Margaretta Wedderburn Poems >>
Mary Queen Of Scots, An Historical Poem

DEPARTED shade of MARY, much reproach'd,
How oft I've view'd thy sufferings severe,
With faults contrasted: in my mind revolv'd,
And them arranged have, in dubious thought.

When thou appear'dst again in Scotland's Isle,
At thy return from France, in widow'd state,
And in the bloom of youth and beauty still,
Thy radiance shone bright, in highest sphere,
More lovely than the rest of woman;-they
Of robust make, in manners polish'd less,
And less exciting love; when thus compar'd,
In action graceful, in exterior fair,

With all the finer movements of the soul,
In a still more exalted mind possess'd:
(Tho' devious led in error's subtil maze,
Through many intricate and winding paths,)
Yet in the scale of worth, was higher rais'd,
Than all the vain embellishments of art,
The tinsel trapping of external glare,
Or gaudy pageantry, has e'er attain'd.

As the full moon, when free from wat'ry clouds,
Shines forth superior, midst surrounding stars,
Which hide their heads beneath her splendid rays,
So MARY shone, with native pomp adorn'd,
And grac'd with ev'ry enviable charm,
At her return to Scotia's bleak domains,
To take possession of that fading crown,
(With cares and sorrows round about beset,)
Which prov'd, alas! the source of many woes:
Attended by a num'rous retinue

Of Nobles, come to gratulate their Queen,
And throng'd by those, who with amazement gaz'd,
And in loud shouts, re-echo'd their applause.
Adoring lovers, pressing thro' the crowd,
Pay ev'ry tribute of profound respect;
Lay all their honours at their sov'reign's feet,
Or humbly, at a distance, homage shew.

No wonder thou wast intoxicated
With adulation, so profusely given,
In draughts that stronger heads might giddy make,
And of their brains destroy the equipoise.
But if it was a crime to gain all hearts
Who on thee look'd, or ventur'd near thy charms,
Thy crime was venial, and had gain'd forgiveness;
If envy's fatal sting, and malice keen,
Had not thy ruin aim'd, yea aim'd so sure,
That nothing thought of, could avert the blow,
Or ward the stroke from thy devoted head,

Till vengeful hate had low thy body laid,
And hous'd thee in the melancholy tomb;
That place-where rest-united friends and foes,
That dreary vault, free from the tyrant's rage,
Whose ashes mix with those they have oppress'd,
Nor 'mong the dead can claim pre-eminence.-
Alas! how quick the change, from pleasure's height,
To all the ills of misery extreme:
Debas'd, insulted, in the very place,
Where formerly a di'dem was bequeathed;
Tho' some would, surely, pity thy distress,
And feel the mock'ry done their injur'd Queen.
A few short years, and all thy splendour ceas'd:
With term of life did last thy suffering!-

But when I call to mind those dire events,
(Till then in conduct irreproachable,)
Which drove her rapidly along the tide,
And left her sinking, never more to rise,-

My heart is pierc'd, and pity drops a tear,-
Her love for Darnly, with as sudden hate,
(His treatment of her might be some excuse,
Too just a plea for love so ill repaid
He basely listen'd to aspersions false,
Nor strove to thwart the efforts of her foes.
Of this is Rizio's death a striking proof:
A foreigner, who patronised was
For skill in music; favour'ed by the Queen,
And then advanc'd to more important trust:
On this account-look'd on with envious eye,
By those who wish'd a preference to gain;
Or might perhaps their liege imprudent deem,
For chusing one as Secretaire of state,
His origin obscure, unknown to fame,
And likewise native of another clime.-
Yet other methods might have been devis'd
Him to supplant, than to bereave of life,
And in a manner hazarding the Queen's.

They force the room where she was set at meat,
And stabb'd the man who her protection claim'd,
Unheedful of his cries, or her distress,
Or yet respect to presence of the King,
(In this conspiracy associated,
As is aver'd by them who did the deed.)
One whom from exile she to honour rais'd,
Was not aware that he thro' her disgrace
His own most certain fix'd nay, urg'd and seal'd,
Who basely murder'd was by the same power,
With whom 'gainst MARY he had join'd in league.

