Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
And, home returning, filled the hall
With revel, wassail-rout, and brawl.
Methought that still with trump and clang
The gateway's broken arches rang ;
Methought grim features, seamed with scars,
Glared through the window's rusty bars.
And ever, by the winter hearth,
Old tales I heard of woe or mirth,
Of lovers' sleights, of ladies' charms,
Of witches' spells, of warriors' arms ;
Of patriot battles, won of old
By Wallace wight and Bruce the bold ;
Of later fields of feud and fight,
When, pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clans in headlong sway
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretched at length upon the floor.
Again I fought each combat o'er,
Pebbles and shells, in order laid,
The mimic ranks of war displayed ;
And onward still the Scottish Lion bore,
And still the scattered Southron fled before.

Still, with vain fondness, could I trace
Anew each kind familiar face
That brightened at our evening fire !
From the thatched mansion's gray-haired

Wise without learning, plain and good,



And sprung of Scotland's gentler blood ;
Whose eye in age, quick, clear, and keen,
Showed what in youth its glance had been ;
Whose doom discording neighbors sought,
Content with equity unbought ;
To him the venerable priest,
Our frequent and familiar guest,
Whose life and manners well could paint
Alike the student and the saint,
Alas ! whose speech too oft I broke
With gambol rude and timeless joke :
For I was wayward, bold, and wild,
A self-willed imp, a grandame's child,
But half a plague, and half a jest,
Was still endured, beloved, caressed.

From me, thus nurtured, dost thou ask
The classic poet's well-conned task ?
Nay, Erskine, nay — on the wild hill
Let the wild heath-bell flourish still :
Cherish the tulip, prune the vine.
But freely let the woodbine twine,
And leave untrimmed the eglantine :
Nay, my friend, nay — since oft thy praise
Hath given fresh vigor to my lays,
Since oft thy judgment could refine
My flattened thought or cumbrous line,
Still kind, as is thy wont, attend,
And in the minstrel spare the friend.
Though wild as cloud, as stream, as gale,
Flow forth, flow unrestrained, my tale !




The livelong day Lord Marmion rode ;
The mountain path the Palmer showed
By glen and streamlet winded still,
Where stunted birches hid the rill.
They might not choose the lowland road,
For the Merse forayers were abroad,
Who, fired with hate and thirst of prey,

Had scarcely failed to bar their way.

Oft on the trampling band from crown

Of some tall cliff the deer looked down ;

On wing of jet from his repose

In the deep heath the blackcock rose ;

Sprung from the gone the timid roe,

Nor waited for the bending bow :

And when the stony path began

By which the naked peak they wan.

Up flew the snowy ptarmigan.

The noon had long been passed before

They gained the height oi Lammermoor:

Thence winding down the northern way.

Before them at the dose of day

Old Gifford's towers and hamlet lay.

No summons calls them to the tower,
To spend the hospitable hour.
To Scotland's camp the lord was gone;
His cautious dame, in bower alone,
Dreaded her castle to unclose,
So late, to unknown friends or foes.
On through the hamlet as they paced,
Before a porch whose front was graced
With bush and flagon trimly placed,

Lord Marmion drew his rein :
The village inn seemed large, though

rude ;
Its cheerful fire and hearty food
Might well relieve his train.
Down from their seats the horsemen sprung,
With jingling spurs the court-yard rung ;
They bind their horses to the stall,
For forage, food, and firing call,
And various clamor fills the hall :
Weighing the labor with the cost,
Toils everywhere the bustling host.


Soon, by the chimney's merry blaze,
Through the rude hostel might you gaze.
Might see where in dark nook aloof
The rafters of the sooty roof

Bore wealth of winter cheer ;
Of sea-fowl dried, and solands store,
And gammons of the tusky boar,

And savory haunch of deer.
The chimney arch projected wide ;
Above, around it, and beside,

Were tools for housewives' hand ;
Nor wanted, in that martial day,
The implements of Scottish fray,

The buckler, lance, and brand.
Beneath its shade, the place of state,
On oaken settle Marmion sate,
And viewed around the blazing hearth
His followers mix in noisy mirth ;
Whom with brown ale, in jolly tide,


8 9

From ancient vessels ranged aside
Full actively their host supplied.


Theirs was the glee of martial breast, •
And laughter theirs at little jest;
And oft Lord Marmion deigned to aid,
And mingle in the mirth they made;
For though, with men of high degree,
The proudest of the proud was he,
Yet, trained in camps, he knew the art
To win the soldier's hardy heart.
They love a captain to obey,
Boisterous as March, yet fresh as May ;
With open hand and brow as free,
Lover of wine and minstrelsy ;
Ever the first to scale a tower,
As venturous in a lady's bower : —
Such buxom chief shall lead his host
From India's fires to Zembla's frost.


