COM’ST thou with swift wing in thy strength, O Wind!
Wilt thou not to my helpless age be kind?
And lightly o’er my rocky shelter wave,
While here I sit all mournful by the grave,
Where busy memory feeds on endless woe,
While youth’s dear lost companions sleep below.
And while they still my sorrowing thoughts engage,
I sink beneath th’ enfeebling hand of age:
Alone I tremble till the storm be past,–
Then strive not with my weakness, Northern Blast!
Once was my step as light as thine, O Wind!
With fearless valour, matchless strength combin’d;
My foes from many a battle, pierc’d with wounds,
With feeble step retir’d to distant bounds:–
But Sorrow yet shall stop thy airy flight,
O Wind! nor shalt thou climb yon mountain’s height,
Nor o’er the dark wood bear th’ impending cloud–
That wood which once beneath thy prowess bow’d:
The grass shall scorn to yield beneath thy pow’r,
But every twig and every laughing flow’r
Erect its head,–then to my age be kind,
Since thou thyself to age must yield, O Wind!
Come, lovely hunter of excelling grace,
Awake a flame to warm and cheer the place;
Heap branches dry to kindle up in light,
For slowly from the east approaches night:
The Sun now hovers trembling in the west,
Already thrice the happy isles of rest
Have op’d their veil of clouds, and bade him lave
His glowing visage in the western wave:
They cry, “O haste! thy daily task is done,
“Come with thy bright looks streaming round, O Sun!
“Behind the surge, dark wandering clouds of night
“Come frequent on, to shade thy lustre bright:
“Fair visage! that first smiles to joy the east,
“Come, sink among the heavenly isles to rest.”
Dark frowning clouds on sable wings arise,
See shadowy forms invite him from the skies;
Departed heroes, hark! the Sun invite
To pass with them, in isles of bliss, the night.
Blest be the meek-ey’d Virgin of thy love;
Unerring be thy shaft in every grove!
Hunter! who kindly lend’st me frequent aid,
While weak with age I wander through the shade,
Sit thou attentive on yon moss grown grave,
While through the hollow rock the loud winds rave:
While fraught with meaning I the tale relate
Of heroes brave, and their eventful fate:
Now stretch’d beneath the monumental stone,
The gallant chiefs who first in battle shone!
How bright the hue of years that ne’er return,
I feel my soul with wonted ardour burn!
Return, my youth, with all thy acts of might,
Rise, memory, on my soul in beams of light!
Show me the battles where I rul’d the storm,
And bright in armour show each hero’s form.
O you that pour’d the tempest on your foes,
Look smiling from the clouds of your repose;
And while your children hear your proud renown,
See tears of transport silently steal down:–
My soul grows bright while former years arise,
With all their deeds of fame to glad my eyes:
In long succession see the scenes unfold,–
Hunter, attend! a tale of times of old!
The stars slept viewless on their cloudy bed,
The moon in formless darkness hid her head,
Erewhile tumultuous winds through ocean rav’d,
Now tost in air, the clouds the billows brav’d–
When, awful riding on the midnight storm,
From ocean’s bed rose SHALMOR’S shadowy form:
Dim o’er the ridgy surge he seems to go,
Dark in the whelming cloud of drifting snow;
Then high upon the blast’s tempestuous breath,
Rose to the lofty rock the son of death!
Chill vapours hung around his pointless spear,
While from his cold, dark bed, the chief drew near;
Emphatic truths his awful words convey,
And thus in hollow sounds he seem’d to say:
“Rise, sons of ALBION , from unsafe repose,
“Fierce from the north approach your ancient foes:
“Cold LOCHLIN’S smooth ships through the stormy surge,
“With mighty pow’rs the bold invasion urge:
“Children of ALBION , long renown’d, come forth
“To meet your bold invaders from the north!”
Swift on the cold blast fled the son of night,
The strong oak bow’d beneath th’ impetuous flight;
The shatter’d forest shook before his wrath,
While to his wat’ry tomb retir’d the son of death.
The gentle Chief of ALBION’S generous race
Awak’d,–and, “Call my warriors from the chace,”
He cry’d, “and high on Feanna’s ridgy brow
“Let warning flames alarm the vales below!”
From every mountain’s side the Chiefs descend,
And bright in arms their gallant King attend:–
MORDUTH , the ruler of the strath around,
With warlike shouts, made trembling rocks resound:
The sons of battle heard the sound a-far,
And gleaming swords impatient threat the war.
Now morn dim dawning in the east appears,
And bids the sons of tempest seize their spears:
Mild in his beauteous radiance smil’d the sun,
While from blue Ocean’s breast his course begun;
His beams resplendent glitter’d on the arms
Of Chiefs renown’d in battle’s fierce alarms:
Up valiant CHIAGLAS rose, devoid of fear,
And thick behind the Chief rose many a spear;
Tommora gathers all his people round,
Nor in the rear was ardent MORDAL found.
CHIAGLAS , who bow’d beneath the weight of years,
Cries, “Where are northern SUNAR’S thronging spears?
“Even I in former days have gather’d fame
“From SUNAR , when to ALBION’S coasts he came:
“Though feeble age now foils me in the fight,
“Great was my strength, and great my deeds of might!”
