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For, though he bore a valiant name,
His heart was of a timid frame,
And bold if both had been, yet they
"Against so many may not stay."
And therefore will retreat to seize
A stronghold on the banks of Tees:
There wait a favourable hour,
Until Lord Dacre with his power
From Naworth comes ; and Howard's aid
Be with them ; openly displayed.
While through the host, from man to mau, A rumour of this purpose ran, The standard giving to the care Of him who heretofore did bear That charge, impatient Norton sought The chieftains to unfold his thought, And thus abruptly spake, "We yield (And can it be?) an unfought field! How often hath the strength of heaven To few triumphantly been given 1 Still do our very children boast Of mitred Thurston, what a host He conquered! Saw we not the plain, (And flying shall behold again) Where faith was proved? while to battle moved The standard on the sacred wain On which the gray-haired barons stood; And the infant heir of Mowbray's blood, Beneath the saintly ensigns three, Stood confident of victory! Shall Percy blush, then, for his name? Must Westmoreland be asked with shame, Whose were the numbers, where the loss, In that other day of Neville's Cross?
When, as the vision gave command,
The Prior of Durham with holy hand
Saint Cuthbert's relic did uprear
Upon the point of a lofty spear,
And God descended in his power,
While the monks prayed in maiden's bower.
Less would not at our need be due
To us, who war against the untrue;
The delegates of heaven we rise,
Convoked the impious to chastise;
We, we the sanctities of old
Would re-establish and uphold."
The chiefs were by his zeal confounded,
But word was given—and the trumpet sounded;
Back through the melancholy host
Went Norton, and resumed his post.
Alas! thought he, and have I borne
This banner, raised so joyfully,
This hope of all posterity,
Thus to become at once the scorn
Of babbling winds as they go by,
A spot of shame to the sun's bright eye,
To the frail clouds a mockery!
"Even these poor eight of mine would stem;"
Half to himself, and half to them
He spake—" would stem, or quell a force
Ten times their number, man and horse;
This by their own unaided might,
Without their father in their sight,
Without the cause for which they fight;
A cause, which on a needful day
Would breed us thousands brave as they."
So speaking he his reverend head
Raised towards that imagery once more:
But the familiar prospect shed
Despondency unfelt before:
A shock of intimations vain,
Dismay, and superstitious pain,
Fell on him, with the sudden thought.
Of her by whom the work was wrought:
Oh, wherefore was her countenance bright
With love divine and gentle light?
She did in passiveness obey,
But her faith leaned another way.
Ill tears she wept. I saw them fall,
I overheard her as she spake
Sad words to that mute animal,
The white doe in the hawthorn brake;
She steeped, but not for Jesu's sake,
This cross in tears: by her, and one
Unworthier far, we are undone—
Her brother was it who assailed
Her tender spirit and prevailed.
Her other parent, too, whose head
In the cold grave hath long been laid,
From reason's earliest dawn beguiled
The docile, unsuspecting child:
Far back—far back my mind must go
To reach the well-spring of this woe!
While thus he brooded, music sweet
Was played to cheer them in retreat;
But Norton lingering in the rear:
Thought followed thought—and ere the last
Of that unhappy train was passed,
Before him Francis did appear.
"Now when 'tis not your aim to oppose," Said he, "in open field your foes; Now that from this decisive day Your multitude must melt away,
An unarmed man may come unblamed;
To ask a grace, that was not claimed
Lang as your hopes were high, he now
May hither bring a fearless brow;
When his discountenance can do
No injury—may come to you.
Though in your cause no part I bear,
Your indignation I can share;
Am grieved this backward march to see,
How careless and disorderly!
I scorn your chieftains, men who lead,
And yet want courage at their need;
Then look at them with open eyes!
Deserve they further sacrifice?
My father! I would help to find
A place of shelter till the rage
Of cruel men do like the wind
Exhaust itself and sink to rest;
Be brother now to brother joined!
Admit me in the equipage
Of your misfortunes, that at least,
Whatever fate remains behind,
I may bear witness in my breast
To your nobility of mind!"
"Thou enemy, my bane and blight! Oh, bold to fight the coward's fight Against all good!" But why declare, At length, the issue of this prayer? Or how, from his depression raised, The father on the son had gazed; Suffice it that the son gave way, Nor strove that passion to allay, Nor did he turn aside to prove His brothers' wisdom or their love—
But calmly from the spot withdrew;
From cloudless ether looking down,