The Island Of The Scots

I.

The Rhine is running deep and red,
The island lies before-
'Now is there one of all the host
Will dare to venture o'er?
For not alone the river's sweep
Might make a brave man quail:
The foe are on the further side,
Their shot comes fast as hail.
God help us, if the middle isle
We may not hope to win!
Now, is there any of the host
Will dare to venture in?'

II.

'The ford is deep, the banks are steep,
The island-shore lies wide:
Nor man nor horse could stem its force,
Or reach the further side.
See there! amidst the willow boughs
The serried bayonets gleam;
They've flung their bridge-they've won the isle;
The foe have crossed the stream!
Their volley flashes sharp and strong-
By all the Saints, I trow,
There never yet was soldier born
Could force that passage now!'

III

So spoke the bold French Mareschal
With him who led the van,
Whilst rough and red before their view
The turbid river ran.
Nor bridge nor boat had they to cross
The wild and swollen Rhine,
And thundering on the other bank
Far stretched the German line.
Hard by there stood a swarthy man
Was leaning on his sword,
And a saddened smile lit up his face
As he heard the Captain's word.
'I've seen a wilder stream ere now
Than that which rushes there;
I've stemmed a heavier torrent yet
And never thought to dare.
If German steel be sharp and keen,
Is ours not strong and true?
There may be danger in the deed,
But there is honour too.'

IV.

The old lord in his saddle turned,
And hastily he said-
'Hath bold Dugueselin's fiery heart
Awakened from the dead?
Thou art the leader of the Scots-
Now well and sure I know,
That gentle blood in dangerous hour
Ne'er yet ran cold nor slow,
And I have seen ye in the fight
Do all that mortal may:
If honour is the boon ye seek
It may be won this day.
The prize is in the middle isle,
There lies the venturous way;
And armies twain are on the plain,
The daring deed to see-
Now ask thy gallant company
If they will follow thee!'

V.

Right gladsome looked the Captain then,
And nothing did he say,
But he turned him to his little band-
Oh few, I ween, were they!
The relics of the bravest force
That ever fought in fray.
No one of all that company
But bore a gentle name,
Not one whose fathers had not stood
In Scotland's fields of fame.
All they had marched with great Dundee
To where he fought and fell,
And in the deadly battle-strife
Had venged their leader well;
And they had bent the knee to earth
When every eye was dim,
As o'er their hero's buried corpse
They sang the funeral hymn;
And they had trod the Pass once more,
And stooped on either side
To pluck the heather from the spot
Where he had dropped and died;
And they had bound it next their hearts,
And ta'en a last farewell
Of Scottish earth and Scottish sky,
Where Scotland's glory fell.
Then went they forth to foreign lands
Like bent and broken men,
Who leave their dearest hope behind,
And may not turn again!

VI.

'The stream,' he said, 'is broad and deep,
And stubborn is the foe-
Yon island-strength is guarded well-
Say, brothers, will ye go?
From home and kin for many a year
Our steps have wandered wide,
And never may our bones be laid
Our fathers' graves beside.
No sisters have we to lament,
No wives to wail our fall;
The traitor's and the spoiler's hand
Have reft our hearths of all.
But we have hearts, and we have arms
As strong to will and dare
As when our ancient banners flew
Within the northern air.
Come, brothers; let me name a spell
Shall rouse your souls again,
And send the old blood bounding free
Through pulse, and heart, and vein!
Call back the days of bygone years-
Be young and strong once more;
Think yonder stream, so stark and red,
Is one we've crossed before.
Rise, hill and glen! rise, crag and wood!
Rise up on either hand-
Again upon the Garry's banks,
On Scottish soil we stand!
Again I see the tartans wave,
Again the trumpets ring;
Again I hear our leader's call-
'Upon them, for the King!'
Stayed we behind that glorious day
For roaring flood or linn?
The soul of Græme is with us still-
Now, brothers! will ye in?'

VII.

No stay-no pause. With one accord
They grasped each others' hand,
And plunged into the angry flood,
That bold and dauntless band.
High flew the spray ab
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"The Island Of The Scots" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 Mar. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/40416/the-island-of-the-scots>.

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