James Beattie's The Minstrel (1771, 1774) is continued and concluded in three additional books of 55 + 14 + 40 stanzas. The title is given as "The Minstrel: a Poem, in Five Books. The First two Books by Dr. Beattie; the three last by the Rev. R. Polwhele."
In 1811 Walter Scott attempted to have this poem published by Constable, and indeed Scott rather than Beattie seems to be the presiding influence in this historical romance. Polwhele does his best to complete Beattie's program, adding a third book to complete his aesthetic education, and a fourth and fifth that bring Edwin to the pinnacle of honor and prosperity. The poem takes up the challenge Thomas Gray presented to Beattie: why shouldn't Edwin perform "some great and singular service to his country? (what service I must leave to your invention) such as no General, no Statesman, no Moralist could do without the aid of music, inspiration, and poetry." Polwhele's highly irregular treatment of the Spenserian stanza maximizes aesthetic sensation; the burden of his description anticipates Keats ("Stooping to silver stirrups squires drew nigh"). The opening stanzas of the fourth book unmistakably resemble the Eve of St. Agnes.
Walter Scott to Richard Polwhele: "the Messrs. Ballantynes ... will esteem themselves happy and proud to publish any thing of yours. They only hesitate upon the scruple of its not being an original work, but a continuation of one already before the public; one or two attempts of the same kind having been made unsuccessfully. I told them I thought the title-page might be so moulded as not to express the poem to be a continuation of Beattie's work, and that the explanation might be reserved for the preface or introduction. As this was an experiment, they proposed the terms should be those of sharing the profits with the author, they being at the expense of print and paper. I can answer for their dealing justly and honourably. I believe Beattie says in some of his letters, and he did intend the Minstrel to play the part of Tyrtaeus on some invasion of his country. But I conceive one reason of his deserting the task he had so beautifully commences was, a suspicion that he had given his hero an education and a tone of feeling inconsistent with the plan he had laid down for his subsequent exploits; and your termination of Edwin's history will be much more natural and pleasing than that intended by the author himself" 1 December 1811; in Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 2:644-45.
In Book Three Edwin is separated from his childhood haunts, and falls under the spell of a mysterious musician. He learns her melodies, and when he spies her within her bower, copies her form with his pencil. The closing stanzas reflect on the nature of poetry; though the story is set in the middle ages, Edwin discovers that unlike earlier minstrels, his is a sentimental muse: "Tho' I inherit not their nobler powers! | Yet, tho' with bolder hand they swept the wires, | Mine is the skill where dark affliction lours, | By modulations sweet to soothe the sullen hours" p. 65.
The fourth book opens with Edwin entering with his minstrelsy the guests at Oscar's castle ("it was no high historic song"). Edwin's sentimental poetry stirs up antipathy towards gothic tyranny. When Marian (the mysterious musician) displays approval for his music, Oscar threatens her with his lance and mockingly sends Edwin forth to arouse rebellion elsewhere.
In the concluding book Edwin meets with a wandering group of his clan members, among them a mysterious monk. They repair to the house of Arden, a warder, who arms them for battle. They withstand an ambush in the cave once occupied by Edwin's old friend, the Hermit; when the clan fall prey to fear and superstition, Edwin inspires them to glory and they overthrow the haughty Glenvon within the walls of an old abbey. The monk turns out to be the Hermit himself, who informs Edwin of his secret paternity. His father was in fact the brother of a chief slain by Glevon, and Edwin is the head of his clan. When Edwin (concealing his high birth) repairs to Marion, Oscar imprisons them both. By a strange and sudden providence, Edwin is freed and his rightful heirship revealed to a wondering tenantry.
Why Polwhele should divide what seems like one canto into two such irregularly-sized books is not immediately apparent. To the twenty-second stanza of Book Five he appends a note on the Hermit's tame stag: "See Beattie's Minstrel, Book II. Stanza 25."
The author prefaces an analysis: "I. — First and Second Books. The progress of GENIUS in boyism and in youth; as, through the medium of the senses, the fancy is influenced by universal nature, as the memory is stored with knowledge, and as the judgment is improved by education — Its wilder energies. II. — Third Book. GENIUS, — as the fancy and the passions of youth are influenced by external objects, particularly by female beauty — assuming a more decided form in music, painting, and poetry. III. — Fourth and Fifth Books. The sister arts thus called into action; — their operation in the enterprising spirit of the lover and the warriour; and their effect (both in public and private life) viz; to the Minstrel, the acquisition of riches, power, and beauty; and to his country, through his instrumentality, emancipation from tyranny, and restoration to liberty and peace. NOTE. The second stanza in Beattie's first book should be re-written. To accommodate the sentiment to the conduct of Edwin when brought into action, we should say, 'But the fire of genius will often break through all the obstructions of fortune, where there is scope to expatiate through universal nature.'"
Walter Scott to Richard Polwhele: "I really wished to be here, and to consult with my friends and publishers, the Messrs. Ballantynes, before answering the most material part of your letter. They will esteem themselves happy and proud to publish any thing of yours. They only hesitate upon the scruple of its not being an original work, but a continuation of one already before the public; one or two attempts of the same kind having been made unsuccessfully. I told them I thought the title-page might be so moulded as not to express the poem to be a continuation of Beattie's work, and that the explanation might be reserved for the preface or introduction. As this was an experiment, they proposed the terms should be those of sharing the profits with the author, they being at the expense of print and paper. I can answer for their dealing justly and honourably. With respect to the work itself, I believe Beattie says in some of his letters, that he did intend the Minstrel to play the part of Tyrtaeus on some invasion of his country. But I conceive one reason of his deserting the task he had so beautifully commences was, a suspicion that he had given his hero an education and a tone of feeling inconsistent with the plan he had laid down for his subsequent exploits; and your termination of Edwin's history will be much more natural and pleasing than that intended by the author himself. I shall have the utmost pleasure in attending the progress of your poem through the press, and doing all in my power to give it celebrity. I was under the necessity of making the Ballantynes my confidants as to the real name of the author, which, be assured, smoothed all difficulties at once; as they are both readers of poetry, and no strangers to yours" 1 December 1811; in Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 644-45.
Polwhele gives a list of errata in Traditions and Recollections: "In Book III. Stanza xii. read, for 'flames of fire,' 'plumes of fire.' This erratum spoils the effect of the whole stanza. — In Stanza xxiv. for 'doe,' read 'roe.' — In Stanza xxxv. for 'riffling,' read 'ruffling.' — In Stanza li. for 'blazed,' read 'glow'd.' — In Book v. Stanza xxix. for 'descent,' read 'desert'" (1826) 586. His story possibly owes something to Andrew Macdonald's Velina (1782), which Polwhele was likely to have read in his youth.
