The Third Brother’s Tale

Miss Vardill


“O where are the Chiefs of Doon and Kyle?
 And why are our clans asleep?
They have ta’en my Father by southron guile
 And laid him in Donjon-Keep.
My Father loves the brindled kine
 Or the foray in down and dell;
But better he loves the Warden’s wine
 Than the Warden’s Donjon-cell!”


“Hast thou no brother, lady fair,
 To mount that gallant steed,
And break thy father’s donjon-bar
 While southron traitors bleed?
Hast thou no lover, fair Lady,
 His good claymore to hold?
One lock of thy yellow hair would buy
 More than all the Warden’s gold:


I have but a Palmer’s staff and hood,
 My wrinkled brow is grey:
Yet there is a drop of youthful blood
 Glows warm in my heart to-day!”—
“Then, Palmer, give me thy mantle grey,
 In merry Carlisle I’ll sleep;
And my father shall laugh ere dawning day
 At the Warden’s Donjon-keep.”


The Palmer has open’d his mantle wide
 And cast his crosier by;
The Warden’s sword is by his side,
 And a red light in his eye.
Yestreen when he came to Margaret’s bow’r,
 His tangled beard was white;
Now his locks are like the yellow flow’r,
 And his eye as the morning bright.


“Kneel not, fair daughter of Buccleugh!
 I pray thee, kneel not now!
Thy father’s hand my Father slew,
 Tho’ milk-white was his brow.
Kneel not to me, sweet Margaret!
 Still leave thy wealth untold—
There is no Border-Baron yet
 Who sells his hate for gold.”


“Lord Warden, take the jewels bright,
 That in my coffer lie,
But grant one ray of morning light
 To bless my Father’s eye!
I’ll give thee Lauder’s greenest linn,
 And Ettrick’s tow’r and dell,
For one breath of the westlin wind
 To cheer his donjon-cell!”


“Nay, Lady, give thy blue eye’s light,
 And breathe one gentle sigh,
And I’ll pledge the faith of England’s knight
 Thy father shall not die.
I came a traitor’s face to seek,
 But thine is fair and true;
Thou has England’s red rose in thy cheek,
 Thine eye has her holy blue.


Take thou my ring as I take thine,
 Then kiss the cup with me;
This honest draught of rosy wine
 Our pledge of love shall be.”

The Warden quaff’d the silver tank—
 The draught was long and deep:
The next draught that the Warden drank
 His eyes were clos’d in sleep.


The lady has stolen the gay gold ring,
 And the Warden’s wide mantile,
Then she glints away like an elfin’s wing
 To the Donjon of old Carlisle.

“Come forth, Buccleugh, from thy donjon deep!
 This mantle is long and wide!
Come forth while thy foes are hush’d in sleep,
 And haste to thy own burnside!”


The watchman look’d from the castle-rock
 When he heard the grey cock crow;
And he smil’d to see the Warden’s cloak,
 And a kirtle glide below.

   * * * *

Buccleugh is come with his daughter fair
 To his own good Castle-ground;
But the gallant Warden still lies there
 In slumbers soft and sound.


“Now peace to thy pillow, noble knight!
 Content may thy slumbers be;
The heart that has lov’d my Margaret
 Shall never have wound from me.
But thou shalt learn what faith to place
 In the blink of a rolling eye,
And thy King shall know in how soft a space
 The wits of his Warden lie.”


The King has ridden thro’ Carlisle town
 With gold on his war-steed’s shoe;
“And where,” quo’ he, “is the robber gone
 And my Warden bold and true?”
The King rode on to the western lea
 To seek the robber’s track,
But there he has found the Donjon-key
 And his Warden—in a sack.


“Now, by the road!” said the jocund King,
 “’Tis a comely sight to see;
Buy my loyal Cumberland can bring
 Five hundred as fou’ as he.
The knave Buccleugh may speed his flight
 Safe over Tweed or Tyne
Since he cop’d with the wit of a southron knight
 And gave him his fill of wine.”


Twice foursome years has the Warden’s grave
 Grown green in the summer gale,
And the last of his race is a rosy knave
 Who dwells in the Hermits’ dale:
But there is not a dame on Tweed or Tyne
 With an eye of blue or black
Could give him enough of mellow wine
 Or tie him in Cupid’s sack.


St John’s Vale, Cumberland

Dec 1814