The Ride To Melrose, From The Lay Of The Last Minstrel. Poem Rhyme Scheme and Analysis


The Lady sought the lofty hallB
Where many a bold retainer layC
And with jocund din among them allB
Her son pursued his infant playC
A fancied moss trooper the boyD
The truncheon of a spear bestrodeE
And round the hall right merrilyF
In mimic foray rodeE
Even bearded knights in arms grown oldG
Share in his frolic gambols boreH
Albeit their hearts of rugged mouldG
Were stubborn as the steel they woreH
For the gray warriors prophesiedI
How the brave boy in future warH
Should tame the Unicorn's prideI
Exalt the Crescent and the StarJ
The Ladye forgot her purpose highK
One moment and no moreH
One moment gazed with a mother's eyeK
As she paused at the arched doorH
Then from amid the armed trainL
She called to her William of DeloraineL
A stark moss trooping Scott was heF
As e'er couch'd Border lance by kneeF
Through Solway sands through Tarras mossA
Blindfold he knew the paths to crossA
By wily turns by desperate boundsA
Had baffled Percy's best blood houndsA
In Eske or Liddel fords were noneL
But he would ride them one by oneL
Alike to him was time or tideI
December's snow or July's prideI
Alike to him was tide or timeM
Moonless midnight or matin primeM
Steady of heart and stout of handN
As ever drove prey from CumberlandO
Five times outlawed had he beenL
By England's King and Scotland's QueenL
'Sir William of Deloraine good at needP
Mount thee on the wightest steedP
Spare not to spur nor stint to rideI
Until thou come to fair TweedsideI
And in Melrose's holy pileQ
Seek thou the Monk of St Mary's aisleQ
Greet the father well from meF
Say that the fated hour is comeR
And to night he shall watch with theeF
To win the treasure of the tombS
For this will be St Michael's nightI
And though stars be dim the moon is brightI
And the Cross of bloody redI
Will point to the grave of the mighty deadI
'What he gives thee see thou keepT
Stay not thou for food or sleepT
Be it scroll or be it bookU
Into it knight thou must not lookU
If thou readest thou art lornL
Better hadst thou ne'er been born '-
'O swiftly can speed my dapple gray steedI
Which drinks of the Teviot clearV
Ere break of day ' the warrior 'gan sayA
'Again will I be hereW
And safer by none may thy errand be doneL
Than noble dame by meF
Letter nor line know I never a oneL
Were't my neck verse at Hairibee '-
Soon in his saddle sate he fastI
And soon the steep descent he pastI
Soon cross'd the sounding barbicanL
And soon the Teviot side he wonL
Eastward the wooded path he rodeI
Green hazels o'er his basnet nodI
He pass'd the Peel of GoldilandI
And cross'd old Borthwick's roaring strandI
Dimly he view'd the Moat hill's moundI
Where Druid shades still flitted roundI
In Hawick twinkled many a lightI
Behind him soon they set in nightI
And soon he spurr'd his courser keenL
Beneath the tower of HazeldeanL
The clattering hoofs the watchmen markX
'Stand ho thou courier of the dark '-
'For Branksome ho ' the knight rejoin'dI
And left the friendly tower behindI
He turned him now from TeviotsideI
And guided by the tinkling rillY
Northward the dark ascent did rideI
And gained the moor at HorsliehillY
Broad on the left before him layY
For many a mile the Roman wayY
A moment now he slack'd his speedI
A moment breathed his panting steedI
Drew saddle girth and corslet bandI
And loosen'd in the sheath his brandI
On Minto crags the moonbeams glintI
Where Barnhill hew'd his bed of flintI
Who flung his outlaw'd limbs to restI
Where falcons hang their giddy nestI
Mid cliffs from whence his eagle eyeK
For many a league his prey could spyK
Cliffs doubling on their echoes borneL
The terrors of the robber's hornL
Cliffs which for many a later yearV
The warbling Doric reed shall hearW
When some sad swain shall teach the groveK
Ambition is no cure for loveK
Unchallenged thence pass'd DeloraineL
To ancient Riddel's fair domainL
Where Aill from mountains freedI
Down from the lakes did raving comeR
Each wave was crested with tawny foamZ
Like the mane of a chestnut steedI
In vain no torrent deep or broadI
Might bar the bold moss trooper's roadI
