Scottish Poetry Selection
- Ode to Leven Water
Tobias Smollet (1721-1771) was born at Dalquhurn, Dunbartonshire, not far from the river Leven - the subject of the poem below. He served as an apprenticeship to a Glasgow surgeon, but except for a period spent in the navy, 1739-44, he only practised surgery in a desultory fashion. Instead, he turned to writing, often based on his experiences in the navy. In his book "Discovering Scottish Writers" Louis Stott describes Smollet as the "first Scottish novelist and he has never been surpassed."
The river Leven is fed by a more famous and written about stretch of water - Loch Lomond. Like the river, the poem flows on, uninterrupted by verses or other breaks.
Ode to Leven WaterOn Leven's banks, while free to rove,
And tune the rural pipe to love,
I envied not the happiest swain
That ever trod the Arcadian plain.
Pure stream, in whose transparent wave
My youthful limbs I wont to lave;
No torrents stain thy limpid source,
No rocks impede thy dimpling course,
That sweetly warbles o'er its bed,
With white round polished pebbles spread;
While, lightly poised, the scaly brood
In myriads cleave thy crystal flood;
The springing trout in speckled pride,
The salmon, monarch of the tide;
The ruthless pike, intent on war,
The silver eel, and mottled par.
Devolving from thy parent lake,
A charming maze thy waters make,
By bowers of birch and groves of pine,
And edges flowered with eglantine.
Still on thy banks so gaily green
May numerous herds and flocks be seen:
And lasses chanting o'er the pail,
And shepherds piping in the dale;
And ancient faith that knows no guile,
And industry embrowned with toil;
And hearts resolved and hands prepared
The blessings they enjoy to guard!
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