Context: The last minstrel begins his song by telling that when the feast was over in Branksome Hall the Ladye had gone to her secret bower, a room that was so securely guarded by magic that no one else dared enter it. The weary stag-hounds lay on the floor of the hall and dreamed of the chase, while round about loitered twenty-nine knights, each of whom was served by a squire and a yeoman. Ten of them were always clad in complete armor, both by day and by night. They lay down to sleep with their corslets laced, their pillows being their shields. They carved at table with their mail-gloved hands and drank their wine through the bars of their helmets. Ten squires and ten yeomen, also dressed in mail, were always ready, and in the stables thirty fast horses were always bridled and saddled; a hundred more moved freely in their stalls. Always men were on the alert to hear the baying of the bloodhounds and the braying of the war-horns. They watched to see the red cross of St. George of England sweep across the English-Scottish border. They stood guard lest the Scroops, the Howards, or the Percies might threaten the castle with forces from Warkworth, Naworth, or Carlisle. They do all these warlike acts because such is the custom of Branksome Hall.
Why do these steeds stand ready dight?Why watch these warriors armed by night?They watch to hear the bloodhound baying;They watch to hear the war-horn braying;To see Saint George's red cross streaming,To see the midnight beacons gleaming;They watch against Southern force and guile,Lest Scroop or Howard or Percy's powersThreaten Branksome's lordly towers,From Warkworth or Naworth or merry Carlisle.Such is the custom of Branksome Hall.