Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

TO

JOHN B. S. MORRITT, ESQ.,

THIS POEM,

THE SCENE OF WHICH IS LAID IN HIS BEAUTIFUL DEMESNE OF ROKEBY,

IS INSCRIBED, IN TOKEN OF SINCERE FRIENDSHIP,

BY

WALTER SCOTT.

in

NOTICE.

miles down the Tweed, and lay on the same beautiful stream.

It did not possess the romantic character of Ashestiel, my former ISB WALTER SCOTT commenced the composition of ROKEBY residence; but it had & stretch of meadow-land along the river, at Abbotsford, on the 15th of September, 1812, and finished it on and possessed, in the phrase of the landscape gardener, conside the last day of the following December.

rable capabilities. Above all, the land was my own, like Uncle The reader may be interested with the following extracts from Toby's Bowling green, to do what I would with. It had been, his letters to his friend and printer, Mr. Ballantyne.

though the gratification was long postponed, an early wish of

mine to connect myself with my mother earth, and prosecute Abbotsford, 28th Oct. 1812 those experiments by which a species of creative power is exor. *DEAR JAMES,

cised over the face of nature. I can trnce, even to childhood, a "I SEND you to day better than the third sheet of Canto II.,

pleasure derived from Dodsley's account of Shenstone's Leaand I trust to send the other three sheets in the course of the

sowes, and I envied the poet much more for the pleasure of ac. week I expect that you will have three cantos complete before complishing the objects detailed in his friend's sketch of his I quit this place-on the 11th of November. Surely, if you do grounds, than for the possession of pipe, crook, Bock, and Phillie pour part, the poem may be out by Christmas; but you must not to boot. My memory, ul-o, tenacious of quaint expressions, still daudle over your typographical scruples. I have too much re: retained a phrase which it had gathered from an old almanac of speet for the public lo neglect any thing in my poem to attract Charles the Second's time, (when every thing down to almanacs their attention; and you misunderstood me much, when you affected to be smart,) in which the reader, in the month of June, supposed that I designed any new experiments in point of com. is advised for health's sake to walk a mile or two every day be Drition 1 only meant to say, that knowing well that the said fore breakfast, and, if he can

posribly so manage to let his exer pullie will never be pleased with exactly the same thing a second cise be taken upon his own lund. time, I saw the necessity of giving a certain degree of novelty, With the sausfaction of having attained the fulfilment of an by throwing the interest more on character than in my former early and long cherished hope, 1 commenced my inprovements, poems, without certainly meaning to exclude either incident or as delightful in their progress as those of the child who first makes description. I think you will see the same sort of difference a dress for a new doll. The nakedness of the land was in time taken in all my former poems, of which I would say, if it is fair hidden by woodlands of considerable extent-the smallest of posfur me to say any thing, that the force in the Lay is thrown onsible cottages was progressively expanded into a sort of dream of style,-in Marmion, on descriptio..,--and in the Lady of the a mansion house, whimsical in the exterior, but convenient withLake, on incident."

Nor did I forget what is the natural pleasure of every man 24 Norember.-"As for my story, the conduct of the plot,

who has been a reader, I mean the filling the shelves of a tolewhich must be made natural and easy, prevents my introducing rably large library. All these objects I kept in view, lo be exeany thing light for some time. You must advert, that in order cuted as convenience should serve ; and, although I knew many to ne poetical effect to any incident, I am often obliged to be years musl elapse before they could be attained, I was of a dis. much longer than I expected in the detail. You are too much position to comfort myself with the Spanish proverb, " Time and like the country squire in the what d'ye call it, who commands I against any two." that the play should not only be a tragedy and comedy, but that

The difficult and indispensable point, of finding a permanent it bould be crowned with a spice of your pastoral. As for what subject of occupation, was now at length attained ; but there is popular, and what people like, and so forth, it is all a joke.

was annexed to it the necessity of becoming again a candidate Be interesting; do the thing well, and the only difference will for public favour : for, as I was turned improver on the earth of be that people will like what they never liked before, and will the every day world, it was under condition that the small tenelike it so much the better for the novelty of their feelings towards ment of Parnassus, which might be accessible to my labours, it Dulness and tameness are the only irreparable faults."

should not remain uncultivated.

