THE LADY OF THE LAKE
By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Edited with Notes By William J. Rolfe,
Formerly Head Master of the High School, Cambridge, Mass.
When I first saw Mr. Osgood's beautiful illustrated edition of The Lady of the Lake, I asked him to let me use some of the cuts in a cheaper annotated edition for school and household use; and the present volume is the result.
The text of the poem has given me unexpected trouble. When I edited some of Gray's poems several years ago, I found that they had not been correctly printed for more than half a century; but in the case of Scott I supposed that the text of Black's so-called "Author's Edition" could be depended upon as accurate. Almost at the start, however, I detected sundry obvious misprints in one of the many forms in which this edition is issued, and an examination of others showed that they were as bad in their way. The "Shilling" issue was no worse than the costly illustrated one of 1853, which had its own assortment of slips of the type. No two editions that I could obtain agreed exactly in their readings. I tried in vain to find a copy of the editio princeps (1810) in Cambridge and Boston, but succeeded in getting one through a London bookseller. This I compared, line by line, with the Edinburgh edition of 1821 (from the Harvard Library), with Lockhart's first edition, the "Globe" edition, and about a dozen others English and American. I found many misprints and corruptions in all except the edition of 1821, and a few even in that. For instance in i. 217 Scott wrote "Found in each cliff a narrow bower," and it is so printed in the first edition; but in every other that I have seen "cliff" appears in place of clift,, to the manifest injury of the passage. In ii. 685, every edition that I have seen since that of 1821 has "I meant not all my heart might say," which is worse than nonsense, the correct reading being "my heat." In vi. 396, the Scottish "boune" (though it occurs twice in other parts of the poem) has been changed to "bound" in all editions since 1821; and, eight lines below, the old word "barded" has become "barbed." Scores of similar corruptions are recorded in my Notes, and need not be cited here.
I have restored the reading of the first edition, except in cases where I have no doubt that the later reading is the poet's own correction or alteration. There are obvious misprints in the first edition which Scott himself overlooked (see on ii. 115, 217,, Vi. 527, etc.), and it is sometimes difficult to decide whether a later reading—a change of a plural to a singular, or like trivial variation—is a misprint or the author's correction of an earlier misprint. I have done the best I could, with the means at my command, to settle these questions, and am at least certain that the text as I give it is nearer right than in any edition since 1821 As all the variae lectiones are recorded in the Notes, the reader who does not approve of the one I adopt can substitute that which he prefers.
I have retained all Scott's Notes (a few of them have been somewhat abridged) and all those added by Lockhart.  My own I have made as concise as possible. There are, of course, many of them which many of my readers will not need, but I think there are none that may not be of service, or at least of interest, to some of them; and I hope that no one will turn to them for help without finding it.
Scott is much given to the use of Elizabethan words and constructions, and I have quoted many "parallelisms" from Shakespeare and his contemporaries. I believe I have referred to my edition of Shakespeare in only a single instance (on iii. 17), but teachers and others who have that edition will find many additional illustrations in the Notes on the passages cited.
While correcting the errors of former editors, I may have overlooked some of my own. I am already indebted to the careful proofreaders of the University Press for the detection of occasional slips in quotations or references; and I shall be very grateful to my readers for a memorandum of any others that they may discover.
Cambridge, June 23, 1883..
The scene of the following Poem is laid chiefly in the vicinity of Loch Katrine, in the Western Highlands of Perthshire. The time of Action includes Six Days, and the transactions of each Day occupy a Canto.
THE LADY OF THE LAKE.
Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung, Till envious ivy did around thee cling, Muffling with verdant ringlet every string,— O Minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep? Mid rustling leaves and fountains murmuring, Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep, Nor bid a warrior smile, nor teach a maid to weep?
Not thus, in ancient days of Caledon,  Was thy voice mute amid the festal crowd, When lay of hopeless love, or glory won, Aroused the fearful or subdued the proud. At each according pause was heard aloud Thine ardent symphony sublime and high! Fair dames and crested chiefs attention bowed; For still the burden of thy minstrelsy Was Knighthood's dauntless deed, and Beauty's matchless eye.
O, wake once more! how rude soe'er the hand That ventures o'er thy magic maze to stray; O, wake once more! though scarce my skill command Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay: Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away, And all unworthy of thy nobler strain, Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway, The wizard note has not been touched in vain. Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!
The stag at eve had drunk his fill, Where danced the moon on Monan's rill, And deep his midnight lair had made In lone Glenartney's hazel shade; But when the sun his beacon red Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head, The deep-mouthed bloodhound's heavy bay Resounded up the rocky way, And faint, from farther distance borne, Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.
As Chief, who hears his warder call, 'To arms! the foemen storm the wall,' The antlered monarch of the waste Sprung from his heathery couch in haste. But ere his fleet career he took, The dew-drops from his flanks he shook; Like crested leader proud and high Tossed his beamed frontlet to the sky; A moment gazed adown the dale, A moment snuffed the tainted gale, A moment listened to the cry, That thickened as the chase drew nigh; Then, as the headmost foes appeared, With one brave bound the copse he cleared, And, stretching forward free and far, Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.
Yelled on the view the opening pack; Rock, glen, and cavern paid them back; To many a mingled sound at once The awakened mountain gave response. A hundred dogs bayed deep and strong, Clattered a hundred steeds along, Their peal the merry horns rung out, A hundred voices joined the shout; With hark and whoop and wild halloo, No rest Benvoirlich's echoes knew. Far from the tumult fled the roe, Close in her covert cowered the doe, The falcon, from her cairn on high, Cast on the rout a wondering eye, Till far beyond her piercing ken The hurricane had swept the glen. Faint, and more faint, its failing din Returned from cavern, cliff, and linn, And silence settled, wide and still, On the lone wood and mighty hill.
Less loud the sounds of sylvan war Disturbed the heights of Uam-Var, And roused the cavern where, 't is told, A giant made his den of old; For ere that steep ascent was won, High in his pathway hung the sun, And many a gallant, stayed perforce, Was fain to breathe his faltering horse, And of the trackers of the deer Scarce half the lessening pack was near; So shrewdly on the mountain-side Had the bold burst their mettle tried.
The noble stag was pausing now Upon the mountain's southern brow, Where broad extended, far beneath, The varied realms of fair Menteith. With anxious eye he wandered o'er Mountain and meadow, moss and moor, And pondered refuge from his toil, By far Lochard or Aberfoyle. But nearer was the copsewood gray That waved and wept on Loch Achray, And mingled with the pine-trees blue On the bold cliffs of Benvenue. Fresh vigor with the hope returned, With flying foot the heath he spurned, Held westward with unwearied race, And left behind the panting chase.
'T were long to tell what steeds gave o'er, As swept the hunt through Cambusmore; What reins were tightened in despair, When rose Benledi's ridge in air; Who flagged upon Bochastle's heath, Who shunned to stem the flooded Teith,— For twice that day, from shore to shore, The gallant stag swam stoutly o'er. Few were the stragglers, following far, That reached the lake of Vennachar; And when the Brigg of Turk was won, The headmost horseman rode alone.
Alone, but with unbated zeal, That horseman plied the scourge and steel; For jaded now, and spent with toil, Embossed with foam, and dark with soil, While every gasp with sobs he drew, The laboring stag strained full in view. Two dogs of black Saint Hubert's breed, Unmatched for courage, breath, and speed, Fast on his flying traces came, And all but won that desperate game; For, scarce a spear's length from his haunch, Vindictive toiled the bloodhounds stanch; Nor nearer might the dogs attain, Nor farther might the quarry strain Thus up the margin of the lake, Between the precipice and brake, O'er stock and rock their race they take.
The Hunter marked that mountain high, The lone lake's western boundary, And deemed the stag must turn to bay, Where that huge rampart barred the way; Already glorying in the prize, Measured his antlers with his eyes; For the death-wound and death-halloo Mustered his breath, his whinyard drew:— But thundering as he came prepared, With ready arm and weapon bared, The wily quarry shunned the shock, And turned him from the opposing rock; Then, dashing down a darksome glen, Soon lost to hound and Hunter's ken, In the deep Trosachs' wildest nook His solitary refuge took. There, while close couched the thicket shed Cold dews and wild flowers on his head, He heard the baffled dogs in vain Rave through the hollow pass amain, Chiding the rocks that yelled again.
Close on the hounds the Hunter came, To cheer them on the vanished game; But, stumbling in the rugged dell, The gallant horse exhausted fell. The impatient rider strove in vain To rouse him with the spur and rein, For the good steed, his labors o'er, Stretched his stiff limbs, to rise no more; Then, touched with pity and remorse, He sorrowed o'er the expiring horse. 'I little thought, when first thy rein I slacked upon the banks of Seine, That Highland eagle e'er should feed On thy fleet limbs, my matchless steed! Woe worth the chase, woe worth the day, That costs thy life, my gallant gray!'
Then through the dell his horn resounds, From vain pursuit to call the hounds. Back limped, with slow and crippled pace, The sulky leaders of the chase; Close to their master's side they pressed, With drooping tail and humbled crest; But still the dingle's hollow throat Prolonged the swelling bugle-note. The owlets started from their dream, The eagles answered with their scream, Round and around the sounds were cast, Till echo seemed an answering blast; And on the Hunter tried his way, To join some comrades of the day, Yet often paused, so strange the road, So wondrous were the scenes it showed.
