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Graham Donachie's Stories

Here is a tale, which, since I first read it many years ago, has never failed to give me goosebumps and make the hair on my head stiffen...I have a wee book with this poem in it. I have carried this book, almost as one would a talisman, far from home, to be read over and over.. it never fails to give me the shivers....When I arrived in North America from Scotland eight years ago , one of my intentions was to visit Ticonderoga and say my silent poem in the memory of the men who died in that dreadful battle. I never managed to get there...One day perhaps....... 

Now there is a mystery to this tale.. Stevenson had been told a strange story by his friend Alfred Nutt. It concerned a young Army officer who had predicted his own death on the eve of this battle.
Much taken by this story Stevenson sat and composed this poem...The main character is a Cameron man....When the poem first appeared it caused a whale of controversy between Mr Nutt and Lord Archibald Campbell. Mr Nutt chose to believe that the Cameron was the man of the tale.... Lord Archibald declared for the Campbell.... And so verbal battle ensued....

Myself......years ago I read an account of the Campaign in the Americas between Britain and France....A small section dealt with the role the 42nd (Black Watch) played in this drama....It seems that one young officer was prone to bouts of great melancholy and on the evening before the offensive took place, he informed his fellow officers that this would be his last battle. This would be the place of his death.....He was one of the first to fall the next day....

If my memory is correct.. he was a Stewart....I will make further research into the archives....

However an account of the battle and the part that the 42nd played in it, can be read in the history section in Electric Scotland.

So all you who love reading tales of clansmen and the mists from which they sprang on....

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850-1894 
A legend of the West Highlands

This is the tale of the man 
Who heard a word in the night
In the land of the heathery hills,
In the days of the feud and the fight.
By the sides of the rainy sea,
Where never a stranger came,
On the awful lips of the dead,
He heard the outlandish name.
It sang in his sleeping ears,
It hummed in his waking head:
The name-- Ticonderoga,
The utterance of the dead.

1..The saying of the Name

On the loch-sides of Appin
When the mist blew from the sea
A Stewart stood with a Cameron:
An angry man was he.
The blood beat in his ears,
The blood ran hot to his head,
The mist blew from the sea,
And there was the Cameron dead.

O, what have I done to my friend,
O, what have I done to myselı,
That he should be cold and dead,
And I in the danger of all?

Nothing but danger about me,
Danger behind and before,
Death at wait in the heather
In Appin and Mamore,
Hate at all of the ferries
And death at each of the fords,
Camerons priming gunlocks
And Camerons sharpening swords.

But this was a man of council,
This was a man of a score,
There dwelt no pawkier Stewart
In Appin or Mamore.
He looked on the blowing mist,
He looked on the awful dead,
And there came a smile on his face
And there slipped a thought in his head.

Out over cairn and moss,
Out over scraug and scar,
He ran as runs the clansman
That bears the cross of war.
His heart beat in his body,
His hair clove to his face,
When he came at last in the gloaming
To the dead manıs brotherıs place.

The east was white with the moon, 
The west with the sun was red,
And there, in the house-doorway,
Stood the brother of the dead.

I have slain a man to my danger,
I have slain a man to my death,
I put my soul in your hands,
The panting Stewart saith:
I lay it bare in your hands,
For I know your hands are leal;
And be you my targe and bulwark
From the bullet and the steelı.

Then up and spoke the Cameron,
And gave him his hand again:
There shall never a man in Scotland
Set faith in me in vain;
And whatever man you have slaughtered,
Of whatever name or line,
By my sword and yonder mountain, * 
I make your quarrel mine.
I bid you into my fireside,
I share with you house and hall;
It stands upon my honour
To see you safe from allı.

It fell in the tyme of midnight,
When the fox barked in the den
And the plaids were over the faces
In all the houses of men,
That as the living Cameron
Lay sleepless on his bed,
Out of the night and the other world
Came in to him the dead.

My blood is on the heather,
My bones are on the hill;
There is joy in the home of ravens
That the young shall eat their fill.
My blood is poured in the dust,
My soul is spilled in the air;
And the man that has undone me
Sleeps in my brotherıs careı.

I'm wae for your death my brother,
But if all of my house were dead,
I couldnae withdraw the plighted hand
Nor break the word once said.

O, what shall I say to our father,
In the place to which I fare?
O, what shall I say to our mother,
Who greets to see me there?
And to all the kindly Camerons
That have lived and died lang-syne--
Is this the word you send them,
Fause-hearted brother mine?.

Itıs neither fear or duty,
Itıs neither quick nor dead
Shall gaur me withdraw the plighted hand,
Or break the word once saidı.

Thrice in the tyme of midnight,
When the fox barked in the den,
And the plaids were over the faces
In all the houses of men,
Thrice as the living Cameron
Lay sleepless on his bed,
Out of the night and the other world
Came into him the dead,
And cryed to him for vengeance
On the man that laid him low;
And thrice the living Cameron
Told the dead Cameron, no.

