Walter Scott.

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its walls is enclosed. It is surrounded by a
profusion of fine wood, and the park in which
it stands is adorned by the junction of the
Greta and of the Tees.

10. The Filea of O'Neale was he. The Filea,
or Ollamh Re Dan, was the proper bard, or, as
the name literally implies, poet. Each chieftain
of distinction had one or more in his service,
whose office was usually hereditary.

10. Ah, Clandeboy! thy friendly floor, etc.
Clandeboy is a district of Ulster, formerly pos-
sessed by the sept of the O'Neales, and Slieve-
Donard, a romantic mountain in the same prov-
ince. The clan was ruined after Tyrone's great
rebellion, and their places of abode laid deso-
late. The ancient Irish, wild and uncultivated
in other respects, did not yield even to their
descendants in practising the most free and
extended hospitality.


32. A horseman armed, at headlong speed, etc.
This, and what follows, is taken from a veal
achievement of Major Robert Philipson, called
from his desperate and adventurous courage,
Robin the Devil.


Cije aSrOrai of ftttermatn.

This poem was published in March, 1813,
and the first edition had the following preface :

" In the Edinburgh Annual Register for the
year 1809, Three Fragments were inserted,
written in imitation of Living Poets. It must
have been apparent that by these prolusions
nothing burlesque or disrespectful to the authors
was intended, but that they were offered to the
public as serious, though certainly very imper-
fect, imitations of that style of composition by
which each of the writers is supposed to be
distinguished. As these exercises attracted a
greater degree of attention than the author an-
ticipated, he has been induced to complete one
of them and present it as a separate publication.

" It is not in this place that an examination
of the works of the master whom he has here
adopted as his model, can, with propriety, be
introduced ; since his general acquiescence in
the favorable suffrage of the public must neces-
sarily be inferred from the attempt he has now
made. He is induced, by the nature of his sub-
ject, to offer a few remarks on what has been
called romantic poetry ; the popularity of which
has been revived in the present day, under the
auspices, and by the unparalleled success, of
one individual.

"The original purpose of poetry is either
religious or historical, or, as must frequently
happen, a mixture of both. To modern readers
the poems of Homer have many of the features
of pure romance ; but in the estimation of his
contemporaries, they probably derived their
chief value from their supposed historical au-
thenticity. The same may be generally said of
the poetry of all early ages. The marvels and
miracles which the poet blends with his song,
do not exceed in number or extravagance the
figments of the historians of the same period of
society ; and, indeed, the difference betwixt
poetry and prose, as the vehicles of historical
truth,' is always of late introduction. Poets,
under various denominations of Bards, Scalds,
Chroniclers, and so forth, are the first historians
of all nations. Their intention is to relate the
events they have witnessed, or the traditions
that have reached them; and they clothe the
relation in rhyme, merely as the means of ren-
dering it more solemn in the narrative, or more
easily committed to memory. But as the poeti-
cal historian improves in the art of conveying
information, the authenticity of his narrative
unavoidably <ki lines. I ie is tempted to dilate
and dwell upon the events that are interesting
to his imagination, and, conscious how in-
differenl his audience is to the naked truth
of his poem, his history gradually becomes a

"It is in thi> situation that those epics are
found, which have been generally regarded the
standards of poetry; and it has happened some-
what strangely that the moderns have pointed

out as the characteristics and peculiar excellen-
cies of narrative poetry, the very circumstances
which the authors themselves adopted, only
because their art involved the duties of the
historian as well as the poet. It cannot be
believed, for example, that Homer selected the
siege of Troy as the most appropriate subject
for poetry ; his purpose was to write the early
history of his country ; the event he has chosen,
though not very fruitful in varied incident, nor
perfectly well adapted for poetry, was neverthe-
less combined with traditionary and genealogi-
cal anecdotes extremely interesting to those
who were to listen to him; and this he has
adorned by the exertions of a genius which, if
it has been equalled, has certainly been never
surpassed. It was not till comparatively a late
period that the general accuracy of his narra-
tive, or his purpose in composing it, was brought
into question. Ao/ceT irpwros [o 'Ava^ayopas]
(KaOd 4>T)(TL Qafiopivos eV iravToSairrj 'lenopia) ttju
'OfjL-fipov irolrjaiv airocp^vacrdai (Tvcu irepl aperris
Kal SiKaioavvrjs. 1 But whatever theories might
be framed by speculative men, his work was of
an historical, not of an allegorical nature.
'EvaurtAAeTo fxcra rov MeVreco Kal ottov e/cacrTOTe
acplnoiTO, iravra to iirix^pLa SiepcoraTO, Kal la-
ropewv iirvvBavero' clubs 5e fiiv "t\v Kal fiv7]fioavvn]v
travTuv ypd<p€(rdai.' 2 Instead of recommending
the choice of a subject similar to that of Homer,
it was to be expected that critics should have
exhorted the poets of these latter days to adopt
or invent a narrative in itself more susceptible
of poetical ornament, and to avail themselves
of that advantage in order to compensate, in
some degree, the inferiority of genius. The con-
trary course has been inculcated by almost all
the writers upon the Epoposia ; with what suc-
cess, the fate of Homer's numerous imitators
may best show. The ultimum supplicium of
criticism w;as inflicted on the author if he did
not choose a subject which at once deprived
him of all claim to originality, and placed him,
if not in actual contest, at least in fatal com-
parison, with those giants in the land whom it
was most his interest to avoid. The celebrated
receipt for writing an epic poem, which appeared
in The Guardian? was the first instance in

1 Diogenes Laertius, lib. ii. Anaxag. Segm. II.

2 Homeri Vita, in Herod. Henr. Steph. 1570, p. 356.


" Take ont of any old poem, history book, romance, or
legend (for instance, Geoffry of Monmouth, or Don Beli-
anis of Greece), those parts of story which afford most
scope for long descriptions. Put these pieces together, and
throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then
take a hero whom you may choose for the sound of his
name, and put him into the midst of these adventures.
There let him work for twelve books ; at the end of which
you may take him out ready prepared to conqueror marry,
it being necessary that the conclusion of an epic poem be

To make an Episode. — " Take any remaining adven-
ture of your former collection, in which you could no way



which common sense was applied to this de-
partment of poetry ; and, indeed, if the question
be considered on its own merits, we must be
satisfied that narrative poetry, if strictly con-
fined to the great occurrences of history, would
be deprived of the individual interest which it
is so well calculated to excite.

" Modern poets may therefore be pardoned in
seeking simpler subjects of verse, more inter-
esting in proportion to their simplicity. Two
or three figures, well grouped, suit the artist
better than a crowd, for whatever purpose
assembled. For the same reason, a scene im-
mediately presented to the imagination, and
directly brought home to the feelings, though
involving the fate of but one or two persons,
is more favorable for poetry than the political
struggles and convulsions which influence the
fate of kingdoms. The former are within the
reach and comprehension of all, and, if de-
picted with vigor, seldom fail to fix attention :
The other, if more sublime, are more vague
and distant, less capable of being distinctly un-
derstood, and infinitely less capable of exciting
those sentiments which it is the very purpose
of poetry to inspire. To generalize is always
to destroy effect. We would, for example, be
more interested in the fate of an individual
soldier in combat, than in the grand event of

a general action ; with the happiness of two
lovers raised from misery and anxiety to peace
and union, than with the successful exertions
of a whole nation. From what causes this
may originate, is a separate and obviously an
immaterial consideration. Before ascribing this
peculiarity to causes decidedly and odiously
selfish, it is proper to recollect that while men
see only a limited space, and while their affec-
tions and conduct are regulated, not by aspir-
ing to an universal good, but by exerting their
power of making themselves and others happy
within the limited scale allotted to each in-
dividual, so long will individual history and
individual virtue be the readier and more ac-
cessible road to general interest and attention ;
and, perhaps, we may add, that it is the more
useful, as well as the more accessible, inasmuch
as it affords an example capable of being easily

'* According to the author's idea of Romantic
Poetry, as distinguished from Epic, the former
comprehends a fictitious narrative, framed and
combined at the pleasure of the writer ; begin-
ning and ending as he may judge best ; which
neither exacts nor refuses the use of supernatu-
ral machinery; which is free from the technical
rules of the Epee ; and is subject only to those
which good sense, good taste, and good morals.

involve your hero, or any unfortunate accident that was
too good to be thrown away, and it will be of use, applied
to any other person, who may be lost and evaporate in the
course of the work, without the least damage to the com-

For the Moral and Allegory. — " These you may ex-
tract out of the fable afterwards at your leisure. Be sure
you strain them sufficiently."


