Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Cold Disappointment and Regret ;
One disenchants the winner's eyes,
And strips of all its worth the prize.
While one augments its gaudy show,
More to enhance the loser's woe.
The victor sees his fairy gold
Transformed when won to drossy mould,
But still the vanquished mourns his loss,
And rues as gold that glittering dross.


More wouldst thou know — yon tower

Yon couch unpressed since parting day,
Yon untrimmed lamp, whose yellow gleam
Is mingling with the cold moonbeam,
And yon thin form ! — the hectic red
On his pale cheek unequal spread ;
The head reclined, the loosened hair,
The limbs relaxed, the mournful air. —
See, he looks up ; — a woful smile
Lightens his woe-worn cheek a while, —
'T is Fancy wakes some idle thought,
To gild the ruin she has wrought ;
For, like the bat of Indian brakes,
Her pinions fan the wound she makes,
And, soothing thus the dreamer's pain,
She drinks his life-blood from the vein.
Now to the lattice turn his eyes,
Vain hope ! to see the sun arise.
The moon with clouds is still o'ercast,
Still howls by fits the stormy blast ;
Another hour must wear away
Ere the east kindle into day,
And hark ! to waste that weary hour,
He tries the minstrel's magic power.


Hail to thy cold and clouded beam,

Pale pilgrim of the troubled sky !
Hail, though the mists that o'er thee stream

Lend to thy brow their sullen dye !
How should thy pure and peaceful eye

Untroubled view our scenes below,
Or how a tearless beam supply

To light a world of war and woe !

Fair Queen ! I will not blame thee now,

As once by Greta's fairy side ;
Each little cloud that dimmed thy brow

Did then an angel's beauty hide.
And of the shades I then could chide

Still are the thoughts to memory dear,
For, while a softer strain I tried,

They hid my blush and calmed my fear.

Then did I swear thy ray serene

Was formed to light some lonely dell,
By two fond lovers only seen,

Reflected from the crystal well ;
Or sleeping on their mossy cell,

Or quivering on the lattice bright,
Or glancing on their couch, to tell

'How swiftly wanes the summer night !


He starts — a step at this lone hour !

A voice ! — his father seeks the tower,

With haggard look and troubled sense,

Fresh from his dreadful conference.

' Wilfrid ! — what, not to sleep addressed ?

Thou hast no cares to chase thy rest.

Mortham has fallen on Marston-moor;

Bertram brings warrant to secure

rlis treasures, bought by spoil and blood,

For the state's use and public good.

The menials will thy voice obey ;

Let his commission have its way,

In every point, in every word.'

Then, in a whisper, — ' Take thy sword !

Bertram is — what I must not tell.

I hear his hasty step — farewell ! '


Far in the chambers of the west,
The gale had sighed itself to rest ;
The moon was cloudless now and clear,
But pale and soon to disappear.



The thin gray clouds waxed dimly light
On Brusleton and Houghton height ;
And the rich dale that eastward lay
Waited the wakening touch of day,
To give its woods and cultured plain,
And towers and spires, to light again.
But, westward, Stanmore's shapeless swell,
And Lunedale wild, and Kelton-fell,
And rock-begirdled Gilmanscar,
And Arkingarth, lay dark afar ;
While, as a livelier twilight falls,
Emerge proud Barnard's bannered walls.
High crowned he sits in dawning pale,
The sovereign of the lovely vale.

What prospects from his watch-tower high
Gleam gradual on the warder's eye ! —
Far sweeping to the east, he sees
Down his deep woods the course of Tees,
And tracks his wanderings by the steam
Of summer vapors from the stream ;
And ere he pace his destined hour
By Brackenbury's dungeon-tower,
These silver mists shall melt away
And dew the woods with glittering spray.
Then in broad lustre shall be shown
That mighty trench of living stone,
And each huge trunk that from the side
Reclines him o'er the darksome tide

Where Tees, full many a fathom low,
Wears with his rage no common foe ;
For pebbly bank, nor sand-bed here,
Nor clay-mound, checks his fierce career,
Condemned to mine a channelled way
O'er solid sheets of marble gray.


