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Barcaldine's arm is high in air,
. Brave Torquil from Dunvegan high,
Eyes, hands, and brandish'd weapons met;
While thus for blows and death prepared,
The tumult is appeased by the arrival of the Abbot, for the purpose of performing the nuptial ceremony.This person is disposed to view Bruce with the utmost hostility, both as the enemy of Lorn, and on account of the profanation of which he had been guilty in slaying Comyn at the altar. Compelled, however, by a supernatural impulse, he pronounces blessings
upon him. He then announces, that warning from above forbids him to celebrate the proposed nuptials, and immediately sets sail. The consternation of Lorn is increased by the sudden disappearance of Edith, who it appears had fled along with her nurse, no one knows where. Ronald, however, beholds all these events with secret satisfaction.
After this day of agitation, all the guests of Artornish at length retire to rest. Bruce and his brother, when sunk in repose, are alarmed by the sound of footsteps in their apartment. They are re-assured, however, by discovering that this mysterious visitor is Ronald. That chieftain then owns and does homage to Bruce as his sovereign, and proffers apologies for having been induced to bear arms against him. Bruce confides to him his designs and hopes of regaining his rightful possession, and they deliberate on the course to be followed. They determine to repair, first to Skye, thence to coast the Hebrides, and call out their brave inhabitants to the defence of their monarch. To the shore of Skye we are therefore conducted. The chiefs, in passing by the most desolate part of it, are tempted to land and hunt the deer. This gives the poet an opportunity to describe the remarkable scenery which occurs in this quarter, and which he has done in a singularly powerful and striking
Rarely human eye has known A scene so stern as that dread lake,
With its dark ledge of barren stone. Seems that primeval earthquake's sway Hath rent a strange and shatter'd way
Through the rude bosom of the hill, And that each naked precipice, Sable ravine, and dark abyss, Tells of the outrage still. The wildest glen, but this, can show Some touch of Nature's genial glow; On high Benmore green mosses grow, And heath-bells bud in deep Glencroe,
And copse on Cruchan-Ben; But here, above, around, below, On mountain or in glen,
Nor tree, nor shrub, nor plant, nor flower, Nor aught of vegetative power,
The weary eye inay ken. For all is rocks at random thrown, Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone, As if were here denied
The summer sun, the spring's sweet dew, That clothe with many a varied hue
The bleakest mountain-side.
And wilder, forward as they wound,
For from the mountain hoar, Hurl'd headlong in some night of fear, When yell'd the wolf and fled the deer, Loose crags had toppled o'er; And some, chance-poised and balanced, lay, So that a stripling arm might sway A mass no host could raise, In Nature's rage at random thrown, Yet trembling like the Druid's stone On its precarious base.
The evening mists, with ceaseless change, Now clothed the mountains' lofty range, Now left their foreheads bare,
And round the skirts their mantle furl'd,
And oft, condensed, at once they lower, When, brief and fierce, the mountain shower Pours like a torrent down,
And when return the sun's glad beams, Whiten'd with foam a thousand streams Leap from the mountain's crown.
The chiefs are now informed, that their bark, by a sinistrous accident, has been compelled to quit the shore. They are fain therefore to accept the invitation of several very suspicious personages, to enter their hut. Ronald and Bruce determine to watch, by turns, along with Allan, a young chief who accompanies them. The two former complete their watches with care and safety, but with Allan the case was otherwise.
To Allan's eyes was harder task,
Then thought he of his mother's tower, His little sisters' green-wood bower, How there the Easter-gambols pass, And of Dan Joseph's lengthen'd mass. But still before his weary eye
In rays prolong'd the blazes die-
The two chiefs instantly start up, and avenge the death of Allan by that of his murderers. Next morning, on leaving the hut, they are surprised by the appearance of Edward Bruce, who, according to their arrangements, should have gone to Ireland. He informs them, that a general movement in favour of national independence, and of Bruce, has taken place throughout Scotland, and the arrival of that chief is only waited for to make a general rising. The party immediately leave Skye, and we have a very gay and pleasing picture of their voyage along the coast of the Hebrides, with notices of the different passing islands. We select the following:
Merrily, merrily, goes the bark
On a breeze from the northward free, So shoots through the morning sky the lark, Or the swan through the summer sea.
The shores of Mull on the eastward lay,
And all the group of islets gay
That guard famed Staffa round. Then all unknown its columns rose, Where dark and undisturb'd repose
The cormorant had found,
In a convent upon this island, Bruce meets his sister Isabel, the lady who had accompanied him at the castle of Artornish, and who, we omitted to mention, possessed the secret heart of Ronald. Nor was his passion unreturned; but this highminded lady now determines to devote herself to the cloister, and to be no bar to the performance of Ronald's reluctant engagement to Edith.Bruce in vain endeavours to shake her resolution. It behoves us now also to mention, that Bruce had found, prisoner in the hands of the ruffians
That Nature's voice might seem to say,
“Well hast thou done, frail Child of clay! of Skye, a youthful, but mute min
Thy humble powers that stately shrine
strel, who now accompanies him, and
He at length reaches the Island of Arran, where he meets a chosen band of adherents, many of whom had either fought, or had lost relations, at the battle of Falkirk. This gives rise to solemn and interesting reflections.
Blame ye the Bruce ?-his brother blamed,
Oh, War! thou hast thy fierce, delight,
The Bruce hath won his father's hall!
Welcome to mirth and joy!·
And there the vaulted arch, whose sound
To youth's unthinking glee!"
great crisis of the poem, and to the most memorable event in Scottish history, the battle of Bannockburn. There seems to be an impression, as if Mr Scott here had not quite fulfilled the expectations formed of such a subject, described by such a poet.This, it is probable, proceeds partly from these expectations having been raised to an extravagant height. So far as there is any failure, we ascribe it to the intimate and accurate acquaintance of Mr Scott with all the historical particulars of this memorable action. To alter these, even to add to them, might have appeared a species of profanation. But tactical details, and strict adherence to fact, are scarcely compatible with that wild licence of fancy, which seems necessary to produce the highest flights of poetical genius. Yet few passages in modern poetry can compare with the following:
It was a night of lovely June,
Ah, gentle planet! other sight
The mail, the acton, and the spear,
Of dying warriors swells on high,
And steeds that shriek in agony!
We must finally notice, that Edith, in her former disguise, still accompanied the Scottish army. After the expedition to Carrick, she had retired into the same convent with Isabel.— But that lady, who still nobly meditated her union with Ronald, as soon as tidings arrived of the great approaching events, urged her fair companion to quit this retirement, and again assume her former disguise.Much reluctance is felt or feigned by Edith, at a step thus repugnant to female decorum: but,
Oh, blame her not !-when zephyrs wake,
To plead his cause 'gainst virgin shame.
She accordingly departs. From the top of Demayet she views the battle of Bannockburn, and by an incident, perhaps somewhat strained, is made to contribute in no small degree to the catastrophe. Ronald recognizes and at once owns the power
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