Sunday poetry – Unromantics

I’ve been reading quite a bit of Sir Walter Scott (picture from here) lately. I’ve recently read a couple of his short stories & a novella, The Highland Widow. Then, I’ve just finished reading The Talisman with my 19th century bookgroup. The Talisman is one of Scott’s medieval tales, set mostly at the camp of the crusaders led by Richard the Lionheart. It’s a story full of disguises (there’s even a disguised dog), dastardly plots & a romance between a poor Scottish knight, Sir Kenneth, & the Lady Edith, a relative of King Richard’s that seems doomed because of their difference in rank.

Today’s poem from my anthology of Scottish love poetry is from a section called Unromantics & an unromantic lot they are. This poem, Nora’s Vow, shows what can happen when a woman makes extravagant claims about what she will & won’t do. I think she protests too much! I wonder what she was holding out for?

Hear what Highland Nora said,-
‘The Earlie’s son I will not wed,
Should all the race of nature die,
And none be left but he and I.
For all the gold, for all the gear,
And all the lands both far and near
That ever valour lost or won,
I would not wed the Earlie’s son.’

‘A Maiden’s vows,’ old Callum spoke,
‘Are lightly made and lightly broke;
The heather on the mountain’s height
Begins to bloom in purple light;
The frost-wind soon shall sweep away
That lustre deep from glen and brae;
Yet Nora, ere its bloom be gone,
May blithely wed the Earlie’s son.’

‘The swan,’ she said, ‘the lake’s clear breast
May barter for the eagle’s nest;
The Awe’s fierce stream may backward turn,
Ben-Cruaichan fall, and crush Kilchurn;
Our kilted clans, when blood is high,
Before their foes may turn and fly;
But I, were all these marvels done,
Would never wed the the Earlie’s son.’

Still in the water-lily’s shade
Her wonted nest the wild-swan made;
Ben-Cruaichan stands as fast as ever,
Still downward foams the Awe’s fierce river;
To shun the clash of foeman’s steel
No Highland brogue has turn’d the heel;
But Nora’s heart is lost and won,
-She’s wedded to the Earlie’s son!

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