Quarterly Review: "The third Canto opens with spirit.... Norton thus addressed himself to the Earl of Northumberland; and having stated the justness of the cause for which they were assembled, he took the banner, which his daughter had embroidered, out of his son's hand, and, having explained its device, which was the cross and five wounds of our Saviour, it was accepted with acclamation by the surrounding multitude, as their common standard. The leaders of the insurrection, and their followers, march to Durham, and thence to Wetherby. The description of the eight sons has much merit.... In the mean time, Francis is described, in some pleasing lines, standing afar off, with 'breast unmailed, unweaponed hand,' watching his father, and keeping the banner ever in sight. Suddenly news is brought that the royal army, in great force, is rapidly marching upon York. Upon this, the leaders of the insurrection resolve upon a retreat to Naworth. Norton strongly remonstrates against what he deems an impolitic and pusillanimous measure; but the trumpet is sounded, and the retreat immediately commences. While old Norton, in deep despondency, is lingering in the rear, and musing upon his daughter Emily, Francis suddenly appears before him; and having shewn how vain it is to expect any thing but failure under a chief of so little wisdom and courage, proposes that his father should immediately provide for his own safety, offering to share his fate, whatever it may be. His father, however, rejects both his advice and services with scorn, and Francis retires, to wait for some happier opportunity of interposing" 14 (October 1815) 215-17.
Robert Southey to Sir Walter Scott: "The story affected me more deeply than I wish to be affected; younger readers, however, will not object to the depth of distress, — and nothing was ever more ably treated" 11 February 1808; in Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 3:131-32.
Now joy for you and sudden chear,
Ye Watchmen upon Brancepeth Towers;
Looking forth in doubt and fear,
Telling melancholy hours!
Proclaim it, let your Masters hear
That Norton with his Band is near!
The Watchmen from their station high
Pronounced the word, — and the Earls descry
Forthwith the armed Company
Marching down the banks of Were.
Said fearless Norton to the Pair
Gone forth to hail him on the Plain—
"This meeting, noble Lords! looks fair,
I bring with me a goodly train;
Their hearts are with you: — hill and dale
Have helped us: — Ure we crossed, and Swale,
And horse and harness followed — see
The best part of their Yeomanry!
—Stand forth, my Sons! — these eight are mine,
Whom to this service I commend;
Which way soe'er our fate incline
These will be faithful to the end;
They are my all" — voice failed him here,
"My all save one, a Daughter dear!
Whom I have left, the mildest birth,
The meekest Child on this blessed earth.
I had — but these are by my side
These eight, and this is a day of pride!
The time is ripe — with festive din
Lo! how the People are flocking in,—
Like hungry Fowl to the Feeder's hand
When snow lies heavy upon the land."
He spake bare truth; for far and near
From every side came noisy swarms
Of Peasants in their homely gear;
And, mixed with these, to Brancepeth came
Grave Gentry of estate and name,
And Captains known for worth in arms;
And prayed the Earls in self-defence
To rise, and prove their innocence.—
"Rise, noble Earls, put forth your might
For holy Church, and the People's right!"
The Norton fixed, at this demand,
His eye upon Northumberland,
And said, "The minds of Men will own
No loyal rest while England's Crown
Remains without an Heir, the bait
Of strife and factions desperate;
Who, paying deadly hate in kind
Through all things else, in this can find
A mutual hope, a common mind;
And plot, and pant to overwhelm
All ancient honour in the realm.
—Brave Earls! to whose heroic veins
Our noblest blood is given in trust,
To you a suffering State complains,
And ye must raise her from the dust.
With wishes of still bolder scope
On you we look, with dearest hope,
Even for our Altars, — for the prize
In Heaven, of life that never dies;
For the old and holy Church we mourn,
And must in joy to her return.
"Behold!" — and from his Son whose stand
Was on his right, from that guardian hand
He took the Banner, and unfurled
The precious folds — "behold," said he,
"The ransom of a sinful world;
Let this your preservation be,—
The wounds of hands and feet and side,
And the sacred Cross on which Jesus died!
—This bring I from an ancient hearth,
These Records wrought in pledge of love
By hands of no ignoble birth,
A Maid o'er whom the blessed Dove
Vouchsafed in gentleness to brood
While she the holy work pursued."
"Uplift the Standard!" was the cry
From all the Listeners that stood round,
"Plant it, — by this we live or die"—
The Norton ceased not for that sound,
But said, "The prayer which ye have heard.
