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SIR WALTER SCOTT.
WALTER SCOTT was born in Edinburgh, on the 15th of August, 1771. His father was a writer to the signet, and of ancient and honourable descent. Almost from his birth until the age of sixteen, he was afflicted with ill health; and either from the weakness of his constitution, or, as some assert, from an accident occasioned by the carelessness of his nurse, his right foot was injured, and he was lame during his life. His early days were passed among the hills and dales of the borders-" famous in war and verse"-" where," we quote from Allan Cunningham, "almost every stone that stands above the ground is the record of some skirmish, or single combat; and every stream, although its waters be so inconsiderable as scarcely to moisten the pasture through which they run, is renowned in song and in ballad." Perhaps to the happy chance of his residence in a district so fertile in legendary lore, the world is indebted for the vast legacy of wealth he bequeathed to it. In 1783, he entered the University of Edinburgh; and in 1792, became an advocate at the Scottish bar: but after a few years' attendance at the courts, quitted it, in order to devote himself to literature. He had, however, reached his 25th year, before he manifested any desire, or rather intention, to contend for fame in a path so intricate; and as he himself states, his first attempt ended in a transfer of his printed sheets to the service of the trunk-maker. Though discouraged, he was not disheartened. In 1802, "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border" obtained a more fortunate destiny; and about three years afterwards the publication of The Lay of the Last Minstrel completely established the fame of the writer. From the appearance of this poem, the life of the poet, until towards the close of it, is little else than a history of his writings. Marmion issued from the press in 1808; The Lady of the Lake, in 1810; Don Roderick, in 1811; Rokeby, in 1813; The Lord of the Isles, in 1814; The Bridal of Triermain, and Harold the Dauntless, appeared anonymously; the former, in 1813, and the latter, in 1817. The publication of his novels and romances commenced with Waverley, in 1814. In 1820, Walter Scott was created a baronet of the United Kingdom. In January, 1826, his publishers became bankrupts; it produced a feeling of the deepest sorrow,-not only in Edinburgh, but throughout the kingdom, when it was ascertained that, through their failure, he was involved in pecuniary responsibilities to a ruinous
extent. He encountered adversity with manly fortitude; asked and obtained from his creditors no other boon than time; and in about four years had actually paid off nearly £70,000 of the debt. The price of almost superhuman labour was, however, to be exacted. In 1831 he was attacked with gradual paralysis: in the autumn of that year he was prevailed upon to visit the more genial climate of the south of Europe;-the experiment was unsuccessful in restoring him to health: he returned to Abbotsford, and died there on the 21st of September, 1832. His loss was mourned, not only by his own country, but in every portion of the civilized globe; for his fame had spread throughout all parts of it: and there is scarcely a language into which his works have not been translated. The kindness of his heart, the benevolence of his disposition, the thorough goodness of his nature, were appreciated by all who had the privilege of his acquaintance; but his genius is the vast and valuable property of mankind.
In person, he was tall, and had the appearance of a powerful and robust man. His countenance has been rendered familiar by artists in abundance; the justest notion of it is conveyed by the bust of Chantry. Its expression was peculiarly benevolent; his forehead was broad, and remarkably
We have left ourselves but little space to comment upon the poetry of Sir Walter Scott; his fame as a poet was eclipsed by his reputation as a novelist; and the appearance of a star of greater magnitude drew from him, by degrees, the popularity he had so long engrossed. Yet we venture to hazard an opinion, that if it be possible for either to be forgotten, his poems will outlive his prose ; and that Waverley and Ivanhoe will perish before Marmion and The Lady of the Lake. We can find no rare and valuable quality in the former that we may not find in the latter. A deeply interesting and exciting story, glorious and true pictures of scenery, fine and accurate portraits of character, clear and impressive accounts of ancient customs, details of battles-satisfying to the fancy; yet capable of enduring the sternest test of truth-are to be found in the one class as well as in the other. In addition, we have the most graceful and harmonious verse; and the style is undoubtedly such as equally to delight those who possess and those who are without a refined poetical taste.
LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
Dum relego, scripsisse, pudet, quia plurima cerno, Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE CHARLES, EARL OF DALKEITH,
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 Ro
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 way was long, the wind was cold,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone; A stranger fill'd the Stuart's throne;
The bigots of the iron time
Had call'd his harmless art a crime.
He pass'd where Newark's stately tower
Of good Earl Francis,† dead and gone,
The humble boon was soon obtain❜d;
* Anne, Dutchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representative 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,
But when he caught the measure wild,
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot;
CANTO I I.
THE feast was over in Branksome tower,
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell,
Jesu Maria, shield us well!
No living wight, save the ladye alone,
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Or crowded round the ample fire;
Nine-and-twenty knights of fame
Hung their shields in Branksome hall; Nine-and-twenty squires of name
Brought them their steeds from bower to stall; Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
Waited duteous on them all:
They were all knights of metal true,
Ten of them were sheathed in steel,
They lay down to rest,
Pillow'd on buckler cold and hard;
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the helmet
Ten squires, ten yeomen, mailclad men,
Why do these steeds stand ready dight?
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
Bards long shall tell,
When startled burghers fled afar,
When the streets of high Dunedin
Can piety the discord heal,
Or stanch the death-feud's enmity?
In mutual pilgrimage they drew,
For chiefs their own red falchions slew;
While Cessford owns the rule of Car,
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
The slaughter'd chiefs, the mortal jar,
In sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier
The warlike foresters had bent; And many a flower, and many a tear,
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent; But o'er her warrior's bloody bier The ladye 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 negligent attire,
All loose her golden hair,
Hung Margaret o'er her slaughter'd sire, And wept in wild despair.
But not alone the bitter tear
Had filial grief supplied;
For hopeless love, and anxious fear,
And well she knew, her mother dread,
Of noble race the ladye came;
Of Bethune's line of Picardie;
He learn'd the art that none may name,
For when, in studious mood, he paced
And of his skill, as bards avow,
That moans the mossy turrets round.
That chafes against the scaur's* red side?
That moans old Branksome's turrets round?
At the sullen moaning sound,
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!
* Scaur, a precipitous bank of earth.
From the sound of Teviot's tide,
The lady knew it well!
It was the spirit of the flood that spoke, And he call'd on the spirit of the fell.
"Sleep'st thou, brother?"
On my hills the moonbeams play.
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,
Up, and mark their nimble feet!
"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 ?"
"Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll
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!"
The ladye sought the lofty hall,
Where many a bold retainer lay,
And, with jocund din, among them all,
The truncheon of a spear bestrode,
In mimic foray* rode.
E'en bearded knights, in arms grown old,
Were stubborn as the steel they wore. For the gray warriors prophesied,
How the brave boy, in future war, Should tame the unicorn's pride, Exalt the crescent and the star.
The ladye forgot her purpose high,
One moment gazed with a mother's eye,
A stark mosstrooping Scott was he,
"Sir William of Deloraine, good at need,
Say that the fated hour is come,
For this will be Saint Michael's night,
Will point to the grave of the mighty dead.
"What he gives thee, see thou keep; Stay not thou for food or sleep;
Be it scroll, or be it book,
Into it, knight, thou must not look;
* Foray, a predatory inroad.
If thou readest, thou art lorn!
Better thou hadst ne'er been born."
"O swiftly can speed my dapplegray steed, Which drinks of the Teviot clear; Ere break of day," the warrior 'gan say,
"Again will I be here:
And safer by none may thy errand be done,
Letter nor line know I never a one,
Soon in his saddle sate he fast,
And cross'd old Borthwick's roaring strand;
The clattering hoofs the watchmen mark;-
He turn'd him now from Teviot side,
And gain'd the moor at Horslie hill;
A moment now he slack'd his speed,
*Haribee, the place of executing the Border marauders at Carlisle. The neck-verse is the beginning of the fiftyfirst psalm, Miserere mei, &c. 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.