Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

. (page 17 of 78)
Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 17 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

She paused, and on the stranger gazed.
Not his the form, nor his the-eye,
That youthful maidens wont to fly.


On his bold visage middle age
Had slightly pressed its signet sage,
Yet had not quenched the open truth

And fiery vehemence of youth ;

Forward and frolic glee was there,

The will to do, the soul to dare,

The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire,

Of hasty love or headlong ire.

His limbs were cast in manly mould

For hardy sports or contest bold ;

And though in peaceful garb arrayed,

And weaponless except his blade,

His stately mien as well implied

A high-born heart, a martial pride,

As if a baron's crest he wore,

And sheathed in armor trode the shore.

Slighting the petty need he.showed,

He told of his benighted road ;

His ready speech flowed fair and free,

In phrase of gentlest courtesy,

Yet seemed that tone and gesture bland

Less used to sue than to command.


Awhile the maid the stranger eyed,
And, reassured, at length replied,

1 62


That Highland halls were open still
To wildered wanderers of the hill.
' Nor think you unexpected come
To yon lone isle, our desert home ;
Before the heath had lost the dew,
This morn, a couch was pulled for you;
On yonder mountain's purple head
Have ptarmigan and heath-cock bled,
And our broad nets have swept the mere,

1 1 well believe, that ne'er before

Your foot has trod Loch Katrine's shore

But yet, as far as yesternight,

Old Allan-bane foretold your plight, —

A gray-haired sire, whose eye intent

Was on the visioned future bent.

He saw your steed, a dappled gray,

Lie dead beneath the birchen way ;

Painted exact your form and mien.

To furnish forth your evening cheer.' —
' Now, by the rood, my lovely maid,
Your courtesy has erred,' he said ;
' No right have I to claim, misplaced,
The welcome of expected guest.
A wanderer, here by fortune tost,
My way, my friends, my courser lost,
I ne'er before, believe me, fair,
Have ever drawn your mountain air,
Till on this lake's romantic strand
I found a fay in fairy land ! ' —

1 1 well believe,' the maid replied,

As her light skiff approached the side,

Your hunting-suit of Lincoln green,
That tasselled horn so gayly gilt,
That falchion's crooked blade and hilt,
That cap with heron plumage trim,
And yon two hounds so dark and grim.
He bade that all should ready be
To grace a guest of fair degree ;
But light I held his prophecy,
And deemed it was my father's horn
Whose echoes o'er the lake were borne.'


The stranger smiled : — ' Since to your

A destined errant-knight I come,



Announced by prophet sooth and old,

Doomed, doubtless, for achievement bold,

I "11 lightly front each high emprise

For one kind glance of those bright eyes.

Permit me first the task to guide

Your fairy frigate o'er the tide.'

The maid, with smile suppressed and sly,

The toil unwonted saw him try ;

For seldom, sure, if e'er before,

His noble hand had grasped an oar :

Yet with main strength his strokes he drew,

And o'er the lake the shallop flew;

With heads erect and whimpering cry,

Here, for retreat in dangerous hour,
Some chief had framed a rustic bower.


It was a lodge of ample size,

But strange of structure and device ;

Of such materials as around

The workman's hand had readiest found.

Lopped of their boughs, their hoar trunks

And by the hatchet rudely squared,
To give the walls their destined height,

The hounds behind their passage ply.
Nor frequent does the bright oar break
The darkening mirror of the lake,
Until the rocky isle they reach,
And moor their shallop on the beach.


The stranger viewed the shore around ;
'T was all so close with copsewood bound,
Nor track nor pathway might declare
That human foot frequented there,
Until the mountain maiden showed
A clambering unsuspected road,
That winded through the tangled screen,
And opened on a narrow green,
Where weeping birch and willow round
With their long fibres swept the ground.

The sturdy oak and ash unite ;

While moss and clay and leaves combined

To fence each crevice from the wind.

The lighter pine-trees overhead

Their slender length for rafters spread,

And withered heath and rushes dry

Supplied a russet canopy.

Due westward, fronting to the green, •

A rural portico was seen,

Aloft on native pillars borne,

Of mountain fir with bark unshorn,

Where Ellen's hand had taught to twine

The ivy and Idaean vine,

The clematis, the favored flower

Which boasts the name of virgin-bower,

And every hardy plant could bear

Loch Katrine's keen and searching air.

