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cantos, might remind the reader, at intervals, of the time, place, and circumstances of the recitation. This species of cadre, or frame, afterwards afforded the poem its name of "The Lay of the Last Minstrel."

They were men whose talents might have raised them to the highest station in literature, had they not preferred exerting them in their own profession of the law, in which they attained equal preferment. I was in the habit of consulting them on my attempts at composition, having equal confidence in their sound taste and friendly sincerity.' In this specimen I had, in the phrase of the High-primatur of Mr. Francis Jeffrey, who had been land servant, packed all that was my own at least, already for some time distinguished by his critical for I had also included a line of invocation, a talent. little softened, from Coleridge

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As neither of my friends said much to me on the subject of the stanzas I showed them before their departure, I had no doubt that their disgust had been greater than their good-nature chose to express. Looking upon them, therefore, as a failure, I threw the manuscript into the fire, and thought as little more as I could of the matter. Some time afterwards, I met one of my two counsellors, who inquired, with considerable appearance of interest, about the progress of the romance I had commenced, and was greatly surprised at learning its fate. He confessed that neither he nor our mutual friend had been at first able to give a precise opinion on a poem so much out of the common road; but that as they walked home together to the city, they had talked much on the subject, and the result was an earnest desire that I would proceed with the composition. He also added, that some sort of prologue might be necessary, to place the mind of the hearers in the situation to understand and enjoy the poem, and recommended the adoption of such quaint mottoes as Spenser has used to announce the contents of the chapters of the Faery Queen, such as

"Babe's bloody hands may not be cleansed.
The face of golden Mean :
Her sisters two, Extremities,
Strive her to banish clean." 2

I entirely agreed with my friendly critic in the necessity of having some sort of pitch-pipe, which might make readers aware of the object, or rather the tone, of the publication. But I doubted whether, in assuming the oracular style of Spenser's mottoes, the interpreter might not be censured as the harder to be understood of the two. I therefore introduced the Old Minstrel, as an appropriate prolocutor, by whom the lay might be sung, or spoken, and the introduction of whom betwixt the

1 One of these, William Erskine, Esq. (Lord Kinnedder), I have often had occasion to mention; and though I may hardly be thanked for disclosing the name of the other, yet I cannot but state that the second is George Cranstoun, Esq., now a Senator of the College of Justice, by the title of Lord Corehonse. 1831.-[Mr. Cranstoun resigned is seat on the Bench in 1839.]

The work was subsequently shown to other friends during its progress, and received the im

The poem, being once licensed by the critics as fit for the market, was soon finished, proceeding at about the rate of a canto per week. There was, indeed, little occasion for pause or hesitation, when a troublesome rhyme might be accomodated by an alteration of the stanza, or where an incorrect measure might be remedied by a variation of the rhyme. It was finally published in 1805, and may be regarded as the first work in which the writer, who has been since so voluminous, laid his claim to be considered as an original author.

The book was published by Longman and Company, and Archibald Constable and Company. The principal of the latter firm was then commencing that course of bold and liberal industry which was of so much advantage to his country, and might have been so to himself, but for causes which it is needless to enter into here. The work, brought out on the usual terms of division of profits between the author and publishers, was not long after purchased by them for £500, to which Messrs. Longman and Company afterwards added £100, in their own unsolicited kindness, in consequence of the uncommon success of the work. It was handsomely given to supply the loss of a fine horse, which broke down suddenly while the author was riding with one of the worthy publishers."

It would be great affectation not to own frankly, that the author expected some success from "The Lay of the Last Minstrel." The attempt to return to a more simple and natural style of poetry was likely to be welcomed, at a time when the public had become tired of heroic hexameters, with all the buckram and binding which belong to them of later days. But whatever might have been his expectations, whether moderate or unreasonable, the result left them far behind, for among those who smiled for the adventurous Minstrel, were numbered the great names of William Pitt and Charles Fox. Neither was

2 Book II. Canto II.

9 Mr. Owen Rees, here alluded to, retired from the house of Longman & Co. at Midsummer, 1837, and died 5th September following, in his 67th year.-ED.

4 "Through what channel or in what terms Fox made known his opinion of the Lay, I have failed to ascertain. Pitt's praise, as expressed to his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, within a few


the extent of the sale inferior to the character of the judges who received the poem with approbation Upwards of thirty thousand copies of the Lay were disposed of by the trade; and the author had to perform a task difficult to human vanity, when called upon to make the necessary

weeks after the poem appeared, was repeated by her to Mr. William Stewart Rose, who, of course, communicated it forthwith to the author; and not long after, the Minister, in conversation with Scott's early friend, the Right Hon. William Dundas, signified that it would give him pleasure to find some opportunity of advancing the fortunes of such a writer. "I remember," writes this gentleman, "at Mr. Pitt's table in 1805, the Chancellor asked me about you and your then situation, and after I had answered him, Mr. Pitt observed He can't remain as he is,' and desired me to look to it.' "— LOCKHART. Life of Scott, vol. ii. p. 226.

