Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

And soon he spurr'd his courser keen
Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.'

XXVI.

The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark;—
"Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark.".
"For Branksome, ho!" the knight rejoin'd,
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.2

XXVII.

A moment now he slack'd his speed,
A moment breathed his panting steed;
Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
And loosen'd in the sheath his brand.
On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint,3
Where Barnhill hew'd his bed of flint;
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;

'The estate of Hazeldean, corruptly Hassendean, belonged formerly to a family of Scotts, thus commemorated by Satchells::

"Hassendean came without a call,

The ancientest house among them all."

2 An ancient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburgh shire.

'See Appendix, Note K.

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;
For he was barded from counter to tail,
And the rider was armed complete in mail;
Never heavier man and horse

Stemm'd a midnight torrent's force.

The warrior's very plume, I say,
Was daggled by the dashing spray;

Yet, through good heart, and Our Ladye's grace,
At length he gain'd the landing place.

1See Appendix, Note L.

2 Barded, or barbed,—applied to a horse accoutred with defen sive armour.

XXX.

Now Bowden Moor the march-man won,
And sternly shook his plumed head,
As glanced his eye o'er Halidon;1

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 Elliot'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 gray,
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,

2

In solemn wise did rise and fail,
Like that wild harp, whose magic tone
Is waken'd by the winds alone.

1 Halidon was an ancient seat of the Kerrs of Cessford, now demolished. About a quarter of a mile to the northward lay the field of battle betwixt Buccleuch and Angus, which is called to

this day the Skirmish Field.-See Appendix, Note C.

2

› Lauds, the midnight service of the Catholic church.

But when Melrose he reach'd, 'twas silence all; He meetly stabled his steed in stall,

And sought the convent's lonely wall.'

HERE paused the harp; and with its swell

The Master's fire and courage fell:
Dejectedly, and low, he bow'd,
And, gazing timid on the crowd,
He seem'd to seek, in every eye,
If they approved his minstrelsy;
And, diffident of present praise,
Somewhat he spoke of former days,

1 The ancient and beautiful monastery of Melrose was founded by King David I. Its ruins afford the finest specimen of Gothic architecture and Gothic sculpture which Scotland can boast. The stone of which it is built, though it has resisted the weather for so many ages, retains perfect sharpness, so that even the most minute ornaments seem as entire as when newly wrought. In some of the cloisters, as is hinted in the next Canto, there are representations of flowers, vegetables, &c. carved in stone, with accuracy and precision so delicate, that we almost distrust our senses, when we consider the difficulty of subjecting so hard a substance to such intricate and exquisite modulation. This superb convent was dedicated to St. Mary, and the monks were of the Cistertian order. At the time of the Reformation, they shared in the general reproach of sensuality and irregularity, thrown upon the Roman churchmen. The old words of Galashiels, a favourite Scottish air, ran thus:

O the monks of Melrose made gude kale'

On Fridays when they fasted:

They wanted neither beef nor ale,

As long as their neighbours' lasted.
2 Kalc, Broth.

58

THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL. Canto I.

And how old age, and wand'ring long,
Had done his hand and harp some wrong.
The Duchess, and her daughters fair,
And every gentle lady there,

Each after each, in due degree,
Gave praises to his melody;

His hand was true, his voice was clear,
And much they long'd the rest to hear.
Encouraged thus, the Aged Man,
After meet rest, again began.

« ForrigeFortsæt »