Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1821–1834
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vol. V: Literature of the Republic, Part II., 1821–1834
 
The Trial of the Dead
By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)
 
[From Poems. Second Edition. 1836.]

THE SPEARS at Corrichie were bright,
  Where, with a stern command,
The Earl of Huntley ranged his host
  Upon their native strand.
 
From many a Highland strath and glen        5
  They at his summons came,
A stalwart band of fearless men,
  Who counted war a game.
 
Then, from Edina’s royal court
  Fierce Murray northward sped,        10
And rushed his envied foe to meet
  In battle sharp and dread.
 
They met, they closed, they struggled sore,
  Like waves when tempests blow,
The slogan-music high in air,        15
  The sound of groans below.
 
They broke, they wheeled, they charged again,
  Till on the ensanguined ground
The noble Gordon lifeless lay,
  Transpierced with many a wound.        20
 
Long from her tower his Lady looked:
  “I see a dusky cloud,
And there, behold! comes floating high
  Earl Huntley’s banner proud.”
 
Then, deep she sighed, for rising mist        25
  Involved her aching sight;
’Twas but an autumn-bough that mocked
  Her chieftain’s pennon bright.
 
His mother by the ingle sate,
  Her head upon her knee,        30
And murmured low in hollow tone,
  “He’ll ne’er come back to thee.”
 
“Hist, Lady, mother! hear I not
  Steed-tramp and pibroch-roar?
As when the victor-surf doth tread        35
  Upon a rocky shore?”
 
Not toward the loop-hole raised her head
  That woman wise and hoar,
But whispered in her troubled soul,
  “Thy Lord returns no more!        40
 
“A funeral march is in my ear,
  A scattered host I see,”
And, straining wild, her sunken eye
  Gazed out on vacancy.
 
Back to their homes, the Gordon clan        45
  Stole with despairing tread,
While to the vaults of Holyrood
  Was borne their chieftain dead.
 
Exulting foemen bore him there,
  While lawless vassals jeered,        50
Nor spared to mock the haughty brow
  Whose living frown they feared.
 
No earth upon his corse they strewed,
  At no rich shrine inurned,
But heavenward, as the warrior fell,        55
  His noble forehead turned.
 
Months fled; and while, from castled height
  To cot in lowly dell,
O’er Corrichie’s disastrous day
  The tears of Scotland fell,        60
 
Behold, a high and solemn court
  With feudal pomp was graced,
And at the bar, in princely robes,
  A muffled chieftain placed.
 
No glance his veiled face might scan,        65
  Though throngs beside him pressed;
The Gordon plume his brow adorned,
  Its tartan wrapped his breast.
 
“Lord George of Gordon, Huntley’s earl!
  High-treason taints thy name;        70
For God, and for thy country’s cause,
  Defend thine ancient fame;
 
“Make oath upon thine honor’s seal,
  Heaven’s truth unblenching tell!”
No lip he moved, no hand he raised,        75
  And dire that silence fell.
 
No word he spake, though thrice adjured;
  Then came the sentence drear:
“Foul traitor to thy queen and realm,
  Our laws denounce thee here.”        80
 
They stripped him of his cloak of state,
  They bared his helmed head,
Though the pale judges inly quaked
  Before the ghastly dead.
 
Light thing to him, that earthly doom        85
  Or man’s avenging rod,
Who, in the land of souls, doth bide
  The audit of his God.
 
Before his face the crowd drew back,
  As from sepulchral gloom,        90
And sternest veterans shrank to breathe
  The vapor of the tomb.
 
And now, this mockery of the dead
  With hateful pageant o’er,
They yield him to his waiting friends        95
  Who throng the palace door.
 
And on their sad procession pressed,
  Unresting day and night,
To where mid Elgin’s towers they mark
  The fair cathedral’s height.        100
 
And there, by kindred tears bedewed,
  Beneath its hallowed shade,
With midnight torch and chanted dirge,
  Their fallen chief they laid,
 
Fast by king Duncan’s mouldering dust,        105
  Whose locks of silver hue
Were stained, as Avon’s swan hath sung,
  With murder’s bloody dew.
 
So, rest thou here, thou Scottish earl
  Of ancient fame and power,        110
No more a valiant host to guide
  In battle’s stormy hour.
 
Yea, rest thee here, thou Scottish earl,
  Until that day of dread,
Which to eternity consigns        115
  The trial of the dead.
 
 
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