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Marmion/Canto Sixth

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Marmion by Walter Scott
Canto First, Introduction

CANTO SIXTH.

THE BATTLE.


While great events were on the gale,
And each hour brought a varying tale,
And the demeanour, changed and cold,
Of Douglas, fretted Marmion bold,
And, like the impatient steed of war, 5
He snuff’d the battle from afar;
And hopes were none, that back again
Herald should come from Terouenne,
Where England’s King in leaguer lay,
Before decisive battle-day; 10
Whilst these things were, the mournful Clare
Did in the Dame’s devotions share:
For the good Countess ceaseless pray’d
To Heaven and Saints, her sons to aid.
And, with short interval, did pass 15
From prayer to book, from book to mass,
And all in high Baronial pride,-
A life both dull and dignified;-
Yet as Lord Marmion nothing press’d
Upon her intervals of rest, 20
Dejected Clara well could bear
The formal state, the lengthen’d prayer,
Though dearest to her wounded heart
The hours that she might spend apart.


II.

I said, Tantallon’s dizzy steep 25
Hung o’er the margin of the deep.
Many a rude tower and rampart there
Repell’d the insult of the air,
Which, when the tempest vex’d the sky,
Half breeze, half spray, came whistling by. 30
Above the rest, a turret square
Did o’er its Gothic entrance bear,
Of sculpture rude, a stony shield;
The Bloody Heart was in the Field,
And in the chief three mullets stood, 35
The cognizance of Douglas blood.
The turret held a narrow stair,
Which, mounted, gave you access where
A parapet’s embattled row
Did seaward round the castle go. 40
Sometimes in dizzy steps descending,
Sometimes in narrow circuit bending,
Sometimes in platform broad extending,
Its varying circle did combine
Bulwark, and bartisan, and line, 45
And bastion, tower, and vantage-coign:
Above the booming ocean leant
The far-projecting battlement;
The billows burst, in ceaseless flow,
Upon the precipice below. 50
Where’er Tantallon faced the land,
Gate-works, and walls, were strongly mann’d;
No need upon the sea-girt side;
The steepy rock, and frantic tide,
Approach of human step denied; 55
And thus these lines, and ramparts rude,
Were left in deepest solitude.


III.

And, for they were so lonely, Clare
Would to these battlements repair,
And muse upon her sorrows there, 60
 And list the sea-bird’s cry;
Or slow, like noontide ghost, would glide
Along the dark-grey bulwarks’ side,
And ever on the heaving tide
 Look down with weary eye. 65
Oft did the cliff, and swelling main,
Recall the thoughts of Whitby’s fane,--
A home she ne’er might see again;
 For she had laid adown,
So Douglas bade, the hood and veil, 70
And frontlet of the cloister pale,
 And Benedictine gown:
It were unseemly sight, he said,
A novice out of convent shade.-
Now her bright locks, with sunny glow, 75
Again adorn’d her brow of snow;
Her mantle rich, whose borders, round,
A deep and fretted broidery bound,
In golden foldings sought the ground;
Of holy ornament, alone 80
Remain’d a cross with ruby stone;
 And often did she look
On that which in her hand she bore,
With velvet bound, and broider’d o’er,
 Her breviary book. 85
In such a place, so lone, so grim,
At dawning pale, or twilight dim,
 It fearful would have been
To meet a form so richly dress’d,
With book in hand, and cross on breast, 90
 And such a woeful mien.
Fitz-Eustace, loitering with his bow,
To practise on the gull and crow,
Saw her, at distance, gliding slow,
 And did by Mary swear,- 95
Some love-lorn Fay she might have been,
Or, in Romance, some spell-bound Queen;
For ne’er, in work-day world, was seen
A form so witching fair.


IV.

Once walking thus, at evening tide, 100
It chanced a gliding sail she spied,
And, sighing, thought-‘The Abbess, there,
Perchance, does to her home repair;
Her peaceful rule, where Duty, free,
Walks hand in hand with Charity; 105
Where oft Devotion’s tranced glow
Can such a glimpse of heaven bestow,
That the enraptured sisters see
High vision, and deep mystery;
The very form of Hilda fair, 110
Hovering upon the sunny air,
And smiling on her votaries’ prayer.
O! wherefore, to my duller eye,
Did still the Saint her form deny!
Was it, that, sear’d by sinful scorn, 115
My heart could neither melt nor burn?
Or lie my warm affections low,
With him, that taught them first to glow?
Yet, gentle Abbess, well I knew,
To pay thy kindness grateful due, 120
And well could brook the mild command,
That ruled thy simple maiden band.
How different now! condemn’d to bide
My doom from this dark tyrant’s pride.-
But Marmion has to learn, ere long, 125
That constant mind, and hate of wrong,
Descended to a feeble girl,
From Red De Clare, stout Gloster’s Earl:
Of such a stem, a sapling weak,
He ne’er shall bend, although he break. 130


V.

