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She had a secret to reveal,
That much concern'd the church's weal,
And health of sinner's soul;
And with deep charge of secrecy,
She named a place to meet,
Within an open balcony,
That hung from dizzy pitch, and high,
Above the stately street;
To which, as common to each home,
At night they might in secret come.
“ Laugh those that can, weep those that may,”
Thus did the fiery monarch say,
« Southward I march by break of day:
And if within Tantallon strong,
The good Lord Marmion tarries long,
Perchance our meeting next may fall
At Tamworth, in his castle hall.”—
The haughty Marmion felt the taunt,
And answer'd, grave, the royal vaunt:
“Much honour'd were my humble home,
If in its hall king James would come ;
But Nottingham has archers good,
And Yorkshiremen are stern of mood;
Northumbrian prickers wild and rude.
On Derby hills the paths are steep :
In Ouse and Tyne the fords are deep :
And many a banner will be torn,
And many a knight to earth be borne,
And many a sheaf of arrows spent,
Ere Scotland's king shall cross the Trent:
Yet pause, brave prince, while yet you may.”
The monarch lightly turn'd away,
And to his nobles loud did call,-
“ Lords, to the dance,-a hall! a hall!"*
Himself his cloak and sword Aung by,
And led dame Heron gallantly ;
And minstrels at the royal order,
Rung out—« Blue bonnets o'er the border.”
Leave we these revels now, to tell
What to St. Hilda's maids befell,
Whose galley, as they sail'd again
To Whitby, by a Scot was ta’en.
Vow at Dun-Edin did they bide,
Till James should of their fate decide;
And soon, by his command,
Were gently summond to prepare
To journey under Marmion's care,
As escort honour'd, safe, and fair,
Again to English land.
The abbess told her chaplet o'er,
Nor knew which saint she should implore ;
For, when she thought of Constance, sore
She fear'd Lord Marmion's mood.
And judge what Clara must have felt!
The sword, that hung in Marmion's belt,
Had drunk De Wilton's blood.
Unwittingly, King James had given,
As guard to Whitby's shades,
The man most dreaded under heaven
By these defenceless maids;
Yet what petition could avail,
Or who would listen to the tale
Of woman, prisoner, and nun,
Mid bustle of a war begun?
They deem'd it hopeless to avoid
The convoy of their dangerous guide.
At night, in secret, there they came,
The palmer and the holy dame.
The moon among the clouds rode high,
And all the city hum was by.
Upon the street, where late before
Did din of war and warriors roar,
You might have heard a pebble fall,
A beetle hum, a cricket sing,
An owlet flap his boding wing
On Gile's steeple tall.
The antique buildings, climbing high,
Whose Gothic frontlets sought the sky,
Were here wrapt deep in shade;
There on their brows the moonbeam broke
Through the faint wreaths of silvery smoke,
And on the casement play'd. And other light was none to see,
Save torches gliding far,
Before some chieftain of degree,
Who left the royal revelry
To bowne him for the war,-
A solemn scene the abbess chose!
A solemn hour, her secret to disclose.
XXI. “ 1), holy palmer !” she began,“ For sure he must be sainted man, Whose blessed feet have trod the ground Where the Redeemer's tomb is found ;For his dear church's sake, my tale Attend, nor deem of light avail, Though I must speak of earthly love,How vain to those who wed above! De Wilton and Lord Marmion woo'd Clara de Clare, of Gloster's blood; (Idle it were of Whitby's dame, To say of that same blood I came ;) And once, when jealous rage was high, Lord Marmion said despiteously, Wilton was traitor in his heart, And had made league with Martin Swart, When he came here on Simnel's part; And only cowardice did restrain His rebel aid on Stokefield's plain, And down he threw his glove :--the thing Was tried, as wont, before the king ; Where frankly did De Wilton own, That Swart in Guelders he had known; And that between them then there went Some scroll of courteous compliment. For this he to his castle sent; But when his messenger return'd, Judge how De Wilton's fury burn'd!
