Marmion, by Walter Scott

Canto Third.

The Hostel, or Inn.


The livelong day Lord Marmion rode:

The mountain path the Palmer show’d

By glen and streamlet winded still,

Where stunted birches hid the rill.

They might not choose the lowland road,

For the Merse forayers were abroad,

Who, fired with hate and thirst of prey,

Had scarcely fail’d to bar their way.

Oft on the trampling band, from crown

Of some tall cliff, the deer look’d down;

On wing of jet, from his repose

In the deep heath, the black-cock rose;

Sprung from the gorse the timid roe,

Nor waited for the bending bow;

And when the stony path began,

By which the naked peak they wan,

Up flew the snowy ptarmigan.

The noon had long been pass’d before

They gain’d the height of Lammermoor;

Thence winding down the northern way,

Before them, at the close of day,

Old Gifford’s towers and hamlet lay.


No summons calls them to the tower,

To spend the hospitable hour.

To Scotland’s camp the Lord was gone;

His cautious dame, in bower alone,

Dreaded her castle to unclose,

So late, to unknown friends or foes.

On through the hamlet as they paced,

Before a porch, whose front was graced

With bush and flagon trimly placed,

  Lord Marmion drew his rein:

The village inn seem’d large, though rude;

Its cheerful fire and hearty food

  Might well relieve his train.

Down from their seats the horsemen sprung,

With jingling spurs the court-yard rung;

They bind their horses to the stall,

For forage, food, and firing call,

And various clamour fills the hall:

Weighing the labour with the cost,

Toils everywhere the bustling host.


Soon, by the chimney’s merry blaze,

Through the rude hostel might you gaze;

Might see, where, in dark nook aloof,

The rafters of the sooty roof

Bore wealth of winter cheer;

Of sea-fowl dried, and solands store,

And gammons of the tusky boar,

And savoury haunch of deer.

The chimney arch projected wide;

Above, around it, and beside,

Were tools for housewives’ hand;

Nor wanted, in that martial day,

The implements of Scottish fray,

The buckler, lance, and brand.

Beneath its shade, the place of state,

On oaken settle Marmion sate,

And view’d around the blazing hearth.

His followers mix in noisy mirth;

Whom with brown ale, in jolly tide,

From ancient vessels ranged aside,

Full actively their host supplied.


Theirs was the glee of martial breast,

And laughter theirs at little jest;

And oft Lord Marmion deign’d to aid,

And mingle in the mirth they made;

For though, with men of high degree,

The proudest of the proud was he,

Yet, train’d in camps, he knew the art

To win the soldier’s hardy heart.

They love a captain to obey,

Boisterous as March, yet fresh as May;

With open hand, and brow as free,

Lover of wine and minstrelsy;

Ever the first to scale a tower,

As venturous in a lady’s bower:—

Such buxom chief shall lead his host

From India’s fires to Zembla’s frost.


Resting upon his pilgrim staff,

Right opposite the Palmer stood;

His thin dark visage seen but half,

Half hidden by his hood.

Still fix’d on Marmion was his look,

Which he, who ill such gaze could brook,

Strove by a frown to quell;

But not for that, though more than once

Full met their stern encountering glance,

The Palmer’s visage fell.


By fits less frequent from the crowd

Was heard the burst of laughter loud;

For still, as squire and archer stared

On that dark face and matted beard,

Their glee and game declined.

All gazed at length in silence drear,

Unbroke, save when in comrade’s ear

Some yeoman, wondering in his fear,

Thus whispered forth his mind:—

‘Saint Mary! saw’st thou e’er such sight?

How pale his cheek, his eye how bright,

Whene’er the firebrand’s fickle light

Glances beneath his cowl!

Full on our Lord he sets his eye;

For his best palfrey, would not I

Endure that sullen scowl.’


But Marmion, as to chase the awe

Which thus had quell’d their hearts, who saw

The ever-varying fire-light show

That figure stern and face of woe,

Now call’d upon a squire:—

‘Fitz–Eustace, know’st thou not some lay,

To speed the lingering night away?

We slumber by the fire.’—


‘So please you,’ thus the youth rejoin’d,

‘Our choicest minstrel’s left behind.

Ill may we hope to please your ear,

Accustom’d Constant’s strains to hear.

The harp full deftly can he strike,

And wake the lover’s lute alike;

To dear Saint Valentine, no thrush

Sings livelier from a spring-tide bush,

No nightingale her love-lorn tune

More sweetly warbles to the moon.

Woe to the cause, whate’er it be,

Detains from us his melody,

Lavish’d on rocks, and billows stern,

Or duller monks of Lindisfarne.

Now must I venture as I may,

To sing his favourite roundelay.’


A mellow voice Fitz–Eustace had,

The air he chose was wild and sad;

Such have I heard, in Scottish land,

Rise from the busy harvest band,

When falls before the mountaineer,

On Lowland plains, the ripen’d ear.

Now one shrill voice the notes prolong,

Now a wild chorus swells the song:

Oft have I listen’d, and stood still,

As it came soften’d up the hill,

And deem’d it the lament of men

Who languish’d for their native glen;

And thought how sad would be such sound,

On Susquehanna’s swampy ground,

Kentucky’s wood-encumber’d brake,

Or wild Ontario’s boundless lake,

Where heart-sick exiles, in the strain,

Recall’d fair Scotland’s hills again!



Where shall the lover rest,

Whom the fates sever

From his true maiden’s breast,

Parted for ever?

Where, through groves deep and high,

Sounds the far billow,

Where early violets die,

Under the willow.


Eleu loro, &c. Soft shall be his pillow.

There, through the summer day,

Cool streams are laving;

There, while the tempests sway,

Scarce are boughs waving;

There, thy rest shalt thou take,

Parted for ever,

Never again to wake,

Never, O never!


Eleu loro, &c. Never, O never!


