Marmion, by Walter Scott

Canto Sixth.

The Battle.


While great events were on the gale,

And each hour brought a varying tale,

And the demeanour, changed and cold,

Of Douglas, fretted Marmion bold,

And, like the impatient steed of war,

He snuff’d the battle from afar;

And hopes were none, that back again

Herald should come from Terouenne,

Where England’s King in leaguer lay,

Before decisive battle-day;

Whilst these things were, the mournful Clare

Did in the Dame’s devotions share:

For the good Countess ceaseless pray’d

To Heaven and Saints, her sons to aid.

And, with short interval, did pass

From prayer to book, from book to mass,

And all in high Baronial pride —

A life both dull and dignified; —

Yet as Lord Marmion nothing press’d

Upon her intervals of rest,

Dejected Clara well could bear

The formal state, the lengthen’d prayer,

Though dearest to her wounded heart

The hours that she might spend apart.


I said, Tantallon’s dizzy steep

Hung o’er the margin of the deep.

Many a rude tower and rampart there

Repell’d the insult of the air,

Which, when the tempest vex’d the sky,

Half breeze, half spray, came whistling by.

Above the rest, a turret square

Did o’er its Gothic entrance bear,

Of sculpture rude, a stony shield;

The Bloody Heart was in the Field,

And in the chief three mullets stood,

The cognizance of Douglas blood.

The turret held a narrow stair,

Which, mounted, gave you access where

A parapet’s embattled row

Did seaward round the castle go.

Sometimes in dizzy steps descending,

Sometimes in narrow circuit bending,

Sometimes in platform broad extending,

Its varying circle did combine

Bulwark, and bartisan, and line,

And bastion, tower, and vantage-coign:

Above the booming ocean leant

The far-projecting battlement;

The billows burst, in ceaseless flow,

Upon the precipice below.

Where’er Tantallon faced the land,

Gate-works, and walls, were strongly mann’d;

No need upon the sea-girt side;

The steepy rock, and frantic tide,

Approach of human step denied;

And thus these lines, and ramparts rude,

Were left in deepest solitude.


And, for they were so lonely, Clare

Would to these battlements repair,

And muse upon her sorrows there,

And list the sea-bird’s cry;

Or slow, like noontide ghost, would glide

Along the dark-grey bulwarks’ side,

And ever on the heaving tide

Look down with weary eye.

Oft did the cliff, and swelling main,

Recall the thoughts of Whitby’s fane —

A home she ne’er might see again;

For she had laid adown,

So Douglas bade, the hood and veil,

And frontlet of the cloister pale,

And Benedictine gown:

It were unseemly sight, he said,

A novice out of convent shade. —

Now her bright locks, with sunny glow,

Again adorn’d her brow of snow;

Her mantle rich, whose borders, round,

A deep and fretted broidery bound,

In golden foldings sought the ground;

Of holy ornament, alone

Remain’d a cross with ruby stone;

And often did she look

On that which in her hand she bore,

With velvet bound, and broider’d o’er,

Her breviary book.

In such a place, so lone, so grim,

At dawning pale, or twilight dim,

It fearful would have been

To meet a form so richly dress’d,

With book in hand, and cross on breast,

And such a woeful mien.

Fitz–Eustace, loitering with his bow,

To practise on the gull and crow,

Saw her, at distance, gliding slow,

And did by Mary swear —

Some love-lorn Fay she might have been,

Or, in Romance, some spell-bound Queen;

For ne’er, in work-day world, was seen

A form so witching fair.


Once walking thus, at evening tide,

It chanced a gliding sail she spied,

And, sighing, thought —‘The Abbess, there,

Perchance, does to her home repair;

Her peaceful rule, where Duty, free,

Walks hand in hand with Charity;

Where oft Devotion’s tranced glow

Can such a glimpse of heaven bestow,

That the enraptured sisters see

High vision, and deep mystery;

The very form of Hilda fair,

Hovering upon the sunny air,

And smiling on her votaries’ prayer.

O! wherefore, to my duller eye,

Did still the Saint her form deny!

Was it, that, sear’d by sinful scorn,

My heart could neither melt nor burn?

Or lie my warm affections low,

With him, that taught them first to glow?

Yet, gentle Abbess, well I knew,

To pay thy kindness grateful due,

And well could brook the mild command,

That ruled thy simple maiden band.

How different now! condemn’d to bide

My doom from this dark tyrant’s pride. —

But Marmion has to learn, ere long,

That constant mind, and hate of wrong,

Descended to a feeble girl,

From Red De Clare, stout Gloster’s Earl:

Of such a stem, a sapling weak,

He ne’er shall bend, although he break.


‘But see! — what makes this armour here?’—

For in her path there lay

Targe, corslet, helm; — she view’d them near. —

‘The breast-plate pierced! — Ay, much I fear,

Weak fence wert thou ‘gainst foeman’s spear,

That hath made fatal entrance here,

As these dark blood-gouts say. —

Thus Wilton! — Oh! not corslet’s ward,

Not truth, as diamond pure and hard,

Could be thy manly bosom’s guard,

On yon disastrous day!’—

She raised her eyes in mournful mood —

WILTON himself before her stood!

It might have seem’d his passing ghost,

For every youthful grace was lost;

And joy unwonted, and surprise,

Gave their strange wildness to his eyes. —

Expect not, noble dames and lords,

That I can tell such scene in words:

What skilful limner e’er would choose

To paint the rainbow’s varying hues,

Unless to mortal it were given

To dip his brush in dyes of heaven?

Far less can my weak line declare

Each changing passion’s shade;

Brightening to rapture from despair,

Sorrow, surprise, and pity there,

And joy, with her angelic air,

And hope, that paints the future fair,

Their varying hues display’d:

Each o’er its rival’s ground extending,

Alternate conquering, shifting, blending,

Till all, fatigued, the conflict yield,

And mighty Love retains the field,

Shortly I tell what then he said,

By many a tender word delay’d,

And modest blush, and bursting sigh,

And question kind, and fond reply:—


De Wilton’s History.

‘Forget we that disastrous day,

When senseless in the lists I lay.

Thence dragg’d — but how I cannot know,

  For sense and recollection fled,-

I found me on a pallet low,

  Within my ancient beadsman’s shed.

Austin — remember’st thou, my Clare,

How thou didst blush, when the old man,

When first our infant love began,

Said we would make a matchless pair? —

Menials, and friends, and kinsmen fled

From the degraded traitor’s bed —

He only held my burning head,

And tended me for many a day,

While wounds and fever held their sway.

But far more needful was his care,

When sense return’d to wake despair;

For I did tear the closing wound,

And dash me frantic on the ground,

If e’er I heard the name of Clare.

At length, to calmer reason brought,

Much by his kind attendance wrought,

With him I left my native strand,

And, in a Palmer’s weeds array’d

My hated name and form to shade,

I journey’d many a land;

No more a lord of rank and birth,

But mingled with the dregs of earth.

Oft Austin for my reason fear’d,

When I would sit, and deeply brood

On dark revenge, and deeds of blood,

Or wild mad schemes uprear’d.

My friend at length fell sick, and said,

God would remove him soon:

And, while upon his dying bed,

He begg’d of me a boon —

If e’er my deadliest enemy

Beneath my brand should conquer’d lie,

Even then my mercy should awake,

And spare his life for Austin’s sake.


‘Still restless as a second Cain,

To Scotland next my route was ta’en,

Full well the paths I knew.

Fame of my fate made various sound,

That death in pilgrimage I found,

That I had perish’d of my wound —

None cared which tale was true:

And living eye could never guess

De Wilton in his Palmer’s dress;

For now that sable slough is shed,

And trimm’d my shaggy beard and head,

I scarcely know me in the glass.

A chance most wondrous did provide,

That I should be that Baron’s guide —

I will not name his name! —

Vengeance to God alone belongs;

But, when I think on all my wrongs,

My blood is liquid flame!

And ne’er the time shall I forget,

When in a Scottish hostel set,

Dark looks we did exchange:

What were his thoughts I cannot tell;

But in my bosom muster’d Hell

Its plans of dark revenge.


‘A word of vulgar augury,

That broke from me, I scarce knew why,

Brought on a village tale;

Which wrought upon his moody sprite,

And sent him armed forth by night.

I borrow’d steed and mail,

And weapons, from his sleeping band;

And, passing from a postern door,

We met, and ‘counter’d, hand to hand —

He fell on Gifford-moor.

For the death-stroke my brand I drew,

(O then my helmed head he knew,

The Palmer’s cowl was gone,)

Then had three inches of my blade

The heavy debt of vengeance paid —

My hand the thought of Austin staid;

I left him there alone. —

O good old man! even from the grave,

Thy spirit could thy master save:

If I had slain my foeman, ne’er

Had Whitby’s Abbess, in her fear,

Given to my hand this packet dear,

Of power to clear my injured fame,

And vindicate De Wilton’s name. —

Perchance you heard the Abbess tell

Of the strange pageantry of Hell,

That broke our secret speech —

It rose from the infernal shade,

Or featly was some juggle play’d,

A tale of peace to teach.