Nor Tees alone in dawning bright

Shall rush upon the ravished sight;

But many a tributary stream

Each from its own dark dell shall gleam :

Staindrop, who from her sylvan bowers

Salutes proud Raby's battled towers ;

The rural brook of Egliston,

And Balder, named from Odin's son ;

And Greta, to whose banks ere long

We lead the lovers of the song ;

And silver Lune from Stanmore wild,

And fairy Thorsgill's murmuring child,

And last and least, but loveliest still,

Romantic Deepdale's slender rill.

Who in that dim-wood glen hath strayed,

Yet longed for Roslin's magic glade ?

Who, wandering there, hath sought to

Even for that vale so stern and strange
Where Cartland's crags, fantastic rent,
Through her green copse like spires are

sent ?



Yet, Albin, yet the praise be thine,

Thy scenes and story to combine !

Thou bid'st him who by Roslin strays

List to the deeds of other days ;

Mid Cartland's crags thou show'st the

The refuge of thy champion brave ;
Giving each rock its storied tale,
Pouring a lay for every dale,
Knitting, as with a moral band,
Thy native legends with thy land,
To lend each scene the interest high
Which genius beams from Beauty's eye.


Bertram awaited not the sight
Which sunrise shows from Barnard's height,
But from the towers, preventing day,
With Wilfrid took his early way,
While misty dawn and moonbeam pale
Still mingled in the silent dale.
By Barnard's bridge of stately stone
The southern bank of Tees tney won ;
Their winding path then eastward cast,
And Egliston's gray ruins passed ;
Each on his own deep visions bent,
Silent and sad they onward went.
Well may you think that Bertram's mood
To Wilfrid savage seemed and rude ;
Well may you think bold Risingham
Held Wilfrid trivial, poor, and tame ;
And small the intercourse, I ween,
Such uncongenial souls between.

Stern Bertram shunned the nearer way
Through Rokeby's park and chase that lay,
And, skirting high the valley's ridge,
They crossed by Greta's ancient bridge,
Descending where her waters wind
Free for a space and unconfined
As, 'scaped from Brignall's dark-wood

She seeks wild Mortham's deeper den.
There, as his eye glanced o'er the mound
Raised by that Legion long renowned
Whose votive shrine asserts their claim
Of pious, faithful, conquering fame,
1 Stern sons of war ! ' sad Wilfrid sighed.
' Behold the boast of Roman pride !
What now of all your toils are known ?
A grassy trench, a broken stone ! ' —
This to himself ; for moral strain
To Bertram were addressed in vain.

Of different mood a deeper sigh

Awoke when Rokeby's turrets high

Were northward in the dawning seen

To rear them o'er the thicket green.

O then, though Spenser's self had strayed

Beside him through the lovely glade,

Lending his rich luxuriant glow

Of fancy all its charms to show,

Pointing the stream rejoicing free

As captive set at liberty,

Flashing her sparkling waves abroad,



And clamoring joyful on her road ;
Pointing where, up the sunny banks,
The trees retire in scattered ranks,
Save where, advanced before the rest,
On knoll or hillock rears his crest,
Lonely and huge, the giant Oak,
As champions when their band is broke
Stand forth to guard the rearward post,
The bulwark of the scattered host —
All this and more might Spenser say,
Yet waste in vain his magic lay,
While Wilfrid eyed the distant tower
Whose lattice lights Matilda's bower.


