Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers and Other Poems by W.E. Aytoun

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  • 1848
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Earl of Eglinton and Winton,






_This Volume is a verbatim reprint of the first edition_ (1849).






The great battle of Flodden was fought upon the 9th of September, 1513. The defeat of the Scottish army, mainly owing to the fantastic ideas of chivalry entertained by James IV., and his refusal to avail himself of the natural advantages of his position, was by far the most disastrous of any recounted in the history of the northern wars. The whole strength of the kingdom, both Lowland and Highland, was assembled, and the contest was one of the sternest and most desperate upon record.

For several hours the issue seemed doubtful. On the left the Scots obtained a decided advantage; on the right wing they were broken and overthrown; and at last the whole weight of the battle was brought into the centre, where King James and the Earl of Surrey commanded in person. The determined valour of James, imprudent as it was, had the effect of rousing to a pitch of desperation the courage of the meanest soldiers; and the ground becoming soft and slippery from blood, they pulled off their boots and shoes, and secured a firmer footing by fighting in their hose.

“It is owned,” says Abercromby, “that both parties did wonders, but none on either side performed more than the King himself. He was again told that by coming to handy blows he could do no more than another man, whereas, by keeping the post due to his station, he might be worth many thousands. Yet he would not only fight in person, but also on foot; for he no sooner saw that body of the English give way which was defeated by the Earl of Huntley, but he alighted from his horse, and commanded his guard of noblemen and gentlemen to do the like and follow him. He had at first abundance of success; but at length the Lord Thomas Howard and Sir Edward Stanley, who had defeated their opposites, coming in with the Lord Dacre’s horse, and surrounding the King’s battalion on all sides, the Scots were so distressed that, for their last defence, they cast themselves into a ring; and being resolved to die nobly with their sovereign, who scorned to ask quarter, were altogether cut off. So say the English writers, and I am apt to believe that they are in the right.”

The battle was maintained with desperate fury until nightfall. At the close, according to Mr. Tytler, “Surrey was uncertain of the result of the battle: the remains of the enemy’s centre still held the field; Home, with his Borderers, still hovered on the left; and the commander wisely allowed neither pursuit nor plunder, but drew off his men, and kept a strict watch during the night. When the morning broke, the Scottish artillery were seen standing deserted on the side of the hill; their defenders had disappeared; and the Earl ordered thanks to be given for a victory which was no longer doubtful. Yet, even after all this, a body of the Scots appeared unbroken upon a hill, and were about to charge the Lord-Admiral, when they were compelled to leave their position by a discharge of the English ordnance.

“The loss of the Scots in this fatal battle amounted to about ten thousand men. Of these, a great proportion were of high rank; the remainder being composed of the gentry, the farmers, and landed yeomanry, who disdained to fly when their sovereign and his nobles lay stretched in heaps around them.” Besides King James, there fell at Flodden the Archbishop of St. Andrew’s, thirteen earls, two bishops, two abbots, fifteen lords and chiefs of clans, and five peers’ eldest sons, besides La Motte the French ambassador, and the secretary of the King. The same historian adds–“The names of the gentry who fell are too numerous for recapitulation, since there were few families of note in Scotland which did not lose one relative or another, whilst some houses had to weep the death of all. It is from this cause that the sensations of sorrow and national lamentation occasioned by the defeat were peculiarly poignant and lasting–so that to this day few Scotsmen can hear the name of Flodden without a shudder of gloomy regret.”

The loss to Edinburgh on this occasion was peculiarly great. All the magistrates and able-bodied citizens had followed their King to Flodden, whence very few of them returned. The office of Provost or chief magistrate of the capital was at that time an object of ambition, and was conferred only upon persons of high rank and station. There seems to be some uncertainty whether the holder of this dignity at the time of the battle of Flodden was Sir Alexander Lauder, ancestor of the Fountainhall family, who was elected in 1511, or that great historical personage, Archibald Earl of Angus, better known as Archibald Bell-the-Cat, who was chosen in 1513, the year of the battle. Both of them were at Flodden. The name of Sir Alexander Lauder appears upon the list of the slain; Angus was one of the survivors, but his son, George, Master of Angus, fell fighting gallantly by the side of King James. The city records of Edinburgh, which commence about this period, are not clear upon the point, and I am rather inclined to think that the Earl of Angus was elected to supply the place of Lauder. But although the actual magistrates were absent, they had formally nominated deputies in their stead. I find, on referring to the city records, that “George of Tours” had been appointed to officiate in the absence of the Provost, and that four other persons were selected to discharge the office of bailies until the magistrates should return.

It is impossible to describe the consternation which pervaded the whole of Scotland when the intelligence of the defeat became known. In Edinburgh it was excessive. Mr. Arnot, in the history of that city, says,–

“The news of their overthrow in the field of Flodden reached Edinburgh on the day after the battle, and overwhelmed the inhabitants with grief and confusion. The streets were crowded with women seeking intelligence about their friends, clamouring and weeping. Those who officiated in absence of the magistrates proved themselves worthy of the trust. They issued a proclamation, ordering all the inhabitants to assemble in military array for defence of the city, on the tolling of the bell; and commanding, ‘that all women, and especially strangers, do repair to their work, and not be seen upon the street _clamorand and cryand_; and that women of the better sort do repair to the church and offer up prayers, at the stated hours, for our Sovereign Lord and his army, and the townsmen who are with the army.'”

Indeed the council records bear ample evidence of the emergency of that occasion. Throughout the earlier pages, the word “Flowdoun” frequently occurs on the margin, in reference to various hurried orders for arming and defence; and there can be no doubt that, had the English forces attempted to follow up their victory, and attack the Scottish capital, the citizens would have resisted to the last. But it soon became apparent that the loss sustained by the English was so severe, that Surrey was in no condition to avail himself of the opportunity; and in fact, shortly afterwards, he was compelled to disband his army.

The references to the city banner, contained in the following poem, may require a word of explanation. It is a standard still held in great honour and reverence by the burghers of Edinburgh, having been presented to them by James the Third, in return for their loyal service in 1482. This banner, along with that of the Earl Marischal, still conspicuous in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates, was honourably brought back from Flodden, and certainly never could have been displayed in a more memorable field. Maitland says, with reference to this very interesting relic of antiquity,–

“As a perpetual remembrance of the loyalty and bravery of the Edinburghers on the aforesaid occasion, the King granted them a banner or standard, with a power to display the same in defence of their king, country, and their own rights. This flag is kept by the Convener of the Trades; at whose appearance therewith, it is said that not only the artificers of Edinburgh are obliged to repair to it, but all the artisans or craftsmen within Scotland are bound to follow it, and fight under the Convener of Edinburgh as aforesaid.”

No event in Scottish history ever took a more lasting hold of the public mind than the “woeful fight” of Flodden; and, even now, the songs and traditions which are current on the Border recall the memory of a contest unsullied by disgrace, though terminating in disaster and defeat.



News of battle!–news of battle!
Hark! ’tis ringing down the street: And the archways and the pavement
Bear the clang of hurrying feet.
News of battle? Who hath brought it? News of triumph? Who should bring
Tidings from our noble army,
Greetings from our gallant King?
All last night we watched the beacons Blazing on the hills afar,
Each one bearing, as it kindled,
Message of the opened war.
All night long the northern streamers Shot across the trembling sky:
Fearful lights, that never beckon
Save when kings or heroes die.


News of battle! Who hath brought it? All are thronging to the gate;
“Warder–warder! open quickly!
Man–is this a time to wait?”
And the heavy gates are opened:
Then a murmur long and loud,
And a cry of fear and wonder
Bursts from out the bending crowd. For they see in battered harness
Only one hard-stricken man,
And his weary steed is wounded,
And his cheek is pale and wan.
Spearless hangs a bloody banner
In his weak and drooping hand–
God! can that be Randolph Murray,
Captain of the city band?


