Percy's Reliques - Hardyknute.

Hardyknute.

A SCOTTISH FRAGMENT.

            As this fine morsel of heroic poetry hath generally past for ancient, it is here thrown to the end of our earlier pieces; that such as doubt of its age, may the better compare it with other pieces of genuine antiquity. For after all, there is more than reason to suspect, that it owes most of its beauties (if not its whole existence) to the pen of a lady, within the present century. One Mrs. Wardlaw, whose maiden name was Halket (aunt to the late Sir Peter Halket, of Pitferran, in Scotland, who was killed in America, along with General Bradock, in 1755), pretended she had found this poem, written on shreds of paper, employed for what is called the bottoms of clues. A suspicion arose that it was her own composition. Some able judges asserted it to be modern. The lady did in a manner acknowledge it to he so. Being desired to shew an additional stanza, as a proof of this, she produced the two last, beginning with "There's nae light," &c. which were not in the copy that was first printed. The late Lord President Forbes, and Sir Gilbert Elliot, of Minto (late Lord Justice Clerk for Scotland) who had believed it ancient, contributed to the expence of publishing the first edition, in folio, 1719. This account was transmitted from Scotland by Sir David Dalrymple, the late Lord Hailes, who yet was of opinion, that part of the ballad may be ancient; but retouched and much enlarged by the lady above-mentioned. Indeed he had been informed, that the late William Thompson, the Scottish musician, who published the Orpheus Caledonius, 1733, 2 vols. 8vo. declared he had heard fragments of it repeated in his infancy, before Mrs. Wardlaw's copy was heard of.

            The poem is here printed from the original edition, as it was prepared for the press with the additional improvements.

I.

STATELY stept he east the wa',
And stately stept he west,
Full seventy years he now had seen,
Wi' scarce seven years of rest.
He liv'd when Britons breach of faith
Wrought Scotland mickle wae:
And ay his sword tauld to their cost,
He was their deadlye fae.

II.

High on a hill his castle stood,
With ha's and tow'rs a height,
And goodly chambers fair to se,
Where he lodged mony a knight.
His dame sae peerless anes and fair,
For chast and beauty deem'd,
Nae marrow had in all the land,
Save ELENOR, the queen.

III.

Full thirteen sons to him she bare,
All men of valour stout:
In bloody fight with sword in hand
Nine lost their lives bot doubt:
Four yet remain, lang may they live
To stand by liege and land;
High was their fame, high was their might,
And high was their command.

IV.

Great love they bare to FAIRLY fair,
Their sister saft and dear,
Her girdle shaw'd her middle jimp,
And gowden glist her hair.
What waefu' wae her beauty bred?
Waefu' to young and auld,
Waefu' I trow to kyth and kin,
As story ever tauld.

V.

The king of Norse in summer tyde,
Puff'd up with pow'r and might,
Landed in fair Scotland the isle
With mony a hardy knight.
The tydings to our good Scots king
Came, as he sat at dine,
With noble chiefs in brave aray,
Drinking the blood-red wine.

VI.

"To horse, to horse, my royal liege
Your faes stand on the strand,
Full twenty thousand glittering speares
The king of Norse commands."
"Bring me my steed Mage dapple gray,"
Our good king rose and cry'd,
"A trustier beast in a' the land
A Scots king nevir try'd.

VII.

"Go little page, tell Hardyknute,
That lives on hill sae hie,
To draw his sword, the dread of faes,
And haste and follow me."
The little page flew swift as dart,
Flung by his master's arm,
"Come down, come down, lord Hardyknute,
And rid your king frae harm."

VIII.

Then red, red grew his dark-brown cheeks,
Sae did his dark-brown brow;
His looks grew keen, as they were wont
In dangers great to do;
He's ta'en a horn as green as grass,
And gi'en five sounds sae shill,
That trees in green wood shook thereat,
Sae loud rang ilka hill.

IX.

His sons in manly sport and glee,
Had past that summer's morn,
When low down in the grassy dale,
They heard their father's horn.
"That horn," quo' they, "ne'er sounds in peace
We've other sport to bide."
And soon they hy'd them up the hill,
And soon were at his side.

X.

"Late, late the yestreen I ween'd in peace
To end my lengthened life,
My age might well excuse my arm
Frae manly feats of strife,
But now that Norse do's proudly boast
Fair Scotland to inthrall,
It's ne'er be said of Hardyknute,
He fear'd to fight or fall.

XI.

"Robin of Rothsay, bend thy bow,
Thy arrows shoot sae leel,
That many a comely countenance
They've turned to deadly pale.
Brade Thomas take you but your lance,
You need nae weapons mair,
If you fight wi't as you did anes
'Gainst Westmoreland's fierce heir.

XII.

"And Malcolm, light of foot as stag
That runs in forest wild,
Get me my thousands three of men
Well bred to sword and shield:
Bring me my horse and harnisine,
My blade of mettal clear.
If faes but ken'd the hand it bare,
They soon had fled for fear.

XIII.

"Farewell my dame sae peerless good,
(And took her by the hand),
Fairer to me in age you seem,
Than maids for beauty fam'd.
My youngest son shall here remain
To guard these stately towers,
And shut the silver bolt that keeps
Sae fast your painted bowers."

XIV.

And first she wet her comely cheiks,
And then her boddice green,
Her silken cords of twirtle twist,
Well plett with silver sheen;
And apron set with mony a dice
Of needle-wark sae rare,
Wove by nae hand, as ye may guess,
Save that of FAIRLY fair.

XV.

And he has ridden o'er muir and moss,
O'er hills and mony a glen,
When he came to a wounded knight
Making a heavy mane;
"Here maun I lye, here maun I dye,
By treacherie's false guiles;
Witless I was that e'er ga faith
To wicked woman's smiles."

XVI.

"Sir knight, gin you were in my bower,
To lean on silken seat,
My lady's kindly care you'd prove,
Who ne'er knew deadly hate:
Herself wou'd watch you a' the day,
Her maids a dead of night;
And FAIRLY fair your heart wou'd thear,
As she stands in your sight.

XVII.

"Arise young knight, and mount your stead,
Full lowns the shynand day:
Choose frae my menzie whom ye please
To lead you on the way."
With smileless look, and visage wan
The wounded knight reply'd,
"Kind chieftain, your intent pursue,
For here I maun abyde.

XVIII.

"To me nae after day nor night
Can e're be sweet or fair,
But soon beneath some draping tree,
Cauld death shall end my care."
With him nae pleading might prevail;
Brave Hardyknute to gain
With fairest words, and reason strong,
Strave courteously in vain.

XIX.

Syne he has gane far hynd out o'er
Lord Chattan's land sae wide;
That lord a worthy wight was ay,
When faes his courage sey'd:
Of Pictish race by mother's side,
When Picts rul'd Caledon,
Lord Chattan claim'd the princely maid,
When he sav'd Pictish crown.

XX.

Now with his fierce and stalwart train,
He reach'd a rising hight,
Quhair braid encampit on the dale,
Norss menzie lay in sicht.
"Yonder my valiant sons and feirs
Our raging revers wait
On the unconquert Scottish sward
To try with us their fate.

XXI.

"Make orisons to him that sav'd
Our sauls upon the rude;
Syne bravely shaw your veins are fill'd
With Caledonian blude."
Then forth he drew his trusty glave,
While thousands all around
Drawn frae their sheaths glanc'd in the sun;
And loud the bougles sound.

XXII.

To joye his king adoun the hill
In hast his merch he made,
While, playand pibrochs, minstralls meit
Afore him stately strade.
"Thrice welcome valiant stoup of weir,
Thy nations shield and pride;
Thy king nae reason has to fear
When thou art by his side."

XXIII.

When bows were bent and darts were thrawn
For thrang scarce cou'd they flee;
The darts clove arrows as they met,
The arrows dart the tree.
Lang did they rage and fight fu' fierce,
With little skaith to mon,
But bloody, bloody was the field,
Ere that lang day was done.

XXIV.

The king of Scots, that sindle brook'd
The war that look'd like play,
Drew his braid sword, and brake his bow,
Sin bows seem'd but delay.
Quoth noble Rothsay, "Mine I'll keep,
I wat it's bled a score."
Haste up my merry men, cry'd the king,
As he rode on before.

XXV.

The king of Norse he sought to find,
With him to mense the faught,
But on his forehead there did light
A sharp unsonsie shaft;
As he his hand put up to feel
The wound, and arrow keen,--
O waefu' chance! there pinn'd his hand
In midst between his een.

XXVI.

"Revenge, revenge," cry'd Rothsay's heir,
"Your mail-coat sha' na bide
The strength and sharpness of my dart:"
Then sent it through his side.
Another arrow well he mark'd
It pierc'd his neck in twa,
His hands then quat the silver reins,
He low as earth did fa'.

XXVII.

"Sair bleids my liege, sair, sair he bleeds!"
Again wi' might he drew
And gesture dread his sturdy bow,
Fast the braid arrow flew:
Wae to the knight he ettled at;
Lament now Queen Elgreed;
High dames too wail your darling's fall,
His youth and comely meed.

XXVIII.

"Take aff, take aff his costly jupe
(Of gold well was it twin'd,
Knit like the fowler's net, through quhilk,
His steelly harness shin'd)
"Take, Norse, that gift frae me, and bid
Him venge the blood it bears;
Say, if he face my bended bow,
He sure nae weapon fears."

XXIX.

Proud Norse with giant body tall,
Braid shoulders and arms strong,
Cry'd, "Where is Hardyknute sae fam'd,
And fear'd at Britain's throne:
Tho' Briton's tremble at his name,
I soon shall make him wail,
That e'er my sword was made sae sharp,
Sae saft his coat of mail."

XXX.

That brag his stout heart cou'd na bide,
It lent him youthfu' nicht
"I'm Hardyknute; this day," he cry'd,
"To Scotland's king I heght
To lay thee low, as horses hoof;
My word I mean to keep."
Syne with the first stroke e'er he strake,
He garr'd his body bleed.

XXXI.

Norss' een like gray gosehawk's stair'd wyld,
He sigh'd wi' shame and spite;
"Disgrac'd is now my far-fam'd arm
That left thee power to strike:"
Then ga' his head a blow sae fell,
It made him doun to stoup,
As laigh as he to ladies us'd
In courtly guise to lout.

XXXII.

Fu' soon he rais'd his bent body,
His bow he marvell'd sair,
Sin blows till then on him but darr'd
As touch of FAIRLY fair:
Norse marvell'd too as sair as he
To see his stately look;
Sae soon as e'er he strake a fae,
Sae soon his life he took.

XXXIII.

Where like a fire to heather set,
Bauld Thomas did advance
Ane sturdy fae with look enrag'd
Up toward him did prance;
He spurr'd his steid through thickest ranks
The hardy youth to quell,
Wha stood unmov'd at his approach
His fury to repell.

XXXIV.

"That short brown shaft sae meanly trimrn'd,
Looks like poor Scotlands gear,
But dreadfull seems the rusty point!"
And loud he leugh in jear.
"Oft Britons blood was dimm'd it's shine;
This point cut short their vaunt:"
Syne pierc'd the boasters bearded cheek;
Nae time he took to taunt.

XXXV.

Short while he in his saddle swang,
His stirrup was nae stay,
Sae feeble hang his unbent knee
Sure taiken he was fey:
Swith on the harden't clay he fell,
Right far was heard the thud:
But Thomas look't nae as he lay
All weltering in his blud.

XXXVI.

With careless gesture, mind unmov't,
On rode he north the plain;
His seem in throng of fiercest strife,
When winner ay the same:
Not yet his heart dames dimplet cheek
Could mease soft love to bruik,
Till vengefu' Ann return'd his scorn,
Then languid grew his luik.

XXXVII.

In thraws of death, with walowit cheik
All panting on the plain,
The fainting corps of warriours lay
Ne're to arise again;
Ne're to return to native land,
Nae mair with blithsome sounds
To boast the glories of the day,
And shaw their shining wounds.

XXXVIII.