The open vale is soon passed o'er,
Kokeby, though nigh, is seen no more ;
Sinking mid Greta's thickets deep,
A wild and darker course they keep,
A stern and lone yet lovely road
As e'er the foot of minstrel trode !
Broad shadows o'er their passage fell,
Deeper and narrower grew the dell ;
It seemed some mountain, rent and riven,
A channel for the stream had given,
So high the cliffs of limestone gray
Hung beetling o'er the torrent's way,
Yielding along their rugged base
A flinty footpath's niggard space,
Where he who winds 'twixt rock and wave
May hear the headlong torrent rave,
And like a steed in frantic fit,
That flings the froth from curb and bit,
May view her chafe her waves to spray
O'er every rock that bars her way,
Till foam-dobes on her eddies ride,
Thick as the schemes of human pride
That down life's current drive amain,
As frail, as frothy, and as vain !


The cliffs that rear their haughty head
High o'er the river's darksome bed
Were now all naked, wild, and gray,
Now waving all with greenwood spray ;
Here trees to every crevice clung
And o'er the dell their branches hung;
And there, all splintered and uneven,
The shivered rocks ascend to heaven ;
Oft, too, the ivy swathed their breast
And wreathed its garland round their crest,
y Ox from the spires bade loosely flare
Its tendrils in the middle air.
As pennons wont to wave of old
O'er the high feast of baron bold,
When revelled loud the feudal rout
And the arched halls returned their shout,
Such and more wild is Greta's roar,
And such the echoes frorr ** shore,

And so the ivied banners gleam,
Waved wildly o'er the brawling stream.


Now from the stream the rocks recede,

But leave between no sunny mead,

No, nor the spot of pebbly sand

Oft found by such a mountain strand,

Forming such warm and dry retreat

As fancy deems the lonely seat

Where hermit, wandering from his cell,

His rosary might love to tell.

But here 'twixt rock and river grew

A dismal grove of sable yew,

With whose sad tints were mingled seen

The blighted fir's sepulchral green.

Seemed that the trees iheir shadows cast

The earth that nourished them to blast ;

For never knew that swarthy grove

The verdant hue that fairies love,

Nor wilding green nor woodland flower

Arose within its baleful bower :

The dank and sable earth receives

Its only carpet from the leaves

That, from the withering branches cast,

Bestrewed the ground with every blast.

Though now the sun was o'er the hill,

In this dark spot 'twas twilight still,

Save that on Greta's farther side

Some straggling beams through copsewood

glide ;
And wild and savage contrast made
That dingle's deep and funeral shade
With the bright tints of early day,
Which, glimmering through the ivy spray,
On the opposing summit lay.


The lated peasant shunned the dell ;

For Superstition wont to tell

Of many a grisly sound and sight,

Scaring its path at dead of night.

When Christmas logs blaze high and wide

Such wonders speed the festal tide,

While Curiosity and Fear,

Pleasure and Pain, sit crouching near,

Till childhood's cheek no longer glows,

And village maidens lose the rose.

The thrilling interest rises higher,

The circle closes nigh and nigher,

And shuddering glance is cast behind,

As louder moans the wintry wind.

Believe that fitting scene was laid

For such wild tales in Mortham glade ;

For who had seen on Greta's side

By that dim light fierce Bertram stride,

In such a spot, at such an hour, —

If touched by Superstition's power,

Might well have deemed that Hell had given



A murderer's ghost to upper heaven,
While Wilfrid's form had seemed to glide
Like his pale victim by his side.


Nor think to village swains alone
Are these unearthly terrors known,
For not to rank nor sex confined
Is this vain ague of the mind ;
Hearts firm as steel, as marble hard,
'Gainst faith and love and pity barred,
Have quaked, like aspen leaves in May,
Beneath its universal sway.
Bertram had listed many a tale
Of wonder in his native dale,
That in his secret soul retained
The credence they in childhood gained :
Nor less his wild adventurous youth
Believed in every legend's truth ;
Learned when beneath the tropic gale
Full swelled the vessel's steady sail,
And the broad Indian moon her light
Poured on the watch of middle night,
When seamen love to hear and tell
Of portent, prodigy, and spell :
What gales are sold on Lapland's shore,
How whistle rash bids tempests roar,
Of witch, of mermaid, and of sprite,
Of Erick's cap and Elmo's light ;
Or of that Phantom Ship whose form
Shoots like a meteor through the storm
When the dark scud comes driving hard,
And lowered is every top-sail yard,
And canvass wove in earthly looms
No more to brave the storm presumes !
Then mid the war of sea and sky,
Top and top-gallant hoisted high,
Full spread and crowded every sail,
The Demon Frigate braves the gale,
And well the doomed spectators know
The harbinger of wreck and woe.


