« ForrigeFortsett »
And louder still comes jeer and boast,
As the flagons faster pour,
Till song, and tale, and laugh are lost
In a wildly mingled roar.
Ay, certes, 'tis an hour of glee,
For the baron himself doth smile, And nods his head right cheerily,
And quaffs his cup the while. What recks he now of midnight fear,
Or the night wind's dismal moan? As it tosses the boughs of that Elden Tree,
Which he thinketh so oft upon ? Long years have past since a deed was done,
By its doer only seen, And there lives not a man beneath the sun,
Who wotteth that deed hath been. So gay was he, so gay were all,
They mark'd not the growing gloom ;
Nor wist they how the darkening hall
Lower'd like the close of doom.
Dull grew the goblet's sheen, and grim
The features of every guest,
And colourless banners aloft hung dim,
Like the clouds of the drizzly west.
Hath time pass'd then so swift of pace?
Is this the twilight gray?
A flash of light pass'd through the place,
Like the glaring noon of day.
Fierce glanced the momentary blaze
O'er all the gallant train,
And each visage pale, with dazzled gaze,
Was seen and lost again.
And the thunder's rolling peal, from far,
Then on and onward drew,
And varied its sound like the broil of war,
And loud and louder grew.
Still glares the lightning blue and pale,
And roars th' astounding din ;
And rattle the windows with bickering hail,
And the rafters ring within.
And cowering hounds the board beneath
Are howling with piteous moan,
While lords and dames sit still as death,
And words are utter'd none.
At length in the waning tempest's fall,
As light from the welkin broke,
A frighten'd man rush'd through the hall,
And words to the baron spoke. “ The thunder hath stricken your tree so fair,
Its roots on green-sward lie.”« What tree?"_“The Elden planted there
Some thirty years gone by.” « And wherefore starest thou on me so,
With a face so ghastly wild ?” « White bones are found in the mould below,
Like the bones of a stripling child."
Pale he became as the shrouded dead,
And his eyeballs fix'd as stone;
And down on his bosom dropp'd his head,
And he utter'd a stifled groan.
Then from the board, each guest amazed,
Sprang up, and curiously Upon his sudden misery gazed,
And wonder'd what might be. Out spoke the ancient seneschal, “I
pray ye stand apart, Both gentle dames and nobles all,
This grief is at his heart.
“ Go, call St. Cuthbert's monk with speed,
And let him be quickly shriven,
And fetch ye a leech for his body's need,
To dight him for earth or heaven."
“ No, fetch me a priest,” the baron said,
In a voice that seem'd utter'd with pain; And he shudder'd and shrunk, as he faintly bade
His noble guests remain. « Heaven's eye each secret deed doth scan,
Heaven's justice all should fear : What I confess to the holy man,
Both heaven and you shall hear.”
And soon St. Cuthbert's monk stood by
With visage sad, but sweet,
And cast on the baron a piteous eye,
And the baron knelt low at his feet. “O, father! I have done a deed
Which God alone did know;
A brother's blood these hands have shed,
With many a fiend-like blow : “ For fiends lent strength like a powerful charm,
And my youthful breast impellid, And I laugh'd to see beneath my arm
The sickly stripling quellid.
“ A mattock from its pit I took,
Dug deep for the Elden Tree,
And I tempted the youth therein to look
Some curious sight to see.
“ The woodmen to their meal were gone,
And ere they return'd again,
I had planted that tree with my strength alone,
O'er the body of the slain.
“ Ah! gladly smiled my father then,
And seldom he smiled on me, When he heard that my skill, like the skill of men,
Had planted the Elden Tree.
“ But where was his eldest son so dear,
Who nearest his heart had been ?
They sought him far, they sought him near,
But the boy no more was seen.
“ And thus his life and lands he lost,
And his father's love beside :
The thought that ever rankled most
In this heart of secret pride.
“Ah! could the partial parent wot
The cruel pang he gives,
To the child neglected and forgot,
Who under his cold eye lives !
“ His elder rights did my envy move,
These lands and their princely hall; But it was our father's partial love,
I envied him most of all.
“ Now thirty years have o'er me pass'd,
And, to the eye of man,
My lot was with the happy cast,
My heart it could not scan.
“O! I have heard in the dead of night,
My murder'd brother's groan,
And shudder'd, as the pale moonlight
On the mangled body shone.
“ My very miners, pent in gloom,
Whose toil my coffers stored,
And cursed belike their cheerless doom,
Were happier than their lord. « 0, holy man! my tale is told
With pain, with tears, with shame; May penance hard, may alms of gold,
Some ghostly favour claim ? “ The knotted scourge shall drink my blood,
The earth my bed shall be, And bitter tears my daily food,
To earn Heaven's grace for me."
Now, where that rueful deed was done,
Endow'd with rights and lands,
Its sharp spires brightening in the sun,
A stately abbey stands.
And the meek'st monk, whose life is there
Still spent on bended knee,
Is he who built that abbey fair,
And planted the Elden Tree,
“ With fast unbroke and thirst unslaked,
Must we on the hard ground sleep?
Or, like ghosts from vaulted charnel waked,
Our cheerless vigil keep?”
“ Hard hap this day in bloody field,
Ye bravely have sustain'd,
And for your pains this dismal bield,
And empty board have gain'd.
“ Hie, Malcom, to that varlet's steed,
And search if yet remain
Some homely store, but good at need,
Spent nature to sustain.
“ Cheer up, my friends! still heart in hand,
Though few and spent we be, We are the pith of our native land,
And we shall still be free. “ Cheer up! though scant and coarse our meal,
In this our sad retreat,
We'll fill our horn to Scotland's weal,
And that will make it sweet."
Then all, full cheerly, as they could,
Their willing service lent, Some broke the boughs, some heap'd the wood,
Some struck the sparkling flint. And a fire they kindled speedily,
Where the hall's last fire had been,
And pavement, walls, and rafters high,
In the rising blaze were seen.
Red gleam on each tall buttress pour'd
The lengthen'd hall along,
And tall and black behind them lower'd
Their shadows deep and strong.
The ceiling, ribb'd with massy oak,
From bickering flames below,
As light and shadow o'er it broke,
Seem'd wavering to and fro.
Their scanty meal was on the ground,
Spread by the friendly light,
And they made the brown horn circle round,
As cheerly as they might.
Some talk of horses, weapons, mail,
Some of their late defeat,
By treachery caused, and many a tale
Of Southron spy's retreat.
“ Ay, well,” says one, “my sinking heart
Did some disaster bode,
When faithless Fadon's wily art
Beguiled us from the road."
“ But well repaid by Providence
Are such false deeds we see ; He's had his rightful recompense,
And cursed let him be.” “0! curse him not! I needs must rue
That stroke so rashly given : If he to us were false or true,
Is known to righteous Heaven.”
So spoke their chief, then silent all
Remain'd in sombre mood,
Till they heard a bugle's larum call
Sound distant through the wood.
ON Gask's deserted ancient hall
Was twilight closing fast,
And, in its dismal shadows, all
Seem'd lofty, void, and vast.
All sounds of life, now reft and bare,
From its walls had pass'd away,
But the stir of small birds shelter'd there,
Dull owl, or clattering jay.
Loop-hole and window, dimly seen,
With faint light passing through,
Grew dimmer still and the dreary scene
Was fading from the view : When the trampling sound of banded men,
Came from the court without;
Words of debate and call, and then
A loud and angry shout.
But mingled echoes from within
A mimic mockery made,
And the bursting door, with furious din,
On jarring hinges bray'd.
An eager band, press'd rear on van,
Rush'd in with clamorous sound,
And their chief, the goodliest, bravest man
That e'er trode Scotish ground.
Then spoke forthwith that leader bold,
“We war with wayward fate: These walls are bare, the hearth is cold,
And all is desolate.
High, high it rose with widening glare,
Sent far o'er land and main,
And shut into the lofty air,
And all was dark again.
A spell of horror lapt him round,
Chill’d, motionless, amazed,
His very pulse of life was bound
As on black night he gazed.
Till harness'd warriors' heavy tread,
From echoing dell arose ;
“ Thank God!" with utter'd voice, he said,
“For here come living foes.” With kindling soul that brand he drew
Which boldest Southron fears,
But soon the friendly call he knew,
Of his gallant, brave compeers.
