Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

. (page 32 of 78)
Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 32 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Her shriek, entreaty, and command

Stopped the pursuer's lifted hand.

Denzil and he alive were ta'en ;

The rest save Bertram all are slain.


And where is Bertram? — Soaring high,
The general flame ascends the sky ;
In gathered group the soldiers gaze
Upon the broad and roaring blaze,
When, like infernal demon, sent
Red from his penal element,
To plague and to pollute the air,
His face all gore, on fire his hair,
Forth from the central mass of smoke
The giant form of Bertram broke !
His brandished sword on high he rears,
Then plunged among opposing spears ;
Round his left arm his mantle trussed,
Received and foiled three lances' thrust;
Nor these his headlong course withstood,
Like reeds he snapped the tough ashwood.
In vain his foes around him clung;
With matchless force aside he flung
Their boldest, — as the bull at bay
Tosses the ban-dogs from his way,
Through forty foes his path he made,
And safely gained the forest glade.


Scarce was this final conflict o'er
When from the postern Redmond bore
Wilfrid, who, as of life bereft,
Had in the fatal hall been left,
Deserted there by all his train;
But Redmond saw and turned again.
Beneath an oak he laid him down
That in the blaze gleamed ruddy brown,
And then his mantle's clasp undid ;

Matilda held his drooping head,
Till, given to breathe the freer air,
Returning life repaid their care.
He gazed on them with heavy sigh, —
' I could have wished even thus to die !
No more he said, ^— for now with speed
Each trooper had regained his steed ;
The ready palfreys stood arrayed
For Redmond and for Rokeby's maid ;
Two Wilfrid on his horse sustain,
One leads his charger by the rein.
But oft Matilda looked behind,
As up the vale of Tees they wind,
Where far the mansion of her sires
Beaconed the dale with midnight fires.
In gloomy arch above them spread,
The clouded heaven lowered bloody red ;
Beneath in sombre light the flood
Appeared to roll in waves of blood.
Then one by one was heard to fall
The tower, the donjon-keep, the hall.
Each rushing down with thunder sound
A space the conflagration drowned ;
Till gathering strength again it rose,
Announced its triumph in its close,
Shook wide its light the landscape o'er,
Then sunk — and Rokeby was no more !



The summer sun, whose early power
Was wont to gild Matilda's bower
And rouse her with his matin ray
Her duteous orisons to pay,
That morning sun has three times seen
The flowers unfold on Rokeby green,
But sees no more the slumbers fly
From fair Matilda's hazel eye ;
That morning sun has three times broke
On Rokeby's glades of elm and oak,
But, rising from their sylvan screen,
Marks no gray turrets glance between.
A shapeless mass lie keep and tower,
That, hissing to the morning shower,
Can but with smouldering vapor pay
The early smile of summer day.
The peasant, to his labor bound,
Pauses to view the blackened mound,
Striving amid the ruined space
Each well-remembered spot to trace.
That length of frail and fire-scorched wall
Once screened the hospitable hall ;



When yonder broken arch was whole,
'T was there was dealt the weekly dole ;
And where yon tottering columns nod
The chapel sent the hymn to God.
So flits the world's uncertain span !
Nor zeal for God nor love for man
Gives mortal monuments a date
Beyond the power of Time and Fate.
The towers must share the builder's doom;
Ruin is theirs, and his a tomb :
But better boon benignant Heaven
To Faith and Charity has given,
And bids the Christian hope sublime
Transcend the bounds of Fate and Time.


Now the third night of summer came
Since that which witnessed Rokeby's flame.
On Brignall cliffs and Scargill brake
The owlet's homilies awake,
The bittern screamed from rush and flag,
The raven slumbered on his crag,
Forth from his den the otter drew, —
Grayling and trout their tyrant knew,

As between reed and sedge he peers,
With fierce round snout and sharpened

Or prowling by the moonbeam cool
Watches the stream or swims the pool ; —
Perched on his wonted eyrie high,
Sleep sealed the tercelet's wearied eye,
That all the day had watched so well
The cushat dart across the dell.
In dubious beam reflected shone
That lofty cliff of pale gray stone
Beside whose base the secret cave
To rapine late a refuge gave.
The crag's wild crest of copse and yew
On Greta's breast dark shadows threw,
Shadows that met or shunned the sight
With every change of fitful light,
As hope and fear alternate chase
Our course through life's uncertain race.


