Research article
Issue: № 6 (34), 2022


The article deals with the military discourse of Scottish poets-emigrants of the USA of the XIXth century related to Scotland. The history of Scotland is the history about struggle for freedom and independence, which were never crowned with success. This history is replete with heroes who could become the main characters of military discourse, but in the poems of poets-emigrants only Robert the Bruce, Sir William Wallace, Mary I Stuart and Prince Charlie Stuart are depicted in close-up. The folklore tradition is dominant in the characterological description, which explains the appeal to such artistic means as hyperbolization, generalization and idealization. The poetic texts of the cycle are marked by positive appraisal and an abundance of laudative motifs.

1. Introduction

The historical fate of the Scots is inseparably linked with wars. The history of Scotland (especially the history of Highlanders) was made up of almost continuous wars. From the third century AD squads of militant Celts-Scots begin to penetrate the territory of the British Isles: on the land of the mainland of the future Scotland, in Ayrshire, Galloway, etc. Until the IXth century, there was also an armed struggle against German aliens, the Angles and the Saxons, and against the native Picts. From the IXth century to the XIVth century, the already formed Kingdom of Scotland had to repel the raids of the Danes and Scandinavian Normans. At the same time there were constant skirmishes with the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, the British on the Borders – primarily in Northumbria. The squads of the Scots participated in the crusades, in the Anglo-French war and in the military campaigns of the Byzantine Empire, which was living out its last centuries [2], [4], [6].

Therefore, it seems possible to us to assume that the military discourse is super-relevant for the poetic heritage of the Scottish poets-emigrants, who in their texts refer to military history. The purpose of the article is to identify the specific features of military discourse in the Scottish emigrational poetry of the United States of the XIXth century related to the history of Scotland. This purpose involves the solution of the following tasks:

1) to determine the historical context of the military discourse of the Scottish emigration poetry of the United States of the XIXth century related to the history of Scotland;

2) analyze the poetic texts of Scottish poets-emigrants at the personage level;

3) to identify the dominant features of the military discourse of the Scottish emigrational poetry of the USA of the XIXth century.

The material of this research work – the poetic texts of the Scottish emigrants of the XIXth century related to military topic.

The novelty of the study is attributed to the attempt to analyze military discourse of Scottish poetic emigration of the USA of the XIXth century related to Scottish metropolitan military history and find specific characteristics, motifs, artistic means of the mentioned discourse.

2. Research methods and principles

Methods of comparative analysis, stylistic analysis, historical and biographical approach were used to analyze military discourse.

3. Main results

Historical background. The history of Scotland is a history of battles and changing dynasties. Periods of interregnum, when various candidates fought for the throne, were accompanied by clan wars. With whom did the Scots fight at different stages of the formation of the Scottish nation and the Scottish state?

Before the creation of their own state (III-IX centuries AD). The Scots, having migrated to the British Isles from Ireland, immediately began to fight with the aboriginal Picts. (R.L. Stevenson’s ballad Heather Ale [12, P. 273] narrates about this). They would also wage wars with the Celtic Britons. (This will be mentioned by T. Scott in his “little poem” Fergus [11, P, 490]). From the fourth to fifth centuries AD the continental Germans: Angles, Saxons and Jutes moved to the same islands. The Scots had most skirmishes with the Saxons and the Angles. By the ninth century, Normans-Vikings (mostly future Norwegians and Danes) landed on the coast. These wars would last until the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries [3].

After the creation of Scots’ own state (IX-XVI centuries AD). The named centuries also cannot be called peaceful. At that time, the Scottish kingdom would be at war with the English kingdom almost continuously. The situation would be complicated by dynastic strife, with candidates to the throne relying heavily on foreign (English) troops, who would occupy (at least partly) Scottish lands.

From the ninth to the fourteenth centuries six kings would be murdered and seven overthrown in Scotland, and four ruling dynasties would change (the Alpins, the Canmores, the Bruces, the Stuarts). In the sixteenth century would come the turn of religious wars and repression. Two monarchs of the Stuart dynasty, Mary I and Charles I, would die on the scaffold. Then the Stuarts would be replaced by Hanoverians; Scotland would lose her statehood; two armed rebellions against England and the Anglican Church (1715, 1745) would end in executions and mass emigration [5], [6].

It is obvious that, against such a historical background, the politicians and the military will become the main characters of Scottish patriotic poetry. They would include the first King of Scotland, Kenneth I Alpin (810-858); Malcolm III, the first Canmore king (1031-1093), and his wife Margaret, the first canonized Scottish saint (1673) (both became protagonists of The Life of Saint Margaret, Queen of Scots written by Abbot Turgot [1, P. 66-73]).

Scottish historical background determines the main characters of Scottish patriotic poetry, namely, politicians and military men. Scottish poets-emigrants of the XIXth century had at their disposal a whole gallery of heroes and “anti-heroes” of Scottish political and military life. They are the first king of Scotland, Kenneth I MacAlpin (c. 810-858); Malcolm III, the first king of the Canmore dynasty (1031-1093), and his wife Margaret, the first canonized Scottish saint (1673) [8].

The reference to historical personages could be found in many poetic texts of Scottish poets-metropolitans. A poet-prophet and brave warrior, Sir Thomas de Ercildoun, better remembered as Thomas the Rhymer (between 1220-1297) predicted the death of the last of the Canmores, King Alexander III. He also predicted the reign of Mary I of Scotland (1542-1567) and other events in future Scottish history [2, C. 230-236].

