Scottish Poetry Selection
- A Ballade Of "Church Wardens"

This poem is by Alexander Anderson (1845-1909) who was born in Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire. He usually wrote under the pseudonym of "Surfaceman" and indeed worked as a surfaceman on the railway, laying and repairing the tracks. Like many of his day, however, he spent much of his spare time on self-education, mastering German, French, and Spanish. He published a number of poetry books in the 1870s - one was entitled "Songs of the Rail". In 1880 he became assistant librarian in the University of Edinburgh. After an interval as secretary to the Philosophical Institution, he returned as Chief Librarian to the University.

A Ballade Of "Churchwardens"

Why, hang it all, let life go by,
    It is but bubbles we pursue;
They burst at last, and then we sigh
    And pay what folly claims as due.
We have our time to smile and sigh,
    Who knows the false from all the true?
Let us enjoy before we die,
    Churchwardens and a friend or two.

For these are things that will not fly
    Nor fade, as other pleasures do;
Nay, trust me, for I would not lie -
    At least I would not lie to you.
There is a time when earth and sky
    Unite - when lovers bill and coo -
A happy time; but let us try
    Churchwardens and a friend or two.

Alas! what grief when you descry
    White strangers - just a very few -
Among your hair. A friendly eye
    Detects them, though you never knew.
Well, let them come, nor look awry,
    But trust the gods to pull you through;
They'll do it if they but supply
    Churchwardens and a friend or two.


Prince should your royal eyes espy
    A white hair - this is entre nous -
Remember you are very nigh
    Churchwardens and a friend or two.

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