Walter Scott.

The lady of the lake. A poem, in six cantos online

. (page 8 of 9)
Online LibraryWalter ScottThe lady of the lake. A poem, in six cantos → online text (page 8 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


When first I broke the Douglas' sway ;
And like acclaim would Douglas greet.
If he could hurl me from my seat.
Who o'er the herd would wish to reign,
Fantastic, fickle, tierce, and vain !
Vain as the leaf upon the stream.
And fickle as a changeful dream ;
Fantastic as a woman's mood.
And fierce as Frenzy's fever'd blood.
Thou mauy-headeil monster-thing,

who would wish to be thy king !

XXXI.

" But soft ! what messenger of speed
Spurs hitherward his panting steed?

1 guess his cognisance afar —

What from our cousin, John of Mar?"

" He prays, my liege, your sports keep bound

Within the safe and guarded ground :

For some foul purpose yet unknown, —

Most sure for evil to the throne, —

The outlaw'd Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,

Has summon'd his rebellious crew :

'Tis said, in James of Bothwell's aid

These loose banditti stand array'd.

The Earl of Mar, this morn, from Doune,

To break their muster march'd, and soon

Your grace will hear of battle fought ;

But earnestly the Earl besought.

Till for such danger he provide.

With scanty train you wUl not ride."

XXXII.

" Thou warn'st mo I have done amiss, —
I should have earlier look'd to this :
I lost it in this bustling day.
— Retrace with speed thy former way ;
Spare not for spoiling of thy steed.
The best of mine shall be thy meed.



70



THE LADY OF THE LAKE.



Say to our faithful Lord of Mar,


Nor less upon the sadden'd town


We do forbid the intended war;


The evening sunk in sorrow down.


Koderick, this morn, in single fight.


The burghers spoke of civil jar,


Was made our prisoner by a knight.


Of rumour'd feuds and mountain war;


And Douglas hath himself and cause


Of Moray, Mar, and Eoderick Dhu,


Submitted to our Kingdom's laws.


All up in arms : — the Douglas too.


The tidings of their leaders lost


They mourn'd him pent within the hold,


Will soon dissolve the mountain host,


" Where stout Earl William was of old"—*


Nor would we that the vulgar feel.


And there his word the speaker stay'd.


For their Chiefs crimes, avenging steel.


And finger on his lip he laid.


Bear Mar our message, Braco ; fly ! "


Or pointed to his dagger blade.


He turn'd his steed, — " My liege, I hie.


But jaded horsemen from the west,


Yet ere I cross this lily lawn.


At evening to the Castle press'd ;


I fear the broadswords will be drawn."


And busy talkers said they bore


The turf the flying courser spurn'd,


Tidings of fight on Katrine's shore.


And to lus towers the King retmn'd.


At noon the deadly fray begun,




And lasted till the set of sun.


XXXTII.

Dl with King James's mood that day,
Suited gay feast and minstrel lay;


Thus giddy Eumour shook the town,
Till closed the Night her pennons brown.


Soon were dismiss'd the courtly throng,
And soon cut short the festal song.


* stabbed by James n. in Stirling Castle.




CANTO SIXTH.



THE GUARD-ROOM.



The sun, awakening, through the smoky air
Of the dark city casts a sullen glance,

Rousing each caitiff to his task of care,
Of sinful man the sad inheritance ;

Summoning revellers from the lagging dance.
Scaring the prowling robber to his den ;

GUding on battled tower the warder's lance,
And warning student pale to leave his pen
And yield his drowsy eyes to the kind nurse of



What various scenes, and ! what scenes of woe.
Are witness'd by that red and struggling beam !

The fever'd patient, from his pallet low.

Through crowded hospital beholds it stream ;

The ruin'd maiden trembles at its gleam.

The debtor wakes to thought of gyve and jail,

The love-lorn wretch starts from tormenting dream;
The wakeful mother, by the glimmering pale.
Trims her sick infant's- couch, and soothes his
feeble waU.



At dawn the towers of Stirling rang
With soldier-step and weapon-clang.
While drums, with rolling note, foretell
Relief to weary sentinel.
Through narrow loop and casement barr'd.
The sunbeams sought the Court of Guard,
And, struggling with the smoky air,
Deaden'd the torches' yellow glare.
Li comfortless alliance shone
The lights through arch of blacken'd stone.
And sliow'd wild shapes in garb of war,
Faces deform'd with beard and scar,



All haggard from the midnight watch.
And fever'd with the stern debauch ;
For the oak table's massive board.
Flooded with wine, with fragments stored.
And beakers drain'd, and cups o'erthrown,
Show'd in what sport the night had flovm.
Some, weary, snored on floor and bench ;
Some labour'd still their thirst to quench :
Some, chiU'd with watching, spread their

hands
O'er the huge chimney's dying brands.
While round them, or beside them flung,
At every step their harness rung.

III.

These drew not for their fields the sword,

Like tenants of a feudal lord,

Nor own'd the patriarchal claim

Of chieftain in their leader's name;

Adventurers they from far, who roved.

To live by battle which they loved.

There the Italian's clouded face.

The swarthy Spaniard's there you trace ;

The mountain-loving Switzer there

More freely breathed in mountain air;

The Fleming there despised the soil,

That paid so ill the labourer's toil;

Their rolls show'd French and German name.

And merry England's exiles came.

To share, with ill-conceal'd disdain.

Of Scotland's pay the scanty gain.

All bravo in arms, well train'd to wield

The heavy halberd, brand, and shield;

In camps licentious, wild, and bold ;

In pillage fierce and uncontroll'd ;



72



THE LADY OF THE LAKE.



And now by holytide and feast,
From rules of discipline released.



IV.

They held dehate of bloody fray,

Fought 'twixt Loch-Katrine and Achray.

Fierce was their speech, and, 'mid their words.

Their hands oft grappled to their swords ;

Nor sunk their tone to spare the ear

Of wounded comrades groaning near,

Wliose mangled limbs, and bodies gored,

Bore token of the mountain sword.

Though, neighbouring to the Court of Guard,

Their prayers and feverish wails were heard :

Sad burden to the ruffian joke.

And savage oath by fury spoke ! —

At length up started John of Brent ;

A yeoman from the banks of Trent;

A stranger to respect or fear,

In peace a chaser of the deer,

In host a hardy mutineer,

But still the boldest of the crew,

When deed of danger was to do.

He grieved, that day, their games cut short,

And marr'd the dicer's brawling sport.

And shouted loud, " Renew the bowl !

And, while a merry catch I troU,

Let each the buxom chorus bear.

Like brethren of the brand and spear."



V.



SOLDIERS SONG.



Our vicar still preaches that Peter and Poule
Laid a swinging long curse on the bonny brown

bowl.
That there's wrath and despair in the jolly

black-jack,
And the seven deadly sins in a flagon of sack ;
Yet whoop, Barnaby ! off with thy liquor.
Drink upsees * out, and a fig for the vicar !

Our vicar he calls it damnation to sip
The ripe ruddy dew of a woman's dear lip ;
Says, that Beelzebub lurks in her kerchief so sly.
And Apollyon shoots darts from her merry black

eye;
Yet whoop. Jack ! kiss Gillian the quicker,
TlU she bloom like a rose, and a fig for the

vicar !

Our vicar thus preaches — and why should he

not?
For the dues of liis cure are the placket and pot ;
And 'tis right of his office poor laymen to lurch,
Who infringe the domains of our good Mother

Church ;
Yet whoop, bidly-boys ! off with your liquor.
Sweet Marjorie's the word, and a fig for the

vicar !

* A Bacchanalian interjection, borrowed &om the Dutch.



Allegro sjiiritoso.



OUR VICAR STILL PREACHES.

Music by SAVIS SMALL.




THE GUARD-ROOM.



