Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

"Four years it is since first I met,

Twixt the Duchray and the Dhu, A shape whose feet clung close in a

shroud, And that shape for thine I knew. A year again, and on Inchkeith Isle I saw thee pass in the breeze, With the cerecloth risen above thy feet

And wound about thy knees. · And yet a year, in the Links of Forth,

As a wanderer without rest, Thou cam'st with both thine arms i'

the shroud That clung high up thy breast. · And in this hour I find thee here,

And well mine eyes may note That the winding-sheet hath passed thy

breast And risen around thy throat. “And when I meet thee again, O King,

That of death hast such sore drouth, -Except thou turn again on this shore, The winding-sheet shall have moved

more

once more

And covered thine eyes and mouth. "O King, whom poor men bless for

their King, Of thy fate be not so fain ; But these my words for God's message

take, And turn thy steed, O King, for her sake

Who rides beside thy rein!” While the woman spoke, the King's

horse reared As if it would breast the sea, And the Queen turned pale as she heard

on the gale The voice die dolorously. When the woman ceased, the steed was

still, But the King gazed on her yet, And in silence save for the wail of the sea

His eyes and her eyes met. At last he said :-“God's ways are His

own: Man is but shadow and dust. Last night I prayed by His altar-stone; To-night I wend to the feast of His Son;

And in Him I set my trust. "I have held my people in sacred charge, And have not feared the sting

Of proud men's hate,-to His will resign'd Who has but one same death for a hind

And one same death for a King. · And if God in His wisdom have brought

close The day when I must die, That day by water or fire or air My feet shall fall in the destined snare

Wherever my road may lie. “What man can say but the Fiend hath

set Thy sorcery on my path, My heart with the fear of death to fill, And turn me against God's very will

To sink in His burning wrath ?”. The woman stood as the train rode past,

And moved nor limb nor eye ; And when we were shipped, we saw her

there Still standing against the sky. As the ship made way, the moon once

Sank slow in her rising pall ; And I thought of the shrouded wraith

of the King, And I said, • The Heavens know all." And now, ye lasses, must ye hear

How my name is Kate Barlass : But a little thing, when all the tale

Is told of the weary mass Of crime and woe which in Scotland's

realm God's will let come to pass. 'T was in the Charterhouse of Perth

That the King and all his Court Were met, the Christmas Feast being

done, For solace and disport. 'T was a wind-wild eve in February,

And against the casement-pane The branches smote like summoning

hands And muttered the driving rain. And when the wind swooped over the

lift And made the whole heaven frown, It seemed a grip was laid on the walls

To tug the housetop down.
And the Queen was there, more stately

fair
Than a lily in garden set;

:

And the king was loth to stir from her

side; For as on the day when she was his bride,

Even so he loved her yet.

And the Earl of Athole, the King's false

friend, Sat with him at the board ; And Robert Stuart the chamberlain

Who had sold his sovereign Lord.

And the Knight laughed, and the Queen

too smiled ; But I knew her heavy thought, And I strove to find in the good King's

jest What cheer might thence be wrought. And I said, “My Liege, for the Queen's

dear love Now sing the song that of old You made, when a captive Prince you

lay, And the nightingale sang sweet on the

spray, In Windsor's castle-hold.”

Then he smiled the smile I knew so weli

When he thought to please the Queen ; The smile which under all bitter frowns

Of hate that rose between,
For ever dwelt at the poet's heart

Like the bird of love unseen.

And he kissed her hand and took his

harp, And the music sweetly rang; And when the song burst forth, it

seemed 'T was the nightingale that sang.

Yet the traitor Christopher Chaumber

there Would fain have told him all, And vainly four times that night he

strove To reach the King through the hall. But the wine is bright at the goblet's

brinn Though the poison lurk beneath ; And the apples still are red on the tree Within whose shade may the adder be.

