The Lay of the Last Minstrel; canto Third

The Lay of the Last Minstrel 
by Sir Walter Scott

Canto Third

I

And said I that my limbs were old,
And said I that my blood was cold,
And that my kindly fire was fled,
And my poor wither’d heart was dead,
And that I might not sing of love —
How could I to the dearest theme,
That ever warm’d a minstrel’s dream
So foul, so false a recreant prove!
How could I name love’s very name,
Nor wake my heart to notes of flame!

II
In peace, Love tunes the shepherd’s reed;
In war, he mounts the warrior’s steed;
In halls, in gay attire is seen;
In hamlets, dances on the green.
Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
And men below, and saints above;
For love is heaven, and heaven is love.

III
So thought Lord Cranstoun, as I ween,
While, pondering deep the tender scene,
He rode through Branksome’s hawthorn green.
But the Page shouted wild and shrill,
And scarce his helmet could he don,
When downward from the shady hill
A stately knight came pricking on.
That warrior’s steed, so dapple-gray,
Was dark with sveat, and splashed with clay;
His armor red with many a stain
He seem’d in such a weary plight,
As if he had ridden the live-long night;
For it was William of Deloraine.

IV
But no whit weary did he seem,
When, dancing in the sunny beam,
He mark’d the crane on the Baron’s crest;
For his ready spear was in his rest.
Few were the words, and stern and high,
That mark’d the foemen’s feudal hate;
For question fierce, and proud reply,
Gave signal soon of dire debate.
Their very coursers seem’d to know
That each was other’s mortal foe,
And snorted fire, when wheel’d around
To give each foe his vantage-ground.

V
In rapid round the Baron bent;
He sigh’d a sigh, and pray’d a prayer:
The prayer was to his patron saint,
The sigh was to his ladye fair.
Stout Deloraine nor sigh’d nor pray’d,
Nor saint, nor ladye, call’d to aid;
But he stoop’d his head, and couch’d his spear,
And spurred his steed to full career.
The meeting of these champions proud
Seem’d like the bursting thunder-cloud.

VI
Stern was the dint the Borderer lent!
The stately Baron backwards bent;
Bent backwards to his horse’s tail
And his plumes went scattering on the gale;
The tough ash spear, so stout and true,
Into a thousand flinders flew.
But Cranstoun’s lance, of more avail
Pierc’d through, like silk, the Borderer’s mail;
Through shield, and jack, and acton, past,
Deep in his bosom broke at last.–
Still sate the warrior saddle-fast
Till, stumbling in the mortal shock,
Down went the steed, the girthing broke,
Hurl’d on a heap lay man and horse.
The Baron onward pass’d his course;
Nor knew–so giddy rolled his brain–
His foe lay stretch’d upon the plain.

VII
But when he rein’d his courser round,
And saw his foeman on the ground
Lie senseless as the bloody clay,
He badehis page to stanch the wound,
And there beside the warrior stay,
And tend him in his doubtful state,
And lead him to Brauksome castle gate:
His noble mind was inly moved
For the kinsman of the maid he loved.
“This shalt thou do without delay:
No longer here myself may stay;
Unless the swifter I speed away
Short shrift will be at my dying day.”

VIII
Away in speed Lord Cranstoun rode;
The Goblin-Page behind abode;
His lord’s command he ne’er withstood,
Though small his pleasure to do good.
As the corslet off he took,
The Dwarf espied the Mighty Book!
Much he marvell’d a knight of pride,
Like a book-bosom’d priest should ride:
He thought not to search or stanch the wound
Until the secret he had found.

IX
The iron band, the iron clasp,
Resisted long the elfin grasp:
For when the first he had undone
It closed as he the next begun.
Those iron chlsps, that iron band,
Would not yield to unchristen’d hand
Till he smear’d the cover o’er
With the Borderer’s curdled gore;
A moment then the volume spread,
And one short spell therein he read:
It had much of glamour might;
Could make a ladye seem a knight;
The cobwebs on a dungeon wall
Seem tapestry in lordly hall;
A nut-shell seem a gilded barge,
A sheeling seem a palace large,
And youth seem age, and age seem youth:
All was delusion, nought was truth.<20>

X
He had not read another spell,
When on his cheek a buffet fell,
So fierce, it stretch’d him on the plain
Beside the wounded Deloraine.
From the ground he rose dismay’d,
And shook his huge and matted head;
One word he mutter’d, and no more,
“Man of age, thou smitest sore!”
No more the Elfin Page durst try
Into the wondrous Book to pry;
The clasps, though smear’d with Christian gore,
Shut faster than they were before.
He hid it underneath his cloak.
Now, if you ask who gave the stroke,
I cannot tell, so mot I thrive;
It was not given by man alive.

XI
Unwillingly himself he address’d,
To do his master’s high behest:
He lifted up the living corse,
And laid it on the weary horse;
He led him into Branksome hall,
Before the beards of the warders all;
And each did after swear and say
There only pass’d a wain of hay.
He took him to Lord David’s tower,
Even to the Ladye’s secret bower;
And, but that stronger spells were spread,
And the door might not be opened,
He had laid him on her very bed.
Whate’er he did of gramarye
Was always done maliciously;
He flung the warrior on the ground,
And the blood well’d freshly from the wound.

XII
As he repass’d the outer court,
He spied the fair young child at sport:
He thought to train him to the wood;
For, at a word be it understood,
He was always for ill, and never for good.
Seem’d to the boy, some comrade gay
Led him forth to the woods to play;
On the drawbridge the warders stout
Saw a terrier and lurcher passing out.

XIII
He led the boy o’er bank and fell,
Until they came to a woodland brook
The running stream dissolv’d the spell,<21>
And his own elvish shape he took.
Could he have had his pleasure vilde
He had crippled the joints of the noble child;
Or, with his fingers long and lean,
Had strangled him in fiendish spleen:
But his awful mother he had in dread,
And also his power was limited;
So he but scowl’d on the startled child,
And darted through the forest wild;
The woodland brook he bounding cross’d,
And laugh’d, and shouted, “Lost! lost! lost!”–

XIV
Full sore amaz’d at the wondrous change,
And frighten’d, as a child might be,
At the wild yell and visage strange,
And the dark words of gramarye,
The child, amidst the forest bower,
Stood rooted like a lily flower;
And when at length, with trembling pace,
He sought to find where Branksome lay,
He fear’d to see that grisly face
Glare from some thicket on his way.
Thus, starting oft, he journey’d on,
And deeper in the wood is gone,–
For aye the more he sought his way,
The farther still he went astray,–
Until he heard the mountains round
Ring to the baying of a hound.

