Marmion/Canto First

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Marmion by Walter Scott
Canto First


CANTO FIRST.

THE CASTLE.

I.

Day set on Norham’s castled steep,
And Tweed’s fair river, broad and deep,
 And Cheviot’s mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loophole grates, where captives weep, 5
The flanking walls that round it sweep,
 In yellow lustre shone.
The warriors on the turrets high,
Moving athwart the evening sky,
Seem’d forms of giant height: 10
Their armour, as it caught the rays,
Flash’d back again the western blaze,
 In lines of dazzling light.


II.

Saint George’s banner, broad and gay,
Now faded, as the fading ray 15
 Less bright, and less, was flung;
The evening gale had scarce the power
To wave it on the Donjon Tower,
 So heavily it hung.
The scouts had parted on their search, 20
 The Castle gates were barr’d;
Above the gloomy portal arch,
Timing his footsteps to a march,
 The Warder kept his guard;
Low humming, as he paced along, 25
Some ancient Border gathering-song.


III.

A distant trampling sound he hears;
He looks abroad, and soon appears,
O’er Horncliff-hill a plump of spears,
 Beneath a pennon gay; 30
A horseman, darting from the crowd,
Like lightning from a summer cloud,
Spurs on his mettled courser proud,
 Before the dark array.
Beneath the sable palisade, 35
That closed the Castle barricade,
 His buglehorn he blew;
The warder hasted from the wall,
And warn’d the Captain in the hall,
 For well the blast he knew; 40
And joyfully that knight did call,
To sewer, squire, and seneschal.


IV.

‘Now broach ye a pipe of Malvoisie,
 Bring pasties of the doe,
And quickly make the entrance free 45
And bid my heralds ready be,
And every minstrel sound his glee,
 And all our trumpets blow;
And, from the platform, spare ye not
To fire a noble salvo-shot; 50
 Lord MARMION waits below!’
Then to the Castle’s lower ward
 Sped forty yeomen tall,
The iron-studded gates unbarr’d,
Raised the portcullis’ ponderous guard, 55
The lofty palisade unsparr’d,
 And let the drawbridge fall.


V.

Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode,
Proudly his red-roan charger trode,
His helm hung at the saddlebow; 60
Well by his visage you might know
He was a stalworth knight, and keen,
And had in many a battle been;
The scar on his brown cheek reveal’d
A token true of Bosworth field; 65
His eyebrow dark, and eye of fire,
Show’d spirit proud, and prompt to ire;
Yet lines of thought upon his cheek
Did deep design and counsel speak.
His forehead by his casque worn bare, 70
His thick mustache, and curly hair,
Coal-black, and grizzled here and there,
 But more through toil than age;
His square-turn’d joints, and strength of limb,
Show’d him no carpet knight so trim, 75
But in close fight a champion grim,
 In camps a leader sage.


VI.

Well was he arm’d from head to heel,
In mail and plate of Milan steel;
But his strong helm, of mighty cost, 80
Was all with burnish’d gold emboss’d;
Amid the plumage of the crest,
A falcon hover’d on her nest,
With wings outspread, and forward breast;
E’en such a falcon, on his shield, 85
Soar’d sable in an azure field:
The golden legend bore aright,
Who checks at me, to death is dight.
Blue was the charger’s broider’d rein;
Blue ribbons deck’d his arching mane; 90
The knightly housing’s ample fold
Was velvet blue, and trapp’d with gold.


VII.

Behind him rode two gallant squires,
Of noble name, and knightly sires;
They burn’d the gilded spurs to claim: 95
For well could each a warhorse tame,
Could draw the bow, the sword could sway,
And lightly bear the ring away;
Nor less with courteous precepts stored,
Could dance in hall, and carve at board, 100
And frame love-ditties passing rare,
And sing them to a lady fair.


VIII.

