1808
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Minstrel. Book the Third.

The Minstrel; or the Progress of Genius. In continuation of the Poem left unfinished by Dr. Beattie. Book the Third.

John Herman Merivale


57 Spenserians, composed about 1802 and anonymously published in 1808. This continuation of Beattie's narrative was the first original poem published by John Herman Merivale. He reports that it was written "long ago," before Beattie's death. Edwin enjoys a vision after the death of his saintly father; he learns the songs of Ossian, and at the end of the fragment encounters two English refugees from King Edward's invasion of Scotland. At the center of the fragment is a long apostrophe to Spenser: "Oh, could I aught of that celestial flame | Acquire, which glow'd in SPENSER'S holy breast, | How small would be on Fortune's gifts my claim, | Of Nature's stores and Nature's love possest!" The volume was published anonymously. In a long and interesting review of this poem, the Critical Review speculates that its topic was to have been William Wallace; if so, the appearance of John Finlay's Wallace, or the Vale of Ellerslie (1802) might explain why the continuation was left uncompleted.

Merivale describes the circumstances surrounding the composition and abandonment of the poem in "To a Lady, with the Continuation of Beattie's Minstrel" Poems Original and Translated (1838): it was begun when "The muse with rapture fill'd my youthful heart" and was abandoned when the poet began the study of the law, presumably while he was a student at Cambridge or Lincoln's Inn. Merivale expresses his hope to continue his continuation upon his retirement from the law.

Anna Wilhelmina Merivale: "Amidst his legal and historical studies, my father did not abandon the equally congenial one of poetry; he wrote many little pieces at this time [1802], some of which he collected long afterwards for publication. One was a continuation of Beattie's Minstrel, a work which he had begun at Cambridge; he carried it through one book of 55 stanzas in the original metre, but stopped short after a few more stanzas" Family Memorials (1884) 142.

Advertisement: "Most of the following verses were composed long ago, while it yet remained uncertain whether Dr. Beattie might not himself have pursued the original design of his poem. At that period, therefore, the author did not entertain the most remote idea of publication; nor would he have ventured it even now, had not the result of his inquiries on the subject led him to believe that no materials for a continuation of The Minstrel have been found among the papers of the deceased. The outline of Dr. Beattie's plan is faintly sketched in some one of his letters which have been lately published by his biographer, Sir William Forbes. The author had partly arranged his own design before this original plan came to his knowledge, and therefore hopes that he may be excused his deviations from it. Notwithstanding the encouragement given him by his friends, he is very diffident of success with the public; he therefore offers his poem in its present unfinished state, not as a pledge for its completion, but that he may find, in the manner of its reception, a touchstone by which to ascertain its real merit, and judge whether it will be expedient for him to pursue his design any further, or to relinquish it altogether" pp. 3-4.

Samuel Rogers to Francis Hodgson: "My dear Sir,—Many, many thanks for your kindness, and pray express my grateful acknowledgments to Mr. Merivale for his very elegant present. I make no doubt that it will fulfill (sic) your promise—that I shall read it with my first feelings—and that it will bring back to my mind that delicious evening (an evening in July) when I first discovered the 'Minstrel' among some loose pamphlets in my father's library. Alas! alas! Five and thirty years have fled, and yet it seems but yesterday" 1808? James T. Hodgson, Memoir of the Rev. Francis Hodgson (1878) 1:276-77.

Le Beau Monde: "The poem commences with a lamentation for the mortality of those we love; a lamentation occasioned by the concluding stanzas of the second Canto of Dr. Beattie's original work. Then follow some consolatory observations about a world to come: and we are shortly informed that the father of young Edwin, the Minstrel, is dead. The young shepherd visits his father's grave; he sleeps, and his dream is described. He is by nature and habit melancholy, and poetically inclined; and he often plays to the peasants. As years pass away, he takes a friendship for a lad named Malcolm. One night, as Edwin strays along the shore, a bark approaches, and two warriors come to land. One of them informs him that he is a Scot, who has fled from Edward's pursuit. Edwin encourages him by some sympathetic conversation, and the stranger, rising, commits himself to the Minstrel's guidance. Here the continuation concludes" 4 (Supplement 1808) 353.

