Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

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
X.

The pass was left; for then they wind
Fitz-James was brave :-though to his heart Along a wide and level green,
The liteolood thrill'd with sudden start,

Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
He mapn'd bimself with dauntless air,

Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near,
Return'd the chief his haughty stare,

-To hide a bonnet or a spear.
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before.

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,
Respect was mingled with surprise,

From Vennachar in silver breaks,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foeman worthy of their steel.

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.”
XI.
Fitz-James look'd round-yet scarce believed

XIII.
The witness that his sight received ;
Such apparition well might seem

The Saxon paused :-" I ne'er delay'd,
Delusion of a dreadful dream.

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,
Foil'd his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta'en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And, backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.

Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff,
There lies red Murdoch, stark and stiff.
Thus fate has solved her prophecy,
Then yield to fate, and not to me.
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When, if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the king shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free,
I plight mine honour, oath, and word,
That, to thy native strengths restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand,
That aids thee now to guard thy land.”

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,
And bind the wounds of yonder knight;
Let the gray palfrey bear his weight,
We destined for a fairer freight,
And bring him on to Stirling straight;
I will before at better speed,
To seek fresh horse and fitting weed.
The sun rides high ;-I must be boune
To see the archer game at noon ;
But lightly Bayard clears the lea.-
De Vaux and Herries, follow me.

Afar, ere to the hill he drew,
That stately form and step I knew :
Like form in Scotland is not seen,
Treads not such step on Scottish grees
'Tis James of Douglas, by St. Serle!
The uncle of the banish'd earl.
Away, away, to court, to show
The near approach of dreaded foe:
The king must stand upon his guard:
Douglas and he must meet prepared."
Then right hand wheeld their steeds, and straight
They won the castle's postern gate.

[merged small][ocr errors]

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,
To his white jennet's saddle bow,
Doffing his cap to city dame,
Who smiled and blush'd for pride and shame.
And well the simperer might be vain,-
He chose the fairest of the train.
Gravely he greets each city sire,
Commends each pageant's quaint tire,
Gives to the dancers thanks aloud,
And smiles and nods upon the crowd,
Who rend the heavens with their acclaims,
“ Long live the commons' king, King James !”
Behind the king throng'd peer and knight,
And noble dame and damsel bright,
Whose fiery steeds ill brook'd the stay
Of the steep street and crowded way.
But in the train you might discern
Dark lowering brow and visage stern;
There nobles mourn'd their pride restrain’d,
And the mean burghers' joys disdain'd;
And chiefs, who, hostage for their clan,
Were each from home a banish'd man,
There thought upon their own gray tower,
Their waving woods, their feudal power,
And deem'd themselves a shameful part
Of pageant which they cursed in heart.

Douglas would speak, but in his breast
His struggling soul his words suppressid:
Indignant then he turn'd him where
Their arms the brawny yeomen bare,
To hurl the massive bar in air.
When each his utmost strength had shown,
The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone
From its deep bed, then heaved it high,
And sent the fragment through the sky,
A rood beyond the farthest mark ;-
And still in Stirling's royal park,
The gray-hair'd sires, who know the past,
To strangers point the Douglas-cast,
And moralize on the decay
Of Scottish strength in modern day.

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,
“Sir John of Hyndford ! 'twas my blade
That knighthood on thy shoulder laid ;
For that good deed permit me, then,
A word with these misguided men.

The king's stout huntsman saw the sport
By strange intruder broken short,
Came up, and, with his leash unbound,
In anger struck the noble hound.
-The Douglas had endured, that morn,
The king's cold look, the nobles' scorn,
And last, and worst to spirit proud,
Had borne the pity of the crowd;
But Lufra had been fondly bred
To share his board, to watch his bed,
And oft would Ellen Lufra's neck,
In maiden glee, with garlands deck;
They were such playmates, that with name
Of Lufra, Ellen's image came.
His stifled wrath is brimming high,
In darken'd brow and fashing eye;
As waves before the bark divide,
The crowd gave way before his stride;
Needs but a buffet and no more,
The groom lies senseless in his gore.
Such blow no other hand could deal,
Though gauntleted in glove of steel.

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;

« ZurückWeiter »