Round him crush the people, crying,
“Tell us all–oh, tell us true!
Where are they who went to battle, Randolph Murray, sworn to you?
Where are they, our brothers–children? Have they met the English foe?
Why art thou alone, unfollowed?
Is it weal, or is it woe?”
Like a corpse the grisly warrior
Looks from out his helm of steel; But no word he speaks in answer,
Only with his armed heel
Chides his weary steed, and onward Up the city streets they ride;
Fathers, sisters, mothers, children, Shrieking, praying by his side.
“By the God that made thee, Randolph! Tell us what mischance hath come!”
Then he lifts his riven banner,
And the asker’s voice is dumb.


The elders of the city
Have met within their hall–
The men whom good King James had charged To watch the tower and wall.
“Your hands are weak with age,” he said, “Your hearts are stout and true;
So bide ye in the Maiden Town,
While others fight for you.
My trumpet from the Border-side
Shall send a blast so clear,
That all who wait within the gate
That stirring sound may hear.
Or, if it be the will of heaven
That back I never come,
And if, instead of Scottish shouts, Ye hear the English drum,–
Then let the warning bells ring out, Then gird you to the fray,
Then man the walls like burghers stout, And fight while fight you may.
‘T were better that in fiery flame The roofs should thunder down,
Than that the foot of foreign foe
Should trample in the town!”


Then in came Randolph Murray,–
His step was slow and weak,
And, as he doffed his dinted helm, The tears ran down his cheek:
They fell upon his corslet,
And on his mailed hand,
As he gazed around him wistfully,
Leaning sorely on his brand.
And none who then beheld him
But straight were smote with fear, For a bolder and a sterner man
Had never couched a spear.
They knew so sad a messenger
Some ghastly news must bring:
And all of them were fathers,
And their sons were with the King.


And up then rose the Provost–
A brave old man was he,
Of ancient name and knightly fame, And chivalrous degree.
He ruled our city like a Lord
Who brooked no equal here,
And ever for the townsmen’s rights Stood up ‘gainst prince and peer.
And he had seen the Scottish host March from the Borough-muir,
With music-storm and clamorous shout And all the din that thunders out,
When youth’s of victory sure.
But yet a dearer thought had he,
For, with a father’s pride,
He saw his last remaining son
Go forth by Randolph’s side,
With casque on head and spur on heel, All keen to do and dare;
And proudly did that gallant boy
Dunedin’s banner bear.
Oh, woeful now was the old man’s look, And he spake right heavily–
“Now, Randolph, tell thy tidings,
However sharp they be!
Woe is written on thy visage,
Death is looking from thy face:
Speak, though it be of overthrow– It cannot be disgrace!”


Right bitter was the agony
That wrung the soldier proud:
Thrice did he strive to answer,
And thrice he groaned aloud.
Then he gave the riven banner
To the old man’s shaking hand,
Saying–“That is all I bring ye
From the bravest of the land!
Ay! ye may look upon it–
It was guarded well and long,
By your brothers and your children, By the valiant and the strong.
One by one they fell around it,
As the archers laid them low,
Grimly dying, still unconquered,
With their faces to the foe.
Ay! ye well may look upon it–
There is more than honour there,
Else, be sure, I had not brought it From the field of dark despair.
Never yet was royal banner
Steeped in such a costly dye;
It hath lain upon a bosom
Where no other shroud shall lie.
Sirs! I charge you keep it holy,
Keep it as a sacred thing,
For the stain you see upon it
Was the life-blood of your King!”


Woe, woe, and lamentation!
What a piteous cry was there!
Widows, maidens, mothers, children, Shrieking, sobbing in despair!
Through the streets the death-word rushes, Spreading terror, sweeping on–
“Jesu Christ! our King has fallen– O great God, King James is gone!
Holy Mother Mary, shield us,
Thou who erst did lose thy Son!
O the blackest day for Scotland
That she ever knew before!
O our King–the good, the noble,
Shall we see him never more?
Woe to us and woe to Scotland,
O our sons, our sons and men!
Surely some have ‘scaped the Southron, Surely some will come again!”
Till the oak that fell last winter Shall uprear its shattered stem–
Wives and mothers of Dunedin–
Ye may look in vain for them!


But within the Council Chamber
All was silent as the grave,
Whilst the tempest of their sorrow Shook the bosoms of the brave.
Well indeed might they be shaken
With the weight of such a blow:
He was gone–their prince, their idol, Whom they loved and worshipped so!
Like a knell of death and judgment Rung from heaven by angel hand,
Fell the words of desolation
On the elders of the land.
Hoary heads were bowed and trembling, Withered hands were clasped and wrung: God had left the old and feeble,
He had ta’en away the young.


Then the Provost he uprose,
And his lip was ashen white,
But a flush was on his brow,
And his eye was full of light.
“Thou hast spoken, Randolph Murray, Like a soldier stout and true;
Thou hast done a deed of daring
Had been perilled but by few.
For thou hast not shamed to face us, Nor to speak thy ghastly tale,
Standing–thou, a knight and captain– Here, alive within thy mail!
Now, as my God shall judge me,
I hold it braver done,
Than hadst thou tarried in thy place, And died above my son!
Thou needst not tell it: he is dead. God help us all this day!
But speak–how fought the citizens Within the furious fray?
For, by the might of Mary,
‘T were something still to tell
That no Scottish foot went backward When the Royal Lion fell!”


“No one failed him! He is keeping
Royal state and semblance still;
Knight and noble lie around him,
Cold on Flodden’s fatal hill.
Of the brave and gallant-hearted,
Whom ye sent with prayers away,
Not a single man departed
From his monarch yesterday.
Had you seen them, O my masters!
When the night began to fall,
And the English spearmen gathered
Round a grim and ghastly wall!
As the wolves in winter circle
Round the leaguer on the heath,
So the greedy foe glared upward,
Panting still for blood and death. But a rampart rose before them,
Which the boldest dared not scale; Every stone a Scottish body,
Every step a corpse in mail!
And behind it lay our monarch
Clenching still his shivered sword: By his side Montrose and Athole,
At his feet a southern lord.
All so thick they lay together,
When the stars lit up the sky,
That I knew not who were stricken, Or who yet remained to die,
Few there were when Surrey halted, And his wearied host withdrew;
None but dying men around me,
When the English trumpet blew.
Then I stooped, and took the banner, As ye see it, from his breast,
And I closed our hero’s eyelids,
And I left him to his rest.
In the mountains growled the thunder, As I leaped the woeful wall,
And the heavy clouds were settling Over Flodden, like a pall.”


So he ended. And the others
Cared not any answer then;
Sitting silent, dumb with sorrow,
Sitting anguish-struck, like men
Who have seen the roaring torrent
Sweep their happy homes away,
And yet linger by the margin,
Staring idly on the spray.
But, without, the maddening tumult Waxes ever more and more,
And the crowd of wailing women
Gather round the Council door.
Every dusky spire is ringing
With a dull and hollow knell,
And the Miserere’s singing
To the tolling of the bell.
Through the streets the burghers hurry, Spreading terror as they go;
And the rampart’s thronged with watchers For the coming of the foe.
From each mountain-top a pillar
Streams into the torpid air,
Bearing token from the Border
That the English host is there.
All without is flight and terror,
All within is woe and fear–
God protect thee, Maiden City,
For thy latest hour is near!


No! not yet, thou high Dunedin!
Shalt thou totter to thy fall;
Though thy bravest and thy strongest Are not there to man the wall.
No, not yet! the ancient spirit
Of our fathers hath not gone;
Take it to thee as a buckler
Better far than steel or stone.
Oh, remember those who perished
For thy birthright at the time
When to be a Scot was treason,
And to side with Wallace, crime!
Have they not a voice among us,
Whilst their hallowed dust is here? Hear ye not a summons sounding
From each buried warrior’s bier?
“Up!”–they say–“and keep the freedom Which we won you long ago:
Up! and keep our graves unsullied
From the insults of the foe!
Up! and if ye cannot save them,
Come to us in blood and fire:
Midst the crash of falling turrets, Let the last of Scots expire!”