I meditated, at first, a poem on the subject of Bruce, in which December 318t.-" With kindest wishes on the return of the ! made some progress, but afterwards judged it advisable to lay season, I send you the last of the copy of Rokeby. If you are it aside, supposing that an English story might have more novel. Dot engaged at home, and like to call in, we will drink good luck ty; in consequence, the precedence was given to " Rokeby." Lo il; but do not derange a family party:

If subject and scenery could have influenced the fate of a poem, *** There is something odd and melancholy in concluding a poem that of Rokehy" should have been eminently distinguished: with the year, and I could be almost silly and sentimental about for the grounds belonged to a dear friend, with whom I had lived it I hope you think I have done my best. I assure you of my in habits of intimacy for many years, and the place itself united wishes the work may succeed ; and my exertions to get out in the romantic beauties of the wilds of Scotland with the rich and time were more inspired by your interest and John's, than my smiling aspect of the southern portion of the island. But the own. And so vogue la galere.

Cavaliers and Roundbends, whom I atternpted to summon up to tenant this beautiful region, had for the public neither the novelty nor the peculiar intereat of the primitive Highlanders. This,

perhaps, was scarcely to be expected, considering that the gene BETWEEN the publication of " The Lady of the Lake," which ral mind sympathizes readily and at once with the stamp which was so eminently successful, and that of " Rokeby," in 1813, nature herself has affixed upon the manners of a people living in three years had intervened I shall not, I believe, be accused of a simple and patriarchal state; whereas it has more difficulty in ever having attempted to usurp a superiority over many men of understanding or interesting itself in manners founded upon genies, my contemporaries; but, in point of popularity, not of huse peculiar babits of thinking or acting, which are produced actual talent, the caprice of the public had certainly given me by the progress of society. We could read with pleasure the tale such a temporary superiority over mien, of whom, in regard to of the adventures of a Cossack or a Mongol Tartar, while we poklical fancy and feeling, I scarcely thought myself worthy to only wonder and ytare over those of the lovers in the " Pleasing loose the shoo latch. On the other hand, it would be absurd af Chinese History," where the embarrassments turn upon difficul feciation in me to deny, that I conceived myself to understand, ties arising out of unintelligible delicacies peculiar to the customs more perfectly than many of my contemporaries, the manner and manners of that affected people. must likely to interest the great mark of mankind. Yet, even The cause of my failure hnd, however, a far deeper root. The with this belief. I must truly and fairly say, that I always con. manner, or style, which, hy its novelty, attracted the public in an gidered myself rather as one who held the bets, in time to be paid unusual degree, had now, aner having been three times before over to the winner, than as having any prelence to keep them in them, exhausted the patience of the reader, and began in the my own right

fourth to lose its charms. The reviewers may be said to have in the meantime years crept on, and not without their usual apostrophized the author in the language of Parnell's Edwin :depredations on the passing generation, My sons had arrived at the age when the paternal home was no longer their best abode,

"And here reverse the charm, he cries, as both were destined to active life. The field sports, to which

And let it fairly now suffice. I was peculiarly attached, had now less interest, and were re

The gambol has been shown." placed by other amusements of a more quiet character; and the The licentious combination of rhymes, in a manner not permeans and opportunity of pursuing these were to be sought for. hapo very congenial to our language, had not been confined to I had, indeed, for some years attended to farming, a knowledge the author. Indeed in most similar cases, the inventors of such of which is, or at least was then, indispensable to the comfort

novelties have their reputation destroyed by their own imitators, of a family residing in a solitary country-house; but although as Artxon fell under the fury of his own dogs. The present au this was the favourite amusement of many of my friends, I have thor, like Bobadil, had taught his trick of fence to a hundred never been able to consider it as a source of pleasure. I never gentlemen, (and Indies.") who could fence very nearly, or quite, could think it a matter of passing importance, that my cattle, or as well as himself. For this there was no remedy, the harmony crops, kere better or more plentiful than those of my neighbours, became tiresome and ordinary, and both the original inventor and and nevertheless I began to feel the necersity of some more his invention must have fallen into contempt, if he had not found quiet out door occupation, different from those I had hitherto out another road to public favour. What has been said of the pursued. I purchased a small farm of about 100 acres, with the metre only, must be considerod to apply equally to the structure purpose of planting and improving it, to which property circumetances afterwards enabled me to make considerable additions ;

