Rokeby, by Walter Scott

Canto Sixth.

I.

THE summer sun, whose early power

Was wont to gild Matilda’s bower,

And rouse her with his matin ray

Her duteous orisons to pay,

That morning sun has three times seen

The flowers unfold on Rokeby green.

But sees no more the slumbers fly

From fair Matilda’s hazel eye;

That morning sun has three times broke

On Rokeby’s glades of elm and oak,

But, rising from their sylvan screen,

Marks no gray turrets glance between!

A shapeless mass lie keep and tower,

That, hissing to the morning shower,

Can but with smouldering vapour pay

The early smile of summer day.

The peasant, to his labour bound,

Pauses to view the blackened mound,

Striving, amid the ruined space.

Each well-remembered spot to trace.

That length of frail and fire-scorched wall

Once screened the hospitable hall;

When yonder broken arch was whole,

’Twas there was dealt the weekly dole;

And where yon tottering columns nod,

The chapel sent the hymn to God.

So flits the world’s uncertain span!

Nor zeal for God, nor love for man,

Gives mortal monuments a date

Beyond the power of Time and Fate.

The towers must share the builder’s doom;

Ruin is theirs, and his a tomb:

But better boon benignant Heaven

To Faith and Charity has given,

And bids the Christian hope sublime

Transcend the bounds of Fate and Time.

ii.

Now the third night of summer came.

Since that which witnessed Rokeby’s flame.

On Brignal cliffs and Scargill brake

The owlet’s homilies awake.

The bittern screamed from rush and flag,

The raven slumbered on his crag,

Forth from his den the otter drew, —

Grayling and trout their tyrant knew,

As between reed and sedge he peers.

With fierce round snout and sharpened ears,

Or, prowling by the moon-beam cool,

Watches the stream or swims the pool; —

Perched on his wonted eyrie high.

Sleep sealed the tercelet’s wearied eye.

That all the day had watched so well,

The cushat dart across the dell.

In dubious beam reflected shone

That lofty cliff of pale grey stone,

Beside whose base the secret cave

To rapine late a refuge gave.

The crag’s wild crest of copse and yew

On Greta’s breast dark shadows threw;

Shadows that met or shunned the sight.

With every change of fitful light;

As hope and fear alternate chase

Our course through life’s uncertain race.

iii.

Gliding by crag and copse-wood green,

A solitary Form was seen

To trace with stealthy pace the wold,

Like fox that seeks the midnight fold,

And pauses oft, and cowers dismayed,

At every breath that stirs the shade.

He passes now the ivy bush.

The owl has seen him and is hush;

He passes now the doddered oak,

Ye heard the startled raven croak;

Lower and lower he descends.

Rustle the leaves, the brushwood bends;

The otter hears him tread the shore,

And dives, and is beheld no more i

And by the cliff of pale grey stone

The midnight wanderer stands alone.

Methinks, that by the moon we trace

A well-remembered form and face!

That stripling shape, that cheek so pale.

Combine to tell a rueful tale,

Of powers misused, of passion’s force,

Of guilt, of grief, and of remorse!

’Tis Edmund’s eye, at every sound

That flings that guilty glance around;

’Tis Edmund’s trembling haste divides

The brushwood that the cavern hides.

And, when its narrow porch lies bare,

’Tis Edmund’s form that enters there.

iv.

His flint and steel have sparkled bright,

A lamp hath lent the cavern light.

Fearful and quick his eye surveys

Each angle of the gloomy maze.

Since last he left that stern abode,

It seemed as none its floor had trode;

Untouched appeared the various spoil,

The purchase of his comrades’ toil;

Masques and disguises grimed with mud,

Arms broken and defiled with blood,

And all the nameless tools that aid

Night-felons in their lawless trade,

Upon the gloomy walls were hung,

Or lay in nooks obscurely flung.

Still on the sordid board appear

The reliques of the noontide cheer;

Flaggons and emptied flasks were there,

And bench o’erthrown, and shattered chair;

And all around the semblance showed,

As when the final revel glowed,

When the red sun was setting fast,

And parting pledge Guy Denzil past.

To Rokeby treasure-vaults! they quaffed.

And shouted loud and wildly laughed,

Poured maddening from the rocky door.

And parted — to return no more!

They found in Rokeby vaults their doom — —

A bloody death, a burning tomb.

V.

There his own peasant dress he spies,

Doffed to assume that quaint disguise,

And shuddering thought upon his glee.

When pranked in garb of minstrelsy.

“be the fatal art accursed,”

He cried, “that moved my folly first.

Till bribed by bandits’ base applause,

I burst through God’s and Nature’s laws!