Still the bells are tolling fiercely, And the cry comes louder in;
Mothers wailing for their children, Sisters for their slaughtered kin.
All is terror and disorder,
Till the Provost rises up,
Calm, as though he had not tasted
Of the fell and bitter cup.
All so stately from his sorrow,
Rose the old undaunted Chief,
That you had not deemed, to see him, His was more than common grief.
“Rouse ye, Sirs!” he said; “we may not Longer mourn for what is done:
If our King be taken from us,
We are left to guard his son.
We have sworn to keep the city
From the foe, whate’er they be,
And the oath that we have taken
Never shall be broke by me.
Death is nearer to us, brethren,
Than it seemed to those who died, Fighting yesterday at Flodden,
By their lord and master’s side.
Let us meet it then in patience,
Not in terror or in fear;
Though our hearts are bleeding yonder, Let our souls be steadfast here.
Up, and rouse ye! Time is fleeting, And we yet have much to do;
Up! and haste ye through the city, Stir the burghers stout and true!
Gather all our scattered people,
Fling the banner out once more,– Randolph Murray! do thou bear it,
As it erst was borne before:
Never Scottish heart will leave it, When they see their monarch’s gore!”


“Let them cease that dismal knelling! It is time enough to ring,
When the fortress-strength of Scotland Stoops to ruin like its King.
Let the bells be kept for warning, Not for terror or alarm;
When they next are heard to thunder, Let each man and stripling arm.
Bid the women leave their wailing,– Do they think that woeful strain,
From the bloody heaps of Flodden
Can redeem their dearest slain?
Bid them cease,–or rather hasten
To the churches, every one;
There to pray to Mary Mother,
And to her anointed Son,
That the thunderbolt above us
May not fall in ruin yet;
That in fire, and blood, and rapine, Scotland’s glory may not set.
Let them pray,–for never women
Stood in need of such a prayer!
England’s yeomen shall not find them Clinging to the altars there.
No! if we are doomed to perish,
Man and maiden, let us fall;
And a common gulf of ruin
Open wide to whelm us all!
Never shall the ruthless spoiler
Lay his hot insulting hand
On the sisters of our heroes,
Whilst we bear a torch or brand!
Up! and rouse ye, then, my brothers, But when next ye hear the bell
Sounding forth the sullen summons
That may be our funeral knell,
Once more let us meet together,
Once more see each other’s face;
Then, like men that need not tremble, Go to our appointed place.
God, our Father, will not fail us
In that last tremendous hour,–
If all other bulwarks crumble,
HE will be our strength and tower: Though the ramparts rock beneath us,
And the walls go crashing down,
Though the roar of conflagration
Bellow o’er the sinking town;
There is yet one place of shelter, Where the foeman cannot come,
Where the summons never sounded
Of the trumpet or the drum.
There again we’ll meet our children, Who, on Flodden’s trampled sod,
For their king and for their country Rendered up their souls to God.
There shall we find rest and refuge, With our dear departed brave;
And the ashes of the city
Be our universal grave!”


The most poetical chronicler would find it impossible to render the incidents of Montrose’s brilliant career more picturesque than the reality. Among the devoted champions who, during the wildest and most stormy period of our history, maintained the cause of Church and King, “the Great Marquis” undoubtedly is entitled to the foremost place. Even party malevolence, by no means extinct at the present day, has been unable to detract from the eulogy pronounced upon him by the famous Cardinal de Retz, the friend of Conde and Turenne, when he thus summed up his character:–“Montrose, a Scottish nobleman, head of the house of Grahame–the only man in the world that has ever realised to me the ideas of certain heroes, whom we now discover nowhere but in the lives of Plutarch–has sustained in his own country the cause of the King his master, with a greatness of soul that has not found its equal in our age.”

But the success of the victorious leader and patriot is almost thrown into the shade by the noble magnanimity and Christian heroism of the man in the hour of defeat and death. Without wishing, in any degree, to revive a controversy long maintained by writers of opposite political and polemical opinions, it may fairly be stated that Scottish history does not present us with a tragedy of parallel interest. That the execution of Montrose was the natural, nay, the inevitable, consequence of his capture, may be freely admitted even by the fiercest partisan of the cause for which he staked his life. In those times, neither party was disposed to lenity; and Montrose was far too conspicuous a character, and too dangerous a man, to be forgiven. But the ignominious and savage treatment which he received at the hands of those whose station and descent should at least have taught them to respect misfortune, has left an indelible stain upon the memory of the Covenanting chiefs, and more especially upon that of Argyle.

The perfect serenity of the man in the hour of trial and death, the courage and magnanimity which he displayed to the last, have been dwelt upon with admiration by writers of every class. He heard his sentence delivered without any apparent emotion, and afterwards told the magistrates who waited upon him in prison, “that he was much indebted to the Parliament for the great honour they had decreed him”; adding, “that he was prouder to have his head placed upon the top of the prison, than if they had decreed a golden statue to be erected to him in the market-place, or that his picture should be hung in the King’s bedchamber.” He said, “he thanked them for their care to preserve the remembrance of his loyalty, by transmitting such monuments to the different parts of the kingdom; and only wished that he had flesh enough to have sent a piece to every city in Christendom, as a token of his unshaken love and fidelity to his king and country.” On the night before his execution, he inscribed the following lines with a diamond on the window of his jail:–

“Let them bestow on every airth a limb, Then, open all my veins, that I may swim To thee, my Maker! in that crimson lake; Then place my parboiled head upon a stake– Scatter my ashes–strew them in the air: Lord! since thou know’st where all these atoms are, I’m hopeful thou’lt recover once my dust, And confident thou’lt raise me with the just.”

After the Restoration, the dust _was_ recovered, the scattered remnants collected, and the bones of the hero conveyed to their final resting-place by a numerous assemblage of gentlemen of his family and name.

There is no ingredient of fiction in the historical incidents recorded in the following ballad. The indignities that were heaped upon Montrose during his procession through Edinburgh, his appearance before the Estates, and his last passage to the scaffold, as well as his undaunted bearing, have all been spoken to by eyewitnesses of the scene. A graphic and vivid sketch of the whole will be found in Mr. Mark Napier’s volume, _The Life and Times of Montrose_–a work as chivalrous in its tone as the _Chronicles_ of Froissart, and abounding in original and most interesting materials; but, in order to satisfy all scruple, the authorities for each fact are given in the shape of notes. The ballad may be considered as a narrative of the transactions, related by an aged Highlander, who had followed Montrose throughout his campaigns, to his grandson, shortly before the battle of Killiecrankie.



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!


‘Twas 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 tamed the Lindsay’s 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 backed by armed men–
Face him, as thou wouldst face the man Who wronged 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 bared his noble brow.
Then, as a hound is slipped from leash, They cheered 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 withered dames, And their daughters all a-row;
And every open window
Was full as full might be,
With black-robed Covenanting carles, That goodly sport to see!


But when he came, though pale and wan, He looked so great and high,
So noble was his manly front,
So calm his steadfast eye;–
The rabble rout forebore 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 laboured,
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 looked upwards,
He met the ugly smile
Of him who sold his King for gold– The master-fiend Argyle!


The Marquis gazed a moment,
And nothing did he say,
But the cheek of Argyle grew ghastly pale, And he turned 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 clenched at him,
And a Saxon soldier cried aloud,
“Back, coward, from thy place!
For seven long years thou hast not dared 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 pealed the slogan cry.
Not all their troops of trampling horse, Nor might of mailed men–
Not all the rebels of 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 throned Amidst their nobles all.
But there was dust of vulgar feet
On that polluted floor,
And perjured traitors filled 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
A wreath of such renown,
Nor dared I hope, on my dying day, To win the martyr’s crown!”


“There is a chamber far away
Where sleep the good and brave,
But a better place ye have named for me Than by my father’s grave.
For truth and right, ‘gainst treason’s might, This hand hath always striven,
And ye raise it up for a witness still In the eye of earth and heaven.
Then nail my head on yonder tower– Give every town a limb–
And God who made shall gather them: I go from you to Him!”


