Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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To martyr, saint, and prophet prayed,



Against Lord Marmion inveighed,
And called the prioress to aid,
To curse with candle, bell, and book.
Her head the grave Cistertian shook :
' The Douglas and the king,' she said,
' In their commands will be obeyed ;
Grieve not, nor dream that harm can fall
The maiden in Tantallon Hall.'


The abbess, seeing strife was vain,
Assumed her wonted state again, —

For much of state she had, —
Composed her veil, and raised her head,

Even such weak minister as me
May the oppressor bruise ;

For thus, inspired, did Judith slay
The mighty in his sin,

And Jael thus, and Deborah ' —
Here hasty Blount broke in :
' Fitz-Eustace, we must march our band ;
Saint Anton' fire thee ! wilt thou stand
All day, with bonnet in thy hand,

To hear the lady preach ?
By this good light ! if thus we stay,
Lord Marmion for our fond delay

Will sharper sermon teach.
Come, don thy cap and mount thy horse
The dame must patience take perforce.'

And * Bid,' in solemn voice she said,
' Thy master, bold and bad,

The records of his house turn o'er,
And, when he shall there written see
That one of his own ancestry
Drove the monks forth of Coventry,

Bid him his fate explore !

Prancing in pride of earthly trust,
His charger hurled him to the dust,
And, by a base plebeian thrust,

He died his band before.

God judge 'twixt Marmion and me ;
He is a chief of high degree,

And I a poor recluse,

Yet oft in holy writ we see


'Submit we then to force,' said Clare,
1 But let this barbarous lord despair

His purposed aim to win ;
Let him take living, land, and life,
But to be Marmion's wedded wife

In me were deadly sin :
And if it be the king's decree
That I must find no sanctuary
In that inviolable dome
Where even a homicide might come

And safely rest his head,
Though at its open portals stood,
Thirsting to pour forth blood for blood,

The kinsmen of the dead,



Yet one asylum is my own

Against the dreaded hour, —
A low, a silent, and a lone,

Where kings have little power.
One victim is before me there. —
Mother, your blessing, and in prayer
Remember your unhappy Clare ! '
Loud weeps the abbess, and bestows

Kind blessings many a one ;
Weeping and wailing loud arose,
Round patient Clare, the clamorous woes

Of every simple nun.
His eyes the gentle Eustace dried,
And scarce rude Blount the sight could

Then took the squire her rein,
And gently led away her steed,
And by each courteous word and deed

To cheer her strove in vain.


But scant three miles the band had rode,

When o'er a height they passed,
And, sudden, close before them showed

His towers Tantallon vast,
Broad, massive, high, and stretching far,
And held impregnable in war.
On a projecting rock they rose,
And round three sides the ocean flows,
The fourth did battled walls enclose

And double mound and fosse.
By narrow drawbridge, outworks strong,
Through studded gates, an entrance long,

To the main court they cross.
It was a wide and stately square ;
Around were lodgings fit and fair,

And towers of various form,
Which on the court projected far
And broke its lines quadrangular.
Here was square keep, there turret high,
Or pinnacle that sought the sky,
Whence oft the warder could descry

The gathering ocean-storm.


Here did they rest. — The princely care
Of Douglas why should I declare,
Or say they met reception fair ?

Or why the tidings say,
Which varying to Tantallon came,
By hurrying posts or fleeter fame,

With every varying day ?
And, first, they heard King James had won

Etall, and Wark, and Ford ; and then,

That Norham Castle strong was ta'en.
At that sore marvelled Marmion,
And Douglas hoped his monarch's Hand
Would soon subdue Northumberland ;

But whispered news there came,
That while his host inactive lay,
And melted by degrees away,
King James was dallying off the day

With Heron's wily dame.
Such acts to chronicles I yield ;

Go seek them there and see :
Mine is a tale of Flodden Field,

And not a history. —
At length they heard the Scottish host
On that high ridge had made their post

Which frowns o'er Millfield Plain ;
And that brave Surrey many a band
Had gathered in the Southern land,
And marched into Northumberland,

And camp at Wooler ta'en.
Marmion, like charger in the stall,
That hears, without, the trumpet-call,

Began to chafe and swear : —
' A sorry thing to hide my head
In castle, like a fearful maid,

When such a field is near.
Needs must I see this battle-day ;
Death to my fame if such a fray
Were fought, and Marmion away !

