Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

The duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,

Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb.
When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:
And he began to talk anon,

Of good earl Francis,† dead and gone,
And of earl Walter, rest him God!
A braver ne'er to battle rode:
And how full many a tale he knew
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch;
And, would the noble duchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain,
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought, even yet, the sooth to speak,
That if she loved the harp to hear,
He could make music to her ear,

The humble boon was soon obtained; The Aged Minstrel audience gained. But, when he reached the room of state, Where she, with all her ladies, sate, Perchance he wished his boon denied: For, when to tune his harp he tried, His trembling hand had lost the ease, Which marks security to please; And scenes, long past, of joy and pain, Came wildering o'er his aged brainHe tried to tune his harp in vain. The pitying duchess praised its chime, And gave him heart, and gave him time, Till every string's according glee Was blended into harmony. And then, he said, he would full fain He could recall an ancient strain, He never thought to sing again. It was not framed for village churls, But for high dames and mighty earls; He had played it to king Charles the Good, When he kept court in Holyrood; And much he wished, yet feared, to try The long forgotten melody. Amid the strings his fingers strayed, And an uncertain warbling made, And oft he shook his hoary head. But when he caught the measure wild, The old man raised his face and smiled; And lightened up his faded eye, With all a poet's ecstasy! In varying cadence, soft or strong, He swept the sounding chords along: The present scene, the future lot, His toils, his wants, were all forgot; Cold diffidence, and age's frost, In the full tide of song were lost; Each blank, in faithless memory void, The poet's glowing thought supplied; And, while his harp responsive rung, "Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

XIX.

The Ladye sought the lofty hall,

Where many a bold retainer lay, And, with jocund din, among them all, Her son pursued his infant play. A fancied mosstrooper, 13 the boy

The truncheon of a spear bestrode, And round the hall, right merrily,

In mimic foray* rode. Even bearded knights, in arms grown old, Share in his frolic gambols bore, Albeit their hearts, of rugged mould,

Were stubborn as the steel they wore. For the gray warriors prophesied,

How the brave boy, in future war,
Should tame the unicorn's pride,

Exalt the crescent, and the star. 14
XX.
The ladye forgot her purpose high,
One moment, and no more;

One moment gazed with a mother's eye,
As she paused at the arched door;
Then, from amid the armed train,
She called to her William of Deloraine. 15

XXI.

A stark mosstrooping Scott was he,
As e'er couched border lance by knee;
Through Solway sands, through Tarras moss,
Blindfold he knew the paths to cross;
By wily turns, by desperate bounds,
Had baffled Percy's best bloodhounds;16
In Eske, or Liddel, fords were none,
But he would ride them, one by one;
Alike to him was time, or tide,
December's snow, or July's pride;
Alike to him was tide, or time,
Moonless midnight, or matin prime:
Steady of heart, and stout of hand,
As ever drove prey from Cumberland;
Five times outlawed had he been,
By England's king and Scotland's queen.

XXII.

"Sir William of Deloraine, good at need,
Mount thee on the wightest steed;
Spare not to spur, nor stint to ride,
Until you come to fair Tweed side;
And in Melrose's holy pile
Seek thou the monk of St. Mary's aisle.
Greet the father well from me;

Say, that the fated hour is come, And to-night he shall watch with thee, To win the treasure of the tomb: For this will be Saint Michael's night, And, though stars be dim, the moon is bright;

▪ Foray, a predatory inroad.

[blocks in formation]

XXV. Soon in his saddle sate he fast, And soon the deep descent he passed, Soon crossed the sounding barbican,t And soon the Teviot's side he won. Eastward the wooded path he rode, Green hazels o'er his basnet nod: He passed the Peelt of Goldiland, And crossed old Borthwick's roaring strand: Dimly he viewed the moathill's mound,17 Where Druid shades still flitted round: In Hawick twinkled many a light; Behind him soon they set in night; And soon he spurred his courser keen Beneath the tower of Hazeldean,18

[blocks in formation]

XXVII.

A moment now he slacked his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed;
Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
And loosened in the sheath his brand.
On Mintocrags the moonbeams glint, 19
Where Barnhill hewed his bed of flint;
Who flung his outlawed limbs to rest,
Where falcons hang their giddy_nest,
Mid cliffs, from whence his eagle eye,
For many a league, his prey could spy;
Cliffs doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber's horn;
Cliffs, which, for many a later year,
The warbling Doric reed shall hear,
When some sad swain shall teach the grove,
Ambition is no cure for love.

Haribee, the place of executing the Border marauders at Carlisle. The neck-verse is the beginning of the fiftyfirst psalm, Miserere mei, &c. anciently read by criminals, claiming the benefit of clergy.

+Barbican, the defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle. Peel, a Border tower.

An ancient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburghshire.

[ocr errors]

XXVIII. Unchallenged, thence past Deloraine To ancient Riddell's fair domain, 20

Where Aill, from mountains freed,
Down from the lakes did raving come,
Cresting each wave with tawny foam,

Like the mane of a chestnut steed.
In vain! no torrent, deep or broad,
Might bar the bold mosstrooper's road.
XXIX.

At the first plunge the horse sunk low,
And the water broke o'er the saddle-bow:
Above the foaming tide, I ween,
Searce half the charger's neck was seen;
For he was barded from counter to tail,
And the rider was armed complete in mail;
Never heavier man and horse
Stemmed a midnight torrent's force.
The warrior's very plume, I say,
Was daggled by the dashing spray;
Yet, through good heart, and our Ladye's grace,
At length he gained the landing place.

XXX.

Now Bowden moor the marchman won,
And sternly shook his plumed head,
As glanced his eye o'er Halidon,21

For on his soul the slaughter red
Of that unhallowed morn arose,
When first the Scott and Car were foes;
When royal James beheld the fray,
Prize to the victor of the day;
When Home and Douglas, in the van,
Bore down Buccleuch's retiring clan,
Till gallant Cessford's heartblood dear
Reeked on dark Elliot's border spear.
XXXI.
In bitter mood he spurred fast,
And soon the hated heath was past;
And far beneath, in lustre wan,
Old Melros' rose, and fair Tweed ran;22
Like some tall rock, with lichens gray,
Rose, dimly huge, the dark abbaye.
When Hawick he passed, had curfew rung,
Now midnight laudst were in Melrose sung.
The sound, upon the fitful gale,

In solemn wise did rise and fail,

Like that wild harp, whose magic tone
Is wakened by the winds alone.

But when Melrose he reached, 'twas silence all;
He meetly stabled his steed in stall,
And sought the convent's lonely wall.

Here paused the harp; and with its swell The master's fire, and courage fell: Dejectedly, and low, he bowed, And, gazing timid on the crowd,. He seemed to seek, in every eye, If they approved his minstrelsy: And, diffident of present praise, Somewhat he spoke of former days, And how old age, and wandering long, Had done his hand and harp some wrong. The duchess and her daughters fair, And every gentle ladye there, Each after each, in due degree, Gave praises to his melody; His hand was true, his voice was clear, And much they longed the rest to hear.

Barded, or barbed, applied to a horse accoutred with defensive armour. †Lauds, the midnight service of the Catholic church.

Encouraged thus, the Aged Man, After meet rest, again began.

CANTO II.
I.

If thou would'st view fair Melrose ariget,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins gray.
When the broken arches are black in nige
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower:
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seemed framed of ebon and ivory:
When silver edges the imagery,

And the scrolls that teach thee to live and diei;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,

And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,
Then go-but go alone the while-
Then view Saint David's ruined pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!

II.

Short halt did Deloraine make there;
Little recked he of the scene so fair:
With dagger's hilt, on the wicket strong,
He struck full loud, and struck full long.
The porter hurried to the gate-
"Who knocks so loud, and knocks so late?"
"From Branksome 1," the warrior cried;
And straight the wicket opened wide:
For Branksome's chiefs had in battle stood,
To fence the rights of fair Melrose;
And lands and livings, many a rood,

Had gifted the shrine for their soul's repose.

in. Bold Deloraine his errand said; The porter bent his humble head; With torch in hand, and feet unshod, And noiseless step, the path he trod; The arched cloisters, far and wide, Rang to the warrior's clanking stride; Till, stooping low his lofty crest, He entered the cell of the ancient priest, And lifted his barred aventayle,* To hail the monk of Saint Mary's aisle.

IV.

"The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by me;
Says, that the fated hour is come,
And that to-night I shall watch with thee,
To win the treasure of the tomb."
From sackcloth couch the monk arose,

With toil his stiffened limbs he reared; A hundred years had flung their snows On his thin locks and floating beard.

V.

And strangely on the knight looked he,

And his blue eyes gleamed wild and wide; "And, darest thou, warrior! seek to see

What heaven and hell alike would hide? My breast, in belt of iron pent,

With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn: For three-score years, in penance spent,

My knees those flinty stones have worn; Yet all too little to atone

For knowing what should n'er be known.

* Aventayle, visor of the helmet.

[blocks in formation]

And fought in Spain and Italy.

And he tho❜t on the day's that were long since by, When his limbs were strong, and his courage was high:

Now, slow and faint, he led the way,
Where, cloistered round, the garden lay:
The pillard arches were over their head,
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.5

VIII.

Spreading herbs, and flow'rets bright,
Glistened with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor flow'ret, glistened there,
But was carved in the cloister'd arches as fair.
The monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light

Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen, in fair Častile,

The youth in glittering squadrons start; Sudden the flying gennet wheel,

And hurl the unexpected dart.6

He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright, That spirits were riding the northern light.

IX.

By a steel-clenched postern door,
They entered now the chancel tall:
The darkened roof rose high aloof

On pillars, lofty, and light, and small;
The keystone, that locked each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-feuille:
The corbells were carved grotesque and grim;
And the pillars, with clustered shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourished around,
Seemed bundles of lances which garlands had
bound.
X.
Full many a scutcheon and banner, riven,
Shook to the cold nightwind of heaven,
Around the screened altar's pale;
And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn,
O gallant chief of Otterburne!7

And thine, dark knight of Liddesdale!8
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!

XI.

The moon on the east oriel shone9
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined:
Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand
"Twixt poplars straight the osier wand,

In many a freakish knot, had twined; Then framed a spell, when the work was done, And changed the willow wreaths to stone, The silver light, so pale and faint, Showed many a prophet, and many a saint, Whose image on the glass was died; Full in the midst, his cross of red Triumphant Michael brandished,

And trampled the apostate's pride. The moonbeam kissed the holy pane, And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.

[blocks in formation]

Corbells, the projections from which the arches spring, asually cut in a fantastic face or mask.

[blocks in formation]
« PredošláPokračovať »