The Death of Evan Dhu
by Alexander McLachlan
In memory of Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, 1629 -1719
They place the Chieftain in his chair
Beneath the aged yew;
And is this all that now remains
Of mighty Evan Dhu?
The plaided clansmen gather round,
And gaze upon his face;
They fear that Death will soon lay low
The hero of their race.
Vainly they tend and talk to him
In friendship's soothing tone;
The old man sits, with drooping head,
Unconscious as a stone.
"Go bring the minstrel of our tribe
To sing the mountain strain -
The strain he lov'd- 'twill bring him back
To consciousness again."
And, leaning on his staff, at length
The aged bard appears,
But, gazing on him while he sings,
He scarce can sing for tears.
"A cloud hangs o'er Lochaber's wilds,
Her vales are fill'd with woe,
The shaft has started from the string
To lay her hero low.
"Behold the mountain warrior,
The chief of sounding fame,
Whose claymore in battle flash'd
Like a consuming flame.
"But where, ah! where's the princely air,
The step so firm and true,
The eagle eye, the lordly brow,
Of mighty Evan Dhu?
"Are these the very hands which laid
The Sassenach giant low,
Who dared invade Lochaber's wilds
Full fifty years ago?"
He heeds him not, he hears him not;
The weeping clansmen seem
Like floating shadows hov'ring round,
Or phantoms in a dream.
Anon he sings the mournful song
Some exiled heart of yore
Sang when he thought that he would see
Lochaber's hills no more.
Anon he wakes the battle-cry,
The Cameron's gath'ring strain:
The light of battle flashes in
The old man's eye again.
He clutches by his side, as if
To draw his ancient brand,
And, starting from his couch, aloft
He waves his wither'd hand,
And shouts, "Advance, Sons of Lochiel!"
With all the fire of yore,
And seems, as waving in his hand
The terrible claymore.
Great Chieftain of the mountain race!
It was thy last adieu;
For clansmen clasp the lifeless form
Of mighty Evan Dhu.
To better understand the mindset of the Gaidhlig speaking Celtic people of Scotland, ignore the likes of mocking anglicized chancers such as S.J.. What, for instance, does "Dhu" mean?
Instead, try to purchase "Highland Songs of the Forty-Five" edited by the excellent Gaidhlig learner, John Lorne Campbell (1933, 1984), the latter published by Scottish Academic Press Ltd.
It is well worth the effort.
For those who are interested Dhu is an English attempt at Dubh, which means "black" and refers to someone with black hair or dark complected/swarthy. Also Lochiel's name was Ewan, again the "Evan" is an attempt in English to capture what Sir Ewan's Clansmen called him.
I find the poem very moving, regardless of the language.
Rainy, cha sheas a'bhreug ach air leth-chois. Chan eil annad ach amadan!
Am freagair thu sin?
De an rud?
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