At the first plunge the horse sunk lowY
And the water broke o'er the saddlebowD
Above the foaming tide I weenL
Scarce half the charger's neck was seenL
For he was barded from counter to tailY
And the rider was armed complete in mailY
Never heavier man and horseA
Stemm'd a midnight torrent's forceA
The warrior's very plume I sayA
Was daggled by the dashing sprayA
Yet through good heart and Our Ladye's graceA
At length he gain'd the landing placeA
Now Bowden Moor the march man wonL
And sternly shook his plumed headI
As glanced his eye o'er HalidonL
For on his soul the slaughter redI
Of that unhallow'd morn aroseA
When first the Scott and Carr were foesA
When royal James beheld the frayA
Prize to the victor of the dayA
When Home and Douglas in the vanL
Bore down Buccleuch's retiring clanL
Till gallant Cessford's heart blood dearV
Reek'd on dark Elliot's Border spearV
In bitter mood he spurred fastI
And soon the hated heath was pastI
And far beneath in lustre wanL
Old Melros' rose and fair Tweed ranL
Like some tall rock with lichens grayA
Seem'd dimly huge the dark AbbayeK
When Hawick he pass'd had curfew rungA2
Now midnight lauds were in Melrose sungA2
The sound upon the fitful galeY
In solemn wise did rise and failY
Like that wild harp whose magic toneL
Is waken'd by the winds aloneL
But when Melrose he reach'd 'twas silence allY
He meetly stabled his steed in stallY
And sought the convent's lonely wallY
If thou would'st view fair Melrose arightI
Go visit it by the pale moonlightI
For the gay beams of lightsome dayI
Gild but to flout the ruins grayI
When the broken arches are black in nightI
And each shafted oriel glimmers whiteI
When the cold light's uncertain showerC2
Streams on the ruin'd central towerC2
When buttress and buttress alternatelyY
Seem framed of ebon and ivoryY
When silver edges the imageryY
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and dieI
When distant Tweed is heard to raveK
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's graveK
Then go but go alone the whileY
Then view St David's ruin'd pileY
And home returning soothly swearD2
Was never scene so sad and fairD2
Short halt did Deloraine make thereD2
Little reck'd he of the scene so fairD2
With dagger's hilt on the wicket strongE2
He struck full loud and struck full longE2
The porter hurried to the gateI
'Who knocks so loud and knocks so late '-
'From Branksome I ' the warrior criedI
And straight the wicket open'd wideI
For Branksome's chiefs had in battle stoodI
To fence the rights of fair MelroseA
And lands and livings many a roodI
Had gifted the shrine for their souls' reposeA
Bold Deloraine his errand saidI
The porter bent his humble headI
With torch in hand and feet unshodI
And noiseless step the path he trodI
The arched cloister far and wideI
Rang to the warrior's clanking strideI
Till stooping low his lofty crestI
He enter'd the cell of the ancient priestI
And lifted his barred aventayleY
To hail the Monk of St Mary's aisleY
'The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by meY
Says that the fated hour is comeR
And that to night I shall watch with theeY
To win the treasure of the tomb '-
From sackcloth couch the monk aroseA
With toil his stiffen'd limbs he rear'dI
A hundred years had flung their snowsA
On his thin locks and floating beardI
And strangely on the knight look'd heY
And his blue eyes gleam'd wild and wideI
'And darest thou warrior seek to seeY
What heaven and hell alike would hideI
My breast in belt of iron pentI
With shirt of hair and scourge of thornL
For threescore years in penance spentI
My knees those flinty stones have wornL
Yet all too little to atoneL
For knowing what should ne'er be knownL
Would'st thou thy every future yearV
In ceaseless prayer and penance drieV
Yet wait thy latter end with fearV
Then daring warrior follow meY
'Penance father will I noneL
Prayer know I hardly oneL
For mass or prayer can I rarely tarryY
Save to patter an Ave MaryY
When I ride on a Border forayV
Other prayer can I noneL
So speed me my errand and let me be gone '-
Again on the knight look'd the churchman oldI
And again he sighed heavilyY