Appeal to Heaven I judged was best,

When my name came among the rest.


‘Now here, within Tantallon Hold,

To Douglas late my tale I told,

To whom my house was known of old.

Won by my proofs, his falchion bright

This eve anew shall dub me knight.

These were the arms that once did turn

The tide of fight on Otterburne,

And Harry Hotspur forced to yield,

When the Dead Douglas won the field.

These Angus gave — his armourer’s care,

Ere morn, shall every breach repair;

For nought, he said, was in his halls,

But ancient armour on the walls,

And aged chargers in the stalls,

And women, priests, and grey-hair’d men;

The rest were all in Twisel glen.

And now I watch my armour here,

By law of arms, till midnight’s near;

Then, once again a belted knight,

Seek Surrey’s camp with dawn of light.


‘There soon again we meet, my Clare!

This Baron means to guide thee there:

Douglas reveres his King’s command,

Else would he take thee from his band.

And there thy kinsman, Surrey, too,

Will give De Wilton justice due.

Now meeter far for martial broil,

Firmer my limbs, and strung by toil,

Once more’—‘O Wilton! must we then

Risk new-found happiness again,

Trust fate of arms once more?

And is there not an humble glen,

Where we, content and poor,

Might build a cottage in the shade,

A shepherd thou, and I to aid

Thy task on dale and moor? —

That reddening brow! — too well I know,

Not even thy Clare can peace bestow,

While falsehood stains thy name:

Go then to fight! Clare bids thee go!

Clare can a warrior’s feelings know,

And weep a warrior’s shame;

Can Red Earl Gilbert’s spirit feel,

Buckle the spurs upon thy heel,

And belt thee with thy brand of steel,

And send thee forth to fame!’


That night, upon the rocks and bay,

The midnight moon-beam slumbering lay,

And pour’d its silver light, and pure,

Through loop-hole, and through embrazure,

Upon Tantallon tower and hall;

But chief where arched windows wide

Illuminate the chapel’s pride,

The sober glances fall.

Much was there need; though seam’d with scars,

Two veterans of the Douglas’ wars,

Though two grey priests were there,

And each a blazing torch held high,

You could not by their blaze descry

The chapel’s carving fair.

Amid that dim and smoky light,

Chequering the silvery moon-shine bright,

A bishop by the altar stood,

A noble lord of Douglas blood,

With mitre sheen, and rocquet white.

Yet show’d his meek and thoughtful eye

But little pride of prelacy;

More pleased that, in a barbarous age,

He gave rude Scotland Virgil’s page,

Than that beneath his rule he held

The bishopric of fair Dunkeld.

Beside him ancient Angus stood,

Doff’d his furr’d gown, and sable hood:

O’er his huge form and visage pale,

He wore a cap and shirt of mail;

And lean’d his large and wrinkled hand

Upon the huge and sweeping brand

Which wont of yore, in battle fray,

His foeman’s limbs to shred away,

As wood-knife lops the sapling spray.

He seem’d as, from the tombs around

  Rising at judgment-day,

Some giant Douglas may be found

  In all his old array;

So pale his face, so huge his limb,

So old his arms, his look so grim.


Then at the altar Wilton kneels,

And Clare the spurs bound on his heels;

And think what next he must have felt,

At buckling of the falchion belt!

And judge how Clara changed her hue,

While fastening to her lover’s side

A friend, which, though in danger tried,

He once had found untrue!

Then Douglas struck him with his blade:

‘Saint Michael and Saint Andrew aid,

I dub thee knight.

Arise, Sir Ralph, De Wilton’s heir!

For King, for Church, for Lady fair,

See that thou fight.’—

And Bishop Gawain, as he rose,

Said —‘Wilton! grieve not for thy woes,

Disgrace, and trouble;

For He, who honour best bestows,

May give thee double.’—

De Wilton sobb’d, for sob he must —

‘Where’er I meet a Douglas, trust

That Douglas is my brother!’

‘Nay, nay,’ old Angus said, ‘not so;

To Surrey’s camp thou now must go,

Thy wrongs no longer smother.

I have two sons in yonder field;

And, if thou meet’st them under shield,

Upon them bravely — do thy worst;

And foul fall him that blenches first!’


Not far advanced was morning day,

When Marmion did his troop array

To Surrey’s camp to ride;

He had safe-conduct for his band,

Beneath the royal seal and hand,

And Douglas gave a guide:

The ancient Earl, with stately grace,

Would Clara on her palfrey place,

And whisper’d in an under tone,

‘Let the hawk stoop, his prey is flown.’—

The train from out the castle drew,

But Marmion stopp’d to bid adieu:—

‘Though something I might plain,’ he said,

‘Of cold respect to stranger guest,

Sent hither by your King’s behest,

While in Tantallon’s towers I staid;

Part we in friendship from your land,

And, noble Earl, receive my hand.’—

But Douglas round him drew his cloak,

Folded his arms, and thus he spoke:—

‘My manors, halls, and bowers, shall still

Be open, at my Sovereign’s will,

To each one whom he lists, howe’er

Unmeet to be the owner’s peer.

My castles are my King’s alone,

From turret to foundation-stone —

The hand of Douglas is his own;

And never shall in friendly grasp

The hand of such as Marmion clasp.’—


Burn’d Marmion’s swarthy cheek like fire,

And shook his very frame for ire,

And —‘This to me!’ he said,

‘An ’twere not for thy hoary beard,

Such hand as Marmion’s had not spared

‘To cleave the Douglas’ head!

And, first, I tell thee, haughty Peer,

He, who does England’s message here,

Although the meanest in her state,

May well, proud Angus, be thy mate:

And, Douglas, more I tell thee here,

Even in thy pitch of pride,

Here in thy hold, thy vassals near,

(Nay, never look upon your lord,

And lay your hands upon your sword,)

I tell thee, thou’rt defied!

And if thou said’st, I am not peer

To any lord in Scotland here,

Lowland or Highland, far or near,

Lord Angus, thou hast lied!’—

On the Earl’s cheek the flush of rage

O’ercame the ashen hue of age:

Fierce he broke forth — ‘And darest thou then

To beard the lion in his den,

The Douglas in his hall?

And hopest thou hence unscathed to go? —

No, by Saint Bride of Bothwell, no!

Up drawbridge, grooms — what, Warder, ho!

Let the portcullis fall.’—

Lord Marmion turn’d — well was his need,

And dash’d the rowels in his steed,

Like arrow through the archway sprung,

The ponderous grate behind him rung:

To pass there was such scanty room,

The bars, descending, razed his plume.


The steed along the drawbridge flies,

Just as it trembled on the rise;

Nor lighter does the swallow skim

Along the smooth lake’s level brim:

And when Lord Marmion reach’d his band,

He halts, and turns with clenched hand,

And shout of loud defiance pours,

And shook his gauntlet at the towers.

‘Horse! horse!’ the Douglas cried, ‘and chase!’

But soon he rein’d his fury’s pace:

‘A royal messenger he came,

Though most unworthy of the name. —

A letter forged! Saint Jude to speed!

Did ever knight so foul a deed!

At first in heart it liked me ill,

When the King praised his clerkly skill.

Thanks to Saint Bothan, son of mine,

Save Gawain, ne’er could pen a line:

So swore I, and I swear it still,

Let my boy-bishop fret his fill. —

Saint Mary mend my fiery mood!

Old age ne’er cools the Douglas blood,

I thought to slay him where he stood.

’Tis pity of him too,’ he cried;

‘Bold can he speak, and fairly ride,

I warrant him a warrior tried.’

With this his mandate he recalls,

And slowly seeks his castle halls.


The day in Marmion’s journey wore;

Yet, e’er his passion’s gust was o’er,

They cross’d the heights of Stanrig-moor.

His troop more closely there he scann’d,

And miss’d the Palmer from the band. —

‘Palmer or not,’ young Blount did say,

‘ He parted at the peep of day;

Good sooth, it was in strange array.’—

‘In what array?’ said Marmion, quick.

‘My Lord, I ill can spell the trick;

But all night long, with clink and bang,

Close to my couch did hammers clang;

At dawn the falling drawbridge rang,

And from a loop-hole while I peep,

Old Bell-the-Cat came from the Keep,

Wrapp’d in a gown of sables fair,

As fearful of the morning air;

Beneath, when that was blown aside,

A rusty shirt of mail I spied,

By Archibald won in bloody work,

Against the Saracen and Turk:

Last night it hung not in the hall;

I thought some marvel would befall.

And next I saw them saddled lead

Old Cheviot forth, the Earl’s best steed;

A matchless horse, though something old,

Prompt to his paces, cool and bold.

I heard the Sheriff Sholto say,

The Earl did much the Master pray

To use him on the battle-day;

But he preferr’d’—‘Nay, Henry, cease!

Thou sworn horse-courser, hold thy peace. —

Eustace, thou bear’st a brain — I pray,

What did Blount see at break of day?’