Three summer days are scantly past

Since I have trod this cavern last,

A thoughtless wretch, and prompt to err —

But O as yet no murderer!

Even now I list my comrades’ cheer,

That general laugh is in mine ear,

Which raised my pulse and steeled my heart,

As I rehearsed my treacherous part —

And would that all since then could seem

The phantom of a fever’s dream!

But fatal Memory notes too well

The horrors of the dying yell.

That from my desperate comrades broke.

When flashed the fire and rolled the smoke,

When the avengers shouting came.

And hemmed us twixt the sword and flame!

My frantic flight — the lifted brand —

That angel’s interposing hand!

If for my life from slaughter freed,

I yet could pay some grateful meed! —

Perchance this object of my quest

May aid” — he turned, nor spoke the rest.

vi.

Due northward from the rugged hearth,

With paces five he metes the earth.

Then toiled with mattock to explore

The entrails of the cavern floor,

Nor paused till, deep beneath the ground,

His search a small steel casket found.

Just as he stooped to loose its hasp.

His shoulder felt a giant grasp;

He started, and looked up aghast,

Then shrieked — ’twas Bertram held him fast.

“Fear not!” he said; but who could hear

That deep stern voice, and cease to fear?

“Fear not! — by heaven he shakes as much

As partridge m the falcon’s chitch!” —

He raised him, and unloosed his hold,

While from the opening casket rolled

A chain and reliquaire of gold.

Bertram beheld it with surprise.

Gazed on its fashion and device,

Then, cheering Edmund as he could,

Somewhat he smoothed his rugged mood;

For still the youth’s half-lifted eye

Quivered with terror’s agony.

And sidelong glanced, as to explore.

In meditated flight, the door.

“Sit,” Bertram said, “from danger free;

Thou canst not, and thou shalt not, flee.

Chance brings me hither; hill and plain

I’ve sought for refuge-place in vain.

And tell me now, thou aguish boy,

What makest thou here? what means this toy?

Denzil and thou, I marked, were ta’en;

What lucky chance unbound your chain?

I deemed, long since on Baliol’s tower.

Your heads were warped with sun and shower.

Tell me the whole — and mark! nought e’er

Chafes me like falsehood, or like fear.” —

Gathering his courage to his aid,

But trembling still, the youth obeyed.

vii.

“Denzil and I two nights passed o er,

In fetters on the dungeon floor.

A guest the third sad morrow brought;

Our hold dark Oswald Wycliffe sought.

And eyed my comrade long askance,

With fixed and penetrating glance.

‘ Guy Denzil art thou called?’ — ‘The same.’ —

‘ At court who served wild Buckinghame;

Thence banished, won a keeper’s place,

So Villiers willed, in Marwood-chase;

That lost — I need not tell thee why —

Thou madest thy wit thy wants supply.

Then fought for Rokeby:— have I guessed

My prisoner right?’ — ‘ At thy behest.’ —

He paused awhile, and then went on

With low and confidential tone;

Me, as I judge, not then he saw.

Close nestled in my couch of straw. —

‘ List to me, Guy. Thou know’st the great

Have frequent need of what they hate

Hence, in their favour oft we see

Un scrupled, useful men like thee.

Were I disposed to bid thee live,

What pledge of faith hast thou to give?’ —

viii.

“The ready fiend, who never yet

Hath failed to sharpen Denzil’s wit,

Prompted his he — ‘ His only child

Should rest his pledge.’ — The Baron smiled,

And turned to me — ‘ Thou art his son?’

I bowed — our fetters were undone.

And we were led to hear apart

A dreadful lesson of his art.

Wilfrid, he said, his heir and son,

Had fair Matilda’s favour won;

And long since had their union been,

But for her father’s bigot spleen.

Whose brute and blindfold party rage

Would, force per force, her hand engage

To a base kerne of Irish earth,

Unknown his lineage and his birth,

Save that a dying ruffian bore

The mfant brat to Rokeby door.

Gentle restraint, he said, would lead

Old Rokeby to enlarge his creed;

But fair occasion he must find

For such restraint well-meant and kind.

The knight being rendered to his charge

But as a prisoner at large.

ix.

“He schooled us in a well-forged tale,

Of scheme the castle walls to scale.

To which was leagued each cavalier,

That dwells upon the Tyne and Wear;

That Rokeby, his parole forgot,

Had dealt with us to aid the plot.

Such was the charge, which Denzil’s zeal

Of hate to Rokeby and O’Neale

Proffered, as witness, to make good,

Even thouorh the forfeit were their blood.

I scrupled, until o’er and o’er

His prisoners’ safety Wycliffe swore,

And then — alas! what needs there more?

