Guest poem submitted by Siddhartha Joshi:
(Poem #495) Marmion
(A Tale of Flodden Field) I. (Canto First 1-13) Day set on Norham's castled steep, And Tweed's fair river, broad and deep, And Cheviot's mountains lone: The battled towers, the donjon keep, The loophole grates, where captives weep, The flanking walls that round it sweep, In yellow lustre shone. The warriors on the turrets high, Moving athwart the evening sky, Seemed forms of giant height: Their armour, as it caught the rays, Flashed back again the western blaze, In lines of dazzling light. V. (Canto Second 87-98) Nought say I here of Sister Clare, Save this, that she was young and fair; As yet a novice unprofessed, Lovely and gentle, but distressed. She was betrothed to one now dead, Or worse, who had dishonoured fled. Her kinsmen bid her give her hand To one who loved her for her land: Herself, almost heart-broken now, Was bent to take the vestal vow, And shroud within Saint Hilda's gloom, Her blasted hopes and withered bloom. VII. (Canto Second 113-127) Lovely, and gentle, and distressed- These charms might tame the fiercest breast. Harpers have sung, and poets told, That he, in fury uncontrolled, The shaggy monarch of the wood, Before a virgin, fair and good, Hath pacified his savage mood. But passions in the human frame, Oft put the lion's rage to shame: And jealousy, by dark intrigue, With sordid avarice in league, Had practiced with their bowl and knife Against the mourner's harmless life. This crime was charged 'gainst those who lay Prisoned in Cuthbert's islet grey. XVI. (Canto Fifth 463-475) And while the king his hand did strain, The old man's tears fell down like rain. To seize the moment Marmion tried, And whispered to the king aside: "Oh, let such tears unwonted plead For respite short from dubious deed! A child will weep a bramble's smart, A maid to see her sparrow part, A stripling for a woman's heart: But woe awaits a country when She sees the tears of bearded men. Then, oh! what omen dark and high, When Douglas wets his manly eye!" And for those bits that Pelham Grenville pinched and had Bertie Wooster (or Jeeves) mouth : XVIII. (Canto Sixth 532-537) O, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive! A Palmer  too! - no wonder why I felt rebuked beneath his eye: I might have known there was but one, Whose look could quell Lord Marmion." XXX (Canto Sixth 902-907)  O, woman in our hours of ease, Uncertain, coy and hard to please, And variable as the shade By the light quivering aspen made; When pain and anguish wring the brow, A ministering angel thou!
This is a poem which does not pretend to champion principles (while filled with incidents highlighting Chivalry, Love and other Good Things beginning with capital letters) or claim to be a result of a deep study of human nature (though Scott would clearly come across as someone with a deep interest in and understanding of the same). Neither is it perfect - indeed there are barren passages that could not have come from Scott's quill. It is poetry for the sake of poetry (with the intention of course of spinning an engaging yarn). Marmion is a poem that could at once become a good friend - the kind of poem you would get back to for solace - not necessarily for advice or commiseration, but to read the familiar, rhyming - indeed almost alive - and soothing verses. Also evident is the feeling of motion as you read the poem - it just doesn't *feel* right to recite it standing still. As RF Cholmeley wrote in the introduction to the old school edition I have - "Certainly Marmion is a poem to be recited walking - one might almost say riding, or running, but for the practical difficulties of such a performance; it goes with motion. To say it on a hearthrug, or in a classroom, may be good evidence that you know it, but the poem does not get a fair chance." Scott did write much of "Marmion" when he was in quarters with the volunteer cavalry that he had helped to raise, 1797, against the expected invasion of the French. Siddhartha. [Bio] Born: 15 August 1771 - the son of a very honourable and generous Scottish attorney. His mother was the daughter of Dr. John Rutherford of Edinburgh; she liked poetry and as a little boy he read aloud to her a great deal of Pope's translation of Homer, among other poems. He was a delicate child and a sudden lameness, which came upon him at the age of eighteen months, never quite left him - though as he grew up, he became strong and active beyond the average. At school, according to his own account, he was "an incorrigibly idle imp, who was always longing to do something else than was enjoined him", and he owns that to his sorrow he forgot entirely what little Greek he learned. However, in 1786 he was apprenticed to his father in Edinburgh and in 1792 was called to the bar, and worked steadily at that profession for some years, though without much success or liking. He took an active part in social and political life and in December 1799 was made Sheriff of Selkirkshire. This secured him an income without heavy duties and he turned at once to poetry, though as yet only by editing Border Minstrelsy. The success of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, five years later made it clear that literature was to be his business. In the same year (1805) he began what was to bring him even greater fame than his poetry, the Waverley Novels. Waverley, the first of these, was often interrupted and was not published until 1814, after which he continued to produce them with extraordinary rapidity. A man of his vigorous spirit was not likely to be without ambition, and Scott's ambition was to found a family and become a distinguished landowner. This aim and a taste for adventurous projects such as often goes with a quick imagination led him into business enterprises which ended disastrously; he met his calamities with great courage and devoted his strength and genius to securing his creditors from loss. In 1820 he was made a baronet by George IV. He died on the 21st of September, 1832, at Abbotsford. [On Marmion] The plot of Marmion is concerned with the love story of Clara and De Wilton, and the treachery and death of Marmion, intervening with the battle of Flodden and ending with a splendid description of the battle itself. Marmion and De Wilton were both English nobles and Clara de Clare an heiress of the Earl of Gloucester. Clara was betrothed to De Wilton, but Marmion coveted her lands and determined to marry her. He contrived, by forged letters, to bring a charge of high treason against De Wilton. De Wilton, unable to clear himself, challenged him to the ordeal of battle in accordance with feudal practice, but was defeated and left for dead. His life was saved, but he had to wander in foreign lands from which, as the story opens, he had returned in the form of a palmer . Meanwhile Clare had fled from Marmion to the protection of the Abbess of Whitby, to whom she was related, and had become a novice in the convent. (See the third verse above). Marmion's position was complicated by the fact that he had, three years before, induced a nun Constance de Beverley, to leave her convent in France and follow him disguised as a page. She helped him in his plot against De Wilton, but in jealousy of Clare, attempted with the help of a monk to poison her. The plot was discovered and Marmion, on his way to the Scottish court as ambassador from Henry VIII, left Constance at Holy Isle in the hands of the monks . The poem begins with the arrival of Marmion at Norham castle on the south bank of the Tweed, in August 1513. A friend of Scott's laughed at him for bringing his hero by a way where "there never was a road since the world was created". Scott said that he had done it for the scenery, and that it was Marmion's business to find his own road; but he took a hint from the criticism and brought him back by Dunbar and Tantallon Castle. [Notes] 1. Constance was imprisoned and executed for breaking her vows. 2. palmer: a pilgrim who spent his life in traveling from one holy shrine to another; De Wilton in disguise. 3. Marmion to Clare as he lay dying of his wounds after the battle of Flodden. PS: But passions in the human frame, Oft put the lion's rage to shame: Lovely, that :-). PPS: And this is the work that has "Lochinvar" sung by a minstrel in the Fifth Canto!