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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
War Song


War Song
Of the Royal Edinburgh Light Dragoons
By Walter Scott

The following War-Song was written during the apprehension of an invasion. * The corps of volunteers, to which it was addressed, was raised in 1797, consisting of gentlemen, mounted and armed at their own expense. It still subsists, as the Right Troop of the Royal Mid-Lothian Light Cavalry, commanded by the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel Dundas. ** The noble and constitutional measure of arming freemen in defence of their own rights, was nowhere more successful than in Edinburgh, which furnished a force of 2000 armed and disciplined volunteers, including a regiment of cavalry, from the city and county, and two corps of artillery, each capable of serving twelve guns. To such a force, above all others, might, in similar circumstances, be applies the exhortation of our ancient Galgacus: "Proindeituri in aciem, et majores vestros et posteros cogitate." 1812.

* {The song originally appeared in the Scots Magazine for 1802. - ED.}
** Now Viscount Melville - 1831.

WAR-SONG
Of the Royal Edinburgh Light Dragoons

To horse! to horse! the standard flies,
The bugles sound the call;
The Gallic navy stems the seas,
The voice of battle's on the breeze,
Arouse ye, one and all!

From high Dunedin's towers we come,
A band of brothers true;
Our casques the leopard's spoils surround,
With Scotland's hardy thistle crown'd;
We boast the red and blue. *

Though tamely crouch to Gallia's frown
Dull Holland's tardy train;
Their ravish'd toys though Romans mourn
Though gallant Switzers vainly spurn,
And, foaming, gnaw the chain;

Oh! had they mark'd the avenging call, **
Their brethren's murder gave,
Disunion ne'er their ranks had mown,
Nor patriot valour, desperate grown,
Sought freedom in the grave!

Shall we, too, bend the stubborn head,
In Freedom's temple born,
Dress our pale cheek in timid smile,
To hail a master in our isle,
Or brook a victor's scorn?

No! though destruction o'er the land
Come pouring as a flood,
The sun, that sees our falling day,
Shall mark our sabres' deadly sway.
And set that night in blood.

For gold let Gallia's legions fight;
Or plunder's bloody gain;
Unbribed, unbought, our swords we draw,
To guard our king, to fence our law,
Nor shall their edge be vain.

If ever breath of British gale
Shall fan the tri-colour,
Or footstep of invader rude,
With rapine foul, and red with blood,
Pollute our happy shore, -

Then farewell home! and farewell friends!
Adieu each tender tie!
Resolved, we mingle in the tide,
Where charging squadrons furious ride,
To conquer or to die.

To horse! to horse! the sabres gleam;
High sounds our bugle call;
Combined by honour's sacred tie,
Our word is Laws and Liberty!
March forward, one and all! ***

* The royal colours
** The allusion is to the massacre of the Swiss Guards, on the fatal 10th of August, 1792. It is painful, but not useless, to remark that the passive temper with which the Swiss regarded the death of their bravest countrymen, mercilessly slaughtered in discharge of their duty, encouraged and authorized the progressive injustice, by which the Alps, once the seat of the most virtuous and free people upon the continent, have, at length, been converted into the citadel of a foreign and military despot. A state degraded is half enslaved. - 1812.
*** {Sir Walter Scott was, at the time he wrote this song, Quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Cavalry.}

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