" For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you
can find in all the celebrated heroes of antiquity ; if they
will not be reduced to a consistency, lay them all on a
heap upon him. Be sure they are qualities which your
patron would be thought to have ; and, to prevent any
mistake which the world may be subject to, select from the
alphabet those capital letters that compose his name, and
set them at the head of a dedication before your poem.
However, do not absolutely observe the exact quantity of
these virtues, it not being determined whether or not it be
necessary for the hero of a poem to be an honest man.
For the under characters, gather them from Homer and
Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves."


" Take of deities, male and female, as many as you
can use. Separate them into equal parts, and keep Jupiter
in the middle. Let Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus
mollify him. Remember on all occasions to make use of
volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them
out of Milton's Paradise, and extract your spirits from
Tasso. The use of these machines is evident, for since an
epic poem can possibly subsist without them, the wisest
way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities. When
you cannot extricate your hero by any human means, or
yourself by your own wits, seek relief from Heaven, and
the gods will do your business very readily. This is ac-
cording to the direct prescription of Horace in his Art of
Poetry : —

' Nee Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Incident.' — Verse 191.

' Never presume to make a god appear
But for a business worthy of a god.* — ROSCOMMON.

That is to say, a poet should never call upon the gods for
their assistance, but when he is in great perplexity."


For a Tempest. — "Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auster, and
Boreas, and cast them together into one verse. Add to
these of rain, lightning, and of thunder (the loudest you
can), Quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows well
together until they foam, and thicken your description here
and there with a quicksand. Brew your tempest well in
your head before you set it a blowing."

For a Battle- — " Pick a large quantity of images and
descriptions from Homer's Iliad, with a spice or two of
Virgil, and if there remain any overplus, you may lay them
by for a skirmish. Season it well with similes, and it will
make an excellent battle."

For a Burning Town. — " If such a description be
necessary, because it is certain there is one in Virgil, Old
Troy is ready burnt to yqur hands. But if you fear that
would be thought borrowed, a chapter or two of the Theory
of Conflagration,* well circumstanced, and done into verse,
will be good succedaneum."

As/or similes and metaphors, " they may be found all
over the creation. The most ignorant may gather them,
but the danger is in applying them. For this, advise with
your bookseller."


(I mean the diction.) " Here it will do well to be an
imitator of Milton ; for you will find it easier to imitate
him in this than anything else. Hebraisms and Grecisms
are to be found in him without the trouble of learning the
languages. I knew a painter who (like our poet) had no
genius, make his daubings to be thought originals, by
setting them in the smoke. You may, in the same manner,
give the venerable air of antiquity to your piece, by darken-
ing up and down like Old English. With this you may be
easily furnished upon any occasion, by the Dictionary
commonly printed at the end of Chaucer."

"I must not conclude without cautioning all writers
without genius in one material point, which is, never to
be afraid of having too much fire in their works. I should
advise rather to take their warmest thoughts, and spread
them abroad upon paper; for they are observed to cool
before they are read." — Pope, The Guardian, No. 78.

* From Lib. iii. De Conflagratione Mundi, or Telluris Theoria
Sacra, published in 4to. 1689. By Dr. Thomas Burnet, master of
the Charter-House.

6i 4


apply to every species of poetry without excep-
tion. The date may be in a remote age, or in
the present ; the story may detail the adven-
tures of a prince or of a peasant. In a word,
the author is absolute master of his country
and its inhabitants, and everything is permitted
to him, excepting to be heavy or prosaic, for
which, free and unembarrassed as he is, he has
no manner of apology. Those, it is probable,
will be found the peculiarities of this species
of composition ; and before joining the outcry
against the vitiated taste that fosters and en-
courages it, the justice and grounds of it ought
to be made perfectly apparent. If the want of
sieges and battles and great military evolutions,
in our poetry, is complained of, let us reflect
that the campaigns and heroes of our days are
perpetuated in a record that neither requires
nor admits of the aid of fiction ; and if the
complaint refers to the inferiority of our bards,
let us pay a just tribute to their modesty, limit-
ing them, as it does, to subjects which, however
indifferently treated have still the interest and
charm of novelty, and which thus prevents them
from adding insipidity to their other more in-
superable defects." 1


