Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

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church, they agreed among themselves, that
whoever was to succeed the ensuing night his
fellow in this errand, should accompany him
that went first, and by this means no man would
be exposed singly to the danger. One night a
fellow, being drunk, laughed at the simplicity of
his companions ; and though it was not his
turn to go with the keys, would needs take that
office upon him, to testify his courage. All the
soldiers endeavored to dissuade him ; but the
more they said, the more resolute he seemed,
and swore that he desired nothing more than
that the Mauthe Doog would follow him as it
had done the others ; for he would try if it were



dog or devil. After having talked in a very
reprobate manner for some time, he snatched
up the keys, and went out of the guard-room.
In some time after his departure, a great noise
was heard, but nobody had the boldness to see
what occasioned it, till, the adventurer return-
ing, they demanded the knowledge of him ; but as
loud and noisy as he had been at leaving them,
he was now become sober and silent enough ;
for he was never heard to speak more ; and
though all the time he lived, which was three
days, he was entreated by all who came near
him, either to speak, or, if he could not do that,
to make some signs, by which they might under-
stand what had happened to him, yet nothing
intelligible could be got from him, only that,
by the distortion of his limbs and features, it

might be guessed that he died in agonies more
than is common in a natural death.

27. Saint Bride of Douglas. This was a favor-
ite saint of the house of Douglas, and of the Earl
of Angus in particular, as we learn from Gods-
croft, who says : " The Queen-Regent had pro-
posed to raise a rival noble to the ducal dignity ;
and discoursing of her purpose with Angus, he
answered, ' Why not, madam ? we are happy
that have such a princess, that can know and
will acknowledge men's services, and is will-
ing to recompense it ; but, by the might of
God ' (this was his oath when he was serious
and in anger ; at other times, it was by St.
Bryde of Douglas), 'if he be a Duke, I will be
a Drake ! ' So she desisted from prosecuting of
that purpose."

JM arm ton

Scott began Marmion in November, 1806,
while he was engaged upon his edition of Dry-
den. It was published on the 23d of February,
1808, " in a splendid quarto, price one guinea
and a half" (about $7.50 in Federal money),
and the first edition of two thousand copies
was exhausted in less than a month.

The poem was prefaced by the following
" Advertisement : " —

" It is hardly to be expected that an author
whom the public have honored with some de-
gree of applause should not be again a tres-
passer on their kindness. Yet the author of
Marmion must be supposed to feel some anxi-
ety concerning its success, since he is sensible
that he hazards, by this second intrusion, any
reputation which his first poem may have pro-
cured him. The present story turns upon the
private adventures of a fictitious character, but
is called a Tale of Flodden Field, because the
hero's fate is connected with that memorable
defeat and the causes which led to it. The de-
sign of the author was, if possible, to apprise
iders, at the outset, of the date of his
story, and to prepare them for the manners of
in which it is laid. Any historical nar-
rative, far more an attempt at epic composition,
exceeded his plan of a romantic tale; yet he
may be permitted to hope, from the popularity
Lay of the Last Minstrel, that an attempt
to paint tin- manners of the feudal times, upon
a broader scale, and in the course of a more in-
teresting story, will not be unacceptable to the

"The poem opens about the commencement
of August, and concludes with the defeat of
Klodden, 9th September, 1513.

"Asm sun. 1S08."

Tlu edit ion of 1830 contained the following
"Introduction:" —

"What I have to say respecting this poem
may be briefly told. In the Introduction to the

Lay of the Last Minstrel I have mentioned the
circumstances, so far as my literary life is con-
cerned, which induced me to resign the active
pursuit of an honorable profession for the more
precarious resources of literature. My appoint-
ment to the Sheriffdom of Selkirk called for a
change of residence. I left, therefore, the pleas-
ant cottage I had upon the side of the Esk, for
the 'pleasanter banks of the Tweed,' in order
to comply with the law, which requires that the
sheriff shall be resident, at least during a cer-
tain number of months, within his jurisdiction.
We found a delightful retirement, by my be-
coming the tenant of my intimate friend and
cousin-german, Colonel Russel, in his mansion
of Ashestiel, which was unoccupied during his'
absence on military service in India. The
house was adequate to our accommodation and
the exercise of a limited hospitality. The situ-
ation is uncommonly beautiful, by the side of a
fine river whose streams are there very favor-
able for angling, surrounded by the remains of
natural woods, and by hills abounding in game.
In point of society, according to the heartfelt
phrase of Scripture, we dwelt 'amongst our
own people ; ' and as the distance from the
metropolis was only thirty miles, we were not
out of reach of our Edinburgh friends, in which
city we spent the terms of the summer and
winter sessions of the court, that is, five or six
months in the year.

