1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

W., "To Sir Walter Scott" Belfast Monthly Magazine 13 (December 1814) 488-89.



Hark! on Caledonia's shore,
What hand awakes the harp again;
Who dares to modern days restore,
The glories of her former reign?
Sure o'er the deep-resounding lyre,
His hand some tuneful seraph flings;
Ah no — 'tis Walter — soul of fire,
That strikes the trembling strings.
And as its sound does westward roll,
The lover's lay I hear;
The strain that fires the hero's soul,
The victor warrior's lofty tone,
Mix'd with the vanquish'd dying groan,
Burst on my listening ear.

List to yon closing fall,
It soothes the soul to rest,
Sweet as a dying spirit's call,
To mansions of the blest.
But ah! how solemn, deep, and slow,
It tells some victim's tale of wo,
Some hapless sufferer's wail;
Whence burst that shriek, that horror-breathing groan,
That chills my fluttering breath;
That stifled sigh, that smother'd moan,
Declare some deed of darkness done,
Some secret work of death.

From yonder convent's gloomy walls,
That mocks at misery's cries,
The injured Constance madly calls
For vengeance, e'er she dies.
Ye human fiends forbear,
Urge not your cruel doom;
Demons of hell, in pity spare,
Oh let that look of fixed despair,
Plead for an erring, hapless fair,
A respite from the tomb.
'Tis vain — they mercy's voice disown,
Oh see the ministers of fate,
They point the living stone,
Array'd in all their gloomy state,
Around their trembling victim wait,
The deed of death is done.

View yon embattled plain,
That lately waved so gay,
Save broken arms, and heaps of slain,
No other trophies now remain,
Of this disast'rous day;
And lo! at distance from the host,
The haughty Marmion lies,
His vassals pride, his country's boast,
Crest fallen, all his wishes crost,
His honour gone, his glory lost,
In fear and terror, passion tost,
He bleeds, he raves, he dies.

But soft as morn's all-cheering ray,
On night's dark slumbers break,
So sweet the note, so soft the lay,
That paints in nature's fair array,
The Lady of the Lake.
And see as touch'd by Naiad's hand,
Like mercy's angel prompt to save,
Her light barque leaves the shaded strand,
And shoots o'er Cat'rine's wave;
Or whilst she stops and turns to land,
All ruffled with her false alarm,
See beauty's self embodied stand,
In Ellen's faultless form.

But, ah, 'tis gone, the pleasing vision's fled,
That sound so changed, so sad and slow,
That ghastly form, the cross of red,
Those imprecations deep and dread,
On the devoted recreant's head,
Betoken death and wo,
The Trosach's gorge, thick strew'd with dead,
Proclaim that it is so.

Oh! say, whence to the aching sight
As fixed as fate, as black as night,
Does yon dire shape appear;
Some fiend in hell's dark regions nurst,
And at his fall supremely curst,
Does from his dreary confine burst,
To plague this upper air;
But no — 'tis Bertram — nor was e'er
To earth born mortal given,
A soul so dead to love or fear,
That spurn'd at misery's hallow'd tear,
That mocked both earth and heaven.

Fell as Sameyel's dire force,
Strikes Persia's sons with deadly glow,
And marks its withering baleful course,
With misery, death, and wo.
Let India's climes his deeds proclaim,
Let Marston field this truth declare,
And Rokeby's turrets once so fair,
Wrapt in yon bloody flame.

Sure minstrel at thy natal hour,
The spirits of the air did bow;
Young fancy op'd her inmost store,
To wreath thy favour'd brow.
Awake again thy magic lays,
The song of rapture pour,
Bid Scotia fired with former days,
Again from her long slumber raise,
Oh let her sleep no more.