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Summer at the Lake of Monteith

Alas, Monteith! where’s now thy name,
Thy ancient glory, and thy fame?
In thee, when reign’d thy halcyon morn,
Old Scotia’s truest sons were born.
Stewart, and Drummond, and the Graeme—
Who swelled the foremost ranks of fame—
Saw first the light within thy strand,
And first brought honour to thy land.
When Norway, teeming with her hosts,
Launched bearded hordes on Largu’s coasts,
The Stewart, from their native heath,
Led forth thy bravest sons, Monteith;
And there, amid the battle tide,
Smote the grim Norsemen in the Clyde.
When Bruce, who hated Edward’s sway,
Whispered brave Drummond to the fray,
From mountain, lake, and river side
Burst forth that glorious living tide
That, fighting for an empire just,
Laid England’s legions in the dust;
And gave them still a mightier urn
In the dread trench at Bannockburn.
The Graeme—his name is wide and far
In deeds of honour and of war,
And needs not my poor humble spell
To waft his fame, his glories tell;—
Suffice it that his spirit still
Hallows the lonely lake and hill.
But fortune fair has ceased to smile:
Gray ruin reigns on every isle!—
Talla is now a mouldering dome,
Glory has fled from Inchmahome;
There’s now no smile of monarch there,
Nor din of courtiers fill the air;
No chieftains meeting, as of yore,
Nor sturdy clansmen tread the shore;
No march of warriors round Porten’,
Nor sound of pibroch in the glen.
The fiery cross has ceased to fly;
No signal on Crochmelly high
Doth fling its glare athwart the night,
To gather clansmen to the fight;
Or tell the men of Aberfoyle
That neighbouring clans invade the soil.
No sign of strife along the hill;
Mondhuie’s slopes are quiet and still;
No war-cry, heard across yon brake,
Returns its echoes from the Lake;
No sound of hunters, with the horn,
Breaks the soft stillness of the morn;
Nor wide the hounds their echoes fling,
To start the game from out Milling,
Where, deep amid the Claggan dell,
The last fierce wolf of Scotland fe'l;
And where, amid thy tangled fold,
Brave monarchs chased the deer of old.
The fox was killed on yonder steep,
The otter in the reedy deep,
The stag within the brake was sought,
And from Craigvad the wolf was brought.
In Calziemuck’s deep shades alane,
The wild boar stood and shook his mane;
And, far among the copse profound
He bade defiance to the hound,
Till, issuing from the thicket clear,
He yielded to the Royal spear.
But, though those scenes have passed away,
And higher honours seen decay,
A shadowy grandeur gleams beneath
The faded glories of Monteith.
The Lake, the glen, the rock, the hill—
Monteith, Monteith remaineth still!
Come with me, then: in fancy’s flight
Be guided to yon heathery height,
Where nature in her beauty lies,
And tell me if its glory dies!
When the red sun has upwards worn,
And burst as on creation’s morn—
When his first ray doth tint the rills
That gurgle down the Lennox hills;
And finny tribes, deep in the pool,
Are sporting ’mid the waters cool—
Where moor-cock’s cry among the heath
Is the lone watchword in Monteith.
No smoke ascends from Rednoch walls;
No voices gladden Cardross halls;
Gartmore is silent ’neath the hill,
And Auchentroig doth slumber still;
No peasant stalks along Garden—
Perchance, some smuggler in the glen,
With thoughts of awe and secret pleasure,
Is watching o’er unlawful treasure.
The morn has chased the night away;
Now wakens many a bird of prey.
The cormorant has left the reeds,
And greedy on the lake she feeds;
While round her, in their downy coat,
Her tender offspring gently float.
The wild swan through the free air swings
And takes the zephyrs in her wings;
Her neck thrown back, with prideful ease
She silent sails before the breeze.
From jutting crag, the falcon keen
Scans with bright eye the hunting scene;
His wings he fans; then taking flight,
Spies heron in a lonely bight;
But, as he hangs ’tween earth and sky,
The victim shrinks with fear and cry;
A moment crouching in despair,
The long-wing’d creature takes the air.
Then down the noble falcon sweeps,
Up still the stately heron keeps;
Swoop after swoop he tries the game,
But ah! brave bird, you miss your aim.
Up, and far up, they rise to view—
The battle deepens ’mid the blue;
Till to the clouds the prey birds rise—
Another swoop—the heron dies!
When noble osprey leaves her nest
And tender young on yon high crest,
And heavenward swiftly soars away
Into the brightening dawn of day,
She floats beyond the reedy brake,
And hovers, fate-like, o’er the lake:
Then meteor-like she falls, and Io
Her scaly victim feels the blow:
Now soaring up, with victor’s cry,
Triumphant bears the prey on high;
And far beyond the hunter’s ken,
She feeds her eaglets in their den.
Wake, traveller, from your couch and sweep
Fearless around yon rugged steep,
Where, with sheer front and crown of stone,
Bendarack rears her head alone.
Then mark, before your awe-struck eyes,
The glories that around you rise 
Turn northward, and before you view
The glorious land of Roderick Dhu—
A land that, ’mid the fastness green,
Of old hid many an outlaw keen.
Land of Vich Alpine’s daring clan!
The scourge of foemen, and the ban
Of cruel tyrants that around
Track’d the Macgregor with the hound;
Till, springing from the trodden race,
A chieftain rose of conquering pace;
Whose name sharp time can ne’er destroy—
The name and memory of Rob Roy!