I knew I should not live to say

The proffer I refused that day;

Ashamed to live, yet loth to die,

I soiled me with their infamy!” —

“Poor youth,” said Bertram, “wavering still,

Unfit alike for good or ill!

But what fell next?” — “Soon as at large

Was scrolled and signed our fatal charge,

There never yet, on tragic stage.

Was seen so well a painted rage

As Oswald’s shewed! with loud alarm.

He called his garrison to arm;

From tower to tower, from post to post,

He hurried as if all were lost;

Consigned to dungeon and to chain

The good old knight and all his train,

Warned each suspected cavalier,

Within his limits, to appear

Tomorrow, at the hour of noon.

In the high church of Eglistone.” —

X.

“Of Eglistone! Even now I passed,”

Said Bertram, “as the night closed fast;

Torches and cressets gleamed around,

I heard the saw and hammer sound.

And I could mark they toiled to raise

A scaffold, hung with sable baize.

Which the grim headsman’s scene displayed,

Block, axe, and saw-dust, ready laid.

Some evil deed will there be done,

Unless Matilda wed his son; —

She loves him not — ’tis shrewdly guessed

That Redmond rules the damsel’s breast.

This is a turn of Oswald’s skill;

But I may meet, and foil him still!

How earnest thou to thy freedom?” — “There

Lies mystery more dark and rare.

In midst of Wycliffe’s well-feigned rage,

A scroll was offered by a page,

Who told, a muffled horseman late

Had left it at the castle-gate.

He broke the seal — his cheek shewed change,

Sudden, portentous, wild, and strange;

The mimic passion of his eye

Was turned to actual agony.

His hand like summer-sapling shook,

Terror and guilt were in his look.

Denzil he judged, in time of need,

Fit counsellor for evil deed,

And thus apart his counsel broke,

While with a ghastly smile he spoke.

xi.

“As, in the pageants of the stage,

The dead awake in this wild age,

Mortham, — whom all men deemed decreed

In his own deadly snare to bleed,

Slain by a bravo, whom, o’er sea.

He trained to aid in murthering me, —

Mortham has ‘scaped; the coward shot

The steed, but harmed the rider nought.” —

Here, with an execration fell,

Bertram leaped up, and paced the cell; —

“Thine own grey head, or bosom dark,”

He muttered, “may be surer mark!” —

Then sate, and signed to Edmund, pale

With terror, to resume his tale.

“Wycliffe went on:— ‘ Mark with what flights

Of wildered reverie he writes:

The Letter.

“Ruler of Mortham’s destiny!

Though dead, thy victim lives to thee.

Once had he all that binds to life,

A lovely child, a lovelier wife;

Wealth, fame, and friendship, were his own —

Thou gavest the word, and they are flown.

Mark how he pays thee:— to thy hand

He yields his honours and his land,

One boon premised; — Restore his child!

And, from his native land exiled,

Mortham no more returns, to claim

His lands, his honours, or his name;

Refuse him this, and from the slain

Thou shalt see Mortham rise again.” —

xii.

“This billet while the Baron read.

His faultering accents shewed his dread;

He pressed his forehead with his palm.

Then took a scornful tone and calm;

‘Wild as the winds, as billows wild!

What wot I of his spouse or child?

Hither he brought a joyous dame,

Unknown her lineage or her name:

Her, in some frantic fit, he slew;

The nurse and child in fear withdrew.

Heaven be my witness, wist I where

To find this youth, my kinsman’s heir, —

Unguerdon’d, I would give with joy

The father’s arms to fold his boy,

And Mortham’s lands and towers resign,

To the just heir of Mortham’s line.’ —

Thou know’st that scarcely e’en his fear

Suppresses Denzil’s cynic sneer; —

‘Then happy is thy vassal’s part,’

He said, ‘to ease his patron’s heart!

In thine own jailor’s watchful care

Lies Mortham’s just and rightful heir;

Thy generous wish is fully won, —

Redmond O’Neale is Mortham’s son!’

xiii.

“Up starting with a frenzied look.

His clenched hand the Baron shook:

‘ Is Hell at work? or dost thou rave,

Or darest thou palter with me, slave!

Perchance thou wotst not, Barnard’s towers

Have racks, of strange and ghastly powers. —

Denzil, who well his safety knew,

Firmly rejoined, ‘ I tell thee true.

Thy racks could give thee but to know

The proofs, which I, untortured, show. —

It chanced upon a winter night.

When early snow made Stanemore white.

That very night, when first of all

Redmond O’Neale saw Rokeby-hall,

It was my goodly lot to gain

A reliquary and a chain.

