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THE EVE OF ST. JOHN

The Baron of Smaylho'me rose with day,

He spurr'd his courser on,
Without stop or stay, down the rocky way,

That leads to Brotherstone.

He went not with the bold Buccleuch,

His banner broad to rear;
He went not 'gainst the English yew,

To lift the Scottish spear.

Yet his plate-jack1 was braced, and his helmet was laced,

And his vaunt-brace of proof he wore;
At his saddle-gerthe was a good steel sperthe, Full ten pound weight and more.

The Baron return'd in three days space,
And his looks were sad and sour;

1 The plate-jack is coat-armour; the vaunt-brace, or wambrace, armour for the body; the sperthe, a battle-axe.

And weary was his courser's pace,
As he reach'd his rocky tower.

He came not from where Ancram Moor1

Ran red with English blood; Where the Douglas true, and the bold Buccleuch, 'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood.

Yet was his helmet hack'd and hew'd,

His acton pierced and tore,
His axe and his dagger with blood imbrued,—

But it was not English gore.

He lighted at the Chapellage,

He held him close and still;
And he whistled thrice for his little foot-page,

His name was English Will.

"Come thou hither, my little foot-page,

Come hither to my knee;
Though thou art young, and tender of age,

I think thou art true to me.

"Come, tell me all that thou hast seen,

And look thou tell me true!
Since I from Smaylho'me tower have been,

What did thy lady do ?"—

1 See Appendix, p. 111.

"My lady, each night, sought the lonely light, That burns on the wild Watchfold;

For, from height to height, the beacons bright Of the English foemen told.

"The bittern clamour'd from the moss,

The wind blew loud and shrill;
Yet the craggy pathway she did cross,

To the eiry Beacon Hill.

"I watch'd her steps, and silent came Where she sat her on a stone;— No watchman stood by the dreary flame, It burned all alone.

"The second night I kept her in sight,

Till to the fire she came,
And, by Mary's might! an Armed Knight

Stood by the lonely flame.

"And many a word that warlike lord

Did speak to my lady there; But the rain fell fast, and loud blew the blast,

And I heard not what they were.

"The third night there the sky was fair, And the mountain-blast was still, As again I watch'd the secret pair, On the lonesome Beacon Hill.

"And I heard her name the midnight hour,

And name this holy eve; And say,' Come this night to thy lady's bower;

Ask no bold Baron's leave.

"' He lifts his spear with the bold Buccleuch;

His lady is all alone;
The door she'll undo, to her knight so true,

On the eve of good St. John.'—

"' I cannot come; I must not come; .

I dare not come to thee;
On the eve of St. John I must wander alone:

In thy bower I may not be.'—

"' Now, out on thee, fainthearted knight!

Thou shouldst not say me nay;
For the eve is sweet, and when lovers meet,

Is worth the whole summer's day.

"'And I'll chain the blood-hound, and the warder shall not sound, And rushes shall be strew'd on the stair; So, by the black rood-stone,1 and by holy St. John, I conjure thee, my love, to be there !'—

1 The black-rood of Melrose was a crucifix of black marble, and of superior sanctity.

"'Though the blood-hound be mute, and the rush beneath my foot, And the warder his bugle should not blow, Yet there sleepeth a priest in the chamber to the east, And my footstep he would know.'—

"' O fear not the priest, who sleepeth to the east!For to Dryburgh1 the way he has ta'en; And there to say mass, till three days do pass, For the soul of a knight that is slayne.'—

"He turn'd him around, and grimly he frown'd;

Then he laugh'd right scornfully— 'He who says the mass-rite for the soul of that knight,

May as well say mass for me:

"'At the lone midnight hour, when bad spirits have power,

In thy chamber will I be.'— With that he was gone, and my lady left alone,

And no more did I see."

1 Dryburgh Abbey is beautifully situated on the banks of the Tweed. After its dissolution, it became the property of the Haliburtons of Newmains, and is now the seat of the Right Honourable the Earl of Buchan. It belonged to the order of Premonstratenses.—[The ancient Barons of Newmains were ultimately represented by Sir Walter Scott, whose remains now repose in their cemetery at Dryburgh.—Ed.]

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