Keeping the Sawbath Day Holy – August 1901

Well do I remember in the days of my childhood staying in an Ayrshire farm house. We had been to the kirk in the forenoon and when the kye were milked and turned out we “walkit oot tae view the corn.” In those days I must always be sing, singing from Monday morning to Monday morning and I tripped along by the side of my elders carolling away in perfect happiness when I was suddenly brought to a stop by the stern voice of my great aunt.

“Dae ye no’ min’ that this is the Sawbath day, lassie.” But it was a psalm tune I was singing.

“Psalm tunes are for singing in the kirk or when we tak’ the Book, wean, an’ no’ for liltin’ ootbye in that daft w’ye.”

Silently, in my own childish mind I thought she was wrong, as I listened to the cushet doves crooning in the wood. For the love of Heaven, let the children sing while they can. The time comes too soon when thought and care silences the song.

The memory of another Scotch household returns, where the sabbaths, in spite of their strictness, were very happy. It was a musical household and we had music, music, every day of the week, with the exception of Sunday. There was an unwritten law that the piano must not be opened on Sundays. How strange to see it shut and dumb.

One Sunday afternoon, the dullness became oppressive. There was no one in the drawing room, so I closed the door and began to play softly the prelude to Gounod’s sacred song, “There is a green hill far away.” Do you know it, reader?. Those soulful chords swelling and dying away; rising into questioning which, like all high questions, can never be answered, and then sinking into sad murmurings of sacred resignation.

A vision of Via Dolorosa rising before the mind’s eye. That saddest procession the world has seen winding its way up the rocky path to Calvary; the dark looks of the priests, the wonder of little children, the lamentations of the women, the weary figure with the bloody brows, staggering under the cross. Dear God, what does it mean? That is what the music wails.

But I had not proceeded far when the door opened and a grave face looked round at me. It belonged to the master of the house. He was an elder in the kirk and his expression was as if he had caught some boys nickerin’ when he turned from closing the pulpit door upon the minister. But I wasn’t very much afraid for his heart was gentler than his creed.

I explained to him that it was a sacred song but his only comment upon that was to ask if it was a hymn. “Well, no, although the words are in many collections of hymns. He looked so grave and doubtful that I rose and shut the lid of the piano. Then his countenance cleared. He patted my shoulder and said, “That’s a guid lassie. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”

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