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Dark Lochnagar

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Dark Lochnagar

Lachin Y Gair
As performed by John McDermott. Words by Lord Byron. Music by H.R. Bishop, 1807

Away, ye gay landscapes, ye garden of roses!
In you let the minions of luxury rove;
Restore me the rocks, where the snowflake reposes,
Though still they are sacred to freedom and love:
Yet, Caledonia, beloved are thy mountains,
Round their white summits though elements war;
Though cataracts foam 'stead of smooth-flowing fountains,
I sigh for the valley of dark Loch na Garr.

Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wander'd;
My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid;
On chieftains long perish'd my memory pondered,
As daily I strode through the pine-cover'd glade;
I sought not my home till the day's dying glory
Gave place to the rays of the bright polar star;
For fancy was cheered by traditional story,
Disclosed by the natives of dark Loch na Garr.

"Shades of the dead! have I not heard your voices
Rise on the night-rolling breath of the gale?"
Surely the soul of the hero rejoices,
And rides on the wind, o'er his own Highland vale.
Rough Loch na Garr while the stormy mist gathers,
Winter presides in his cold icy car:
Clouds there encircle the forms of my fathers;
They dwell in the tempests of dark Loch na Garr.

"Ill-starred, though brave, did no visions foreboding
Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?"
Ah! Were you destined to die at Culloden,
Victory crown'd not your fall with applause:
Still were you happy in death's earthy slumber,
You rest with your clan in the caves of Braemar;
The pibroch resounds, to the piper's loud number,
Your deeds on the echoes of dark Loch na Garr.

Years have roll'd on, Loch na Garr, since I left you,
Years must elapse ere I tread you again:
Nature of verdure and flow'rs has bereft you,
Yet still are you dearer than Albion's plain.
England! thy beauties are tame and domestic
To one who has roved o'er the mountains afar:
Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic!
The steep frowning glories of dark Loch na Garr!

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Comments:

Highland pipe tune - verses by Lord Byron (Lachin Y Gair 1807)

Lochnagar is actually the name of a mountain ... not a loch ... Beinn Cichean.
('Ben' is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic Beinn, pronounced 'bine'.)

Lochnagar is a steep, mountain ridge with four distinct peaks above a loch with the same name.

Loch na Garr, at 3,777ft, the highest peak in the White Mounth Plateau, is part of the Royal estate of Balmoral, in the Cairngorm mountains in Aberdeenshire (Royal Deeside).

This towering, majestic mountain was originally known in Gaelic as Beinn nan ciochan or 'peak of the little breasts,' a reference to the granite tors above the corrie (which are known today as meikle pap and little pap, meikle being Scots for big and pap Scots for breast.) Loch na gar is actually Lochan na gàire, 'the little loch of laughter.' The name of the lochan was transferred to cover the entire mountain - possibly to avoid offending Victorian sensibilities.

George Gordon Byron - Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)

Although usually regarded as the most English of romantic poets, Lord Byron was in fact half-Scots. Raised in Aberdeenshire and although he left Aberdeen Grammar School for Harrow at the age of ten, never forgot his Scottish roots. As he wrote in "Don Jaun,"

"But I am half a Scots by birth, and bred
A whole one, and my heart flees to my head, - "

He wrote the poem Lachin Y Gair in 1807.

The Fiddler's Companion says:
DARK LOUGH NA GAR (Loc Dorca Na Gar). AKA - "Dark Loch na gCaor," "Dark Lochnagar." Irish, Air (6/8 time). D Major. Standard. AABB. Gearoid O' hAllmhurain believe this tune may have been learned in County Clare from Scottish sappers in the 1830's who were sent to the region as part of the British survey of the country. Whatever its origins, it became the melody of a popular 19th century song circulated on ballad sheets (the ballad gives reference to the Scottish battle of Culloden, in 1746). Recorded by Clare piper Robbie Hannon.

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Version:

Dark Lochnagar
as sung by The Corries

Away ye grey landscapes, ye gardens o' roses
In you let the minions of luxury rove
And restore me the rocks where the snowflake reposes
If still they are sacred to freedom and love
Brave Caledonia, dear are thy mountains
Round their white summits though elements war
Though cataracts roar 'stead of smooth-flowing fountains
I sigh for the valley o' dark Lochnagar

Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wandered
My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid
On chieftains departed my memory lingered
As daily I strayed through the pine-covered glade
I sought not my home till the day's dying glory
Gave place to the rays o' the bright polar star
My fancy was cheered by the bold martial story
As told by the sons o' dark Lochnagar

Years have rolled on, Lochnagar, since I left you
Years must roll on ere I see you again
Though Nature of verdure and flowers bereft you
Yet still art thou dearer than Albion's plain
England! thy beauties are tame and domestic
To one who has roved on the mountains afar
Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic
The steep frowning glories o' wild Lochnagar

Brave Caledonia, dear are thy mountains
I sigh for the valley o' dark Lochnagar

Ill-starred now the brave, did no vision foreboding
Tell you that fate had forsaken our cause?
Yet were you destined to die at Culloden
Though victory crowned not your fall with applause
Yet were you happy in death's earthly slumber
To sleep wi' your clan in the caves of Braemar
The pibroch resounds to the piper's loud number
Your deeds to the echoes of wild Lochnagar

Brave Caledonia, dear are thy mountains
I sigh for the valley o' dark Lochnagar


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URL:  http://www.mcgillsociety.org/bard/lyrics/dark-lochnagar.html
        Revision:  18 March 2006
Last modified:  18 March 2006