Then, too, were told in stifled tone
Marvels and omens all their own ;
How, by some desert isle or key
Where Spaniards wrought their cruelty,
Or where the savage pirate's mood
Repaid it home in deeds of blood,
Strange nightly sounds of woe and fear
Appalled the listening buccaneer,
Whose light-armed shallop anchored lay
In ambush by the lonely bay.
The groan of grief, the shriek of pain;
Ring from the moonlight groves of cane ;
The fierce adventurer's heart they scare,
Who wearies memory for a prayer,
Curses the roadstead, and with gale
Of early morning lifts the sail,

To give, in thirst of blood and prey,
A legend for another bay.


Thus, as a man, a youth, a child,
Trained in the mystic and the wild,
With this on Bertram's soul at times
Rushed a dark feeling of his crimes ;
Such to his troubled soul their form
As the pale Death-ship to the storm,
And such their omen dim and dread
As shrieks and voices of the dead.
That pang, whose transitory force
Hovered 'twixt horror and remorse —
That pang, perchance, his bosom pressed
As Wilfrid sudden he addressed :
1 Wilfrid, this glen is never trod
Until the sun rides high abroad,
Yet twice have I beheld to-day
A form that seemed to dog our way ;
Twice from my glance it seemed to flee
And shroud itself by cliff or tree.
How think'st thou ? — Is our path waylaid ?
Or hath thy sire my trust b'etrayed ?
If so ' — Ere, starting from his dream
That turned upon a gentler theme,
Wilfrid had roused him to reply,
Bertram sprung forward, shouting high,
1 Whate'er thou art, thou now shalt stand ! '
And forth he darted, sword in hand.

, As bursts the levin in its wrath,
He shot him down the sounding path ;
Rock, wood, and stream rang wildly out
To his loud step and savage shout.
Seems that the object of his race
Hath scaled the cliffs ; his frantic chase
Sidelong he turns, and now 't is bent
Right up the rock's tall battlement ;
Straining each sinew to ascend,
Foot, hand, and knee their aid must lend.
Wilfrid, all dizzy with dismay,
Views from beneath his dreadful way :
Now to the oak's warped roots he clings,
Now trusts his weight to ivy strings ;
Now, like the wild-goat, must he dare
An unsupported leap in air ;
Hid in the shrubby rain-course now,
You mark him by the crashing bough,
And by his corselet's sullen clank,
And by the stones spurned from the bank,
And by the hawk scared from her nest,
And raven's croaking o'er their guest,
Who deem his forfeit limbs shall pay
The tribute of his bold essay.

See, he emerges ! — desperate now
All farther course — yon beetling brow,



In craggy nakedness sublime,
What heart or foot shall dare to climb ?
It bears no tendril for his clasp,
Presents no angle to his grasp :
Sole stay his foot may rest upon
Is yon earth-bedded jetting stone.
Balanced on such precarious prop,
He strains his grasp to reach the top.
Just as the dangerous stretch he makes,
By heaven, his faithless footstool shakes !
Beneath his tottering bulk it bends,
It sways, it loosens, it descends,

And when he issued from the wood
Before the gate of Mortham stood.
'Twas a fair scene ! the sunbeam lay
On battled tower and portal gray ;
And from the grassy slope he sees
The Greta flow to meet the Tees
Where, issuing from her darksome bed,
She caught the morning's eastern red,
And through the softening vale below
Rolled her bright waves in rosy glow,
All blushing to her bridal bed,
Like some shy maid in convent bred,

And downward holds its headlong way,
Crashing o'er rock and copsewood spray !
Loud thunders shake the echoing dell !
Fell it alone ? — alone it fell.
Just on the very verge of fate,
The hardy Bertram's falling weight
He trusted to his sinewy hands,
And on the top unharmed, he stands !


