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But, ere his dagger Eustace drew,
His master Marmion's voice he knew.
-“ Fitz-Eustace! rise,–I cannot rest ;
Yon churl's wild legend haunts my breast,
And graver thoughts have chafed my mood;
The air must cool my feverish blood;
And fain would I ride forth, to see
The scene of elfin chivalry.
Arise, and saddle me my steed;
And, gentle Eustace, take good heed
Thou dost not rouse these drowsy slaves ;
I would not, that the prating knaves
Had cause for saying, o'er their ale,
That I could credit such a tale.”—
Then softly down the steps they slid,
Eustace the stable door undid,
And, darkling, Marmion's steed arrayed,
While, whispering, thus the Baron said :-
“ Did'st mever, good my youth, hear tell,
That on the hour when I was born, St. George, who graced my sire's chapelle, Down from his steed of marble fell,
A weary wight forlorn ? The flattering chaplains all agree, The champion left his steed to me. I would, the omen's truth to show, That I could meet this Elfin Foel Blithe would I battle, for the right To ask one question at the sprite:— Vain thought ! for elves, if elves there be, An empty race, by fount or sea, To dashing waters dance and sing, Or round the green oak wheel their ring.”— Thus speaking, he his steed bestrode, And from the hostel slowly rode.
Fitz-Eustace followed him abroad,
And marked him pace the village road,
And listened to his horse's tramp,
Till, by the lessening sound,
He judged that of the Pictish camp
Lord Marmion sought the round. Wonder it seemed, in the squire's eyes, That one, so wary held, and wise,Of whom 'twas said, he scarce received For gospel, what the church believed,
Should, stirred by idle tale,
Ride forth in silence of the night,
As hoping half to meet a sprite,
Arrayed in plate and mail.
For little did Fitz-Eustace know,
That passions, in contending flow,
Unfix the strongest mind;
Wearied from doubt to doubt to flee,
We welcome fond credulity,
Guide confident, though blind.
Little for this Fitz-Eustace cared,
But, patient, waited till he heard,
At distance, pricked to utmost speed,
The foot-tramp of a flying steed,
Come town-ward rushing on:
First, dead, as if on turf it trode,
Then, clattering on the village road,
In other pace than forth be yode*
Returned Lord Marmion.
Down hastily he sprung from selle,
And, in his haste, well nigh he fell;
To the squire's hand the rein he threw,
And spoke no word as he withdrew:
But yet the moonlight did betray,
The falcon crest was soiled with clay;
And plainly might Fitz-Eustace see,
By stains upon the charger's knee,
And his left side, that on the moor
He had not kept his footing sure.
• Used by old poets for went,
Long musing on these wondrous signs,
At length to rest the squire reclines,
Broken and short; for still, between,
Would dreams of terror intervene : ,
Eustace did ne'er so blithely mark
The first notes of the morning lark.