XV
And hark! and hark! the deep-mouth’d bark
Comes nigher still, and nigher:
Bursts on the path a dark blood-hound;
His tawny muzzle track’d the ground,
And his red eye shot fire.
Soon as the wilder’d child saw he,
He flew at him right furiouslie.
I ween you would have seen with joy
The bearing of the gallant boy,
When, worthy of his noble sire,
His wet cheek glow’d ‘twixt fear and ire!
He faced the blood-hound manfully,
And held his little bat on high;
So fierce he struck, the dog, afraid,
At cautious distance hoarsely bay’d
But still in act to spring;
When dash’d an archer through the glade,
And when he saw the hound was stay’d,
He drew his tough bow-string;
But a rough voice cried, “Shoot not, hoy!
Ho! shoot not, Edward; ’tis a boy!”

XVI
The speaker issued from the wood,
And check’d his fellow’s surly mood,
And quell’d the ban-dog’s ire:
He was an English yeoman good,
And born in Lancashire.
Well could he hit a fallow-deer
Five hundred feet him fro;
With hand more true, and eye more clear,
No archer bended bow.
His coal-black hair, shorn round and close,
Set off his sun-burn’d face:
Old England’s sign, St. George’s cross,
His barret-cap did grace;
His bugle-horn hung by his side,
All in a wolf-skin baldric tied;
And his short falchion, sharp and clear,
Had pierc’d the throat of many a deer.

XVII
His kirtle, made of forest green,
Reach’d scantly to his knee;
And, at his belt, of arrows keen
A furbish’d sheaf bore he;
His buckler, scarce in breadth a span,
No larger fence had he;
He never counted him a man,
Would strike below the knee:<22>
His slacken’d bow was in his hand,
And the leash that was his blood-hound’s band.

XVIII
He would not do the fair child harm,
But held him with his powerful arm,
That he might neither fight nor flee;
For when the Red-Cross spied he,
The boy strove long and violently.
“Now, by St. George,” the archer cries,
“Edward, methinks we have a prize!
This boy’s fair face, and courage free,
Show he is come of high degree.”

XIX
“Yes! I am come of high degree,
For I am the heir of bold Buccleuch
And, if thou dost not set me free,
False Southron, thou shalt dearly rue!
For Walter of Harden shall come with speed,
And William of Deloraine, good at need,
And every Scott, from Esk to Tweed;
And, if thou dost not let me go,
Despite thy arrows and thy bow
I’ll have thee hang’d to feed the crow!”

XX
“Gramercy for thy good-will, fair boy!
My mind was never set so high;
But if thou art chief of such a clan,
And art the son of such a man
And ever comest to thy command
Our wardens had need to keep good order;
My bow of yew to a hazel wand
Thou’lt make them work upon the Border.
Meantime, be pleased to come with me
For good Lord Dacre shalt thou see;
I think our work is well begun,
When we have taken thy father’s son.”

XXI
Although the child was led away
In Branksome still he seem’d to stay,
For so the Dwarf his part did play;
And, in the shape of that young boy,
He wrought the castle much annoy.
The comrades of the young Buccleuch
He pinch’d, and beat, and overthrew;
Nay, some of them he wellnigh slew.
He tore Dame Maudlin’s silken tire
And, as Sym Hall stood by the fire
He lighted the match of his bandelier,
And wofully scorch’d the hackbuteer.
It may be hardly thought or said,
The mischief that the urchin made,
Till many of the castle guess’d,
That the young Baron was possess’d!

XXII
Well I ween the charm he held
The noble Ladye had soon dispell’d;
But she was deeply busied then
To tend the wounded Deloraine.
Much she wonder’d to find him lie
On the stone threshold stretch’d along;
She thought some spirit of the sky
Had done the bold moss-trooper wrong;
Because, despite her precept dread
Perchance he in the Book had read;
But the broken lance in his bosom stood,
And it was earthly steel and wood.

XXIII
She drew the splinter from the wound,
And with a charm she stanch’d the blood;
She bade the gash be cleans’d and bound:
No longer by his couch she stood;
But she has ta’en the broken lance,
And wash’d it from the clotted gore
And salved the splinter o’er and o’er.
William of Deloraine, in trance
Whene’er she turn’d it round and round,
Twisted as if she gall’d his wound.
Then to her maidens she did say
That he should be whole man and sound
Within the course of a night and day.
Full long she toil’d; for she did rue
Mishap to friend so stout and true.

XXIV
So pass’d the day; the evening fell,
‘Twas near the time of curfew bell;
The air was mild, the wind was calm,
The stream was smooth, the dew was balm;
E’en the rude watchman on the tower
Enjoy’d and bless’d the lovely hour.
Far more fair Margaret lov’d and bless’d
The hour of silence and of rest.
On the high turret sitting lone,
She waked at times the lute’s soft tone;
Touch’d a wild note, and all between
Thought of the bower of hawthorns green.
Her golden hair stream’d free from band,
Her fair cheek rested on her hand
Her blue eyes sought the west afar
For lovers love the western star.

XXV
Is yon the star, o’er Penchryst Pen,
That rises slowly to her ken,
And, spreading broad its wavering light,
Shakes its loose tresses on the night?
Is yon red glare the western star?
O, ’tis the beacon-blaze of war!
Scarce could she draw her tighten’d breath,
For well she knew the fire of death!

XXVI
The Warder view’d it blazing strong,
And blew his war-note loud and long,
Till, at the high and haughty sound,
Rock, wood, and river rung around.
The blast alarm’d the festal hall,
And startled forth the warriors all;
Far downward, in the castle-yard,
Full many a torch and cresset glared;
And helms and plumes, confusedly toss’d,
Were in the blaze half-seen, half-lost;
And spears in wild disorder shook,
Like reeds beside a frozen brook.

XXVII
The Seneschal, whose silver hair
Was redden’d by the torches’ glare,
Stood in the midst with gesture proud,
And issued forth his mandates loud:
“On Penchryst glows a bale of fire,
And three are kindling on Priest-haughswire;
Ride out, ride out,
The foe to scout!
Mount, mount for Branksome, every man!
Thou, Todrig, warn the Johnstone clan
That ever are true and stout;
Ye need not send to Liddesdale,
For when they see the blazing bale,
Elliots and Armstrongs never fail.
Ride, Alton, ride, for death and life!
And warn the Warder of the strife.
Young Gilbert, let our beacon blaze,
Our kin, and clan, and friends to raise.”

