Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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Around their king regained they pressed,
Wept, shouted, clasped him to their breast.
And young and old, and serf and lord,
And he who ne'er unsheathed a sword,
And he in many a peril tried,
Alike resolved the brunt to bide,
And live or die by Bruce's side !


O War ! thou hast thy fierce delight,
Thy gleams of joy, intensely bright !
Such gleams as from thy polished shield
Fly dazzling o'er the battle-field !
Such transports wake, severe and high,
Amid the pealing conquest cry ;
Scarce less, when after battle lost
Muster the remnants of a host,
And as each conirade's name they tell
Who in the well-fought conflict fell,
Knitting stern brow o'er flashing eye,
Vow to avenge them or to die ! —
Warriors ! — and where are warriors found.
If not on martial Britain's ground ?
And who, when waked with note of fire,
Love more than they the British lyre ? —
Know ye not, — hearts to honor dear !
That joy, deep-thrilling, stern, severe,
At which the heartstrings vibrate high.



And wake the fountains of the eye ?
And blame ye then the Bruce if trace
Of tear is on his manly face
When, scanty relics of the train
That hailed at Scone his early reign,
This patriot band around him hung,
And to his knees and bosom clung ? —
Blame ye the Bruce ? — His brother blamed,
But shared the weakness, while ashamed
With haughty laugh his head he turned,
And dashed away the tear he scorned.


'T is morning, and the convent bell
Long time had ceased its matin knell

T're portress crossed herself and said,
1 Not to be Prioress might I
Debate his will, his suit deny.' —
' Has earthly show then, simple fool,
Power o'er a sister of thy rule ?
And art thou, like the worldly train,
Subdued by splendors light and vain ? '


' No, lady ! in old eyes like mine,
Gauds have no glitter, gems no shine ;
Nor grace his rank attendants vain,
One youthful page is all his train.
It is the form, the eye, the word,
The bearing of that stranger lord ;

Within thy walls, Saint Bride !
An aged sister sought the cell
Assigned to Lady Isabel,

And hurriedly she cried,
1 Haste, gentle Lady, haste ! — there waits
A noble stranger at the gates ;
Saint Bride's poor votaress ne'er has seen
A knight of such a princely mien ;
His errand, as he bade me tell,
Is with the Lady Isabel.'
The princess rose, — for on her knee
Low bent she told her rosary, —
1 Let him by thee his purpose teach ;
I may not give a stranger speech.' —
' Saint Bride forefend, thou royal maid ! '

His stature, manly, bold, and tall,
Built like a castle's battled wall,
Yet moulded in such just degrees,
His giant-strength seems lightsome ease.
Close as the tendrils of the vine
His locks upon his forehead twine,
Jet-black save where some touch of gray
Has ta'en the youthful hue away.
Weather and war their rougher trace
Have left on that majestic face ; —
But 't is his dignity of eye !
There, if a suppliant, would I fly,
Secure, mid danger, wrongs, and grief,
Of sympathy, redress, relief — -
That glance, if guilty, would I dread

59 S


More than the doom that spoke me dead !
1 Enough, enough,' the Princess cried,
1 'T is Scotland's hope, her joy, her pride !
To meaner front was ne'er assigned
Such mastery o'er the common mind —
Bestowed thy high designs to aid,
How long, O Heaven ! how long delayed ! —
Haste, Mona, haste, to introduce
My darling brother, royal Bruce ! *


They met like friends who part in pain,
And meet in doubtful hope again.
But when subdued that fitful swell,
The Bruce surveyed the humble cell —
'And this is thine, poor Isabel ! —
That pallet-couch and naked wall,
For room of state and bed of pall ;
For costly robes and jewels rare,
A string of beads and zone of hair ;
And for the trumpet's sprightly call
To sport or banquet, grove or hall,
The bell's grim voice divides thy care,
'Twixt hours of penitence and prayer ! —
O ill for thee, my royal claim
From the First David's sainted name !

woe for thee, that while he sought
His right, thy brother feebly fought ! '


1 Now lay these vain regrets aside,

And be the unshaken Bruce ! ' she cried ;

' For more I glory to have shared

The woes thy venturous spirit dared,

When raising first thy valiant band

In rescue of thy native land,

Than had fair Fortune set me down

The partner of an empire's crown.

