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John Stoddart, Judge-Advocate at Malta,) who was labour, though I was now furnished with a subject, at that time collecting the particulars which he after- and with a structure of verse which might have the wards embodied in his Remarks on Local Scenery in etfect of novelty to the public ear, and afford the Scotland. I was of some use to him in procuring the author an opportunity of varying his measure with the information which he desired, and guiding him to the variations of a romantic theme. On the contrary, it scenes which he wished to see. In return, he made was, to the best of my recollection, more than a year me better acquainted than I had hitherto been with after Mr. Stoddart's visit, that, by way of experiment, the poetic effusions which have since made the Lakes I composed the first two or three stanzas of “The Lay of Westmoreland, and the authors by whom they have of the Last Minstrel.” I was shortly afterwards visited been sung, so famous wherever the English tongue is by two intimate friends, one of whom still survives. spoken.
They were men whose talents might have raised them I was already acquainted with the “ Joan of Arc," to the highest station in literature, had they not prethe “ Thalaba,” and the “ Metrical Ballads” of Mr. ferred exerting them in their own profession of the Southey, which had found their way to Scotland, and law, in which they attained equal preferment. I was were generally admired. But Mr. Stoddart, who had in the habit of consulting them on my attempts at comthe advantage of personal friendship with the authors, position, having equal confidence in their sound taste and who possessed a strong memory with an excellent and friendly sincerity. In this specimen I had, in the taste, was able to repeat to me many long specimens phrase of the Highland servant, packed all that was of their poetry, which had not yet appeared in print. my own at least, for I had also included a line of invoAmongst others, was the striking fragment called cation, a little softened, from ColeridgeChristabel, by Mr. Coleridge, which, from the singu
“ Mary, mother, shield us well." larly irregular structure of the stanzas, and the liberty which it allowed the author, to adapt the sound to the As neither of my friends said much to me on the subsense, seemed to be exactly suited to such an extra- ject of the stanzas I showed them before their deparvaganza as I meditated on the subject of Gilpin Hor- ture, I had no doubt that their disgust had been
As applied to comic and humorous poetry, this greater than their good - nature chose to express. mescolanza of measures had been already used by Looking upon them, therefore, as a failure, I threw Anthony Hall, Anstey, Dr. Wolcott, and others ; but the manuscript into the fire, and thought as little it was in Christabel that I first found it used in serious more as I could of the matter. Some time afterwards poetry, and it is to Mr. Coleridge that I am bound to I met one of my two counsellors, who enquired, with make the acknowledgment due from the pupil to his considerable appearance of interest, about the progress master. I observe that Lord Byron, in noticing my of the romance I had commenced, and was greatly obligations to Mr. Coleridge, which I have been al surprised at learning its fate. He confessed that neiways most ready to acknowledge, expressed, or was ther he nor our mutual friend had been at first able to understood to express, a hope, that I did not write an give a precise opinion on a poem so much out of the unfriendly review on Mr. Coleridge's productions.? common road ; but that as they walked home together On this subject I have only to say, that I do not even to the city, they had talked much on the subject, and know the review which is alluded to ; and were I ever the result was an earnest desire that I would proceed to take the unbecoming freedom of censuring a man with the composition. He also added, that some sort of Mr. Coleridge's extraordinary talents, it would be of prologue might be necessary, to place the mind of on account of the caprice and indolence with which the hearers in the situation to understand and enjoy he has thrown from him, as if in mere wantonness, the poem, and recommended the adoption of such those unfinished scraps of poetry, which, like the quaint mottoes as Spenser has used to announce the Torso of antiquity, defy the skill of his poetical breth- contents of the chapters of the Faery Queen, such as ren to complete them. The charming fragments
“Babe's bloody hands may not be cleansed. which the author abandons to their fate, are surely too The face of golden Mean: valuable to be treated like the proofs of careless en Her sisters two, Extremities,
Strive her to banish clean." 5 gravers, the sweepings of whose studios often make the fortune of some painstaking collector.
I entirely agreed with my friendly critic in the necesI did not immediately proceed upon my projected sity of having some sort of pitch-pipe, which might
no earthly importance; but were you, reverend sir, to repeat
• To call up him who left half told your best sermon in this drawing-room, I could not tell you
The story of Cambuscan bold ? » half an hour afterwards what you had been speaking about."
Notes to the dubot.-ED.
4 One of these, William Erskine, Esq. (Lord Kinnedder), I 1 Two volumes, royal octavo. 1801,
have often had occasion to mention, and though I may hardly * Medwin's Conversations of Lord Byron, p. 309.
be thanked for disclosing the name of the other, yet I cannot
but state that the second is George Cranstoun, Esq., now a 8 Sir Walter, elsewhere, in allusion to “ Coleridge's beau- Senator of the College of Justice, by the title of Lord Coretiful and tantalizing fragment of Christabel," says, “ Has not house. 1831.-[Mr. Cranstoun resigned his seat on the Bench our own imaginative poet cause to fear that future ages will in 1839.] desire to surumon him from his place of rest, as Milton longed 5 Book II. Canto II.
make readers aware of the object, or rather the tone, of division of profits between the author and pub-
Lay of the Last Minstrel." The attempt to return to The work was subsequently shown to other friends a more simple and natural style of poetry was likely during its progress, and received the imprimatur of Mr. to be welcomed, at a time when the public had beFrancis Jeffrey, who had been already for some time come tired of heroic hexameters, with all the buckram distinguished by his critical talent.
and binding which belong to them of later days. But The poem, being once licensed by the critics as fit whatever might have been his expectations, whether for the market, was soon finished, proceeding at about moderate or unreasonable, the result left them far the rate of a canto per week. There was, indeed, behind, for among those who smiled on the adventulittle occasion for pause or hesitation, when a trouble- rous Minstrel, were numbered the great names of some rhyme might be accommodated by an alteration William Pitt and Charles Fox.? Neither was the of the stanza, or where an incorrect measure might be extent of the sale inferior to the character of the remedied by a variation of the rhyme. It was finally judges who received the poem with approbation. published in 1805, and may be regarded as the first Upwards of thirty thousand copies of the Lay were work in which the writer, who has been since so volu- disposed of by the trade; and the author had to perminous, laid his claim to be considered as an original form a task difficult to human vanity, when called author,
upon to make the necessary deductions from his own The book was published by Longman and Company, merits, in a calm attempt to account for his popuand Archibald Constable and Company. The principal larity.3 of the latter firm was then commencing that course of A few additional remarks on the author's literary bold and liberal industry which was of so much ad attempts after this period, will be found in the Introvantage to his country, and might have been so to duction to the Poem of Marmion. himself, but for causes which it is needless to enter into here. The work, brought out on the usual terms A BBOTSFORD, April 1830.
1 Mr. Owen Rees, here alluded to, retired from the house 3 “ The poet has under-estimated even the patent and tanof Longman & Co., at Midsummer 1837, and died 5th Septem-gible evidence of his success. The first edition of the Lay was ber following, in his 67th year.-ED.
a magnificent quarto, 750 copies; but this was soon exhaust
ed, and there followed an octavo impression of 1500 ; in 1806, 8“Through what channel or in what terms Fox made known two more, one of 2000 copies, another of 2250; in 1807, a fifth his opinion of the Lay, I have failed to ascertain. Pitt's praise, edition, of 2000, and a sixth, of 3000; in 1808, 3550; in 1809, as expressed to his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, within a few 3000—a small edition in quarto (the ballads and lyrical pieces weeks after the poem appeared, was repeated by her to Mr. being then annexed to it)--and another octavo edition of William Stewart Rose, who, of course, communicated it forth 3250 ; in 1811, 3000; in 1812, 3000; in 1816, 3000; in 1823, 1000. with to the author; and not long after, the Minister, in con A fourteenth impression of 2000 foolscap appeared in 1825. versation with Scott's early friend, the Right Hon. William and besides all this, before the end of 1836, 11,000 copies had Dundas, signified that it would give him pleasure to find some gone forth in the collected editions of his poetical works. opportunity of advancing the fortunes of such a writer. "I Thus, nearly forty-four thousand copies had been disposed of remember," writes this gentleman, “at Mr. Pitt's table in in this country, and by the legitimate trade alone, before he 1805, the Chancellor asked me about you and your then situa- superintended the edition of 1830), to which his biographical tion, and after I had answered him, Mr. Pitt observed— He introductions were prefixed. In the history of British Poetry can't remain as he is,' and desired me to look to it.'"- nothing had ever equalled the demand for the Lay of the Last LOCKHART. Life of Scott, Vol. II. p. 226.
