Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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He had not kept his footing sure.
Long musing on these wondrous signs,
At length to rest the squire reclines,
Broken and short ; for still between
Would dreams of terror intervene :
Eustace did ne'er so blithely mark
The first notes of the morning lark.

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9 8




Ashestiel, Ettrick Forest.

An ancient Minstrel sagely said,

' Where is the life which late we led ? '

That motley clown in Arden wood,

Whom humorous Jaques with envy viewed,

Not even that clown could amplify

On this trite text so long as I.

Eleven years we now may tell

Since we have known each other well,

Since, riding side by side, our hand

First drew the voluntary brand ;

And sure, through many a varied scene,

Unkindness never came between.

Away these winged years have flown,

To join the mass of ages gone ;

And though deep marked, like all below,

With checkered shades of joy and woe,

Though thou o'er realms and seas . hast

Marked cities lost and empires changed,
While here at home my narrower ken
Somewhat of manners saw and men ;
Though varying wishes, hopes, and fears
Fevered the progress of these years,
Yet now, days, weeks, and months but seem
The recollection of a dream,
So still we glide down to the sea
Of fathomless eternity.

Even now it scarcely seems a day
Since first I tuned this idle lay ;
A task so often thrown aside,
When leisure graver cares denied,
That now November's dreary gale,
Whose voice inspired my opening tale,
That same November gale once more
Whirls the dry leaves on Yarrow shore.
Their vexed boughs streaming to the sky,
Once more our naked birches sigh,
And Blackhouse heights and Ettrick Pen
Have donned their wintry shrouds again,

And mountain dark and flooded mead
Bid us forsake the banks of Tweed.
Earlier than wont along the sky,
Mixed with the rack, the snow mists

The shepherd who, in summer sun,
Had something of our envy won,
As thou with pencil, I with pen,
The features traced of hill and glen, —
He who, outstretched the livelong day,
At ease among the heath-flowers lay,
Viewed the light clouds with vacant look.
Or slumbered o'er his tattered book,
Or idly busied him to guide
His angle o'er the lessened tide, —
At midnight now the snowy plain
Finds sterner labor for the swain.

When red hath set the beamless sun
Through heavy vapors dank and dun,
When the tired ploughman, dry and warm,
Hears, half asleep, the rising storm
Hurling the hail and sleeted rain
Against the casement's tinkling pane ;
The sounds that drive wild deer and fox
To shelter in the brake and rocks
Are warnings which the shepherd ask
To dismal and to dangerous task.
Oft he looks forth, and hopes, in vain,
The blast may sink in mellowing rain :
Till, dark above and white below,
Decided drives the flaky snow,
And forth the hardy swain must go.
Long, with dejected look and whine,
To leave the hearth his dogs repine ;
Whistling and cheering them to aid,
Around his back he wreathes the plaid r
His flock he gathers and he guides
To open downs and mountain-sides,
Where fiercest though the tempest blow.
Least deeply lies the drift below.
The blast that whistles o'er the fells
Stiffens his locks to icicles ;
Oft he looks back while, streaming far,
His cottage window seems a star, —
Loses its feeble gleam, — and then
Turns patient to the blast again,
And, facing to the tempest's sweep,
Drives through the gloom his lagging

If fails his heart, if his limbs fail,
Benumbing death is in the gale ;
His paths, his landmarks, all unknown,
Close to the hut, no more his own,
Close to the aid he sought in vain,
The morn may find the stiffened swain i
The widow sees, at dawning pale,
His orphans raise their feeble wail ;
And, close beside him in the snow,
Poor Yarrow, partner of their woe,



Couches upon his master's breast,
And licks his cheek to break his rest.

Who envies now the shepherd's lot,
His healthy fare, his rural cot,
His summer couch by greenwood tree,
His rustic kirn's loud revelry,
His native hill-notes tuned on high
To Marion of the blithesome eye,
His crook, his scrip, his oaten reed,
And all Arcadia's golden creed ?

Changes not so with us, my Skene,
Of human life the varying scene ?
Our youthful summer oft we see
Dance by on wings of game and glee,
While the dark storm reserves its rage
Against the winter of our age ;
As he, the ancient chief of Troy,
His manhood spent in peace and joy,
But Grecian fires and loud alarms
Called ancient Priam forth to arms.
Then happy those, since each must drain
His share of pleasure, share of pain, —
Then happy those, beloved of Heaven,
To whom the mingled cup is given ;
Whose lenient sorrows find relief,
Whose joys are chastened by their grief.
And such a lot, my Skene, was thine,
When thou of late wert doomed to twine -
Just when thy bridal hour was by —
The cypress with the myrtle tie.
Just on thy bride her sire had smiled,
And blessed the union of his child,
When love must change its joyous cheer,
And wipe affection's filial tear.
Nor did the actions next his end
Speak more the father than the friend :
Scarce had lamented Forbes paid
The tribute to his minstrel's shade,
The tale of friendship scarce was told,
Ere the narrator's heart was cold —
Far may we search before we find
A heart so manly and so kind !
But not around his honored urn
Shall friends alone and kindred mourn ;
The thousand eyes his care had dried
Pour at his name a bitter tide,
And frequent falls the grateful dew
For benefits the world ne'er knew.
If mortal charity dare claim
The Almighty's attributed name,
Inscribe above his mouldering clay,
' The widow's shield, the orphan's stay.'
Nor, though it wake thy sorrow, deem
My verse intrudes on this sad theme,
For sacred was the pen that wrote,
' Thy father's friend forget thou not ; '
And grateful title may I plead,
For many a kindly word and deed,

To bring my tribute to his grave : —
'T is little — but 't is all I have.

To thee, perchance, this rambling strain
Recalls our summer walks again;
When, doing nought, —and, to speak true,
Not anxious to find aught to do,—
The wild unbounded hills we ranged,
While oft our talk its topic changed,
And, desultory as our way,
Ranged unconfined from grave to gay.
Even when it flagged, as oft will chance,
No effort made to break its trance,
We could right pleasantly pursue
Our sports in social silence too ;
Thou gravely laboring to portray
The blighted oak's fantastic spray,
I spelling o'er with much delight
The legend of that antique knight,
Tirante by name, ycleped the White.
At either's feet a trusty squire,
Pandour and Camp, with eyes of fire,
Jealous each other's motions viewed,
And scarce suppressed their ancient feud.
The laverock whistled from the cloud ;
The stream was lively, but not loud;
From the white thorn the May-flower shed
Its dewy fragrance round our head :
Not Ariel lived more merrily
Under the blossomed bough than we.

And blithesome nights, too, have been
When Winter stript the Summer's bowers.
Careless we heard, what now I hear,
The wild blast signing deep and drear,
When fires were bright and lamps beamed

And ladies tuned the lovely lay,
And he was held a laggard soul
Who shunned to quaff the sparkling bowl.
Then he whose absence we deplore,
Who breathes the gales of Devon's shore,
The longer missed, bewailed the more,
And thou, and I, and dear-loved Rae,
And one whose name I may not say, —
For not mimosa's tender tree
Shrinks sooner from the touch than he, —
In merry chorus well combined,
With laughter drowned the whistling wind.
Mirth was within, and Care without
Might gnaw her nails to hear our shout.
Not but amid the buxom scene
Some grave discourse might intervene —
Of the good horse that bore him best,
His shoulder, hoof, and arching crest;
For, like mad Tom's, our chiefest care
Was horse to ride and weapon wear.
Such nights we've had; and, though the



Of manhood be more sober tame,
And though the field-day or the drill
Seem less important now, yet still
Such may we hope to share again.
The sprightly thought inspires my strain !
And mark how, like a horseman true,
Lord Marmion's march I thus renew.




Eustace, I said, did blithely mark
The first notes of the merry lark.
The lark sang shrill, the cock he crew,
And loudly Marmion's bugles blew,
And with their light and lively call
Brought groom and yeoman to the stall.
Whistling they came and free of heart,

But soon their mood was changed ;
Complaint was heard on every part

Of something disarranged.
Some clamored loud for armor lost ;
Some brawled and wrangled with the host ;
' By Becket's bones,' cried one, • I fear
That some false Scot has stolen my spear ! '
Young Blount, Lord Marmion's second

Found his steed wet with sweat and mire,
Although the rated horseboy sware
Last night he dressed him sleek and fair.
While chafed the impatient squire like

Old Hubert shouts in fear and wonder, —
* Help, gentle Blount ! help, comrades all !
Bevis lies dying in his stall ;
To Marmion who the plight dare tell
Of the good steed he loves so well?'
Gaping for fear and ruth, they saw
The charger panting on his straw ;
Till one, who would seem wisest, cried,
k What else but evil could betide,
With that cursed Palmer for our guide ?

Better we had through mire and bush
Been lantern-led by Friar Rush.'

Fitz-Eustace, who the cause but guessed,

Nor wholly understood,
His comrades' clamorous plaints sup-
pressed ;

He knew Lord Marmion's mood.
Him, ere he issued forth, he sought,
And found deep plunged in gloomy thought.

