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[From The Lady of the Lake, Canto VI.]
[The Minstrel relates to the dying Roderick Dhu, Chief of Clan Alpine, the
story of the battle between the royal forces and those of the Clan.]
The Minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Benvenue,
For ere he parted, he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch Achray-
Where shall he find, in foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand !
There is no breeze upon the fern,
Nor ripple on the lake,
Upon her eyry nods the erne,
The deer has sought the brake ;
The small birds will not sing alouc,
The springing trout lies still,
So darkly glooms yon thunder cloud,
That swathes, as with a purple shroud,
Benledi's distant hill.
Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread,
Or echoes from the groaning ground
The warrior's measured tread ?
Is it the lightning's quivering glance
That on the thicket streams,
Or do they flash on spear and lance-
The sun's retiring beams ?--
I see the dagger-crest of Mar,
I see the Moray's silver star,
Wave o'er the cloud of Saxon war,
That up the lake comes winding far !
To hero bound for battle-strife,
Or bard of martial lay,
'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
One glance at their array!
Their light-arm'd archers far and near
Survey'd the tangled ground,
Their centre ranks, with pike and spear,
A twilight forest frown'd,
Their barbed horsemen, in the rear,
The stern battalia crown'd.
No cymbal clash'd, no clarion rang,
Still were the pipe and drum ;
Save heavy tread, and armour's clang,
The sullen march was dumb.
There breathed no wind their crests to shake,
Or wave their flags abroad;
Scarce the frail aspen seem'd to quake,
That shadow'd o’er their road.
Their vaward scouts no tidings bring,
Can rouse no lurking foe,
Nor spy a trace of living thing,
Save when they stirr'd the roe ;
The host moves like a deep-sea wave,
Where rise no rocks its power to brave,
High-swelling, dark, and slow.
The lake is pass’d, and now they gain
A narrow and a broken plain,
Before the Trosach's rugged jaws ;
And here the horse and spearmen pause,
While, to explore the dangerous glen,
Dive through the pass the archer-men.
At once there rose so wild a yell
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends, from heaven that fell,
Had peald the banner-cry of hell !
Forth from the pass in tumult driven,
Like chaff before the wind of heaven,
The archery appear :
For life! for life! their plight they ply-
And shriek, and shout, and battle-cry,
And plaids and bonnets waving high,
And broad-swords flashing to the sky,
Are maddening in the rear.
Onward they drive, in dreadful racc,
Pursuers and pursued ;
Before that tide of flight and chase,
How shall it keep its rooted place,
The spearmen's twilight wood ?-
‘Down, down,' cried Mar, “your lances down!
Bear back both friend and foe!'
Like reeds before the tempest's frown,
That serried grove of lances brown
At once lay levell’d low;
And closely shouldering side to side,
The bristling ranks the onset bide.
“We'll quell the savage mountaineer,
As their Tinchell cows the game!
They come as fleet as forest deer,
We'll drive them back as tame.'
Bearing before them, in their course,
The relics of the archer sorce,
Like wave with crest of sparkling foam,
Right onward did Clan-Alpine come.
Above the tide, each broadsword bright
Was brandishing like beam of light,
Each targe was dark below;
And with the ocean's mighty swing,
When heaving to the tempest's wing,
They hurld them on the foe.
I heard the lance's shivering crash,
As when the whirlwind rends the ash;
I heard the broadsword's deadly clang,
As if an hundred anvils rang !
But Moray wheeld his rearward rank
Of horsemen on Clan Alpine's flank, –
'My banner-man, advance !
I see,' he cried, 'their column shake.
Now, gallants ! for your ladies' sake,
Upon them with the lance !'"A gradually narrowing circle of sportsmen closing in the game.
The horsemen dash'd among the rout,
As deer break through the broom ;
Their steeds are stout, their swords are out,
They soon make lightsome room.
Clan-Alpine's best are backward borne-
Where, where was Roderick then!
One blast upon his bugle horn
Were worth a thousand men.
And refluent through the pass of fear
The battle's tide was pour'd;
Vanish'd the Saxon's struggling spear,
Vanish'd the mountain-sword.
As Bracklinn's chasm, so black and steep,
Receives her roaring linn,
As the dark caverns of the deep
Suck the wild whirlpool in,
So did the deep and darksome pass
Devour the battle's mingled mass :
None linger now upon the plain,
Save those who ne'er shall fight again.
[From Rokeby, Canto I.] [Bertram Risingham, the Buccaneer, brings the tidings of Marston Moor, and of his murder of Philip Mortham in the battle, to Oswald Wycliffe, his accomplice, then holding Barnard Castle for the Parliament.]
Far town-ward sounds a distant tread,
And Oswald, starting from his bed,
Hath caught it, though no human ear,
Unsharpen’d by revenge and fear,
Could e'er distinguish horse's clank,
Until it reach'd the castle bank.
Now nigh and plain the sound appears,
The warder's challenge now he hears,
Then clanking chains and levers tell,
That o'er the moat the drawbridge fell,
And, in the castle court below,
Voices are heard, and torches glow,
As marshalling the stranger's way,
Straight for the room where Oswald lay;
The cry was,-'Tidings from the host,
Of weight-a messenger comes post.'
Stifling the tumult of his breast,
His answer Oswald thus express’d-
‘Bring food and wine, and trim the fire ;
Admit the stranger, and retire.'
The stranger came with heavy stride ;
The morion's plumes his visage hide,
And the buff-coat, an ample fold,
Mantles his form's gigantic mould.
Full slender answer deigned he
To Oswald's anxious courtesy,
But mark’d, by a disdainful smile,
He saw and scorn'd the petty wile,
When Oswald changed the torch's place,
Anxious that on the soldier's face
Its partial lustre might be thrown,
To show his looks, yet hide his own.
His guest, the while, laid low aside
The ponderous cloak of tough bull's hide,
And to the torch glanced broad and clear
The corslet of a cuirassier ;
Then from his brows the casque he drew,
And from the dank plume dash'd the dew,
From gloves of mail relieved his hands,
And spread them to the kindling brands,
And, turning to the genial board,
Without a health, or pledge, or word
Of meet and social reverence said,
Deeply he drank, and fiercely fed ;
As free from ceremony's sway,
- As famish'd wolf that tears his prey.
With deep impatience, tinged with fear,
His host beheld him gorge his cheer,
And quaff the full carouse, that lent
His brow a fiercer hardiment.