Now all the woes that follow'd his decease,
Here to portray would pain me to the heart.
If all were true against her that's alleg'd,
With deeds of wrong, my paper would be fill'd;
And in them I of MARY would lose sight,
And substitute some demon in her stead.
Tho' she was superstitious certainly,

Yet no allowance made there seems to be
For youthful errors, education's bent,
And the still worse effects of flattery;
Whose fascinating spell around her twin'd,
And prov'd the bane that blasted promis'd joys.
Bred up in France, that Court of manners gay,
Ideas lax, and morals not severe,
She early there those principles imbib'd,
To which, with latest breath she still adher'd:
And as a Queen, she claim'd her legal right,
To choose whate'er opinions she thought best.
Without engaging prudence as her guide,
(A worthy counsellor, and useful friend,
The want of which was fatal to her peace,)
Her fertile hopes were turn'd to barren waste;
For obstinate those tenets she retain'd,
That party rage but strengthen'd and confirm'd,
Surrounded by a train of sycophants,
Unworthy quite of love or patronage,

Who seem'd to smile, as if her words and deeds
Had met their approbation and esteem;
While of her foibles taking minutes down,
To serve their purpose in some time to come;
Tho' when with judgement more maturely crown'd,
For youthful passions, (which were crimes indeed
Of tarnish'd hue,) she might have well aton'd
By real contrition for her errors past,
And firm resolves to mend her future ways.

Within the lengthen'd course of eighteen years,
One might have thought that rancour would have ceas'd,
Ere usage harsh, or melancholy sad
Had changed her raven locks to silver grey:
But ah, hard case! her nearest relatives,
O'erleap'd each fence, and prov'd her deadly foes,
Whose wrath, 'gainst those they hate, nought can appease;

(Especially if they have some design,
In opposition to a claim more just
For those who injured are may soon forgive,
But those who injure very seldom do.-
Now disappointed in her fondest hopes,
Both as to power and domestic bliss,
Disasters complicate surround her steps,
Which penetration could not have foreseen,
And her discretion could not then prevent.
An insurrection speedily took place:
The Queen, intending contest to disarm,
Deliver'd herself up at Carberry,
Into the hands of those mischievous men,
Who artfully allow'd him to escape,
Who was accomplice in the daring crime,
Of which the poor deluded Queen's accus'd.
And, notwithstanding all the solemn vows,
And fair pretences of perfidious men,

She that same night, disguis'd in mean attire,
To frustrate all attempts to rescue her,
Was taken from her residence, th' Abbey,
(Whose turrets mouldering, and sculptur'd stones
Gone to decay, its ancient date proclaim,)
Then in Lochleven castle strait immur'd,
(And other places equally recluse)
Whose ruin'd walls a monument remain,
A waste, the stranger's notice to attract,
Who oft are told, " 'Twas there that MARY dwelt."
There long pent up the Queen of Scotland was,
Who nature's ample fields had often rang'd,
And like the bee suck'd sweetness from each flow'r;
Which she as oft to all around diffus'd.-
From every store which loveliness imparts.
But now bereft of all that could delight,
When free as lark, whose matin song invites
To taste the freshness of the early dawn,
And join all nature with the voice of praise,

Those happy days for ever banish'd hence,
With ev'ry pleasure of the varied scene:
Of royalty's external garb despoil'd,
And left to bear the taunt of rival hate,
Whose tongue malignant poison issues forth,
And taints the air with an infectious gale.

This last flagitious act to palliate,
By most consummate artifice was found
A Casket, said to ascertain her guilt
So clearly, that it could not be denied;
Containing letters to the Earl of B.
On state affairs, and likewise love intrigues;
And furnish'd proof, that she had knowledge of,
And was concern'd in murder of the King.
A forgery entire, basely devis'd
By those who wish'd to arrogate her right!
A woman lost to ev'ry sense of shame,
Would scarce express herself in words so rude,

As in that foul farrago will be found:
Where loose love-letters, sonnets, politics,
Are immethodically intermix'd.
Unlike to her, whose purity of style
And elegance of manner were well known,
And by the best historians evinc'd.
'Tis passing strange these writings were not seen
Till five days after MARY was confin'd;
Which happen'd on the fifteenth day of June;
And what they build on as their proof of guilt,
Was not detected till the twentieth day.
Yet how ingeniously do enemies,
Even in an English court of equity,
Where these proceedings were unjustly weigh'd
By English peers and Scotch ambassadors,
Upon this box their accusation ground,
'Gainst Mary Stuart, hapless Qeeen of Scots:
A futile subterfuge! and well seen through
By Noblemen, who shrewdly could discern,

But were in judgment grievously misled;
Or they had crush'd those vipers instantly,
Who thus undaunted 'gainst their sovereign,
Invented and held fast such calumny.-
Her marriage with the Earl, supposed to be
In plot, so villanous, deprav'd, and base,
Shew'd weakness to a very great degree.
I am not yet convinced of her guilt,
Whatever art is us'd t' establish it:
'Tis past a doubt, they say.-To whom? to none
But those against her greatly prejudis'd:
For of this action vile, him they acquit,
To bring about the end they had in view.
The simple Queen believes him innocent,
And by her folly, thus her blame completes;
Complying with their own desire and grant.
Intangled in the web they jointly wrought,
Dreading no danger near, like witless bird,
That pecks, and pecks, unconscious of the snare

