« AnteriorContinuar »
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 vaid 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 sta in lo 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 bilt to hilt.”— 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 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 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, 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 chies’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, train'd 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 food the tartans dyed. Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain, And shower'd bis 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 pot, 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, Turn'd 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 Аew; 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 banner'd 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 fleet 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 shell, Held sad communion with himself:“Yes! all is true my fears could frame: A prisoner lies the noble Græme, 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, In 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 flung, The quivering drawbridge rock'd and rung, And echoed loud the flinty 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 lond huzza.
And ever James was bending low,
Douglas would speak, but in his breast To his white jennet's saddle bow,
His struggling soul his words suppress'd : Doffing his cap to city dame,
Indignant then he turn'd hini where Who smiled and blush'd for pride and shame. Their arms the brawny yeomen bare, And well the simperer might be vain,
To hurl the massive bar in air. He chose the fairest of the train.
When each his utmost strength had shown, Gravely he greets each city sire,
The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone Commends each pageant's quaint attire,
From its deep bed, then heaved it high, Gives to the dancers thanks aloud,
And sent the fragment through the sky, And smiles and nods upon the crowd,
A rood beyond the farthest mark; Who rend the heavens with their acclaims, And still in Stirling's royal park, “ Long live the commons' king, King James !" The gray-hair'd sires, who know the past, Behind the king throng'd peer and knight, To strangers point the Douglas-cast, And noble dame and damsel bright,
And moralize on the decay
Of Scottish strength in modern day.
The vale with loud applauses rang, There nobles mourn'd their pride restraind, The Ladie's Rock sent back the clang. And the mean burghers' joys disdain’d;
The king, with look unmoved, bestow'd And chiefs, who, hostage for their clan,
A purse well fillid with pieces broad. Were each from home a banish'd man,
Indignant smiled the Douglas proud, There thought upon their own gray tower, And threw the gold among the crowd, Their waving woods, their feudal power,
Who now, with anxious wonder, scan, And deem'd themselves a shameful part
And sharper glance, the dark gray man ; Of pageant which they cursed in heart.
Till whispers rose among the throng,
That heart so free, and hand so strong,
Must to the Douglas' blood belong:
The old men markd, and shook the head, Now, in the castle park, drew out
To see his hair with silver spread, Their chequer'd bands the joyous rout.
And wink'd aside, and told each son There morricers, with bell at heel,
Of feats upon the English done, And blade in hand, their mazes wheel ;
Ere Douglas of the stalwart hand But chief, beside the butts, there stand
Was exiled from his native land. Bold Robin Hood and all his band
The women praised his stately form, Friar Tuck, with quarterstaff and cowl,
Though wreck'd by many a winter's storm; Old Scathelocke, with his surly scowl,
The youth with awe and wonder saw Maid Marion, fair as ivory bone,
His strength surpassing nature's law. Scarlet, and Mutch, and Little John;
Thus judged, as is their wont, the crowd, Their bugles challenge all that will,
Till murmur rose to clamours loud. In archery to prove their skill.
But not a glance from that proud ring The Douglas bent a bow of might,
Of peers who circled round the king, His first shaft center'd in the white,
With Douglas held communion kind, And, when in turn he shot again,
Or call'd the banish'd man to mind; His second split the first in twain.
No, not from those who, at the chase, From the king's hand must Douglas take
Once held his side the honour'd place, A silver dart, the archers' stake;
Begirt his board, and, in the field, Fondly he watch'd, with watery eye,
Found safety underneath his shield Some answering glance of sympathy ;
For he whom royal eyes disown, No kind emotion made reply!
When was his form to courtiers known? Indifferent as to archer wight, The monarch gave the arrow bright.
The monarch saw the gambols flag,
And bade let loose a gallant stag,
Whose pride, the holiday to crown, The manly wrestlers take their stand.
Two favourite greyhounds should pull down, Two o'er the rest superior rose,
That venison free, and Bourdeaux wine And proud demanded mightier foes
Might serve the archery to dine. Nor call'd in vain ; for Douglas came.
But Lufra—whom from Douglas' side, -For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;
Nor bribe nor threat could e'er divide, Scarce better John of Alloa's fare,
The fleetest hound in all the northWhom senseless home his comrades bear.
Brave Lufra saw, and darted forth. Prize of the wrestling match, the king
She left the royal hounds midway, To Douglas gave a golden ring,
And, dashing on the antler'd prey, While coldly glanced his eye of blue,
Sunk her sharp muzzle in his flank, As frozen drop of wintry dew.
