Classic Poetry Review: The Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake
by Sir Walter Scott

5 out of 5 stars

As a result of a feud between her father and King James, Ellen Douglas must live a secluded life in hiding on a small island in a Scottish loch. There she meets the mysterious James Fitz-James, a knight who has lost his hunting party in the highlands. Ellen is distressed by the romantic intentions of two highland lords, Malcolm Graeme and Roderick Dhu. Her father, the Douglas, refuses to lead his clan into war with King James, but Roderick Dhu calls together an army for a bloody battle.

I loved this beautiful poetry! There is such a wonderful balance in the writing between flowery phrases and powerful emotions and good plain storytelling. All these things come together for a delightful reading experience.

I loved the strong characters of the highland lords. They are courteous and brave and loyal. They are everything that knights in a fairy tale should be. The Douglas is so strong and brawny that he has become a legend among all the Scottish clans. Roderick Dhu may be rough and violent, but he always respects traditional courteous conduct. Fitz-James is serious and stalwart, but also has a tender heart.

Ellen is a lovely character. She’s so sweet and strong-minded. She will sacrifice anything to save her father. She is sensitive, but also very tough to weather the storms of difficulty. I really liked how she will not bend to other’s wishes, but she is also very generous and unselfish.

I enjoyed diving into the Scottish setting. The poetry paints a gorgeous picture of the highlands, and the perfect unspoiled nature of the mountains, the lochs and rivers. I could almost smell the greenery and the pines. I could almost feel the coolness of the water rippling in little waves on the shores of the lake. It’s vivid and alive in every stanza.

I liked that my edition has a map and some illustrations, and footnotes to explain some of the more archaic or Scottish words. I didn’t usually need the footnotes though. The language is so readable, and the story flows along so easily that they weren’t usually necessary, but nice to have.

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