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Signing the cross the Abbess stood,
And blessed them with her hand. 12. Suppose we now the welcome said, Suppose the Convent banquet made:
All through the holy dome,
Through cloister, aisle, and gallery,
Wherever vestal maid might pry,
Nor risk to meet un hallowed eye,
The stranger sisters roam :
Till fell the evening damp with dew,
And the sharp sea-breeze coldly blew,
For there, even summer night is chill;
Then, having strayed and gazed their fill,
They closed around the fire;
And all, in turn, essayed to paint
The rival merits of their saint,
A theme that ne'er can tire
A holy maid; for, be it known,
That their saint's honour is their own. 13. Then Whitby's nuns exulting told,
How to their house three barons bold
Must menial service do ;
While horns blow out a note of shame,
And monks cry “Fye upon your name !
In wrath, for loss of sylvan game,
Saint Hilda's priėst' ye slew." —
“ This, on Ascension-day, each year,
hile labouring on our harbour-pier,
Must Herbert, Bruce, and Percy hear."
They told, how in their convent cell
A Saxon princess once did dwell,
The lovely Edelfled ;
And how, of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When holy Hilda prayed ;
Themselves, within their holy bound,
Their stony folds had often found.
They told, how sea-fowls' pinions fail,
As over Whitby's towers they sail,
And, sinking down, with futterings faint,
They do their homage to the saint.
14. Nor did Saint Cuthbert's daughters fail
To vie with these in holy tale;
His body's resting-place, of old,
How oft their patron changed, they told;
How, when the rude Dane burned their pile,
The monks fled forth from Holy Isle;
O'er northern mountain, marsh, and moor,
From sea to sea, from shore to shore,
Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore :
They rested them in fair Melrose;
But though, alive, he loved it well,
Not there his relics might repose;
For, wondrous tale to tell!
In his stone coffin forth he rides,
(A ponderous bark for river tides)
Yet light as gossamer it glides,
Downward to Tillmouth cell.
Nor long was his abiding there,
For southward did the saint repair;
Chester-le-Street, and Rippon, saw
His holy corpse, ere Wardilaw
Hailed him with joy and fear:
And, after many wanderings passed,
He chose his lordly seat at last,
Where his cathedral, huge and vast,
Looks down upon the Wear:
There, deep in Durham's Gothic shade,
His relics are in secret laid;
But none may know the place,
Save of his holiest servants three,
Deep sworn to solemn secrecy,
Who share that wondrous gracc. 15. Who may his miracles declare !
Even Scotland's dauntless king, and heir,
(Although with them they led
Galwegians, wild as ocean's gale,
And Lodon's knights, all sheathed in mail,
And the bold men of Teviotdale,)
Before his standard Aled.
'Twa; h3, to vindicate his reign,
Edged Alfred's falchion on the Dane,
And turned the Conqueror back again,
Włen, with his Norman bowyer band,
He came to waste Northumberland. 16. But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn,
If, on a rock by Lindisfarne,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told,
And said they might his shape behold,
And hear his anvil sound;
A deadened clang,-a huge dim form,
Seen but, and heard, when gathering storm
And night were closing rounel.
But this, as tale of idle fame,
The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim.
17. While round the fire such legends go,
Far different was the scene of woe,
Where, in a secret aisle beneath,
Council was held of life and death.
22. Her comrade was a sordid soul,
Such as does murder for a meed;
Who, but of fear, knows no control,
Because his conscience, seared and foul,
Feels not the import of his deed ;
One, whose brute-feeling ne'er aspires
Beyond his own more brute desires.
Such tools the tempter ever needs,
To do the savagest of deeds;
For them no visioned terrors daunt,
Their nights no fancied spectres haunt;
One fear with them, of all most base,
The fear of death,-alone finds place.
This wretch was clad in frock and cowl,
And shamed not loud to moan and howl,
His body on the floor to dash,
And crouch, like hound beneath the lash;
While his mute partner, standing near,
Waited her doom without a tear.
Yet well the luckless wretch might shriek,
Well might her paleness terror speak !
For there were seen, in that dark wall,
Two niches, narrow, deep, and tall.
Who enters at such grisly door
Shall ne'er, I ween, find exit more.