For he had himself been a warrior boldI
And fought in Spain and ItalyY
And he thought on the days that were long since byK
When his limbs were strong and his courage was highK
Now slow and faint he led the wayV
Where cloister'd round the garden layV
The pillar'd arches were over their headI
And beneath their feet were the bones of the deadI
Spreading herbs and flowerets brightI
Glisten'd with the dew of nightI
Nor herb nor floweret glisten'd thereV
But was carved in the cloister arches as fairV
The monk gazed long on the lovely moonL
Then into the night he looked forthF2
And red and bright the streamers lightI
Were dancing in the glowing northF2
So had he seen in fair CastileV
The youth in glittering squadrons startI
Sudden the flying jennet wheelV
And hurl the unexpected dartI
He knew by the streamers that shot so brightI
That spirits were riding the northern lightI
By a steel clenched postern doorV
They enter'd now the chancel tallV
The darken'd roof rose high aloofK
On pillars lofty and light and smallV
The key stone that lock'd each ribbed aisleV
Was a fleur de lys or a quatre feuilleV
The corbells were carved grotesque and grimG2
And the pillars with cluster'd shafts so trimG2
With base and with capital flourish'd aroundI
Seem'd bundles of lances which garlands had boundI
Full many a scutcheon and banner rivenL
Shook to the cold night wind of heavenL
Around the screened altar's paleV
And there the dying lamps did burnL
Before thy low and lonely urnL
O gallant chief of OtterburneL
And thine dark knight of LiddesdaleV
O fading honours of the deadI
O high ambition lowly laidI
The moon on the east oriel shoneL
Through slender shafts of shapely stoneL
By foliaged tracery combinedI
Thou would'st have thought some fairy's handI
'Twixt poplars straight the osier wandI
In many a freakish knot had twinedI
Then framed a spell when the work was doneL
And changed the willow wreaths to stoneL
The silver light so pale and faintI
Show'd many a prophet and many a saintI
Whose image on the glass was dyedI
Full in the midst his Cross of RedI
Triumphant Michael brandishedI
And trampled the Apostate's prideI
The moon beam kiss'd the holy paneL
And threw on the pavement a bloody stainL
They sate them down on a marble stoneL
A Scottish monarch slept belowV
Thus spoke the monk in solemn toneL
'I was not always a man of woeV
For Paynim countries I have trodI
And fought beneath the Cross of GodI
Now strange to my eyes thine arms appearV
And their iron clang sounds strange to my earV
'In these far climes it was my lotI
To meet the wondrous Michael ScottI
A wizard of such dreaded fameH2
That when in Salamanca's caveK
Him listed his magic wand to waveK
The bells would ring in Notre DameH2
Some of his skill he taught to meY
And warrior I could say to theeY
The words that cleft Eildon hills in threeY
And bridled the Tweed with a eurb of stoneL
But to speak them were a deadly sinL
And for having but thought them my heart withinL
A treble penance must be doneL
'When Michael lay on his dying bedI
His conscience was awakenedI
He bethought him of his sinful deedI
And he gave me a sign to come with speedI
I was in Spain when the morning roseY
But I stood by his bed ere evening closeY
The words may not again be saidI
That he spoke to me on death bed laidI
They would rend this Abbaye's messy naveK
And pile it in heaps above his graveK
'I swore to bury his Mighty BookU
That never mortal might therein lookU
And never to tell where it was hidI
Save at his Chief of Branksome's needI
And when that need was past and o'erV
Again the volume to restoreV
I buried him on St Michael's nightI
When the bell toll'd one and the moon was brightI
And I dug his chamber among the deadI
When the floor of the chancel was stained redI
That his patron's cross might over him waveK
And scare the fiends from the wizard's graveK
'It was a night of woe and dreadI
When Michael in the tomb I laidI
Strange sounds along the chancel pass'dI
The banners waved without a blast'I
Still spoke the monk when the bell toll'd oneL
I tell you that a braver manL
Than William of Deloraine good at needI
Against a foe ne'er spurr'd a steedI
Yet somewhat was he chill'd with dreadI
And his hair did bristle upon his headI
'Lo warrior now the Cross of RedI
Points to the grave of the mighty deadI
Within it burns a wondrous lightI
To chase the spirits that love the nightI
That lamp shall burn unquenchablyV
Until the eternal doom shall be '-
Slow moved the monk to the broad flag stoneL
Which the bloody Cross was traced uponL
He pointed to a secret nookU
An iron bar the warrior tookU
And the monk made a sign with his wither'd handI
The grave's huge portal to expandI
With beating heart to the task he wentI
His sinewy frame o'er the grave stone bentI
With bar of iron heaved amainL
Till the toil drops fell from his brows like rainL
It was by dint of passing strengthI2
That he moved the messy stone at lengthI2
I would you had been there to seeY
How the light broke forth so gloriouslyY
Stream'd upward to the chancel roofK
And through the galleries far aloofK
No earthly flame blazed e'er so brightI
It shone like heaven's own blessed lightI
And issuing from the tombS
Show'd the monk's cowl and visage paleV
Danced on the dark brow'd warrior's mailV
And kiss'd his waving plumeS
Before their eyes the wizard layV
As if he had not been dead a dayV
His hoary beard in silver roll'dI
He seem'd some seventy winters oldI
A palmer's amice wrapp'd him roundI
With a wrought Spanish baldric boundI
Like a pilgrim from beyond the seaY
His left hand held his Book of MightI
A silver cross was in his rightI
The lamp was placed beside his kneeY
High and majestic was his lookU
At which the fellest fiend had shookU
And all unruffled was his faceY
They trusted his soul had gotten graceY
Often had William of DeloraineY
Rode through the battle's bloody plainY
And trampled down the warriors slainY
And neither known remorse nor aweJ2
Yet now remorse and awe he own'dI
His breath came thick his head swam roundI
When this strange scene of death he sawY
Bewilder'd and unnerv'd he stoodI
And the priest pray'd fervently and loudI
With eyes averted prayed heY
He might not endure the sight to seeY
Of the man he had loved so brotherlyY
And when the priest his death prayer had pray'dI
Thus unto Deloraine he saidI
'Now speed thee what thou hast to doI
Or warrior we may dearly rueI
For those thou may'st not look uponY
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone '-
Then Deloraine in terror tookU
From the cold hand the Mighty BookU
With iron clasp'd and with iron boundI
He thought as he took it the dead man frown'dI
But the glare of the sepulchral lightI
Perchance had dazzled the warrior's sightI
When the huge stone sunk o'er the tombS
The night return'd in double gloomS
For the moon had gone down and the stars were fewI
And as the knight and priest withdrewI
With wavering steps and dizzy brainY
They hardly might the postern gainY
'Tis said as through the aisles they pass'dI
They heard strange noises on the blastI
And through the cloister galleries smallV
Which at mid height thread the chancel wallV
Loud sobs and laughter louder ranY
And voices unlike the voice of manY
As if the fiends kept holidayV
Because these spells were brought to dayV
I cannot tell how the truth may beY
I say the tale as 'twas said to meY
Now hie thee hence ' the father saidI
And when we are on death bed laidI
O may our dear Ladye and sweet St JohnY
Forgive our souls for the deed we have doneY
The monk returned him to his cellV
And many a prayer and penance spedI
When the convent met at the noontide bellV
The Monk of St Mary's aisle was deadI
Before the cross was the body laidI
With hands clasp'd fast as if still he pray'dI
The knight breathed free in the morning windI
And strove his hardihood to findI
He was glad when he pass'd the tombstones grayV
Which girdle round the fair AbbayeK
For the mystic book to his bosom prestI
Felt like a load upon his breastI
And his joints with nerves of iron twinedI
Shook like the aspen leaves in windI
Full fain was he when the dawn of dayV
Began to brighten Cheviot grayV
He joy'd to see the cheerful lightI
And he said Ave Mary as well as he mightI

Walter Scott (sir)


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