Copyright
Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

. (page 48 of 78)
Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 48 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Half-buried in the dinted clay,
A red and shapeless mass there lay

Of mingled flesh and bone !

XVI.

As from the bosom of the sky

The eagle darts amain,
Three bounds from yonder summit high

Placed Harold on the plain.
As the scared wild-fowl scream and fly,

So fled the bridal train ;



458



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



As 'gainst the eagle's peerless might
The noble falcon dares the fight,

But dares the fight in vain,
So fought the bridegroom ; from his

hand
The Dane's rude mace has struck his

brand,
Its glittering fragments strew the sand,

Its lord lies on the plain.
Now, Heaven ! take noble William's part,
And melt that yet unmelted heart,
Or, ere his bridal hour depart,

The hapless bridegroom 's slain !

XVII.

Count Harold's frenzied rage is high,

There is a death-fire in his eye,

Deep furrows on his brow are trenched,

His teeth are set, his hand is clenched,

The foam upon his lip is white,

His deadly arm is up to smite !

But, as the mace aloft he swung,

To stop the blow young Gunnar sprung,

Around his master's knees he clung,

And cried, ' In mercy spare !
O, think upon the words of fear
Spoke by that visionary Seer,
The crisis he foretold is here, —

Grant mercy, — or despair ! '
This word suspended Harold's mood,
Yet still with arm upraised he stood,
And visage like the headsman's rude

That pauses for the sign.
4 O mark thee with the blessed rood,'
The page implored ; ' Speak word of

good,
Resist the fiend or be subdued ! '

He signed the cross divine —
Instant his eye hath human light,
Less red, less keen, less fiercely bright ;
His brow relaxed the obdurate frown,
The fatal mace sinks gently down,

He turns and strides away ;
Yet oft, like revellers who leave
Unfinished feast, looks back to grieve,
i repenting the reprieve

He granted to his prey.



Yet still of forbearance one sign hath he

given,
And fierce Witikind's son made one step

towards heaven.



But though his dreaded footsteps part,
Death is behind and shakes his dart ;
Lord William on the plain is lying,
Beside him Metelill seems dying ! —
Bring odors — essences in haste —
And lo ! a flasket richly chased, —
But Jutta the elixir proves
Ere pouring it for those she loves —
Then Walwayn's potion was not wasted,
For when three drops the hag had tasted

So dismal was her yell,
Each bird of evil omen woke,
The raven gave his fatal croak,
And shrieked the night-crow from the oak,
The screech-owl from the thicket broke,

And fluttered down the dell !
So fearful was the sound and stern,
The slumbers of the full-gorged erne
Were startled, and from furze and fern

Of forest and of fell
The fox and famished wolf replied —
For wolves then prowled the Cheviot

side —
From mountain head to mountain head
The unhallowed sounds around were

sped;
But when their latest echo fled
The sorceress on the ground lay dead.

XIX.

Such was the scene of blood and woes
With which the bridal morn arose

Of William and of Metelill ;
But oft, when dawning 'gins to spread,
The summer morn peeps dim and red

Above the eastern hill,
Ere, bright and fair, upon his road
The king of splendor walks abroad ;
So, when this cloud had passed away,
Bright was the noontide of their day
And all serene its setting ray.




HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS. 459

pfaroto tfje ©auntless.

CANTO SIXTH.



Well do I hope that this my minstrel tale
Will tempt no traveller from southern fields,
Whether in tilbury, barouche, or mail,
To view the Castle of these Seven Proud Shields.
Small confirmation its condition yields
To Meneville's high lay, — no towers are seen
On the wild heath but those that Fancy builds,
And, save a fosse that tracks the moor with green,
Is naught remains to tell of what may there have been.

And yet grave authors, with the no small waste
Of their grave time, have dignified the spot
By theories, to prove the fortress placed
By Roman bands to curb the invading Scot.
Hutchinson, Horseley, Camden, I might quote,
But rather choose the theory less civil
Of boors, who, origin of things forgot,
Refer still to the origin of evil,
And for their master-mason choose that master-fiend the Devil.



