight streams across the bay
You seem as one whose brow, spray-wet,
Yearns upward through the night and far away,
Seeking the place where stars are set.

But when the sunrise turns the skies to flame,
And stars have paled beneath its glow,
You lie a grey, unheeding thing, and claim
Your place amid the seas below.

Seeking no more those high, inhuman fires,
You stoop to touch the hungry waves
That, like the ghosts of unfulfilled desires,
Wander among the Garwick caves.

Peel Cathedral

On a rocky isle of the western sea stands a castle, grim and grey,
Where the wild waves break on its outer walls in a mist of tossing spray,
While within the ghosts of the past hold sway and sea-gulls wander free
In a ruined church, where the echoes ring with the night-song of the sea.

Once a holy fire on its altar burned, and priests in their robes of white
Moved with stately pomp through the high-arched nave ,amid mellow evening light,
And the great church echoed with songs of praise as the service grew and passed,
Until darkness fell o’er the castle walls, and the rites were done at last.

Now the priests are dead and their church is bare, and the altar-stone is cold,
And the moon shines down through the roofless nave to the chancel grey and old,
But a greater service than theirs is held in the ruined church to-day,
‘Mid the mossy graves of forgotten kings, where the silver moonbeams play:

For the winds of God sing an anthem sweet in the misty, grass-grown choir,
With the beat of waves for an organ-peal, and a star for the altar-fire,
While the souls of monks wander back again to the places they used to know,
And the benediction of angels falls on that temple of long-ago.

The Miner

As to the dim, dark caverns underground
The engine throbs along its narrow way,
Through the black shades my light heart flies away
To where the ore, Earth’s treasure-trove, lies bound.
I go to free it from the depths profound —
It calls me, calls me onward day by day,
And makes the rattle of my tools at play
Like some fierce war-cry through the caves resound.
Earth holds her treasures fast! By powers appalling
She ever seeks to block our hard-won way
To where, hedged in by mystery enthralling,
Her prisoners lie, and plead to see the day,
Yet we fight on, for hark! the Ore is calling—
And we who hear it cannot leave the fray!


Dawn on the hills, and a breeze across the heather,
Lark-songs that fall from the solitudes of blue,
Haze on the bogs with their tufts of golden feather,
And a light that makes the whole world new.

Dusk on the hills and the shadows on the heather,
Ripples of flame on the waters far away,
Light on the crags, where the cattle roam together
In the glory of the dying day.

Noon on the hills, and the mist upon the heather,
Fast-driving sleet, and a wind that will not cease —
Lo! there’s a joy in the stormy winter weather
Which is greater than the joy of peace!

Sea- Music

In the early, early morn, when the mist is on the corn,
And the darkness scarcely lifted from the lea,
Hark! there comes a sound of song, by the breezes borne along —
‘Tis the haunting fairy-music of the sea!

In the golden afternoon, when the crimson rose of June
Slumbers lazily beneath the tramman-tree,1
Still there float across the hill songs that set my heart a-thrill —
‘Tis the haunting fairy-music of the sea!

In the evening calm and cool, when the ferns beside the pool
Nod in greeting to the homeward-passing bee,
Still I hear the tender croon of that tantalising tune —
Of that haunting fairy-music from the sea.

Oh! my heart is far away, where the white-capped breakers play,
And the music rings out wild and strong and free:
Through the sunlight or the snow, where it calls me I must go —
I must follow up the music of the sea!

1. Anglice — Elder-tree.

The Toilers

Summer days are long and weary in the traffic-laden street
That re-echoes to the tramp of many feet,
Where the toilers pass along
In a tired and dusty throng
Over pavements all a-shimmer with the heat.

But at last the welcome darkness falls across the busy town,
And the toilers lay their heavy burdens down, —
While the night-wind, cool and free,
Blowing inland from the sea,
Sings a wander-song of sea-shores bare and brown.

