Compassion for the Guilty
At the beginning of Marmion, Lord Marmion is treated with utmost respect and admiration by those around him and is honored by every noble he meets. Through Constance and de Wilton’s stories, however, the reader learns that Marmion has abandoned a woman who was dependent upon him out of his desire for Clara’s inheritance; he has also falsely accused de Wilton and ruined his reputation. Though Marmion loses much respect in the eyes of Douglas, his host in Scotland, as well as in the eyes of the reader, Scott shows him mercy in the end. As he dies, Clara takes pity on him and tends to him; Marmion also demonstrates great concern for Constance, wishing to help her, before Clara informs him that Constance has died.
In what may be interpreted as poetic justice for his wrongs, Marmion is mistakenly buried in an unmarked grave, while a peasant is buried in the elaborately decorated tomb meant for him. In describing this grave, though, Scott encourages readers not to condemn the fallen Marmion. If they should locate his grave, he warns that anyone who has ever left “the right path for the wrong” in temptation should
Dread . . . to speak presumptuous doom
On noble Marmion’s lowly tomb;
But say, “He died a gallant knight,
With sword in hand, for England’s right.”
Honor in a Time of War
Lord Marmion, though an English knight, is greatly respected by the nobles he meets in Scotland—and even by King James IV himself. When Marmion and his men encounter Sir David Lindesay during their journey in Scotland, Lindesay’s greeting illustrates the respect King James has for Marmion: the king will receive him in his court
Though [he] hath deeply swore
Ne’er to knit faith with Henry more,
And strictly hath forbid resort
From England to his royal court . . .
King James has vowed to never again associate with King Henry VIII of England and has gone so far as to ban Englishmen from visiting his court. However, he will allow Marmion an audience with him because “he...
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