Christopher Lake Moody: "We trembled for this adventurous Muse, who has dared to attempt a continuation of a work which is replete with the most exquisite gems of true poesy; and we entered on the perusal of this third book, full of apprehension that our disappointment would surpass our pleasure. As, however, we do not suffer our prepossessions to blind our judgment, the merit of the author has sustained no injury; and our examination has convinced us that his presumption was not so great as were were inclined to suppose. If he has not actually caught Dr. Beattie's mantle, he has found a lyre which is much in that writer's fashion and shews himself capable of sweeping its strings in the style of true Minstrelsy. Though not equal to the original bard, he follows at no great distance; and as Dr. B. left his work unfinished, this farther development of the Progress of Genius may be read with interest by all those who were charmed by the former stanzas" Monthly Review NS 59 (June 1809) 214.

British Critic: "Though unknown to the author, we would willingly stand among the friends who encourage him to proceed. He writes with purity and elegance, and we see no deficiency of poetic talents of any kind, which should prevent his concluding the tale with success" 36 (1808) 302.

Critical Review: "Beattie appears to have written with his Spenser forever open, and to have measured every stanza with the structure of the poet, whom he imitated. Our author, on the contrary, seems to have been imperceptibly, though deeply, imbued with the stanza from much reading and long practice. To him it has become habitual, and flows with the vehemence of an extemporaneous effusion. The gentle simplicity of Beattie was well adapted to conduct his Minstrel through the age of childhood to puberty: — for the actions and passions of his manhood we look with confidence to the masculine and daring vigour of our author. The first years of the Minstrel, as of every child of promise and of fancy, are passed in acquiring ideas from the book of nature, and the lessons instilled by the hermit. But the age for acting on the principles thus instilled remains to be described. The eventful age of reason and of courage has fallen to the delineation of a poet, who will by no means permit his hero to wear it away in sloth and inactivity. Towards the middle of this book the author departs from the contemplative to a more animated strain. The arrival of Wallace, the patriot and hero of Scotland, is the prelude to events, which we consider him pledged to continue" S3 13 (March 1808) 270-71.

Poetical Register for 1808-09: "If the anonymous author of this Canto should complete his task, there will be little reason to regret that The Minstrel was left unfinished by Dr. Beattie. In beauty of thought and language, in all that constitutes the Poet, we do not think him inferior to his Predecessor. After this, it is scarcely necessary to say that we warmly recommend this continuation of the Minstrel to the notice of our readers" (1812) 550.

William Walker: "At last three continuations have been published — one in two books by the Rev. Mr. Polwhele, which appeared in the Poetical Register, 1810-11, and which, though a very unequal production, contains several passages of considerable beauty; another by Mr. Herman Merivale, who published one book as a specimen, but its want of success was such that the author neither claimed the work nor finished it. The third who sought 'with trembling hand | To touch the tuneful harp which Beattie strung,' and who managed to approach most nearly in spirit and plan to the merit of the original poem, was a student of his own, the Rev. William Cameron, the minister of Kirknewton" Bards of Bon Accord (1887) 247.

Rowland E. Prothero: "John Herman Merivale (1779-1844) made friends, while at St. John's College, Cambridge, with Robert Bland, with whom he collaborated in Collections from the Greek Anthology (1806), and with Henry Drury and Francis Hodgson, with both of whom he became connected by marriage (1805) with Drury's sister. In 1814 he published Orlando in Roncesvalles, a poem in ottava rima, suggested, as he says, in the Preface to his collected poems, 'by a perusal of the Morgante Maggiore' of Pulci. His collected Poems, Original and Translated, consisting, in the main, of translations, and including Orlando and Ricciardetto (1820), were published in 1838. He was made a Commissioner in Bankruptcy in 1831" Byron, Letters and Journals (1898-1901) 3:5.



Awful the hand of Fate, whose ruthless power
With bitterest pangs the human heart can rend;
Most awful at that melancholy hour,
When, o'er the bed of a departing friend,
Speechless, in agonizing grief we bend,
Observe the quivering lip, the languid eye,
And throbbing breast, which the last groans distend;
Wipe the cold dew, and catch the parting sigh
That wafts the immortal soul into eternity.

But why o'er dying Virtue do we weep?
Does the free spirit share our life's decay,
(Lost in the gloom of everlasting sleep)
Or wait the dawning of a better day?
Tho' fearful be the solitary way
From this perplext and feverish mortal clime,
Yet, cheer'd by Faith, and Hope's celestial ray,
Soon shall our wanderings cease in realms where Time
And "Chance and Change" no more shall blast our deathless prime.

