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His trembling hand had lost the ease, The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his finger stray'd,
With all a poet's ecstasy! Was blended into harmony.
In varying cadence, soft or strong, And then, he said, he would full fain He swept the sounding chords along: He could recall an ancient strain,
The present scene, the future lot, He never thought to sing again.
His toils, his wants, were all forgot: It was not framed for village churls, Cold diffidence, and age's frost, But for high dames and mighty earls ; In the full tide of song were lost; He had play'd it to King Charles the Each blank in faithless memory void, good.
The poet's glowing thought supplied: When he kept court in Holyrood; And, while his harp responsive rung, And much he wish'd, yet fear’d, to try | 'T was thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung
The feast was over in Branksome Nine-and-twenty knights of fame tower.
Hung their shields in Branksome And the Ladye had gone to her secret Hall; bower;
Nine-and-twenty squires of name Her bower that was guarded by word Brought them their steeds to bower and by spell,
from stall ; Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall Jesu Maria, shield us well!
Waited, duteous, on them all : No living wight, save the Ladye alone, They were all knights of metal Had dared to cross the threshold stone.
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.
Ten of them were sheathed in steel, Knight, and page, and household
With belted sword, and spur on heel : squire,
They quitted not their harness bright, Loiter'd through the lofty hall,
Neither by day, nor yet by night : Or crowded round the ample fire :
They lay down to rest, The stag-hounds, weary with the chase,
With corslet laced, Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor, Pillow'd on buckler cold and hard ; And urged, in dreams, the forest race, They carv'd at the meal From Teviot stone to Eskdale-moor.
With gloves of steel, * See " NOTES TO THE LAY OF THE LAST | And they drank the red wine through MINSTREL" in the Appendix.
the helmet barr'd,
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 Scoit, The slaughter'd chiefs, the mortal jar, The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot !
Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men, Waited the beck of the warders ten; Thirty steeds, both fleet and wight, Stood saddled in sable day and night, Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood-axe at saddle-bow; | 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 bray
ing: 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 Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle.
Many a valiant knight is here ;
Beside his broken spear.
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity ? Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal," Can love of blessed charity ?
Edinburgh. * The war cry or gathering word of a Border clan.
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 flower nor tear! Vengeance deep-brooding o'er the slain, I 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.
All loose her negligent attire,
All loose her golden hair, Hung Margaret o'er her slaughter'd sire,
And wept in wild despair,
Had filial grief supplied ;
Had lent their mingled tide :
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 :
MOUNTAIN SPIRIT. He learned the art that none may name,
- “Brother, nayIn Padua, far beyond the sea.
On my hills the moonbeams play. Men said, he changed his mortal frame, From Craik-cross to Skelfhill pen, By feat of magic mystery ;
By every rill, in every glen,
To aërial minstrelsy,
Trip it deft and merrily.
Up, and mark their nimble feet! XII,
Up, and list their music sweet!”
He taught that Ladye fair,
“Tears of an imprisoned maiden And now she sits in secret bower,
Mix with my polluted stream; In old Lord David's western tower,
Margaret of Branksome, sorrow-laden, And listens to a heavy sound,
Mourns beneath the moon's pale beam. That moans the mossy turrets round,
Tell me, thou, who view'st the stars, Is it the roar of Teviot's tide,
When shall cease these feudal jars ? That chafes against the scaur's red side? | What shall be the maiden's fate? Is it the wind that swings the oaks?
Who shall be the maiden's mate?”
“ Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll, round?
In utter darkness, round the pole;
The Northern Bear lowers black and
grim ; At the sullen, moaning sound,
Orion's studded belt is dim; The ban-dogs bay and howl ;
Twinkling faint, and distant far, And from the turrets round,
Shimmers through mist each planet star; Loud whoops the startled owl.
Ill may I read their high decree! In the hall, both squire and knight
But no kind influence deign they shower Swore that a storm was near,
On Teviot's tide, and Branksome's tower, And looked forth to view the night;
Till pride be quell’d, and love be free." But the night was still and clear.
The unearthly voices ceast,
And the heavy sound was still ;
It died on the river's breast,
The sound still floated near ;
For it rung in the Ladye's bower, It was the Spirit of the Flood that spoke, And it rung in the Ladye's ear. And he called on the Spirit of the Fell. She raised her stately head,
And her heart throbb'd high with
pride :RIVER SPIRIT.
“Your mountains shall bend,
And your streams ascend, “Sleep'st thou, brother?”–
Ere Margaret be our foeman's bride!”
Where many a bold retainer lay,
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 bere, Albeit their hearts, of rugged mould,
Were stubborn as the steel they wore. For the grey warriors prophesied,
How the brave boy, in future wars,
One moment, and no more;
As she paused at the arched door: Then, from amid the armed train, She call'd to her William of Deloraine.
Spare not to spur, nor stint to ride,
Say that the fated hour is come,
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.
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
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 Liddel, 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 he been, By England's King, and Scotland's
Than, noble dame, by me;
strand; Dimly he view'd the Moat-hill's mound, Where Druid shades still fitted round; In Hawick twinkled many a light; Behind him soon they set in night;
* Barbican, the defence of an outer gate of a | feudal castle.
Peel, a Border tower.
"Sir William of Deloraine, good at need, Mount thee on the wightest steed;
And soon he spurr'd his courser keen Beneath the tower of Hazeldeen.
For he was barded * from counter to tail, And the rider was armed complete in
XXVI. The clattering hoofs the watchmen
mark: “Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark."“For Branksome, ho!” the knight re
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 ir the sheath his brand, On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint, Where Barnhill hew'd his bed of fint; 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 later 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 crested 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 foaming tide, I ween, Scarce half the charger's neck was seen;
* An ancient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburghshire.
Never heavier man and horse
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 Elliott'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 Hawick 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 reachid, 'twas
silence all; He meetly stabled his steed in stall, And sought the cortvent's lonely wall.
Here paused the harp; and with its swell The Master's fire and courage fell;
* Barded, or barbed,-applied to a horse accoutred with defensive armour.
+ An ancient seat of the Kerrs of Cessford. now demolished.
Lauds, the midnight service of the Catholic Church.