An instant in this porch she stayed,

1 64


And gayly to the stranger said :
* On heaven and on thy lady call,
And enter the enchanted hall ! '


' My hope, my heaven, my trust must be,
My gentle guide, in following thee ! ' —
He crossed the threshold, — and a clang
Of angry steel that instant rang.
To his bold brow his spirit rushed,
But soon for vain alarm he blushed.
When on the floor he saw displayed.
Cause of the din, a naked blade
Dropped from the sheath, that careless flung
Upon a stag's huge antlers swung ;
For all around, the walls to grace,
Hung trophies of the fight or chase :
A target there, a bugle here,
A battle-axe, a hunting-spear,
And broadswords, bows, and arrows store,
With the tusked trophies of the boar*
Here grins the wolf as when he died,
And there the wild-cat's brindled hide
The frontlet of the elk adorns,
Or mantles o'er the bison's horns ;

Pennons and flags defaced and stained,
That blackening streaks of blood retained,
And deer-skins, dappled, dun, and white,
W T ith otter's fur and seal's unite,
In rude and uncouth tapestry all,
To garnish forth the sylvan hall.


The wondering stranger round him gazed,

And next the fallen weapon raised : —

Few were the arms whose sinewy strength

Sufficed to stretch it forth at length.

And as the brand he poised and swayed,

' I never knew but one,' he said,

' Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield

A blade like this in battle-field.'

She sighed, then smiled and took the word :

' You see the guardian champion's sword ;

As light it trembles in his hand

As in my grasp a hazel wand :

My sire's tall form might grace the part

Of Ferragus or Ascabart,

But in the absent giant's hold

Are women now, and menials old.'


I6 5


The mistress of the mansion came,
Mature of age, a graceful dame,
Whose easy step and stately port
Had well become a princely court,
To whom, though more than kindred knew.
Young Ellen gave a mother's due.
Meet welcome to her guest she made,
And every courteous rite was paid,
That hospitality could claim,
Though all unasked his birth and name.
Such then the reverence to a guest.
That fellest foe might join the feast,
'And from his deadliest foeman's door
Unquestioned turn, the banquet o'er.
At length his rank the stranger names,
1 The Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-

James :
Lord of a barren heritage,
Which his brave sires, from age to age.
By their good swords had held with toil :
His sire had fallen in such turmoil,

And he, God wot, was forced to stand
Oft for his right with blade in hand.
•This morning with Lord Moray's train
He chased a stalwart stag in vain,
Outstripped his comrades, missed the deer,
Lost his good steed, and wandered here.'


Fain would the Knight in turn require
The name and state of Ellen's sire.
Well showed the elder lady's mien
That courts and cities she had seen ;
Ellen, though more her looks displayed
The simple grace of sylvan maid,
In speech and gesture, form and face,
Showed she was come of gentle race.
'T were strange in ruder rank to find
Such looks, such manners, and such mind.
Each hint the Knight of Snowdoun gave,
Dame Margaret heard with silence grave ;
Or Ellen, innocently gay,
Turned all inquiry light away : —

1 66


4 Weird women we ! by dale and down
We dwell, afar from tower and town.
We stem the flood, we ride the blast,
On wandering knights our spells we cast;
While viewless minstrels touch the string,
'T is thus our charmed rhymes we sing.'
She sung, and still a harp unseen
Filled up the symphony between.



* Soldier, rest ! thy warfare o'er,

Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking ;
Dream of battled fields no more,

Days of danger, nights of waking.

Ruder sounds shall none be near,
Guards nor warders challenge here,
Here 's no war-steed's neigh and champing,
Shouting clans or squadrons stamping.'


She paused, — then, blushing, led the lay,
To grace the stranger of the day.
Her mellow notes awhile prolong
The cadence of the flowing song,
Till to her lips in measured frame
The minstrel verse spontaneous came.

Song Continue*!.

' Huntsman, rest ! thy chase is done ;
While our slumbrous spells assail ye,

In our isle's enchanted hall,

Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall,

Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest ! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more ;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.

1 No rude sound shall reach thine ear,

Armor's clang of war-steed champing,
Trump nor pibroch summon here

Mustering clan or squadron tramping.
Yet the lark's shrill fife may come

At the daybreak from the fallow,
And the bittern sound his drum.

Booming from the sedgy shallow.

Dream not, with the rising sun,

Bugles here shall sound reveille.
Sleep ! the deer is in his den ;
Sleep ! thy hounds are by thee lying ;
Sleep ! nor dream in yonder glen
How thy gallant steed lay dying.
Huntsman, rest ! thy chase is done ;
Think not of the rising sun,
For at dawning to assail ye •

Here no bugles sound reveille.'


