The Famous Poet, 1808-1812

In 1808 Scott published his edition of Dryden in eighteen volumes and Marmion, that great tale in verse of chivalry, culminating in the great national tragedy of Flodden in 1513. In addition to an affection for Britain especially during the tremendous war then being waged with Napoleon, Scott had a still deeper and more abiding affection for Scotland. As he wrote:

Breathes there a man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself has said,
This is my own, my native land.
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood,

Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! What mortal hand
Can e'er untie the filial band
That knits me to thy rugged strand!

Such sentiments Burns, that other immortal poet of Scotland, would have been proud to have written. And we are reminded of that great song of our own age, Scotland the Brave, which echoes these sentiments:

Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland, the brave.

Marmion was the tonic which the nation needed to strengthen its heart in the dark times of the gruelling Napoleonic War, just like the famous speeches of Churchill during the darker times of the first two years of the Second World War. Scott and Churchill were two men who would have greatly appreciated each other, as Churchill appreciated that great Scots patriot who was his contemporary, Sir Harry Lauder.

Scott had long been thinking of a Highland pendant to the Lay and Marmion. In 1810 he visited the Highlands, rode the course his hero took from the mouth of Loch Venachar to Stirling Castle, to make sure he could do it in the three hours mentioned, and in May of that year gave it to the world under the title of The Lady of the Lake. It was a wonderful success. The Trossachs in Perthshire became a classic country, from then to this day drawing ever more people to love and appreciate the Scottish Highlands and their people and culture. Today the poem is still fresh and entrancing. It foreshadowed what his later novels revealed - his Shakespearian gift of producing little snatches of music which fit into place with exquisite and effortless aptness:

'The will to do, the strength to dare'; Soldier rest! Thy warfare o'er,/Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking...'; 'Hail to the Chief, who in triumph advances. . .'; 'Come one, come all! This rock shall fly/From its firm base as soon as I.'

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