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The winter wind that whistled shrill,
The snows that night that choked the hill,
Though wild and pitiless, had still
Far more than Southron clemency. “Long have
harp's best notes been gone, Few are its strings, and faint their tone, They can but sound in desert lone
Their grey-haired master's misery; Were each grey hair a minstrel-string, Each chord should imprecations fling, Till startled Scotland loud should ring, • Revenge for blood and treachery!
From THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His withered cheek, and tresses grey,
Seemed to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.
The last of all the bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry.
For, well-a-day! their date was fled,
His tuneful brethren all were dead;
And he, neglected and oppressed,
Wished to be with them and at rest.
No more on prancing palfrey borne,
He carolled light as lark at morn:
No longer courted and caressed,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He poured, to lord and lady gay,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone;
A stranger filled the Stuarts' throne;
The bigots of the iron time
Had called his harmless art a crime.
A wandering harper, scorned and poor,
He begged his bread from door to door;
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp a king had loved to hear.
From The LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moon-light;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild but to flout the ruins gray.
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower;
When buttress and buttress alternately
Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave:
Then go—but go alone the while
Then view St. David's ruined pile;
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!
BATTLE OF BEAL' AN DUINE.
From THE LADY OF THE LAKE.
THE Minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Ben-venue,
For, ere he parted, he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch Achray-
Where shall we find in a foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand!-
There is no breeze upon the fern,
No ripple on the lake,
Upon her eyrie nods the erne,
The deer has sought the brake;
The small birds will not sing aloud,
The springing trout lies still,
So darkly glooms yon thunder-cloud,
That swathes, as with a purple shroud,
Benledi's distant hill.
Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread,
Or echoes from the groaning ground
The warrior's measured tread?
Is it the lightning's quivering glance
That on the thicket streams;
Or do they flash on spear and lance,
The sun's retiring beams?
I see the dagger-crest of Mar,
I see the Moray's silver star,
Wave o'er the cloud of Saxon war,
That up the lake comes winding far!
To hero boune for battle strife,
Or bard of martial lay,
'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
One glance at their array !
Their light-armed archers far and near
Surveyed the tangled ground,
Their eentre-ranks, with pike and spear,
A twilight forest frowned;
Their barbed horsemen in the rear,
The stern battalia crowned.
No cymbal clashed, no clarion rang,
Still were the pipe and drum;
Save heavy tread, and armour's clang,
The sullen march was dumb.
There breathed no wind their crest to shake,
Or wave their flags abroad;
Scarce the frail aspen seemed to quake,
That shadowed o'er their road.
Their va’ward scouts no tidings bring,
Can rouse no lurking foe,
Nor spy a trace of living thing,
Save when they stirred the roe;
The host moves like a deep-sea wave,
Where rise no rocks its pride to brave,
High-swelling, dark, and slow.
The lake is passed and now they gain
A narrow and a broken plain,
Before the Trosach's rugged jaws;
And here the horse and spearmen pause,
While, to explore the dangerous glen,
Dive through the pass the archer-men.
At once there rose so wild a yell
Within that dark and narrow dell,
As all the fiends from heaven that fell,
Had pealed the banner-cry of hell!
Forth from the pass in tumult driven,
Like chaff before the wind of heaven,
The archery appear:
For life! for life! their flight they ply-
And shriek and shout, and battle cry,
And plaids and bonnets waving high,
And broadswords flashing in the sky,
Are maddening in the rear.
Onward they drive, in dreadful race,
Pursuers and pursued;
Before that tide of flight and chase,
How shall it keep its rooted place,
The spearman's twilight wood?
-“ Down, down !" cried Mar; “ your lances down!
Bear back both friend and foe!”
Like reeds before the tempest's frown,
That serried grove of lances brown
At once lay levelled low;
And closely shouldering side to side,
The bristling ranks the onset bide.
"We'll quell the savage mountaineer,
As their Tinchell cows the game! They come as fleet as forest deer,
We'll drive them back as tame.”
Bearing before them in their course,
The relics of the archer force,
Like wave with crest of sparkling foam,
Right onward did Clan-Alpine come.
Above the tide each broadsword bright
Was brandishing like beam of light,
Each targe was dark below;
And, with the ocean's mighty swing,
When heaving to the tempest's wing,
They hurled them on the foe.
I heard the lance's shivering crash,
As when the whirlwind rends the ash;
I heard the broadsword's deadly clang,
As if an hundred anvils rang!
But Moray wheeled his rear-ward rank
Of horsemen on Clan-Alpine's flank:
“ My banner-man, advance!
," he cried, “ their column shake! Now, gallants ! for your ladies' sake,
The horsemen dashed among the rout,
As deer break through the broom;
Their steeds are stout, their swords are out,
They soon make lightsome room.
Clan-Alpine's best are backward borne-
Where, where was Roderick then?
One blast upon his bugle-horn
Were worth a thousand men.
And refluent through the pass of fear
The battle's tide was poured;
Vanished the Saxon's struggling spear,
Vanished the mountain-sword.
As Bracklinn's chasm, so black and steep,
Receives her roaring linn,
As the dark caverns of the deep
Suck the wild whirlpool in,
So did the deep and darksome pass
Devour the battle's mingled mass ;
None linger now upon the plain,
Save those who ne'er shall fight again.
From THE LORD OF THE ISLES.
Oh! gay, yet fearful to behold,
Flashing with steel and rough with gold,
And bristled o’er with bills and spears,
With plumes and pennons waving fair,
Was that bright battle-front; for there
Rode England's king and peers :
And who, that saw the monarch ride,
His kingdom battled by his side,
Could then his direful doom foretell?
Fair was his seat in knightly selle',
And in his sprightly eye was set
Some spark of the Plantagenet'.
Though light and wandering was his glance,
It flashed at sight of shield and lance,
“ Knowest thou,” he said, “ De Argentine,
You knight who marshals Scotland's line?"
66 The tokens of his helmet tell
The Bruce, my liege; I know him well.”