The Pipes of Lucknow

By John G. Whittier

Pipes of the misty moorlands,
Voice of the glens and hills;
The droning of the torrents,
The treble of the rills!
Not the braes of bloom and heather,
Nor the mountains dark with rain,
Nor maiden bower, nor border tower,
Have heard your sweetest strain!

Dear to the Lowland reaper,
And plaided mountaineer –
To the cottage and the castle
The Scottish pipes are dear –
Sweet sounds the ancient pibroch
O’er mountain, loch and glade;
But the sweetest of all music
The pipes at Lucknow played.

Day by day the Indian tiger
Louder yelled, and nearer crept;
Round and round the jungle serpent
Near and nearer circles swept.
“Pray for rescue, wives and mothers –
Pray today!” the soldier said:
“Tomorrow, death’s between us
And the wrong and shame we dread.”

O, they listened, looked, and waited,
Till their hope became despair:
And the sobs of low bewailing
Filled the pauses of their prayer.
Then up spake a Scottish maiden,
With her ear unto the ground:
“Dinna ye hear it? – dinna ye hear it?
The pipes o’ Havelock sound!”

Hushed the wounded man his groaning;
Hushed the wife her little ones;
Alone they heard the drum-roll
And the roar of Sepoy guns.
But to sounds of home and childhood
The Highland ear was true;
As her mother’s cradle-crooning
The mountain pipes she knew.

Like the march of soundless music
Through the vision of the seer,
More of the feeling than of hearing,
Of the heart than of the ear,
She knew the droning pibroch,
She knew the Campbell’s call;
“Hark: hear ye no’ MacGregor’s,
The grandest o’them all!”

O, they listened, dumb and breathless,
And they caught the sound at last;
Faint and far beyond the Goomtee
Rose and fell the piper’s blast!
Then a burst of wild thanksgiving
Mingled woman’s voice and man’s;
“God be praised – the march of Havelock!
The piping of the clans”

Louder, nearer, fierce as vengeance,
Sharp and shrill as swords at strife,
Came the wild MacGregor’s clan-call
Stinging all the air to life.
But when the far-off dust-cloud
To plaided legions grew,
Full tenderly and blithesomely
The pipes of rescue blew!

Round the silver domes of Lucknow,
Moslem mosque and pagan shrine,
Breathed the air to Briton’s dearest,
The air of “Auld Lang Syne.”
O’er the cruel roll of war-drums
Rose that sweet and homelike strain;
And the tartan clove the turban,
As the Goomtee cleaves the plain.

Dear to the corn-land reaper
And plaided mountaineer –
To the cottage and the castle
The pipe’s song is dear;
Sweet sounds the Gaelic pibroch
O’er mountain, glen and glade;
But the sweetest of all music
The pipes of Lucknow played!


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