Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Were all Matilda's pleasures found.

That hearth my sire was wont to grace

Full soon may be a stranger's place ;

This hall in which a child I played

Like thine, dear Redmond, lowly laid,

The bramble and the thorn may braid ;

Or, passed for aye from me and mine,

It ne'er may shelter Rokeby's line.

Yet is this consolation given,

My Redmond, — 'tis the will of Heaven.'

Her word, her action, and her phrase

Were kindly as in early days ;

For cold reserve had lost its power

In sorrow's sympathetic hour.

Young Redmond dared not trust his voice ;

But rather had it been his choice

To share that melancholy hour

Than, armed with all a chieftain's power,

In full possession to enjoy

Slieve-Donard wide and Clandeboy.


The blood left Wilfrid's ashen cheek,

Matilda sees and hastes to speak. —

1 Happy in friendship's ready aid,

Let all my murmurs here be staid !

And Rokeby's maiden will not part

From Rokeby's hall with moody heart.

This night at least for Rokeby's fame

The hospitable hearth shall flame,

And ere its native heir retire

Find for the wanderer rest and fire,

While this poor harper by the blaze

Recounts the tale of other days.

Bid Harpool ope the door with speed,

Admit him and relieve each need. —

Meantime, kind Wycliffe, wilt thou try

Thy minstrel skill ? — Nay, no reply - —

And look not sad ! — I guess thy thought ;

Thy verse with laurels would be bought,

And poor Matilda, landless now,

Has not a garland for thy brow.

True, I must leave sweet Rokeby's glades,

Nor wander more in Greta shades ;

But sure, no rigid jailer, thou

Wilt a short prison-walk allow

Where summer flowers grow wild at will

On Marwood-chase and Toller Hill ;

Then holly green and lily gay

Shall twine in guerdon of thy lay.'

The mournful youth a space aside

To tune Matilda's harp applied,

And then a low sad descant rung

As prelude to the lay he sung.


tZLfye Cgpress WLxtufy.

' O, lady, twine no wreath for me,
Or twine it of the cypress-tree !



! Too lively glow the lilies light,
j The varnished holly 's all too bright,
The May-flower and the eglantine
May shade a brow less sad than mine ;
But, lady, weave no wreath for me,
Or weave it of the cypress-tree !

1 Let dimpled Mirth his temples twine
With tendrils of the laughing vine ;
The manly oak, the pensive yew,
•To patriot and to sage be due ;
The myrtle bough bids lovers live,
But that Matilda will not give ;
Then, lady, twine no wreath for me,
Or twine it of the cypress-tree !

' Let merry England proudly rear

Her blended roses bought so dear;

Let Albin bind her bonnet blue

With heath and harebell dipped in dew :

On favored Erin's crest be seen

The flower she loves of emerald green —

But, lady, twine no wreath for me.

Or twine it of the cypress-tree.

' Strike the wild harp while maids prepare
The ivy meet for minstrel's hair ;
And, while his crown of laurel-leaves
With bloody hand the victor weaves,
Let the loud trump his triumph tell ;
But when you hear the passing-bell,
Then, lady, twine a wreath for me,
And twine it of the cypress-tree.

1 Yes ! twine for me the cypress-bough ;
But, O Matilda, twine not now !
Stay till a few brief months are past,
And I have looked and loved my last !
When villagers my shroud bestrew
With pansies, rosemary, and rue, —
Then, lady, weave a wreath for me,
And weave it of the cypress-tree.'


O'Neale observed the starting tear,

And spoke with kind and blithesome

cheer —
' No, noble Wilfrid ! ere the day
When mourns the land thy silent lay,
Shall many a wreath be freely wove
By hand of friendship and of love.
I would not wish that rigid Fate
Had doomed thee to a captive's state,
Whose hands are bound by honor's law,
Who wears a sword he must not draw ;
But were it so, in minstrel pride
The land together would we ride
On prancing steeds, like harpers old,
Bound for the halls of barons bold ;

Each lover of the lyre we 'd seek
From Michael's Mount to Skiddaw's Peak,
Survey wild Albin's mountain strand,
And roam green Erin's lovely land,
While thou the gentler souls should move
With lay of pity and of love,
And I, thy mate, in rougher s f rain
Would sing of war and warriors slain.
Old England's bards were vanquished then,
And Scotland's vaunted Hawthornden,
And, silenced on Iernian shore,
M'Curtin's harp should charm no more ! '
In lively mood he spoke to wile
From Wilfrid's woe-worn cheek a smile.


• But,' said Matilda, ' ere thy name,

Good Redmond, gain its destined fame,

Say, wilt thou kindly deign to call

Thy brother-minstrel to the hall ?

Bid all the household too attend.

Each in his rank a humble friend ;

I know their faithful hearts will grieve

When their poor mistress takes her leave ;

So let the horn and beaker flow

To mitigate their parting woe.'

The harper came ; — in youth's first prime

Himself ; in mode of olden time

His garb was fashioned, to express

The ancient English minstrel's dress,

A seemly gown of Kendal green

With gorget closed of silver sheen ;

His harp in silken scarf was slung.

And by his side an anlace hung.

It seemed some masquer's quaint array

For revel or for holiday.


He made obeisance with a free
Yet studied air of courtesy.
Each look and accent framed to please
Seemed to affect a playful ease ;
His face was of that doubtful kind
That wins the eye, but not the mind ;
Yet harsh it seemed to deem amiss
Of brow so young and smooth as this.
His was the subtle look and sly
That, spying all, seems naught to spy ;
Round all the group his glances stole,
Unmarked themselves, to mark the whole.
Yet sunk beneath Matilda's look,
Nor could the eye of Redmond brook.
To the suspicious or the old
Subtle and dangerous and bold
Had seemed this self-invited guest ;
But young our lovers, — and the rest,
Wrapt in their sorrow and their fear
At parting of their Mistress dear,



Tear-blinded to the castle-hall
Came as to bear her funeral pall.


All that expression base was gone

When waked the guest his minstrel tone ;

It fled at inspiration's call,

As erst the demon fled from Saul.

More noble glance he cast around,

More free-drawn breath inspired the sound,

His pulse beat bolder and more high

In all the pride of minstrelsy !

Alas ! too soon that pride was o'er,

Sunk with the lay that bade it soar !

His soul resumed with habit's chain

Its vices wild and follies vain,

And gave the talent with him born,

To be a common curse and scorn.

Such was the youth whom Rokeby's maid

With condescending kindness prayed

Here to renew the strains she loved,

At distance heard and well approved.




I was a wild and wayward boy,

My childhood scorned each childish toy ;

Retired from all, reserved and coy,

To musing prone,
I wooed my solitary joy,

My Harp alone.

My youth with bold ambition's mood
Despised the humble stream and wood
Where my poor father's cottage stood,

To fame unknown ; —
What should my soaring views make good ?

My Harp alone !

Love came with all his frantic fire,
And wild romance of vain desire :
The baron's daughter heard my lyre

And praised the tone ; —
What could presumptuous hope inspire ?

My Harp alone !

At manhood's touch the bubble burst,
And manhood's pride the vision curst,
And all that had my folly nursed

Love's sway to own ;
Yet spared the spell that lulled me first.

My Harp alone !

Woe came with war, and want with woe,
And it was mine to undergo
Each outrage of the rebel foe : —

Can aught atone
My fields laid waste, my cot laid low ?

My Harp alone !

Ambition's dreams I 've seen depart,
Have rued of penury the smart,
Have felt of love the venomed dart,

When hope was flown;
Yet rests one solace to my heart, —

My Harp alone !

Then over mountain, moor, and hill,
My faithful Harp, I '11 bear thee still ;
And when this life of want and ill

Is wellnigh gone,
Thy strings mine elegy shall thrill,

My Harp alone !

• A pleasing lay ! ' Matilda said ;

But Harpool shook his old gray head,

And took his baton and his torch

To seek his guard-room in the porch.

Edmund observed — with sudden change

Among the strings his fingers range,

Until they waked a bolder glee

Of military melody ;

Then paused amid the martial sound,

And looked with well-feigned fear around ; —

' None to this noble house belong,'

He said, 'that would a minstrel wrong

Whose fate has been through good and ill

To love his Royal Master still,

And with your honored leave would fain

Rejoice you with a loyal strain.'

Then, as assured by sign and look,

The warlike tone again he took ;

And Harpool stopped and turned to hear

A ditty of the Cavalier.




While the dawn on the mountain was misty

and gray,
My true love has mounted his steed and

Over hill, over valley, o'er dale, and o'er

down ;
Heaven shield the brave gallant that fights

for the Crown !

He has doffed the silk doublet the breast-
plate to bear,

He has placed the steel-cap o'er his long-
flowing hair,

From his belt to his stirrup his broadsword
hangs down, —

Heaven shield the brave gallant that fights
for the Crown !



For the rights of fair England that broad-
sword he draws,

Her King is his leader, her Church is his
cause ;

His watch word is honor, his pay is renown, —

God strike with the gallant that strikes for
the Crown !

They may boast of their ^airfax, their
Waller, and all

The roundheaded rebels of Westminster
Hall ;

But tell these bold traitors . of London's
proud town,

That the spears of the North have encir-
cled the Crown.

