Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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That gives us rightful claim.
Grant us the trivial boon we seek,
And we in other realms will speak

Fair of your courtesy ;
Deny— and be your niggard hold
Scorned by the noble and the bold,
Shunned by the pilgrim on the wold

And wanderer on the lea ! '



claim like

' Bold stranger,


No bolt revolves by hand of mine,
Though urged in tone that more expressed
A monarch than a suppliant guest.
Be what ye will, Artornish Hall
On this glad eve is free to all.
Though ye had drawn a hostile sword
'Gainst our ally, great England's Lord,
Or mail upon your shoulders borne
To battle with the Lord of Lorn,



Or outlawed dwelt by greenwood tree
With the fierce Knight of Ellerslie,
Or aided even the murderous strife
When Comyn fell beneath the knife
Of that fell homicide the Bruce,
This night had been a term of truce. —
Ho, vassals ! give these guests your care,
And show the narrow postern stair.'


To land these two bold brethren leapt —
The weary crew their vessel kept —
And, lighted by the torches' flare
That seaward flung their smoky glare,
The younger knight that maiden bare

Half lifeless up the rock ;
On his strong shoulder leaned her head,
And down her long dark tresses shed}
As the wild vine in tendrils spread

Droops from the mountain oak.
Him followed close that elder lord,
And in his hand a sheathed sword

Such as few arms could wield ;
But when he bouned him to such task
Well could it cleave the strongest casque

And rend the surest shield.


The raised portcullis' arch they pass,
The wicket with its bars of brass,

The entrance long and low,
Flanked at each turn by loop-holes strait,
Where bowmen might in ambush wait —
If force or fraud should burst the gate —

To gall an entering foe.
But every jealous post of ward
Was now defenceless and unbarred,

And all the passage free
To one low-browed and vaulted room
Where squire and yeoman, page and groom.

Plied their loud revelry.


And ' Rest ye here,' the warder bade,
1 Till to our lord your suit is said. —

And, comrades, gaze not on the maid
And on these men who ask our aid.

As if ye ne'er had seen
A damsel tired of midnight bark
Or wanderers of a moulding stark

And bearing martial mien.'
But not for Eachin's reproof
Would page or vassal stand aloof,

But crowded on to stare,
As men of courtesy untaught,
Till fiery Edward roughly caught

From one the foremost there
His chequered plaid, and in its shroud,
To hide her from the vulgar crowd,

Involved his sister fair.
His brother, as the clansman bent
His sullen brow in discontent,

Made brief and stern excuse :
1 Vassal, were thine the cloak of pall
That decks thy lord in bridal hall,

'T were honored by her use.'


Proud was his tone but calm; his eye

Had that compelling dignity,

His mien that bearing haught and high,

Which common spirits fear ;
Needed nor word nor signal more,
Nod, wink, and laughter, all were o'er ;
Upon each other back they bore

And gazed like startled deer.
But now appeared the seneschal,
Commissioned by his lord to call
The strangers to the baron's hall,

Where feasted fair and free
That Island Prince in nuptial tide
With Edith there his lovely bride,
And her bold brother by her side,
And many a chief, the flower and pride

Of Western land and sea.

Here pause we, gentles, for a space ;
And, if our tale hath won your grace,
Grant us brief patience and again
We will renew the minstrel strain.



Cfje 3Lotti at tfje Esles.


Fill the bright goblet, spread the festive board !
Summon the gay, the noble, and the fair!
Through the loud hall in joyous concert poured,
Let mirth and music sound the dirge of Care !
But ask thou not if Happiness be there,
If the loud laugh disguise convulsive throe,
Or if the brow the heart's true livery wear ;
Lift not the festal mask ! — enough to know,
No scene of mortal life but teems with mortal woe.

