Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DIRGE OF WALLACE, by THOMAS CAMPBELL

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DIRGE OF WALLACE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: They lighted a taper at the dead of night
Last Line: A nobler was never embalmed!
Subject(s): Wallace, Sir William (1270-1305)

THEY lighted a taper at the dead of night,
And chanted their holiest hymn;
But her brow and her bosom were damp with affright --
Her eye was all sleepless and dim!
And the lady of Elderslie wept for her lord,
When a death-watch beat in her lonely room,
When her curtain had shook of its own accord,
And the raven had flapped at her window-board --
To tell of her warrior's doom.

"Now, sing ye the death-song, and loudly pray
For the soul of my knight so dear;
And call me a widow this wretched day,
Since the warning of God is here.
For a nightmare rides on my strangled sleep: --
The lord of my bosom is doomed to die;
His valorous heart they have wounded deep;
And the blood-red tears shall his country weep
For Wallace of Elderslie!"

Yet knew not his country that ominous hour,
Ere the loud matin bell was rung,
That a trumpet of death on an English tower
Had the dirge of her champion sung!
When his dungeon light looked dim and red
On the high-born blood of a martyr slain,
No anthem was sung at his holy death-bed;
No weeping there was when his bosom bled --
And his heart was rent in twain!

Oh, it was not thus when his oaken spear
Was true to that knight forlorn,
And hosts of a thousand were scattered, like deer
At the blast of the hunter's horn;
When he strode on the wreck of each well-fought field
With the yellow-haired chiefs of his native land;
For his lance was not shivered on helmet or shield --
And the sword that seemed fit for Archangel to wield
Was light in his terrible hand!

Yet bleeding and bound, though the Wallace wight
For his long-loved country die,
The bugle ne'er sung to a braver knight
Than William of Elderslie!
But the day of his glory shall never depart;
His head unentombed shall with glory be palmed:
From its blood streaming altar his spirit shall start;
Though the raven has fed on his mouldering heart,
A nobler was never embalmed!

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