‘In brief, my lord, we both descried

(For then I stood by Henry’s side)

The Palmer mount, and outwards ride,

Upon the Earl’s own favourite steed:

All sheathed he was in armour bright,

And much resembled that same knight,

Subdued by you in Cotswold fight:

Lord Angus wish’d him speed.’—

The instant that Fitz–Eustace spoke,

A sudden light on Marmion broke; —

‘Ah! dastard fool, to reason lost!’

He mutter’d; ’Twas nor fay nor ghost

I met upon the moonlight wold,

But living man of earthly mould. —

O dotage blind and gross!

Had I but fought as wont, one thrust

Had laid De Wilton in the dust,

My path no more to cross. —

How stand we now? — he told his tale

To Douglas; and with some avail;

’Twas therefore gloom’d his rugged brow. —

Will Surrey dare to entertain,

‘Gainst Marmion, charge disproved and vain?

Small risk of that, I trow.

Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun;

Must separate Constance from the Nun —

O, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practise to deceive!

A Palmer too! — no wonder why

I felt rebuked beneath his eye:

I might have known there was but one,

Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.’


Stung with these thoughts, he urged to speed

His troop, and reach’d, at eve, the Tweed,

Where Lennel’s convent closed their march;

(There now is left but one frail arch,

Yet mourn thou not its cells;

Our time a fair exchange has made;

Hard by, in hospitable shade,

A reverend pilgrim dwells,

Well worth the whole Bernardine brood,

That e’er wore sandal, frock, or hood.)

Yet did Saint Bernard’s Abbot there

Give Marmion entertainment fair,

And lodging for his train and Clare.

Next morn the Baron climb’d the tower,

To view afar the Scottish power,

Encamp’d on Flodden edge:

The white pavilions made a show,

Like remnants of the winter snow,

Along the dusky ridge.

Long Marmion look’d:— at length his eye

Unusual movement might descry

Amid the shifting lines:

The Scottish host drawn out appears,

For, flashing on the hedge of spears,

The eastern sunbeam shines.

Their front now deepening, now extending;

Their flank inclining, wheeling, bending,

Now drawing back, and now descending,

The skilful Marmion well could know,

They watch’d the motions of some foe,

Who traversed on the plain below.


Even so it was. From Flodden ridge

The Scots beheld the English host

Leave Barmore-wood, their evening post,

And heedful watch’d them as they cross’d

The Till by Twisel Bridge.

High sight it is, and haughty, while

They dive into the deep defile;

Beneath the cavern’d cliff they fall,

Beneath the castle’s airy wall.

By rock, by oak, by hawthorn-tree,

Troop after troop are disappearing;

Troop after troop their banners rearing,

Upon the eastern bank you see.

Still pouring down the rocky den,

Where flows the sullen Till,

And rising from the dim-wood glen,

Standards on standards, men on men,

In slow succession still,

And, sweeping o’er the Gothic arch,

And pressing on, in ceaseless march,

To gain the opposing hill.

That morn, to many a trumpet clang,

Twisel! thy rock’s deep echo rang;

And many a chief of birth and rank,

Saint Helen! at thy fountain drank.

Thy hawthorn glade, which now we see

In spring-tide bloom so lavishly,

Had then from many an axe its doom,

To give the marching columns room.


And why stands Scotland idly now,

Dark Flodden! on thy airy brow,

Since England gains the pass the while,

And struggles through the deep defile?

What checks the fiery soul of James?

Why sits that champion of the dames

Inactive on his steed,

And sees, between him and his land,

Between him and Tweed’s southern strand,

His host Lord Surrey lead?

What ‘vails the vain knight-errant’s brand? —

O, Douglas, for thy leading wand!

Fierce Randolph, for thy speed!

O for one hour of Wallace wight,

Or well-skill’d Bruce, to rule the fight,

And cry —‘Saint Andrew and our right!’

Another sight had seen that morn,

From Fate’s dark book a leaf been torn,

And Flodden had been Bannockbourne! —

The precious hour has pass’d in vain,

And England’s host has gain’d the plain;

Wheeling their march, and circling still,

Around the base of Flodden hill.


Ere yet the bands met Marmion’s eye,

Fitz–Eustace shouted loud and high,

‘Hark! hark! my lord, an English drum!

And see ascending squadrons come

Between Tweed’s river and the hill,

Foot, horse, and cannon:— hap what hap,

My basnet to a prentice cap,

Lord Surrey’s o’er the Till! —

Yet more! yet more! — how far array’d

They file from out the hawthorn shade,

And sweep so gallant by!

With all their banners bravely spread,

And all their armour flashing high,

Saint George might waken from the dead,

To see fair England’s standards fly.’—

‘Stint in thy prate,’ quoth Blount, ‘thou’dst best,

And listen to our lord’s behest.’—

With kindling brow Lord Marmion said —

‘This instant be our band array’d;

The river must be quickly cross’d,

That we may join Lord Surrey’s host.

If fight King James — as well I trust,

That fight he will, and fight he must —

The Lady Clare behind our lines

Shall tarry, while the battle joins.’


Himself he swift on horseback threw,

Scarce to the Abbot bade adieu;

Far less would listen to his prayer,

To leave behind the helpless Clare.

Down to the Tweed his band he drew,

And mutter’d as the flood they view,

‘The pheasant in the falcon’s claw,

He scarce will yield to please a daw:

Lord Angus may the Abbot awe,

So Clare shall bide with me.’

Then on that dangerous ford, and deep,

Where to the Tweed Leat’s eddies creep,

He ventured desperately:

And not a moment will he bide,

Till squire, or groom, before him ride;

Headmost of all he stems the tide,

And stems it gallantly.

Eustace held Clare upon her horse,

Old Hubert led her rein,

Stoutly they braved the current’s course,

And, though far downward driven per force,

The southern bank they gain;

Behind them, straggling, came to shore,

As best they might, the train:

Each o’er his head his yew-bow bore,

A caution not in vain;

Deep need that day that every string,

By wet unharm’d, should sharply ring.

A moment then Lord Marmion staid,

And breathed his steed, his men array’d,

Then forward moved his band,

Until, Lord Surrey’s rear-guard won,

He halted by a Cross of Stone,

That, on a hillock standing lone,

Did all the field command.


Hence might they see the full array

Of either host, for deadly fray;

Their marshall’d lines stretch’d east and west,

And fronted north and south,

And distant salutation pass’d

From the loud cannon mouth;

Not in the close successive rattle,

That breathes the voice of modern battle,

But slow and far between. —

The hillock gain’d, Lord Marmion staid:

‘Here, by this Cross,’ he gently said,

‘You well may view the scene.

Here shalt thou tarry, lovely Clare:

O! think of Marmion in thy prayer! —

Thou wilt not? — well, no less my care

Shall, watchful, for thy weal prepare. —

You, Blount and Eustace, are her guard,

With ten pick’d archers of my train;

With England if the day go hard,

To Berwick speed amain. —

But if we conquer, cruel maid,

My spoils shall at your feet be laid,

When here we meet again.’

He waited not for answer there,

And would not mark the maid’s despair,

Nor heed the discontented look

From either squire; but spurr’d amain,

And, dashing through the battle-plain,

His way to Surrey took.


‘— The good Lord Marmion, by my life!

Welcome to danger’s hour! —

Short greeting serves in time of strife:—

Thus have I ranged my power:

Myself will rule this central host,

Stout Stanley fronts their right,

My sons command the vaward post,

With Brian Tunstall, stainless knight;

Lord Dacre, with his horsemen light,

Shall be in rear-ward of the fight,

And succour those that need it most.

Now, gallant Marmion, well I know,

Would gladly to the vanguard go;

Edmund, the Admiral, Tunstall there,

With thee their charge will blithely share;

There fight thine own retainers too,

Beneath De Burg, thy steward true.’—

‘Thanks, noble Surrey!’ Marmion said,

Nor farther greeting there he paid;

But, parting like a thunderbolt,

First in the vanguard made a halt,

Where such a shout there rose

Of ‘Marmion! Marmion!’ that the cry,

Up Flodden mountain shrilling high,

Startled the Scottish foes.


Blount and Fitz–Eustace rested still

With Lady Clare upon the hill;

On which, (for far the day was spent,)

The western sunbeams now were bent.

The cry they heard, its meaning knew,

Could plain their distant comrades view:

Sadly to Blount did Eustace say,

‘Unworthy office here to stay!

No hope of gilded spurs today. —

But see! look up — on Flodden bent

The Scottish foe has fired his tent.’

And sudden, as he spoke,

From the sharp ridges of the hill,

All downward to the banks of Till,

Was wreathed in sable smoke.

Volumed and fast, and rolling far,

The cloud enveloped Scotland’s war,

As down the hill they broke;

Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,

Announced their march; their tread alone,

At times one warning trumpet blown,

At times a stifled hum,

Told England, from his mountain-throne

King James did rushing come. —

Scarce could they hear, or see their foes,

Until at weapon-point they close. —

They close, in clouds of smoke and dust,

With sword-sway, and with lance’s thrust;

And such a yell was there,

Of sudden and portentous birth,

As if men fought upon the earth,

And fiends in upper air;

Oh, life and death were in the shout,

Recoil and rally, charge and rout,

And triumph and despair.

