Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland


Y OUNG Lochinvar, a gallant of the Border country of Scotland that lies just north of England, rides from his home in the west to seek the maid he loves, the fair Ellen. He goes alone, he pays no heed to bush or stone, he swims the Eske, a river of the Border that flows into Solway Firth, and so comes to Ellen's home, Netherby Castle in England, on the eastern bank of the Eske. But before he could reach the castle the lady Ellen had said she would wed another, a man slow to court her, and backward in war.

The wedding guests were gathered at the castle when Lochinvar entered the hall. The bride's father, hand on sword, demands whether the gallant has come to fight or to dance with the rest. Lochinvar says he comes to dance once with the bride, and drink her one toast. The maid kisses a goblet; he drains it, and throws it away. Then he takes her hand and leads her out into the gay steps of the galliard, while the bridegroom frowns and the guests admire the grace of the two dancers.

They dance to the door. Lochinvar stoops and whispers to the lady. Out at the door they go; he swings her to his charger, vaults up, and away they dash, while after them over the Cannobie meadows ride all of the Netherby clan. But they never caught Lochinvar and his lady.

Sir Walter Scott had matchless skill in writing such ballads as this of the old days in the Border country. He loved every stick and stone of Scotland, and every gallant deed in her history. When he wrote such a poem as this or "The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee" he struck at once into the dash and glamour of true romance, and the swing of his lines gives the swing of the deeds he describes. His longer poems, "Marmion," "The Lady of the Lake," and "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," give us wonderful pictures of Scotch history, as simple and as glowing as the ballads the troubadours used to sing of famous deeds of chivalry.

"Lochinvar" is a part of the poem of "Marmion."


by Sir Walter Scott

O, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,

Through all the wide border his steed was the best;

And save his good broadsword, he weapon had none,

He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone.

So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,

There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopped not for stone,

He swam the Eske River where ford there was none;

But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,

The bride had consented, the gallant came late:

For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,

Was to wed the fair Ellen of young Lochinvar.

So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,

Among bridesmen and kinsmen, and brothers, and all:

Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword,

(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)

"O, come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,

Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?"

"I long woo'd your daughter, my suit you denied;

Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide

And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,

To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.

There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,

That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar."

The bride kissed the goblet: the knight took it up,

He quaffed off the wine, and he threw down the cup.

She looked down to blush, and she looked up to sigh,

With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.

He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar,—

"Now tread we a measure!" said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,

That never a hall such a galliard did grace;

While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,

And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;

And the bride-maidens whispered, " 'Twere better by far,

To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar."

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,

When they reached the hall-door, and the charger stood near;

So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,

So light to the saddle before her he sprung.

"She is won! we are gone over bank, bush, and scaur;

They'll have fleet steeds that follow," quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting 'mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;

Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:

There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,

But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.

So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,

Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

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