Thomas Aird

Flowers of The Old Scottish Thistle: Flower The Second: Maude Of Raventree

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Behold, behold, from out the shadowy Past
Our Scottish fathers start! They start, they come
With onward eyes, around their lifted heads
A troubled glory, as they fight and sing
Their stormful way across the stage of time!

The only scion of an ancient stock,
A playful child was Maude of Raventree.

Her parents died. The dignity sedate
Of orphanhood, a law unto itself,
Fell on the sportive girl, a dignity
More than of ancestry; and now she saw,
Sportive no more, in every sunny joy
Central a shadow stand, dark, yet to eyes
Thoughtful and true an Angel in the Sun.
And fair to look upon, and full of grace,
The virgin grew to perfect womanhood.

The Forest Chieftain, lion-hearted youth,
Swift as the roe, his eye the eagle's eye
That drinks the sun, has won Maude's heart and troth.
But ah! he fell in battle as he swept
The Scottish Border of the English foe,
Chasing them south. Down on him closed her heart,
And loved no more, though many a gallant sought
The orphan heiress of old Raventree.

Long in her lonely house the widowed maid
Mourned for her knight, nor cared to see the sun.
A change came o'er her: the unpeopled moors
Were now her haunt, caves in the fretted shores,
Tops of the hills; by sullen tarns she sate;
She trode the dun-brown sheddings of the pine,
Far in the forest's central solitude;
And held communion with the desert storms.
But strong and just of heart, the selfishness
Of sorrow left her; by her liberal arts
Bloomed the wide valleys, for the poor she lived,
And blessings fell on Maude of Raventree.

Dark in its cloud of troubles vacant stood
The Scottish Throne: Edward of England strove
By fraud and force to seize it as his own.
The sorrow then of Maude's bereavement grew
Hate of the oppressor, and an active power
Sustaining Scotland. She the deeds had learnt
Of patriot heroes old, men whose great hearts
Come beating audibly down the centuries:
These were her ancestry of thought and act.
Behind her footsteps, wheresoe'er she trode
The faithful soil, upstarted men of war
Harnessed for battle. Patriot songs from her
The harpers took and harped them o'er the land,
Nerving the people's heart—for when disjoined
Jealous her nobles stood, her humbler sons
Held Scotland up. To help them went the wealth
Of Raventree; and all its vales were filled
With orphan children who had lost in war
Their fathers for their country: they in Maude
More than a parent found. And oft to her,
In their dark days, came Wallace and the Bruce
For refuge and for counsel; such a soul
Of largest wisdom filled her age revered.

Outflies the Orphan Banner at the gate
Of Raventree, adown the summer wind
Far floating black, wrought by her orphan girls
Of needlework, to Maude's designing mind,
With Scotland's old emblazonries, with sense
Of wrongs indignant tissued as they wrought,
With murmured blessings tissued, patriot prayers,
And patriot hopes, nor wanting orphan tears
Dropping to consecrate the burdened web—
Orphans of men who fell in Scotland's cause.
Outflies the Orphan Banner from Maude's hand,
Still stately in her venerable age,
Passed to a chosen youth, central of seven,
The standard-bearers of the Orphan Band,
A hundred youths in all, all orphans, all
Brought up by Raventree, a sable Band
For fathers slain. With lifted eyes, her hands
Outstretched in prayer, the mother of them all
Blesses the Banner; and an orphan choir
Of little ones, with voices clear and sweet,
Take up the blessing, singing as they bless
The Banner on:—With England's banded power
Edward the Second comes, to quell and crush
Scotland for ever: Banner, go thou on!
Bear up the Bruce, thou of devotion deep
Symbol peculiar, worth a thousand spears!
Lead thou his van—lead on the people—meet,
Defy the foe; fling blackness in his face,
Terror and death: and God be with the Right!
Down the long valley go the Orphan Band,
One heart, one solid tramp, one lifted whole,
Deliberate, black, to martial music set
Of indignation, and slow-breathed resolve;
And all the people bless them as they go.
Far down the vale the music dies away,
And far away the lessening Blackness dies.

Soft falls the summer eve on Raventree.
High on the tops, clear seen, of all the hills
The people stand and look; and in the vale
Old men in groups with wondering children stand;
Mothers the while, with infants in their arms,
Restless from house to house—for all day long
The buzzing rumour of The Battle fought
Has filled the valley: how the rumour came,
And what The Battle's issue, none can tell.
Before her waiting gate, serenely calm,
Sits Lady Maude. Dim are her eyes with age;
But damsels with her, one on either side,
Stand, looking down the vale with clear young eyes,
To ken some comer from the Scottish war.

Far in the sunny softness they descry
A Blackness shape itself: “They come, they come!”
The music comes, the Banner comes, the Band—
Ah! smaller now than when it went away.
And all the folk come running down the hills,
And round the Band the shouting people come.
On to the Lady's ear and heart the news
Is Bannockburn. With Heavenward face she rose,
Silent a while, then stretched her arms and spake:—
“Great day for Scotland! Down the Unborn Time
I see arise the mighty tops of things,
Seed of our Day august! Around their heads
A liberal atmosphere, serenely glad,
Unhurt, not hurting, Scotland's men shall walk
With lifted faces to the end of time.
Joy for all this! Yet oh, far more than this,
Quelling the oppressor, raising up the opprest,
Down through all days our Bannockburn shall be
The watchword and the freedom of the world.
The Lord our God hath done it! For ourselves
Be special thanks: let us bow down and thank
The God of Battles and of Victory,
Him who hath saved our country—now our own!”
Saying, she kneels: before her, with her kneel,
Their conquering Banner lowered in the dust,
Her Orphan soldier-sons; down, young and old,
The people kneel; a mouth for all, she thanks
The God of Battles and of Victory,
Him who hath saved our country—now our own!
The Ascription o'er, the Priestly Woman bows
Still lower down—down to the earth she falls.
Her Orphan children raise her—she is dead.
And all the people wept for joy and grief.

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Thomas Aird