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His last conscious words, an epitome of his whole life, were to his son-in-law and biographer, John Gibson Lockhart: "Lockhart, I may have but a moment to speak to you. My dear, be a good man be virtuous be reli gious-be virtuous-be a good man. Nothing else will give you any comfort when you come to lie here." Then, being asked if his two daughters, Sophia and Anne, should be sent for, he replied: "No, don't disturb them. Poor souls, I know they were up all night. God bless you all!" Four days later, September 21, 1832, he passed away from earth, and on the 26th the funeral cortège wound over the hills, bearing the body to the tomb of his ancestors, within the imposing ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, under the caressing branches of the grand old trees, which help to make the place one of the most beautiful in Great Britain. The Tweed flowing by is now spanned by a little suspension foot-bridge, and the sloping banks are a bower of wild roses, "falling in streamers green."
One July day the writer of this little sketch entered the railway carriage at St. Boswells, with hands full of the fragrant sweetbrier, which the old coachman had culled during our absence at the Abbey. A gentle lady and her daughter were already in the compartment. Some of the roses naturally soon found their way to the white-haired mother, and, before reaching Hawick, we learned that the ladies dwelt at the Duke of Buccleugh's castle, the Branksome Tower where the Last Minstrel chanted his Lay. "You must have just come from Dryburgh," exclaimed the daughter, "for no roses grow anywhere else as fine and sweet-scented as these of
Dryburgh Abbey!" The fragrance of the wild roses was a fitting ending to our day at the home and the burialplace of Walter Scott, for, eighty-five years before, he
"O wilding rose, whom fancy thus endears,
I bid your blossoms in my bonnet wave;
- The Lady of the Lake. Prelude to Canto IV.
THE LADY OF THE LAKE
The Lady of the Lake, the third and most universally popular of Scott's long poems, was first published, as has been said above, in 1810, and produced, within two years, the astonishing sum of £10,000. Little need be remarked here of its various editions. The fertility and fluency of its author prevented him from taking much time for revision. Many errors crept into earlier editions, but they were seldom serious. We have followed in the main the scholarly text of Dr. William J. Rolfe, who has carefully collated the various copies and original manuscript.
The Lady of the Lake is a versified romance in six cantos, each canto being introduced by a short prelude, and relieved by one or more songs. The action of each canto covers one day, so that the whole is included within a week. The scene is laid in the Highlands of Western Perthshire, between Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond. The territory can be easily traversed in a single day by the tourist. It was this poem which introduced the region to the public, and made it the best-known moun
tain district in the world, with the possible exception of that around Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. To the latter it is far inferior in grandeur, but superior in the charm of its association, owing to Sir Walter's pen. The story of the Knight incognito, James Fitz-James, and his acquaintance with fair Ellen, daughter of the banished Douglas, is so easily followed that it would be unkind to mar the reader's pleasure by revealing it.
Criticisms. Charming as is the narrative, it has talled forth some adverse criticisms. R. H. Hutton terms it a novelette in verse, without the higher and broader characteristics of Scott's prose novels. He adds: "I suppose what one expects from a poem as distinguished from a [prose] romance even though the poem incorporates a story is that it should not rest for the chief interest on the mere development of the story; but rather that the narrative should be quite subordinate to that insight into the deeper side of life and manners, in expressing which poetry has so great an advantage over prose. Of The Lay and Marmion this is true; less true of The Lady of the Lake." It seems to us nevertheless, that the critic's partiality for Marmion inclines him to be too severe toward the quiet sister. And "insight into the deeper side of life" was never the aim of our modern troubadour, but to tell an interesting story in an interesting way. The mode of versification affords opportunity for expression often careless and sometimes slipshod, and Scott's peculiar genius did not take the form of either deep thought or intense feeling, although we find the latter in some of his prose romances
Characters. The characters in The Lady of the Lake, while presented somewhat superficially, are very pleas ing. The relations between Ellen and the father are models for imitation. "Their mutual affection and solicitude, their pride in each other's excellencies, the parent's regret at the obscurity to which fate has doomed. his child, and the daughter's self-devotion to her father's welfare and safety constitute the highest interest of the poem, and that which is most uniformly sustained." The above is quoted from the evidence given by the critic who first publicly declared that the man who described the love between Isaac and Rebecca, David Deans and his daughter, Sir Duncan Campbell and his child, and a score of others, must be the same who wrote The Lady of the Lake and Rokeby. Snowdoun's Knight is a gallant stranger, Roderick Dhu and Malcolm Graeme bring out each other's values, the old minstrel and Dame Margaret win our sympathies from the start, while the lesser persons have each a distinct, even if slight, individuality.
The poem is written in fluent iambic tetrameter, xa xa xa xa, with an occasional trochee, "s,
The rhyme is in couplets, sometimes extended to complete the sense, as,—
"Thus up the margin of the Lake,
Between the precipice and brake,
O'er stock and rock their race they take.”
Scott felt that this was the best measure for the tales. having much of the smoothness of the heroic couplet, less monotony, and a more rapid movement.
All introductions are in the standard Spenserian stanza, so called because first used by Edmund Spenser, author of the Faerie Queene. The additional foot in the closing line of each stanza gives a lingering effect esp cially adapted to imitate the harp accompaniment.
No two of the songs are constructed exactly alike, and it will be pleasant for the student to observe the means by which each carries out the feeling of the singer. Compare, for instance, the sad martial melody of,—
"Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows no breaking,'
with its hint of muffled drum beat, with the triumphant
"Hail to the chief who in triumph advances,
"Loud should Clan-Alpine then
Ring from her deepmost glen,
Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho, ieroe!"
Then the joyous ballad of Alice Brand,
"Merry it is in the good greenwood,
When the mavis and merle are singing,
When the deer sweeps by, and the hounds are in cry,
Next to the interest of the story the charm of the poem lies in its description. Scott himself said