Sidor som bilder

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 softened 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;
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply,–
“To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore :
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest.”
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey !
Ay, by my soul!—While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain;
While, often thousand herds, there strays
But one along yon river's maze,_
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall with strong hand, redeem his share.
Where live the mountain chiefs who hold,
That plundering lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution due 7
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu.”

Answered Fitz-James, “And, if I sought
Think'st thou no other could be brought 7
What deem ye of my path waylaid,
My life given o'er to ambuscade 7”
“As of a meed to rashness due :
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,
I seek my hound, or falcon strayed,
I seek, good faith, a highland maid,
Free hadst thou been to come and go–
But secret path marks secret foe.
Nor yet, for this, even 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 chafe 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 again,
I come with banner, brand, and bow,
As leader seeks his mortal foe;
For lovelorn swain, in lady's bower,
Ne'er panted for the appointed hour,
As I, until before me stand -
This rebel Chieftain and his band.”—

“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
A subterranean host had given;
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood, and still;
Like the loose crags, whose threat'ning mass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung,
Upon the mountain-side they hung.
The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,
Then fixed his eye and sable brow
Full on Fitz-James—“How say'st thou now?
These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;
And, Saxon,--I am Roderick Dhu."

Fitz-James was brave :-Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,
He mann'd himself with dauntless air,
Return'd the chief his haughty stare,

His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before :
“Come one, come all ! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I.”—
Sir Roderick marked—and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foeman worthy of their steel.
Short space he stood—then waved his hand
Down sunk the disappearing band;
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood; o
Sunk brand and spear and bended bow
In osiers pale and copses low ;
It seem'd as if their mother Earth
Had swallowed up her warlike birth.
The wind's last breath had toss'd in air,
Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair,
The next but swept a lone hill-side,
Where heath and fern were waving wide ;
The sun's last glance was glinted back,
From lance and glaive, from targe and jack,-
The next, all unreflected, shone -
On bracken green, and cold gray stone.

Fitz-James looked round—yet scarce believed
The witness that his sight received;
Such apparition well might seem
Delusion of a dreadful dream.
Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed,
And to his look the chief replied,
“Fear nought—nay, that I need not say—
But—doubt not aught from mine array.
Thou art my guest; I pledg'd my word
As far as Coilantogle ford:
Nor would I call a clansman's brand
For aid against one valiant hand,
Though on our strife lay every vale
Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.
So move we on ; I only meant
To show the reed on which you leant,
Deeming this path you might pursue
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.”
They moved—I said Fitz-James was brave,
As ever knight that belted glaive;
Yet dare not say, that now his blood
Kept on its wont and temper'd flood,
As, following Roderick's strides, he drew
That seeming lonesome pathway through,

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The chief in silence strode before,
And reach'd that torrent's sounding shore
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines
On Bochastle the mouldering lines,
Where Rome, the Empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle wings unfurl’d
And here his course the Chieftain staid,
Threw down his target and his plaid,
And to the lowland warrior said:—
“Bold Saxon! to his promise just,
Wich-Alpine has discharged his trust
This murderous chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan,
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel
See, here all vantageless I stand,
Armed, like thyself, with single brand;
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword.

The Saxon paused:—“I ne'er delayed,
When foeman bade me draw my blade;
Nay more, brave Chief, I vow'd thy death:
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved,
A better meed have well deserv'd :
Can nought but blood our feud atone 7
Are there no means ?” “No, Stranger, none!
And hear, to fire thy flagging zeal,—
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel;
For thus spoke Fate by prophet bred
Between the living and the dead;
“Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife.”—
“Then by my word,” the Saxon said,
“The riddle is already read
See yonder brake beneath the cliff —
There lies Red Murdoch, stark and stiff
Thus Fate hath solved her prophecy,
Then yield to Fate, and not to me,
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the King shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favor free,
I plight mine honor, oath and word,
That, to thy native strength restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand,
That aids thee now to guard thy land.”—

Dark lightning flashed 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 valor 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 wilt,
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt.”—
Then each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,

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