Edinburgh After Flodden

I.

News of battle!-news of battle!
Hark! 'tis ringing down the street:
And the archways and the pavement
Bear the clang of hurrying feet.
News of battle? Who hath brought it?
News of triumph? Who should bring
Tidings from our noble army,
Greetings from our gallant King?
All last night we watched the beacons
Blazing on the hills afar,
Each one bearing, as it kindled,
Message of the opened war.
All night long the northern streamers
Shot across the trembling sky:
Fearful lights, that never beckon
Save when kings or heroes die.

II.

News of battle! Who hath brought it?
All are thronging to the gate;
'Warder-warder! open quickly!
Man-is this a time to wait?'
And the heavy gates are opened:
Then a murmur long and loud,
And a cry of fear and wonder
Bursts from out the bending crowd.
For they see in battered harness
Only one hard-stricken man,
And his weary steed is wounded,
And his cheek is pale and wan.
Spearless hangs a bloody banner
In his weak and drooping hand-
God! can that be Randolph Murray,
Captain of the city band?

III.

Round him crush the people, crying,
'Tell us all-oh, tell us true!
Where are they who went to battle,
Randolph Murray, sworn to you?
Where are they, our brothers-children?
Have they met the English foe?
Why art thou alone, unfollowed?
Is it weal, or is it woe?'
Like a corpse the grisly warrior
Looks from out his helm of steel;
But no word he speaks in answer,
Only with his armèd heel
Chides his weary steed, and onward
Up the city streets they ride;
Fathers, sisters, mothers, children,
Shrieking, praying by his side.
'By the God that made thee, Randolph!
Tell us what mischance hath come!'
Then he lifts his riven banner,
And the asker's voice is dumb.

IV.

The elders of the city
Have met within their hall-
The men whom good King James had charged
To watch the tower and wall.
'Your hands are weak with age,' he said,
'Your hearts are stout and true;
So bide ye in the Maiden Town,
While others fight for you.
My trumpet from the Border-side
Shall send a blast so clear,
That all who wait within the gate
That stirring sound may hear.
Or, if it be the will of heaven
That back I never come,
And if, instead of Scottish shouts,
Ye hear the English drum,-
Then let the warning bells ring out,
Then gird you to the fray,
Then man the walls like burghers stout,
And fight while fight you may.
'T were better that in fiery flame
The roofs should thunder down,
Than that the foot of foreign foe
Should trample in the town!'

V.

Then in came Randolph Murray,-
His step was slow and weak,
And, as he doffed his dinted helm,
The tears ran down his cheek:
They fell upon his corslet,
And on his mailèd hand,
As he gazed around him wistfully,
Leaning sorely on his brand.
And none who then beheld him
But straight were smote with fear,
For a bolder and a sterner man
Had never couched a spear.
They knew so sad a messenger
Some ghastly news must bring:
And all of them were fathers,
And their sons were with the King.

VI.

And up then rose the Provost-
A brave old man was he,
Of ancient name and knightly fame,
And chivalrous degree.
He ruled our city like a Lord
Who brooked no equal here,
And ever for the townsmen's rights
Stood up 'gainst prince and peer.
And he had seen the Scottish host
March from the Borough-muir,
With music-storm and clamorous shout
And all the din that thunders out,
When youth's of victory sure.
But yet a dearer thought had he,
For, with a father's pride,
He saw his last remaining son
Go forth by Randolph's side,
With casque on head and spur on heel,
All keen to do and dare;
And proudly did that gallant boy
Dunedin's banner bear.
Oh, woeful now was the old man's look,
And he spake right heavily-
'Now, Randolph, tell thy tidings,
However sharp they be!
Woe is written on thy visage,
Death is looking from thy face:
Speak, though it be of overthrow-
It cannot be disgrace!'

VII.

Right bitter was the agony
That wrung the soldier proud:
Thrice did he strive to answer,
And thrice he groaned aloud.
Then he gave the riven banner
To the old man's shaking hand,
Saying-'That is all I bring ye
From the bravest of the land!
Ay! ye may look upon it-
It was guarded well and long,
By your brothers and your children,
By the valiant
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"Edinburgh After Flodden" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 14 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/40407/edinburgh-after-flodden>.

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