[Lord Nithsdale, as is well known, was
condemned to death for
his participation in the Rebellion of 1715. By the exertions of
his true-hearted wife, Winifred, he was enabled to escape from
the Tower of London on the night before the morning appointed
for his execution. The lady herself--noble soul!--has related,
in simple and touching language, in a letter to her sister, the
whole circumstances of her lord's escape. The letter is
preserved in the Appendix to "Cromek's Remains of Nithsdale and
Galloway Song," page 313 to 329--London, 1810.]
"Farewell to thee, Winifred, dearest and best!
Farewell to thee, wife of a courage so high!--
Come hither, and nestle again in my breast,
Come hither, and kiss me again ere I die!--
And when I am laid bleeding and low in the dust,
And yield my last breath at a tyrant's decree,
Look up--be resign'd--and the God of the just
Will shelter thy fatherless bairnies and thee!"
She wept on his breast, but, ashamed of her tears,
She dash'd off the drops that ran warm down her cheek;
"Be sorrow for those who have leisure for tears--
O pardon thy wife that her soul was so weak!
There is hope for us still, and I will not despair,
Though cowards and traitors exult at thy fate;
I'll show the oppressors what woman can dare,
I'll show them that love can be stronger than hate!"
Lip to lip, heart to heart, and their fond arms entwined,
He has kiss'd her again, and again, and again;
"Farewell to thee, Winifred, pride of thy kind,
Sole ray in my darkness, sole joy in my pain!"
She has gone--he has heard the last sound of her tread;
He has caught the last glimpse of her robes at the door;--
She has gone, and the joy that her presence had shed,
May cheer the sad heart of Lord Nithsdale no more.
And the prisoner pray'd in his dungeon alone,
And thought of the morn and its dreadful array,
Then rested his head on his pillow of stone,
And slumber'd an hour ere the dawning of day.
Oh, balm of the Weary! Oh, soother of pain!
That still to the sad givest pity and dole;
How gently, oh sleep! lay thy wings on his brain,
How sweet were thy dreams to his desolate soul!
Once more on his green native braes of the Nith,
He pluck'd the wild bracken, a frolicsome boy;
He sported his limbs in the waves of the Frith;
He trod the green heather in gladness and joy;--
On his gallant grey steed to the hunting he rode,
In his bonnet a plume, on his bosom a star;
He chased the red deer to its mountain abode,
And track'd the wild roe to its covert afar.
The vision was changed. In a midsummer night
He roam'd with his Winifred, blooming and young;
He gazed on her face by the moon's mellow light,
And loving and warm were the words on his tongue.
Thro' good and thro' evil, he swore to be true,
And love through all fortune his Winnie alone;
And he saw the red blush o'er her cheek as it flew,
And heard her sweet voice that replied to his own.
Once more it has changed. In his martial array,
Lo, he rides at the head of his gallant young men!
And the pibroch is heard on the hills far away,
And the clans are all gather'd from mountain and glen.
For exiled King Jamie, their darling and lord,
They raise the loud slogan--they rush to the war.
The tramp of the battle resounds on the sward--
Unfurl'd is the banner--unsheath'd the claymore!
The vision has fled like a sparkle of light,
And dark is the dream that possesses him now;
The morn of his doom has succeeded the night,
And the damp dews of death gather fast on his brow.
He hears in the distance a faint muffled drum,
And the low sullen boom of the death-tolling bell;
The block is prepared, and the headsman is come,
And the victim, bareheaded, walks forth from his cell.--
No! No! 'twas a vision! his hour was not yet,
And waking, he turn'd on his pallet of straw,
And a form by his side he could never forget,
By the pale misty light of a taper he saw.
"'Tis I! 'tis thy Winifred!"--softly she said,
"Arouse thee, and follow--be bold, never fear!
There was danger abroad, but my errand has sped,
I promised to save thee--and lo I am here!"
He rose at the summons, and little they spoke,
The gear of a lady she placed on his head;
She cover'd his limbs with a womanly cloak,
And painted his cheeks of a maidenly red.
"One kiss, my dear lord, and begone!--and beware!
Walk softly--I follow!" Oh guide them, and save,
From the open assault, from the intricate snare,
Thou, Providence, friend of the good and the brave!
They have pass'd unsuspected the guard at the cell,
And the sentinel band that keep watch at the gate;
One peril remains--it is past--all is well!
They are free; and her love has proved stronger than hate.
They are gone--who shall follow?--their ship's on the brine,
And they sail unpursued to a far friendly shore,
Where love and content at their hearth may entwine,
And the warfare of kingdoms divide them no more.