Traditional Scottish Songs
- The Exile of Cluny



The chief of the Macphersons of Cluny, Ewan of Cluny, raised a force of 400 men to aid Charles Edward Stuart in the Jacobite Uprising of 1745/46. The Macphersons played an active role at the beginning of the rebellion. They were engaged in operation in Atholl, before the Battle of Culloden and Charles was urged to wait for Cluny before engaging the enemy. He did not, so the men of Macpherson took no part in the famous defeat at Culloden. Ewan went into hiding but he was never captured in the nine years he spent in hiding. In 1755 he fled to France, amidst the tears and regrets of a clan that loved him with the fondest devotion. In the song below, Lachlan Macvurich seems to have caught some characteristic traits of his chief including his peaceful dispositions blended with the highest courage in warfare. Macvurich's proper patronymic was Macpherson, though he was also known by his territorial designation of "Strathmassie."


         The Exile of Cluny

Oh, many a true Highlander, many a liegeman,
   Is blank on the roll of the brave in our land;
And bare as its heath is the dark mountain region,
   Of its own and its prince's defenders unmann'd.
The hound's death abhorr'd, some have died by the cord,
   And the axe with the best of our blood is defiled,
And e'en to the visions of hope unrestored,
   Some have gone from among us, for ever exiled.

He is gone from among us, our chieftain of Cluny;
   At the back of the steel, a more valiant ne'er stood;
Our father, our champion, bemoan we, bemoan we!
   In battle, the brilliant; in friendship, the good.
When the sea shut him from us, then the cross of our trial
   Was hung on the mast and was swung in the wind:
"Woe the worth we have sepulchred!" now is the cry all;
   "Save the shade of a memory, is nothing behind."

What symbols may match our brave chief's animation?
   When his wrath was awake, 'twas a furnace in glow;
As a surge on the rock struck his bold indignation,
   As the breach to the wall was his arm to the foe.
So the tempest comes down, when it lends in its fury
   To the frown of its darkness the rattling of hail;
So rushes the land-flood in turmoil and hurry,
   So bickers the hill-flame when fed by the gale.

Yet gentle as Peace was the flower of his race,
   Rare was shade on his face, as dismay in his heart;
The brawl and the scuffle he deem'd a disgrace,
   But the hand to the brand was as ready to start.
Who could grapple with him in firmness of limb
   And sureness of sinew? and for the stout blow
'Twas the scythe to the swathe in the meadows of death,
   Where numbers were levell'd as fast and as low.

Ever loyal to reason, we've seen him appeasing
   With a wave of one hand the confusion of strife;
With the other unsheathing his sword, and, unbreathing,
   Following on for the right in the havoc of life.
To the wants of the helpless, the wail of the weak,
   His hand aye was open, his arm was aye strong;
And under yon sun, not a tongue can bespeak
   His word or his deed that was blemish'd with wrong.

Meaning of unusual words:
swathe = wreath of mist
aye = always

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