Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Thus Redmond to himself apart,
Nor lighter was his rival's heart :

For Wilfrid, while his generous soul
Disdained to profit by control,
By many a sign could mark too plain,
Save with such aid, his hopes were vain.
But now Matilda's accents stole
On the dark visions of their soul,
And bade their mournful musing fly,
Like mist before the zephyr's sigh.


' I need not to my friends recall,

How Mortham shunned my father's hall,

A man of silence and of woe,

Yet ever anxious to bestow

On my poor self whate'er could prove

A kinsman's confidence and love.

My feeble aid could sometimes chase

The clouds of sorrow for a space ;

But oftener, fixed beyond my power,

I marked his deep despondence lower.

One dismal cause, by all unguessed,

His fearful confidence confessed ;

And twice it was my hap to see

Examples of that agony

Which for a season can o'erstrain

And wreck the structure of the brain.

He had the awful power to know

The approaching mental overthrow,

And while his mind had courage yet

To struggle with the dreadful fit,

The victim writhed against its throes,

Like wretch beneath a murderer's blows.

This malady, I well could mark,

Sprung from some direful cause and dark,

But still he kept its source concealed,

Till arming for the civil field ;

Then in my charge he bade me hold

A treasure huge of gems and gold,

With this disjointed dismal scroll

That tells the secret of his soul

In such wild words as oft betray

A mind by anguish forced astray.'

fflortljam's f^tstcrrj.
1 Matilda ! thou hast seen me start,
As if a dagger thrilled my heart,
When it has happed some casual phrase
Waked memory of my former days.
Believe that few can backward cast
Their thought with pleasure on the past ;
But I ! — my youth was rash and vain,
And blood and rage my manhood stain,
And my gray hairs must now descend
To my cold grave without a friend !
Even thou, Matilda, wilt disown
Thy kinsman when his guilt is known.
And must I lift the bloody veil
That hides my dark and fatal tale ?



I must — I will — Pale phantom, cease !
Leave me one little hour in peace !
Thus haunted, think'st thou I have skill
Thine own commission to fulfil ?
Or, while thou point'st with gesture fierce
Thy blighted cheek, thy bloody hearse,
How can I paint thee as thou wert,
So fair in face, so warm in heart ! —


1 Yes, she was fair ! — Matilda, thou
Hast a soft sadness on thy brow ;
But hers was like the sunny glow,
That laughs on earth and all below !
We wedded secret — there was need —
Differing in country and in creed ;
And when to Mortham's tower she came.



We mentioned not her race and name,
Until thy sire, who fought afar,
Should turn him home from foreign war
On whose kind influence we relied
To soothe her father's ire and pride.
Few months we lived retired, unknown
To all but one dear friend alone,
One darling friend — I spare his shame,
I will not write the villain's name !
My trespasses I might forget,
And sue in vengeance for the debt
Due by a brother worm to me,
Ungrateful to God's clemency,
That spared me penitential time,
Nor cut me off amid my crime. —


4 A kindly smile to all she lent,

But on her husband's friend 't was bent

So kind that from its harmless glee

The wretch misconstrued villany.

Repulsed in his presumptuous love,

A vengeful snare the traitor wove.

Alone we sat — the flask had flowed,

My blood with heat unwonted glowed,

When through the alley ed walk we spied

With hurried step my Edith glide,

Cowering beneath the verdant screen,

As one unwilling to be seen.

Words cannot paint the fiendish smile

That curled the traitor's cheek the while !

Fiercely I questioned of the cause ;

He made a cold and artful pause,

Then prayed it might not chafe my mood —

" There was a gallant in the wood ! "

We had been shooting at the deer ;

My cross-bow — evil chance ! — was near :

That ready weapon of my wrath

I caught and, hasting up the path,

In the yew grove my wife I found ;

A stranger's arms her neck had bound !

I marked his heart — the bow I drew —

I loosed the shaft — 't was more than true !

I found my Edith's dying charms

Locked in her murdered brother's arms !

He came in secret to inquire

Her state and reconcile her sire.


* All fled my rage — the villain first
Whose craft my jealousy had nursed ;
He sought in far and foreign clime
To 'scape the vengeance of his crime.
The manner of the slaughter done
Was known to few, my guilt to none ;
Some tale my faithful steward framed —
I know not what — of shaft mis-aimed ;
And even from those the act who knew
He hid the hand from which it flew.

Untouched by human laws I stood,

But God had heard the cry of blood !

There is a blank upon my mind,

A fearful vision ill-defined

Of raving till my flesh was torn

Of dungeon-bolts and fetters worn —

And when I waked to woe more mild

And questioned of my infant child —

Have I not written that she bare

A boy, like summer morning fair? —

With looks confused my menials tell

That armed men in Mortham dell

Beset the nurse's evening way,

And bore her with her charge away.

