Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Shall many a priest in cope and stole
Say requiem for Red Comyn's soul,
While I the blessed cross advance
And expiate this unhappy chance
In Palestine with sword and lance.
But, while content the Church should know
My conscience owns the debt I owe,
Unto De Argentine and Lorn
The name of traitor I return,
Bid them defiance stern and high,
And give them in their throats the lie !
These brief words spoke, I speak no more.
Do what thou wilt ; my shrift is o'er.'


Like man by prodigy amazed,
Upon the king the abbot gazed ;
Then o'er his pallid features glance
Convulsions of ecstatic trance.
His breathing came more thick and fast,
And from his pale blue eyes were cast
Strange rays of wild and wandering light ;
Uprise his' locks of silver white,
Flushed is his brow, through every vein
In azure tide the currents strain,
And undistinguished accents broke
The awful silence ere he spoke.


' De Bruce ! I rose with purpose dread

To speak my curse upon thy head,

And give thee as an outcast o'er

To him who burns to shed thy gore ; —

But, like the Midianite of old

Who stood on Zophim, Heaven-controlled.

I feel within mine aged breast

A power that will not be repressed.

It prompts my voice, it swells my veins,

It burns, it maddens, it constrains ! —

De Bruce, thy sacrilegious blow

Hath at God's altar slain thy foe :

O'ermastered yet by high behest,

I bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed ! '

He spoke, and o'er the astonished throng

Was silence, awful, deep, and long.


Again that light has fired his eye,
Again his form swells bold and high,
The broken,voice of age is gone,
'T is vigorous manhood's lofty tone :
' Thrice vanquished on the battle-plain,
Thy followers slaughtered, fled, or ta'en,
A hunted wanderer on the wild,
On foreign shores a man exiled,



Disowned, deserted, and distressed,
I bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed !
Blessed in the hall and in the field,
Under the mantle as the shield.
Avenger of thy country's shame,
Restorer of her injured fame,
Blessed in thy sceptre and thy sword,
De Bruce, fair Scotland's rightful lord,
Blessed in thy deeds and in thy fame,
What lengthened honors wait thy name
In distant ages sire to son
Shall tell thy tale of freedom won,
And teach his infants in the use
Of earliest speech to falter Bruce.
Go, then, triumphant ! sweep along

Thy course, the theme of many a song !
The Power whose dictates swell my breast
Hath blessed thee, and thou shalt be

blessed ! —
Enough — my short-lived strength decays,
And sinks the momentary blaze. —
Heaven hath our destined purpose broke,
Not here must nuptial vow be spoke ;
Brethren, our errand here is o'er,
Our task discharged. — Unmoor, unmoor ! '
His priests received the exhausted monk,
As breathless in their arms he sunk.
Punctual his orders to obey,
The train refused all longer stay,
Embarked, raised sail, and bore away.

Cjje Hortj of tfje Isles.


Hast thou not marked when o'er thy startled head
Sudden and deep the thunder-peal has rolled,
How, when its echoes fell, a silence dead
Sunk on the wood, the meadow, and the wold ?
The rye-grass shakes not on the sod-built fold,
The rustling aspen's leaves are mute and still,
The wall-flower waves not on the ruined hold,
Till, murmuring distant first, then near and shrill,
The savage whirlwind wakes and sweeps the groaning hill.

Artornish ! such a silence sunk
Upon thy halls, when that gray monk

His prophet-speech had spoke :
And his obedient brethren's sail
Was stretched to meet the southern gale

Before a whisper woke.
Then murmuring sounds of doubt and fear,
Close poured in many an anxious ear,

The solemn stillness broke ;
And still they gazed with eager guess
Where in an oriel's deep recess
The Island Prince seemed bent to press
What Lorn, by his impatient cheer
And gesture fierce, scarce deigned to hear.