The Douglas, too, I wot not why,

Hath bated of his courtesy ;
No longer in his halls I'll stay : '
Then bade his band they should array
For march against the dawning day.





Mertoun House, Christmas.

Heap on more wood ! — the wind is chill ;

But let it whistle as it will,

We '11 keep our Christmas merry still.

Each age has deemed the new-born year

The fittest time for festal cheeer:

Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane

At Iol more deep the mead did drain,

High on the beach his galleys drew,

And feasted all his pirate crew ;

Then in his low and pine-built hall,

Where shields and axes decked the wall,

They gorged upon the half-dressed steer,

Caroused in seas of sable beer,

While round in brutal jest were thrown

The half-gnawed rib and marrowbone,

Or listened all in grim delight

While scalds yelled out the joys of fight.

Then forth in frenzy would they hie,

While wildly loose their red locks fly,

And dancing round the blazing pile,

They make such barbarous mirth the while

As best might to the mind recall

The boisterous joys of Odin's hall.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honor to the holy night ;
On Christmas eve the bells were rung,
On Christmas eve the mass was sung :
That only night in all the year
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen ;
The hall was dressed with holly green ;
Forth to the wood did merrymen go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then opened wide the baron's hall
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all ;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And Ceremony doffed his pride.

The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose ;
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of 'post and pair/
All hailed, with uncontrolled delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide ;
The huge hall-table's oaken face,
Scrubbed till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn
By old blue-coated serving-man ;
Then the grim boar's-head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell
How, when, and where, the monster fell,
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round, in good brown bowls
Garnished with ribbons, blithely trowls.
There the huge 1 sirloin reeked ; hard by
Plum-porridge stood and Christmas pie :
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savory goose.
Then came the merry maskers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din ;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery ;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visors made ;
But oh ! what maskers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light !
England was merry England when
Old Christinas brought his sports again.
'T was Christmas broach ed th e mighti est ale.
'T was Christmas told the merriest tale ;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.

Still linger in our northern clime
Some remnants of the good old time.
And still within our valleys here
We hold the kindred title dear,
Even when, perchance, its far-fetched claim
To Southron ear sounds empty name ;
For course of blood, our proverbs deem,
Is warmer than the mountain-stream.
And thus my Christmas still I hold
Where my great-grandsire came of old,
With amber beard and flaxen hair
And reverend apostolic air,
The feast and holy-tide to share,
And mix sobriety with wine,



And honest mirth with thoughts divine :
Small thought was his, in after time
E'er to be hitched into a rhyme.
The simple sire could only boast
That he was loyal to his cost,
The banished race of kings revered,
And lost his land, — but kept his beard.

In these dear halls, where welcome kind
Is with fair liberty combined,
Where cordial friendship gives the hand,
And flies constraint the magic wand
Of the fair dame that rules the land,
Little we heed the tempest drear,
While music, mirth, and social cheer
Speed on their wings the passing year.
And Mertoun's halls are fair e'en now,
When not' a leaf is on the bough.
Tweed loves them well, and turns again,
As loath to leave the sweet domain,
And holds his mirror to her face,
And clips her with a close embrace : —
Gladly as he we seek the dome,
And as reluctant turn us home.

How just that at this time of glee
My thoughts should, Heber, turn to thee !
For many a merry hour we 've known,
And heard the chimes of midnight's tone.
Cease, then, my friend ! a moment cease,
And leave these classic tomes in peace !
Of Roman and of Grecian lore
Sure mortal brain can hold no more.
These ancients, as Noll Bluff might say,
* Were pretty fellows in their day,'
But time and tide o'er all prevail —
On Christmas eve a Christmas tale —
Of wonder and of war — ' Profane !
What ! leave the lofty Latian strain,
Her stately prose, her verse's charms,
To hear the clash of rusty arms ;
In Fairy-land or Limbo lost,
To jostle conjurer and ghost,
Goblin and witch ! ' — Nay, Heber dear,
Before you touch my charter, hear ;
Though Leyden aids, alas ! no more,
My cause with many-languaged lore,
This may I say : — in realms of death
Ulysses meets Alcides' wraith,
yEneas upon Thracia's shore
The ghost of murdered Polydore ;
For omens, we in Livy cross
At every turn loaitus Bos.
As grave and duly speaks that ox
As if he told the price of stocks,
Or held in Rome republican
The place of Common-councilman.

All nations have their omens drear,
Their legends wild of woe and fear.

To Cambria look — the peasant see

Bethink him of Glendowerdy

And shun ' the Spirit's Blasted Tree.' —

The Highlander, whose red claymore

The battle turned on Maida's shore,

Will on a Friday morn look pale,

If asked to tell a fairy tale :

He fears the vengeful Elfin King,

Who leaves that day his grassy ring ;

Invisible to human ken,

He walks among the sons of men.

Didst e'er, dear Heber, pass along
Beneath the towers of Franchdmont,
Which, like an eagle's nest in air,
Hang o'er the stream and hamlet fair ?
Deep in their vaults, the peasants say,
A mighty treasure buried lay,
Amassed through rapine and through wrong
By the last Lord of Franche'mont.
The iron chest is bolted hard,
A huntsman sits its constant guard ;
Around his neck his horn is hung,
His hanger in his belt is slung ;
Before his feet his bloodhounds lie :
An 't were not for his gloomy eye,
Whose withering glance no heart can brook,
As true a huntsman doth he look
As bugle e'er in brake did sound,
Or ever hallooed to a hound.
To chase the fiend and win the prize
In that same dungeon ever tries
An aged necromantic priest ;
It is an hundred years at least
Since 'twixt them first the strife begun,
And neither yet has lost nor won.
And oft the conjurer's words will make
The stubborn demon groan and quake ;
And oft the bands of iron break,
Or bursts one lock that still amain
Fast as 't is opened, shuts again.
That magic strife within the tomb
May last until the day of doom,
Unless the adept shall learn to tell
The very word that clenched the spell
When Franch'mont locked the treasure cell.
An hundred years are passed and gone,
And scarce three letters has he won.

Such general superstition may
Excuse for old Pitscottie say,
Whose gossip history has given
My song the messenger from heaven
That warned, in Lithgow, Scotland's king,
Nor less the infernal summoning;
May pass the Monk of Durham's tale,
Whose demon fought in Gothic mail ;
May pardon plead for Fordun grave,
Who told of Gifford's Goblin-Cave.
But why such instances to you,



Who in an instant can renew
Your treasured hoards of various lore,
And furnish twenty thousand more ?
Hoards, not like theirs whose volumes rest
Like treasures in the Franch'mont chest,
While gripple owners still refuse
To others what they cannot use ;
Give them the priest's whole century,
They shall not spell you letters three, —
Their pleasure in the books the same
The magpie takes in pilfered gem.
Thy volumes, open as thy heart,
Delight, amusement, science, art,
To every ear and eye impart ;
Yet who, of all who thus employ them,
Can like the owner's self enjoy them ? —
But, hark ! I hear the distant drum !
The day of Flodden Field is come, —
Adieu, dear Heber ! life and health,
And store of literary wealth.




While great events were on the gale,
And each hour brought a varying tale,
And the demeanor, changed and cold,
Of Douglas fretted Marmion bold,
And, like the impatient steed of war,
He snuffed the battle from afar,
And hopes were none that back again
Herald should come from Terouenne,
Where England's king in leaguer lay,
Before decisive battle-day, —
While these things were, the mournful Clare
Did in the dame's devotions share ;
For the good countess ceaseless prayed
To Heaven and saints her sons to aid,
And with short interval did pass
From prayer to book, from book to mass,
And all in high baronial pride, —
A life both dull and dignified :

Yet, as Lord Marmion nothing pressed

Upon her intervals of rest,

Dejected Clara well could bear

The formal state, the lengthened prayer.

Though dearest to her wounded heart

The hours that she might spend apart.

I said Tantallon's dizzy steep

Hung o'er the margin of the deep.

Many a rude tower and rampart there

Repelled the insult of the air,

Which, when the tempest vexed the sky,

Half breeze, half spray, came whistling by.

Above the rest a turret square

Did o'er its Gothic entrance bear,

Of sculpture rude, a stony shield ;

The Bloody Heart was in the field,

And in the chief three mullets stood,

The cognizance of Douglas blood.

The turret held a narrow stair,

Which, mounted, gave you access where

A parapet's embattled row

Did seaward round the castle go.

Sometimes in dizzy steps descending,

Sometimes in narrow circuit bending,

Sometimes in platform broad extending,

Its varying circle did combine

Bulwark, and bartizan, and line,

And bastion, tower, and vantage-coign.

