The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Address intended to be recited at the Caledonian Meeting
ADDRESS INTENDED TO BE RECITED AT THE CALEDONIAN MEETING.
Who hath not glowed above the page where Fame
Hath fixed high Caledon's unconquered name;
The mountain-land which spurned the Roman chain,
And baffled back the fiery-crested Dane,
Whose bright claymore and hardihood of hand
No foe could tame—no tyrant could command?
That race is gone—but still their children breathe,
And Glory crowns them with redoubled wreath:
O'er Gael and Saxon mingling banners shine,
And, England! add their stubborn strength to thine.
The blood which flowed with Wallace flows as free,
But now 'tis only shed for Fame and thee!
Oh! pass not by the northern veteran's claim,
But give support—the world hath given him fame!
The humbler ranks, the lowly brave, who bled
While cheerly following where the Mighty led—
Who sleep beneath the undistinguished sod
Where happier comrades in their triumph trod,
To us bequeath—'tis all their fate allows—
The sireless offspring and the lonely spouse:
She on high Albyn's dusky hills may raise
The tearful eye in melancholy gaze,
Or view, while shadowy auguries disclose
The Highland Seer's anticipated woes,
The bleeding phantom of each martial form
Dim in the cloud, or darkling in the storm;
While sad, she chaunts the solitary song,
The soft lament for him who tarries long—
For him, whose distant relics vainly crave
The Coronach's wild requiem to the brave!
'Tis Heaven—not man—must charm away the woe,
Which bursts when Nature's feelings newly flow;
Yet Tenderness and Time may rob the tear
Of half its bitterness for one so dear;
A Nation's gratitude perchance may spread
A thornless pillow for the widowed head;
May lighten well her heart's maternal care,
And wean from Penury the soldier's heir;
Or deem to living war-worn Valour just
Each wounded remnant—Albion's cherished trust—
Warm his decline with those endearing rays,
Whose bounteous sunshine yet may gild his days—
So shall that Country—while he sinks to rest—
His hand hath fought for—by his heart be blest!
[First published, Letters and Journals, 1830, i. 559.]
- [The "Caledonian Meeting," at which these lines were, or were intended to be, recited (see Life, p. 254), was a meeting of subscribers to the Highland Society, held annually in London, in support of the [Royal] Caledonian Asylum "for educating and supporting children of soldiers, sailors, and marines, natives of Scotland." "To soothe," says the compiler of the Report for 1814, p. 4, "by the assurance that their offspring will be reared in virtue and comfort, the minds of those brave men, through whose exposure to hardship and danger the independence of the Empire has been preserved, is no less an act of sound policy than of gratitude."]
- [As an instance of Scottish gallantry in the Peninsular War it is sufficient to cite the following list of "casualties" at the battle of Vittoria, June 21, 1813: "The battalion [the seventy-first Highland Light Infantry] suffered very severely, having had 1 field officer, 1 captain, 2 lieutenants, 6 sergeants, 1 bugler, and 78 rank and file killed; 1 field officer, 3 captains, 7 lieutenants, 13 sergeants, 2 buglers, and 255 rank and file were wounded."—Historical Record of the 71st Highland Light Infantry, by Lieut. Henry J. T. Hildyard, 1876, p. 91.]
- [Compare Temora, bk. vii., "The king took his deathful spear, and struck the deeply-sounding shield.... Ghosts fled on every side, and rolled their gathered forms on the wind.—Thrice from the winding vale arose the voices of death."—Works of Ossian, 1765, ii. 160.]
- [The last six lines are printed from the MS.]