And did his tale display
Simply, as if he knew of nought

To cause such disarray.
Lord Marmion gave attention cold,
Nor marvelled at the wonders told, —
Passed them as accidents of course,
And bade his clarions sound to horse.


Young Henry Blount, meanwhile, the cost
Had reckoned with their Scottish host;
And, as the charge he cast and paid,
' 111 thou deserv'st thy hire,' he said ;
' Dost see, thou knave, my horse's plight ?
Fairies have ridden him all the night,

And left him in a foam !
I trust that soon a conjuring band,
With English cross and blazing brand,
Shall drive the devils from this land

To their infernal home ;
For in this haunted den, I trow,
All night they trampled to and fro.'
The laughing host looked on the hire :
' Gramercy, gentle southern squire,
And if thou com'st among the rest,
With Scottish broadsword to be blest,
Sharp be the brand, and sure the blow,
And short the pang to undergo.'
Here stayed their talk, for Marmion
Gave now the signal to set on.
The Palmer showing forth the way,
They journeyed all the morning-day.


The greensward way was smooth and good.
Through Humbie's and through Saltoun's

A forest glade, which, varying still,
Here gave a view of dale and hill,
There narrower closed till overhead
A vaulted screen the branches made.
P A pleasant path,' Fitz-Eustace said ;
1 Such as where errant-knights might see
Adventures of high chivalry,
Might meet some damsel flying fast,
W T ih hair unbound and looks aghast ;
And smooth and level course were here,
In her defence to break a spear.



Here, too, are twilight nooks and dells ;
And oft in such, the story tells.
The damsel kind, from danger freed,
Did grateful pay her champion's meed.'
He spoke to cheer Lord Maimion s mind,
Perchance to show his lore designed ;

For Eustace much had pored
Upon a huge romantic tome,
In the hall-window of his home,
Imprinted at the antique dome

. Of Caxton or de Worde.

Therefore he spoke, — but spoke in vain.
For Marmiou answered nought again.

Now sudden, distant trumpets shrilL
In notes prolonged by wood and hill,

Were heard to echo far:
Each ready archer grasped his bow,
But by the flourish soon they know

They breathed no point of war.
Yet cautious, as in foeman's land.
Lord Mannion's order speeds the band

Some opener ground to gain :
And scarce a furlong had they rode,
When thinner trees receding showed

A little woodland plain-
Just in that advantageous glade
The halting troop a line had made,
As forth from the opposing shade

Issued a gallant train.

First came the trumpets, at whose clang

So late the forest echoes rang ;

On prancing steeds they forward pressed,

With scarlet mantle, azure vest :

Each at his trump a banner wore,

Which Scotland's royal scutcheon bore :

Heralds and pursuivants, by name

Bute, Islay, Marchmount, Rothsay. came.

In painted tabards, proudly showing

Gules, argent, or, and azure glowing.

Attendant on a king-at-arms,
Whose hand the armorial truncheon held
That feudal strife had often quelled

When wildest its alarms.

He was a man of middle age.

In aspect manly, grave, and sage.

As on king's errand come :
But in the glances of his eve
A penetrating, keen, and sly

Expression found its home :
The flash of that satiric rage
WTiich, bursting on the early stage.
Branded the vices of the age.

And broke the keys of Rome.
On milk-white palfrey forth he paced :
His cap of maintenance was graced

With the proud heron-plume.
From his steed's shoulder, loin, and breast.



Silk housings swept the ground,
With Scotland's arms, device, and crest.

Embroidered round and round.
The double tressure might you see,

First by Achaius borne,
The thistle and the fleur-de-lis,

And gallant unicorn.
So bright the king's armorial coat
That scarce the dazzled eye could note,
In living colors blazoned brave,
The Lion, which his title gave ;

Their mutual greetings duly made,
The Lion thus his message said : —
'Though Scotland's Kinghath deeply swort
Ne'er to knit faith with Henry more,
And strictly hath forbid resort
From England to his royal court,
Yet, for he knows Lord Mamion's name
And honors much his warlike fame,
My liege hath deemed it shame and lack
Of courtesy to turn him back ;
And by his' order I, your guide,

A train, which well beseemed his state,
But all unarmed, around him wait.
Still is thy name in high account,
And still thy verse has charms,
Sir David Lindesay of the Mount,
Lord Lion King-at-arms !


Down from his horse did Marmion spring

Soon as he saw the Lion-King ;

For well the stately baron knew

To him such courtesy was due

Whom royal James himself had crowned,

And on his temples placed the round

Of Scotland's ancient diadem,
And wet his brow with hallowed wine,
And on his finger given to shine

The emblematic gem.