The western waves of ebbing day Rolled o'er the glen their level way; Each purple peak, each flinty spire, Was bathed in floods of living fire. But not a setting beam could glow Within the dark ravines below, Where twined the path in shadow hid, Round many a rocky pyramid, Shooting abruptly from the dell Its thunder-splintered pinnacle; Round many an insulated mass, The native bulwarks of the pass, Huge as the tower which builders vain Presumptuous piled on Shinar's plain. The rocky summits, split and rent, Formed turret, dome, or battlement. Or seemed fantastically set With cupola or minaret, Wild crests as pagod ever decked, Or mosque of Eastern architect. Nor were these earth-born castles bare, Nor lacked they many a banner fair; For, from their shivered brows displayed, Far o'er the unfathomable glade, All twinkling with the dewdrop sheen, The briar-rose fell in streamers green, kind creeping shrubs of thousand dyes Waved in the west-wind's summer sighs.
Boon nature scattered, free and wild, Each plant or flower, the mountain's child. Here eglantine embalmed the air, Hawthorn and hazel mingled there; The primrose pale and violet flower Found in each cliff a narrow bower; Foxglove and nightshade, side by side, Emblems of punishment and pride, Grouped their dark hues with every stain The weather-beaten crags retain. With boughs that quaked at every breath, Gray birch and aspen wept beneath; Aloft, the ash and warrior oak Cast anchor in the rifted rock; And, higher yet, the pine-tree hung His shattered trunk, and frequent flung, Where seemed the cliffs to meet on high, His boughs athwart the narrowed sky. Highest of all, where white peaks glanced, Where glistening streamers waved and danced, The wanderer's eye could barely view The summer heaven's delicious blue; So wondrous wild, the whole might seem The scenery of a fairy dream.
Onward, amid the copse 'gan peep A narrow inlet, still and deep, Affording scarce such breadth of brim As served the wild duck's brood to swim. Lost for a space, through thickets veering, But broader when again appearing, Tall rocks and tufted knolls their face Could on the dark-blue mirror trace; And farther as the Hunter strayed, Still broader sweep its channels made. The shaggy mounds no longer stood, Emerging from entangled wood, But, wave-encircled, seemed to float, Like castle girdled with its moat; Yet broader floods extending still Divide them from their parent hill, Till each, retiring, claims to be An islet in an inland sea.
And now, to issue from the glen, No pathway meets the wanderer's ken, Unless he climb with footing nice A far-projecting precipice. The broom's tough roots his ladder made, The hazel saplings lent their aid; And thus an airy point he won, Where, gleaming with the setting sun, One burnished sheet of living gold, Loch Katrine lay beneath him rolled, In all her length far winding lay, With promontory, creek, and bay, And islands that, empurpled bright, Floated amid the livelier light, And mountains that like giants stand To sentinel enchanted land. High on the south, huge Benvenue Down to the lake in masses threw Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurled, The fragments of an earlier world; A wildering forest feathered o'er His ruined sides and summit hoar, While on the north, through middle air, Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.
From the steep promontory gazed The stranger, raptured and amazed, And, 'What a scene were here,' he cried, 'For princely pomp or churchman's pride! On this bold brow, a lordly tower; In that soft vale, a lady's bower; On yonder meadow far away, The turrets of a cloister gray; How blithely might the bugle-horn Chide on the lake the lingering morn! How sweet at eve the lover's lute Chime when the groves were still and mute! And when the midnight moon should lave Her forehead in the silver wave, How solemn on the ear would come The holy matins' distant hum, While the deep peal's commanding tone Should wake, in yonder islet lone, A sainted hermit from his cell, To drop a bead with every knell! And bugle, lute, and bell, and all, Should each bewildered stranger call To friendly feast and lighted hall.
'Blithe were it then to wander here! But now—beshrew yon nimble deer— Like that same hermit's, thin and spare, The copse must give my evening fare; Some mossy bank my couch must be, Some rustling oak my canopy. Yet pass we that; the war and chase Give little choice of resting-place;— A summer night in greenwood spent Were but to-morrow's merriment: But hosts may in these wilds abound, Such as are better missed than found; To meet with Highland plunderers here Were worse than loss of steed or deer.— I am alone;—my bugle-strain May call some straggler of the train; Or, fall the worst that may betide, Ere now this falchion has been tried.'
But scarce again his horn he wound, When lo! forth starting at the sound, From underneath an aged oak That slanted from the islet rock, A damsel guider of its way, A little skiff shot to the bay, That round the promontory steep Led its deep line in graceful sweep, Eddying, in almost viewless wave, The weeping willow twig to rave, And kiss, with whispering sound and slow, The beach of pebbles bright as snow. The boat had touched this silver strand Just as the Hunter left his stand, And stood concealed amid the brake, To view this Lady of the Lake. The maiden paused, as if again She thought to catch the distant strain. With head upraised, and look intent, And eye and ear attentive bent, And locks flung back, and lips apart, Like monument of Grecian art, In listening mood, she seemed to stand, The guardian Naiad of the strand.
And ne'er did Grecian chisel trace A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace, Of finer form or lovelier face! What though the sun, with ardent frown, Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown,— The sportive toil, which, short and light Had dyed her glowing hue so bright, Served too in hastier swell to show Short glimpses of a breast of snow: What though no rule of courtly grace To measured mood had trained her pace,— A foot more light, a step more true, Ne'er from the heath-flower dashed the dew; E'en the slight harebell raised its head, Elastic from her airy tread: What though upon her speech there hung The accents of the mountain tongue,—- Those silver sounds, so soft, so dear, The listener held his breath to hear!
A chieftain's daughter seemed the maid; Her satin snood, her silken plaid, Her golden brooch, such birth betrayed. And seldom was a snood amid Such wild luxuriant ringlets hid, Whose glossy black to shame might bring The plumage of the raven's wing; And seldom o'er a breast so fair Mantled a plaid with modest care, And never brooch the folds combined Above a heart more good and kind. Her kindness and her worth to spy, You need but gaze on Ellen's eye; Not Katrine in her mirror blue Gives back the shaggy banks more true, Than every free-born glance confessed The guileless movements of her breast; Whether joy danced in her dark eye, Or woe or pity claimed a sigh, Or filial love was glowing there, Or meek devotion poured a prayer, Or tale of injury called forth The indignant spirit of the North. One only passion unrevealed With maiden pride the maid concealed, Yet not less purely felt the flame;— O, need I tell that passion's name?
Impatient of the silent horn, Now on the gale her voice was borne:— 'Father!' she cried; the rocks around Loved to prolong the gentle sound. Awhile she paused, no answer came;— 'Malcolm, was thine the blast?' the name Less resolutely uttered fell, The echoes could not catch the swell. 'A stranger I,' the Huntsman said, Advancing from the hazel shade. The maid, alarmed, with hasty oar Pushed her light shallop from the shore, And when a space was gained between, Closer she drew her bosom's screen;— So forth the startled swan would swing, So turn to prune his ruffled wing. Then safe, though fluttered and amazed, She paused, and on the stranger gazed. Not his the form, nor his the eye, That youthful maidens wont to fly.
On his bold visage middle age Had slightly pressed its signet sage, Yet had not quenched the open truth And fiery vehemence of youth; Forward and frolic glee was there, The will to do, the soul to dare, The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire, Of hasty love or headlong ire. His limbs were cast in manly could For hardy sports or contest bold; And though in peaceful garb arrayed, And weaponless except his blade, His stately mien as well implied A high-born heart, a martial pride, As if a baron's crest he wore, And sheathed in armor bode the shore. Slighting the petty need he showed, He told of his benighted road; His ready speech flowed fair and free, In phrase of gentlest courtesy, Yet seemed that tone and gesture bland Less used to sue than to command.
Awhile the maid the stranger eyed, And, reassured, at length replied, That Highland halls were open still To wildered wanderers of the hill. 'Nor think you unexpected come To yon lone isle, our desert home; Before the heath had lost the dew, This morn, a couch was pulled for you; On yonder mountain's purple head Have ptarmigan and heath-cock bled, And our broad nets have swept the mere, To furnish forth your evening cheer.'— 'Now, by the rood, my lovely maid, Your courtesy has erred,' he said; 'No right have I to claim, misplaced, The welcome of expected guest. A wanderer, here by fortune toss, My way, my friends, my courser lost, I ne'er before, believe me, fair, Have ever drawn your mountain air, Till on this lake's romantic strand I found a fey in fairy land!'—
'I well believe,' the maid replied, As her light skiff approached the side,— 'I well believe, that ne'er before Your foot has trod Loch Katrine's shore But yet, as far as yesternight, Old Allan-bane foretold your plight,— A gray-haired sire, whose eye intent Was on the visioned future bent. He saw your steed, a dappled gray, Lie dead beneath the birchen way; Painted exact your form and mien, Your hunting-suit of Lincoln green, That tasselled horn so gayly gilt, That falchion's crooked blade and hilt, That cap with heron plumage trim, And yon two hounds so dark and grim. He bade that all should ready be To grace a guest of fair degree; But light I held his prophecy, And deemed it was my father's horn Whose echoes o'er the lake were borne.'
