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The Seneschal, whose silver hair
Was reddened by the torches' glare,
Stood in the midst, with gesture proud,
And issued forth his mandates loud.—"On Penchryst glows a bale * of fire,
And three are kindling on Priesthaughswire;Ride out, ride out,
The foe to scout!
Mount, mount for Branksome, + every man!
Thou, Todrig, warn the Johnstone clan,
That ever are true and stout.—
Ye need not send to Liddesdale;For, when they see the blazing bale,
Elliots and Armstrongs never fail.—
Ride, Alton, ride, for death and life!
And warn the warden of the strife.
Young Gilbert, let our beacon blaze,
Our kin, and clan, and friends, to raise."—
* Bale, beacon-faggot.
t Mount for Branksome was the gathering word of the Scotts.
Fair Margaret, from the turret head,
Heard, far below, the coursers' tread,
While loud the harness rung,
As to their seats, with clamour dread,
The ready horsemen sprung;
And trampling hoofs, and iron coats,
And leaders' voices, mingled notes,
And out! and out!
In hasty route,
The horsemen galloped forth;
Dispersing to the south to scout,
And east, and west, and north, To view their coming enemies, And warn their vassals, and allies.
The ready page, with hurried hand, Awaked the need-fire's* slumbering brand,
* Need-fire, beacon.
And ruddy blushed the heaven:
For a sheet of flame, from the turret high,
Waved like a blood-flag on the sky,
All flaring and uneven;
And soon a score of fires, I ween,
From height, and hill, and cliff, were seen;
Each with warlike tidings fraught;
Each from each the signal caught;
Each after each they glanced to sight,
As stars arise upon the night.
They gleamed on many a dusky tarn, *
Haunted by the lonely earn; +
On many a cairn's J gray pyramid,
Where urns of mighty chiefs lie hid;
Till high Dunedin the blazes saw,
From Soltra and Dumpender Law;
And Lothian heard the Regent's order,
That all should bowne || them for the Border.
* Tarn, a mountain lake; t Earn, the Scottish eagle. \ Cairn, a pile of stones. || Bowne, make ready.
The livelong night in Branksome rang
The ceaseless sound of steel;
The castle-bell, with backward clang,
Sent forth the larum peal;
Was frequent heard the heavy jar,
Where massy stone and iron bar
Were piled on echoing keep and tower,
To whelm the foe with deadly shower;
Was frequent heard the changing guard,
And watch-word from the sleepless ward;
While, wearied by the endless din,
Blood-hound and ban-dog yelled within.
The noble Dame, amid the broil,
Shared the gray Seneschal's high toil,
And spoke of danger with a smile;
Cheered the young knights, and council sage
Held with the chiefs of riper age.
No tidings of the foe were brought,
Nor of his numbers knew they ought,
Nor in what time the truce he sought.
Some said, that there were thousands ten; And others weened that it was nought
But Leven Clans, or Tynedale men,
Who came to gather in black mail;*
And Liddesdale, with small avail,
Might drive them lightly back agen.
So passed the anxious night away,
And welcome was the peep of day.
Ceased the high sound—the listening throng
Applaud the Master of the Song;
And marvel much, in helpless age,
So hard should be his pilgrimage.
* Protection-money exacted by free-booters.