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THE PARTING OF MARMION AND DOUGLAS
Not far advanced was morning day,
He had safe conduct for his band,
The train from out the castle drew,
"Though something I might 'plain," he said,
"Of cold respect to stranger guest,
To each one whom he lists, howe'er
Such hand as Marmion's had not spared
Lord Angus, thou hast lied!"
On the Earl's cheek, the flush of rage
Fierce he broke forth: "And dar'st thou then
To beard the lion in his den,
The Douglas in his hall?
And hop'st thou hence unscathed to go?
Lord Marmion turned-well was his need,
The steed along the drawbridge flies,
And when Lord Marmion reached his band
And shout of loud defiance pours,
"Horse! horse!" the Douglas cried, "and chase!"
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Note. Marmion, an English nobleman, has been sent as an envoy by Henry the Eighth, King of England, to James the Fourth, King of Scotland. The two countries are on the eve of war with each other. Arriving in Edinburgh, Marmion is entrusted by King James to the care and hospitality of Douglas, Earl of Argus, who, taking him to his castle at Tantallon, treats him with the respect due his position as representative of the King, but at the same time dislikes him. The war approaching, Marmion leaves to join the English camp. This sketch describes the leave-taking.
Discussion. 1. In what part of the castle does this conversation take place? 2. Why did Douglas refuse to receive the hand of Marmion? 3. Read the lines that give a vivid picture of the defiant Douglas. 4. What distinction does Douglas make between the ownership of his "castle" and that of his "hand"? 5. How does Marmion answer the implied insult in "howe'er unmeet to be the owner's peer"? 6. What claim does Marmion make for one "who does England's message"? 7. What do we call one "who does England's message" at Washington? 8. What does Douglas mean by "to beard the lion in his den"? 9. What lines show Marmion's narrow escape? 10. Why do you think Douglas changed his mind? 11. Would you have admired him more if he had given chase to Marmion? 12. Which man appears to better advantage in this scene?
troop array, 325, 2
safe conduct, 325, 4
something I might 'plain, 325, 9
pitch of pride, 326, 8
dashed the rowels, 326, 25
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
For Biography, see page 63.
Historical Note. Burns wrote this ode to fit an old air, said in Scottish tradition to have been Robert Bruce's march at the battle of Bannockburn. "This thought," he says, "in my solitary wanderings, has warmed me to a pitch of enthusiasm on the theme of liberty and independence." The story is told that Burns wrote this poem while riding on horseback over a wild moor in Scotland in company with a Mr. Syme, who, observing the expression on the poet's face, refrained from speaking to him. Doubtless this vigorous hymn was singing itself through the soul of Burns as he wrote it. The poem is considered the most stirring war ode ever written.
Discussion. 1. Who is supposed to speak the words? 2. To whom are they supposed to be addressed? 3. For what did Bruce contend? 4. What patriot before him had fought against great odds in the same cause? 5. In these lines, what choice does Bruce offer his army? 6. To what deep feeling does he appeal? 7. Does this poem represent truly Bruce's own feeling for his country, as history acquaints us with it? 8. Which are the most stirring lines? 9. What was Burns's purpose in writing it? 10. What influence does such a poem have?
traitor knave, 328, 9
servile chains, 328, 18
dearest veins, 328, 19