Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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The marks of his gigantic pace ?
No ! ere the sun that dew shall dry,
False Risingham shall yield or die. —
Ring out the castle larum bell !
Arouse the peasants with the knell !
Meantime disperse — ride, gallants, ride !
Beset the wood on every side.
But if among you one there be
That honors Mortham's memory,
Let him dismount and follow me !
Else on your crests sit fear and shame,
And foul suspicion dog your name ! '


Instant to earth young Redmond sprung ;
Instant on earth the harness rung
Of twenty men of Wycliffe's banjj,
Who waited not their lord's command.
Redmond his spurs from buskins drew,
His mantle from his shoulders threw,
His pistols in his belt he placed,
The green-wood gained, the footsteps traced,
Shouted like huntsman to his hounds,
; To cover, hark ! ' — and in he bounds.
Scarce heard was Oswald's anxious cry,
' Suspicion ! yes — pursue him — fly —
But venture not in useless strife
On ruffian desperate of his life ;
Whoever finds him shoot him dead !
Five hundred nobles for his head ! '


The horsemen galloped to make good
Each path that issued from the wood.
Loud from the thickets rung the shout
Of Redmond and his eager rout ;
With them was Wilfrid, stung with ire,
And envying Redmond's martial fire,
And emulous of fame. — But where
Is Oswald, noble Mortham's heir ?
He, bound by honor, law, and faith,
Avenger of his kinsman's death ? —
Leaning against the elmin tree,
With drooping head and slackened knee,
And clenched teeth, and close-clasped

In agony of soul he stands !



His downcast eye on earth is bent,
His soul to every sound is lent;
For in each shout that cleaves the air
May ring discovery and despair.


What 'vailed it him that brightly played
The morning sun on Mortham's glade ?
All seems in giddy round to ride,
Like objects on a stormy tide
Seen eddying by the moonlight dim,
Imperfectly to sink and swim.
What 'vailed it that the fair domain,
Its battled mansion, hill, and plain,
On which the sun so brightly shone,
Envied so long, was now his own ?
The lowest dungeon, in that hour,
Of Brackenbury's dismal tower,
Had been his choice, could such a doom
Have opened Mortham's bloody tomb !
Forced, too, to turn unwilling ear
To each surmise of hope or fear,
Murmured among the rustics round,
Who gathered at the larum sound,
He dare not turn his head away,
Even to look up to heaven to pray,
Or call on hell in bitter mood
For one sharp death-shot from the wood !


At length o'erpast that dreadful space,

Back straggling came the scattered chase

Jaded and weary, horse and man,

Returned the troopers one by one.

Wilfrid the last arrived to say

All trace was lost of Bertram's way,

Though Redmond still up Brignall wood

The hopeless quest in vain pursued.

O, fatal doom of human race !

What tyrant passions passions chase !

Remorse from Oswald's brow is gone,

Avarice and pride resume their throne ;

The pang of instant terror by,

They dictate thus their slave's reply :


1 Ay — let him range like hasty hound ! •
And if the grim wolf's lair be found,
Small is my care how goes the game
With Redmond or with Risingham. —
Nay, answer not, thou simple boy !
Thy fair Matilda, all so coy
To thee, is of another mood
To that bold youth of Erin's blood.
Thy ditties will she freely praise,
And pay thy pains with courtly phrase ;
In a rough path will oft command —
Accept at least — thy friendly hand ;
His she avoids, or, urged and prayed,

Unwilling takes his proffered aid,
While conscious passion plainly speaks
In downcast look and blushing cheeks.
Whene'er he sings will she glide nigh,
And all her soul is in her eye ;
Yet doubts she still to tender free
The wonted words of courtesy.
These are strong signs ! — yet wherefore

And wipe, effeminate, thine eye ?
Thine shall she be, if thou attend
The counsels of thy sire and friend.