Then the city-slaves look upwards to the glowing northern star,
Thinking sadly of the spray-swept isles afar,
Where the great winds freely blow,
And the salt tides ebb and flow,
And the wild seas fret on rock and harbour-bar.

But the night-wind quickly passes and the crowds move on again,
Units mingling with the ever-moving train:—
They are captives, closely bound
To their world of work and sound,
And the wild must ever call to them in vain!

The Glen

There is a glen where larches tall and stately
Their graceful fronds lift upwards to the sky,
Where great ferns grow, and bees among the bluebells
Their dainty business ply.

The sound of water musically dropping
In this green glen is ever to be heard:
‘Tis like some great cathedral, softly thrilling
With songs of wind and bird.

There, in the tender pale-green of the spring-time,
I love to sit beneath the trees and dream,
While through their leaves the sunlight glances softly
On the low-murmuring stream.


Oh! I’m going home to Cardle,
When the harvest-fields are brown,
When the countryside is smiling
In its gorgeous autumn gown,
I’ll be home again for Mhellia
When the year is on the turn,
And the autumn sun is ripening
The blackberries and cairn!
Oh! I’ll take the track across the hills,
Where heather-blossoms blow,
And across the rushy glen-land
To the little farm below,
While the glow of sunset lingers
With a radiance sweet and pure
On the little mill beside the stream,
And shady Cardle Voar.1

And it’s joyously I’ll walk across
The springy mountain turf,
In my ears the long-lost music
Of the hissing, wind-tossed surf —
Oh! ’tis far beyond the seas I am,
But yearning voices call,
“Will ye not come back to Cardle
When the year is at the fall?”

So I’m going back to Cardle,
When the crimson sunset-glow
Lies o’er field and glen and mountain,
And the birds are singing low:
I’ll be down beside the sea again
‘Mid cushag2-flowers and cairn,
In the pleasant Cardle valley,
When the year is on the turn!

1. Pronounce ‘vure’
2. Ragwort , the national flower of Manx-land

”In the Silence of the Sleep-Time”

When purple twilight steals across the deep,
And daylight dies upon the upland way,
The fairies call the children from their play,
And carry them to the far Glens of Sleep,
Where through the willows laughing mermaids peep,
Who throw them blossoms from the lands of May,
And tuck them in a nest of willows grey,
While shadowy mist-elves ‘neath the branches creep.
Musk of all wild-flowers goes to scent their pillows,
The starlight shines above them far and high,
Sea-voices sing to them across the billows,
And wind-elves rock the nest wherein they lie:
Softly they sleep beneath the bending willows,
While drowsy song-birds call a low “oie-vie.”1

1. “Oie-vie,” = “Good-night.”

Triolets of the Seasons

O the spring breezes blow
In a glen by the sea:
Where the daffodils grow,
There the spring breezes blow,
And the thrush carols low
In his white hawthorn-tree —
O, the spring breezes blow
In a glen, by the sea!

By the sundial there
In the garden she stands —
Like the summer-time fair,
By the sundial there,
A rose-wreath in her hair
And a rose in her hands,
By the sundial there
In the garden, she stands!

Now the pearly mists creep
Over garden and lawn,
And the red roses sleep
Where the pearly mists creep,
While the sere branches weep
In the white, frosty dawn —
Now the pearly mists creep
Over garden and lawn.

O’er the mountains comes he
In his garment of white,
Bringing storms to the sea
O’er the mountains comes he,
Setting cold North-winds free,
Putting Autumn to flight —
O’er the mountains comes he
In his garment of white!

To November

Welcome, November! Grey month of rain and tempest,
Coming, crowned with mist-wreaths, across the shadowed land —
Welcome thy clouds are as primroses in springtime,
Sweet thy misty coolness as a well in desert sand.
Dear month of shadows! thy tender, restful beauty
All the blossom glory of joyous May transcends
Sweet, capricious April must bow her head before thee —
June, the queen of roses, before November bends!
March may strew her violets beneath the swaying larches,
August wander, heather-crowned, o’er mountains far away,
June may reign with beauty in a bower of crimson roses,
Laughing April hide amid the scented hay —
Greatest of them all is the shadow-month, November,
Drawing her mist-veils o’er mountain-top and mere,
Greatest of them all, in her still, majestic beauty
Reigning, Queen of queens, in the pageant of the year!

Manxmen Abroad

Not for us the life of cities, where the tides of commerce flow,
And the smoke-pall hides its prisoners from skies that gleam and glow,
Where the steady roar of traffic and the endless tramp of feet
Are combined into the madness of a regulation beat!

Not for us the rolling prairies, and the magic of the trail,
When the fog is on the rivers, and the lone coyotes wail,
Or the snowy Northern wilderness, where shadowy were-wolves are,
And the silent wastes of No-man’s-land stretch round one near and far.

But away across the ocean there’s a little isle of rest —
Just a tiny twilight country tucked away into the West,
With the mist upon its curragh-lands where drowsy blackbirds throng,
And the music of creation in the sea-wind’s good-night song!

It’s our little Ellan Vannin that is holding us in thrall,
And in countries half the world away we hear its mystic call,
So we dwell within the shadow of the “green hills by the sea” —
For a spell of love is holding us to “Thalloo veen ma chree!”1

1. Anglice — “Dear land of my heart”.

The Garden

There’s a little sheltered garden in the hollow of the hill,
Where the air with sweet bird-music is a-thrill,
And the fragrant summer breeze whispers softly to the trees
Of the old-world grace that lingers in it still.

There’s a riot in the garden of the hollyhocks a-bloom
And the honeysuckle’s airy golden fume,
There the rambler roses blow, and the foxgloves gleam and glow
Where Madonna lilies spread their sweet perfume.

There’s a river in the garden, just a glistening silver line
Flowing where the willow-branches trail and twine, —
In the shadows cool and grey, where the little breezes play
With the ghostly, swaying flowers of columbine.

But the magic of the garden lieth not in tree or flower,
Or the river passing slowly hour by hour,
For a lady young and fair long ago was prisoned there,
And her spirit seems to linger in the bower.

So I love to watch the garden in the mellow evening light,
When the sunset-glow makes all the flower-heads bright,
And I often seem to see, in the fragrant rosery,
Just a glimmer of her trailing gown of white.

There I watch until the sunset-sky is strewn with great cloud-spars,
And the drift-light lies in low-down golden bars:
Then I softly turn away in the shadows dim and grey —
And the garden sleeps beneath the wind-swept stars!


There is life in the world’s great cities,
There’s a charm in the flowers of May —
There is beauty in summer gardens,
Or the woods on an autumn day.

There is joy in the rain-storm sweeping
O’er the slopes of the heather-hills, —
There is music in winter tempests,
Or the song of the rain-swelled rills —

But the plashing of oars at twilight,
Or the throb of a storm at sea,
Are the essence and soul of music,
And the heart of the world to me!


Far on the mountains the fairy-folk dwell,
Up in the land of rock and heather,
Carried aloft on the hurricane-swell,
Flitting about in the misty weather!

Crimson-cloaked women with dresses of blue,
Scattering over each hump and hollow
Armfuls of gossamer laden with dew,
Calling the birds of the morn to follow.

Little green men with their eyes all-afire,
Poking stray sunbeams in dubsto catch them,
Binding the wind with a cushag2-stem wire,
Throwing sea-mist on the clouds to patch them!

Sometimes you’ll see them march over the hill —
Will-o’-the-Wisp with his lantern guiding —
Armies of fairies, with mischief a-thrill,
Raiding the glens while the sun is hiding!

Only, beware! If you see them at dawn,
Watch that a tramman3-leaf near you lieth,
So that your feet be not after them drawn,
Over the hill-tops where memory dieth!

