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And there his word the speaker stayed,
And finger on his lip he laid,
Or pointed to his dagger blade.
But jaded horsemen, from the west,
At evening to the Castle pressed ;
And busy talkers said they bore
Tidings of fight on Katrine's shore ;
At noon the deadly fray began,
And lasted till the set of sun.
Thus giddy rumour shook the town,
Till closed the Night her pennons brown.

CANTO SIXTH.

THE GUARD-ROOM.

The sun, awakening, through the smoky air

Of the dark city casts a sullen glance, Rousing each caitiff to his task of care,

Of sinful man the sad inheritance; Summoning revellers from the lagging dance,

Scaring the prowling robber to his den ; Gilding on battled tower the warder's lance,

And warning student pale to leave his pen, And yield his drowsy eyes to the kind nurse of men. What various scenes, and, O! what scenes of woe,

Are witnessed by that red and struggling beam ! The fevered patient, from his pallet low,

Through crowded hospital beholds it stream ; The ruined maiden trembles at its gleam,

The debtor wakes to thought of gyve and jail, The love-lorn wretch starts from tormenting dream;

The wakeful mother, by the glimmering pale, Trims her sick infant's couch, and soothes his feeble

wail.

II.

At dawn the towers of Stirling rang
With soldier-step and weapon-clang,
While drums, with rolling note, foretell
Relief to weary sentinel.
Through narrow loop and casement barred,
The sunbeams sought the Court of Guard,
And struggling with the smoky air,
Deadened the torches' yellow glare.
In comfortless alliance shone
The lights through arch of blackened stone,
And showed wild shapes in garb of war,
Faces deformed with beard and scar,
All haggard from the midnight watch,
And fevered with the stern debauch ;

For the oak table's massive board,
Flooded with wine, with fragments stored,
And beakers drained, and cups o'erthrown,
Showed in what sport the night had flown.
Some, weary, snored on floor and bench ;
Some laboured still their thirst to quench;
Some, chilled with watching, spread their hands
O'er the huge chimney's dying brands,
While round them, or beside them flung,
At every step their harness rung.

III.
These drew not for their fields the sword,
Like tenants of a feudal lord,
Nor owned the patriarchal claim
Of Chieftain in their leader's name;
Adventurers they, from far who roved,
To live by battle which they loved.
There the Italian's clouded face,
The swarthy Spaniard's there you trace ;
The mountain-loving Switzer there
More freely breathed in mountain air ;
The Fleming there despised the soil,
That paid so ill the labourer's toil;
Their rolls showed French and German name;
And merry England's exiles came,
To share, with ill-concealed disdain,
Of Scotland's pay the scanty gain.
All brave in arms, well trained to wield.
The heavy halbert, brand, and shield;
In camps licentious, wild, and bold;
In pillage, fierce and uncontrolled ;
And now, by holytide and feast,
From rules of discipline released.

IV. They held debate of bloody fray, Fought twixt Loch-Katrine and Achray. Fierce was their speech, and, mid their words, Their hands oft grappled to their swords ; Nor sunk their tone to spare the ear Of wounded comrades groaning near, Whose mangled limbs, and bodies gored, Bore token of the mountain sword, Though, neighbouring to the Court of Guard, Their prayers and feverish wails were heard ; Sad burden to the ruffian joke, And savage oath by fury spoke ! At length up started John of Brent, A yeoman from the banks of Trent; A stranger to respect or fear, In peace a chaser of the deer, In host a hardy mutineer, But still the boldest of the crew, When deed of danger was to do.

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