We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.
I stood upon the Plain,
That had trembled when the slain,
Hurled their proud defiant curses at the battle-hearted foe,
When the steed dashed right and left
Through the bloody gaps he cleft,
When the bridle-rein was broken, and the rider was laid low.
What busy feet had trod
Upon the very sod
Where I marshalled the battalions of my fancy to my aid!
And I saw the combat dire,
Heard the quick, incessant fire,
And the cannons’ echoes startling the reverberating glade.
I saw them one and all,
The banners of the Gaul
In the thickest of the contest, round the resolute Montcalm;
The well-attended Wolfe,
Emerging from the gulf
Of the battle’s fiery furnace, like the swelling of a psalm.
I head the chorus dire,
That jarred along the lyre
On which the hymn of battle rung, like surgings of the wave
When the storm, at blackest night,
Wakes the ocean in affright,
As it shouts its mighty pibroch o’er some shipwrecked vessel’s grave.
I saw the broad claymore
Flash from its scabbard, o’er
The ranks that quailed and shuddered at the close and fierce attack;
When Victory gave the word,
Then Scotland drew the sword,
And with arm that never faltered drove the brave defenders back.
I saw two great chiefs die,
Their last breaths like the sigh
Of the zepher-sprite that wantons on the rosy lips of morn;
No envy-poisoned darts,
No rancour in their hearts,
To unfit them for their triumph over death’s impending scorn.
And as I thought and gazed,
My soul, exultant, praised
The Power to whom each mighty act and victory are due,
For the saint-like Peace that smiled
Like a heaven-gifted child,
And for the air of quietude that steeped the distant view.
The sun looked down with pride,
And scattered far and wide
His beams of whitest glory till they flooded all the Plain;
The hills their veils withdrew,
Of white, and purplish blue,
And reposed all green and smiling ‘neath the shower of golden rain.
Oh, rare, divinest life
Of Peace, compared with Strife!
Yours is the truest splendour, and the most enduring fame;
All the glory ever reaped
Where the fiends of battle leaped,
Is harsh discord to the music of your undertoned acclaim.