1 "The poet has under-estimated even the patent and tangible evidence of his success. The first edition of the Lay was a magnificent quarto, 750 copies; but this was soon exhaust

deductions from his own merits, in a calm attempt to account for his popularity.1

A few additional remarks on the author's literary attempts after this period, will be found in the Introduction to the Poem of Marmion. ABBOTSFORD, April, 1830.

ed, and there followed an octavo impression of 1500; in 1806, two more, one of 2000 copies, another of 2250; in 1807, a fifth edition of 2000, and a sixth of 3000; in 1808, 3550; in 1809, 3000-a small edition in quarto (the ballads and lyrical pieces being then annexed to it)-and another octavo edition of 3250; in 1811, 3000; in 1812, 3000; in 1816, 3000; in 1823, 1000. A fourteenth impression of 2000 foolscap appeared in 1825; and besides all this, before the end of 1836, 11,000 copies had gone forth in the collected editions of his poetical works. Thus, nearly forty-four thousand copies had been disposed of in this country, and by the legitimate trade alone, before he superintended the edition of 1830, to which his biographical introductions were prefixed. In the history of British Poetry nothing had ever equalled the demand for the Lay of the Last Minstrel."-Life, vol. ii. p. 226.


The Lay of the Last Minstrel.







The Poem now offered to the Public, is intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants living in a state partly pastoral and partly warlike, and combining habits of constant depredation with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes highly susceptible of poetical ornament. As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the Author than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the Ancient Metrical Romance was adopted, which allows greater latitude, in this respect, than would be consistent with the dignity of a regular Poem. The same model offered other facilities, as it permits an occasional alteration of measure, which, in some degree, authorizes the change of rhythm in the text? The machinery, also, adopted from popular belief, would have seemed puerile in a Poem which did not partake of the rudeness of the old Ballad, or Metrical Romance.

For these reasons, the Poem was put into the mouth of an ancient Minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supposed to have survived the Revolution, might have caught somewhat of the refinement of modern poetry, without losing the simplicity of his original model. The date of the Tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is Three Nights and Three Days.3


THE way was long, the wind was cold,
The Minstrel was infirm and old;

"The chief excellence of the Lay consists in the beauty of the descriptions of local scenery, and the accurate picture of customs and manners among the Scottish Borderers at the time it refers to. The various exploits and adventures which occur in those half-civilized times, when the bands of government were so loosely twisted, that every man depended for safety more on his own arm, or the prowess of his chief, than on the civil power, may be said to hold a middle rank between history and private anecdote. War is always most picturesque where it is least formed into a science; it has most variety and interest where the prowess and activity of individuals has most play; and the nocturnal expedition of Diomed and Ulysses to seize the chariot and horses of Rhesus, or a raid of the Scotts or the Kerrs to drive cattle, will make a better figure in verse, than all the battles of the great King of Prussia. The sleuthdog, the beacon-fires, the Jedwood-axes, the moss-troopers, the yell of the slogan, and all the irregular warfare of predatory expeditions, or feuds of hereditary vengeance, are far more captivating to the imagination than a park of artillery and battalions of well-drilled soldiers."-Annual Review, 1804.

2 "It must be observed, that there is this difference between the license of the old romancer, and that assumed by Mr. Scott: the aberrations of the first are usually casual and slight; those of the other, premeditated and systematic. The old romancer may be compared to a man who trusts his reins to his horse; his palfrey often blunders, and occasionally breaks his pace, sometimes from vivacity, oftener through in

His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray,
Seem'd to have known a better day;
The harp, his sole remaining joy,
Was carried by an orphan boy.

dolence. Mr. Scott sets out with the intention of diversifying
his journey by every variety of motion. He is now at a trot,
now at a gallop; nay, he sometimes stops, as if to

'Make graceful caprioles, and prance
Between the pillars.'

A main objection to this plan is to be found in the shock which
the ear receives from violent and abrupt transitions. On the
other hand, it must be allowed, that as different species of
verse are individually better suited to the expression of the
different ideas, sentiments, and passions, which it is the object
of poetry to convey, the happiest efforts may be produced by
adapting to the subject its most congenial structure of verse."
Critical Review, 1805.


