Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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He woke, — to watch the lamp, and tell
From hour to hour the castle-bell,
Or listen to the owlet's cry,
Or the sad breeze that whistles by,
Or catch by fits the tuneless rhyme
With which the warder cheats the time,
And envying think how, when the sun
Bids the poor soldier's watch be done,
Couched on his straw and fancy-free,
He sleeps like careless infancy.

Far townward sounds a distant tread,
And Oswald, starting from his bed,
Hath caught it, though no human ear,
Unsharpened by revenge and fear,
Could e'er distinguish horse's clank,
Until it reached the castle bank.
Now nigh and plain the sound appears,
The warder's challenge now he hears,
Then clanking chains and levers tell
That o'er the moat the drawbridge fell,

And, in the castle court below,
Voices are heard, and torches glow,
As marshalling the stranger's way
Straight for the room where Oswald lay;
The cry was, ' Tidings from the host,
Of weight — a messenger comes post.'
Stifling the tumult of his breast,
His answer Oswald thus expressed,
' Bring food and wine, and trim the fire ;
Admit the stranger and retire.'


The stranger came with heavy stride ;

The morion's plumes his visage hide,

And the buff-coat in ample fold

Mantles his form's gigantic mould.

Full slender answer deigned he

To Oswald's anxious courtesy,

But marked by a disdainful smile

He saw and scorned the petty wile,

When Oswald changed the torch's place,

Anxious that on the soldier's face

Its partial lustre might be thrown,

To show his looks yet hide his own.

His guest the while laid slow aside

The ponderous cloak of tough bull's hide,

And to the torch glanced broad and clear

The corselet of a cuirassier;

Then from his brows the casque he drew

And from the dank plume dashed the dew,

From gloves of mail relieved his hands

And spread them to the kindling brands,

And, turning to the genial board,

Without a health or pledge or word

Of meet and social reverence said,

Deeply he drank and fiercely fed,

As free from ceremony's sway,

As famished wolf that tears his prey.


With deep impatience, tinged with fear,
His host beheld him gorge his cheer,
And quaff the full carouse that lent
His brow a fiercer hardiment.
Now Oswald stood a space aside,
Now paced the room with hasty stride,
In feverish agony to learn
Tidings of deep and dread concern,
Cursing each moment that his guest
Protracted o'er his ruffian feast,
Yet, viewing with alarm at last
The end of that uncouth repast,
Almost he seemed their haste to rue
As at his sign his train withdrew,
And left him with the stranger, free
To question of his mystery.
Then did his silence long proclaim
A struggle between fear and shame.




Much in the stranger's mien appears
To justify suspicious fears.
On his dark face a scorching clime
And toil had done the work of time,
Roughened the brow, the temples bared,
And sable hairs with silver shared,
Yet left — what age alone could tame —
The lip of pride, the eye of flame ;
The full-drawn lip that upward curled,
The eye that seemed to scorn the world
That lip had terror never blanched ;
Ne'er in that eye had tear-drop quenched
The flash severe of swarthy glow
That mocked at pain and knew not woe.
Inured to danger's direst form,
Tornado and earthquake, flood and storm,
Death had he seen by sudden blow,
By wasting plague, by tortures slow,
By mine or breach, by steel or ball,
Knew all his shapes and scorned them all.


But yet, though Bertram's hardened look
Unmoved could blood and danger brook,
Still worse than apathy had place
On his swart brow and callous face ;
For evil passions cherished long
Had ploughed them with impressions strong.
All that gives gloss to sin, all gay
Light folly, past with youth away,

But rooted stood in manhood's hour
The weeds of vice without their flower.
And yet the soil in which they grew,
Had it been tamed when life was new,
Had depth and vigor to bring forth
The hardier fruits of virtuous worth.
Not that e'en then his heart had known
The gentler feelings' kindly tone ;
But lavish waste had been refined
To bounty in his chastened mind,
And lust of gold, that waste to feed,
Been lost in love of glory's meed,
And, frantic then no more, his pride
Had ta'en fair virtue for its guide.


