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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION. 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 uurlike, 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, authorises 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 Merical Romance.
For these reasons, the Poem was put into the mouth of an ancient Minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supvused to have survived the Revolution, anight 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, then most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is Three Nights and Three Days.3
His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray,
The way was long, the wind was cold,
""The chief excellence of The Lay consists in the beauty his journey by every variety of motion. He is now at a trot, of the descriptions of local scenery, and the accurate picture now at a gallop; nay, he sometimes stops, as if to of customs and manners among the Scottish Borderers at the
• Make graceful caprioles, and prance time it refers to. The various exploits and adventures which occur in those half-civilized times, when the bands of govern
Between the pillars.' ment were so loosely twisted, that every man depended for
A main objection to this plan is to be found in the shock which safety more on his own arm, or the prowess of his chief, than
the ear receives from violent and abrupt transitions. On the on the civil power, may be said to hold a middle rank between
other hand, it must be allowed, that as different species of history and private anecdote. War is always most picturesque
verse are individually better suited to the expression of the where it is least formed into a science; it has most variety and
different ideas, sentiments, and passions, which it is the obinterest where the prowess and activity of individuals has most ject of poetry to convey, the happiest efforts may be produced play; and the nocturnal expedition of Diomed and Ulysses to by adapting to the subject its most congenial structure of seize the chariot and horses of Rhesus, or a raid of the Scotts
verse."-Critical Review, 1805. or the Kerrs to drive cattle, will make a better figure in verse, than all the battles of the great King of Prussia. The sleuth
“ From the novelty of its style and subject, and from the don, the beacon-fires, the Jedwood-axes, the moss-troopers, the spirit of its execution, Mr. Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrei yell of the slogan, and all the irregular warfare of predatory
kindled a sort of enthusiasm among all classes of readers; and expeditions, or feuds of hereditary vengeance, are far more
the concurrent voice of the public assigned to it a very ez. captivating to the imagination than a park of artillery and
alted rank, which, on more cool and dispassionate examina. battalions of well-drilled soldiers." - Annual Review, 1804.
tion, its numerous essential beauties will enable it to main& "It must be observed, that there is this difference be
tain. For vivid richness of colouring and truth of costume, tween the license of the old romancer, and that assumed by carries us back in imagination to the time of action; and we
many of its descriptive pictures stand almost unrivalled; it Mr. Scott; the aberrations of the first are usually casual and slight; those of the other premeditated and systematic. The
wander with the poet along Tweedside, or among the wild old romancer may be compared to a man who trusts his reins glades of Ettrick Forest.”—Monthly Review, May, 1808. to his horse ; bis palfrey often blunders, and occasionally 3 “ We consider this poem as an attempt to transfer the breaks his pace, sometimes from vivacity, oftener through in- refinements of modern poetry to the matter and the manner of dolence. Mr. Scott sets out with the intention of diversifying the ancient metrical romance. The author, enamoured of
The last of all the Bards was he,
He pass'd where Newark's ? stately tower
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye
When kindness had his wants supplied,
the lofty visions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which immediate vicinity, called Auldwark, founded, it is said, by they were formerly embodied, seems to have employed all the Alexander III. Both were designed for the royal residence resources of his genius in endeavouring to recall them to the when the king was disposed to take his pleasure in the extenfavour and admiration of the public, and in adapting to the sive forest of Ettricke. Various grants occur in the records taste of modern readers a species of poetry which was once the of the Privy Seal, bestowing the keeping of the Castle of delight of the courtly, but has long ceased to gladden any other Newark upon different barons. There is a popular tradition eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. This is a that it was once seized, and held out by the outlaw Murray, romance, therefore, composed by a minstrel of the present a noted character in song, who only surrendered Newark upon day; or such a romance as we may suppose would have been condition of being made hereditary sheriff of the forest. A written in modern times, if that style of composition had con- long ballad, containing an account of this transaction, is tinued to be cultivated, and partakes consequently of the im- preserved in the Border Minstrelsy, (vol. i. p. 369.) Upon provements which every branch of literature has received the marriage of James IV. with Margaret, sister of Henry since the time of its desertion."-Jeffrey, April, 1805. VIII., the Castle of Newark, with the whole Forest of Et.
| “Turning to the northward, Scott showed us the crags tricke, was assigned to her as a part of her jointure lands. and tower of Smailholme, and behind it the shattered frag- But of this she could make little advantage ; for, after the ment of Erceldoune, and repeated some pretty stanzas as
death of her husband, she is found complaining heavily, that cribed to the last of the real wandering minstrels of this dis- Buccleuch had seized upon these lands. Indeed, the office trict, by name Burn:
of keeper was latterly held by the family of Buccleuch, and “Sing Erceldoune, and Cowdenknowes,
with so firm a grasp, that when the Forest of Ettricke was disWhere Homes had ance commanding,
parked, they obtained a grant of the Castle of Newark in proAnd Drygrange, wi' the milk-white ewes,
perty. It was within the court-yard of this castle that Gene'Twixt Tweed and Leader standing.
