« ZurückWeiter »
As if the yawning hill to heaven
They moved :- I said Fitz-James was brave A subterranean host had given.
As ever knight that belted glaive; Watching their leader's beck and will,
Yet dare not say, that now his blood All silent there they stood, and still;
Kept on its wont and temper'd flood, Like the loose crags whose threatening mass As, following Roderick's stride, he drew Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
That seeming lonesome pathway through, As if an infant's touch could urge
Which yet, by fearful proof, was rife Their headlong passage down the verge,
With lances, that, to take his life, With step and weapon forward Aung,
Waited but signal from a guide Upon the mountain side they hung.
So late dishonour'd and defied. The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Ever, by stealth, his eye sought round Along Benledi's living side,
The vanish'd guardians of the ground, Then fix'd his eye and sable brow
And still, from copse and heather deep, Full on Fitz-James—“How say'st thou now Fancy saw spear and broadsword peep These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;
And in the plover's shrilly strain, And, Saxon-I am Roderick Dhu!"
The signal whistle heard again.
Nor breathed he free till far behind
The pass was left; for then they wind
Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near,
-To hide a bonnet or a spear.
XII. “Come one, come all ! this rock shall fly
The chief in silence strode before, From its firm base as soon as I.”
And reach'd that torrent's sounding shore, Sir Roderick mark’d-and in his eyes
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines
On Bochastle the mouldering lines, Short space he stood—then waved his hand :
Where Rome, the empress of the world, Down sunk the disappearing band ;
Of yore her eagle wings unfurl’d. Each warrior vanish'd where he stood,
And here his course the chieftain stay'd, In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Threw down his target and his plaid, Sunk brand and spear and bended bow,
And to the lowland warrior said: In osiers pale and copses low;
“ Bold Saxon! to his promise just, It seem'd as if their mother earth
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust. Had swallow'd up her warlike birth.
This murderous chief, this ruthless man, The wind's last breath had toss'd in air
This head of a rebellious clan, Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair ;
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward, The next but swept a lone hill side,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard. Where heath and fern were waving wide;
Now, man to man, and steel to steel, The sun's last glance was glinted back
A chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel. From spear and glaive, from targe and jack ;
See, here, all vantageless I stand, The next, all unreflected, shone
Arm'd, like thyself, with single brand; On bracken green, and cold gray stone.
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword.”
The Saxon paused :-" I ne'er delay'd,
When foeman bade me draw my blade; Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed,
Nay more, brave chief, I vow'd thy death : And to his look the chief replied,
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith, “ Fear Daught—nay, that I need not say- And my deep debt for life preserved, But doubt not aught from mine array.
A better meed have well deserved Thou art my guest; I pledged my word
Can naught but blood our feud atone : As far as Coilantogle ford :
Are there no means ?"_" No, stranger, none ! Nor would I call a clansman's brand
And hear—to fire thy fagging zealFor aid against one valiant hand,
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel; Though on our strife lay every vale
For thus spoke fate, by prophet bred Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.
Between the living and the dead :So move we on; I only meant
• Who spills the foremost foeman's life, To show the reed on which you leant,
His party conquers in the strife.” Deeming this path you might pursue
“ Then, by my word,” the Saxon said, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.”
“ The riddle is already read.
The foe, in vulnerable still,
Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff,
XIV. Dark lightning flash'd from Roderick's eye“ Soars thy presumption then so high, Because a wretched kern ye slew, Homage to name to Roderick Dhu? He yields not, he, to man nor fate! Thou add'st but fuel to my hate : My clansman's blood demands revenge.Not yet prepared ?--By heaven, I change My thought, and hold thy valour light As that of some vain carpet-knight, Who ill deserved my courteous care, And whose best boast is but to wear A braid of his fair lady's hair.”“I thank thee, Roderick, for the word ! It nerves my heart, it steels my sword; For I have sworn, this braid to stain In the best blood that warms thy vein. Now, truce farewell! and ruth begone ! Yet think not that by thee alone, Proud chief! can courtesy be shown; Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn, Start at my whistle clansmen stern, Of this small horn one feeble blast Would fearful odds against thee cast. But fear not-doubt not-which thou wiltWe try this quarrel hilt to bilt.”Then each at once his falchion drew, Each on the ground his scabbard threw, Each look’d to sun, and stream, and plain, As what they ne'er might see again ; Then foot, and point, and eye opposed, In dubious strife they darkly closed.