Even now, by conscience unrestrained,
Clogged by gross vice, by slaughter stained,
Still knew his daring soul to soar,
And mastery o'er the mind he bore ;
For meaner guilt or heart less hard
Quailed beneath Bertram's bold regard.
And this felt Oswald, while in vain
He strove by many a winding train
To lure his sullen guest to show
Unasked the news he longed to know,
While on far other subject hung
His heart than faltered from his tongue.
Yet naught for that his guest did deign
To note or spare his secret pain,


scorrs poetical works.

But still in stern and stubborn sort
Returned him answer dark and short,
Or started from the theme to range
In loose digression wild and strange,
And forced the embarrassed host to buy
By query close direct reply.

Awhile he glozed upon the cause
Of Commons, Covenant, and Laws,
And Church reformed — but felt rebuke
Beneath grim Bertram's sneering look,
Then stammered — ' Has a field been

fought ?
Has Bertram news of battle brought ?
For sure a soldier, famed so far
In foreign fields for feats of war,
On eve of fight ne'er left the host
Until the field were won and lost.'
' Here, in your towers by circling Tees,
You, Oswald Wy cliff e, rest at ease ;
Why deem it strange that others come
To share such safe and easy home,
From fields where danger, death, and toil
Are the reward of civil broil ? ' —
' Nay, mock not, friend ! since well we

The near advances of the foe,
To mar our northern army's work,
Encamped before beleaguered York
Thy horse with valiant Fairfax lay,
And must have fought — how went the

day ? '


« Wouldst hear the tale ? — On Marston

Met front to front the ranks of death ;
Flourished the trumpets fierce, and now
Fired was each eye and flushed each brow;
On either side loud clamors ring,
u God and the Cause ! " — " God and the

King ! "
Right English all, they rushed to blows,
With naught to win and all to lose.
I could have laughed — but lacked the

time —
To see, in phrenesy sublime,
How the fierce zealots fought and bled
For king or state, as humor led ;
Some for a dream of public good,
Some for church-tippet, gown, and hood,
Draining their veins, in death to claim
A patriot's or a martyr's name. —
Led Bertram Risingham the hearts
That countered there on adverse parts,
No superstitious fool had I
Sought El Dorados in the sky !
Chili had heard me through her states,
And Lima oped her silver gates,

Rich Mexico I had marched through,
And sacked the splendors of Peru,
Till sunk Pizarro's daring name,
And, Cortez, thine, in Bertram's fame.' —
1 Still from the purpose wilt thou stray !
Good gentle friend, how went the day ?


' Good am I deemed at trumpet sound,
And good where goblets dance the round,
Though gentle ne'er was joined till now
With rugged Bertram's breast and brow. —
But I resume. The battle's rage
Was like the strife which currents wage
Where Orinoco in his pride
Rolls to the main no tribute tide,
But 'gainst broad ocean urges far
A rival sea of roaring war;
While, in ten thousand eddies driven,
The billows fling their foam to heaven,
And the pale pilot seeks in vain
Where rolls the river, where the main
Even thus upon the bloody field
i The eddying tides of conflict wheeled
| Ambiguous, till that heart of flame,
Hot Rupert, on our squadrons came,
Hurling against our spears a line
Of gallants fiery as their wine ;
Then ours, though stubborn in their zeal,
In zeal's despite began to reel.
What wouldst thou more ? — in tumult tost.
Our leaders fell, our ranks were lost.
A thousand men who drew the sword
For both the Houses and the Word,
Preached forth from hamlet, grange, and

To curb the crosier and the crown,
Now, stark and stiff, lie stretched in gore,
And ne'er shall rail at mitre more. —
Thus fared it when I left the fight
With the good Cause and Commons' right.' —

