Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature L (Delaware Museum, final proof, incomplete copy 2)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 June 7
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

Image of page 147 page: 147
  • And over the space the Græme strode dark
  • With his mantle round him flung;
  • And in his eye was a flaming light
  • But not a word on his tongue.
  • And Stuart held a torch to the floor,
  • And he found the thing he sought;
  • And they slashed the plank away with their swords;
  • And O God! I fainted not!
  • And the traitor held his torch in the gap,
  • 660All smoking and smouldering;
  • And through the vapour and fire, beneath
  • In the dark crypt's narrow ring,
  • With a shout that pealed to the room's high roof
  • They saw their naked King.
Image of page 148 page: 148
  • Half naked he stood, but stood as one
  • Who yet could do and dare:
  • With the crown, the King was stript away,—
  • The Knight was reft of his battle-array,—
  • But still the Man was there.
  • 670From the rout then stepped a villain forth,—
  • Sir John Hall was his name;
  • With a knife unsheathed he leapt to the vault
  • Beneath the torchlight-flame.
  • Of his person and stature was the King
  • A man right manly strong,
  • And mightily by the shoulder-blades
  • His foe to his feet he flung.
Image of page 149 page: 149
  • Then the traitor's brother, Sir Thomas Hall,
  • Sprang down to work his worst;
  • 680And the King caught the second man by the neck
  • And flung him above the first.
  • And he smote and trampled them under him;
  • And a long month thence they bare
  • All black their throats with the grip of his hands
  • When the hangman's hand came there.
  • And sore he strove to have had their knives,
  • But the sharp blades gashed his hands.
  • Oh James! so armed, thou hadst battled there
  • Till help had come of thy bands;
  • 690And oh! once more thou hadst held our throne
  • And ruled thy Scotish lands!
Image of page 150 page: 150
  • But while the King o'er his foes still raged
  • With a heart that nought could tame,
  • Another man sprang down to the crypt;
  • And with his sword in his hand hard-gripp'd,
  • There stood Sir Robert Græme.
  • (Now shame on the recreant traitor's heart
  • Who durst not face his King
  • Till the body unarmed was wearied out
  • 700With two-fold combating!
  • Ah! well might the people sing and say,
  • As oft ye have heard aright:—
  • O Robert Græme, O Robert Græme,
  • Who slew our King, God give thee shame!
  • For he slew him not as a knight.)
Image of page 151 page: 151
  • And the naked King turned round at bay,
  • But his strength had passed the goal,
  • And he could but gasp:—“Mine hour is come;
  • But oh! to succour thine own soul's doom,
  • 710Let a priest now shrive my soul!”
  • And the traitor looked on the King's spent strength,
  • And said:—“Have I kept my word?—
  • Yea, King, the mortal pledge that I gave?
  • No black friar's shrift thy soul shall have,
  • But the shrift of this red sword!”
  • With that he smote his King through the breast;
  • And all they three in that pen
  • Fell on him and stabbed and stabbed him there
  • Like merciless murderous men.
Image of page 152 page: 152
  • 720Yet seemed it now that Sir Robert Græme,
  • Ere the King's last breath was o'er,
  • Turned sick at heart with the deadly sight
  • And would have done no more.
  • But a cry came from the troop above:—
  • “If him thou do not slay,
  • The price of his life that thou dost spare
  • Thy forfeit life shall pay!”
  • O God! what more did I hear or see,
  • Or how should I tell the rest?
  • 730But there at length our King lay slain
  • With sixteen wounds in his breast.
  • O God! and now did a bell boom forth,
  • And the murderers turned and fled;—
  • Image of page 153 page: 153
  • Too late, too late, O God, did it sound!—
  • And I heard the true men mustering round,
  • And the cries and the coming tread.
  • But ere they came, to the black death-gap
  • Somewise did I creep and steal;
  • And lo! or ever I swooned away,
  • 740Through the dusk I saw where the white face lay
  • In the Pit of Fortune's Wheel.

  • And now, ye Scotish maids who have heard
  • Dread things of the days grown old,—
  • Even at the last, of true Queen Jane
  • May somewhat yet be told,
  • And how she dealt for her dear lord's sake
  • Dire vengeance manifold.
Image of page 154 page: 154
  • 'Twas in the Charterhouse of Perth,
  • In the fair-lit Death-chapelle,
  • 750That the slain King's corpse on bier was laid
  • With chaunt and requiem-knell.
  • And all with royal wealth of balm
  • Was the body purified;
  • And none could trace on the brow and lips
  • The death that he had died.
  • In his robes of state he lay asleep
  • With orb and sceptre in hand;
  • And by the crown he wore on his throne
  • Was his kingly forehead spann'd.
Image of page 155 page: 155
  • 760And, girls, 'twas a sweet sad thing to see
  • How the curling golden hair,
  • As in the day of the poet's youth,
  • From the King's crown clustered there.
  • And if all had come to pass in the brain
  • That throbbed beneath those curls,
  • Then Scots had said in the days to come
  • That this their soil was a different home
  • And a different Scotland, girls!
  • And the Queen sat by him night and day,
  • 770And oft she knelt in prayer,
  • All wan and pale in the widow's veil
  • That shrouded her shining hair.
Image of page 156 page: 156
  • And I had got good help of my hurt:
  • And only to me some sign
  • She made; and save the priests that were there,
  • No face would she see but mine.
  • And the month of March wore on apace;
  • And now fresh couriers fared
  • Still from the country of the Wild Scots
  • 780With news of the traitors snared.
  • And still as I told her day by day,
  • Her pallor changed to sight,
  • And the frost grew to a furnace-flame
  • That burnt her visage white.
Image of page 157 page: 157
  • And evermore as I brought her word,
  • She bent to her dead King James,
  • And in the cold ear with fire-drawn breath
  • She spoke the traitors' names.
  • But when the name of Sir Robert Græme
  • 790Was the one she had to give,
  • I ran to hold her up from the floor;
  • For the froth was on her lips, and sore
  • I feared that she could not live.
  • And the month of March wore nigh to its end,
  • And still was the death-pall spread;
  • For she would not bury her slaughtered lord
  • Till his slayers all were dead.
Image of page 158 page: 158
  • And now of their dooms dread tidings came,
  • And of torments fierce and dire;
  • 800And nought she spake,—she had ceased to speak,—
  • But her eyes were a soul on fire.
  • But when I told her the bitter end
  • Of the stern and just award,
  • She leaned o'er the bier, and thrice three times
  • She kissed the lips of her lord.
  • And then she said,—“My King, they are dead!”
  • And she knelt on the chapel-floor,
  • And whispered low with a strange proud smile,—
  • “James, James, they suffered more!”
Electronic Archive Edition: 1