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Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

Marmion: Canto 6

(excerpt)


          551Next morn the Baron climb'd the tower,
          552To view afar the Scottish power,
          553     Encamp'd on Flodden edge:
          554The white pavilions made a show,
          555Like remnants of the winter snow,
          556     Along the dusky ridge.
          557Long Marmion look'd:--at length his eye
          558Unusual movement might descry
          559     Amid the shifting lines:
          560The Scottish host drawn out appears,
          561For, flashing on the hedge of spears
          562     The eastern sunbeam shines.
          563Their front now deepening, now extending;
          564Their flank inclining, wheeling, bending,
          565Now drawing back, and now descending,
          566The skilful Marmion well could know,
          567They watch'd the motions of some foe,
          568Who traversed on the plain below.

XIX
          569Even so it was. From Flodden ridge
          570     The Scots beheld the English host
          571     Leave Barmore-wood, their evening post,
          572     And heedful watch'd them as they cross'd
          573The Till by Twisel Bridge.
          574     High sight it is, and haughty, while
          575     They dive into the deep defile;
          576     Beneath the cavern'd cliff they fall,
          577     Beneath the castle's airy wall.
          578By rock, by oak, by hawthorn-tree,
          579     Troop after troop are disappearing;
          580     Troop after troop their banners rearing,
          581Upon the eastern bank you see.
          582Still pouring down the rocky den,
          583     Where flows the sullen Till,
          584And rising from the dim-wood glen,
          585Standards on standards, men on men,
          586     In slow succession still,
          587And, sweeping o'er the Gothic arch,
          588And pressing on, in ceaseless march,
          589     To gain the opposing hill.
          590That morn, to many a trumpet clang,
          591Twisel! thy rock's deep echo rang;
          592And many a chief of birth and rank,
          593Saint Helen! at thy fountain drank.
          594Thy hawthorn glade, which now we see
          595In spring-tide bloom so lavishly,
          596Had then from many an axe its doom,
          597To give the marching columns room.

XX
          598And why stands Scotland idly now,
          599Dark Flodden! on thy airy brow,
          600Since England gains the pass the while,
          601And struggles through the deep defile?
          602What checks the fiery soul of James?
          603Why sits that champion of the dames
          604     Inactive on his steed,
          605And sees, between him and his land,
          606Between him and Tweed's southern strand,
          607     His host Lord Surrey lead?
          608What 'vails the vain knight-errant's brand?
          609--O, Douglas, for thy leading wand!
          610       Fierce Randolph, for thy speed!
          611O for one hour of Wallace wight,
          612Or well-skill'd Bruce, to rule the fight,
          613And cry--"Saint Andrew and our right!"
          614Another sight had seen that morn,
          615From Fate's dark book a leaf been torn,
          616And Flodden had been Bannockbourne!--
          617The precious hour has pass'd in vain,
          618And England's host has gain'd the plain;
          619Wheeling their march, and circling still,
          620Around the base of Flodden hill.

XXI
          621Ere yet the bands met Marmion's eye,
          622Fitz-Eustace shouted loud and high,
          623"Hark! hark! my lord, an English drum!
          624And see ascending squadrons come
          625     Between Tweed's river and the hill,
          626Foot, horse, and cannon:--hap what hap,
          627My basnet to a prentice cap,
          628     Lord Surrey's o'er the Till!--
          629Yet more! yet more!--how far array'd
          630They file from out the hawthorn shade,
          631     And sweep so gallant by!
          632With all their banners bravely spread,
          633     And all their armour flashing high,
          634Saint George might waken from the dead,
          635     To see fair England's standards fly."--
          636"Stint in thy prate," quoth Blount, "thou'dst best,
          637And listen to our lord's behest."--
          638With kindling brow Lord Marmion said,--
          639"This instant be our band array'd;
          640The river must be quickly cross'd,
          641That we may join Lord Surrey's host.
          642If fight King James,--as well I trust,
          643That fight he will, and fight he must,--
          644The Lady Clare behind our lines
          645Shall tarry, while the battle joins."

XXII
          646Himself he swift on horseback threw,
          647Scarce to the Abbot bade adieu;
          648Far less would listen to his prayer,
          649To leave behind the helpless Clare.
          650Down to the Tweed his band he drew,
          651And mutter'd as the flood they view,
          652"The pheasant in the falcon's claw,
          653He scarce will yield to please a daw:
          654Lord Angus may the Abbot awe,
          655     So Clare shall bide with me."
          656Then on that dangerous ford, and deep,
          657Where to the Tweed Leat's eddies creep,
          658     He ventured desperately:
          659And not a moment will he bide,
          660Till squire, or groom, before him ride;
          661Headmost of all he stems the tide,
          662     And stems it gallantly.
          663Eustace held Clare upon her horse,
          664     Old Hubert led her rein,
          665Stoutly they braved the current's course,
          666And, though far downward driven per force,
          667     The southern bank they gain;
          668Behind them straggling, came to shore,
          669     As best they might, the train:
          670Each o'er his head his yew-bow bore,
          671     A caution not in vain;
          672Deep need that day that every string,
          673By wet unharm'd, should sharply ring.
          674A moment then Lord Marmion staid,
          675And breathed his steed, his men array'd,
          676     Then forward moved his band,
          677Until, Lord Surrey's rear-guard won,
          678He halted by a Cross of Stone,
          679That, on a hillock standing lone,
          680     Did all the field command.

XXIII
          681Hence might they see the full array
          682Of either host, for deadly fray;
          683Their marshall'd lines stretch'd east and west,
          684     And fronted north and south,
          685And distant salutation pass'd
          686     From the loud cannon mouth;
          687Not in the close successive rattle,
          688That breathes the voice of modern battle,
          689     But slow and far between.--
          690The hillock gain'd, Lord Marmion staid:
          691"Here, by this Cross," he gently said,
          692     "You well may view the scene.
          693Here shalt thou tarry, lovely Clare:
          694O! think of Marmion in thy prayer!--
          695Thou wilt not?--well,--no less my care
          696Shall, watchful, for thy weal prepare.--
          697You, Blount and Eustace, are her guard,
          698     With ten pick'd archers of my train;
          699With England if the day go hard,
          700     To Berwick speed amain.--
          701But if we conquer, cruel maid,
          702My spoils shall at your feet be laid,
          703     When here we meet again."
          704He waited not for answer there,
          705And would not mark the maid's despair,
          706     Nor heed the discontented look
          707From either squire; but spurr'd amain,
          708And, dashing through the battle-plain,
          709     His way to Surrey took.

XXIV
          710"--The good Lord Marmion, by my life!
          711     Welcome to danger's hour!--
          712Short greeting serves in time of strife:--
          713     Thus have I ranged my power:
          714Myself will rule this central host,
          715     Stout Stanley fronts their right,
          716My sons command the vaward post,
          717     With Brian Tunstall, stainless knight;
          718     Lord Dacre, with his horsemen light,
          719     Shall be in rear-ward of the fight,
          720And succour those that need it most.
          721     Now, gallant Marmion, well I know,
          722     Would gladly to the vanguard go;
          723Edmund, the Admiral, Tunstall there,
          724With thee their charge will blithely share;
          725There fight thine own retainers too,
          726Beneath De Burg, thy steward true."--
          727"Thanks, noble Surrey!" Marmion said,
          728Nor farther greeting there he paid;
          729But, parting like a thunderbolt,
          730First in the vanguard made a halt,
          731     Where such a shout there rose
          732Of "Marmion! Marmion!" that the cry,
          733Up Flodden mountain shrilling high,
          734     Startled the Scottish foes.

XXV
          735Blount and Fitz-Eustace rested still
          736With Lady Clare upon the hill;
          737On which, (for far the day was spent,)
          738The western sunbeams now were bent.
          739The cry they heard, its meaning knew,
          740Could plain their distant comrades view:
          741Sadly to Blount did Eustace say,
          742"Unworthy office here to stay!
          743No hope of gilded spurs to-day.--
          744But see! look up--on Flodden bent
          745The Scottish foe has fired his tent."
          746     And sudden, as he spoke,
          747From the sharp ridges of the hill,
          748All downward to the banks of Till,
          749     Was wreathed in sable smoke.
          750Volumed and fast, and rolling far,
          751The cloud enveloped Scotland's war,
          752     As down the hill they broke;
          753Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,
          754Announced their march; their tread alone,
          755At times one warning trumpet blown,
          756     At times a stifled hum,
          757Told England, from his mountain-throne
          758     King James did rushing come.--
          759Scarce could they hear, or see their foes,
          760     Until at weapon-point they close.--
          761They close, in clouds of smoke and dust,
          762With sword-sway, and with lance's thrust;
          763     And such a yell was there,
          764Of sudden and portentous birth,
          765As if men fought upon the earth,
          766     And fiends in upper air;
          767O life and death were in the shout,
          768Recoil and rally, charge and rout,
          769     And triumph and despair.
          770Long look'd the anxious squires; their eye
          771Could in the darkness nought descry.

XXVI
          772At length the freshening western blast
          773Aside the shroud of battle cast;
          774And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
          775Above the brightening cloud appears;
          776And in the smoke the pennons flew,
          777As in the storm the white sea-mew.
          778Then mark'd they, dashing broad and far,
          779The broken billows of the war,
          780And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
          781Floating like foam upon the wave;
          782     But nought distinct they see:
          783Wide raged the battle on the plain;
          784Spears shook, and falchions flash'd amain;
          785Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
          786Crests rose, and stoop'd, and rose again,
          787     Wild and disorderly.
          788Amid the scene of tumult, high
          789They saw Lord Marmion's falcon fly:
          790And stainless Tunstall's banner white,
          791And Edmund Howard's lion bright,
          792Still bear them bravely in the fight;
          793     Although against them come,
          794Of Gallant Gordons many a one,
          795And many a stubborn Badenoch-man,
          796And many a rugged Border clan,
          797     With Huntley, and with Home.

XXVII
          798Far on the left, unseen the while,
          799Stanley broke Lennox and Argyle;
          800Though there the western mountaineer
          801Rush'd with bare bosom on the spear,
          802And flung the feeble targe aside,
          803And with both hands the broadsword plied.
          804'Twas vain:--But Fortune, on the right,
          805With fickle smile, cheer'd Scotland's fight.
          806Then fell that spotless banner white,
          807     The Howard's lion fell;
          808Yet still Lord Marmion's falcon flew
          809With wavering flight, while fiercer grew
          810     Around the battle-yell.
          811The Border slogan rent the sky!
          812A Home! a Gordon! was the cry:
          813     Loud were the clanging blows;
          814Advanced,--forced back,--now low, now high,
          815     The pennon sunk and rose;
          816As bends the bark's mast in the gale,
          817When rent are rigging, shrouds, and sail,
          818     It waver'd 'mid the foes.
          819No longer Blount the view could bear:
          820"By Heaven, and all its saints! I swear
          821     I will not see it lost!
          822Fitz-Eustace, you with Lady Clare
          823May bid your beads, and patter prayer,--
          824     I gallop to the host."
          825And to the fray he rode amain,
          826Follow'd by all the archer train.
          827The fiery youth, with desperate charge,
          828Made for a space, an opening large,--
          829     The rescued banner rose,--
          830But darkly closed the war around,
          831Like pine-tree, rooted from the ground,
          832     It sunk among the foes.
          833Then Eustace mounted too:--yet staid,
          834As loath to leave the helpless maid,
          835     When, fast as shaft can fly,
          836Blood-shot his eyes, his nostrils spread,
          837The loose rein dangling from his head,
          838Housing and saddle bloody red,
          839     Lord Marmion's steed rush'd by;
          840And Eustace, maddening at the sight,
          841     A look and sign to Clara cast,
          842     To mark he would return in haste,
          843Then plunged into the fight.

XXVIII
          844Ask me not what the maiden feels,
          845     Left in that dreadful hour alone:
          846Perchance her reason stoops, or reels;
          847     Perchance a courage, not her own,
          848     Braces her mind to desperate tone.--
          849The scatter'd van of England wheels;--
          850     She only said, as loud in air
          851     The tumult roar'd, "Is Wilton there?"--
          852     They fly, or, madden'd by despair,
          853     Fight but to die,--"Is Wilton there?"
          854With that, straight up the hill there rode
          855     Two horsemen drench'd with gore,
          856And in their arms, a helpless load,
          857     A wounded knight they bore.
          858His hand still strain'd the broken brand;
          859His arms were smear'd with blood and sand:
          860Dragg'd from among the horses' feet,
          861With dinted shield, and helmet beat,
          862The falcon-crest and plumage gone,
          863Can that be haughty Marmion! . . .
          864Young Blount his armour did unlace,
          865And, gazing on his ghastly face,
          866     Said--"By Saint George, he's gone!
          867That spear-wound has our master sped,
          868And see the deep cut on his head!
          869     Good-night to Marmion."--
          870"Unnurtured Blount! thy brawling cease:
          871He opes his eyes," said Eustace; "peace!"

XXIX
          872When, doff'd his casque, he felt free air,
          873Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare:--
          874"Where's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace where?
          875Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare!
          876Redeem my pennon,--charge again!
          877Cry--'Marmion to the rescue!'--Vain!
          878Last of my race, on battle-plain
          879That shout shall ne'er be heard again!--
          880Yet my last thought is England's--fly,
          881     To Dacre bear my signet-ring:
          882     Tell him his squadrons up to bring.--
          883Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie;
          884     Tunstall lies dead upon the field,
          885     His life-blood stains the spotless shield:
          886     Edmund is down:--my life is reft;
          887     The Admiral alone is left.
          888     Let Stanley charge with spur of fire,--
          889     With Chester charge, and Lancashire,
          890     Full upon Scotland's central host,
          891     Or victory and England's lost.--
          892     Must I bid twice?--hence, varlets! fly!
          893     Leave Marmion here alone--to die."
          894     They parted, and alone he lay;
          895     Clare drew her from the sight away,
          896Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
          897And half he murmur'd,--"Is there none,
          898     Of all my halls have nurst,
          899Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring
          900Of blessed water from the spring,
          901     To slake my dying thirst!"

XXX
          902O, Woman! in our hours of ease,
          903Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
          904And variable as the shade
          905By the light quivering aspen made;
          906When pain and anguish wring the brow,
          907A ministering angel thou!--
          908Scarce were the piteous accents said,
          909When, with the Baron's casque, the maid
          910     To the nigh streamlet ran:
          911Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
          912The plaintive voice alone she hears,
          913     Sees but the dying man.
          914She stoop'd her by the runnel's side,
          915     But in abhorrence backward drew;
          916For, oozing from the mountain's side,
          917Where raged the war, a dark-red tide
          918     Was curdling in the streamlet blue.
          919Where shall she turn!--behold her mark
          920     A little fountain cell,
          921Where water, clear as diamond-spark,
          922     In a stone basin fell.
          923Above, some half-worn letters say,
          924Drink. weary. pilgrim. drink. and. pray.
          925For. the. kind. soul. of. Sybil. Grey.
          926     Who. built. this. cross. and. well.
          927She fill'd the helm, and back she hied,
          928And with surprise and joy espied
          929     A Monk supporting Marmion's head;
          930A pious man, whom duty brought
          931To dubious verge of battle fought,
          932     To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.

XXXI
          933Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave,
          934And, as she stoop'd his brow to lave--
          935"Is it the hand of Clare," he said,
          936"Or injured Constance, bathes my head?"
          937     Then, as remembrance rose,--
          938"Speak not to me of shrift or prayer!
          939     I must redress her woes.
          940Short space, few words, are mine to spare;
          941Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!"--
          942     "Alas!" she said, "the while,--
          943O, think of your immortal weal!
          944In vain for Constance is your zeal;
          945     She--died at Holy Isle."--
          946Lord Marmion started from the ground,
          947As light as if he felt no wound;
          948Though in the action burst the tide,
          949In torrents, from his wounded side.
          950"Then it was truth,"--he said--"I knew
          951That the dark presage must be true.--
          952I would the Fiend, to whom belongs
          953The vengeance due to all her wrongs,
          954     Would spare me but a day!
          955For wasting fire, and dying groan,
          956And priests slain on the altar stone,
          957     Might bribe him for delay.
          958It may not be!--this dizzy trance--
          959Curse on yon base marauder's lance,
          960And doubly cursed my failing brand!
          961A sinful heart makes feeble hand."
          962Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
          963Supported by the trembling Monk.