' Disastrous news ! ' dark Wycliffe said ;
Assumed despondence bent his head,
While troubled joy was in his eye,
The well-feigned sorrow to belie. —
' Disastrous news ! — when needed most,
Told ye not that your chiefs were lost ?
Complete the woful tale and say
Who fell upon that fatal day,
What leaders of repute and name
Bought by their death a deathless fame.
If such my direst foeman's doom,
My tears shall dew his honored tomb. —
No answer ? — Friend, of all our host,
Thou know'st whom Tshould hate the most,
Whom thou too once wert wont to hate,
Yet leavest me doubtful of his fate.' —
With look unmoved — ' Of friend or foe,



Aught,' answered Bertram, 'wouldst thou

Demand in simple terms and plain,
A soldier's answer shalt thou gain ;
For question dark or riddle high
I have nor judgment nor reply.'

The wrath his art and fear suppressed
Now blazed at once in Wycliffe's breast.

And brave from man so meanly born
Roused his hereditary scorn.
; Wretch ! hast thou paid thy bloody debt ?
Philip of Mortham, lives he yet ?
False to thy patron or thine oath,
Traitorous or perjured, one or both.
Slave ! hast thou kept thy promise plight.
To slay thy leader in the fight ? '
Then from his seat the soldier sprung,
And Wycliffe's hand he strongly wrung ;



His grasp, as hard as glove of mail,
Forced the red blood-drop from the nail —
1 A health ! ' he cried ; and ere he quaffed
Flung from him Wycliffe's hand and

laughed —
1 Now, Oswald Wycliffe, speaks thy heart !
Now play'st thou well thy genuine part !
Worthy, but for thy craven fear,
Like me to roam a buccaneer.
What reck'st thou of the Cause divine,
If Mortham's wealth and lands be thine ?
What carest thou for beleaguered York,
If this good hand have done its work ?
Or what though Fairfax and his best
Are reddening Marston's swarthy breast,
If Philip Mortham with them lie"
Lending his life-blood to the dye ? —
Sit, then ! and as mid comrades free
Carousing after victory,
When tales are told of blood and fear
That boys and women shrink to hear,
From point to point I frankly tell
The deed of death as it befell.

' When purposed vengeance I forego,

Term me a wretch, nor deem me foe ;

And when an insult I forgive,

Then brand me as a slave and live ! —

Philip of Mortham is with those

Whom Bertram Risingham calls foes ;

Or whom more sure revenge attends,

If numbered with ungrateful friends.

As was his wont, ere battle glowed,

Along the marshalled ranks he rode,

And wore his visor up the while.

I saw his melancholy smile

When, full opposed in front, he knew

Where Rokeby's kindred banner flew.

'And thus," he said, " will friends divide ! " —

I heard, and thought how side by side

We two had turned the battle's tide

In many a well-debated field •

Where Bertram's breast was Philip's shield.

I thought on Darien's deserts pale

Where death bestrides the evening gale ;

How o'er my friend my cloak I threw,

And fenceless faced the deadly dew ;

I thought on Quariana's cliff

Where, rescued from our foundering skiff,

Through the white breakers' wrath I bore

Exhausted Mortham to the shore ;

And, when his side an arrow found,

I sucked the Indian's venomed wound.

These thoughts like torrents rushed along,

To sweep away my purpose strong.


4 Hearts are not flint, and flints are rent ;
Hearts are not steel, and steel is bent.

When Mortham bade me, as of yore,
Be near him in the battle's roar,
I scarcely saw the spears laid low,
I scarcely heard the trumpets blow ;
Lost was the war in inward strife,
Debating Mortham's death or life.
'T was then I thought how, lured to come
As partner of his wealth and home,
Years of piratic wandering o'er,
With him I sought our native shore.
But Mortham's lord grew far estranged
From the bold heart with whom he ranged;
Doubts, horrors, superstitious fears,
Saddened and dimmed descending years ;
The wily priests their victim sought,
And damned each free-born deed and

Then must I seek another home,
My license shook his sober dome ;
If gold he gave, in one wild day
I revelled thrice the sum away.
An idle outcast then I strayed,
Unfit for tillage or for trade.
Deemed, like the steel of rusted lance,
Useless and dangerous at once.
The women feared my hardy look,
At my approach the peaceful shook ;
The merchant saw my glance of flame,
And locked his hoards when Bertram came ;
Each child of coward peace kept far
From the neglected son of war.