Above the booming ocean leant

The far-projecting battlement ;

The billows burst in ceaseless flow

Upon the precipice below.

Where'er Tantallon faced the land,

Gate-works and walls were strongly manned ;

No need upon the sea-girt side :

The steepy rock and frantic tide

Approach of human step denied,

And thus these lines and ramparts rude

Were left in deepest solitude.

And, for they were so lonely, Clare
Would to these battlements repair,
And muse upon her sorrows there,

And list the sea-bird's cry,
Or slow, like noontide ghost, would glide
Along the dark-gray bulwarks' side,
And ever on the heaving tide

Look down with weary eye.
Oft did the cliff and swelling main
Recall the thoughts of Whitby's fane, —
A home she ne'er might see again;

For she had laid adown,
So Douglas bade, the hood and veil,
And frontlet of the cloister pale,

And Benedictine gown :
It were unseemly sight, he said,
A novice out of convent shade. —


Now her bright locks with sunny glow
Again adorned her brow of snow ;
Her mantle rich, whose borders round
A deep and fretted broidery bound,
In golden foldings sought the ground ;
Of holy ornament, alone
Remained a cross with ruby stone ;

And often did she look
On that which in her hand she bore,
With velvet bound and broidered o'er,

Her breviary book.
In such a place, so lone, so grim,
At dawning pale or twilight dim,

It fearful would have been
To meet a form so richly dressed,
With book in hand, and cross on breast,

And such a woful mien.
Fitz-Eustace, loitering with his bow,
To practise on the gull and crow,
Saw her at distance gliding slow,

And did by Mary swear
Some lovelorn fay she might have been,
j Or in romance some spell-bound queen,
For ne'er in work-day world was seen

A form so witching fair.

Once walking thus at evening tide
It chanced a gliding sail she spied,
And sighing thought — ' The abbess there
Perchance does to her home repair ;

Her peaceful rule, where Duty free

Walks hand in hand with Charity,

Where oft Devotion's tranced glow

Can such a glimpse of heaven bestow

That the enraptured sisters see

High vision and deep mystery, —

The very form of Hilda fair,

Hovering upon the sunny air

And smiling on her votaries' prayer.

Oh ! wherefore to my duller eye

Did still the Saint her form deny ?

Was it that, seared by sinful scorn,

My heart could neither melt nor burn ?

Or lie my warm affections low

With him that taught them first to glow ?

Yet, gentle abbess, well I knew

To pay thy kindness grateful due,

And well could brook the mild command

That ruled thy simple maiden band.

How different now, condemned to bide

My doom from this dark tyrant's pride ! —

But Marmion has to learn ere long

That constant mind and hate of wrong

Descended to a feeble girl '

From Red de Clare, stout Gloster's Earl :

Of such a stem a sapling weak,

He ne'er shall bend, although he break.

But see ! — what makes this armor here ? ' —
For in her path there lay



Targe, corselet, helm ; she viewed them

near. —
* The breastplate pierced ! — Ay, much I

Weak fence wert thou 'gainst foeman's

That hath made fatal entrance here,

As these dark blood-gouts say. —
Thus Wilton ! — Oh ! not corselet's ward,
Not truth, as diamond pure and hard,
Could be thy manly bosom's guard

On yon disastrous day ! ' —
She raised her eyes in mournful mood, —
Wilton himself before her stood !
It might have seemed his passing ghost,
For every youthful grace was lost,
And joy unwonted and surprise
Gave their strange wildness to his eyes. —
Expect not, noble dames and lords,
That I can tell such scene in words :
What skilful limner e'er would choose
To paint the rainbow's varying hues,
Unless to mortal it were given
To dip his brush in dyes of heaven ?
Far less can my weak line declare

Each changing passion's shade :
Brightening to rapture from despair,
Sorrow, surprise, and pity there,
And joy with her angelic air,
And hope that paints the future fair,

Their varying hues displayed ;
Each o'er its rival's ground extending,
Alternate conquering, shifting, blending.

Till all fatigued the conflict yield,
And mighty love retains the field.
Shortly I tell what then he said,
By many a tender word delayed,
And modest blush, and bursting sigh.
And question kind, and fond reply : —

JBe ^Hilton's p?tstorg.