XIX. Their lodging, so the king assign'd, To Marmion's as their guardian, join'd; And thus it fell, that, passing nigh, The palmer caught the abbess' eye,
Who warn’d him by a scroll,
The apcient cry to make room for a dance, or pageant.
For in his packet there were laid
Letters that claim'd disloyal aid,
And proved King Henry's cause betray'd.
His fame thus blighted, in the field
He strove to clear, by spear and shield ;-
To clear his fame in vain he strove,
For wondrous are His ways above!
Perchance some form was unobserved :
Perchance in prayer, or faith he swerved ;
Else how could guiltless champion quail,
Or how the blessed ordeal fail?
No clerk in all the land, like her,
Traced quaint and varying character.
Perchance you may a marvel deem,
That Marmion's paramour (For such vile thing she was) should scheme
Her Jover's nuptial hour;
But o'er him thus she hoped to gain,
As privy to his honour's stain,
For this she secretly retain'd
Each proof that might the plot reveal,
Instructions with his hand and seal:
And thus Saint Hilda deign'd,
Though sinners perfidy impure,
Her house's glory to secure,
And Clare's immortal weal.
“ His squire, who now De Wilton saw As recreant doom'd to suffer law,
Repentant, own'd in vain, That, while he had the scrolls in care, A stranger maiden, passiðg fair, Had drench'd him with a beverage rare ;
His words no faith could gain.
With Clare alone he credence won,
Who, rather than wed Marmion,
Did to St. Hilda's shrine repair,
To give our house her livings fair,
And die a vestal votaress there-
The impulse from the earth was given,
But bent her to the paths of heaven.
A purer heart a lovelier maid,
Ne'er shelter'd her in Whitby's shade,
No, not since Saxon Edelfled ;
Only one trace of earthly stain,
That for her lover's loss
She cherishes a sorrow vain,
And murmurs at the cross.-
And then her heritage,-it goes
Along the banks of Tame;
Deep fields of grain the reaper mows,
In meadows rich the heifer lows,
The falconer, and huntsman, knows
Its woodlands for the game.
Shame were it to Saint Hilda dear,
And I, her humble votaress here,
Should do a deadly sin.
Her temple spoil'd before mine eyes,
If this false Marmion such a prize
By my consent should win ;
Yet hath our boisterous monarch sworn,
That Clare shall from our house be torn :
And grievous cause have I to fear,
Such mandate doth Lord Marmion bear.
« 'Twere long and needless, here to tell,
How to my hand these papers fell;
With me they must not stay.
Saint Hilda keep her abbess true!
Who knows what outrage he might do,
While journeying by the way.-
O blessed saint, if e'er again
I venturous leave thy calm domain,
To travel or by land or main,
Deep penance may I pay!
Now, saintly palmer, mark my prayer ;
I give this packet to thy care,
For thee to stop they will not dare;
And, O! with cautious speed !
To Wolsey's hand the papers bring,
That he may show them to the king;
And, for thy well-earn'd meed,
Thou holy man, at Whitby's shrine
A weekly mass shall still be thine,
While priests can sing and read.-
What ail'st thou ?-Speak !"-For as he took
The charge a strong emotion shook
His frame; and, ere reply,
They heard a faint, yet shrilly tone,
Like distant clarion feebly blown,
That on the breeze did die ;
And loud the abbess shriek'd in fear,
“ Saint Withold save us ! -What is here?
Look at yon city cross !
See on its battled tower appear
Phantoms, that scutcheons seem to rear
And blazon banners toss!"
XXIII. “Now, prisoner, helpless, and betray'd To evil power, I claim thine aid,
By every step that thou hast trod
To holy shrine, and grotto dim,
By every martyr's tortured limb,
By angel, saint, and seraphim,
And by the church of God!
For mark:- When Wilton was betray'd,
And with his squire forged letters laid,
She was, alas ! that sinful maid,
By whom the deed was done,0! shame and horror to be said,
She was—a perjured nun?
Dun-Edin's cross, a pillar'd stone,
Rose on a turret octagon;
(But now is razed that monument,
Whence royal edict rang,
And voice of Scotland's law was sent
In glorious trumpet clang.
