« AnteriorContinuar »
A Damsel guider of its way,
A little skiff shot to the bay,
That round the promontory steep
Led its deep line in graceful sweep,
Eddying, in almost viewless wave,
The weeping willow twig to lave,
And kiss, with whispering sound and slow,
The beach of pebbles bright as snow.
The boat had touch'd this silver strand,
Just as the hunter left his stand,
And stood conceal'd amid the brake
To view this Lady of the Lake.
The maiden paused, as if again
She thought to catch the distant strain,
With head up-raised, and look intent,
And eye and ear attentive bent,
And locks flung back, and lips apart,
Like monument of Grecian art.
In listening mood she seem'd to stand,
The guardian Naiad of the strand.
And ne'er did Grecian chisel trace
A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace,
Of finer form, or lovelier face!
What though the sun, with ardent frown,
Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown,-
The sportive toil, which, short and light,
Had dyed her glowing hue so bright,
Served too in hastier swell to show
Short glimpses of a breast of snow;
What though no rule of courtly grace-
To measured mood had train'd her pace,
A foot more light, a step more true,
Ne'er from the heath-flower dash'd the dew;
E'en the slight hairbell raised its head,
Elastic from her airy tread:
What though upon her speech there hung
The accents of the mountain tongue, -
Those silver sounds, so soft, so dear,
The listener held his breath to hear.
A chieftain's daughter seem’d the maid ;
Her satin snood, her silken plaid,
Her golden brooch, such birth betray'd.
And seldom was a snood amid
Such wild luxuriant ringlets hid,
Whose glossy black to shame might bring
The plumage of the raven's wing;
And seldom o'er a breast so fair
Mantled a plaid with modest care ;
And never brooch the folds combined
Above a heart more good and kind.
Her kindness and her worth to spy,
You need but gaze on Ellen's eye :
Not Katrine, in her mirror blue,
Gives back the shaggy banks more true,
Than every free-born glance confess'd
The guileless movements of her breast;
Whether joy danced in her dark eye,
Or woe or pity claim'd a sigh,
Or filial love was glowing there,
Or meek devotion pour'd a prayer,
Or tale of injury call’d forth
The indignant spirit of the north.
One only passion, unreveal’d,
With maiden pride the maid conceal’d,
Yet not less purely felt the flame;
O need I tell that passion's name !
XX. Impatient of the silent horn, Now on the gale her voice was borne :“ Father !” she cried; the rocks around Loved to prolong the gentle sound. A while she paused, no answer came, “Malcolm, was thine the blast ?" the pame Less resolutely utter'd fell, The echoes could not catch the swell. “A stranger I,” the Huntsman said, Advancing from the hazel shade. The maid, alarm’d, with hasty oar, Push'd her light shallop from the shore, And, when a space was gain'd between, Closer she drew her bosom's screen ; (So forth the startled swan would swing, So turn to prune his ruffled wing.) Then safe, though flutter'd and amazed, She paused, and on the stranger gazed. Not his the form, nor his the eye, That youthful maidens wont to fly.
On his bold visage middle age
Had slightly press'd its signet sage,
Yet had not quench'd the open truth,
And fiery vehemence of youth ;
Forward and frolic glee was there,
The will to do, the soul to dare,
The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire,
Of hasty love, or headlong ire.
His limbs were cast in manly mould,
For hardy sports, or contest bold;
And though in peaceful garh array'd,
And weaponless, except his blade,
His stately mien as well implied
A high-born heart, a martial pride,
As if a baron's crest he wore,
And sheath'd in armour trod the shore.
Slighting the petty need he show'd,
He told of his benighted road;
His ready speech flow'd fair and free,
In phrase of gentlest courtesy :
Yet seem'd that tone, and gesture bland,
Less used to sue than to command.
XXII. A while the maid the stranger eyed, And, reassured, at last replied, That highland halls were open still To wilder'd wanderers of the hill. “ Nor think you unexpected come To yon lone isle, our desert home; Before the heath had lost the dew, This morn, a couch was pull'd for you; On yonder mountain's purple head Have ptarmigan and heath-cock bled, And our broad nets have swept the mere, To furnish forth your evening cheer.”“ Now, by the rood, my lovely maid, Your courtesy has err'd,” he said ; “No right have I to claim, misplaced, The welcome of expected guest. A wanderer here, by fortune tost, My way, my friends, my courser lost, I ne'er before, believe me, fair, Have ever drawn your mountain air,
Till on this lake's romantic strand,
I found a fay in fairy land.”
“I well believe," the maid replied,
As her light skiff approach'd the side,
“ I well believe, that ne'er before
Your foot has trod Loch-Katrine's shore;
But yet, as far as yesternight,
Old Allan-bane foretold your plight,-
A grey-hair'd sire, whose eye intent
Was on the vision'd future bent.
He saw your steed, a dappled grey,
Lie dead beneath the birchen way ;
Painted exact your form and mien,
Your hunting suit of Lincoln green,
That tassell'd horn so gaily gilt,
That falchion's crooked blade and hilt,
That cap with heron's plumage trim,
And yon two hounds so dark and grim.
He bade that all should ready be,
To grace a guest of fair degree;
But light I held his prophecy,
And deem'd it was my father's horn,
Whose echoes o'er the lake were borne.”
XXIV. The stranger smiled :—“Since to your home, A destined errant knight I come, Announced by prophet sooth and old, Doom’d, doubtless, for achievement bold, I'll lightly front each high emprize, For one kind glance of those bright eyes ; Permit me, first, the task to guide Your fairy frigate o'er the tide."