Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MACDONALD'S RAID - A.D. 1780, by PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE



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MACDONALD'S RAID - A.D. 1780, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I remember it well; 'twas a morn dull and gray
Last Line: To those gallant old times when we fought 'gainst the king.
Subject(s): American Revolution; Marion, Francis (1737-1795); South Carolina


I REMEMBER it well; 't was a morn dull and gray,
And the legion lay idle and listless that day,
A thin drizzle of rain piercing chill to the soul,
And with not a spare bumper to brighten the bowl,
When Macdonald arose, and unsheathing his blade,
Cried, "Who'll back me, brave comrades? I'm hot for a raid.
Let the carbines be loaded, the war harness ring,
Then swift death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!"

We leaped up at his summons, all eager and bright,
To our finger-tips thrilling to join him in fight;
Yet he chose from our numbers four men and no more.
"Stalwart brothers," quoth he, "you'll be strong as fourscore,
If you follow me fast wheresoever I lead,
With keen sword and true pistol, stanch heart and bold steed.
Let the weapons be loaded, the bridle-bits ring,
Then swift death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!"

In a trice we were mounted; Macdonald's tall form
Seated firm in the saddle, his face like a storm
When the clouds on Ben Lomond hang heavy and stark,
And the red veins of lightning pulse hot through the dark;
His left hand on his sword-belt, his right lifted free,
With a prick from the spurred heel, a touch from the knee,
His lithe Arab was off like an eagle on wing --
Ha! death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!

'T was three leagues to the town, where, in insolent pride,
Of their disciplined numbers, their works strong and wide,
The big Britons, oblivious of warfare and arms,
A soft dolce were wrapped in, not dreaming of harms,
When fierce yells, as if borne on some fiend-ridden rout,
With strange cheer after cheer, are heard echoing without,
Over which, like the blast of ten trumpeters, ring,
"Death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!"

Such a tumult we raised with steel, hoof-stroke, and shout,
That the foemen made straight for their inmost redoubt,
And therein, with pale lips and cowed spirits, quoth they,
"Lord, the whole rebel army assaults us today.
Are the works, think you, strong? God of heaven, what a din!
'T is the front wall besieged -- have the rebels rushed in?
It must be; for, hark! hark to that jubilant ring
Of death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!'"

Meanwhile, through the town like a whirlwind we sped,
And ere long be assured that our broadswords were red;
And the ground here and there by an ominous stain
Showed how the stark soldier beside it was slain:
A fat sergeant-major, who yawed like a goose,
With his waddling bow-legs, and his trappings all loose,
By one back-handed blow the Macdonald cuts down,
To the shoulder-blade cleaving him sheer through the crown,
And the last words that greet his dim consciousness ring
With "Death, death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!"

Having cleared all the streets, not an enemy left
Whose heart was unpierced, or whose headpiece uncleft,
What should we do next, but -- as careless and calm
As if we were scenting a summer morn's balm
'Mid a land of pure peace -- just serenely drop down
On the few constant friends who still stopped in the town.
What a welcome they gave us! One dear little thing,
As I kissed her sweet lips, did I dream of the King? --

Of the King or his minions? No; war and its scars
Seemed as distant just then as the fierce front of Mars
From a love-girdled earth; but, alack! on our bliss,
On the close clasp of arms and kiss showering on kiss,
Broke the rude bruit of battle, the rush thick and fast
Of the Britons made 'ware of our rash ruse at last;
So we haste to our coursers, yet flying, we fling
The old watch-words abroad, "Down with Redcoats and King!"

As we scampered pell-mell o'er the hard-beaten track
We had traversed that morn, we glanced momently back,
And beheld their long earth-works all compassed in flame:
With a vile plunge and hiss the huge musketballs came,
And the soil was ploughed up, and the space 'twixt the trees
Seemed to hum with the war-song of Brobdingnag bees;
Yet above them, beyond them, victoriously ring
The shouts, "Death to the Redcoats, and down with the King!"

Ah! that was a feat, lads, to boast of! What men
Like you weaklings to-day had durst cope with us then?
Though I say it who should not, I am ready to vow
I'd o'ermatch a half score of your fops even now --
The poor puny prigs, mincing up, mincing down,
Through the whole wasted day the thronged streets of the town:
Why, their dainty white necks 't were but pastime to wring --
Ay! my muscles are firm still; I fought 'gainst the King!

Dare you doubt it? well, give me the weightiest of all
The sheathed sabres that hang there, unlooped on the wall;
Hurl the scabbard aside; yield the blade to my clasp;
Do you see, with one hand how I poise it and grasp
The rough iron-bound hilt? With this long hissing sweep
I have smitten full many a foeman with sleep --
That forlorn, final sleep! God! what memories cling
To those gallant old times when we fought 'gainst the King.





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