0! be his tomb as lead to lead,
Upon its dull destroyer's head!
A minstrel's malison* is said.-)
Then on its battlements they saw
A vision, passing nature's law,
Strange, wild, and dimly seen;
The tottering child, the anxious fair,
The gray-haired sire, with pious care,
To chapels and to shrines repair.-
Where is the palmer now ? and where
The abbess, Marmion, and Clare !
Bold Douglas ! to Tantallon fair
They journey in thy charge :
Lord Marmion rode on his right hand,
The palmer still was with the band ;
Angus, like Lindesay, did command,
That none should roam at large.
But in that palmer's alter'd mien
A wondrous change might now be seen ;
Freely he spoke of war,
Of marvels wrought by single hand,
When lifted for a native land;
And still look'd high as if he plann'd
Some desperate deed afar.
His courser would he feed and stroke,
And, tucking up his sable frock,
Would first his metal bold provoke,
Then soothe and quell his pride.
Old Hubert said, that never one
He saw, except Lord Marmion,
A steed so fairly ride.
Figures that seem'd to rise and die,
Gibber and sign, advance and fly,
While naught confirm'd could ear or eye
Discern of sound or mien.
Yet darkly did it seem, as there
Heralds and pursuivants prepare,
With trumpet sound, and blazon'd fair,
A summons to proclaim;
But indistinct the pageant proud,
As fancy forms of midnight cloud,
When flings the moon upon her shroud
A wavering tinge of fame;
It fits, expands, and shifts, till loud,
From midmost of the spectre crowd,
This awful summons came :
“ Prince, prelate, potentate, and peer,
Whose names I now shall call,
Scottish, or foreigner, give ear!
Subjects of him who sent me here,
At his tribunal to appear,-
I summon one and all:
I cite you by each deadly sin,
That e'er hath soild your hearts within ;
I cite you by each brutal lust,
That e'er defiled your earthly dust,
By wrath, by pride, by fear,
By each o'ermastering passion's tone,
By the dark grave, and dying groan !
When forty days are past and gone,
I cite you, at your monarch's throne,
To answer and appear.”—
Then thunder'd forth a roll of names :
The first was thine, unhappy James ?
Then all thy nobles came;
Crawford, Glencairn, Montrose, Argyle,
Ross, Bothwell, Forbes, Lennox, Lyle,-
Why should I tell their separate style ?
Each chief of birth and fame,
Of lowland, highland, border, isle,
Fore-doomed to Flodden's carnage pile,
Was cited there by name;
And Marmion, Lord of Fontenaye,
Of Lutterward, and Scrivelbay,
De Wilton, erst of Aberley,
The self same thundering voice did say,
But then another spoke:
« Thy fatal summons I deny,
And thine infernal lord defy,
Appealing me to Him on high,
Who burst the sinner's yoke.”
At that dread accent, with a scream,
Parted the pageant like a dream,
The summoner was gone.
Prone on her face the abbess fell,
And fast, and fast, her beads did tell;
Her nuns came startled by the yell,
And found her there alone.
She mark'd not, at the scene aghast,
What time, or how, the palmer pass’d.
Shift we the scene.—The camp doth move,
Dun-Edin's streets are empty now, Save when, for weal of those they love,
To pray the prayer and vow the vow,
Some half-hour's march behind, there came,
By Eustace govern'd fair,
A troop escorting Hilda's dame,
With all her nuns and Clare.
No audience bad Lord Marmion sought ;
Ever he fear'd to aggravate
Clara de Clare's suspicious hate;
And safer 'twas he thought,
To wait till from the nuns removed,
The influence of kinsmen loved,
And suit by Henry's self approved,
Her slow consent had wrought.
His was no flickering flame, that dies
Unless when fann'd by looks and sighs,
And lighted oft at lady's eyes;
He long'd to stretch his wide command
O'er luckless Clara's ample land:
Besides, when Wilton with him vied,
Although the pang of humbled pride
The place of jealousy supplied,
Yet conquest, by that meanness won,
He almost loathed to think upon,
Led him, at times, to hate the cause
Which made him burst through honour's laws.
