Among the Indians he had fought;
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear;

Such tales as, told to any maid

By such a youth, in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear.

He told of girls, a happy rout!

Who quit their fold with dance and shout,

Their pleasant Indian town,

To gather strawberries all day long;
Returning with a choral song

When daylight is gone down.

He spake of plants divine and strange
That every hour their blossoms change,
Ten thousand lovely hues!

With budding, fading, faded flowers,
They stand the wonder of the bowers,
From morn to evening dews.

He told of the magnolia, spread
High as a cloud, high overhead!
The cypress and her spire;

- Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam Cover a hundred leagues, and seem To set the hills on fire.

The youth of green savannas spake,
And many an endless, endless lake,
With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky

Among the evening clouds.

And then he said, "How sweet it were

A fisher or a hunter there,

A gardener in the shade,

Still wandering with an easy mind.

To build a household fire, and find
A home in every glade!

"What days and what sweet years! Ah me!

Our life were life indeed, with thee

So passed in quiet bliss,

And all the while," said he, "to know

That we were in a world of woe,

On such an earth as this!

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]



SIR WALTER SCOTT, the most famous of historical novelists, was born in Edinburgh in 1771 and died in 1832. He studied at the University of Edinburgh, read law, and in 1792 was called to the bar. In 1799 he was appointed Sheriff, in 1806 was made Clerk of the Court of Session, and in 1820, when he was forty-nine years old, received a baronetcy. His first literary effort was a translation of some of Bürger's ballads, which was published in 1796. Other translations followed, with three or four original poems; but not until 1865 did Scott attain the place of literary eminence which he forever after held and adorned. His first grand success was The Lay of the Last Minstrel, which appeared in that year, and was received with almost universal praise. Marmion, The Lady of the Lake, Rokeby, and other poems, were issued in quick succession, each confirming his poetical reputation and spreading his fame. But Scott is better known to the world as a novelist than as a poet, and a few words descriptive of his remarkable career in fiction seem to be necessary to the completeness of this sketch. In 1814 Waverley was issued at Edinburgh, and instantly attracted attention. No author's name appeared on the title-page, and the public was left in a state of painful doubt as to the source of so brilliant a book. Its perplexity was naturally increased, the next year, by the appearance of Guy Mannering, and, at brief intervals, of its successors. Scott was suspected of the authorship of these books, but stoutly denied it; and not till many years later did he confess the truth. Space will not permit us to dwell upon the pecuniary troubles which clouded the last years of the great novelist. In all the history of literature there is no record of such labors as his; one admires his lofty sense of honor, his unyielding fortitude, and his almost superhuman power of application with equal warmth. The secret of Scott's success may be said to lie in his felicitous employment of common topics, images, and expressions, such as all readers can appreciate. Another source of his strength was his intense nationality: no writer before him had so vividly illustrated the characteristics of Scottish life and character. His novels were and are popular because they deal with real life, and avoid the meditative and speculative habits which are wearisome to the common reader. Not conspicuously surpassing all other novelists in single qualities, Scott yet possessed and combined all the qualities necessary for his work in such nice and harmonious adjustment as has never been witnessed in any other man. While his novels fascinate and entertain with an enduring yet indescribable charm, they also convey much valuable information as to the life of the times of which they treat.


SUCH of the Scottish knights as remained alive returned to their own country. They brought back the heart of the Bruce and the bones of the good Lord James. These last were interred in the church of St. Bride, where Thomas Dickson and Douglas held so terrible a Palm Sunday. The Bruce's heart was buried below the high altar in Melrose Abbey. As for his body, it was laid in the sepulcher in the midst of the church of Dunfermline, under a marble

* Robert Bruce, King of Scots, was born in 1274. He was a man of great valor, and waged, with varying fortune, incessant war against the English. He finally gained a decisive victory over the army of Edward II. at the famous battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which resulted in the independence of Scotland.

stone. But the church becoming afterwards ruinous, and the roof falling down with age, the monument was broken to pieces, and nobody could tell where it stood. But a little while ago, when they were repairing the church at Dunfermline, and removing the rubbish, lo! they found fragments of the marble tomb of Robert Bruce. Then they began to dig farther, thinking to discover the body of this celebrated monarch; and at length they came to the skeleton of a tall man, and they knew it must be that of King Robert, both as he was known to have been buried in a winding-sheet of cloth of gold, of which many fragments were found about this skeleton, and also because the breastbone appeared to have been sawed through, in order to take out the heart. So orders were sent from the King's Court of Exchequer to guard the bones carefully, until a new tomb should be prepared, into which they were laid with profound respect. A great many gentlemen and ladies attended, and almost all the common people in the neighborhood; and as the church could not hold half the numbers, the people were allowed to pass through it, one after another, that each one, the poorest as well as the richest, might see all that remained of the great King Robert Bruce, who restored the Scottish monarchy. Many people shed tears; for there was the wasted skull which once was the head that thought so wisely and boldly for his country's deliverance; and there was the dry bone which had once been the sturdy arm that killed Sir Henry de Bohun, between the two armies, at a single blow, on the evening before the battle of Bannockburn.*

It is more than five hundred years since the body of Bruce was first laid into the tomb; and how many, many millions of men have died since that time, whose bones could not be recognized, nor their names known, any more than those of inferior animals! It was a great thing to see that the wisdom, courage, and patriotism of a King could preserve him for such a long time in the memory of the people over whom he once reigned. But then, my dear child, you must remember, that it is only desirable to be remembered for praiseworthy and patriotic actions, such as those of Robert Bruce. It would be better for a prince to be forgotten like the meanest peasant, than to be recollected for actions of tyranny or oppression.

*See Burns's poem, page 55.

« VorigeDoorgaan »