This post connects to the new blog www.unpoetrytrails.wordpress.com as well as with the accompanying guide books which will be available soon.
Here you will find all the poems which are included on the first of the Upper Nithsdale Poetry Trails. Many of them are quite long, hence the reason I have decided not to reproduce the full versions in print but have added them here for reference.
- Location 1 – Alexander Anderson Memorial, Kirkconnel
The Dying Covenanter – Alexander Anderson
Let me lie upon the heather
Where the heath fowl have abode,
In my hand the open Bible,
On my lip the psalm of God.
I have kept the faith and conquered,
Slipped not foot nor quailed an eye;
Gather round, and in the moorland
See a Covenanter die.
In the might of kingly sanction,
As the mountain torrents sweep,
Came the foe, athirst for slaughter,
And their oaths were loud and deep.
But we drew ourselves together,
Broke the still, yet pitying calm
With the music of our fathers,
And the worship of the psalm.
Then we heard our leader’s question,
“Is there one within our band
Faint of heart to go to battle
For his God and for his land?
Is there one who, seeing foemen
Coming from the plain below,
Puts his sword back in the scabbard?”
And we sternly answered, “No.
“For we fight against oppression,
For the weak against the strong,
For the right to God’s own freedom,
And against the wrong of wrong,
For our homes in glen and valley,
For a thing of grander worth,
The old worship of our fathers
In the kirk and by the hearth.”
Then we took a deeper breathing
For the fight that was so near,
Put our Bibles in our bosoms,
With no sign of doubt or fear,
Felt upon our lips a prayer,
Drew forth to a man the sword,
Rushed upon the ranks of Satan,
For our Covenant and the Lord.
Ye have seen, beside the river,
The tall bulrush, thick and strong,
Bend before the summer whirlwind
As it swept in might along.
Lo, the foe at the first onslaught
Backward went in their alarm,
Ours we knew would be the battle,
For the Lord held up His arm.
Ay, we knew that He was with us,
Israel’s mighty God of old.
Felt His spirit clasp our spirit,
And His presence made us bold;
And we raised our thrilling slogan
Till it ran from tongue to tongue—
“God and Covenant, God and Covenant!”
And the bleak, bare moorland rung.
Had you seen the wild rough troopers,
Pale with very rage and hate,
As our steel still sent them backwards
To a flight or sterner fate.
“Canting dogs!” they cried, “and martyrs
For their heaven’s paltry crown.”
“Soldiers now,” we hurled for answer,
And we shore the godless down.
Ay, they well may con their lessons
In their revels of to-night,
Tell, with all their newest curses,
That the babes of God can fight.
Did they think us sheep for slaughter,
Weak as weakest children be?
So they want that question answered,
Let them turn to their Dundee.
How the frown upon his forehead
(For I saw him in the fight)
Deepened till it burst in anger,
As the thunder peals by night!
And, when column after column
Shrank and withered at our brunt,
Onward came he like some devil,
With his black steed to the front.
“Are ye cowards?” forth he thundered,
As he rallied back his men.
“Fly from those that ye have hunted
Like the hare by field and glen?
What am I to send for answer
In your own, and in my name?
Give me better, or, by heaven!
Die, and so escape the shame!”
Ye have seen, beside the river,
The tall bulrush, thick and strong,
Springing upward when the whirlwind
Spent its force and passed along;
So came backward horse and trooper
On our firm, yet desperate few,
But our trust was not in princes,
And we knew what God could do.
Wild and high the conflict thickened
As a thunder-spout adds force
To the stream, and in the struggle
Down went rider, down went horse.
Foot by foot we drove them backward,
But they went like sullen seas,
Till I came against a war-horse,
And I knew it was Dundee’s.
Swift as lightning’s gleam at midnight,
When the stars are hidden dark,
Swift my sword upon the charger,
And I did not miss my mark.
Back he reared upon his rider,
And the two fell on the plain;
Had we not been such a handful
Black Dundee was with the slain.
But his troopers rallied round him,
Fought like devils at their need,
Drove us back and raised their master,
Brought him up another steed,
Made a front to stand our onset;
But they shrank as on they came,
Like the willow in the winter,
Like the heath before the flame.
Then we raised a shout of triumph
As the whelps of Satan fled,
But my death-wound came that moment,
And I fell among the dead.
Steeds and men, like one great whirlwind,
Thundered o’er me, and I knew
That our God had swept the godless
As the sun sweeps off the dew.
