At morn the black-cock trims his jetty wing,
‘Tis morning prompts the linnet’s blithest lay,
All Nature’s children feel the matin spring
Of life reviving, with reviving day;
And while yon little bark glides down the bay,
Wafting the stranger on his way again,
Morn’s genial influence roused a minstrel gray,
And sweetly o’er the lake was heard thy strain,
Mixed with the sounding harp, O white-haired Allan-bane!
‘Not faster yonder rowers’ might
Flings from their oars the spray,
Not faster yonder rippling bright,
That tracks the shallop’s course in light,
Melts in the lake away,
Than men from memory erase
The benefits of former days;
Then, stranger, go! good speed the while,
Nor think again of the lonely isle.
‘High place to thee in royal court,
High place in battled line,
Good hawk and hound for sylvan sport!
Where beauty sees the brave resort,
The honoured meed be thine!
True be thy sword, thy friend sincere,
Thy lady constant, kind, and dear,
And lost in love’s and friendship’s smile
Be memory of the lonely isle!
‘But if beneath yon southern sky
A plaided stranger roam,
Whose drooping crest and stifled sigh,
And sunken cheek and heavy eye,
Pine for his Highland home;
Then, warrior, then be thine to show
The care that soothes a wanderer’s woe;
Remember then thy hap erewhile,
A stranger in the lonely isle.
‘Or if on life’s uncertain main
Mishap shall mar thy sail;
If faithful, wise, and brave in vain,
Woe, want, and exile thou sustain
Beneath the fickle gale;
Waste not a sigh on fortune changed,
On thankless courts, or friends estranged,
But come where kindred worth shall smile,
To greet thee in the lonely isle.’
As died the sounds upon the tide,
The shallop reached the mainland side,
And ere his onward way he took,
The stranger cast a lingering look,
Where easily his eye might reach
The Harper on the islet beach,
Reclined against a blighted tree,
As wasted, grey, and worn as he.
To minstrel meditation given,
His reverend brow was raised to heaven,
As from the rising sun to claim
A sparkle of inspiring flame.
His hand, reclined upon the wire,
Seemed watching the awakening fire;
So still he sat as those who wait
Till judgment speak the doom of fate;
So still, as if no breeze might dare
To lift one lock of hoary hair;
So still, as life itself were fled
In the last sound his harp had sped.
Upon a rock with lichens wild,
Beside him Ellen sat and smiled.—
Smiled she to see the stately drake
Lead forth his fleet upon the lake,
While her vexed spaniel from the beach
Bayed at the prize beyond his reach?
Yet tell me, then, the maid who knows,
Why deepened on her cheek the rose?—
Forgive, forgive, Fidelity!
Perchance the maiden smiled to see
Yon parting lingerer wave adieu,
And stop and turn to wave anew;
And, lovely ladies, ere your ire
Condemn the heroine of my lyre,
Show me the fair would scorn to spy
And prize such conquest of her eve!
While yet he loitered on the spot,
It seemed as Ellen marked him not;
But when he turned him to the glade,
One courteous parting sign she made;
And after, oft the knight would say,
That not when prize of festal day
Was dealt him by the brightest fair
Who e’er wore jewel in her hair,
So highly did his bosom swell
As at that simple mute farewell.
Now with a trusty mountain-guide,
And his dark stag-hounds by his side,
He parts,—the maid, unconscious still,
Watched him wind slowly round the hill;
But when his stately form was hid,
The guardian in her bosom chid,—
‘Thy Malcolm! vain and selfish maid!’
‘Twas thus upbraiding conscience said,—
‘Not so had Malcolm idly hung
On the smooth phrase of Southern tongue;
Not so had Malcolm strained his eye
Another step than thine to spy.’—
‘Wake, Allan-bane,’ aloud she cried
To the old minstrel by her side,—
‘Arouse thee from thy moody dream!
I ‘ll give thy harp heroic theme,
And warm thee with a noble name;
Pour forth the glory of the Graeme!’
