Page images
PDF
EPUB

Scott undoubtedly lay in the prolific richness of Then go-but go alone the whilehis fancy, in his fine healthy moral feeling, and Then view St David's ruined pile ; in the abundant stores of his memory, that could

And, home returning, soothly swear, create, collect, and arrange such a multitude of

Was never scene so sad and fair ! ... scenes and adventures; that could find materials

The moon on the east oriel shone, for stirring and romantic poetry in the most

Through slender shafts of shapely stone, minute and barren antiquarian details; and that

By foliaged tracery combined; could reanimate the past, and paint the present, in

Thou wouldst have thought some fairy's hand

'Twixt poplars straight the osier wand, scenery and manners, with a vividness and energy

In many a freakish knot, had twined ; unknown since the period of Homer.

Then framed a spell, when the work was done, The Lay of the Last Minstrel is a Border story And changed the willow wreaths to stone. of the sixteenth century, related by a minstrel, the The silver light, so pale and faint, last of his race. The character of the aged min Shewed many a prophet and many a saint, strel, and that of Margaret of Branksome, are very Whose image on the glass was dyed : finely drawn; Deloraine, a coarse Border chief or

Full in the midst, his cross of red moss-trooper, is also a vigorous portrait ; and in Triumphant Michael brandished, the description of the march of the English army,

And trampled the Apostate's pride.

The moonbeam kissed the holy pane, the personal combat with Musgrave, and the

And threw on the pavement a bloody stain. other feudal accessories of the piece, we have finished pictures of the olden time. The goblin

Love of Country. page is no favourite of ours, except in so far as it makes the story more accordant with the times in Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, which it is placed. The introductory lines to each

Who never to himself hath said, canto form an exquisite setting to the dark feudal

This is my own, my native land ! tale, and tended greatly to cause the popularity of

Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned, the poem. The minstrel is thus described :

As home his footsteps he hath turned

From wandering on a foreign strand !

If such there breathe, go, mark him well :
The Aged Minstrel.

For him no minstrel raptures swell ;
The way was long, the wind was cold,

High though his titles, proud his name, The minstrel was infirm and old ;

Boundless his wealth as wish can claim ; His withered cheek, and tresses gray,

Despite those titles, power, and pelf, Seemed to have known a better day;

The wretch, concentred all in self, The harp, his sole remaining joy,

Living, shall forfeit fair renown, Was carried by an orphan boy.

And, doubly dying, shall go down The last of all the bards was he

To the vile dust, from whence he sprung, Who sung of Border chivalry ;

Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung. For, well-a-day! their date was fled;

O Caledonia! stern and wild, His tuneful brethren all were dead;

Meet nurse for a poetic child ! And he, neglected and oppressed,

Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Wished to be with them, and at rest.

Land of the mountain and the flood, No more, on prancing palfrey borne,

Land of my sires ! what mortal hand He caroled, light as lark at morn;

Can e'er untie the filial band No longer, courted and caressed,

That knits me to thy rugged strand ! High placed in hall, a welcome guest,

Still as I view each well-known scene, He poured, to lord and lady gay,

Think what is now, and what hath been, The unpremeditated lay :

Seems as, to me, of all bereft, Old times were changed, old manners gone ;

Sole friends thy woods and streams were left ; A stranger filled the Stuarts' throne;

And thus I love them better still, The bigots of the iron time

Even in extremity of ill. Had called his harmless art a crime.

By Yarrow's streams still let me stray, A wandering harper, scorned and poor,

Though none should guide my feeble way; He begged his bread from door to door,

Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break, And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,

Although it chill my withered cheek ; The harp a king had loved to hear.

Still lay my head by Teviot stone,

Though there, forgotten and alone, Not less picturesque are the following passages,

The bard may draw his parting groan. which instantly became popular :

Marmion is a tale of Flodden Field, the fate of

the hero being connected with that memorable Description of Melrose Abbey.

engagement. The poem does not possess the If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,

unity and completeness of the Lay, but if it Go visit it by the pale moonlight ;

has greater faults, it has also greater beauties. For the gay beams of lightsome day

Nothing can be more strikingly picturesque than Gild, but to flout, the ruins gray.

the two opening stanzas of this romance:
When the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;

Norham Castle at Sunset.
When the cold light's uncertain shower
Streams on the ruined central tower ;

Day set on Norham's castled steep,
When buttress and buttress, alternately,

And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep, Seem framed of ebon and ivory;

And Cheviot's mountains lone : When silver edges the imagery,

The battled towers, the donjon keep, And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;

The loophole grates where captives weep, When distant Tweed is heard to rave,

The flanking walls that round it sweep,
And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave,

In yellow
lustre shone.

117

The warriors on the turrets high,

Wide raged the battle on the

plain ; Moving athwart the evening sky,

Spears shook, and falchions flashed amain ;
Seemed forms of giant height :

Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
Their armour, as it caught the rays,

Crests rose, and stooped, and rose again,
Flashed back again the western blaze,

Wild and disorderly.
In lines of dazzling light.

Evening fell on the deadly struggle, and the spec-
St George's banner, broad and gay,

tators were forced from the agitating scene.
Now faded, as the fading ray
Less bright, and less, was flung ;

But as they left the darkening heath,
The evening gale had scarce the power

More desperate grew the strife of death.
To wave it on the donjon tower,

The English shafts in volleys hailed,
So heavily it hung.

In headlong charge their horse assailed :
The scouts had parted on their search,

Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep,
The castle gates were barred;

To break the Scottish circle deep,
Above the gloomy portal arch,

That fought around their king.
Timing his footsteps to a march,

But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
The warder kept his guard,

Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
Low humming, as he paced along,

Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
Some ancient Border gathering-song.

Unbroken was the ring;

The stubborn spearmen still made good The same minute painting of feudal times charac Their dark impenetrable wood, terises both poems, but by a strange.oversight Each stepping where his comrade stood, soon seen and regretted by the author-the hero The instant that he fell. is made to commit the crime of forgery, a crime

No thought was there of dastard flight; unsuited to a chivalrous and half-civilised age.

Linked in the serried phalanx tight, The battle of Flodden, and the death of Marmion,

Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,

As fearlessly and well; are among Scott's most spirited descriptions. The former is related as seen from a neighbouring hill;

Till utter darkness closed her wing

O'er their thin host and wounded king. and the progress of the action-the hurry, impet

Then skilful Surrey's sage commands uosity, and confusion of the fight below, as the Led back from strife his shattered bands; different armies rally or are repulsed—is given And from the charge they drew, with such animation, that the whole scene is As mountain-waves from wasted lands brought before the reader with the vividness Sweep back to ocean blue. of reality. The first tremendous onset is thus Then did their loss his foemen know ; dashed off, with inimitable power, by the mighty

Their king, their lords, their mightiest low, minstrel :

They melted from the field as snow,

When streams are swoln and south winds blow, Battle of Flodden.

Dissolves in silent dew.

Tweed's echoes heard the ceaseless plash, “But see ! look up-on Flodden bent,

While many a broken band,
The Scottish foe has fired his tent.'

Disordered, through her currents dash,
And sudden, as he spoke,

To gain the Scottish land ;
From the sharp ridges of the hill,

To town and tower, to down and dale,
All downward to the banks of Till,

To tell red Flodden's dismal tale,
Was wreathed in sable smoke;

And raise the universal wail.
Volumed and fast, and rolling far,

Tradition, legend, tune, and song,
The cloud enveloped Scotland's war,

Shall many an age that wail prolong :
As down the hill they broke ;

Still from the sire the son shall hear
Nor martial shout, nor minstrel tone,

Of the stern strise and carnage drear Announced their march ; their tread alone,

Of Flodden's fatal field, At times one warning trumpet blown,

Where shivered was fair Scotland's spear,
At times a stifled hum,

And broken was her shield !
Told England, from his mountain-throne
King James did rushing come.

The hero receives his death-wound, and is borne Scarce could they hear or see their foes,

off the field. The description, detached from the Until at weapon-point they close.

context, loses much of its 'interest ; but the They close in clouds of smoke and dust,

mingled effects of mental agony and physical With sword-sway and with lance's thrust; And such a yell was there,

suffering, of remorse and death, on a bad but Of sudden and portentous birth,

brave spirit trained to war, is described with true As if men fought upon the earth,

sublimity : And fiends in upper air. . .

Death of Marmion.
Long looked the anxious squires; their eye
Could in the darkness nought descry.

When, doffed his casque, he felt free air,
At length the freshening western blast

Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare : Aside the shroud of battle cast;

Where 's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace, where ? And, first, the ridge of mingled spears

Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare ! Above the brightening cloud appears ;

Redeem my pennon-charge again! And in the smoke the pennons flew,

Cry—“Marmion to the rescue 1"_Vain ! As in the storm the white sea-mew.

Last of my race, on battle plain Then marked they, dashing broad and far,

That shout shall ne'er be heard again ! The broken billows of the war,

Yet my last thought is England's :fly; And plumèd crests of chieftains brave,

To Dacre bear my signet-ring; Floating like foam upon the wave ;

Tell him his squadrons up to bring. But nought distinct they see :

Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie : 118

Tunstall lies dead upon the field ;

It may not be !-this dizzy trance His life-blood stains the spotless shield :

Curse on yon base marauder's lance, Edmund is down—my life is reft ;

And doubly cursed my failing brand ! The Admiral alone is left.

