Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Makes momentary pause ;
Then forth its solemn path it drew,
And fainter yet and fainter grew
Those gloomy towers upon the view,

As its wild light withdraws.

Forth from the cave did Roland rush,
O'er crag and stream, through brier and
bush ;
Yet far he had not sped

Ere sunk was that portentous light
Behind the hills and utter night

Was on the valley spread.
He paused perforce and blew his horn,
And, on the mountain-echoes borne,

Was heard an answering sound,
A wild and lonely trumpet note, —
In middle air it seemed to float

High o'er the battled mound ;
And sounds were heard as when a guard
Of some proud castle, holding ward,

Pace forth their nightly round.
The valiant Knight of Triermain
Rung forth his challenge-blast again, '

But answer came there none ;
And mid the mingled wind and rain
Darkling he sought the vale in vain,

Until the dawning shone ;
And when it dawned that wondrous sight
Distinctly seen by meteor light,

It all had passed away !
And that enchanted mount once more
A pile of granite fragments bore

As at the close of day.


Steeled for the deed, De Vaux's heart
Scorned from his vent'rous quest to part,

He walks the vale once more ;
But only sees by night or day
That shattered pile of rocks so gray,

Hears but the torrent's roar :
Till when, through hills of azure borne,
The moon renewed her silver horn,
Just at the time her waning ray
Had faded in the dawning day

A summer mist arose ;
Adown the vale the vapors float,
And cloudy undulations moat
That tufted mound of mystic note,

As round its base they close.
And higher now the fleecy tide
Ascends its stern and shaggy side,
Until the airy billows hide

The rock's majestic isle :
It seemed a veil of filmy lawn,
By some fantastic fairy drawn

Around enchanted pile.


The breeze came softly down the brook,

And, sighing as it blew,
The veil of silver mist it shook
And to De Vaux's eager look

Renewed that wondrous view.
For, though the loitering vapor braved
The gentle breeze, yet oft it waved

Its mantle's dewy fold ;
And still when shook that filmy screen
Were towers and bastions dimly seen,



And Gothic battlements between

Their gloomy length unrolled.
Speed, speed, De Vaux, ere on thine eye
Once more the fleeting vision die ! —

The gallant knight 'gan speed
As prompt and light as, when the hound
Is opening and the horn is wound,

Careers the hunter's steed.
Down the steep dell his course amain

Hath rivalled archer's shaft ;
But ere the mound he could attain
The rocks their shapeless form regain,
And, mocking loud his labor vain,

The mountain spirits laughed.
Far up the echoing dell was borne
Their wild unearthly shout of scorn.


Wroth waxed the warrior. — ' Am I then
Fooled by the enemies of men,
Like a poor hind whose homeward way
Is haunted by malicious fay?

Is Triermain become your taunt,

De Vaux your scorn ? False fiends, avaunt ! '

A weighty curtal-axe he bare ;

The baleful blade so bright and square,

And the tough shaft of heben wood,

Were oft in Scottish gore imbrued.

Backward his stately form he drew,

And at the rocks the weapon threw

Just where one crag's projected crest

Hung proudly balanced o'er the rest.

Hurled with main force the weapon's shock

Rent a huge fragment of the rock.

If by mere strength, 't were hard to tell,

Or if the blow dissolved some spell,

But down the headlong ruin came

With cloud of dust and flash of flame.

Down bank, o'er bush, its course was

Crushed lay the copse, the earth was torn,
Till staid at length the ruin dread
Cumbered the torrent's rocky bed,
And bade the waters' high-swoln tide
Seek other passage for its pride.



When ceased that thunder Triermain
Surveyed the mound's rude front again ;
And lo ! the ruin had laid bare,
Hewn in the stone, a winding stair
Whose mossed and fractured steps might

The means the summit to ascend ;
And by whose aid the brave De Vaux
Began to scale these magic rocks,

And soon a platform won
Where, the wild witchery to close,
Within three lances' length arose

The Castle of Saint John !
No misty phantom of the air,
No meteor-blazoned show was there ;
In morning splendor full and fair

The massive fortress shone.


