The Martyrs of Wigton
Lays of the Kirk and  Covenant
Mrs A. Stuart Menteath. Sime,Glasgow 1892.

 

“Some think if it were Jesus Christ, and if it were a fundamental

 point they were called to confess, they would stand for it

with life and estate ; but it is thought that Christians now stand

upon some things that are but fancies and nice scrupulosities, and

that, if there be any thing in them, it is but a small matter ; and shall a man venture his life and all, upon a small thing? 'Well, if they be none of Christ's small things, let them go ; but if they be one of His truths, will ye call that a small thing? His small things are very great things. "-JOHN LIVINGSTONE.

 

Ay ! bonnie hills of Galloway! the clouds above ye driven

Make pleasant shadows in your depths, with glints andgleams of heaven;

And ye have fairy, hidden lakes, deep in your secret breast

Which shine out suddenly like stars, as the sunbeams go to rest.

And ye have dells, and greenwood nooks, and little valleys still,

Where the wild bee bows the harebell down, beside the mountain rill ;

And over all, grey Cairnsmore glooms -a monarch stern and lone,

Though the heather climbs his barrenness, and purples half his throne!

 

Oh, bonnie hills of Galloway ! oft have I stood to see

At sunset hour, your shadows fall at darkening on the sea;

While visions of the buried years, came o'er me in their might -

As phantoms of the sepulchre—instinct with inward light !

The years—the years—when Scotland groaned beneath her tyrant's hand,

And it was not for the heather she was called “ the purple land,"

And it was not for their loveliness her children blessed their God

For the secret places of the hills, and the mountain heights untrod.—

 

Oh ! as a rock, those memories still breast time's surging flood,

Her more than twice ten torture years of agony and blood !

 A lurid beacon-light they gleam upon her pathway now,

They sign her with the Saviour's seal—His cross upon her brow!

And never may the land whose flowers spring fresh from martyr graves

A moment's parley hold with Rome—her mimics—or her slaves,

A moment palter with the chains, whose scars are on her yet, -

Earth must give up the dead again—ere Scotland can for­get !—

 

—A grave—a grave is by the sea—in a place of ancient tombs‑

A restless murmuring of waves, for ever o'er it comes—

A pleasant sound in summer-tide —a requiem low and clear,

But oh ! when storms are on the hill—it hath a voice of fear !

So rank and high the tomb weeds wave, around that humble stone,

Ye scarce may trace the legend rude — with lichen half o'ergrown‑

But ask the seven years' child that sits beside the broken wall,

He will not need to spell it o'er—his heart hath stored it all!

 

A peasant's tale — a humble grave two names on earth unknown,

But Jesus bears them on His heart, before the eternal throne !

And kings and heroes yet shall come to wish their lot were bound

With those poor women slumbering, beneath the wave-girt ground !

The earth keeps many a memory, of blood as water poured

The peasant summoned at his toil, to own, and meet his Lord

The secret hungering in the hills — where none but God might see,—

Ay ! Earth had many martyrs—but these two were of the sea !

 

"The redcoats, lass ! the redcoats !" cry the weans from off the street ;

Who knows but Claver'se's evil eye may blast them if they meet !

Nay ! only Bruce and Windram come; but, oh ! was worth the way

They have gotten Gilbert Wilson's bairns in their cruel hands to-day!

See Annie! bonnie Annie! oh, but she is wasted sore,

With weary wandering in the hills—this seven month and more;

And Margaret, with her bleeding feet, and weather-stained brow,

But surely One alone could breathe the calm upon it now!

 

—She reeks not of the jibing words those ruthless soldiers speak ;

She reeks not of her bleeding feet—her frame so worn and weak;

She sees not even the pitying looks that follow as she goes,

Her soul is filled so full with prayer—that God alone she knows!

Long hath she looked for such a day with awe and shudder­ing dread;

Its terror in the night hath fallen—haunting her cavern bed;

And she hath prayed in agony, that if He might not spare,

Jesus would bear her charges then—and He hath heard her prayer!

 

They have brought her to their judgment-hall a narrow prison-room,

And once she look'd up, as they crossed, from sunlight into gloom,

And a sound of bitter weeping close beside her now she hears -

And she wished her hands unshackled, just to dry her mother's tears !

They have questioned of her wanderings—they have mocked her with their words ;

They have asked her if the Covenant, could shield her from their swords;

Or if she sought a miracle to test her call the more--

That she ventured to her father's home — right past the curate's door!