Scarce from her lip the word had rushed,
When deep the conscious maiden blushed;
For of his clan, in hall and bower,
Young Malcolm Graeme was held the flower.
The minstrel waked his harp,—three times
Arose the well-known martial chimes,
And thrice their high heroic pride
In melancholy murmurs died.
‘Vainly thou bidst, O noble maid,’
Clasping his withered hands, he said,
‘Vainly thou bidst me wake the strain,
Though all unwont to bid in vain.
Alas! than mine a mightier hand
Has tuned my harp, my strings has spanned!
I touch the chords of joy, but low
And mournful answer notes of woe;
And the proud march which victors tread
Sinks in the wailing for the dead.
O, well for me, if mine alone
That dirge’s deep prophetic tone!
If, as my tuneful fathers said,
This harp, which erst Saint Modan swayed,
Can thus its master’s fate foretell,
Then welcome be the minstrel’s knell.’
‘But ah! dear lady, thus it sighed,
The eve thy sainted mother died;
And such the sounds which, while I strove
To wake a lay of war or love,
Came marring all the festal mirth,
Appalling me who gave them birth,
And, disobedient to my call,
Wailed loud through Bothwell’s bannered hall.
Ere Douglases, to ruin driven,
Were exiled from their native heaven.—
O! if yet worse mishap and woe
My master’s house must undergo,
Or aught but weal to Ellen fair
Brood in these accents of despair,
No future bard, sad Harp! shall fling
Triumph or rapture from thy string;
One short, one final strain shall flow,
Fraught with unutterable woe,
Then shivered shall thy fragments lie,
Thy master cast him down and die!’
Soothing she answered him: ‘Assuage,
Mine honoured friend, the fears of age;
All melodies to thee are known
That harp has rung or pipe has blown,
In Lowland vale or Highland glen,
From Tweed to Spey—what marvel, then,
At times unbidden notes should rise,
Confusedly bound in memory’s ties,
Entangling, as they rush along,
The war-march with the funeral song?—
Small ground is now for boding fear;
Obscure, but safe, we rest us here.
My sire, in native virtue great,
Resigning lordship, lands, and state,
Not then to fortune more resigned
Than yonder oak might give the wind;
The graceful foliage storms may reeve,
‘Fine noble stem they cannot grieve.
For me’—she stooped, and, looking round,
Plucked a blue harebell from the ground,—
‘For me, whose memory scarce conveys
An image of more splendid days,
This little flower that loves the lea
May well my simple emblem be;
It drinks heaven’s dew as blithe as rose
That in the King’s own garden grows;
And when I place it in my hair,
Allan, a bard is bound to swear
He ne’er saw coronet so fair.’
Then playfully the chaplet wild
She wreathed in her dark locks, and smiled.
Her smile, her speech, with winning sway
Wiled the old Harper’s mood away.
With such a look as hermits throw,
When angels stoop to soothe their woe
He gazed, till fond regret and pride
Thrilled to a tear, then thus replied:
‘Loveliest and best! thou little know’st
The rank, the honours, thou hast lost!
O, might I live to see thee grace,
In Scotland’s court, thy birthright place,
To see my favourite’s step advance
The lightest in the courtly dance,
The cause of every gallant’s sigh,
And leading star of every eye,
And theme of every minstrel’s art,
The Lady of the Bleeding Heart!’
‘Fair dreams are these,’ the maiden cried,—
Light was her accent, yet she sighed,—
‘Yet is this mossy rock to me
Worth splendid chair and canopy;
Nor would my footstep spring more gay
In courtly dance than blithe strathspey,
Nor half so pleased mine ear incline
To royal minstrel’s lay as thine.
And then for suitors proud and high,
To bend before my conquering eye,—
Thou, flattering bard! thyself wilt say,
That grim Sir Roderick owns its sway.
The Saxon scourge, Clan-Alpine’s pride,
The terror of Loch Lomond’s side,
Would, at my suit, thou know’st, delay
A Lennox foray—for a day.’—
The ancient bard her glee repressed:
‘Ill hast thou chosen theme for jest!
