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She sings a very pretty song in continuance, and is accompanied by an unseen harp. The stranger, delighted with his reception, retires to his bed of mountain-heather, and dreams of all the strange accidents of the day; and his vision is described with all the commanding imagination of a poet. Chiefly, however, the knight dwells on the likeness in the highland maiden to the exiled family of Douglas; and on the gigantick sword, which could not be wielded by any but a Douglas arm. To chase these painful thoughts, he breathes his midnight orison, and tells his beads of gold, and sinks to pest, . . .
“Until the heath cock shrilly crew, And morning dawned on Benvenue.”
Thus interested in the characters and events of the story, the reader is introduced to the second canto, entitled The Island. It opens with a morning scene, and a most beautiful song of the aged minstrel, sitting on a rock which overhangs the Lake, and viewing the departure of the stranger in a vessel which bears him to the opposite shore. Ellen sits beside the minstrel, and smiles to see the parting stranger linger, and stop, and turn to wave a long and repeated adieu. She blushes, however, for her momentary forgetfulness, and bids the old man sing the praise of a noble house, and “pour forth the glory of the Graeme !” She reddens deeper at the name; *
“Through realms beyond the sea, Seeking the world’s cold charity,”
rather than become the bride of sir Roderick. To change the subject, she speaks of their stranger guest; but Allan-Bane foretells sorrow, even from him, since the Douglas sword
* Did, self unscabbarded, foreshow The footstep of a secret foe.”
At all events, Roderick was likely to be suspicious and jealous of him, and the minstrel reminds Ellen of Roderick’s quarrel with Malcolm Graeme. As they converse, sir Roderick’s “banner'd pine” advances up the lake in four vessels, to the sound of martial musick. This scene is highly finished, and the expressive notes of the pibroch almost seem to have that effect in the poet’s description which is ascribed to them in reality. The words of the warsong are spirited; but the arrival of the boats at the shore presents us with a most engaging picture. Lady Margaret, the mother of Roderick, receives him with her female band, and calls Ellen to welcome him still more gratefully; but the reluctant damsel at this moment hears her father's bugle; and, hastening with Allan-Bane into her skiff, she darts forward over the lake to meet the Douglas. Their embrace is most sweetly and naturally described; and the groupe of the father, the daughter, and the lover modestly standing at a little distance, with the aged minstrel in the boat, will surely call forth the talents of some painter worthy to embody the images of the Oet.
The Douglas answers all the expectations which have been formed of him; and Malcolm Graeme is one of the most winning young heroes of romance. Roderick is an admirable contrast. The reader has been prepared for all these characters very artfully; and his gratification when they are introduced to him is heightened instead of diminished.
Roderick ill brooks the appearance of a rival, notwithstanding his friendly 'guidance of the Douglas safe through the royal spies and scouts (though Malcolm was a royal ward) and spoils the happiness of their meeting by announcing the approach of the king on a hunting party, or the pretext of a hunting party, to ... Loch-Katrine. Douglas determines that no friend shall suffer for him and his daughter, and resolves to seek shelter among the mountains; but Roderick will not allow this; and, asking the hand of Ellen, he declares, that, united with the Douglas, he shall be “confident in arms” against the king. Ellen’s agitation and despair for her father's safety, almost drive her to accept the hand of the dreaded Roderick; but Malcolm rises to speak. Douglas, anticipating him, tells Roderick that Ellen cannot be his bride. Roderick then manifests the most indignant rage; and, as Malcolm hastens to support Ellen, who is overcome with this scene, the fierce chieftain attacks his rival, and they are separated only by the strength of Douglas.” With a few manly words of affection for him and his lovely daughter, and a stern defiance to Roderick, Malcolm departs, and, attended by Allan-Bane to the water's side, cries out with noble spirit,
“‘Tell Roderick Dhu, Iowed him nought,
The minstrel watches Malcolm safe over to the opposite shore, and thus ends the second canto. Thus, too, ends, for the present, our labour of detail; or, rather, our pleasure in giving the outline of the events and characters of the story. These have been hitherto excellently related and contrasted; but “Oh most lame and impotent” progression 1 All that follows of beauty in the third, is the beauty of long description unconnected with the plot; and the ad
vance of the main story is so miserably delayed, that we lose almost all our interest in the fate of the characters. Can it be believed that Malcolm Graeme, the gallant, the ingenuous lover of Ellen, appears not again till the end of the sixth Canto :
“Ostendent terris hunctantum fata, neque , ultrà * Esse sinent i*—
Yet so it is. The only one of our old acquaintance, whom we see in the third canto, which is called The Gathering, is Roderick Dhu. We Ilear, indeed, with that chieftain, a song from Ellen, which we had much rather not have heard, since it is nearly the worst of the many doleful canticles in the volume. How this author, who can be a genuine poet when he pleases, not only in the description of inanimate nature, but in scenes full of life, of spirit, or of tenderness, can write his songs (for the exceptions are not numerous) in such lamentable taste, we are as unable to conceive as we are sorry to be compelled to remark: but we shall not any farther anticipate the censure which the mere quotation of one of these ditties, and a reference to some others, must entail on them.
In The Gathering, much good description and many picturesque passages undoubtedly occur. The sacrifice, or augury of the Taghairm, a superstitious mode of inquiring into futurity, is performed by Brian the hermit, at the orders of Roderick. This hermit is a wonderful being, and is fearfully described; but he detains us so long with his preparations, both in this canto and as they are related more fully in the 4th, that we cannot help exclaiming: “Leave muttering thy damned curs
es,” and let us go on with the story.
