William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813 - 1865 / Scotland)
The Burial March Of Dundee
Sound the fife, and cry the slogan-
Let the pibroch shake the air
With its wild triumphal music,
Worthy of the freight we bear.
Let the ancient hills of Scotland
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,
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-
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;
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,
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!
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
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!
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,
Clearer than the trumpet's call,
Bade us strike for King and Country,
Bade us win the field or fall!
On the heights of Killiecrankie
Yester-morn our army lay:
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
From their lair amidst the broom.
Then we belted on our tartans,
And our bonnets down we drew,
And we felt our broadswords' edges,
And we proved them to be true;
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
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 warriors rose;
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
On Schehallion's lofty brow,
Either we shall rest in triumph,
Or another of the Graemes
Shall have died in battle-harness
For his Country and King James!
Think upon the Royal Martyr-
Think of what his race endure-
Think on him whom butchers murder'd
On the field of Magus Muir:-
By his sacred blood I charge ye,
By the ruin'd 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,
Be they Covenanting traitors,
Or the brood of false Argyle!
Strike! and drive the trembling rebels
Backwards o'er the stormy Forth;
Let them tell their pale Convention
How they fared within the North.
Let them tell that Highland honour
Is not to be bought nor sold,
That we scorn their Prince's anger,
As we loathe his foreign gold.
Strike! and when the fight is over,
If ye look in vain for me,
Where the dead are lying thickest,
Search for him that was Dundee!'
Loudly then the hills re-echoed
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
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,
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:
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,
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,
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
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 Locheill!
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
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
On the field of Killiecrankie,
When that stubborn fight was done!
And the evening-star was shining
On Schehallion's distant head,
When we wiped our bloody broadswords,
And returned to count the dead.
There we found him, gashed and gory,
Stretch'd upon the cumbered plain,
As he told us where to seek him,
In the thickest of the slain.
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,
Shot, and steel, and scorching flame,
In the glory of his manhood
Passed the spirit of the Græme!
Open wide the vaults of Athol,
Where the bones of heroes rest-
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
Than outlive the land's disgrace!
O thou lion-hearted warrior!
Reck not of the after-time:
Honour may be deemed dishonour,
Loyalty be called a crime.
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
Wakes the dead from earth and sea,
Scotland shall not boast a braver
Chieftain than our own Dundee!
Comments about this poem (The Burial March Of Dundee by William Edmondstoune Aytoun )
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