And deep the flowing lifeblood drank.
And to the leading soldier said,
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 flashing 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.
“ 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 bow's ;“ Break off the sports !”—he said, and frown'd; “ And bid our horsemen clear the ground.”
XXIX. The crowd's wild fury sunk again In tears as tempests melt in rain : With lifted 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 fint, 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. “O Lennox, who would wish to rule This changeling crowd, this common fool? Hear'st thou,” he said, “the loud acclaim, With which they shout 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;
And like acclaim would Douglas greet,
They mourn'd him pent within the hold, If he could hurl me from my seat.
“ Where stout Earl William was of old ;»*. Who o'er the herd would wish to reign,
And there his word the speaker stay'd, Fantastic, fickle, fierce, and vain ?
And finger on his lip he laid, Vain as the leaf upon the stream,
Or pointed to his dagger blade. And fickle as a changeful dream;
But jaded horsemen, from the west, Fantastic as a woman's mood,
At evening to the castle press’d; And fierce as frenzy's fever'd blood.
And busy talkers said they bore Thou many-headed monster thing,
Tidings of fight on Katrine's shore ; O! who would wish to be thy king
At noon the deadly fray begun,
And lasted till the set of sun.
Thus giddy rumour shook the town, “But soft! what messenger of speed
Till closed the night her pennons brown.
CANTO VI. “ He prays, my liege, your sports keep bound
The sun awakening, through the smoky air The outlaw'd chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Of the dark city casts a sullen glance, Has summon'd his rebellious crew;
Rousing each caitiff to his task of care, 'Tis said, in James of Bothwell's aid
Of sinful man the sad inheritance; These loose banditti stand array'd.
Summoning revellers from the lagging dance, The Earl of Mar, this morn, from Doune, And scaring prowling robber to his den ; To break their muster march'd, and soon Gilding on batiled tower the warder's lance, Your grace will hear of battle fought;
And warning student pale to leave his pen, But earnestly the earl besought,
And yield his drowsy eyes to the kind nurse of men. Till for such danger he provide,
What various scenes, and, O! what scenes of wo, With scanty train you will not ride."
Are witness'd by that red and struggling beam! XXXII.
The fever'd patient, from his pallet low, Thou warn'st me I have done amiss
Through crowded hospitals beholds its stream;
The ruín'd maiden trembles &t its gleam ; I should have earlier look'd to this ;
The debtor wakes to thought of gyve and jail : I lost it in this bustling day.
The lovelorn wretch starts from tormenting dream; -Retrace with speed thy former way;
The wakeful mother, by the glimmering pale, Spare not for spoiling of thy steed,
Trims her sick infant's couch, and soothes his feeble The best of mine shall be thy meed.
wail. Say to our faithful Lord of Mar, We do forbid th' intended war;
II. Roderick, this morn, in single fight,
At dawn the towers of Stirling rang Was made our prisoner by a knight;
With soldier step and weapon clang, And Douglas hath himself and cause
While drums, with rolling note, foretell Submitted to our kingdom's laws.
Relief to weary sentinel, The tidings of their leaders lost
Through narrow loop and casement barr'd, Will soon dissolve the mountain host,
The sunbeams sought the court of guard, Nor would we that the vulgar feel,
And struggling with the smoky air, For their chiefs' crimes, avenging steel.
Deadend the torch's yellow glare. Bear Mar our message, Braco; fly !"
In comfortless alliance shone He turn'd his steed—“My liege, I hie,
The lights through arch of blacken'd stone, Yet, ere I cross this lily lawn,
And show'd wild shapes in garb of war, I fear the broadswords will be drawn.”
Faces deform'd with beard and scar, The turf the flying courser spurn'd,
All haggard from the midnight watch, And to his towers the king return'd.
And fever'd with the stern debauch ;
For the oak table's massive board,
Flooded with wine, with fragments stored, Ill with King James's mood that day
And beakers drain'd, and cups o’ertbrown, Suited gay feast and minstrel lay;
Show'd in what sport the night had flown. Soon were dismiss'd the courtly throng,
Some, weary, snored on floor and bench: And soon cut short the festal song.
Some labour'd still their thirst to quench; Nor less upon the sadden'd town,
Some, chill'd with watching, spread their hands The evening sunk in sorrow down.
O'er the huge chimney's dying brands, The burghers spoke of civil jar,
While round them, or beside them flung, of rumour'd feuds and mountain war,
At every step their harness rung.
* Stabbed by James II. in Stirling castle.