A sinful heart makes feeble hand.' Let Stanley charge with spur of fire

Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
With Chester charge, and Lancashire,

Supported by the trembling monk.
Full upon Scotland's central host,
Or victory and England's lost.

With fruitless labour Clara bound,
Must I bid twice? Hence, varlets! fly!

And strove to stanch, the gushing wound: Leave Marmion here alone--to die.'

The monk, with unavailing cares, They parted, and alone he lay;

Exhausted all the church's prayers; Clare drew her from the sight away,

Ever, he said, that, close and near, Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,

A lady's voice was in his ear, And half he murmured : 'Is there none,

And that the priest he could not hear, Of all my halls have nursed,

For that she ever sung, Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring

'In the lost battle, borne down by the flying, of blessed water from the spring,

Where mingles war's rattle with groans of the To slake my dying thirst!'

dying!

So the notes rung; O woman ! in our hours of ease,

Avoid thee, Fiend !-with cruel hand, Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,

Shake not the dying sinner's sand ! And variable as the shade

O look, my son, upon yon sign

of the Redeemer's grace divine ; By the light quivering aspen made;

O think on faith and bliss !
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !

By many a death-bed I have been,
Scarce were the piteous accents said,

And many a sinner's parting seen, When, with the baron's casque, the maid

But never aught like this. To the nigh streamlet ran :

The war, that for a space did fail, Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears ;

Now trebly thundering, swelled the gale,

And · Stanley!' was the cry;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,
Sees but the dying man.

A light on Marmion's visage spread,
She stooped her by the runnel's side,

And fired his glazing eye : But in abhorrence backward drew;

With dying hand, above his head

He shook the fragment of his blade,
For, oozing from the mountain side,

And shouted Victory >
Where raged the war, a dark red tide
Was curdling in the streamlet blue.

Charge, Chester, charge ! On, Stanley, on !'

Were the last words of Marmion.
Where shall she turn ?-behold her mark
A little fountain-cell,

We may contrast with this

the silent and appalling Where water, clear as diamond spark,

death-scene of Roderick Dhu, in the Lady of the In a stone basin fell.

Lake. The savage chief expires while listening Above, some half-worn letters say,

to a tale chanted by the bard or minstrel of his Drink.wearp. pilgrim. drink. and. pray,

clan : For . the . kind, soul.of. Sybil. Grey.

At first, the chieftain to his chime, Teho built. this. cross. and. well.

With listed hand, kept feeble time; She filled the helm, and back she hied,

That motion ceased ; yet feeling strong, And with surprise and joy espied

Varied his look as changed the song : A monk supporting Marmion's head ;

At length no more his deafened ear A pious man, whom duty brought

The minstrel's melody can hear ; To dubious verge of battle fought,

His face grows sharp ; his hands are clenched, To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.

As if some pang his heart-strings wrenched;

Set are his teeth, his fading eye
Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave,

Is sternly fixed on vacancy.
And, as she stooped his brow to lave-
Is it the hand of Clare,' he said,

Thus, motionless and moanless, drew
Or injured Constance, bathes my head ?'

His parting breath, stout Roderick Dhu. Then as remembrance rose

The Lady of the Lake is more richly picturesque "Speak not to me of shrift or prayer !

than either of the former poems, and the plot is I must redress her woes. Short space, few words, are mine to spare ;

more regular and interesting. "The subject, says Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!'

Sir James Mackintosh, ‘is a common Highland Alas!' she said, 'the while

irruption ; but at a point where the neighbourO think of your immortal weal !

hood of the Lowlands affords the best contrast of In vain for Constance is your zeal;

manners—where the scenery affords the noblest She died at Holy Ísle.'

subject of description--and where the wild clan is Lord Marmion started from the ground,

so near to the court, that their robberies can be As light as if he felt no wound;

connected with the romantic adventures of a disThough in the action burst the tide,

guised king, an exiled lord, and a high-born beauty. In torrents, from his wounded side.

The whole narrative is very fine.' It was the most * Then it was truth !'-he said—I knew

popular of the author's poems : in a few months That the dark presage must be true. I would the Fiend, to whom belongs

twenty thousand copies were sold, and the district The vengeance due to all her wrongs,

where the action of the poem lay was visited by Would spare me but a day!

countless thousands of tourists. With this work For wasting fire, and dying groan,

closed the great popularity of Scott as a poet. And priests slain on the altar-stone,

Rokeby, a tale of the English Cavaliers and RoundMight bribe him for delay. heads, was considered a failure, though displaying

the utmost art and talent in the delineation of

Fleet foot on the correi, character and passion. Don Roderick_is vastly

Sage counsel in cumber, inferior to Rokeby; and Harold and Triermain

Red hand in the foray, are but faint copies of the Gothic epics, however

How sound is thy slumber!

