SELECTED POETRY OF JAMES GRAHAM, MARQUIS OF MONTROSE (1612-1650)
Montrose himself was a fine man of letters, of a definite
metaphysical persuasion, whilst some of his admirers were rather less talented! Two poems
by Montrose are included below, as well as a couple more by less noble observers
of his sad demise:
My dear and only Love, I pray
This noble world of thee
Be govern'd by no other sway
But purest monarchy;
For if confusion have a part,
Which virtuous souls abhor,
And hold a synod in thy heart,
I'll never love thee more.
Like Alexander I will reign,
And I will reign alone,
My thoughts shall evermore disdain
A rival on my throne.
He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.
But I must rule and govern still,
And always give the law,
And have each subject at my will,
And all to stand in awe.
But 'gainst my battery, if I find
Thou shunn'st the prize so sore
As that thou sett'st me up a blind,
I'll never love thee more.
Or in the empire of thy heart,
Where I should solely be,
Another do pretend a part
And dares to vie with me;
Or if committees thou erect,
And go on such a score,
I'll sing and laugh at thy neglect,
And never love thee more.
But if thou wilt be constant then,
And faithful of thy word,
I'll make thee glorious by my pen
And famous by my sword:
I'll serve thee in such noble ways
Was never heard before;
I'll crown and deck thee all with bays,
And love thee evermore.
Let them bestow on ev'ry airth a limb;
Open all my veins, that I may swim
To Thee, my Saviour, in that crimson lake;
Then place my parboil'd head upon a stake,
Scatter my ashes, throw them in the air:
Lord (since Thou know'st where all these atoms are)
I'm hopeful once Thou'lt recollect my dust,
And confident thou'lt raise me with the just.
The Execution of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose:
An Historical Poem (McGonagall)
'TWAS in the year of 1650, and on the twenty-first of May,
The city of Edinburgh was put into a state of dismay
By the noise of drums and trumpets, which on the air arose,
That the great sound attracted the notice of Montrose.
Who enquired at the Captain of the guard the cause of it,
Then the officer told him, as he thought most fit,
That the Parliament dreading an attempt might be made to rescue him,
The soldiers were called out to arms, and that had made the din.
Do I, said Montrose, continue such a terror still?
Now when these good men are about my blood to spill,
But let them look to themselves, for after I am dead,
Their wicked consciences will be in continual dread.
After partaking of a hearty breakfast, he commenced his toilet,
Which, in his greatest trouble, he seldom did forget.
And while in the act of combing his hair,
He was visited by the Clerk Register, who made him stare,
When he told him he shouldn't be so particular with his head,
For in a few hours he would be dead;
But Montrose replied, While my head is my own I'll dress it at my ease,
And to-morrow, when it becomes yours, treat it as you please.
He was waited upon by the Magistrates of the city,
But, alas! for him they had no pity.
He was habited in a superb cloak, ornamented with gold and silver lace;
And before the hour of execution an immense assemblage of people were round the
From the prison, bareheaded, in a cart, they conveyed him along the Watergate
To the place of execution on the High Street, where about thirty thousand people
Some crying and sighing, a most pitiful sight to see,
All waiting patiently to see the executioner hang Montrose, a man of high
Around the place of execution, all of them were deeply affected,
But Montrose, the noble hero, seemed not the least dejected;
And when on the scaffold he had, says his biographer Wishart,
Such a grand air and majesty, which made the people start.
As the fatal hour was approaching when he had to bid the world adieu,
He told the executioner to make haste and get quickly through,
But the executioner smiled grimly, but spoke not a word,
Then he tied the Book of Montrose's Wars round his neck with a cord.
Then he told the executioner his foes would remember him hereafter,
And he was as well pleased as if his Majesty had made him Knight of the Garter;
Then he asked to be allowed to cover his head,
But he was denied permission, yet he felt no dread.