There 's Derby and Cavendish, dread of

their foes ;
There's Erin's high Ormond and Scotland's

Montrose !
Would you match the base Skippon, and

Massey, and Brown,
With the Barons of England that fight for

the Crown ?

Now joy to the crest of the brave Cavalier!
Be his banner unconquered, resistless his

Till in peace and in triumph his toils he

may drown,
In a pledge to fair England, her Church,

and her Crown.


1 Alas ! ' Matilda said, ' that strain,
Good harper, now is heard in vain !
The time has been at such a sound
When Rokeby's vassals gathered round,
An hundred manly hearts would bound ;
But now, the stirring verse we hear
Like trump in dying soldier's ear!
Listless and sad the notes we own,
The power to answer them is flown.
Yet not without his meet applause
Be he that sings the rightful cause,
Even when the crisis of its fate
To human eye seems desperate.
While Rokeby's heir such power retains,
Let this slight guerdon pay thy pains : —
And lend thy harp ; I fain would try
If my poor skill can aught supply,
Ere yet I leave my fathers' hall,
To mourn the cause in which we fall.'


The harper with a downcast look
And trembling hand her bounty took.
As yet the conscious pride of art
Had steeled him in his treacherous part ;
A powerful spring of force unguessed
That hath each gentler mood suppressed,
And reigned in many a human breast,
From his that plans the red campaign
To his that wastes the woodland reign.



The failing wing, the blood-shot eye
The sportsman marks with apathy,
Each feeling of his victim's ill
Drowned in his own successful skill.
The veteran, too, who now no more
Aspires to head the battle's roar,
Loves still the triumph of his art,
And traces on the pencilled chart
Some stern invader's destined way
Through blood and ruin to his prey ;
Patriots to death, and towns to flame
He dooms, to raise another's name,
And shares the guilt, though not the fame.
What pays him for his span of time
Spent in premeditating crime ?
What against pity arms his heart?
It is the conscious pride of art.


But principles in Edmund's mind
Were baseless, vague, and undefined.
His soul, like bark with rudder lost,
On passion's changeful tide was tost ;
Nor vice nor virtue had the power
Beyond the impression of the hour ;
And O, when passion rules, how rare
The hours that fall to Virtue's share !
Yet now she roused her — for the pride
That lack of sterner guilt supplied
Could scarce support him when arose
The lay that mourned Matilda's woes.



' The sound of Rokeby's woods I hear,

They mingle with the song :
Dark Greta's voice is in mine ear,

I must not hear them long.
From every loved and native haunt

The native heir must stray,
And, like a ghost whom sunbeams daunt,

Must part before the day.

' Soon from the halls my fathers reared,

Their scutcheons may descend,
A line so long beloved and feared

May soon obscurely end.
No longer here Matilda's tone

Shall bid these echoes swell ;
Yet shall they hear her proudly own

The cause in which we fell.'

The lady paused, and then again
Resumed the lay in loftier strain. —


4 Let our halls and towers decay,
Be our name and line forgot,

Lands and manors pass away, —
We but share our monarch's lot.

If no more our annals show
Battles won and banners taken,

Still in death, defeat, and woe,
Ours be loyalty unshaken !

' Constant still in danger's hour,

Princes owned our fathers' aid ;
Lands and honors, wealth and power,

Well their loyalty repaid.
Perish wealth and power and pride,

Mortal boons by mortals given !
But let constancy abide,

Constancy 's the gift of Heaven.


While thus Matilda's lay was heard,

A thousand thoughts in Edmund stirred.

In peasant life he might have known

As fair a face, as sweet a tone ;

But village notes could ne'er supply

That rich and varied melody,

And ne'er in cottage maid was seen

The easy dignity of mien,

Claiming respect yet waiving state,

That marks the daughters of the great.

Yet not perchance had these alone

His scheme of purposed guilt o'erthrown ;

But while her energy of mind

Superior rose to griefs combined,

Lending its kindling to her eye,

Giving her form new majesty, —

To Edmund's thought Matilda seemed

The very object he had dreamed

When, long ere guilt his soul had known.

In Winston bowers he mused alone,

Taxing his fancy to combine

The face, the air, the voice divine.

Of princess fair by cruel fate

Reft of her honors, power, and state,

Till to her rightful realm restored

By destined hero's conquering sword.


' Such was my vision ! ' Edmund thought ;

* And have I then the ruin wrought

Of such a maid that fancy ne'er

In fairest vision formed her peer ?

Was it my hand that could unclose

The postern to her ruthless foes ?

Foes lost to honor, law, and faith,

Their kindest mercy sudden death !

