Laying the Last Minstrel in Jane Eyre
To find one work quoted multiple times in a novel, as is the case in Jane Eyre with The Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott, should suggest to a reader that this quoted work can serve to shed some light on the work in which it is found. In this case, Charlotte Brontë alluded to Scott’s work at appropriate moments in the novel, both because of similarities in the plots at those moments, but also, more importantly, because of the theme of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. The Lay of the Last Minstrel tells the story of two lovers, who despite overwhelming obstacles, end up together. This is possible only after the pride which contributes to ...view middle of the document...
25). She goes on to explain her uneasiness at his being away and her difficulty in falling asleep that night. She has forebodings of forces that threaten to separate her and Rochester: "I continued also the wish to be with you, and experienced a strange, regretful consciousness of some barrier dividing us" (279; ch. 25). She tells the story in a way that suggests something bad will happen, and the details, including Jane’s consciousness of a barrier, suggest that this negative occurance will separate Jane and Rochester.
The line quoted in Jane Eyre, as it appears in The Lay of the Last Minstrel, is not referring to normal wind, but rather to the sound of the River Spirit calling to his Brother, the Mountain Spirit:
At the sullen, moaning sound,
[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
. . . the voice of the coming storm,
The Ladye knew it well!
It was the Spirit of the Flood that spoke,
And he called on the Spirit of the Fell. (1.13.1-8, 1.14.5-8)
This is the moment early in the poem where the feud between the families Scott and Carr is explained, as well as the love between Margaret, of the Scott family, and Henry, of the Carr family. The spirits speak to one another of the barriers which separate the lovers and speculate about the outcome for Margaret. The Mountain Spirit tells his brother that Margaret and Henry cannot marry "Till pride be quelled and love be free" (1.17.10). Using this reference, Brontë introduces the idea of a postponed marriage until love is free and pride is no longer a hindrance, and she does this just before introducing reasons for the cancellation/postponement of Jane and Rochester’s marriage. The moaning sound of a storm comes in The Lay of Last Minstrel at the time when we learn that a family feud hinders a union between Margaret and Henry. The moaning sound of a storm occurs in Jane Eyre at the point in which we begin to suspect that something will hinder a marriage between Jane and Rochester.
In the same way that the moaning sound is not really a storm but a representation of the Spirits’ voices, the barrier that separates Jane and Rochester is not merely a physical or legal barrier; it is also more symbolic. By reminding readers of this poem, Brontë was able to suggest to those familiar with it when a marriage might be able to take place. Shortly before quoting The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Jane talks of Rochester's pride. This pride, and his subsequent treatment of Jane as though she were his possession, serve to make Jane uncomfortable about the impending marriage. At the same time, Jane’s pride, as well as his, inhibits them from marrying. Jane is unwilling to be merely his mistress; her self-respect and pride will not allow her to do so. Even after the events which make impossible the wedding between Rochester and Jane, this reference will foreshadow to readers that if circumstances allow, a marriage might still occur.
The second reference to Scott’s poem comes...