Paisley Abbey

Alexander McLachlan

All hail, ye ruins hoary!
Still stately in decay,
Rear'd were your aisles and sacred pales,
By the mighty in their day.
We boast of our achievements,
And smile at the ages mirk,
Nor seem to ken, they were mighty men
Wha built this "Haly Kirk."

And here the mitred Abbots,
In this their abbey gray,
For ages reigned, till th' glory waned,
And the sceptre passed away;
But still their spirits linger,
And love to hover round,
'Mid all the change, that seems so strange,
On their consecrated ground.

And th' bell is tolled by spectres,
At the hour o' midnicht deep;
And deid-lichts seen the chinks between,
Where the monks are all asleep.
And just as the moon is waning,
And the woefu' east-wind raves,
The Abbots all, when they hear the call,
Start up frae their lowly graves,

And stand round their ruined altar,
In their robes of white array,
For the souls unblest, that canna rest,
To kneel, to weep and pray;
And still, as she hears the summons
Amid the Gothic gloom,
The good old Queen, with her regal mien*
Comes forth her altar tomb:

To plead for the hapless friar
Condemn'd through countless years
To weep and wail in the "Sounding Aisle,"
And echo all he hears.
Then comes a kingly shadow,*
The founder of this place,
And there he stands, with uplifted hands,
And pleads for his hapless race.

And he looks to good St Mirin,*
But the saint can only say,
"They never shall reign in the land again,
They have passed like smoke away."
Then slowly there arises
A dim and shadowy train
Of souls that still, have a taint of ill,
And the mark of an earthly stain.

And there are chiefs and barons,
Each head of an ancient line,
With sword and dirk, as they did their work,
In the bluidy days lang syne.
And there two wrathful spirits,*
Like dark clouds hover near,
Montgomery stern, and proud Glencairn,
Who kept the land in fear:

With their Maxwells and Skelmorlies,
Who did each other kill,
After a life of feud and strife,
They look defiance still;
Or, they avoid each other,
With a mutual hate and dread,
Or meet and pass, as in a glass,
But not a word is said.

And there the great Lord Sempill,
With the bard of old Beltrees:*
And ranter Rab, and piper Hab,
Wi' the buckles at their knees.
And the twa auld droothie cronies,
They canna yet forget
The sang and tale — to the beef and ale
They look wi' a lang regret.

And there the youthful gallants,
The lords and ladies gay,
That still must moan in their confines lone,
Till their sins are wash'd away;
And there they stand, a rueful band,
Yet they scarcely seem to know
How the licht o' love, sent frae God above,
Should hae been their deadly foe.

And they wha destroy'd the Abbeys,
And heap'd the priests wi' scorn;
Ah, they've had time to rue their crime,
Where they ne'er see licht o' morn.
And there comes Jenny Geddes,
And sits in her lang deid sark,
On her bullet stool, the puir auld fool!
To sigh o'er that Sabbaths wark.

For a' wha grace resisted,
A waefu' weird maun dree;
And they come to plead that the church may speed
The hour that will set them free.
While a' the wee bairns unchristen'd
Come up to the font to greet,
Till the cock does craw, whon they, ane and a',
Pass aff on their noiseless feet.

Author's Notes:
* Marjory Bruce, daughter of the hero of Bannockburn.
* Paisley Abbey was founded by Walter. High Steward of Scotland, the original progenitor of the royal Stuarts.
* The patron saint of Paisley.
* The feuds of the Montgomeries and Cunninghams (See Sempte's History of the Lairds of Glen).
* Robert Bemple of llclltreeK, author of the celebrated song of Maggie Lauder and the  elegy on Babbie Bimpson, piper of Kilbarachan.