Cailleach nan Cruachan

The Witch of Ben Cruachan.

On the top of Ben Cruachan is the spring from which Loch Awe was filled, and this is how they say the event happened:–Aged Bera lived in the cave of the Great Rock. She was a daughter of Grenan the Wise. For many ages her ancestors inhabited that country–a princely family, hospitable and powerful. Bera was the last of that renowned family. She owned as her inheritance each fair grassy glen all around Ben Cruachan, and the many flocks that fed in every dell and strath around. To Bera was entrusted that secret spring of many virtues, hid from the knowledge, and beyond the ken of the world. That became the spring of woe to Bera, and to her father’s race! There was a great flagstone on the mouth of the spring, and it was Bera’s duty to place the flagstone over the spring about sundown and to lift the same stone away as soon as the beams of the morning light began to gild the horizon. There were words graven on this flagstone, like ancient writing, but no eye ever beheld the stone that could read the secret letters. One of those days, Bera happened to be out hunting the deer among the rugged steeps of Ben Cruachan, and, being faint with the weariness of the chase, she no sooner returned home at night, and set herself on her bed of rashes under the leafy shade, then she fell asleep and neglected to place the flagstone over the mouth of the spring! The water quickly poured forth like a great river which could not be stayed! Swiftly streamed the flood, like a torrent or great waterfall, down the side of the mountain, from rock to rock, till the waters filled the glen, which from that time is called Loch Awe. On the third day poor Bera awoke. She looked down the glen, but instead of that green and most beautiful and lovely glen, nothing could be seen but water. Bera gave forth a dreadful scream which was echoed by every crag and grove and dell, and Ben Cruachan quivered to its centre! Bera left this poor world! She ascended to the lofty halls of the great princes from whom she sprung–far far up beyond the vision of created eyes, among the thin white clouds of heaven. Up there her scream may still be heard, and is the dread of the shepherds and hunters of Ben Cruachan. On dark clouds she is seen hovering around the top of the Ben; there oft-times may be heard her song of sorrow, and often she is abroad amid the roar of the tempest. On the dark skirts of the black clouds of the sky she is often seen sporting in wild fury. Like a tall pillar of the whitest mist she is seen hunting the deer on the hill, with her bow and her quiver of arrows! In white foam she is seen on the flood ; from cascade to cascade, from pool to pool, till at length she reaches Loch Awe, on which she may be seen swimming like a calm, white swan from island to island. From the broken ruins of Kilchurn, from the old abbey of Innisfail and of Inniswraith, are often heard her dismal wail. And on the peaks of Ben Cruachan she is often seen on a summer’s morning rising in her airy robes of mist to welcome the sun, till she is quickly lost from view amid bright and joyful birds of the air.

Continue reading “Cailleach nan Cruachan”

Boadicea: An Ode

WHEN the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
Counsel of her country’s gods,

Sage beneath a spreading oak
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Every burning word he spoke
Full of rage, and full of grief.

‘Princess! if our aged eyes
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
’Tis because resentment ties
All the terrors of our tongues.

‘Rome shall perish—write that word
In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorred,
Deep in ruin as in guilt.

‘Rome, for empire far renowned,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground—
Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!

‘Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier’s name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize—
Harmony the path to fame.

‘Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Armed with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.

‘Regions Cæsar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway,
Where his eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.’

Such the bard’s prophetic words,
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending, as he swept the chords
Of his sweet but awful lyre.

She, with all a monarch’s pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow;
Rushed to battle, fought, and died;
Dying, hurled them at the foe.

‘Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heaven awards the vengeance due:
Empire is on us bestowed,
Shame and ruin wait for you.’

— William Cowper.

Gu Bràth, Am Byth

Bruti posteritas cum Scotis associata
Anglica regna premet, Marte, labore, nece.
Flumina manabunt hostili tincta cruore
Perfida gens omni lite subacta ruet,
Quem Britonum fundet Albanis juncta juventus:
Sanguine Saxonico tincta rubebit humus:
Regnabunt Britones Scotorum gentis amici
Antiquum nomen insula tota feret;
Ut profert aquila veteri de turre locuta,
Cum Scotis Britones regna paterna regent.
Regnabunt pariter in prosperitate quieta
Hostibus expulsis, judicis usque diem.

John of Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, lib. III., cap. xxii., quoting a poem of Gildas.

[The posterity of Brutus in league with the Scots shall harrass England with war, toil, and death; the rivers shall flow discoloured with blood, and the perfidious nation shall sink subdued by every contest. The British and Albanian youth united shall overwhelm them, and the soil be crimsoned with Saxon blood. The Britons shall reign in friendship with the Scots; the whole island shall bear its ancient name, as the eagle which spoke from the old tower declares; the Britons and Scots shall rule over the kingdoms of their ancestors, and reign alike in profound peace, after the expulsion of their enemies, until the day of judgment.]

God Speed It!

All hail! the Confederated States. All honour to gallant South Carolina, who gave the first impulse to the Revolution which brought the new nation into being. All gratitude to the benign Providence that darkened the understandings of men in power and converted seeming obstacles into tremendous agencies for hastening and perfecting the great and good work consummated at Montgomery. Wisely, nobly have the Confederated States chosen their leaders. Valour and Statesmanship are at the helm. The new keel cuts the waters of a glorious sea. It is morning. Angry clouds are near at hand, and soon the thunder of battle will be bellowing in the skies. But the not distant azure is all serene and fair; resplendent with fresh light and the dewy tints of roses and of gold. The ship will outride the storm. Already we catch the balmy breath of the tropics. There is our haven.

Pity and shame! that the Border States prefer not to share the proud destiny of the new Republic. But they have chosen. They would be slaves. Virginia grovels in the dust at SEWARD’S feet. The sons of patriots lick the coarse hand of an ill-bred, foul-mouthed fanatical tyrant. The children of ANDREW JACKSON clutch tremblingly the knees of ANDREW JOHNSON. The descendants of DANIEL BOONE are pleading like frightened women for peace. It is their right. Let no one disturb them.

The Confederate States remain a fixed, unalterable fact. Civil liberty has found a house of refuge, a home, safe forever alike from the tyranny of kings and from the despotism of agrarian mobs and lawless democracies! The eyes fill and the heart swells with exceeding joy at the thought. ‘Tis a grand achievement, a mighty Revolution. Humanity is exalted by this bold and unparalleled stroke for freedom. Man’s capability of self-government is vindicated by this daring exercise of the right of that government. Henceforth the name of Southerner shall be the synonym of liberty. To the Confederate States, as to the last and only permanent abode of Republican institutions, the best and bravest blood, the loftiest spirits, and the most cultivated intellects on this continent, will surely repair. The very cream and excellence of American life will be compacted in the new nation. For highminded independent people, for fertile soil, for genial climate, for magnificent destiny, the peer of this youthful nation will not be found in all the world. God speed it!

Southern Literary Messenger, Volume 32, Issue 3, Mar 1861; p. 340.

Our New Southern Star

Bonnie Blue Campbell, miniature North American Shepherd (“Aussie”), born 21 May 2017.

For Bonnie Blue Campbell.

STAR OF THE SOUTH.

Star of the South! Break forth on the nation!
Break forth o’er the land, beam out on the sea!
We’ve watched for thy coming with blind adoration–
They never are slaves who will to be free!

Our fathers bequeathed to our guardian keeping
Their own institutions. and our liberty;
Let our enemies find, tho’ they dreamed we were sleeping,
They never are slaves who will to be free.

High up in the sky steals out in her splendour,
Our new Southern Star in fresh brilliancy,
With all of the glory that Heaven can lend her
They never are slaves who will to be free.

Blest with thy light, their countenance beaming,
Thy children are turning their eyes unto thee,
In the varied expanse where thy beauty is beaming
For they never are slaves who will to be free.

Tho’ Mars all a-glow should kindle in ire,
Thou Star of our hope, burn brighter than he,
Till our enemies think the Heavens on fire
They never are slaves who will to be free.

We’ll fling out our flag that the breath of the South,
Ensnared in its folds, may lift it to thee;
From the banks of Potomac to the Old Father’s mouth,
They’ll never be slaves who will to be free.

Then Star of the South! Break forth in thy glory,
Uncurtained by clouds, beam out on the sea!
Till our children unborn shall inherit the story,
They never are slaves who will to be free!

— Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 32, Issue 4, Apr 1861; pp. 287-288.

Assassins Juridiques

The refusal to allow Charlie’s parents to remove their baby boy from the hospital is an act of bioethical aggression that will extend futile-care controversies, creating a duty to die at the time and place of doctors’ choosing. And that raises a crucial liberty question: Whose baby is Charlie Gard? His parents’? Or are sick babies—and others facing futile-care impositions—ultimately owned by the hospital and the state?

Wesley J. Smith in First Things, 4 July 2017.

[Justizmord:] Ermordung eines Unschuldigen, vorsätzlich, und so gar mit allem Pompe der heil. Justiz, verübt von Leuten, die gesetzt sind, daß sie verhüten sollen, daß ein Mord geschehe, oder falls er geschehen, doch gehörig gestraft werde.

