Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DREAM: THE LAY OF THE SCOTTISH MINSTREL, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE DREAM: THE LAY OF THE SCOTTISH MINSTREL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There are no sounds in the wanderer's eye
Last Line: As the master told his ancient tale.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Scotland


THERE are no sounds in the wanderer's ear,
To breathe of the home that he holds so dear:
Your gales pass by on the breath of the rose,
The vines on your sunny hills repose;
And your river is clear as its silver tide
Had no task save to mirror the flowers beside.
Thou art fair, Provence, but not fair to me
As the land which my spirit is pining to see,
Where the pine rises darkly, the lord of the wood,
Or stands alone in the pass, where the warrior has stood;
Where the torrent is rushing like youth in its might,
And the cavern is black as the slumber of night;
Where the deer o'er the hills bound, as fleet and as free
As the shaft from the bow, as the wave of the sea;
Where the heather is sweet as the sleep that is found
By the hunter who makes it his bed on the ground;
Where the might of the chieftain goes down to his son
In numbers as wild as the deeds that are done;
Where the harp has notes caught from the storm and the flood,
When foemen are gathering together in blood;
Yet has others that whisper the maiden, of love,
In tones that re-echo the linnet and dove;
Where the mountain ash guards us from elfin and fay,
Where the broom, spendthrift like, flings its gold-wreath away;
And the harebell shines blue in the depth of the vale.
Oh! dear country of mine, of thee be my tale.

The lady awoke from the slumber of night,
But the vision had melted away from her sight.
She turn'd to her pillow for rest, but again
The same vision of fear became only more plain.

She dream'd she stood on a fair hill side,
And there lands lay beneath in summer pride,
The sky was clear, and the earth was green, --
Her heart grew light as she gazed on the scene.
Two fair oak trees most caught her eye;
The one looked proudly up to the sky,
The other bent meekly, as if to share
The shelter its proud boughs flung on the air.
There came no cloud on the face of day;
Yet even as she look'd they pass'd away,
Unmark'd as though they had never been,
Save a young green shoot that had sprung between.
And while she gazed on it, she could see
That sapling spring up to a noble tree.
Again she woke, and again she slept,
But the same dream still on her eyelids kept.
The morning came at last, but its light
Seem'd not to her as her mornings bright.
A sadness hung on her lip and brow,
She could not shake off, she shamed to avow.

While the hounds that chase the stag and roe
Were gathering in the court below,
She walk'd with her lord, and mark'd that on him
A somewhat of secret shadow lay dim;
And sought she the cause with that sweet art,
Which is the science of woman's fond heart,
That may not bear the loved one to brood
Nor aught of sorrow in solitude;
And with gentle arm in his entwined,
And witching cheek on his reclined,
The source of his gloom is to her made known --
'Tis a dream, -- she starts, for she hears her own.
But his cares, at least, to the summons yield
Of the baying hound and the cheerful field;
At the horn's glad peal he downwards flung
From the terraced wall, and to stirrup sprung
And the lady forgot her bodings too,
As his steed dash'd aside the morning dew,
So graceful he sate, while his flashing eye
Seem'd proud of his gallant mastery.
But the swell of the horn died away on the air,
And the hunter and hounds were no longer there;
Then MATILDA turn'd to her loneliness,
With a cloud on her spirit she might not repress.
She took up her pencil, unconscious she drew
A heavy branch of the funeral yew;
She reach'd her lute and its song awoke,
But the string as she touch'd it, wail'd and broke;
Then turn'd she the poet's gifted leaf,
But the tale was death, and the words were grief;
And still with a power she might not quell,
The dream of the night o'er her hung like a spell.
Day pass'd, but her lord was still away;
Word came he was press'd to a festal array; --
'Twas a moment's thought -- around her was thrown
The muffling plaid, and she hasten'd alone
To the glen, where dwelt the awful maid
To whom the spirits of air had said
Unearthly words, and given a power
O'er the wind, and the stars, and the midnight hour.
She reach'd that glen; not till then she took
One moment's breath, or one moment's look.
When paused she in awe -- 'twas so lone, so still;
Silence was laid on the leaf and the rill, --
It was stillness as that of the tomb around,
The beat of her heart was the only sound.
On one side, bleak rocks the barrier made,
As the first great curse were upon them laid;
Drear and desolate, stern and bare,
Tempests and time had been ravaging there.
And there gather'd darkly the lowering sky,
As if fearing its own obscurity;
And spectre like, around the vale,
Pale larches flung their long arms on the gale,
Till the sward of the glen sloped abruptly away,
And a gloomy lake under the precipice lay.
Never was life or sound in its wave, --
An abyss like that of the depths of the grave.
On yet she went; till, sudden as thought,
By her stood the seer whom she wildly sought.
She had heard no step, seen no shadow glide,
Yet there the prophetess was by her side.
As the skilful in music tone their chords,
The lady had arm'd her with soothing words;
But she look'd on the face that fronted her there,
And her words and their substance melted in air.
Pale as the corpse on its death-bed reclining;
And hands through whose shadow the starbeam was shining,
As they waved from her forehead the raven cloud
Of hair that fell to her feet like a shroud;
And awful eyes, -- never had earth
To their fearful wanderings given birth --
Their light and their haunting darkness came
From gazing on those it is sin to name.
She spoke, it was low, but it sank on the soul
With deadlier force than the thunder's roll;
Yet her voice was sweet, as to it were left
The all of human feeling not reft:
"I heard the words come on the midnight wind;
They pass'd, but their message is left behind;
I watch'd the course of a falling star,
And I heard the bode of its cry from afar;
I talk'd with the spirit of yonder lake;
I sorrow'd, and, lady, 'twas for thy sake.
Part from thy face the sunny hair,
So young, and yet death is written there.
No one is standing beside thee now,
Yet mine eyes can see a noble brow,
I can see the flash of a clear dark eye,
And a stately hunter is passing by.
You will go to the tomb, but not alone,
For the doom of that hunter is as your own.
Hasten thee home, and kiss the cheek
Of thy young fair child, nor fear to break
The boy's sweet slumber of peace; for not
With his father's or thine is that orphan's lot.
As the sapling sprang up to a stately tree,
He will flourish; but not, thou fond mother, for thee.
Now away, for those who would blast thy sight
Are gathering fast on the clouds of night;
Away, while yet those small clear stars shine,
They'll grow pale at the meeting of me and mine."

Alas, for the weird of the wizard maid!
Alas, for the truth of the words which she said!
Ah, true for aye will those bodings be
That tell of mortal misery!
I've seen my noble chieftain laid low,
And my harp o'er his grave wail'd its song of woe;
And again it wail'd for the gentle bride
Who with hastening love soon slept by his side.
He pass'd away in the early spring,
And she in the summer, whose sun could bring
Warmth and life, in its genial hour,
To all save the drooping human flower.
I left the land, I could not stay
Where the gallant, the lovely, had pass'd away;
Yet now my spirit is pining to greet
My youthful chief in his parent's seat.
I saw him once in a foreign land,
With plume on head, and with spear in hand;
And many a lady's eye was bent
On the stranger knight in the tournament;
He had his father's stately brow,
And the falcon eye that flash'd below;
But when he knelt as the victor down
(Fair was the maiden who gave the crown),
A few low words the young warrior said,
And his lip had his mother's smile and red.
He is dwelling now in his native glen,
And there my harp must waken again;
My last song shall be for him young, him brave,
Then away to die at my master's grave!

LED by a child, whose sunny air
And rosy cheek young Health might wear,
When rising from the mountain wave,
Fresh as the stream its freshness gave;
But gentle eyes, with softness fraught,
As if their tenderness they caught
From gazing on the pallid brow
Whose only light was from them now.
Beautiful it was to see
Such love in early infancy.
Far from the aged steps she led,
Long since the guiding light had fled;
And meek and sad the old man grew,
As nearer life's dark goal he drew;
All solace of such weary hour
Was that child's love, and his own power
O'er music's spirit, and the store
He treasured up of legend lore.
She led him gently to his seat,
And took her place beside his feet,
Up gazing with fond fixed eye,
Lest sigh should pass unnoticed by
A clear rich prelude forth he rang,
Brighten'd his look as thus he sang;
The colour lit his forehead pale,
As the master told his ancient tale.





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