73



35E^



— jV- :d 1'' 1^ '-



1^



i*=i)j



-* — 15: — *— «-

vie - ar still preaches that Pe - ter and Poiile Laid a swing-Lng long curse on the



ii=^-



■^— ^ ^~

-m- -m- -m-

■m- -^- -m-



EgE^EgE



1=1i



-^—:Sr



=J=^



S^






^



^=^



3^^^^^^



E^



-m ^—m



bon - nie brown bowl, That there's wrath and de - spair in the jol - ly black-jack, And the



w



rX-



A-



^3=*=^









m



=p==^



f=



f=



=^=s=



irft



ip=t



-=— I ^^= — p



ilfcat:



I^SoC



Jfc=tz



wi — i^. — ^ *

seven dead-ly sins in a flag - on of sack : Yet, whoop, Bar-na-by! oif with thy liq- uor,




-p—r-



i*=ff:



^



S3;



-P-=-



4=— •— F=-



DrLnk ui>sees out, and a fig for the vie - ar !



t



-^rff::



:^^t






-1^



f



1



:^=



:i=^



^*



^3=»t^






x=^-=^



•^-^ - a - :



:=l:



P



:i4t*:



74



THE LADY OF THE LAKE.



The warder's challenge, heard without,

Stay'd in mid-roar the merry shout,

A soldier to the portal went, —

" Here is old Bertram, sirs, of Ghent ;

And, beat for jirbilee the drum !

A maid and minstrel with him come."

Bertram, a Fleming, gray and scarr'd.

Was entering now the Court of Guard,

A harper with him, and, in plaid

All muffled close, a mountain maid,

Wlio backward shrunk to 'scape the view

Of the loose scene and boisterous crew.

"What news?" they roar'd. — "I only know,

From noon till eve we fought with foe

As wild and as untameable.

As the rude mountains where they dwell.

On both sides store of blood is lost.

Nor much success can either boast."

" But whence thy captives, friend ? such spoil

As theirs must needs reward thy toil.

Old dost thou wax, and wars grow sharp ;

Thou now hast glee-maiden and harp !

Got thee an ape, and trudge the land.

The leader of a juggler baud."

VII.

" No, comrade ; — no such fortune mine.

After the fight, these sought our line,

That aged harper and the girl.

And, having audience of the Earl,

Mar bade I should purvey them steed.

And bring them hitherward with speed.

Forbear your mirth and rude alarm.

For none shall do them shame or harm."

" Hear ye his boast ! " cried John of Brent,

Ever to strife and jangling bent;

" Shall he strike doe beside our lodge.

And yet the jealous niggard grudge

To pay the forester his fee !

I'll have my share howe'er it be.

Despite of Moray, Mar, or thee."

Bertram his forward step withstood;

And, burning in his vengeful mood.

Old Allan, though unfit for strife.

Laid hand upon his dagger-knife ;

But Ellen boldly stepp'd between.

And dropp'd at once the tartan screen ! —



So, from his morning cloud, appears

The sun of May, through summer tears.

The savage soldiery, amazed,

As on descended angel gazed ;

Even hardy Brent, abash'd and tamed.

Stood half admiring, half ashamed.

vm.

Boldly she spoke, — " Soldiers, attend !
My father was the soldier's friend ;
Cheer'd him in camps, in marches led.
And with him in the battle bled.
Not from the valiant, or the strong.
Should exile's daughter suffer wrong."
Answer'd De Brent, most forward still
In every feat, or good or ill, —
" I shame me of the part I play'd :
And thou an outlaw's child, poor maid !
An outlaw I by forest laws,
And merry Needwood knows the cause.
Poor Rose, — if Rose be living now,"
He wiped his iron eye and brow,
" Must bear such age, I think, as thou.
Hear ye, my mates ; — I go to call
The Captain of our watch to hall :
There lies my halberd on the floor ;
And he that steps my halberd o'er.
To do the maid injurious part,
My shaft shall quiver in his heart ! —
Beware loose speech, or jesting rough :
Ye all know John de Brent. Enough."



IX.

Their Captain came, a gallant young, —
(Of Tullibardine's house he sprung,)
Nor wore lie yet the spurs of knight;
Gay was his mien, his humour light.
And, though hj courtesy controll'd.
Forward his speech, his bearing bold,
The high-born maiden ill could brook
The scanning of his curious look
And dauntless eye ; — and yet, in sooth,
Young Lewis was a generous youth ;
But Ellen's lovely face and mien.
Ill-suited to the garb and scene.
Might lightly bear construction strange.
And give loose fancy scope to range.



THE GUARD-ROOM.



T5



" Welcome to Stirling towers, fair maid !

Come ye to seek a champion's aid,

On palfrey white, with harper hoar,

Like errant damosel of yore ?

Does thy high quest a knight require.

Or may the venture suit a squire ? "

Her dark eye fiash'd : — she paused and

sigh'd,—
" Oh what have I to do with pride ! —
— Through scenes of sorrow, shame, and

strife,
A suppliant for a father's life,
I crave an audience of the King.
Behold, to back my suit, a ring.
The royal pledge of grateful claims,
Given by the Monarch to Fitz-James."



The signet-ring young Lewis took,

With deep respect and alter'd look ;

And said, — " This ring our duties own ;

And pardon, if to worth unknown.

In semblance mean obscurely ved'd,

Lady, in aught my folly fail'd.

Soon as the day flings wide his gates.

The King shall know what suitor waits.

Please you, meanwhile, in fitting bower

Repose you till his waking hour ;

Female attendance shall obey

Your hest, for service or array.

Permit, I marshal you the way."

But, ere she follow'cl, with the grace

And open bounty of her race.

She bade her slender purse be shared

Among the soldiers of the guard.

The rest with thanks their guerdon took.

But Brent, with shy and awkward look.

On the reluctant maiden's hold

Forced blimtly back the proffer'd gold: —

" Forgive a haughty English heart.

And forget its ruder part !

The vacant purse shall be my. share.

Which in my barret^cap I'll bear.

Perchance, in jeopardy of war,

Where gayer crests may keep afar."

With thanks, — 'twas all she coidd, — the

maid
His rugged courtesy repaid.



When Ellen forth with Lewis went,
Allan made suit to John of Brent :^
" My lady safe, let your grace
Give me to see my master's face !
His minstrel I, — to share his doom.
Bound from the cradle to the tomb.
Tenth in descent, since first my sires
Waked for his noble house their lyres,
Nor one of all the race was known
But prized its weal above their own.
With the Chief's birth begins our care ;
Our harp must soothe the infant heir,
Teach the youth tales of fight, and grace
His earliest feat of field or chase ;
In peace, in war, our rank we keep.
We cheer his board, we soothe his sleep.
Nor leave him till we pour our verse, —
A doleful tribute ! — o'er his hearse.
Then let me share his captive lot,
It is my right — deny it not ! "
" Little we reck," said Jolm of Brent,
" We Southern men, of long descent :
Nor wot we how a name — a word —
Makes clansmen vassals to a lord :
Yet kind my noble landlord's part, —
God bless the house of Beaudesert !
And, but I loved to drive the deer,
More than to guide the labouring steer,
I had not dwelt an outcast here.
Come, good old Minstrel, follow me ;
Thy Lord and Chieftain shalt thou see."

XII.

Then, from a rusted iron hook,
A bunch of ponderous keys he took.
Lighted a torch, and Allan led
Through grated arch and passage dread.
Portals they passed, where, deep within.
Spoke prisoner's moan, and fetters' din ;
Through rugged vaults, where, loosely stored,
Lay wheel, and axe, and headsman's sword.
And many a hideous engine grim.
For wrenching joint and crushing limb.
By artists form'd, who deem'd it shame
And sin to give their work a name.
They halted at a low-brow'd porch.
And Brent to Allan gave the torch.



76



THE LADY OF THE LAKE.



Wliile bolt and chain lie backward roll'd,
And made the bar unhasp its hold.
They enter'd : 'twas a prison-room
Of stern security and gloom,
Yet not a dungeon ; for the day
Through lofty gratings found its way,
And rude and antique garniture
Deck'd the sad walls and oaken floor ;
Such as the rugged days of old
Deem'd fit for captive noble's hold.
" Here," said De Brent, " thou mayst

remain
Till the Leech visit him again.
Strict is his charge, the warders tell,
To tend the noble prisoner well."
Retiring then the bolt he drew,
And the lock's murmurs growl'd anew.
Roused at the sound, from lowly bed
A captive feebly raised his head ;
The wondering Minstrel look'd, and knew,
Not his dear lord, but Roderick Dhu !
For, come from where Clan-Alpine fought.
They, erring, deem'd the Chief he sought.