Four men-at-arms came at their backs,
With halbert, bill, and battle-axe:
They bore Lord Marmion’s lance so strong, 105
And led his sumpter-mules along,
And ambling palfrey, when at need
Him listed ease his battle-steed.
The last and trustiest of the four,
On high his forky pennon bore; 110
Like swallow’s tail, in shape and hue,
Flutter’d the streamer glossy blue,
Where, blazon’d sable, as before,
The towering falcon seem’d to soar.
Last, twenty yeomen, two and two, 115
In hosen black, and jerkins blue,
With falcons broider’d on each breast,
Attended on their lord’s behest.
Each, chosen for an archer good,
Knew hunting-craft by lake or wood; 120
Each one a six-foot bow could bend,
And far a cloth-yard shaft could send;
Each held a boar-spear tough and strong,
And at their belts their quivers rung.
Their dusty palfreys, and array, 125
Show’d they had march’d a weary way.


IX.

‘Tis meet that I should tell you now,
How fairly arm’d, and order’d how,
 The soldiers of the guard,
With musket, pike, and morion, 130
To welcome noble Marmion,
 Stood in the Castle-yard;
Minstrels and trumpeters were there,
The gunner held his linstock yare,
 For welcome-shot prepared: 135
Enter’d the train, and such a clang,
As then through all his turrets rang,
 Old Norham never heard.


X.

The guards their morrice-pikes advanced,
 The trumpets flourish’d brave, 140
The cannon from the ramparts glanced,
 And thundering welcome gave.
A blithe salute, in martial sort,
 The minstrels well might sound,
For, as Lord Marmion cross’d the court, 145
 He scatter’d angels round.
‘Welcome to Norham, Marmion!
 Stout heart, and open hand!
Well dost thou brook thy gallant roan,
 Thou flower of English land!’ 150


XI.

Two pursuivants, whom tabarts deck,
With silver scutcheon round their neck,
 Stood on the steps of stone,
By which you reach the donjon gate,
And there, with herald pomp and state, 155
 They hail’d Lord Marmion:
They hail’d him Lord of Fontenaye,
Of Lutterward, and Scrivelbaye,
 Of Tamworth tower and town;
And he, their courtesy to requite, 160
Gave them a chain of twelve marks’ weight,
 All as he lighted down.
‘Now, largesse, largesse, Lord Marmion,
 Knight of the crest of gold!
A blazon’d shield, in battle won, 165
Ne’er guarded heart so bold.’


XII.

They marshall’d him to the Castle-hall,
 Where the guests stood all aside,
And loudly nourish’d the trumpet-call,
 And the heralds loudly cried, 170
--‘Room, lordings, room for Lord Marmion,
 With the crest and helm of gold!
Full well we know the trophies won
 In the lists at Cottiswold:
There, vainly Ralph de Wilton strove 175
 ‘Gainst Marmion’s force to stand;
To him he lost his lady-love,
 And to the King his land.
Ourselves beheld the listed field,
 A sight both sad and fair; 180
We saw Lord Marmion pierce his shield,
 And saw his saddle bare;
We saw the victor win the crest,
 He wears with worthy pride;
And on the gibbet-tree, reversed, 185
 His foeman’s scutcheon tied.
Place, nobles, for the Falcon-Knight!
 Room, room, ye gentles gay,
For him who conquer’d in the right,
 Marmion of Fontenaye!’ 190


XIII.

Then stepp’d, to meet that noble Lord,
 Sir Hugh the Heron bold,
Baron of Twisell, and of Ford,
 And Captain of the Hold.
He led Lord Marmion to the deas, 195
 Raised o’er the pavement high,
And placed him in the upper place
 They feasted full and high;
The whiles a Northern harper rude
Chanted a rhyme of deadly feud, 200
 ‘How the fierce Thirwalls, and Ridleys all,
 Stout Willimondswick,
 And Hardriding Dick,
 And Hughie of Hawdon, and Will o’ the Wall,
 Have set on Sir Albany Featherstonhaugh, 205
And taken his life at the Deadman’s-shaw.’
 Scantly Lord Marmion’s ear could brook
 The harper’s barbarous lay;
 Yet much he praised the pains he took,
 And well those pains did pay 210
For lady’s suit, and minstrel’s strain,
By knight should ne’er be heard in vain,


XIV.