Twisted and chased of massive gold.

— Demand not how the prize I hold!

It was not given, nor lent, nor sold. —

Gilt tablets to the chain were hung,

With letters in the Irish tongue.

I hid my spoil, for there was need

That I should leave the land with speed;

Nor then I deemed it safe to bear

On mine own person gems so rare.

Small heed I of the tablets took,

But since have spelled them by the book,

When some sojourn in Erin’s land

Of their wild speech had given command.

But darkling was the sense; the phrase

And language those of other days,

Involved of purpose, as to foil

An interloper s prying toil.

The words, but not the sense, I knew,

Till fortune gave the guiding clue.

xiv.

“Three days since, was that clue revealed,

In Thorsgill as I lay concealed,

And heard at full when Rokeby’s maid

Her uncle’s history displayed;

And now I can interpret well

Each syllable the tablets tell.

Mark then: Fair Edith was the joy

Of old O’Neale of Clandeboy,

But from her sire and country fled,

In secret Mortham’s lord to wed.

O’Neale, his first resentment o’er,

Dispatch’d his son to Greta’s shore.

Enjoining he should make him known

(Until his farther will were shown,)

To Edith, but to her alone.

What of their ill-starred meeting fell,

Lord Wychffe knows, and none so well.

xv.

“O’Neale it was, who, in despair.

Robbed Mortham of his infant heir;

He bred him in their nurture wild,

And called him murdered Connal’s child.

Soon died the nurse; the clan believed

What from their chieftain they received.

His purpose was, that ne’er again

The boy should cross the Irish main,

But, like his mountain sires, enjoy

The woods and wastes of Clandeboy.

Then on the land wild troubles came,

And stronger chieftains urged a claim,

And wrested from the old man’s hands

His native towers, his father’s lands.

Unable then, amid the strife,

To guard young Redmond’s rights or life.

Late and reluctant he restores

The infant to his native shores.

With goodly gifts and letters stored,

With many a deep conjuring word,

To Mortham, and to Rokeby’s lord.

Nought knew the clod of Irish earth,

Who was the guide, of Redmond’s birth;

But deemed his chiefs commands were laid

On both, by both to be obeyed.

How he was wounded by the way,

I need not, and I list not say.” —

xvi.

xvii.

“A wond’rous tale! and grant it true.

What,’ Wycliffe answered, ‘ might I do?

Heaven knows, as willingly as now

I raise the bonnet from my brow,

Would I my kinsman’s manors fair

Restore to Mortham, or his heir;

But Mortham is distraught — O’Neale

Has drawn for tyranny his steel,

Malignant to our rightful Cause,

And trained in Rome’s delusive laws.

Hark thee apart!’ — They whispered long,

Till Denzil’s voice grew bold and strong:—

‘My proofs! I never will,’ he said,

‘Shew mortal man where they are laid.

Nor hope discovery to foreclose.

By giving me to feed the crows;

For I have mates at large, who know

Where I am wont such toys to stow.

Free me from peril and from band,

These tablets are at thy command;

Nor were it hard to form some train.

To wile old Mortham o’er the main.

Then, lunatic’s nor papist’s hand

Should wrest from thine the goodly land.’ —

— ‘I like thy wit,’ said Wycliffe, ‘well;

But here in hostage shalt thou dwell.

Thy son, unless my purpose err,

May prove the trustier messenger.

A scroll to Mortham shall he bear

From me, and fetch these tokens rare.

Gold shalt thou have, and that good store,

And freedom, his commission o’er;

But if his faith should chance to fail,

The gibbet frees thee from the jail.’

xviii.

“Mesh’d in the net himself had twined,

What subterfuge could Denzil find?

He told me, with reluctant sigh,

That hidden here the tokens lie;

Conjured my swift return and aid,

By all he scoffed and disobeyed;

And looked as if the noose were tied.

And I the priest who left his side.

This scroll for Mortham, Wycliffe gave,

Whom I must seek by Greta’s wave,

Or in the hut where chief he hides,

Where Thorsgill’s forester resides,

(Thence chanced it, wandering in the glade,

That he descried our ambuscade.)

I was dismissed as evening fell,

And reached but now this rocky cell.” —

“Give Oswald’s letter.” — Bertram read.

And tore it fiercely, shred by shred:—

“All lies and villainy! to blind

His noble kinsman’s generous mind,

And train him on from day to day,’

Till he can take his life away. —

And now, declare thy purpose, youth,

Nor dare to answer, save the truth;

If aught I mark of Denzil’s art,

I’ll tear the secret from thy heart!” —

xix.

“It needs not. I renounce,” he said,

“My tutor and his deadly trade.

