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Lays of the Scottish cavaliers : and other poems online

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LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIEES



AND OTHER POEMS



LAYS



ov



THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS



AND OTHER POEMS



BY



WILLIAM EDMONDSTOUNE AYTOUN



D.C.L.



PROKKSSOR oy RHETORIC ANT> BNOMSH LITBRATUBR IN
THR LINIVBRSITV UP BDI^PUROH



TWENTIETH EDITION



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON
MDCCCLXVIII






TO

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

ARCHIBALD AYILLIAM MONTGOMERIE,
itarl of iEgUnton auJ) CJainton, li.lZr.,

THE PATRIOTIC AND NOBLE REPRESENTATIVE OF
AN ANCIENT SCOTTISH RACE,

THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED

BY THE AUTHOE.



863530



CONTENTS



LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS

PAr.p
EDDTBURGH AFTER FLODDEN 3

THE EXECUTION OF MONTROSE 35

THE HEART OF THE BRUCE 61

THE BURIAL-MARCH OF DUNDEE 83

THE WIDOW OF GLENCOE 119

THE ISLAND OF THE SCOTS 145

CHARLES EDWARD AT VERSAILLES 175

THE OLD SCOTTISH CAVALIER 239



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS

BLIND OLD MILTON 263

HERMOTIMUS 278

(ENONE 290

THE BURIED FLOWER 295

THE OLD CAMP 309

DANUBE AND THE EUXINE 314



viii CONTENTS.



MISCELLANEOUS POEM ?,-(Contumed)



PA'iR



THE SCHEIK OF SINAI 318

EPITAPH OF CONSTANTINE KANARIS 325

THE REFUSAL OF CHAEON 327



APPENDIX

EXAMINATION OF THE STATEMENTS IN MR MACAULAY'S
HISTORY OF ENGLAND, REGARDING JOHN GRAHAME
OF CLAVERHOUSE, VISCOUNT OF DUNDEE 333



LAYS



OF



THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS



EDINBURGH



AFTER



F L D D E N



The great battle of Flodden was fought upon tlie
9tli of September 1513. The defeat of the Scot-
tish army, resulting mainly from the fantastic ideas
of chivalry entertained by James lY., and his
refusal to avail himself of the natural advantages
of his position, was by far the most disastrous of
any recounted in the history of the northern wars.
The Avhole strength of the kingdom, both Lowland
and Highland, was assembled, and the contest was



4 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

one of tlio sternest and most desperate upon
record.

For several liom-s the issue seemed doubtful.
Ou the left the Scots obtained a decided advan-
tage ; ou tlie right wing they were broken and
overthrown ; and at last the whole weight of the
battle was brought mto the centre, where King
James and the Earl of Surrey commanded in per-
son. Tlie determined valour of James, imprudent
as it was, had the effect of rousing to a pitch of
desperation the courage of the meanest soldiers ;
and the groimd becoming soft and slippery from
blood, they pulled off their boots and shoes, and
secured a firmer footmg by fighting in theh hose.
" It is owned," says Abercromby, " that both
parties did wonders, but none on either side per-
formed more tlian the King himself. He Avas
again told that, by coming to handy blows, he
could do no more than another man, whereas, by
keeping the post due to his station, he might be
worth many thousands. Yet he would not only
fight in person, but also on foot ; for he no sooner



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 5

saAV that body of the English give way which was
defeated hy the Earl of Hiintly, but he alighted
from his horse, and commanded his guard of noble-
men and gentlemen to do the like and follow him.
He had at first abundance of success ; but at length
the Lord Thomas Howard and Sir Edward Stanley,
who had defeated their opposites, coming in with
the Lord Dacre's horse, and siuTounding the King's
l")attalion on all sides, the Scots were so distressed
that, for their last defence, they cast themselves
into a ring ; and, being resolved to die nobly
with their sovereign, Avho scorned to ask quar-
ter, were altogether cut off. So say the English
Avriters, and I am apt to believe that they are
in the right."

