Page images

Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,
Announced their march; their tread alone,
At times one warning trumpet blown,
At times a stifled hum,

Told England, from his mountain-throne
King James did rushing come.
Scarce could they hear or see their foes,
Until at weapon point they close.
They close in clouds of smoke and dust,
With sword-sway and with lance's thrust;
And such a yell was there,
Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought upon the earth,
And fiends in upper air.

Long looked the anxious squires; their eye
Could in the darkness nought descry.
At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast;
And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears;
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then marked they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
Floating like foam upon the wave;

But nought distinct they see:
Wide raged the battle on the plain;
Spears shook, and falchions flashed amain;
Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
Crests rose, and stooped, and rose again,
Wild and disorderly.

Evening fell on the deadly struggle, and the spectators were forced from the agitating scene.]

But as they left the darkening heath,
More desperate grew the strife of death.
The English shafts in volleys hailed,
In headlong charge their horse assailed:
Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep,
To break the Scottish circle deep,

That fought around their king.
But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,

Unbroken was the ring;

The stubborn spearmen still made good
Their dark impenetrable wood,

Each stepping where his comrade stood,
The instant that he fell.

No thought was there of dastard flight;
Linked in the serried phalanx tight,
Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
As fearlessly and well;

Till utter darkness closed her wing
O'er their thin host and wounded king.
Then skilful Surrey's sage commands
Led back from strife his shattered bands;
And from the charge they drew,
As mountain-waves from wasted lands
Sweep back to ocean blue.

Then did their loss his foemen know;
Their king, their lords, their mightiest low,
They melted from the field as snow,

When streams are swoln and south winds blow,
Dissolves in silent dew.

Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
While many a broken band,
Disordered, through her currents dash,
To gain the Scottish land;

To town and tower, to down and dale,
To tell red Flodden's dismal tale,
And raise the universal wail.
Tradition, legend, tune, and song,
Shall many an age that wail prolong:

Still from the sire the son shall hear
Of the stern strife and carnage drear
Of Flodden's fatal field,

Where shivered was fair Scotland's spear,
And broken was her shield!

The hero receives his death-wound, and is borne off the field. The description, detached from the context, loses much of its interest; but the mingled effects of mental agony and physical suffering, of remorse and death, on a bad but brave spirit trained to war, is described with much sublimity:

[Death of Marmion.]

When, doffed his casque, he felt free air,
Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare:

'Where's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace where? Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare!

Redeem my pennon-charge again!
Cry-"Marmion to the rescue !"-Vain!
Last of my race, on battle plain

That shout shall ne'er be heard again!
Yet my last thought is England's :-fly;
To Dacre bear my signet-ring;
Tell him his squadrons up to bring.
Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie:
Tunstall lies dead upon the field;
His life-blood stains the spotless shield:
Edmund is down-my life is reft;
The Admiral alone is left.

Let Stanley charge with spur of fire-
With Chester charge, and Lancashire,
Full upon Scotland's central host,
Or victory and England's lost.

Must I bid twice? Hence, varlets! fly!
Leave Marmion here alone-to die.'

They parted, and alone he lay ;

Clare drew her from the sight away,
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmured- Is there none,
Of all my halls have nurst,
Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring
Of blessed water from the spring,
To slake my dying thirst!'

O, woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade

By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

Scarce were the piteous accents said,
When, with the baron's casque, the maid
To the nigh streamlet ran:

Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,

Sees but the dying man.

She stooped her by the runnel's side,

But in abhorrence backward drew;
For, oozing from the mountain wide,
Where raged the war, a dark red tide
Was curdling in the streamlet blue.
Where shall she turn !-behold her mark
A little fountain-cell,

Where water, clear as diamond-spark,
In a stone bason fell.

Above, some half-worn letters say,

Brink. weary. pilgrim. drink. and. pray
For. the kind. soul. of. Spbil. Greg.
Who. built. this. cross. and. well.
She filled the helm, and back she hied,
And with surprise and joy espied

A monk supporting Marmion's head;
A pious man, whom duty brought
To dubious verge of battle fought,

To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.

Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave, And, as she stooped his brow to laveIs it the hand of Clare,' he said, 'Or injured Constance, bathes my head?' Then, as remembrance rose'Speak not to me of shrift or prayer! I must redress her woes.

Short space, few words, are mine to spare;
Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!'

Alas!' she said, 'the while
O think of your immortal weal!
In vain for Constance is your zeal ;
She- -died at Holy Isle.'

Lord Marmion started from the ground,
As light as if he felt no wound;
Though in the action burst the tide,
In torrents, from his wounded side.
Then it was truth !'-he said- I knew
That the dark presage must be true.


I would the fiend, to whom belongs
The vengeance due to all her wrongs,
Would spare me but a day!
For wasting fire, and dying groan,
And priests slain on the altar stone,
Might bribe him for delay.
It may not be !-this dizzy trance-
Curse on yon base marauder's lance,
And doubly cursed my failing brand!
A sinful heart makes feeble hand.'
Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
Supported by the trembling monk.

With fruitless labour Clara bound,
And strove to stanch the gushing wound:
The monk, with unavailing cares,
Exhausted all the church's prayers;
Ever, he said, that, close and near,

A lady's voice was in his ear,

And that the priest he could not hear,

For that she ever sung,

"In the lost battle, borne down by the flying, Where mingles war's rattle with groans of the dying!'

So the notes rung;

'Avoid thee, fiend!-with cruel hand,
Shake not the dying sinner's sand!
O look, my son, upon yon sign
Of the Redeemer's grace divine;
O think on faith and bliss!

By many a death-bed I have been,
And many a sinner's parting seen,
But never aught like this.'
The war, that for a space did fail,
Now trebly thundering, swelled the gale,
And-Stanley! was the cry;

A light on Marmion's visage spread,
And fired his glazing eye:

With dying hand above his head
He shook the fragment of his blade,

And shouted Victory!

Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on !' Were the last words of Marmion.

Thus motionless and moanless drew His parting breath, stout Roderick Dhu. The 'Lady of the Lake' is more richly picturesque than either of the former poems, and the plot is more regular and interesting. The subject.' says Sir James Mackintosh, is a common Highland irruption; but at a point where the neighbourhood of the Lowlands affords the best contrast of manners -where the scenery affords the noblest subject of description-and where the wild clan is so near to the court, that their robberies can be connected with the romantic adventures of a disguised king, an exiled lord, and a high-born beauty. The whole narrative is very fine.' It was the most popular of the author's poems: in a few months twenty thou sand copies were sold, and the district where the action of the poem lay was visited by countless thousands of tourists. With this work closed the great popularity of Scott as a poet. Rokeby,' a tale of the English Cavaliers and Roundheads, was considered a failure, though displaying the utmost art and talent in the delineation of character and pas sion. Don Roderick' is vastly inferior to Rokeby;' and Harold' and 'Triermain' are but faint copies of the Gothic epics, however finely finished in some of the tender passages. The 'Lord of the Isles' is of a higher mood. It is a Scottish story of the days of Bruce, and has the characteristic fire and animation of the minstrel, when, like Rob Roy, he has his foot on his native heath. Bannockburn may be compared with Flodden Field in energy of description, though the poet is sometimes lost in the chronicler and antiquary. The interest of the tale is not well sustained throughout, and its chief attraction consists in the descriptive powers of the author, who, besides his feudal halls and battles, has drawn the magnificent scenery of the West Highlands (the cave of Staffa, and the dark desolate grandeur of the Coriusk lakes and mountains) with equal truth and sublimity. The lyrical pieces of Scott are often very happy. The old ballad strains may be said to have been his original nutriment as a poet, and he is consequently often warlike and romantic in his songs. But he has also gaiety, archness, and tenderness, and if he does not touch deeply the heart, he never fails to paint to the eye and imagination.

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

Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broad-sword he weapon had none,
He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone!
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar!
He stayed not for brake, and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Esk river where ford there was none-
But, ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,

We may contrast with this the silent and appalling death-scene of Roderick Dhu, in the Lady of the Lake.' The savage chief expires while listening to a tale chanted by the bard or minstrel of his clan:-'Mong bride's-men, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all!

