Marmion, by Walter Scott

Canto Fifth.

The Court.


The train has left the hills of Braid;

The barrier guard have open made

(So Lindesay bade) the palisade,

That closed the tented ground;

Their men the warders backward drew,

And carried pikes as they rode through,

Into its ample bound.

Fast ran the Scottish warriors there,

Upon the Southern band to stare.

And envy with their wonder rose,

To see such well-appointed foes;

Such length of shafts, such mighty bows,

So huge, that many simply thought,

But for a vaunt such weapons wrought;

And little deem’d their force to feel,

Through links of mail, and plates of steel,

When rattling upon Flodden vale,

The cloth-yard arrows flew like hail.


Nor less did Marmion’s skilful view

Glance every line and squadron through;

And much he marvell’d one small land

Could marshal forth such various band;

For men-at-arms were here,

Heavily sheathed in mail and plate,

Like iron towers for strength and weight,

On Flemish steeds of bone and height,

With battle-axe and spear.

Young knights and squires, a lighter train,

Practised their chargers on the plain,

By aid of leg, of hand, and rein,

Each warlike feat to show,

To pass, to wheel, the croupe to gain,

And high curvett, that not in vain

The sword sway might descend amain

On foeman’s casque below.

He saw the hardy burghers there

March arm’d, on foot, with faces bare,

For vizor they wore none,

Nor waving plume, nor crest of knight;

But burnish’d were their corslets bright,

Their brigantines, and gorgets light,

Like very silver shone.

Long pikes they had for standing fight,

Two-handed swords they wore,

And many wielded mace of weight,

And bucklers bright they bore.


On foot the yeoman too, but dress’d

In his steel-jack, a swarthy vest,

With iron quilted well;

Each at his back (a slender store)

His forty days’ provision bore,

As feudal statutes tell.

His arms were halbert, axe, or spear,

A crossbow there, a hagbut here,

A dagger-knife, and brand.

Sober he seem’d, and sad of cheer,

As loath to leave his cottage dear,

And march to foreign strand;

Or musing, who would guide his steer,

To till the fallow land.

Yet deem not in his thoughtful eye

Did aught of dastard terror lie;

More dreadful far his ire,

Than theirs, who, scorning danger’s name,

In eager mood to battle came,

Their valour like light straw on name,

A fierce but fading fire.


Not so the Borderer:— bred to war,

He knew the battle’s din afar,

And joy’d to hear it swell.

His peaceful day was slothful ease;

Nor harp, nor pipe, his ear could please,

Like the loud slogan yell.

On active steed, with lance and blade,

The light-arm’d pricker plied his trade —

Let nobles fight for fame;

Let vassals follow where they lead,

Burghers, to guard their townships, bleed,

But war’s the Borderer’s game.

Their gain, their glory, their delight,

To sleep the day, maraud the night,

O’er mountain, moss, and moor;

Joyful to fight they took their way,

Scarce caring who might win the day,

Their booty was secure.

These, as Lord Marmion’s train pass’d by,

Look’d on at first with careless eye,

Nor marvell’d aught, well taught to know

The form and force of English bow.

But when they saw the Lord array’d

In splendid arms, and rich brocade,

Each Borderer to his kinsman said —

‘Hist, Ringan! seest thou there!

Canst guess which road they’ll homeward ride? —

O! could we but on Border side,

By Eusedale glen, or Liddell’s tide,

Beset a prize so fair!

That fangless Lion, too, their guide,

Might chance to lose his glistering hide;

Brown Maudlin, of that doublet pied,

Could make a kirtle rare.’


Next, Marmion marked the Celtic race,

Of different language, form, and face,

A various race of man;

Just then the Chiefs their tribes array’d,

And wild and garish semblance made,

The chequer’d trews, and belted plaid,

And varying notes the war-pipes bray’d,

To every varying clan,

Wild through their red or sable hair

Look’d out their eyes with savage stare,

On Marmion as he pass’d;

Their legs above the knee were bare;

Their frame was sinewy, short, and spare,

And harden’d to the blast;

Of taller race, the chiefs they own

Were by the eagle’s plumage known.

The hunted red-deer’s undress’d hide

Their hairy buskins well supplied;

The graceful bonnet deck’d their head:

Back from their shoulders hung the plaid;

A broadsword of unwieldy length,

A dagger proved for edge and strength,

A studded targe they wore,

And quivers, bows, and shafts — but, O!

Short was the shaft, and weak the bow,

To that which England bore.

The Isles-men carried at their backs

The ancient Danish battle-axe.

They raised a wild and wondering cry,

As with his guide rode Marmion by.

Loud were their clamouring tongues, as when

The clanging sea-fowl leave the fen,

And, with their cries discordant mix’d,

Grumbled and yell’d the pipes betwixt.


Thus through the Scottish camp they pass’d,

And reach’d the City gate at last,

Where all around, a wakeful guard,

Arm’d burghers kept their watch and ward.

Well had they cause of jealous fear,

When lay encamp’d, in field so near,

The Borderer and the Mountaineer.

As through the bustling streets they go,

All was alive with martial show:

At every turn, with dinning clang,

The armourer’s anvil clash’d and rang;

Or toil’d the swarthy smith, to wheel

The bar that arms the charger’s heel;

Or axe, or falchion, to the side

Of jarring grindstone was applied.

Page, groom, and squire, with hurrying pace

Through street, and lane, and market-place,

Bore lance, or casque, or sword;

While burghers, with important face,

Described each new-come lord,

Discuss’d his lineage, told his name,

His following, and his warlike fame.

The Lion led to lodging meet,

Which high o’erlook’d the crowded street;

There must the Baron rest,

Till past the hour of vesper tide,

And then to Holy–Rood must ride —

Such was the King’s behest.

Meanwhile the Lion’s care assigns

A banquet rich, and costly wines,

To Marmion and his train;

And when the appointed hour succeeds,

The Baron dons his peaceful weeds,

And following Lindesay as he leads,

The palace-halls they gain.


Old Holy–Rood rung merrily,

That night, with wassell, mirth, and glee:

King James within her princely bower

Feasted the Chiefs of Scotland’s power,

Summon’d to spend the parting hour;

For he had charged, that his array

Should southward march by break of day.

Well loved that splendid monarch aye

The banquet and the song,

By day the tourney, and by night

The merry dance, traced fast and light,

The maskers quaint, the pageant bright,

The revel loud and long.

This feast outshone his banquets past;

It was his blithest — and his last.

The dazzling lamps, from gallery gay,

Cast on the Court a dancing ray;

Here to the harp did minstrels sing;

There ladies touched a softer string;

With long-ear’d cap, and motley vest,

The licensed fool retail’d his jest;

His magic tricks the juggler plied;

At dice and draughts the gallants vied;

While some, in close recess apart,

Courted the ladies of their heart,

Nor courted them in vain;

For often, in the parting hour,

Victorious Love asserts his power

O’er coldness and disdain;

And flinty is her heart, can view

To battle march a lover true —

Can hear, perchance, his last adieu,

Nor own her share of pain.


Through this mix’d crowd of glee and game,

The King to greet Lord Marmion came,

While, reverent, all made room.

An easy task it was, I trow,

King James’s manly form to know,

Although, his courtesy to show,

He doff’d, to Marmion bending low,

His broider’d cap and plume.

For royal was his garb and mien,

His cloak, of crimson velvet piled,

Trimm’d with the fur of marten wild;

His vest of changeful satin sheen,

The dazzled eye beguiled;

His gorgeous collar hung adown,

Wrought with the badge of Scotland’s crown,

The thistle brave, of old renown:

His trusty blade, Toledo right,

Descended from a baldric bright;

White were his buskins, on the heel

His spurs inlaid of gold and steel;

His bonnet, all of crimson fair,

Was button’d with a ruby rare:

And Marmion deem’d he ne’er had seen

A prince of such a noble mien.


The Monarch’s form was middle size;

For feat of strength, or exercise,

Shaped in proportion fair;

And hazel was his eagle eye,

And auburn of the darkest dye,

His short curl’d beard and hair.

Light was his footstep in the dance,

And firm his stirrup in the lists;

And, oh! he had that merry glance,

That seldom lady’s heart resists.

Lightly from fair to fair he flew,

And loved to plead, lament, and sue; —

Suit lightly won, and short-lived pain,

For monarchs seldom sigh in vain.

I said he joy’d in banquet bower;

But, ‘mid his mirth, ’twas often strange,

How suddenly his cheer would change,

His look o’ercast and lower,

If, in a sudden turn, he felt

The pressure of his iron belt,

That bound his breast in penance pain,

In memory of his father slain.

