The Lady of the Lake – Canto III – Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

The Gathering

     Time rolls his ceaseless course. The race of yore,
          Who danced our infancy upon their knee,
     And told our marvelling boyhood legends store
          Of their strange ventures happed by land or sea,
     How are they blotted from the things that be!
          How few, all weak and withered of their force,
     Wait on the verge of dark eternity,
          Like stranded wrecks, the tide returning hoarse,
     To sweep them from out sight! Time rolls his ceaseless course.

     Yet live there still who can remember well,
          How, when a mountain chief his bugle blew,
     Both field and forest, dingle, cliff; and dell,
          And solitary heath, the signal knew;
     And fast the faithful clan around him drew.
          What time the warning note was keenly wound,
     What time aloft their kindred banner flew,
          While clamorous war-pipes yelled the gathering sound,
     And while the Fiery Cross glanced like a meteor, round.

     The Summer dawn’s reflected hue
     To purple changed Loch Katrine blue;
     Mildly and soft the western breeze
     Just kissed the lake, just stirred the trees,
     And the pleased lake, like maiden coy,
     Trembled but dimpled not for joy
     The mountain-shadows on her breast
     Were neither broken nor at rest;
     In bright uncertainty they lie,
     Like future joys to Fancy’s eye.
     The water-lily to the light
     Her chalice reared of silver bright;
     The doe awoke, and to the lawn,
     Begemmed with dew-drops, led her fawn;
     The grey mist left the mountain-side,
     The torrent showed its glistening pride;
     Invisible in flecked sky The lark sent down her revelry:
     The blackbird and the speckled thrush
     Good-morrow gave from brake and bush;
     In answer cooed the cushat dove
     Her notes of peace and rest and love.

     No thought of peace, no thought of rest,
     Assuaged the storm in Roderick’s breast.
     With sheathed broadsword in his hand,
     Abrupt he paced the islet strand,
     And eyed the rising sun, and laid
     His hand on his impatient blade.
     Beneath a rock, his vassals’ care
     Was prompt the ritual to prepare,
     With deep and deathful meaning fraught;
     For such Antiquity had taught
     Was preface meet, ere yet abroad
     The Cross of Fire should take its road.
     The shrinking band stood oft aghast
     At the impatient glance he cast;—
     Such glance the mountain eagle threw,
     As, from the cliffs of Benvenue,
     She spread her dark sails on the wind,
     And, high in middle heaven reclined,
     With her broad shadow on the lake,
     Silenced the warblers of the brake.

     A heap of withered boughs was piled,
     Of juniper and rowan wild,
     Mingled with shivers from the oak,
     Rent by the lightning’s recent stroke.
     Brian the Hermit by it stood,
     Barefooted, in his frock and hood.
     His grizzled beard and matted hair
     Obscured a visage of despair;
     His naked arms and legs, seamed o’er,
     The scars of frantic penance bore.
     That monk, of savage form and face
     The impending danger of his race
     Had drawn from deepest solitude
     Far in Benharrow’s bosom rude.
     Not his the mien of Christian priest,
     But Druid’s, from the grave released
     Whose hardened heart and eye might brook
     On human sacrifice to look;
     And much, ’twas said, of heathen lore
     Mixed in the charms he muttered o’er.
     The hallowed creed gave only worse
     And deadlier emphasis of curse.
     No peasant sought that Hermit’s prayer
     His cave the pilgrim shunned with care,
     The eager huntsman knew his bound
     And in mid chase called off his hound;’
     Or if, in lonely glen or strath,
     The desert-dweller met his path
     He prayed, and signed the cross between,
     While terror took devotion’s mien.

     Of Brian’s birth strange tales were told.
     His mother watched a midnight fold,
     Built deep within a dreary glen,
     Where scattered lay the bones of men
     In some forgotten battle slain,
     And bleached by drifting wind and rain.
     It might have tamed a warrior’s heart
     To view such mockery of his art!
     The knot-grass fettered there the hand
     Which once could burst an iron band;
     Beneath the broad and ample bone,
     That bucklered heart to fear unknown,
     A feeble and a timorous guest,
     The fieldfare framed her lowly nest;
     There the slow blindworm left his slime
     On the fleet limbs that mocked at time;
     And there, too, lay the leader’s skull
     Still wreathed with chaplet, flushed and full,
     For heath-bell with her purple bloom
     Supplied the bonnet and the plume.
     All night, in this sad glen the maid
     Sat shrouded in her mantle’s shade:
     She said no shepherd sought her side,
     No hunter’s hand her snood untied.
     Yet ne’er again to braid her hair
     The virgin snood did alive wear;
     Gone was her maiden glee and sport
     Her maiden girdle all too short,
     Nor sought she, from that fatal night,
     Or holy church or blessed rite
     But locked her secret in her breast,
     And died in travail, unconfessed.

