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A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth

And three striking ballads of his own


"While they drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave, Dancing round them pale spectres are seen. Their liquor is blood, and this horrible stave They how: 'To the health of Alonzo the Brave And his consort, the Fair Imogene!'"

Lewis' own contributions to his "Tales of Terror" and "Tales of Wonder," were of his same raw-head and bloody-bones variety. His imagination rioted in physical horrors. There are demons who gnash with iron fangs and brandish gore-fed scorpions; maidens are carried off by the Winter King, the Water King, the Cloud King, and the Sprite of the Glen; they are poisoned or otherwise done to death, and their wraiths revisit their guilty lovers in their shrouds at midnight's dark hour and imprint clammy kisses upon them with livid lips; gray friars and black canons abound; requiem and death knell sound through the gloom of the cloisters; echo roars through high Gothic arches; the anchorite mutters in his mossy cell; tapers burn dim, torches cast a red glare on vaulted roofs; the night wind blows through dark aisles; the owl hoots in the turret, and dying groans are heard in the lonely house upon the heath, where the black and tattered arras molders on the wall.

The "Tales of Wonder" included translations by Lewis from Goethe's "Fisher" and "Erl-King," and from German versions of Runic ballads in Herder's "Stimmen der Voelker." Scott's "Wild Huntsman," from Buerger,

was here reprinted, and he contributed, in addition, "Frederick and Alice," paraphrased from a romance-fragment in Goethe's opera "Claudina von Villa Bella"; and three striking ballads of his own, "The Fire King," a story of the Crusades, and "Glenfinlas" and "The Eve of St. John," Scottish tales of "gramarye." There were two or three old English ballads in the collection, such as "Clerk Colvin" and "Tam Lin"; a contribution from George Colman, Jr., the dramatist, and one from Scott's eccentric friend Leyden; and the volume concluded with Taylor's "Lenora."[37]

It is comical to read that the Monk gave Scott lectures in the art of versification and corrected the Scotticisms and false rhymes in his translations from Buerger; and that Scott respectfully deferred to his advice. For nothing can be in finer contrast with Lewis' penny dreadful, than the martial ring of the verse and the manly vigor of the style in Scott's part of the book. This is how Lewis writes anapaests, _e.g._:

"All shrouded she was in the garb of the tomb, Her lips they were livid, her face it was wan; A death the most horrid had rifled her bloom And each charm of beauty was faded and gone."

And this is how Scott writes them:

"He clenched his set teeth and his gauntleted hand, He stretched with one buffet that page on the sand. . . For down came the Templars like Cedron in flood, And dyed their long lances in Saracen blood."

It is no more possible to take Monk Lewis seriously than to take Horace Walpole seriously. They are both like children telling ghost-stories in the dark and trying to make themselves shudder. Lewis was even frivolous enough to compose paradies on his own ballads. A number of these _facetiae_--"The Mud King," "Giles Jollup the Grave and Brown Sally Green," etc.--diversify his "Tales of Wonder."

Scott soon found better work for his hands to do than translating German ballads and melodramas; but in later years he occasionally went back to these early sources of romantic inspiration. Thus his poem "The Noble Moringer" was taken from a "Sammlung Deutscher Volkslieder" published at Berlin in 1807 by Busching and Von der Hagen. In 1799 he had made a _rifacimento_ of a melodrama entitles "Der Heilige Vehme" in Veit Weber's "Sagen der Vorzeit." This he found among his papers thirty years after (1829) and printed in "The Keepsake," under the title of "The House of Aspen." Its most telling feature is the description of the Vehm-Gericht or Secret Tribunal, but it has little importance. In his "Historic Survey," Taylor said that "Goetz von Berlichingen" was "translated into English in 1799 at Edinburgh, by Wm. Scott, Advocate; no doubt the same person who, under the poetical but assumed name of Walter, had since become the most extensively popular of the British writers"! This amazing statement is explained by a blunder on the title-page of Scott's "Goetz," where the translator's name is given as _William_ Scott. But it led to a slightly acrimonious correspondence between Sir Walter and the Norwich reviewer.[38]


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