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MacMillan's Reading Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about MacMillan's Reading Books.
       Who ill-deserved my courteous care,
       And whose best boast is but to wear
       A braid of his fair lady’s hair.”—­
       “I thank thee, Roderick, for the word! 
       It nerves my heart, it steels my sword;
       For I have sworn this braid to stain
       In the best blood that warms thy vein. 
       Now, truce, farewell; and ruth, begone! 
       Yet think not that by thee alone,
       Proud Chief! can courtesy be shown: 
       Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn,
       Start at my whistle, clansmen stern,
       Of this small horn one feeble blast
       Would fearful odds against thee cast. 
       But fear not—­doubt not—­which thou wilt—­
       We try this quarrel hilt to hilt.”—­
       Then each at once his faulchion drew,
       Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
       Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
       As what they ne’er might see again: 
       Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
       In dubious strife they darkly closed. 
       Ill-fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
       That on the field his targe he threw,
       Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
       Had death so often dashed aside: 
       For, trained abroad his arms to wield,
       Fitz-James’s blade was sword and shield. 
       He practised every pass and ward,
       To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard;
       While less expert, though stronger far,
       The Gael maintained unequal war. 
       Three times in closing strife they stood,
       And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood: 
       No stinted draught, no scanty tide,
       The gushing flood the tartans dyed. 
       Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
       And showered his blows like wintry rain;
       And, as firm rock or castle-roof,
       Against the winter shower is proof,
       The foe invulnerable still
       Foiled his wild rage by steady skill;
       Till, at advantage ta’en, his brand
       Forced Roderick’s weapon from his hand,
       And, backward borne upon the lea,
       Brought the proud Chieftain to his knee. 
       “Now, yield thee, or, by Him who made
       The world, thy heart’s blood dyes my blade!”—­
       “Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy! 
       Let recreant yield, who fears to die.”—­
       Like adder darting from his coil,
       Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
       Like mountain-cat who guards her young,
       Full at Fitz-James’s throat he sprung,
       Received, but reck’d not of a wound,
       And locked his arms his foeman round.—­
       Now gallant Saxon, hold thine own! 
       No maiden’s hand is round thee thrown! 
       That desperate grasp thy frame might feel,
       Through bars of brass and triple steel!—­
       They tug, they strain!—­down, down they go,
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