THE MOUNTAIN AND THE MOON.
Right on the mountain top she poised and stood,
A moment all her rounded splendour showed,
Then leaped in air and took her heavenly road,
Casting her veil o’er valley, hill and wood,
While old Barrule remained in pensive mood,
Still on she went to some care-free abode,
And never slacked her silver steps or slowed,
Leaving him that one kiss whereon to brood;
But with unruffled calm his quiet might
Watched his own glen nor heeded her a jot,
Till in an ecstacy of sport and spite
She fled into the nearest cloud to blot
With darkness all his world; he heeded not,
Knowing she could not long keep out of sight.
All silver white when mystic twilight falls
The fair sweet lilies in their order stand,
Shrined in the deepening dusk, a radiant band,
Like Saints adoring in their fretted stalls,
The meeting waters seem to hush their brawls
And slip more softly o’er the narrow strand
As, waiting an unuttered anthem grand,
The listening silence all the sense enthrals,
Slowly the darkness gathers — one bright star
From the dim chancel sends a lonely ray.
No longer is our Heaven remote and far,
For, in a moment we can find the way,
Into its happy precincts, none can bar
The great cathedral open night and day.
God sent the children, happy careless things,
Inconsequent as rabbits when they play
On some wild hillside at the close of day;
Sporting with every toy Dame Fortune brings.
Down the long corridor of memory rings
The echo of their laughter blythe and gay
As through the glen they take their random way
Glancing and darting like the swallow wings.
Our Belgian boys, Joseph and little Franz
And quiet-mannered Jean to take the lead;
Fairy-dog Jack; kind Hommy with his cans
Who gave his young life for his country’s need;
Cherubic Sydney full of shepherd plans
And Eileen ploughing with her painted steed.
THE LATE BROOD.
The grave-eyed youngsters on the nest’s broad edge,
Beneath the sheltered eaves sat day by day,
While summer into autumn blazed away;
And winter whispered through the garden hedge
With hailstones rattled on the bronzing sedge.
The anxious parents, keen to be away,
Hunted and hawked for them till evening gray,
But still the nestlings clung to that safe ledge.
Then from the clouds a radiant morning broke,
And suddenly the Glen was full of wings,
Tribe called to tribe, and quickly Nature spoke,
Launching the young amid the whirling rings,
Short flights, but daily lengthened, till we woke
To find them gone — our darling feathered things.
THE WRENS’ HOUSEKEEPING.
Low rolls November’s sun along the hill,
Dim grow the skies and early falls the dark,
No music now from blackbird, thrush, or lark;
Only the robin pipes his ditty still,
While to the swallow’s nest above the sill
New tenants come to find a welcome ark,
Where undisturbed by steps or Loki’s bark
They find a refuge in the storm-swept gill.
Like brown moths flitting in the dimsey light,
Each evening brings them to our window view,
And every morning as the dawn grows white
They fly their careful business to pursue,
And thus secure from frost, or rain, or fright,
The gentle wrens keep house the winter through.
A little woman in a brown silk bonnet,
A little man in swallow-tails of green,
The last Glen Aldyn fairies that were seen;
Tis truth I’m telling now, my hand upon it,
And surely worth the tribute of a sonnet.
Her blue check apron decked her like a queen,
His buttons shone, and in his hand I ween
His cap he carried till he chose to don it.
Now in these glens you’ll find or late or soon
The Middle World is never far away,
And one who saw these fairies says to-day
That, through the waning glimpses of the moon
They used to come with footsteps nim’ney-pim’ney,
And try to stuff Aunt Susan up the chimney!
THE WHISPERING FAIRIES.
It chanced the glen a fairy play essayed,
The children like those fairies to be dressed,
And Elsie’s nimble fingers took no rest
Till brown silk bonnets she had deftly made
And on the parlour table safely laid.
That night the waking household was distressed
By whispering sounds within the chimney breast,
Nor till cock-crowing daylight were they stayed.
They fired the chimney, set the traps, but still
Night after night the wistful sounds were heard —
It was no windy draught, or mouse, or bird
Disturbed our neighbours in the quiet gill,
But — when they took the bonnets right away
The whispering ceased — that’s all I have to say.
“We are the people of the Glen,” they said,
And then, again, the Christmas darkness rang
With those old tuneful melodies they sang,
While we a welcome in their music read.
Swiftly the busy years have passed and fled,
Nor could the parting be without a pang
From all the kindliness and love which sprang
To meet us with a courtesy inbred.
O glen of roses, glen of mingling streams,
Glen of the swallows and the tender wren.
Glen of the children, glen of elfin dreams,
That lay in mystery beyond our ken;
Life all around us touched by faery gleams,
We loved with you, dear People of the Glen!
A very rare collection of eight poems by Cushag, the poet once referred to as “the Queen of Manx poetry.”
Published in August 1919, the poems are loosely focussed on Glen Auldyn, then the home of Cushag. They pick up on strong and established themes in Cushag’s poetry, including nature, childhood and folklore, but it finds a new presentation here as Cushag masterfully uses the sonnet form for all of the poems in the collection. This was a very unusual form for her, but it shows another side to Cushag’s skill as a poet in being able to express such beautiful thoughts and reflections in a form as difficult as this.
The collection, although slight in comparison to her other works, is essential in gaining a full grasp of the output of one of the most important poets the Isle of Man has ever known.
Cushag (Josephine Kermode) was the best-loved poet of her generation and perhaps the island’s most intriguing playwright; she is one of the most important writers that the Isle of Man has ever known.