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side of law and order, and preventing the chivalrous and valiant chieftain from winning too much of our sympathy. From his dramatic entrance in Canto II. to his death in Canto VI. he is the most interesting figure in the poem-free from the mere brutality of William of Deloraine, and from the meanness that disfigures the character of of Marmion.
No clan actually occupied the whole of the district over which Roderick's sway is pictured as extending, but ClanAlpine is probably intended to represent the Macgregor Clan, which claimed descent from Alpine, and at one time occupied a part of this district.
Malcolm Græme is at once a less conspicuous and a less interesting figure in the poem. It is worth noting that the successful lovers in Scott's two preceding poems-Cranstoun in the Lay and De Wilton in Marmion—are also both rather uninteresting. The only incident in which Malcolm plays an important part does not exhibit him in a very favourable light, and in spite of the excellent character given him by the poet (see II. xxv.) we scarcely feel that he is worthy of the love of Ellen Douglas.
Ellen Douglas, the Lady of the Lake, is an admirable heroine. She is neither merely sentimental, like Margaret of Branksome; nor merely 'lovely and gentle and distress'd,' like Clara de Clare. Her love for her father, and her touch of innocent coquetry, give a charm of variety to her character, and make her the most interesting and fresh of all the female characters of Scott's poems,
Finally, to complete the necessary machinery of a Romance, the parts of minstrel and magician are supplied by Allan Bane and Brian, the grim loyalty of the one to his clan contrasting with the faithful devotion of the other to his master.
The metre of The Lady of the Lake is the old Ballad metre called octosyllabic, in which each line contains eight syllables, alternately unaccented and accented, and the lines rhyme in
couplets. But in this poem Scott has abandoned most of the methods by which, in the Lay and Marmion, he gave variety to the metre. In the account of the Battle of Beal' an Duine in Canto VI, the metre is more varied, and closely resembles that of Marmion. The only methods of giving variety to the metre that are adopted in the rest of the poem are:
(1) The transposition of the unaccented and accented syllables, generally at the beginning of a line, where the first word of the line is to be emphasized,
The antler'd monarch of the waste
Sprùng from his heathery coùch in haste.
Eager as greyhound on his gàme
1. ii. 3-4.
Fièrcely with Ròderick grappled Græme. II. xxxiv. 14-15.
(2) The introduction of Songs, about which Scott wrote to Southey: "I omitted no opportunity that could be given, or taken, of converting my dog-trot into a hop-step-and-jump."
The metres of these songs do not require detailed notice. In Ellen's song in Canto I. the accent is thrown on the first of each pair of syllables,
Soldier rest, thy warfare o'èr
Sleep the sleep that knows not wàking,
and the double or feminine rhymes give a musical cadence to the verses. Clan Alpine's Boat Song is an irregular metre where two unaccented syllables follow each accented:
Hall to the chief who in triumph advànces, &c.
which gives the sense of a slow steady swing of oars, just as the metre where one accented syllable follows two unaccented, as in the song in Marmion,
Oh yoùng Lochinvàr has come out of the west,
gives the sense of a fast gallop.
The Ballad of Alice Brand is in the favourite old Ballad metre of Chevy Chase, which Coleridge had used with great effect in the Ancient Mariner. In Blanche's Song in Canto IV. xxv. the rhymes are intentionally careless in imitation of the old Ballads.
(3) By occasional introduction of shorter lines of six syllables, often preceded by three or four lines rhyming. The only examples of this (besides those in the Battle of Beal' an Duine), are in the early part of Canto III. (stanzas ix-x).
(4) By introducing each Canto with one or more stanzas in Spenserian metre. This metre is so called because it was first employed by Spenser in the Faerie Queene. It consists of verses of nine lines, eight of ten syllables, of which the first and third; the second, fourth, fifth and seventh; and the sixth and eighth lines rhyme. The last line, rhyming with the eighth, has twelve syllables, and is called an alexandrine. Scott's Don Roderick, and Byron's Childe Harold, were written entirely in this metre.
