Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ΤΟ

JOIN B. S. MORRITT, ESQ.,

THIS POEM,

THE SCENE OF WHICH IS LAID IN HIS BEAUTIFUL

DEMESNE OF ROKEBY,

IS INSCRIBED,

IN TOKEN OF SINCERE FRIENDSHIP,

BY

WALTER SCOTT.

Dec. 31st, 1812.

ADVERTISEMENT TO FIRST EDITION, 1813.

The scene of this poem is laid at Rokeby, near Greta Bridge, in Yorkshire, and shifts to the adjacent fortress of Barnard Castle, and to other places in that vicinity.

The time occupied by the action is a space of Five Days, three of which are supposed to elapse between the end of the Fifth and beginning of the Sixth Canto.

The date of the supposed events is immediately subsequent to the great battle of Marston Moor, 3rd July, 1644. This period of public confusion has been chosen, without any purpose of combining the Fable with the Military or Political Events of the Civil War, but only as affording a degree of probability to the Fictitious Narrative now presented to the Public.

ROK EBY.

CANTO FIRST.

I
THE Moon is in her summer glow,
But hoarse and high the breezes blow,
And, racking o'er her face, the cloud
Varies the tincture of her shroud;
On Barnard'sa towers, and Tees's stream,
She changes as a guilty dream,
When Conscience, with remorse and fear,
Goads sleeping Fancy's wild career.
Her light seemed now the blush of shame,
Seemed now fierce anger's darker flame,
Shifting that shade, to come and go,
Like apprehension's hurried glow;
Then sorrow's livery dims the air,
And dies in darkness, like despair.
Such varied hues the warder sees
Reflected from the woodland Tees,
Then from old Baliol's tower looks forth,
Sees the clouds mustering in the north,
Hears, upon turret-roof and wall,
By fits the plashing rain-drop fall

,
Lists to the breeze's boding sound,

And wraps his shaggy mantle round. a “Barnard Castle,” saith old Leland,“ standeth stately upon Tees.” It is founded upon a very high bank, and its ruins impend over the river, including within the area a circuit of six acres and upwards. This once magnificent fortress derives its name from its founder, Barnard Baliol, the ancestor of the short and unfortunate dynasty of that name, which succeeded to the Scottish throne under the patronage of Edward I. and Edward III. Baliol's Tower, afterwards mentioned in the poem, is a round tower of great size, situated at the western extremity of the building. It bears marks of great antiquity, and was remarkable for the curious construction of its vaulted roof, which has been lately greatly injured by the operations of some persons to whom the tower has been leased for the purpose of making patent shot. The prospect from the top of Baliol's Tower commands a rich and magnificent view of the wooded valley of the Tees.

II

Those towers, which in the changeful gleam
Throw murky shadows on the stream,
Those towers of Barnard hold a guest,
The emotions of whose troubled breast
In wild and strange confusion driven,
Rival the flitting rack of heaven.
Ere sleep stern Oswald's senses tied,
Oft had he changed his weary side,
Composed his limbs and vainly sought
By effort strong to banish thought.
Sleep came at length, but with a train
Of feelings true and fancies vain,
Mingling, in wild disorder cast,
The expected future with the past.
Conscience, anticipating time,
Already rues the enacted crime,
And calls her furies forth, to shake
The sounding scourge and hissing snake;
While her poor victim's outward throes
Bear witness to his mental woes,
And show what lesson may be read
Beside a sinner's restless bed.

a

III Thus Oswald's labouring feelings trace Strange changes in his sleeping face, Rapid and ominous as these With which the moonbeams tinge the Tees. There might be seen of shame the blush, There anger's dark and fiercer flush, While the perturbéd sleeper's hand Seemed grasping dagger-knife, or brand. Relaxed that grasp, the heavy sigh, The tear in the half-opening eye, The pallid cheek and brow confessed That grief was busy in his breast; Nor paused that mood-a sudden start Impelled the life-blood from the heart: Features convulsed, and mutterings dread, Show terror reigns in sorrow's stead. That pang the painful slumber broke, And Oswald with a start awoke.

:

IV
He woke, and feared again to close
His eyelids in such dire repose;
He woke,-to watch the lamp, and tell
From hour to hour the castle-bell.
Or listen to the owlet's cry,
Or the sad breeze that whistles by,

Or catch, by fits, the tuneless rhyme
With which the warder cheats the time,
And envying think, how, when the sun
Bids the poor soldier's watch be done,
Couched on his straw, and fancy-free,
He sleeps like careless infancy.

V
Far townward sounds a distant tread,
And Oswald, starting from his bed,
Hath caught it, though no human ear,
Unsharpened by revenge and fear,
Could e'er distinguish horse's clank,
Until it reached the castle bank.
Now nigh and plain the sound appears,
The warder's challenge now he hears,
Then clanking chains and levers tell,
That o'er the moat the drawbridge fell,
And, in the castle court below,
Voices are heard, and torches glow,
As marshalling the stranger's way,
Straight for the room where Oswald lay;
The cry was,-“ Tidings from the host,
Of weight-a messenger comes post.”-
Stifling the tumult of his breast,
His answer Oswald thus expressed

Bring food and wine, and trim the fire;
Admit the stranger and retire.”-

VI
The stranger came with heavy stride,
The morion's plumes his visage hide,

o I have had occasion to remark, in real life, the effect of keen and fervent anxiety in giving acuteness to the organs of sense.

c The use of complete suits of armour fell into disuse during the civil war, though they were still worn by leaders of rank and importance." In the reign of King James I.,” says our military antiquary, “ no great alterations were made in the article of defensive armour, except that the buff-coat, or jerkin, which was originally worn under the cuirass, now became frequently a substitute for it, it having been found that a good buff leather would of itself resist the stroke of a sword; this, however, only occasionally took place among the lightarmed cavalry and infantry, complete suits of armour being still used among the heavy horse. Buff-coats continued to be worn by the city trained-bands tiil within the memory of persons now living, so that defensive armour may, in some measure, be said to have terminated in the same materials with which it began, that is, the skins of animals or leather.”Grose's Military Antiquities.

Of these buff-coats, which were worn over the corslet, several are yet preserved, and Captain Grose has given an engraving of one which was used in the time of Charles I. by Sir Francis Rhodes, Bart., of Balbrough Hall, Derbyshire. They were usually lined with silk or linen, secured before by buttons, or by a lace, and often richly decorated with gold or silver embroidery.

« AnteriorContinuar »