     Alone, among his young compeers,
     Was Brian from his infant years;
     A moody and heart-broken boy,
     Estranged from sympathy and joy
     Bearing each taunt which careless tongue
     On his mysterious lineage flung.
     Whole nights he spent by moonlight pale
     To wood and stream his teal, to wail,
     Till, frantic, he as truth received
     What of his birth the crowd believed,
     And sought, in mist and meteor fire,
     To meet and know his Phantom Sire!
     In vain, to soothe his wayward fate,
     The cloister oped her pitying gate;
     In vain the learning of the age
     Unclasped the sable-lettered page;
     Even in its treasures he could find
     Food for the fever of his mind.
     Eager he read whatever tells
     Of magic, cabala, and spells,
     And every dark pursuit allied
     To curious and presumptuous pride;
     Till with fired brain and nerves o’erstrung,
     And heart with mystic horrors wrung,
     Desperate he sought Benharrow’s den,
     And hid him from the haunts of men.

     The desert gave him visions wild,
     Such as might suit the spectre’s child.
     Where with black cliffs the torrents toil,
     He watched the wheeling eddies boil,
     Jill from their foam his dazzled eyes
     Beheld the River Demon rise:
     The mountain mist took form and limb
     Of noontide hag or goblin grim;
     The midnight wind came wild and dread,
     Swelled with the voices of the dead;
     Far on the future battle-heath
     His eye beheld the ranks of death:
     Thus the lone Seer, from mankind hurled,
     Shaped forth a disembodied world.
     One lingering sympathy of mind
     Still bound him to the mortal kind;
     The only parent he could claim
     Of ancient Alpine’s lineage came.
     Late had he heard, in prophet’s dream,
     The fatal Ben-Shie’s boding scream;
     Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast
     Of charging steeds, careering fast
     Along Benharrow’s shingly side,
     Where mortal horseman ne’er might ride;
     The thunderbolt had split the pine,—
     All augured ill to Alpine’s line.
     He girt his loins, and came to show
     The signals of impending woe,
     And now stood prompt to bless or ban,
     As bade the Chieftain of his clan.

     ‘Twas all prepared;—and from the rock
     A goat, the patriarch of the flock,
     Before the kindling pile was laid,
     And pierced by Roderick’s ready blade.
     Patient the sickening victim eyed
     The life-blood ebb in crimson tide
     Down his clogged beard and shaggy limb,
     Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim.
     The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer,
     A slender crosslet framed with care,
     A cubit’s length in measure due;
     The shaft and limbs were rods of yew,
     Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave
     Their shadows o’er Clan-Alpine’s grave,
     And, answering Lomond’s breezes deep,
     Soothe many a chieftain’s endless sleep.
     The Cross thus formed he held on high,
     With wasted hand and haggard eye,
     And strange and mingled feelings woke,
     While his anathema he spoke:— 

     ‘Woe to the clansman who shall view
     This symbol of sepulchral yew,
     Forgetful that its branches grew
     Where weep the heavens their holiest dew
          On Alpine’s dwelling low!
     Deserter of his Chieftain’s trust,
     He ne’er shall mingle with their dust,
     But, from his sires and kindred thrust,
     Each clansman’s execration just
          Shall doom him wrath and woe.’ 
    He paused;—the word the vassals took,
     With forward step and fiery look,
     On high their naked brands they shook,
     Their clattering targets wildly strook;
          And first in murmur low,
     Then like the billow in his course,
     That far to seaward finds his source,
     And flings to shore his mustered force,
     Burst with loud roar their answer hoarse,
     ‘Woe to the traitor, woe!’
     Ben-an’s grey scalp the accents knew,
     The joyous wolf from covert drew,
     The exulting eagle screamed afar,—
     They knew the voice of Alpine’s war.

