The Project Gutenberg EBook of Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Volume
III (of 3), by Walter Scott

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Title: Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border Volume III (of 3)
       Consisting of Historical and Romantic Ballads, Collected
              In the Southern Counties of Scotland; With a Few Of Modern
              Date, Founded Upon Local Tradition. In Three Volumes. Vol.

Author: Walter Scott

Release Date: May 27, 2014 [EBook #45778]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Richard Tonsing, Jonathan Ingram and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at

[Pg 1]



The songs, to savage virtue dear,
That won of yore the public ear,
Ere Polity, sedate and sage,
Had quench'd the fires of feudal rage.—Warton.



Printed by James Ballantyne and Co.



[Pg 2]


Fause Foodrage 4
Kempion 15
Lord Thomas and Fair Annie 36
The Wife of Usher's Well 45
Cospatrick 51
Prince Robert 58
King Henrie 63
Annan Water 72
The Cruel Sister 78
The Queen's Marie 86
The Bonny Hynd 98
O gin my Love were yon Red Rose 104
O tell me how to woo thee 106
The Souters of Selkirk 108
The Flowers of the Forest, Part I. 125
Part II. 130
The Laird of Muirhead 134
Ode on visiting Flodden 136
Christie's Will 147
Thomas the Rhymer, Part I. 166
Part II. 186
Part III. 213
The Eve of St John 227
Lord Soulis 245
The Cout of Keeldar 284
Glenfinlas, or Lord Ronald's Coronach 303
The Mermaid 323
The Lord Herries his Complaint 348
The Murder of Caerlaveroc 355
Sir Agilthorn 368
Rich Auld Willie's Farewell 380
Water Kelpie 383
Ellandonan Castle 399
Cadyow Castle 410
The Gray Brother 432
War Song of the Royal Edinburgh Light Dragoons 446
The Feast of Spurs 452
On a Visit paid to the Ruins of Melrose Abbey by the Countess of Dalkeith, and her Son, Lord Scott. 457
Archie Armstrong's Aith 460
[Pg 3]



[Pg 4]