Long look’d the anxious squires; their eye

Could in the darkness nought descry.


At length the freshening western blast

Aside the shroud of battle cast;

And, first, the ridge of mingled spears

Above the brightening cloud appears;

And in the smoke the pennons flew,

As in the storm the white sea-mew.

Then mark’d they, dashing broad and far,

The broken billows of the war,

And plumed crests of chieftains brave,

Floating like foam upon the wave;

But nought distinct they see:

Wide raged the battle on the plain;

Spears shook, and falchions flash’d amain;

Fell England’s arrow-flight like rain;

Crests rose, and stoop’d, and rose again,

Wild and disorderly.

Amid the scene of tumult, high

They saw Lord Marmion’s falcon fly:

And stainless Tunstall’s banner white,

And Edmund Howard’s lion bright,

Still bear them bravely in the fight;

Although against them come,

Of gallant Gordons many a one,

And many a stubborn Badenoch-man,

And many a rugged Border clan,

With Huntly, and with Home.


Far on the left, unseen the while,

Stanley broke Lennox and Argyle;

Though there the western mountaineer

Rush’d with bare bosom on the spear,

And flung the feeble targe aside,

And with both hands the broadsword plied.

’Twas vain:— But Fortune, on the right,

With fickle smile, cheer’d Scotland’s fight.

Then fell that spotless banner white,

The Howard’s lion fell;

Yet still Lord Marmion’s falcon flew

With wavering flight, while fiercer grew

Around the battle-yell.

The Border slogan rent the sky!

A Home! a Gordon! was the cry:

Loud were the clanging blows;

Advanced — forced back — now low, now high,

The pennon sunk and rose;

As bends the bark’s mast in the gale,

When rent are rigging, shrouds, and sail,

It waver’d ‘mid the foes.

No longer Blount the view could bear:

‘By Heaven, and all its saints! I swear

I will not see it lost!

Fitz–Eustace, you with Lady Clare

May bid your beads, and patter prayer —

I gallop to the host.’

And to the fray he rode amain,

Follow’d by all the archer train.

The fiery youth, with desperate charge,

Made, for a space, an opening large —

The rescued banner rose —

But darkly closed the war around,

Like pine-tree rooted from the ground,

It sank among the foes.

Then Eustace mounted too:— yet staid,

As loath to leave the helpless maid,

When, fast as shaft can fly,

Blood-shot his eyes, his nostrils spread,

The loose rein dangling from his head,

Housing and saddle bloody red,

Lord Marmion’s steed rush’d by;

And Eustace, maddening at the sight,

A look and sign to Clara cast,

To mark he would return in haste,

Then plunged into the fight.


Ask me not what the maiden feels,

Left in that dreadful hour alone:

Perchance her reason stoops, or reels;

Perchance a courage, not her own,

Braces her mind to desperate tone. —

The scatter’d van of England wheels; —

She only said, as loud in air

The tumult roar’d, ‘Is Wilton there?’—

They fly, or, madden’d by despair,

Fight but to die — ‘Is Wilton there?’—

With that, straight up the hill there rode

Two horsemen drench’d with gore,

And in their arms, a helpless load,

A wounded knight they bore.

His hand still strain’d the broken brand;

His arms were smear’d with blood and sand:

Dragg’d from among the horses’ feet,

With dinted shield, and helmet beat,

The falcon-crest and plumage gone,

Can that be haughty Marmion! . . .

Young Blount his armour did unlace,

And gazing on his ghastly face,

Said —‘By Saint George, he’s gone!

That spear-wound has our master sped,

And see the deep cut on his head!

Good-night to Marmion.’—

‘Unnurtured Blount! thy brawling cease:

He opes his eyes,’ said Eustace; ‘peace!’


When, doff’d his casque, he felt free air,

Around ‘gan Marmion wildly stare:—

‘Where’s Harry Blount? Fitz–Eustace where?

Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare!

Redeem my pennon — charge again!

Cry-“Marmion to the rescue!”— Vain!

Last of my race, on battle-plain

That shout shall ne’er be heard again! —

Yet my last thought is England’s — fly,

To Dacre bear my signet-ring:

Tell him his squadrons up to bring. —

Fitz–Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie;

Tunstall lies dead upon the field,

His life-blood stains the spotless shield:

Edmund is down; — my life is reft;

The Admiral alone is left.

Let Stanley charge with spur of fire —

With Chester charge, and Lancashire,

Full upon Scotland’s central host,

Or victory and England’s lost. —

Must I bid twice? — hence, varlets! fly!

Leave Marmion here alone — to die.’

They parted, and alone he lay;

Clare drew her from the sight away,

Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,

And half he murmur’d — ‘Is there none,

Of all my halls have nurst,

Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring

Of blessed water from the spring,

To slake my dying thirst!’


O, Woman! in our hours of ease,

Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,

And variable as the shade

By the light quivering aspen made;

When pain and anguish wring the brow,

A ministering angel thou! —

Scarce were the piteous accents said,

When, with the Baron’s casque, the maid

To the nigh streamlet ran:

Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;

The plaintive voice alone she hears,

Sees but the dying man.

She stoop’d her by the runnel’s side,

But in abhorrence backward drew;

For, oozing from the mountain’s side,

Where raged the war, a dark-red tide

Was curdling in the streamlet blue.

Where shall she turn! — behold her mark

A little fountain cell,

Where water, clear as diamond-spark,

In a stone basin fell.

Above, some half-worn letters say,

Drink . weary . pilgrim . drink . and . pray .

for . the . kind . soul . of . Sybil .Grey .


Who . built . this . cross . and . well .

She fill’d the helm, and back she hied,

And with surprise and joy espied

A Monk supporting Marmion’s head;

A pious man, whom duty brought

To dubious verge of battle fought,

To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.


Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave,

And, as she stoop’d his brow to lave —

‘Is it the hand of Clare,’ he said,

‘Or injured Constance, bathes my head?’

Then, as remembrance rose —

‘Speak not to me of shrift or prayer!

I must redress her woes.

Short space, few words, are mine to spare

Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!’—

‘Alas!’ she said, ‘the while —

O, think of your immortal weal!

In vain for Constance is your zeal;

She — died at Holy Isle.’—

Lord Marmion started from the ground,

As light as if he felt no wound;

Though in the action burst the tide,

In torrents, from his wounded side.

‘Then it was truth,’— he said —‘I knew

That the dark presage must be true. —

I would the Fiend, to whom belongs

The vengeance due to all her wrongs,

Would spare me but a day!

For wasting fire, and dying groan,

And priests slain on the altar stone,

Might bribe him for delay.

It may not be! — this dizzy trance —

Curse on yon base marauder’s lance,

And doubly cursed my failing brand!

A sinful heart makes feeble hand.’

Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,

Supported by the trembling Monk.


With fruitless labour, Clara bound,

And strove to stanch the gushing wound:

The Monk, with unavailing cares,

Exhausted all the Church’s prayers.

Ever, he said, that, close and near,

A lady’s voice was in his ear,

And that the priest he could not hear;

For that she ever sung,

‘In the lost battle, borne down by the flying,

Where mingles war’s rattle with groans of the dying!’

So the notes rung; —

‘Avoid thee, Fiend! — with cruel hand,

Shake not the dying sinner’s sand! —

O, look, my son, upon yon sign

Of the Redeemer’s grace divine;

O, think on faith and bliss!

By many a death-bed I have been,

And many a sinner’s parting seen,

But never aught like this.’—

The war, that for a space did fail,

Now trebly thundering swell’d the gale,

And — STANLEY! was the cry; —

A light on Marmion’s visage spread,

And fired his glazing eye:

With dying hand, above his head,

He shook the fragment of his blade,

And shouted ‘Victory! —

Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!’

Were the last words of Marmion.


By this, though deep the evening fell,

Still rose the battle’s deadly swell,

For still the Scots, around their King,

Unbroken, fought in desperate ring.

Where’s now their victor vaward wing,

Where Huntly, and where Home? —

O, for a blast of that dread horn,

On Fontarabian echoes borne,

That to King Charles did come,

When Rowland brave, and Olivier,

And every paladin and peer,

On Roncesvalles died!

Such blasts might warn them, not in vain,

To quit the plunder of the slain,

And turn the doubtful day again,

While yet on Flodden side,

Afar, the Royal Standard flies,

And round it toils, and bleeds, and dies,

Our Caledonian pride!

In vain the wish — for far away,

While spoil and havoc mark their way,

Near Sybil’s Cross the plunderers stray. —

‘O Lady,’ cried the Monk, ‘away!’

And placed her on her steed,

And led her to the chapel fair,

Of Tilmouth upon Tweed.

There all the night they spent in prayer,

And at the dawn of morning, there

She met her kinsman, Lord Fitz–Clare.


But as they left the dark’ning heath,

More desperate grew the strife of death,

The English shafts in volleys hail’d,

In headlong charge their horse assail’d;

Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep

To break the Scottish circle deep,

That fought around their King.

