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The fox is heard upon the fell;
Enough remains of glimmering light
To guide the wanderer's steps aright,
Yet not enough from far to show
His figure to the watchful foe.
With cautious step, and ear awake,
He climbs the crag and threads the brake;
And not the summer solstice there
Tempered the midnight mountain air,
But every breeze that swept the wold
Benumbed his drenched limbs with cold.
In dread, in danger, and alone,
Famished and chilled, through ways unknown,
Tangled and steep, he journeyed on;
Till, as the rock's huge point he turned,
A watch fire close before him burned.
Beside its embers red and clear,
Basked, in his plaid, a mountaineer;
he sprung with sword in hand, “Thy name and purpose! Saxon, stand !' “A stranger.” — “What dost thou require ?”
. “Rest and a guide, and food and fire. My life's beset, my path is lost, The gale has chilled my limbs with frost.” “ Art thou a friend to Roderick ?” —"No.". “Thou dar'st not call thyself a foe?” “I dare! to him and all his band He brings to aid his murderous hand.” “Bold words ! - but, though the beast of game The privilege of chase may claim, Though space and law the stag we lend, Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend, Who ever recked, where, how, or when, The prowling fox was trapped or slain ? Thus treacherous scouts – yet sure they lie, Who say thou cam’st a secret spy!” “They do, by heaven! - Come Roderick Dhu, And of his clan the boldest two, And let me but till morning rest, I write the falsehood on their crest." “If by the blaze I mark aright, Thou bear'st the belt and spur of Knight." “ Then by these tokens mayst thou know Each proud oppressor's mortal foe."
“Enough, enough; sit down and share A soldier's couch, a soldier's fare."
He gave him of his Highland cheer, The hardened flesh of mountain deer; Dry fuel on the fire he laid, And bade the Saxon share his plaid. He tended him like welcome guest, Then thus his further speech addressed : “Stranger, I am to Roderick Dhu A clansman born, a kinsman true; Each word against his honor spoke, Demands of me avenging stroke; Yet more, - upon thy fate, 'tis said, A mighty augury is laid. It rests with me to wind my horn,Thou art with numbers overborne; It rests with me, here, brand to brand, Worn as thou art, to bid thee stand : But, not for clan, nor kindred's cause, Will I depart from honor's laws; To assail a wearied man were shame, And stranger is a holy name; Guidance and rest, and food and fire, In vain he never must require. Then rest thee here till dawn of day; Myself will guide thee on the way, O'er stock and stone, through watch and ward, Till past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard, As far as Coilantogle's ford; From thence thy warrant is thy sword.”. "I take thy courtesy, by Heaven, As freely as 'tis nobly given !” – “Well, rest thee; for the bittern's cry Sings us the lake's wild lullaby." With that he shook the gathered heath, And spread his plaid upon the wreath; And the brave foemen, side by side, Lay peaceful down like brothers tried, And slept until the dawning beam Purpled the mountain and the stream.
Tair as the earliest beam of eastern light,
When first, by the bewildered pilgrim spied, It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,
And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide, And lights the fearful path on mountain side ;
Fair as that beam, although the fairest far, Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,
Shine martial Faith, and Courtesy's bright star, Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the brow of War.
That early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Looked out upon the dappled sky,
Muttered their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way,
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path!- they winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gained not the length of horseman's lance.
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain;
So tangled oft that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew, -
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but Beauty's tear.
At length they came where, stern and steep,
The hill sinks down upon the deep.
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose;
Ever the hollow path twined on,
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone;
An hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The rugged mountain's scanty cloak
Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak,
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black, that waved so high,
It held the copse in rivalry.
But where the lake slept, deep and still,
Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill;
And oft both path and hill were torn,
Where wintry torrents down had borne,
And heaped upon the cumbered land
Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand.
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass's jaws,
And asked Fitz-James by what strange cause
He sought these wilds, traversed by few,
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
“ Brave Gael, my pass in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell,” the Saxon said,
“I dreamt not now to claim its aid.
When here, but three days since, I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still,
As the mist slumbering on yon hill;
Thy dangerous Chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back from war.
Thus said, at least, my mountain guide,
Though deep, perchance, the villain lied."
“Yet why a second venture try?”
“A warrior thou, and ask me why!-
Moves our free course by such fixed cause
As gives the poor mechanic laws ?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day;
Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A Knight's free footsteps far and wide
A falcon flown, a greyhound strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid:
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone."
“Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;-
Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
Say, heard ye naught of Lowland war,
Against Clan-Alpine, raised by Mar?”
“No, by my word; — of bands prepared
To guard King James's sports I heard ;
Nor doubt I aught, but when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung." —
“Free be they flung! for we were loath
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung!
as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.
But, Stranger, peaceful since you came,
Bewildered in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you
show Vich-Alpine's vowed and mortal foe?"
Warrior, but yestermorn, I knew
Naught of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlawed desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight;
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart.”
Wrathful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lowered the clansman's sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said,
“And heard'st thou why he drew his blade ?
Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?
What recked the Chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath, or Holy-Rood ?
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven."
“Still was it outrage; — yet, 'tis true,
Not then claimed sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrowed truncheon of command,
The young King, mewed in Stirling tower,