Page images
PDF

I left the convent and the veil;
For three long years I bow'd my pride,
A horse-boy in his train to ride;
And well my folly's meed he gave,
Who forfeited, to be his slave,
All here, and all beyond the grave.
He saw young Clara's face more fair,
He knew her of broad lands the heir,
Forgot his vows, his faith forswore,
And Constance was beloved no more'
'T is an old tale, and often told ;
But, did my fate and wish agree,
Ne'er had been read, in story old,
Of maiden true betray'd for gold,
That loved, or was avenged like me !
The king approved his favourite's aim ;
In vain a rival barr'd his claim,
Whose faith with Clare's was plight,
For he attaints that rival's fame
With treason's charge—and on they came,
In mortal lists to fight.
Their oaths are said, their prayers are pray'd,
Their lances in the rest are laid,
They meet in mortal shock;
And hark' the throng, with thundering cry,
Shout . Marmion, Marmion '' to the sky,
• De Wilton to the block ''
Sayye who preach, Heaven shall decide
When in the lists two champion's ride,
Say, was Heaven's justice here !
When, loyal in his love and faith,
Wilton found overthrow or death,
Beneath a traitor's spear !
How false the charge, how true he fell,
This guilty packet best can tell"—
Then drew a packet from her breast,
Paused. gather'd voice, and spoke the rest.
“Still was false Marmion's bridal stay’d;
To Whitby's convent fled the maid,
The hated match to shun.
• Ho! shifts she thus !' King Henry cried,
• Sir Marmion, she shall be thy bride,
If she were sworn a nun.'
One way remain’d—the king's command
Sent Marmion to the Scottish land :
I linger'd here, and rescue plann'd
For Clara and for me:
This catiff monk, for gold, did swear
He would to Whitby's shrine repair,
And, by his drugs, my rival fair
A saint in heaven should be.
But ill the dastard kept his oath,
Whose cowardice has undone us both.
And now my tongue the secret tells,
Not that remorse my bosom swells,
But to assure my soul that none
Shall ever wed with Marmion.
Had fortune my last hope betray'd,
This packet, to the king convey'd,
Had given him to the headsman's stroke,
Although my heart that instant broke.—
Now men of death, work forth your will,
For I can suffer and be still ;
And come he slow, or come he fast,
It is but Death who comes at last.

Yet dread me, from my living tomb,
Ye vassal slaves of bloody Rome !
If Marmion's late remorse should wake,
Full soon such vengeance will he take,
That you shall wish the fiery Dane
Had rather been your guest again.
Behind, a darker hour ascends !
The altars quake, the crosier bends,
The ire of a despotic king
Rides forth upon destruction's wing.
Then shall these vaults, so strong and deep,
Burst open to the sea-winds' sweep:
Some traveller then shall find my bones,
Whitening amid disjointed stones,
And, ignorant of priests' cruelty,
Marvel such relics here should be.”
Fix'd was her look, and stern her air;
Back from her shoulders stream'd her hair;
The locks that wont her brows to shade,
Stared up erectly from her head;
Her figure seem'd to rise more high;
Her voice, despair's wild energy
Had given a tone of prophecy.
Appall'd the astonish'd conclave sate;
With stupid eyes, the men of fate
Gazed on the light inspired form,
And listen’d for the avenging storm;
The judges felt the victim's dread:
No hand was moved, no word was said,
Till thus the abbot's doom was given,
Raising his sightless balls to heaven:—
“Sister, let thy sorrows cease;
Sinful brother, part in peace"—
From that dire dungeon, place of doom,
Of execution too, and tomb,
Paced forth the judges three;
Sorrow it were, and shame, to tell
The butcher-work that there befell,
When they had glided from the cell
Of sin and misery.
An hundred winding steps convey
That conclave to the upper day;
But ere they breathed the fresher air
They heard the shriekings of despair,
And many a stifled groan: -
With speed their upward way they take,
(Such speed as age and fear can make.)
And cross'd themselves for terror's sake,
As hurrying, tottering on,
Even in the vesper's heavenly tone,
They seem'd to hear a dying groan,
And bade the passing knell to toll
For welfare of a parting soul.
Slow o'er the midnight wave it swung,
Northumbrian rocks in answer rung;
To Warkworth cell the echoes roll’d,
His beads the wakeful hermit told ;
The Bamborough peasant raised his head,
But slept ere half a prayer he said ;
So far was heard the mighty knell,
The stag sprung up on Cheviot Fell,
Spread his broad nostril to the wind,
Then couch'd him down beside the hind,
And quaked among the mountain fern,
To hear that sound, so dull and stern.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Tars each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each look'd to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what he ne'er might see again;
Then, foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.—
Ill fared it now with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw,
Whose brazen studs, and tough bull-hide,
Had death so often turn’d aside;
For, train’d abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield:
He practised every pass and ward,
To feint, to thrust, to strike, to guard:
While, less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintain'd unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon sword drank blood ;
No stinted draught—no scanty tide :
The gushing flood the tartans dyed :
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And shower'd his blows like wintry rain;
And as firm tower, or castle-roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe, invulnerable still,
Foil'd his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta'en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And backwards borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.
“Now yield thee, or by him who made
The world ! thy heart-blood dyes my blade.”—
“Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy;
Let recreant yield, who fears to die.”—
Like adder darting from his coil–
Like wolf that dashes through the toil—
Like mountain-cat that guards her young,
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung:
Received, but reck'd not of a wound,
And lock'd his arms his foeman round.
Now, gallant Saxon! hold thy own;
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown!