Even so ’twas strange how, evermore,

Soon as the passing pang was o’er,

Forward he rush’d, with double glee,

Into the stream of revelry:

Thus, dim-seen object of affright

Startles the courser in his flight,

And half he halts, half springs aside;

But feels the quickening spur applied,

And, straining on the tighten’d rein,

Scours doubly swift o’er hill and plain.


O’er James’s heart, the courtiers say,

Sir Hugh the Heron’s wife held sway:

To Scotland’s Court she came,

To be a hostage for her lord,

Who Cessford’s gallant heart had gored,

And with the King to make accord,

Had sent his lovely dame.

Nor to that lady free alone

Did the gay King allegiance own;

For the fair Queen of France

Sent him a turquois ring and glove,

And charged him, as her knight and love,

For her to break a lance;

And strike three strokes with Scottish brand,

And march three miles on Southron land,

And bid the banners of his band

In English breezes dance.

And thus, for France’s Queen he drest

His manly limbs in mailed vest;

  And thus admitted English fair

  His inmost counsels still to share;

  And thus, for both, he madly plann’d

  The ruin of himself and land!

    And yet, the sooth to tell,

  Nor England’s fair, nor France’s Queen,

  Were worth one pearl-drop, bright and sheen,

    From Margaret’s eyes that fell —

His own Queen Margaret, who, in Lithgow’s bower,

All lonely sat, and wept the weary hour.


The Queen sits lone in Lithgow pile,

And weeps the weary day,

The war against her native soil,

Her monarch’s risk in battle broil:—

And in gay Holy–Rood, the while,

Dame Heron rises with a smile

Upon the harp to play.

Fair was her rounded arm, as o’er

The strings her fingers flew;

And as she touch’d and tuned them all,

Ever her bosom’s rise and fall

Was plainer given to view;

For, all for heat, was laid aside

Her wimple, and her hood untied.

And first she pitch’d her voice to sing,

Then glanced her dark eye on the King,

And then around the silent ring;

And laugh’d, and blush’d, and oft did say

Her pretty oath, by Yea, and Nay,

She could not, would not, durst not play!

At length, upon the harp, with glee,

Mingled with arch simplicity,

A soft, yet lively, air she rung,

While thus the wily lady sung:—



Lady Heron’s Song

O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,

Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;

And save his good broadsword, he weapons had none,

He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.

So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,

There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,

He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;

But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,

The bride had consented, the gallant came late:

For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,

Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he enter’d the Netherby Hall,

Among bride’s-men, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:

Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,

(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)

‘O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,

Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?’—

‘I long woo’d your daughter, my suit you denied; —

Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide —

And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,

To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.

There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,

That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’

The bride kiss’d the goblet: the knight took it up,

He quaff’d off the wine, and he threw down the cup.

She look’d down to blush, and she look’d up to sigh,

With a smile on her lips, and a tear in her eye.

He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar —

‘Now tread we a measure!’ said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,

That never a hall such a galliard did grace;

While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,

And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;

And the bride-maidens whisper’d, ”Twere better by far,

To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,

When they reach’d the hall-door, and the charger stood near;

So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,

So light to the saddle before her he sprung!

‘She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;

They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,’ quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ‘mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;

Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:

There was racing and chasing, on Cannobie Lee,

But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.

So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,

Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?


The Monarch o’er the siren hung,

And beat the measure as she sung;

And, pressing closer, and more near,

He whisper’d praises in her ear.

In loud applause the courtiers vied;

And ladies wink’d, and spoke aside.

The witching dame to Marmion threw

  A glance, where seem’d to reign

The pride that claims applauses due,

And of her royal conquest too,

  A real or feign’d disdain:

Familiar was the look, and told,

Marmion and she were friends of old.

The King observed their meeting eyes,

With something like displeased surprise;

For monarchs ill can rivals brook,

Even in a word, or smile, or look.

Straight took he forth the parchment broad,

Which Marmion’s high commission show’d:

‘Our Borders sack’d by many a raid,

Our peaceful liege-men robb’d,’ he said;

‘On day of truce our Warden slain,

Stout Barton kill’d, his vessels ta’en-

Unworthy were we here to reign,

Should these for vengeance cry in vain;

Our full defiance, hate, and scorn,

Our herald has to Henry borne.’


He paused, and led where Douglas stood,

And with stern eye the pageant view’d:

I mean that Douglas, sixth of yore,

Who coronet of Angus bore,

And, when his blood and heart were high,

Did the third James in camp defy,

And all his minions led to die

On Lauder’s dreary flat:

Princes and favourites long grew tame,

And trembled at the homely name

Of Archibald Bell-the-Cat;

The same who left the dusky vale

Of Hermitage in Liddisdale,

Its dungeons, and its towers,

Where Bothwell’s turrets brave the air,

And Bothwell bank is blooming fair,

To fix his princely bowers.

Though now, in age, he had laid down

His armour for the peaceful gown,

And for a staff his brand,

Yet often would flash forth the fire,

That could, in youth, a monarch’s ire

And minion’s pride withstand;

And even that day, at council board,

Unapt to soothe his sovereign’s mood,

Against the war had Angus stood,

And chafed his royal Lord.


His giant-form, like ruin’d tower,

Though fall’n its muscles’ brawny vaunt,

Huge-boned, and tall, and grim, and gaunt,

Seem’d o’er the gaudy scene to lower:

His locks and beard in silver grew;

His eyebrows kept their sable hue.

Near Douglas when the Monarch stood,

His bitter speech he thus pursued:—

‘Lord Marmion, since these letters say

That in the North you needs must stay,

While slightest hopes of peace remain,

Uncourteous speech it were, and stern,

To say — Return to Lindisfarne,

Until my herald come again. —

Then rest you in Tantallon Hold;

Your host shall be the Douglas bold —

A chief unlike his sires of old.

He wears their motto on his blade,

Their blazon o’er his towers display’d;

Yet loves his sovereign to oppose,

More than to face his country’s foes.

And, I bethink me, by Saint Stephen,

But e’en this morn to me was given

A prize, the first fruits of the war,

Ta’en by a galley from Dunbar,

A bevy of the maids of Heaven.

Under your guard, these holy maids

Shall safe return to cloister shades,

And, while they at Tantallon stay,

Requiem for Cochran’s soul may say.’

And, with the slaughter’d favourite’s name,

Across the Monarch’s brow there came

A cloud of ire, remorse, and shame.


In answer nought could Angus speak;

His proud heart swell’d wellnigh to break:

He turn’d aside, and down his cheek

A burning tear there stole.

His hand the Monarch sudden took,

That sight his kind heart could not brook:

‘Now, by the Bruce’s soul,

Angus, my hasty speech forgive!

For sure as doth his spirit live,

As he said of the Douglas old,

I well may say of you —

That never King did subject hold,

In speech more free, in war more bold,

More tender and more true:

Forgive me, Douglas, once again.’—

And, while the King his hand did strain,

The old man’s tears fell down like rain.

To seize the moment Marmion tried,

And whisper’d to the King aside:

‘Oh! let such tears unwonted plead

For respite short from dubious deed!

A child will weep a bramble’s smart,

A maid to see her sparrow part,

A stripling for a woman’s heart:

But woe awaits a country, when

She sees the tears of bearded men.

Then, oh! what omen, dark and high,

When Douglas wets his manly eye!’


Displeased was James, that stranger view’d

And tamper’d with his changing mood.

‘Laugh those that can, weep those that may,’

Thus did the fiery Monarch say,

‘Southward I march by break of day;

And if within Tantallon strong,

The good Lord Marmion tarries long,

Perchance our meeting next may fall

At Tamworth, in his castle-hall.’—

The haughty Marmion felt the taunt,

And answer’d, grave, the royal vaunt:

‘Much honour’d were my humble home,

If in its halls King James should come;

But Nottingham has archers good,

And Yorkshire men are stem of mood;

Northumbrian prickers wild and rude.

On Derby Hills the paths are steep;

In Ouse and Tyne the fords are deep;

And many a banner will be torn,

And many a knight to earth be borne,

And many a sheaf of arrows spent,

Ere Scotland’s King shall cross the Trent:

Yet pause, brave Prince, while yet you may!’—

The Monarch lightly turn’d away,

And to his nobles loud did call —

‘Lords, to the dance — a hall! a hall!’

Himself his cloak and sword flung by,

And led Dame Heron gallantly;

And Minstrels, at the royal order,

Rung out —‘Blue Bonnets o’er the Border.’


Leave we these revels now, to tell

What to Saint Hilda’s maids befell,

Whose galley, as they sail’d again

To Whitby, by a Scot was ta’en.

