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to play among the ruins of Smailholm Tower and to listen to the stories of the old women on the farm.
Scott's lameness was not cured, but, when he returned to Edinburgh, he brought back with him a mind stored with ballads and Scottish traditions. Educated at the High School and later at the University, he began his apprenticeship in the study of law, with a somewhat uneven preparation, for he had studied what he pleased and omitted all else. Of Greek and Latin he knew little, but German, French, Spanish, and Italian he enjoyed, because they opened to him the romance of the mediæval world. (In the law office, he spent his time in poring over heraldic devices, tracing genealogies, and accumulating vast stores of Scottish history,
These circumstances of birth and education produced a poet who was destined to be received with enthusiasm. In Germany, the romantic school of poets and critics had already found favor, and Scott was not slow to introduce into his literary work the same romantic spirit. When he chanced, one day, upon a copy of Götz von Berlichingen (published in 1773), the history of that robber knight suggested to him the feasibility of throwing the same vivid light upon the old Border life of his ancestors that Goethe had thrown upon the Rhine barons. Hence the publication of The Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805; this was followed, in 1808, by Marmion, and in 1810 by The Lady of the Lake,
the last of his three best poems.
To the readers of his time, the metre in which Scott wrote these tales was attractive. They had become tired of the mechanical heroic couplet that had permeated English literature throughout the eighteenth century; his hurried verses, though often carelessly constructed, had a spirited metre that stirred the blood like martial music.
Few authors have divided their time so systematically
between poetry and prose as Walter Scott; eighteen years he devoted to each. He found it easy to turn from the one to the other, because his writings in both had the same essential character; the poet and the novelist were alike the anti- 4 quary, the lover of feudal times, and the rapid story-teller.
But in his poetry there is something more than a revival of the chivalric past. No one enjoyed a mountain raid more than he, and all his works, especially his poems,
have much to do with mountain air and fiery steeds; in reading them, one breathes an out-of-door freshness, and the breezes are none the less invigorating because they come from the heathery hillsides of Scotland. In fact, his own country was his best inspiration, and his national tales are written with such love for the characters and scenes that the reader cannot fail to feel the spirit of the author. Through the deep kindliness of the poet and his sympathy with human nature, he united, after years of enmity, the Highland and the Lowland Scotchman.
The critic may find fault with the great antiquary for stringing out his poems -with tedious details, and he may reckon up a long list of bad couplets in the steady flow of octosyllabic verse. In one country, however, he will be forced to forget for a little while all that he has to say against Walter Scott; the romantic atmosphere that the works of the poet have shed over eastern Scotland extends from Flodden Field to Benvenue, and to the traveller who visits that country for the first time, the very names of the places have a rhythmic sound. If Sir Walter Scott has not succeeded in making himself a name among poets of the first rank, he has at least preserved for his country soulstirring ballads and heroic lays. Nor can any one deny. that he made human life better and more beautiful in the eyes of men.
III. THE STUDY OF MARMION.
To the teacher of first and second year pupils in the High School, the study of Marmion presents many opportunities and few real difficulties. In a gallant, and at the same time, ringing, boyish sort of way, Scott was a poet; as such he is suited to the schoolboy to whom he wishes “light task and merry holiday !” His simple, fresh-air kind of sentiment is wholesome and far easier to comprehend than the nice distinctions of poets far greater than he.
By a study of Marmion, not only may the pupil learn how to read a poem intelligently, but he may receive system
atic drill in composition work, as the subject-matter furlinishes an excellent basis for exercises in vivid description
and lively narration. A few very simple questions bearing on both kinds of writing would tend to quicken the observation; for example, in considering the journey of the nuns from Whitby to the Holy Isle, it is well to call attention to the author's point of view in describing. Does he arrange his details in natural order? Have any details supreme importance? Has the whole a unity of effect? Do you see the picture distinctly? For what purpose has the author used description? Does he employ figures ?
By way of teaching the principles underlying narration, illustrated in the story of Marmion as a whole, the following questions readily occur to the mind : Is there a main incident? Do all other incidents converge to it? Is the order à sequence of time alone ? Is the interest centred in character or plot? The same tests might easily be applied to the Landlord's Tale, to Sir David Lindesay's, or to the story of young Lochinvar.
To ask these questions, however, is not sufficient. In order that the principles discovered may be applied, a
variety of composition themes may be invented from each canto, such as, “ Norham Castle as Lord Marmion saw it”; “The Gay Scene at Holy-Rood, as seen through the Eyes of the English Lord”; or “The Sad Story of Constance de Beverley."
The best safeguard against all possible difficulties in the study of Marmion is a clear conception of the author's purpose in telling the story. If it be constantly borne in mind that the poem is a tale of Flodden Field, the reader will not lose sight of the Scotch poet's view-point; he will see that Scott is bewailing the sad and disastrous defeat of his countrymen on the battle-field. It is a martial story, and the central figure is the English Lord Marmion, an ideal soldier, but a sorry type of gentleman; he comes to a consistent end, for he dies like a brave leader, fighting to the last, but is left to lie unhonored in a nameless grave. The prophecy in Fitz-Eustace's song is fulfilled, and “the eagle flaps her wing o'er the false-hearted.”
As the story is essentially one of war, it is Marmion the soldier that claims chief recognition. The first glimpse of him leaves no doubt in our minds as to his military superiority :
“ His square-turned joints and strength of limb,
In camps, a leader sage. And our last sight of him reveals the picture of a man raising the fragment of his blade above his head with dying hand, and shouting, —
“ Victory! Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!” It cannot be denied that the dénouement of the plot contains several loose connections. When we remember that
many of the stirring scenes were composed during gallops on the hills, we can understand how such highly wrought enthusiasm might interfere with coherent arrangement of details. If the average student is left to play a kind of literary “blind-man's buff” with the consequent obscurities, he will be confused, rather than stimulated. By a word of suggestion, the teacher can easily anticipate difficulties of this kind. For example, Sir David Lindesay's Tale in Canto IV., and the Vision in Canto V., both extravagant illustrations of Scott's love for the supernatural, become simple parts of the story as a whole, if the teacher prepares the way for them by explaining that they are mere forecasts of the doom on Flodden Field.
Some apology is perhaps necessary for the omission of the introductory epistle to each canto. It is the opinion of the editor that the purely personal character of the epistles furnishes little interest or profit to the ordinary pupil. Moreover, to insert them in the proper places would mean to interrupt the flow of the story.
The introduction and the notes have been prepared with a general view toward guiding the student, rather than toward furnishing exhaustive material for the teacher. If the study of the poem fails to arouse the interest of the pupil in the life and the writings of Scott, no system of elaborate annotation would be of any practical value. Believing that in a multitude of notes the masterpiece itself is often swallowed up, the editor has not attempted to present the various interpretations of a much disputed text. The aim has been to suggest only that which is absolutely essential to an intelligent appreciation of Marmion.