Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
Narrative Poems: IX. Scotland
Fitz-James and Ellen
Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
From “The Lady of the Lake,” Canto VI.

        A FOOTSTEP struck her ear,
And Snowdoun’s graceful Knight was near.
She turned the hastier, lest again
The prisoner should renew his strain.
“O welcome, brave Fitz-James!” she said;        5
“How may an almost orphan maid
Pay the deep debt”—“O, say not so!
To me no gratitude you owe.
Not mine, alas! the boon to give,
And bid thy noble father live;        10
I can but be thy guide, sweet maid,
With Scotland’s King thy suit to aid.
No tyrant he, though ire and pride
May lead his better mood aside.
Come, Ellen, come; ’t is more than time,        15
He holds his court at morning prime.”
With beating heart and bosom wrung,
As to a brother’s arm she clung.
Gently he dried the falling tear,
And gently whispered hope and cheer;        20
Her faltering steps half led, half stayed,
Through gallery fair and high arcade,
Till, at his touch, its wings of pride
A portal arch unfolded wide.
Within ’t was brilliant all and light,        25
A thronging scene of figures bright;
It glowed on Ellen’s dazzled sight,
As when the setting sun has given
Ten thousand hues to summer even,
And from their tissue fancy frames        30
Aerial knights and fairy dames.
Still by Fitz-James her footing stayed;
A few faint steps she forward made,
Then slow her drooping head she raised,
And fearful round the presence gazed:        35
For him she sought who owned this state,
The dreaded prince whose will was fate!
She gazed on many a princely port
Might well have ruled a royal court;
On many a splendid garb she gazed,—        40
Then turned bewildered and amazed,
For all stood bare; and in the room
Fitz-James alone wore cap and plume.
To him each lady’s look was lent,
On him each courtier’s eye was bent,        45
Midst furs and silks and jewels sheen
He stood, in simple Lincoln green,
The centre of the glittering ring,—
And Snowdoun’s Knight is Scotland’s King!
As wreath of snow, on mountain breast,        50
Slides from the rock that gave it rest,
Poor Ellen glided from her stay,
And at the Monarch’s feet she lay;
No word her choking voice commands:
She showed the ring, she clasped her hands.        55
O, not a moment could he brook,
The generous prince, that suppliant look!
Gently he raised her, and the while
Checked with a glance the circle’s smile;
Graceful, but grave, her brow he kissed,        60
And bade her terrors be dismissed:—
“Yes, fair; the wandering poor Fitz-James
The fealty of Scotland claims.
To him thy woes, thy wishes bring;
He will redeem his signet-ring.        65
Ask naught for Douglas; yester even
His prince and he have much forgiven:
Wrong hath he had from slanderous tongue,
I, from his rebel kinsmen, wrong.
We would not to the vulgar crowd        70
Yield what they craved with clamor loud;
Calmly we heard and judged his cause,
Our council aided and our laws.
I stanched thy father’s death-feud stern,
With stout De Vaux and gray Glencairn;        75
And Bothwell’s Lord henceforth we own
The friend and bulwark of our Throne.
But, lovely infidel, how now?
What clouds thy misbelieving brow?
Lord James of Douglas, lend thine aid;        80
Thou must confirm this doubting maid.”
Then forth the noble Douglas sprung,
And on his neck his daughter hung.
The Monarch drank, that happy hour,
The sweetest, holiest draught of Power,—        85
When it can say, the godlike voice,
Arise, sad Virtue, and rejoice!
Yet would not James the general eye
On nature’s raptures long should pry:
He stepped between—“Nay, Douglas, nay,        90
Steal not my proselyte away!
The riddle ’t is my right to read,
That brought this happy chance to speed.
Yes, Ellen, when disguised I stray
In life’s more low but happier way,        95
’T is under name which veils my power,
Nor falsely veils,—for Stirling’s tower
Of yore the name of Snowdoun claims,
And Normans call me James Fitz-James.
Thus watch I o’er insulted laws,        100
Thus learn to right the injured cause.”
Then, in a tone apart and low,
“Ah, little trait’ress! none must know
What idle dream, what lighter thought,
What vanity full dearly bought,        105
Joined to thine eye’s dark witchcraft, drew
My spell-bound steps to Benvenue,
In dangerous hour, and all but gave
Thy Monarch’s life to mountain glaive!”
Aloud he spoke,—“Thou still dost hold        110
That little talisman of gold,
Pledge of my faith, Fitz-James’s ring;
What seeks fair Ellen of the King?”
Full well the conscious maiden guessed,
He probed the weakness of her breast;        115
But with that consciousness there came
A lightening of her fears for Græme,
And more she deemed the monarch’s ire
Kindled ’gainst him, who, for her sire,
Rebellious broadsword boldly drew;        120
And, to her generous feeling true,
She craved the grace of Roderick Dhu.
“Forbear thy suit; the King of kings
Alone can stay life’s parting wings.
I know his heart, I know his hand,        125
Have shared his cheer, and proved his brand.
My fairest earldom would I give
To bid Clan-Alpine’s Chieftain live!—
Hast thou no other boon to crave?
No other captive friend to save?”        130
Blushing, she turned her from the King,
And to the Douglas gave the ring,
As if she wished her sire to speak
The suit that stained her glowing cheek.
“Nay, then, my pledge has lost its force,        135
And stubborn justice holds her course.
Malcolm, come forth!”—And, at the word,
Down knelt the Græme to Scotland’s Lord.
“For thee, rash youth, no suppliant sues,
From thee may Vengeance claim her dues,        140
Who, nurtured underneath our smile,
Hast paid our care by treacherous wile,
And sought, amid thy faithful clan,
A refuge for an outlawed man,
Dishonoring thus thy loyal name,—        145
Fetters and warder for the Græme!”
His chain of gold the King unstrung,
The links o’er Malcolm’s neck he flung,
Then gently drew the glittering band,
And laid the clasp on Ellen’s hand.        150

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