Janet Hamilton

(1795-1873 / Scotland)

Some Incidents In The Latter Days Of John Whitelaw - Poem by Janet Hamilton

The bridge was won, the foe had crossed
The Clyde; the Covenanted host
Had lost the day, and vanquished fled.
Mixed with the rout a horseman sped-
For life he rode-and glancing back,
Saw the dragoons were on his track;
With thundering hoof and foaming flank,
The steed swept on till Clyde's green bank
He gained, there for a moment stood,
Then plunged into the rolling flood.
A swimmer strong, he safely bore
His rider to the northern shore.
Refreshed and cool the stalwart steed,
As if he knew his master's need,
Sprang down the bank, dashed o'er the plain,
His northward course pursued amain.
The rider never drew his hand
Till at the lonely farm of 'Stand.'
On Monkland moor his weary horse
He reined, and stayed his faltering course.
But, ah! the terror and alarm
That reigned within that lonely farm,
The fatal news he need not tell,
Alas! they guessed it all too well.
He clasped his pale and fainting wife,
Whose bosom held a twofold life,
He soothed his children, set to watch
His eldest girl, that he might snatch
A hasty meal and brief repose,
Then he must hide him from his foes.
Through four dark years of fear and peril
Young Margaret, that heroic girl,
Watched o'er his life, purveyed his food,
Until he sealed the truth with blood.
There came a day when weak, forlorn,
The mother lay, her babe new born
Within her arms, a fearful sound
Of trampling hoofs the dwelling round
Smote on her ear. With clanking tread
Two fierce dragoons approached her bed.
They asked her where her husband hid.
She bravely answered, 'God forbid
That I should heaven and him betray.'
They swore they'd kill her where she lay.
They thrust their swords into the bed,
And dragged the pillows from her head.
Then from the fire a peat they snatch,
And laid it smouldering on the thatch.
Then rode away with fell desire
To see the lonely house on fire.
It burned not, and that babe and mother
Lived long to bless and love each other.

They took and tried him; calm he stood
Before the men who sought his blood.
'He was at Bothwell with a sword,
He owned not James his loyal lord,
Of Sharp's late murder he declined
To say what thoughts were in his mind.'
This he confessed, and suffered death
With martyr zeal and steadfast faith.
Once lonely 'Stand,' the martyr's prayer
At morn and e'en rose on the air
To heaven; the music of the psalm
Rose sweet amid the holy calm
Of Scotland's Sabbath-sweetly still
The lonely farm, the moor, the hill,
Save moorfowls' call and anthem loud
Of warbling lark on summer cloud.
Alas! the change, sight, sound, and speech,
Another sadder moral teach!

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010

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