For who, through all this western wild,
Named Black Sir Roderick e’er, and smiled?
In Holy-Rood a knight he slew;
I saw, when back the dirk he drew,
Courtiers give place before the stride
Of the undaunted homicide;
And since, though outlawed, hath his hand
Full sternly kept his mountain land.
Who else dared give—ah! woe the day,
That I such hated truth should say!—
The Douglas, like a stricken deer,
Disowned by every noble peer,
Even the rude refuge we have here?
Alas, this wild marauding
Chief Alone might hazard our relief,
And now thy maiden charms expand,
Looks for his guerdon in thy hand;
Full soon may dispensation sought,
To back his suit, from Rome be brought.
Then, though an exile on the hill,
Thy father, as the Douglas, still
Be held in reverence and fear;
And though to Roderick thou’rt so dear
That thou mightst guide with silken thread.
Slave of thy will, this chieftain dread,
Yet, O loved maid, thy mirth refrain!
Thy hand is on a lion’s mane.’—
Minstrel,’ the maid replied, and high
Her father’s soul glanced from her eye,
‘My debts to Roderick’s house I know:
All that a mother could bestow
To Lady Margaret’s care I owe,
Since first an orphan in the wild
She sorrowed o’er her sister’s child;
To her brave chieftain son, from ire
Of Scotland’s king who shrouds my sire,
A deeper, holier debt is owed;
And, could I pay it with my blood, Allan!
Sir Roderick should command
My blood, my life,—but not my hand.
Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell
A votaress in Maronnan’s cell;
Rather through realms beyond the sea,
Seeking the world’s cold charity
Where ne’er was spoke a Scottish word,
And ne’er the name of Douglas heard
An outcast pilgrim will she rove,
Than wed the man she cannot love.
‘Thou shak’st, good friend, thy tresses grey,—
That pleading look, what can it say
But what I own?—I grant him brave,
But wild as Bracklinn’s thundering wave;
And generous,—save vindictive mood
Or jealous transport chafe his blood:
I grant him true to friendly band,
As his claymore is to his hand;
But O! that very blade of steel
More mercy for a foe would feel:
I grant him liberal, to fling
Among his clan the wealth they bring,
When back by lake and glen they wind,
And in the Lowland leave behind,
Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,
A mass of ashes slaked with blood.
The hand that for my father fought
I honour, as his daughter ought;
But can I clasp it reeking red
From peasants slaughtered in their shed?
No! wildly while his virtues gleam,
They make his passions darker seem,
And flash along his spirit high,
Like lightning o’er the midnight sky.
While yet a child,—and children know,
Instinctive taught, the friend and foe,—
I shuddered at his brow of gloom,
His shadowy plaid and sable plume;
A maiden grown, I ill could bear
His haughty mien and lordly air:
But, if thou join’st a suitor’s claim,
In serious mood, to Roderick’s name.
I thrill with anguish! or, if e’er
A Douglas knew the word, with fear.
To change such odious theme were best,—
What think’st thou of our stranger guest? ‘—
‘What think I of him?—woe the while
That brought such wanderer to our isle!
Thy father’s battle-brand, of yore
For Tine-man forged by fairy lore,
What time he leagued, no longer foes
His Border spears with Hotspur’s bows,
Did, self-unscabbarded, foreshow
The footstep of a secret foe.
If courtly spy hath harboured here,
What may we for the Douglas fear?
What for this island, deemed of old
Clan-Alpine’s last and surest hold?
If neither spy nor foe, I pray
What yet may jealous Roderick say?—
Nay, wave not thy disdainful head!
Bethink thee of the discord dread
That kindled when at Beltane game
Thou least the dance with Malcolm Graeme;
Still, though thy sire the peace renewed
Smoulders in Roderick’s breast the feud:
Beware!—But hark! what sounds are these?
My dull ears catch no faltering breeze
No weeping birch nor aspens wake,
Nor breath is dimpling in the lake;
Still is the canna’s hoary beard,
Yet, by my minstrel faith, I heard—
And hark again! some pipe of war
Sends the hold pibroch from afar.’
Far up the lengthened lake were spied
Four darkening specks upon the tide,
That, slow enlarging on the view,
Four manned and massed barges grew,
And, bearing downwards from Glengyle,
Steered full upon the lonely isle;
The point of Brianchoil they passed,
And, to the windward as they cast,
Against the sun they gave to shine
The bold Sir Roderick’s bannered Pine.
Nearer and nearer as they bear,
Spears, pikes, and axes flash in air.
Now might you see the tartars brave,
And plaids and plumage dance and wave:
Now see the bonnets sink and rise,
As his tough oar the rower plies;
See, flashing at each sturdy stroke,
The wave ascending into smoke;
See the proud pipers on the bow,
And mark the gaudy streamers flow
From their loud chanters down, and sweep
The furrowed bosom of the deep,
As, rushing through the lake amain,
They plied the ancient Highland strain.
Ever, as on they bore, more loud
And louder rung the pibroch proud.
At first the sounds, by distance tame,
Mellowed along the waters came,
And, lingering long by cape and bay,
Wailed every harsher note away,
Then bursting bolder on the ear,
The clan’s shrill Gathering they could hear,
Those thrilling sounds that call the might
Of old Clan-Alpine to the fight.
Thick beat the rapid notes, as when
The mustering hundreds shake the glen,
And hurrying at the signal dread,
‘Fine battered earth returns their tread.
Then prelude light, of livelier tone,
Expressed their merry marching on,
Ere peal of closing battle rose,
With mingled outcry, shrieks, and blows;
And mimic din of stroke and ward,
As broadsword upon target jarred;
And groaning pause, ere yet again,
Condensed, the battle yelled amain:
The rapid charge, the rallying shout,
Retreat borne headlong into rout,
And bursts of triumph, to declare
Clan-Alpine’s congest—all were there.
Nor ended thus the strain, but slow
Sunk in a moan prolonged and low,
And changed the conquering clarion swell
For wild lament o’er those that fell.
The war-pipes ceased, but lake and hill
Were busy with their echoes still;
And, when they slept, a vocal strain
Bade their hoarse chorus wake again,
While loud a hundred clansmen raise
Their voices in their Chieftain’s praise.
Each boatman, bending to his oar,
With measured sweep the burden bore,
In such wild cadence as the breeze
Makes through December’s leafless trees.
The chorus first could Allan know,
‘Roderick Vich Alpine, ho! fro!’
And near, and nearer as they rowed,
Distinct the martial ditty flowed.
Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!
Honoured and blessed be the ever-green Pine!
Long may the tree, in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!
Heaven send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow,
While every Highland glen
Sends our shout back again,
‘Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!’
Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade;
When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain,
The more shall Clan-Alpine exult in her shade.
Moored in the rifted rock,
Proof to the tempest’s shock,
Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow;
Menteith and Breadalbane, then,
Echo his praise again,
‘Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!’
Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,
And Bannochar’s groans to our slogan replied;
Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side.
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe;
Lennox and Leven-glen
Shake when they hear again,
‘Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!’
Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the Highlands!
Stretch to your oars for the ever-green Pine!
O that the rosebud that graces yon islands
Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine!
O that some seedling gem,
Worthy such noble stem,
Honoured and blessed in their shadow might grow!
Loud should Clan-Alpine then
Ring from her deepmost glen,
Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!’
With all her joyful female band
Had Lady Margaret sought the strand.
Loose on the breeze their tresses flew,
And high their snowy arms they threw,
As echoing back with shrill acclaim,
And chorus wild, the Chieftain’s name;
While, prompt to please, with mother’s art
The darling passion of his heart,
The Dame called Ellen to the strand,
To greet her kinsman ere he land:
‘Come, loiterer, come! a Douglas thou,
And shun to wreathe a victor’s brow?’