King Easter has courted her for her lands,
King Wester for her fee;
King Honour for her comely face,
And for her fair bodie.
They had not been four months married,
As I have heard them tell,
Until the nobles of the land
Against them did rebel.
And they cast kevils[1] them amang,
And kevils them between;
And they cast kevils them amang,
Wha suld gae kill the king.
[Pg 5]
O some said yea, and some said nay,
Their words did not agree;
Till up and got him, Fause Foodrage,
And swore it suld be he.
When bells were rung, and mass was sung,
And a' men bound to bed,
King Honour and his gaye ladye
In a hie chamber were laid.
Then up and raise him, Fause Foodrage,
When a' were fast asleep,
And slew the porter in his lodge,
That watch and ward did keep.
O four and twenty silver keys
Hang hie upon a pin;
And aye, as ae door he did unlock,
He has fastened it him behind.
Then up and raise him, King Honour,
Says—"What means a' this din?
"Or what's the matter, Fause Foodrage,
"Or wha has loot you in?"
[Pg 6]
"O ye my errand weel sall learn,
"Before that I depart."
Then drew a knife, baith lang and sharp,
And pierced him to the heart.
Then up and got the queen hersell,
And fell low down on her knee:
"O spare my life, now, Fause Foodrage!
"For I never injured thee.
"O spare my life, now, Fause Foodrage,
"Until I lighter be!
"And see gin it be lad or lass,
"King Honour has left me wi'."
"O gin it be a lass," he says,
"Weel nursed it sall be;
"But gin it be a lad bairn,
"He sall be hanged hie.
"I winna spare for his tender age,
"Nor yet for his hie hie kin;
"But soon as e'er he born is,
"He sall mount the gallows pin."
[Pg 7]
O four and twenty valiant knights
Were set the queen to guard;
And four stood aye at her bour door,
To keep both watch and ward.
But when the time drew near an end,
That she suld lighter be,
She cast about to find a wile,
To set her body free.
O she has birled these merry young men
With the ale but and the wine,
Until they were as deadly drunk
As any wild wood swine.
"O narrow, narrow, is this window,
"And big, big, am I grown!"
Yet, through the might of Our Ladye,
Out at it she has gone.
She wandered up, she wandered down,
She wandered out and in;
And, at last, into the very swine's stythe,
The queen brought forth a son.
[Pg 8]
Then they cast kevils them amang,
Which suld gae seek the queen;
And the kevil fell upon Wise William,
And he sent his wife for him.
O when she saw Wise William's wife,
The queen fell on her knee;
"Win up, win up, madame!" she says:
"What needs this courtesie?"
"O out o' this I winna rise,
"Till a boon ye grant to me;
"To change your lass for this lad bairn,
"King Honour left me wi'.
"And ye maun learn my gay goss hawk
"Right weel to breast a steed;
"And I sall learn your turtle dow[2]
"As weel to write and read.
"And ye maun learn my gay goss hawk
"To wield baith bow and brand;
"And I sall learn your turtle dow
"To lay gowd[3] wi' her hand.
[Pg 9]
"At kirk and market when we meet,
"We'll dare make nae avowe,
"But—'Dame, how does my gay goss hawk?'
"Madame, how does my dow?"
When days were gane, and years came on,
Wise William he thought lang;
And he has ta'en King Honour's son
A hunting for to gang.
It sae fell out, at this hunting,
Upon a simmer's day,
That they came by a fair castell,
Stood on a sunny brae.
"O dinna ye see that bonny castell,
"Wi' halls and towers sae fair?
"Gin ilka man had back his ain,
"Of it ye suld be heir."
"How I suld be heir of that castell,
"In sooth I canna see;
"For it belangs to Fause Foodrage,
"And he is na kin to me."
[Pg 10]
"O gin ye suld kill him, Fause Foodrage,
"You would do but what was right;
"For I wot he kill'd your father dear,
"Or ever ye saw the light.
"And gin ye suld kill him, Fause Foodrage,
"There is no man durst you blame;
"For he keeps your mother a prisoner,
"And she darna take ye hame."
The boy stared wild like a gray goss hawk:
Says—"What may a' this mean?"
"My boy, ye are King Honour's son,
"And your mother's our lawful queen."
"O gin I be king Honour's son,
"By Our Ladye I swear,
"This night I will that traitor slay,
"And relieve my mother dear!"
He has set his bent bow to his breast,
And leaped the castell wa';
And soon he has seized on Fause Foodrage,
Wha loud for help 'gan ca'.
[Pg 11]
"O haud your tongue, now, Fause Foodrage!
"Frae me ye shanna flee."
Syne pierc'd him thro' the fause fause heart,
And set his mother free.
And he has rewarded Wise William
Wi' the best half of his land;
And sae has he the turtle dow,
Wi' the truth o' his right hand.
[Pg 12]


King Easter has courted her for her lands,
King Wester for her fee;
King Honour, &c.—P. 4. v. 1.

King Easter and King Wester were probably the petty princes of Northumberland and Westmoreland. In the Complaynt of Scotland, an ancient romance is mentioned, under the title, "How the king of Estmureland married the king's daughter of Westmureland," which may possibly be the original of the beautiful legend of King Estmere, in the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, Vol. I. p. 62 4th edit. From this it may be conjectured, with some degree of plausibility, that the independent kingdoms of the east and west coast were, at an early period, thus denominated, according to the Saxon mode of naming districts, from their relative positions; as Essex, Wessex, Sussex. But the geography of the metrical romances sets all system at defiance; and in some of these, as Clariodus and Meliades, Estmureland undoubtedly signifies the land of the Easterlings, or the Flemish provinces at which vessels arrived[Pg 13] in three days from England, and to which they are represented as exporting wool.—Vide Notes on the Tale of Kempion. On this subject I have, since publication of the first edition, been favoured with the following remarks by Mr Ritson, in opposition to the opinion above expressed:—

"Estmureland and Westmureland have no sort of relation to Northumberland and Westmoreland. The former was never called Eastmoreland, nor were there ever any kings of Westmoreland; unless we admit the authority of an old rhyme, cited by Usher:—

"Here the king Westmer
"Slow the king Rothinger."

"There is, likewise, a 'king Estmere, of Spain,' in one of Percy's ballads.

