Obvious mistakes and punctuation errors have been corrected, but inconsistent spelling, punctuation and hyphenation has been retained. At the end of the text there is a list of the corrections that were made.
Italic text is represented by underscores and bold text by equal signs.
The footnotes in the introduction have been moved to the end of their respective paragraphs, and have been renumbered for clarity.]
The Lake English Classics
REVISED EDITION WITH HELPS TO STUDY
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
SIR WALTER SCOTT
EDITED FOR SCHOOL USE
WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
SOMETIME ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
SCOTT, FORESMAN AND COMPANY CHICAGO ATLANTA NEW YORK
Copyright 1899, 1919 By Scott, Foresman and Company
PAGE Map 6
I. Life of Scott 9
II. Scott's Place in the Romantic Movement 39
III. The Lady of the Lake
Historical Setting 46
General Criticism and Analysis 48
Helps to Study 265
Theme Subjects 269
Selections for Class Reading 270
Classes of Poetry 271
I. LIFE OF SCOTT
Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, August 15, 1771, of an ancient Scotch clan numbering in its time many a hard rider and good fighter, and more than one of these petty chieftains, half-shepherd and half-robber, who made good the winter inroads into their stock of beeves by spring forays and cattle drives across the English Border. Scott's great-grandfather was the famous "Beardie" of Harden, so called because after the exile of the Stuart sovereigns he swore never to cut his beard until they were reinstated; and several degrees farther back he could point to a still more famous figure, "Auld Wat of Harden," who with his fair dame, the "Flower of Yarrow," is mentioned in The Lay of the Last Minstrel. The first member of the clan to abandon country life and take up a sedentary profession, was Scott's father, who settled in Edinburgh as Writer to the Signet, a position corresponding in Scotland to that of attorney or solicitor in England. The character of this father, stern, scrupulous, Calvinistic, with a high sense of ceremonial dignity and a punctilious regard for the honorable conventions of life, united with the wilder ancestral strain to make Scott what he was. From "Auld Wat" and "Beardie" came his high spirit, his rugged manliness, his chivalric ideals; from the Writer to the Signet came that power of methodical labor which made him a giant among the literary workers of his day, and that delicate sense of responsibility which gave his private life its remarkable sweetness and beauty.
At the age of eighteen months, Scott was seized with a teething fever which settled in his right leg and retarded its growth to such an extent that he was slightly lame for the rest of his life. Possibly this affliction was a blessing in disguise, since it is not improbable that Scott's love of active adventure would have led him into the army or the navy, if he had not been deterred by a bodily impediment; in which case English history might have been a gainer, but English literature would certainly have been immeasurably a loser. In spite of his lameness, the child grew strong enough to be sent on a long visit to his grandfather's farm at Sandyknowe; and here, lying among the sheep on the windy downs, playing about the romantic ruins of Smailholm Tower, scampering through the heather on a tiny Shetland pony, or listening to stories of the thrilling past told by the old women of the farm, he drank in sensations which strengthened both the hardiness and the romanticism of his nature. A story is told of his being found in the fields during a thunder storm, clapping his hands at each flash of lightning, and shouting "Bonny! Bonny!"—a bit of infantile intrepidity which makes more acceptable a story of another sort illustrative of his mental precocity. A lady entering his mother's room found him reading aloud a description of a shipwreck, accompanying the words with excited comments and gestures. "There's the mast gone," he cried, "crash it goes; they will all perish!" The lady entered into his agitation with tact, and on her departure, he told his mother that he liked their visitor, because "she was a virtuoso, like himself." To her amused inquiry as to what a virtuoso might be, he replied: "Don't ye know? why, 'tis one who wishes to and will know everything."
[Footnote: 1 See Scott's ballad "The Eve of St. John."]
As a boy at school in Edinburgh and in Kelso, and afterwards as a student at the University and apprentice in his father's law office, Scott took his own way to become a "virtuoso"; a rather queer way it must sometimes have seemed to his good preceptors. He refused point-blank to learn Greek, and cared little for Latin. His scholarship was so erratic that he glanced meteor-like from the head to the foot of his classes and back again, according as luck gave or withheld the question to which his highly selective memory had retained the answer. But outside of school hours he was intensely at work to "know everything," so far as "everything" came within the bounds of his special tastes. Before he was ten years old he had begun to collect chap-books and ballads. As he grew older he read omnivorously in romance and history; at school he learned French for the sole purpose of knowing at first hand the fascinating cycles of old French romance; a little later he mastered Italian in order to read Dante and Ariosto, and to his schoolmaster's indignation stoutly championed the claim of the latter poet to superiority over Homer; a little later he acquired Spanish and read Don Quixote in the original. With such efforts, however, considerable as they were for a boy who passionately loved a "bicker" in the streets and who was famed among his comrades for bravery in climbing the perilous "kittle nine stanes" on Castle Rock, he was not content. Nothing more conclusively shows the genuineness of Scott's romantic feeling than his willingness to undergo severe mental drudgery in pursuit of knowledge concerning the old storied days which had enthralled his imagination. It was no moonshine sentimentality which kept him hour after hour and day after day in the Advocate's Library, poring over musty manuscripts, deciphering heraldic devices, tracing genealogies, and unraveling obscure points of Scottish history. By the time he was twenty-one he had made himself, almost unconsciously, an expert paleographer and antiquarian, whose assistance was sought by professional workers in those branches of knowledge. Carlyle has charged against Scott that he poured out his vast floods of poetry and romance without preparation or forethought; that his production was always impromptu, and rooted in no sufficient past of acquisition. The charge cannot stand. From his earliest boyhood until his thirtieth year, when he began his brilliant career as poet and novelist, his life was one long preparation—very individual and erratic preparation, perhaps, but none the less earnest and fruitful.
In 1792, Scott, then twenty-one years old, was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates of Edinburgh. During the five years which elapsed between this date and his marriage, his life was full to overflowing of fun and adventure, rich with genial companionship, and with experience of human nature in all its wild and tame varieties. Ostensibly he was a student of law, and he did, indeed, devote some serious attention to the mastery of his profession. But the dry formalities of legal life his keen humor would not allow him to take quite seriously. On the day when he was called to the bar, while waiting his turn among the other young advocates, he turned to his friend, William Clark, who had been called with him, and whispered, mimicking the Highland lasses who used to stand at the Cross of Edinburgh to be hired for the harvest: "We've stood here an hour by the Tron, hinny, and deil a ane has speered our price." Though Scott never made a legal reputation, either as pleader at the bar or as an authority upon legal history and principles, it cannot be doubted that his experience in the Edinburgh courts was of immense benefit to him. In the first place, his study of the Scotch statutes, statutes which had taken form very gradually under the pressure of changing national conditions, gave him an insight into the politics and society of the past not otherwise to have been obtained. Of still more value, perhaps, was the association with his young companions in the profession, and daily contact with the racy personalities which traditionally haunt all courts of law, and particularly Scotch courts of law: the first association kept him from the affectation and sentimentality which is the bane of the youthful romanticist; and the second enriched his memory with many an odd figure afterward to take its place, clothed in the colors of a great dramatic imagination, upon the stage of his stories.
[Footnote 2: Asked.]
Added to these experiences, there were others equally calculated to enlarge his conception of human nature. Not the least among these he found in the brilliant literary and artistic society of Edinburgh, to which his mother's social position gave him entrance. Here, when only a lad, he met Robert Burns, then the pet and idol of the fashionable coteries of the capital. Here he heard Henry Mackenzie deliver a lecture on German literature which turned his attention to the romantic poetry of Germany and led directly to his first attempts at ballad-writing. But much more vital than any or all of these influences, were those endless walking-tours which alone or in company with a boon companion he took over the neighboring country-side—care-free, roystering expeditions, which he afterwards immortalized as Dandie Dinmont's "Liddesdale raids" in Guy Mannering. Thirty miles across country as the crow flies, with no objective point and no errand, a village inn or a shepherd's hut at night, with a crone to sing them an old ballad over the fire, or a group of hardy dalesmen to welcome them with stories and carousal—these were blithe adventurous days such as could not fail to ripen Scott's already ardent nature, and store his memory with genial knowledge. The account of Dandie Dinmont given by Mr. Shortreed may be taken as a picture, only too true in some of its touches, of Scott in these youthful escapades: "Eh me, ... sic an endless fund of humor and drollery as he had then wi' him. Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring and singing. Wherever we stopped how brawlie he suited himsel' to everybody! He aye did as the lave did; never made himsel' the great man or took ony airs in the company. I've seen him in a' moods in these jaunts, grave and gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk—(this, however, even in our wildest rambles, was but rare)—but drunk or sober, he was aye the gentleman. He looked excessively heavy and stupid when he was fou, but he was never out o' gude humor." After this, we are not surprised to hear that Scott's father told him disgustedly that he was better fitted to be a fiddling peddler, a "gangrel scrape-gut," than a respectable attorney. As a matter of fact, however, behind the mad pranks and the occasional excesses there was a very serious purpose in all this scouring of the country-side. Scott was picking up here and there, from the old men and women with whom he hobnobbed, antiquarian material of an invaluable kind, bits of local history, immemorial traditions and superstitions, and, above all, precious ballads which had been handed down for generations among the peasantry. These ballads, thus precariously transmitted, it was Scott's ambition to gather together and preserve, and he spared no pains or fatigue to come at any scrap of ballad literature of whose existence he had an inkling. Meanwhile, he was enriching heart and imagination for the work that was before him. So that here also, though in the hair-brained and heady way of youth, he was engaged in his task of preparation.
