Pretty girl of Loch Dan


The shades of eve had crossed the glen
That frowns o’er infant Avonmore
When, nigh Loch Dan, two weary men
We stopped before a cottage door
‘God save all here,’ my comrade cries
And rattles on the raised latch-pin
‘God save you kindly,’ quick replies
A clear sweet voice, and asks us in

We enter; from the wheel she starts
A rosy girl with soft black eyes
Her fluttering courtesy takes our hearts
Her blushing grace and pleased surprise
Poor Mary, she was quite alone
For all the way to Glenmalure
Her mother had that morning gone
And left the house in charge with her

But neither household cares, nor yet
The shame that startled virgins feel
Could make the generous girl forget
Her wonted hospitable zeal
She brought us in a beechen bowl
Sweet milk that smacked of mountain thyme
Oat cake, and such a yellow roll
Of butter, it gilds all my rhyme

And while we ate the grateful food
With weary limbs, on bench reclined
Considerate and discreet, she stood
Apart, and listened to the wind
Kind wishes both our souls engaged
From breast to breast spontaneous ran
The mutual thought, we stood and pledged
‘The modest rose above Loch Dan’

The milk we drink is not more pure
Sweet Mary, bless those budding charms
Than your own generous heart, I’m sure
Nor whiter than the breast it warms
She turned and gazed, unused to hear
Such language in that homely glen
But, Mary, you have naught to fear
Though smiled on by two stranger men

Not for a crown would I alarm
Your virgin pride by word or sign
Nor need a painful blush disarm
My friend of thoughts as pure as mine
Her simple heart could not but feel
The words we spoke were free from guile
She stooped, she blushed, she fixed her wheel
’tis all in vain, she can’t but smile

Just like sweet April’s dawn appears
Her modest face, I see it yet
And though I lived a hundred years
Methinks I never could forget
The pleasure that, despite her heart
Fills all her downcast eyes with light
The lips reluctantly apart
The white teeth struggling into sight

The dimples eddying o’er her cheek
The rosy cheek that won’t be still
O, who could blame what flatterers speak
Did smiles like this reward their skill ?
For such another smile, I vow
Though loudly beats the midnight rain
I’d take the mountain-side e’en now
And walk to Luggelaw again


Written by Sir Samuel Ferguson (1810–1886)

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