Yes, it is meet to pour afresh the tear,
Which mourns, in pale regret, the parted friend!
Him, who to all the choral sisters dear
Would to my earliest notes assistance lend,
And breathing inspiration, kindly bend
O'er each weak effort, as I tun'd the rhyme!
E'en now, I own that influence, and ascend
To heights where Edwin's genius towers sublime:
He nurs'd the boy's first bloom, the stripling's vigorous prime.
The eye kindled, as the sod is cold!
The sod shall wake in blossoms! but no more
Unclos'd, shall that illumin'd eye behold
My Minstrel on the sky-ting'd mountain hoar,
The mossy cairne, the cliff, the surging shore,
As candour would assign the poet's meed;
Or now, (where lorn amidst the Yarrow's roar,
One impulse, one alone, doth Edwin heed)
Shall cordial love look up, and listen to my reed!
Yet can I fancy, so benign and arch,
That smile, my friend, effus'd upon thy face,
Where Edwin, midst his desultory march,
Would pause, then run, and slackening then his pace,
From sorrow snatch the muse's pensive grace;
And from his moody melancholy start,
And clasp some lovely form with fond embrace,
As if for ever from that form to part,
And rue the vision vain, and sigh forth all the heart.
Sad exile from his hills, no more the crook,
The nightly pen, the pipe, the tinkling bell,
Shall Edwin hail; nor hurry from the brook
(That his pinebridge o'erthrew with instant swell)
His reckless flock; nor whistling o'er the fell,
Bid honest Tray a bleating lamb chase back;
Nor, tho' his progress drifted snows repel,
And, at each step the frozen current crack,
Pursue the vagrant kid, and trace its fading track.
Sad exile from his hills, where life began,
With his paternal harp had Edwin fled!
By feudal vengeance was dispers'd his clan,
Where his old laird by Glenvon's dagger bled!
His honour'd parents grey had long been dead,
And matted were their graves with moss and fern,
And lo! poor Edwin fain would earn his bread
To his harp trusting—! hard, alas! to earn,
If to endure the scoff must heaven-born genius learn.
Lone wanderer! all from clan to clan he rov'd;
The heath-roof'd cottage, and the lofty dome
Rang to the madrigals his fathers lov'd;
When, once would the broad blaze of hearths illume.
Amidst high cheer, each hospitable room!
And still sweet hope to faery-land would waft
His spirit far from spleen's cold gathering gloom;
And love capricious on the peasant laugh'd,
As now he sobb'd in grief; now hugg'd the golden shaft.
II. In unison with Edwin's pensive breast,
The sounds of population died away,
On the pale wood as twilight dropp'd her vest,
And, as to silence breath'd the whispering spray,
And all the rills that slumber'd through the day,
Each gurgling rill distincter yet, drew near,
'Twas where the north star shone with purest ray,
Their lapse through shades unseen he seem'd to hear,
With some new sentiment, to hope and fancy dear.
Ah! never never did he hear before,
The purling cadence of a stream so sweet,
Nor ever (but still sighed for something more)
So soft a sound in gentle zephyr meet!
Yet was the simple music incomplete!
Still did he listen to the brooks, the trees
Sauntering along, their murmurs fond to greet:
And in each liquid fall, in every breeze,
Some sympathy perceived, to mar the loiterer's ease.
Nor wonder, that the enthusiast listen'd still,
Where from the bosom of an unknown wood,
One evening, sweeter than the pebbly rill,
Or down smooth rocks the fast-receding flood,
Tones he had heard, which in delicious mood
Expired. Ah! not so sweet the zephyr dies!
Then, as bereft of motion had he stood!
Then, as dissolv'd by heavenly symphonies,
Had he effus'd his spirit in one soft waste of sighs!
And now, he slop'd his solitary way,
To seek where sole on earth could pleasure flow:
The bird of eve prelusive trill'd her lay,
Where with faint blush he saw the buck-briar blow:
And, fading from a cloud with finer glow,
Wav'd o'er the west a crimson radiance clear:—
And, hark! (yet, yet, he fear'd, it was not so!)
The same celestial music met his ear,
And ceas'd, as if escap'd from a far distant sphere.
To where wild Yarrow winds its shadowy stream,
As on he press'd, in rapt attention mute,
Oft from the current through the leaves a gleam
Would, twinkling, tremulous, his strain'd eye salute:
And each unquivering aspin seem'd to suit
The silent temper of his soul so well.
Who but a seraph, who could execute
Such melodies? Again, so sweet a swell!
Sweeter than sounds from lute, or harp, or horn, or shell.
Yet was he sure, it was some charming maid
Mingling her voice with each harmonious wire,
And panted to explore the sacred shade
That bower'd the fairest of the immortal choir!
The Minstrel seem'd to mount on flames of fire!
And now, amidst the foliage, rose more bright,
The star which sooths the lover's fond desire,
When one rich tone, as if to meet that light,
Was breath'd through the hush'd air, and all was lost in night.
Thrill'd by such sweetness at the watery brink,
He stole (and homeward with the treasure hied)
From his dear lutanist a dulcet link;
Nor to his harp till many a touch applied
Its mimic modulations deftly tried,
Did he a moment rest. That star again
Beam'd forth. Again he stood by Yarrow's side,
Heard with new joy the same symphonious strain,
And tun'd the according strings, responsive all in vain.
Eve follow'd eve. "Alas! (he cried) I hail
The secret maid; but where her wonted note?
I rove, unheeded, all through Yarrow's dale!
Yet, hark! the springtide numbers round me float!
Ah! happier far the feather'd lover's lot!
Hark! from the hazel copse, the whitening thorn,
Each gladsome warbler pours his little throat!
Nor does he court a dumb cold mate forlorn!
I only utter plaints, repelled by silent scorn.
"Yet, midst the light leaves of yon purple birch,
I see that finch her pert pursuer fly;
Now, flirtish, on a trembling osier perch,
Now hop away, or petulant or shy,
As if she were averse from vernal joy!
But soon shall she relent and hail him blest!
Soon, though she flutter, a coquet so coy,
Steal the soft moss to weave her genial nest,
And twitter love for love, and pant to be carest!"
He ceas'd, and struck his harp. Spontaneous strains
Along the chords instinct with amorous fire
Express'd the lover's fears, the lover's pains;
And in the chasten'd dalliance of desire
As the tones swell'd, to languish and expire,
He deem'd the effect for mortal hand too much;
But when across the wave some answering wire
He caught, the ravishment of round was such,
His arms be rais'd and clasped, entranc'd at every touch.