‘But see!-what makes this armour here?’-
 For in her path there lay
Targe, corslet, helm;-she view’d them near.-
‘The breast-plate pierced!-Ay, much I fear,
Weak fence wert thou ‘gainst foeman’s spear, 135
That hath made fatal entrance here,
 As these dark blood-gouts say.-
Thus Wilton!-Oh! not corslet’s ward,
Not truth, as diamond pure and hard,
Could be thy manly bosom’s guard, 140
 On yon disastrous day!’-
She raised her eyes in mournful mood,-
WILTON himself before her stood!
It might have seem’d his passing ghost,
For every youthful grace was lost; 145
And joy unwonted, and surprise,
Gave their strange wildness to his eyes.-
Expect not, noble dames and lords,
That I can tell such scene in words:
What skilful limner e’er would choose 150
To paint the rainbow’s varying hues,
Unless to mortal it were given
To dip his brush in dyes of heaven?
Far less can my weak line declare
 Each changing passion’s shade; 155
Brightening to rapture from despair,
Sorrow, surprise, and pity there,
And joy, with her angelic air,
And hope, that paints the future fair,
 Their varying hues display’d: 160
Each o’er its rival’s ground extending,
Alternate conquering, shifting, blending,
Till all, fatigued, the conflict yield,
And mighty Love retains the field,
Shortly I tell what then he said, 165
By many a tender word delay’d,
And modest blush, and bursting sigh,
And question kind, and fond reply:-


VI.

De Wilton’s History.

‘Forget we that disastrous day,
When senseless in the lists I lay. 170
 Thence dragg’d,-but how I cannot know,
 For sense and recollection fled,
 I found me on a pallet low,
 Within my ancient beadsman’s shed.
Austin,-remember’st thou, my Clare, 175
How thou didst blush, when the old man,
When first our infant love began,
 Said we would make a matchless pair?-
Menials, and friends, and kinsmen fled
From the degraded traitor’s bed,- 180
He only held my burning head,
And tended me for many a day,
While wounds and fever held their sway.
But far more needful was his care,
When sense return’d to wake despair; 185
 For I did tear the closing wound,
 And dash me frantic on the ground,
If e’er I heard the name of Clare.
At length, to calmer reason brought,
Much by his kind attendance wrought, 190
 With him I left my native strand,
And, in a Palmer’s weeds array’d
My hated name and form to shade,
 I journey’d many a land;
No more a lord of rank and birth, 195
But mingled with the dregs of earth.
 Oft Austin for my reason fear’d,
When I would sit, and deeply brood
On dark revenge, and deeds of blood,
 Or wild mad schemes uprear’d. 200
My friend at length fell sick, and said,
 God would remove him soon:
And, while upon his dying bed,
He begg’d of me a boon-
If e’er my deadliest enemy 205
Beneath my brand should conquer’d lie,
Even then my mercy should awake,
And spare his life for Austin’s sake.


VII.

‘Still restless as a second Cain,
To Scotland next my route was ta’en, 210
 Full well the paths I knew.
Fame of my fate made various sound,
That death in pilgrimage I found,
That I had perish’d of my wound,-
 None cared which tale was true: 215
And living eye could never guess
De Wilton in his Palmer’s dress;
For now that sable slough is shed,
And trimm’d my shaggy beard and head,
I scarcely know me in the glass. 220
A chance most wondrous did provide,
That I should be that Baron’s guide-
 I will not name his name!-
Vengeance to God alone belongs;
But, when I think on all my wrongs, 225
 My blood is liquid flame!
And ne’er the time shall I forget,
When in a Scottish hostel set,
 Dark looks we did exchange:
What were his thoughts I cannot tell; 230
But in my bosom muster’d Hell
Its plans of dark revenge.


VIII.

‘A word of vulgar augury,
That broke from me, I scarce knew why,
 Brought on a village tale; 235
Which wrought upon his moody sprite,
And sent him armed forth by night.
I borrow’d steed and mail,
And weapons, from his sleeping band;
 And, passing from a postern door, 240
We met, and ‘counter’d, hand to hand,-
 He fell on Gifford-moor.
For the death-stroke my brand I drew,
(O then my helmed head he knew,
 The Palmer’s cowl was gone,) 245
Then had three inches of my blade
The heavy debt of vengeance paid,-
My hand the thought of Austin staid;
 I left him there alone.-
O good old man! even from the grave, 250
Thy spirit could thy master save:
If I had slain my foeman, ne’er
Had Whitby’s Abbess, in her fear,
Given to my hand this packet dear,
Of power to clear my injured fame, 255
And vindicate De Wilton’s name.-
Perchance you heard the Abbess tell
Of the strange pageantry of Hell,
 That broke our secret speech-
It rose from the infernal shade, 260
Or featly was some juggle play’d,
 A tale of peace to teach.
Appeal to Heaven I judged was best,
When my name came among the rest.


IX.

‘Now here, within Tantallon Hold, 265
To Douglas late my tale I told,
To whom my house was known of old.
Won by my proofs, his falchion bright
This eve anew shall dub me knight.
These were the arms that once did turn 270
The tide of fight on Otterburne,
And Harry Hotspur forced to yield,
When the Dead Douglas won the field.
These Angus gave-his armourer’s care,
Ere morn, shall every breach repair; 275
For nought, he said, was in his halls,
But ancient armour on the walls,
And aged chargers in the stalls,
And women, priests, and grey-hair’d men;
The rest were all in Twisel glen. 280
And now I watch my armour here,
By law of arms, till midnight’s near;
Then, once again a belted knight,
Seek Surrey’s camp with dawn of light.