With beakers' clang, with harpers' lay,
With all that olden time deemed gay,
The Island Chieftain feasted high ;
But there was in his troubled eye
A gloomy fire, and on his brow
Now sudden flushed and faded now
Emotions such as draw their birth
From deeper source than festal mirth.
By fits he paused, and harper's strain
And jester's tale went round in vain,
Or fell but on his idle ear
Like distant sounds which dreamers hear.
Then would he rouse him, and employ
Each art to aid the clamorous joy,

And call for pledge and lay,
And for brief space of all the crowd,
As he was loudest of the loud,

Seem gayest of the gay.

Yet naught amiss the bridal throng
Marked in brief mirth or musing long;
The vacant brow, the unlistening ear,
They gave to thoughts of raptures near,
And his fierce starts of sudden glee
Seemed bursts of bridegroom's ecstasy.
Nor thus alone misjudged the crowd,
Since lofty Lorn, suspicious, proud,
And jealous of his honored line,
And that keen knight, De Argentine —
From England sent on errand high
The western league more firm to tie —
Both deemed in Ronald's mood to find
A lover's transport-troubled mind.
But one sad heart, one tearful eye,
Pierced deeper through the mystery,
And watched with agony and fear
Her wayward bridegroom's varied cheer.


She watched — yet feared to meet his glance,
And he shunned hers ; — till when by chance

They met, the point of foeman*s lance

Had given a milder pang!
Beneath the intolerable smart
He writhed; — then sternly manned his

To play his hard but destined part,

And from the table sprang.
' Fill me the mighty cup,' he said,
' Erst owned by royal Somerled !
Fill it, till on the studded brim
In burning gold the bubbles swim,
And every gem of varied shine
Glow doubly bright in rosy wine !

To you, brave lord, and brother mine.
O'f Lorn, this pledge I drink —

The Union of Our House with thine.
By this fair bridal-link ! '

' Let it pass round ! ' quoth he of Lorn.
' And in good time — that winded horn

Must of the abbot tell ;
The laggard monk is come at last.'
Lord Ronald heard the bugle-blast,
And on the floor at random cast

The untasted goblet fell.
But when the warder in his ear
Tells other news, his blither cheer

Returns like sun of May
When through a thunder-cloud it beams !
Lord of two hundred isles, he seems

As glad of brief delay
As some poor criminal might feel
When from the gibbet or the wheel

Respited for a day.


' Brother of Lorn,' with hurried voice
He said, 'and you, fair lords, rejoice !

Here, to augment our glee,
Come wandering knights from travel far,
Well proved, they say, in strife of war

And tempest on the sea. —



Ho ! give them at your board such place
As best their presences may grace,

And bid them welcome free ! '
With solemn step and silver wand,
The seneschal the presence scanned
Of these strange guests, and well he knew
How to assign their rank its due ;

For though the costly furs
That erst had decked their caps were torn,
And their gay robes were over-worn,

And soiled their gilded spurs,
Yet such a high commanding grace
Was in their mien and in their face
As suited best the princely dais

And royal canopy ;
And there he marshalled them their place,

First of that company.


Then lords and ladies spake aside,
And angry looks the error chide
That gave to guests unnamed, unknown,
A place so near their prince's throne ;

But Owen Erraught said,
' For forty years a seneschal,
To marshal guests in bower and hall

Has been my honored trade.
Worship and birth to me are known,
By look, by bearing, and by tone,
Not by furred robe or broidered zone ;

And 'gainst an oaken bough
I '11 gage my silver wand of state
That these three strangers oft have sate

In higher place than now.'


; I too,' the aged Ferrand said,
' Am qualified by minstrel trade

Of rank and place to tell ; —
Marked ye the younger stranger's eye,
My mates, how quick, how keen, how high,

How fierce its flashes fell,
Glancing among the noble rout
As if to seek the noblest out,
Because the owner might not brook
On any save his peers to look ?

And yet it moves me more,
That steady, calm, majestic brow,
With which the elder chief even now

Scanned the gay presence o'er,
Like being of superior kind,
In whose high-toned impartial mind
Degrees of mortal rank and state
Seem objects of indifferent weight.

