Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Canto the First

INTRODUCTION TO CANTO FIRST.

TO WILLIAM STEWART ROSE, ESQ.

Ashestiel, Ettrick Forest.

-

November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear:
Late, gazing down the steepy linn
That hems our little garden in,
Low in its dark and narrow glen
You scarce the rivulet might ken,
So thick the tangled greenwood grew,
So feeble thrilled the streamlet through:
Now, murmuring hoarse, and frequent seen
Through bush and briar, no longer green,
An angry brook, it sweeps the glade,
Brawls over rock and wild cascade,
And foaming brown, with doubled speed,
Hurries its waters to the Tweed.

No longer Autumn's glowing red Upon our forest hills is shed; No more, beneath the evening beam, Fair Tweed reflects their purple gleam: Away hath passed the heather-bell That bloomed so rich on Needpath Fell; Sallow his brow, and russet bare Are now the sister-heights of Yair. The sheep, before the pinching heaven, To sheltered dale and down are driven, Where yet some faded herbage pines, And yet a watery sunbeam shines: In meek despondency they eye The withered sward and wintry sky, And far beneath their summer hill, Stray sadly by Glenkinnon's rill: The shepherd shifts his mantle's fold, And wraps him closer from the cold; His dogs no merry circles wheel, But, shivering, follow at his heel; A cowering glance they often cast, As deeper moans the gathering blast.

My imps, though hardy, bold, and wild, As best befits the mountain child, Feel the sad influence of the hour, And wail the daisy's vanished flower; Their summer gambols tell, and mourn, And anxious ask: "Will spring return, And birds and lambs again be gay, And blossoms clothe the hawthorn spray?"

Yes, prattlers, yes. The daisy's flower Again shall paint your summer bower; Again the hawthorn shall supply The garlands you delight to tie; The lambs upon the lea shall bound, The wild birds carol to the round, And while you frolic light as they, Too short shall seem the summer day.

To mute and to material things New life revolving summer brings; The genial call dead Nature hears, And in her glory reappears. But oh! my country's wintry state What second spring shall renovate? What powerful call shall bid arise The buried warlike and the wise; The mind that thought for Britain's weal, The hand that grasped the victor steel? The vernal sun new life bestows Even on the meanest flower that blows; But vainly, vainly may he shine, Where glory weeps o'er Nelson's shrine; And vainly pierce the solemn gloom, That shrouds, O Pitt, thy hallowed tomb!

Deep graved in every British heart, Oh never let those names depart! Say to your sons--Lo, here his grave, Who victor died on Gadite wave; To him, as to the burning levin, Short, bright, resistless course was given. Where'er his country's foes were found, Was heard the fated thunder's sound, Till burst the bolt on yonder shore, Rolled, blazed, destroyed--and was no more.

Nor mourn ye less his perished worth, Who bade the conqueror go forth, And launched that thunderbolt of war On Egypt, Hafnia, Trafalgar; Who, born to guide such high emprize, For Britain's weal was early wise; Alas! to whom the Almighty gave, For Britain's sins, an early grave! His worth, who, in his mightiest hour, A bauble held the pride of power, Spurned at the sordid lust of pelf, And served his Albion for herself; Who, when the frantic crowd amain Strained at subjection's bursting rein, O'er their wild mood full conquest gained, The pride he would not crush restrained, Showed their fierce zeal a worthier cause, And brought the freeman's arm to aid the freeman's laws.

Hadst thou but lived, though stripped of power, A watchman on the lonely tower, Thy thrilling trump had roused the land, When fraud or danger were at hand; By thee, as by the beacon-light, Our pilots had kept course aright; As some proud column, though alone, Thy strength had propped the tottering throne: Now is the stately column broke, The beacon-light is quenched in smoke, The trumpet's silver sound is still, The warder silent on the hill!

Oh think, how to his latest day, When Death, just hovering, claimed his prey, With Palinure's unaltered mood, Firm at his dangerous post he stood; Each call for needful rest repelled, With dying hand the rudder held, Till in his fall, with fateful sway, The steerage of the realm gave way! Then, while on Britain's thousand plains One unpolluted church remains, Whose peaceful bells ne'er sent around The bloody tocsin's maddening sound, But still, upon the hallowed day, Convoke the swains to praise and pray; While faith and civil peace are dear, Grace this cold marble with a tear - He who preserved them, Pitt, lies here!

