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assailable side, by dwelling first upon the Baron's age, and then representing the injury which the cause might sustain, and the damage which must arise to his own character in point of prudence, so necessary to a political agent, if he persisted in carrying it to extremity. Otherwise it is probable it would have terminated in a duel, both because the Baron had, on a former occasion, shed blood of the clan, though the matter had been timely accommodated, and on account of his high reputation for address at his weapon, which Fergus almost condescended to envy. For the same reason she had urged their reconciliation, which the chieftain the more readily agreed to, as it favoured some ulterior projects of his
To this young lady, now presiding at the female empire of the tea-table, Fergus introduced Captain Waverley, whom she received with the usual forms of politeness.
WHEN the first salutations had passed, Fergus said to his sister, « My dear Flora, before I return to the barbarous ritual of our forefathers, I must tell you that Captain Waverley is a worshipper of the Celtic muse, not the less so perhaps that he does not understand a word of her language. I have told him you are eminent as a translator of Highland poetry, and that Mac-Murrough admires your versions of his songs upon the same principle that Captain Waverley admires their original, - because he does not comprehend them. Will you have the goodness to read or recite to our guest in English, the extraordinary string of names which Mac-Murrough has tacked together in Gaelic? My life to a moor-fowl's feather, you are provided with a version; for I know you are in all the bard's councils, and acquainted
with his songs long before he rehearses them in the hall.»
« How can you say so, Fergus? You know how little these verses can possibly interest an English stranger, even if I could translate them, as you pretend.»
« Not less than they interest me, lady fair. To-day your joint composition, for I insist
you had a share in it, bas cost me the last silver cup in the castle, and I suppose will cost me something else next time I hold cour plenière, if the muse descends on Mac-Murrough; for you know our proverb,—When the hand of the chief ceases to bestow, the breath of the bard is frozen in the utterance. -Well, I would it were even so: there are three things that are useless to a modern Highlander,-a sword which he must not draw,-a bard to sing of deeds which he dare not imitate, and a large goat-skin purse without a louis-d'or to put into it.»
Well, brother, since you betray my secrets. you cannot expect me to keep yours.- I assure you, Captain Waverley, that Fergus is too proud to exchange his sword for a mareschal's baton; that he esteems Mac-Murrough a far greater poet than Homer, and would not give up his goat-skin purse for all the louis-d'ors which it could contain.»
« Well pronounced, Flora; blow for blow, as Conan said to the devil. Now do
you two talk
of bards and poetry, if not of purses and claymores, while I return to do the final honours to the senators of the tribe of Ivor. » So saying he left the room.
The conversation continued between Flora and Waverley; for two well-dressed young women, whose character seemed to hover between that of companions and dependants, took no share in it. They were both pretty girls, but served only as foils to the grace and beauty of their patroness. The discourse followed the turn which the chieftain had given it, and Waverley was equally amused and surprised with the accounts which the lady gave him of Celtic poetry.
« The recitation, » she said, «of poems, recording the feats of heroes, the complaints of lovers, and the wars of contending tribes, forms the chief amusement of a winter fire-side in the Highlands. Some of these are said to be very ancient, and, if they are ever translated into any of the languages of civilized Europe, cannot fail to produce a deep and general sensation. Others are more modern, the composition of those family bards whom the chieftains of more distinguisbed name and power retain as the poets and historians of their tribes. These, of course, possess various degrees of merit; but much of it must evaporate in translation, or be lost on those who do not sympathise with the feelings of the poet.»
« And your bard, whose effusions seemed to produce such effect upon the company today, is he reckoned among the favourite poets of the mountains?»
« That is a trying question. His reputation is high among his countrymen, and you must not expect me to depreciate it.»
« But the song, Miss Mac - Ivor, seemed to awaken all these warriors, both young and old.» The song
is little more than a catalogue of names of the Highland clans under their distinctive peculiarities, and an exhortation to them to remember and to emulate the actions of their forefathers.»
« And am I wrong in conjecturing, however extraordinary the guess appears, that there was some allusion to me in the verses which he recited!»
You have a quick observation, Captain Waverley, which in this instance has not deceived you.
The Gaelic language, being uncommonly vocalic, is well adapted for sudden and extemporaneous poetry; and a bard seldom fails to augment the effect of a premeditated song, by throwing in any stanzas which may be suggested by the circumstances attending the recitation.»
« I would give my best horse to know what the Highland bard could find to say of such an unworthy southern as myself.»