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"To write a modern romance of chivalry,' said Jeffrey in his review of Marmion, 'seems to be much such a phantasy as to build a modern abbey or an English pagoda.' Restorations are forced and therefore they are weak, even when the mind of the restorer is so steeped in the lore of the past as was that of Scott. His best works, after all, are his novels of contemporary or nearly contemporary life. A revival, whether in fiction or in painting, is a masquerade. Scott knew the Middle Ages better perhaps than any other man of his time; but he did not know them as they are known now; and an antiquary would pick many holes in his

His baronial mansion at Abbotsford was bastard Gothic, and so are many details of his poems. The pageantry not seldom makes us think of the circus, while in the sentiment there is too often a strain of the historical melodrama. The Convent Scene in Marmion is injured by the melodramatic passage in the speech of Constance about the impending dissolution of the monasteries.

All that a reviver could do by love of his period Scott did. He shows his passionate desire of realising feudal life, and at the same time his circumstantial vividness of fancy, by a minuteness of detail like that which we find in Homer, who perhaps was also a Last Minstrel. He resembles Homer too in his love of local names, which to him were full of associations.

Scott has said of himself—'To me the wandering over the field of Bannockburn was the source of more exquisite pleasure than gazing upon the celebrated landscape from the battlements of Stirling Castle. I do not by any means infer that I was dead to the feeling of picturesque scenery ; on the contrary, few delighted more in its general effect. But I was unable with the eye of a painter to dissect the various parts of the scene, to comprehend how the one bore on the other, to estimate the effect which various features of the view had in producing its leading and general effect.' It is true that he had not a painter's eye any more than he had a musician's ear; and we may be sure that the landscape charmed him most when it was the scene of some famous deed or the setting of some legendary tower. Yet he had a passionate love of the beauties of nature and communicated it to his readers. He turned the Highlands from a wilderness at the thought of which culture shuddered into a place of universal pilgrimage. He was conscientious in his study of nature, going over the scene of Rokeby with book in hand and taking down all the plants and shrubs, though he sometimes

lapsed into a closet description, as in saying of the buttresses of Melrose in the moonlight that they seem framed alternately of ebon and ivory. Many of his pictures, such as that of Coriskin, are examples of pure landscape painting without the aid of historical accessories. In a nature so warm, feeling for colour was sure not to be wanting ; the best judges have pronounced that Scott possessed this gist in an eminent degree; and his picture of Edinburgh and the Camp in Marmion has been given as an example. He never thought of lending a soul to Nature like the author of Tintern Abbey, to whose genius he paid hearty homage across a wide gult of difference. But he could give her life ; and he could make her sympathise with the human drama, as in the lines at the end of the Convent Canto of Marmion and in the opening of Rokeby, which rivals the opening of Hamlet in the cold winter night on the lonely platform of Elsinore.

Of the ballads and lyrical pieces some were Scott's earliest productions; among these is the Eve of St. John, in which his romantic imagination is at its height. Others are scattered through the romances and novels. In the ballads, even when they are most successfựl as imitations of the antique, there is inevitably something modern : but so, it may be said, there is in the old ballads themselves, or they would not touch us as they do. Edmund's song in Rokeby is an old ballad, only with a finer grace and a more tender pathos. There is nothing in Scott's lyrical poetry deep or spiritual; the same fresh, joyous unphilosophising character runs through all his works : but in 'County Guy' he shows a true lyrical power of awakening by suggestion thoughts which would suffer by distinct expression.




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[From The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Introduction to Canto I.]

The way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old ;
His wither'd cheek, and tresses grey,
Seem’d to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.
The last of all the Bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry;
For, welladay! their date was fled,
His tunesul brethren ali were dead;
And he, neglected and oppress'd,
Wish’d to be with them, and at rest.
No more on prancing palfrey borne,
He carolled light as lark at morn ;
No longer courted and caress’d,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He pour'd, to lord and lady gay,
The unpremeditated lay:
Old times were changed, old manners gone ;
A stranger filled the Stuarts' throne ;
The bigots of the iron time
Had call'd his harmless art a crime.
A wandering Harper, scorn’d and poor,
He begg'd his bread from door to door,
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp a king had loved to hear.

He pass'd where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower :
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye-
No humbler resting-place was nigh:
With hesitating step at last,
The embattled portal arch he pass’d,

Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft rollid back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess' mark'd his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell
That they should tend the old man well
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb !

When kindness had his wants supplied,
And the old man was gratified,
Began to rise his minstrel pride ;
And he began to talk anon,
Of good Earl Francis?, dead and gone,
And of Earl Walter 3, rest him, God !
A braver ne'er to battle rode ;
And how full many a tale he knew
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch ;
And, would the noble Duchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain,
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought even yet, the sooth to speak,
That, if she loved the harp to hear,
He could make music to her ear.

The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
The aged Minstrel audience gain’d.
But, when he reach'd the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,

1 Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representative of the ancient Lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.

2 Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the Duchess.

3 Walter, Earl o. Buccleuch, giandfather of thư Duchess, and a celebrated warrior.


Perchance he wish'd his boon denied :
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease
Which marks security to please ;
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain-
He tried to tune his harp in vain !
The pitying Duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.
And then, he said, he wouid full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,
He never thought to sing again.
It was not framed for village churls,
But for high dames and mighty earls ;
He had play'd it to King Charles the good,
When he kept court in Holyrood ;
And much he wish’d, yet fear'd, to try
The long-forgotten melody.

Amid the strings his finger stray'd,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.
But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled;
And lighten’d up his faded eye,
With all a poet's ecstasy !
In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along :
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot :
Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost ;
Each blank in faithless memory void,
The poet's glowing thought supplied :
And, while his harp responsive rung,
'T was thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.

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