Which subtile fowler warily has set;
Till scar'd by noise, or something that alarms,
It tries to mount-but tries, alas! in vain;
For feet are fix'd, beyond its power to loose!
O Liberty, inestimable prize!
With health united, dearest gem on earth:
Without thee, naught can please that wealth bestows;
And with thee, scanty fare affords content.
Ill guided Mary! yet deluded much;
For when young Douglas (touch'd with love for thee;
Or by ambition fir'd), contrived the means
For thy escape, from thy confinment here,
Thy flight to England sum'd up all thy griefs:
Then liberty took leave of thee for ever.
How easily, by soft persuasion's voice,

Is led astray an unsuspicious heart!
Thy character was credulous throughout;
But ne'er more strongly mark'd this trait appears
Than in this last unguarded hasty flight.-
Expecting sanction from thy greatest foe,
And still confiding in the specious mask
Of care profess'd for thy repute, by her
Who all the laws of truth had basely broke,
And wish'd for nothing more than thy dismay:
Who saw with jaundic'd eye, whate'er eclips'd
Her person, fame, or sovereign power:
Who all along most cunningly conceal'd
Those schemes, with well dissembled kindness,
Which by her influence had been promulg'd;
Those feuds, that in this kingdom then prevail'd,
By emissaries to her purpose firm,
Of tender ties who separation made,
By which the bond of union must be held,
With people rul'd, and those who guide the helm.

Instead of welcoming the refugee
With that respect due to a sister Queen,
And very near relation of her own;
Instead of list'ning to her tale of woe,
And lending help to mitigate her wrongs,
Or giving counsel for her future weal;
She tried by every means, her to mislead
With seeming courtesy, and vague excuse;
Message friendship breathing, or by letter,
Until her deep concerted schemes were ripe
For Mary's final and complete disgrace.-
Afraid, her injur'd look she durst not meet;
But shunn'd her presence by each faithless art:
Till Mary, blind no longer to her fate,
Recanted those concessions she had made;
Assum'd a firmness which her case inspir'd,
And conscious innocence strove to support:
But saw too late the net which had been spread,
By fraudful guile, for her incautious steps.-

From jail to jail, she hastily was mov'd,
And watch'd more closely by attendant spies.-
Is this thy cousin's kindness, much wrong'd Queen?
Respect and duty towards thee effac'd,
And treach'rous treatment made their substitute.

To strengthen hope, or anxious fears suppress,
How oft has fancy brought thee to my mind,
In pensive, sad, and studious attitude,
With thoughts absorb'd in scenes for ever fled,
That wing their flight to realms of purer air:
Or, tun'd to woe, thy voice melodious
Accompanied thy lute, in plaintive notes,
Which had erewhile, in gay and lively strains,
When touch'd by thee, oft charm'd the ravish'd ear.
But now, responsive to thy feelings, moves
In softer cadance, steals upon the sense,
And vibrates sweetly to each dulcet sound:

Its varied tones has sometimes sadness cheer'd,
But still it strives in vain to sooth despair;
Or when thy needle, ply'd with dext'rous skill,
And works produc'd, which yet admir'd remain,
And which employ beguil'd thy mournful hours,
When shut from converse with the grave or gay,
And no companions had, but menal slaves,
Unfit associates for Scotland's Queen!
Unless by kind exertions, to prevent
Thy ev'ry wish, and in their narrow sphere
Communicate the bliss they could bestow.-
Of every usual previlege depriv'd,
Which from a subject never was withheld,
Not ev'n from felons, in such dire distress,
Nor sons of France, who claim'd protection here;
To glut the spleen of one who, as a Queen,
In many things might greatly merit praise;
But as a female, not possessed of that,
Which ever should distinguish womankind.

And now forsaken Mary, quite forlorn,
The crisis of her weary days arriv'd,
Accus'd of a conspiracy with those,
Who basely sought the Queen of England's life;
No friend in time of need to succour her,
To pour the balm of comfort in those wounds
Which bleed afresh, for every effort made
To stab her honour, or to blast her fame;
But those who artless, through mistaken zeal,
Or other causes, heighten'd her distress:
For to the most of them it fatal prov'd.-
Whate'er their motive, who her cause espous'd,
The Duke of N. deserv'd a better fate
Than what he met, desirous to befriend.
Of rank the highest in the English realm,
For many virtues preferable still;
Noble himself, sincere and generous,
But made the dupe of cant, and artifice.
He was betray'd by those confederate

