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Poems by Charles MacKay
The Canadian Highlander


Posthumously published in 1890.
A poem by Charles Mackay, LLD., [1814-1889]

Thanks to my sires, I'm Highland born,
And trod the moorland and the heather
Since childhood and this soul of mine
First came into the world together ;
I've "paddled" barefoot in the burn.
Roamed on the braes to pu' the gowan,
Or clomb the granite cliffs to pluck
The scarlet berries of the rowan.

And when the winds blew loud and shrill
I've scaled the heavenward summits hoary
Of grey Ben Nevis or his peers
In all their solitary glory,
And with enraptured eyes of youth
Have seen half Scotland spread before me,
And proudly thought, with flashing eyes,
How noble was the land that bore me.

Alas ! the land denied me bread,
Land of my sires in bygone ages,
Land of the Wallace and the Bruce,
And countless heroes, bards and sages ;
It had no place for me and mine,
No elbow-room to stand alive in,
Nor rood of kindly mother earth
For honest industry to thrive in.

'Twas parcell'd out in wide domains
By cruel law's resistless fiat,
So that the sacred herds of deer
Might roam the wilderness in quiet,
Untroubled by the foot of man.
On mountain-side or sheltering corrie,
Lest sport should fail, and selfish wealth
Be disappointed of its quarry.

The laws of acres deemed the clans
Were aliens at the best, or foemen,
And that the grouse, the sheep, the beeves,
Were worthier animals than yeomen ;
And held that men might live or die
Where'er their fate or fancy led them,
Except among the highland hills,
Where noble mothers bore and bred them.

In agony of silent tears.
The partner of my soul beside me,
I crossed the seas to find the home
That Scotland cruelly denied me ;
And found it on Canadian soil.
Where man is man in life's brave battle,
And not, as in my native glens,
Of less importance than the cattle.

And here, with steadfast faith in God,
Strong with the strength I gained in sorrow,
I've looked the future in the face,
Nor feared the hardships of the morrow,—
Assured that if I strove aright
Good end would follow good beginning,
And that the bread, if not the gold,
Would never fail me in the winning.

And every day, as years roll on
And touch my brow with age's finger,
I learn to cherish more and more
The land where love delights to linger.
In thoughts by day, and dreams by night,
Fond memory recalls, and blesses
Its heathery braes, its mountain peaks,
Its straths and glens and wildernesses.

And hope revives at memory's call
That Scotland, crushed and landlord-ridden,
May yet find room for all her sons.
Nor treat the humblest as unbidden ;
Room for the brave, the staunch, the true,
As in the days of olden story,
When men out-valued grouse and deer,
And lived their lives—their country's glory !


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