Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Descriptive Poems: III. Places
The Knight
Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
 
From “Marmion,” Canto I.

DAY set on Norham’s castled steep,
And Tweed’s fair river, broad and deep,
  And Cheviot’s mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loophole grates where captives weep,        5
The flanking walls that round it sweep,
  In yellow lustre shone.
The warriors on the turrets high,
Moving athwart the evening sky,
  Seemed forms of giant height;        10
Their armor, as it caught the rays,
Flashed back again the western blaze
  In lines of dazzling light.
 
Saint George’s banner, broad and gay,
Now faded, as the fading ray        15
  Less bright, and less, was flung;
The evening gale had scarce the power
To wave it on the donjon tower,
  So heavily it hung.
The scouts had parted on their search,        20
  The castle gates were barred;
Above the gloomy portal arch,
Timing his footsteps to a march,
  The warder kept his guard;
Low humming, as he paced along,        25
Some ancient Border-gathering song.
 
A distant trampling sound he hears;
He looks abroad, and soon appears,
O’er Horncliff hill, a plump of spears,
  Beneath a pennon gay;        30
A horseman, darting from the crowd,
Like lightning from a summer cloud,
Spurs on his mettled courser proud
  Before the dark array.
Beneath the sable palisade,        35
That closed the castle barricade,
  His bugle-horn he blew;
The warder hasted from the wall,
And warned the captain in the hall,
  For well the blast he knew;        40
And joyfully that knight did call
To sewer, squire, and seneschal.
 
“Now broach ye a pipe of Malvoisie,
  Bring pasties of the doe,
And quickly make, the entrance free,        45
And bid my heralds ready be,
And every minstrel sound his glee,
  And all our trumpets blow;
And, from the platform, spare ye not
To fire a noble salvo-shot:        50
  Lord Marmion waits below.”
Then to the castle’s lower ward
  Sped forty yeomen tall,
The iron-studded gates unbarred,
Raised the portcullis’ ponderous guard,        55
The lofty palisade unsparred,
  And let the drawbridge fall.
 
Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode,
Proudly his red-roan charger trode,
His helm hung at the saddle-bow;        60
Well by his visage you might know
He was a stalworth knight, and keen,
And had in many a battle been.
The scar on his brown cheek revealed
A token true of Bosworth field;        65
His eyebrow dark, and eye of fire,
Showed spirit proud, and prompt to ire;
Yet lines of thought upon his cheek
Did deep design and counsel speak.
His forehead, by his casque worn bare,        70
His thick mustache, and curly hair,
Coal-black, and grizzled here and there,
  But more through toil than age;
His square-turned joints, and strength of limb,
Showed him no carpet-knight so trim,        75
But in close fight a champion grim,
  In camps a leader sage.
 
Well was he armed from head to heel,
In mail and plate of Milan steel;
But his strong helm, of mighty cost,        80
Was all with burnished gold embossed;
Amid the plumage of the crest,
A falcon hovered on her nest,
With wings outspread, and forward breast;
E’en such a falcon, on his shield,        85
Soared sable in an azure field:
The golden legion bore aright,
Who checks at me to death is dight.
Blue was the charger’s broidered rein;
Blue ribbons decked his arching mane;        90
The knightly housing’s ample fold
Was velvet blue, and trapped with gold.
 
Behind him rode two gallant squires
Of noble name and knightly sires;
They burned the gilded spurs to claim;        95
For well could each a war-horse tame,
Could draw the bow, the sword could sway,
And lightly bear the ring away;
Nor less with courteous precepts stored,
Could dance in hall, and carve at board,        100
And frame love-ditties passing rare,
And sing them to a lady fair.
 
Four men-at-arms came at their backs,
With halbert, bill, and battle-axe;
They bore Lord Marmion’s lance so strong,        105
And led his sumpter-mules along,
And ambling palfrey, when at need
Him listed ease his battle-steed.
The last and trustiest of the four
On high his forky pennon bore;        110
Like swallow’s tail, in shape and hue,
Fluttered the streamer glossy blue,
Where, blazoned sable, as before,
The towering falcon seemed to soar.
Last, twenty yeomen, two and two,        115
In hosen black, and jerkins blue,
With falcons broidered on each breast,
Attended on their lord’s behest:
Each, chosen for an archer good,
Knew hunting-craft by lake or wood;        120
Each one a six-foot bow could bend,
And far a cloth-yard shaft could send;
Each held a boar-spear tough and strong,
And at their belts their quivers rung.
Their dusty palfreys and array        125
Showed they had marched a weary way.
 
 
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