He then asked leave to keep on his cloak,
But was also denied, which was a most grievous stroke;
Then he told the Magistrates, if they could invent any more tortures for him,
He would endure them all for the cause he suffered, and think it no sin.
On arriving at the top of the ladder with great firmness,
His heroic appearance greatly did the bystanders impress,
Then Montrose asked the executioner how long his body would be suspended,
Three hours was the answer, but Montrose was not the least offended.
Then he presented the executioner with three or four pieces of gold,
Whom he freely forgave, to his honour be it told,
And told him to throw him off as soon as he uplifted his hands,
While the executioner watched the fatal signal, and in amazement stands.
And on the noble patriot raising his hands, the executioner began to cry,
Then quickly he pulled the rope down from the gibbet on high,
And around Montrose's neck he fixed the rope very gently,
And in an instant the great Montrose was launched into eternity.
Then the spectators expressed their disapprobation by general groan,
And they all dispersed quietly, and wended their way home
And his bitterest enemies that saw his death that day,
Their hearts were filled with sorrow and dismay.
Thus died, at the age of thirty-eight, James Graham, Marquis of Montrose,
Who was brought to a premature grave by his bitter foes;
A commander who had acquired great military glory
In a short space of time, which cannot be equalled in story.
The Execution Of Montrose
COME hither, Evan Cameron!
Come, stand beside my knee:
I hear the river roaring down
Towards the wintry sea.
There ’s shouting on the mountain-side,
There ’s war within the blast;
Old faces look upon me,
Old forms go trooping past:
I hear the pibroch wailing
Amidst the din of fight,
And my dim spirit wakes again
Upon the verge of night.
’T was I that led the Highland host
Through wild Lochaber’s snows,
What time the plaided clans came down
To battle with Montrose.
I ’ve told thee how the Southrons fell
Beneath the broad claymore,
And how we smote the Campbell clan
By Inverlochy’s shore.
I ’ve told thee how we swept Dundee,
And tam’d the Lindsays’ pride;
But never have I told thee yet
How the great Marquis died.
A traitor sold him to his foes;
O deed of deathless shame!
I charge thee, boy, if e’er thou meet
With one of Assynt’s name—
Be it upon the mountain’s side,
Or yet within the glen,
Stand he in martial gear alone,
Or back’d by armed men—
Face him, as thou wouldst face the man
Who wrong’d thy sire’s renown;
Remember of what blood thou art,
And strike the caitiff down!
They brought him to the Watergate,
Hard bound with hempen span,
As though they held a lion there,
And not a fenceless man.
They set him high upon a cart,
The hangman rode below,
They drew his hands behind his back
And bar’d his noble brow.
Then, as a hound is slipp’d from leash,
They cheer’d the common throng,
And blew the note with yell and shout
And bade him pass along.
It would have made a brave man’s heart
Grow sad and sick that day,
To watch the keen malignant eyes
Bent down on that array.
There stood the Whig west-country lords,
In balcony and bow;
There sat their gaunt and wither’d dames,
And their daughters all a-row.
And every open window
Was full as full might be
With black-rob’d Covenanting carles,
That goodly sport to see!
But when he came, though pale and wan,
He look’d so great and high,
So noble was his manly front,
So calm his steadfast eye,
The rabble rout forbore to shout,
And each man held his breath,
For well they knew the hero’s soul
Was face to face with death.
And then a mournful shudder
Through all the people crept,
And some that came to scoff at him
Now turn’d aside and wept.
But onwards—always onwards,
In silence and in gloom,
The dreary pageant labor’d,
Till it reach’d the house of doom.
Then first a woman’s voice was heard
In jeer and laughter loud,
And an angry cry and a hiss arose
From the heart of the tossing crowd:
Then as the Graeme look’d upwards,
He saw the ugly smile
Of him who sold his king for gold,
The master-fiend Argyle!
The Marquis gaz’d a moment,
And nothing did he say,
But the cheek of Argyle grew ghastly pale
And he turn’d his eyes away.
