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Amid the strings his fingers strayed, And an uncertain warbling made, And ofthe shook his hoary head. But when he caught the measure wild, The old man raised his face, and smiled; And lightened up his faded eye, With all a poet's ecstasy! In varying cadence, soft or strong, He swept the sounding chords along: The present scene, the future lot, Histoils, his wants, were all forgot: Cold diffidence, and age's frost, In the full tide of song were lost; Each blank, in faithless memory void, The poet's glowing thought supplied; And, while his harp responsive rung, 'Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.

THE LAY

OF THE

LAST, MINSTREL,

CANTo I.

I.

THE feast was over in Branksome tower,
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower that was guarded by word and
by spell,
Deadly to hear and deadly to tell–
Jesu Maria, shield us well!
No living wight, save the ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.

II.

The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Knight, and page, and household squire,
Loitered through the lofty hali,
Or crowded round the ample fire:
The stag hounds, weary with the chase,
Lay stretched upon the rushy floor,
And urged, in dreams, the forest race,
From Teviotstone to Eskdale-moor.

III.

Nine and twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome hall;

Nine and twenty squires of name
Brought them their steeds from bower to

stall;

Nine and twenty yeomen tall

Waited, duteous, on them all:

They were all knights of mettle true,

Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.

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Ten of them were sheathed in steel,

With belted sword, and spur on heel :

They quitted not their harness bright,

Neither by day, nor yet by night:
They lay down to rest,
With corslet laced,

Fillowed on buckler cold and hard;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,

And they drank the red wine through the

helmet barred.

V.

Ten squires, ten yeomen, mailclad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten ;
Thirty steeds, both fleet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood axe at saddle bow;

A hundred more fed free in stall:
Such was the custom of Branksome hall.

VI.

Why do these steeds stand ready dight?
Why watch these warriors, armed, by night?
They watch, to hear the bloodhound baying;
They watch, to hear the warhorn braying;
To see Saint George's red cross streaming,
To see the midnight beacon gleaming;
They watch, against Southern force and
guile,
Lest Scrope, or Howard, or Percy's powers,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry
Carlisle.

VII.

Such is the custom of Branksome hall.—
Many a valiant knight is here;
But he, the chieftain of them all,
His sword hangs rusting on the wall
Beside his broken spear.
Bards long shall tell,
How Lord Walter fell !
When startled burghers fled, afar,
The furies of the border war;
When the streets of high Dunedin
Saw lances gleam, and falchions redden,
And heard the slogan's" deadly yell-
Then the chief of Branksome fell.

* The war cry, or gathering ward, of a Border to

VIII.

Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity?
Can christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity?
No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage they drew;
Implored, in vain, the grace divine -
For chiefs their own red falchions slew ;
While Cessford owns the rule of Car,
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
The slaughtered chiefs, the mortaljar,
The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!

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In sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent;
And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent:
But o'er her warrior's bloody bier
The Ladye dropped nor flower nor tear !
Vengeance, deep brooding o'er the slain,
Had locked the source of softer woe;
And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow;
Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisped from the nurse's knee-
“And, if I live to be a man, .
“My father's death revenged shall be "

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