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SIR WALTER SCOTT.
· The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
IN SIX CANTOS.
Dum relego, scripsisse pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna lini.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES, EARL OF DALKEITH,
This Poem is Juscribed,
BY THE AUTHOR.
The poem now offered to the public is intended to westrate the customs and manners which anciently poetailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. Thar sababitants, living in a state partly pastoral and parte sarlike, and combining habits of constant depardalinn with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes highly susceptible of pupical ornament. As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the author than a combard and regular narrative, the plan of the ancient minal romance was adopted, which allows greater
alud, in this respect, than would be consistent with the deity of a regular poem. The same model offered other facilities, as it permits an occasional alteration of measure, which, in some degree, a'uthoruses the change of rhythm in the text. The machinery abso, adopted from popular belief, would have seemed parrik is a poem which did not partake of the rudeBons of the old ballad or metrical romance.
For these reasons, the poem was put into the mouth of ma ancient minstrel, the last of the race, who, as be
wapposed to have survived the Revolution, might law caught somewhat of the refinement of modern parers, without losing the simplicity of his original badel. The date of the Tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually floarished. The time occupied by the action is three nights and three days.
The way was long, the wind was cold, The Minstrel was infirm and old; His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray, Seem'd to have known a better day; The harp, his sole remaining joy, Was carried by an orphan boy. The last of all the bards was he, Who sung of Border chivalry. For, well-a-day! their date was fled, His tuneful brethren all were dead; And he, neglected and oppressid, Wish'd to be with them, and at rest. No more, on prancing palfrey borne, He carolld, light as lark at morn; No longer courted and caress'd, High placed in hall, a welcome guest, He pour'd, to lord and lady gay, The unpremeditated lay: Old times were changed, old manners gone; A stranger 6]ld the Stuarts' throne; The bigots of the iron time Had call'd his harmless art a crime. A wandering harper, scoro'd and poor, He begg'd his bread from door to door; And tuned, to please a peasant's ear, The harp a king had loved to hear.
He pass'd where Newark's stately tower Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eyeNo humbler resting-place was nigh. With hesitating step, at last, The embattled portal-arch he passid, Whose ponderous grate and massy bar Had oft rolld back the tide of war, But never closed the iron door Against the desolate and poor. The duchess mark'd his weary pace, His timid mien, and reverend face, And bade her page the menials tell, That they should tend the old man well : For she had known adversity, Though born in such a high degree; In pride of power, in beauty's bloom, Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb.
But when he caught the measure wild,
When kindness had his wants supplied, And the old man was gratified, Began to rise his minstrel pride : And he began to talk anon, Of good Earl Francis,a dead and gone, And of Earl Walter, 3 rest him God! A braver ne'er to battle rode; And how full many a tale he knew Of the old warriors of Buccleuch ; And, would the noble duchess deigo To listen to an old man's strain, Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak, He thought, even yet, the sooth to speak, That, if she loved the harp to hear, He could make music to her ear.
The feast was over in Branksome tower, (1)
II. The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Knight, and page, and household squire, Loiter'd through the lofty hall,
Or crowded round the ample fire. The stay-hounds, weary with the chace,
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor, And urged in dreams the forest race,
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.
The humble boon was soon obtain'd; The aged Minstrel audience gain d. But when he reach'd the room of state, Wbere she with all ber ladies sate, Perchance he wish'd his boon denied: For when to tune his harp he tried, His trembling hand had lost the ease Which marks security to please ; And scenes, long past, of joy and pain, Came wildering o'er his aged brainHe tried to tune his harp in vain. The pitying duchess praised its chime, And gave him heart, and gave him time, Till every string's according glee Was blended into harmony. And then he said, he would full fain He could reeal an ancient strain, lle never thought to sing again. It was not framed for village churls, But for high dames and mighty earls; He had play'd it to King Charles the Good. When he kept court in Holyrood; And much he wishd, yet fear'd to try The long-forgotten melody. Amid the strings his fingers stray'd, And an uncertain warbling made, And oft lie shook bis hoary head.