Wilfrid a safer path pursued,

At intervals where, roughly hewed,

Rude steps ascending from the dell

Rendered, the cliffs accessible.

By circuit slow he thus attained

The height that Risingham had gained,

While linnet, lark, and blackbird gay
Sing forth her nuptial roundelay.


'T was sweetly sung that roundelay,
That summer morn shone blithe and gay ;
But morning beam and wild-bird's call
Awaked not Mortham's silent hall.
No porter by the low-browed gate
Took in the wonted niche his seat ;
To the paved court no peasant drew;
Waked to their toil no menial crew ;
The maiden's carol was not heard,
As to her morning task she fared :
In the void offices around
Rung not a hoof nor bayed a hound ;



Nor eager steed with shrilling neigh
Accused the lagging groom's delay ;
Untrimmed, undressed, neglected now.
Was alleyed walk and orchard bough ;
All spoke the master's absent care,
All spoke neglect and disrepair.
South of the gate an arrow flight,
Two mighty elms their limbs unite,
As if a canopy to spread
O'er the lone dwelling of the dead ;
For their huge boughs in arches bent
Above a massive monument,
Carved o'er in ancient Gothic wise
With many a scutcheon and device :
There, spent with toil and sunk in gloom,
Bertram stood pondering by the tomb.


' It vanished like a flitting ghost !
Behind this tomb,' he said, ' 't was lost —
This tomb where oft I deemed lies stored
Of Mortham's Indian wealth the hoard.
'T is true, the aged servants said
Here his lamented wife is laid ;
But weightier reasons may be guessed
For their lord's strict and stern behest
That none should on his steps intrude
Whene'er he sought this solitude.
An ancient mariner I knew,
What time I sailed with Morgan's crew,
Who oft mid our carousals spake
Of Raleigh, Frobisher, and Drake;
Adventurous hearts ! who bartered, bold,
Their English steel for Spanish gold.
Trust not, would his experience say,
Captain or comrade with your prey,
But seek some charnel, when, at full,
The moon gilds skeleton and skull :
There dig and tomb your precious heap,
And bid the dead your treasure keep ;
Sure stewards they, if fitting spell
Their service to the task compel.
Lacks there such charnel ? — kill a slave
Or prisoner on the treasure-grave,
And bid his discontented ghost
Stalk nightly on his lonely post.
Such was his tale. Its truth, I ween,
Is in my morning vision seen.'


Wilfrid, who scorned the legend wild,
In mingled mirth and pity smiled,
Much marvelling that a breast so bold
In such fond tale belief should hold,
But yet of Bertram sought to know
The apparition's form and show.
The power within the guilty breast,
Oft vanquished, never quite suppressed,
That unsubdued and lurking lies
To take the felon by surprise

And force him, as by magic spell,

In his despite his guilt to tell —

That power in Bertram's breast awoke :

Scarce conscious he was heard, he spoke :

' 'T was Mortham's form, from foot to

His morion with the plume of red,
His shape, his mien — 't was Mortham,

As when I slew him in the fight.' —
' Thou slay him ? — thou ? ' — With con-
scious start
He heard, then manned his haughty heart —
1 1 slew him ? — I ! — I had forgot
Thou, stripling, knew'st not of the plot.
But it is spoken — nor will I
Deed done or spoken word deny. .
I slew him ; I ! for thankless pride ;
'T was by this hand that Mortham died.'


Wilfrid, of gentle hand and heart,

Averse to every active part

B.ut most adverse to martial broil,

From danger shrunk and turned from toil -.

Yet the meek lover of the lyre

Nursed one brave spark of noble fire :

Against injustice, fraud, or wrong

His blood beat high, his hand waxed strong.

