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In vain, the learning of the age
Unclasp'd the sable-lettered page;
Even in its treasures he could find
Food for the fever of his mind.
Eager he read whatever tells

Of magic, cabala, and spells,

And every dark pursuit allied

To curious and presumptuous pride;

Till, with fired brain and nerves o'er-strung,
And heart with mystic horrors wrung,

Desperate he sought Benharrow's den,

And hid him from the haunts of men.


The desert gave him visions wild,
Such as might suit the spectre's child.
Where with black cliffs the torrents toil,
He watch'd the wheeling eddies boil,
Till, from their foam, his dazzled eyes
Beheld the River Demon rise;
The mountain mist took form and limb,
Of noontide hag, or goblin grim;

The midnight wind came wild and dread,
Swell'd with the voices of the dead;

Far on the future battle-heath

His eye beheld the ranks of death:

Thus the lone Seer, from mankind hurl'd,
Shaped forth a disembodied world.

One lingering sympathy of mind.

Still bound him to the mortal kind;
The only parent he could claim
Of ancient Alpine's lineage came.







Late had he heard, in prophet's dream,
The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream;
Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast,
Of charging steeds, careering fast
Along Benharrow's shingly side,

Where mortal horseman ne'er might ride;
The thunderbolt had split the pine,-
All augur'd ill to Alpine's line.



He girt his loins, and came to show

The signals of impending woe,

And now stood prompt to bless or ban,
As bade the Chieftain of his clan.



'Twas all prepared ;—and from the rock,
A goat, the patriarch of the flock,
Before the kindling pile was laid,
And pierced by Roderick's ready blade.
Patient the sickening victim eyed
The life-blood ebb in crimson tide,
Down his clogg'd beard and shaggy limb,
Till darkness glazed his eyeballs dim.
The grisly priest, with murmuring prayer,
A slender crosslet form'd with care,
A cubit's length in measure due;
The shaft and limbs were rods of yew,
Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave
Their shadows o'er Clan-Alpine's grave,
And, answering Lomond's breezes deep,
Soothe many a chieftain's endless sleep.
The Cross, thus form'd, he held on high,
With wasted hand, and haggard eye,




And strange and mingled feelings woke,
While his anathema he spoke.


'Woe to the clansman, who shall view This symbol of sepulchral yew,

Forgetful that its branches grew

Where weep the heavens their holiest dew
On Alpine's dwelling low!

Deserter of his Chieftain's trust,

He ne'er shall mingle with their dust,
But, from his sires and kindred thrust,
Each clansman's execration just

Shall doom him wrath and woe.'
He paused; the word the vassals took,
With forward step and fiery look,
On high their naked brands they shook,
Their clattering targets wildly strook;
And first in murmur low,

Then, like the billow in his course,
That far to seaward finds his source,

And flings to shore his muster'd force,

Burst, with loud roar, their answer hoarse,
'Woe to the traitor, woe!'

Ben-an's grey scalp the accents knew,
The joyous wolf from covert drew,
The exulting eagle scream'd afar,—
They knew the voice of Alpine's war.


The shout was hush'd on lake and fell,
The monk resumed his mutter'd spell:

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Dismal and low its accents came,

The while he scathed the Cross with flame;
And the few words that reach'd the air,
Although the holiest name was there,
Had more of blasphemy than prayer.
But when he shook above the crowd
Its kindled points, he spoke aloud :—
'Woe to the wretch who fails to rear
At this dread sign the ready spear!
For, as the flames this symbol sear,
His home, the refuge of his fear,

A kindred fate shall know;
Far o'er its roof the volumed flame
Clan-Alpine's vengeance shall proclaim,
While maids and matrons on his name
Shall call down wretchedness and shame,
And infamy and woe.'

Then rose the cry of females, shrill
As goss-hawk's whistle on the hill,
Denouncing misery and ill,

Mingled with childhood's babbling trill
Of curses stammer'd slow;

Answering, with imprecation dread,
'Sunk be his home in embers red!

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And cursed be the meanest shed

That e'er shall hide the houseless head,

A sharp and shrieking echo gave,

We doom to want and woe!'

Coir-Uriskin, thy goblin cave!

And the grey pass where birches wave
On Beala-nam-bo.



Then deeper paused the priest anew,
And hard his labouring breath he drew,
While, with set teeth and clenched hand,
And eyes that glow'd like fiery brand,
He meditated curse more dread,
And deadlier, on the clansman's head,
Who, summon'd to his Chieftain's aid,
The signal saw and disobeyed.

The crosslet's points of sparkling wood
He quenched among the bubbling blood,
And, as again the sign he rear'd,

Hollow and hoarse his voice was heard:
'When flits this Cross from man to man,
Vich-Alpine's summons to his clan,
Burst be the ear that fails to heed!
Palsied the foot that shuns to speed!
May ravens tear the careless eyes,
Wolves make the coward heart their prize!
As sinks that blood-stream in the earth,
So may his heart's-blood drench his hearth!
As dies in hissing gore the spark,
Quench thou his light, Destruction dark,
And be the grace to him denied,
Bought by this sign to all beside!'
He ceased; no echo gave agen
The murmur of the deep Amen.


Then Roderick, with impatient look,
From Brian's hand the symbol took:






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