Song of the Battle of Falkirk

We, the total force the Whigs possessed,
were one day in the Scottish Lowlands
when the rebels fell in with us—
and cheerless to us was the company
when they compelled us to retreat
and chased us with intent to slay us—
unless we used our legs to good purpose:
we fired never a shot with our muskets.

While going to engage the Prince
verily we were light-hearted;
we expected we should worst him
and that we merely had to seek him;
when they clashed against each other,
high we bounded in retreating,
and we plunged into the river,
sinking neck-high in the flood.

What time the men donned their armour,
intending to head off the rebels,
we never thought, until we gave way,
that it was we who would be driven.
As when a dog would set on sheep,
and they scamper on a glen slope,
so did they suffer dispersal
on the side for which we fought.

Now when opponents came and showed
it would be sore for us to meet them,
'twas the Lowland troop sustained the loss:
some of them had headless bodies.
When Clan Donald fell in with them
they had an encounter on the brae;
they left gaping wounds inflicted,
and no leech could heal their veins.

The horses were well shod and bridled,
girthed, belted, restive, troop on troop;
the men were well armed and trained,
devoted to the art of killing;
when we rolled down from the moor,
having much need of succour—
of the survivors some were wounded,
and we mourned for those who fell there.

Panic overtook us in the rout
when the host moved downhill;
Prince Charles and his French contingent
were purposing to come our way;
we received no word of command,
ordering that our foes be smitten—
just leave to scatter through the land,
and some of us are missing still.

Afterwards when I came home,
and approached Archibald of Crannach,
there he was as ferocious
as a grey, lair-haunting badger;
he was sorry in that hour
that he had no brand to draw;
great the privation, this loss of his—
his grandfather's ancestral sword.

A mass of iron, scant of edge—
that was a picture of the sword;
'twas bent, springy, indented,
and had a wry twist in the neck;
carrying it throughout my travels
left my hip in a bruised condition,
for 'twas heavy as a beam of alder:
pity him who asked if it were lucky!

When they mustered in their hundreds
that day on the Moor of Falkirk,
the English-speakers were defeated—
it was they who had to flee,
albeit at that time I lost
the Chief of Clan Fletcher's sword,
that broken-edged sword of misfortune:
'twas really like a girdle-stick.

Ill-omened weapon that was rusty,
and performed not its due office;
trifling the loss, to my reckoning,
though I missed at eventide
the black sword that had not been burnished,
and was soot-discoloured on one side;
small its worth, for it had buckled—
'twas the most useless implement.

The jag-toothed sword, owned by people
who battled not and struck no blows;
in all the world there was not its semblance—
pity one who toiled with it in conflict;
the black sword that was baleful,
without belt or crampet or scabbard,
without point or edge or hilt-guard:
woe to him who found himself in danger with it!

I took with me the broken-edged sword,
'twas ill equipment in the hustle;
the burden of it on my thigh—woe's me,
that I ever took it from home!
It would give no stab or thrust,
neither was it strong for cutting;
'twas the poorest sort of weapon,
for it had rusted on the hen-roost.

The gentry of Argyll assembled
a powerful army of militia;
and they went to oppose Prince Charles,
expecting to break up his field force:
many a man who was present there
was not unscathed as I was—
that number we left on the battlefield
on the day of the Battle of Falkirk.
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