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Be it scroll, or be it book,
Into it, knight, thou must not look ;
If thou readest thou art lorn!
Better had’st thou ne'er been born."
“O swiftly can speed my dapple-grey steed,
Which drinks of the Teviot clear ;
Ere break of day,” the warrior 'gan say,
“ Again will I be here:
And safer by none may thy errand be done,
Than, noble dame, by me;
Letter nor line know I never a one,
Were't my neck-verse at Hairibee."'*
Soon in his saddle sate he fast,
And soon the steep descent he past,
Boon crossed the sounding barbican,
And soon the Teviot side he won.
Eastward the wooded path he rode,
Green hazels o'er his basnet nod ;
He passed the Peelt of Goldiland,
And crossed old Borthwick's roaring strand;
Dimly he viewed the Moat-bill's mound,
Where Druid shades still fitted round:
In Hawick twinkled many a light;
Behind him soon they set in night;
And soon he spurred his courser keen
Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.
The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark ;-
“Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark.”
“For Branksome, ho !" the knight rejoined,
And left the friendly tower behind.
He turned him now from Teviotside,
And, guided by the tinkling rill,
Northward the dark ascent did ride,
And gained the moor at Horsliehill ;
Broad on the left before him lay,
For many a mile, the Roman way.
A moment now he slacked his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed;
Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
And loosened in the sheath his brand,
* Hairibee, the place of executing the border marauders at Carlisle. The neck-verse is the beginning of the 51st Psalm, Miserere mei, &c., anciently read by criminals claiming the benefit of clergy.
+ Barbican, the defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle. I Peel, a Border tower. 3 An ancient Roman road, crossing turough part of Roxburghshire.
On Minto-crags the moon-beams glint,
Where Barnhill hewed his bed of flint;
Who flung his outlawed limbs to rest,
Where falcons hang their giddy nest,
Mid cliffs, from whence his eagle eye
For many a league his prey could spy;
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber's horn ;
Cliits, which, for many a later year,
The warbling Doric reed shall hear,
When some sad swain shall teach the grove,
Ambition is no cure for love!
Unchallenged, hence past Deloraine
To ancient Riddel's fair domain,
Where Aill, from mountains freed,
Down from the lakes did raving come;
Each wave was crested with tawny foam,
Like the mane of a chestnut steed.
In vain ! no torrent, deep or broad,
Might bar the bold moss-trooper's road.
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 armed complete in mail;
Never heavier man and horse
Stemmed 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 gained the landing-place.
Now Bowden Moor the march-man won,
And sternly shook his plumèd head,
As glanced his eye o'er Halidon ; t.
For on his soul the slaughter red
Of that unhallowed 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
Reeked on dark Elliot's Border spear.
* Barded, or barbed,-applied to a horse accoutred with defensive arinour.
+ Ualidon Hill, on which the battle of Melrose was fought.
XXXI. In bitter mood he spurrèd fast, And soon the hated heath was passed; And far beneath, in lustre wan, Old Melrose rose, and fair Tweed ran : Like some tall rock, with lichens grey, Seemed dimly huge, the dark Abbaye. When Hawick he passed, had curfew rung, Now midnight lauds* 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 wakened by the winds alone. But when Melrose he reached, 'twas silence all; He meetly stabled his steed in stall, And sought the convent's lonely wall.
HERE paused the harp ; and with its swell
The Master's fire and courage fell :
Dejectedly, and low, he bowed,
And, gazing timid on the crowd,
He seemed 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.
The Duchess, and her daughters fair,
And every gentle lady there,
Each after each, in due degree,
Gave praises to his melody;
His hand was true, his voice was clear,
And much they longed the rest to hear.
Encouraged thus, the Aged Man,
After meet rest, again began.
IF thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moon-light;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower ;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
* Lauds, the midnight service of the Catholic church.