Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sketches of Scottish History (6)

this beautiful Tragedy are multitudinous, but space
in this History, will enable us but to gather a few.
The terrible thoughts of Macbeth haunting his
conscience previous to the murder of Duncan is one
of the finest pieces of English composition.
" If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well,
It were done quickly. If the assassination

''Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
With his surcease success ; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here upon this bank and shoal of time,
We'd jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which being taught, return
To plague the inventor. This even handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. He's here in double trust :
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed ; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off,
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air,
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself
And fails on the other."

These extracts would be incomplete without the
well known soliloquy.
" Is this a dagger that I see before me ?
The handle toward my hand ? Come, let me clutch
thee ;
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still
Art thou not, fatal vision ! sensible
To feeling, as to sight ? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation
Proceeding from the heat oppressed brain ? .
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw,
Thou marshul'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use,
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest, I see thee still;
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
Which were not there before There's no such thing;
It is the bloody business, which informs
Thus to mine eyes Now o'er one half the world
Nature seems dead and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep ; now witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecate's offerings ; and wither'd murder
Alarm' d by his sentinel the wolf,
Whose howls' his watch, thus with his stealthy pace
With Tarquin's ravishing strides,towards his design
Moves like a ghost Thou sure and firm set earth
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
The very stones watch of my whereabouts
And take the present horror from the time
Which now suits with it, Whiles I threat he lives
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives,
I go, and it is done ; the bell invites me,
Hear it not, Duncan ; for it is the knell
That summons thee to Heaven or Hell.

After the death of Duncan the scene changes to
the court of the English King, where Kosse has
brought news to Malcolm and Macduff of the massacre
of the latter's whole family in Fife, by Macbeth,
who is now to all appearance firmly seated on
the Scottish throne. This sad event had been predicted
by the tyrant himself where he says :

" The castle of Macduff I will surprise,
Seize upon Fife, give to the edge o' the sword
His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls
That trace his line.
After Rosse had brought the news Malcolm says
to Macduff:
Be comforted,
Let's make us med'cines of our great revenge,
To cure this deadly grief.
Macduff. He has no children All my pretty ones?
Did you say ail ? Oh Hell Kite ! All !
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop ?

Malcolm. Dispute it like a man.
Macduff. I shall do so ;
But I must also feel it as a man,
I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me did Heaven
look on,
And would not take their part ? sinful Macduff,
They were all struck for thee ! naught that I

When Malcolm had been twelve years on the
throne of Scotland, there came to the shores of
England another invader like Julius Caesar, William
of Normandy by name. " The Conqueror'' in
English History. At the celebrated Battle of Hastings
he attacked King Harold, and after a long
and stout encounter the English King was slain and
his army put to rout.
We must insert here the great English novelist's
description of the Battle of Hastings ; Charles Dickens
very truthfully remarks that

" HAROLD was crowned King of England on the
very day of Edward the Confessor's funeral. When
the news reached Norman William, hunting in his
park at Rouen, he dropped his bow, returned to his
palace, called his nobles to council, and presently
sent ambassadors to Harold, calling on him to keep
his oath, and resign the crown. Harold would do
no such thing. The barons of France leagued together
round Duke William for the invasion of England.
Duke William promised freely to distribute
English wealth and English lands among them.
The Pope sent to Normandy a consecrated banner,
and a ring containing a hair which he warranted to
have grown on the head of St. Peter ! He blessed
the enterprise, and cursed Harold, and requested
the Normans would pay " Peter's pence" or a tax
to himself of a penny a year on every house a
little more regularly in future, if they could make
it convenient.

King Harold had a rebel brother in Flanders,
who was a vassal of Harold Hardrada, king of Norway.
This brother and this Norwegian king, join......

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