Against thee falsely, hapless Queen of Scots!
(Their triumph in iniquity was short:
The end of each was suited to his ways,)
Not all the protestations thou didst make
Of innocence, could in the least avail
In thy defence, to free thee from abuse,
To clear thy name, or save thee from the block.
A falling tear has dropt upon the word,
As if it wish'd wholly to blot it out.
Tears many oft from sympathy have flow'd,
When I indulg'd the tender thought, that thou
Deserv'dst a milder and less rigid fate,
Than what thy portion in this world appear'd.
O Mary! had I lived during thy life,
And found thy name falsely impeach'd, I had
Thy cause espous'd, and join'd in thy defence:
And if by providence I had been rais'd
Above the bugle path which now I tread,

My interest in thy favour I had us'd;
In thy behalf had spent my influence;
Or endeavour'd, by candour's best advice,
And kind injunctions, wholly to disperse
Each prejudice that harbour'd in thy mind,
But hasten'd on thy meditated doom.
And is it wrong to plead another's cause?
To feel their woe, participate their grief,
When harshly us'd and vilify'd, by men
Who now with words, or more offensive means,
The unprotected helpless can outbrave;
Who in the balance weigh'd might wanting seem,
Or shrink appall'd from scrutiny's keen search?
Then I am often guilty, I confess:
For those confin'd in dark and dreary jails,
My fellow-mortals plac'd in durance low,
Is oft to me sufficient cause to grieve;
Though they alone the smart must still endure!

For pity's the chief boon that I can give,
Or ardent wish that they more happy were.-
The die is cast; no longer in suspense,
Your pre-determin'd destiny evolves;
For now you are convey'd to Fotheringay,
A castle strong, with bolts and bars secur'd,
And massy doors, through which is no retreat,
Without a mandate for that end obtain'd.
But hark! there is a knock at the dread gate,
And certain 'tis a messenger of note;
The sound of which thrills thro' the prisoner,
And fills her with alternate hope and fear.
Perhaps it is a friend, or Pastor kind,
To bring thee peace, and sooth thy troubled breast;
To point at prospects, bright'ning from afar,
Whose cheering influence might yet disperse
The gloom that long has round thy dwelling hung,
Or vex'd thy mind for many tedious years;
To fix thy thoughts beyond this earthly scene,

Whose false attractions prove themselves but vain,
(Many its sorrows, fleeting are its joys,)
Above the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars,
With ev'ry beauteous planetary sphere,
Or ought those mortal eyes could ever scan;
For mercy still in store.-Thy mind prepare,
And fortify for suff'rings yet to come.-

The Jailer comes with key of pond'rous weight;
With quick, yet cautious haste, the door unlocks,
Which seldom us'd, grates harshly on its hinge,
As if its guests unwilling to admit.-
And, Mary, are they those thy hopes presag'd?
Ah, no! Elizabeth two trusty Earls
Has sent, to give thee notice, her decree,
Tho' long deferr'd, is aim'd against thy life.
The message, with no consolation fraught,
No word of comfort to thy lonely state,
But with the heart-alarming warrant, which

Bids thee for death immediately prepare;
For morrow's dawn sees thee a lifeless corpse!

In history the foul catastrophe
Is drawn, by Dr Robertson and others,
In colours lively, delicate and just:
And any portrait I could now produce,
Would come far short of what my feelings are,
As well's the picture they so nicely paint.-
The mild demeanour of the Scottish Queen,
Condemn'd by one who was in blood allied;
But not a drop that flow'd within her veins
Felt aught for Mary, but malignant hate.
Though with her finish'd craft, to blind the world,
She could pretend, (the cruel deed perform'd)
That she was much offended and abus'd,
And boldly said, without her leave 'twas done:
Then vengeance took on those weak instruments,
Who only acted by her own desire.

To be in pow'r and favour, near the throne
Of any Monarch so capricious,
A very fickle fortune seems to me.
It is as if on point of craggy rock
A person stood, who ventures near the verge,
Where one false step may hurl to dark despair.
There is a day when secrets stand disclos'd,
And crimes like these will not forgotten be;
When innocence shall shine like morning light,
And fraud and vi'lence meet a just reward.

To Mary's grand deportment, I return,
In view of death, so awful, dark, and sad.
Her fortitude, composure, dignity,
And calm submission to the fatal stroke,
When those who present were beheld the sight
Their eyes with tears were fill'd, their hearts with grief,

In sympathy, all other feelings lost;
And admiration, when they heard her words;
When enemies she readily forgave:
And kindly mention'd all who faithful were,
When trouble all around her overwhelm'd,
In terms affectionate, and due regard
For all their watching, toil, and service past:
Her humble suit, for pardon at the throne
Of mercy, truth, and undeserved grace;
With faith and hope, preferr'd to heaven's King,
Eternal, great, supreme, Almighty Lord.-
But all her manner, at the closing scene,
(To do it justice) ought to be pourtray'd,
In glowing language, by some abler pen.