Tho' all day long the fast descending rain
Have bathed in tears the lovely landscape round,
While the sad woods were silent, and the plain
No more reechoed every rural sound,
The tempest knows its heaven-appointed bound,
Sunshine again may cheer the evening's close,
And Nature's form be with fresh beauty crown'd;
When the swoln stream that from the mountain flows,
Will, with its distant roar, but soothe us to repose.

So I, erewhile whose unavailing woe
Deplored the best of friends "for ever fled,"
Now bid my feeble sorrows cease to flow,
While, by strong Faith to happier regions led,
I hold imagined converse with the dead;
And if my brow be sometimes overcast,
Or if mine eye a tear unbidden shed,
It flows from memory of affections past,
Mixt with a sigh for those which shall for ever last.

For, tho' a stern philosophy reprove
The tender tribute on the grave bestow'd,
Whoe'er has felt the sacred flame of love,
Whose animated heart has ever glow'd
With sense of Nature's charms, or Nature's God,
Knows well the soothing power of Melancholy,
By whose mild guidance led, the rude abode
I pleased forsook of Ignorance and Folly,
And consolation found in solitude most holy.

Thou too, whose strains my bitter cares allay'd,
First-born of Heaven, celestial Music, hail!
For, well I ween, thy visionary aid
Can sweetly soothe, when strength and reason fail,
The ills that this distracted life assail;
Our miseries can charm, our toils repay,
Can guide our progress through the dreary vale,
Break with a gleam of light the o'erclouded day,
And bid the storms of grief in zephyrs die away.

Guided by thee, thro' woods whose hollow sound
Responsive murmur'd to thy plaintive strain,
Or 'mid dark-cavern'd rocks with ivy crown'd
Where Echo still possess'd her ancient reign,
Or where the gray stream glided through the plain,
How oft his steps the young Enthusiast bent,
To wander free o'er Fancy's airy reign,
Or "ruin'd man and virtue lost" lament:
For yet no nearer cares his simple heart had rent.

But ah! too soon the waves of sorrow roll
In gloomy turbulence around, and pour
Their gather'd forces on his yielding soul.
His native vale (abode of joy before)
Reechoes to the song of health no more.
The pale destruction hovers o'er his sire;
And, while to heaven his soul prepares to soar,
His breast no longer glows with vital fire,
His boasted vigour fails, his mental powers expire.

No more, upon the mountain's craggy steep,
His flocks bleat, answering the well-known horn;
On the wild cliff that overhangs the deep,
No more he hails the glad approach of morn;
No more, as eve on dusky pinions borne,
Recalls his fleecy wanderers to their fold,
His tender PHOEBE welcomes his return,
Nor on the hearth the blazing faggots roll'd
Drive from his hardy limbs the nipping winter's cold.

In vain his EDWIN'S pious cares relieve
By one last gleam of joy his closing day;
In vain his friends around in silence grieve,
Moistening with tears of love his senseless clay:
But yesternight, in robes of shadowy gray,
Moved o'er the heath the slow funereal train
(Mark'd by prophetic sight) in long array;
The torch of death glared horrid on the plain,
And streaks of bloody red illumed the swelling main.

For when, in earlier years, the dismal power
Of Superstition o'er the nations spread
Her fearful banner, every lonely tower,
And glade that human footsteps seldom tread,
And pathless heath, and storm-beat mountain's head,
Became the imagined haunt of witch or sprite,
Or peopled by the spectres of the dead
Who walk'd the melancholy round of night,
Till to their graves dispersed by the fresh morning's light.

E'en now, when Reason, like the lovely dawn,
Has chased those strange fantastic dreams away,
Far in the bleak ungenial North withdrawn
The tyrant holds her solitary sway:
But ah! unhappy thou, her destined prey,
Whom ardent fancy hurried to the snare!
For thee shall joyless pass the summer day,
And, when dark winter hurtles in the air,
Thy life shall be a blank of comfortless despair.

At length when, heated by the wizard fire,
"The extravagant and erring spirit" glows
Uncheck'd within; and baleful fiends inspire
(Last curse of Heaven) the sense of future woes;
When every wave that roars and wind that blows
Comes charged with prescience of impending fate;
How will thy soul, in agonizing throes,
Strive to shake off the hated gift too late,
And sink again, oppress'd with more than mortal weight!

