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Which marks security to please;
We add, chiefly on account of their brevity. the following lines, which immediately succeed the description of the funeral rites of the English champion :—
"The harp's wild notes, though hush'd the song,
pp. 155, 156.
The close of the poem is as follows :—
'Hash'd is the harp—the Minstrel gone.
pp. 193, 194.
Besides these, which are altogether de'•ached from the lyric effusions of the min•trel, some of the most interesting passages of the poem are those in which he drops the busitiess of the story, to moralise, and apply lp his own situation the images and reflection» it has suggested. After concluding one canto with an account of the warlike array prepared for the reception of the English inwders, he opens the succeeding one with the following beautiful verses :—
"Sweet Teviot! by thy silver tide,
The glaring bale-fires blaze no more!
No longer steel-clad warriors ride
Where er thou wind'st, by dale or hill,
All, all is peaceful, all is still.
Since first they roll'd their way to Tweed,
Had only heard the shepherd's reed,
"Unlike the tide of human time,
Which, though it change in ceaseless flow,
It's earliest course was doom'd to know;
Low as that tide has ebb'd with me,
Fell by the side of great Dundee.
There are several other detached passages of equal beauty, which might be quoted in proof of the effect which is produced by this dramatic interference of the narrator; but we hasten to lay before our readers some of the more characteristic parts of the performance.
The ancient romance owes much of its interest to the lively picture which it affords of the times of chivalry, and of those usages, manners, and institutions which we have been accustomed to associate in our minds, with a certain combination of magnificence with simplicity, and ferocity with romantic honour. The representations contained in those performances, however, are for the most part too rude and naked to give complete satisfaction. The execution is always extremely unequal; and though the writei sometimes touches upon the appropriate feeling with great effect and felicity, still this appears to be done more by accident than design; and he wanders away immediately into all sorts of ludicrous or uninteresting details, without any apparent consciousness of incongruity. These defects Mr. Scott has corrected with admirable address and judgment in the greater part of the work now before us ; and while he has exhibited a very striking and impressive picture of the old Feudal usages and institutions, he has shown still greater talent in engrafting upon those descriptions all the tender or magnanimous emotions to which the circumstances of the story naturally give rise. Without impairing ¡he antique air of the whole piece, or violating the simplicity of the ballad style, he has contrived in this way, to impart a much greater dignity, and more powerful interest to his production, than could ever be attained by :he unskilful and unsteady delineations of the old romancers. Nothing, we think, can afford a finer illustration of this remark, than the opening stanzas of the whole poem ; they transport us at once into the days of knightly daring and feudal hostility ; at the same time hat they suggest, and in a very interesting way. all those softer sentiments which arise out of some parts of the description.
'The feast was over in Brankaome tower;
Jesu Maria, shield us well!
'The tables were drawn, it was idlegse all;
Or crowded round the ample fire.
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor,
pp. 9, 10.
After a very picturesque representation of the military establishment of this old baronial fortress, the minstrel proceeds,
"Many a valiant knight ie here;
Beside his broken spear!
"Can piety the discord heal,
Or staunch the death-feud's enmity t Can Christian lore, can patriot zeal,
Can love of blessed charity? No! vainly to each holy shrine,
In mutual pilgrimage, they drew; Implor'd, in vain, the grace divine
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, The havoc of the feudal war,
Shall never, never be forgot!
"In sorrow o'er Lord Walter's bier,
Old Teviot's maids and matron's lent:
Had lock'd the source of softer woe;
Forbade me rising tear to flow;
Her son lisp'd from ihe nurse's knee—
My father's death reveng'ii shall be!' Then fast the mother's tears did seek To dew the infant's kindling cheek.' '—pp.12—15
There are not many passages in English poetry more impressive than some parts of this extract. As another illustration of the prodigious improvement which the style of the old romance is capable of receiving from a more liberal admixture of pathetic sentiments and gentle affections, we insert the following passage; where the effect of the picture ii finely assisted by the contrast of its two compartments.
"So pass'd the day—the ev'ning fell,
Far more fair Margaret lor'd and blen'd
On the high turret, sitting lone,
Is yon the star o'er Penchryst-Pen,
"The warder view'd it blazing strong.
