Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
Lake Coriskin (from The Lord of the Isles)
By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
 
[From Canto III.]

A WHILE their route they silent made,
    As men who stalk for mountain-deer,
Till the good Bruce to Ronald said,—
    ‘Saint Mary! what a scene is here!
I’ve traversed many a mountain-strand,        5
Abroad and in my native land,
And it has been my lot to tread
Where safety more than pleasure led;
Thus, many a waste I’ve wandered o’er,
Clombe many a crag, cross’d many a moor,        10
    But, by my halidome,
A scene so rude, so wild as this,
Yet so sublime in barrenness,
Ne’er did my wandering footsteps press,
    Where’er I happ’d to roam.’        15
 
No marvel thus the Monarch spake;
    For rarely human eye has known
A scene so stern as that dread lake,
    With its dark ledge of barren stone.
Seems that primeval earthquake’s sway        20
Hath rent a strange and shatter’d way
    Through the rude bosom of the hill,
And that each naked precipice,
Sable ravine, and dark abyss,
    Tells of the outrage still.        25
The wildest glen, but this, can show
Some touch of Nature’s genial glow;
On high Benmore green mosses grow,
And heath-bells bud in deep Glencroe,
    And copse on Cruchan-Ben;        30
But here,—above, around, below,
    On mountain or in glen,
Nor tree, nor shrub, nor plant, nor flower,
Nor aught of vegetative power,
    The weary eye may ken.        35
For all is rocks at random thrown,
Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone,
    As if were here denied
The summer sun, the spring’s sweet dew,
That clothe with many a varied hue        40
    The bleakest mountain-side.
 
And wilder, forward as they wound,
Were the proud cliffs and lake profound.
Huge terraces of granite black
Afforded rude and cumber’d track;        45
    For from the mountain hoar,
Hurl’d headlong in some night of fear,
When yell’d the wolf, and fled the deer,
    Loose crags had toppled o’er;
And some, chance-poised and balanced, lay        50
So that a stripling arm might sway
    A mass no host could raise,
In Nature’s rage at random thrown,
Yet trembling like the Druid’s stone
    On its precarious base.        55
The evening mists, with ceaseless change,
Now clothed the mountains’ lofty range,
    Now left their foreheads bare,
And round the skirts their mantle furl’d,
Or on the sable waters curl’d,        60
Or on the eddying breezes whirl’d,
    Dispersed in middle air.
And oft, condensed, at once they lower,
When, brief and fierce, the mountain shower
    Pours like a torrent down,        65
And when return the sun’s glad beams,
Whiten’d with foam a thousand streams
    Leap from the mountain’s crown.
‘This lake,’ said Bruce, ‘whose barriers drear
Are precipices sharp and sheer.        70
Yielding no track for goat or deer,
    Save the black shelves we tread,
How term you its dark waves? and how
Yon northern mountain’s pathless brow,
    And yonder peak of dread,        75
That to the evening sun uplifts
The griesly gulfs and slaty rifts,
    Which seam its shiver’d head?’—
‘Coriskin call the dark lake’s name,
Coolin the ridge, as bards proclaim,        80
From old Cuchullin, chief of fame.
But bards, familiar in our isles
Rather with Nature’s frowns than smiles,
Full oft their careless humours please
By sportive names from scenes like these.        85
I would old Torquil were to show
His maidens with their breasts of snow,
Or that my noble Liege were nigh
To hear his Nurse sing lullaby!
(The Maids—tall cliffs with breakers white,        90
The Nurse—a torrent’s roaring might,)
Or that your eye could see the mood
Of Corryvrekin’s whirlpool rude,
When dons the Hag her whiten’d hood—
’Tis thus our islesmen’s fancy frames,        95
For scenes so stern, fantastic names.’
 
 
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