"Tramp! Tramp! Along The Land They Rode"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This poem, the first published by Scott, was a translation or imitation of a German ballad by Gottfried Augustus Bürger. The story is that an army returns and all the girls are reunited with their lovers except Helen, whose William is absent. Helen falls into despondency, from which her mother unsuccessfully tries to rouse her. She advises her to turn to prayer, which Helen contends is unavailing. At midnight there is a sound of a horse's approach, the dismounting of a mail-clad rider, and heavy footsteps on the stairs. There is a knock at the door, and William enters; he bids Helen prepare to ride behind him on his horse a hundred miles, so that they can, before break of day, reach their bridal bed. She, filled with wonder, does as commanded, and they set off at a furious pace. Over mountains, meadows, and plains they go, over the land and through the sea they rush. Finally they ride into a church and stop beside an open grave, where William turns into a skeleton in Helen's arms. The horse gives a wild bound and disappears, leaving Helen on the ground amid ghosts and pale spectres. Three times within the poem the "tramp! tramp! splash! splash!" chorus occurs.

"Dost fear? dost fear? the moon shines clear,
And well the dead can ride;
Dost faithful Helen fear for them?"–
"O leave in peace the dead!"–
"Barb! Barb! methinks I hear the cock;
The sand will soon be run:
Barb! Barb! I smell the morning air;
The race is well-nigh done."
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode,
Splash! splash! along the sea:
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
The flashing pebbles flee.
"Hurrah! hurrah! well ride the dead;
The bride, the bride is come;
And soon we reach the bridal bed,
For, Helen, here's my home."