Page images
[ocr errors]

Not then by Wycliffe might be shown,
How his pride startled at the tone
In which his complice, fierce and free,
Asserted guilt's equality.


In smoothest terms his speech he wove,
Of endless friendship, faith, and love;
Promis'd and vow'd in courteous sort,
But Bertram broke professions short.
Wycliffe, be sure not here I stay,
No, scarcely till the rising day;
Warn'd by the legends of my youth,
I trust not an associate's truth.
Do not my native dales prolong
Of Percy Rede the tragic song,
Train'd forward to his bloody fall,
By Girsonfield, that treach rous Hall ?*
Oft, by the Pringle's haunted side,
The shepherd sees his spectre glide.
And near the spot that gave me name,
The moated mound of Risingham,†
Where Reed upon her margin sees
Sweet Woodburne's cottages and trees,
Some ancient sculptor's art has shown
An outlaw's image on the stone;
Unmatch'd in strength, a giant he,
With quiver'd back, and kirtled knee.
Ask how he died, that hunter bold,
The tameless monarch of the wold,

According to the border legend, Percival Reed, Esquire, a keeper of Reedsdale, was betrayed by the Halls (hence denomi nated the false-hearted Ha's) to a band of moss-troopers of the name of Crosier, who slew him at Batinghope, near the source of the Reed. The ghost of the murdered borderer was supposed to haunt the banks of a brook called the Pringle.

Risingham, upon the river Reed, near the beautiful hamlet of Woodburn, is an ancient Roman station, formerly called Habitancum. About half a mile distant from Risingham, upon an emiBence covered with scattered birch-trees and fragments of rock, there is cut upon a large rock, in alto relievo, a remarkable figure, called Robin of Risingham, or R bin of Reedsdale. The popular tradition is, that it represents a giant, whose brother resided at Woodburn, and be himse fat Ri ingham. It adds, that they subsisted by hunting, and that one of them, finding the game become too scarce to support them, pois ned his companion, to whose memory the monument was engraved,

And age and infancy can tell,
By brother's treachery he fell.
Thus warn'd by legends of my youth,
I trust to no associate's truth.


"When last we reason'd of this deed,
Nought, I bethink me, was agreed,
Or by what rule, or when, or where,
The wealth of Mortham we should share;
Then list, while I the portion name,
Our differing laws give each to claim.
Thou, vassal sworn to England's throne,
Her rules of heritage must own;
They deal thee, as to nearest heir,
Thy kinsman's lands and livings fair,
And these I yield:-do thou revere
The statutes of the Bucanier.*
Friend to the sea, and foeman sworn
To all that on her waves are borne,
When falls a mate in battle broil,
His comrade heirs his portion'd spoil;
When dies in fight a daring foe,

He claims his wealth who struck the blow;
And either rule to me assigns

Those spoils of Indian seas and mines,
Hoarded in Mortham's caverns dark;
Ingot of gold and diamond spark,
Chalice and plate from churches borne,
And gems from shrieking beauty torn,
Each string of pearl, each silver bar,
And all the wealth of western war.
I go to search, where, dark and deep,
Those Trans-atlantic treasures sleep.

* The "statutes of the Bucaniers" were, in reality, more equitable than could have been expected. When the expedition was completed, the fuud of prize-money acquired was thrown together, and the owners of the vessel had then their share assigued for the expenses of the outfit. The surgeon's and carpenter's salaries, with the price of provisions and ammunition, were also defrayed. Then followed the compensation due to the maimed and wounded, rated according to the damage they had sustained. After this act of justice and humanity, the remainder of the booty was divided into as many shares as there were Bucaniera.

[ocr errors]

Thou must along-for, lacking thee,
The heir will scarce find entrance free;
And then farewell. I haste to try
Each varied pleasure wealth can buy;
When cloy'd each wish, these wars afford
Fresh work for Bertram's restless sword."


