A chivalric tale of 213 ballad stanzas set in Hotspur's times that contrasts a tragic with a happy pair of lovers. Thomas Percy takes the border ballads rather than the Faerie Queene as his model. The narrative is more significant in its progeny than in its sources, for it inspired a number of imitations, since forgotten, and ultimately Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel. Compare Richard Polwhele's Fate of Lewellyn (1777), also in quatrains, and in Spenserians, Allan Cunningham's Maid of Elvar (published 1831) which is also concerned with border conflicts. Like Scott's Lay, Wordsworth's more Spenserian White Doe of Rylstone (1815) develops Percy's method of handling ballad materials in the Hermit of Warkworth with considerably more artistry.
Percy prefaces the poem with a two-page Advertisement describing the Warkwarth hermitage and the mysterious sculptures which inspired the poem, and in a postscript appends legal documents concerning its foundation and subsequent history.
Monthly Review: "For some time there has prevailed among us a fashionable but false taste of imitating the vernacular simplicity of the old ballad-poets. As if poetry had, contrary to its fate in other nations, with us arrived at perfection almost as soon as it was born, the rude efforts of our ancestors are now to be considered as beauties and patterns of composition. This is partly owing to an uninformed love of simplicity, which mistakenly follows it in its rude instead of its improved principles; and partly to an enthusiastic fondness and veneration for antiquity. Truth and taste united have no chance in the contest with enthusiasm. Whatever its objects may be, whether the peculiarities of antiquity, or any other, still they are beauties which it beholds through one flattering medium.... It is true that the Hermit of Warkworth contains many good lines, many stanzas that may be read with satisfaction, and here and there a poetical, though rarely an original, image. But what shall we say of such verses as the following? ... These lines will sufficiently shew with what justice we condemn that style of writing which leads even men of genius into such vulgarities of expression" 45 (August 1771) 96-97.
Gentleman's Magazine: "The author's intent was to tell a pathetic tale in rhime, after the manner of our Ancestors, when not only our poetry, but our language was in its rudiments; and in this he has perfectly succeeded. Our Ancestors related both historical and fictitious events in rhime, probably to assist the memory, and threw them into a kind of rude measure, that they might upon solemn occasions be sung to some simple melody, on such instruments as were then in use. Such measure and such rhime we have in this imitation, and no other. And though it should be said, that there is not a single poetical image or sentiment in the whole composition, it may be answered, that none was intended" 41 (August 1771) 366.
Thomas James Mathias later mocked the fashion for gothic tales inspired by Percy: "To pen with garreteers obscure and shabby, | Inscriptive nonsense in a fancied Abbey; | Or some Warkworthian hermit tale endite, | Such ditties as our gossip spinsters write" Pursuits of Literature (1798) 20.
James McHenry: "The honourable reputation universally enjoyed by this truly worthy Prelate, renders an explanation of any thing here said concerning him unnecessary. It may, however, be remarked with regard to his poetical character, that the tale of the Hermit of Warkworth, here alluded to, though it had been his only production, would have raised him high in the list of English poets" Bard of Erin (1808) 49n.
Iolo Williams: "One must have a very tender spot indeed in one's heart if one is going to say much in defence of [David Mallet's] Edwin and Emma, which is feeble stuff, I am very much afraid; yet the line between failure and success is very faint in this kind, as can easily be seen by looking at some of its best and most popular examples, such as Goldsmith's Edwin and Angelina in The Vicar of Wakefield, or Percy's The Hermit of Warkworth. And these eighteenth-century tearful, domesticated ballads had a tradition and manner of their own — not a great one, certainly, but one not altogether without charm or without historical importance, though it was based, as I said before, on a misunderstanding, or perhaps only partial misunderstanding, of the real folk-ballad" By-Ways around Helicon (1922) 101-02.
Bertram H. Davis: "The hermitage of Percy's poem had drawn him time and again to Warkworth during his Alnwick summers and teased him with its questions. Who had hewn this solitary outpost out of the rock and carved its chapel with such devotion that it was vaulted like a minature cathedral? Who was its first inhabitant? And who were the stone figures in the window niche scarcely a whisper from the River Coquet, a woman lying as though dead and a man standing over her at her feet? The questions defied response. But Percy's imagination could not rest until it had fitted a romantic tale to this romantic retreat: of lovers separated, a tireless search, a pilgrim, a maidenly voice heard lamenting in a tower, a night rescue down a rope ladder, a tragic mistake of identity, a withdrawal into penance and solitude" Thomas Percy" (1989) 181.
The Hermit of Warkworth discovers a young man and woman wandering in the wood; he proves to be young Henry, Earl of Percy, concealed in Scotland while his father, Hotspur, was at war with Bolingbroke. The lady Eleanor, who has eloped with Percy, is a member of Bolingbroke's family. The Hermit sends to her kin at Raby Castle to seek reconcilation and shows his guests about his hermitage, where their attention is arrested by a striking tomb. Therein lies a tragic and violent tale, from which we learn the identity of the Hermit and his relationship with the Percys. The tale told, messengers return to announce that all is forgiven, and at the Hermit's suggestion Earl Percy makes peace with the Bolingbroke, now king, and is restored to his rights.
The Hermit of Warkworth was recast as a MS. tragedy, described in European Magazine 16 (October 1789) 291-93, and later adapted as Percy's Masque, a Drama in Five Acts (1820). Some stanzas appear in a French translation in Gentleman's Magazine 94 (May 1824) 415.
FIT THE FIRST.
Dark was the night, and wild the storm,
And loud the torrent's roar;
And loud the sea was heard to dash
Against the distant shore.
Musing on man's weak hapless state,
The lonely Hermit lay;
When, lo! he heard a female voice
Lament in sore dismay.
With hospitable haste he rose,
And wak'd his sleeping fire;
And snatching up a lighted brand,
Forth hied the reverend sire.
All sad beneath a neighbouring tree
A beauteous maid he found,
Who beat her breast, and with her tears
Bedew'd the mossy ground.
O weep not, lady, weep not so;
Nor let vain fears alarm;
My little cell shall shelter thee,
And keep thee safe from harm.
It is not for myself I weep,
Nor for myself I fear;
But for my dear and only friend,
Who lately left me here:
And while some sheltering bower he sought
Within this lonely wood,
Ah! sore I fear his wandering feet
Have slipt in yonder flood.
O! trust in heaven, the Hermit said,
And to my cell repair;
Doubt not but I shall find thy friend,
And ease thee of thy care.
Then climbing up his rocky stairs,
He scales the cliff so high;
And calls aloud, and waves his light
To guide the stranger's eye.
Among the thickets long he winds
With careful steps and slow:
At length a voice return'd his call,
Quick answering from below:
O tell me, father, tell me true,
If you have chanc'd to see
A gentle maid, I lately left
Beneath some neighbouring tree:
But either I have lost the place,
Or she hath gone astray:
And much I fear this fatal stream
Hath snatch'd her hence away.
Praise heaven, my son, the Hermit said;
The lady's safe and well:
And soon he join'd the wandering youth,
And brought him to his cell.
Then well was seen, these gentle friends
They lov'd each other dear:
The youth he press'd her to his heart;
The maid let fall a tear.
Ah! seldom had their host, I ween,
Beheld so sweet a pair:
The youth was tall with manly bloom,
She slender, soft, and fair.
The youth was clad in forest green,
With bugle-horn so bright:
She in a silken robe and scarf
Snatch'd up in hasty flight.
Sit down, my children, says the Sage;
Sweet rest your limbs require:
Then heaps fresh fewel on the hearth,
And mends his little fire.
Partake, he said, my simple store,
Dried fruits, and milk, and curds;
And spreading all upon the board,
Invites with kindly words.
Thanks, father, for thy bounteous fare;
The youthful couple say:
Then freely ate, and made good chear,
And talk'd their cares away.
Now say, my children, (for perchance
My councel may avail)
What strange adventure brought you here
Within this lonely dale?
First tell me, father, said the youth,
(Nor blame mine eager tongue)
What town is near? What lands are these?
And to what lord belong?
Alas! my son, the Hermit said,
Why do I live to say,
The rightful lord of these domains
Is banish'd far away?