The stranger smiled:—'Since to your home A destined errant-knight I come, Announced by prophet sooth and old, Doomed, doubtless, for achievement bold, I 'll lightly front each high emprise For one kind glance of those bright eyes. Permit me first the task to guide Your fairy frigate o'er the tide.' The maid, with smile suppressed and sly, The toil unwonted saw him try; For seldom, sure, if e'er before, His noble hand had grasped an oar: Yet with main strength his strokes he drew, And o'er the lake the shallop flew; With heads erect and whimpering cry, The hounds behind their passage ply. Nor frequent does the bright oar break The darkening mirror of the lake, Until the rocky isle they reach, And moor their shallop on the beach.
The stranger viewed the shore around; 'T was all so close with copsewood bound, Nor track nor pathway might declare That human foot frequented there, Until the mountain maiden showed A clambering unsuspected road, That winded through the tangled screen, And opened on a narrow green, Where weeping birch and willow round With their long fibres swept the ground. Here, for retreat in dangerous hour, Some chief had framed a rustic bower.
It was a lodge of ample size, But strange of structure and device; Of such materials as around The workman's hand had readiest found. Lopped of their boughs, their hoar trunks bared, And by the hatchet rudely squared, To give the walls their destined height, The sturdy oak and ash unite; While moss and clay and leaves combined To fence each crevice from the wind. The lighter pine-trees overhead Their slender length for rafters spread, And withered heath and rushes dry Supplied a russet canopy. Due westward, fronting to the green, A rural portico was seen, Aloft on native pillars borne, Of mountain fir with bark unshorn Where Ellen's hand had taught to twine The ivy and Idaean vine, The clematis, the favored flower Which boasts the name of virgin-bower, And every hardy plant could bear Loch Katrine's keen and searching air. An instant in this porch she stayed, And gayly to the stranger said: 'On heaven and on thy lady call, And enter the enchanted hall!'
'My hope, my heaven, my trust must be, My gentle guide, in following thee!'— He crossed the threshold,—and a clang Of angry steel that instant rang. To his bold brow his spirit rushed, But soon for vain alarm he blushed When on the floor he saw displayed, Cause of the din, a naked blade Dropped from the sheath, that careless flung Upon a stag's huge antlers swung; For all around, the walls to grace, Hung trophies of the fight or chase: A target there, a bugle here, A battle-axe, a hunting-spear, And broadswords, bows, and arrows store, With the tusked trophies of the boar. Here grins the wolf as when he died, And there the wild-cat's brindled hide The frontlet of the elk adorns, Or mantles o'er the bison's horns; Pennons and flags defaced and stained, That blackening streaks of blood retained, And deer-skins, dappled, dun, and white, With otter's fur and seal's unite, In rude and uncouth tapestry all, To garnish forth the sylvan hall.
The wondering stranger round him gazed, And next the fallen weapon raised:— Few were the arms whose sinewy strength Sufficed to stretch it forth at length. And as the brand he poised and swayed, 'I never knew but one,' he said, 'Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield A blade like this in battle-field.' She sighed, then smiled and took the word: 'You see the guardian champion's sword; As light it trembles in his hand As in my grasp a hazel wand: My sire's tall form might grace the part Of Ferragus or Ascabart, But in the absent giant's hold Are women now, and menials old.'
The mistress of the mansion came, Mature of age, a graceful dame, Whose easy step and stately port Had well become a princely court, To whom, though more than kindred knew, Young Ellen gave a mother's due. Meet welcome to her guest she made, And every courteous rite was paid That hospitality could claim, Though all unasked his birth and name. Such then the reverence to a guest, That fellest foe might join the feast, And from his deadliest foeman's door Unquestioned turn the banquet o'er At length his rank the stranger names, 'The Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James; Lord of a barren heritage, Which his brave sires, from age to age, By their good swords had held with toil; His sire had fallen in such turmoil, And he, God wot, was forced to stand Oft for his right with blade in hand. This morning with Lord Moray's train He chased a stalwart stag in vain, Outstripped his comrades, missed the deer, Lost his good steed, and wandered here.'
Fain would the Knight in turn require The name and state of Ellen's sire. Well showed the elder lady's mien That courts and cities she had seen; Ellen, though more her looks displayed The simple grace of sylvan maid, In speech and gesture, form and face, Showed she was come of gentle race. 'T were strange in ruder rank to find Such looks, such manners, and such mind. Each hint the Knight of Snowdoun gave, Dame Margaret heard with silence grave; Or Ellen, innocently gay, Turned all inquiry light away:— 'Weird women we! by dale and down We dwell, afar from tower and town. We stem the flood, we ride the blast, On wandering knights our spells we cast; While viewless minstrels touch the string, 'Tis thus our charmed rhymes we sing.' She sung, and still a harp unseen Filled up the symphony between.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er, Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking; Dream of battled fields no more, Days of danger, nights of waking. In our isle's enchanted hall, Hands unseen thy couch are strewing, Fairy strains of music fall, Every sense in slumber dewing. Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er, Dream of fighting fields no more; Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking, Morn of toil, nor night of waking.
'No rude sound shall reach thine ear, Armor's clang or war-steed champing Trump nor pibroch summon here Mustering clan or squadron tramping. Yet the lark's shrill fife may come At the daybreak from the fallow, And the bittern sound his drum Booming from the sedgy shallow. Ruder sounds shall none be near, Guards nor warders challenge here, Here's no war-steed's neigh and champing, Shouting clans or squadrons stamping.'
She paused,—then, blushing, led the lay, To grace the stranger of the day. Her mellow notes awhile prolong The cadence of the flowing song, Till to her lips in measured frame The minstrel verse spontaneous came.
'Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done; While our slumbrous spells assail ye, Dream not, with the rising sun, Bugles here shall sound reveille. Sleep! the deer is in his den; Sleep! thy hounds are by thee lying; Sleep! nor dream in yonder glen How thy gallant steed lay dying. Huntsman, rest! thy chase is done; Think not of the rising sun, For at dawning to assail ye Here no bugles sound reveille.'
The hall was cleared,—the stranger's bed, Was there of mountain heather spread, Where oft a hundred guests had lain, And dreamed their forest sports again. But vainly did the heath-flower shed Its moorland fragrance round his head; Not Ellen's spell had lulled to rest The fever of his troubled breast. In broken dreams the image rose Of varied perils, pains, and woes: His steed now flounders in the brake, Now sinks his barge upon the lake; Now leader of a broken host, His standard falls, his honor's lost. Then,—from my couch may heavenly might Chase that worst phantom of the night!— Again returned the scenes of youth, Of confident, undoubting truth; Again his soul he interchanged With friends whose hearts were long estranged. They come, in dim procession led, The cold, the faithless, and the dead; As warm each hand, each brow as gay, As if they parted yesterday. And doubt distracts him at the view,— O were his senses false or true? Dreamed he of death or broken vow, Or is it all a vision now?
At length, with Ellen in a grove He seemed to walk and speak of love; She listened with a blush and sigh, His suit was warm, his hopes were high. He sought her yielded hand to clasp, And a cold gauntlet met his grasp: The phantom's sex was changed and gone, Upon its head a helmet shone; Slowly enlarged to giant size, With darkened cheek and threatening eyes, The grisly visage, stern and hoar, To Ellen still a likeness bore.— He woke, and, panting with affright, Recalled the vision of the night. The hearth's decaying brands were red And deep and dusky lustre shed, Half showing, half concealing, all The uncouth trophies of the hall. Mid those the stranger fixed his eye Where that huge falchion hung on high, And thoughts on thoughts, a countless throng, Rushed, chasing countless thoughts along, Until, the giddy whirl to cure, He rose and sought the moonshine pure.
The wild rose, eglantine, and broom Wasted around their rich perfume; The birch-trees wept in fragrant balm; The aspens slept beneath the calm; The silver light, with quivering glance, Played on the water's still expanse,— Wild were the heart whose passion's sway Could rage beneath the sober ray! He felt its calm, that warrior guest, While thus he communed with his breast:— 'Why is it, at each turn I trace Some memory of that exiled race? Can I not mountain maiden spy, But she must bear the Douglas eye? Can I not view a Highland brand, But it must match the Douglas hand? Can I not frame a fevered dream, But still the Douglas is the theme? I'll dream no more,—by manly mind Not even in sleep is will resigned. My midnight orisons said o'er, I'll turn to rest, and dream no more.' His midnight orisons he told, A prayer with every bead of gold, Consigned to heaven his cares and woes, And sunk in undisturbed repose, Until the heath-cock shrilly crew, And morning dawned on Benvenue.
At morn the black-cock trims his jetty wing, 'T is morning prompts the linnet's blithest lay, All Nature's children feel the matin spring Of life reviving, with reviving day; And while yon little bark glides down the bay, Wafting the stranger on his way again, Morn's genial influence roused a minstrel gray, And sweetly o'er the lake was heard thy strain, Mixed with the sounding harp, O white-haired Allan-bane!
'Not faster yonder rowers' might Flings from their oars the spray, Not faster yonder rippling bright, That tracks the shallop's course in light, Melts in the lake away, Than men from memory erase The benefits of former days; Then, stranger, go! good speed the while, Nor think again of the lonely isle.
