Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Barold the Dauntless:

A POEM,' IN SIX CANTOS.

i l'pon another occasion,says Sir Walter, I sent up another of these trifles, which, like schoolboys' kites, served to show how the wind of popular taste was setting. The manner was supposed to be that of a rude minstrel, or Scald, in opposition to The Bridal of Triermain,' which was designed to belong rather to the Italian school. This new fujitive piece was called · Harold the Dauntless ;' and I am still astonished at my having committed the gross error of selecting the very name which Lord Byron had made so famous. It encountered rather an odd fate. My ingenious friend, Mr. James Hogg, had published, about the same time, a work called the · Poetic Mirror, containing imüations of the principal living poets. There was in it a very good imitation of my own style, which bore such a resemblance to ' llarold the Dauntless, that there was no discovering the original from the imitation , and I believe that many who took the trouble of thinking upon the subject, were rather of opinion that my ingenious friend was the true, and not the fictitious Simon Pure.”—INTRODUCTION TO THE LORD OF THE Isles. 1830.?

1 Published by Constable and Co., January 1817, in 12mo, placed on a level with Triermain; and, though it contains 78. 6d.

many vigorous pictures, and splendid verses, and here and 2 “ Within less than a month, the Black Dwarf and old there some happy humour, the confusion and harsh transiMortality were followed by · Harold the Dauntless, by the tions of the fable, and the dim rudeness of character and author of the Bridal of Triermain.' This poem had been, it manners, seem sufficient to account for this inferiority in appears, begun several years back; nay, part of it had been public favour. It is not surprising that the author should actually printed before the appearance of Childe Harold, have redoubled his aversion to the notion of any more serious though that circumstance had escaped the author's remem- performances in verse. He had seized on an instrument of brance when he penned, in 1830, his Introduction to the Lord wider compass, and which, handled with whatever rapidity, of the Isles; for he there says, “I am still astonished at my seemed to reveal at every touch treasures that had hitherto having committed the gross error of selecting the very name slept unconsciously within him. He had thrown off bis fctwhich Lord Byron had made so famous.' The volume was ters, and might well go forth rejoicing in the native elasticity published by Messrs. Constablo, and had, in those booksellers' of his strength."-- Life of Scott, vol. V., p. 181. pliraso, considerable suavees. It has never, however, been

[blocks in formation]

i The dry humour, and sort of half Spenserian cast of these, that have not something attractive to the lover of natural co well as all the other introductory stanzas in the poem, we poetry ; while any one page will show how extremely like it w think excellent, and scarcely outdone by any thing of the to the manner of Scott."--Blackwood's Magazine, 1817. vind we of; an there are few parts, taken separately,

CANTO FIRST.

These few survivo—and proudly let me nay,

Peace of that heathen leader he sougat, Court not the crtic's smile, nor dread his frown; Gifts he gave, and quiet he bought; They well may serve to while an hour away, And the Count took upon him the peaceable style

Nor does the volume ask for more renown, Of a vassal and liegeman of Britain's broad isle
Than Ennui's yawning smile, what tim she drops it
down.

IV.
Time will rust the sharpest sword,
Time will consume the strongest cord;
That which moulders hemp and steel,
Mortal arm and nerve must feel.

Of the Danish band, whom Count Witikind led,
Harold the Dauntless.

Many wax'd aged, and many were dead :
Himself found his armour full weighty to bear,
Wrinkled his brows grew, and hoary his bair;
He lean'd on a staff, when his step went abroad,

And patient his palfrey, when steed he bestrode. 1.

As he grew feebler, his wildness ceased, List to the valorous deeds that were done

He made himself peace with prelate and priest By Harold the Dauntless, Count Witikind's son ! Made his peace, and, stooping his head,

Patiently listed the counsel they said:
Count Witikind came of a regal strain,

Saint Cuthbert's Bishop was holy and grave,
And roved with his Norsemen the land and the main. Wise and good was the counsel he gave.
Woe to the realms which he coasted ! for there
Was shedding of blood, and rending of hair,

v. Rape of maiden, and slaughter of priest,

“ Thou bast murder'd, robb’d, and spoil'd, Gathering of ravens and wolves to the feast:

Time it is thy poor soul were assoil'd; When he hoisted his standard black,

Priests didst thou slay, and churches burn, Before him was battle, behind him wrack,

Time it is now to repentance to turn; And he burn'd the churches, that heathen Dane, Fiends hast thou worshipp'd, with fiendish rite, To light his band to their barks again.

Leave now the darkness, and wend into light:

0! while life and space are given, II.

Turn thee yet, and think of Heaven!” On Erin's shores was his outrage known,

That stern old heathen his head ke raised, The winds of France had his banners blown;

And on the good prelate he stedfastly gazed; Little was there to plunder, yet still

“ Give me broad lands on the Wear and the Tyno, His pirates had foray'd on Scottish hill:

My faith I will leave, and I'll cleave unto thine." But upon merry England's coast More frequent he sail'd, for he won the most.

VI. So wide and so far his ravage they knew,

Broad lands he gave him on Tyne and Wear, If a sail but gleam'd white 'gainst the welkin blue, To be held of the church by bridle and spear; Trumpet and bugle to arms did call,

Part of Monkwearmouth, of Tynedale part, Burghers hasten'd to man the wall,

To better his will, and to soften his heart: Peasants fled inland his fury to 'scape,

Count Witikind was a joyful man, Beacons were lighted on headland and cape,

Less for the faith than the lands that he wan. Bells were toll'd out, and aye as they rung

The high church of Durham is dress'd for the day,
Fearful and faintly the grey brother's sung, The clergy are rank'd in their solemn array:
« Bless us, St. Mary, from flood and from fire, There came the Count, in a bear-skin warm,
From famine and pest, and Count Witikind's ire !" Leaning on Hilda his concubine's arm.

