The Eve of St. John

Sir Walter Scott 1771 (College Wynd, Edinburgh) – 1832 (Abbotsford, Roxburghshire)



The baron of Smaylho'me rose with day,
He spurr'd his courser on,
Without stop or stay, down the rocky way,
That leads to Brotherstone.

He went not with the bold Buccleuch,
His banner broad to rear;
He went not 'gainst the English yew,
To lift the Scottish spear.

Yet his plate-jack was braced, and his helmet was laced,
And his vaunt-brace of proof he wore;
At his saddle-gerthe was a good steel sperthe,
Full ten pound weight and more.

The Baron return'd in three days' space,
And his looks were sad and sour;
And weary was his courser's pace,
As he reach'd his rocky tower.

He came not from where Ancram Moor
Ran red with English blood;
Where the Douglas true, and the bold Buccleuch,
'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood.

Yet was his helmet hack'd and hew'd,
His acton pierced and tore,
His axe and his dagger with blood inbrued,-
But it was not English gore.

He lighted at the Chapellage,
He held him close and still;
And he whistled thrice for his little foot-page,
His name was English Will.

'Come thou hither, my little foot-page,
Come hither to my knee;
Though thou art young, and tender of age,
I think thou art true to me.

'Come, tell me all that thou hast seen,
And look thou tell me true!
Since I from Smaylho'me tower have been,
What did thy lady do?'-

'My lady, each night, sought the lonely light,
That burns on the wild Watchfold;
For, from height to height, the beacons bright
Of the English foemen told.

'The bittern clamour'd from the moss,
The wind blew loud and shrill;
Yet the craggy pathway she did cross
To the eiry Beacon Hill.

'I watch'd her steps, and silent came
Where she sat her on a stone;-
No watchman stood by the dreary flame,
It burned all alone.

'The second night I kept her in sight,
Till to the fire she came,
And, by Mary's might! an Armed Knight
Stood by the lonely flame.

'And many a word that warlike lord
Did speak to my lady there:
But the rain fell fast, and loud blew the blast,
And I heard not what they were.

'The third night there the sky was fair,
And the mountain-blast was still,
As again I watch'd the secret pair,
On the lonesome Beacon Hill.

'And I heard her name the midnight hour,
And name this holy eve;
And say, 'Come this night to thy lady's bower;
Ask no bold Baron's leave.

'He lifts his spear with the bold Buccleuch;
His lady is all alone;
The door she'll undo, to her knight so true,
On the eve of good St. John.'-

''I cannot come; I must not come;
I dare not come to thee;
On the eve of St. John I must wander alone:
In thy bower I may not be.'-

''Now, out on thee, faint-hearted knight!
Thou shouldst not say me nay;
For the eve is sweet, and when lovers meet,
Is worth the whole summer's day.

''And I'll chain the blood-hound, and the warder shall not sound,
And rushes shall be strew'd on the stair;
So, by the black rood-stone, and by Holy St. John,
I conjure thee, my love, to be there!'-

''Though the blood-hound be mute, and the rush beneath my foot,
And the warder his bugle should not blow,
Yet there sleepeth a priest in the chamber to the east,
And my footstep he would know.'-

''O fear not the priest, who sleepeth to the east!
For to Dryburgh the way he has ta'en;
And there to say mass, till three days do pass,
For the soul of a knight that is slayne.'-

'He turn'd him around, and grimly he frown'd;
Then he laugh'd right scornfully-
'He who says the mass-rite for the soul of that knight,
May as well say mass for me:

''At the lone midnight hour, when bad spirits have power,
In thy chamber will I be.'-
With that he was gone, and my lady left alone,
And no more did I see.'

Then changed, I trow, was that bold Baron's brow,
From the dark to the blood-red high;
'Now, tell me the mien of the knight thou hast seen,
For, by Mary, he shall die!'-

'His arms shone full bright, in the beacon's red light;
His plume it was scarlet and blue;
On his shield was a hound, in a silver leash bound,
And his crest was a branch of the yew.'-

'Thou liest, thou liest, thou little foot-page,
Loud dost thou lie to me!
For that knight is cold, and low laid in the mould,
All under the Eildon-tree.'-

'Yet hear but my word, my noble lord!
For I heard her name his name;
And that lady bright, she called the knight
Sir Richard of Coldinghame.'-

The bold Baron's brow then changed, I trow,
From high blood-red
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 06, 2023

4:14 min read
863

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABAB CDED XFGF HIHI XXCX AFAF JKJK JLJL MEXE NANO PKPK QRQR NQNQ STXI TKTK IUIU CREB XGRL NAXA VTBT XWYW YXXB VKNL ILRL XZMZ NEVE JLOL SQNQ WX
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 4,154
Words 825
Stanzas 29
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2

Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. more…

All Sir Walter Scott poems | Sir Walter Scott Books

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