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The Ride to Melrose, from The Lay of the Last Minstrel.

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

  The Lady sought the lofty hall,
  Where many a bold retainer lay,
  And with jocund din among them all,
  Her son pursued his infant play.
  A fancied moss-trooper, the boy
  The truncheon of a spear bestrode,
  And round the hall right merrily
  In mimic foray rode.
  Even bearded knights, in arms grown old,
  Share in his frolic gambols bore,
  Albeit their hearts of rugged mould
  Were stubborn as the steel they wore.
  For the gray warriors prophesied
  How the brave boy, in future war,
  Should tame the Unicorn's pride,
  Exalt the Crescent and the Star.XX.

  The Ladye forgot her purpose high
  One moment and no more;
  One moment gazed with a mother's eye,
  As she paused at the arched door:
  Then from amid the armed train,
  She called to her William of Deloraine.XXI.

  A stark moss-trooping Scott was he
  As e'er couch'd Border lance by knee:
  Through Solway sands, through Tarras moss,
  Blindfold he knew the paths to cross;
  By wily turns, by desperate bounds,
  Had baffled Percy's best blood-hounds;
  In Eske or Liddel, fords were none,
  But he would ride them, one by one;
  Alike to him was time or tide,
  December's snow or July's pride;
  Alike to him was tide or time,
  Moonless midnight or matin prime:
  Steady of heart and stout of hand
  As ever drove prey from Cumberland;
  Five times outlawed had he been
  By England's King and Scotland's Queen.XXII.

  'Sir William of Deloraine, good at need,
  Mount thee on the wightest steed;
  Spare not to spur, nor stint to ride,
  Until thou come to fair Tweedside;
  And in Melrose's holy pile
  Seek thou the Monk of St. Mary's aisle.
  Greet the father well from me;
  Say that the fated hour is come,
  And to-night he shall watch with thee,
  To win the treasure of the tomb:
  For this will be St. Michael's night,
  And, though stars be dim, the moon is bright;
  And the Cross of bloody red
  Will point to the grave of the mighty dead.XXIII

  'What he gives thee, see thou keep;
  Stay not thou for food or sleep:
  Be it scroll or be it book,
  Into it, knight, thou must not look;
  If thou readest, thou art lorn!
  Better hadst thou ne'er been born.'XXIV.
  'O swiftly can speed my dapple-gray steed,
  Which drinks of the Teviot clear;
  Ere break of day,' the warrior 'gan say,
  'Again will I be here:
  And safer by none may thy errand be done,
  Than, noble dame, by me;
  Letter nor line know I never a one,
  Were't my neck-verse at Hairibee.'XXV.

  Soon in his saddle sate he fast,
  And soon the steep descent he past,
  Soon cross'd the sounding barbican,
  And soon the Teviot side he won.
  Eastward the wooded path he rode,
  Green hazels o'er his basnet nod;
  He pass'd the Peel of Goldiland,
  And cross'd old Borthwick's roaring strand;
  Dimly he view'd the Moat-hill's mound,
  Where Druid shades still flitted round:
  In Hawick twinkled many a light;
  Behind him soon they set in night;
  And soon he spurr'd his courser keen
  Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.XXVI.

  The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark:
  'Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark.'
  'For Branksome, ho!' the knight rejoin'd,
  And left the friendly tower behind.
  He turned him now from Teviotside,
  And, guided by the tinkling rill,
  Northward the dark ascent did ride,
  And gained the moor at Horsliehill;
  Broad on the left before him lay,
  For many a mile, the Roman way.XXVII.

  A moment now he slack'd his speed,
  A moment breathed his panting steed;
  Drew saddle-girth and corslet-band,
  And loosen'd in the sheath his brand.
  On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint,
  Where Barnhill hew'd his bed of flint,
  Who flung his outlaw'd limbs to rest
  Where falcons hang their giddy nest,
  Mid cliffs from whence his eagle eye
  For many a league his prey could spy;
  Cliffs doubling, on their echoes borne,
  The terrors of the robber's horn;
  Cliffs, which for many a later year
  The warbling Doric reed shall hear,
  When some sad swain shall teach the grove,
  Ambition is no cure for love.XXVIII.

  Unchallenged, thence pass'd Deloraine
  To ancient Riddel's fair domain,
  Where Aill, from mountains freed,
  Down from the lakes did raving come;
  Each wave was cres
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:43 min read

Sir Walter Scott

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

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