Rob Roy’s Grave
by William Wordsworth (1770-2850)
A FAMOUS man is Robin Hood,
The English ballad-singer’s joy!
And Scotland has a thief as good,
An outlaw of as daring mood;
She has her brave ROB ROY!
Then clear the weeds from off his Grave,
And let us chant a passing stave,
In honour of that Hero brave!
Heaven gave Rob Roy a dauntless heart
And wondrous length and strength of arm:
Nor craved he more to quell his foes,
Or keep his friends from harm.
Yet was Rob Roy as wise as brave;
Forgive me if the phrase be strong;—
A Poet worthy of Rob Roy
Must scorn a timid song.
Say, then, that he was wise as brave;
As wise in thought as bold in deed:
For in the principles of things
He sought his moral creed.
Said generous Rob, “What need of books?
Burn all the statutes and their shelves:
They stir us up against our kind;
And worse, against ourselves.
“We have a passion — make a law,
Too false to guide us or control!
And for the law itself we fight
In bitterness of soul.
“And, puzzled, blinded thus, we lose
Distinctions that are plain and few:
These find I graven on my heart:
That tells me what to do.
“The creatures see of flood and field,
And those that travel on the wind!
With them no strife can last; they live
In peace, and peace of mind.
“For why? — because the good old rule
Sufficeth them, the simple plan,
That they should take, who have the power,
And they should keep who can.
“A lesson that is quickly learned,
A signal this which all can see!
Thus nothing here provokes the strong
To wanton cruelty.
“All freakishness of mind is checked;
He tamed, who foolishly aspires;
While to the measure of his might
Each fashions his desires.
“All kinds, and creatures, stand and fall
By strength of prowess or of wit:
’Tis God’s appointment who must sway,
And who is to submit.
“Since, then, the rule of right is plain,
And longest life is but a day;
To have my ends, maintain my rights,
I’ll take the shortest way.”
And thus among these rocks he lived,
Through summer heat and winter snow:
The Eagle, he was lord above,
And Rob was lord below.
So was it — would, at least, have been
But through untowardness of fate;
For Polity was then too strong —
He came an age too late;
Or shall we say an age too soon?
For, were the bold Man living now,
How might he flourish in his pride,
With buds on every bough!
Then rents and factors, rights of chase,
Sheriffs, and lairds and their domains,
Would all have seemed but paltry things,
Not worth a moment’s pains.
Rob Roy had never lingered here,
To these few meagre Vales confined;
But thought how wide the world, the times
How fairly to his mind!
And to his Sword he would have said,
Do Thou my sovereign will enact
From land to land through half the earth!
Judge thou of law and fact!
“ ’Tis fit that we should do our part,
Becoming, that mankind should learn
That we are not to be surpassed
In fatherly concern.
“Of old things all are over old,
Of good things none are good enough: —
We’ll show that we can help to frame
A world of other stuff.
“I, too, will have my kings that take
From me the sign of life and death:
Kingdoms shall shift about, like clouds,
Obedient to my breath.”
And, if the word had been fulfilled,
As might have been, then, thought of joy!
France would have had her present Boast,
And we our own Rob Roy!
Oh! say not so; compare them not;
I would not wrong thee, Champion brave!
Would wrong thee nowhere; least of all
Here standing by thy grave.
For Thou, although with some wild thoughts,
Wild Chieftain of a savage Clan!
Hadst this to boast of; thou didst love
The liberty of man.
And, had it been thy lot to live
With us who now behold the light,
Thou would’st have nobly stirred thyself,
And battled for the Right.
For thou wert still the poor man’s stay,
The poor man’s heart, the poor man’s hand;
And all the oppressed, who wanted strength,
Had thine at their command.
Bear witness many a pensive sigh
Of thoughtful Herdsman when he strays
Alone upon Loch Veol’s heights,
And by Loch Lomond’s braes!
And, far and near, through vale and hill,
Are faces that attest the same;
The proud heart flashing through the eyes,
At sound of ROB ROY’S name.