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In numbers high, the witching tale
The prophet pour'd along; No after bard might e'er avail 1
Those numbers to prolong.
Yet fragments of the lofty strain
Float down the tide of years, As, buoyant on the stormy main,
A parted wreck appears.2
He sung King Arthur's Table Round:
The Warrior of the Lake; How courteous Gawaine met the wound,8
And bled for ladies' sake.
But chief, in gentle Tristrem's praise,
The notes melodious swell;
The knight of Lionelle.4
For Marke, his cowardly uncle's right,
A venom'd wound he bore; When fierce Morholde he slew in fight,
Upon the Irish shore.
1 See Introduction to this ballad.
2 [This stanza was quoted by the Edinburgh Reviewer, of 1804, as a noble contrast to the ordinary humility of the genuine ballad diction.—Ed.]
8 See, in the Fabliaux of Monsieur le Grand, elegantly translated by the late Gregory Way, Esq., the tale of the Knight and the Sword. [Vol. ii. p. 3.]
4 [See Sir Tristrem.]
No art the poison might withstand;
No medicine could be found, Till lovely Isolde's lily hand
Had probed the rankling wound.
With gentle hand and soothing tongue
She bore the leech's part;
He paid her with his heart.
O fatal was the gift, I ween!
For, doom'd in evil tide, The maid must be rude Cornwall's queen,
His cowardly uncle's bride.
Their loves, their woes, the gifted bard,
In fairy tissue wove; Where lords, and knights, and ladies bright,
In gay confusion strove.
The Garde Joyeuse, amid the tale,
And Avalon's enchanted vale
Brangwain was there, and Segramore,
Of that famed wizard's mighty lore,
Through many a maze the winning song
In changeful passion led,
O'er Tristrem's dying bed.
His ancient wounds their scars expand, With agony his heart is wrung:
She comes! she comes !—like flash of flame
Can lovers' footsteps fly:
To see her Tristrem die.
She saw him die; her latest sigh
The gentlest pair, that Britain bare,
There paus'd the harp: its lingering sound
Died slowly on the ear;
For still they seem'd to hear.
Then woe broke forth in murmurs weak:
But, half ashamed, the rugged cheek
On Leader's stream, and Learmont's tower.
The mists of evening close; In camp, in castle, or in bower,
Each warrior sought repose.
Lord Douglas, in his lofty tent,
Dream'd o'er the woeful tale; When footsteps light, across the bent,
The warrior's ear assail.
He starts, he wakes;—" What, Richard, ho!
Arise, my page, arise!
Dare step where Douglas lies !"—
Then forth they rush'd: by Leader's tide,
A selcouth 1 sight they see—
As white as snow on Fairnalie.2
Beneath the moon, with gesture proud,
2 An ancient seat upon the Tweed, in Selkirkshire. In a popular edition of the first part of Thomas the Rhymer, the Fairy Queen thus addresses him:—
"Gin ye wad meet wi' me again,
[Fairnilee is now one of the seats of Mr. Pringle of Clifton, M. P. for Selkirkshire. 1833.]
Nor scare they at the gathering crowd, Who marvel as they go.
To Learmont's tower a message sped,
As fast as page might run; And Thomas started from his bed,
And soon his clothes did on.
First he woxe pale, and then woxe red;
Never a word he spake but three ;— "My sand is run; my thread is spun;
This sign regardeth me."
The elfin harp his neck around,
In minstrel guise, he hung;
Its dying accents rung.
Then forth he went; yet turn'd him oft
To view his ancient hall:
The autumn moonbeams fall;
And Leader's waves, like silver sheen, Danced shimmering in the ray;In deepening mass, at distance seen, Broad Soltra's mountains lay.
"Farewell, my father's ancient tower! A long farewell," said he: