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But, see! look up ! on Flodden bent
The Scottish foe has fired his tent."
And sudden, as he spoke,
From the sharp ridges of the hill,
All downward to the banks of Till,
Was wreathed in sable smoke.
Volumed and fast, and rolling far,
The clouds enveloped Scotland's war,
As down the hill they broke ;
Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,
Announced their march; their tread alone,
At times one warning trumpet blown,
At times a stifled hum, Told England, from his mountain throne,
King James did rushing come. Scarce could they hear or see their foes,
Until at weapon-point they close.
They close, in clouds of smoke and dust,
With sword-sway and with lance's thrust;
And such a yell was there,
Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought upon the earth,
And fiends in upper air;
Oh, life and death were in the shout,
Recoil and rally, charge and rout,
And triumph and despair.
Long look'd the anxious squires; their eye
Could in the darkness naught descry.
At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast ;
And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears ;
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then mark'd they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
Floating like foam upon the wave;
But naught distinct they see :
Wide raged the battle on the plain;
Spears shook, and falchions flash'd amain ;
Fell England's arrow-flight like rain ;
Crests rose, and stoop'd, and rose again,
Wild and disorderly.
Amid the scene of tumult, high
They saw Lord Marmion's falcon fly :
And stainless Tunstall's banner white,
And Edmund Howard's lion bright,
Still bear them bravely in the fight;
Although against them come,
Of Gallant Gordons mnany a one,
And many a stubborn Badenoch-man,
And many a rugged Border clan,
With Huntley and with Home.
Far on the left, unseen the while,
Stanley broke Lennox and Argyle ;
Though there the western mountaineer
Rush'd with bare bosom on the spear,
And flung the feeble targe aside,
And with both hands the broadsword plied,
'Twas vain : but Fortune, on the right,
With fickle smile, cheer'd Scotland's fight.
Then fell that spotless banner white,
The Howard's lion fell ;
Yet still Lord Marmion's falcon flew
With wavering flight, while fiercer grew
Around the battle-yell.
The Border slogan rent the sky !
A Home! a Gordon! was the cry:
Loud were the clanging blows;
Advanced, forced back, now low, now high,
The pennon sunk and rose;
As bends the dark's mast in the gale,
When rent are rigging, shrouds, and sail,
It waver'd mid the foes.
No longer Blount the view could bear:
“ By Heaven and all its saints ! I swear
I will not see it lost!
Fitz-Eustace, you with Lady Clare
May bid your beads and patter prayer :
I gallop to the host.”
And to the fray he rode amain,
Follow'd by all the archer train.
The fiery youth, with desperate charge,
Made, for a space, an opening large ;
The rescued banner rose;
But darkly closed the war around,
Like pine-tree, rooted from the ground,
It sunk among the foes.
Then Eustace mounted too : yet stay'd,
As loath to leave the helpless maid,
When, fast as shaft can fly,
Bloodshot his eyes, his nostrils spread,
The loose rein dangling from his head,
Housing and saddle bloody red,
Lord Marmion's steed rush'd by ; And Eustace, maddening at the sight,
A look and sign to Clara cast,
To mark he would return in haste,
Then plunged into the fight.
Ask me not what the maiden feels,
Left in that dreadful hour alone :
Perchance her reason stoops or reels ;
Perchance a courage not her own,
Braces her mind to desperate tone.
The scatter'd van of England wheels ;
She only said, as loud in air
The tumult roar'd, “ Is Wilton there ?"
They fly, or, madden'd by despair,
Fight but to die, “ Is Wilton there ?"
With that, straight up the hill there rode
Two horsemen drench'd with gore, And, in their arms, a helpless load,
A wounded knight they bore. His hand still strain'd the broken brand, His arms were smear'd with blood and sand :
Dragg’d from among the horses' feet,
With dented shield and helmet beat,
The falcon-crest and plumage gone,
Can that be haughty Marmion!.
Young Blount his armour did unlace,
And, gazing on his ghastly face,
Said, “ By Saint George, he's gone!
That spear-wound has our master sped,.
And see the deep cut on his head !
Good-night to Marmion."
“ Unnurtured Blount! thy brawling cease :
He opes his eyes," said Eustace ; “ peace!"
When, doffd his casque, he felt free air,
Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare :
" Where's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace where ?
Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare !
Redeem my pennon! charge again!
Cry. Marmion to the rescue!'. Vain!
Last of my race, on battle-plain
That shout shall ne'er be heard again!
Yet my last thought is England's : fly!
To Dacre bear my signet-ring,
Tell him his squadrons up to bring.
Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie ;
Tunstall lies dead upon the field,
His lifeblood stains the spotless shield :
Edmund is down: my life is reft ;
The admiral alone is left.
Let Stanley charge with spur of fire,
With Chester charge, and Lancashire,
Full upon Scotland's central host,
Or victory and England's lost.
Must I bid twice? Hence, varlets! fly!
Leave Marmion here alone-to die."
They parted, and alone he lay;
Clare drew her from the sight away,
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmur'd, " Is there none,
halls have nursed, Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring Of blessed water from the spring,
To slake my dying thirst !”
Oh, woman! in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light, quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !
Scarce were the piteous accents said,
When, with the baron's casque, the maid
To the nigh streamlet ran :
Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,
Sees but the dying inan.
She stoop'd her by the runnel's side,
But, in abhorrence, backward drew;
For, oozing from the mountain's side,
Where raged the war, a dark red tide
Was curdling in the streamlet blue.
Where shall she turn! behold her mark
A little fountain cell,
Where water, clear as diamond spark,
In a stone basin fell.
Above, some half-worn letters say,
Drink. weary. pilgrim. drink. and. pray.
For. the. kind. soul. of. Sybil. Grey.
Cyho. built. this. cross. and. well.
She fill'd the helm, and back she hied,
And with surprise and joy espied
A monk supporting Marmion's head ;
A pious man, whom duty brought
To dubious verge of battle fought,
To shrive the dying, bless the dead. Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave, And, as she stoop'd his brow to lave, “ Is it the hand of Clare,” he said, “ Or injured Constance, bathes my head ?”