Must lodging fit and fair provide

Till finds King James meet time to see

The flower of English chivalry.'


Though inly chafed at this delay,
Lord Marmion bears it as he may.
The Palmer, his mysterious guide,
Beholding thus his place supplied,

Sought to take leave in vain ;
Strict was the Lion-King's command
That none who rode in Marmion's band

Should sever from the train.
* England has here enow of spies
In Lady Heron's witching eyes : '
To Marchmount thus apart he said,
But fair pretext to Marmion made.
The right-hand path they now decline,
And trace against, the stream the Tyne.



At length up that wild dale they wind,
Where Crichtoun Castle crowns the bank ;

For there the Lion's care assigned
A lodging meet for Marmion's rank.

That castle rises on the steep
Of the green vale of Tyne ;
And far beneath, where slow they creep
From pool to eddy, dark and deep,
Where alders moist and willows weep,



You hear her streams repine.
The towers in different ages rose,
Their various architecture shows

The builders' various hands ;
A mighty mass, that could oppose,
When deadliest hatred fired its foes.

The vengeful Douglas bands.

Crichtoun ! though now thy miry court

But pens the lazy steer and sheep,

Thy turrets rude and tottered keep
Have been the minstrel's loved resort.
Oft have I traced, within thy fort,

Of mouldering shields the mystic sense.

Scutcheons of honor or pretence,
Quartered in old armorial sort,

Remains of rude magnificence.
Nor wholly yet hath time defaced

Thy lordly gallery fair,
Nor yet the stony cord unbraced
Whose twisted knots, with roses laced,

Adorn thy ruined stair.
Still rises unimpaired below
The court-yard's graceful portico ;
Above its cornice, row and row
Of fair hewn facets richly show

Their pointed diamond form,
Though there but houseless cattle go,

To shield them from the storm.
And, shuddering, still may we explore,

Where oft whilom were captives pent,
The darkness of thy Massy More,

Or, from thy grass-grown battlement,
May trace in undulating line
The sluggish mazes of the Tyne.


Another aspect Crichtoun showed

As through its portal Marmion rode ;

But yet 't was melancholy state

Received him at the outer gate,

For none were in the castle then

But women, boys, or aged men.

With eyes scarce dried, the sorrowing dame

To welcome noble Marmion came ;

Her son, a stripling twelve years old,

Proffered the baron's rein to hold ;

For each man that could draw a sword

Had marched that morning with their lord,

Earl Adam Hepburn, — he who died

On Flodden by his sovereign's side.

Long may his lady look in vain !

She ne'er shall see his gallant train

Come sweeping back through Crichtoun-

'T was a brave race before the name
Of hated Bothwell stained their fame.


And here two days did Marmion rest,
With every right that honor claims,
Attended as the king's own guest ; —
Such the command of Royal James,
Who marshalled then his land's array,
Upon the Borough-moor that lay.
Perchance he would not foeman's eye
Upon his gathering host should pry,
Till full prepared was every band
To march against the English land.
Here while they dwelt, did Lindesay's wit
Oft cheer the baron's moodier fit ;
And, in his turn, he knew to prize
Lord Marmion's powerful mind and wise, —
Trained in the lore of Rome and Greece,
And policies of war and peace.

It chanced, as fell the second night,

That on the battlements they walked,
And by the slowly fading light'

Of varying topics talked ;
And, unaware, the herald-bard
Said Marmion might his toil have spared

In travelling so far,
For that a messenger from heaven
In vain to James had counsel given

Against the English war ;
And, closer questioned, thus he told
A tale which chronicles of old
In Scottish story have enrolled : —


Sir ©atoiU Etntiesag's (Talc.

1 Of all the palaces so fair,

Built for the royal dwelling
In Scotland, far beyond compare

Linlithgow is excelling ;
And in its park, in jovial June,
How sweet the merry linnet's tune,

How blithe the blackbird's lay !
The wild buck bells from ferny brake,
The coot dives merry on the lake,
The saddest heart might pleasure take

To see all
But June is to our sovereign dear
The heaviest month in all the year;
Too well his cause of grief you know,
June saw his father's overthrow.
Woe to the traitors who could bring
The princely boy against his king !
Still in his conscience burns the sting.
In offices as strict as Lent
King James's June is ever spent.


