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MELROSE ABBEY AND THE CHARM OF THE WIZARD,
F thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins gray.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower ;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory ;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die ;
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 St. David's ruined pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair !
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 Branksomel," the warrior cried ;
And strait 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 souls' repose.
Bold Deloraine his errand said ;
The porter bent his humble head ;
With torch in hand, and feet unshod,
And noiseless step, the path he trode:
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 St Mary's asle.
" 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 lock and floating beard.
And strangely on the knight looked he,
And his blue eyes gleamed wild and wide;
“ And, dar’st thou, warrior ! seek to see ii
What heaven and hell alike would hide ? My breast, in belt of iron pent,
With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn;
For threescore years, in penance spent,
My knees those flinty stones have worn ;
Yet all too little to atone
For knowing what should ne'er be known : -
Would'st thou thy every future year
In ceaseless prayer and penance drie,
Yet wait thy latter end with fear-
Then, daring warrior, follow me!” .
cc Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one;
For mass or prayer can 1 rarely tarry,
Save to patter an Ave Mary,
When I ride on a Border foray ;
Other prayer can I nione ;
So speed me my errand, and let me begone."
Again on the knight looked the churchman old,
And again he sighed heavily ;
For he had himself been a warrior bold,
And fought in Spain and Italy,
And he thought on the days 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 pillared arches were over their bead,
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.
Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,
Glistened with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret, glistened there,
But was carved in the cloister-arches as fair.
The monk gazed long on the lovely mood,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he secn, io fair Castile,
The youth in glittering squadrons start';
Sudden the flying jennet wheel,
And hurl the unexpected dart.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.
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 key-stone, that locked each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-feuille;
The corbells * were carved grote que 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.
Full many a scutcheon and banner, riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind 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,
Aod thine, dark knight of Liddesdale !
O fading honours of the dead !
O high ambition, lowly laid ! Corbells, the projections from which the arches spring, usually cut in a fantastic face, or mask.
The moon on the east oriel shone,
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;
Thou wouldst have thought some fairy's band
'Twixt poplars straight the ozier 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,
Shewed many a prophet, and many a saint,
Whose inage on the glass was dyed ;
Full in the midst, his cross of red
Triumphant Michael brandished,
And trampled the apostate's pride.
The moon-bearn kissed the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.
They sate them down on a marble stone,
A Scottish monarch slept below;
Thus spoke the monk, in solemn tone:
" I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim countries I have trod,
And fought beneath the Cross of God;
Now, strange to mine eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
" In these far climes, it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott;
A wizard of such dreaded fame,
That when, in Salamanca's cave,
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame !
Some of his skill he taught to me;
And, warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon bills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone :
But to speak them were a deadly sin ;
And for having but thought them my heart within,
A treble penance must be done.
XIV. “ When Michael lay on his dying bed, His conscience was awakened;
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed :
I was in Spain when the morning rose,
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid ;
They would rend this abbaye's massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.
XV. " I swore to bury his Mighty Book, That never mortal might therein look; And never to tell where it was hid, Save at his chief of Branksome's need; And when that need was past and o'er, Again the volume to restore. I buried him on St. Michael's night, When the bell tolled one, and the moon was bright; And I dug his chamber among the dead, When the floor of the chancel was stained red, That his patron's cross might over him wave, And scare the fiends from the wizard's grave.
XVI. " It was a night of woe and dread, When Michael in the tomb I laid ! Strange sonnds along the chancel past, The banners waved without a blast,”-Still spoke the monk, when the bell tolled One!I tell you, that a braver man Than William of Deloraine, good at need, Against a foe ne'er spurred a steed; Yet somewhat was he chilled with dread, And his hair-did bristle upon his head.
XVII. “ Lo, warrior! now, the Cross of Red Points to the grave of the mighty dcad; Within it burns a wonderous light, To chase the spirits that love the night : That lamp shall burn unquencbably, Until the eternal doom shall be.” Slow mov'd the monk to the broad flag-stone, Which the bloody Cross was traced upon: He pointed to a secret nook ; An iron bar the warrior took ; And the monk made a sign with his withered hand, The grave's huge portal to expand.