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Lindisfarne Priory 61

Lindisfarne Priory 61

Photographer: Annan, Thomas (1829 - 1887)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1866

Shelfmark: 11651.e.26

Item number: 61

Length: 8.3

Width: 8.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

“Where shall the traitor rest,
He, the deceiver,
Who could win maiden’s breast,
Ruin and leave her?
In the lost battle,
Bourne down by the flying,
Where mingles war’s rattle,
With groans of the dying.”

This view of Lindisfarne Priory, on Holy Island in Northumberland, illustrates verses from an 1866 edition of Sir Walter Scott’s long narrative poem, ‘Marmion’. Fitz-Eustace, a young squire in the service of Lord Marmion, entertains his party by singing a ballad - a “wild and sad” air. The song is a Highland lament which contrasts the fate of a true man parted from his love, with that of a traitor who has ruined a maiden. Its lyrics underscore Marmion’s rejection and abandonment of his former lover, Constance de Beverley, and prefigure his death in battle. Though he believes her safe, Constance has already has met a terrible fate at Lindisfarne Priory, where she has been condemned to death by being walled up alive in the dungeon for attempting to poison her rival. Marmion, already feeling remorse, imagines he hears “a death-peal rung, / Such as in nunneries they toll / For some departing sister’s soul?” - a portent of Constance’s fate.

The first Christian monastery of Lindisfarne was founded on Holy Island by St Aidan in 635. The site was refounded in 1083 by the Bishop of Durham, William of St Calais, as a cell of the Benedictine monastery of Durham. This view shows the ruins of the Priory Church dating from the 11th century, with the fine free-standing arch known as the “rainbow arch”.

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was the Scottish author of immensely popular historical novels and poems. Their epic combination of history, chivalry, and romance was especially beloved by readers of the Victorian era. ‘Marmion; A Tale of Flodden Field’, first published in 1808, tells the story of the noble but arrogant Lord Marmion, a fictional 16th-century English knight in the time of Henry VIII, and the fate of his two loves Constance, and Clara de Clare. The story is intertwined with the antagonism between England and Scotland under the rule of James IV. When Henry VIII attempted to invade France, James declared war on England and led an invading army south. The poem takes its title and inspiration from the Battle of Flodden Field in Northumberland in 1513, at which James was defeated and killed with many of his Scottish nobles and thousands of his feudal army. This edition of the poem is illustrated with 15 photographs by the Glasgow-based photographer Thomas Annan of sites in Northumberland and Scotland which feature in the poem.

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