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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
So stilly is the solitude.'
. If age had tamed the passions' strife,
And bade my busy fancy range,
• But chief, 'twere sweet to think such life,
A step upon the road to heaven' With regard to the other introductory episties, 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 censure.
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 for the night. The description of his person is very picturesque :
• Along the bridge Lord Marmion rode,
His forehead, by his casque worn bare,
But more through toil than age;
In camps, a leader sage.
His accoutrements and 'retinue are painted with equal spirit, and equal attention to character, and the description of his 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 of the old baronial state and merriment, Marmion demands a guide to conduct him to Edinburgh, and is answered:
“ For such like need, my lord, I trow,
And given them light to set their hoods." - .
• A Herald were ny fitting guide,
. Or strolling Pilgrim, at the least.' This request produces some very lively satirical verses on the manners of the clergy. One friar, who would otherwise have answered the purpose to admiration, is fully as quarrel. some as the joily • 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 his flock and take up a more secure residence in one of the stalts of Durham cathedral; .. Our Norham Vicar, woe betide,
Is all too well in case to ride ;'and Friar John of Tilmouth, the fitest of all men, has had private reasons for keeping snug on this side of Tweed, ever since he was found shrieving the Wife of old Bughtrig. In this extremity, a Palmer, who, after having visited all the most celebrated shrines on the continent, happens 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 essential characters in the history, it becomes necessary, in order to make our accoun
more clear, to mention some preceding events which, in the poem itself, are but partially revealed before the final denoue. ment.
Some years previous to the period at which the tale opens, Lord Marmion had seduced a nun of Fontevraud, named Constance de Beverley; who, having filed 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 phrenzy 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 previ. ously informed of the circumstances now detailed,) from Mar. mion to the Abbess of Whitby; who, accompanied by Clara and other sisters of the convent, is on her voyage to Lindis. farne : being summoned (as Mr. Scott, somewhat hudibrastie cally observes,)
There with Saint Cuthbert's Abbot old,