Hung their shields in Branksome-hall; (2)
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.
They lay down to rest
With corslet laced,
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel, And they drank the red wine through the helmet
! Anne, Dachess of Buccleuch and Moo mouth, representative of the anciont lords of Baccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, wbo was beheaded in 1685.
* Francis Scotl, Earl of Buccleuch, father to the duchess. "Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather to the duchess, and a celebrated warrior.
Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
All loose her negligent attire,
All loose her golden bair,
And wept in wild despair.
Had filial grief supplied;
Had lent their mingled tide:
With Car in arms had stood,
All purple with their blood;
Maay a valiant koight is here;
Pards long shall tell
How Lord Walter fell! (5) When startled burghers fled, afar, The furies of the Border war; When the streets of high Dunedin Saw laaces gleam, and falchions redden, And heard the slogan's deadly yellThen the Chief of Branksome fell.
Of Bethune's line of Picardie :(9)
In Padua, far beyond the sea. (10) Men said he changed his mortal frame
By feat of magic mystery;
St Andrew's cloister'd hall,
Upon the sunny wall! (1)
VIII. Cea piety the discord' heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity? Caa christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity? So! vainly to each holy shrine,
la mutual pilgrimage they drew; (6) Ionplored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs their own red falchions slew : While Cessford owns the rule of Car, (7)
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scoti, Tlue slaughter'd chiefs, the mortal jar, The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!
He taught that Ladye fair,
The viewless forms of air. (12)
LX. la sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent ; And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Tevior's maids and matrons lent: But o'er her warrior's bloody bier
The Ladye dropp'd por flower nor tear! Vengeance, deep brooding o'er the slain,
Had lock'd the source of softer woe; And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbide the rising tear to flow,
The ban-dogs bay and howl;
Loud whoops the startled owl. In the hall, both squire and knight
Swore that a storm was near, And look'd forth to view the night;
But the night was still and clear!
I-ry, or gathering word ol a Border clas.
Scaur, a precipitous bank of earth.
And, with jocund din, among them all,
Her son pursued his infant play.
The truncheon of a spear bestrode,
In mimic foray' rode. Even bearded knights, in arms growu old,
Share in his frolic gambols bore, Albeit their hearts, of rugged mould,
Were stubborn as the steel they wore. For the gray warriors prophesied,
How the brave boy, in future war, Should tame the unicorn's pride,
Exalt the crescent and the star.? (14)
n ite food that spoke, stad wie Wirit of the Fell.
R**** SPIRIT. bing brother !» NuevTAIN SPIRIT.
–« Brother, nayu take the moon-beams play,
al moss to Skelfhill-pen, Avitsey null, in every glen, Winter's their morrice pacing,
tu stal miastrelsy, Amesebel rings on brown heath tracing,
thep it deft and merrily, this and mark their nimble feet! t' and list their music sweet!»
The Ladye forgot her purpose high
One moment--and no more;
As she paused at the arched door :
RIVER SPIRIT. « Tears of an imprison d maiden
Mix with my polluted stream; Margaret of Branksome, sorrow-laden,
Mouros beneath the moon's pale beam. Tell me, thou, who view'st the stars, When shall cease these feudal jars? What shall be the maiden's fate? Who shall be the maiden's mate?»
A stark moss-trooping Scott was he,
MOUNTAIN SPIRIT. « Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll In utter darkness round the pole; The Northern Bear lowers black and grim; Orion's studded belt is dim: Twinkling faint, and distant far, Shimmers through mist each planet star; Ill may I read their high decree!
But no kind influence deign they shower On Teviot's tide, and Branksome's tower, Till pride be quell'd, and love be free.»
XVIII. The unearthly voices ceased,
And the beavy sound was still :It died on the river's breast,
It died on the side of the hill. But round Lord David's tower
The sound still floated near; For it rung in the Ladye's bower,
And it rung in the Ladye's ear. She raised her stately head,
And her heart throbb'd high with pride: -
Where many a bold retainer lay,
« Sir William of Deloraine, good at need,
Say, that the fated hour is come,
To win the treasure of the tomb: For this will be St Michael's night, And, though stars be dim, the moon is bright; And the cross, of bloody red, Will point to the grave of the Mighty Dead.
