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I would, Sir Knight, your longer stay Gave you that cavern to survey. Of lofty roof, and ample size, Beneath the castle deep it lies : To hew the living rock profound, The floor to pave, the arch to round, There never toiled a mortal arm, It all was wrought by word and charm; And I have heard my grandsire say, That the wild clamour and affray Of those dread artizans of hell, Who laboured under Hugo's spell, Sounded as loud as ocean's war, Among the caverns of Dunbar.
“ The king Lord Gifford's castle sought,
Deep-labouring with uncertain thought :
Even then he mustered all his host,
To meet upon the western coast;
For Norse and Danish galleys plied
Their oars within the firth of Clyde.
There floated Haco's banner trim,
Above Norweyan warriors grim,
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 Clerks say 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 griesly 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.
Who ride upon the racking cloud,
Can read, in fixed or wandering star,
The issue of events afar ;
But still their sullen aid withhold
Save when by mightier force controuled.
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 haughty demon mocks my skill.
But thou,—who little knowest thy might,
As born upon that blessed night,
When yawning graves, and dying groan,
Proclaimed hell's empire overthrown,-
With untaught valour 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 honoured brand,
The gift of Coeur-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 :