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Told England, from his mountain-throne
King James did rushing come.
Scarce could they hear or see their foes,
Until at weapon point they close.
They close in clouds of smoke and dust,
With sword-sway and with lance's thrust;
And such a yell was there,
Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought upon the earth,
And fiends in upper air.
Long looked the anxious squires; their eye
Could in the darkness nought descry.
At length the freshening western blast
Aside the shroud of battle cast;
And, first, the ridge of mingled spears
Above the brightening cloud appears;
And in the smoke the pennons flew,
As in the storm the white sea-mew.
Then marked they, dashing broad and far,
The broken billows of the war,
And plumed crests of chieftains brave,
Floating like foam upon the wave;
But nought distinct they see:
Wide raged the battle on the plain;
Spears shook, and falchions flashed amain;
Fell England's arrow-flight like rain;
Crests rose, and stooped, and rose again,
Wild and disorderly.
Still from the sire the son shall hear
Of the stern strife and carnage drear
Of Flodden's fatal field,
Where shivered was fair Scotland's spear,
And broken was her shield!
The hero receives his death-wound, and is borne off the field. The description, detached from the context, loses much of its interest; but the mingled effects of mental agony and physical suffering, of remorse and death, on a bad but brave spirit trained to war, is described with much sublimity:
[Death of Marmion.]
When, doffed his casque, he felt free air,
Around 'gan Marmion wildly stare:
'Where's Harry Blount? Fitz-Eustace where?
Linger ye here, ye hearts of hare!
Redeem my pennon-charge again!
Cry-" Marmion to the rescue!"-Vain!
Last of my race, on battle plain
That shout shall ne'er be heard again!
Yet my last thought is England's :-fly;
To Dacre bear my signet-ring;
Tell him his squadrons up to bring.
Fitz-Eustace, to Lord Surrey hie:
Tunstall lies dead upon the field;
His life-blood stains the spotless shield:
Edmund is down-my life is reft;
The Admiral alone is left.
Deep drank Lord Marmion of the wave,
And, as she stooped his brow to lave-
Is it the hand of Clare,' he said,
'Or injured Constance, bathes my head?'
Then, as remembrance rose-
'Speak not to me of shrift or prayer!
I must redress her woes.
Short space, few words, are mine to spare; Forgive and listen, gentle Clare!'
'Alas!' she said, 'the while-
O think of your immortal weal!
In vain for Constance is your zeal ;
She died at Holy Isle.'
Lord Marmion started from the ground,
As light as if he felt no wound;
Though in the action burst the tide,
In torrents, from his wounded side.
Then it was truth !'-he said- I knew
That the dark presage must be true.
I would the fiend, to whom belongs
The vengeance due to all her wrongs,
Would spare me but a day!
For wasting fire, and dying groan,
And priests slain on the altar stone,
Might bribe him for delay.
It may not be !-this dizzy trance-
Curse on yon base marauder's lance,
And doubly cursed my failing brand!
A sinful heart makes feeble hand.'
Then, fainting, down on earth he sunk,
Supported by the trembling monk.
Thus motionless and moanless drew
His parting breath, stout Roderick Dhu.
The 'Lady of the Lake' is more richly picturesque than either of the former poems, and the plot is more regular and interesting. The subject,' says Sir James Mackintosh, is a common Highland irruption; but at a point where the neighbourhood of the Lowlands affords the best contrast of manners -where the scenery affords the noblest subject of description-and where the wild clan is so near to the court, that their robberies can be connected with the romantic adventures of a disguised king, an exiled lord, and a high-born beauty. The whole narrative is very fine.' It was the most popular of the author's poems: in a few months twenty thonsand copies were sold, and the district where the action of the poem lay was visited by countless thousands of tourists. With this work closed the great popularity of Scott as a poet. Rokeby,' a tale of the English Cavaliers and Roundheads, was considered a failure, though displaying the utmost art and talent in the delineation of character and pas sion. Don Roderick' is vastly inferior to Rokeby;' and Harold' and 'Triermain' are but faint copies of the Gothic epics, however finely finished in some of the tender passages. The 'Lord of the Isles' is of a higher mood. It is a Scottish story of the days of Bruce, and has the characteristic fire and animation of the minstrel, when, like Rob Roy, he has his foot on his native heath. Bannockburn may be compared with Flodden Field in energy of description, though the poet is sometimes lost in the chronicler and antiquary. The interest of the tale is not well sustained throughout, and its chief attraction consists in the descriptive powers of the author, who, besides his feudal halls and battles, has drawn the magnificent scenery of the West Highlands (the cave of Staffa, and the dark desolate grandeur of the Coriusk lakes and mountains) with equal truth and sublimity. The lyrical pieces of Scott are often very happy. The old ballad strains may be said to have been his original nutriment as a poet, and he is consequently often warlike and romantic in his songs. But he has also gaiety, archness, and tenderness, and if he does not touch deeply the heart, he never fails to paint to the eye and imagination.
Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broad-sword he weapon had none,
He rode all unarmed, and he rode all alone!
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar!
He stayed not for brake, and he stopped not for stone,
He swam the Esk river where ford there was none-
But, ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.
So boldly he entered the Netherby Hall,
'Mong bride's-men, and kinsmen, and brothers, and all!
Then spoke the bride's father, his hand on his sword-
For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word—
'O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war!
Or to dance at our bridal? young Lord Lochinvar!'
'I long wooed your daughter, my suit you denied:
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide!
And now am I come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine!
There be maidens in Scotland, more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar!'