XXXII
          964With fruitless labour, Clara bound,
          965And strove to staunch the gushing wound:
          966The Monk, with unavailing cares,
          967Exhausted all the Church's prayers.
          968Ever, he said, that, close and near,
          969A lady's voice was in his ear,
          970And that the priest he could not hear;
          971     For that she ever sung,
          972" In the lost battle, borne down by the flying,
          973Where mingles war's rattle with groans of the dying! "
          974     So the notes rung;--
          975"Avoid thee, Fiend!--with cruel hand,
          976Shake not the dying sinner's sand!--
          977O, look, my son, upon yon sign
          978Of the Redeemer's grace divine;
          979     O, think on faith and bliss!--
          980By many a death-bed I have been,
          981And many a sinner's parting seen,
          982     But never aught like this."--
          983The war, that for a space did fail,
          984Now trebly thundering swell'd the gale,
          985     And--STANLEY! was the cry;--
          986A light on Marmion's visage spread,
          987     And fired his glazing eye:
          988With dying hand, above his head,
          989He shook the fragment of his blade,
          990     And shouted "Victory!--
          991Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!"
          992Were the last words of Marmion.

XXXIII
          993By this, though deep the evening fell,
          994Still rose the battle's deadly swell,
          995For still the Scots, around their King,
          996Unbroken, fought in desperate ring.
          997Where's now their victor vaward wing,
          998     Where Huntley, and where Home?--
          999O, for a blast of that dread horn,
        1000On Fontarabian echoes borne,
        1001     That to King Charles did come,
        1002When Rowland brave, and Olivier,
        1003And every paladin and peer,
        1004     On Roncesvalles died!
        1005Such blast might warn them, not in vain,
        1006To quit the plunder of the slain,
        1007And turn the doubtful day again,
        1008     While yet on Flodden side,
        1009Afar, the Royal Standard flies,
        1010And round it toils, and bleeds, and dies,
        1011     Our Caledonian pride!
        1012In vain the wish--for far away,
        1013While spoil and havoc mark their way,
        1014Near Sybil's Cross the plunderers stray.--
        1015"O, Lady," cried the Monk, "away!"
        1016     And placed her on her steed,
        1017And led her to the chapel fair,
        1018     Of Tilmouth upon Tweed.
        1019There all the night they spent in prayer,
        1020And at the dawn of morning, there
        1021She met her kinsman, Lord Fitz-Clare.

XXXIV
        1022But as they left the dark'ning heath,
        1023Mor desperate grew the strife of death.
        1024The English shafts in volleys hail'd,
        1025In headlong charge their horse assail'd;
        1026Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep
        1027To break the Scottish circle deep,
        1028     That fought around their King.
        1029But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
        1030Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
        1031Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
        1032     Unbroken was the ring;
        1033The stubborn spear-men still make good
        1034Their dark impenetrable wood,
        1035Each stepping where his comrade stood,
        1036     The instant that he fell.
        1037No thought was there of dastard flight;
        1038Link'd in the serried phalanx tight,
        1039Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
        1040     As fearlessly and well;
        1041Till utter darkness closed her wing
        1042O'er their thin host and wounded King.
        1043Then skilful Surrey's sage commands
        1044Led back from strife his shatter'd bands;
        1045And from the charge they drew,
        1046As mountain-waves, from wasted lands,
        1047     Sweep back to ocean blue.
        1048Then did their loss his foemen know;
        1049Their King, their Lords, their mightiest low,
        1050They melted from the field as snow,
        1051When streams are swoln and south winds blow,
        1052     Dissolves in silent dew.
        1053Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless plash,
        1054     While many a broken band,
        1055Disorder'd, through her currents dash,
        1056     To gain the Scottish land;
        1057To town and tower, to down and dale,
        1058To tell red Flodden's dismal tale,
        1059And raise the universal wail.
        1060Tradition, legend, tune, and song,
        1061Shall many an age that wail prolong:
        1062Still from the sire the son shall hear
        1063Of the stern strife, and carnage drear,
        1064     Of Flodden's fatal field,
        1065Where shiver'd was fair Scotland's spear,
        1066     And broken was her shield!

