The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

The Cout of Keeldar.

The eiry blood-hound howled by night,

The streamers flaunted red,

Till broken streaks of flaky light

O'er Keeldar's mountains spread.

The ladye sigh'd as Keeldar rose:

—“Come tell me, dear love mine,

Go you to hunt where Keeldar flows,

Or on the banks of Tyne?”—

—“The heath-bell blows where Keeldar flows,

By Tyne the primrose pale;

But now we ride on the Scotish side,

To hunt in Liddesdale.”—

—“Gin you will ride on the Scotish side,

Sore must thy Margaret mourn;

For Soulis abhorred is Lyddall's lord,

And I fear you'll ne'er return.

“The axe he bears, it hacks and tears;

'Tis formed of an earth-fast flint;

No armour of knight, tho' ever so wight,

Can bear its deadly dint.

“No danger he fears, for a charmed sword he wears;

Of adderstone the hilt;

No Tynedale knight had ever such might,

But his heart-blood was spilt.”—

—“In my plume is seen the holly green,

With the leaves of the rowan tree;

And my casque of sand, by a mermaid's hand,

Was formed beneath the sea.

“Then, Margaret dear, have thou no fear;

That bodes no ill to me;

Though never a knight by mortal might

Could match his gramarye.”—

Then forward bound both horse and hound,

And rattle o'er the vale;

As the wintry breeze, through leafless trees,

Drives on the pattering hail.

Behind their course the English fells

In deepening blue retire;

Till soon before them boldly swells

The muir of dun Redswire.

And when they reached the Redswire high,

Soft beam'd the rising sun;

But formless shadows seemed to fly

Along the muir-land dun.

And when he reached the Redswire high,

His bugle Keeldar blew;

And round did float, with clamorous note

And scream, the hoarse curlew.

The next blast that young Keeldar blew,

The wind grew deadly still;

But the sleek fern, with fingery leaves,

Waved wildly o'er the hill.

The third blast that young Keeldar blew,

Still stood the limber fern;

And a wee man, of swarthy hue,

Up started by a cairn.

His russet weeds were brown as heath,

That clothes the upland fell;

And the hair of his head was frizzly red,

As the purple heather bell.

An urchin, clad in prickles red,

Clung cowring to his arm;

The hounds they howl'd, and backward fled,

As struck by fairy charm.

—“Why rises high the stag-hound's cry,

Where stag-hound ne'er should be?

Why wakes that horn the silent morn,

Without the leave of me?”—

—“Brown dwarf, that o'er the muir-land strays,

Thy name to Keeldar tell.”—

—“The Brown Man of the Muirs, who stays

Beneath the heather bell.

“'Tis sweet, beneath the heather bell,

To live in autumn brown;

And sweet to hear the lav'rocks swell,

Far far from tower and town.

“But woe betide the shrilling horn,

The chase's surly cheer;

And ever that hunter is forlorn,

Whom first at morn I hear.”—

Says —“Weal nor woe, nor friend nor foe,

In thee we hope nor dread.”—

— But, ere the bugles green could blow,

The Wee Brown Man had fled.

And onward, onward, hound and horse,

Young Keeldar's band have gone;

And soon they wheel, in rapid course,

Around the Keeldar Stone.

Green vervain round its base did creep,

A powerful seed that bore;

And oft, of yore, its channels deep

Were stained with human gore.

And still, when blood-drops, clotted thin,

Hang the grey moss upon,

The spirit murmurs from within,

And shakes the rocking stone.

Around, around, young Keeldar wound,

And called in scornful tone,

With him to pass the barrier ground,

The spirit of the stone.

The rude crag rocked; —“I come for death!

I come to work thy woe!”—

And 'twas the Brown Man of the Heath

That murmured from below.

But onward, onward, Keeldar past,

Swift as the winter wind;

When, hovering on the driving blast,

The snow flakes fall behind.

They passed the muir of berries blae,

The stone cross on the lee;

They reached the green, the bonny brae,

Beneath the birchen tree.

This is the bonny brae, the green,

Yet sacred to the brave,

Where still, of ancient size, is seen

Gigantic Keeldar's grave.

The lonely shepherd loves to mark

The daisy springing fair;

Where weeps the birch of silver bark,

With long dishevelled hair.