In each a slender meal was laid,
Of roots, of water, and of bread:
By each, in Benedictine dress,
Two haggard monks stood motionless;
Who, holding high a blazing torch,
Showed the grim entrance of the porch:
Reflecting back the smoky beam,
The dark-red walls and arches gleam.
Hewn stones and cement were displayed,
And building tools in order laid.
24. These executioners were chose
As men who were with mankind foes,
And, with despite and envy fired,
Into the cloister had retired ;
Or who, in desperate doubt of grace,
Strove, by deep penance, to efface
Of some foul crime the stain;
For, as the vassals of her will,
Such men the church selected still
As either joyed in doing ill,
Or thought more grace to gain,
Jf in her cause they wrestled down
Feelings their nature strove to own.
By strange device were they brought there,
They knew not how, and knew not where.
- 25. And now that blind old Abbot rose,
To speak the Chapter's doom,
On those the wall was to enclose,
Alive, within the tomb;
But stopped, because that woeful maid,
Gathering her powers, to speak essayed ;
Twice she essayed, and twice in vain,
Her accents might no utterance gain;
Nought but imperfect murmurs slip
From her convulsed and quivering lip:
*Twixt each attempt all was so still,
You seemed to hear a distant rill--
'Twas ocean's swells and falls;
For though this vault of sin and fear
Was to the sounding surge so near,
A tempest there you scarce could hear,
So massive were the walls. 26. At length, an effort sent apart.
The blood that curdled to her heart,
And light came to her eye,
And colour dawned upon her cheek,
A hectic and a futtered streak,
Like that left on the Cheviot peak
By Autumn's stormy sky;
And when her silence broke at length,
Still as she spoke, she gathered strength
And armed herself to bear.
It was a fearful sight to see
Such high resolve and constancy
In form so soft and fair.
27. “I speak not to implore your grace;
Well know I, for one minute's space,
Successless might I sue:
Nor do I speak your prayers to gain;
For if a death of lingering pain,
To cleanse my sins, be penance vain,
Vain are your masses too.-
I listened to a traitor's tale,
I left the convent and the veil,
For three long years I bowed my pride,
A horse-boy in his train to ride;
And well my folly's meed he gave,
Who forfeited, to be his slave,
All here, and all beyond the grave.:-
He saw young Clara's face more fair,
He knew her of broad lands the heir,
Forgot his vows, his faith forswore,
And Constance was beloved no more. -
'Tis an old tale, and often told;
But, did my fate and wish agree,
Ne'er had been read, in story old,
MARMION; A TALE OF FLODDEN FIELD.
A POEM. IN SIX CANTOS.
Alas! that Scottish Maid should sing
The combat where her lover fell !
That Scottish Bard should wake the string,
The triumph of our foes to tell !-LEYDEN.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
HENRY, LORD MONTAGU,
&c. &c. &c.
THIS ROMANCE IS INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION, 1808. It is hardly to be expected, that an Author, whom the Public lias honoured with some degree of applause, should not be again a trespasser on their kindness. Yet the Author of MARMION must be supposed to feel some anxiety concerning its success, since he is sensible that he hazards, by this second intrusion, any reputation which his first Poem may have procured him. The present Story turns upon the private adventures of a fictitious character ; but is called a Tale of Flodden Field, because the hero's fate is connected with that memorable defeat, and the causes which led to it. The design of the Author was, if possible, to apprize his Readers, at the outset, of the date of his Story, and to prepare them for the manners of the Age in which it is laid. Any Historical narrative, far more an attempt at Epic composition, exceeded his plan of a Romantic Tale ; yet he may be permitted to hope, from the popularity of The LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL, that an attempt to paint the inanners of the feudal times, upon a broader scale, and in the course of a more interesting story, will not be unacceptable to the Public.
The Poem opens about the commencement of August, and concludes with the defeat of Flodden, 9th September, 1513.
INTRODUCTION TO CANTO FIRST.
To William Stewart Rose, Esq.
Ashestiel, Ettricke Forest.
NOVEMBER'S sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear :
Late, gazing down the steepy linn,
That hems our little garden in,
Low in its dark and narrow glen,
You scarce the rivulet might ken,