12/30/05

Marmion by Sir Walter Scott

(A Tale of Flodden Field)

Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loophole grates, where captives weep,
The flanking walls that round it sweep,
In yellow lustre shone.
The warriors on the turrets high,
Moving athwart the evening sky,
Seemed forms of giant height:
Their armour, as it caught the rays,
Flashed back again the western blaze,
In lines of dazzling light.

Nought say I here of Sister Clare,
Save this, that she was young and fair;
As yet a novice unprofessed,
Lovely and gentle, but distressed.
She was betrothed to one now dead,
Or worse, who had dishonoured fled.
Her kinsmen bid her give her hand
To one who loved her for her land:
Herself, almost heart-broken now,
Was bent to take the vestal vow,
And shroud within Saint Hilda's gloom,
Her blasted hopes and withered bloom.

Lovely, and gentle, and distressed-
These charms might tame the fiercest breast.
Harpers have sung, and poets told,
That he, in fury uncontrolled,
The shaggy monarch of the wood,
Before a virgin, fair and good,
Hath pacified his savage mood.
But passions in the human frame,
Oft put the lion's rage to shame:

And jealousy, by dark intrigue,
With sordid avarice in league,
Had practiced with their bowl and knife
Against the mourner's harmless life.
This crime was charged 'gainst those who lay
Prisoned in Cuthbert's islet grey.

And while the king his hand did strain,
The old man's tears fell down like rain.

To seize the moment Marmion tried,
And whispered to the king aside:
"Oh, let such tears unwonted plead
For respite short from dubious deed!
A child will weep a bramble's smart,
A maid to see her sparrow part,
A stripling for a woman's heart:
But woe awaits a country when
She sees the tears of bearded men.
Then, oh! what omen dark and high,
When Douglas wets his manly eye!"

And for those bits that Pelham Grenville pinched and had Bertie Wooster (or
Jeeves) mouth :

O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!

A Palmer too! - no wonder why
I felt rebuked beneath his eye:
I might have known there was but one,
Whose look could quell Lord Marmion."

O, woman in our hours of ease,
Uncertain, coy and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!

(emphasis mine)