Much injured Earls! by these preferred,
Is offered to the Saints, the sigh
Of tens of thousands, secretly."—
"Uplift it," cried once more the Band,
And then a thoughtful pause ensued.
"Uplift it!" said Northumberland—
Whereat, from all the multitude,
Who saw the Banner reared on high
In all its dread emblazonry,
With tumult and indignant rout
A voice of uttermost joy brake out:
The transport was rolled down the river of Were,
And Durham, the time-honoured Durham, did hear,
And the Towers of Saint Cuthbert were stirred by the shout!
Now was the North in arms: — they shine
In warlike trim from Tweed to Tyne,
At Percy's voice: and Neville sees
His Followers gathering in from Tees,
From Were, and all the little Rills
Concealed among the forked Hills.—
Seven hundred Knights, Retainers all
Of Neville, at their Master's call
Had sate together in Raby Hall!
Such strength that Earldom held of yore;
Nor wanted at this time rich store
Of well-appointed Chivalry.
—Not loth the sleepy lance to wield,
And greet the old paternal shield,
They heard the summons; — and, furthermore,
Came Foot and Horse-men of each degree,
Unbound by pledge of fealty;
Appeared, with free and open hate
Of novelties in Church and State;
Knight, Burgher, Yeoman, and Esquire;
And the Romish Priest, in Priest's attire.
And thus, in arms, a zealous Band
Proceeding under joint command,
To Durham first their course they bear;
And in Saint Cuthbert's ancient seat
Sang Mass, — and tore the book of Prayer,—
And trod the Bible beneath their feet.
Thence marching southward smooth and free,
"They mustered their Host at Wetherby,
Full sixteen thousand fair to see;"
The choicest Warriors of the North!
But none for undisputed worth
Like those eight Sons; who in a ring,
Each with a lance — erect and tall,
A falchion, and a buckler small,
Stood by their Sire, on Clifford-moor,
In youthful beauty flourishing,
To guard the Standard which he bore.
—With feet that firmly pressed the ground
They stood, and girt their Father round;
Such was his choice, — no Steed will he
Henceforth bestride; — triumphantly
He stood upon the verdant sod,
Trusting himself to the earth, and God.
Rare sight to embolden and inspire!
Proud was the field of Sons and Sire,
Of him the most; and, sooth to say,
No shape of Man in all the array
So graced the sunshine of that day:
The monumental pomp of age
Was with this goodly Personage;
A stature undepressed in size,
Unbent, which rather seemed to rise,
In open victory o'er the weight
Of seventy years, to higher height;
Magnific limbs of withered state,—
A face to fear and venerate,—
Eyes dark and strong, and on his head
Rich locks of silver hair, thick-spread,
Which a brown morion half-concealed,
Light as a hunter's of the field;
And thus, with girdle round his waist,
Whereon the Banner-staff might rest
At need, he stood, advancing high
The glittering, floating Pageantry.
Who sees him? — many see, and One
With unparticipated gaze;
Who 'mong these thousands Friend hath none,
And treads in solitary ways.
He, following wheresoe'er he might,
Hath watched the Banner from afar,
As Shepherds watch a lonely star,
Or Mariners the distant light
That guides them on a stormy night.
And now, upon a chosen plot
Of rising ground, yon heathy spot!
He takes this day his far-off stand,
With breast unmailed, unweaponed hand.
—Bold is his aspect; but his eye
Is pregnant with anxiety,
While, like a tutelary Power,
He there stands fixed, from hour to hour.
Yet sometimes, in more humble guise,
Stretched out upon the ground he lies,—
As if it were his only task
Like Herdsman in the sun to bask,
Or by his mantle's help to find
A shelter from the nipping wind:
And thus, with short oblivion blest,
His weary spirits gather rest.
Again he lifts. his eyes; and lo!
The pageant glancing to and fro;
And hope is wakened by the sight
That he thence may learn, ere fall of night,
Which way the tide is doomed to flow.
To London were the Chieftains bent;
But what avails the bold intent?
A Royal army is gone forth
To quell the Rising of the North;
They march with Dudley at their head,
And in seven days' space, will to York be led!
Can such a mighty Host be raised
Thus suddenly, and brought so near?
The Earls upon each other gazed;
And Neville was opprest with fear;
For, though he bore a valiant name,
His heart was of a timid frame,
And bold if both had been, yet they
"Against so many may not stay."