Where shall the traitor rest,

He, the deceiver,

Who could win maiden’s breast,

Ruin, and leave her?

In the lost battle,

Borne down by the flying,

Where mingles war’s rattle

With groans of the dying.


Eleu loro, &c. There shall he be lying.

Her wing shall the eagle flap

O’er the false-hearted;

His warm blood the wolf shall lap,

Ere life be parted.

Shame and dishonour sit

By his grave ever;

Blessing shall hallow it —

Never, O never.


Eleu loro, &c. Never, O never!


It ceased, the melancholy sound;

And silence sunk on all around.

The air was sad; but sadder still

It fell on Marmion’s ear,

And plain’d as if disgrace and ill,

And shameful death, were near.

He drew his mantle past his face,

Between it and the band,

And rested with his head a space,

Reclining on his hand.

His thoughts I scan not; but I ween,

That, could their import have been seen,

The meanest groom in all the hall,

That e’er tied courser to a stall,

Would scarce have wished to be their prey,

For Lutterward and Fontenaye.


High minds, of native pride and force,

Most deeply feel thy pangs, Remorse!

Fear, for their scourge, mean villains have,

Thou art the torturer of the brave!

Yet fatal strength they boast to steel

Their minds to bear the wounds they feel,

Even while they writhe beneath the smart

Of civil conflict in the heart.

For soon Lord Marmion raised his head,

And, smiling, to Fitz–Eustace said,-

‘Is it not strange, that, as ye sung,

Seem’d in mine ear a death-peal rung,

Such as in nunneries they toll

For some departing sister’s soul?

Say, what may this portend?’—

Then first the Palmer silence broke,

(The livelong day he had not spoke)

‘The death of a dear friend.’


Marmion, whose steady heart and eye

Ne’er changed in worst extremity;

Marmion, whose soul could scantly brook,

Even from his King, a haughty look;

Whose accents of command controll’d,

In camps, the boldest of the bold —

Thought, look, and utterance fail’d him now,

Fall’n was his glance, and flush’d his brow:

For either in the tone,

Or something in the Palmer’s look,

So full upon his conscience strook,

That answer he found none.

Thus oft it haps, that when within

They shrink at sense of secret sin,

A feather daunts the brave;

A fool’s wild speech confounds the wise,

And proudest princes vail their eyes

Before their meanest slave.


Well might he falter! — By his aid

Was Constance Beverley betray’d.

Not that he augur’d of the doom,

Which on the living closed the tomb:

But, tired to hear the desperate maid

Threaten by turns, beseech, upbraid;

And wroth, because, in wild despair,

She practised on the life of Clare;

Its fugitive the Church he gave,

Though not a victim, but a slave;

And deem’d restraint in convent strange

Would hide her wrongs, and her revenge,

Himself, proud Henry’s favourite peer,

Held Romish thunders idle fear,

Secure his pardon he might hold,

For some slight mulct of penance-gold.

Thus judging, he gave secret way,

When the stern priests surprised their prey.

His train but deem’d the favourite page

Was left behind, to spare his age;

Or other if they deem’d, none dared

To mutter what he thought and heard:

Woe to the vassal, who durst pry

Into Lord Marmion’s privacy!


His conscience slept — he deem’d her well,

And safe secured in yonder cell;

But, waken’d by her favourite lay,

And that strange Palmer’s boding say,

That fell so ominous and drear,

Full on the object of his fear,

To aid remorse’s venom’d throes,

Dark tales of convent-vengeance rose;

And Constance, late betray’d and scorn’d,

All lovely on his soul return’d;

Lovely as when, at treacherous call,

She left her convent’s peaceful wall,

Crimson’d with shame, with terror mute,

Dreading alike escape, pursuit,

Till love, victorious o’er alarms,

Hid fears and blushes in his arms.


‘Alas!’ he thought, ‘how changed that mien!

How changed these timid looks have been,

Since years of guilt, and of disguise,

Have steel’d her brow, and arm’d her eyes!

No more of virgin terror speaks

The blood that mantles in her cheeks;

Fierce, and unfeminine, are there,

Frenzy for joy, for grief despair;

And I the cause — for whom were given

Her peace on earth, her hopes in heaven! —

Would,’ thought he, as the picture grows,

‘I on its stalk had left the rose!

Oh, why should man’s success remove

The very charms that wake his love! —

Her convent’s peaceful solitude

Is now a prison harsh and rude;

And, pent within the narrow cell,

How will her spirit chafe and swell!

How brook the stern monastic laws!

The penance how — and I the cause! —

Vigil, and scourge — perchance even worse!’—

And twice he rose to cry, ‘To horse!’

And twice his Sovereign’s mandate came,

Like damp upon a kindling flame;

And twice he thought, ‘Gave I not charge

She should be safe, though not at large?

They durst not, for their island, shred

One golden ringlet from her head.’


While thus in Marmion’s bosom strove

Repentance and reviving love,

Like whirlwinds, whose contending sway

I’ve seen Loch Vennachar obey,

Their Host the Palmer’s speech had heard,

And, talkative, took up the word:

‘Ay, reverend Pilgrim, you, who stray

From Scotland’s simple land away,

To visit realms afar,

Full often learn the art to know

Of future weal, or future woe,

By word, or sign, or star;

Yet might a knight his fortune hear,

If, knight-like, he despises fear,

Not far from hence; — if fathers old

Aright our hamlet legend told.’—

These broken words the menials move,

(For marvels still the vulgar love,)

And, Marmion giving license cold,

His tale the host thus gladly told:—


The Host’s Tale

‘A Clerk could tell what years have flown

Since Alexander fill’d our throne,

(Third monarch of that warlike name,)

And eke the time when here he came

To seek Sir Hugo, then our lord:

A braver never drew a sword;

A wiser never, at the hour

Of midnight, spoke the word of power:

The same, whom ancient records call

The founder of the Goblin–Hall.