Gliding by crag and copsewood green,

A solitary form was seen

To trace with stealthy pace the wold,



Like fox that seeks the midnight fold,
And pauses oft, and cowers dismayed
At every breath that stirs the shade.
He passes now the ivy bush, —
The owl has seen him and is hush ;
He passes now the doddered oak, —
He heard the startled raven croak ;
Lower and lower he descends,
Rustle the leaves, the brushwood bends ;
The otter hears him tread the shore,
And dives and is beheld no more ;
And by the cliff of pale gray stone
The midnight wanderer stands alone.
Methinks that by the moon we trace
A well-remembered form and face !
That stripling shape, that cheek so pale,
Combine to tell a rueful tale,
Of powers misused, of passion's force,
Of guilt, of grief, and of remorse !
'T is Edmund's eye at every sound
That flings that guilty glance around ;
'T is Edmund's trembling haste divides
The brushwood that the cavern hides ;
And when its narrow porch lies bare
'T is Edmund's form that enters there.


His flint and steel have sparkled bright,
A lamp hath lent the cavern light.
Fearful and quick his eye surveys
Each angle of the gloomy maze.
Since last he left that stern abode,
It seemed as none its floor had trode;
Untouched appeared the various spoil,
The purchase of his comrades' toil;
Masks and disguises grimed with mud,
Arms broken and defiled with blood,
And all the nameless tools that aid
Night-felons in their lawless trade,
Upon the gloomy walls were hung
Or lay in nooks obscurely flung.
Still on the sordid board appear
The relics of the noontide cheer:
Flagons and emptied flasks were there,
And bench o'erthrown and shattered chair;
And all around the semblance showed,
As when the final revel glowed,
When the red sun was setting fast
And parting pledge Guy Denzil past.
1 To Rokeby treasure-vaults ! ' they quaffed,
And shouted loud and wildly laughed,
Poured maddening from the rocky door,
And parted — to return no more !
Thev found in Rokeby vaults their doom,—
A bloody death, a burning tomb!


There his own peasant dress he spies,
Doffed to assume that quaint disguise,

And shuddering thought upon his glee

When pranked in garb of minstrelsy.

' O, be the fatal art accurst,'

He cried, ' that moved my folly first,

Till, bribed by bandits' base applause,

I burst through God's and Nature's laws !

Three summer days are scantly past

Since I have trod this cavern last,

A thoughtless wretch, and prompt to err —

But O, as yet no murderer !

Even now I list my comrades' cheer,

That general laugh is in mine ear

Which raised my pulse and steeled my heart,

As I rehearsed my treacherous part —

And would that all since then could seem

The phantom of a fever's dream !

But fatal memory notes too well

The horrors of the dying yell

From my despairing mates that broke

When flashed the fire and rolled the smoke,

When the avengers shouting came

And hemmed us 'twixt the sword and flame !

My frantic flight - the lifted brand —

That angel's interposing hand ! —

If for my life from slaughter freed

I yet could pay some grateful meed !

Perchance this object of my quest

May aid ' — he turned nor spoke the rest.

Due northward from the rugged hearth

With paces five he meets the earth,

Then toiled with mattock to explore

The entrails of the cavern floor,

Nor paused till deep beneath the ground

His search a small steel casket found.