' Scarce wert thou gone, when peep of light
Brought genuine news of Marston's fight.
Brave Cromwell turned the doubtful tide,
And conquest blessed the rightful side ;
Three thousand cavaliers lie dead,
Rupert and that bold Marquis fled;
Nobles and knights, so proud of late,
Must fine for freedom and estate.
Of these committed to my charge
Is Rokeby, prisoner at large ;
Redmond his page arrived to say
He reaches Barnard's towers to-day.
Right heavy shall his ransom be
Unless that maid compound with thee !
Go to her now — be bold of cheer
While her soul floats 'twixt hope and fear ;
It is the very change of tide,
When best the female heart is tried —
Pride, prejudice, and modesty,
Are in the current swept to sea,
And the bold swain who plies his oar
May lightly row his bark to shore.'



The hunting tribes of air and earth
Respect the brethren of their birth ;
Nature, who loves the claim of kind,
Less cruel chase to each assigned.
The falcon, poised on soaring wing,
Watches the wild-duck by the spring ;
The slow-hound wakes the fox's lair ;
The greyhound presses on the hare ;
The eagle pounces on the lamb ;
The wolf devours the fleecy dam :
Even tiger fell and sullen bear
Their likeness and their lineage spare ;
Man only mars kind Nature's plan.



And turns the fierce pursuit on man.
Plying war's desultory trade,
Incursion, flight, and ambuscade,
Since Nimrod, Cush's mighty son,
At first the bloody game begun.

The Indian, prowling for his prey,
Who hears the settlers track his way,
And knows in distant forest far
Camp his red brethren of the war —
He, when each double and disguise
To baffle the pursuit he tries,
Low crouching now his head to hide
Where swampy streams through rushes

Now covering with the withered leaves
The foot-prints that the dew receives —
He, skilled in every sylvan guile,
Knows not, nor tries, such various wile
As Risingham when on the wind
Arose the loud pursuit behind.
In Redesdale his youth had heard
Each art her wily dalesman dared,
When Rooken-edge and Redswair high
To bugle rung and blood-hound's cry,
Announcing Jedwood-axe and spear,
And Lid'sdale riders in the rear ;
And well his venturous life had proved
The lessons that his childhood loved.


Oft had he shown in climes afar
Each attribute of roving war ;
The sharpened ear, the piercing eye,
The quick resolve in danger nigh ;
The speed that in the flight or chase
Outstripped the Charib's rapid race ;
The steady brain, the sinewy limb,
To leap, to climb, to dive, to swim ;
The iron frame, inured to bear
Each dire inclemency of air,
Nor less confirmed to undergo
Fatigue's faint chill and famine's throe.
These arts he proved, his life to save,
In peril oft by land and wave,
On Arawaca's desert shore,
Or where La Plata's billows roar,
When oft the sons of vengeful Spain
Tracked the marauder's steps in vain.
These arts, in Indian warfare tried,
Must save him now by Greta's side.

'T was then, in hour of utmost need,
He proved his courage, art, and speed.
Now slow he stalked with stealthy pace,
Now started forth in rapid race,

Oft doubling back in mazy train

To blind the trace the dews retain ;

Now clomb the rocks projecting high

To baffle the pursuer's eye ;

Now sought the stream, whose brawling

The echo of his footsteps drowned.
But if the forest verge he nears,
There trample steeds, and glimmer spears ;
If deeper down the copse he drew,
He heard the rangers' loud halloo,
Beating each cover while they came,
As if to start the sylvan game.
'T was then — like tiger close beset
At every pass with toil and net,
'Countered where'er he turns his glare
By clashing arms and torches' flare,
Who meditates with furious bound
To burst on hunter, horse and hound —
'T was then that Bertram's soul arose,
Prompting to rush upon his foes :
But as that crouching tiger, cowed
By brandished steel and shouting crowd,
Retreats beneath the jungle's shroud,
Bertram suspends his purpose stern,
And crouches in the brake and fern,
Hiding his face lest foemen spy
The sparkle of his swarthy eye.