XXIV. * ) swiftly can speed my dapple-gray steed,
Which drinks of the Teviot clear!
Again will I be here : te: safer by none may thy errand be done,
Than, poble dame, by me; .
Down from the lakes did raving come, Cresting each wave with tawny foam,
Like the mane of a chesaut steed. In vain! no torrent, deep or broad, Might bar the bold moss-trooper's road.
Sota in bis saddle sale he fast,
XXIX. At the first plunge the horse sunk low, And the water broke o'er the saddle-bow; Above the foaming tide, I ween, Scarce half the charger's neck was seen ; For he was barded from counter to tail, And the rider was arm'd complete in mail : Never heavier man and horse Stemm'd a midnight torrent's force. The warrior's very plume, I say, Was daggled by the dashing spray; Yet, through good heart and Our Ladye's grace, At length he gaind the landing-place.
XXVI. The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark ;Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark.» For Branksome, ho!» the knight rejoin'd, tsd left the friendly tower bebind. Le turu'd him now from Teviot side
And guided by the tinkling rill, Urthward the dark ascent did ride,
And gaia d the moor at Horsliehill; Inad on the left before him lay, fer many a mile, the Roman way.4
XXX. Now Bowden Moor the march-man won,
And sternly shook his plumed head, As glanced his eye o'er Halidon ;3 (21)
For on his soul the slaughter red Of that uphallowd morn arose, When first the Scott and Car were foes; When royal James beheld the fray, Prize to the victor of the day; When Home and Douglas, in the van, Bore down Buccleuch's retiring clan, Till gallant Cessford's heart-blood dear Reek'd on dark Elliot's Border spear.
XXVII. I moment now he slack'd his speed, i moment breathed his panting steed, Prea saddle-girth and corslet band, And loosen'd in the sheath his brand. Ou Minto-crags the moon-beams glint, (19) Where Barnbill hew'd his bed of flint; Who fang his outlaw'd limbs to rest
bere falcons hang their giddy nest, Mid cliffs from whence his eagle eye For many a league his prey could spy; Ciffs, doubling, on their echoes borne, The terrors of the robber's horn; Cliffs which, for many a later year, The warbling Doric reed shall bear, When some sad swain shall teach the grove, Ambition is no cure for love!
XXXI. In bitter mood he spurred fast, And soon the hated heath was past; And far beneath, in lustre wan, Old Melros' rose, and fair Tweed ran: (22) Like some tall rock, with lichens gray, Rose, dimly huge, the dark abbaye. When Hawick he pass'd, had curfew rang, Now midnight lauds 3 were in Melrose sung. The sound, upon the fitful gale, In solemn wise did rise and fail, Like that wild harp, whose magic tone Is wakend by the winds alone. But when Melrose he reach'd, 't was silence all; He meetly stabled his steed in stall, And sought the convent's lonely wall.
XXVIII. Cachallenged, thence pass'd Deloraine To ancient Riddel's fair domain, (20) Where Aill, from mountains freed,
Here paused the harp: and with its swell The master's fire and courage fell : Dejectedly, and low, he bow'd, And, gazing timid on the crowd, He seem'd to seek, in every eye, If they approved his minstrelsy; And, diffident of present praise, Somewhat he spoke of former days, And how old age, and wandering long, Had done his hand and harp some wrong.
aribe, the place of executing the Border marauders, at CarThe Beck-verse is the beginning of the 51st psalm, Miserere PE, anciently read by criminals claiming the benefit of clergy. Blous, the defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle.
Peel, a Border tower.
1 Barded, or barbed, -applied to a horse accoutred with defensive armour. ? Halidon-hill, on which the battle of Melrose was fought.
Lauds, the midnight service of the catholic church.
Aa Racient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburghshire.