1 O, go not by Dunorloch's walls
2 When the moon is in the wane,
3 And cross not o'er Dunorloch's bridge,
4 The farther bank to gain!
5 For there the Lady of the Stream
6 In dripping robes you'll spy,
7 A-singing to her pale wan babe
8 An eldrich lullaby.
9 And stop not at the house of Merne,
10 On the eve of good Saint John;
11 For then the swathed knight walks his rounds
12 With many a heavy moan.
13 All swathed is he in coffin-weeds,
14 And a wound is in his breast,
15 And he points still to the gloomy vault,
16 Where they say his corse doth rest.
17 But pass not near Glencroman's Tower,
18 Though the sun shine e'er so bright;
19 More dreaded is that in the noon of day
20 Than these in the noon of night.
21 The night-shade rank grows in the court,
22 And snakes coil in the wall,
23 And bats lodge in the rifted spire,
24 And owls in the murky hall.
25 On it there shines no cheerful light,
26 But the deep-red setting sun
27 Gleams bloody red on its battlements,
28 When day's fair course is run.
29 And fearfully in night's pale beams,
30 When the moon peers o'er the wood,
31 Its shadow grim stretched on the ground
32 Lies blackening many a rood.
33 No sweet bird's chirping there is heard,
34 No herd-boy's horn doth blow;
35 But the owlet hoots and the pent blast sobs,
36 And loud croaks the carrion-crow.
37 No marvel! for within its walls
38 Was done the deed unblest,
39 And in its noisome vaults the bones
40 Of a father's murderer rest.
41 He laid his father in the tomb,
42 With deep and solemn woe,
43 As rumour tells, but righteous Heaven
44 Would not be mocked so.
45 There rest his bones in the mouldering earth,
46 By lord and by carl forgot;
47 But the foul, fell spirit, that in them dwelt,
48 Rest hath it none, I wot!
49 "Another night," quoth Malcolm's heir,
50 As he turned him fiercely round,
51 And closely clenched his ireful hand,
52 And stamped upon the ground; —
53 "Another night within your walls
54 I will not lay my head,
55 Though the clouds of Heaven my roof shall be,
56 And the cold dank earth my bed.
57 "Your younger son has now your love,
58 And my stepdame false your ear;
59 And his are your hawks, and his are your hounds,
60 And his are your dark-brown deer.
61 "To him you have given your noble steed,
62 As fleet as the passing wind;
63 But me have you shamed before my friends,
64 Like the son of a base-born hind."
65 Soft answer made the white-haired chief,
66 Dim was his tearful eye, —
67 "Proud son, thy anger is all too keen,
68 Thy spirit is all too high:
69 "Yet rest this night beneath my roof,
70 The wind blows cold and shrill,
71 With to-morrow's dawn, if it so must be,
72 Even follow thy wayward will."
73 Yet nothing moved was Malcolm's heir,
74 And never a word did he say;
75 But cursed his father in his heart,
76 And sternly strode away.
77 And his coal-black steed he mounted straight,
78 As twilight gathered round,
79 And at his feet, with eager speed,
80 Ran Swain, his faithful hound.
81 Loud rose the blast, yet nevertheless,
82 With furious speed rode he,
83 Till night, like the gloom of a caverned mine,
84 Had closed o'er tower and tree.
85 Loud rose the blast, thick fell the rain,
86 Keen flashed the lightning red,
87 And loud the awful thunder roared
88 O'er his unsheltered head.
89 At length full close before him shot
90 A flash of sheeted light,
91 And the high arched gate of Glencroman's Tower
92 Glared on his dazzled sight.
93 His steed stood still, nor step would move,
94 Up looked his faithful Swain,
95 And wagged his tail, and feebly whined;
96 He lighted down amain.
97 Through porch and court he passed, and still
98 His listening ear he bowed,
99 Till, beneath the hoofs of his trampling steed,
100 The paved hall echoed loud.
101 And other echoes answer gave
102 From arches wide and grand;
103 Close to his horse and his faithful dog,
104 He took his fearful stand.
105 The night-birds shrieked from the creviced roof,
106 And the fitful wind sung shrill,
107 Yet, ere the mid-watch of the night,
108 Were all things hushed and still.
109 But in the mid-watch of the night,
110 When hushed was every sound,
111 Faint doleful music reached his ear,
112 As if rising from the ground.
113 And loud and louder still it waxed,
114 And upward still it wore,
115 Till it seemed at the end of the farthest aisle
116 To enter the eastern door.
117 O! never did music of mortal make
118 Such dismal sounds contain;
119 A horrid eldrich dirge it seemed, —
120 A wild unearthly strain.
121 The yell of pain and the wail of woe,
122 And the short, shrill shriek of fear,
123 Through the winnowing sound of a furnace flame
124 Confusedly struck his ear;
125 And the serpent's hiss, and the tiger's growl,
126 And the famished vulture's cry,
127 Were mixed at times, as with measured skill,
128 In this horrid harmony.
