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The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His withered cheek, and tresses gray,
Seemed to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.
The last of all the bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry.
For, well-a-day! their date was fled,
His tuneful brethren all were dead;
And he, neglected and oppressed,
Wished to be with them, and at rest.
No more, on prancing palfrey borne,
He carolled, light as lark at morn;
No longer courted and caressed,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He poured, to lord and lady gay,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone;
A stranger filled the Stuarts' throne;
The bigots of the iron time
Had called his harmless art a crime.
A wandering Harper, scorned and poor,
He begged his bread from door to door;
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp a king had loved to hear.
He passed where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye—
No humbler resting-place was nigh.
With hesitating step, at last,
The embattled portal-arch he passed,
Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft rolled back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb.
When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:
And he began to talk anon,
Of good Earl Francis, dead and gone,.
And of Earl Walter, rest him God!
A braver ne'er to battle rode;
And how full many a tale he knew,
The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
The aged Minstrel audience gained.
But, when he reached the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wished his boon denied:
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease,
Which marks security to please;
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain—
He tried to tune his harp in vain.
The pitying Duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.
And then, he said, he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,
He never thought to sing again.
It was not framed for village churls,
But for high dames and mighty earls;
He had played it to King Charles the Good,
When he kept court in Holyrood;
And much he wished, yet feared, to try,
The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his fingers strayed,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled;
And lightened up his faded eye,
With all a poet's ecstacy!
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along :
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
Cold diffidence and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank, in faithless memory void,
The poet's glowing thought supplied;
And, while his harp responsive rung,
'Twas thus the Latest Minstrel sung.
MARGARET AT HER FATHER'S BIER. Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity? Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity? No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage they drew; Implored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs, their own red falchions slew : While Cessford owns the rule of Car, While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott, The slaughtered chiefs, the mortal jar, The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!
In sorrow, o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent;
And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent:
But o'er her warrior's bloody bier
The Ladye dropped nor flower nor tear!
Vengeance, deep-brooding o'er the slain,
Had locked the source of softer woe;
And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow;
Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisped from the nurse's kneeAnd, if I live to be a man,
My father's death revenged shall be!" Then fast the mother's tears did seek To dew the infant's kindling cheek.
All loose her negligent attire,
All loose her golden hair,
Hung Margaret o'er her slaughtered sire,
And wept in wild despair.
But not alone the bitter tear
Had filial grief supplied;
For hopeless love, and anxious fear,
Had lent their mingled tide: Nor in her mother's altered eye Dared she to look for sympathy.
Her lover, 'gainst her father's clan,
With Car in arms had stood, When Mathouse-burn to Melrose ran, All purple with their blood; And well she knew her mother dread, Before Lord Cranstoun she should wed, Would see her on her dying bed. Of noble race the Ladye came; Her father was a clerk of fame,
Of Bethune's line of Picardie:
He learned the art, that none may name,
In Padua, far beyond the sea.
Men said, he changed his mortal frame
By feat of magic mystery;
For when, in studious mood, he paced
St. Andrew's cloistered hall,
His form no darkening shadow traced
Upon the sunny wall!
And of his skill, as bards avow,
He taught that Ladye fair,
Till to her bidding she could bow
The viewless forms of air.
And now she sits in secret bower,
In old Lord David's western tower,
And listens to a heavy sound,
That moans the mossy turrets round.
DELORAINE GOES TO THE GRAVE OF
If thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moon-light;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins gray.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,
Then go-but go alone the while-
Then view St. David's ruin'd pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!
Short halt did Deloraine make there;
Little recked he of the scene so fair:
With dagger's hilt, on the wicket strong,
He struck full loud, and struck full long.
The porter hurried to the gate-
"Who knocks so loud, and knocks so late?"-
"From Branksome I," the warrior cried;
And strait the wicket opened wide;
For Branksome's chiefs had in battle stood,
To fence the rights of fair Melrose;
And lands and livings, many a rood,
Had gifted the shrine for their soul's repose.
Bold Deloraine his errand said;
The porter bent his humble head;
With torch in hand, and feet unshod,
And noiseless step, the path he trod:
The arched cloisters, far and wide,
Rang to the warrior's clanking stride;
Till, stooping low his lofty crest,
He entered the cell of the ancient priest,
And lifted his barred aventayle,
To hail the monk of St. Mary's aisle.
"The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by me;
Says, that the fated hour is come,
And that to-night I shall watch with thee,
To win the treasure of the tomb."-
From sackcloth couch the monk arose,
With toil his stiffened limbs he reared;
A hundred years had flung their snows
On his thin locks and floating beard.
And strangely on the knight looked he,
And his blue eyes gleamed wild and wide; "And, dar'st thou, warrior! seek to see
What heaven and hell alike would hide? My breast, in belt of iron pent,
With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn, For threescore years, in penance spent,
My knees those flinty stones have worn ;
Yet all too little to atone
For knowing what should ne'er be known.
Would'st thou thy every future year
In ceaseless prayer and penance drie,
Yet wait thy latter end with fear-
Then, daring warrior, follow me!"-
"Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one;
For mass or prayer can I rarely tarry,
Save to patter an Ave Mary,
When I ride on a Border foray:
Other prayer can I none;
So speed me my errand, and let me be gone."—
Again on the knight looked the churchman old,
And again he sighed heavily;
For he had himself been a warrior bold,
And fought in Spain and Italy.
And he thought on the days that were long since by,
When his limbs were strong, and his courage was
Now slow, and faint, he led the way, [high:-
Where, cloistered round, the garden lay;
The pillared arches were over their head,
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.
Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,
Glistened with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret, glistened there,
But was carved in the cloister arches as fair.
The monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen, in fair Castile,
The youth in glittering squadrons start ;
Sudden the flying jennet wheel,
And hurl the unexpected dart.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.
By a steel-clenched postern door,
They entered now the chancel tall;
The darkened roof rose high aloof
On pillars, lofty, and light, and small :
The key-stone, that locked each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lis, or a quatre-feuille;
The corbells were carved grotesque and grim;
And the pillars, with clustered shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourished around,
Seemed bundles oflances which garlands had bound.
Full many a scutcheon and banner, riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screened altar's pale;
And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn,
O gallant chief of Otterburne!
And thine, dark knight of Liddesdale!
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!
The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;
Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand 'Twixt poplars straight the ozier wand,
In many a freakish knot, had twined; Then framed a spell, when the work was done, And changed the willow-wreaths to stone.
The silver light, so pale and faint,
Shewed many a prophet, and many a saint,
Whose image on the glass was dyed;
Full in the midst, his cross of red
Triumphant Michael brandished,
And trampled the apostate's pride.
The moon-beam kissed the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.
They sate them down on a marble stone,
A Scottish monarch slept below;
Thus spoke the monk, in solemn tone—
"I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim countries I have trod,
And fought beneath the cross of God:
Now, strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
"In these far climes, it was my lot
To meet the wond'rous Michael Scott;
A wizard of such dreaded fame,
That when, in Salamanca's cave,
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame!
Some of his skill he taught to me;
And, Warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone. But to speak them were a deadly sin;
And for having but thought them my heart withia, A triple penance must be done.
"When Michael lay on his dying bed,
His conscience was awakened;
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed:
I was in Spain when the morning rose,
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid;
They would rend this Abbaye's massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.
"I swore to bury his mighty book,
That never mortal might therein look;
And never to tell where it was hid,
Save at his Chief of Branksome's need;
And when that need was past and o'er,
Again the volume to restore.
I buried him on St. Michael's night,
When the bell tolled one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead,
When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patron's cross might over him wave,
And scare the fiends from the wizard's grave.
It was a night of woe and dread,
When Michael in the tomb I laid!
strange sounds along the chancel past,
The banners waved without a blast"-
-Still spoke the monk, when the bell tolled one!-
tell you, that a braver man
Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
Against a foe ne'er spurred a steed:
Yet somewhat was he chilled with dread,
And his hair did bristle upon his head.
34 Lo, warrior! now, the cross of red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wonderous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night:
That lamp shall burn unquenchably,
Until the eternal doom shall be."-
Slow moved the monk to the broad flag-stone,
Which the bloody cross was traced upon:
He pointed to a secret nook;
An iron bar the warrior took;
And the monk made a sign, with his withered hand, The grave's huge portal to expand.
+ With beating heart to the task he went;
His sinewy frame o'er the grave-stone bent;
With bar of iron heaved amain,
Till the toil-drops fell from his brows, like rain.
It was by dint of passing strength,
That he moved the massy stone at length.
I would you had been there to see
How the light broke forth so gloriously,
Streamed upward to the chancel roof,
And through the galleries far aloof!
No earthly flame blazed e'er so bright:
It shone like heaven's own blessed light;
And, issuing from the tomb,
Shewed the monk's cowl, and visage pale,
Danced on the dark-browed warrior's mail,
And kissed his waving plume.
Before their eyes the wizard lay,
As if he had not been dead a day.
His hoary beard in silver rolled,
He seemed some seventy winters old;
A palmer's amice wrapped him round,
With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,
Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea:
His left hand held his book of might;
A silver cross was in his right;
The lamp was placed beside his knee:
High and majestic was his look,
At which the fellest fiends had shook,
And all unruffled was his face;
They trusted his soul had gotten grace.
Often had William of Deloraine
Rode through the battle's bloody plain,
And trampled down the warriors slain,
And neither known remorse or awe;
Yet now remorse and awe he owned;
His breath came thick, his head swam round,
When this strange scene of death he saw.
Bewildered and unnerved he stood,
And the priest prayed fervently, and loud:
With eyes averted prayed he;
He might not endure the sight to see,
Of the man he had loved so brotherly.
And when the priest his death-prayer had prayed, Thus unto Deloraine he said:
"Now speed thee what thou hast to do,
Or, warrior, we may dearly rue;
For those, thou may'st not look upon,
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!"-
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the mighty book,
With iron clasped, and with iron bound:
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frowned;
But the glare of the sepulchral light,
Perchance, had dazzled the warrior's sight.
When the huge stone had sunk o'er the tomb,
The night returned in double gloom,
For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few;
And as the knight and priest withdrew,
With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
They hardly might the postern gain.
'Tis said, as through the aisles they past,
They heard strange noises on the blast;
And through the cloister-galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall,
Loud sobs, and laughter louder, ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man ;
As if the fiends kept holiday,
Because these spells were brought to day.
I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land! Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned, As home his footsteps he hath turned,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.
O Caledonia! stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! what mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band,
That knits me to thy rugged strand!
Still, as I view each well-known scene,
Think what is now, and what hath been,
Seems, as to me, of all bereft,
Sole friends thy woods and streams were left;
And thus I love them better still,
Even in extremity of ill.
By Yarrow's stream still let me stray,
Though none should guide my feeble way;
Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break,
Although it chill my withered cheek;
Still lay my head by Teviot stone,
Though there, forgotten and alone,
The Bard may draw his parting groan.
Not scorned like me! to Branksome Hall
The Minstrels came, at festive call;
Trooping they came, from near and far,
The jovial priests of mirth and war:
Alike for feast and fight prepared,
Battle and banquet both they shared.
Of late, before each martial clan,
They blew their death-note in the van,
But now, for every merry mate,
Rose the portcullis' iron grate;
They sound the pipe, they strike the string,
They dance, they revel, and they sing,
Till the rude turrets shake and ring.
Me lists not at this tide declare
The splendour of the spousal rite, How mustered in the chapel fair
Both maid and matron, squire and knight;
Me lists not tell of owches rare,
Of mantles green, and braided hair,
And kirtles furred with miniver;
What plumage waved the altar round,
How spurs, and ringing chainlets, sound:
And hard it were for Bard to speak
The changeful hue of Margaret's cheek,
That lovely hue which comes and flies,
As awe and shame alternate rise.
Some bards have sung, the Ladye high
Chapel or altar came not nigh;
Nor durst the rights of spousal grace,
So much she feared each holy place.
False slanders these:-I trust right well
She wrought not by forbidden spell:
For mighty words and signs have power
O'er sprites in planetary hour:
Yet scarce I praise their venturous part,
Who tamper with such dangerous art.
But this for faithful truth I say,
The Ladye by the altar stood,
Of sable velvet her array,
And on her head a crimson hood,
With pearls embroidered and entwined,
Guarded with gold, with ermine lined;
A merlin sat upon her wrist,
Held by a leash of silken twist.
The spousal rites were ended soon;
"Twas now the merry hour of noon,
And in the lofty arched hall
Was spread the gorgeous festival.
Steward and squire, with heedful haste,
Marshalled the rank of every guest;
Pages, with ready blade, were there,
The mighty meal to carve and share;
O'er capon, heron-shew, and crane,
And princely peacock's gilded train,
And o'er the boar-head, garnished brave,
And cygnet from St. Mary's wave,
O'er ptarmigan and venison,
The priest had spoke his benison.
Then rose the riot and the din,
Above, beneath, without, within!
For, from the lofty balcony,
Rung trumpet, shalm, and psaltery;
Their clanging bowls old warriors quaffed,
Loudly they spoke, and loudly laughed;
Whispered young knights, in tone more mild,
To ladies fair, and ladies smiled.
The hooded hawks, high perched on beam,
The clamour joined with whistling scream,
And flapped their wings, and shook their bells,
In concert with the stag-hounds' yells.
Round go the flasks of ruddy wine,
From Bourdeaux, Orleans, or the Rhine;
Their tasks the busy sewers ply,
And all is mirth and revelry.
THE TRIAL OF CONstance.
In low dark rounds the arches hung,
From the rude rock the side-walls sprung;
The grave-stones, rudely sculptured o'er,
Half sunk in earth, by time half wore,
Were all the pavement of the floor;
The mildew drops fell one by one,
With tinkling plash, upon the stone.
A cresset, in an iron chain,
Which served to light this drear domain,
With damp and darkness seemed to strive,
As if it scarce might keep alive;
And yet it dimly served to shew
The awful conclave met below.