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The way was long, the wind was cold, The Minstrel was infirm and old ; His withered cheek, and tresses gray, Seemed to have known a better day; The harp, his sole remaining joy, Was carried by an orphan boy ; The last of all the Bards was he, Who sung of Border chivalry. For, well-a-day! their date was fled, His tuneful brethren all were dead; And he, neglected and oppressed, Wished to be with them, and at rest. No more on prancing palfrey borne, He carolled, light as lark at morn; No longer courted and caressed, High placed in hall, a welcome guest, He poured, to lord and lady gay, The unpremeditated lay :
Old times were changed, old manners gone,
He passed where Newark's stately tower Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower : The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye No humbler resting place was nigh. With hesitating step, at last, The embattled portal-arch he passed, Whose ponderous grate and massy bar Had oft rolled back the tide of war, But never closed the iron door Against the desolate and poor. The duchess marked his weary pace, His timid mein, and reverend face, And bade her page the menials tell, That they should tend the old man well; For she had known adversity, Though born in such a high degree; In pride of power, in beauty's bloom, Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!
When kindness had his wants supplied, And the old man was gratified, Began to rise his minstrel pride : And he began to talk anon,
Of good earl Francis, dead and gone,
The humble boon was soon obtained,
o'er his aged brain-