'High place to thee in royal court, High place in battled line, Good hawk and hound for sylvan sport! Where beauty sees the brave resort, The honored meed be thine! True be thy sword, thy friend sincere, Thy lady constant, kind, and dear, And lost in love's and friendship's smile Be memory of the lonely isle!
'But if beneath yon southern sky A plaided stranger roam, Whose drooping crest and stifled sigh, And sunken cheek and heavy eye, Pine for his Highland home; Then, warrior, then be thine to show The care that soothes a wanderer's woe; Remember then thy hap erewhile, A stranger in the lonely isle.
'Or if on life's uncertain main Mishap shall mar thy sail; If faithful, wise, and brave in vain, Woe, want, and exile thou sustain Beneath the fickle gale; Waste not a sigh on fortune changed, On thankless courts, or friends estranged, But come where kindred worth shall smile, To greet thee in the lonely isle.'
As died the sounds upon the tide, The shallop reached the mainland side, And ere his onward way he took, The stranger cast a lingering look, Where easily his eye might reach The Harper on the islet beach, Reclined against a blighted tree, As wasted, gray, and worn as he. To minstrel meditation given, His reverend brow was raised to heaven, As from the rising sun to claim A sparkle of inspiring flame. His hand, reclined upon the wire, Seemed watching the awakening fire; So still he sat as those who wait Till judgment speak the doom of fate; So still, as if no breeze might dare To lift one lock of hoary hair; So still, as life itself were fled In the last sound his harp had sped.
Upon a rock with lichens wild, Beside him Ellen sat and smiled.— Smiled she to see the stately drake Lead forth his fleet upon the lake, While her vexed spaniel from the beach Bayed at the prize beyond his reach? Yet tell me, then, the maid who knows, Why deepened on her cheek the rose?— Forgive, forgive, Fidelity! Perchance the maiden smiled to see Yon parting lingerer wave adieu, And stop and turn to wave anew; And, lovely ladies, ere your ire Condemn the heroine of my lyre, Show me the fair would scorn to spy And prize such conquest of her eve!
While yet he loitered on the spot, It seemed as Ellen marked him not; But when he turned him to the glade, One courteous parting sign she made; And after, oft the knight would say, That not when prize of festal day Was dealt him by the brightest fair Who e'er wore jewel in her hair, So highly did his bosom swell As at that simple mute farewell. Now with a trusty mountain-guide, And his dark stag-hounds by his side, He parts,—the maid, unconscious still, Watched him wind slowly round the hill; But when his stately form was hid, The guardian in her bosom chid,— 'Thy Malcolm! vain and selfish maid!' 'T was thus upbraiding conscience said,— 'Not so had Malcolm idly hung On the smooth phrase of Southern tongue; Not so had Malcolm strained his eye Another step than thine to spy.'— 'Wake, Allan-bane,' aloud she cried To the old minstrel by her side,— 'Arouse thee from thy moody dream! I 'll give thy harp heroic theme, And warm thee with a noble name; Pour forth the glory of the Graeme!' Scarce from her lip the word had rushed, When deep the conscious maiden blushed; For of his clan, in hall and bower, Young Malcolm Graeme was held the flower.
The minstrel waked his harp,—three times Arose the well-known martial chimes, And thrice their high heroic pride In melancholy murmurs died. 'Vainly thou bidst, O noble maid,' Clasping his withered hands, he said, 'Vainly thou bidst me wake the strain, Though all unwont to bid in vain. Alas! than mine a mightier hand Has tuned my harp, my strings has spanned! I touch the chords of joy, but low And mournful answer notes of woe; And the proud march which victors tread Sinks in the wailing for the dead. O, well for me, if mine alone That dirge's deep prophetic tone! If, as my tuneful fathers said, This harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed, Can thus its master's fate foretell, Then welcome be the minstrel's knell.'
'But ah! dear lady, thus it sighed, The eve thy sainted mother died; And such the sounds which, while I strove To wake a lay of war or love, Came marring all the festal mirth, Appalling me who gave them birth, And, disobedient to my call, Wailed loud through Bothwell's bannered hall. Ere Douglases, to ruin driven, Were exiled from their native heaven.— O! if yet worse mishap and woe My master's house must undergo, Or aught but weal to Ellen fair Brood in these accents of despair, No future bard, sad Harp! shall fling Triumph or rapture from thy string; One short, one final strain shall flow, Fraught with unutterable woe, Then shivered shall thy fragments lie, Thy master cast him down and die!'
Soothing she answered him: 'Assuage, Mine honored friend, the fears of age; All melodies to thee are known That harp has rung or pipe has blown, In Lowland vale or Highland glen, From Tweed to Spey—what marvel, then, At times unbidden notes should rise, Confusedly bound in memory's ties, Entangling, as they rush along, The war-march with the funeral song?— Small ground is now for boding fear; Obscure, but safe, we rest us here. My sire, in native virtue great, Resigning lordship, lands, and state, Not then to fortune more resigned Than yonder oak might give the wind; The graceful foliage storms may reeve, 'Fine noble stem they cannot grieve. For me'—she stooped, and, looking round, Plucked a blue harebell from the ground,— 'For me, whose memory scarce conveys An image of more splendid days, This little flower that loves the lea May well my simple emblem be; It drinks heaven's dew as blithe as rose That in the King's own garden grows; And when I place it in my hair, Allan, a bard is bound to swear He ne'er saw coronet so fair.' Then playfully the chaplet wild She wreathed in her dark locks, and smiled.
Her smile, her speech, with winning sway Wiled the old Harper's mood away. With such a look as hermits throw, When angels stoop to soothe their woe He gazed, till fond regret and pride Thrilled to a tear, then thus replied: 'Loveliest and best! thou little know'st The rank, the honors, thou hast lost! O. might I live to see thee grace, In Scotland's court, thy birthright place, To see my favorite's step advance The lightest in the courtly dance, The cause of every gallant's sigh, And leading star of every eye, And theme of every minstrel's art, The Lady of the Bleeding Heart!'
'Fair dreams are these,' the maiden cried,— Light was her accent, yet she sighed,— 'Yet is this mossy rock to me Worth splendid chair and canopy; Nor would my footstep spring more gay In courtly dance than blithe strathspey, Nor half so pleased mine ear incline To royal minstrel's lay as thine. And then for suitors proud and high, To bend before my conquering eye,— Thou, flattering bard! thyself wilt say, That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway. The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine's pride, The terror of Loch Lomond's side, Would, at my suit, thou know'st, delay A Lennox foray—for a day.'—
The ancient bard her glee repressed: 'Ill hast thou chosen theme for jest! For who, through all this western wild, Named Black Sir Roderick e'er, and smiled? In Holy-Rood a knight he slew; I saw, when back the dirk he drew, Courtiers give place before the stride Of the undaunted homicide; And since, though outlawed, hath his hand Full sternly kept his mountain land.
Who else dared give—ah! woe the day, That I such hated truth should say!— The Douglas, like a stricken deer, Disowned by every noble peer, Even the rude refuge we have here? Alas, this wild marauding Chief Alone might hazard our relief, And now thy maiden charms expand, Looks for his guerdon in thy hand; Full soon may dispensation sought, To back his suit, from Rome be brought. Then, though an exile on the hill, Thy father, as the Douglas, still Be held in reverence and fear; And though to Roderick thou'rt so dear That thou mightst guide with silken thread. Slave of thy will, this chieftain dread, Yet, O loved maid, thy mirth refrain! Thy hand is on a lion's mane.'—
Minstrel,' the maid replied, and high Her father's soul glanced from her eye, 'My debts to Roderick's house I know: All that a mother could bestow To Lady Margaret's care I owe, Since first an orphan in the wild She sorrowed o'er her sister's child; To her brave chieftain son, from ire Of Scotland's king who shrouds my sire, A deeper, holier debt is owed; And, could I pay it with my blood, Allan! Sir Roderick should command My blood, my life,—but not my hand. Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell A votaress in Maronnan's cell; Rather through realms beyond the sea, Seeking the world's cold charity Where ne'er was spoke a Scottish word, And ne'er the name of Douglas heard An outcast pilgrim will she rove, Than wed the man she cannot love.