Thrice you have seen me, brother,
But now shall see me no more,
Till you meet your angry fathers
Upon the farther shore.
Thrice have I spoken, and now,
Before the cock be heard,
I take my leave for ever
With the naming of a word.
It shall sing in your sleeping ears,
It shall hum in your waking head,
The name- Ticonderoga,
And the warning of the deadı.

Now when the night was over
And the tyme of people's fears,
The Cameron walked abroad,
And the word was in his ears.
Many a name I know,
But never a name like this;
O, whaur shall I find a skilly man
Shall tell me what it is?.
With many a man he counseled
Of high and low degree,
With the herdsmen on the mountains
And the fishers of the sea.

And he came and went unweary,
And read the books of yore,
And the runes that were written of old
On stones upon the moor.
And many a name he was told,
But never the name of his fears--
Never, in east or west,
The name that wrang in his ears:
Names of men and of clans;
Names for the grass and the tree,
For the smallest tarn in the mountains,
The smallest reef in the sea:
Names for the high and low
The names of the craig and the flat;
But in all the land of Scotland,
Never a name like that.

2..The Seeking of the Name

And now there was a speech in the south,
And a man of the south that wise,
A periwigıd lord of London, ** 
Called on the clans to rise.

And the riders rode, and the summons
Came to the western shore,
To the land of the sea and the heather,
To Appin and Mamore.
It called on all to gather
From every scrog and scaur,
That loved their father's tartan
And the ancient game of war.
And down the watery valley
And up the windy hill,
Once more, as in the olden,
The pipes were sounding shrill.
Again in the highland sunshine
The naked steel was bright;
And the lads, once more in tartan,
Went forth again to fight.

O, why should I dwell here
With a weird upon my life,
When the clansmen shout for battle
And the war-swords clash in strife?.
I cannae joy at feast,
I cannae sleep in bed,
For the wonder of the word
And the warning of the dead.
It sings in my sleeping ears,
It hums in my waking head,
The name--Ticonderoga,
The utterance of the dead.
Then up, and with the fighting men
To march away from here,
Till the cry of the great war-pipe
Shall drown it in my ear!ı

Where flew King George's ensign
The plaided soldiers went:
The drew the sword in Germany,
In Flanders pitched the tent.
The bells of foreign cities
Rang far across the plain:
They passed the happy Rhine,
They drank the rapid Main.
Through Asiatic jungles
The Tartans filed their way,
And the neighing of the war-pipes
Struck terror in Cathay.
Many a name have I heard, he thought,
In all the tongues of men,
Full many a name both here and there,
Full many both now and thenı.

When I was at hame in my fatherıs house
In the land of the naked knee,
Between the eagles that fly in the lift
And the herrings that swim in the sea,
And now that I am a captain-man
With a braw cockade in my hat--
Many a name have I heard, he thought,
But never a name like thatı.

3..The Place of the Name

There fell a war in a woody place,
Lay far across the sea,
A war of the march in the mirk midnight
And the shot from behind the tree,
The shaven head and the painted face,
The silent foot in the wood,
In a land of a strange, outlandish tongue
That was hard to be understood.

It fell about the gloaming 
The general stood with his staff,
He stood and he looked east and west
With little mind to laugh.
Far have I been and much have I seen,
And kent both gain and loss,
But here we have woods on every hand
And a kittle water to cross.
Far have I been and much have I seen,
But never the beat of this;
And thereıs one must go down to that waterside
To see how deep it is.

It fell in the dusk of the night
When unco things betide,
The skilly captain, the Cameron,
Went down to the waterside.
Canny and saft the captain went;
And a man of the woody land,
With the shaven head and the painted face,
Went down at his right hand.
It fell in the quiet night,
There was never a sound to ken;
But all of the woods to right and left
Lay filled with the painted men.

Far have I been and much have I seen,
Both as a man and boy,
But never have I set forth a foot
On so perilous an employ.
It fell in the dusk of the night
When unco things betide,
That he was aware of a captain-man
Drew near to the waterside.
He was aware of his coming
Down in the gloaming alone;
And he looked in the face of the man
And lo! the face was his own.
This is my weird, he said,
And now I ken the worst;
For many shall fall with the morn,
But I shall fall with the first.
O, you of the outland tongue,
You of the painted face,
This is the place of my death;
Can you tell me the name of the place?

Since the frenchmen have been here
They have called it Sault-Marie;
But that is a name for priests,
And not for you and me.
It went by another word,
Quoth he of the shaven head;
It was called Ticonderoga
In the days of the great deadı.

And it fell on the morrow's morning,
In the fiercest of the fight,
That the Cameron bit the dust
As he foretold at night;
And far from the hills of heather
Far from the isles of the sea,
He sleeps in the place of the name
As it was doomed to be.
* Mr Nutt reminded Stevenson that it should have read.......'By my sword and Ben Cruachan' 
** William Pitt the elder.. Prime Minister.

Read other stories from Graham Donachie


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