Then Bertram might the bearing trace
Of the bold youth who led the chase ;
Who paused to list for every sound,
Climbed every height to look around,
Then rushing on with naked sword,
Each dingle's bosky depths explored.
'T was Redmond — by the azure eye ;
'T was Redmond — by the locks that fly
Disordered from his glowing cheek ;
Mien, face, and form young Redmond

A form more active, light, and strong,
Ne'er shot the ranks of war along ;
The modest yet the manly mien
Might grace the court of maiden queen ;
A face more fair you well might find,
For Redmond's knew the sun and wind.
Nor boasted, from their tinge when free,
The charm of regularity ;
But every feature had the power
To aid the expression of the hour :
Whether gay wit and humor sly
Danced laughing in his light-blue eye,
Or bended brow and glance of fire
And kindling cheek spoke Erin's ire.
Or soft and saddened glances show
Her ready sympathy with woe ;
Or in that wayward mood of mind
When various feelings are combined,
When joy and sorrow mingle near,



And hope's bright wings are checked by fear,
And rising doubts keep transport down,
And anger lends a short-lived frown ;
In that strange mood which maids approve
Even when they dare not call it love —
With every change his features played,
As aspens show the light and shade.


Well Risingham young Redmond knew
And much he marvelled that the crew,

But Redmond turned a different way,
And the bent boughs resumed their sway,
And Bertram held it wise, unseen,
Deeper to plunge in coppice green.
Thus, circled in his coil, the snake,
When roving hunters beat the brake,
Watches with red and glistening eye,
Prepared, if heedless step draw nigh,
With forked tongue and venomed fang
Instant to dart the deadly pang ;
But if the intruders turn aside,
Away his coils unfolded glide,

Roused to revenge bold Mortham dead
Were by that Mortham's foeman led ;
For never felt his soul the woe
That wails a generous foeman low.
Far less that sense of justice strong
That wreaks a generous foeman's wrong.
But small his leisure now to pause ;
Redmond is first, whate'er the cause :
And twice that Redmond came so near
Where Bertram couched like hunted deer,
The very boughs 4iis steps displace
Rustled against the ruffian's face,
Who desperate twice prepared to start,
And plunge his dagger in his heart !

And through the deep savannah wind,
Some undisturbed retreat to find.


But Bertram, as he backward drew,
And heard the loud pursuit renew,
And Redmond's hollo on the wind,
Oft muttered in his savage mind —
' Redmond O'Neale ! were thou and I
Alone this day's event to try,
With not a second here to see
But the gray cliff and oaken tree,
That voice of thine that shouts so loud



Should ne'er repeat its summons proud !
No ! nor e'er try its melting power
Again in maiden's summer bower.'
Eluded, now behind him die
Faint and more faint each hostile cry ;
He stands in Scargill wood alone,
Nor hears he now a harsher tone
Than the hoarse cushat's plaintive cry,
Or Greta's sound that murmurs by ;
And on the dale, so lone and wild.
The summer sun in quiet smiled.


He listened long with anxious heart,

Ear bent to hear and foot to start,

And, while his stretched attention glows,

Refused his weary frame repose.

'T was silence all — he laid him down,

Where purple heath profusely strown,

And throatwort with its azure bell,

And moss and thyme his cushion swell.

There, spent with toil, he listless eyed

The course of Greta's playful tide ;

Beneath her banks now eddying dun,

Now brightly gleaming to the sun,

As, dancing over rock and stone,

In yellow light her currents shone,

Matching in hue the favorite gem

Of Albin's mountain-diadem.

Then, tired to watch the currents play,

He turned his weary eyes away

To where the bank opposing showed

Its huge, square cliffs through shaggy

One, prominent above the rest,
Reared to the sun its pale gray breast ;
Around its broken summit grew
The hazel rude and sable yew ;
A thousand varied lichens dyed
Its waste and weather-beaten side,
And round its rugged basis lay,
By time or thunder rent away,
Fragments that from its frontlet torn
Were mantled now by verdant thorn.
Such was the scene's wild majesty
That filled stern Bertram's gazing eye.

In sullen mood he lay reclined,
Revolving in his stormy mind
The felon deed, the fruitless guilt,
His patron's blood by treason spilt ;
A crime, it seemed, so dire and dread
That it had power to wake the dead.
Then, pondering on his life betrayed
By Oswald's art to Redmond's blade,
In treacherous purpose to withhold,
So seemed it, Mortham's promised gold,
A deep and full revenge he vowed

On Redmond, forward, fierce, and proud ;
Revenge on Wilfrid — on his sire
Redoubled vengeance, swift and dire ! —
If, in such mood — as legends say,
And well believed that simple day —
The Enemy of Man has power
To profit by the evil hour,
Here stood a wretch prepared to change
His soul's redemption for revenge !
But though his vows with such a fire
Of earnest and intense desire
For vengeance dark and fell were made
As well might reach hell's lowest shade,
No deeper clouds the grove embrowned,
No nether thunders shook the ground ;
The demon knew his vassal's heart,
And spared temptation's needless art.

Oft, mingled with the direful theme,

Came Mortham's form — was it a dream ?

Or had he seen in vision true

That very Mortham whom he slew?

Or had in living flesh appeared

The only man on earth he feared ? —

To try the mystic cause intent,

His eyes that on the cliff were bent

'Countered at once a dazzling glance,

Like sunbeam flashed from sword or lance.

At once he started as for fight,

But not a foeman was in sight ;

He heard the cushat's murmur hoarse,

He heard the river's sounding course ;

The solitary woodlands lay,

As slumbering in the summer ray.

He gazed, like lion roused, around,

Then sunk again upon the ground.

'T was but, he thought, some fitful beam,

Glanced sudden from the sparkling stream ;

Then plunged him in his gloomy train

Of ill-connected thoughts again,

Until a voice behind him cried,

' Bertram ! well met on Greta side.'


Instant his sword was in his hand,
As instant sunk the ready brand ;
Yet, dubious still, opposed he stood
To him that issued from the wood :
* Guy Denzil ! — is it thou ? ' he said ;
4 Do we two meet in Scargill shade ! —
Stand back a space ! — thy purpose show,
Whether thou comest as friend or foe.
Report hath said, that Denzil's name
From Rokeby's band # was razed with

shame ' —
' A shame I owe that hot O'Neale,
Who told his knight in peevish zeal



Of my marauding on the clowns

Of Calve rley and Bradford downs.

I reck not. In a war to strive,

Where save the leaders none can thrive,

Suits ill my mood ; and better game

Awaits us both, if thou 'rt the same

Unscrupulous, bold Risingham

Who watched with me in midnight dark

To snatch a deer from Rokeby-park.

How think'st thou ? ' — • Speak thy purpose

I love not mystery or doubt.' —


* Then list. — Not far there lurk a crew
Of trusty comrades stanch and true,

Gleaned from both factions — Roundheads.

From cant of sermon and of creed,
And Cavaliers, whose souls like mine
Spurn at the bonds of discipline.
Wiser, we judge, by dale and wold
A warfare of our own to hold
Than breathe our last on battle-down
For cloak or surplice, mace or crown.
Our schemes are laid, our purpose set,
A chief and leader lack we yet.
Thou art a wanderer, it is said,
For Mortham's death thy steps waylaid,
Thy head at price — so say our spies,
Who ranged the valley in disguise.
Join then with us : though wild debate



And wrangling rend our infant state,

Each, to an equal loath to bow,

Will yield to chief renowned as thou.' —


'Even now,' thought Bertram, passion-
' I called on hell, and hell has heard !
What lack I, vengeance to command,
But of stanch comrades such a band ?
This Denzil, vowed to every evil,
Might read a lesson to the devil.
Well, be it so ! each knave and fool
Shall serve as my revenge's tool.' —
Aloud, ' I take thy proffer, Guy,
But tell me where thy comrades lie.'
1 Not far from hence,' Guy Denzil said ;
' Descend and cross the river's bed
Where rises yonder cliff so gray.'
' Do thou,' said Bertram, ' lead the way.'
Then muttered, J It is best make sure ;
Guy Denzil's faith was never pure.'
He followed down the steep descent,
Then through the Greta's streams they

went ;
And when they reached the farther shore
They stood the lonely cliff before.


With wonder Bertram heard within
The flinty rock a murmured din ;
But when Guy pulled the wilding spray
And brambles from its base away,
He saw appearing to the air
A little entrance low and square,
Like opening cell of hermit lone,
Dark winding through the living stone.
Here entered Denzil, Bertram here ;
And loud and louder on their ear,
As from the bowels of the earth,
Resounded shouts of boisterous mirth.
Of old the cavern strait and rude
In slaty rock the peasant hewed ;
And Brignall's woods and Scargill's wave
E'en now o'er many a sister cave,
Where, far within the darksome rift,
The wedge and lever ply their thrift.
But war had silenced rural trade,
And the deserted mine was made
The banquet-hall and fortress too
Of Denzil and his desperate crew.
There Guilt his anxious revel kept
There on his sordid pallet slept
Guilt-born Excess, the goblet drained
Still in his slumbering grasp retained ;
Regret was there, his eye still cast
With vain repining on the past ;
Among the feasters waited near
Sorrow and unrepentant Fear,

And Blasphemy, to frenzy driven,
With his own crimes reproaching Heaven :
While Bertram showed amid the crew
The Master-Fiend that Milton drew.


Hark ! the loud revel wakes again

To greet the leader of the train.

Behold the group by the pale lamp

That struggles with the earthy damp.

By what strange features Vice hath known

To single out and mark her own !

Yet some there are whose brows retain

Less deeply stamped her brand and stain.

See yon pale stripling ! when a boy,

A mother's pride, a father's joy !

Now, 'gainst the vault's rude walls reclined,.

An early image fills his mind :

The cottage once his sire's he sees,

Embowered upon the banks of Tees ;

He views sweet Winston's woodland scene.

And shares the dance on Gainford-green.

A tear is springing — but the zest

Of some wild tale or brutal jest

Hath to loud laughter stirred the rest.

On him they call, the aptest mate

For jovial song and merry feat :

Fast flies his dream — with dauntless air r

As one victorious o'er despair,

He bids the ruddy cup go round

Till sense and sorrow both are drowned ;

And soon in merry wassail he,

The life of all their revelry,

Peals his loud song ! — The muse has found

Her blossoms on the wildest ground,

Mid noxious weeds at random strewed,

Themselves all profitless and rude. —

With desperate merriment he sung,

The cavern to the chorus rung,

Yet mingled with his reckless glee

Remorse's bitter agony.



O, Brignall banks are wild and fair,

And Greta woods are green,
And you may gather garlands there

Would grace a summer queen.
And as I rode by Dalton-hall,

Beneath the turrets high,
A maiden on the castle wall

Was singing merrily, —

' O, Brignall banks are fresh and fair.
And Greta woods are green ;

I 'd rather rove with Edmund there
Than reign our English queen.'



' If, maiden, thou wouldst wend with me.

To leave both tower and town, *
Thou first must guess what life lead we

That dwell by dale and down ?
And if thou canst that riddle read,

As read full well you may,
Then to the greenwood shalt thou speed,

As blithe as Queen of May.'


Yet sung she, * Brignall banks are fair,
And Greta woods are green ;

I 'd rather rove with Edmund there
Than reign our English queen.


4 1 read you, by your bugle horn,

And by your palfrey good,
I read you for a ranger sworn

To keep the king's greenwood.'

* A ranger, lady, winds his horn,

And 't is at peep of light ;
His blast is heard at merry morn,
And mine at dead of night.'