Nor yet suppress the generous sigh, Because his rival slumbers nigh; Nor be thy requiescat dumb, Lest it be said o'er Fox's tomb. For talents mourn, untimely lost When best employed, and wanted most; Mourn genius high, and lore profound, And wit that loved to play, not wound; And all the reasoning powers divine, To penetrate, resolve, combine; And feelings keen, and fancy's glow - They sleep with him who sleeps below: And if thou mourn'st they could not save From error him who owns this grave, Be every harsher thought suppressed, And sacred be the last long rest. HERE, where the end of earthly things Lays heroes, patriots, bards, and kings; Where stiff the hand, and still the tongue, Of those who fought, and spoke, and sung; HERE, where the fretted aisles prolong The distant notes of holy song, As if some angel spoke again, "All peace on earth, goodwill to men;" If ever from an English heart, Oh, HERE let prejudice depart, And, partial feeling cast aside, Record that Fox a Briton died! When Europe crouched to France's yoke, And Austria bent, and Prussia broke, And the firm Russian's purpose brave Was bartered by a timorous slave, Even then dishonour's peace he spurned, The sullied olive-branch returned, Stood for his country's glory fast, And nailed her colours to the mast! Heaven, to reward his firmness, gave A portion in this honoured grave, And ne'er held marble in its trust Of two such wondrous men the dust.

With more than mortal powers endowed, How high they soared above the crowd! Theirs was no common party race, Jostling by dark intrigue for place; Like fabled gods, their mighty war Shook realms and nations in its jar; Beneath each banner proud to stand, Looked up the noblest of the land, Till through the British world were known The names of Pitt and Fox alone. Spells of such force no wizard grave E'er framed in dark Thessalian cave, Though his could drain the ocean dry, And force the planets from the sky, These spells are spent, and, spent with these, The wine of life is on the lees. Genius, and taste, and talent gone, For ever tombed beneath the stone, Where--taming thought to human pride! - The mighty chiefs sleep side by side. Drop upon Fox's grave the tear, 'Twill trickle to his rival's bier; O'er Pitt's the mournful requiem sound, And Fox's shall the notes rebound. The solemn echo seems to cry - "Here let their discord with them die. Speak not for those a separate doom, Whom Fate made brothers in the tomb; But search the land of living men, Where wilt thou find their like again?"

Rest, ardent spirits! till the cries Of dying Nature bid you rise; Not even your Britain's groans can pierce The leaden silence of your hearse; Then, oh, how impotent and vain This grateful tributary strain! Though not unmarked, from northern clime, Ye heard the Border minstrel's rhyme His Gothic harp has o'er you rung; The bard you deigned to praise, your deathless names has sung.

Stay yet, illusion, stay a while, My wildered fancy still beguile! From this high theme how can I part, Ere half unloaded is my heart! For all the tears e'er sorrow drew, And all the raptures fancy knew, And all the keener rush of blood, That throbs through bard in bardlike mood, Were here a tribute mean and low, Though all their mingled streams could flow - Woe, wonder, and sensation high, In one spring-tide of ecstasy! It will not be--it may not last - The vision of enchantment's past: Like frostwork in the morning ray The fancied fabric melts away; Each Gothic arch, memorial-stone, And long, dim, lofty aisle, are gone; And lingering last, deception dear, The choir's high sounds die on my ear. Now slow return the lonely down, The silent pastures bleak and brown, The farm begirt with copsewood wild, The gambols of each frolic child, Mixing their shrill cries with the tone Of Tweed's dark waters rushing on.

Prompt on unequal tasks to run, Thus Nature disciplines her son: Meeter, she says, for me to stray, And waste the solitary day, In plucking from yon fen the reed, And watch it floating down the Tweed; Or idly list the shrilling lay With which the milkmaid cheers her way, Marking its cadence rise and fail, As from the field, beneath her pail, She trips it down the uneven dale: Meeter for me, by yonder cairn, The ancient shepherd's tale to learn; Though oft he stop in rustic fear, Lest his old legends tire the ear Of one who, in his simple mind, May boast of book-learned taste refined.