And grieve not that on pleasure's stream

No more I drive in giddy dream,

For Heaven the erring pilot knew,

And from the gulf the vessel drew,

Tried me with judgments stern and great,

My house's ruin, thy defeat,

Poor Nigel's death, till tamed I own

My hopes are fixed on Heaven alone ;

Nor e'er shall earthly prospects win

My heart to this vain world of sin.'


'Nay, Isabel, for such stern choice
First wilt thou wait thy brother's voice;
Then ]><>nder if in convent scene

ofter thoughts might intervene —
Say they were <>f that unknown knight,
Vi< tor in Woodstock's tourney-fight —
Nay, if his name such blush you owe,
Victorious o'er a fairer foe ! '
Truly his penetrating eye

Hath caught that blush's passing dye, —
Like the last beam of evening thrown
On a white cloud, — just seen and gone.
Soon with calm cheek and steady eye
The princess made composed reply :
4 1 guess my brother's meaning well ;
For not so silent is the cell
But we have heard the islemen all
Arm in thy cause at Ronald's call,
And mine eye proves that knight unknown
And the brave Island Lord are one.
Had then his suit been earlier made,
In his own name with thee to aid —
But that his plighted faith forbade —
I know not — But thy page so near ? —
This is no tale for menial's ear.'


Still stood that page, as far apart

As the small cell would space afford ;
With dizzy eye and bursting heart

He leant his weight on Bruce's sword.
The monarch's mantle too he bore,
And drew the fold his visage o'er.
' Fear not for him — in murderous strife,'
Said Bruce, ' his warning saved my life ;
Full seldom parts he from my side, .
And in his silence I confide,
Since he can tell no tale again.
He is a boy of gentle strain,
And I have purposed he shall dwell
In Augustine the chaplain's cell
And wait on thee, my Isabel. —
Mind not his tears ; I 've seen them flow.
As in the thaw dissolves the snow.
'T is a kind youth, but fanciful,
Unfit against the tide to pull,
And those that with the Bruce would sail
Must learn to strive with stream and gale.
But forward, gentle Isabel —
My answer for Lord Ronald tell.'


' This answer be to Ronald given —
The heart he asks is fixed on heaven.
My love was like a summer flower
That withered in the wintry hour,
Born but of vanity and pride,
And with these sunny visions died.
If further press his suit — then say
He should his plighted troth obey,
Troth plighted both with ring and word,
And sworn on crucifix and sword. —
O, shame thee, Robert ! I have seen
Thou hast a woman's guardian been !
Even in extremity's dread hour,
When pressed on thee the Southern power,
And safety, to all human sight,
Was only fou/id in rapid flight,



Thou heard'st a wretched female plain
In agony of travail-pain,
And thou didst bid thy little band
Upon the instant turn and stand,
And dare the worst the foe might do
Rather than, like a knight untrue,
Leave to^pursuers merciless
A woman in her last distress.
And wilt thou now deny thine aid
To an oppressed and injured maid,
Even plead for Ronald's perfidy
And press his fickle faith on me ? —
So witness Heaven, as true I vow,
Had I those earthly feelings now
Which could my former bosom move
Ere taught to set its hopes above,
I 'd spurn each proffer he could bring
Till at my feet he laid the ring,
The ring and spousal contract both,
And fair acquittal of his oath,
By her who brooks his perjured scorn,
The ill-requited Maid of Lorn ! '


