Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Monday, August 29, 2016
From the Gaelic, by Professor Blackie.
H o! my bonnie Mary,
My dainty love, my queen,
The fairest, rarest Mary
On earth was ever seen !
Ho! my queenly Mary,
Who made me king of men,
To call thee mine own Mary,
Born in the bonnie glen.
Young was I and Mary,
In the windings of Glensmoil,
When came that imp of Venus
And caught us with his wile;
And pierced us with his arrows,
That we thrilled in every pore,
And loved as mortals never loved
On this green earth before.
Ho ! my bonnie Mary, &c.
Oft times myself and Mary
Strayed up the bonnie glen,
Our hearts as pure and innocent
As little children then;
Boy Cupid finely taught us
To dally and to toy,
When the shade fell from the green tree,
And the sun was in the sky.
Ho ! my bonnie Mary, &c.
If all the wealth of Albyn
Were mine, and treasures rare,
What boots all gold and silver
If sweet love be not there ?
More dear to me than rubies
In deepest veins that shine,
Is one kiss from the lovely lips
That rightly I call mine.
Ho ! my bonnie Mary, &c.
Thy bosom's heaving whiteness
With beauty overbrims,
Like swan upon the waters
When gentliest it swims;
Like cotton on the moorland
Thy skin is soft and fine,
Thy neck is like the sea-gul
When dipping in the brine.
Ho ! my bonnie Mary, &c.
The locks about thy dainty ears
Do richly curl and twine;
Dame Nature rarely grew a wealth
Of ringlets like to thine:
There needs no hand of hireling
To twist and plait thy hair,
But where it grew it winds and falls
In wavy beauty there.
Ho ! my bonnie Mary, &c.
Like snow upon the mountains
Thy teeth are pure and white;
Thy breath is like the cinnamon,
Thy mouth buds with delight.
Thy cheeks are like the cherries,
Thine eyelids soft and fair,
And smooth thy brow, untaught to frown,
Beneath thy golden hair.
Ho! my bonnie Mary, &c.
The pomp of mighty kaisers
Our state doth far surpass,
When 'neath the leafy coppice
We lie upon the grass;
The purple flowers around us
Outspread their rich array,
Where the lusty mountain streamlet
Is leaping from the brae.
Ho! my bonnie Mary, &c.
Nor harp, nor pipe, nor organ,
From touch of cunning men,
Made music half so eloquent
As our hearts thrilled with then.
When the blythe lark lightly soaring,
And the mavis on the spray,
And the cuckoo in the greenwood,
Sang hymns to greet the May.
Ho! my bonnie Mary, &c.
THE OLD CLAYMORE
This is the claymore that my ancestors wielded,
This is the old blade that oft smote the proud foe;
Beneath its bright gleam all of home hath been shielded,
And oft were our title-deeds signed with its blow.
Its hilt hath been circled by valorous fingers;
Oft, oft hath it flashed like a mountaineer's ire,
Around it a halo of beauty still lingers
That lights up the tale which can ever inspire.
The Highland Claymore ! The old Highland Claymore,
Gleams still like the fire of a warrior's eye,
Tho' hands of the dauntless will grasp it no more
Disturb it not now, let it peacefully lie.
It twinkled its love for the bold chieftain leading,
It shone like a star on the moon-lighted heath;
As lightning in anger triumphantly speeding
Its keen edge hath swept on the pinions of death:
Wild-breathing revenge o'er the corse of a kinsman,
Dark-vowing their ancient renown to maintain;
Its sheen hath been dimmed by the lips of brave clansmen,
Unwiped till the foe was exultingly slain.
The Highland Claymore! The old Highland Claymore, &c.
It baffled the Norseman and vanquished the Roman,
'Twas drawn for the Bruce and the old Scottish throne,
It victory bore over tyrannous foemen,
For Freedom had long made the weapon her own.
It swung for the braw Chevalier and Prince Charlie,
'Twas stained at Drummossie with Sassenach gore:
It sleeps now in peace, a dark history's ferlie,
Oh! ne'er may be wakened the Highland Claymore.
The Highland Claymore! The old Highland Claymore, &c.