ral Lesly did military execution upon the prisoners whom he The bird that flees through Redpath trees
had taken at the battle of Philiphaugh. The castle continued And Gledswood banks each morrow,
to be an occasional seat of the Buccleuch family for more May chaunt and sing---Sweet Leader's haughs than a century; and here, it is said, the Duchess of Monmouth And Bonny howms of Yarrow.
and Buccleuch was brought up. For this reason, probably, • But Minstrel Burn cannot assuage
Mr. Scott has chosen to make it the scene in which the Lay His grief while life endureth,
of the Last Minstrel is recited in her presence, and for her To see the changes of this age
amusement."-SCHETKY'S Ilustrations of the Lay of the Last Which fleeting time procureth ;
It may be added that Bowhill was the favourite residence
of Lord and Lady Dalkeith, (afterwards Duke and Duchess With Homes that dwelt on Leader side,
of Buccleuch), at the time when the poem was composed; the And Scotts that dwelt on Yarrow."
ruins of Newark are all but included in the park attached to
Life, vol. vi. p. 78. that modern seat of the family; and Sir Walter Scott, no ?“ This is a massive square tower, now unroofed and doubt, was influenced in his choice of the locality, by the ruinous, surrounded by an outward wall, defended by round predilection of the charming lady who suggested the subBanking turrets. It is most beautifully situated, about three ject of his Lay for the scenery of the Yarrow-a beautiful miles from Selkirk, upon the banks of the Yarrow, a fierce walk on whose banks, leading from the house to the old and precipitous stream, which unites with the Ettricke about castle, is called, in memory of her, the Duchess's Walk.-Ed. & mile beneath the castle.
3 Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representa“Newark Castlo was built by James II. The royal arms, tive of the ancient Lords of Buccleuch, and widow of the unfor. with the unicorn, are engraved on a stone in the western side tunate James, Duke of Monmouth, who was beheaded in 1646 of the tower. There was a much more ancient castle in its • Francis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the Duchess.
And of Earl Walter,' rest him, God !
The humble boon was soon obtain'd;
Knight, and page, and household squire,
Or crowded round the ample fire:
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor,
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.5
1 Walter, Earl of Buccleuch, grandfather of the Duchess, 6 “The ancient romance owes much of its interest to the and a celebrated warrior.
lively picture which it affords of the times of chivalry, and of : “Mr. W. Dundas, (see Life of Scott, vol. ii p. 226,) says,
those usages, manners, and institutions, which we have been that Pitt repeated the lines, describing the old harper's em
accustomed to associate in our minds, with a certain combibarrassment when asked to play, and said, “This is a sort of nation of magnificence with simplicity, and ferocity with thing which I might have expected in painting, but could
romantic honour. The representations contained in those gever have fancied capable of being given in poetry.""
performances, however, are, for the most part too rude and
naked to give complete satisfaction. The execution is always 3“In the very first rank of poetical excellence, we are
extremely unequal; and though the writer sometimes toucher Inclined to place the introductory and concluding lines of upon the appropriate feeling with great effect and felicity, every canto, in which the ancient strain is suspended, and
still this appears to be done more by accident than design ; the feelings and situation of the minstrel himself described in and he wanders away immediately into all sorts of ridiculoug the words of the author. The elegance and the beauty of this
or uninteresting details, without any apparent consciousness ketting, if we may so call it, though entirely of modern work
of incongruity. These defects Mr. Scott has corrected with manship, appears to us to be fully more worthy of admiration
admirable address and judgment in the greater part of the
work now before us ; and while he has exhibited a very strikthan the bolder relief of the antiques which it encloses, and keads us to regret that the author should have wasted, in imita- ing and impressive picture of the old feudal usages and insti
tutions, he has shown still greater talent in engrafting upon tion and antiquarian researches, so much of those
powers which Berm fully equal to the task of raising him an independent repu- which the circumstances of the story naturally give ribe.
those descriptions all the tender or magnanimous emotions ta tation," JEFFREY.
Without impairing the antique air of the whole piece, or vio• See Appendix, Note A.
lating the simplicity of the ballad style, be has contrived
Hong their shields in Branksome-Hall;'
Nine-and-twenty yeomen tall
Many a valiant knight is here ;
Beside his broken spear.
They lay down to rest,
With corslet laced,
They carved at the meal
With gloves of steel,
Or stanch the death-feud's enmity?
Can love of blessed charity ?
