Imágenes de páginas

Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gain'd not the length of horseman's lance.
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain ;
So tangled oft, that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew,
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but beauty's tear!

Yet more-upon thy fate, 'tis said,
A mighty augury is laid.
It rests with me to wind my horn-
Thou art with numbers overborne ;
It rests with me, here, brand to brand,
Worn as thou art, to bid thee stand:
But, not for clan, nor kindred's cause,
Will I depart from honour's laws;
T'assail a wearied man were shame,
And stranger is a holy name;
Guidance and rest, and food and fire,
In vain he never must require.
Then rest thee here till dawn of day;
Myself will guide thee on the way,
O'er stock and stone, through watch and ward,
Till past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard,
As far as Coilantogle's ford ;
From thence thy warrant is thy sword.”

I take thy courtesy, by heaven,
As freely as 'tis nobly given !"-
“Well, rest thee; for the bittern's cry
Sings us the lake's wild lullaby."-
With that he shook the gather'd heath,
And spread his plaid upon the wreath ;
And the brave foemen, side by side,
Lay peaceful down like brothers tried,
And slept until the dawning beam
Purpled the mountain and the stream.

III. At length they came where, stern and steep The bill sinks down upon the deep. Here Vennachar in silver flows, There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose; Ever the hollow path twined on, Beneath steep bank and threatening stone; An hundred men might hold the post With hardihood against a host. The rugged mountain's scanty cloak Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak, With shingles bare, and cliffs between, And patches bright of bracken green, And heather black, that waved so high, It held the copse in rivalry. But where the lake slept deep and still, Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill; And oft both path and hill were torn, Where wintry torrents down had borne, And heap'd upon the cumber'd land Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand. So toilsome was the road to trace, The guide, abating of his pace, Led slowly through the pass's jaws, And ask'd Fitz-James, by what strange cause He sought these wilds, travers'd by few, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.


FAIR as the earliest beam of eastern light,

When first by the bewilder'd pilgrim spied, It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,

And silvers o'er the torrent's foaming tide, And lights the fearful path on mountain side;

Fair as that beam, although the fairest far, Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,

Shine martial faith, and courtesy's bright star, Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the brow of war.

That early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Look'd out upon the dappled sky,
Mutter'd their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael* around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way,
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path !—They winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;

IV. “ Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried, Hangs in my belt, and by my side ; Yet, sooth to tell," the Saxon said, “I dream'd not now to claim its aid. When here, but three days since, I came, Bewilderd in pursuit of game, All seem'd as peaceful and as still, As the mist slumbering on yon hill; Thy dangerous chief was then afar, Nor soon expected back from war. Thus said, at least, my mountain guide, Though deep, perchance, the villain lied.” “ Yet why a second venture try?”“A warrior thou, and ask me why! Moves our free course by such fix'd cause, As gives the poor mechanic laws ? Enough, I sought to drive away The lazy hours of peaceful day ; Slight cause will then suffice to guide A knight's free footsteps far and wide,A falcon flown, a grayhound stray'd, The merry glance of mountain maid ; Or, if a path be dangerous known, The danger's self is lure alone.”—

V. “ Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,

* The Scottish highlander calls himself Gael, or Gaul, and terms the lowlanders Sassenach, or Saxons.

Say, heard ye naught of lowland war

Ask we for flocks these shingles dry, Against Clan-Alpine raised by Mar?

And well the mountain might reply, “No, by my word; of bands prepared

• To you, as to your sires of yore, To guard king James's sports I heard ;

Belong the target and claymore ! Nor doubt I aught, but, when they hear

I give you shelter in my breast, This muster of the mountaineer,

Your own good blades must win the rest.' Their pennons will abroad be flung,

Pent in this fortress of the north, Which else in Doune had peaceful hung.”

Think'st thou we will not sally forth, “Free be they flung for we were loth

To spoil the spoiler as we may, Their silken folds should feast the moth.

And from the robber rend the prey ? Free be they flung ! as free shall wave

Ay, by my soul —While on yon plain Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.

The Saxon rears one shock of grain ; But, stranger, peaceful since you came,

While, of ten thousand herds, there strays Bewilder'd in the mountain game,

But one along yon river's maze, Whence the bold boast by which you show The Gael, of plain and river heir, Vich-Alpine's vow'd and mortal foe?

Shall, with strong hand, redeem his share. “ Warrior, but yestermorn I knew

Where live the mountain chiefs who hold Naught of thy chieftain, Roderick Dhu,

That plundering lowland field and fold Save as an outlaw'd desperate man,

Is aught but retribution true ? The chief of a rebellious clan,

Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu.' Who, in the regent's court and sight, With ruffian dagger stabb'd a knight:

VIII. Yet this alone might from his part

Answer'd Fitz-James,—And, if I sought, Sever each true and loyal heart.”.