‘Now, good Lord Marmion,’ Heron says,
 ‘Of your fair courtesy,
I pray you bide some little space 215
 In this poor tower with me.
Here may you keep your arms from rust,
 May breathe your war-horse well;
Seldom hath pass’d a week but giust
 Or feat of arms befell: 220
The Scots can rein a mettled steed;
 And love to couch a spear:-
Saint George! a stirring life they lead,
 That have such neighbours near.
Then stay with us a little space, 225
 Our northern wars to learn;
I pray you, for your lady’s grace!’-
 Lord Marmion’s brow grew stern.


XV.

The Captain mark’d his alter’d look,
 And gave a squire the sign; 230
A mighty wassell-bowl he took,
 And crown’d it high with wine.
‘Now pledge me here, Lord Marmion:
 But first I pray thee fair,
Where hast thou left that page of thine, 235
 That used to serve thy cup of wine,
 Whose beauty was so rare?
When last in Raby towers we met,
 The boy I closely eyed,
And often mark’d his cheeks were wet, 240
 With tears he fain would hide:
His was no rugged horse-boy’s hand,
To burnish shield or sharpen brand,
 Or saddle battle-steed;
But meeter seem’d for lady fair, 245
To fan her cheek, or curl her hair,
Or through embroidery, rich and rare,
 The slender silk to lead:
His skin was fair, his ringlets gold,
 His bosom-when he sigh’d, 250
The russet doublet’s rugged fold
 Could scarce repel its pride!
Say, hast thou given that lovely youth
 To serve in lady’s bower?
Or was the gentle page, in sooth, 255
 A gentle paramour?’


XVI.

Lord Marmion ill could brook such jest;
 He roll’d his kindling eye,
With pain his rising wrath suppress’d,
 Yet made a calm reply: 260
‘That boy thou thought’st so goodly fair,
 He might not brook the northern air.
More of his fate if thou wouldst learn,
 I left him sick in Lindisfarn:
Enough of him.-But, Heron, say, 265
Why does thy lovely lady gay
Disdain to grace the hall to-day?
Or has that dame, so fair and sage,
Gone on some pious pilgrimage?’-
He spoke in covert scorn, for fame 270
Whisper’d light tales of Heron’s dame.


XVII.

Unmark’d, at least unreck’d, the taunt,
 Careless the Knight replied,
‘No bird, whose feathers gaily flaunt,
 Delights in cage to bide: 275
Norham is grim and grated close,
Hemm’d in by battlement and fosse,
 And many a darksome tower;
And better loves my lady bright
To sit in liberty and light, 280
 In fair Queen Margaret’s bower.
We hold our greyhound in our hand,
 Our falcon on our glove;
But where shall we find leash or band,
 For dame that loves to rove? 285
Let the wild falcon soar her swing,
She’ll stoop when she has tired her wing.’--


XVIII.

‘Nay, if with Royal James’s bride
The lovely Lady Heron bide,
Behold me here a messenger, 290
Your tender greetings prompt to bear;
For, to the Scottish court address’d,
I journey at our King’s behest,
And pray you, of your grace, provide
For me, and mine, a trusty guide. 295
I have not ridden in Scotland since
James back’d the cause of that mock prince,
Warbeck, that Flemish counterfeit,
Who on the gibbet paid the cheat.
Then did I march with Surrey’s power, 300
What time we razed old Ayton tower.’-


XIX.

‘For such-like need, my lord, I trow,
Norham can find you guides enow;
For here be some have prick’d as far,
On Scottish ground, as to Dunbar; 305
Have drunk the monks of St. Bothan’s ale,
And driven the beeves of Lauderdale;
Harried the wives of Greenlaw’s goods,
And given them light to set their hoods.’-


XX.

‘Now, in good sooth,’ Lord Marmion cried, 310
‘Were I in warlike wise to ride,
A better guard I would not lack,
Than your stout forayers at my back;
But as in form of peace I go,
A friendly messenger, to know, 315
Why through all Scotland, near and far,
Their King is mustering troops for war,
The sight of plundering Border spears
Might justify suspicious fears,
And deadly feud, or thirst of spoil, 320
Break out in some unseemly broil:
A herald were my fitting guide;
Or friar, sworn in peace to bide;
Or pardoner, or travelling priest,
Or strolling pilgrim, at the least.’ 325


XXI.

