To Walter Scott, Esq. on reading his Lady of the Lake.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton

Four Spenserians. Sir Walter Scott's very popular poem was published in 1810. These are answering verses to the famous Spenserian stanzas with which Scott opens and closes his poem: "Harp of the North...."

Edward Fitzgerald: "Perhaps his favourite prose book was Scott's Novels. These he seemed never tired of reading, and hearing read. During the last four or five winters I have gone through several of the best of these with him — generally on one night in each week — Saturday night, that left him free to the prospect of Sunday's relaxation. Then was the volume taken down impatiently from the shelf almost before tea was over; and at last, when the room was clear, candles snuffed, and fire stirred, he would read out, or listen to, those fine stories, anticipating with a glance, or an Impatient ejaculation of pleasure, the good things he knew were coming — which he liked all the bettor for knowing they were coming — relishing them afresh in the fresh enjoyment of his companion, to whom they were less familiar; until the modest supper coming in closed the book, and recalled him to his cheerful hospitality" Memoir of Barton (1850) 39-40.

Minstrel! why hangs on yonder elm unstrung
That harp whose strains' to listening thousands dear,
Could, when thy hand across its strings was flung,
Both touch the heart, and captivate the ear?
If valour's partial smile, or beauty's tear
Repaid in earlier time its magic strain,
Small cause hast thou, enchanting bard! to fear
That thou the lay shalt ever tune in vain,
Rejoice without applause, without redress complain.

'Tis thine with fairy pencil to pourtray
The striking beauties of the highland scene;
The lonely glen, where scarce the solar ray
Can penetrate the spreading boughs between;
The towering crags, bedeck'd with foliage green,
The lake which laves the foot of Benvenue,
Now dark with clouds, now bright with summer sheen;
The landscape's varied charms delight the view,
Glittering in morning's beams, or evening's richer hue.

Whether thy song commemorate the Graeme,
Or prompt for Douglas the relenting sigh;
Or royal James, disguis'd in humble name,
Or savage Roderick, Alpine's chief be nigh;
Or whether pearly drop from Ellen's eye
Awake the gentler feelings of the heart;
'Tis thine, bewitching bard! each theme to try
Which joy, or grief, or wonder can impart;
Can cause the breast to throb or pitying tear to start.

Oh! strike once more the Caledonian Lyre,
Which silent hangs on Fillan's wizard tree;
The flowing numbers fancy shall inspire,
And breathe a Lay romantic, rich, and free.
From barren Caithness to the southern sea,
Shall every clan unite to spread thy fame;
Each scotish maid shall weave a wreath for thee,
Each rocky cliff reverberate thy name,
And every tongue combine thy glory to proclaim.

[pp. 206-08]