Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DARK WAGGON, by DAVID MACBETH MOIR



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THE DARK WAGGON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The water-wraith shrieked over clyde
Last Line: Sir william wallace stept!
Alternate Author Name(s): Delta
Subject(s): Horseback Riding; Travel; Wagons; Wheels; Journeys; Trips


I.

THE Water-Wraith shrieked over Clyde,
The winds through high Dumbarton sighed,
When to the trumpet's call replied
The deep drum from the square;
And in the midnight's misty shade,
With helm, and cloak, and glancing blade,
Two hundred horsemen stood arrayed
Beneath the torch's glare.

II.

Around a huge sepulchral van
They took their station, horse and man.
The outer gateway's bolts withdrawn,
In haste the drawbridge fell;
And out, with iron clatter, went
That sullen midnight armament,
Alone the leader knew where bent,
With what—he might not tell.

III.

Into the darkness they are gone:
The blinded waggon thundered on,
And, save of hoof-tramp, sound was none:
Hurriedly on they scour
The eastward track—away—away—
To none they speak, brook no delay,
Till farm-cocks heralded the day,
And hour had followed hour.

IV.

Behind them, mingling with the skies,
Westward the smoke of Glasgow dies—
The pastoral hills of Campsie rise
Northward in morning's air—
By Kirkintilloc, Cumbernold,
And Castlecary, on they hold,
Till Lythgo shows, in mirrored gold,
Its palaced loch so fair.

V.

Brief baiting-time:—the bugle sounds,
Onwards the ponderous van rebounds
'Mid the grim squadron, which surrounds
Its path with spur and spear.
Thy shrine, Dumanie, fades on sight,
And, seen from Niddreff's hazelly height,
The Forth, amid its islands bright,
Shimmers with lustre clear.

VI.

The Maiden Castle next surveyed,
Across the furzy hills of Braid,
By Craig-Milor, through Wymet's glade
To Inneresc they wound;
Then o'er the Garlton crags afar,
Where, oft a check to England's war,
Cospatrick's stronghold of Dunbar
In proud defiance frowned.

VII.

Weep through each grove, ye tearful rills!
Ye ivied caves, which Echo fills
With voice, lament! Ye proud, free hills,
Where eagles wheel and soar,
Bid noontide o'er your summits throw
Storm's murkiest cloud! Ye vales below,
Let all your wild-flowers cease to blow,
And with bent heads deplore!

VIII.

Ye passions, that, with holy fire,
Illume man's bosom—that inspire
To daring deed, or proud desire,
With indignation burn!
Ye household charities, that keep
Watch over childhood's rosy sleep,
With ashes strew the hearthstone,—weep
As o'er a funeral urn!

IX.

On—on they speed. Oh dreary day,
That, like a vampire, drained away
The blood from Scotland's heart! Delay,
Thou lingering sun, to set!
Rain, twilight! rain down bloody dews
O'er all the eye far northward views;
Nor do thou, night of nights! refuse
A darkness black as jet.

X.

Heroic spirits of the dead!
That in the body nobly bled,
By whom the battle-field for bed
Was chosen, look ye down,—
And see if hearts are all grown cold,—
If for their just rights none are bold,—
If servile earth one bosom hold,
Worthy of old renown?

XI.

The pass-word given, o'er bridge of Tweed
The cavalcade, with slackened speed,
Rolled on, like one from nightmare freed,
That draws an easier breath;
But o'er and round it hung the gloom
As of some dark, mysterious doom—
Shadows cast forward from the tomb,
And auguries of death.

XII.

Scotland receded from the view,
And, on the far horizon blue,
Faded her last, dear hills—the mew
Screamed to its sea-isle near.
As day-beams ceased the west to flout,
Each after each the stars came out,
Like camp-fires heaven's high hosts about,
With lustre calm and clear.

XIII.

