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While viewless minstrels touch the string,
XXVIII. The wandering stranger round him gazed, And next the fallen weapon raised; Few were the arms whose sinewy strength Sufficed to stretch it forth at length. And as the brand he poised and sway'd, “I never knew but one,” he said, “ Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield A blade like this in battle field.” She sigh'd, then smiled, and took the word; “ You see the guardian champion's sword; As light it trembles in his hand, As in my grasp a hazel wand; My sire's tall form might grace the part Of Ferragus, or Ascapart: But in the absent giant's hold Are women now, and menials old.”
SONG. “ Soldier rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking; Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking. In our isle's enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
“No rude sound shall reach thine ear,
Armour's clang, or war-steed champing, Trump nor pibroch summon here
Mustering clan, or squadron tramping. Yet the lark's shrill fife may come,
At the daybreak, from the fallow, And the bittern sound his drum,
Booming from the sedgy shallow. Ruder sounds shall none be near, Guards nor warders challenge here, Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing, Shouting clans or squadrons stamping."
XXIX. The mistress of the mansion came, Mature of age, a graceful dame ; Whose easy step and stately port Had well become a princely court, To whom, though more than kindred knew, Young Ellen gave a mother's due. Meet welcome to her guest she made, And every courteous rite was paid, That hospitality could claim, Though all unask'd his birth and name. Such then the reverence to a guest, That fellest foe might join the feast, And from his deadliest foeman's door Unquestion'd turn, the banquet o'er. At length his rank the stranger names, “ The knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James ; Lord of a barren heritage, Which his brave sires, from age to age, By their good swords had held with toil; His sire had fallen in such turmoil, And he, God wot, was forced to stand Oft for his right with blade in hand. This morning with Lord Moray's train He chased a stalwart stag in vain, Outstripp'd his comrades, miss'd the deer, Lost his good steed, and wander'd here."
XXXII. She paused—then, blushing, led the lay To grace the stranger of the day. Her mellow notes a while prolong The cadence of the flowing song, Till to her lips in measured frame The minstrel verse spontaneous came.
“Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done,
While our slumbrous spells assail ye, Dream not, with the rising sun,
Bugles here shall sound reveillie, Sleep! the deer is in his den ;
Sleep! the hounds are by thee lying; Sleep! nor dream in yonder glen
How thy gallant steed lay dying.
Xxx. Fain would the knight in turn require The name and state of Ellen's sire; Well show'd the elder lady's mien, That courts and cities she had seen ; Ellen, though more her looks display'd The simple grace of sylvan maid, In speech and gesture, form and face, Show'd she was come of gentle race ; "Twere strange in ruder rank to find Such looks, such manners, and such mind. Each hint the knight of Snowdoun gave, Dame Margaret heard with silence grave; Or Ellen, innocently gay, Turn'd all inquiry light away: “ Wierd women we! by dale and down We dwell, afar from tower and town. We stem the flood, we ride the blast, On wandering knights our spells we cast;
XXXIII. The hall was clear'd—the stranger's bed Was there of mountain heather spread, Where oft an hundred guests had lain, And dream'd their forest sports again. But vainly did tne heath flower shed Its moorland fragrance round his head; Not Ellen's spell had lull'd to rest The fever of his troubled breast. In broken dreams the image rose Of varied perils, pains, and woes ;
My midnight orisons said o'er,
His steed now flounders in the brake,
'Tis morning prompts the linnet's blithest lay; All nature's children feel the matin spring
Of life reviving, with reviving day; And while yon little bark glides down the bay
Wafting the stranger on his way again, Morn's genial influence roused a minstrel gray,
And sweetly o'er the lake was heard thy strain, Mix'd with the sounding harp, O white hair'd Allan-bane !
XXXIV. At length, with Ellen in a grove He seem'd to walk, and speak of love ; She listen'd with a blush and sigh, His suit was warm, his hopes were high. He sought her yielded hand to clasp, And a cold gauntlet met his grasp; The phantom's sex was changed and gone, Upon its head a helmet shone ; Slowly enlarged to giant size, With darken'd cheek and threatening eyes, The grisly visage, stern and hoar, To Ellen still a likeness bore.He woke, and, panting with affright, Recall'd the vision of the night. The hearth's decaying brands were red, And deep and dusky lustre shed, Half showing, balf concealing all The uncouth trophies of the hall. 'Mid those the stranger fix'd his eye Where that huge falchion hung on high, And thoughts on thoughts, a countless throng, Rush'd, chasing countless thoughts along, Until, the giddy whirl to cure, He rose, and sought the moonshine pure.