     The shout was hushed on lake and fell,
     The Monk resumed his muttered spell:
     Dismal and low its accents came,
     The while he scathed the Cross with flame;
     And the few words that reached the air,
     Although the holiest name was there,
     Had more of blasphemy than prayer.
     But when he shook above the crowd
     Its kindled points, he spoke aloud:—
     ‘Woe to the wretch who fails to rear
     At this dread sign the ready spear!
     For, as the flames this symbol sear,
     His home, the refuge of his fear,
          A kindred fate shall know;
     Far o’er its roof the volumed flame
     Clan-Alpine’s vengeance shall proclaim,
     While maids and matrons on his name
     Shall call down wretchedness and shame,
          And infamy and woe.’
     Then rose the cry of females, shrill
     As goshawk’s whistle on the hill,
     Denouncing misery and ill,
     Mingled with childhood’s babbling trill
          Of curses stammered slow;
     Answering with imprecation dread,
     ‘Sunk be his home in embers red!
     And cursed be the meanest shed
     That o’er shall hide the houseless head
          We doom to want and woe!’
     A sharp and shrieking echo gave,
     Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave!
     And the grey pass where birches wave
          On Beala-nam-bo.

     Then deeper paused the priest anew,
     And hard his labouring breath he drew,
     While, with set teeth and clenched hand,
     And eyes that glowed like fiery brand,
     He meditated curse more dread,
     And deadlier, on the clansman’s head
     Who, summoned to his chieftain’s aid,
     The signal saw and disobeyed.
     The crosslet’s points of sparkling wood
     He quenched among the bubbling blood.
     And, as again the sign he reared,
     Hollow and hoarse his voice was heard:
     ‘When flits this Cross from man to man,
     Vich-Alpine’s summons to his clan,
     Burst be the ear that fails to heed!
     Palsied the foot that shuns to speed!
     May ravens tear the careless eyes,
     Wolves make the coward heart their prize!
     As sinks that blood-stream in the earth,
     So may his heart’s-blood drench his hearth!
     As dies in hissing gore the spark,
     Quench thou his light, Destruction dark!
     And be the grace to him denied,
     Bought by this sign to all beside!
     He ceased; no echo gave again
     The murmur of the deep Amen.

     Then Roderick with impatient look
     From Brian’s hand the symbol took:
     ‘Speed, Malise, speed’ he said, and gave
     The crosslet to his henchman brave.
     ‘The muster-place be Lanrick mead—
     Instant the time—-speed, Malise, speed!’
     Like heath-bird, when the hawks pursue,
     A barge across Loch Katrine flew:
     High stood the henchman on the prow;
     So rapidly the barge-mall row,
     The bubbles, where they launched the boat,
     Were all unbroken and afloat,
     Dancing in foam and ripple still,
     When it had neared the mainland hill;
     And from the silver beach’s side
     Still was the prow three fathom wide,
     When lightly bounded to the land
     The messenger of blood and brand.

     Speed, Malise, speed! the dun deer’s hide
     On fleeter foot was never tied.
     Speed, Malise, speed! such cause of haste
     Thine active sinews never braced.
     Bend ‘gainst the steepy hill thy breast,
     Burst down like torrent from its crest;
     With short and springing footstep pass
     The trembling bog and false morass;
     Across the brook like roebuck bound,
     And thread the brake like questing hound;
     The crag is high, the scaur is deep,
     Yet shrink not from the desperate leap:
     Parched are thy burning lips and brow,
     Yet by the fountain pause not now;
     Herald of battle, fate, and fear,
     Stretch onward in thy fleet career!
     The wounded hind thou track’st not now,
     Pursuest not maid through greenwood bough,
     Nor priest thou now thy flying pace
     With rivals in the mountain race;
     But danger, death, and warrior deed
     Are in thy course—speed, Malise, speed!