EDWIN, whose soul the Hermit's pious lore
Had clear'd from error's stain and thoughts untrue,
Yet strong imagination often bore
Beyond the limits that his reason drew,
How vain the dreams of ignorance he knew,
Yet trembled at the voice he scorn'd to fear:
His sense revolted from the hideous crew
Of phantoms imaged by the gifted seer;
Yet each new portent fell like death upon his ear.

Beneath an oak whose antique branches shade
A bank with moss and fragrant flowers o'ergrown,
Low in the earth the hoary sire is laid,
The place unmark'd by fence or sculptured stone;
No angels there in polish'd marble moan,
Nor pompous epitaph bespeaks his worth;
For such befit the proud and great alone
Who boast their hoarded wealth or noble birth,
Kings, statesmen, conquerors, and tyrants of the earth.

Not so the shepherd: near the rising ground
Where low at peace his mouldering bones were laid,
A rustic cross was fix'd, and, all around,
Fresh flowers were strown, and verdant holly made
About the sacred spot a grateful shade.
In a lone dell o'ergrown with tangled wood
These last sad obsequies his EDWIN paid,
Where never foot profane had dared intrude,
Nor sound of mirth disturb'd the silent solitude.

Thither the melancholy youth would hie,
Oft as the sun's last ray illumed the plain,
And watch the spot the whole night long, and sigh,
Till sank the morning-planet in the main:
At length his long-forsaken lyre again
Becomes the gentle solace of his care;
Again he wakes the sweetly solemn strain,
The listening woods again his wild notes bear
To the lone echoing hills, and waft along the air.

"O shades beloved!" (thus flow'd his plaintive song)
"Where he I weep in vain was wont to stray,
When your rude rocks and wizard streams among
I with him plied, untired, the toilsome day,
Where now is he whose presence cheer'd the way,
Whose eyes beam'd gladness o'er the blest abode?
That form revered is now unfeeling clay,
Silent that tongue whence mild instruction flow'd,
And cold the generous breast where love and pity glow'd.

"Yet still the immortal spirit lives and moves:
Perhaps, beyond this dark terrestrial bourn,
Sometimes the memory of departed loves
May upward to the heaven of heavens be borne,
And guide him to the once beloved sojourn,
His favourite haunts, in life so sweet and fair,
Where, in the company of those who mourn,
Unseen he oft may hover in the air,
Join in the choral hymn, or aid the fervent prayer."

And now sweet sleep his weary eyelids press'd,
As stretch'd he lay the flowery grave beside;
No hideous dreams disturb his balmy rest;
But o'er his head strange music seems to glide,
Mix'd with the murmurs of the distant tide;
Such strains as might to heaven itself aspire,
Purer than ought to earthly sounds allied,
Wild as the breathings of the Aeolian lyre,
Full as the organ's swell, and loud responsive choir.

Raptured he cast around his wondering sight,
And saw, far stretching o'er the Atlantic main,
An airy cloud, with silver radiance bright,
Which half involved the spangled azure plain:
There, clad in robes of mist, a shadowy train
Of spirits seem'd their nightly watch to keep;
There stood the honour'd chief, the humble swain,
And there the hoary Bard appear'd to sweep
His harp, whose solemn notes soft floated o'er the deep.

"O'er him whose fate, O pious youth! you grieve,
No longer mourn," aerial voices cried.
"That he yet lives, and lives most blest, believe,
And that, no more to earthly dross allied,
His pure celestial soul is still thy guide."
He gazed, and saw enthroned among the rest
His much-loved sire: and now the ocean-tide
Was in the morning's loveliest colours drest,
And all the vision died into the kindling West.

EDWIN awoke. Light, cheerful, and serene,
He felt at once from all his woe released,
And saw, unclouded, the surrounding scene.
Tho' tasteless long Creation's noblest feast,
Tho' long the joyous woodland song had ceased,
The groves were tuned anew to harmony;
Again the day-star blazing in the East,
With no dark vapours clouded, deck'd the sky;
All nature's charms again lay open to his eye.

Oh, could I aught of that celestial flame
Acquire, which glow'd in SPENSER'S holy breast,
How small would be on Fortune's gifts my claim,
Of Nature's stores and Nature's love possest!
He whom the Muse has favour'd is most blest:
For him the forest spreads a broader shield;
The shades of summer give securer rest;
The beauteous vales a livelier verdure yield;
And purer flows the stream, and fairer smiles the field.