. ("Scott fonnd peculiar favour and imitation among the fair sex; there

wa Miss Inford, and Miss Mitford, and Miss Francis; but, with the great. and thus an era took place in my life, almost equal to the im. portant one mentioned by the Vicar of Wakefield, when he re

est respect be it spoken, none of his imitators did much honour to the original, moved from the Blue-room to the Brown. In point of neighbour Triermain and Harold the Dauntless,' which, in the opinion of some, egial

except Hogy, the Eurick Shepherd, until the appearance of The bridal of hood, at least, the change of residence mado little more differ. let, if not surpassed, him; and lo! after three or four years, they turned out ence. Abbotsford, to which we removed, was only six or seven to be the Master's own compositions"-Byron's Worki vol. xv. p. 96.)

"W. S.")

of the Poem and of the style. The very best passages of any of hearing me. Age also was advancing. I was growmg mer popular style are not, perhaps, susceptible of imitation, but they sensible to those subjects of excitation by which youth is agi. may be approached by men of talent; and those who are less tated. I had around me the most pleasant but least exciting of all able to copy them, at least lay hold of their peculiar features, so society, that of kind friends and an affectionate family. My as to produce a strong burlesque. In either way, the effect of circle of employments was a narrow one; it occupied me conthe manner is rendered cheap and common; and, in the latter stantly, and it became daily more difficult for me to interest my case, ridiculous to boot. The evil consequences to an author's self in poetical composition :reputation are at least ag fatal as those which come upon the

" How happily the days of 'Thalaba went by !" musical composer, when his melody falls into the bands of the street ballad singer. of the unfavourable species of imitation, the author's style judges, inferior to the place I had for four or five years held in

Yet though conscious that I must be, in the opinion of Food gave room to a very large number, owing to an appearance of letters, and feeling alike that the latter was one to which I had facility to which some of those who used the measure unques

only a temporary right, I could not brook the idea of relinquishtionably leaned too far. The effect of the more favourable imi.

ing literary occupation, which had been so long my chief diver. tations, composed by persons of talent, was almost equally un.

sion. Neither was I disposed to choose the alternative of sink. fortunate to the original minstrel, by showing that they could

ing into a mere editor and commentator, though that was a overshoot him with his own bow. In short, the popularity which

species of labour which I had practised, and to which I was onice attended the School, as it was called, was now last de-attached. But I could not endure to think that I might not, cayit.

whether known or concealed, do something of more importance. Besides all this, to have kept his ground at the crisis when

My inmost thoughts were those of the 'Trojan Captain in the 'Rokeby" appeared, its author ought to have put forth his utmost galley race, strength, and to have possessed at least all his original advan. toges, for a mighty and unexpected rival was advancing on the

Non jam prima peto Mnestheus, neque vincere certo; stage-a rival not in poetical powers only, but in that art of attract: Quanquam o!-sed superent, quibus hoc, Neptune, dedisti: ing popularity, in which the present writer had hitherto preceded Extremos pudeat rediisse : hoc vincite, cives, better men than himself. The reader will easily see that Byron is Et prohibete nefas."1-Æn. lib. v. 194. here meant, who, after a little velitation of no great promise, now

I had, indeed, some private reasons for my "Quanquam 0!" appeared as a serious candidate, in the "First two Cantos of Childe Harold.'** I was astonished at the power evinced by that work, hinted that the materials were collected for a poem on the sub

which were not worse than those of Mnestheus. I have already which neither the “ Hours of Idleness," nor the "English Bards ject of Bruce, and fragments of it had been shown to some of and Scotch Reviewers," had prepared me to expect from its author. There was a depth in his thought, an eager abundance mbis fore, the eminent success of Byron, and the great chance of his

my friends, and received with applause. Notwithstanding, therediction, which argued full confidence in the inexhaustible resources of which he felt himself possersed ; and there was some appear

laking the wind out of my sails,: there was, I judged, a species

of cowardice in desisting from the task which I had undertaken, ance of that labour of the file, which indicates that the author is

and it was time enough to retreat when the battle should be conscions of the necessity of doing every justice to his work,

more decidedly lost. The sale of " Rokehy." excepting as coin. that it may pass warrant Lord Byron was also a traveller, a

pared with that of “The Lady of the Lake," was in the highest man whore ideas were fired by having seen, in distant scenes of degree respectable ; and as it included fifteen hundred quartos, difficulty and danger, the places whose very names are recorded

in those quarto-reading days, the trade had no reason to be disin our bosome as the shrines of ancient pootry. For his own mis.

satisfied. fortune, perhaps, but certainly to the high increase of his poetical character, nature had mixed in Lord Byron's system those

W. 9. passions which agitate the human heart with most violence, and ABBOTSFORD, April, 1830. which may be said to have hurried his bright career to an early closc. "There would have been little wisdom. in measuring my

t"Isek not now the foremost palm to gain; force with yo fomidable an antagonist ; and I was as likely to

Though yet-but ah! that haughty wish is vain! tire of playing the second fiddle in the concert, as my audience

Let thone enjoy it whom the gods ordain.

But to be last, the lags of all the race ! • "These two Cantos were published in London in March, 1812, and im

Redeem yourselves and me from that disgrace." mediately placed their author on a level with the very bigliest names of his

Dryden.) The impression they createl was more uniform, decise, and triumph. 1 ["George Ellis and Murray have been talking something about Scott and ani, than any that had been witnessed in this country for at least two genera. me, George pro Scoto,--and very nghe too. If they want to depose him, ! Lions 1 awoke one morning,' he says, and found toyself famour' In only wish they would not set me up as a competitor. I like the war and truth, he had fixed himeelf, at a single bound, on a sumınit, such as no English admire his works to what Mr. Braham calls Enturymusy. All such sinf caa pott had ever before attainel, but wter a long sucarasjon of painful and com only vex him, and do me no good."--Byron's Diary, Nov. 1813– Workin paratively neglected dorta."- Advertisement lo Byron's Life and Works, vol. ii. p. 20.1. SOL van

$ [The 410 Edition was published in January, 1813.)

ROKEBY.

ADVERTISEMENT.

Such varied hues the warder gees The scene of this poem is laid at Rokehy, near

Reflected from the woodland Tees, Grela Bridge, in Yorkshire, and shifts to the adja

Then from old Baliol's tower looks forth, cent fortress of Barnard Castle, and to other places

Sees the clouds mustering in the north, in that Vicinity.

Hears, upon turret-roof and wall, The Time occupied by the Action is a space of

By fits the plashing rain-drop fall, Five Days Three of which are supposed to elapse

Lists to the breeze's boding sound, between the end of the Fifth and beginning of the

And wraps his shaggy mantle round. Sixth Canto.

II. The date of the supposed events is immediately subsequent to the Great Battle of Marston Moor,

Those towers, which in the changeful gleams 31 July, 1644. This period of public confusion has

Throw murky shadows on the stream, been chosen, withoui any purpose of combining the

Those towers of Barnard hold a guest, Fable with the Military or Political Events of the

The emotions of whose troubled breast, Civil War, but only as affording a degree of pro

In wild and strange confusion driven, bability to the Fictitious Narrative now presented to

Rival the flitting rack of heaven. the Public.

Ere sleep stern Oswald's senses tied,
Oft had 'he changed his weary side,

Composed his limbs, and vainly sought
CANTO FIRST.

By effort strong to banish thought.

Sleep came at length, but with a train 1.

Of feelings true,ll and fancies vain, The Moon is in her summer glow,

Mingling, in wild disorder cast, But hoarse ard high the breezes blow,

The expected future with the past. And, racking o'er her face, the cloud

Conscience, anticipating time, Varies the tincture of her shroud;

Already rues the enacted crime, On Barnard's towers, and Tees's stream,t

And calls her furies forth, to shake She changes as a guilty dream,

The sounding scourge and hissing snake; When Conscience, with remorse and fear,

While her poor victim's outward throes Goads sleeping Fancy's wild career,

Bear witness to his mental woes, Her light seems now the blush of shame,

And show what lesson may be read
Seems now fierce anger's darker flame,

Beside a sinner's restless bed.
Shifting that shade, to come and go,
Like apprehension's hurried glow:

III.
Then sorrow's livery dims the air,

Thus Oswald's labouring feelings trace And dies in darkness, like despair.

Strange changes in his sleeping face, * "Behold another lay from the harp of that indefatigable fords of Buckingham, and was also sometimes in the possession mustrel, who has so often provoked the censure, and extorted of the Bishops of Durham, and sometimes in that of the crown. the admiration of his critics; and who, regardless of both, and Richard III is said to have enlarged and strengthened its fortitifokwing every impulse of his own inclination, has yet raised cations, and to have made it for some time his principal residence,

alf at once, and apparently with little effort, to the pinnacle for the purpose of bridling and suppressing the Lancastrian facof pablic fasour.

tion in the northern counties. From the Stattords, Barnard Cas. A poco thus recommended may be presumed to have already tle passed, probably by marriage, into the possession of the powerreached the wbole circle of our readers, and we believe that all ful Nevilles, Earls of Westmoreland, and belonged to the last rethorn readers will concur with us in considering Rokeby as a presentative of that family when he engaged with the Earl of compositud, which, if it had preceded, instead of following, Northumberland in the ill-concerted insurrection of the twelfth of Marmion, and the Lady of the Lake, would have contributed, as ellectually as they have done, to the establishment of Mr. Scott's Bowes of Sheatlam, who held great possessions in the neighbour

Queen Elizabeth. Upon this occasion, however, Sir George high reputation, "Whether, timed as it now is, it be likely to sa hood, anticipated the two insurgent earls, by seizing upon and tisfy the just expectations which that reputation has excited, is garrisoning Barnard Castle, which he held out for ten days against Amestion which, perhaps, will not be derided with the same all their forces, and then surrendered it upon honourable terms. unanimity

Our own opinion is in the affirmative, but we con See Sadler's State Papers, vol. ii. p. 330. In a ballad, contained fess that this is our revised opinion; and that when we concluded in Perey's Reliques of Ancient Poetry, vol. i., the seige is thus Gur first parusal of Rokehy, our gratification was not quite un commemorated : mixed with disappointment. The reflections by which this jm. pression has been subsequently modified, arise out of our general

" Then Sir George Bowes he straight way rose, view of the poem; of the interest inspired by the fable ; of the After them some kpoyle to make; masterly delineations of the characters by whose agency ihe plot

These noble erles turned back againe, is unravelled; and of the spirited nervous conciseness of the nar.

And aye they vowed that knight to take. rative "-Quarterly Review, No. xvi.)

"That barun he to his castle fled; Barnard Castle," saith old Leland, "standeth stately upon

To Barnard Castle then fled he; Teen" It is founded upon a very high bank, and its ruins im. The uttermost walles were euthe to won, peod over the river, including within the area a circuit of six

The erles have won them presentlie. acres and upwards. This once magnificent fortress derives its pame from its founder, Barnard Baliol, the ancestor of the short “The uttermost walles were lime and brick; and unfortunate dynasty of that name, which succeeded to the

But though they won them soon anone, Scottish throne under the patronage of Edward I, and Edward Long ere they wan the innermost walles, III. Baliol's Tower, afterwards mentioned in the poem, is a

For they were cut in rock and stone." round Tower of great size, situated at the western cxtremity of the building. It bears marks of great antiquity, and was remark

By the suppression of this rebellion, and the consequent forfeit. able for the curious construction of its viiulied roof, which has

ure of the Earl of Westmoreland, Barnard Castle reverted to the been lately greatly injured by the opurations of some persons,

crown, and was sold or leased out to Car, Earl of Somerset, the

It was afterwards to ban the tower has been leased for the purpose of making guilty and unhappy favourite of James 1, patent shot! The prospect from the top of Baliol's Tower com

granted to Sir Henry Vane the elder, and was therefore, in all pands a rich and magnificent view of the wooded valley of the probability, occupied for the Parliament, whose interest during

the Civil War was so keenly espoused by the Vanes. It is now, Bamard Castle often changed masters during the middle ages.

with the other estates of that family, the property of the Right Upon the forfeiture of the unfortunate John Baliol, the first king Honourable Earl of Darlington. of Seouland of that family, Edward I. seized this fortress among

: (This couplet is not in the original MS.) the other English catates of his refractory vassal. It was after. $ (MS.

"shifting gleam.") wards vested in the Beauchamps of Warwick, and in the Staf (MS.-"Of feelings Teat, and fancies vain."')

« PreviousContinue »