XXVIII
Fair Margaret from the turret head
Heard, far below, the coursers’ tread,
While loud the harness rung
As to their seats, with clamor dread,
The ready horsemen sprung:
And trampling hoofs, and iron coat,
And leaders’ voices mingled notes,
And out! and out!
In hasty route,
The horsemen gallop’d forth;
Dispersing to the south to scout,
And east, and west, and north,
To view their coming enemies,
And warn their vassals and allies.

XXIX
The ready page, with hurried hand,
Awaked the need-fire’s slumbering brand,
And ruddy blush’d the heaven:
For a sheet of flame from the turret high
Wav’d like a blood-flag on the sky,
All flaring and uneven;
And soon a score of fires, I ween,
From height, and hill, and cliff, were seen;
Each with warlike tidings fraught,
Each from each the signal caught;
Each after each they glanc’d to sight
As stars arise upon the night.
They gleam d on many a dusky tarn,
Haunted by the lonely earn;
On many a cairn’s grey pyramid,
Where urns of mighty chiefs lie hid;<23>
Till high Dunedin the blazes saw
From Soltra and Dumpender Law,
And Lothian heard the Regent’s order
That all should bowne them for the Border.

XXX
The livelong night in Branksome rang
The ceaseles sound of steel;
The castle-bell, with backward clang
Sent forth the larum peal;
Was frequent heard the heavy jar,
Where massy stone and iron bar
Were piled on echoing keep and tower,
To whelm the foe with deadly shower
Was frequent heard the changing guard,
And watch-word from the sleepless ward;
While, wearied by the endless din,
Blood-hound and ban-dog yell’d within.

XXXI
The noble Dame, amid the broil
Shared the grey Seneschal’s high toil,
And spoke of danger with a smile;
Cheer’d the young knights, and council sage
Held with the chiefs of riper age.
No tidings of the foe were brought
Nor of his numbers knew they aught,
Nor what in time of truce he sought.
Some said that there were thousands ten;
And others ween’d that it was nought
But Leven clans, or Tynedale men,
Who came to gather in black-mail;
And Liddesdale, with small avail,
Might drive them lightly back agen.
So pass’d the anxious night away,
And welcome was the peep of day.


Ceas’d the high sound. The listening throng
Applaud the Master of the Song;
And marvel much, in helpless age,
So hard should be his pilgrimage.
Had he no friend, no daughter dear,
His wandering toil to share and cheer;
No son to be his father’s stay,
And guide him on the rugged way?
“Ay, once he had–but he was dead!”
Upon the harp he stoop’d his head,
And busied himself the strings withal
To hide the tear that fain would fall.
In solemn measure, soft and slow,
Arose a father’s notes of woe.

 

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The Lay of the Last Minstrel; canto Second

The Lay of the Last Minstrel
by Sir Walter Scott

Canto Second

I
If thou would’st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light’s uncertain shower
Streams on the ruin’d central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o’er the dead man’s grave,
Then go–but go alone the while–
Then view St. David’s ruin’d pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!

II
Short halt did Deloraine make there;
Little reck’d he of the scene so fair;
With dagger’s hilt, on the wicket strong,
He struck full loud, and struck full long.
The porter hurried to the gate–
“Who knocks so loud, and knocks so late?”
“From Branksome I,” the warrior cried;
And straight the wicket open’d wide:
For Branksome’s Chiefs had in battle stood,
To fence the rights of fair Melrose;
And lands and livings, many a rood,
Had gifted the shrine for their souls’ repose.

III
Bold Deloraine his errand said;
The porter bent his humble head;
With torch in hand, and feet unshod,
And noiseless step, the path he trod,
The arched cloister, far and wide,
Rang to the warrior’s clanking stride,
Till, stooping low his lofty crest,
He enter’d the cell of the ancient priest,
And lifted his barred aventayle,
To hail the Monk of St Mary’s aisle.

IV
“The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by me,
Says, that the fated hour is come,
And that to-night I shall watch with thee,
To win the treasure of the tomb.”
From sackcloth couch the Monk arose,
With toil his stiffen’d limbs he rear’d;
A hundred years had flung their snows
On his thin locks and floating beard.

V
And strangely on the Knight look’d he,
And his blue eyes gleam’d wild and wide;
“And, darest thou, Warrior! seek to see
What heaven and hell alike would hide?
My breast, in belt of iron pent,
With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn;
For threescore years, in penance spent,
My knees those flinty stones have worn:
Yet all too little to atone
For knowing what should ne’er be known.
Would’st thou thy very future year
In ceaseless prayer and penance drie,
Yet wait thy latter end with fear–
Then, daring Warrior, follow me!–

VI
“Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one;
For mass or prayer can I rarely tarry,
Save to patter an Ave Mary,
When I ride on a Border foray.
Other prayer can I none;
So speed me my errand, and let me be gone.”–

VII
Again on the Knight look’d the Churchman old,
And again he sighed heavily;
For he had himself been a warrior bold,
And fought in Spain and Italy.
And he thought on the days that were long since by,
When his limbs were strong, and his courage was high:–
Now, slow and faint, he led the way,
Where, cloister’d round, the garden lay;
The pillar’d arches were over their head,
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.

VIII
Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,
Glisten’d with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret, glisten’d there,
But was carved in the cloister-arches as fair.
The monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen in fair Castille,
The youth in glittering squadrons start;
Sudden the flying jennet wheel,
And hurl the unexpected dart.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.

IX
By a steel-clenched postern door,
They enter’d now the chancel tall;
The darken’d roof rose high aloof
On pillars lofty and light and small;
The key-stone, that lock’d each ribbed aisle,
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-geuille,
The corbells were carved grotesque and grim;
And the pillars, with cluster’d shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourish’d around,
Seem’d bundles of lances which garlands had bound.

X
Full many a scutcheon and banner riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screenëd altar’s pale;
And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn,
O gallant Chief of Otterburne!
And thine, dark Knight of Liddesdale!
O fading honours of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!

