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Long looked the anxious squires; their eye
Could in the darkness nought descry.
At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast;
And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears ;
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then marked they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
Floating like foam upon the wave;
But nought distinct they see:
Wide raged the battle on the plain ;
Spears shook, and falchions flashed amain;
Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
Crests rose, and stooped, and rose again,
Wild and disorderly.
But as they left the darkening heath,
More desperate grew the strife of death.
The English shafts in volleys hailed,
In headlong charge their horse assailed :
Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep,
To break the Scottish circle deep,
That fought around their king.
But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
Unbroken was the ring;
The stubborn spearmen still made good
Their dark impenetrable wood,
Each stepping where his comrade stood,
The instant that he fell.
No thought was there of dastard flight;
Linked in the serried phalanx tight,
Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
As fearlessly and well;
Till utter darkness closed her wing
O'er their thin host and wounded king.
Then skilful Surrey's sage commands
Led back from strife his shattered bands;
And from the charge they drew,
As mountain-waves from wasted lands
Sweep back to ocean blue.
Then did their loss his foemen know;
Their king, their lords, their mightiest low,
They melted from the field as snow,
When streams are swoln and south winds blow,
Dissolves in silent dew.
Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
While many a broken band,
Disordered, through her currents dash,
To gain the Scottish land;
, To town and tower, to down and dale,
To tell red Flodden's dismal tale,
And raise the universal wail.
Tradition, legend, tune, and song,
Shall many an age that wail prolong:
Still from the sire the son shall hear
Of the stern strife and carnage drear
Of Flodden's fatal field,
Where shivered was fair Scotland's spear,
And broken was her shield !
When, doffed his casque, he felt free air,
Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare:
“Where's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace where
Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare ?
Redeem my pennon - charge again!
Cry — “Marmion to the rescue! - Vain !
Last of my race, on battle plain
That shout shall ne'er be heard again!
my last thought is England's :- fly; To Dacre bear my signet-ring;
Tell him his squadrons up to bring.
Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie:
Tunstall lies dead upon the field ;
His life-blood stains the spotless shield :
Edmund is down — my life is reft;
The Admiral alone is left.
Let Stanley charge with spur of fire-
With Chester charge, and Lancashire,
Full upon Scotland's central host,
Or victory and England's lost.'
Must I bid twice? Hence, varlets ! fly!
Leave Marmion here alone - to die."
They parted, and alone he lay;
Clare drew her from the sight away
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmured — “Is there none,
Of all my halls have nursed,
Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring
Of blessed water from the spring,
To slake my dying thirst !"
O, woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !
Scarce were the piteous accents said,
When, with the baron's casque, the maid
To the nigh streamlet ran:
Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,
Sees but the dying man.
She stooped her by the runnel's side,
But in abhorrence backward drew;
For, oozing from the mountain wide,
Where raged the war, a dark red tide
Was curdling in the streamlet blue. Where shall she turn!-- behold her mark
A little fountain-cell,
Where water, clear as diamond-spark,
In a stone basin fell.
Above some half-worn letters say,
Brink. weary. pilgrim. drink. and. pray.
For. the. kind. soul. of. Syöll. Grey.
WWho. bullt. this. cross. and. well.
She filled the helm, and back she hied,
And with surprise and joy espied
A monk supporting Marmion's head
A pious man, whom duty brought
To dubious verge of battle fought,
To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.
Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave, And, as she stooped his brow to lave
“ Is it the hand of Clare," he said, “Or injured Constance, bathes my head ?"
Then, as remembrance rose “Speak not to me of shrift or prayer!
I must redress her woes. Short space, few words, are mine to spare; Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!"
“Alas !" she said, “ the while O think of your immortal weal! In vain for Constance is your zeal;
She-died at Holy Isle."
Lord Marmion started from the ground,
As light as if he felt no wound;
Though in the action burst the tide,
In torrents, from his wounded side.
“ Then it was truth !" - he said "I knew
That the dark presage must be true.
I would the fiend, to whom belongs
The vengeance due to all her wrongs,
Would spare me but a day!
For wasting life, and dying groan,
And priests slain on the altar stone,
Might bribe him for delay.
may not be !-this dizzy trance
Curse on yon base marauder's lance,
And doubly cursed my failing brand !
A sinful heart makes feeble hand."
Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
Supported by the trembling monk.
With fruitless labour Clara bound,
And strove to stanch the gushing wound: