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The Dilemma of History: A Reading of Scott's Bridal of Triermain

Jill Rubenstein
Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
Vol. 12, No. 4, Nineteenth Century (Autumn, 1972), pp. 721-734
Published by: Rice University
DOI: 10.2307/449962
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/449962
Page Count: 14
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The Dilemma of History: A Reading of Scott's Bridal of Triermain
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Abstract

The Bridal of Triermain is a poetic resolution of Scott's central concern with the problem of how man may use his individual and racial past to best advantage without becoming immersed in it. The poem affirms the viability of both love and measured historical progress. Its three narratives—set in Arthurian, medieval, and not-quite-contemporary periods—share the theme of personal maturation and the growth into humility. This tripartite temporal structure allows Scott to trace the emergence of moderation in the course of history. The poem is also a moral and aesthetic fable in which Scott argues that art, society, and individuals flourish under a balance of discordant qualities which modify and enrich each other. He uses the traditional dichotomy between art and nature as an analogue of his own favorite historical dichotomy between past and present. The poem's complex narrative structure as well as its three stories emphasizes the reconciliation of both dichotomies into the fulfillment of a natural present.

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