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Scottish Poets in America
Wanless, Andrew

Whose song gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer
Or tears from the eyelids start.

Mr. Wanless is a deservedly popular Scottish poet. He has now been before the public as an author for upwards of forty years, and during that time he has published many beautiful and valuable poems that will live and be admired long after the present generation has passed away. On the publication of his second volume of poems, he presented a copy to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, and in due time received the following acknowledgment of the same. “ Lieut. Gen. Sir T. M. Biddulph has received the Queen’s commands to thank Mr. A. Wanless for sending his volume of Poems and Songs, which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept. Buckingham Palace, Septemper 2, 1876.” Mr. Wanless is now getting well on in years. In an epistle to his friend, Mr. James McKay, of Detroit, he says :

‘Tin getting unco auld and stiff,
And glow’ring ower life's dreary cliff;
’Twill no be lang or I play whiff,
And close my e’en,
And sail awa in death’s dark skiff
To the unseen.

“Yet still I needna grunt and grane,
I’m no just in the warld alane,
I’ve wife and bairns to ca’ my ain,
And when I dee
Nae stranger cauld wi’ heart o’ stane
Will close my e’e !”

In a short autobiographical sketch of our author, to which we have had access, we find him saying:—“I was born in Longformacus, Berwickshire, May 25, 1824. This is near the classic Tweed and among the Lammermoor hills, the scene of Sir Walter Scott’s ‘ Bride of Lammermoor.’ The same locality is also mentioned in the ‘ Heart of Midlothian,’ when Jennie Deans, on her visit to London, informed the Duke of Argyle that she had an aunt residing in Longformacus, ‘Wha was a grand maker of ewe-milk cheese.’ My father studied and graduated from the famous University of Edinburgh. He was the parochial teacher of the parish in which he lived for more than fifty years. I have a vivid recollection of his intense grief when the tidings of the death of Sir Walter Scott first reached him. He was an ardent admirer of the wonderful ability of the famous ‘Wizard of the North.’ The mind of my mother, however, was strongly tinctured with Calvanistic doctrines, and she regarded the matter in a very different light. ‘ Houts, guid man,’said she, 'he’s weel awa\ He was just fillin’ the heads o’ the folks fu’ o’ downright havers!’” Young Wanless was sent to school at an early age, and received the usual education which was supposed, at that time, to fit a lad for almost any business calling. He gives us a pleasant glimpse of his boyhood days when he says, “My keenest pleasure, in early life, was found in wandering about my native land, visiting romantic haunts and burnsides. I was always of a studious and retiring disposition, enjoying the society of nature more than that of man. As I said in rhyme years afterwards:

‘When floods cam’ gushing down the hill
And swelling wide the wee bit rill,
As sure as death—I mind it still—
In some lone nook,
I’d stand and learn poetic skill
Frae nature's book.

‘A snow-drop on its bielded bed
Would raise its modest virgin head,
My very heart to it was wed
With nature’s chain;
And tears o’ joy would o’er it shed,
I was sae fain!

'And when the bonnie spring would come,
When bees around the flowers would bum,
And linties were nae langer dumb
The woods amang,
’Twas there, wi’ them, I learned to hum
My wee bit sang.’ ”

After leaving school Mr. Wanless was sent to Dunse where he entered upon a seven years’ apprenticeship as a bookbinder. On completing his term of service he removed to Edinburgh, where he procured a position as foreman in a large bookbinding establishment. “In Edinburgh,” he tells us, “I frequently met and conversed with Professor Wilson (Christopher North), Hugh Miller, Robert Chambers, Francis Jeffrey, Lord Cockburn, and many other famous literary and scientific men of their day. I also attended the School of Arts, where I acquired a knowledge of French and various other fancy accomplish-, ments which have never been of practical benefit. My mind then, and pretty much ever since, found room only for contemplation of the songs of the old Scotch Bards.”