Starting at length with frowning look,
His hand he clenched, his head he shook,

And sternly flung apart :
1 And deem'st thou me so mean of mood
As to forget the mortal feud,
And clasp the hand with blood imbrued

From my dear kinsman's heart ?

Is this thy rede ? — a due return

For ancient league and friendship sworn !

But well our mountain proverb shows

The faith of Islesmen ebbs and flows.

Be it even so — believe ere long

He that now bears shall wreak the wrong. —

Call Edith — call the Maid of Lorn !

My sister, slaves ! — for further scorn,

Be sure nor she nor I will stay. —

Away, De Argentine, away ! —

We nor ally nor brother know

In Bruce's friend or England's foe.'


But who the chieftain's rage can tell
When, sought from lowest dungeon cell
To highest tower the castle round,
No Lady Edith was there found !
He shouted, ' Falsehood ! — treachery ! —
Revenge and blood ! — a lordly meed
To him that will avenge the deed !
A baron's lands ! ' — His frantic mood
Was scarcely by the news withstood
That Morag shared his sister's flight,
And that in hurry of the night,



"Scaped noteless and without remark,
Two strangers sought the abbot's bark. —
' Man every galley ! — fly — pursue !
The priest his treachery shall rue !
Ay, and the time shall quickly come
When we shall hear the thanks that Rome
Will pay his feigned prophecy ! '
Such was fierce Lorn's indignant cry ;
And Cormac Doil in haste obeyed,
Hoisted his sail, his anchor weighed —
For, glad of each pretext for spoil,
A pirate sworn was Cormac Doil.
But others, lingering, spoke apart,
' The maid has given her maiden heart

To Ronald of the Isles,
And, fearful lest her brother's word
Bestow her on that English lord,

She seeks Iona's piles,
And wisely deems it best to dwell
A votaress in the holy cell
Until these feuds so fierce and fell

The abbot reconciles.'

As, impotent of ire, the hall
Echoed to Lorn's impatient call —
' My horse, my mantle, and my train !
Let none who honors Lorn remain ! ' —
Courteous but stern, a bold request
To Bruce De Argentine expressed :
' Lord Earl,' he said, « I cannot chuse
But yield such title to the Bruce,
- Though name and earldom both are gone
Since he braced rebel's armor on —
But, earl or serf — rude phrase was thine
Of late, and launched at Argentine ;
Such as compels me to demand
Redress of honor at thy hand.
We need not to each other tell
That both can wield their weapons well ;
Then do me but the soldier grace
This glove upon thy helm to plac

Where we may meet in fight ;
And I will say, as still I 've said,
Though by ambition far misled^
Thou art a noble knight.'


'And [,' the princely Bruce replied,
' Might term it stain on knighthood's pride
That the bright sword of Argentine
Should in a tyrant's quarrel shine ;

But, for your brave request,
Be sure the honored pledge you gave
In every battle-field shall wave

Upon my helmet-crest ;
Believe that if my hasty tongue
Hath done thine honor causeless wrong,

It shall be well redressed.

Not dearer to my soul was glove
Bestowed in youth by lady's love

Than this which thou hast given !
Thus then my noble foe I greet ;
Health and high fortune till we meet,

And then — what pleases Heaven.'

Thus parted they — for now, with sound
Like waves rolled back from rocky ground.

The friends of Lorn retire ;
Each mainland chieftain with his train
Draws to his mountain towers again,
Pondering how mortal schemes prove vain

And mortal hopes expire.
But through the castle double guard
By Ronald's charge kept wakeful ward,
Wicket and gate were trebly barred

By beam and bolt and chain ;
Then of the guests in courteous sort
He prayed excuse for mirth broke short,
And bade them in Artornish fort

In confidence remain.
Now torch and menial tendance led
Chieftain and knight to bower and bed,
And beads were told and Aves said,

And soon they sunk away
Into such sleep as wont to shed
Oblivion on the weary head

After a toilsome day.