That desperate grasp thy frame might feel
Through bars of brass and triple steel.
They tug, they strain—down, down they go,
The Gael above, Fitz-James below !
The chieftain's gripe his throat compress'd,
His knee was planted in his breast;
His clotted locks he backward threw,
Across his brow his hand he drew,
From blood and mist to clear his sight—
Then gleam'd aloft his dagger bright;
But hate and fury ill supplied
The stream of life's exhausted tide;
And all too late the advantage came
To turn the odds of deadly game;
For while the dagger gleam'd on high,
Reel'd soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye.
Down came the blow—but in the heath
The erring blade found bloodless sheath.-
The struggling foe may now unclasp
The fainting chief's relaxing grasp.
Unwounded from the dreadful close,
But breathless all, Fitz-James arose.

--

A BRIDAL.

BREArhes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand 1
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pels,
The wretch, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.
O Caledonial stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child !
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! what mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band
That knits me to thy rugged strand 1
Still, as I view each well-known scene,
Think what is now, and what hath been,
Seems, as to me, of all bereft,
Sole friends thy woods and streams were left;
And thus I love them better still,
Even in extremnity of ill.
By Yarrow's stream still let me stray,
Though none should guide my feeble way;
Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break,
Although it chill my wither'd cheek;
Still lay my head by Teviot stone,
Though there, forgotten and alone,
The bard may draw his parting groan.
Not scorn'd like me, to Branksome hall
The minstrels came, at festive call;

--

Trooping they came, from near and far,
The jovial priests of mirth and war:
Alike for feast and fight prepared,
Battle and banquet both they shared.
Of late, before each martial clan,
They blew their death-note in the van,
But now, for every merry mate,
Rose the portcullis' iron grate;
They sound the pipe, they strike the string,
They dance, they revel, and they sing,
Till the rude turrets shake and ring.
Me lists not at this tide declare
The splendour of the spousal rite,
How muster'd in the chapel fair
Both maid and matron, squire and knight;
Me lists not tell of owches rare,
Of mantles green, and braided hair,
And kirtles furred with miniver;
What plumage waved the altar round,
How spurs, and ringing chainlets, sound:
And hard it were for bard to speak
The changeful hue of Margaret's cheek,
That lovely hue which comes and flies,
As awe and shame alternate rise.
Some bards have sung, the ladye high
Chapel or altar came not migh;
Nor durst the rites of spousal grace,
So much she feared each holy place.
False slanders these: I trust right well
She wrought not by forbidden spell:
For mighty words and signs have power
O'er sprites in planetary hour:
Yet scarce I praise their venturous part,
Who tamper with such dangerous art.
But this for faithful truth I say,
The ladye by the altar stood,
Of sable velvet her array,
And on her head a crimson hood,
With pearls embroidered and entwined,
Guarded with gold, with ermine lined ;
A merlin sat upon her wrist,
Held by a leash of silken twist.
The spousal rites were ended soon;
'Twas now the merry hour of noon,
And in the lofty arched hall
Was spread the gorgeous festival.
Steward and squire, with heedful haste,
Marshall'd the rank of every guest;
Pages, with ready blade, were there,
The mighty meal to carve and share;
O'er capon, heron-shew, and crane,
And princely peacock's gilded train,
And o'er the boar-head, garnish’d brave,
And cynget from St. Mary's wave,
O'er ptarmigan and venison,
The priest had spoke his benison.
Then rose the riot and the din,
Above, beneath, without, within :
For, from the lofty balcony,
Rung trumpet, shalm, and psaltery;
Their clanging bowls old warriors quaff'd,
Loudly they spoke, and loudly laugh'd;
Whisper'd young knights, in tone more
mild,
To ladies fair, and ladies smiled.