 

They questioned her with cruel taunts — and waited for reply ;

She met her father's look of woe—her mother's streaming eye,—

A moment quivered all her frame— strange gaspings choked her breath,

Then fell the words forth, one by one, as from the lips of death :--

"The blink of our own ingle—it came glancing o'er the tide,

And we were wet and weary both upon the mountain side;

My very heart grew sick within—my father's face to see,

And Annie yearned to rest her head upon my mother's knee !

 

 "Oh, men ! but they are bitter tears—ye cause the house-less weep,

With haunting thoughts of food and fire—that will not let them sleep,

And temptings of home words and ways—even whispering as they pray,

Until Another takes the load—once tempted even as they !"

There was a murmur through the crowd—first hope, and then despair,

For in the scoffing laugh of Bruce—was that which could not spare,

"0 lass ! ye should have ta'en the bay—ere there was light to see !"

She answered to that pitying voice—" I dared na for the sea !"

 

Alas! it is a little stroke draws from the flint the fire,

And but a little spark may light the martyr's funeral‑pyre-

And in the hearts of evil men such mischiefs smouldering herd,

That cruel thought, to cruel deed, may kindle at a word.

 "Ho! ho ! the sea! the raging sea! and can it tame your pride ?

My sooth ! we'll frame a Covenant with the advancing tide ;‑

To-morrow—when the dawn is chill—in Blednoch Bay we'll see

What mild persuasion harbours in the cold kiss of the sea!"

 

A man is stricken to the earth--by that strange voice of doom ;

The mother pleads not--knows not—all is blackness in the room;

As if smit with sudden blindness—she goes groping from the door,

And they hinder her to follow—who shall see her face no more !

But the father! Oh, the father he was a timid man and weak,

Complying still with every time –he had his faith to seek;

And now, within his heart and brain, a dreadful sound lie hears,

A sound of rushing waters—but they find no vent in tears!

 

God help him! He hath need of prayer—and knows not how to pray ;

He gasps out vain appeals to men who scoff, and turn away;

Madly he grovels in the dust—in desperate anguish now-‑

Until he feels his Margaret's kiss, like dew upon his brow.

"God help thee, father! oh, this sight is pitiful to see 1

Canst thou not give thy child for Him, who gave His Son for thee ?

Trust me,dear father, He is near, His promise to fulfil,

In passing through the waters – He will be beside us still !”

 

—It' is the solemn evening hour—the seal of that sad day,

And the rich purple of the hills is blending all to grey;

And from the cloud thrones of the west, the last bright gleam bath fled,

And the moon riseth white and wan—as a watcher o'er the dead!

—Sits Gilbert Wilson by his hearth—one child beside his knee ;

Oh, cheaply ransomed with his all !—a ruined man is he:

 For his poor life—and those poor hoards—the Cross he dared to shun,

All proffered now for his two bairns—and they have bought him one!

 

He sits beside his blackened hearth — unconscious of its gloom

A chill bath gathered at his heart—that mocks at that cold room;

There is no food upon the board—no kindled rush to guide

The gudewife at her nightly task, of spinning by his side;

And saving that at times his hand, as if to prove her there,

Strays in the darkness tremblingly amid his Annie's hair—

And saving that the mother's moan at times will make him start,

Ye might have deemed—the mighty grief had burst the feeble heart!

 

Oh! prison bars are stark and strong, to shut out light and air,

And yet the moonlight's sympathy--it stealeth even there;

 A glory on the dungeon floor---as on the free green sod,

A voiceless messenger of peace to souls at peace with God!

ind Margaret sitteth in its beam its radiance on her brow,

As though the crown she soon shall wear were brightening O'er her now,

With folded hands upon her knee, and half suspended breath,

listing to one who shares her cell—and soon must share her death!

 

A solemn place---a solemn time--for parted friends to meet,

Yet in the same extremity--their communing is sweet;

And while in prayer and praise, fleet by the watches of the night, --‑

Faith, like the moonbeam, enters in ---and floods the grave with light

Oh! youth and age contrasted well, in mutual help ye blend,

This tells of the unchanging God that of the Saviour friend

One tramples life's new springing flowers, for her Redeemer's sake,

The other stays her age on Him--who never can forsake!

 

Long had they loved---as Christians love, those two, so soon to die,

And each the other greeted first--with weeping---silently.

The matron wept--that that young life, so timelessly must cease ;

The maiden---that that honoured bead. must not go down in peace.

But soon—oh! soon it passed away—the coward thought and base,

And each looked humbly, thankfully, into the other's face

 "Mother! He rules the awful sea — with all its waters wild "‑

"The many waters are His voice — of love to thee, my child!"

