Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
The Camp (from Marmion)
By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
 
[From Canto IV.]

[Marmion and Sir David Lindesay survey the Scottish Camp from Blackford Hill.]

EARLY they took Dun-Edin’s road,
And I could trace each step they trode:
Hill, brook, nor dell, nor rock, nor stone,
Lies on the path to me unknown.
Much might it boast of storied lore;        5
But, passing such digression o’er,
Suffice it that their route was laid
Across the furzy hills of Braid.
They pass’d the glen and scanty rill,
And climb’d the opposing bank, until        10
They gain’d the top of Blackford Hill.
 
  Blackford! on whose uncultured breast,
    Among the broom, and thorn, and whin,
  A truant-boy, I sought the nest,
  Or listed, as I lay at rest,        15
    While rose on breezes thin,
  The murmur of the city crowd,
  And, from his steeple jangling loud,
    Saint Giles’s mingling din.
  Now, from the summit to the plain,        20
  Waves all the hill with yellow grain;
    And o’er the landscape as I look,
  Nought do I see unchanged remain,
    Save the rude cliffs and chiming brook.
To me they make a heavy moan,        25
Of early friendships past and gone.
 
But different far the change has been,
  Since Marmion, from the crown
Of Blackford, saw that martial scene
  Upon the bent so brown:        30
Thousand pavilions, white as snow,
Spread all the Borough-moor below,
  Upland, and dale, and down:—
A thousand, did I say? I ween,
Thousands on thousands there were seen,        35
That chequer’d all the heath between
  The streamlet and the town;
In crossing ranks extending far,
Forming a camp irregular;
Oft giving way, where still there stood        40
Some relics of the old oak wood,
That darkly huge did intervene,
And tamed the glaring white with green:
In these extended lines there lay
A martial kingdom’s vast array.        45
 
Far from Hebudes, dark with rain,
To eastern Lodon’s fertile plain,
And from the southern Redswire edge,
To farthest Rosse’s rocky ledge;
From west to east, from south to north,        50
Scotland sent all her warriors forth.
Marmion might hear the mingled hum
Of myriads up the mountain come;
The horses’ tramp, and tingling clank,
Where chiefs review’d their vassal rank,        55
  And charger’s shrilling neigh;
And see the shifting lines advance
While frequent flash’d, from shield and lance,
  The sun’s reflected ray.
 
Thin curling in the morning air,        60
The wreaths of failing smoke declare
To embers now the brands decay’d,
Where the night-watch their fires had made.
They saw, slow rolling on the plain,
Full many a baggage-cart and wain,        65
And dire artillery’s clumsy car,
By sluggish oxen tugg’d to war;
And there were Borthwick’s Sisters Seven, 1
And culverins which France had given.
Ill-omen’d gift! the guns remain        70
The conqueror’s spoil on Flodden plain.
 
Nor mark’d they less, where in the air
A thousand streamers flaunted fair;
  Various in shape, device, and hue,
  Green, sanguine, purple, red, and blue,        75
Broad, narrow, swallow-tailed, and square,
Scroll, pennon, pensil, bandrol, 2 there
  O’er the pavilions flew.
Highest and midmost, was descried
The royal banner floating wide;        80
  The staff, a pine-tree, strong and straight,
Pitch’d deeply in a massive stone,
Which still in memory is shown,
  Yet bent beneath the standard’s weight
  Whene’er the western wind unroll’d,        85
  With toil, the huge and cumbrous fold,
And gave to view the dazzling field,
Where, in proud Scotland’s royal shield,
  The ruddy Lion ramp’d in gold.
 
Lord Marmion view’d the landscape bright,—        90
He view’d it with a chief’s delight,—
  Until within him burn’d his heart,
  And lightning from his eye did part,
    As on the battle-day;
  Such glance did falcon never dart,        95
    When stooping on his prey.
‘Oh! well, Lord-Lion, hast thou said,
Thy King from warfare to dissuade
  Were but a vain essay:
For, by St. George, were that host mine,        100
Not power infernal, nor divine,
Should once to peace my soul incline,
Till I had dimm’d their armour’s shine
  In glorious battle fray!’
Answer’d the Bard, of milder mood,—        105
‘Fair is the sight,—and yet ’twere good,
  That Kings would think withal,
When peace and wealth their land has bless’d,
’Tis better to sit still at rest,
  Than rise, perchance to fall.’        110
 
Still on the spot Lord Marmion stay’d,
For fairer scene he ne’er survey’d.
  When sated with the martial show
  That peopled all the plain below,
  The wandering eye could o’er it go,        115
  And mark the distant city glow
    With gloomy splendour red;
  For on the smoke-wreaths, huge and slow,
  That round her sable turrets flow,
    The morning beams were shed,        120
  And tinged them with a lustre proud,
  Like that which streaks a thunder-cloud.
Such dusky grandeur clothed the height,
Where the huge Castle holds its state,
  And all the deep slope down,        125
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
  Mine own romantic town!
But northward far, with purer blaze,
On Ochil mountains fell the rays,        130
And as each heathy top they kiss’d,
It gleam’d a purple amethyst.
Yonder the shores of Fife you saw;
Here Preston-Bay and Berwick-Law;
  And, broad between them rolled,        135
The gallant Frith the eye might note,
Whose islands on its bosom float,
  Like emeralds chased in gold.
Fitz-Eustace’ heart felt closely pent;
As if to give his rapture vent,        140
The spur he to his charger lent,
  And raised his bridle hand,
And making demi-volte in air,
Cried, ‘Where ’s the coward that would not dare
  To fight for such a land!’        145
The Lindesay smiled his joy to see;
Nor Marmion’s frown repress’d his glee.
 
Thus while they look’d, a flourish proud,
Where mingled trump, and clarion loud,
  And fife, and kettle-drum,        150
And sacbut deep, and psaltery,
And war-pipe with discordant cry,
And cymbal clattering to the sky,
Making wild music bold and high,
  Did up the mountain come;        155
The whilst the bells, with distant chime,
Merrily toll’d the hour of prime,
  And thus the Lindesay spoke:
‘Thus clamour still the war-notes when
The King to mass his way has ta’en,        160
Or to St. Katharine’s of Sienne,
  Or Chapel of Saint Rocque.
To you they speak of martial fame;
But me remind of peaceful game,
  When blither was their cheer,        165
Thrilling in Falkland-woods the air,
In signal none his steed should spare,
But strive which foremost might repair
  To the downfall of the deer.
 
Note 1. Seven culverins so called, cast by one Borthwick. [back]
Note 2. Each of these feudal ensigns intimated the different rank of those entitled to display them. [back]
 
 
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