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And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die ; The whole scene of the duel, or judicial When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
combat, is conducted according to the strict And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave; ordinances of chivalry, and delineated with Then go!-bul go alone the whileThen view St. David's ruined pile !
all the minuteness of an ancient romancer. And, home returning, soothly swear,
The modern reader will probably find it rather Was never scene so sad and fair !"-pp. 35, 36. tedious; all but the concluding stanzas, which
are in a loftier measure. In the following passage he is less ambitious; and confines himself, as an ancient " 'Tis done, 'tis done! that fatal blow minstrel would have done on the occasion, to
Has stretch'd him on the bloody plain ; a minute and picturesque representation of
He strives to rise-Brave Musgrave, no!
Thence never shalt thou rise again! the visible object before him :
He chokes in blood-some friendly hand “When for the lists they sought the plain,
Undo the visor's barred band, The stately Ladye's silken rein
Unfix the gorget's iron clasp, Did noble Howard hold;
And give him room for life to gasp!Unarmed by her side he walk'd,
In vain, in vain-haste, holy friar, And much, in courteous phrase, they talk'd
Haste, ere the sinner shall expire! Of feats of arms of old.
Of all his guilt let him be shriven, Costly his garbąhis Flemish ruff
And smooth his path from earth to heaven! Fell o'er his doublet shap'd of buff,
* In haste the holy friar sped; With satin slash'd, and lin'd;
His vaked foot was dyed with red, Tawny his boot, and gold his spur,
As through the lists he ran; His cloak was all of Poland fur,
Unmindful of the shouts on high, His hose with silver twin'd;
That hail'd the conqueror's victory, His Bilboa blade, by Marchmen felt,
He rais'd the dying man ;, Hung in a broad and studded belt;
Loose wav'd his silver beard and hair, Hence, in rude phrase, the Bord'rers still
As o'er him he kneel'd down in prayer. Call'd noble Howard, Belted Will.”—p. 141. And still the crucifix on high,
He holds before his dark'ning eye, The same scrupulous adherence to the style And still he berds an anxious ear, of the old romance, though greatly improved His falı'ring penitence to hear; in point of brevity and selection, is discernible Still props him from the bloody sod, in the following animated description of the
Still, even when soul and body part, feast, which terminates the poem :
Pours ghosily comfort on his heart,
And bids him trust in God! “The spousal rites were ended soon;
Unheard he prays; 'uis o'er, 'tis o'er ! 'Twas now the merry hour of noon,
Richard of Musgrave breathes no more." And in the lofty-arched hall
p. 145–147. Was spread the gorgeous festival : Steward and squire, with heedful haste,
We have already made so many extracts Marshall'd the rank of every guest;
from this poem, that we can now only afford Pages, with ready blade, were there,
to present our readers with one specimen of The mighty meal to carve and share.
the songs which Mr. Scott has introduced in O'er capon, heron-shew, and crane,
the mouths of the minstrels in the concluding And princely peacock's gilded train, And o'er the boar's head, garnish'd brave,
canto. It is his object, in those pieces, to And cygnet from St. Mary's wave ;
exemplify the different styles of ballad narraO'er ptarmigan and venison,
tive which prevailed in this island at different The priest had spoke his benison.
periods, or in different conditions of society. Then rose the riot and the din,
The first is constructed upon the rude ad Above, beneath, without, within !
simple model of the old Border ditties, and For, from the lofty balcony, Rung trumpet, shalm, and psaltery;
produces its effect by the direct and concise Their clanging bowls old warriors quaff'd,
narrative of a tragical occurrence. The seLoudly they spoke, and loudly laugh'd ; cond, sung by Fitztraver, the bard of the acWhisper'd
young knights, in tone more mild, complished Surrey, has more of the richness To ladies fair, and ladies smil'd.
and polish of the Italian poetry, and is very "The hooded hawks, high perch'd on beam, The clamour join'd with whistling scream,
beautifully written, in a stanza resembling And flapp'd their wings, and shook their bells,
that of Spenser. The third is intended to In concert with the staghound's yells.
represent that wild style of composition which Round the flasks of ruddy wine,
prevailed among the bards of the northern From Bourdeaux, Orleans, or the Rhine ; continent, somewhat softened and adorned Their tasks the busy sewers ply,
by the minstrel's residence in the south. We And all is mirih and revelry."-pp. 166, 167.
prefer it, upon the whole, to either of the tiro The following picture is sufficiently antique former, and shall give it entire to our readers; in its conception, though the execution is evi- who will probably be struck with the poetical dently modern:
effect of the dramatic form into which it is
thrown, and of the indirect description by "Ten of them were sheath'd in steel, With belted sword, and spur on heel:
which every thing is most expressively told, They quilted not their harness bright,
without one word of distinct narrative. Neither by day, nor yet by night;
" O listen, listen, ladies gay!
No haughty feat of arms I tell ;
Soft is the note, and sad the lay,
That mourns the lovely Rosabelle.
Rest thee in Castle Ravensheuch,
to hear of the Gallant Chief of Otterbume," Nor tempt the stormy friih to-day.
or “the Dark Knight of Liddisdale," and feel “ The black’ning wave is edg'd with white; the elevating power of great names, when To inch* and rock the sea-mews fly ;
we read of the tribes that mustered to the The fishers have heard the Waler-Spriie, war," beneath the crest of old Dunbar, and Whose screams forbode that wreck is nigh.
Hepburn's mingled banners.” But we really “ Last night the gifted seer did view
cannot so far sympathise with the local par A wet shroud roll'd round Ladye gay : tialities of the author, as to feel any glow of Then stay ihee, fair, in Ravensheuch;
patriotism or ancient virtue in hearing of the Why cross the gloomy frith 10-day?"
Todrig or Johnston clans, or of Elliots, Arm. -"'Tis not because Lord Lind'say's heir strongs, and Tinlinns , still less can we relish To-night at Roslin leads the ball,
the introduction of Black John of Athelstane, But that my Ladye-mother there
Whitslade the Hawk, Arthur-fire-the-braes, Red Sits lonely in her castle hall.
Roland Forster, or any other of those wor“ 'Tis not because the ring they ride,
thies who And Lind'say at the ring rides well! But that my sire the wine will chide,
“Sought the beeves that inade i heir broth, If 'tis noi fill'd by Rosabelle.''
In Scotland and in England boih," “O'er Roslin all that dreary night
into a poem which has any pretensions to A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam; seriousness or dignity. The ancient metrical 'Twas broader than the watch-fire lighi, And brighter than the bright moonbeam.
romance might have admitted those homely
personalities; but the present age will not “ It glar'd on Roslin's castled rock,
endure them: And Mr. Scott must either It redden'd all the copse-wood glen; 'Twas seen from Dryden's groves of oak,
sacrifice his Border prejudices, or offend all And seen from cavern'd Hawthornden.
his readers in the other parts of the empire.
There are many passages, as we have " Seem'd all on fire that chapel proud, Where Roslin's chiefs uncoffin'd lie;
already insinuated, which have the general Each Baron, for a sable shroud,
character of heaviness, such is the minstrel's Sheath'd in his iron panoply.
account of his preceptor, and Deloraine's " Seem'd all on fire within, around,
lamentation over the dead body of Mus. Both vanlied crypt and altar's pale;
grave: But the goblin page is, in our opinion, Şhone every pillar foliage-bound,
the capital deformity of the poem. We have And glimmer'd all the dead-men's mail. already said that the whole machinery is use. “ Blaz'd battlement and pinnet high,
less: but the magic studies of the lady, and Blaz'd every rose-carv'd buttress fair
the rifled tomb of Michael Scott, give occaSo still they blaze when fate is nigh
sion to so much admirable poetry, that we The lordly line of high St. Clair!
