Where the Pelican Builds
and Other Poems

The Massacre of the Bards

Mary Hannay Foott

THE SUNLIGHT from the sky is swept,
But, over Snowdon’s summit kept,
    One brand of cloud yet burns,—
By ghostly hands far out of sight,
Held, glowing, in the even-light,—
As Fate still keeps the weapon bright
    That lingers and returns.

.     .     .     .     .

O day of slaughter! Day of woe!—
But once,—a thousand years ago,—
    Such day has Britain seen;
When blushed her hoary hills with shame
At Mona’s sacrifice of flame;
While shrieks from out the burning came
    Across the strait between.

Death-helping day!—That couldst not find
One weeping cloud to hide behind!—
    Cursed day whose light was given
For search-mate to the Saxon sword
Through coverts that our rocks afford,—
While Edward’s godless minions poured
    The blood of the unshriven!

.     .     .     .     .

Ill fare we when the trees are rent,
Whose friendly shelter erst was lent
    In sun, and wind, and rain.
Ill fare we when the thunder-shocks
Let loose the torrents from their rocks,
To sweep away the mountain-flocks,
    And flood the standing grain.

But where the forest-giants groan,—
By winds that waste the woods o’erthrown,—
    New saplings blithely spring!—
Sank herd and harvest ’neath the tide?—
There’s bleating on the mountain-side;
O’er cornfields, ere the dew has dried
    To-morrow’s lark shall sing!

Sore sighs the land when she has need
The dragon-jaws of war to feed
    With those who love her best;
And long shall Cambria’s tears be shed
For him who late her armies led,—
Llewellyn,—whose dissevered head
    The Saxon crowned in jest!

Yet, in their stead whose blood is spilt,
Newcomers seize the sword’s warm hilt,—
    Or o’er it reach the ground!—
Llewellyn!—every night-watch drear
With grief for thee,—brings morning near;
That morn when Arthur shall appear,—
    Once more our leader crowned!

But when the blood of bards is poured,
Who gathers their forgotten hoard
    From memories sealed by fate?—
What daring songster e’er shall soar
For us to Heaven’s death-guarded door,—
And tell thereafter of the store
    That glimmers through the grate?

When Famine’s empty hand is filled,—
When years the shattered oaks rebuild,—
    Shall heroes spring again,
Brave spirits of the past to greet
Who rise at minstrel-summons sweet,—
When bards the olden tales repeat
    Of Britain’s mighty slain?—

Nay,—by the harps our fathers heard
No more shall Britain’s heart be stirred,—
    Lost is the ancient lore!—
Spent is the breath of song, that fanned
Freedom’s low fires!—The bard’s light hand,—
Whose beckoning brought the martial band,—
    Shall seek the strings no more!

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