The painted harlot by his side,
She shook through every limb,
For a roar like thunder swept the street,
And hands were clench’d at him;
And a Saxon soldier cried aloud,
“Back, coward, from thy place!
For seven long years thou hast not dar’d
To look him in the face.”
Had I been there with sword in hand,
And fifty Camerons by,
That day through high Dunedin’s streets
Had peal’d the slogan-cry.
Not all their troops of trampling horse,
Nor might of mailed men,
Not all the rebels in the south
Had borne us backwards then!
Once more his foot on Highland heath
Had trod as free as air,
Or I, and all who bore my name,
Been laid around him there!
It might not be. They placed him next
Within the solemn hall,
Where once the Scottish kings were thron’d
Amidst their nobles all.
But there was dust of vulgar feet
On that polluted floor,
And perju’d traitors fill’d the place
Where good men sate before.
With savage glee came Warristoun
To read the murderous doom;
And then uprose the great Montrose
In the middle of the room.
“Now, by my faith as belted knight,
And by the name I bear,
And by the bright Saint Andrew’s cross
That waves above us there,
Yea, by a greater, mightier oath—
And oh, that such should be!
By that dark stream of royal blood
That lies ’twixt you and me,
I have not sought in battle-field
A wreath of such renown,
Nor dar’d I hope on my dying day
To win the martyr’s crown!
“There is a chamber far away
Where sleep the good and brave,
But a better place ye have nam’d for me
Than by my father’s grave.
For truth and right, ’gainst treason’s might,
This hand hath always striven,
And ye raise it up for a witness still
In the eye of earth and heaven.
Then nail my head on yonder tower,
Give every town a limb,
And God who made shall gather them:
I go from you to Him!”
The morning dawn’d full darkly,
The rain came flashing down,
And the jagged streak of the levin-bolt
Lit up the gloomy town:
The thunder crash’d across the heaven,
The fatal hour was come;
Yet aye broke in with muffled beat
The ’larum of the drum.
There was madness on the earth below
And anger in the sky,
And young and old, and rich and poor,
Came forth to see him die.
Ah, God! that ghastly gibbet!
How dismal ’t is to see
The great tall spectral skeleton,
The ladder and the tree!
Hark! hark! it is the clash of arms—
The bells begin to toll—
“He is coming! he is coming!
God’s mercy on his soul!”
One last long peal of thunder:
The clouds are clear’d away,
And the glorious sun once more looks down
Amidst the dazzling day.
“He is coming! he is coming!”
Like a bridegroom from his room,
Came the hero from his prison
To the scaffold and the doom.
There was glory on his forehead,
There was lustre in his eye,
And he never walk’d to battle
More proudly than to die:
There was color in his visage,
Though the cheeks of all were wan,
And they marvell’d as they saw him pass,
That great and goodly man!
He mounted up the scaffold,
And he turn’d him to the crowd;
But they dar’d not trust the people,
So he might not speak aloud.
But he look’d upon the heavens,
And they were clear and blue,
And in the liquid ether
The eye of God shone through;
Yet a black and murky battlement
Lay resting on the hill,
As though the thunder slept within—
All else was clam and still.
The grim Geneva ministers
With anxious scowl drew near,
As you have seen the ravens flock
Around the dying deer.
He would not deign them word nor sign,
But alone he bent the knee,
And veil’d his face for Christ’s dear grace
Beneath the gallows-tree.
Then radiant and serene he rose,
And cast his cloak away:
For he had ta’en his latest look
Of earth and sun and day.
A beam of light fell o’er him,
Like a glory round the shriven,
And he climb’d the lofty ladder
As it were the path to heaven.
Then came a flash from out the cloud,
And a stunning thunder-roll;
And no man dar’d to look aloft,
For fear was on every soul.
There was another heavy sound,
A hush and then a groan;
And darkness swept across the sky—
The work of death was done!
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