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Seck yonder brake beneath the cliff,
The foe, invulnerable still,
XVI. “Now, yield ye, or, by Him who made The world, thy heart's blood dies my blade !" “ Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy ! Let recreant yield, who fears to die."Like adder darting from his coil, Like wolf that dashes through the toil, Like mountain cat who guards her young, Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung; Received, but reck'd not of a wound, And lock'd his arms his foeman round. Now, gallant Saxon, hold thine own! No maiden's hand is round thee thrown ! That desperate grasp thy frame might feel, Through bars of brass and triple steel ! They tug, they strain ;--down, down, they go, The Gael above, Fitz-James below. The chieftain's gripe his throat compress'd, His knee was planted in his breast; His clotted locks he backward threw, Across his brow his hand he drew, From blood and mist to clear his sight, Then gleam'd aloft his dagger bright !--But hate and fury ill supplied The stream of life's exhausted tide, And all too late th' advantage came, To turn the odds of deadly game; For while the dagger gleam'd on high, Reel'd soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye. Down came the blow; but in the heath The erring blade found bloodless sheath. The struggling foe may now unclasp The fainting chief's relaxing grasp ; Unwounded from the dreadful close, But breathless all, Fitz-James arose.
XIV. Dark lightning flash'd from Roderick's eye" Soars thy presumption then so high, Because a wretched kern ye slew, Homage to name to Roderick Dhu? He yields not, he, to man nor fate! Thou add'st but fuel to my hate : My clansman's blood demands revenge.Not yet prepared ?-By heaven, I change My thought, and hold thy valour light As that of some vain carpet-knight, Who ill deserved my courteous care, And whose best boast is but to wear A braid of his fair lady's hair."“I thank thee, Roderick, for the word! It nerves my heart, it steels my sword; For I have sworn, this braid to stain In the best blood that warms thy vein. Now, truce farewell! and ruth begone ! Yet think not that by thee alone, Proud chief! can courtesy be shown; Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn, Start at my whistle clansmen stern, of this small horn one feeble blast Would fearful odds against thee cast. But fear not-doubt not-which thou wiltWe try this quarrel hilt to hilt."Then each at once his falchion drew, Each on the ground his scabbard threw, Each look'd to sun, and stream, and plain, As what they ne'er might see again ; Then foot, and point, and eye opposed, In dubious strife they darkly closed.
XV. Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu, That on the field his targe he threw, Whose brazen studs and tough bull hide Had death so often dash'd aside; For, traind abroad his arms to wield, Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield. He practised every pass and ward, To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard ; While less expert, though stronger far, The Gael maintain'd unequal war. Three times in closing strife they stood, And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood. No stinted draught, no scanty tide, The gushing food the tartans dyed. Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain, And shower'd his blows like wintry rain; And, as firm rock, or castle roof, Against the winter shower is proof,
XVII. He faltered thanks to heaven for life, Redeem'd, unhoped, from desperate strife; Next on his foe his look he cast, Whose every gasp appear'd his last; In Roderick's gore he dipp'd the braid, “ Poor Blanche! thy wrongs are dearly paid; Yet with thy foe must die or live The praise that faith and valour give.”With that he blew a bugle note, Undid the collar from his throat, Unbonnetted, and by the wave Sat down, his brow and hands to lave. Then faint afar are heard the feet Of rushing steeds in gallop fleet; The sounds increase, and now are seen Four mounted squires in Lincoln green ; Two who bear lance, and two who lead, By loosen'd rein, a saddled steed; Each onward held his headlong course, And by Fitz-James rein'd up his horseWith wonder view'd the bloody spot. -"Exclaim not, gallants ! question not :
You, Herbert and Luffness, alight,
Afar, ere to the hill he drew,
lightly bounded from the plain,
XX. The Douglas, who had bent his way From Cambus-Kenneth's abbey gray, Now, as he climb'd the rocky shell, Held sad communion with bimself:“ Yes! all is true my fears could frame: A prisoner lies the noble Grame, And fiery Roderick soon will feel The vengeance of the royal steel. I, only I, can ward their fate, God grant the ransom come not late ! The abbess hath her promise given, My child shall be the bride of heaven: Be pardon'd one repining tear! For He, who gave her, knows how dear, How excellent!-but that is by, And now my business is—to die. -Ye towers! within whose circuit dread A Douglas by his sovereign bled, And thou, O sad and fatal m ind! That oft hast heard the death axe sound, As on the noblest of the land Fell the stern headsman's bloody hand, The dungeon, block, and nameless tomb Prepare, for Douglas seeks his doom! -But hark! what blithe and jolly peal Makes the Franciscan steeple reel? And see! upon the crowded street, In motley groups what masquers meet! Banner and pageant, pipe and drum, And merry morrice dancers come. I guess, by all this quaint array, The burghers hold their sports to-day James will be there; he loves such show, Where the good yeoman bends his bow, And the tough wrestler foils his foe, As well as where, in proud career, The high-born tilter shivers spear. I'll follow to the castle park, And play my prize: King James shall mark, If age has tamed these sinews stark, Whose force so oft, in happier days, His boyish wonder loved to praise."
