THE SETON'S OF CLATTO
Laird Seton dwelt in Clato tower
Aboon deep Clato den,
He and his six freebooting sons,
Black-browed and stalwart men.
Whare'er they rode the tulzie rose,
Out-flashed the ready knife;
Until their name a byeword grew
Throughout the bounds of Fife.
At mirk the band bad sally forth
Upon their lawless way,
Prepared to plunder near and far,
To plunder and to slay.
Saint Andrews kenned them on the east,
Dunfermline on the west;
And the haill country at their hands
Was harried and oppressed.
"A murrain on the lawless crew
That robs and harries Fife;
Till ruffian Seton be o'erthrown
We fear for purse and life."
"Twas at this time the gallant King
To Falkland Palace came
To chase the deer, and hunt the wolf;
'Twas James, fourth of his name.
And when he heard of Clato's wiles,
The gallant King was wroth;
And to destroy this nest of thieves,
He swore a mighty oath.
He clad him in a lackey's suit,
Syne on his mettled grey
Without the stirrup's aid, he leaped,
And eastward rode away.
He rode frae Falkland his lieve lane,
His broadsword by his side,
Resolved and stern for Clato bound,
Butt either band or guide.
It was an early summer day,
The linties sweetly sang;
And wi' the cheery lav'rock's note,
The deep blue welkin rang.
It was a bonnie summer day,
Green was the Lomond Law;
But little recked the youthful King
Of what he heard or saw.
His thoughts on lawless Seton dwelt,
And on the savage band,
Who daured to plunder near and far,
And flout the law's command.
The corslet acres first he passed,
Trajagie on his right,
Then -- Hochmagrenzie left behind --
Glen Newton cam' in sight.
The grassy Glen he hurried through,
And on to Fruchie rode --
A village famous then as now
For Wisdom's choice abode.
And next grim Forthar's rocky brae,
The gallant grey did breast;
Now to the right, now to the left,
Until he reached the crest.
There paused the King to breathe his steed
Ere he resumed the way;
Adown he gazed, and at his feet
A glorious landscape lay --
The Howe of Fife -- a mighty cup
Symmetrical and grand;
Carved and embossed with matchless skill
By Nature's cunning hand.
The bowl is shapen from the vale,
The mountains form its rim;
And with a wealth of wood the cup
Is jewelled to the brim.
But short time did the Monarch pause
To gaze on hill or dale,
Or cast enraptured glance adown
On Eden's tranquil vale.
He turned him from the mingled scene,
He touched the bridle rein,
The willing steed his hand obeyed
And bounded o'er the plain --
A vast expense of moss and heath
Whereon the muircock crew;
With darkling tracks of forest, where
The capercailzie flew.
And when he left the muir and moss
He reached Rameldry braes;
Rough was the road, but passing bright
With yellow broom ablaze.
Syne on cam' he to Downfield height,
Then checked his gallant grey;
And at a walk to Clato den
Passed watchful on his way.
See! yonder rears the sullen tower
Of Clato grim and hie,
The curs'd abode of furious crime,
And blackest treachery.
The tower looks down on Clato Den,
Whose base uneven shows
A narrow road, which pendant rocks
Seem threatening to close.
On to the road there looms a cave,
Dark exit from the tower;
And even now within its bounds
Two youthful Setons cower.
For they have from the Keep beheld
The rider drawing nigh --
They rush the prey to intercept
With fiendish rivalry.
On comes the rider, slow his pace,
And careless his demean,
As if the noblest in the land
A simple lad had been.
On comes the King; he pats his steed,
He whistles by the way;
Light-hearted and unconscious he,
A lackey young and gay.
He nears the cave, he sees the cave,
Proceeds with dauntless heart;
Lo! sudden from its gloomy jaws,
The fierce-eyed miscreants dart.
With yell of wrath they hold the path,
James eyes the nearest foe,
And with the pommel of his sword,
He deals a sudden blow --
The robber falls; with lightning haste
James draws his gleaming blade,
Then spurs his fiery steed, and waves
The broadsword o'er his head.
The second foe with fury fraught,
A prey seeks to detain;
He dashes to the horse's head,
And grasps the bridle rein.
Swift on his hand the Monarch's blade
Comes furious crashing down,
And severed from the wrist, that hand
Falls bleeding to the ground.
With a wild shriek of agony,
The miscreant seeks his lair;
The cave receives him, and resounds
With groans of deep despair.
And James is left the conqueror --
He smiles, and looks adown
Upon the clammy tell-tale hand
Left bleeding on the ground.
The King dismounts; he lifts the hand
With gesture of distaste;
Then in his kerchief white and fine
The spoil of war is placed.
Nor may he, haughty, condescend
A single glance to throw
On the first victim of his arm,
The prostrate brother foe;
But to his courser he returns,
And to the saddle springs;
Then up the glen he rides again,
And on his way he sings --
He sings, nor quickens he his pace,
But leisurelie rides he;
In wot a lion-hearted king,
The flower of chivalrie.