If e'er he lov'd 'twas her alone,
Who died within that vault of stone.
And now when close at hand they saw
North-Berwick's town, and lofty Law,
Fitz-Eustacc bade them pause a while
Before a venerable pile,
Whose turrets view'd afar
The lofty Bass, the Lambie Isle,
The ocean's peace or war.
At tolling of a bell, forth came
The convent's venerable dame,
And pray'd saint Hilda's abbess rest
With her a loved and honour'd guest,
Till Douglas should a bark prepare,
To waft her back to Whitby fair.
Glad was the abbess, you may guess,
And thank'd the Scottish prioress :
And tedious 'twere to tell, I ween,
The courteous speech that pass'd between.
O'erjoy'd the nuns their palfreys leave;
But when fair Clara did intend,
Like them, from horseback to descend,
Fitz-Eustace said, —- I grieve,
Fair lady, grieve e'en from my heart,
Such gentle company to part ;-
Think not discourtesy,
But lords' commands must be obey'd;
And Marmion and the Douglas said,
That you must wend with me.
Lord Marmion hath a letter broad,
Which to the Scottish earl he show'd,
Commanding, that beneath his care,
Without delay, you shall repair
To your good kinsmen, Lord Fitz-Clare."
Composed her veil, and raised her head,
And—“ Bid,” in solemn voice she said,
“ Thy master, bold and bad,
The records of his house turn o'er,
And, when he there shall written see, That one of his own ancestry
Drove the monks forth of Coventry,
Bid him his fate explore !
Prancing in pride of earthly trust,
His charger hurl'd him to the dust,
And, by a base plebeian thrust.
He died his band before.
God judge 'twixt Marmion and me;
He is a chief of high degree,
And I a poor recluse;
Yet oft, in holy writ, we see
Even such weak minister as me
May the oppressor bruise:
For thus, inspired, did Judith slay
The mighty in his sin,
And Jael thus, and Deborah,"
Here hasty Blount broke in:
“ Fitz-Eustace, we must march our band;
St. Anton' fire thee! wilt thou stand
All day with bonnet in thy hand,
To hear the lady preach?
By this good light! if thus we stay,
Lord Marmion, for our fond delay
Will sharper sermon teach.
Come, don thy cap, and mount thy horse ;
The dame must patience take perforce."-
XXX. The startled abbess loud exclaim'd; But she at whom the blow was aim'd, Grew pale as death, and cold as lead ;She deem'd she heard her death doom read. “Cheer thee, my child !” the abbess said, “ They dare not tear thee from my hand, To ride alone with armed band.”_
“ Nay, holy mother, nay.” Fitz-Eustace, said “ the lovely Clare Will be in Lady Angus' care,
In Scotland while we stay ;
And, when we move, an easy ride
Will bring us to the English side,
Female attendants to provide
Befitting Gloster's heir;
Nor thinks, nor dreams, my noble lord,
By slightest look, or act, or word,
To harass lady Clare ;
Her faithful guardian he will be,
Nor sue for slightest courtesy
That even to stranger falls,
Till he shall place her, safe and free,
Within her kinsman's halls.”
He spoke, and blush'd with earnest grace ;
His faith was painted on his face,
And Clare's worst fear relieved.
The lady abbess loud exclaim'd
On Henry, and the Douglas blamed,
Entreated threaten'd grieved ;
To martyr, saint, and prophet pray'd,
Against Lord Marmion inveigh'd,
And call'd the prioress to aid,
To curse with candle, bell, and book.
Her head the grave Cistertian shook :
• The Douglas and the king,” she said,
“ In their commands will be obey'd ;
Grieve not, nor dream that harm can fall
The maiden in Tantallon hall."
“ Submit we then to force,” said Clare ;
“ But let this barbarous lord despair
His purposed aim to win ;
Let him take living, land, and life;
But to be Marmion's wedded wife
In me were deadly sin :
And if it be the king's decree,
That I must find no sanctuary,
Where even a homicide might come,
And safely rest his head,
Though at its open portals stood,
Thirsting to pour forth blood for blood,
The kinsmen of the dead,
Yet one asylum is my own,
Against the dreaded hour; A low, a silent, and a lone,
Where kings have little power.
