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Sir Walter Scott

(1771-1832 / Edinburgh / Scotland)

Bruce and the Abbot


The Abbot on the threshold stood,
And in his hand the holy rood:
Then, cloaking hate with fiery zeal,
Proud Lorn first answered the appeal; -
'Thou comest, O holy man,
True sons of blessed church to greet,
But little deeming here to meet
A wretch, beneath the ban
Of Pope and Church, for murder done
Even on the sacred altar-stone!-
Well mayst thou wonder we should know
Such miscreant here, nor lay him low,
Or dream of greeting, peace, or truce,
With excommunicated Bruce!
Yet will I grant to end debate,
Thy sainted voice decide his fate.'

The Abbot seemed with eye severe
The hardy chieftain's speech to hear;
Then on King Robert turned the Monk, -
But twice his courage came and sunk,
Confronted with the hero's look;
Twice fell his eye, his accents shook;
Like man by prodigy amazed,
Upon the King the Abbot gazed:
Then o'er his pallid features glance
Convulsions of ecstatic trance;
His breathing came more thick and fast,
And from his pale blue eyes were cast
Strange rays of wild and wandering light;
Uprise his locks of silver white,
Flushed is his brow; through every vein
In azure tide the currents strain,
And undistinguished accents broke
The awful silence ere he spoke.

'De Bruce! I rose with purpose dread
To speak my curse upon thy head,
And give thee as an outcast o'er
To him who burns to shed thy gore; -
But, like the Midianite of old,
Who stood on Zophim, heaven-controlled,
I feel within mine aged breast
A power that will not be repressed.
It prompts my voice, it swells my veins,
It burns, it maddens, it constrains! -
De Bruce, thy sacrilegious blow
Hath at God's altar slain thy foe:
O'er mastered yet by high behest,
I bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed!'
He spoke, and o'er the astonished throng
Was silence, awful, deep, and long.

Again that light has fired his eye,
Again his form swells bold and high,
The broken voice of age is gone,
'Tis vigorous manhood's lofty tone: -
'Thrice vanquished on the battle plain, -
Thy followers slaughtered, fled, or ta'en, -
A hunted wanderer on the wild,
On foreign shores a man exiled,
Disowned, deserted, and distressed, -
I bless thee, and thou shalt be blessed!
Blessed in the hall and in the field,
Under the mantle as the shield.
Avenger of thy country's shame,
Restorer of her injured fame,
Blessed in thy sceptre and thy sword, -
De Bruce, fair Scotland's rightful Lord,
Blessed in thy deeds and in thy fame,
What lengthened honors wait thy name!
In distant ages, sire to son
Shall tell thy tale of freedom won,
And teach his infants, in the use
Of earliest speech, to falter Bruce.
Go, then, triumphant! sweep along
Thy course, the theme of many a song!
The Power, whose dictates swell my breast,
Hath blessed thee, and thou shalt be blessed!'

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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