"Ah! 'tis but echo sporting with a grief
He cannot feel, in sooth, — he cannot cure!
Thus the world's hollow friendship brings relief,
Specious in sighs of sympathy, to lure
The heart, then bid it keener pangs endure."
Such was his sombrous thought. — Again, a treasure
Of sounds, to lap the soul in bliss, so pure
Came wafted on, that each delicious measure
Seem'd fraught with fadeless love, and ever-blooming pleasure.
On his mind imag'd that enchanting fair,
Delirious transports o'er his senses pour'd.
And, as he mov'd all lightness, every air,
And every cadence, every tone, he stor'd
Rich in his bosom! Oh! it was a hoard
Of heavenly sweetness! — But her form, array'd
In high perfection's blaze he scarce ador'd,
Ere diffident and timid he survey'd
That form fast glide away, a poor illusive shade.
'Twas now, as mid a shower of roses, blush'd
Young May. Thro' air the spirit of freshness flew;
Red with the rays of morn the crags were flush'd,
And the green mead impearl'd with balmier dew!
There, Edwin's wonted path, of paler hue,
Was cross'd at distance by a root-wreath'd stile,
And sidelong up a mountain led the view;
Till it sank, darksome, in a deep defile,
Thither the Minstrel look'd with more enamour'd smile.
And "Come!" he cried, and seiz'd his faithful harp—
"To thee, full oft, escap'd from care and woe,
And dullness and censorious envy sharp,
To thee, my life, my soul's best hopes I owe!
To thee, perchance, of all heaven's gifts below
The fairest boon! O come, then, seek with me,
Sweet harp! that witching wood-nymph! — Let us go,
Where flow'd but yester eve such minstrelsy
As never charm'd before, or Yarrow, Tweed, or Dee."
He said; nor linger'd where a soft-green larch
His old road chequer'd, but the glade retrac'd,
And, eastward, to the horizon, some pale arch
Bridging the stream, in fancy's eye embrac'd,
As the tall mountain firs he brush'd in haste;
Till now thro' parted mists, with lines of light
Here sparkling, there by shadow half o'ercast,
The river open'd to his eager sight,
And, thro' the long fir-grove, a speck of glimmering white.
There, as he nearer drew, he saw that speck
Into a bridge expand, all hoar with rime,
And slowly on the scene its arches break,
Or cloth'd, or tinctured by the touch of time:
And, ere a shelving rock he strove to climb,
The bridge, from a low marish far outstretch'd
Appear'd as if self-pois'd in air sublime,
Towering where human efforts had not reach'd,
But safe the shagg'd goat leap'd, the nestling owlet screech'd.
That rack now scal'd, the parapet he grasp'd,
Which in the sapphire heaven thus seem'd to hang;
And straight, from the loose crannied stone (that, clasp'd
With ivy, trembled to his footsteps) sprang:
The slender archwork where he bounded rang.
Then, as he cross'd the bridge, he view'd the flash
Of waves where lichens to the granite clang,
And the high flood the mouldering fabric wash,
Sprinkle the briar rose-buds, and bathe the mountain-ash.
Fast by the river-margin fring'd with gorse
And heathery bloom, his way he downward took.
Deep frown'd the glenwood o'er his westering course.
Nor aught, as he sent on an anxious look,
Discern'd he, but a thorny tangled nook
That clos'd his narrow path. The fearful doe
Scar'd at his quick approach, the branches shook.
He paus'd. — Its wishes yet can love foregoe?
Above were dusky shades, and sabler waves below.
Thro' trees and coppice, an umbrageous screen
He broke; when as uncurtain'd struck the sight
A wide and level area, soft and green:
The foliage danc'd around in airy height;
And intermingling shrubs their blossoms bright
Thro' all the sweep in gay luxuriance spread;
While, such as fairy steps might well invite,
Rich in its gilded roofing overhead,
A bower amidst the cirque a store of fragrance shed.
Flutter'd from fond emotion, Edwin trod
The turf. At every pressure, as he cross'd
Its mossy verdure, sank the velvet sod:
The bower-roof blaz'd, as all with gold emboss'd.
"How dear" (he said and sigh'd) "one glance may cost
This heart" — and trembling look'd. With scarce the power
To breathe, to all the world was Edwin lost!
Thro' the cool trellis twin'd with many a flower
Had Edwin "trembling look'd!" Who, who inspires the bower?
'Twas noon. Its rays from the red pillar's plinth
Shot down, as to salute a lovely fair;
And, as half bending o'er a hyacinth
She stood, a sunbeam pencil'd her dark hair:
A lute beside seem'd more than half her care,
As to that lute the virgin look'd askance!
And there was somewhat pensive in her air!
Alas! poor boy! no wonder in a trance
So rapt! — from such an air — from such a conscious glance!
Each shadowy eyelash, all the soften'd fire,
The sparkling of her fine blue eyes reliev'd;
And the light gauze seem'd kindling to desire,
As flush'd with wishful sighs her bosom heav'd!
Her cheek as with the rose's tint deceiv'd
The sight, where playful wav'd a truant curl!
Ah! well, poor Edwin! of thy sense bereav'd,
As lips unclosing show'd their orient pearl,
And melting languors touch'd the dear enchanting girl.
Closer he shrank, where blooms on every spray
A living texture, veil'd him safe from view;
Yet fear'd the florets, opening to betray
The enamour'd thief. As to her form he grew!
When, with a sudden impulse ever true
To Nature's careless graces, lo, he seiz'd
At once her air — her attitude — and drew
The angelic maid; now copying, as he gaz'd;
Now bending o'er his lines, and at himself amaz'd.
Divine the product of pictorial art,
Wak'd by young love when genius prompts our aim:
Then lives in each expression all the heart;
Each stroke is radiance, and each colour, flame!
How glow'd, how thrill'd with transport Edwin's frame,
When, as a wizard work, he saw pourtray'd
His charmer's form, her mien, her look; the same!
The impassion'd picture he once more survey'd,
Then thro' the trellis dropp'd, and plung'd amidst the glade.
To his fresh spirits every breeze was balm,
As by the river-marge he homeward hied,
And stopp'd, and with a joy subdued more calm
Again the touches of his pencil tried
And in each trace his former self outvied!
Then might you mark, by a rock's chasmy screen,
Flush'd with a glow of independent pride
His open brow; now brilliant, now serene,
His eyes of hazel dark; his step, his manly mien.