The hooded hawks, high perch'd on beam,
The clamour join'd with whistling scream,
And flapp'd their wings, and shook their bells,
In concert with the stag-hounds' yells.
Round go the flasks of ruddy wine,
From Bourdeaux, Orleans, or the Rhine;
Their tasks the busy sewers ply,
And all is mirth and revelry.

THE LAST MINSTREL.

The way was long, the wind was cold. The minstrel was infirm and old; His wither'd cheek and tresses gray Seem'd to have known a better day; The harp, his sole remaining joy, Was carried by an orphan boy. The last of all the bards was he, Who sung of border chivalry. For, well-a-day ! their date was fled, His tuneful brethren all were dead; And he, neglected and oppress'd, Wish’d to be with them, and at rest. No more, on prancing palfrey borne, He caroll'd, light as lark at morn; No longer, courted and caress'd, High placed in hall, a welcome guest, He pour'd, to lord and lady gay, The unpremeditated lay : Old times were changed, old manners gone; A stranger fill'd the Stuarts' throne; The bigots of the iron time Had call'd his harmless art a crime. A wandering harper, scorn’d and poor, He begg’d his bread from door to door; And tuned, to please a peasant's ear, The harp a king had loved to hear.

He pass'd where Newark's stately tower Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower: The minstrel gazed with wistful eye— No humbler resting-place was nigh. With hesitating step, at last,

The embattled portal-arch he pass'd,

Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft roll'd back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
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 obtain'd ;
The aged minstrel audience gained.
But, when he reach'd 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 brain—
He 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 play’d it to King Charles the good,
When he kept court in Holyrood ;
And much he wish'd, yet fear'd, to try,
The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
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 lighten’d 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,
"T was thus the latest minstrel sung.

---THE TEVIOT.

Sweer Teviot, by thy silver tide,
The glaring bale-fires blaze no more '
No longer steel-clad warriors ride
Along thy wild and willow'd shore;
Where'er thou wind'st, by dale or hill,
All, all is peaceful, all is still,
As if thy waves, since Time was born,
Since first they roll'd their way to Tweed,
Had only heard the shepherd's reed,
Nor started at the bugle-horn'
Unlike the tide of human time,
Which, though it change in ceaseless flow,

Retains each grief, retains each crime,
Its earliest course was doom'd to know ;
And, darker as it downward bears,
Is stain'd with past and present tears!
Low as that tide has ebb'd with me,
It still reflects to Memory's eye
The hour, my brave, my only boy,
Fell by the side of great Dundee.
Why, when the volleying musket play'd
Against the bloody Highland blade,
Why was not I beside him laid –
Enough—he died the death of fame;
Enough—he died with conquering Graeme.

--

HELLVELLYN.

I clim B'n the dark brow of the mighty Hellvellyn, Lakes and mountains beneath me gleam'd misty and wide; All was still, save by fits when the eagle was yelling, And starting around me the echoes replied. On the right, Striden-edge round the Red-tarn was bending, And Catchedicam its left verge was defending, One huge nameless rock in the front was ascending, When I mark'd the sad spot where the wanderer had died.

Dark green was the spot mid the brown meadow heather, Where the pilgrim of nature lay stretch'd in decayLike the course of an outcast abandon'd to weather, Till the mountain-winds wasted the tenantless clav. Nor yet quite deserted, though lonely extended, For faithful in death, his mute favourite attended, The much-loved remains of her master defended, And chased the hill-fox and the raven away.

How long didst thou think that his silence was slumber 1 When the wind waved his garment how oft didst thou start 1 How many long days and long weeks didst thou number, Ere he faded before thee, the friend of thy heart? And, oh! was it meet, that—no requiem read o'er him, No mother to weep, and no friend to deplore him, And thou, little guardian, alone stretch'd before him— Unhonour'd the pilgrim from life should depart!

When a prince to the fate of the peasant has yielded, The tapestry waves dark round the dim-lighted hall ; With scutcheons of silver the coffin is shielded, And pages stand mute by the canopied pall: Through the courts, at deep midnight, the torches are gleaming, In the proudly-arch'd chapel the banners are beaming,

« PreviousContinue »