' But civil discord gave the call,
And made my trade the trade of all.
By Mortham urged, I came again
His vassals to the fight to train.
What guerdon waited on my care ?
I could not cant of creed or prayer ;
Sour fanatics each trust obtained,
And I, dishonored and disdained,
Gained but the high and happy lot
In these poor arms to front the shot ! —
All this thou know'st, thy gestures tell ;
Yet hear it o'er and mark it well.
'T is honor bids me now relate
Each circumstance of Mortham's fate.


1 Thoughts, from the tongue that slowly part,
Glance quick as lightning through the heart.
As my spur pressed my courser's side,
Philip of Mortham's cause was tried,
And ere the charging squadrons mixed
His plea was cast, his doom was fixed.
I watched him through the doubtful fray,
That changed as March's moody day,
Till, like a stream that bursts its bank,
Fierce Rupert thundered on our flank.


'Twas then, midst tumult, smoke, and strife,
Where each man fought for death or life,
'T was then I fired my petronel,
And Mortham, steed and rider, fell.
One dying look he upward cast,
Of wrath and anguish — 't was his last.
Think not that there I stopped, to view
What of the battle should ensue ;
But ere I cleared that bloody press,
Our northern horse ran masterless ;
Monckton and Mitton told the news
How troops of Roundheads choked the

And many a bonny Scot aghast,
Spurring his palfrey northward, past,
Cursing the day when zeal or meed
First lured their Lesley o'er the Tweed.
Yet when I reached the banks of Swale,
Had rumor learned another tale ;
With his barbed horse, fresh tidings say,
Stout Cromwell has redeemed the day :
But whether false the news or true,
Oswald, I reck as light as you.'


Not then by Wycliffe might be shown
How his pride startled at the tone
In which his complice, fierce and free,
Asserted guilt's equality.
In smoothest terms his speech he wove

Of endless friendship, faith, and love ;
Promised and vowed in courteous sort,
But Bertram broke professions short.
1 Wycliffe, be sure not here I stay,
No, scarcely till the rising day;
Warned by the legends of my youth,
I trust not an associate's truth.
Do not my native dales prolong
Of Percy Rede the tragic song,
Trained forward to his bloody fall,
By Girsonfield, that treacherous Hall ?
Oft by the Pringle's haunted side
The shepherd sees his spectre glide.
And near the spot that gave me name,
The moated mound of Risingham,
Where Reed upon her margin sees
Sweet Woodburne's cottages and trees,
Some ancient sculptor's art has shown
An outlaw's image on the stone ;
Unmatched in strength, a giant he,
With quivered back and kirtled knee.
Ask how he died, that hunter bold,
The tameless monarch of the wold,
And age and infancy can tell
By brother's treachery he fell.
Thus warned by legends of my youth,
I trust to no associate's truth.


'When last we reasoned of this deed,
Naught, I bethink me, was agreed,



Or by what rule, or when, or where,
The wealth of Mortham we should share ;
Then list while I the portion name
Our differing laws give each to claim.
Thou, vassal sworn to England's throne,
Her rules of heritage must own ;
They deal thee, as to nearest heir,
Thy kinsman's lands and livings fair,
And these I yield : — do thou revere
The statutes of the buccaneer.
Friend to the sea, and foeman sworn
To all that on her waves are borne,
When falls a mate in battle broil
His comrade heirs his portioned spoil ;
When dies in fight a daring foe
He claims his wealth who struck the blow ;
And either rule to me assigns
Those spoils of Indian seas and mines
Hoarded in Mortham's caverns dark ;
Ingot of gold and diamond spark,
Chalice and plate from churches borne,
And gems from shrieking beauty torn,
Each string of pearl, each silver bar,
And all the wealth of western war.
I go to search where, dark and deep,
Those trans-Atlantic treasures sleep.
Thou must along — for, lacking thee,
The heir will scarce find entrance free ;
And then farewell. I haste to try
Each varied pleasure wealth can buy ;
When cloyed each wish, these wars afford
Fresh work for Bertram's restless sword.'


