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THE JUDICIAL COMBAT.
Pillow'd on buckler cold and hard ;
They carv'd at the meal
With gloves of steel,
And they drank the red wine through the helmet barr'd.” The whole scene of the duel, or judicial combat, is conducted according to the strict ordinances of chivalry, and delineated with all the minuteness of an ancient romancer. The modern reader will probably find it rather tedious; all but the concluding stanzas, which are in a loftier measure.
'Tis done, 'tis done! that fatal blow
Has stretch'd him on the bloody plain ;
Thence never shalt thou rise again!
And smooth his path from earth to heaven!
As through the lists he ran ;
He rais'd the dying man ;
Still props him from the bloody sod,
And bids him trust in God!
Richard of Musgrave breathes no more."'--p. 145–147. We have already made so many extracts from this poem, that we can now only afford to present our readers with one specimen of the songs which Mr. Scott has introduced in the mouths of the minstrels in the concluding canto.
It is his object, in those pieces, to exemplify
232 SCOTT'S LAY
SONG OF THE NORTHERN BARD.
the different styles of ballad narrative which prevailed in this island at different periods, or in different conditions of society. The first is constructed upon the rude and simple model of the old Border ditties, and produces its effect by the direct and concise narrative of a tragical occurrence. The second, sung by Fitztraver, the bard of the accomplished Surrey, has more of the richness and polish of the Italian poetry, and is very beautifully written, in a stanza resembling that of Spenser. The third is intended to represent that wild style of composition which prevailed among the bards of the northern continent, somewhat softened and adorned by the minstrel's residence in the south. We prefer it,
We prefer it, upon the whole, to either of the two former, and shall give it entire to our readers; who will probably be struck with the poetical effect of the dramatic form into which it is thrown, and of the indirect description by which every thing is most expressively told, without one word of distinct narrative.
• O listen, listen, ladies
No haughty feats of arms I tell ;
That mourns the lovely Rosabelle.
And, gentle Ladye, deign to stay !
Nor tempt the stormy frith to-day.
To inch* and rock the sea-mews fly;
Whose screams forbode that wreck is nigh.
A wet shroud roll'd round Ladye gay :
'Tis not because Lord Lind'say's heir
Sits lonely in her castle hall.
And Lindsay at the ring rides well!
If 'tis not filld by Rosabelle.".
“O'er Roslin all that dreary night
A wondrous blaze was seen to gleam ;
And brighter than the bright moonbeam.
It redden'd all the copse-wood glen ;
And seen from cavernd Hawthornden.
Where Roslin's chiefs uncofliu'd lie;
Sheath'd in his iron panoply.
Both vaulted crypt and altar's pale;
And glimmer'd all the dead-men's mail.
Blaz'd every rose-carv'd buttress fair
The lordly line of high St. Clair!
Lie buried within that proud chapelle;
But the sea holds lovely Rosabelle !
With candle, with book, and with knell ;
The dirge of lovely Rosabelle !"- p. 181—184. From the various extracts we have now given, our readers will be enabled to form a tolerably correct judgment of this poem ; and if they are pleased with these portions of it which have now been exhibited, we may venture to assure them that they will not be disappointed by the perusal of the whole. The whole night-journey of Deloraine — the opening of the wizard's tomb — the march of the English battle — and the parley before the walls of the castle, are all executed with the same spirit and poetical energy, which we think is conspicuous in the specimens we have already extracted; and a great variety of short passages occur in every part of the poem, which are still more striking and meritorious, though it is impossible to detach them, without injury, in the form of a quotation. It is but fair to apprise the reader, on the other hand, that he will meet with very heavy pas
TOO LOCAL AND CLANNISH.
sages, and with a variety of details which are not likely to interest any one but a Borderer or an antiquary. We like very well to hear “ of the Gallant Chief of Otterburne,” or “the Dark Knight of Liddisdale,” and feel the elevating power of great names, when we read of the tribes that mustered to the war, “beneath the crest of old Dunbar, and Hepburn's mingled banners.” But we really cannot so far sympathise with the local partialities of the author, as to feel any glow of patriotism or ancient virtue in hearing of the Todrig or Johnston clans, or of Elliots, Armstrongs, and Tinlinns ; still less can we relish the introduction of Black John of Athelstane, Whitslade the Hawk, Arthur-fire-the-braes, Red Roland Forster, or any other of those worthies who
· Sought the beeves that made their broth,
In Scotland and in England both,” into a poem which has any pretensions to seriousness or dignity. The ancient metrical romance might have admitted those homely personalities; but the present age will not endure them: And Mr. Scott must either sacri. fice his Border prejudices, or offend all his readers in the other parts of the empire.
There are many passages, as we have already insinuated, which have the general character of heaviness; such as the minstrel's account of his preceptor, and Deloraine's lamentation over the dead body of Musgrave: But the goblin page is, in our opinion, the capital deformity of the poem. We have already said that the whole machinery is useless: but the magic studies of the lady, and the rifled tomb of Michael Scott, give occasion to so much admirable poetry, that we can on no account consent to part with them. The page, on the other hand, is a perpetual burden to the poet, and to the reader: it is an undignified and improbable fiction, which excites neither terror, admiration, nor astonishment; but needlessly debases the strain of the whole work, and excites at once our incredulity and contempt. He is not a
tricksy spirit,” like Ariel, with whom the imagination is irresistibly enamoured; nor a tiny monarch, like Oberon, disposing of the destinies of mortals: He rather
GOBLIN PAGE, A MERE DEFORMITY.
appears to us to be an awkward sort of a mongrel between Puck and Caliban ; of a servile and brutal nature; and limited in his powers to the indulgence of petty malignity, and the infliction of despicable injuries. Besides this objection to his character, his existence has no support from any general or established superstition. Fairies and devils, ghosts, angels, and witches, are creatures with whom we are all familiar, and who excite in all classes of mankind emotions with which we can easily be made to sympathise. But the story of Gilpin Horner can never have been believed out of the village where he is said to have made his appearance; and has no claims upon the credulity of those who were not originally of his acquaintance. There is nothing at all interesting or elegant in the scenes of which he is the hero; and in reading those passages, we really could not help suspecting that they did not stand in the romance when the aged minstrel recited it to the Royal Charles and his mighty earls, but were inserted afterwards to suit the taste of the cottagers among whom he begged his bread on the Border. We entreat Mr. Scott to inquire into the grounds of this suspicion ; and to take advantage of any decent pretext he can lay hold of for purging “ The Lay" of this ungraceful intruder. We would also move for a Quo Warranto against the spirits of the river and the mountain ; for though they are come of a very high lineage, we do not know what lawful business they could have at Branksome castle in the year 1550.
Of the diction of this poem we have but little to say. From the extracts we have already given, our readers will perceive that the versification is in the highest degree irregular and capricious. The nature of the work entitled Mr. Scott to some licence in this respect, and he often employs it with a very pleasing effect; but he has frequently exceeded its just limits, and presented us with such combinations of metre, as must put the teeth of his readers, we think, into some jeopardy. He has, when he pleases, a very melodious and sonorous style of versification, but often composes with inexcusable negligence and rudeness. There is a great number of lines