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238

FITZ-JAMES AND RODERICK DHU.

Of this small horn one feeble blast
Would fearful odds against thee cast :
But fear not-doubt not-which thou wilt-
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt.”
Then each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each looked to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what they ne'er might see again;
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.
Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw,
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dashed aside ;
For, trained abroad bis arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield ;
He practised every pass and ward,
To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard ;
While, less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintained unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon sword drank blood;
No stinted draught, no scanty tide,
The gushing flood the tartans dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And showered his blows like wintry rain ;
And, as firm rock, or castle roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe, invulnerable still,
Foiled his wild rage by steady skill ;
Till, at advantage ta’en, his brand
Forced Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And, backwards borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.
“Now, yield thee, or by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dyes my blade!”
“ Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy !
Let recreant yield who fears to die."
Like adder darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young,
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung,

THE FAKENHAM GHOST.

239

Received, but recked not of a wound,
And locked his arms his foeman round.
Now, gallant Saxon, hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown !
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel
Through bars of brass and triple steel !
They tug, they strain ! down, down they go,
The Gael above, Fitzjames below.
The chieftain's gripe his throat-compressed,
His knee was planted in his breast :
His clotted locks he backward threw,
Across his brow his hand he drew,
From blood and mist to clear his sight;
Then gleamed aloft his dagger bright !
But hate and fury ill supplied
The stream of life's exhausted tide,
And all too late the advantage came,
To turn the odds of deadly game;
For, while the dagger gleamed on high,
Reeled soul and sense,

reeled brain and eye.
Down came the blow ! but in the heath
The erring blade found bloodless sheath.
The struggling foe may now unclasp
The fainting chief's relaxing grasp ;
Unwounded from the dreadful close,
But breathless all, Fitzjames arose.

Scott's Lady of the Lake."

THE FAKENHAM GHOST.

THE lawns were dry in Euston park

(Here truth inspires my tale), The lonely footpath, still and dark,

Led over hill and dale. Benighted was an ancient dame,

And fearful haste she made To gain the vale of Fakenham,

And bail its willow shade.

240

THE FAKENHAM GHOST.

Her footsteps knew no idle stops,

But followed faster still,
And echoed to the darksome copse

That whispered on the hill.
Where clamorous rooks, yet scarcely hushed,

Bespoke a peopled shade ;
And many a wing the foliage brushed,

And hovering circuits made.
The dappled herd of grazing deer,

That sought the shades by day,
Now started from her path with fear,

And gave the stranger way.
Darker it grew, and darker fears

Came o'er her troubled mind :
When now a short quick step she hears,

Come patting close behind.
She turned-it stopt—nought could she see

Upon the gloomy plain !
But, as she strove the sprite to flee,

She heard the same again.

Now terror seized her quaking frame :

For, where the path was bare,
The trotting ghost kept on the same !

She muttered many a prayer.
Yet once again, amidst her fright,

She tried what sight could do ;
When, through the cheating gloom of night,

A monster stood in view.
Regardless of whate'er she felt,

It followed down the plain !
She owned her sins, and down she knelt,

And said her prayers again.
Then on she sped, and hope grew strong,

The white park-gate in view,
Which, pushing hard, so long it swung

That ghost and all passed through.

THE FAKENHAM GHOST.

241

Loud fell the gate against the post !

Her heartstrings like to crack :
For much she feared the grizzly ghost

Would leap upon her back.
Still on, pat, pat, the goblin went,

As it had done before :
Her strength and resolution spent,

She fainted at the door.
Out came her husband, much surprised ;

Out came her daughter dear :
Good-natured souls ! all unadvised
Of what they had to fear.

1 The candle's gleam pierced through the night,

Some short space o'er the green; And there the little trotting sprite

Distinctly might be seen. An ass's foal had lost its dam

Within the spacious park ; And, simple as the playful lamb,

Had followed in the dark. No goblin he, no imp of sin ;

No crimes had he e'er kulown : They took the shaggy stranger in,

And reared him as their own.
His little hoofs would rattle round

Upon the cottage floor ;
The matron learned to love the sound

That frightened her before.
A favourite the ghost became,

And 'twas his fate to thrive ;
And long he lived, and spread his fame,

And kept the joke alive.
For many a laugh went through the vale,

And some conviction too :
Each thought some other goblin tale
Perhaps was just as true.

Robert Bioomfield.

242

THE GAMBLER'S WIFE.

THE GAMBLER'S WIFE.

Dark is the night! how dark! no light-no fire !
Cold, on the hearth, the last faint sparks expire!
Shivering she watches by the cradle side
For him who pledged her love-last year a bride!
“Hark! 'tis his footstep! No—'tis past; 'tis gone.
Tick! tick! How wearily the time crawls on.
Why should he leave me thus? He once was kind;
And I believed 'twould last-how mad! how blind!

“Rest thee, my babe! rest on! 'Tis hunger's cry!
Sleep ! for there is no food, the fount is dry.
Famine and cold their wearying work have done-
My heart must break! And thou!” The clock strikes one.

"Hush ! 'tis the dice-box! Yes; he's there, he's there.
For this—for this he leaves me to despair !
Leaves love-leaves truth-his wife-his child-for what?
The wanton's smile—the villain, and the sot!

“Yet, I'll not curse him! No! 'tis all in vain. 'Tis long to wait, but sure he'll come again! And I could starve and bless him, but for you My child! His child !-oh fiend !” The clock strikes two.

“ Hark! how the sign-board creaks! The blast howls by! Moan! moan ! a dirge swells through the cloudy sky ! Ha! 'tis his knock! he comes—he conies once more ! 'Tis but the lattice flaps! Thy hope is o'er.

“Can he desert me thus ? He knows I stay
Night after night in loneliness
To pray for his return, and yet he sees no tear !
No! no ! it cannot be. He will be here.

“ Nestle more closely, dear one, to my heart !
Thou’rt cold ! thou'rt freezing ! But we will not part.
Husband ! I die ! Father! It is not he !
Oh God ! protect my child !” The clock strikes three.

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