But thou, my friend, canst fitly tell, (For few have read romance so well) How still the legendary lay O'er poet's bosom holds its sway; How on the ancient minstrel strain Time lays his palsied hand in vain; And how our hearts at doughty deeds, By warriors wrought in steely weeds, Still throb for fear and pity's sake; As when the Champion of the Lake Enters Morgana's fated house, Or in the Chapel Perilous, Despising spells and demons' force, Holds converse with the unburied corse; Or when, Dame Ganore's grace to move, (Alas, that lawless was their love!) He sought proud Tarquin in his den, And freed full sixty knights; or when, A sinful man, and unconfessed, He took the Sangreal's holy quest, And, slumbering, saw the vision high, He might not view with waking eye.

The mightiest chiefs of British song Scorned not such legends to prolong: They gleam through Spenser's elfin dream, And mix in Milton's heavenly theme; And Dryden, in immortal strain, Had raised the Table Round again, But that a ribald king and court Bade him toil on, to make them sport; Demanded for their niggard pay, Fit for their souls, a looser lay, Licentious satire, song, and play; The world defrauded of the high design, Profaned the God-given strength, and marred the lofty line.

Warmed by such names, well may we then, Though dwindled sons of little men, Essay to break a feeble lance In the fair fields of old romance; Or seek the moated castle's cell, Where long through talisman and spell, While tyrants ruled, and damsels wept, Thy Genius, Chivalry, hath slept: There sound the harpings of the North, Till he awake and sally forth, On venturous quest to prick again, In all his arms, with all his train, Shield, lance, and brand, and plume, and scarf, Fay, giant, dragon, squire, and dwarf, And wizard with his want of might, And errant maid on palfrey white. Around the Genius weave their spells, Pure Love, who scarce his passion tells; Mystery, half veiled and half revealed; And Honour, with his spotless shield; Attention, with fixed eye; and Fear, That loves the tale she shrinks to hear; And gentle Courtesy; and Faith, Unchanged by sufferings, time, or death; And Valour, lion-mettled lord, Leaning upon his own good sword.

Well has thy fair achievement shown A worthy meed may thus be won; Ytene's oaks--beneath whose shade Their theme the merry minstrels made, Of Ascapart, and Bevis bold, And that Red King, who, while of old, Through Boldrewood the chase he led, By his loved huntsman's arrow bled - Ytene's oaks have heard again Renewed such legendary strain; For thou hast sung how he of Gaul, That Amadis so famed in hall, For Oriana foiled in fight The necromancer's felon might; And well in modern verse hast wove Partenopex's mystic love: Hear, then, attentive to my lay, A knightly tale of Albion's elder day.


CANTO FIRST.

THE CASTLE.

I.

Day set on Norham's castled steep, And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep, And Cheviot's mountains lone; The battled towers, the donjon keep, The loophole grates where captives weep, The flanking walls that round it sweep, In yellow lustre shone. The warriors on the turrets high, Moving athwart the evening sky, Seemed forms of giant height: Their armour, as it caught the rays, Flashed back again the western blaze, In lines of dazzling light.

II.

Saint George's banner, broad and gay, Now faded, as the fading ray Less bright, and less, was flung; The evening gale had scarce the power To wave it on the donjon tower, So heavily it hung. The scouts had parted on their search, The castle gates were barred; Above the gloomy portal arch, Timing his footsteps to a march, The warder kept his guard; Low humming, as he paced along, Some ancient Border gathering song.

III.

A distant trampling sound he hears; He looks abroad, and soon appears O'er Horncliff Hill a plump of spears, Beneath a pennon gay; A horseman, darting from the crowd, Like lightning from a summer cloud, Spurs on his mettled courser proud, Before the dark array. Beneath the sable palisade That closed the castle barricade, His bugle-horn he blew; The warder hasted from the wall, And warned the captain in the hall, For well the blast he knew; And joyfully that knight did call, To sewer, squire, and seneschal.

IV.

