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Should, stirred by idle tale,
Ride forth in silence of the night,
As hoping half to meet a sprite,
Arrayed in plate and mail.
For little did Fitz-Eustace know,
That passions, in contending flow,
Unfix the strongest mind;
Wearied from doubt to doubt to flee,
We welcome fond credulity,
Guide confident, though blind.
LITTLE for this Fitz-Eustace cared,
But, patient, waited till he heard,
At distance, pricked to utmost speed,
The foot-tramp of a flying steed,
Come town-ward rushing on:
First, dead, as if on earth it trode,
Then, clattering on the village road,--
In other pace than forth he yode,
Returned Lord Marmion.
Down hastily he sprung from selle,
And, in his haste, wellnigh he fell ;
To the squire's hand the rein he threw,
And spoke no word as he withdrew :
But yet the moonlight did betray,
The falcon crest was soiled with clay;
And plainly might Fitz-Eustace see
By stains upon the charger's knee,
And his left side, that on the moor
He had not kept his footing sure.
Long musing on these wondrous signs,
At length to rest the squire reclines,
Broken and short; for still, between,
Would dreams of terror intervene :
Eustace did ne'er so blithely mark
The first notes of the morning lark.
EUSTACE, I said, did blithely mark
The first notes of the merry lark.
The lark sung shrill, the cock he crew,
And loudly Marmion's bugles blew,
And, with their light and lively call,
Brought groom and yeoman to the stall.
Whistling they came, and free of heart;
But soon their mood was changed:
Complaint was heard on every part,
Of something disarranged. Some clamoured loud for armour lost; Some brawled and wrangled with the host; “By Becket’s bones,” cried one, “I fear, That some false Scot has stoln my spear ! ”— Young Blount, Lord Marmion's second squire, Found his steed wet with sweat and mire; Although the rated horse-boy sware, Last night he dressed him sleek and fair. While chafed the impatient squire like thunder, Old Hubert shouts, in fear and wonder, “Help, gentle Blount! help, comrades all ! Bevis lies dying in his stall : To Marmion who the plight dare tell, Of the good steed he loves so well ? " Gaping for fear and ruth, they saw The charger panting on his straw;
Till one, who would seem wisest, cried,
“What else but evil could betide,
With that curst Palmer for our guide ?
Better we had through mire and bush
Been lantern-led by Friar Rush."
FITZ-EUSTACE, who the cause but guessed,
Nor wholly understood,
His comrades' clamorous plaints suppressed;
He knew Lord Marmion's mood.
Him, ere he issued forth, he sought,
And found deep plunged in gloomy thought,
And did his tale display
Simply, as if he knew of nought
To cause such disarray.
Lord Marmion gave attention cold,
Nor marvelled at the wonders told, -
Passed them as accidents of course,
And bade his clarions sound, “To horse!”
Young Henry Blount, meanwhile, the cost
Had reckoned with their Scottish host;
And, as the charge he cast and paid,
“ Ill thou deserv'st thy hire,” he said;
“ Dost see, thou knave, my horse's plight?
Fairies have ridden him all the night,
And left him in a foam !
I trust that soon a conjuring band,
With English cross and blazing brand,
Shall drive the devils from this land,
To their infernal home :
For in this haunted den, I trow,
All night they trampled to and fro.”
The laughing host looked on the hire,
“Gramercy, gentle southern squire,
And if thou com'st among the rest,
With Scottish broadsword to be blest,
Sharp be the brand, and sure the blow,
And short the pang to undergo.”-
Here stayed their talk,- for Marmion
Gave now the signal to set on.
The Palmer shewing forth the way,
They journeyed all the morning day.
THE greensward way was smooth and good, iv
Through Humbie's and through Saltoun’s wood;
A forest glade, which, varying still,
Here gave a view of dale and hill;
There narrower closed, till overhead
A vaulted screen the branches made.
“A pleasant path,” Fitz-Eustace said ;
“Such as where errant-knights might see
Adventures of high chivalry;
Might meet some damsel flying fast,
With hair unbound, and looks aghast ;
And smooth and level course were here,
In her defence to break a spear.
Here, too, are twilight nooks and dells;
And oft, in such, the story tells,
The damsel kind, from danger freed,
Did grateful pay her champion's meed.”—
He spoke to cheer Lord Marmion's mind;
Perchance to shew his lore designed ;
For Eustace much had pored
Upon a huge romantic tome,
In the hall-window of his home,
Imprinted at the antique dome
Of Caxton or De Worde.
Therefore he spoke,— but spoke in vain,
For Marmion answered nought again.
Now sudden, distant trumpets shrill,
In notes prolonged by wood and hill,
Were heard to echo far;
Each ready archer grasped his bow,
But by the flourish soon they know,
They breathed no point of war.
Yet cautious, as in foeman's land,
Lord Marmion's order speeds the band,
Some opener ground to gain ;
And scarce a furlong had they rode,
When thinner trees, receding, shewed
A little woodland plain.
Just in that advantageous glade,
The halting troop a line had made,
As forth from the opposing shade
Issued a gallant train.
First came the trumpets, at whose clang
So late the forest echoes rang;
On prancing steeds they forward pressed,
With scarlet mantle, azure vest;
Each at his trump a banner wore,
Which Scotland's royal scutcheon bore:
Heralds and pursuivants, by name
Bute, Islay, Marchmount, Rothesay, came,
In painted tabards, proudly showing
Gules, Argent, Or, and Azure glowing,
Attendant on a King-at-arms,
Whose hand the armorial truncheon held,
That feudal strife had often quelled.
When wildest its alarms.
He was a man of middle age;
In aspect manly, grave, and sage,
As on king's errand come;
But in the glances of his eye,
A penetrating, keen, and sly
Expression found its home;
The flash of that satiric rage,
Which, bursting on the early stage,
Branded the vices of the age,
And broke the keys of Rome.