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Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A Knight's free footsteps far and wide,-
A falcon flown, a greyhound 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 nought 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 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 Nought of thy Chieftain, Roderick Dhu, Save as an exiled, 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 heardst thou why he drew his blade?
Heardst 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 birth-right 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 strays
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."
Answer'd Fitz-James," And, if I sought,
Thinkst thou no other could be brought?
What deem ye of my path waylaid,
My life given o'er to ambuscade ?".
"As of a meed to rashness due:
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,—
I seek my hound, or falcon stray'd,
I seek, good faith, a Highland maid,
Free hadst thou been to come and go;
But secret path marks secret foe.
Nor yet, for this, even as a spy,
Hadst thou, unheard, been doom'd to die,
Save to fulfil an augury.”-
Well, let it pass; nor will I now
Fresh cause of enmity avow,
To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow.
Enough, I am by promise tied
To match me with this man of pride:
Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine's glen
In peace; but, when I come agen,
I come with banner, brand, and bow,
As leader seeks his mortal foe.
For love-lorn swain, in lady's bower,
Ne'er panted for the appointed hour,
As I, until before me stand
This rebel Chieftain and his band."
"Have then thy wish!"-he whistled shrill,
And he was answer'd from the hill;
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets and spears, and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles grey their lances start,
The bracken-bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow-wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior arm'd for strife.
That whistle garrison'd the glen
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterranean host had given.
Watching their leader's beck and will,
All silent there they stood, and still;
Like the loose crags, whose threatening mass
Lay tottering o'er the hollow pass,
As if an infant's touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,
With step and weapon forward flung,
Upon the mountain-side they hung.
The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi's living side,
Then fix'd his eye and sable brow
Full on Fitz-James-"How say'st thou now?
These are Clan-Alpine's warriors true ;
And, Saxon,-I am Roderick Dhu!"
Fitz-James was brave :-Though to his heart
The life-blood thrill'd with sudden start,
He mann'd himself with dauntless air,
Return'd the Chief his haughty stare,
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before :-
"Come one, come all! this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."-
Sir Roderick mark'd--and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,