Closer, closer come around me,
Lift the grand old psalm again,
For I want to hear its music
Ere I pass away from men.
Shame to Scotland and to Scotsmen,
If they turn away in pride
From the songs that were our bucklers
On the bare, bleak mountain-side.
Let the Bible still lie open,
That my failing sight may see
My own blood upon that promise
Of the crown awaiting me.
I have kept the faith nor faltered,
Slipped not foot nor quailed an eye;
Gather round, and in the moorland
See a Covenanter die.
- Location 2 – Auld St Conal’s Kirk
Sunsets – Cushie Knowe
The golden orb, with red’ning hue,
That blessed this summer’s day;
Full soon will sink beyond our view,
Behind yon crags so grey;
While o’er the scene a stillness falls,
Save when the lonely curlew calls.
And yes, I hear a nearby bleat,
Of a lonesome lamb;
That skips around on nimble feet,
Seeking its lost dam;
For as the lengthening shadows glide,
It wants the shelter of her side.
But hark, my thoughts no longer stray,
On pleasing scenes around;
I look upon the gravestones grey,
Or on some mossy mound;
And feel I should, with unshod feet,
Pause here awhile, in this retreat.
I scan the stones in sad array,
Now broken and uncared;
Where sheep and cattle wanton stray,
They surely could be spared;
A little thought, some reverence given,
To bodies here, from spirits riven.
In silence here, the ancients rest,
Their earthly toil is o’er;
The sun that further sinks to West,
Now shines for them no more;
They sleep, their native hills among,
Unknown, unheeded and unsung.
Short be the passage of our day,
‘Twas but short time ago;
Our wandering footsteps chanced to stray,
I, and old friend Joe;
To this same spot, and here we read,
The names of those, so long time dead.
We traced these now forgotten names,
Obscured by moss and age;
Of sterling sires, of pious dames,
A saintly heritage;
Yet seldom now a passing eye,
E’er spares a glance to where they lie.
Pagans, Wilsons, Crichtons, and Hair,
All sturdy common stock;
The liberties, that we modernists share,
Sprang from those hill folk;
For ere that freedom was procured,
What persecutions they endured.
The sun that sets beyond yon hills,
Tells us day is done;
So to the thought, with sadness fills;
Gone now is the one;
Who o’er these stones, then sought with me,
Names to revere, yet hard to see.
He loved his day, and served it well,
Till that fateful May;
Without a warning, who was to tell?
He quietly slipped away;
His time, its earthly course had run,
His sun had set, his day was done.
Among these hills he roved, to trace
Deep mysteries of the past;
Through lonely glen, o’er moorland waste,
Searching to the last;
The solitary ways his feet trod,
Are known only now to God.
Let Glenwharry, now in sombre mood,
Retain its secrets yet;
While I , in churchyard muse and brood,
In pathos and regret;
Alas, how much was left undone,
Too short’s the day, when sets the sun.
- Location 3 – Glen Aylmer
Shades Around Glen Aylmer – Cushie Knowe
The encircling hills like like a chain,
‘Cept where Glen Aylmer cleaves in twain
This dear, romantic, deep defile,
As seen from this old kirkyard stile.
From Corsencone I see them there
Stretch eastward ’way to Knockan-hair,
Yet, while they’re pleasing to the eye,
My thoughts around Glen Aylmer lie.
I catch the distant bleat of sheep
From that defile, remote and steep;
I scan its depths with wondering eye
As one was wont in days gone by.
‘Twas hereabout the rustic bard,
Close by the Glen and old kirkyard;
Perchance ‘twas at Saint Conal’s Well
The poet’s mantle on him fell.
For near Glen Aylmer’s crystal stream
Was penned the ‘Cameronian Dream’;
There genius wrapped in mortal clay
Paused awhile – to muse and pray.
Who’ll dare deny the breath of Heaven
To humble man that day was given;
Then, from a pious bosom fired,
Welled forth a dream, Divine inspired.
Blest Hyslop, Oh that I could share
The mantle that enwrapped him there,
That I could catch in modern days
The secret of his fervent lays.
I feel the background of the hills
More oft’ the Eternal stillness fills;
Away from the beat of myriad feet
Maker and man in consort meet.
Alas, I fear at priceless cost,
Too much to us has now been lost;
For in such hallowed solitudes
Man cleaves for clearer altitudes.
Not so the bard of days gone by
Whose ear was tuned to Heaven’s cry,
Who saw in Wellwood’s dark moorland
The lonely graves of a faithful band.
