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ceed: and of all the imitators that could have been found, Mu Scott was beyond comparison the best qualified.
The subjects were of the narrative kind. He had a vast variety of anecdote supplied to his hand by history, romance, and superstition; the researches of his riper age having added an abundant store of materials to the traditions that amused his infancy. Besides the advantage of writing romance, he had to depict a very curious state of society, which of itself would have formed an interesting subject of contemplation. Mr. Scott has displayed pre-eminent skill in the management of these resources, in the formation of bis tale, and the collection and grouping of those incidents which illustrate the character and manners of the times. Having in this respect greatly surpassed any model that had been left him, he has gone à step further, and as if to enrich his drama with scenery, has delineated from tris own early and intimate knowledge, the very localities of the transactions he represents. The beauty or grandeur peculiar to many of these scenes, was in itself a most important advantage ; and the natural, easy, and striking descriptions he has produced, evinced the happiest and most uncommon talents for this species of poetry. The spirit of barbarous heroism which transfused itself with the songs and traditions of the Border into his infant mind, was peculiarly suited to the popular taste. The congeniality, indeed, is no topic of gratulation, as it implies a decided predominance of the animal over the rational nature: and in spite of the skill with which Mr. Scott bas veiled the grossness and heightened the charms of the Border spirit, we are afraid its influence on the mind is not very conformable to the best principles of morat philosophy. It is quite painful, on reflection, to find how strongly and how agreeably we can be made to sympathize with feelings, which directly violate almost every article of the decalogue; and particularly distressing to proceed with the train of thought, till we begin to imagine how much these feelängs must be strengthened in a mind which is not prepared to counteract the operation by reftecting upon it. The of Mr. Scott's performances unites the ardour of the barbarous sentiment, with the delicacy of the civilized. It offends, no prevailing prejudices, and is free from any taint of Christian principle*. In regard to style, also, the latest'minstrel has taken every advantage of the character he assumes. It intitles
* In one of the numerous and entertaining notes, it is observed, . If force of evidence could authorize us to believe facts inconsistent with the general laws of nature, enough might be produced in favour of the existence of the Second Sight.' (p. viii.) If Mr. Scott means what he says, he either believes in the reality of the Second Sight, or disbelieves Revelation. If "the latter, we beg he will fairly challenge it in open day, and not be 80 cowardly as to attenipt to stab it in the dark
him to an augmentation of his vocabulary, and a latitude as to the structure of his verse, which not only facilitate the task of composition, but give a novel and an appropriate character to his performance. Hence, there is no other poetry, we think, that was ever written so fast, or that appears so perfectly natural and spontaneous. The writer has all the benefit of metre and rhyme, with none of the embarrassments. He enjoys the most perfect kind of despotism, governing nominally according to the laws, but virtually exercising a prerogative of enacto ing and suspending them at pleasure. When we consider Mr. Scott, therefore, as the author of a new style, as a writer of romances, and as the
of a distant and heroic age, we cease to wonder that he is so great and só general a favourite. It is not the superiority of his poetical talents, however extraordi. nary, which has thus exalted him in the public esteem above his contemporaries. The passages of his writings which aiford the strongest evidence of his genius, and confessedly intiile him to a very high, though not the highest ralik among living bards, are not the chief basis of his celebrity. In various productions of a smaller size and different order, especially the Six Epistles foisted in between the Cantos of Marmion, he has rendered it sufficiently clear, that, for the particular notice he obtains in the crowd of claimants upon the public attention, he is more indebted to his garb as a minstrel than to his abilities as a poeta
We are not however so unfortunate, we trust, as to be insensi. ble to any of those attractions which adorn the poetry of Mr. Scott; and certainly not so ungenerous as to wish it lowered in the opinion of our readers. On the contrary, we turn with great satisfaction to give soine account of this · Lady of the Lake,'—this Venus Anadyomene; with which the public has fallen in love, not at first sight, but, according to the manner of romance, by anticipation. And our satisfaction is the greater, because it can hardly fail to raise the character of Mr. Scott'as a man of genius. It were unreasonable to suppose that a third poem of the same description should appear as admirable as a first, or that any ability could keep pace with those growing expectations which its efforts have successively enlar ed. But on no other account, we conceive, will this performance be found unequal to its predecessors. Not to trouble the reader with premature criticism, or tax his patience with an inınoderate length of introduction, we shall proceed to describe the nature and subject of this charming poem.
The · Lady of the Lake is divided, - like Mármion, into six cantos, each comprising the transactions of a single day. The scene is chiefly laid in the vicinity of Locli-Katrine, in the Western Highlands of Perthshire. As the story, through ingeniously framed, is not so complicated as to render a summary necessary in order to understand it, we think a better idea of its effect may be conveyed, and much repetition avoided, by unfolding it gradually as we proceed. The first canto begins with a fine description of a stag-hunt, and the introductory lines are well adapted to prepossess the reader's mind.
• The stag at eve had drank his fill,
• As chief who hears his warder call,
Sought the wild heaths of Uam-Var.' A certain knight, afterwards mentioned as James FitzJames, is separated from the rest of the party by his ardour in pursuit of the game and the excellence of his horse; he continues the chace accompanied only by his two dogs of black St. Hubert's breed, till at the moment when he is preparing to despatch the animal with his hanger, it suddenly planges into a glen and escapes; the horse, completely tired out, stumbles and dies; and the knight is left to contemplate a romantic wilderness, to get out of it in the best way he can, or take up his abode there, Highland plunderers notwithstanding, for the night. The scenery was indeed worth encountering some risk to behold.
• And now to issue from the gles,
The broom's tough roots his ladder made,
Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.' He bethinks him, however, to blow his bugle, and presently spies a little skiff shooting across Loch-Katrine from one of its rocky islets, under the guidance of a young damsel. This • fay in fairy land,' who is aš charming a creature as ever we saw in prose or verse, as soon as she perceives it is not her father, but a stranger, puts off again to a convenient distance for parley; and after due explanations and compliments, in the course of which she tells him preparations had been made for his reception, on the strength of old Allan-bane's' privilege of second sight, she admits him into the boat, and they presently reach the island. It is fit we should introduce these interesting persons a little more explicitly.
• The maiden paused, as if again
• And ne'er did Grecian chizzel trace
What though oo rule of courtly grace
The listener held his breath to hear.' Such, and still more lovely is the chieftain's daughter, the lady of the .ake.' Of her guest we are told,
• Not his the form, nor his the eye,
· On his bold visage middle age
Less, used to sue 'than to command.?
• He crossed the threshold--and a clang
Hung trophies of the fight on chasę ;' &&c.