But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,

Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,

Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,

Unbroken was the ring;

The stubborn spear-men still made good

Their dark impenetrable wood,

Each stepping where his comrade stood,

The instant that he fell.

No thought was there of dastard flight;

Link’d in the serried phalanx tight,

Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,

As fearlessly and well;

Till utter darkness closed her wing

O’er their thin host and wounded King.

Then skilful Surrey’s sage commands

Led back from strife his shatter’d bands;

And from the charge they drew,

As mountain-waves, from wasted lands,

Sweep back to ocean blue.

Then did their loss his foemen know;

Their King, their Lords, their mightiest low,

They melted from the field, as snow,

When streams are swoln and south winds blow

Dissolves in silent dew.

Tweed’s echoes heard the ceaseless plash,

While many a broken band,

Disorder’d, through her currents dash,

To gain the Scottish land;

To town and tower, to down and dale,

To tell red Flodden’s dismal tale,

And raise the universal wail.

Tradition, legend, tune, and song,

Shall many an age that wail prolong:

Still from the sire the son shall hear

Of the stern strife, and carnage drear,

Of Flodden’s fatal field,

Where shiver’d was fair Scotland’s spear,

And broken was her shield!


Day dawns upon the mountain’s side:—

There, Scotland! lay thy bravest pride,

Chiefs, knights, and nobles, many a one:

The sad survivors all are gone. — 1072

View not that corpse mistrustfully,

Defaced and mangled though it be;

Nor to yon Border castle high,

Look northward with upbraiding eye;

Nor cherish hope in vain,

That, journeying far on foreign strand,

The Royal Pilgrim to his land

May yet return again.

He saw the wreck his rashness wrought;

Reckless of life, he desperate fought,

And fell on Flodden plain:

And well in death his trusty brand,

Firm clench’d within his manly hand,

Beseem’d the monarch slain.

But, O! how changed since yon blithe night!

Gladly I turn me from the sight,

Unto my tale again.


Short is my tale:— Fitz–Eustace’ care

A pierced and mangled body bare

To moated Lichfield’s lofty pile;

And there, beneath the southern aisle,

A tomb, with Gothic sculpture fair,

Did long Lord Marmion’s image bear,

(Now vainly for its site you look;

’Twas levell’d, when fanatic Brook

The fair cathedral storm’d and took;

But, thanks to Heaven, and good Saint Chad,

A guerdon meet the spoiler had!)

There erst was martial Marmion found,

His feet upon a couchant hound,

His hands to Heaven upraised;

And all around, on scutcheon rich,

And tablet carved, and fretted niche,

His arms and feats were blazed.

And yet, though all was carved so fair,

And priest for Marmion breathed the prayer,

The last Lord Marmion lay not there.

From Ettrick woods, a peasant swain

Follow’d his lord to Flodden plain —

One of those flowers, whom plaintive lay

In Scotland mourns as ‘wede away’:

Sore wounded, Sybil’s Cross he spied,

And dragg’d him to its foot, and died,

Close by the noble Marmion’s side.

The spoilers stripp’d and gash’d the slain,

And thus their corpses were mista’en;

And thus, in the proud Baron’s tomb,

The lowly woodsman took the room.


Less easy task it were, to show

Lord Marmion’s nameless grave, and low.

They dug his grave e’en where he lay,

  But every mark is gone;

Time’s wasting hand has done away

The simple Cross of Sybil Grey,

  And broke her font of stone: 1123

But yet from out the little hill

Oozes the slender springlet still,

Oft halts the stranger there,

For thence may best his curious eye

The memorable field descry;

And shepherd boys repair

To seek the water-flag and rush,

And rest them by the hazel bush,

And plait their garlands fair;

Nor dream they sit upon the grave,

That holds the bones of Marmion brave. —

When thou shalt find the little hill,

With thy heart commune, and be still.

If ever, in temptation strong,

Thou left’st the right path for the wrong;

If every devious step, thus trod,

Still led thee farther from the road;

Dread thou to speak presumptuous doom

On noble Marmion’s lowly tomb;

But say, ‘He died a gallant knight,

With sword in hand, for England’s right.’


I do not rhyme to that dull elf,

Who cannot image to himself,

That all through Flodden’s dismal night,

Wilton was foremost in the fight;

That, when brave Surrey’s steed was slain,

’Twas Wilton mounted him again;

’Twas Wilton’s brand that deepest hew’d,

Amid the spearmen’s stubborn wood:

Unnamed by Hollinshed or Hall,

He was the living soul of all;

That, after fight, his faith made plain,

He won his rank and lands again;

And charged his old paternal shield

With bearings won on Flodden Field.

Nor sing I to that simple maid,

To whom it must in terms be said,

That King and kinsmen did agree,

To bless fair Clara’s constancy;

Who cannot, unless I relate,

Paint to her mind the bridal’s state;

That Wolsey’s voice the blessing spoke,

More, Sands, and Denny, pass’d the joke:

That bluff King Hal the curtain drew,

And Catherine’s hand the stocking threw;

And afterwards, for many a day,

That it was held enough to say,

In blessing to a wedded pair,

‘Love they like Wilton and like Clare!’



Why then a final note prolong,

Or lengthen out a closing song,

Unless to bid the gentles speed,

Who long have listed to my rede?

To Statesmen grave, if such may deign

To read the Minstrel’s idle strain,

Sound head, clean hand, and piercing wit,

And patriotic heart — as PITT!

A garland for the hero’s crest,

And twined by her he loves the best;

To every lovely lady bright,

What can I wish but faithful knight?

To every faithful lover too,

What can I wish but lady true?

And knowledge to the studious sage;

And pillow to the head of age.

To thee, dear school-boy, whom my lay

Has cheated of thy hour of play,

Light task, and merry holiday!

To all, to each, a fair good-night,

And pleasing dreams, and slumbers light!


Stanza I. line 6. Cp. Job xxxix. 25.

line 8. Terouenne, about thirty miles S. E. of Calais.

line 9. Leaguer, the besiegers’ camp. Cp. Longfellow’s ‘Evangeline,’ I. 5 —

‘Like to a gipsy camp, or a LEAGUER after a battle.’

Stanza II. lines 27–30. Cp. ‘Faerie Queene,’ III. iv. 7.:—

                               ‘The surges hore

That ‘gainst the craggy clifts did loudly rore,

And in their raging surquedry disdaynd

That the fast earth affronted them so sore.’

lines 34–6. The cognizance was derived from the commission Brace gave the Good Lord James Douglas to carry his heart to Palestine. The FIELD is the whole surface of the shield, the CHIEF the upper portion. The MULLET is a star-shaped figure resembling the rowel of a spur, and having five points.

line 45. Bartisan, a small overhanging turret.

line 46. With vantage-coign, or advantageous corner, cp. ‘Macbeth,’ i. 6. 7.

Stanza III. line 69. Adown, poetical for down. Cp. Chaucer, ‘Monkes Tale,’ 3630, Clarendon Press ed.:—

‘Thus day by day this child bigan to crye

Til in his fadres barme ADOUN it lay.’

lines 86–91. Cp. Coleridge’s ‘Christabel,’ line 68.

‘I guess, ’twas frightful there to see

A lady so richly clad as she —

  Beautiful exceedingly.’

Stanza IV. lines 106–9. Cp. ‘Il Penseroso,’ 161–6 —

‘There let the pealing organ blow

To the full voic’d quire below,

In service high, and anthems clear,

As may with sweetness, through mine ear,

Dissolve me into ecstasies,

And bring all Heav’n before mine eyes.’

See also Coleridge’s ‘Dejection,’ v.:—

‘O pure of heart! thou need’st not ask of me

What this strong music in the soul may be!’ &c.

line 112. ‘I shall only produce one instance more of the great veneration paid to Lady Hilda, which still prevails even in these our days; and that is, the constant opinion, that she rendered, and still renders herself visible, on some occasions, in the Abbey of Streamshalh, or Whitby, where she so long resided. At a particular time of the year (viz. in the summer months), at ten or eleven in the forenoon, the sunbeams fall in the inside of the northern part of the choir; and ’tis then that the spectators, who stand on the west side of Whitby churchyard, so as just to see the most northerly part of the abbey pass the north end of Whitby church, imagine they perceive, in one of the highest windows there, the resemblance of a woman, arrayed in a shroud. Though we are certain this is only a reflection caused by the splendour of the sunbeams, yet fame reports it, and it is constantly believed among the vulgar, to be an appearance of Lady Hilda in her shroud, or rather in a glorified state; before which, I make no doubt, the Papists, even in these our days, offer up their prayers with as much zeal and devotion, as before any other image of their most glorified saint.” CHARLTON’S History of Whitby, p. 33.’— SCOTT.

Stanza V. line 131. What makes, what is it doing? Cp. Judges xviii. 3: ‘What makest thou in this place?’ The usage is frequent in Shakespeare; as e.g. As Yo Like It, i. I. 31: ‘Now sir! what make you here?’

line 137. Blood-gouts, spots of blood. Cp. ‘gouts of blood,’ Macbeth, ii. I. 46.

line 150. Shakespeare, King John, iv. 2. 13, makes Salisbury say that —

‘To smooth the ice, or add another hue

Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light

To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish

Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess.’