     Fast as the fatal symbol flies,
     In arms the huts and hamlets rise;
     From winding glen, from upland brown,
     They poured each hardy tenant down.
     Nor slacked the messenger his pace;
     He showed the sign, he named the place,
     And, pressing forward like the wind,
     Left clamour and surprise behind.
     The fisherman forsook the strand,
     The swarthy smith took dirk and brand;
     With changed cheer, the mower blithe
     Left in the half-cut swath his scythe;
     The herds without a keeper strayed,
     The plough was in mid-furrow staved,
     The falconer tossed his hawk away,
     The hunter left the stag at hay;
     Prompt at the signal of alarms,
     Each son of Alpine rushed to arms;
     So swept the tumult and affray
     Along the margin of Achray.
     Alas, thou lovely lake! that e’er
     Thy banks should echo sounds of fear!
     The rocks, the bosky thickets, sleep
     So stilly on thy bosom deep,
     The lark’s blithe carol from the cloud
     Seems for the scene too gayly loud.

     Speed, Malise, speed! The lake is past,
     Duncraggan’s huts appear at last,
     And peep, like moss-grown rocks, half seen
     Half hidden in the copse so green;
     There mayst thou rest, thy labour done,
     Their lord shall speed the signal on.—
     As stoops the hawk upon his prey,
     The henchman shot him down the way.
     What woful accents load the gale?
     The funeral yell, the female wail!
     A gallant hunter’s sport is o’er,
     A valiant warrior fights no more.
     Who, in the battle or the chase,
     At Roderick’s side shall fill his place!—
     Within the hall, where torch’s ray
     Supplies the excluded beams of day,
     Lies Duncan on his lowly bier,
     And o’er him streams his widow’s tear.
     His stripling son stands mournful by,
     His youngest weeps, but knows not why;
     The village maids and matrons round
     The dismal coronach resound.

     He is gone on the mountain,
          He is lost to the forest,
     Like a summer-dried fountain,
          When our need was the sorest.
     The font, reappearing,
          From the rain-drops shall borrow,
     But to us comes no cheering,
          To Duncan no morrow!

     The hand of the reaper
          Takes the ears that are hoary,
     But the voice of the weeper
          Wails manhood in glory.
     The autumn winds rushing
          Waft the leaves that are searest,
     But our flower was in flushing,
          When blighting was nearest. 

    Fleet foot on the correi,
          Sage counsel in cumber,
     Red hand in the foray,
          How sound is thy slumber!
     Like the dew on the mountain,
          Like the foam on the river,
     Like the bubble on the fountain,
          Thou art gone, and forever!

     See Stumah, who, the bier beside
     His master’s corpse with wonder eyed,
     Poor Stumah! whom his least halloo
     Could send like lightning o’er the dew,
     Bristles his crest, and points his ears,
     As if some stranger step he hears.
     ‘Tis not a mourner’s muffled tread,
     Who comes to sorrow o’er the dead,
     But headlong haste or deadly fear
     Urge the precipitate career.
     All stand aghast:—unheeding all,
     The henchman bursts into the hall;
     Before the dead man’s bier he stood,
     Held forth the Cross besmeared with blood;
     ‘The muster-place is Lanrick mead;
     Speed forth the signal! clansmen, speed!’ 

     Angus, the heir of Duncan’s line,
     Sprung forth and seized the fatal sign.
     In haste the stripling to his side
     His father’s dirk and broadsword tied;
     But when he saw his mother’s eye
     Watch him in speechless agony,
     Back to her opened arms he flew
     Pressed on her lips a fond adieu,—
     ‘Alas’ she sobbed,—’and yet be gone,
     And speed thee forth, like Duncan’s son!’
     One look he cast upon the bier,
     Dashed from his eye the gathering tear,
     Breathed deep to clear his labouring breast,
     And tossed aloft his bonnet crest,
     Then, like the high-bred colt when, freed,
     First he essays his fire and speed,
     He vanished, and o’er moor and moss
     Sped forward with the Fiery Cross.
     Suspended was the widow’s tear
     While yet his footsteps she could hear;
     And when she marked the henchman’s eye
     Wet with unwonted sympathy,
     ‘Kinsman,’ she said, ‘his race is run
     That should have sped thine errand on.
     The oak teas fallen?—the sapling bough Is all
     Duncraggan’s shelter now
     Yet trust I well, his duty done,
     The orphan’s God will guard my son.—
     And you, in many a danger true
     At Duncan’s hest your blades that drew,
     To arms, and guard that orphan’s head!
     Let babes and women wail the dead.’
     Then weapon-clang and martial call
     Resounded through the funeral hall,
     While from the walls the attendant band
     Snatched sword and targe with hurried hand;
     And short and flitting energy
     Glanced from the mourner’s sunken eye,
     As if the sounds to warrior dear
     Might rouse her Duncan from his bier.
     But faded soon that borrowed force;
     Grief claimed his right, and tears their course.