Resting upon his pilgrim staff,
Right opposite the Palmer stood,

His thin dark visage seen but half,
Half hidden by his hood.

Still fixed on Marmion was his look,

Which he, who ill such gaze could brook,
Strove by a frown to quell ;

But not for that, though more than once

Full met their stern encountering glance,
The Palmer's visage fell.


By fits less frequent from the crowd
Was heard the burst of laughter loud ;
For still, as squire and archer stared
On that dark face and matted beard,

Their glee and game declined.
All gazed at length in silence drear,
Unbroke save when in comrade's ear
Some yeoman, wondering in his fear,

Thus whispered forth his mind :
' Saint Mary ! saw'st thou e'er such sight ?
How pale his cheek, his eye how bright,
Whene'er the firebrand's fickle light

Glances beneath his cowl !
Full on our lord he sets his eye ;
For his best palfrey would not I

Endure that sullen scowl.'


But Marmion, as to chase the awe

Which thus had quelled their hearts who

The ever-varying firelight show
That figure stern and face of woe,

Now called upon a squire :
• Fitz-Eustace, know'st thou not some lay,
To speed the lingering night away ?

We slumber by the fire.'



1 So please you,' thus the youth rejoined,
' Our choicest minstrel 's left behind.
Ill may we hope to please your ear,
Accustomed Constant's strains to hear.
The harp full deftly can he strike,
And wake the lover's lute alike ;
To dear Saint Valentine no thrush
Sings livelier from a springtide bush,
No nightingale her lovelorn tune
More sweetly warbles to the moon.
Woe to the cause, whate'er it be.
Detains from us his melody,
Lavished on rocks and billows stern,
Or duller monks of Lindisfarne.
Now must I venture as I may,
To sing his favorite roundelay.'

A mellow voice Fitz-Eustace had,
The air he chose was wild and sad ;
Such have I heard in Scottish land
Rise from the busy harvest band,
When falls before the mountaineer
On Lowland plains the ripened ear.
Now one shrill voice the notes prolong,
Now a wild chorus swells the song :
Oft have I listened and stood still
As it came softened up the hill,
And deemed it the lament of men
Who languished for their native glen,

And thought how sad would be such sound
On Susquehanna's swampy ground,
Kentucky's wood-encumbered brake.
Or wild Ontario's boundless lake,
Where heart-sick exiles in the strain
Recalled fair Scotland's hills again !



Where shall the lover rest,

Whom the fates sever
From his true maiden's breast,

Parted forever ?
Where, through groves deep and high.

Sounds the far billow,
Where early violets die,

Under the willow.

Eleti loro, etc.


Soft shall be his pillow

There, through the summer day,

Cool streams are laving ;
There, while the tempests sway,

Scarce are boughs waving ;
There thy rest shalt thou take,

Parted forever,
Never again to wake.

Never, O never !

Eleii loro, etc.


Never, O never !




Where shall the traitor rest,

He the deceiver,
Who could win maiden's breast,

Ruin and leave her?
In the lost battle,

Borne down by the flying,
Where mingles war's rattle

With groans of the dying.

Eleu loro, etc. There shall he be lying.

Her wing shall the eagle flap

O'er the false-hearted ;
His warm blood the wolf shall lap,

Ere life be parted.
Shame and dishonor sit

By his grave ever ;
Blessing shall hallow it, —

Never, O never !


Eleu loro, etc. Never, O never !


It ceased, the melancholy sound,
And silence sunk on all around.
The air was sad ; but sadder still
It fell on Marmion's ear,

And plained as if disgrace and ill,
And shameful death, were near.

He drew his mantle past his face,
Between it and the band,

And rested with his head a space
Reclining on his hand.

His thoughts I scan not ; but I ween

That, could their import have been seen.

The meanest groom in all the hall,

That e'er tied courser to a stall,

Would scarce have wished to be then

For Lutterward and Fontenaye.


High minds, of native pride and force,
Most deeply feel thy pangs, Remorse !
Fear for their scourge mean villains have,
Thou art the torturer of the brave !
Yet fatal strength they boast to steel
Their minds to bear the wounds they feel,
Even while they writhe beneath the smart
Of civil conflict in the heart.
For soon Lord Marmion raised his head,
And smiling to Fitz-Eustace said :
< Is it not strange that, as ye sung,
Seemed in mine ear a death-peal rung,
Such as in nunneries they toll
For some departing sister's soul ?

