Page images

In Ben-venue'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 sequester'd 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 call'd the grot the Goblin-cave.


It was as wild and strange retreat
As e'er was trod by outlaw's feet.
The dell, upon the mountain's crest,
Yawn'd like a gash on warrior's breast;
Its trench had stay'd full many a rock,
Hurl'd by primeval earthquake shock
From Ben-venue's gray summit wild;
And here, in random ruin piled,
They frown'd incumbent o'er the spot,
And form'd the rugged sylvan grot.
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
Th' incessant war of wave and rock.
'Suspended cliffs, with hideous sway,
Seemed nodding o'er the cavern gray.
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
Debarr'd 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,
Repass'd the heights of Ben-venue.
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.

* The Urisk, or highland satyr.

It was a fair and gallant sight,

To view them from the neighbouring height,
By the low levell'd sunbeam's light;
For strength and stature, from the clan
Each warrior was a chosen man,
As e'en afar might well be seen,
By their proud step and martial mien.
Their feathers dance, their tartans 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 turn'd apart the road
To Douglas's obscure abode.
It was but with that dawning mom
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.



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 banish'd, 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 thy 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 mutter'd 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,
And 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 Lanric height,
Where muster'd, in the vale below,
Clan-Alpine's men in martial show.


A various scene the clansmen made,
Some sate, some stood, some slowly stray'd
But most, with mantles folded round,
Were couch'd to rest upon the ground,
Scarce to be known by curious eye,
From the deep heather where they lie,
So well was match'd the tartan screen
With heathbell dark and brackens green;
Unless where, here and there, a blade,
Or lance's point, a glimmer made,
Like glowworm 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 return'd the martial yell;
It died upon Bochastle's plain,
And silence claim'd her evening reign.




"The rose is fairest when 'tis budding new,
And hope is brightest when it dawns from fears;
The rose is sweetest wash'd with morning dew,
And love is loveliest when embalm'd in tears.
O wilding rose, whom fancy thus endears,

I bid your blossoms in my bonnet wave, Emblem of hope and love through future years!" Thus spoke young Norman, heir of Armandave, What time the sun arose on Vennachar's broad



Such fond conceit, half said, half sung, Love prompted to the bridegroom's tongue.

All while he stripp'd the wild-rose spray,
His axe and bow beside him lay,
For on a pass 'twixt lake and wood,

A wakeful sentinel he stood.

Hark! on the rock a footstep rung,
And instant to his arms he sprung.

"Stand, or thou diest!-What, Malise !-soon Art thou return'd from braes of Doune.

By thy keen step and glance I know
Thou bring'st us tidings of the foe."-
(For while the fiery cross hied on,
On distant scout had Malise gone.)
"Where sleeps the chief?" the henchman said.
"Apart, in yonder misty glade;

To his lone couch I'll be your guide."-
Then call'd a slumberer by his side,
And stirr'd him with his slacken'd bow-
"Up, up, Glentarkin! rouse thee, ho!
We seek the chieftain; on the track,
Keep eagle watch till I come back."


Together up the pass they sped:

"What of the foeman ?" Norman said.—
"Varying reports from near and far:
This certain-that a band of war
Has for two days been ready boune,

At prompt command, to march from Doune;
King James, the while, with princely powers,
Holds revelry in Stirling towers.

Soon will this dark and gathering cloud
Speak on our glens in thunder loud.
Inured to bide such bitter bout,
The warrior's plaid may bear it out:
But, Norman, how wilt thou provide
A shelter for thy bonny bride ?"-
"What! know ye not that Roderick's care
To the lone isle hath caused repair
Each maid and matron of the clan,
And every child and aged man
Unfit for arms; and given his charge,
Nor skiff nor shallop, boat nor barge,
Upon these lakes shall float at large,'
But all beside the islet moor,
That such dear pledge may rest secure?"


""Tis well advised-the chieftain's plan
Bespeaks the father of his clan.
But wherefore sleeps Sir Roderick Dhu
Apart from all his followers true ?"
"It is because last evening tide
Brian an augury hath tried,

Of that dread kind which must not be
Unless in dread extremity,

The taghairm call'd; by which, afar,
Our sires foresaw th' events of war.
Duncraggan's milk-white bull they slew."