Embattled high and proudly towered,
Shaded by ponderous flankers, lowered

The portal's gloomy way.
Though for six hundred years and more
Its strength had brooked the tempest's

The scutcheoned emblems which it bore

Had suffered no decay:
But from the eastern battlement
A turret had made sheer descent,
And, down in recent ruin rent,

In the mid torrent lay.
Else, o'er the castle's brow sublime,
Insults of violence or of time

Unfelt had passed away.
In shapeless characters of yore,
The gate this stern inscription bore :


1 Patience waits the destined day,
Strength can clear the cumbered way.
Warrior, who hast waited long,
Firm of soul, of sinew strong,
It is given to thee to gaze
On the pile of ancient days.
Never mortal builder's hand
This enduring fabric planned ;
Sign and sigil, word of power,
From the earth raised keep and tower.
View it o'er and pace it round,
Rampart, turret, battled mound.
Dare no more ! To cross the gate
Were to tamper with thy fate ;
Strength and fortitude were vain,
View it o'er — and turn again.'


' That would I,' said the warrior bold,
' If that my frame were bent and old,
And my thin blood dropped slow and cold

As icicle in thaw;
But while my heart can feel it dance
Blithe as the sparkling wine of France,
And this good arm wields sword or lance,

I mock these words of awe ! '
He said ; the wicket felt the sway
Of his strong hand and straight gave

And with rude crash and jarring bray

The rusty bolts withdraw ;
But o'er the threshold as he strode
And forward took the vaulted road,
An unseen arm with force amain
The ponderous gate flung close again,

And rusted bolt and bar
Spontaneous took their place once more
While the deep arch with sullen roar

Returned their surly jar.
'Now closed is the gin and the prey within,

By the Rood of Lanercost !
But he that would win the war-wolf's skin

May rue him of his. boast.'
Thus muttering on the warrior went
By dubious light down steep descent.


Unbarred, unlocked, unwatched, a port
Led to the castle's outer court :
There the main fortress, broad and tall,
Spread its long range of bower and hall

And towers of varied size,
Wrought with each ornament extreme
That Gothic art in wildest dream

Of fancy could devise ;
But full between the warrior's way
And the main portal arch there lay
An inner moat ;
Nor bridge nor boat
Affords De Vaux the means to cross
The clear, profound, and silent fosse.
His arms aside in haste he flings,
Cuirass of steel and hauberk rings,
And down falls helm and down the shield,
Rough with the dints of many a field.
Fair was his manly form and fair
His keen dark eye and close curled hair,
When all unarmed save that the brand
Of well-proved metal graced his hand,
With naught to fence his dauntless breast
But the close gipon's under-vest,
Whose sullied buff the sable stains
Of hauberk and of mail retains, —
Roland De Vaux upon the brim
Of the broad moat stood prompt to swim.



Accoutred thus he dared the tide,
And soon he reached the farther side

And entered soon the hold,
And paced a hall whose walls so wide
Were blazoned all with feats of pride

By warriors done of old.
In middle lists they countered here

While trumpets seemed to blow ;
And there in den or desert drear

They quelled gigantic foe,
Braved the fierce griffon in his ire,
Or faced the dragon's breath of fire.
Strange in their arms and strange in face,
Heroes they seemed of ancient race,
Whose deeds of arms and race and name,
Forgotten long by later fame,

Were here depicted to appall
Those of an age degenerate
Whose bold intrusion braved their fate

In this enchanted hall.
For some short space the venturous knight
With these high marvels fed his sight,
Then sought the chamber's upper end
Where three broad easy steps ascend

To an arched portal door,
In whose broad folding leaves of state
Was framed a wicket window-grate ;

And ere he ventured more,
The gallant knight took earnest view
The grated wicket-window through.