XI
The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
By foliaged tracery combined;
Thou wouldst have thought some fairy’s hand
‘Twixt poplars straight the ozier wand,
In many a freakish know, had twined;
Then framed a spell, when the work was done,
And changed the willow-wreaths to stone.
The silver light, so pale and faint,
Shew’d many a prophet, and many a saint,
Whose image on the glass was dyed;
Full in the midst, his Cross of Red
Triumphant Michael brandished,
And trampled the Apostate’s pride.
The moon-beam kiss’d the holy pane,
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.

XII
They sate them down on a marble stone,
(A Scottish monarch slept below;)
Thus spoke the Monk, in solemn tone:–
“I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim coutries have I trod,
And fought beneath the Cross of God:
Now, strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.

XIII
“In these far climes it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott,
A wizard, of such dreaded fame,
Than when, in Salmanca’s cave,
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame!
Some of his skill he taught to me;
And Warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone:
But to speak them were a deadly sin;
And for having but thought them my heart within,
A treble penance must be done.

XIV
“When Michael lay on his dying bed,
His conscience was awakened:
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed;
I was in Spain when the morning rose,
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid;
They would rend they Abbay’s massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.

XV
“I swore to bury his Mighty Book,
That never mortal might therein look;
And never to tell where it was hid,
Save at his Chief of Branksome’s need:
And when that need was past and o’er,
Again the volume to restore.
I buried him on St. Michael’s night,
When the bell toll’d one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead,
When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patron’s cross might over him wave,
And scare the fiends from the Wizard’s grave.

XVI
“It was a night of woe and dread,
When Michael in the tomb I laid!
Strange sounds along the chancel pass’d,
The banners waved without a blast;”–
–Still spoke the Monk, when the bell toll’d one!–
I tell you, that a braver man
Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
Against a foe ne’er spurr’d a steed;
Yet somewhat was he chill’d with dread,
And his hair did bristle upon his head.

XVII
“Lo, Warrior! now, the Cross of Red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wondrous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night:
That lamp shall burn unquenchably,
Until the eternal doom shall be.”–
Slowly moved the Monk to the broad flagstone,
Which the bloody Cross was traced upon:
He pointed to a secret nook;
An iron bar the Warrior took;
And the Monk made a sign with his wither’d hand,
The grave’s huge portal to expand.

XVIII
With beating heart to the task he went;
His sinewy frame o’er the grave-stone bent;
With bar of iron heaved amain,
Till the toil-drops fell from his brows, like rain.
It was by dint of passing strength,
That he moved the massy stone at length.
I would you had been there, to see
How the light broke forth so gloriously,
Stream’d upward to the chancel roof,
And through the galleries far aloof!
No earthly flame blazed e’er so bright:
It shone like haaven’s own blessed light,
And, issuing from the tomb,
Show’d th Monk’s cowl, and visage pale,
Danced on the dark-brow’d Warrior’s mail,
And kiss’d his waving plume.

XIX
Before their eyes the Wizard lay,
As if he had not been dead a day.
His hoary beard in silver roll’d,
He seem’d some seventy winters old;
A palmer’s amice wrapp’d him round,
With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,
Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea;
His left hand held his Book of Might;
A silver cross was in his right;
The lamp was placed beside his knee;
High and majestic was his look,
At which the fellest fiends had shook,
And all unruffled was his face:
They trusted his soul had gotten grace.

XX
Often had William of Deloraine
Rode through the battle’s bloody plain,
And trampled down the warriors slain,
And neither known remorse nor awe;
Yet now remorse and awe he own’d;
His breath came thick, his head swam round,
When this strange scene of death he saw,
Bewilder’d and unnerved he stood,
And the priest pray’d fervently and loud:
With eyes averted prayed he;
He might not endure the sight to see,
Of the man he had loved so brotherly.

XXI
And when the priest his death-prayer had pray’d,
Thus unto Deloraine he said:–
“Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
Or, Warrior, we may dearly rue;
For those, thou may’st not look upon,
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!”–
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the Mighty Book,
With iron clasp’d, and with iron bound:
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frown’d;
But the glare of the sepulchral light,
Perchance, had dazzled the warrior’s sight.

XXII
When the huge stone sunk o’er the tomb,
The night return’d in double gloom;
For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few;
And, as the Knight and Priest withdrew,
With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
They hardly might the postern gain.
‘Tis said, as through the aisles they pass’d,
They heard strange noises on the blast:
And through the cloister-galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the cancel wall,
Loud sobs, and laughter louder, ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man;
As if the fiends kept holiday,
Because these spells were brought to day.
I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as ’twas said to me.

XXIII
“Now, hie thee hence,” the Father said,
“And when we are on death-bed laid,
O may our dear Ladye, and sweet St. John,
Forgive our souls for the deed we have done!”
The Monk return’d him to his cell,
And many a prayer and penance sped;
When the convent met at the noontide bell–
The Monk of St. Mary’s aisle was dead!
Before the cross was the body laid,
With hands clasp’d fast, as if still he pray’d.

XXIV
The Knight breathed free in the morning wind,
And strove his hardihood to find:
He was glad when he pass’d the tombstones grey,
Which girdle round the fair Abbaye;
For the mistic Book, to his bosom prest,
Felt like a load upon his breast;
And his joints, with nerves of iron twined,
Shook, like the aspen leaves in wind.
Full fain was he when the dawn of day
Began to brighten Cheviot grey;
He joy’d to see the cheerful light,
And he said Ave Mary, as well he might.

XXV
The sun had brighten’d Cheviot grey,
The sun had brighten’d the Carter’s side;
And soon beneath the rising day
Smiled Branksome Towers and Teviot’s tide.
The wild birds told their warbling tale,
And waken’d every flower that blows;
And peeped forth the violet pale,
And spread her breast the mountain rose.
And lovelier than the rose so red,
Yet paler than the violet pale,
She early left her sleepless bed,
The fairest maid of Teviotdale.

XXVI
Why does fair Margarent so early awake?
And don her kirtle so hastilie;
And the silken knots, which in hurry she would make,
Why tremble her slender fingers to tie;
Why does she stop, and look often around,
As she glides down the secret stair;
And why does she pat the shaggy bloodhound,
As he rouses him up from his lair;
And, though she passes the postern alone,
Why is not the watchman’s bugle blown?

XXVII
The ladye steps in doubt and dread,
Lest her watchful mother hear her tread;
The lady caresses the rough blood-hound,
Lest his voice should waken the castle round,
The watchman’s bugle is not blown,
For he was her foster-father’s son;
And she glides through the greenwood at dawn of light
To meet Baron Henry her own true knight.

XXVIII
The Knight and ladye fair are met,
And under the hawthorn’s boughs are set.
A fairer pair were never seen
To meet beneath the hawthorn green.
He was stately, and young, and tall;
Dreaded in battle, and loved in hall:
And she, when love, scarce told, scarce hid,
Lent to her cheek a livelier red;
When the half sigh her swelling breast
Against the silken ribbon prest;
When her blue eyes their secret told,
Though shaded by her locks of gold–
Where whould you find the peerless fair,
With Margaret of Branksome might compare!

XXIX
And now, fair dames, methinks I see
You listen to my minstrelsy;
Your waving locks ye backward throw,
And sidelong bend your necks of snow;
Ye ween to hear a melting tale,
Of two true lovers in a dale;
And how the Knight, with tender fire,
To paint his faithful passion strove;
Swore he might at her feet expire,
But never, never, cease to love;
And how she blush’d, and how she sigh’d.
And, half consenting, half denied,
And said that she would die a maid;–
Yet, might the bloody feud be stay’d,
Henry of Cranstoun, and only he,
Margaret of Branksome’s choice should be.

XXX
Alas! fair dames, you hopes are vain!
My harp has lost the enchanting strain;
Its lightness would my age reprove;
My hairs are grey, my limbs are old,
My heart is dead, my veins are cold:
I may not, must not, sing of love.

XXXI
Beneath an oak, moss’d o’er by eld,
The Baron’s Dwarf his courser held,
And held his crested helm and spear:
That Dwarf was scarce an earthly man,
If the tales were true that of him ran
Through all the Border far and near.
‘Twas said, when the Baron a-hunting rode,
Through Reedsdale’s glens, but rarely trod,
He heard a voice cry, “Lost! lost! lost!”
And, like a tennis-ball by racket toss’d,
A leap, of thirty feet and three,
Made from the gorse this elfin shape,
Distorted like some dwarfish ape,
And lighted at Lord Cranstoun’s knee.
‘Tis said that five good miles he rade,
To rid him of his company;
But where he rode one mile, the Dwarf ran four,
And the Dwarf was first at the castle door.

XXXII
Use lessens marvel, it is said:
This elvish Dwarf with the Baron staid;
Little he ate, and less he spoke,
Nor mingled with the menial flock:
And oft apart his arms he toss’d,
And often mutter’d “Lost! lost! lost!”
He was waspish, arch, and litherlie,
But well Lord Carnstoun served he:
And he of his service was full fain;
For once he had been ta’en, or slain,
An it had not been for his ministry.
All between Home and Hermitage,
Talk’d of Lord Cranstoun’s Goblin-Page.

XXXIII
For the Baron went on Pilgrimage,
And took with him this elvish Page,
To Mary’s Chapel of the Lowes;
For there beside our Ladye’s lake,
An offering he had sworn to make,
And he would pay his vows.
But the Ladye of Branksome gather’d a band
Of the best that would ride at her command:
The trysting place was Newark Lee.
Wat of Harden came thither amain,
And thither came John of Thirlestane,
And thither came William of Deloraine;
They were three hundred spears and three.
Through Douglas-burn, up Yarrow strem,
Their horses prance, their lances gleam.
They came to St. Mary’s lake ere day;
But the chapel was void, and the Baron away.
They burn’d the chapel for very rage,
And cursed Lord Cranstoun’s Goblin-Page.

XXXIV
And now, in Branksome’s good green wood,
As under the aged oak he stood,
The Baron’s courser pricks his ears,
As if a distant noise he hears.
The Dwarf waves his long lean arm on high,
And signs to the lovers to part and fly;
No time was then to vow or sigh.
Fair Margaret through the hazel grove,
Flew like the startled cushat-dove:
The Dwarf the stirrup held and rein;
Vaulted the Knight on his steed amain,
And, pondering deep that morning’s scene,
Rode eastward through the hawthorns green.


While thus he pour’d the lengthen’d tale
The Minstrel’s voice began to fail:
Full slyly smiled the observant page,
And gave the wither’d hand of age
A goblet crown’d with mighty wine,
The blood of Velez’ scorched vine.
He raised the silver cup on high,
And, while the big drop fill’d his eye
Pray’d God to bless the Duchess long,
And all who cheer’d a son of song.
The attending maidens smiled to see
How long, how deep, how zealously
The precious juice the Minstrel quaff’d;
And he, embolden’d by the draught,
Look’d gaily back to them, and laugh’d.
The cordial nectar of the bowl
Swell’d his old veins, and cheer’d his soul;
A lighter, livelier prelude ran,
Ere thus his tale again began.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel: canto first

The Lay of the Last Minstrel
by Sir Walter Scott


Canto First.
I
The feast was over in Branksome tower,
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell,
Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell–
Jesu Maria, shield us well!
No living wight, save the Ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.

II
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Knight and page, and household squire,
Loiter’d through the lofty hall,
Or crowded round the ample fire:
The staghours, weary with the chase,
Lay stretch’d upon the rusy foloor
And urged, in dreams, the forest race,
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.

III
Nine-and-twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome-Hall,
Nine-and-twenty squires of name
Brought them their steeds to bower from stall;
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
Waited, duteous, on them all;
They were all knights of mettle true,
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.

IV
Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
With belted sword, and spur on heel:
They quitted not their harness bright,
Neither by day, nor yet by night:
They lay down to rest,
With corslet laced,
Pillow’d on buckler cold and hard;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr’d.

V
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 saddlebow;
A hundred more fed free in stall:–
Such was the custom of Branksome-Hall.

VI
Why do these steeds stand ready dight?
Why watch these warriors, arm’d, 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 guile,
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy’s powers,
Threaten Branksome’s lordly towers,
From Warkwork, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle.

VII
Such is the custom of Branksome-Hall–
Many a valiant knight is here;
But he, the chieftain of them all,
His sword hangs rusting on the wall,
Beside his broken spear.
Bards long shall tell
How Lord Walter fell.
When startled burghers fled afar,
The furies of the Border war;
When the streets of high Dunedin
Saw lances gleam and falchion redden,
And heard the slogan’s deadly yell–
Then the Chef of Branksome fell.

VIII
Can piety the discord heal,
Or stanch 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;
While Cessford owns the rule of Carr,
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
The slaughter’d chiefs, the mortal jar,
The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!