' When last this ruthful month was come,
And in Linlithgow's holy dome



The king, as wont, was praying;
While for his royal father's soul
The chanters sung, the bells did toll,

The bishop mass was saying —
For now the year brought round again
The day the luckless king was slain —
In Catherine's aisle the monarch knelt,
With sackcloth shirt and iron belt,

And eyes with sorrow streaming ;
Around him in their stalls of state
The Thistle's Knight-Companions sate,

Their banners o'er them beaming.
I too was there, and, sooth to tell,
Bedeafened with the jangling knell,
Was watching where the sunbeams fell,

Through the stained casement gleam-
But while I marked what next befell

It seemed as I were dreaming.
Stepped from the crowd a ghostly wight,
In azure gown, with cincture white ;
His forehead bald, his head was bare,
Down hung at length his yellow hair. —
Now, mock me not when, good my lord,
I pledge to you my knightly word
That when I saw his placid grace,
His simple majesty of face,
His solemn bearing, and his pace

So stately gliding on, —
Seemed to me ne'er did limner paint
So just an image of the saint
Who propped the Virgin in her faint,

The loved Apostle John !


' He stepped before the monarch's chair,
And stood with rustic plainness there,

And little reverence made ;
Nor head, nor body, bowed, nor bent.
But on the desk his arm he leant,

And words like these he said,
In a low voice, — but never tone
So thrilled through vein, and nerve

bone : —
" My mother sent me from afar,
Sir King, to warn thee not to war, —

Woe waits on thine array ;
If war thou wilt, of woman fair,
Her witching wiles and wanton snare,
James Stuart, doubly warned, beware :

God keep thee as he may ! " —
The wondering monarch seemed to seek

For answer, and found none ;
And when he raised his head to speak.

The monitor was gone.
The marshal and myself had cast
To stop him as he outward passed ;
But, lighter than the whirlwind's blast,

He vanished from our eyes,
Like sunbeam on the billow cast,

That glances but, and dies.'


While Lindesay told his marvel strange

The twilight was so pale.
He marked not Marmion's color change




While listening to the tale ;
But, after a suspended pause,
The baron spoke : ' Of Nature's laws

So strong I held the force,
That never superhuman cause

Could e'er control their course,
And, three days since, had judged your aim
Was but to make your guest your game :
But I have seen, since past the Tweed,
What much has changed my sceptic creed,
And made me credit aught' — He stayed,
And seemed to wish his words unsaid,
But, by that strong emotion pressed
Which prompts us to unload our breast

Even when discovery 's pain,
To Lindesay did at length unfold
The tale his village host had told,

At Gifford, to his train.
Nought of the Palmer says he there,
And nought of Constance or of Clare ;
The thoughts which broke his sleep he

To mention but as feverish dreams.


1 In vain,' said he, ' to rest I spread

My burning limbs, and couched my head ;

Fantastic thoughts returned,
And, by their wild dominion led,

My heart within me burned.
So sore was the delirious goad,
I took my, steed and forth I rode,
And, as the moon shone bright and cold,
Soon reached the camp upon the wold.
The southern entrance I passed through,
And halted, and my bugle blew.
Methought an answer met my ear, —
Yet was the blast so low and drear,
So hollow, and so faintly blown,
It might be echo of my own.


1 Thus judging, for a little space
I listened ere I left the place,

But scarce could trust my eyes,
Nor yet can think they serve me true,
When sudden in the ring I view,
In form distinct of shape and hue,

A mounted champion rise. —
I 've fought, Lord-Lion, many a day,
In single fight and mixed affray,
And ever, I myself may say,

Have borne me as a knight;
But when this unexpected foe
Seemed starting from the gulf below, —
I care not though the truth I show, —

I trembled with affright ;
And as I placed in rest my spear,
My hand so shook for very fear,

I scarce could couch it right.


'Why need my tongue the issue tell?
We ran our course,— my charger fell ; —
What could he 'gainst the shock of hell ?

I rolled upon the plain.
High o'er my head with threatening hand
The spectre shook his naked brand, —

Yet did the worst remain :
My dazzled eyes I upward cast, —
Not opening hell itself could blast

Their sight like what I saw !
Full on his face the moonbeam strook ! —
A face could never be mistook !
I knew the stern vindictive look,

And held my breath for awe.
I saw the face of one who, fled
, To foreign climes, has long been dead, —

I well believe the last ;
For ne'er from visor raised did stare
A human warrior with a glare

So grimly and so ghast.
Thrice o'er my head he shook the blade ;
But when to good Saint George I prayed, —
The first time e'er I asked his aid, —

He plunged it in the sheath,
And, on his courser mounting light,
He seemed to vanish from my sight :
The moonbeam drooped, and deepest night

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 11 of 78)