1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Lionel Thomas Berguer, Stanzas inscribed to Walter Scott, Esq. (1815) in Berguer, Trifles in Verse (1817) 11-26.



Oh! wonder not, thou master of the lyre,
Blest Caledonian minstrel, wonder not
That bard, ungifted with thy muse of fire,
With praise obscure, and soon to be forgot,
In echoes wakes thy name through glen and grot!
Forgive that, not unmoved, through Rosslyn's bowers
He roved, nor Hawthornden's sequestered spot;
That not unmoved he looked on Edin's towers,
Where that famed minstrel dwells, who charmed his tedious hours.

Yet little reck'st thou of such lowly praise,
In the high zenith of thy well-earned fame;
Aye rightly deeming that no vulgar lays,
Glancing from harp inelegant and tame,
Can lessen or increase thy glorious name.
Still, spare the muse who, all unskilled in song,
Dares 'mid the chords to lay her fingers lame;
Who, though her tune be harsh, her cadence wrong,
Yet strays, for love of thee, her harp's rude maze along.

Forgive her, that she wakes this lay to thee,
Nor from her descant turn thine ear in scorn:
No mountain daughter of Harmonia she;
Yet fond to hear, on distant echoes borne,
Thy kingly hunter wind his bugle-horn.
Oh! fond to bear the martial pibrochs ringing
Float up Loch-Katrine's sides at early morn;
While, at each stroke the plaided boatman singing,
On Alpine's bannered flag his glance of pride is flinging.

Once, gentler melodies she deemed to yield,
And on her harp-strings tune a sweeter lay.
But her, Hygeia from the lyric field
Woos with Apollo's other crown away.
His bright brows twined with her immortal bay,
She points where Gregory fills her mighty chair,—
Beckoning the bard from Pindus' flowery way,
"Go! spread like HIM," she cries, "thy name afar,
And mount to highest fame, beneath Hygeia's star."

But Oh! how oft reverting fancy flies
To the loved regions of romance again:
To her fond ken what fairy phantoms rise,
More exquisitely felt in every vein,
Than thrills of truest joy, and certain pain!
How oft the scenes where boyhood loved to range,
Scenes of ideal bliss, resume their reign;
The willing mind from soberer truths estrange,
Aye prone for brighter dreams the cares of life to change!

Lovely Northesk, by thy romantic side,
Those brighter dreams, those dear deceits were mine:
I kenned what poet on thy banks of pride
Erst came the tributary wreath to twine,
That graceful hangs on Rosslyn's mouldered shrine.
I kenned, — and, as I flung my gaze around,
All sense absorpt in reverie divine,
Like one transported into fairy ground,
Listening, I seemed to catch that harp's bewitching sound.

For oft its magic minstrelsy had been
My sick soul's solace in her moody hour;
When withering spite, or disappointment keen,
High hope reversing from her airy tower,
With dusky clouds made life's horizon lower.
O'er all the heart prevailed thy wizard song,
The drooping spirits felt its cheering power,
And turned from scenes of injury and wrong
To visionary bliss, unfound mankind among.

Thrice-envied GRAEME, such bliss was thine to feel,
With ELLEN DOUGLAS too supremely blest:
Fancy may frame, but never fate reveal
Raptures refined as those that filled thy breast,
With such a matchless paragon possest.
Fairest Loch-Katrine, beauty's charmed retreat,
Her chosen refuge, and her bower of rest,
The wild-flower on thy banks that kissed her feet
Lives in eternal song, and blooms for ever sweet.

Yes! while the heart its pristine nature keeps,
And man one heavenly sympathy retains;
While the struck virgin in her chamber weeps,
And tries to doubt the tumult in her veins,
But seems to wander through Elysian plains;
While valour loves to dare for beauty's sake,
But sighs impatient in her gentle chains;
While all the passions poesy can wake,
So long thy charms shall last, sweet LADY OF THE LAKE.

Lord of the best emotions of the soul,
Nature improves to hear thy lovely lyre:
From coarsest bosoms at that sweet controul
I see the uncultivated mind retire,
And softer sympathies the crowd inspire,
Charmed while they listen to thy magic rhymes,
Plebeian spirits burn with heavenly fire,
By fancy rapt to those congenial climes
Where honour fires the soul, and virtuous love sublimes.

By night, by day, where'er my footsteps rove,
Still o'er my breast thy genial muses reign;
Gild the soft scenery of the summer grove,
Frown in the mountain, laugh upon the plain,
Or coast the storied islands of the main.
ELLEN in every lovely form anew,
ELLEN in every beauty smiles again,
ELLEN'S in every graceful foot I view,
That from the uninjured flower dashed off the morning dew.

Poet of Nature, bliss to thee I owe,
That soothes my sorrows, and my joy enhances:
When pity's sigh, or pleasure's mantling glow,
Heaves in my breast, or to my cheek advances,
More sweet that sigh, and mirth more gaily dances.
Such was thy power 'mid CORRI'S festal scene,
Lending new charms to love's triumphant glances;
Where thronging youths in motly groupes were seen,
And ladies light of hearts in beauty's dazzling sheen.