     Benledi saw the Cross of Fire,
     It glanced like lightning up Strath-Ire.
     O’er dale and hill the summons flew,
     Nor rest nor pause young Angus knew;
     The tear that gathered in his eye
     He deft the mountain-breeze to dry;
     Until, where Teith’s young waters roll
     Betwixt him and a wooded knoll
     That graced the sable strath with green,
     The chapel of Saint Bride was seen.
     Swoln was the stream, remote the bridge,
     But Angus paused not on the edge;
     Though the clerk waves danced dizzily,
     Though reeled his sympathetic eye,
     He dashed amid the torrent’s roar:
     His right hand high the crosslet bore,
     His left the pole-axe grasped, to guide
     And stay his footing in the tide.
     He stumbled twice,—the foam splashed high,
     With hoarser swell the stream raced by;
     And had he fallen,—forever there,
     Farewell Duncraggan’s orphan heir!
     But still, as if in parting life,
     Firmer he grasped the Cross of strife,
     Until the opposing bank he gained,
     And up the chapel pathway strained.
     A blithesome rout that morning-tide
     Had sought the chapel of Saint Bride.
     Her troth Tombea’s Mary gave
     To Norman, heir of Armandave,
     And, issuing from the Gothic arch,
     The bridal now resumed their march.
     In rude but glad procession came
     Bonneted sire and coif-clad dame;
     And plaided youth, with jest and jeer
     Which snooded maiden would not hear:
     And children, that, unwitting why,
     Lent the gay shout their shrilly cry;
     And minstrels, that in measures vied
     Before the young and bonny bride,
     Whose downcast eye and cheek disclose
     The tear and blush of morning rose.
     With virgin step and bashful hand
     She held the kerchief’s snowy band.
     The gallant bridegroom by her side
     Beheld his prize with victor’s pride.
     And the glad mother in her ear
     Was closely whispering word of cheer.

     Who meets them at the churchyard gate?
     The messenger of fear and fate!
     Haste in his hurried accent lies,
     And grief is swimming in his eyes.
     All dripping from the recent flood,
     Panting and travel-soiled he stood,
     The fatal sign of fire and sword
     Held forth, and spoke the appointed word:
     ‘The muster-place is Lanrick mead;
     Speed forth the signal! Norman, speed!’
     And must he change so soon the hand
     Just linked to his by holy band,
     For the fell Cross of blood and brand?
     And must the day so blithe that rose,
     And promised rapture in the close,
     Before its setting hour, divide
     The bridegroom from the plighted bride?
     O fatal doom’—it must! it must!
     Clan-Alpine’s cause, her Chieftain’s trust,
     Her summons dread, brook no delay;
     Stretch to the race,—away! away!

     Yet slow he laid his plaid aside,
     And lingering eyed his lovely bride,
     Until he saw the starting tear
     Speak woe he might not stop to cheer:
     Then, trusting not a second look,
     In haste he sped hind up the brook,
     Nor backward glanced till on the heath
     Where Lubnaig’s lake supplies the Teith,—
     What in the racer’s bosom stirred?
     The sickening pang of hope deferred,
     And memory with a torturing train
     Of all his morning visions vain.­­
     Mingled with love’s impatience, came
     The manly thirst for martial fame;
     The stormy joy of mountaineers
     Ere yet they rush upon the spears;
     And zeal for Clan and Chieftain burning,
     And hope, from well-fought field returning,
     With war’s red honours on his crest,
     To clasp his Mary to his breast.
     Stung by such thoughts, o’er bank and brae,
     Like fire from flint he glanced away,
     While high resolve and feeling strong
     Burst into voluntary song.

     The heath this night must be my bed,
     The bracken curtain for my head,
     My lullaby the warder’s tread,
          Far, far, from love and thee, Mary;
     To-morrow eve, more stilly laid,
     My couch may be my bloody plaid,
     My vesper song thy wail, sweet maid!
          It will not waken me, Mary!