The combat was mamtained with desperate fury
until nightfall. At the close, according to Mr
Tytler, " Surrey was uncertain of the result of
the battle : the femams of the enemy's centre
still lield the field; Home, with his Borderers,
still hovered on the left ; and the commander
wisely allowed neither pursuit nor plunder, but



6 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

drew off his men, and kept a strict watch during
the night. When the morning "broke, the Scot-
tish artillery were seen standing deserted on
the side of the hill : theh defenders had disap-
peared ; and the Earl ordered thanks to he given
for a victory Avhich was no longer douhtful. Yet,
even after all this, a body of the Scots appeared
unbroken upon a hill, and were about to charge
the Lord Admhal, when they were compelled to
leave their position by a discharge of the English
ordnance.

" The loss of the Scots in this fatal battle
amomited to about ten thousand men. Of these
a great proportion were of high rank ; the remain-
der being composed of the gentry, the farmers,
and landed yeomanry, who disdained to fly Avhen
their sovereign and his nobles lay stretched in
heaps around them." Besides King James, there
fell at Flodden the Archbishop of St Andrews,
thirteen earls, two bishops, two abbots, fifteen
lords and chiefs of clans, and five peers' eldest
sons, besides La Motte the French ambassador,



EDINBURGH AFTEH FLODDEX. 7

and the secretary of the King. The same Jiis-
torian adds — " The names of the gentry who fell
are too numerous for recapitulation, since there
were few families of note in Scotland which did
not lose one relative or another, whilst some houses
had to weep the death of all. It is from this
cause that the sensations of sorrow and national
lamentation occasioned by the defeat were pecu-
liarly poignant and lasting — so that to this day
few Scotsmen can hear the name of Flodden Avith-
out a shudder of gloomy regret."

The loss to Edinburgh on this occasion was
peculiarly great. All the magistrates and able-
bodied citizens had followed their King to Flod-
den, whence very few of them returned. The
office of Provost or chief magistrate of the capital
was at that time an object of ambition, and was
conferred only u]3on persons of high rank and
station. There seems to be some uncertamty
whether the holder of this dignity at the time of
the battle of Flodden was Sir Alexander Lauder,
ancestor of the Fountainhall fiimilv, who was



8 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

elected in 1511, or that great historical personage,
Archibald l-'.arl of Angus, better known as Archi-
lial.l Eell-the-Cat, who was chosen in 1513, the
Y(>ar of the battle. Both of them were at Flod-
(len. The name of Sir Alexander Lauder appears
upon the list of the slain. Angus was one of the
survivors; but his son, George, Master of Angus,
fell fighting gallantly by the side of King James.
The city records of Edinburgh, which commence
about this period, are not clear upon the point, and
I am rather inclined to think that the Earl of
Angus was elected to supply the place of Lauder.
But although the actual magistrates were absent,
they had formally nominated deputies in their
stead. I find, on referring to the city records,
that " George of Tours " had been appointed to
officiate in the absence of the Provost, and that
four other persons were selected to discharge the
office of bailies imtil the magistrates should re-
turn.

It is impossible to describe the consternation
which pervaded the whole of Scotland when the



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEX. 9

intelligence of the defeat "became known. In
Edinlourgh it was excessive. Mv Amot, in the
history of that city, says — -

" The news of their overtlirow in the field
of Flodden reached Edinburgh on the day after
the hattle, and overwhelmed the inhabitants with
grief and confusion. The streets were crowded
Avitli women seeking intelligence about their
friends, clamouring and weeping. Those w^ho
officiated in absence of the magistrates proved
themselves w^orthy of the trust. They issued a
proclamation, ordering all the inhabitants to as-
semble in military array for defence of the city, on
the tolling of the bell ; and commanding, ' that
all women, and especially strangers, do repair
to their work, and not be seen upon the street
clamorand and cry and ; and that Avomen of the
better sort do repair to the church and offer iip
prayers, at the stated hours, for our Sovereign
Lord and his army, and the townsmen who are
with the army.'"