Slow, stealing on his footworn path, repos'd
The evening shadow. Midst the trees, in dews
Had all their breathing cups the florets clos'd,
And shut from every eye their tenderest hues.
Heedless of harp, his way the boy pursues:
Nor aught to his old friend attention brings,
Till the sun, darting to the Minstrel muse,
On its rich frame a gilding glory flings;
And paler radiance faints along the slumbering strings.
Sunk in the faded west the crimson blaze;
Thro' duskier red how soft the evening-star!
Oft, at his pathway, thro' the steaming haze,
Limp'd unalarm'd, from her close copse the hare;
Till now, as gleam'd the rifted rock afar,
The Minstrel, winding round the wildwood steep,
From the still river caught a shadowy glare;
And, the moon hung above the bridge's sweep,
The silent waters seem'd all hush'd in silver sleep.
But halos soon around the lunar disk
The story of the changing ether told:
And, now and then, dry bents would Eurus whisk
From some forsaken nest; and, blue and cold,
As he repass'd the bridge, the river roll'd,
And whistling eddies swept the whiten'd wave!
The night-bird shriek'd: and, in each hoary fold,
Tho' all again were quiet as the grave,
Its misletoe the oak would with deep sobbings heave.
Yet, as he sought his cot, the sob, the scream
Was sweet, and mild as Flora's breath, the flaw
Down the vale riffling. Bright his morning dream;
Soft every twitter from the roofing-straw;
Nor e'er in swallow, rounds so brisk he saw:
Nor ever did he hail such blooms, tho' vain
May's early tints, the winds still drear and raw!
Nor ever did such pleasing light distain,
Tho' sick the dawning day, his casement's rubied pane.
Alert, (as by the winds the watery rack
Rapid across the sky by fits was driv'n)
Edwin renew'd his now familiar track:
The sun's white tresses stream'd from opening heaven;
As at his feet the mountain-fir was riv'n
Crashing, and Yarrow choak'd with foliage, foam'd:
'Twas then, the spirit of the storm was giv'n
To fire his mantling genius, as he roam'd
Where now the wood wav'd bright, and now convolving gloom'd.
Broke on his sight the blissful bower. A form
As heaven-descended the soft verdure brush'd,
The thin hail rattling thro' a transient storm:
But, as she ran, she beckon'd and she blush'd!
In tremors pale, and now from rapture flush'd
He stood. Against such charms was Edwin proof?
And now into the bower he would have rush'd
With his sweet harmonist, one common roof
To share. — Enchanting thought! — he hover'd — yet aloof!
Sudden, as thus he shiver'd in suspense,
A palfrey was led round her arbour-shade:
And, hurrying from a timid conscious sense,
Vaulted upon its back the beauteous maid.
Yet, looking, of observance half afraid,
Her head, one precious moment, back she bent;
And, in one smile, one vivid blush betray'd
That more than menials could conjecture, meant,
Pleasure chastis'd by fear, and hope and soft consent.
"Ah! stay (he cries) ye dear illusions stay
Too prompt, alas! to flatter and to fail!
Sparkling and melting in the fervid ray,
I see, along the cowslips of the dale
Yon crystal drops, that erst were bolts of hail,
How sweet their incense, and how rich their glow!
I see where frown'd the welkin dark and pale,
Painting its cloud, the vermeil hills below,
With various colours gay, yon faery-featur'd bow.
"Alas! we note them, but they fleet the while!
So transient female favour oft we rue!
Cold icy pride relenting to a smile,
And blushes scatter'd like the rainbow's hue.
But, (my fond heart perhaps may tell me true)
Thro' fluid ice behold the breathing flower!
And, the sweet vernal promise to renew,
The rainbow glitters in the sunny shower,
Fair harbingers to hope, of many a golden hour!"
He said; and where the damsel disappear'd,
Dash'd thro' the shades. Say, whence such daring came?
Presumptuous boy! — In Oscar's castle rear'd,
That earl's bright heiress waken'd Edwin's flame!
But, are not the earth's treasures the high claim
Of genius prompted to chivalric deeds?
Shall not the Muse direct the adventurer's aim,
Tho' pleas'd awhile with rills and pastoral reeds,
Where "tissued dames rain smiles," or fierce the battle bleeds.
Fast by the castle-turrets, he awaits
The veil of night. Erelong across the moat
The bridge drawn up, and clos'd the iron gates,
The ancient clock swings round its sullen note:
The gloomy watchman, to his task devote,
The ramparts stalks; while now thro' bower and hall
To many a passing light the shadows float,
Where tapers flash from wall to distant wall,
And from the illumin'd panes long trails of splendour fall.
Where in the topmost turret, broad and deep,
A window gleam'd, thro' shafts of dusky stone,
Fronting the casement frown'd a craggy steep:
Its cavern'd sides, its pinnacle, o'ergrown
With shrubs and mosses, oft bade echo moan!
Stole to the moat between its gushing brook,
There Edwin heav'd enamour'd sighs; when shone
From the dim panes that drew his eager look
A sudden light. His frame with hope's quick tremor shook.
Strait as he gaz'd, along the chamber pass'd
A female form, and to the night's soft breeze
The casement op'd: 'twas Marian's self! how fast
His heart-pulse! time so precious how to seize
Ill knows the mind inur'd to slothful ease;
Ill knows the indifference of the vulgar breast!
In seasons of emergence, such as these,
'Tis for high genius only, to arrest
Palms of immortal worth, in one bright moment blest.
"Far from my own sweet home" — (his harp begun)
"Far from my old hereditary fields
I wander! Ah! no more the vernal sun
For me the young-leav'd oak in glory gilds!
Or wintry hour its inspiration yields,
Where brighten'd the green ash as chill winds blew!
Farewell the heart that cherishes — that shields
The boy from threatening scowls and smiles untrue—
Friends of my childish years, dear native woods adieu!
"Alas! no longer love and duty dress
Where lies a parent, the neglected grave!
There, where the spot no sighs of friendship bless,
Shall pale reeds tremble, rustling thistles wave;
Yet, shall his dust repose, where sleep the brave!
And, haply, from his hovering spirit, still,
Some cheering succour may the minstrel crave;
And fancy with her former visions fill
Where'er I shape my path, or grove, or dale, or hill.
"How many a time" (he said, his eye to heaven
Uprais'd in tears) "for all the Muse inspires,
The sigh of gratitude my heart hath giv'n;
Nor with this harp transmitted from my sires
Slighted, degenerate, their poetic fires,
Tho' I inherit not their nobler powers!
Yet, tho' with bolder hand they swept the wires,
Mine is the skill where dark affliction lours,
By modulations sweet to soothe the sullen hours.
"When first, assiduous by my father's side
Minstrel-boy, I bore my little scrip;
'Twas then, at Christmas-Eve, or Hallau-tide,
Midst merry wassailers was I wont to trip
My blithesome round, and not averse to sip,
Whilst ripe years revel'd in the copious draught,
The sparkling juice imbued my rosy lip!
To me, unconscious of revenge or craft,
Then from the vacant heart the social circles laugh'd.
"'Twas then upon the soul of innocence
A father's melodies the impression made!
E'en now their echoes placid joy dispense,
As if once more my aged parent play'd!
But there was one sweet air shall never fade,
Dear to my pensive spirit! — There was one
As incense wafted from a woodbine shade!
Yet vibrates on my ear the dulcet tone!—
Would I could say, perhaps, yet vibrates — that alone!
"But from that moment I was all the bard,
Tho' scarce twelve years had o'er me wing'd their flight!
I look'd on nature with a fond regard;
And every scene was bath'd in lovely light!
New was each murmur, — recent every sight,
Wild as I flung my rapid glances round!
Sparkled the living streams, as crystal bright,
Wav'd the fair trees with flowers ambrosial crown'd!
And all was clear blue sky, and all was faery ground.
"Whilst others with cold apathy the blooms
Of spring perceiv'd — the first fresh breath inhal'd;
I met soft roses thro' the breaking glooms,
And with glad heart on every sweet regal'd!
Or, if the summer fruitage blaz'd, or sail'd
The thunder in careering horrors red;
If odorous zephyr sigh'd, or Auster wail'd;
Delighted still, I rov'd where fancy led,
Where grandeur's awful forms, its flame where beauty fed.
"Whilst others heeded not the linnet's loves,
'Twas mine, thro' all the warbling woodland maze,
To trace the growing passion of the groves;
Or, thro' some hollow of a glen, to gaze,
Where the dire eagle, prompt her prey to seize,
Unsheath'd her clans, and plied her bloody beak,
Then view her mount into the solar blaze,
And, north away, on rapid pinion break,
Where her vast eyrie hung across Benarvon's peak.
"But what are vernal smiles, or lightning storms,
The warbler's loves, the impetuous eagle's wings?
Are there not fairer features, finer forms,
To strike the thrilling heart's harmonious strings?
Voluptuous fire where female beauty flings
To touch with transient glow the vulgar breast,
'Twas mine, as circled by some wizard's rings,
To flutter, haply for a moment blest,
And gaze, and tremble still, and find, alas! no rest!
"Yet, tho' I glanc'd a more impassion'd look,
And breath'd, too tender, more enamour'd sighs,
Where the light virgin toss'd her careless crook,
With love and joy and frolic in her eyes;
Yet could no sylvan maid with sweet surprise
Allure me by a charm before unseen:
The simple air was oft a poor disguise;
Nor was there meekness in the modest mien!
No sympathy of soul inspir'd the village green.
"And say, no bosom by some secret bond
To this poor heart attach'd, doth heaven incline?
No moral music to my soul respond?
But am I doom'd in lonesome shades to pine,
No whisperings breath'd, no sighs to answer mine?
O! I have heard — not seraphs — sooth to say—
Heaven's harmonies could warble more divine!"
Sudden his wild notes sweetly died away
Upon the trembling strings; and ceas'd his lovesick lay.
BOOK THE FOURTH.
'Twas on a day, when many a lord and knight
Were bidden to Earl Oscar's sumptuous hall:
Flam'd the broad banners on the turret's height.
And now rode forth the hoary Seneschall
Where deep-maned steeds tramp'd round the bulwark'd wall:
Stooping to silver stirrups squires drew nigh;
And grey dames, honouring the proud festival;
And lovely ladies dazzled every eye;
And all in antique state the armorial pageantry!
The sounds how various thro' the crowded court;
From shaking portals, heavy doors that swung
The rattling of horse-hoofs, the neigh, the snort,
Mingling in harsh discordance many a tongue,
And deaf'ning echoes as the castle rung.
And lo! as rich across the rush-strewn floor
Pictorial shapes the illumination flung,
The steel-clad chieftains thro' each lofty door,
In long procession march'd, with "damsels a bright store."
High o'er the splendours of the stately feast
The gallery threw its far-projected shade;
And many a Minstrel the carousel grac'd,
Where the sweet flagelet its notes essay'd,
Or the deep sackbut martial music made,
The fife the clarinet, the mellower horn!
And who, as from his harp imploring aid,
That pensive lad, his green vest pale and worn?
Can a poor peasant boy, or hall, or bower, adorn?
To glut the haughty Oscar's ravenous ears,
The choir, their legends rising to a roar
Obstreperous, chaunted — sung the suppliant's tears;
Fame's rapid clarion, that from shore to shore
The names of kings and bloody conqueror's bore;
Pale vassals palsied by a despot's nod;
And each traditionary tale of yore
That told, how crouching to his iron rod,
Faint multitudes fell down, and bless'd him as their God!
Far other strains as now the silent band,
As now the listening chiefs, to him alone
Look'd wondering, follow'd Edwin's master-hand—
Far other lessons mute attention won!
O'er sanguine feuds sent down from sire to son,
O'er mad ambition's strides the Minstrel mourn'd!
To free-born man and freedom's rights foregone
His glowing fancy now the story turn'd,
While pages, squires, and serfs, with heaven's own fervour burn'd!
Alas! it was no high historic song:
To conscious bosoms trembled every chord:
Perhaps, some wanderer in the festive throng
Had seen with chill dismay the ruffian sword
Reek in the life-blood of their lawful lord!
And lo! amidst the chiefs a stranger guest,
As sudden by the fiend of conscience gor'd,
Let drop the goblet to his lips just prest,
And grinn'd a heartless smile, and bow'd his helmet crest.
"Yet shall the tyrant rue," (his visage grim—
His fear-struck features well the Minstrel knew—
A coward heart now shrinking every limb)
"Yet shall that fatal hour the tyrant rue,
When him, the hereditary laird he slew,
And dyed in kindred blood his guilty dirk!
Some rightful heir shall rise; to freedom true,
And show, if link'd with treachery murder lurk,
How soon must ruin sap the usurper's baseless work!"
A deeper still, and yet a deeper draught,
In the full cup as flash'd the liquid gold,
The stranger-lord, to quench his feelings quaff'd!
