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The Execution Of Montrose

COME hither, Evan Cameron!
 Come, stand beside my knee:
I hear the river roaring down
 Towards the wintry sea.
There ’s shouting on the mountain-side,
 There ’s war within the blast;
Old faces look upon me,
 Old forms go trooping past:
I hear the pibroch wailing
 Amidst the din of fight,
And my dim spirit wakes again
 Upon the verge of night.
’T was I that led the Highland host
 Through wild Lochaber’s snows,
What time the plaided clans came down
 To battle with Montrose.
I ’ve told thee how the Southrons fell
 Beneath the broad claymore,
And how we smote the Campbell clan
 By Inverlochy’s shore.
I ’ve told thee how we swept Dundee,
 And tam’d the Lindsays’ pride;
But never have I told thee yet
 How the great Marquis died.
A traitor sold him to his foes;
 O deed of deathless shame!
I charge thee, boy, if e’er thou meet
 With one of Assynt’s name—
Be it upon the mountain’s side,
 Or yet within the glen,
Stand he in martial gear alone,
 Or back’d by armed men—
Face him, as thou wouldst face the man
 Who wrong’d thy sire’s renown;
Remember of what blood thou art,
 And strike the caitiff down!
They brought him to the Watergate,
 Hard bound with hempen span,
As though they held a lion there,
 And not a fenceless man.
They set him high upon a cart,
 The hangman rode below,
They drew his hands behind his back
 And bar’d his noble brow.
Then, as a hound is slipp’d from leash,
 They cheer’d the common throng,
And blew the note with yell and shout
 And bade him pass along.
It would have made a brave man’s heart
 Grow sad and sick that day,
To watch the keen malignant eyes
 Bent down on that array.
There stood the Whig west-country lords,
 In balcony and bow;
There sat their gaunt and wither’d dames,
 And their daughters all a-row.
And every open window
 Was full as full might be
With black-rob’d Covenanting carles,
 That goodly sport to see!
But when he came, though pale and wan,
 He look’d so great and high,
So noble was his manly front,
 So calm his steadfast eye,
The rabble rout forbore to shout,
 And each man held his breath,
For well they knew the hero’s soul
 Was face to face with death.
And then a mournful shudder
 Through all the people crept,
And some that came to scoff at him
 Now turn’d aside and wept.
But onwards—always onwards,
 In silence and in gloom,
The dreary pageant labor’d,
 Till it reach’d the house of doom.
Then first a woman’s voice was heard
 In jeer and laughter loud,
And an angry cry and a hiss arose
 From the heart of the tossing crowd:
Then as the Graeme look’d upwards,
 He saw the ugly smile
Of him who sold his king for gold,
 The master-fiend Argyle!
The Marquis gaz’d a moment,
 And nothing did he say,
But the cheek of Argyle grew ghastly pale
 And he turn’d his eyes away.
The painted harlot by his side,
 She shook through every limb,
For a roar like thunder swept the street,
 And hands were clench’d at him;
And a Saxon soldier cried aloud,
 “Back, coward, from thy place!
For seven long years thou hast not dar’d
 To look him in the face.”
Had I been there with sword in hand,
 And fifty Camerons by,
That day through high Dunedin’s streets
 Had peal’d the slogan-cry.
Not all their troops of trampling horse,
 Nor might of mailed men,
Not all the rebels in the south
 Had borne us backwards then!
Once more his foot on Highland heath
 Had trod as free as air,
Or I, and all who bore my name,
 Been laid around him there!
It might not be. They placed him next
 Within the solemn hall,
Where once the Scottish kings were thron’d
 Amidst their nobles all.
But there was dust of vulgar feet
 On that polluted floor,
And perju’d traitors fill’d the place
 Where good men sate before.
With savage glee came Warristoun
 To read the murderous doom;
And then uprose the great Montrose
 In the middle of the room.
“Now, by my faith as belted knight,
 And by the name I bear,
And by the bright Saint Andrew’s cross
 That waves above us there,
Yea, by a greater, mightier oath—
 And oh, that such should be!
By that dark stream of royal blood
 That lies ’twixt you and me,
I have not sought in battle-field
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:45 min read

William Edmondstoune Aytoun

William Edmondstoune Aytoun FRSE was a Scottish lawyer and poet center more…

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