One victim is before me there.-
Mother, your blessing, and in prayer
Remember your unhappy Clare !"-
Loud weeps the abbess, and bestows
Kind blessings many a one ;
Weeping and wailing loud arose
Round patient Clare, the clamorous woes
Of every simple nun.
His eyes the gentle Eustace dried,
Apd scarce rude Blount the sight could
Then took the squire her rein,
And gently led away her steed,
And, by each courteous word and deed,
To cheer her strove in vain.
XXXI. The abbess, seeing strise was vain, Assumed her wonted state again,
For much of state she had,
Then bade his band they should array For march against the dawning day.
INTRODUCTION TO CANTO VI.
XXXIII. But scant three miles the band had rode,
When o'er a height they pass'd, And, sudden, close, before them show'd
His towers, Tantallon vast; Broad, massive, high, and stretching far, And held impregnable in war. On a projecting rock they rose, And round three sides the ocean flows, The fourth did battled walls enclose,
And double mound and fosse.
By parrow drawbridge, outworks strong,
Through studded gates, an entrance long
To the main court they cross.
It was a wide and stately square:
Around were lodgings fit and fair,
And towers of various form,
Which on the court projected far,
And broke its lines quadrangular.
Here was square keep, there turret high,
Or pinnacle that sought the sky,
Whence oft the warder could descry
The gathering ocean storm.
Here did they rest—The princely care
Of Douglas, why should I declare,
Or say they met reception fair ?
Or why the tiding say,
Which, varying, to Tantallon came,
By hurrying posts or fleeter fame,
With every varying day?
And, first, they heard king James had won
Etal, and Wark, and Ford ; and then,
That Norham castle strong was ta’en.
At that sore marvell’d Marmion ;--
And Douglas hoped his monarch's hand
Would soon subdue Northumberland :
But whisper'd news there came,
That, while his host inactive lay,
And melted by degrees away,
King James was dallying off the day
With Heron's wily dame.
Such acts to chronicles I yield;
Go seek them there, and see
Mine is a tale of Flodden field,
And not a history.-
At length they heard the Scottish host
On that high ridge had made their post,
Which frowns o'er Millfield plain ;
And that brave Surrey many a band
Had gather'd in the southern land,
And march'd into Northumberland,
And camp at Wooler ta’en. Marmion, like charger in the stall, That hears, without, the trumpet-call,
Began to chafe and swear: “ A sorry thing to hide my head In castle like a fearful maid,
When such a field is near! Needs must I see this battle-day : Death to my fame, if such a fray Were fought, and Marmion away!
The Douglas too, I wot not why,
Hath 'bated of his courtesy : No longer in his halls I'll stay.”
TO RICHARD HEBER, ESQ.
Mertoun-House, Christmas HEAP on more wood -the wind is chill; But, let it whistle as it will, We'll keep our Christmas merry still. Each age has deem'd the new-born year The fittest time for festal cheer: Even, heathen yet, the savage Dane At lol more deep the mead did drain ; High on the beach his galleys drew, And feasted all his pirate crew; Then in his low and pine-built hall, Where shields and axes deck'd the wall, They gorged upon the half-dress'd steer ; Caroused in sees of sable beer; Wbile round, in brutal jest, were thrown The half-gnaw'd rib, and marrow bone; Or listen'd all, in grim delight, While scalds yell’d out the joys of fight. Then forth, in frenzy, would they hie, While wildly loose their red locks fly, And, dancing round the blazing pile, They make such barbarous mirth the while, As best might to the mind recall The boisterous joys of Odin's hall.
And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had rollid,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung:
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn'd her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress'd with holy green ;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the misletoe.
Then open'd wide the baron's hall,
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff'd her pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes :
That night might village partner choose ;
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair.”
All hail'd, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire, with well-dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hall-table's oaken face,
Scrubb'd till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old blue-coated serving-man ;