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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Preston Pans

The Thorn of Preston

By David Macbeth Moir (1798–1851)

REVIVING with the genial airs,

Beneath the azure heaven of spring,

Thy stem of ancient vigor bears

Its branches green and blossoming;

The birds around thee hop and sing,

Or flit, on glossy pinions borne,

Above thy time-resisting head,

Whose umbrage overhangs the dead,

Thou venerable Thorn!

Three ages of mankind have passed

To silence and to sleep, since thou,

Rearing thy branches to the blast,

As glorious, and more green than now,

Sheltered beneath thy shadowy brow

The warrior from the dews of night:

To doubtful sleep himself he laid,

Enveloped in his tartan plaid,

And dreaming of the fight.

Day opened in the orient sky

With wintry aspect, dull and drear;

On every leaf while glitteringly

The rimy hoar-frost did appear.

Blue ocean was unseen, though near;

And hazy shadows seemed to draw,

In silver with their mimic floods,

A line above the Seton woods,

And round North Berwick Law.

Hark! ’t was the bagpipe that awoke

Its tones of battle and alarms!

The royal drum, with doubling stroke,

In answer, beat, “To arms—to arms!”

If tumult and if war have charms,

Here might that bliss be sought and found:

The Saxon line unsheathes the sword;

Rushes the Gael, with battle-word,

Across the stubble ground.

Alas! that British might should wield

Destruction o’er a British plain;

That hands, ordained to bear the shield,

Should bring the poisoned lance to drain

The life-blood from a brother’s vein,

And steep ancestral fields in gore!

Yet, Preston, such thy fray began;

Thy marsh-collected waters ran

Empurpled to the shore.

The noble Gardiner, bold of soul,

Saw, spirit-sunk, his dastards flee,

Disdained to let a fear control,

And, striving by the side of thee,

Fell, like a champion of the free!

And Brymer, too, who scorned to yield,

Here took his death-blow undismayed,

And, sinking slowly downward, laid

His back upon the field.

Descendant of a royal line,—

A line unfortunate and brave!

Success a moment seemed to shine

On thee,—’t was sunbeams on a grave!

Thy home a hiding-place,—a cave,

With foxes destined soon to be!

To sorrow and to suffering wed,

A price on thy devoted head,

And bloodhounds tracking thee!

’T was morn; but ere the solar ray

Shot, burning, from the west abroad,

The field was still; the soldier lay

Beneath the turf on which he trod,

Within a cold and lone abode,

Beside the spot whereon he fell;

Forever severed from his kind,

And from the home he left behind,—

His own paternal dell!

Sheathed in their glittering panoply,

Or wrapt in war-cloak, blood-besprent,

Within one common cemetery

The lofty and the low were pent:

No longer did the evening tent

Their mirth and wassail-clamor hear:

Ah! many a maid of ardent breast

Shed for his sake, whom she loved best,

The heart-consuming tear!

Thou, lonely tree, survivest still,—

Thy bloom is white, thy leaf is green,

I hear the tinkling of a rill;

All else is silent: and the scene,

Where battle raged, is now serene

Beneath the purple fall of night.

Yet oft, beside the plough, appear

Casque, human bone, and broken spear,

Sad relics of the fight!