With haste each wondrous tale was told,
How still, in vain pursuit,
They follow'd the horn through wood and wold,
And Wallace alone was mute. Day rose ; but silent, sad and pale,
Stood the bravest of Scottish race; And each warrior's heart began to quail,
When he look'd in his leader's face.
A NOVEMBER NIGHT'S TRAVELLER.
He, who with journey well begun, Beneath the beam of morning's sun, Stretching his view o'er hill and dale, And distant city, (through its veil Of smoke, dark spires and chimneys showing,) O’er harvest lands with plenty flowing, What time the roused and busy, meeting On king's highway, exchange their greeting, Feels his cheer'd heart with pleasure beat, As on his way he holds. And great Delight hath he, who travels late, What time the moon doth hold her state In the clear sky, while down and dale Repose in light so pure and pale ! While lake, and pool, and stream are seen Weaving their maze of silvery sheen,While cot and mansion, rock and glade, And tower and street, in light and shade Strongly contrasted, are, I trow! Grander than aught of noonday show, Soothing the pensive mind.
The carriage lamps a white light throw
Along the road, and strangely show
Familiar things which cheat the eyes,
Like friends in motley masker's guise.
“What's that? or dame, or mantled maid,
Or herdboy gather'd in his plaid,
Which leans against yon wall his back?
No; 'tis in sooth a tiny stack
Of turf or peat, or rooty wood,
For cottage fire the winter's food."-
“Ha! yonder shady nook discovers
A gentle pair of rustic lovers.
Out on't! a pair of harmless calves,
Through straggling bushes seen by halves.”_
“What thing of strange unshapely height
Approaches slowly on the light,
That like a hunchback'd giant seems,
And now is whitening in its beams?
'Tis but a hind, whose burly back
Is bearing home a loaded sack.”-
“ What's that, like spots of flecker'd snow,
Which on the road's wide margin show?
'Tis linen left to bleach by night.”-
“ Graʼmercy on us ! see I right?
Some witch is casting cantraips there;
The linen hovers in the air-
Pooh! soon or late all wonders cease,
We have but scared a flock of geese.”-
Thus oft through life we do misdeem
Of things that are not what they seem.
Ah! could we there with as slight scathe
Divest us of our cheated faith!
And then belike, when chiming bells
The near approach of wagon tells,
He wistful looks to see it come,
Its bulk emerging from the gloom,
With dun tarpauling o'er it thrown,
Like a huge mammoth, moving on.
But yet more pleased, throngh murky air
He spies the distant bonfire's glare;
And, nearer to the spot advancing,
Black imps and goblins round it dancing;
And, nearer still, distinctly traces
The featured disks of happy faces,
Grinning and roaring in their glory,
Like Bacchants wild of ancient story,
And making murgeons to the flame,
As it were playmate of their game.
Full well, I trow, could modern stage
Such acting for the nonce engage,
A crowded audience every night
Would press to see the jovial sight;
And this, from cost and squeezing free,
November's nightly travellers see.
Through village, lane, or hamlet going,
The light from cottage window showing
Its inmates at their evening fare,
By rousing fire, and earthenware-
And pewter trenches on the shelf,-
Harmless display of worldly pelf!--
Is transient vision to the eye
Of hasty traveller passing by ;
Yet much of pleasing import tells,
And cherish'd in the fancy dwells,
Where simple innocence and mirth
Encircle still the cottage hearth.
When moon is dark, and sun is set,
Not rest of pleasure is the wight,
Who, in snug chaise, at close of night
Begins his journey in the dark,
With crack of whip and ban-dog's bark,
And jarring wheels, and children bawling,
And voice of surly ostler, calling
To postboy, through the mingled din,
Some message to a neighbouring inn,
Which sound confusedly in his ear;
The lonely way's commencing cheer.
With dull November's starless sky
O'er head, his fancy soars not high.
Across the road a fiery glare
Doth blacksmith's open forge declare,
Where furnace blast, and measured din
Of hammers twain, and all within,-
The brawny mates their labour plying,
From heated bar the red sparks flying,
And idle neighbours standing by
With open mouth and dazzled eye,
The rough and sooty walls with store
Of chains and horseshoes studded o'er,-
An armory of sullied sheen,-
All momently are heard and seen.