Minstrel." -Life, Vol. II. p. 226.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION. The Poem, now offered to the Public, is intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently precailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants living in a state partly pastoral and partly tarlike, 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 oleject of the Author than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the Ancient Metrical Romance was alopted, which allows greater latitude, in this respect, than would be consistent uith the dignity of a regular Poem. The same modd 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 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 kis original model. The date of the Tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth centary, ichen most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is Three Nights and Three Days.
The way was long, the wind was cold,
His wither'd cheek, and tresses gray,
1 "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 time it refers to. The various exploits and adventures which
prance 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."-Crilical Reviou, 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 dog, the beacon-fires, the Jedwood-axes, the moss-troopers, the
spirit of its execution, Mr. Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel fell 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 excaptivating to the imagination than a park of artillery and
alted rank, which, on more cool and dispassionate examina
tion, its numerous essential beauties will enable it to mainbattalions of well-drilled soldiers." — Annual Review, 1804.
tain. For vivid richness of colouring and truth of costume, 2 “ It must be observed, that there is this difference between 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 casualand
wander with the poet along Tweedside, or among the wild slight; those of the other premeditated and systematic. The 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 eyes
When kindness had his wants supplied,
the lofty visions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which immediate vicinity, called Auld wark, 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
1 "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 ho The bird that flees through Redpath trees
had taken at the battle of Philiphaugh. The castle continued And Gleds wood banks each morrow,
to be an occasional seat of the Buccleuch family for more May channt 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
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
Lift, vol. vi. p. 78. that modern seat of the family; and Sir Walter Scott, no 2“ 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 subflanking 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. a mile beneath the castle.
3 Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, representa“Newark Castle 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 1685. of the tower. There was a much more ancient castle in its * Prancis Scott, Earl of Buccleuch, father of the Duchesa.
And of Earl Walter,' rest him, God !
And lighten'd up his faded eye, A braver ne'er to battle rode;
With all a poet's ecstasy ! And how full many a tale he knew,
In varying cadence, soft or strong, Of the old warriors of Buccleuch:
He swept the sounding chords along: And, would the noble Duchess deign
The present scene, the future lot,
His toils, his wants, were all forgot:
In the full tide of song were lost;
Each blank, in faithless memory void, He could make music to her ear.
The poet's glowing thought supplied ;
And, while his harp responsive rung,
'Twas thus the LATEST MINSTREL sung.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel.
I. And gave him heart, and gave him time,
The feast was over in Branksome tower. Till every string's according glee
And the Ladye had gone to her secret bower; Was blended into harmony.
Her bower that was guarded by word and by spell, And then, he said, he would full fain
Deadly to hear, and deadly to tell He could recall an ancient strain,
Jesu Maria, shield us well! He never thought to sing again.
No living wight, save the Ladye alone,
Had dared to cross the threshold stone.
The tables were drawn, it was idlesse all; And much he wish’d, yet fear’d, to try
Knight, and page, and household squire, The long-forgotten melody.
Loiter'd through the lofty hall, Amid the strings his fingers stray'd,
Or crowded round the ample fire: And an uncertain warbling made,
The stag-hounds, weary with the chase, And oft he shook his hoary head.
Lay stretch'd upon the rushy floor, But when he caught the measure wild,
And urged, in dreams, the forest race, The old man raised his face, and smiled;
From Teviot-stone to Eskdale-moor.5
| 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 2 " 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 Dever 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 touches 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;
and he wanders away immediately into all sorts of ridiculous the feelings and situation of the minstrel himself described in the words of the author. The elegance and the beauty of this
or uninteresting details, without any apparent consciousness
of incongruity. These defects Mr. Scott has corrected with setting, if we may so call it, though entirely of modern workmanship, appears to us to be fully more worthy of admiration admirable address and judgment in the greater part of the than the bolder relief of the antiques which it encloses, and
work now before us ; and while he has exhibited a very strikleads us to regret that the author should have wasted, in imita- ing and impressive picture of the old feudal usages and instition and antiquarian researches, so much of those powers which tutions, he has shown still greater talent in engrafting upon seem fully equal to the lask of raising him an independent repu
those descriptions all the tender or magnanimous emotions to lation," JEFFREY.
which the circumstances of the story naturally give rise.
Without impairing the antique air of the whole piece, or vio« See Appendix, Note A.
lating the simplicity of the ballad style, he has contrived, in