His eye the host with indignation roll'd!
Nor only did the inpatient Earl behold
His guest by turns enrag'd, by turns dismay'd.—
To keen suspicion Marian's tremors told
Some ominous tale. His brows in gathering shade
Now dark, he scowl'd in scorn, and now he grasp'd his blade.
"For him, embalming his untimely bier,
(Edwin still sung) no sighs shall mark distress!
His memory loath'd by all, no tender tear
Soft in the eye of virgin beauty, bless!
Nor, as in life, affection's fond caress
Did ever melt that unrelenting lord,
So, lone in death, as midst a wilderness,
His unshriev'd spirit shall haunt the spot abhorr'd,
Where moulders his dank tomb with toads and vipers stor'd.
"But, where the simple bosom owns no stain,
Shall not the chaste, the ingenuous virtues find
A sympathizing spirit? Not in vain,
Shall not that bosom seek its kindred mind?
Yes! and congenial souls, to meet their kind,
Tho' born, where gothic piles superbly rise,
Not seldom hath impartial heaven inclin'd:
And soon, these aspirations taught to prize,
Some Marian may impart her moral harmonies!"
II. — Her blush that moment met her father's glance,
(It was a flower, in sooth, whose bloom was brief)
High Oscar starting pois'd the uplifted lance—
With shrieks she fell. Astonish'd, every chief
Arose, to give the fainted maid relief—
When from her bosom dropp'd (of power to chase,
There folded, the sick pangs of lovelorn grief)
Two pencil'd forms, with all the vivid trace
Of Marian's beauteous shape, of Edwin's manly grace.
III. — Scarce had the morning ting'd the saffron east,
When Oscar summon'd, all with fury gaunt,
His prisoner, dire disturber of the feast,
And cried: "Thou reptile fly! poor worm avaunt!
Haste from these walls, and seek thy wildwood haunt,
Nor here again thy peasant dreams advance!
Thy freedom on such terms alone I grant!
Go! and in other groves indulge thy trance!
Thy patrimonial harp, thy proud inheritance!"
"Yes!" (Edwin cries) "this harp is worth a throne!
Poor are thy castles to one Minstrel lay!
Yes! there are claims that grandeur dares not own!
For I have claims (his full heart seem'd to say)
That, where the warrior's plumage fades away,
And conquest her vain ensigns hath unfurl'd,
Shall to the soul aspire, the bosom sway,
And from their bloodstain'd heights where despots hurl'd
Roll in dishonest dust, shall rouse a vassal world!"
"Go then, my boy!" — the mocking Oscar spoke—
"Go, with a power to thee reveal'd alone,
In suffering clanships break the ignoble yoke!
Besure, enchantment lives in every tone!
And, with a sorcery to thy sires unknown,
Thy strains shall kindle slaves to arms, to arms!
Go then; and pictur'd beauty be thine own!
Go, waken thro' a groaning land alarms!
The original thy meed — no less than Marian's charms!"
BOOK THE FIFTH.
Faint on the lark's wet wing, some orient beams
Play'd, as she warbling rose. His cottage gloom
The Minstrel, haunted by romantic dreams,
Had fled, ere yet a lone ray could illume
The lattice, or steal o'er the garden bloom:
And now, as the sun stain'd the mountain top,
Sudden, he spied along the yellow broom
Pacing, a slow and melancholy group;
Some dubious where to tread, some seem'd devoid of hope.
They were of Edwin's clan — weigh'd down with age
A great grandsire, his thin hair silver grey;
And fathers, haply from experience sage,
And sturdy lads, half serious, and half gay;
And rose-lip'd maidens, who to roundelay
Had danc'd, on village-green, at village-wake;
And wedded females, who with vain essay,
Well as they knew the Minstrel, strove to speak,
And forc'd a smile, yet look'd, as if their hearts would break.
"Your way, (he cries) ah! whither do ye bend,
Ye, whom my ditties rude so oft have charm'd,
Weaving the joyous dance, your festal friend?
Whom rural pastimes e'en to transport warm'd,
By not a glimpse of coming ills alarm'd!"
And then he swept the strings, prelusive o'er;
At once a thousand dear ideas swarm'd
In every breast: each panted to explore
Again the willowy flood, the mountain and the moor.
The long-transmitted field he lov'd to till
The trout-stream's maze, the bugle's morning cheer,
The secret woodpath, and the murmuring mill,
And sylvan axe erst echoing on the ear,
Sprang to each mind. One look'd from cowl severe
On Edwin, more intent. A cherub child,
(From other eyes whilst gush'd the ready tear)
On his dejected father archly smil'd,
And bark'd a sportive dog, as if from prescience wild.
Where liv'd a veteran warder, to his laird
Once warm in service, they slop'd back their path—
He, who his poor fall'n master's trust had shar'd
Thro' a long lapse of time; whose ancient faith
Would have call'd lightnings from their cloud, to scath
His brows, ere he had seen that master slain!
Far in the horizon where a fir-girt path
Seem'd a dark spot beyond the misty plain,
That veteran warder liv'd — there sped the motley train.
With cordial welcome did the warder greet
The approaching troop. His fancy, day and night,
Had figur'd such a troop — 'twas no deceit,
But a clear vision of the second sight!
Now was he almost frantic from delight!
Flew open his doors thick set with massy nails,
E'en to the secret armoury; where in fight
Prov'd ages back, frown'd helms, and dirks, and mails,
Broad-swords, and many a targe emboss'd with bloody scales.
The old men, wagging each his hoary beard,
On deeds of other days with pleasure hung:
Froth'd in full cups the mantling ale they rear'd;
And smooth in eloquence grew every tongue.
It was a brisk incitement to the young!
On Edwin as such deeds he ponder'd o'er,
Full oft the monk a look mysterious flung;
And Edwin was assur'd, yet more and more,
That he had somewhere seen that reverend face before.
Whisper'd at length the monk in Edwin's ear:
"Go, Minstrel-boy, go teach our troops to feel
Their native worth; and as high strains they hear,
Bury in tyrant-breasts the avenging steel!
Thy task to vindicate thy country's weal,
And show, in blessing others, man is blest!
And, if thou come victorious, to reveal
A truth be mine, thro' all thy life supprest!
Heaven on thine own deserts still bids thy fortune rest."
The chill blood warm'd afresh his veins — his band
As Arden guided to the border ground,
And straight his standard rear'd. At his command
The bugle blast fill'd vales and hills. Around
Flock'd the glad tenantry. And he, who wound
His lonesome way turn'd back thro' bowery glen;
And he who climb'd the cragstone at the sound
Was stay'd; and he who slowly trod the fen
Sprang forth, and he whose charge was clos'd in wattled pen.