Gaze westward, and, adorned with rills,
Lo, Aberfoyle’s gray shattered hills;
Ben-Lomond, far above the rest,
Rears proudly his imperial crest:
Hid oft in clouds from mortal view,
Oft shining in the summer blue.
See, robed within his morning cloud,
Like giant in his ghastly shroud,
Ben-Dhu his awful vigils keep,
Where Chon’s dark waters slumber deep,
There, quiet amid her reedy home,
The prowling otters safely roam;
And, guarded ’mid the rocky hill,
The native wild-cat lingers still.
Beneath the crags in yonder glen,
She tends her young within her glen;
Then leads them out from day to day,
To scour the heather for their prey.
Proudly among wild nature’s store
Stands up thy rugged form, Craigmore,
Which, sentry-like, doth watch and ward
The secret glories of Loch-Ard;
And, like some veteran from the field,
Who long hath wielded spear and shield,
And only dreameth now of wars,
While nature heals his glorious scars;
And, resting on his laurels true,
He overshades dark Avondhu.
Onward and southward lies the plain:
With parks, and trees, and waving grain—
As sweet a realm as eye may see
In golden land of Arcady.
The lake beneath, untouched by gale,
Reposes like a fairy dale;
While, stretching onwards in their pride,
The Forth and Endrick roll their tide.
Dark Forth, from yonder tiny rill
Doth gather strength from every hill,
Till, flowing through bright links of glee,
It swells into a frith and sea.
Proud Endrick, from yon mountain crest,
Rolleth her stream into the west,
Still strengthened by the foaming rills
That gurgle from a hundred hills;
It whirls along from rock to rock,
Then, plunging o’er with sullen shock,
It weareth deep yon cavern lone,
Where winds and falling waters moan;
And, gathering strength from every fen,
This silver river sweeps the glen,
And, flowing on through field and brake,
It leaps into sweet Lomond’s lake.
Far onward, in the distant blue,
Dumgoyne doth rear his shoulders true,
And, like some watchman on the strand,
Proudly surveys the nether land—
Above each hill and hidden den
Watching the wilds of Sochy-glen,
(The robber’s secret haunt of yore.
Still famous in romantic lore.)
His giant form doth stand alane,
The misty guardian of Strathblane.
Old Gartmore from amidst her bowers
Uplifts to heaven her aged towers.
Gartartan, ’mid thy dungeons deep
The spirits nightly revels keep;
And ghosts of those that went the way
When Gartmore barons held the sway,
Wander among thy vaults at will,
And haunt thy dismal chambers still.
There’s yet the “ pin ” amid the gloom
That sent the felons to their doom;
And, hanging on the mouldering walls,
The hellish tackling still appals.
Lo, eastward, wreathed like the main,
The mist is rolled along the plain;
While in the strath each knoll and tree
Seem islands in a lonely sea;
And yonder, like some distant sail
Craigforth breaks through the misty veil;
While Stirling, with her head on high,
Holds converse with the summer sky ;
And far beyond, amid the blue,
Proud Sal’sbury Crags crown up the view.
Come, wander with me on the shore
When evening shades the landscape o’er;
The vernal day has gone to rest;
The heavenly orb sinks in the west;
The mist is lingering o’er the fen,
The night-hawk cries within the glen;
The shepherd boy the flaming brand
Displays within his tiny hand,
And in a moment, at his will,
With fire and smoke enwraps the hill:
From neuk and corry brightly glare
The fiery tongues that lap the air—
On, on and up it spreads with ease
Its broad red wing upon the breeze,
The peasant lad doth wander then
To meet his mistress in the glen;
And as he slowly stalks along,
The shepherd’s daughter chants her song;
Which on the balmy zephyr floats,
In every grove are heard the notes:
They echo sweet along the fell
And whisper backward from the dell,
And as they touch his ear again,
Enraptured stands the love-sick swain.
When evening doth succeed the day,
The moon has chased the sun away,
And from the east doth upward rise,
And in her sweet course floods the skies;
While little starlets in her wake
Reflect their glories in the lake;
Then, all alone, oh! take the oar,
And push your boatie from the shore,
And, steering through the waters, guide
Your shallop o’er the rippling tide,
Till, at yon fairy point you land,
Then pace alone the islet strand,
And in a sweet poetic swoon
View the calm ruins by the moon.
In gloomy form, ’tween earth and skies,
The dark monastic ruins rise.
Go wander round the crumbling walls,
And peer into the roofless halls.
With fairy step then gently creep
To where the ancient heroes sleep,
And as the gate doth backward roll
A silent awe will fill thy soul,
And tell thee thou should’st lightly tread
In presence of the sacred dead.
Around those early heroes rest
These sculptured stones upon their breast,
To tell the wanderer of their fame,
Their ancient lineage and their name.
Beneath yon slab, with warrior crest,
The noble Drummond’s ashes rest,
Buckled in his good sword and shield,
The hero trimm’d for battle-field—
Trampling the lions valiantly,
His coat of arms the surging sea.
Perchance the moon her shadow throws
Where Stewart and his spouse repose—
Calm, arm in arm the man and wife
Lie sculptured to the very life—
Her arm beneath his head doth rest,
His hand is gloved upon her breast—
Sleeping upon one pillow there,
How sweetly rest the wedded pair!
Around thee lie great men of fame,
The sons of many a “gallant Graham,”
Who led the van, and won with might
The palm of many a gory fight:
Though dead beneath these tablets hoary,
They live, they live in Scotland’s story!

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