The hall was cleared, — the stranger's bed
Was there of mountain heather spread,
Where oft a hundred guests had lain,
And dreamed their forest sports again.



But vainly did the heath-flower shed
Its moorland fragrance round his head ;
Not Ellen's spell had lulled to rest
The fever of his troubled breast.
In broken dreams the image rose
Of varied perils, pains, and woes :
His steed now flounders in the brake,
Now sinks his barge upon the lake ;
Now leader of a broken host,
His standard falls, his honor 's lost.
Then, — from my couch may heavenly might
Chase that worst phantom of the night ! —
Again returned the scenes of youth,
Of confident, undoubting truth ;
Again his soul he interchanged
With friends whose hearts were long es-
They come, in dim procession led,
The cold, the faithless, and the dead ;
As warm each hand, each brow as gay,
As if they parted yesterday.
And doubt distracts him at the view, —
O were his senses false or true?
Dreamed he of death or broken vow,
Or is it all a vision now ?


At length, with Ellen in a grove

He seemed to walk and speak of love ;

She listened with a blush and sigh,

His suit was warm, his hopes were high.

He sought her yielded hand to clasp,

And a cold gauntlet met his grasp :

The phantom's sex was changed and gone.

Upon its head a helmet shone ;

Slowly enlarged to giant size,

With darkened cheek and threatening

The grisly visage, stern and hoar,
To Ellen still a likeness bore. —
He woke, and, panting with affright,
Recalled the vision of the night.
The hearth's decaying brands were red,
And deep and dusky lus-tre shed,
Half showing, half concealing, all
The uncouth trophies of the hall..
Mid those the stranger fixed his eye
Where that huge falchion hung on high,
And thoughts on thoughts, a countless




Rushed, chasing countless thoughts along,

Until, the giddy whirl to cure,

He rose and sought the moonshine pure.


The wild rose, eglantine, and broom
Wasted around their rich perfume ;
The birch-trees wept in fragrant balm ;
The aspens slept beneath the calm ;
The silver light, with quivering glance,
Played on the water's still expanse, —
Wild were the heart whose passion's sway
Could rage beneath the sober ray !
He felt its calm, that warrior guest,
While thus he communed with his breast : —
'Why is it, at each turn I trace

Some memory of that exiled race ?
Can I not mountain maiden spy,
But she must bear the Douglas eye ?
Can I not view a Highland brand,
But it must match the Douglas hand ?
Can I not frame a fevered dream,
But still the Douglas is the theme ?
I '11 dream no more, — by manly mind
Not even in sleep is will resigned.
My midnight orisons said o'er,
I '11 turn to rest, and dream no more.'
His midnight orisons he told,
A prayer with every bead of gold,
Consigned to heaven his cares and woes,
And sunk in undisturbed repose,
Until the heath-cock shrilly crew,
And morning dawned on Benvenue.



E\)t Hatig of tfje Hake.



At morn the black-cock trims his jetty wing,
'T is morning prompts the linnet's blith-
est lay,
All Nature's children feel the matin spring

Of life reviving, with reviving day ;
And while yon little bark glides down the
Wafting the stranger on his way again,
Morn's genial influence roused a minstrel

s ra y»

And sweetly o'er the lake was heard thy
Mixed with the sounding harp, O white-
haired Allan-bane !


\ Not faster yonder rowers' might
Flings from their oars the spray,

Not faster yonder rippling bright,

That tracks the shallop's course in light,
Melts in the lake away,

Than men from memory erase

The benefits of former days ;

Then, stranger, go ! good speed the while,

Nor think again of the lonely isle.

' High place to thee in royal court,

High place in battled line,
Good hawk and hound for sylvan sport !
Where beauty sees the brave resort,

The honored meed be thine !
True be thy sword, thy friend sincere,
Thy lady constant, kind, and dear,
And lost in love's and friendship's smile
Be memory of the lonely isle !




.Song Continue*.

* But if beneath yon southern sky

A plaided stranger roam.
Whose drooping crest and stifled sigh,
And sunken cheek and heavy eye,

Pine for his Highland home ;
Then, warrior, then be thine to show
The care that soothes a wanderer's woe ;
Remember then thy hap erewhile,
A stranger in the lonely isle.

* Or if on life's uncertain main

Mishap shall mar thy sail ;
If faithful, wise, and brave in vain,
Woe, want, and exile thou sustain

Beneath the fickle gale ;
Waste not a sigh on fortune changed,
On thankless courts, or friends estranged,
But come where kindred worth shall smile,
To greet thee in the lonely isle.'


As died the sounds upon the tide,
The shallop reached the mainland side,
And ere his onward way he took,
The stranger cast a lingering look,
Where easily his eye might reach
The Harper on the islet beach,
Reclined against a blighted tree,

As wasted, gray, and worn as he.

To minstrel meditation given,

His reverend brow was raised to heaven,

As from the rising sun to claim

A sparkle of inspiring flame.

His hand, reclined upon the wire,

Seemed watching the awakening fire;

So still he sat as those who wait

Till judgment speak the doom of fate

So still, as if no breeze might dare

To lift one lock of hoary hair ;

So still, as life itself were fled

In the last sound his harp had sped.

Upon a rock with lichens wild,
Beside him Ellen sat and smiled. —
Smiled she to see the stately drake
Lead forth his fleet upon the lake,
While her vexed spaniel from the beach
Bayed at the prize beyond his reach ?
Yet tell me, then, the maid who knows.
Why deepened on her cheek the rose ? —
Forgive, forgive, Fidelity !
Perchance the maiden smiled to see
Yon parting lingerer wave adieu,
And stop and turn to wave anew ;
And, lovely ladies, ere your ire
Condemn the heroine of my lyre,
Show me the fair would scorn to spy
And prize such conquest of her eye !



While yet he loitered on the spot,
It seemed as Ellen marked him not ;
But when he turned him to the glade,
One courteous parting sign she made ;
And after, oft the knight would say,
That not when prize of festal day
Was dealt him by the brightest fair
Who e'er wore jewel in her hair,
So highly did his bosom swell
As at that simple mute farewell.
Now with a trusty mountain-guide,
And his dark stag-hounds by his side,
He parts, — the majd, unconscious still,
Watched him wind slowly round the hill ;
But when his stately form was hid,

For of his clan, in hall and bower,

Young Malcolm Graeme was held the flower.


The minstrel waked his harp, — three times
Arose the well-known martial chimes,
And thrice their high heroic pride
In melancholy murmurs died.
'Vainly thou bidst, O noble maid,'
Clasping his withered hands, he said,
1 Vainly thou bidst me wake the strain,
Though all unwont to bid in vain.
Alas ! than mine a mightier hand
Has tuned my harp, my strings has spanned <
I touch the chords of joy, but low
And mournful answer notes of woe ;

The guardian in her bosom chid, —

' Thy Malcolm ! vain and selfish maid ! '

'T was thus upbraiding conscience said, —

' Not so had Malcolm idly hung

On the smooth phrase of Southern tongue ;

Not so had Malcolm strained his eye

Another step than thine to spy.' —

* Wake, Allan-bane,' aloud she cried

To the old minstrel by her side, —

1 Arouse thee from thy moody dream!

I '11 give thy harp heroic theme,

And warm thee with a noble name ;

Pour forth the glory of the Graeme ! '

Scarce from her lip the word had rushed,

When deep the conscious maiden blushed ;

And the proud march which victors tread

Sinks in the wailing for the dead.

O, well for me, if mine alone

That dirge's deep prophetic tone !

If, as my tuneful fathers said,

This harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed,

Can thus its master's fate foretell,

Then welcome be the minstrel's knell !

1 But ah ! dear lady, thus it sighed,

The eve thy sainted mother died ;

And such the sounds which, while I strove

To wake a lay of war or love,



Came marring all the festal mirth,
Appalling me who gave them birth,
And, disobedient to my call,
Wailed loud through Bothweirs bannered

Ere Douglases, to ruin driven,
Were exiled from their native heaven. —
O ! if yet worse mishap and woe
My master's house must undergo,
Or aught but weal to Ellen fair
Brood in these accents of despair.
No future bard, sad Harp ! shall fling
Triumph or rapture from thy string ;
One short, one final strain shall flow,
Fraught with unutterable woe,
Then shivered shall thy fragments lie,
Thy master cast him down and die ! '


Soothing she answered him : ' Assuage,

Mine honored friend, the fears of age;

All melodies to thee are known 9

That harp has rung or pipe has blown,

In Lowland vale or Highland glen,

From Tweed to Spey — what marvel, then,

At times unbidden notes should rise,

Confusedly bound in memory's ties,

Entangling, as they rush along,

The war-march with the funeral song? —

Small ground is now for boding fear;

Obscure, but safe, we rest us here.

My sire, in native virtue great,

Resigning lordship, lands, and state,

Not then to fortune more resigned

Than yonder oak might give the wind:

The graceful foliage storms may reave.

The noble stem they cannot grieve.

For me ' — she stooped, and, looking round.

