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The queen's wake: a legendary poem online

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Be mine to read the visions old,
Which thy awakening Bards have told;
And whilst they meet my tranced view,
Hold each strange tale devoutly true.













Eltkive, May 1811.






Malcolm of Lorn ~~. 35

Young Kennedy , 49

The Witch of Fife 70


Glen-Avin 104

Old David 118

The Spectre's Cradle Song.., ~,.~~ 145

M'Gregor 147

Earl Walter 155

Kilmeny 176


Mary Scott- ~ 208

King Edward's Dream 257

Dumlanrig , 266

The Abbot M'Kinnon 298

The Monks' Hymn 308

Tlie Mermaid's Song 311





IN ow burst, ye Winter clouds that lower,

Fling from your folds the piercing shower ;

Sing to the tower and leafless tree,

Ye cold winds of adversity ;

Your blights, your chilling influence shed,

On wareless heart, and houseless head,

Your ruth or fury I disdain,

I've found my Mountain Lyre again.

Come to my heart, my only stay !
Companion of a happier day !
Thou gift of Heaven, thou pledge of good,
Harp of the mountain and the wood !


I little thought, when first I tried
Thy notes by lone Saint Mary's side,
When in a deep untrodden den,
I found thee in the braken glen,
I little thought that idle toy
Should e'er become my only joy !

A maiden's youthful smiles had wove
Around my heart the toils of love,
When first thy magic wires I rung,
And on the breeze thy numbers flung.
The fervid tear played in mine eye ;
I trembled, wept, and wondered why.
Sweet was the thrilling ecstacy
I know not if 'twas love or thee.

Weened not my heart, when youth had flown
Friendship would fade, or fortune frown ;
When pleasure, love, and mirth were past,
That thou should'st prove my all at last !


Jeered by conceit and lordly pride,
I flung my soothing harp aside ;
With wayward fortune strove a while ;
Wrecked in a world of self and guile.
Again I sought the braken hill ;
Again sat musing by the rill ;
My wild sensations all were gone,
And only thou wert left alone.
Long hast thou in the moorland lain,
Now welcome to my heart again.

The russet weed of mountain gray
No more shall round thy border play ;
No more the brake-flowers, o'er thee piled,
Shall mar thy tones and measures wild.
Harp of the Forest, thou shalt be
Fair as the bud on forest tree !
Sweet be thy strains, as those that swell
In Ettrick's green and fairy dell ;
Soft as the breeze of falling even,
And purer than the dews of heaven.


Of minstrel honours, now no more ;
Of bards, who sung in days of yore ;
Of gallant chiefs, in courtly guise ;
Of ladies' 1 smiles, of ladies 1 eyes ;
Of royal feast and obsequies ;
When Caledon, with look severe,
Saw Beauty's hand her sceptre bear,
By cliff and haunted wild I'll sing,
Responsive to thy dulcet string.

When wanes the circling year away,
When scarcely smiles the doubtful day,
Fair daughter of Dunedin, say,
Hast thou not heard, at midnight deep,
Soft music on thy slumbers creep ?
At such a time, if careless thrown
Thy slender form on couch of down,
Hast thou not felt, to nature true,
The tear steal from thine eye so blue ?
If then thy guiltless bosom strove
In blissful dreams of conscious love.


And even shrunk from proffer bland
Of lover's visionary hand,
On such ecstatic dream when brake
The music of the midnight Wake,
Hast thou not weened thyself on high,
List'ning to angels' 1 melody,
'Scaped from a world of cares away,
To dream of love and bliss for aye ?

The dream dispelled, the music gone,
Hast thou not, sighing, all alone,
Proffered thy vows to Heaven, and then
Blest the sweet Wake, and slept again ?

Then list, ye maidens, to my lay,
Though old the tale, and past the day ;
Those Wakes, now played by minstrels poor,
At midnight's darkest, chillest hour,
Those humble Wakes, now scorned by all,
Were first begun in courtly hall,


When royal Mary, blithe of mood,
Kept holiday at Holyrood.

Scotland, involved in factious broils,
Groaned deep beneath her woes and toils,
And looked o'er meadow, dale, and lea,
For many a day her Queen to see ;
Hoping that then her woes would cease,
And all her vallies smile in peace.
The Spring was past, the Summer gone ;
Still vacant stood the Scottish throne :
But scarce had Autumn's mellow hand
Waved her rich banner o'er the land,
When rang the shouts, from tower and tree,
That Scotland's Queen was on the sea.
Swift spread the news o'er down and dale,
Swift as the lively autumn gale ;
Away, away, it echoed still,
O'er many a moor and Highland hill,
Till rang each glen and verdant plain,
From Cheviot to the northern main.


