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xxxi. He gave him of his Highland cheer, The harden'd flesh of mountain-deer; (14) Dry fuel on the fire he laid, And bade the Saxon share his plaid. He tended him like welcome guest, Then thus his further speech address'd : * Stranger, I am to Roderick Dhu A clansman born, a kinsman true; Each word against his honour spoke Demands of me avenging stroke; Yet more, upon thy fate, ’t is said, A mighty augury is laid. It rests with me to wind my horn,Thou art with numbers overborne; It rests with me, here, brand to brand, Worn as thou art, to bid thee stand: But, not for clan, nor kindred's cause, Will I depart from honour's laws; To assail a wearied man were shame, And stranger is a holy name; Guidance and rest, and food and fire, In vain he never must require. Then rest thee here till dawn of day; Myself will guide thee on the way, O'er stock and stone, through watch and ward, Till past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard, As far as Coilantogle's ford; From thence thy warrant is thy sword.”— * I take thy courtesy, by Heaven, As freely as "t is nobly given lo– • Well, rest thee; for the bittern's cry Sings us the lake's wild lullaby.” With that he shook the gather'd heath, And spread his plaid upon the wreath; And the brave foemen, side by side, Lay peaceful down like brothers tried, And slept until the dawning beam Purpled the mountain and the stream.
I. FAIR as the earliest beam of eastern light, When first, by the bewilder'd pilgrim spied, It smiles upon the dreary brow of night, And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide,
II. 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, Look'd out upon the dappled sky, Mutter'd 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 Gain’d not the length of horseman's lance. 'T was 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 beauty's tear!
IIs. 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 rugged mountain's scanty cloak Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak, With shingles bare, and cliffs 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, Dankosiers fringed the swamp and hill; And oft both path and hill were torn, Where wintry torrents down had borne, And heap'd 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 ask'd Fitz-James, by what strange cause He sought these wilds, traversed by few, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
* The Scottish Highlander calls himself Gael, or Gaul, and terms
the Lowlanders, Sassenach, or Saxons.
IV. • Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried, Hangs in my belt, and by my side; Yet, sooth to tell,” the Saxon said, • I dream'd not now to claim its aid. When here, but three days since, I came, Bewilder'd in pursuit of game, All seem'd as peaceful and as still As the mist slumbering on yon hill; Thy dangerous chief was then afar, Nor soon expected back from 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 fix'd 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 greyhound stray'd, The merry glance of mountain maid; Or, if a path be dangerous known, The danger's self is lure alone."—
W. • Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;Yet, ere again ye sought this spot, Say, heard ye nought of Lowland war, Against Clan-Alpine, raised by Mar on * —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 Wich-Alpine's vow'd and mortal foe on— • Warrior, but yester-morn I knew Nought of thy chieftain, Roderick Dhu, Save as an outlaw'd desperate man, The chief of a rebellious clan, Who, in the regent's court and sight, With ruffian dagger stabb’d a knight; Yet this alone might from his part Sever each true and loyal heart.”—
Wi. Wrothful at such arraignment foul, Dark lour'd the clansman's sable scowl. A space he paused, then sternly said, • And heard'st thou why he drew his blade? Heard'st 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 Holyrood? He rights such wrong where it is given, If it were in the court of heaven.”—
* Still was it outrage;—yet t is true,
Wii. The Gael beheld him grim the while, And answer'd with disdainful smile,_ « Saxon, from yonder mountain high, I mark'd 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 soften’d vale, Were once the birth-right 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, 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. (2) where live the mountain chiefs who hold, That plundering Lowland field and fold Is aught but retribution true? Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu.”
• Well, let it pass; nor will I now
IX. * Have, then, thy wish 'w-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 threatening 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 fix'd 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 !»–
X. Fitz-James was brave:—Though to his heart The life-blood thrill'd 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 [..wSir Roderick mark’d—and in his eyes Respect was mingled with surprise, And the stern joy which warriors feel In foemen worthy of their steel. Short space he stood—then waved his hand : Down sunk the disappearing band; Each warrior vanish’d where he stood, In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Sunk brand and spear and bended bow,
Xi. Fitz-James look'd 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 pledged 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.” (3)— 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 stride, he drew That seeming lonesome path-way through, Which yet, by fearful proof, was rife With lances, that, to take his life, Waited but signal from a guide, So late dishonour'd and defied. Ever, by stealth, his eye sought round The vanish'd guardians of the ground, And still, from copse and heather deep, Fancy saw spear and broadsword peep, And in the plover's shrilly strain, The signal whistle heard again, Nor breathed he free till far behind The pass was left; for then they wind Along a wide and level green, Where neither tree nor tuft was seen, Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near, To hide a bonnet or a spear.
XII. 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. (4) And here his course the chieftain staid,
Threw down his target and his plaid,
XIII. The Saxon paused:—w I ne'er delay'd, 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 deserved :Can nought but blood our feud atone? 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. Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff, There lies Red Murdoch, stark and stiff. Thus Fate has 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 favour free, I plight mine honour, oath, and word, That, to thy native strengths restored, With each advantage shalt thou stand, That aids thee now to guard thy land.”—
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 [leaven, 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,
XV. Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu, That on the field his targe he threw, (6) Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide Had death so often dash'd aside, For, train’d abroad his arms to wield, Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield. (7) 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 flood 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, The foe, invulnerable still, Foil'd his wild rage by steady skill; Till, at advantage ta'en, his brand Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand, And, backward borne upon the lea, Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.
XVI. « Now, yield thee, or, by Him who made The world, thy heart's blood dyes 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; (8) 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 the advantage came, To turn the odds of deadly game;
Yet with thy foe must die, or live,
XWiii. • Stand Bayard, stand!"—the steed obey'd, With arching neck and bended head, And glancing eye, and quivering ear, As if he loved his lord to hear. No foot Fitz-James in stirrup staid, No grasp upon the saddle laid, But wreathed his left hand in the mane, And lightly bounded from the plain, Turn'd on the horse his armed heel, And stirr'd his courage with the steel. Bounded the fiery steed in air, The rider sate erect and fair, Then, like a bolt from steel cross-bow Forth launch'd, along the plain they go. They dash'd that rapid torrent through, And up Carhonie's hill they flew; Still at the gallop prick'd the knight, His merry-men follow'd as they might. Along thy banks, swift Teith ! they ride, And in the race they mock thy tide;
Torry and Lendrick now are past,
« No, by my word;—a burly groom
Then right-hand wheel'd their steeds, and straight
They won the castle's postern-gate.
XX. The Douglas, who had bent his way From Cambus-Kenneth's abbey gray, Now, as he climb'd the rocky shelf, Held sad communion with himself:— “Yes! all is true my fears could frame: A prisoner lies the noble Graeme, 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,