I would, Sir Knight, your longer stay

Gave you that cavern to survey.

Of lofty roof, and ample size,

Beneath the castle deep it lies:

To hew the living rock profound,

The floor to pave, the arch to round,

There never toil’d a mortal arm,

It all was wrought by word and charm;

And I have heard my grandsire say,

That the wild clamour and affray

Of those dread artisans of hell,

Who labour’d under Hugo’s spell,

Sounded as loud as ocean’s war,

Among the caverns of Dunbar.


‘The King Lord Gifford’s castle sought,

Deep labouring with uncertain thought;

Even then he mustered all his host,

To meet upon the western coast;

For Norse and Danish galleys plied

Their oars within the Frith of Clyde.

There floated Haco’s banner trim,

Above Norweyan warriors grim,

Savage of heart, and large of limb;

Threatening both continent and isle,

Bute, Arran, Cunninghame, and Kyle.

Lord Gifford, deep beneath the ground,

Heard Alexander’s bugle sound,

And tarried not his garb to change,

But, in his wizard habit strange,

Came forth — a quaint and fearful sight;

His mantle lined with fox-skins white;

His high and wrinkled forehead bore

A pointed cap, such as of yore

Clerks say that Pharaoh’s Magi wore:

His shoes were mark’d with cross and spell,

Upon his breast a pentacle;

His zone, of virgin parchment thin,

Or, as some tell, of dead man’s skin,

Bore many a planetary sign,

Combust, and retrograde, and trine;

And in his hand he held prepared,

A naked sword without a guard.


‘Dire dealings with the fiendish race

Had mark’d strange lines upon his face;

Vigil and fast had worn him grim,

His eyesight dazzled seem’d and dim,

As one unused to upper day;

Even his own menials with dismay

Beheld, Sir Knight, the grisly Sire,

In his unwonted wild attire;

Unwonted, for traditions run,

He seldom thus beheld the sun. —

“I know,” he said — his voice was hoarse,

And broken seem’d its hollow force —

“I know the cause, although untold,

Why the King seeks his vassal’s hold:

Vainly from me my liege would know

His kingdom’s future weal or woe;

But yet, if strong his arm and heart,

His courage may do more than art.


‘“Of middle air the demons proud,

Who ride upon the racking cloud,

Can read, in fix’d or wandering star,

The issue of events afar;

But still their sullen aid withhold,

Save when by mightier force controll’d.

Such late I summon’d to my hall;

And though so potent was the call,

That scarce the deepest nook of hell

I deem’d a refuge from the spell,

Yet, obstinate in silence still,

The haughty demon mocks my skill.

But thou — who little know’st thy might,

As born upon that blessed night

When yawning graves, and dying groan,

Proclaim’d hell’s empire overthrown —

With untaught valour shalt compel

Response denied to magic spell.”—

“Gramercy,” quoth our Monarch free,

“Place him but front to front with me,

And, by this good and honour’d brand,

The gift of Coeur-deLion’s hand,

Soothly I swear, that, tide what tide,

The demon shall a buffet bide.”—

His bearing bold the wizard view’d,

And thus, well pleased, his speech renew’d:—

“There spoke the blood of Malcolm! — mark:

Forth pacing hence, at midnight dark,

The rampart seek, whose circling crown

Crests the ascent of yonder down:

A southern entrance shalt thou find;

There halt, and there thy bugle wind,

And trust thine elfin foe to see,

In guise of thy worst enemy:

Couch then thy lance, and spur thy steed —

Upon him! and Saint George to speed!

If he go down, thou soon shalt know

Whate’er these airy sprites can show:—

If thy heart fail thee in the strife,

I am no warrant for thy life.”


‘Soon as the midnight bell did ring,

Alone, and arm’d, forth rode the King

To that old camp’s deserted round:

Sir Knight, you well might mark the mound,

Left hand the town — the Pictish race,

The trench, long since, in blood did trace;

The moor around is brown and bare,

The space within is green and fair.

The spot our village children know,

For there the earliest wild-flowers grow;

But woe betide the wandering wight,

That treads its circle in the night!

The breadth across, a bowshot clear,

Gives ample space for full career;

Opposed to the four points of heaven,

By four deep gaps are entrance given.

The southernmost our Monarch past,

Halted, and blew a gallant blast;

And on the north, within the ring,

Appeared the form of England’s King,

Who then a thousand leagues afar,

In Palestine waged holy war:

Yet arms like England’s did he wield,

Alike the leopards in the shield,

Alike his Syrian courser’s frame,

The rider’s length of limb the same:

Long afterwards did Scotland know,

Fell Edward was her deadliest foe.


‘The vision made our Monarch start,

But soon he mann’d his noble heart,

And in the first career they ran,

The Elfin Knight fell, horse and man;

Yet did a splinter of his lance

Through Alexander’s visor glance,

And razed the skin — a puny wound.

The King, light leaping to the ground,

With naked blade his phantom foe

Compell’d the future war to show.

Of Largs he saw the glorious plain,

Where still gigantic bones remain,

Memorial of the Danish war;

Himself he saw, amid the field,

On high his brandish’d war-axe wield,

And strike proud Haco from his car,

While all around the shadowy Kings

Denmark’s grim ravens cower’d their wings.

’Tis said, that, in that awful night,

Remoter visions met his sight,

Foreshowing future conquest far,

When our sons’ sons wage northern war;

A royal city, tower and spire,

Redden’d the midnight sky with fire,

And shouting crews her navy bore,

Triumphant, to the victor shore.

Such signs may learned clerks explain,

They pass the wit of simple swain.


‘The joyful King turn’d home again,

Headed his host, and quell’d the Dane;

But yearly, when return’d the night

Of his strange combat with the sprite,

His wound must bleed and smart;

Lord Gifford then would gibing say,

“Bold as ye were, my liege, ye pay

The penance of your start.”