He envies not the rich imperial board,
Or downy couch for pamper'd Luxury spread:
The simple feast that woods and fields afford,
The canopy of trees, the natural bed
Of moss by murmuring streams perennial fed,
In him more genuine heart's content excite:
The dazzling rays by brightest diamonds shed
Yield to the fairer glories of the Night
That circle round his head in order infinite.

Such were thy joys, sweet Bard, when stretch'd along
By Mulla's fountain-head thy limbs reclined,
Where Fancy, parent of enchanted song,
Pour'd the full tide of Poesy, refined
From stain of earthly dross, upon thy mind.
Thine was the holy dream when, pure and free,
Imagination left the world behind
"In that delightful land of Faerie"
Alone to wander, rapt in heavenly minstrelsy.

Oh who, so dull of sense, in heart so lost
To Nature's charms and every pure delight,
Would rather lie, on the wild billows tost
Of vain Ambition, with eternal night
Surrounded, and obscured his mental sight
By mists of Avarice, Passion, and Deceit?
Not he whose spirit clear, whose genius bright,
The Muse has ever led, in converse sweet,
Within the hallowed glades of her divine retreat.

Not EDWIN in whose infant breast, I ween,
From childish cares and little passions free,
Tho' long in shades retired, unmark'd, unseen,
Had blown the fairest flower of Poesy.
That lovely promise of a vigorous tree
Instructed Genius found: each straggling shoot
He wisely pruned of its wild liberty,
Turn'd the rich streams of Science round the root,
And view'd with warm delight the fair and grateful fruit.

The animating tales of former days,
'Wakening the patriot's warm heroic fire;
The strains of old traditionary praise,
That bid the soul to noblest deeds aspire;
All swell'd the raptures of his kindling lyre:
His native vales resounded with the song,
And rustic bosoms glow'd with new desire
To raise the oppress'd, to quell the proud and strong,
And in the poet's lays their glorious names prolong.

Nor chain'd for ever to unbending truth
Did EDWIN'S active spirit deign to dwell,
But oft, transported by the fire of youth,
Was borne away to Fancy's airy cell.
Then would his harp more rapturously swell,
And all that's great, or beautiful, or wild
Awake his soul to joys that none can tell
But he on whom the power of Song has smiled,
Nature's inspired priest, Imagination's child.

Oft, at the close of eve, assembled round
The youthful minstrel village groups were seen,
Regardless of the distant tabor's sound
And peals of noisy mirth that burst between;
Whiles in some glen remote or shelter'd green,
He sang the strains his brethren loved to hear;
Full to their view he brought each fabled scene
Of war or peace, the banquet or the bier,
And hardy deeds of arms, and sorceries dark and drear:

Of Fingal, victor in the bloody field
O'er prostrate tribes of ERIN'S faithless coast;
Or dreadful blazing with his sun-like shield,
An angry meteor thro' the affrighted host;
Or, half beheld and half in shadows lost,
Sailing in mist above the towering head
Of some gigantic hill with clouds emboss'd,
Encircled by the spirits of the dead,
Who walk the moonlight maze, or in the tempest tread:

Of MORNA, looking for her lord's return,
Her lovely hunter, who returns no more;
Of LODA'S vengeful spirit, dark and stern,
Haunting the wizard rocks of INISTORE:
But EDWIN'S soul was never known to pour
So sweet, so sadly musical, a strain,
As when, deep pondering on the deeds of yore,
He seem'd with mournful OSSIAN to complain,
The last of all his race, alone on MORVEN'S plain.

By Fancy's sweet but strong attraction caught,
The swains delighted hung upon his lays;
Nor ceased to listen when their EDWIN taught
With graver minstrelsy the wondrous ways
Of Nature, or ascended to the praise
Of that Almighty Power who sits on high,
Who mark'd the eternal course of circling days,
Who made, from nothing, Man, and fix'd his eye
Full on the empyreal heaven, and bade him read the sky.

Yet not at once could EDWIN'S mystic lore
Complete the wonders by his lays begun:
"What could the Muse herself that Orpheus bore,
The Muse herself for her enchanted son?"
Not till maturing years had slowly run
Their destined course, coeval with the strain,
Could the whole animating task be done.
Then universal music fill'd the plain,
While listening oaks and rocks obey'd the mighty swain.

