Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Love and War......

are the prominent themes of these two poems set against the backdrop of two September battles: the Battle of Quebec, September 13, 1759; the First Battle of Saratoga, September 19, 1777. The first one deals with British Gen. James Wolfe's parting from his fiancee, Katherine Lowther, and his subsequent victory against the French and death at the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec. The last verse is an eery lament from the grave on his part. The second poem relates the tragic tale of Captain Donald Stewart, a Highland Captain in the British Army who was killed at Saratoga during the American Revolution, leaving behind his devoted fiance, Flora, whose parents disapproved of the match. They are two of my favorite sets of folk song lyrics.

Brave Wolfe

"Come all you young men, all, let nothing fright you
Nor your objection make, nor let it delight you
Let not your courage fail til after the trial,
Nor let your fancy move at the first denial

I sat down by my love, thinking to enjoy her
I took her by the hand, not to delude her
When I attempt to speak, my tongue doth quiver
I dare not speak my mind whilst I am with her!

Here is a chain of gold, long time I've kept it;
Here is a ring of gold, madam, if you'll accept it
When you this posy read, think on the giver:
'Madam, rember me or I'm undone forever!'"

So then this gallant youth did cross the ocean
To free Americay from her invasions;
He landed at Quebec with all his party
That city to attack, being brave and hearty

He drew up his men in a line so pretty
On the Plains of Abraham before the city
A distance from the town, the French did meet him;
With a double number they resolved to beat him

The French drew up their men, for death prepared
In one another's face, the armies stared;
Whilst Wolfe and Montcalm together walked,
Betwixt their armies they like brothers talked

Then each man took his place at their retire,
And then these numerous hosts began to fire
The cannon on each side did roar like thunder,
And youths in all their pride were torn assunder

The drums did loudly beat, colours were flying,
The purple gore did stream, and man lay a-dying,
When shot from his horse fell this brave hero
You may lament his loss in the wields of sorrow!

The French began to break, their lines were flying,
Wolfe seemed to revive whilst he lay a-dying;
He lifted up his head where cannons rattle,
And to his army said, "How goeth the battle?"

His aid-de-camp replied: "'Tis in our favour!
Quebec and all her pride, nothing can save her!
She falls into our hands will all her treasure!"
"Oh, then," replied Brave Wolfe, "I die with pleasure."

"Sad news is come to town, sad news is carried,
Some say my love is dead, some say she is married
Strange news has come to town, I took to weeping;
They stole away my love whilst I was sleeping."

Donald and Flora

When merry hearts were gay,
Careless of aught but play,
Poor Flora slipt away,
Saddening to Mora.
Loose flowed her yellow hair,
Quick heaved her bosom bare,
As to the troubled air
She vented her sorrow.

"Loud howls the stormy West,
Cold, cold is winter's blast,
Haste, then, O Donald, haste!
Haste to thy Flora!
Twice twelve long months are o'er
Since on a foriegn shore
You promised to fight no more
But meet me in Mora.

'Where now is Donald, clear?'
Maids cry with taunting sneer,
Say, 'Is lie still sincere
To his loved Flora?'
Parents upbraid my moan,
Each heart is turned to stone,
Flora! Thou'rt now alone,
Friendless in Mora.

Come then, oh, come away!
Donald, no longer stay!
Where can my rover stray
From his loved Flora?
Ah, sure, he ne'er can be
False to his vows and me!
O, Heaven! Is not yonder he
Bounding over Mora?"

"Never, ah, wretched fair!"
Sighed the sad messenger,
"Never shall Donald mair
Meet his loved Flora.
Cold as yon mountain snow,
Donald, thy love, lies low;
He sent me to soothe they woe
Weeping in Mora.

Well fought our gallant men
On Saratoga's Plain
Thrice fled the hostile train
From British glory!
But though our foes did flee,
Sad was each victory;
Youth, love, and loyalty
Fell far from Mora.

'Here, take this love-wrought plaid,'
Donald, expiring, said,
'Give it to you, dear maid,
Weeping in Mora.
Tell her, O Alan, tell!
Donald thus bravely fell,
And in his last farewell,
He thought on his Flora....'"

Mute stood the tembling fair,
Speechless with wild despair,
Then, striking her bosom bare,
She sighed out, poor Flora:
"O Donald, well-a-day!"
Was all the fond heart could say;
At length the sound died away.....
Feebly in Mora.

"I die with pleasure....."

"Well fought our gallant men...."


  1. 20 September 1870

    Like vultures hovering over the faithful dead
    The rank red rags of base repression hung
    Upon the blast-breeched walls of captive Rome;
    The smoke of conquest fouled the ancient
    While mocking conquerors marched their
    At the point of enlightened bayonets
    To the scientific future, murdering those
    Who bore themselves with quiet dignity.

    False, sinister Savoy sneered in disdain
    At ancient truths, this costumed reprobate
    Who played at soldier once the firing ceased,
    And claimed Saint Peter’s patrimony on
    The corpses of the merely useful who
    With this day’s slogans fresh upon their lips
    At dawn advanced upon the remnant walls
    So thinly held by so few Papal Zouaves

    And thus befeathered fat Vittorio
    Was given his victory by better men
    On both sides there, their corpses looted by
    The pallid inheritors of Progress.
    The son of a Sardinian spurred his horse
    Along the streets of now obedient Rome,
    And to the Quirinal by a passage broad,
    And finally to the Ardeatine Caves.

  2. Hi, Mack,

    Is this a refernce to one of the Italian rebellions? As a descendent of Italian immigrants, it would be interesting to know.

    God Bless,