That shall turn thy life to death. There was a knight of the King's fast

friends Whom he called the King of Love ; And to such bright cheer and courtesy

That name might best behove. And the King and Queen both loved

him well For his gentle knightliness ; Aud with him the King, as that eve

wore on, Was playing at the chess. And the King said, (for he thought to

jest And soothe the Queen thereby :) — “In a book 't is writ that this same year

A King shall in Scotland die. " And I have pondered the matter o'er,

And this have I found, Sir Flugh, There are but two Kings on Scottish

ground, And those Kings are I and you. “ And I have a wife and a newborn heir,

a And you are yourself alone; So stand you stark at my side with me

To guard our double throne.

[blocks in formation]

“For here sit I and my wife and child,

As well your heart shall approve, Iu full surrender and soothfastness,

Beneath your Kingdom of Love."

Ah sweet, are ye a worldly creature
Or heavenly thing in form of nature !"
And the song was long, and richly stored

With wonder and beauteous things: And the harp was tuned to every change

But the song's end was all of his love;

And well his heart was grac'd With her smiling lips and her tear-bright

eyes As his arm went round her waist.

lovè's space

Of minstrel ministerings; But when he spoke of the Queen at the

last, Its strings were his own heart-strings. Unworthy but only of her grace, Upon Love's rock that's easy and sure, In querdon of all my She took me her humble creäture. Thus fell my blissful aventure In youth of love that from day to day Floucereth aye new, and further I say. " To reckon all the circumstance

As it happed when lessen gan my sore, Of my rancor and woful chance, It were too long, -I have done therefor.

And of this flower I say no more But unto my help her heart hath tended And even from death her man defended.Aye, even from death,” to myself I

For I thought of the day when she Hail borne him the news, at Roxbro'

siege, Of the fell confederacy. But Death even then took aim as he sang

With an arrow deadly bright; And the grinning skull lurked grimly

aloof, And the wings were spread far over the

roof · More dark than the winter night. Yet truly along the amorous song

Of Love's high pomp and state, There were words of Fortune's trackless

doom And the dreadful face of Fate. And oft have I heard again in dreams

The voice of dire appeal In which the King then sang of the pit

That is uncler Fortune's wheel.
** And under the wheel beheld I there

An ugly Pit as deep as hell,
Thut to behold I quaked for fear :

Anul this I heard, that who therein fell
Came no more ip, tidings to tell :
Whereat, astound of the fearful sight,
I wist not what to do for fright."
And oft has my thought called up again

These words of the changeful song :Wist thou thy pain and thy trarà il To come, well might'st thuit weep and

wail!And our wail, O God ! is long.

And on the swell of her long fair throat

Close clung the necklet-chain
As he bent her pearl-tir'd head aside,
And in the warmth of his love and pride

He kissed her lips full fain.
And her true face was a rosy red,

The very red of the rose
That, couched on the happy garden-bed,

In the summer sunlight glows. And all the wondrous things of love

That sang so sweet through the song Were in the look that met in their eyes,

And the look was deep and long. ’T was then a knock came at the outer

gate, And " The woman you met by the Scottish

Sea, My Liege, would tell you a thing; And she says that her present need for

speech Will bear no gainsaying."

said;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

And that Fate might win sure way from

afar, He had drawn out every bolt and bar

That made the entrance fast.

And yet my voice must rise to thine

ears ; But alas! it comes too late !

And now at midnight he stole his way

To the moat of the outer wall, And laid strong hurdles closely across

Where the traitors' tread should fall.

“Last night at mid-watch, by Aberdour,

When the moon was dead in the skies O King, in a death-light of thine own

I saw thy shape arise. “ And in full season, as erst I said,

The doom had gained its growth; And the shroud had risen above this neck

And covered thine eyes and mouth,

66

But we that were the Queen's bower

maids Alone were left behind; And with heed we drew the curtains

close Against the winter wind. And now that all was still through the

hall, More clearly we heard the rain That clamored ever against the glass

And the boughs that beat on the pane. But the fire was bright in the ingle-nook,

And through empty space around The shadows cast on the arras'd wall 'Mid the pictured kings stood sudden and

tali Like spectres sprung from the ground. And the bed was dight in a deep alcove;

And as he stood by the fire The king was still in talk with the Queen

While he doffed his goodly attire. And the song had brought the image

back Of many a bygone year; And many a loving word they said With hand in hand and head laid to

head; And none of us went anear. But Love was weeping outside the house,

A child in the piteous rain ; And as he watched the arrow of Death, He wailed for his own shafts close in the

sheath That never should fly again. And now beneath the window arose

A wild voice suddenly : And the King reared straight, but the

Queen fell back As for bitter dule to dree; And all of us knew the woman's voice

Who spoke by the Scottish Sea. " () King,” she cried, “in an evil hour

They drove me from thy gate;

· And no moon woke, but the pale dawni

broke, And still thy soul stood there ; And I thought its silence cried to my

soul As the first rays crowned its hair. · Since then have I journeyed fast and

fain In very despite of Fate, Lest Hope might still be found in Gols

will: But they drove me from thy gate. * For every man on God's ground, 0

King, His death grows up from his birth In a shadow-plant perpetually; And thine towers high, a black ye

tree, O'er the Charterhouse of Perth!"

That room was built far out from th:

house; And none but we in the room Might hear the voice that rose beneath,

Nor the tread of the coming doom. For now there came a torchlight-glare,

And a clang of arms there came; And not a soul in that space but thought

Of the foe Sir Robert Græme. Yea, from the country of the Wild Scots,

O'er mountain, valley, and glen, He had brought with him in murderous

league Three hundred armed men. The King knew all in an instant's flasi

And like a King did he stand;
But there was no armor in all the room

Nor weapon lay to his hand.
And all we women flew to the door

And thought to have made it fast:

:

the bolts were gone and the bars

were gone id the locks were riven and brast.

he caught the pale queen in his

arms 5 the iron footsteps fell, a loosed her, standing alone, and

said, Our bliss was our farewell!"

Then the Queen cried, " Catherine, keep

the door, And I to this will suffice!” At her word I rose all dazed to my

feet, And my heart was fire and ice. And louder ever the voices grew,

And the tramp of men in mail; Until to my brain it seemed to be As though I tossed on a ship at sea

In the teeth of a crashing gale.
Then back I flew to the rest ; and hard

We strove with sinews knit
To force the table against the door ;

But we might not compass it.
Then my wild gaze sped far down the

hall To the place of the hearthstone-sill; And the Queen bent ever above the

floor

For the plank was rising still.

twixt his lips he murmured a

prayer, nd he crossed his brow and breast;

proudly in royal hardihood n so with folded arms he stood, the prize of the bloody quest. non me leaped the Queen like a

deer : Catherine, help!” she cried. 1 low at his feet we clasped his knees ogether side by side. h! even a King, for his people's

sake, rom treasonous death must bide !" or her sake most !” I cried, and I

marked he pang that my words would wring. I the iron tongs from the chimney.

nook snatched and held to the King :rench up the plank ! and the vault

beneath hall yield safe harboring." th brows low-bent, from my eager

hand the heavy heft did he take; d the plank at his feet he wrenched

and tore; d as he frowned through the open

floor, igain I said, “ For her sake!” en he cried to the Queen, “God's will

be done!" for her hands were clasped in prayer. i down he sprang to the inner crypt; d straight we closed the plank he had

rippu And toiled to smoothe it fair. las! in that vault a gap once was Wherethro' the King might have fled ; t three days since close-walled had it been

[therein his will; for the ball would roll When without at the palm he play'd.)

And now the rush was heard on the

stair, And God, what help?” was our cry. And was I frenzied or was I bold ? I looked at each empty stanchion-hold,

And no bar but my arm had I ! Like iron felt my arm, as through The staple I made it

pass :Alack! it was flesh and bone-no more! "T was Catherine Douglas sprang to the

door, But I fell back Kate Barlass.

With that they all thronged into the

hall, Half dim to my failing ken; And the space that was but a void before

Was a crowd of wrathful men. Behind the door I had fall'n and lay,

Yet my sense was wildly aware, And for all the pain of my shattered

arm I never fainted there. Even as I fell, my eyes were cast Where the King leaped down to the

pit; And lo! the plank was smooth in its

place. And the Queen stood far from it. And under the litters and through the

bed And within the presses all

« AnteriorContinuar »