He lived again that day of blood
That did the moss and heather flood,
When pious souls from earth were driven
To their Eternal Rest in Heaven.
He saw the chariots of fire
With horsemen, clad in bright attire,
Escort them o’er the rainbow’s dome
Into their Father’s tearless Home.
The mist steals quietly round the top
With bleat of sheep and call of whaup;
These sights and sounds to me convey
Faint echoes of that bygone day.
Away from the mundane things that bind,
To dim the eye and dull the mind;
Causing my faint desires to rise,
Turning my thoughts towards the skies.
Then but to catch the breath of Heaven
That here was to fair Hyslop given;
Then could I match his sublime mood,
And soar to a purer altitude.
To share with him Celestial grace
Once shed around this hallowed place;
To see, with clear anointed eyes,
The vision from the Eternal skies.
But I am cast in poorer mould,
Being just the dross, as he’s the gold;
Still I’m content, if just to share
The fragrance of the hillman’s air.
Thus, by the margin of the stream
That bore the ‘Cameronian Dream’,
Sweet Hyslop’s spirit still resides
As mist that o’er Glen Aylmer glides.
- Location 4 – Blackgannoch
Written to commemorate the dedication of the Blackgannoch Covenanting Memorial – Cushie Knowe
Blagganoch Moss, that windswept moor,
A place in history has for sure;
For Renwick here, in hillman’s plaid,
That famous declaration made.
In “Killing Times”, that long gone day,
When in the bonnie month of May
Here, Renwick with the faithful band,
Against the curse of tyranny, took a stand.
Pledging to fight, what ever cost,
That freedom’s right should ne’er be lost;
The Covenant Standard then raised high,
For Christ and Covenant, to live, or die.
Yes, die he did, but the cause was won,
Too soon his earthly race was run;
He sought not ease, or world renown,
But in Heaven he gained the Martyr’s Crown.
- Location 5 – Stony Hill
The Cameronian Dream – James Hyslop
In a dream of the night I was wafted away
To the moorland of mist where the martyrs lay;
Where Cameron’s sword and his Bible are seen,
Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green.
‘Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood,
When the minister’s home was the mountain and wood;
When in Wellwood’s dark moorlands the standard of Zion,
All bloody and torn, ‘mong the heather was lying.
It was morning; and summer’s young sun, from the east.
Lay in loving repose on the green mountain’s breast.
On Wardlaw and Cairn-Table the clear shining dew
Glistened sheen ‘mong the heath-bells and mountain flowers blue.
And far up in heaven in the white sunny cloud,
The song of the lark was melodious and loud;
And in Glenmuir’s wild solitudes, lengthened and deep,
Was the whistling of plovers and the bleating of sheep.
And Wellwood’s sweet valley breathed music and gladness;
The fresh meadow blooms hung in beauty and redness;
Its daughters were happy to hail the returning,
And drink the delights of green July’s bright morning.
But ah! there were hearts cherished far other feelings,
Illumed by the light of prophetic revealings,
Who drank from this scenery of beauty but sorrow,
For they knew that their blood would bedew it to-morrow.
‘Twas the few faithful ones who, with Cameron, were lying
Concealed ‘mong the mist, where the heath-fowl was crying;
For the horsemen of Earlshall around them were hovering,
And their bridle-reins rang through the thin misty covering.
Their faces grew pale, and their swords were unsheathed,
But the vengeance that darkened their brows was unbreathed;
With eyes raised to Heaven, in meek resignation,
They sang their last song to the God of Salvation.
The hills with the deep mournful music were ringing,
The curlew and plover in concert were singing;
But the melody died ‘midst derision and laughter,
As the hosts of ungodly rushed on to the slaughter.
Though in mist and in darkness and fire they were shrouded,
Yet the souls of the righteous stood calm and unclouded;
Their dark eyes flashed lightning, as, proud and unbending,
They stood like the rock which the thunder is rending.
The muskets were flashing; the blue swords were gleaming;
The helmets were cleft, and the red blood was streaming;
The heavens grew dark, and the thunder was rolling,
When in Wellwood’s dark moorlands the mighty were falling.
When the righteous had fallen, and the combat had ended,
A chariot of fire through the dark cloud descended.
The drivers were angels on horses of whiteness,
And its burning wheels turned upon axles of brightness.
A seraph unfolded its doors bright and shining.
All dazzling like gold of the seventh refining;
And the souls that came forth out of great tribulation
Have mounted the chariot and steeds of salvation.