Scott has told us that it was his reading of Don Quixote which determined him to be an author, but he was first actually excited to composition in another way. This was by hearing recited a ballad of the German poet Buerger, entitled Lenore, in which a skeleton lover carries off his bride to a wedding in the land of death. Mr. Hutton remarks upon the curiousness of the fact that a piece of "raw supernaturalism" like this should have appealed so strongly to a mind as healthy and sane as Scott's. So it was, however. He could not rid himself of the fascination of the piece until he had translated it, and published it, together with another translation from the same author. One stanza at least of this first effort of Scott sounds a note characteristic of his poetry:
Tramp! tramp! along the land they rode, Splash! splash! along the sea; The scourge is red, the spur drops blood, The flashing pebbles flee.
Here we catch the trumpet-like clang and staccato tramp of verse which he was soon to use in a way to thrill his generation. This tiny pamphlet of verse, Scott's earliest publication, appeared in 1796. Soon after, he met Monk Lewis, then famous as a purveyor to English palates of the crude horrors which German romanticism had just ceased to revel in. Lewis was engaged in compiling a book of supernatural stories and poems under the title of Tales of Wonder, and asked Scott to contribute. Scott wrote for this book three long ballads—"Glenfinlas," "Cadyow Castle," and "The Gray Brother." Though tainted with the conventional diction of eighteenth century verse, these ballads are not unimpressive pieces of work; the second named, especially, shows a kind and degree of romantic imagination such as his later poetry rather substantiated than newly revealed.
In the following year, 1797, Scott married a Miss Charpentier, daughter of a French refugee. She was not his first love, that place having been usurped by a Miss Stuart Belches, for whom Scott had felt perhaps the only deep passion of his life, and memory of whom was to come to the surface touchingly in his old age. Miss Charpentier, or Carpenter, as she was called, with her vivacity and quaint foreign speech "caught his heart on the rebound"; there can be no doubt that, in spite of a certain shallowness of character, she made him a good wife, and that his affection for her deepened steadily to the end. The young couple went to live at Lasswade, a village near Edinburgh, on the Esk. Scott, in whom the proprietary instinct was always very strong, took great pride in the pretty little cottage. He made a dining-table for it with his own hands, planted saplings in the yard, and drew together two willow-trees at the gate into a kind of arch, surmounted by a cross made of two sticks. "After I had constructed this," he says, "mamma (Mrs. Scott) and I both of us thought it so fine that we turned out to see it by moonlight, and walked backwards from it to the cottage door, in admiration of our magnificence and its picturesque effect." It would have been well indeed for them both if their pleasures of proprietorship could always have remained so touchingly simple.
Now that he was married, Scott was forced to look a little more sharply to his fortunes. He applied himself with more determination to the law. In 1799 he became deputy-sheriff of Selkirkshire, with a salary of three hundred pounds, which placed him at least beyond the reach of want. He began to look more and more to literature as a means of supplementing his income. His ballads in the Tales of Wonder had gained him some reputation; this he increased in 1802 by the publication, under the title Border Minstrelsy, of the ballads which he had for several years been collecting, collating, and richly annotating. Meanwhile he was looking about for a congenial subject upon which to try his hand in a larger way than he had as yet adventured. Such a subject came to him at last in a manner calculated to enlist all his enthusiasm in its treatment, for it was given him by the Countess of Dalkeith, wife of the heir-apparent to the dukedom of Buccleugh. The ducal house of Buccleugh stood at the head of the clan Scott, and toward its representative the poet always held himself in an attitude of feudal reverence. The Duke of Buccleugh was his "chief," entitled to demand from him both passive loyalty and active service; so, at least, Scott loved to interpret their relationship, making effective in his own case a feudal sentiment which had elsewhere somewhat lapsed. He especially loved to think of himself as the bard of his clan, a modern representative of those rude poets whom the Scottish chiefs once kept as a part of their household to chant the exploits of the clan. Nothing could have pleased his fancy more, therefore, than a request on the part of the lady of his chief to treat a subject of her assigning—namely, the dark mischief-making of a dwarf or goblin who had strayed from his unearthly master and attached himself as page to a human household. The subject fell in with the poet's reigning taste for strong supernaturalism. Gilpin Horner, the goblin page, though he proved in the sequel a difficult character to put to poetic use, was a figure grotesque and eerie enough to appeal even to Monk Lewis. At first Scott thought of treating the subject in ballad-form, but the scope of treatment was gradually enlarged by several circumstances. To begin with, he chanced upon a copy of Goethe's Goetz von Berlichingen, and the history of that robber baron suggested to him the feasibility of throwing the same vivid light upon the old Border life of his ancestors as Goethe had thrown upon that of the Rhine barons. This led him to subordinate the part played by the goblin page in the proposed story, which was now widened to include elaborate pictures of medieval life and manners, and to lay the scene in the castle of Branksome, formerly the stronghold of Scott's and the Duke of Buccleugh's ancestors. The verse form into which the story was thrown was due to a still more accidental circumstance, i.e., Scott's overhearing Sir John Stoddard recite a fragment of Coleridge's unpublished poem "Christabel." The placing of the story in the mouth of an old harper fallen upon evil days, was a happy afterthought; besides making a beautiful framework for the main poem, it enabled the author to escape criticism for any violent innovations of style, since these could always be attributed to the rude and wild school of poetry to which the harper was supposed to belong. In these ways The Lay of the Last Minstrel gradually developed in its present form. Upon its publication in 1805, it achieved an immediate success. The vividness of its descriptive passages, the buoyant rush of its meter, the deep romantic glow suffusing all its pages, took by storm a public familiar to weariness with the decorous abstractions of the eighteenth century poets. The first edition, a sumptuous quarto, was exhausted in a few weeks; an octavo edition of fifteen hundred was sold out within the year; and before 1830, forty-four thousand copies were needed to supply the popular demand. Scott received in all something under eight hundred pounds for the Lay, a small amount when contrasted with his gains from subsequent poems, but a sum so unusual nevertheless that he determined forthwith to devote as much time to literature as he could spare from his legal duties; those he still placed foremost, for until near the close of his life he clung to his adage that literature was "a good staff, but a poor crutch."
A year before the publication of the Lay, Scott had removed to the small country seat of Ashestiel, in Selkirkshire, seven miles from the nearest town, Selkirk, and several miles from any neighbor. In the introductions to the various cantos of Marmion he has given us a delightful picture of Ashestiel and its surroundings—the swift Glenkinnon dashing through the estate in a deep ravine, on its way to join the Tweed; behind the house the rising hills beyond which lay the lovely scenery of the Yarrow. The eight years (1804-1812) at Ashestiel were the serenest, and probably the happiest, of Scott's life. Here he wrote his two greatest poems, Marmion and The Lady of the Lake. His mornings he spent at his desk, always with a faithful hound at his feet watching the tireless hand as it threw off sheet after sheet of manuscript to make up the day's stint. By one o'clock he was, as he said, "his own man," free to spend the remaining hours of light with his children, his horses, and his dogs, or to indulge himself in his life-long passion for tree-planting. His robust and healthy nature made him excessively fond of all out-of-door sports, especially riding, in which he was daring to foolhardiness. It is a curious fact, noted by Lockhart, that many of Scott's senses were blunt; he could scarcely, for instance, tell one wine from another by the taste, and once sat quite unconscious at his table while his guests were manifesting extreme uneasiness over the approach of a too-long-kept haunch of venison, but his sight was unusually keen, as his hunting exploits proved. His little son once explained his father's popularity by saying that "it was him that commonly saw the hare sitting." What with hunting, fishing, salmon-spearing by torchlight, gallops over the hills into the Yarrow country, planting and transplanting of his beloved trees, Scott's life at Ashestiel, during the hours when he was "his own man," was a very full and happy one.
Unfortunately, he had already embarked in an enterprise which was destined to overthrow his fortunes just when they seemed fairest. While at school in Kelso he had become intimate with a school fellow named James Ballantyne, and later, when Ballantyne set up a small printing house in Kelso, he had given him his earliest poems to print. After the issue of the Border Minstrelsy, the typographical excellence of which attracted attention even in London, he set Ballantyne up in business in Edinburgh, secretly entering the firm himself as silent partner. The good sale of the Lay had given the firm an excellent start; but more matter was presently needed to feed the press. To supply it, Scott undertook and completed at Ashestiel four enormous tasks of editing—the complete works of Dryden and of Swift, the Somers' Tracts, and the Sadler State Papers. The success of these editions, and the subsequent enormous sale of Scott's poems and novels, would have kept the concern solvent in spite of Ballantyne's complete incapacity for business, but in 1809 Scott plunged recklessly into another and more serious venture. A dispute with Constable, the veteran publisher and bookseller, aggravated by the harsh criticism delivered upon Marmion by Francis Jeffrey, editor of the Edinburgh Review, Constable's magazine, determined Scott to set up in connection with the Ballantyne press a rival bookselling concern, and a rival magazine, to be called the Quarterly Review. The project was a daring one, in view of Constable's great ability and resources; to make it foolhardy to madness Scott selected to manage the new business a brother of James Ballantyne, a dissipated little buffoon, with about as much business ability and general caliber of character as is connoted by the name which Scott coined for him, "Rigdumfunnidos." The selection of such a man for such a place betrays in Scott's eminently sane and balanced mind a curious strain of impracticality, to say the least; indeed, we are almost constrained to feel with his harsher critics that it betrays something worse than defective judgment—defective character. His greatest failing, if failing it can be called, was pride. He could not endure even the mild dictations of a competent publisher, as is shown by his answer to a letter written by one of them proposing some salaried work; he replied curtly that he was a "black Hussar" of literature, and not to be put to such tame service. Probably this haughty dislike of dictation, this imperious desire to patronize rather than be patronized, led him to choose inferior men with whom to enter into business relations. If so, he paid for the fault so dearly that it is hard for a biographer to press the issue against him.
