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DOUGLAS' RIDE

Set by John Mitchell (1941-) op. 71 (1989), from Seven Journeys to Earth, part 1, no. 5.
Text by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)


What rider up Gobeloin's glen
Has spurred his straining steed,
And fast and far from living men
Has passed with maddening speed?

I saw his hoof-prints mark the rock,
When swift he left the plain;
I heard deep down the echoing shock
Re-echo back again.

From cliff to cliff, through rock and heath,
That coal-black courser bounds;
Nor heeds the river pent beneath,
Nor mark how fierce it sounds

With streaming hair, and forehead bare,
And mantle waving wide,
His master rides; the eagles there
Soar up on every side.

The goats fly by with timid cry,
Their realm rashly won;
They pause--he still ascends on high--
They gaze, but he is gone.

O gallant horse, hold on thy course;
The road is tracked behind.
Spur, rider, spur, or vain thy force--
Death comes on every wind.

Roared thunder loud from that pitchy cloud?
From it do torrents flow?
Or wakes the breeze in the swaying trees
That frown so dark below?

He breathes at last, when the valley's passed;
Rests on the grey rock's brow;
What ails the steed?--at thy master's need,
Wilt thou prove faithless now?

No, hardly checked, with ears erect,
The charger champed his rein,
Ere his quivering limbs all foam beflecked,
Were off like light again!

Hark! through the pass with threatening crash
Comes on the increasing roar!
But what shall brave the deep, deep wave,
The deadly pass before?

Their feet are dyed in a darker tide,
Who dare those dangers drear.
Their breasts have burst through the battle's worst,
Why should they tremble here?

Strong hearts they bear, and arms as good,
To conquer or to fall;
They dash into the boiling flood;
They gain the root's steep wall.

"Now, my brave men, this one pass more,
This narrow chasm of stone,
And Douglas for our sovereign's gore
Shall yield us back his own."

I hear their ever-rising tread
Sound through the granite glen;
There is a tall pine overhead
Held by the mountain men.

That dizzy bridge no horse could track
Has checked the outlaw's way;
There like a wild beast turns he back,
And grimly stands at bay.

Why smiles he so, when far below
He spies the toiling chase?
The pond'rous tree swings heavily,
And totters from its place.

They raise their eyes, for sunny skies
Are lost in sudden shade:
But Douglas neither shrinks nor flies,
He need not fear the dead.



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