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And lighten’d up his faded eye,
With all a poet's ecstasy!
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along :
The present scene, the
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank in faithless memory void,
The poet's glowing thought supplied ;
his harp responsive rung, 'Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL suny.
LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
THE feast was over in Branksome tower. I
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell
Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell --
Jesu Maria, shield us well!
No living wight, save the Ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all ;
Knight, and page, and household squire,
Loiter'd through the lofty hall,
Or crowded round the ample fire:
The stag-hounds, weary with the chase,
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor,
And urged, in dreams, the forest race,
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.
Nine-and-twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome-Hall;2
Nine-and-twenty squires of name
Brought them their steeds to bower from stall;
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
Waited, duteous, on them all:
They were all knights of mettle true,
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.
I See Note 1 of the "NOTES TO THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTEEL the Appendix. The figures of reference throughout the poem relat further Notes in the Appendix.
Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
With belted sword, and spur on heel:
They quitted not their harness bright,
Neither by day, nor yet by night:
They lay down to rest,
With corslet laced,
Pillow'd on buckler cold and hard;
They carv'd at the meal
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the helmet
Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten;
Thirty steeds, both fleet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood-axe at saddle-bow ;3
A hundred more fed free in stall :-
Such was the custom of Branksome Hall.
Why do these steeds stand ready dight?
Why watch these warriors, arm’d, by night?-
They watch, to hear the blood-hound baying:
They watch, to hear the war-horn braying;
To see St George's red cross streaming,
To see the midnight beacon gleaming:
They watch, against Southern
force and guile,
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy's powers,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle.
Such is the custom of Branksome Hall.
Many a valiant knight is here;
But he, the chieftain of them all,
His sword hangs rusting on the wall,
Beside his broken spear.
Bards long shall tell,
How Lord Walter fell !!
When startled burghers fled, afar,
The furies of the Border war;
When the streets of high Dunedin a
Saw lances gleam, and falchions redden,
And beard the slogan's b deadly yell-
Then the Chief of Branksome feil.
Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity?
• The war-cry or gathering word of a Border clan.
Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity? No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage, they drew; Implored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs, their own red falchions slew : While Cessford owns the rule of Carr,
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
The slaughter'd chiefs, the mortal jar,
The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!
In sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent;
And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent: But o'er her warrior's bloody bier The Ladye dropp'd nor flower nor tear! Vengeance deep-brooding o'er the slain,
Had lock'd the source of softer woe; And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow; Until, amid his sorrowing clan,,
Her son lisp'd from the nurse's knee“ And if I live to be a man,
My father's death revenged shall be !"
Then fast the mother's tears did seek
To dew the infant's kindling cheek.
All loose her negligent attire,
All loose her golden hair,
Hung Margaret o'er her slaughter'd sire,
And wept in wild despair,
But not alone the bitter tear
Had filial grief supplied ;
For hopeless love, and anxious fear,
Had lent their mingled tide:
Nor in her mother's alter'd eye
Dared she to look for sympathy.
Her lover, 'gainst her father's clan,
With Carr in arms had stood,
When Mathouse-burn to Melrose ran,
All purple with their blood;
And well she knew, her mother dread,
Before Lord Cranstoun she should wed,
Would see her on her dying bed.
Of noble race the Ladye came,
Her father was a clerk of fame,
Of Bethune's line of Picardie:
He learned the art that none may name,
In Padua, far beyond the sea.
Men said, he changed his mortal frame,
By feat of magic mystery;
For when in studious mood he paced
St Andrew's cloister'd hall,
His form no darkening shadow traced
Upon the sunny wall 16
And of his skill, as bards avow,
He taught that Ladye fair,
Till to her bidding she could bow
The viewless forms of air.
And now she sits in secret bower,
In old Lord David's western tower,
And listens to a heavy sound,
That moans the mossy turrets round.
Is it the roar of Teviot's tide,
That chafes against the scaur's red side?
Is it the wind that swings the oaks?
Is it the echo from the rocks?
What may it be, the heavy sound,
That moans old Branksome's turrets round?
At the sullen, moaning sound,
The ban-dogs bay and howl;
And from the turrets round,
Loud whoops the startled owl.
In the hall, both squire and knight
Swore that a storm was near,
And looked forth to view the night;
But the night was still and clear?
From the sound of Teviot's tide,
Chafing with the mountain's side,
From the groan of the wind-swung oak,
From the sullen echo of the rock,
From the voice of the coming storm,
The Ladye knew it well!
It was the Spirit of the Flood that spoke,
And he called on the Spirit of the Fell.
RIVER SPIRIT. "Sleep'st thou brother?”_
_« Brother, nay-
On my hills the moonbeams play.
From Craik-cross to Skelfhill pen,
By every rill, in every glen,
Merry elves their morris pacing,
To aërial minstrelsy,