The lady too — though closely tied
The mantle veil both face and eye,

Her motions' grace it could not hide,
Nor cloud her form's fair symmetry.'

Suspicious doubt and lordly scorn
Loured on the haughty front of Lorn.
From underneath his brows of pride
The stranger guests he sternly eyed,
And whispered closely what the ear
Of Argentine alone might hear ;

Then questioned, high and brief,
If in their voyage aught they knew
Of the rebellious Scottish crew
Who to Rath-Erin's shelter drew

With Carrick's outlawed Chief ?
And if, their winter's exile o'er,
They harbored still by Ulster's shore,
Or launched their galleys on the main
To vex their native land again ?


That younger stranger, fierce and high,
At once confronts the chieftain's eye

With look of equal scorn :
' Of rebels have we naught to show ;
But if of royal Bruce thou 'dst know,

I warn thee he has sworn,
Ere thrice three days shall come and go,
His banner Scottish winds shall blow,
Despite each mean or mighty foe,
From England's every bill and bow

To Allaster of Lorn.'
Kindled the mountain chieftain's ire,
But Ronald quenched the rising fire :
' Brother, it better suits the time
To chase the night with Ferrand's rhyme
Than wake midst mirth and wine the jars
That flow from these unhappy wars.'
1 Content,' said Lorn ; and spoke apart
With Ferrand, master of his art,

Then whispered Argentine,
' The lay I named will carry smart
To these bold strangers' haughty heart,

If right this guess of mine.'
He ceased, and it was silence all
Until the minstrel waked the hall.

fffjc Broorij of 2lorn.

' Whence the brooch of burning gold
That clasps the chieftain's mantle-fold,
Wrought and chased with rare device,
Studded fair with gems of price,
On the varied tartans beaming,
As, through night's pale rainbow gleaming,
Fainter now, now seen afar,
Fitful shines the northern star ?

1 Gem ! ne'er wrought on Highland moun-
Did the fairy of the fountain



Or the mermaid of the wave
Frame thee in some coral cave ?
Did, in Iceland's darksome mine,
Dwarf's swart hands thy metal twine ?
Or, mortal-moulded, comest thou here
From England's love or France's fear ?


Song Continued.

4 No ! — thy splendors nothing tell
Foreign art or faery spell.
Moulded thou for monarch's use,
By the overweening Bruce,
When the royal robe he tied
O'er a heart of wrath and pride ;
Thence in triumph wert thou torn
By the victor hand of Lorn !

' When the gem was won and lost,
Widely was the war-cry tossed !
Rung aloud Bendourish fell,
Answered Douchart's sounding dell.
Fled the deer from wild Teyndrum,
When the homicide o'ercome
Hardly 'scaped with scathe and scorn,
Left the pledge with conquering Lorn !


Song CTonriuDeB.

• Vain was then the Douglas brand,
Vain the Campbell's vaunted hand,
Vain Kirkpatrick's bloody dirk,
Making sure of murder's work ;
Barendown fled fast away,
Fled the fiery De la Haye,
When this brooch triumphant borne
Beamed upon the breast of Lorn.

1 Farthest fled its former lord,
Left his men to brand and cord,
Bloody brand of Highland steel,
English gibbet, axe, and wheel.
Let him fly from coast to coast,
Dogged by Comyn's vengeful ghost,
While his spoils in triumph worn
Long shall grace victorious Lorn ! '

As glares the tiger on his foes,
Hemmed in by hunters, spears, and bows,
And, ere he bounds upon the ring,
Selects the object of his spring, —
Now on the ban!, now on his lord,
So Edward glared and grasped his sword -
But stern his brother spoke, 'Be still.
What ! art thou yet so wild of will,
After high deeds and sufferings long,
To chafe thee for a menial's song? —

Well hast thou framed, old man, thy strains.

To praise the hand that pays thy pains !

Yet something might thy song have told

Of Lorn's three vassals, true and bold,

Who rent their lord from Bruce's hold

As underneath his knee he lay,

And died to save him in the fray.

