Judith McCombs




 
Ballad of  M'Comie Mor, 7th Chief of Clan MacThomas


 

Glenshee & Glen Isla,

Central Highlands, Scotland, 1600s


O M'Comie was a swordsman good
As ever drew a blade.
Disguised, he fought his dearest son
To prove the next Chief brave.

When Athol's men took the widow's flock,
She ran to M'Comie Mor.
He chased that mob, and with his sword
Soon felled the bravest four.

Lord Athol begged M'Comie to fight
The traveling champion.
"Save my honor, and I'll let pass
what else your sword has done."

"I will not fight where there's been no wrong
to my people or to me."
The Italian lifts M'Comie's kilt
And whacks his bare body!

The champion's sword was swift as flight
But M'Comie's swifter flew—
It flashed too quick for mortal sight
As he ran the Italian through.


***


                       

Scotland, Charles I versus
Cromwell & Covenanters, 1644-58


O M'Comie raised his sword and clan,
With Montrose he would dare.                                                           
Seven times they smashed the Covenanters—
Then made all Glasgow theirs.

M'Comie captured Sheriff Forbes,
Outfought him sword and shield—
Then left King's cause when Montrose lost,
And the clans were forced to yield.                        

Chief Airlie raised his sword and clan,
Fought where Montrose led—
But Airlie stayed with the Royalists
When Charles lost crown and head.

Three times Lord Airlie was a captured man.
Doomed after Philiphaugh,
He escaped to see fair Scotland thrive
Under Cromwell's law.

Then M'Comie bested Airlie sore,
Bought his title and sweet green lands.
That can occur in civil war—
The losers lose their lands.


***



Scotland, Charles II,
1660-74


O Airlie bested M'Comie sore
When fevered Cromwell died.
Lord Airlie got the sweet green woods
Where M'Comie's cattle thrived.                                               

Airlie leased the woods to Farquharson,
But M'Comie's cows still grazed.
He was seized for ransom, his herd was thinned:
"I'll have a warrant," he raged.

M'Comie's sons and the Sheriff's man
Chased down the Farquharsons.
Two of M'Comie's brave sons fell,
Two of the Farquharsons.

It wasn't swords that broke the clan
But fines and guns and laws.
The M'Comie's were found innocent
But fees devoured all.

O Airlie bested M'Comie sore,
He took his heirs and lands.
That can occur in feuds and war—
The losers lose their clans.



Judith McCombs' poems appear in Calyx, Hunger Mountain, Poet Lore, Potomac Review (Poetry Prize), Prairie Schooner, Red Cedar Review, Sisters of the Earth, and Sow's EarBeltway Poetry Quarterly, Innisfree Poetry Journal; Feminist Studies, Nimrod (Neruda Award), Poetry, Poetry Northwest, River Styx, and her fifth book, The Habit of Fire: Poems Selected & New. She received the Maryland State Arts Council's highest 2009 award in Poetry. She teaches writing workshops at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, and arranges a poetry series at Kensington Row Bookshop. 










                                    

 

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