Reluctantly and slow, the maid
The unwelcome summoning obeyed,
And when a distant bugle rung,
In the mid-path aside she sprung:—
‘List, Allan-bane! From mainland cast
I hear my father’s signal blast.
Be ours,’ she cried, ‘the skiff to guide,
And waft him from the mountain-side.’
Then, like a sunbeam, swift and bright,
She darted to her shallop light,
And, eagerly while Roderick scanned,
For her dear form, his mother’s band,
The islet far behind her lay,
And she had landed in the bay.
Some feelings are to mortals given
With less of earth in them than heaven;
And if there be a human tear
From passion’s dross refined and clear,
A tear so limpid and so meek
It would not stain an angel’s cheek,
‘Tis that which pious fathers shed
Upon a duteous daughter’s head!
And as the Douglas to his breast
His darling Ellen closely pressed,
Such holy drops her tresses steeped,
Though ‘t was an hero’s eye that weeped.
Nor while on Ellen’s faltering tongue
Her filial welcomes crowded hung,
Marked she that fear—affection’s proof—
Still held a graceful youth aloof;
No! not till Douglas named his name,
Although the youth was Malcolm Graeme.
Allan, with wistful look the while,
Marked Roderick landing on the isle;
His master piteously he eyed,
Then gazed upon the Chieftain’s pride,
Then dashed with hasty hand away
From his dimmed eye the gathering spray;
And Douglas, as his hand he laid
On Malcolm’s shoulder, kindly said:
‘Canst thou, young friend, no meaning spy
In my poor follower’s glistening eye?
I ‘ll tell thee:—he recalls the day
When in my praise he led the lay
O’er the arched gate of Bothwell proud,
While many a minstrel answered loud,
When Percy’s Norman pennon, won
In bloody field, before me shone,
And twice ten knights, the least a name
As mighty as yon Chief may claim,
Gracing my pomp, behind me came.
Yet trust me, Malcolm, not so proud
Was I of all that marshalled crowd,
Though the waned crescent owned my might,
And in my train trooped lord and knight,
Though Blantyre hymned her holiest lays,
And Bothwell’s bards flung back my praise,
As when this old man’s silent tear,
And this poor maid’s affection dear,
A welcome give more kind and true
Than aught my better fortunes knew.
Forgive, my friend, a father’s boast,—
O, it out-beggars all I lost!’
Delightful praise!—like summer rose,
That brighter in the dew-drop glows,
The bashful maiden’s cheek appeared,
For Douglas spoke, and Malcolm heard.
The flush of shame-faced joy to hide,
The hounds, the hawk, her cares divide;
The loved caresses of the maid
The dogs with crouch and whimper paid;
And, at her whistle, on her hand
The falcon took his favourite stand,
Closed his dark wing, relaxed his eye,
Nor, though unhooded, sought to fly.
And, trust, while in such guise she stood,
Like fabled Goddess of the wood,
That if a father’s partial thought
O’erweighed her worth and beauty aught,
Well might the lover’s judgment fail
To balance with a juster scale;
For with each secret glance he stole,
The fond enthusiast sent his soul.
Of stature fair, and slender frame,
But firmly knit, was Malcolm Graeme.
The belted plaid and tartan hose
Did ne’er more graceful limbs disclose;
His flaxen hair, of sunny hue,
Curled closely round his bonnet blue.
Trained to the chase, his eagle eye
The ptarmigan in snow could spy;
Each pass, by mountain, lake, and heath,
He knew, through Lennox and Menteith;
Vain was the bound of dark-brown doe
When Malcolm bent his sounding bow,
And scarce that doe, though winged with fear,
Outstripped in speed the mountaineer:
Right up Ben Lomond could he press,
And not a sob his toil confess.
His form accorded with a mind
Lively and ardent, frank and kind;
A blither heart, till Ellen came
Did never love nor sorrow tame;
It danced as lightsome in his breast
As played the feather on his crest.