On the arch of the rainbow the chariot is gliding;
Through the paths of the thunder the horsemen are riding.
Glide swiftly, bright spirits, the prize is before ye,
A crown never fading, a kingdom of glory!
- Location 6 – Cairn Table
The Covenanter’s Lament – John Stuart Blackie.
O waly waly up the glen,
And waly waly o’er the moor!
The land is full of bloody men,
Who hunt to death the friendless poor!
We brook the rule of robbers wild :
They tear the son from his father’s lands,
They tear the mother from her child,
They tear the Bible from our hands!
Last night, as I came o’er the moor
And stood upon the grey hill crown,
I saw the red flames rise wi’ power
Frae the lone house o’ Alik Brown.
The godless grim dragoons were there,
And Clavers spake, that swearing loon,
“So burn the nest, so smoke the lair
Of all that dare to think wi’ Brown!”
O blessed Lord, who rul’st in heaven.
Who preached Thy gospel to the poor.
How long shall thy best friends be driven
Like hunted hares from moor to moor?
Arise, O Lord, Thy saints deliver,
This land from ruthless despots free!
‘Neath wintry skies we sit and shiver,
But times of gladness come from Thee.
- Location 8 – The Long Stone of Convention, Muirkirk
I’m Still Here – Peter Hall
I’m still here.
Don’t let my age fool you,
The troopers said I caused the nation trouble…
Which nation ?
Just Scotland ?
All those who run from the Truth that eats them inside.
The killing times continue…
Trying to bury the Way,
But they don’t know it just becomes a seed
That grows without work
And thrives in opposition.
You can’t hang the Life into the past
My head still thinks
My hands still work
Beyond the Edinburgh grass market
Beyond the Covenanters influence,
Look over your shoulder
I’m still here.
- Location 9 – Upper Wellwood Farm
A Martyr’s Grave – Harriet Stuart Menteath
Far off amidst the hills
The wild bird hath her nest.
And the loud trickling- mountain rills
Gladden the earth’s green breast;
And there the sun’s last rays are thrown,
And there the storm-cloud broods alone.
And Spring’s soft dews, and Summer’s glare
Freshen and fade the wild flowers there!
Why should 1 seek the spot?
Are there not lovelier scenes by far.
Wild woods, where day intrudeth not.
Skies that neglect the star?
Why should I track the hunter’s path,
Why should I brave the tempest’s wrath,
To stand with thee, at evening lone,
Beside a lichen-mantled stone?
Hush! this is holy ground.
Thou who this very day hast prayed.
Thy children kneeling all around,
None making thee afraid,
Muse on that time when praise and prayer
Ascended through the midnight air,
Only from lips and hearts nerved high,
To glorify their God and die!
This is a martyr’s grave!
And surely here the dews are given
In richer showers, and wild flowers wave
More in the smile of heaven!
And something in the stirring air
Tells us that angel wings are there;
And angel watchers keep the space,
To be their own sweet resting place.
* * * * *
They feared to tell his mother,
A widow poor and lone.
She had been deaf for many a year,
But she caught the first low tone!
Then suddenly stopped the whirring wheel,
And suddenly snapped the thread!
As she tossed her withered arms to heaven,
With one wild heart-cry — Dead!
Well hast thou sped, my dear, dear son!
Soon hast thou reached the goal: —
The cruel archers shot at thee,
But they could not reach thy soul!
- Location 10 – Airdsmoss Monument
The Battle of Airsmoss – James Dodds
‘Tis morn, the broad red sun
Gleams through his misty covering;
The plover and the wild curlew
On fitful wing are hovering.
The wearied ones have laid them down,
If but a moment they may rest;
Earth! they shall soon be all thine own,
Then take them gently to thy breast!
Scarce have their eyelids closed
When the watcher’s warning cry is heard,
And each with a sudden bound
Starts from sleep, and grasps his sword.
Along the dark, outstretching heath,
Sullen and fierce the troopers come.
With helmets’ glare, with cries of rage,
With loud harsh clang of trump and drum.
One moment, stern and still,
The martyrs view them gathering nigh ;
One moment, with an earnest look,
Each on his brother turns his eye.
But Danger’s hour is Freedom’s birth,
No fear or craven look is there;
All circle round the man of God,
Who calmly pours their latest prayer.
CAMERON’S LAST PRAYER
Shepherd that didst Joseph lead!
Helper in the hour of need !
Treader in the winepress! we
Lift our waiting eyes to Thee!