Now at Dun–Edin did they bide,

Till James should of their fate decide;

And soon, by his command,

Were gently summon’d to prepare

To journey under Marmion’s care,

As escort honour’d, safe, and fair,

Again to English land.

The Abbess told her chaplet o’er,

Nor knew which Saint she should implore;

For, when she thought of Constance, sore

She fear’d Lord Marmion’s mood.

And judge what Clara must have felt!

The sword, that hung in Marmion’s belt,

Had drunk De Wilton’s blood.

Unwittingly, King James had given,

As guard to Whitby’s shades,

The man most dreaded under heaven

By these defenceless maids:

Yet what petition could avail,

Or who would listen to the tale

Of woman, prisoner, and nun,

Mid bustle of a war begun?

They deem’d it hopeless to avoid

The convoy of their dangerous guide.


Their lodging, so the King assign’d,

To Marmion’s, as their guardian, join’d;

And thus it fell, that, passing nigh,

The Palmer caught the Abbess’ eye,

Who warn’d him by a scroll,

She had a secret to reveal,

That much concern’d the Church’s weal,

And health of sinner’s soul;

And, with deep charge of secrecy,

She named a place to meet,

Within an open balcony,

That hung from dizzy pitch, and high,

Above the stately street;

To which, as common to each home,

At night they might in secret come.


At night, in secret, there they came,

The Palmer and the holy dame.

The moon among the clouds rose high,

And all the city hum was by.

Upon the street, where late before

Did din of war and warriors roar,

You might have heard a pebble fall,

A beetle hum, a cricket sing,

An owlet flap his boding wing

On Giles’s steeple tall.

The antique buildings, climbing high,

Whose Gothic frontlets sought the sky,

Were here wrapt deep in shade;

There on their brows the moon-beam broke,

Through the faint wreaths of silvery smoke,

And on the casements play’d.

And other light was none to see,

  Save torches gliding far,

Before some chieftain of degree,

Who left the royal revelry

  To bowne him for the war. —

A solemn scene the Abbess chose;

A solemn hour, her secret to disclose.


‘O, holy Palmer!’ she began —

‘For sure he must be sainted man,

Whose blessed feet have trod the ground

Where the Redeemer’s tomb is found —

For His dear Church’s sake, my tale

Attend, nor deem of light avail,

Though I must speak of worldly love —

How vain to those who wed above! —

De Wilton and Lord Marmion woo’d

Clara de Clare, of Gloster’s blood;

(Idle it were of Whitby’s dame,

To say of that same blood I came;)

And once, when jealous rage was high,

Lord Marmion said despiteously,

Wilton was traitor in his heart,

And had made league with Martin Swart,

When he came here on Simnel’s part;

And only cowardice did restrain

His rebel aid on Stokefield’s plain —

And down he threw his glove:— the thing

Was tried, as wont, before the King;

Where frankly did De Wilton own,

That Swart in Guelders he had known;

And that between them then there went

Some scroll of courteous compliment.

For this he to his castle sent;

But when his messenger return’d,

Judge how De Wilton’s fury burn’d!

For in his packet there were laid

Letters that claim’d disloyal aid,

And proved King Henry’s cause betray’d.

His fame, thus blighted, in the field

He strove to clear, by spear and shield; —

To clear his fame in vain he strove,

For wondrous are His ways above!

Perchance some form was unobserved;

Perchance in prayer, or faith, he swerved;

Else how could guiltless champion quail,

Or how the blessed ordeal fail?


‘His squire, who now De Wilton saw

As recreant doom’d to suffer law,

Repentant, own’d in vain,

That, while he had the scrolls in care,

A stranger maiden, passing fair,

Had drench’d him with a beverage rare;

His words no faith could gain.

With Clare alone he credence won,

Who, rather than wed Marmion,

Did to Saint Hilda’s shrine repair,

To give our house her livings fair,

And die a vestal vot’ress there.

The impulse from the earth was given,

But bent her to the paths of heaven.

A purer heart, a lovelier maid,

Ne’er shelter’d her in Whitby’s shade,

No, not since Saxon Edelfled;

Only one trace of earthly strain,

  That for her lover’s loss

She cherishes a sorrow vain,

  And murmurs at the cross.-

And then her heritage; — it goes

  Along the banks of Tame;

Deep fields of grain the reaper mows,

In meadows rich the heifer lows,

The falconer and huntsman knows

  Its woodlands for the game.

Shame were it to Saint Hilda dear,

And I, her humble vot’ress here,

Should do a deadly sin,

Her temple spoil’d before mine eyes,

If this false Marmion such a prize

By my consent should win;

Yet hath our boisterous monarch sworn,

That Clare shall from our house be torn;

And grievous cause have I to fear,

Such mandate doth Lord Marmion bear.


‘Now, prisoner, helpless, and betray’d

To evil power, I claim thine aid,

By every step that thou hast trod

To holy shrine and grotto dim,

By every martyr’s tortured limb,

By angel, saint, and seraphim,

And by the Church of God!

For mark:— When Wilton was betray’d,

And with his squire forged letters laid,

She was, alas! that sinful maid,

By whom the deed was done —

Oh! shame and horror to be said!

She was a perjured nun!

No clerk in all the land, like her,

Traced quaint and varying character.

Perchance you may a marvel deem,

That Marmion’s paramour

(For such vile thing she was) should scheme

Her lover’s nuptial hour;

But o’er him thus she hoped to gain,

As privy to his honour’s stain,

Illimitable power:

For this she secretly retain’d

Each proof that might the plot reveal,

Instructions with his hand and seal;

And thus Saint Hilda deign’d,

Through sinners’ perfidy impure,

Her house’s glory to secure,

And Clare’s immortal weal.


’Twere long, and needless, here to tell,

How to my hand these papers fell;

With me they must not stay.

Saint Hilda keep her Abbess true!

Who knows what outrage he might do,

While journeying by the way? —

O, blessed Saint, if e’er again

I venturous leave thy calm domain,

To travel or by land or main,

Deep penance may I pay! —

Now, saintly Palmer, mark my prayer:

I give this packet to thy care,

For thee to stop they will not dare;

And O! with cautious speed,

To Wolsey’s hand the papers ‘bring,

That he may show them to the King:

And, for thy well-earn’d meed,

Thou holy man, at Whitby’s shrine

A weekly mass shall still be thine,

While priests can sing and read.-

What ail’st thou? — Speak!’— For as he took

The charge, a strong emotion shook

His frame; and, ere reply,

They heard a faint, yet shrilly tone,

Like distant clarion feebly blown,

That on the breeze did die;

And loud the Abbess shriek’d in fear,

‘Saint Withold, save us! — What is here!

Look at yon City Cross!

See on its battled tower appear

Phantoms, that scutcheons seem to rear,

And blazon’d banners toss!’—


Dun–Edin’s Cross, a pillar’d stone,

Rose on a turret octagon;

(But now is razed that monument,

  Whence royal edict rang,

And voice of Scotland’s law was sent

  In glorious trumpet-clang.

O! be his tomb as lead to lead,

Upon its dull destroyer’s head! —

A minstrel’s malison is said.)—

Then on its battlements they saw

A vision, passing Nature’s law,

Strange, wild, and dimly seen;

Figures that seem’d to rise and die,

Gibber and sign, advance and fly,

While nought confirm’d could ear or eye

Discern of sound or mien.

Yet darkly did it seem, as there

Heralds and Pursuivants prepare,

With trumpet sound, and blazon fair,

A summons to proclaim;

But indistinct the pageant proud,

As fancy forms of midnight cloud,

When flings the moon upon her shroud

A wavering tinge of flame;

It flits, expands, and shifts, till loud,

From midmost of the spectre crowd,

This awful summons came:—


‘Prince, prelate, potentate, and peer,

Whose names I now shall call,

Scottish, or foreigner, give ear!

Subjects of him who sent me here,

At his tribunal to appear,

I summon one and all:

I cite you by each deadly sin,

That e’er hath soil’d your hearts within;

I cite you by each brutal lust,

That e’er defiled your earthly dust —

By wrath, by pride, by fear,

By each o’er-mastering passion’s tone,

By the dark grave, and dying groan!

When forty days are pass’d and gone,

I cite you at your Monarch’s throne,

To answer and appear.’—

Then thundered forth a roll of names:—

The first was thine, unhappy James!

Then all thy nobles came;

Crawford, Glencairn, Montrose, Argyle,

Ross, Bothwell, Forbes, Lennox, Lyle,-

Why should I tell their separate style?

