Page images
PDF

THE

LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.

CANTO FIRST.

Is

THE feast was over in Branksome tower,
And the ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower, that was guarded by word and by spell,
Deadly to hear and deadly to tell—
Jesu Maria, shield us well !
No living wight, save the ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.

II.
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Knight, and page, and household squire,
Loitered through the lofty hall,
Or crowded round the ample fire.

The stag-hounds, weary with the chase,
Lay stretched upon the rushy floor,

And urged, in dreams, the forest race,

From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.

III.

Nine-and-twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome Hall ;
Nine-and-twenty squires of name,
Brought them their steeds from bower to stall;
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall,
Waited, duteous, on them all:
They were all knights of mettle true,
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.

IV.

Ten of them were sheathed in steel,

With belted sword and spur on heel :

They quitted not their harness bright,

Neither by day, nor yet by night :
They lay down to rest
With corselet laced,

Pillowed on buckler cold and hard ;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,

And they drank the red wine through the helmet

barred.

[ocr errors]

Ten squires, ten yeomen, mail-clad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten.
Thirty steeds both fleet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood-axe at saddle bow :
A hundred more fed free in stall—
Such was the custom of Branksome Hall.

VI, Why do these steeds stand ready dight? Why watch these warriors, armed, by night? They watch to hear the blood-hound baying ; They watch to hear the war horn braying ; To see Saint George's red cross streaming, To see the midnight beacon gleaming ; They watch against Southern force and guile, Lest Scroope, or Howard, or Percy’s powers, Threaten Branksome's lordly towers, From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Car. lisle.

VII.

Such is the custom of Branksome Hall.
Many a valiant knight is here ;
But he, the chieftain of them all,
His sword hangs rusting on the wall,
Beside his broken spear.
Bards long shall tell
How lord Walter fell ?
When startled burghers fled, afar,
The furies of the Border war;
When the streets of high Dunedin
Saw lances gleam and falchions redden,
And heard the slogan's* deadly yell—
Then the chief of Branksome fell.

VIII.

Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity?
Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity ?
No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage, they drew ;
Implored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs, their own red falchions slew.

* The war-cry, or gathering word, of a Border clan.

While Cessford owns the rule of Car,
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,

The slaughtered chiefs, the mortal jar,

The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!

[ocr errors]

In sorrow o'er lord Walter's bier,
The warlike foresters had bent;
And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent:
But o'er her warriors bloody bier,
The ladye dropped nor flower nor tear!
Vengeance, deep brooding o'er the slain,
Had locked the source of softer woe ;
And burning pride, and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow ;
Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisped from the nurse's knee-
“And, if I live to be a man,
“My father's death revenged shall be ".
Then fast the mother's tears did seek
To dew the infant's kindling cheek.

« PreviousContinue »