And therefore will retreat to seize
A strong Hold on the banks of Tees:
There wait a favourable hour,
Until Lord Dacre with his power
From Naworth comes; and Howard's aid
Be with them — openly displayed.
While through the Host, from man to man,
A rumour of this purpose ran,
The Standard giving to the care
Of him who heretofore did bear
That charge, impatient Norton sought
The Chieftains to unfold his thought,
And thus abruptly spake, — "We yield
(And can it be?) an unfought field!
—How often hath the strength of heaven
To few triumphantly been given!
Still do our very children boast
Of mitred Thurston, what a Host
He conquered! — Saw we not the Plain,
(And flying shall behold again)
Where faith was proved? — while to battle moved
The Standard on the sacred wain,
On which the grey-haired Barons stood,
And the infant Heir of Mowbray's blood,
Beneath the saintly Ensigns three,
Their confidence and victory!
Shall Percy blush, then, for his Name?
Must Westmoreland be asked with shame
Whose were the numbers, where the loss,
In that other day of Neville's Cross?
When, as the Vision gave command,
The Prior of Durham with holy hand
Saint Cuthbert's Relic did uprear
Upon the point of a lofty spear,
And God descended in his power,
While the Monks prayed in Maiden's Bower.
Less would not at our need be due
To us, who war against the Untrue;—
The delegates of Heaven we rise,
Convoked the impious to chastise;
We, we the sanctities of old.
Would re-establish and uphold."—
The Chiefs were by his zeal confounded,
But word was given — and the trumpet sounded;
Back through the melancholy Host
Went Norton, and resumed his post.
Alas! thought he, and have I borne
This Banner raised so joyfully,
This hope of all posterity,
Thus to become at once the scorn
Of babbling winds as they go by,
A spot of shame to the sun's bright eye,
To the frail clouds a mockery!
—"Even these poor eight of mine would stem,"
Half to himself, and half to them
He spake, "would stem, or quell a force
Ten times their number, man and horse;
This by their own unaided might,
Without their Father in their sight,
Without the Cause for which they fight;
A Cause, which on a needful day
Would breed us thousands brave as they."
—So speaking, he upraised his head
Towards that Imagery once more;
But the familiar prospect shed
Despondency unfelt before:
A shock of intimations vain,
Blank fear, and superstitious pain,
Fell on him, with the sudden thought
Of her by whom the work was wrought:—
Oh wherefore was her countenance bright
With love divine and gentle light?
She did in passiveness obey,
But her Faith leaned another way.
Ill tears she wept, — I saw them fall.
I overheard her as she spake
Sad words to that mute Animal,
The White Doe, in the hawthorn brake;
She steeped, but not for Jesu's sake,
This Cross in tears: — by her, and One
Unworthier far, we are undone—
Her Brother was it who assailed
Her tender spirit and prevailed.
Her other Parent, too, whose head
In the cold grave hath long been laid,
From reason's earliest dawn beguiled
The docile, unsuspecting Child:
Far back — far back my mind must go
To reach the well-spring of this woe!—
While thus he brooded, music sweet
Was played to chear them in retreat;
But Norton lingered in the rear:
Thought followed thought — and ere the last
Of that unhappy train was past,
Before him Francis did appear.
"Now when 'tis not your aim to oppose,"
Said he, "in open field your Foes;
Now that from this decisive day
Your multitude must melt away,
An unarmed Man may come unblamed;
To ask a grace, that was not claimed
Long as your hopes were high, he now
May hither bring a fearless brow;
When his discountenance can do
No injury, — may come to you.
Though in your cause no part I bear,
Your indignation I can share;
Am grieved this backward march to see,
How careless and disorderly!
I scorn your Chieftains, Men who lead,
And yet want courage at their need;
Then look at them with open eyes!
Deserve they further sacrifice?
My Father! I would help to find
A place of shelter, till the rage
Of cruel men do like the wind
Exhaust itself and sink to rest;
Be Brother now to Brother joined!
Admit me in the equipage
Of your misfortunes, that at least,
Whatever fate remains behind,
I may bear witness in my breast
To your nobility of mind!"
"Thou Enemy, my bane and blight!
Oh! bold to fight the Coward's fight
Against all good" — but why declare,
At length, the issue of this prayer?
Or how, from his depression raised,
The Father on his Son had gazed;
Suffice it that the Son gave way,
Nor strove that passion to allay,
Nor did he turn aside to prove
His Brothers' wisdom or their love—
But calmly from the spot withdrew;
The like endeavours to renew,
Should e'er a kindlier time ensue.