With buoyant spirit Scott wrote “The Lady of the Lake,” originally published in 1810, and its extraordinary success justified his expectations. Scott, in speaking of this poem, says, “The ancient manners, the habits and customs, of the aboriginal race by whom the Highlands of Scotland were inhabited, had always appeared to me peculiarly adapted to poetry. The change in their manners, too, had taken place almost within my own time, or at least I had learned many particulars concerning the ancient state of the Highlands from the old men to the last generation. I had also read a great deal, seen much, and hear more, of the romantic country where I was in the habit of spending every autumn; and the scenery of Loch Katrine was connected with the recollection of many a dear friend and marry expedition of former days. This poem, the action of which lay among scenes so beautiful, and so deeply imprinted upon my recollections, was a labour of love; and it was no less so to recall the manners and incidents introduced. The frequent custom of James IV, and particularly of James V, of walking through the kingdom in disguise afforded me the hint of an incident which never fails to be interesting if managed with the slightest address or dexterity.”
The Chase. Harp of the North! that mouldering long hast hung On the witch–elm that shades Saint Fillan’s spring And down the fitful breeze thy numbers flung, Till envious ivy did around thee cling, Muffling with verdant ringlet every string,— O Minstrel Harp, still must thine accents sleep? Mid rustling leaves and fountains murmuring, Still must thy sweeter sounds their silence keep, Nor bid a warrior smile, nor teach a maid to weep? Not thus, in ancient days of Caledon, Was thy voice mute amid the festal crowd, When lay of hopeless love, or glory won, Aroused the fearful or subdued the proud. At each according pause was heard aloud Thine ardent symphony sublime and high! Fair dames and crested chiefs attention bowed; For still the burden of thy minstrelsy Was Knighthood’s dauntless deed, and Beauty’s matchless eye. O, wake once more! how rude soe’er the hand That ventures o’er thy magic maze to stray; O, wake once more! though scarce my skill command Some feeble echoing of thine earlier lay: Though harsh and faint, and soon to die away, And all unworthy of thy nobler strain, Yet if one heart throb higher at its sway, The wizard note has not been touched in vain. Then silent be no more! Enchantress, wake again!