Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My very bones . . .

My very bones are tired
as we pass through the Great Glen.
Its trees shimmer yellow and
bow down, leaves on the ground.
Once green ferns now brown to bracken;
now the last flowering before winter,
purple heather covers the hills.

Here, Jacobite rebels
once fled into the hills,
no respite, no cover, no mercy.
All under seventy put to the sword.
The elders must have felt they lived too long
to see this, their sons and their sons' childer
all gone, their goods taken,
their homes scattered stone.

Today, tourists walk up and down the streets
of Fort William, past The Crofters' Bar,
the Jacobite Bakery, munching hot meat pies,
carrying packs, wearing the plaid,
and remembering the songs of long ago.

Rogie Falls, Scotland
Picture: Rogie Falls, Scotland (Webshots)

The history of the "Forty-five" has followed us all through Northern Scotland, a history I'd only read romanticized versions of. Today we visit the Scottish Parliament, which has very definitely a complex history as an independent body functioning from the middle ages to 1707, when in merged with England, to 1998, when the Scottish people voted to restore a limited Scottish Parliament (I'm guessing much like the relationship of the United States state-level government to the national federal government in the United States), where certain powers are reserved for Scotland and certain powers retained by England.

Click these links to read more about the Jacobite rebellions and especially the story of the MacDonalds whose chief was late taking the oath of loyalty. The Campbells travelled to the MacDonalds, and asked for hospitality (this open door policy still exists today, with no doors locked in Orkney or Inverness or Fort William). In the middle of the night, the Campbells attacked the MacDonalds, killing 40, with the rest fleeing for safety to the rugged hills of Glencoe, to die there of cold and exposure. The Campbells still are scorned for their treachery, still some 300 years later. Read more of this history (and see more pictures of Glencoe here. In my poem I'm mixing two stories, that of Glen Coe (the MacDonalds and the Campbells) and the Duke of Cumberland's order to kill those under 70 following the battle of Culloden.