For the present, however, the wind of fortune was blowing fair, and all the storm clouds were below the horizon. In 1808 Marmion appeared, and was greeted with an enthusiasm which made the unprecedented reception of the Lay seem lukewarm in comparison. Marmion contains nothing which was not plainly foreshadowed in the Lay, but the hand of the poet has grown more sure, his descriptive effects are less crude and amateurish, the narrative proceeds with a steadier march, the music has gained in volume and in martial vigor. An anecdote is told by Mr. Hutton which will serve as a type of a hundred others illustrative of the extraordinary hold which this poetry took upon the minds of ordinary men. "I have heard," he says, "of two old men—complete strangers—passing each other on a dark London night, when one of them happened to be repeating to himself, just as Campbell did to the hackney coachman of the North Bridge of Edinburgh, the last lines of the account of Flodden Field in Marmion, 'Charge, Chester, charge,' when suddenly a reply came out of the darkness, 'On, Stanley, on,' whereupon they finished the death of Marmion between them, took off their hats to each other, and parted, laughing." The Lady of the Lake, which followed in little more than a year, was received with the same popular delight, and with even greater respect on the part of the critics. Even the formidable Jeffrey, who was supposed to dine off slaughtered authors as the Giant in "Jack and the Beanstalk" dined off young Englishmen, keyed his voice to unwonted praise. The influx of tourists into the Trossachs, where the scene of the poem was laid, was so great as seriously to embarrass the mail coaches, until at last the posting charges had to be raised in order to diminish the traffic. Far away in Spain, at a trying moment of the Peninsular campaign, Sir Adam Ferguson, posted on a point of ground exposed to the enemy's fire, read to his men as they lay prostrate on the ground the passage from The Lady of the Lake describing the combat between Roderick Dhu's Highlanders and the forces of the Earl of Mar; and "the listening soldiers only interrupted him by a joyous huzza when the French shot struck the bank close above them." Such tributes—and they were legion—to the power of his poetry to move adventurous and hardy men, must have been intoxicating to Scott; there is small wonder that the success of his poems gave him, as he says, "such a heeze as almost lifted him off his feet."
Scott's modesty was not in danger, but so far as his prudence was concerned, his success did really lift him off his feet. In 1812, still more encouraged thereto by entering upon the emoluments of the office of Clerk of Sessions, the duties of which he had performed for six years without pay, he purchased Abbotsford, an estate on the Tweed, adjoining that of the Duke of Buccleugh, his kinsman, and near the beautiful ruins of Melrose Abbey. Here he began to carry out the dream of his life, to found a territorial family which should augment the power and fame of his clan. Beginning with a modest farm house and a farm of a hundred acres, he gradually bought, planted, and built, until the farm became a manorial domain and the farm house a castle. He had not gone far in this work before he began to realize that the returns from his poetry would never suffice to meet such demands as would thus be made upon his purse. Byron's star was in the ascendant, and before its baleful magnificence Scott's milder and more genial light visibly paled. He was himself the first to declare, with characteristic generosity, that the younger poet had "bet" him at his own craft. As Carlyle says, "he had held the sovereignty for some half-score of years, a comparatively long lease of it, and now the time seemed come for dethronement, for abdication. An unpleasant business; which, however, he held himself ready, as a brave man will, to transact with composure and in silence."
[Footnote 3: Bested, got the better of.]
But, as it proved, there was no need for resignation. The reign of metrical romance, brilliant but brief, was past, or nearly so. But what of prose romance, which long ago, in picking out Don Quixote from the puzzling Spanish, he had promised himself he would one day attempt? With some such questioning of the Fates, Scott drew from his desk the sheets of a story begun seven years before, and abandoned because of the success of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. This story he now completed, and published as Waverley in the spring of 1814—an event "memorable in the annals of British literature; in the annals of British bookselling thrice and four times memorable." The popularity of the metrical romances dwindled to insignificance before the enthusiasm with which this prose romance was received. A moment before quietly resolved to give up his place in the world's eye, and to live the life of an obscure country gentleman, Scott found himself launched once more on the tide of brave fortunes. The Ballantyne publishing and printing houses ceased to totter, and settled themselves on what seemed the firmest of foundations. At Abbotsford, buying, planting, and building began on a greater scale than had ever been planned in its owner's most sanguine moments.
The history of the next eleven years in Scott's life is the history, on the one hand, of the rapidly-appearing novels, of a fame gradually spreading outward from Great Britain until it covered the civilized world—a fame increased rather than diminished by the incognito which the "author of Waverley" took great pains to preserve even after the secret had become an open one; on the other hand, of the large-hearted, hospitable life at Abbotsford, where, in spite of the importunities of curious and ill-bred tourists, bent on getting a glimpse of the "Wizard of the North," and in spite of the enormous mass of work, literary and official, which Scott took upon himself to perform, the atmosphere of country leisure and merriment was somehow miraculously preserved. This life of the hearty prosperous country laird was the one toward the realization of which all Scott's efforts were directed; it is worth while, therefore, to see as vividly as may be, what kind of life that was, that we may the better understand what kind of man he was who cared for it. The following extract from Lockhart's Life of Scott gives us at least one very characteristic aspect of the Abbotsford world:
"It was a clear, bright September morning, with a sharpness in the air that doubled the animating influence of the sunshine; and all was in readiness for a grand coursing-match on Newark Hill. The only guest who had chalked out other sport for himself was the staunchest of anglers, Mr. Rose; but he, too, was there on his shelty, armed with his salmon-rod and landing-net.... This little group of Waltonians, bound for Lord Somerville's preserve, remained lounging about, to witness the start of the main cavalcade. Sir Walter, mounted on Sibyl, was marshalling the order of procession with a huge hunting-whip; and among a dozen frolicsome youths and maidens, who seemed disposed to laugh at all discipline, appeared, each on horseback, each as eager as the youngest sportsman in the troop, Sir Humphrey Davy, Dr. Wollaston, and the patriarch of Scottish belles-lettres, Henry Mackenzie.... Laidlow (the steward of Abbotsford) on a strong-tailed wiry Highlander, yclept Hoddin Grey, which carried him nimbly and stoutly, although his feet almost touched the ground, was the adjutant. But the most picturesque figure was the illustrious inventor of the safety-lamp (Sir Humphrey Davy) ... a brown hat with flexible brim, surrounded with line upon line of catgut, and innumerable fly-hooks; jackboots worthy of a Dutch smuggler, and a fustian surtout dabbled with the blood of salmon, made a fine contrast with the smart jacket, white-cord breeches, and well-polished jockey-boots of the less distinguished cavaliers about him. Dr. Wollaston was in black; and with his noble serene dignity of countenance might have passed for a sporting archbishop. Mr. Mackenzie, at this time in the seventy-sixth year of his age, with a hat turned up with green, green spectacles, green jacket, and long brown leathern gaiters buttoned upon his nether anatomy, wore a dog-whistle round his neck.... Tom Purdie (one of Scott's servants) and his subalterns had preceded us by a few hours with all the grey-hounds that could be collected at Abbotsford, Darnick, and Melrose; but the giant Maida had remained as his master's orderly, and now gamboled about Sibyl Grey barking for mere joy like a spaniel puppy.
"The order of march had all been settled, when Scott's daughter Anne broke from the line, screaming with laughter, and exclaimed, 'Papa, papa, I knew you could never think of going without your pet!' Scott looked round, and I rather think there was a blush as well as a smile upon his face, when he perceived a little black pig frisking about his pony, evidently a self-elected addition to the party of the day. He tried to look stern, and cracked his whip at the creature, but was in a moment obliged to join in the general cheers. Poor piggy soon found a strap round its neck, and was dragged into the background; Scott, watching the retreat, repeated with mock pathos, the first verse of an old pastoral song—
What will I do gin my hoggie die? My joy, my pride, my hoggie! My only beast, I had na mae, And wow, but I was vogie!
—the cheers were redoubled—and the squadron moved on."
Let us supplement this with one more picture, from the same hand, showing Scott in a little more intimate light. The passage was written in 1821, after Lockhart had married Scott's eldest daughter, and gone to spend the summer at Chiefswood, a cottage on the Abbotsford estate:
"We were near enough Abbotsford to partake as often as we liked of its brilliant and constantly varying society; yet could do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit which the daily reception of new-comers entailed upon all the family, except Scott himself. But in truth, even he was not always proof against the annoyances connected with such a style of open house-keeping.... When sore beset at home in this way, he would every now and then discover that he had some very particular business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate, and craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the cabin in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the morning. The clatter of Sibyl Grey's hoofs, the yelping of Mustard and Spice, and his own joyous shout of reveillee under our windows, were the signal that he had burst his toils, and meant for that day to 'take his ease in his inn.' On descending, he was found to be seated with all his dogs and ours about him, under a spreading ash that overshadowed half the bank between the cottage and the brook, pointing the edge of his woodman's axe, and listening to Tom Purdie's lecture touching the plantation that most needed thinning. After breakfast he would take possession of a dressing-room upstairs, and write a chapter of The Pirate; and then, having made up and despatched his packet for Mr. Ballantyne, away to join Purdie wherever the foresters were at work ... until it was time to rejoin his own party at Abbotsford or the quiet circle of the cottage. When his guests were few and friendly, he often made them come over and meet him at Chiefswood in a body towards evening.... He was ready with all sorts of devices to supply the wants of a narrow establishment; he used to delight particularly in sinking the wine in a well under the brae ere he went out, and hauling up the basket just before dinner was announced,—this primitive device being, he said, what he had always practised when a young housekeeper, and in his opinion far superior in its results to any application of ice; and in the same spirit, whenever the weather was sufficiently genial, he voted for dining out of doors altogether."
Few events of importance except the successive appearances of "our buiks" as Tom Purdie called his master's novels, and an occasional visit to London or the continent, intervened to break the busy monotony of this Abbotsford life. On one of these visits to London, Scott was invited to dine with the Prince Regent, and when the prince became King George IV, in 1820, almost the first act of his reign was to create Scott a baronet. Scott accepted the honor gratefully, as coming, he said, "from the original source of all honor." There can well be two opinions as to whether this least admirable of English kings constituted a very prime fountain of honor, judged by democratic standards; but to Scott's mind, such an imputation would have been next to sacrilege. The feudal bias of his mind, strong to start with, had been strengthened by his long sojourn among the visions of a feudal past; the ideals of feudalism were living realities to him; and he accepted knighthood from his king's hand in exactly the same spirit which determined his attitude of humility towards his "chief," the Duke of Buccleugh, and which impelled him to exhaust his genius in the effort to build up a great family estate.
