Glimmered the cone of many a leathern tent
And moonlight glazed the marsh,
While hungry wolf pack galloped swift and rent
The nightly air, where flocks were safely pent,
With ululation harsh.
The people slept, the sentinel alone
Upon his granite rest
Kept watch – a Stone Man, sitting on a stone.
Within one tent some baby made a moan
And met his mother’s breast.
Then, where great Bellaford upon the night
Lifted a mighty head,
There twinkled out a sudden tongue of light;
The bale-fire blazed; the watcher yelled his
The lodge awoke in dread,
Flashed the red torch on hairy arm and thigh;
Leapt up the fighting men;
Huddled the skin-clad women; rose a cry
Of rage and terror to the starry sky
And fled the wolves to den.
Away the warriors thunder and their sound
Faints on the anxious ear.
The aged throng their waken fires around;
The children sleep again, while fold and pound
The women guard in fear.
They shiver and draw close shaggy hide;
The bale-fire dies away.
The night is long, and agony full tide
Drowns their aching hearts, till open wide
The silver gates of day.
Like a slow snake upon dewy earth
The fighting legions home.
They bring their spoils and prisoners with mirth,
And victory they bring, and perished worth,
For dead men also come.
The clan rejoices while the clansmen weep
And widowed women rave.
To heaven the red-fanged, raging fires leap
Where heroes’ dust beneath one mighty heap
Of granite finds a grave.
Now they have vanished with their blood and
Behind the rolling mist;
The Stone Man and his joys and hopes and fears
Are not: his home and grave defy the years
And with time keep a tryst.
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