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sprung up at once the lurking foe; From shingles gray their lances start, The bracken bush sends forth the dart, The rushes and the willow-wand Are bristling into axe and brand, And every tuftef broom gives life To plaided warriour armed for strife. That whistle garrison’d the glen At once with full five hundred men, As if the yawning hill to heaven A subterranean host had given. Watching their leader's beck and will, All silent there they stood and still; like the loose crags whose threatening mass Laytottering o'er the hollow pass, As if an infant’s touch could urge Their headlong passage down the verge, With step and weapon forward flung, Upon the mountain side they hung. The mountaineer cast glance of pride Along Benledi’s living side, Then fixed his eye and sable brow Full on FitzJames—‘How say'st thou now? These are Clan-Alpine’s warriours true; And, Saxon, I am Roderick Dhu’” We do not hesitate to declare that, as a living description of a highly interesting scene, the above passage appears to us worthy of any poet who ever wrote. We are, indeed, certain, that very few, in any age or country, will be found who were equal to its composition. Fitz James, though startled, is undaunted; and the mountaineers, at the signal of their leader, disappear again among the thickets. Perhaps this description vies with the preceding. The chieftains now reach the Ford; and there a dreadful combat ensues between them, which is described with clearness, force, and vivacity, and which ends in favour of Fitz James. He then sounds his bugle; and four mounted squires soon gallop up to him. He proceeds rapidly towards Stirling; and two of the attendants follow more slowly, bearing the body of the wounded Roderick, on a steed which had been destined to carry off a gentler burthen. As Fitz James rides up the hill, he sees a tall, athletick figure,
striding towards the castle, and re
cognises the Douglas. That noble chief, as he approaches Stirling, addresses it in very dignified strains;
and, perceiving preparations for festive sports in the park, he determines to join the throng, since he knows that king James, “the commons’ king,” will be present. The king and his court are described as witnesses of the sports, in all of which Douglas wins the principal prize. But one of the king's grooms striking a favourite grayhound belonging to that earl, he crushes the offender with one blow of his “stalwart hand.” For this violence, the king orders Douglas to be carried prisoner to the castle. The mob rise to rescue him; and here, Oh! sad abuse of poetry we have an allusion to recent tumults in the British metropolis. Surely this is “damning proof,” if we had not internal evidence more than sufficient, of the fact, that the ink which traced the characters of this part of the poem, was not suffered to dry 'ere it reached the printing office! Douglas behaves better than the favourite of the people to whom the poet here covertly alludes, and enjoins their obedience to the laws, and their dispersion. This is too childish to be tolerated; but we are sure that our readers cannot need any assistance from us to discern and reprove such an instance of faulty taste; not to say, presumption on publick favour. The sports are broken up; and the canto concludes with a general account of the rumours of an engagement between the king’s party and the clan of Roderick.
The sixth canto, entitled The Guard Room, opens with a good description of the morning (although we have, perhaps, had enough of this before) dawning on the castle yard, and the groupes of mercenary soldiers still prolonging their savage debauchery. One of them sings a song, which we do, indeed, wish that the author had not suffered to contaminate his pages, since it is equally destitute of wit and propriety. These are severe words, and we must prove the truth of them; but
at present we continue the story. The old minstrel and Ellen are now brought into the yard; and the anxious alarm, but dignified demeanour of the lady, in this shocking scene, are well depicted. On presenting Fitz James's ring to the captain of the guard Ellen is introduced into the castle; and the minstrel, at his own request, is carried to one of the dungeons to see his chief; but the chief to whom he is brought, turns out, to his surprise, to be Roderick Dhu, instead of the Douglas. This interview between the old bard and the dying warriour, is finely related; and the idea of the former singing to his harp an account of the battle in the Trosach, which he had witnessed the night before, while the latter struggles to show his joy at the valour of his clan, is excellently conceived. Roderick expires as the song concludes; and the minstrel breathes his requiem in very moving strains. The scene now turns to Ellen, who is anxiously waiting the result of her message to the king, in an apartment where she hears the sound of a voice not unknown to her, and from the subject of the song Malcolm is discovered to be imprisoned (although we are not told how and when) in some chamber very near to her. Fitz James now appears, and conducts Ellen through a suite of rooms to the presence chamber; where, to her astonishment, and that of the reader,
stances of James's real life furnish sufficient ground for the incident. We need hardly add that Douglas is pardoned; that Malcolm Graeme is called out in playful seeming of anger; that the fetters imposed on him are golden links; and that the clasp of the chain is laid by the generous monarch on Ellen’s hand.— Thus ends the poem; which, with all its defects in the conduct of the story, has alternately elevated and depressed us, and is certainly the most interesting as a whole of any of Mr. Scott's compositions. We now proceed to make some extracts; which will at once, we think, confirm our general commendation of this writer, and substantiate our particular objections to such as we conceive to be his prominent erroul's.
