The Warrior’s Return

by Joseph Latimer


Upon the rath the beacon fire
Shot upwards with a ruddy flame;
‘Twas watched bty many an ancient sire
And many a careworn, anxious dame.
And answering fires on every height,
A blazing line, shot from the coast,
Marked out the path with joyful light
Of the returning warrior host.

A murmur rose, and gathered strength,
Like “many waters” on the ear,
“They’re coming, coming, coming home at length,
Father, son, brother, husband dear.
Our gallant king is at their head
And trophies of the war they bear,
Then haste, the banquet tables spread,
And for the feast and dance prepare.

The warrior denied by age
Of joining the adventurous bands,
Stood on the hilltop with the sage,
Eager to light the burning brands;
The minstrel bent his silvered head
As he composed a martial song,
And many a grateful tear was shed –
A vent to feelings pent-up long.

When lo! A presage of some ill,
A portent of some evil dire,
The blazing lights on every hill
In quick succession all expire;
And borne upon the balmy gale,
With terror that each bosom shared,
Like the low mournful banshee’s wail,
The warrior’s sad cavine is heard.

The tramping feet sound in the glen,
Emerging from the stern defile
Is seen the war-worn group of men
Treading once more their native isle.
But oh! What tidings, sad, they bring,
The chanting Druids at their head,
In broken accents sadly sing
The virtues of the fallen dead.

They sing how on the Alpine steeps
The noble hero fought and fell;
And heavier, deeper sadness creeps
Into the hearts that loved him well.
‘Twas a black day, a heavy shade
O’ercast it, of the direst gloom,
When morning, martial clansmen laid
The royal Dathè in the tomb.