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The Bridal
Bridal of Triermain;


The Vale of St. John.



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 imperfect, 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 anticipated, 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 necessarily be inferred from the attempt he has now made. He is induced, by the nature of his subject, 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.

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 rendering it more solemn in the narrative, or more easily committed to memory. But as the poetical historian improves in the art of conveying information, the authenticity of his narrative unavoidably declines. He is tempted to dilate and dwell upon the events that are interesting to his imagination, and, conscious how indifferent his audience is to the naked truth of his poem, his history gradually becomes a romance.

It is in this situation that those epics are found, which have been generally regarded the standards of poetry; and it has happened somewhat strangely, that the moderns have pointed out as the characteristics and peculiar excellencies 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

The original purpose of poetry is either religious or historical, or, as must frequently happen, a mix-subject for poetry; his purpose was to write the ture 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 authenticity. 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

1 Published in March, 1813, by John Ballantyne and Co. 12mo. 7s. 6d.

* Sir Walter Scott, in his Introduction to the Lord of the Isles, says,-" Being much urged by my intimate friend, now unhappily no more, William Erskine, I agreed to write the little romantic tale called the Bridal of Triermain;' but it was on the condition, that he should make no serious effort to disown the composition, if report should lay it at his door.

early history of his country; the event he has chosen, though not very fruitful in varied incident, nor perfectly well adapted for poetry, was nevertheless combined with traditionary and genealogical 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

As he was more than suspected of a taste for poetry, and as I took care, in several places, to mix something which might resemble (as far as was in my power) my friend's feeling and manner, the train easily caught, and two large editions were sold. A third being called for, Lord Kinedder became unwilling to aid any longer a deception which was going farther than he expected or desired, and the real author's name was given."

general accuracy of his narrative, or his purpose in composing it, was brought into question. Aokei πρῶτος [ὁ Αναξαγόρας] (καθά φησι Φαβορῖνος εν παντοδαπή Ιστορία) τὴν ̔Ομήρε ποίησιν ἀποφήνασθαι εἶναι περὶ ἀρετῆς kal dikatoróvns. But whatever theories might be framed by speculative men, his work was of an historical, not of an allegorical nature. Evavríλero μετὰ τὸ Μέντεω, καὶ ὅπε ἐκάστοτε αφίκοιτο, πάντα τὰ επιχώρια διερωτᾶτο, καὶ ἱστορέων επυνθάνετο· εἰκὸς δέ μιν ἦν καὶ μvnμoovva návтwv ypápeσbai. 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,

1 Diogenes Laertius, lib. ii. Anaxag. Segm. 11.

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


"Take out of any old poem, history book, romance, or legend (for instance, Geoffry of Monmouth, or Don Belianis 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 conquer or marry, it being necessary that the conclusion of an epic poem be fortunate."

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

For the Moral and Allegory.-"These you may extract 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 no 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 no 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

the inferiority of genius. The contrary course has been inculcated by almost all the writers upon the Εpopαία; with what success, the fate of Homer's numerous imitators may best show. The ultimum supplicium of criticism was 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 comparison, 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 which common sense was applied to this department of poetry; and, indeed, if the question be considered on its own merits, we must be satisfied that narrative poetry, if strictly confined to the great occurrences

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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 your hands. But if you fear that would be thought borrowed, a chapter or two of the Theory of Conflagration,1 well circumstanced, and done into verse, will be a good succedaneum."

As for 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 any thing 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 darkening 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 Chau


1 From Lib. iii. De Conflagratione Mundi, or Tellaris Theoria Ssera, published in 4to. 1689. By Dr. Thomas Burnet, master of the CharterHouse.

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of history, would be deprived of the individual in- and, perhaps, we may add, that it is the more terest which it is so well calculated to excite.

useful, as well as the more accessible, inasmuch as it affords an example capable of being easily imitated.

