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THE

LAY

OF

THE LAST MINSTREL.

CANTO FIRST.

INTRODUCTION.

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;
His withered cheek, and tresses gray,
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 Stuart's 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.

He passed where Newark's stately tower Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower: : The Minstrel gazed with wishful eyeNo humbler resting place was nigh. With hesitating step, at last, The embattled portal-arch he passed,

Whose ponderous grate and massy bar,
Had oft rolled back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess* marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!

When kindness had his wants supplied.
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:

* Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representative of the ancient Lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.

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