IX
In sorrow o’er Lord Walter’s bier
The warlike foresters had bent;
And many a flower,and many a tear,
Old Teviot’s maids and matrons lent:
But o’er her warrior’s bloody bier
The Ladye dropp’d nor flowers nor tear!
Vengeance, deep-brooding o’er the slain
Had lock’d the source of softer woe;
And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow;
Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisp’d 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.

X
All loose her negligent attire,
All loose her golden hair,
Hung Margaret o’er her slaughter’d 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 alter’d eye
Dared she to look for sympathy.
Her lover, ‘gainst her father’s clan,
With Carr 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.

XI
Of noble race the Ladye came
Her father was a clerk of fame,
Of Bethune’s line of Picardie;
He learn’d 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 mode, he paced
St. Andrew’s cloister’d hall,
His form no darkening shadow traced
Upon the sunny wall!

XII
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?

XIII
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!

XIV
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

XV
River Spirit
“Sleep’st thou, brother?”
Mountain Spirit
“Brother, nay”
On my hills the moon-beams play.
From Craik-cross to Skelfhill-pen,
By every rill, in every glen,
Merry elves their morris pacing,
To aërial minstrelry
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,
Trip it deft and merrily.
Up, and mark their nimble feet!
Up, and list their music sweet!”

XVI
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 view’st the stars,
When shall cease these feudal jars?
What shall be the maiden’s fate?
Who shall be the maiden’s mate?”

XVII
Mountain Spirit
“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 quell’d, and love be free.”

XVIII
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 throbb’d high with pride:–
“Your mountains shall bend,
And your streams ascend,
Ere Margaret be our foeman’s bride!”

XIX
The Lady 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 hall, right merrily,
In mimic foray rode.
Even bearded knights, in arms grown old,
Share in his frolic gambols bore,
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.

XX
The Ladye forgot her purpose high,
One moment, and no more;
One moment gazed with a mother’s eye,
As she paused at the arched door:
Then from amid the armed train,
She call’d to her William of Deloraine.

XXI
A stark moss-trooping Scott was he,
As e’er couch’d Border lance by knee;
Through Solway sands, through Tarras moss,
Blindfold, he knew the paths to cross;
By wily turns, by desperate bounds,
Had baffled Percy’s best blood-hounds;
In Eske or Liddell, 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 be been,
By England’s King, and Scotland’s Queen.

XXII
“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.

XXIII
“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 hadst thou ne’er been born.”–

XXIV
“O swiftly can speed my dapple-grey 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.”

XXV
Soon in his saddle sate he fast,
And soon the steep descent he past,
Soon cross’d 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 of Goldiland,
And cross’d old Borthwick’s roaring strand;
Dimly he view’d 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 spurr’d his courser keen
Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.

XXVI
The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark;–
“Stand ho! thou courier of the dark.”–
“For Branksome, ho!” the knight rejoin’d,
And left the friendly tower behind.
He turn’d him now from Teviotside,
And, guided by the tinkling rill,
Northward the dark ascent did ride,
And gained the moor at Horsliehill;
Broad on the left before him lay,
For many a mile, the Roman way.

XXVII
A moment now he slack’d his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed;
Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
And loosen’d in the sheath his brand.
On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint,
Where Barnhill hew’d his bed of flint;
Who flung his outlaw’d limbs to rest,
Where falcons hang their giddy nest,
Mid cliffs, from whence his eagle eye
For many a league his prey could spy;
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber’s horn.
Cliffs, which, for many a year,
The warbling Doric reed shall hear,
When some sad swain shall teach the grove,
Ambition is no cure for love!

XXVIII
Unchallenged, thence pass’d Deloraine,
To ancient Riddel’s fair domain,
Where Aill, from mountains freed,
Down from the lakes did raving come;
Each wave was creased with tawny foam,
Like the mane of a chestnut steed.
In vain! no torrent, deep or broad,
Might bar the bold moss-trooper’s road.

XXIX
At the first plunge the horse sunk low,
And the water broke o’er the saddlebow;
Above the flaming tide, I ween,
Scarce half the charger’s neck was seen;
For he was barded from counter to tail,
And the rider was armed complete in mail;
Never heavier man and horse
Stemm’d a midnight torrent’s force.
The warrior’s very plume, I say
Was daggled by the dashing spray;
Yet, through good heart, and Our Ladye’s grace,
At length he gain’d the landing place.

XXX
Now Bowden Moor the march-man won,
And sternly shook his plumed head,
As glanced his eye o’er Halidon;
For on his soul the slaughter red
Of that unhallow’d morn arose,
When first the Scott and Carr were foes;
When royal James beheld the fray,
Prize to the victor of the day;
When Home and Douglas, in the van,
Bore down Buccleuch’s retiring clan,
Till gallant Cessford’s heart-blood dear
Reek’d on dark Elliot’s Border spear.

XXXI
In bitter mood he spurred fast,
And soon the hated heath was past;
And far beneath, in lustre wan,
Old Melros’ rose, and fair Tweed ran:
Like some tall rock with lichens grey,
Seem’d dimly huge, the dark Abbaye.
When Harwick he pass’d, had curfew rung,
Now midnight lauds were in Melrose sung.
The sound, upon the fitful gale,
In solemn wise did rise and fail,
Like that wild harp, whose magic tone
Is waken’d by the winds alone.
But when Melrose he reach’d, ’twas silence all;
He meetly stabled his steed in stall,
And sought the convent’s lonely wall.


Here paused the harp; and with its swell
The Master’s fire and courage fell;
Dejectedly, and low, he bow’d,
And, gazing timid on the crowd,
He seem’d to seek, in every eye,
If they approved his mistrelsy;
And, diffident of present praise,
Somewhat he spoke of former days,
And how old age, and wand’ring long,
Had done his hand and harp some wrong.
The Duchess, and her daughters fair,
And every gentle lady there,
Each after each, in due degree,
Gave praises to his melody;
His hand was true, his voice was clear,
And much they long’d the rest to hear.
Encouraged thus, the Aged Man,
After meet rest, again began.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel; index and introduction. A poem by Sir Walter Scott

Below is the first part of a poem that I have loved since childhood. It is a tale of magic and chivalry, and knightly feuds, wicked fae, wizardry, and all of which encompassed within the last recital of an old tale by a Bard who believes himself the last of his kind. The ending is my favorite part, however, but that will come some time in the next few days. For now, I’ll leave you with the introduction.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel
By Sir Walter Scott


Introduction

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
Canto First
The feast was over in Branksome tower,
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell…
Canto Second
If thou woud’st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
Canto Third
And said I that my limbs were old,
And said I that my blood was cold…
Canto Fourth
Sweet Teviot! on thy silver tide
The glaring bale-fires blaze no more;
Canto Fifth
Call it not vain;–they do not err,
Who say, that when the Poet dies,
Mute Nature mourns her worshipper…
Canto Sixth
Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

Introduction

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His wither’d cheek, and tresses gray,
Seem’d to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.
The last of all the Bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry;
For, welladay! their date was fled,
His tuneful brethren all were dead;
And he, neglected and oppress’d,
Wish’d to be with them, and at rest.
No more on prancing palfrey borne,
He caroll’d, light as lark at morn;
No longer courted and caress’d,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He pour’d, to lord and lady gay,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone;
A stranger filled the Stuarts’ throne;
The bigots of the iron time
Had call’d hs harmless art a crime.
A wandering Harper, scorn’d and poor,
He begg’d his bread from door to door.
And timed, to please a peasant’s ear,
The harp, a king had loved to hear.

He pass’d where Newark’s stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow’s birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye–
No humbler resting-place was nigh,
With hesitating step at last,
The embattled portal arch he ass’d,
Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft roll’d back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty’s bloom,
Had wept o’er Monmouth’s bloody tomb!

When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:
And he began to talk anon,
Of good Earl Francis, dead and gone,
And of Earl Walter, rest him, God!
A braver ne’er to battle rode;
And how full many a tale he knew,
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch:
And, would the noble Duchess deign
To listen to an old man’s strain,
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought even yet, the sooth to speak,
That, if she loved the harp to hear,
He could make music to her ear.

The humble boon was soon obtain’d;
The Aged Minstrel audience gain’d.
But, when he reach’d the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wished his boon denied:
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease,
Which marks security to please;
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o’er his aged brain–
He tried to tune his harp in vain!
The pitying Duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string’s according glee
Was blended into harmony.
And then, he said, he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,
He never thought to sing again.
It was not framed for village churls,
But for high dames and mighty carls;
He had play’d it to King Charles the Good,
When he kept court in Holyrood,
And much he wish’d yet fear’d to try
The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his fingers stray’d,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled;
And lighten’d up his faded eye,
With all a poet’s ecstasy!
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along:
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
Cold diffidence, and age’s frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank in faithless memory void,
The poet’s glowing thought supplied;
And while his harp responsive rung,
‘Twas thus the Latest Minstrel sung.

The Twa Corbies

As I was walking all alang,
I spied twa corbies, makin a mane;
The tane unto, the t’ ither did say-o,
“Whar shall we gang and dine the-day-o?
Whar shall we gang an dine the-day-o?

“Down behind yon, auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies, a new slain knight;
Naebody kens that he lies there-o,
but his hawk, and his hound an his lady fair-o.
“His hawk, and his hound an his lady fair-o!”

“His hound is tae, the huntin gang,
His hawk tae fetch, the moor-fowl hame,
His lady’s tain, anither mate-o,
So may we may mak oor dinner swate-o.
swate we may mak oor dinner swate-o”

“Ye’ll light upon his white hause-bane,
An I’ll pick oot his bonny blue een;
Wi’ many ae lock o’ his gowden hair-o
We’ll theek oor nest whan it grow’s bare-o.
“we’ll theek oor nest, whan it grows bare-o!”

“Mony a one for him maks mane,
But nane shall ken, whar he is gane;
Oer his white banes, whan they are bare-o!
The wind shall blaw for evermore-o.
The wind shall blow for evermore-o”

As I was walking all alang,
I spied twa corbies, makin a mane;
The tane unto, the t’ither did say-o,
“Whar shall we gang and dine the-day-o?
Whar shall we gang an dine the-day-o?”

There is an English version of this ballad (The three Ravens); but this version has (The Twa Corbies) proven to be the oldest, and as such, most authentic of all versions of such ballads concerning this tale; them Twa Corbies: being the original ballad; are representative of the Knight of death, and the Knight of life. The Knight of death surpasses the corpse of life. And as his bones are picked clean and forgotten; death prevails; and only he remembers the new-slain Knight. Who is left to slumber and rot eternal; never discovered nor avenged; such is life. The dead Knight, despite his beautiful person; his blonde hair and blue eyes; in death he is as mundane as the nest of  two ravens. Beauty and pride means nothing when the world itself moves on.

 

Cinead MacAlpin.

 

These Are My Mountains

For fame and for fortune
I wandered the earth
And now I’ve come back to
The land of my birth
I’ve brought back my treasures
But only to find
They’re less than the pleasures
I first left behind

For these are my mountains
And this is my glen
The braes of my childhood
Will know me again
No land’s ever claimed me
Tho’ far I did roam
For these are my mountains
And I’m going home

The burn by the road sings
At my going by
The whaup overhead wings
With welcoming cry
The loch where the scart flies
At last I can see
It’s here that my heart lies
It’s here I’ll be free

For these are my mountains
And this is my glen
The braes of my childhood
Will know me again
No land’s ever claimed me
Tho’ far I did roam
For these are my mountains
And I’m going home

Kind faces will meet me
And welcome me in
And how they will greet me
My ain kith and kin
The night round the ingle
Old sangs will be sung
At last I’ll be hearing
My ain mother tongue.

For these are my mountains
And this is my glen
The braes of my childhood
Will know me again
No land’s ever claimed me
Tho’ far I did roam
For these are my mountains
And I’m going home

By Tom and Jack Alexander: The Alexander Brothers

The Ballad Of Kinmont Willie

William Armstrong of Kinmont
William Armstrong of Kinmont taken prisoner

O have ye na heard o’ the fause Sakelde?
O have ye na heard o’ the keen Lord Scrope
How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont William
On Hairbee to hang him up?

Had Willie had but twenty men,
But twenty men as stout as he,
Fause Salkelde had never the Kinmont ta’en,
Wi’ eight score in his companie.

They band his legs beneath the steed,
They tied his hands behind his back;
They guarded him fivesome on each side
And brought him ower the Liddle-rack.

They led him through the Liddle-rack
And also thro’ the Carlisle sands;
They brought him to Carlisle castell
To be at my Lord Scrope’s commands.

