Photographer: Ogle, Thomas
Medium: Photographic print
View by Thomas Ogle of a bridge over the river at Coilantogle in the Scottish Highlands. It is one of 13 evocative landscape photographs illustrating an 1863 edition of Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem ‘The Lady of the Lake’. The image accompanies a passage describing the final confrontation between the King of Scotland, James V, who has travelled in disguise as a lowland Saxon knight, and Roderick Dhu, a rebel Highland chief of Clan Alpine. They meet at Coilantogle’s Ford, a crossing place on the River Teith at the east end of Loch Venachar in Stirling. Though the King had demonised Roderick, each man recognises a worthy, brave and unflinching adversary in the other. Nonetheless they face each other with drawn swords:
“The Chief in silence strode before,
And reached that torrent’s sounding shore,
Which, daughter of three mighty lakes,
From Vennachar in silver breaks,
Sweeps through the plain, and ceaseless mines
On Bochastle the mouldering lines,
Where Rome, the Empress of the world,
Of yore her eagle wings unfurled.
And here his course the Chieftain stayed,
Threw down his target and his plaid,
And to the Lowland warrior said:
‘Bold Saxon! to his promise just,
Vich-Alpine has discharged his trust.
This murderous Chief, this ruthless man,
This head of a rebellious clan,
Hath led thee safe, through watch and ward,
Far past Clan-Alpine’s outmost guard.
Now, man to man, and steel to steel,
A Chieftain’s vengeance thou shalt feel.
See, here all vantageless I stand,
Armed like thyself with single brand;
For this is Coilantogle’s ford,
And thou must keep thee by thy sword.’”
Scott (1771-1832) was the author of immensely popular historical novels and poetry. Their combination of history, chivalry and romance was especially beloved by readers of the Victorian era. ‘The Lady of the Lake’ (1810) was the third of his long narrative poems inspired by the landscape and legends of Scotland, and is set in and around the beautiful and dramatic scenery of the mountains, glens, lakes and forests of Perthshire and Stirling in central Scotland. The great success of the poem made Loch Katrine and the Trossachs a fashionable destination for 19th-century sightseers.