With sudden impulse forward sprung
The page and on her neck he hung;
Then, recollected instantly,
His head he stooped and bent his knee,
Kissed twice the hand of Isabel,
Arose, and sudden left the cell. —
The princess, loosened from his hold,
Blushed angry at his bearing bold ;

But good King Robert cried,
' Chafe not — by signs he speaks his mind,
He heard the plan my care designed,

Nor could his transports hide. —
But, sister, now bethink thee well ;
No easy choice the convent cell ;
Trust, I shall play no tyrant part,
Either to force thy hand or heart,
Or suffer that Lord Ronald scorn
Or wrong for thee the Maid of Lorn.
But think, — not long the time has been,
That thou wert wont to sigh unseen,
And wouldst the ditties best approve
That told some lay of hapless love.
Now are thy wishes in thy power,
And thou art bent on cloister bower !
O, if our Edward knew the change,
How would his busy satire range,
With many a sarcasm varied still
On woman's wish and woman's will ! ' —


'Brother, I well believe,' she said,

' Even so would Edward's part be played.

Kindly in heart, in word severe,

A foe to thought and grief and fear,

He holds his humor uncontrolled ;

But thou art of another mould.

Say then to Ronald, as I say,

Unless before my feet he lay

The ring which bound the faith he swore,

By Edith freely yielded o'er,

He moves his suit to me no more.

Nor do I promise, even if now

He stood absolved of spousal vow,

That I would change my purpose made

To shelter me in holy shade. —

Brother, for little space, farewell !

To other duties warns the bell.'


1 Lost to the world,' King Robert said,

When he had left the royal maid,

' Lost to the world by lot severe,

O, what a gem lies buried here,

Nipped by misfortune's cruel frost,

The buds of fair affection lost ! —

But what have I with love to do ?

Far sterner cares my lot pursue.

Pent in this isle we may not lie,

Nor would it long our wants supply.

Right opposite, the mainland towers

Of my own Turnberry court our powers —

Might not my father's beadsman hoar,

Cuthbert, who dwells upon the shore,

Kindle a signal-flame to show

The time propitious for the blow?

It shall be so — some friend shall bear

Our mandate with despatch and care ;

Edward shall find the messenger.

That fortress ours, the island fleet

May on the coast of Carrick meet. —

O Scotland ! shall it e'er be mine

To wreak thy wrongs in battle-line,

To raise my victor-head, and see

Thy hills, thy dales, thy people free, —

That glance of bliss is all I crave

Betwixt my labors and my grave ! '

Then down the hill he slowly went,

Oft pausing on the steep descent,

And reached the spot where his bold train

Held rustic camp upon the plain.



Cfje Horn of tfje Isles.


On fair Loch-Ranza streamed the early day,
Thin wreaths of cottage-smoke are upward curled
From the lone hamlet which her inland bay
And circling mountains sever from the world.
And there the fisherman his sail unfurled,
The goat-herd drove his kids to steep Ben-Ghoil,
Before the hut the dame her spindle twirled,
Courting the sunbeam as she plied her toil, —
For, wake where'er he may, man wakes to care and coil.

But other duties called each convent maid,
Roused by the summons of the moss-grown bell ;
Sung were the matins and the mass was said,
And every sister sought her separate cell,
Such was the rule, her rosary to tell.
And Isabel has knelt in lonely prayer;
The sunbeam through the narrow lattice fell
Upon the snowy neck and long dark hair,
As stooped her gentle head in meek devotion there.

