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1. 73. Levin = lightning. See Canto I, 1. 400. Spenser uses the phrase 'piercing levin' in the July eclogue of the “Shepheards Calendar,' and in ‘Faery Queene,' III. v. 48. The word still occasionally occurs in poetry. Cp. Longfellow, 'Golden Legend,' v., near end :
"See! from its summit the lurid levin
Flashes downward without warning !' 1. 76. fated=charged with determination of fate. Cp. All's Well that Ends Well, i. 1. 221 :
The fated sky Gives us free scope.' 1. 82. Hafnia is Copenhagen. The three victories are, the battle of the Nile, 1798; the battle of the Baltic, 1801; and Trafalgar, 1805.
11. 84-96. Pitt (1759–1806) became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1783, and from 1785 onwards the facts of his career are a constituent part of national history. He faced with success difficulties like bread riots, mutinies in the fleet in 1797, disturbances by the United Irishmen,' and the alarming threats of Napoleon. In 1800 the Union of Ireland with Great Britain gave Irishmen new motives for living, and in 1803 national patriotism, stirred and guided by Pitt, was manifested in the enrol. ment of over three hundred thousand volunteers prepared to withstand the vaunted 'Army of England.' În spite of his distinguished position and eminent services, Pitt died £40,000 in debt, and his responsibilities were promptly met by a vote of the House of Commons.
11. 97–108. These picturesque lines, with their varied and suggestive metaphors, were interpolated on the blank page of the MS. The reference in the expression 'tottering throne' in l. 104 is to the threatened insanity of George III.
11. 109-125. Pitt's patriotism was consistent and thorough. The anxious, troubled expression his face betrayed in his latest appearances in the House of Commons Wilberforce spoke of as 'his Austerlitz look,' and there seems little doubt that the burden of his public cares hastened his end. This gives point to the comparison of his fate with that of Æneas's pilot Palinurus (Æneid v. 833).
11. 127–141. Charles James Fox (1749–1806) was second son of the first Lord Holland, whose indulgence tended to spoil a youth of unusual ability and precocity. Extravagant habits, contracted at an early age, were not easily thrown off afterwards, but they did not interfere with Fox's efficiency as a statesman. His rivalry with Pitt dates from 1783. Their tombs are near each other in Westminster Abbey. 1. 146. Cp. in Gray’s ‘ Elegy':
• Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.' 1. 153. Jeffrey, in his criticism of “Marmion' in the “Edinburgh Review,'found fault with the tribute to Fox, and cavilled in particular at the expression ‘Fox a Briton died.' He argued that Scott praised only the action of Fox in breaking off the negotiations for peace with Napoleon, while insinuating that the previous part of his career was unpatriotic. Only a special pleader could put such an unworthy interpretation on the words.
11. 155–65. By the result of the battle of Austerlitz (December, 1805) Napoleon seemed advancing towards general victory. Prussia hastily patched up a dishonourable peace on terms inconsistent with very binding pledges, and the Russian minister at Paris compromised his country by yielding to humiliating proposals on the part of France. All this changed Fox's view of the position, and he broke off the negotiations for peace which had been begun in accordance with a policy he had long advocated.
1.161. There is a probable reference here to Nelson's action at the battle of the Baltic. He disregarded the signal for cessation of fighting given by Sir Hyde Parker, and ordered his own signal to be nailed to the mast.
1. 176. Thessaly was noted for witchcraft. The scene of Virgil's eighth Eclogue is laid in Thessaly as appropriate to the introduction of such machinery as enchantments, love-spells, &c. Cp. Horace, Epode v. 21, and Ode I. xxvii. 21:
Quae saga, quis te solvere Thessalis
Magus venenis, quis poterit deus ? ' In his · Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft,' Letter III., Scott, obviously basing his information on Horace, writes thus :— The classic mythology presented numerous points in which it readily coalesced with that of the Germans, Danes, and Northmen of a later period. They recognised the power of Erictho, Canidia, and other sorceresses, whose spells could perplex the course of the elements, intercept the influence of the sun, and prevent his beneficial operation upon the fruits of the earth; call down the moon from her appointed sphere, and disturb the original and destined course of nature by their words and charms, and the power of the evil spirits whom they evoked.'
1. 181. Lees is properly pl. of lee (Fr.lie = dregs), the sediment or coarser parts of a liquid which settle at the bottom, but it has come to be used as a collective word without reference to a singular form. For phrase, cp. Macbeth, ii. 3. 96 :
• The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
Is left this vault to brag of.' 1. 185. Cp. Byron's ' Age of Bronze':
• But where are they—the rivals!—a few feet
Of sullen earth divide each winding-sheet.' 1. 199. hearse, from Old Fr. herce=harrow, portcullis. In early English the word is used in the sense of 'harrow' and also of 'triangle,' in reference to the shape of the harrow. By-and-by it came to be used variously for 'bier,' 'funeral carriage,' ornamental canopy with lighted candles over the coffins of notable people during the funeral ceremony, the permanent framework over a tomb, and even the tomb itself. Cp. Spenser's Shep. Cal., November Eclogue:
*Dido, my deare, alas! is dead,
O heavie herse!'
