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When thou shalt find the little hill,
To whom it must in terms be said,
In blessing to a wedded pair,
TO THE READER.
INTRODUCTION TO CANTO FIRST.
With regard to the Introductions generally, Lockhart writes, in Life of Scott, ii. 150:-“Though the author himself does not allude to, and had perhaps forgotten the circumstance, when writing the Introductory Essay of 1830—they were announced, by an advertisement early in 1807, as “Six Epistles from Ettrick Forest,” to be published in a separate volume, similar to that of the Ballads and Lyrical Pieces; and perhaps it might have been better that this first plan had been adhered to. But however that may be, are there any pages, among all he ever wrote, that one would be more sorry he should not have written? They are among the most delicious portraitures that genius ever painted of itself—buoyant, virtuous, happy genius-exulting in its own energies, yet possessed and mastered by a clear, calm, modest mind, and happy only in diffusing happiness around it.
“With what gratification those Epistles were read by the friends to whom they were addressed it is superfluous to show. He had, in fact, painted them almost as fully as himself; and who might not have been proud to find a place in such a gallery ? The tastes and habits of six of those men, in whose intercourse Scott found the greatest pleasure when his fame was approaching its meridian splendour, are thus preserved for posterity; and when I reflect with what avidity we catch at the least hint which seems to afford us a glimpse of the intimate circle of any great poet of former ages, I cannot but believe that posterity would have held this record precious, even had the individuals been in themselves far less remarkable than a Rose, an Ellis, a Heber, a Skene, a Marriott, and an Erskine.'
William Stewart Rose (1775–1843), to whom Scott addresses the Introduction to Canto First, was a well-known man of letters in his time. He addressed to Hallam, in 1819, a work in two vols.,
entitled Letters from the North of Italy,' and escaped a prohibitory order from the Emperor of Austria by ingeniously changing his title to‘A Treatise upon Sour Krout,' &c. His other original works are,
Apology addressed to the Travellers' Club; or, Anecdotes of Monkeys '; “Thoughts and Recollections by one of the Last Century'; and · Epistle to the Hon. J. Hookham Frere in Malta. His translations are these :— Amadis of Gaul: a Poem in three Books, freely translated from the French version of Nicholas de Herberay' (1803); ‘Partenopex de Blois, a Romance in four Cantos, from the French of M. Le Grand' (1807); Court and Parliament of Beasts, translated from the Animali Parlanti of Giambatista Casti' (1819); and ‘Orlando Furioso, translated into English Verse' (1825-1831). The closing lines of this Introduction refer to Rose's ‘Amadis' and • Partenopex.'
Ashestiel, whence the Introduction to the First Canto is dated, is on the Tweed, about six miles above Abbotsford. The valley there is narrow,' says Lockhart, and the aspect in every direction is that of perfect pastoral repose. This was Scott's home from 1804 to 1812, when he removed to Abbotsford.
11. 1-52. This notable winter piece is the best modern contribution to that series of poetical descriptions by Scottish writers which includes Dunbar's 'Meditatioun in Winter,' Gavin Douglas's Scottish winter scene in the Prologue to his Virgil's Æneid VII, Hamilton of Bangour's Ode III, and, of course, Thomson's 'Winter' in The Seasons.' The details of the piece are given with admirable skill, and the local place-names are used with characteristic effect. The note of regret over winter's ravages, common to all early Scottish poets, is skilfully struck and preserved, and thus the contrast designed between the wintry landscape and my Country's wintry state’ is rendered sharper and more decisive.
1. 3. steepy linn. Steepy is Elizabethan = steep, precipitous. Linn (Gael. linne = pool; A.S. hlinna = brook) is variously used for 'pool under a waterfall,'' cascade,' precipice,' and 'ravine.' The reference here is to the ravine close by Ashestiel, mentioned in Lockhart's description of the surroundings :-On one side, close under the windows, is a deep ravine clothed with venerable trees, down which a mountain rivulet is heard, more than seen, in its progress to the Tweed.'
1. 16. our forest hills. Selkirkshire is poetically called 'Ettrick
Forest'; hence the description of the soldiers from that district killed at Flodden as 'the flowers of the forest.'
1. 22. Cp. Hamilton of Bangour's allusion (Ode III. 43) to the appearance of winter on these heights :
Cast up thy eyes, how bleak and bare
He wanders on the tops of Yare!' 1. 37. imps (Gr. čuputos, Swed. ympa). See · Faery Queene,' Book I. (Clarendon Press), note to Introd. The word means (1) a graft; (2) a scion of a noble house; (3) a little demon ; (4) a mischievous child. The context implies that the last is the sense in which the word is used here. Cp. Beattie's 'Minstrel,' i. 17:
Nor cared to mingle in the clamorous fray
Of squabbling imps.' 1. 50. round. Strictly speaking, a round is a circular dance in which the performers hold each other by the hands. The term, however, is fairly applicable to the frolicsome gambols of a group of lambs in a spring meadow. Certain rounds became famous enough to be individualised, as e.g. Sellenger's or St. Leger's round, mentioned in the May-day song, ‘Come Lasses and Lads.' Cp. Macbeth, iv.1; Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 2; and see note on Comus, l. 144, in • English Poems of Milton, vol. i. (Clarendon Press).
1. 53. Lockhart, in a foot-note to his edition of Marmion,' quotes from the Monthly Review of May, 1808: “The“ chance and change” of nature—the vicissitudes which are observable in the moral as well as the physical part of the creation-have given occasion to more exquisite poetry than any other general subject. ... The Ai, ai, tai Malakai of Moschus is worked up again to some advantage in the following passage— “ To mute,” &c.'
11. 61, 62. The inversion of reference in these lines is an illustration of the rhetorical figure' chiasmus.' Cp. the arrangement of the demonstrative pronouns in these sentences from 'Kenilworth':- Your eyes contradict your tongue. That speaks of a protector, willing and able to watch over you; but these tell me you are ruined.'
1. 64. Cp. closing lines of Wordsworth's Ode on Intimations of Immortality' (finished in 1806):
"To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.' 11. 65–8. Nelson fell at Trafalgar, Oct. 21, 1805; Pitt died Jan. 23, 1806.
1. 72. Gadite wave. The epithet is derived from Gades, the Roman name of the modern Cadiz.