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

neither exacts nor refuses the use of supernatural machinery; which is free from the technical rules of the Epée; and is subject only to those which good sense, good taste, and good morals, apply to every species of poetry without exception. The date may be in a remote age, or in the present; the story may detail the adventures of a prince or of a peasant. In a word, the author is absolute master of his country and its inhabitants, and every thing 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 encourages 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

Modern poets may therefore be pardoned in seeking simpler subjects of verse, more interesting 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 immediately presented to the imagination, and directly brought home toning and ending as he may judge best: which 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 depicted with vigor, seldom fail to fix attention: The other, if more sublime, are more vague and distant, less capable of being distinctly understood, 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 recol-heroes of our days are perpetuated in a record lect, that while men see only a limited space, and while their affections and conduct are regulated, not by aspiring to an universal good, but by exerting their power of making themselves and others happy within the limited scale allotted to each individual, so long will individual history and individual virtue be the readier and more accessible road to general interest and attention;

"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."РОРЕ. The Guardian, No. 78.

"In all this we cheerfully acquiesce, without abating any thing of our former hostility to the modern Romaunt style, which is founded on very different principles. Nothing is, in our opinion, so dangerous to the very existence of poetry as the extreme laxity of rule and consequent facility 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 versification. 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 opening the door, pull down the wall, and level the very foundation of the edifice."-Critical Review, 1813.

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, limiting 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 insuperable defects.1

"In the same letter in which William Erskine acknowledges the receipt of the first four pages of Rokeby, he adverts also to the Bridal of Triermain as being already in rapid progress. The fragments of this second poem, inserted 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 had no sooner 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 a shorter and lighter romance, executed in a different metre, and to be published anonymously, in a small pocket volume, as nearly as 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 candidate; and Erskine good-humoredly entered into the scheme, undertaking to do nothing which should effectually suppress the notion of his having set him self up as a modest rival to his friend."-Life of Scott, vol. iv. p. 12.

The Bridal of Triermain.



COME, LUCY! While 'tis morning hour,

The woodland brook we needs must pass;
So, ere the sun assume his power,
We shelter in our poplar bower,
Where dew lies long upon the flower,
Though vanish'd from the velvet grass.
Curbing the stream, this stony ridge
May serve us for a silvan bridge;
For here, compell'd to disunite,
Round petty isles the runnels glide,
And chafing off their puny spite,

The shallow murmurers waste their might,
Yielding to footstep free and light
A dry-shod pass from side to side.


Nay, why this hesitating pause?
And, Lucy, as thy step withdraws,
Why sidelong eye the streamlet's brim?
Titania's foot without a slip,
Like thine, though timid, light, and slim,
From stone to stone might safely trip,
Nor risk the glow-worm clasp to dip
That binds her slipper's silken rim.
Or trust thy lover's strength: nor fear

That this same stalwart arm of mine, Which could yon oak's prone trunk uprear, Shall shrink beneath the burden dear

Of form so slender, light, and fine.—

So, now, the danger dared at last,
Look back, and smile at perils past!


And now we reach the favorite glade,
Paled in by copsewood, cliff, and stone,
Where never harsher sounds invade,

To break affection's whispering tone,
Than the deep breeze that waves the shade,
Than the small brooklet's feeble moan.

Come! rest thee on thy wonted seat;
Moss'd is the stone, the turf is green,

1 MS.-"Haughty eye."

A place where lovers best may meet, Who would not that their love be seen. The boughs, that dim the summer sky, Shall hide us from each lurking spy,

That fain would spread the invidious tale, How Lucy of the lofty eye,1

Noble in birth, in fortunes high,
She for whom lords and barons sigh,
Meets her poor Arthur in the dale.


How deep that blush!-how deep that sigh!
And why does Lucy shun mine eye?

Is it because that crimson draws
Its color from some secret cause,
Some hidden movement of the breast,
She would not that her Arthur guess'd?
O quicker far is lovers' ken

Than the dull glance of common men,'
And, by strange sympathy, can spell
The thoughts the loved one will not tell!
And mine, in Lucy's blush, saw met
The hues of pleasure and regret;

Pride mingled in the sigh her voice,

And shared with Love the crimson glow;
Well pleased that thou art Arthur's choice,

Yet shamed thine own is placed so low:
Thou turn'st thy self-confessing cheek,
As if to meet the breeze's cooling;
Then, Lucy, hear thy tutor speak,
For Love, too, has his hours of schooling.

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Nor leave me on this mossy bank,

To meet a rival on a throne: Why, then, should vain repinings rise, That to thy lover fate denies A nobler name, a wide domain, A Baron's birth, a menial train, Since Heaven assign'd him, for his part, A lyre, a falchion, and a heart!


My sword-
-its master must be dumb;
But, when a soldier names my name,
Approach, my Lucy! fearless come,

Nor dread to hear of Arthur's shame.
My heart-'mid all yon courtly crew,
Of lordly rank and lofty line,
Is there to love and honor true,

That boasts a pulse so warm as mine?1
They praised thy diamonds' lustre rare-

Match'd with thine eyes, I thought it faded; They praised the pearls that bound thy hairI only saw the locks they braided; They talk'd of wealthy dower and land, And titles of high birth the tokenI thought of Lucy's heart and hand,

Nor knew the sense of what was spoken. And yet, if rank'd in Fortune's roll,

I might have learn'd their choice unwise, Who rate the dower above the soul,

And Lucy's diamonds o'er her eyes.


My lyre-it is an idle toy,

That borrows accents not its own, Like warbler of Colombian sky,

That sings but in a mimic tone.3 Ne'er did it sound o'er sainted well, Nor boasts it aught of Border spell;

1 MS.-"That boasts so warm a heart as mine."
2 MS.-" And Lucy's gems before her eyes."
* The Mocking Bird.

4 MS.-"Perchance, because it sung their praise."
5 See Appendix, Note A.

"The Introduction, though by no means destitute of beauties, is decidedly inferior to the Poem: its plan, or conception, is neither very ingenious nor very striking. The best passages are those in which the author adheres most strictly to his original in those which are composed without having his eyes fixed on his model, there is a sort of affectation and straining at humor, that will probably excite some feeling of disappointment, either because the effort is not altogether successful, or because it does not perfectly harmonize with the tone and coloring of the whole piece.

"The Bridal' itself is purely a tale of chivalry; a tale of 'Britain's isle, and Arthur's days, when midnight fairies daunced the maze.' The author never gives us a glance of ordinary life, or of ordinary personages. From the splendid court of Arthur, we are conveyed to the halls of enchantment, and, of course, are introduced to a system of manners, perfectly decided and appropriate, but altogether remote

Its strings no feudal slogan pour,
Its heroes draw no broad claymore;
No shouting clans applauses raise,
Because it sung their fathers' praise ;*
On Scottish moor, or English down,
It ne'er was graced with fair renown;
Nor won,-best meed to minstrel true,—
One favoring smile from fair BUCCLEUCH!
By one poor streamlet sounds its tone,
And heard by one dear maid alone.

But, if thou bid'st, these tones shall tell

Of errant knight, and damozelle;
Of the dread knot a Wizard tied,

In punishment of maiden's pride,
In notes of marvel and of fear,

That best may charm romantic ear. For Lucy loves,-like COLLINS, ill-starred name! Whose lay's requital, was that tardy fame, Who bound no laurel round his living head, Should hang it o'er his monument when dead,— For Lucy loves to tread enchanted strand, And thread, like him, the maze of Fairy-land; Of golden battlements to view the gleam, And slumber soft by some Elysian stream;— Such lays she loves,-and such my Lucy's choice, What other song can claim her Poet's voice ?"

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"The poem now before us consists properly of two distinct subjects, interwoven together something in the manner of the Last Minstrel and his Lay, in the first and most enchanting of Walter Scott's romances. The first is the history (real or imaginary, we presume not to guess which) of the author's passion, courtship, and marriage, with a young lady, his superior in rank and circumstances, to whom he relates at intervals the story which may be considered as the principal design of the work, to which it gives its title. This is a mode of introducing romantic and fabulous narratives which we very much approve, though there may be reason to fear that too frequent repetition may wear out its effect. It attaches a degree of dramatic interest to the work, and at the same time softens the absurdity of a Gothic legend, by throwing it to a greater distance from the relation and auditor, by representing it, not as a train of facts which actually took place, but as a mere fable, either adopted by the credulity of former times, or invented for the purposes of amusement, and the exercise of the imagination."-Critical Review, 1813.

7 See Appendix, Note B.

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