Sir Walter Scott

Here you will find the Long Poem Marmion: Canto 6 (excerpt) of poet Sir Walter Scott

Marmion: Canto 6 (excerpt)

Next morn the Baron climb'd the tower, 
 To view afar the Scottish power,
 Encamp'd on Flodden edge:
 The white pavilions made a show,
 Like remnants of the winter snow,
 Along the dusky ridge.
 Long Marmion look'd:--at length his eye
 Unusual movement might descry
 Amid the shifting lines:
 The Scottish host drawn out appears,
 For, flashing on the hedge of spears
 The eastern sunbeam shines.
 Their front now deepening, now extending;
 Their flank inclining, wheeling, bending,
 Now drawing back, and now descending,
 The skilful Marmion well could know,
 They watch'd the motions of some foe,
 Who traversed on the plain below.


 Even so it was. From Flodden ridge
 The Scots beheld the English host
 Leave Barmore-wood, their evening post,
 And heedful watch'd them as they cross'd
 The Till by Twisel Bridge.
 High sight it is, and haughty, while
 They dive into the deep defile;
 Beneath the cavern'd cliff they fall,
 Beneath the castle's airy wall.
 By rock, by oak, by hawthorn-tree,
 Troop after troop are disappearing;
 Troop after troop their banners rearing,
 Upon the eastern bank you see.
 Still pouring down the rocky den,
 Where flows the sullen Till,
 And rising from the dim-wood glen,
 Standards on standards, men on men,
 In slow succession still,
 And, sweeping o'er the Gothic arch,
 And pressing on, in ceaseless march,
 To gain the opposing hill.
 That morn, to many a trumpet clang,
 Twisel! thy rock's deep echo rang;
 And many a chief of birth and rank,
 Saint Helen! at thy fountain drank.
 Thy hawthorn glade, which now we see
 In spring-tide bloom so lavishly,
 Had then from many an axe its doom,
 To give the marching columns room.


 And why stands Scotland idly now,
 Dark Flodden! on thy airy brow,
 Since England gains the pass the while,
 And struggles through the deep defile?
 What checks the fiery soul of James?
 Why sits that champion of the dames
 Inactive on his steed,
 And sees, between him and his land,
 Between him and Tweed's southern strand,
 His host Lord Surrey lead?
 What 'vails the vain knight-errant's brand?
 --O, Douglas, for thy leading wand!
 Fierce Randolph, for thy speed!
 O for one hour of Wallace wight,
 Or well-skill'd Bruce, to rule the fight,
 And cry--"Saint Andrew and our right!"
 Another sight had seen that morn,
 From Fate's dark book a leaf been torn,
 And Flodden had been Bannockbourne!--
 The precious hour has pass'd in vain,
 And England's host has gain'd the plain;
 Wheeling their march, and circling still,
 Around the base of Flodden hill.


 Ere yet the bands met Marmion's eye,
 Fitz-Eustace shouted loud and high,
 "Hark! hark! my lord, an English drum!
 And see ascending squadrons come
 Between Tweed's river and the hill,
 Foot, horse, and cannon:--hap what hap,
 My basnet to a prentice cap,
 Lord Surrey's o'er the Till!--
 Yet more! yet more!--how far array'd
 They file from out the hawthorn shade,
 And sweep so gallant by!
 With all their banners bravely spread,
 And all their armour flashing high,
 Saint George might waken from the dead,
 To see fair England's standards fly."--
 "Stint in thy prate," quoth Blount, "thou'dst best,
 And listen to our lord's behest."--
 With kindling brow Lord Marmion said,--
 "This instant be our band array'd;
 The river must be quickly cross'd,
 That we may join Lord Surrey's host.
 If fight King James,--as well I trust,
 That fight he will, and fight he must,--
 The Lady Clare behind our lines
 Shall tarry, while the battle joins."


 Himself he swift on horseback threw,
 Scarce to the Abbot bade adieu;
 Far less would listen to his prayer,
 To leave behind the helpless Clare.
 Down to the Tweed his band he drew,
 And mutter'd as the flood they view,
 "The pheasant in the falcon's claw,
 He scarce will yield to please a daw:
 Lord Angus may the Abbot awe,
 So Clare shall bide with me."
 Then on that dangerous ford, and deep,
 Where to the Tweed Leat's eddies creep,
 He ventured desperately:
 And not a moment will he bide,
 Till squire, or groom, before him ride;
 Headmost of all he stems the tide,
 And stems it gallantly.
 Eustace held Clare upon her horse,
 Old Hubert led her rein,
 Stoutly they braved the current's course,
 And, though far downward driven per force,
 The southern bank they gain;
 Behind them straggling, came to shore,
 As best they might, the train:
 Each o'er his head his yew-bow bore,
 A caution not in vain;
 Deep need that day that every string,
 By wet unharm'd, should sharply ring.
 A moment then Lord Marmion staid,
 And breathed his steed, his men array'd,