Whom, with a troop of fifty chosen men,
I met advancing. The pursuit I led,
Till we o’ertook the spoil encumber’d foe.
We fought—and conquer’d. Ere a sword was drawn,
An arrow, from my bow, had pierc’d their chief,
Who wore, that day, the arms which now I wear.
Returning home in triumph, I disdain’d
The shepherd’s slothful life: and having heard
That our good king had summon’d his bold peers,
To lead their warriors to the Carron side,
I left my father’s house, and took with me
A chosen servant to conduct my steps—
Yon trembling coward who forsook his master.
Journeying with this intent, I pass’d these towers;
And, heaven directed, came this day, to do
The happy deed, that gilds my humble name.
DOUGLAS’S ACCOUNT OF THE MANNER IN WHICH HE LEARNED THE ART OF WAR.
Beneath a mountain’s
brow, the most remote
And inaccessible by shepherds trod,
In a deep cave, dug by no mortal hand,
A hermit liv’d; a melancholy man,
Who was the wonder of our wand’ring swains,
Austere and lonely, cruel to himself,
Did they report him; the cold earth his bed,
Water his drink, his food the shepherd’s alms.
I went to see him, and my heart was touch’d
With rev’rence and with pity. Mild he spake,
And, entering on discourse, such stories told,
As made me oft revisit his sad cell.
For he had been a soldier in his youth,
And fought in famous battles, when the peers
Of Europe, by the bold Godfredo led,
Against th’ usurping infidel display’d
The blessed cross, and won the Holy Land.
Pleas’d with my admiration, and the fire
His speech struck from me; the old man would shake
His years away, and act his young encounters.
Then having shewn his wounds; he’d sit him down.
And all the live long day, discourse of war.
To help my fancy, in the smooth green turf
He cut the figures of the marshall’d hosts:
Describ’d the motions, and explain’d the use
Of the deep column and lengthen’d line,
The square, the crescent, and the phalanx firm;
For, all that Saracen or Christian knew
Of war’s vast art, was to this hermit known.
Returning homeward by Messina’s port,
Loaded with wealth and honours bravely won,
A rude and boist’rous captain of the sea
Fasten’d a quarrel on him. Fierce they fought;
The stranger fell, and with his dying breath,
Declar’d his name and lineage! Mighty God!
The soldier cry’d, my brother! Oh! my brother!
They exchanged forgiveness:
And happy, in my mind, was he that died;
For many deaths has the survivor suffer’d,