Home  »  Every Day in the Year A Poetical Epitome of the World’s History  »  Charles Edward at Versailles

James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 16

Charles Edward at Versailles

By William E. Aytoun (1813–1865)

  • On the Anniversary of Culloden
  • With the defeat of the Young Pretender by the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden on April 16, 1746, the hopes of the Jacobites perished forever. This was the last battle fought on British soil.

  • TAKE away that star and garter—

    Hide them from my aching sight:

    Neither king nor prince shall tempt me

    From my lonely room this night;

    Fitting for the throneless exile

    Is the atmosphere of pall,

    And the gusty winds that shiver

    ’Neath the tapestry on the wall.

    When the taper faintly dwindles

    Like the pulse within the vein,

    That to gay and merry measure

    Ne’er may hope to bound again,

    Let the shadows gather round me

    While I sit in silence here,

    Broken-hearted, as an orphan

    Watching by his father’s bier.

    Let me hold my still communion

    Far from every earthly sound—

    Day of penance—day of passion—

    Ever, as the year comes round:

    Fatal day, whereon the latest

    Die was cast for me and mine—

    Cruel day, that quelled the fortunes

    Of the hapless Stuart line!

    Phantom-like, as in a mirror,

    Rise the grisly scenes of death—

    There before me, in its wildness,

    Stretches bare Culloden’s heath:

    There the broken clans are scattered,

    Gaunt as wolves, and famine-eyed,

    Hunger gnawing at their vitals,

    Hope abandoned, all but pride—

    Pride, and that supreme devotion

    Which the Southron never knew,

    And the hatred, deeply rankling,

    ’Gainst the Hanoverian crew.

    Oh, my God! are these the remnants,

    These the wrecks of the array

    That around the royal standard

    Gathered on the glorious day,

    When, in deep Glenfinnan’s valley,

    Thousands, on their bended knees,

    Saw once more that stately ensign

    Waving in the northern breeze,

    When the noble Tullibardine

    Stood beneath its weltering fold,

    With the Ruddy Lion ramping

    In the field of treasured gold,

    When the mighty heart of Scotland,

    All too big to slumber more,

    Burst in wrath and exultation,

    Like a huge volcano’s roar?

    There they stand, the battered columns,

    Underneath the murky sky,

    In the hush of desperation,

    Not to conquer, but to die.

    Hark! the bagpipe’s fitful wailing:

    Not the pibroch loud and shrill,

    That, with hope of bloody banquet,

    Lured the ravens from the hill,

    But a dirge both low and solemn,

    Fit for ears of dying men,

    Marshalled for their latest battle,

    Never more to fight again.

    Madness—madness! Why this shrinking?

    Were we less inured to war

    When our reapers swept the harvest

    From the field of red Dunbar?

    Bring my horse, and blow the trumpet!

    Call the riders of Fitz-James:

    Let Lord Lewis head the column!

    Valiant chiefs of mighty names—

    Trusty Keppoch, stout Glengarry,

    Gallant Gordon, wise Lochiel—

    Bid the clansmen hold together,

    Fast, and fell, and firm as steel.

    Elcho, never look so gloomy—

    What avails a saddened brow?

    Heart, man, heart! we need it sorely,

    Never half so much as now.

    Had we but a thousand troopers,

    Had we but a thousand more!

    Noble Perth, I hear them coming!—

    Hark! the English cannons’ roar.

    God! how awful sounds that volley,

    Bellowing through the mist and rain!

    Was not that the Highland slogan?

    Let me hear that shout again!

    Oh, for prophet eyes to witness

    How the desperate battle goes!

    Cumberland! I would not fear thee,

    Could my Camerons see their foes.

    Sound, I say, the charge at venture—

    ’Tis not naked steel we fear;

    Better perish in the mêlée

    Than be shot like driven deer;

    Hold! the mist begins to scatter!

    There in front ’tis rent asunder,

    And the cloudy bastion crumbles

    Underneath the deafening thunder;

    There I see the scarlet gleaming!

    Now, Macdonald—now or never!—

    Woe is me, the clans are broken!

    Father, thou are lost for ever!

    Chief and vassal, lord and yeoman,

    There they lie in heaps together,

    Smitten by the deadly volley,

    Rolled in blood upon the heather;

    And the Hanoverian horsemen,

    Fiercely riding to and fro,

    Deal their murderous strokes at random—

    Ah, my God! where am I now?