Now brisk in march behold the clan, where seem'd
As stretch'd into the skies, a weary heath;
And now descending, where a dingle gleam'd,
Now vanishing, as low grounds dark beneath
Into dells deepen'd, like the gloom of death;
Now winding thro' a mountain's shaggy shade;
When drawn aloft from many a hostile sheath,
In dire defiance flash'd the unsated blade,
And leap'd from hollow rocks the rebel ambuscade.
'Twas from a bushy covert far retir'd,
And ivy-curtain'd was one cavern there;
Where Edwin, by the hermit's lore inspir'd,
(The same sweet spot) first heard the world had care.
And Arden, of the dangerous haunt aware,
Had arm'd his men with cuirass, shield and lance,
And bade them for the sudden fight prepare,
And looking round with heedful steps advance:
Full soon his caution prov'd, no words of fear or chance.
Hack'd by the rebel broad-swords were the helm
And mail and targe: and heavy were the blows
Of Arden from old oak and screening elm,
And from above the cavern; whence the foes
In ambush panted with their spears to enclose
The clan. What writhing bodies fill'd the cave
In death! In Edwin wild the emotion rose,
To see the hermit's placid grot, a grave;
And red with human gore the brook's once amber wave!
On to the abbey with forc'd march, they swept
Their whirlwind course! and, where they spied afar
The insulting banners, some in anguish wept
At a son's durance; others seem'd in air
To see a murder'd parent's spectre glare;
And some, as stooping his dark pinions, pass'd
The raven, caught the croak of wan despair;
And others, from the abbey trumpets blast,
(But such were beardless boys) shrank backward all aghast.
Now hangs upon a moment virtue's cause—
In full view the terrific abbey wall!
The clanmen halt — a still and awful pause—
Each breast the memory of dire deeds appals!
O Edwin, sing! O, sing, "the tyrant falls!"
Seize, seize thy harp; or Ettrick never more
Shall call back honour to her ancient halls!
Ah, why so sprinkled with fraternal gore
If idly the war-note thy faltering troop restore?
He sung. And "what is life," (was Edwin's strain)
"What, without freedom, man's prerogative!
Ah! happier they, than slaves that drag the chain,
They, for whose dying worth the valiant grieve!
Great at the cavern did your comrades give
Their spirits to their country! shall we shrink
From rebel blades; each corse unburied leave
To mangling eagles; e'en on glory's brink
Shudder, and down the gulf of black oblivion sink?
"Forbid it, heaven! — I see the despot grasp
Deep in some cell, his dirk, from terror pale!
I see him in death's agony now gasp!
His minions flee; go, go, the dome assail!
Already, freedom's generous sons prevail!
Each bears, exulting, his rich trophies home!
Yes! to his own dear hearth! — There, there, the tale
Shall with new lustre light the bridal bloom,
And children lisp your deeds for ages yet to come!"
The last tones quivering, with one shout, to rend
The mountains, they rush'd onward! to his blade
Each trusting, deem'd his blade his only friend.
Each flung aside his corselet, nor own'd aid
In targe or helm; each flung aside his plaid;
And sought the cloystral gloom, to Arden known
Whence an arch'd passage to the abbey led:
The subterranean road of dripping stone
Had heard, for many a year, the low gales only moan.
Amidst the heart of the proud abbey, rang
The vaults, as rose the invaders to the day;
Nor one, thro' all the dome, his cross-bow strang;
Nor one along the ramparts made the essay
To meet his foe, by coldness or dismay
Held back! — The laird had, with a desperate few,
High on the spiral staircase barr'd the way,
And there some foremost clan-men wildly slew;
Till now he fell, o'erpower'd with all his dastard crew.
From Glenvon scarce was the grey abbey wrench'd,
Ere, to the dead devoting sacred sighs,
The Minstrel to the cave in carnage drench'd
(It might be deem'd the cave of destinies)
Repair'd. There pac'd, to thrill him with surprise!
The monk — a white-stol'd hermit! — "Lo, the reign
Of despots is o'erpass'd!" (the hermit cries)
"Behold the grasp of usurpation vain!
And thine, from high descent, these towers, this wide demesne.
"Brother to him, whom haughty Glenvon slew,
Like me, the father from the world retir'd!
His proud alliance veiling from the view
In sleep disgust. By loftier prospects fir'd,
To rank or wealth his wishes had aspir'd
In vain, whilst others the demesne possess'd!
In sooth, he left thee all himself desir'd;
Nor with ambitious hope would fill thy breast,
Nor in thy lineal harp misdeem'd thee doubly blest.
"But erst, disguis'd by monkish cowl and garb,
I wonder not, my son!" (the hermit cried)
"Thou knew'st me not. Here shelter'd, every barb
Of the world's arrows had I long defied!
Sure, thou remember'st thy sequester'd guide!
See, then, that sage. Heaven sent me from my cell
To bid thee lay in dust the murderer's pride
The secret story of thy birth to tell,
And teach thy genius flights beyond the glimmering dell.
"Forc'd from this grotto, where mine age repos'd,
And, my poor stag! where gentlest of thy race
Living I had sustain'd thee, dying clos'd
Thine eyes, — I fled before the despot's face;
And join'd the clanmen, doubtful where to trace
My path. The counsels of the All-wise, how deep!
Tho' blood, alas! pollute this quiet place,
Here, those who fell, shall sleep, untroubled sleep;
Here patriots heave the sigh, and village maidens weep!"
In wild amaze, and gratitude more sweet
Was Edwin lost. He gaz'd, and gaz'd again;
And his first guide, his guardian still, to greet,
Hasten'd with bounding heart. The grot, with pain
To see discolour'd by the hostile stain
So hallow'd a retreat, he wander'd o'er!
"But it was heaven's high will! and nought in vain
Had Providence decreed! 'twas his to explore
Yet various scenes — 'twas his, to wonder and adore!"
II. Amidst the ideas which, like orb in orb,
Fast in his mind revolving, seem'd to roll
All other thoughts could Marian still absorb
The first dear image that inspir'd his soul!
'Twas necromantic love, at whose controul
The passions flame, or darken into gloom;
'Twas mighty love, his heart possessing whole,
Bade genius lance forth lightnings, to illume
Ambition's orient track, and gild its towering plume!
