<< Back


St Mary's Loch, engraved by James Heath after John Christian Schetky (1808)

From: John C. Schetky, Illustrations of Walter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1808), facing p. 35.

St Mary's Loch at the head of the River Yarrow is briefly mentioned in Canto II, stanza XXXIII of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. It is more famously evoked in the Introduction to Canto II of Marmion:

Oft in my mind such thoughts awake
By lone Saint Mary's silent lake:
Thou know'st it well,—nor fen nor sedge
Pollute the pure lake's crystal edge;
Abrupt and sheer, the mountains sink
At once upon the level brink,
And just a trace of silver sand
Marks where the water meets the land.
Far in the mirror, bright and blue,
Each hill's huge outline you may view;
Shaggy with heath, but lonely bare,
Nor tree, nor bush, nor brake is there,
Save where of land yon slender line
Bears thwart the lake the scattered pine.
Yet even this nakedness has power,
And aids the feeling of the hour:
Nor thicket, dell, nor copse you spy,
Where living thing concealed might lie;
Nor point retiring hides a dell
Where swain or woodman lone might dwell.
There 's nothing left to fancy's guess,
You see that all is loneliness:
And silence aids—though the steep hills
Send to the lake a thousand rills;
In summer tide so soft they weep,
The sound but lulls the ear asleep;
Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude,
So stilly is the solitude.
Nought living meets the eye or ear,
But well I ween the dead are near.

Click here for another engraving of St Mary's Loch, by William Miller after Peter Paton.