The Captain mused a little space,
And pass’d his hand across his face.
-’Fain would I find the guide you want,
But ill may spare a pursuivant,
The only men that safe can ride 330
Mine errands on the Scottish side:
And though a bishop built this fort,
Few holy brethren here resort;
Even our good chaplain, as I ween,
Since our last siege, we have not seen: 335
The mass he might not sing or say,
Upon one stinted meal a-day;
So, safe he sat in Durham aisle,
And pray’d for our success the while.
Our Norham vicar, woe betide, 340
Is all too well in case to ride;
The priest of Shoreswood-he could rein
The wildest war-horse in your train;
But then, no spearman in the hall
Will sooner swear, or stab, or brawl. 345
Friar John of Tillmouth were the man:
A blithesome brother at the can,
A welcome guest in hall and bower,
He knows each castle, town, and tower,
In which the wine and ale is good, 350
‘Twixt Newcastle and Holy-Rood.
But that good man, as ill befalls,
Hath seldom left our castle walls,
Since, on the vigil of St. Bede,
In evil hour, he cross’d the Tweed, 355
To teach Dame Alison her creed.
Old Bughtrig found him with his wife;
And John, an enemy to strife,
Sans frock and hood, fled for his life.
The jealous churl hath deeply swore, 360
That, if again he venture o’er,
He shall shrieve penitent no more.
Little he loves such risks, I know;
Yet, in your guard, perchance will go.’


XXII.

Young Selby, at the fair hall-board, 365
Carved to his uncle and that lord,
And reverently took up the word.
‘Kind uncle, woe were we each one,
If harm should hap to brother John.
He is a man of mirthful speech, 370
Can many a game and gambol teach;
Full well at tables can he play,
And sweep at bowls the stake away.
None can a lustier carol bawl,
The needfullest among us all, 375
When time hangs heavy in the hall,
And snow comes thick at Christmas tide,
And we can neither hunt, nor ride
A foray on the Scottish side.
The vow’d revenge of Bughtrig rude, 380
May end in worse than loss of hood.
Let Friar John, in safety, still
In chimney-corner snore his fill,
Roast hissing crabs, or flagons swill:
Last night, to Norham there came one, 385
Will better guide Lord Marmion.’-
‘Nephew,’ quoth Heron, ‘by my fay,
Well hast thou spoke; say forth thy say,’-


XXIII

‘Here is a holy Palmer come,
From Salem first, and last from Rome; 390
One, that hath kiss’d the blessed tomb,
And visited each holy shrine,
In Araby and Palestine;
On hills of Armenie hath been,
Where Noah’s ark may yet be seen; 395
By that Red Sea, too, hath he trod,
Which parted at the Prophet’s rod;
In Sinai’s wilderness he saw
The Mount, where Israel heard the law,
‘Mid thunder-dint and flashing levin, 400
And shadows, mists, and darkness, given.
He shows Saint James’s cockle-shell,
Of fair Montserrat, too, can tell;
 And of that Grot where Olives nod,
Where, darling of each heart and eye, 405
From all the youth of Sicily,
 Saint Rosalie retired to God.


XXIV.

‘To stout Saint George of Norwich merry,
Saint Thomas, too, of Canterbury,
Cuthbert of Durham and Saint Bede, 410
For his sins’ pardon hath he pray’d.
He knows the passes of the North,
And seeks far shrines beyond the Forth;
Little he eats, and long will wake,
And drinks but of the stream or lake. 415
This were a guide o’er moor and dale;
But, when our John hath quaff’d his ale,
As little as the wind that blows,
And warms itself against his nose,
Kens he, or cares, which way he goes.’- 420


XXV.

‘Gramercy!’ quoth Lord Marmion,
‘Full loth were I, that Friar John,
That venerable man, for me,
Were placed in fear or jeopardy.
If this same Palmer will me lead 425
 From hence to Holy-Rood,
Like his good saint, I’ll pay his meed,
Instead of cockle-shell, or bead,
 With angels fair and good.
I love such holy ramblers; still 430
They know to charm a weary hill,
 With song, romance, or lay:
Some jovial tale, or glee, or jest,
Some lying legend, at the least,
 They bring to cheer the way.’- 435


XXVI.

