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The Vision of Don Roderick.'.
Quid dignum memorare tuis, Hispania, terris,
| a sketch of the usurpation attempted upon that
unsuspicious and friendly kingdom, and terminates The following Poem is founded upon a Spanish with the arrival of the British succors. It may be Tradition, particularly detailed in the Notes; but farther proper to mention, that the object of the bearing, in general, that Don Roderick, the last Poem is less to commemorate or detail particular Gothic King of Spain, when the Invasion of the incidents than to exhibit a general and impressive Moors was impending, had the temerity to descend picture of the several periods brought upon the stage. into an ancient vault, near Toledo, the opening of I am too sensible of the respect due to the Public, which had been denounced as fatal to the Spanish especially by one who has already experienced more Monarchy. The legend adds, that his rash curiosity than ordinary indulgence, to offer any apology for was mortified by an emblematical representation the inferiority of the poetry to the subject it is chiefly of those Saracens who, in the year 714, defeated designed to commernorate. Yet I think it proper to him in battle, and reduced Spain under their do- mention, that while I was hastily executing a work, minion. I have presumed to prolong the Vision of written for a temporary purpose, and on passing the Revolutions of Spain down to the present events, the task was most cruelly interrupted by the eventful crisis of the Peninsula; and to divide it, successive deaths of Lord PRESIDENT BLAIR,' and by a supposed change of scene, into THREE PERIODS. LORD VISCOUNT MELVILLE. In those distinguished The First of these represents the Invasion of the characters I had not only to regret persons whose Moors, the Defeat and Death of Roderick, and lives were most important to Scotland, but also closes with the peaceful occupation of the country whose notice and patronage honored my entrance by the Victors. The SECOND PERIOD embraces the upon active life; and, I may add, with melancholy state of the Peninsula, when the conquests of the pride, who permitted my more advanced age to Spaniards and Portuguese in the East and West claim no common share in their friendship. Under Indies had raised to the highest pitch the renown such interruptions, the following verses, which my of their arms; sullied, however, by superstition and best and happiest efforts must have left far unworthy cruelty. An allusion to the inhumanities of the of their theme, have, I am myself sensible, an appearInquisition terminates this picture. The Last Part ance of negligence and incoherence, which, in other of the Poem opens with the state of Spain previous circumstances, I might have been able to remove." to the unparalleled treachery of BONAPARTE; gives | EDINBURGH, June 24, 1811.
· The Vision of Don Roderick appeared in 4to, in July 15, 1811; and in the course of the same year was also inserted in
work was the property of Sir Walter Scott's then publishers, Messrs. John Ballantyne and Co.
the Court of Sessions, was the son of the Rev. Robert Blair, author of "The Grave." After long filling the office of Solicitor-General in Scotland with high distinction, he was elevated to the Presidency in 1808. He died very suddenly on the 30th May, 1811, in the 70th year of his age, and his intimate friend, Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, having gone into Edinburgh on purpose to attend his remains to the grave, was taken ill not less suddenly, and died there the very hour that the funeral took plare, on the 28th of the same month.
: In a letter to J. B. S. Morritt, Esq., Edinburgh, July 1,
1811, Scott says—"I have this moment got your kind letter, just as I was packing up Don Roderick for you. This patriotic puppet-show has been finished under wretched auspices; poor Lord Melville's death so quickly succeeding that of President Blair, one of the best and wisest judges that ever distributed justice, broke my spirit sadly. My official situation placed me in daily contact with the President, and his ability and candor were the source of my daily admiration. As for poor dear Lord Melville, 'tis vain to name him whom we mourn in vain.' Almost the last time I saw him, he was talking of you in the bighest terms of regard, and expressing great hopes of again seeing you at Dunira this summer, where I proposed to attend you. Hei mihil quid hei mihi? humana perpessi sumus. His loss will be long and severely felt here, and Envy is already paying her cold tribute of applause to the worth which she maligned while it walked opon earth."
The Vision of Don Roderick.
JOHN WHITMORE, Esq.
AND TO THE
COMMITTEE OF SUBSCRIBERS FOR RELIEF OF THE PORTUGUESE SUFFERERS,
IN WHICH HE PRESIDES,
(THE VISION OF DON RODERICK,)
IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY
sure, Lives there a strain, whose sounds of mounting Might melodize with each tumultuous sound, fire
Each voice of fear or triumph, woe or pleaMay rise distinguish'd o'er the din of war;
sure, Or died it with yon Master of the Lyre,
That rings Mondego's ravaged shores around; Who sung beleaguer'd Ilion's evil star ?
