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four pages of such common-place declamation as, had it been
sufficiently sonorous, might have been recited with great effect before the subscribers to the Literary Fund, but, being as deficient in sound as in sense, is equally unfit for public applause and for private gratification.
The second epistle opens again with "chance and change:" but it cannot be denied that the mode in which it is introduced is new and poetical. The comparison of Ettricke forest, now open and naked, with the state in which it once was,— covered with wood, the favourite resort of the royal hunt, and the refuge of daring outlaws,—leads the poet to imagine an antient thorn gifted with the powers of reason, and relating the various scenes which it has witnessed during a period of three hundred years. A melancholy train of fancy is naturally encouraged by the idea :.
'When, musing on companions gone,
And silence aids—though these steep hills
A few of the lines which follow breathe as true a spirit of peace and repose, as even the simple strains of our venerable Walton:
'If age had tamed the passions' strife,
Then, when, against the driving hail, '■
No longer might my plaid avail,
Back to my lonely home retire,
And light my lamp, and trim my fire:
There ponder o'er some mystic lay,
Till the wild tale had all its sway,
And, in the bittern's distant shriek,
I heard unearthy voices speak,
And thought the Wizard Priest was come,
To claim again his ancient home!
B 3 And
And bade my busy fancy range,
'But chief, 'twere sweet to think such life,
"With regard to the other introductory epistles, it may suffice to observe that none of them are, in our opinion, equally poetical with that which we have just mentioned. "Chance and change" are still, more or less, the subject of all ; and it is somewhat remarkable that five, out of the six, commence with a winter-piece.
We now attend to the poem itself; the fable of which we shall analyze previously to pointing out those peculiarities ■which must be noticed in order to justify our preceding eensure.
The hero is a purely fictitious character,—an English Baron in high credit at the court of Harry the Eighth, who is sent by his sovereign to inquire into the reason'of the hostile preparations made by James the Fourth of Scotland. He is first introduced to us on his arrival at Norham Castle, where he is hospitably welcomed by Sir Hugh Heron, the Commander of the place, and lodged tor the night. The description of hii person is very picturesque:
'Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode,
His forehead, by his casque worn bare,
His thick moustache, and curly hair,
Coal-black, and grizzled here and there,
H13 square-turned joints, and strength of limb,
Shewed him no carpet knight so trim,
But, in, close fight, a champion grim,
His accoutrements and retinue are painted with equal
spirit, and equal attention to character; and the description of
Lis entertainment at the castle, which occupies the largest
part of the canto, transports the reader to the scene which is
represented, and makes him in imagination a partaker tff
the old baronial state and merriment. Marmion demands a
guide to conduct him to Edinburgh, and i6 answered:
"For such like need, my -lord, I trow,
Marmion expresses his admiration of the qualifications of his proposed conductor?,—but prudently reflects that, as he is going on a message of peace, it would be better to be seen in more peaceable company. Hi therefore solicits a less dangerous associate:
'A Herald were ray fitting guide,
This request produces some very lively safirical verses on the manners of the clergy. One friar, who would otherwise have answered the purpose to admiration, is fully as quarrelsome as the jolly « Harriers of the Wifes of Greenlaw's goods:'—the chaplain of the castle has never been seen since the last siege, which induced him to abandon hi0 flock and take up a more secure residence iij one of the stalls of Purham cathedral:—r
■* Our Norham Vicar, woe betide,
and Friar John of Tilmouth, the fiifest of all men, has had private reasons for keeping snug on this side of Tweed, ever since he was found shriev'mg the Wife of old Bu^htrig. In this extremity, a Palmer, who, after having visited all the most celebrated shrines on the continent, h.ippens to be at that moment lodged in the castle of Norham on his way to Saint Andrew's, and is perfectly well acquainted with every step of the road, is chosen for the purpose required. As this personage is one of the most essentia] characters in the history, it becomes necessary, in order to make- our accoun
B 4 , mot more clear, to mention some preceding events which, in the poem itself, are but partially revealed before the final denouement.
Some years previous to the period at which the tale opens, Lord Marmion had seduced a nun of Fontevraud, named Constance dc Beverley; who, having fled with him from her convent, continued to attend him in the disguise of a page. Her faithless lover, however, afterward grows enamoured of the person and possessions of Clara de Clare, sole heiress of the great house of Gloucester, at that time betrothed to Ralph de Wilton, a noble English Baron, whose disgrace and death become necessary to the accomplishment of Marmion's purpose. With this view, he accuses de Wilton of treason before the king, forges a correspondence between him and the enemies of the state, and, overcoming him in the duel which he fights to prove the truth of his assertions, leaves him (as is supposed) dead on the field. De Wilton survives, however, unknown to his rival: but, his guilt being adjudged to be clearly proved, he finds himself condemned to wander about the world in the disguise of a Palmer, and, as such, is at last appointed in the manner above related to accompany Lord Marmion to Edinburgh. His gloomy and mysterious character (for he contrives, in course, to keep his real person concealed from his enemy,) forms one of the principal points of interest in the subsequent part of the story.
Meanwhile, Clara, having lost her lover, refuses to become the wife of his enemy, and, in order to avoid his persecutions, flies to the convent of Whitby. Constance, whose jealousy is worked up to a pitch of phrer.zy by Marmion's persevering pursuit of his new mistress, endeavours to put her out of the way by poison; and Marmion, having discovered and thwarted her design, sends her to the monastery of Lindisfarne, where he commends her (still disguised "in man's attire," as Mr. Braham says,) to the protection of the blind abbot of Saint Cuthbert.
Canto II. leads us, very abruptly, (since we are not previously informed of the circumstances now detailed,) from Marmion to the Abbess of Whitby; who, accompanied by Clara and other sisters of the convent, is on her voyage to Lindisfarne: being summoned (as Mr. Scott, somewhat hudibrasti* cally observes,) t
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