can on no account consent to part with them. There are twenty of Roslin's barons bold
The page, on the other hand, is a perpetual Lie buried within that proud chapelle;
burden to the poet, and to the reader: it is Each one the holy vault doch hold
an undignified and improbable fiction, which But the sea holds lovely Rosabelle !
excites neither terror, admiration, nor aston* And each St. Clair was buried there,
ishment; but needlessly debases the strain of With candle, with book, and with knell; the whole work, and excites at once our inBut the Kelpy rung, and the Mermaid sung credulity and contempt. He is not a " tricksy
The dirge of lovely Rosabelle !"-pp. 181-184. spirit,” like Ariel, with whom the imaginaFrom the various extracts we have now tion is irresistibly enamoured; nor a tiny given, our readers will be enabled to form a monarch, like Oberon, disposing of the destitolerably correct judgment of this poem; and nies of mortals; He rather appears to us to if they are pleased with these portions of it be an awkward sort of a mongrel between which have now been exhibited, we may Puck and Caliban; of a servile and brutal venture to assure them that they will not be nature; and limited in his powers to the indisappointed by the perusal of the whole. dulgence of petty malignity, and the infliction The whole night-journey of Deloraine—the of despicable injuries. Besides this objection opening of the wizard's iomb—the march of to his character, his existence has no support the English battle—and the parley before from any general or established superstition. the walls of the castle, are all executed with Fairies and devils, ghosts, angels, and witches the same spirit and poetical energy, which are creatures with whom we are all familiar, we think is conspicuous in the specimens we and who excite in all classes of mankind have already extracted; and a great variety emotions with which we can easily be made of short passages occur in every part of the to sympathise. But the story of Gilpin Horpoem, which are still more striking and meri- ner can never have been believed out of the torious, though it is impossible to detach village where he is said to have made his them, without injury, in the form of a quota- appearance; and has no claims upon the cres tion. It is but fair to apprise the reader, on dulity of those who were not originally of his the other hand, that he will meet with very acquaintance. There is nothing at all interheavy passages, and with a variety of details esting or elegant in the scenes of which he is which are not likely to interest any one but a the hero; and in reading those passages, Borderer or an antiquary. We like very well really could not help suspecting that they did
not stand in the romance when the aged mini* Isle.
strel recited it to the royal Charles and his
mighty earls, but were inserted afterwards to We have called the negligence which could suit the taste of the cottagers among whom leave such lines as these in a poem of this he begged his bread on the Border. We en nature inexcusable; because it is perfectly treat Mr. Scott to inquire into the grounds of evident, from the general strain of his comthis suspicion; and to take advantage of any position, that Mr. Scott has a very accurate decent pretext he can lay hold of for purging ear for the harmony of versification, and that " The Lay? of this ungraceful intruder. We he composes with a facility which must lighten would also move for a Quo Warranto against the labour of correction. There are some the spirits of the river and the mountain ; for smaller faults in the diction which might have though they are come of a very high lineage, been as well corrected also: there is too much we do not know what lawful business they alliteration; and he reduplicates his words 100 could have at Branksome castle in the year often. We have never, never," several 1550.
times; besides "tis o’er, tis o'er? — it in Of the diction of this poem we have but vain, in vain”—“'tis done, 'tis done ;' and little to say. From the extracts we have several other echoes as ungraceful. already given, our readers will perceive that We will not be tempted to say any thing the versification is in the highest degree ir- more of this poem. Although it does not regular and capricious. The nature of the contain any great display of what is properly work entitled Mr. Scott to some licence in this called invention, it indicates perhaps as much respect, and he often employs it with a very vigour and originality of poetical genius as any pleasing effect; but he has frequently ex- performance which has been lately offered to ceeded its just limits, and presented us with the public. The locality of the subject is such combinations of metre, as must put the likely to obstruct its popularity; and the auteeth of his readers, we think, into some thor, by confining himself in a great measure jeopardy. He has, when he pleases, a very to the description of manners and personal melodious and sonorous style of versification, adventures, has forfeited the attraction which but often composes with inexcusable negli- might have been derived from the delineation gence and rudeness. There is a great number of rural scenery. But he has manifested a of lines in which the verse can only be made degree of genius which cannot be overlooked, out by running the words together in a very and given indication of talents that seem well unusual manner; and some appear to us to worthy of being enlisted in the service of the have no pretension to the name of verses at epic muse. all. What apology, for instance, will Mr. The notes, which contain a great treasure of Scott make for the last of these two lines ?- Border history and antiquarian learning, are
“For when in studious mood he pac'd too long, we think, for the general reader. St. Kentigern's hall."