X.

‘There soon again we meet, my Clare! 285
This Baron means to guide thee there:
Douglas reveres his King’s command,
Else would he take thee from his band.
And there thy kinsman, Surrey, too,
Will give De Wilton justice due. 290
Now meeter far for martial broil,
Firmer my limbs, and strung by toil,
Once more’-‘O Wilton! must we then
Risk new-found happiness again,
 Trust fate of arms once more? 295
And is there not an humble glen,
 Where we, content and poor,
Might build a cottage in the shade,
A shepherd thou, and I to aid
 Thy task on dale and moor?- 300
That reddening brow!-too well I know,
Not even thy Clare can peace bestow,
 While falsehood stains thy name:
Go then to fight! Clare bids thee go!
Clare can a warrior’s feelings know, 305
 And weep a warrior’s shame;
Can Red Earl Gilbert’s spirit feel,
Buckle the spurs upon thy heel,
And belt thee with thy brand of steel,
 And send thee forth to fame!’ 310


XI.

That night, upon the rocks and bay,
The midnight moon-beam slumbering lay,
And pour’d its silver light, and pure,
Through loop-hole, and through embrazure,
 Upon Tantallon tower and hall; 315
But chief where arched windows wide
Illuminate the chapel’s pride,
 The sober glances fall.
Much was there need; though seam’d with scars,
Two veterans of the Douglas’ wars, 320
 Though two grey priests were there,
And each a blazing torch held high,
You could not by their blaze descry
 The chapel’s carving fair.
Amid that dim and smoky light, 325
Chequering the silvery moon-shine bright,
 A bishop by the altar stood,
 A noble lord of Douglas blood,
With mitre sheen, and rocquet white.
Yet show’d his meek and thoughtful eye 330
But little pride of prelacy;
More pleased that, in a barbarous age,
He gave rude Scotland Virgil’s page,
Than that beneath his rule he held
The bishopric of fair Dunkeld. 335
Beside him ancient Angus stood,
Doff’d his furr’d gown, and sable hood:
O’er his huge form and visage pale,
He wore a cap and shirt of mail;
And lean’d his large and wrinkled hand 340
Upon the huge and sweeping brand
Which wont of yore, in battle fray,
His foeman’s limbs to shred away,
As wood-knife lops the sapling spray.
 He seem’d as, from the tombs around 345
 Rising at judgment-day,
 Some giant Douglas may be found
 In all his old array;
So pale his face, so huge his limb,
So old his arms, his look so grim. 350


XII.

Then at the altar Wilton kneels,
And Clare the spurs bound on his heels;
And think what next he must have felt,
At buckling of the falchion belt!
 And judge how Clara changed her hue, 355
While fastening to her lover’s side
A friend, which, though in danger tried,
 He once had found untrue!
Then Douglas struck him with his blade:
‘Saint Michael and Saint Andrew aid, 360
 I dub thee knight.
Arise, Sir Ralph, De Wilton’s heir!
For King, for Church, for Lady fair,
 See that thou fight.’-
And Bishop Gawain, as he rose, 365
Said-‘Wilton! grieve not for thy woes,
 Disgrace, and trouble;
For He, who honour best bestows,
 May give thee double.’-
De Wilton sobb’d, for sob he must- 370
‘Where’er I meet a Douglas, trust
 That Douglas is my brother!’
‘Nay, nay,’ old Angus said, ‘not so;
To Surrey’s camp thou now must go,
 Thy wrongs no longer smother. 375
I have two sons in yonder field;
And, if thou meet’st them under shield,
Upon them bravely-do thy worst;
And foul fall him that blenches first!’


XIII.

Not far advanced was morning day, 380
When Marmion did his troop array
To Surrey’s camp to ride;
He had safe-conduct for his band,
Beneath the royal seal and hand,
 And Douglas gave a guide: 385
The ancient Earl, with stately grace,
Would Clara on her palfrey place,
And whisper’d in an under tone,
‘Let the hawk stoop, his prey is flown.’-
The train from out the castle drew, 390
But Marmion stopp’d to bid adieu:
 ‘Though something I might plain,’ he said,
‘Of cold respect to stranger guest,
Sent hither by your King’s behest,
 While in Tantallon’s towers I staid; 395
Part we in friendship from your land,
And, noble Earl, receive my hand.’-
But Douglas round him drew his cloak,
Folded his arms, and thus he spoke:-
‘My manors, halls, and bowers, shall still 400
Be open, at my Sovereign’s will,
To each one whom he lists, howe’er
Unmeet to be the owner’s peer.
My castles are my King’s alone,
From turret to foundation-stone- 405
The hand of Douglas is his own;
And never shall in friendly grasp
The hand of such as Marmion clasp.’-


XIV.

Burn’d Marmion’s swarthy cheek like fire,
And shook his very frame for ire, 410
 And-‘This to me!’ he said,
‘An ‘twere not for thy hoary beard,
Such hand as Marmion’s had not spared
‘To cleave the Douglas’ head!
And, first, I tell thee, haughty Peer, 415
He, who does England’s message here,
Although the meanest in her state,
May well, proud Angus, be thy mate:
And, Douglas, more I tell thee here,
 Even in thy pitch of pride, 420
Here in thy hold, thy vassals near,
(Nay, never look upon your lord,
And lay your hands upon your sword,)
 I tell thee, thou’rt defied!
And if thou said’st, I am not peer 425
To any lord in Scotland here,
Lowland or Highland, far or near,
 Lord Angus, thou hast lied!’-
On the Earl’s cheek the flush of rage
O’ercame the ashen hue of age: 430
Fierce he broke forth,-‘And darest thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
 The Douglas in his hall?
And hopest thou hence unscathed to go?-
No, by Saint Bride of Bothwell, no! 435
Up drawbridge, grooms-what, Warder, ho!
 Let the portcullis fall.’-
Lord Marmion turn’d,-well was his need,
And dash’d the rowels in his steed,
Like arrow through the archway sprung, 440
The ponderous grate behind him rung:
To pass there was such scanty room,
The bars, descending, razed his plume.


XV.

The steed along the drawbridge flies,
Just as it trembled on the rise; 445
Nor lighter does the swallow skim
Along the smooth lake’s level brim:
And when Lord Marmion reach’d his band,
He halts, and turns with clenched hand,
And shout of loud defiance pours, 450
And shook his gauntlet at the towers.
‘Horse! horse!’ the Douglas cried, ‘and chase!’
But soon he rein’d his fury’s pace:
‘A royal messenger he came,
Though most unworthy of the name.- 455
A letter forged! Saint Jude to speed!
Did ever knight so foul a deed!
At first in heart it liked me ill,
When the King praised his clerkly skill.
Thanks to Saint Bothan, son of mine, 460
Save Gawain, ne’er could pen a line:
So swore I, and I swear it still,
Let my boy-bishop fret his fill.-
Saint Mary mend my fiery mood!
Old age ne’er cools the Douglas blood, 465
I thought to slay him where he stood.
‘Tis pity of him too,’ he cried;
‘Bold can he speak, and fairly ride,
I warrant him a warrior tried.’
With this his mandate he recalls, 470
And slowly seeks his castle halls.


XVI.

The day in Marmion’s journey wore;
Yet, e’er his passion’s gust was o’er,
They cross’d the heights of Stanrig-moor.
His troop more closely there he scann’d, 475
And miss’d the Palmer from the band.-
‘Palmer or not,’ young Blount did say,
‘ He parted at the peep of day;
Good sooth, it was in strange array.’-
‘In what array?’ said Marmion, quick. 480
‘My Lord, I ill can spell the trick;
But all night long, with clink and bang,
Close to my couch did hammers clang;
At dawn the falling drawbridge rang,
And from a loop-hole while I peep, 485
Old Bell-the-Cat came from the Keep,
Wrapp’d in a gown of sables fair,
As fearful of the morning air;
Beneath, when that was blown aside,
A rusty shirt of mail I spied, 490
By Archibald won in bloody work,
Against the Saracen and Turk:
Last night it hung not in the hall;
I thought some marvel would befall.
And next I saw them saddled lead 495
Old Cheviot forth, the Earl’s best steed;
A matchless horse, though something old,
Prompt to his paces, cool and bold.
I heard the Sheriff Sholto say,
The Earl did much the Master pray 500
To use him on the battle-day;
But he preferr’d’-’Nay, Henry, cease!
Thou sworn horse-courser, hold thy peace.-
Eustace, thou bear’st a brain-I pray,
What did Blount see at break of day?’ 505


XVII.

‘In brief, my lord, we both descried
(For then I stood by Henry’s side)
The Palmer mount, and outwards ride,
 Upon the Earl’s own favourite steed:
All sheathed he was in armour bright, 510
And much resembled that same knight,
Subdued by you in Cotswold fight:
 Lord Angus wish’d him speed.’-
The instant that Fitz-Eustace spoke,
A sudden light on Marmion broke;- 515
‘Ah! dastard fool, to reason lost!’
He mutter’d; ‘Twas nor fay nor ghost
I met upon the moonlight wold,
But living man of earthly mould.-
 O dotage blind and gross! 520
Had I but fought as wont, one thrust
Had laid De Wilton in the dust,
 My path no more to cross.-
How stand we now?-he told his tale
To Douglas; and with some avail; 525
 ‘Twas therefore gloom’d his rugged brow.-
Will Surrey dare to entertain,
‘Gainst Marmion, charge disproved and vain?
Small risk of that, I trow.
Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun; 330
Must separate Constance from the Nun-
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
A Palmer too!-no wonder why
I felt rebuked beneath his eye: 535
I might have known there was but one,
Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.’


XVIII.