I 've heard the Bruce's cloak and clasp

Was clenched within their dying grasp,

What time a hundred foemen more

Rushed in and back the victor bore,

Long after Lorn had left the strife,

Full glad to 'scape with limb and life. —

Enough of this — and, minstrel, hold

As minstrel-hire this chain of gold,

For future lays a fair excuse

To speak more nobly of the Bruce.' —


' Now, by Columba's shrine, I swear,
And every saint that 's buried there,
'T is he himself ! ' Lorn sternly cries,
' And for my kinsman's death he dies.'
As loudly Ronald calls, ' Forbear !
Not in my sight while brand I wear,
O'ermatched by odds, shall warrior fall,
Or blood of stranger stain my hall !
This ancient fortress of my race
Shall be misfortune's resting-place,
Shelter and shield of the distressed,
No slaughter-house for shipwrecked guest."
' Talk not to me,' fierce Lorn replied,
' Of odds or match ! — when Comyn died,
Three daggers clashed within his side !
Talk not to me of sheltering hall,
The Church of God saw Comyn fall !
On God's own altar streamed his blood,
While o'er my prostrate kinsman stood
The ruthless murderer — e'en as now —
With armed hand and scornful brow ! —
Up> all who love me ! blow on blow !
And lay the outlawed felons low ! '

Then up sprang many a mainland lord,
Obedient to their chieftain's word.
Barcaldine's arm is high in air,
And Kinloch-Alline's blade is bare,
Black Murthok's dirk has left its sheath,
And clenched is Dermid's hand of death.
Their muttered threats of vengeance swell
Into a wild and warlike yell ;
Onward they press with weapons high,
The affrighted females shriek and fly,
And, Scotland, then thy brightest ray
Had darkened ere its noon of day,
But every chief of birth and fame
That from the Isles of Ocean came
At Ronald's side that hour withstood
Fierce Lorn's relentless thirst for blood.




Brave Torquil from Dunvegan high,
Lord of the misty hills of Skye,
Mac-Niel, wild Bara's ancient thane,
Duart of bold Clan-Gillian's strain,
Fergus of Canna's castled bay,
Mac-Duffith, Lord of Colonsay,
Soon as they saw the broadswords glance,
With ready weapons rose at once,
More prompt that many an ancient feud,
Full oft suppressed, full oft renewed,
Glowed 'twixt the chieftains of Argyle.
And many a lord of ocean's isle.
Wild was the scene — each sword was bare,
Back streamed each chieftain's shaggy hair,
In gloomy opposition set,
Eyes, hands, and brandished weapons met;
Blue gleaming o'er the social board,
Flashed to the torches many a sword ;
And soon those bridal lights may shine
On purple blood for rosy wine.


While thus for blows and death prepared,
Each heart was up, each weapon bared,
Each foot advanced, — a surly pause
Still reverenced hospitable laws.
All menaced violence, but alike
Reluctant each the first to strike —
For aye accursed in minstrel line
Is he who brawls mid song and wine,

And, matched in numbers and in might.
Doubtful and desperate seemed the fight.
Thus threat and murmur died away,
Till on the crowded hall there lay
Such silence as the deadly still
Ere bursts the thunder on the hill.
With blade advanced, each chieftain bold
Showed like the Sworder's form of old,
As wanting still the torch of life
To wake the marble into strife


That awful pause the stranger maid

And Edith seized to pray for aid.

As to De Argentine she clung,

Away her veil the stranger flung,

And, lovely mid her wild despair,

Fast streamed her eyes, wide flowed her

hair :
' O thou, of knighthood once the flower,
Sure refuge in distressful hour,
Thou who in Judah well hast fought
For our dear faith and oft hast sought
Renown in knightly exercise
When this poor hand has dealt the prize,
Say, can thy soul of honor brook'
On the unequal strife to look,
When, butchered thus in peaceful hall,
Those once thy friends, my brethren, fall ! '
To Argentine she turned her word,
But her eye sought the Island Lord.

