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INFLUENCE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
Show'd the monk's cowl and visage pale,
Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
For those thou mayest not look upon
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!'
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the mighty book,
With iron clasp'd and with iron bound;
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frown'd;
But the glare of the sepulchral light
Perchance had dazzled the warrior's sight."
The escape of the soldier from the supernatural spot into the fresh morning air fitly closes the description :
"The knight breath'd free in the morning wind,
He was glad when he pass'd the tombstones grey
Which girdled round the fair Abbaye!
Full fain was he when the dawn of day
He joy'd to see the cheerful light,
And he said Ave Mary as well as he might."
Scott's second poem showed another influence at work upon his mind. Although just entering manhood when Europe was startled by the outbreak of the French Revolution, he appears not to have been much affected by that great convulsion. With the times that succeeded it was widely different.
The mighty military genius of Buonaparte was sweeping in every direction with the swiftness of a destroying wind. In every quarter of Europe to borrow a figurative illustration from a usage in times of danger in ancient Greece-might be seen on the walls of the towns the signal of torches waved in tumultuous consternation. It is an interesting fact in Scott's history that his authorship began when the military fervour was at its height. Napoleon's meditated invasion of Great Britain was stirring the latent energies of the nation. Among his own countrymen Scott saw the ancient martial spirit of their ancestors-the decline of which he had mourned over-reanimated, and, like the spectre of the elder Hamlet, bursting its cerements and starting from the tomb in arms. Edinburgh was converted into a camp; citizens of all classes
wore the military dress, and upwards of ten thousand volunteers were constantly under arms, and beacon-fires were kept in readiness along the coast and through the mountains. In all this Scott took a large and active part. The zeal with which he shared in the military movements of his countrymen suggested to him afterwards that spirited chapter at the close of The Antiquary," describing the false alarm from the mistaken firing of one of the beacons. The notes added to that fine novel, after the lapse of many years, still manifest the same deep feelings in recording some interesting recollections of that agitating period:
Through the border counties the alarm spread with rapidity; and on no occasion, when that country was the scene of perpetual and unceasing war, was the summons to arms more rapidly obeyed. In Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, and Selkirkshire, the volunteers and militia got under arms with a degree of rapidity and alacrity which, considering the distance individuals lived from each other, had something in it very surprising they poured to the alarm-posts on the sea-coast in a state so well armed and so completely appointed, with baggage, provisions, &c., as was accounted by the best military judges to render them fit for instant and effectual service. Two members of the Selkirkshire yeomanry chanced to be absent from their homes and in Edinburgh on private business, when that corps made a remarkable march. The latelymarried wife of one of these gentlemen, and the widowed mother of the other, sent the arms, uniforms, and chargers of the two troopers, that they might join their companions at Dalkeith. The author was very much struck by the answer made to him by the last-mentioned lady, when he paid her some compliment on the readiness which she showed in equipping her son with the means of meeting danger, when she might have left him a fair excuse for remaining absent. Sir,' she replied, with the spirit of a Roman matron, 'none can know better than you that my son is the only prop by which, since his father's death, our family is supported. But I would rather see him dead on that hearth than hear he had been a horse's length behind his companions in the defence of his king and country.' The writer mentions what was immediately under his own eye and within his own knowledge; but the spirit was universal, wherever the alarm reached, both in Scotland and England."
This was the period of the composition of "Marmion." Many of the most energetic descriptions were conceived while he was in quarters with the cavalry; and it was his delight, while composing, to walk his *Notes to "The Antiquary."
powerful steed up and down upon the Porto Bello sands, within the beating of the surge, and now and then plunging in his spurs, to go off as at the charge, with the spray dashing about him. This was the hot enthusiasm of a soldier-poet; and the fruit of it was the most stirring description of a battle that ever was realized by a poet's imagination to the imagination of his reader. The passage is too well known for me to quote from; but observe the admirable representation in these four or five lines of the approach of the Scottish army :
"Nor martial shout nor minstrel tone
Announced their march: their tread alone,
At times one warning trumpet blown,
At times a stifled hum,
Told England, from his mountain-throne
But the single stroke of description which, more than any other, shows Scott's mastery in this department of poetry, is that vivid appeal to the imagination in the first intimation of Marmion's fate. As a matter of fact, nothing is told of him; as a matter of imagination, everything is told in the lines,—
"Fast as shaft can fly,
In noticing the martial tone of Scott's poetry, I am reminded of a tribute paid to one of his poems which is one of the finest acknowledgments on record to the power of verse. When the "Lady of the Lake' was published, Scott's friend, Captain Adam Ferguson, was serving in the Peninsular War. When a copy of the poem reached him, he was posted on a point of ground somewhere on the lines of Torres Vedras, exposed to the enemy's artillery. "The men were ordered to lie prostrate on the ground. While they kept that attitude, the captain, kneeling at their head, read aloud the description of the battle in the sixth canto, and the listening soldiers interrupting him only by a joyous huzza whenever the French shot struck the banks close above them."
Was ever poem recited under such circumstances?-enough of danger for pleasurable excitement, with enough of security for attention.
What a subject for the painter,--for Wilkie, for instance, a friend both of Scott and Ferguson, familiar, too, as he chances to be, both with Scottish character and Spanish landscape. The Highlanders, not unused
to a minstrelsy, grouping around the reader, interchanging looks of sympathy and delight; the sturdy soldier casting off a tear, half angry at his inability to check the proverbial sympathy of a mountaineer at the mention of his distant home, the hills and the lakes of Scotland brought before him by the poet's question,—
"Where shall he find, in foreign land,
Some one, perhaps, waving his arm at the same time with a half-uttered huzza, as the shot from the enemy's battery scatter the broken branches of the olive-tree over the group; others, more impetuous, starting from their recumbent posture as the array of Scottish standards is called up by these lines :
"Is it the thunder's solemn sound
That mutters deep and dread?
Or do they flash on spear and lance
I see the dagger-crest of Mar,
That up the lake comes winding far.
To hero bound for battle-strife,
Or bard of martial lay,
'Twere worth ten years of peaceful life,
A glance at that array!"
After the "Lady of the Lake," Scott found his popularity waning, and perhaps his poetic resources exhausted; for he was not a man to recognise a poet's solemn responsibility of cultivating his imagination by laborious meditation. The power he had employed with such brilliant success never left him. He was the minstrel still, even in his later years, when calamities weighed heavily upon him. On one occasion, amid his commercial difficulties, he chanced to be reading the historical account of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee's, leaving Edinburgh, in 1688, and making a last and dying effort to rally the Highlanders in support of the house of Stuart. It inspired the animated stanzas of "Bonny Dundee." "I know not," he wrote in his diary, "what could have induced me to take a frisk so uncommon of late as to write verses. I sup
pose the same impulse that makes the birds sing after the storm is blown over."
"To the Lords of Convention 't was Claver'se who spoke :-
Come, fill up my cup; come, fill up my can;
And it's room for the bonnets of bonny Dundee !
"Dundee he is mounted and rides up the street,
The bells are rung backwards, the drums they are beat,
But the young plants of grace they look'd couthie and slee,
But they shrunk to close heads, and the causeway was free
Come, fill up my cup, &c.
Come, fill up my cup, &c.
"The Gordon demands of him which way he goes:
Come, fill up my cup, &c.
Come, fill up my cup, &c.