I. The Baron of Triermain. Triermain was
a fief of the Barony of Gilsland, in Cumber-
land; it was possessed by a Saxon family at

1 " In all this we cheerfully acquiesce, without abating
anything of our former hostility to the modern RomautU
style, which is founded on very different principles. Noth-
ing is, in our opinion, so dangerous to the very existence
of poetry as the extreme laxity of rule and consequent fa-
cility of composition, which are its principal characteristics.
Our very admission in favor of that license of plot and
conduct which is claimed by the Romance writers, ought
to render us so much the more guarded in extending the
privilege to the minor poets of composition and versifica-
tion. The removal of all technical bars and impediments
sets wide open the gates of Parnassus ; and so much the
better. We dislike mystery quite as much in matters of
taste as of politics and religion. But let us not, in open-
ing the door, pull down the wall, and level the very founda-
tion of the edifice " {Critical Review, 1813).

" In the same letter in which William Erskine acknowl-
edges the receipt of the first four pages of Rokeby, he ad-
verts also to the Bridal of Triermain as being already in
rapid progress. The fragments of this second poem, in-
serted in the Register of the preceding year, had attracted
considerable notice; the secret of their authorship had
been well kept ; and by some means, even in the shrewdest
circles of Edinburgh, the belief had become prevalent that
they proceeded not from Scott but from Erskine. Scott
-.oner completed his bargain as to the copyright
of the unwritten Rokeby, than he resolved to pause' from
time to time in its composition, and weave those fragments
into ;i shorter and lichter romance, executed in a different
hietre, and to be published anonymously in a small pocket
volume, as nearly u possible on the same day with the
avowed quarto. He expected great amusement from the
comparisons which the critics would no doubt indulge
themselves in drawing between himself and this humble
candid ate ; and Erskine good-humoredly entered into
the scheme, undertaking to do nothing which should ef-
fectually snpprrss the notion of his having set himself up
as a modest rival to his friend " {Life of Scott, vol. iv.
p. 12).

the time of the Conquest, but, "after the death
of Gilmore, Lord of Tryermaine and Toreros-
sock, Hubert Vaux gave Tryermaine and Tor-
crossock to his second son, Ranulph Vaux;
which Ranulph afterwards became heir to his
elder brother Robert, the founder of Lanercost,
who died without issue. Ranulph, being Lord
of all Gilsland, gave Gilmore's lands to his
younger son, named Roland, and let the Barony
descend to his eldest son Robert, son of Ra-
nulph. Roland had issue Alexander, and he
Ranulph, after whom succeeded Robert, and
they were named Rolands successively, that
were lords thereof, until the reign of Edward
the Fourth" (Burn's Antiquities of Westmore-
land and Cumberland, vol. ii. p. 482).

6. Dunmailraise. This is one of the grand
passes from Cumberland into Westmoreland.
It takes its name from a cairn, or pile of stones,
erected, it is said, to the memory of Dunmail,
the last King of Cumberland.

7. He passed Red Penritli's Table Round. A
circular intrenchment, about half a mile from
Penrith, is thus popularly termed. The circle
within the ditch is about one hundred and
sixty paces in circumference, with openings, or
approaches, directly opposite to each other. As
the ditch is on the inner side, it could not be
intended for the purpose of defence, and it has
reasonably been conjectured, that the enclosure
was designed for the solemn exercise of feats
of chivalry, and the embankment around for
the convenience of the spectators.

7. Mayburgh's mound. Higher up the river
Eamont than Arthur's Round Table, is a pro-
digious enclosure of great antiquity, formed by
a collection of stones upon the top of a gently
sloping hill, called Mayburgh. In the plain
which it encloses there stands erect an unhewn
stone of twelve feet in height. Two similar
masses are said to have been destroyed during
the memory of man. The whole appears to be
a monument of Druidical times.

10. That sable tarn, etc. The small lake
called Scales-tarn lies so deeply embosomed
in the recesses of the huge mountain called
Saddleback, more poetically Glaramara, is of
such great depth, and so completely hidden
from the sun« that it is said its beams never
reach it, and that the reflection of the stars
may be seen at mid-day.

