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.

The Same Great Celtic Stock

The Arms of Her Majesty in right of the Isle of Man, granted by Queen Elizabeth II, Lord of Mann on 12 July 1996.
The Arms of Her Majesty in right of the Isle of Man, granted by Queen Elizabeth II, Lord of Mann on 12 July 1996.

It can scarce admit of a doubt, that the Isle of Man was originally peopled from the same great Celtic stock by which, with by much the greater part of Europe, the Islands of Great Britain and Ireland were first peopled; of this the language, still in great measure Celtic, is a proof demonstrative. Yet, in respect to government and laws, the Manks, appear in all ages, to have been a distinct people, and in some degree an independent, or not annexed to any other kingdom; and though the Island or Kingdom of Man appears to have undergone several revolutions in its government, and at different periods to have been dependent on one or other of the British crowns, and that of Norway or Denmark, yet it appears also that, beyond all record among themselves, their Constitution has been free, or as much so as compatible with the tempers of the times, or latterly within record, consistent with the feodal tenures and feodal ideas under which the people held: And these, probably first derived from England, seem, or the effects of such system only, to have retained longer footing in the Isle of Man than, in some respects, they have done in England. The people, however, beyond all written record, have clearly within, claimed and enjoyed the right and privilege of being governed and regulated by laws of their own making, or consented to by themselves, or by their constitutional representatives. Regulations indeed, under the name of ordinances, have sometimes been issued in name of the Lord by the Governor and Council, which have been admitted as laws into the statute books, and some of them without any further confirmation of the Legislature: And the Keys also, in some cases, seem to have assumed and been allowed a similar privilege.

Letter of Colonel Alexander Shaw, Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man, 15th Chief of Clan Shaw and 10th Chief of Clan Shaw of Tordarroch.

An Hardy and Intrepid Race of Men

John Slezer's engraving of Edinburgh Castle, c.1693 showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.
John Slezer’s engraving of Edinburgh Castle c.1693, showing the Scottish Union Flag being flown above the Royal apartments.

SCOTLAND, considering its limited population and extent, has made a distinguished figure in History. No country, in modern times, has produced Characters more remarkable for learning, valour, or ability, or for knowledge in the most important arts both of peace and of War; and though the Natives of that formerly independent, and hitherto unconquered, kingdom have every reason to be proud of the name of Britons, which they have acquired since the Union in 1707, yet still they ought not to relinquish, on that account, all remembrance of the Martial Atchievements, the Characteristic Dress, or the Language, the Music, or the Customs of their Ancestors. If in all these respects they were to be completely assimilated to the English, Scotland would become in a manner blended with England, whilst its inhabitants at the same time could claim no peculiar merit, from old English valour, virtue, literature, or fame; whereas if they consider themselves not only as Britons, but as Scotchmen, there are many circumstances, connected with the more remote, and even the modern periods of their history, which they can recollect with enthusiasm, as the Songs of their Ancient Bards;– the Tales of their former times, when FINGAL conquered, and OSSIAN sung his praises,– their determined resistance to the Roman arms;– their reiterated victories over the Danes, who were formerly the terror of the North;– the renowned atchievements of a WALLACE, a DOUGLAS, and a BRUCE, and other heroes, in their contests with the English, the most warlike nation then existing;– their valour in the service of France, of Holland, and of other Powers;– the share they had in the immortal Victories of the great Gustavus;– the manner in which they have distinguished themselves in more recent times, as at Fontenoy, at Quebec, on the banks of the Ganges and of the Nile, and on so many other important occasions;– their contributing in so material a degree to the revival of Learning in Europe;– their having been the means of establishing some of the most famous Universities on the Continent;– the many celebrated Authors and Artists which Scotland has successively produced;– in short, in the words of a distinguished modern poet, the Scots may be accounted

… a manly race,
Of unsubmitting spirit, wise, and brave;
… thence of unequal bounds
Impatient, and by tempting glory borne
O’er every land,– for every land, their life
Has flow’d profuse, their piercing genius plann’d,
And swell’d the pomp of peace, their faithful toil.