XXI. The castle gates were open flung, The quivering drawbridge rock'd and rung, And echoed loud the finty street Beneath the courser's clattering feet, As slowly down the deep descent Fair Scotland's king and nobles went, While all along the crowded way Was jubilee and loud huzza.
XIX. As up the flinty path they strain's, Sudden his steed the leader rein'd; A signal to his squire he flung, Who instant to his stirrup sprung: “Seest thou, De Vaux, yon woodsman gray, Who townward holds the rocky way, Of stature tall and poor array? Mark'st thou the firm, yet active stride, With which he scales the mountain side ? Know'st thou from whence he comes, or whom?" “ No, by my word ;-a burley groom He seems, who in the field or chase A baron's train would nobly grace.” Out, out, De Vaux! can fear supply, And jealousy, no sharper eye?
And ever James was bending low,
Douglas would speak, but in his breast
XXII. Now, in the castle park, drew out Their chequer'd bands the joyous rout. There morricers, with bell at heel, And blade in hand, their mazes wheel; But chief, beside the butts, there stand Bold Robin Hood and all his bandFriar Tuck, with quarterstaff and cowl, Old Scathelocke, with his surly scowl, Maid Marion, fair as ivory bone, Scarlet, and Mutch, and Little John; Their bugles challenge all that will, In archery to prove their skill. The Douglas bent a bow of might, His first shaft center'd in the white, And, when in turn he shot again, His second split the first in twain. From the king's hand must Douglas take A silver dart, the archers' stake; Fondly he watch'd, with watery eye, Some answering glance of sympathy; No kind emotion made reply! Indifferent as to archer wight, The monarch gave the arrow bright.
XXIV. The vale with loud applauses rang, The Ladie's Rock sent back the clang. The king, with look unmoved, bestow'd A purse well filld with pieces broad. Indignant smiled the Douglas proud, And threw the gold among the crowd, Who now, with anxious wonder, scan, And sharper glance, the dark gray man; Till whispers rose among the throng, That heart so free, and hand so strong, Must to the Douglas' blood belong: The old men mark'd, and shook the head, To see his hair with silver spread, And wink'd aside, and told each son Of feats upon the English done, Ere Douglas of the stalwart hand Was exiled from his native land. The women praised his stately form, Though wreck'd by many a winter's storm; The youth with awe and wonder saw His strength surpassing nature's law. Thus judged, as is their wont, the crowd, Till murmur rose to clamours loud. But not a glance from that proud ring Of peers who circled round the king, With Douglas held communion kind, Or call’d the banish'd man to mind; No, not from those who, at the chase, Once held his side the honour'd place, Begirt his board, and, in the field, Found safety underneath his shield For he whom royal eyes disown, When was his form to courtiers known?
XXIII. Now, clear the ring ! for, hand to hand, The manly wrestlers take their stand. Two o'er the rest superior rose, And proud demanded mightier foes Nor call'd in vain ; for Douglas came. -For life is Hugh of Larbert lame; Scarce better John of Alloa's fare, Whom senseless home his comrades bear. Prize of the wrestling match, the king To Douglas gave a golden ring, While coldly glanced his eye of blue, As frozen drop of wintry dew.
XXV. The monarch saw the gambols flag, And bade let loose a gallant stag, Whose pride, the holiday to crown, Two favourite greyhounds should pull down, That venison free, and Bourdeaux wine Might serve the archery to dine. But Lufra-whorn from Douglas' side, Nor bribe nor threat could e'er divide, The fleetest hound in all the northBrave Lufra saw, and darted forth. She left the royal hounds midway, And, dashing on the antler'd prey, Sunk her sharp muzzle in his flank, And deep the flowing lifeblood drank.
And to the leading soldier said,
The king's stout huntsman saw the sport
XXVIII. “ Hear, gentle friends! ere yet for me Ye break the bands of fealty. My life, my honour, and my cause, I tender free to Scotland's laws; Are these so weak as must require The aid of our misguided ire? Or, if I suffer causeless wrong, Is then my selfish rage so strong, My sense of public weal so low, That, for mean vengeance on a foe, Those cords of love I should unbind Which knit my country and my kind ? Oh no! believe, in yonder tower It will not soothe my captive hour, To know those spears our foes should dread, For me in kindred gore are red. To know, in fruitless brawl begun For me, that mother wails her son ; For me, that widow's mate expires ; For me, that orphans weep their sires, That patriots mourn insulted laws, And curse the Douglas for the cause. 0! let your patience ward such ill, And keep your right to love me still !”