Yet sung she, ■ Brignall banks are fair,

And Greta woods are gay ;
I would I were with Edmund there,

To reign his Queen of May !

• With burnished brand and musketoon

So gallantly you come,
I read you for a bold dragoon,

That lists the tuck of drum.'
' I list no more the tuck of drum,

No more the trumpet hear ;
But when the beetle sounds his hum,

My comrades take the spear.


' And O, though Brignall banks be fair,

And Greta woods be gay,
Yet mickle must the maiden dare

Would reign my Queen of May !


1 Maiden ! a nameless life I lead,

A nameless death I '11 die ;
The fiend whose lantern lights the mead

Were better mate than I !
And when I 'm with my comrades met

Beneath the greenwood bough,
What once we were we all forget,

Nor think what we are now.

' Yet Brignall banks are fresh and fair,
And Greta woods are green,

And you may gather garlands there
Would grace a summer queen.'

When Edmund ceased his simple song,
Was silence on the sullen throng,
Till waked some ruder mate their glee
With note of coarser minstrelsy.
But far apart in dark divan,
Denzil and Bertram many a plan
Of import foul and fierce designed,
While still on Bertram's grasping mind
The wealth of murdered Mortham hung ;
Though half he feared his daring tongue,
When it should give his wishes birth,
Might raise a spectre from the earth !


At length his wondrous tale he told ;

When scornful smiled his comrade bold,

For, trained in license of a court,

Religion's self was Denzil's sport ;

Then judge in what contempt he held

The visionary tales of eld !

His awe for Bertram scarce repressed

The unbeliever's sneering jest,

1 'T were hard,' he said, ' for sage or seer

To spell the subject of your fear;

Nor do I boast the art renowned

Vision and omen to expound.

Yet, faith if I must needs afford

To spectre watching treasured hoard,

As ban-dog keeps his master's roof,

Bidding the plunderer stand aloof,

This doubt remains — thy goblin gaunt

Hath chosen ill his ghostly haunt ;

For why his guard on Mortham hold,

When Rokeby castle hath the gold

Thy patron won on Indian soil

By stealth, by piracy, and spoil ? ' —


At this he paused — for angry shame

Lowered on the brow of Risingham.

He blushed to think, that he should seem

Assertor of an airy dream,

And gave his wrath another theme.

' Denzil,' he says, ' though lowly laid,

Wrong not the memory of the dead;

For while he lived at Mortham's look

Thy very soul, Guy Denzil, shook !

And when he taxed thy breach of word

To yon fair rose of Allenford,

I saw thee crouch like chastened hound

Whose back the huntsman's lash hath found.

Nor dare to call his foreign wealth

The spoil of piracy or stealth ;

He won it bravely with his brand

When Spain waged warfare with our land.

Mark, too — I brook no idle jeer,

Nor couple Bertram's name with fear ;

Mine is but half the demon's lot,

For I believe, but tremble not.



Enough of this. Say, why this hoard
Thou deem'st at Rokeby castle stored ;
Or think'st that Mortham would bestow
His treasure with his faction's foe ? '


Soon quenched was Denzil's ill-timed mirth ;

Rather he would have seen the earth

Give to ten thousand spectres birth

Than venture to awake to flame

The deadly wrath of Risingham.

Submiss he answered, ' Mortham's mind,

Thou know'st, to joy was ill inclined.

In youth, 't is said, a gallant free,

A lusty reveller was he ;

But since returned from over sea,

A sullen and a silent mood

Hath numbed the current of his blood.

Hence he refused each kindly call

To Rokeby's hospitable hall,

And our stout knight, at dawn or morn

Who loved to hear the bugle-horn,

Nor less, when eve his oaks embrowned,

To see the ruddy cup go round,

Took umbrage that a friend so near

Refused to share his chase and cheer;

Thus did the kindred barons jar

Ere they divided in the war.

Yet, trust me, friend, Matilda fair

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 28 of 78)