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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Loch Corriskin (Coruisk)

Loch Corriskin

By Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

(From The Lord of the Isles)

AWHILE their route they silent made,

As men who stalk for mountain-deer,

Till the good Bruce to Ronald said,

“Saint Mary! what a scene is here!

I ’ve traversed many a mountain-strand,

Abroad and in my native land,

And it has been my lot to tread

Where safety more than pleasure led;

Thus many a waste I ’ve wandered o’er,

Clomb many a crag, crossed many a moor,

But, by my halidome,

A scene so rude, so wild as this,

Yet so sublime in barrenness,

Ne’er did my wandering footsteps press,

Where’er I happed to roam.”

No marvel thus the Monarch spake;

For rarely human eye has known

A scene so stern as that dread lake,

With its dark ledge of barren stone.

Seems that primeval earthquake’s sway

Hath rent a strange and shattered way

Through the rude bosom of the hill,

And that each naked precipice,

Sable ravine, and dark abyss,

Tells of the outrage still.

The wildest glen, but this, can show

Some touch of nature’s genial glow;

On high Benmore green mosses grow,

And heath-bells bud in deep Glencroe,

And copse on Cruchan-Ben;

But here,—above, around, below,

On mountain or in glen,

Nor tree nor shrub nor plant nor flower,

Nor aught of vegetative power,

The weary eye may ken;

For all is rocks at random thrown,

Black waves, bare crags, and banks of stone,

As if were here denied

The summer sun, the spring’s sweet dew,

That clothe with many a varied hue

The bleakest mountain-side.

And wilder, forward as they wound,

Were the proud cliffs and lake profound.

Huge terraces of granite black

Afforded rude and cumbered track;

For from the mountain hoar,

Hurled headlong in some night of fear,

When yelled the wolf and fled the deer,

Loose crags had toppled o’er;

And some, chance-poised and balanced, lay

So that a stripling arm might sway

A mass no host could raise,

In Nature’s rage at random thrown,

Yet trembling like the Druid’s stone

On its precarious base.

The evening mists, with ceaseless change,

Now clothed the mountains’ lofty range,

Now left their foreheads bare,

And round the skirts their mantle furled,

Or on the sable waters curled,

Or on the eddying breezes whirled,

Dispersed in middle air.

And oft, condensed, at once they lower,

When, brief and fierce, the mountain shower

Pours like a torrent down,

And when return the sun’s glad beams,

Whitened with foam a thousand streams

Leap from the mountain’s crown.

“This lake,” said Bruce, “whose barriers drear

Are precipices sharp and sheer,

Yielding no track for goat or deer,

Save the black shelves we tread,

How term you its dark waves? and how

Yon northern mountain’s pathless brow,

And yonder peak of dread,

That to the evening sun uplifts

The griesly gulfs and slaty rifts,

Which seam its shivered head?”

“Coriskin call the dark lake’s name,

Coolin the ridge, as bards proclaim,

From old Cuchullin, chief of fame.

But bards, familiar in our isles

Rather with Nature’s frowns than smiles,

Full oft their careless humors please

By sportive names from scenes like these.

I would old Torquil were to show

His maidens with their breasts of snow,

Or that my noble Liege were nigh

To hear his Nurse sing lullaby!

(The Maids,—tall cliffs with breakers white,

The Nurse,—a torrent’s roaring might,)

Or that your eye could see the mood

Of Corryvrekin’s whirlpool rude,

When dons the Hag her whitened hood,—

’T is thus our islesmen’s fancy frames,

For scenes so stern, fantastic names.”

Answered the Bruce, “And musing mind

Might here a graver moral find.

These mighty cliffs, that heave on high

Their naked brows to middle sky,

Indifferent to the sun or snow,

Where naught can fade and naught can blow,

May they not mark a monarch’s fate,—

Raised high mid storms of strife and state,

Beyond life’s lowlier pleasures placed,

His soul a rock, his heart a waste?

O’er hope and love and fear aloft

High rears his crownéd head. But soft!

Look, underneath yon jutting crag

Are hunters and a slaughtered stag.

Who may they be? But late you said

No steps these desert regions tread!”