It was a wild and strange retreat,
As e’er was trod by outlaw’s feet.
The dell, upon the mountain’s crest,
Yawned like a gash on warrior’s breast;
Its trench had stayed full many a rock,
Hurled by primeval earthquake shock
From Benvenue’s gray summit wild,
And here, in random ruin piled,
They frowned incumbent o’er the spot
And formed the rugged sylvan “rot.
The oak and birch with mingled shade
At noontide there a twilight made,
Unless when short and sudden shone
Some straggling beam on cliff or stone,
With such a glimpse as prophet’s eye
Gains on thy depth, Futurity.
No murmur waked the solemn still,
Save tinkling of a fountain rill;
But when the wind chafed with the lake,
A sullen sound would upward break,
With dashing hollow voice, that spoke
The incessant war of wave and rock.
Suspended cliffs with hideous sway
Seemed nodding o’er the cavern gray.
From such a den the wolf had sprung,
In such the wild-cat leaves her young;
Yet Douglas and his daughter fair
Sought for a space their safety there.
Gray Superstition’s whisper dread
Debarred the spot to vulgar tread;
For there, she said, did fays resort,
And satyrs hold their sylvan court,
By moonlight tread their mystic maze,
And blast the rash beholder’s gaze.
Now eve, with western shadows long,
Floated on Katrine bright and strong,
When Roderick with a chosen few
Repassed the heights of Benvenue.
Above the Goblin Cave they go,
Through the wild pass of Beal-nam-bo;
The prompt retainers speed before,
To launch the shallop from the shore,
For ’cross Loch Katrine lies his way
To view the passes of Achray,
And place his clansmen in array.
Yet lags the Chief in musing mind,
Unwonted sight, his men behind.
A single page, to bear his sword,
Alone attended on his lord;
The rest their way through thickets break,
And soon await him by the lake.
It was a fair and gallant sight
To view them from the neighboring height,
By the low-levelled sunbeam’s light!
For strength and stature, from the clan
Each warrior was a chosen man,
As even afar might well be seen,
By their proud step and martial mien.
heir feathers dance, their tartars float,
Their targets gleam, as by the boat
A wild and warlike group they stand,
That well became such mountain-strand.
Their Chief with step reluctant still
Was lingering on the craggy hill,
Hard by where turned apart the road
To Douglas’s obscure abode.
It was but with that dawning morn
That Roderick Dhu had proudly sworn
To drown his love in war’s wild roar,
Nor think of Ellen Douglas more;
But he who stems a stream with sand,
And fetters flame with flaxen band,