The morning dawned full darkly,
The rain came flashing down,
And the jagged streak of the levin-bolt Lit up the gloomy town:
The heavens were thundering out their wrath, The fatal hour was come;
Yet ever sounded sullenly
The trumpet and the drum.
There was madness on the earth below, And anger in the sky,
And young and old, and rich and poor, Came forth to see him die.


Ah, God! that ghastly gibbet!
How dismal ‘t is to see
The great tall spectral skeleton,
The ladder, and the tree!
Hark! hark! it is the clash of arms– The bells begin to toll–
He is coming! he is coming!
God’s mercy on his soul!
One last long peal of thunder–
The clouds are cleared away,
And the glorious sun once more looks down Amidst the dazzling day.


He is coming! he is coming!
Like a bridegroom from his room,
Came the hero from his prison
To the scaffold and the doom.
There was glory on his forehead,
There was lustre in his eye,
And he never walked to battle
More proudly than to die:
There was colour in his visage,
Though the cheeks of all were wan, And they marvelled as they saw him pass, That great and goodly man!


He mounted up the scaffold,
And he turned him to the crowd;
But they dared not trust the people, So he might not speak aloud.
But he looked upon the heavens,
And they were clear and blue,
And in the liquid ether
The eye of God shone through:
Yet a black and murky battlement
Lay resting on the hill,
As though the thunder slept within– All else was calm and still.


The grim Geneva ministers
With anxious scowl drew near,
As you have seen the ravens flock
Around the dying deer.
He would not deign them word nor sign, But alone he bent the knee;
And veiled his face for Christ’s dear grace Beneath the gallows-tree.
Then radiant and serene he rose,
And cast his cloak away:
For he had ta’en his latest look
Of earth, and sun, and day.


A beam of light fell o’er him,
Like a glory round the shriven,
And he climbed the lofty ladder
As it were the path to heaven.
Then came a flash from out the cloud, And a stunning thunder roll,
And no man dared to look aloft,
For fear was on every soul.
There was another heavy sound,
A hush and then a groan;
And darkness swept across the sky– The work of death was done!



“_A traitor sold him to his foes_,”–p. 36.

“The contemporary historian of the Earls of Sutherland records, that (after the defeat of Invercarron) Montrose and Kinnoul ‘wandered up the river Kyle the whole ensuing night, and the next day, and the third day also, without any food or sustenance, and at last came within the country of Assynt. The Earl of Kinnoul, being faint for lack of meat, and not able to travel any further, was left there among the mountains, where it was supposed he perished. Montrose had almost famished, but that he fortuned in his misery to light upon a small cottage in that wilderness, where he was supplied with some milk and bread.’ Not even the iron frame of Montrose could endure a prolonged existence under such circumstances. He gave himself up to Macleod of Assynt, a former adherent, from whom he had reason to expect assistance in consideration of that circumstance, and, indeed, from the dictates of honourable feeling and common humanity. As the Argyle faction had sold the King, so this Highlander rendered his own name infamous by selling the hero to the Covenanters, for which ‘duty to the public’ he was rewarded with four hundred bolls of meal.”–NAPIER’S _Life of Montrose_.

“_They brought him to the Watergate_,”–p. 36.

“_Friday, 17th May_.–Act ordaining James Grahame to be brought from the Watergate on a cart, bareheaded, the hangman in his livery, covered, riding on the horse that draws the cart–the prisoner to be bound to the cart with a rope–to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and from thence to be brought to the Parliament House, and there, in the place of delinquents, on his knees, to receive his sentence–viz., to be hanged on a gibbet at the Cross of Edinburgh, with his book and declaration tied on a rope about his neck, and there to hang for the space of three hours until he be dead; and thereafter to be cut down by the hangman, his head, hands, and legs to be cut off, and distributed as follows–viz., his head to be affixed on an iron pin, and set on the pinnacle of the west gavel of the new prison of Edinburgh; one hand to be set on the port of Perth, the other on the port of Stirling; one leg and foot on the port of Aberdeen, the other on the port of Glasgow. If at his death penitent, and relaxed from excommunication, then the trunk of his body to be interred, by pioneers, in the Greyfriars; otherwise, to be interred in the Boroughmuir, by the hangman’s men, under the gallows.”–BALFOUR’S _Notes of Parliament_.

It is needless to remark that this inhuman sentence was executed to the letter. In order that the exposure might be more complete, the cart was constructed with a high chair in the centre, having holes behind, through which the ropes that fastened him were drawn. The author of the _Wigton Papers_, recently published by the Maitland Club, says, “The reason of his being tied to the cart was in hope that the people would have stoned him, and that he might not be able by his hands to save his face.” His hat was then pulled off by the hangman and the procession commenced.

“_But when he came, though pale and wan, He looked so great and high_,”–p. 37.

“In all the way, there appeared in him such majesty, courage, modesty–and even somewhat more than natural–that those common women who had lost their husbands and children in his wars, and who were hired to stone him, were upon the sight of him so astonished and moved, that their intended curses turned into tears and prayers; so that next day _all the ministers preached against them for not stoning and reviling him.”–Wigton Papers._

“_Then first a woman’s voice was heard In jeer and laughter loud_,”–p. 38.

“It is remarkable that, of the many thousand beholders, the Lady Jean Gordon, Countess of Haddington, did (alone) publicly insult and laugh at him; which being perceived by a gentleman in the street, he cried up to her, that it became her better to sit upon the cart for her adulteries.”–_Wigton Papers_. This infamous woman was the third daughter of Huntly, and the niece of Argyle. It will hardly be credited that she was the sister of that gallant Lord Gordon, who fell fighting by the side of Montrose, only five years before, at the battle of Aldford!

“_For seven long years thou hast not dared To look him in the face_,”–p. 39.

“The Lord Lorn and his new lady were also sitting on a balcony, joyful spectators; and the cart being stopped when it came before the lodging where the Chancellor, Argyle, and Warristoun sat–that they might have time to insult–he, suspecting the business, turned his face towards them, whereupon they presently crept in at the windows; which being perceived by an Englishman, he cried up, it was no wonder they started aside at his look, for they durst not look him in the face these seven years bygone.”–_Wigton Papers_.

“_With savage glee came Warristoun,
To read the murderous doom_,”–p. 40.

Archibald Johnston of Warristoun. This man, who was the inveterate enemy of Montrose, and who carried the most selfish spirit into every intrigue of his party, received the punishment of his treasons about eleven years afterwards. It may be instructive to learn how he met his doom. The following extract is from the MSS. of Sir George Mackenzie:–“The Chancellor and others waited to examine him; he fell upon his face, roaring, and with tears entreated they would pity a poor creature who had forgot all that was in the Bible. This moved all the spectators with a deep melancholy; and the Chancellor, reflecting upon the man’s great parts, former esteem, and the great share he had in all the late revolutions, could not deny some tears to the frailty of silly mankind. At his examination, he pretended he had lost so much blood by the unskilfulness of his chirurgeons, that he lost his memory with his blood; and I really believe that his courage had been drawn out with it. Within a few days he was brought before the parliament, where he discovered nothing but much weakness, running up and down upon his knees, begging mercy; but the parliament ordained his former sentence to be put to execution, and accordingly he was executed at the Cross of Edinburgh.”

“_And God who made shall gather them: I go from you to Him_!”–p. 41.

“He said he was much beholden to the parliament for the honour they had put on him; ‘for,’ says he, ‘I think it a greater honour to have my head standing on the port of this town, for this quarrel, than to have my picture in the king’s bedchamber. I am beholden to you that, lest my loyalty should be forgotten, ye have appointed five of your most eminent towns to bear witness of it to posterity.'”–_Wigton Papers_.

“_He is coming! he is coming!
Like a bridegroom from his room_,”–p. 42.

