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Whether an impulse, that has birth
Soon as the infant wakes on earth,
One with our feelings and our powers,
And rather part of us than ours;
Or whether fitlier termed the sway
Of habit, formed in early day?
Howe'er derived, its force confessed
Rules with despotic sway the breast,
And drags us on by viewless chain,
While taste and reason plead in vain.
Look east, and ask the Belgian why,
Beneath Batavia's sultry sky,
He seeks not eager to inhale
The freshness of the mountain gale,
Content to rear his whitened wall
Beside the dank and dull canal ?
He'll say, from youth he loved to see
The white sail gliding by the tree.
Or see yon weather-beaten hind,
Whose sluggish herds before him wind,
Whose tattered plaid and rugged cheek
His northern clime and kindred speak;
Through England's laughing meads he goes,
And England's wealth around him flows;
Ask, if it would content him well,
At ease in these gay plains to dwell,
Where hedge-rows spread a verdant screen,
And spires and forests intervene,
And the neat cottage peeps between}
No, not for these will be exchange
His dark Lochaber's boundless range,
Nor for fair Devon's meads forsake
Bennevis grey and Garry's lake.
Thus, while I ape the measure wild Of tales that charmed me yet a child, Rude though they be, still with the chime Return the thoughts of early time; And feelings, roused in life's first day. Glow in the line, and prompt the lay. Then rise those crags, that mountain tower, Which charmed my fancy's wakening hour. Though no broad river swept along, To claim, perchance, heroic song; Though sighed no groves in summer gale, To prompt of love a softer tale; Though scarce a puny streamlet's speed Claimed homage from a shepherd's reed; Yet was poetic impulse given, By the green hill and clear blue heaven. It was a barren scene, and wild, Where naked cliffs were rudely piled ; But ever and anon between Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green; And well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wall-flower grew,
And honey-suckle loved to crawl
Up the low crag and ruined wall.
I deemed such nooks the sweetest shade
The sun in all his round surveyed ;
And still I thought that shattered tower
The mightiest work of human power ;
And marvelled, as the aged hind
With some strange tale bewitched my mind,
Of forayers, who, with headlong force,
Down from that strength had spurred their horse,
Their southern rapine to renew,
Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
And, home returning, filled the hall
With revel, wassel-rout, and brawl.-
Methought that still with trump and clang
The gate-way's broken arches rang;
Methought grim features, seamed with scars,
Glared through the window's rusty bars.
And ever, by the winter hearth,
Old tales I heard of woe or mirth,
Of lovers' sleights, of ladies' charms,
Of witches' spells, of warriors' arms;
Of patriot battles, won of old
By Wallace wight and Bruce the bold;
Of later fields of feud and fight,
When, pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clans, in headlong sway,
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretched at length upon the floor,
Again I fought each combat o'er,
Pebbles and shells, in order laid,
The mimic ranks of war displayed;
And onward still the Scottish Lion bore,
And still the scattered Southron fled before.
Still, with vain fondness, could I trace,
Anew, each kind familiar face,
That brightened at our evening fire;
From the thatched mansion's grey-haired Sire,
Wise without learning, plain and good,
And sprung of Scotland's gentler blood;
Whose eye in age, quick, clear, and keen,
Showed what in youth its glance had been;
Whose doom discording neighbours sought,
Content with equity unbought;
To him the venerable Priest,
Our frequent and familiar guest,
Whose life and manners well could paint
Alike the student and the saint;
Alas! whose speech too oft I broke
With gambol rude and timeless joke:
For I was wayward, bold, and wild,
A self-willed imp, a grandame's child;
But half a plague, and half a jest,
Was still endured, beloved, caressed.
From me, thus nurtured, dost thou ask The classic poet's well-conned task ? Nay, Erskine, nay-on the wild hill Let the wild heathbell flourish still; Cherish the tulip, prune the vine, But freely let the woodbine twine, And leave untrimmed the eglantine: Nay, my friend, nay-since oft thy praise Hath given fresh vigour to my lays. Since oft thy judgment could refine My flattened thought, or cumbrous line, Still kind, as is thy wont, attend, And in the minstrel spare the friend, Though wild as cloud, as stream, as gale, Flow forth, flow unrestrained, my tale !
The livelong day Lord Marmion rode:
The mountain path the Palmer showed ;
By glen and streamlet winded still,
Where stunted birches hid the rill.