Say, what may this portend?'
Then first the Palmer silence broke, —


The livelong day he had not spoke, —
' The death of a dear friend.'


Marmion, whose steady heart and eye
Ne'er changed in worst extremity,
Marmion, whose soul could scantly brook
Even from his king a haughty look,
Whose accent of command controlled
In camps the boldest of the bold —
Thought, look, and utterance failed him

Fallen was his glance and flushed his brow ;
For either in the tone.

Its fugitive the Church he gave,

Though not a victim, but a slave,

And deemed restraint in convent strange

Would hide her wrongs and her revenge.

Himself, proud Henry's favorite peer,

Held Romish thunders idle fear;

Secure his pardon he might hold

For some slight mulct of penance-gold.

Thus judging, he gave secret way

When the stern priests surprised their prey.

His train but deemed the favorite page

Was left behind to spare his age ;

Or other if they deemed, none dared

To mutter what he thought and heard :

Or something in the Palmer's look,
So full upon his conscience strook

That answer he found none.
Thus oft it haps that when within
They shrink at sense of secret sin,

A feather daunts the brave ;
A fool's wild speech confounds the wise,
And proudest princes vail their eyes

Before their meanest slave.


W T ell might he falter ! — By his aid
Was Constance Beverley -betrayed.
Not that he augured of the doom
Which on the living closed the tomb :
But, tired to hear the desperate maid
Threaten by turns, beseech, upbraid,
And wroth because in wild despair
She practised on the life of Clare,

Woe to the vassal who durst pry
Into Lord Marmion's privacy !

His conscience slept — he deemed her well,
And safe secured in distant cell ;
But, wakened by her favorite lay,
And that strange Palmer's boding say
That fell so ominous and drear
Full on the object of his fear,
To aid remorse's venomed throes,
Dark tales of conve*nt-vengeance rose ;
And Constance, late betrayed and scorned.
All lovely on his soul returned ;
Lovely as when at treacherous call
She left her convent's peaceful wall,
Crimsoned with shame, with terror mute,
Dreading alike escape, pursuit,
Till love, victorious o'er alarms,
Hid fears and blushes in his arms.



« Alas! ' he thought, 'how changed that mien!

How changed these timid looks have been,

Since years of guilt and of disguise

Have steeled her brow and armed her eyes !

No more of virgin terror speaks

The blood that mantles in her cheeks ;

Fierce and unfeminine are there,

Frenzy for joy, for grief despair ;

And I the cause — for whom were given

Her peace on earth, her hopes in heaven ! —

Would,' thought he, as the picture grows,

' I on its stalk had left the rose !

Oh, why should man's success remove

The very charms that wake his love? —

Her convent's peaceful solitude

Is now a prison harsh and rude ;

And, pent within the narrow cell,

How will her spirit chafe and swell !

How brook the stern monastic laws !

The penance how — and I the cause ! —

Vigil and scourge — perchance even worse ! '

And twice he rose to cry, ' To horse ! '

And twice his sovereign's mandate came,

Like damp upon a kindling flame ;

And twice he thought, ' Gave I not charge

She should be safe, though not at large ?
They durst not, for their island, shred
One golden ringlet from her head.'


While thus in Marmion's bosom strove

Repentance and reviving love,

Like whirlwinds whose contending sway

I 've seen Loch Vennachar obey,

Their host the Palmer's speech had heard.

And talkative took up the word :

' Ay, reverend pilgrim, you who stray

From Scotland's simple land away,
To visit realms afar,

Full often learn the art to know

Of future weal or future woe,
By word, or sign, or star ;
Yet might a knight his fortune hear,
If, knight-like, he despises fear,
Not far from hence ; — if fathers old
Aright our hamlet legend told.'
These broken words the menials move, —
For marvels still the vulgar love, —
And, Marmion giving license cold,
His tale the host thus gladly told : —




Efy post's &ale.

' A clerk could tell what years have flown

Since Alexander filled our throne, —

Third monarch of that warlike name, —

And eke the time when here he came

To seek Sir Hugo, then our lord : ■

A braver never drew a sword ;

A wiser never, at the hour

Of midnight, spoke the word of power ;

The same whom ancient records call

The founder of the Goblin-Hall.

I would, Sir Knight, your longer stay

Gave you that cavern to survey.

Of lofty roof and ample size,

Beneath the castle deep it lies :

To hew the living rock profound,

The floor to pave, the arch to round,

There never toiled a mortal arm,

It all was wrought by word and charm

And I have heard my grandsire say

That the wild clamor and affray

Of those dread artisans of hell,

Who labored under Hugo's spell,

Sounded as loud as ocean's war

Among the caverns of Dunbar.


