Scottish Poetry Selection
- Lay of the Last Minstrel (Extract)

The "Lay of the Last Minstrel" by Sir Walter Scott was based on an old Border narrative and is full of phrases which have passed into our language - though we often don't realise that it was Scott who penned them. The extract below illustrates this clearly with "O Caledonia, stern and wild", "Breathes there a man with soul so dead" and "Land of the mountain and the flood". They come from Canto Sixth, verses I and II.

Lay of the Last Minstrel (Extract)

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd,
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung.

O Caledonia! stern and, wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
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!
Still, as I view each well-known scene,
Think what is now, and what hath been,
Seems as, to me of all bereft,
Sole friends thy woods and streams were left;
And thus I love them better still
Even in extremity of ill.
By Yarrow's streams still let me stray,
Though none should guide my feeble way.,
Still feel the breeze down Ettrick break,
Although it chill my wither'd cheek;
Still lay my head by Teviot Stone,
Though there, forgotten and alone,
The Bard may draw his parting groan.

Meaning of unusual words:
pelf=money, wealth
Meet=well fitting
Yarrow, Ettrick, Teviot= rivers in the Scottish Borders

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