"Ah! well the gallant brute I knew!
The choicest of the prey we had,
When swept our merry men Gallangad.
His hide was snow, his horns were dark,
His red eye glow'd like fiery spark;

So fierce, so tameless, and so fleet,
Sore did he cumber our retreat,
And kept our stoutest kernes in awe,
E'en at the pass of Beal 'maha.
But steep and flinty was the road,
And sharp the hurrying pikeman's goad,
And when we came to Dennan's row

A child might scatheless stroke his brow."



"That bull was slain: his reeking hide
They stretch'd the cataract beside,
Whose waters their wild tumult toss
Adown the black and craggy boss
Of that huge cliff, whose ample verge
Tradition calls the Hero's Targe.
Couch'd on a shelve beneath its brink,
Close where the thundering torrents sink,
Rocking beneath their headlong sway,
And drizzled by the ceaseless spray,
Midst groan of rock, and roar of stream,
The wizard waits prophetic dream.
Nor distant rests the chief;-but, hush:
See, gliding slow through mist and bush,
The hermit gains yon rock, and stands
To gaze upon our slumbering bands.
Seems he not, Malise, like a ghost,
That hovers o'er a slaughter'd host?
Or raven on the blasted oak,

That, watching while the deer is broke,"
His morsel claims with sullen croak?"
-"Peace! peace! to other than to me,
Thy words were evil augury;
But still I hold Sir Roderick's blade
Clan-Alpine's omen and her aid,
Not aught that, glean'd from heaven or hell,
Yon fiend-begotten monk can tell.
The chieftain joins him, see-and now,
Together they descend the brow."-


And, as they came, with Alpine's lord
The hermit monk held solemn word:
"Roderick! it is a fearful strife,
For man endow'd with mortal life,
Whose shroud of sentient clay can still
Feel feverish pang and fainting chill,
Whose eye can stare in stony trance,
Whose hair can rouse like warrior's lance,-
"Tis hard for such to view, unfurl'd,
The curtain of the future world.
Yet, witness every quaking limb,
My sunken pulse, mine eyeballs dim,
My soul with harrowing anguish torn,
This for my chieftain have I borne !-
The shapes that sought my fearful couch,
A human tongue may ne'er avouch;
No mortal man-save he, who, bred
Between the living and the dead,
Is gifted beyond nature's law,-
Had e'er survived to say he saw.
At length the fateful answer came,
In characters of living flame!

* Quartered.

Not spoke in word, nor blazed in scroll, But borne and branded on my soul;Which spills the foremost foeman's life That party conquers in the strife."


"Thanks, Brian, for thy zeal and care!
Good is thine augury, and fair.
Clan-Alpine ne'er in battle stood,
But first our broadswords tasted blood.
A surer victim still I know,
Self-offer'd to th' auspicious blow:
A spy has sought my land this morn,
No eve shall witness his return!
My followers guard each pass's mouth,
To east, to westward, and to south;
Red Murdoch, bribed to be his guide,
Has charge to lead his steps aside,
Till, in deep path or dingle brown,
He light on those shall bring him down.-
But see who comes his news to show!
Malise! what tidings of the foe?"


"At Doune, o'er many a spear and glaive
Two barons proud their banners wave,

I saw the Moray's silver star,
And mark'd the sable pale of Mar."-
"By Alpine's soul, high tidings those!
I love to hear of worthy foes.
When move they on ?"-To-morrow's noon
Will see them here for battle boune."
"Then shall it see a meeting stern!
But, for the place-say, couldst thou learn
Naught of the friendly clans of Earn?
Strengthen'd by them, we well might bide
The battle on Benledi's side.-
Thou couldst not?-well! Clan-Alpine's men
Shall man the Trosach's shaggy glen;
Within Loch-Katrine's gorge we'll fight,
All in our maids' and matrons' sight,
Each for his hearth and household fire,
Father for child, and son for sire,
Lover for maid beloved!-but why-
Is it the breeze affects mine eye?
Or dost thou come, ill-omen'd tear,
A messenger of doubt and fear?
No! sooner may the Saxon lance
Unfix Benledi from his stance,
Than doubt or terror can pierce through
Th' unyielding heart of Roderick Dhu!
'Tis stubborn as his trusty targe.-
Each to his post!-all know their charge."-
The pibroch sounds, the bands advance,
The broadswords gleam, the banners dance,
Obedient to the chieftain's glance.