Each chief of birth and fame,

Of Lowland, Highland, Border, Isle,

Fore-doom’d to Flodden’s carnage pile,

Was cited there by name;

And Marmion, Lord of Fontenaye,

Of Lutterward, and Scrivelbaye;

De Wilton, erst of Aberley,

The self-same thundering voice did say. —

But then another spoke:

‘Thy fatal summons I deny,

And thine infernal Lord defy,

Appealing me to Him on high,

Who burst the sinner’s yoke.’

At that dread accent, with a scream,

Parted the pageant like a dream,

The summoner was gone.

Prone on her face the Abbess fell,

And fast, and fast, her beads did tell;

Her nuns came, startled by the yell,

And found her there alone.

She mark’d not, at the scene aghast,

What time, or how, the Palmer pass’d.


Shift we the scene. — The camp doth move,

Dun–Edin’s streets are empty now,

Save when, for weal of those they love,

To pray the prayer, and vow the vow,

The tottering child, the anxious fair,

The grey-hair’d sire, with pious care,

To chapels and to shrines repair —

Where is the Palmer now? and where

The Abbess, Marmion, and Clare? —

Bold Douglas! to Tantallon fair

They journey in thy charge:

Lord Marmion rode on his right hand,

The Palmer still was with the band;

Angus, like Lindesay, did command,

That none should roam at large.

But in that Palmer’s altered mien

A wondrous change might now be seen;

Freely he spoke of war,

Of marvels wrought by single hand,

When lifted for a native land;

And still look’d high, as if he plann’d

Some desperate deed afar.

His courser would he feed and stroke,

And, tucking up his sable frocke,

Would first his mettle bold provoke,

Then soothe or quell his pride.

Old Hubert said, that never one

He saw, except Lord Marmion,

A steed so fairly ride.


Some half-hour’s march behind, there came,

By Eustace govern’d fair,

A troop escorting Hilda’s Dame,

With all her nuns, and Clare.

No audience had Lord Marmion sought;

Ever he fear’d to aggravate

Clara de Clare’s suspicious hate;

And safer ’twas, he thought,

To wait till, from the nuns removed,

The influence of kinsmen loved,

And suit by Henry’s self approved,

Her slow consent had wrought.

His was no flickering flame, that dies

Unless when fann’d by looks and sighs,

And lighted oft at lady’s eyes;

He long’d to stretch his wide command

O’er luckless Clara’s ample land:

Besides, when Wilton with him vied,

Although the pang of humbled pride

The place of jealousy supplied,

Yet conquest, by that meanness won

He almost loath’d to think upon,

Led him, at times, to hate the cause,

Which made him burst through honour’s laws.

If e’er he loved, ’twas her alone,

Who died within that vault of stone.


And now, when close at hand they saw

North Berwick’s town, and lofty Law,

Fitz–Eustace bade them pause a while,

Before a venerable pile,

Whose turrets view’d, afar,

The lofty Bass, the Lambie Isle,

The ocean’s peace or war.

At tolling of a bell, forth came

The convent’s venerable Dame,

And pray’d Saint Hilda’s Abbess rest

With her, a loved and honour’d guest,

Till Douglas should a bark prepare

To wait her back to Whitby fair.

Glad was the Abbess, you may guess,

And thank’d the Scottish Prioress;

And tedious were to tell, I ween,

The courteous speech that pass’d between.

O’erjoy’d the nuns their palfreys leave;

But when fair Clara did intend,

Like them, from horseback to descend,

Fitz–Eustace said — ‘I grieve,

Fair lady, grieve e’en from my heart,

Such gentle company to part; —

Think not discourtesy,

But lords’ commands must be obey’d;

And Marmion and the Douglas said,

That you must wend with me.

Lord Marmion hath a letter broad,

Which to the Scottish Earl he show’d,

Commanding, that, beneath his care,

Without delay, you shall repair

To your good kinsman, Lord Fitz–Clare.’


The startled Abbess loud exclaim’d;

But she, at whom the blow was aim’d,

Grew pale as death, and cold as lead —

She deem’d she heard her death-doom read.

‘Cheer thee, my child!’ the Abbess said,

‘They dare not tear thee from my hand,

To ride alone with armed band.’—

‘Nay, holy mother, nay,’

Fitz–Eustace said, ‘the lovely Clare

Will be in Lady Angus’ care,

In Scotland while we stay;

And, when we move, an easy ride

Will bring us to the English side,

Female attendance to provide

Befitting Gloster’s heir;

Nor thinks, nor dreams, my noble lord,

By slightest look, or act, or word,

To harass Lady Clare.

Her faithful guardian he will be,

Nor sue for slightest courtesy

That e’en to stranger falls,

Till he shall place her, safe and free,

Within her kinsman’s halls.’

He spoke, and blush’d with earnest grace;

His faith was painted on his face,

And Clare’s worst fear relieved.

The Lady Abbess loud exclaim’d

On Henry, and the Douglas blamed,

Entreated, threaten’d, grieved;

To martyr, saint, and prophet pray’d,

Against Lord Marmion inveigh’d,

And call’d the Prioress to aid,

To curse with candle, bell, and book.

Her head the grave Cistertian shook:

‘The Douglas, and the King,’ she said,

‘In their commands will be obey’d;

Grieve not, nor dream that harm can fall

The maiden in Tantallon hall.’


The Abbess, seeing strife was vain,

Assumed her wonted state again,-

For much of state she had —

Composed her veil, and raised her head,

And —‘Bid,’ in solemn voice she said,

‘Thy master, bold and bad,

The records of his house turn o’er,

And, when he shall there written see,

That one of his own ancestry

Drove the monks forth of Coventry,

Bid him his fate explore!

Prancing in pride of earthly trust,

His charger hurl’d him to the dust,

And, by a base plebeian thrust,

He died his band before.

God judge ‘twixt Marmion and me;

He is a Chief of high degree,

And I a poor recluse;

Yet oft, in holy writ, we see

Even such weak minister as me

May the oppressor bruise:

For thus, inspired, did Judith slay

  The mighty in his sin,

And Jael thus, and Deborah’—

  Here hasty Blount broke in:

‘Fitz–Eustace, we must march our band;

Saint Anton’ fire thee! wilt thou stand

All day, with bonnet in thy hand,

To hear the Lady preach?

By this good light! if thus we stay,

Lord Marmion, for our fond delay,

Will sharper sermon teach.

Come, don thy cap, and mount thy horse;

The Dame must patience take perforce.’—


‘Submit we then to force,’ said Clare,

‘But let this barbarous lord despair

His purposed aim to win;

Let him take living, land, and life;

But to be Marmion’s wedded wife

In me were deadly sin:

And if it be the King’s decree,

That I must find no sanctuary,

In that inviolable dome,

Where even a homicide might come,

And safely rest his head,

Though at its open portals stood,

Thirsting to pour forth blood for blood,

The kinsmen of the dead;

Yet one asylum is my own

Against the dreaded hour;

A low, a silent, and a lone,

Where kings have little power.

One victim is before me there. —

Mother, your blessing, and in prayer

Remember your unhappy Clare!’

Loud weeps the Abbess, and bestows

Kind blessings many a one:

Weeping and wailing loud arose,

Round patient Clare, the clamorous woes

Of every simple nun.

His eyes the gentle Eustace dried,

And scarce rude Blount the sight could bide.

Then took the squire her rein,

And gently led away her steed,

And, by each courteous word and deed,

To cheer her strove in vain.


But scant three miles the band had rode,

When o’er a height they pass’d,

And, sudden, close before them show’d

His towers, Tantallon vast;

Broad, massive, high, and stretching far,

And held impregnable in war.

On a projecting rock they rose,

And round three sides the ocean flows,

The fourth did battled walls enclose,

And double mound and fosse.

By narrow drawbridge, outworks strong,

Through studded gates, an entrance long,

To the main court they cross.

It was a wide and stately square:

Around were lodgings, fit and fair,

And towers of various form,

Which on the court projected far,

And broke its lines quadrangular.

Here was square keep, there turret high,

Or pinnacle that sought the sky,

Whence oft the Warder could descry

The gathering ocean-storm.


Here did they rest. — The princely care

Of Douglas, why should I declare,

Or say they met reception fair?

Or why the tidings say,

Which, varying, to Tantallon came,

By hurrying posts, or fleeter fame,

With every varying day?

And, first, they heard King James had won

Etall, and Wark, and Ford; and then,

That Norham Castle strong was ta’en.

At that sore marvell’d Marmion; —

And Douglas hoped his Monarch’s hand

Would soon subdue Northumberland:

But whisper’d news there came,

That, while his host inactive lay,

And melted by degrees away,

King James was dallying off the day

With Heron’s wily dame. —

Such acts to chronicles I yield;

Go seek them there, and see:

Mine is a tale of Flodden Field,

And not a history. —

At length they heard the Scottish host

On that high ridge had made their post,

Which frowns o’er Millfield Plain;

And that brave Surrey many a band

Had gather’d in the Southern land,

And march’d into Northumberland,

And camp at Wooler ta’en.

