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• Thou ledst the dance with Malcolm Græme,'
The Cross, thus form'd, he held on high,
Press'd on her lips a fond adieu,
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Scott's first considerable work, made him famous, and Marmion seated him far above any contemporary poet in popular esteem. Byron was only known as a versifier who had turned and rent his critics in a satire; Wordsworth, unregarded, had already written his best; of Coleridge few had heard; Shelley was as yet unknown; Keats too was a schoolboy; and if Scott could be said to have a rival, that rival was Campbell, or Crabbe. Posterity has reversed some of these judgments of contemporary readers: for the excellences of Wordsworth, when he chances on them, are higher in kind than those of Scott; and Coleridge, in his rare hours of inspiration, is, of all poets, the most wonderfully inspired. Without his still unpublished Christabel as a model, indeed, The Lay would never have taken the shape it bears. We may reckon Coleridge and Words
worth above Scott, but he did what they could
not do he gave the world poetry which the world could read and understand. His touches of the Harp of the North, he says, may be
'Harsh and faint, and soon to die away,
Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway,
The wizard note has not been touch'd in vain.'
All hearts throbbed higher,' for Scott's simple aim was to 'stir the blood,' like Sir Philip Sidney's favourite ballad, and his aim he did not miss. It was not his object to provoke reflection, as it was Wordsworth's, nor to enchant by a mysterious fairy music, like Coleridge, but to make hearts beat at the revived spectacle of chivalrous energies, and of mountain beauty. Others, before Scott, had lifted up their eyes unto the hills, and seen that they were fair. Gray had done this, but he had not opened the sight of men to the 'mountain gloom and the mountain glory.' Captain Burt spoke for the English taste, about 1730, when he grumbled at the hideous brown hills, with their untidy outlines and 'dirty purple,' particularly ugly 'when the heather is in bloom.' It was not an Englishman who told Dr. Johnson that Scotland 'has
noble wild prospects,' thereby enabling the Doctor to place his remark about 'the road to England.' Scott enabled people to see what he saw, and this is a chief function of the poet. He added to the world's store of beauty, he made hearts throb, he told a good tale, and had every reason to be content with his success. Since Burns, no other poet had reached the world's ear: he reached a far wider world than Burns at that time commanded, and he influenced Germany and France. He certainly deserved the proud place which he yielded so good-humouredly to Byron's melodramatics.
In The Lay Scott had glorified his Own ancestral country, the Border. In Marmion he had told a tale of chivalry and of Flodden Field. He looked for a fresh theme, and found it in the ancient manners and in the scenery of the Highlands. The scenery was still only known to English sportsmen and scribbling travellers. The manners were merely regarded as waning survivals of that barbarism which, after 1745, English statesmen had been SO anxious to improve.' A wave of Tory enthusiasm for the Highlands did pass over parts