She raised her eyes, that duty done,
When glanced upon the pavement-stone,
Gemmed and enchased, a golden ring,
Bound to a scroll with silken string,
With few brief words inscribed to tell,
4 This for the Lady Isabel.'
Within the writing farther bore,
' 'T was with this ring his plight he swore,
With this his promise I restore ;
To her who can the heart command
Well may I yield the plighted hand.
And O, for better fortune born,
Grudge not a passing sigh to mourn
Her who was Edith once of Lorn ! '
One single flash of glad surprise
Just glanced from Isabel's dark eyes,
But vanished in the blush of shame
That as its penance instant came.
• O thought unworthy of my race !
Selfish, ungenerous, mean, and base,
A momenrs throb of joy to own
That rose upon her hopes o'erthrown ! —
Thou pledge of vows too well believed.
Of man ingrate and maid deceived,
Think not thy lustre here shall gain
Another heart to hope in vain !
For thou shalt rest, thou tempting gaud,
Where worldly thoughts are overawed,
And worldly splendors sink debased.'
Then by the cross the ring she placed.

Next rose the thought, — its owner far,
How came it here through bolt and bar? —
But the dim lattice is ajar.
She looks abroad, — the morning dew
A light short step had brushed anew,

And there were footprints seen
On the carved buttress rising still,
Till on the mossy window-sill

Their track effaced the green.
The ivy twigs were torn and frayed,
As if some climber's steps to aid. —
But who the hardy messenger
Whose venturous path these signs infer? —
' Strange doubts are mine ! — Mona, draw

nigh ; —
Naught 'scapes old Mona's curious eye —
What strangers, gentle mother, say,
Have sought these holy walls to-day ? '
' None, lady, none of note or name ;
Only your brother's foot-page came
At peep of dawn — I prayed him pass
To chapel where they said the mass ;
But like an arrow he shot by,
And tears seemed bursting from his eye.'

The truth at once on Isabel

As darted by a sunbeam fell :

1 'T is Edith's self ! — her speechless woe,



Her form, her looks, the secret show ! —

Instant, good Mona, to the bay,

And to my royal brother say,

I do conjure him seek my cell

With that mute page he loves so well.'

' What ! know'st thou not his warlike host

At break of day has left our coast?

My old eyes saw them from the tower.

At eve they couched in greenwood bower,

At dawn a bugle signal made

By their bold lord their ranks arrayed ;

Up sprung the spears through bush and

No time for benedicite !
Like deer that, rousing from their lair,
Just shake the dewdrops from their hair
And toss their armed crest aloft,
Such matins theirs ! ' — ' Good mother,

soft —
Where does my brother bend his way ? ■ —
; As I have heard, for Brodick-Bay,
Across the isle — of barks a score
Lie there, 't is said, to waft them o'er,
On sudden news, to Carrick-shore.' —
' If such their purpose, deep the need,'
Said anxious Isabel, ' of speed !
Call Father Augustine, good dame.' —
The nun obeyed, the father came.

' Kind father, hie without delay
Across the hills to Brodick-Bay.


This message to the Bruce be given ;

I pray him, by his hopes of Heaven,

That till he speak with me he stay !

Or, if his haste brook no delay,

That he deliver on my suit

Into thy charge that stripling mute.

Thus prays his sister Isabel

For causes more than she may tell —

Away, good father ! and take heed

That life and death are on thy speed.'

His cowl the good old priest did on,

Took his piked staff and sandalled shoon,

And, like a palmer bent by eld,

O'er moss and moor his journey held.


Heavy and dull the foot of age,

And rugged was the pilgrimage ;

But none were there beside whose care

Might such important message bear.

Through birchen copse he wandered slow,

Stunted and sapless, thin and low ;

By many a mountain stream he passed,

From the tall cliffs in tumult cast,

Dashing to foam their waters dun

And sparkling in the summer sun.

Round his gray head the wild curlew

In many a fearless circle flew.

O'er chasms he passed where fractures

Craved wary eye and ample stride ;



He crossed his brow beside the stone
Where Druids erst heard victims groan,
And at the cairns upon the wild
O'er many a heathen hero piled,
He breathed a timid prayer for those
Who died ere Shiloh's sun arose.
Beside Macfarlane's Cross he staid,
There told his hours within the shade
And at the stream his thirst allayed.
Thence onward journeying slowly still,
As evening closed he reached the hill
Where, rising through the woodland green,
Old Brodick's Gothic towers were seen.
From Hastings late, their English lord,
Douglas had won them by the sword.
The sun that sunk behind the isle
Now tinged them with a parting smile.