 

— The guards .are met -- the stakes are set -- deep, deep within the sand,

One far toward the advancing tide, one nearer to the land;

And all along the narrow shore, that girdles in the bay,

Small groups of anxious watchers come—as wane the stars away!

Low lie the fog clouds on the hills—blank in their cur­tained screen,

Each crest of beauty veils its brow, from that abhorred scene ;

While eastward far, the straining eye, through mist and gloom, may see

Large raindrops plashing heavily—into a dull, sad sea !

 

—They come—they come !—a distant sound !—a measured marching,—soon

On mail-clad men the dewdrops rain, from off thy woods Baldoon !

The trodden grass—the trampled flowers—alas! poor em­blems they,

Of all a despot's iron heel, was crushing down that day.

They shall revive; - the harebell, see! uprears its crest again

The falling dew, hath cleansed anew, its purity from stain;

And thus, beneath the oppressor's tread and hell's opposing powers,

God's truth throughout the land shall spring— a sudden growth of flowers !

 

Ah! little Margaret's playmates deemed— in childhood's frolic glee

What shadow of a coming hour, still scared her at the sea

What secret shiver of the soul, passed to her from the bay,

And made her cast with impulse strong, the sea – weed crown away !

Oft would they seek, with mirthful wile, to lure her to the stra.nd,

Or hide the sea - shell 'mid the flowers she grasped with eager hand,

But in it still a whisper stirred, that shook her soul with fears,

And much they mocked her weakness then—remembered now with tears!

 

Sad silence deepened on the throng, as near and nearer came

The victims to their place of doom – the murders to their shame;

And there were blank and hopeless looks—white lips, dry parched with fear,

Low murmurs— suddenly suppressed, lest they who rule should hear -,

And men, bowed down with women's tears—until the sod was wet,----‑

But Bothwell Brig unnerved their arm, and crushed their manhood vet.

Woe for the land  !  the despot's rule hath lined its soil with graves,

And left beneath the frown of God—but taskmasters and slaves!

 

Woe for the land! Aye, gaze ye here ! ye, who would school the soul

From its high conscience -post of trust—to bow to your control

The work is done! the strife is won! the conflict passed away -

Rule o'er these wrecks of human kind !—and triumph if ye may!

High hearts once beat beneath the vest a Scottish peasant wears ;--‑

Go ! seek them in their martyr graves ! for these are not their heirs

Only a seed the mountains keep, till God's good time shall come

And the harvest, sown in blood and tears, be brought with shoutings home !

 

A sound—it cometh from the sea! and many a cheek is pale ;

A freshening wind---and fast behind, that hurrying voice of wail, “

Beshrew my heart 1" - cries Windram now "haste, comrades, while ye may!

With Solvay speed ----I rede ye heed ---- the tide comes in to-day !

Now, mother, to the stake amain !---your praying time is past

Or pray the breakers, if ye will they race not in so fast !"

Her grey hairs streaming on the wind they bear her to the bay,

While nearer roars the hungry sea, that ravens for its prey.

 

And Margaret stands --- with cold, clasped hands --- that bitter sight to see,

And now toward her own death-place they guide her silently.

A sudden impulse swayed the crowd, as those young limbs were bound---

A moment's movement stilled as soon---a shiver through a wound

And they have left her all alone---- with that strong seabefore—

A prayer of faith's extremity, faint mingling with its roar--‑

And on the eyes that cannot close -- those grey hairs streaming still,

While round about, with hideous rout -- the wild waves work their will  !

 

Ho! maiden, ho! what see'st thou there ?" 'tis Windram's brutal voice ;

 Methinks an earthly portion now were scarce beneath thy choice!

Yon sea-birds, screaming in their glee, how low they swoop to-day‑

Now tell us, lass ! what dainty cheer allures them in the bay?"

A change hath passed on that young brow—a glow—a light from heaven,

Above the sea, the lowering sky, to her seems glory riven

"It is my Saviour wrestling there, in those poor limbs I see,

He who is strength in death to her, hath strength in death for me !"

 

And sudden from those parted lips, rich tones of triumph come

Her fear is past—she stands at last, superior to her doom!

And strains, in midnight watchings learned, on many a blasted heath,

Swell slowly, solemnly to heaven, the anthem of her death !

Strange sweetness vibrates on the gale, it rises o'er the sea,

 As though an angel choir prolonged that thrilling harmony,

And still the song of faith and praise swells louder, clearer yet,

While to her feet the foam wreathes curl— and the dry sand grows wet!

