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Poem by Walter Scott


On the Massacre of Glencoe


O, TELL me, Harper, wherefore flow
Thy wayward notes of wail and woe
Far down the desert of Glencoe,
  Where none may list their melody?
Say, harpst thou to the mists that fly,
Or to the dun deer glancing by,
Or to the eagle that from high
  Screams chorus to thy minstrelsy?

No, not to these, for they have rest,
The mist-wreath has the mountain crest,
The stag his lair, the erne her nest,
  Abode of lone security.
But those for whom I pour the lay,
Not wildwood deep, nor mountain gray,
Not this deep dell, that shrouds from day,
  Could screen from treachrous cruelty.

Their flag was furled, and mute their drum,
The very household dogs were dumb,
Unwont to bay at guests that come
  In guise of hospitality.
His blithest notes the piper plied,
Her gayest snood the maiden tied,
The dame her distaff flung aside,
  To tend her kindly housewifery.

The hand that mingled in the meal
At midnight drew the felon steel,
And gave the hosts kind breast to feel
  Meed for his hospitality!
The friendly hearth which warmed that hand
At midnight armed it with the brand,
That bade destructions flames expand
  Their red and fearful blazonry.

Then womans shriek was heard in vain,
Nor infancys unpitied plain,
More than the warriors groan, could gain
  Respite from ruthless butchery!
The winter wind that whistled shrill,
The snows that night that cloaked the hill,
Though wild and pitiless, had still
  Far more than Southern clemency.

Long have my harps best notes been gone,
Few are its strings, and faint their tone,
They can but sound in desert lone
  Their gray-haired masters misery.
Were each gray hair a minstrel string,
Each chord should imprecations fling,
Till startled Scotland loud should ring,
  Revenge for blood and treachery!



Walter Scott

Poem Theme: Glencoe (Scotland)

Walter Scott's other poems:
  1. Epitaph
  2. Lines Addressed to Ranald Macdonald, Esq., of Staffa
  3. The Sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill
  4. On Ettrick Forests Mountains Dun
  5. The Maid of Isla


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