The grave is green, and round is spread

The curling lady fern;

That fatal day the mould was red,

No moss was on the cairn.

And next they passed the chapel there;

The holy ground was by,

Where many a stone is sculptured fair,

To mark where warriors lie.

And here, beside the mountain flood,

A massy castle frown'd;

Since first the Pictish race in blood

The haunted pile did found.

The restless stream its rocky base

Assails with ceaseless din;

And many a troubled spirit strays

The dungeons dark within.

Soon from the lofty tower there hied

A knight across the vale;

—“I greet your master well,” he cried,

“From Soulis of Liddisdale.

“He heard your bugle's echoing call,

In his green garden bower;

And bids you to his festive hall,

Within his ancient tower.”—

Young Keeldar called his hunter train;

—“For doubtful cheer prepare;

And, as you open force disdain,

Of secret guile beware.

“'Twas here for Mangerton's brave lord,

A bloody feast was set;

Who weetless, at the festal board,

The bull's broad frontlet met.

“Then ever, at uncourteous feast,

Keep every man his brand;

And, as you mid his friends are placed,

Range on the better hand.

“And if the bull's ill omened head

Appear to grace the feast,

Your whingers, with unerring speed,

Plunge in each neighbour's breast.”—

In Hermitage they sat at dine,

In pomp and proud array;

And oft they filled the blood-red wine,

While merry minstrels play.

And many a hunting song they sung,

And song of game and glee;

Then tuned to plaintive strains their tongue,

“Of Scotland's luve and lee.”

To wilder measures next they turn:

“The Black Black Bull of Norroway;”

Sudden the tapers cease to burn,

The minstrels cease to play;

Each hunter bold, of Keeldar's train,

Sat an enchanted man;

For cold as ice, through every vein,

The freezing life-blood ran.

Each rigid hand the whinger wrung,

Each gazed with glaring eye;

But Keeldar from the table sprung,

Unharmed by gramarye.

He burst the door; the roofs resound;

With yells the castle rung;

Before him, with a sudden bound,

His favourite blood-hound sprung.

Ere he could pass, the door was barr'd;

And, grating harsh from under,

With creaking jarring noise, was heard

A sound like distant thunder.

The iron clash, the grinding sound,

Announce the dire sword-mill;

The piteous howlings of the hound

The dreadful dungeon fill.

With breath drawn in, the murderous crew

Stood listening to the yell;

And greater still their wonder grew,

As on their ear it fell.

They listen'd for a human shriek,

Amid the jarring sound;

They only heard, in echoes weak,

The murmurs of the hound.

The death-bell rung, and wide were flung

The castle gates amain;

While hurry out the armed rout,

And marshal on the plain.

Ah! ne'er before in border feud,

Was seen so dire a fray;

Through glittering lances Keeldar hewed

A red corse-paven way.

His helmet, formed of mermaid sand,

No lethal brand could dint;

No other arms could e'er withstand

The axe of earth-fast flint.

In Keeldar's plume the holly green,

And rowan leaves, nod on;

And vain Lord Soulis' sword was seen,

Though the hilt was adderstone.

Then up the Wee Brown Man he rose,

By Soulis of Liddisdale;

—“In vain,” he said, “a thousand blows

Assail the charmed mail.

“In vain by land your arrows glide,

In vain your faulchions gleam —

— No spell can stay the living tide,

Or charm the rushing stream.”—

And now young Keeldar reached the stream,

Above the foamy linn;

The border lances round him gleam,

And force the warrior in.

The holly floated to the side,

And the leaf of the rowan pale:

Alas! no spell could charm the tide,

Nor the lance of Liddisdale.

Swift was the Cout o' Keeldar's course,

Along the lily lee;

But home came never hound nor horse,

And never home came he.

Where weeps the birch with branches green,

Without the holy ground,

Between two old grey stones is seen

The warrior's ridgy mound.

And the hunters bold, of Keeldar's train,

Within yon castle's wall,

In a deadly sleep must ay remain,

Till the ruined towers down fall.

Each in his hunter's garb array'd,

Each holds his bugle horn;

Their keen hounds at their feet are laid,

That ne'er shall wake the morn.

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