Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Poetry - Enduring Love

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (picture from here) was a Scottish general & hero of the Royalist cause in Scotland during the English Civil Wars. He won many victories for Charles I against the Covenanters but was forced into exile when Charles was defeated by the Covenanters in 1646. After Charles's execution, Montrose swore to do all he could to restore Charles II. He occupied the Orkneys in 1649 as a prelude to a full-scale invasion of Scotland but by the time he reached the mainland, Charles was negotiating with the Scots & ordered Montrose to disband his army. These orders never reached him & he was defeated in battle at Carbisdale. He escaped but was eventually betrayed & executed as a traitor in 1650.

This poem about the power of love is very much in the tradition of the Cavalier poets. It's a fitting end to my posts from Antonia Fraser's anthology of Scottish Love Poetry. Next week, I'll stay in the 17th century with an anthology of metaphysical poetry.

My dear and only Love, I pray
This noble World of thee,
Be govern'd by no other Sway
But purest Monarchie.
For if Confusion have a Part,
Which vertuous Souls abhore,
And hold a Synod in thy Heart,
I'll never love thee more.

Like Alexander I will reign,
And I will reign alone,
My Thoughts shall evermore disdain
A Rival on my Throne.
He either fears his Fate too much,
Or his Deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the Touch,
To win or lose it all.


  1. Montrose appears as a heroic character in John Buchan's great but under-rated novel "Witch Wood", set in Scotland in the 1640s. Highly recommmended.

  2. I fell completely in love with Montrose while reading The Proud Servant by Margret Irwin when I was 14 and recovering from having my appendix out. He had it all, looks, nobility, charm...I wept buckets at his death. He still makes me go weak at the knees.

  3. Anonymous, I didn't realise Buchan wrote historical novels. I've read a few of his adventure stories. I'll have to look out for this one. Victoria, I loved Margaret Irwin & read all her books in that blue uniform edition. We had it in my public library. I would have read Proud Servant but don't remember it now. My favourite was The Gay Galliard, about Mary, Queen of Scots & Bothwell. It was reprinted recently as just The Galliard, the meaning of gay having changed, of course, even though I think the reference was to a dance rather than to Bothwell himself. I've got C V Wedgwood's biography of Montrose on the tbr shelves, I really must read up on him.

  4. Buchan wrote several historical novels, but none that I've read come close to "Witch Wood". If you do decide to read "Witch Wood", I recommend the Oxford Classics edition for the glossary of Scots terms, which Buchan uses liberally.

    I'm not really trying to be anonymous (my name is George); I just can't work out these internet identities.

    I enjoy your blog.

  5. Hello George, it's nice to know who the Anonymous commenters are! I've just finished the biography of Montrose I mentioned & I've downloaded the Canongate edition of Witch Wood as I'm now fascinated by Montrose. What an amazing man & how tragically he was let down by the monarchs he tried to serve. There's a glossary in the Canongate edition of WW so hopefully the dialect won't defeat me. I'm glad you enjoy the blog.