And, as they came, with Alpine’s Lord
The Hermit Monk held solemn word:—.
’Roderick! it is a fearful strife,
For man endowed with mortal life
Whose shroud of sentient clay can still
Feel feverish pang and fainting chill,
Whose eye can stare in stony trance
Whose hair can rouse like warrior’s lance,
’Tis hard for such to view, unfurled,
The curtain of the future world.
Yet, witness every quaking limb,
My sunken pulse, mine eyeballs dim,
My soul with harrowing anguish torn,
This for my Chieftain have I borne!—
The shapes that sought my fearful couch
A human tongue may ne’er avouch;
No mortal man—save he, who, bred
Between the living and the dead,
Is gifted beyond nature’s law
Had e’er survived to say he saw.
At length the fateful answer came
In characters of living flame!
Not spoke in word, nor blazed in scroll,
But borne and branded on my soul:—
Which spills the foremost foeman’s life,
that party conquers in the strife.’
’Thanks, Brian, for thy zeal and care!
Good is thine augury, and fair.
Clan-Alpine ne’er in battle stood
But first our broadswords tasted blood.
A surer victim still I know,
Self-offered to the auspicious blow:
A spy has sought my land this morn,—
No eve shall witness his return!
My followers guard each pass’s mouth,
To east, to westward, and to south;
Red Murdoch, bribed to be his guide,
Has charge to lead his steps aside,
Till in deep path or dingle brown
He light on those shall bring him clown.
But see, who comes his news to show!
Malise! what tidings of the foe?’
’At Doune, o’er many a spear and glaive
Two Barons proud their banners wave.
I saw the Moray’s silver star,
And marked the sable pale of Mar.’
’By Alpine’s soul, high tidings those!
I love to hear of worthy foes.
When move they on?’ ’To-morrow’s noon
Will see them here for battle boune.’
’Then shall it see a meeting stern!
But, for the place,—say, couldst thou learn
Nought of the friendly clans of Earn?
Strengthened by them, we well might bide
The battle on Benledi’s side.
Thou couldst not?—well! Clan-Alpine’s men
Shall man the Trosachs’ shaggy glen;
Within Loch Katrine’s gorge we’ll fight,
All in our maids’ and matrons’ sight,
Each for his hearth and household fire,
Father for child, and son for sire Lover
for maid beloved!—But why
Is it the breeze affects mine eye?
Or dost thou come, ill-omened tear!
A messenger of doubt or fear?
No! sooner may the Saxon lance
Unfix Benledi from his stance,
Than doubt or terror can pierce through
The unyielding heart of Roderick Dhu!
’tis stubborn as his trusty targe.
Each to his post!—all know their charge.’
The pibroch sounds, the bands advance,
The broadswords gleam, the banners dance’
Obedient to the Chieftain’s glance.—
I turn me from the martial roar
And seek Coir-Uriskin once more.