« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Fair as the earliest beam of eastern light,
When first, by the bewilderd pilgrim spied,
It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,
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
That early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Looked out upon the dappled sky,
Multered their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael* around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way,
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path !—they winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;
Then, „sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gained not the length of horseman's lance;
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain :
So tangled oft, that bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew,
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but Beauly's tear!
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 Scottish Highlander calls himself Gael, or Gaul, and terms the Lowlander, Sassenach, or Saxon.
The rugged mountain's scanty cloak Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak, With shingles bare, and cliff's 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 torrent down had borne, And heaped 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 asked Fitz-James, by what strange cause He sought these wilds ; traversed by few, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu?
“ Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell," the Saxon said,
“ I dreamed not now to claim its aid;
When here, but three days' since, I came,
Bewilder'd in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still,
As the mist slumbering on yon hill;
Thy dangerous chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back frorn 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 fixed 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 strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid:
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone.”-
"_No, by my word ;-of bands prepared
To guard King James's sports I heard;
Nor doubt I aught, but when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung."
“ Free be they flung !--for we were loth
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung !-as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.
But, stranger, peaceful since you came
Bewilder'd in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vow'd and mortal foe ?"
u Warrior, but yester-morn. I knew
Nought of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an exiled desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who, in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight.
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart."
Wrathful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lower'd the clansman's sable scowl:
A space he paused, then sternly said, -
“ And heardst thou why he drew his blade ?
Heardst 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 claimed sovereignty his due ;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrowed 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 reared in vain.-
Methinks a soul, like thine, should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne.”
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answer'd with disdainful smile,-
“ Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked 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 softened vale, Were once the birthright of the Gael; The stranger caine 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, of ten 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 ? Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu.”
Answered 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 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 ase 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 threatning 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,