There were already signs that the enormous burden of work under which he seemed to move so lightly, was telling on him. The Bride of Lammermoor, The Legend of Montrose, and Ivanhoe, had all of them been dictated between screams of pain, wrung from his lips by a chronic cramp of the stomach. By the time he reached Redgauntlet and St. Ronan's Well, there began to be heard faint murmurings of discontent from his public, hints that he was writing too fast, and that the noble wine he had poured them for so long was growing at last a trifle watery. To add to these causes of uneasiness, the commercial ventures in which he was interested drifted again into a precarious state. He had himself fallen into the bad habit of forestalling the gains from his novels by heavy drafts on his publishers, and the example thus set was followed faithfully by John Ballantyne. Scott's good humor and his partner's bad judgment saddled the concern with a lot of unsalable books. In 1818 the affairs of the book-selling business had to be closed up, Constable taking over the unsalable stock and assuming the outstanding liabilities in return for copyright privileges covering some of Scott's novels. This so burdened the veteran publisher that when, in 1825, a large London firm failed, it carried him down also—and with him James Ballantyne, with whom he had entered into close relations. Scott's secret connection with Ballantyne had continued; accordingly he woke up one fine day to find himself worse than beggared, being personally liable for one hundred and thirty thousand pounds.
The years intervening between this calamity and Scott's death form one of the saddest and at the same time most heroic chapters in the history of literature. The fragile health of Lady Scott succumbed almost immediately to the crushing blow, and she died in a few months. Scott surrendered Abbotsford to his creditors and took up humble lodgings in Edinburgh. Here, with a pride and stoical courage as quiet as it was splendid, he settled down to fill with the earnings of his pen the vast gulf of debt for which he was morally scarcely responsible at all. In three years he wrote Woodstock, three Chronicles of the Canongate, the Fair Maid of Perth, Anne of Geierstein, the first series of the Tales of a Grandfather, and a Life of Napoleon, equal to thirteen volumes of novel size, besides editing and annotating a complete edition of his own works. All these together netted his creditors L40,000. Touched by the efforts he was making to settle their claims, they now presented him with Abbotsford, and thither he returned to spend the few years remaining to him. In 1830 he suffered a first stroke of paralysis; refusing to give up, however, he made one more desperate rally to recapture his old power of story-telling. Count Robert of Paris and Castle Dangerous were the pathetic result; they are not to be taken into account, in any estimate of his powers, for they are manifestly the work of a paralytic patient. The gloomy picture is darkened by an incident which illustrates strikingly one phase of Scott's character.
The great Reform Bill was being discussed throughout Scotland, menacing what were really abuses, but what Scott, with his intense conservatism, believed to be sacred and inviolable institutions. The dying man roused himself to make a stand against the abominable bill. In a speech which he made at Jedburgh, he was hissed and hooted by the crowd, and he left the town with the dastardly cry of "Burk Sir Walter!" ringing in his ears.
Nature now intervened to ease the intolerable strain. Scott's anxiety concerning his debt gradually gave way to an hallucination that it had all been paid. His friends took advantage of the quietude which followed to induce him to make the journey to Italy, in the fear that the severe winter of Scotland would prove fatal. A ship of His Majesty's fleet was put at his disposal, and he set sail for Malta. The youthful adventurousness of the man flared up again oddly for a moment, when he insisted on being set ashore upon a volcanic island in the Mediterranean which had appeared but a few days before and which sank beneath the surface shortly after. The climate of Malta at first appeared to benefit him; but when he heard, one day, of the death of Goethe at Weimar, he seemed seized with a sudden apprehension of his own end, and insisted upon hurrying back through Europe, in order that he might look once more on Abbotsford. On the ride from Edinburgh he remained for the first two stages entirely unconscious. But as the carriage entered the valley of the Gala he opened his eyes and murmured the name of objects as they passed, "Gala water, surely—Buckholm—Torwoodlee." When the towers of Abbotsford came in view, he was so filled with delight that he could scarcely be restrained from leaping out. At the gates he greeted faithful Laidlaw in a voice strong and hearty as of old: "Why, man, how often I have thought of you!" and smiled and wept over the dogs who came rushing as in bygone times to lick his hand. He died a few days later, on the afternoon of a glorious autumn day, with all the windows open, so that he might catch to the last the whisper of the Tweed over its pebbles.
"And so," says Carlyle, "the curtain falls; and the strong Walter Scott is with us no more. A possession from him does remain; widely scattered; yet attainable; not inconsiderable. It can be said of him, when he departed, he took a Man's life along with him. No sounder piece of British manhood was put together in that eighteenth century of Time. Alas, his fine Scotch face, with its shaggy honesty, sagacity and goodness, when we saw it latterly on the Edinburgh streets, was all worn with care, the joy all fled from it—plowed deep with labor and sorrow. We shall never forget it; we shall never see it again. Adieu, Sir Walter, pride of all Scotchmen, take our proud and sad farewell."
II. SCOTT'S PLACE IN THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
In order rightly to appreciate the poetry of Scott it is necessary to understand something of that remarkable "Romantic Movement" which took place toward the end of the eighteenth century, and within a space of twenty-five years completely changed the face of English literature. Both the causes and the effects of this movement were much more than merely literary; the "romantic revival" penetrated every crevice and ramification of life in those parts of Europe which it affected; its social, political, and religious results were all deeply significant. But we must here confine ourselves to such aspects of the revival as showed themselves in English poetry.
Eighteenth century poetry had been distinguished by its polish, its formal correctness, or—to use a term in much favor with critics of that day—its "elegance." The various and wayward metrical effects of the Elizabethan and Jacobean poets had been discarded for a few well-recognized verse forms, which themselves in turn had become still further limited by the application to them of precise rules of structure. Hand in hand with this restricting process in meter, had gone a similar tendency in diction. The simple, concrete phrases of daily speech had given way to stately periphrases; the rich and riotous vocabulary of earlier poetry had been replaced by one more decorous, measured, and high-sounding. A corresponding process of selection and exclusion was applied to the subject matter of poetry. Passion, lyric exaltation, delight in the concrete life of man and nature, passed out of fashion; in their stead came social satire, criticism, generalized observation. While the classical influence, as it is usually called, was at its height, with such men as Dryden and Pope to exemplify it, it did a great work; but toward the end of the eighth decade of the eighteenth century it had visibly run to seed. The feeble Hayley, the silly Della Crusca, the arid Erasmus Darwin, were its only exemplars. England was ripe for a literary revolution, a return to nature and to passion; and such a revolution was not slow in coming.
It announced itself first in George Crabbe, who turned to paint the life of the poor with patient realism; in Burns, who poured out in his songs the passion of love, the passion of sorrow, the passion of conviviality; in Blake, who tried to reach across the horizon of visible fact to mystical heavens of more enduring reality. Following close upon these men came the four poets destined to accomplish the revolution which the early comers had begun. They were born within four years of each other, Wordsworth in 1770, Scott in 1771, Coleridge in 1772, Southey in 1774. As we look at these four men now, and estimate their worth as poets, we see that Southey drops almost out of the account, and that Wordsworth and Coleridge stand, so far as the highest qualities of poetry go, far above Scott, as, indeed, Blake and Burns do also. But the contemporary judgment upon them was directly the reverse; and Scott's poetry exercised an influence over his age immeasurably greater than that of any of the other three. Let us attempt to discover what qualities this poetry possessed which gave it its astonishing hold upon the age when it was written. In so doing, we may discover indirectly some of the reasons why it still retains a large portion of its popularity, and perhaps arrive at some grounds of judgment by which we may test its right thereto.
One reason why Scott's poetry was immediately welcomed, while that of Wordsworth and of Coleridge lay neglected, is to be found in the fact that in the matter of diction Scott was much less revolutionary than they. By nature and education he was conservative; he put The Lay of the Last Minstrel into the mouth of a rude harper of the North in order to shield himself from the charge of "attempting to set up a new school in poetry," and he never throughout his life violated the conventions, literary or social, if he could possibly avoid doing so. This bias toward conservatism and conventionality shows itself particularly in the language of his poems. He was compelled, of course, to use much more concrete and vivid terms than the eighteenth century poets had used, because he was dealing with much more concrete and vivid matter; but his language, nevertheless, has a prevailing stateliness, and at times an artificiality, which recommended it to readers tired of the inanities of Hayley and Mason, but unwilling to accept the startling simplicity and concreteness of diction exemplified by the Lake poets at their best.
Another peculiarity of Scott's poetry which made powerfully for its popularity, was its spirited meter. People were weary of the heroic couplet, and turned eagerly to these hurried verses, that went on their way with the sharp tramp of moss-troopers, and heated the blood like a drum. The meters of Coleridge, subtle, delicate, and poignant, had been passed by with indifference—had not been heard perhaps, for lack of ears trained to hear; but Scott's metrical effects were such as a child could appreciate, and a soldier could carry in his head.
Analogous to this treatment of meter, though belonging to a less formal side of his art, was Scott's treatment of nature, the landscape setting of his stories. Perhaps the most obvious feature of the romantic revival was a reawakening of interest in out-door nature. It was as if for a hundred years past people had been stricken blind as soon as they passed from the city streets into the country. A trim garden, an artfully placed country house, a well-kept preserve, they might see; but for the great shaggy world of mountain and sea—it had been shut out of man's elegant vision. Before Scott began to write there had been no lack of prophets of the new nature-worship, but none of them of a sort to catch the general ear. Wordsworth's pantheism was too mystical, too delicate and intuitive, to recommend itself to any but chosen spirits; Crabbe's descriptions were too minute, Coleridge's too intense, to please. Scott was the first to paint nature with a broad, free touch, without raptures or philosophizing, but with a healthy pleasure in its obvious beauties, such as appeal to average men. His "scenery" seldom exists for its own sake, but serves, as it should, for background and setting of his story. As his readers followed the fortunes of William of Deloraine or Roderick Dhu, they traversed by sunlight and by moonlight landscapes of wild romantic charm, and felt their beauty quite naturally, as a part of the excitement of that wild life. They felt it the more readily because of a touch of artificial stateliness in the handling, a slight theatrical heightening of effect—from an absolute point of view a defect, but highly congenial to the taste of the time. It was the scenic side of nature which Scott gave, and gave inimitably, while Burns was piercing to the inner heart of her tenderness in his lines "To a Mountain Daisy" and "To a Mouse," while Wordsworth was mystically communing with her soul, in his "Tintern Abbey." It was the scenic side of nature for which the perceptions of men were ripe; so they left profounder poets to their musings, and followed after the poet who could give them a brilliant story set in a brilliant scene.
Again, the emotional key to Scott's poetry was on a comprehensible plane. The situations with which he deals, the passions, ambitions, satisfactions, which he portrays, belong, in one form or another, to all men, or at least are easily grasped by the imaginations of all men. It has often been said that Scott is the most Homeric of English poets; so far as the claim rests on considerations of style, it is hardly to be granted, for nothing could be farther than the hurrying torrent of Scott's verse from the "long and refluent music" of Homer. But in this other respect, that he deals in the rudimentary stuff of human character in a straightforward way, without a hint of modern complexities and super-subtleties, he is really akin to the master poet of antiquity. This, added to the crude wild life which he pictures, the vigorous sweep of his action, the sincere glow of romance which bathes his story—all so tonic in their effect upon minds long used to the stuffy decorum of didactic poetry, completed the triumph of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Marmion, and The Lady of the Lake, over their age.
As has been already suggested, Scott cannot be put in the first rank of poets. No compromise can be made on this point, because upon it the whole theory of poetry depends. Neither on the formal nor on the essential sides of his art is he among the small company of the supreme. And no one understood this better than himself. He touched the keynote of his own power, though with too great modesty, when he said, "I am sensible that if there is anything good about my poetry ... it is a hurried frankness of composition which pleases soldiers, sailors, and young people of bold and active dispositions." The poet Campbell, who was so fascinated by Scott's ballad of "Cadyow Castle" that he used to repeat it aloud on the North Bridge of Edinburgh until "the whole fraternity of coachmen knew him by tongue as he passed," characterizes the predominant charm of Scott's poetry as lying in a "strong, pithy eloquence," which is perhaps only another name for "hurried frankness of composition." If this is not the highest quality to which poetry can attain, it is a very admirable one; and it will be a sad day for the English-speaking race when there shall not be found persons of every age and walk of life, to take the same delights in these stirring poems as their author loved to think was taken by "soldiers, sailors, and young people of bold and active dispositions."
III. THE LADY OF THE LAKE
1. HISTORICAL SETTING
The Lady of the Lake deals with a distinct epoch in the life of King James V of Scotland, and has lying back of it a considerable amount of historical fact, an understanding of which will help in the appreciation of the poem. During his minority the King was under the tutelage of Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, who had married the King's mother. The young monarch chafed for a long time under this authority, but the Douglases were so powerful that he was unable to shake it off, in spite of several desperate attempts on the part of his sympathizers to rescue him. In 1528 the King, then sixteen years of age, escaped from his own castle of Falkland to Stirling Castle. The governor of Stirling, an enemy of the Douglas family, received him joyfully. There soon gathered about his standard a sufficient number of powerful peers to enable him to depose the Earl of Angus from the regency and to banish him and all his family to England. The Douglas who figures in the poem is an imaginary uncle of the banished regent, and himself under the ban, compelled to hide away in the shelter provided for him by Roderick Dhu on the lonely island in Loch Katrine. He is represented as having been loved and trusted by King James during the boyhood of the latter, before the enmity sprang up between the house of Angus and the throne. This enmity, to quote from the History of the House of Douglas, published at Edinburgh in 1743, "was so inveterate, that numerous as their allies were, their nearest friends, even in the most remote parts of Scotland, durst not entertain them, unless under the strictest and closest disguise."
The outlawed border chieftain, Roderick Dhu, who gives shelter to the persecuted Douglas, is a fictitious character, but one entirely typical of the time and place. The expedition undertaken by the young King against the Border clans, under the guise of a hunting party, is in part, at least, historic. Pitscottie's History says: "In 1529 James V made a convention at Edinburgh for the purpose of considering the best mode of quelling the Border robbers, who, during the license of his minority and the troubles which followed, had committed many exorbitances. Accordingly, he assembled a flying army of ten thousand men, consisting of his principal nobility and their followers, who were directed to bring their hawks and dogs with them, that the monarch might refresh himself with sport during the intervals of military execution. With this array he swept through Ettrick forest, where he hanged over the gate of his own castle Piers Cockburn of Henderland, who had prepared, according to tradition, a feast for his reception."
2. GENERAL CRITICISM AND ANALYSIS
The Lady of the Lake appeared in 1810. Two years before, Marmion had vastly increased the popular enthusiasm aroused by The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and the success of his second long poem had so exhilarated Scott that, as he says, he "felt equal to anything and everything." To one of his kinswomen, who urged him not to jeopardize his fame by another effort in the same kind, he gaily quoted the words of Montrose:
He either fears his fate too much Or his deserts are small, Who dares not put it to the touch, To win or lose it all.
The result justified his confidence; for not only was The Lady of the Lake as successful as its predecessors, but it remains the most sterling of Scott's poems. The somewhat cheap supernaturalism of the Lay appears in it only for a moment; both the story and the characters are of a less theatrical type than in Marmion; and it has a glow, animation, and onset, which was denied to the later poems, Rokeby and The Lord of the Isles.
The following outline abridged from the excellent one given by Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review for August, 1810, will be useful as a basis for criticism of the matter and style of the poem.
"The first canto begins with a description of a staghunt in the Highlands of Perthshire. As the chase lengthens, the sportsmen drop off; till at last the foremost horseman is left alone; and his horse, overcome with fatigue, stumbles and dies. The adventurer, climbing up a craggy eminence, discovers Loch Katrine spread out in evening glory before him. The huntsman winds his horn; and sees, to his infinite surprise, a little skiff, guided by a lovely woman, glide from beneath the trees that overhang the water, and approach the shore at his feet. Upon the stranger's approach, she pushes the shallop from the shore in alarm. After a short parley, however, she carries him to a woody island, where she leads him into a sort of silvan mansion, rudely constructed, and hung round with trophies of war and the chase. An elderly lady is introduced at supper; and the stranger, after disclosing himself to be 'James Fitz-James, the knight of Snowdoun,' tries in vain to discover the name and history of the ladies.
"The second canto opens with a picture of the aged harper, Allan-bane, sitting on the island beach with the damsel, watching the skiff which carries the stranger back to land. A conversation ensues, from which the reader gathers that the lady is a daughter of the Douglas, who, being exiled by royal displeasure from court, had accepted this asylum from Sir Roderick Dhu, a Highland chieftain long outlawed for deeds of blood; that this dark chief is in love with his fair protegee, but that her affections are engaged to Malcolm Graeme, a younger and more amiable mountaineer. The sound of distant music is heard on the lake; and the barges of Sir Roderick are discovered, proceeding in triumph to the island. Ellen, hearing her father's horn at that instant on the opposite shore, flies to meet him and Malcolm Graeme, who is received with cold and stately civility by the lord of the isle. Sir Roderick informs the Douglas that his retreat has been discovered, and that the King (James V), under pretence of hunting, has assembled a large force in the neighborhood. He then proposes impetuously that they should unite their fortunes by his marriage with Ellen, and rouse the whole Western Highlands. The Douglas, intimating that his daughter has repugnances which she cannot overcome, declares that he will retire to a cave in the neighboring mountains until the issue of the King's threat is seen. The heart of Roderick is wrung with agony at this rejection; and when Malcolm advances to Ellen, he pushes him violently back—and a scuffle ensues, which is with difficulty appeased by the giant arm of Douglas. Malcolm then withdraws in proud resentment, plunges into the water, and swims over by moonlight to the mainland.
"The third canto opens with an account of the ceremonies employed in summoning the clan. This is accomplished by the consecration of a small wooden cross, which, with its points scorched and dipped in blood, is carried with incredible celerity through the whole territory of the chieftain. The eager fidelity with which this fatal signal is carried on, is represented with great spirit. A youth starts from the side of his father's coffin, to bear it forward, and, having run his stage, delivers it to a young bridegroom returning from church, who instantly binds his plaid around him, and rushes onward. In the meantime Douglas and his daughter have taken refuge in the mountain cave; and Sir Roderick, passing near their retreat on his way to the muster, hears Ellen's voice singing her evening hymn to the Virgin. He does not obtrude on her devotions, but hurries to the place of rendezvous.
"The fourth canto begins with some ceremonies by a wild hermit of the clan, to ascertain the issue of the impending war; and this oracle is obtained—that the party shall prevail which first sheds the blood of its adversary. The scene then shifts to the retreat of the Douglas, where the minstrel is trying to soothe Ellen in her alarm at the disappearance of her father by singing a fairy ballad to her. As the song ends, the knight of Snowdoun suddenly appears before her, declares his love, and urges her to put herself under his protection. Ellen throws herself on his generosity, confesses her attachment to Graeme, and prevails on him to seek his own safety by a speedy retreat from the territory of Roderick Dhu. Before he goes, the stranger presents her with a ring, which he says he has received from King James, with a promise to grant any boon asked by the person producing it. As he retreats, his suspicions are excited by the conduct of his guide, and confirmed by the warnings of a mad woman whom they encounter. His false guide discharges an arrow at him, which kills the maniac. The knight slays the murderer; and learning from the expiring victim that her brain had been turned by the cruelty of Sir Roderick Dhu, he vows vengeance. When chilled with the midnight cold and exhausted with fatigue, he suddenly comes upon a chief reposing by a lonely watch-fire; and being challenged in the name of Roderick Dhu, boldly avows himself his enemy. The clansman, however, disdains to take advantage of a worn-out wanderer; and pledges him safe escort out of Sir Roderick's territory, when he must answer his defiance with his sword. The stranger accepts these chivalrous terms; and the warriors sup and sleep together. This ends the fourth canto.