Why will not Mr. Scott more frequently write in the manly and poetical style of the introduction to his first canto?
“to wake once more! how rude so, e'er the hand, That ventures o'er thy magick maze to stray; to wake once more! though scarce my skill command, Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay: Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away, And all unworthy of thy nobler strain, Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway, The wizard note has not been touched In Waln. *Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!” This is a measure worthy to try the strength of a poet. The verse of eight feet is boy’s play compared to it; although we are happy in bearing testimony to the improvement of the author in the regularity of that verse. His rugged lines are much fewer than in his former poems:— but we must observe a carelessness in suffering similar rhymes to recur much too frequently; and a correct ear would have avoided the homotonous terminations of the first five lines of the above extract. We wish that our limits would allow a specimen of the powers of landscape-painting which are eminently displayed by Mr. Scott in the first canto. But we prefer a sketch of animated nature, and choose the following:
“The boat had touched this silver strand, Just as the hunter left his stand, And stood concealed amid the brake To view this Lady of the Lake. The maiden paused, as if again She thought to catch the distant strain, With head up-raised, and look intent, And eye and ear attentive bent, And locks flung back, and lips apart, Like monument of Grecian art. In listening mood she seemed to stand, The guardian Naiad of the strand.
“And ne'er did Grecian chizzel trace A Nymph, a Naiad, or a Grace, Of finer form, or lovelier face TVWhat though the sun, with ardent frown, Had slightly tinged her cheek with brown: The sportive toil, which short and light, Had died her glowing hue so bright, Served too, in hastier swell, to show Short glimpses of a breast of snow;
Vol. iv. 2 S
What though no rule of courtly grace
The “slight hare-bell raising its head” under the foot of Ellen, is one of the stale hyperboles of poetry; and Mr. Scott should be above such petty larceny from the stock-images of his predecessors. All these unnatural compliments to beauty savour of a puerile taste; but the whole passage is very elegant. We have already, as we passed, manifested the poet’s improper fondness for the epithet “stalwart.” We beg leave to enter our protest also against the noun “snood,” and the verb “spy,” perpetually repeated. But it would be endless to specify objections to Mr. Scott's phrases. Whether it be English, Scotch, or French, which his rhyme demands, he uses any of them indifferently; and here we meet with a “reveille,” and here with a “brae,” or a “correi.” This really puts us in mind of a whimsical excuse lately made for a certain poem, which is written in a most unintelligible style, that, as the story was Pennsylvanian, it was fitting that the language should be so too. Another, and an equal fault of Mr. Scott’s diction, is his continual omission of the relative “which;” the inglorious facility of “ clipping the king’s English,” within the circumference of the verse, which this omission affords, should be despised by a man of genius. In the same manner, the preterite is sacrificed for the participle, when rhyme demands the termination which the latter will afford; as thus: “A signal to his squire he flung, Who instant to his stirrup sprung.” p. 218. So also sudden, in the line preceding these two, and instant in the last of
pleaded “nature” as an apology for some glaring incongruities in composition: “...tvec fiermission, Monsieur, 7p107t est bien naturel, et cefiendant je forte des culottes.” Can it be true that this song, or the fairy tale of Alice Brand (as bad as the celebrated poem of Alice Fell) in the 4th canto, or the hymn to the Virgin: “Ave Maria, STainless STyled ”
or the Coronagh, in the third, or several other passages which we forbear to specify; can it really be, we say, that these things are written by the author of the following beautiful lines : “JVil fuit sic unquam impar sibi o"
The lines are selected from the dream of Fitz James in the first Canto:
“Again returned the scenes of youth
The succeeding lines are equally pleasing. But we have no room for more than another extract. That our justice may be exactly measured, we shall, however, again praise the song of Ellen, in the first, and of the minstrel in the second canto, and that of the lower in the 4th. The Boat-song we have already mentioned as spirited, although the chorus sounds barbarously to any but a Scottish ear. We shall add, that every canto displays beauties of the most varied description, too numerous for us to specify; and we shall select, as a finale to our panegyrick, the Lament over Roderick in the last canto;
“And art thou cold and lowly laid, Thy foeman's dread, thy people’s aid, Breadalbane’s boast, Clan-Alpine’s shade : For thee shall none a requiem say?— For thee, who loved the minstrel's lay, For thee, of Bothwell's house the stay, The shelter of her exiled line,— E’en in this prison-house of thine, I'll wail for Alpine’s honoured pine !
What groans shall yonder valleys fill ! What shrieks of grief shall rend yon hill! What tears of burning rage shall thrill, When mourns thy tribe thy battles done, Thy fall before the race was won, Thy sword ungirt ere set of sun There breathes not clansman of thy line But would have given his life for thine.— O wo for Alpine’s honoured pine !
“Sad was thy lot on mortal stage!— The captive thrush may brook the cage, The prisoned eagle dies for rage. Brave spirit, do not scorn my strain! And, when its notes awake again, Even she, so long beloved in vain, Shall with my harp her voice combine And mix her wo and tears with mine, To wail Clan-Alpine’s honoured pine.”
We may just observe that the notes contain some amusing stories, with others that are dull, and shall now take our leave of Mr. Scott, ex
pressing a most sincere wish that his farewell address to his harp may not be more serious than the farewell addresses of poets usually are; and adding that we hope our plainly specified objections to parts of his poem, whether they be faults in the conduct of the plot, or inaccuracies of diction, will induce his numerous imitators at least to pause, ere they contribute farther to the wide corruption of our taste, which is occasioned by such servility. We wish that we might reasonably imagine that their great original himself, animated by the noble hope of living in the praises of posterity, would even now, in the full tide of his present fame and popularity, lend an ear to our admonitions ! Then might he soar like his own eagle, and silence all his contemporaries:
“The shrinking band stood oftaghast;
FROM THE QUARTERLY REVIEW.
Fatal Revenge; or the Family of Montorio. A Romance. By Dennis Jasper Murphy. 3 vols. 8vo. London. 1807.
J’APPRENDS d’être wif. Such was the noted answer of a German baron who had alarmed a whole Parisian hotel by leaping over jointstools in his solitary apartment. This mode of qualifying himself for the lively conversation of the French was probably attended with some fatigue to the worthy Frei-herr's person, and perhaps some damage to his shins; with which we the more readily sympathise, as, in compliance with the hint of several well meaning friends, we are just taking the pen after some desperate efforts
four affirendre & 6tre wif. It was whispered to us, in no unfriendly voice, that we were respectable classical scholars; divines at least as serious as was necessary; tolerable politicians considering the old-fashioned nature of our principles; and as good philosophers as could be expected of persons obviously trammeled by belief in the tenets which, in compliance with ancient custom, are still delivered once in seven days to those who choose to hear them. It seemed farther to be allowed, that we were indifferent good hands at a