Marmion, like charger in the stall,

That hears, without, the trumpet-call,

Began to chafe, and swear:—

‘A sorry thing to hide my head

In castle, like a fearful maid,

When such a field is near!

Needs must I see this battle-day:

Death to my fame if such a fray

Were fought, and Marmion away!

The Douglas, too, I wot not why,

Hath ‘bated of his courtesy:

No longer in his halls I’ll stay.’

Then bade his band they should array

For march against the dawning day.


Stanza I. line 18. ‘This is no poetical exaggeration. In some of the counties of England, distinguished for archery, shafts of this extraordinary length were actually used. Thus, at the battle of Blackheath, between the troops of Henry VII and the Cornish insurgents, in 1496, the bridge of Dartford was defended by a picked band of archers from the rebel army, “whose arrows,” says Holinshed, “were in length a full cloth yard.” The Scottish, according to Ascham, had a proverb, that every English archer carried under his belt twenty-four Scots, in allusion to his bundle of unerring shafts.’— SCOTT.

Stanza II. line 32. croupe = (1) the buttocks of the horse, as in Chaucer’s ‘Fryars Tale,’ line 7141, ‘thakketh his horse upon the croupe’; (2) the place behind the saddle, as here and in ‘Young Lochinvar,’ below, 351.

line 33. ‘The most useful AIR, as the Frenchmen term it, IS TERRITERR, the courbettes, cabrioles, or un pas et un sault, being fitter for horses of parade and triumph than for soldiers: yet I cannot deny but a demivolte with courbettes, so that they be not too high, may be useful in a fight or meslee; for, as Labroue hath it, in his Book of Horsemanship, Monsieur de Montmorency having a horse that was excellent in performing the demivolte, did, with his sword, strike down two adversaries from their horses in a tourney, where divers of the prime gallants of France did meet; for, taking his time, when the horse was in the height of his courbette, and discharging a blow then, his sword fell with such weight and force upon the two cavaliers, one after another, that he struck them from their horses to the ground.’— Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s Life, p. 48. — SCOTT.

line 35. ‘The Scottish burgesses were, like yeomen, appointed to be armed with bows and sheaves, sword, buckler, knife, spear, or a good axe instead of a bow, if worth L100: their armour to be of white or bright harness. They wore WHITE HATS, i.e. bright steel caps, without crest or visor. By an act of James IV their weapon-schawings are appointed to be held four times a year, under the aldermen or bailiffs.’— SCOTT.

lines 40–48. Corslet, a light cuirass protecting the front of the body; brigantine, a jacket quilted with iron (also spelt ‘brigandine’); gorget, a metal covering for the throat; mace, a heavy club, plain or spiked, designed to bruise armour.

‘Bows and quivers were in vain recommended to the peasantry of Scotland, by repeated statutes; spears and axes seem universally to have been used instead of them. The defensive armour was the plate-jack, hauberk, or brigantine; and their missile weapons crossbows and culverins. All wore swords of excellent temper, according to Patten; and a voluminous handkerchief round their neck, “not for cold, but for cutting.” The mace also was much used in the Scottish army! The old poem on the battle of Flodden mentions a band —

“Who manfully did meet their foes,

With leaden mauls, and lances long.”

‘When the feudal array of the kingdom was called forth, each man was obliged to appear with forty days’ provision. When this was expended, which took place before the battle of Flodden, the army melted away of course. Almost all the Scottish forces, except a few knights, men-at-arms, and the Border-prickers, who formed excellent light-cavalry, acted upon foot.’— SCOTT.

Stanza III. line 48. swarthy, because of the dark leather of which it was constructed.

line 54. See above, Introd. to II. line 48.

line 56. Cheer, countenance, as below, line 244. Cp. Chaucer, ‘Knightes Tale,’ line 55:—

‘The eldeste lady of hem alle spak

When sche hadde swowned with a dedly CHERE.’

Stanza IV. line 73. slogan, the war-cry. Cp. Aytoun’s ‘Burial March of Dundee’:—

‘Sound the fife and cry the slogan.’

line 96. The Euse and the Liddell flow into the Esk. For some miles the Liddell is the boundary between England and Scotland.

line 100. Brown Maudlin, dark or bronzed Magdalene. pied, variegated, as in Shakespeare’s ‘daisies pied.’ kirtle = short skirt, and so applied to a gown or a petticoat.

Stanza V. For unrivalled illustration of what Celtic chiefs and clansmen were, see ‘Waverley’ and ‘Rob Roy.’

lines 130–5 Cp. opening of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad III.:—

         ‘The Trojans would have frayed

The Greeks with noises, crying out, in coming rudely on

At all parts, like the cranes that fill with harsh confusion

Of brutish clanges all the air. ’

Stanza VI. lines 143–157. Cp. Dryden’s ‘Palamon and Arcite,’ iii. 1719–1739:—

‘The neighing of the generous horse was heard,

For battle by the busy groom prepar’d:

Rustling of harness, rattling of the shield,

Clattering of armour furbish’d for the field,’ &c.

line 157. following = feudal retainers. — SCOTT. To the poet’s explanation Lockhart appends the remark that since Scott thought his note necessary the word has been ‘completely adopted into English, and especially into Parliamentary parlance.’

line 166. Scott says:—‘In all transactions of great or petty importance, and among whomsoever taking place, it would seem that a present of wine was a uniform and indispensable preliminary. It was not to Sir John Falstaff alone that such an introductory preface was necessary, however well judged and acceptable on the part of Mr. Brook; for Sir Ralph Sadler, while on an embassy to Scotland in 1539–40, mentions, with complacency, ‘the same night came Rothesay (the herald so called) to me again, and brought me wine from the King both white and red.’— Clifford’s Edition, p. 39.

line 168. For weeds see above, I. Introd. 256.

Stanza VII. line 172. For wassell see above, I. xv. 231; and cp. ‘merry wassail’ in ‘Rokeby,’ III. xv.

line 190. Cp. above, IV. Introd. 3.

line 200. An Elizabethan omission of relative.

Stanza VIII. The admirable characterisation, by which in this and the two following stanzas the King, the Queen, and Lady Heron are individually delineated and vividly contrasted, deserves special attention. There is every reason to believe that the delineations, besides being vivid and impressive, have the additional merit of historical accuracy.

line 213. piled = covered with a pile or nap. The Encyclopaedic Dict., s. v., quotes: ‘With that money I would make thee several cloaks and line them with black crimson, and tawny, three filed veluet.’— Barry; Ram Alley, III. i.

line 221. A baldric (remotely from Lat. balteus, a girdle) was an ornamental belt passing over one shoulder and round the other side, and having the sword suspended from it. Cp. Pope’s Iliad, III. 415:—

‘A radiant BALDRIC, o’er his shoulder tied,

Sustained the sword that glittered at his side.’

See also the ‘wolf-skin baldric’ in ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ III. xvi.

Stanza IX. line 249. ‘Few readers need to be reminded of this belt, to the weight of which James added certain ounces every year that he lived. Pitscottie founds his belief that James was not slain in the battle of Flodden, because the English never had this token of the iron-belt to show to any Scottishman. The person and character of James are delineated according to our best historians. His romantic disposition, which led him highly to relish gaiety, approaching to license, was, at the same time, tinged with enthusiastic devotion. These propensities sometimes formed a strange contrast. He was wont, during his fits of devotion, to assume the dress, and conform to the rules, of the order of Franciscans; and when he had thus done penance for some time in Stirling, to plunge again into the tide of pleasure. Probably, too, with no unusual inconsistency, he sometimes laughed at the superstitions observances to which he at other times subjected himself. There is a very singular poem by Dunbar, seemingly addressed to James IV, on one of these occasions of monastic seclusion. It is a most daring and profane parody on the services of the Church of Rome, entitled:—

   “Dunbar’s Dirige to the King,

    Byding ewer lang in Striviling.

We that are here, in heaven’s glory,

To you that are in Purgatory,

Commend us on our hearty wise;

I mean we folks in Paradise,

In Edinburgh, with all merriness,

To you in Stirling with distress,

Where neither pleasure nor delight is,

For pity this epistle wrytis,” &c.

See the whole in Sibbald’s Collection, vol. i. p. 234.’— SCOTT.