‘Ah! noble sir,’ young Selby said,
And finger on his lip he laid,
‘This man knows much, perchance e’en more
Than he could learn by holy lore.
Still to himself he’s muttering, 440
And shrinks as at some unseen thing.
Last night we listen’d at his cell;
Strange sounds we heard, and, sooth to tell,
He murmur’d on till morn, howe’er
No living mortal could be near. 445
Sometimes I thought I heard it plain,
As other voices spoke again.
I cannot tell-I like it not-
Friar John hath told us it is wrote,
No conscience clear, and void of wrong, 450
Can rest awake, and pray so long.
Himself still sleeps before his beads
Have mark’d ten aves, and two creeds.’-


XXVII.

-‘Let pass,’ quoth Marmion; ‘by my fay,
This man shall guide me on my way, 455
Although the great arch-fiend and he
Had sworn themselves of company.
So please you, gentle youth, to call
This Palmer to the Castle-hall.’
The summon’d Palmer came in place; 460
His sable cowl o’erhung his face;
In his black mantle was he clad,
With Peter’s keys, in cloth of red,
 On his broad shoulders wrought;
The scallop shell his cap did deck; 465
The crucifix around his neck
 Was from Loretto brought;
His sandals were with travel tore,
Staff, budget, bottle, scrip, he wore;
The faded palm-branch in his hand 470
Show’d pilgrim from the Holy Land.


XXVIII.

When as the Palmer came in hall,
Nor lord, nor knight, was there more tall,
Or had a statelier step withal,
 Or look’d more high and keen; 475
For no saluting did he wait,
But strode across the hall of state,
And fronted Marmion where he sate,
 As he his peer had been.
But his gaunt frame was worn with toil; 480
His cheek was sunk, alas the while!
And when he struggled at a smile,
 His eye look ‘d haggard wild:
Poor wretch! the mother that him bare,
If she had been in presence there, 485
In his wan face, and sun-burn’d hair,
 She had not known her child.
Danger, long travel, want, or woe,
Soon change the form that best we know-
For deadly fear can time outgo, 490
 And blanch at once the hair;
Hard toil can roughen form and face,
And want can quench the eye’s bright grace,
Nor does old age a wrinkle trace
 More deeply than despair. 495
Happy whom none of these befall,
But this poor Palmer knew them all.


XXIX.

Lord Marmion then his boon did ask;
The Palmer took on him the task,
So he would march with morning tide, 500
To Scottish court to be his guide.
‘But I have solemn vows to pay,
And may not linger by the way,
 To fair St. Andrews bound,
Within the ocean-cave to pray, 505
Where good Saint Rule his holy lay,
From midnight to the dawn of day,
 Sung to the billows’ sound;
Thence to Saint Fillan’s blessed well,
Whose spring can frenzied dreams dispel, 510
 And the crazed brain restore:
Saint Mary grant, that cave or spring
Could back to peace my bosom bring,
 Or bid it throb no more!’


XXX.

And now the midnight draught of sleep, 515
Where wine and spices richly steep,
In massive bowl of silver deep,
 The page presents on knee.
Lord Marmion drank a fair good rest,
The Captain pledged his noble guest, 520
The cup went through among the rest,
 Who drain’d it merrily;
Alone the Palmer pass’d it by,
Though Selby press’d him courteously.
This was a sign the feast was o’er; 525
It hush’d the merry wassel roar,
 The minstrels ceased to sound.
Soon in the castle nought was heard,
But the slow footstep of the guard,
 Pacing his sober round. 530


XXXI.

With early dawn Lord Marmion rose:
And first the chapel doors unclose;
Then, after morning rites were done,
(A hasty mass from Friar John,)
And knight and squire had broke their fast, 535
On rich substantial repast,
Lord Marmion’s bugles blew to horse:
Then came the stirrup-cup in course:
Between the Baron and his host,
No point of courtesy was lost; 540
High thanks were by Lord Marmion paid,
Solemn excuse the Captain made,
Till, filing from the gate, had pass’d
That noble train, their Lord the last.
Then loudly rung the trumpet call; 545
Thunder’d the cannon from the wall,
 And shook the Scottish shore;
Around the castle eddied slow,
Volumes of smoke as white as snow,
 And hid its turrets hoar; 550
Till they roli’d forth upon the air,
And met the river breezes there,
Which gave again the prospect fair.