By cuirass all unarmed, or shield or helm,
Unaided by obsequious squire or horse,
Edwin, the grandeur of whose soul to o'erwhelm,
To check whose firm resolve, no power had force,
To meet his Marian bent his instant course;
And to his wish indulgent (so it seemed)
In the fair bower of all his sighs the source,
Hail'd her, more kind than fancy's self had dream'd
And one sweet melting glance a thousand fears redeem'd.
Then mantled o'er her face a brighter glow;
Rich through her hair's luxuriance blush'd a braid
Of young wood-flowers; her drapery, as of snow
Flung o'er her form a light aerial shade;
Whilst in her lovely eyes the expression play'd
Waken'd by some new wish, how sweetly wild!
And in quick throbs her bosom fast betray'd
A passion, ill to reason reconcil'd—
The flame of infant love, that all her soul beguil'd.
"O beauteous fair-one!" (falter'd Edwin's tongue—
It was the first access of fond desire,
That still approaching, in suspense still hung—)
O, Marian! if the victor's palm inspire
Through sympathetic ranks the heroic fire,
She, who inflam'd the victor, hath done more!
And sure, e'en earls may kiss the minstrel-wire,
Whilst echoing whence the despot reeks in gore,
Ring its triumphant sounds, and peal from shore to shore!"
With thrilling clasp now met their mutual hands!
Their breathless joy, how mixt with doubts and fears!
The tumult which love only understands;
Luxurious sighs, and more delicious tears!
But the scar'd look that apprehension wears
Ill suits the dalliance of dissolving love!
As the air darken'd round with bristling spears,
Behold a band encircled all the alcove,
And seiz'd the unweeting pair, and bore them up the grove.
Not with those notions midst the vulgar bred,
That scutcheon'd pomp consign to scornful mirth,
Was Edwin to the hall of Oscar led!
Yet, conscious of that high commanding worth,
That as the palace warms the hamlet-hearth,
He claim'd the guerdon of achievements bold:
And sternly did he hide his generous birth,
Nor deem'd, that lineage could descent uphold
Or blazon fair exploits by virtue's hand enroll'd.
"What: (cried the tyrant) shall reward the deed
Of glory? Upstart! murderer! haste, begone!
The turret in yon gateway be thy meed,
And for the bridal sigh, the imprison'd moan!
Bear, bear him hence! nor let his plaints alone
O'er vanish'd hopes or broken visions brood!
Bear Marian, too! That tower she deems her own
Shall bid her languish all in amorous mood,
Sigh o'er her pencil'd forms, and hug her solitude!"
And is it thus man tramples upon man?
Shall tyranny break down, or fraud betray
That spirit which far beyond life's little span
Soars where high genius points the empyreal way?
Shall treachery mar its course, or blot its ray?
No! can aught human quench the heavenly flame?
No! tho' immur'd where faints unheard the lay
Young Edwin in disdain suppress'd the claim
Of lordly birth, and grasp'd the Minstrel's nobler name.
III. But that ethereal spirit could ought sustain
Unwavering, when, sweet sufferer for his sake
He pictur'd Marian, torn by every pain
And imag'd her through night's drear gloom awake,
And pining still at every pale day-break?
Full oft was Edwin tempted to disclose
His birth, at her idea only weak:
But yet the day declin'd, the morning rose,
And yet could they perceive no period to their woes.
One morn, had Edwin from his prisoning grate
Mus'd on the still grey light that, gleam on gleam,
Touch'd the green hills; and soften'd was his fate,
As fancy wander'd o'er the vapour's stream
That, tinctur'd by the horizontal beam,
Fill'd all the distant vale, one glowing verge!
'Twas like the portrait of some faery dream!
When a wild burst of sound bade echo urge
It's echo, lingering yet along the forest-verge.
Oft through the openings of the steepy wood
Ere at his heels their horns the huntsmen wound,
The stag peep'd forth and quak'd, then listening stood
As if he lov'd the music of the hound!
And then each murmur, sinking all around,
Died fast away, then rose in one full swell—
The whole troop tramping over nearer ground,
While, down the impending craggs they reach'd the dell,
Where fronting the proud dome the village shadow fell.
Now shouts redoubled; all in wide array
Steeds smok'd; hounds struggled through the brook below!
The stag turn'd round infuriate; and at bay
To many a beagle dealt a deadly blow,
And, at his throat as hung the deep-mouth'd foe,
Sprang desperate through the gateway at one dash!
Down fell the prong'd portcullis! Then, I trow,
A hern-plum'd horseman midst the horrid crash
Was torn asunder, quick as forked lightnings flash.
'Twas Oscar! if a thought of dire revenge
Ere brush'd, ('tis thus the shadow fleets away)
The Minstrel's mind; how glorious was the change!
As in pale death his foeman gasping lay!
It was a sight of pity and dismay!
But, O! what feelings tortur'd Edwin's heart!
He would have run with kindness to repay
Each wrong; to bind each wound; to heal each smart!
His irons smote his soul! each enter'd like a dart.
Dread was the pause of silence; dread the din
Of dissonant doors and bars, and dread the shriek,
The hideous laugh, and murmurs far within!
Hark other bolts! hark! nearer hinges creak!
Behold the castle heiress! all too weak
Her utterance: — lo! she swoons in Edwin's arms!
Pale the rose quivers on her lip — her cheek!
But, as new life awakes, how wild the alarms
Throb in her flushing breast, and light up all her charms!
The various feelings of the trembling pair
Who, who could picture? Speechless, long they cast
Unutterable looks; — when the shrill'd air
Some messenger announc'd, approaching fast:
The banner'd herald to the drawbridge pass'd,
And there aloud claim'd Edwin's liberty;
His lineage, and his rightful heirship trac'd,
And now to all the crowding tenantry
Spoke, with imperious voice, his lordly high degree.
Conscious her glance met his! — She thought and sigh'd
His dumb reserve had prov'd a twofold bane:
Then, like a blaze of light, his mystic pride
She saw unveil'd, and own'd its generous strain;
And joy'd, that mantled e'en in throngs profane,
Tho' for a while obscur'd, baronial blood;
Yet, (not of her ancestral honours vain)
View'd genius, first of every earthly good,
Rise paramount o'er birth, in its own hardihood!
And Edwin! where, where lurks the peasant lad?
Clans, earldoms, wealth, and beauty, all thine own!
Born the low peasant of the uncultur'd shade,
"Thy proud inheritance" — thy harp alone!
But, from the cot evolving to the throne,
As, nature, men, and manners meet thy views,
Shall not the sister-arts in loftier tone
Through life, delight and dignity diffuse;
And, feeling well their worth, the million bless thy Muse?