“In his downgoing from the Tolbooth to the place of execution, he was very richly clad in fine scarlet, laid over with rich silver lace, his hat in his hand, his bands and cuffs exceeding rich, his delicate white gloves on his hands, his stockings of incarnate silk, and his shoes with their ribbands on his feet; and sarks provided for him with pearling about, above ten pund the elne. All these were provided for him by his friends, and a pretty cassock put on upon him, upon the scaffold, wherein he was hanged. To be short, nothing was here deficient to honour his poor carcase, more beseeming a bridegroom than a criminal going to the gallows.”–NICHOLL’S _Diary_.

“_The grim Geneva ministers
With anxious scowl drew near_,”–p. 43.

The Presbyterian ministers beset Montrose both in prison and on the scaffold. The following extracts are from the diary of the Rev. Robert Traill, one of the persons who were appointed by the commission of the kirk “to deal with him:”–“By a warrant from the kirk, we staid a while with him about his soul’s condition. But we found him continuing in his old pride, and taking very ill what was spoken to him, saying, ‘I pray you, gentlemen, let me die in peace.’ It was answered, that he might die in true peace, being reconciled to the Lord and to His kirk.”–“We returned to the commission, and did show unto them what had passed amongst us. They, seeing that for the present he was not desiring relaxation from his censure of excommunication, did appoint Mr. Mungo Law and me to attend on the morrow on the scaffold, at the time of his execution, that, in case he should desire to be relaxed from his excommunication, we should be allowed to give it unto him in the name of the kirk, and to pray with him, and for him, _that what is loosed on earth might be loosed in heaven_.” But this pious intention, which may appear somewhat strange to the modern Calvinist, when the prevailing theories of the kirk regarding the efficacy of absolution are considered, was not destined to be fulfilled. Mr. Traill goes on to say, “But he did not at all desire to be relaxed from his excommunication in the name of the kirk, _yea, did not look towards that place on the scaffold where we stood_; only he drew apart some of the magistrates, and spake a while with them, and then went up the ladder, in his red scarlet cassock, in a very stately manner.”

“_And he climbed the lofty ladder
As it were the path to heaven_,”–p. 43.

“He was very earnest that he might have the liberty to keep on his hat; it was denied: he requested he might have the privilege to keep his cloak about him–neither could that be granted. Then, with a most undaunted courage, he went up to the top of that prodigious gibbet.”–“The whole people gave a general groan; and it was very observable, that even those who, at his first appearance, had bitterly inveighed against him, could not now abstain from tears.”–_Montrose Redivivus_.


Hector Boece, in his very delightful, though somewhat apocryphal Chronicles of Scotland, tells us, that “quhen Schir James Dowglas was chosin as maist worthy of all Scotland to pass with King Robertis hart to the Holy Land, he put it in ane cais of gold, with arromitike and precious unyementis; and tuke with him Schir William Sinclare and Schir Robert Logan, with mony othir nobilmen, to the haly graif; quhare he buryit the said hart, with maist reverence and solempnitie that could be devisit.”

But no contemporary historian bears out the statement of the old canon of Aberdeen. Froissart, Fordun, and Barbour all agree that the devotional pilgrimage of the Good Sir James was not destined to be accomplished, and that the heart of Scotland’s greatest king and hero was brought back to the land of his nativity. Mr. Tytler, in few words, has so graphically recounted the leading events of this expedition, that I do not hesitate to adopt his narrative:–

“As soon as the season of the year permitted, Douglas, having the heart of his beloved master under his charge, set sail from Scotland, accompanied by a splendid retinue, and anchored off Sluys in Flanders, at this time the great seaport of the Netherlands. His object was to find out companions with whom he might travel to Jerusalem; but he declined landing, and for twelve days received all visitors on board his ship with a state almost kingly.

“At Sluys he heard that Alonzo, the King of Leon and Castile, was carrying on war with Osmyn, the Moorish governor of Grenada. The religious mission which he had embraced, and the vows he had taken before leaving Scotland, induced Douglas to consider Alonzo’s cause as a holy warfare; and, before proceeding to Jerusalem, he first determined to visit Spain, and to signalise his prowess against the Saracens. But his first field against the Infidels proved fatal to him who, in the long English war, had seen seventy battles. The circumstances of his death were striking and characteristic. In an action near Theba, on the borders of Andalusia, the Moorish cavalry were defeated; and, after their camp had been taken, Douglas, with his companions, engaged too eagerly in the pursuit, and, being separated from the main body of the Spanish army, a strong division of the Moors rallied and surrounded them. The Scottish knight endeavoured to cut his way through the Infidels, and in all probability would have succeeded, had he not again turned to rescue Sir William Saint Clair of Roslin, whom he saw in jeopardy. In attempting this, he was inextricably involved with the enemy. Taking from his neck the casket which contained the heart of Bruce, he cast it before him, and exclaimed with a loud voice, ‘Now pass onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow thee or die!’ The action and the sentiment were heroic, and they were the last words and deed of a heroic life, for Douglas fell, overpowered by his enemies; and three of his knights, and many of his companions, were slain along with their master. On the succeeding day, the body and the casket were both found on the field, and by his surviving friends conveyed to Scotland. The heart of Bruce was deposited at Melrose, and the body of the ‘Good Sir James’–the name by which he is affectionately remembered by his countrymen–was consigned to the cemetery of his fathers in the parish church of Douglas.”

A nobler death on the field of battle is not recorded in the annals of chivalry. In memory of this expedition, the Douglases have ever since carried the armorial bearings of the Bloody Heart surmounted by the Crown; and a similar distinction is borne by another family. Sir Simon of Lee, a distinguished companion of Douglas, was the person on whom, after the fall of his leader, the custody of the heart devolved. Hence the name of Lockhart, and their effigy, the Heart within a Fetterlock.


It was upon an April morn,
While yet the frost lay hoar,
We heard Lord James’s bugle-horn
Sound by the rocky shore.

Then down we went, a hundred knights, All in our dark array,
And flung our armour in the ships
That rode within the bay.

We spoke not as the shore grew less, But gazed in silence back,
Where the long billows swept away
The foam behind our track.

And aye the purple hues decay’d
Upon the fading hill,
And but one heart in all that ship Was tranquil, cold, and still.

The good Lord Douglas walk’d the deck, And oh, his brow was wan!
Unlike the flush it used to wear
When in the battle van.–

“Come hither, come hither, my trusty knight, Sir Simon of the Lee;
There is a freit lies near my soul I fain would tell to thee.

“Thou know’st the words King Robert spoke Upon his dying day,
How he bade me take his noble heart And carry it far away;

“And lay it in the holy soil
Where once the Saviour trod,
Since he might not bear the blessed Cross, Nor strike one blow for God.

“Last night as in my bed I lay,
I dream’d a dreary dream:–
Methought I saw a Pilgrim stand
In the moonlight’s quivering beam.

“His robe was of the azure dye,
Snow-white his scatter’d hairs,
And even such a cross he bore
As good Saint Andrew bears.

“‘Why go you forth, Lord James,’ he said, ‘With spear and belted brand?
Why do you take its dearest pledge From this our Scottish land?

“‘The sultry breeze of Galilee
Creeps through its groves of palm, The olives on the Holy Mount
Stand glittering in the calm.

“‘But ’tis not there that Scotland’s heart Shall rest by God’s decree,
Till the great angel calls the dead To rise from earth and sea!

“‘Lord James of Douglas, mark my rede! That heart shall pass once more
In fiery fight against the foe,
As it was wont of yore.

“‘And it shall pass beneath the Cross, And save King Robert’s vow,
But other hands shall bear it back, Not, James of Douglas, thou!’

“Now, by thy knightly faith, I pray, Sir Simon of the Lee–
For truer friend had never man
Than thou hast been to me–

“If ne’er upon the Holy Land
‘Tis mine in life to tread,
Bear thou to Scotland’s kindly earth The relics of her dead.”

The tear was in Sir Simon’s eye
As he wrung the warrior’s hand–
“Betide me weal, betide me woe,
I’ll hold by thy command.

“But if in battle front, Lord James, ‘Tis ours once more to ride,
No force of man, nor craft of fiend, Shall cleave me from thy side!”

