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The maid, with smile suppress'd and sly,
The toil unwonted saw him try,
For seldom, sure, if e'er before,
His noble hand had grasp'd an oar :
Yet with main strength his strokes he drew,
And o'er the lake the shallop flew;
With heads erect, and whimpering cry,
The hounds behind their passage ply.
Nor frequent does the bright oar break
The darkening mirror of the lake,
Until the rocky isle they reach,
And moor their shallop on the beach.
The stranger view'd the shore around;
'Twas all so close with copse-wood bound,
Nor track nor path-way might declare
That human foot frequented there,
Until the mountain-maiden show'd
A clambering, unsuspected road,
That winded through the tangled screen,
And open'd on a narrow green,
Where weeping birch and willow round
With their long fibres swept the ground;
Here, for retreat in dangerous hour,
Some chief had framed a rustic bower.
XXVI. It was a lodge of ample size, But strange of structure and device; Of such materials, as around The workman's hand had readiest found. Lopp'd of their boughs, their hoar trunks bared, And by the hatchet rudely squared,
To give the walls their destined height,
The sturdy oak and ash unite ;
While moss and clay and leaves combined
To fence each crevice from the wind.
The lighter pine-trees, overhead,
Their slender length for rafters spread,
And wither'd heath and rushes dry
Supplied a russet canopy.
Due westward, fronting to the green,
A rural portico was seen,
Aloft on native pillars borne,
Of mountain fir, with bark unshorn,
Where Ellen's hand had taught to twine
The ivy and Idæan vine,
The clematis, the favour'd flower,
Which boasts the name of virgin-bower ;
And every hardy plant could bear
Loch-Katrine's keen and searching air.
An instant in this porch she staid,
And gaily to the stranger said,
“On heaven and on thy lady call,
And enter the enchanted hall."
XXVII. My hope, my heaven, my trust must be, My gentle guide, in following thee.”He cross'd the threshold—and a clang Of angry steel that instant rang. To his bold brow his spirit rush'd, But soon for vain alarm he blush'd, When on the floor he saw display'd, Cause of the din, a naked blade Dropp'd from the sheath, that careless flung Upon a stag's huge antlers swung;
For all around, the walls to grace,
Hung trophies of the fight or chase :
A target there, a bugle here,
A battle-axe, a hunting spear,
And broad-swords, bows, and arrows store,
With the tusk'd trophies of the boar.
Here grins the wolf as when he died,
And there the wild-cat's brindled hide
The frontlet of the elk adorns,
Or mantles o'er the bison's horns ;
Pennons and flags defaced and stain'd,
That blackening streaks of blood retain'd,
And deer-skins, dappled, dun, and white,
With otter's fur and seal's unite, ,
In rude and uncouth tapestry all
To garnish forth the sylvan hall.
XXVIII. The wondering stranger round him gazed, And next the fallen weapon raised; Few were the arms whose sinewy strength Sufficed to stretch it forth at length. And as the brand he poised and sway'd, “I never knew but one,” he said, “Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield A blade like this in battle field.” She sigh’d, then smiled and took the word ; “ You see the guardian champion's sword: As light it trembles in his hand, As in my grasp a hazel wand; My sire's tall form might grace the part Of Ferragus, or Ascabart; But in the absent giant's hold Are women now, and menials old."
XXIX. The mistress of the mansion came, Mature of age, a graceful dame; Whose easy step and stately port Had well become a princeiy court, To whom, though more than kindred knew, Young Ellen gave a mother's due. Meet welcome to her guest she made, And every courteous rite was paid, That hospitality could claim, Though all unask'd his birth and name. Such then the reverence to a guest, That fellest foe might join the feast, And from his deadliest foeman's door Unquestion'd turn, the banquet o'er. At length his rank the stranger names, “ The knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James; Lord of a barren heritage, Which his brave sires, from age to age, By their good swords had held with toil ; His sire had fallen in such turmoil, And he, God wot, was forced to stand Oft for his right with blade in hand. This morning with Lord Moray's train He chased a stalwart stag in vain, Outstripp'd his comrades, miss'd the deer, Lost his good steed, and wander'd here.”
Fain would the Knight in turn require
The name and state of Ellen's sire;
Well show'd the elder lady's mien,
That courts and cities she had seen;
Ellen, though more her looks display'd
The simple grace of sylvan maid,
In speech and gesture, form and face,
Show'd she was come of gentle race ;
’T were strange in ruder rank to find
Such looks, such manners, and such mind.
Each hint the Knight of Snowdoun gave,
Dame Margaret heard with silence grave;
Or Ellen, innocently gay,
Turn'd all inquiry light away.
“ Wierd women we! by dale and down,
We dwell afar from tower and town.
We stem the flood, we ride the blast,
On wandering knights our spells we cast ;
While viewless minstrels touch the string,
'Tis thus our charmed rhymes we sing.'
She sung, and still a harp unseen
Fill’d up the symphony between.
Song. Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking; Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking. In our isle's enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Dream of fighting fields no more ;
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking.