« AnteriorContinuar »
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 torrent down had borne
And heap'd upon the cumber'd 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 ask'd 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,
Bewilder'd in pursuit of game,
All seem'd 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 fix'd 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 grayhound stray'd,
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 not 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 ought, 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,
Bewilder'd in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine's vow'd and mortal foe?".
"Warrior, but yester-morn I knew
Naught of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlaw'd desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who, in the Regent's court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabb'd a knight;
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart."
Wrothful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lower'd 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 reck'd the Chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath or Holy-Rood?
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven!"-
"Still was it outrage; — yet, 't is true,
Not then claim'd sovereignty his due;
While Albany with feeble hand
Held borrow'd truncheon of command,
The young King, mew'd in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.
But then, thy Chieftain's robber life!
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,
Wrenching from ruin'd Lowland swain
His herds and harvest rear'd in vain, -
Methinks a soul like thine should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne."
The Gael beheld him grim the while,
And answer'd with disdainful smile:
"Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I mark'd 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 soften'd 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.
Ask we this savage hill we tread
For fatten'd steer or household bread,
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,
And well the mountain might reply, —
'To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast,
Your own good blades must win the rest.'
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think'st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey?
Ay, by my soul! — While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain,
While of ten thousand herds there stray
But one along yon river's maze,
The Gael, of plain and river heir,
Shall with strong hand redeem his share!
Where live the mountain Chiefs who hold
That plundering Lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution true?—
Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu."