“Young Shepherdess,” Willam-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1868, WikiArt.

Alone on windy heights I sang, no words or
Melodies memorized, I told of feelings within
My soul, Willow, Hebridean island girl. Of
These hills, fishing family life I spoke, risks
Upon heaving seas, shepherding, dangers
Of retrieving wandering cliff-side sheep.
When these words ran their course, I sang
Ancient Gaelic refrains, lyrics I knew not
Nor understood, hillside isolation, came
Welling forth, once I became one with life’s
Winding brooks, stone, cloud, and sky.

Of our seashore village, elder woman died,
Glenis, beloved by all, agéd body, she in
Silence sat sun-facing, favorite wooden
Chair, blanket bundled, meals of porridge,
Until noonday, hands folded, holding onto
Hope, breath and heart ceased, life passed.
Slow ring of chapel bell, we recognized
Death peal, family visiting each cottage,
Funeral attendance requesting, Glenis’
Body washed, dressed, placed upon her
Bed, rosary in folded hands.

“Who will sing at her wake?” grieving family
Asked. “Who will send her soul heavenward?”
All eyes turned toward me, Willow, for they
Had heard my hillside songs, music of
Wandering wind. “Mother, what shall I do?”
Taking my hand, she advised, “Imagine
You are highlands alone, close your eyes,
Sing what’s inside.” Awkwardness of dozen
Waiting faces, voice trembling, tear-wiping,
I sang aloud, “Tender soul, Glenis, bright
Light amongst us, spring flowers at your

Feet. life of Hebrides Isles, green hillsides
You loved, hard labours, loving mother,
Children at your side, patient tasks, wool
Spinning, hearth fires burning, Lo! Evening
Shadows fell upon summer days, your soul
Homeward to arms of God, Mother Mary, to
Him who loves all, body laid to rest, amongst
Others whose life so given, overlooking seas
From grassy heights. Every head bowed,
This our prayer, know you were loved, rise
Now, where joyous voices call.”

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