A Visit to Mirkwood Mere

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Waverley, the 1814 novel written by Sir Walter Scott that launched the historical novel genre.

As I posted earlier, I learned a lot of new words and encountered a many an allusion and literary reference while reading this novel.

Now that I have read Waverley and Guy Mannering, and have just commenced reading The Antiquary, I can say with confidence that Sir Walter liked to drop a lot of poems and poetical excerpts into his narratives.

Fairly early in the novel Waverley, the reader encounters this poem, which is supposed to have been written by our young hero, Edward Waverley, when he finds that he is to join the military and leave his home in England to go to Scotland.

I was pleasantly surprised by the encounter and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poem.

Mirkwood Mere
by Sir Walter Scott

Late, when the autumn evening fell
On Mirkwood Mere’s romantic dell
The lake returned, in chasten’d gleam
The purple cloud, the golden beam.
Reflected in the crystal pool
Headland and bank lay fair and cool;
The weather-tinted rock and tower,
Each drooping tree, each fairy flower,
So true, so soft, the mirror gave,
As if there lay beneath the wave,
Secure from trouble, toil and care
A world than earthly world more fair.

But distant winds began to wake,
And roused the Genius of the Lake!
He heard the groaning of the oak,
And donn’d at once his sable cloak,
As warrior, at the battle cry,
Invests him with his panoply.
Then, as the whirlwind nearer press’d,
He ‘gan to shake his foamy crest
O’er furrowed brow and blackened cheek,
And bade his surge in thunder speak.
In wild and broken eddies whirl’d,
Flitted that fond ideal world,
And to the shore in tumult tost
The realms of fairy bliss were lost.

Yet, with a stern delight and strange,
I saw the spirit-stirring change.
As warr’d the wind with wave and wood,
Upon the ruin’d tower I stood,
And felt my heart more strongly bound,
Responsive to the lofty sound,
While, joying in the mighty roar,
I mourn’d that tranquil scene no more.

So, on the idle dreams of youth,
Breaks the loud trumpet-call of Truth,
Bids each fair vision pass away
Like landscape on the lake that lay,
As fair, as flitting, and as frail
As that which fled the autumn gale.
Forever dead to fancy’s eye
Be each gay form that glided by,
While dreams of love and lady’s charms
Give place to honor and to arms!

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