On rush the foeman like a flood.
And the desert gapes for blood.
Lord! spare the green, the ripest take!
Hear us for Thine own name’s sake!
Here stand we, on the last retreat
That earth will yield our weary feet;
From rocky cave to mountain chas’d,
From mountain to the desert waste;
From the waste to heaven we soar,
Sinless, painless evermore.
Lord! spare the green, the ripest take!
Hear us for Thine own name’s sake !
With a longing strong and deep,
With a bridegroom’s joy we leap;
We have panted for this hour,
To grasp the tyrant in his power;
And write in blood our legacy
To nations struggling to be free.
Lord! spare the green, the ripest take
Hear us for Thine own name’s sake!
Through the floods be Thou our guide,
In the flames be at our side;
Purge us from our drossy clay,
Wash our mortal stains away :
Christ our King hath pass’d before;
Bloody sea, but blessed shore!
Bearer of the eternal keys.
Bear us through our agonies!
How long, O Lord! shall Zion lie
A scorn to all the passers-by?
Shall godless heart and gory hand
For ever scourge Thine ancient land:
Awake, arm of the Lord! “tis time,
The earth is drunk with blood and crime,
And crush the thrones that will not fear Thee!
Smite the lands that will not hear Thee!
Now for the onset! Brothers, kneel!
Lord, give us faith and holy zeal;
Loose the ties that gently bind us,
Heal the hearts we leave behind us ;
May we die as die the brave,
And freedom yet spring from our grave !
Treader in the winepress! We
Rise to be evermore with Thee!
By the black and weltering swamp,
A small green mound uplifts its brow,
‘Twas the altar whence their incence rose :
‘Tis their camp and battle-fortress now!
The startled hare hath fled the brake,
No lark remains to greet the morn ;
The raven only flaps his wing,
And whets his beak on the gnarled thorn.
” Down with the cut-eared dogs!”
The troopers gnash their teeth and cry :
” God is our refuge and our strength!”
Is the brief and sternly-breathed reply.
With hunger, toil, oppression worn,
Their numbers few, their weapons rude,
In firm and close array they stand
Against that ravening multitude.
The blades like lightning flash,
And volleyed thunders rend the sky ;
The war-steeds paw the heathery sod,
Aloft the glittering pennons fly.
But, as from Ailsa’s sea-beat cliff,
The howling surge is backward toss’d ;
Even so these fierce battalions reel,
Stemmed by that firm, devoted host.
Though few and scant equipped,
Right forth they burst with one loud cheer,
And many an empty saddle tells
The fate of many a cavalier.
Before that storm of peasant strength,
Dark sweeping as the northern blast,
White plume and glittering pennon whirl,
In one wild wreck and ruin cast.
High on his gallant roan,
From rank to rank Rathillet flies;
Where he rushes terror spreads,
Where he strikes a foeman dies.
But what avails the lion’s might
When crowding hunters round him close?
Pierced from behind, Rathillet falls, Amid the yell of deadly foes.
” Shame on the coward arm!”
Young Chryston cries, and, like a dart,
Flies to avenge Rathillet’s fall;
An eagle, young and strong of heart,
Whose nest is on the Calder banks;
On fierce and fiery wing he rushes.
And in one glorious hero-burst,
Forth from its fount his young heart gushes.
And Cameron, soul of fire!
What quenches others quickens thee !
In the tumult still his voice is heard,
“For Scotland’s faith and liberty!”
Priest of the outcast! down he sinks,
The shepherd ‘mid his slaughtered flock.
Brave one! thy Master calls thee home.
Then soar through blood and battle-smoke?
Long rolls the unequal strife.
And men and horse like foam are driven;
And shouts and shrieks, curses and prayers,
Ring wide through all the vault of heaven.
At length, in threefold numbers range,
On press the foe with rage and pride,
Till one by one the martyr-band
Drop by their faithful pastor’s side.
Like reapers dropping down,
Their sheaves around them thickly strewn;
So drop the soldiers of the Cross,
By numbers crushed, and toil alone.
Silence again is on the heath,
The war-steed’s neigh comes faint and far.
Ye chosen ones, to glory rise!
The harp, the crown, the morning star!
By the black and weltering swamp,
A small green mound uplifts its brow ;
‘Tvvas their altar, ’twas their battle-ground,
‘Tis their martyr-spot and death-bed now!
There, shrouded in their own heart’s blood,
Their bodies rest upon the field,
Till pious hands shall make their tomb,
And lay them where their truth was sealed.