I turn me from the martial roar,
And seek Coir-Uriskin once more.


Where is the Douglas ?-he is gone;
And Ellen sits on the gray stone
Fast by the cave, and makes her moan;
While vainly Allan's words of cheer
Are pour'd on her unheeding ear.-

"He will return-dear lady, trust!
With joy return ;-he will-he must.
Well was it time to seek, afar,
Some refuge from impending war,
When e'en Clan-Alpine's rugged swarm
Are cow'd by the approaching storm.
I saw their boats, with many a light,
Floating the livelong yesternight,
Shifting like flashes darted forth
By the red streamers of the north;
I mark'd at morn how close they ride,
Thick moor'd by the lone islet's side.
Like wild ducks couching in the fen,
When stoops the hawk upon the glen.
Since this rude race dare not abide
The peril on the mainland side,
Shall not thy noble father's care

Some safe retreat for thee prepare?"—



"No, Allan, no! pretext so kind
My wakeful terrors could not blind.
When in such tender tone, yet grave,
Douglas a parting blessing gave,
The tear that glisten'd in his eye
Drown'd not his purpose fix'd and high.
My soul, though feminine and weak,
Can image his, e'en as the lake,
Itself disturb'd by slightest stroke,
Reflects th' invulnerable rock.
He hears report of battle rife,

He deems himself the cause of strife.
I saw him redden when the theme
Turn'd, Allan, on thine idle dream,
Of Malcolm Græme in fetters bound,
Which I, thou saidst, about him wound.
Think'st thou he trow'd thine omen aught?
O no! 'twas apprehensive thought
For the kind youth,-for Roderick too-
(Let me be just) that friend so true;
In danger both, and in our cause
Minstrel, the Douglas dare not pause.
Why else that solemn warning given,
'If not on earth, we meet in heaven?'
Why else, to Cambus-Kenneth's fane,
If eve return him not again,

Am I to hie and make me known?
Alas! he goes to Scotland's throne,
Buys his friends' safety with his own ;-
He goes to do-what I had done,
Had Douglas' daughter been his son !"



"Nay, lovely Ellen!-dearest, nay!
If aught should his return delay,
He only named yon holy fane
As fitting place to meet again.
Be sure he's safe; and for the Græme,
Heaven's blessing on his gallant name!
My vision'd sight may yet prove true,
Nor bode of ill to him or you.
When did my gifted dream beguile ?
Think of the stranger at the isle,

And think upon the harpings slow,
That presaged this approaching wo!
Sooth was my prophecy of fear;
Believe it when it augurs cheer.
Would we had left this dismal spot!
Ill luck still haunts a fairy grot.
Of such, a wondrous tale I know-
Dear lady, change that look of wo!
My harp was wont thy grief to cheer."


"Well, be it as thou wilt; I hear, But cannot stop the bursting tear." The minstrel tried his simple art, But distant far was Ellen's heart.




Merry it is in the good green wood,

When the mavis* and merlet are singing, When the deer sweeps by, and the hounds are in cry,

And the hunter's horn is ringing.

"O Alice Brand, my native land

Is lost for love of you;

And we must hold by wood and wold,
As outlaws wont to do.

"O Alice, 'twas all for thy locks so bright,
And 'twas all for thine eyes so blue,
That on the night of our luckless flight,
Thy brother bold I slew.

"Now must I teach to hew the beach,
The hand that held the glaive,
For leaves to spread our lowly bed,
And stakes to fence our cave.

"And, for vest of pall, thy fingers small,
That wont on harp to stray,

A cloak must shear from the slaughter'd deer, To keep the cold away."

"O Richard! if my brother died,

"Twas but a fatal chance;
For darkling was the battle tried,
And fortune sped the lance.
"If pall and vair no more I wear,
Nor thou the crimson sheen,
As warm, we'll say, is the russet gray,
As gay the forest green.

