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.

XIX

  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.

XX

  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.

XXI

  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."

XXII

  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,
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