Since Scott’s time Dunbar’s poems have been edited, with perfect scholarship and skill, by David Laing (2 vols. post 8vo. 1824), and by John Small (in l885) for the Scottish Text Society. See Dict. of Nat. Biog.

lines 254–9. This perfect description may be compared, for accuracy of observation and dexterous presentment, with the steed in ‘Venus and Adonis,’ the paragon of horses in English verse. Both writers give ample evidence of direct personal knowledge.

Stanza X. line 261. ‘It has been already noticed [see note to stanza xiii. of Canto I.] that King James’s acquaintance with Lady Heron of Ford did not commence until he marched into England. Our historians impute to the King’s infatuated passion the delays which led to the fatal defeat of Flodden. The author of “The Genealogy of the Heron Family” endeavours, with laudable anxiety, to clear the Lady Ford from this scandal; that she came and went, however, between the armies of James and Surrey, is certain. See PINKERTON’S History, and the authorities he refers to, vol. ii. p. 99. Heron of Ford had been, in 1511, in some sort accessory to the slaughter of Sir Robert Kerr of Cessford, Warden of the Middle Marches. It was committed by his brother the bastard, Lilburn, and Starked, three Borderers. Lilburn and Heron of Ford were delivered up by Henry to James, and were imprisoned in the fortress of Fastcastle, where the former died. Part of the pretence of Lady Ford’s negotiations with James was the liberty of her husband.’— SCOTT.

line 271. love = beloved. Cp. Burns’s ‘O my love is like a red red rose.’

line 273. ‘“Also the Queen of France wrote a love-letter to the King of Scotland, calling him her love, showing him that she had suffered much rebuke in France for the defending of his honour. She believed surely that he would recompense her again with some of his kingly support in her necessity; that is to say, that he would raise her an army, and come three foot of ground on English ground, for her sake. To that effect she sent him a ring off her finger, with fourteen thousand French crowns to pay bis expenses.” PITSCOTTIE, p.110. — A turquois ring — probably this fatal gift — is, with James’s sword and dagger, preserved in the College of Heralds, London.’— SCOTT.

lines 287–8. The change of movement introduced by this couplet has the intended effect of arresting the attention and lending pathos to the description and sentiment.

Stanza XI. line 302. The wimple was a covering for the neck, said to have been introduced in the reign of Edward I. See Chaucer’s ‘Prologue,’ 151:—

‘Ful semely hire wympel i-pynched was.’

line 307. Cp. 2 Henry IV, iii. 2. 9, ‘By yea and nay, sir.’

line 308. Cp. refrain of song, ”Twas within a mile o’ Edinburgh Town,’ in Johnson’s Museum:—

‘The lassie blush’d, and frowning cried, “No, no, it will not

do; I cannot, cannot, wonnot, wonnot, mannot buckle too.”’

Stanza XII. The skilful application of the anapaest for the production of the brilliant gallop of ‘Lochinvar’ has been equalled only by Scott himself in his ‘Bonnets o’ Bonnie Dundee.’ Cp. Lord Tennyson’s ‘Northern Farmer’ (specially New Style), and Mr. Browning’s ‘How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix.’ ‘The ballad of Lochinvar,’ says Scott, ‘is in a very slight degree founded on a ballad called “ Katharine Janfarie,” which may be found in the “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,” vol. ii. Mr. Charles Gibbon’s ‘Laird o’ Lamington’ is based on the same legend.

line 332. ‘See the novel of “Redgauntlet” for a detailed picture of some of the extraordinary phenomena of the spring-tides in the Solway Frith.’— LOCKHART.

line 344. galliard (Sp. gallarda, Fr. gaillarda), a lively dance. Cp. Henry V, i. 2, 252, ‘a nimble galliard,’ and note on expression in Clarendon Press ed.

line 353. scaur, cliff or river bank. Cp. Blackie’s ‘Ascent of Cruachan’ in ‘Lays of the Highlands and Islands,’ p. 98:—

‘Scale the SCAUR that gleams so red.’

Stanza XIII. line 376. Cp. Dryden’s ‘Aurengzebe’:—

‘Love and a crown no rivalship can bear.’

line 382. Sir R. Kerr. See above, line 261.

line 383. Andrew Barton, High Admiral of Scotland, was one of a family of seamen, to whom James IV granted letters of reprisal against Portuguese traders for the violent death of their father. Both the King and the Bartons profited much by their successes. At length the Earl of Surrey, accusing Andrew Barton of attacking English as well as Portuguese vessels, sent two powerful men-of-war against him, and a sharp battle, fought in the Downs, resulted in Barton’s death and the capture of his vessels. See Chambers’s ‘Eminent Scotsmen,’ vol. v.

line 386. James sent his herald to Henry before Terouenne, calling upon him to desist from hostilities against Scotland’s ally, the king of France, and sternly reminding him of the various insults to which Henry’s supercilious policy had subjected him. Flodden had been fought before the messenger returned with his answer. Barclay a contemporary poet, had written about seven years earlier, in his ‘Ship of Fooles’:—

‘If the Englishe Lion his wisedome and riches

Conjoyne with true love, peace, and fidelitie

With the Scottishe Unicornes might and hardines,

There is no doubt but all whole Christentie

Shall live in peace, wealth, and tranquilitie.’

But such a desirable consummation was to wait yet a while.

Stanza XIV. line 398. ‘Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus,’ says Scott, ‘a man remarkable for strength of body and mind, acquired the popular name of Bell-the-Cat, upon the following remarkable occasion:— James the Third, of whom Pitscottie complains that he delighted more in music, and “policies of building,” than in hunting, hawking, and other noble exercises, was so ill advised as to make favourites of his architects and musicians, whom the same historian irreverently terms masons and fiddlers. His nobility, who did not sympathise in the King’s respect for the fine arts, were extremely incensed at the honours conferred on those persons, particularly on Cochrane, a mason, who had been created Earl of Mar; and, seizing the opportunity, when, in 1482, the King had convoked the whole array of the country to march against the English, they held a midnight council in the church of Lauder, for the purpose of forcibly removing these minions from the King’s person. When all had agreed on the propriety of this measure, Lord Gray told the assembly the apologue of the Mice, who had formed a resolution, that it would be highly advantageous to their community to tie a bell round the cat’s neck, that they might hear her approach at a distance; but which public measure unfortunately miscarried, from no mouse being willing to undertake the task of fastening the bell. “I understand the moral,” said Angus, “and, that what we propose may not lack execution, I will bell the cat.”’

The rest of the strange scene is thus told by Pitscottie:—

‘By this was advised and spoken by thir lords foresaid, Cochran, the Earl of Mar, came from the King to the council, (which council was holden in the kirk of Lauder for the time,) who was well accompanied with a band of men of war; to the number of three hundred light axes, all clad in white livery, and black bends thereon, that they might be known for Cochran the Earl of Mar’s men. Himself was clad in a riding-pie of black velvet, with a great chain of gold about his neck, to the value of five hundred crowns, and four blowing horns, with both the ends of gold and silk, set with a precious stone, called a berryl, hanging in the midst. This Cochran had his heumont born before him, overgilt with gold, and so were all the rest of his horns, and all his pallions were of fine canvas of silk, and the cords thereof fine twined silk, and the chains upon his pallions were double overgilt with gold.

‘This Cochran was so proud in his conceit, that he counted no lords to be marrows to him, therefore he rushed rudely at the kirk-door. The council inquired who it was that perturbed them at that time. Sir Robert Douglas, Laird of Lochleven, was keeper of the kirk-door at that time, who inquired who that was that knocked so rudely; and Cochran answered, “This is I, the Earl of Mar.” The which news pleased well the lords, because they were ready boun to cause take him, as is before rehearsed. Then the Earl of Angus past hastily to the door, and with him Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven, there to receive in the Earl of Mar, and go many of his complices who were there, as they thought good. And the Earl of Angus met with the Earl of Mar, as he came in at the door, and pulled the golden chain from his craig, and said to him, a tow1 would set him better. Sir Robert Douglas syne pulled the blowing horn from him in like manner, and said, “He had been the hunter of mischief over long.” This Cochran asked, “My lords, is it mows2, or earnest?” They answered, and said, “It is good earnest, and so thou shalt find; for thou and thy complices have abused our prince this long time; of whom thou shalt hare no more credence, but shalt have thy reward according to thy good service, as thou hast deserved in times bypast; right so the rest of thy followers.”

‘Notwithstanding, the lords held them quiet till they caused certain armed men to pass into the King’s pallion, and two or three wise men to pass with them, and give the King fair pleasant words, till they laid hands on all the King’s servants and took them and hanged them before his eyes over the bridge of Lawder. Incontinent they brought forth Cochran, and his hands bound with a tow, who desired them to take one of his own pallion tows and bind his hands, for he thought shame to have his hands bound with such tow of hemp, like a thief. The lords answered, he was a traitor, he deserved no better; and, for despight, they took a hair tether3, and hanged him over the bridge of Lawder, above the rest of his complices.’— PITSCOTTIE, p. 78, folio edit.