Not his the nerves that could sustain,

Unshaken, danger, toil, and pain;

But, when that spark blazed forth to flame,

He rose superior to his frame.

And now it came, that generous mood :

And, in full current of his blood,

On Bertram he laid desperate hand,

Placed firm his foot, and drew his brand.

1 Should every fiend to whom thou'rt sold

Rise in thine aid, I keep my hold. —

Arouse there, ho ! take spear and sword !

Attach the murderer of your lord ! '

A moment, fixed as by a spell,

Stood Bertram — it seemed miracle,

That one so feeble, soft, and tame

Set grasp on warlike Risingham.

But when he felt a feeble stroke

The fiend within the ruffian woke !

To wrench the sword from Wilfrid's hand,

To dash him headlong on the sand,

Was but one moment's work, — one more

Had drenched the blade in Wilfrid's gore.

But in the instant it arose

To end his life, his love, his woes,

A warlike form that marked the scene

Presents his rapier sheathed between,

Parries the fast-descending blow,

And steps 'twixt Wilfrid and his foe ;



Nor then unscabbarded his brand,
But, sternly pointing with his hand,
With monarch's voice forbade the fight,
And motioned Bertram from his sight.
1 Go, and repent,' he said, 'while time
Is given thee ; add not crime to crime.'


Mute and uncertain and amazed,
As on a vision Bertram g:azed !

'T was Mortham's bearing, bold and high,

His sinewy frame, his falcon eye,

His look and accent of command,

The martial gesture of his hand,

His stately form, spare-built and tall,

His war-bleached locks — 'twas Mortham

Through Bertram's dizzy brain career
A thousand thoughts, and all of fear ;
His wavering faith received not quite




The form he saw as Mortham's sprite,

But more he feared it if it stood

His lord in living flesh and blood.

What spectre can the charnel send,

So dreadful as an injured friend?

Then, too, the habit of command,

Used by the leader of the band

When Risingham for many a day

Had marched and fought beneath his sway,

Tamed him — and with reverted face

Backwards he bore his sullen pace,

Oft stopped, and oft on Mortham stared,

And dark as rated mastiff glared,

But when the tramp of steeds was heard

Plunged in the glen and disappeared;

Nor longer there the warrior stood,

Retiring eastward through the wood,

But first to Wilfrid warning gives,

1 Tell thou to none that Mortham lives.'


Still rung these words in Wilfrid's ear,
Hinting he knew not what of fear,
When nearer came the coursers' tread,
And, with his father at their head,
Of horsemen armed a gallant power
Reined up their steeds before the tower.
• Whence these pale looks, my son ? ' he

1 Where 's Bertram ? Why that naked

blade ? '
Wilfrid ambiguously replied —
For Mortham's charge his honor tied —
1 Bertram is gone — the villain's word
Avouched him murderer of his lord !
Even now we fought — but when your tread
Announced you nigh, the felon fled.'
In Wycliffe's conscious eye appear
A guilty hope, a guilty fear;
On his pale brow the dewdrop broke,
And his lip quivered as he spoke :


1 A murderer ! — Philip Mortham died
Amid the battle's wildest tide.
Wilfrid, or Bertram raves or you !
Yet, grant such strange confession true,
Pursuit were vain — let him fly far —
Justice must sleep in civil war.'
A gallant youth rode near his side,
Brave Rokeby's page, in battle tried ;
That morn an embassy of weight
He brought to Barnard's castle gate,
And followed now in Wycliffe's train
An answer for his lord to gain.
His steed, whose arched and sable neck
An hundred wreaths of foam bedeck,
Chafed not against the curb more high
Than he at Oswald's cold reply;

He bit his lip, implored his saint —
His the old faith — then burst restraint


' Yes ! I beheld his bloody fall
By that base traitor's dastard ball,
Just when I thought to measure sword,
Presumptuous hope ! with Mortham's lord.
And shall the murderer 'scape who slew
His leader, generous, brave, and true ?
Escape, while on the dew you trace

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 27 of 78)