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That early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Looked out upon the dappled sky,
Muttered their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o'er, the Gael around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,
And, true to promise, led the way,
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path!- they winded now
Along the precipice's brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling's turrets melt in sky;
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gained not the length of horseman's lance.
'Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain ;
So tangled oft, that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,
It rivals all but Beauty's tear!
At length they came where, stern and steep, The hill sinks down upon the deep.
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose;
Ever the hollow path twined on,
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone;
An hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The rugged mountain's scanty cloak
Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak,
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black, that waved so high,
It held the copse in rivalry.
But where the lake slept deep and still,
Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill;
And oft both path and hill were torn,
Where wintry torrents down had borne,
And heaped upon the cumbered land
Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand.
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass's jaws,
And asked Fitz-James, by what strange cause
He sought these wilds, traversed by few,
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
“Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt, and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell," the Saxon said,
“I dreamt not now to claim its aid.
When here but three days since I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumbering on yon hill.
Thy dangerous chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back from war.
Thus said, at least, my mountain-guide,
Though deep perchance the villain lied.".
“Yet why a second venture try?”
“A warrior thou, and ask me why? –
Moves our free course by such fixed cause
As gives the poor mechanic laws ?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day;
Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A knight's free footsteps far and wide –
A falcon flown, a greyhound strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid;
Or, if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone." -
“Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;
Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
Say, heard ye naught of Lowland war
Against Clan-Alpine, raised by Mar?”
-"No, by my word. Of bands prepared
To guard King James's sports I heard;
Nor doubt I aught, but, when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung.".
“Free be they flung! for we were loth
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung !- as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine's pine in banner brave.
But, stranger, peaceful since you came,
Bewildered in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vowed and mortal foe?"
“Warrior, but yester-morn I knew
Naught of thy chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlawed, desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who, in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight:
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart.”
broom, small rough shrub.
meed, reward. clay'more, a two-handed sword. mewed (mūd), confined. Hol'y-rood, a palace and abbey in reft, deprived of. Edinburgh, Scotland.
trun'cheon (-shun), military baton.
WROTHFUL at such arraignment foul,
Dark lowered the clansman's sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said,
“And heard'st thou why he drew his blade ?
Heard'st thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick's vengeance on his foe?
What recked the chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath or Holyrood ?
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven.”
“Still was it outrage; yet, 'tis true,
Not then claimed sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,
Held borrowed truncheon of command,
The young king, mewed in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.
But then, thy chieftain's robber life!
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,
Wrenching from ruined Lowland swain
His herds and harvest reared in vain.
Methinks a soul like thine should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne.”
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answered, with disdainful smile :
Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked thee send delighted eye
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between.
These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael;
The stranger came with iron hand,
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now? See, rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o'er fell.