Indeed, the Council records bear ample evidence



10 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

of the emergency of that occasion. Throughout
the earlier pages, the word "Flowdoun" frequent-
ly occurs on the margin, in reference to various
luirried orders for arming and defence; and there
can be no doubt that, had the English forces
attempted to i'ollow up their victory, and attack
the Scottish capital, the citizens would have re-
sisted to the last. But it soon became apparent
that the loss sustained by the English Avas so
severe, that Surrey was in no condition to avail
himself of the opportunity; and in fact, shortly
afterwards, he was compelled to disband his army.
The references to the city banner contained in
the following poem, may require a word of explan-
ation. It is a standard still held in great hon-
our and reverence by the burghers of Edinburgh,
having been presented to them by James III.,
in return for their loyal service in 1482. This
banner, along with that of the Earl IVIarischal,
still conspicuous in the Library of the Faculty of
Advocates, was honourably brought back from
Elodden, and certainly never could have been



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 11

displayed in a more memorable field. j\Iaitland
says, with reference to this very iateresting relic
of antiquity —

"As a perpetual remembrance of the loyalty
and bravery of the Edmbiu'ghers on the aforesaid
occasion, the King granted them a banner or
standard, with a power to display the same iii de-
fence of then- kmg, country, and their own rights.
This flag is kept by the Convener of the Trades ;
at whose appearance therewith, it is said that not
only the artificers of Edinburgh are obliged to
repair to it, but all the artisans or craftsmen
Avitliin Scotland are bound to follow it, and fight
under the Convener of Edinburgh as aforesaid."

No event in Scottish history ever took a more
lasting hold of the public mind than the " woeful
fight " of Flodden ; and, even now, the songs and
traditions which are current on the Border recall
the memory of a contest unsullied by disgrace,
though terminating in disaster and defeat.



EDINBURGH



AFTER



F L D D E N



jSTews of battle ! — news of battle !

Hark ! 'tis ringing down the street :
And the archways and the pavement

Bear the clang of hurrying feet.
News of battle ! who hath brought it ?

News of triumph ? '^Vlio should bring
Tidings from our noble army,

Greetings from our gallant King ?



14 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

All last night we watched the beacons

Blazing on the hills afar,
Each one bearing, as it kindled.

Message of the opened Avar.
All night long the northern streamers

Shot across the trembling sky:
Fearful lights that never beckon

Save wlien kmgs or heroes die.

II.

iXews of battle ! "\Ylio hath brought it 1

All are tlironging to the gate ;
" Warder — warder ! open quickly !

Man — is tliis a time to wait 1 "
And the heavy gates are opened :

Then a murmur long and loud,
And a cry of fear and wonder

Eursts from out the bending crowd.
For they see in battered harness

Only one hard-stricken man ;
And his weary steed is wounded,

And his cheek is pale and wan :



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 15

Spearless hangs a Uoody banner
In his Aveak and drooping hand —

God ! can that be Eandolph IMurray,
Captain of the city band ?

HI,

Eonnd him crush the people, crying,

" Tell lis all — oh, tell ns true !
Where are they who went to battle,

Eandolph Murray, sworn to you ?
AVhere are they, our brothers — children ?

Have they met the English foe 1
Why art thou alone, unfollowed 1

Is it weal or is it woe 1 "
Like a corpse the grisly warrior

Looks from out his helm of steel ;
But no word he speaks in answer —

Only Avith his armed heel
Chides his weary steed, and onward

Up the city streets they ride ;
Fathers, sisters, m'others, children,

Shrieking, praying by his side.



16 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

" By the God that made thee, Eainlolph !

Tell us what mischance hath come."
Then he lifts his riven banner,

And the asker's voice is dumb.

IV.

The chlers of the city

Have met -within their hall —
The men whom good King James had charged

To watch the tower and Avall.
" Yoiu- hands arc weak with age," he said,

" Your hearts are stout and true ;
So bide ye m the INIaiden Town,

A^Hiile others fight for you.
Mj trumpet from the Border-side

Shall send a blast so clear,
That all who wait withm the gate

That stirring sound may hear.
Or, if it be the w^ill of Heaven

That back I never come.
And if, instead of Scottish shouts.

Ye hear the English drum, —



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 17



Then let the warnmg bells rmg out,

Then gird you to the fray,
Then man the walls like burghers stout,

And light -while fight you may.
'Twere better that in fiery flame

The roofs should thunder down,
Than that the foot of foreign foe

Should trample in the to^nl ! "



Then in came Puandolph ]\Iurray, —

His step Avas slow and weak.
And, as he dotfed his dinted helm.

The tears ran down his cheek :
They fell upon his corslet

And on his mailed hand,
As he gazed around him wistfully,

Leaning sorely on his brand.
And none who then beheld him

But straight were smote Avith fear.
For a bolder and a sterner man

Had never couched a spear.

B



18 LAYS OF Tino SCO-friSH' CAVALIERS.

They knew so sad a messenger
Sonic ghastly news mnst bring ;

And all of them were fathers,

And their sons were Avith the Kin".



VI.

And up then rose the Provost —

jS. brave old man was he,
( )f ancient name, and knightly fame,

And chivalrous degree.
He ruled our city like a Lord

Who brooked no equal here,
And ever for the townsman's rights

Stood up 'gainst prince and peer.
And he had seen the Scottish host

March from th(! Borough-muir,
With music-storm and clamorous shout.
And all the din that thunders out

WHien youth's of victory sure.
But yet a dearer thought had he. —

For, with a father's pride,



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. If)

He saAv liis last remaining son -

Gq forth hj Eandolpli's side,
AVith casque on head and spur on lieel,

All keen to do and dare ;
And proudly did that gallant hoy

Dunedin's hanner hear.
Oh ! woeful now was the old man's look,

And he spake right heavily —
" Now, Eandolph, tell thy tidings,

However sharp they he !
Woe is \\T:-itten on thy visage,

Death is looking from thy face :
Speak ! though it he of overthrow —

It cannot he disgrace ! "

VII.

Eight hitter was the agony

That wrung that soldier proud :
Thrice did he strive to answer.

And thrice he groaned aloud.
Then he gave the riven hanner

To the old man's shaking hand,



20 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

Saying — " Tliat is all I bring ye

From the bravest of the land !
Ay ! yo may luok upon it —

It M'as guarded well and long,
Ey your brothers and your children,

By the valiant and the strong.
One by one they fell around it,

As the archers laid them low,
Grimly dying, still unconquered,

With their faces to the foe.
Ay ! ye may well look upon it —

There is more than honour there.
Else, be sure, I had not brought it

From the field of dark despair.
Never yet was royal banner

Steeped in such a costly dye ;
It hath lain upon a bosom

Where no other shroud shall li'\
Sirs ! I charge you, keep it holy;

Keep it as a sacred thing,
For the stain ye see upon it

Was the life-blood of your King ! "



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 21
VIII,

AVoe, and woe, and lamentation !
Wliat a piteous cry Avas there !
Widows, maidens, mothers, children,

Shrieking, sobbing in despair !
Through tlie streets the deatli-Avord rushes,

Spreading terror, sweeping on —
" Jesu Christ ! our King lias falk'ii—
Great God, King James is gone !
Holy ]\Iother Mary, shield us.

Thou who erst didst lose thy Son !
the blackest day for Scotland

That she ever knew before !
our King— the good, the noble,

Shall we see him never more ?
Woe to us, and woe to Scotland !
our sons, our sons and men !
Surely some have 'scaped the Southron,

Surely some will come again !
Till the oak that fell last Avinter
Shall uprear its shattered stem —



22 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

Wives and mothers of Dunedin —
Ye may look in vain for them !