XVI. “Now, yield ye, or, by Him who made The world, thy heart's blood dies 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 who 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 thine own! No maiden's band 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 compressid, 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 th' advantage came, To turn the odds of deadly game ; For while the dagger gleam'd on high, Reeld soul and sense, reeld 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.
XV. Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu, That on the field his targe he threw, Whose brazen studs and tough bull hide Had death so often dash'd aside ; For, traind abroad his arms to wield, Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield. He practised every pass and ward, To thrust, to strike, to feint, 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 blade 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 rock, or castle roof, Against the winter shower is proof,
XVII. He faltered thanks to heaven for life, Redeem'd, unhoped, from desperate strife, Next on his foe his look he cast, Whose every gasp appear'd his last; In Roderick's gore he dipp'd the braid, “ Poor Blanche! thy wrongs are dearly paid ; Yet with thy foe must die or live The praise that faith and valour give." With that he blew a bugle note, Undid the collar from his throat, Unbonnetted, and by the wave Sat down, his brow and hands to lave. Then faint afar are heard the feet Of rushing steeds in gallop fleet; The sounds increase, and now are seen Four mounted squires in Lincoln green ; Two who bear lance, and two who lead, By loosen'd rein, a saddled steed; Each onward held his headlong course, And by Fitz-James rein'd up his horseWith wonder view'd the bloody spot. - Exclaim not, gallants ! question not:
You, Herbert and Luffness, alight,
Afar, ere to the hill he drew,
XVIII. “Stand, Bayard, stand !"—the steed obey'd, With arching neck and bended head, And glancing eye, and quivering ear, As if he loved his lord to hear. No foot Fitz-James in stirrup stay'd, No grasp upon the saddle laid, But wreath'd his left hand in the mane, And lightly bounded from the plain, Turnd on the horse his armed heel, And stirr'd his courage with the steel. Bounded the fiery steed in air, The rider sate erect and fair, Then, like a bolt from steel crossbow Forth launch'd, along the plain they go. They dash'd that rapid torrent through, And up Carhonie's hill they new; Still at the gallop prick'd the knight, His merry men follow'd as they might. Along thy banks, swift Teith! they ride, And in the race they mock thy tide ; Torry and Lendrick now are past, And Deanstown lies behind them cast; They rise, the banned towers of Doune, They sink in distant woodland soon; Blair-Drummond sees the hoofs strike fire, They sweep like breeze through Ochtertyre; They mark just glance and disappear The lofty brow of ancient Kier; They bathe their coursers' sweltering sides, Dark Forth! amid thy sluggish tides, And on th' opposing shore take ground, With plash, with scramble, and with bound. Right hand they leave thy cliffs, Craig-Forth! And soon the bulwark of the north, Gray Stirling, with her towers and town, Upon their feet career look'd down.
XIX. As up the flinty path they strain'd, Sudden his steed the leader rein'd; A signal to his squire he flung, Who instant to his stirrup sprung: “ Seest thou, De Vaux, yon woodsman gray, Who townward holds the rocky way, Of stature tall and poor array? Mark'st thou the firm, yet active stride, With which he scales the mountain side ? Know'st thou from whence he comes, or whom ?” “No, by my word ;-a burley groom He seems, who in the field or chase A baron's train would nobly grace." Out, out, De Vaux! can fear supply, And jealousy, no sharper eye?