But soon uproused, the monarch cried
To Edward slumbering by his side,

' Awake, or sleep for aye !
Even now there jarred a secret door —
A taper-light gleams on the floor —

Up, Edward ! up, I say !
Some one glides in like midnight ghost —
Nay, strike not ! 't is our noble host.'
Advancing then his taper's flame,
Ronald stept forth, and with him came

Dunvegan's chief — each bent the knee

To Bruce in sign of fealty
And proffered him his sword,

And hailed him in a monarch's style

As king of mainland and of isle
And Scotland's rightful lord.
' And O,' said Ronald, * Owned of Heaven !
Say, is my erring youth forgiven,
By falsehood's arts from duty driven,

Who rebel falchion drew,
Yet ever to thy deeds of fame,
Even while I strove against thy claim,

Paid homage just and true ? ' —
' Alas ! dear youth, the unhappy time,'
Answered the Bruce, ' must bear the crime

Since, guiltier far than you,
Even I ' — he paused ; for Falkirk's woes
Upon his conscious soul arose.



The chieftain to his breast he pressed,
And in a sigh concealed the rest.


They proffered aid by arms and might

To repossess him in his right ;

But well their counsels must be weighed

Ere banners raised and musters made.

For English hire and Lorn's intrigues

Bound many chiefs in southern leagues.

In answer Bruce his purpose bold

To his new vassals frankly told :

' The winter worn in exile o'er,

I longed for Carrick's kindred shore.

I thought upon my native Ayr

And longed to see the burly fare

That Clifford makes, whose lordly call

Now echoes through my father's hall.

But first my course to Arran led

Where valiant Lennox gathers head,

And on the sea by tempest tossed,

Our barks dispersed, our purpose crossed,

Mine own, a hostile sail to shun,

Far from her destined course had run,

When that wise will which masters ours

Compelled us to your friendly towers.'

Then Torquil spoke : ' The time craves

speed !
We must not linger in our deed,
But instant pray our sovereign liege
To shun the perils of a siege.
The vengeful Lorn with all his powers
Lies but too near Artornish towers,
And England's light-armed vessels ride
Not distant far the waves of Clyde,
Prompt at these tidings to unmoor, ♦
And sweep each strait and guard each

Then, till this fresh alarm pass by,
Secret and safe my liege must lie
In the far bounds of friendly Skye,
Torquil thy pilot and thy guide.' —
' Not so, brave chieftain,' Ronald cried ;
• Myself will on my sovereign wait,
And raise in arms the men of Sleate,
Whilst thou, renowned where chiefs debate,
Shalt sway their souls by council sage
And awe them by thy locks of age.' —
' And if my words in weight shall fail,
This ponderous sword shall turn the scale.'


'The scheme,' said Bruce, 'contents me

well ;
Meantime, 't were best that Isabel
For safety with my bark and crew

Again to friendly Erin drew.
There Edward too shall with her wend,
In need to cheer her and defend
And muster up each scattered friend."
Here seemed it as Lord Ronald's ear
Would other counsel gladlier hear;
But, all achieved as soon as planned,
Both barks, in secret armed and manned,

From out the haven bore ;
On different voyage forth they ply,
This for the coast of winged Skye

And that for Erin's shore.


With Bruce and Ronald bides the tale. —
To favoring winds they gave the sail
Till Mull's dark headlands scarce they knew
And Ardnamurchan's hills were blue.
But then the squalls blew close and hard,
And, fain to strike the galley's yard

And take them to the oar,
With these rude seas in weary plight
They strove the livelong day and night,
Nor till the dawning had a sight
Of Skye's romantic shore.
Where Coolin stoops him to the west,
They saw upon his shivered crest'

The sun's arising gleam;
But such the labor and delay,
Ere they were moored in Scavigh bay —
For calmer heaven compelled to stay — ■

He shot a western beam.
Then Ronald said, ' If -true mine eye,
These are the savage wilds that lie
North of Strathnardill and Dunskye ;

No human foot comes here,
And, since these adverse breezes blow,
If my good liege love hunter's bow,
What hinders that on land we go

And strike a mountain-deer?
Allan, my page, shall with us wend ;
A bow full deftly can he bend,
And, if we meet a herd, may send

A shaft shall mend our cheer.'
Then each took bow and bolts in hand,
Their row-boat launched and leapt to land,

And left their skiff and train,
Where a wild stream with headlong shock
Came brawling down its bed of rock

To mingle with the main.


Awhile their route they silent made,
As men who stalk for mountain-deer,

Till the good Bruce to Ronald said, —
* Saint Mary ! what a scene is here !

I 've traversed many a mountain-strand,

Abroad and in my native land,

And it has been my lot to tread


3 86


Where safety more than pleasure led ;
Thus, many a waste I 've wandered o'er,
Clomb many a crag, crossed many a moor,

But, by my halidome,
A scene so rude, so wild as this,
Yet so sublime in barrenness,
Ne'er did my wandering footsteps press

Where'er I happed to roam.'


No marvel thus the monarch spake ;

For rarely human eye has known
A scene so stern as that dread lake

With its dark ledge of barren stone.
Seems that primeval earthquake's sway
Hath rent a strange and shattered way

Through the rude bosom of the hill,
And that each naked precipice,
Sable ravine, and dark abyss,

Tells of the outrage still.
The wildest glen but this can show
Some touch of Nature's genial glow ;
On high Benmore green.mosses grow,
And heath-bells bud in deep Glencroe,

And copse on Cruchan-Ben ;
But here, — above, around, below,

On mountain or in glen,
Nor tree, nor shrub, nor plant, nor flower,
Nor aught of vegetative power,

The weary eye may ken.
For all is rocks at random thrown,
Black waves, bare crags, and banks of

As if were here denied
The summer sun, the spring's sweet dew,
That clothe with many a varied hue

The bleakest mountain-side.

And wilder, forward as they wound,
Were the proud cliffs and lake profound.
Huge terraces of granite black
Afforded rude and cumbered track ;

For from the mountain hoar,
Hurled headlong in some night of fear,
When yelled the wolf and fled the deer,

Loose crags had toppled o'er;
And some, chance-poised and balanced, lay
So that a stripling arm might sway

A mass no host could raise,
In Nature's rage at random thrown
Yet trembling like the Druid's stone

On its precarious base.
The evening mists with ceaseless change
Now clothed the mountains' lofty range,

Now left their foreheads bare,
And round the skirts their mantle furled,
Or on the sable waters curled,
Or on the eddying breezes whirled,

Dispersed in middle air.

And oft condensed at once they lower
When, brief and fierce, the mountain shower

Pours like a torrent down,
And when return the sun's glad beams,
Whitened with foam a thousand streams

Leap from the mountain's crown.

1 This lake,' said Bruce, whose barriers

Are precipices sharp and sheer,
Yielding no track for goat or deer

Save the black shelves we tread,
How term you its dark waves ? and how
Yon northern mountain's pathless brow.

And yonder peak of dread
That to the evening sun uplifts
The griesly gulfs and slaty rifts

Which seam its shivered head? ' —
' Coriskin call the dark lake's name,
Coolin the ridge, as bards proclaim,
From old Cuchullin, chief of fame.
But bards, familiar in our isles
Rather with Nature's frowns than smiles,
Full oft their careless humors please
By sportive names from scenes like these.
I would old Torquil were to show
His Maidens with their breasts of snow,
Or that my noble liege were nigh
To hear his Nurse sing lullaby ! —
The Maids — tall cliffs with breakers white,
The Nurse — a torrent's roaring might —
Or that your eye could see the mood
Of Corryvrekin's whirlpool rude,
When dons the Hag her whitened hood —
'T is thus our islesmen's fancy frames
For scenes so stern fantastic names.'


Answered the Bruce, ' And musing mind

Might here a graver moral find.

These mighty cliffs that heave on high

Their naked brows to middle sky,

Indifferent to the sun or snow,

Where naught can fade and naught can

May they not mark a monarch's fate, —
Raised high mid storms of strife and state.
Beyond life's lowlier pleasures placed,
His soul a rock, his heart a waste?
O'er hope and love and fear aloft
High rears his crowned head — But soft !
Look, underneath yon jutting crag
Are hunters and a slaughtered stag.
Who may they be ? But late you said
No steps these desert regions tread?' —


1 So said I — and believed in sooth,'
Ronald replied, ' I spoke the truth.



Yet now I spy, by yonder stone,

Five men — they mark us and come on :

And by their badge on bonnet borne

I guess them of the land of Lorn,

Foes to my liege.' — ' So let it be ;

I 've faced worse odds than five to three —

But the poor page can little aid ;

Then be our battle thus arrayed,

If our free passage they contest ;

Cope thou with two, I '11 match the rest.' —

' Not so, my liege — for, by my life,

This sword shall meet the treble strife ;

My strength, my skill in arms, more small,

And less the loss should Ronald fall.

But islesmen soon to soldiers grow,

Allan has sword as well as bow,

And were my monarch's order given,

Two shafts should make our number even.' —

' No ! not to save my life ! ' he said ;

' Enough of blood rests on my head

Too rashly spilled — we soon shall know,

Whether they come as friend or foe.'

Nigh came the strangers and more nigh ;-
Still less they pleased the monarch's eye.
Men were they all of evil mien,
Down-looked, unwilling to be seen ;
They moved with half-resolved pace,
And bent on earth each gloomy face.
The foremost two were fair arrayed

With brogue and bonnet, trews and plaid,
And bore the arms of mountaineers,
Daggers and broadswords, bows and spears.
The three that lagged small space behind
Seemed serfs of more degraded kind ;
Goat-skins or deer-hides o'er them cast
Made a rude fence against the blast ;
Their arms and feet and heads were bare,
Matted their beards, unshorn their hair;
For arms the caitiffs bore in hand
A club, an axe, a rusty brand.


Onward still mute, they kept the track; —
' Tell who ye be, or else stand back,'
Said Bruce ; ' in deserts when they meet,
Men pass not as in peaceful street.'
Still at his stern command they stood,
And proffered greeting brief and rude,
But acted courtesy so ill
As seemed of fear and not of will.
' Wanderers we are, as you may be ;
Men hither driven by wind and sea,
Who, if you list to taste our cheer,
Will share with you this fallow deer.' ; —
' If from the sea, where lies your bark ? ■ —
' Ten fathom deep in ocean dark !
Wrecked yesternight : but we are men
Who little sense of peril ken.
The shades come down — the day is shut —
Will you go with us to our hut ? ' —



* Our vessel waits us in the bay ;
Thanks for your proffer — have good-day.' —
' Was that your galley, then, which rode
Not far from shore when evening glowed ? ' —

• It was." — ' Then spare your needless pain,
There will she now be sought in vain.

We saw her from the mountain head
When, with Saint George's blazon red
A southern vessel bore in sight,
And yours raised sail and took to flight.' —


1 Now, by the rood, unwelcome news ! '
Thus with Lord Ronald communed Bruce ;
' Nor rests there light enough to show
If this their tale be true or no.
The men seem bred of churlish kind,
Yet mellow nuts have hardest rind ;
We will go with them — f©od and fire
And sheltering roof our wants require.
Sure guard 'gainst treachery will we keep,
And watch by turns our comrades' sleep. —
Good fellows, thanks ; your guests we '11 be,
And well will pay the courtesy.
Come, lead us where your lodging lies —
Nay, soft ! we mix not companies. —
Show us the path o'er crag and stone,
And we will follow you ; — lead on.'


They reached the dreary cabin, made
Of sails against a rock displayed,

And there on entering found
A slender boy, whose form and mien
111 suited with such savage scene,
In cap and cloak of velvet green,

Low seated on the ground.
1 lis garb was such as minstrels wear,
Dark was his hue, and dark his hair,
His youthful cheek was marred by care,

His eyes in sorrow drowned.

• Whence this poor boy ? " — As Ronald

The voice his trance of anguish broke ;
As it awaked from ghastly dream,
He raised his head with start and scream,

And wildly gazed around;
Then to the wall his face he turned,
And his dark neck with blushes burned.


• Whose is the boy?' again he said.

• By chance of war our captive made;
He may be yours, if you should hold

'I hat music has more charms than gold;
For, though from earliest childhoocknute,

The lad cm deftly touch the lute,
Ami <>n tin- rote and viol play,
And well can drive the linn- away

For those who love such glee ;

For me the favoring breeze, when loud

It pipes upon the galley's shroud,
Makes blither melody.' —
' Hath he, then, sense of spoken sound ? ' —

' Ay ; so his mother bade us know,
A crone in our late shipwreck drowned,

And hence the silly stripling's woe.
More of the youth I cannot say,
Our captive but since yesterday ;
When wind and weather waxed so grim,
We little listed think of him. —
But why waste time in idle words ?
Sit to your cheer — unbelt your swords.'
Sudden the captive turned his head,
And one quick glance to Ronald sped.
It was a keen and warning look,
And well the chief the signal took.

' Kind host,' he said, ' our needs require
A separate board and separate fire ;
For know that on a pilgrimage
Wend I, my comrade, and this page.
And, sworn to vigil and to fast
Long as this hallowed task*shall last,
We never doff the plaid or sword,
Or feast us at a stranger's board,
And never share one common sleep,
But one must still his vigil keep.
Thus, for our separate use, good friend,
We '11 hold this hut's remoter end.' —
' A churlish vow,' the elder said,
' And hard, methinks, to be obeyed.
How say you, if, to wreak the scorn
That pays our kindness harsh return,
We should refuse to share our meal ? ' —
' Then say we that our swords are steel !
And our vow binds us not to fast
Where gold or force may buy repast.' —
Their host's dark brow grew keen and fell.
His teeth are clenched, his features swell ;
Yet "sunk the felon's moody ire
Before Lord Ronald's glance of fire,
Nor could his craven courage brook
The monarch's calm and dauntless look.
With laugh constrained — ' Let every man
Follow the fashion of his clan !
Each to his separate quarters keep.
And feed or fast, or wake or sleep.'

Their fire at separate distance burns,
By turns they eat, keep guard by turns :
For evil seemed that old man's eye,
Dark and designing, fierce yet shy.
Still he avoided forward look,
But slow and circumspectly took
A circling, never-ceasing glance,
By doubt and cunning marked at once,



Which shot a mischief-boding ray
From under eyebrows shagged and gray.
The younger, too, who seemed his son,
Had that dark look the timid shun ;
The half-clad serfs behind them sate,
And scowled a glare 'twixt fear and hate —
Till all, as darkness onward crept,
Couched down, and seemed to sleep or

Nor he, that boy, whose powerless tongue
Must trust his eyes to wail his wrong,
A longer watch of sorrow made,
But stretched his limbs to slumber laid.


Not in his dangerous host confides
The king, but wary watch provides.
Ronald keeps ward till midnight past,
Then wakes the king, young Allan last ;
Thus ranked, to give the youthful page
The rest required by tender age.
What is Lord Ronald's wakeful thought
To chase the languor toil had brought ? —
For deem not that he deigned to throw
Much care upon such coward foe —
He thinks of lovely Isabel
When at her foeman's feet she fell,
Nor less when, placed in princely selle,
She glanced on him with favoring eyes
At Woodstock when he won the prize.
Nor, fair in joy, in sorrow fair,
In pride of place as mid despair,

Must she alone engross his care.
His thoughts to his betrothed bride,
To Edith, turn — O, how decide,

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 39 of 78)