IX.



But witliiu the Council Chamber

All was silent as the grave,
AMiilst the tempest of their sorrow

Shook the bosoms of the brave.
A\'ell indeed might they be shaken

With the weight of such a blow :
He was gone — their prince, their idol,

Whom they loved and worshipped so !
Like a knell of death and judgment

Eung from heaven by angel hand,
Fell the words of desolation

On the elders of the land.
Hoary heads were bowed and trembling.

Withered hands were clasped and wrung ;
God had left the old and feeble,

He had ta'en away the young.



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEK. 23



Then the Provost he uprose,

And his lip was ashen white ;
But a flush was on his brow,

Ami liis eye was full of light.
" Thou hast spoken, Eandolph JVIurray,

Like a soldier stout and true ;
Thou hast done a deed of daring-
Had been perilled but by few.
For thou hast not shamed to face us,

N"or to speak thy ghastly tale,
Standing — thou a knight and eajitain^

Here, alive within thy mail !
Xow, as my God shall judge me,

I liuld it braver done,
Tlian hadst thou tarried in thy place,

And died above my son !
Tliou needst not tell it : he is dead.

God help us all this day !
Eut speak — how fought the citizens

Vyithin the furious frav ?



24 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

For by the might of jNIary !

"Fwere sometlimg still to teU
Tliat no Scottish foot went backward

A\Tien the Eoyal Lion fell !"

XI,

" Xo one failed hiin ! He is keepuag

lloyal state and semhlance still ;
Knight and noble lie around him,

Cold on riodden's fatal hill.
Of the brave and gallant-hearted,

Whom you sent with prayers away,
Not a single man departed

From his IMonarch yesterday.
Had you seen them, my masters !

^^^len the night began to fall,
And the English spearmen gathered

Round a grim and ghastly wall !
As the wolves in winter circle

Eound the leaguer on the heath,
So the greedy foe glared upward,

Panting still for blood and death.



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN. 25

Eut a rampart rose iDefore them,

Wliich the boldest dared not scale ;
Every stone a Scottish body,

Every step a corpse in mail !
And behind it lay our jMonarch,

Clenching still his shivered sword ;
By his side Montrose and Athole,

At his feet a Soutln-on lord.
All so thick they lay together,

"VVlien the stars lit up the sky,
That I knew not who were stricken,

Or who yet remained to die.
Few there were when Surrey halted.

And his wearied host withcbew ;
None but dying men around me,

Wlien the English trumpet blew.
Then I stooped, and took the banner.

As you see it, from his breast.
And I closed our hero's eyelids,

And I left him to his rest.
In the mountains growled the thunder,

As I leaped the woeful wall,



26 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVAf-IERS.

And the heavy clouds were settling
Over Floddon, like a pall."

XII.

So he ended. And the others

Cared not any answer then ;
Sitting; silent, duniL with sorrow,

Sitting anguish-struck, like men
AVho have seen the roaring torrent

Sweep their happy homes away,
And yet linger by the margin,

Staring wildly on the spray.
But, without, the maddening tiuuult

Waxes ever more and more,
And the crowd of wailing women

Gather round the Council door.
Every dusky spire is ringing

With a dull and hollow knell.
And the Miserere's smging

To the tolling of the bell.
Through the streets the burghers hurry,

Spreading terror as they go ;



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEX. 27

And the rampart's thronged with watchers

For the coming of the foe.
From each mountain-top a pillar

Streams into the torpid air,
Bearing token from the Border

That the English host is there.
All without is flight and terror,

All within is woe and fear —
God protect thee. Maiden City,

For thy latest hoiu' is near !

xm.

'No ! not yet, thou high Dunedin !

Shalt thou totter to thy fall ;
Tliough thy bravest and thy strongest

Are not there to man tlie wall.
No, not yet ! the ancient spirit

Of our fathers hath not gone ;
Take it to thee as a buckler

Better far than steel or stone.
Oh, remember those who perished

For thy birthright at the time



28 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

"When to be a Scot was treason,

And to side with Wallace crime !
Have they not a voice among iis.