ON VISITING DRUIM-A LIATH,
THE BIRTH-PLACE OF
DUNCAN BAN MACINTYRE
The homes long are gone, but enchantment still lingers,
These green knolls around, where thy young life began,
Sweetest and last of the old Celtic singers,
Bard of the Monadh-dhu', blithe Donach Bàn!
Never mid scenes of earth, fairer and grander,
Poet first lifted his eyelids on light;
Free mid these glens, o'er these mountains to wander,
And make them his own by the true minstrel right.
Thy home at the meeting and green interlacing
Of clear-flowing waters and far-winding glens,
Lovely inlaid in the mighty embracing
Of sombre pine forests and storm-riven Bens.
Behind thee these crowding Peaks, region of mystery,
Fed thy young spirit with broodings sublime;
Each cairn and green knoll lingered round by some history,
Of the weird under-world, or the wild battle-time.
Thine were Ben-Starrav, Stop-gyre, Meal-na-ruadh,
Mantled in storm-gloom, or bathed in sunshine;
Streams from Corr-oran, Glash-gower, and Glen-fuadh
Made music for thee, where their waters combine.
But over all others thy darling Bendorain
Held thee entranced with his beautiful form,
With looks ever-changing thy young fancy storing,
Gladness of sunshine and terror of storm
Opened to thee his heart's deepest recesses,
Taught thee the lore of the red-deer and roe,
Showed thee them feed on the green mountain cresses,
Drink the cold wells above lone Doire-chro.
How did'st thou watch them go up the high passes
At sunrise rejoicing, a proud jaunty throng ?
Learn the herbs that they love, the small flow'rs, and hill grasses,
And made them for ever bloom green in thy song.
Yet, bard of the wilderness, nursling of nature,
Would the hills e'er have taught thee true minstrel art,
Had not a visage more lovely of feature
The fountain unsealed of thy tenderer heart ?
The maiden that dwelt by the side of Maam-haarie,
Seen from thy home-door, a vision of joy,
Morning and even the young fair-haired Mary
Moving about at her household employ.
High on Bendoa and stately Ben-challader,
Leaving the dun deer in safety to bide,
Fondly thy doating eye dwelt on her, followed her,
Tenderly wooed her, and won her thy bride.
O! well for the maiden that found such a lover,
And well for the poet, to whom Mary gave
Her fulness of love until, life's journey over,
She lay down beside him to rest in the grave.
From the bards of to-day, and their sad songs that dark'n
The day-spring with doubt, wring the bosom with pain,
How gladly we fly to the shealings and harken
The clear mountain gladness that sounds in thy strain.
On the hill-side with thee is no doubt or misgiving,
But there joy and freedom, Atlantic winds blow,
And kind thoughts are there, and the pure simple living
Of the warm-hearted folk in the glens long ago.
The muse of old Maro hath pathos and splendour,
The long lines of Homer majestic'lly roll;
But to me Donach Bàn breathes a language more tender,
More kin to the child-heart that sleeps in my soul.
J. C. SHAIRP.
TO PROFESSOR JOHN STUART BLACKIE.
A LOCHABER LILT.
A health to thee, Stuart Blackie !
(I drink it in mountain dew)
With all the kindliest greetings
Of a heart that is leal and true.
Let happen what happen may
With others, by land or sea;
For me, I vow if I drink at all,
I'll drink a health to thee.
A health to thee, Stuart Blackie !
A man of men art thou,
With thy lightsome step and form erect,
And thy broad and open brow;
With thy eagle eye and ringing voice
(Which yet can be soft and kind),
As wrapped in thy plaid thou passest by
With thy white locks in the wind!
I greet thee as poet and scholar;
I greet thee as wise and good;
I greet thee ever lord of thyself
No heritage mean, by the rood!
I greet thee and hold thee in honour,
That thou bendest to no man's nod
Amidst the din of a world of sin,
Still lifting thine eye to God!
Go, search me the world and find me;
Go, find me if you can,
From the distant Farœs with their mists and snows,
To the green-clad Isle of Man;
From John O' Groats to Maidenkirk,
From far Poolewe to Prague
Go, find me a better or wiser man
Than the Laird of Altnacraig.