Such was thy power, when first to view confest,
Broke from afar Dun-Edin's battled mound:
Like summer bride, fantastically drest,
The Northern Queen upshoots her from the ground,
And peers to heaven, like Vesta, castle-crowned.
High towers the Calton on her eastern side,
Flinging broad survey on the plains around;
The conscious sailor kens his pillar'd pride
Far up the dark blue Forth, and thinks how NELSON died.

Fair is Dun-Edin to my longing sight,
I love the dim grey towers of Holyrood;
At shutting day, by Autumn's evening light,
'Tis sweet to wander by in pensive mood,
And see the moon play in those arches rude.
Then to remember what their ancient state,
And what alternate scenes of peace and feud;
Contrast their grandeur with their present fate,
And scan what artless tale those ruined piles relate.

Oh! Queen, too lovely, to perdition fair,
Most injured, most accomplished of thy time,
Oh! victim STUART, yet shall pity dare
(Maugre stern censure, in this fleeting rhyme)
To weep thy sorrows) and forget thy crime.
E'en when their last farewel thy maidens took,
And envy felt no mercy for thy prime,
As with sick soul the shuddering headsman strook,
On martyred beauty's pangs he might not dare to look.

So deemed the Bard, while on fair Holyrood
He mused, not thoughtless of her former days:
So deemed the Bard, where, in the distance viewed,
Their frowning keep Craigmillar's turrets raise
Stern o'er the land, and quell the startled gaze.
For there was heard the solitary moan
Of beauty, pining in her bloom of days:
So the sweet goldfinch, into durance thrown,
Sings its lorn prison-song, and weeps its woes alone.

SONG.
1.
Like a clan-circled chief on the hill is Dun-Edin,
Begirt wi' Mount Arthur an' Salisbury steep:
But I fly frae her streets in this hour o' my needin',
My hame's in my ken, yet a' lanely I weep.
Yet, dear to me still is mine ain bonnie town,
That looks up the valley, sae blithesome an' bra':
Though, fashed wi' my beauty, an' tired o' my crown,
When a' laughs around me, I wither awa'.

2.
Freshly comes blawin' the dewy-mouthed mornin',
An' bears frae yon rampart the clangour o' mail
Wi' the lass that he loos the young sodger is scornin',
An' his voice, 'tween the drum-beats, is heard on the gale.
By the burnside the sang o' the milkmaid is ringin',
As her leghlin she takes frae the stile in the wa';
But, sad is the sang that her mistress is singin',—
When a' laughs around me, I wither awa.'

3.
Wet, wet are my cheeks wi' the tears o'complainin',
As I gaze upon joys that my heart canna feel;
Yet, a moment's short respite my sair grief is gainin',
Like IXION, wha rested an' wept on his wheel.
Oh what is my crown, but a bauble — a plaything—
In spite o' whase splendours 'the vulture will gnaw!
An' the pride o' my beauty — it 'vaileth me naething
When a' laughs around me, I wither awa'.

Fair is Dun-Edin to the minstrel's view,
I love the tartans of the sturdy Gael;
So dressed his giant limbs brave RODERICK DHU,
When, bent the Saxon's castles to assail,
In plaided pride he strode o'er bill and vale.
—So marched through driving snows his clans beside
Undaunted CHARLES, the plaid his better mail;
Comrade and prince, in Scotland's peril tried,
Whom to her dearest hopes CULLODEN'S day denied.

Eclipsed in blood then sunk thy STUART'S star,
Oh! Bard of Caledon, no more to rise!
Yet sighs thy country, though the time be far;
And clansmen scarce can brook with tearless eyes
To trace that princely ruin through the skies.
Yet, Scotland, yet one grateful wreath entwine,
Where, dear to fame, thy patriot virgin lies,
Who snatched from death, the last of STUART'S line,
And watched with weeping eyes the Wanderer cross the brine.

Land of sweet scenery, land of sweeter song,
In every spot thy classic charms abound!
The Lowland stranger does fair Scotland wrong,
Whose view unblest her mountains never found,
Nor footstep trod her loch-enamelled ground.
Dull were the soul her beauties failed to move,
Dull were the eye could glance uncharmed around
Thrice dull, who through her grots and glens could rove,
Nor think on CAMPBELL'S lyre, nor thy last LAY of love.

Is this the glorious soil of Bannockburn?
Is this the air that BRUCE and WALLACE drew?
Where sleeps the Southern spoiler in his urn.
Methought again red Falkirk rushed to view,
And Stirling's bugle to my fancy blew!
Is Cambuskenneth to oblivion gone?
Rosslyn forgot, and thine own Flodden, too?
Where CHESTER charged, and STANLEY galloped on,
But all too late for thee, intrepid MARMION.

BARD of the North, farewel: — I dare not more
With breast all uninspired, and feeble band:
A tribute, mightier far, has gone before;
And on thy shelf, fit gift of rival grand,
The cup of HAFIZ shall for ever stand.
Enough for me, if no vain hopes betray,
Thou wilt not spurn my homely laurel-band;
Nor undistinguished let this votive lay,
'Mid hum of chattering crowds, in silence die away.

Nor hath it died in silence! — thanks to thee,
Superior to low prejudice, whose ear,
Still closed against the tale of calumny,
Not all the tongues of mischief, babbling near,
Could steel against the song it loved to hear—
Obscure, but honest! No — it hath not died—
That lay, which only boasts to be sincere!—
But, stemming first, then carried down the tide,
Mixed with thy fame, the verse goes floating far and wide.