2.101And the pillars, with cluster'd shafts so trim,
2.102With base and with capital flourish'd around,
2.103Seem'd bundles of lances which garlands had bound.
2.104Full many a scutcheon and banner riven
2.105Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
2.106 Around the screened altar's pale;
2.107And there the dying lamps did burn
2.108Before thy low and lonely urn,
2.109O gallant chief of Otterburne!
2.110 And thine, dark knight of Liddesdale!
2.111O fading honours of the dead!
2.112O high ambition lowly laid!
2.113The moon on the east oriel shone
2.114Through slender shafts of shapely stone,
2.115 By foliaged tracery combined;
2.116Thou would'st have thought some fairy's hand
2.117'Twixt poplars straight the osier wand
2.118 In many a freakish knot had twined;
2.119Then framed a spell when the work was done,
2.120And changed the willow wreaths to stone.
2.121The silver light, so pale and faint,
2.122Show'd many a prophet and many a saint,
2.123 Whose image on the glass was dyed;
2.124Full in the midst, his Cross of Red
2.125Triumphant Michael brandished,
2.126 And trampled the Apostate's pride.
2.127The moon-beam kiss'd the holy pane,
2.128And threw on the pavement a bloody stain.
2.129They sate them down on a marble stone,--
2.130 A Scottish monarch slept below;--
2.131Thus spoke the monk, in solemn tone:
2.132 'I was not always a man of woe;
2.133For Paynim countries I have trod,
2.134And fought beneath the Cross of God:
2.135Now, strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
2.136And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
2.137'In these far climes it was my lot
2.138To meet the wondrous Michael Scott;
2.139 A wizard of such dreaded fame
2.140That when, in Salamanca's cave,
2.141Him listed his magic wand to wave,
2.142 The bells would ring in Notre Dame!
2.143Some of his skill he taught to me;
2.144And, warrior, I could say to thee
2.145The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
2.146 And bridled the Tweed with a eurb of stone:
2.147But to speak them were a deadly sin;
2.148And for having but thought them my heart within,
2.149 A treble penance must be done.
2.150'When Michael lay on his dying bed,
2.151His conscience was awakened;
2.152He bethought him of his sinful deed,
2.153And he gave me a sign to come with speed:
2.154I was in Spain when the morning rose,
2.155But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
2.156The words may not again be said
2.157That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid;
2.158They would rend this Abbaye's messy nave,
2.159And pile it in heaps above his grave.
2.160'I swore to bury his Mighty Book,
2.161That never mortal might therein look;
2.162And never to tell where it was hid,
2.163Save at his Chief of Branksome's need:
2.164And when that need was past and o'er,
2.165Again the volume to restore.
2.166I buried him on St. Michael's night,
2.167When the bell toll'd one, and the moon was bright,
2.168And I dug his chamber among the dead
2.169When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
2.170That his patron's cross might over him wave,
2.171And scare the fiends from the wizard's grave.
2.172'It was a night of woe and dread
2.173When Michael in the tomb I laid;
2.174Strange sounds along the chancel pass'd,
2.175The banners waved without a blast'--
2.176Still spoke the monk, when the bell toll'd one!--
2.177I tell you that a braver man
2.178Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
2.179Against a foe ne'er spurr'd a steed;
2.180Yet somewhat was he chill'd with dread,
2.181And his hair did bristle upon his head.
2.182'Lo, warrior! now, the Cross of Red
2.183Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
2.184Within it burns a wondrous light,
2.185To chase the spirits that love the night:
2.186That lamp shall burn unquenchably,
2.187Until the eternal doom shall be.'
2.188Slow moved the monk to the broad flag-stone
2.189Which the bloody Cross was traced upon:
2.190He pointed to a secret nook;
2.191An iron bar the warrior took;
2.192And the monk made a sign with his wither'd hand,
2.193The grave's huge portal to expand.
2.194With beating heart to the task he went;
2.195His sinewy frame o'er the grave-stone bent;
2.196With bar of iron heaved amain
2.197Till the toil-drops fell from his brows like rain.
2.198It was by dint of passing strength
2.199That he moved the messy stone at length.
2.200I would you had been there to see
2.201How the light broke forth so gloriously,
2.202Stream'd upward to the chancel roof,
2.203And through the galleries far aloof!
2.204No earthly flame blazed e'er so bright:
2.205It shone like heaven's own blessed light,
2.206 And, issuing from the tomb,
2.207Show'd the monk's cowl and visage pale,
2.208Danced on the dark-brow'd warrior's mail,
2.209 And kiss'd his waving plume.
2.210Before their eyes the wizard lay,
2.211As if he had not been dead a day.
2.212His hoary beard in silver roll'd,
2.213He seem'd some seventy winters old;
2.214 A palmer's amice wrapp'd him round,
2.215 With a wrought Spanish baldric bound,
2.216 Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea:
2.217 His left hand held his Book of Might,
2.218 A silver cross was in his right,
2.219 The lamp was placed beside his knee:
2.220High and majestic was his look,
2.221At which the fellest fiend had shook,
2.222And all unruffled was his face:
2.223They trusted his soul had gotten grace.
2.224Often had William of Deloraine
2.225Rode through the battle's bloody plain,
2.226And trampled down the warriors slain,
2.227 And neither known remorse nor awe;
2.228Yet now remorse and awe he own'd;
2.229His breath came thick, his head swam round,
2.230 When this strange scene of death he saw,
2.231Bewilder'd and unnerv'd he stood,
2.232And the priest pray'd fervently and loud:
2.233With eyes averted prayed he;
2.234He might not endure the sight to see
2.235Of the man he had loved so brotherly.
2.236And when the priest his death-prayer had pray'd,
2.237Thus unto Deloraine he said:
2.238'Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
2.239Or, warrior, we may dearly rue;
2.240For those thou may'st not look upon,
2.241Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!'
2.242Then Deloraine in terror took
2.243From the cold hand the Mighty Book,
2.244With iron clasp'd and with iron bound:
2.245He thought, as he took it, the dead man frown'd;
2.246But the glare of the sepulchral light
2.247Perchance had dazzled the warrior's sight.
2.248When the huge stone sunk o'er the tomb,
2.249The night return'd in double gloom;
2.250For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few;
2.251And, as the knight and priest withdrew,
2.252With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
2.253They hardly might the postern gain.
2.254'Tis said, as through the aisles they pass'd,
2.255They heard strange noises on the blast;
2.256And through the cloister-galleries small,
2.257Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall,
2.258Loud sobs, and laughter louder ran,
2.259And voices unlike the voice of man;
2.260As if the fiends kept holiday
2.261Because these spells were brought to day.
2.262I cannot tell how the truth may be;
2.263I say the tale as 'twas said to me.
2.264`Now, hie thee hence,' the father said,
2.265`And when we are on death-bed laid,
2.266O may our dear Ladye and sweet St. John
2.267Forgive our souls for the deed we have done!
2.268 The monk returned him to his cell,
2.269 And many a prayer and penance sped;
2.270 When the convent met at the noontide bell,
2.271 The Monk of St. Mary's aisle was dead!
2.272Before the cross was the body laid
2.273With hands clasp'd fast, as if still he pray'd.
2.274The knight breathed free in the morning wind,
2.275And strove his hardihood to find:
2.276He was glad when he pass'd the tombstones gray
2.277Which girdle round the fair Abbaye;
2.278For the mystic book, to his bosom prest,
2.279Felt like a load upon his breast;
2.280And his joints, with nerves of iron twined,
2.281Shook like the aspen leaves in wind.
2.282Full fain was he when the dawn of day
2.283Began to brighten Cheviot gray;
2.284He joy'd to see the cheerful light,
2.285And he said Ave Mary as well as he might.
1.1] This selection contains an episode of the story of "The Lady of the Lake", published in 1810--the work which established his poetic reputation. The poem was "intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants, living in a state partly pastoral and partly warlike, and combining habits of constant depredation with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes highly susceptible of poetical ornament." (Scott.)