3 8o


A flush like evening's setting flame
Glowed on his cheek; his hardy frame
As with a brief convulsion shook :
With hurried voice and eager look,
k Fear not,' he said, 'my Isabel !
What said I — Edith ! — all is well —
Nay, fear not — I will well provide
The safety of my lovely bride —
My bride ? ' — but there the accents clung
In tremor to his faltering tongue.

Now rose De Argentine to claim
The prisoners in his sovereign's name
To England's crown, who, vassals sworn,
'Gainst their liege lord # had weapon borne •*—
Such speech, I ween, was but to hide
His care their safety to provide;
For knight more true in thought and deed
Than Argentine ne'er spurred a steed —
And Ronald who his meaning guessed
Seemed half to sanction the request.
This purpose fiery Torquil broke:
1 Somewhat we 've heard of England's yoke,'
He said, ' and in our islands Fame
Hath whispered of a lawful claim
That calls the Bruce fair Scotland's lord,
Though dispossessed by foreign sword.
This craves reflection — but though right
And just the charge of England's Knight,
Let England's crown her rebels seize
Where she has power ; — in towers like

Midst Scottish chieftains summoned here
To bridal mirth and bridal cheer,
Be sure, with no consent of mine
Shall either Lorn or Argentine
With chains or violence, in our sight,
Oppress a brave and banished knight.'


Then waked the wild debate again
With brawling threat and clamor vain.
Vassals and menials thronging in
Lent their brute rage to swell the din ;
When far and wide a bugle-clang
From the dark ocean upward rang.
1 The abbot comes ! ' they cry at once,
' The holy man, whose favored glance

Hath sainted visions known;
Angels have met him on the way,
ide the blessed martyr's bay,

And by Columba's stone.
I lis monks have heard their hvmnings high
Sound from the summit of Dun-Y,

To cheer his penance lone,
When at each cross, on girth and wold —
Their number thrice a hundred-fold —
I lis prayer he made, his beads he told,

With Aves many a one —

He comes our feuds to reconcile,
A sainted man from sainted isle ;
We will his holy doom abide,
The abbot shall our strife decide.'


Scarcely this fair accord was o'er
When through the wide revolving door

The black-stoled brethren wind ;
Twelve sandalled monks who relics bore,
With many a torch-bearer before

And many a cross behind.
Then sunk each fierce uplifted hand,
And dagger bright and flashing brand

Dropped swiftly at the sight ;
They vanished from the Churchman's eye,
As shooting stars that glance and die

Dart from the vault of night.


The abbot on the threshold stood,

And in his hand the holy rood ;

Back on his shoulders flowed his hood,

The torch's glaring ray
Showed in its red and flashing light
His withered cheek and amice white,
His blue eye glistening cold and bright,

His tresses scant and gray.
' Fair Lords,' he said, ' Our Lady's love,
And peace be with you from above,

And Benedicite! —
But what means this ? — no peace is here ! —
Do dirks unsheathed suit bridal cheer?

Or are these naked brands
A seemly show for Churchman's sight
When he comes summoned to unite

Betrothed hearts and hands ? '


Then, cloaking hate with fiery zeal.
Proud Lorn first answered the appeal :

'Thou com'st, O holy man,
True sons of blessed church to greet.
But little deeming here to meet

A wretch beneath the ban
Of Pope and Church for murder done
Even on the sacred altar-stone —
Well mayst thou wonder we should know
Such miscreant here, nor lay him low,
Or dream of greeting, peace, or truce,
With excommunicated Bruce !
Yet well I grant, to end debate,
Thy sainted voice decide his fate.'