And on, through many a Saxon town
Northumbrian, and of quaint renown,
Before the morning star went down,
With thunderous reel they hied;
While from the lattices aloof,
Of many an angled, grey-stone roof,
Rose sudden heads, as sound of hoof
And wheel to southward died.

XIV.

Like Hope's voice preaching to Despair,
Sweetly the chimes for matin prayer
Melted upon the dewy air
From Hexham's holy pile;
But, like the adder deaf, no sound,
Or stern or sweet, an echo found
'Mid that dark squadron, as it wound
Still onward, mile on mile.

XV.

Streamers, and booths, and country games,
And brawny churls, with rustic names,
And blooming maids, and buxom dames—
A boisterous village fair!
On stage his sleights the jongleur shows,
Like strutting cock the jester crows,
And high the morrice-dancer throws
His antic heels in air.

XVI.

Why pause at reel each lad and lass?
A solemn awe pervades the mass;
Wondering they see the travellers pass,
The horsemen journey-worn,
And, in the midst, that blinded van
So hearse-like; while, from man to man,
"Is it of Death," in whispers ran,
"This spectacle forlorn?"

XVII.

Bright are thy shadowy forest-bowers,
Fair Ashby-de-la-Zouche! with flowers;
The wild-deer in its covert cowers,
And, from its pine-tree old,
The startled cushat, in unrest,
Circles around its airy nest,
As forward, on its route unblest,
Aye on that waggon rolled.

XVIII.

And many a grove-encircled town,
And many a keep of old renown,
That grimly watched o'er dale and down,
They passed unheeding by;
Prone from the rocks the waters streamed,
And, 'mid the yellow harvests, gleamed
The reapers' sickles, but all seemed
Mere pictures to the eye.

XIX.

Behold a tournay on the green!
The tents are pitched—the tilters keen
Gambol the listed lines between—
The motley crowds around
For jibe, and jest, and wanton play
Are met—a merry holiday;
And glide the lightsome hours away
In mirth, to music's sound.

XX.

And hark! the exulting shouts that rise,
As, cynosure of circling eyes,
Beauty's fair queen awards the prize
To knight that lowly kneels.
"Make way—make way!" is heard aloud—
Like red sea waters part the crowd,
And, scornful of that pageant proud,
On grinding rush the wheels!

XXI.

Hundreds and hamlets far from sight,
By lonely granges through the night
They camped; and, ere the morning light
Crimsoned the orient, they,
By royal road or baron's park,
Waking the watchful ban-dog's bark,
Before the first song of the lark,
Were on their southward way.

XXII.

By Althorpe, and by Oxendon,
Without a halt they hurried on,
Nor paused by that fair cross of stone,
Now for the first time seen,
(For death's dark billows overwhelm
Both jewelled braid, and knightly helm!)
Raised, by the monarch of the realm,
To Eleanor his queen.

XXIII.

Five times through darkness and through day,
Since crossing Tweed, with fresh relay
Ever in wait, their forward way
That cavalcade had held;
Now joy! for on the weary wights
Loomed London from the Hampstead heights,
As, by the opal morning, night's
Thin vapours were dispell'd.

XXIV.

With spur on heel, and spear in rest,
And buckler'd arm, and trellised breast,
Closer around their charge they press'd—
On whirled, with livelier roll,
The wheels begirt with prancing feet,
And arms, a serried mass complete,
Until, by many a stately street,
They reached their destined goal.

XXV.

Grim Westminster! thy pile severe
Struck to the heart like sudden fear;
"Hope flies from all that enter here!"
Seemed graven on its crest.
The moat o'erpassed, at warn of bell,
Down thundering the portcullis fell,
And clang'd the studded gates—a knell
Despairing and unblest.

XXVI.

Ye guardian angels! that fulfil
Heaven's high decrees, and work its will—
Ye thunderbolts! launched forth to kill—
Where was it then ye slept,
When, foe-bemocked, in prison square,
To death fore-doomed, with dauntless air,
From out that van,
A shackled man,
Sir William Wallace stept!





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