The thundering cry of hosts with conquest Such, WELLINGTON, might reach thee from afar,
crown'd, · Wafting its descant wide o'er Ocean's range; The female shriek, the ruin'd peasant's moan, Nor shouts, nor clashing arms, its mood could mar, The shout of captives from their chains unAll as it swell’d 'twixt each loud trumpet
The foild oppressor's deep and şullen groan, That clangs to Britain victory, to Portugal revenge! | A Nation's choral hymn for tyranny o'erthrown.
1 " The letters of Scott to all his friends have sufficiently "The poem was published, in 4to, in July; and the immeshown the unflagging interest with which, among all his per diate proceeds were forwarded to the board in London. His sonal labors and anxieties, he watched the progress of the great friend the Earl of Dalkeith (afterwards Duke of Buccleuch) contest in the Peninsula. It was so earnest, that he never on writes thus on the occasion :- Those with ampler fortunes any journey, not even in his very frequent passages between and thicker heads may easily give one hundred guineas to a Edinburgh and Ashestiel, omitted to take with him the largest subscription, but the man is really to be envied who can draw and best map he had been able to procure of the seat of war; that sum from his own brains, and apply the produce so beneupon this he was perpetually pouring, tracing the marches and ficially and to so exalted a purpose.'"--Life of Scott, vol. ij. counter-marches of the French and English by means of black pp. 312, 315. and white pins; and not seldom did Mrs. Scott complain of
2 MS.-" Who sung the changes of the Phrygian jar." this constant occupation of his attention and her carriage. In
3 MS.--"Claiming thine ear 'twixt each load trumpet.' the beginning of 1811, a committee was formed in London to collect subscriptions for the relief of the Portuguese, who had
change." seen their lands wasted, their vines torn up, and their houses 4 «The too monotonous close of the stanza is sometimes burnt in the course of Massena's last unfortunate campaign ; diversified by the adoption of fourteen-foot vente,-a license in and Scott, on reading the advertisement, immediately addressed poetry which, since Dryden, has (we believe) been altogether Mr. Whitmore, the chairman, begging that the committee abandoned, but which is nevertheless very deserving of revival, would allow him to contribute to their fund the profits, to so long as it is only rarely and judiciously used. The very whatever they might amount, of a poem which he proposed to first stanza in this poem affords an instance of it; and, intro write upon a subject connected with the localities of the patri duced thus in the very front of the battle, we cannot help conotic struggle. His offer was of course accepted ; and TRE sidering it as a fault, especially clogged as it is with the assoVISION OF DON RODERICK wns began as soon as the Spring | ciation of a defective rhyme-change, revenge."-Critical vacation enabled him to retire to Ashestiel.
Review, Aug. 1811.
Capricious-swelling now, may soon be lost, But we, weak minstrels of a laggard day,
Like the light flickering of a cottage fire; Skill'd but to imitate an elder page,
If to such task presumptuous thou aspire, Timid and raptureless, can we repay?
Seek not from us the meed to warrior due: The debt thou claim'st in this exhausted age? Age after age has gather'd son to sire, Thou givest our lyres a theme, that might en- Since our gray cliffs the din of conflict knew, gage
[land, Or, pealing through our vales, victorious bugles Those that could send thy name o'er sea and
blew. While sea and land shall last; for Homer's rage A theme; a theme for Milton's mighty hand
VIII. How much unmeet for us, a faint degenerate band !? “ Decay'd our old traditionary lore, [ring,
Save where the lingering fays renew their
By milk-maid seen beneath the hawthorn hoar, Ye mountains stern! within whose rugged
Or round the marge of Minchmore's haunted breast
[sing, The friends of Scottish freedom found repose;
Save where their legends gray-hair'd shepherds Ye torrents! whose hoarse sounds have soothed
That now scarce win a listening ear but thine, their rest,
Of feuds obscure, and Border ravaging, Returning from the field of vanquish'd foes ;
And rugged deeds recount in rugged line, Say, have ye lost each wild majestic close,
of moonlight foray made on Teviot, Tweed, or That erst the choir of Bards or Druids flung;
“No! search romantic lands, where the near Sun warch sung!
Gives with unstinted boon ethereal flame, V.