Stung with these thoughts, he urged to speed
His troop, and reach’d, at eve, the Tweed,
Where Lennel’s convent closed their march; 540
(There now is left but one frail arch,
 Yet mourn thou not its cells;
Our time a fair exchange has made;
Hard by, in hospitable shade,
 A reverend pilgrim dwells, 545
Well worth the whole Bernardine brood,
That e’er wore sandal, frock, or hood.)
Yet did Saint Bernard’s Abbot there
Give Marmion entertainment fair,
And lodging for his train and Clare. 550
Next morn the Baron climb’d the tower,
To view afar the Scottish power,
 Encamp’d on Flodden edge:
The white pavilions made a show,
Like remnants of the winter snow, 555
 Along the dusky ridge.
Long Marmion look’d:-at length his eye
Unusual movement might descry
Amid the shifting lines:
The Scottish host drawn out appears, 560
For, flashing on the hedge of spears,
 The eastern sunbeam shines.
Their front now deepening, now extending;
Their flank inclining, wheeling, bending,
Now drawing back, and now descending, 565
The skilful Marmion well could know,
They watch’d the motions of some foe,
Who traversed on the plain below.


XIX.

Even so it was. From Flodden ridge
 The Scots beheld the English host 570
 Leave Barmore-wood, their evening post,
 And heedful watch’d them as they cross’d
The Till by Twisel Bridge.
 High sight it is, and haughty, while
 They dive into the deep defile; 575
 Beneath the cavern’d cliff they fall,
 Beneath the castle’s airy wall.
By rock, by oak, by hawthorn-tree,
 Troop after troop are disappearing;
 Troop after troop their banners rearing, 580
Upon the eastern bank you see.
Still pouring down the rocky den,
 Where flows the sullen Till,
And rising from the dim-wood glen,
Standards on standards, men on men, 585
 In slow succession still,
And, sweeping o’er the Gothic arch,
And pressing on, in ceaseless march,
 To gain the opposing hill.
That morn, to many a trumpet clang, 590
Twisel! thy rock’s deep echo rang;
And many a chief of birth and rank,
Saint Helen! at thy fountain drank.
Thy hawthorn glade, which now we see
In spring-tide bloom so lavishly, 595
Had then from many an axe its doom,
To give the marching columns room.


XX.

And why stands Scotland idly now,
Dark Flodden! on thy airy brow,
Since England gains the pass the while, 600
And struggles through the deep defile?
What checks the fiery soul of James?
Why sits that champion of the dames
 Inactive on his steed,
And sees, between him and his land, 605
Between him and Tweed’s southern strand,
 His host Lord Surrey lead?
What ‘vails the vain knight-errant’s brand?--
O, Douglas, for thy leading wand!
 Fierce Randolph, for thy speed! 610
O for one hour of Wallace wight,
Or well-skill’d Bruce, to rule the fight,
And cry-‘Saint Andrew and our right!’
Another sight had seen that morn,
From Fate’s dark book a leaf been torn, 615
And Flodden had been Bannockbourne!-
The precious hour has pass’d in vain,
And England’s host has gain’d the plain;
Wheeling their march, and circling still,
Around the base of Flodden hill. 620


XXI.

Ere yet the bands met Marmion’s eye,
Fitz-Eustace shouted loud and high,
‘Hark! hark! my lord, an English drum!
And see ascending squadrons come
 Between Tweed’s river and the hill, 625
Foot, horse, and cannon:-hap what hap,
My basnet to a prentice cap,
 Lord Surrey’s o’er the Till!-
Yet more! yet more!-how far array’d
They file from out the hawthorn shade, 630
 And sweep so gallant by!
With all their banners bravely spread,
 And all their armour flashing high,
Saint George might waken from the dead,
To see fair England’s standards fly.’- 635
‘Stint in thy prate,’ quoth Blount, ‘thou’dst best,
And listen to our lord’s behest.’-
With kindling brow Lord Marmion said,-
‘This instant be our band array’d;
The river must be quickly cross’d, 640
That we may join Lord Surrey’s host.
If fight King James,-as well I trust,
That fight he will, and fight he must,-
The Lady Clare behind our lines
Shall tarry, while the battle joins.’ 645


XXII.

Himself he swift on horseback threw,
Scarce to the Abbot bade adieu;
Far less would listen to his prayer,
To leave behind the helpless Clare.
Down to the Tweed his band he drew, 650
And mutter’d as the flood they view,
‘The pheasant in the falcon’s claw,
He scarce will yield to please a daw:
Lord Angus may the Abbot awe,
 So Clare shall bide with me.’ 655
Then on that dangerous ford, and deep,
Where to the Tweed Leat’s eddies creep,
 He ventured desperately:
And not a moment will he bide,
Till squire, or groom, before him ride; 660
Headmost of all he stems the tide,
 And stems it gallantly.
Eustace held Clare upon her horse,
 Old Hubert led her rein,
Stoutly they braved the current’s course, 665
And, though far downward driven per force,
 The southern bank they gain;
Behind them, straggling, came to shore,
 As best they might, the train:
Each o’er his head his yew-bow bore, 670
A caution not in vain;
Deep need that day that every string,
By wet unharm’d, should sharply ring.
A moment then Lord Marmion staid,
And breathed his steed, his men array’d, 675
 Then forward moved his band,
Until, Lord Surrey’s rear-guard won,
He halted by a Cross of Stone,
That, on a hillock standing lone,
Did all the field command. 680


XXIII.

