James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

August 15

Sir Walter Scott

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(Born August 16, 1771)

From “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers”

THUS Lays of Minstrels—may they be the last!—

On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast;

While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,

That dames may listen to the sound at nights;

And goblin brats, of Gilpin Horner’s brood,

Decoy young border nobles through the wood,

And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,

And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;

While high-born ladies in their magic cell,

Forbidding knights to read who cannot spell,

Dispatch a courier to a wizard’s grave,

And fight with honest men to shield a knave.

Next view in state, proud prancing on his roan,

The golden-crested haughty Marmion,

Now forging scrolls, now foremost in the fight,

Not quite a felon, yet but half a knight,

The gibbet or the field prepared to grace;

A mighty mixture of the great and base.

And think’st thou, Scott! by vain conceit perchance,

On public taste to foist thy stale romance?

Though Murray with his Miller may combine

To yield thy muse just half a crown per line?

No! when the sons of song descend to trade,

Their bays are sear, their former laurels fade.

Let such forego the poet’s sacred name,

Who rack their brains for lucre, not for fame:

Low may they sink to merited contempt,

And scorn remunerate the mean attempt!

Such be their meed, such still the just reward

Of prostituted muse and hireling bard!

For this we spurn Apollo’s venal son,

And bid a long “good-night to Marmion.”

These are the themes that claim our plaudits now;

These are the bards to whom the muse must bow:

While Milton, Dryden, Pope, alike forgot,

Resign their hallow’d bays to Walter Scott.