Lochinvar by Walter Scott

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm’d, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar.

He staid not for brake, and he stopp’d not for stone,
He swam the Eske river where ford there was none;
But ere he alighted at Netherby gate,
The bride had consented, the gallant came late:
For a laggard in love, and a dastard in war,
Was to wed the fair Ellen of brave Lochinvar.

So boldly he enter’d the Netherby Hall,
Among bride’s-men, and kinsmen, and brothers and all:
Then spoke the bride’s father, his hand on his sword,
(For the poor craven bridegroom said never a word,)
“O come ye in peace here, or come ye in war,
Or to dance at our bridal, young Lord Lochinvar?”

“I long woo’d your daughter, my suit you denied;—
Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide—
And now I am come, with this lost love of mine,
To lead but one measure, drink one cup of wine.
There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far,
That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.”

The bride kiss’d the goblet: the knight took it up,
He quaff’d off the wine, and he threw down the cup.
She look’d down to blush, and she look’d up to sigh,
With a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye.
He took her soft hand, ere her mother could bar,—
“Now tread we a measure!” said young Lochinvar.

So stately his form, and so lovely her face,
That never a hall such a galliard did grace;
While her mother did fret, and her father did fume,
And the bridegroom stood dangling his bonnet and plume;
And the bride-maidens whisper’d, “’twere better by far
To have match’d our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.”

One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear,
When they reach’d the hall-door, and the charger stood near;
So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
“She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
They’ll have fleet steeds that follow,” quoth young Lochinvar.

There was mounting ’mong Graemes of the Netherby clan;
Forsters, Fenwicks, and Musgraves, they rode and they ran:
There was racing and chasing on Cannobie Lee,
But the lost bride of Netherby ne’er did they see.
So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
Have ye e’er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?

Summary

The Poem “Lochinvar” by Walter Scott (1771-1832) is a heroic ballad about the effect of a young gallant’s actions on those around him. Scott grew up in Scotland and became a national hero; he was fascinated with military personages and this poem squarely fits into that mold. Scott himself was absorbed by the vicissitudes of

war, including the national defeat at the Battle of Flodden Field. This engagement, with its enormous death toll and the purity with which it is supposed to have been fought, is a rich part of Scottish heritage. Lochinvar itself refers to a lake in Scotland and the hilly area lends the poem its name.

The poem opens with an interjection “Oh!” that sets the poem up for the introduction of a dashing knight. Without firearms and armed with only broadsword Lochinvar rides his fast horse quickly towards an as-yet unknown destination. The reader sees he is ‘faithful in love and gallant in war’. This is the first in a series of rhyming couplets that pair ‘Lochinvar’ with ‘war’. This is an association that Scott badly wants the reader to make. There are many positive descriptions of Lochinvar’s courage that follow.

Lochinvar’s coming in from the west is a metaphor for him as a sort-of sun. Thus the other characters are planets revolving about him, the story’s prime mover. In the second stanza we learn that he is charging headlong towards a wedding where a ‘dastard’, a sneaking coward, is marrying Ellen of Lochinvar. The bride ‘had consented’, virtually her only action in the poem.

‘Boldly’ Lochinvar enters the reception hall. This contrasts with the ‘poor, craven bridegroom who never says a word. The bride’s father only asks what intention has for them, hand on his sword and resigned to his fate.

Dauntless in love, Lochinvar says he is willing to accept that Ellen will be wed to another: ‘There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far, That would gladly be bride to the young Lochinvar.’ He insists he is here only to enjoy the festivities. He has no such plans. He takes one dance with the bride after she blesses his wine. Demurely she accepts, blushing.

The two resonate with grace and fill the room with their presence. Like the sun she is illuminated by his light. The groom hangs there ashamed and helpless while the bride’s parents can do nothing to stop them. They are immobilized by his ‘stately form’. The wedding party assents to the match between young Lochinvar and Ellen: ‘Twere better by far To have matched our fair cousin with young Lochinvar.’

It only takes ‘one touch of his hand and one word in her ear’ for her to bend to his incredible will. On his horse he gallops away with Ellen. The clans give chase but their bride is lost through their inactivity. Thus the bridegroom proves that he is a ‘laggard in love’, unable to stand up for himself. The poem is meant to illustrate a lesson about the dashing courage of the active human spirit. This is in direct juxtaposition to the lazy, ineffectual characters in Lochinvar’s orbit.

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