For their rights and faith they fell!
They fell that these might ever stand.
Men of a race that shall ne’er forget
What they owe to that dauntless martyr-band.
Then rear for them no sculptur’d pile,
Set a rough grey stone on the lonely heath!
Not a hind or child in Scotland all
But can tell right well who lie beneath!
- Location 11 – Richard Cameron’s Grave
Where Cameron Sleeps – Cushie Knowe
I stand before a time worn stone,
Upon a windswept moor,
Save for some cattle, I’m alone,
In solitude secure.
Proud Phoebus from his lofty dome,
The shining mantle spread;
O’er the vast waste, this moorland home,
Of the glorious dead.
This hallowed spot where Cameron sleeps,
This lonely sun-drenched moor;
Here history with veneration keeps,
His memory secure.
And well it may, no nobler name,
This man of common clay,
Nor countenanced he, the thought of fame,
Opposing perjury’s sway.
And for the Faith, ‘gainst ill withstood,
This heath dyed with his blood;
When death, in vilest form, and rude,
Gave back his soul to God.
Brave heart, your death was not in vain,
The torch, your dying grasp
Released, that others in your train,
The flickering embers clasp.
“Lord take the ripe and leave the green”
That far flung clarion cry;
Will yet, in a fuller light be seen,
Re-echoing ‘yond the sky.
But I here too on this lonely moor,
Must also homage pay;
To thee, brave heart, steadfast and sure,
Against tyrranic sway,
With a last faint sigh, I wander on,
To a throbbing world unsure;
There leave the dust of brave Cameron
Asleep on the windswept moor.
- Location 12 – Glenmuir
The Peesecuted Peesweep: or, The Covenanter’s Curse – Thomas C. Latto
Dear Peesweep ! with thy neck of green and gold,
Square, quivering wings ; like Highland Chief’s thy crest,
Wheeling and hovering, rarely found at rest
What slaughters of thy race have cottars’ told !
Eyes gently-wild, tho’ bright yet never bold,
‘Twas thought search’d out the hillmen as they pressed Of Mother Earth the damp and dangerous breast ;
Not thine the purpose to betray their hold.
Nay ! strong maternal instinct moving thee
To lure them from thy callow brood away ;
In thine anxiety to have them flee
For refuge to some cave that distant lay.
Sorely misjudged while making matters worse
Earning for thee the Covenanters’ curse.
- Location 13 – Wardlaw Hill
The Land of the Covenant – James Hogg
Far inland, where the mountain crest
O’erlooks the waters of the west;
And, ‘midst the moorland wilderness,
Dark moss-cleuchs form a drear recess,
Curtained with ceaseless mists that feed
The sources of the Clyde and Tweed —
There injured Scotland’s patriot band
For faith and freedom made their stand,
When traitor Kings, who basely sold
Their country’s fame for Gallic gold —
Too abject o’er the free to reign,
Warned by a father’s fate in vain—
In bigot fury trampled down
The race who oft preserved their crown :
There, worthy of his masters, came
The despots’ champion, bloody Graham,
To stain for aye a warrior’s sword,
And lead a fierce, though fawning horde,
The human bloodhounds of the earth,
To hunt the peasant from his hearth.
Tyrants ! could not misfortune teach
That man has rights beyond your reach?
Thought ye the torture and the stake
Could that intrepid spirit break,
Which even in woman’s breast withstood
The terrors of the fire and flood?
Yes—though the sceptic’s tongue deride
Those martyrs who for conscience died ;
Though modish history blight their fame,
And sneering courtiers hoot the name
Of men who dared alone be free
Amidst a nation’s slavery,
Yet long for them the poet’s lyre
Shall wake its notes of heavenly fire;
Their names shall nerve the patriot’s hand,
Upraised to save a sinking land,
And piety shall learn to burn
With holier transports o’er their urn.
But now, all sterner thoughts forgot,
Peace broods upon the peasant’s cot;
And if tradition still prolongs
The memory of his father’s wrongs,
‘Tis but the grateful thought that borrows
A blessing from departed sorrows.
How lovely seems the simple vale
Where lives our sires’ heroic tale!
The mossy pass, the mountain flood,
Still hallowed by the patriot’s blood ;
The rocky cavern, once his tent,
And now his deathless monument,
Rehearsing to the kindling thought
What Faith inspired and Valour wrought!