And now the "subtle thief of youth" has borne
Whole years of life away on silent wing,
Mingling the riper grace by summer worn
With the fair bloom of EDWIN'S vigorous spring.
Now o'er his tuneful harp's responsive string
With nervous firmness sweeps his manly hand;
Years o'er his cheek their mellowing shadows fling;
His modest grandeur and demeanor bland
Bespeak him form'd alike for love and high command.

Unpractised in the chase, untaught to know
The rustic sports his fellow-swains pursued,
His powerful arm ne'er bent the twanging bow,
Nor dipp'd the knotty spear in savage blood:
His dextrous feet stemm'd not the eddying flood,
Nor scaled the lofty precipice whene'er
The echoing horn from distant glen or wood
Call'd round the wandering huntsmen to the lair
Where lay some noble beast unconscious of the snare.

Yet was his frame to early toil enured,
His noble soul in fears and dangers tried;
Hunger, and thirst, and watchings, he endured,
The fearful turbulence of storms defied;
And, as advancing manhood's lofty pride
Mark'd with determined lines his sun-burnt face,
His sinewy limbs, firm grasp, and active stride,
Raised him, in deeds of strength and matchless grace,
Above his rude compeers, the heroes of the chase.

Nor yet, tho' EDWIN'S noble spirit glow'd,
With every generous wish and feeling fraught,
Had Hope survey'd Ambition's wider road,
Or love of fame his young idea caught.
Still home was ever nearest to his thought,
His native mountains, his paternal shed:
Or, worlds untried if fancy ever sought,
His sage instructor's words again he read,
"Ambition's slippery verge oh why should mortals tread?"

And tho' for love his warm and feeling breast
Full surely was by Heaven itself design'd,
That heavenly love, the noblest and the best,
That seeks the union of a kindred mind;
The fairest virgin yet had fail'd to bind
His gentle soul, or amorous thoughts impart.
Constant in friendship, generous, just, and kind,
With him who sought, he shared a brother's part,
But still preserved untouch'd the freedom of his heart.

Soothed by the magic of his earliest song,
The infant MALCOLM had his steps pursued,
Oft as by haunted springs he lay along,
Or in the deep recesses of the wood;
And, ever as the sun his course renew'd,
Closer and closer still the knot he drew,
Alike the sharer of each various mood
When the whole world assumed its gayest hue,
Or her dark veil o'er all black Melancholy threw.

Yet many a moment of the live-long day
(But chief what time descend the evening dews)
Nor village converse, nor the pleasing lay
Of his loved friend, could aught of joy diffuse:
Oft at that solemn hour would EDWIN choose,
All lonely, to the sea-beat shore to go,
Holding celestial converse with the Muse,
Who to her genuine sons alone will show
The ways of Heaven above, the path of life below.

'Twas on a night most suited to his soul,
Silent and dark, save when the moon appear'd
Thro' shadowy clouds at intervals to roll,
And half the scene with partial lustre clear'd;
Save that the stillness of the air was cheer'd
By waters pouring from the heights above;
Save that by fits the ocean's voice was heard,
With sudden gusts of wind that stirr'd the grove,
And rose and fell again like tender sighs of love.

Soothed by the scene, he traced the straggling course
Of a small stream, which, from the distant steep
Of hills descending, pour'd its rocky force,
With many an eddying whirl and foamy leap,
Through a dark narrow valley, to the deep.
Shunn'd was the dell by every earthly wight,
Where ghosts and wicked elves were said to keep:
True 'twas a haunted spot; for Edwin's sprite
Oft loved to linger there, and there the Muse invite.

But wider did this gloomy vale expand,
As nearer roar'd the ocean's awful sound;
Till, sudden opening on the sea-beat strand,
The unbounded main appear'd; and, wide around,
An amphitheatre of granite, crown'd
With mountains piled on mountains to the sky.
And now the moon had reach'd her western bound,
When the long shades extending from on high
Veil'd half the face of things in deep obscurity.

A feeble ray, still rescued from the dark,
The furthest eastern billows glimmer'd o'er,
Illumining a distant bounding bark,
That drove with swelling sails the wind before:
The Minstrel mark'd the course that vessel bore,
And watch'd, until the breeze had shaped its way
To where, beyond a northern point, the shore
Narrow'd into a safe and quiet bay,
Hard by the woody glen in which the hamlet lay.