As the tall ship, whose lofty prore
Shall never stem the billows more,
Deserted by her gallant band.
Amid the breakers lies astrand, —
So, on his couch, lay Roderick Dhu !
And oft his fever'd limbs he threw
In toss abrupt, as when her sides
Lie rocking in the advancing tides.
That shake her frame with ceaseless beat,
Yet cannot heave her from her seat ; —
0, how unlike her course at sea.
Or his free step on hill and lea ! —
Soon as the Minstrel he could scan,
— "■\\arat of thy lady?— of my clan?—
My mother t — Douglas ? — tell me all !
Have they been ruin'd in my fall?
Ah, yes ! or wherefore art thou here ?
Yet speak, speak boldly, — do not fear."
(For Allan, who his mood well knew.
Was choked with grief and terror too.) —
"Who fought— who fled?— Old man, be

brief ; —
Some might — for they had lost their Chief.



Who basely live? — who bravely died?" —
"0, calm thee, Chief!" the Minstrel cried,
"Ellen is safe!" — "For that, thank Heaven!''
" And hopes are for the Douglas given ; —
The Lady Margaret too is well,
And, for thy clan, — on field or fell.
Has never harp of minstrel told
Of combat fought so true and bold.
Thy stately Pine is yet unbent,
Though many a goodly bough is rent."



The Chieftain rear'd his form on high.

And fever's fire was in his eye ;

But ghastly, pale, and livid streaks

Chequer'd his swarthy brow and cheeks.

— " Hark, Minstrel ! I have heard thee play.

With measure bold, on festal day,

Li yon lone isle, . . . again where ne'er

Shall harper play, or warrior hear ! . . .

That stirring air that peals on high.

O'er Dermid's race our victory.

Strike it ! — and then, (for well thou canst,)

Free from thy minstrel-spirit glanced.

Fling me the picture of the fight.

When met my clan the Saxon might.

I'll listen, till my fancy hears

The clang of swords, the crash of spears !

These grates, these walls, shall vanish then,

For the fair field of fighting men.

And my free spirit burst away.

As if it soar'd from battle-fray."

The trembling Bard with awe obey'd.

Slow on the harp his hand he laid ;

But soon remembrance of the sight

He witness'd from the mountain's height,

With what old Bertram told at night,

Awaken'd the full power of song.

And bore him in career along;

As shallop launched on river's tide.

That slow and fearful leaves the side.

But when it feels the middle stream,

Drives do-svnward swift as lightning's beam.

XV.

BATTLE OP BBAl' AN DDINE.

" The Minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Ben-venue,



THE GUARD-ROOM.



77



For, ere he parted, he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch-Achray —
Where shall he find, in foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand ! —
There is no breeze upon the fern.

No ripple on the lake,
Upon her eyrie nods the erne.

The deer has sought the brake ;
The small birds will not sing aloud,

The springing trout lies still.
So darkly glooms yon thunder-cloud,
That swathes, as with a purple shroud,

Benledi's distant hill,
Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread.
Or echoes from the groaning ground

The warrior's measured tread 1
Is it the lightning's quivering glance

That on the thicket streams,
Or do they flash on spear and lance
The sun's retiring beams?
— I see the dagger-crest of Mar,
I see the Moray's silver star,
Wave o'er the cloud of Saxon war.
That up the lake comes winding far !
To hero boune for battle-strife,

Or bard of martial lay,
'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
One glance at their array !



" Their light-arm'd archers far and near

Survey'd the tangled ground,
Their centre ranks, with pike and spear,

A twilight forest frown'd ;
Their barbed horsemen, in the rear,

The stem battalia crown'd.
No cymbal clash 'd, no clarion rang.

Still were the pipe and drum ;
Save heavy tread, and armour's clang,

The sullen march was dumb.
There breathed no wind their crests to
shake.

Or wave their flags abroad;
Scarce the frail aspen seem'd to quake.

That shadow'd o'er their road.
Their vanward scouts no tidings bring.

Can rouse no lurking foe,



Nor spy a trace of living thing,
Save when they stirr'd the roe.
The host moves like a deei)-sea wave,
Wliere rise no rocks its pride to brave,

High-swelling, dark, and slow.
The lake is pass'd, and now they gain
A narrow and a broken plain.
Before the Trosaclis' rugged jaws;
And here the horse and spearmen pause,
Wliilc, to explore the dangerous glen.
Dive through the pass the archer-men.