Think'st thou no other could be brought?

What deem ye of my path way laid ?

My life given o'er to ambuscade ?"
Wrothful at such arraignment foul,

“ As of a meed to rashness due ; Dark lour'd the clansman's sable scowl.

Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,
A space he paused, then sternly said,

I seek my hound, or falcon stray'd,
« And heard'st thou why he drew his blade ? I seek, good faith, a highland maid ;
Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow Free hadst thou been to come and go ;
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?

But secret path marks secret foe.
What reck'd the chieftain if he stood

Nor yet, for this, e'en as a spy, On highland heath, or Holy-Rood ?

Hadst thou, unheard, been doom'd to die, He rights such wrong where it is given,

Save to fulfil an augury.” If it were in the court of heaven.”

“Well, let it pass ; nor will I now “ Still was it outrage ;-yet 'tis true,

Fresh cause of enmity avow, Not then claim'd sovereignty his due;

To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow While Albany, with feeble hand,

Enough, I am by promise tied Held borrow'd truncheon of command,

To match me with this man of pride : The young king, mew'd in Stirling tower, Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine's glen Was stranger to respect and power.

In peace; but when I come agen, But then, thy chieftain's robber life!

I come with banner, brand, and bow, Winning mean prey by causeless strife,

As leader seeks his mortal foe. Wrenching from ruin'd lowland swain

For lovelorn swain in lady's bower, His berds and harvest rear'd in vain

Ne'er panted for th' appointed hour Methinks a soul like thine should scorn

As I, until before me stand The spoils from such foul foray borne.”

This rebel chieftain and his band."

The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answer'd with disdainful smile-
“Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I mark'd thee send delighted eye,
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between;
These fertile plains, that softenid vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now? See, rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o'er fel).
Ask we this savage hill we tread,
For fatten'd steer or household bread;

“ Have, then, thy wish !”—he whistled shrill,
And he was answers from the hill ;
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal few.
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets, and spears, and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles gray their lances start,
The bracken bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior arm'd for strife.
That whistle garrison'd the glen
At once with full five hundred men,

As if the yawning hill to heaven

They moved :- I said Fitz-James was brave A subterranean host had given.

As ever knight that belted glaive; Watching their leader's beck and will,

Yet dare not say, that now his blood All silent there they stood, and still;

Kept on its wont and temper'd flood, Like the loose crags whose threatening mass As, following Roderick's stride, he drew Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,

That seeming lonesome pathway through, As if an infant's touch could urge

Which yet, by fearful proof, was rife Their headlong passage down the verge,

With lances, that, to take his life, With step and weapon forward fung,

Waited but signal from a guide Upon the mountain side they hung.

So late dishonour'd and defied. The mountaineer cast glance of pride

Ever, by stealth, his eye sought round Along Benledi's living side,

The vanish'd guardians of the ground, Then fix'd his eye and sable brow

And still, from copse and heather deep, Full on Fitz-James—“How say'st thou now Fancy saw spear and broadsword peep, These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true;

And in the plover's shrilly strain, And, Saxon—I am Roderick Dhu !"

The signal whistle heard again.

Nor breathed he free till far behind

The pass was left; for then they wind
Fitz-James was brave :-—though to his heart Along a wide and level green,
The lifeblood thrill'd with sudden start,

Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
He mann'd himself with dauntless air,

Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near,
Return'd the chief his haughty stare,

To hide a bonpet or a spear.
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before.

XII. “Come one, come all! this rock shall fly

The chief in silence strode before, From its firm base as soon as I.”

And reach'd that torrent's sounding shore, Sir Roderick mark'd-and in his eyes Respect was mingled with surprise,

Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,

From Vennachar in silver breaks,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foeman worthy of their steel.

Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines

On Bochastle the mouldering lines, Short space he stood—then waved his hand :

Where Rome, the empress of the world, Down sunk the disappearing band;

Of yore her eagle wings unfurld. Each warrior vanish'd where he stood,

And here his course the chieftain stay'd, In broom or bracken, heath or wood;

Threw down his target and his plaid, Sunk brand and spear and bended bow,

And to the lowland warrior said: In osiers pale and copses low;

“ Bold Saxon! to his promise just, It seem'd as if their mother earth

Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust. Had swallow'd up her warlike birth.

This murderous chief, this ruthless man, The wind's last breath had toss'd in air

This head of a rebellious clan, Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair ;

Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward, The next but swept a lone hill side,

Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard. Where heath and fern were waving wide;

Now, man to man, and steel to steel, The sun's last glance was glinted back

A chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel. From spear and glaive, from targe and jack ;

See, here, all vantageless I stand, The next, all unreflected, shone

Arm'd, like thyself, with single brand; On bracken green, and cold gray stone.

