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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Burial March of Dundee
By William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813–1865)
 
From the ‘Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers’

I
SOUND the fife and cry the slogan;
  Let the pibroch shake the air
With its wild, triumphant music,
  Worthy of the freight we bear.
Let the ancient hills of Scotland        5
  Hear once more the battle-song
Swell within their glens and valleys
  As the clansmen march along!
Never from the field of combat,
  Never from the deadly fray,        10
Was a nobler trophy carried
  Than we bring with us to-day;
Never since the valiant Douglas
  On his dauntless bosom bore
Good King Robert’s heart—the priceless—        15
  To our dear Redeemer’s shore!
Lo! we bring with us the hero—
  Lo! we bring the conquering Græme,
Crowned as best beseems a victor
  From the altar of his fame;        20
Fresh and bleeding from the battle
  Whence his spirit took its flight,
’Midst the crashing charge of squadrons,
  And the thunder of the fight!
Strike, I say, the notes of triumph,        25
  As we march o’er moor and lea!
Is there any here will venture
  To bewail our dead Dundee?
Let the widows of the traitors
  Weep until their eyes are dim!        30
Wail ye may full well for Scotland—
  Let none dare to mourn for him!
See! above his glorious body
  Lies the royal banner’s fold—
See! his valiant blood is mingled        35
  With its crimson and its gold.
See how calm he looks and stately,
  Like a warrior on his shield,
Waiting till the flush of morning
  Breaks along the battle-field!        40
See— oh, never more, my comrades,
  Shall we see that falcon eye
Redden with its inward lightning,
  As the hour of fight drew nigh!
Never shall we hear the voice that,        45
  Clearer than the trumpet’s call,
Bade us strike for king and country,
  Bade us win the field, or fall!
 
II
On the heights of Killiecrankie
  Yester-morn our army lay:        50
Slowly rose the mist in columns
  From the river’s broken way;
Hoarsely roared the swollen torrent,
  And the Pass was wrapped in gloom,
When the clansmen rose together        55
  From their lair amidst the broom.
Then we belted on our tartans,
  And our bonnets down we drew,
As we felt our broadswords’ edges,
  And we proved them to be true;        60
And we prayed the prayer of soldiers,
  And we cried the gathering-cry,
And we clasped the hands of kinsmen,
  And we swore to do or die!
Then our leader rode before us,        65
  On his war-horse black as night—
Well the Cameronian rebels
  Knew that charger in the fight!—
And a cry of exultation
  From the bearded warrior rose;        70
For we loved the house of Claver’se,
  And we thought of good Montrose.
But he raised his hand for silence—
  “Soldiers! I have sworn a vow;
Ere the evening star shall glisten        75
  On Schehallion’s lofty brow,
Either we shall rest in triumph,
  Or another of the Græmes
Shall have died in battle-harness
  For his country and King James!        80
Think upon the royal martyr—
  Think of what his race endure—
Think on him whom butchers murdered
  On the field of Magus Muir: 1
By his sacred blood I charge ye,        85
  By the ruined hearth and shrine—
By the blighted hopes of Scotland,
  By your injuries and mine—
Strike this day as if the anvil
  Lay beneath your blows the while,        90
Be they Covenanting traitors,
  Or the blood of false Argyle!
Strike! and drive the trembling rebels
  Backwards o’er the stormy Forth;
Let them tell their pale Convention        95
  How they fared within the North.
Let them tell that Highland honor
  Is not to be bought nor sold;
That we scorn their prince’s anger,
  As we loathe his foreign gold.        100
Strike! and when the fight is over,
  If you look in vain for me,
Where the dead are lying thickest
  Search for him that was Dundee!”
 
III
Loudly then the hills re-echoed
        105
  With our answer to his call,
But a deeper echo sounded
  In the bosoms of us all.
For the lands of wide Breadalbane,
  Not a man who heard him speak        110
Would that day have left the battle.
  Burning eye and flushing cheek
Told the clansmen’s fierce emotion,
  And they harder drew their breath;
For their souls were strong within them,        115
  Stronger than the grasp of Death.
Soon we heard a challenge trumpet
  Sounding in the Pass below,
And the distant tramp of horses,
  And the voices of the foe;        120
Down we crouched amid the bracken,
  Till the Lowland ranks drew near,
Panting like the hounds in summer,
  When they scent the stately deer.
From the dark defile emerging,        125
  Next we saw the squadrons come,
Leslie’s foot and Leven’s troopers
  Marching to the tuck of drum;
Through the scattered wood of birches,
  O’er the broken ground and heath,        130
Wound the long battalion slowly,
  Till they gained the field beneath;
Then we bounded from our covert,—
  Judge how looked the Saxons then,
When they saw the rugged mountain        135
  Start to life with armèd men!
Like a tempest down the ridges
  Swept the hurricane of steel,
Rose the slogan of Macdonald—
  Flashed the broadsword of Lochiel!        140
Vainly sped the withering volley
  ’Mongst the foremost of our band—
On we poured until we met them
  Foot to foot and hand to hand.
Horse and man went down like drift-wood        145
  When the floods are black at Yule,
And their carcasses are whirling
  In the Garry’s deepest pool.
Horse and man went down before us—
  Living foe there tarried none        150
On the field of Killiecrankie,
  When that stubborn fight was done!
 
IV
And the evening star was shining
  On Schehallion’s distant head,
When we wiped our bloody broadswords,        155
  And returned to count the dead.
There we found him gashed and gory,
  Stretched upon the cumbered plain,
As he told us where to seek him,
  In the thickest of the slain.        160
And a smile was on his visage,
  For within his dying ear
Pealed the joyful note of triumph
  And the clansmen’s clamorous cheer:
So, amidst the battle’s thunder,        165
  Shot, and steel, and scorching flame,
In the glory of his manhood
  Passed the spirit of the Græme!
 
V
Open wide the vaults of Athol,
  Where the bones of heroes rest—        170
Open wide the hallowed portals
  To receive another guest!
Last of Scots, and last of freemen—
  Last of all that dauntless race
Who would rather die unsullied,        175
  Than outlive the land’s disgrace!
O thou lion-hearted warrior!
  Reck not of the after-time:
Honor may be deemed dishonor,
  Loyalty be called a crime.        180
Sleep in peace with kindred ashes
  Of the noble and the true,
Hands that never failed their country,
  Hearts that never baseness knew.
Sleep!—and till the latest trumpet        185
  Wakes the dead from earth and sea,
Scotland shall not boast a braver
  Chieftain than our own Dundee!
 
Note 1. Archbishop Sharp, Lord Primate of Scotland. [back]
 
 
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