XVII.

" At once there rose so wild a yell
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends, from heaven that fell,
Had peal'd the banner-cry of hell !
Forth from the pass in tumult driven.
Like chaff before the wind of heaven.

The archery appear :
For life ! for life ! their flight they ply —
And shriek, and shout, and battle-cry.
And plaids and bonnets waving high.
And broadswords flashing to the sky,

Are maddening in the rear.
Onward they di-ive, in dreadful race,
Pursuers and pursued ;
Before that tide of flight and chase,
How sliall it keep its rooted place,

The spearmen's twilight wood ?
— 'Down, down,' cried Mar, ' your lances down !

Bear back both friend and foe ! '
Like reeds before the tempest's frown.
That serried grove of lances brown

At once lay leveU'd low;
And closely shouldering side to side,
The bristling ranks the onset bide. —
— ' We'll quell the savage mountaineer,

As their Tinchel * cows the game !
They come as fleet as forest deer,
We'U di-ive them back as tame.'



' Bearing before them, in their course,
The relics of the archer force.



* A circle of sportsmen, who, by surrounding a great space, and
gradually narrowing, brought immense quantities of deer together,
which usually made desperate efforts to break through the Tinchel.



78



THE LADY OF THE LAKE.



Like wave with crest of sparkling foam,
Eight onward did Clan-Alpine come.
Above tlie tide, each broadsword bright
"Was brandishing like beam of light,

Each targe was dark below ;
And with the ocean's mighty swing,
When heaving to the tempest's wing,

They liurl'd them on the foe.
I heard the lance's shivering crash,
As when the whirlwind rends the ash ;
I heard the broadsword's deadly clang,
As if a hundred anvils rang !
But Moray wheel'd his rearward rank
Of horsemen on Clan- Alpine's flank, —

— ' My banner-man advance !
I see,' he cried, 'their column shake. —
Now, gallants ! for your ladies' sake,

Upon them with the lance ! ' —
The horsemen dash'd among the rout.

As deer break through the broom ;
Their steeds are stout, their swords are out.

They soon make lightsome room.
Clan-Alpine's best are backward borne —

Where, where was Eoderick then !
One blast upon his bugle-horn

Were worth a thoiisand men.
And refluent through the pass of fear

The battle's tide was pour'd ;
Vanish'd the Saxon's struggling spear,

Vanish'd the mountain sword.
As Bracklinn's chasm, so black and steep.

Receives her roaring linn.
As the dark caverns of the deep

Suck the wild whirlpool in.
So did the deep and darksome pass
Devour the battle's mingled mass;
None linger now upon the plain.
Save those who ne'er shall fight again.

XIX.

" Now westward rolls the battle's din,
That deep and doubling pass within.
— Minstrel, away ! the work of fate
Is bearing on : its issue wait,
Wliere the rude Trosachs' dread defile
Opens on Katrine's lake and isle.
Gray Ben-venue I soon repass'd,
Loch-Katrine lay beneath me cast.



The sun is set; — the clouds are met,

The lowering scowl of heaven
An inky hue of livid blue

To the deep lake has given;
Strange gusts of wind from mountain

glen
Swept o'er the lake, then sunk again.
I heeded not the eddying surge,
Mine eye but saw the Trosachs' gorge.
Mine ear but heard the sullen sound,
Wliich like an earthquake shook the

ground.
And spoke the stern and desperate strife
That parts not but with parting life.
Seeming, to minstrel-ear, to toU
The dirge of many a passing soul.
Nearer it conies — the dim-wood glen
The martial flood disgorged again.

But not in mingled tide ;
The plaided warriors of the North
High on tlie mountain thunder forth,

And overhang its side ;
Wliile by the lake below appears
The dark'ning cloud of Saxon spears.
At weary bay each shatter'd band.
Eyeing their foemen, sternly stand;
Their banners stream like tatter'd sail
That flings its fragments to the gale.


1 2 3 4 5 6 8

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe lady of the lake. A poem, in six cantos → online text (page 8 of 9)