They might not choose the lowland road,
For the Merse forayers were abroad,
Who, fired with hate and thirst of prey,
Had scarcely failed to bar their way.
Oft on the trampling band, from crown
Of some tall cliff, the deer looked down;
On wing of jet, from his repose
In the deep heath, the black-cock rose;
Sprung from the gorse the timid roe,
Nor waited for the bending bow;
And when the stony path began,
By which the naked peak they wan,
Up flew the snowy ptarmigan.
The noon had long been passed, before
They gained the height of Lammermoor ;
Thence winding down the northern way,
Before them, at the close of day,
Old Gifford's towers and hamlet lay.
No summons calls them to the tower,
To spend the hospitable hour.
To Scotland's camp the lord was gone;
His cautious dame, in bower alone,
Dreaded her castle to unclose,
So late, to unknown friends or foes.
On through the hamlet as they paced,
Before a porch, whose front was graced
With bush and flagon trimly placed,
Lord Marmion drew his rein :
The village inn seemed large, though rude ;
Its cheerful fire and hearty food
Might well relieve his train.
Down from their seats the horsemen sprung,
With jingling spurs the court-yard rung;
They bind their horses to the stall,
For forage, food, and firing call,
And various clamour fills the hall;
Weighing the labour with the cost,
Toils everywhere the bustling host.
Soon, by the chimney's merry blaze,
Through the rude hostel might you gaze;
Might see, where, in dark nook aloof,
The rafters of the sooty roof,
Bore wealth of winter cheer;
Of sea-fowl dried and solauds store,
And gammons of the tusky boar,
And savoury haunch of deer.
The chimney arch projected wide:
Above, around it, and beside,
Were tools for housewives' hand:
Nor wanted, in that martial day,
The implements of Scottish fray,
The buckler, lance, and brand.
Beneath its shade, the place of state,
On oaken settle Marmion sate,
And viewed, around the blazing hearth,
His followers mix in noisy mirth;
Whom with brown ale, in jolly tide,
From ancient vessels ranged aside,
Full actively their host supplied.
Theirs was the glee of martial breast,
And laughter theirs at little jest;
And oft Lord Marmion deigned to aid,
And mingle in the mirth they made :
For though, with men of high degree.
The proudest of the proud was he,
Yet, trained in camps, he knew the art
To win the soldier's hardy heart,
They love a captain to obey,
Boisterous as March, yet fresh as May;
With open hand, and brow as free,
Lover of wine, and minstrelsy:
Ever the first to scale a tower,
As venturous in a lady's bower:
Such buxom chief shall lead his host
From India's fires to Zembla's frost.
Resting upon his pilgrim staff,
Right opposite the Palmer stood;
Kis thin dark visage seen but half,
Half hidden by his hood.
Still fixed on Marmion was his look,
Which he, who ill such gaze could brook,
Strove by a frown to quell;
But not for that, though more than once
Full met their stern encountering glance,
The Palmer's visage fell.
By fits less frequent from the crowd
Was heard the burst of laughter loud ;
For still, as squire and archer stared
On that dark face and matted beard,
Their glee and game declined.
All gazed at length in silence drear,
Unbroke, save when in comrade's ear
Some yeoman, wondering in his fear,
Thus whispered forth his mind :-
“Saint Mary ! saw'st thou e'er such sight?
How pale his cheek, his eye how bright,
Whene'er the fire-brand's fickle light
Glances beneath his cowl !
Full on our lord he sets his eye;
For his best palfrey would not I
Endure that sullen scowl.”
VIL. But Marmion, as to chase the awe Which thus had quelled their hearts, who saw The ever-varying fire-light show That figure stern, and face of woe,
Now called upon a squire :“Fitz-Eustace, know'st thou not some lay, To speed the lingering night away?
We slumber by the fire.”—
VIII. “So please you,” thus the youth rejoined, “Our choicest ininstrel's left behind. Ill may we hope to please your ear, Accustomed Constant's strains to hear. The harp full deftly can he strike, And wake the lover's lute alike; To dear Saint Valentine, no thrush Bings livelier from a spring-tide bush ; No nightingale her love-lorn tune More sweetly warbles to the noon. Woe to the cause, whate'er it be, Detains from us his melody,