Marmion and Douglas

from Marmion, Canto Sixth (1808) by Walter Scott

XIII. Not far advanced was morning day, When Marmion did his troop array To Surrey’s camp to ride; He had safe-conduct for his band, Beneath the royal seal and hand, And Douglas gave a guide: The ancient Earl, with stately grace, Would Clara on her palfrey place, And whisper’d in an under tone, ‘Let the hawk stoop, his prey is flown.’— The train from out the castle drew, But Marmion stopp’d to bid adieu: ‘Though something I might plain,’ he said, ‘Of cold respect to stranger guest, Sent hither by your King’s behest, While in Tantallon’s towers I staid; Part we in friendship from your land, And, noble Earl, receive my hand.’— But Douglas round him drew his cloak, Folded his arms, and thus he spoke:— ‘My manors, halls, and bowers, shall still Be open, at my Sovereign’s will, To each one whom he lists, howe’er Unmeet to be the owner’s peer. My castles are my King’s alone, From turret to foundation-stone— The hand of Douglas is his own; And never shall in friendly grasp The hand of such as Marmion clasp.’— XIV. Burn’d Marmion’s swarthy cheek like fire, And shook his very frame for ire, And—‘This to me!’ he said, ‘An ‘twere not for thy hoary beard, Such hand as Marmion’s had not spared ‘To cleave the Douglas’ head! And, first, I tell thee, haughty Peer, He, who does England’s message here, Although the meanest in her state, May well, proud Angus, be thy mate: And, Douglas, more I tell thee here, Even in thy pitch of pride, Here in thy hold, thy vassals near, (Nay, never look upon your lord, And lay your hands upon your sword,) I tell thee, thou’rt defied! And if thou said’st, I am not peer To any lord in Scotland here, Lowland or Highland, far or near, Lord Angus, thou hast lied!’— On the Earl’s cheek the flush of rage O’ercame the ashen hue of age: Fierce he broke forth,—‘And darest thou then To beard the lion in his den, The Douglas in his hall? And hopest thou hence unscathed to go?— No, by Saint Bride of Bothwell, no! Up drawbridge, grooms—what, Warder, ho! Let the portcullis fall.’— Lord Marmion turn’d,—well was his need, And dash’d the rowels in his steed, Like arrow through the archway sprung, The ponderous grate behind him rung: To pass there was such scanty room, The bars, descending, razed his plume. XV. The steed along the drawbridge flies, Just as it trembled on the rise; Nor lighter does the swallow skim Along the smooth lake’s level brim: And when Lord Marmion reach’d his band, He halts, and turns with clenched hand, And shout of loud defiance pours, And shook his gauntlet at the towers. ‘Horse! horse!’ the Douglas cried, ‘and chase!’ But soon he rein’d his fury’s pace: ‘A royal messenger he came, Though most unworthy of the name.— A letter forged! Saint Jude to speed! Did ever knight so foul a deed! At first in heart it liked me ill, When the King praised his clerkly skill. Thanks to Saint Bothan, son of mine, Save Gawain, ne’er could pen a line: So swore I, and I swear it still, Let my boy-bishop fret his fill.— Saint Mary mend my fiery mood! Old age ne’er cools the Douglas blood, I thought to slay him where he stood. ‘Tis pity of him too,’ he cried; ‘Bold can he speak, and fairly ride, I warrant him a warrior tried.’ With this his mandate he recalls, And slowly seeks his castle halls.