"Now broach ye a pipe of Malvoisie, Bring pasties of the doe, And quickly make the entrance free, And bid my heralds ready be, And every minstrel sound his glee, And all our trumpets blow; And, from the platform, spare ye not To fire a noble salvo-shot: Lord Marmion waits below!" Then to the castle's lower ward Sped forty yeomen tall, The iron-studded gates unbarred, Raised the portcullis' ponderous guard, The lofty palisade unsparred, And let the drawbridge fall.

V.

Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode, Proudly his red-roan charger trode, His helm hung at the saddlebow; Well by his visage you might know He was a stalwart knight, and keen, And had in many a battle been; The scar on his brown cheek revealed A token true of Bosworth field; His eyebrow dark, and eye of fire, Showed spirit proud and prompt to ire; Yet lines of thought upon his cheek Did deep design and counsel speak. His forehead, by his casque worn bare, His thick moustache, and curly hair, Coal-black, and grizzled here and there, But more through toil than age; His square-turned joints, and strength of limb, Showed him no carpet knight so trim, But in close fight a champion grim, In camps a leader sage.

VI.

Well was he armed from head to heel, In mail and plate of Milan steel; But his strong helm, of mighty cost, Was all with burnished gold embossed; Amid the plumage of the crest, A falcon hovered on her nest, With wings outspread, and forward breast: E'en such a falcon, on his shield, Soared sable in an azure field: The golden legend bore aright, "Who checks at me, to death is dight." Blue was the charger's broidered rein; Blue ribbons decked his arching mane; The knightly housing's ample fold Was velvet blue, and trapped with gold.

VII.

Behind him rode two gallant squires, Of noble name and knightly sires: They burned the gilded spurs to claim; For well could each a war-horse tame, Could draw the bow, the sword could sway, And lightly bear the ring away; Nor less with courteous precepts stored, Could dance in hall, and carve at board, And frame love-ditties passing rare, And sing them to a lady fair.

VIII.

Four men-at-arms came at their backs, With halbert, bill, and battle-axe: They bore Lord Marmion's lance so strong, And led his sumpter-mules along, And ambling palfrey, when at need Him listed ease his battle-steed. The last and trustiest of the four, On high his forky pennon bore; Like swallow's tail, in shape and hue, Fluttered the streamer glossy blue, Where, blazoned sable, as before, The towering falcon seemed to soar. Last, twenty yeomen, two and two, In hosen black, and jerkins blue, With falcons broidered on each breast, Attended on their lord's behest: Each, chosen for an archer good, Knew hunting-craft by lake or wood; Each one a six-foot bow could bend, And far a clothyard shaft could send; Each held a boar-spear tough and strong, And at their belts their quivers rung. Their dusty palfreys, and array, Showed they had marched a weary way.

IX.

'Tis meet that I should tell you now, How fairly armed, and ordered how, The soldiers of the guard, With musket, pike, and morion, To welcome noble Marmion, Stood in the castle-yard; Minstrels and trumpeters were there, The gunner held his linstock yare, For welcome-shot prepared: Entered the train, and such a clang, As then through all his turrets rang, Old Norham never heard.

X.

The guards their morrice-pikes advanced, The trumpets flourished brave, The cannon from the ramparts glanced, And thundering welcome gave. A blithe salute, in martial sort, The minstrels well might sound, For, as Lord Marmion crossed the court, He scattered angels round. "Welcome to Norham, Marmion! Stout heart, and open hand! Well dost thou brook thy gallant roan, Thou flower of English land!"

XI.

Two pursuivants, whom tabarts deck, With silver scutcheon round their neck, Stood on the steps of stone, By which you reach the donjon gate, And there, with herald pomp and state, They hailed Lord Marmion: They hailed him Lord of Fontenaye, Of Lutterward, and Scrivelbaye, Of Tamworth tower and town; And he, their courtesy to requite, Gave them a chain of twelve marks' weight, All as he lighted down. "Now, largesse, largesse, Lord Marmion, Knight of the crest of gold! A blazoned shield, in battle won, Ne'er guarded heart so bold."

XII.