'Thou shak'st, good friend, thy tresses gray,— That pleading look, what can it say But what I own?—I grant him brave, But wild as Bracklinn's thundering wave; And generous,—save vindictive mood Or jealous transport chafe his blood: I grant him true to friendly band, As his claymore is to his hand; But O! that very blade of steel More mercy for a foe would feel: I grant him liberal, to fling Among his clan the wealth they bring, When back by lake and glen they wind, And in the Lowland leave behind, Where once some pleasant hamlet stood, A mass of ashes slaked with blood. The hand that for my father fought I honor, as his daughter ought; But can I clasp it reeking red From peasants slaughtered in their shed? No! wildly while his virtues gleam, They make his passions darker seem, And flash along his spirit high, Like lightning o'er the midnight sky. While yet a child,—and children know, Instinctive taught, the friend and foe,— I shuddered at his brow of gloom, His shadowy plaid and sable plume; A maiden grown, I ill could bear His haughty mien and lordly air: But, if thou join'st a suitor's claim, In serious mood, to Roderick's name. I thrill with anguish! or, if e'er A Douglas knew the word, with fear. To change such odious theme were best,— What think'st thou of our stranger guest? '—
'What think I of him?—woe the while That brought such wanderer to our isle! Thy father's battle-brand, of yore For Tine-man forged by fairy lore, What time he leagued, no longer foes His Border spears with Hotspur's bows, Did, self-unscabbarded, foreshow The footstep of a secret foe. If courtly spy hath harbored here, What may we for the Douglas fear? What for this island, deemed of old Clan-Alpine's last and surest hold? If neither spy nor foe, I pray What yet may jealous Roderick say?— Nay, wave not thy disdainful head! Bethink thee of the discord dread That kindled when at Beltane game Thou least the dance with Malcolm Graeme; Still, though thy sire the peace renewed Smoulders in Roderick's breast the feud: Beware!—But hark! what sounds are these? My dull ears catch no faltering breeze No weeping birch nor aspens wake, Nor breath is dimpling in the lake; Still is the canna's hoary beard, Yet, by my minstrel faith, I heard— And hark again! some pipe of war Sends the hold pibroch from afar.'
Far up the lengthened lake were spied Four darkening specks upon the tide, That, slow enlarging on the view, Four manned and massed barges grew, And, bearing downwards from Glengyle, Steered full upon the lonely isle; The point of Brianchoil they passed, And, to the windward as they cast, Against the sun they gave to shine The bold Sir Roderick's bannered Pine. Nearer and nearer as they bear, Spears, pikes, and axes flash in air. Now might you see the tartars brave, And plaids and plumage dance and wave: Now see the bonnets sink and rise, As his tough oar the rower plies; See, flashing at each sturdy stroke, The wave ascending into smoke; See the proud pipers on the bow, And mark the gaudy streamers flow From their loud chanters down, and sweep The furrowed bosom of the deep, As, rushing through the lake amain, They plied the ancient Highland strain.
Ever, as on they bore, more loud And louder rung the pibroch proud. At first the sounds, by distance tame, Mellowed along the waters came, And, lingering long by cape and bay, Wailed every harsher note away, Then bursting bolder on the ear, The clan's shrill Gathering they could hear, Those thrilling sounds that call the might Of old Clan-Alpine to the fight. Thick beat the rapid notes, as when The mustering hundreds shake the glen, And hurrying at the signal dread, 'Fine battered earth returns their tread. Then prelude light, of livelier tone, Expressed their merry marching on, Ere peal of closing battle rose, With mingled outcry, shrieks, and blows; And mimic din of stroke and ward, As broadsword upon target jarred; And groaning pause, ere yet again, Condensed, the battle yelled amain: The rapid charge, the rallying shout, Retreat borne headlong into rout, And bursts of triumph, to declare Clan-Alpine's congest—all were there. Nor ended thus the strain, but slow Sunk in a moan prolonged and low, And changed the conquering clarion swell For wild lament o'er those that fell.
The war-pipes ceased, but lake and hill Were busy with their echoes still; And, when they slept, a vocal strain Bade their hoarse chorus wake again, While loud a hundred clansmen raise Their voices in their Chieftain's praise. Each boatman, bending to his oar, With measured sweep the burden bore, In such wild cadence as the breeze Makes through December's leafless trees. The chorus first could Allan know, 'Roderick Vich Alpine, ho! fro!' And near, and nearer as they rowed, Distinct the martial ditty flowed.
Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances! Honored and blessed be the ever-green Pine! Long may the tree, in his banner that glances, Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line! Heaven send it happy dew, Earth lend it sap anew, Gayly to bourgeon and broadly to grow, While every Highland glen Sends our shout back again, 'Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!'
Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade; When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain, The more shall Clan-Alpine exult in her shade. Moored in the rifted rock, Proof to the tempest's shock, Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow; Menteith and Breadalbane, then, Echo his praise again, 'Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!'
Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin, And Bannochar's groans to our slogan replied; Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin, And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side. Widow and Saxon maid Long shall lament our raid, Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe; Lennox and Leven-glen Shake when they hear again, 'Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!'
Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the Highlands! Stretch to your oars for the ever-green Pine! O that the rosebud that graces yon islands Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine! O that some seedling gem, Worthy such noble stem, Honored and blessed in their shadow might grow! Loud should Clan-Alpine then Ring from her deepmost glen, Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!'
With all her joyful female band Had Lady Margaret sought the strand. Loose on the breeze their tresses flew, And high their snowy arms they threw, As echoing back with shrill acclaim, And chorus wild, the Chieftain's name; While, prompt to please, with mother's art The darling passion of his heart, The Dame called Ellen to the strand, To greet her kinsman ere he land: 'Come, loiterer, come! a Douglas thou, And shun to wreathe a victor's brow?' Reluctantly and slow, the maid The unwelcome summoning obeyed, And when a distant bugle rung, In the mid-path aside she sprung:— 'List, Allan-bane! From mainland cast I hear my father's signal blast. Be ours,' she cried, 'the skiff to guide, And waft him from the mountain-side.' Then, like a sunbeam, swift and bright, She darted to her shallop light, And, eagerly while Roderick scanned, For her dear form, his mother's band, The islet far behind her lay, And she had landed in the bay.
Some feelings are to mortals given With less of earth in them than heaven; And if there be a human tear From passion's dross refined and clear, A tear so limpid and so meek It would not stain an angel's cheek, 'Tis that which pious fathers shed Upon a duteous daughter's head! And as the Douglas to his breast His darling Ellen closely pressed, Such holy drops her tresses steeped, Though 't was an hero's eye that weeped. Nor while on Ellen's faltering tongue Her filial welcomes crowded hung, Marked she that fear—affection's proof— Still held a graceful youth aloof; No! not till Douglas named his name, Although the youth was Malcolm Graeme.
Allan, with wistful look the while, Marked Roderick landing on the isle; His master piteously he eyed, Then gazed upon the Chieftain's pride, Then dashed with hasty hand away From his dimmed eye the gathering spray; And Douglas, as his hand he laid On Malcolm's shoulder, kindly said: 'Canst thou, young friend, no meaning spy In my poor follower's glistening eye? I 'll tell thee:—he recalls the day When in my praise he led the lay O'er the arched gate of Bothwell proud, While many a minstrel answered loud, When Percy's Norman pennon, won In bloody field, before me shone, And twice ten knights, the least a name As mighty as yon Chief may claim, Gracing my pomp, behind me came. Yet trust me, Malcolm, not so proud Was I of all that marshalled crowd, Though the waned crescent owned my might, And in my train trooped lord and knight, Though Blantyre hymned her holiest lays, And Bothwell's bards flung back my praise, As when this old man's silent tear, And this poor maid's affection dear, A welcome give more kind and true Than aught my better fortunes knew. Forgive, my friend, a father's boast,— O, it out-beggars all I lost!'
Delightful praise!—like summer rose, That brighter in the dew-drop glows, The bashful maiden's cheek appeared, For Douglas spoke, and Malcolm heard. The flush of shame-faced joy to hide, The hounds, the hawk, her cares divide; The loved caresses of the maid The dogs with crouch and whimper paid; And, at her whistle, on her hand The falcon took his favorite stand, Closed his dark wing, relaxed his eye, Nor, though unhooded, sought to fly. And, trust, while in such guise she stood, Like fabled Goddess of the wood, That if a father's partial thought O'erweighed her worth and beauty aught, Well might the lover's judgment fail To balance with a juster scale; For with each secret glance he stole, The fond enthusiast sent his soul.
Of stature fair, and slender frame, But firmly knit, was Malcolm Graeme. The belted plaid and tartan hose Did ne'er more graceful limbs disclose; His flaxen hair, of sunny hue, Curled closely round his bonnet blue. Trained to the chase, his eagle eye The ptarmigan in snow could spy; Each pass, by mountain, lake, and heath, He knew, through Lennox and Menteith; Vain was the bound of dark-brown doe When Malcolm bent his sounding bow, And scarce that doe, though winged with fear, Outstripped in speed the mountaineer: Right up Ben Lomond could he press, And not a sob his toil confess. His form accorded with a mind Lively and ardent, frank and kind; A blither heart, till Ellen came Did never love nor sorrow tame; It danced as lightsome in his breast As played the feather on his crest. Yet friends, who nearest knew the youth His scorn of wrong, his zeal for truth And bards, who saw his features bold When kindled by the tales of old Said, were that youth to manhood grown, Not long should Roderick Dhu's renown Be foremost voiced by mountain fame, But quail to that of Malcolm Graeme.
Now back they wend their watery way, And, 'O my sire!' did Ellen say, 'Why urge thy chase so far astray? And why so late returned? And why '— The rest was in her speaking eye. 'My child, the chase I follow far, 'Tis mimicry of noble war; And with that gallant pastime reft Were all of Douglas I have left. I met young Malcolm as I strayed Far eastward, in Glenfinlas' shade Nor strayed I safe, for all around Hunters and horsemen scoured the ground. This youth, though still a royal ward, Risked life and land to be my guard, And through the passes of the wood Guided my steps, not unpursued; And Roderick shall his welcome make, Despite old spleen, for Douglas' sake. Then must he seek Strath-Endrick glen Nor peril aught for me again.'
Sir Roderick, who to meet them came, Reddened at sight of Malcolm Graeme, Yet, not in action, word, or eye, Failed aught in hospitality. In talk and sport they whiled away The morning of that summer day; But at high noon a courier light Held secret parley with the knight, Whose moody aspect soon declared That evil were the news he heard. Deep thought seemed toiling in his head; Yet was the evening banquet made Ere he assembled round the flame His mother, Douglas, and the Graeme, And Ellen too; then cast around His eyes, then fixed them on the ground, As studying phrase that might avail Best to convey unpleasant tale. Long with his dagger's hilt he played, Then raised his haughty brow, and said:—
'Short be my speech;—nor time affords, Nor my plain temper, glozing words. Kinsman and father,—if such name Douglas vouchsafe to Roderick's claim; Mine honored mother;—Ellen,—why, My cousin, turn away thine eye?— And Graeme, in whom I hope to know Full soon a noble friend or foe, When age shall give thee thy command, And leading in thy native land,— List all!—The King's vindictive pride Boasts to have tamed the Border-side, Where chiefs, with hound and trawl; who came To share their monarch's sylvan game, Themselves in bloody toils were snared, And when the banquet they prepared, And wide their loyal portals flung, O'er their own gateway struggling hung. Loud cries their blood from Meggat's mead, From Yarrow braes and banks of Tweed, Where the lone streams of Ettrick glide, And from the silver Teviot's side; The dales, where martial clans did ride, Are now one sheep-walk, waste and wide. This tyrant of the Scottish throne, So faithless and so ruthless known, Now hither comes; his end the same, The same pretext of sylvan game. What grace for Highland Chiefs, judge ye By fate of Border chivalry. Yet more; amid Glenfinlas' green, Douglas, thy stately form was seen. This by espial sure I know: Your counsel in the streight I show.'
Ellen and Margaret fearfully Sought comfort in each other's eye, Then turned their ghastly look, each one, This to her sire, that to her son. The hasty color went and came In the bold cheek of Malcohm Graeme, But from his glance it well appeared 'T was but for Ellen that he feared; While, sorrowful, but undismayed, The Douglas thus his counsel said: 'Brave Roderick, though the tempest roar, It may but thunder and pass o'er; Nor will I here remain an hour, To draw the lightning on thy bower; For well thou know'st, at this gray head The royal bolt were fiercest sped. For thee, who, at thy King's command, Canst aid him with a gallant band, Submission, homage, humbled pride, Shall turn the Monarch's wrath aside. Poor remnants of the Bleeding Heart, Ellen and I will seek apart The refuge of some forest cell, There, like the hunted quarry, dwell, Till on the mountain and the moor The stern pursuit be passed and o'er,'—
'No, by mine honor,' Roderick said, 'So help me Heaven, and my good blade! No, never! Blasted be yon Pine, My father's ancient crest and mine, If from its shade in danger part The lineage of the Bleeding Heart! Hear my blunt speech: grant me this maid To wife, thy counsel to mine aid; To Douglas, leagued with Roderick Dhu, Will friends and allies flock enow; Like cause of doubt, distrust, and grief, Will bind to us each Western Chief When the loud pipes my bridal tell, The Links of Forth shall hear the knell, The guards shall start in Stirling's porch; And when I light the nuptial torch, A thousand villages in flames Shall scare the slumbers of King James!— Nay, Ellen, blench not thus away, And, mother, cease these signs, I pray; I meant not all my heat might say.— Small need of inroad or of fight, When the sage Douglas may unite Each mountain clan in friendly band, To guard the passes of their land, Till the foiled King from pathless glen Shall bootless turn him home again.'
There are who have, at midnight hour, In slumber scaled a dizzy tower, And, on the verge that beetled o'er The ocean tide's incessant roar, Dreamed calmly out their dangerous dream, Till wakened by the morning beam; When, dazzled by the eastern glow, Such startler cast his glance below, And saw unmeasured depth around, And heard unintermitted sound, And thought the battled fence so frail, It waved like cobweb in the gale; Amid his senses' giddy wheel, Did he not desperate impulse feel, Headlong to plunge himself below, And meet the worst his fears foreshow?— Thus Ellen, dizzy and astound, As sudden ruin yawned around, By crossing terrors wildly tossed, Still for the Douglas fearing most, Could scarce the desperate thought withstand, To buy his safety with her hand.
Such purpose dread could Malcolm spy In Ellen's quivering lip and eye, And eager rose to speak,—but ere His tongue could hurry forth his fear, Had Douglas marked the hectic strife, Where death seemed combating with life; For to her cheek, in feverish flood, One instant rushed the throbbing blood, Then ebbing back, with sudden sway, Left its domain as wan as clay. 'Roderick, enough! enough!' he cried, 'My daughter cannot be thy bride; Not that the blush to wooer dear, Nor paleness that of maiden fear. It may not be,—forgive her, Chief, Nor hazard aught for our relief. Against his sovereign, Douglas ne'er Will level a rebellious spear. 'T was I that taught his youthful hand To rein a steed and wield a brand; I see him yet, the princely boy! Not Ellen more my pride and joy; I love him still, despite my wrongs By hasty wrath and slanderous tongues. O. seek the grace you well may find, Without a cause to mine combined!'
Twice through the hall the Chieftain strode; The waving of his tartars broad, And darkened brow, where wounded pride With ire and disappointment vied Seemed, by the torch's gloomy light, Like the ill Demon of the night, Stooping his pinions' shadowy sway Upon the righted pilgrim's way: But, unrequited Love! thy dart Plunged deepest its envenomed smart, And Roderick, with thine anguish stung, At length the hand of Douglas wrung, While eyes that mocked at tears before With bitter drops were running o'er. The death-pangs of long-cherished hope Scarce in that ample breast had scope But, struggling with his spirit proud, Convulsive heaved its checkered shroud, While every sob—so mute were all Was heard distinctly through the ball. The son's despair, the mother's look, III might the gentle Ellen brook; She rose, and to her side there came, To aid her parting steps, the Graeme.
Then Roderick from the Douglas broke— As flashes flame through sable smoke, Kindling its wreaths, long, dark, and low, To one broad blaze of ruddy glow, So the deep anguish of despair Burst, in fierce jealousy, to air. With stalwart grasp his hand he laid On Malcolm's breast and belted plaid: 'Back, beardless boy!' he sternly said, 'Back, minion! holdst thou thus at naught The lesson I so lately taught? This roof, the Douglas, and that maid, Thank thou for punishment delayed.' Eager as greyhound on his game, Fiercely with Roderick grappled Graeme. 'Perish my name, if aught afford Its Chieftain safety save his sword!' Thus as they strove their desperate hand Griped to the dagger or the brand, And death had been—but Douglas rose, And thrust between the struggling foes His giant strength:—' Chieftains, forego! I hold the first who strikes my foe.— Madmen, forbear your frantic jar! What! is the Douglas fallen so far, His daughter's hand is deemed the spoil Of such dishonorable broil?' Sullen and slowly they unclasp, As struck with shame, their desperate grasp, And each upon his rival glared, With foot advanced and blade half bared.
Ere yet the brands aloft were flung, Margaret on Roderick's mantle hung, And Malcolm heard his Ellen's scream, As faltered through terrific dream. Then Roderick plunged in sheath his sword, And veiled his wrath in scornful word:' Rest safe till morning; pity 't were Such cheek should feel the midnight air! Then mayst thou to James Stuart tell, Roderick will keep the lake and fell, Nor lackey with his freeborn clan The pageant pomp of earthly man. More would he of Clan-Alpine know, Thou canst our strength and passes show.— Malise, what ho!'—his henchman came: 'Give our safe-conduct to the Graeme.' Young Malcolm answered, calm and bold:' Fear nothing for thy favorite hold; The spot an angel deigned to grace Is blessed, though robbers haunt the place. Thy churlish courtesy for those Reserve, who fear to be thy foes. As safe to me the mountain way At midnight as in blaze of day, Though with his boldest at his back Even Roderick Dhu beset the track.— Brave Douglas,—lovely Ellen,—nay, Naught here of parting will I say. Earth does not hold a lonesome glen So secret but we meet again.— Chieftain! we too shall find an hour,'— He said, and left the sylvan bower.
Old Allan followed to the strand— Such was the Douglas's command— And anxious told, how, on the morn, The stern Sir Roderick deep had sworn, The Fiery Cross should circle o'er Dale, glen, and valley, down and moor Much were the peril to the Graeme From those who to the signal came; Far up the lake 't were safest land, Himself would row him to the strand. He gave his counsel to the wind, While Malcolm did, unheeding, bind, Round dirk and pouch and broadsword rolled, His ample plaid in tightened fold, And stripped his limbs to such array As best might suit the watery way,—
Then spoke abrupt: 'Farewell to thee, Pattern of old fidelity!' The Minstrel's hand he kindly pressed,— 'O, could I point a place of rest! My sovereign holds in ward my land, My uncle leads my vassal band; To tame his foes, his friends to aid, Poor Malcolm has but heart and blade. Yet, if there be one faithful Graeme Who loves the chieftain of his name, Not long shall honored Douglas dwell Like hunted stag in mountain cell; Nor, ere yon pride-swollen robber dare,— I may not give the rest to air! Tell Roderick Dhu I owed him naught, Not tile poor service of a boat, To waft me to yon mountain-side.' Then plunged he in the flashing tide. Bold o'er the flood his head he bore, And stoutly steered him from the shore; And Allan strained his anxious eye, Far mid the lake his form to spy, Darkening across each puny wave, To which the moon her silver gave. Fast as the cormorant could skim. The swimmer plied each active limb; Then landing in the moonlight dell, Loud shouted of his weal to tell. The Minstrel heard the far halloo, And joyful from the shore withdrew.
Time rolls his ceaseless course. The race of yore, Who danced our infancy upon their knee, And told our marvelling boyhood legends store Of their strange ventures happed by land or sea, How are they blotted from the things that be! How few, all weak and withered of their force, Wait on the verge of dark eternity, Like stranded wrecks, the tide returning hoarse, To sweep them from out sight! Time rolls his ceaseless course.
Yet live there still who can remember well, How, when a mountain chief his bugle blew, Both field and forest, dingle, cliff; and dell, And solitary heath, the signal knew; And fast the faithful clan around him drew. What time the warning note was keenly wound, What time aloft their kindred banner flew, While clamorous war-pipes yelled the gathering sound, And while the Fiery Cross glanced like a meteor, round.
The Summer dawn's reflected hue To purple changed Loch Katrine blue; Mildly and soft the western breeze Just kissed the lake, just stirred the trees, And the pleased lake, like maiden coy, Trembled but dimpled not for joy The mountain-shadows on her breast Were neither broken nor at rest; In bright uncertainty they lie, Like future joys to Fancy's eye. The water-lily to the light Her chalice reared of silver bright; The doe awoke, and to the lawn, Begemmed with dew-drops, led her fawn; The gray mist left the mountain-side, The torrent showed its glistening pride; Invisible in flecked sky The lark sent clown her revelry: The blackbird and the speckled thrush Good-morrow gave from brake and bush; In answer cooed the cushat dove Her notes of peace and rest and love.
No thought of peace, no thought of rest, Assuaged the storm in Roderick's breast. With sheathed broadsword in his hand, Abrupt he paced the islet strand, And eyed the rising sun, and laid His hand on his impatient blade. Beneath a rock, his vassals' care Was prompt the ritual to prepare, With deep and deathful meaning fraught; For such Antiquity had taught Was preface meet, ere yet abroad The Cross of Fire should take its road. The shrinking band stood oft aghast At the impatient glance he cast;— Such glance the mountain eagle threw, As, from the cliffs of Benvenue, She spread her dark sails on the wind, And, high in middle heaven reclined, With her broad shadow on the lake, Silenced the warblers of the brake.
A heap of withered boughs was piled, Of juniper and rowan wild, Mingled with shivers from the oak, Rent by the lightning's recent stroke. Brian the Hermit by it stood, Barefooted, in his frock and hood. His grizzled beard and matted hair Obscured a visage of despair; His naked arms and legs, seamed o'er, The scars of frantic penance bore. That monk, of savage form and face The impending danger of his race Had drawn from deepest solitude Far in Benharrow's bosom rude. Not his the mien of Christian priest, But Druid's, from the grave released Whose hardened heart and eye might brook On human sacrifice to look; And much, 't was said, of heathen lore Mixed in the charms he muttered o'er. The hallowed creed gave only worse And deadlier emphasis of curse. No peasant sought that Hermit's prayer His cave the pilgrim shunned with care, The eager huntsman knew his bound And in mid chase called off his hound;' Or if, in lonely glen or strath, The desert-dweller met his path He prayed, and signed the cross between, While terror took devotion's mien.
Of Brian's birth strange tales were told. His mother watched a midnight fold, Built deep within a dreary glen, Where scattered lay the bones of men In some forgotten battle slain, And bleached by drifting wind and rain. It might have tamed a warrior's heart To view such mockery of his art! The knot-grass fettered there the hand Which once could burst an iron band; Beneath the broad and ample bone, That bucklered heart to fear unknown, A feeble and a timorous guest, The fieldfare framed her lowly nest; There the slow blindworm left his slime On the fleet limbs that mocked at time; And there, too, lay the leader's skull Still wreathed with chaplet, flushed and full, For heath-bell with her purple bloom Supplied the bonnet and the plume. All night, in this sad glen the maid Sat shrouded in her mantle's shade: She said no shepherd sought her side, No hunter's hand her snood untied. Yet ne'er again to braid her hair The virgin snood did Alive wear; Gone was her maiden glee and sport, Her maiden girdle all too short, Nor sought she, from that fatal night, Or holy church or blessed rite But locked her secret in her breast, And died in travail, unconfessed.
Alone, among his young compeers, Was Brian from his infant years; A moody and heart-broken boy, Estranged from sympathy and joy Bearing each taunt which careless tongue On his mysterious lineage flung. Whole nights he spent by moonlight pale To wood and stream his teal, to wail, Till, frantic, he as truth received What of his birth the crowd believed, And sought, in mist and meteor fire, To meet and know his Phantom Sire! In vain, to soothe his wayward fate, The cloister oped her pitying gate; In vain the learning of the age Unclasped the sable-lettered page; Even in its treasures he could find Food for the fever of his mind. Eager he read whatever tells Of magic, cabala, and spells, And every dark pursuit allied To curious and presumptuous pride; Till with fired brain and nerves o'erstrung, And heart with mystic horrors wrung, Desperate he sought Benharrow's den, And hid him from the haunts of men.
The desert gave him visions wild, Such as might suit the spectre's child. Where with black cliffs the torrents toil, He watched the wheeling eddies boil, Jill from their foam his dazzled eyes Beheld the River Demon rise: The mountain mist took form and limb Of noontide hag or goblin grim; The midnight wind came wild and dread, Swelled with the voices of the dead; Far on the future battle-heath His eye beheld the ranks of death: Thus the lone Seer, from mankind hurled, Shaped forth a disembodied world. One lingering sympathy of mind Still bound him to the mortal kind; The only parent he could claim Of ancient Alpine's lineage came. Late had he heard, in prophet's dream, The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream; Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast Of charging steeds, careering fast Along Benharrow's shingly side, Where mortal horseman ne'er might ride; The thunderbolt had split the pine,— All augured ill to Alpine's line. He girt his loins, and came to show The signals of impending woe, And now stood prompt to bless or ban, As bade the Chieftain of his clan.
'T was all prepared;—and from the rock A goat, the patriarch of the flock, Before the kindling pile was laid, And pierced by Roderick's ready blade. Patient the sickening victim eyed The life-blood ebb in crimson tide Down his clogged beard and shaggy limb, Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim. The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer, A slender crosslet framed with care, A cubit's length in measure due; The shaft and limbs were rods of yew, Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave Their shadows o'er Clan-Alpine's grave, And, answering Lomond's breezes deep, Soothe many a chieftain's endless sleep. The Cross thus formed he held on high, With wasted hand and haggard eye, And strange and mingled feelings woke, While his anathema he spoke:—
'Woe to the clansman who shall view This symbol of sepulchral yew, Forgetful that its branches grew Where weep the heavens their holiest dew On Alpine's dwelling low! Deserter of his Chieftain's trust, He ne'er shall mingle with their dust, But, from his sires and kindred thrust, Each clansman's execration just Shall doom him wrath and woe.' He paused;—the word the vassals took, With forward step and fiery look, On high their naked brands they shook, Their clattering targets wildly strook; And first in murmur low, Then like the billow in his course, That far to seaward finds his source, And flings to shore his mustered force, Burst with loud roar their answer hoarse, 'Woe to the traitor, woe!' Ben-an's gray scalp the accents knew, The joyous wolf from covert drew, The exulting eagle screamed afar,— They knew the voice of Alpine's war.
The shout was hushed on lake and fell, The Monk resumed his muttered spell: Dismal and low its accents came, The while he scathed the Cross with flame; And the few words that reached the air, Although the holiest name was there, Had more of blasphemy than prayer. But when he shook above the crowd Its kindled points, he spoke aloud:— 'Woe to the wretch who fails to rear At this dread sign the ready spear! For, as the flames this symbol sear, His home, the refuge of his fear, A kindred fate shall know; Far o'er its roof the volumed flame Clan-Alpine's vengeance shall proclaim, While maids and matrons on his name Shall call down wretchedness and shame, And infamy and woe.' Then rose the cry of females, shrill As goshawk's whistle on the hill, Denouncing misery and ill, Mingled with childhood's babbling trill Of curses stammered slow; Answering with imprecation dread, 'Sunk be his home in embers red! And cursed be the meanest shed That o'er shall hide the houseless head We doom to want and woe!' A sharp and shrieking echo gave, Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave! And the gray pass where birches wave On Beala-nam-bo.
