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XXIX.

The ready page, with hurried hand, Awaked the need-fire's a slumbering brand,

And ruddy blush'd the heaven: For a sheet of flame, from the turret high, Waved like a blood-flag on the sky,

All flaring and uneven; And soon a score of fires, I ween, From height, and hill, and cliff, were seen; Each with warlike tidings fraught; Each from each the signal caught; Each after each they glanced to sight, As stars arise upon the night. They gleam'd on many a dusky tarn, Haunted by the lonely earn ; 4 On many a cairn's gray pyramid, Where urns of mighty chiefs lie hid;

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1 [“We absolutely see the fires kindling, one after another, in the following animated description.”- Annual Review, 1804.] 2 Need-fire, beacon.

3 Tarn, a mountain lake. 4 Earn, a Scottish eagle.

5 The cairns, or piles of loose stones, which crown the summit of most of our Scottish hills, and are found in other remarkable situations, seem usually, though not universally, to have been sepulchral monuments. Six flat stones are commonly found in the centre, forming a cavity of greater or smaller dimensions, in which an urn is often placed. The author is possessed of one, discovered beneath an immense cairn at Roughlee, in Liddesdale. It is of the most barbarous construction; the middle of the substance alone having been subjected to the fire, over which, when hardened, the artist

Till high Dunedin the blazes saw,
From Soltra and Dumpender Law;
And Lothian heard the Regent's order,
That all should bowne1 them for the Border.

XXX.

The livelong night in Branksome rang

The ceaseless sound of steel ;
The castle-bell, with backward clang,

Sent forth the larum peal ;
Was frequent heard the heavy jar,
Where massy stone and iron bar
Were piled on echoing keep and tower,
To whelm the foe with deadly shower;
Was frequent heard the changing guard,
And watchword from the sleepless ward ;
While, wearied by the endless din,
Bloodhound and ban-dog yelld within.

XXXI.

The noble Dame, amid the broil,
Shared the gray Seneschal's high toil,
And spoke of danger with a smile;

Cheer'd the young knights, and council sage

had laid an inner and outer coat of unbaked clay, etched with some very rude ornaments; his skill apparently being inadequate to baking the vase, when completely finished. The contents were bones and ashes, and a quantity of beads made of coal. This seems to have been a barbarous imitation of the Roman fashion of sepulture.

1 Bowne, make ready.

Held with the chiefs of riper age.
No tidings of the foe were brought,
Nor of his numbers knew they aught,
Nor what in time of truce he sought.

Some said, that there were thousands ten; And others ween’d that it was nought

But Leven Clans, or Tynedale men,
Who came to gather in black-mail ;
And Liddesdale, with small avail,

Might drive them lightly back agen.
So pass'd the anxious night away,
And welcome was the peep of day.

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CEASED the high sound—the listening throng
Applaud the Master of the Song ;
And marvel much, in helpless age,
So hard should be his pilgrimage.
Had he no friend- no daughter dear,
His wandering toil to share and cheer;
No son to be his father's stay,
And guide him on the rugged way?
“Ay, once he had—but he was dead ! ” "
Upon the harp he stoop'd his head,
And busied himself the strings withal,
To hide the tear that fain would fall.

1 Protection-money exacted by freebooters. VOL. I.

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114 THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL. [CANTO VII.

In solemn measure, soft and slow,
Arose a father's notes of woe.1

1

[“ Nothing can excel the simple concise pathos of the close of this Canto-nor the touching picture of the Ba when, with assumed business, he tries to conceal real sorrow. How well the poet understands the art of contrast--and how judiciously it is exerted in the exordium of the next Canto, where our mourning sympathy is exchanged for the thrill of pleasure!”—ANNA SEWARD.]

THE

LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.

CANTO FOURTH.

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