An undecided answer hung
On Oswald's hesitating tongue.
Despite his craft, he heard with awe
This ruffian stabber fix the law ;
While his own troubled passions veer
Through hatred, joy, regret, and fear : —
Joyed at the soul that Bertram flies,
He grudged the murderer's mighty prize,
Hated his pride's presumptuous tone,
And feared to wend with him alone.
At length, that middle course to steer
To cowardice and craft so dear,
4 His charge,' he said, ' would ill allow
His absence from the fortress now ;
Wilfrid on Bertram should attend,
His son should journey with his friend.'

Contempt kept Bertram's anger down,
And wreathed to savage smile his frown.
' Wilfrid, or thou — 't is one to me,
Whichever bears the golden key.
Yet think not but I mark, and smile
To mark, thy poor and selfish wile !
If injury from me you fear,
What, Oswald Wycliffe, shields thee here ?

I 've sprung from walls more high than

I've swam through deeper streams than

Might I not stab thee ere one yell
Could rouse the distant sentinel ?
Start not — it is not my design,
But, if it were, weak fence were thine ;
And, trust me that in time of need
This hand hath done more desperate deed.
Go, haste and rouse thy slumbering son ;
Time calls, and I must needs be gone."


Naught of his sire's ungenerous part
Polluted Wilfrid's gentle heart,
A heart too soft from early life
To hold with fortune needful strife.
His sire, while yet a hardier race
Of numerous sons were Wycliffe's grace,
On Wilfrid set contemptuous brand
For feeble heart and forceless hand ;
But a fond mother's care and joy
Were centred in her sickly boy.
No touch of childhood's frolic mood
Showed the elastic spring of blood ;
Hour after hour he loved to pore
On Shakespeare's rich and varied lore,
But turned from martial scenes and light,
From Falstaff's feast and Percy's fight,
To ponder Jaques' moral strain,
And muse with Hamlet, wise in vain,
And weep himself to soft repose
O'er gentle Desdemona's woes.


In youth he sought not pleasures found
By youth in horse and hawk and hound,
But loved the quiet joys that wake
By lonely stream and silent lake ;
In Deepdale's solitude to lie,
Where all is cliff and copse and sky ;
To climb Catcastle's dizzy peak,
Or lone Pendragon's mound to seek.
Such was his wont ; and there his dream
Soared on some wild fantastic theme
Of faithful love or ceaseless spring,
Till Contemplation's wearied wing
The enthusiast could no more sustain,
And sad he sunk to earth again.


He loved — as many a lay can tell,
Preserved in Stanmore's lonely dell ;
For his was minstrel's skill, he caught
The art unteachable, untaught ;
He loved — his soul did nature frame



For love, and fancy nursed the flame ;
Vainly he loved — for seldom swain
Of such soft mould is loved again ;
Silent he loved — in every gaze
Was passion, friendship in his phrase
So mused his life away — till died
His brethren all, their father's pride.
Wilfrid is now the only heir
Of all his stratagems and care,
And destined darkling to pursue
Ambition's maze by Oswald's clue.


Wilfrid must love and woo the bright
Matilda, heir of Rokeby's knight.
To love her was an easy hest,
The secret empress of his breast ;
To woo her was a harder task
To one that durst not hope or ask.
Yet all Matilda could she gave
In pity to her gentle slave;
Friendship, esteem, and fair regard,
And praise, the poet's best reward !
She read the tales his taste approved,
And sung the lays he framed or loved ;
Yet, loath to nurse the fatal flame
Of hopeless love in friendship's name,
In kind caprice she oft withdrew
The favoring glance to friendship due,
Then grieved to see her victim's pain,
And gave the dangerous smiles again.


So did the suit of Wilfrid stand

When war's loud summons waked the

Three banners, floating o'er the Tees,
The woe-foreboding peasant sees ;
In concert oft they braved of old
The bordering Scot's incursion bold :
Frowning defiance in their pride,
Their vassals now and lords divide.
From his fair hall on Greta banks.
The Knight of Rokeby led his ranks,
To aid the valiant northern earls
Who drew the sword for royal Charles.
Mortham, by marriage near allied, —
His sister had been Rokeby's bride,
Though long before the civil fray
In peaceful grave the lady lay, — ♦

Philip of Mortham raised his band,
And marched at Fairfax's command ;
While Wycliffe, bound by many a train
Of kindred art with wily Vane,
Less prompt to brave the bloody field,
Made Barnard's battlements his shield,
Secured them with his Lunedale powers,
And for the Commons held the towers.


The lovely heir of Rokeby's Knight
Waits in his halls the event of fight ;
For England's war revered the claim
Of every unprotected name,
And spared amid its fiercest rage
Childhood and womanhood and age.
But Wilfrid, son to Rokeby's foe,
Must the dear privilege forego,
By Greta's side in evening gray,
To steal upon Matilda's way,
Striving with fond hypocrisy
For careless step and vacant eye ;
Calming each anxious look and glance,
To give the meeting all to chance,
Or framing as a fair excuse
The book, the pencil, or the muse ;
Something to give, to sing, to say,
Some modern tale, some ancient lay.
Then, while the longed-for minutes last, —
Ah ! minutes quickly over-past ! —
Recording each expression free
Of kind or careless courtesy,
Each friendly look, each softer tone,
As food for fancy when alone.
All this is o'er — but still unseen
Wilfrid may lurk in Eastwood green,
To watch Matilda's wonted round,
While springs his heart at every sound.
She comes ! — 'tis but a passing sight,
Yet serves to cheat his weary night ;
She comes not — he will wait the hour
When her lamp lightens in the tower ;
'T is something yet if, as she past,
Her shade is o'er the lattice cast.
' What is my life, my hope ? ' he said ;
' Alas ! a transitory shade.'


Thus wore his life, though reason strove
For mastery in vain with love,
Forcing upon his thoughts the sum
Of present woe and ills to come,
While still he turned impatient ear
From Truth's intrusive voice severe.
Gentle, indifferent, and subdued,
In all but this unmoved he viewed
Each outward change of ill and good :
But Wilfrid, docile, soft, and mild.
Was Fancy's spoiled and wayward child ;
In her bright car she bade him ride,
With one fair form to grace his side,
Or, in some wild and lone retreat,
Flung her high spells around his seat,
Bathed in her dews his languid head,
Her fairy mantle o'er him spread,
For him her opiates gave to flow,
Which he who tastes can ne'er forego,
And placed him in her circle, free



From every stern reality,

Till to the Visionary seem

Her day-dreams truth, and truth a dream.


Woe to the youth whom Fancy gains,
Winning from Reason's hand the reins,
Pity and woe ! for such a mind
Is soft, contemplative, and kind ;
And woe to those who train such youth.
And spare to press the rights of truth,
The mind to strengthen and anneal
While on the stithy glows the steel !
Q teach him while your lessons last
To judge the present by the past :
Remind him of each wish pursued,
How rich it glowed with promised good ;
Remind him of each wish enjoyed,
How soon his hopes possession cloyed !
Tell him we play unequal game
Whene'er we shoot by Fancy's aim ;
And, ere he strip him for her race,
Show the conditions of the chase :
Two sisters by the goal are set,

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 26 of 78)