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Duncan Ban MacIntyre
Song to the Breeches


Ditty

O the light grey breeches
cast a gloom on us this year !
'Tis a thing not seen on us before,
one we dislike to keep on us;
and had we all been loyal
to the king who appealed to us,
we had not been seen till doomsday
submitting to this garment.

Dire is our plight that the young Prince
should be in great adversity,
and that, where he ought to be established,
King George should be the occupant.
Well-informed people tell us
that he had no claim to London:
'tis in Hanover his kindred were
to us that man is a foreigner.
'Tis this king who had no ties with us,
that has woefully dishonoured us:
ere he enslave us utterly
'twere time to go to strive with him.
What disgust he caused us,
what annoyance and contention,
forcibly to disclothe us
by subjecting us to tyranny !

Since we adopted breeches,
that garb is not approved by us;
as round the houghs we tighten them,
it irks us to be clad in them.
Erstwhile we were mettlesome,
wearing tartan underneath the belts,
though nowadays, in general,
we put on the saddle cloths.
Methinks it is an ill reward
for the men who went campaigning
to deprive them of their raiment,
though by their help Duke William won.
We may not be jubilant
since our clothes transfigured us:
we do not know one another
on a day of fair or gathering.

There was a time in my career
when I could not think that I should don
breeches for apparel -
uncouth they are on anyone;
and even though I wear them
I have taken not the least delight
in the costume that was alien
to the people of whom I come.
'Tis an ill-omened garment,
we think it hideous on us,
and so tightly cut for us
that we would liefer have no more of it;
they have buttons at the knees
and buckles for their fastening,
and the breeches will be folded
round the hinder parts of every man.

We shall get hats of ebon black
to protect our head-pieces,
and long coats with their naps as sleek
as a mill could put a gloss on them;
though this might ward the cold from us,
it will not make us feel so smart
that it will please our gentry,
our tenants or our common folk;
it never will find favour with us
for tramping the moorland glens,
when we hied us to a shieling,
or any place where maids would be.
'Tis George has done the unfair thing,
and I am much incensed at him,
since he deprived us of the kilt
and all our native garments.

All members of Parliament
were wittingly perfidious,
when they imposed on the Campbells
the confinement of the breeches-
the very men who served them well
the year the insurrection came,
by their enlistment to a man
in the militia, for their cause;
and masterful, manly they were
what time the conflict continued;
but they will scarcely be heard of
encamping again with him.
Since he divested us of dress
and left us so uncared for,
I go he has done us every possible ill
he could think of, to depress us.

'Tis now we have experienced
the sympathy Duke William showed us,
when he has left us captive-like,
without dirks and without guns,
without a sword or shoulder-belt;
not even pistols can we get -
for England has control of us
since they subdued us utterly.
Now wroth and vexed are many men
who have been in Duke William's camp,
and are none the better of the fact
that he achieved the victory.
If Charles were to descend on us,
and we rose to take the field with him,
red-tinted tartans could be got,
and the guns would be forthhcoming.


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