In mutual pilgrimage, they drew;
For chiefs, their own red falchions Blew:
While Ettrick boasts the line of Scott,
Shall never, never be forgot !8
Lest Scroop, or Howard, or Percy's powers,
Threaten Branksome's lordly towers,
The warlike foresters had bent;
Old Teviot's maids and matrons lent .
Had lock'd the source of softer woe ;
Forbade the rising tear to flow;
Her son lisp'd from the nurse's knee-
My father's death revenged shall be !"
this way, to impart a much greater dignity and more power- “The Scotts they rade, the Scotts they ran, ful interest to his production, than could ever be obtained by
Sae starkly and sae steadilie! the unskilful and unsteady delineations of the old romancers. And aye the ower-word o' the thrang Nothing, we think, can afford a finer illustration of this re
Was— Rise for Branksome readilie," &c. mark, than the opening stanzas of the whole poem ; they compare also the Ballad of Kinmont Willie, (vol. ii. p. transport us at once into the days of knightly daring and 53.) fouda. hostility, at the same time that they suggest, in a very
“Now word is gane to the bauld keeper, interesting way, all those softer sentiments which arise out of
In Branksome ha' where that he lay," &c.-KD. some parts of the description."-JEFFREY.
• There are not many passages in English poetry more im · See Appendix, Note B.
pressive than some parts of Stanzas vii. viii. ix.—JEFFREY. . See Appendix, Note C.
See Appendix, Note E.
& Edinburgh. 8 See Appendix, Note D, and compare these stanzas with
7 The war-cry, or gathering-word, of a Border clan. the description of Jamie Telfer's appearance at Branksome Hall, (Border Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 5,) to claim the protection
8 See Appendix, Note F. "Auld Buccleuch"-and the ensuing scene, (page 9,1 9 Orig. (1st Edition.) "The Ladye dropp'd nor sigh not tear. Then fast the mother's tears did seek
And, from the turrets round, To dew the infant's kindling cheek.
Loud whoops the startled owl.
In the hall, both squire and knight
Swore that a storm was near,
And looked forth to view the night!
But the night was still and clear!
From the sound of Teviot's tide, Had filial grief supplied ;
Chating with the mountain's side, For hopeless love, and anxious fear,
From the groan of the wind-swung oak, Had lent their mingled tide:
From the sullen echo of the rock, Nor in her mother's alter'd eye
From the voice of the coming storm, Dared she to look for sympathy.
The Ladye knew it well! Her lover, 'gainst her father's clan,
It was the Spirit of the Flood that spoke,
And he called on the Spirit of the Fell.
RIVER SPIRIT. Before Lord Cranstoun she should wed,
“ Sleep'st thou, brother?”– Would see her on her dying bed.
_« Brother, naXI.
On my hills the moon-beams play. Of noble race the Ladye came,
From Craik-cross to Skelfhill-pen, Her father was a clerk of fame,
By every rill, in every glen, Of Bethune's line of Picardie :3
Merry elves their morris pacing, He learn'd the art that none may name,
To aërial minstrelsy, In Padua, far beyond the sea.“
Emerald rings on brown heath tracing: Men said, he changed his mortal frame
Trip it deft and merrily. By feat of magic mystery;
Up, and mark their nimble feet!
Up, and list their music sweet!”–
“ Tears of an imprison'd maiden XII.
Mix with my polluted stream; And of his skill, as bards avow,
Margaret of Branksome, sorrow-laden, He taught that Ladye fair,
Mourns beneath the moon's pale beam. Till to her bidding she could bow .
Tell me, thou, who view'st the stars, The viewless forms of air. 7
When shall cease these feudal jars? And now she sits in secret bower,
What shall be the maiden's fate ?
Who shall be the maiden's mate?”
“ Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll, Is it the wind that swings the oaks?
In utter darkness round the pole; Is it the echo from the rocks?
The Northern Bear lowers black and grim ; What may it be, the heavy sound,
Orion's studded belt is dim; That moans old Branksome's turrets
Twinkling faint, and distant far, round?
Shimmers through mist each planet star;
Ill may I read their high decree!
But no kind influence deign they shower
On Teviot's tide, and Branksome's tower, The ban-dogs bay and howl;
Till pride be quell’d, and love be free.”
1 See Appendix, Note G. (The name is spelt differently by 6 First Edition-" St. Kentigerne's hall."-St. Mungo, of the various families who bear it. Carr is selected, not as the Kentigerne, is the patron saint of Glasgow. most correct, but as the most poetical reading.)
6 See Appendix, Note L. 7 See Appendix, Note M. * See Appendix, Note H. 8 See Appendix, Note I. * See Appendix, Note K.
8 Scaur, a precipitous bank of earth.