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So sweetly would I rest, and pray
The bows they bend, and the knives they whet, That heaven would close my wintry day!
Hunters live so cheerily. “Twas thus my hair they bade me braid,
“ It was a stag, a stag of ten,* They bade me to the church repair ;
Bearing his branches sturdily ; It was my bridal morn, they said,
He came stately down the glen,
Ever sing hardily, hardily.
“ It was there he met with a wounded doe, And wo betide the fairy dream!
She was bleeding deathfully; I only waked to sob and scream.”
She warn'd him of the toils below,
0, so faithfully, faithfully ! XXIII. “Who is this maid ? what means her lay?
“He had an eye and he could heed, She hovers o'er the hollow way,
Ever sing warily, warily;
He had a foot and he could speed-
Hunters watch so narrowly.”
Fitz-James's mind was passion-toss'd Ta'en on the morn she was a bride,
When Ellen's hints and fears were lost; When Roderick foray'd Devan side:
But Murdoch's shout suspicion wrought, The gay bridegroom resistance made,
And Blanche's song conviction brought.And felt our chief's unconquer'd blade.
Not like a stag that spies the snare, I marvel she is now at large,
But lion of the hunt aware, But oft she 'scapes from Maudlin's charge.
He waved at once his blade on high, Hence, brain-sick fool!”—He raised his bow: “ Disclose thy treachery, or die!"“ Now, if thou strik'st her but one blow,
Forth at full speed the clansman flew, I'll pitch thee from the cliff as far
But in his race his bow he drew : As ever peasant pitch'd a bar."
The shaft just grazed Fitz-James's crest, “ Thanks, champion, thanks !" the maniac cried, And thrill'd in Blanche's faded breast.And press'd her to Fitz-James's side.
Murdoch of Alpine, prove thy speed, “ See the gray pennons I prepare,
For ne'er had Alpine's son such need! To seek my truelove through the air !
With heart of fire and foot of wind, I will not lend that savage groom,
The fierce avenger is behind ! To break his fall, one downy plume !
Fate judges of the rapid strifeNo —deep among disjointed stones
The forfeit death-the prize is life! The wolves shall batten on his bones,
Thy kindred ambush lies before, And then shall his detested plaid,
Close couch'd upon the heathery moor; By bush and brier in mid air stay'd,
Them couldst thou reach it may not be Wave forth a banner fair and free,
Thine ambush'd kin thou ne'er shalt see, Meet signal for their revelry."
The fiery Saxon gains on thee !
-Resistless speeds the deadly thrust,
As lightning strikes the pine to dust ; “Hush thee, poor maiden, and be still !"
With foot and hand Fitz-James must strain, “0! thou look'st kindly, and I will.
Ere he can win his blade again. Mine eye has dried and wasted been,
Bent o'er the fallen, with falcon eye, But still it loves the Lincoln green ;
He grimly smiled to see him die ; And though mine ear is all unstrung,
Then slower wended back his way, Still, still it loves the lowland tongue.
Where the poor maiden bleeding lay. “For O, my sweet William was forester true,
She sate beneath the birchen tree,
She had withdrawn the fatal shaft, “ It was not that I meant to tell
And gazed on it and feebly laughed; But thou art wise, and guessest well."
Her wreath of broom and feathers gray, Then, in a low and broken tone,
Daggled with blood, beside her lay.
The knight to stanch the life-stream tried :
“ Stranger, it is in vain !" she cried,
“ This hour of death has given me more Then turn'd it on the knight, and then
Of reason's power than years before ;
For, as these ebbing veins decay,
My frenzied visions fade away.
* Having ten branches on his antlers.
A helpless injured wretch I die,
XXIX. The shades of eve come slowly down, The woods are wrapp'd in deeper brown, The owl awakens from her dell, The fox is heard upon the fell; Enough remains of glimmering light, To guide the wanderer's steps aright, Yet not enough from far to show His figure to the watchful foe. With cautious step and ear awake, He climbs the crag, and threads the brake; And not the summer solstice there, Temper'd the midnight mountain air, But every breeze that swept the wold, Benumb'd his drenched limbs with cold. In dread, in danger, and alone, Famish'd and chill'd, through ways unknown, Tangled and steep, he journey'd on ; Till, as a rock's huge point he turn'd, A watch-fire close beside hinn burn'd.
XXX. Beside its embers red and clear, Bask'd in his plaid, a mountaineer ; And up he sprung with sword in hand“ Thy name and purpose ! Saxon, stand!” “A stranger.”_" What dost thou require ?" “ Rest and a guide, and food and fire. My life's beset, my path is lost, The gale has chill'd my limbs with frost.” “ Art thou a friend to Roderick ?”_" No."“ 'Thou dar'st not call thyself a foe?” “ I dare ! to him and all the band He brings to aid his murderous hand.” “ Bold words ! —but, though the beast of game The privilege of chase may claim, Though space and law the stag we lend, Ere hound we slip, or bow we bend, Who ever reck'd where, how, or when, The prowling fox was trapp'd and slain ? Thus treacherous scouts ;-yet sure they lie, Who say thou cam’st a secret spy !"“ They do, by heaven Come Roderick Dhu, And of his clan the boldest two, And let me but till morning rest, I write the falsehood on their crest." “If by the blaze I mark aright, Thou bear'st the belt and spur of knight.” “ Then by these tokens may'st thou know Each proud oppressor's mortal foe.”
