Poem of the day

The Massacre of Glencoe
by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
George Thomson commission Beethoven to compose a setting for this poem. Here is a recording by Richard Dyer-Bennet.

“O, Tell me, Harper, wherefore flow
Thy wayward notes of wail and woe
Far down the desert of Glencoe,
      Where none may list their melody?
Say, harp’st thou to the mists 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 wildwood deep, nor mountain gray,
Not this deep dell, that shrouds from day,
      Could screen from treach’rous cruelty.

“Their flag was furled, and mute their drum,
The very household dogs were dumb,
Unwont to bay at guests that come
      In guise of hospitality.
His blithest notes the piper plied,
Her gayest snood the maiden tied,
The dame her distaff flung aside,
      To tend her kindly housewifery.

“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 warmed that hand
At midnight armed it with the brand,
That bade destruction’s flames expand
      Their red and fearful blazonry.

“Then woman’s shriek was heard in vain,
Nor infancy’s unpitied plain,
More than the warrior’s groan, could gain
      Respite from ruthless butchery!
The winter wind that whistled shrill,
The snows that night that cloaked the hill,
Though wild and pitiless, had still
      Far more than Southern clemency.

“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 gray-haired master’s misery.
Were each gray hair a minstrel string,
Each chord should imprecations fling,
Till startled Scotland loud should ring,
      ‘Revenge for blood and treachery!’”

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