Saturday, February 13, 2010

Massacre at Glencoe

The massacre of the MacDonald clan by Campbell forces occurred on February 13, 1694.  The massacre was formally ordered by the Earl of Stair, but John Prebble points out that this incident can be viewed as part of a long civil war between  Clans Donald and Campbell.  At least 38 MacDonalds died in the slayings, which began at 5AM while the MacDonalds were sleeping.

Walter Scott covers the massacre in "The Lyrics and Ballads of Sir Walter Scott".  Here, Scott references Thomas Babington Macaulay, who attempts to justify King William III's character for his ordering the "extirpation of
that sept of thieves" (article four of the King's instructions to the commander-in-chief).  Also John Paget's refutation.

' 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 wild-wood deep, nor mountain grey,
Not this deep dell, that shrouds from day,
Could screen from treach'rous cruelty.
'Their flag was furl'd, 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 warm'd that hand
At midnight arm'd 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 cloked 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 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 !"'

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