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Ellen's Isle

Ellen's Isle

Photographer: Ogle, Thomas

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1863

Shelfmark: 1347.f.19

Item number: 15

Length: 19

Width: 14.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

“From underneath an aged oak
That slanted from the islet rock,
A damsel guider of its way,
A little skiff shot to the bay,
That round the promontory steep
Let its deep line in graceful sweep,
Eddying, in almost viewless wave,
The weeping willow twig to lave,
And kiss, with whispering sound and slow,
The beach of pebbles bright as snow.”

View of Ellen’s Isle (Eilean Molach), a mysterious lake island ringed by wooded hills on Loch Katrine in Scotland. It is one of 13 landscapes photographs by Thomas Ogle illustrating an 1863 edition of Sir Walter Scott’s long narrative poem ‘The Lady of the Lake’. The image accompanies a passage describing a lost huntsman’s love-struck sighting of a beautiful young woman in a boat on the loch. She is Ellen Douglas, the ‘Lady of the Lake’ and daughter of an outlawed clan chief, James of Douglas, the Earl of Bothwell, who has been exiled by the King.

“The boat had touched this silver strand
Just as the Hunter left his stand,
And stood concealed amid the brake,
To view this Lady of the Lake.
The maiden paused, as if again
She thought to catch the distant strain.
With head upraised, and look intent,
And eye and ear attentive bent,
And locks flung back, and lips apart,
Like monument of Grecian art,
In listening mood, she seemed to stand,
The guardian Naiad of the strand.”

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 epic narrative poems inspired by the landscape and legends of Scotland, and tells the story of the uprising of Clan Alpine against James V, the King of Scotland, led by Roderick Dhu, a rebel Highland chief. It is set in and around the beautiful 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.

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