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They lay down to rest,
With corslet laced,
Pillowed on buckler cold and hard ;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel, And they drank the red wine through the helmet barred.
Ten squires, ten yeomen; mail-clad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten:
Thirty steeds, both fleet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood-axe at saddle bow;
A hundred more fed free in stall :-
Such was the custom of Branksome Hall.
Why do these steeds stand ready dight?
Why watch these warriors, armed, by night?
They watch, to hear the blood-hound baying;
They watch, to hear the war-horn braying:
To see St. George's red cross streaming,
To see the midnight beacon gleaming ;
They watch, against Southern force and gnile,
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy's powers,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle.
Such is the custom of Branksome Hall.- .
Many a valiant knight is here ;
But he, the chieftain of them all.
His sword bangs rusting on the wall,
Beside his broken spear.
Bards long shall tell
How Lord Walter fell!
When startled burghers filed, afar,
The furies of the Border war ;
When the streets of high Dunedin
Saw lances gleam, and falchions redden,
And heard the slogan's* deadly yell-
Then the Chief of Branksome fell.
Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity ? Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity ? No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage, they drew; Implored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs, their own red falchions slew :
• The war-cry, or gathering word, of a Border clan
While Cessford owns the rule of Car,
· While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
The slaughtered chiefs, the mortal jar,
The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot ?
In sorrow, o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent; And many a flower, and many a tear, But o'er her warrior's bloody bier The Ladye dropped nor flower nor tear!
Vengeance, deep-brooding o'er the slain,
Had locked the source of softer woe; And burning pride, and high disdain,
Porbade the rising tear to flow; Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisped from the nurse's knee “ And if I live to be a man, My father's death revenged shall be !" Then fast the mother's tears did seek To dew the infant's kindling cheek.
All loose her negligent attire, __All loose her golden hair, Hung Margaret o'er her slaughtered sire,
And wept in wild despair.
But not alone the bitter tear
Had filial grief supplied;
For hopeless love, and anxious fear,
Had lent their mingled tide:
Nor in her mother's altered eye
Dared she to look for sympathy.
Her lover, 'gainst her father's clan,
With Car in arms had stood,
When Mathouse burn to Melrose ran,
All purple with their blood;
And well she knew, her mother dread,
Before Lord Cranstoun she should wed,
Would see her on her dying bed.
Of noble race the Ladye came;
Her father was a clerk of fame,
Of Bethune's line of Picardie :
He learned the art, that none may name,
In Padua, far beyond the sea.
Men said he changed his mortal frame
By feat of magic mystery;
For when, in studious mood, he paced
St. Andrew's cloistered ball,
His form no darkening shadow traced
the sunny wall !
And of his skill, as bards avow,
He taught that Ladye fair,
Till to her bidding she could bow
The viewless forms of air.
And now she sits in secret bower,
In old Lord David's western tower,
And listens to a heavy sound,
That moans the mossy turrets round.
Is it the roar of Teviot's tide,
That chafes against the scaur's * red side?
Is it the wind, that swings the oaks ?
Is it the echo from the rocks ?
What may it be, the heavy sound,
That moans old Branksome's turrets round ?
At the sullen, moaning sound,
The ban-dogs bay and howl ;
And, from the turrets round,
Loud whoops the startled owl.
In the hall, both squire and knight
Swore that a storm was near,
And looked forth to view the night ;
But the night was still and clear la
From the sound of Teviot's tide,
Chafing with the mountain's side,
From the groan of the wind-swung oak,
From the sullen echo of the rock,
From the voice of the coming storm,
The Ladye knew it well!
It was the Spirit of the Flood that spoke,
And he called on the Spirit of the Fell.
River Spirit. “ Sleep'st thou, brother ?”
On my hills the moon-beams play.
From Craik-cross to Skelfhill-pen,
By every rill, in every glen,
Merry elves their morrice pacing,
To aërial minstrelsy,
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,
Trip it deft and merrily.
Up, and mark their nimble feet!
Up, and list their music sweet!”
Scaur, a precipitous bank of earth.
River Spirit. “ Tears of an imprisoned maiden
Mix with my polluted stream;
Margaret of Branksome, sorrow-laden,
Mourns beneath the moon's pale beam.
Tell me, thou, who viewest the stars,
When shall cease these feudal jars ?
What shall be the maiden's fate ?
Who shall be the maiden's mate?”
“ 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 quelled, and love be free.“
XVII. The unearthly voices ceast,
And the heavy 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 throbbed high with pride :-
“ Your mountains shall bend,
And your streams ascend.
Ere Margaret be our foeman's bride ! ”
The Ladye sought the lofty hall,
Where many a bold retainer lay, .
And, with jocund din, among them all,
Her son pursued his infant play. A fancied moss-trooper, the boy
The truncheon of a spear bestrode, And round the ball, right merrily,
In mimic foray* rode. Even bearded knights, in arms grown old,
Share in his frolic gambols bore,
• Foray, a predatory inroad..
Albeit their hearts, of rugged mould,
Were stubborn as the steel they wore.
For the grey warriors prophesied,
How the brave boy, in future war,
Should tame the Unicorn's pride,
Exalt the Crescent and the Star.*
The Ladye forgot her purpose high,
One moment, and no more;
One moment gazed with a mother's eye,
As she paused at the archèd door:
Then from amid the armèd train,
She called to her, William of Deloraine.
A stark moss-trooping Scott was he,
As e'er couched Border lance by knee:
Through Solway sands, through Tarras m:383
Blindfold, he knew the paths to cross ;
By wily turns, by desperate bounds,
Had baffled Percy's best blood-hounds;
In Eske, or Liddel, fords were none,
But he would ride them, one by one;
Alike to him was time or tide,
December's snow, or July's pride ;
Alike to him was tide, or time,
Moonless midnight, or matin prime:
Steady of heart and stout of hand,
· As ever drove prey from Cumberland ;
Five times outlawed had he been,
By England's king, and Scotland's queen.
“Sir William of Deloraine, good at need,
Mount thee on the wightest steed;
Spare not to spur, nor stint to ride,
Until thou come to fair Tweedside ;
And in Melrose's holy pile
Seek thou the Monk of St Mary's aisle.
Greet the Father well from me;
Say that the fated hour is come,
And to-night he shall watch with thee,
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.
“What he gives thee, see thou keep;
Stay not thou for food or sleep: * Alluding to the armorial bearings of the Scotts and Carrs.