Plucked a blue harebell from the ground, —

' For me, whose memory scarce conveys

An image of more splendid days,

This little flower that loves the lea

May well my simple emblem be ;

It drinks heaven's dew as blithe as rose

That in the King's own garden grows :

And when I place it in my hair,

Allan, a bard is bound to swear

He«ie'er saw coronet so fair.'

Then playfully the chaplet wild

She wreathed in her dark locks, and smiled.

Her smile, her speech, with winning sway,
Wiled the old Harper's mood away.
With such a look as hermits throw,
When angels stoop to soothe their woe,
He gazed, till fond regret and pride
Thrilled to a tear, then thus replied :



' Loveliest and best ! thou

little know'st
The rank, the honors, thou

hast lost !
O, might I live to see thee

In Scotland's court, thy

birthright place,
To see my favorite's step

The lightest in the courtly

The cause of every gallant's

And leading star of every eye,
And theme of every minstrel's art,
The Lady of the Bleeding Heart ! '

4 Fair dreams are these,' the maiden cried.
Light was her accent, yet she sighed, —
' Yet is this mossy rock to me
Worth splendid chair and canopy ;

Would, at my suit, thou know'st, delay
A Lennox foray — for a day.' —


The ancient bard her glee repressed :
1 111 hast thou chosen theme for jest !
For who, through all this western wild,
Named Black Sir Roderick e'er, and smiled ?
In Holy-Rood a knight he slew ;,

Nor would my footstep spring more gay
In courtly dance than blithe strathspey,
Nor half so pleased mine ear incline
To royal minstrel's lay as thine.
And then for suitors proud and high,
To bend before my conquering eye, —
Thou, flattering bard ! thyself wilt say,
That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway.
The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine's pride,
The terror of Loch Lomond's side,

I saw, when back the dirk he drew,
Courtiers give place before the stride
Of the undaunted homicide;
And since, though outlawed, hath his hand
Full sternly kept his mountain land.
Who else dared give — ah ! woe the day,
That I such hated truth should say ! —
The Douglas, like a stricken deer,
Disowned by every noble peer,
Even the rude refuge we have here ?



Alas, this wild marauding Chief

Alone might hazard our relief,

And now thy maiden charms expand,

Looks for his guerdon in thy hand :

Full soon may dispensation sought,

To back his suit, from Rome be brought.

Then, though an exile on the hill.

Thy father, as the Douglas, still

Be held in reverence and fear ;

And though to Roderick thou 'rt so dear

That thou mightst guide with silken thread,

Slave of thy will, this chieftain dread,

Yet, O loved maid, thy mirth refrain !

Thy hand is on a lion's mane.' —


' Minstrel,' the maid replied, and high
Her father's soul glanced from her eye,
4 My debts to Roderick's house I know :
All that a mother could bestow
To Lady Margaret's care I owe,
Since first an orphan in the wild
She sorrowed o'er her sister's child ;
To her brave chieftain son, from ire
Of Scotland's king who shrouds my sire.
A deeper, holier debt is owed ;
And, could I pay it with my blood,

Allan ! Sir Roderick should command
My blood, my life, — but not my hand.
Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell
A votaress in Maronnan's cell ;
Rather through realms beyond the sea,
Seeking the world's cold charity,
Where ne'er was spoke a Scottish word,
And ne'er the name of Douglas heard,
An outcast pilgrim will she rove,
Than wed the man she cannot love.


' Thou shak'st, good friend, thy tresses

gray, —
That pleading look, what can it say
But what I own ? — I grant him brave,
But wild as Bracklinn's thundering wave ;
And generous, — save vindictive mood
Or jealous transport chafe his blood :
I grant him true to friendly band,
As his claymore is to his hand ;
But O ! that very blade of steel
More mercy for a foe would feel :
I grant him liberal, to fling
Among his clan the wealth they bring,
When back by lake and glen they wind,
And in the Lowland leave behind,



Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,
A mass of ashes slaked with blood.
The hand that for my father fought
I honor, as his daughter ought ;
But can I clasp it reeking red
From peasants slaughtered in their shed ?
No ! wildly while his virtues gleam,
They make his passions darker seem,

And flash along his spirit high,
Like lightning o'er the midnight


What for this island, deemed of old
Clan-Alpine's last and surest hold ?
If neither spy nor foe, I pray
What yet may jealous Roderick say ? —
Nay, wave not thy disdainful head !
Bethink thee of the discord dread
That kindled when at Beltane game
Thou ledst the dance with Malcolm Graeme

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 17 of 78)