Oh, ne’er shall he whose ardent prime
Was fostered in the freeman’s clime,
Though doomed to seek a distant strand,
Forget his glorious native land;
Forget—’mid Brahma’s blood-stained groves-
Those sacred scenes of youthful loves ;
Sequestered haunts—so still, so fair.
That holy Faith might worship there,
And Error weep away her stains,
And dark Remorse forget his pains ;
And homeless hearts, by fortune tost.
Or early hopeless passion crost,
Regain the peace they long had lost.
- Location 14 – Lethan’s ruin
The Covenanters – Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Mine home is but a blackened heap
In the midst of a lonesome wild,
And the owl and the bat may their night-watch keep
Where human faces smiled.
I rocked the cradle of seven fair sons,
And I worked for their infancy;
But, when like a child in mine own old age,
There are none to work for me!
Never! I will not know another home.
Ten summers have pass’d on, with their blue skies,
Green leaves, and singing birds, and sun-kiss’d fruit,
Since here I first took up my last abode,—
And here my bones shall rest. You say it is
A home for beasts, and not for humankind,
This bleak shed and bare rock, and that the vale
Below is beautiful. I know the time
When it looked very beautiful to me!
Do you see that bare spot, where one old oak
Stands black and leafless, as if scorched by fire,
While round it the ground seems as if a curse
Were laid upon the soil? Once by that tree,
Then covered with its leaves and acorn crop,
A little cottage stood: ‘t was very small,
But had an air of health and peace. The roof
Was every morning vocal with the song
Of the rejoicing swallows, whose warm nest
Was built in safety underneath the thatch;
A honeysuckle on the sunny side
Hung round the lattices its fragrant trumpets,
Around was a small garden; fruit and herbs
Were there in comely plenty; and some flowers,
Heath from the mountains, and the wilding bush
Gemm’d with red roses, and white apple blossoms,
Were food for the two hives, whence all day long
There came a music like the pleasant sound
Of lulling waters. And at even-tide
It was a goodly sight to see around
Bright eyes, and faces lighted up with health
And youth and happiness: these were my children,
That cottage was mine home. – – –
There came a shadow o’er the land, and men
Were hunted by their fellow men like beasts,
And the sweet feelings of humanity
Were utterly forgotten; the white head,
Darkened with blood and dust, was often laid
Upon the murdered infant, for the sword
Of pride and cruelty was sent to slay
Those who in age would not forego the faith
They had grown up in. I was one of these:
How could I close the Bible I had read
Beside my dying mother, which had given
To me and mine such comfort? But the hand
Of the oppressor smote us. There were shrieks,
And naked swords, and faces dark as guilt,
A rush of feet, a bursting forth of flame,
Curses, and crashing boards, and infant words
Praying for mercy, and then childish screams
Of fear and pain. There were these the last night
The white walls of my cottage stood; they bound
And flung me down beside the oak, to watch
How the red fire gathered, like that of hell.
There sprang one to the lattice, and leant forth,
Gasping for the fresh air,—my own fair girl!
My only one! The vision haunts me still:
The white arms raised to heaven, and the long hair,
Bright as the light beside it, stiff on the head
Upright, from terror. In th’ accursed glare
We knew each other; and I heard a cry
Half tenderness, half agony,—a crash,—
The roof fell in,—I saw my child no more!
A cloud closed around me, a deep thunder cloud,
Half darkness and half fire. At length sense came,
With a rememb’ring like that which a dream
Leaves, of vague horrors: but the heavy chain,
The loathsome straw which was mine only bed,
The sickly light through the dim bars, the damp,
The silence, were realities; and then
I lay on the cold stones and wept aloud,
And prayed the fever to return again
And bring death with it. Yet did I escape,—
Again I drank the fresh blue air of heaven,
And felt the sunshine laugh upon my brow;
I thought then I would seek my desolate home,
And die where it had been. I reached the place:
The ground was bare and scorched, and in the midst
Was a black heap of ashes. Frantickly
I groped amid them, ever and anon
Meeting some human fragment, skulls and bones
Shapeless and cinders, till I drew a curl,
A long and beautiful curl of sunny hair,
Stainless and golden, as but then just severed,
A love gift from the head: I knew the hair—
It was my daughter’s! There I stood, and howled
Curses upon that night. There came a voice,
There came a gentle step;—even on that heap
Of blood and ashes did I kneel, and pour
To the great God my gratitude! That curl
Was wet with tears of happiness; that step,
That voice, were sweet familiar ones,—one child,
My eldest son, was sent me from the grave!