Like the dew on the mountain, finely finished in some of the tender passages. The

Like the foam on the river, Lord of the Isles is of a higher mood. It is a

Like the bubble on the fountain, Scottish story of the days of Bruce, and has the

Thou art gone, and for ever ! characteristic fire and animation of the minstrel, when, like Rob Roy, he has his foot on his native heath. Bannockburn may be compared

Song from 'Quentin Durward.' with Flodden Field in energy of description, Ah! County Guy, the hour is nigh, though the poet is sometimes lost in the chronicler The sun has left the lea, and antiquary. The interest of the tale is not The orange flower perfumes the bower, well sustained throughout, and its chief attraction

The breeze is on the sea. consists in the descriptive powers of the author,

The lark, his lay who thrilled all day, who, besides his feudal halls and battles, has drawn

Sits hushed his partner nigh, the magnificent scenery of the West Highlands

Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour, the cave of Staffa, and the dark desolate grandeur

But where is County Guy? of the Coriusk lakes and mountains-with equal The village maid steals through the shade, truth and sublimity. The lyrical pieces of Scott

Her shepherd's suit to hear; are often very happy. The old ballad strains may To beauty shy, by lattice high, be said to have been his original nutriment as a Sings high-born cavalier. poet, and he is consequently often warlike and The star of Love, all stars above, romantic in his songs. But he has also gaiety,

Now reigns o'er earth and sky; archness, and tenderness, and if he does not touch And high and low the influence knowdeeply the heart, he never fails to paint to the eye

But where is County Guy ? and imagination.

Song from 'The l'irate.'
The Sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill.

Love wakes and weeps
The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill,

While Beauty sleeps!
In Ettrick's vale is sinking sweet ;

O for music's softest numbers,
The westland wind is hush and still,

To prompt a theme
The lake lies sleeping at my feet.

For Beauty's dream,
Yet not the landscape to mine eye

Soft as the pillow of her slumbers !
Bears those bright hues that once it bore;
Though evening, with her richest dye,

Through groves of palm
Flames o'er the hills of Ettrick's shore.

Sigh gales of balm,

Fire-fies on the air are wheeling;
With listless look along the plain,

While through the gloom
I see Tweed's silver current glide,

Comes soft perfume,
And coldly mark the holy fane

The distant beds of flowers revealing.
Of Melrose rise in ruined pride.
The quiet lake, the balmy air,

O wake and live!
The hill, the stream, the tower, the tree-

No dreams can give
Are they still such as once they were,

A shadowed bliss the real excelling;
Or is the dreary change in me?

No longer sleep,

From lattice peep,
Alas, the warped and broken board,

And list the tale that love is telling !
How can it bear the painter's dye ?
The harp of strained and tuneless chord,
How to the minstrel's skill reply?

Hymn of the Hebrew Maid.- From Ivanhoe.'
To aching eyes each landscape lowers,

When Israel, of the Lord beloved,
To feverish pulse each gale blows chill;

Out from the land of bondage came,
And Araby's or Eden's bowers

Her father's God before her moved,
Were barren as this moorland hill.

An awful guide in smoke and flame.

By day, along the astonished lands
Coronach.-From the Lady of the Lake.'

The cloudy pillar glided slow;

By night, Arabia's crimsoned sands
He is gone on the mountain,

Returned the fiery column's glow.
He is lost to the forest,
Like a summer-dried fountain,

There rose the choral hymn of praise,
When our need was the sorest.

And trump and timbrel answered keen ;
The font, reappearing,

And Zion's daughters poured their lays,
From the rain-drops shall borrow,

With priest's and warrior's voice between.
But to us comes no cheering,

No portents now our foes amaze,
To Duncan no morrow !

Forsaken Israel wanders lone;
The hand of the reaper

Our fathers would not know Thy ways,
Takes the ears that are hoary,

And Thou hast left them to their own.
But the voice of the weeper

But, present still, though now unseen!
Wails manhood in glory.

When brightly shines the prosperous day,
The autumn winds rushing,

Be thoughts of Thee a cloudy screen,
Waft the leaves that are searest,

To temper the deceitful ray.
But our flower was in flushing
When blighting was nearest.

10r corri, the hollow side of the hill where game usually lies. 120

« PreviousContinue »