XXVI. Then clamour'd loud the royal train, And brandish'd swords and staves amain. But stern the baron's warning—“ Back! Back, on your lives, ye menial pack ! Beware the Douglas !-yes, behold, King James ! the Douglas, doom'd of old, And vainly sought for near and far, A victim to atone the war: A willing victim now attends, Nor craves thy grace but for his friends." -“Thus is my clemency repaid ? Presumptuous lord !” the monarch said; “Of thy misproud ambitious clan, Thou, James of Bothwell, wert the man, The only man, in whom a foe My woman mercy would not know; But shall a monarch's presence brook Injurious blow and haughty look? What ho! the captain of our guard ! Give the offender fitting ward. Break off the sports !”—for tumult rose, And yeomen 'gan to bend their bows ;“ Break off the sports !”—he said, and frown'd; “ And bid our horsemen clear the ground.”
XXIX. The crowd's wild fury sunk again In tears as tempests melt in rain : With lifted hands and eyes, they pray'd For blessings on his generous head, Who for his country felt alone, And prized her blood beyond his own. Old men, upon the verge of life Bless'd him who stay'd the civil strife; And mothers held their babes on high, The self-devoted chief to spy, Triumphant over wrong and ire, To whom the prattlers owed a sire: E'en the rough soldier's heart was moved : As if bebind some bier beloved, With trailing arms and drooping head, The Douglas up the hill he led, And at the castle's battled verge, With sighs resign'd his honour'd charge.
XXVII. Then uproar wild and misarray Marr'd the fair form of festal day. The horsemen prick'd among the crowd, Repell'd by threats and insult loud; To earth are borne the old and weak; The timorous fly, the women shriek ; With flint, with shaft, with staff, with bar, The hardier urge tumultuous war. At once round Douglas darkly sweep The royal spears in circle deep, And slowly scale the pathway steep; While on the rear in thunder pour The rabble with disorder'd roar. With grief the noble Douglas saw The commons rise against the law,
XXX. Th' offended monarch rode apart, With bitter thought and swelling heart, And would not now vouchsafe again Through Stirling's streets to lead his train. “O Lennox, who would wish to rule This changeling crowd, this common fool? Hear'st thou,” he said, “ the loud acclaim, With which they shout the Douglas' name? With like acclaim the vulgar throat Strain'd for King James their morning note : With like acclaim they hail'd the day When first I broke the Douglas' sway ;
And like acclaim would Douglas greet,
They mourn'd him pent within the hold,
“Where stout Earl William was of old ;'**Who o'er the herd would wish to reign,
And there his word the speaker stay'd,
And finger on his lip he laid,
Or pointed to his dagger blade.
But jaded horsemen, from the west,
At evening to the castle press'd ;
And busy talkers said they bore
Tidings of fight on Katrine's shore;
At noon the deadly fray begun,
And lasted till the set of sun.
Thus giddy rumour shook the town,
Till closed the night her pennons brown.
The sun awakening, through the smoky air
Of the dark city casts a sullen glance,
Rousing each caitiff to his task of care,
Of sinful man the sad inheritance;
Summoning revellers from the lagging dance,
And scaring prowling robber to his den ; To break their muster march'd, and soon Gilding on battled tower the warder's lance, Your grace will hear of battle fought;
And warning student pale to leave his pen, But earnestly the earl besought,
And yield his drowsy eyes to the kind nurse of men. Till for such danger he provide,
What various scenes, and, O! what scenes of wo, With scanty train you will not ride."
Are witness'd by that red and struggling beam! XXXII.
The fever'd patient, from his pallet low, “ Thou warn'st me I have done amiss
Through crowded hospitals beholds its stream;
The ruin'd maiden trembles at its gleam ;
The debtor wakes to thought of gyve and jail ;
The lovelorn wretch starts from tormenting dream; -Retrace with speed thy former way;
The wakeful mother, by the glimmering pale, Spare not for spoiling of thy steed,
Trims her sick infant's couch, and soothes his feeble
At dawn the towers of Stirling rang
With soldier step and weapon clang,
While drums, with rolling note, foretell
Relief to weary sentinel,
Through narrow loop and casement barr'd,
The sunbeams sought the court of guard,
And struggling with the smoky air,
Deadend the torch's yellow glare.
In comfortless alliance shone
The lights through arch of blacken'd stone,
And show'd wild shapes in garb of war,
Faces deform'd with beard and scar,
All haggard from the midnight watch,
And fever'd with the stern debauch ;
For the oak table's massive board,
Flooded with wine, with fragments stored,
And beakers drain'd, and cups o'erthrown, Suited gay feast and minstrel lay;
Show'd in what sport the night had flown.
Some, weary, snored on floor and bench :
Some labour'd still their thirst to quench;
Some, chill'd with watching, spread their hands
O'er the huge chimney's dying brands,
While round them, or beside them flung,
At every step their harness rung.
* Slabbed by James II. in Stirling castle.