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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.


King James’s Ride

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From The Lady of the Lake)

NO foot Fitz-James in stirrup stayed,

No grasp upon the saddle laid,

But wreathed his left hand in the mane,

And lightly bounded from the plain,

Turned on the horse his armed heel,

And stirred his courage with the steel.

Bounded the fiery steed in air,

The rider sat erect and fair,

Then like a bolt from steel crossbow

Forth launched, along the plain they go.

They dashed that rapid torrent through,

And up Carhonie’s hill they flew;

Still at the gallop pricked the knight,

His merrymen followed as they might.

Along thy banks, swift Teith! they ride,

And in the race they mock thy tide;

Torry and Lendrick now are past,

And Deanstown lies behind them cast;

They rise, the bannered towers of Doune,

They sink in distant woodland soon;

Blair-Drummond sees the hoofs strike fire,

They sweep like breeze through Ochtertyre;

They mark just glance and disappear

The lofty brow of ancient Kier;

They bathe their coursers’ sweltering sides,

Dark Forth! amid thy sluggish tides,

And on the opposing shore take ground,

With plash, with scramble, and with bound.

Right hand they leave thy cliffs, Craig-Forth!

And soon the bulwark of the North,

Gray Stirling, with her towers and town,

Upon their fleet career looked down.


The Castle gates were open flung,

The quivering drawbridge rocked and rung,

And echoed loud the flinty street

Beneath the coursers’ clattering feet,

As slowly down the steep descent

Fair Scotland’s King and nobles went,

While all along the crowded way

Was jubilee and loud huzzah.

And ever James was bending low,

To his white jennet’s saddlebow,

Doffing his cap to city dame,

Who smiled and blushed for pride and shame.

And well the simperer might be vain,—

He chose the fairest of the train.

Gravely he greets each city sire,

Commends each pageant’s quaint attire,

Gives to the dancers thanks aloud,

And smiles and nods upon the crowd,

Who rend the heavens with their acclaims,—

“Long live the Commons’ King, King James!”

Behind the King thronged peer and knight,

And noble dame and damsel bright,

Whose fiery steeds ill brooked the stay

Of the steep street and crowded way.

But in the train you might discern

Dark lowering brow and visage stern;

There nobles mourned their pride restrained,

And the mean burgher’s joys disdained;

And chiefs, who, hostage for their clan,

Were each from home a banished man,

There thought upon their own gray tower,

Their waving woods, their feudal power,

And deemed themselves a shameful part

Of pageant which they cursed in heart.

Now, in the Castle park, drew out

Their checkered bands the joyous rout.

There morricers, with bell at heel,

And blade in hand, their mazes wheel;

But chief, beside the butts, there stand

Bold Robin Hood and all his band,—

Friar Tuck with quarterstaff and cowl,

Old Scathelocke with his surly scowl,

Maid Marion, fair as ivory bone,

Scarlet, and Mutch, and Little John;

Their bugles challenge all that will

In archery to prove their skill.

The Douglas bent a bow of might,—

His first shaft centred in the white,

And when in turn he shot again,

His second split the first in twain.

From the King’s hand must Douglas take

A silver dart, the archer’s stake;

Fondly he watched, with watery eye,

Some answering glance of sympathy,—

No kind emotion made reply!

Indifferent as to archer wight,

The monarch gave the arrow bright.

Now, clear the ring! for, hand to hand,

The manly wrestlers take their stand.

Two o’er the rest superior rose,

And proud demanded mightier foes,

Nor called in vain! for Douglas came.

For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;

Scarce better John of Alloa’s fare,

Whom senseless home his comrades bare.

Prize of the wrestling match, the King

To Douglas gave a golden ring,

While coldly glanced his eye of blue,

As frozen drop of wintry dew.

Douglas would speak, but in his breast

His struggling soul his words suppressed;

Indignant then he turned him where

Their arms the brawny yeomen bare,

To hurl the massive bar in air.

When each his utmost strength had shown,

The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone

From its deep bed, then heaved it high,

And sent the fragment through the sky,

A rood beyond the farthest mark;

And still in Stirling’s royal park,

The gray-haired sires, who know the past,

To strangers point the Douglas cast,

And moralize on the decay

Of Scottish strength in modern day.


At dawn the towers of Stirling rang

With soldier-step and weapon-clang,

While drums, with rolling note, foretell

Relief to weary sentinel.

Through narrow loop and casement barred,

The sunbeams sought the Court of Guard,

And, struggling through the smoky air,

Deadened the torches’ yellow glare.

In comfortless alliance shone

The lights through arch of blackened stone,

And showed wild shapes in garb of war,

Faces deformed with beard and scar,

All haggard from the midnight watch,

And fevered with the stern debauch;

For the oak table’s massive board,

Flooded with wine, with fragments stored.

And beakers drained, and cups o’erthrown,

Showed in what sport the night had flown.

Some, weary, snored on floor and bench;

Some labored still their thirst to quench;

Some, chilled with watching, spread their hands

O’er the huge chimney’s dying brands,

While round them, or beside them flung,

At every step their harness rung.

These drew not for their fields the sword,

Like tenants of a feudal lord,

Nor owned the patriarchal claim

Of Chieftain in their leader’s name;

Adventurers they, from far who roved,

To live by battle which they loved.

There the Italian’s clouded face,

The swarthy Spaniard’s there you trace;

The mountain-loving Switzer there

More freely breathed in mountain air;

The Fleming there despised the soil,

That paid so ill the laborer’s toil;

Their rolls showed French and German name:

And merry England’s exiles came,

To share, with ill-concealed disdain

Of Scotland’s pay the scanty gain.

All brave in arms, well trained to wield

The heavy halberd, brand, and shield;

In camps licentious, wild, and bold;

In pillage fierce and uncontrolled;

And now, by holytide and feast,

From rules of discipline released.