But though the beams of light decay
'T was bustle all in Brodick Bay.
The Bruce's followers crowd the shore,
And boats and barges some unmoor,
Some raise the sail, some seize the oar ;
Their eyes oft turned where glimmered far
What might have seemed an early star
On heaven's blue arch save that its light
Was all too flickering, fierce, and bright.
Far distant in the south the ray
Shone pale amid retiring day,

But as, on Carrick shore,
Dim seen in outline faintly blue,
The shades of evening closer drew,
It kindled more and more.
The monk's slow steps now press the sands,
And now amid a scene he stands

Full strange to churchman's eye ;
Warriors, who, arming for the fight,
Rivet and clasp their harness light,
And twinkling spears, and axes bright,
And helmets flashing high.
Oft too with unaccustomed ears
A language much unmeet he hears,

While, hastening all on board,
As stormy as the swelling surge
That mixed its roar, the leaders urge
Their followers to the ocean verge
With many a haughty word.


Through that wild throng the father passed,
And readied the royal Bruce at last.
He leant stranded boat

That the approaching tide must float,
And counted every rippling wave
As higher yet her sides they lave,
tad <>it the distant fire he eyed,
And closer yet his hauberk tied,
And loosened in its sheath his brand.

Edward and Lennox were at hand,

Douglas and Ronald had the care

The soldiers to the barks to share. —

The monk approached and homage paid ;

' And art thou come,' King Robert said,

1 So far to bless us ere we part ? ' —

' My liege, and with a loyal heart ! —

But other charge I have to tell,' —

And spoke the hest of Isabel.

' Now by Saint Giles,' the monarch cried,

' This moves me much ! — this morning

I sent the stripling to Saint Bride
With my commandment there to bide.'
' Thither he came the portress showed,
But there, my liege, mad e brief abode.' —


1 'T was I,' said Edward, 'found employ
Of nobler import for the boy.
Deep pondering in my anxious mind
A fitting messenger to find
To bear thy written mandate o'er
To Cuthbert on the Carrick shore,
I chanced at early dawn to pass
The chapel gate to snatch a mass.
I found the stripling on a tomb
Low-seated, weeping for the doom
That gave his youth to convent gloom.
I told my purpose and his eyes
Flashed joyful at the glad surprise.
He bounded to the skiff, the sail
Was .spread before a prosperous gale,
And well my charge he hath obeyed ;
For see ! the ruddy signal made
That Clifford with his merry-men all
Guards carelessly our father's hall.'


1 wild of thought and hard of heart ! '
Answered the monarch, 'on a part
Of such deep danger to employ
A mute, an orphan, and a boy !
Unfit for flight, unfit for strife,
Without a tongue to plead for life !
Now, were my right restored by Heaven,
Edward, my crown I would have given
Ere, thrust on such adventure wild,
I perilled thus the helpless child.'
Offended half and half submiss,—
4 Brother and liege, of blame like this,'
Edward replied, ' I little dreamed.
A stranger messenger, I deemed,
Might safest seek the beadsman's cell
Where all thy squires are known so well.
Noteless his presence, sharp his sense,
His imperfection his defence.
If seen, none can his errand guess ;
If ta'en, his words no tale express —



Methinks, too, yonder beacon's shine

Might expiate greater fault than mine.'

' Rash,' said King Robert, 'was the deed —

But it is done. Embark with speed ! —

Good father, say to Isabel

How this unhappy chance befell ;

If well we thrive on yonder shore.

Soon shall my care her page restore.

Our greeting to, our sister bear,

And think of us in mass and prayer/

Their number was a score and ten,
They bore thrice threescore chosen men.
With such small force did Bruce at last
The die for death or empire cast !