Yet friends, who nearest knew the youth
His scorn of wrong, his zeal for truth
And bards, who saw his features bold
When kindled by the tales of old
Said, were that youth to manhood grown,
Not long should Roderick Dhu’s renown
Be foremost voiced by mountain fame,
But quail to that of Malcolm Graeme.
Now back they wend their watery way,
And, ‘O my sire!’ did Ellen say,
‘Why urge thy chase so far astray?
And why so late returned? And why ‘—
The rest was in her speaking eye.
‘My child, the chase I follow far,
‘Tis mimicry of noble war;
And with that gallant pastime reft
Were all of Douglas I have left.
I met young Malcolm as I strayed
Far eastward, in Glenfinlas’ shade
Nor strayed I safe, for all around
Hunters and horsemen scoured the ground.
This youth, though still a royal ward,
Risked life and land to be my guard,
And through the passes of the wood
Guided my steps, not unpursued;
And Roderick shall his welcome make,
Despite old spleen, for Douglas’ sake.
Then must he seek Strath-Endrick glen
Nor peril aught for me again.’
Sir Roderick, who to meet them came,
Reddened at sight of Malcolm Graeme,
Yet, not in action, word, or eye,
Failed aught in hospitality.
In talk and sport they whiled away
The morning of that summer day;
But at high noon a courier light
Held secret parley with the knight,
Whose moody aspect soon declared
That evil were the news he heard.
Deep thought seemed toiling in his head;
Yet was the evening banquet made
Ere he assembled round the flame
His mother, Douglas, and the Graeme,
And Ellen too; then cast around
His eyes, then fixed them on the ground,
As studying phrase that might avail
Best to convey unpleasant tale.
Long with his dagger’s hilt he played,
Then raised his haughty brow, and said:—
‘Short be my speech;—nor time affords,
Nor my plain temper, glozing words.
Kinsman and father,—if such name
Douglas vouchsafe to Roderick’s claim;
Mine honoured mother;—Ellen,—why,
My cousin, turn away thine eye?—
And Graeme, in whom I hope to know
Full soon a noble friend or foe,
When age shall give thee thy command,
And leading in thy native land,—
List all!—The King’s vindictive pride
Boasts to have tamed the Border-side,
Where chiefs, with hound and trawl; who came
To share their monarch’s sylvan game,
Themselves in bloody toils were snared,
And when the banquet they prepared,
And wide their loyal portals flung,
O’er their own gateway struggling hung.
Loud cries their blood from Meggat’s mead,
From Yarrow braes and banks of Tweed,
Where the lone streams of Ettrick glide,
And from the silver Teviot’s side;
The dales, where martial clans did ride,
Are now one sheep-walk, waste and wide.
This tyrant of the Scottish throne,
So faithless and so ruthless known,
Now hither comes; his end the same,
The same pretext of sylvan game.
What grace for Highland Chiefs, judge ye
By fate of Border chivalry.
Yet more; amid Glenfinlas’ green,
Douglas, thy stately form was seen.
This by espial sure I know:
Your counsel in the streight I show.’
Ellen and Margaret fearfully
Sought comfort in each other’s eye,
Then turned their ghastly look, each one,
This to her sire, that to her son.
The hasty colour went and came
In the bold cheek of Malcohm Graeme,
But from his glance it well appeared
‘T was but for Ellen that he feared;
While, sorrowful, but undismayed,
The Douglas thus his counsel said:
‘Brave Roderick, though the tempest roar,
It may but thunder and pass o’er;
Nor will I here remain an hour,
To draw the lightning on thy bower;
For well thou know’st, at this grey head
The royal bolt were fiercest sped.
For thee, who, at thy King’s command,
Canst aid him with a gallant band,
Submission, homage, humbled pride,
Shall turn the Monarch’s wrath aside.
Poor remnants of the Bleeding Heart,
Ellen and I will seek apart
The refuge of some forest cell,
There, like the hunted quarry, dwell,
Till on the mountain and the moor
The stern pursuit be passed and o’er,’—
‘No, by mine honour,’ Roderick said,
‘So help me Heaven, and my good blade!
No, never! Blasted be yon Pine,
My father’s ancient crest and mine,
If from its shade in danger part
The lineage of the Bleeding Heart!
Hear my blunt speech: grant me this maid
To wife, thy counsel to mine aid;
To Douglas, leagued with Roderick Dhu,
Will friends and allies flock enow;
Like cause of doubt, distrust, and grief,
Will bind to us each Western Chief
When the loud pipes my bridal tell,
The Links of Forth shall hear the knell,
The guards shall start in Stirling’s porch;
And when I light the nuptial torch,
A thousand villages in flames
Shall scare the slumbers of King James!—
Nay, Ellen, blench not thus away,
And, mother, cease these signs, I pray;
I meant not all my heat might say.—
Small need of inroad or of fight,
When the sage Douglas may unite
Each mountain clan in friendly band,
To guard the passes of their land,
Till the foiled King from pathless glen
Shall bootless turn him home again.’
There are who have, at midnight hour,
In slumber scaled a dizzy tower,
And, on the verge that beetled o’er
The ocean tide’s incessant roar,
Dreamed calmly out their dangerous dream,
Till wakened by the morning beam;
When, dazzled by the eastern glow,
Such startler cast his glance below,
And saw unmeasured depth around,
And heard unintermitted sound,
And thought the battled fence so frail,
It waved like cobweb in the gale;
Amid his senses’ giddy wheel,
Did he not desperate impulse feel,
Headlong to plunge himself below,
And meet the worst his fears foreshow?—
Thus Ellen, dizzy and astound,
As sudden ruin yawned around,
By crossing terrors wildly tossed,
Still for the Douglas fearing most,
Could scarce the desperate thought withstand,
To buy his safety with her hand.
Such purpose dread could Malcolm spy
In Ellen’s quivering lip and eye,
And eager rose to speak,—but ere
His tongue could hurry forth his fear,
Had Douglas marked the hectic strife,
Where death seemed combating with life;
For to her cheek, in feverish flood,
One instant rushed the throbbing blood,
Then ebbing back, with sudden sway,
Left its domain as wan as clay.
‘Roderick, enough! enough!’ he cried,
‘My daughter cannot be thy bride;
Not that the blush to wooer dear,
Nor paleness that of maiden fear.
It may not be,—forgive her,
Chief, Nor hazard aught for our relief.
Against his sovereign, Douglas ne’er
Will level a rebellious spear.
‘Twas I that taught his youthful hand
To rein a steed and wield a brand;
I see him yet, the princely boy!
Not Ellen more my pride and joy;
I love him still, despite my wrongs
By hasty wrath and slanderous tongues.
O, seek the grace you well may find,
Without a cause to mine combined!’
Twice through the hall the Chieftain strode;
The waving of his tartars broad,
And darkened brow, where wounded pride
With ire and disappointment vied
Seemed, by the torch’s gloomy light,
Like the ill Demon of the night,
Stooping his pinions’ shadowy sway
Upon the righted pilgrim’s way:
But, unrequited Love! thy dart
Plunged deepest its envenomed smart,
And Roderick, with thine anguish stung,
At length the hand of Douglas wrung,
While eyes that mocked at tears before
With bitter drops were running o’er.
The death-pangs of long-cherished hope
Scarce in that ample breast had scope
But, struggling with his spirit proud,
Convulsive heaved its checkered shroud,
While every sob—so mute were all
Was heard distinctly through the ball.
The son’s despair, the mother’s look,
III might the gentle Ellen brook;
She rose, and to her side there came,
To aid her parting steps, the Graeme.
Then Roderick from the Douglas broke—
As flashes flame through sable smoke,
Kindling its wreaths, long, dark, and low,
To one broad blaze of ruddy glow,
So the deep anguish of despair
Burst, in fierce jealousy, to air.