1rope. 2jest.


line 400. Hermitage Castle is on Hermitage water, which falls into the Liddell. The ruins still exist.

line 402. Bothwell Castle is on the right bank of the Clyde, a few miles above Glasgow. While staying there in 1799 Scott began a ballad entitled ‘Bothwell Castle,’ which remains a fragment. Lockhart gave it in the ‘Life,’ i. 305, ed. 1837. There, as here, he makes reference to the touching legendary ballad, ‘Bothwell bank thou bloomest fair,’ which a traveller before 1605 heard a woman singing in Palestine.

line 406. Reference to Cicero’s cedant arma togae, a relic of an attempt at verse.

line 414. ‘Angus was an old man when the war against England was resolved upon. He earnestly spoke against that measure from its commencement; and, on the eve of the battle of Flodden, remonstrated so freely upon the impolicy of fighting, that the King said to him, with scorn and indignation, “if he was afraid, he might go home.” The Earl burst into tears at this insupportable insult, and retired accordingly, leaving his sons, George, Master of Angus, and Sir William of Glenbervie, to command his followers. They were both slain in the battle, with two hundred gentlemen of the name of Douglas. The aged Earl, broken-hearted at the calamities of his house and his country, retired into a religious house, where he died about a year after the field of Flodden.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XV. lines 415–20. Cp. description of Sir H. Osbaldistone, ‘Rob Roy,’ chap. vi.

line 429. ‘The ruins of Tantallon Castle occupy a high rock projecting into the German Ocean, about two miles east of North Berwick. The building is not seen till a close approach, as there is rising ground betwixt it and the land. The circuit is of large extent, fenced upon three sides by the precipice which overhangs the sea, and on the fourth by a double ditch and very strong outworks. Tantallon was a principal castle of the Douglas family, and when the Earl of Angus was banished, in 1527, it continued to hold out against James V. The King went in person against it, and for its reduction, borrowed from the Castle of Dunbar, then belonging to the Duke of Albany, two great cannons, whose names, as Pitscottie informs us with laudable minuteness, were “Thrawn mouth’d Meg and her Marrow”; also, “two great botcards, and two moyan, two double falcons, and four quarter falcons”; for the safe guiding and redelivery of which, three lords were laid in pawn at Dunbar. Yet, notwithstanding all this apparatus, James was forced to raise the siege, and only afterwards obtained possession of Tantallon by treaty with the governor, Simon Panango, When the Earl of Angus returned from banishment, upon the death of James, he again obtained possession of Tantallon, and it actually afforded refuge to an English ambassador, under circumstances similar to those described in the text. This was no other than the celebrated Sir Ralph Sadler, who resided there for some time under Angus’s protection, after the failure of his negotiation for matching the infant Mary with Edward VI. He says, that though this place was poorly furnished, it was of such strength as might warrant him against the malice of his enemies, and that he now thought himself out of danger. (His State papers were published in 1810, with certain notes by Scott.)

‘There is a military tradition, that the old Scottish March was meant to express the words,

“Ding down Tantallon,

Mak a brig to the Bass.”

‘Tantallon was at length “dung down” and ruined by the Covenanters; its lord, the Marquis of Douglas, being a favourer of the royal cause. The castle and barony were sold in the beginning of the eighteenth century to President Dalrymple of North Berwick, by the then Marquis of Douglas.’— SCOTT.

In 1888, under the direction of Mr. Walter Dalrymple, son of the proprietor, certain closed staircases in the ruins were opened, and various excavations were made, with the purpose of discovering as fully as possible what the original character of the structure had been. These operations have added greatly to the interest of the ruin, which both by position and aspect is one of the most imposing in the country.

line 432. ‘A very ancient sword, in possession of Lord Douglas, bears, among a great deal of flourishing, two hands pointing to a heart which is placed betwixt them, and the date 1329, being the year in which Bruce charged the Good Lord Douglas to carry his heart to the Holy Land. The following lines (the first couplet of which is quoted by Godscroft, as a popular saying in his time) are inscribed around the emblem:—

“So mony guid as of ye Dovglas beinge,

Of ane surname was ne’er in Scotland seine.

I will ye charge, efter yat I depart,

To holy grawe, and thair bury my hart;

Let it remane ever BOTHE TYME AND HOWR,

To ye last day I sie my Saviour.

I do protest in tyme of al my ringe,

Ye lyk subject had never ony keing.”

‘This curious and valuable relic was nearly lost during the Civil War of 1745–6, being carried away from Douglas Castle by some of those in arms for Prince Charles. But great interest having been made by the Duke of Douglas among the chief partisans of the Stuart, it was at length restored. It resembles a Highland claymore, of the usual size, is of an excellent temper, and admirably poised.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XVI. line 461. Scott quotes:—

‘O Dowglas! Dowglas

Tender and trew.’— The Houlate.

line 470. There are two famous sparrows in literature, the one Lesbia’s sparrow, tenderly lamented by Catullus, and the other Jane Scrope’s sparrow, memorialised by Skelton in the ‘ Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe.’

line 475. The tears of such as Douglas are of the kind mentioned in Cowley’s ‘Prophet,’ line 20:—

‘Words that weep, and tears that speak.’

Stanza XVII. line 501. ‘The ancient cry to make room for a dance or pageant.’— SCOTT.

Cp. Romeo and Juliet, i. 5. 28: ‘A hall! a hall! give room,’ &c.

line 505. The tune is significant of a Scottish invasion of England. See Scott’s appropriate song to the ‘ancient air,’ ‘Monastery,’ xxv. Reference is made in I Henry II, ii. 4. 368, to the head-dress of the Scottish soldiers, when Falstaff informs Prince Hal that Douglas is in England, ‘and a thousand BLUE-CAPS more.’

Stanza XIX. line 545. Many of the houses in Old Edinburgh are built to a great height, so that the common stairs leading up among a group of them have sometimes been called ‘perpendicular streets.’ Pitch, meaning ‘height,’ is taken from hawking, the height to which a bird rose depending largely on the pitch given it.

Stanza XX. line 558. St. Giles’s massive steeple is one of the features of Edinburgh. The ancient church, recently renovated by the munificence of the late William Chambers, is now one of the most imposing Presbyterian places of worship in Scotland.

line 569. For bowne see above, IV. 487.

line 571. A certain impressiveness is given by the sudden introduction of this pentameter.

Stanza XXI. Jeffrey, in reviewing’ Marmion, ‘fixed on this narrative of the Abbess as a passage marked by ‘flatness and tediousness,’ and could see in it ‘no sort of beauty nor elegance of diction.’ The answer to such criticism is that the narrative is direct and practical, and admirably suited to its purpose.

line 585. Despiteously, despitefully. ‘Despiteous’ is used in ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ V. xix. Cp. Chaucer’s ‘Man of Lawe,’ 605 (Clarendon Press ed.):—

‘And sey his wyf despitously yslayn.’

line 587. ‘A German general, who commanded the auxiliaries sent by the Duchess of Burgundy with Lambert Simnel. He was defeated and killed at Stokefield. The name of this German general is preserved by that of the field of battle, which is called, after him, Swart-moor. — There were songs about him long current in England. See Dissertation prefixed to RITSON’S Ancient Songs, 1792, p. lxi.’— SCOTT.

line 588. Lambert Simnel, the Pretender, made a scullion after his overthrow by Henry VII.

line 590. Stokefield (Stoke, near Newark, county Nottingham) was fought 16 June, 1487.

line 607. ‘It was early necessary for those who felt themselves obliged to believe in the divine judgment being enunciated in the trial by duel, to find salvos for the strange and obviously precarious chances of the combat. Various curious evasive shifts, used by those who took up an unrighteous quarrel, were supposed sufficient to convert it into a just one. Thus, in the romance of “Amys and Amelion,” the one brother-inarms, fighting for the other, disguised in his armour, swears that HE did not commit the crime of which the Steward, his antagonist, truly, though maliciously, accused him whom he represented. Brantome tells a story of an Italian, who entered the lists upon an unjust quarrel, but, to make his cause good, fled from his enemy at the first onset. “Turn, coward!” exclaimed his antagonist. “Thou liest,” said the Italian, “coward am I none; and in this quarrel will I fight to the death, but my first cause of combat was unjust, and I abandon it.” “Je vous laisse a penser,” adds Brantome, “s’il n’y a pas de l’abus la.” Elsewhere he says, very sensibly, upon the confidence which those who had a righteous cause entertained of victory: “Un autre abus y avoit-il, que ceux qui avoient un juste subjet de querelle, et qu’on les faisoit jurer avant entrer au camp, pensoient estre aussitost vainqueurs, voire s’en assuroient-t-ils du tout, mesmes que leurs confesseurs, parrains et confidants leurs en respondoient tout-a-fait, comme si Dieu leur en eust donne une patente; et ne regardant point a d’autres fautes passes, et que Dieu en garde la punition a ce coup la pour plus grande, despiteuse, et exemplaire.”— Discours sur le Duels.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XXII. line 612. Recreant, a coward, a disgraced knight. See ‘Lady of the Lake,’ V. xvi:—

‘Let recreant yield who fears to die’;

and cp. ‘caitiff recreant,’ Richard II, i. 2. 53.

line 633. The Tame falls into the Trent above Tamworth.