That distant point the Minstrel also gain'd
As night withdrew her veil of sable lawn;
Just when the sky with earliest light was stain'd,
And ocean's distant outline faintly drawn
By the uncertain pencil of the dawn.
And now the vessel safely moor'd he view'd,
And, at a distance from the shore withdrawn,
Two men of warlike port, and aspect rude,
Who lay apart reclined in sad and thoughtful mood.

The warlike helmet shadow'd o'er each face,
Frowning with sable plumes in gloomy pride;
The spear, alike for battle and the chase,
Before them lay; and naked at their side
The broad claymore with leathern thongs was tied;
Thro' the thick cloak that wrapp'd their limbs in shade
The burnish'd cuirass, which it seem'd to hide
In its capacious folds, was half display'd,
Mark'd with the deep indent of many a hostile blade.

Fired with the sudden sight, so new and strange,
A momentary flash of glad surprise
Kindled in EDWIN's cheeks a glowing change:
Onward he press'd, and ever fix'd his eyes
On one, the first in noble port and size,
Of the mysterious strangers; and, as near
His footsteps drew, he saw the warrior rise,
As if the approaching sound had struck his ear—
But EDWIN'S generous soul was ignorant of fear.

Stern was the warrior's brow — his eye of fire
Temper'd by Melancholy's chastening hand;
His looks at once might awe and love inspire,
Inexorably firm, sublimely grand,
Yet mingling soft persuasion with command;
Furrow'd his front with sorrows, toils, and cares,
Like some lone exile's in an unknown land;
His grisly beard and thinly scatter'd hairs
Proclaim'd him somewhat sunk into the vale of years.

"Peasant," he said, "if aught of human woes
E'er melt the natives of this lonely place,
Here let our tempest-beaten bark repose
From Fate's unpitying storms a little space!
Used are we to hard fare — the perilous chase
Hath yielded, day and night, our doubtful food:
Tho' from the South we come, our hardy race
Can boast the untainted channel of their blood,
Flowing from sire to son in no degenerate flood.

"Nor had we wander'd from our quiet home,
The much-loved hamlet where our fathers lie;
But fell Ambition, ever wont to roam,
Left her own fruitful plains and sunny sky
To rob us of our cherish'd liberty.
Detested king! what mighty prize is thine;
That haughty England lifts her head so high?
A barren rock encircled by the brine,
Stain'd with the streaming blood of thousands of thy line.

"But while I speak, perchance my life is sold,
And EDWARD'S spies hang eager o'er their prey;
Perchance my narrow sum of days is told,
And night already closes round my way.
If thus, I am prepared, nor wish to stay
The heavy hand of death, however near.
Are then these deserts free, O stranger, say?
'Twill gild with joy my parting hour to hear
That yet a Scot survives unawed by EDWARD's spear."

"Yet free" the youth replied, "from blood and crimes,
From the rude tyranny of foreign powers,
And 'all the misery of these iron times,'
Our peaceful shepherds pass their harmless hours;
Nor battle rages, nor the sword devours:
Not e'en the distant sound of war's alarms
Has ever reach'd these calm sequester'd bowers;
But the old Minstrel's song of knights and arms
Seems like some fairy-tale that by its wonders charms.

"The constant practice of the chase affords
A feeble mimicry of war alone;
And to our rudely taught but free-born hordes
The Name of Liberty is scarcely known,
Altho' her real Substance is our own.
Yet, strong and zealous to defend our right,
If tyrant-force in our loved vale were shown,
Soon should we, equal to the best in fight,
Assert fair Freedom's cause, and prove our native might.

"But tho' from our rude mountain's rocky side
The blast of distant war rolls off unheard,
Yet are we not to savage beasts allied,
Nor slow to pity woes we never fear'd:
All human-kind is to our souls endear'd;
The wretched to our special care belong:
But, most of all, if their bold arms they rear'd
In Virtue's cause against tyrannic wrong,
Still unsubdued in soul, unconquerably strong."

The warrior-chief on EDWIN while he spoke
Fix'd his firm eye, and long deep-musing sate;
Then, rising, thus the awful silence broke:
"Youth, I accept thy love, thy guidance wait;
Enough for me, if EDWARD's lawless hate
Hath left this little nook of Scotland free.
Enough for thee, that I'm the sport of Fate,
Driven from my home, a wanderer on the sea,
And all for ardent love of sacred Liberty!"

[pp. 3-31]