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Poem by John Greenleaf Whittier


Barclay of Ury



Among the earliest converts to the doctrines of Friends in Scotland was Barclay of Ury, an old and distinguished soldier, who had fought under Gustavus Adolphus in Germany. As a Quaker, he became the object of persecution and abuse at the hands of the magistrates and the populace.

UP the streets of Aberdeen,
By the kirk and college green,
    Rode the Laird of Ury;
Close behind him, close beside,
Foul of mouth and evil-eyed,
    Pressed the mob in fury.

Flouted him the drunken churl,
Jeered at him the serving-girl,
    Prompt to please her master;
And the begging carlin, late
Fed and clothed at Urys gate,
    Cursed him as he passed her.

Yet, with calm and stately mien,
Up the streets of Aberdeen,
    Came he slowly riding:
And, to all he saw and heard,
Answering not with bitter word,
    Turning not for chiding.

Came a troop with broadswords swinging,
Bits and bridles sharply ringing,
    Loose and free and froward;
Quoth the foremost, Ride him down!
Push him! prick him! through the town
    Drive the Quaker coward!

But from out the thickening crowd
Cried a sudden voice and loud:
    Barclay! Ho! a Barclay!
And the old man at his side
Saw a comrade, battle-tried,
    Scarred and sunburned darkly,

Who with ready weapon bare,
Fronting to the troopers there,
    Cried aloud: God save us,
Call ye coward him who stood
Ankle deep in Lutzens blood,
    With the brave Gustavus?

Nay, I do not need thy sword,
Comrade mine, said Urys lord;
    Put it up, I pray thee:
Passive to his holy will,
Trust I in my Master still,
    Even though he slay me.

Pledges of thy love and faith,
Proved on many a field of death,
    Not by me are needed.
Marvelled much that henchman bold,
That his laird, so stout of old,
    Now so meekly pleaded.

Woe s the day! he sadly said,
With a slowly shaking head,
    And a look of pity;
Urys honest lord reviled,
Mock of knave and sport of child,
    In his own good city!

Speak the word, and, master mine,
As we charged on Tillys line,
    And his Walloon lancers,
Smiting through their midst we ll teach
Civil look and decent speech
    To these boyish prancers!

Marvel not, mine ancient friend,
Like beginning, like the end,
    Quoth the Laird of Ury;
Is the sinful servant more
Than his gracious Lord who bore	
    Bonds and stripes in Jewry?

Give me joy that in his name
I can bear, with patient frame,
    All these vain ones offer;
While for them He suffereth long,
Shall I answer wrong with wrong,
    Scoffing with the scoffer?

Happier I, with loss of all,
Hunted, outlawed, held in thrall,
    With few friends to greet me,
Than when reeve and squire were seen,
Riding out from Aberdeen,
    With bared heads to meet me.

When each goodwife, oer and oer,
Blessed me as I passed her door;
    And the snooded daughter,
Through her casement glancing down,
Smiled on him who bore renown
    From red fields of slaughter.

Hard to feel the strangers scoff,
Hard the old friends falling off,
    Hard to learn forgiving:
But the Lord his own rewards,
And his love with theirs accords,
    Warm and fresh and living.

Through this dark and stormy night
Faith beholds a feeble light
    Up the blackness streaking;
Knowing Gods own time is best,
In a patient hope I rest
    For the full day-breaking!

So the Laird of Ury said,
Turning slow his horses head
    Towards the Tolbooth prison,
Where, through iron grates, he heard
Poor disciples of the Word
    Preach of Christ arisen!

*        *        *        *        *



John Greenleaf Whittier


John Greenleaf Whittier's other poems:
  1. The Atlantic Cable
  2. Kallundborg Church
  3. The Fountain
  4. The Dole of Jarl Thorkell
  5. Anniversary Poem


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