He kneel'd before Saint Cuthhert's shrine,
III.

With patience unwonted at rites divine;
He liked the wealth of fair England so well,

He abjured the gods of heathen race,
That he sought in her bosom as native to dwell. And he bent his head at the font of grace.
He enter'd the Humber in fearful hour,

But such was the grisly old proselyte's look,
And disembark'd with his Danish power.

That the priest who baptized him grew pale and shook ; Three Earls came against him with all their train,- And the old monks mutter'd beneath their hood, I'wo hath he taken, and one hath he slain.

“ Of a stem so stubborn can never spring good !” Count Witikind left the Humber's rich strand, And he wasted and warr'd in Northumberland.

VII. But the Saxon King was a sire in age,

Up then arose that grim convertite, Weak in battle, in council sage;

Homeward he hied him when ended the rite: P 33

[ocr errors]

1

The Prelate in honour will with him ride,

Just is the debt of repentance I've paid, And feast in his castle on Tyne's fair side.

Richly the church has a recompense made, Banners and banderols danced in the wind,

And the truth of her doctrines I prove with my blade, Monks rode before them, and spearmen behind; But reckoning to none of my actions I owe, Onward they pass'd, till fairly did shine

And least to my son such accounting will show. Pennon and cross on the bosom of Tyne;

Why speak I to thee of repentance or truth, And full in front did that fortress lower,

Who ne'er from thy childhood knew reason or ruth! In darksome strength with its buttress and tower: Hence! to the wolf and the bear in her den; At the castle gate was young Harold there,

These are thy mates, and not rational men."
Count Witikind's only offspring and heir.

XI.
VIII.

Grimly smiled Harold, and coldly replied,
Young Harold was fear'd for his hardihood,

“We must honour our sires, if we fear when they chide. His strength of frame, and his fury of mood.

For me, I am yet what thy lessons have made, Rude he was and wild to behold,

I was rock'd in a buckler and fed from a blade; Wore neither collar nor bracelet of gold,

An infant, was taught to clasp hands and to shout Cap of vair nor rich array,

From the roofs of the tower when the flame had broke Such as should grace that festal day:

out; His doublet of bull's hide was all unbraced,

In the blood of slain foemen my finger to dip, Uncover'd his head, and his sandal unlaced :

And tinge with its purple my cheek and my lip.His shaggy black locks on his brow hung low, 'Tis thou know'st not truth, that hast barter'd in eld, And his eyes glanced through them a swarthy glow; For a price, the brave faith that thine ancestors held. A Danish club in his hand he bore,

When this wolf,”—and the carcass he flung on the The spikes were clotted with recent gore;

plain,At his back a she-wolf, and her wolf-cubs twain, “ Shall awake and give food to her nurslings again, In the dangerous chase that morning slain.

The face of his father will Harold review; Rude was the greeting his father he made,

Till then, aged Heathen, ung Christian, adieu ! :) None to the Bishop,--while thus he said :

XII.
IX.

Priest, monk, and prelate, stood aghast, " What priest-led hypocrite art thou,

As through the pageant the heathen pass'd. With thy humbled look and thy monkish brow, A cross-bearer out of his saddle he flung, Like a shaveling who studies to cheat his vow? Laid his hand on the pommel, and into it sprung. Can’st thou be Witikind the Waster known,

Loud was the shriek, and deep the groan, Royal Eric's fearless son,

When the holy sign on the earth was thrown! Haughty Gunhilda's haughtier lord,

The fierce old Count unsheathed his brand, Who won his bride by the axe and sword;

But the calmer Prelate stay'd his hand. From the shrine of St. Peter the chalice who tore, “Let him pass free!-Heaven knows its hour,And melted to bracelets for Freya and Thor; But he must own repentance's power, With one blow of his gauntlet who burst the skull, Pray and weep, and penance bear, Before Odin's stone, of the Mountain Bull?

Ere he hold land by the Tyne and the Wear.”
Then ye worshipp'd with rites that to war-gods belong, Thus in scorn and in wrath from his father is gone
With the deed of the brave, and the blow of the strong; Young Harold the Dauntless, Count Witikind's son.
And now, in thine age to dotage sunk,
Wilt thou patter thy crimes to a shaven monk,-

XIII.
Lay down thy mail-shirt for clothing of hair,- High was the feasting in Witikind's hall,
Fasting and scourge, like a slave, wilt thou bear? Revell’d priests, soldiers, and pagans, and all;
Or, at best, be admitted in slothful bower

And e'en the good Bishop was fain to endure
To batten with priest and with paramour?

The scandal, which time and instruction might cure: Oh! out upon thine endless shame!

It were dangerous, he deem'd, at the first to restrain, Each Scald's high harp shall blast thy fame, In his wine and his wassail, a half-christen’a Dane. And thy son will refuse thee a father's name!” The mead flow'd around, and the ale was drain'd

dry, X.

Wild was the laughter, the song, and the cry; [reful wax'd old Witikind's look,

With Kyrie Eleison, came clamorously in His faltering voice with fury shook :

The war-songs of Danesmen, Norweyan, and Finn, “ Hear me, Harold of harden'd heart!

Till man after man the contention gave o'er, Stubborn and wilful ever thou wert.

Outstretch'd on the rushes that strew'd the hall floor Thine outrage insane I command thee to cease, And the tempest within, having ceased its wild rout, Fear my wrath and remain at peace :

Gave place to the tempest that thunder'd without

« AnteriorContinuar »