They marshalled him to the castle-hall, Where the guests stood all aside, And loudly flourished the trumpet-call, And the heralds loudly cried - "Room, lordlings, room for Lord Marmion, With the crest and helm of gold! Full well we know the trophies won In the lists at Cottiswold: There, vainly Ralph de Wilton strove 'Gainst Marmion's force to stand; To him he lost his lady-love, And to the king his land. Ourselves beheld the listed field, A sight both sad and fair; We saw Lord Marmion pierce his shield, And saw his saddle bare; We saw the victor win the crest He wears with worthy pride; And on the gibbet-tree, reversed, His foeman's scutcheon tied. Place, nobles, for the Falcon-Knight! Room, room, ye gentles gay, For him who conquered in the right, Marmion of Fontenaye!"

XIII.

Then stepped, to meet that noble lord, Sir Hugh the Heron bold, Baron of Twisell and of Ford, And captain of the hold. He led Lord Marmion to the dais, Raised o'er the pavement high, And placed him in the upper place - They feasted full and high: The whiles a Northern harper rude Chanted a rhyme of deadly feud, "HOW THE FIERCE THIRWALLS, AND RIDLEYS ALL, STOUT WILLIMONDSWICK, AND HARDRIDING DICK, AND HUGHIE OF HAWDON, AND WILL O' THE WALL, HAVE SET ON SIR ALBANY FEATHERSTONHAUGH, AND TAKEN HIS LIFE AT THE DEADMAN'S-SHAW." Scantly Lord Marmion's ear could brook The harper's barbarous lay; Yet much he praised the pains he took, And well those pains did pay: For lady's suit and minstrel's strain, By knight should ne'er be heard in vain.

XIV.

"Now, good Lord Marmion," Heron says, "Of your fair courtesy, I pray you bide some little space In this poor tower with me. Here may you keep your arms from rust, May breathe your war-horse well; Seldom hath passed a week but just Or feat of arms befell: The Scots can rein a mettled steed, And love to couch a spear; St. George! a stirring life they lead, That have such neighbours near. Then stay with us a little space, Our Northern wars to learn; I pray you for your lady's grace!" Lord Marmion's brow grew stern.

XV.

The captain marked his altered look, And gave a squire the sign; A mighty wassail-bowl he took, And crowned it high with wine. "Now pledge me here, Lord Marmion: But first I pray thee fair, Where hast thou left that page of thine, That used to serve thy cup of wine, Whose beauty was so rare? When last in Raby towers we met, The boy I closely eyed, And often marked his cheeks were wet, With tears he fain would hide: His was no rugged horse-boy's hand, To burnish shield or sharpen brand, Or saddle battle-steed; But meeter seemed for lady fair, To fan her cheek or curl her hair, Or through embroidery, rich and rare, The slender silk to lead: His skin was fair, his ringlets gold, His bosom--when he sighed - The russet doublet's rugged fold Could scarce repel its pride! Say, hast thou given that lovely youth To serve in lady's bower? Or was the gentle page, in sooth, A gentle paramour?"

XVI.

Lord Marmion ill could brook such jest; He rolled his kindling eye, With pain his rising wrath suppressed, Yet made a calm reply: "That boy thou thought'st so goodly fair, He might not brook the Northern air. More of his fate if thou wouldst learn, I left him sick in Lindisfarne: Enough of him. But, Heron, say, Why does thy lovely lady gay Disdain to grace the hall to-day? Or has that dame, so fair and sage, Gone on some pious pilgrimage?" He spoke in covert scorn, for fame Whispered light tales of Heron's dame.

XVII.

Unmarked, at least unrecked, the taunt, Careless the knight replied, "No bird whose feathers gaily flaunt Delights in cage to bide; Norham is grim and grated close, Hemmed in by battlement and fosse, And many a darksome tower; And better loves my lady bright To sit in liberty and light, In fair Queen Margaret's bower. We hold our greyhound in our hand, Our falcon on our glove; But where shall we find leash or band For dame that loves to rove? Let the wild falcon soar her swing, She'll stoop when she has tired her wing."

XVIII.

"Nay, if with royal James's bride The lovely Lady Heron bide, Behold me here a messenger, Your tender greetings prompt to bear; For to the Scottish court addressed, I journey at our King's behest, And pray you, of your grace, provide For me and mine, a trusty guide. I have not ridden in Scotland since James backed the cause of that mock-prince, Warbeck, that Flemish counterfeit, Who on the gibbet paid the cheat. Then did I march with Surrey's power, What time we razed old Ayton Tower."

XIX.

"For such-like need, my lord, I trow, Norham can find you guides enow; For here be some have pricked as far, On Scottish ground, as to Dunbar; Have drunk the monks of St. Bothan's ale, And driven the beeves of Lauderdale; Harried the wives of Greenlaw's goods, And given them light to set their hoods."

XX.

"Now, in good sooth," Lord Marmion cried, "Were I in warlike wise to ride, A better guard I would not lack Than your stout forayers at my back; But as in form of peace I go, A friendly messenger, to know Why through all Scotland, near and far, Their King is mustering troops for war. The sight of plundering Border spears Might justify suspicious fears, And deadly feud, or thirst of spoil, Break out in some unseemly broil: A herald were my fitting guide; Or friar, sworn in peace to bide Or pardoner, or travelling priest, Or strolling pilgrim, at the least."

XXI.

The captain mused a little space, And passed his hand across his face. "Fain would I find the guide you want, But ill may pursuivant, The only men that safe can ride Mine errands on the Scottish side: And though a bishop built this fort, Few holy brethren here resort; Even our good chaplain, as I ween, Since our last siege we have not seen: The mass he might not sing or say, Upon one stinted meal a day; So safe he sat in Durham aisle, And prayed for our success the while. Our Norham vicar, woe betide, Is all too well in case to ride; The priest of Shoreswood--he could rein The wildest war-horse in your train; But then, no spearman in the hall Will sooner swear, or stab, or brawl. Friar John of Tillmouth were the man: A blithesome brother at the can, A welcome guest in hall and bower, He knows each castle, town, and tower, In which the wine and ale is good, 'Twixt Newcastle and Holyrood. But that good man, as ill befalls, Hath seldom left our castle walls, Since, on the vigil of Saint Bede, In evil hour, he crossed the Tweed, To teach Dame Alison her creed. Old Bughtrig found him with his wife; And John, an enemy to strife, Sans frock and hood, fled for his life. The jealous churl hath deeply swore That if again he venture o'er, He shall shrive penitent no more. Little he loves such risks, I know; Yet in your guard, perchance, will go."

XXII.

Young Selby, at the fair hall-board, Carved to his uncle and that lord, And reverently took up the word. "Kind uncle, woe were we each one, If harm should hap to brother John. He is a man of mirthful speech, Can many a game and gambol teach; Full well at tables can he play, And sweep at bowls the stake away. None can a lustier carol bawl; The needfullest among us all, When time hangs heavy in the hall, And snow comes thick at Christmas-tide, And we can neither hunt, nor ride A foray on the Scottish side. The vowed revenge of Bughtrig rude, May end in worse than loss of hood. Let Friar John, in safety, still In chimney-corner snore his fill, Roast hissing crabs, or flagons swill: Last night to Norham there came one, Will better guide Lord Marmion." "Nephew," quoth Heron, "by my fay, Well hast thou spoke; say forth thy say."

XXIII.

"Here is a holy Palmer come From Salem first, and last from Rome: One that hath kissed the blessed tomb, And visited each holy shrine In Araby and Palestine; On hills of Armenie hath been, Where Noah's ark may yet be seen; By that Red Sea, too, hath he trod, Which parted at the prophet's rod; In Sinai's wilderness he saw The Mount where Israel heard the law, Mid thunder-dint and flashing levin, And shadows, mists, and darkness, given. He shows Saint James's cockle-shell; Of fair Montserrat, too, can tell; And of that grot where olives nod, Where, darling of each heart and eye, From all the youth of Sicily, Saint Rosalie retired to God.

XXIV.

"To stout Saint George of Norwich merry, Saint Thomas, too, of Canterbury, Cuthbert of Durham, and Saint Bede, For his sins' pardon hath he prayed. He knows the passes of the North, And seeks far shrines beyond the Forth; Little he eats, and long will wake, And drinks but of the stream or lake. This were a guide o'er moor and dale But when our John hath quaffed his ale, As little as the wind that blows, And warms itself against his nose, Kens he, or cares, which way he goes."

XXV.

