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XXIV.

So passed the day—the evening fell,
'Twas near the time of curfew bell;
The air was mild, the wind was calm,
The stream was smooth, the dew was balm;
E'en the rude watchman, on the tower,
Enjoyed and blessed the lovely hour.
Far more fair Margaret loved and blessed
The hour of silence and of rest.
On the high turret sitting lone,
She waked at times the lute's soft tone;
Touched a wild note, and, all between,
Thought of the bower of hawthorns green.
Her golden hair streamed free from band,
Her fair cheek rested on her hand,
Her blue eyes sought the west afar,
For lovers love the western star.

XXV,

Is yon the star, o'er Penchryst Pen,
That rises slowly to her ken,

And, spreading broad its wavering light,

Shakes its loose tresses on the night?

Is yon red glare the western star ?—

O, 'tis the beacon-blaze of war!

Scarce could she draw her tightened breath,

For well she knew the fire of death!

XXVI.

The Warder viewed it blazing strong,
And blew his war-note loud and long,
Till, at the high and haughty sound,
Rock, wood, and river, rang around.
The blast alarmed the festal hall,
And startled forth the warriors all;
Far downward, in the castle-yard,
Full many a torch and cresset glared;
And helms and plumes, confusedly tossed,
Were in the blaze half-seen, half-lost;
And spears in wild disorder shook,
Like reeds beside a frozen brook.

XXVII.
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,f 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.

f Mountfor Branksome was the gathering word of the Scotts.

XXVIII.
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.

XXIX

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; f
On many a cairn's J gray pyramid,
Where urns of mighty chiefs he 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. + Earn, a Scottish eagle. % Cairn, a pile of stones. |l Bowne, make ready.

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