Stanza VI. line 174. Beadsman, one hired to pray for another. Cp. ‘Piers the Plowman,’ B, III. 40:—

‘I shal assoille the my-selue . for a seme of whete,

And also be thi BEDEMAN.’

Edie Ochiltree, the Blue-gown in ‘The Antiquary,’ belongs to the class called King’s Bedesmen, ‘an order of paupers to whom the kings of Scotland were in the custom of distributing a certain alms, in conformity with the ordinances of the Catholic Church, and who were expected in return to pray for the royal welfare and that of the state.’ See Introd. to the novel. Cp. also Henry V, iv. I. 315:—

‘Five hundred poor I have in yearly pay,’ &c.

Stanza VII. line 218. The Palmer’s dress is put off like the serpent’s slough. Cp. the Earl of Surrey’s Spring sonnet —

‘The adder all her slough away she flings.’

Stanza VIII. line 261. Featly, cleverly, dexterously. Cp. Tempest, i. 2. 380:—

‘Foot it FEATLY here and there.’

Stanza IX. line 271. See Otterbourne, ‘Border Minstrelsy,’ i. p. 345. Douglas’s death, during the battle was kept secret, so that when his men conquered, as if still under his command, the old prophecy was fulfilled that a dead Douglas should, win the field.

line 280. James encamped in Twisel glen (local spelling ‘Twizel’) before taking post on Flodden.

line 282. The squire’s final act of qualification for knighthood was to watch by his armour till midnight. In his Essay on ‘Chivalry’ Scott says: ‘The candidates watched their arms ALL NIGHT in a church or chapel, and prepared for the honour to be conferred on them by vigil, fast, and prayer.’ For a hasty and picturesque ceremony of knighthood see Scott’s ‘Halidon Hill,’ I. ii.

Stanza XI. With the moonlight scene opening this stanza, cp. ‘Lay of Last Minstrel,’ II. i. Scott is fond of moonlight effects, and he always succeeds with them. See e.g. a passage in ‘Woodstock,’ chap. xix, beginning ‘There is, I know not why, something peculiarly pleasing to the imagination in contemplating the Queen of Night,’ &c.

line 327. ‘The well-known Gawain Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld, son of Archibald Bell-the-Cat, Earl of Angus. He was author of a Scottish metrical version of the “AEneid,” and of many other poetical pieces of great merit. He had not at this period attained the mitre.’— SCOTT.

A word of caution is necessary as to the ‘many pieces’ mentioned here. Besides his ‘AEneid, ‘ Douglas’s extant works are ‘Palice of Honour,’ ‘King Hart,’ and a poem of four stanzas entitled ‘Conscience.’ To each book of the ‘AEneid,’ however, as well as to the supplementary thirteenth book of Maphaeus Vegius, which he also translates, he prefixes an introductory poem, so that there is a sense in which it is correct to call him the author of ‘many pieces.’ His works were first published in complete form in 1874, in four volumes, admirably edited by the late Dr. John Small. See ‘Dict. of Nat. Biog.’

line 329. Rocquet, a linen surplice.

line 344, ‘Angus had strength and personal activity corresponding to his courage. Spens of Kilspindie, a favourite of James IV, having spoken of him lightly, the Earl met him while hawking, and, compelling him to single combat, at one blow cut asunder his thigh-bone, and killed him on the spot. But ere he could obtain James’s pardon for this slaughter, Angus was obliged to yield his castle of Hermitage, in exchange for that of Bothwell, which was some diminution to the family greatness. The sword with which he struck so remarkable a blow, was presented by his descendant, James Earl of Morton, afterwards Regent of Scotland, to Lord Lindesay of the Byres, when he defied Bothwell to single combat on Carberry-hill. See Introduction to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’— SCOTT.

Stanza XII. line 379. With the use of fall = befall cp. Antony and Cleopatra, iii. 7. 38:—

                         ‘No disgrace

Shall FALL you for refusing him at sea.’

Stanza XIV. line. Saint Bride is Saint Bridget of Ireland, who became popular in England and Scotland under the abbreviated form of her name. She was ‘a favourite saint of the house of Douglas, and of the Earl of Angus in particular.’ See note to Clarendon Press ‘Lay of Last Minstrel,’ VI. 469.

line 437. ‘This ebullition of violence in the potent Earl of Angus is not without its example in the real history of the house of Douglas, whose chieftains possessed the ferocity, with the heroic virtues, of a savage state. The most curious instance occurred in the case of Maclellan, Tutor of Bombay, who, having refused to acknowledge the preeminence claimed by Douglas over the gentlemen and Barons of Galloway, was seized and imprisoned by the Earl, in his castle of the Thrieve, on the borders of Kirkcudbrightshire. Sir Patrick Gray, commander of King James the Second’s guard, was uncle to the Tutor of Bombay, and obtained from the King a “sweet letter of supplication,” praying the Earl to deliver his prisoner into Gray’s hand. When Sir Patrick arrived at the castle, he was received with all the honour due to a favourite servant of the King’s household; but while he was at dinner, the Earl, who suspected his errand, caused his prisoner to be led forth and beheaded. After dinner, Sir Patrick presented the King’s letter to the Earl, who received it with great affectation of reverence; “and took him by the hand, and led him forth to the green, where the gentleman was lying dead, and showed him the manner, and said, ‘Sir Patrick, you are come a little too late; yonder is your sister’s son lying, but he wants the head; take his body, and do with it what you will.’— Sir Patrick answered again with a sore heart, and said, ‘My lord, if ye have taken from him his head, dispone upon the body as ye please;’ and with that called for his horse, and leaped thereon; and when he was on horseback, he said to the Earl on this manner: ‘My Lord, if I live, you shall be rewarded for your labours, that you have used at this time, according to your demerits.’

‘“At this saying the Earl was highly offended, and cried for horse. Sir Patrick, seeing the Earl’s fury, spurred his horse, but he was chased near Edinburgh ere they left him; and had it not been his led horse was so tried and good, he had been taken.”’— PITSCOTTIE’S History, p. 39.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XV. line 456. Cp. above, III. 429, and see As You Like It, i. 2. 222: ‘Hercules be thy speed!’ The short epistle of St. Jude is uncompromising in its condemnation of those who have fallen from their faith — who have forgotten, so to speak, their vows of true knighthood. It closes with the beautiful ascription —‘To Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.’ There is deep significance, therefore, in this appeal of the venerable and outraged knight for the protection of St. Jude.

line 457. ‘Lest the reader should partake of the Earl’s astonishment, and consider the crime as inconsistent with the manners of the period, I have to remind him of the numerous forgeries (partly executed by a female assistant) devised by Robert of Artois, to forward his suit against the Countess Matilda; which, being detected, occasioned his flight into England, and proved the remote cause of Edward the Third’s memorable wars in France. John Harding, also, was expressly hired by Edward IV to forge such documents as might appear to establish the claim of fealty asserted over Scotland by the English monarchs.’— SCOTT.

line 458. It likes was long used impersonally, in the sense of it pleases. Cp. King John, ii. 2. 234: ‘It likes us well.’

line 460. St. Bothan, Bythen, or Bethan is said to have been a cousin of St. Columba and his successor at Iona. His name is preserved in the Berwickshire parish, Abbey–Saint-Bathan’s; where, towards the close of the twelfth century, a Cistertian nunnery, with the title of a priory, was dedicated to him by Ada, daughter of William the Lion. There is no remaining trace of this structure.

line 461. The other sons could at least sign their names. Their signatures are reproduced in facsimile in ‘The Douglas Book’ by Sir William Eraser, 4 vols. 4to, Edin. 1886 (privately printed).

line 468. Fairly, well, elegantly, as in Chaucer’s Prol. 94:—

‘Well cowde he sitte on hors, and FAIRE ryde’;

and in ‘Faerie Queene,’ I. i. 8:—

‘Full jolly knight he seemed, and FAIRE did sitt.’

Stanza XVI. line 498. This line is a comprehensive description of a perfectly satisfactory charger or hunter.

line 499. Sholto is one of the Douglas family names. One of the Earl’s sons, being sheriff, could not go with his brothers to the war.

line 500. ‘His eldest son, the Master of Angus.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XVII. line 532. In Bacon’s ingenious essay, ‘Of Simulation and Dissimulation,’ he states these as the three disadvantages of the qualities:—‘The first, that Simulation and Dissimulation commonly carry with them a show of fearfulness, which, in any business, doth spoil the feathers of round flying up to the mark. The second, that it puzzleth and perplexeth the conceits of many, that would otherwise cooperate with him, and makes a man almost alone to his own ends. The third, and greatest, is that it depriveth a man of one of the most principal instruments for action; which is trust and belief.’