The form of the publication is also too exor for these?
pensive; and we hope soon to see a smaller “ How the brave boy in future war,
edition, with an abridgement of the notes, Should came the unicorn's pride."
for the use of the mere lovers of poetry.
(August, 1810.) The Lady of the Lake : a Poem. By Walter Scott. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 434 : 1810.
Mr. Scott, though living in an age unusu. proof of extraordinary merit,-a far surer one, ally prolific of original poetry, has manifestly we readily admit, than would be afforded by outstripped all his competitors in the race of any praises of ours: and, therefore, though popularity; and stands already upon a height' we pretend to be privileged, in ordinary cases, to which no other writer has attained in the to foretell the ultimate reception of all claims memory of any one now alive. We doubt, on public admiration, our function may be indeed, whether any English poet ever had so thought to cease, where the event is already many of his books sold, or so many of his so certain and conspicuous. As it is a sore verses read and admired by such a multitude thing, however, to be deprived of our priviof persons in so short a time. We are credibly leges on so important an occasion, we hope to informed that nearly thirty thousand copies be pardoned for insinuating, that, even in such of "The Lay” have been already disposed a case, the office of the critic may not be alof in this country; and that the demand for together superfluous. Though the success of Marmion, and the poem now before us, has the author be decisive, and even likely to be been still more considerable,-a circulation permanent, it still may not be without its use we believe, altogether without example, in to point out, in consequence of what, and in the case of a bulky work, not addressed to spite of what, he has succeeded; nor altothe bigotry of the mere mób, either religious gether uninstructive to trace the precise limits or political
of the connection which, even in this dull A popularity so universal is a pretty sure I world, indisputably subsists between success
and desert, and to ascertain how far unex- It is to be considered also, that though it be ampled popularity does really imply unrival- the end of poetry to please, one of the parties led talent.
whose pleasure, and whose notions of excel. As it is the object of poetry to give pleasure, lence, will always be primarily consulted in it would seem to be a pretiy safe conclusion, its composition, is the poet himself; and as he that that poetry must be the best which gives must necessarily be more cultivated than the the greatest pleasure to the greatest Aumber great body of his readers, the presumption is
, of persons. Yet we must pause a little, be- that he will always belong, comparatively fore we give our assent to so plausible a pro- speaking, to the class of good judges, and enposition. It would not be quite correct, we deavour, consequently, to produce that sort of fear, to say that those are invariably the best excellence which is likely to meet with their judges who are most easily pleased. The approbation. When authors, therefore, and great multitude, even of the reading world, those of whose suffrages authors are most must necessarily be uninstructed and inju- ambitious, thus conspire to fix upon the same dicious; and will frequently, be found, not standard of what is good in taste and compoonly to derive pleasure from what is worthless sition, it is easy to see how it should come to in finer eyes, but to be quite insensible to bear this name in society, in preference to those beauties which afford the most exquisite what might afford more pleasure to individuals delight to more cultivated understandings. of less influence. Besides all this, it is obTrue pathos and sublimity will indeed charm vious that it must be infinitely more difficult every one: but, out of this lofty sphere, we to produce any thing conformable to this ex. are pretty well convinced, that the poetry alted standard, than merely to fall in with the which appears most perfect to a very refined current of popular taste. To attain the former taste, will not often turn out to be very popular object, it is necessary, for the most part, to poetry
understand thoroughly all the feelings and This, indeed, is saying nothing more, than associations that are modified or created by that the ordinary readers of poetry have not cultivation:—To accomplish the latter, it will a very refined taste; and that they are often often be sufficient merely to have observed insensible to many of its highest beauties, the course of familiar preferences. Success. while they still more frequently mistake its however, is rare, in proportion as it is difficult; imperfections for excellence. The fact, when and it is needless to say, what a vast addition stated in this simple way, commonly excites rarity makes to value-or how exactly our neither opposition nor surprise : and yet, if it admiration at success is proportioned to our be asked, why the taste of a few individuals, sense of the difficulty of the undertaking. who do not perceive beauty where many Such seem to be the most general and imothers perceive it, should be exclusively dig- mediate causes of the apparent paradox, of nified with the name of a good taste; or why reckoning that which pleases the greatest poetry, which gives pleasure to a very great number as inferior to that which pleases the number of readers, should be thought inferior few; and such the leading grounds for fixing to that.which pleases a much smaller num- the standard of excellence, in a question of ber,—the answer, perhaps, may not be quite mere feeling and gratification, by a different so ready as might have been expected from rule than that of the quantity of gratification the alacrity of our assent to the first propo- produced. With regard to some of the fine sition. That there is a good answer to be arts—for the distinction between popular and given, however, we entertain no doubt: and if actual merit obtains in them all—there are no that which we are about to offer should not other reasons, perhaps, to be assigned; and, appear very clear or satisfactory, we must in Music for example, when we have said that submit to have it thought, that the faul is not it is the authority of those who are best qualialtogether in the subject.
fied by nature and study, and the difficulty In the first place, then, it should be remem- and rarity of the attainment, that entiiles cerbered, that though the taste of very good tain exquisite performances to rank higher judges is necessarily the taste of a few, it is than others that give far more general delight, implied, in their description, that they are per- we have probably said all that can be said in sons eminently qualified, by natural sensi- explanation of this mode of speaking and bility, and long experience and reflection, to judging. In poetry, however, and in some perceive all beauties that really exist, as well other departments, ihis familiar, though someas to settle the relative value and importance what extraordinary rule of estimation, is justiof all the different sorts of beauty ;-They are fied by other considerations. in that very state, in short, to which all who As it is the cultivation of natural and perare in any degree capable of tasting those re- haps universal capacities, that produces that fined pleasures would certainly arrive, if their refined taste which takes away our pleasure sensibility were increased, and their experi- in vulgar excellence, so, it is to be considered
, ence and reflection enlarged. It is difficult, that there is an universal tendency to the protherefore, in following out the ordinary analo- pagation of such a taste; and that, in times gies of language, to avoid considering them as tolerably favourable to human happiness, in the right, and calling their taste the true there is a continuai progress and improvement and the just one ; when it appears that it is in this, as in the other faculties of nations and such as is uniformly produced by the cultiva- large assemblages of men. The number of tion of those faculties upon which all our per- intelligent judges may therefore be regarded ceptions of taste so obviously depend. as perpetually on the increase. The iner
circle, to which the poet delights chiefly to of unsuitable finery. There are other seatures, pitch his voice, is perpetually enlarging; and, no doubt, that distinguish the idols of vulgar looking to that great futurity to which his am- admiration from the beautiful exemplars of bition is constantly directed, it may be found, pure taste; but this is so much the most charthat the most refined style of composition to acteristic and remarkable, that we know no which he can attain, will be, at the last, the way in which we could so shortly describe the most extensively and permanently popular. poetry that pleases the multitude, and disThis holds true, we think, with regard to all pleases the select few, as by saying that it the productions of art that are open to the consisted of all the most known and most inspection of any considerable part of the brilliant parts of the most celebrated authors, community; but, with regard to poetry in -of a splendid and unmeaning accumulation particular, there is one circumstance to be at- of those images and phrases which had long tended to, that renders this conclusion pecu- charmed every reader in the works of their liarly safe, and goes far indeed to reconcile original inventors. the taste of the multitude with that of more The justice of these remarks will probably cultivated judges.
be at once admitted by all who have attended As it seems difficult to conceive that mere to the history and effects of what may be cultivation should either absolutely create or called Poetical diction in general, or even of utterly destroy any natural capacity of enjoy- such particular phrases and epithets as have ment, it is not easy to suppose, that the qual- been indebted to their beauty for too great a ities which delight the uninstructed should notoriety. Our associations with all this class be substantially different from those which of expressions, which have become trite only give pleasure to the enlightened. They may in consequence of their intrinsic excellence, be arranged according to a different scale, – now suggest to us no ideas but those of and certain shades and accompaniments may schoolboy imbecility and childish affectation. be more or less indispensable; but the quali- We look upon them merely as the common, ties in a poem that give most pleasure to the hired, and tawdry trappings of all who wish refined and fastidious critic, are in substance, to put on, for the hour, the masquerade habit we believe, the very same that delight the of poetry; and, instead of receiving from them most injudícious of its admirers:- and the any kind of delight or emotion, do not even very wide difference which exists between distinguish or attend to the signification of their usual estimates, may be in a great de- the words of which they consist. The ear is gree accounted for, by considering, that the so palled with their repetition, and so accusone judges absolutely, and the other relatively tomed to meet with them as the habitual ex—that the one attends only to the intrinsic pletives of the lowest class of versifiers, that qualities of the work, while the other refers they come at last to pass over it without exmore immediately to the merit of the author. citing any sort of conception whatever, and The most popular passages in popular poetry, are not even so much attended to as to expose are in fact, for the most part, very beautiful their most gross incoherence or inconsistency and striking; yet they are very often such to detection. It is of this quality that Swift passages as could never be ventured on by has availed himself in so remarkable a manany writer who aimed at the praise of the ner, in his famous "Song by a person of judicious; and this, for the obvious reason, quality," which consists entirely in a selection that they are trite and hackneyed,—that they of some of the most trite and well-sounding have been repeated till they have lost all phrases and epithets in the poetical lexicon grace and propriety, -and, instead of exalting of the time, strung together without any
kind the imagination by the impression of original of meaning or consistency, and yet so disgenius or creative fancy, only nauseate and posed, as to have been perused, perhaps by offend, by the association of paltry plagiarism one half of their readers, without any suspiand impudent inanity. It is only, however, cion of the deception. Most of those phrases, on those who have read and remembered the however, which had thus become sickening, original passages, and their better imitations, and almost insignificant, 10 the intelligent that this effect is produced. To the ignorant readers of poetry in the days of Queen Anne, and the careless, the twentieth imitation has are in themselves beautiful and expressive, all the charm of an original; and that which and, no doubt, retain much of their native oppresses the more experienced reader with grace in those ears that have not been alienweariness and disgust, rouses them with all ated by their repetition. the force and vivacity of novelty. It is not But it is not merely from the use of much then, because the ornaments of popular poetry excellent diction, that a modern poet is thus are deficient in intrinsic worth and beauty, debarred by the layishness of his predecessors. that they are slighted by the critical reader, There is a certain range of subjects and charbut because he at once recognises them to be acters, and a certain manner and tone, which stolen, and perceives that they are arranged were probably, in their origin, as graceful and without taste or congruity. In his indignation attractive, which have been proscribed by the at the dishonesty, and his contempt for the same dread of imitation. It would be too poverty of the collector, he overlooks alto long to enter, in this place, into any detailed gether the value of what he has collected, or examination of the peculiarities-originating remembers it only as an aggravation of his chiefly in this source—which distinguish anoffence, -as converting larceny into sacrilege, cient from modern poetry. It may be enough and adding the guilt of profanation to the folly I just to remark, that, as the elements of poet