‘Cargill Taken Prisoner at Covington Mill, on the Clyde’ #History #Poetry #Scotland

The capture of the outlawed minister Donald Cargill at Covington near Biggar in July 1681 was turned into poetry by the Reverend James Dodds in the nineteenth century. The poem, based on Patrick Walker’s account of Cargill’s capture, was published in Lays of the Covenanters (1880), 181-4.

Quothquan Law Covington

Quothquan Law from Covington © David Hamilton and licensed for reuse.

July, 1681.


The Clyde rolls on majestic, beneath a July moon;
The sky is calm and cloudless, well-nigh as bright as noon;
And far into the heavens Cothwhan uplifts his height,
With his young and floating tresses, all bathed in streams of light:
Like some angelic watcher, to watch with radiant eye
O’er holy Cargill’s slumber in the miller’s cot hard by.


The blessing rest upon thee, and deep, serene repose!
And the cloudy pillar hide thee from the fury of thy foes!
With strong heart hast thou wrestled in the fulness of the day,
And thy God shall be thy glory when the earth-lights die away.
Who so are true and faithful unto their latest breath,
Bud when the false ones wither, and greenest look in death.


But see those forms that darkly from the distant heights appear;
That hollow sound, whence comes it, like horsemen trampling near?
‘Tis but the dark wood waving where St. John’s Kirk standeth lone,
And that hollow tramp of horsemen is but the night-wind’s moan.
And all is peace and sweetness, the moon looks from on high
On her cradled children smiling with her blessed mother-eye.


Ah no! ‘tis not the dark wood, ‘tis not the night-wind’s moan,
‘Tis the savage troop of Bonshaw that are hither rushing on.
The door is burst, the chamber is filled with steel-shod feet,
And the aged slumberer shaken from his slumbers still and sweet.
He looks at first half-wildered, then meekly riseth up,
And with cheerful heart prepareth to drink his Master’s cup.

Donald Cargill Covington Mill 1681 (1)Cargill Monument at Covington Mill


Across the Clyde they bear him, and to Lanark roughly ride,
While beneath the horse’s belly his legs are closely tied.
And loud the jeers and laughter, and Bonshaw yells with glee,
“A blessed day for Bonshaw, a blessed prize to me,
Six thousand merks are clinking on that blessed saddle-tree!”


By the ancient kirk at Lanark, in the eye of all the hills,
Then spake God’s ancient servant, and time the word fulfils:
“I tell thee, cruel Bonshaw, that on high hast built thy nest,
By whom God’s Church and people so long have been opprest,
Where now thou stand’st exulting in the greatness of thy lust,
A bloody hand from thine own wild band shall strike thee to the dust.
As low as thou art lordly shalt thou welter in thy blood,
And this shall be ere yon ash tree again begin to bud.”


And so before that ash tree again began to bud,
As low as he was lordly did he welter in his blood.
A bloody hand from his own wild band did strike him to the dust,
Where then he stood exulting in the greatness of his lust.
By the ancient kirk at Lanark was the mangled carcase laid,
And the word returned not empty which the godly man had said.


But gently, like the streamlet that seeks the ocean’s breast,
Old Cargill passeth onward to his centre and his rest.
Even as an aged pilgrim, who sadly toils along,
Enters the city gladly at the quiet even song.


The wise and wakeful virgins, whose lamps were trimmed and bright,
Went forth to meet the Bridegroom at the mid-watchof the night,
And dreaded not the darkness, their lamps so clearly burned,
But forth they went rejoicing, and with bridal wreaths returned.

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Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

~ by drmarkjardine on March 13, 2016.

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