O, for his arms ! Of martial weed
Had never mortal knight such need ! —
He spied a stately gallery ; all
Of snow-white marble was the wall,

The vaulting, and the floor ;
And, contrast strange ! on either hand
There stood arrayed in sable band

Four maids whom Afric bore ;
And each a Lybian tiger led,
Held by as bright and frail a thread

As Lucy's golden hair,
For the leash that bound these monsters

Was but of gossamer.
Each maiden's short barbaric vest
Left all unclosed the knee and breast

And limbs of shapely jet ;
White was their vest and turban's fold,
On arms and ankles rings of gold

In savage pomp were set ;
A quiver on their shoulders lay,
And in their hand an assagay.
Such and so silent stood they there

That Roland wellnigh hoped
He saw a band of statues rare,
Stationed the gazer's soul to scare ;

But when the wicket oped
Each grisly beast 'gan upward draw,
Rolled his grim eye, and spread his claw,
Scented the air, and licked his jaw ;
While these weird maids in Moorish tongue
A wild and dismal warning sung.


' Rash adventurer, bear thee back !

Dread the spell of Dahomay !
Fear the race of Zaharak ;

Daughters of the burning day !

' When the whirlwind's gusts are wheeling,

Ours it is the dance to braid ;
Zarah's sands in pillars reeling

Join the measure that we tread,
When the Moon has donned her cloak

And the stars are red to see,
Shrill when pipes the sad Siroc,

Music meet for such as we.

'Where the shattered columns lie,

Showing Carthage once had been,
If the wandering San ton's eye

Our mysterious rites hath seen, —
Oft he cons the prayer of death,

To the nations preaches doom,
" Azrael's brand hath left the sheath !

Moslems, think upon the tomb ! "

' Ours the scorpion, ours the snake,

Ours the hydra of the fen,
Ours the tiger of the brake,

All that plague the sons of men.
Ours the tempest's midnight wrack,

Pestilence that wastes by day —
Dread the race of Zaharak !

Fear the spell of Dahomay ! '


Uncouth and strange the accents shrill

Rung those vaulted roofs among,
Long it was ere faint and still

Died the far-resounding song.
While yet the distant echoes roll,
The warrior communed with his soul.
1 When first I took this venturous quest.
I swore upon the rood
Neither to stop nor turn nor rest.

For evil or for good.
My forward path too well I ween
Lies yonder fearful ranks between j
For man unarmed 't is bootless hope
With tigers and with fiends to cope —
Yet, if I turn, what waits me there
Save famine dire and fell despair ? —
Other conclusion let me try,
Since, choose howe'er I list, I die.



Forward lies faith and knightly fame :
Behind are perjury and shame.
In life or death I hold my word ! '
With that he drew his trusty sword,
Caught down a banner from the wall,
And entered thus the fearful hall.


On high each wayward maiden threw
Her swarthy arm with wild halloo !
On either side a tiger sprung —
Against the leftward foe he flung
The ready banner to engage
With tangling folds the brutal rage;
The right-hand monster in mid air
He struck so fiercely and so fair
Through gullet and through spinal bone
The trenchant blade hath sheerly gone.
His grisly brethren ramped and yelled,
But the slight leash their rage withheld.
Whilst 'twixt their ranks the dangerous road
Firmly though swift the champion strode.
Safe to the gallery's bound he drew,
Safe passed an open portal through ;
And when against pursuit he flung
The gate, judge if the echoes rung !
Onward his daring course he bore,
While, mixed with dying growl and roar,
Wild jubilee and loud hurra
Pursued him on his venturous way.


1 Hurra, hurra ! Our watch is done !
We hail once more the tropic sun.
Pallid beams of northern day,
Farewell, farewell ! Hurra, hurra !

• Five hundred years o'er this cold glen
Hath the pale sun come round agen :
Foot of man till now hath ne'er
Dared to cross the Hall of Fear.

' Warrior ! thou whose dauntless heart
Gives us from our ward to part,
Be as strong in future trial
Where resistance is denial.

' Now for Afric's glowing sky,
Zwenga wide and Atlas high,
Zaharak and Dahomay ! —
Mount the winds ! Hurra, hurra! '


The wizard song at distance died,

As if in ether borne astray,
While through waste halls and chambers

The knight pursued his steady way
Till to a lofty dome he came
That flashed with such a brilliant flame

As if the wealth of all the world
Were there in rich confusion hurled.
For here the gold in sandy heaps
With duller earth incorporate sleeps :
Was there in ingots piled, and there
Coined badge of empery it bare ;
Yonder, huge bars of silver lay,
Dimmed by the diamond's neighboring ray r
Like the pale moon in morning day ;
And in the midst four maidens stand,
The daughters of some distant land.
Their hue was of the dark-red dye
That fringes oft a thunder sky ;
Their hands palmetto baskets bare,
And cotton fillets bound their hair ;
Slim was their form, their mien was shy.
To earth they bent the humbled eye,
Folded their arms, and suppliant kneeled.
And thus their proffered gifts revealed.


' See the treasures Merlin piled,
Portion meet for Arthur's child.
Bathe in Wealth's unbounded stream,
Wealth that Avarice ne'er could dream ! r


* See these clots of virgin gold !
Severed from the sparry mould,
Nature's mystic alchemy
In the mine thus bade them lie ;
And their orient smile can win
Kings to stoop and saints to sin.'


' See these pearls that long have slept ;
These were tears by Naiads wept
For the loss of Marinel.
Tritons in the silver shell
Treasured them till hard and white
As the teeth of Amphitrite.'


' Does a livelier hue delight ?
Here are rubies blazing bright,
Here the emerald's fairy green,
And the topaz glows between;
Here their varied hues unite
In the changeful chrysolite.'


1 Leave these gems of poorer shine,
Leave them all and look on mine !
While their glories I expand
Shade thine eyebrows with thy hand.
Mid-day sun and diamond's blaze
Blind the rash beholder's gaze.*




1 Warrior, seize the splendid store ;
Would 't were all our mountains bore !
We should ne'er in future story
Read, Peru, thy perished glory ! '


Calmly and unconcerned the knight
Waved aside the treasures bright —
4 Gentle Maidens, rise, I pray !
Bar not thus my destined way.
Let these boasted brilliant toys
Braid the hair of girls and boys !

When, lo ! a plashing sound he hears,
A gladsome signal that he nears

Some frolic water-run :
And soon he reached a courtyard square
Where, dancing in the sultry air,
Tossed high aloft a fountain fair

Was sparkling in the sun.
On right and left a fair arcade
In long perspective view displayed
Alleys and bowers for sun or shade :

But full in front a door,

Bid your streams of gold expand
O'er proud London's thirsty land.
De Vaux of wealth saw never need
Save to purvey him arms and steed,
And all the ore he deigned to hoard
Inlays his helm and hilts his sword.'
Thus gently parting from their hold,
He left unmoved the dome of gold.


And now the morning sun was high,
De Vaux was weary, faint, and dry ;

Low-browed and dark, seemed as it led
To the lone dwelling of the dead
Whose memory was no more.


Here stopped De Vaux an instant's space
To bathe his parched lips and face,

And marked with well-pleased eye,
Refracted on the fountain stream,
In rainbow hues the dazzling beam

Of that gay summer sky.
His senses felt a mild control,
Like that which lulls the weary soul,

From contemplation high



Relaxing, when the ear receives
The music that the greenwood leaves
Make to the breezes' sigh.


And oft in such a dreamy mood

The half-shut eye can frame
Fair apparitions in the wood,
As if the Nymphs of field and flood

In gay procession came.
Are these of such fantastic mould,

Seen distant down the fair arcade,
These maids enlinked in sister-fold,

Who, late at bashful distance staid, .