Stanza XVIII. line 540. ‘This was a Cistertian house of religion, now almost entirely demolished. Lennel House is now the residence of my venerable friend, Patrick Brydone, Esquire, so well known in the literary world. 4 It is situated near Coldstream, almost opposite Cornhill, and consequently very near to Flodden Field.’— SCOTT.

4 ‘First Edition — Mr. Brydone has been many years dead. 1825.’

line 568. traversed, moved in opposition, as in fencing. Cp. Merry Wives, ii. 3. 23: ‘To see thee fight, to see thee foin, to see thee traverse,’ &c.

Stanza XIX line 573, ‘On the evening previous to the memorable battle of Flodden, Surrey’s headquarters were at Barmoor Wood, and King James held an inaccessible position on the ridge of Flodden-hill, one of the last and lowest eminences detached from the ridge of Cheviot. The Till, a deep and slow river, winded between the armies. On the morning of the 9th September, 1513, Surrey marched in a north-westerly direction, and crossed the Till, with his van and artillery, at Twisel Bridge, nigh where that river joins the Tweed, his rear-guard column passing about a mile higher, by a ford. This movement had the double effect of placing his army between King James and his supplies from Scotland, and of striking the Scottish monarch with surprise, as he seems to have relied on the depth of the river in his front. But as the passage, both over the bridge and through the ford, was difficult and slow, it seems possible that the English might have been attacked to great advantage while straggling with these natural obstacles. I know not if we are to impute James’s forbearance to want of military skill, or to the romantic declaration which Pitscottie puts in his mouth, “that he was determined to have his enemies before him on a plain field,” and therefore would suffer no interruption to be given, even by artillery, to their passing the river.

‘The ancient bridge of Twisel, by which the English crossed the Till, is still standing beneath Twisel Castle, a splendid pile of Gothic architecture, as now rebuilt by Sir Francis Blake, Bart., whose extensive plantations have so much improved the country around. The glen is romantic and delightful, with steep banks on each side, covered with copse, particularly with hawthorn. Beneath a tall rock, near the bridge, is a plentiful fountain, called St. Helen’s Well.’— SCOTT.

That James was credited by his contemporaries with military skill and ample courage will be seen by reference to Barclay’s ‘Ship of Fooles,’ formerly referred to. The poet proposes a grand general European movement against the Turks, and suggests James IV as the military leader. The following complimentary acrostic is a feature of the passage:—

‘I n prudence pereles is this moste comely kinge;

A nd as for his strength and magnanimitie

C onceming his noble dedes in every thinge,

O ne founde on grounde like to him can not be.

B y birth borne to boldenes and audacitie,

U nder the bolde planet of Mars the champion,

S urely to subdue his enemies eche one.’

line 583. Sullen is admirably descriptive of the leading feature in the appearance of the Till just below Twisel Bridge. No one contrasting it with the Tweed at Norham will have difficulty in understanding the saying that:—

‘For a’e man that Tweed droons, Till droons three.’

Stanza XX. line 608. The earlier editions have vails, ‘lowers’ or ‘checks’; as in Venus and Adonis, 956, ‘She vailed her eyelids.’ The edition of 1833 reads ‘VAILS, contr. for ‘avails.’

line 610. Douglas and Randolph were two of Bruce’s most trusted leaders.

line 611. See anecdote in ‘Border Minstrelsy,’ ii. 245 (1833 ed.), with its culmination, ‘O, for one hour of Dundee!’ Cp. ‘Pleasures of Hope’ (close of Poland passage):—

‘Oh! once again to Freedom’s cause return

The Patriot Tell — the Bruce of Bannockburn!’

and Wordsworth’s sonnet, ‘In the Pass of Killicranky,’ in which the aspiration for ‘one hour of that Dundee’ is prompted by the fear of an invasion in 1803.

Stanza XXI. line 626. Hap what hap, come what may. Cp. above ‘tide what tide,’ III. 416.

line 627. Basnet, a light helmet.

Stanza XXIII. line 682. ‘The reader cannot here expect a full account of the Battle of Flodden: but, so far as is necessary to understand the romance, I beg to remind him, that, when the English army, by their skilful countermarch, were fairly placed between King James and his own country, the Scottish monarch resolved to fight; and, setting fire to his tents, descended from the ridge of Flodden to secure the neighbouring eminence of Brankstone, on which that village is built. Thus the two armies met, almost without seeing each other, when, according to the old poem of “Flodden Field,”—

“The English line stretch’d east and west,

  And southward were their faces set;

The Scottish northward proudly prest,

  And manfully their foes they met.”

The English army advanced in four divisions. On the right, which first engaged, were the sons of Earl Surrey, namely, Thomas Howard, the Admiral of England, and Sir Edmund, the Knight Marshal of the army. Their divisions were separated from each other; but, at the request of Sir Edmund, his brother’s battalion was drawn very near to his own. The centre was commanded by Surrey in person; the left wing by Sir Edward Stanley, with the men of Lancashire, and of the palatinate of Chester. Lord Dacres, with a large body of horse, formed a reserve. When the smoke, which the wind had driven between the armies, was somewhat dispersed, they perceived the Scots, who had moved down the hill in a similar order of battle, and in deep silence. 5 The Earls of Huntley and of Home commanded their left wing, and charged Sir Edmund Howard with such success as entirely to defeat his part of the English right wing. Sir Edmund’s banner was beaten down, and he himself escaped with difficulty to his brother’s division. The Admiral, however, stood firm; and Dacre advancing to his support with the reserve of cavalry, probably between the interval of the divisions commanded by the brothers Howard, appears to have kept the victors in effectual check. Home’s men, chiefly Borderers, began to pillage the baggage of both armies; and their leader is branded, by the Scottish historians, with negligence or treachery. On the other hand, Huntley, on whom they bestow many encomiums, is said, by the English historians, to have left the field after the first charge. Meanwhile the Admiral, whose flank these chiefs ought to have attacked, availed himself of their inactivity, and pushed forward against another large division of the Scottish army in his front, headed by the Earls of Crawford and Montrose, both of whom were slain, and their forces routed. On the left, the success of the English was yet more decisive; for the Scottish right wing, consisting of undisciplined Highlanders, commanded by Lennox and Argyle, was unable to sustain the charge of Sir Edward Stanley, and especially the severe execution of the Lancashire archers. The King and Surrey, who commanded the respective centres of their armies, were meanwhile engaged in close and dubious conflict. James, surrounded by the flower of his kingdom, and impatient of the galling discharge of arrows, supported also by his reserve under Bothwell, charged with such fury that the standard of Surrey was in danger. At that critical moment, Stanley, who had routed the left wing of the Scottish, pursued his career of victory, and arrived on the right flank, and in the rear of James’s division, which, throwing itself into a circle, disputed the battle till night came on. Surrey then drew back his forces; for the Scottish centre not having been broken, and the left wing being victorious, he yet doubted the event of the field. The Scottish army, however, felt their loss, and abandoned the field of battle in disorder, before dawn. They lost, perhaps, from eight to ten thousand men; but that included the very prime of their nobility, gentry, and even clergy. Scarce a family of eminence but has an ancestor killed at Flodden; and there is no province in Scotland, even at this day, where the battle is mentioned without a sensation of terror and sorrow. The English also lost a great number of men, perhaps within one-third of the vanquished, but they were of inferior note. — See the only distinct detail of the Field of Flodden in PINKERTON’S History, Book xi; all former accounts being full of blunders and inconsistency.

‘The spot from which Clara views the battle, must be supposed to have been on a hillock commanding the rear of the English right wing, which was defeated, and in which conflict Marmion is supposed to have fallen.’— SCOTT.

5 ‘“Lesquels Escossois descendirent la montaigne in bonne ordre, en la maniere que marchent Its Allemans, sans parler, ne faire aucun bruit”— Gazette of the Battle, PINKERTON’S History, Appendix, vol. ii. p. 456.’

Lockhart adds this quotation:—‘In 1810, as Sir Carnaby Haggerstone’s workmen were digging in Flodden Field, they came to a pit filled with human bones, and which seemed of great extent; but, alarmed at the sight, they immediately filled up the excavation, and proceeded no farther.

‘In 1817, Mr. Grey of Millfield Hill found, near the traces of an ancient encampment, a short distance from Flodden Field, a tumulus, which, on removing, exhibited a very singular sepulchre. In the centre, a large urn was found, but in a thousand pieces. It had either been broken to pieces by the stones falling upon it when digging, or had gone to pieces on the admission of the air. This urn was surrounded by a number of cells formed of flat stones, in the shape of graves, but too small to hold the body in its natural state. These sepulchral recesses contained nothing except ashes, or dust of the same kind as that in the urn.”— Sykes’ Local Records (2 vols. 8vo, 1833), vol. ii. pp. 60 and 109.’

Stanza XXIV. line 717. ‘Sir Brian Tunstall, called in the romantic language of the time, Tunstall the Undefiled, was one of the few Englishmen of rank slain at Flodden. He figures in the ancient English poem, to which I may safely refer my readers, as an edition, with full explanatory notes, has been published by my friend, Mr. Henry Weber. Tunstall, perhaps, derived his epithet of undefiled from his white armour and banner, the latter bearing a white cock, about to crow, as well as from his unstained loyalty and knightly faith. His place of residence was Thurland Castle.’— SCOTT.