Ten winters now have shed their snows
On this my lowly hall,
Since valiant HOTSPUR (so the North
Our youthful lord did call)
Against Forth HENRY BOLINGBROKE
Led up his northern powers,
And stoutly fighting lost his life
Near proud Salopia's towers.
One son he left, a lovely boy,
His country's hope and heir;
And, oh! to save him from his foes
It was his grandsire's care.
In Scotland safe he plac'd the child
Beyond the reach of strife,
Nor long before the brave old Earl
At Bramham lost his life.
And now the PERCY name, so long
Our northern pride and boast,
Lies hid, alas! beneath a cloud;
Their honors reft and lost.
No chieftain of that noble house
Now leads our youth to arms;
The bordering Scots dispoil our fields,
And ravage all our farms.
Their halls and castles, once so fair,
Now moulder in decay;
Proud strangers now usurp their lands,
And bear their wealth away.
Nor far from hence, where yon full stream
Runs winding down the lea,
Fair WARKWORTH lifts her lofty towers,
And overlooks the sea.
Those towers, alas! now lie forlorn,
With noisome weeds o'erspread,
Where feasted lords and courtly dames,
And where the poor were fed.
Meantime far off, mid Scottish hills
The PERCY lives unknown:
On stranger's bounty he depends,
And many not claim his own.
O might I with these aged eyes
But live to see him here,
Then should my soul depart in bliss!—
He said, and dropt a tear.
And is the PERCY still so lov'd
Of all his friends and thee?
Then, father, bless me, said the youth,
For I thy guest am HE.
Silent he gaz'd, then turn'd aside
To wipe the tears he shed;
And lifting up his hands and eyes,
Pour'd blessings on his head:
Welcome, our dear and much-lov'd lord,
They country's hope and care:
But who may this young lady be,
That is so wonderous fair?
Now, father, listen to my tale,
And thou shalt know the truth:
And let thy sage advice direct
My unexperienc'd youth.
In Scotland I've been nobly bred
Beneath the Regent's hand,
In feats of arms, and every lore
To fit me for command.
With fond impatience long I burn'd
My native land to see:
At length I won my guardian friend,
To yield that boon to me.
Then up and down in hunter's garb
I wandered as in chace,
Till in the noble NEVILLE'S house
I gain'd a hunter's place.
Sometime with him I liv'd unknown,
Till I'd the hap so rare,
To please this young and gentle dame,
That baron's daughter fair.
Now PERCY, said the blushing maid,
The truth I must reveal;
Souls great and generous, like to thine,
Their noble deeds conceal.
It happened on a summer's day,
Led by the fragrant breeze
I wandered forth to take the air
Among the green-wood trees.
Sudden a band of rugged Scots,
That near in ambush lay,
Moss-troopers from the border-side,
There seiz'd me for their prey.
My shrieks had all been spent in vain,
But heaven, that saw my grief,
Brought this brave youth within my call,
Who flew to my relief.
With nothing but his hunting spear,
And dagger in his hand,
He sprung like lightening on my foes,
And caus'd them soon to stand.
He fought, till more assistance came;
The Scots were overthrown;
Thus freed me, captive, from their bands
To make me more his own.
O happy day! The youth replied:
Blest were the wounds I bare!
From that fond hour she deign'd to smile,
And listen to my prayer.
And when she knew my name and birth,
She vowed to be my bride;
(But oh! we fear'd, alas, the while!)
Her princely mother's pride:
Sister of haughty BOLINGBROKE
Our house's ancient foe,
To me I thought a banish'd wight
Could ne'er such favour show.
Despairing then to gain consent;
At length to fly with me
I won this lovely timorous maid;
To Scotland bound are we.
This evening, as the night drew on,
Fearing we were pursu'd,
We turn'd adown the right-hand path,
And gain'd this lonely wood:
Then lighting from our weary steeds
To shun the pelting shower,
We met thy kind conducting hand,
And reach'd this friendly bower.
Now rest ye both, the Hermit said;
Awhile your cares foregoe:
Nor, Lady, scorn my humble bed;
—We'll pass the night below.
FIT THE SECOND.
Lovely smil'd the blushing morn,
And every storm was fled:
But lovelier far, with sweeter smile,
Fair ELEANOR left her bed.
She found her HENRY all alone,
And cheer'd him with her sight;
The youth consulting with his friend
Had watch'd the livelong night.
What sweet surprize o'erpower'd her breast?
Her cheek what blushes dyed,
When fondly he besought her there
To yield to be his bride?
Within this lonely hermitage
There is a chapel meet:
Then, grant, dear maid, my fond request,
And make my bliss compleat.
O HENRY, when thou deign'st to sue,
Can I thy suit withstand?
When thou, lov'd youth, hast won my heart,
Can I refuse my hand?
For thee I left a father's smiles,
And mother's tender care;
And whether weal or woe betide,
Thy lot I mean to share.
And wilt thou then, O generous maid,
Such matchless favour show,
To share with me a banish'd wight
My peril, pain, or woe?
Now heaven, I trust, hath joys in store
To crown thy constant breast;
For, know, fond hope assures my heart
That we shall soon be blest.
Not far from hence stands COQUET Isle
Surrounded by the sea;
There dwells a holy friar, well-known
To all thy friends and thee:
'Tis father Bernard, so revered
For every worthy deed;
To RABY castle he shall go,
And for us kindly plead.
To fetch this good and holy man
Our reverend host is gone;
And soon, I trust, his pious hands
Will join us both in one.
Thus they in sweet and tender talk
The lingering hours beguile:
At length they see the hoary sage
Come from the neighbouring isle.
With pious joy and wonder mix'd
He greets the noble pair,
And glad consents to join their hands
With many a fervent prayer.
Then strait to RABY'S distant walls
He kindly wends his way;
Mean-time in love and dalliance sweet
They spend the livelong day.
And now, attended by their host,
The Hermitage they view'd,
Deep-hewn within a craggy cliff,
And over-hung with wood.
And near a flight of shapely Steps,
All cut with nicest skill,
And piercing thro' a stony Arch,
Ran winding up the hill.
There deck'd with many a flower and herb
His little Garden stands;
With fruitful trees in shady rows,
All planted by his hands.
Then, scoop'd within the solid rock,
Three sacred Vaults he shows:
The chief a Chapel, neatly arch'd,
On branching columns rose.
Each proper ornament was there,
That should a chapel grace;
The Latice for confession fram'd,
And Holy-water Vase.
O'er either door a sacred Text
Invites to godly fear;
And in a little Scucheon hung
The cross, and crown, and spear.
Up to the Altar's ample breadth
Two easy steps ascend;
And near a glimmering solemn light
Two well-wrought Windows lend.
Beside the altar rose a Tomb
All in the living stone;
On which a young and beauteous Maid
In goodly sculpture shone.
A kneeling Angel fairly carv'd
Lean'd hovering o'er her breast;
A weeping Warrior at her feet;
And near to these her Crest.
The cliff, the vault, but chief the tomb,
Attract the wondering pair:
Eager they ask, What hapless dame
Lies sculptured here so fair?
The Hermit sigh'd, the Hermit wept,
For sorrow scarce could speak:
At length he wip'd the trickling tears
That all bedewed his cheek:
Alas! my children, human life
Is but a vale of woe;
And very mournful is the tale,
Which ye so fain would know.
THE HERMIT'S TALE.
Young lord, thy grandsire had a friend
In days of youthful fame;
Yon distant hills were his domains,
Sir BERTRAM was his name.
Where'er the noble PERCY fought
His friend was at his side;
And many a skirmish with the Scots
Their early valour try'd.
Young Bertram lov'd a beauteous maid,
As fair as fair might be;
The dew-drop on the lily's cheek
Was not so fair as she.
Fair WIDDRINGTON the maiden's name,
Yon towers her dwelling place;
Her sire an old Northumbrian chief
Devoted to thy race.
Many a lord, and many a knight
To this fair damsel came;
But Bertram was her only choice;
For him she felt a flame.
Lord PERCY pleaded for his friend,
Her father soon consents;
None but the beauteous maid herself
His wishes now prevents.