Where the rude villager, his labor done, (name, 0! if your wilds such minstrelsy retain,
In verse spontaneous chants some favor'd As sure your changeful gales seem oft to say, Whether Olalia's charms his tribute claim, When sweeping wild and sinking soft again,
Her eye of diamond, and her locks of jet; Like trumpet-jubilee, or harp's wild sway; Or whether, kindling at the deeds of Græme,? If ye can echo such triumphant lay,
He sing, to wild Morisco measure set, Then lend the note to him has loved you long! Old Albin's red claymore, green Erin's bayonet ! Who pious gather'd each tradition gray,
That floats your solitary wastes along, (song, And with affection vain gave them new voice in “Explore those regions, where the flinty crest
Of wild Nevada ever gleams with snows, VI.
Where in the proud Alhambra's ruin'd breast For not till now, how oft soe'er the task
Barbaric monuments of pomp repose; Of truant verse hath lighten'd graver care, Or where the banners of more ruthless foes From Muse or Sylvan was he wont to ask,
Than the fierce Moor, float o'er Toledo's fane, In phrase poetic, inspiration fair;
From whose tall towers even now the patriot Careless he gave his numbers to the air,
throws They came unsought for, if applauses came; An anxious glance, to spy upon the plain Nor for himself prefers he now the prayer; The blended ranks of England, Portugal, and Spain.
Let but his verse befit a hero's fame, Immortal be the verse !—forgot the poet's name.
“There, of Numantian fire a swarthy spark VII.
Still lightens in the sun-burnt native's eye; Hark, from yon misty cairn their answer tost :* The stately port, slow step, and visage dark, "Minstrell the fame of whose romantic lyre,
Still mark enduring pride and constancy.
1 MS.-"Unform'd for rapture, how shall we repay."
Lyres that could richly yield thee back its due ;
A theme more grand than Maro ever knew-
8 See Appendix, Note A.
Hark, from the Brothers' cairn the answer tost.") See Appendix, Note B,
Ibid. Note C. 7 Ibid. Note D.
And, if the glow of feudal chivalry
Tissues of silk and silver twisted sheen, Beam not, as once, thy nobles' dearest pride, And standards proudly pitch'd, and warders arm'd Iberia I oft thy crestless peasantry
between. Have seen the plumed Hidalgo quit their side, Have seen, yet dauntless stood—'gainst fortune
IIL fought and died.
But of their Monarch's person keeping ward,
Since last the deep-mouth'd bell of vespers XII.
tollid, “ And cherish'd still by that unchanging race, The chosen soldiers of the royal guard Are themes for minstrelsy more high than The post beneath the proud Cathedral hold: thine;
A band unlike their Gothic sires of old, Of strange tradition many a mystic trace,
Who, for the cap of steel and iron mace, Legend and vision, prophecy and sign; Bear slender darts, and casques bedeck'd with Where wonders wild of Arabesque combine With Gothic imagery of darker shade,
While silver-studded belts their shoulders Forming a model meet for minstrel line. [said:
grace, Go, seek such theme !”—The Mountain Spirit / Where ivory quivers ring in the broad falchion's With filial awe I heard—I heard, and I obey'd.?
In the light language of an idle court, The Vision of Don Roderick. They murmur'd at their master's long delay,
And held his lengthen'd orisons in sport:
“ What! will Don Roderick here till morning Rearing their crests amid the cloudless skies,
And darkly clustering in the pale moonlight, To wear in shrift and prayer the night away? Toledo's holy towers and spires arise,
And are his hours in such dull penance past, As from a trembling lake of silver white. For fair Florinda's plunder'd charms to pay "_* Their mingled shadows intercept the sight
Then to the east their weary eyes they cast, Of the broad burial-ground outstretch'd below, | And wish'd the lingering dawn would glimmer And naught disturbs the silence of the night;
forth at last. All sleeps in sullen shade, or silver glow, All save the heavy swell of Teio's ceaseless flow.'
But, far within, Toledo's Prelate lent
An ear of fearful wonder to the King; All save the rushing swell of Teio's tide,
The silver lamp a fitful lustre sent, Or, distant heard, a courser's neigh or tramp; So long that sad confession witnessing: Their changing rounds as watchful horsemen For Roderick told of many a hidden thing, ride,
Such as are lothly utter'd to the air, To guard the limits of King Roderick's camp. When Fear, Remorse, and Shame, the bosom For, through the river's night-fog rolling damp,
wring, Was many a proud pavilion dimly seen,
And Guilt his secret burden cannot bear, Which glimmer'd back, against the moon's fair And Conscience seeks in speech a respite from Delamp,
1 MS.--" And lingering still 'mid that unchanging race.”
2 “ The Introduction, we confess," says the Quarterly Reviewer, “ does not please us so well as the rest of the poem, though the reply of the Mountain Spirit is exquisitely written." The Edinburgh critic, after quoting stanzas ix. x, and xi. says :-_"The Introduction, though splendidly written, is too long for so short a poem ; and the poet's dialogue with his native mountains is somewhat too startling and unnatural, The most spirited part of it, we think, is their direction to Spanish themes."
which he dwells; and it is on such occasions, especially suited
Their proud pavilions hide the meadow green." 6 MS.--" Bore javelins slight.”
$ The Monthly Review, for 1811, in quoting this stanza, says-"Scarcely any poet, of any age or country, has excelled Mr. Scott in bringing before our sight the very scene which he is describing-in giving a reality of existence to every object on
6 The Critical Reviewer, having quoted stanzas i, ü. and iii. says-"To the specimens with which his former works abonnd. of Mr. Scott's unrivalled excellence in the descriptions, both of natural scenery and romantic manners and costume, these stanzas will be thought no mean addition."
7 See Appendix, Note E.
IX. Full on the Prelate's face, and silver hair, "O harden'd offspring of an iron race! [say!
The stream of failing light was feebly rollid :: What of thy crimes, Don Roderick, shall I But Roderick's visage, though his head was bare, What alms, or prayers, or penance, can efface
Was shadow'd by his hand and mantle's fold. Murder's dark spot, wash treason's stain away! While of his hidden soul the sins he told,
For the foul ravisher how shall I pray, Proud Alaric's descendant could not brook," Who, scarce repentant, makes his crime his That mortal man his bearing should behold,
boast ? Or boast that he had seen, when Conscience How hope Almighty vengeance shall delay, shook,
[look. Unless in mercy to yon Christian host, Fear tame a monarch's brow, Remorse a warrior's He spare the shepherd, lest the guiltless sheep
be lost." VII. The old man's faded cheek wax'd yet more pale,
X. As many a secret sad the King bewray'd ; Then kindled the dark Tyrant in his mood; As sign and glance eked out the unfinish'd tale, And to his brow return'd its dauntless gloom;
When in the midst his faltering whisper staid. “And welcome then," he cried, " be blood for - Thus royal Witiza* was slain,”—he said;
blood, " Yet, holy Father, deem not it was I.”
For treason treachery, for dishonor doom! * Thus still Ambition strives her crimes to shade. Yet will I know whence come they, or by whom. “Oh! rather deem 'twas stern necessity!
Show, for thou canst-give forth the fated key, Self-preservation bade, and I must kill or die.
And guide me, Priest, to that mysterious room,
Where, if aught trce in old tradition be, VIII.
His nation's future fates a Spanish King shall see."" * And if Florinda's shrieks alarm'd the air,
If she invoked her absent sire in vain, And on her knees implored that I would spare, “Ill-fated Prince ! recall the desperate word,
Yet, reverend priest, thy sentence rash refrain!! . Or pause ere yet the omen thou obey ! All is not as it seems-the female train
Bethink, yon spell-bound portal would affordo Know by their bearing to disguise their Never to former Monarch entrance-way; mood:"—
Nor shall it ever ope, old records say, But Conscience bere, as if in high disdain,
Save to a King, the last of all his line, Sent to the Monarch's cheek the burning What time his empire totters to decay, blood
[stood. And treason digs, beneath, her fatal mine, He stay'd his speech abrupt—and up the Prelate And, high above, impends avenging wrath divine.”
1 MS.-" The feeble lamp in dying lustre
The waves of broken light were feebly S 2 MS.-- ** The haughty monarch's heart could evil brook.”
3 The Quarterly Reviewer says-- The moonlight scenery of the camp and burial-ground is evidently by the same powerfal hand which sketched the Abbey of Melrose and in this picture of Roderick's confession, there are traits of even a higher cast of sublimity and pathos."
The Edinburgh Reviewer introduces his quotations of the i. ii. v. and vi, stanzas thus-“The poem is substantially divided into two compartments ;--the one representing the fabuloss or prodigions acts of Don Roderick's own time,--and the other the recent occurrences which have since signalized the same quarter of the world. Mr. Scott, we think, is most at home in the first of these fields; and we think, upon the whole, has most success in it. The opening affords a fine specimen of his anrivalled powers of description."
The reader may be gratified with having the following lines, from Mr. Southey's Roderick, inserted here :
His nature to the effort, he exclaim'd,
Expected life or death."-
The predecessor of Roderick opon the Spanish throne, and slain by his connivance, as is affirmed by Rodriguez of Toledo, the father of Spanish history. 5 MS." He spare to smite the shepherd, lest the sheep be
Then Roderick knelt
Bethink, that brazen portal would afford.”