Therefore, I say, it was on fiend-built towers
That stout Count Harold bent his wondering gaze
When evening dew was on the heather flowers,
And the last sunbeams made the mountain blaze
And tinged the battlements of other days
With the bright level light ere sinking Sown.
Illumined thus, the dauntless Dane surveys
The Seven Proud Shields that o'er the portal frown,
And on their blazons traced high marks of old renown.

A wolf North Wales had on his armor-coat,
And Rhys of Powis-land a couchant stag ;
Strath-Clwyd's strange emblem was a stranded boat,
Donald of Galloway's a trotting nag ;
A corn-sheaf gilt was fertile Lodon's brag ;
A dudgeon-dagger was by Dunmail worn ;
Northumbrian Adolf gave a sea-beat crag
Surmounted by a cross — such signs were borne
Upon these antique shields, all wasted now and worn.

in.

These scanned, Count Harold sought the castle-door,
Whose ponderous bolts were rusted to decay ;
Yet till that hour adventurous knight forbore
The unobstructed passage to essay.
More strong than armed warders in array,
And obstacle more sure than bolt or bar,
Sate in the portal Terror and Dismay,
While Superstition, who forbade to war
With foes of other mould than mortal clay,
Cast spells across the gate and barred the onward way.



46o



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



Vain now those spells ; for soon with heavy clank
The feebly-fastened gate was inward pushed,
And, as it oped, through that emblazoned rank
Of antique shields the wind of evening rushed
With sound most like a groan and then was hushed.
Is none who on such spot such sounds could hear
But to his heart the blood had faster rushed ;
Yet to bold Harold's breast that throb was dear —
It spoke of danger nigh, but had no touch of fear.

IV.

Yet Harold and his page no signs have traced
Within the castle that of danger showed ;
For still the halls and courts were wild and waste,
As through their precincts the adventurers trode.
The seven huge towers rose stately, tall, and broad,
Each tower presenting to their scrutiny
A hall in which a king might make abode,
And fast beside, garnished both proud and high,
Was placed a bower for rest in which a king might lie.

As if a bridal there of late had been,
Decked stood the table in each gorgeous hall ;
And yet it was two hundred years, I ween,
Since date of that unhallowed festival.
Flagons and ewers and standing cups were all
Of tarnished gold or silver nothing clear,
With throne begilt and canopy of pall,
And tapestry clothed the wall's with fragments sear-
Frail as the spider's mesh did that rich woof appear.



In every bower, as round a hearse, was hung
A dusky crimson curtain o'er the bed,
And on each couch in ghastly wise were flung
The wasted relics of a monarch dead ;
Barbaric ornaments around were spread,
Vests twined with gold and chains of precious stone,
And golden circlets, meet for monarch's head;
While grinned, as if in scorn amongst them thrown,
The wearer's fleshless skull, alike with dust bestrewn.

For these were they who, drunken with delight,
On pleasure's opiate pillow laid their head,
For whom the bride's shy footstep, slow and light,
Was changed ere morning to the murderer's tread.
For human bliss and woe in the frail thread
Of human life are all so closely twined
That till the shears of Fate the texture shred
The close succession cannot be disjoined,
Nor dare we from one hour judge that which comes behind.

VI.

But where the work of vengeance had been done,
In that seventh chamber, was a sterner sight;
There of the witch-brides lay each skeleton,
Mill in the posture as to death when dight
For this lay prone, by one blow slain outright ;



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



461



And that, as one who struggled long in dying ;
One bony hand held knife, as if to smite ;
One bent on fleshless knees, as mercy crying;
One lay across the door, as killed in act of flying.

The stern Dane smiled this charnel-house to see, —
For his chafed thought returned to Metelill ; —
And 'Well,' he said, 'hath woman's perfidy,
Empty as air, as water volatile,
Been here avenged. — The origin of ill
Through woman rose, the Christian doctrine saith ;
Nor deem I, Gunnar, that thy minstrel skill
Can show example where a woman's breath
Hath made a true-love vow, and tempted kept her faith.'



VII.

The minstrel-boy half smiled, half sighed,
And his half-filling eyes he dried,
And said, 'The theme I should but wrong,
Unless it were my dying song —
Our Scalds have said, in dying hour
The Northern harp has treble power —
Else could I tell of woman's faith,
Defying danger, scorn, and death.
Firm was that faith — as diamond stone
Pure and unflawed — her love unknown
And unrequited ; — firm and pure,
Her stainless faith could all endure ;
From clime to clime, from place to place,
Through want and danger and disgrace,
A wanderer's wayward steps could trace.
All this she did, and guerdon none
Required save that her burial-stone
Should make at length the secret known,
" Thus hath a faithful woman done." —
Not in each breast such truth is laid,
But Eivir was a Danish maid.'



VIII.

4 Thou art a wild enthusiast,' said
Count Harold, ' for thy Danish maid ;
And yet, young Gunnar, I will own
Hers were a faith to rest upon.
But Eivir sleeps beneath her stone
And all resembling her are gone.
What maid e'er showed such constancy
In plighted faith, like thine to me ?
But couch thee, boy ; the darksome shade
Falls thickly round, nor be dismayed

Because the dead are by.
They were as we ; our little day
O'erspent, and we shall be as they.
Yet near me, Gunnar, be thou laid,
Thy couch upon my mantle made,
That thou mayst think, should fear invade,

Thy master slumbers nigh.'
Thus couched they in that dread abode,
Until the beams of dawning glowecf.



IX.

An altered man Lord Harold rose,
When he beheld that dawn unclose —

There 's trouble in his eyes,
And traces on his brow and cheek
Of mingled awe and wonder speak :

1 My page,' he said, ' arise ; —
Leave we this place, my page.' — No

more
He uttered till the castle door
They crossed — but there he paused and

said,
* My wildness hath awaked the dead —

Disturbed the sacred tomb !
Methought this night I stood on high
Where Hecla roars in middle sky,
And in her caverned gulfs could spy
The central place of doom;
And there before my mortal eye
Souls of the dead came flitting by,
Whom fiends with many a fiendish cry

Bore to that evil den !
My eyes grew dizzy and my brain
Was wildered, as the elvish train
With shriek and howl dragged on amain

Those who had late been men.



* With haggard eyes and streaming hair,
Jutta the Sorceress was there,
And there passed Wulfstane lately slain,
All crushed and foul with bloody

stain. —
More had I seen, but that uprose
A whirlwind wild and swept the snows ;
And with such sound as when at need
A champion spurs his horse to speed,
Three armed knights rush on who lead
Caparisoned a sable steed.
Sable their harness, and there came
Through their closed visors sparks of

flame.
The first proclaimed, in sounds of fear,



462



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



' i Harold the Dauntless, welcome here ! "
The next cried, " Jubilee ! we 've won
Count Witikind the Waster's son ! '
And the third rider sternly spoke,
" Mount, in the name of Zernebock ! —
From us, O Harold, were thy powers, —
Thy strength, thy dauntlessness, are ours ;
Nor think, a vassal thou of hell,
With hell can strive." The fiend spoke

true!
My inmost soul the summons knew,

As captives know the knell
That says the headsman's sword is bare
And with an accent of despair

Commands them quit their cell.
I felt resistance was in vain,
My foot had that fell stirrup ta'en,
My hand was on the fatal mane,

When to my rescue sped
That palmer's visionary form,
And — like the passing of a storm —

The demons yelled and fled !