Long since, beneath Dunfermline’s nave,

King Alexander fills his grave,

Our Lady give him rest!

Yet still the knightly spear and shield

The Elfin Warrior doth wield,

Upon the brown hill’s breast;

And many a knight hath proved his chance,

In the charm’d ring to break a lance,

But all have foully sped;

Save two, as legends tell, and they

Were Wallace wight, and Gilbert Hay. —

Gentles, my tale is said.’


The quaighs were deep, the liquor strong,

And on the tale the yeoman-throng

Had made a comment sage and long,

But Marmion gave a sign:

And, with their lord, the squires retire;

The rest around the hostel fire,

Their drowsy limbs recline:

For pillow, underneath each head,

The quiver and the targe were laid.

Deep slumbering on the hostel floor,

Oppress’d with toil and ale, they snore:

The dying flame, in fitful change,

Threw on the group its shadows strange.


Apart, and nestling in the hay

Of a waste loft, Fitz–Eustace lay;

Scarce, by the pale moonlight, were seen

The foldings of his mantle green:

Lightly he dreamt, as youth will dream,

Of sport by thicket, or by stream,

Of hawk or hound, of ring or glove,

Or, lighter yet, of lady’s love.

A cautious tread his slumber broke,

And, close beside him, when he woke,

In moonbeam half, and half in gloom,

Stood a tall form, with nodding plume;

But, ere his dagger Eustace drew,

His master Marmion’s voice he knew.


—‘Fitz–Eustace! rise — I cannot rest;

Yon churl’s wild legend haunts my breast,

And graver thoughts have chafed my mood:

The air must cool my feverish blood;

And fain would I ride forth, to see

The scene of elfin chivalry.

Arise, and saddle me my steed;

And, gentle Eustace, take good heed

Thou dost not rouse these drowsy slaves;

I would not, that the prating knaves

Had cause for saying, o’er their ale,

That I could credit such a tale.’—

Then softly down the steps they slid,

Eustace the stable door undid,

And, darkling, Marmion’s steed array’d,

While, whispering, thus the Baron said:—


‘Did’st never, good my youth, hear tell,

That on the hour when I was born,

Saint George, who graced my sire’s chapelle,

Down from his steed of marble fell,

A weary wight forlorn?

The flattering chaplains all agree,

The champion left his steed to me.

I would, the omen’s truth to show,

That I could meet this Elfin Foe!

Blithe would I battle, for the right

To ask one question at the sprite:—

Vain thought! for elves, if elves there be,

An empty race, by fount or sea,

To dashing waters dance and sing,

Or round the green oak wheel their ring.’

Thus speaking, he his steed bestrode,

And from the hostel slowly rode.


Fitz–Eustace follow’d him abroad,

And mark’d him pace the village road,

And listen’d to his horse’s tramp,

  Till, by the lessening sound,

He judged that of the Pictish camp

  Lord Marmion sought the round.

Wonder it seem’d, in the squire’s eyes,

That one, so wary held, and wise — —

Of whom ’twas said, he scarce received

For gospel, what the Church believed —

Should, stirr’d by idle tale,

Ride forth in silence of the night,

As hoping half to meet a sprite,

Array’d in plate and mail.

For little did Fitz–Eustace know,

That passions, in contending flow,

Unfix the strongest mind;

Wearied from doubt to doubt to flee,

We welcome fond credulity,

Guide confident, though blind.


Little for this Fitz–Eustace cared,

But, patient, waited till he heard,

At distance, prick’d to utmost speed,

The foot-tramp of a flying steed,

Come town-ward rushing on;

First, dead, as if on turf it trode,

Then, clattering on the village road —

In other pace than forth he yode,

Return’d Lord Marmion.

Down hastily he sprung from selle,

And, in his haste, wellnigh he fell;

To the squire’s hand the rein he threw,

And spoke no word as he withdrew:

But yet the moonlight did betray,

The falcon-crest was soil’d with clay;

And plainly might Fitz–Eustace see,

By stains upon the charger’s knee,

And his left side, that on the moor

He had not kept his footing sure.

Long musing on these wondrous signs,

At length to rest the squire reclines,

Broken and short; for still, between,

Would dreams of terror intervene:

Eustace did ne’er so blithely mark

The first notes of the morning lark.


Stanza I. Mr. Guthrie Wright, advocate, prosaically objected to the indirect route chosen by the poet for his troopers. Scott gave the true poetic answer, that it pleased him to take them by the road chosen. He is careful, however, to assign (11.6–8) an adequate reason for his preference.

line 16. wan, won, gained; still used in Scotland. Cp. Principal Shairp’s ‘Bush Aboon Traquair’:—

   ‘And then they WAN a rest,

    The lownest an’ the best,

I’ Traquair kirkyard when a’ was dune.’

line 19. Lammermoor. ‘See notes to the Bride of Lammermoor, Waverley Novels, vols. xiii. and xiv.’— LOCKHART.

line 22. ‘The village of Gifford lies about four miles from Haddington; close to it is Yester House, the seat of the Marquis of Tweeddale, and a little farther up the stream, which descends from the hills of Lammermoor, are the remains of the old castle of the family.’— LOCKHART.

Many hold that Gifford and not Gifford-gate, at the outskirts of Haddington, was the birthplace of John Knox.

Stanza II. line 31. An ivy-bush or garland was a tavern sign, and the flagon is an appropriate accompaniment. Chaucer’s Sompnour (Prol. 666) suggested the tavern sign by his head-gear:—

‘A garland hadde he set upon his heed,

As gret as it were for an ALE-STAKE.’