Enough, enough; sit down and share A soldier's couch, a soldier's fare.”—
XXVIII. A kindly heart had brave Fitz-James ; Fast pour'd his eye at pity's claims, And now, with mingled grief and ire, He saw the murder'd maid expire. “God, in my need, be my relief, As I wreak this on yonder chief !” A lock from Blanche's tresses fair He blended with her bridegroom's hair ; The mingled braid in blood he died, And placed it on his bonnet side ; “ By him whose word is truth ! I swear No other favour will I wear, Till this sad token I imbrue In the best blood of Roderick Dhu! -But hark! what means yon faint halloo ? The chase is up-but they shall know, The stag at bay's a dangerous foe.” Barr'd from the known but guarded way, Through copse and cliffs Fitz-James must stray, And oft must change his desperate track, By stream and precipice turn'd back. Heartless, fatigued, and faint, at length, From lack of food and loss of strength, He couch'd him in a thicket hoar, And thought his toils and perils o'er : “Of all my rash adventures past, This frantic feat must prove the last ! Who e'er so mad but might have guess'd, That all this highland hornet's nest Would muster up in swarms so soon As e'er they heard of bands at Doune ? Like bloodhounds now they search me out.Hark to the whistle and the shout! If farther through the wilds I go, I only fall upon the foe; I'll couch me here till evening gray, Then darkling try my dangerous way."
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Yet more-upon thy fate, 'tis said,
I take thy courtesy, by heaven,
III. At length they came where, stern and steep The hill sinks down upon the deep. Here Vennachar in silver flows, There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose; Ever the hollow path twined on, Beneath steep bank and threatening stone; An hundred men might hold the post With hardihood against a host. The rugged mountain's scanty cloak Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak, With shingles bare, and cliffs between, And patches bright of bracken green, And heather black, that waved so high, It held the copse in rivalry. But where the lake slept deep and still, Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill; And oft both path and hill were torn, Where wintry torrents down had borbe, And heap'd upon the cumber'd land Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand. So toilsome was the road to trace, The guide, abating of his pace, Led slowly through the pass's jaws, And ask'd Fitz-James, by what strange cause He sought these wilds, travers’d by few, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
When first by the bewilder'd pilgrim spied,
And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide, And lights the fearful path on mountain side ;
Fair as that beam, although the fairest far, Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,
Shine martial faith, and courtesy's bright star, Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the
brow of war.
'That early beam, so fair and sheen,
IV. “ Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried, Hangs in my belt, and by my side ; Yet, sooth to tell,” the Saxon said, “ I dream'd not now to claim its aid. When here, but three days since, I came, Bewilder'd in pursuit of game, All seem'd as peaceful and as still, As the mist slumbering on yon hill; Thy dangerous chief was then afar, Nor soon expected back from war. Thus said, at least, my mountain guide, Though deep, perchance, the villain lied.” “ Yet why a second venture try?”— “ A warrior thou, and ask me why! Moves our free course by such fix'd cause, As gives the poor mechanic laws? Enough, I sought to drive away The lazy hours of peaceful day; Slight cause will then suffice to guide A knight's free footsteps far and wide,A falcon flown, a grayhound stray'd, The merry glance of mountain maid; Or, if a path be dangerous known, The danger's self is lure alone.”
V. " Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
* The Scottish highlander calls himself Gael, or Gaul, and terms the lowlanders Sassenach, or Saxons.
Say, heard ye naught of lowland war
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
VI. Wrothful at such arraignment foul, Dark lour'd the clansman's sable scowl. A space he paused, then sternly said, “ And heard'st thou why he drew his blade ? Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe? What reck'd the chieftain if he stood On highland heath, or Holy-Rood ? He rights such wrong where it is given, If it were in the court of heaven.” “ Still was it outrage ;-yet 'tis true, Not then claim'd sovereignty his due; While Albany, with feeble hand, Held borrow'd truncheon of command, The young king, mew'd in Stirling tower, Was stranger to respect and power. But then, thy chieftain's robber life! Winning mean prey by causeless strife, Wrenching from ruin'd lowland swain His herds and harvest rear'd in vain Methinks a soul like thine should scorn The spoils from such foul foray borne."