In 1851 he emigrated to Canada, and taking up his residence in Toronto entered into business on his own account as a bookbinder. This turned out an unfortunate adventure for him, as his shop was burned one day and he was left without a penny. While in Toronto he contributed a large number of poems to the press, and published a volume which was warmly received by the public, and is now entirely out of print. In 1861 he removed to Detroit, where he once more set up in business, this time as a bookseller. Since then he has been successful in all respects, and is now one of the best known and most respected citizens of Detroit. “My career in this city is too well known to justify elaboration,” he writes. “I have lived a quiet, peaceful life, and sincerely trust I have made few enemies. I have gradually surrounded myself with a large collection of old books, both standard and miscellaneous in character. I have seen many changes in the city, and have seen those whom I had learned to love drop out of the long race one by one. In 1873 I published another volume of poems which met with such favor that a second edition was demanded a year later. I have travelled extensively in this country and in Canada, reading before Scotch audiences. I have now a book in manuscript which is neaiing completion, which I have called ‘The Droll Book of Original Scotch Anecdotes.’ I possess a remarkable memory for the folk lore with which I was familiar during my early years. I should have told you that I have been married twice and have a family of six children, all bonnie lasses.” From his comfortable home in Detroit he has sent forth the majority of his finest poems. One of these, “Our Mither Tongue,” was read before the St. Andrew’s Society, Detroit, November 30, 1870. It at once achieved popularity both in America and Scotland, and to day is probably one of his widest-known pieces.


It’s monie a day since first we left
Auld Scotland’s rugged hills—
Her heath’ry braes and gow’ny glens,
Her bonnie winding rills—
We lo’ed her in the by-gane time,
When life and hope were young,
Wc lo’e her still, wi’ right guid will,
And glory In her tongue!

Can we forget the summer days
Whan we got leave frae schule,
How we gade birrin’ down the braes
To daidle in the pool?
Or to the glen we’d slip awa
Where hazel clusters hung,
And wake the echoes o’ the hills—
Wi’ our auld mither tongue.

Can wo forget the lonesome kirk
Where gloomy ivies creep?
Can we forget the auld kirk yard
Where our forefather’s sleep?
We’ll ne’er forget that glorious land,
Where Scott and Burns sung—
Their sangs arc printed on our hearts
In our auld mither tongue.

Auld Scotland! Land o’ mickle fame!
The land where Wallace trod,
The land whose heartfelt praise ascends
Up to the throne of God;
Land where the martyrs sleep in peace,
Where infant freedom sprung,
Where Knox in tones of thunder spoke
In our auld mither tongue.

Now Scotland dlnna ye be blate ’
Mang nations crouscly craw,
Your callants are nae donncrt sumphs,
Your lasses bang them a’
The glisks o’ heaven will never fade,
That hope around us flung—
When first we breath’d the tale o’ love
In our auld mither tongue.

O ! let us ne’er forget our hame,
Auld Scotland’s hills and cairns,
And let us a’ where’er we be,
Aye strive “to be guid bairns,”
And when we meet wi’ want or age
A-hirpling owre a rung,
We’ll tak’ their part and cheer their heart
Wi’ our auld mither tongue.

Mr. Wanless’s poems have a genuine ring that is not to be mistaken. They are deep in thought, exquisite in fancy, tender in sentiment, rich in humor, and not a few of them are of a very pathetic nature, although it must be admitted that it is only on rare occasions that he introduces anything of a gloomy or sorrowful character. Probably the best of all his pieces, in this connection, is the one entitled “ My Bonnie Bairn,” which we herewith append. It is a very touching piece of poetry and will always be ranked as one of his finest inspirations.


In my auld hame we had a flower
A bonnie bairnie sweet and fair,
There’s no a flower in yonder bower
That wi’ my bairnie could compare.

There was nae gloom about our house
His merry laugh was fu’ o’ glee;
The welfare o’ my bonnie bairn
Was mair than worlds wealth to me.

And aye he’d sing his wee bit sang,
And o’ he’d make my heart sae fain,
When he would climb upon my knee
And tell me that he was my ain.

The bloom has faded frae his cheek
The light has vanished frae his e’e,
There is a want baith but and ben
Our house nae mair is fu’ o’ glee.

I’ll ne’er forget the tender smile
That flitted o’er his wee bit face,
When death came on his silent wing,
And clasp’d him in his cold embrace.

We laid him in the lonesome grave,
We laid him doon wi’ mickle care;
’Twas like to break my heart in twain,
To leave my bonnie darling there.

The silent tears unbidden came,
The waefu’ tears o’ bitter woe,
Ah! little, little, did I think,
That death would lay my darling low.

At midnight’s lone and mirky hour,
When wild the angry tempests rave
My thoughts—they winna bide away—
Frae my ain bairnie’s wee bit grave.