"In the old metrical romance of Kyng Horn, or Horn Child, we find both Westnesse and Estnesse; and it is somewhat singular, that two places, so called, actually exist in Yorkshire at this day. But ness, in that quarter, is the name given to an inlet from a river. There is, however, great confusion in this poem, as Horn is called king sometimes of one country, and sometimes of the other. In the French original, Westir is said to have been the old name of Hirland, or Ireland; which, occasionally at least, is called Westnesse, in the translation, in which Britain is named Sudene; but here, again, it is inconsistent and confused.

"It is, at any rate, highly probable, that the story, cited in the Complaynt of Scotland, was a romance of King Horn, whether prose or verse; and, consequently, that Estmureland and Westmureland should there mean England and Ireland; though it is possible that no other instance can be found of those two names occurring with the same sense."

And they cast kevils them amang.—P. 4. v. 3.

Kevils—Lots. Both words originally meant only a portion, or share, of any thing.—Leges Burgorum, cap. 59, de lot, cut,[Pg 14] or kavil. Statuta Gildæ, cap. 20. Nullus emat lanam, &c. nisi fuerit confrater Gildæ, &c. Neque lot neque cavil habeat cum aliquo confratre nostro. In both these laws, lot and cavil signify a share in trade.

Dame, how does my gay goss hawk?—P. 9. v. 1.

This metaphorical language was customary among the northern nations. In 925, king Adelstein sent an embassy to Harald Harfagar, king of Norway, the chief of which presented that prince with an elegant sword, ornamented with precious stones. As it was presented by the point, the Norwegian chief, in receiving it, unwarily laid hold of the hilt. The English ambassador declared, in the name of his master, that he accepted the act as a deed of homage; for, touching the hilt of a warrior's sword was regarded as an acknowledgement of subjection. The Norwegian prince, resolving to circumvent his rival by a similar artifice, suppressed his resentment, and sent, next summer, an embassy to Adelstein, the chief of which presented Haco, the son of Harald, to the English prince; and, placing him on his knees, made the following declaration:—"Haraldus, Normannorum rex, amice te salutat; albamque hunc avem, bene institutam mittit, utque melius deinceps erudias, postulat." The king received young Haco on his knees; which the Norwegian ambassador immediately accepted, in the name of his master, as a declaration of inferiority; according to the proverb, "Is minor semper habetur, qui alterius filium educat."—Pontoppidani Vestigia Danor. Vol. II. p. 67.


[1] Kevils—Lots.

[2] Dow—Dove.

[3] Lay gowd—To embroider in gold.

[Pg 15]



The tale of Kempion seems, from the names of the personages, and the nature of the adventure, to have been an old metrical romance, degraded into a ballad, by the lapse of time, and the corruption of reciters. The change in the structure of the last verses, from the common ballad stanza, to that which is proper to the metrical romance, adds force to this conjecture.

Such transformations, as the song narrates, are common in the annals of chivalry. In the 25th and 26th cantos of the second book of the Orlando Inamorato, the paladin, Brandimarte, after surmounting many obstacles, penetrates into the recesses of an enchanted palace. Here he finds a fair damsel, seated upon a tomb, who announces to him, that, in order to achieve her deliverance, he must raise the lid of the sepulchre, and kiss whatever being should issue forth. The knight, having pledged his faith, proceeds to open the tomb, out of which a monstrous snake issues forth,[Pg 16] with a tremendous hiss. Brandimarte, with much reluctance, fulfils the bizarre conditions of the adventure; and the monster is instantly changed into a beautiful Fairy, who loads her deliverer with benefits. For the satisfaction of those, who may wish to compare the tale of the Italian poet with that of Kempion, a part of the original of Boiardo is given below.[4]

There is a ballad, somewhat resembling Kempion, called the Laidley Worm of Spindleston-heuch, which is very popular upon the borders; but, having been often published, it was thought unnecessary to insert it in this collection. The most common version was either entirely composed, or re-written, by the Reverend Mr Lamb, of Norham.

