|The Lay of the Last Minstrel|
|by Sir Walter Scott|
|Publisher|| Archibald Constable and Co., Edinburgh|
Rees, and Orme, London
|Publication date||12 January 1805|
|Preceded by||Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border|
|The Lay of the Last Minstrel at Wikisource|
The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805) is a narrative poem in six cantos with copious antiquarian notes by Walter Scott. Set in the Scottish Borders in the mid-16th century, it is represented within the work as being sung by a minstrel late in the 1600s.
Towards the end of 1802 Scott planned to include a long original poem of his own in the second edition of his edited collection Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border: it would be 'a sort of Romance of Border Chivalry & inchantment'.  He owed the distinctive irregular accentual four-beat metre to Coleridge's Christabel , which he had heard recited by John Stoddart (it was not to be published until 1816).  Scott tells how he showed the opening stanzas to his friends William Erskine and George Cranstoun, and believing that they had not approved, destroyed the manuscript. Some time later one of the friends indicated that they had been puzzled rather than disapproving and Scott proceeded, introducing the figure of the minstrel as intermediary between the period of the action and the present.  The first canto was written while Scott was recovering from being kicked by a horse during a practice charge on Portobello sands. The figure of Gilpin Horner was included at the suggestion of the Countess of Dalkeith, though it is not certain at what stage.  The third canto at least was finished by July 1803,  and the whole poem was complete by August 1804. 
The Lay of the Last Minstrel was published in Edinburgh by Archibald Constable and Co. on 12 January 1805, and by Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme in London on the 24th. The price was £1 5s (£1.25) and the print-run 750. A second edition of 1500 copies appeared in October and further editions individual and collected followed until 1830 when Scott provided a substantial new Introduction. In August and November 1806 he had made substantial additions for the fourth and fifth editions. 
A critical edition will appear as Volume 1 of The Edinburgh Edition of Walter Scott's Poetry to be published by Edinburgh University Press. 
"The Poem, now offered to the Public, is intended to illustrate the customs and manners which anciently prevailed on the Borders of England and Scotland. ...As the description of scenery and manners was more the object of the Author than a combined and regular narrative, the plan of the Ancient Metrical Romance was adopted, which allows greater latitude, in this respect, than would be consistent with the dignity of a regular Poem. ...For these reasons, the Poem was put into the mouth of an ancient Minstrel, the last of the race, who, as he is supposed to have survived the Revolution, might have caught somewhat of the refinement of modern poetry, without losing the simplicity of his original model. The date of the Tale itself is about the middle of the sixteenth century, when most of the personages actually flourished. The time occupied by the action is Three Nights and Three Days."
An aging minstrel seeks hospitality at Newark Castle and in recompense tells his hostess, Duchess of Buccleuch and her ladies a tale of a sixteenth-century Border feud. In the poem, Lady Margaret Scott of Buccleuch, the "Flower of Teviot" is beloved by Baron Henry of Cranstoun an ally of the Ker Clan, but a deadly feud exists between the two border clans of Scott and Carr/Ker, which has resulted in the recent murder of Lady Margaret's father, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch by the Kers on the High Street in Edinburgh. Margaret's widowed mother hates the Ker clan as a result, and is adamant in refusing her consent to any suggestion of marriage between the lovers until Henry's brave conduct results in the restoration of her young son from captivity and induces her to change her mind. The poem is concerned with loyalty to one’s homeland, but also with the manner in which the poet draws his art from his connection to his country and traditions.
Introduction: At the end of the 17th century a destitute minstrel is offered hospitality by the Duchess of Buccleuch at Newark Tower and sings the following lay:
Canto 1: Lady Scott of Branksome, widow of Sir Walter Scott, dispatches the moss-trooper William of Deloraine to fetch a scroll or book from a tomb in Melrose Abbey.
Canto 2: Deloraine retrieves a mighty book from Michael Scott's tomb with the help of the monk who had buried it. Back at Branksome the Lady's daughter Margaret slips out at dawn to meet her beloved Henry of Cranstoun, with whose clan the Scotts are at feud. They part when Henry's goblin page Gilpin Horner warns of approaching danger.
Canto 3: Attacked by the returning Deloraine, Henry wounds him and asks Horner (who has taken possession of the magic book) to escort him to the castle for attention. Horner entices the Lady's young son into the woods before abandoning him: the boy is taken captive by Lord Dacre's men. The Lady tends Deloraine, and a lighted beacon warns of the approach of hostile forces.
Canto 4: The English forces under Dacre and Howard, arrive at Branksome with young Buccleuch. They demand that Deloraine be handed over to them to suffer for Border treason and agree with the Lady that her son's fate should be determined by single combat between Deloraine and his enemy Richard Musgrave.
Canto 5: A large Scottish force arrives and the two armies observe a truce in anticipation of the combat. Horner causes Henry to resemble a Scottish knight to facilitate a meeting with Margaret. Musgrave is killed in the combat, but it turns out that Henry has taken Deloraine's place. The Lady withdraws her opposition to the marriage of Henry and Margaret. Deloraine nobly laments Musgrave's death.
Canto 6: During the celebration of the marriage Horner creates mischief. Three minstrels entertain the company: Albert Græme from the Debateable Land sings of love fatally frustrated by national rivalry; the English Fitztraver recalls the fate of the Earl of Surrey, lover of Geraldine, at the hands of Henry VIII; and Harold from Orkney laments the loss at sea of lovely Rosabelle. Michael Scott reclaims Horner with apocalyptic fury, and the humbled company turn to penitence and prayers for the departed.
The critical reception of The Lay was almost entirely positive.  Most of the reviewers praised Scott's choice of a picturesque subject and his authentic portrayal of 16th-century Border society. The minstrel's own interludes attracted favourable comment.
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of European and Scottish literature, notably the novels Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Waverley, Old Mortality, The Heart of Mid-Lothian and The Bride of Lammermoor, and the narrative poems The Lady of the Lake and Marmion. He had a major impact on European and American literature.
The title Duke of Buccleuch, formerly also spelt Duke of Buccleugh, is a title in the Peerage of Scotland created twice on 20 April 1663, first for James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and second suo jure for his wife Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch. Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II was attainted after rebelling against his uncle James II and VII, but his wife's title was unaffected and passed on to their descendants, who have successively borne the surnames Scott, Montagu-Scott, Montagu Douglas Scott and Scott again. In 1810, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch inherited the Dukedom of Queensberry, also in the Peerage of Scotland, thus separating that title from the Marquessate of Queensberry.
Clan Kerr is a Scottish clan whose origins lie in the Scottish Borders. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the prominent border reiver clans along the present-day Anglo-Scottish border and played an important role in the history of the Border country of Scotland.
St Mary's Abbey, Melrose is a partly ruined monastery of the Cistercian order in Melrose, Roxburghshire, in the Scottish Borders. It was founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks at the request of King David I of Scotland and was the chief house of that order in the country until the Reformation. It was headed by the abbot or commendator of Melrose. Today the abbey is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument.
Clan Scott is a Scottish clan and is recognised as such by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Historically the clan was based in the Scottish Borders.
Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field is a historical romance in verse of 16th-century Scotland and England by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1808. Consisting of six cantos, each with an introductory epistle, and copious antiquarian notes, it concludes with the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
Walter Scott, 5th of Buccleuch, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch was a Scottish nobleman and famous border reiver, known as the "Bold Buccleuch" and leader of Kinmont Willie's Raid. Scott was the son of Sir Walter Scott, 4th of Buccleuch and Margaret Douglas.
Branxholme Castle is a five-storey tower at Branxholme, about 3 miles south-west of Hawick in the Borders region of Scotland.
Castle Dangerous (1831) was the last of Walter Scott's Waverley novels. It is part of Tales of My Landlord, 4th series, with Count Robert of Paris. The castle of the title is Douglas Castle in Lanarkshire, and the action, based on an episode in The Brus by John Barbour, is set in March 1307 against the background of the First War of Scottish Independence.
Newark Tower is a large, ruined tower house standing in the grounds of Bowhill House, in the valley of the Yarrow Water three miles west of Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. In addition to the keep, sections of a gatehouse and wall survive. It has been designated a scheduled monument by Historic Environment Scotland.
The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott, first published in 1810. Set in the Trossachs region of Scotland, it is composed of six cantos, each of which concerns the action of a single day. There are voluminous antiquarian notes. The poem has three main plots: the contest among three men, Roderick Dhu, James Fitz-James, and Malcolm Graeme, to win the love of Ellen Douglas; the feud and reconciliation of King James V of Scotland and James Douglas; and a war between the Lowland Scots and the Highland clans. The poem was tremendously influential in the nineteenth century, and inspired the Highland Revival.
Janet Beaton, Lady of Branxholme and Buccleugh (1519–1569) was an aristocratic Scottish woman and a mistress of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. She had a total of five husbands. One of her nieces was Mary Beaton, one of the four ladies-in-waiting of Mary, Queen of Scots, known in history as the four Marys. In her lifetime, she was accused of having been a witch. Janet was immortalised as Sir Walter Scott's Wizard Lady of Branxholm in his celebrated narrative poem "Lay of the Last Minstrel".
Sir Walter Scott, 1st of Branxholme, 3rd of Buccleuch, known as "Wicked Wat", was a nobleman of the Scottish Borders and the chief of Clan Scott who briefly served as Warden of the Middle March. He was an "inveterate English hater" active in the wars known as The Rough Wooing and a noted Border reiver. He was killed on Edinburgh High Street in a feud with Clan Kerr in 1552. His great-grandson was Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch, the "Bold Buccleuch" (1565–1611), a border reiver famed for his role in the rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong.
Sir John Swinton, 15th of that Ilk was a son of Sir John Swinton, 14th of that Ilk and Princess Margaret, daughter of Robert, Duke of Albany who served as Regent.
The Bridal of Triermain is a narrative poem in three cantos by Walter Scott, published anonymously in 1813. It is written in a flexible metre of four and three stress lines. Set in Cumberland, it recounts the exploits of a knight as he seeks to rescue a beautiful maiden, Gyneth, the illegitimate daughter of King Arthur, doomed by Merlin 500 years previously to an enchanted sleep inside a magic castle.
The Lord of the Isles is a narrative poem by Walter Scott in six cantos with substantial notes. Set in 1307 and 1314 Scotland it covers the story of Robert the Bruce from his return from exile in Ireland to the successful culmination of his struggle to secure Scottish independence from English control at the Battle of Bannockburn. Interwoven with this account is a romantic fiction centring on one of the Bruce's prominent supporters, Ronald, Lord of the Isles, involving his love for the Bruce's sister Isabel, who eventually takes the veil, and the transfer of his affections to Edith of Lorn to whom he had been betrothed at the beginning of the poem and whom he marries at the end.
Sir Adam Ferguson (1770–1854) was deputy keeper of the regalia in Scotland.
Rokeby (1813) is a narrative poem in six cantos with voluminous antiquarian notes by Walter Scott. It is set in Teesdale during the English Civil War.
The Three Perils of Man; or, War, Women, and Witchcraft. A Border Romance (1822) is a novel by James Hogg set in the Scottish Borders during the reign of Robert II, King of Scots (1371–90).
Margaret Douglas, Countess of Bothwell was a Scottish aristocrat and courtier.