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SIR WALTER SCOTT.

THE POET AND HIS POETRY.

one. For several years be pad the appointment one of the principal

[SIR WALTER SCOTT, was descended from the Scotts of Harden, one of the most ancient families of Scotland, and was born August 15th, 1771. He received the rudiments of education at the High School of Edinburgh without exhibiting any extraordinary powers of genius; from thence he removed to the University of Edinburgh, where also he passed through the classes without any indication of superior intellectual powers. He was, however, admitted an advocate of the Scotch Bar, when he had not quite attained the age of twenty one. For several years he paid the most devoted attention to his laborious duties. In 1799, he received the appointment of Sheriff Deputy of the County of Selkirk, and in March, 1806, was named one of the principal Clerks of the Session in Scotland.

Being released from the drudgery of professional labour, by the acquisition of two lucrative situations, and the possession of a handsome estate, he was enabled to court the muses at his leisure, and immediately commenced laying the foundation of that fame, which has attended him to every part of the civilized globe. His first publications, were translations from the German; these were, however, speedily followed by original compositions of his own. The “ Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," “Sir Tristram, a Metrical Romance," “ The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” “Marmion,” “The Lady of the Lake," “The Vision of Don Roderick," "Rokeby," and "The Lord of the Isles," followed each other successively, and raised his reputation very high; and till the genius of Byron rose, Scott stood the first of his age among living poets. In these compositions, he endeavoured to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the matter and manner of the ancient metrical romance. Enamoured of the lofty visions of chivalry, he employed all the resources of his genius, in endeavouring to recal them to the favour and admiration of the public. In the choice of his subjects he does not, like Crabbe or Cowper, carry us into the cottage of the peasant, nor into the bosom of domestic privacy, nor among creatures of the imagination like Southey or Darwin; but, with the traits of the old romance, which but for him would have been exploded with kings, warriors, knights, outlaws, minstrels, secluded damsels, wizards, and true lovers, he dazzles the reader, and warms him into the transient heat of varied affections; but he nowhere kindles him into enthusiasm, or melts him into tenderness. There is nothing in his poetry of the severe and majestic style of Milton, or the terse and fine composition of Pope, or of the elaborate elegance and melody of Campbell, or even of the flowing and redundant diction of Southey; but there is a medley of bright images and glowing words set carelessly and loosely together; a diction tinged successively with the careless richness of Shakspeare; 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 coniprehend.

Sir Walter Scott does not, however, stand upon his poetry for fame, but upon those incomparable novels, known by the name of the Waverley Novels, which were composed with a celerity such as the whole annals of literary history cannot furnish. With the exception of our own mighty Shakspeare no such prodigy of literary fertility has been found. In a few brief years he has founded a new school of invention and embellished it, and endowed it with volumes of the most animated and original composition that have enriched British literature for a century,-volumes that have cast into the shade all contemporary power, and by their force of colouring and depth of feeling, by their variety, vivacity, magical facility, and living presentment of character, have rendered concievable to this latter age the miracles of our own great magician. Shakspeare is undoubtedly more purely original, but it must be remembered that in his time there was much less to borrow. In naming him with Shakspeare, we do not say he is to be placed on a level with him as to the richness and sweetness of his fancy, or that living vein of pure and lofty poetry which flows with such abundance through every part of his composition. On that level no other writer has ever stood, and perhaps never will stand. But without question Walter Scott is the nearest to him, and one will not be forgotten, while the other is remembered.

EXTRACTS FROM THE LADY OF THE LAKE.

THE COMBAT BETWEEN FITZ-JAMES AND

RODERICK DHU,

XII.

The chief in silence strode before,
And reach'd that torrent's sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines
On Bochastle the mouldering lines,
Where Rome, the empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle wings unfurld.
And here his course the chieftain staid,
Threw down his target and his plaid,
And to the lowland warrior said :-
“Bold Saxon; to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust.
This murderous chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan,
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward,
Far past Clan-Alpine's outmost guard,
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A chieftain's vengeance thou shalt feel.

See here, all vantageless I stand,
Arm'd like thyself, with single brand ;
For this is Coilantogle ford,
And thou must keep thee with thy sword.”

XIII.

The Saxon paused :— "I ne'er delay'd,
When foeman bade me draw my blade;
Nay more, brave chief, I vow'd thy death ;
Yet sure thy fair and generous faith,
And my deep debt for life preserved,
A better meed have well deserved :
Can nought but blood our feud atone ?
Are there no means?"-"No stranger, none;
And hear,-to fire thy flagging zeal,
The Saxon cause rests on thy steel ;
For thus spoke Fate, by prophet bred
Between the living and the dead :-

Who spills the foremost foeman's life,
His party conquers in the strife.'”
“Then by my word,” the Saxon said,
“The riddle is already read.
Seek yonder brake beneath the cliff, -
There lies red Murdock, stark and stiff.
Thus fate has solved her prophecy,
Then yield to fate, and not to me.
To James, at Stirling, let us go,
When if thou wilt be still his foe,
Or if the king shall not agree
To grant thee grace and favour free,
I plight mine honour, oath, and word,
That, to thy native strengths restored,
With each advantage shalt thou stand,
That aids thee now to guard thy land.”

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Dark lightning flash'd from Roderick's eye,-
“Soars thy presumption then so high,
Because a wretched kern ye slew,
Homage to name to Roderick Dhu?
He yields not, he, to man nor fate !
Thou add'st but fuel to my hate :
My clansman's blood demands revenge.
Not yet prepared ? by Heaven, I change

My thought, and hold thy valour light
As that if some vain carpet knight,
Who ill deserved my courteous care,
And whose best boast is but to wear
A braid of his fair lady's hair.”—
“I thank thee, Roderick, for the word !
It nerves my heart, it steals my sword;
For I have sworn, this braid to stain
In the best blood that warms thy vein.
Now, truce, farewell! and ruth begone;
Yet think not by thee alone,
Proud chief! can courtesy be shown !
Though not from copse, or heath, or cairn,
Start at my whistle clansmen stern,
Of this small horn one feeble blast
Would fearful odds against thee cast.
But fear not,-doubt not,—which thou wilt, -
We try this quarrel hilt to hilt."
Then each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each look'd to sun, and stream, and plain
As what they ne'er might see again;
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.

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Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw,
Whose brazen studs and tough bull-hide
Had death so often dash'd aside,
For train'd abroad his arms to wield,
Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.
He practised every pass and ward,
To thrust, to strike, to feint, to guard ;
While less expert, though stronger far,
The Gael maintain'd unequal war.
Three times in closing strife they stood,
And thrice the Saxon blade drank blood;
No stinted draught, no scanty tide,
The gushing flood the tartans dyed.
Fierce Roderick felt the fatal drain,
And shower'd his blows like wintry rain ;
And as firm rock, or castle-roof,
Against the winter shower is proof,
The foe invulnerable still,
Foil'd his wild rage by steady skill;

Till, at advantage ta’en, his brand
Forc'd Roderick's weapon from his hand,
And backward borne upon the lea,
Brought the proud chieftain to his knee.

XVI.

“ Now yield thee, or, by Him who made
The world, thy heart's blood dyes my blade !"-
“ Thy threats, thy mercy, I defy!
Let recreant yield, who fears to die.”-
Like adder darting from his coil,
Like wolf that dashes through the toil,
Like mountain-cat who guards her young,
Full at Fitz-James's throat he sprung;
Received, but reck'd not of a wound,
And lock'd his arms his foeman round.
Now gallant Saxon, hold thine own!
No maiden's hand is round thee thrown !
That desperate grasp thy frame might feel,
Through bars of brass and triple steel !
They tug, they strain ! down, down, they go,
The Gael above, Fitz-James below.
The chieftain's gripe his throat compress'd,
His knee was planted in his breast;
His clotted locks he backward threw,
Across his brow his hand he drew,
From blood, and mist to clear his sight,
Then gleam'd aloft his dagger bright!
But hate and fury ill supplied
The stream of life's exhausted tide.
And all too late the advantage came,
To turn the odds of deadly game;
For while the dagger gleam'd on high,
Reel'd soul and sense, reel'd brain and eye.
Down came the blow; but in the heath
The erring blade found bloodless sheath.
The struggling foe may now unclasp
The fainting chief's relaxing grasp,
Unwounded from the dreadful close,
but breathless all, Fitz-James arose.

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