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Why, 'gainst the truce of Border-tide,
In hostile guise ye dare to ride,
With Kendal and Gilsland brand,
And all your mercenary band,
Upon the bounds of fair Scotland?
My Ladye reads you swith return;
And, if but one poor straw you burn,
Or do our towers so much molest,
As scare one swallow from her nest,
St Mary! but we'll light a brand,
Shall warm your hearths in Cumberland."
A wrathful man was Dacre's lord,
But calmer Howard took the word :-
"May't please thy Dame, Sir Seneschal,
To seek the castle's outward wall;
Our pursuivant-at-arms shall show,
Both why we came, and when we go."
The message sped, the noble Dame
To the walls outward circle came;
Each chief around leaned on his spear,
To see the pursuivant appear.
All in Lord Howard's livery dressed,
The lion argent decked his breast;
He led a boy of blooming hue-
O sight to meet a mother's view!
It was the heir of great Buccleuch.
Obeisance meet the herald made,
And thus his master's will he said.
"It irks, high Dame, my noble Lords,
'Gainst ladye fair to draw their swords:
But yet they may not tamely see,
All through the western wardenry,
Your law-contemning kinsmen ride,
And burn and spoil the Border-side;
And ill beseems your rank and birth
To make your towers a flemens-firth.
An asylum for outlaws,
We claim from thee William of Deloraine,
That he may suffer march-treason pain:*
It was but last St Cuthbert's even
He pricked to Stapleton on Leven,
Harried the lands of Richard Musgrave,
And slew his brother by dint of glaive.
Then, since a lone and widowed Dame
These restless riders may not tame,
Either receive within thy towers
Two hundred of my master's powers,
Or straight they sound their warison,+
And storm and spoil thy garrison;
And this fair boy, to London led,
Shall good King Edward's page be bred."
He ceased-and loud the boy did cry,
And stretched his little arms on high;
Implored for aid each well-known face,
And strove to seek the Dame's embrace.
A moment changed that Ladye's cheer,
Gushed to her eye the unbidden tear;
She gazed upon the leaders round,
And dark and sad each warrior frowned;
Then, deep within her sobbing breast
She locked the struggling sigh to rest;
Unaltered and collected stood,
And thus replied, in dauntless mood.
"Say to your Lords of high emprize, Who war on woman and on boys,
That either William of Deloraine
Will cleanse him, by oath, of march-treason stain,§
Several species of offences, peculiar to the Border, constituted what was called march-treason. Among others, was the crime of riding, or causing to ride, against the opposite country during the time of truce.
Note of assault $ In dubious cases, the innocence of Border-criminals was occasionally referred to their own oath,
Or else he will the combat take
"Gainst Musgrave, for his honour's sake.
No knight in Cumberland so good,
But William may count with him kin and blood.
Knighthood he took of Douglas' sword,
When English blood swelled Ancram ford ;*
And but that Lord Dacre's steed was wight,
And bare him ably in the flight,
Himself had seen him dubbed a knight.
For the young heir of Branksome's line,
God be his aid, and God be mine;
Through me no friend shall meet his doom;
Here while I live, no foe finds room.
Then, if thy lords their purpose urge,
Take our defiance loud and high;
Our slogan is their lyke-waket dirge,
Our moat, the grave where they shall lie."
Proud she looked round, applause to claim-
Then lightened Thirlestane's eye of flame;
His bugle Watt of Harden blew;
Pensils and pennons wide were flung,
To heaven the Border slogan rung,
"St Mary for the young Buccleuch !"
The English war-cry answered wide,
And forward bent each southern spear;
Each Kendal archer made a stride,
And drew the bow-string to his ear:
Each minstrel's war-note loud was blown;
But, ere a gray-goose shaft had flown,
A horseman galloped from the rear.
The dignity of knighthood, according to the original institution, had this peculiarity, that it did not flow from the monarch but could be conferred by one who himself possessed it, upon any squire who, after due probation, was found to merit the honour of chivalry. The battle of Aneram Moor, or Peniel-heuch, which was fought A. D. 15:5, was considered sufficient probation for that honour. The English, commanded by Sir Ralph Evers and Sir Brian Latoun, were totally routed, and both their leaders slain in the action The Scottish army was commanded by Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, assisted by the laird of Buccleuch aud Norman Lesley.
+ Lyke-wake, the watching a corpse previous to interment.
"Ah! noble Lords !" he, breathless, said,
"What treason has your march betrayed?
What make you here, from aid so far,
Before you walls, around you war?
Your foemen triumph in the thought,
That in the toils the lion's caught.
Already on dark Ruberslaw
The Douglas holds his weapon-schaw:*
The lances, waving in his train,
Clothe the dun heath like autumn grain;
And on the Liddle's northern strand,
To bar retreat to Cumberland,
Lord Maxwell ranks his merry-men good,
Beneath the eagle and the rood;
And Jedwood, Eske, and Teviotdale,
Have to proud Angus come;
And all the Merse and Lauderdale
Have risen with haughty Home.
An exile from Northumberland,
In Liddesdale I've wandered long; But still my heart was with merry England, And cannot brook my country's wrong, And hard I've spurred all night, to show The mustering of the coming foe."
"And let them come!" fierce Dacre cried;
"For soon yon crest, my father's pride,
That swept the shores of Judah's sea,
And waved in gales of Galilee,
From Branksome's highest towers displayed,
Shall mock the rescue's lingering aid
Level each harquebuss on row;
Draw, merry archers, draw the bow;
Up, bill-men, to the walls, and cry,
Dacre for England, win or die!"
"Yet hear," quoth Howard, " calmly hear, Nor deem my words the words of fear:
Weapon-schaw, the military array of a county.
For who in field or foray slack
Saw the blanche lion e'er fall back ?*
But thus to risque our Border flower
In strife against a kingdom's power,
Ten thousand Scots 'gainst thousands three,
Certes, were desperate policy.
Nay, take the terms the Ladye made,
Ere conscious of the advancing aid:
Let Musgrave meet fierce Deloraine+
In single fight; and if he gain,
He gains for us; but if he's crossed,
Tis but a single warrior lost :
The rest, retreating as they came,
Avoid defeat, and death, and shame."
Ill could the haughty Dacre brook
His brother-warden's sage rebuke;
And yet his forward step he staid,
And slow and sullenly obeyed:
But ne'er again the Border side
Did these two lords in friendship ride;
And this slight discontent, men say,
Cost blood upon another day.
The pursuivant-at-arms again
Before the castle took his stand;
His trumpet called, with parleying strain,
The leaders of the Scottish band;
And he defied, in Musgrave's right,
Stout Deloraine to single fight;
A gauntlet at their feet he laid,
And thus the terms of fight he said :-
"If in the lists good Musgrave's sword
Vanquish the knight of Deloraine,
Your youthful chieftain, Branksome's lord,
Shall hostage for his clan remain :
This was the cognisance of the noble house of Howard in all its branches. The crest, or bearing, of a warrior, was often used ta a nomme de guerre.
Trial by single combat, so peculiar to the feudal system, was common on the Borders