Sunday, June 8, 2008

Marmion and Douglas

Here’s another of my favorites. Dramatic recitations are awesome! Anna and I have made quite a practice of quoting this one to each other. As far as I can tell, this is only an excerpt from a larger work by name of “Marmion”, though I have been unable thus far to lay hands on such a masterpiece. This one makes my Scottish adrenaline laden blood run fast. I do hope that William Wallace really was one of our ancestors!

Marmion and Douglas
Sir Walter Scott

The train from out the castle drew,
But Marmion stopped to bid adieu: --
“Though something I might plain,” he said
“Of cold respect to stranger guest,
Sent hither by your king’s behest,
While in Tantallon’s towers I stayed,
Part we in friendship from your land,
And noble Earl, receive my hand.” –

But Douglas round him drew his cloak,
Folded his arms, and thus he spoke: --
“My manors, halls, and bowers shall still
Be open, at my sovereign’s will
To each one whom he lists, howe’er
Unmeet to be the owner’s peer.
My castles are my king’s alone
From turret to foundation stone, --
The hand of Douglas is his own;
And never shall in friendly grasp
The hand of such as Marmion clasp.” –

Burned Marmion’s swarthy cheek like fire,
And shook his very frame for ire,
And –“ This to me!” he said, --
“An’t were not for thy hoary beard,
Such hand as Marmion’s had not spared
To cleave the Douglas’ head!
And first I tell thee, haughty Peer,
He who does England’s message here,
Although the meanest in her state,
May well, proud Angus, be thy mate:
And , Douglas, more I tell thee here,
Even in they pitch of pride,
Here in thy hold, they vassals near,
( Nay , never look upon your lord,
And lay your hands upon your sword,)
I tell thee, thou’rt defied!
And if thou said’st I am not peer to any lord in Scotland here,
Lowland or Highland, far or near,
Lord Angus, thou hast lied!”—
On the Earl’s cheek the flush of rage
O’er came the ashen hue of age;
Fierce he broke forth, -- “And dar’st thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
The Douglas in his hall?
And hop’st thou hence unscathed to go?
No, by St. Bride of Bothwell, no!
Up drawbridge, groom,-- what, Warder, ho!
Let the portcullis fall.”—

Lord Marmion turned, -- well was his need! –
And dashed the rowels in his steed,
Like arrow through the archway sprung;
The ponderous gate behind him rung:
To pass there was such scanty room,
The bars, descending, razed his plume.

The steed along the drawbridge flies,
Just as it trembled on the rise;
Not lighter does the swallow skim
Along the smooth lake’s level brim;
And when Lord Marmion reached his band
He halts, and turns with clenched hand,
And shout of loud defiance pours,
And shook his gauntlet at the towers.

Wow! I can just feel the deep defiance! What unplumbed depths of fiery heart which beats in the proud Douglas and what tension between the Scot and English lord! I can’t help but get really riled up and excited whenever I read this poem (Snap or Anna can tell you about that); my heart starts beating faster and I simply must raise and lower my voice at the appropriate places – I feel the urge to shout, “Lord Angus, Thou hast lied!” and “And dar’st thou then, to beard the lion in his den, the Douglas in his hall…no, by St. Bride of Bothwell, NO!” You have to put emphasis on those words or else you just don’t get the meaning. When the poem shifts to Douglas at the second stanza, you must fold your arms across your chest stubbornly. And at the end of the poem, you simply must shake your “clench-ed hand” at invisible towers. Oo! This is just TOO exciting! I want to run around quoting this poem.

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