Or if less partial authority be required, than the testimony of a Scottish Poet, let us recollect, that the celebrated Earl of Chatham, on the 11th of January, 1766, expressed himself in the British Senate, when the Military Services of the Scots were under discussion, in the following terms:

I sought for Merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first Minister who looked for it, and found it in the Mountains of the North! I called it forth, and drew into your service, an hardy and intrepid race of men! men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State in the war before the last. These men, in the last war, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world.

Perhaps the best mode by which the Scots may be enabled to keep up that National Spirit, which was formerly so conspicuous, that “fier comme un Ecossais,” became proverbial on the Continent, is occasionally to meet in that Garb, so celebrated as having been the dress of their Celtic Ancestors, and on such occasions, at least, to speak the emphatic Language, to listen to the delightful Music, to recite the Ancient Poetry, and to observe the peculiar customs of their country.

— An Account of the Highland Society of London, 1813.

Sprung from the Blue Britons

Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).
Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).

Salutant te Eubulus, et Pudens, et Linus, et Claudia, et fratres omens. 2 Tim. iv. 21.

Claudia caeruleis cum sit Rufina Britannis
edita, quam Latiae pectora gentis habet!
Quale decus formae! Romanam credere matres
Italides possunt, Atthides esse suam.
Di bene quod sancto peperit fecunda marito,
quod sperat generos quodque puella nurus.
Sic placeat superis, ut conjuge gaudeat uno
et semper natis gaudeat illa tribus.

Seeing Claudia Rufina has sprung from the azure Britons,
How comes she to have the feelings of a Latian maid?
What grace and beauty! With the daughters of Italy she may pass
As a Roman, with those of Attica, as an Athenian Matron.
Thanks to the Gods, she has borne many children to her holy husband,
And still young, hopes to see sons and daughters-in-law;
So may the Gods grant that in her one husband,
And her three children, she may always find her happiness.

— Martial, Epigrams xi.53.

The Brightest Gem in the Spiritual Crown of Rome

The ignorance or supineness which characterises so many English writers on Celtic history is to be found even among Highland and Irish clerics and others who have not taken the trouble to study or even become acquainted with their own ancient literature, but fallen into the foolish and discreditable conventionalism which maintains that before Columban or in pre-Christian days the Celtic race consisted of wholly uncivilised and broken tribes, rival only in savagery.

How little true that is; as wide of truth as the statements that the far influences of Iona ceased with the death of Columba. Not only was the island for two centuries thereafter (in the words of an eminent historian) “the nursery of bishops, the centre of education, the asylum of religious knowledge, the place of union, the capital and necropolis of the Celtic race,” but the spiritual colonies of Iona had everywhere leavened western Europe. Charlemagne knew and reverenced “this little people of Iona,” who from a remote island in the wild seas beyond the almost as remote countries of Scotland and England had spread the Gospel everywhere. Not only were many monasteries founded by monks from Iona in the narrower France of that day, but also in Lorraine, Alsatia, in Switzerland, and in the German states; in distant Bavaria even, no fewer than sixteen were thus founded. In the very year the Danes made their first descent on the doomed island, a monk of Iona was Bishop of Tarento in Italy. In a word, in that day, Iona was the brightest gem in the spiritual crown of Rome.

Note to page 118 of The Works of “Fiona MacLeod” (Uniform Edition), Volume IV, arranged by Mrs. William Sharp, William Heinemann, London, 1912.

Continue reading “The Brightest Gem in the Spiritual Crown of Rome”

An Eternal Example of Your Clemency

Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).
Andrew Birrell (after Henry Fuseli), Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome (1792).

If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive, nor would you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations. But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery? If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately, neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency.

— Tacitus, Annals 12:37.

Celtic Mars Votive Offering

Gutenberg Votive Bronze “Mars” warrior god figure, 5 inches height (Photo Sven Beham).
Gutenberg Votive Bronze “Mars” warrior god figure, 5 inches height (Photo Sven Beham).