Stanza XXIII. line 662. Quaint, neat, pretty, as in Much Ado, iii. 4. 21: ‘A fine, quaint, graceful, and excellent fashion.’

Stanza XXIV. line 704. St. Withold, St. Vitalis. Cp. King Lear, iii. 4. III. Clarendon Press ed., and note. This saint was invoked in nightmare.

Stanza XXV. line 717. Malison, curse.

line 717. ‘The Cross of Edinburgh was an ancient and curious structure. The lower part was an octagonal tower, sixteen feet in diameter, and about fifteen feet high. At each angle there was a pillar, and between them an arch, of the Grecian shape. Above these was a projecting battlement, with a turret at each corner, and medallions, of rude but curious workmanship, between them. Above this rose the proper Cross, a column of one stone, upwards of twenty feet high, surmounted with a unicorn. This pillar is preserved in the grounds of the property of Drum, near Edinburgh. The Magistrates of Edinburgh, in 1756, with consent of the Lords of Session, (proh pudor!) destroyed this curious monument, under a wanton pretext that it encumbered the street; while, on the one hand, they left an ugly mass called the Luckenbooths, and, on the other, an awkward, long, and low guard-house, which were fifty times more encumbrance than the venerable and inoffensive Cross.

‘From the tower of the Cross, so long as it remained, the heralds published the acts of Parliament; and its site, marked by radii, diverging from a stone centre, in the High Street, is still the place where proclamations are made.’— SCOTT.

See Fergusson’s ‘Plainstanes,’ Poems, p. 48. The Cross was restored by Mr. Gladstone in 1885, to commemorate his connexion with Midlothian as its parliamentary representative.

line 735. ‘This supernatural citation is mentioned by all our Scottish historians. It was, probably, like the apparition at Linlithgow, an attempt, by those averse to the war, to impose upon the superstitious temper of James IV. The following account from Pitscottie is characteristically minute, and furnishes, besides, some curious particulars of the equipment of the army of James IV. I need only add to it, that Plotcock, or Plutock, is no other than Pluto. The Christians of the middle ages by no means disbelieved in the existence of the heathen deities; they only considered them as devils, and Plotcock, so far from implying any thing fabulous, was a synonyme of the grand enemy of mankind.” 2 “Yet all thir warnings, and uncouth tidings, nor no good counsel, might stop the King, at this present, from his vain purpose, and wicked enterprize, but hasted him fast to Edinburgh, and there to make his provision and famishing, in having forth of his army against the day appointed, that they should meet in the Barrow-muir of Edinburgh: That is to say, seven cannons that he had forth of the Castle of Edinburgh, which were called the Seven Sisters, casten by Robert Borthwick, the master-gunner, with other small artillery, bullet, powder, and all manner of order, as the master-gunner could devise.

‘“In this meantime, when they were taking forth their artillery, and the King being in the Abbey for the time, there was a cry heard at the Market-cross of Edinburgh at the hour of midnight, proclaiming as it had been a summons, which was named and called by the proclaimer thereof, the summons of Plotcock; which desired all men to compear, both Earl, and Lord, and Baron, and all honest gentlemen within the town, (every man specified by his own name,) to compear, within the space of forty days, before his master, where it should happen him to appoint, and be for the time, under the pain of disobedience. But whether this summons was proclaimed by vain persons, night-walkers, or drunken men, for their pastime, or if it was a spirit, I cannot tell truly: but it was shewn to me, that an indweller of the town, Mr. Richard Lawson, being evil disposed, ganging in his gallery-stair foreanent the Cross, hearing this voice proclaiming this summons, thought marvel what it should be, cried on his servant to bring him his purse; and when he had brought him it, he took out a crown, and cast over the stair, saying, ‘I appeal from that summons, judgment, and sentence thereof, and take me all whole in the mercy of God, and Christ Jesus his son.’ Verily, the author of this, that caused me write the manner of this summons, was a landed gentleman, who was at that time twenty years of age, and was in the town the time of the said summons; and thereafter, when the field was stricken, he swore to me, there was no man that escaped that was called in this summons, but that one man alone which made his protestation, and appealed from the said summons: but all the lave were perished in the field with the king.”’

2 See, on this curious subject, the Essay on Fairies, in the “Border Minstrelsy,” vol. ii, under the fourth head; also Jackson on Unbelief, p. 175. Chaucer calls Pluto the “King of Faerie”; and Dunbar names him, “Pluto, that elrich incubus.” If he was not actually the devil, he must be considered as the “prince of the power of the air.” The most curious instance of these surviving classical superstitions is that of the Germans, concerning the Hill of Venus, into which she attempts to entice all gallant knights, and detains them there in a sort of Fools’ Paradise.

Stanza XXIX. line 838. ‘The convent alluded to is a foundation of Cistertian nuns, near North Berwick, of which there are still some remains. It was founded by Duncan, Earl of Fife, in 1216.’— SCOTT.

line 840. Two rocky islands off North Berwick.

Stanza XXX. line 899. Nares says: ‘In the solemn form of excommunication used in the Romish Church, the bell was tolled, the book of offices for the purpose used, and three candles extinguished, with certain ceremonies.’ Cp. ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ VI. xxiii. 400, for the observance at a burial service.

Stanza. XXXI. line 914. ‘This relates to the catastrophe of a real Robert de Marmion, in the reign of King Stephen, whom William of Newbury describes with some attributes of my fictitious hero: “Homo bellicosus, ferosia, et astucia, fere nullo suo tempore impar.” This Baron, having expelled the monks from the church of Coventry, was not long of experiencing the divine judgment, as the same monks, no doubt, termed his disaster. Having waged a feudal war with the Earl of Chester, Marmion’s horse fell, as he charged in the van of his troop, against a body of the Earl’s followers: the rider’s thigh being broken by the fall, his head was cut off by a common foot-soldier, ere he could receive any succour. The whole story is told by William of Newbury.’— SCOTT.

line 926. The story of Judith and Holofernes is in the Apocrypha.

line 928. See Judges iv.

line 931. St. Antony’s fire is erysipelas.

Stanza XXXII. line 947. This line, omitted in early editions, was supplied by Lockhart from the MS.

Stanza XXXIII. line 973. Tantallon, owing to its position, presents itself suddenly to those approaching it from the south.

line 980. Lockhart annotates thus:—

‘During the regency (subsequent to the death of James V) the Dowager Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, became desirous of putting a French garrison into Tantallon, as she had into Dunbar and Inchkeith, in order the better to bridle the lords and barons, who inclined to the reformed faith, and to secure by citadels the sea-coast of the Frith of Forth. For this purpose, the Regent, to use the phrase of the time “dealed with” the (then) Earl of Angus for his consent to the proposed measure. He occupied himself, while she was speaking, in feeding a falcon which sat upon his wrist, and only replied by addressing the bird, but leaving the Queen to make the application. “The devil is in this greedy gled — she will never be fou.” But when the Queen, without appearing to notice this hint, continued to press her obnoxious request, Angus replied, in the true spirit of a feudal noble, “Yes, Madam, the castle is yours; God forbid else. But by the might of God, Madam!” such was his usual oath, “I must be your Captain and Keeper for you, and I will keep it as well as any you can place there.’” — SIR WALTER SCOTT’S Provincial Antiquities, vol. ii. p. 167. — Prose Works, vol. vii. p. 436.

Stanza XXXIV. line 998. Cp. AEneid, IV. 174:—

‘Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum.’

line 1001. Strongholds in Northumberland, near Flodden.

line 1017. Opposite Flodden, beyond the Till.

line 1032. ‘bated of, diminished. Cp. Timon of Athens, ii. 2. 208:—

                ‘ You do yourselves

Much wrong; you BATE too much of your own merits.’

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