BETA

Bannockburn.

O for a gush of Castaly1
To undulate my song,2
Ye goddess-muses, unto whom3
The springs of verse belong !4
No matter—there are streams enow5
Between the hill and sea,6
And every Scots foot on their banks,7
Thanks to King Bruce, is free !8

I.

The English king hath sworn an oath,9
That ere the Baptist’s day,10
Near Stirling’s towers shall England’s host11
And Scotland’s meet in fray ;12
Such fray as, if it lifts us not13
Above all foes and praise,14
Shall be the last and bloodiest15
Of Scotland’s fighting days.16

II.

From cot, from castle spread the news17
O’er hill, dale, everywhere :18
It found God-speed in Liddesdale,19
It found God-speed in Ayr ;20
Among the mosses of Dumfries21
The Maxwells caught the omen ;22
Buchanans told it to Colquhouns,23
In the shadow of Ben Lomond ;24
Makraken gave it to Milroy25
On the coast of Galloway,26
Where the relics of St Ninian sleep,27
And the monks of Baliol pray :28
’Twas heard at Ebba’s Kirk, and heard29
By them that hear the din30
Of Corryvrekan, and Cape Wrath,31
And Foyers, and Corra Linn ;32
It spread—it sprang from isle to isle,33
From Harris to Tiree ;34
It roused the red-legged clans of Ross35
And the Dane-mixed men of Dee ;36
It woke the country of Saint Clair,37
And the country of Mackay ;38
It pierced unto the springs of Clyde,39
And the virgin rill of Spey :40
It made proud mothers cease to sing,41
And maidens to be coy,42
But the warrior heard, and ground his teeth,43
And cut the air for joy.44

III.

That day which makes each week arise,45
With the blue eye of Heaven,46
It found us on the battle-field,47
But not to arms was given ;48
Yet not to rest, or thought of rest,49
With a broad sun blazing o’er us,50
And a hundred thousand English swords51
Grim gathering before us.52
That day the sun went down like blood,53
And even when rose the moon,54
All the night-air palpitated,55
With the fiery heart of June.56

IV.

Sir Mowbray stood in chafing mood57
On Stirling’s old gray wall,58
For nought on earth had he to do,59
But watch our movements all.60
And well he noted every sign :61
‛ The Time,’ quoth he, ‛ is brief,62
When yonder nodding flags, my boys,63
Will bring us all relief.64
Another day, one bloody fray,’65
Quoth he, ‘ and I am free ;66
The mouse may cheep in Stirling keep,67
But not, please God, for me.’68

V.

Sir Mowbray, as a gallant knight,69
Was raised to high command70
By the great soul that left its clay71
At Borough-on-the-Sand ;72
And give the old knight his wonted place73
Among the Southrons hot,74
And let him tread the springy sward,75
In teeth of the proud Scot ;76
That arm of his hath pith enough77
To show you lion’s play,78
When the fire flies from flashing eyes,79
The blue eyes and the gray.80

VI.

Next morn arose as peaceful81
As if war had never been,82
Though nations twain in battle gear83
Were standing in its sheen,84
With gilded flags, like Beltane fires,85
All gleaming in the sun,86
And men on both sides muttering, ‘ Thus87
Shall battle-fields be won ! ’88

VII.

Like waters fed by many streams,89
The northern ranks are thronged90
With vassal leal and bold outlaw,91
The wronger and the wronged ;92
Grim graybeards that have swung their swords93
Around the Wallace wight,94
Brave striplings that have fled from home,95
But will not flee from fight,96
And some who have aforetime fought97
Against the leal and true,98
Will this day stand in Scotland’s van,99
And soldier penance do.100
Yea, even the knave whose caitiff life101
Has hardly one proud day,102
Who comes to plunder, he for once103
Is come in time to slay.104

VIII.

King Bruce surveyed his mingled host105
With no unhopeful eye106
Let every soldier make his bed,107
As he would wish to lie !108
I give old Scotland’s flag in charge109
Of this gray rock,’ said he,110
A standard-bearer that shall fly,111
Good friends, as soon as we.’112

IX.

Our gracious king : right well we knew113
How he had played the man,114
How he had led an outlaw’s life,115
And borne the church’s ban,116
How he had kept his fame so well,117
In flight, when doomed to flee,118
And how he nursed a heart of ruth119
In hottest victory !120
Ho ! for the men that loved their king,121
When loyal men were few !122
Ho ! for the king that knew his men,123
And trusted whom he knew !124

X.

Old Maurice of Inchaffray125
(Save his gray head from harm ! ),126
To fix our confidence, displayed127
Saint Fillan’s relic-arm :128
But how our hearts beat in us129
When we heard the good priest say130
That living arms, and layman nerves,131
Were all required to-day !132
And when he raised the cross, and bade133
Us cry unto the Lord,134
And seek the grace of every saint135
That ever drew a sword,136
And pardoned fight, and pardoned fall,137
Scarce was the counsel given,138
When, hand to heart, and knee to earth,139
And every eye on Heaven,140
Ye might have heard the abbot’s tread,141
Unsandalled though he trod,142
So breathlessly the Scottish host143
Were speaking to their God.144

XI.

Now came proud England’s battle-burst :145
O ladies, ’ twere a sight146
On which the fairest lady eye147
With joyance would alight,148
To see such gallant gentlemen149
At tournay, dance, or play !150
But this was not a time of mirth,151
Or joust or holiday.152

XII.

Then Scotland bared her good broad sword,153
And baptized it in blood,154
And Bannockburn was swollen and red,155
But not with rain or mud ;156
For each man fought as boors might work157
In harvest-time or Spring158
(’Twas the spring-time of Liberty,159
And Hate’s in-gathering),160
Till, on the uneven and pitted ground,161
With caltrops thickly sown,162
A crop of staggering cavaliers163
And plunging steeds was mown ;164
Till Hereford was prisoner,165
Till Gloster’s heart was cold166
(Brave Gloster’s deathbed shail be called167
For aye the Bloody Fold) ;168
Till knightly D’Argentine had urged169
The southern king away170
Brave D’ Argentine, whose one good sword171
Almost renewed the fray172
Till home-fast boys and screaming girls173
Beheld at Ingram’s Crook174
Balls of red foam and trunkless heads175
Slow sailing down the brook.176
The very winds were vocal,177
And the dumb hills seemed to cry,178
Your bairns are sleeping at our feet,179
Ho ! save your homes, or die.’180
And saved they were, and safe they are,181
And shall be safe and free,182
For right was might at Bannockburn,183
The great God honoured be !184

XIII.

That night by Ninian’s sleepless monks185
Full many a prayer was said ;186
That night the trophied tidings brought187
Sweet dreams to wife and maid ;188
That night we bound the wounded up,189
To-morrow hid the slain ;190
One short hour reckoned up our loss—191
All time shall count the gain :192
For ’ tis a story to be held193
In memory for aye194
How lord and vassal knelt and prayed,195
Though not as beadsmen pray ;196
How lord and vassal rose and fought,197
As none had fought before ;198
And how the burn was choked with knights,199
And the marsh half-filled with gore ;200
And how the northern sun arose,201
As sank the southern star ;202
And how the braggart Southron king203
Did ride to reach Dunbar.204

XIV.

O luckless, luckless king, that broke205
The barb of Edward’s name !206
O starless breast, that came so far,207
And found so little fame !208
O well for thee hadst thou been left209
With Gloster on the plain !210
Thou goest to gall a noble steed,211
A steed thou canst not rein.212
Thou goest—O luckless, luckless king ! —213
To Favouritism’s foul breath,214
To trust a courtier’s puny arm,215
To Berkeley’s horrid death ;216
And England’s wide and motley realm217
Holds not so poor a thing,218
As thine anointed, witless head,219
O luckless, luckless king !220