* * * * * * * * * * *
'Twas on the following day the King
Did pass in royal state
To visit Clato; loud his Lords
Knocked at the Castle gate.
A lengthy retinue, a guard
Befitting his estate
Accompanied the King, and stood
At Clato Castle gate.
"A royal visit to this house,
Then open speedilie."
The keeper flung his portals wide,
And a proud man was he.
Laird Seton to the ha' door cam',
And on his bended knee
Besought his Sov'reign Lord to prove
"That Scotland's King should deign to come
To Clato's humble Hold
More pleasures me than titles high,
Or stores of ruddy gold."
Syne cam' they to the Hall of State --
"Go fetch the bread and wine,
That my Liege Lord may break his fast
Within these wa's of mine."
"I may not taste the bread, my Lord,
Nor quaff the ruby wine,
Until you bring before their King,
The scions of your line."
"My sons, O King, are hamely youths,
Butt courtly art and grace,
And it wad sore embarrass them
To see the Monarch's face."
"Yet have I heard the Seton lads
Have mettle and to spare;
And bashfulness among young men
In trow is passing rare.
"Go! Bring them here -- the King commands" --
No more durst Seton say;
The King commands -- Who shall resist?
To hear is to obey.
Now Seton's sons are summoned forth;
They come with dogg'ed mien
Before King James, who views the lads
With glance severe and keen.
They pass before him one by one;
They shrink beneath his eye,
And there the Monarch silent stands
Till four have shambled by.
On comes the fifth with broken head
Swathed in a linen band;
The King detains him with a word,
A motion of his hand.
"Now, whence that broken head of yours;
Its history declare?"
Young Seton blushed, and stammered forth,
"In was at Cupar fair."
"Could not your hands protect your head?
Awa', young sir, awa',
For Cupar fair's a se'ennight gane,
And still your wounds are raw.
"I thought the Laird of Clato's sons
Were dauntless in the strife,
And never might their marrow meet,
What knocks and blows were rife.
"These wounds, I fear, were never earned
At market dance or fair;
Now as you are an honest man,
The truth to me declare."
But ne'er a word young Seton spoke,
He only looked adown;
Then scornful flashed the Monarch's eye,
And heavy was his frown.
"And be these all your sons, my Lord?"
The King to Seton said.
"I have a sixth," was the reply,
"But he is ill in bed."
"Yet must I interview the youth,
Go, bring him here to me."
"Alas! There's fever in his veins,
He mauna come to thee."
"Then shall I to his bedside go,
If he be not brought here."
Then to his son has Seton gone
In trembling and in fear.
And he has brought his sickly son
Before the royal face,
And for the lad so wan and pale
He begged the Monarch's grace.
"If thou art fevered," said the King;
"If thou are sick and ill,
My services shalt thou command,
In leechcraft I have skill.
"It is the pulse that bodes the health,
Then bare for me thine arm;
Nay, shrink not so, 'tis for thy good,
I shall not hurt nor harm;
"'Tis the left hand thou givest me,
But I wad feel the right;
Nay, I insist" -- the maim'ed arm
Is slowly brought to sight.
A maim'ed arm -- a bloody stump --
A gruesome spectacle --
Then spake the King, and pitiless
And stern his accent fell.
"And like your brother you have fought,
But at a heavier cost,
Yet I can fit you with a hand
For that which you have lost,"
He said, and drew a stiffened hand
From out his kerchief fine,
"Now as I am a Christian king,
This bloody hand is thine.
"'Twas I who yesterday did ride,
Alone down Clato den,
When suddenly I was beset
By fierce marauding men.
"From a dark cave nigh to the road,
Intent on spoil they ran;
I struck the foremost to the ground,
And yonder is the man.
"The second rushed before my steed;
He seized my bridle rein;
'Twas but a moment -- with my sword
I cleft his wrist in twain.
"A trophy of the mimic war,
I bore his hand away --
Here is the hand, and there the man,
Who shall my words gainsay?
"And now I ask what punishment
Awaits the skulking foe,
Who cannot bear him like a man,
But strikes th' assassin blow,
"Who robs and harries near and far,
Who wields the coward knife --
A scandal and a terror both
To order-loving Fife?"
The Monarch ceased, and looked around;
As with a single breath
Th' assembled nobles gave reply,
"The punishment is Death."
And ne'er a word did Seton say;
In every eye he read
The glance of doom; with folded arms
He stood, and bended head.
And ne'er a word said Seton's sons --
Short shrift had one and all;
They brought the father and his lads
From out the lofty Hall.
They brought them to the big ash tree,
Close by the Castle gate,
And there the lawless robber band
Met with a speedy fate.
They hanged Laird Seton and his sons
Upon the big ash-tree;
Three sons upon his right were set,
And on his left were three.
Thus Fife was by the good King James
Of a vile pest set free.
He was a lion-hearted King,
The flower of chivalrie.