Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BATTLE OF DRUMLIEMOOR, by ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN



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THE BATTLE OF DRUMLIEMOOR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Bar the door! Put out the light, for it gleams across the night
Last Line: And I hid myself all day, and -- I am here!
Alternate Author Name(s): Maitland, Thomas
Subject(s): God; Religion; Theology


BAR the door! put out the light, for it gleams across the night,
And guides the bloody motion of their feet;
Hush the bairn upon thy breast, lest it guide them in their quest,
And with water quench the blazing of the peat.
Now, wife, sit still and hark! -- hold my hand amid the dark;
Oh Jeanie, we are scatter'd e'en as sleet!

It was down on Drumliemoor, where it slopes upon the shore,
And looks upon the breaking of the bay,
In the kirkyard of the dead, where the heather is thrice red
With the blood of those asleep beneath the clay;
And the Howiesons were there, and the people of Glen Ayr,
And we gather'd in the gloom o' night -- to pray.

How! Sit at home in fear, when God's voice was in mine ear,
When the priests of Baal were slaughtering His sheep?
Nay! there I took my stand, with my reap-hook in my hand,
For bloody was the sheaf that I might reap;
And the Lord was in His skies, with a thousand dreadful eyes,
And His breathing made a trouble on the deep.

Each mortal of the band brought his weapon in his hand,
Though the clapper on the spit was all he bare;
And not a man but knew the work he had to do,
If the fiends should fall upon us unaware.
And our looks were ghastly white, but it was not with affright --
The Lord our God was present to our prayer.

Oh, solemn, sad, and slow, rose the stern voice of Munroe,
And he curst the curse of Babylon the Whore;
We could not see his face, but a gleam was in its place,
Like the phosphor of the foam upon the shore;
And the eyes of all were dim, as they fixed themselves on him,
And the sea fill'd up the pauses with its roar.

But when, with accents calm, Kilmahoe gave out the psalm,
The sweetness of God's voice upon his tongue,
With one voice we praised the Lord of the fire and of the sword,
And louder than the winter wind it rung;
And across the stars on high went the smoke of tempest by,
And a vapour roll'd around us as we sung.

'Twas terrible to hear our cry rise deep and clear,
Though we could not see the criers of the cry;
But we sang and gript our brands, and touch'd each other's hands,
While a thin sleet smote our faces from the sky;
And sudden, strange and low, hiss'd the voice of Kilmahoe, --
"Grip your weapons! wait in silence! they are nigh!"

And hark'ning, with clench'd teeth, we could hear across the heath,
The trampling of the horses as they flew,
And no man breath'd a breath, but all were still as death,
And close together shivering we drew;
And deeper round us fell all the eyeless gloom of hell,
And the fiend was in among us ere we knew!

Then our battle shriek arose, and the cursing of our foes,
Nor face of friend or foeman could we mark;
But I struck and kept my stand, trusting God to guide my hand,
And struck, and struck, and heard the hell-hounds bark;
And I fell beneath a horse, but I struck with all my force,
And ript him with my reap-hook -- through the dark.

As we struggl'd, knowing not whose hand was at our throat,
Whose blood was spouting warm into our eyes,
We felt the thick snow-drift swoop upon us from the lift,
And murmur in the pauses of our cries;
But, lo! before we wist, rose the curtain of the mist,
And the pale moon shed her sorrow from the skies.

Oh, God! it was a sight to make the hair turn white,
And wither up the heart's blood into woe,
To see the faces loom in the dimly lighted gloom,
And the butcher'd lying bloodily below;
While melting, with no sound, fell so peacefully around
The whiteness and the wonder of the snow!

Ay, and thicker, thicker, pour'd the pale silence of the Lord,
From the hollow of His hand we saw it shed,
And it gather'd round us there, till we groan'd and gasp'd for air,
And beneath was ankle-deep and stained red;
And soon, whatever wight was smitten down in fight,
We buried in the drift ere he was dead.

Then we beheld, at length, the troopers in their strength,
For faster, faster, faster, up they stream'd,
And their pistols flashing bright, show'd their faces ashen white,
And their blue steel caught the driving moon, and gleam'd;
But a dying voice cried -- "Fly!" and behold, e'en at the cry,
A panic fell upon us and we scream'd!

Then we fled! -- the darkness grew! -- 'mid the driving cold we flew
Each alone, yea, each for those whom he held dear;
And I heard upon the wind the thud of hoofs behind,
And the scream of those who perish'd in their fear;
But I knew by heart each path through the darkness of the strath,
And I hid myself all day, and -- I am here!





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