My faithless friend, and none but he,

Could profit by this villany ;

Him then I sought with purpose dread

Of treble vengeance on his head !

He 'scaped me — but my bosom's wound

Some faint relief from wandering found,

And over distant land and sea

I bore my load of misery.


' 'T was then that fate my footsteps led

Among a daring crew and dread,

With whom full oft my hated life

I ventured in such desperate strife

That even my fierce associates saw

My frantic deeds with doubt and awe.

Much then I learned and much can show

Of human guilt and human woe,

Yet ne'er have in my wanderings known

A wretch whose sorrows matched my own ! —

It chanced that after battle fray

Upon the bloody field we lay ;

The yellow moon her lustre shed

Upon the wounded and the dead,

While, sense in toil and wassail drowned,

My ruffian comrades slept around,

There came a voice — its silver tone

Was soft, Matilda, as thine own —

" Ah, wretch ! " it said, " what mak'st thou

While unavenged my bloody bier,
While unprotected lives mine heir
Without a father's name and care ? "


'I heard — obeyed — and homeward drew;

The fiercest of our desperate crew

I brought, at time of need to aid

My purposed vengeance long delayed.

But humble be my thanks to Heaven

That better hopes and thoughts has given,

And by our Lord's dear prayer has taught

Mercy by mercy must be bought ! —

Let me in misery rejoice —

I 've seen his face — I 've heard his voice —



I claimed of him my only child —
As he disowned the theft, he smiled !
That very calm and callous look,
That fiendish sneer his visage took,
As when he said, in scornful mood,
" There is a gallant in the wood ! " —
I did not slay him as he stood —
All praise be to my Maker given !
Long suffrance is one path to heaven.'


Thus far the woful tale was heard
When something in the thicket stirred.
Up Redmond sprung ; the villain Guy —
For he it was that lurked so nigh —
Drew back — he durst not cross his steel
A moment's space with brave O'Neale
For all the treasured gold that rests
In Mortham's iron-banded chests.
Redmond resumed his seat ; — he said
Some roe was rustling in the shade.
Bertram laughed grimly when he saw
His timorous comrade backward draw :
'A trusty mate art thou, to fear
A single arm, and aid so near !
Yet have I seen thee mark a deer.
Give me thy carabine — I '11 show
An art th^t thou wilt gladly know,
How thou mayst safely quell a foe.'


On hands and knees fierce Bertram drew

The spreading birch and hazels through,

Till he had Redmond full in view ;

The gun he levelled — Mark like this

Was Bertram never known to miss,

When fair opposed to aim their sate

An object of his mortal hate.

That day young Redmond's death had seen,

But twice Matilda came between

The carabine and Redmond's breast

Just ere the spring his finger pressed.

A deadly oath the ruffian swore,

But yet his fell design forbore :

' It ne'er,' he muttered, ' shall be said

That thus I scathed thee, haughty maid ! '

Then moved to seek more open aim,

When to his side Guy Denzil came :

'* Bertram, forbear ! — we are undone

For ever, if thou fire the gun.

By all the fiends, an armed force

Descends the dell of foot and horse !

We perish if they hear a shot —

Madman ! we have a safer plot —

Nay, friend, be ruled, and bear thee back!

Behold, down yonder hollow track

The warlike leader of the band

Comes with his broadsword in his hand.'

Bertram looked up ; he saw, he knew

That Denzil's fears had counselled true,
Then cursed his fortune and withdrew,
Threaded the woodlands undescried,
And gained the cave on Greta side.


They whom dark Bertram in his wrath
Doomed to captivity or death,
Their thoughts to one sad subject lent,
Saw not nor heard the ambush ment.
Heedless and unconcerned they sate
While on the very verge of fate,
Heedless and unconcerned remained
When Heaven the murderer's arm re-
strained ;
As ships drift darkling down the tide,
Nor see the shelves o'er which they glide.
Uninterrupted thus they heard
What Mortham's closing tale declared.
He spoke of wealth as of a load
By fortune on a wretch bestowed,
In bitter mockery of hate,
His cureless woes to aggravate ;
But yet he prayed Matilda's care
Might save that treasure for his heir —
His Edith's son — for still he raved
As confident his life was saved ;
In frequent vision, he averred,
He saw his face, his voice he heard,
Then argued calm — had murder been,
The blood, the corpses, had been seen ;
Some had pretended, too, to mark
On Windermere a stranger bark,
Whose crew, with jealous care yet mild,
Guarded a female and a child.
While these faint proofs he told and pressed,
Hope seemed to kindle in his breast ;
Though inconsistent, vague, and vain,
It warped his judgment and his brain.


