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Savage of heart and large of limb;
Threatening both continent and isle,
Bute, Arran, Cunninghame, and Kyle.
Lord Gifford, deep beneath the ground,
Heard Alexander's bugle sound,
And tarried not his garb to change,
But, in his wizard habit strange,
Came forth, - a quaint and fearful sight;
His mantle lined with fox-skins white;
His high and wrinkled forehead bore
A pointed cap, such as of yore
that Pharaoh's Magi wore:
His shoes were marked with cross and spell,
Upon his breast a pentacle;
His zone, of virgin parchment thin,
Or, as some tell, of dead man's skin,
Bore many a planetary sign,
Combust and retrograde and trine;
And in his hand he held prepared
A naked sword without a guard.
“ Dire dealings with the fiendish race
Had marked strange lines upon his face;
Vigil and fast had worn him grim,
His eyesight dazzled seemed and dim,
As one unused to upper day;
Even his own menials with dismay
Beheld, Sir Knight, the grisly sire
In this unwonted wild attire;
Unwonted, for traditions run,
He seldom thus beheld the sun. —
'I know,' he said, - his voice was hoarse And broken seemed its hollow force,
I know the cause, although untold, Why the King seeks his vassal's hold: Vainly from me my liege would know His kingdom's future weal or woe; But yet, if strong his arm and heart, His courage may do more than art.
“Of middle air the demons proud, Who ride
the racking cloud,
Can read in fixed or wandering star
The issue of events afar;
But still their şullen aid withhold,
Save when by mightier force controlled.
Such late I summoned to my hall;
And though so potent was the call
That scarce the deepest nook of hell
I deemed a refuge from the spell,
Yet, obstinate in silence still,
The traughty demon mocks my skill.
But thou — who little know'st thy might,
As born upon that blessed night
When yawning graves, and dying groan,
Proclaimed hell's empire overthrown, -
With untaught valor shalt compel
Response denied to magic spell.'
Gramercy,' quoth our monarch free,
• Place him but front to front with me,
And, by this good and honored brand,
The gift of Caur-de-Lion's hand,
Soothly I swear that, tide what tide,
The demon shall a buffet bide.'
His bearing bold the wizard viewed,
And thus, well pleased, his speech renewed :-
• There spoke the blood of Malcolm! mark:
Forth pacing hence at midnight dark
The rampart seek, whose circling crown
Crests the ascent of yonder down :
A southern entrance shalt thou find;
There halt, and there thy bugle wind.
And trust thine elfin foe to see,
In guise of thy worst enemy:
Couch then thy lance and spur thy steed
Upon him, and Saint George to speed !
If he go down, thou soon shalt know
Whate'er these airy sprites can show ;
If thy heart fail thee in the strife,
I am no warrant for thy life.'
“Soon as the midnight bell did ring,
Alone and armed, forth rode the King
To that old camp's deserted round.
Sir Knight, you well might mark the mound,
Left hand the town,
the Pictish race,
The trench, long since, in blood did trace;
The moor around is brown and bare,
The space within is green and fair.
The spot our village children know,
For there the earliest wild flowers grow ;
But woe betide the wandering wight,
That treads its circle in the night!
The breadth across, a bowshot clear,
Gives ample space for full career:
Opposed to the four points of heaven,
By four deep gaps are entrance given.
The southernmost our monarch past,
Halted, and blew a gallant blast;
And on the north, within the ring,
Appeared the form of England's King,
Who then, a thousand leagues afar,
In Palestine waged holy war:
Yet arms like England's did he wield,
Alike the leopards in the shield,
Alike his Syrian courser's frame,
The rider's length of limb the same:
Long afterwards did Scotland know,
Fell Edward was her deadliest foe.
“ The vision made our monarch start,
But soon he manned his noble heart,
And in the first career they ran,
The Elfin Knight fell, horse and man;
Yet did a splinter of his lance
Through Alexander's visor glance,
And razed the skin.
The King, light leaping to the ground,
With naked blade his phantom foe
Compelled the future war to show.
Of Largs he saw the glorious plain,
Where still gigantic bones remain,
Memorial of the Danish war;
Himself he saw, amid the field,
On high his brandished war-axe wield
And strike proud Haco from his car,
While all around the shadowy kings
Denmark's grim ravens cowered their wings.
'Tis said, that in that awful night
Remoter visions met his sight,
Foreshowing future conquest far,
When our sons' sons wage Northern war;
A royal city, tower and spire,
Reddened the midnight sky with fire,
And shouting crews her navy bore
Triumphant to the victor shore.
Such signs may learned clerks' explain,
They pass the wit of simple swain.
“The joyful King turned home again,
Headed his host and quelled the Dane;
But yearly, when returned the night
Of his strange combat with the sprite,
His wound must bleed and smart; Lord Gifford then would gibing say, • Bold as ye were, my liege, ye pay
The penance of your start.'
Long since, beneath Dunfermline's nave,
King Alexander fills his grave,
Our Lady give him rest!
Yet still the knightly spear and shield
The Elfin Warrior doth wield
Upon the brown hill's breast;