Page images

sword of a knight was so eager for the combat, that at sight of an enemy it would leap forth of its own accord. While the visitor is wondering at its prodigious size, and observing he had never seen more than one person that could wield it, the lady tells him that in her father's grasp it was no more than a wand Who this father was the knight could not then learn, either from Ellen, or the dignified lady of the mansion who afterwards appeared. Song and supper duly concluded, the knight is left to sleep in the sylvan hall, where he has a very poetical and prophetical dream. In the morning he is provided with a guide, and crosses the lake in sight of the maiden, who was sitting on a rock listening to her old attendant; she watches him with a livelier interest and a kinder smile than the poet thinks was quite becoming io a young lady who was already engaged, and, as he turns away in good earnest, gives him one courteous parting sign. This, we think, is a very pleasing and very natural scene; it not only increases our ac quaintance with the two characters, but has an important relation to the plot. The lady blushes at her levity, and makes herself and her favoured Highlander some amends by calling on the minstrel to sing the praises of his family, the Græme. The old man, however, is rather out of spirits, and forebodes ill to his fair mistress. It is time to say that this Ellen was only child of Lord James of Bothwell. He is a fictitious personage, supposed to have been driven into exile with the rest of the Douglas family who had kiept James V. of Scotland, during his minority, under a sort of tutelage which bore a great resemblance to captivity, and ruled the kingdom in his name a little tyrannically. He had found refuge in the fortresses of LochKatrine, under the protection of Roderick Dhu, or Black Sir Roderick, chief of Clan-Alpine, and son of the elderly lady we have mentioned. His character may be gathered from Ellen's answer to her attendant, who warns her that his protection of her father was not entirely disinterested, and that while she boasts of her influence over the fierce chief, her hand is on a lion's mane.'

in I grant him brave But wild as Blacklinn's thundering wave: And generous-save yindictive mood Or jealous transport chafe his blood, I grant him true to friendly band As is his claymore to his hand ; But oh! that very blade of steel More mercy

for a foe would feel : I grant him liberal, to fling Among his clan the wealth they bring :

When back by lake and glen they wind,
And in the Lowland leave behind,
Where once some pleasant hamlet stood,
A mass of asbes slaked with blood.
The hand that for my father fought,
I honour, as his dauhter ought,
But can I clasp it reeking red,

From peasants slaughtered in their shed ?' Sir Roderick himself, in bis barge, and attended by his band of music, soon approaches the island; and Ellen, just at that moment hearing the signal-blast of the Douglas, sets off in her boat to fetch him over the lake. The affectionate meeting is very well described. Douglas had been detained in the chace beyond expectation, and found himself in considerable danger from various bodies of the royal horse that were scouring the country. Malcolm Græme had met with him, and though still a royal ward, and therefore risking his life and estates by associating with the noble outlaw, had insisted on accompanying him home,

The tears and praises of paternal affection, with which the maiden's tender congratulations were repaid, had on this occasion, the poet tells us, an unusual value.

• Delightful praise ; like summer rose,
That brighter in the dew.drop glows,
The bashful maiden's cheek appeared,
For Douglas spoke, and Maleolm heard.
The flush of shame-faced joy to hide,
The hounds, the hawk, her cares divides
The loved caresses of the maid,
The dogs with crouch and whimper paid ;
And, at her whistle, on her hand,
The falcon took his favourite stand,
Closed his dark wing, relaxed his eye,

Nor, though unhooded, sought to fly." Malcolm, who is described as every way worthy of his happiness, meets with due hospitality from Sir Roderick, though, they are not on the very

best terms. As the party, however, sit round the fire, tidings come of an intended attack upon Clan-Alpine, by the Scotish troops: Douglas proposes to avoid the danger by flight and concealment, but Sir Roderick is of opinion that an alliance of the Alpine with the Douglas family will be far preferable; particularly as this measure will unite all the neighbouring clans, and make their resistance so formidable, that King James will be glad to march back. He promises, too, with a frankness somewhat unguarded, that a thousand villages shall be in flames when he lights his nuptial torch. Ellen, in the tenderness of her concern for Douglas's safety, is half ready to embrace the terrible offer. What follows, will be best described by the poet.

• Such purpose dread could Malcolm spy
In Ellen's quivering lip and eye,
And eager rose to speak--but e'er
His tongue could hurry forth his fear,
Had Douglas marked the hectic strife
Where death seemed combating with life ;
For to her cheek, in feverish flood,
One instant rushed the throbhing blood,
Then ebbing back, with sudden sway,
Left its domain as wan as clay.
“ Roderick, enough! enough!” he cried,
My daughter cannot be thy bride ;
Not that the blush to wooer dear
Nor paleness that of maiden fear.-
O seek the grace you


Without a cause to mine combined."

• Twice through the hall the chieftain strode;
The wavings of his tartans broad,
And darkened brow, where wounded pride
With ire and disappointment vied,
Seemed by the torch of gloomy light
Like the ill dæmon of the night
Stooping his pinion's shadowy sway
Upon the nighted pilgrim's way:
But unrequited love! thy dart
Plunged deepest its envenomed smart,
And Roderick, with thine anguish stung,
At length the hand of Douglas wrung,
While eyes

that mocked at tears before
With bitter drops were running o'er.
The death pangs of long-cherished hope
Scarce in that ample breast had scope,
But, struggling with his spirit proud,
Convulsive heaved its chequered shroud,
While every sobaso mute were all

Was heard distinctly through the hall.' Ellen rises to leave the party, and Grame, springing up to attend her, is furiously stopped and threatened by the jealous Roderick; they grapple, and mortal combat had ensued, but for the angry interposition of Douglas, and the terror of the women. Roderick insultingly offers safe-conduct to his happier rival, who rejects it with disdain, and, not to owe him even the use of a boat, swims across the lake to the opposite shore.

The third canto is chiefly occupied with a very interesting and picturesque description of a Highland Gathering', which Sir Roderick bad resolved should take place the next day,


effect which such a tale would have on his mind, the influence of his monastic solitude, bis cabalistic studies, and the wild scenery which surrounded hia, are extremely well imagined; and the whole character, without shocking probability, is strikingly new, and fearfully consistent. The reader will understand, as we have already intimated, that a large proportion of Mr. Scott's finest conceptions, and this among them, are adopted-with inimitable skill it must be acknowledged--from the traditions and legends of the North,

• His grisléd beard and matted hair
Obscured a visage of despair ;
His nahed arms and legs, seamed o'cr,
The scars of frantic penance bore.
Not his the mien of Christian priest,
But Druid's, from the grave released,
Whose hardened heart and eye might brook
On human sacrifice to look.
And much, 'twas said, of heathen lore
Mixed in the charms he muttered o'er ;
The hallowed creed gave only worse
And deadlier emphasis of curse.'
• One lingering sympathy of mind
Still bound him to the mortal kind ;
The only parent he could claim
Of ancient Alpine's lineage came.
Late had he heard, in prophet's dream,
The fatal Bep-Shie's boding scream;
Sounds too had come in midnight blast
Of charging steeds, careering fast
Along Benharrow's shingly side,
Where mortal horsemen ne'er might ride :
The thunder too had split the pine,
All augured ill to Alpine's line.
He girt his loins, and came to show

signals of impending woe,
And now stood prompt to bless or ban

As bade the chieftain of his clan.' We'must pass over the awful imprecations of this magician priest, and the approving shouts of the crowd who attended the harrid solemnity; though we are inclined to think that nothing Mr. Scott has hitherto written affords a stronger proof of his talețits for this species of description. The following lines, describing the departure of the henchman, or confidential attendant, with the fatal symbol, convey the idea of swift: ness with equal beauty and force.

• Then Roderick with impatient look,
From Brian's hand the symbol took ;

« PreviousContinue »