These solemn words his story close : —
' Heaven witness for me that I chose
My part in this sad civil fight
Moved by no cause but England's right.
My country's groans have bid me draw
My sword for gospel and for law ; —
These righted, I fling arms aside
And seek my son through Europe wide.
My wealth, on which a kinsman nigh
Already casts a grasping eye,
With thee may unsuspected lie.
When of my death Matilda hears,
Let her retain her trust three years ;
If none from me* the treasure claim,
Perished is Mortham's race and name.
Then let it leave her generous hand,
And flow in bounty o'er the land,
Soften the wounded prisoner's lot,
Rebuild the peasant's ruined cot:


scorrs poetical works.

So spoils, acquired by fight afar,
Shall mitigate domes'tic war.'

The generous youths, who well had known

Of Mortham's mind the powerful tone,

To that high mind by sorrow swerved

Gave sympathy his woes deserved ;

But Wilfrid chief, who saw revealed

Why Mortham wished his life concealed,

In secret, doubtless, to pursue

The schemes his wildered fancy drew.

Thoughtful he heard Matilda tell

That she would share her father's cell,

His partner of captivity,

Where'er his prison-house should be ;

Yet grieved to think that Rokeby-hall,

Dismantled and forsook by all,

Open to rapine and to stealth,

Had now no safeguard for the wealth

Intrusted by her kinsman kind

And for such noble use designed.

'Was Barnard Castle then her choice,'

Wilfrid inquired with hasty voice,

' Since there the victor's laws ordain

Her father must a space remain?'

A fluttered hope his accent shook,

A fluttered joy was in his look.

Matilda hastened to reply,

For anger flashed in Redmond's eye ; —

' Duty,' she said, with gentle grace,

1 Kind Wilfrid, has no choice of place ;

Else had I for my sire assigned

Prison less galling to his mind

Than that his wild-wood haunts which sees

And hears the murmur of the Tees,

Recalling thus with every glance

What captive's sorrow can enhance ;

But where those woes are highest, there

Needs Rokeby most his daughter's care.'


He felt the kindly check she gave,

And stood abashed — then answered grave :

' I sought thy purpose, noble maid,

Thy doubts to clear, thy schemes to aid.

I have beneath mine own command,

So wills my sire, a gallant band,

And well could send some horsemen wight

To bear the treasure forth by night,

And so bestow it as you deem

In these ill days may safest seem.'

' Thanks, gentle Wilfrid, thanks,' she said :

1 O, be it not one day delayed !

And, more thy sister-friend to aid,

Be thou thyself content to hold

In thine own keeping Mortham's gold,

Safest with thee.' — While thus she spoke,

Armed soldiers on their converse broke,

The same of whose approach afraid
The ruffians left their ambuscade.
Their chief to Wilfrid bended low,
Then looked around as for a foe.
'What mean'st thou, friend,' young Wyc-

liffe said,
' Why thus in arms beset the glade ? ' —
' That would I gladly learn from you ;
For up my squadron as I drew
To exercise our martial game
Upon the moor of Barninghame,
A stranger told you were waylaid,
Surrounded, and to death betrayed.
He had a leader's voice, I ween,
A falcon glance, a warrior's mien.
He bade me bring you instant aid ;
I doubted not and I obeyed.'

Wilfrid changed color, and amazed
Turned short and on the speaker gazed,
While Redmond every thicket round
Tracked earnest as a questing hound,
And Denzil's carabine he found;
Sure evidence by which they knew
The warning was as kind as true.
Wisest it seemed with cautious speed
To leave the dell. It was agreed
That Redmond with Matilda fail*
And fitting guard should home repair :
At nightfall Wilfrid should attend
With a strong band his sister-friend,
To bear with her from Rokeby's bovvers
To Barnard Castle's lofty towers
Secret and safe the banded chests
In which the wealth of Mortham rests.
This hasty purpose fixed, they part,
Each with a grieved and anxious heart.


The sultry summer day is done,
The western hills have hid the sun,
But mountain peak and village spire
Retain reflection of his fire.
Old Barnard's towers are purple still
To those that gaze from Toller-hill ;
Distant and high, the tower of Bowes
Like steel upon the anvil glows ;
And Stanmore's ridge behind that lay
Rich with the spoils of parting day,
In crimson and in gold arrayed,
Streaks yet awhile the closing shade,



l «dS3&&*v

Then slow resigns to darkening heaven
The tints which brighter hours had given.
Thus aged men full loath and slow
The vanities of life forego,
And count their youthful follies o'er
Till memory lends her light no more.


The eve that slow on upland fades
Has darker closed on Rokeby's glades
Where, sunk within their banks profound,
Her guardian streams to meeting wound.
The stately oaks, whose sombre frown
Of noontide made a twilight brown,
Impervious now to fainter light,
Of twilight make an early night.
Hoarse into middle air arose
The vespers of the roosting crows,
And with congenial murmurs seem
To wake the Genii of the stream ;
For louder clamored Greta's tide,
And Tees in deeper voice replied
And fitful waked the evening wind,
Fitful in sighs its breath resigned.
Wilfrid, whose fancy-nurtured soul
Felt in the scene a soft control,
With lighter footstep pressed the ground,
And often paused to look around ;
And, though his path was to his love,
Could not but linger in the grove,
To drink the thrilling interest dear
Of awful pleasure checked by fear.

Such inconsistent moods have we,
Even when our passions strike the key.


Now, through the wood's dark mazes

The opening lawn he reached at last
Where, silvered by the moonlight ray,
The ancient Hall before him lay.
Those martial terrors long were fled
That frowned of old around its head :
The battlements, the turrets gray,
Seemed half abandoned to decay ;
On barbican and keep of stone
Stern Time the foeman's work had done.
Where banners the invader braved,
The harebell now and wallflower waved ;
In the rude guard-room where of yore
Their weary hours the warders wore,
Now, while the cheerful fagots blaze,
On the paved floor the spindle plays ;
The flanking guns dismounted lie,
The moat is ruinous and dry,
The grim portcullis gone — and all
The fortress turned to peaceful Hall.


But yet precautions lately ta'en
Showed danger's day revived again ;
The court-yard wall showed marks of care
The fall'n defences to repair,



Lending such strength as might withstand
The insult of marauding band.
The beams once more were taught to bear
The trembling drawbridge into air,
And not till questioned o'er and o'er
For Wilfrid oped the jealous door,
And when he entered bolt and bar
Resumed their place with sullen jar;
Then, as he crossed the vaulted porch,
The old gray porter raised his torch,
And viewed him o'er from foot to head
Ere to the hall his steps he led.
That huge old hall of knightly state
Dismantled seemed and desolate.
The moon through transom-shafts of stone
Which crossed the latticed oriels shone,
And by the mournful light she gave
The Gothic vault seemed funeral cave.
Pennon and banner waved no more
O'er beams of stag and tusks of boar,
Nor glimmering arms were marshalled seen
To glance those sylvan spoils between.
Those arms, those ensigns, borne away,
Accomplished Rokeby's brave array,
But all were lost on Marston's day!
Yet here and there the moonbeams fall
Where armor yet adorns the wall,
Cumbrous of size, uncouth to sight,
And useless in the modern fight,
Like veteran relic of the wars
Known only by neglected scars.


Matilda soon to greet him came,

And bade them light the evening flame ;

Said all for parting was prepared,

And tarried but for Wilfrid's guard.

But then, reluctant to unfold

His father's avarice of gold,

He hinted that lest jealous eye

Should on their precious burden pry,

He judged it best the castle gate

To enter when the night wore late ;

And therefore he had left command

With those he trusted of his band

That they should be at Rokeby met

What time the midnight-watch was set.

Now Redmond came, whose anxious care

Till then was busied to prepare

All needful, meetly to arrange

The mansion for its mournful change.

With Wilfrid's care and kindness pleased,

His cold unready hand he seized,

And pressed it till his kindly strain

The gentle vouth returned again.

Seemed as between them this was said,

4 Awhile let jealousy be dead,

And let our contest be whose care

Shall best assist this helpless fair.'


There was no speech the truce to bind ;

It was a compact of the mind,

A generous thought at once impressed

On either rival's generous breast.

Matilda well the secret took

From sudden change of mien and look,

And — for not small had been her fear

Of jealous ire and danger near —

Felt even in her dejected state

A joy beyond the reach of fate.

They closed beside the chimney's blaze,

And talked, and hoped for happier days,

And lent their spirits' rising glow

Awhile to gild impending woe —

High privilege of youthful time,

Worth all the pleasures of our prime !

The bickering fagot sparkled bright

And gave the scene of love to sight,

Bade Wilfrid's cheek more lively glow,

Played on Matilda's neck of snow,

Her nut-brown curls and forehead high,

And laughed in Redmond's azure eye.

Two lovers by the maiden sate

Without a glance of jealous hate ;

The maid her lovers sat between

With open brow and equal mien ;

It is a sight but rarely spied,

Thanks to man's wrath and woman's pride.