Queen Mary would become the heroine of many Scottish poets, from Robert Burns to Marion Angus (1866-1946). She wrote poetry herself. Her ancestor, King James I Stuart (1406-1437), was also a poet. King James V Stuart (1513-1542) and «the Young Pretender», Prince Charles Stuart (1720-1788) also became lyrical characters in Scottish poetry (see the poem by A. Cunningham (1784-1842) The Wee, Wee German Lairdie [11, P. 383-384]).

In Scottish literature, there were poets directly or indirectly related to military discourse themselves. For example, Sir Richard Holland (?1420-1485) in the XVth century, Sir Richard Maitland (1495-1586) in the XVIth century, and James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (1612-1650) in the XVIIth century were poets-warriors. Wives of warriors were Scottish poetesses Lady Grizel Baillie (1665-1746), Lady Jean Elliot (1724-1805), Lady Caroline Oliphant (1766-1825) [11, P. 80-82, 176-180, 239, 247-249, 272-273, 361-366]. The male image of a Scotsman warrior was enhanced by the female image of his faithful girlfriend.

4. Discussion

The poetry of Scotland (and its variety, the poetry of the Scottish emigration) has always been closely associated with folklore. Therefore, in the military-patriotic discourse, they continued to develop many folklore characterological means.

Hyperbole. The Scots in the military history of Scotland do not know fear, they are always ready to fight for liberty and justice:

“<...> There's nae men like Scottish men.

In battle brave, in friendship true;

When duty, or when country calls,

“Aye ready!” they to dare and do <...>” [9, P. 355].

Generalization. In the military-patriotic poems of poets-emigrants, collective heroes are often found. This is the “gray army”, the Scottish dragoons in the war with Napoleon.

“<…> There, at dread Waterloo, in the heat of the fray,

Rode the famous “Scots Greys”, in a charge equaled never,

And the valor of Scotia helped win that great day,

Inspired by the slogan of “Scotland Forever” <…>” [9, P. 361].

Idealization. Even when only characteristic epithets remain from the portrait of the heroes of Scotland in the verses, they are consistently and emphatically positive.

Scots in these types of texts are very close to fairy-tale giants or magical epic heroes: defenders of all the weak and/or oppressed, conquerors of all evil. For example, J.D. Law’s poem Scotland for the Scots, where the Scots appear as heraldic beasts (lion, unicorn) or plants (burdock):

“<…> When Caledonia blaws her horn,

What’er the tricks ye try on,

Ye’ll bully nae the Unicorn,

Nor yet the Rampant Lion.

St. George will dance when by his nose

St. Andrew’s Cross will whistle.

And whatna Scot would fear a rose,

As lang’s there wags a Thistle! <…>” [9, P. 223].

Is there any difference between the metropolitan and emigrational portrayal of patriotic heroes? There is a quantitative and qualitative difference.

The political and military characters of Scotland mentioned above were at the same time an integral part of its poetry. In the poetic repertoire of the Scottish emigration, their number is much smaller.

There are basically four historical figures involved: the leaders of the uprising for the independence of Scotland (the end of the XIIIth-beginning of the XIVth cc.) Robert Bruce [9, P. 33-35, 39-41, 46, 360-361] and Sir William Wallace [7, P. 20-21], [4, P. 134-135],  Mary I Stuart, the first reigning Queen of Scotland (XVI century) and the last Pretender to the Throne of Scotland, Prince Charlie Stewart, great-great-great-grandson of Queen Mary I [4, P 132-133], [9, P. 46], [13, P. 99-101].

The evaluation of these (and similar) historical figures by poets-emigrants is much more unambiguous than by metropolitan poets. All of them are patriots, and, therefore, all of them are positive characters.

Only the characterization of Mary I Stuart by W. Lyle in poem The murder at Holyrood is more multivalued. At the beginning, Mary is described as a cheerful teenage girl: “<…> Remembered her of happy days / In sunny France, the summer land. \ Ere sorrow fell upon her ways <…>” [10, P. 74].

Then she appears as a young, frightened woman in a hostile environment: “<…> A presence seemed to fill that room / No one could name and none could see, A creeping terror, and a glow / Lip feared to mention. Minstrelsy, / However sweet, had sound of doom, / And nameless sorrow soon to be. <…>” [10, P. 74].

Later, she becomes a proud, angry queen: “<…> Then flashed the Stuart's pallid face. / She bounded dogs and prey between. / So meekest hearts to grandeur brace / When danger shows and wrong is seen. / Stamping her foot with royal grace / She stood there every inch a queen. <…>” [10, P. 75].

Finally, Maria completes the plot as a tragic figure, after the death of her lover, vaguely foreseeing her own death: “<…> The sun arose o’er Arthur’s throne / In liquid floods of golden brown. / Poor hunted Mary sat alone / And viewed the dead with mournful frown. / She knew it not, but she had gone / One step nearer the martyr’s crown <…>” [10, P. 76].

W. Lyle’s poem is a rare example of a text where historical characters are not only psychological, not only undergo internal evolution, but are also characterized through other characters. However, for the military-political character cycle, such case is almost unique.

5. Conclusion

1. Scottish historical background is rich in battles, struggles and wars which provides literature with a great number of heroes to be depicted.

2. Scottish poets-emigrants (unlike Scotland’s metropolitan poets) limit their choice to Robert Bruce, Sir William Wallace, Mary I Stuart and Prince Charlie Stewart only.

3. Speaking of Scotland, they give preference to specific battles and heroes because for them the history of Scotland is the history of individual episodes and details that served as a fact of pride for the Scots in this struggle.

4. The dominance of folklore tradition determines the choice of hyperbole, generalization and idealization. Positive evaluation and laudative motifs are the common features of poems of military discourse related to the Scottish military history.

Article metrics