« PreviousContinue »
It rests with me to wind my horn,
Thou art with numbers overborne ;
It rests with me, here, brand to brand,
Worn as thou art, to bid thee stand;
But not for clan, nor kindred's cause,
Will I depart from honor's laws:
To assail a wearied man were shame,
And stranger is a holy name;
Guidance and rest, and food and fire,
In vain he never must require.
Then rest thee here till dawn of day;
Myself will guide thee on the way,
O'er stock and stone, through watch and waru,
Till past Clan Alpine's outmost guard,
As far as Coilantogle's Ford;
From thence thy warrant is thy sword.”
“I take thy courtesy, by Heaven,
As freely as 'tis nobly given!”
Well, rest thee; for the bittern's cry
Sings us the lake's wild lullaby.”
With that he shook the gathered heath,
And spread his plaid upon the wreath ;
And the brave foemen, side by side,
Lay peaceful down like brothers tried,
And slept until the dawning beam
Purpled the mountain and the stream.
With morn they came where, stern and steep,
The hill sinks down upon the deep;
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose.
Ever the hollow path twined on,
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone:
A hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The guide led through the pass's jaws,
And asked Fitz-James by what strange cause
He sought these wilds, traversed by few, Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
“Brave Gael,* my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell," the Saxon said,
“I dreamed not now to claim its aid ;
When here, but three days since, I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumbering on yon hill;
Thy dangerous chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back from war :
Thus said, at least, my mountain guide ;
Though deep, perchance, the villain lied.'
“ Yet why a second venture try? ”
“ A warrior thou, and ask me why!
Moves our free course by such fixed cause,
As gives the hardy workman laws?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day;
Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A knight's free footsteps far and wide;
A falcon flown, a greyhound strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid;
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone."
132. The Same, continued.
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And thus he spoke with scornful smile :
"Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked thee send delighted eye
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between
These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael ;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now? See rudely swel
Crag over crag, and fell o'er fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread
For fattened steer or household bread,
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply, -
"To you, as to your
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast;
Your own good blades must win the rest
Pent in this fortress of the north,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey ?
Ay, by my soul!- While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain,
While, of ten thousand herds, there straye
But one along yon river's maze,
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall, with strong hand, redeem his share.
Where live the mountain chiefs who hold
That plundering Lowland field and fold,
Is aught but retribution due ?
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu.'
Answered Fitz-James, .“ And if I sough., Think'st thou no other could be brought ?
What deem ye of my path waylaid,
My life given o'er to ambuscade ?”
“As of a meed to rashness due:
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,
I seek my hound, or falcon strayed,
I seek, good faith, a Highland maid, -
Free hadst thou been to come and go'
But secret path marks secret foe
Nor yet, for this, even as a spy,
Hadst thou, unheard, been doomed to die,
Save to fulfil an augury.”
“Well, let it pass; nor will I now
Fresh cause of enmity avow,
To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow.
Enough, I am by promise tied
To match me with this man of pride;
Twice have I sought Clan Alpine's glen
In peace; but, when I come again,
I come with banner, brand, and bow,
As leader seeks his mortai foe.
I pine until before me stand
This rebel chieftain and his band.”
“Have then thy wish.” He whistled shrill,
And he was answered from the hill;
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew;
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets, and spears, and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles gray their lances start,
The bracken-bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.
That whistle garrisoned the glen
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterranean host had given;
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood, and still;
Like the loose crags, whose threatening inass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung,
Upon the mountain side they hung.
The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,
Then fixed his eye and sable brow
Full on Fitz-James “How say'st thou now?
These are Clan Alpine's warriors true
And, Saxon, - I am Roderick Dhu!"
Fitz-James was brave. Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,
He manned himself with dauntless air,
Returned the chief his haughty stare;
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:
“Come one, come all ! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as Í.”
Sir Roderick marked
and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foeman worthy of their steel.
Short space he stood — then waved his hand:
Down sunk the disappearing band ;
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Sunk brand, and spear, and bended bow,
In osiers pale and copses low;