     I may not, dare not, fancy now
     The grief that clouds thy lovely brow,
     I dare not think upon thy vow,
          And all it promised me, Mary.
     No fond regret must Norman know;
     When bursts Clan-Alpine on the foe,
     His heart must be like bended bow,
          His foot like arrow free, Mary.

     A time will come with feeling fraught,
     For, if I fall in battle fought,
     Thy hapless lover’s dying thought
          Shall be a thought on thee, Mary.
     And if returned from conquered foes,
     How blithely will the evening close,
     How sweet the linnet sing repose,
          To my young bride and me, Mary!

     Not faster o’er thy heathery braes
     Balquidder, speeds the midnight blaze,
     Rushing in conflagration strong
     Thy deep ravines and dells along,
     Wrapping thy cliffs in purple glow,
     And reddening the dark lakes below;
     Nor faster speeds it, nor so far,
     As o’er thy heaths the voice of war.
     The signal roused to martial coil
     The sullen margin of Loch Voil,
     Waked still Loch Doine, and to the source
     Alarmed, Balvaig, thy swampy course;
     Thence southward turned its rapid road
     Adown Strath-Gartney’s valley broad
     Till rose in arms each man might claim
     A portion in Clan-Alpine’s name,
     From the grey sire, whose trembling hand
     Could hardly buckle on his brand,
     To the raw boy, whose shaft and bow
     Were yet scarce terror to the crow.
     Each valley, each sequestered glen,
     Mustered its little horde of men
     That met as torrents from the height
     In Highland dales their streams unite
     Still gathering, as they pour along,
     A voice more loud, a tide more strong,
     Till at the rendezvous they stood
     By hundreds prompt for blows and blood,
     Each trained to arms since life began,
     Owning no tie but to his clan,
     No oath but by his chieftain’s hand,
     No law but Roderick Dhu’s command.

     That summer morn had Roderick Dhu
     Surveyed the skirts of Benvenue,
     And sent his scouts o’er hill and heath,
     To view the frontiers of Menteith.
     All backward came with news of truce;
     Still lay each martial Graeme and Bruce,
     In Rednock courts no horsemen wait,
     No banner waved on Cardross gate,
     On Duchray’s towers no beacon shone,
     Nor scared the herons from Loch Con;
     All seemed at peace.—Now wot ye wily
     The Chieftain with such anxious eye,
     Ere to the muster he repair,
     This western frontier scanned with care?—
     In Benvenue’s most darksome cleft,
     A fair though cruel pledge was left;
     For Douglas, to his promise true,
     That morning from the isle withdrew,
     And in a deep sequestered dell
     Had sought a low and lonely cell.
     By many a bard in Celtic tongue
     Has Coir-nan-Uriskin been sung
     A softer name the Saxons gave,
     And called the grot the Goblin Cave.

     It was a wild and strange retreat,
     As e’er was trod by outlaw’s feet.
     The dell, upon the mountain’s crest,
     Yawned like a gash on warrior’s breast;
     Its trench had stayed full many a rock,
     Hurled by primeval earthquake shock
     From Benvenue’s grey summit wild,
     And here, in random ruin piled,
     They frowned incumbent o’er the spot
     And formed the rugged sylvan “rot.
     The oak and birch with mingled shade
     At noontide there a twilight made,
     Unless when short and sudden shone
     Some straggling beam on cliff or stone,
     With such a glimpse as prophet’s eye
     Gains on thy depth, Futurity.
     No murmur waked the solemn still,
     Save tinkling of a fountain rill;
     But when the wind chafed with the lake,
     A sullen sound would upward break,
     With dashing hollow voice, that spoke
     The incessant war of wave and rock.
     Suspended cliffs with hideous sway
     Seemed nodding o’er the cavern grey.
     From such a den the wolf had sprung,
     In such the wild-cat leaves her young;
     Yet Douglas and his daughter fair
     Sought for a space their safety there.
     Gray Superstition’s whisper dread
     Debarred the spot to vulgar tread;
     For there, she said, did fays resort,
     And satyrs hold their sylvan court,
     By moonlight tread their mystic maze,
     And blast the rash beholder’s gaze.

     Now eve, with western shadows long,
     Floated on Katrine bright and strong,
     When Roderick with a chosen few
     Repassed the heights of Benvenue.
     Above the Goblin Cave they go,
     Through the wild pass of Beal-nam-bo;
     The prompt retainers speed before,
     To launch the shallop from the shore,
     For ‘cross Loch Katrine lies his way
     To view the passes of Achray,
     And place his clansmen in array.
     Yet lags the Chief in musing mind,
     Unwonted sight, his men behind.
     A single page, to bear his sword,
     Alone attended on his lord;
     The rest their way through thickets break,
     And soon await him by the lake.
     It was a fair and gallant sight
     To view them from the neighbouring height,
     By the low-levelled sunbeam’s light!
     For strength and stature, from the clan
     Each warrior was a chosen man,
     As even afar might well be seen,
     By their proud step and martial mien.
     Their feathers dance, their tartars float,
     Their targets gleam, as by the boat
     A wild and warlike group they stand,
     That well became such mountain-strand.

     Their Chief with step reluctant still
     Was lingering on the craggy hill,
     Hard by where turned apart the road
     To Douglas’s obscure abode.
     It was but with that dawning morn
     That Roderick Dhu had proudly sworn
     To drown his love in war’s wild roar,
     Nor think of Ellen Douglas more;
     But he who stems a stream with sand,
     And fetters flame with flaxen band,
     Has yet a harder task to prove,—
     By firm resolve to conquer love!
     Eve finds the Chief, like restless ghost,
     Still hovering near his treasure lost;
     For though his haughty heart deny
     A parting meeting to his eye
     Still fondly strains his anxious ear
     The accents of her voice to hear,
     And inly did he curse the breeze
     That waked to sound the rustling trees.
     But hark! what mingles in the strain?
     It is the harp of Allan-bane,
     That wakes its measure slow and high,
     Attuned to sacred minstrelsy.
     What melting voice attends the strings?
     ‘Tis Ellen, or an angel, sings.

     Hymn to the Virgin.

     Ave. Maria! maiden mild!
          Listen to a maiden’s prayer!
     Thou canst hear though from the wild,
          Thou canst save amid despair.
     Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
          Though banished, outcast, and reviled—
     Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer;
          Mother, hear a suppliant child!
                                              Ave Maria!

     Ave Maria! undefiled!
          The flinty couch we now must share
     Shall seem with down of eider piled,
          If thy protection hover there.
     The murky cavern’s heavy air
          Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
     Then, Maiden! hear a maiden’s prayer,
          Mother, list a suppliant child!
                                              Ave Maria!

     Ave. Maria! stainless styled!
          Foul demons of the earth and air,
     From this their wonted haunt exiled,
          Shall flee before thy presence fair.
     We bow us to our lot of care,
          Beneath thy guidance reconciled:
     Hear for a maid a maiden’s prayer,
          And for a father hear a child!
                                              Ave Maria!

     Died on the harp the closing hymn,—
     Unmoved in attitude and limb,
     As listening still, Clan-Alpine’s lord
     Stood leaning on his heavy sword,
     Until the page with humble sign
     Twice pointed to the sun’s decline.
     Then while his plaid he round him cast,
     ‘It is the last time—’tis the last,’
     He muttered thrice,—’the last time e’er
     That angel-voice shall Roderick hear”
     It was a goading thought,—his stride
     Hied hastier down the mountain-side;
     Sullen he flung him in the boat
     An instant ‘cross the lake it shot.
     They landed in that silvery bay,
     And eastward held their hasty way
     Till, with the latest beams of light,
     The band arrived on Lanrick height’
     Where mustered in the vale below
     Clan-Alpine’s men in martial show.

     A various scene the clansmen made:
     Some sat, some stood, some slowly strayed:
     But most, with mantles folded round,
     Were couched to rest upon the ground,
     Scarce to be known by curious eye
     From the deep heather where they lie,
     So well was matched the tartan screen
     With heath-bell dark and brackens green;
     Unless where, here and there, a blade
     Or lance’s point a glimmer made,
     Like glow-worm twinkling through the shade.
     But when, advancing through the gloom,
     They saw the Chieftain’s eagle plume,
     Their shout of welcome, shrill and wide,
     Shook the steep mountain’s steady side.
     Thrice it arose, and lake and fell
     Three times returned the martial yell;
     It died upon Bochastle’s plain,
     And Silence claimed her evening reign.