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When from the banks of Bendemeer
To the nut-groves of Samarcand,
Thy temples flamed o'er all the land,
Where are they? Ask the shades of them
Who on Cadessia's bloody plains
Saw fierce invaders pluck the gem
From Iran's broken diadem,
And bind her ancient faith in chains,
And the poor exile, cast alone
On foreign shores, unloved, unknown,
Beyond the Caspian's iron gates,
Or in the snowy Mossian mountains,
Far from his beauteous land of dates,
Her jasmine bowers and sunny fountains !
Yet happier so than if he trod
His own beloved but blighted sod,
Beneath a despot stranger's nod!
Oh, he would rather houseless roam
Where freedom and his God may lead,
Than be the sleekest slave at home
That crouches to the conqueror's creed !
Is Iran's pride then gone forever,
Quenched with the flame in Mithra's caves ?
No, – she has sons that never, never,
Will stoop to be the Moslem's slaves,
While heaven has light or earth has graves.
Spirits of fire, that brood not long,
But flash resentment back for wrong,
And hearts where slow, but deep, the seeds
Of vengeance ripen into deeds,
Till in some treacherous hour of calm
They burst, like Zeilan's giant palm,
Whose buds fly open with a sound
That shakes the pygmy forests round.
“Yea Emir, he who scaled thy tower
Is one of many, brave as he,
Who loathe thy haughty race and thee,
Who, though they know the strife is vain,
Who, though they know the riven chain
Snaps but to enter in the heart
Of him who rends its links apart,
Yet dare the issue, blest to be,
Even for one bleeding moment, free,
And die in pangs of liberty!
“ Yet here, even here, a sacred band, Ay, in the portal of that land,
Thou, Arab, dar'st to call thine own,
Their spears across thy path have thrown;
Here, ere the winds half winged thee o'er,
Rebellion braved thee from the shore.
Rebellion ! foul, dishonoring word,
Whose wrongful blight so oft has stained
The holiest cause that tongue or sword
Of mortal ever lost or gained;
How many a spirit, born to bless,
Hath sunk beneath that withering name
Whom but a day's, an hour's success,
Had wafted to eternal fame!”
Moore was so popular in his own time that it is not strange there has been a change in the feeling towards him. There is a disposition nowadays to think of him only as a poet of light fancies, rather fit for youth. But this is not altogether just. Besides his fancy and grace, he has much genuine feeling whenever his heart speaks, and his verse is so musical and flowing that it must always place him in a high rank as a poet. He worked conscientiously, and did a great deal of work. Besides many poems which I have not mentioned, he wrote several prose works of fiction and biography, and kept faithfully his own Memoirs, which are very entertaining gossip of the times.
ON SIR WALTER SCOTT AND LORD BYRON.
T is WALTER SCOTT the poet of whom I speak here. His work as novelist I shall consider later. Scott is
the first poet whose name meets us as we cross 1771-1832
the threshold of our own century. He published the Lay of the Last Minstrel in 1805. His first literary work was a translation of some German ballads, and a collection of ballads entitled Minstrelsy of the Scotch Border. He was always very fond of ballads, and it is thought that much reading of Percy's Reliques when a boy tended to make him a poet.
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which was a weird sort of story in rhyme told by an old Border minstrel, made Scott known as a poet, and gained him admiring readers everywhere. We are sure that the critics who praised it, some of them the very men who had abused Coleridge and Wordsworth, never would have seen the merit of Scott so clearly if the writings of the Lake School had not opened their minds and made them more hospitable to what was
In that half-finished story of Christabel, which Coleridge's mental indolence prevented him from finishing, Scott saw how effective such a measure might be made in a tale in verse, and set his Minstrel's Lay to a similar tune.
His poems followed each other quickly, — Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, The Vision of Roderick, and others,
till about 1817, when he ceased to write poetry. He had found a new gift in himself, and it is as Scott the novelist that he will be known longest and best. His poetry is vigorous, always pure and wholesome, like a breeze from his own Highlands. He is best in strong scenes, in battle descriptions, or in rough hand-to-hand encounters between sturdy foes. In the fight between Fitz-James and Roderick
Dhu in The Lady of the Lake, or the description of the Battle of Bannockburn in The Lord of the Isles, which I give you here, you get an idea of his strength.
“Now onward and in open view
The countless ranks of England drew;
Dark, rolling, like the ocean tide
When the rough west hath chafed his pride,
And his deep roar sends challenge wide
To all that bars his way!
In front the gallant archers trode,
The men-at-arms behind them rode,
And midmost of their phalanx broad,
The monarch held his sway.
Beside him many a war-horse fumes,
Around him waves a sea of plumes,
Where many a knight in battle known,
And some who spurs had first braced on,
And deemed that fight should see them won,
King Edward's hests obey.
De Argentine attends his side,
With stout De Valence, Pembroke's pride, -
Selected champions from the train
To wait upon his bridle-rein.
Upon the Scottish foe he gazed :
At once, before his sight amazed,
Sunk banner, spear, and shield.
Each weapon-point is downward sent,
Each warrior to the ground is bent.
* The rebels, Argentine, repent!
For pardon they have kneeled.'
* Aye, but they bend to other powers,
And other pardon sue than ours.
See where yon barefoot abbot stands,
And blesses them with lifted hands.
Upon the spot where they have kneeled,
These men will die or win the field.'
• Then prove we if they die or win;
Bid Gloster's earl the fight begin.'
“Earl Gilbert waved his truncheon high
Just as the Northern ranks arose,
Signal for England's archery
To halt and bend their bows.
Then stepped each yoeman forth apace,
Glanced at the intervening space,
And raised his left hand high;
To the right ear the cords they bring,
At once ten thousand bow-strings ring,
Ten thousand arrows fly!
Nor paused on the devoted Scot
The ceaseless fury of their shot;
As fiercely and as fast
Forth whistling came the gray-goose wing
As the wild hailstones pelt and ring
Adown December's blast.
Nor mountain targe of tough bull-hide,
Nor Lowland mail, that storm may bide.
Woe! woe! to Scotland's bannered pride,
If the fell shower may last!
Upon the right, behind the wood,
Each by his steed dismounted, stood
The Scottish chivalry.
With foot in stirrup, hand on mane,
Fierce Edward Bruce can scarce restrain
His own keen heart, his eager train,
Until the archers gained the plain,
Then, ‘Mount, ye gallant free!'
He cried; and vaulting from the ground,
His saddle every horseman found.
On high their glittering crests they toss,
As springs the wild-fire from the moss ;
The shield hangs down on every breast,
Each ready lance is in the rest,
And loud shouts Edward Bruce -
'Forth, Marshal ! on the peasant foe;
We 'll tame the terrors of their bow,
And cut the bowstring loose.'
“Then spurs were dashed in chargers' flanks,
They rushed among the archer-ranks.
No spears were there the shock to let,
No stakes to turn the charge were set;
And how shall yeoman's armor slight
Stand the long lance and mace of might?
Or what may their short swords avail
'Gainst barbed horse and shirt of mail?
Amid their ranks the chargers sprung,
High o'er their heads the weapons swung;
And shriek and groan and vengeful shout
Gave note of triumph and of rout!
Awhile, with stubborn hardihood,
The English hearts the strife made good ;
Borne down at length on every side,
Compelled to flight, they scatter wide.
Let stags of Sherwood leap for glee,
And bound the deer of Dallom Lee.
The broken bows of Bannock's shore
Shall in the greenwood ring no more!
Round Wakefield's merry maypole now
The maids may twine the summer bough,
May northward look with longing glance
For those that wont to lead the dance,
For the blithe archers look in vain !
Broken, dispersed, in flight o'erta'en,
Pierced through, trod down, by thousand slain,
They cumber Bannock's bloody plain.” Scott was a warm patriot, and his poems have constantly occurring lines which speak his love of country, - his dear native Scotland. You all must know, I think, those familiar lines beginning,
“Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land ?'”