For this is Coilantogle ford,

And thou must keep thee with thy sword.”
Fitz-James look'd round-yet scarce believed

The witness that his sight received ;
Such apparition well might seem

The Saxon paused:-“ I ne'er delay'd,
Delusion of a dreadful dream.

When foeman bade me draw my blade; Sir Roderick in suspense he eyed,

Nay more, brave chief, I vow'd thy death: And to his look the chief replied,

Yet sure thy fair and generous faith, “ Fear naught-nay, that I need not say- And my deep debt for life preserved, But doubt not aught from mine array.

A better meed have well deserved : Thou art my guest; I pledged my word

Can naught but blood our feud atone ? As far as Coilantogle ford :

Are there no means ?”—“No, stranger, none ! Nor would I call a clansman's brand

And hear—to fire thy flagging zealFor aid against one valiant hand,

The Saxon cause rests on thy steel; Though on our strife lay every vale

For thus spoke fate, by prophet bred Rent by the Saxon from the Gael.

Between the living and the dead :So move we on; I only meant

"Who spills the foremost foeman's life, To show the reed on which you leant,

His party conquers in the strife.'” Deeming this path you might pursue

“ Then, by my word,” the Saxon said, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu."

“ The riddle is already read.

Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff,
There lies red Murdoch, stark and stiff.
Thus fate has solved her prophecy,
Then yield to fate, and not to me.
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When, if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the king shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free,
I plight mine honour, oath, and word,
That, to thy native strengths restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand,
That aids thee now to guard thy land.”

The foe, invulnerable still,
Foil'd his wild rage by steady skill;
Till, at advantage ta’en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And, backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.

XIV. Dark lightning flash'd from Roderick's eye“ Soars thy presumption then so high, Because a wretched kern ye slew, Homage to name to Roderick Dhu? He yields not, he, to man nor fate! Thou add'st but fuel to my hate : My clansman's blood demands revenge.Not yet prepared ?-By heaven, I change My thought, and hold thy valour light As that of some vain carpet-knight, Who ill deserved my courteous care, And whose best boast is but to wear A braid of his fair lady's hair."“I thank thee, Roderick, for the word ! It nerves my heart, it steels my sword; For I have sworn, this braid to stain In the best blood that warms thy vein. Now, truce farewell! and ruth begone Yet think not that by thee alone, Proud chief! can courtesy be shown; Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn, Start at my whistle clansmen stern, Of this small horn one feeble blast Would fearful odds against thee cast. But fear not-doubt not-which thou wiltWe try this quarrel hilt to bilt.”— Then each at once his falchion drew, Each on the ground his scabbard threw, Each look'd to sun, and stream, and plain, As what they ne'er might see again ; Then foot, and point, and eye opposed, In dubious strife they darkly closed.

XVI. “Now, yield ye, or, by Him who made The world, thy heart's blood dies my blade !" “ Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy ! Let recreant yield, who fears to die.”— Like adder darting from his coil, Like wolf that dasbes through the toil, Like mountain cat who guards her young, Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung; Received, but reck'd not of a wound, And lock'd his arms his foeman roundNow, gallant Saxon, hold thine own! No maiden's hand is round thee thrown! That desperate grasp thy frame might feel, Through bars of brass and triple steel! They tug, they strain ;-down, down, they go, The Gael above, Fitz-James below. The chieftain’s gripe his throat compressid, His knee was planted in his breast; His clotted locks he backward threw, Across his brow his hand he drew, From blood and mist to clear his sight, Then gleam'd aloft his dagger bright! -But hate and fury ill supplied The stream of life's exhausted tide, And all too late th' advantage came, To turn the odds of deadly game ; For while the dagger gleam'd on high, Reeld soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye. Down came the blow; but in the heath The erring blade found bloodless sheath. The struggling foe may now unclasp The fainting chief's relaxing grasp ; Unwounded from the dreadful close, But breathless all, Fitz-James arose.

XV. Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu, That on the field his targe he threw, Whose brazen studs and tough bull hide Had death so often dash'd aside ; For, train'd abroad his arms to wield, Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield. He practised every pass and ward, To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard ; While less expert, though stronger far, The Gael maintain'd unequal war. Three times in closing strife they stood, And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood. No stinted draught, no scanty tide, The gushing flood the tartans dyed. Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain, And showerd his blows like wintry rain; And, as firm rock, or castle roof, Against the winter shower is proof,