XXXV
        1067Day dawns upon the mountain's side:--
        1068There, Scotland! lay thy bravest pride,
        1069Chiefs, knights, and nobles, many a one:
        1070The sad survivors all are gone.--
        1071View not that corpse mistrustfully,
        1072Defaced and mangled though it be;
        1073Nor to yon Border castle high,
        1074Look northward with upbraiding eye;
        1075     Nor cherish hope in vain,
        1076That, journeying far on foreign strand,
        1077The Royal Pilgrim to his land
        1078     May yet return again.
        1079He saw the wreck his rashness wrought;
        1080Reckless of life, he desperate fought,
        1081     And fell on Flodden plain:
        1082And well in death his trusty brand,
        1083Firm clench'd within his manly hand,
        1084     Beseem'd the monarch slain.
        1085But, O! how changed since yon blithe night!--
        1086Gladly I turn me from the sight,
        1087     Unto my tale again.

XXXVI
        1088Short is my tale:--Fitz-Eustace' care
        1089A pierced and mangled body bare
        1090To moated Lichfield's lofty pile;
        1091And there, beneath the southern aisle,
        1092A tomb, with Gothic sculpture fair,
        1093Did long Lord Marmion's image bear,
        1094(Now vainly for its sight you look;
        1095'Twas levell'd, when fanatic Brook
        1096The fair cathedral storm'd and took;
        1097But, thanks to heaven, and good Saint Chad,
        1098A guerdon meet the spoiler had!)
        1099There erst was martiar Marmion found,
        1100His feet upon a couchant hound,
        1101     His hands to heaven upraised;
        1102And all around, on scutcheon rich,
        1103And tablet carved, and fretted niche,
        1104     His arms and feats were blazed.
        1105And yet, though all was carved so fair,
        1106And priest for Marmion breathed the prayer,
        1107The last Lord Marmion lay not there.
        1108From Ettrick woods, a peasant swain
        1109Follow'd his lord to Flodden plain,--
        1110One of those flowers, whom plaintive lay
        1111In Scotland mourns as "wede away:"
        1112Sore wounded, Sybil's Cross he spied,
        1113And dragg'd him to its foot, and died,
        1114Close by the noble Marmion's side.
        1115The spoilers stripp'd and gash'd the slain,
        1116And thus their corpses were mista'en;
        1117And thus, in the proud Baron's tomb,
        1118The lowly woodsman took the room.

XXXVII
        1119Less easy task it were, to show
        1120Lord Marmion's nameless grave, and low.
        1121They dug his grave e'en where he lay,
        1122     But every mark is gone;
        1123Time's wasting hand has done away
        1124The simple Cross of Sybil Grey,
        1125     And broke her font of stone:
        1126But yet from out the little hill
        1127Oozes the slender springlet still.
        1128     Oft halts the stranger there,
        1129For thence may best his curious eye
        1130The memorable field descry;
        1131     And shepherd boys repair
        1132To seek the water-flag and rush,
        1133And rest them by the hazel bush,
        1134     And plait their garlands fair;
        1135Nor dream they sit upon the grave
        1136That holds the bones of Marmion brave--
        1137When thou shalt find the little hill,
        1138With thy heart commune, and be still.
        1139If ever, in temptation strong,
        1140Thou left'st the right path for the wrong;
        1141If every devious step, thus trod,
        1142Still led thee farther from the road;
        1143Dread thou to speak presumptuous doom
        1144On noble Marmion's lowly tomb;
        1145But say, "He died a gallant knight,
        1146With sword in hand, for England's right."

XXXVIII
        1147I do not rhyme to that dull elf,
        1148Who cannot image to himself,
        1149That all through Flodden's dismal night,
        1150Wilton was foremost in the fight;
        1151That, when brave Surrey's steed was slain,
        1152'Twas Wilton mounted him again;
        1153'Twas Wilton's brand that deepest hew'd,
        1154Amid the spearmen's stubborn wood:
        1155Unnamed by Hollinshed or Hall,
        1156He was the living soul of all;
        1157That, after fight, his faith made plain,
        1158He won his rank and lands again;
        1159And charged his old paternal shield
        1160With bearings won on Flodden Field.
        1161Nor sing I to that simple maid,
        1162To whom it must in terms be said,
        1163That King and kinsmen did agree,
        1164To bless fair Clara's constancy;
        1165Who cannot, unless I relate,
        1166Paint to her mind the bridal's state;
        1167That Wolsey's voice the blessing spoke,
        1168More, Sands, and Denny, pass'd the joke:
        1169That bluff King Hal the curtain drew,
        1170And Catherine's hand the stocking threw;
        1171And afterwards, for many a day,
        1172That it was held enough to say,
        1173In blessing to a wedded pair,
        1174"Love they like Wilton and like Clare!"

Notes

551] The figures in the foreground of the story are fictional. The background is fact.
the Baron: Marmion, about to join the English army before the battle of Flodden Field which took place in 1513. The tower is that of the monastery where Marmion had spent the night.

573] The Till. This river "winded between the armies" (Scott).

587] the Gothic arch of the ancient bridge.

593] fountain. "Beneath a tall rock, near the bridge, is a plentiful fountain, called St. Helen's Well" (Scott).

609-10] Douglas and Randolph helped King Robert Bruce defeat the English at Bannockburn in 1314.

611] Wallace was executed in 1305 for his active opposition to Edward I of England.

627] basnet: helmet.

644] Clare: in the charge of Marmion, loved by him, but loving Wilton.

647] the Abbot of the monastery where Marmion and his followers had spent the night.

654] Angus had been Marmion's host.

716] vaward: forward.

723] Surrey's sons were Edmund and Thomas, the Admiral of England.

745] fired his tent: probably to prevent the camp from falling into the hands of the enemy.

795] Badenoch: a district in the Highlands.

797] Huntley and Home were, with Lennox and Argyle, the Scotch commanders.

812] Gordon: the name of an ancient Scotch family.

851] Wilton: her true lover.

875] hearts of hare: timid.

882] "Lord Dacre, with a large body of horse, formed a reserve" (Scott).

889] Sir Edward Stanley commanded the English left wing, made up of men from Lancashire and Cheshire.

945] Marmion had seduced Constance, a nun, and abandoned her to be buried alive.

1000] Fontarabian echoes: a reference to Fuenterrabia, a town on the border between Spain and France. According to legend, near here in the pass of Roncesvalles was slain Charlemagne with his followers Rowland and Oliver. Rowland possessed a magic horn which he sounded too late. See Paradise Lost, I, 586-87.

1006] In the midst of the battle "Home's men, chiefly Borderers, began to pillage the baggage of both armies" (Scott).

1084] Scott comments: "There can be no doubt that King James fell in the battle .... [However] The Scottish historians record many of the idle reports which passed among the vulgar of their day. Home was accused ... not only of failing to support the king, but even of having carried him out of the field, and murdered him [hence lines 1073 and 1074].... Other reports gave a still more romantic turn to the king's fate, and averred, that James ... had gone on a pilgrimage ... [hence lines 1075 to 1078]."

1098] Lord Brook was mortally wounded whilst leading a Roundhead assault on St. Chad's Cathedral at Lichfield during the Civil War.

1108] Ettrick woods: a region in Selkirk, Scotland.

1111] A reference to a song called "The Flowers of the Forest," lamenting the loss of men from Ettrick in the battle at Flodden. A line of the song runs: "The flowers of the forest are a' wede awae." "Wede" means "weeded."

1150] Wilton: see the note to line 851.

1155] Hollinshed or Hall: English chroniclers of the sixteenth century.

1167] Cardinal Wolsey.

1168] Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England. Sands and Denny were less important officials at the court of Henry VIII.

1170] Catherine's hand the stocking threw. Catherine was Henry's first wife. The reference is to a game played around the marriage bed. John Brand in Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain (new ed., 1853-55), II, 171, provides two sources which illustrate this: "the young men took the bride's stocking, and the girls those of the bridegroom; each of whom sitting at the foot of the bed, threw the stocking over their heads, endeavouring to make it fall upon that of the bride or her spouse: if the bridegroom's stockings, thrown by the girls, fell upon the bridegroom's head, it was a sign that they themselves would soon be married; and a similar prognostic was taken from the falling of the bride's stocking, thrown by the young men." Finally, and this was presumably Catherine's role, "One of the young ladies, instead of throwing the stocking at the bride, flings it full in the basin and then it's time to take the posset [drink] away; which done, they last kiss round, and so depart."


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, a tale of Flodden Field (Edinburgh: Constable, 1808). LE S431m Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
RPO poem editor: P. F. Morgan
RP edition: 3RP 2.403.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/3

Form: couplets and quatrains


Other poems by Sir Walter Scott