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Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Yet more-upon thy fate, 'tis said,
I take thy courtesy, by heaven,
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.
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.
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 ?"
“ As of a meed to rashness due ; Dark lour'd the clansman's sable scowl.
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,
I seek my hound, or falcon stray'd,
But secret path marks secret foe.
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."
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
Where neither tree nor tuft was seen,
Nor rush, nor bush of broom was near,
To hide a bonpet or a spear.
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,
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.”
The Saxon paused:-“ I ne'er delay'd,
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,
The foe, invulnerable still,
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,
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,
On Alpine's dwelling low!
Shall doom him wrath and wo."
And first, in murmur low,
6 Wo to the traitor, wo!"
A kindred fate shall know;
And infamy and wo.”
Of curses stammer'd slow,
We doom to want and wo !”
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,