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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 j
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
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-gray 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,
Wer't my neck-verse at Hairibee."*
* 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.
Soon in his saddle sate he fast,
And soon the steep descent he past,
Soon 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 Peel f of Goldiland,
And crossed old Borthwick's roaring strand;
Dimly he viewed the Moat-hill's mound,
Where Druid shades still flitted 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."
* Barbican, the defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle. t Peel, a Border tower.
"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 Horseliehill;
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.
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;
* An ancient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburghshire.
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber's horn;
Cliffs, 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, thence 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 chesnut 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;