“ Not faster yonder rowers' might
Flings from their oars the spray, Not faster yonder rippling bright, That tracks the shallop's course in light,
Melts in the lake away,
High place in battle line,
The honour'd meed be thine!
Xxxv. The wild rose, eglantine, and broom, Wasted around their rich perfume ; The birch trees wept in fragrant balm, The aspen slept beneath the calm; The silver light, with quivering glance, Play'd on the water's still expanse, Wild were the heart whose passion's sway Could rage beneath the sober ray ! He felt its calm, that warrior guest, While thus he communed with his breast:“Why is it, at each turn I trace Some memory of that exiled race? Can I not inountain maiden spy, But she must bear the Douglas eye? Can I not view a highland brand, But it must match the Douglas hand? Can I not frame a fever'd dream, But still the Douglas is the theme? I'll dream no moreby manly mind Not e'en in sleep is will resign'd.
“ But if beneath yon southern sky
A plaided stranger roam,
Pine for his highland home ;
Mishap shall mar thy sail,
Beneath the fickle gale;
“ Arouse thee from thy moody dream!
IV. As died the sounds upon the tide, The shallop reach'd the mainland side, And ere his onward way he took, The stranger cast a lingering look, Where easily his eye might reach The harper on the islet beach, Reclined against a blighted tree, As wasted, gray, and worn as he. To minstrel meditation given, His reverend brow was raised to heaven, As from the rising sun to claim A sparkle of inspiring flame. His hand, reclined upon the wire, Seem'd watching the awakening fire; So still he sate, as those who wait Till judgment speak the doom of fate; So still, as if no breeze might dare To lift one lock of hoary hair; So still, as lise itself were fled, In the last sound his harp had sped.
VII. The minstrel waked his harp-three times Arose the well-known martial chimes, And thrice their high heroic pride In melancholy murmurs died.
" Vainly thou bid'st, O noble maid," Clasping his wither'd hands, he said, “ Vainly thou bid'st me wake the strain, Though all unwont to bid in vain. Alas ! than mine a mightier hand Has tuned my harp, my strings has spann'd! I touch the chords of joy, but low And mournful answer notes of wo; And the proud march, which victors tread, Sinks in the wailing for the dead. O well for me, if mine alone That dirge's deep prophetic tone! If, as my tuneful fathers said, This harp, which erst saint Modan sway'd, Can thus its master's fate foretell, Then welcome be the minstrel's knell!
Upon a rock with lichens wild,
VIII. “But ah ! dear lady, thus it sigh'd The eve thy sainted mother died ; And such the sounds which, while I strore To wake a lay of war or love, Came marring all the festal mirth, Appalling me who gave them birth, And, disobedient to my call, Wailed loud through Bothwell's banner'd hall, Ere Douglasses, to ruin driven, Were exiled from their native heaven. Oh ! if yet worse mishap and wo My master's house must undergo, Or aught but weal to Ellen fair, Brood in these accents of despair, No future bard, sad harp! shall fling Triumph or rapture from thy string; One short, one final strain shall flow Fraught with unutterable wo, Then shiver'd shall thy fragments lie, Thy master cast him down and die.”
VI. While yet he loiter'd on the spot, It seem'd as Ellen mark'd him not; But when he turn'd him to the glade, One courteous parting sign she made: And after, oft the knight would say, That not when prize of festal day Was dealt him by the brightest fair Who e'er wore jewel in her hair, So highly did his bosom swell, As at that simple, mute farewell. Now with a trusty mountain guide, And his dark stag-hounds by his side, He parts—the maid, unconscious still, Watch'd him wind slowly round the hill; But when his stately form was hid, The guardian in her bosom chid“ Thy Malcolm! vain and selfish maid!” 'Twas thus upbraiding conscience said, « Not so had Malcolm idly hung On the smooth phrase of southern tongue ; Not so had Malcolm straind his eye Another step than thine to spy.Wake, Allan-bane,” aloud she cried To the old minstrel by her side,
IX. Soothing she answer'd him," Assuage, Mine honour'd friend, the fears of age ; All melodies to thee are known, That harp has rung, or pipe has blown, In lowland vale or highland glen, From Tweed to Spey-what marvel, then, At times, unbidden notes should rise, Confusedly bound in memory's ties, Entangling, as they rush along, The war march with the funeral song ?Small ground is now for boding fear; Obscure, but safe, we rest us bere.