He slays “a goat, the patriarch of the flock,” vir gregis, ifise cafter, and makes a slender cross of yew, the ends of which he burns in the
flames, quenches in the blood of the patriarch, and sends it forwards, under the name of the fiery cross, from village to village, by relays of messengers, to rouse the country to arms. Roderick's henchman (or hunch-man) that is, his close attendant, is the principle courier; and as he successively passes by wedding or funeral, he calls the feaster or the mourner from his occupation, and summonses him to arms. Several new characters are here introduced, and our interestis still farther lost for the heroes and heroine of the first and second cantos. Roderick, as we premised, hears a song from Ellen at the end of this third canto; and after having lingered awhile near the rocky cave of CoirNan Uriskin, the refuge of the persecuted Douglases, he joins his clansmen who are assembled in the vale below. Now we are in hopes that we shall come to action, and see our favourites again; but alas! not yet. Our poet, as to the conduct of his story, seems to adopt the opinion of the Roman in other matters:
“Non est properanda voluptas, Sed sensim tardà prolicienda morå:”
but the « limac labor et mora” is the delay which we recommend to him, both in forming his plan and in polishing his verse. Let his first composition of that verse, when he has arranged his subject, be as rapid as he pleases. “Flow on, flow unconstrained, my song !” may be his motto: but he should cast a lingering look back upon it in his cooler moments; and suffer not the world to see the reeking heat of composition, which exhibits the most immediate contact between the brain and the printing-press.
Malise, the henchman, and Norman of Ardmandave, one of the new characters, hold a dramatick dialogue at the commencement of the forth canto, or The Prof.hecy, on the slaughter of “Duncraggan's
to persuade that mountain maid to
elope with him to the lowlands. His horses wait at Bochastle, and he presses his suit. But Ellen, blushing to think that her female vanity, which was evidently pleased with his flattering attentions before, had now led him back into danger, perhaps into destruction, resolves to atone for that transient infidelity [which was unpardonable, according to our notions on the subject] to Malcolm, by confessing her love for him to Fitz James. This generous knight, who grows in favour with the reader every moment, beholding in Ellen's face the ingenuous soul of truth and modesty, then offers to attend her out of these dangerous seats of war, as a guide and a brother; but she warns him of the suspicions of Roderick. As he parts, he informs Ellen that he once chanced to save the life of the king of Scotland, who had given him a ring, which he was to present at court, when he had any favour to solicit. This ring he presents to Ellen, and tells her that, as he wants nothing from the king himself, she may claim her suit, whatever it may be, as ransom of the monarch's pledge to him. He then proceeds with his guide; who alarms him in the “Trosach's glen,” with a loud whoop:
This wretched maniack, Blanche of Devan, whose reason was overturned by the dreadful murder of her betrothed lover by the hand of Roderick Dhu, in one of his plundering excursions, is exquisitely described. Her wild airs are quite in character, natural, and pathetick. She warns Fitz James, in an obscure manner, of Murdoch’s treachery, which is not unaccountable, as it may seem at first sight, since Murdoch might have been with Roderick at the assassination of her lover; and she tells Fitz James that she delights in his dress of Lincoln Green, which that lover also wore. The antipathy which she must feel to Murdoch would make her suspect him of treachery to a Lowlander; and moreover, she might have heard the Highlanders, in their neighbouring ambuscade, talking of their expected victim. Fitz James now draws his sword, and threatens Murdoch with death if he does not disclose his treachery. The Scot sets forth at full speed, and shoots an arrow in his flight, which grazes Fitz James's crest, * and thrills in Blanche’s faded breast !” Fitz James pursues and slays Murdoch, and then hastens back to Blanche, whose reason is returning on the brink of death. She gives him a lock of yellow hair, in course that of her lover, and begs, with her dying breath, that, when he sees a darksome man
he will wreak vengeance on him for her wrongs. The knight blends the hair with a blood-stained lock from the head of poor Blanche, and vows to wear it in his bonnet, till he embrues it in the best blood of Roderick Dhu. He then proceeds in his dangerous path alone; when, turning. the corner of a rock, he is summoned to stand, by a mountaineer, at his watch-fire. This scene is excellently described. The frankness and highsouled courage of the two warriours; the reliance which the Lowlander places on the word of the Highlander to guide him safely on his way the next morning, to Coilantogle Ford, although he has spoken threatening and violent words against Roderick, whose kinsman the mountaineer professes himself to be; these circumstances are all admirably imagined and related. The rivals lie down side by side on the heather, and sleep till morning; and thus concludes the fourth canto. We now come to the chef d’aeuvre of Walter Scott. The fifth canto, or The Combat, contains a long scene, of more vigour, nature, and animation than any other passage in all his poetry; much as that poetry abounds in these qualities. Fitz' James and his guide proceed through the Trosach, towards Coilantogle. Ford. As they slowly march along their difficult path, the conversation turns on Roderick Dhu, and the , Lowlander does not spare the character of that highland chieftain. Nay, he expresses an open and daring wish to see the rebel and his. band, and receives the following ter-. rifick answer; for, contrary to our. intention, we cannot resist making a quotation in this place, although it will interrupt our detail of the plot:
“‘Have, then, thy wish!” he whistled shrill. .