129 Up bristled the locks of Malcolm's heir,
130 And his heart it quickly beat,
131 And his trembling steed shook under his hand,
132 And Swain cowered close to his feet.
133 When lo! a faint light, through the porch,
134 Still strong and stronger grew,
135 And shed on the walls and the lofty roof
136 Its wan and dismal hue.
137 And slowly entering then appeared,
138 Approaching with soundless tread,
139 A funeral band in dark array,
140 As in honour of the dead.
141 The first that walked were torch-men ten
142 To lighten their gloomy road,
143 And each wore the face of an angry fiend,
144 And on cloven goat's feet trod;
145 And the next that walked as mourners meet,
146 Were murderers twain and twain,
147 With bloody hands and surtout red,
148 Befouled with many a stain;
149 Each with a cut cord round his neck,
150 And red-strained starting een,
151 Shewed that, upon the gibbet tree
152 His earthly end had been;
153 And after these in solemn state
154 There came an open bier,
155 Borne on black, shapeless, rampant forms,
156 That did but half appear.
157 And on that bier a corse was laid,
158 As corse could never lie,
159 That did, by decent hands composed,
160 In nature's struggles die.
161 Nor stretched, nor wound, but every limb
162 In strong distortion lay, —
163 As in the throes of a violent death,
164 Is fixed the lifeless clay;
165 And in its breast was a broken knife,
166 With the black-blood oozing slow;
167 And its face was the face of an aged man,
168 With locks of the winter snow:
169 Its features were fixed in horrid strength,
170 And the glaze of its half-closed eye
171 A last dread parting look expressed,
172 Of woe and agony.
173 But oh I that horrid form to trace,
174 Which followed it close behind,
175 In fashion of the chief mourner,
176 What words shall minstrel find?
177 In his lifted hand, with straining grasp,
178 A broken knife he prest,
179 The other half of the cursed blade
180 Was that in the corse's breast.
181 And in his blasted, horrid face
182 Full strongly marked, I ween,
183 The features of the aged corse,
184 In life's full prime were seen.
185 Ay; gnash thy teeth and tear thy hair,
186 And roll thine eyeballs wild,
187 Thou horrible, accursed son,
188 With a father's blood defiled!
189 Back from the corse, with strong recoil,
190 Still onward as they go,
191 Doth he in vain his harrowed head
192 And writhing body throw;
193 For closing round, a band of fiends
194 Full fiercely with him deal,
195 And force him o'er the bier to bend,
196 With their fangs of red-hot steel.
197 Still on they moved, and stopped at length
198 In the midst of the trembling hall,
199 When the dismal dirge from its loudest pitch,
200 Sunk to a dying fall.
201 But what of horror next ensued,
202 No mortal tongue can tell,
203 For the thrilled life paused in Malcolm's heir,
204 In a death-like trance he fell.
205 The morning rose with cheerful light
206 On the country far and near,
207 But neither in country, town, nor tower,
208 Could they find Sir Malcolm's heir.
209 They sought him east, they sought him west,
210 O'er hill and dale they ran,
211 And met him at last on the blasted heath,
212 A crazed and wretched man.
213 He will to no one utter his tale,
214 But the Priest of Saint Cuthbert's Cell,
215 And aye, when the midnight warning sounds,
216 He hastens his beads to tell.
The yell of pain, and the wail of woe,
And the short, shrill shriek of fear,
Through the winnowing sound of a furnace flame, &c.
In Miss Holford's (now Mrs. Hodson) Margaret of Anjou, there is an assemblage of sounds, preceding a scene of terrific incantation,[Page 308] which is finely imagined, and produces a powerful effect; and this passage in the above ballad may, perhaps, lead the reader to suppose that I had that description in my mind when I wrote it. Had this been the case, I should have owned it readily. But the Ballad of Malcolm's Heir was written several years before the publication of that Poem; and in the hands of the immediate friends of my own family; though as no copy of it was ever given away, it was impossible it could ever reach further. I, therefore, claim it, though acknowledging great inferiority, as a coincidence of thought with that distinguished Author.
"Their senses reeled, for every sound
Which the ear loves not, filled the air;
Each din that reason might confound
Echoed in ceaseless tumult there;
Swift whirling wheels, — the shriek intense
Of one who dies by violence;
Yell, hoarse and deep, from blood-hound's throat;
The night-crow's evil-boding note;
Such wild and chattering sounds as throng
Upon the moon-struck idiot's tongue:
The roar of bursting flames, the dash
Of waters wildly swelling round,
Which unrestrained by dyke or mound,
Leap down at once with hideous crash."
MARGARET OF ANJOU, Cant. VII.