Page images

If Deloraine foil good Musgrave,
The boy his liberty shall have.

Howe'er it falls, the English band, Unharming Scots, by Scots unharmed, In peaceful march like men unarmed, Shall straight retreat to Cumberland."

Unconscious of the near relief,
The proffer pleased each Scottish chief,
Though much the Ladye sage gainsayed:
For though their hearts were brave and true,
From Jedwood's recent sack they knew,

How tardy was the regent's aid;
And you may guess the noble Dame

Durst not the secret prescience own,
Sprung from the art she might not name,

By which the coming help was known.
Close was the compact, and agreed
That lists should be enclosed with speed
Beneath the castle on a lawn:
They fixed the morrow for the strife,
On foot, with Scottish axe and knife,

At the fourth hour from peep of dawn;
When Deloraine, from sickness freed,
Or else a champion in his stead,
Should for himself and chieftain stand,
Against stout Musgrave, hand to hand


I know right well, that, in their lay,
Full many minstrels sing and say,

Such combat should be made on horse,
On foaming steed, in full career,
With brand to aid, when as the spear
Should shiver in the course:
But he, the jovial Harper, taught*
Me, yet a youth, how it was fought,

In guise which now I say:

The person, here alluded to, is one of our ancient Border minstrels, called Rattling Roaring Willie, Willie chanced to

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

He knew each ordinance and clause
Of black Lord Archibald's battle laws,
In the old Douglas' day.

He brooked not, he, that scoffing tongue
Should tax his minstrelsy with wrong,
Or call his song untrue:

For this when they the goblet plied,
And such rude taunt had chafed his pride,
The bard of Reull he slew.

On Teviot's side, in fight, they stood,
And tuneful hands were stained with blood;
Where still the thorn's white branches wave,
Memorial o'er his rival's grave.


Why should I tell the rigid doom,
That dragged my master to his tomb;

How Ousenam's maidens tore their hair,
Wept till their eyes were dead and dim,
And wrung their hands for love of him,

Who died at Jedwood Air?
He died!his scholars, one by one,
To the cold silent grave are gone;
And I, alas! survive alone,
To muse o'er rivalries of yore,
And grieve that I shall hear no more
The strains, with envy heard before;
For, with my minstrel brethren fled,
My jealousy of song is dead.

He paused:-the listening dames again
Applaud the hoary Minstrel's strain;
With many a word of kindly cheer,-
In pity half, and half sincere,-
Marvelled the Duchess how so well
His legendary song could tell-

quarrel with one of his own profession, distinguished by the odd name of Sweet Milk, from a place on Kule water so called. They retired to decide the contest with their swords, and Sweet Milk was killed en the spot; in consequence of which Willie was taken and executed at Jedburgh, bequeathing his name to the beautiful Scotch air, called "Rattling Roaring Willie."


Of ancient deeds, so long forgot;

Of feuds, whose memory was not;
Of forests, now laid waste and bare;
Of towers, which harbour now the hare;
Of manners, long since changed and gone;
Of chiefs, who under their gray stone
So long had slept, that fickle Fame
Had blotted from her rolls their name,
And twined round some new minion's head
The fading wreath for which they bled;-
In sooth, 'twas strange, this old man's verse
Could call them from their marble hearse.

The Harper smiled, well pleased; for ne'er
Was flattery lost on poet's ear:
A simple race! they waste their toil
For the vain tribute of a smile;
E'en when in age their flame expires,
Her dulcet breath can fan its fires:
Their drooping fancy wakes at praise,
And strives to trim the short-lived blaze.

Smiled then, well-pleased, the Aged Man, And thus his tale continued ran.



CALL it not vain :-they do not err,

Who say, that, when the Poet dies, Mute Nature mourns her worshipper,

And celebrates his obsequies;
Who say, tall cliff, and cavern lone,
For the departed bard make moan;
That mountains weep in crystal rill;
That flowers in tears of balm distil;
Through his loved groves that breezes sigh,
And oaks, in deeper groan, reply;

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

And rivers teach their rushing wave
To murmur dirges round his



Not that, in sooth, o'er mortal urn
Those things inanimate can mourn;
But that the stream, the wood, the gale,
Is vocal with the plaintive wail
Of those, who, else forgotten long,
Lived in the poet's faithful song,
And, with the poet's parting breath,
Whose memory feels a second death.
The maid's pale shade, who wails her lot,
That love, true love, should be forgot,
From rose and hawthorn shakes the tear
Upon the gentle minstrel's bier :
The phantom knight, his glory fled,
Mourns o'er the fields he heaped with dead;
Mounts the wild blast that sweeps amain,
And shrieks along the battle-plain :
The chief, whose antique crownlet long
Still sparkled in the feudal
Now, from the mountain's misty throne,
Sees, in the thanedom once his own,
His ashes undistinguished lie,
His place, his power, his memory die :
His groans the lonely caverns fill,
His tears of rage impel the rill;
All mourn the minstrel's harp unstrung,
Their name unknown, their praise unsung.



Scarcely the hot assault was staid,
The terms of truce were scarcely made,
When they could spy, from Branksome's tower,
The advancing march of martial powers;
Thick clouds of dust afar appeared,
And trampling steeds were faintly heard;
Bright spears, above the columns dun,
Glanced momentary to the sun;
And feudal banners fair displayed
The bands that moved to Branksome's aid



'Vails not to tell each hardy clan,
From the fair Middle Marches came;
The Bloody Heart blazed in the van,*

Announcing Douglas, dreaded name!
'Vails not to tell what steeds did spurn,
Where the Seven Spears of Wedderburnt
Their men in battle-order set;
And Swinton laid the lance in rest,
That tamed of yore the sparkling crest
Of Clarence's Plantagenet.+
Nor lists, I say, what hundreds more,
From the rich Merse and Lammermore,
And Tweed's fair borders, to the war,
Beneath the crest of old Dunbar,

And Hepburn's mingled banners come,
Down the steep mountain glittering far,
And shouting still, "a Home! a Home !"§


Now squire and knight, from Branksome sent,
On many a courteous message went;
To every chief and lord they paid
Meet thanks for prompt and powerful aid;
And told them,-how a truce was made,
And how a day of fight was ta'en
"Twixt Musgrave and stout Deloraine;

And how the Ladye prayed them dear,

The bloody heart was the well-known cognisance of the house of Douglas, assumed from the time of Good Lord James, to whose care Robert Bruce committed his heart, to be carried to the Holy Land.

+ Sir David Home of Wedderburn, slain in the fatal battle of Flodden, left seven sons who were called the Seven Spears of Wedderburne.

At the battle of Bouge in France, Thomas, Duke of Clarence, brother to Henry V., was unhorsed by Sir John Swinton of Swinton, who distinguished him by a coronet set with precious stones, which he wore around his helmet.

§ The Earls of Home, were descendants of the Dunbars, ancient Earls of March The slogan, or war-cry, of this powerful family was, "a Home! a Home The Hepburns, a powerful family in East Lothian, were usually in close alliance with the Ho

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »