Sir Walter Scott and Hail to the Chief

Sir Walter Scott American History Biographies Music

This image depicts Henry Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott, which he created in 1822.  Today, the oil-on-canvas is maintained by the National Galleries of Scotland.

Walter Scott (1771-1832) was (and remains) one of Scotland’s leading writers.  He certainly became an influencer for Frederick Douglass, one of America's greatest abolitionists.

Douglass changed his last name from Bailey to Douglass.  He selected the name based on the lead character in Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake.”

From that action, it is fair to conclude that the former slave - even before he became famous - was on his way to becoming a very-well-read individual.

According to the BBC, Walter Scott was "probably the most famous of living Scotsmen," by the 1820s.  He invented a new form of writing, which we refer to as the "historical novel," after he'd already become famous for his story-telling poems (such as "The Lady of the Lake").

Here's an interesting tidbit relating to Scott's "Lady."  Have you ever wondered where America's presidential song ("Hail to the Chief!") originated?  Have a look at this part (Canto ii, lines 399-438) of the poem:

Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances!
Honored and blessed be the ever-green Pine!
Long may the tree, in his banner that glances,
Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line!
Heaven sent it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gayly to bourgeon and broadly to grow,
While every Highland glen
Sends our shout back again,
“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”

Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane, in winter to fade;
When the whirlwind has stripped every leaf on the mountain,
The more shall Clan-Alpine exult in her shade.
Moored in the rifted rock,
Proof to the tempest’s shock,
Firmer he roots him the ruder it blow;
Menteith and Breadalbane, then,
Echo his praise again,
“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”

Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,
And Bannochar’s groans to our slogan replied;
Glen-Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side.
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe;
Lennox and Leven-glen
Shake when they hear again,
“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”

Row, vassals, row, for the pride of the Highlands!
Stretch to your oars for the ever-green Pine!
O that the rosebud that graces yon islands
Were wreathed in a garland around him to twine!
O that some seedling gem,
Worthy such noble stem
Honored and blessed in their shadow might grow!
Loud should Clan-Alpine then
Ring from her deepmost glen,
“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!”

In 1815, James Sanderson composed music for Scott’s lyrics. When that song, with its introductory ruffles and flourishes, was turned-into a special tribute to American presidents, the words needed changing. Albert Gamse took care of that job when he wrote these verses:

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that's our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

So ... now you know the rest of that story!

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

Media Credits

Image online courtesy, U.S. Library of Congress.


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"Sir Walter Scott and Hail to the Chief" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Aug 16, 2018.
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