Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Disclosure
By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
From the ‘Lady of the Lake’

THAT early beam, so fair and sheen,
Was twinkling through the hazel screen,
When, rousing at its glimmer red,
The warriors left their lowly bed,
Looked out upon the dappled sky,        5
Muttered their soldier matins by,
And then awaked their fire, to steal,
As short and rude, their soldier meal.
That o’er, the Gael around him threw
His graceful plaid of varied hue,        10
And, true to promise, led the way
By thicket green and mountain gray.
A wildering path!—they winded now
Along the precipice’s brow,
Commanding the rich scenes beneath,        15
The windings of the Forth and Teith,
And all the vales between that lie,
Till Stirling’s turrets melt in sky;
Then, sunk in copse, their farthest glance
Gained not the length of horseman’s lance.        20
’Twas oft so steep, the foot was fain
Assistance from the hand to gain;
So tangled oft, that, bursting through,
Each hawthorn shed her showers of dew,—
That diamond dew, so pure and clear,        25
It rivals all but Beauty’s tear!
At length they came where, stern and steep,
The hill sinks down upon the deep.
Here Vennachar in silver flows,
There, ridge on ridge, Benledi rose:        30
Ever the hollow path twined on,
Beneath steep bank and threatening stone;
A hundred men might hold the post
With hardihood against a host.
The rugged mountain’s scanty cloak        35
Was dwarfish shrubs of birch and oak,
With shingles bare, and cliffs between,
And patches bright of bracken green,
And heather black, that waved so high
It held the copse in rivalry.        40
But where the lake slept deep and still,
Dank osiers fringed the swamp and hill;
And oft both path and hill were torn,
Where wintry torrents down had borne,
And heaped upon the cumbered land        45
Its wreck of gravel, rocks, and sand.
So toilsome was the road to trace,
The guide, abating of his pace,
Led slowly through the pass’s jaws,
And asked Fitz-James by what strange cause        50
He sought these wilds? traversed by few,
Without a pass from Roderick Dhu.
“Brave Gael, my pass, in danger tried,
Hangs in my belt and by my side;
Yet, sooth to tell,” the Saxon said,        55
“I dreamt not now to claim its aid.
When here, but three days since, I came,
Bewildered in pursuit of game,
All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumbering on yon hill;        60
Thy dangerous chief was then afar,
Nor soon expected back from war:
Thus said, at least, my mountain guide,
Though deep perchance the villain lied.”—
“Yet why a second venture try?”—        65
“A warrior thou, and ask me why!
Moves our free course by such fixed cause
As gives the poor mechanic laws?
Enough, I sought to drive away
The lazy hours of peaceful day:        70
Slight cause will then suffice to guide
A knight’s free footsteps far and wide,—
A falcon flown, a greyhound strayed,
The merry glance of mountain maid;
Or, if a path be dangerous known,        75
The danger’s self is lure alone.”
“Thy secret keep, I urge thee not;—
Yet, ere again ye sought this spot,
Say, heard ye naught of Lowland war
Against Clan-Alpine, raised by Mar?”—        80
“No, by my word;—of bands prepared
To guard King James’s sports I heard;
Nor doubt I aught, but when they hear
This muster of the mountaineer,
Their pennons will abroad be flung,        85
Which else in Doune had peaceful hung.”—
“Free be they flung!—for we were loth
Their silken folds should feast the moth.
Free be they flung!—as free shall wave
Clan-Alpine’s pine in banner brave.        90
But, stranger, peaceful since you came,
Bewildered in the mountain game,
Whence the bold boast by which you show
Vich-Alpine’s vowed and mortal foe?”—
“Warrior, but yester-morn I knew        95
Naught of thy chieftain, Roderick Dhu,
Save as an outlawed desperate man,
The chief of a rebellious clan,
Who, in the Regent’s court and sight,
With ruffian dagger stabbed a knight;        100
Yet this alone might from his part
Sever each true and loyal heart.”
Wrathful at such arraignment foul,
Dark lowered the clansman’s sable scowl.
A space he paused, then sternly said:—        105
“And heard’st thou why he drew his blade?
Heard’st thou that shameful word and blow
Brought Roderick’s vengeance on his foe?
What recked the chieftain if he stood
On Highland heath, or Holyrood!        110
He rights such wrong where it is given,
If it were in the court of heaven.”—
“Still was it outrage;—yet, ’tis true,
Not then claimed sovereignty his due;
While Albany, with feeble hand,        115
Held borrowed truncheon of command,
The young King, mewed in Stirling tower,
Was stranger to respect and power.
But then, thy chieftain’s robber life!
Winning mean prey by causeless strife,        120
Wrenching from ruined Lowland swain
His herds and harvest reared in vain.—
Methinks a soul like thine should scorn
The spoils from such foul foray borne.”
The Gael beheld him grim the while,        125
And answered with disdainful smile:—
“Saxon, from yonder mountain high,
I marked thee send delighted eye
Far to the south and east, where lay,
Extended in succession gay,        130
Deep waving fields and pastures green,
With gentle slopes and groves between.—
These fertile plains, that softened vale,
Were once the birthright of the Gael:
The stranger came with iron hand,        135
And from our fathers reft the land.
Where dwell we now? See rudely swell
Crag over crag, and fell o’er fell.
Ask we this savage hill we tread
For fattened steer or household bread,—        140
Ask we for flocks these shingles dry,—
And well the mountain might reply:—
‘To you, as to your sires of yore,
Belong the target and claymore!
I give you shelter in my breast,        145
Your own good blades must win the rest.’
Pent in this fortress of the North,
Think’st thou we will not sally forth,
To spoil the spoiler as we may,
And from the robber rend the prey?        150
Ay, by my soul!—While on yon plain
The Saxon rears one shock of grain;
While, of ten thousand herds, there strays
But one along yon river’s maze,—
The Gael, of plain and river heir,        155
Shall with strong hand redeem his share.
Where live the mountain chiefs who hold
That plundering Lowland field and fold
Is aught but retribution true?
Seek other cause ’gainst Roderick Dhu.”        160
Answered Fitz-James:—“And if I sought,
Think’st thou no other could be brought?
What deem ye of my path waylaid?
My life given o’er to ambuscade?”—
“As of a meed to rashness due:        165
Hadst thou sent warning fair and true,—
‘I seek my hound, or falcon strayed,
I seek (good faith) a Highland maid,’—
Free hadst thou been to come and go;
But secret path marks secret foe.        170
Nor yet, for this, even as a spy,
Hadst thou, unheard, been doomed to die,
Save to fulfill an augury.”—
“Well, let it pass; nor will I now
Fresh cause of enmity avow,        175
To chafe thy mood and cloud thy brow.
Enough, I am by promise tied
To match me with this man of pride:
Twice have I sought Clan-Alpine’s glen
In peace; but when I come agen,        180
I come with banner, brand, and bow,
As leader seeks his mortal foe.
For love-lorn swain, in lady’s bower,
Ne’er panted for the appointed hour
As I until before me stand        185
This rebel chieftain and his band!”—
“Have, then, thy wish!”—He whistled shrill,
And he was answered from the hill;
Wild as the scream of the curlew,
From crag to crag the signal flew.        190
Instant, through copse and heath, arose
Bonnets, and spears, and bended bows;
On right, on left, above, below,
Sprung up at once the lurking foe;
From shingles gray their lances start,        195
The bracken bush sends forth the dart,
The rushes and the willow-wand
Are bristling into axe and brand,
And every tuft of broom gives life
To plaided warrior armed for strife.        200
That whistle garrisoned the glen
At once with full five hundred men,
As if the yawning hill to heaven
A subterranean host had given.
Watching their leader’s beck and will,        205
All silent there they stood, and still.
Like the loose crags, whose threatening mass
Lay tottering o’er the hollow pass,
As if an infant’s touch could urge
Their headlong passage down the verge,        210
With step and weapon forward flung,
Upon the mountain-side they hung.
The mountaineer cast glance of pride
Along Benledi’s living side,
Then fixed his eye and sable brow        215
Full on Fitz-James: “How sayest thou now?
These are Clan-Alpine’s warriors true;
And, Saxon,—I am Roderick Dhu!”
Fitz-James was brave.—Though to his heart
The life-blood thrilled with sudden start,        220
He manned himself with dauntless air,
Returned the chief his haughty stare,
His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:—
“Come one, come all! this rock shall fly        225
From its firm base as soon as I.”
Sir Roderick marked; and in his eyes
Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.        230
Short space he stood;—then waved his hand:
Down sunk the disappearing band;
Each warrior vanished where he stood,
In broom or bracken, heath or wood;
Sunk brand, and spear, and bended bow,        235
In osiers pale and copses low:
It seemed as if their mother Earth
Had swallowed up her warlike birth.
The wind’s last breath had tossed in air,
Pennon, and plaid, and plumage fair,—        240
The next but swept a lone hillside,
Where heath and fern were waving wide.
The sun’s last glance was glinted back
From spear and glaive, from targe and jack,—
The next, all unreflected, shone        245
On bracken green and cold gray stone.

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