Then deeper paused the priest anew, And hard his laboring breath he drew, While, with set teeth and clenched hand, And eyes that glowed like fiery brand, He meditated curse more dread, And deadlier, on the clansman's head Who, summoned to his chieftain's aid, The signal saw and disobeyed. The crosslet's points of sparkling wood He quenched among the bubbling blood. And, as again the sign he reared, Hollow and hoarse his voice was heard: 'When flits this Cross from man to man, Vich-Alpine's summons to his clan, Burst be the ear that fails to heed! Palsied the foot that shuns to speed! May ravens tear the careless eyes, Wolves make the coward heart their prize! As sinks that blood-stream in the earth, So may his heart's-blood drench his hearth! As dies in hissing gore the spark, Quench thou his light, Destruction dark! And be the grace to him denied, Bought by this sign to all beside! He ceased; no echo gave again The murmur of the deep Amen.
Then Roderick with impatient look From Brian's hand the symbol took: 'Speed, Malise, speed' he said, and gave The crosslet to his henchman brave. 'The muster-place be Lanrick mead— Instant the time—-speed, Malise, speed!' Like heath-bird, when the hawks pursue, A barge across Loch Katrine flew: High stood the henchman on the prow; So rapidly the barge-mall row, The bubbles, where they launched the boat, Were all unbroken and afloat, Dancing in foam and ripple still, When it had neared the mainland hill; And from the silver beach's side Still was the prow three fathom wide, When lightly bounded to the land The messenger of blood and brand.
Speed, Malise, speed! the dun deer's hide On fleeter foot was never tied. Speed, Malise, speed! such cause of haste Thine active sinews never braced. Bend 'gainst the steepy hill thy breast, Burst down like torrent from its crest; With short and springing footstep pass The trembling bog and false morass; Across the brook like roebuck bound, And thread the brake like questing hound; The crag is high, the scaur is deep, Yet shrink not from the desperate leap: Parched are thy burning lips and brow, Yet by the fountain pause not now; Herald of battle, fate, and fear, Stretch onward in thy fleet career! The wounded hind thou track'st not now, Pursuest not maid through greenwood bough, Nor priest thou now thy flying pace With rivals in the mountain race; But danger, death, and warrior deed Are in thy course—speed, Malise, speed!
Fast as the fatal symbol flies, In arms the huts and hamlets rise; From winding glen, from upland brown, They poured each hardy tenant down. Nor slacked the messenger his pace; He showed the sign, he named the place, And, pressing forward like the wind, Left clamor and surprise behind. The fisherman forsook the strand, The swarthy smith took dirk and brand; With changed cheer, the mower blithe Left in the half-cut swath his scythe; The herds without a keeper strayed, The plough was in mid-furrow staved, The falconer tossed his hawk away, The hunter left the stag at hay; Prompt at the signal of alarms, Each son of Alpine rushed to arms; So swept the tumult and affray Along the margin of Achray. Alas, thou lovely lake! that e'er Thy banks should echo sounds of fear! The rocks, the bosky thickets, sleep So stilly on thy bosom deep, The lark's blithe carol from the cloud Seems for the scene too gayly loud.
Speed, Malise, speed! The lake is past, Duncraggan's huts appear at last, And peep, like moss-grown rocks, half seen Half hidden in the copse so green; There mayst thou rest, thy labor done, Their lord shall speed the signal on.— As stoops the hawk upon his prey, The henchman shot him down the way. What woful accents load the gale? The funeral yell, the female wail! A gallant hunter's sport is o'er, A valiant warrior fights no more. Who, in the battle or the chase, At Roderick's side shall fill his place!— Within the hall, where torch's ray Supplies the excluded beams of day, Lies Duncan on his lowly bier, And o'er him streams his widow's tear. His stripling son stands mournful by, His youngest weeps, but knows not why; The village maids and matrons round The dismal coronach resound.
He is gone on the mountain, He is lost to the forest, Like a summer-dried fountain, When our need was the sorest. The font, reappearing, From the rain-drops shall borrow, But to us comes no cheering, To Duncan no morrow!
The hand of the reaper Takes the ears that are hoary, But the voice of the weeper Wails manhood in glory. The autumn winds rushing Waft the leaves that are searest, But our flower was in flushing, When blighting was nearest.
Fleet foot on the correi, Sage counsel in cumber, Red hand in the foray, How sound is thy slumber! Like the dew on the mountain, Like the foam on the river, Like the bubble on the fountain, Thou art gone, and forever!
See Stumah, who, the bier beside His master's corpse with wonder eyed, Poor Stumah! whom his least halloo Could send like lightning o'er the dew, Bristles his crest, and points his ears, As if some stranger step he hears. 'T is not a mourner's muffled tread, Who comes to sorrow o'er the dead, But headlong haste or deadly fear Urge the precipitate career. All stand aghast:—unheeding all, The henchman bursts into the hall; Before the dead man's bier he stood, Held forth the Cross besmeared with blood; 'The muster-place is Lanrick mead; Speed forth the signal! clansmen, speed!'
Angus, the heir of Duncan's line, Sprung forth and seized the fatal sign. In haste the stripling to his side His father's dirk and broadsword tied; But when he saw his mother's eye Watch him in speechless agony, Back to her opened arms he flew Pressed on her lips a fond adieu,— 'Alas' she sobbed,—'and yet be gone, And speed thee forth, like Duncan's son!' One look he cast upon the bier, Dashed from his eye the gathering tear, Breathed deep to clear his laboring breast, And tossed aloft his bonnet crest, Then, like the high-bred colt when, freed, First he essays his fire and speed, He vanished, and o'er moor and moss Sped forward with the Fiery Cross. Suspended was the widow's tear While yet his footsteps she could hear; And when she marked the henchman's eye Wet with unwonted sympathy, 'Kinsman,' she said, 'his race is run That should have sped thine errand on. The oak teas fallen?—the sapling bough Is all Duncraggan's shelter now Yet trust I well, his duty done, The orphan's God will guard my son.— And you, in many a danger true At Duncan's hest your blades that drew, To arms, and guard that orphan's head! Let babes and women wail the dead.' Then weapon-clang and martial call Resounded through the funeral hall, While from the walls the attendant band Snatched sword and targe with hurried hand; And short and flitting energy Glanced from the mourner's sunken eye, As if the sounds to warrior dear Might rouse her Duncan from his bier. But faded soon that borrowed force; Grief claimed his right, and tears their course.
Benledi saw the Cross of Fire, It glanced like lightning up Strath-Ire. O'er dale and hill the summons flew, Nor rest nor pause young Angus knew; The tear that gathered in his eye He deft the mountain-breeze to dry; Until, where Teith's young waters roll Betwixt him and a wooded knoll That graced the sable strath with green, The chapel of Saint Bride was seen. Swoln was the stream, remote the bridge, But Angus paused not on the edge; Though the clerk waves danced dizzily, Though reeled his sympathetic eye, He dashed amid the torrent's roar: His right hand high the crosslet bore, His left the pole-axe grasped, to guide And stay his footing in the tide. He stumbled twice,—the foam splashed high, With hoarser swell the stream raced by; And had he fallen,—forever there, Farewell Duncraggan's orphan heir! But still, as if in parting life, Firmer he grasped the Cross of strife, Until the opposing bank he gained, And up the chapel pathway strained. A blithesome rout that morning-tide Had sought the chapel of Saint Bride. Her troth Tombea's Mary gave To Norman, heir of Armandave, And, issuing from the Gothic arch, The bridal now resumed their march. In rude but glad procession came Bonneted sire and coif-clad dame; And plaided youth, with jest and jeer Which snooded maiden would not hear: And children, that, unwitting why, Lent the gay shout their shrilly cry; And minstrels, that in measures vied Before the young and bonny bride, Whose downcast eye and cheek disclose The tear and blush of morning rose. With virgin step and bashful hand She held the kerchief's snowy band. The gallant bridegroom by her side Beheld his prize with victor's pride. And the glad mother in her ear Was closely whispering word of cheer.
Who meets them at the churchyard gate? The messenger of fear and fate! Haste in his hurried accent lies, And grief is swimming in his eyes. All dripping from the recent flood, Panting and travel-soiled he stood, The fatal sign of fire and sword Held forth, and spoke the appointed word: 'The muster-place is Lanrick mead; Speed forth the signal! Norman, speed!' And must he change so soon the hand Just linked to his by holy band, For the fell Cross of blood and brand? And must the day so blithe that rose, And promised rapture in the close, Before its setting hour, divide The bridegroom from the plighted bride? O fatal doom'—it must! it must! Clan-Alpine's cause, her Chieftain's trust, Her summons dread, brook no delay; Stretch to the race,—away! away!
Yet slow he laid his plaid aside, And lingering eyed his lovely bride, Until he saw the starting tear Speak woe he might not stop to cheer: Then, trusting not a second look, In haste he sped hind up the brook, Nor backward glanced till on the heath Where Lubnaig's lake supplies the Teith,— What in the racer's bosom stirred? The sickening pang of hope deferred, And memory with a torturing train Of all his morning visions vain. Mingled with love's impatience, came The manly thirst for martial fame; The stormy joy of mountaineers Ere yet they rush upon the spears; And zeal for Clan and Chieftain burning, And hope, from well-fought field returning, With war's red honors on his crest, To clasp his Mary to his breast. Stung by such thoughts, o'er bank and brae, Like fire from flint he glanced away, While high resolve and feeling strong Burst into voluntary song.