VIII. Answer'd Fitz-James,_" And, if I sought, Think'st thou no other could be brought? What deem ye of my path waylaid? My life given o'er to ambuscade?” “ As of a meed to rashness due ; Hadst thou sent warning fair and true, I seek my hound, or falcon stray'd, I seek, good faith, a highland maid; Free hadst thou been to come and go; But secret path marks secret soe. Nor yet, for this, e'en as a spy, Hadst thou, unheard, been doom'd to die, Save to fulfil an augury.”? “ Well, let it pass ; nor will I now Fresh cause of enmity avow, To chase thy mood and cloud thy brow Enough, I am by promise tied To match me with this man of pride: Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine's glen In peace; but when I come agen, I come with banner, brand, and bow, As leader seeks his mortal foe. For lovelorn swain in lady's bower, Ne'er panted for th' appointed hour As I, until before me stand This rebel chieftain and his band.”
VII. The Gael beheld him grim the while, And answer'd with disdainful smile“Saxon, from yonder mountain high, I mark'd thee send delighted eye, Far to the south and east, where lay, Extended in succession gay, Deep waving fields and pastures green, With gentle slopes and groves between; These fertile plains, that soften'd vale, Were once the birthright of the Gael; The stranger came with iron hand, And from our fathers reft the land. Where dwell we now? See, rudely swell Crag over crag, and fell o'er fell. Ask we this savage hill we tread, For fatten'd steer or household bread;
IX. “ Have, then, thy wish !”-he whistled shrill, And he was answer'd from the hill ; Wild as the scream of the curlew, From crag to crag the signal flew. Instant, through copse and heath, arose Bonnets, and spears, and bended bows; On right, on left, above, below, Sprung up at once the lurking foe; From shingles gray their lances start, The bracken bush sends forth the dart, The rushes and the willow wand Are bristling into axe and brand, And every tuft of broom gives life To plaided warrior arm'd for strife. That whistle garrison'd the glen At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
They moved :- I said Fitz-James was brave A subterranean host had given.
As ever knight that belted glaive ; Watching their leader's beck and will,
Yet dare not say, that now his blood All silent there they stood, and still;
Kept on its wont and temper'd flood, Like the loose crags whose threatening mass As, following Roderick's stride, he drew Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
That seeming lonesome pathway through, As if an infant's touch could urge
Which yet, by fearful proof, was rife Their headlong passage down the verge,
With lances, that, to take his life, With step and weapon forward fung,
Waited but signal from a guide Upon the mountain side they hung.
So late dishonour'd and defied. The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Ever, by stealth, bis eye sought round Along Benledi's living side,
The vanish'd guardians of the ground, Then fix'd his eye and sable brow
And still, from copse and heather deep, Full on Fitz-James—“How say'st thou now Fancy saw spear and broadsword peep, These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;
And in the plover's shrilly strain, And, Saxon-I am Roderick Dhu !"
The signal whistle heard again.
Nor breathed he free till far behind
The pass was left; for then they wind
Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near,
To hide a bonnet or a spear.
XII. “ Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
The chief in silence strode before,
And reach'd that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes, Respect was mingled with surprise,
From Vennachar in silver breaks, And the stern joy which warriors feel
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines In foeman worthy of their steel.
On Bochastle the mouldering lines, Short space he stood—then waved his hand :
Where Rome, the empress of the world, Down sunk the disappearing band;
Of yore her eagle wings unfurl'd. Each warrior vanish'd where he stood,
And here his course the chieftain stay'd, In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Threw down his target and his plaid, Sunk brand and spear and bended bow,
And to the lowland warrior said: In osiers pale and copses low;
“ Bold Saxon! to his promise just, It seem'd as if their mother earth
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust. Had swallow'd up her warlike birth.
This murderous chief, this ruthless man, The wind's last breath had toss'd in air
This head of a rebellious clan, Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair ;
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward, The next but swept a lone hill side,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard. Where heath and fern were waving wide;
Now, man to man, and steel to steel, The sun's last glance was glinted back
A chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel. From spear and glaive, from targe and jack ;
See, here, all vantageless I stand, The next, all unreflected, shone
Arm'd, like thyself, with single brand;
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword.” Fitz-James look'd round-yet scarce believed
The Saxon paused :—“I ne'er delay'd,
When foeman bade me draw my blade; Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed,
Nay more, brave chief, I vow'd thy death: And to his look the chief replied,
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith, “ Fear naught-nay, that I need not say
And my deep debt for life preserved, But doubt not aught from mine array.
A better meed have well deserved : Thou art my guest; I pledged my word
Can naught but blood our feud atone? As far as Coilantogle ford :
Are there no means ?”—“No, stranger, none ! Nor would I call a clansman's brand
And hear—to fire thy flagging zealFor aid against ope valiant hand,
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel; Though on our strife lay every vale
For thus spoke fate, by prophet bred Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.
Between the living and the dead :So move we on; I only meant
Who spills the foremost foeman's life, To show the reed on which you leant,
His party conquers in the strife.'” Deeming this path you might pursue
“ Then, by my word,” the Saxon said, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.”
“ The riddle is already read.