Hence might they see the full array
Of either host, for deadly fray;
Their marshall’d lines stretch’d east and west,
 And fronted north and south,
And distant salutation pass’d 685
 From the loud cannon mouth;
Not in the close successive rattle,
That breathes the voice of modern battle,
 But slow and far between.-
The hillock gain’d, Lord Marmion staid: 690
‘Here, by this Cross,’ he gently said,
 ‘You well may view the scene.
Here shalt thou tarry, lovely Clare:
O! think of Marmion in thy prayer!-
Thou wilt not?-well, no less my care 695
Shall, watchful, for thy weal prepare.-
You, Blount and Eustace, are her guard,
 With ten pick’d archers of my train;
With England if the day go hard,
 To Berwick speed amain.- 700
But if we conquer, cruel maid,
My spoils shall at your feet be laid,
 When here we meet again.’
He waited not for answer there,
And would not mark the maid’s despair, 705
 Nor heed the discontented look
From either squire; but spurr’d amain,
And, dashing through the battle-plain,
His way to Surrey took.


XXIV.

‘-The good Lord Marmion, by my life! 710
 Welcome to danger’s hour!-
Short greeting serves in time of strife :
 Thus have I ranged my power:
Myself will rule this central host,
 Stout Stanley fronts their right, 715
My sons command the vaward post,
 With Brian Tunstall, stainless knight;
 Lord Dacre, with his horsemen light,
 Shall be in rear-ward of the fight,
And succour those that need it most. 720
 Now, gallant Marmion, well I know,
 Would gladly to the vanguard go;
Edmund, the Admiral, Tunstall there,
With thee their charge will blithely share;
There fight thine own retainers too, 725
Beneath De Burg, thy steward true.’-
‘Thanks, noble Surrey!’ Marmion said,
Nor farther greeting there he paid;
But, parting like a thunderbolt,
First in the vanguard made a halt, 730
 Where such a shout there rose
Of ‘Marmion! Marmion!’ that the cry,
Up Flodden mountain shrilling high,
Startled the Scottish foes.


XXV.

Blount and Fitz-Eustace rested still 735
With Lady Clare upon the hill;
On which, (for far the day was spent,)
The western sunbeams now were bent.
The cry they heard, its meaning knew,
Could plain their distant comrades view: 740
Sadly to Blount did Eustace say,
‘Unworthy office here to stay!
No hope of gilded spurs to-day.-
But see! look up-on Flodden bent
The Scottish foe has fired his tent.’ 745
 And sudden, as he spoke,
From the sharp ridges of the hill,
All downward to the banks of Till,
 Was wreathed in sable smoke.
Volumed and fast, and rolling far, 750
The cloud enveloped Scotland’s war,
 As down the hill they broke;
Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,
Announced their march; their tread alone,
At times one warning trumpet blown, 755
 At times a stifled hum,
Told England, from his mountain-throne
 King James did rushing come.-
Scarce could they hear, or see their foes,
 Until at weapon-point they close.- 760
They close, in clouds of smoke and dust,
With sword-sway, and with lance’s thrust;
 And such a yell was there,
Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought upon the earth, 765
 And fiends in upper air;
Oh, life and death were in the shout,
Recoil and rally, charge and rout,
 And triumph and despair.
Long look’d the anxious squires; their eye 770
Could in the darkness nought descry.


XXVI.

At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast;
And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears; 775
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then mark’d they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave, 780
Floating like foam upon the wave;
 But nought distinct they see:
Wide raged the battle on the plain;
Spears shook, and falchions flash’d amain;
Fell England’s arrow-flight like rain; 785
Crests rose, and stoop’d, and rose again,
 Wild and disorderly.
Amid the scene of tumult, high
They saw Lord Marmion’s falcon fly:
And stainless Tunstall’s banner white, 790
And Edmund Howard’s lion bright,
Still bear them bravely in the fight;
 Although against them come,
Of gallant Gordons many a one,
And many a stubborn Badenoch-man, 795
And many a rugged Border clan,
 With Huntly, and with Home.


XXVII.

Far on the left, unseen the while,
Stanley broke Lennox and Argyle;
Though there the western mountaineer 800
Rush’d with bare bosom on the spear,
And flung the feeble targe aside,
And with both hands the broadsword plied.
‘Twas vain:-But Fortune, on the right,
With fickle smile, cheer’d Scotland’s fight. 805
Then fell that spotless banner white,
 The Howard’s lion fell;
Yet still Lord Marmion’s falcon flew
With wavering flight, while fiercer grew
 Around the battle-yell. 810
The Border slogan rent the sky!
A Home! a Gordon! was the cry:
 Loud were the clanging blows;
Advanced,-forced back,-now low, now high,
 The pennon sunk and rose; 815
As bends the bark’s mast in the gale,
When rent are rigging, shrouds, and sail,
 It waver’d ‘mid the foes.
No longer Blount the view could bear:
‘By Heaven, and all its saints! I swear 820
 I will not see it lost!
Fitz-Eustace, you with Lady Clare
May bid your beads, and patter prayer,-
 I gallop to the host.’
And to the fray he rode amain, 825
Follow’d by all the archer train.
The fiery youth, with desperate charge,
Made, for a space, an opening large,-
 The rescued banner rose,-
But darkly closed the war around, 830
Like pine-tree rooted from the ground,
 It sank among the foes.
Then Eustace mounted too:-yet staid,
As loath to leave the helpless maid,
 When, fast as shaft can fly, 835
Blood-shot his eyes, his nostrils spread,
The loose rein dangling from his head,
Housing and saddle bloody red,
 Lord Marmion’s steed rush’d by;
And Eustace, maddening at the sight, 840
 A look and sign to Clara cast,
 To mark he would return in haste,
Then plunged into the fight.