Fixed was my purpose to declare

To Mortham, Redmond is his heir;

To tell him in what risque he stands,

And yield these tokens to his hands.

Fixed was my purpose to atone,

Far as I may, the evil done.

And fixed it rests — if I survive

This night, and leave this cave alive.” —

“And Denzil?” — “Let them ply the rack.

Even till his joints and sinews crack!

If Oswald tear him limb from limb.

What ruth can Denzil claim from him,

Whose thouglitless youth he led astray.

And damned to this unhallowed way?

He school’d me, faith and vows were vain;

Now let my master reap his gain.” —

“True,” answered Bertram, “’tis his meed;

There’s retribution in the deed.

But thou — thou art not for our course,

Hast fear, hast pity, hast remorse;

And he, with us the gale who braves,

Must heave such cargo to the waves,

Or lag with overloaded prore

While barks unburthened reach the shore.” —

xx.

He paused, and, stretching him at length,

Seemed to repose his bulky strength.

Communing with his secret mind.

As half he sate, and half reclined,

One ample hand his forehead pressed.

And one was dropped across his breast.

The shaggy eyebrows deeper came

Above his eyes of swarthy flame;

His lip of pride awhile forbore

The haughty curve till then it wore;

The unaltered fierceness of his look

A shade of darkened sadness took, —

For dark and sad a presage pressed

Resistlessly on Bertram’s breast, —

And when he spoke, his wonted tone,

So fierce, abrupt, and brief, was gone.

His voice was steady, low, and deep.

Like distant waves when breezes sleep;

And sorrow mixed with Edmund’s fear,

Its low unbroken depth to hear.

g04

xxi.

“Edmund, in thy sad tale I find

The woe that warped my patron’s mind;

‘Twould wake the fountains of the eye

In other men, but mine are dry.

Mortham must never see the fool,

That sold himself base Wycliffe’s tool!

Yet less from thirst of sordid gain,

Than to avenge supposed disdain.

Say, Bertram rues his fault; — a word,

Till now, from Bertram never heard:

Say, too, that Mortham’s lord he prays

To think but on their former days;

On Quariana’s beach and rock,

On Cayo’s bursting battle-shock,

On Darien’s sands and deadly dew,

And on the dart Tlatzeca threw; —

Perchance my patron yet may hear

More that may grace his comrade’s bier.

My soul hath felt a secret weight,

A warning of approaching fate:

A priest had said, Return, repent!

As well to bid that rock be rent.

Firm as that flint I face mine end;

My heart may burst, but cannot bend.

xxii.

“The dawning of my yovith, with awe

And prophecy, the Dalesmen saw;

For over Redesdale it came,

As bodeflil as their beacon-flame.

Edmund, thy years were scarcely mine.

When, challenging the clans of Tyne

To bring their best my brand to prove,

O’er Hexham’s altar hung my glove;

But Tynedale, nor in tower nor town,

Held champion meet to take it down.

My noontide India may declare;

Like her fierce Sun, I fired the air!

Like him, to wood and cave bade fly

Her natives, from mine angry eye.

Panama’s maids shall long look pale

When Risingham inspires the tale;

Chili’s dark matrons long shall tame

The froward child with Bertram’s name.

And now, my race of terror run,

Mine be the eve of tropic Sun!

No pale gradations quench his ray,

No twilight dews his wrath allay;

With disk like battle-target red.

He rushes to his burning bed,

Dyes the wide wave with bloody light.

Then sinks at once — and all is night.

xxiii.

“Now to thy mission, Edmund. Fly,

Seek Mortham out, and bid him hie

To Richmond, where his troops are laid,

And lead his force to Redmond’s aid.

Say, till he reaches Eglistone,

A friend will watch to guard his son.

Now, fare thee well; for night draws on,

And I would rest me here alone.” —

Despite his ill-dissembled fear,

There swam in Edmund’s eye a tear;

A tribute to the courage high,

Which stooped not in extremity,

But strove, irregularly great,

To triumph o’er approaching fate!

Bertram beheld the dew-drop start,

It almost touched his iron heart:—

“I did not think there lived,” he said,

“One, who would tear for Bertram shed.” —

He loosened then his baldrick’s hold,

A buckle broad of massive gold; —

“Of all the spoil that paid his pains,

But this with Risingham remains;

And this, dear Edmund, thou shalt take,

And wear it long for Bertram’s sake.

Once more — to Mortham speed amain;

Farewell! and turn thee not again.” —

xxiv.

The night has yielded to the morn,

And far the hours of prime are worn.

Oswald, who, since the dawn of day.