At first, the chieftain to his chime
With lifted hand kept feeble time;
That motion ceased; yet feeling strong,
Varied his look as changed the song:
At length no more his deafened ear
The minstrel's melody can hear;

His face grows sharp; his hands are clenched,
As if some pang his heart-strings wrenched;
Set are his teeth, his fading eye

Te sterrly fixed on vacancy:

Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword-
For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word-
'O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war!
Or to dance at our bridal? young Lord Lochinvar!'
'I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied:
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide!
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine!
There be maidens in Scotland, more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar!

The bride kissed the goblet; the knight took it up,
He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup!
She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar-
'Now tread we a measure!' said young Lochinvar.
So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace!
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and

And the bride-maidens whispered, "Twere better by far

To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar!'

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear, When they reached the hall door, and the charger stood near,

So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!

'She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur; They'll have fleet steeds that follow!' quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting 'mong Græmes of the Netherby clan;

Fosters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they


There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lea, But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see! So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,

Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar!

[ocr errors]


[From the 'Lady of the Lake."]

He is gone on the mountain,
He is lost to the forest,
Like a summer-dried fountain,
When our need was the sorest.
The font, reappearing,

From the rain-drops shall borrow,
But to us comes no cheering,
To Duncan no morrow!

The hand of the reaper

Takes the ears that are hoary, But the voice of the weeper Wails manhood in glory; The autumn winds rushing, Waft the leaves that are searest, But our flower was in flushing When blighting was nearest. Fleet foot on the correi,1 Sage counsel in cumber, Red hand in the foray,

How sound is thy slumber! Like the dew on the mountain, Like the foam on the river, Like the bubble on the fountain, Thou art gone, and for ever!

[blocks in formation]

Come from deep glen, and
From mountain so rocky;
The war-pipe and pennon
Are at Inverlochy.
Come every hill-plaid, and
True heart that wears one;
Come every steel blade, and
Strong hand that bears one!
Leave untended the herd,

The flock without shelter; .
Leave the corpse uninterred,
The bride at the altar.
Leave the deer, leave the steer,
Leave nets and barges;
Come with your fighting gear,
Broadswords and targes.

Come as the winds come, when
Forests are rended:
Come as the waves come, when
Navies are stranded.
Faster come, faster come,
Faster and faster:
Chief, vassal, page, and groom,
Tenant and master.

Fast they come, fast they come;
See how they gather!
Wide waves the eagle plume,

Blended with heather.

Cast your plaids, draw your blades,

Forward each man set;

Pibroch of Donuil Dhu,

Knell for the onset!


[From the Antiquary."]

Why sitt'st thou by that ruined hall,
Thou aged carle so stern and gray!
Dost thou its former pride recall,

Or ponder how it passed away? 'Know'st thou not me?' the Deep Voice cried, 'So long enjoyed, so oft misusedAlternate, in thy fickle pride,

Desired, neglected, and accused?
Before my breath, like blazing flax,
Man and his marvels pass away;
And changing empires wane and wax,
Are founded, flourish, and decay.
Redeem mine hours-the space is brief-
While in my glass the sand-grains shiver,
And measureless thy joy or grief,
When Time and thou shalt part for ever!'

[Hymn of the Hebrew Maid.]
[From Ivanhoe."]

When Israel, of the Lord beloved,
Out from the land of bondage came,
Her father's God before her moved,
An awful guide in smoke and flame.
By day, along the astonished lands
The cloudy pillar glided slow;
By night, Arabia's crimsoned sands
Returned the fiery column's glow.
There rose the choral hymn of praise,

And trump and timbrel answered keen;
And Zion's daughters poured their lays,
With priest's and warrior's voice between.
No portents now our foes amaze,
Forsaken Israel wanders lone;
Our fathers would not know Thy ways,

And Thou hast left them to their own.


[ocr errors]
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »