Fair Rosabelle of Roslin

from The Lay of the Last Minstrel,
a poem by Walter Scott, Esq.
London, 1805, pp. 187–192.

Rose Harold, bard of brave St Clair;
St Clair, who, feasting high at Home,
Had with that lord to battle come.
Harold was born where restless seas
Howl round the storm-swept Orcades;
Where erst St Clairs held princely sway,
O’er isle and islet, strait and bay;
Still nods their palace to its fall,
Thy pride and sorrow, fair Kirkwall!––
Thence of the marked fierce Pentland rave,
As if grim Odinn rode her wave;
And watched, the whilst, with visage pale,
And throbbing heart, the struggling sail;
For all of wonderful and wild
Had rapture for the lonely child.

And much of wild and wonderful,
In these rude isles, mighty Fancy cull;
For thither came, in times afar,
Stern Lochlin’s sons of roving war,
The Norsemen, trained to spoil and blood,
Skilled to prepare the raven’s food;
Kings of the main their leaders brave,
Their barks the dragons of the wave.
And there, in many a stormy vale,
The Scald had told his wondrous tale;
And many a Runic column high
Had witnessed grim idolatry.
And thus had Harold, in his youth,
Learned many a Saga’s rhime uncouth,
Of that Sea-Snake, tremendous curled,
Whose monstrous circle girds the world;
Of those dread Maids, whose hideous yell
Maddens the battle’s bloody swell;
Of chiefs, who, guided through the gloom
By the pale death-lights of the tomb,
Ransacked the graves of warriors old,
Their faulchions wrenched from corpses’ hold,
Waked the deaf tomb with war’s alarms.
And bade the dead arise to arms!
With war and wonder all on flame,
To Roslin’s bowers young Harold came,
Where, by sweet glen and greenwood tree,
He learned a milder minstrelsy;
Yet something of the Northern spell
Mixed with the softer numbers well.



O listen, listen, ladies gay!
No haughty feat of arms I tell;
Soft is the note, and sad the lay,
That mourns the lovely Rosabelle.


––“Moor, moor the barge, ye gallant crew!
And, gentle ladye, deign to stay!
Rest thee in Castle Ravensheuch,
Nor tempt the stormy firth to-day.


“The blackening wave is edged with white;
To inch [isle] and rock the sea-mews fly;
The fishers have heard the Water Sprite,
Whose screams forebode that wreck is nigh.


“Last night the gifted seer did view
A wet shroud swathed round ladye gay;
Then stay thee, Fair, in Ravensheuch:
Why cross the gloomy firth to-day?”


“ ’Tis not because Lord Lindesay’s heir
To-night at Roslin leads the ball,
But that my Ladye-mother there
Sits lonely in her castle-hall.


’Tis not because the ring they ride,
And Lindesay at the ring rides well,
But that my sire the wine will chide,
If ’tis not filled by Rosabelle.”


O’er Roslin all that dreary night
A wonderous blaze was seen to gleam;
’Twas broader than the watch-fire light,
And redder than the bright moon-beam.


It glared on Roslin’s castled rock,
It ruddied all the copse-wood glen;
’Twas seen from Dryden’s groves of oak,
And seen from caverned Hawthornden.


Seemed all on fire that chapel proud,
Where Roslin’s chiefs uncoffined lie;
Each Baron, for a sable shroud,
Sheathed in his iron panoply.


Seemed all on fire within, around,
Deep sacristy and altar’s pale;
Shone every pillar foliage-bound,
And glimmered all the dead men’s mail.


Blazed battlement and pinnet high,
Blazed every rose-carved buttress fair––
So still they blaze, when fate is nigh
The lordly line of high St Clair.


There are twenty of Roslin’s barons bold
Lie buried within that proud chapelle;
Each one the holy vault doth hold––
But the sea holds lovely Rosabelle!


And each St Clair was buried there,
With candle, with book, and with knell;
But the sea-caves rung, and the wild birds sung,
The dirge of lovely Rosabelle.
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