Ballads

Page 17

And down the watery valley And up the windy hill, Once more, as in the olden, The pipes were sounding shrill; Again in highland sunshine The naked steel was bright; And the lads, once more in tartan Went forth again to fight.

"O, why should I dwell here With a weird upon my life, When the clansmen shout for battle And the war-swords clash in strife? I cannae joy at feast, I cannae sleep in bed, For the wonder of the word And the warning of the dead. It sings in my sleeping ears, It hums in my waking head, The name--Ticonderoga, The utterance of the dead. Then up, and with the fighting men To march away from here, Till the cry of the great war-pipe Shall drown it in my ear!"

Where flew King George's ensign The plaided soldiers went: They drew the sword in Germany, In Flanders pitched the tent. The bells of foreign cities Rang far across the plain: They passed the happy Rhine, They drank the rapid Main. Through Asiatic jungles The Tartans filed their way, And the neighing of the war-pipes Struck terror in Cathay. {3c}

"Many a name have I heard," he thought, "In all the tongues of men, Full many a name both here and there. Full many both now and then. When I was at home in my father's house In the land of the naked knee, Between the eagles that fly in the lift And the herrings that swim in the sea, And now that I am a captain-man With a braw cockade in my hat - Many a name have I heard," he thought, "But never a name like that."

III. THE PLACE OF THE NAME

There fell a war in a woody place, Lay far across the sea, A war of the march in the mirk midnight And the shot from behind the tree, The shaven head and the painted face, The silent foot in the wood, In a land of a strange, outlandish tongue That was hard to be understood.

It fell about the gloaming The general stood with his staff, He stood and he looked east and west With little mind to laugh. "Far have I been and much have I seen, And kent both gain and loss, But here we have woods on every hand And a kittle water to cross. Far have I been and much have I seen, But never the beat of this; And there's one must go down to that waterside To see how deep it is."

It fell in the dusk of the night When unco things betide, The skilly captain, the Cameron, Went down to that waterside. Canny and soft the captain went; And a man of the woody land, With the shaven head and the painted face, Went down at his right hand. It fell in the quiet night, There was never a sound to ken; But all of the woods to the right and the left Lay filled with the painted men.

"Far have I been and much have I seen, Both as a man and boy, But never have I set forth a foot On so perilous an employ." It fell in the dusk of the night When unco things betide, That he was aware of a captain-man Drew near to the waterside. He was aware of his coming Down in the gloaming alone; And he looked in the face of the man And lo! the face was his own. "This is my weird," he said, "And now I ken the worst; For many shall fall the morn, But I shall fall with the first. O, you of the outland tongue, You of the painted face, This is the place of my death; Can you tell me the name of the place?" "Since the Frenchmen have been here They have called it Sault-Marie; But that is a name for priests, And not for you and me. It went by another word," Quoth he of the shaven head: "It was called Ticonderoga In the days of the great dead."

And it fell on the morrow's morning, In the fiercest of the fight, That the Cameron bit the dust As he foretold at night; And far from the hills of heather Far from the isles of the sea, He sleeps in the place of the name As it was doomed to be.

NOTES TO TICONDEROGA

INTRODUCTION.--I first heard this legend of my own country from that friend of men of letters, Mr. Alfred Nutt, "there in roaring London's central stream," and since the ballad first saw the light of day in Scribner's Magazine, Mr. Nutt and Lord Archibald Campbell have been in public controversy on the facts.

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Robert Louis Stevenson

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