XXVIII.

Ask me not what the maiden feels,
 Left in that dreadful hour alone: 845
Perchance her reason stoops, or reels;
 Perchance a courage, not her own,
Braces her mind to desperate tone.-
The scatter’d van of England wheels;-
She only said, as loud in air 850
 The tumult roar’d, ‘Is Wilton there?’-
 They fly, or, madden’d by despair,
Fight but to die,-’Is Wilton there?’-
With that, straight up the hill there rode
 Two horsemen drench’d with gore, 855
And in their arms, a helpless load,
 A wounded knight they bore.
His hand still strain’d the broken brand;
His arms were smear’d with blood and sand:
Dragg’d from among the horses’ feet, 860
With dinted shield, and helmet beat,
The falcon-crest and plumage gone,
Can that be haughty Marmion! . . .
Young Blount his armour did unlace,
And gazing on his ghastly face, 865
 Said-’By Saint George, he’s gone!
That spear-wound has our master sped,
And see the deep cut on his head!
 Good-night to Marmion.’-
‘Unnurtured Blount! thy brawling cease: 870
He opes his eyes,’ said Eustace; ‘peace!’


XXIX.

When, doff’d 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! 875
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!-
Yet my last thought is England’s-fly, 880
 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: 885
 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, 890
 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, 895
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmur’d,-‘Is there none,
 Of all my halls have nurst,
Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring
Of blessed water from the spring, 900
 To slake my dying thirst!’


XXX.

O, Woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made; 905
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: 910
Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,
 Sees but the dying man.
She stoop’d her by the runnel’s side,
 But in abhorrence backward drew; 915
For, oozing from the mountain’s side,
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, 920
Where water, clear as diamond-spark,
 In a stone basin fell.
Above, some half-worn letters say,
Drink . weary . pilgrim . drink . and . pray .
 for . the . kind . soul . of . Sybil .Grey . 925
 Who . built . this . cross . and . well .
She fill’d the helm, and back she hied,
And with surprise and joy espied
 A Monk supporting Marmion’s head;
A pious man, whom duty brought 930
To dubious verge of battle fought,
 To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.


XXXI.

Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave,
And, as she stoop’d his brow to lave-
‘Is it the hand of Clare,’ he said, 935
‘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 940
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.’- 945
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 950
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 fire, and dying groan, 955
And priests slain on the altar stone,
Might bribe him for delay.
It may not be!-this dizzy trance-
Curse on yon base marauder’s lance,
And doubly cursed my failing brand! 960
A sinful heart makes feeble hand.’
Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
Supported by the trembling Monk.


XXXII.

With fruitless labour, Clara bound,
And strove to stanch the gushing wound: 965
The Monk, with unavailing cares,
Exhausted all the Church’s prayers.
Ever, he said, that, close and near,
A lady’s voice was in his ear,
And that the priest he could not hear; 970
 For that she ever sung,
‘In the lost battle, borne down by the flying,
Where mingles war’s rattle with groans of the dying!’
 So the notes rung;-
‘Avoid thee, Fiend!-with cruel hand, 975
Shake not the dying sinner’s sand!-
O, look, my son, upon yon sign
Of the Redeemer’s grace divine;
 O, think on faith and bliss!
By many a death-bed I have been, 980
And many a sinner’s parting seen,
 But never aught like this.’-
The war, that for a space did fail,
Now trebly thundering swell’d the gale,
 And-STANLEY! was the cry;- 985
A light on Marmion’s visage spread,
 And fired his glazing eye:
With dying hand, above his head,
He shook the fragment of his blade,
 And shouted ‘Victory!- 990
Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!’
Were the last words of Marmion.


XXXIII.

By this, though deep the evening fell,
Still rose the battle’s deadly swell,
For still the Scots, around their King, 995
Unbroken, fought in desperate ring.
Where’s now their victor vaward wing,
 Where Huntly, and where Home?-
O, for a blast of that dread horn,
On Fontarabian echoes borne, 1000
 That to King Charles did come,
When Rowland brave, and Olivier,
And every paladin and peer,
 On Roncesvalles died!
Such blasts might warn them, not in vain, 1005
To quit the plunder of the slain,
And turn the doubtful day again,
 While yet on Flodden side,
Afar, the Royal Standard flies,
And round it toils, and bleeds, and dies, 1010
 Our Caledonian pride!
In vain the wish-for far away,
While spoil and havoc mark their way,
Near Sybil’s Cross the plunderers stray.-
‘O Lady,’ cried the Monk, ‘away!’ 1015
 And placed her on her steed,
And led her to the chapel fair,
 Of Tilmouth upon Tweed.
There all the night they spent in prayer,
And at the dawn of morning, there 1020
She met her kinsman, Lord Fitz-Clare.


