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Ν Ο Τ Ε.
It is the special purpose of this edition of Scott's poetical masterpieces to render them available for critical study as English Classics. To this end the Notes are adapted. They are devoted to such points as are likely to occur in the course of the critical reading of the poems, under the guidance of a good teacher.
The Etymological Notes do not include words which are explained in the ordinary school dictionaries.
THE COLLEGE, SPRING GROVE,
The chief events in the life of Sir Walter Scott are given in the subjoined Chronological Table, in connection with the literary and political history of his time. That table shows his historical position as a poet much more clearly than any critical exposition could do. Beginning to write five years after the death of Cowper, his fame was at its height when that of Wordsworth and Coleridge was struggling for existence, and when they were creating the poetical taste which was destined to raise them to a higher rank as poets than he has any claim to occupy. Again : his decline as a poet, which marks the transference of his great powers to another sphere of creative composition—is coincident with the rise of Byron as a poet of the same genus, with well-marked specific differences; and with that of Keats and Shelley as harbingers of the subtle metaphysical poetry of the present generation.
Scott is essentially a Ballad poet. Ballad poetry was in literature his first love—the spring at which he drank his earliest inspiration. Each of his greater poems is a synthesis, or new concrete," formed out of ballad elements. Some of his poems have been called novels in verse: they may be more correctly described as dilated or expanded ballads. He himself acknowledged this when he described his earliest considerable poem as, in style and form, a revival of Minstrel-craft. The great charms of Scott's poetry are simply the characteristics of the old ballad, refined and chastened by the influences of modern art and higher culture. Narrative in form, and simple in style and language, his poems appeal to the sympathies and state of knowledge of the mass of the people. They are addressed broadly to the national sentiment. They do not subject the intellect to any violent strain. They are entirely free from subtleties of