"At dawn, the knight and the mountaineer proceed toward the Lowland frontier. A dispute arises concerning the character of Roderick Dhu, and the knight expresses his desire to meet in person and do vengeance upon the predatory chief. 'Have then thy wish!' answers his guide; and gives a loud whistle. A whole legion of armed men start up from their mountain ambush in the heath; while the chief turns proudly and says, 'I am Roderick Dhu!' Sir Roderick then by a signal dismisses his men to their concealment. Arrived at his frontier, the chief forces the knight to stand upon his defense. Roderick, after a hard combat is laid wounded on the ground; Fitz-James, sounding his bugle, brings four squires to his side; and, after giving the wounded chief into their charge, gallops rapidly on towards Stirling. As he ascends the hill to the castle, he descries approaching the same place the giant form of Douglas, who has come to deliver himself up to the King, in order to save Malcolm Graeme and Sir Roderick from the impending danger. Before entering the castle, Douglas is seized with the whim to engage in the holiday sports which are going forward outside; he wins prize after prize, and receives his reward from the hand of the prince, who, however does not condescend to recognize his former favorite. Roused at last by an insult from one of the royal grooms, Douglas proclaims himself, and is ordered into custody by the King. At this instant a messenger arrives with tidings of an approaching battle between the clan of Roderick and the King's lieutenant, the Earl of Mar; and is ordered back to prevent the conflict, by announcing that both Sir Roderick and Lord Douglas are in the hands of their sovereign.
"The last canto opens in the guard room of the royal castle at Stirling, at dawn. While the mercenaries are quarreling and singing at the close of a night of debauch, the sentinels introduce Ellen and the minstrel Allan-bane—who are come in search of Douglas. Ellen awes the ruffian soldiery by her grace and liberality, and is at length conducted to a more seemly waiting place, until she may obtain audience with the King. While Allan-bane, in the cell of Sir Roderick, sings to the dying chieftain of the glorious battle which has just been waged by his clansmen against the forces of the Earl of Mar, Ellen, in another part of the palace, hears the voice of Malcolm Graeme lamenting his captivity from an adjoining turret. Before she recovers from her agitation she is startled by the appearance of Fitz-James, who comes to inform her that the court is assembled, and the King at leisure to receive her suit. He conducts her to the hall of presence, round which Ellen casts a timid and eager glance for the monarch. But all the glittering figures are uncovered, and James Fitz-James alone wears his cap and plume. The Knight of Snowdoun is the King of Scotland! Struck with awe and terror, Ellen falls speechless at his feet, pointing to the ring which he has put upon her finger. The prince raises her with eager kindness, declares that her father is forgiven, and bids her ask for a boon for some other person. The name of Graeme trembles on her lips, but she cannot trust herself to utter it. The King, in playful vengeance, condemns Malcolm Graeme to fetters, takes a chain of gold from his own neck, and throwing it over that of the young chief, puts the clasp in the hand of Ellen."
From this outline, it will be evident that Scott had gained greatly in narrative power since the production of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Not only are the elements of the "fable" (to use the word in its old-fashioned sense) harmonious and probable, but the various incidents grow out of each other in a natural and necessary way. The Lay was at best a skillful bit of carpentering whereof the several parts were nicely juxtaposed; The Lady of the Lake is an organism, and its several members partake of a common life. A few weaknesses may, it is true, be pointed out in it. The warning of Fitz-James by the mad woman's song makes too large a draft upon our romantic credulity. Her appearance is at once so accidental and so opportune that it resembles those supernatural interventions employed by ancient tragedy to cut the knot of a difficult situation, which have given rise to the phrase deus ex machina. The improbability of the episode is further increased by the fact that she puts her warning in the form of a song. Scott's love of romantic episode manifestly led him astray here. Further, the story as a whole shares with all stories which turn upon the revelation of a concealed identity, the disadvantage of being able to affect the reader powerfully but once, since on a second reading the element of suspense and surprise is lacking. In so far as The Lady of the Lake is a mere story, or as it has been called, a "versified novelette," this is not a weakness; but in so far as it is a poem, with the claim which poetry legitimately makes to be read and reread for its intrinsic beauty, it constitutes a real defect.
Not only does this poem, with the slight exceptions just mentioned, show a gain over the earlier poems in narrative power, but it also marks an advance in character delineation. The characters of the Lay are, with one or two exceptions, mere lay-figures; Lord Cranstoun and Margaret are the most conventional of lovers; William of Deloraine is little more than an animated suit of armor, and the Lady of Branksome, except at one point, when from her walls she defies the English invaders, is nearly or quite featureless. With the characters of The Lady of the Lake the case is very different. The three rivals for Ellen's hand are real men, with individualities which enhance and deepen the picturesqueness of each other by contrast. The easy grace and courtly chivalry, of the disguised King, the quick kindling of his fancy at sight of the mysterious maid of Loch Katrine, his quick generosity in relinquishing his suit when he finds that she loves another, make him one of the most life-like figures of romance. Roderick Dhu, nursing darkly his clannish hatreds, his hopeless love, and his bitter jealousy, with a delicate chivalry sending its bright thread through the tissue of his savage nature, is drawn with an equally convincing hand. Against his gloomy figure the boyish magnanimity of Malcolm Graeme, Ellen's brave faithfulness, made human by a surface play of coquetry, and the quiet nobility of the exiled Douglas, stand out in varied relief. Judged in connection with the more conventional character types of Marmion, and with the draped automatons of the Lay, the characters of The Lady of the Lake show the gradual growth in Scott of that dramatic imagination which was later to fill the vast scene of his prose romances with unforgettable figures.
But the most significant advance which this poem shows over earlier work is in the greater genuineness of the poetic effect. In the description, for example, of the approach of Roderick Dhu's boats to the island, there is a singular depth of race feeling. There is borne in upon us, as we read, the realization of a wild and peculiar civilization; we get a breath of poetry keen and strange, like the shrilling of the bag-pipes across the water. Again, in the speeding of the fiery cross there is a primitive depth of poetry which carries with it a sense of "old, unhappy, far-off things"; it appeals to latent memories in us, which have been handed down from an ancestral past. There is nothing in either The Lay of the Last Minstrel or Marmion to compare for natural dramatic force with the situation in The Lady of the Lake when Roderick Dhu whistles for his clansmen to appear, and the astonished Fitz-James sees the lonely mountain side suddenly bristle with tartans and spears; and the fight which follows at the ford is a real fight, in a sense not at all to be applied to the tournaments and other conventional encounters of the earlier poems. Even where Scott still clung to supernatural devices to help along his story, he handles them with much greater subtlety than he had done in his earlier efforts. The dropping of Douglas's sword from its scabbard when his disguised enemy enters the room, arouses the imagination without burdening it. It has the same imaginative advantage over such an episode as that in the Lay, where the ghost of the wizard comes to bear off the goblin page, as suggestion always has over explicit statement. This gain in subtlety of treatment will be made still more apparent by comparing with any supernatural episode of the Lay, the account in The Lady of the Lake of the unearthly parentage of Brian the Hermit.
The gain in style is less perceptible. Scott was never a great stylist; he struck out at the very first a nervous, hurrying meter, and a strong though rather commonplace diction, upon which he never substantially improved. Abundant action, rapid transitions, stirring descriptions, common sentiments and ordinary language heightened by a dash of pomp and novelty, above all a pervading animation, spirit, intrepidity—these are the constant elements of Scott's success, present here in their accustomed measure. In the broader sense of style, however, where the word is understood to include all the processes leading to a given poetical effect, The Lady of the Lake has some advantage, even over Marmion. It contains nothing, to be sure, so fine or so typical of Scott's peculiar power, as the account of the Battle of Flodden in Marmion; the minstrel's recital of the battle of Beal' an Duine does not abide the comparison. The quieter parts of The Lady of the Lake, moreover, are sometimes disfigured by a sentimentality and "prettiness" happily unfrequent with Scott. But the description of the approach of Roderick Dhu's war-boats, already mentioned, the superb landscape delineation in the fifth canto, and the beautiful twilight ending of canto third, can well stand as prime types of Scott's stylistic power.
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
Harp of the North! that moldering long hast hung On the witch-elm that shades Saint Fillan's spring, And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung, Till envious ivy did around thee cling, Muffling with verdant ringlet every string— 5 O Minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep? Mid rustling leaves and fountains murmuring, Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep, Nor bid a warrior smile, nor teach a maid to weep?
Not thus, in ancient days of Caledon, 10 Was thy voice mute amid the festal crowd, When lay of hopeless love, or glory won, Aroused the fearful, or subdued the proud. At each according pause, was heard aloud Thine ardent symphony sublime and high! 15 Fair dames and crested chiefs attention bowed; For still the burden of thy minstrelsy Was Knighthood's dauntless deed, and Beauty's matchless eye.
O wake once more! how rude soe'er the hand That ventures o'er thy magic maze to stray; 20 O wake once more! though scarce my skill command Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay; Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away, And all unworthy of thy nobler strain, Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway, 25 The wizard note has not been touched in vain. Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!