1 5. Call burn's resistless brand. This was the
name of King Arthur's well-known sword, some-
times also called Excalibar.

17. Tintadgel's spear. Tintadgel Castle, in
Cornwall, is reported to have been the birth-
place of King Arthur.


10. Fiery dew, etc. The author has an indis-
tinct recollection of an adventure, somewhat
similar to that which is here ascribed to King
Arthur, having befallen one of the ancient



Kings of Denmark. The horn in which the
burning liquor was presented to that monarch
is said still to be preserved in the Royal
Museum at Copenhagen.

10. The Monarch, breathless and amazed, etc.
" We now gained a view of the Vale of St.
John's, a very narrow dell, hemmed in by
mountains, through which a small brook makes
many meanderings, washing little enclosures
of grass-ground, which stretch up the rising of
the hills. In the widest part of the dale you
are struck with the appearance of an ancient
ruined castle, which seems to stand upon the
summit of a little mount, the mountains around
forming an amphitheatre. This massive bul-
wark shows a front of various towers, and
makes an awful, rude, and Gothic appearance,
with its lofty turrets and ragged battlements ;
we traced the galleries, the bending arches, the
buttresses. The greatest antiquity stands char-
acterized in its architecture ; the inhabitants
near it assert it is an antediluvian structure.

"The traveller's curiosity is roused, and he
prepares to make a nearer approach, when that
curiosity is put upon the rack by his being
assured that if he advances, certain genii who
govern the place, by virtue of their super-
natural art and necromancy, will strip it of all
its beauties, and bv enchantment transform the

magic walls. The vale seems adapted for the
habitation of such beings ; its gloomy recesses
and retirements look like haunts of evil spirits.
There was no delusion in the report ; we were
soon convinced of its truth ; for this piece of
antiquity, so venerable and noble in its aspect,
as we drew near, changed its figure, and proved
no other than a shaken massive pile of rocks,
which stand in the midst of this little vale, dis-
united from the adjoining mountains, and have
so much the real form and resemblance of a
castle, that they bear the name of the Castle
Rocks of St. John " {Hutchinson's Excursion
to the Lakes, p. 121).

13. The flower oj Chivalry, etc. The characters
named in the stanza are all of them more or
less distinguished in the romances which treat
of King Arthur and his Round Table.

18. Carodac. See the comic tale of the Boy
and the Mantle, in the third volume of Percy's
Peliques of Ancient Poetry, from the Breton
or Norman original of which Ariosto is sup-
posed to have taken his Tale of the Enchanted

Conclusion, 4. Whose logic is from " Single-
Speech.'" See Parliamentary Logic, etc., by
the Right Honorable William Gerard Hamil-
ton (1808), commonly called "Single-Speech

QLl)t Horn of tfce Isles.

The composition of The Lord of the Isles, as
we now have it in the author's MS., seems to
have been begun at Abbotsford in the autumn
of 1814, and it ended at Edinburgh the 16th of
December. Some part of Canto I. had proba-
bly been committed to writing in a rougher form
earlier in the year. The original quarto ap-
peared on the 2d of January, 181 5.

The edition of 1833 contained the following
introduction : —

" I could hardly have chosen a subject more
popular in Scotland than anything connected
with the Bruce's history, unless I had attempted
that of Wallace. But I am decidedly of opin-
ion that a popular, or what is called a taking,
title, though well qualified to ensure the pub-
lishers against loss, and clear their shelves of
the original impression, is rather apt to be
hazardous than otherwise to the reputation of
the author. He who attempts a subject of dis-
tinguished popularity has not the privilege of
awakening the enthusiasm of his audience ; on
the contrary, it is already awakened, and glows,
it may be, more ardently than that of the author
himself. In this case the warmth of the author
is inferior to that of the party whom he ad-
dresses, who has therefore little chance of be-
ing, in Bayes's phrase, ' elevated and surprised '

by what he has thought of with more enthusi-
asm than the writer. The sense of this risk,
joined to the consciousness of striving against
wind and tide, made the task of composing the
proposed Poem somewhat heavy and hopeless;
but, like the prize-fighter in As You Like It,

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 72 of 78)