Now, here's to the honest and leal and true,
And here's to the learned and wise,
And to all who love our Highland glens
And our Bens that kiss the skies;
And here's to the native Celtic race,
And to each bright-eyed Celtic fair;
And here's to the Chief of Altnacraig
And hurrah! for the Celtic Chair!
CAN THIS BE THE LAND ?
"How are the mighty fallen !"
Can this be the land where of old heroes flourished ?
Can this be the land of the sons of the blast ?
Gloom-wrapt as a monarch whose greatness hath perished,
Its beauty of loneliness speaks of the past:
Tell me ye green valleys, dark glens, and blue mountains,
Where now are the mighty that round ye did dwell ?
Ye wild-sweeping torrents, and woe-sounding fountains,
Say, is it their spirits that wail in your swell ?
Oft, oft have ye leaped when your children of battle,
With war-bearing footsteps rushed down your dark crests;
Oft, oft have ye thundered with far-rolling rattle,
The echoes of slogans that burst from their breasts:
Wild music of cataracts peals in their gladness,
Hoarse tempests still shriek to the clouds lightning-fired,
Dark shadows of glory departed, in sadness
Still linger o'er ruins where dwelt the inspired.
The voice of the silence for ever is breaking
Around the lone heaths of the glory-sung braves;
Dim ghosts haunt in sorrow, a land all forsaken,
And pour their mist tears o'er the heather-swept graves:
Can this be the land of the thunder-toned numbers
That snowy bards sung in the fire of their bloom ?
Deserted and blasted, in death's silent slumbers,
It glooms o'er my soul like the wreck of a tomb.
SONG OF THE SUMMER BREEZE.
Dedicated by permission to the Rev. George Gilfillan.
When balmy spring
Has ceased to wring
The youthful bud from the old oak tree,
And the sweet primrose
No longer glows
On the glad hill-side by the sunfilled sea;
When the Cuckoo's wail
Has ceased to go
O'er hill and dale
In a pensive flow,
And the deepest shade
In the woods is made,
And the brightest bloom on the fields is laid;
When the lord of light
With a lover's pride
Pours a beauty bright
O'er his blushing bride,
That lies below
His glowing gaze,
In a woodland glow, and a flowery blaze;
When winter's gloom
Of wind and rain
Is lost in the bloom
Of the flower-lit plain,
And his ruins grey
Have died away
In the love-sent breath of the smiling day;
When the beauteous hours
Of the twilight still
With dewy tears in their joy-swelled eyes
See the peaceful flowers
On the cloudless hill
Send scented gifts to the grateful skies;
And the wave-like grain
O'er the sea-like plain
In peaceful splendour essays to rise;
From my silent birth in the flowery land
Of the sunny south
At time's command.
As still as the breath of a rosy mouth,
Or rippling wave on the sighing sand,
Or surging grass by the stony strand,
I come with odour of shrub and flower
Stolen from field and sunny bower
From lowly cot and lordly tower.
Borne on my wings the soul-like cloud
That snowy, mountain-shading shroud
That loves to sleep
On the sweet hill's crest,
As still as the deep
With its voice at rest,
Is wafted in dreams to its peaceful nest;
At my command
The glowing land
Scorched by the beams of the burning sun,
Listing the sounds of the drowsy bees,
Thirsting for rain, and the dews that come
When light has died on the surging seas,
Awakes to life, and health, and joy;
I pour a life on the sickening trees,
And wake the birds to their sweet employ,
Amidst the flowers of the lowly leas;
From the sweet woodbine
That loves to twine
Its arms of love round the homes of men,
Or laugh in the sight
Of the sun's sweet light
'Midst the flower gemmed scenes of the song-filled glen,
And the full-blown rose that loves to blush
'Midst the garden bowers
Where the pensive hours
Awaiting the bliss of the summer showers
List to the songs of the warbling thrush,
I steal the sweets of their fragrant breath;
From the lily pale
That seems to wail
With snow-like face
And pensive grace
O'er the bed that bends o'er the deeds of death,
I brush the tears
That she loves to shed
For the early biers
Of the lovely dead.
When still twilight with dew-dimmed eye
Sees the lord of light from the snow-white sky,
Descend at the sight
Of the coming night,
'Midst the waves of the deathful sea to die !
When glowing day
Has passed away
In peace on the tops of the dim-seen hills,
That pour from their hearts the tinkling rills
That dance and leap
In youthful pride,
To the brimming river, deep and wide,
That bears them in rest to their distant sleep;
And the gladsome ocean
That ever presses
The bridal earth in fond caresses,
Rages no more in a wild commotion;
When the distant hills appear to grow
At the touch of evening bright,
And the sunless rivers seem to go
With a deeper music in their flow,
Like dreams thro' the peaceful night,
I fade away
With the dying day,
Like the lingering gleam of the sun's sweet ray !
DAVID R. WILLIAMSON.
FLORA, STAR OF ARMADALE.
Grey Blavin in grandeur gold-crested appears,
As swift sinks the sun in the west,
Whose gleams of departure, as love-guarding spears,
Skim over the blue ocean's breast:
The lav'rock pours sweetly his ev'ning joy song,
Lone cushats croon soft in each vale,
Pale gloaming's low melodies linger among
The beauties of loved Armadale:
It is the hour when raptures reign,
It is the hour when joys prevail,
I'll hie away to meet again
My Flora, Star of Armadale;
Flora, Star of Armadale:
The dim robe of night over Knoydart's brown hills,
Comes weirdly with dark-shading lour,
Slow-stealing it shrouds the repose it full fills
With calm's hallowed, heart-clinging, pow'r:
It tells of a maiden whose heart I have got,
It whispers the love-longing tale,
It bids me away to yon heather-thatched cot,
Snug nestling by sweet Armadale:
It is the hour of Nature's peace,
It is the hour when smiles unveil
The beauty which bids love increase
For Flora, Star of Armadale;
Flora, Star of Armadale:
Her eyes are as dark as the gloom of Loch Hourn,
Yet soft as the gaze of a fawn,
Still darker the tresses that crown to adorn
A brow like a light-mellowed dawn.
Her voice is a fountain of summer's dream-song,
Her smiles can the budding rose pale,
O! rare are the graces which humbly belong
To Flora of dear Armadale:
It is the hour of love's alarms,
It is the hour when throbs assail
This heart which glows beneath the charms
Of Flora, Star of Armadale;
Flora, Star of Armadale.
TO GOATFELL, ARRAN:
ON FIRST SEEING IT FROM THE SHORE.
Born of earthquakes, lonely giant,
Sphinx and eagle couched on high;
Dumb, defiant, self-reliant,
Breast on earth and beak in sky:
Built in chaos, burnt out beacon,
Long extinguished, dark, and bare,
Ere life's friendly ray could break on
Shelvy shore or islet fair:
Dwarf to atlas, child to Etna,
Stepping-stone to huge Mont Blanc;
Cairn to cloudy Chimborazo,
Higher glories round thee hang!
Baal-tein hearth, for friend and foeman;
Warden of the mazy Clyde;
In thy shadow, Celt and Roman,
Proudly galley'd, swept the tide !
Scottish Sinai, God's out-rider,
When he wields his lightning wand;
From thy flanks, a king and spider
Taught, and saved, and ruled the land !
Smoking void and planet rending,
Island rise and ocean fall,
Frith unfolding, field extending
Thou hast seen and felt them all.
Armies routed, navies flouted,
Tyrants fallen, people free;
Cities built and empires clouted,
Like the world, are known to thee.
Science shining, love enshrining,
Truth and patience conquering hell;
Miracles beyond divining,
Could'st thou speak, thy tongue would tell.
Rest awhile, the nations gather,
Sick of folly, lies, and sin,
To kneel to the eternal Father
Then the kingdom shall begin !
Rest awhile, some late convulsion,
Time enough shall shake thy bed:
Rest awhile, at Death's expulsion,
Living green shall clothe thy head !
THE HARP BRINGETH JOY UNTO ME.
