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One fleet destroy'd, another crowns the waves :
The sons seem anxious for their fathers' graves :
Thus war returns in an eternal round;
Battles on battles press ; and wound on wound.
Our numbers thinned, our godlike warriors dead,
Pale Caledonia hangs her sickly head.
We must be wise, be frugal of our store,
Add art to arms, and caution to our pow'r.
130 Beneath the sable mantle of the night, Rush on the foe, and, latent, urge the fight. Conduct, with few, may foil this mighty power, And Denmark shun th' inhospitable shore." The senior spoke: a general voice approves ;
135 To arm his kindred-bands each chief removes. Night from the east the drowsy world invades, And clothes the warriors in her dusky shades. The vassal-throng advance, a manly cloud, And with their sable ranks the chieftains shroud. Each chief, now here, now there, in armour shines, Waves through the ranks, and draws the lengthened lines.
Thus, on a night when rattling tempests war, Through broken clouds appears a blazing star; Now veils its head, now rushes on the sight,
145 And shoots a livid horror through the night.
The full-form'd columns, in the midnight-hour,
Begin their silent journey tow'rds the shore:
Through every rank the chiefs inciting roam,
And rouzing whispers hiss along the gloom
A rising hill, whose night-invelop'd brow
Hung o'er th’encamped squadrons of the foe,
Shoots to the deep its ooze-immantled arm,
And stedfast struggles with the raging storm.
Here ends the moving host its winding road,
55 And here condenses, like a sable cloud, Which long was gathering on the mountain's brow, Then broke in thunder on the vales below.
Again the chiefs, in midnight-council met,
Before the king maintain the calm debate :
This waits the equal contest of the day,
That rushes headlong to the nightly fray.
At length young Alpin stood, and thus begun:
“ Great king! supporter of our ancient throne !
Brought up in mountains, and from councils far,
I am a novice in the art of war;
Yet hear this thought.-Within the womb of night,
Confirm the troops, and arm the youth for fight,
While, softly treading, to yon camp I go,
And mark the disposition of the foe;
Or wakeful arm they for the dismal fight,
Or, wrapt within the lethargy of night,
Are left abandon'd to our Scottish sword;
By sleep's soft hand in fatal chains secur’d.
If Denmark sleeps in night's infolding arms,
Expect your spy to point out latent storms;
But, they in arms, too long delay'd my speed,
Then place the faithful scout among the dead."
A general voice th' exploring thought approves,
And every wish with youthful Alpin moves.
The hero slides along the gloom of night:
The camp-fires send afar their gleaming light.
Athwart his side the trusty sabre flies ;
The various plaid hangs plaited down his thighs ;
The crested helm waves awful on his head ;
His manìy trunk the mail and corslet shade;
The pond'rous spear supports his dusky way;
The waving steel reflects the stellar ray.
Arrived, the dauntless youth, solemnly slow,
Observant moved along the silent foe.
Some 'braced in arms the midnight vigil keep;
Some o'er the livid camp-fires nod to sleep ;
The feeding courser to the stake is bound;
The prostrate horseman stretched along the ground;
Extended here the brawny footman lay,
And, dozing, wore the lazy night away ;
The watchman there, by sleep's soft hand o'erpowered,
Starts at the blast, and half unsheaths his sword.
Th' exploring youth, through night's involving cloud,
Circling the foe, their disposition viewed.
At length the hero's dusky journey ends,
Where Haco feasted with his Danish friends.
Haco by more than Sueno's blood was great,
The promis'd monarch of the triple state.
The Scandinavian camp the youth secured
With watchful troops, and not unfaithful sword.
Two oaks, from earth by headlong tempests torn,
Supply the fire, and in the circle burn;
Around, with social talk, the feast they share,
And drown in bowls the Caledonian war.
O'erpowered at length by slumber's silken hand,
They press the beach, and cower upon the strand.
A gallant deed the mountain-youth design'd;
And nursed a growing action in his mind.
Awful the chief advanced; his armour bright
Reflects the fire, and shines along the night.
Hovering he stood above the sleeping band,
And shone, an awful column, o'er the strand.
Thus, often to the midnight traveller,
The stalking figures of the dead appear :
Silent the spectre towers before the sight,
And shines, an awful image, througb the night.
At length the giant phantom hovers o'er
Some grave unhallowed, stained with murdered gore.-
Thus Alpin stood. He exiles to the dead
Six warrior youths; the trembling remnant Aed:
Young Haco starts, unsheaths his shining sword,
And views his friends in iron chains secured.
He rushes headlong on the daring foe;
The godlike Alpin renders blow for blow.
Their clattering swords on either armour fell;
Fire flashes round, as steel contends with steel.
Young Alpin's sword on Haco's helmet broke,
And to the ground the staggering warrior took.
Leaning on his broad shield the hero bends ;
Alpin aloft in air his sword suspends :
His arm up-raised, he downward bends his brow,
But scorned to take advantage of the foe.
Young Haco from his hand the weapon threw,
And from his flaming breast these accents drew :
“ Bravest of men ! who could through night come on;
Who durst attack, and foil an host alone!
I see the man high on the warrior placed,
Both mend each other in your noble breast.
Accept, brave man, the friendship of a Dane,
Who hates the Scot, but yet can love the man.”
He said ; while thus the Scot: “ With joy I find
The man so powerful in an en’my's mind;
Your forces fled, amidst night's dark alarms,
You both could stand, and use your gallant arms :
Such valiant deeds thy dauntless soul confess,
That I the warrior, though the Dane, embrace."
His brawny arms he round the hero flung;
As they embrace the clashing corslets rung.
The Dane resumes: “ With the sun's rising beam,
We may, in fields of death, contend for fame;
Receive this shield, that, midst to-morrow's storms,
Haco may grateful shun his well-known arms."
He said; and gave the gold-enamelled round;
While, as he reached, the studded thongs resound.
The amicable colloquy they end;
And each, a foe, clasped in his arms a friend.
This to the camp his dusky jourpey bends ;
While that to Albion's chiefs the hill ascends.
Th' exploring journey all with pleasure hear,
And own the valiant scout their noble care.
Dissolved the council; the attack declined;
Each with the gift of sleep indulged his mind :
And, 'midst his kindred-bands supinely laid,
Each softly slumbered on a mossy bed.
His mind to soft repose young Alpin bends,
And seeks the humble circle of his friends :
Reclining on a rock the hero lies,
And gradual slumbers steal upon his eyes.
Still to his mind the Danish camp arose,
Hung on his dreams, and hagg'd his calm repose:
Once more he mixed with Haco in the fight,
And urged, impending, on the Danish flight.