Death of Marmion, from Marmion
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Death of Marmion, from Marmion

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The long romantic poem 'The Death of Marmion' by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1808, relates the story of Lord Marmion, a fictitious character living in the time of Henry VIII, and killed at the Battle of Flodden. His death comes in Canto VI, where the hero cries:

Leave Marmion here alone to die!
They parted, and alone he lay.

Clare drew her from the sight away
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmured: 'Is there none
Of all my halls have nursed,
Page, squire or groom, one cup to bring
Of blessed water from the spring
To slake my dying thirst?'

And then, in some of Scott's most celebrated lines, much beloved of Victorian readers:

O! woman! In our hours of ease
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made;
A ministering angel thou!
Scarce were the piteous accents said
When, with the baron's casque the maid
To the nigh streamlet ran.

Clare who thus nurses the afflicted without hesitation, even though he is her enemy, became something of a pattern of Victorian womanhood.

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