Marmion (ed. Henry Morley)

Marmion (ed. Henry Morley)

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Marmion (ed. Henry Morley) by Sir Walter Scott

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1808

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Marmion (ed. Henry Morley)

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Book Excerpt

MARMION: A TALE OF FLODDEN FIELD
edited by Henry Morley

INTRODUCTION.

The "Lay of the Last Minstrel," Scott's first romantic tale, was published in January, 1805, and won for its author his first great success. The writing of "Marmion" was begun in November, 1806. Constable offered as publisher to pay at once a thousand guineas for the copyright, when he heard that the new poem was begun, though he had not yet seen a line of it. Miller and Murray joined, each taking a fourth part of the venture, and John Murray said, "We both view it as honourable, profitable, and glorious to be concerned in the publication of a new poem by Walter Scott." Scott, thirty-five years old, had the impulse upon his mind of a preceding great success, took more than usual pains, and thoroughly enjoyed the writing. On pleasant knolls, under trees, and by the banks of Yarrow, many lines were written; and trotting quietly over the hills in later life he said to Lockhart, his son-in-law, "Oh, man, I had many a grand gallop among these bracs when I was thinking of 'Marmion.'" The description of the battle of Flodden was shaped in the autumn of 1807, when Scott was out practising with the Light Horse Volunteers, which had been formed in prospect of an invasion from France, and of which Scott was quartermaster and secretary. Scott at those gatherings was full of companionable mirth, and in intervals between drill he would sometimes ride his charger at full speed up and down on the sands of Portobello within spray of the wave, while his mind was at work on such lines as -

"They close, in clouds of smoke and dust,
With sword-sway and with lance's thrust;

And such a yell was there,
Of sudden and portentous birth,
As if men fought in upper earth,

And fiends in upper air."

"Marmion" was published early in the year 1808; its first edition of two thousand, in the form, then usual, of a quarto volume, priced at a guinea and a half, was sold

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