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SIR WALTER SCOTT.
WALTER Scott was born in Edinburgh, on the extent. He encountered adversity with manly 15th of August, 1771. His father was a writer to fortitude; asked and obtained from his creditors no the signet, and of ancient and honourable descent. other boon than time; and in about four years had Almost from his birth until the age of sixteen, he actually paid off nearly £70,000 of the debt. The was afflicted with ill health; and either from the price of almost superhuman labour was, however, weakness of his constitution, or, as some assert, from to be exacted. In 1831 he was attacked with graan accident occasioned by the carelessness of his dual paralysis: in the autumn of that year he was nurse, his right foot was injured, and he was lame prevailed upon to visit the more genial climate of during his life. His early days were passed among the south of Europe ;—the experiment was unsucthe hills and dales of the borders—“famous in cessful in restoring him to health: he returned to war and verse”—“where,” we quote from Allan Abbotsford, and died there on the 21st of September, Cunningham, “almost every stone that stands above 1832. His loss was mourned, not only by his own the ground is the record of some skirmish, or single country, but in every portion of the civilized globe; combat; and every stream, although its waters be for his fame had spread throughout all parts of it: so inconsiderable as scarcely to moisten the pasture and there is scarcely a language into which his through which they run, is renowned in song and in works have not been translated. The kindness of ballad.” Perhaps to the happy chance of his re- his heart, the benevolence of his disposition, the sidence in a district so fertile in legendary lore, the thorough goodness of his nature, were appreciated world is indebted for the vast legacy of wealth he by all who had the privilege of his acquaintance; bequeathed to it. In 1783, he entered the Univer- but his genius is the vast and valuable property of sity of Edinburgh ; and in 1792, became an advocate mankind. at the Scottish bar: but after a few years' attend In person, he was tall, and had the appearance ance at the courts, quitted it, in order to devote of a powerful and robust man. His countenance himself to literature. He had, however, reached has been rendered familiar by artists in abundance; his 25th year, before he manifested any desire, or the justest notion of it is conveyed by the bust rather intention, to contend for fame in a path so of Chantry. Its expression was peculiarly benevointricate ; and as he himself states, his first attempt lent; his forehead was broad, and remarkably ended in a transfer of his printed sheets to the ser- high. vice of the trunk-maker. Though discouraged, he We have left ourselves but little space to comwas not disheartened. In 1802, “ The Minstrelsy ment upon the poetry of Sir Walter Scott; his of the Scottish Border” obtained a more fortunate fame as a poet was eclipsed by his reputation as a destiny; and about three years afterwards the pub- novelist; and the appearance of a star of greater lication of The Lay of the Last Minstrel com tely magnitude drew from him, by degrees, the popularity established the fame of the writer. From the ap- he had so long engrossed. Yet we venture to pearance of this poem, the life of the poet, until hazard an opinion, that if it be possible for either towards the close of it, is little else than a history to be forgotten, his poems will outlive his prose ; of his writings. Marmion issued from the press in and that Waverley and Ivanhoe will perish before 1808; 'The Lady of the Lake, in 1810; Don Rode- Marmion and The Lady of the Lake. We can find rick, in 1811; Rukeby, in 1813; The Lord of the no rare and valuable quality in the former that we Isles, in 1814; The Bridal of Triermain, and Harold may not find in the latter. A deeply interesting the Dauntless, appeared anonymously; the former, and exciting story, glorious and true pictures of in 1813, and the latter, in 1817. The publication scenery, fine and accurate portraits of character, of his novels and romances commenced with clear and impressive accounts of ancient customs, Waverley, in 1814. In 1820, Walter Scott was details of battles-satisfying to the fancy; yet created a baronet of the United Kingdom. In Ja- capable of enduring the sternest test of truth-are nuary, 1826, his publishers became bankrupts; it to be found in the one class as well as in the other. produced a feeling of the deepest sorrow,--not only In addition, we have the most graceful and harmoin Edinburgh, but throughout the kingdom, when it nious verse; and the style is undoubtedly such as was ascertained that, through their failure, he was equally to delight those who possess and those who involved in pecuniary responsibilities to a ruinous are without a refined poetical taste.
THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
Dum relego, scripsisse, pudet, quia plurima cerno,
Me quoque, qui seci, judice, digna limi.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES, EARL
THIS POEM IS INSCRIBED, BY THE AUTHOR.
The poem, now offered to the public, is intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants, living in a state partly pastoral and partly warlike, and combining habits of constant depredation with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes highly susceptible of poetical ornament. As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the author, than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the ancient Metrical Romance was adopted, which allows greater latitude in this respect than would be consistent with the dignity of a regular poem. The same model offered other facilities, as it permits an occasional alteration of measure, which, in some degree, authorizes the change of rhythm in the text. The machinery also, adopted from popular belief, would have seemed puerile in a poem which did not partake of the rudeness of the old ballad, or Metrical Romance,
For these reasons, the poem was put into the mouth of an ancient minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supposed to have survived the Revolution, might have caught somewhat of the refinement of modern poetry, without losing the simplicity of his original model. The date of the tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is three nights and three days.
The bigots of the iron time
He pass'd where Newark's stately tower
and massy bar
When kindness had his wants supplied,
INTRODUCTION. The way was long, the wind was cold, The minstrel was infirm and old; His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray, Seem'd 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 oppressid, Wish'd to be with them, and at rest. No more, on prancing palfrey borne, He carollid, light as lark at morn; No longer courted and caress'd, High placed in hall, a welcome guest, He pour'd, to lord and lady gay The unpremeditated lay: old times were changed, old manners gone; A stranger fill'd the Stuart's throne ;
The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
Anne, Dutchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, repre sentative of the ancient lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.
+ Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father to the dutchess.
# Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather to the dutchess, and a celebrated warrior.
It was not framed for village churls,
V. But for high dames and mighty earls ;
Ten squires, ten yeomen, mailclad men,
Waited the beck of the warders ten;
Thirty steeds, both feet and wight,
Stood saddled in stable day and night, Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow,
And with Jedwood axe at saddle bow, And an uncertain warbling made,
A hundred more fed free in stall:
Such was the custom of Branksome hall.
Why do these steeds stand ready dight? With all a poet's ecstasy!
Why watch these warriors, arm’d, by night? In varying cadence, soft or strong,
They watch to hear the bloodhound baying; He swept the sounding chords along:
They watch to hear the warhorn braying; The present scene, the future lot,
To see Saint George's red cross streaming; His toils, his wants, were all forgot ;
To see the midnight beacon gleaming; Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
They watch 'gainst Southern force and guile; In the full tide of song were lost;
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy's powers, Each blank, in faithless memory void,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers, The poet's glowing thought supplied ;
From Warkworth, or Naworth, or merry Carlisle. And, while his harp responsive rung, 'Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.
Such is the custom of Branksome hall.
Many a valiant knight is here;
But he, the chieftain of them all,
His sword hangs rusting on the wall
Beside his broken spear.
When startled burghers fled afar,
The furies of the border war; No living wight, save the ladye alone,
When the streets of high Dunedin
Saw lances gleam, and falchions redden,
And heard the slogan's* deadly yell
Then the chief of Branksome fell.
Can piety the discord heal, Or crowded round the ample fire;
Or stanch the death-seud's enmity ? The stag hounds, weary with the chase,
Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal, Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor,
Can love of blessed charity ? And urged, in dreams, the forest race,
No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage they drew,
Implored, in vain, the grace divine
For chiefs their own red falchions slew; Hung their shields in Branksome hall;
While Cessford owns the rule of Car, Nine-and-twenty squires of name
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott, Brought them their steeds from bower to stall; The slaughter'd chiefs, the mortal jar, Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!
In sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent; Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
And many a flower, and many a tear, With belted sword, and spur on heel:
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent; They quitted not their harness bright,
But o'er her warrior's bloody bier
The Jadyc dropp'd nor flower nor tear!
Vengeance deep brooding o'er the slain,
Had lock'd the source of softer wo;
And burning pride and high disdain,
Forbade the rising tear to flow;
* The war cry, or gathering word of a Border clan.
Until, amid his sorrowing clan,
Her son lisp'd from the nurse's knee« And if I live to be a man,
My father's death revenged shall be !" Then fast the mother's tears did seek To dew the infant's kindling cheek.
All loose her golden hair,
And wept in wild despair.
Had filial grief supplied ;
With car in arms had stood,
All purple with their blood;
“ Brother, nay-
To aërial minstrelsy,
Trip it deft and merrily.
Of Bethune's line of Picardie ;
In Padua, far beyond the sea. Men said he changed his mortal frame
By feat of magic mystery ; For when, in studious mood, he paced
Saint Andrew's cloister'd hall, His form no darkening shadow traced
Upon the sunny wall!
“Tears of an imprison'd maiden
Mix with my polluted stream; Margaret of Branksome, sorrow laden,
Mourns beneath the moon's pale beam. Tell me, thou, who view'st the stars, When shall cease these feudal jars, What shall be the maiden's fate? Who shall be the maiden's mate ?"
He taught that ladye fair,
The viewless forms of air.
MOUNTAIN SPIRIT. “ Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll In utter darkness round the pole ; The northern bear lowers black and grim; Orion's studded belt is dim: Twinkling faint, and distant far, Shimmers through mist each planet star;
Ill may I read their high decree! But no kind influence deign they shower On Teviot's tide, and Branksome's tower,
Till pride be quell'd, and love be free.”
XIII. At the sullen moaning sound,
The bandogs bay and howl; And, from the turrets round,
Loud whoops the startled owl. In the hall, both squire and knight
Swore that a storm was near, And looked forth to view the night,
But the night was still and clear!
XVIII. The unearthly voices ceased,
And the heavy sound was still; It died on the river's breast,
It died on the side of the hill, But round Lord David's tower
The sound still floated near; For it rung in the ladye's bower,
And it rung in the ladye's ear. She raised her stately head,
And her heart throbb'd high with pride :“ Your mountains shall bend, And your streams ascend,
Ere Margaret be our foeman's bride!"
* Scaur, a precipitous bank of earth.
If thou readest, thou art lorn! Better thou hadst ne'er been born."
XXIV. “O swiftly can speed my dapplegray steed,
Which drinks of the Teviot clear;
• Again will I be here: And safer by none may thy errand be done,
Than, noble dame, by me;
Where many a bold retainer lay, And, with jocund din, among them all,
Her son pursued his infant play, A fancied mosstrooper, the boy
The truncheon of a spear bestrode, And round the hall, right merrily,
In mimic foray* rode. E’en bearded knights, in arms grown old,
Share in his frolic gambols bore, Albeit their hearts, of rugged mould,
Were stubborn as the steel they wore. For the gray warriors prophesied,
How the brave boy, in future war,
One moment, and no more ;
As she paused at the arched door;
XXV. Soon in his saddle sate he fast, And soon the deep descent he pass'd, Soon cross'd the sounding barbican,t And soon the Teviot's side he won. Eastward the wooded path he rode, Green hazels o'er his basnet nod: He pass'd the peelt of Goldiland, And crossd old Borthwick's roaring strand; Dimly he view'd the moathill's mound, Where Druid shades still fitted round: In Hawick twinkled many a light; Behind him soon they set in night; And soon he spurr'd his courser keen Beneath the tower of Hazeldean.
Say that the fated hour is come,
To win the treasure of the tomb:
XXVI. The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark; “ Stand, ho! thou courier of the dark.” “For Branksome, ho !" the knight rejoin'd, And left the friendly tower behind. He turn'd him now from Teviot side,
And, guided by the tinkling rill,
And gain'd the moor at Horslie hill;
* Haribee, the place of executing the Border marauders at Carlisle. The neck-verse is the beginning of the fifty. first psalm, Miserere mei, fc. anciently read by criminals, claiming the benefit of clergy,
† Barbican, the defence of the outer gate of a feudal castle. | Peel, a Border tower.
An ancient Roman road, crossing through part of Roxburghshire.
* Foray, a predatory inroad.