« AnteriorContinuar »
Fair as the earliest beam of eastern light,
When first, by the bewilder'd pilgrim spied,
It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,
And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide,
And lights the fearful path on mountain side;1
Fair as that beam, although the fairest far,
Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,
Shine martial Faith, and Courtesy's bright star,
Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the brow of War.
That early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Look'd out upon the dappled sky,
Mutter'd their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way,
By thicket green and mountain grey.
A wildering path!-they winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gain'd not the length of horseman's lance.
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain;
So tangled oft, that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew,
[MS." And lights the fearful way along its side."]
The Scottish Highlander calls himself Gael, or Gaul, and terms the Lowlanders, Sassenach, or Saxons.
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but Beauty's tear!
At length they came where, stern and steep,"
The hill sinks down upon the deep.
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose;
Ever the hollow path twined on,
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone;
Au hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The rugged mountain's scanty cloak
Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak,"
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black, that waved so high,
It held the copse in rivalry.
But where the lake slept deep and still,
Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill ;.
And oft both path and hill were torn,
Where wintry torrent down had borne,
And heap'd upon the cumber'd land
Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand.
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass's jaws,
And ask'd Fitz-James, by what strange cause
He sought these wilds, traversed by few,
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
Nor soon expected back from war.
Thus said, at least, my mountain-guide,
Though deep perchance the villain lied."
"Yet why a second venture try?"
"A warrior thou, and ask me why !—
Moves our free course by such fix'd cause,
As gives the poor mechanic laws?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day;
Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A knight's free footsteps far and wide,-
A falcon flown, a greyhound stray'd,
The merry glance of mountain maid:
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone."
Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;-
Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
Say, heard ye nought of Lowland war,
Against Clan-Alpine, rais'd by Mar ?"
"No, by my word;-of bands prepared
To guard King James's sports I heard ;
Nor doubt I aught, but, when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung.
"Free be they flung! for we were loth
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung!—as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.
But, Stranger, peaceful since you came,
Bewilder'd in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vow'd and mortal foe?”
"Warrior, but yester-morn, I knew
Nought of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlaw'd desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan, -
Who, in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabb'd a knight :
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart."
Wrothful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lower'd the clansman's sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said,
"And heard'st thou why he drew his blade?
Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?
What reck'd the Chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath, or Holy-Rood?
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven.".
"Still was it outrage;-yet, 'tis true,
Not then claim'd sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrow'd truncheon of command,
The young King, mew'd in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.'
But then, thy Chieftain's robber life!-
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,
Wrenching from ruin'd Lowland swain
His herds and harvest rear'd in vain.-
Methinks a soul, like thine, should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne."
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answer'd with disdainful smile,—
"Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I mark'd thee send delighted eye,
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between
These fertile plains, that soften’d vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
There is scarcely a more disorderly period in Scottish history than that which succeeded the battle of Flodden, and occupied the minority of James V. Feuds of ancient standing broke out like old wounds, and every quarrel among the independent nobility, which occurred daily, and almost hourly, gave rise to fresh bloodshed. "There arose," says Pitscottie, "great trouble and deadly feuds in many parts of Scotland, both in the north and west parts. The Master of Forbes, in the north, siew the Laird of Meldrum, under tryst : " (i. e. at an agreed and secure meeting :) "Likewise, the Laird of Drummelzier slow the Lord Fleming at the hawking; and, likewise, there was slaughter among many other great lords," p. 121. Nor was the matter much mended under the government of the Earl of Angus: for though he caused the King to ride through all Scotland, "under the pretence and colour of justice, to punish thief and traitor, none were found greater than were in their own company, And none at that time durst strive with a Douglas, nor yet a Douglas 's man; for if they would, they got the worst. Therefore, none durst plainzie of no extortion. theft, reiff, nor slaughter, done to them by the Douglasses, or their men; in that cause they were not heard, so long as the Douglas had the court in guiding."—Ibid. p. 435.
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now! See, rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o'er fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread,
For fatten'd steer or household bread;
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply,-
'To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest.”
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey?
Ay, by my soul !-While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain;
While, of ten thousand herds, there strays
But one along yon river's maze,—
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall, with strong hand, redeem his share.
Where live the mountain Chiefs who hold,
That plundering Lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution true?
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu."
The ancient Highlanders verified in their practice the lines of Gray :
"An iron race the mountain cliffs maintain,
Foes to the gentler genius of the plain;
For where unwearied sinews must be found,
With side-long plough to quell the flinty ground;
To turn the torrent's swift descending flood;
To tame the savage rushing from the wood;
What wonder if, to patient valour train'd,
They guard with spirit what by strength they gain'd;
And while their rocky ramparts round they see
The rough abode of want and liberty,
(As lawless force from confidence will grow,)
Insult the plenty of the vales below ??
Fragment on the Alliance of Education and Government.
So far, indeed, was a Creagh, or foray, from being held disgraceful, that a young chief was always expected to show his talents for command so soon as he assumed it, by leading his clan on a successful enterprise of this nature, either against a neighbouring sept, for which constant fends usually furnished an apology, or against the Sassenach, Saxons, or Lowlanders, for which no apology was necessary. The Gael, great traditional historians, never forgot that the Lowlands had, at some remote period, been the property of their Celtic forefathers, which furnished an ample vindication of all the ravages that they could make on the unfortunate districts which lay within their reach. Sir James Grant of Grant is in possession of a letter of apology from Cameron of Lochiel, whose men had committed some depredation upon a farm called Moines, occupied by one of the Grants. Lochiel assures Grant, that, however the mistake had happened, his instructions were precise, that the party should foray the province of Moray, (a Lowland district,) where, as he coolly observes, "all men take their prey."