XX. The Douglas, who had bent his way From Cambus-Kenneth's abbey gray, Now, as he climb'd the rocky sheli, Held sad communion with himseli:“Yes! all is true my fears could frame: A prisoner lies the noble Grame, And fiery Roderick soon will feel The vengeance of the royal steel. I, only I, can ward their fate, God grant the ransom come not late! The abbess hath her promise given, My child shall be the bride of heaven: Be pardon'd one repining tear! For He, who gave her, knows how dear, How excellent !-but that is by, And now my business is to die. -Ye towers ! within whose circuit dread A Douglas by his sovereign bled, And thou, O sad and fatal mound ! That oft hast heard the death axe sound, As on the noblest of the land Fell the stern headsman's bloody hand, The dungeon, block, and nameless tomb Prepare, for Douglas seeks his doom! -But hark! what blithe and jolly peal Makes the Franciscan steeple reel? And see! upon the crowded street, Iu motley groups what masquers meet! Banner and pageant, pipe and drum, And merry morrice dancers come. I guess, by all this quaint array, The burghers hold their sports to-day James will be there; he loves such show, Where the good yeoman bends his bow, And the tough wrestler foils his foe, As well as where, in proud career, The high-born tilter shivers spear. I'll follow to the castle park, And play my prize: King James shall mark, If age has tamed these sinews stark, Whose force so oft, in happier days, His boyish wonder loved to praise."
XXI. The castle gates were open fung, The quivering drawbridge rock'd ang rang, And echoed loud the finty street Beneath the courser's clattering feet, As slowly down the deep descent Fair Scotland's king and nobles went, While all along the crowded way Was jubilee and loud huzza.
And ever James was bending low,
Douglas would speak, but in his breast
XXII. Now, in the castle park, drew out Their chequer'd bands the joyous rout. There morricers, with bell at heel, And blade in hand, their mazes wheel; But chief, beside the butts, there stand Bold Robin Hood and all his bandFriar Tuck, with quarterstaff and cowl, Old Scathelocke, with his surly scowl, Maid Marion, fair as ivory bone, Scarlet, and Mutch, and Little John; Their bugles challenge all that will, In archery to prove their skill. The Douglas bent a bow of might, His first shaft center'd in the white, And, when in turn he shot again, His second split the first in twain. From the king's hand must Douglas take A silver dart, the archers' stake; Fondly he watch'd, with watery eye, Some answering glance of sympathy ;No kind emotion made reply! Indifferent as to archer wight, The monarch gave the arrow bright.
XXIV. The vale with loud applauses rang, The Ladie's Rock sent back the clang. The king, with look unmoved, bestow'd A purse well fill'd with pieces broad. Indignant smiled the Douglas proud, And threw the gold among the crowd, Who now, with anxious wonder, scan, And sharper glance, the dark gray man; Till whispers rose among the throng, That heart so free, and hand so strong, Must to the Donglas' blood belong: The old men mark'd, and shook the head, To see his hair with silver spread, And wink'd aside, and told each son Of feats upon the English done, Ere Douglas of the stalwart hand Was exiled from his native land. The women praised his stately form, Though wreck'd by many a winter's storm; The youth with awe and wonder saw His strength surpassing nature's law. Thus judged, as is their wont, the crowd, Till murmur rose to clamours loud. But not a glance from that proud ring of peers who circled round the king, With Douglas held communion kind, Or call'd the banish'd man to mind; No, not from those who, at the chase, Once held his side the honour'd place, Begirt his board, and, in the field, Found safety underneath his shield For he whom royal eyes disown, When was his form to courtiers known?
XXIII. Now, clear the ring ! for, hand to hand, The manly wrestlers take their stand. Two o'er the rest superior rose, And proud demanded mightier foes Nor call'd in vain; for Douglas came. -For life is Hugh of Larbert lame; Scarce better John of Alloa's fare, Whom senseless home bis comrades bear. Prize of the wrestling match, the king To Douglas gave a golden ring, While coldly glanced his eye of blue, As frozen drop of wintry dew.
