Слике страница
PDF
ePub

6

dog or hog, what matters it? I say, name Rebecca, were ‘it only to mortify the Saxon churls.'

• A murmur arose even among his own immediate attendants.

"This passes a jest, my lord,' said Bracy; 'no knight here will lay lance in rest if such an insult is attempted.'

"It is the mere wantonness of insult,' said one of the oldest of Prince John's followers, Waldemar Fitzurse; " and if your grace attempt it, cannot but prove ruinous to your projects.

" I entertained you, sir,' said John, reining up his palfrey ' haughtily, .for my follower, but not for

my

counsellor. 6. Those who follow your grace in the paths which you • tread," said Waldemar, but speaking in a low voice,

acquire the right of counsellors; for your interest and safety are not more deeply gaged than theirs."?- Ivanhoe, vol. i. ch.9.

Nothing can be more spirited than the short dialogue in the preceding chapter, when Locksley is imperiously questioned by the prince on his applauding the resistance of Cedric to De Bracy’s insulting movement against Athelstane the Unready:

“I always add my hollo,' said the yeoman, when I see a good shot, or a gallant blow.'

"Say'st thou?' answered the prince; "then thou canst * hit the white thyself, I'll warrant.'

HA woodsman's mark, and at woodsman's distance, I can hit,' answered the yeoman.

"And Wat Tyrrell's mark, at a hundred yards,' said a voice from behind, but by whom uttered could not be • discerned.''

There is great pithiness in Baillie Jarvie's answer to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Helen Macgregor, who takes offence at being claimed as kinswoman by a Glasgow mechanic:

« The virago lopped the genealogical tree, by demanding haughtily, If a stream of rushing water acknowledged * any relation with the portion withdrawn from it for the mean domestic uses of those who dwelt on its banks?' 6. Vera true, kinswoman,' said the Baillie; but for a' that the burn wad be glad to hae the mill-dam back again • in simmer, when the chuckie-stanes are white in the sun.”' --Rob Roy, vol. iii. ch. 4.

It is observable throughout the novels and poems, that wherever the interest rises to a very high pitch, there the dialogue, if that form of composition be employed, becomes in a peculiar degree condensed and pointed. Let me call to your mind, as instances, the scene of Fergus M'Ivor's condemnation*; that in which Edgar Ravenswood arrives at the Lord Keeper's to claim a final interview with Miss Ashtont; and the altercation between Malcolm Græme and the chief of Clan-Alpinet. Indeed, all the quarrels in these romances appear to me, as Sir Lucius O’Trigger would

say, the prettiest quarrels in the world: every kind of heroic or gentlemanlike dissension is managed with admirable skill and spirit; and sometimes conducted through the requisite stages of Retort, Quip, Reply, Reproof, and Countercheck, with a lofty-minded discretion which would hardly have misbecome the days of Saviolo or Caranza.

Yet, with all their address in carrying on that kind of dispute which tends to martial defiance, both writers are, I think, unfortunate in their endeavours to imitate the conflict of acrimonious but polished raillery, as it is waged by well-bred malice on peaceable occasions. The mutual taunts of Marmion and Sir Hugh the Heron, when the knight asks his guest, of the page that used to attend him,

* Waverley, vol. iii. ch. 20. † Bride of Lammermoor, vol. iii. ch. 6. # Lady of the Lake, Canto II. St. 34, &c.

Say, hast thou given that lovely youth

To serve in lady's bower?
Or was the gentle page, in sooth,

A gentle paramour?"

and the baron, remarking in his turn the absence of Heron's flighty consort, ironically inquires

(( - has that dame, so fair and sage,

Gone on some pious pilgrimage *?"

are somewhat rude, even for Norham castle. In the Abbot, the war of sarcasm between Mary Stuart, and the Lady of Lochleven usually ends in bringing down both disputants to the common level of incensed females; a circumstance perhaps strictly natural, but pertaining to that kind of nature which, as we fly from it in real life, we are not greatly pleased to encounter in fiction ; certainly not where the fable is of an elevated and romantic cast.

There is one distinguished excellence in the dialogue of our authors, which, although hastening to another part of the subject, I cannot leave unpraised. It is the simple yet nervous and impassioned eloquence that breaks forth, apparently unbidden, in many of their scenes, and, while it flows in the aptest and most harmonious language, seems to rise spontaneously from a genuine and uncontroulable ima pulse. Thus in the Countess Amy's rapturous exclamation,

• It is Leicester !-it is my noble earl !-it is my Dudley!

Marmion, Canto I. St. 15, 16.

-Every stroke of his horse's hoof sounds like a note of • lordly music*! all the words bound triumphantly over the tongue, and (fanciful as the remark may seem, when thus drily stated) the largeness of the phrase appears to correspond with a dilating of the heart.

But I will point out one or two examples in a calmer tone, and on a more extended scale. Such is the animated and energetic apology of Roderick Dhu for his predatory course of lifet. The following speech of Claverhouse, though far from new-in substance, is, I think, composed with great eloquence as well as simplicity. Part of its effect, however, may be owing to the prophetic glance which it casts, in the conclusion, at the speaker's own fate:

• You are but young in these matters, Mr. Morton--and * I do not think the worse of you as a young soldier for

appearing to feel them acutely. But habit, duty, and necessity, reconcile men to every thing.-You would hardly believe that, in the beginning of my military career, I had

as much aversion to seeing blood spilt as ever man felt; it * seemed to me to be wrung from my own heart; and yet, • if you trust one of those whig fellows, he will tell you

I • drink a warm cup of it every morning before I breakfast. • But, in truth, Mr. Morton, why should we care so much • for death, light around us whenever it may ? Men die daily—not a bell tolls the hour but it is the death-note of some one or other, and why hesitate to shorten the span of others, or take over anxious care to prolong our own?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

* Kenilworth, vol. ii. ch. 10. A dignified version of

“ His very step has music in't

As he comes up the stair.” + Lady of the Lake, Canto V. St. 7.

[ocr errors]

* It is all a lottery-when the hour of midnight came you were to die--it has struck-you are alive and safe, and the lot has fallen on those fellows who were to murder

you. It is not the expiring pang that is worth thinking of in an event that must happen one day, and may

befal us on any given moment—it is the memory which the

soldier leaves behind him, like the long train of light that • follows the sunken sun--that is all which is worth caring for, which distinguishes the death of the brave or the ignoble. When I think of death, Mr. Morton, as a thing worth thinking of, it is in the hope of pressing one day some well-fought and hard-won field of battle, and dying • with the shout of victory in my ear---that would be worth

dying for, and more, it would be worth having lived for! -Old Mortality, last vol. ch. 5.

There is a melancholy grandeur in the reflections of Bertram Risingham on his approaching close of life:

6

[ocr errors]

:

[ocr errors]

My soul hath felt a secret weight,
A warning of approaching fate :
A priest had said, Return, repent !
As well to bid that rock be rent.
Firm as that flint I face mine end ;
My heart may burst, but cannot bend.

The dawning of my youth, with awe
And prophecy, the Dalesmen saw;
For over Redesdale it came,
As bodeful as their beacon flame.
Edmund,—thy years were scarcely mine,
When, challenging the clans of Tyne
To bring their best my brand to prove,
O'er Hexham's altar hung my glove ;
But Tynedale, nor in tower nor town,
Held champion meet to take it down.

« ПретходнаНастави »