Scottish Poetry Selection
- Jamie Douglas
John Graham of Claverhouse, who later became Viscount Dundee and a supporter of the Jacobite cause, was at the forefront of what became known as the "Killing Time" as the government forces and those who supported the Solemn League and Covenant fought for supremacy. Between 1661 and 1688 it is estimated that 18,000 died both in battles and persecution, creating martyrs and lasting bitterness. Although Graham himself was nicknamed by his opponents as "Bluidy Clavers" and blamed for every atrocity, he actually urged moderation. But propaganda (of which this poem forms a part) painted a different picture.
Jamie Douglas'Twas in the days when Claverhouse was scouring moor and glen,
To shake with fire and bloody sword the faith of Scottish men,
They had made a covenant with the Lord, firm in their faith to bide,
Nor break with Him their plighted word whatever might betide.
The sun was nearly setting, when o'er the heather wild,
And up a narrow mountain-path alone there walked a child.
He was a bonnie, blithesome lad, lithe and strong of limb,
A father's pride and a mother's love were fast bound up in him.
His bright blue eyes glanced fearless round, his step was firm and light.
What was it underneath his plaid his little hands clasped tight?
'Twas the bannocks which that morning his mother had made with care
From out her scanty store of meal, and now, with many a prayer,
Had sent by Jamie, her ain boy, a trusty lad and brave,
To good old Pastor Tammas Roy, now hiding in yon cave;
For whom the bloody Claverhouse had hunted long in vain,
And swore he would not leave that glen, till old Tam Roy was slain.
So Jamie Douglas went his way with heart that knew no fear.
He turned the great curve in the rock nor dreamed that death was near,
But lurking there were Clavers' men, who laughed aloud with glee.
He turned to flee, but all in vain, they drag him back a pace
To where their cruel leader stands, and set them face to face.
The cakes concealed beneath the plaid soon tell the story plain.
" 'Tis old Tam Roy these cakes are for!" exclaimed the angry man.
Boy, guide me to his hiding-place, and I will let you go."
But Jamie shook his yellow curls, and stoutly answered, "No."
"I'll drop you down the mountain cliffs, and there among the stones,
The old gaunt wolf and carrion crow shall battle for your bones; "
And in his brawny strong right hand he lifted up the child,
And held him o'er a clefted rock, a chasm deep and wild
So deep it was, the trees below like willow wands did seem.
The poor boy looked in frightened maze, it seemed some horrid dream.
He looked up to the sky above, and then at the men close by:
Had they no little ones at borne, and could they let him die?
But no one spoke, and no one moved, or lifted hand to save
From such a fearful, awful death, the little lad so brave.
"It's waefu' deep," he shuddering cried, "but, oh !.I canna tell:
Sae drap me doon there if ye will, it's nae sae deep as hell."
A childish scream - a faint, dull sound - oh, Jamie Douglas true!
Long, long within that lonely cave shall Tam Roy wait for you;
And long for your welcome coming waits the mother on the moor,
And watches and cries, " Come, Jamie, lad," through the half-open door.
No more adown the rocky, path you come with fearless tread,
Or on the moor and mountains take the good man's daily bread ;
But up in heaven the shining ones a wondrous story tell,
Of a child snatched up from a rocky gulf that's nae sae deep as hell.
And there before the great white throne, forever blessed and glad,
His mother dear and Auld Tam Roy shall meet their bonnie lad.
Meaning of unusual words:
plaid=a length of woolen cloth
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