On Norways coast the widowit dame
May wash the rocks with tears,
May lang luik ow'r the shipless seas
Befor her mate appears.
Cease, Emma, cease to hope in vain;
Thy lord lyes in the clay;
The valiant Scots nae revers thole
To carry life away.

XXXIX.

Here on a lee, where stands a cross
Set up for monument,
Thousands fu' fierce that summer's day
Fill'd keen war's black intent.
Let Scots, while Scots, praise Hardyknute,
Let Norse the name ay dread,
Ay how he faught, aft how he spar'd,
Shall latest ages read.

XL.

Now loud and chill blew th' westlin winds,
Sair beat the heavy shower,
Mirk grew the night ere Hardyknute
Wan near his stately tower.
His tower that us'd wi' torches blaze
To shine sae far at night,
Seem'd now as black as mourning weed,
Nae marvel sair he sigh'd.

XLI.

"There's nae light in my lady's bower,
There's nae light in my ha';
Nae blink shines round my FAIRLY fair,
Nor ward stands on my wa'.
What bodes it? Robert, Thomas, say;"
Nae answer fitts their dread.
"Stand back, my sons, Ile be your guide:"
But by they past with speed.

XLII.

"As fast I've sped owre Scotlands faes",--
There ceas'd his brag of weir,
Sair sham'd to mind ought but his dame,
And maiden FAIRLY fair.
Black fear he felt, but what to fear
He wist nae yet; wi' dread
Sair shook his body, sair his limbs,
And a' the warrior fled.

*** In an elegant publication, intitled "Scottish Tragic Ballads, printed by and for J. Nichols, 1781, &c." may be seen a continuation of the ballad of Hardyknute, by the addition of a Second Part, which hath since been acknowledged to be his own composition, by the ingenious editor, to whom the late Sir D. Dalrymple communicated (subsequent to the account drawn up above) extracts of a letter from Sir John Bruce, of Kinross, to Lord Binning, which plainly proves the pretended discoverer of the fragment of Hardyknute to have been Sir John Bruce himself. His words are, "To perform my promise, I send you a true copy of the manuscript I found some weeks ago in a vault at Dumferline. It is written on vellum in a fair Gothic character, but so much defaced by time, as you'll find that the tenth part is not legible." He then gives the whole fragment as it was first published in 1719, save one or two stanzas, marking several passages as having perished by being illegible in the old manuscript. Hence it appears that Sir John was the author of Hardyknute, but afterwards used Mrs. Wardlaw to be the midwife of his poetry, and suppressed the story of the vault; as is well observed by the editor of the Tragic Ballads, and of Maitland's Scot. Poets, vol. i. p. cxxvii.
            To this gentleman we are indebted for the use of the copy, whence the second edition was afterwards printed, as the same was prepared for the press by John Clerk, M. D. of Edinburgh, an intimate companion of Lord President Forbes.
            The title of the first edition was, "Hardyknute, a Fragment. Edinburgh, printed for James Watson, &c. 1719. folio, 12 pages."
            Stanzas not in the first edition are, Nos. 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 34, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42.
            In the present impression the orthography of Dr. Clerk's copy has been preserved, and his readings carefully followed, except in a few instances, wherein the common edition appeared preferable.

            The Editor was also informed, on the authority of Dr. David Clerk, M.D. of Edinburgh (son of the aforesaid Dr. John Clerk), that between the present stanzas 36 and 37, the two following had been intended, but were on maturer consideration omitted, and do not now appear among the MS. additions:

Now darts flew wavering through slaw speed,
Scarce could they reach their aim;
Or reach'd, scarce blood the round point drew,
'Twas all but shot in vain:
Right strengthy arms forfeebled grew,
Sair wreck'd wi' that day's toils:
E'en fierce-born minds now lang'd for peace,
And curs'd war's cruel broils.

Yet still wars horns sounded to charge,
Swords clash'd and harness rang;
But saftly sae ilk blaster blew
The hills and dales fraemang.
Nae echo heard in double dints,
Nor the lang-winding horn,
Nae mair she blew out brade as she
Did eir that summers morn.

 

Previous Next