1. ”Dubs” = pools.
2.”Cushag” = ragwort, the Manx national flower.
3. “Tramman” = elder.

Winds of Summer

Call, call, winds o’ the dawn —
Sweet with the breath of the larches, —
Darkness has fled from field and lawn
Under the dim forest-arches!

Sing, sing, winds o’ the noon —
Songs of the harebells and roses,
Blowing amid the fields of June,
Where the brown humble-bee dozes.

Blow, blow, winds o’ the night;
Over the rolling sea-billows
Blow me to Dreamland; blow till the light
Dawn in the Glen of the Willows!

The Song of the Three Wise Men

Slowly the stars fade; a Mystery enthralling
Wakens into music the harp-strings of the world;
Softly the dawn comes, through mists and darkness falling,
Touching into beauty the mountains dew-impearled.
Long have we wandered in darkness all-enfolding,
Looking to the Star of the Promise for our light;
Now we turn Eastward, where dim, grey skies are holding
Sunlight which shall scatter the shadows of the night.

God! we were weary! The night was growing deeper —
Even the starlight gleamed faintly from afar:
Looked we to Thee, to the world’s great Guard and Keeper,
Knowing that morn brings the waning of the star.
Now above the mountains the winds of dawn are waking,
Night-mists roll back from the countries far away,
Lo! a great Light in the Eastern sky is breaking —
Thrilling wakes the world in the dawn of a New Day!

Christmas Morning, Kirk Lonan

Mourning for fallen stars, the cold waves surge
And break in clamour on the heedless sand;
Far in the shadowy east the dawn’s low verge
Gleams to the wakening land.

Slowly the light comes, stealing o’er the sea
To where the boats lie storm-bound in the bay;
Within Thy church, in quiet ecstasy,
The silent fishers pray.

Messiah, come! As in the days of old
Thou earnest to the shores of Galilee —
Come to us through the sunrise-fire of gold,
Walking upon the sea!

Manx-Song & Maiden-Song, it will be seen, is the unforced product of a young girl’s heart and mind, the reflex of spontaneous thought and inborn feeling, for country, for Nature, and for art.

Published in 1915 when Mona Douglas was only 16, Manx Song & Maiden Song is a remarkable work that shows the themes and style that contributed to her writing coming to be considered the most influential Manx poetry of the 20th Century.

Mona Douglas was a phenomenal force in the revival of nearly all areas of Manx culture in the 20th Century. She began writing poetry at the tender age of seven but it was in 1908, at the age of ten, that the two most important influences on her writing entered her life: Sophia Morrison and the poetry of W. B. Yeats. The one focussed her attention on the importance of Manx culture and its survival; the other inspired her with a poetic Celtic mysticism which was to colour her writing even into the novels she wrote when in her 80s. Both of these aspects to her work were already fully-formed in her first collection of poetry, Manx Song & Maiden Song.

The book was published in London in 1915 at a time when Douglas was working in her parents’ bakery in Birkenhead, filling in for a man who had gone to fight in the First World War. The 26 poems of the collection received glowing reviews from the leading Manx commentators of the day, including P. W. Caine and J. J. Kneen, and in many ways it is the most accessible and inviting of all of her literary works.

Despite being called the most influential Manx poet of the 20th Century in the New History of the Isle of Man, Mona Douglas’ literary memory is today almost entirely overshadowed by her work in other fields of Manx culture, most notably in music and dance. Re-reading this, her first of six collections of poetry, allows us to begin to also remember her important and distinctive place in the literature of the Isle of Man.

Over the wild waves comes the call of the great spaces;
White breakers leap from a plain of silver-grey —
Dreaming lies the world, but the reckless sea still moveth,
In the mystic hour of twilight, at the dawning of the day.

Mona Douglas was the main driving force behind the modern revival of Manx culture; we owe to her the existence of Yn Chruinnaght, the survival of Manx dancing, many of the Manx songs popular today and a body of poems, plays and novels that form an essential part of the Island’s literary heritage.