The metre of the poem was criticized by Ellis in the Quarterly Review, and Scott's defence of it is of sufficient interest to be worth quoting almost in full. In a letter to Ellis he says:
“I am still inclined to defend the eight-syllable stanza, which I have somehow persuaded myself is more congenial to the English language-more favourable to narrative poetry at least-than that which has been commonly termed heroic verse. If you will take the trouble to read a page of Pope's Iliad, you will probably find a good many lines out of which two syllables may be struck without injury to the sense. The first lines of this translation have been repeatedly noticed as capable of being cut down from ships of the line to frigates, by striking out the said two syllabled words, as:
'Achilles' wrath, to Greece, the direful spring
Now since it is true that by throwing out the epithets underscored, we preserve the sense without diminishing the force of the verse, I do really think that the structure of verse which requires least of this sort of bolstering, is most likely to be forcible and animated. The case is different in descriptive poetry, because these epithets, if they are
happily selected, are rather to be sought for than avoided, and admit of being varied ad infinitum.......
"Besides, the eight-syllable stanza is capable of certain varieties denied to the heroic. Double rhymes, for instance, are congenial to it, which often give a sort of Gothic richness to its cadences; you may also render it more or less rapid by retaining or dropping an occasional syllable. Lastly, and which I think its principal merit, it runs better into sentences than any length of line I know, as it corresponds, upon an average view of our punctuation, very commonly with the proper and usual space between comma and comma."
The Lady of the Lake was accorded a more favourable reception by the leading critics than either of Scott's former poems. The criticism of Lord Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review is generally regarded as the best and most discriminating contemporary criticism of Scott's poetry, and is worth quoting from at some length:
"The great secret of his (Scott's) popularity and the leading characteristic of his poetry, appear to us to consist evidently in this, that he has made more use of common topics, images, and expressions, than any original poet of later times. In the choice of his subjects, for example, he does not attempt to interest merely by fine observation or pathetic sentiment, but takes the assistance of a story, and enlists the reader's curiosity among his motives for attention. Then his characters are all selected from the most common dramatis persona of poetry ;-kings, warriors, knights, outlaws, nuns, minstrels, secluded damsels, wizards, and true lovers.—In the management of the passions, again, Mr Scott appears to have pursued the same popular, and comparatively easy course....He has dazzled the reader with the splendour, and even warmed him with the transient heat of various affections; but he has nowhere fairly kindled him with enthusiasm, or melted him into tenderness. Writing for the world at large, he has wisely abstained from attempting to raise any passion to a height to which worldly people could not be transported; and contented himself with giving his reader the chance of feeling as a brave, kind, and affectionate gentleman must often feel in the ordinary course of his existence, without trying to
breathe into him either that lofty enthusiasm which disdains the ordinary business and amusements of life, or that quiet and deep sensibility which unfits for most of its pursuits. With regard to diction and imagery, too, it is quite obvious that Mr Scott has not aimed at writing either in a very pure or a very consistent style. He seems to have been anxious only to strike, and to be easily and universally understood....There is a medley of bright images and glowing words, set carelessly and loosely together—a diction tinged successively with the careless richness of Shakespeare, the harshness and antique simplicity of the old romances, the homeliness of vulgar ballads and anecdotes, and the sentimental glitter of the most modern poetry— passing from the borders of the ludicrous to those of the sublime— alternately minute and energetic-sometimes artificial, and frequently negligent—but always full of spirit and vivacity,—abounding in images that are striking, at first sight, to minds of every contexture—and never expressing a sentiment which it can cost the most ordinary reader any exertion to comprehend.
"For our own part we are of opinion that it (this poem) will be oftener read than either of the author's former publications....It is more polished in its diction, and more regular in its versification, the story is constructed with infinitely more skill and address; there is a greater proportion of pleasing and tender passages, with much less antiquarian detail; and, upon the whole, a larger variety of characters, more artfully and judiciously contrasted."
Most of the other critics of the poem naturally tried to compare it with its two predecessors; and Lockhart sums up the general opinion by saying “the Lay is generally considered as the most natural and original, Marmion as the most powerful and splendid, The Lady of the Lake as the most interesting, romantic, picturesque, and graceful."
It would probably be correct to say that The Lady of the Lake is still the most frequently read of any of Scott's poems, but is regarded by critics as on the whole inferior to its two predecessors. Hutton, in his Life of Scott, says that The Lady of the Lake seems to him to depend too much on the mere interest of the story:
"The Lady of the Lake, with the exception of two or three