XXV. The monarch saw the gambols flag, And bade let loose a gallant stag, Whose pride, the holiday to crown, Two favourite greyhounds should pull down, That venison free, and Bourdeaux wine Might serve the archery to dine. But Lufra-whom from Douglas' side, Nor bribe nor threat could e'er divide, The fleetest hound in all the northBrave Lufra saw, and darted forth. She left the royal hounds midway, And, dashing on the antler'd prey, Sunk her sharp muzzle in his flank, And deep the flowing liseblood drank.
And to the leading soldier said,
The king's stout huntsman saw the sport
XXVIII. “ Hear, gentle friends! ere yet for me Ye break the bands of fealty. My life, my honour, and my cause, I tender free to Scotland's laws; Are these so weak as must require The aid of our misguided ire ? Or, if I suffer causeless wrong, Is then my selfish rage so strong, My sense of public weal so low, That, for mean vengeance on a foe, Those cords of love I should unbind Which knit my country and my kind? Oh no! believe, in yonder tower It will not soothe my captive hour, To know those spears our foes should dread, For me in kindred gore are red. To know, in fruitless brawl begun For me, that mother wails her son ; For me, that widow's mate expires ; For me, that orphans weep their sires, That patriots mourn insulted laws, And curse the Douglas for the cause. 0! let your patience ward such ill, And keep your right to love me still !”
XXVI. Then clamour'd loud the royal train, And brandish'd swords and staves amain. But stern the baron's warning—"Back ! Back, on your lives, ye menial pack! Beware the Douglas !-yes, behold, King James ! the Douglas, doom'd of old, And vainly sought for near and far, A victim to atone the war: A willing victim now attends, Nor craves thy grace but for his friends." _" Thus is my clemency repaid ? Presumptuous lord !" the monarch said; “Of thy misproud ambitious clan, Thou, James of Bothwell, wert the man, The only man, in whom a foe My woman mercy would not know; But shall a monarch's presence brook Injurious blow and haughty look? What ho! the captain of our guard ! Give the offender fitting ward. Break off the sports !”—for tumult rose, And yeomen 'gan to bend their bows ;“ Break off the sports !”—he said, and frown'd; « And bid our horsemen clear the ground.”
XXIX. The crowd's wild fury súnk again In tears as tempests melt in rain : With listed hands and eyes, they pray'd For blessings on his generous head, Who for his country felt alone, And prized her blood beyond his own. Old men, upon the verge of life Bless'd him who stay'd the civil strife; And mothers held their babes on high, The self-devoted chief to spy, Triumphant over wrong and ire, To whom the prattlers owed a sire: E'en the rough soldier's heart was moved: As if behind some bier beloved, With trailing arms and drooping head, The Douglas up the hill he led, And at the castle's battled verge, With sighs resign'd his honour'd charge.
XXVII. Then uproar wild and misarray Marr'd the fair form of festal day. The horsemen prick'd among the crowd, Repell’d by threats and insult loud; To earth are borne the old and weak; The timorous fly, the women shriek ; With flint, with shaft, with staff, with bar, The hardier urge tumultuous war. At once round Douglas darkly sweep The royal spears in circle deep, And slowly scale the pathway steep; While on the rear in thunder pour The rabble with disorder'd roar. With grief the noble Douglas saw The commons rise against the law,
XXX. Th' offended monarch rode apart, With bitter thought and swelling heart, And would not now vouchsafe again Through Stirling's streets to lead his train. “0 Lennox, who would wish to rule This changeling crowd, this common fool? Hear'st thou,” he said,“ the loud acclaim, With which they shont the Douglas' name? With like acclaim the vulgar throat Strain’d for King James their morning note : With like acclaim they hail'd the day When first I broke the Douglas' sway;