An undecided answer hung

On Oswald's hesitating tongue.
Despite his craft, he heard with awe
This ruffian stabber fix the law;
While his own troubled passions veer
Through hatred, joy, regret, and fear :-
Joy'd at the soul that Bertram flies,
He grudg'd the murderer's mighty prize,
Hated his pride's presumptuous tone,
And fear'd to wend with him alone.
At length, that middle course to steer,
To cowardice and craft so dear,
"His charge," he said, "would ill allow
His absence from the fortress now;
WILFRID on Bertram should attend,
His son should journey with his friend."


Contempt kept Bertram's anger down,
And wreath'd to savage smile his frown.
"Wilfrid, or thou-'tis one to me,
Whichever bears the golden key.
Yet think not but I mark, and smile
To mark, thy poor and selfish wile!
If injury from me you fear,

What, Oswald Wycliffe, shields thee here?
I've sprung from walls more high than these,
I've swam through deeper streains than Tees.
Might I not stab thee ere one yell
Could rouse the distant sentinel?
Start not-it is not my design,
But, if it were, weak fence were thine:
And, trust me, that, in time of need,
This hand hath done more desp rate deed.
Go, haste and rouse thy slumb'ring son;
Time calls, and I must needs be gone."


Nought of his sire's ungenerous part
Polluted Wilfrid's gentle heart;
A heart too soft from early life
To hold with fortune needful strife.
His sire, while yet a hardier race
Of num'rous sons were Wycliffe's grace,
On Wilfrid set contemptuous brand,
For feeble heart and forceless hand;
But a fond mother's care and joy
Were centred in her sickly boy.
No touch of childhood's frolic mood
Show'd the elastic spring of blood;
Hour after hour he lov'd to pore
On Shakspeare's rich and varied lore,
But turn'd from martial scenes and light,
From Falstaff's feast and Percy's fight,
To ponder Jacques' moral strain,
And muse with Hamlet, wise in vain;
And weep himself to soft repose
O'er gentle Desdemona's woes,


In youth he sought not pleasures found
By youth in horse, and hawk, and hound,
But loved the quiet joys that wake
By lonely stream and silent lake;
In Deepdale's solitude to lie,
Where all is cliff and copse and sky;
To climb Catcastle's dizzy peak,
Or lone Pendragon's mound to seek.
Such was he wont; and there his dream
Soar'd on some wild fantastic theme,
Of faithful love, or ceaseless spring,
Till Contemplation's wearied wing
The enthusiast could no more sustain,
And sad he sunk to earth again.


He lov'd-as many a lay can tell,
Preserv'd in Stanmore's lonely dell.
For his was minstrel's skill, he caught
The art unteachable, untaught;

He lov'd-his soul did nature frame
For love, and fancy nurs d the flame;
Vainly he lov'd-for seldom swain
Of such soft mould is lov'd again;
Silent he lov'd-in every gaze
Was passion, friendship in his phrase.
So mus'd his life away-till died
His brethren all, their father's pride.
Wilfrid is now the only heir
Of all his stratagems and care,
And destin'd, darkling, to pursue
Ambition's maze by Oswald's clue.


Wilfrid must love and woo the bright
Matilda, heir of Rokeby's knight.
To love her was an easy hest,
The secret empress of his breast;
To woo her was a harder task
To one that durst not hope or ask.
Yet all Matilda could, she gave
In pity to her gentle slave;
Friendship, esteem, and fair regard,
And praise, the poet's best reward!
She read the tales his taste approv'd,
the lays he fram'd or lov'd;
Yet, loath to nurse the fatal flame
Of hopeless love in friendship's name,
In kind caprice she oft withdrew
The fav'ring glance to friendship due,
Then griev'd to see her victim's pain,
And gave the dang'rous smiles again.

And sung


So did the suit of Wilfrid stand,

When war's loud summons wak'd the land

Three banners, floating o'er the Tees,
The wo-foreboding peasant sees;
In concert oft they brav'd of old
The bordering Scot's incursion bold:
Frowning defiance in their pride,
Their vassals now and lords divide.

« PreviousContinue »