The Clearing of the Glens.


They’ll speak of him for many a year,1
In Britain’s sad decline,2
In other lands, perchance, than this,3
Across the weltering brine.4
They’ll speak of him who drove them forth5
In alien fields to toil,6
Who forced them from their fathers’ hearths,7
The children of the soil !8


Amidst the deserts of the west9
When evening shadows fall,10
Around their aged grandsire’s knees11
The babes will gather all12
And “ Tell us, grandsire,” thus they’ll speak,13
O tell us yet again,14
Of that dear native land of yours15
That lies beyond the main.16


Why did you leave that happy land,17
And seek a shelter here,18
Where keenly sweeps the northern wind19
Through frozen forests drear ?20
And why forsake the purple hills21
Where Scotland’s heather grows,22
To shudder in this dreary waste23
Of cold Canadian snows ?”24


Ah, children—Ye recall the time.25
When I was young and strong,26
When never roebuck on the brae27
More swiftly, raced along.28
I dwelt within a bieldy hut29
Far up a Highland glen,30
With forty more our name that bore,31
All true and loyal men.32


We sowed the seed, and reaped the grain,33
With thankful hearts and kind ;34
Our cattle grazed upon the hill35
That rose our homes behind.36
Each Sabbath-day we worshipped God37
Within the homely fane,38
All circled by the blessed graves39
I ne’er shall see again.40


Our chief—ah, me !  how proud were we41
That honoured name to hail,42
Was, like his fathers, true and just—43
In heart and soul, a Gael.44
His lands were narrowed in their range45
Since dark Culloden’s day,46
But o’er our hearts the ancient name47
Still bore its ancient sway.48


He loved us : Ay !  he did not leave49
His old ancestral home,50
As many did, with stranger friends51
In foreign lands to roam.52
God’s blessing rest upon his head,53
Alive or dead, say I ;54
For ’midst his clan, though dwindled sore,55
He looked to live and die !56


And so we dwelt, in peace and rest,57
For many a changing year :58
Not rich ; but riches never made59
A home so doubly dear.60
From kindly earth, from verdant hill,61
From river, lock, and wood,62
We drew the stores that kept us still63
In raiment and in food.64


One year—I know not which it was,65
For it was long ago,—66
The summer had been cold and wet,67
And early fell the snow ;68
A heavy blight came down from heaven69
On plant, and root, and grain,70
And what the pestilence had touched,71
Ne’er rose to life again.72


It was an awful winter. Want73
And famine raged around ;74
Yet little felt we of their power,75
Within our master’s ground.76
Our debts were few, our rents were small,77
And these were all forgiven78
No heavier burden did we bear79
Than that which fell from heaven !80


The spring came round—the primrose bloomed81
Upon the bank and brae,82
And blythsome looked the bonny glen83
Within the light of May.84
The lowing of a hundred herds,85
The voices of the rills,86
The bleat of flocks, the glad bird’s song87
Rang o’er our Highland hills.88


The blade was springing in the field89
Right healthily and green,90
With promise of the fairest yield91
That eye had ever seen.92
And joy rose up within our hearts,93
We feared no more decay,94
But thanked our Maker—who had ta’en95
The grievous curse away.96


O little knew we of the men97
Who ruled within the land ;98
The days were gone when Scottish hearts99
O’er Scotland held command.100
The days were gone when valiant souls101
Who knew their country’s right,102
Stood foremost at the council board103
As they were first in fight.104


The spirit of the olden time,105
That blazed so bright of yore,106
Had died away, and no one spoke107
Of faith or honour more.108
They deemed this glorious earth was made,109
And vaulted with the sky,110
For nothing but to gather gold,111
To traffic, fawn, and lie !112


And so they reared the chimney-stalk,113
And so they laid the keel,114
And trampled on the labouring poor115
With hard and heavy heel.116
A cold and crafty Southron carle,117
Was lord and master there :118
No gentle blood had he who stood119
Beside the monarch’s chair.120


He made his laws—I wot not how—121
But this I know full well,122
That ruin like a biting frost123
Upon the country fell.124
It mattered not how bright the sun,125
How bountiful the rain,126
The wickedness of man had made127
The gifts of God in vain.128


These were sore days. Within the towns129
Was nought but foreign bread ;130
By foreign serfs beyond the seas131
The people now were fed.132
No work was there for us to do,133
No labour far or near ;134
We dared not render thanks to Him135
Who sent a fruitful year.136