And aye we sail’d, and aye we sail’d, Across the weary sea,
Until one morn the coast of Spain
Rose grimly on our lee.

And as we rounded to the port,
Beneath the watch-tower’s wall,
We heard the clash of the atabals, And the trumpet’s wavering call.

“Why sounds yon Eastern music here
So wantonly and long,
And whose the crowd of armed men
That round yon standard throng?”

“The Moors have come from Africa
To spoil and waste and slay,
And King Alonzo of Castile
Must fight with them to-day.”

“Now shame it were,” cried good Lord James, “Shall never be said of me,
That I and mine have turn’d aside, From the Cross in jeopardie!

“Have down, have down, my merry men all– Have down unto the plain;
We’ll let the Scottish lion loose
Within the fields of Spain!”

“Now welcome to me, noble lord,
Thou and thy stalwart power;
Dear is the sight of a Christian knight Who comes in such an hour!

“Is it for bond or faith ye come,
Or yet for golden fee?
Or bring ye France’s lilies here,
Or the flower of Burgundie?”

“God greet thee well, thou valiant King, Thee and thy belted peers–
Sir James of Douglas am I called,
And these are Scottish spears.

“We do not fight for bond or plight, Not yet for golden fee;
But for the sake of our blessed Lord, Who died upon the tree.

“We bring our great King Robert’s heart Across the weltering wave,
To lay it in the holy soil
Hard by the Saviour’s grave.

“True pilgrims we, by land or sea,
Where danger bars the way;
And therefore are we here, Lord King, To ride with thee this day!”

The King has bent his stately head,
And the tears were in his eyne–
“God’s blessing on thee, noble knight, For this brave thought of thine!

“I know thy name full well, Lord James, And honour’d may I be,
That those who fought beside the Bruce Should fight this day for me!

“Take thou the leading of the van,
And charge the Moors amain;
There is not such a lance as thine In all the host of Spain!”

The Douglas turned towards us then,
O but his glance was high!–
“There is not one of all my men
But is as bold as I.

“There is not one of all my knights
But bears as true a spear–
Then onwards! Scottish gentlemen,
And think–King Robert’s here!”

The trumpets blew, the cross-bolts flew, The arrows flashed like flame,
As spur in side, and spear in rest, Against the foe we came.

And many a bearded Saracen
Went down, both horse and man;
For through their ranks we rode like corn, So furiously we ran!

But in behind our path they closed,
Though fain to let us through,
For they were forty thousand men,
And we were wondrous few.

We might not see a lance’s length,
So dense was their array,
But the long fell sweep of the Scottish blade Still held them hard at bay.

“Make in! make in!” Lord Douglas cried, “Make in, my brethren dear!
Sir William of Saint Clair is down; We may not leave him here!”

But thicker, thicker, grew the swarm, And sharper shot the rain,
And the horses reared amid the press, But they would not charge again.

“Now Jesu help thee,” said Lord James, “Thou kind and true St Clair!
An’ if I may not bring thee off,
I’ll die beside thee there!”

Then in his stirrups up he stood,
So lionlike and bold,
And held the precious heart aloft
All in its case of gold.

He flung it from him, far ahead,
And never spake he more,
But–“Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart, As thou wert wont of yore!”

The roar of fight rose fiercer yet,
And heavier still the stour,
Till the spears of Spain came shivering in, And swept away the Moor.

“Now praised be God, the day is won! They fly o’er flood and fell–
Why dost thou draw the rein so hard, Good knight, that fought so well?”

“Oh, ride ye on, Lord King!” he said, “And leave the dead to me,
For I must keep the dreariest watch That ever I shall dree!

“There lies, beside his master’s heart, The Douglas, stark and grim;
And woe is me I should be here,
Not side by side with him!

“The world grows cold, my arm is old, And thin my lyart hair,
And all that I loved best on earth Is stretch’d before me there.

“O Bothwell banks! that bloom so bright, Beneath the sun of May,
The heaviest cloud that ever blew
Is bound for you this day.

“And, Scotland, thou may’st veil thy head In sorrow and in pain;
The sorest stroke upon thy brow
Hath fallen this day in Spain!

“We’ll bear them back unto our ship, We’ll bear them o’er the sea,
And lay them in the hallowed earth, Within our own countrie.

“And be thou strong of heart, Lord King, For this I tell thee sure,
The sod that drank the Douglas’ blood Shall never bear the Moor!”

The King he lighted from his horse,
He flung his brand away,
And took the Douglas by the hand,
So stately as he lay.

“God give thee rest, thou valiant soul, That fought so well for Spain;
I’d rather half my land were gone, So thou wert here again!”

We bore the good Lord James away,
And the priceless heart he bore,
And heavily we steer’d our ship
Towards the Scottish shore.

No welcome greeted our return,
Nor clang of martial tread,
But all were dumb and hushed as death Before the mighty dead.

We laid our chief in Douglas Kirk,
The heart in fair Melrose;
And woeful men were we that day–
God grant their souls repose!


It is very much to be regretted that no competent person has as yet undertaken the task of compiling a full and authentic biography of Lord Viscount Dundee. His memory has consequently been left at the mercy of misrepresentation and malignity; and the pen of romance has been freely employed to portray, as a bloody assassin, one of the most accomplished men and gallant soldiers of his age.

It was the misfortune of Claverhouse to have lived in so troublous an age and country. The religious differences of Scotland were then at their greatest height, and there is hardly any act of atrocity and rebellion which had not been committed by the insurgents. The royal authority was openly and publicly disowned in the western districts: the Archbishop of St. Andrew’s, after more than one hairbreadth escape, was waylaid, and barbarously murdered by an armed gang of fanatics on Magus Muir; and his daughter was wounded and maltreated while interceding for the old man’s life. The country was infested by banditti, who took every possible opportunity of shooting down and massacring any of the straggling soldiery: the clergy were attacked and driven from their houses; so that, throughout a considerable portion of Scotland, there was no security either for property or for life. It is now the fashion to praise and magnify the Covenanters as the most innocent and persecuted of men; but those who are so ready with their sympathy, rarely take the pains to satisfy themselves, by reference to the annals of the time, of the true character of those men whom they blindly venerate as martyrs. They forget, in their zeal for religious freedom, that even the purest and holiest of causes may be sullied and disgraced by the deeds of its upholders, and that a wild and frantic profession of faith is not always a test of genuine piety. It is not in the slightest degree necessary to discuss whether the royal prerogative was at that time arbitrarily used, or whether the religious freedom of the nation was unduly curtailed. Both points may be, and indeed are, admitted,–for it is impossible to vindicate the policy of the measures adopted by the two last monarchs of the house of Stuart; but neither admission will clear the Covenanters from the stain of deliberate cruelty.

After the battle of Philiphaugh, the royalist prisoners were butchered in cold blood, under the superintendence of a clerical emissary, who stood by rubbing his hands, and exclaiming–“The wark gangs bonnily on!” Were I to transcribe from the pamphlets before me the list of the murders which were perpetrated by the country people on the soldiery, officers, and gentlemen of loyal principles, during the reign of Charles II., I believe that no candid person would be surprised at the severe retaliation which was made. It must be remembered that the country was then under military law, and that the strongest orders had been issued by the Government to the officers in command of the troops, to use every means in their power for the effectual repression of the disturbances. The necessity of such orders will become apparent, when we reflect that, besides the open actions at Aird’s Moss and Drumclog, the city of Glasgow was attacked, and the royal forces compelled for a time to fall back upon Stirling.