XVII. He faltered thanks to heaven for life, Redeem'd, unhoped, from desperate strife; Next on his foe his look he cast, Whose every gasp appear'd his last; In Roderick's gore he dipp'd the braid, “ Poor Blanche! thy wrongs are dearly paid; Yet with thy foe must die or live The praise that faith and valour give."With that he blew a bugle note, Undid the collar from his throat, Unbonnetted, and by the wave Sat down, bis brow and hands to lave. Then faint afar are heard the feet Of rushing steeds in gallop fleet ; The sounds increase, and now are seen Four mounted squires in Lincoln green; Two who bear lance, and two who lead, By loosen'd rein, a saddled steed; Each onward held his headlong course, And by Fitz-James rein'd up his horseWith wonder view'd the bloody spot.- Exclaim pot, gallants ! question not:

In vain, to soothe his wayward fate,
The clvister oped her pitying gate;
In vain, the learning of the age
Unclasp'd the sable-letter'd page;
E’en in its treasures he could find
Food for the fever of his mind.
Eager he read whatever tells
Of magic, cabala, and spells,
And every dark pursuit allied
To curious and presumptuous pride;
Till, with fired brain and nerves o’erstrung,
And heart with mystic horrors wrung,
Desperate he sought Benharrow's den,
And hid him from the haunts of men.

VII. The desert gave him visions wild, Such as might suit the spectre's child. Where with black cliffs the torrents toil, He watch'd the wheeling eddies boil, Till, from their foam, his dazzled eyes Beheld the river demon rise ; The mountain mist took form and limb, Of noontide hag, or goblin grim ; The midnight wind came wild and dread, Swell's with the voices of the dead; Far on the future battle-heath His eye beheld the ranks of death : Thus the lone seer, from mankind hurld, Shaped forth a disembodied world. One lingering sympathy of mind Still bound him to the mortal kind; The only parent he could claim Of ancient Alpine's lineage came. Late had he heard in prophet's dream, The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream ; Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast, Of charging steeds, careering fast Along Benharrow's shingly side, Where mortal horseman ne'er might ride: The thunderbolt had split the pine, All augur'd ill to Alpine's line. He girt his loins, and came to show The signals of impending wo, And now stood prompt to bless or ban, As bade the chieftain of his clan.

And strange and mingled feelings woke,
While his anathema he spoke:

“Wo to the clansman, who shall view
This symbol of sepulchral yew,
Forgetful that its branches grew
Where weep the heavens their holiest dew

On Alpine's dwelling low!
Deserter of his chieftain's trust,
He ne'er shall mingle with their dust,
But, from his sires and kindred thrust,
Each clansman's execration just

Shall doom him wrath and wo."
He paused ;—the word the vassals took,
With forward step and fiery look,
On high their naked brands they shook,
Their clattering targets wildly strook ;

And first, in murmur low,
Then, like the billow in his course,
That far to seaward finds his source,
And flings to shore his muster'd force,
Burst, with loud roar, their answer hoarse,

6 Wo to the traitor, wo!"
Ben-an's gray scalp the accents knew,
The joyous wolf from covert drew,
The exulting eagle scream'd afar,-
They knew the voice of Alpine's war.

The shout was hush'd on lake and fell,
The monk resumed his mutter'd spell.
Dismal and low its accents came,
The while he scathed the cross with flame;
And the few words that reach'd the air,
Although the holiest name was there,
Had more of blasphemy than prayer.
But when he shook above the crowd
Its kindled points, he spoke aloud :-
“Wo to the wretch, who fails to rear
At this dread sign the ready spear!
For, as the flames this symbol sear,
His home, the refuge of his fear,

A kindred fate shall know;
Far o'er its roof the volumed flame
Clan-Alpine's vengeance shall proclaim,
While maids and matrons on his name
Shall call down wretchedness and shame,

And infamy and wo.”
Then rose the cry of females, shrill
As goss-hawk's whistle on the hill,
Denouncing misery and ill,
Mingled with childhood's babbling trill

Of curses stammer'd slow,
Answering, with imprecation dread,
“ Sunk be his home in embers red !
And cursed be the meanest shed
That e'er shall hide the houseless head,

We doom to want and wo !”
A sharp and shrieking echo gave,
Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin ca

cave! And the gray pass where birches wave, On Beala-nam-bo.

XI. Then deeper paused the priest anew, And hard his labouring breath he drew,

VIII. 'Twas all prepared ;—and from the rock, A goat, the patriarch of the flock, Before the kindling pile was laid, And pierced by Roderick's ready blade. Patient the sickening victim eyed The life blood ebb in crimson tide Down his clogg'd beard and shaggy limb, Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim. The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer, A slender crosslet form’d with care, A cubit's length in measure due; The shafts and limbs were rods of yew, Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave Their shadows o'er Clan-Alpine's grave, And, answering Lomond's breezes deep, Soothe many a chieftain's endless sleep. The cross, thus form’d, he held on high, With wasted hand, and haggard eye,

« AnteriorContinuar »