"The Seneschal, whose silver hair,
In these passages, the poetry of Mr. Scott ú entitled to a decided preference over that of the earlier minstrels; not only from tie greater consistency and condensation of tu imagery, but from an intrinsic superiority in the nature of his materials. From the improvement of taste, and the cultivation of tlw finer feelings of the heart, poetry acquire, n a refined age, many new and invaluable elements, which are necessarily unknown m i period of greater simplicity. The dtwri}>ix'" of external objects, however, is at all un» equally inviting, and equally easy : and mai.y of the pictures which have been left by the ancient romancers must be admitted to possess, along with great diffuseness and honitliness of diction, an exactness and virarii)' which cannot be easily exceeded. In the part of his undertaking, Mr. Scott then-i"'had fewer advantages: but we do not tbfi that his success has been les? remaikabl''In the following description of Melrose. «h c" introduces the second canto, the reader »'¡j observe how skilfully he calls in the »id ol sentimental associations to heighten the eli^': of the picture which he presents to the eye:
"If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
When distant Tweed is heard lo rave,
And (he owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave;
Thin go !—but go alone the while—
Then view St. David's ruined pile!
And. home returning, eooihly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!" -pp. 35, 36.
In the following passage he is less ambitious; and confines himself, as an ancient minstrel would have done on the occasion, to a minute and picturesque representation of the visible object before him :—
"When for the lists they sought the plain,
Did noble Howard hold;
Of feats of arms of old.
With satin slash'd, and lin'd;
His hose with silver twin'd;
The same scrupulous adherence to the style of the old romance, though greatly improved m point of brevity and selection, is discernible in the following animated description of the ¡east, which terminates the poem :—
"The spousal rites were ended soon;
And all is mirth and revelry."—pp. 166, 167.
The following picture is sufficiently antique m its conception, though the execution is evimodem :—
"Ten of them were sheath'd in stpel.
They lay down to rest
With corslet laced,
They carv'd at the meal
With glove» of steel, [met barr'd."
And they drank the red wine through the hel
The whole scene of the duel, or judicial combat, is conducted according to the strict ordinances of chivalry, and delineated with all the minuteness of an ancient romancer. The modern reader will probably find it rather tedious; all but the concluding stanzas, which are in a loftier measure.
'Tis done, 'tis done! that fatal blow
He strives to rise—Brave Musgrave, no!
He chokes in blood—some friendly hand
Undo the visor's barred band,
Unfix the gorget's iron clasp,
And give him room for life to gasp !—
In vain, in vain—haste, holy friar, ^
Haste, ere the sinner shall expire!
Of all his guilt let him be shriven,
And smooth his path from earth to heaven!
"In haste the holy friar sped;
As through the lists he ran;
He rais'd the dying man;
Still props him from the bloody sod,
Pours ghostly comfort on his heart.
And bids him trust in God!
We have already made so many extracts from this poem, that we can now only Effort to present our readers with one specimen of the songs which Mr. Scott has introduced in the mouths of the minstrels in the concluding canto. It is his object, in those pieces, lo exemplify the different styles of ballad narrative which prevailed in this island at different periods, or m different conditions of society. The first is constructed upon the rude at.d simple model of the old Border ditties, aini produces ite effect by the direct and concise narrative of a tragical occurrence. The second, sung by Fitztraver, the bard of the accomplished Surrey, has more of the richness and polish of the Italian poetry, and is very beautifully written, in a stanza resembling that of Spenser. The third is intended to represent that wild style of composition which prevailed among the bards of the northern continent, somewhat softened and adorned by the minstrel's residence in the south. We prefer it, upon the whole, to either of the two former,and shall .give it entire to our readers: who will probably be struck with the poetical effect of the dramatic form into which it is thrown, and of the indirect description by which every thing is most expressively told, without one word of distinct narrative.
"О listen, listen, ladies gay!
No haughty feat of arms I tell;
"—Moor, moor the barge, ye gallant crew!
Rest thee in Castle Ravensheuch,
'The black'ning wave is edg'd with white;
To inch* and rock the веа-mews fly; The fishers have heard the Water-Sprite, Whose screams forbode that wreck is nigh.
'Last night the gifted seer did view
A wet shroud roll'd round Ladye gay: Then stay thee, fair, in Ravensheuch; Why cross the gloomy frith to-day?"
—" 'Tie not because Lord Lind'say's heir
But that my Ladye-mother there
t' 'Tie not because the ring they ride,
And Lind'say at the ring rides well!
'O'er Roslin all that dreary night
A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam; 'Twas broader than the watch-fire light, And brighter than the bright moonbeam.
"It glar'd on Roslin's castled rock,
It redden'd all the copse-wood glen; 'Twas seen from Dryden's groves of oak, And seen from cavern'd nawthornden.
'Seem'd all on fire that chapel proud,
Where Roslin's chiefs uncoffin'd lie; Each Baron, for a sable shroud, Sheath'd in his iron panoply.
"Seem'd all on fire within, around, Both vaulted crypt and altar's pale;
. Shone every pillar foliage-bound,
And glimmer'd all the dead-men's moil.
"Blaz'd battlement and pinnet high,
Blaz'd every rose-carv'd buttress fair—
"There are twenty of Roslin's barons bold
"And each St. Clair was buried there,
With candle, with book, and with knell; But the Kelpy rung, and the Mermaid sung The dirge of lovely Rosabelle '"—pp. 181-184.
From the various extracts we have now given, our readers will be enabled to form a tolerably correct judgment of this poem; and if they are pleased with these portions of it which have now been exhibited, we may venture to assure them that they will not be disappointed by the perusal of the whole. The whole night-journey of Deloraine—the opening of the wizard's tomb—the march of the English battle—and the parley before the walls of the castle, are all executed with the same spirit and poetical energy, which we think is conspicuous in the specimens we have already extracted; and a great variety of short passages occur in every part of the poem, which are still more striking and meritorious, though it is impossible to detach them, without injury, in the form of a quotation. It is but fair to apprise the reader, on the other hand, that he will meet with very heavy passages, and with a variety of details which are not likely to interest any one but a Borderer or an antiquary. We like very well
to hear '-'of the Gallant Chief of Otterbnrne." or "the Dark Knight of Liddisdale." and tea the elevating power of great names, vvh« we read of the tribes that mustered to the war, "beneath the crest of old Ehinbar, and Hepburn's mingled banners." But we reaLv cannot so far sympathise with the local partialities of the author, as to feel any glow of patriotism or ancient virtue in hearing oí the Todrig or Johnston clans, or of Elliott, At*strongs, and Tinlinns; still less can we relish the introduction of Black John of Alhelilani, Whitslade the Hawk, Arthur-fire-the-braes, Ktd Roland Forster, от any other of those v<athies who
"Sought the beeves that made iheir broth,
into a poem which has any pretensions to seriousness or dignity. The ancient metric romance might have admitted those Ьоюс1т personalities; but the present age will not endure them: And Mr. Scott must either sacrifice his Border prejudices, or offend ail his readers in the other parts of the empirt
There are many passages, as we hare already insinuated, wnich have the gene-,; character of heaviness, such is the minstnv's account of his preceptor, and Deloraine's lamentation over the dead body of MuÍgrave: But the goblin page is, in our opinion, the capital deformity of the poem. AVe hri»f already said that the whole machinery ie nseless: but the magic studies of the lady, and the rifled tomb of Michael Scott, give otossion to so much admirable poetry, that we can on no account consent to part with them The page, on the other hand, is a perpetué burden to the poet, and to the reader: it is an undignified and improbable fiction, which excites neither terror, admiration, nor ачо--ishment: but needlessly debases the strain of the whole work, and excites at once our itcredulity and contempt. He is nota "tricksï spirit," like Ariel, with whom the imagination is irresistibly enamoured; nor a tiny monarch, like Oberen, disposing of the ¿es:nies of mortals: He rather appears to u- :> be an awkward sort of a mongrel bm^ Puck and Caliban; of a servile end bratal nature; and limited in his powers to the indulgence of petty malignity, and the intS-'' of despicable injuries. Besides this objpcw:¡ to his character, his existence has no supf<vt from any general or established superstiticr.. Fairies and devils, ghosts, angels, and witches, are creatures with whom we are all famil*'and who excite in all classes of m.1-. » emotions with which we can easily be rca.v to sympathise. But the stoty of Gilpin Hi> ner can never have been believed out of :he village where he is said to have made fc.* appearance; and has no claims upon the errdulity of those who were not ( rijpnally rí • • • acquaintance. There is nothing at ail ::>•'• esting or elegant in the scenes of which ¡ie •* the hero; and in reading those paseases Vt really could not help suspecting that ilun •'•••' not stand in the romance when the agoti rr.;: etrel recited it to the royal Charle» and his mighty earls, but were inserted afterwards to suit the taste of the cottagers among whom he begged his bread on the Border. We entreat Mr. Scott to inquire into the grounds of this suspicion; and to take advantage of anydecent pretext he can lay hold of for purging "The Lay" of this ungraceful intruder. We would also move for a Quo Warranta against the spirits of the river and the mountain; for though they are come of a very high lineage, we do not know what lawful business they could have at Branksome castle in the year 1550.