Under such circumstances it is no wonder if the soldiery were severe in their reprisals. Innocent blood may no doubt have been shed, and in some cases even wantonly; for when rebellion has grown into civil war, and the ordinary course of the law is put in abeyance, it is always impossible to restrain military license. But it is most unfair to lay the whole odium of such acts upon those who were in command, and to dishonour the fair name of gentlemen, by attributing to them personally the commission of deeds of which they were absolutely ignorant. To this day the peasantry of the western districts of Scotland entertain the idea that Claverhouse was a sort of fiend in human shape, tall, muscular, and hideous in aspect, secured by infernal spells from the chance of perishing by any ordinary weapon, and mounted upon a huge black horse, the especial gift of Beelzebub! On this charger it is supposed that he could ride up precipices as easily as he could traverse the level ground–that he was constantly accompanied by a body of desperadoes, vulgarly known by such euphonious titles as “Hell’s Tam,” and “the De’il’s Jock,” and that his whole time was occupied, day and night, in hunting Covenanters upon the hills! Almost every rebel who was taken in arms and shot, is supposed to have met his death from the individual pistol of Claverhouse; and the tales which, from time to time, have been written by such ingenious persons as the late Mr. Gait and the Ettrick Shepherd have quietly been assumed as facts, and added to the store of our traditionary knowledge. It is in vain to hint that the chief commanders of the forces in Scotland could have found little leisure, even had they possessed the taste, for pursuing single insurgents. Such suggestions are an insult to martyrology; and many a parish of the west would be indignant were it averred that the tenant of its gray stone had suffered by a meaner hand.

When we look at the portrait of Claverhouse, and survey the calm, melancholy, and beautiful features of the devoted soldier, it appears almost incredible that he should ever have suffered under such an overwhelming load of misrepresentation. But when–discarding modern historians, who in too many instances do not seem to entertain the slightest scruple in dealing with the memory of the dead–we turn to the writings of his contemporaries who knew the man, his character appears in a very different light. They describe him as one who was stainless in his honour, pure in his faith, wise in council, resolute in action, and utterly free from that selfishness which disgraced the Scottish statesmen of the time. No one dares question his loyalty, for he sealed that confession with his blood; and it is universally admitted, that with him fell the last hopes of the reinstatement of the house of Stuart.

I may perhaps be permitted here, in the absence of a better chronicler, to mention a few particulars of his life, which, I believe, are comparatively unknown. John Graham of Claverhouse was a cadet of the family of Fintrie, connected by intermarriage with the blood-royal of Scotland. After completing his studies at the University of St. Andrew’s, he entered, as was the national custom for gentlemen of good birth and limited means, into foreign service, served some time in France as a volunteer, and afterwards went to Holland. He very soon received a commission, as a cornet in a regiment of horse-guards, from the Prince of Orange, nephew of Charles II. and James VII., and who afterwards married the Princess Mary. His manner at that time is thus described:–“He was then ane esquire, under the title of John Graham of Claverhouse; but the vivacity of his parts, and the delicacy and justice of his understanding and judgment, joyned with a certain vigour of mind and activity of body, distinguished him in such a manner from all others of his rank, that though he lived in a superior character, yet he acquired the love and esteem of all his equals, as well as of those who had the advantage of him in dignity and estate.”

By one of those singular accidents which we occasionally meet with in history, Graham, afterwards destined to become his most formidable opponent, saved the life of the Prince of Orange at the battle of St. Neff. The Prince’s horse had been killed, and he himself was in the grasp of the enemy, when the young cornet rode to his rescue, freed him from his assailants, and mounted him on his own steed. For this service he received a captain’s commission, and the promise of the first regiment that should fall vacant.

But even in early life William of Orange was not famous for keeping his promises. Some years afterwards, a vacancy in one of the Scottish regiments in the Prince’s service occurred, and Claverhouse, relying upon the previous assurance, preferred his claim. It was disregarded, and Mr. Collier, afterwards Earl of Portmore, was appointed over his head. It would seem that Graham had suspected some foul play on the part of this gentleman, for, shortly after, they accidentally met and had an angry altercation. This circumstance having come to the ears of the Prince, he sent for Captain Graham, and administered a sharp rebuke. I give the remainder of this incident in the words of the old writer, because it must be considered a very remarkable one, as illustrating the fiery spirit and dauntless independence of Claverhouse.

“The Captain answered, that he was indeed in the wrong, since it was more his Highness’s business to have resented that quarrel than his; because Mr. Collier had less injured him in disappointing him of the regiment, than he had done his Highness in making him break his word. ‘Then,’ replied the Prince in an angry tone, ‘I make you full reparation, for I bestow on you what is more valuable than a regiment when I give you your right arm!’ The Captain subjoined, that since his Highness had the goodness to give him his liberty, he resolved to employ himself elsewhere, for he would not longer serve a Prince that had broken his word.

“The Captain, having thus thrown up his commission, was preparing in haste for his voyage, when a messenger arrived from the Prince, with two hundred guineas for the horse on which he had saved his life. The Captain sent the horse, but ordered the gold to be distributed among the grooms of the Prince’s stables. It is said, however, that his Highness had the generosity to write to the King and the Duke, recommending him as a fine gentleman and a brave officer, fit for any office, civil or military.”

On his arrival in Britain he was well received by the court, and immediately appointed to a high military command in Scotland. It would be beyond the scope of the present paper to enter minutely into the details of his service during the stormy period when Scotland was certainly misgoverned, and when there was little unity, but much disorder in the land. In whatever point of view we regard the history of those times, the aspect is a mournful one indeed. Church and State never was a popular cry in Scotland, and the peculiar religious tendencies which had been exhibited by a large portion of the nation, at the time of the Reformation, rendered the return of tranquillity hopeless until the hierarchy was displaced, and a humbler form of church government, more suited to the feelings of the people, substituted in its stead.

Three years after the accession of James VII. Claverhouse was raised to the peerage, by the title of Lord Viscount Dundee. He was major-general, and second in command of the royal forces, when the Prince of Orange landed, and earnestly entreated King James to be allowed to march against him, offering to stake his head on the successful result of the enterprize. There is little doubt, from the great popularity of Lord Dundee with the army, that, had such consent been given, William would have found more than a match in his old officer; but the King seemed absolutely infatuated, and refused to allow a drop of blood to be shed in his quarrel, though the great bulk of the population of England were clearly and enthusiastically in his favour. One of the most gifted of our modern poets, the Honourable George Sydney Smythe, has beautifully illustrated this event.

“Then out spake gallant Claverhouse, and his soul thrilled wild and high, And he showed the King his subjects, and he prayed him not to fly. O never yet was captain so dauntless as Dundee! He has sworn to chase the Hollander back to his Zuyder-Zee.”

But though James quitted his kingdom, the stern loyalty of Dundee was nothing moved. Alone, and without escort, he traversed England, and presented himself at the Convention of Estates, then assembled at Edinburgh for the purpose of receiving the message from the Prince of Orange. The meeting was a very strange one. Many of the nobility and former members of the Scottish Parliament absolutely declined attending it, some on the ground that it was not a legal assembly, having been summoned by the Prince of Orange, and others because, in such a total disruption of order, they judged it safest to abstain from taking any prominent part. This gave an immense ascendency to the Revolution party, who further proceeded to strengthen their position by inviting to Edinburgh large bodies of the armed population of the west. After defending for several days the cause of his master with as much eloquence as vigour, Dundee, finding that the majority of the Convention were resolved to offer the crown of Scotland to the Prince, and having moreover received sure information that some of the wild fanatic Whigs, with Daniel Ker of Kersland at their head, had formed a plot for his assassination, quitted Edinburgh with about fifty horsemen, and, after a short interview–celebrated by Sir Walter Scott in one of his grandest ballads–with the Duke of Gordon at the Castle Rock, directed his steps towards the north. After a short stay at his house of Duddope, during which he received, by order of the Council, who were thoroughly alarmed at his absence, a summons through a Lyon herald to return to Edinburgh under pain of high treason, he passed into the Gordon country, where he was joined by the Earl of Dunfermline with a small party of about sixty horse. His retreat was timeous, for General Mackay, who commanded for the Prince of Orange, had despatched a strong force, with instructions to make him prisoner. From this time, until the day of his death, he allowed himself no repose. Imitating the example, and inheriting the enthusiasm of his great predecessor Montrose, he invoked the loyalty of the clans to assist him in the struggle for legitimacy–and he did not appeal to them in vain. His name was a spell to rouse the ardent spirits of the mountaineers; and not the Great Marquis himself, in the height of his renown, was more sincerely welcomed and more fondly loved than “Ian dhu nan Cath,”–Dark John of the Battles,–the name by which Lord Dundee is still remembered in Highland song. In the mean time the Convention, terrified at their danger, and dreading a Highland inroad, had despatched Mackay, a military officer of great experience, with a considerable body of troops, to quell the threatened insurrection. He was encountered by Dundee, and compelled to evacuate the high country and fall back upon the Lowlands, where he subsequently received reinforcements, and again marched northward. The Highland host was assembled at Blair, though not in great force, when the news of Mackay’s advance arrived; and a council of the chiefs and officers was summoned, to determine whether it would be most advisable to fall back upon the glens and wild fastnesses of the Highlands, or to meet the enemy at once, though with a force far inferior to his.