The plough lay rusting in-the field :137
We drove our cattle down,138
We sold them—’twas our last resource,139
Within a distant town.140
The poor dumb creatures !  when they went141
I knew the hour must come,142
For the like woeful journey next,143
To those that were not dumb.144


And so it fell. One weary day145
The bitter news was told,146
That the fair land we loved so well147
Was to a stranger sold,148
The race that for a thousand years149
Had dwelt within the glen,150
Were rudely summoned from their homes,151
To beg as broken men.152


Some would not leave—the ruffians tore153
The crumbling thatch away ;154
They plucked the rafters from the wall,155
And bade them starve and stay !156
The old, the bedrid, and the sick,157
The wife and new born child158
I thank my God, I did not strike,159
Although my heart was wild !160


We parted—kinsfolk, clansmen, friends,161
With heavy hearts and sore ;162
We parted by the water side,163
To meet on earth no more.164
The sun was sinking to his rest165
Amidst a lurid sky,166
And from the darkening hill above167
We heard the falcon’s cry.”168


O wicked deed, O cruel men !169
O sad and woeful day !170
But, grandsire, tell us of your friends171
And kinsfolk, where are they ?”172
They lie within the festering heaps,173
Among the city dead174
Scant burial had they for their bones,175
No gravestones mark their head ;176


Some died of want, of sorrow some,177
And some of broken age :178
They who lived on were sad as birds179
Cooped in a narrow cage.180
O children, with the savage beasts181
I’d rather lay me down,182
Than dwell among the stifling lanes183
Within a factory town !184


Sharp hunger forced us to the mills ;185
We slaved for scanty food186
’Midst flashing looms, and buzzing wheels,187
And strangers rough and rude.188
From morn to night we toiled and spun189
Like beasts to labour driven,190
And only through the dingy panes191
We saw the light of heaven.192


Ay, there was room for all !  The child193
That scarce could walk alone,194
The little ones we loved so well,195
The stripling and the grown ;196
The modest maiden forced to bear197
The coarse and scurril jest ;198
The old man with his silver hairs—199
The wife with babe at breast.200


All, all might work—for England ne’er201
Had borne so high a name,202
Though not for Christian chivalry203
She strove to keep her fame.204
No longer streamed Saint George’s cross205
The foremost in the air,206
Her glory lay in cotton bales207
And yards of flimsy ware.208


For this we toiled, for this we span,209
For this all round and round,210
Ten thousand chimney-stalks were reared211
Above the blackening ground.212
For this they made the reaper’s song,213
The ploughman’s whistle cease ;214
And ’midst the clanking of the chains215
Proclaimed the reign of peace !216


But we—the Highland-born, the free,217
How could we struggle there ?218
Still in our hearts we felt the breath219
Of our fresh mountain air220
We saw the shadows of the hills221
Hang in the waters clear,222
The purling of the distant rills223
Was sounding in our ear.224


We sang the old familiar songs—225
We sang them at the loom ;226
We sang of light, and love, and joy,227
When all around was gloom.228
O then, O then—the bitter tears229
Rose to each aching eye230
O were we but once more at home,231
Though only there to die !232


Death came, but came not quickly. Pale233
And weak my sister grew ;234
With sharpened pain and wasting sobs235
Her heavy breath she drew.236
At last I laid her in her bed237
When she could work no more.238
I kissed her poor, thin, wasted cheek—239
I prayed—and all was o’er !240


I laid her in a stranger’s grave,241
And then I turned and fled,242
I cared not whither—anywhere—243
To earn my honest bread ;244
In any land where flesh and blood245
Were reckoned more than gain246
Where tyrant masters did not wring247
Their wealth from woe and pain.”248


O England—England !  many a heart249
Is sad and sore for thee,250
Though basely, meanly, falsely driven251
To dwell beyond the sea.252
O England !  if the bonny Rose253
Was drooping on your crown,254
Why did you stretch a cruel hand255
To pluck the Thistle down ?256


There’s many a name of noble fame257
Writ in your ancient roll ;258
There’s many an honest statesman yet259
Of free and generous soul :260
Why stoop to those who cannot walk261
With high and upright head,262
Whose living souls no kindred own263
With thy time-honoured dead ?264


The worst of all—the thrice-forsworn—265
The gamester of thy fame266
How dares he deem that aftertimes267
Will give him aught but shame?268
Let monuments be reared above—269
Of marble heap a hill270
The peasant’s curse upon his head271
Shall weigh the heavier still !272