On the Massacre of Glencoe
by Sire Walter Scott (1771-1832)
This was set to music by Beethoven. Here is Richard Dyer-Bennet’s rendition
Oh! Tell me, Harper, wherefore flow
Thy wayward notes of wail and woe
Far down the desert of Glencoe,
Where non may list their melody?
Say, harp’st thou to the mist that fly,
Or to the dun deer glancing by,
Or to the eagle, that from high
Screams chorus to thy minstrelsy?
No, not to these, for they have rest,
The mist-wreath has the mountain crest,
The stag his lair, the erne her nest,
Abode of lone security.
But those for whom I pour the lay,
Not wild wood deep, nor mountain grey,
Not this deep dell that shrouds from day
Could screen from treach’rous cruelty.
The hand that mingled in the meal,
At midnight drew the felon steel,
And gave the host’s kind breast to feel,
Meed for his hospitality.
The friendly hearth which warm’d that hand,
At midnight arm’d it with a brand
That bade destruction’s flames expand
Their red and fearful blazonry.
Long have my harp’s best notes been gone,
Few are its strings, and faint their tone,
They can but sound in desert lone
Their grey-hair’d master’s misery.
Were each grey hair a minstrel string,
Each chord should imprecations fling,
’Till startled Scotland loud should ring,
“Revenge for blood and treachery!”