Abbildungen der Seite
[blocks in formation]


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, Coppingham, “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 bailad.” 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; bis 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 completely 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 bis 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 1913, 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 vious 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 in volved in pecuniary responsibilities to a ruinous are without a refined poetical taste.



Dum relego, scripsisse, pudet, quia plurima cerno,

Me quoque, qui feci, judice, digna limi.




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

The bigots of the iron time
Had call'd his harmless art a crime.
A wandering harper, scorn’d and poor,
He begg'd his bread from door to door;
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp a king had loved to hear.

He pass'd where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The minstrel gazed with wishful eyem
No humbler resting place was nigh.
With hesitating step, at last,
The embattled portal-arch he passid,
Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft rollid back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The dutchess* mark'd his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degreee;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o’er Monmouth's bloody tomb.

When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride:
And he began to talk anon,
Of good Earl Francis,t dead and gone,
And of Earl Walter, rest him God!
A braver ne'er to battle rode :
And how full many a tale he knew
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch;
And, would the noble dutchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain,
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak
He thought, e'en yet, the sooth to speak,
That if she loved the harp to hear,
He could make music to her ear.

[blocks in formation]

INTRODUCTION. The way was long, the wind was cold, The minstrel was infirm and old; His wither'd cheek, and treeses 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 oppress’d, 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;
The aged minstrel audience gain'd.
But, when he reach'd the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wish'd his boon denied:
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease,
Which marks security to please:
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain-
He tried to tune his harp in vain.
The pitying duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.
And then, he said, he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,
He never thought to sing again.

* 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 be headed 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 for high dames and mighty earls ;
He had play'd it to King Charles the good,

Ten squires, ten yeomen, mailclad men,
When he kept court in Holyrood;

Waited the beck of the warders ten; And much he wish'd, yet fear'd, to try

Thirty steeds, both feet and wight, The long forgotten melody.

Stood saddled in stable day and night, Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,

Barbed with frontlet of steel, I trow, And an uncertain warbling made,

And with Jedwood axe at saddle bow, And oft he shook his hoary head.

A hundred more fed free in stall:

Such was the custom of Branksome hall.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face and smiled;
And lighten'd up his faded eye,

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,
In the full tide of song were lost;

They watch 'gainst Southern force and guile;

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
The feast was over in Branksome tower,

Beside his broken spear.
And the ladye had gone to her secret bower; Bards long shall tell,
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell, How Lord Walter fell!
Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell

When startled burghers fled afar,
Jesu Maria, shield us well!

The furies of the border war; No living wight, save the ladye alone,

When the streets of high Dunedin
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.

Saw lances gleam, and falchions redden,

And heard the slogan's* deadly yell

Then the chief of Branksome fell.
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all;
Knight, and page, and household squire,

Loiter'd through the lofty hall,

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 sbrine,
From Teviotstone to Eskdale-moor.

In mutual pilgrimage they drew,

Implored, in vain, the grace divine
Nine-and-twenty knights of fame

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,
Waited duteous on them all:

Shall never, never be forgot!
They were all knights of metal true,
Kinsmen to the bold Buccleuch.


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
Neither by day, nor yet by night:

The Jadye dropp'd nor flower nor tear!
They lay down to rest,

Vengeance deep brooding o'er the slain,
With corslet laced,

Had lock'd the source of softer wo;
Pillow'd on buckler cold and hard;
They carved at the meal

And burning pride and high disdain,

Forbade the rising tear to flow;
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the belmet

* 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.

XIV. From the sound of Teviot's tide, Chafing with the mountain's side, From the groan of the windswung oak, From the sullen echo of the rock, From the voice of the coming storm,

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?”

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,
Had lent their mingled tide :
Nor in her mother's alter'd eye
Dared she to look for sympathy.
Her lover, 'gainst her father's clan,

With car in arms had stood,
When Mathouse-burn to Melrose ran

All purple with their blood;
And well she knew, her mother dread,
Before Lord Cranstoun she would wed,
Would see her on her dying bed.


( Brother, nay:
On my hills the moonbeams play.
From Craig-cross to Skelfhillpen,
By every rill, in every glen,
Merry elves their morrice pacing,

To aërial minstrelsy,
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing,

Trip it deft and merrily.
Up, and mark their nimble feet!
Up, and list their music sweet !"


Of noble race the ladye came;
Her father was a clerk of fame,

Of Bethune's line of Picardie ;
He learn'd the art that none may name,

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!

RIVER SPIRIT. “ Tears of an imprison'd maiden

Mix with my polluted stream ; Margaret of Branksome, sorrow laden,

Mouros 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?"



And of his skill, as bards avow,

He taught that ladye fair,
Till to her bidding she could bow

The viewless forms of air.
And now she sits in secret bower,
In old Lord David's western tower,
And listens to a heavy sound,
That moans the mossy turrets round.
Is it the roar of Teviot's tide,
That chafes against the scaur's* red side?
Is it the wind that swings the oaks ?
Is it the echo from the rocks?
What may it be, the heavy sound,
That moans old Branksome's turrets round?

|'* 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,
Sbimmers through mist each planet star;

Ill may I read their high decree!
But no kind infuence 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.

« ZurückWeiter »