"Gramercy!" quoth Lord Marmion, "Full loth were I that Friar John, That venerable man, for me Were placed in fear or jeopardy. If this same Palmer will me lead From hence to Holyrood, Like his good saint I'll pay his meed, Instead of cockle-shell or bead With angels fair and good. I love such holy ramblers; still They know to charm a weary hill, With song, romance, or lay: Some jovial tale, or glee, or jest, Some lying legend, at the least, They bring to cheer the way."

XXVI.

"Ah! noble sir," young Selby said, And finger on his lip he laid, "This man knows much--perchance e'en more Than he could learn by holy lore. Still to himself he's muttering, And shrinks as at some unseen thing. Last night we listened at his cell; Strange sounds we heard, and, sooth to tell, He murmured on till morn, howe'er No living mortal could be near. Sometimes I thought I heard it plain, As other voices spoke again. I cannot tell--I like it not - Friar John hath told us it is wrote, No conscience clear, and void of wrong, Can rest awake, and pray so long. Himself still sleeps before his beads Have marked ten aves, and two creeds."

XXVII.

"Let pass," quoth Marmion; "by my fay, This man shall guide me on my way, Although the great arch-fiend and he Had sworn themselves of company. So please you, gentle youth, to call This Palmer to the castle-hall." The summoned Palmer came in place; His sable cowl o'erhung his face; In his black mantle was he clad, With Peter's keys, in cloth of red, On his broad shoulders wrought; The scallop-shell his cap did deck; The crucifix around his neck Was from Loretto brought; His sandals were with travel tore, Staff, budget, bottle, scrip, he wore; The faded palm-branch in his hand Showed pilgrim from the Holy Land.

XXVIII.

Whenas the Palmer came in hall, Nor lord, nor knight, was there more tall, Or had a statelier step withal, Or looked more high and keen; For no saluting did he wait, But strode across the hall of state, And fronted Marmion where he sate, As he his peer had been. But his gaunt frame was worn with toil; His cheek was sunk, alas, the while! And when he struggled at a smile His eye looked haggard wild: Poor wretch! the mother that him bare, If she had been in presence there, In his wan face and sun-burned hair, She had not known her child. Danger, long travel, want, or woe, Soon change the form that best we know - For deadly fear can time outgo, And blanch at once the hair; Hard toil can roughen form and face, And want can quench the eye's bright grace, Nor does old age a wrinkle trace More deeply than despair. Happy whom none of these befall, But this poor Palmer knew them all.

XXIX.

Lord Marmion then his boon did ask; The Palmer took on him the task, So he would march with morning tide, To Scottish court to be his guide. "But I have solemn vows to pay, And may not linger by the way, To fair St. Andrews bound, Within the ocean-cave to pray, Where good Saint Rule his holy lay, From midnight to the dawn of day, Sung to the billows' sound; Thence to Saint Fillan's blessed well, Whose springs can frenzied dreams dispel, And the crazed brain restore: Saint Mary grant that cave or spring Could back to peace my bosom bring, Or bid it throb no more!"

XXX.

And now the midnight draught of sleep, Where wine and spices richly steep, In massive bowl of silver deep, The page presents on knee. Lord Marmion drank a fair good rest, The captain pledged his noble guest, The cup went through among the rest, Who drained it merrily; Alone the Palmer passed it by, Though Selby pressed him courteously. This was a sign the feast was o'er, It hushed the merry wassail roar, The minstrels ceased to sound. Soon in the castle nought was heard But the slow footstep of the guard, Pacing his sober round.

XXXI.

With early dawn Lord Marmion rose: And first the chapel doors unclose; Then after morning rites were done (A hasty mass from Friar John), And knight and squire had broke their fast On rich substantial repast, Lord Marmion's bugles blew to horse Then came the stirrup-cup in course: Between the baron and his host No point of courtesy was lost: High thanks were by Lord Marmion paid, Solemn excuse the captain made, Till, filing from the gate, had passed That noble train, their lord the last. Then loudly rung the trumpet call; Thundered the cannon from the wall, And shook the Scottish shore: Around the castle eddied slow, Volumes of smoke as white as snow, And hid its turrets hoar; Till they rolled forth upon the air, And met the river breezes there, Which gave again the prospect fair.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Sir Walter Scott

Sorry, no summary available yet.