Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature H (Delaware Museum, complete
first author's proof, copy 2)
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]
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 southern yoke
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 ferns
- 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