But she with studied fond delays
Defers the blissful hour;
And loves to try his constancy,
And prove her maiden power.
That heart, she said, is lightly priz'd,
Which is too lightly won;
And long shall rue that easy maid,
Who yields her love too soon.
Lord PERCY made a solemn feast
In Alnwick's princely hall;
And there came lords, and there came knights,
His chiefs and barons all.
With wassel, mirth, and revelry
The castle rung around:
Lord PERCY call'd for song and harp,
And pipes of martial sound.
The Minstrels of thy noble house,
All clad in robes of blue,
With silver crescents on their arms,
Attend in order due.
The great atchievements of thy race
They sung: their high command:
"How valiant MAINFRED o'er the seas
First led his northern band.
"Brave GALFRID next to Normandy
With venturous Rollo came;
And from his Norman castles won
Assum'd the PERCY name.
"They sung, how in the Conqueror's fleet
Lord WILLIAM ship'd his powers,
And gain'd a fair young Saxon bride
With all her lands and towers.
"Then journeying to the Holy Land,
There bravely fought and dy'd:
But first the silver Crescent wan,
Some Paynim Soldan's pride.
"They sung how AGNES, beauteous heir,
The queen's own brother wed
Lord JOSCELINE, sprung from Charlemagne,
In princely Brabant bred.
"How he the PERCY name reviv'd,
And how his noble line
Still foremost in their country's cause
With godlike ardour shine."
With loud acclaims the listening crowd
Applaud the masters' song,
And deeds of arms and war became
The theme of every tongue.
Now high heroic acts they tell,
Their perils past recall:
When, lo! a damsel young and fair
Step'd forward thro' the hall.
She Bertram courteously address'd;
And kneeling on her knee;
Sir knight, the lady of thy love
Hath sent this gift to thee.
Then forth she drew a glittering helme
Well-plated many a fold,
The casque was wrought of tempered steel,
The crest of burnish'd gold.
Sir knight, thy lady sends thee this,
And yields to be thy bride,
When thou hast prov'd this maiden gift
Where sharpest blows are try'd.
Young Bertram took the shining helme
And thrice he kiss'd the same:
Trust me, I'll prove this precious casque
With deeds of noblest fame.
Lord PERCY, and his barons bold
Then fix upon a day
To scour the marches, late opprest,
And Scottish wrongs repay.
The knights assembled on the hills
A thousand horse and more:
Brave Widdrington, tho' sunk in years,
The PERCY-standard bore.
Tweed's limpid current soon they pass,
And range the borders round:
Down the green slopes of Tiviotdale
Their bugle-horns resound.
As when a lion in his den
Hath heard the hunters cries,
And rushes forth to meet his foes;
So did the DOUGLAS rise.
Attendant on their chief's command
A thousand warriors wait:
And now the fatal hour drew on
Of cruel keen debate.
A chosen troop of Scottish youths
Advance before the rest;
Lord PERCY mark'd their gallant mien,
And thus his friend address'd.
Now, Bertram, prove thy Lady's helme,
Attack yon forward band;
Dead or alive I'll rescue thee,
Or perish by their hand.
Young Bertram bow'd, with glad assent,
And spur'd his eager steed,
And calling on his Lady's name,
Rush'd forth with whirlwind speed.
As when a grove of sapling oaks
The livid lightning rends;
So fiercely 'mid the opposing ranks
Sir Bertram's sword descends.
This way and that he drives the steel,
And keenly pierces thro';
And many a tall and comely knight
With furious force he slew.
Now closing fast on every side,
They hem sir Bertram round:
But dauntless he repels their rage,
And deals forth many a wound.
The vigour of his single arm
Had well-nigh won the field;
When ponderous fell a Scottish ax,
And clove his lifted shield.
Another blow his temples took,
And reft his helm in twain;
That beauteous helm, his Lady's gift!
—His blood bedewed the plain.
Lord PERCY saw his champion fall
Amid the unequal fight;
And now, my noble friends, he said,
Let's save this gallant knight.
Then rushing in, with stretch'd out shield
He o'er the warrior hung;
As some fierce eagle spreads her wing
To guard her callow young.