That night he had escaped. – – –
We left the desolate Valley, and we went
Together to the mountains and the woods,
And there inhabited in love and peace,
Till a strong spirit came upon men’s hearts,
And roused them to avenge their many wrongs.
Yet stood they not in battle, and the arm
Of the oppressor was at first too mighty.
Albeit I have lived to see their bonds
Rent like burnt flax, yet much of blood was spilt
Or ever the deliverance was accomplished.
We fled in the dark night. At length the moon
Rose on the midnight,—when I saw the face
Of my last child was ghastly white, and set
In the death-agony, and from his side
The life-blood came like tears; and then I prayed
That he would rest, and let me stanch the wound.
He motioned me to fly, and then lay down
Upon the rock, and died! This is his grave,
His home and mine. Ask ye now why I dwell
Upon the rock, and lothe the vale beneath?
- Location 15a – Corsencon Hill
The Ayrshire Hills – Cushie Knowe
His last request as off he went,
If in the morn they found
His body lifeless on the “bent” –
“Do lay it ‘neath a mound
Where outlines blent in bluey green
The distant Ayrshire hills be seen.”
A simple stone now marks the spot,
His last request was granted
His sacrifice, be it not forgot,
Heaven claimed by earth unwanted.
And now he shares a fairer scene
Thought dear the Ayrshire hills had been.
Ayrshire hills, dear Ayrshire hills
The sight o’ them my heart oft’ fills
Wi’ joy and pride, when I upon
Them look at e’en or dewy dawn.
Late or early, fair or fine,
Winter shrouds or summer shine.
Betimes kissed by fleecy clouds
Of times creeping mist enshrouds;
Patched wi’ bracken, shades o’ heather
Green and purple blend together.
Much the wandering eye to charm
Far removed frae hurt to harm.
So be it thus for us today
Scenes o’ beauty, sport and play.
Where to rove in leisure hours,
Planned excursions, pleasant tours.
Choice o’ friends, time and place,
A’ that’s best, this day o’ Grace.
Free to roam most anywhere,
Benevolent Heaven’s blessings share.
But this for us was dearly won.
Men shared the blast o’ sword and gun
That we. For sure a privileged race,
Now free from plunder, fire and chase,
In leisure hours and as we will,
Some happy quest ‘mong them fulfil.
Thus oft’ I’ve sought their solitude
From fickle world o’ passions rude.
And by some simple time-work stone
A time have spent wi’ God alone;
Chastened and humbled, bared my head,
By lonely graves o’ the pious dead.
So come with me and we will hie
To where the hilltops kiss the sky
Beside a wimplin’ burnie where
Beyond Dalgig they’re resting there.
John, Wilson, Humphries and Jamieson
All lie below a time-work stone.
Good Godly men (by most forgot)
On the rough hilltop rudely shot;
Giving their lives in the bloody fight
To worship God as they saw right.
Corsegilloch hill thus keeps in trust
“Till day shall break” their sacred dust.
Then on into that bonnie vale
To me so dear, my ain Nithsdale
‘Tween Corsencon and hill o’ Hair
Two martyrs lie, sleeping there.
That murderin’ band that left Dalgig
Went heading south o’ er lea and rig,
Crossing by way the Westland height
To spy the hillman in full flight.
The chase was short among the braes
The pious hillmen closed their days.
Where ended that infernal chase
A simple stone since marks this place
Inscribed thereon is Corson, Hair,
Who in themselves will time outwear
As they’re on record, ‘yond the sky,
Where pious mortals never die;
Sleep on, sleep on, immortal dust
Sure some fair morn, arise you must.
- Location 15b – St Conal’s Cross
St Conal’s Cross – Rab Wilson
Hidden awa here, in this gowstie cleugh,
St Conal’s Cross keeps its eydent vigil;
Stern gaird o Upper Nithsdale’s green idyll,
Glimmerin, unblinking, unmuived bi souch
O wuns that seduce, an’ storms that threiten,
Whaur aince the fuitsteps o the herdsboy trod,
Tae keep lambs siccar frae the reivin tod,
Twa leggit flocks? Thaimye ne’er did reck oan!
Bi chance ye goat hapt in thon haly plaid,
Wi’ Kentigern sojournt, an eftirhint
Ye cam hame fired wi’ missionary zeal,
Nou, waukrife years syne, here’s her warks revealt,
The faur-aff triptychs trinity descernt;
St Conals, St Brides, and lanely Kirkbride.