O sunset, of the rise
Unworthy!–that, so brave, so clear, so gay;
This, prison’d in low-hanging earth-mists gray,
And ever-darken’d skies:–
Sad sunset of a royal race in gloom,
Accomplishing to the end the dolorous Stuart doom!
Ghost of a king, he sate
In Rome, the city of ghosts and thrones outworn,
Drowsing his thoughts in wine;–a life forlorn;
Pageant of faded state;
Aged before old age, and all that Past,
Like a forgotten thing of shame, behind him cast.
Yet if by chance the cry
Of the sharp pibroch through the palace thrill’d,
He felt the pang of high hope unfulfill’d:–
And once, when one came by
With the dear name of Scotland on his lips,
The heart broke forth behind that forty-years’ eclipse,
Triumphant in its pain:–
Then the old days of Holyrood halls return’d
The leaden lethargy from his soul he spurn’d,
And was the Prince again:–
All Scotland waking in him; all her bold
Chieftains and clans:–and all their tale, and his, he told:
–Told how, o’er the boisterous seas
From faithless France he danced his way
Where Alban’s thousand islands lay,
The kelp-strown ridge of the lone Hebrides:–
How down each strath they stream’d as springtide rills,
When he to Finnan vale
Came from Glenaladale,
And that snow-handful grew an avalanche of the hills.
There Lochiel, Glengarry there,
Macdonald, Cameron: souls untried
In war, but stout in mountain-pride
All odds against all worlds to laugh and dare:
Unpurchaseable faith of chief and clan!
Enough! Their Prince has thrown
Himself upon his own!
By hearts not heads they count, and manhood measures man!
–Torrent from Lochaber sprung,
Through Badenoch bare and Athole turn’d,
The fettering Forth o’erpast and spurn’d,
Then on the smiling South in fury flung;
Now gather head with all thine affluent force,
Draw forth the wild mellay!
At Gladsmuir is the fray;
Scotland ‘gainst England match’d: White Rose against White Horse!
Cluster’d down the slope they go,
Red clumps of ragged valour, down,
While morn-mists yet the hill-top crown:–
Clan Colla! on!–the Camerons touch the foe!
One touch!–the battle breaks, the fight is fought,
As summit-boulders glide
Riddling the forest-side,
And in one moment’s crash an army melts to nought!
–Ah gay nights of Holyrood!
Star-eyes of Scotland’s fairest fair,
Sun-glintings of the golden hair,
Life’s tide at full in that brief interlude!
Then as a bark slips from her natural coast
Deep into seas unknown,
Scotland went forth alone,
Unfriended, unallied; a handful ‘gainst a host.
By the Bolder moorlands bare,
By faithless Solway’s glistening sands,
And where Caer Luel’s dungeon stands,
Huge keep of ancient Urien, huge, foursquare:–
Preston, and loyal Lancashire; . . . and then
From central Derby down,
To strike the royal town,
And to his German realm the usurper thrust again!
–O the lithesome mountaineers,
Wild hearts with kingly boyhood high,
And victory in each forward eye,
While stainless honour his white banner rears!
Then all the air with mountain-music thrill’d,
The bonnets o’er the brow,–
My gallant clans! . . . and now
The voices closed in earth, in death the pibroch still’d!
–As beneath Ben Aille’s crest
The west wind weaves its roof of gray,
And all the glory of the day
Blooms off from loch and copse and green hill-breast;
So, when that craven council spoke retreat,
The fateful shameful word
They heard,–and scarcely heard!
At Scotland’s name how should the blood refuse to beat?
–O soul-piercing stroke of shame!
O last, last, chance,–and wasted so!
Work wanting but the final blow,–
And, then, the hopeless hope, the crownless name,
The heart’s desire defeated!–What boots now
That ice-brook-temper’d will,
As on through snow and storm their path the dalesmen plough?
–Yet again the tartans hail
One smile of Scotland’s ancient face;
One favour waits the faithful race,–
One triumph more at Falkirk crowns the Gael!
And O! what drop of Scottish blood that runs
Could aught, save do or die,
And Bannockburn so nigh?
What cause to higher height could animate her sons?
Up the gorse-embattled brae,
With equal eager feet they dash,
And on the moorland summit clash,
Friend mix’d with foe in stormy disarray:
Once more the Northern charge asserts its right,
As with the driving rain
They drive them down the plain:
That star alone before Drummossie gilds the night.
–Ah! No more!–let others tell
The agony of the mortal moor;
Death’s silent sheepfold dotted o’er
With Scotland’s best, sleet-shrouded as they fell!
There on the hearts, once mine, the snow-wreaths drift;
Night’s winter dews at will
In bitter tears distil,
And o’er the field the stars their squadrons coldly shift.
Faithful in a faithless age!
Yet happier, in that death-dew drench’d,
In each rude hand the claymore clench’d,
Than who, to soothe a nation’s craven rage,
To the red scaffold went with steady eye,
And the red martyr-grave,
For one, who could not save!
Who only lives to weep the weight of life, and die!
–He ended, with such grief
As fits and honours manhood:–Then, once more
Weaving that long romantic lay, told o’er
The names of clan and chief
Who perill’d all for him, and died;–and how
In islets, caves, and clefts, and bare high mountain-brow
The wanderer hid, and all
His Odyssey of woes!–Then, agonized
Not by the wrongs he suffer’d and despised,
But for the Cause’s fall,–
The faces, loved and lost, that for his sake
Were raven-torn and blanch’d, high on the traitor’s stake,
As on Drummossie drear
They fell,–as a dead body falls,–so he;
Swoon-senseless at that killing memory
Seen across year on year:
O human tears! O honourable pain!
Pity unchill’d by age, and wounds that bleed again!
–Ah, much enduring heart!
Ah soul, miscounsell’d oft and lured astray,
In that long life-despair, from wisdom’s way
And thy young hero-part!–
–And yet–DILEXIT MULTUM!–In that cry
Love’s gentler judgment pleads; thine epitaph a sigh!
(Francis Turner Palgrave)
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Based on Keywords: crownless, hebrides, asserts, alban, pibroch, macdonald, agonized, cameron, unfriended, derby, interlude