Then Ronald pled the stranger's cause.
And knighthood's oath and honor's laws ;
And Isabel on bended knee
Brought prayers and tears to back the plea ;



And Edith lent her generous aid,
And wept, and Lorn for mercy prayed.
1 Hence,' he exclaimed, ' degenerate maid !
Was 't not enough to Ronald's bower
I brought thee, like a paramour,
Or bond-maid at her master's gate,
His careless cold approach to wait? —
But the bold Lord of Cumberland,
The gallant Clifford, seeks thy hand ;
His it shall be — Nay, no reply !
Hence ! till those rebel eyes be dry.'
With grief the abbot heard and saw,
Yet naught relaxed his brow of awe.

Where 's Nigel Bruce ? and De la Haye,
And valiant Seton — where are they?
Where Somerville, the kind and free ?
And Fraser, flower of chivalry ?
Have they not been on gibbet bound,
Their quarters flung to hawk and hound,
And hold we here a cold debate
To yield more victims to their fate ?
What ! can the English Leopard's mood
Never be gorged with northern blood ?
Was not the life of Athole shed
To soothe the tyrant's sickened bed ?
And must his word till dying day


Then Argentine, in England's name,
So highly urged his sovereign's claim
He waked a spark that long suppressed
Had smouldered in Lord Ronald's breast ;
And now, as from the flint the fire,
Flashed forth at once his generous ire.
• Enough of noble blood,' he said,
; By English Edward had been shed,
Since matchless Wallace first had been
In mockery crowned with wreaths of green.
And done to death by felon hand
For guarding well his father's land.

Be naught but quarter, hang, and slay ! —
Thou frown'st, De Argentine, — my gage
Is prompt to prove the strife I wage.'


' Nor deem,' said stout Dunvegan's knight
'That thou shalt brave alone the fight!
By saints of isle and mainland both,
By Woden wild — my grandsire's oath —
Let Rome and England do their worst,
Howe'er attainted or accursed,
If Bruce shall e'er find friends again
Once more to brave a battle-plain,

3 82


If Douglas couch again his lance,

Or Randolph dare another chance,

Old Torquil will not be to lack

With twice a thousand at his back. —

Nay, chafe not at my bearing bold,

Good abbot ! for thou know'st of old,

Torquil's rude thought and stubborn will

Smack of the wild Norwegian still ;

Nor will I barter Freedom's cause

For England's wealth or Rome's applause.'


The abbot seemed with eye severe

The hardy chieftain's speech to hear ;

Then on King Robert turned the monk,

But twice his courage came and sunk,

Confronted with the hero's look :

Twice fell his eye, his accents shook ;

At length, resolved in tone and brow,

Sternly he questioned him — ' And thou,

Unhappy ! what hast thou to plead,

Why I denounce not on thy deed

That awful doom which canons tell

Shuts paradise and opens hell ;

Anathema of power so dread

It blends the living with the dead,

Bids each good angel soar away

And every ill one claim his prey ;

Expels thee from the church's care

And deafens Heaven against thy prayer ;

Arms every hand against thy life,

Bans all who aid thee in the strife,

Nay, each whose succor, cold and scant,

With meanest alms relieves thy want ;

Haunts thee while living, — and when dead

Dwells on thy yet devoted head,

Rends Honor's scutcheon from thy hearse,

Stills o'er thy bier the holy verse,

And spurns thy corpse from hallowed

Flung like vile carrion to the hound :
Such is the dire and desperate doom
For sacrilege, decreed by Rome ;
And such the well-deserved meed
Of thine unhallowed, ruthless deed.'


'Abbot !' the Bruce replied, 'thy charge

It boots not to dispute at large.

This much, howe'er, I bid thee know,

No selfish vengeance dealt the blow,

For Comyn died his country's foe.

Nor blame I friends whose ill-timed speed

Fulfilled my soon-repented deed,

Nor censure those from whose stern tongue

The dire anathema has rung.

I only blame mine own wild ire,

I5y Scotland's wrongs incensed to fire.

Heaven knows my purpose to atone,

Far as I may, the evil done,

And hears a penitent's appeal
From papal curse and prelate's zeal.
My first and dearest task achieved,
Fair Scotland from her thrall relieved,

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 38 of 78)