1 The king Lord Gifford's castle sought,
Deep laboring with uncertain thought.
Even then he mustered all his host,
To meet upon the western coast ;
For Norse and Danish galleys plied
Their oars within the Firth of Clyde.
There floated Haco's banner trim
Above Norweyan warriors grim,
Savage of heart and large of limb,
Threatening both continent and isle,
Bute, Arran, Cunninghame, and Kyle.
Lord Gifford, deep beneath the ground,
Heard Alexander's bugle sound,
And tarried not his garb to change,
But, in his wizard habit strange,
Came forth, — a quaint and fearful sight :
His mantle lined with fox-skins white ;
His high and wrinkled forehead bore
A pointed cap, such as of yore
Clerks say that Pharaoh's Magi wore ;
His shoes were marked with cross and spell.
Upon his breast a pentacle ;
His zone of virgin parchment thin,
Or, as some tell, of dead man's skin,
Bore many a planetary sign,
Combust, and retrograde, and trine ;
And in his hand he held prepared
A naked sword without a guard.


1 Dire dealings with the fiendish race
Had marked strange lines upon his face ;

Vigil and fast had worn him grim,
His eyesight dazzled seemed and dim,
As one unused to upper day ;
Even his own menials with dismay
Beheld, Sir Knight, the grisly sire
In this unwonted wild attire;
Unwonted, for traditions run
He seldom thus beheld the sun.
u I know," he said, — his voice was hoarse,
And broken seemed its hollow force, —
" I know the caused although untold,
Why the king seeks his vassal's hold :
Vainly from me my liege would know
His kingdom's future weal or woe ;
But yet, if strong his arm and heart,
His courage may do more than art.


1 " Of middle air the demons proud,

Who ride upon the racking cloud,

Can read in fixed or wandering star

The issue of events afar,

But still their sullen aid withhold,

Save when by mightier force controlled.

Such late I summoned to my hall ;

And though so potent was the call

That scarce the deepest nook of hell

I deemed a refuge from the spell,

Yet, obstinate in silence still,

The haughty demon mocks my skill.

But thou, — who little know'st thy might

As born upon that blessed night

When yawning graves and dying groan

Proclaimed hell's empire overthrown, —

With untaught valor shalt compel

Response denied to magic spell."

" Gramercy," quoth our monarch free,

" Place him but front to front with me.

And, by this good and honored brand.

The gift of Cceur-de-Lion's hand,

Soothly I swear that, tide what tide.

The demon shall a buffet bide."

His bearing bold the wizard viewed.

And thus, well pleased, his speech renewed :

" There spoke the blood of Malcolm ! —

Forth pacing hence at midnight dark,
The rampart seek whose circling crown
Crests the ascent of yonder down :
A southern entrance shalt thou find ;
There halt, and there thy bugle wind,
And trust thine elfin foe to see
In guise of thy worst enemy.
Couch then thy lance and spur thy steed —
Upon him ! and Saint George to speed !
If he go down, thou soon shalt know
Whate'er these airy sprites can show ;
If thy heart fail thee in the strife,
I am no warrant for thy life."




1 Soon as the midnight bell did ring,
Alone and armed, forth rode the king
To that old camp's deserted round.
Sir Knight, you well might mark the mound

Left hand the town, — the Pictish race
The trench, long since, in blood did trace :
The moor around is brown and bare,
The space within is green and fair.
The spot our village children know,

9 6


For there the earliest wild-flowers grow ;
But woe betide the wandering wight
That treads its circle in the night !
The breadth across, a bowshot clear,
Gives ample space for full career ;
Opposed to the four points of heaven,
By four deep gaps are entrance given.
The southernmost our monarch passed,
Halted, and blew a gallant blast ;
And on the north, within the ring,
Appeared the form of England's king,
Who then, a thousand leagues afar,
In Palestine waged holy war :
Yet arms like England's did he wield ;
Alike the leopards in the shield,
Alike his Syrian courser's frame,
The rider's length of limb the same.
Long afterwards did Scotland know
Fell Edward was her deadliest foe.


* The vision made our monarch start,
But soon he manned his noble heart,
And in the first career they ran,
The Elfin Knight fell, horse and man
Yet did a splinter of his lance
Through Alexander's visor glance,
And razed the skin — a puny wound.
The king, light leaping to the ground,
With naked blade his phantom foe
Compelled the future war to show.
Of Largs he saw the glorious plain,
Where still gigantic bones remain,

Memorial of the Danish war ;
Himself he saw, amid the field,
On high his brandished war-axe wield
And strike proud Haco from his car,
While all around the shadowy kings
Denmark's grim ravens cowered their
'T is said that in that awful night
Remoter visions met his sight,
Foreshowing future conquest far,
When our sons' sons wage Northern war ;
A royal city, tower and spire,
Reddened the midnight sky with fire,
And shouting crews her navy bore
Triumphant to the victor shore.
Such signs may learned clerks explain,
They pass the wit of simple swain.

