The Feud: A Border Ballad

Adam Lindsay Gordon 1833 – 1870

PLATE I
Rixa super mero
 
They sat by their wine in the tavern that night,
But not in good fellowship true :
The Rhenish was strong and the Burgundy bright,
And hotter the argument grew.
 
'I asked your consent when I first sought her hand,
Nor did you refuse to agree,
Tho' her father declared that the half of his land
Her dower at our wedding should be.'
 
'No dower shall be given (the brother replied)
With a maiden of beauty so rare,
Nor yet shall my father my birthright divide,
Our lands with a foeman to share.'
 
The knight stood erect in the midst of the hall,
And sterner his visage became,
'Now, shame and dishonour my 'scutcheon befall
If thus I relinquish my claim.'
 
The brother then drained a tall goblet of wine,
And fiercely this answer he made—
'Before like a coward my rights I resign
I'll claim an appeal to the blade.
 
'The passes at Yarrow are rugged and wide,
There meet me to-morrow alone ;
This quarrel we two with our swords will decide,
And one shall this folly atone.'
 
They've settled the time and they've settled the place,
They've paid for the wine and the ale,
They've bitten their gloves, and their steps they retrace
To their castles in Ettrick's Vale.
 
 
PLATE II
Morituri (te) salutant
 
Now, buckle my broadsword at my side
And saddle my trusty steed ;
And bid me adieu, my bonnie bride,
To Yarrow I go with speed.
'I've passed through many a bloody fray,
Unharmed in health or limb ;
Then why's your brow so sad this day
And your dark eye so dim ?'
 
'Oh, belt not on your broadsword bright,
Oh ! leave your steed in the stall,
For I dreamt last night of a stubborn fight,
And I dreamt I saw you fall.'
 
'On Yarrow's braes there will be strife,
Yet I am safe from ill ;
And if I thought it would cost my life
I must take this journey still.'
 
He turned his charger to depart
In the misty morning air,
But he stood and pressed her to his heart
And smoothed her glossy hair.
 
And her red lips he fondly kissed
Beside the castle door,
And he rode away in the morning mist,
And he never saw her more !
 
 
PLATE III
Heu ! deserta domus
 
She sits by the eastern casement now,
And the sunlight enters there,
And settles on her ivory brow
And gleams in her golden hair.
On the deerskin rug the staghound lies
And dozes dreamily,
And the quaint carved oak reflects the dyes
Of the curtain's canopy.
 
The lark has sprung from the new-mown hay,
And the plover's note is shrill
And the song of the mavis far away
Comes from the distant hill ;
And in the wide courtyard below
She heard the horses neigh,
The men-at-arms pass to and fro
The scraps of border-lay.
She heard each boisterous oath and jest
The rough moss-troopers made,
Who scoured the rust from spur or crest,
Or polished bit or blade.
They loved her well, those rugged men,—
How could they be so gay
When he perchance in some lone glen
Lay dying far away ?
 
She was a fearless Border girl,
Who from her earliest days
Had seen the banners oft unfurl
And the war-beacons blaze—
Had seen her father's men march out,
Roused by the trumpet's call,
And heard the foeman's savage shout
Close to their fortress wall.
And when her kin were arming fast,
Had belted many a brand—
Why was her spirit now o'ercast ?
Where was her self-command ?
She strove to quell those childish fears,
Unworthy of her name ;
She dashed away the rising tears,
And, flushed with pride and shame,
She rose and hurried down the stair,
The castle yard to roam ;
And she met her elder sister there,
Come from their father's home,
'Sister, I've ridden here alone,
Your lord and you to greet.'
'Sister, to Yarrow he has gone
Our brother there to meet ;
I dreamt last night of a stubborn fray
Where I saw him fall and bleed,
And he rode away at break of day
With his broadsword and his steed.'
'Oh ! sister dear, there will be strife :
Our brother likes him ill,
And one or both must forfeit life
On Yarrow's lonely hill.'
 
A stout moss-trooper, standing near,
Spoke with a careless smile :
'Now, have no fear for my master dear,—
He may travel many a mile,
And those who ride on the Border side,
Albeit they like him not,
They know his mettle has oft been tried
Where blows were thick and hot.
He left command that none should go
From hence till home he came ;
But, lady, the truth you soon shall know
If you
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Adam Lindsay Gordon

Adam Lindsay Gordon was an Australian poet, jockey and politician. more…

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"The Feud: A Border Ballad" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 14 Aug. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/180/the-feud:-a-border-ballad>.

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