My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,
Ands whae will dare this deed avow?
Or answer by the Border law?
Or answer to the bauld Buccleuch?

“Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver!
There’s never a Scot shall set ye free;
Before ye cross my castle-yett,
I trow ye shall take farewell o’ me.

“’Fear na ye that,” quo Willie
“By thy faith o’ my bodie, Lord Scrope,” he said,
‘I never yet lodged in a hostelrie
But I paid my lawing before I daed.’

Now word is gane to the bauld Keeper,
In Branksome Ha’ where that he lay,
That Lord Scrope has ta’en the Kinmont Willie,
Between the hours of night and day.

“He has ta’en the table wi’ his hand,
He garr’d the red wind spring on hie;
Now Christ’s curse on my head,’ he said,
‘But avenge of Lord Scrope I’ll be!

“Is my basnet a widow’s curch?
Or my lance a wand of the willow-tree?
Or my arm a lady’s lilye hand?
That an English lord should lightly me.

“And have they ta’en him Kinmont Willie,
Against the truce of Border tide
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Is keeper here on the Scottish Side?

“And have they e’en ta’en Kinmont Willie,
Withouten either dread or fear,
And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch
Can back a steed, or shake a spear?

“Oh were there war between the lands,
As well I wot there is none,
I would slight Carlisle castell high,
Though it were builded of marble-stone.

I would set that castell in a lowe,
And sloken it with English blood;
There’s nevir a man in Cumberland
Should ken where Carlisle castell stood.

“But since nae war between the lands,
And there is peace, and peace should be,
I’ll neither harm English lad of lass
And yet the Kinmont freed shall be!

“He has call’d him forty marchmen,
I trow they were of his ain name,
Except Sir Gilbert Elliot, call’d
The laird of Stobs, I mean the same.

“He has call’d him forty marchmen bauld,
Were kinsmen to the bauld Buccleuch
With spur on heel, and splent on spauld,

And Gleuves of green, and feathers blue.
“There were five and five before them a’
Wi’ hunting-horns and bugles bright
And five and five came wi’ Buccleuch

Like warden’s men, arrayed for fight.
And five and five like a mason gang,
That carried the ladders lang and hie;
And five and five, like broken men;

And so they reached the Woodhouselee.
And as we cross’d the Bateable Land,
When to the English side we held,
The first o’ men that we met wi’

Whae sould it be bu fause Salk elde!
“Where be ye gaun, ye hunters keen?”
Quo fause Salkelde, ”come tell to me!”
“We go to hunt an English stag,

Has trespass’d on the Scots countrie.”
“Where be ye gaun, ye marshall-men?”
Quo fause Salkede, “come tell me true!”
‘We go to catch a rank reiver,

Has broken faith wi’ the bauld Buccleuch.”
“Where are ye gaun, ye mason-lads,
Wi a’ your ladders lang and hie?”
“We gang to herry a corbie’s nest,

That wons not far frae Woodhouselee.’
“Where be ye gaun, ye broken men?”
Quo fause Sakelde, “come tell me!”
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band,

And nevir a word of lear had he.
“Why trespass ye on the English side?
Row-footed outlaws, stand!” quo he;
The nevir a word Dickie to say,
Sae he thrust the lance thro’ his fause bodie.

The on we held for Carlisle toun,
And at Staneshawbank the Eden we crossed;
The water was great, and mickle of spait,
But the nevir a horse no man we lost.

And when we reached the Staeshawbank,
The wind was rising loud and hie;
And there the laird garr’d leave our steeds,
For fear that they should stamp and nie.

And when we left the Staneshawbank
The wind began full loud to blaw,
But ‘twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,
When we came beneath the castell-wa’.

We crept on knees, and held our breath,
Till we placed the ladders against the wa’
And sae ready was Buccleuch himself
To mount the first before us a’.

He has ta’en the watchman by the throat
He flung him down upon the lead;
Had there not peace between our lands,
Upon the other side thou hast gaed!

“Now sound out, trumpets!’ quo Buccleuch;
‘Let’s waken Lord Scrope right merrily!”
Then loud the Warden’s trumpet blew
“O whae dare meddle wi’ me?”

Then speedilie to wark we gaed
And raised the slogan ane and a’
And cut a hole thro’ a sheet of lead
And so we wan to the castle-ha’.

They thought King James and a’ his men
Had won the house wi’ bow and speir
It was but twenty Scots and ten
That put a thousand in sic a stead.

“Wi’ coulters and wi’ forehammers,
We garr’d the bars bang merrilie,
Until we came to the inner prison,
Where Willie Kinmont he did lie.

And when they came to the lower prison
Where Willie o’ Kinmont he did lie.
‘O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,
Upon the morn that thou’s to die?’

“O I sleep saft, and I wake aft
It’s lang since sleeping was fley’d frae me;
Gie my service back to my wife and bairns,
And a’ guide fellows that speir for me.’

“Then Red Rowan has hent him up,
The starkest man in Teviotdale:
Abide, abide now, Red Rowan,
Till of my Lord Scrope I take farewell.

“Farewell, farewell, my good Lord Scrope!
My gude Lord Scrope, farewell!’ he cried
‘I’ll pay for my lodging maill
When first we meet on the border-side.”

Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,
We bore him down the ladder lang;
At every stride Red Rowan made,
I wot the Kinmont’s airns play’d clang.

“O mony a time, “quo Kinmont Willie,
“I have ridden horse baith wild and wud;
But a rougher beast the Red Rown
I ween my legs have ne’er bestrode.

“And mony a time, ”quo Kinmont Willie,
‘I’ve prick’d a horse out oure the furs;
But since the day I backed a steed,
I nevir wore sic cumbrous spurs!”

We scarce had won the Staneshawbank,
When a’ the Carlisle bells were rung,
And a thousand men, in horse and foot,
Cam wi’ the keen Lord Scrope along.

“Buccleuch has turn’d to Eden water,
Even where it flowed frae bank to brim,
And he has plunged in wi’ a’ his band,
And safely swam then thro’ the stream.

He turn’d him on the other side,
And at Lord Scrope his glove flung he;
“If ye like na my visit in merry England,
In fair Scotland come visit me!”

All sore astonish’d stood Lord Scrope
He stood as still as rock of stane;
He scarcely dared to trew his eyes
When through the water they had gane.

“He is either himself a devil frae hell,
Or else his mother a witch maun be
I wadna have ridden that wan water
For a’ the gowd in Chistentie.”