Have I done this? I, who have swore

That if the globe such angel bore,

I would have traced its circle broad

To kiss the ground on which she trode ! —

And now — O, would that earth would rive

And close uDon me while alive ! —



Is there no hope ? — is all then lost ? —

Bertram 's already on his post ! ,

Even now beside the hall's arched door

I saw his shadow cross the floor !

He was to wait my signal strain —

A little respite thus we gain :

By what I heard the menials say,

Young Wycliffe's troop are on their way -

Alarm precipitates the crime !

My harp must wear away the time.' —

And then in accents faint and low

He faltered forth a tale of woe.



' " And whither would you lead me then ?

Quoth the friar of orders gray ;
And the ruffians twain replied again,

" By a dying woman to pray." —

' " I see," he said, " a lovely sight,

A sight bodes little harm,
A lady as a lily bright

With an infant on her arm." —

1 " Then do thine office, friar gray,
And see thou shrive her free !

Else shall the sprite that parts to-night
Fling all its guilt on thee.

' " Let mass be said and trentrals read
When thou 'rt to convent gone,

And bid the bell of Saint Benedict
Toll out its deepest tone."

1 The shrift is done, the friar is gone,

Blindfolded as he came —
Next morning all in Littlecot Hall

Were weeping for their dame.

' Wild Darrell is an altered man,

The village crones can tell ;
He looks pale as clay and strives to pray,

If he hears the convent bell.

1 If prince or peer cross Darrell's way,
He '11 beard him in his pride —

If he meet a friar of orders gray,
He droops and turns aside.'


* Harper ! methinks thy magic lays,'
Matilda said, 'can goblins raise !
Wellnigh my fancy can discern
Near the dark porch a visage stern ;
E'en now in yonder shadowy nook
I see it ! — Redmond, Wilfrid, look ! — *
"A human form distinct and clear —

God, for thy mercy ! — It draws near ! '

She saw too true. Stride after stride,

The centre of that chamber wide

Fierce Bertram gained ; then made a stand,

And, proudly waving with his hand,

Thundered — ' Be still, upon your lives ! —

He bleeds who speaks, he dies who strives.'

Behind their chief the robber crew,

Forth from the darkened portal drew

In silence — save that echo dread

Returned their heavy measured tread.

The lamp's uncertain lustre gave

Their arms to gleam, their plumes to wave ;

File after file in order pass,

Like forms on Banquo's mystic glass.

Then, halting at their leader's sign,

At once they formed and curved their line,

Hemming within its crescent drear

Their victims like a herd of deer.

Another sign, and to the aim

Levelled at once their muskets came.

As waiting but their chieftain's word

To make their fatal volley heard.


Back in a heap the menials drew ;

Yet, even in mortal terror true,

Their pale and startled group oppose

Between Matilda and the foes.

' O, haste thee, Wilfrid ! ' Redmond cried ;

' Undo that wicket by thy side !

Bear hence Matilda — gain the wood

The pass may be awhile made good —

Thy band ere this must sure be nigh —

speak not — dally not — but fly ! '
While yet the crowd their motions hide,
Through the low wicket door they glide.
Through vaulted passages they wind,

In Gothic intricacy twined ;

Wilfrid half led and half he bore

Matilda to the postern door,

And safe beneath the forest tree,

The lady stands at liberty.

The moonbeams, the fresh gale's caress,

Renewed suspended consciousness ; —

' Where 's Redmond ? ' eagerly she cries :

1 Thou answer'st not — he dies ! he dies !
And thou hast left him all bereft

Of mortal aid — with murderers left !
I know it well — he would not yield
His sword to man — his doom is sealed !
For my scorned life, which thou hast bought
At price of his, I thank thee not.'


The unjust reproach, the angry look,
The heart of Wilfrid could not brook.
' Lady,' he said, ' my band so near,
In. safety thou mayst rest thee here.



For Redmond's death thou shalt not mourn.
If mine can buy his safe return.'
He turned away — his heart throbbed high,
The tear was bursting from his eye ;
The sense of her injustice pressed
Upon the maid's distracted breast, —
' Stay, Wilfrid, stay ! all aid is vain ! '
He heard but turned him not again !
He reaches now the postern-door,
Now enters — and is seen no more.