 

—A yell !—it echoes from the hills! it pealeth to the sky!

 Startling wild creatures of the woods with its wild agony—

And bounding on from rock to rock, with gaunt arms tossed to heaven,

And maniac gestures—scaring still, the crowd before him drive

A haggard man hath gained the bay, with bloodshot eyes and wild,

And cast him down at Windram's feet, and shrieked— " My child! my child!"

Poor Margaret heard—as died her song in one convulsive gasp—

And the rushing waters bound her in the terror of their clasp !

 

"My child! my child! she shall not die—I've gold, I've gold," lie cried;

I found one heart that pitied me, though all were stone beside

Ye said that for a hundred pounds, the oaths ye'd proffer still

Spare the young life !—she'll take your tests—I know, I know she will!

Dark Windram glanced upon the gold—he glanced upon the sea

"Laggard, thou comest late," he said; "she might have lived for me!"

But two strong swimmers, at the word, plunge headlong in the wave,

They reach the stake—the cords they break !—not, not too late to save !

 

And women throng to chafe her hands and raise her drooping head,

Dropping warm tears on the cold brow—so calm—so like the dead;

While that poor father, crouching near, creeps shuddering to her feet,

And steals his hand up to her heart—to count its earliest beat !

Just then—athwart two glooming clouds—the morning sun made way,

Lighting a glory on the wave—a sunbow in the spray—

And up the hills the mist-wreaths rolled, revealing half their frame,

And Margaret in the gleam awoke— and breathed her Saviour's name!

 

Dark Windram turned him on his heel—he paced apart awhile,-‑

" Oh for the heart of Claver'se now—to do this work and smile !

Come, gir], be ruled! tliou'st proved enough, methinks, yon bitter brine,

Will find the partans " fitter food, than these young limbs of thine

Hold off, and let me near to her! beshrew this snivelling ring ;‑

Ho, lass! stand up upon thy feet, and pray, 'God save the king !'

"To die unsaved were horrible, " she said with low, sad voice ;

" Oh, yes ! God save him if He will ! the angels would rejoice ! "

 

Then up he sprang - that trembling man - low covering at her feet :

“Tis said, `tis said, my bairn – those words of life repeat !”

And Windram signaled with his hand – and rose a shout on high

Strange blessing on the tyrant's head! but ere it reached the sky,

A miscreant foul hath stopped its course—and baulked the echoes near

They could not catch a sound that died, like curses on the ear !

A spare, mean man, with shuffling gait, bath pressed before the rest

 'Tis well to pray ' God save the king '--but will she take the Test?"

 

And Windram looked into his face—and cursed his civil sneer

He knew him for the tool of Grahame—his spy, and creature there,--

A curate's brother—creeping up in those ill times to place,

Trained in apostasy from God—to all things vile and base !

" Well ! well ! Sir Provost, work your will—this dear is to your mind ;

For me, I'd rather fight with men, than choke this woman‑kind.

Bid her abjure the Covenant – none better knows the how

There`s scarce an oath on either side, but you have gulped ere  now !”

 

Smooth, smiling stood the Provost forth, no chafing stirred his blood

Something he muttered of "King James "—" the law "­and "public good,"

And then, as angry brows grew dark, and women muttered loud,

He shrank toward the soldiery, as though he feared the crowd!

"Dear Margaret, baulk this bloodhound yet !—Oh, spare thy father's woe ! "

She started from their clasping arms,—" I may not !—let me go!

I am the child of Christ," she said. "Lord! break this snare for me !"‑

And Windram turned his face aside and pointed to the sea!

 

--They will not cease—they will not sleep—those voices of the wave,

For ever, ever whispering, above the martyr's grave;

'Tis heard at night—'tis heard at noon—the same low wail­ing song,

In murmur loud—in cadence low—" How long, O Lord—how long!"

A cry against thee from the tide ! O tyrant, banned of Heaven !

It meets the blood-voice of the earth—and answer shall be given !

A little while—the cup fills fast—it overflows for thee—

And thine extremity shall prove, the vengeance of the sea !

 

Ay ! gnash thy teeth in impotence ! the fated hour is come

And ocean – with her strength of waves – bears the avenger home.

See ! eager thousands throng the shore, to hail the advancing fleet,

While baffled Dartmouth vainly strives, that heaven-sent foe to meet;

And post on hurrying post crowds fast, with tidings of dismay,

How the glassed waters lull, to aid the landing of Torbay.

Away ! prepare thy coward flight—thy sceptre scourge cast down

The sea pursues thee with its curse—thou king without a crown !

 

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