Had cursed his messenger’s delay,

Impatient questioned now his train,

“Was Denzil’s son returned again?” —

It chanced there answered of the crew,

A menial, who young Edmund knew:

“No son of Denzil this,” he said,

“A peasant boy from Winston glade,

For song and minstrelsy renowned,

And knavish pranks, the hamlets round.” —

— “Not Denzil’s son! — from Winston vale! —

Then it was false, that specious tale;

Or, worse — he hath dispatched the youth

To show to Mortham’s lord its truth.

Fool that I was! — but ’tis too late;

This is the very turn of fate! —

The tale, or true or false, relies

On Denzil’s evidence:— He dies! —

— Ho! Provost Martial! instantly

Lead Denzil to the gallows tree!

Allow him not a parting word;

Short be the shrift, and sure the cord!

Then let his gory head appal

Marauders from the castle wall.

Lead forth thy guard, that duty done,

With best dispatch to Eglistone. —

— Basil, tell Wilfrid he must straight

Attend me at the castle-gate.” —

xxv.

“Alas!” the old domestic said,

And shook his venerable head,

“Alas, my Lord! full ill today

May my young master brook the way!

The leech has spoke with grave alarm,

Of unseen hurt, of secret harm.

Of sorrow lurking at his heart,

That mars and lets his healing art.” —

— “Tush, tell not me! — Romantic boys

Pine themselves sick for airy toys.

I will find cure for Wilfrid soon;

Bid him for Eglistone be bonne,

And quick — I hear the dull death-drum

Tell DenziPs hour of fate is come.” —

He paused with scornful smile, and then

Resumed his train of thought agen.

“Now comes my fortune’s crisis near!

Entreaty boots not — instant fear,

Nought else, can bend Matilda’s pride.

Or win her to be Wilfrid’s bride.

But when she sees the scaffold placed,

With axe and block and headsman graced,

And when she deems, that to deny

Dooms Redmond and her sire to die,

She must give way. — Then, were the line

Of Rokeby once combined with mine,

I gain the weather-gage of fate!

If Mortham come, he comes too late,

While I, allied thus and prepared,

Bid him defiance to his beard. —

— If she prove stubborn, shall I dare

To drop the axe? — soft! pause we there.

Mortham still lives — yon youth may tell

His tale — and Fairfax loves him well; —

Else, wherefore should I now delay

To sweep this Redmond from my way? —

But. she to piety per force

Must yield. — Without there! Sound to horse.”—

xxvi.

’Twas bustle in the court below, —

“Mount, and march forward I” — forth they go,

vSteeds neigh and trample all around,

Steel rings, spears glimmer, trumpets sound. —

Just then was sung his parting hymn;

And Denzil turned his eyeballs dim,

And scarcely conscious what he sees,

Follows the horsemen down the Tees,

And scarcely conscious what he hears,

The trumpets tingle in his ears.

O’er the long bridge they’re sweeping now.

The van is hid by greenwood bough;

But ere the rearward had passed o’er,

Guy Denzil heard and saw no more!

One stroke, upon the castle bell,

To Oswald rung his dying knell.

xxvii.

for that pencil, erst profuse

Of chivalry’s emblazoned hues,

That traced, of old, in Woodstocke bower.

The pageant of the Leaf and Flower,

And bodied forth the tourney high,

Held for the hand of Emily!

Then might I paint the tumult broad,

That to the crowded abbey flowed,

And poured, as with an ocean s sound,

Into the church’s ample bound!

Then might I shew each varying mien,

Exulting, woeful, or serene;

Indifference with his idiot stare,

And Sympathy with anxious air;

Paint the dejected Cavalier,

Doubtful, disarmed, and sad of cheer;

And his proud foe, whose formal eye

Claimed conquest now and mastery;

And the brute crowd, whose envious zeal

Huzzas each turn of Fortune’s wheel.

And loudest shouts when lowest lie

Exalted worth, and station high.

Yet what may such a wish avail?

’Tis mine to tell an onward tale,

Hurrying, as best I can, along,

The hearers and the hasty song; —

Like traveller when approaching home,

Who sees the shades of evening come,

And must not now his course delay,

Or chuse the fair, but winding way;

Nay, scarcely may his pace suspend.

Where o’er his head the wildings bend,

To bless the breeze that cools his brow,

Or snatch a blossom from the bough.

xxviii.

The reverend pile lay wild and waste.

Profaned, dishonoured, and defaced.

Through storied lattices no more

In softened light the sun-beams pour,

Gilding the Gothic sculpture rich

Of shrine, and monument, and niche.