See note in Clarendon Press ed., and cp. Epilogue of As You Like It (and note) in same series:—‘If it be true that good wine needs no bush,’ &c.

line 33. ‘The accommodations of a Scottish hostelrie, or inn, in the sixteenth century, may be collected from Dunbar’s admirable tale of “The Friars of Berwick.” Simon Lawder, “the gay ostlier,” seems to have lived very comfortably; and his wife decorated her person with a scarlet kirtle, and a belt of silk and silver, and rings upon her fingers; and feasted her paramour with rabbits, capons, partridges, and Bourdeaux wine. At least, if the Scottish inns were not good, it was not from want of encouragement from the legislature; who, so early as the reign of James I, not only enacted, that in all boroughs and fairs there be hostellaries, having stables and chambers, and provision for man and horse, but by another statute, ordained that no man, travelling on horse or foot, should presume to lodge anywhere except in these hostellaries; and that no person, save innkeepers, should receive such travellers, under the penalty of forty shillings, for exercising such hospitality. But, in spite of these provident enactments, the Scottish hostels are but indifferent, and strangers continue to find reception in the houses of individuals.’— SCOTT.

It is important to supplement this note by saying that the most competent judges still doubt whether Dunbar wrote ‘The Friars of Berwick.’ It is printed among his doubtful works.

Stanza III. Such a kitchen as that described was common in Scotland till recent times, and relics of a similar interior exist in remote parts still. The wide chimney, projecting well into the floor, formed a capacious tunnel to the roof, and numerous sitters could be accommodated with comfort in front and around the fire. Smoke and soot from the wood and peat fuel were abundant, and the ‘winter cheer,’— hams, venison, &c. — hung from the uncovered rafters, were well begrimed before coming to the table.

line 48. The solan goose frequents Scottish haunts in summer. There are thousands of them on Ailsa Craig, in the Frith of Clyde, and on the Bass Rock, in the Frith of Forth, opposite Tantallon.

line 49. gammon (O. Fr. gambon, Lat. gamba, ‘joint of a leg’), the buttock or thigh of a hog salted and dried; the lower end of a flitch.

Stanza IV. line 73. ‘The winds of March’ (Winter’s Tale, iv. 3. 120), are a prominent feature of the month. The FRESHNESS of May has fascinated the poets since it was told by Chaucer (Knightes’ Tale, 175) how Emelie arose one fine morning in early summer:—

‘Emilie, that fairer was to scene

Than is the lilie on hire stalke grene,

And fresscher than the May with floures newe.’

line 76. Cp. ‘Jock o’ Hazeldean’:—

‘His step is first in peaceful ha’,

His sword in battle keen.’

line 78. buxom (A. S. bocsum, flexible, obedient, from BUGAN, to bend) here means lively, fresh, brisk. Cp. Henry V, iii. 6. 27:—

‘Bardolph, a soldier firm and sound of heart,

And of BUXOM valour.

Stanza VII. line 112. Cp. Spenser’s Epithalamium:—

‘Yet never day so long but late would passe,

Ring ye the bels to make it weare away.’

A familiar instance of ‘speed’ as a trans. verb is in Pope’s Odyssey, XV. 83:—‘Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.’

Stanza VIII. line 120. St. Valentine’s day is Feb. 14, when birds pair and lovers (till at any rate recent times) exchange artistic tokens of affection. The latter observance is sadly degenerated. See Professor Skeat’s note to ‘Parlement of Foules,’ line 309, in Chaucer’s Minor Poems (Clarendon Press).

line 122. The myth of Philomela has been a favourite with English sentimental poets. The Elizabethan Barnefield writes the typical lyric on the theme. These lines contain the myth:—

‘She, poor bird, as all forlorn,

Lean’d her breast against a thorn,

And there sung the dolefullest ditty

That to hear it was great pity.’

Stanza IX. In days when harvesting was done with the sickle, reapers from the Highlands and from Ireland came in large numbers to the Scottish Lowlands and cut the crops. At one time a piper played characteristic melodies behind the reapers to give them spirit for their work. Hence comes —

‘Wha will gar our shearers shear?

Wha will bind up the brags of weir?’

in a lyric by Hamilton of Gilbertfield (1665–1751). The reaper’s song is the later representative of this practice. See Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Highland Reaper’— immortalized by her suggestive and memorable singing — and compare the pathetic ‘Exile’s Song’ of Robert Gilfillan (1798–1850):—

‘Oh! here no Sabbath bell

Awakes the Sabbath morn;

Nor song of reapers heard

Among the yellow corn.’

For references to Susquehanna and the home-longing of the exile, see Campbell’s ‘Gertrude of Wyoming,’ I. i.-vi. The introduction of reaping-machines has minimised the music and poetry of the harvest field.

Stanzas X, XI. The two pictures in the song are very effectively contrasted both in spirit and style. The lover’s resting-place has features that recall the house of Morpheus, ‘Faery Queene,’ I. i. 40–1. Note the recurrence of the traitor’s doom in Marmion’s troubled thoughts, in VI. xxxii. The burden ‘eleu loro’ has been somewhat uncertainly connected with the Italian ela loro, ‘alas! for them.’

Stanza XIII. lines 201–7. One of the most striking illustrations of this is in Shakespeare’s delineation of Brutus, who is himself made to say (Julius Caesar, ii. I. 18):—

‘The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins

Remorse from power.’

For the sentiment of the text cp. the character of Ordonio in Coleridge’s ‘Remorse,’ the concentrated force of whose dying words is terrible, while indicative of native nobility:—

‘I stood in silence like a slave before her

That I might taste the wormwood and the gall,

And satiate this self-accusing heart

With bitterer agonies than death can give.’

line 211. ‘Among other omens to which faithful credit is given among the Scottish peasantry, is what is called the “dead-bell,” explained by my friend James Hogg to be that tinkling in the ears which the country people regard as the secret intelligence of some friend’s decease. He tells a story to the purpose in the “Mountain Bard,” p. 26 [pp. 31–2, 3rd edit.].’— SCOTT.