"From the novelty of its style and subject, and from the spirit of its execution, Mr. Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel kindled a sort of enthusiasm among all classes of readers; and the concurrent voice of the public assigned to it a very exalted rank, which, on more cool and dispassionate examination, its numerous essential beauties will enable it to maintain. vivid richness of coloring and truth of costume, many of its descriptive pictures stand almost unrivalled; it carries us back in imagination to the time of action; and we wander with the poet along Tweedside, or among the wild glades of Ettrick Forest."-Monthly Review, May, 1808.

"We consider this poem as an attempt to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the matter and the manner of

The last of all the Bards was he,
Who sung of Border chivalry;
For, welladay! their date was fled,
His tuneful brethren all were dead;
And he, neglected and oppress'd,
Wish'd to be with them, and at rest.1
No more on prancing palfrey borne,
He caroll'd, light as lark at morn;
No longer courted and caress'd,
High placed in hall, a welcome guest,
He pour'd, to lord and lady gay,

The unpremeditated lay:

Old times were changed, old manners gone;
A stranger fill'd the Stuarts' throne;
The bigots of the iron time

Had call'd his harmless art a crime.
A wandering Harper, scorn'd and poor,
He begg'd his bread from door to door,
And tuned, to please a peasant's ear,
The harp, a king had loved to hear.

He pass'd where Newark's stately tower

the ancient metrical romance. The author, enamored of the lofty visions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which they were formerly embodied, seems to have employed all the resources of his genius in endeavoring to recall them to the favor and admiration of the public, and in adapting to the taste of modern readers a species of poetry which was once the delight of the courtly, but has long ceased to gladden any other eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. This is a romance, therefore, composed by a minstrel of the present day; or such a romance as we may suppose would have been written in modern times, if that style of composition had continued to be cultivated, and partakes consequently of the improvements which every branch of literature has received since the time of its desertion."-JEFFREY, April, 1805.

1 Turning to the northward, Scott showed us the crags and tower of Smailholme, and behind it the shattered fragment of Erceldonne, and repeated some pretty stanzas as cribed to the last of the real wandering minstrels of this district, by name Burn:

'Sing Erceldoune, and Cowdenknowes,

Where Homes had ance commanding,
And Drygrange, wi' the milk-white ewes,
"Twixt Tweed and Leader standing.
The bird that flees through Redpath trees
And Gledswood banks each morrow,
May chaunt and sing-Sweet Leader's haughs
And Bonny howms of Yarrow.

'But Minstrel Burn cannot assuage

His grief while life endureth,

To see the changes of this age

Which fleeting time procureth;

For mony a place stands in hard case, Where blythe folks kent nae sorrow, With Homes that dwelt on Leader side, And Scotts that dwelt on Yarrow.'" Life, vol. vi. p. 78. "This is a massive square tower, now unroofed and ruinous, surrounded by an outward wall, defended by round flanking turrets. It is most beautifully situated, about three miles from Selkirk, upon the banks of the Yarrow, a fierce and precipitous stream, which unites with the Ettricke about a mile beneath the castle.

Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye-
No humbler resting-place was nigh,
With hesitating step at last,

The embattled portal arch he pass'd,
Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft roll'd back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess mark'd his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face,
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well:
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb!

When kindness had his wants supplied, And the old man was gratified, Began to rise his minstrel pride: And he began to talk anon,

The royal arms,

"Newark Castle was built by James II. with the unicorn, are engraved on a stone in the western side of the tower. There was a much more ancient castle in its immediate vicinity, called Auldwark, founded, it is said, by Alexander III. Both were designed for the royal residence when the king was disposed to take his pleasure in the extensive forest of Ettricke. Various grants occur in the records of the Privy Seal, bestowing the keeping of the Castle of Newark upon different barons. There is a popular tradition that it was once seized, and held out by the outlaw Murray, a noted character in song, who only surrendered Newark upon condition of being made hereditary sheriff of the forest. A long ballad, containing an account of this transaction, is preserved in the Border Minstrelsy (vol. i. p. 369). Upon the marriage of James IV. with Margaret, sister of Henry VIII., the Castle of Newark, with the whole forest of Ettricke, was assigned to her as a part of her jointure lands. But of this she could make little advantage; for, after the death of her hus band, she is found complaining heavily, that Buccleuch had seized upon these lands. Indeed, the office of keeper was latterly held by the family of Buccleuch, and with so firm a grasp, that when the Forest of Ettricke was disparked, they obtained a grant of the Castle of Newark in property. It was within the courtyard of this castle that General Lesly did military execution upon the prisoners whom he had taken at the battle of Philiphaugh. The castle continued to be an occasional seat of the Buccleuch family for more than a century; and here, it is said, the Duchess of Monmouth and Buccleuch was brought up. For this reason, probably, Mr. Scott has chosen to make it the scene in which the Lay of the Last Minstrel is recited in her presence, and for her amusement."SCHETKY's Illustrations of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. It may be added that Bowhill was the favorite residence of Lord and Lady Dalkeith (afterwards Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch), at the time when the poem was composed; the ruins of Newark are all but included in the park attached to that modern seat of the family; and Sir Walter Scott, no doubt, was influenced in his choice of the locality, by the predilection of the charming lady who suggested the subject of his Lay for the scenery of the Yarrow-a beautiful walk on whose banks, leading from the house to the old castle, is called, in memory of her, the Duchess's Walk.-ED.

3 Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representa

Of good Earl Francis,' dead and gone,
And of Earl Walter,' rest him, God!
A braver ne'er to battle rode;
And how full many a tale he knew,
Of the old warriors of Buccleuch :
And, would the noble Duchess deign
To listen to an old man's strain,
Though stiff his hand, his voice though weak,
He thought even yet, the sooth to speak,
That, if she loved the harp to hear,

He could make music to her ear.

The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
The Aged Minstrel audience gain'd.
But, when he reach'd the room of state,
Where she, with all her ladies, sate,
Perchance he wish'd his boon denied:
For, when to tune his harp he tried,
His trembling hand had lost the ease,
Which marks security to please;
And scenes, long past, of joy and pain,
Came wildering o'er his aged brain—
He tried to tune his harp in vain!"

pnying Duchess praised its chime,
And gave him heart, and gave him time,
Till every string's according glee
Was blended into harmony.

And then, he said, he would full fain
He could recall an ancient strain,
He never thought to sing again.
It was not framed for village churls,
But for high dames and mighty earls;
He had play'd it to King Charles the Good,
When he kept court in Holyrood;
And much he wish'd, yet fear'd, to try
The long-forgotten melody.
Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
And an uncertain warbling made,
And oft he shook his hoary head.

But when he caught the measure wild,
The old man raised his face, and smiled;

tive of the ancient Lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfortunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1685.

1 Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the Duchess. 2 Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather of the Duchess, and a celebrated warrior.

"Mr. W. Dundas (see Life of Scott, vol. ii. p. 226), says, that Pitt repeated the lines, describing the old harper's embarrassment when asked to play, and said,- This is a sort of thing which I might have expected in painting, but could never have fancied capable of being given in poetry.'"

4 "In the very first rank of poetical excellence, we are inclined to place the introductory and concluding lines of every canto, in which the ancient strain is suspended, and the feelings and situation of the minstrel himself described in the words of the author. The elegance and the beauty of this setting, if we may so call it, though entirely of modern workmanship, appears to us to be fully more worthy of admiration than the bolder relief of the antiques which it encloses, and leads us to regret that the author should have wasted, in imitation and


And lighten'd up his faded eye,
With all a poet's ecstasy!

In varying cadence, soft or strong,
He swept the sounding chords along;
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
Cold diffidence, and age's frost,
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank, in faithless memory void,
The poet's glowing thought supplied;
And, while his harp responsive rung,
"Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.

The Lay of the Last Minstrel.



THE feast was over in Branksome tower,"
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower;
Her bower that was guarded by word and by

Deadly to hear and deadly to tell—
Jesu Maria, shield us well!

No living wight, save the Ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.


The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all; Knight, and page, and household squire, Loiter'd through the lofty hall,

Or crowded round the ample fire;

The stag-hounds, weary with the chase,
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor,
And urged, in dreams, the forest race,
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor."

antiquarian researches, so much of those powers which seem fully equal to the task of raising him an independent reputation."-JEFFREY.

5 See Appendix, Note A.

The ancient romance owes much of its interest to the lively picture which it affords of the times of chivalry, and of those usages, manners, and institutions, which we have been accustomed to associate in our minds, with a certain combination of magnificence with simplicity, and ferocity with romantic honor. The representations contained in those performances, however, are, for the most part, too rude and naked to give complete satisfaction. The execution is always extremely unequal; and though the writer sometimes touches upon the appropriate feeling with great effect and felicity, still this appears to be done more by accident than design; and he wanders away immediately into all sorts of ridiculous or uninteresting details, without any apparent consciousness of incongruity. These defects Mr. Scott has corrected with admirable address and judgment in the greater part of the work now before us; and while he has exhibited a very striking and impressive picture

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