O autumn ! to me thou art dearest,
Thou bringest deep thoughts to me now,
For the leaves in the forest are searest,
And the foliage falls from each bough.
And then as the day was declining,
While nature was wont to repose,
A sage on his harp was reclining
Who sang of Lochaber's bravoes.
He played and he sang of their glory,
Their deeds which the ages admire;
Then softly, then wildly, their story
He told on the strings of his lyre.
While praise on the heroes he lavished,
And lauded their triumphs again,
A maid came a-list'ning, enravished
Enrapt by his charming refrain.
O! bright were the beams of her smiling,
I sigh for the peace on her brow,
Not a trace on her features of guiling
,My heart singeth songs to her now.
Inspired by the rapturous measure,
This fair one skipt over the lea:
One morning I sought the young treasure,
Now dear as my soul she's to me.
Member of the Gaelic Society of London.
THE LAST OF THE CLAN.
"After many years he returned to die."
The last of the clansmen, grey-bearded and hoary,
Sat lone by the old castle's ruin-wrapt shade,
Where proudly his chief in the bloom of his glory
Oft mustered his heroes for battle arrayed:
He wept as he gazed on its beauties departed,
He sighed in despair for its gloom of decay,
Cold-shrouded his soul, and he sung broken-hearted,
With grief-shaking voice a wild woe-sounding lay.
"Weary, weary, sad returning,
Exiled long in other climes,
Hope's last flame, slow, feebly burning
Seeks the home of olden times:
In my joy why am I weeping ?
Where my kindred ? Where my clan ?
Whispers from the mountains creeping,
Tell me 'I'm the only man.'
"Yon tempest-starred mountains still loom in their grandeur,
The loud rushing torrents still sweep thro' the glen,
Thro' low-moaning forests dim spirits still wander,
But where are the songs and the voices of men ?
Tell me, storied ruins! where, where are their slumbers ?
Where now are the mighty no foe could withstand ?
The voice of the silence in echoing numbers,
Breathes sadly the tale of fate's merciless hand.
"Ah me! thro' the black clouds, one star shines in heaven,
And flings o'er the darkness its fast waning light,
'Tis to me an omen so tenderly given,
Foretelling that soon I will sink in my night:
The coronach slowly again is far pealing !
The grey ghosts of kinsmen I fondly can trace !
Around me they gather! and silent are kneeling,
To gaze in deep sorrow on all of their race !
Slowly, slowly, sadly viewing
With their weird mysterious scan,
Desolation's gloomy ruin !
All of kindred ! all of clan !
Ah ! my heart, my heart is fainting,
Strangely shaking are my limbs,
Heav'nward see ! their fingers pointing,
And my vision trembling swims.
Slowly, slowly, all-pervading,
O'er me steals their chilly breath,
See! the single star is fading,
Ling'ring in the joy of death,
Darkness swiftly o'er me gathers,
Softly fade these visions wan,
Welcome give, ye spirit fathers,
I'm the Last of all the Clan !"
Stair meanwhile had made up his mind, and through his influence the certificate of MacIan having signed his allegiance was suppressed, and on the 11th of January, and afterwards on the 16th, instructions signed and countersigned by the King came forth in which the inhabitants of Glencoe were expressly exempted from the pardon given to the other clans, and extreme measures ordered against them. A letter was sent by Lord Stair to Colonel Hill commanding him to execute the purposes of the Government, but he showed such reluctance that the commission was given to one Colonel Hamilton instead, who had no scruples. He was ordered to take a detachment of 120 men, chiefly belonging to a clan regiment levied by Argyle, and consequently animated by bitter feudal animosity towards the Macdonalds.
Towards the close of January a company of armed Highlanders appear wending their way toward the opening of the Valley of Glencoe. The Macdonalds, fearing they have come for their arms, send them away to a place of concealment, and then came forth to meet the strangers. They find it is a party of Argyle's soldiers, commanded by Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, whose niece (a sister by the way of Rob Roy) is married to Alastair Macdonald, one of MacIan's sons. They ask if they have come as friends or foes. They reply, as friends, but as the garrison at Fort-William is crowded they had been sent to quarter themselves for a few days at Glencoe. They are received with open arms, feuds are forgotten, and for a fortnight all is harmony and even hilarity in the hamlet.