Nor does he often fail to meet,
In market town's dark narrow street
(E’en when the night on pitchy wings
The sober hour of bed-time brings,)
Amusement. From the alehouse door,
Having full bravely paid his score,
Issues the tipsy artizan,
With tipsier brother of the can,
And oft to wile him homeward tries
With coaxing words, so wondrous wise!
The dame demure, from visit late,
Her lantern borne before in state
By sloven footboy, paces slow,
With pattend feet and hooded brow.
Where the seam'd window-board betrays
Interior light, full closely lays
The eavesdropper his curious ear,
Some neighbour's fireside talk to hear;
While, from an upper casement bending,
A household maid, belike, is sending
From jug or ewer a slopy shower,
That makes him homeward fleetly scour.
From lower rooms few gleams are sent,
From blazing hearth, through chink or rent;
But from the loftier chambers peer,
(Where damsels doff their gentle geer,
For rest preparing,) tapers bright,
Which give a momentary sight
Of some fair form with visage glowing,
With loosen'd braids and tresses flowing,
Who, busied, by the mirror stands,
With bending head and upraised hands,
Whose moving shadow strangely falls
With size enlarged on roof and walls.
Ah! lovely are the things, I ween,
By arrowy speed's light glam’rie seen!
Fancy, so touch'd, will long retain
That quickly seen, nor seen again.
But now he spies the flaring door
Of bridled Swan or gilded Boar,
At which the bowing waiter stands
To know th’alighting guest's commands.
A place of bustle, dirt, and din,
Cursing without, scolding within ;
Of narrow means and ample boast,
The traveller's stated halting post,
Where trunks are missing or deranged,
And parcels lost and horses changed.
Yet this short scene of noisy coil
But serves our traveller as a foil,
Euhancing what succeeds, and lending
A charm to pensive quiet, sending
To home and friends, left far behind,
The kindliest musings of his mind;
Or, should they stray to thoughts of pain,
A dimness o'er the haggard train,
A mood and hour like this will throw,
As vex'd and burden'd spirits know.
Night, loneliness, and motion are
Agents of power to distance care ;
To distance, not discard; for then,
Withdrawn from busy haunts of men,
Necessity to act suspended,
The present, past, and future blended,
Like figures of a mazy dance,
Weave round the soul a dreamy trance,
Till jolting stone, or turnpike gate
Arouse him from the soothing state.
And when the midnight hour is past,
If through the night his journey last,
When still and lonely is the road,
Nor living creature moves abroad,
Then most of all, like fabled wizard,
Night slily dons her cloak and vizard,
His eyes at every corner greeting,
With some new slight of dexterous cheating,
And cunningly his sight betrays,
E'en with his own lamps' partial rays.
The road, that in fair simple day
Through pasture land or corn-fields lay,
A broken hedge-row's ragged screen
Skirting its weedy margin green,
With boughs projecting, interlaced
With thorn and brier, distinctly traced
On the deep shadows at their back,
That deeper sink to pitchy black,
Appearing oft to fancy's eye,
Like woven boughs of tapestrie,
Seems now to wind through tangled wood,
Or forest wild, where Robin Hood,
With all his outlaws, stout and bold,
In olden days his reign might hold,
Where vagrant school-boy fears to roam,
The gipsy's haunt, the woodman's home.
Yea, roofless barn, and ruin'd wall,
As passing lights upon them fall,
When favour'd by surrounding gloom,
The castle's ruin'd state assume.
The steamy vapour that proceeds
From moisten'd hide of weary steeds,
And high on either hand doth rise,
Like clouds, storm-drifted, past him flies;
While liquid mire, by their hoof'd feet
Cast up, adds magic to the cheat,
Glancing presumptuously before him,
Like yellow diamonds of Cairngorum.
How many are the subtle ways,
sly night the eye betrays,
When in her wild fantastic mood,
By lone and wakeful traveller wooed!
Shall I proceed? O no! for now
Upon the black horizon's brow
Appears a line of tawny light;
Thy reign is ended, witching night!
And soon thy place a wizard elf,
(But only second to thyself
In glam’rie's art) will quickly take,
Spreading o'er meadow, vale, and brake,
Her misty shroud of pearly white :-
A modest, though deceitful wight,