"And, Richard, if our lot be hard,
And lost thy native land,"
Still Alice has her own Richard,
And he his Alice Brand."--

[blocks in formation]

Up spoke the moody elfin king,

Who won'd within the hill,Like wind in the porch of a ruin'd church, His voice was ghostly shrill.

"Why sounds yon stroke on beach and oak,

Our moonlight circle's screen?

Or who comes here to chase the deer,

Beloved of our elfin queen?
Or who may dare on wold to wear
The fairies' fatal green?

"Up, Urgan, up! to yon mortal hie,
For thou wert christen'd man ;
For cross or sign thou wilt not fly,

For mutter'd word or ban.

"Lay on him the curse of the wither'd heart, The curse of the sleepless eye;

Till he wish and pray that his life would part, Nor yet find leave to die."



'Tis merry, 'tis merry in good green wood, Though the birds have still'd their singing; The evening blaze doth Alice raise,

And Richard is fagots bringing.

Up Urgan starts, that hideous dwarf,
Before Lord Richard stands,

And, as he cross'd and bless'd himself,
"I fear not sign," quoth the grisly elf,
"That is made with bloody hands."-
But out then spoke she, Alice Brand,
That woman void of fear,-
"And if there's blood upon his hand,
'Tis but the blood of deer."—

"Now loud thou liest, thou bold of mood!
It cleaves unto his hand,

The stain of thine own kindly blood,
The blood of Ethert Brand."

Then forward stepp'd she, Alice Brand,
And made the holy sign,-

"And if there's blood on Richard's hand,
A spotless hand is mine.

"And I conjure thee, demon elf,

By him who demons fear,

To show us whence thou art thyself,
And what thine errand here?"-



"'Tis merry, 'tis merry in fairy land,

When fairy birds are singing,

When the court doth ride by their monarch's side,

With bit and bridle ringing:

"And gayly shines the fairy land

But all is glistening show,

Like the idle gleam that December's beam
Can dart on ice and snow.

"And fading like that varied gleam,

Is our inconstant shape,

Who now like knight and lady seem,
And now like dwarf and ape.

"It was between the night and day, When the fairy king has power, That I sunk down in a sinful fray, And, 'twixt life and death, was snatch'd away To the joyless elfin bower. "But wist I of a woman bold,

Who thrice my brow durst sign, I might regain my mortal mould, As fair a form as thine."

She cross'd him once, she cross'd him twiceThat lady was so brave;

The fouler grew his goblin hue,

The darker grew the cave.

She cross'd him thrice, that lady bold;
He rose beneath her hand

The fairest knight on Scottish mould,
Her brother, Ethert Brand!
Merry it is in good green wood,

When the mavis and merle are singing; But merrier were they in Dunfermline gray, When all the bells were ringing.


Just as the minstrel sounds were stay'd,
A stranger climb'd the steepy glade;
His martial step, his stately mien,
His hunting suit of Lincoln green,
His eagle glance, remembrance claims-
'Tis Snowdoun's knight, 'tis James Fitz-James.
Ellen beheld as in a dream,

Then, starting, scarce suppress'd a scream:
"O stranger! in such hour of fear,
What evil hap has brought thee here?"
"An evil hap! how can it be,
That bids me look again on thee?
By promise bound, my former guide
Met me betimes this morning tide,
And marshall'd, over bank and bourne,
The happy path of my return.”—
"The happy path!-what! said he naught
Of war, of battle to be fought,

Of guarded pass ?"-" No, by my faith!
Nor saw I aught could augur scathe."
"O haste thee, Allan, to the kern,-
Yonder his tartans I discern;
Learn thou his purpose, and conjure
That he will guide the stranger sure!-
What prompted thee, unhappy man?
The meanest serf in Roderick's clan
Had not been bribed by love or fear,
Unknown to him, to guide thee here."—


"Sweet Ellen, dear my life must be, Since it is worthy care from thee; Yet life I hold but idle breath,

When love or honour's weigh'd with death. Then let me profit by my chance,

And speak my purpose bold at once.

I come to bear thee from a wild,

Where ne'er before such blossom smiled;
By this soft hand to lead thee far
From frantic scenes of feud and war.
Near Bochastle my horses wait,
They bear us soon to Stirling gate:

« PreviousContinue »