Loud in all the clustering cottages
Rose sounds of melody and voice of mirth;
The measured madness of the dance is there,
And the wild rapture of the feast of shells.
Warm hands are clasped to hands that firm reply,
And friendship glows and brightens into love.
Thus for a fortnight matters go on, when on the 1st of February orders are issued by Hamilton to his subordinate, Major Duncanson, fixing five o'clock next morning for the slaughter of all the Macdonalds under seventy, and enjoining the various detachments of men to be at their posts by that hour to secure the passes of the glen that not one of the doomed race might escape. Especial care was to be taken that the old fox and his cubs should not escape, and that (what cool but hellish words), "that the Government was not to be troubled with prisoners." These fell orders Duncanson handed on to Glenlyon, who gladly received and proceeded to carry them into execution with prompt and portentous fidelity.
With such injunctions in his pocket, Glenlyon proceeded to act the Judas part with consummate skill. He supped and played at cards, on the evening of the 12th, with John and Alexander Macdonald - two of his intended victims; and he and his lieutenant (Lindsay) accepted an invitation to dine with old MacIan for the next day. At five o'clock on the morning of the 13th Hamilton hoped to have secured all the eastern passes to prevent the escape of any fugitives, but, at all events, then must Glenlyon begin his work of death.
All now is silent over the devoted hamlet. All are sleeping with the exception of the two sons of MacIan, who had been led to entertain some suspicions that all was not right. They had observed that the sentinels had been doubled and the guard increased. Some of the soldiers too had been heard muttering their dislike to the treacherous task to which they had been commissioned. The Macdonalds, in alarm, came to Glenlyon's quarters a little after midnight, and found him preparing, along with his men, for immediate service. They asked him what was the meaning of all this, and he, with dauntless effrontery, replied that he and his men were intending an expedition against Glengarry, and added, "If anything had been intended do you think I would not have told Alastair here and my niece." The young men are only half satisfied, but return, although grumblingly, to their own dwellings.
Over the valley, meanwhile, a snowstorm has begun to fall, but does not come to its full height till farther on in the morning. The voice of the Cona is choked in ice. The great heights behind the Sinai of Scotland are silent, they have no thunders to forewarn, no lightnings to avenge. MacIan himself is sleeping the deep sleep of innocence and security. The fatigues and miseries of his journey to Fort-William and Inverary all forgotten. Is there no wail of ghost, no cry of spirit coronach, none of those earnest whispers which have been heard among the hills at dead of night, and piercing the darkness with prophecies of fate ? We know not, and had there been such warning sounds they had given their oracle in vain.
Suddenly, at five precisely, a knock is heard at MacIan's door. It is opened immediately, and the old man bustles up to dress himself, and to order refreshments for his visitors. Look at him as he stands at the threshold of his door, clad in nothing but his shirt, and his long grey hair, with looks of friendship and a cup of welcome trembling in his old hand; and see his wife has half risen behind him to salute the incomers. Without a moment's warning, without a preliminary word, he is shot dead and falls back into her arms. She is next assailed, stript naked, the gold rings, from her fingers torn off by the teeth of the soldiers, and then she is struck and trampled on till she is left for dead on the ground, and next day actually dies. All the clansmen and servants in the same house are massacred, all save one, an old domestic and a sennachie. He has been unable to sleep all night with melancholy thoughts, and falling into a deep sleep ere morning is roused by a horrible dream, leaves the hamlet, dashes through the door, dirks in vain striking at his shadow, and hands trying in vain to seize his plaid, he runs to the hut where the two brothers are lying and cries out, like screams of Banshie through the night, "Is it time for you to be sleeping while your father is murdered on his own hearth? "
They arise in haste, make for the mountains, and by their knowledge of the dark and devious paths through that horrible wilderness, are enabled to escape. From every house and hut there now rise shrieks, shouts, groans, and blasphemies, the roar of muskets, the cries of men, women, and children blended into one harmony of hell! The snow is now falling thick, and is darkening more the dark February morning. Led through the gloom, as if following the lurid eyes of some demoniac being, the soldiers find their way from house to house, from one cluster of cottages to another, rush in, seize their victims, drag them out, and shoot them dead. In Glenlyon's own quarters nine men, including his own landlord, are bound and shot, one of them with General Hill's passport in his pocket. A boy of twelve clings to Glenlyon's knees asking for mercy and offering to be his servant for life, when one Drummond stabbed him with his dirk as he was uttering a prayer by which even Glenlyon was affected. At Auchnain, a hamlet up the glen, Sergeant Barbour and his troops came upon a party of nine men sitting round a fire, and slew eight of them. The owner of the house in which Barbour had been quartered was not hurt, and requested to die in the open air. "For your bread which we have ate," said the Sergeant, "I will grant your request." He was taken out accordingly, but while the soldiers were presenting their muskets he threw his plaid over their faces, broke away and escaped up the valley.
Thirty-eight persons in all, including one or two women and a little boy, were put to death, but, besides, many who are supposed to have perished in the drifts. The murderers, after massacring the inmates, set the dwellings on fire; and how ghastly and lurid, especially to those who had escaped up the glen, perhaps as far as those mountains called the Three Sisters, bound to-day together by a band of virgin snow, must have seemed the effect of the flames flashing against the white of the hills, and which they knew were fed and fattened by the blood of their kindred! Many fled half naked into the storm, and through profound wreaths of snow, and over savage precipices, reached places of safety. The snow now avails more to save than to destroy since on account of it, Hamilton with his 400 men was too late to stop the eastern passes through which many made their escape. Had he come up in time every soul had perished. When he arrived at eleven there was not a Macdonald alive in the glen except one old man of eighty, whose worm-like writhings prove him still alive
One stab, one groan, and the tremendous deed
Of massacre is done, at which the heath
Which waves o'er all the Highland hills shall blush,
And torrents wail for ages, ghosts shall shriek,
Hell tremble through its dayless depths, and Heaven
Weep, and while weeping grasp its thunderbolts.
Beware Glenlyon's blood at you they're armed !
Beware the curse of God and of Glencoe !
The allusion in this last line is to a story told by Stewart of Garth in his "History of the Highland Regiments," and on which a ballad by a deceased poet, B. Symmons, an Irishman of great genius, was founded, and appeared originally in Blackwood's Magazine. There was a brave officer, Colonel Campbell of Glenlyon, the grandson of the ruffian who disgraced the Campbell name and human nature at Glencoe. A curse was supposed to rest upon the family, and the lands of Glenlyon departed rood by rood from his descendants. The grandson, however, was brought up by a pious mother, entered the army, and became a prosperous officer. He was pursuing his profession in Canada when a romantic circumstance occurred. A young man named Ronald Blair, a private of excellent character and true courage, was stationed as a sentinel on an outpost. He loved an Indian maid who came eve after eve to meet him at his post, steering up the St Lawrence her lonely canoe. One night as she left him a storm raged on the waters and exposed her and her bark to imminent jeopardy. She shrieked out her lover's name, and called for help.
The waves have swamped her little boat,
She sinks before his eye,
And he must keep his dangerous post,
And leave her there to die.
One moment's dreadful strife—love wins,
He plunges in the water,
The moon is out, his strokes are stout,
The swimmer's arm has caught her,
And back he bears with gasping heart
The forest's matchless daughter.
Meanwhile the picket pass and find his post deserted, and, of course, his life forfeited. He is condemned to die, and Colonel Campbell is appointed to superintend his execution. The circumstances transpire. A reprieve is sent by the commanding officer with secret orders, however, that the sentence be pushed on to all but the last, and not till the prisoner's prayers are over, and the death fillet bound, is the pardon to be produced.
The morrow came, the evening sun
Was sinking red and cold,
When Ronald Blair a league from camp
Was led erect and bold,
To die a soldier's death, while low
The funeral drum was rolled.
