Sunday, June 30, 2013

Poetry - Scott

For the rest of this series, click on the 'Poetry' link at the bottom.

The next poem from the book is 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel' by Walter Scott.  Scott is best known for novels like 'Ivanhoe' but apparently he made his name with this poem.  I believe this is just an excerpt:

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, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.

The poem was published in 1805 and the sentiment that Scott was writing against has become very popular. There are many, many people out there who are hopelessly embarrassed by their own 'native land'.  I don't know it this is due to broad changes in philosophy in the last 200 years or just a simple change in fashion.  This poem is blatantly patriotic and today would be condemned by some.
What do I think of the actual poetry?  I think I like it.  Especially that last line, 'Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung'.  I don't know if I've heard that phrase before but it's a good one.  If I find time, I'll have to look at more of the poem and maybe finally get around to reading 'Ivanhoe'.

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