1 Forget we that disastrous day
When senseless in the lists I lay.

Thence dragged, — but how I cannot
For sense and recollection fled, —

I found me on a pallet low

Within my ancient beadsman's shed.

Austin, — remember'st thou, my Clare,
How thou didst blush when the old man.
When first our infant love began,

Said we would make a matchless pair ? —
Menials and friends and kinsmen fled
From the degraded traitor's bed, —
He only held my burning head,
And tended me for many a day
While wounds and fever held their sway.
But far more needful was his care
When sense returned to wake despair ;

For I did tear the closing wound,

And dash me frantic on the ground.
If e'er I heard the name of Clare.
At length, to calmer reason brought,
Much by his kind attendance wrought,



With him I left my native strand,
And, in a palmer's weeds arrayed,
My hated name and form to shade,

I journeyed many a land,
No more a lord of rank and birth,
But mingled with the dregs of earth.

Oft Austin for my reason feared,

When I would sit, and deeply brood
On dark revenge and deeds of blood.

Or wild mad schemes upreared.
My friend at length fell sick, and said

God would remove him soon ;
And while upon his dying bed

He begged of me a boon —



If e'er my deadliest enemy
Beneath my brand should conquered lie,
Even then my mercy should awake
And spare his life for Austin's sake.


1 Still restless as a second Cain,

To Scotland next my route was ta'en,

Full well the paths I knew.
Fame of my fate made various sound,
That death in pilgrimage I found,
That I had perished of my wound, —

None cared which tale was true ;
And living eye could never guess
De Wilton in his palmer's dress,
For now that sable slough is shed,
And trimmed my shaggy beard and head,
I scarcely know me in the glass.
A chance most wondrous did provide
That I should be that baron's guide —

I will not name his name ! —
Vengeance to God alone belongs ;
But, when I think on all my wrongs j

My blood is liquid flame !
And ne'er the time shall I forget
When, in a Scottish hostel set,

Dark looks we did exchange :
What were his thoughts I cannot tell,
But in my bosom mustered Hell

Its plans of dark revenge.


' A word of vulgar augury

That broke from me, I scarce knew why,

Brought on a village tale,
Which wrought upon his moody sprite,
And sent him armed forth by night.

I borrowed steed and mail
And weapons from his sleeping band ;

And, passing from a postern door,
We met and 'countered, hand to hand, —

He fell on Gifford-moor.
For the death-stroke my brand I drew, —
Oh ! then my helmed head he knew,

The palmer's cowl was gone, —
Then had three inches of my blade
The heavy debt of vengeance paid, —
My hand the thought of Austin stayed ;

I left him there alone. —
O good old man ! even from the grave
Thy spirit could thy master save :
If I had slain my foeman, ne'er
Had Whitby's abbess in her fear
Given to my hand this packet dear,
Of power to clear my injured fame
And vindicate De Wilton's name. —
Perchance you heard the abbess tell
Of the strange pageantry of hell

That broke our secret speech —

It rose from the infernal shade,
Or featly was some juggle played,

A tale of peace to teach.
Appeal to Heaven I judged was best
When my name came among the rest.

' Now here within Tantallon hold

To Douglas late my tale I told,

To whom my house was known of old.

Won by my proofs, his falchion bright

This eve anew shall dub me knight.

These were the arms that once did turn

The tide of fight on Otterburne,

And Harry Hotspur forced to yield

When the Dead Douglas won the field.

These Angus gave — his armorer's care

Ere morn shall every breach repair ;

For nought, he said, was in his halls

But ancient armor on the walls,

And aged chargers in the stalls,

And women, priests, and gray-haired men ;

The rest were all in Twisel glen.

And now I watch my armor here,

By law of arms, till midnight 's near ;

Then, once again a belted knight.

Seek Surrey's camp with dawn of light.


' There soon again we meet, my Clare !
This baron means to guide th«e there :
Douglas reveres his king's command,
Else would he take thee from his band.
And there thy kinsman Surrey, too,
Will give De Wilton justice due.
Now meeter far for martial broil,
Firmer my limbs and strung by toil,
Once more ' — ' O Wilton ! must we then
Risk new-found happiness again,

Trust fate of arms once more ?
And is there not an humble glen

Where we, content and poor,
Might build a cottage in the shade,
A shepherd thou, and I to aid

Thy task on dale and moor ? —
That reddening brow ! — too well I know
Not even thy Clare can peace bestow

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 14 of 78)