XXXIV.

But as they left the dark’ning heath,
More desperate grew the strife of death,
The English shafts in volleys hail’d,
In headlong charge their horse assail’d; 1025
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, 1030
Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
 Unbroken was the ring;
The stubborn spear-men still made good
Their dark impenetrable wood,
Each stepping where his comrade stood, 1035
 The instant that he fell.
No thought was there of dastard flight;
Link’d in the serried phalanx tight,
Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
 As fearlessly and well; 1040
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 shatter’d bands;
 And from the charge they drew, 1045
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, 1050
When streams are swoln and south winds blow
 Dissolves in silent dew.
Tweed’s echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
 While many a broken band,
Disorder’d, through her currents dash, 1055
 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, 1060
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 shiver’d was fair Scotland’s spear,
And broken was her shield!


XXXV.

Day dawns upon the mountain’s side:-
There, Scotland! lay thy bravest pride,
Chiefs, knights, and nobles, many a one:
The sad survivors all are gone.-- 1072
View not that corpse mistrustfully,
Defaced and mangled though it be;
Nor to yon Border castle high,
Look northward with upbraiding eye;
 Nor cherish hope in vain, 1075
That, journeying far on foreign strand,
The Royal Pilgrim to his land
 May yet return again.
He saw the wreck his rashness wrought;
Reckless of life, he desperate fought, 1080
 And fell on Flodden plain:
And well in death his trusty brand,
Firm clench’d within his manly hand,
 Beseem’d the monarch slain.
But, O! how changed since yon blithe night! 1085
Gladly I turn me from the sight,
 Unto my tale again.


XXXVI.

Short is my tale:-Fitz-Eustace’ care
A pierced and mangled body bare
To moated Lichfield’s lofty pile; 1090
And there, beneath the southern aisle,
A tomb, with Gothic sculpture fair,
Did long Lord Marmion’s image bear,
(Now vainly for its site you look;
‘Twas levell’d, when fanatic Brook 1095
The fair cathedral storm’d and took;
But, thanks to Heaven, and good Saint Chad,
A guerdon meet the spoiler had!)
There erst was martial Marmion found,
His feet upon a couchant hound, 1100
 His hands to Heaven upraised;
And all around, on scutcheon rich,
And tablet carved, and fretted niche,
 His arms and feats were blazed.
And yet, though all was carved so fair, 1105
And priest for Marmion breathed the prayer,
The last Lord Marmion lay not there.
From Ettrick woods, a peasant swain
Follow’d his lord to Flodden plain,-
One of those flowers, whom plaintive lay 1110
In Scotland mourns as ‘wede away’:
Sore wounded, Sybil’s Cross he spied,
And dragg’d him to its foot, and died,
Close by the noble Marmion’s side.
The spoilers stripp’d and gash’d the slain, 1115
And thus their corpses were mista’en;
And thus, in the proud Baron’s tomb,
The lowly woodsman took the room.


XXXVII.

Less easy task it were, to show
Lord Marmion’s nameless grave, and low. 1120
 They dug his grave e’en where he lay,
 But every mark is gone;
 Time’s wasting hand has done away
 The simple Cross of Sybil Grey,
 And broke her font of stone: 1123
But yet from out the little hill
Oozes the slender springlet still,
Oft halts the stranger there,
For thence may best his curious eye
The memorable field descry; 1130
 And shepherd boys repair
To seek the water-flag and rush,
And rest them by the hazel bush,
 And plait their garlands fair;
Nor dream they sit upon the grave, 1135
That holds the bones of Marmion brave.-
When thou shalt find the little hill,
With thy heart commune, and be still.
If ever, in temptation strong,
Thou left’st the right path for the wrong; 1140
If every devious step, thus trod,
Still led thee farther from the road;
Dread thou to speak presumptuous doom
On noble Marmion’s lowly tomb;
But say, ‘He died a gallant knight, 1145
With sword in hand, for England’s right.’


XXXVIII.

I do not rhyme to that dull elf,
Who cannot image to himself,
That all through Flodden’s dismal night,
Wilton was foremost in the fight; 1150
That, when brave Surrey’s steed was slain,
‘Twas Wilton mounted him again;
‘Twas Wilton’s brand that deepest hew’d,
Amid the spearmen’s stubborn wood:
Unnamed by Hollinshed or Hall, 1155
He was the living soul of all;
That, after fight, his faith made plain,
He won his rank and lands again;
And charged his old paternal shield
With bearings won on Flodden Field. 1160
Nor sing I to that simple maid,
To whom it must in terms be said,
That King and kinsmen did agree,
To bless fair Clara’s constancy;
Who cannot, unless I relate, 1165
Paint to her mind the bridal’s state;
That Wolsey’s voice the blessing spoke,
More, Sands, and Denny, pass’d the joke:
That bluff King Hal the curtain drew,
And Catherine’s hand the stocking threw; 1170
And afterwards, for many a day,
That it was held enough to say,
In blessing to a wedded pair,
‘Love they like Wilton and like Clare!’