While thus in peaceful guise they sate
A knock alarmed the outer gate,
And ere the tardy porter stirred
The tinkling of a harp was heard.
A manly voice of mellow swell
Bore burden to the music well : —


' Summer eve is gone and past,
Summer dew is falling fast ;
I have wandered all the day,
Do not bid me farther stray !
Gentle hearts of gentle kin,
Take the wandering harper in! '

But the stern porter answer gave,
With ' Get thee hence, thou strolling knave !
The king wants soldiers ; war, I trow,
Were meeter trade for such as thou.'
At this unkind reproof again
Answered the ready Minstrel's strain :

Song Ifosumeo.

' Bid not me, in battle-field,
Buckler lift or broadsword wield !
All my strength and all my art
Is to touch the gentle heart
With the wizard notes that ring
From the peaceful minstrel-string.'



The porter, all unmoved, replied, —
' Depart in peace, with Heaven to guide
If longer by the gate thou dwell,
Trust me, thou shalt not part so well.'


With somewhat of appealing look
The harper's part young Wilfrid took :
1 These notes so wild and ready thrill,


Song 3ftesutnrtJ.

1 1 have song of war for knight,
Lay of love for lady bright,
Fairy tale to lull the heir,
Goblin grim the maids to scare.
Dark the night and long till day,
Do not bid me farther stray!

They show no vulgar minstrel's skill ;

Hard were his task to seek a home

More distant, since the night is come;

And for his faith I dare engage —

Your Harpool's blood is soured by age ;

His gate, once readily displayed

To greet the friend, the poor to aid,

Now even to me though known of old

Did but reluctantly unfold.' —

1 O blame not as poor Harpool's crime

An evil of this evil time.

He deems dependent on his care

The safety of his patron's heir,

Nor judges meet to ope the tower

To guest unknown at parting hour,

Urging his duty to excess

Of rough and stubborn faithfulness.

For this poor harper, I would fain

He may relax : — hark to his strain ! '

1 Rokeby's lords of martial fame,
I can count them name by name;
Legends of their line there be,
Known to few but known to me ;
If you honor Rokeby's kin,
Take the wandering harper in !

1 Rokeby's lords had fair regard
For the harp and for the bard ;
Baron's race throve never well
Where the curse of minstrel fell.
If you love that noble kin,
Take the weary harper in ! '

1 Hark ! Harpool parleys — there is hope '
Said Redmond, ' that the gate will ope.' —
4 For all thy brag and boast, I trow, .
Naught knowest thou of the Felon Sow,'



Quoth Harpool, ' nor how Greta-side
She roamed and Rokeby forest wide ;
Nor how Ralph Rokeby gave the beast
To Richmond's friars to make a feast.
Of Gilbert Griffinson the tale
Goes, and of gallant Peter Dale
That well could strike with sword amain,
And of the valiant son of Spain,
Friar Middleton, and blithe Sir Ralph ;
There were a jest to make us laugh !
If thou canst tell it, in yon shed,
Thou 'st won thy supper and thy bed.'

Matilda smiled ; ' Cold hope,' said she,
' From Harpool's love of minstrelsy !
But for this harper may we dare,
Redmond, to mend his couch and fare ? ' -
' O, ask me not ! — At minstrel-string
My heart from infancy would spring ;
Nor can I hear its simplest strain
But it brings Erin's dream again,
When placed by Owen Lysagh's knee —
The Filea of O'Neale was he,
A blind and bearded man whose eld
Was sacred as a prophet's held —
I 've seen a ring of rugged kerne,
With aspects shaggy, wild, and stern,
Enchanted by the master's lay,
Linger around the livelong day,
Shift from wild rage to wilder glee,
To love, to grief, to ecstasy,
And feel each varied change of soul
Obedient to the bard's control. —
Ah, Clandeboy ! thy friendly floor
Slieve-Donard's oak shall light no more ;
Nor Owen's harp beside the blaze
Tell maiden's love or hero's praise !
The mantling brambles hide thy hearth,
Centre of hospitable mirth ;
All undistinguished in the glade,
My sires' glad home is prostrate laid,
Their vassals wander wide and far,
Serve foreign lords in distant war,
And now the stranger's sons enjoy
The lovely woods of Clandeboy !
He spoke, and proudly turned aside
The starting tear to dry and hide.

Matilda's dark and softened eye

Was glistening ere O'Neale's was dry.

Her hand upon his arm she laid, —

' It is the will of Heaven,' she said.

' And think'st thou, Redmond, I can part

From this loved home with lightsome

Leaving to wild neglect whate'er
Even from my infancy was dear ?
For in this calm domestic bound

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 30 of 78)