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The Bridal of Triermain;
The Vale of St. John.
A LOVER'S TALE.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION."
of society; and, indeed, the difference betwixt
poetry and prose, as the vehicles of historical truth, In the EDINBURGH ANNUAL REGISTER for the year is always of late introduction. Poets, under vari1809, Three Fragments were inserted, written in ous denominations of Bards, Scalds, Chroniclers, imitation of Living Poets. It must have been ap- and so forth, are the first historians of all nations. parent, that, by these prolusions, nothing burlesque, Their intention is to relate the events they have or disrespectful to the authors was intended, but witnessed, or the traditions that have reached that they were offered to the public as serious, them; and they clothe the relation in rhyme, though certainly very imperfect, imitations of that merely as the means of rendering it more solemn style of composition, by which each of the writers in the narrative, or more easily committed to memis supposed to be distinguished. As these exer- ory. But as the poetical historian improves in the cises attracted a greater degree of attention than art of conveying information, the authenticity of the author anticipated, he has been induced to his narrative unavoidably declines. He is tempted complete one of them, and present it as a separate to dilate and dwell upon the events that are inpublication.
teresting to his imagination, and, conscious how inIt is not in this place that an examination of the different his audience is to the naked truth of his works of the master whom he has here adopted as poem, his history gradually becomes a romance. his model, can, with propriety, be introduced; since It is in this situation that those epics are found, his general acquiescence in the favorable suffrage which have been generally regarded the standards of the public must necessarily be inferred from the of poetry; and it has happened somewhat strangeattempt he has now made. He is induced, by the ly, that the moderns have pointed out as the charnature of his subject, to offer a few remarks on acteristics and peculiar excellencies of narrative what has been called ROMANTIC POETRY ;—the pop- poetry, the very circumstances which the authors ularity of which has been revived in the present themselves adopted, only because their art involved day, under the auspices, and by the unparalleled the duties of the historian as well as the poet. It success, of one individual.
cannot be believed, for example, that Homer seThe original purpose of poetry is either religious lected the siege of Troy as the most appropriate 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 early history of his country; the event he has Homer have many of the features of pure romance: chosen, though not very fruitful in varied incident, but in the estimation of his contemporaries, they nor perfectly well adapted for poetry, was neverprobably derived posed historical authof value from their sup- theless combined with traditionary and genealo
The same may be gical anecdotes extremely interesting to those who generally said of the poetry of all early ages. The were to listen to him; and this he has adorned by marvels and miracles which the poet blends with the exertions of a genius, which, if it has been his song, do not exceed in number or extravagance equalled, has certainly been never surpassed. It the figments of the historians of the same period was not till comparatively a late period that the
1 Published in March, 1813, by John Ballantyne and Co. As he was more than suspected of a taste for poetry, and as I 12mo. 7s. 60.
took care, in several places, to mix something which might re9 Sir Walter Scott, in his Introduction to the Lord of the semble (as far as was in my power) my friend's feeling and Isles, says," Being much urged by my intimate friend, now manner, the train easily caught, and two large editions were unhappily no more, William Erskine, I agreed to write the sold. A third being called for, Lord Kinedder became unwilllittle romantic tale called the Bridal of Triermain ;' but it ing to aid any longer a deception which was going farther was on the condition, that he should make no serious effort to than he expected or desired, and the real author's name was disown the composition, if report should lay it at his door. given."
