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They sate them down on a marble stone,
(A Scottish monarch slept below;) Thus spoke the monk, in solemn tone:
'I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim countries I have trod,
And fought beneath the Cross of God:
Now strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
XIII. 'In these far climes it was my lot To meet the wondrous Michael Scott;
A wizard, of such dreaded fame,
That when, in Salamanca's cave,
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame !
Some of his skill he taught to me;
And, warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone.
But to speak them were a deadly sin;
And for having but thought them my heart within,
A treble penance must be done.
"When Michael lay on his dying bed,
His conscience was awakened :
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed;
I was in Spain when the morning rose,
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid;
They would rend this abbaye's massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.
'I swore to bury his mighty book,
That never mortal might therein look:
And never to tell where it was hid,
Save at his Chief of Branksome's need:
And when that need was past and o'er,
Again the volume to restore.
I buried him on St. Michael's night,
When the bell tolled one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead,
Where the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patron's cross might over him wave,
And scare the fiends from the wizard's grave.
'It was a night of woe and dread,
When Michael in the tomb I laid !
Strange sounds along the chancel passed,
The banners waved without a blast,'—
Still spoke the monk, when the bell tolled one!
I tell you, that a braver man
Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
Against a foe ne'er spurred a steed;
Yet somewhat was he chilled with dread,
And his hair did bristle upon his head.
'Lo, warrior! now the Cross of Red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wondrous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night.
That lamp shall burn unquenchably,
Until the cternal doom shall be.'
Slow moved the monk to the broad flagstone,
Which the bloody cross was traced upon:
He pointed to a secret nook;
An iron bar the warrior took;
And the monk made a sign with his withered hand,
The grave's huge portal to expand.
With beating heart to the task he went;
His sinewy frame o'er the grave-stone bent;
With bar of iron heaved amain,
Till the toil-drops fell from his brows like rain.
It was by dint of passing strength,
That he moved the massy stone at length,
I would you had been there, to see
How the light broke forth so gloriously,
Streamed upward to the chancel roof,
And through the galleries far aloof!
No earthly flame blazed e'er so bright :
It shone like heaven's own blessèd light,
And, issuing from the tomb,
Showed the monk's cowl, and visage pale,
Danced on the dark-browed warrior's mail,
And kissed his waving plume.
Before their eyes the wizard lay,
As if he had not been dead a day.
His hoary beard in silver rolled,
He seemed some seventy winters old;
A palmer's amice wrapped him round,
With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,
Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea :
His left hand held his book of might;
A silver cross was in his right;
The lamp was placed beside his knee:
High and majestic was his look,
At which the fellest fiends had shook,
And all unruffled was his face:
They trusted his soul had gotten grace.
Often had William of Deloraine
Rode through the battle's bloody plain,
And trampled down the warriors slain,
And neither known remorse nor awe;
Yet now remorse and awe he owned;
His breath came thick, his head swam round,
When this strange scene of death he saw.
Bewildered and unnerved he stood,
And the priest prayed fervently and loud:
With eyes averted prayed he;
He might not endure the sight to see,
Of the man he had loved so brotherly.
And when the priest his death-prayer had prayed,
Thus unto Deloraine he said :-
'Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
Or, warrior, we may dearly rue ;
For those thou mayst not look upon,
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!'
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the mighty book,
With iron clasped, and with iron bound:
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frowne
But the glare of the sepulchral light,
Perchance, had dazzled the warrior's sight.
When the huge stone sunk o'er the tomb,
The night returned in double gloom :
For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few;
And, as the knight and priest withdrew,
With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
They hardly might the postern gain.
"Tis said, as through the aisles they passed,
They heard strange noises on the blast ;
And through the cloister-galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall,
Loud sobs, and laughter louder, ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man;
As if the fiends kept holiday,
Because these spells were brought to day.
I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
Now, hie thee hence,' the father said,
And when we are on death-bed laid,
Oh may our dear Ladye, and sweet St. John,
Forgive our souls for the deed we have done!'
The monk returned him to his cell,
And many a prayer and penance sped;
When the convent met at the noontide bell-
The monk of St. Mary's aisle was dead!
Lefore the cross was the body laid,
With hands clasped fast, as if still he prayed.
The knight breathed free in the morning wind,
And strove his hardihood to find :
He was glad when he passed the tombstones grey,
Which girdle round the fair abbaye ;
For the mystic book, to his bosom pressed,
Felt like a load upon his breast;
And his joints, with nerves of iron twined,
Shook like the aspen leaves in wind.