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From rose and hawthorn shakes the tear
Upon the gentle minstrel's bier ;
The phantom knight, his glory fled,
Mourns o'er the field he heaped with dead;
Mounts the wild blast that sweeps amain,
And shrieks along the battle-plain.
The chief, whose antique crownlet long
Still sparkled in the feudal song,
Now, from the mountain's misty throne,
Sees, in the thanedom once his own,
His ashes undistinguished lie,
His place, his power, his memory die:
His groans the lonely caverns fill,
His tears of rage impel the rill;
All mourn the minstrel's harp unstrung,
Their name unknown, their praise unsung.
Scarcely the hot assault was stayed,
The terms of truce were scarcely made,
When they could spy, from Branksome's towers,
The advancing march of martial powers.
Thick clouds of dust afar appeared,
And trampling steeds were faintly heard ;
Bright spears above the columns dun,
Glanced momentary to the sun;
And feudal banners fair displayed
The bands that moved to Branksome's aid.
IV. 'Vails not to tell each hardy clan,
From the fair Middle Marches came: The 'bloody heart' blazed in the van,
Announcing Douglas, dreaded name! 'Vails not to tell what steeds did spurn, Where the 'Seven Spears of Wedderburne'
Their men in battle-order set :
And Swinton laid the lance in rest,
That tamed of yore the sparkling crest
Of Clarence's Plantagenet.
Nor list I say what hundreds more,
From the rich Merse and Lammermoor,
And Tweed's fair borders, to the war,
Beneath the crest of old Dunbar
And Hepburn's mingled banners come,
Down the steep mountain glittering far,
And shouting still, 'A Home! a Home!'
Now squire and knight, from Branksome sent,
On many a courteous message went;
To every chief and lord they paid
Meet thanks for prompt and powerful aid :
And told them how a truce was made;
And how a day of fight was ta'en
'Twixt Musgrave and stout Deloraine;
And how the Ladye prayed them dear,
That all would stay the fight to see,
And deign, in love and courtesy,
To taste of Branksome cheer.
Nor, while they bade to feast each Scot,
Were England's noble lords forgot,
Himself, the hoary seneschal,
Rode forth, in seemly terms to call
Those gallant foes to Branksome Hall.
Accepted Howard, than whom knight
Was never dubbed, more bold in fight;
Nor, when from war and armour free,
More famed for stately courtesy :
But angry Dacre rather chose
In his pavilion to repose.
Now, noble dame, perchance you ask,
How these two hostile armies met?
Deeming it were no easy task
To keep the truce which here was set;
Where martial spirits, all on fire,
Breathed only blood and mortal ire.
By mutual inroads, mutual blows,
By habit, and by nation, foes,
They met on Teviot's strand;
They met and sate them mingled down,
Without a threat, without a frown,
As brothers meet in foreign land:
The hands, the spear that lately grasped,
Still in the mailed gauntlet clasped,
Were interchanged in greeting dear;
Visors were raised, and faces shown,
And many a friend, to friend made known.
Partook of social cheer,
Some drove the jolly bowl about;
With dice and draughts some chased the day,
And some, with many a merry shout,
In riot, revelry, and rout,
Pursued the football play.
Yet, be it known, had bugles blown,
Or sign of war been seen,
Those bands, so fair together ranged,
Those hands, so frankly interchanged,
Had dyed with gore the green:
The merry shout by Teviot-side
Had sunk in war-cries wild and wide,
And in the groan of death;
And whingers, now in friendship bare,
The social meal to part and share,
Had found a bloody sheath. 'Twixt truce and war, such sudden change Was not infrequent, nor held strange,
In the old Border-day:
But yet on Branksome's towers and town,
In peaceful merriment, sunk down
The sun's declining ray.
The blithesome signs of wassail gay
Decayed not with the dying day:
Soon through the latticed windows tall
Of lofty Branksome's lordly hall,
Divided square by shafts of stone,
Huge flakes of ruddy lustre shone;
Nor less the gilded rafters rang
With merry harp and beakers' clang:
And frequent, on the darkening plain,
Loud hollo, whoop, or whistle ran,
As bands, their stragglers to regain,
Give the shrill watchword of their clan; And revellers, o'er their bowls, proclaim Douglas' or Dacre's conquering name.
Less frequent heard, and fainter still,
At length the various clamours died :
And you might hear, from Branksome HiH,
No sound but Teviot's rushing tide; Save when the changing sentinel The challenge of his watch could tell; And save, where, through the dark profound, The clanging axe and hammer's sound
Rung from the nether lawn:
For many a busy hand toiled there,
Strong pales to shape, and beams to square,
The lists' dread barriers to prepare
Against the morrow's dawn.
Margaret from hall did soon retreat,
Despite the Dame's reproving eye;
Nor marked she, as she left her seat,
Full many a stifled sigh;
For many a noble warrior strove
To win the Flower of Teviot's love,
And many a bold ally.
With throbbing head and anxious heart,
All in her lonely bower apart,
In broken sleep she lay:
By times from silken couch she rose;
While yet the bannered hosts repose
She viewed the dawning day:
Of all the hundreds sunk to rest,
First woke the loveliest and the best.
She gazed upon the inner court,
Which in the tower's tall shadow lay; Where coursers' clang, and stamp, and snort,
Had rung the livelong yesterday;
Now still as death; till, stalking slow-
The jingling spurs announced his tread-
A stately warrior passed below;
But when he raised his plumèd head-
Blest Mary! can it be?
Secure, as if in Ousenam bowers,
He walks through Branksome's hostile towers,
With fearless step and free.