Each bard attuned the loyal lay,
And for Dunedin hied away ;
Each harp was strung in woodland bower,
In praise of beauty"^ bonniest flower.
The chiefs forsook their ladies fair ;
The priest his beads and books of prayer ;
The farmer left his harvest day,
The shepherd all his flocks to stray ;
The forester forsook the wood,
And hasted on to Holyrood.

After a youth, by woes o'ercast,
After a thousand sorrows past,
The lovely Mary once again
Set foot upon her native plain ;
Kneeled on the pier with modest grace,
And turned to heaven her beauteous face.
'Twas then the caps in air were blended,
A thousand thousand shouts ascended ;
Shivered the breeze around the throng ;
Gray barrier cliffs the peals prolong ;


And every tongue gave thanks to Heaven,
That Mary to their hopes was given.

Her comely form and graceful mien,
Bespoke the Lady and the Queen ;
The woes of one so fair and young,
Moved every heart and every tongue.
Driven from her home, a helpless child,
To brave the winds and billows wild ;
An exile bred in realms afar,
Amid commotion, broil, and war.
In one short year her hopes all crossed,
A parent, husband, kingdom lost !
And all ere eighteen years had shed
Their honours o'er her royal head.
For such a Queen, the Stuarts' heir,
A Queen so courteous, young, and fair,
Who would not every foe defy !
Who would not stand ! who would not die !

Light on her airy steed she sprung,
Around with golden tassels hung,


No chieftain there rode half so free,

Or half so light and gracefully.

How sweet to see her ringlets pale

Wide waving in the southland gale,

Which through the broom- wood blossoms flew,

To fan her cheeks of rosy hue !

Whene'er it heaved her bosom's screen,

What beauties in her form were seen !

And when her courser's mane it swung,

A thousand silver bells were rung.

A sight so fair, on Scottish plain,

A Scot shall never see again.

When Mary turned her wondering eyes
On rocks that seemed to prop the skies ;
On palace, park, and battled pile ;
On lake, on river, sea, and isle ;
O'er woods and meadows bathed in dew.
To distant mountains wild and blue ;
She thought the isle that gave her birth.
The sweetest, wildest land on earth.


Slowly she ambled on her way
Amid her lords and ladies gay.
Priest, abbot, layman, all were there,
And Presbyter with look severe.
There rode the lords of France and Spain,
Of England, Flanders, and Lorraine,
While serried thousands round them stood,
From shore of Leith to Holyrood.

Though Mary's heart was light as air
To find a home so wild and fair ;
To see a gathered nation by,
And rays of joy from every eye ;
Though frequent shouts the welkin broke,
Though courtiers bowed and ladies spoke,
An absent look they oft could trace
Deep settled on her comely face.
Was it the thought, that all alone
She must support a rocking throne ?
That Caledonia's rugged land
Might scorn a Lady's weak command,


And the Red Lion's haughty eye
Scowl at a maiden's feet to lie ?

No ; 'twas the notes of Scottish song,
Soft pealing from the countless throng.
So mellowed came the distant swell,
That on her ravished ear it fell
Like dew of heaven, at evening close,
On forest flower or woodland rose.
For Mary's heart, to nature true,
The powers of song and music knew :
But all the choral measures bland,
Of anthems sung in southern land,
Appeared an useless pile of art,
Unfit to sway or melt the heart,
Compared with that which floated by,
Her simple native melody.

As she drew nigh the Abbey stile,
She halted, reined, and bent the while :


She heard the Caledonian lyre

Pour forth its notes of runic iire ;

But scarcely caught the ravished Queen,

The minstrel's song that flowed between ;

Entranced upon the strain she hung,

'Twas thus the gray-haired minstrel sung.

" O ! Lady dear, fair is thy noon,
But man is like the inconstant moon :
Last night she smiled o'er lawn and lea ;
That moon will change, and so will he.

" Thy time, dear Lady, 's a passing shower ;
Thy beauty is but a fading flower ;
Watch thy young bosom, and maiden eye,
For the shower must fall, and the flowVet die."

What ails my Queen ? said good Argyle.
Why fades upon her cheek the smile ?


Say, rears your steed too fierce and high ?
Or sits your golden seat awry ?

Ah ! no, my Lord ! this noble steed,
Of Rouen's calm and generous breed,
Has borne me over hill and plain,
Swift as the dun-deer of the Seine.
But such a wild and simple lay,
Poured from the harp of minstrel gray,
My every sense away it stole,
And swayed a while my raptured soul.
O ! say, my Lord (for you must know
What strains along your vallies flow,
And all the hoards of Highland lore),
Was ever song so sweet before ?