Of the diction of this poem we have but little to say. From the extracts we have already given? our readers will perceive that the versification is in the highest degree irregular and capricious. The nature of the work entitled IVlr. Scott to some licence in this respect, and he often employs it with a very pleasing effect; but he has frequently exceeded its just limits, and presented us with such combinations of metre, as must put the teeth of his readers, we think, into some jeopardy. He has, when he pleases, a very melodious and sonorous style of versification, but often composes with inexcusable neglisrence and rudeness. There is a great number of lines in which the verse can only be made out by running the words together in a very unusual manner; and some appear to us to have no pretension to the name of verses at all. What apology, for instance, will Mr. Scott make for the last of these two lines 1—
"For when in studious mood he pac'd
or for these 1—
"How the brave boy in future war,
We have called the negligence which could leave such lines as these in a poem of this nature inexcusable; because it is perfectly evident, from the general strain of his composition, that Mr. Scott has a very accurate ear for the harmony of versification, and that he composes with a facility which must lighten the labour of correction. There are some smaller faults in the diction which might have been as well corrected also: there is too much alliteration; and he reduplicates his words too often. We have "never, never," several times; besides "'tis o'er, 'tis o'er'-' — "in vain, in vain"—" 'tis done, 'tis done;" and several other echoes as ungraceful.
We will not be tempted to say any thing more of this poem. Although it does not contain any great display of what is properly called invention, it indicates perhaps as much vigour and originality of poetical genius as any performance which has been lately offered to the public. The locality of the subject is likely to obstruct its popularity; and the author, by confining himself in a great measure to the description of manners and personal adventures, has forfeited the attraction which might have been derived from the delineation of rural scenery. But he has manifested a degree of genius which cannot be overlooked, and given indication of talents that seem well worthy of being enlisted in the service of the epic muse.
The notes, which contain a great treasure of Border history and antiquarian learning, are too long, we think, for the general reader. The form of the publication is also too expensive; and we hope soon to see a smaller edition, with an abridgement of the notes, for the use of the mere lovers of poetry.
Tht Lady of the Lake: a Poem. By Walter Scott. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 434: 1810.
Mr. Scott, though living in an age unusually prolific of original poetry, has manifestly outstripped all his competitors in the race of popularity; and stands already upon a height to which no other writer has attained in the memory of any one now alive. We doubt, iniieed, whether any English poet ever had so many of his books sold, or so many of his Terses read and admired by such a multitude of persons in во short a time. We are credibly informed that nearly thirty thousand copies of "The Lay" have been already disposed of in this country; and that the demand for Marmion, and the poem now before us, has been still more considerable,—a circulation we believe, altogether without example, in the case of a bulky work, not addressed to the bigotry of the mere mob, either religious or political.
A Dopnlarity во universal is a pretty sure
proof of extraordinary merit,—a far surer one, we readily admit, than would be afforded by any praises of ours: and, therefore, though we pretend to be privileged, in ordinary cases, to foretell the ultimate reception of all claims on public admiration, our function may be thought to cease, where the event is already so certain and conspicuous. As it is a sore thing, however, to be deprived of our privileges on so important an occasion, we hope to be pardoned for insinuating, that, even in such a case, the office of the critic may not be altogether superfluous. Though the success of the author be decisive, and even likely to be permanent, it still may not be without its use to point out, in consequence of what, and in spite of what, he has succeeded; nor altogether uninstructive to trace the precise limits of the connection which, even in this dull world, irdisputably lubsists between success