Three times they strove to seize their prey,
Three times they quick retire:
What force could stand his furious strokes,
Or meet his martial fire?
Now gathering round on every part
The battle rag'd amain;
And many a lady wept her lord
That hour untimely slain.
PERCY and DOUGLAS, great in arms,
There all their courage show'd;
And all the field was strew'd with dead,
And all with crimson flow'd.
At length the glory of the day
The Scots reluctant yield,
And, after wonderous valour shown,
They slowly quit the field.
All pale extended on their shields
And weltering in his gore
Lord PERCY'S knights their bleeding friend
To WARK'S fair castle bore.
Well hast thou earn'd my daughter's love;
Her father kindly sed;
And she herself shall dress thy wounds,
And tend thee in thy bed.
A message went, no daughter came,
Fair ISABEL ne'er appears:
Beshrew me, said the aged chief,
Young maidens have their fears.
Cheer up, my son, thou shalt her see
So soon as thou canst ride;
And she shall nurse thee in her bower,
And she shall be thy bride.
Sir Bertram, at her name reviv'd,
He bless'd the soothing sound;
Fond hope supplied the Nurse's care,
And heal'd his ghastly wound.
FIT THE THIRD.
One early morn, while dewy drops
Hung trembling on the tree,
Sir Bertram from his sick-bed rose,
His bride he would go see.
A brother he had in prime of youth,
Of courage firm and keen,
And he would tend him on the way
Because his wounds were green.
All day o'er moss and moor they rode,
By many a lonely tower;
And 'twas the dew-fall of the night
Ere they drew near her bower.
Most drear and dark the castle seem'd,
That wont to shine so bright;
And long and loud sir Bertram call'd
Ere he beheld a light.
At length her aged Nurse arose
With voice so shrill and clear:
What wight is this, that calls so loud,
And knocks so boldly here?
'Tis Bertram calls, thy Lady's love,
Come from his bed of care:
All day I've ridden o'er moor and moss
To see thy Lady fair.
Now out alas! (she loudly shriek'd)
Alas! how may this be?
For six long days are gone and past
Since she set out to thee.
Sad terror seiz'd sir Bertram's heart,
And of the deeply sigh'd;
When now the draw-bridge was let down,
And gates set open wide.
Six days, young knight, are past and gone,
Since she set out to thee;
And sure if no sad harm had hap'd
Long since thou wouldst her see.
For when she heard thy grievous chance
She tore her hair, and cried,
Alas! I've slain the comeliest knight,
All thro' my folly and pride!
And now to atone for my sad fault,
And his dear health regain,
I'll go myself, and nurse my love,
And soothe his bed of pain.
Then mounted she her milk-white steed
One morn at break of day;
And two tall yeomen went with her
To guard her on the way.
Sad terror smote sir Bertram's heart,
And grief o'erwhelm'd his mind:
Trust me, said he, I ne'er will rest
'Till I thy Lady find.
That night he spent in sorrow and care;
And with sad boding heart
Or ever the dawning of the day
His brother and he depart.
Now, brother, we'll our ways divide,
O'er Scottish hills to range;
Do thou go north, and I'll go west;
And all our dress we'll change.
Some Scottish earle hath seized my love,
And borne her to his den;
And ne'er will I tread English ground
Till she is restored agen.
The brothers strait their paths divide,
O'er Scottish hills to range;
And hide themselves in queint disguise,
And oft their dress they change.
Sir Bertram clad in gown of gray,
Most like a Palmer poor,
To halls and castles wanders round,
And begs from door to door.
Sometimes a Minstrel's garb he wears,
With pipes so sweet and shrill;
And wends to every tower and town;
O'er every dale and hill.
One day as he sate under a thorn
All sunk in deep dispair,
An aged Pilgrim pass'd him by,
Who mark'd his face of care.
All Minstrels yet that ever I saw,
Are full of game and glee:
But thou art sad and woe-begone!
I marvel whence it be!
Father, I serve an aged Lord,
Whose grief afflicts my mind;
His only child is stol'n away,
And fain I would her find.
Cheer up, my son; perchance, (he said)
Some tidings I may bear:
For oft when human hopes have fail'd,
Then heavenly comfort's near.
Behind yon hills so steep and high,
Down in a lowly glen,
There stands a castle fair and strong,
Far from th' abode of men.
As late I chanc'd to crave an alms
About this evening hour,
Me-thought I heard a Lady's voice
Lamenting in the tower.
And when I ask'd, what harm had hap'd,
What Lady sick there lay?
They rudely drove me from the gate,
And bade me wend away.
These tidings caught sir Bertram's ear,
He thank'd him for his tale;
And soon he hasted o'er the hills,
And soon he reach'd the vale.
Then drawing near those lonely towers,
Which stood in dale so low,
And sitting down beside the gate,
His pipes he 'gan to blow.
Sir Porter, is thy lord at home
To hear a Minstrel's song?
Or may I crave a lodging here,
Without offence or wrong?
My Lord, he said, is not at home
To hear a Minstrel's song:
And should I lend thee lodgings here
My life would not be long.
He play'd again so soft a stain,
Such power sweet sounds impart,
He won the churlish Porter's ear,
And moved his stubborn heart.
Minstrel, he say'd, thou play'st so sweet,
Fair entrance thou should'st win;
But, alas, I'm sworn upon the rood
To let no stranger in.
Yet, Minstrel, in yon rising cliff
Thou'lt find a sheltering cave;
And here thou shalt my supper share,
And there thy lodging have.
All day he sits beside the gate,
And pipes both loud and clear:
All night he watches round the walls,
In hopes his love to hear.
The first night, as he silent watch'd,
All at the midnight hour,
He plainly heard his Lady's voice
Lamenting in the tower.
The second night the moon shone clear,
And gilt the spangled dew;
He saw his Lady thro' the grate,
But 'twas a transient view.
The third night wearied out he slept
'Till near the morning tide;
When starting up, he seiz'd his sword,
And to the castle hy'd.
When, lo! he saw a ladder of ropes
Depending from the wall;
And o'er the mote was newly laid
A poplar strong and tall.
And soon he saw his love descend
Wrapt in a tartan plaid;
Assisted by a sturdy youth
In highland garb y-clad.
Amaz'd, confounded by the sight,
He lay unseen and still;
And soon he saw them cross the stream,
And mount the neighbouring hill.
Unheard, unknown of all within,
The youthful couple fly.
But what can scape the lover's ken?
Or shun his piercing eye?
With silent step he follows close
Behind the flying pair,
And saw her hang upon his arm
With fond familiar air.
Thanks, gentle youth, she often said;
My thanks thou well hast won:
For me what wiles hast thou contriv'd?
For me what dangers run?
And ever shall my grateful heart
Thy services repay:—
Sir Bertram could no further hear,
But cried, Vile traitor, stay!
Vile traitor! yield that Lady up!—
And quick his sword he drew.
The stranger turn'd in sudden rage,
And at sir Bertram flew.
With mortal hate their vigorous arms
Gave many a vengeful blow:
But Bertram's stronger arm prevail'd,
And laid the stranger low.
Die, traitor die! — A deadly thrust
Attends each furious word.
Ah! then fair Isabel knew his voice,
And rush'd beneath his sword.
O stop, she cried, O stop thy arm!
Thou dost thy brother slay!—
And here the Hermit paus'd, and wept:
His tongue no more could say.
At length he cried, Ye lovely pair,
How shall I tell the rest?
Ere I could stop my piercing sword,
It fell, and stab'd her breast.
Wert thou thyself that hapless youth?
Ah! cruel fate! they said.
The Hermit wept, and so did they:
They sigh'd; he hung his head.
O blind and jealous rage, he cried,
What evils from thee flow?
The Hermit paus'd; they silent mourn'd:
He wept, and they were woe.
Ah! when I heard my brother's name,
And saw my lady bleed,
I rav'd, I wept, I curst my arm,
That wrought the fatal deed.
In vain I clasp'd her to my breast,
And clos'd the ghastly wound;
In vain I press'd his bleeding corpse,
And rais'd it from the ground.
