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What is meant by “minstrel sounds”?
Have you read any other of Scott's poems in which he speaks of minstrels?
Explain “steepy glade."
Give in your own words a description of the stranger.
What is “Lincoln green”?
Explain “evil hap,” “betimes,” “bank and bourne.”
Explain “aught could augur scathe.”
Explain “kern,” “tartans,” “conjure.”
What is the meaning expressed in lines 26–28? In lines 29 and 30?
Explain “frantic scenes of feud and war."
What is Ellen's meaning in lines 43 and 44?
Explain “under ban."
Why does Ellen say, “If yet he is!”?
Explain “wily train.”
Explain "proffered to attend her side."
Explain “boon to crave.”
How does Fitz-James describe himself?
Explain “neither reck of state nor land.”
Additional selections may be found in the following works of Sir Walter Scott:
Lay of the Last Minstrel *
Tales of a Grandfather
Tales of Chivalry
(* Published in the Educational Publishing Company's Fifteen Cent Classics. Also “Lady of the Lake,” complete, with introduction and notes.)
SELECTION FROM THE VISION OF SIR LAUNFAL
James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Mass., February 22, 1819. At his graduation from Harvard University in 1838, he wrote the class poem. Three years later he published a volume of poems. “The Vision of Sir Launfal,” from which the extract given here is taken, was published in 1848. He was appointed Minister to Spain in 1877, and in 1880 was sent to England as Minister at the Court of St. James. He returned to the United States in 1885, passing the rest of his life quietly at Cambridge. He died August 12, 1891.
“My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail,
For to-morrow I go over land and sea
In search of the Holy Grail;
Shall never a bed for me be spread,
Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
Till I begin my vow to keep;
Here on the rushes will I sleep,
And perchance there may come a vision true
Ere day create the world anew.”
Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim,
Slumber fell like a cloud on him,
And into his soul the vision flew.
The crows flapped over by twos and threes,
In the pool drowsed the cattle up to their knees,
The little birds sang as if it were
The one day of summer in all the year,
And the very leaves seemed to sing on the trees:
The castle alone in the landscape lay
Like an outpost of winter, dull and gray;
’T was the proudest hall in the North Countree,
And never its gates might opened be,
Save to lord or lady of high degree;
Summer besieged it on every side,
But the churlish tone her assaults defied;
She could not scale the chilly wall,
Though round it for leagues her pavilions tall
Stretched left and right,
Over the hills and out of sight;
Green and broad was every tent,
And out of each a murmur went
Till the breeze fell off at night.
The drawbridge dropped with a surly clang,
And through the dark arch a charger sprang,
Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight,
In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright
It seemed the dark castle had gathered all
Those shafts the fierce sun had shot over its wall
In his siege of three hundred summers long,
And binding them all in one blazing sheaf,
Had cast them forth; so, young and strong,
And lightsome as a locust leaf,
Şir Launfal flashed forth in his unscarred mail
To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.
It was morning on hill and stream and tree,
And morning in the young knight's heart;
Only the castle moodily
Rebuffed the gifts of the sunshine free,
And gloomed by itself apart;
The season brimmed all other things up
Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant's cup.
As Sir Launfal made morn through the darksome gate,
He was ware of a leper, crouched by the same,
Who begged with his hand and moaned as he sate;
And a loathing over Sir Launfal came;
The sunshine went out of his soul with a thrill,
The flesh 'neath his armor did shrink and crawl,
And midway its leap his heart stood still
Like a frozen waterfall;
For this man, so foul and bent of stature,
Rasped harshly against his dainty nature,
And seemed the one blot on the summer morn
So he tossed him a piece of gold in scorn.
The leper raised not the gold from the dust:
“Better to me the poor man's crust,
Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives nothing but worthless gold
Who gives from a sense of duty;
But who he gives a slender mite,
And gives to that which is out of sight,
That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms,
The heart outstretches its eager palms,
For a god goes with it and makes it store
To the soul that was starving in darkness before."
What is the legend of the Holy Grail?
Why did Sir Launfal wish to go in search of it?
What resolution did he make in order to keep his vow?
What hope does he have?
Explain "North Countree," "pavilions," "tents," "drawbridge," “charges," "maiden knight,” and “unscarred mail.”
What do you think is meant by “morning in the young knight's heart”?
What contrast is shown in lines 47, 48, and 49?
Have you ever seen a pitcher-plant?
Explain “ware of a leper.”
How did Sir Launfal feel towards the leper?
Do you think that is the way a young knight should feel who had undertaken the search for the Holy Grail?
What did Sir Launfal give the leper?
How was it received?
Memorize lines 69–78 as a lesson in true giving.
What is meant by “that thread of the all-sustaining beauty”?
What is giving to “that which is out of sight”?
The Singing Leaves
The Finding of the Lyre
To the Dandelion
The Shepherd of King Admetus
The First Snowfall
("'The Vision of Sir Launfal,” complete, with introduction and notes, may be obtained in the Educational Publishing Company's Fifteen Cent Classic Edition.)