John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Poet's Corner: Marmion

Marmion
Canto VI, Stanza XVII

‘In brief, my lord, we both descried
(For then I stood by Henry’s side)
The Palmer mount, and outwards ride,
  Upon the Earl’s own favourite steed:
All sheathed he was in armour bright,
And much resembled that same knight,
Subdued by you in Cotswold fight:
  Lord Angus wish’d him speed.’—
The instant that Fitz-Eustace spoke,
A sudden light on Marmion broke;—
‘Ah! dastard fool, to reason lost!’
He mutter’d; ‘Twas nor fay nor ghost
I met upon the moonlight wold,
But living man of earthly mould.—
  O dotage blind and gross!
Had I but fought as wont, one thrust
Had laid De Wilton in the dust,
  My path no more to cross.—
How stand we now?—he told his tale
To Douglas; and with some avail;
  ‘Twas therefore gloom’d his rugged brow.—
Will Surrey dare to entertain,
‘Gainst Marmion, charge disproved and vain?
Small risk of that, I trow.
Yet Clare’s sharp questions must I shun;
Must separate Constance from the Nun—
O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
A Palmer too!—no wonder why
I felt rebuked beneath his eye:
I might have known there was but one,
Whose look could quell Lord Marmion.’

Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)

Anne of Green Gables month continues apace with an excerpt from Sir Walter Scott's epic poem Marmion, which is referenced twice in Green Gables (and once in one of the later Anne books, Rainbow Valley). In chapter 27, after accidentally dying her hair green, Anne quotes lines 27 and 28, the only part of Marmion anyone nowadays remembers, even if most people probably think it's a quote from Shakespeare.

Later, in chapter 29, Anne entertains herself by reciting to herself another part of Marmion (Canto VI, Stanza XXXIV, if you care) while dreamily following a herd of cows down the lane. Personally, if I was walking behind a herd of cows, I'd be very carefully watching the ground instead of dreamily reciting poetry, but what do I know. Incidentally, the same passage indicates that Miss Stacy had made them "learn [Marmion] off by heart." Marmion is 6,203 lines long. Six thousand, two hundred three lines. That is an impressive feat of memorization, if you ask me.

A couple of notes about the poem itself. Marmion is about the Battle of Flodden. You'll recall that back in chapter five, Anne told Marilla that one of the poems she knew by heart was "Edinburg After Flodden," which is also about the Battle of Flodden. I managed to get through eighteen years of schooling without ever having heard about the Battle of Flodden, much less having memorized two poems about it, but maybe that's because I don't live in the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth country. It's Dieppe all over again!

Also, the rhyme scheme in this poem is really strange. It jumps around all over the place, going from an AAAB CCCB to a series of couplets to an enclosed rhyme, and so on. It's like that throughout the poem. There's nothing wrong with it, I guess, but it was unexpected.

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