Replied the Earl, as round he flung,
Feeble the strain that minstrel sung !
My royal Dame, if once you heard
The Scottish lay from Highland bard,


Then might you say, in raptures meet.
No song was ever half so sweet !

It nerves the arm of warrior wight
To deeds of more than mortal might ;
'Twill make the maid, in all her charms,
Fall weeping in her lover's arms ;
'Twill charm the mermaid from the deep ;
Make mountain oaks to bend and weep ;
Thrill every heart with horrors dire,
And shape the breeze to forms of fire.

When poured from greenwood-bower at even,
Twill draw the spirits down from heaven ;
And all the fays that haunt the wood,
To dance around in frantic mood,
And tune their mimic harps so boon
Beneath the cliff and midnight moon.
Ah ! yes, my Queen ! if once you heard
The Scottish lay from Highland bard.


Then might you say in raptures meet,
No song was ever half so sweet.

Queen Mary lighted in the court ;
Queen Mary joined the evening's sport ;
Yet though at table all were seen,
To wonder at her air and mien ;
Though courtiers fawned and ladies sung,
Still in her ear the accents rung,
" Watch thy young bosom, and maiden eye,
" For the shower must fall, and thejlowret die. 1 '
These words prophetic seemed to be,
Foreboding wo and misery ;
And much she wished to prove ere long,
The wonderous powers of Scottish song.

When next to ride the Queen was bound,
To view the city's ample round,
On high amid the gathered crowd,
A herald thus proclaim'd aloud :



" Peace, peace to Scotland's wasted vales,
To her dark heaths and Highland dales ;
To her brave sons of warlike mood,
To all her daughters fair and good ;
Peace o'er her ruined vales shall pour,
Like beam of heaven behind the shower.
Let every harp and echo ring ;
Let maidens smile and poets sing ;
For love and peace entwined shall sleep,
Calm as the moon-beam on the deep ;
By waving Avood and wandering rill,
On purple heath and Highland hill.

" The soul of warrior stern to charm,
And bigotry and rage disarm,
Our Queen commands, that every bard
Due honours have, and high regard.
If, to his song of rolling fire,
He join the Caledonian lyre,
And skill in legendary lore,
Still higher shall his honours soar.


For all the arts beneath the heaven,
That man has found, or God has given,
None draws the soul so sweet away,
As music's melting mystic lay ;
Slight emblem of the bliss above,
It sooths the spirit all to love.

" To cherish this attractive art,
To lull the passions, mend the heart,
And break the moping zealot's chains,
Hear what our lovely Queen ordains.

" Each Caledonian bard must seek
Her courtly halls on Christmas week,
That then the Royal Wake may be
Cheered by their thrilling minstrelsy.
No ribaldry the Queen must hear,
No song unmeet for maiden's ear,
No jest, nor adulation bland,
But legends of our native land ;


And he whom most the court regards,

High be his honours and rewards.

Let every Scottish bard give ear,

Let every Scottish bard appear ;

He then before the court must stand,

In native garb, with harp in hand.

At home no minstrel dare to tarry :

High the behest. God save Queen Mary V-

Little recked they, that idle throng,
Of music's power or minstrel's song ;
But crowding their young Queen around,
Whose stately courser pawed the ground,
Her beauty more their wonder swayed,
Than all the noisy herald said ;
Judging the proffer all in sport,
An idle whim of idle court.
But many a bard preferred his prayer ;
For many a Scottish bard was there.
Quaked each fond heart with raptures strong,
Each thought upon his harp and song ;


And turning home without delay,
Coned his wild strain by mountain gray.

Each glen was sought for tales of old,
Of luckless love, of warrior bold,
Of ravished maid, or stolen child
By freakish fairy of the wild ;
Of sheeted ghost, that had revealed
Dark deeds of guilt from man concealed ;
Of boding dreams, of wandering spright,
Of dead-lights glimmering through the night ;
Yea, every tale of ruth or weir,
Could waken pity, love, or fear,
Were decked anew, with anxious pain,
And sung to native airs again.

Alas ! those lays of fire once more
Are wrecked 'mid heaps of mouldering lore !
And feeble he who dares presume
That heavenly Wake-light to relume.


But, grieved the legendary lay-
Should perish from our land for aye.
While sings the lark above the wold,
And all his flocks rest in the fold,
Fondly he strikes, beside the pen,
The harp of Yarrow's braken glen.

