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.
 
Narrative Poems: IX. Scotland
Marmion and Douglas
Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
 
From “Marmion,” Canto VI.

NOT far advanced was morning day,
When Marmion did his troops array
  To Surrey’s camp to ride;
He had safe-conduct for his band,
Beneath the royal seal and hand,        5
  And Douglas gave a guide:
The ancient Earl, with stately grace,
Would Clara on her palfrey place,
And whispered in an undertone,
“Let the hawk stoop, his prey is flown.”        10
The train from out the castle drew,
But Marmion stopped to bid adieu:—
“Though something I might plain,” he said,
“Of cold respect to stranger guest,
Sent hither by your king’s behest,        15
While in Tantallon’s towers I stayed,
Part we in friendship from your land,
And, noble Earl, receive my hand.”—
But Douglas round him drew his cloak,
Folded his arms and thus he spoke:—        20
  “My manors, halls, and bowers shall still
  Be open, at my sovereign’s will,
  To each one whom he lists, howe’er
  Unmeet to be the owner’s peer.
  My castles are my king’s alone,        25
  From turret to foundation-stone,—
  The hand of Douglas is his own;
  And never shall in friendly grasp
  The hand of such as Marmion clasp.”—
 
Burned Marmion’s swarthy cheek like fire,        30
And shook his very frame for ire,
  And—“This to me!” he said,—
“An ’t were not for thy hoary beard,
Such hand as Marmion’s had not spared
  To cleave the Douglas’ head!        35
And, first, I tell thee, haughty Peer,
He who does England’s message here,
Although the meanest in her state,
May well, proud Angus, be thy mate:
And, Douglas, more I tell thee here,        40
  Even in thy pitch of pride,
Here in thy hold, thy vassals near,
(Nay never look upon your lord,
And lay your hands upon your sword,)
  I tell thee, thou ’rt defied!        45
And if thou said’st I am not peer
To any lord in Scotland here,
Lowland or Highland, far or near,
  Lord Angus, thou hast lied!”—
On the Earl’s cheek the flush of rage        50
O’ercame the ashen hue of age:
Fierce he broke forth,—“And dar’st thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
  The Douglas in his hall?
And hop’st thou hence unscathed to go?        55
No, by St. Bride of Bothwell, no!
Up drawbridge, grooms,—what, Warder, ho!
  Let the portcullis fall.”—
Lord Marmion turned,—well was his need!—
And dashed the rowels in his steed;        60
Like an arrow through the archway sprung;
The ponderous grate behind him rung:
To pass there was such scanty room,
The bars descending razed his plume.
 
The steed along the drawbridge flies,        65
Just as it trembled on the rise;
Not lighter does the swallow skim
Along the smooth lake’s level brim;
And when Lord Marmion reached his band,
He halts, and turns with clenchèd hand,        70
And shout of loud defiance pours,
And shook his gauntlet at the towers.
“Horse! horse!” the Douglas cried, “and chase!”
But soon he reined his fury’s pace:
“A royal messenger he came,        75
Though most unworthy of the name.
*        *        *        *        *
Saint Mary, mend my fiery mood!
Old age ne’er cools the Douglas blood,
I thought to slay him where he stood.
’T is pity of him too,” he cried;        80
“Bold can he speak, and fairly ride:
I warrant him a warrior tried.”
With this his mandate he recalls,
And slowly seeks his castle halls.
 
 
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