August Ludwig von Schlözer.

O blessed apostle St. Jude, who labored zealously among the Gentiles in many lands, and performed numerous miracles in needy and despairing cases, we invoke you to take special interest in us and our needs. We feel that you understand us in a particular way. Hear our prayers and our petitions and plead for us in all our necessities. May we be patient in learning God’s holy will and courageous in carrying it out. Amen.

St. Jude, pray for us!
My Jesus, mercy!

MacCrimmon Pipers

Give McIntyre ye pyper fforty pounds scots as his prentises(hi)p with McCrooman till May nixt as also provyde him in what Cloths he needs and dispatch him immediately to the Isles.

Instruction from John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane, to his chamberlain, Alexander Campbell of Barcaldine, c. 1697.

Item paid to quantiliane McCraingie McLeans pyper for one complete year as prentyce fie for the Litle pyper before he was sent to McCrooman, the soume of £160

Statement of Earl of Breadalbane, 22 April, 1697, at Taymouth Castle.

MACCRIMMON TRADITIONS.

THERE was a gathering of the clans at Dunvegan Castle. There sat down to dinner at the Macleod’s hospitable table eleven noble chiefs, each accompanied by his piper, a walking exhibition of his clan’s glory and greatness. Each chief was greater than the other, and each piper was better than his fellow. Great reputations were at stake; and all were anxious to have the matter decided at once. The Macleod gave the signal. Out stepped the famous piper of the Macdonalds of the Isles, and filled the hall with the well-known strains of the old Piob-mhor. Others followed and bravely upheld the traditions of clan and family. But one was amissing. There was an anxious look in Macleod’s eye. Where was the old piper who had so long and faithfully served the chief of Dunvegan? He sent a page-boy to look for him. He returned with sad news—the piper was hopelessly drunk. Great was the chief’s anger at being thus humbled in his own stronghold. Something must be done and that quickly. The tenth piper was tuning his pipes. One more to go—and then all would be found out. A sudden idea seized the chief’s mind. He grasped the pageboy’s hand, and whispered in his ear, “You are the twelfth piper—remember your chief’s words.” The feast went on as merrily as ever, and the fun grew fast and furious—but the page-boy, MacCrimmon, was not there to enjoy it. He was lying on a hillside, cursing the unkindly fate which had put him in so awkward a predicament. But there were friendly spirits moving about. Out of the hill-side there came the prettiest little fairy ever seen by human eyes. She made straight for MacCrimmon, and soon knew as much of his trouble as he did himself. She did not try to comfort him, but she did something better. She gave him a curiously-shaped whistle and bade him play on it. He smiled knowingly—but he would oblige the little lady because she meant kindly. He blew—and soon the hills and rocks re-echoed the divinest music ever heard in Dunvegan. He turned to thank his friend—but he was alone.

At once he hurried back to the castle and just came in time to hear the closing notes of the eleventh piper’s pibroch. He stepped out in his place and, heedless of the titter which passed all round the hall, he “blew up” the pipes. The scorn of the company was soon turned into admiration as the stripling played in faultless and brilliant manner compositions unknown to the others. From that hour MacCrimmon was the acknowledged prince of pipers.

On one occasion there was a pipe-music competition at Dunvegan Castle. There were competitors from all parts of the country, and among them the head of the MacCrimmon College, and his nephew. The professor had taught his nephew all the music known to him except one tune, which, he hoped, would give himself the lead in the competition. On their way to Dunvegan, they spent a night in a way-side inn, and shared a bed. The old gentleman was soon fast asleep, and naturally enough began to dream of the morrow’s work. He seized his nephew’s arm, on it played the notes of the tune which was to give him first place among the pipers. The keen witted youth was not slow to notice that there was more in the affair than might appear on the surface, and in a very short time he committed all the notes to memory. Next day, the first piper called on to play was the nephew. His first tune astonished most of those present, none more than his tutor, who at once gracefully retired from the competition, and allowed his worthy nephew to carry off the chief honours of the day. It was doubtless this incident which gave rise to the well-known Gaelic proverb—”An gille ‘toirt bàr air Mac Criomain“—the lad, or pupil, surpassing his master, MacCrimmon.

It may be added that the MacCrimmons were hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century several generations of them acted in this capacity. They founded a college of music at Boreraig, Skye, and thither all the leading pipers of the day proceeded to complete their education. They invented a system of musical notation for the pipes, by means of which they taught their pupils.

Kenneth Macleod.