Scottish Poetry Selection
- A Song of Light

John Barr (1809/1889) who wrote this poem, was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire. The son of a manufacturer, he became an engineer and established the firm of Barr and McNab, working on large shipbuilding contracts on the Clyde. He married in 1844 but following losses on contracts, his company failed and he set sail in 1852 with his wife and four children for New Zealand. They settled on a farm but Barr also enjoyed some success as a poet. He retired from farming in 1861 and moved to Dunedin. Barr gave frequent public readings of his poetry and in 1861 he published a collection of Poems and Songs which had a strong Scottish identity. As he said:
I sit me doun to write a sang
In hamely Scottish jingle;
...I sing o' glens and clay-built cot,
Of lassies leal and kind'.

Barr was lauded by the Caledonian Society of Otago and the members presented him with a gold medal and described him in extravagant terms as a "genius" upon whose shoulders "the mantle of Burns has fallen."

   A Song of Light

There have plenty songs been written,
   Of the moonlight on the hill,
Of the starlight on the ocean,
   And the sun-flecks on the rill,

But one glorious song has never
   Fallen yet upon my ear,
'Tis a royal song of gladness,
   Of the gaslight on the beer.

I have watched an amber sunset,
   Creep across a black-faced bay;
I have seen the blood-flushed sunrise,
   Paint the snow one winter day,

But the gleam I will remember
   Best, in lingering days to come,
Was s shaft of autumn radiance,
   Lying on a pint of rum.

I have seen the love stars shining,
   Through bronze hair across my face,
I have seen white bosoms heaving,
   'Neath a wisp of open lace,

But resplendent yet in memory -
   And it seemeth brighter far -
Was a guttered candle's flicker,
   On a tankard in a bar . . .

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