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But yearly, when returned the night
Of his strange combat with the sprite,
His wound must bleed and smart;
Lord Gifford then would gibing say,
Bold as ye were, my liege, ye pay
penance of your start.
Long since, beneath Dunfermline's nave,
King Alexander fills his grave,
Our lady give him rest!
Yet still the nightly spear and shield,
The elfin warrior doth wield,
Upon the brown hill's breast;
And many a knight hath proved his chance,
In the charmed ring to break a lance,
But all have foully sped;
Save two, as legends tell, and they
Were Wallace wight, and Gilbert Hay-
Gentles, my tale is said."
The quaighs* were deep, the liquor strong,
And on the tale the yeoman throng
Had made a comment sage and long,
But Marmion gave a sign ;
And, with their lord, the squires retire;
The rest, around the hostel fire,
Their drowsy limbs recline;
* A wooden cup, composed of staves hooped together.
For pillow, underneath each head,
The quiver and the targe were laid :
Deep slumbering on the hostel floor,
Oppressed with toil and ale, they snore :
The dying flame, in fitful change,
Threw on the group its shadows strange.
Apart, and nestling in the hay
Of a waste loft, Fitz-Eustace lay ;
Scarce, by the pale moonlight, was seen
The foldings of his mantle green:
Lightly he dreamt, as youth will dream,
Of sport by thicket, or by stream,
Of hawk or hound, of ring or glove,
Or, lighter yet, of lady's love.
A cautious tread his slumber broke,
And, close beside him, when he woke,
In moonbeam half, and half in gloom,
Stood a tall form, with nodding plume;
But, ere his dagger Eustace drew,
His master Marmion's voice he knew.
- Fitz-Eustace! rise,–I cannot rest;
Yon churl's wild legend haunts my breast,
And graver thoughts have chafed my mood;
The air must cool my feverish blood;
And fain would I ride forth, to see
The scene of elfin chivalry.
Arise, and saddle me my steed;
And, gentle Eustace, take good heed
Thou dost not rouse these drowsy slaves;
I would not, that the prating knaves
Had cause for saying, o'er their ale,
That I could credit such a tale.”
Then softly down the steps they slid,
Eustace the stable door undid,
And, darkling, Marmion's steed arrayed,
While whispering thus the Baron said:
XXIX. “Did'st never, good my youth, hear tell,
That on the hour when I was born, St. George, who graced my sire's chapelle, Down from his steed of marble fell,
A weary weight forlorn; The flattering chaplains all agree, The champion left his steed to me: I would, the omen's truth to show, That I could meet this Elfin Foe! Blithe would I battle, for the right To ask one question at the sprite :Vain thought! for elves, if elves there be, An empty race, by fount or sea, To dashing waters dance and sing, Or round the green oak wheel their ring."Thus speaking, he his steed bestrode, And from the hostel slowly-rode.
Fitz-Eustace followed him abroad,
And marked him pace the village road,
And listened to his horse's tramp,
Till, by the lessening sound,
He judged that of the Pictish camp
Lord Marmion sought the round.
Wonder it seemed, in the squire's eyes,
That one, so wary held, and wise,
Of whom 'twas said, he scarce received
For gospel, what the church believed,
Should, stirred by idle tale,
Ride forth in silence of the night,
As hoping half to meet a sprite,
Arrayed in plate and mail.
For little did Fitz-Eustace know,
That passions, in contending flow,
Unfix the strongest mind;
Wearied from doubt to doubt to flee,
We welcome fond credulity,
Guide confident, though blind.
Little for this Fitz-Eustace cared,
But, patient, waited till he heard,
At distance, pricked to utmost speed,
The foot-tramp of a flying steed,
Come town-ward rushing on:
First, dead, as if on turf it trod,
Then, clattering on the village road,
In other pace than forth he yode, *
Returned Lord Marmion.
Down hastily he sprung from selle,
And, in his haste, well nigh he fell;
To the squire's hand the rein he threw,
And spoke no word as he withdrew;
But yet the moonlight did betray,
The falcon crest was soiled with clay ;
And plainly might Fitz-Eustace see,
By stains upon the charger's knee,
And his left side, that on the moor
He had not kept his footing sure.
Long musing on these wondrous signs;
At length to rest the squire reclines,
Broken and short; for still, between,
Would dreams of terror intervene:
Eustace did ne'er so blithely mark
The first notes of the morning lark.
* Used by old poets for wenta