' His sable cowl flung back revealed
The features it before concealed ;

And, Gunnar, I could find
In him whose counsels strove to stay
So oft my course on wilful way

My father Witikind !
Doomed for his sins and doomed for mine
A wanderer upon earth to pine
Until his son shall turn to grace
And smooth for him a resting-place. —
Gunnar, he must not haunt in vain
This world of wretchedness and pain:
I '11 tame my wilful heart to live
In peace — to pity and forgive —
And thou, for so the Vision said.
Must in thy Lord's repentance aid.
Thy mother was a prophetess,
He said, who by her skill could guess
How close the fatal textures join
Which knit thy thread of life with mine;
Hun dark he hinted of disguise
She framed to cheat too curious eyes
That not a moment might divide
Thy fated footsteps from my side.
Methought while thus my sire did teach
I caught the meaning of his speech,
Yet seems its purport doubtful now.'
His hand then sought his thoughtful

brow —
Then first he marked, that in the tower
flove was left at waking hour.

XII.
Trembling at first and deadly pale,
Had Gunnar heard the visioned tale;



But when he learned the dubious close
He blushed like any opening rose,
And, glad to hide his tell-tale cheek,
Hied back that glove of mail to seek ;
When soon a shriek of deadly dread
Summoned his master to his aid.



XIII.

What sees Count Harold in that bower

So late his resting-place ? —
The semblance of the Evil Power,

Adored by all his race !
Odin in living form stood there,
His cloak the spoils of Polar bear;
For plumy crest a meteor shed
Its gloomy radiance o'er his head,
Yet veiled its haggard majesty
To the wild lightnings of his eye.
Such height was his as when in stone
O'er Upsal's giant altar shown :

So flowed his hoary beard ;
Such was his lance of mountain-pine,
So did his sevenfold buckler shine ;

But when his voice he reared,
Deep without harshness, slow and strong.
The powerful accents rolled along,
And while he spoke his hand was laid
On captive Gunnar's shrinking head.

XIV.

1 Harold,' he said, ' what rage is thine
To quit the worship of thy line,

To leave thy Warrior-God ? —
With me is glory or disgrace,
Mine is the onset and the chase,
Embattled hosts before my face

Are withered by a nod.
Wilt thou then forfeit that high seat
Deserved by many a dauntless feat
Among the heroes of thy line,
Eric and fiery Thorarine ? —
Thou wilt not. Only I can give
The joys for which the valiant live,
Victory and vengeance — only I
Can give the joys for which they die,
The immortal tilt — the banquet full,
The brimming draught from foeman's

skull.
Mine art thou, witness this thy glove,
The faithful pledge of vassal's love.

xv.

* Tempter,' said Harold, firm of heart,

* I charge thee, hence ! whate'er thou art,
I do defy thee — and resist

The kindling frenzy of my breast,
Waked by thy words ; and of my mail
Nor glove nor buckler, splent nor nail,



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



463



Shall rest with thee — that youth release,
And, God or Demon, part in peace.' —
'Eivir,' the Shape replied, 'is mine,
Marked in the birth-hour with my sign.
Think'st thou that priest with drops of

spray
Could wash that blood-red mark away ?
Or that a borrowed sex and name
Can abrogate a Godhead's claim ? %
Thrilled this strange speech through

Harold's brain,
He clenched his teeth in high disdain,
For not his new-born faith subdued
Some tokens of his ancient mood. —
1 Now, by the hope so lately given
Of better trust and purer heaven,
I will assail thee, fiend ! ' — Then rose
His mace, and with a storm of blows
The mortal and the demon close.

XVI.

Smoke rolled above, fire flashed around,
Darkened the sky and shook the ground ;

But not the artillery of hell,
The bickering lightning, nor the rock
Of turrets to the earthquake's shock,

Could Harold's courage quell.
Sternly the Dane his purpose kept,
And blows on blows resistless heaped,

Till quailed that demon form,
And — for his power to hurt or kill
Was bounded by a higher will —

Evanished in a storm.
Nor paused the Champion of the North,
But raised and bore his Eivir forth
From that wild scene of fiendish strife
To light, to liberty, and life !

XVII.

He placed her en a bank of moss,

A silver runnel bubbled by,
And new-born thoughts his soul engross,
And tremors yet unknown across

His stubborn sinews fly,
The while with timid hand the dew
Upon her brow and neck he threw,
And marked how life with rosy hue



On her pale cheek revived anew

And glimmered in her eye.
Inly he said, ' That silken tress —
What blindness mine that could not guess !
Or how could page's rugged dress

That bosom's pride belie ?
O, dull of heart, through wild and wave
In search of blood and death to rave,

With such a partner nigh ! '

XVIII.

Then in the mirrored pool he peered,
Blamed his rough locks and shaggy beard,
The stains of recent conflict cleared, —

And thus the Champion proved
That he fears now who never feared,

And loves who never loved.
And Eivir — life is on her cheek
And yet she will not move or speak,

Nor will her eyelid fully ope ;
Perchance it loves, that half-shut eye,
Through its long fringe, reserved and shy,
Affection's opening dawn to spy ;
And the deep blush, which bids its dye
O'er cheek and brow and bosom fly,

Speaks shamefacedness and hope.

XIX.

But vainly seems the Dane to seek

For terms his new-born love to speak, —

For words, save those of wrath and wrong,

Till now were strangers to his tongue ;

So, when he raised the blushing maid,

In blunt and honest terms he said —

'T were well that maids, when lovers woo,

Heard none more soft, were all as true —

• Eivir ! since thou for many a day

Hast followed Harold's wayward way,

It is but meet that in the line

Of after-life I follow thine.

To-morrow is Saint Cuthbert's tide,

And we will grace his altar's side,

A Christian knight and ChVistian bride ;

And of Witikind's son shall the marvel be
said

That on the same morn he was christened
and wed.'




464



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



Pfarolti tfje ©aunties*.



CONCLUSION.

And now, Ennui, what ails thee., weary maid ?
And why these listless looks of yawning sorrow ?
No need to turn the page as if 't were lead,
Or fling aside the volume till to-morrow. —
Be cheered — 't is ended — and I will not borrow,
To try thy patience more, one anecdote
From Bartholine or Perinskiold or Snorro.
Then pardon thou thy minstrel, who hath wrote
A tale six cantos long, yet scorned to add a note.




Bailatjg, translate* or Sfmttateli,

from t^e German, <£tc-



militant anti J^elen.

IMITATED FROM THE " LENORE " OF BURGER.

From heavy dreams fair Helen rose,

And' eyed the dawning red:
1 Alas, my love, thou tarriest long !

O art thou false or dead ? '

With gallant Frederick's princely power
He sought the bold Crusade,

But not a word from Judah's wars
Told Helen how he sped.

With Paynim and with Saracen
At length a truce was made,

And every knight returned to dry
The tears his love had shed.

Our gallant host was homeward bound

With many a song of joy ;
Green waved the laurel in each plume,

The badge of victory.

And old and young, and sire and son,
To meet them crowd the way,

With shouts and mirth and melody,
The debt of love to pay.

Full many a maid her true-love met,

And sobbed in his embrace,
And fluttering joy in tears and smiles

Arrayed full many a face.

Nor joy nor smile for Helen sad,
She sought the host in vain;

For none could tell her William's fate,
If faithless or if slain.

The martial band is past and gone ;

She rends her raven hair,
And in distraction's bitter mood

She weeps with wild despair.



1 O, rise, my child,' her mother said,

' Nor sorrow thus in vain ;
A perjured lover's fleeting heart

No tears recall again.'

' O mother, what is gone is gone,

What 's lost forever lorn :
Death, death alone can comfort me ;

O had I ne'er been born !

' O, break, my heart, O, break at once \
Drink my life-blood, Despair !

No joy remains on earth for me,
For me in heaven no share.'

1 0, enter not in judgment, Lord ! '

The pious mother prays ;
' Impute not guilt to thy frail child !

She knows not what she says.

' O, say thy pater-noster, child !

O, turn to God and grace !
His will, that turned thy bliss to bale,

Can change thy bale to bliss.'

1 O mother, mother, what is bliss ?

O mother, what is bale ?
My William's love was heaven on earth,

Without it earth is hell.

1 Why should I pray to ruthless Heaven,
Since my loved William 's slain ?

I only prayed for William's sake,
And all my prayers were vain.'

1 0, take the sacrament, my child,
And check these tears that flow ;

By resignation's humble prayer,
O, hallowed be thy woe ! '

1 No sacrament can quench this fire,
Or slake this scorching pain ;

No sacrament can bid the dead
Arise and live again.



468



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



4 O, break, my heart, O, break at once !

Be thou my god, Despair !
Heaven's heaviest blow has fallen on me,

And vain each fruitless prayer.'

- O, enter not in judgment, Lord,

With thy frail child of clay !
She knows not what her tongue has spoke :

Impute it not, I pray !

4 Forbear, my child, this desperate woe,

And turn to God and grace ;
Well can devotion's heavenly glow

Convert thy bale to bliss.'

4 O mother, mother, what is bliss ?

mother, what is bale ?

Without my William what were heaven,
Or with him what were hell ? '

Wild she arraigns the eternal doom,

Upbraids each sacred power,
Till, spent, she sought her silent room,

All in the lonely tower.

She beat her breast, she wrung her hands,

Till sun and day were o'er,
And through the glimmering lattice shone

The twinkling of the star.

Then, crash ! the heavy drawbridge fell

That o'er the moat was hung ;
And, clatter ! clatter ! on its boards

The hoof of courser rung.

The clank of echoing steel was heard

As off the rider bounded;
And slowly on the winding stair

A heavy footstep sounded.

And hark ! and hark ! a knock — tap ! tap !

A rustling stifled noise ; —
Door-latch and tinkling staples ring; —

At length a whispering voice.

* Awake, awake, arise, my love !

How, Helen, dost thou fare?

t thou, or sleep'st? laugh 'st thou, or

treep'tt?
Hast thought on me, my fair ? '

• My bve ! my love ! — so late by night ! —

1 waked. I wept for thee :

Much have I home since dawn of morn ;
Where, William, COllIdst thou be?'

4 We saddle late— from Hungary

I rode since darkness fell;
And to its bourne we both return

Before the matin-bell. 1



4 0, rest this night within my arms,
And warm thee in their fold !

Chill howls through hawthorn bush
wind : —
My love is deadly cold.'



the



4 Let the wind howl through hawthorn bush !

This night we must away ;
The steed is wight, the spur is bright ;

I cannot stay till day.

4 Busk, busk, and boune ! Thou mount'st
behind

Upon my black barb steed :
O'er stock and stile, a hundred miles,

We haste to bridal bed.'

4 To-night — to-night a hundred miles ! —

O dearest William, stay !
The bell strikes twelve — dark, dismal hour!

O, wait, my love, till day ! '

4 Look here, look here — the moon shines
clear —

Full fast I ween we ride ;
Mount and away ! for ere the day

We reach our bridal bed.

4 The black barb snorts, the bridle rings ;

Haste, busk, and boune, and seat thee !
The feast is made, the chamber spread,

The bridal guests await thee.'

Strong love prevailed : she busks, she
bounes,

She mounts the barb behind,
And round her darling William's waist

Her lily arms she twined.

And, hurry ! hurry ! off they rode,

As fast as fast might be ;
Spurned from the courser's thundering heels

The flashing pebbles flee.

And on the right and on the left,

Ere they could snatch a vjew,
Fast, fast each mountain, mead, and plain,

And cot and castle flew.

1 Sit fast — dost fear ? — The moon shines
clear —

Fleet goes my barb — keep hold !
Fear'st thou ? ' — ' O no ! ' she faintly said ;

' But why so stern and cold ?

' What yonder rings ? what yonder sings ?

Why shrieks the owlet gray ? '
* 'T is death-bells' clang, 't is funeral song,

The body to the clay.



BALLADS FROM THE GERMAN.



469



1 With song and clang at morrow's dawn

Ye may inter the dead :
To-night I ride with my young bride

To deck our bridal bed.

1 Come with thy choir, thou coffined guest,



Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 48 of 78)