Cp. Tickell’s ‘Lucy and Colin,’ and this perfect stanza in Mickle’s ‘Cumnor Hall,’ quoted in Introd. to ‘Kenilworth’:—

‘The death-bell thrice was heard to ring,

  An aerial voice was heard to call,

And thrice the raven flapp’d its wing

  Around the towers of Cumnor Hall.’

line 217. Cp. Midsummer Night’s Dream, v. I. 286: ‘The death of a dear friend would go near to make a man look sad.’

Stanza XIV. lines 230–5. Cp. the effect of Polonius on the King (Hamlet, iii. I. 50):—

‘How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!’

Hamlet himself, ib. line 83, says:—

‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.’

line 234. For vail = lower, see close of Editor’s Preface.

Stanza XV. line 243. For practised on = plotted against, cp. King Lear, iii. 2. 57, ‘Hast practised on man’s life.’

lines 248–51. See above, II. xxix.

Stanza XVII. line 286. Cp. Burns’s ‘Bonnie Doon’:—

‘And my fause lover staw my rose,

  But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.’

Stanza XVIII. line 307. Loch Vennachar, in the south of Perthshire, is the most easterly of the three lakes celebrated in the ‘Lady of the Lake.’

line 321. Cp. ‘wonder-wounded hearers,’ Hamlet, v. I. 265.

Stanza XIX. line 324. Clerk is a scholar, as in Chaucer’s ‘Clerk of Oxenford,’ &c., and the ‘learned clerks’ of 2 Henry VI, iv. 7. 76. See below, VI. xv. 459, ‘clerkly skill.’

line 325. Alexander III (1240–1286) came to the throne at the age of nine, and proved himself a vigorous and large-hearted king. He was killed by a fall from his horse, near Kinghorn, Fife, where there is a suitable monument to his memory. The contemporary lament for his death bewails him as one that ‘Scotland led in love and lee.’ Sir Walter Scott (Introductory Remarks to ‘Border Minstrelsy’) calls him ‘the last Scottish king of the pure Celtic race.’

line 333. ‘A vaulted hall under the ancient castle of Gifford, or Yester (for it bears either name indifferently), the construction of which has, from a very remote period, been ascribed to magic. The Statistical Account of the Parish of Garvald and Baro, gives the following account of the present state of this castle and apartment:—“Upon a peninsula, formed by the water of Hopes on the east, and a large rivulet on the west, stands the ancient castle of Yester. Sir David Dalrymple, in his annals, relates that ‘Hugh Gifford de Yester died in 1267; that in his castle there was a capacious cavern, formed by magical art, and called in the country Bo–Hall, i.e. Hobgoblin Hall.’ A stair of twenty-four steps led down to this apartment, which is a large and spacious hall, with an arched roof; and though it hath stood for so many centuries, and been exposed to the external air for a period of fifty or sixty years, it is still as firm and entire as if it had only stood a few years. From the floor of this hall, another stair of thirty-six steps leads down to a pit which hath a communication with Hopes-water. A great part of the walls of this large and ancient castle are still standing. There is a tradition that the castle of Yester was the last fortification, in this country, that surrendered to General Gray, sent into Scotland by Protector Somerset.”— Statistical Account, vol. xiii. I have only to add, that, in 1737, the Goblin Hall was tenanted by the Marquis of Tweedale’s falconer, as I learn from a poem by Boyse, entitled “Retirement,” written upon visiting Yester. It is now rendered inaccessible by the fall of the stair.

‘Sir David Dalrymple’s authority for the anecdote is in Fordun, whose words are:—“A. D. MCCLXVII. Hugo Giffard de Yester moritur; cujus castrum, vel saltem caveam, et donglonem, arte daemonica antique relationes ferunt fabrifactas: nam ibidem habetur mirabilis specus subterraneus, opere mirifico constructus, magno terrarum spatio protelatus, qui communiter BO-HALL appellatus est.” Lib. x. cap. 21. — Sir David conjectures, that Hugh de Gifford must either have been a very wise man, or a great oppressor.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XX. line 354. ‘In 1263, Haco, King of Norway, came into the Frith of Clyde with a powerful armament, and made a descent at Largs, in Ayrshire. Here he was encountered and defeated, on the 2nd October, by Alexander III. Haco retreated to Orkney, where he died soon after this disgrace to his arms. There are still existing, near the place of battle, many barrows, some of which, having been opened, were found, as usual, to contain bones and urns.’— SCOTT.

line 358. Ayrshire in early times comprised three divisions, Cunninghame in the north, Kyle between the Irvine and the Doon, and Carrick to the south of that stream. Burns, by his song ‘There was a Lad was born in Kyle,’ has immortalised the middle division, which an old proverb had distinguished as productive of men, in contradistinction to the dairy produce and the stock of the other two.

line 362. ‘“Magicians, as is well known, were very curious in the choice and form of their vestments. Their caps are oval, or like pyramids, with lappets on each side, and fur within. Their gowns are long, and furred with fox-skins, under which they have a linen garment reaching to the knee. Their girdles are three inches broad, and have many cabalistical names, with crosses, trines, and circles inscribed on them. Their shoes should be of new russet leather, with a cross cut upon them. Their knives are dagger-fashion; and their swords have neither guard nor scabbard.”— See these, and many other particulars, in the Discourse concerning Devils and Spirits, annexed to REGINALD SCOTT’S Discovery of Witchcraft, edition 1665.’— SCOTT.

line 369. Scott quotes thus from Reginald Scott’s ‘Discovery of Witchcraft’ (1665):—

‘A pentacle is a piece of fine linen, folded with five corners, according to the five senses, and suitably inscribed with characters. This the magician extends towards the spirits which he invokes, when they are stubborn and rebellious, and refuse to be conformable unto the ceremonies and rights of magic.’

line 373. The term ‘Combust’ is applied to the moon or the planets, when, through being not more than eight and a half degrees from the sun, they are invisible in his light. Chaucer, in the ‘Astrolabe,’ has ‘that he be not retrograd ne COMBUST.’ ‘Retrograde’ is the term descriptive of the motion of the planets from east to west. This is the case when the planets are visible on the side opposite to the sun. See Airy’s ‘Popular Astronomy,’ p. 124. ‘Trine’ refers to the appearance of planets ‘distant from each other 120 degrees, or the third part of the zodiac. ‘Trine was considered a favourable conjunction. Cp. note on Par. Lost, X. 659, in Clarendon Press Milton —

‘In sextile, square, and TRINE, and opposite.’

Stanza XXII. line 407. ‘It is a popular article of faith that those who are born on Christmas or Good Friday have the power of seeing spirits and even of commanding them. The Spaniards imputed the haggard and downcast looks of their Philip II to the disagreeable visions to which this privilege subjected him.’— SCOTT.

line 408. See St. Matthew xxvii. 50–53.

line 415. Richard I of England (1189–99) could not himself have presented the sword, but the line is a spirited example of poetic licence.

line 416. Tide what tide is happen what may. Cp. Thomas the Rhymer’s remarkable forecast regarding the family of Haig in Scott’s country; —

‘Betide, betide, whate’er betide,

Haig shall be Haig of Bemerside.’

line 420. Alexander III was the last of his line, which included three famous Malcolms, viz. Malcolm II, grandfather of the ‘gracious Duncan,’ who died in 1033; Malcolm Canmore, who fell at Alnwick in 1093; and Malcolm IV, ‘The Maiden,’ who was only 34 at his death in 1165. The reference here is probably to Canmore.

Stanza XXIII. line 438. See Chambers’s ‘Encyclopaedia,’ articles on ‘Earth-houses’ and ‘Picts’ Houses.’

line 445. Legends tell of belated travellers being spell-bound in such spots.

line 461. The reference is to Edward I, who went as Prince Edward to Palestine in 1270, so that the legend at this point embodies an anachronism, Edward became king in 1274. His shield and banner were emblazoned with ‘three leopards courant of fine gold set on red.’

Stanza XXIV. line 472. Largs, on the coast of Ayrshire, opposite Bute.

line 479. The ravens on the Norse banners were said to flutter their wings before a victory, and to let them droop in prospect of a defeat.

line 487. ‘For an account of the expedition to Copenhagen in 1801, see Southey’s “Life of Nelson,” chap. vii.’— LOCKHART. There may possibly be a reference to the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807.

Stanza XXV. line 497. The slight wound was due to the start mentioned in line 462. He had been warned against letting his heart fail him.

line 503. Scott quotes thus from the essay on ‘Fairy Superstitions’ in the ‘Border Minstrelsy,’ vol. ii., to show ‘whence many of the particulars of the combat between Alexander III and the Goblin Knight are derived’:—

‘Gervase of Tilbury (Otia Imperial ap. Script, rer. Brunsvic, vol. i. p. 797), relates the following popular story concerning a fairy knight: “Osbert, a bold and powerful baron, visited a noble family in the vicinity of Wandlebury, in the bishopric of Ely. Among other stories related in the social circle of his friends, who, according to custom, amused each other by repeating ancient tales and traditions, he was informed, that if any knight, unattended, entered an adjacent plain by moonlight, and challenged an adversary to appear, he would be immediately encountered by a spirit in the form of a knight. Osbert resolved to make the experiment, and set out, attended by a single squire, whom he ordered to remain without the limits of the plain, which was surrounded by an ancient intrenchment. On repeating the challenge, he was instantly assailed by an adversary, whom he quickly unhorsed, and seized the reins of his steed. Daring this operation, his ghostly opponent sprung up, and darting his spear, like a javelin, at Osbert, wounded him in the thigh. Osbert returned in triumph with the horse, which he committed to the care of his servants. The horse was of a sable colour, as well as his whole accoutrements, and apparently of great beauty and vigour. He remained with his keeper till cock-crowing, when, with eyes flashing fire, he reared, spurned the ground, and vanished. On disarming himself, Osbert perceived that he was wounded, and that one of his steel boots was full of blood.” Gervase adds, that, “as long as he lived, the scar of his wound opened afresh on the anniversary of the eve on which he encountered the spirit.” Less fortunate was the gallant Bohemian knight, who travelling by night with a single companion, “came in sight of a fairy host, arrayed under displayed banners. Despising the remonstrances of his friend, the knight pricked forward to break a lance with a champion, who advanced from the ranks apparently in defiance. His companion beheld the Bohemian overthrown, horse and man, by his aerial adversary; and returning to the spot next morning, he found the mangled corpses of the knight and steed.”— Hierarchy of Blessed Angels, p. 554.

‘Besides these instances of Elfin chivalry above quoted, many others might be alleged in support of employing fairy machinery in this manner. The forest of Glenmore, in the North Highlands, is believed to be haunted by a spirit called Lham-dearg, in the array of an ancient warrior, having a bloody hand, from which he takes his name. He insists upon those with whom he meets doing battle with him; and the clergyman, who makes up an account of the district, extant in the Macfarlane MS., in the Advocates’ Library, gravely assures us, that, in his time, Lham-dearg fought with three brothers whom he met in his walk, none of whom long survived the ghostly conflict. Barclay, in his “Euphormion,” gives a singular account of an officer who had ventured, with his servant, rather to intrude upon a haunted house, in a town in Flanders, than to put up with worse quarters elsewhere. After taking the usual precautions of providing fires, lights, and arms, they watched till midnight, when, behold! the severed arm of a man dropped from the ceiling; this was followed by the legs, the other arm, the trunk, and the head of the body, all separately. The members rolled together, united themselves in the presence of the astonished soldiers, and formed a gigantic warrior, who defied them both to combat. Their blows, although they penetrated the body, and amputated the limbs, of their strange antagonist, had, as the reader may easily believe, little effect on an enemy who possessed such powers of self-union; nor did his efforts make more effectual impression upon them. How the combat terminated I do not exactly remember, and have not the book by me; but I think the spirit made to the intruders on his mansion the usual proposal, that they should renounce their redemption; which being declined, he was obliged to retreat.

‘The most singular tale of this kind is contained in an extract communicated to me by my friend Mr. Surtees of Mainsforth, in the Bishopric, who copied it from a MS. note in a copy of Burthogge “On the Nature of Spirits,” 8vo, 1694, which had been the property of the late Mr. Gill, attorney-general to Egerton, Bishop of Durham. “It was not,” says my obliging correspondent” in Mr. Gill’s own hand, but probably an hundred years older, and was said to be, E libro Convent. Dunelm. per T. C. extract., whom I believe to have been Thomas Cradocke, Esq., barrister, who held several offices under the See of Durham a hundred years ago. Mr. Gill was possessed of most of his manuscripts.” The extract, which, in fact, suggested the introduction of the tale into the present poem, runs thus:—

“Rem miram hujusmodi que nostris temporibus evenit, teste viro nobili ac fide dignissimo, enarrare haud pigebit. Radulphus Bulmer, cum e castris, quae tunc temporis prope Norham posita erant, oblectationis causa, exiisset, ac in ulteriore Tuedae ripa praaedam cum canibus leporariis insequeretur, forte cum Scoto quodam nobili, sibi antehac, ut videbatur, familiariter cognito, congressus est; ac, ut fas erat inter inimicos, flagrante bello, brevissima interrogationis mora interposita, alterutros invicem incitato cursu infestis animis petiere. Noster, primo occursu, equo praeacerrimo hostis impetu labante, in terram eversus pectore et capite laeso, sanguinem, mortuo similis, evomebat. Quern ut se aegre habentem comiter allocutus est alter, pollicitusque, modo auxilium non abnegaret, monitisque obtemperans ab omni rerum sacrarum cogitatione abstineret, nec Deo, Deiparae Virgini, Sanctove ullo, preces aut vota efferret vel inter sese conciperet, se brevi eum sanum validumque restiturum esse. Prae angore oblata conditio accepta est; ac veterator ille nescio quid obscaeni murmuris insusurrans, prehensa manu, dicto citius in pedes sanum ut antea sublevavit. Noster autem, maxima prae rei inaudita novitate formidine perculsus, MI JESU! exclamat, vel quid simile; ac subito respiciens nec hostem nec ullum alium conspicit, equum solum gravissimo nuper casu afflictum, per summam pacem in rivo fluvii pascentem. Ad castra itaque mirabundus revertens, fidei dubius, rem primo occultavit, dein, confecto bello, Confessori suo totam asseruit. Delusoria procul dubio res tota, ac mala veteratoris illius aperitur fraus, qua hominem Christianum ad vetitum tale auxilium pelliceret. Nomen utcunque illius (nobilis alias ac clari) reticendum duco, cum haud dubium sit quin Diabolus, Deo permittente, formam quam libuerit, immo angeli lucis, sacro oculo Dei teste, posse assumere.”

‘The MS. chronicle, from which Mr. Cradocke took this curious extract, cannot now be found in the Chapter Library of Durham, or, at least, has hitherto escaped the researches of my friendly correspondent.

‘Lindesay is made to allude to this adventure of Ralph Bulmer, as a well-known story, in the 4th Canto, Stanza xxii. p. 103.

‘The northern champions of old were accustomed peculiarly to search for, and delight in, encounters with such military spectres. See a whole chapter on the subject in BARTHOLINUS De Causis contemptae Mortis a Danis, p. 253.’

line 508. Sir Gilbert Hay, as a faithful adherent of Bruce, was created Lord High Constable of Scotland. See note in ‘Lord of the Isles,’ II. xiii. How ‘the Haies had their beginning of nobilitie’ is told in Holinshed’s ‘Scottish Chronicle,’ I. 308.

Stanza XXVI. line 510. Quaigh, ‘a wooden cup, composed of staves hooped together.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XXVIII. line 551. Darkling, adv. (not adj. as in Keats’s ‘darkling way’ in ‘Eve of St. Agnes’), really means ‘in the dark.’ Cp. ‘Lady of the Lake,’ IV. (Alice Brand):—

‘For darkling was the battle tried’;

and see Midsummer Night’s Dream, ii. 2. 86; King Lear, i. 4. 237. Lord Tennyson, like Keats, uses the word as an adj. in ‘In Memoriam,’ xcix:—

‘Who tremblest through thy darkling red.’

Cp. below, V. Introd. 23, ‘darkling politician.’ For scholarly discussion of the term, see Notes and Queries, VII iii. 191.

Stanza XXX. lines 585–9. Iago understands the ‘contending flow’ of passions when in a glow of self-satisfied feeling he exclaims;

‘Work on,

My medicine, work! Thus credulous fools are caught.’

                                        Othello, iv. I. 44.

Stanza XXXI. line 597. ‘Yode, used by old poets for WENT.’— SCOTT. It is a variant of ‘yod’ or ‘yede,’ from A. S. eode, I went. Cp. Lat. eo, I go. See Clarendon Press ‘Specimens of Early English,’ II. 71:—

‘Thair scrippes, quer thai rade or YODE,

Tham failed neuer o drinc ne fode.’

Spenser writes, ‘Faerie Queene,’ II. vii. 2:—

‘So, long he YODE, yet no adventure found.’

line 599. Selle, saddle. Cp. ‘Faerie Queene,’ II. v. 4:—

On his horse necke before the quilted SELL.’

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00