general accuracy of his narrative, or his purpose in the inferiority of genius. The contrary course has composing it, was brought into question. Sorei been inculcated by almost all the writers upon the πρώτος [ο Αναξαγόρας] (καθά φησι Φαβορίνος εν παντοδαπή | Εφοραία; with what success, the fate of Homer's Ιστορία) την 'Ομήρε ποίησιν απoφήνασθαι είναι περί αρετής | numerous imitators may best show. The ultimata kal dikalocúvms.' But whatever theories might be supplicium of criticism was inflicted on the author framed by speculative men, his work was of an if he did not choose a subject which at once dehistorical, not of an allegorical nature. Evaurl//leto prived him of all claim to originality, and placed μετά το Μέντεω, και όπε εκάστοτε αφίκοιτο, πάντα τα επι- him, if not in actual contest, at least in fatal comχώρια διερωτάτο, και ιστορέων επυνθάνετο' εικός δέ μιν ήν και | parison, with those giants in the land, whom it was uynuoguva návrwv ypápedbar.Instead of recommend- most his interest to avoid. The celebrated receipt ing the choice of a subject similar to that of Ho- for writing an epic poem, which appeared in The mer, it was to be expected that critics should have Guardian,' was the first instance in which common exhorted the poets of these latter days to adopt sense was applied to this department of poetry; or invent a narrative in itself more susceptible of and, indeed, if the question be considered on its poetical ornament, and to avail themselves of that own merits, we must be satisfied that narrative advantage in order to compensate, in some degree, poetry, if strictly confined to the great occurrences
1 Diogenes Laertius, lib. ii. Anaxag. Segm. 11.
is according to the direct prescription of Horace in his Art of Poetry :
FOR THE FABLE.
FOR THE MANNERS.
S A RECEIPT TO MAKE AN EPIC POEM.
Nec Dens intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Inciderit.'—Verse 191. “Take out of any old poem, history book, romance, or le gend (for instance, Geoffry of Monmouth, or Don Belianis of Never presume to make a god appear Greece), those parts of story which afford most scope for long But for a business worthy of a god.'-Roscommon. descriptions. Put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then take a hero whom That is to say, a poet should never call upon the gods for their you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into assistance, but when he is in great perplexity.” the midst of these adventures. There let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out ready pre
FOR THE DESCRIPTIONS. pared to conquer or marry, it being necessary that the conclu- For a Tempest.-—" Take Euras, Zephyr, Auster, and Boresion of an epic poem be fortunate."
as, and cast them together into one verse. Add to these, of To make an Episode.—“Take any remaining adventure of rain, lightning, and of thunder (the loudest you can), quantum your former collection, in which you could no way involve sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows well together until they your hero, or any unfortunate accident that was too good to be foam, and thicken your description here and there with a thrown away, and it will be of use, applied to any other per quicksand. Brew your tempest well in your head before you son, who may be lost and evaporate in the course of the work, set it a-blowing." without the least damage to the composition."
For a Buttle.—“Pick a large quantity of images and de For the Moral and Allegory." These you may extract scriptions from Homer's Iliad, with a spice or two of Virgil ; out of the fable afterwards at your leisure. Be sure you strain and if there remain any overplus, you may lay them by for a them sufficiently."
skirmish. Season it well with similes, and it will make an ercellent battle."
For a Burning Town." If such a description be necessary, “For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you can because it is certain there is one in Virgil, Old Troy is ready find in all the celebrated heroes of antiquity; if they will not burnt to your hands. But if you fear that would be thought be reduced to a consistency, lay them all on a heap upon him. borrowed, a chapter or two of the Theory of Conflagration, Be sure they are qualities which your patron would be thought well circumstanced, and done into verse, will be a good sucto have; and, to prevent any mistake which the world may cedaneum." be subject to, select from the alphabet those capital letters that As for similes and metaphors, “they may be found all compose his name, and set them at the head of a dedication over the creation. The most ignorant may gather them, but before your poem. However, do not absolutely observe the the danger is in applying them. For this, advise with your exact quantity of these virtues, it not being determined whether bookseller." 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
FOR THE LANGUAGE. Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves."
(I mean the diction.) “Here it will do well to be an imita
tor of Milton; for you will find it easier to imitate him in this FOR THE MACHINES.
than any thing else. Hebraisms and Grecisms are to be found “Take of deities, male and female, as many as you can use. in him without the trouble of learning the languages. I knew Separate them into equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle. a painter, who (like our poet) had no genius, make his daubLet Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus mollify him. Reings to be thought originals, by setting them in the smoke. member on all occasions to make use of volatile Mercury. If
in the same manner, give the venerable air of anyou have need of devils, draw them out of Milton's Paradise, tiquity to your piece, by darkening up and down like Old Eng. and extract your spirits from Tasso. The use of these ma- lish. With this you may be easily furnished upon any occachines is evident, for, since no epic poem can possibly subsist sion, by the Dictionary commonly printed at the end of Chauwithout them, the wisest way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities. When you cannot extricate your hero by any
1 From Lib. iii. De Conflagratione Mundi, or Tellaris Theoria Seers, human means, or yourself by your own wits, seek relief from
published in 4to. 1689. By Dr. Thomas Bumet, master of the Charter. Heaven, and the gods will do your business very readily. This
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
Modern poets may therefore be pardoned in as it affords an example capable of being easily seeking simpler subjects of verse, more interesting imitated. in proportion to their simplicity. Two or three According to the author's idea of Romantic. figures, well grouped, suit the artist better than Poetry. as distinguished from Epic, the former a crowd, for whatever purpose assembled. For comprehends a fictitious narrative, framed and the same reason, a scene immediately presented combined at the pleasure of the writer ; beginto the imagination, and directly brought home to ning and ending as he may judge best : which the feelings, though involving the fate of but one neither exacts nor refuses the use of supernatural or two persons, is more favorable for poetry than machinery; which is free from the technical rules the political struggles and convulsions which in- of the Epée; and is subject only to those which fluence the fate of kingdoms. The former are good sense, good taste, and good morals, apply within the reach and comprehension of all, and, to every species of poetry without exception. if depicted with vigor, seldom fail to fix atten- The date may be in a remote age, or in the tion: The other, if more sublime, are more vague present; the story may detail the adventures of and distant, less capable of being distinctly un- a prince or of a peasant. In a word, the author derstood, and infinitely less capable of exciting is absolute master of his country and its inhabithose sentiments which it is the very purpose of tants, and every thing is permitted to him, exceptpoetry to inspire. To generalize is always to ing to be heavy or prosaic, for which, free and destroy effect. We would, for example, be more | unembarrassed as he is, he has no manner of interested in the fate of an individual soldier in apology. Those, it is probable, will be found the combat, than in the grand event of a general peculiarities of this species of composition; and, action; with the happiness of two lovers raised before joining the outcry against the vitiated taste from misery and anxiety to peace and union, than that fosters and encourages it, the justice and with the successful exertions of a whole nation. grounds of it ought to be made perfectly apFrom what causes this may originate, is a sep- parent. If the want of sieges, and battles, and arate and obviously an immaterial consideration. great military evolutions, in our poetry, is comBefore ascribing this peculiarity to causes de plained of, let us reflect, that the campaigns and cidedly 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 that neither requires nor admits of the aid of ficwhile their affections and conduct are regulated, tion; and if the complaint refers to the inferiority not by aspiring to an universal good, but by of our bards, let us pay a just tribute to their exerting their power of making themselves and modesty, limiting them, as it does, to subjects others happy within the limited scale allotted to which, however indifferently treated, have still each individual, so long will individual history the interest and charm of novelty, and which thus and individual virtue be the readier and more prevents them from adding insipidity to their accessible road to general interest and attention ; other more insuperable defects.?
“I must not conclude without cautioning all writers without “ In the same letter in which William Erskine acknowlgenius in one material point, which is, never to be afraid of edges the receipt of the first four pages of Rokeby, he adhaving too much fire in their works. I should advise rather verts also to the Bridal of Triermain as being already in rapid to take their warmest thoughts, and spread them abroad upon progress. The fragments of this second poem, inserted in the paper; for they are observed to cool before they are read.”- Register of the preceding year, had attracted considerable Pope. The Guardian, No. 78.
notice; the secret of their authorship had been well kept ; 1 “In all this we cheerfully acquiesce, without abating any and by some means, even in the shrewdest circles of Edinthing of our former hostility to the modern Romaunt style, burgh, the belief had become prevalent that they proceeded which is founded on very different principles. Nothing is, in not from Scott, but from Erskine. Scott had no sooner comour opinion, so dangerous to the very existence of poetry as pleted his bargain as to the copyright of the unwritten Rokeby, the extreme laxity of rule and consequent facility of compo than he resolved to pause from time to time in its composisition, which are its principal characteristics. Our very ad- tion, and weave those fragments into a shorter and lighter mission in favor of that license of plot and conduct which is romance,
executed in a different metre, and to be published elaimed by the Romance writers, ought to render us so much anonymously, in a small pocket volume, as nearly as possible the more guarded in extending the privilege to the minor on the same day with the avowed quarto. He expected poets of composition and versification. The removal of all great amusement from the comparisons which the critics technical bars and impediments sets wide open the gates of would no doubt indulge themselves in drawing between himParnassus; and so much the better. We dislike mystery self and this humble candidate ; and Erskine good-humoredly quite as much in matters of taste, as of politics and religion.entered into the scheme, undertaking to do nothing which But let us not, in opening the door, pall down the wall, and should effectually suppress the notion of his having set him level the very foundation of the edifice."-Critical Review, self up as a modest rival to his friend."--Life of Scott, vol. 1813.
The Bridal of Triermain.
The woodland brook we needs must pass;
Though vanish'd from the velvet grass.
Round petty isles the runnels glide,
A dry-shod pass from side to side.
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,' Noble in birth, in fortunes high, She for whom lords and barons sigh, Meets her poor Arthur in the dale.
IV. 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 ? 01 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 glos; Well pleased that thou art Arthur's choice,
Yet shamed thine own is placed so low: Thou turnst 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.
Nay, why this hesitating pause ?
Titania's foot without a slip,
From stone to stone might safely trip,
Nor risk the glow-worm clasp to dip
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 !
Paled in by copsewood, cliff, and stone,
To break affection's whispering tone, Than the deep breeze that waves the shade,
Than the small brooklet's feeble moan. Comel rest thee on thy wonted seat;
Moss'd is the stone, the turf is green,
The load-star of each heart and eye,
With such a blush and such a sigh!
1 MS.-" Haughty eye."
" with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love."-Hamlet.
Nor leave me on this mossy bank,
To meet a rival on a throne:
Its strings no feudal slogan pour,
VI. 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 ?? They praised thy diamonds' lustre rare
Match'd with thine eyes, I thought it faded; They praised the pearls that bound thy hair
I 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.”
That best may charm romantic ear.
The Bridal of Triermain.
VII. 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. 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."
from those of this vulgar world."-Quarterly Review, July, MS.-“And Lucy's gems before her eyes."
1813. * The Mocking Bird. 4 MS."Perchance, because it sung their praise."
“The poem now before us consists properly of two distinct
subjects, interwoven together something in the manner of the 5 See Appendix, Note A.
Last Minstrel and his Lay, in the first and most enchanting of E" The Introduction, though by no means destitute of beat- Walter Scott's romances. The first is the history (real or imties, is decidedly inferior to the Poem : its plan, or conception, aginary, we presume not to guess which) of the author's pasis neither very ingenions nor very striking. The best passages sion, courtship, and marriage, with a young lady, his superior are those which the author adheres most strictly to his ori- in rank and circumstances, to whom he relates at intervals the ginal : in those which are composed without having his eyes story which may be considered as the principal design of the fixed on his model, there is a sort of affectation and straining work, to which it gives its title. This is a mode of introduat hamor, that will probably excite some feeling of disappoint-cing romantic and fabulous narratives which we very much ment, either because the effort is not altogether successful, or approve, though there may be reason to fear that too frequent because it does not perfectly harmonize with the tone and col- repetition may wear out its effect. It attaches a degree of oring of the whole piece.
dramatic interest to the work, and at the same time softens the “ The Bridal itself is purely a tale of chivalry ; a tale of absurdity of a Gothic legend, by throwing it to a greater dis* Britain's isle, and Arthur's days, when midnight fairies tance from the relation and auditor, by representing it, not as daunced the maze.' The author never gives us a glance of a train of facts which actually took place, but as a mere fable, ordinary life, or of ordinary personages. From the splendid either adopted by the credulity of former times, or invented court of Arthur, we are conveyed to the halls of enchant- for the purposes of amusement, and the exercise of the imment, and, of course, are introduced to a system of man- agination."--Critical Review, 1813. bers, perfectly decided and appropriate, but altogether remote 7 See Appendix, Note B.