Midsummer's Night Dream

by Dr John Mitchell

'Scots steel tempered wi Irish fire
Is the weapon that I desire

I dreamed that dream again last night
of Bannockburn the bonnie fight
where met the Scots and English might
and Scotland's poorfolk put to flight
the pride of Edward's chivalry.

Never had force more puissant left
old England bent on war and theft.
Longshanks was dead. His son, bereft
of all the elder Edward's deft
warmanship and foxy craft,
thought war a game with flags a-waft
above heraldic cavalry.

Ah, with what pomp and circumstance,
emblazoned baldric, ribboned lance,
what ribald song and stately dance,
what gloves and doves and dalliance
what tambour's clash and piebald's prance
did he his cavalcade advance
towards the fatal border.

In by Lauderdale he came,
the fame-sick fop, his heart aflame
to reassert Ned Longshanks' claim
to be old Scotland's warder.

Westward through Edinburgh they swung,
their brass-necked trumpets giving tongue,
while to their rear our ploughmen clung
shovel in hand, collecting dung
to feed their field -
booty more fruitful, though unsung,
than battles usually yield.

Upon the twenty-third of June
which is of days the year's high noon
at Bannock Burn bold de Bohun
charged on the Bruce and by him soon
to death was hacked.
This was the prelude to the tune
and prologue to the first fierce Act.

Their knights came lumbering up the Carse
determined, with one coup de grace,
to take them out, subdue, disperse
the small Scots force.
A force - a farce!
So on they laboured through the gorse
till down our pits, both man and horse,
they sorely tumbled,
and soon were charging in reverse,
horseless and humbled.

Their bowmen, having shot their bolt,
withdrew into a nearby holt,
hoping the schiltron's barbed assault
would pass them by -
pressed Welshmen all, they bore no fault,
but had to die.

Yet still their yoemen stood their ground,
they and the people of commoner kind.
Even some knights returned and joined
the fray again.
Dark came. Day came. The day declined,
and then -

the Highland Gaels with furious zeal
came storming in.
On haughty heads encased in steel
Lochaber axes danced a reel
while Southron flesh was made to feel
the claymore's hungry bite.

They fought, they fell, they broke, they fled
trampling the faces of their dead.
The oozing moss wept red, wept red
for weeks beneath the looters' tread
by day and night.

Aye, dreadful, dreadful was the cost
of idle Edward's ill-judged boast.
'Tis said that of that English host
full thirty thousand men were lost
before the harried remnant crossed
Tweed river to Northumberland.

All in the high midsummer heat
they beat their hang-dog, slow retreat
the weary length of Watling Street
and never an open door to greet
or grant sweet rest to wounded feet.
Such was their welcome in defeat
whose setting out had been so grand.

Many a Southron maid forlorn
mourned leman lost on Bannock Bourne.
There was the rose of England torn
by the root, its petals strown
to the four winds. Babes yet unborn
would gray and rot before its thorn
would sharpen to fresh devilry.

I dreamed that dream again last night
of Bannockburn's undying fight
where met the Scots and English might
and where avenged was Wallace-wight
when Scotland's poorfolk put to flight
the pride of Edward's chivalry.

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