Stanza XXV. line 744. Bent, the slope of the hill. It is less likely to mean the coarse grass on the hill — also a possible meaning of the word — because spectators would see the declivity and not what was on it. For the former usage see Dryden, ‘Palamon and Arcite,’ II. 342–45:—

                 ‘A mountain stood,

Threat’ning from high, and overlook’d the wood;

Beneath the low’ring brow, and on a BENT,

The temple stood of Mars armipotent.’

line 745. The tent was fired so that the forces might descend amid the rolling smoke.

line 747. As a poetical critic Jeffrey was right for once when he wrote thus of this great battle piece:—

‘Of all the poetical battles which have been fought, from the days of Homer to those of Mr. Southey, there is none, in our opinion, at all comparable, for interest and animation — for breadth of drawing and magnificence of effect — with this of Mr. Scott’s.’

line 757. To this day a commanding position to the west of the hill is called the ‘King’s Chair.’

Stanza XXVI. line 795. ‘Badenoch-man,’ says Lockhart, ‘is the correction of the author’s interleaved copy of the ed. of 1830.’ HIGHLANDMAN was the previous reading. Badenoch is in the S. E. of co. of Inverness, between Monagh Lea mountains and Grampians.

Stanza XXVIII. line 867 Sped, undone, killed. Cp. Merchant of Venice, ii. 9. 70: ‘ So be gone; you are sped.’ See also note on ‘Lycidas’ 122, Clarendon Press Milton, vol. i.

Stanza XXX. The two prominent features of this stanza are the sweet tenderness of the verses, and the illustration of the irony of events in the striking culmination of the hero’s career.

line 904. Cp. Pope, ‘Moral Epistles,’ II. 269:—

‘And yet, believe me, good as well as ill,

Woman’s at best a contradiction still.’

line 906. Cp. Byron’s ‘Sardanapalus,’ I. ii. 511:—

                       ‘Your last sighs

Too often breathed out in a woman’s hearing,

When men have shrunk from the ignoble care

Of watching the last hour of him who led them.’

Stanza XXXII. line 972. See above, III. x.

line 976. Metaphor from the sand-glass. Cp. Pericles, v. 2. 26:—

‘Now our sands are almost run.’

Stanza XXXIII. lines 999–1004. Charlemagne’s rear-guard under Roland was cut to pieces by heathen forces at Roncesvalles, a valley in Navarre, in 778. Roland might have summoned his uncle Charlemagne by blowing his magic horn, but this his valour prevented him from doing till too late. He was fatally wounded, and the ‘Song of Roland,’ telling of his worth and prowess, is one of the best of the mediaeval romances. Olivier was also a distinguished paladin, and the names of the two are immortalized in the proverb ‘A Rowland for an Oliver.’ Fontarabia is on the coast of Spain, about thirty miles from Roncesvalles. See Paradise Lost, I. 586, and note in Clarendon Press ed.

line 1011 Our Caledonian pride, fitly and tenderly named ‘the flowers of the forest.’

Stanza XXXIV. line 1034. Cp. ‘spearmen’s twilight wood,’ ‘Lady of the Lake,’ VI. xvii.

line 1035. Cp. Aytoun’s ‘Edinburgh after Flodden,’ vii, where Randolph Murray tells of the ‘riven banner’:—

  ‘It was guarded well and long

By your brothers and your children,

  By the valiant and the strong.

One by one they fell around it,

  As the archers laid them low,

Grimly dying, still unconquered,

  With their faces to the foe.’

line 1059. Lockhart here gives an extract from Jeffrey:—‘The powerful poetry of these passages can receive no illustration from any praise or observations of ours. It is superior, in our apprehension, to all that this author has hitherto produced; and, with a few faults of diction, equal to any thing that has ever been written upon similar subjects. From the moment the author gets in sight of FIodden Field, indeed, to the end of the poem, there is no tame writing, and no intervention of ordinary passages. He does not once flag or grow tedious; and neither stops to describe dresses and ceremonies, nor to commemorate the harsh names of feudal barons from the Border. There is a flight of five or six hundred lines, in short, in which he never stoops his wing, nor wavers in his course; but carries the reader forward with a more rapid, sustained, and lofty movement, than any epic bard that we can at present remember.’

Stanza XXXV. 1. 1067. Lockhart quotes from Byron’s ‘Lara’ as a parallel —

‘Day glimmers on the dying and the dead,

The cloven cuirass, and the helmless head,’ &c.

line 1084. ‘There can be no doubt that King James fell in the battle of Flodden. He was killed, says the curious French Gazette, within a lance’s length of the Earl of Surrey; and the same account adds, that none of his division were made prisoners, though many were killed; a circumstance that testifies the desperation of their resistance. The Scottish historians record many of the idle reports which passed among the vulgar of their day. Home was accused, by the popular voice, not only of failing to support the King, but even of having carried him out of the field, and murdered him. And this tale was revived in my remembrance, by an unauthenticated story of a skeleton, wrapped in a bull’s hide, and surrounded with an iron chain, said to have been found in the well of Home Castle, for which, on enquiry, I could never find any better authority than the sexton of the parish having said, that, IF THE WELL WERE CLEANED OUT, HE WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED AT SUCH A DISCOVERY. Home was the chamberlain of the King, and his prime favourite; he had much to lose (in fact did lose all) in consequence of James’s death, and nothing earthly to gain by that event: but the retreat, or inactivity, of the left wing, which he commanded, after defeating Sir Edmund Howard, and even the circumstance of his returning unhurt, and loaded with spoil, from so fatal a conflict, rendered the propagation of any calumny against him easy and acceptable. Other reports gave a still more romantic turn to the King’s fate, and averred, that James, weary of greatness after the carnage among his nobles, had gone on a pilgrimage, to merit absolution for the death of his father, and the breach of his oath of amity to Henry. In particular, it was objected to the English, that they could never show the token of the iron belt; which, however, he was likely enough to have laid aside on the day of battle, as encumbering his personal exertions. They produce a better evidence, the monarch’s sword and dagger, which are still preserved in the Herald’s College in London. Stowe has recorded a degrading story of the disgrace with which the remains of the unfortunate monarch were treated in his time. An unhewn column marks the spot where James fell, still called the King’s Stone.’— SCOTT. See also Mr. Jerningham’s ‘Norham Castle,’ chap. xi.

line 1084. See above, V. vii, &c.

Stanza XXXVI. line 1096. ‘This storm of Lichfield Cathedral, which had been garrisoned on the part of the King, took place in the Great Civil War. Lord Brook, who, with Sir John Gill, commanded the assailants, was shot with a musket-ball through the vizor of his helmet. The royalists remarked that he was killed by a shot fired from St. Chad’s Cathedral, and upon St. Chad’s day, and received his death-wound in the very eye with which, he had said, he hoped to see the ruin of all the cathedrals in England. The magnificent church in question suffered cruelly upon this, and other occasions; the principal spire being ruined by the fire of the besiegers.’— SCOTT.

Ceadda, or Chad, after resigning the bishopric of York in 669 A. D., was appointed Bp. of Lichfield, where he ‘lived for a little while in great holiness.’ See Hunt’s ‘English Church in the Middle Ages,’ p. 17.

line 1110. The allusion is to the old fragment on Flodden, which has been so skilfully extended by Jean Elliot and also by Mrs. Cockburn in their national lyrics, ‘The Flowers o’ the Forest.’

line 1117. Once more the poet uses the irony of events with significant force.

Stanza XXXVII. line 1125. There is now a font of stone with a drinking cup, and an inscription on the back of the font runs thus:—

‘Drink, weary pilgrim, drink and stay,

Rest by the well of Sybil Grey.’

Stanza XXXVIII. In this stanza the poet indicates the spirit in which romances are written, clearly indicating that those only that have ears will be able to hear. ‘Phonanta sunetoisin’ might be the watchword of all imaginative writers. Cp. Thackeray’s ‘Rebecca and Rowena.’

line 1155. Hall and Holinshed were chroniclers of the sixteenth century, to both of whom Shakespeare was indebted for pliant material.

line 1168. Sir Thomas More, Lord Sands, and Anthony Denny. See Henry VIII.

lines 1169–70. The references are to old homely customs at weddings. See Brand’s ‘Popular Antiquities.’


Scott’s fondness for archaisms makes him add his L’Envoy in the manner of early English and Scottish poets. See e.g. Spenser’s ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’ and the ‘Phoenix’ of James VI.

line 4. Rede, ‘used generally for TALE or DISCOURSE.’— SCOTT.

line 6. Cp. William Morris’s introduction to ‘Earthly Paradise,’ where the poet calls himself

‘The idle singer of an empty day.’

line 17. This hearty wish is uttered, no doubt, with certain reminiscences of the author’s own school days. His youthful spirit, and his genial sympathy with the young, are prominent features in the character of Sir Walter Scott.

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