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Some Poems   By: (1771-1832)

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Contents: Introduction by Henry Morley. The Vision of Don Roderick The Field of Waterloo The Dance of Death Romance of Dunois The Troubadour Pibroch of Donald Dhu


Since there is room in this volume for more verses than Colonel Hay's {1}, I have added to them a few poems by Sir Walter Scott; the first written in 1811 at the time of the struggle with Napoleon in the Peninsula, the second in 1815, after Waterloo. Thus there is over all this volume a thin haze of battle through which we see only the finer feelings and the nobler hopes of man. The day is to come when war shall be no more, but wars have been and may again be necessary to bring on that day; and it is of such war, not untinged with the light of heaven, that we have passing shadows in this little book.

"The Vision of Don Roderick; a Poem, by Walter Scott, Esq.," was printed at Edinburgh by James Ballantyne & Co. in 1811. They are the present representatives of that firm by whom it is here reprinted. It was originally inscribed "to John Whitmore, Esq., and to the Committee of Subscribers for relief of the Portuguese Sufferers, in which he presides," as a "poem composed for the benefit of the Fund under their management."

The Legend of Don Roderick will be given in the next volume of our "Companion Poets," for Robert Southey founded upon it a Romantic Tale in Verse, which is one of the best tales of the kind in the English language. Southey's tale of Roderick himself was written at the same time when Walter Savage Landor was writing a play upon the subject, and Scott was, in the piece here reprinted, making it the starting point of a vision of the war in the Peninsula. The fatal palace of Don Roderick may have been a fable connected with the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. The fable, as translated by Scott from a Spanish History of King Roderick, was this:

"One mile on the east side of the city of Toledo, among some rocks, was situated an ancient Tower of magnificent structure, though much dilapidated by time, which consumes all: four estadoes (i.e., four times a man's height) below it, there was a Cave with a very narrow entrance, and a gate cut out of the solid rock, lined with a strong covering of iron, and fastened with many locks; above the gate some Greek letters are engraved, which, although abbreviated, and of doubtful meaning, were thus interpreted, according to the exposition of learned men: The King who opens this cave and discovers the wonders will discover both good and evil things. Many kings desired to know the mystery of this Tower, and sought to find out the manner with much care; but when they opened the gate, such a tremendous noise arose in the Cave that it appeared as if the earth was bursting; many of those present sickened with fear, and others lost their lives. In order to prevent such great perils (as they supposed a dangerous enchantment was contained within), they secured the gate with new locks, concluding, that though a king was destined to open it, the fated time was not yet arrived. At last King Don Rodrigo, led on by his evil fortune and unlucky destiny, opened the Tower; and some bold attendants whom he had brought with him entered, although agitated with fear. Having proceeded a good way, they fled back to the entrance, terrified with a frightful vision which they had beheld. The King was greatly moved, and ordered many torches, so contrived that the tempest in the cave could not extinguish them, to be lighted. Then the King entered, not without fear, before all the others. He discovered, by degrees, a splendid hall, apparently built in a very sumptuous manner; in the middle stood a Bronze Statue of very ferocious appearance, which held a battle axe in its hands. With this he struck the floor violently, giving it such heavy blows that the noise in the Cave was occasioned by the motion of the air... Continue reading book >>

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