Underneath this sable herse
Lies the subject of all verse.' 1. 203. The ‘Border Minstrel' is an appropriate designation of the author of Contributions to the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border' and the · Lay of the Last Minstrel.' In the preface to the latter work, written in 1830, Scott refers to the two great statesmen as having smiled on the adventurous minstrel.' This is the only existing evidence of Fox's appreciation. Pitt's praise of the Lay his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, reported to W. S. Rose, who very naturally passed it on to Scott himself. The Right Hon. William Dundas, in a letter to Scott, mentions a conversation he had had with Pitt at his table, in 1805, and says that Pitt both expressed his desire to advance Scott's professional interests and quoted from the Lay the lines describing the embarrassment of the harper when asked to play. "This,' said he, “is a sort of thing which I might have expected in painting, but could never have fancied capable of being given in poetry.'-Lockhart's Life of Scott, ii. 34.
1. 204. Gothic. This refers to both subject and style, neither. being classical. 1. 220. Lockhart quotes from Rogers's . Pleasures of Memory?:-, . 'If but a beam of sober reason play,
Lo! Fancy's fairy frostwork melts away.' 11. 233–48. In these lines the poet indicates the sphere in which he had previously worked with independence and success. Like Virgil when proceeding to write the Æneid, he is doubtful whether his devotion to legendary and pastoral themes is sufficient warrant for attempting heroic verse. The reference to the tales of shepherds in the closing lines of the passage recalls the advice given (about 1880) to his students by Prof. Shairp, when lecturing from the Poetry Chair at Oxford. “To become steeped,' he said, “in the true atmosphere of romantic poetry they should proceed to the Borders and learn their legends, under the twofold guidance of Scott's “ Border Minstrelsy” and an intelligent local shepherd.'
1. 258. steely weeds = steel armour. “Steely' in Elizabethan times was used both literally and figuratively. Shakespeare, 3 Henry VI. ii. 3. 16, has · The steely point of Clifford's lance,' and Fisher in his “Seuen Psalmes' has 'tough and stely hertes.' For a modern literal example, see Crabbe's ‘Parish Register':
Steel through opposing plates the magnet draws,
And steely atoms calls from dust and straws.' Weeds in the sense of dress is confined, in modern English, to widows' robes. In Elizabethan times it had a general reference, as e.g. Spenser's 'lowly Shephards weeds' in the Introduction to • Faery Queene.' Cp. below, Canto V. 1. 168, VI. 1. 192.
1. 258. The Champion is Launcelot, the most famous of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. See Tennyson's “Idylls of the King,' especially ‘Lancelot and Elaine,' and William Morris's Defence of Guenevére.' 1. 263. Dame Ganore is Guenevere, Arthur's Queen. 11. 258–62. Scott annotates these lines as follows: •The Romance of the Morte Arthur contains a sort of abridgment of the most celebrated adventures of the Round Table; and, being written in comparatively modern language, gives the general reader an excellent idea of what romances of chivalry actually were. It has also the merit of being written in pure old English ; and many of the wild adventures which it contains are told with a simplicity bordering upon the sublime. Several of these are referred to in the text; and I would have illustrated them by more full extracts, but
as this curious work is about to be republished, I confine myself to the tale of the Chapel Perilous, and of the quest of Sir Launcelot after the Sangreal.
««Right so Sir Launcelot departed, and when he came to the Chapell Perilous, he alighted downe, and tied his horse to a little gate. And as soon as he was within the churchyard, he saw, on the front of the chapell, many faire rich shields turned upside downe; and many of the shields Sir Launcelot had seene knights have before; with that he saw stand by him thirtie great knights, more, by a yard, than any man that ever he had seene, and all those grinned and gnashed at Sir Launcelot; and when he saw their countenance, hee dread them sore, and so put his shield afore him, and tooke his sword in his hand ready to doe battaile; and they were all armed in black harneis, ready, with their shields and swords drawen. And when Sir Launcelot would have gone through them, they scattered on every side of him, and gave him the way; and therewith he waxed all bold, and entered into the chapell, and then hee saw no light but a dimme lampe burning, and then was he ware of a corps covered with a cloath of silke; then Sir Launcelot stooped downe, and cut a piece of that cloath away, and then it fared under him as the earth had quaked a little, whereof he was afeard, and then hee saw a faire sword lye by the dead knight, and that he gat in his hand, and hied him out of the chappell. As soon as he was in the chappell-yerd, all the knights spoke to him with a grimly voice, and said, · Knight, Sir Launcelot, lay that sword from thee, or else thou shalt die.'--'Whether I live or die,' said Sir Launcelot, 'with no great words get yee it againe, therefore fight for it and ye list. Therewith he passed through them; and beyond the chappell-yerd, there met him a faire damosell, and said, “Sir Launcelot, leave that sword behind thee, or thou wilt die for it.'-'I will not leave it,' said Sir Launcelot, .for no threats.'-—'No?' said she; "and ye did leave that sword, Queen Guenever should ye never see.'Then were I a foole and I would leave this sword,' said Sir Launcelot. “Now, gentle knight,' said the damosell, 'I require thee to kisse me once.'_“Nay,' said Sir Launcelot, that God forbid !'• Well, sir,' said she, "and thou hadest kissed me thy life dayes had been done; but now, alas !' said she, “I have lost all my labour; for I ordeined this chappell for thy sake, and for Sir Gawaine: and once I had Sir Gawaine within it; and at that time he fought with that knight which there lieth dead in yonder chappell, Sir Gilbert the bastard, and at that time hee smote off Sir Gilbert the bastard's left