Whilst tlieir hallowed dust is here ?
Hear ye not a summons sounding

From each buried warrior's bier ?
Up ! — they say — and keep the freedom

Wliich we won you long ago :
Up ! and keep our graves imsullied

From the insults of the foe !
Up ! and if ye cannot save them,

Come to us in blood and fire :
Midst the crash of falling turrets

Let the last of Scots expire !



XIV.



Still the bells are tolling fiercely,
And the cry comes louder in ;

Mothers wailing for their children,
Sisters for their slaughtered kin.

All is terror and disorder ;
Till the Provost rises up,



EDINBURGH AFTER FLODDEN*. 29

Calm, as though he had not tasted

Of the fell and bitter cup.
All so stately from his sorrow,

Eose the old undaunted chief,
That you had not deemed, to see him.

His was more than common grief,
"Eouse ye. Sirs ! " he said ; " we may not

Longer mourn f(jr Avhat is done ;
If our King he taken from us.

We are left to guard his son.
"We have sworn to keep the city

From the foe, whate'er they be,
And the oath that we have taken

Xever shall be broke by me.
Death is nearer to us, brethren.

Than it seemed to those who died,
Fighting yesterday at Flodden,

By their lord and master's side.
Let us meet it then in patience,

!N"ot in terror or in fear ;
Though our hearts are bleeding yonder,

Let our souls be steadfast here.



so LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

V-[\ and rouse ye ! Time is fleeting,

And we yet have much to do ;
l"p ! and haste ye through the city.

Stir the hurghers stout and true !
(iiither all our scattered people,

Fling the banner out once more, —
liandolph jNIurray ! do thou l)ear it,

As it erst was home before :
Never Scottish heart will leave it,

'When they see their Monarch's gore !

XV.

" Let them cease that dismal knelling !

It is time enough to ring,
When the fortress-strength of Scotland

Stoops to ruin like its King.
Let the bells be kept for warning,

Not for terror or alarm ;
AVlien they next are heard to thunder,

Let each man and stripling arm.
Bid the women leave their wailing —

Do they think that woeful strain,



.'•'" EDINBCRGH AFTER FLODDEN. ■• 3]

- ]7rom the bloody heaps of Floddcn,

Can redeem their dearest slain 1
Bid them cease, — or rather hasten

To the chnrches every one ;
There to pray to Mary Mother,

And to her anointed Son,
That the thunderbolt above us

May not fall in ruin yet ;
That in fire and blood and rapine

Scotland's glory may not set.
Let them pray, — for never Avomen

Stood in need of such a prayer ! —
England's yeomen shall not find them

Clinging to the altars there.
No ! if we are doomed to perish,

Man and maiden, let us fall,
And a common gulf of ruin

Open wide to Avhelm us all !
Never shall the ruthless spoiler

Lay his hot insulting hand
On the sisters of our heroes,

Whilst Ave bear a torch or brand !



32 LAYS OF THE SCOTTISH CAVALIERS.

Up ! and rouse ye, then, my brothers, — -

But when next ye hear the bell
Sounding forth the sullen summons

That may be our funeral knell,
Once more let us meet together,

Once more see each other's face ;
Then, like men that need not tremble,

Go to our appointed place.
God, our Father, will not fail us,

In that last tremendous hour, —
If all other bulwarks crumble,

He will be our strength and tower :
Though the ramparts rock beneath us,

And the walls go crashing down.
Though the roar of conflagration
Bellow o'er th'e sinking town ;
There is yet one place of shelter.

Where the foemen cannot come,
AMiere the summons never sounded

Of the trumpet or the drum.
There again we'll meet our children,


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Online LibraryWilliam Edmondstoune AytounLays of the Scottish cavaliers : and other poems → online text (page 1 of 14)