December came ; his aspect stern
Glared deadly o'er the mountain cairn ;
A polar sheet was round him flung,
And ice-spears at his girdle hung ;
O'er frigid field, and drifted cone,
He strode undaunted and alone ;
Or, throned amid the Grampians gray,
Kept thaws and suns of heaven at bay.

Not stern December's fierce control
Could quench the flame of minstrel's soul
Little recked they, our bards of old,
Of Autumn's showers, or Winter's cold.


Sound slept they on the nighted hill,
Lulled by the winds or babbling rill :
Curtained within the Winter cloud j
The heath their couch, the sky their shroud.
Yet their's the strains that touch the heart,
Bold, rapid, wild, and void of art.

Unlike the bards, whose milky lays
Delight in these degenerate days :
Their crystal spring, and heather brown,
Is changed to wine and couch of down ;
Effeminate as lady gay,
Such as the bard, so is his lay !

But then was seen, from every vale,
Through drifting snows and rattling hail,
Each Caledonian minstrel true,
Dressed in his plaid and bonnet blue,
With harp across his shoulders slung,
And music murmuring round his tongue.



Forcing his way, in raptures high,
To Holyrood his skill to try.

Ah ! when at home the songs they raised.
When gaping rustics stood and gazed,
Each bard believed, with ready will,
Unmatched his song, unmatched his skill !
But when the royal halls appeared,
Each aspect changed, each bosom feared ;
And when in court of Holyrood
Filed harps and bards around him stood.
His eye emitted cheerless ray,
His hope, his spirit sunk away :
There stood the minstrel, but his mind
Seemed left in native glen behind.

Unknown to men of sordid heart,
What joys the poet's hopes impart ;
Unknown, how his high soul is torn
By cold neglect, or canting scorn :


That meteor torch of mental light,
A breath can quench, or kindle bright.
Oft has that mind, which braved serene
The shafts of poverty and pain,
The Summer toil, the Winter blast,
Fallen victim to a frown at last.
Easy the boon he asks of thee ;
O ! spare his heart in courtesy !

There rolled each bard his anxious eye,
Or strode his adversary by.
No cause was there for names to scan,
Each minstrel's plaid bespoke his clan ;
And the blunt borderer's plain array,
The bonnet broad and blanket gray.
Bard sought of bard a look to steal ;
Eyes measured each from head to heel.
Much wonder rose, that men so famed,
Men save with rapture never named,
Looked only so, they could not tell,
Like other men, and scarce so well.


Though keen the blast, and long the way,
When twilight closed that dubious day,
When round the table all were set,
Small heart had they to talk or eat ;
Red look askance, blunt whisper low,
Awkward remark, uncourtly bow,
Were all that past in that bright throng,
That group of genuine sons of song.

One did the honours of the board,
Who seemed a courtier or a lord.
Strange his array and speech withal,
Gael deemed him southern southern, Gael.
Courteous his mien, his accents weak,
Lady in manner as in make ;
Yet round the board a whisper ran,
That that same gay and simpering man
A minstrel was of wonderous fame,
Who from a distant region came,
To bear the prize beyond the sea
To the green shores of Italy.


The wine was served, and, sooth to say,
Insensibly it stole away.
Thrice did they drain the allotted store,
And wondering skinkers dun for more ;
Which vanished swifter than the first,
Little weened they the poets' thirst.

Still as that ruddy juice they drained,
The eyes were cleared, the speech regained ;
And latent sparks of fancy glowed,
Till one abundant torrent flowed
Of wit, of humour, social glee,
Wild music, mirth, and revelry.

Just when a jest had thrilled the crowd,
Just when the laugh was long and loud,
Entered a squire with summons smart ;
That was the knell that pierced the heart !
" The court awaits ;" he bowed was gone,
Our bards sat changed to busts of stone.


As ever ye heard the green- wood dell,
On morn of June one warbled swell,
If burst the thunder from on high,
How hushed the woodland melody !
Even so our bards shrunk at the view
Of what they wished, and what they knew.

Their numbers given, the lots were cast,
To fix the names of first and last ;
Then to the dazzling hall were led,
Poor minstrels less alive than dead.

There such a scene entranced the view,
As heart of poet never knew.
Twas not the flash of golden gear,
Nor blaze of silver chandelier ;
Not Scotland's chiefs of noble air,
Nor dazzling rows of ladies fair ;
'Twas one enthroned the rest above,
Sure 'twas the Queen of grace and love !


Taper the form, and fair the breast
Yon radiant golden zones invest,
Where the vexed rubies blench in death,
Beneath yon lips and balmy breath.
Coronal gems of every dye,
Look dim above yon beaming eye :
Yon cheeks outvie the dawning's glow,
Red shadowed on a wreath of snow.

Oft the rapt bard had thought alone,
Of charms by mankind never known ,
Of virgins, pure as opening day,
Or bosom of the flower of May :
Oft dreamed of beings free from stain,
Of maidens of the emerald main,
Of fairy dames in grove at even,
Of angels in the walks of heaven :
But, nor in earth, the sea, nor sky,
In fairy dream, nor fancy's eye,
Vision his soul had ever seen
Like Mary Stuart, Scotland's Queen.




.Hushed was the Court the courtiers gazed-
Each eye was bent, each soul amazed,
To see that group of genuine worth,
Those far-famed minstrels of the north.
So motley wild their garments seemed ;
Their eyes, where tints of madness gleamed,
Fired with impatience every breast,
And expectation stood confest.


Short was the pause ; the stranger youth.
The gaudy minstrel of the south,
Whose glossy eye and lady form
Had never braved the northern storm,
Stepped lightly forth, kneeled three times low,
And then, with many a smile and bow,
Mounted the form amid the ring,
And rung his harp's responsive stiing.
Though true the chords, and mellow-toned,
Long, long he twisted, long he coned ;
Well pleased to hear his name they knew ;
" 'Tis Rizzio V round in whispers flew.

Valet with Parma's knight he came,
An angler in the tides of fame ;
And oft had tried, with anxious pain,
Respect of Scotland's Queen to gain.
Too well his eye, with searching art,
Perceived her fond, her wareless heart ;
And though unskilled in Scottish song,
Her notice he had wooed so long; :


With pain by night, and care by day,
He framed this fervid, flowery lay.

Jftakoim of Corn*

Came ye by Ora's verdant steep,

That smiles the restless ocean over ?
Heard ye a suffering maiden weep ?

Heard ye her name a faithful lover ?
Saw ye an aged matron stand
Cer yon green grave above the strand,
Bent like the trunk of withered tree,
Or yon old thorn that sips the sea ?
Fixed her dim eye, her face as pale

As the mists that o'er her flew :
Her joy is fled like the flower of the vale,

Her hope like the morning dew !
That matron was lately as proud of her stay,
As the mightiest monarch of sceptre or sway:


O list to the tale ! 'tis a tale of soft sorrow,

Of Malcolm of Lorn, and young Ann of Glen-Ora.


The sun is sweet at early morn,

Just blushing from the ocean's bosom ;
The rose that decks the woodland thorn

Is fairest in its opening blossom ;
Sweeter than opening rose in dew,
Than vernal flowers of richest hue,
Than fragrant birch or weeping willow,
Than red sun resting on the billow ;
Sweeter than aught to mortals given

The heart and soul to prove ;
Sweeter than aught beneath the heaven,

The joys of early love !
Never did maiden, and manly youth,
Love with such fervor, and love with such truth :
Or pleasures and virtues alternately borrow,
As Malcolm of Lorn, and fair Ann of Glen-Ora.



The day is come, the dreaded day,

Must part two loving hearts for ever ;
The ship lies rocking in the bay,

The boat comes rippling up the river :
O happy has the gloaming's eye

In green Glen-Ora's bosom seen them !
But soon shall lands and nations lie,

And angry oceans roll between them.
Yes, they must part, for ever part ,
Chill faDs the truth on either heart ;
For honour, titles, wealth, and state,
In distant lands her sire await.
The maid must with her sire away,

She cannot stay behind ;
Strait to the south the pennons play,

And steady is the wind.
Shall Malcolm relinquish the home of his youth,
And sail with his love to the lands of the south ?
Ah, no ! for his father is gone to the tomb :
One parent survives in her desolate home !


No child but her Malcolm to cheer her lone way :
Break not her fond heart, gentle Malcolm, O, stay !


The boat impatient leans ashore,

Her prow sleeps on a sandy pillow ;
The rower leans upon his oar,

Already bent to brush the billow.
O ! Malcolm, view yon melting eyes,

With tears yon stainless roses steeping !
O ! Malcolm, list thy mother's sighs ;

She's leaning o'er her staff and weeping !
Thy Anna's heart is bound to thine,
And must that gentle heart repine !
Quick from the shore the boat must fly ;
Her soul is speaking through her eye ;
Think of thy joys in Ora's shade ;

From Anna canst thou sever ?
Think of the vows thou often hast made,

To love the dear maiden for ever.


And canst thou forego such beauty and youth,
Such maiden honour and spotless truth ?
Forbid it ! He yields; to the boat he draws nigh.
Haste, Malcolm, aboard, and revert not thine eye.

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