Now on the darkening main afloat,
Ready and manned rocks every boat ;
Beneath their oars the ocean's might
Was dashed to sparks of glimmering light.


' Ay ! ' said the priest, ' while this poor

Can chalice raise or cross command,
While my old voice has accents' use,
Can Augustine forget the Bruce ! '
Then to his side Lord Ronald pressed,
And whispered, * Bear thou this request,
That when by Bruce's side I fight
For Scotland's crown and freedom's right,
The princess grace her knight to bear
Some token of her favoring care ;
It shall be shown where England's best
May shrink to see it on my crest.
And for the boy — since weightier care
For royal Bruce the times prepare,
The helpless youth is Ronald's charge,
His couch my plaid, his fence my targe.'
He ceased ; for many an eager hand
Had urged the barges from the strand.

Faint and more faint, as off they bore,
Their armor glanced against the shore,
And, mingled with the dashing tide,
Their murmuring voices distant died. —
' God speed them ! ' said the priest, as

On distant billows glides each bark ;
1 O Heaven ! when swords for freedom

And monarch's right, the cause is thine !
Edge doubly every patriot blow !
Beat down the banners of the foe ]
And be it to the nations known,
That victory is from God alone ! '
As up the hill his path he drew,
He turned his blessings to renew,
Oft turned till on the darkened coast
All traces of their course were lost :
Then slowly bent to Brodick tower
To shelter for the evening hour.




In night the fairy prospects sink
Where Cumray's isles with verdant link
Close the fair entrance of the Clyde ;
The woods of Bute, no more descried,
Are gone — and on the placid sea
The rowers ply their task with glee,
While hands that knightly lances bore
Impatient aid the laboring oar.
The half-faced moon shone dim and pale,
And glanced against the whitened sail ;
But on that ruddy beacon-light
Each steersman kept the heim aright,
And oft, for such the king's command,
That all at once might reach the strand,
From boat to boat loud shout and hail
Warned them to crowd or slacken sail.
South and by west the armada bore.
And near at length the Carrick shore.
As less and less the distance grows,
High and more high the beacon rose ;
The light that seemed a twinkling star
Now blazed portentous, fierce, and far.
Dark-red the heaven above it glowed,
Dark-red the sea beneath it flowed.
Red rose the rocks on ocean's brim,
In blood-red light her islets swim;
Wild scream the dazzled sea-fowl gave,
Dropped from their crags on plashing wave.
The deer to distant covert drew,
The black-cock deemed it day and crew.
Like some tall castle given to flame,
O'er half the land the lustre came.
1 Now, good my liege and brother sage,
What think ye of mine elfin page ? ' —
1 Row on ! ' the noble king replied,
* We '11 learn the truth whate'er betide ;
Yet sure the beadsman and the child
Could ne'er have waked that beacon wild.'


With that the boats approached the land,
But Edward's grounded on the sand ;
The eager knight leaped in the sea
Waste-deep and first on shore was he,
Though every barge's hardy band
Contended which should gain the land,
When that strange light, which seen afar
Seemed steady as the polar star,
Now, like a prophet's fiery chair,
Seemed travelling the realms of air.
Wide o'er the sky the splendor glows
As (hat portentous meteor rose ;
lit lm, axe, and falchion glittered bright,
And in the red and dusky light
His comrade's face each warrior saw,
Nor marvelled it was pale with awe.
Then high in air the beams were lost,
And darkness sunk upon the coast. —

Ronald to Heaven a prayer addressed,

And Douglas crossed his dauntless breast :

• Saint James protect us ! ' Lennox cried,

But reckless Edward spoke aside,

' Deem'st thou, Kirkpatrick, in that flame

Red Comyn's angry spirit came,

Or would thy dauntless heart endure

Once more to make assurance sure ? '

' Hush ! ' said the Bruce ; ' we soon shall

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 41 of 78)