The Civil fury of the time

Made sport of sacrilegious crime;

For dark Fanaticism rent

Altar, and screen, and ornament,

And peasant hands the tombs o’erthrew

Of Bowes, of Rokeby, and Fitz Hugh.

And now was seen unwonted sight,

In holy walls a scaffold dight!

Where once the priest, of grace divine

Dealt to his flock the mystic sign.

There stood the block displayed, and there

The headsman grim his hatchet bare;

And for the word of Hope and Faith,

Resounded loud a doom of death.

Thrice the fierce trumpet’s breath was heard.

And echoed thrice the herald’s word,

Dooming, for breach of martial laws,

And treason to the Commons’ cause.

The Knight of Rokeby and O’Neale

To stoop their heads to block and steel.

The trumpets flourished high and shrill,

Then was a silence dead and still;

And silent prayers to heaven were cast,

And stifled sobs were bursting fast.

Till from the crowd begun to rise

Murmurs of sorrow or surprise,

And from the distant aisles there came

Deep-mutter’d threats, with Wycliffe’s name.

xxix.

But Oswald, guarded by his band.

Powerful in evil, waved his hand.

And bade Sedition’s voice be dead.

On peril of the murmurer’s head.

Then first his glance sought Rokeby’s knight;

Who gazed on the tremendous sight.

As calm as if he came a guest

To kindred Baron’s feudal feast,

As calm as if that trumpet-call

Were summons to the bannered hall;

Firm in his loyalty he stood,

And prompt to seal it with his blood.

With downcast look drew Oswald nigh —

He durst not cope with Rokeby’s eye! —

And said, with low and faultering breath,

“Thou know’st the terms of life and death.” —

The Knight then turned, and sternly smiled;

“The maiden is mine only child,

Yet shall my blessing leave her head.

If with a traitor’s son she wed.” —

Then Redmond spoke; “The life of one

Might thy malignity atone.

On me be hung a double guilt!

Spare Rokeby’s blood, let mine be spilt!” —

Wycliffe had listened to his suit,

But dread prevailed, and he was mute.

xxx.

And now he pours his choice of fear

In secret on Matilda’s ear;

“An union formed with me and mine,

Ensures the faith of Rokeby’s line.

Consent, and all this dread array

Like morning dream shall pass away;

Refuse, and, by my duty pressed,

I give the word — thou know’st the rest.” —

Matilda, still and motionless,

With terror heard the dread address,

Pale as the sheeted maid who dies

To hopeless love a sacrifice;

Then Avrung her hands in agony,

And round her cast bewildered eye,

Now on the scaffold glanced, and now

On Wyclifle’s unrelenting brow.

She veiled her face, and, with a voice

Scarce audible, — “I make my choice!

Spare but their lives! — for aught beside,

Let Wilfrid’s doom my fate decide.

He once was generous!” — As she spoke,

Dark Wycliffe’s joy in triumph broke:—

“Wilfrid, where loitered ye so late? —

Why vipon Basil rest thy weight?

Art spellbound by enchanter’s wand? —

Kneel, kneel, and take her yielded hand;

Thank her with raptures, simple boy!

Should tears and trembling speak thy joy?” —

“O hush, my sire! to prayer and tear

Of mine thou hast refused thine ear;

But now the awful hour draws on,

When truth must speak in loftier tone.”—

xxxi.

He took Matilda’s hand:— “’ Dear maid!

Couldst thou so injure me,” he said.

“Of thy poor friend so basely deem,

As blend him with this barbarous scheme?

Alas! my efforts, made in vain,

Might well have saved this added pain.

But now, bear witness earth and heaven,

That ne’er was hope to mortal given,

So twisted with the strmgs of life.

As this — to call Matilda wife!

I bid it now for ever part,

And with the effort bursts my heart.” —

His feeble frame was worn so low,

With wounds, with watching, and with woe,

That nature could no more sustain

The agony of mental pain.

He kneeled — his lip her hand had pressed, —

Just then he felt the stern arrest;

Lower and lower sunk his head, —

They raised him, — but the life was fled [

Then first alarmed, his sire and train

Tried every aid, but tried in vain.

The soul, too soft its ills to bear.

Had left our mortal hemisphere,

And sought in better world the meed,

To blameless life by Heaven decreed.

xxxii.

The wretched sire beheld, aghast,

With Wilfrid all his projects past.

All turned and centered on his son,

On Wilfrid all — and he was gone.

“And I am childless now,” he said,

“Childless, through that relentless maid!

A lifetime’s arts, in vain essay’d,

Are bursting on their artist’s head! —

Here lies my Wilfrid dead — and there

Comes hated Mortham for his heir,

Eager to knit in happy band

With Rokeby’s heiress Redmond’s hand.