With all the agony that e'er
Was gendered 'twixt suspense and fear,
She watched the line of windows tall
Whose Gothic lattice lights the Hall,
Distinguished by the paly red
The lamps in dim reflection shed,
While all beside in wan moonlight
Each grated casement glimmered white.
No sight of harm, no sound of ill,
It is a deep and midnight still.
Who looked upon the scene had guessed
All in the castle were at rest —
When sudden on the windows shone
A lightning flash just seen and gone !
A shot is heard — again the flame
Flashed thick and fast — a volley came !
Then echoed wildly from within
Of shout and scream the mingled din,
And weapon-clash and maddening cry,
Of those who kill and those who die ! —
As filled the hall with sulphurous smoke,
More red, more dark, the death-flash broke,
And forms were on the lattice cast
That struck or struggled as they past.


What sounds upon the midnight wind

Approach so rapidly behind ?

It is, it is, the tramp of steeds,

Matilda hears the sound, she speeds,

Seizes upon the leader's rein —

' O, haste to aid ere aid be vain !

Fly to the postern — gain the hall ! '

From saddle spring the troopers all ;

Their gallant steeds at liberty

Run wild along the moonlight lea.

But ere they burst upon the scene

Full stubborn had the conflict been.

When Bertram marked Matilda's flight,

1 1 gave the signal for the fight ;

And Kokeby's veterans, seamed with scars

Of Scotland's and of Erin's wars,

Their momentary panic o'er,

Stood to the arms which then they bore —

For they were weaponed and prepared

Their mistress on her way to guard.

Then cheered them to the fight O'Neale.

Then pealed the shot, and clashed the steel;
The war-smoke soon with sable breath
Darkened the scene of blood and death,
While on the few defenders close
The bandits with redoubled blows,
And, twice driven back, yet fierce and fell
Renew the charge with frantic yell.


Wilfrid has fallen — but o'er him stood
Young Redmond soiled with smoke and

Cheering his mates with heart and hand
Still to make good their desperate stand :
1 Up, comrades, up ! In Rokeby halls
Ne'er be it said our courage falls.
What ! faint ye for their savage cry,
Or do the smoke-wreaths daunt your eye?
These rafters have returned a shout
As loud at Rokeby's wassail rout,
As thick a smoke these hearths have given
At Hallow-tide or Christmas-even.
Stand to it yet ! renew the fight
For Rokeby's and Matilda's right !
These slaves ! they dare not hand to hand
Bide buffet from a true man's brand.'
Impetuous, active, fierce, and young,
Upon the advancing foes he sprung.
Woe to the wretch at whom is bent
His brandished falchion's sheer descent !
Backward they scattered as he came,
Like wolves before the levin flame,
When, mid their howling conclave driven.
Hath glanced the thunderbolt of heaven.
Bertram rushed on — but Harpool clasped
His knees, although in death he gasped,
His falling corpse before him flung,
And round the trammelled ruffian clung.
Just then the soldiers filled the dome,
And shouting charged the felons home
So fiercely that in panic dread
They broke, they yielded, fell, or fled,
Bertram's stern voice they heed no more,
Though heard above the battle's roar;
While, trampling down the dying man,
He strove with volleyed threat and ban
In scorn of odds, in fate's despite,
To rally up the desperate fight.

Soon murkier clouds the hall enfold
Than e'er from battle-thunders rolled,
So dense the combatants scarce know
To aim or to avoid the blow.
Smothering and blindfold grows the fight —
But soon shall dawn a dismal light !
Mid cries and clashing arms there came
The hollow sound of rushing flame ;
New horrors on the tumult dire
Arise — the castle is on fire !



Doubtful if chance had cast the brand
Or frantic Bertram's desperate hand.
Matilda saw — for frequent broke
From the dim casements gusts of smoke,
Yon tower, which late so clear denned
On the fair hemisphere reclined
That, pencilled on its azure pure,
The eye could count each embrasure,
Now, swathed within the sweeping cloud.
Seems giant-spectre in his shroud ;

Till, from each loop-hole flashing light,
A spout of fire shines ruddy bright,
And, gathering to united glare,
Streams high into the midnight air ;
A dismal beacon, far and wide
That wakened Greta's slumbering side.
Soon all beneath, through gallery long
And pendent arch, the fire flashed strong,
Snatching whatever could maintain,
Raise, or extend its furious reign ;



Startling with closer cause of dread
The females who the conflict fled,
And now rushed forth upon the plain,
Filling the air with clamors vain.


But ceased not yet the hall within

The shriek, the shout, .the carnage-din,

Till bursting lattices give proof

The flames have caught the raftered roof.

What ! wait they till its beams amain

Crash on the slayers and the slain ?

The alarm is caught — the drawbridge falls,

The warriors hurry from the walls,

But by the conflagration's light

Upon the lawn renew the fight.

Each straggling felon down was hewed,

Not one could gain the sheltering wood ;

But forth the affrighted harper sprung,

And to Matilda's robe he clung.

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 31 of 78)