"Coming Events Cast Their Shadows Before"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The poem is a dialogue between Lochiel (Donald Cameron, the "Gentle Lochiel," head of the Clan Cameron) and a wizard. The seer warns the chieftain to beware the day "When the Lowlands shall meet thee in battle array." He foresees a merciless sword waving "on Culloden." The prophecy refers to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, in which Cameron, one of the stanchest supporters of the Young Pretender (Charles Edward Stuart, son of the "Old Pretender" James Francis Stuart and grandson of James II), will lead his clan unsuccessfully to battle against the forces loyal to George II. When Lochiel disdainfully refuses to hearken to his words, the wizard reiterates his gift of divination. The quotation may be compared with lines by Cicero (106-43 B.C.): "Thus in the beginning the world was so made that certain signs come before certain events"–De De-votione, 1,118; with S. T. Coleridge (1772-1834): "Often do the spirits/ Of great events stride on before the events,/ And in today already walks tomorrow"–translation of Schiller's Wallenstein, Pt. II, V, i; and with P. B. Shelley (1792-1822): "Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present"–A Defence of Poetry.

–Lochiel, Lochiel! beware of the day;
For, dark and despairing, my sight I may seal,
But man cannot cover what God would reveal;
'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before.