A treasury of war poetry, British and American poems of the world war, 1914-1919/Scotland

The home of the Lonsdale Battalion 1914-1918
Jump to navigation Jump to search


(April, 1917)

IN the burgh toun of Arras,
When gloaming had come on,
Fifty pipers played Retreat
As if they had been one,
And the Grande Place of Arras
Hummed with the Highland drone!

Then to the ravaged burgh,
Champed into dust and sand,
Came with the pipers' playing,
Out of their own beloved land,
Sea-sounds that moan for sorrow
On a dispeopled strand.

There are in France no voices
To speak of simple things,
And tell how winds will whistle
Through palaces of kings;
Now came the truth to Arras
In the chanter's warblings:

"O build in pride your towers,
But think not they will last;
The tall tower and the shealing
Alike must meet the blast,
And the world is strewn with shingle
From dwellings of the past."

But to the Grande Place, Arras,
Came, too, the hum of bees,
That suck the sea-pink's sweetness
From isles of the Hebrides,
And in Iona fashion
Homes mid old effigies:

"Our cells the monks demolished
To make their mead of yore,
And still though we be ravished
Each Autumn of our store,
While the sun lasts, and the flower,
Tireless we'll gather more."

Up then and spake with twitt'rings
Out of the chanter reed,
Birds that each Spring to Appin,
Over the oceans speed,
And in its ruined castles
Make love again and breed:

"Already see our brothers
Build in the tottering fane!
Though France should be a desert,
While love and Spring remain,
Men will come back to Arras,
And build and weave again."

So played the pipes in Arras
Their Gaelic symphony,
Sweet with old wisdom gathered
In isles of the Highland sea,
And eastward towards Cambrai
Roared the artillery.


FAREWELL to Lochaber, farewell to the glen,
No more will he wander Lochaber again.
Lochaber no more! Lochaber no more!
The lad will return to Lochaber no more!
The trout will come back from the deeps of the sea,
The bird from the wilderness back to the tree,
Flowers to the mountain and tides to the shore,
But he will return to Lochaber no more!

O why should the hills last, that never were young,
Unperishing stars in the heavens be hung;
Be constant the seasons, undrying the stream,
And he that was gallant be gone like a dream?
Brave songs will be singing in isles of the West,
But he will be silent who sang them the best;
The dance will be waiting, the pipes will implore,
But he will return to Lochaber no more!

Child of the forest! profound is thy sleep,
The valley that loved thee awakes but to weep;
When our fires are rekindled at dawn of the morn,
Our griefs burn afresh, and our prayers are forlorn;
The night falls disconsolate, bringing no peace,
No hope for our dreams, for our sighs no release;
In vain come the true hearts and look from the door,
For thou wilt return to Lochaber no more!


O TURN ye homeward in the night-tide dusk!
Return, O lad, across the watery dark.
The wind is eerie, and the sea growls low,
And voices mutter in the caves. O hark!
The sea-bird hath her mate, but none I know.

All day the gulls are crying round the rocks,
And spray is leaping white against their face;
The child is shouting, and the wind is sweet;
Above our heads the flying cloudlets race,
Where we are on the hillside cutting peat.

The sun glints on the waves. I have no fear;
My heart is filled with ancient battle songs;
But when the winter seas are crying loud,
Phantoms of eld, and marching faery throngs,
From strange old tales into my fancy crowd.

They hold before my eyes a bloody plaid—
A wail of warning hurries down the gust,
The door blows open, and the baby cries,
And dark-red drops are trickling in the dust.
Kneeling I fall and cover up my eyes.

O turn ye homeward in the night-tide dusk!
The door stands open, and the sea growls low.
Ah, lad, my candle shines across the night.
The sea-bird hath her mate, but none I know;
Turn ye to me before the morning light.