" An important circumstance had, about the
same time, taken place in my life. Hopes had
been held out to me from an influential quar-
ter, of a nature to relieve me from the anxiety
which I must have otherwise felt, as one upon
the precarious tenure of whose own life rested
the principal prospects of his family, and espe-
cially as one who had necessarily some depend-
ence upon the favor of the public, which is
proverbially capricious; though it is but justice
to add that in my own case I have not found
it so. Mr. Pitt had expressed a wish to my



personal friend, the Right Honorable William
Dundas, now Lord Clerk Register of Scotland,
that some fitting opportunity should be taken
to be of service to me ; and as my views and
wishes pointed to a future rather than an im-
mediate provision, an opportunity of accom-
plishing this was soon found. One of the
Principal Clerks of Session, as they are called
(official persons who occupy an important and
responsible situation, and enjoy a considerable
income), who had served upwards of thirty
years, felt himself, from age and the infirmity
of deafness with which it was accompanied, de-
sirous of retiring from his official situation. As
the law then stood, such official persons were
entitled to bargain with their successors, either
for a sum of money, which was usually a con-
siderable one, or for an interest in the emol-
uments of the office during their life. My
predecessor, whose services had been unusu-
ally meritorious, stipulated for the emoluments
of his office during his life, while I should en-
joy the survivorship on the condition that I
discharged the duties of the office in the mean
time. Mr. Pitt, however, having died in the
interval, his administration was dissolved, and
was succeeded by that known by the name of
the Fox and Grenville Ministry. My affair was
so far completed that my commission lay in
the office subscribed by his Majesty ; but, from
hurry or mistake, the interest of my predeces-
sor was not expressed in it, as had been usual j
in such cases. Although, therefore, it only i
required payment of the fees, I could not in i
honor take out the commission in the present i
state, since, in the event of my dying before |
him, the gentleman whom I succeeded must j
have lost the vested interest which he had stip- J
ulated to retain. I had the honor of an inter-
view with Earl Spencer on the subject, and he,
in the most handsome manner, gave directions
that the commission should issue as originally
intended; adding, that the matter having re-
ceived the royal assent, he regarded only as a
claim of justice what he would have willingly
done as an act of favor. I never saw Mr. Fox
on this or on any other occasion, and never
made any application to him, conceiving that
in doing so I might have been supposed to ex-
press political opinions contrary to those which
I had always professed. In his private capac-
ity, there is no man to whom I would have been
more proud to owe an obligation, had I been so

" By this arrangement I obtained the survivor-
ship of an office the emoluments of which were
fully adequate to my wishes; and as the law
respecting the mode of providing for superan-
nuated officers was, about five or six years after,
altered from that which admitted the arrange-
ment of assistant and successor, my colleague
very handsomely took the opportunity of the
alteration to accept of the retiring annuity pro-
vided in such cases, and admitted me to the
full benefit of the office.

" But although the certainty of succeeding to
a considerable income, at the time I obtained it,

seemed to assure me of a quiet harbor in my
old age, I did not escape my share of inconve-
nience from the contrary tides and currents by
which we are so often encountered in our jour-
ney through life. Indeed, the publication of
my next poetical attempt was prematurely
accelerated, from one of those unpleasant
accidents which can neither be foreseen nor

" I had formed the prudent resolution to en-
deavor to bestow a little more labor than I had
yet done on my productions, and to be in no
hurry again to announce myself as a candidate
for literary fame. Accordingly, particular pas-
sages of a poem which was finally called Mar-
mion were labored with a good deal of care by
one by whom much care was seldom bestowed.
Whether the work was worth the labor or not,
I am no competent judge ; but I may be per-
mitted to say that the period of its composition
was a very happy one in my life; so much so,
that I remember with pleasure, at this moment,
some of the spots in which particular passages
were composed. It is probably owing to this
that the Introductions to the several cantos as-
sumed the form of familiar epistles to my inti-
mate friends, in which I alluded, perhaps more
than was necessary or graceful, to my domestic
occupations and amusements, — a loquacity
which may be excused by those who remember
that I was still young, light-headed, and happy,
and that ' out of the abundance of the heart the
mouth speaketh.'