Most of the old officers, who had been trained in the foreign wars, were of the former opinion–“alleging that it was neither prudent nor cautious to risk an engagement against an army of disciplined men, that exceeded theirs in numbers by more than a half.” But both Glengarry and Locheill, to the great satisfaction of the General, maintained the contrary view, and argued that neither hunger nor fatigue were so likely to depress the Highlanders, as a retreat when the enemy was in view. The account of the discussion is so interesting, and so characteristic of Dundee, that I shall take leave to quote its termination in the words of Drummond of Balhaldy:

“An advice so hardy and resolute could not miss to please the generous Dundee. His looks seemed to heighten with an air of delight and satisfaction all the while Locheill was speaking. He told his council that they had heard his sentiments from the mouth of a person who had formed his judgment upon infallible proofs drawn from a long experience, and an intimate acquaintance with the persons and subject he spoke of. Not one in the company offering to contradict their general, it was unanimously agreed to fight.

“When the news of this vigorous resolution spread through the army, nothing was heard but acclamations of joy, which exceedingly pleased their gallant general; but before the council broke up, Locheill begged to be heard for a few words. ‘My Lord’ said he, ‘I have just now declared, in the presence of this honourable company, that I was resolved to give an implicit obedience to all your Lordship’s commands; but I humbly beg leave, in name of these gentlemen, to give the word of command for this one time. It is the voice of your council, and their orders are, that you do not engage personally. Your Lordship’s business is to have an eye on all parts, and to issue out your commands as you shall think proper; it is ours to execute them with promptitude and courage. On your Lordship depends the fate, not only of this little brave army, but also of our king and country. If your Lordship deny us this reasonable demand, for my own part I declare, that neither I, nor any I am concerned in, shall draw a sword on this important occasion, whatever construction shall be put upon the matter.’

“Locheill was seconded in this by the whole council; but Dundee begged leave to be heard in his turn. ‘Gentlemen,’ said he, ‘as I am absolutely convinced, and have had repeated proofs, of your zeal for the king’s service, and of your affection to me as his general and your friend, so I am fully sensible that my engaging personally this day may be of some loss if I shall chance to be killed. But I beg leave of you, however, to allow me to give one _shear-darg_ (that is, one harvest-day’s work) to the king, my master, that I may have an opportunity of convincing the brave clans, that I can hazard my life in that service as freely as the meanest of them. Ye know their temper, gentlemen; and if they do not think I have personal courage enough, they will not esteem me hereafter, nor obey my commands with cheerfulness. Allow me this single favour, and I here promise, upon my honour, never again to risk my person while I have that of commanding you.’

“The council, finding him inflexible, broke up, and the army marched directly towards the Pass of Killiecrankie.”

Those who have visited that romantic spot need not be reminded of its peculiar features, for these, once seen, must dwell for ever in the memory. The lower part of the Pass is a stupendous mountain-chasm, scooped out by the waters of the Garry, which here descend in a succession of roaring cataracts and pools. The old road, which ran almost parallel to the river and close upon its edge, was extremely narrow, and wound its way beneath a wall of enormous crags, surmounted by a natural forest of birch, oak, and pine. An army cooped up in that gloomy ravine would have as little chance of escape from the onset of an enterprising partisan corps, as had the Bavarian troops when attacked by the Tyrolese in the steep defiles of the Inn. General Mackay, however, had made his arrangements with consummate tact and skill, and had calculated his time so well, that he was enabled to clear the Pass before the Highlanders could reach it from the other side. Advancing upwards, the passage becomes gradually broader, until, just below the House of Urrard, there is a considerable width of meadow-land. It was here that Mackay took up his position, and arrayed his troops, on observing that the heights above were occupied by the army of Dundee.

The forces of the latter scarcely amounted to one-third of those of his antagonist, which were drawn up in line without any reserve. He was therefore compelled, in making his dispositions, to leave considerable gaps in his own line, which gave Mackay a further advantage. The right of Dundee’s army was formed of the M’Lean, Glengarry, and Clanranald regiments, along with some Irish levies. In the centre was Dundee himself, at the head of a small and ill-equipped body of cavalry, composed of Lowland gentlemen and their followers, and about forty of his old troopers. The Camerons and Skyemen, under the command of Locheill and Sir Donald Macdonald of Sleat, were stationed on the left. During the time occupied by these dispositions, a brisk cannonade was opened by Mackay’s artillery, which materially increased the impatience of the Highlanders to come to close quarters. At last the word was given to advance, and the whole line rushed forward with the terrific impetuosity peculiar to a charge of the clans. They received the fire of the regular troops without flinching, reserved their own until they were close at hand, poured in a murderous volley, and then, throwing away their firelocks, attacked the enemy with the broadsword.

The victory was almost instantaneous, but it was bought at a terrible price. Through some mistake or misunderstanding, a portion of the cavalry, instead of following their general, who had charged directly for the guns, executed a manoeuvre which threw them into disorder; and, when last seen in the battle, Dundee, accompanied only by the Earl of Dunfermline and about sixteen gentlemen, was entering into the cloud of smoke, standing up in his stirrups, and waving to the others to come on. It was in this attitude that he appears to have received his death-wound. On returning from the pursuit, the Highlanders found him dying on the field.

It would he difficult to point out another instance in which the maintenance of a great cause depended solely upon the life of a single man. Whilst Dundee survived, Scotland at least was not lost to the Stuarts, for, shortly before the battle, he had received assurance that the greater part of the organised troops in the north were devoted to his person, and ready to join him; and the victory of Killiecrankie would have been followed by a general rising of the loyal gentlemen in the Lowlands. But with his fall the enterprise was over.

I hope I shall not be accused of exaggerating the importance of this battle, which, according to the writer I have already quoted, was best proved by the consternation into which the opposite party were thrown at the first news of Mackay’s defeat. “The Duke of Hamilton, commissioner for the parliament which then sat at Edinburgh, and the rest of the ministry, were struck with such a panic, that some of them were for retiring into England, others into the western shires of Scotland, where all the people, almost to a man, befriended them; nor knew they whether to abandon the government, or to stay a few days until they saw what use my Lord Dundee would make of his victory. They knew the rapidity of his motions, and were convinced that he would allow them no time to deliberate. On this account it was debated, whether such of the nobility and gentry as were confined for adhering to their old master, should be immediately set at liberty or more closely shut up; and though the last was determined on, yet the greatest revolutionists among them made private and frequent visits to these prisoners, excusing what was past, from a fatal necessity of the times, which obliged them to give a seeming compliance, but protesting that they always wished well to King James, as they should soon have occasion to show when my Lord Dundee advanced.”

“The next morning after the battle,” says Drummond, “the Highland army had more the air of the shattered remains of broken troops than of conquerors; for here it was literally true that

‘The vanquished triumphed, and the victors mourned.’

The death of their brave general, and the loss of so many of their friends, were inexhaustible fountains of grief and sorrow. They closed the last scene of this mournful tragedy in obsequies of their lamented general, and of the other gentlemen who fell with him, and interred them in the church of Blair of Atholl with a real funeral solemnity, there not being present one single person who did not participate in the general affliction.”

I close this notice of a great soldier and devoted loyalist, by transcribing the beautiful epitaph composed by Dr. Pitcairn:–