My brother, alas! spake never more,
His precious life was flown.
She kindly strove to sooth my pain,
Regardless of her own.
Bertram, she said, be comforted,
And live to think on me:
May we in heaven that union prove,
Which here was not to be!
Bertram, she said, I still was true;
Thou only hadst my heart:
May we hereafter meet in bliss!
We now, alas! must part.
For thee, I left my father's hall,
And flew to thy relief,
When, lo! near Cheviot's fatal hills,
I met a Scottish chief,
Lord Malcolm's son, whose proffered love,
I had refus'd with scorn;
He slew my guards and seiz'd on me
Upon that fatal morn:
And in these dreary hated walls
He kept me close confin'd;
And fondly sued, and warmly press'd
To win me to his mind.
Each rising morn increas'd my pain,
Each night increas'd my fear;
When wandering in this northern garb
Thy brother found me here.
He quickly form'd this brave design
To set me captive free;
And on the moor his horses wait
Ty'd to a neighbouring tree.
Then haste, my love, escape away,
And for thyself provide;
And sometime fondly think on her,
Who should have been thy bride.
Thus pouring comfort on my soul
Even with her latest breath,
She gave one parting fond embrace,
And clos'd her eyes in death.
In wild amaze, in speechless woe
Devoid of sense I lay:
Then sudden all in frantic mood
I meant myself to slay:
And rising up in furious haste
I seiz'd the bloody brand:
A sturdy arm here interpos'd,
And wrench'd it from my hand.
A crowd, that from the castle came,
Had miss'd their lovely ward;
And seizing me to prison bare,
And deep in dungeon barr'd.
It chanc'd that on that very morn
Their chief was prisoner ta'en:
Lord PERCY had us soon exchang'd,
And strove to soothe my pain.
And soon those honoured dear remains,
To England were convey'd;
And there within their silent tombs,
With holy rites were laid.
For me, I loath'd my wretched life,
And oft to end it sought;
Till time, and thought, and holy men
Had better counsels taught.
They rais'd my heart to that pure source,
Whence heavenly comfort shows:
They taught me to despise the world,
And calmly bear its woes.
No more the slave of human pride,
Vain hope, and sordid care;
I meekly vowed to spend my life
In penitence and prayer.
The bold Sir BERTRAM now no more,
Impetuous, haughty, wild;
But poor and humble BENEDICT,
Now lowly, patient, mild:
My lands I gave to feed the poor,
And sacred altars raise;
And here a lonely Anchorete
I came to end my days.
This sweet sequestered vale I chose,
These rocks, and hanging grove;
For oft beside this murmuring stream
My love was wont to rove.
My noble Friend approv'd my choice;
This blest retreat he gave:
And here I carv'd her beauteous form,
And scoop'd this holy cave.
Full fifty winters, all forlorn,
My life I've lingered here;
And daily o'er this sculptur'd saint
I dropt the pensive tear.
And thou, dear brother of my heart,
So faithful and so true,
The sad remembrance of thy fate
Still makes my bosom rue!
Yet not unpitied pass'd my life,
Forsaken, or forgot,
The PERCY and his noble Son
Would grace my lowly cot.
Oft the great Earl from toils of state,
And cumbrous pomp of power,
Would gladly seek my little cell
To spend the tranquil hour.
But length of life is length of woe,
I liv'd to mourn his fall:
I liv'd to mourn his godlike SON,
Their friends and followers all.
But the honours of thy race,
Lov'd youth, shalt now restore;
And raise again the PERCY name
More glorious than before.
He ceas'd, and on the lovely pair
His choicest blessings laid:
While they with thanks and pitying tears
His mournful tale repaid.
And now what present course to take
They ask the good old sire;
And guided by his sage advice
To Scotland they retire.
Mean-time their suit such favour found
At RABY'S stately hall,
Earl Neville and his princely Spouse
Now gladly pardon all.
She suppliant at her Nephew's throne
The royal grace implor'd:
To all the honours of his race
The PERCY was restor'd.
The youthful Earl still more and more
Admir'd his beauteous dame:
NINE noble SONS to him she bore,
All worthy of their name.