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Amid the strings his fingers strayed,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled;
And lightened up his faded eye,
With all a poet's ecslacy!
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along:
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
Cold diffidence and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank, in faithless memory void,
The poet's glowing thought supplied;
And) while his harp responsive rung,
'Twas thus the Latest Minstrel sung.
10

THE

LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.

CANTO FIRST.

I

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.

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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 chace,

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 corslet 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.

V.

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 frondet 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 St George's red cross streaming,
To see the midnight beacon gleaming;

They watch, against Southern force and guile,
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy's powers,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle.

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.

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