And since, though outlaw'd, hath his hand
My sire, in native virtue great, Resigning lordship, lands, and state, Not then to fortune more resign'd Than yonder oak might give the wind; The graceful foliage storms may reave, The noble stem they cannot grieve. For me”-she stoop'd, and, looking round, Pluck'd a blue harebell from the ground“ For me, whose memory scarce conveys An image of more splendid days, This little flower, that loves the lea, May well my simple emblem be: It drinks heaven's dew as blithe as rose That in the king's own garden grows ; And when I place it in my hair, Allan, a bard is bound to swear He ne'er saw coronet so fair.” Then playfully the chaplet wild She wreath'd in her dark locks, and smiled.
X. Her smile, her speech, with winning sway, Wiled the old harper's mood away. With such a look as hermits throw When angels stoop to soothe their wo, He gazed, till fond regret and pride Thrillid to a tear, then thus replied: “Loveliest and best ! thou little know'st The rank, the honours thou hast lost! O might I live to see thee grace, In Scotland's court, thy birthright place, To see my favourite's step advance, The lightest in the courtly dance, The cause of every gallant's sigh, And leading star of every eye, 'And theme of every minstrel's art, The lady of the bleeding heart ! "*
XI. “ Fair dreams are these,” the maiden cried, (Light was her accent, yet she sigh'a,) “ This mossy rock, my friend, to me Is worth gay chair and canopy ; Nor would my footstep ring more gay In courtly dance than blithe strathspey ; Nor half so pleased mine ear incline To royal minstrel's lay as thine ; And then for suitors proud and high, To bend before my conquering eye, Thou flattering bard, thyself wilt say That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway. The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine's pride, The terror of Loch-Lomond's side, Would at my suit, thou know'st, delay A Lennox foray-for a day.”
XII. The ancient bard his glee repress'd: “ Ull hast thou chosen theme for jest! For who, through all this western wild, Named black Sir Roderick e'er, and smiled ? In Holy-Rood a knight he slew; I saw, when back the dirk he drew, Courtiers gave place before the stride Of the undaunted homicide :
XIII. “ Minstrel,” the maid replied, and high Her father's soul glanced from her eye, “My debts to Roderick's house I know: All that a mother could bestow, To Lady Margaret's care I owe, Since first an orphan in the wild She sorrow'd o'er her sister's child. To her brave chiestain son, from ire of Scotland's king who shrouds my sire, A deeper, holier debt is owed ; And, could I pay it with my blood, Allan ! sir Roderick should command My blood, my life—but not my hand. Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell A votaress in Maronpan's cell; Rather through realms beyond the sea, Seeking the world's cold charity, Where ne'er was spoke a Scottish word, And ne'er the name of Douglas heard, An outcast pilgrim will she rove, Than wed the man she cannot love.
XIV. “ Thou shakest, good friend, thy tresses grayThat pleading look, what can it say But what I own ?-I grant him brave, But wild as Bracklion's thundering wave ; And generous-save vindictive mood Or jealous transport chafe his blood : I grant him true to friendly band, As his claymore is to his hand; But 0 ! that very blade of steel More mercy for a foe would feel : I grant him liberal, to fling Among his clan the wealth they bring, When back by lake and glen they wind, And in the lowland leave behind, Where once some pleasant hamlet stood, A mass of ashes slaked with blood. The hand that for my father fought, I honour, as his daughter ought ; But can I clasp it reeking red, From peasants slaughter'd in their shed ?
See, flashing at each sturdy stroke,
No! wildly while his virtues gleam,
« What think I of him ? wo the while
XVII. Ever, as on they bore, more loud And louder rung the pibroch proud. At first the sound, by distance tame, Mellow'd along the waters came, And, lingering long by cape and bay, Wail'd every harsher note away; Then bursting bolder on the ear, The clan's shrill gathering they could hear; Those thrilling sounds, that call the might Of old Clan-Alpine to the fight. Thick beat the rapid notes, as when The mustering hundreds shake the glen, And hurrying at the signal dread, The batter'd earth returns their tread. Then prelude light, of livelier tone, Express'd their merry marching on, Ere peal of closing battle rose, With mingled outcry, shrieks, and blows: And mimic din of stroke and ward, As broadsword upon target jarrid; And groaning pause, e'er yet again, Condensed, the battle yell’d amain ; The rapid charge, the rallying shout, Retreat borne headlong into rout, And bursts of triumph, to declare, Clan-Alpine's conquest-all were there. Nor ended thus the strain ; but slow Sunk in a moan prolong'd and low, And changed the conquering clarion swell, For wild lament o'er those that fell.
Far up the lengthen’d lake were spied
and nearer, as they rowed, Distinct the martial ditty flowed.
Honour'd and bless'd be the ever-green pine! Long may the tree in his banner that glances Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line !
Heaven send it happy dew,
* The drone of the bagpipe.
• Cotton grass.