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

Tantallon Castle


By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From Marmion)

BUT scant three miles the band had rode,

When o’er a height they passed,

And, sudden, close before them showed

His towers, Tantallon vast;

Broad, massive, high, and stretching far,

And held impregnable in war,

On a projecting rock they rose,

And round three sides the ocean flows.

The fourth did battled walls enclose,

And double mound and fosse.

By narrow drawbridge, outworks strong,

Through studded gates, an entrance long,

To the main court they cross.

It was a wide and stately square:

Around were lodgings fit and fair,

And towers of various form,

Which on the court projected far,

And broke its lines quadrangular.

Here was square keep, there turret high,

Or pinnacle that sought the sky,

Whence oft the warder could descry

The gathering ocean-storm.


I said, Tantallon’s dizzy steep

Hung o’er the margin of the deep.

Many a rude tower and rampart there

Repelled the insult of the air,

Which, when the tempest vexed the sky,

Half breeze, half spray, came whistling by.

Above the rest, a turret square

Did o’er its Gothic entrance bear,

Of sculpture rude, a stony shield;

The Bloody Heart was in the Field,

And in the chief three mullets stood,

The cognizance of Douglas blood.

The turret held a narrow stair,

Which, mounted, gave you access where

A parapet’s embattled row

Did seaward round the castle go.

Sometimes in dizzy steps descending,

Sometimes in narrow circuit bending,

Sometimes in platform broad extending,

Its varying circle did combine

Bulwark, and bartisan, and line,

And bastion, tower, and vantage-coign:

Above the booming ocean leant

The far-projecting battlement;

The billows burst, in ceaseless flow,

Upon the precipice below.

Where’er Tantallon faced the land,

Gate-works and walls were strongly manned;

No need upon the sea-girt side;

The steepy rock and frantic tide

Approach of human step denied;

And thus these lines and ramparts rude

Were left in deepest solitude.