' The joyful king turned home again,
Headed his host, and quelled the Dane ;
But yearly, when returned the night
Of his strange combat with the sprite,

His wound must bleed and smart ;
Lord Gifford then would gibing say,
" Bold as ye were, my liege, ye pay

The penance of your start."

Long since, beneath Dunfermline's nave,
King Alexander fills his grave,

Our Lady give him rest !
Yet still the knightly spear and shield
The Elfin Warrior doth wield

Upon the brown hill's breast,
And many a knight hath proved his chance
In the charmed ring to break a lance,

But all have foully sped ;
Save two, as legends tell, and they
Were Wallace wight and Gilbert Hay. —

Gentles, my tale is said.'

The quaighs were deep, the liquor strong,
And on the tale the yeoman-throng
Had made a comment sage and long,

But Marmion gave a sign :
And with their lord the squires retire,
The rest around the hostel fire

Their drowsy limbs recline ;
For pillow, underneath each head,
The quiver and the targe were laid.
Deep slumbering on the hostel floor,
Oppressed with toil and ale, they snore;
The dying flame, in fitful change,
Threw on the group its shadows strange.


Apart, and nestling in the hay
Of a waste loft, Fitz-Eustace lay ;
Scarce by the pale moonlight were seen
The foldings of his mantle green :
Lightly he dreamt, as youth will dream,
Of sport by thicket, or by stream,
Of hawk or hound, or ring or glove,
Or, lighter yet, of lady's love.
A cautious tread his slumber broke,
And, close beside him when he woke,
In moonbeam half, and half in gloom,
Stood a tall form with nodding plume ;
But, ere his dagger Eustace drew,
His master Marmion's voice he knew :


1 Fitz-Eustace ! rise, — I cannot rest ;
Yon churl's wild legend haunts my breast,
And graver thoughts have chafed my mood ;
The air must cool my feverish blood,
And fain would I ride forth to see
The scene of elfin chivalry.
Arise, and saddle me my steed ;
And, gentle Eustace, take good heed
Thou dost not rouse these drowsy slaves ;
I would not that the prating knaves
Had cause for saying, o'er their ale,
That I could credit such a tale.'
Then softly down the steps they slid,
Eustace the stable door undid,



And, darkling, Marmion's steed arrayed,
While, whispering, thus the baron said: —


1 Didst never, good my youth, hear tell

That on the hour when I was born
Saint George, who graced my sire's chapelle,
Down from his steed of marble fell,

A weary wight forlorn ?
The flattering chaplains all agree
The champion left his steed to me.
I would, the omen's truth to show,
That I could meet this elfin foe !
Blithe would I battle for the right
To ask one question at the sprite. —
Vain thought ! for elves, if elves there be,
An empty race, by fount or sea
To dashing waters dance and sing,
Or round the green oak wheel their ring.'
Thus speaking, he his steed bestrode,
And from the hostel slowly rode.


Fitz-Eustace followed him abroad,
And marked him pace the village road,

And listened to his horse's tramp,
Till, by the lessening sound,

He judged that of the Pictish camp
Lord Marmion sought the round.
Wonder it seemed, in the squire's eyes,
That one, so wary held and wise, —
Of whom 't was said, he scarce received
For gospel what the Church believed, —

Should, stirred by idle tale,
Ride forth in silence of the night,

As hoping half to meet a spriti-.

Arrayed in plate and mail.
For little did Fitz-Eustace know
That passions in contending flow

Unfix the strongest mind ;
Wearied from doubt to doubt to flee,
We welcome fond credulity,

Guide confident, though blind.

Little for this Fitz-Eus.tace cared,
But patient waited till he heard
At distance, pricked to utmost speed,
The foot-tramp of a flying steed

Come townward rushing on ;
First, dead, as if on turf it trode,
Then, clattering omthe village road, —
In other pace than forth he yode,

Returned Lord Marmion.
Down hastily he sprung from selle,
And in his haste wellnigh he fell ;
To the squire's hand the rein he threw.
And spoke no word as he withdrew :
But yet the moonlight did betray
The falcon-crest was soiled with clay ;
And plainly might Fitz-Eustace see,
By stains upon the charger's knee
And his left side, that on the moor

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 10 of 78)