Just as he stooped to loose its hasp

His shoulder felt a giant grasp ;

He started and looked up aghast,

Then shrieked ! — 'T was Bertram held him

1 Fear not ! ' he said ; but who could hear
That deep stern voice and cease to fear?
1 Fear not ! — By heaven, he shakes as much
As partridge in the falcon's clutch : '
He raised him and unloosed his hold,
While from the opening casket rolled
A chain and reliquaire of gold.
Bertram beheld it with surprise,
Gazed on its fashion and device,
Then, cheering Edmund as he could,
Somewhat he smoothed his rugged mood,
For still the youth's half-lifted eye
Quivered with terror's agony,
And sidelong glanced as to explore
In meditated flight the door.
1 Sit,' Bertram said, ' from danger free :
Thou canst not and thou shalt not flee.
Chance brings me hither; hill and plain
I 've sought for refuge-place in vain.



And tell me now, thou aguish boy,

What makest thou here ? what means this

Denzil and thou, I marked, were ta'en ;
What lucky chance unbound your chain ?
I deemed, long since on Baliol's tower,
Your heads were warped with sun and

Tell me the whole — and mark ! naught e'er
Chafes me like falsehood or like fear.'
Gathering his courage to his aid
But trembling still, the youth obeyed.


* Denzil and I two nights passed o'er

In fetters on the dungeon floor.

A guest the third sad morrow brought ; .

Our hold, dark Oswald Wycliffe sought,

And eyed my comrade long askance

With fixed and penetrating glance.

"Guy Denzil art thou called ?"—" The

" At Court who served wild Buckinghame ;
Thence banished, won a keeper's place,
So Villi ers willed, in Marwood-chase ;
That lost — I need not tell thee why —
Thou madest thy wit thy wants supply,
Then fought for Rokeby : — have I guessed
My prisoner right ? " — " At thy behest." —
He paused awhile, and then went on
With low and confidential tone ; —
Me, as I judge, not then he saw
Close nestled in my couch of straw. —
" List to me, Guy. Thou know'st the great
Have frequent need of what they hate :
Hence, in their favor oft we see
Unscrupled, useful men like thee.
Were I disposed to bid thee live,
What pledge of faith hast thou to give ? "


' The ready fiend who never yet
Hath failed to sharpen Denzil's wit
Prompted his lie — " His only child
Should rest his pledge." —The baron smiled,
And turned to me — " Thou art his son ? "
I bowed — our fetters were undone,
And we were led to hear apart
A dreadful lesson of his art.
Wilfrid, he said, his heir and son,
Had fair Matilda's favor won ;
And long since had their union been
But for her father's bigot spleen,
Whose brute and blindfold party-rage
Would, force perforce, her hand engage
To a base kern of Irish earth,
Unknown his lineage and his birth,
Save that a dying ruffian bore
The infant brat to Rokeby door.

Gentle restraint, he said, would lead
Old Rokeby to enlarge his creed ;
But fair occasion he must find
For such restraint well meant and kind,
The knight being rendered to his charge
But as a prisoner at large.

1 He schooled us in a well-forged tale

Of scheme the castle walls to scale,

To which was leagued each Cavalier

That dwells upon the Tyne and Wear,

That Rokeby, his parole forgot,

Had dealt with us to aid the plot.

Such was the charge which Denzil's zeal

Of hate to Rokeby and O'Neale

Proffered as witness to make good,

Even though the forfeit were their blood.

I scrupled until o'er and o'er

His prisoners' safety Wycliffe swore ;

And then — alas ! what needs there more ?

I knew I should not live to say

The proffer I refused that day ;

Ashamed to live, yet loath to die,

I soiled me with their infamy ! '

1 Poor youth ! ' said Bertram, ' wavering still,

Unfit alike for good or ill !

But what fell next ? ' — ' Soon as at large

Was scrolled and signed our fatal charge,

There never yet on tragic stage

Was seen so well a painted rage

As Oswald's showed ! With loud alarm

He called his garrison to arm ;

From tower to tower, from post to post,

He hurried as if all were lost ;

Consigned to dungeon and to chain

The good old knight and all his train ;

Warned each suspected Cavalier

Within his limits to appear

To-morrow at the hour of noon

In the high church of Eglistone.' —

1 Of Eglistone ! — Even now I passed,'
Said Bertram, ' as the night closed fast ;
Torches and cressets gleamed around,
I heard the saw and hammer sound,
And I could mark they toiled to raise
A scaffold, hung with sable baize,
Which the grim headsman's scene displayed,
Block, axe, and sawdust ready laid.
Some evil deed will there be done
Unless Matilda wed his son ; —
She loves him not — 't is shrewdly guessed
That Redmond rules the damsel's breast.
This is a turn of Oswald's skill ;
But I may meet, and foil him still ! —
How earnest thou to thy freedom ? ' — ' There
Lies mystery more dark and rare.



In midst of Wycliffe's well-feigned rage,

A scroll was offered by a page,

Who told a muffled horseman late

Had left it at the Castle-gate.

He broke the seal — his cheek showed

Sudden, portentous, wild, and strange ;
The mimic passion of his eye
Was turned to actual agony ;
His hand like summer sapling shook,
Terror and guilt were in his look.
Denzil he judged in time of need
Fit counsellor for evil deed ;
And thus apart his counsel broke,
While with a ghastly smile he spoke :


' " As in the pageants of the stage

The dead awake in this wild age,

Mortham — whom all men deemed decreed

In his own deadly snare to bleed,

Slain by a bravo whom o'er sea

He trained to aid in murdering me, —

Mortham has 'scaped ! The coward shot

The steed but harmed the rider not." '

Here with an execration fell

Bertram leaped up and paced the cell : —

' Thine own gray head or bosom dark,'

He muttered, ' may be surer mark ! '

Then sat and signed to Edmund, pale

With terror, to resume his tale.

' Wycliffe went on : — " Mark with what

Of wildered reverie he writes : —

HL\)t Ilctter.

• " Ruler of Mortham's destiny !

Though dead, thy victim lives to thee.

Once had he all that binds to life,

A lovely child, a lovelier wife ;

Wealth, fame, and friendship were his

own —
Thou gavest the word and they are flown.
Mark how he pays thee : to thy hand
He yields his honors and his land,
One boon premised ; — restore his child !
And, from his native land exiled,
Mortham no more returns to claim
His lands, his honors, or his name;
Refuse him this and from the slain
Thou shalt see Mortham rise again." —


' This billet while the baron read,
His faltering accents showed his dread ;
He pressed his forehead with his palm,
Then took a scornful tone and calm ;
" Wild as the winds, as billows wild !

What wot I of his spouse or child ?
Hither he brought a joyous dame,
Unknown her lineage or her name :
Her in some frantic fit he slew ;
The nurse and child in fear withdrew.
Heaven be my witness, wist I where
To find this youth, my kinsman's heir,
Unguerdoned I would give with joy
The father's arms to fold his boy,
And Mortham's lands and towers resign
To the just heirs cf Mortham's line."
Thou know'st that scarcely e'en his fear
Suppresses Denzil's cynic sneer; —
" Then happy is thy vassal's part,"
He said, " to ease his patron's heart !
In thine own jailer's watchful care
Lies Mortham's just and rightful heir ;
Thy generous wish is fully won, —
Redmond O'Neale is Mortham's son." —


' Up starting with a frenzied look,

His clenched hand the baron shook :

" Is Hell at work ? or dost thou rave,

Or darest thou palter with me, slave !

Perchance thou wot'st not, Barnard's towers

Have racks of strange and ghastly powers."

Denzil, who well his safety knew,

Firmly rejoined, " I tell thee true.

Thy racks could give thee but to know

The proofs which I, untortured, show.

It chanced upon a winter night

When early snow made Stanmore white,

That very night when first of all

Redmond O'Neale saw Rokeby-hall,

It was my goodly lot to gain

A reliquary and a chain,

Twisted and chased of massive gold.

Demand not how the prize I hold!

It was not given nor lent nor sold.

Gilt tablets to the chain were hung

With letters in the Irish tongue.

I hid my spoil, for there was need

That I should leave the land with speed,

Nor then I deemed it safe to bear

On mine own person gems so rare.

Small heed I of the tablets took,

But since have spelled them by the book

When some sojourn in Erin's land

Of their wild speech had given command.

But darkling was the sense ; the phrase

And language those of other days,

Involved of purpose, as to foil

An interloper's prying toil.

The words but not the sense I knew,

Till fortune gave the guiding clue.

' " Three days since, was that clue revealed
In Thorsgill as I lay concealed,



And heard at full when Rokeby's maid
Her uncle's history displayed ;
And now I can interpret well
Each syllable the tablets tell.
Mark, then : fair Edith was the jov
Of old O'Neale of Clandeboy ;
But from her sire and country fled
In secret Mortham's lord to wed.
O'Neale, his first resentment o'er,
Despatched his son to Greta's shore,
Enjoining he should make him known —
Until his farther will were shown —
To Edith, but to her alone.
What of their ill-starred meeting fell
Lord Wycliffe knows, and none so well.

1 " O'Neale it was who in despair
Robbed Mortham of his infant heir ;
He bred him in their nurture wild,
And called him murdered Connel's child.
Soon died the nurse ; the clan believed
What from their chieftain they received.
His purpose was that ne'er again
The boy should cross the Irish main,
But, like his mountain sires, enjoy
The woods and wastes of Clandeboy.
Then on the land wild troubles came,
And stronger chieftains urged a claim,
And wrested from the old man's hands
His native towers, his father's lands.
Unable then amid the strife
To guard young Redmond's rights or life,
Late and reluctant he restores
The infant to his native shores,
With goodly gifts and letters stored,
With many a deep conjuring word,
To Mortham and to Rokeby's lord.
Naught knew the clod of Irish earth,
Who was the guide, of Redmond's birth,
But deemed his chief's commands were

On both, by both to be obeyed.
How he was wounded by the way
I need not, and I list not say." —


'" A wondrous tale ! and, grant it true,
What," Wycliffe answered, " might I do ?
Heaven knows, as willingly as now
I raise the bonnet from my brow,
Would I my kinsman's manors fair
Restore to Mortham or his heir ;
But Mortham is distraught — O'Neale
Has drawn for tyranny his steel.
Malignant to our rightful cause
And trained in Rome's delusive laws.
Hark thee apart! " They whispered long,
Till Denzil's voice grew bold and strong :

" My proofs ! I never will." he said,
" Show mortal man where they are laid.
Nor hope discovery to foreclose
By giving me to feed the crows :
For I have mates at large who know
Where I am wont such toys to stow.
Free me from peril and from band,
These tablets are at thy command ;
Nor were it hard to form some train,
To wile old Mortham o'er the main.
Then, lunatic's nor papist's hand
Should wrest from thine the goodly land."
" I like thy wit," said Wycliffe, " well ;
But here in hostage shalt thou dwell.
Thy son, unless my purpose err,
May prove the trustier messenger.
A scroll to Mortham shall he bear
From me, and fetch these tokens rare.
Gold shalt thou have, and that good store,
And freedom, his commission o'er ;
But if his faith should chance to fail,
The gibbet frees thee from the jail."


1 Meshed in the net himself had twined,

What subterfuge could Denzil find ?

He told me with reluctant sigh

That hidden here the tokens lie,

Conjured my swift return and aid,

By all he scoffed and disobeyed,

And looked as if the noose were tied

And I the priest who left his side.

This scroll for Mortham Wycliffe gave,

Whom I must seek by Greta's wave,

Or in the hut where chief he hides,

Where Thorsgill's forester resides. —

Thence chanced it, wandering in the glade,

That he descried our ambuscade. —

I was dismissed as evening fell,

And reached but now this rocky cell.'

' Give Oswald's letter.' — Bertram read,

And tore it fiercely shred by shred : —

' All lies and villany ! to blind

His noble kinsman's generous mind,

And train him on from day to day,

Till he can take his life away. —

And now, declare thy purpose, youth,

Nor dare to answer, save the truth ;

If aught I mark of Denzil's art,

I'll tear the secret from thy heart ! ' —


\ It needs not. I renounce,' he said,
1 My tutor and his deadly trade.
Fixed was my purpose to declare
To Mortham, Redmond is his heir;
To tell him in what risk he stands.
And yield these tokens to his hands.
Fixed was my purpose to atone,
Far as I may, the evil done ;



And fixed it rests — if I survive

This night, and leave this cave alive.' —

1 And Denzil ? ' — ' Let them ply the rack.

Even till his joints and sinews crack !

If Oswald tear him limb from limb,

What ruth can Denzil claim from him

Whose thoughtless youth he led astray

And damned to this unhallowed way?

He schooled me, faith and vows were vain;

Now let my master reap his gain.' —

' True,' answered Bertram, ' 't is his meed ;

There 's retribution in the deed.

But thou — thou art not for our course,

Hast fear, hast pity, hast remorse ;

And he with us the gale who braves

Must heave such cargo to the waves,

Or lag with overloaded prore

While barks unburdened reach the shore.'


He paused and, stretching him at length,
Seemed to repose his bulky strength.
Communing with his secret mind,
As half he sat and half reclined,
One ample hand his forehead pressed,
And one was dropped across his breast.
The shaggy eyebrows deeper came
Above his eyes of swarthy flame ;
His lip of pride awhile forbore
The haughty curve till then it wore ;
The unaltered fierceness of his look
A shade of darkened sadness took, —
For dark and sad a presage pressed
Resistlessly on Bertram's breast, —
And when he spoke, his wonted tone,
So fierce, abrupt, and brief, was gone.
His voice was steady, low, and deep,
Like distant waves when breezes sleep ;
And sorrow mixed with Edmund's fear,
Its low unbroken depth to hear.


' Edmund, in thy sad tale I find
The woe that warped my patron's mind
'T would wake the fountains of the eye
In other men, but mine are dry.
Mortham must never see the tool
That sold himself base Wycliffe's tool,
Yet less from thirst of sordid gain
Than to avenge supposed disdain.
Say Bertram rues his fault — a word
Till now from Bertram never heard :
Say, too, that Morthanvs lord he prays
To think but on their former days ;
On Quarianna's beach and rock,
On Cayo's bursting battle-shock,
On Darien's sands and deadly dew,
And on the dart Tlatzeca threw ; —
Perchance my patron yet may hear

More that may grace his comrade's bier.

My soul hath felt a secret weight,

A warning of approaching fate :

A priest had said, " Return, repent ! "

As well to bid that rock be rent.

Firm as that flint I face mine end ;

My heart may burst but cannot bend.


' The dawning of my youth with awe

And prophecy the Dalesmen saw ;

For over Redesdale it came,

As bodeful as their beacon-flame.

Edmund, thy years were scarcely mine

When, challenging the Clans of Tyne

To bring their best my brand to prove.

O'er Hexham's altar hung my glove :

But Tynedale, nor in tower nor town,

Held champion meet to take it down.

My noontide India may declare ;

Like her fierce sun, I fired the air !

Like him, to wood and cave bade fly

Her natives from mine angry eye.

Panama's maids shall long look pale

When Risingham inspires the tale ;

Chili's dark matrons long shall tame •

The froward child with Bertram's name.

And now, my race of terror run,

Mine be the eve of tropic sun !

No pale gradations quench his ray.

No twilight dews his wrath allay :

With disk like battle-target red

He rushes to his burning bed,

Dyes the wide wave with bloody light,

Then sinks at once — and all is nisrht. —


' Now to thy mission, Edmund. Fly,
Seek Mortham out, and bid him hie

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 32 of 78)