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The Poem, now offered to the Public, is intended to illustrate the customs and manners, which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. The inhabitants, living in a state partly pastoral, and partly warlike, and combining habits of constant depredation with the influence of a rude spirit of chivalry, were often engaged in scenes, highly susceptible of poetical ornament. As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the Author than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the Ancient Metrical Romance was adopted, which allows greater latitude, in this respect, than would be consistent with the dignity of a regular Poem. The same model offered other facilities, as it permits an occasional alteration of measure, which, in some degree, authorizes the change of rhythm in the text. The machinery also, adopted from popular

1 [“ The chief excellence of “The Lay' consists in the beauty of the descriptions of local scenery, and the accurate picture of customs and manners among the Scottish Borderers at the time it refers to. The various exploits and adventures which occur in those half-civilized times, when the bands of government were so loosely twisted, that every man depended for safety more on his own arm, or the prowess of his chief, than on the civil power, may be said to hold a middle rank between history and private anecdote. War is always most picturesque where it is least formed into a science;

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it has most variety and interest where the prowess and activity of individuals has most play; and the nocturnal expedition of Diomed and Ulysses to seize the chariot and horses of Rhesus, or a raid of the Scotts or the Kerrs to drive cattle, will make a better figure in verse, than all the battles of the great King of Prussia. The sleuth-dog, the beacon-fires, the Jedwood-axes, the moss-troopers, the yell of the slogan, and all the irregular warfare of predatory expeditions, or feuds of hereditary vengeance, are far more captivating to the imagination than a park of artillery and battalions of well-drilled soldiers."— Annual Review, 1804.]

1 ["It must be observed, that there is this difference between the license of the old romancer, and that assumed by Mr. Scott; the aberrations of the first are usually casual and slight; those of the other premeditated and systematic. The old romancer may be compared to a man who trusts his reins to his horse; his palfrey often blunders, and occasionally breaks his pace, sometimes from vivacity, oftener through indolence. Mr. Scott sets out, with the intention of diversifying his journey, by every variety of motion. He is now at a trot, now at a gallop; nay, he sometimes stops, as if to

• Make graceful caprioles, and prance
Between the pillars.'

A main objection to this plan is to be found in the shock which the ear receives from violent and abrupt transitions. On the other hand, it must be allowed, that as different species of verse are individually better suited to the expression of the different ideas, sentiments, and passions, which it is the object of poetry to convey, the happiest efforts may be produced by adapting to the subject its most congenial structure of verse." Critical Review, 1805.

belief, would have seemed puerile in a Poem, which did not partake of the rudeness of the old Ballad, or Metrical Romance.

For these reasons, the Poem was put into the mouth of an ancient Minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supposed to have survived the Revolution, might have caught somewhat of the refinement of modern poetry, without losing the simplicity of his original model. The date of the Tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is Three Nights and Three Days."

“From the novelty of its style and subject, and from the spirit of its execution, Mr. Scott's ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel' kindled a sort of enthusiasm among all classes of readers; and the concurrent voice of the public assigned to it a very exalted rank, which, on more cool and dispassionate examination, its numerous essential beauties will enable it to maintain. For vivid richness of colouring and truth of costume, many of its descriptive pictures stand almost unrivalled; it carries us back in imagination to the time of action; and we wander with the poet along Tweedside, or among the wild glades of Ettricke Forest.” — Monthly Review, May, 1808.]

1 [“ We consider this poem as an attempt to transfer the refinements of modern poetry to the matter and the manner of the ancient metrical romance. The author, enamoured of the lofty visions of chivalry, and partial to the strains in which they were formerly embodied, seems to have employed all the resources of his genius in endeavouring to recall them to the favour and admiration of the public, and in adapting to the taste of modern readers, a species of poetry which was once the delight of the courtly, but has long ceased to gladden any other eyes than those of the scholar and the antiquary. This is a romance, therefore, composed by a VOL. I.

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minstrel of the present day; or such a romance as we may suppose would have been written in modern times, if that style of composition had continued to be cultivated, and partakes consequently of the improvements which every branch of literature has received since the time of its desertion."JEFFREY, April, 1805.]

THE

LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.

CANTO FIRST.

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