And shall their triumph soar o’er all

The schemes deep-laid to work their fall?

No! — deeds, which prudence might not dare,

Appal not vengeance and despair.

The murderess weeps upon his bier —

I’ll change to real that feigned tear!

They all shall share destruction’s shock;-—

Ho! lead the captives to the block!” —

But ill his provost could divine

His feelings, and forbore the sign.

“Slave! to the block! — or I, or they,

Shall face the judgement-seat this day I” —

xxxiii.

The outmost crowd have heard a sound,

Like horse’s hoof on hardened ground;

Nearer it came, and yet more near, —

The very deaths-men paused to hear.

’Tis in the church-yard nov7 — the tread

Hath waked the dwelling of the dead!

Fresh sod, and old sepulchral stone,

Return the tramp in varied tone.

All eyes upon the gateway hung.

When through the Gothic arch there sprung

A Horseman armed, at headlong speed —

Sable his cloak, his plume, his steed.

Fire from the flinty floor was spurned,

The vaults unwonted clang returned! —

One instant’s glance around he threw,

From saddle-bow his pistol drew.

Grimly determined was his look!

His charger with the spurs he strook

All scattered backward as he came,

For all knew Bertram Risingham!

Three bounds that noble courser gave;

The first has reached the central nave,

The second cleared the chancel wide,

The third — he was at Wycliffe’s side.

Full levelled at the Baron’s head.

Rung the report — the bullet sped —

And to his long account, and last.

Without a groan dark Oswald past!

All was so quick, that it might seem

A flash of lightning, or a dream.

xxxiv.

While yet the smoke the deed conceals,

Bertram his ready charger wheels;

But Hounder’d on the pavement floor

The steed, and down the rider bore,

And, burstmg m the headlong sway,

The faithless saddle-girths gave way.

’Twas while he toiled him to be freed.

And with the rem to raise the steed,

That from amazement’s iron trance

All Wycliffe’s soldiers waked at once.

Sword, halbert, musquet-butt, their blows

Hailed upon Bertram as he rose;

A score of pikes, with each a wound.

Bore down and pinned him to the ground.

But still his struggling force he rears,

‘Gainst hacking brands and stabbing spears;

Thrice from assailants shook him free.

Once gained his feet, and twice his knee.

By tenfold odds oppressed at length,

Despite his struggles and his strength,

He took an hundred mortal wounds,

As mute as fox ‘mongst mangling hounds;

And when he died, his parting groan

Had more of laughter than of moan!

— They gazed, as when a lion dies,

And hunters scarcely trust their eyes.

But bend their weapons on the slain.

Lest the grim king should rouse again! —

Then blow and insult some renewed.

And from the trunk the head had hewed.

But Basil’s voice the deed forbade;

A mantle o’er the corse he laid:—

“Fell as he was in act and mind.

He left no bolder heart behind:

Then give him, for a soldier meet,

A soldier’s cloak for winding sheet.” —

xxxv.

No more of death and dying pang,

No more of trump and bugle clang,

Tho’ through the sounding woods there come

Banner and bugle, trump and drum.

Armed with such powers as well had freed

Young Redmond at his utmost need.

And backed with such a band of horse

As might less ample powers enforce;

Possessed of every proof and sign

That gave an heir to Mortham’s line.

And yielded to a father’s arms

An image of his Edith’s charms, —

Mortham is come, to hear and see

Of this strange morn the history.

What saw he? — not the church’s floor,

Cumbered with dead and stained with gore;

What heard he? — not the clamorous crowd,

That shout their gratulations loud;

Redmond he saw and heard alone.

Clasped him, and sobb’d, “My son, my son!” —

xxxvi.

This chanced upon a summer morn.

When yellow waved the heavy corn;

But when brown August o’er the land

Called forth the reapers’ busy band,

A gladsome sight the sylvan road

From Eglistone to Mortham show’d.

A while the hardy rustic leaves

The task to bind and pile the sheaves,

And maids their sickles fling aside,

To gaze on bridegroom and on bride,

And Childhood’s wondering group draws near,

And from the gleaner’s hands the ear

Drops, while she folds them for a prayer

And blessing on the lovely pair.

’Twas then the Maid of Rokeby gave

Her plighted troth to Redmond brave;

And Teesdale can remember yet

How Fate to Virtue paid her debt,

And, for their troubles, bade them prove

A lengthened life of peace and love.

Time and Tide had thus their sway.

Yielding, like an April day,

Smiling noon for sullen morrow,

Years of joy for hours of sorrow!

END OF CANTO SIXTH.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/rokeby/canto6.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29