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by William Edmondston Aytoun
circa 1857

On the heights of Killiecrankie
Yester-morn our army lay:
Slowly rose the mist in columns
From the river's broken way;
Hoarsely roared the swollen torrent,
And the pass was wrapped in gloom,
When the clansmen rose together
From their lair amidst the broom.
Then we belted on our tartans,
And our bonnets down we drew,
And we felt our broadswords' edges,
And we proved then keen and true;
And we prayed the prayer of soldiers,
And we yelled the gathering-cry,
And we clasped the hands of kinsmen,
And we swore to do or die!
Then our leader rose before us
On his war-horse black as night -
Well the Cameronian rebels
Knew that charger in the fight! -
And a cry of exultation
From the bearded warriors rose;
For we loved the house of Claver'se,
And we thought of good Montrose.
But he raised his hand for silence:
'Soldiers! I have sworn a vow -
Ere the evening star shall glisten
On Schehallion's lofty brow,
Either we shall rest in triumph,
Or another of the Graemes
Shall have died in battle-harness
For his Country and King James!
Strike this day as if the anvil
Lay beneath your blows the while,
Be they covenanting traitors,
Or the brood of false Argyle!
Strike! And drive the trembling rebels
Backwards o'er the stormy Forth;
Let them tell their pale Convention
How they fared within the North.
Let them tell that Highland honour
Is not to be bought nor sold,
That we scorn their prince's anger
As we loathe his foreign gold.
Strike! And when the fight is over,
If ye look in vain for me,
Where the dead are lying thickest,
Search for him that was Dundee!'

Through the scattered wood of birches,
O'er the broken ground and heath,
Wound the long battalion slowly,
Till they gained the field beneath;
Then we bounded from our covert:
Judge how looked the Saxons then,
When they saw the rugged mountain
Start to life with armed men!
Like a tempest down the ridges
Swept the hurricane of steel,
Rose the slogan of MacDonald -
Flashed the broadsword of Lochiel!
Vainly sped the withering volley
'Mongst the foremost of our band -
On we poured until we met them,
Foot to foot, and hand to hand.
Horse and man went down like drift-wood
When the floods are black at Yule,
And their carcasses were whirling
In the Garry's deepest pool,
Horse and man went down before us -
Living foe there tarried none
On the field of Kiliecrankie,
When that stubborn fight was done!
And the evening star was shining
On Schehallion's distant head,
When we wiped our bloody broadswords,
And returned to count the dead.
There we found him gashed and gory,
Stretched upon the cumbered plain,
As he told us where to seek him,
In the thickest of the slain.
And a smile was on his visage,
For within his dying ear
Pealed the joyful note of triumph,
And the clansmen's clamorous cheer:
So, amidst the battle's thunder,
Shot, and steel, and scorching flame,
In the glory of his manhood
Passed the spirit of the Graeme!

Open wide the vaults of Atholl,
Where the bones of heroes rest -
Open wide the hallowed portals
To receive another guest!
Last of Scots, and last of freemen -
Last of all that dauntless race
Who would rather die unsullied
Than outlive the land's disgrace!

Editor's NoteEither from Aytoun's 1849 "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers & Other Poems" or his 1857/8 "The Ballads of Scotland."