The musketeers advance to ask the signal when they are to shoot, Campbell tells them, "Reserve your fire till I produce this blue handkerchief." The prayer is said, the eyes are bound, the doomed soldier kneels. There is such a silence that a tear might have been heard falling to the ground. Campbell's heart beats high with joy and fear to think that by drawing out the pardon in his pocket he is to turn despair into delight. He keeps his hand a moment longer on the reprieve, and then draws it forth, but with it drew - O God, the handkerchief; the soldiers fire, Ronald Blair falls, and his Indian maid is found clasping his dead body to her breast and dying by his side, and the frenzied Colonel exclaims"The Curse of Heaven and of Glencoe is here."
The troops left the glen with a vast booty—900 kine, 200 ponies, and many sheep and goats. When they had departed the Macdonalds crept from their lurking places, went back to the spot, collected the scorched carcasses from among the ruins, and buried them there. It is said that the Bard of the Clan took his place on a rock opposite the scene of the massacre and poured out a lament over his slaughtered kinsmen and their desolate dwellings. The subject had been worthy of an Ossian. The scene there is now changed. A house or two only remains where smoked hundreds of happy hearths. The thistle and the wild myrtle shake their heads in the winds, and utter their low monody which mingles with, and is swelled by the voice of the Cona, all seeming to mourn over crime, and to pronounce for doom. Yet let our conclusion be that of the Judge of the earth Himself when he says vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord, and who mixes mercy with judgment, and makes the wrath of man to praise him in pardon as well as by punishment. Yet this stupendous crime was not to pass wholly unpunished. It was a considerable time ere its particulars and aggravations were fully known. Conceive such an atrocious massacre perpetrated now ! In less than seven days there would be a cry of vengeance from the Land's End to Caithness. Within a fortnight demands for the blood of the murderers would be coming in from every part of the British dominions. In a month the ringleaders would have been tried, condemned, and hanged, and even Mr Bruce, the late lenient Secretary of State, would not venture to reprieve one of them. It was different then. Not a word of it appeared in the meagre newspapers of that day. Floating rumours there were, but they were all, in many particular points, wide of the mark, and it was long ere the particulars condensed into the tragic and terrible tale which is certainly stranger than fiction. Very little interest was then felt in Highlands feuds, and as Macaulay truly says, "To the Londoner of those days Appin was what Caffrarra or Borneo is to us. He was not more moved by hearing that some Highland thieves had been surprised and killed, than we are by hearing that a band of Amakosah cattle-stealers had been cut off, or that a barkful of Malay pirates had been sunk." Gradually, however, the dark truth came out, and orbed itself into that blood-red unity of horror, which has since made the firmest nerves to tremble, and the stoutest knees to shake, which has haunted dreams, inspired poetry, created new and ghastly shapes of superstition, and which, even yet, as the solitary traveller is plodding his way amidst the shadows of an autumn evening, or under the shivering stars of a winter night, can drench the skin and curdle the blood. No wonder though the actors in the tragedy felt, in their dire experience afterwards, that the infatuation of crime dissolves the moment it is perpetrated; that Breadalbane sought the sons of the murdered MacIan to gain impunity for himself by signing a document declaring him guiltless; that Glencoe haunted the couch and clouded the countenance, and shortened the days of Glenlyon. Hamilton apparently felt no remorse, and his only regret was that any had escaped, and that a colossal crime had been truncated by some colossal blunders. He might have said like the Templar in the Talisman, when some one tells him to tremble, "I cannot if I would." And yet as God comes often to men without bell, so there might be some secret passage through which, on noiseless footsteps, remorse might reach even the sullen chamber of his hardened heart.
Many lessons might be derived from the whole story, none, after all, more obvious and none more useful than the old old story of the desperate wickedness of human nature when unpenetrated by brotherly and Christian feeling; and that he who has sounded the ocean, the grave, the deepest and the darkest mountain cavern has yet a deeper deep to fathom in the abyss of his own heart; and that the moral of the subject may be yet more briefly condensed in the one grand line which Shelley has borrowed from Burke:
"To fear ourselves and love all human kind."
Memorial at Glencoe
George Gilfillan (30 January 1813 – 13 August 1878)
was a Scottish author and poet.
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