The Ladye. The lady of Branksome Castle, the seat of the Border family of the Scotts of Buccleuch from which the Poet himself was descended. By the recent death of her husband in a skirmish with the Carrs, or Kerrs, of Cessford, she has become the head of the house, and having learned by supernatural means that her daughter is likely to wed a member of the hostile house, she, at the point when our selection opens, despatches a retainer for a magical volume buried at Melrose Abbey, in the hope of defeating, by the aid of its spells, the threatened marriage. The antiquated spelling is intended to give the proper colouring to a poem which is supposed to be recited by the last of the minstrels. Back to Line
1.5] moss-trooper. This was the usual appellation of the marauders upon the Borders. "Mosses" are boggy moors, such as are common in the Border shires. Back to Line
1.6] truncheon. A diminutive of 'trunk'; here, 'the shaft of a spear'. Back to Line
1.15] Lockhart explains the defective metre of this line by the fact that in the poet's own pronunciation the rolled r in 'Unicorn's' would have the effect of a syllable. The arms of the Carrs of Cessford bore three unicorns' heads, with a unicorn's head for the crest; those of the Scotts of Buccleuch a star of six points between two crescents. The story of the "Lay" has to do with a feud between these two Border clans. Back to Line
1.25] The Solway sands were extremely dangerous owing to the rapidity with which the tide rose and the numerous quicksands. (See the description in Scott's Redgauntlet, Letter iv.) Tarras. A river which runs into the Eske from the east. Back to Line
1.28] Percy. The head of the well-known English family whose estates lay in Northumberland, and who were constantly engaged in Scottish wars. Back to Line
1.29] Eske or Liddel. These rivers are on the southern border of Scotland and united reach the Solway. Back to Line
1.31] tide. Not in the usual modern sense, which is secondary, but in the original meaning of 'time', as in 'Eventide', 'Whitsuntide'. Back to Line
1.38] England's King. Edward VI, or possibly Henry VIII. Scotland's Queen. Mary Queen of Scots. Back to Line
1.39] good at need. Scott found this phrase in a Border ballad, "The Raid of the Reidswire". It was a fashion in ballad poetry, as in the Homeric poems, to attach some adjective to the name of a person, even in places where the context did not specially call for it, so we have the 'swift-footed Achilles', the 'far-darting Apollo'. Back to Line
1.49] St. Michael's night. 'Michaelmas', the festival of St. Michael is celebrated on the 29th September. Back to Line
1.50] The wizard was buried at one o'clock on St. Michael's night in such a position that the moon shining through a stained-glass window made a red cross over the tomb. His magic book was buried with him, and was only to be used by the chief of the clan in the hour of extremity. Back to Line
1.61] 'an. Scott points with the apostrophe as if the word were for 'began'; modern philologists hold that 'an' is the past tense of 'gin', a word used by Chaucer, Spenser, and other early poets as an auxiliary in the sense of 'did'. Back to Line
1.66] "Hairibee. The place of execution at Carlisle. The neck-verse is the beginning of the 51st Psalm, Miserere mei, etc., anciently read by criminals claiming the benefit of clergy." (Scott.) The clergy were anciently amenable not to the secular, but to the ecclesiastical courts; in process of time this privilege was claimed by all who could read, and as the ecclesiastical courts did not inflict the penalty of death, the reading of the verse might save the criminal's neck. Back to Line
1.69] barbican. "The defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle." (Scott). Minto adds: "The epithet 'sounding' indicates that Scott probably took his idea of a barbican from Alnwick Castle, where there is a very fine gate and barbican of the Edwardian period. The barbican is fifty-five feet long, strong masonry protecting a passage to the gate about ten feet broad. The outer passage is vaulted to the length of about twenty feet, the rest open to the sky." Back to Line
1.72] basnet. A small light helmet, diminutive from 'basin'. Back to Line
1.73] Peel of Goldiland. A peel was a simple strong tower common on the Borders for purposes of defence. For the exact situation of the places mentioned in this selection, a map should be consulted. Back to Line
1.74] Borthwick Water is a small tributary of the Teviot, half way between Branksome and Hawick. Back to Line
1.75] Moat-hill. "This is a round artificial mound near Hawick which from its name (A.S. Mot, concilium, conventus) was probably anciently used as a place for assembling a national council of the neighhouring tribes." (Scott.) Back to Line
1.90] the Roman way. "An ancient Roman road, crossing through this part of Roxburghshire." (Scott.) Back to Line
1.95] Minto-crags. "A romantic assembly of cliffs which rise suddenly above the vale of Teviot, in the immediate vicinity of the family seat from which Lord Minto takes his title. A small platform on a projecting crag, commanding a most beautiful prospect, is termed Barnhill's bed. This Barnhill is said to have been a robber, or outlaw. There are remains of a strong tower beneath the rocks, where he is supposed to have dwelt, and from which he derived his name. " (Scott.) Back to Line
1.104] the warbling Doric reed. Scott explains that the allusion is to a pastoral song written by Sir Gilbert Elliot, father of the first Lord Minto. 'Doric' because the founder of pastoral poetry, the Greek Theocritus, wrote in the Doric dialect; 'reed' because from reeds the pipes were made upon which shepherds played. Back to Line
1.105] This indicates the subject of the pastoral poem referred to; it may be found quoted in Scott's notes. Back to Line
1.119] barded. Armed; used of horses only. Counter. The breast of a horse, the part from the shoulders tothe neck. Back to Line
1.121] Minto remarks that these two lines "must be literally true. The weight of a complete suit of armour was from 150 to 200 lbs. Mosstroopers generally were not so heavily encumbered. Scott, however, gives Deloraine four hours to ride the twenty miles between Hawick and Melrose". Back to Line
1.129] Halidon. "An ancient seat of the Kerrs of Cessford. About a quarter of a mile to the northward lay the field of battle between Buccleuch and Angus." (Scott.) Back to Line
1.130] In the year 1526, the young King, James V, tired of the authority of Douglas, Earl of Angus, the virtual ruler of the country, wrote secretly to Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, asking to be rescued from the hands of the Douglases. An opportunity would be afforded when the Douglases, with the King in their company, were on their return from the expedition to the Borders in which they were at this time engaged. Buccleuch, attempting to carry out the King's wishes, attacked the Douglases, who were assisted by the clans of Kerr and Home at Melrose. The Scotts were defeated, and pursued by the Kerrs. The leader of the latter, the Laird of Cessford, was slain in the pursuit by a retainer of Scott of Buccleuch, named Eliot. Hence a deadly feud between the Scotts and the Kerrs. In consequence of this quarrel Sir Walter was slain by the Kerrs in the streets of Edinburgh in 1552. The poem is supposed to open shortly after this event. Back to Line
1.142] Melros' for Melrose to avoid assonance with the next word. "The ancient and beautiful monastery of Melrose was founded by King David [in 1136]. Its ruins afford the finest specimen of Gothic architecture and Gothic sculpture of which Scotland can boast. The stone of which it is built, though it has resisted the weather for so many ages, retains perfect sharpness, so that even the most minute ornaments seem as entire as when newly wrought. In some of the cloisters, as is hinted in the next canto, there are representations of flowers, vegetables, etc., carved in stone, with accuracy and precision so delicate that we almost distrust our senses, when we consider the difficulty of subjecting so hard a substance to such intricate and exquisite modulation. This superb convent was dedicated to St. Mary, and the monks were of the Cistercian order." (Scott.) Back to Line
1.144] Abbaye. Abbey, for the sake of the rhyme and the archaic effect. Back to Line
1.146] lauds. "The midnight service of the Catholic church." (Scott.) Back to Line
2.3] lightsome. Not the ordinary word which is derived from "light", meaning 'not heavy'; the word as employed here is found in Spenser's "Faerie Queene", I.vii.23, "O lightsome day, the lamp of highest Jove." Back to Line
2.6] oriel. Used loosely here by Scott in the sense of a mullioned window (i.e., a window partitioned by perpendicular divisions); an "oriel" is properly a projecting window. Back to Line
2.9] alternately. Not in reference to the successive buttresses, but to each buttress, which was part in light, part in shade. Back to Line
2.11] "The buttresses ranged along the sides of the ruins of Melrose Abbey are, according to Gothic style, richly carved and fretted, containing niches for the statues of saints, and labelled with scrolls, bearing appropriate texts of Scripture." (Scott.) Back to Line
2.16] St. David's. David, king of Scotland in the 11th century, won a reputation for sanctity hy his monastic foundations. Back to Line
2.20] reck'd of. 'Cared for', a poetical word, more commonly without the preposition, as in "Hamlet", "recks not his own rede". Back to Line
2.39] aventayle. The lower part of the helmet before the face, which might be raised so as to admit the air. Back to Line
2.60] drie. 'Endure'; found in Old English, and in Lowland Scotch. Back to Line
2.66] Ave Mary. 'Hail, Mary', a short prayer beginning with these words, cf. Luke i.28. Back to Line
2.98] "The carved bosses at the intersection of the ribs of a vaulted ceiling cannot be fairly called keystones. If they could be so called, it is not the aisles that they lock. By quatre-feuille the poet means the four-leaved flower which is so common an ornament in the Decorated style. I do not know any authority for this use of the word. Quatrefoil is applied to an opening pierced in four foils, much used in ornaments, but quite different from a four-leaved boss. A corbel is a projecting stone or piece of timber supporting a superincumbent weight, such as the shaft or small column which supports the ribs of the vault. They are carved and moulded in a great variety of ways, often, as in Melrose Abbey, in the form of heads and faces." (Minto.) Back to Line