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THE

LORD OF THE ISLES.

A Poem.

IN SIX CANTOS.

First published January 2, 1815.

ADVERTISEMENT.

THE Scene of this Poem lies, at first, in the Castle of Artornish, on the coast of Argyleshire; and, afterwards, in the Islands of Skye and Arran, and upon the coast of Ayrshire. Finally, it is laid near Stirling. The story opens in the spring of the year 1307, when Bruce, who had been driven out of Scotland by the English, and the Barons who adhered to that foreign interest, returned from the Island of Rachrin, on the coast of Ireland, again to assert his claims to the Scottish crown. Many of the personages and incidents introduced are of historical celebrity. The authorities used are chiefly those of the venerable Lord Hailes, as well entitled to be called the restorer of Scottish history, as Bruce the restorer of Scottish monarchy; and of Archdeacon Barbour, a correct edition of whose Metrical History of Robert Bruce will soon, I trust, appear under the care of my learned friend, the Rev. Dr. Jamieson.

ABBOTSFORD, 10th December. 1814,

THE

LORD OF THE ISLES.

CANTO FIRST.

AUTUMN departs-but still his mantle's fold Rests on the groves of noble Somerville, Beneath a shroud of russet dropped with gold Tweed and his tributaries mingle still; Hoarser the wind, and deeper sounds the rill, Yet lingering notes of sylvan music swell, The deep-toned cushat, and the redbreast shrill; And yet some tints of summer splendour tell When the broad sun sinks down on Ettricke's western fell.

Autumn departs-from Gala's fields no more

Come rural sounds our kindred banks to cheer;
Blent with the stream, and gale that wafts it o'er,
No more the distant reapers' mirth we hear.
The last blithe shout hath died upon our ear,
And harvest-home hath hushed the clanging wain,
On the waste hill no forms of life appear,

Save where, sad laggard of the autumnal train,

Some age-struck wanderer gleans few ears of scattered grain.

Deem'st thou these saddened scenes have pleasure still, Lovest thou through Autumn's fading realms to stray,

To see the heath-flower withered on the hill,

To listen to the woods' expiring lay,

To note the red leaf shivering on the spray,

To mark the last bright tints the mountain stain,

On the waste fields to trace the gleaner's way,
And moralize on mortal joy and pain ?-

O! if such scenes thou lovest, scorn not the minstrel strain !

No! do not scorn, although its hoarser note

Scarce with the cushat's homely song can vie,

Though faint its beauties as the tints remote

That gleam through mist in autumn's evening sky,

And few as leaves that tremble, sear and dry,
When wild November hath his bugle wound;
Nor mock my toil-a lonely gleaner I,

Through fields time-wasted, on sad inquest bound, Where happier bards of yore have richer harvest found.

So shalt thou list, and haply not unmoved,
To a wild tale of Albyn's warrior day;
In distant lands, by the rough West reproved,
Still live some reliques of the ancient lay.
For, when on Coolin's hills the lights decay,
With such the Seer of Skye the eve beguiles,
'Tis known amid the pathless wastes of Reay,
In Harries known, and in Iona's piles,

Where rest from mortal coil the Mighty of the Isles.

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I

'WAKE, Maid of Lorn!" the Minstrels sung.

Thy rugged halls, Artornish ! a rung,

And the dark seas, thy towers that lave,
Heaved on the beach a softer wave,

As 'mid the tuneful choir to keep

The diapason of the Deep.

Lulled were the winds on Inninmore,

And green Loch-Alline's woodland shore,

a The ruins of the castle of Artornish are situated upon a promontory, on the Morven, or mainland side of the Sound of Mull, a name given to the deep arm of the sea, which divides that island from the continent. The situation is wild and romantic in the highest degree, having on the one hand a high and precipitous chain of rocks overhanging the sea, and on the other the narrow entrance to the beautiful salt-water lake called Loch-Alline, which is in many places finely fringed with copse-wood. The ruins of Artornish are not now very considerable, and consist chiefly of the remains of an old keep, or tower, with fragments of outward defences. But, in former days, it was a place of great consequence, being one of the principal strongholds which the Lords of the Isles, during the period of their stormy independence, possessed upon the mainland of Argyleshire. Here they assembled what popular tradition calls their parliaments, meaning, I suppose, their cour plenière, or assembly of feudal and patriarchal vassals and dependants. From this castle of Artornish, upon the 19th day of October, 1461, John de Yle, designing himself Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, granted, in the style of an independent sovereign, a commission to his trusty and well-beloved cousins, Ronald of the Isles, and Duncan, arch-dean of the Isles, for empowering them to enter into a treaty with the most excellent prince Edward, by the grace of God, king of France and England, and lord of Ireland. Edward IV., on his part, named deputies and commissioners, to confer with those named by the Lord of the Isles. The conference terminated in a treaty, by which the Lord of the Isles agreed to become a vassal to the crown of England, and to assist Edward IV. and James earl of Douglas, then in banishment, in subduing the realm of Scotland. The castle of Artornish is almost opposite to the bay of Aros, in the island of Mull, where there was another castle the occasional residence of the Lord of the Isles.

As if wild woods and waves had pleasure
In listing to the lovely measure.
And ne'er to symphony more sweet
Gave mountain echoes answer meet,
Since, met from mainland and from isle,
Ross, Arran, Ilay, and Argyle,
Each minstrel's tributary lay
Paid homage to the festal day.
Dull and dishonoured were the bard,
Worthless of guerdon and regard,
Deaf to the hope of minstrel fame,
Or lady's smiles, his noblest aim,
Who on that morn's resistless call
Was silent in Artornish hall.

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"Wake, Maid of Lorn!" 'twas thus they sung
And yet more proud the descant rung,
"Wake, Maid of Lorn! high right is ours,
To charm dull sleep from Beauty's bowers;
Earth, Ocean, Air, have nought so shy
But owns the power of minstrelsy.
In Lettermore the timid deer

Will pause, the harp's wild chime to hear;
Rude Heiskar's seal through surges dark
Will long pursue the minstrel's bark;
To list his notes, the eagle proud
Will poise him on Ben-Cailliach's cloud;
Then let not Maiden's ear disdain
The summons of the minstrel train,
But, while our harps wild music make,
Edith of Lorn, awake, awake!

III

"O wake, while Dawn, with dewy shine,
Wakes Nature's charms to vie with thine!

She bids the mottled thrush rejoice

To mate thy melody of voice;

The dew that on the violet lies

Mocks the dark lustre of thine eyes;
But, Edith, wake, and all we see

Of sweet and fair shall yield to thee!"-
"She comes not yet," grey Ferrand cried;
"Brethren, let softer spell be tried,

Those notes prolonged, that soothing theme,
Which best may mix with Beauty's dream,
And whisper, with their silvery tone,
The hope she loves, yet fears to own."
He spoke, and on the harp-strings died
The strains of flattery and of pride;

Seals display a taste for music, and will long follow a boat in which any musical instrument is played; and even a tune simply whistled has attractions for them.

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