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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.


Elizabeth, Lady Wardlaw (1677–1727)

A Fragment

STATELY stept he east the wa’,

And stately stept he west;

Full seventy years he now had seen

With scarce seven years of rest.

He lived when Britons’ breach of faith

Wrought Scotland mickle wae,

And ay his sword tauld to their cost

He was their deadly fae.

High on a hill his castle stood,

With ha’s and towers a height,

And goodly chambers, fair to see,

Where he lodged mony a knight.

His dame, sae peerless anes and fair,

For chast and beauty deemed,

Nae marrow had in all the land

Save Elenor the queen.

Full thirteen sons to him she bare,

All men of valour stout;

In bloody fight, with sword in hand,

Nine lost their lives but doubt.

Four yet remain, lang may they live

To stand by liege and land;

High was their fame, high was their might,

And high was their command.

Great love they bare to Fairly fair,

Their sister saft and dear;

Her girdle shaw’d her middle jimp,

And gowden glist her hair.

What waefou wae her beauty bred!

Waefou to young and auld,

Waefou, I trow, to kyth and kin,

As story ever tauld.

The King of Norse in summertyde,

Puffed up with power and might,

Landed in fair Scotland the isle

With mony a hardy knight.

The tidings to our good Scots King

Came as he sat at dine

With noble chiefs in brave Aray,

Drinking the blood-red wine.

‘To horse, to horse, my royal liege,

Your faes stand on the strand,

Full twenty thousand glittering spears

The King of Norse commands.’

‘Bring me my steed Mage, dapple-gray!

Our good King rose and cried;

‘A trustier beast in all the land

A Scots King never tried.

‘Go, little page, tell Hardyknute,

That lives on hill so hie,

To draw his sword, the dread of faes,

And haste and follow me.’

The little page flew swift as dart

Flung by his master’s arm,

‘Come down, come down, Lord Hardyknute

And rid your king of harm.’

Then red, red grew his dark-brown cheeks,

Sae did his dark-brown brow;

His looks grew keen as they were wont

In dangers great to do.

He’s ta’en a horn as green as glass,

And gi’en five sounds sae shrill

That trees in greenwood shook thereat,

Sae loud rang every hill.

His sons in manly sport and glee

Had passed that summer’s morn,

When lo, down in a grassy dale,

They heard their father’s horn.

‘That horn,’ quo’ they, ‘ne’er sounds in peace;

We’ve other sport to bide.’

And soon they hied them up the hill,

And soon were at his side.

‘Late, late yestreen I weened in peace

To end my lengthened life;

My age might well excuse my arm

Frae manly feats of strife;

But now that Norse does proudly boast

Fair Scotland to enthrall,

It’s ne’er be said of Hardyknute

He feared to fight or fall.

‘Robin of Rothesay, bend thy bow,

Thy arrows shoot sae leal;

Mony a comely countenance

They’ve turned to deadly pale.

Braid Thomas, take ye but your lance—

You need nae weapons mair;

If you fight wi’t as you did anes

’Gainst Westmoreland’s fierce heir.

‘Malcolm, light of foot as stag

That runs in forest wild,

Get me my thousands three of men

Well bred to sword and shield.

Bring me my horse and harnisine,

My blade of metal clear.’

If faes but kenn’d the hand it bare

They soon had fled for fear.

‘Fareweel, my dame sae peerless good!’

And took her by the hand;

‘Fairer to me in age you seem

Then maids for beauty famed.

My youngest son shall here remain,

To guard these stately towers,

And shut the silver bolt that keeps

Sae fast your painted bowers.’

And first she wet her comely cheeks

And then her bodice green,

Her silken chords of twirtle twist,

Well plet with silver sheen;

And apron set with mony a dice

Of needlewark sae rare,

Wove by nae hand, as ye may guess,

Save that of Fairly fair.

And he has ridden o’er muir and moss,

O’er hills and mony a glen,

When he came to a wounded knight

Making a heavy mane.

‘Here maun I lie, here maun I die

By treachery’s false guiles:

Witless I was that ere ga’e faith

To wicked woman’s smiles!’

‘Sir Knight, gin you were in my power,

To lean on silken seat,

My lady’s kindly care you’d prove,

Who ne’er kenn’d deadly hate.

Herself would watch you a’ the day.

Her maids a’ dead of night,

And Fairly fair your heart would cheer,

As she stands in your sight.

[‘Arise, young knight, and mount your steed,

Full lowers the shining day;

Choose frae my menzie whom ye please

To lead ye on the way.’

With smileless look and visage wan

The wounded knight replied,

‘Kind chieftain, your intent pursue,

For here I maun abide.

‘To me nae after day nor night

Can ere be sweet or fair;

But soon beneath some drooping tree

Cauld death shall end my care.’

With him nae pleading might prevail:

Brave Hardyknute, to gain,

With fairest words and reason strang

Strave courteously in vain.]

Syne he has gane far hynd our o’er

Lord Chattan’s land sae wide.

That lord a worthy wight was aye

When faes his courage ’sayed

Of Pictish race by mother’s side,

When Picts ruled Caledon—

Lord Chattan claimed the princely maid

When he saved Pictish crown.

[Now with his fierce and stalwart train

He reached a rising height

Where, braid encampit on the dale,

Norse army lay in sight.

‘Yonder, my valiant sons and feres,

Our raging reivers wait,

On the unconquered Scottish sward

To try with us their fate.

‘Mak’ orisons to him that saved

Our souls upon the rood,

Syne bravely show your veins are filled

With Caledonian blood.

Then forth he drew his trusty glaive,

While thousands all around,

Drawn frae their sheath, glanced in the sun,

And loud the bugles sound.

To join his king, adown the hill

In haste his march he made,

While, playing pibrochs, minstrels meet

Afore him stately strade.

‘Thrice welcome, valiant stoup of war,

Thy nation’s shield and pride!

Thy king nae reason has to fear

When thou art by his side.’]

When bows were bent and darts were thrawn,

For thrang scarce could they flee;

The darts clove arrows as they met,

The arrows dart the tree.

Lang did they rage and fight fou fierce

With little skaith to man,

But bloody bloody was the field

Ere that lang day was done.

The king of Scots, that sinle brooked

The war that looked like play,

Drew his braid sword and brake his bow,

Sin’ bows seemed but delay.

Quoth noble Rothesay, ‘Mine I’ll keep:

I wat it’s bled a score.’

‘Haste up, my merry man,’ cried the king,

As he rode on before.

The King of Norse he sought to find,

With him to mense the faucht;

But on his forehead there did light

A sharp and fatal shaft;

As he his hand put up to find

The wound, an arrow keen,

O waefou chance! there pinned his hand

In midst, between his een.

‘Revenge, revenge!’ cried Rothesay’s heir,

‘Your mail-coat shall na bide

The strength and sharpness of my dart.’

Then sent it through his side.

Another arrow well he marked,

It pierced his neck in twa;

His hands then quat the silver reins,

He low as earth did fa’.

‘Sair bleeds my liege! sair, sair he bleeds!’

Again with might he drew—

And gesture dread—his sturdy bow;

Fast the braid arrow flew,

Wae to the Knight he ettled at!

Lament now Queen Elgreed!

High dames too wail your darling’s fall,

His youth and comely meed.

‘Take aff, take aff his costly jupe!’

Of gold well was it twined,

Knit like the fowler’s net through which

His steely harness shined.

‘Take, Norse, that gift frae me, and bid

Him venge the blood it bears;

Say, if he face my bended bow

He sure nae weapon fears.’

Proud Norse, with giant body tall,

Braid shoulders, and arms strong,

Cried, ‘Where is Hardyknute sae famed

And feared at Britain’s throne?

The Britons tremble at his name;

I soon shall make him wail

That e’er my sword was made sae sharp,

Sae saft his coat of mail.’

That brag his stout heart couldna bide,

It lent him youthful might;

‘I’m Hardyknute this day,’ he cried,

‘To Scotland’s king I heght

To lay thee low as horse’s hoof;

My word I mean to keep.’

Syne with the first stroke e’er he strake

He garr’d his body bleed.

Norse een like grey gosshawk’s stared wild;

He sighed with shame and spite—

‘Disgraced is now my far-famed arm,

That left you power to strike!’

Then ga’ his head a blow sae fell,

It made him down to stoop

As low as he to ladies used

In courtly guise to lout.

Fou soon he raised his bent body,

His bow he marvelled sair,

Sin blows till then on him but darr’d

As touch of Fairly fair.

Norse marvelled too as sair as he

To see his stately look—

Sae soon as e’er he strake a fae

Sae soon his life he took.

[Where, like a fire to heather set,

Bold Thomas did advance,

A sturdy fae, with look enraged,

Up towards him did prance.

He spurred his steed through thickest ranks

The hardy youth to quell,

Who stood unmoved at his approach,

His fury to repell.

‘That short brown shaft sae meanly trimmed,

Looks like poor Scotland’s gear,

But dreadful seems the rusty point!’

And loud he leugh in jeer.

‘Aft Britons’ blood has dimmed its shine;

This point cut short their vaunt.’

Syne pierced the boisterous bearded cheek—

Nae time he took to taunt.

Short while he in his saddle swung,

His stirrup was nae stay,

Sae feeble hung his unbent knee—

Sure token he was fey.

Swith on the hardened clay he fell,

Right far was heard the thud;

But Thomas looked not as he lay

All weltering in his blood.

With careless gesture, mind unmoved,

On rode he north the plain,

He seemed in thrang of fiercest strife

When winner aye the same.

Nor yet his heart dame’s dimpled cheek

Could meise saft love to brook,

Till vengeful Ann returned his scorn;

Then languid grew his look.

In throes of death, with wallowit cheek,

All panting on the plain,

The fainting corpse of warriors lay,

Ne’er to rise again—

Ne’er to return to native land,

Nae mair with blithesome sounds

To boast the glories of the day,

And show their shining wounds.

On Norway’s coast the widowed dame

May wash the rocks with tears—

May lang look o’er the shipless seas

Before her mate appears.

Cease, Emma, cease to hope in vain;

Thy lord lies in the clay:

The valiant Scots nae reivers thole

To carry life away.]

There, on a lea where stands a cross

Set up for monument,

Thousands fou fierce that summer’s day,

Killed keen war’s black intent.

Let Scots, while Scots, praise Hardyknute,

Let Norse the name aye dread—

Aye how he fought, aft how he spared,

Shall latest ages read.

Loud and chill blew the westlin’ wind,

Sair beat the heavy shower,

Mirk grew the night ere Hardyknute

Wan near his stately tower.

His tower that used wi’ torches’ blaze

To shine sae far at night,

Seemed now as black as mourning weed—

Nae marvel sair he sight.

[‘There’s nae light in my lady’s bower,

There’s nae light in my hall,

Nae blink shines round my Fairly fair,

Nor ward stands on my wall.

What bodes it? Robert, Thomas say!’

Nae answer fits their dread,

‘Stand back, my sons, I’ll be your guide;’

But by they passed with speed.

‘As fast I’ve sped over Scotland’s faes—’

There ceased his brag of war,

Sair shamed to mind aught but his dame,

And maiden Fairly fair.

Black fear he felt, but what to fear

He wist not yet with dread;

Sair shook his body, sair his limbs,

And all the warrior fled.]