The stag at eve had drunk his fill, Where danced the moon on Monan's rill, And deep his midnight lair had made 30 In lone Glenartney's hazel shade; But, when the sun his beacon red Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head, The deep-mouthed bloodhound's heavy bay Resounded up the rocky way, 35 And faint, from farther distance borne, Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.
As Chief, who hears his warder call, "To arms! the foemen storm the wall," The antlered monarch of the waste 40 Sprung from his heathery couch in haste. But ere his fleet career he took, The dew-drops from his flanks he shook; Like crested leader proud and high, Tossed his beamed frontlet to the sky; 45 A moment gazed adown the dale, A moment snuffed the tainted gale, A moment listened to the cry, That thickened as the chase drew nigh; Then, as the headmost foes appeared, 50 With one brave bound the copse he cleared, And, stretching forward free and far, Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.
Yelled on the view the opening pack; Rock, glen, and cavern, paid them back; 55 To many a mingled sound at once The awakened mountain gave response. A hundred dogs bayed deep and strong, Clattered a hundred steeds along, Their peal the merry horns rung out, 60 A hundred voices joined the shout; With hark and whoop and wild halloo, No rest Benvoirlich's echoes knew. Far from the tumult fled the roe; Close in her covert cowered the doe; 65 The falcon, from her cairn on high, Cast on the rout a wondering eye, Till far beyond her piercing ken The hurricane had swept the glen. Faint, and more faint, its failing din 70 Returned from cavern, cliff, and linn, And silence settled, wide and still, On the lone wood and mighty hill.
Less loud the sounds of silvan war Disturbed the heights of Uam-Var, 75 And roused the cavern, where, 'tis told, A giant made his den of old; For ere that steep ascent was won, High in his pathway hung the sun, And many a gallant, stayed perforce, 80 Was fain to breathe his faltering horse, And of the trackers of the deer, Scarce half the lessening pack was near; So shrewdly on the mountain side, Had the bold burst their mettle tried. 85
The noble stag was pausing now Upon the mountain's southern brow, Where broad extended, far beneath, The varied realms of fair Menteith. With anxious eye he wandered o'er 90 Mountain and meadow, moss and moor, And pondered refuge from his toil, By far Lochard or Aberfoyle. But nearer was the copsewood grey, That waved and wept on Loch-Achray, 95 And mingled with the pine-trees blue On the bold cliffs of Benvenue. Fresh vigor with the hope returned, With flying foot the heath he spurned, Held westward with unwearied race, 100 And left behind the panting chase.
'Twere long to tell what steeds gave o'er, As swept the hunt through Cambusmore; What reins were tightened in despair, When rose Benledi's ridge in air; 105 Who flagged upon Bochastle's heath, Who shunned to stem the flooded Teith— For twice that day, from shore to shore, The gallant stag swam stoutly o'er. Few were the stragglers, following far, 110 That reached the lake of Vennachar; And when the Brigg of Turk was won, The headmost horseman rode alone.
Alone, but with unbated zeal, That horseman plied the scourge and steel; 115 For jaded now, and spent with toil, Embossed with foam, and dark with soil, While every gasp with sobs he drew, The laboring stag strained full in view. Two dogs of black Saint Hubert's breed, 120 Unmatched for courage, breath, and speed, Fast on his flying traces came, And all but won that desperate game; For, scarce a spear's length from his haunch, Vindictive, toiled the bloodhounds stanch; 125 Nor nearer might the dogs attain, Nor farther might the quarry strain. Thus up the margin of the lake, Between the precipice and brake, O'er stock and rock their race they take. 130
The Hunter marked that mountain high, The lone lake's western boundary, And deemed the stag must turn to bay, Where that huge rampart barred the way; Already glorying in the prize, 135 Measured his antlers with his eyes; For the death-wound and the death-halloo, Mustered his breath, his whinyard drew— But thundering as he came prepared, With ready arm and weapon bared, 140 The wily quarry shunned the shock, And turned him from the opposing rock; Then, dashing down a darksome glen, Soon lost to hound and Hunter's ken, In the deep Trossachs' wildest nook 145 His solitary refuge took. There, while close couched, the thicket shed Cold dews and wild-flowers on his head, He heard the baffled dogs in vain Rave through the hollow pass amain, 150 Chiding the rocks that yelled again.
Close on the hounds the Hunter came, To cheer them on the vanished game; But, stumbling in the rugged dell, The gallant horse exhausted fell. 155 The impatient rider strove in vain To rouse him with the spur and rein, For the good steed, his labors o'er, Stretched his stiff limbs, to rise no more; Then, touched with pity and remorse, 160 He sorrowed o'er the expiring horse. "I little thought, when first thy rein I slacked upon the banks of Seine, That Highland eagle e'er should feed On thy fleet limbs, my matchless steed! 165 Woe worth the chase, woe worth the day, That costs thy life, my gallant gray!"
Then through the dell his horn resounds, From vain pursuit to call the hounds. Back limped, with slow and crippled pace, 170 The sulky leaders of the chase; Close to their master's side they pressed, With drooping tail and humbled crest; But still the dingle's hollow throat Prolonged the swelling bugle-note. 175 The owlets started from their dream, The eagles answered with their scream, Round and around the sounds were cast, Till echo seemed an answering blast; And on the Hunter hied his way, 180 To join some comrades of the day; Yet often paused, so strange the road, So wondrous were the scenes it showed.
The western waves of ebbing day Rolled o'er the glen their level way; 185 Each purple peak, each flinty spire, Was bathed in floods of living fire. But not a setting beam could glow Within the dark ravines below, Where twined the path in shadow hid, 190 Round many a rocky pyramid, Shooting abruptly from the dell Its thunder-splintered pinnacle; Round many an insulated mass, The native bulwarks of the pass, 195 Huge as the tower which builders vain Presumptuous piled on Shinar's plain. The rocky summits, split and rent, Formed turret, dome, or battlement, Or seemed fantastically set 200 With cupola or minaret, Wild crests as pagod ever decked, Or mosque of Eastern architect. Nor were these earth-born castles bare, Nor lacked they many a banner fair; 205 For, from their shivered brows displayed, Far o'er the unfathomable glade, All twinkling with the dewdrops sheen, The brier-rose fell in streamers green, And creeping shrubs, of thousand dyes, 210 Waved in the west-wind's summer sighs.
Boon nature scattered, free and wild, Each plant or flower, the mountain's child. Here eglantine embalmed the air, Hawthorn and hazel mingled there; 215 The primrose pale and violet flower, Found in each cliff a narrow bower; Fox-glove and night-shade, side by side, Emblems of punishment and pride, Grouped their dark hues with every stain 220 The weather-beaten crags retain. With boughs that quaked at every breath, Grey birch and aspen wept beneath; Aloft, the ash and warrior oak Cast anchor in the rifted rock; 225 And, higher yet, the pine-tree hung His shattered trunk, and frequent flung, Where seemed the cliffs to meet on high, His bows athwart the narrowed sky. Highest of all, where white peaks glanced, 230 Where glist'ning streamers waved and danced, The wanderer's eye could barely view The summer heaven's delicious blue; So wondrous wild, the whole might seem The scenery of a fairy dream. 235
Onward, amid the copse 'gan peep A narrow inlet, still and deep, Affording scarce such breadth of brim As served the wild duck's brood to swim. Lost for a space, through thickets veering, 240 But broader when again appearing, Tall rocks and tufted knolls their face Could on the dark-blue mirror trace; And farther as the Hunter strayed, Still broader sweep its channels made. 245 The shaggy mounds no longer stood, Emerging from entangled wood, But, wave-encircled, seemed to float, Like castle girdled with its moat; Yet broader floods extending still 250 Divide them from their parent hill, Till each, retiring, claims to be An islet in an inland sea.
And now, to issue from the glen, No pathway meets the wanderer's ken, 255 Unless he climb, with footing nice, A far projecting precipice. The broom's tough roots his ladder made, The hazel saplings lent their aid; And thus an airy point he won, 260 Where, gleaming with the setting sun, One burnished sheet of living gold, Loch Katrine lay beneath him rolled, In all her length far winding lay, With promontory, creek, and bay, 265 And island that, empurpled bright, Floated amid the livelier light, And mountains, that like giants stand, To sentinel enchanted land. High on the south, huge Benvenue 270 Down on the lake in masses threw Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurled, The fragments of an earlier world; A wildering forest feathered o'er His ruined sides and summit hoar, 275 While on the north, through middle air, Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.
From the steep promontory gazed The stranger, raptured and amazed, And, "What a scene were here," he cried, 280 "For princely pomp, or churchman's pride! On this bold brow, a lordly tower; In that soft vale, a lady's bower; On yonder meadow, far away, The turrets of a cloister gray; 285 How blithely might the bugle-horn Chide, on the lake, the lingering morn! How sweet, at eve, the lover's lute Chime, when the groves were still and mute! And when the midnight moon should lave 290 Her forehead in the silver wave, How solemn on the ear would come The holy matin's distant hum, While the deep peal's commanding tone Should wake, in yonder islet lone, 295 A sainted hermit from his cell, To drop a bead with every knell— And bugle, lute, and bell, and all, Should each bewildered stranger call To friendly feast, and lighted hall. 300
"Blithe were it then to wander here! But now—beshrew yon nimble deer— Like that same hermit's, thin and spare, The copse must give my evening fare; Some mossy bank my couch must be, 305 Some rustling oak my canopy. Yet pass we that; the war and chase Give little choice of resting-place— A summer night, in greenwood spent, Were but tomorrow's merriment: 310 But hosts may in these wilds abound, Such as are better missed than found; To meet with Highland plunderers here, Were worse than loss of steed or deer. I am alone; my bugle-strain 315 May call some straggler of the train; Or, fall the worst that may betide, Ere now this falchion has been tried."
But scarce again his horn he wound, When lo! forth starting at the sound, 320 From underneath an aged oak, That slanted from the islet rock, A damsel guider of its way, A little skiff shot to the bay, That round the promontory steep 325 Led its deep line in graceful sweep, Eddying, in almost viewless wave, The weeping willow-twig to lave, And kiss, with whispering sound and slow, The beach of pebbles bright as snow. 330 The boat had touched the silver strand, Just as the Hunter left his stand, And stood concealed amid the brake, To view this Lady of the Lake. The maiden paused, as if again 335 She thought to catch the distant strain. With head upraised, and look intent, And eye and ear attentive bent, And locks flung back, and lips apart, Like monument of Grecian art, 340 In listening mood, she seemed to stand, The guardian Naiad of the strand.
And ne'er did Grecian chisel trace A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace Of finer form or lovelier face! 345 What though the sun, with ardent frown, Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown— The sportive toil, which, short and light, Had dyed her glowing hue so bright, Served too in hastier swell to show 350 Short glimpses of a breast of snow. What though no rule of courtly grace To measured mood had trained her pace,— A foot more light, a step more true, Ne'er from the heath-flower dashed the dew; 355 E'en the slight harebell raised its head, Elastic from her airy tread. What though upon her speech there hung The accents of the mountain tongue— Those silver sounds, so soft, so dear, 360 The listener held his breath to hear!
A chieftain's daughter seemed the maid; Her satin snood, her silken plaid, Her golden brooch such birth betrayed. And seldom was a snood amid 365 Such wild luxuriant ringlets hid, Whose glossy black to shame might bring The plumage of the raven's wing; And seldom o'er a breast so fair, Mantled a plaid with modest care, 370 And never brooch the folds combined Above a heart more good and kind. Her kindness and her worth to spy, You need but gaze on Ellen's eye; Not Katrine, in her mirror blue, 375 Gives back the shaggy banks more true, Than every free-born glance confessed The guileless movements of her breast; Whether joy danced in her dark eye, Or woe or pity claimed a sigh, 380 Or filial love was glowing there, Or meek devotion poured a prayer, Or tale of injury called forth The indignant spirit of the North. One only passion unrevealed, 385 With maiden pride the maid concealed, Yet not less purely felt the flame— Oh! need I tell that passion's name!
Impatient of the silent horn, Now on the gale her voice was borne: 390 "Father!" she cried; the rocks around Loved to prolong the gentle sound. A while she paused, no answer came— "Malcolm, was thine the blast?" the name Less resolutely uttered fell, 395 The echoes could not catch the swell. "A stranger I," the Huntsman said, Advancing from the hazel shade. The maid, alarmed, with hasty oar, Pushed her light shallop from the shore, 400 And when a space was gained between, Closer she drew her bosom's screen— So forth the startled swan would swing, So turn to prune his ruffled wing. Then safe, though fluttered and amazed, 405 She paused, and on the stranger gazed. Not his the form, nor his the eye, That youthful maidens wont to fly.
On his bold visage middle age Had slightly pressed its signet sage, 410 Yet had not quenched the open truth And fiery vehemence of youth; Forward and frolic glee was there, The will to do, the soul to dare, The sparkling glance, soon blown to fire, 415 Of hasty love, or headlong ire. His limbs were cast in manly mold, For hardy sports or contest bold; And though in peaceful garb arrayed, And weaponless, except his blade, 420 His stately mien as well implied A high-born heart, a martial pride, As if a Baron's crest he wore, And sheathed in armor trod the shore. Slighting the petty need he showed, 425 He told of his benighted road; His ready speech flowed fair and free, In phrase of gentlest courtesy; Yet seemed that tone, and gesture bland, Less used to sue than to command. 430
A while the maid the stranger eyed, And, reassured, at length replied, That Highland halls were open still To wildered wanderers of the hill. "Nor think you unexpected come 435 To yon lone isle, our desert home; Before the heath had lost the dew, This morn, a couch was pulled for you; On yonder mountain's purple head Have ptarmigan and heath-cock bled, 440 And our broad nets have swept the mere, To furnish forth your evening cheer." "Now, by the rood, my lovely maid, Your courtesy has erred," he said; "No right have I to claim, misplaced, 445 The welcome of expected guest. A wanderer here, by fortune tost, My way, my friends, my courser lost, I ne'er before, believe me, fair, Have ever drawn your mountain air, 450 Till on this lake's romantic strand, I found a fay in fairy land!"
"I well believe," the maid replied, As her light skiff approached the side, "I well believe, that ne'er before 455 Your foot has trod Loch Katrine's shore; But yet, as far as yesternight, Old Allan-bane foretold your plight, A gray-haired sire, whose eye intent Was on the visioned future bent. 460 He saw your steed, a dappled gray, Lie dead beneath the birchen way; Painted exact your form and mien, Your hunting suit of Lincoln green, That tasselled horn so gaily gilt, 465 That falchion's crooked blade and hilt, That cap with heron plumage trim, And yon two hounds so dark and grim. He bade that all should ready be, To grace a guest of fair degree; 470 But light I held his prophecy, And deemed it was my father's horn, Whose echoes o'er the lake were borne."
The stranger smiled: "Since to your home A destined errant-knight I come, 475 Announced by prophet sooth and old, Doomed, doubtless, for achievement bold, I'll lightly front each high emprise, For one kind glance of those bright eyes. Permit me, first, the task to guide 480 Your fairy frigate o'er the tide." The maid with smile suppressed and sly, The toil unwonted saw him try; For seldom sure, if e'er before, His noble hand had grasped an oar. 485 Yet with main strength his strokes he drew, And o'er the lake the shallop flew; With heads erect, and whimpering cry, The hounds behind their passage ply. Nor frequent does the bright oar break 490 The dark'ning mirror of the lake, Until the rocky isle they reach, And moor their shallop on the beach.
The stranger viewed the shore around, 'Twas all so close with copsewood bound, 495 Nor track nor pathway might declare That human foot frequented there, Until the mountain-maiden showed A clambering, unsuspected road, That winded through the tangled screen, 500 And opened on a narrow green, Where weeping birch and willow round With their long fibres swept the ground. Here, for retreat in dangerous hour, Some chief had framed a rustic bower. 505
It was a lodge of ample size, But strange of structure and device; Of such materials as around The workman's hand had readiest found. Lopped of their boughs, their hoar trunks bared, 510 And by the hatchet rudely squared, To give the walls their destined height, The sturdy oak and ash unite; While moss and clay and leaves combined To fence each crevice from the wind. 515 The lighter pine-trees overhead, Their slender length for rafters spread, And withered heath and rushes dry Supplied a russet canopy. Due westward, fronting to the green, 520 A rural portico was seen, Aloft on native pillars borne, Of mountain fir with bark unshorn, Where Ellen's hand had taught to twine The ivy and Idaean vine, 525 The clematis, the favored flower Which boasts the name of virgin-bower, And every hardy plant could bear Loch Katrine's keen and searching air. An instant in this porch she stayed 530 And gaily to the stranger said, "On heaven and on thy lady call, And enter the enchanted hall!"
"My hope, my heaven, my trust must be, My gentle guide, in following thee." 535 He crossed the threshold—and a clang Of angry steel that instant rang. To his bold brow his spirit rushed, But soon for vain alarm he blushed, When on the floor he saw displayed, 540 Cause of the din, a naked blade Dropped from the sheath, that careless flung Upon a stag's huge antlers swung; For all around, the walls to grace, Hung trophies of the fight or chase: 545 A target there, a bugle here, A battle-ax, a hunting spear, And broadswords, bows, and arrows store, With the tusked trophies of the boar. Here grins the wolf as when he died, 550 And there the wild-cat's brindled hide The frontlet of the elk adorns, Or mantles o'er the bison's horns; Pennons and flags defaced and stained, That blackening streaks of blood retained, 555 And deer-skins, dappled, dun, and white, With otter's fur and seal's unite, In rude and uncouth tapestry all, To garnish forth the silvan hall.
The wondering stranger round him gazed, 560 And next the fallen weapon raised— Few were the arms whose sinewy strength, Sufficed to stretch it forth at length. And as the brand he poised and swayed, "I never knew but one," he said, 565 "Whose stalwart arm might brook to wield A blade like this in battle-field." She sighed, then smiled and took the word: "You see the guardian champion's sword; As light it trembles in his hand, 570 As in my grasp a hazel wand; My sire's tall form might grace the part Of Ferragus, or Ascabart; But in the absent giant's hold Are women now, and menials old." 575
The mistress of the mansion came, Mature of age, a graceful dame; Whose easy step and stately port Had well become a princely court, To whom, though more than kindred knew, 580 Young Ellen gave a mother's due. Meet welcome to her guest she made, And every courteous rite was paid, That hospitality could claim, Though all unasked his birth and name. 585 Such then the reverence to a guest, That fellest foe might join the feast, And from his deadliest foeman's door Unquestioned turn, the banquet o'er. At length his rank the stranger names, 590 "The Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James; Lord of a barren heritage, Which his brave sires, from age to age, By their good swords had held with toil; His sire had fallen in such turmoil, 595 And he, God wot, was forced to stand Oft for his right with blade in hand. This morning, with Lord Moray's train He chased a stalwart stag in vain, Outstripped his comrades, missed the deer, 600 Lost his good steed, and wandered here."
Fain would the Knight in turn require The name and state of Ellen's sire. Well showed the elder lady's mien, That courts and cities she had seen; 605 Ellen, though more her looks displayed The simple grace of silvan maid, In speech and gesture, form and face, Showed she was come of gentle race. 'Twere strange in ruder rank to find 610 Such looks, such manners, and such mind. Each hint the Knight of Snowdoun gave, Dame Margaret heard with silence grave; Or Ellen, innocently gay, Turned all inquiry light away: 615 "Weird women we—by dale and down We dwell, afar from tower and town. We stem the flood, we ride the blast, On wandering knights our spells we cast; While viewless minstrels touch the string, 620 'Tis thus our charmed rimes we sing." She sung, and still a harp unseen Filled up the symphony between.