‘If strength or hardihood can ought avail,’
MACORDUIBH cries, with fear and envy pale,
‘Now is the time,–for SUNAR of the North,
‘In all the gallant pomp of war comes forth;
‘Redoubled sun-beams dance on polish’d arms,
‘And ardent warriors, smit with glory’s charms,
‘Fierce in their strength move threatening at his side;
‘The woods before them bow their lofty pride.
‘See while they mount on Thirmor’s rocky side,
‘His head diminish’d sinks before their stride;
‘In stormy wrath approaches LOCHLIN’S might,
‘In vain the sons of ALBION urge the fight,
‘To tempt their fate and turn in shameful flight.’
“Fly, dastard, to the quiet abodes a-far,
“Where timorous females shun the din of war;
“Thy soul shakes like the green leaf in the air,
“When Autumn’s chill blast makes the forest bare;
“As flies the leaf before the wint’ry gale,
“Fly thou; when foes our valiant host assail;
“But many a stately tree this mountain owns,
“That stands erect when winter fiercest frowns;
“And oft our northern foes in fury came,
“But when retir’d with conquest or with fame?
“Depart unheard of, son of small renown!
“To where degenerate cowards dwell unknown!
“Had we no greater foes than thee to dread,
“How soon to certain conquest we might speed:
“We’d draw our weapons on this northern race,
“Assur’d, as when the tim’rous deer we chace:
“Bloody and bold are those thy taunts that hear,
“On every side then shun destruction near:”
‘Still in our ears thy base reproaches ring,–
‘Thou son of pride, withdraw thy venom’d sting!’
Two spears with hostile terror threat on high,
And half-drawn swords and clashing shields draw nigh:
With civil rage now wakens ALBION might,
To pour on kindred foes the sudden fight.
But the strong shield that guards th’ impetuous throng,
The lovely King of ALBIONS , came along,
With mighty anger frowning in his wrath,
He came like the impending cloud of death:
From Chief to Chief dark roll’d his ardent eyes,
And as he came, with fierce impatience cries,
“Ye children of the waves, restrain your might,
“Nor vainly say you conquer’d us in fight:
“Oft rose our fathers’ spears in battle’s roar,
“And oft your tombs upon the sea-beat shore.
“But well may joy arise in SUNAR’S hall,
“When by each other ALBION’S warriors fall!”
Asham’d, dismay’d, before their monarch’s ire,
The Chiefs who wak’d the deadly strife retire.
As two dark clouds that travel o’er the hills,
When from the sky the misty show’r distils,
With low’ring horror fill the darken’d vale,
While on in gloomy majesty they sail:
Thus dark in frowning might our heroes came,
And thus fierce LOCHLIN’S host of mighty name.
Onward the king of ALBION bent his course,
Then as a rock resists the billow’s force,
Whose foaming rage assails the base in vain,
Then sinks with baffled fury back again,
So fierce, so clam’rous, rush’d the tide of foes,
So firm, so fearless, did the Chief oppose:
As come the loud winds through the gloom of night,
Came LOCHLIN’S deadly spears to urge the fight:
Nor comes the fatal blast of night alone,
As fast the clouds that bid the tempest frown.
Thus high resistless ALBION rose in arms,
Like bursting thunder came the loud alarms:
As rocky fragments from the mountain’s brow,
By thunder torn, encounter fierce below,–
With furious shock the onset first began,
And many a foe lay gasping on the plain:
The Chieftains spears with rushing blood were dy’d,
And broken arms lay scatter’d far and wide;
Bold hardy warriors urg’d the conflict sore,
And many a wound ran purple on Dalmore .
But vainly force unequal we oppose,
What single arm can meet a hundred foes?
Our dauntless King our yielding steps beheld,
By LOCHLIN like a rushing tide impell’d,
The hero’s soul with rage impetuous blaz’d,
While high in air his bloody spear he rais’d;
The foe’s fierce conflict round the King appear’d,
While distant far his banner yielding steer’d.
At length he came, as ocean’s wearied wave,
Where restless surges round Iona rave,
In vain assaults the rock’s unyielding pride,
Then falls repell’d indignant from its side:
“Why art thou darken’d ere the day’s decline,
“Fair Sun, that wont with fav’ring beams to shine?
“Think not the warriors fought with feeble hands,
“Though far out-number’d by the adverse bands:
“Oft has an envious cloud obscur’d thy light,
“When sable tempests wing’d th’ impetuous flight;
“But when the winds are hush’d, and through the sky
“The driving rack is seen across to fly;
“When clouds retiring hear thy strong command,
“And the rude blast thou graspest in thy hand;
“When kindly thou look’st forth with beauty crown’d,
“And all thy bright locks glitter wide around;
“When thy fair visage brightens with a smile,
“And pleasure gleams on every rock the while,
“Rejoic’d we see thy beaming glory rise,
“Rejoic’d we bless thy progress through the skies.
“Oh thou! who dwell’st among the starry train,
“Move on with music to the western main!
“Although this night oppress’d, with wounds we pine,
“Our course to-morrow shall be bright as thine!”
(Anne MacVicar Grant)
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