" The misfortunes of a near relation and friend,
which happened at this time, led me to alter my
prudent determination, which had been to use
great precaution in sending this poem into the
world ; and made it convenient at least, if not
absolutely necessary, to hasten its publication.
The publishers of The Lay of the Last Minstrel,
emboldened by the success of that poem, wil-
lingly offered a thousand pounds for Marmion.
The transaction, being no secret, afforded Lord
Byron, who was then at general war with all
who blacked paper, an apology for including
me in his satire entitled English Bards and
Scotch Reviewers! I never could conceive how
an arrangement between an author and his
publishers, if satisfactory to the persons con-
cerned, could afford matter of censure to any
third party. I had taken no unusual or ungen-
erous means of enhancing the value of my

1 Lockhart quotes the passage, which is as follows :

" Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan.

The golden-crested haughty Marnvon,

Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,

Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,

The gibbet or the field prepared to grace ;

A mighty mixture of the great and base.

And think'st thou, Scott ! by vain conceit perchance.

On public laste to foist thy stale romance.

Though Murray with hs Miller may combine

To yield thy muse just half a crown per line ?

No ! when the sons of song descend to trade.

Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.

Let such forego the poet's sacred name.

Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame ;

Still for stern Mammon may they toil in vain !

And sadly gaze on gold they cannot gain !

Such be their meed, such still the just reward

Of prostituted muse and hireling bard !

For this we spurn Apollo's venal son,
, And bid a long ' Good-night to Marmion.' "



merchandise, — I had never higgled a moment
about the bargain, but accepted at once what I
considered the handsome offer of my publish-
ers. These gentlemen, at least, were not of
opinion that they had been taken advantage
of in the transaction, which indeed was one of
their own framing; on the contrary, the sale of
the poem was so far beyond their expectation
as to induce them to supply the author's cellars
with what is always an acceptable present to a
young Scottish housekeeper, namely, a hogs-
head of excellent claret.

" The poem was finished in too much haste
to allow me an opportunity of softening down,
if not removing, some of its most prominent de-
fects. The nature of Marmion's guilt, although
similar instances were found, and might be
quoted, as existing in feudal times, was never-
theless not sufficiently peculiar to be indicative
of the character of the period, forgery being the
crime of a commercial rather than a proud and
warlike age. This gross defect ought to have
been remedied or palliated. Yet I suffered the
tree to lie as it had fallen. I remember my
friend, Dr. Leyden, then in the East, wrote me
a furious remonstrance on the subject. I have,
nevertheless, always been of opinion that cor-
rections, however in themselves judicious, have
a bad effect — after publication. An author is
never so decidedly condemned as on his own
confession, and may long find apologists and
partisans until he gives up his own cause. I
was not, therefore, inclined to afford matter for
censure out of my own admissions; and, by
good fortune, the novelty of the subject and, if
I may say so, some force and vivacity of de-
scription, were allowed to atone for many im-
perfections. Thus the second experiment on
the public patience, generally the most peril-
ous, — for the public are then most apt to judge
with rigor what in the first instance they had
received perhaps with imprudent generosity, —
was in my case decidedly successful. I had the
good fortune to pass this ordeal favorably, and
the return of sales before me makes the copies
amount to thirty-six thousand printed between
1808 and 1825, besides a considerable sale since
that period. I shall here pause upon the sub-
ject of Marmion, and, in a few prefatory words
to The Lady of the Lake, the last poem of mine
which obtained eminent success, I will continue
the task which I have imposed on myself re-
specting the origin of my productions.
lOTBFORD, April, 1830."


The Champion of the Lake. Lancelot du Lac,

famous of Arthur's knights.

lias the following note here- —

"The Roman* e of the Morte d 'Arthur con-

tainsasort oi abridgment of the most celebrated

adventures of the Round Table; and, being

written in comparatively modern language,

neral reader an excellent idea of

what romances of chivalry actually were. It
has also the merit of being written in pure old
English; and many of the wild adventures
which it contains are told with a simplicity
bordering upon the sublime. Several of these
are referred to in the text; . . . but I con-
fine myself to the tale of the Chapel Perilous,
and of the quest of Sir Launcelot after the
Sangreal :

" ' Right so Sir Launcelot departed, and when
he came to the Chapell Perilous, he alighted
downe, and tied his horse to a little gate. And
as soon as he was within the churchyard, he
saw, on the front of the chapell, many faire
rich shields turned upside downe ; and many
of the shields Sir Launcelot had seene knights
have before ; with that he saw stand by him
thirtie great knights, more, by a yard, than any
man that ever he had seene, and all those
grinned and gnashed at Sir Launcelot; and
when he saw their countenance, hee dread
them sore, and so put his shield afore him, and
tooke his sword in his hand, ready to doe bat-
taile ; and they were all armed in black harneis,
ready, with their shields and swords drawen.
And when Sir Launcelot would have gone
through them, they scattered on every side of
him, and gave him the way ; and therewith he
waxed all bold, and entered into the chapell,
and then hee saw no light but a dimme lampe
burning, and then was he ware of a corps cov-
ered with a cloath of silke ; then Sir Launcelot
stooped downe, and cut a piece of that cloath
away, and then it fared under him as the earth
had quaked a little, whereof he was afeard, and
then hee saw a faire sword lye by the dead
knight, and that he gat in his hand, and hied
him out of the chappell. As soon as he was in
the chappell-yerd, all the knights spoke to him
with a grimly voice, and said, " Knight, Sir
Launcelot, lay that sword from thee, or else
thou shalt die." — " Whether I live or die," said
Sir Launcelot, "with no great words get yee
it againe, therefore fight for it and yee list."
Therewith he passed through them;' and, be-
yond the chappell-yerd, there met him a faire
damosell, and said, " Sir Launcelot, leave that
sword behind thee, or thou wilt die for it." —
" I will not leave it," said Sir Launcelot, " for
no threats." — " No ? " said she ; " and ye did
leave that sword, Queene Guenever should ye
never see." — " Then were I afoole and I would
leave this sword," said Sir Launcelot. — " Now,
gentle knight," said the damosell, " I require
thee to kisse me once." — " Nay," said Sir
Launcelot, "that God forbid ! " — " Well, sir,"
said she, " and thou haddest kissed me thy life
dayes had been done ; but now, alas ! " said she,
" I have lost all my labour ; for I ordeined this
chappell for thy sake, and for Sir Gawaine : and
once I had Sir Gawaine within it ; and at that
time he fought with that knight which there
lieth dead in yonder chappell, Sir Gilbert the
bastard, and at that time hee smote off Sir Gil-
bert the bastard's left hand. And so, Sir Laun-
celot, now I tell thee, that I have loved thee
this seaven yeare; but there may no woman



have thy love but Queene Guenever ; but sithen
I may not rejoyce thee to have thy body alive,
I had kept no more joy in this world but to
have had thy dead body ; and I would have
balmed it and served, and so have kept it in my
life daies, and daily I should have clipped thee,
and kissed thee, in the despite of Queene Gue-
never." — " Yee say well," said Sir Launcelot ;
"Jesus preserve me from your subtill craft."
And therewith he took his horse and departed
from her.' "

A sinful man, etc. One day, when Arthur
was holding a high feast with his Knights of
the Round Table, the Sangreal, or vessel out of
which the last passover was eaten, a precious
relic, which had long remained concealed from
human eyes, because of the sins of the land,
suddenly appeared to him and all his' chivalry.
The consequence of this vision was, that all the
knights took on them a solemn vow to seek the
Sangreal. But, alas ! it could only be revealed
to a knight at once accomplished in earthly
chivalry, and pure and guiltless of evil conver-
sation. All Sir Launcelot's noble accomplish-
ments were therefore rendered vain by his
guilty intrigue with Queen Guenever, or Ga-
nore; and in this holy quest he encountered
only such disgraceful disasters as that which
follows :

" But Sir Launcelot rode overthwart and end-
long in a wild forest, and held no path, but as
wild adventure led him; and at the last, he
came unto a stone crosse, which departed two
wayes, in wast land ; and, by the crosse, was a
ston that was of marble ; but it was so darke,
that Sir Launcelot might not well know what it
was. Then Sir Launcelot looked by him, and
saw an old chappell, and there he wend to have
found people. And so Sir Launcelot tied his
horse to a tree, and there hee put off his shield,
and hung it upon a tree, and then hee went
unto the chappell doore, and found it wasted
and broken. And within he found a faire alter
full richly arrayed with cloth of silk, and there
stood a faire candlestick, which beare six great
candels, and the candlesticke was of silver.
And when Sir Launcelot saw this light, hee had
a great will for to enter into the chappell, but
hee could find no place where hee might enter.
Then was he passing heavie and dismaied.
Then hee returned, and came again to his
horse, and tooke off his saddle and his bridle,
and let him pasture, and unlaced his helme,
and ungirded his sword, and laide him downe
to sleepe upon his shield before the crosse.

" And so hee fell on sleepe, and halfe waking
and halfe sleeping, hee saw come by him two
pal f ryes, both faire and white, the which beare
a litter, therein lying a sicke knight. And
when he was nigh the crosse, he there abode
still. All this Sir Launcelot saw and beheld,
for hee slept not verily, and hee heard him say,
' Oh sweete Lord, when shall this sorrow leave
me, and when shall the holy vessel come by me,
where through I shall be blessed, for I have
endured thus long, for little trespasse.' And
thus a great while complained the knight, and

allwaies Sir Launcelot heard it. With that Sir
Launcelot saw the candlesticke, with the six
tapers come before the crosse; but he could
see no body that brought it. Also there came
a table of silver, and the holy vessell of the
Sancgreall, the which Sir Launcelot had seene
before that time in King Petchour's house.
And therewithall the sicke knight set him up-
right, and held up both his hands, and said,
' Faire sweete Lord, which is here within the
holy vessell, take heede to mee, that I may be&
hole of this great malady.' And therewith
upon his hands, and upon his knees, he went
so nigh, that he touched the holy vessell, and
kissed it : And anon he was hole, and then he
said, ' Lord God, I thank thee, for I am healed
of this malady/ Soo when the holy vessell
had been there a great while, it went unto the
chappell againe with the candlesticke and the
light, so that Sir Launcelot wist not where it
became, for he was overtaken with sinne, that
hee had no power to arise against the holy ves-
sell, wherefore afterward many men said of him
shame. But he tooke repentance afterward.
Then the sicke knight dressed him upright,
and kissed the crosse. Then anon his squire
brought him his armes, and asked his lord how
he did. ' Certainely,' said hee, ' I thanke God
right heartily, for through the holy vessell I am
healed. But I have right great mervaile of this
sleeping knight, which hath had neither grace
nor power to awake during the time that this
holy vessell hath beene here present.' ' I dare
it right well say,' said the squire, 'that this
same knight is defouled with some manner of
deadly sinne, whereof he was never confessed.'
' By my faith/ said the knight, ' whatsoever he
be, he is unhappie ; for as I deeme hee is of
the fellowship of the Round Table, the which
is entred into the quest of the Sancgreall/
■ Sir/ said the squire, ' here I have brought
you all your armes, save your helme and your
sword, and therefore, by mine assent, now may
ye take this knight's helme and his sword/ and
so he did. And when he was cleane armed, he
tooke Sir Launcelot's horse, for he was better
than his owne, and so they departed from the

" Then anon Sir Launcelot awaked, and set
himselfe upright, and hee thought him what hee
had there seene, and whether it were dreames
or not, right so he heard a voice that said ' Sir
Launcelot, more harder then is the stone, and
more bitter then is the wood, and more naked
and bare then is the liefe of the fig-tree, there-
fore go thou from hence, and withdraw thee
from this holy place ; ' and when Sir Launcelot
heard this, hee was passing heavy, and wist not
what to doe. And so he departed sore weep-
ing, and cursed the time that he was borne;
for then hee deemed never to have had more
worship; for the words went unto his heart,
till that he knew wherefore that hee was so

And Dry den in immortal strain. Dryden's
melancholy account of his projected Epic Poem,
blasted by the selfish and sordid parsimony of

5 82


his patrons, is contained in an Essay on Satire,
addressed to the Earl of Dorset, and prefaced
to the Translation of Juvenal. After .nentioning
a plan of supplying machinery from the guard-

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 64 of 78)