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it proper to mention that while I was hastily executing a work, written for a temporary purpose, and on passing events, the task was most cruelly interrupted by the successive deaths of Lord President Blair and Lord Viscount Melville. In those distinguished characters I had not only to regret persons whose lives were most important to Scotland, but also whose notice and patronage honoured my entrance upon active life; and, I may add, with melancholy pride, who permitted my more advanced age to claim no common share in their friendship. Under such interruptions, the following verses, which my best and happiest efforts must have left far unworthy of their theme, have, I am myself sensible, an appearance of negligence and incoherence, which, in other circumstances, I might have been able to remove.
EDINBURGH, June 24, 1811.
THE VISION OF DON RODERICK
Lives there a strain whose sounds of mounting fire
May rise distinguished o'er the din of war;
Who sung beleaguered Ilion's evil star?
Wafting its descant wide o'er Ocean's range;
All as it swelled 'twixt each loud trumpet-change, That clangs to Britain victory, to Portugal revenge!
Yes! such a strain, with all o'erpowering measure,
Might melodize with each tumultuous sound, Each voice of fear or triumph, woe or pleasure,
That rings Mondego's ravaged shores around; The thundering cry of hosts with conquest crowned,
The female shriek, the ruined peasant's moan, The shout of captives from their chains unbound,
The foiled oppressor's deep and sullen groan, A Nation's choral hymn for tyranny o'erthrown.
But we, weak minstrels of a laggard day,
Skilled but to imitate an elder page, Timid and raptureless, can we repay
The debt thou claim'st in this exhausted age? Thou givest our lyres a theme, that might engage
Those that could send thy name o'er sea and land, While sea and land shall last; for Homer's rage
A theme; a theme for Milton's mighty hand How much unmeet for us, a faint degenerate band!
Ye mountains stern! within whose rugged breast
The friends of Scottish freedom found repose; Ye torrents! whose hoarse sounds have soothed their
Returning from the field of vanquished foes; Say, have ye lost each wild majestic close,
That erst the choir of Bards or Druids flung; What time their hymn of victory arose,
And Cattraeth's glens with voice of triumph rung,' And mystic Merlin harped, and grey-haired Llywarch
1 See Note 105.
O, if your wilds such minstrelsy retain,
As sure your changeful gales seem oft to say,' When sweeping wild and sinking soft again,
Like trumpet-jubilee or harp's wild sway; If ye can echo such triumphant lay,
Then lend the note to him has loved you long! Who pious gathered each tradition grey,
That floats your solitary wastes along, And with affection vain gave them new voice in song.
For not till now, how oft soe'er the task
Of truant verse hath lightened graver care, From Muse or Sylvan was he wont to ask,
In phrase poetic, inspiration fair; Careless he gave his numbers to the air,
They came unsought for, if applauses came; Nor for himself prefers he now the prayer:
Let but his verse befit a hero's fame, Immortal be the verse! — forgot the poet's name!
Hark, from yon misty cairn their answer tost:
Minstrel! the fame of whose romantic lyre, Capricious-swelling now, may soon be lost,
Like the light flickering of a cottage fire; If to such task presumptuous thou aspire
Seek not from us the meed to warrior due: Age after age has gathered son to sire,
Since our grey cliffs the din of conflict knew, Or, pealing through our vales, victorious bugles blew.
'Decayed our old traditionary lore,
Save where the lingering fays renew their ring,
spring;? Save where their legends grey-haired shepherds sing,
That now scarce win a listening ear but thine, Of feuds obscure and Border ravaging,
And rugged deeds recount in rugged line Of moonlight foray made on Teviot, Tweed, or Tyne.
No! search romantic lands, where the near Sun
Gives with unstinted boon ethereal flame, Where the rude villager, his labour done,
In verse spontaneous chants some favoured name, a Whether Olalia's charms his tribute claim,
Her eye of diamond and her locks of jet,
i See Note 106.
· See Note 107.