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The Scene of the following Poem is laid chiefly in the vicinity of Loch Katrine, in the Western Highlands of Perthshire. The time of Action includes Sir Days, and the Transactions of each Day occupy a Canto.1
1 [“Never, we think, has the analogy between poetry and painting been more strikingly exemplified than in the writings of Mr. Scott. He sees every thing with a painter's eye. Whatever he represents has a character of individuality, and is drawn with an accuracy and minuteness of discrimination, which we are not accustomed to expect from verbal description. Much of this, no doubt, is the result of genius; for there is a quick and comprehensive power of discernment, an intensity and keenness of observation, an almost intuitive glance, which nature alone can give, and by means of which her favourites are enabled to discover characteristic differences, where the eye of dulness sees nothing but uniformity; but something also must be referred to discipline and exercise. The liveliest fancy can only call forth those images which are already stored up in the memory; and all that invention can do is to unite these into new combinations, which must appear confused and ill-defined, if the impressions originally received by the senses were deficient in strength and distinctness. It is because Mr. Scott usually delineates those objects with which he is perfectly familiar, that his touch is so easy, correct, and animated. The rocks, the ravines, and th? torrents, which he exhibits, are not the imperfect sketches cf a hurried traveller, but the finished studies of a resident artist deliberately drawn from different points of view; each has its true shape and position; it is a portrait; it has its name by which the spectator is invited to examine the exact
ness of the resemblance. The figures which are combined with the landscape are painted with the same fidelity. Like those of Salvator Rosa, they are perfectly appropriate to the spot on which they stand. The boldness of feature, the lighttless and compactness of form, the wildness of air, and the careless ease of attitude of these mountaineers, are as congenial to their native Highlands, as the birch and the pine which darken their glens, the sedge which fringes their lakes, or the heath which waves over their moors.”— Quarterly Review, May, 1810.
“It is honourable to Mr. Scott's genius that he has been able to interest the public so deeply with this third presentment of the same chivalrous scenes; but we cannot help thinking, that both his glory and our gratification would have been greater, if he had changed his hand more completely, and actually given us a true Celtic story, with all its drapery and accompaniments in a corresponding style of decoration. Such a subject, we are persuaded, has very great capabilities, and only wants to be introduced to public notice by such a hand as Mr. Scott's, to make a still more powerful impression than he has already effected by the resurrection of the tales of romance. There are few persons, we believe, of any degree of poetical susceptibility, who have wandered among the secluded valleys of the Highlands, and contemplated the singular people by whom they are still tenanted— with their love of music and of song—their hardy and irregular life, so unlike the unvarying toils of the Saxon mechanic —their devotion to their chiefs—their wild and lofty traditions—their national enthusiasm—the melancholy grandeur of the scenes they inhabit—and the multiplied superstitions which still linger among them—without feeling, that there is no existing people so well adapted for the purposes of poetry, or so capable of furnishing the occasions of new and striking inventions.
“We are persuaded, that if Mr. Scott's powerful and creative genius were to be turned in good earnest to such a subject, something might be produced still more impressive and original than even this age has yet witnessed.”—JEFFREY, Edinburgh Review No. xvi. for 1810.]
HARP of the North ! that mouldering long hast --
And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,"
1 [MS.—“And on the fitful breeze thy numbers flung,