Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature H (Delaware Museum, complete
first author's proof, copy 1)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 April 13
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: 1
Editorial Description: Proof number added by printer.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham's printer date stamp, 13 Apr. 81]
Printer's Direction: small type
Editorial Description: DGR's note to the printer in upper left corner
Tradition says that Catherine
Douglas, in honour of her heroic
act when she barred the door
with her arm against the
derers of James the First of Scots,
A few stanzas from King
James's lovely poem, known
The King's Quair, are quoted
in the course of this ballad.
must express regret
for the necessity which has
him to shorten the
ten-syllabled lines to eight
to enable them to
in order that they might
harmonize with the ballad
Editorial Description: Printer's mark beside line 7 indicating inadvertent printed matter.
THE KING'S TRAGEDY.
James I. of Scots.—20th February, 1437.
- I Catherine am a Douglas born,
- A name to all Scots dear;
- And Kate Barlass they've called me now
- Through many a waning year.
- This old arm's withered now. 'Twas once
- Most deft 'mong maidens all
- To rein the steed, to wing the shaft,
- To smite the palm-play ball.
- In hall adown the close-linked dance
10It has shone most white and fair;
- It has been the rest for a true lord's head,
- And many a sweet babe's nursing-bed,
- And the bar to a King's chambère.
- Aye, lasses, draw round Kate Barlass,
- And hark with bated breath
- How good King James, King Robert's son,
- Was foully done to death.
- Through all the days of his gallant youth
- The princely James was pent,
20By his friends at first and then by his foes,
- In long imprisonment.
- For the elder Prince, the kingdom's heir,
- By treason's murderous brood
- Was slain; and the father quaked for the child
- With the royal mortal blood.
- I' the Bass Rock fort, by his father's care,
- Was his childhood's life assured;
- And Henry the subtle Bolingbroke,
- Proud England's King, 'neath the south
30His youth for long years immured.
- Yet in all things meet for a kingly man
- Himself did he approve;
- And the nightingale through his prison-wall
- Taught him both lore and love.
- For once, when the bird's song drew him close
- To the opened window-pane,
- In her bowers beneath a lady stood,
- A light of life to his sorrowful mood,
- Like a lily amid the rain.
40And for her sake, to the sweet bird's note,
- He framed a sweeter Song,
- More sweet than ever a poet's heart
- Gave yet to the English tongue.
- She was a lady of royal blood;
- And when, past sorrow and teen,
- He stood where still through his crownless years
- His Scotish realm had been,
- At Scone were the happy lovers crowned,
- A heart-wed King and Queen.
50But the bird may fall from the bough of youth,
- And song be turned to moan,
- And Love's storm-cloud be the shadow of Hate,
- When the tempest-waves of a troubled State
- Are beating against a throne.
- Yet well they loved; and the god of Love,
- Whom well the King had sung,
- Might find on the earth no truer hearts
- His lowliest swains among.
- From the days when first she rode abroad
60With Scotish maids in her train,
- I Catherine Douglas won the trust
- Of my mistress sweet Queen Jane.
Editorial Description: Printer's mark beside line 64 indicating inadvertent printed matter.
- And oft she sighed, “To be born a King!”
- And oft along the way
- When she saw the homely lovers pass
- She has said, “Alack the day!”
- Years waned,—the loving and toiling years:
- Till England's wrong renewed
- Drove James, by outrage cast on his crown,
70To the open field of feud.
- 'Twas when the King and his host were met
- At the leaguer of Roxbro' hold,
- The Queen o' the sudden sought his camp
- With a tale of dread to be told.
- And she showed him a secret letter writ
- That spoke of treasonous strife,
- And how a band of his noblest lords
- Were sworn to take his life.
- “And it may be here or it may be there,
80In the camp or the court,” she said:
- “But for my sake come to your people's arms
- And guard your royal head.”
- Quoth he, “'Tis the fifteenth day of the siege,
- And the castle's nigh to yield.”
- “O face your foes on your throne,” she cried,
- “And show the power you wield;
- And under your Scotish people's love
- You shall sit as under your shield.”
- At the fair Queen's side I stood that day
90When he bade them raise the siege,
- And back to his Court he sped to know
- How the lords would meet their Liege.
- But when he summoned his Parliament,
- The louring brows hung round,
- Like clouds that circle the mountain-head
- Ere the first low thunders sound.
- For he had tamed the nobles' lust
- And curbed their power and pride,
- And reached out an arm to right the poor
100Through Scotland far and wide;
- And many a lordly wrong-doer
- By the headsman's axe had died.
- 'Twas then upspoke Sir Robert Græme,
- The bold o'ermastering man:—
- “O King, in the name of your Three Estates
- I set you under their ban!
- “For, as your lords made oath to you
- Of service and fealty,
- Even in like wise you pledged your oath
110Their faithful sire to be:—
- “Yet all we here that are nobly sprung
- Have mourned dear kith and kin
- Since first for the Scotish Barons' curse
- Did your bloody rule begin.”
- With that he laid his hands on his King:—
- “Is this not so, my lords?”
- But of all who had sworn to league with him
- Not one spake back to his words.
- Quoth the King:—“Thou speak'st but
120Nor doth it avow thy gage.
- Let my liege lords hale this traitor hence!”
- The Græme fired dark with rage:—
- “Who works for lesser men than himself,
- He earns but a witless wage!”
- But soon from the dungeon where he lay
- He won by privy plots,
- And forth he fled with a price on his head
- To the country of the Wild Scots.
Printer's Direction: X
Editorial Description: Printer's mark beside line 131 indicating inadvertent printed matter.
- And word there came from Sir Robert Græme
130To the King at Edinbro':—
- “No Liege of mine thou art; but I see
- From this day forth alone in thee
- God's creature, my mortal foe.
- “Through thee are my wife and children lost,
- My heritage and lands;
- And when my God shall show me a way,
- Thyself my mortal foe will I slay
- With these my proper hands.”
- Against the coming of Christmastide
140That year the King bade call
- I' the Black Friars' Charterhouse of Perth
- A solemn festival.
- And we of his household rode with him
- In a close-ranked company;
- But not till the sun had sunk from his throne
- Did we reach the Scotish Sea.
- That eve was clenched for a boding storm,
- 'Neath a toilsome moon half seen;
- The cloud stooped low and the surf rose high;
150And where there was a line of the sky,
- Wild wings loomed dark between.
- And on a rock of the black beach-side,
- By the veiled moon dimly lit,
- There was something seemed to heave with life
- As the King drew nigh to it.
- And was it only the tossing
- Or brake of the waste sea-wold?
- Or was it an eagle bent to the blast?
- When near we came, we knew it at last
160For a woman tattered and old.
- But it seemed as though by a fire within
- Her writhen limbs were wrung;
- And as soon as the King was close to her,
- She stood up gaunt and strong.
- 'Twas then the moon sailed clear of the rack
- On high in her hollow dome;
- And still as aloft with hoary crest
- Each clamorous wave rang home,
- Like fire in snow the moonlight blazed
170Amid the champing foam.
- And the woman held his eyes with her eyes:—
- “O King, thou art come at last;
- But thy wraith has haunted the Scotish Sea
- To my sight for four years past.
- “Four years it is since first I met,
- 'Twixt the Duchray and the Dhu,
- A shape whose feet clung close in a shroud,
- And that shape for thine I knew.
- “A year again, and on Inchkeith Isle
180I saw thee pass in the breeze,
- With the cerecloth risen above thy feet
- And wound about thy knees.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1