The lyrical productions of our author are all refined and musical. “The very language, as he uses it,” said the New York Scotsman, “makes him tender, brave, superstitious, patriotic and charitable. It has a charm to him, and he casts its spell over his readers. In many points he resembles Burns, in the pathos of his love songs, in his submission to and communion with the mysterious influences of nature, and in his tender regard for the humbler forms of life.” Among his finest productions are “Home Recollections,” “A Sabbath Morning in Scotland,” “Sandy Gill,” “Lammermoor,” “Turning the Key,’’ “The Creelin’,” “War and Peace,” “Caledonian Games on Belle Isle,” inscribed to J. B. Wilson, Esq., “Tam and Tib,” “Nan o’ Lockermacus,” “The Second Sight,” “Jean and Donald,” “Craigie Castle,” “The Lang Tailor o’ Whitby,” his epistle “To A. H. Wingfield, Esq.” (the author of the beautiful ballad, “There’s Crape on the Door”) and “The Scott Centenary,” a poem which has many admirers, and which has been extensively re-printed by the British and Canadian press. At the time when it was first published the Edinburgh Scotsman remarked that a single line in it, viz., “And Scotland lives in Bannockburn,” contained a whole volume.


A hundred years have rolled away,
This morn brought,in the^natal day,
Of one whose name'shall live for aye.

Beside the dear and winding' Forth
Was born the “Wizard of the North,”
The muses^circled round Miis bed
And placed their mark upon his head;

And Nature sang a grand refrain
As Genius claimed his wondrous brain,
For every bird in bush or brake,
Beside the silv’ry stream or lake,
Sang blythly on their leafy throne,
In honor of the “great Unknown!”

The thistle raised its drooping head,
The lark forsook his heather bed,
Shook from his wing the dewdrop moist,
And on the golden cloud rejoic’d;
The classic Tweed took up the lay,
The Yarrow sang by bank and brae,
And Ettrick danc’d upon her way.
The daisies by the crystal wells
Smiled sweetly to the heather bells;
And rugged craig and mountain dun
Exulted he was Scotia’s son!

Time sped, and from that brilliant brain
There issued many a martial strain;
He sang of knight and baron bold,
Of king and clown in days of old,
Though dead and gone, and passed away
Forgotten in the mould’ring clay—
We read, we trow, his magic brain
Brings back the dead to life again!
He sang of men who ne’er would yield
In border fray or battle field.
YesI on the page of endless fame
He wrote of many a deed and name;
How patriot heroes dared to die
For God, for right and liberty!

We see the beacon on the hill,
The slumb’ring earth no more is still,
For borne upon the midnight gale
The slogan’s heard o’er hill and dale,
The din of battle and the cry
That echoed through the vaulted sky,
As warriors fell and rose and reel’d,
And died on Flodden’s fatal field!

The minstrel loved auld Scotland’s hills,
Her gow’ny braes and wimpling rills,
He loved the land that gave him birth—
A land beloved o’er all the earth;
There stood the brave in weal or woe,
Who never crouched to foreign foe—
Who stood in battle like a rock,
And snapped in twain the tyrant’s yoke!

O ! Scotland, thou art dear to me!
Thou land of song and chivalry!
There Scott and Burns and many more,
Did pencil nature to the core—
There Wallace held the foe in scorn,
And Scotland lives in Bannockburn!
And every patriot, far or near,
In foreign land, or Scotia dear,
In castle proud, or lowly cot,
Reveres the name of Walter Scott.

Mr. Wanless, from his very earliest years, has been strongly imbued with a love for the ancient traditions and folk-lore of his native land, and he has skilfully woven a few of the former into very tender ballads. Nearly all of his pieces are written in the Scottish dialect. He possesses an intimate knowledge of the Doric, and he uses it in all its purity and simplicity. Among the few pieces which he has composed in connection with American subjects, his poem on the late Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, was both timely and appropriate.

When reason was banished, and treason arose,
And brother ’gainst brother dealt death-dealing blows,
And the words came as one from the lips of the brave—
“The flag of our fathers forever must wave;”
And a hero arose in the midst of our woe,
“Forward!” he cried “we must vaquish the foe;"
But there’s gloom on the earth, and there’s gloom in the skies,
And the light burns dim in the room where he lies.

The foe is advancing—every effort they strain,
But back they are hurled again and again,
And the shout of the Victor is heard in the air:
“While Liberty lives we shall never despair ;”
And the hero looks round on the death-striken field,
“ We must conquer or die, but we never will yield,”
But there’s gloom on the earth, and there’s gloom in the skies,
And the light burns dim in the room where he lies.

The sword’s in the scabbard, the warfare is o’er,
May the din of the battle be heard never more;
And now through the length and the breadth of the land,
May brother meet brother with heart and with hand;
May the past be forgot and may bitterness cease,
And the watchword be ever: “Come let us have peace!”
But there’s gloom on the earth, and there’s gloom in the skies,
And the light has gone out in the room where he lies.

No sketch of Mr. Wanless and his writings would be complete without referring specially to his patriotic feelings and unconquerable love for the land that gave him birth. His muse has been used for no mercenary purposes, but simply, as he informs us in the preface to one of his published volumes, “ To recall the scenes of our early years, to bring up in imagination the braw lads and bonnie lasses that we forgathered with in the days of the lang syne, and attempt to describe, on this side of the Atlantic, the wimpling burns, the gowany braes, the bonnie glens, the broomy dells, and the heather-clad mountains of our native land: the land where Wallace and Bruce wielded the patriotic sword, and where Ramsay, Burns, Scott, Tannahill and many more sang the songs of love and liberty.” Nor do the feelings of the gifted Bard become in any way changed while age begins to twine the white locks around his venerable forehead. Only a few weeks ago he composed the following :


Scotland! how glorious is the theme,
That in the days by gone,
Your patriot sons undaunted stood
And battled for their own.
Time after time the foe advanced
Your rights to trample down,
To blot your name forever out,
And grasp your royal crown.

Your sons could never bow the knee,
Nor brook the tyrant’s chains,
Nature had written on your hills—
“Here freedom ever reigns.”
Sons of the brave! your hearts were one,
That Scotland must be free,
Now far and near the cry is heard—
“Wha dares to middle me?”

Forward! see Scotland’s gallant sons
Dash on to meet the foe,
Their strong right hand grasps freedom’s sword
And freedom guides the blow.
Their bows are bent, their swords are keen,
And with their matchless might,
Strongly they stand to crush the wrong,
And battle for the right.

The battle rages fierce and fell,
Till o’er the deadly fray,
The welkin rings—“the victory’s won!”
Scotland has won the day.
While heather blooms on Scotland’s hills,
And while her thistles wave,
Freedom will flourish on her soil,
And guard the warrior’s grave!

Every verse of this song burns with intense patriotism for the land of his birth, and it is entitled to stand side by side with Henry Scott Riddell’s immortal song “Scotland Yet." The Scottish language is peculiarly adapted to touch and enoble the finer feelings of our nature. In view of this, and in conclusion, we quote from our author’s writings the two following kindly and homely lyrics, the last of which, it may be stated, appeared in a late issue of the Detroit Free Press:


I hae a bird, a bonnie bird,
And Robin is its name,
’Twas sent to me, wi’ kindly words,
Frae my auld Scottish hame.
And when it cam’ unto my hand
It looked sae dull and wae,
Nae doot it miss’d the flow’ry glen,
The burnie and the brae.

There’s mair than you,my bonnie bird,
Hae cross’d the raging main,
Wha mourn the blythe, the happy days,
They’ll never see again.
Sweet bird! come sing a sang to me,
Unmindfu’ o’ our ills;
And let us think we’re ance again
’Mang our ain heather hills.

The joyfu’ hours o’ nameless bliss,
O, come ye back to me;
My love, my lost, again we meet
Aneath the trysting-tree.
O, sing to me, my bonnie bird,
And ilka note o’ thine
Will conjure up the gladsome days—
The joys o’ auld lang syne.


My love, my beautiful, my own,
I’m sitting a’ alane;
O, how I long to hear your step
And welcome you again.
There’s neathing now looks bright to me,
The sunshine’s left my ha’,
There’s nae ane now to cheer my heart
Since ye hae gane awa’.

The sun’s gane doon ayont the hill,
And night steals slowly nigh—
’Tis gloomy night, the weary winds
Around me moan and sigh.
My love! at midnight’s silent hour
I saw thee come to me,
I saw thee in thy youthful bloom
Come tripping o’er the lea.

I woke to find it but a dream,
A vision of the night—
Come hame, come hame, my darling, come,
Come hame my heart’s delight.
O, come again, my life, my love,
And fill iny heart with glee,
The whisp’ring winds no more will sigh
When ye come back to me.

Poem and Songs by Andrew Wanless

Sketches and Anecdotes by Andrew Wanless

Scotch and Canadian Rhymes and Songs by A Wanless

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