With stalwart grasp his hand he laid
On Malcolm’s breast and belted plaid:
‘Back, beardless boy!’ he sternly said,
‘Back, minion! holdst thou thus at naught
The lesson I so lately taught?
This roof, the Douglas, and that maid,
Thank thou for punishment delayed.’
Eager as greyhound on his game,
Fiercely with Roderick grappled Graeme.
‘Perish my name, if aught afford
Its Chieftain safety save his sword!’
Thus as they strove their desperate hand
Griped to the dagger or the brand,
And death had been—but Douglas rose,
And thrust between the struggling foes
His giant strength:—’ Chieftains, forego!
I hold the first who strikes my foe.—
Madmen, forbear your frantic jar!
What! is the Douglas fallen so far,
His daughter’s hand is deemed the spoil
Of such dishonourable broil?’
Sullen and slowly they unclasp,
As struck with shame, their desperate grasp,
And each upon his rival glared,
With foot advanced and blade half bared.
Ere yet the brands aloft were flung,
Margaret on Roderick’s mantle hung,
And Malcolm heard his Ellen’s scream,
As faltered through terrific dream.
Then Roderick plunged in sheath his sword,
And veiled his wrath in scornful word:’
Rest safe till morning; pity ‘t were
Such cheek should feel the midnight air!
Then mayst thou to James Stuart tell,
Roderick will keep the lake and fell,
Nor lackey with his freeborn clan
The pageant pomp of earthly man.
More would he of Clan-Alpine know,
Thou canst our strength and passes show.—
Malise, what ho!’—his henchman came:
‘Give our safe-conduct to the Graeme.’
Young Malcolm answered, calm and bold:’
Fear nothing for thy favourite hold;
The spot an angel deigned to grace
Is blessed, though robbers haunt the place.
Thy churlish courtesy for those
Reserve, who fear to be thy foes.
As safe to me the mountain way
At midnight as in blaze of day,
Though with his boldest at his back
Even Roderick Dhu beset the track.—
Brave Douglas,—lovely Ellen,—nay,
Naught here of parting will I say.
Earth does not hold a lonesome glen
So secret but we meet again.—
Chieftain! we too shall find an hour,’—
He said, and left the sylvan bower.
Old Allan followed to the strand—
Such was the Douglas’s command—
And anxious told, how, on the morn,
The stern Sir Roderick deep had sworn,
The Fiery Cross should circle o’er
Dale, glen, and valley, down and moor
Much were the peril to the Graeme
From those who to the signal came;
Far up the lake ‘t were safest land,
Himself would row him to the strand.
He gave his counsel to the wind,
While Malcolm did, unheeding, bind,
Round dirk and pouch and broadsword rolled,
His ample plaid in tightened fold,
And stripped his limbs to such array
As best might suit the watery way,—
Then spoke abrupt: ‘Farewell to thee,
Pattern of old fidelity!’
The Minstrel’s hand he kindly pressed,—
‘O, could I point a place of rest!
My sovereign holds in ward my land,
My uncle leads my vassal band;
To tame his foes, his friends to aid,
Poor Malcolm has but heart and blade.
Yet, if there be one faithful Graeme
Who loves the chieftain of his name,
Not long shall honoured Douglas dwell
Like hunted stag in mountain cell;
Nor, ere yon pride-swollen robber dare,—
I may not give the rest to air!
Tell Roderick Dhu I owed him naught,
Not tile poor service of a boat,
To waft me to yon mountain-side.’
Then plunged he in the flashing tide.
Bold o’er the flood his head he bore,
And stoutly steered him from the shore;
And Allan strained his anxious eye,
Far mid the lake his form to spy,
Darkening across each puny wave,
To which the moon her silver gave.
Fast as the cormorant could skim.
The swimmer plied each active limb;
Then landing in the moonlight dell,
Loud shouted of his weal to tell.
The Minstrel heard the far halloo,
And joyful from the shore withdrew.