Now tripping from the greenwood shade,
Nearer the musing champion draw,
And in a pause of seeming awe

Again stand doubtful now ? —
Ah, that sly pause of witching powers !
That seems to say, ' To please be ours.

Be yours to tell us how.'
Their hue was of the golden glow
That suns of Candahar bestow,
O'er which in slight suffusion flows
A frequent tinge of paly rose ;
Their limbs were fashioned fair and free
In nature's justest symmetry;
And, wreathed with flowers, with odors

Their raven ringlets reached the waist :
In eastern pomp its gilding pale
The henna lent each shapely nail,
And the dark sumah gave the eye
More liquid and more lustrous dye.
The spotless veil of misty lawn,
In studied disarrangement drawn

The form and bosom o'er,
To win the eye or tempt the touch,
For modesty showed all too much —

Too much — yet promised more.


' Gentle knight, awhile delay,'
Thus they sung, < thy toilsome way,
While we pay the duty due
To our Master and to you.
Over Avarice, over Fear,
Love triumphant led thee here ;
Warrior, list to us, for we
Are slaves to Love, are friends to thee.
Though no treasured gems have we
To proffer on the bended knee,
Though we boast nor arm nor heart
For the assagay or dart,
Swains allow each simple girl
Ruby lip and teeth of pearl ;
Or, if dangers more you prize,
Flatterers find them in our eyes.

1 Stay, then, gentle warrior, stay.
Rest till evening steal on day ;

Stay, O, stay ! — in yonder bowers
We will braid thy locks with flowers,
Spread the feast and fill the wine,
Gharm thy ear with sounds divine,
Weave our dances till delight
Yield to languor, day to night.
Then shall she you most approve
Sing the lays that best you love,
Soft thy mossy couch shall spread,
Watch thy pillow, prop thy head,
Till the weary night be o'er —
Gentle warrior, wouldst thou more.
Wouldst thou more, fair warrior, — she
Is slave to Love and slave to thee.'


O, do not hold it for a crime
In the bold hero of my rhyme,

For Stoic look

And meet rebuke
He lacked the heart or time ;
As round the band of sirens trip,
He kissed one damsel's laughing lip,
And pressed another's proffered hand,
Spoke to them all in accents bland,
But broke their magic circle through ;
1 Kind maids,' he said, ' adieu, adieu !
My fate, my fortune, forward lies.'
He said and vanished from their eyes ;
But, as he dared that darksome way,
Still heard behind their lovely lay :
' Fair Flower of Courtesy, depart !
Go where the feelings of the heart
With the warm pulse in concord move ;
Go where Virtue sanctions Love ! '

Downward De Vaux through darksome
And ruined vaults has gone,
Till issue from their wildered maze

Or safe retreat seemed none,
And e'en the dismal path he strays
Grew worse as he went on.
For cheerful sun, for living air,
Foul vapors rise and mine-fires glare,
Whose fearful light the dangers showed
That dogged him on that dreadful road.
Deep pits and lakes of waters dun
They showed, but showed not how to shun.
These scenes of desolate despair,
These smothering clouds of poisoned air.
How gladly had De Vaux exchanged,
Though 't were to face yon tigers ranged !

Nay, soothful bards have said,
So perilous his state seemed now
He wished him under arbor bough

With ^Asia's willing maid.
When, joyful sound ! at distance near
A trumpet flourished loud and clear,



And as it ceased a lofty lay

Seemed thus to chide his lagging way.

1 Son of Honor, theme of story,
Think on the reward before ye !
Danger, darkness, toil despise ;
T is Ambition bids thee rise.

* He that would her heights ascend,
Many a weary step must wend ;
Hand and foot and knee he tries ;
Thus Ambition's minions rise.

1 Lag not now, though rough the way,
Fortune's mood brooks no delay ;
Grasp the boon that 's spread before ye,
Monarch's power and Conqueror's glory ! '

It ceased. Advancing on the sound,
A steep ascent the wanderer found,

And then a turret stair :
Nor climbed he far its steepy round

Till fresher blew the air,
And next a welcome glimpse was given
That cheered him with the light of heaven.

At length his toil had won
A lofty hall with trophies dressed,
Where as to greet imperial guest
Four maidens stood whose crimson vest

Was bound with golden zone.


Of Europe seemed the damsels all ;
The first a nymph of lively Gaul
Whose easy step and laughing eye
Her borrowed air of awe belie ;

The next a maid of Spain,
Dark-eyed, dark-haired, sedate yet bold ;
White ivory skin and tress of gold
Her shy and bashful comrade told

For daughter of Almaine.
These maidens bore a royal robe,
With crown, with sceptre, and with globe,

Emblems of empery ;
The fourth a space behind them stood,
And leant upon a harp in mood

Of minstrel ecstasy.
Of merry England she, in dress
Like ancient British Druidess,
Her hair an azure fillet bound,
Her graceful vesture swept the ground,

And in her hand displayed
A crown did that fourth maiden hold,
But unadorned with gems and gold,

Of glossy laurel made.

At once to brave De Vaux knelt down

These foremost maidens three,
And proffered sceptre, robe, and crown,

Liegedom and seignorie
O'er many a region wide and fair,
Destined, they said, for Arthur's heir ;

But homage would he none : —
' Rather,' he said, ' De Vaux would ride,
A warden of the Border^side
In plate and mail than, robed in pride,

A monarch's empire own ;
Rather, far rather, would he be
A free-born knight of England free

Than sit on despot's throne.'
So passed he on, when that fourth maid,

As starting from a trance,
Upon the harp her finger laid ;
Her magic touch the chords obeyed,

Their soul awaked at once !

Song of ttye Jourtl) lEaioen.

1 Quake to your foundations deep,
Stately towers, and bannered keep,
Bid your vaulted echoes moan,
As the dreaded step they own.

1 Fiends, that wait on Merlin's spell,
Hear the foot-fall ! mark it well !
Spread your dusky wings abroad,
Boune ye for your homeward road !

' It is His, the first who e'er
Dared the dismal Hall of Fear ;
His, who hath the snares defied
Spread by Pleasure, Wealth, and Pride.

' Quake to your foundations deep,
Bastion huge, and turret steep !
Tremble, keep ! and totter, tower !
This is Gyneth's waking hour.'


Thus while she sung the venturous knight
Has reached a bower where milder light

Through crimson curtains fell ;
Such softened shade the hill receives,
Her purple veil when twilight leaves

Upon its western swell.
That bower, the gazer to bewitch,
Had wondrous store of rare and rich

As e'er was seen with eye ;
J or there by magic skill, I wis,
Form of each thing that living is

Was limned in proper dye.
All seemed to sleep — the timid hare
On form, the stag upon his lair,
The eagle in her eyrie fair

Between the earth and sky.
But what of pictured rich and rare
Could win De Vaux's eye-glance, where,
Deep slumbering in the fatal chair,

He saw King Arthur's child !
Doubt and anger and dismay
From her brow had passed away,



Forgot was that fell tourney-day,

For as she slept she smiled :
It seemed that the repentant Seer
Her sleep of many a hundred year

With gentle dreams beguiled.


That form of maiden loveliness,

'Twixt childhood and 'twixt youth,
That ivory chair, that sylvan dress.
The arms and ankles bare, express

Of Lyulph's tale the truth.
Still upon her garment's hem
Vanoc's blood made purple gem,
And the warder of command
Cumbered still her sleeping hand ;
Still her dark locks dishevelled flow
From net of pearl o'er breast of snow ;
And so fair the slumberer seems
That De Vaux impeached his dreams,
Vapid all and void of might,
Hiding half her charms from sight.
Motionless awhile he stands,
Folds his arms and clasps his hands,
Trembling in his fitful joy,
Doubtful how he should destroy

Long-enduring spell ;

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 36 of 78)