Ballads

Page 16

Out over cairn and moss, Out over scrog and scaur, He ran as runs the clansman That bears the cross of war. His heart beat in his body, His hair clove to his face, When he came at last in the gloaming To the dead man's brother's place. The east was white with the moon, The west with the sun was red, And there, in the house-doorway, Stood the brother of the dead.

"I have slain a man to my danger, I have slain a man to my death. I put my soul in your hands," The panting Stewart saith. "I lay it bare in your hands, For I know your hands are leal; And be you my targe and bulwark From the bullet and the steel."

Then up and spoke the Cameron, And gave him his hand again: "There shall never a man in Scotland Set faith in me in vain; And whatever man you have slaughtered, Of whatever name or line, By my sword and yonder mountain, I make your quarrel mine. {3a} I bid you in to my fireside, I share with you house and hall; It stands upon my honour To see you safe from all."

It fell in the time of midnight, When the fox barked in the den And the plaids were over the faces In all the houses of men, That as the living Cameron Lay sleepless on his bed, Out of the night and the other world, Came in to him the dead.

"My blood is on the heather, My bones are on the hill; There is joy in the home of ravens That the young shall eat their fill. My blood is poured in the dust, My soul is spilled in the air; And the man that has undone me Sleeps in my brother's care."

"I'm wae for your death, my brother, But if all of my house were dead, I couldnae withdraw the plighted hand, Nor break the word once said."

"O, what shall I say to our father, In the place to which I fare? O, what shall I say to our mother, Who greets to see me there? And to all the kindly Camerons That have lived and died long-syne - Is this the word you send them, Fause-hearted brother mine?"

"It's neither fear nor duty, It's neither quick nor dead Shall gar me withdraw the plighted hand, Or break the word once said."

Thrice in the time of midnight, When the fox barked in the den, And the plaids were over the faces In all the houses of men, Thrice as the living Cameron Lay sleepless on his bed, Out of the night and the other world Came in to him the dead, And cried to him for vengeance On the man that laid him low; And thrice the living Cameron Told the dead Cameron, no.

"Thrice have you seen me, brother, But now shall see me no more, Till you meet your angry fathers Upon the farther shore. Thrice have I spoken, and now, Before the cock be heard, I take my leave for ever With the naming of a word. It shall sing in your sleeping ears, It shall hum in your waking head, The name--Ticonderoga, And the warning of the dead."

Now when the night was over And the time of people's fears, The Cameron walked abroad, And the word was in his ears. "Many a name I know, But never a name like this; O, where shall I find a skilly man Shall tell me what it is?" With many a man he counselled Of high and low degree, With the herdsmen on the mountains And the fishers of the sea. And he came and went unweary, And read the books of yore, And the runes that were written of old On stones upon the moor. And many a name he was told, But never the name of his fears - Never, in east or west, The name that rang in his ears: Names of men and of clans; Names for the grass and the tree, For the smallest tarn in the mountains, The smallest reef in the sea: Names for the high and low, The names of the craig and the flat; But in all the land of Scotland, Never a name like that.

II. THE SEEKING OF THE NAME

And now there was speech in the south, And a man of the south that was wise, A periwig'd lord of London, {3b} Called on the clans to rise. And the riders rode, and the summons Came to the western shore, To the land of the sea and the heather, To Appin and Mamore. It called on all to gather From every scrog and scaur, That loved their fathers' tartan And the ancient game of war.

Ballads Page 17

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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