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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892). The Poetical Works in Four Volumes. 1892.

Narrative and Legendary Poems

The Pipes at Lucknow

An incident of the Sepoy mutiny.

PIPES of the misty moorlands,

Voice of the glens and hills;

The droning of the torrents,

The treble of the rills!

Not the braes of broom and heather,

Nor the mountains dark with rain,

Nor maiden bower, nor border tower,

Have heard your sweetest strain!

Dear to the Lowland reaper,

And plaided mountaineer,—

To the cottage and the castle

The Scottish pipes are dear;—

Sweet sounds the ancient pibroch

O’er mountain, loch, and glade;

But the sweetest of all music

The pipes at Lucknow played.

Day by day the Indian tiger

Louder yelled, and nearer crept;

Round and round the jungle-serpent

Near and nearer circles swept.

“Pray for rescue, wives and mothers,—

Pray to-day!” the soldier said;

“To-morrow, death ’s between us

And the wrong and shame we dread.”

Oh, they listened, looked, and waited,

Till their hope became despair;

And the sobs of low bewailing

Filled the pauses of their prayer.

Then up spake a Scottish maiden,

With her ear unto the ground:

“Dinna ye hear it?—dinna ye hear it?

The pipes o’ Havelock sound!”

Hushed the wounded man his groaning;

Hushed the wife her little ones;

Alone they heard the drum-roll

And the roar of Sepoy guns.

But to sounds of home and childhood

The Highland ear was true;—

As her mother’s cradle-crooning

The mountain pipes she knew.

Like the march of soundless music

Through the vision of the seer,

More of feeling than of hearing,

Of the heart than of the ear,

She knew the droning pibroch,

She knew the Campbell’s call:

“Hark! hear ye no MacGregor’s,

The grandest o’ them all!”

Oh, they listened, dumb and breathless,

And they caught the sound at last;

Faint and far beyond the Goomtee

Rose and fell the piper’s blast!

Then a burst of wild thanksgiving

Mingled woman’s voice and man’s;

“God be praised!—the march of Havelock!

The piping of the clans!”

Louder, nearer, fierce as vengeance,

Sharp and shrill as swords at strife,

Came the wild MacGregor’s clan-call,

Stinging all the air to life.

But when the far-off dust-cloud

To plaided legions grew,

Full tenderly and blithesomely

The pipes of rescue blew!

Round the silver domes of Lucknow,

Moslem mosque and Pagan shrine,

Breathed the air to Britons dearest,

The air of Auld Lang Syne.

O’er the cruel roll of war-drums

Rose that sweet and homelike strain;

And the tartan clove the turban,

As the Goomtee cleaves the plain.

Dear to the corn-land reaper

And plaided mountaineer,—

To the cottage and the castle

The piper’s song is dear.

Sweet sounds the Gaelic pibroch

O’er mountain, glen, and glade;

But the sweetest of all music

The Pipes at Lucknow played!