Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Valley of St. John

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

St. John’s Valley

The Valley of St. John

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From The Bridal of Trierman)

HE rode till over down and dell

The shade more broad and deeper fell;

And though around the mountain’s head

Flowed streams of purple and gold and red,

Dark at the base, unblest by beam,

Frowned the black rocks and roared the stream.

With toil the king his way pursued

By lonely Threlkeld’s waste and wood,

Till on his course obliquely shone

The narrow valley of St. John,

Down sloping to the western sky,

Where lingering sunbeams love to lie.

Right glad to feel those beams again,

The king drew up his charger’s rein;

With gauntlet raised he screened his sight,

As dazzled with the level light,

And, from beneath his glove of mail,

Scanned at his ease the lovely vale,

While ’gainst the sun his armor bright

Gleamed ruddy like the beacon’s light.

Paled in by many a lofty hill,

The narrow dale lay smooth and still,

And, down its verdant bosom led,

A winding brooklet found its bed.

But, midmost of the vale, a mound

Arose, with airy turrets crowned,

Buttress and rampire’s circling bound,

And mighty keep and tower;

Seemed some primeval giant’s hand

The castle’s massive walls had planned,

A ponderous bulwark, to withstand

Ambitious Nimrod’s power.

Above the moated entrance slung,

The balanced drawbridge trembling hung,

As jealous of a foe;

Wicket of oak, as iron hard,

With iron studded, clenched, and barred,

And pronged portcullis, joined to guard

The gloomy pass below.

But the gray walls no banners crowned,

Upon the watch-tower’s any round

No warder stood his horn to sound,

No guard beside the bridge was found,

And, where the Gothic gateway frowned,

Glanced neither bill nor bow.