[Pg 17]

A similar tradition is, by Heywood and Delrio, said to have existed at Basil. A tailor, in an adventurous mood, chose to descend into an obscure cavern, in the vicinity of the city. After many windings, he came to an iron door, through which he passed into a splendid chamber. Here he found, seated upon a stately throne, a lady, whose countenance was surprisingly beautiful, but whose shape terminated in a dragon's train, which wrapped around the chair on which she was placed. Before her stood a brazen chest, trebly barred and bolted; at each end of which lay couched a huge black ban-dog, who rose up, as if to tear the intruder in pieces. But the lady appeased them; and, opening the chest, displayed an immense treasure, out of which she bestowed upon the visitor some small[Pg 18] pieces of money, informing him, that she was enchanted by her step-dame, but should recover her natural shape, on being kissed thrice by a mortal. The tailor assayed to fulfil the conditions of the adventure; but her face assumed such an altered, wild, and grim expression, that his courage failed, and he was fain to fly from the place. A kinsman of his, some years after, penetrated into the cavern, with the purpose of repairing a desperate fortune. But, finding nothing but dead men's bones, he ran mad, and died. Sir John Mandeville tells a similar story of a Grecian island.

There are numerous traditions, upon the borders, concerning huge and destructive snakes, and also of a poison[Pg 19]ous reptile called a man-keeper; although the common adder, and blind worm, are the only reptiles of that genus now known to haunt our wilds. Whether it be possible, that, at an early period, before the country was drained, and cleared of wood, serpents of a larger size may have existed, is a question which the editor leaves to the naturalist. But, not to mention the fabulous dragon, slain in Northumberland by Sir Bevis, the fame still survives of many a preux chevalier, supposed to have distinguished himself by similar atchievements.

The manor of Sockburne, in the bishopric of Durham, anciently the seat of the family of Conyers, or Cogniers, is held of the bishop by the service of presenting, or showing to him, upon his first entrance into his diocese, an an[Pg 20]tique sword, or faulchion. The origin of this peculiar service is thus stated in Beckwith's edition of Blount's Ancient Tenures, p. 200.

"Sir Edward Blackett (the proprietor of the manor) now represents the person of Sir John Conyers, who, as tradition says, in the fields of Sockburne, slew, with this faulchion, a monstrous creature, a dragon, a worm, or flying serpent, that devoured men, women, and children. The then owner of Sockburne, as a reward for his bravery, gave him the manor, with its appurtenances, to hold for ever, on condition that he meets the lord bishop of Durham, with this faulchion, on his first entrance into his diocese, after his election to that see.

"And, in confirmation of this tradition, there is painted, in a window of Sockburne church, the faulchion we just now spoke of: and it is also cut in marble, upon the tomb of the great ancestor of the Conyers', together with a dog, and the monstrous worm, or serpent, lying at his feet, of his own killing, of which the history of the family gives the above account.

"When the bishop first comes into his diocese, he crosses the river Tees, either at the ford at Nesham, or Croft-bridge, where the counties of York and Durham divide; at one of which places Sir Edward Blackett, either in person, or by his representative, if the bishop comes by Nesham, rides into the middle of the river Tees, with the ancient faulchion drawn in his hand, or upon the middle of Croft-bridge; and then presents the[Pg 21] faulchion to the bishop, addressing him in the ancient form of words; upon which the bishop takes the faulchion into his hand, looks at it, and returns it back again, wishing the lord of the manor his health, and the enjoyment of his estate." The faulchion, above alluded to, has upon its hilt the arms of England, in the reign of King John, and an eagle, supposed to be the ensign of Morcar, earl of Northumberland.—Gough's Camden's Britannia, Vol. III. p. 114. Mr Gough, with great appearance of probability, conjectures, the dragon, engraved on the tomb, to be an emblematical, or heraldric ornament.

The property, called Pollard's Lands, near Bishop Auckland, is held by a similar tenure; and we are informed, in the work just quoted, that "Dr Johnson of Newcastle met the present bishop, Dr Egerton, in September, 1771, at his first arrival there, and presented a faulchion upon his knee, and addressed him in the old form of words, saying,

"My lord, in behalf of myself, as well as of the several other tenants of Pollard's Lands, I do humbly present your lordship with this faulchion, at your first coming here, wherewith, as the tradition goeth, Pollard slew of old a great and venomous serpent, which did much harm to man and beast: and, by the performance of this service, these lands are holden."—Ancient Tenures, p. 201.

Above the south entrance of the ancient parish church of Linton, in Roxburghshire, is a rude piece of sculpture, representing a knight, with a falcon on his arm, encoun[Pg 22]tering with his lance, in full career, a sort of monster, which the common people call a worm, or snake. Tradition bears, that this animal inhabited a den, or hollow, at some distance from the church, whence it was wont to issue forth, and ravage the country, or, by the fascination of its eyes and breath, draw its prey into its jaws. Large rewards were in vain offered for the destruction of this monster, which had grown to so huge a bulk, that it used to twist itself, in spiral folds, round a green hillock of considerable height, still called Wormeston, and marked by a clump of trees. When sleeping in this place, with its mouth open, popular credulity affirms, that it was slain by the laird of Lariston, a man, brave even to madness, who, coming upon the snake at full gallop, thrust down its throat a peat (a piece of turf dried for fuel), dipt in scalding pitch, and fixed to the point of his lance. The aromatic quality of the peat is said to have preserved the champion from the effects of the monster's poisonous breath, while, at the same time, it clogged its jaws. In dying, the serpent contracted his folds with so much violence, that their spiral impression is still discernible round the hillock where it lay. The noble family of Somerville are said to be descended from this adventurous knight, in memory of whose atchievement, they bear a dragon as their crest.

The sculpture itself gives no countenance to this fine story; for the animal, whom the knight appears to be in the act of slaying, has no resemblance to a serpent, but[Pg 23] rather to a wolf, or boar, with which the neighbouring Cheviot mountains must in early times have abounded;[6] and there remain vestiges of another monster, of the same species, attacking the horse of the champion. An inscription, which might have thrown light upon this exploit, is now totally defaced. The vulgar, adapting it to their own tradition, tell us that it ran thus:

The wode laird of Lariestoun
Slew the wode worm of Wormiestoune,
And wan all Linton paroschine.

It is most probable, that the animal, destroyed by the ancestor of Lord Somerville, was one of those beasts of prey, by which Caledonia was formerly infested; but which, now,

Razed out of all her woods, as trophies hung,
Grin high emblazon'd on her children's shields.

Since publishing the first edition of this work, I have found the following account of Somerville's atchievement, in a MS. of some antiquity:

[Pg 24]

"John Somerville (son to Roger de Somerville, baron of Whichenever, in Staffordshire) was made, by King William (the Lion), his principal falconer, and got from that king the lands and baronie of Linton, in Tiviotdale, for an extraordinarie and valiant action; which, according to the manuscript of the family of Drum, was thus: In the parochen of Lintoun, within the sheriffdom of Roxburgh, there happened to breed a monster, in form of a serpent, or worme; in length, three Scots yards, and somewhat bigger than an ordinarie man's leg, with a head more proportionable to its length than greatness. It had its den in a hollow piece of ground, a mile south-east from Lintoun church; it destroyed both men and beast that came in its way. Several attempts were made to destroy it, by shooting of arrows, and throwing of darts, none daring to approach so near as to make use of a sword or lance. John Somerville undertakes to kill it, and being well mounted, and attended with a stout servant, he cam, before the sun-rising, before the dragon's den, having prepared some long, small, and hard peats (bog-turf dried for fuel), be-dabbed with pitch, rosette, and brimstone, fixed with small wire upon a wheel, at the point of his lance: these, being touched with fire, would instantly break out into flames; and, there being a breath of air, that served to his purpose, about the sun-rising, the serpent, dragon, or worme, so called by tradition, appeared with her head, and some part of her body, without the den; whereupon his ser[Pg 25]vant set fire to the peats upon the wheel, at the top of the lance, and John Somerville, advancing with a full gallop, thrust the same with the wheel, and a great part of the lance, directly into the serpent's mouthe, which wente down its throat, into the belly, and was left there, the lance breaking by the rebounding of the horse, and giving a deadly wound to the dragoun; for which action he was knighted by King William; and his effigies was cut in ston in the posture he performed this actione, and placed above the principal church door of Lintoun, where it is yet to be seen, with his name and sirname: and the place, where this monster was killed, is at this day called, by the common people, who have the foresaid story by tradition, the Wormes Glen. And further to perpetuate this actione, the barons of Lintoun, Cowthally, and Drum, did always carry for crest, a wheel, and thereon a dragoun." Extracted from a genealogical MS. in the Advocates' Library, written about 1680. The falcon on the champion's arm, in the monument, may be supposed to allude to his office of falconer to William of Scotland.

The ballad of Kempion is given chiefly from Mrs Brown's MS., with corrections from a recited fragment.

[Pg 26]


"Cum heir, cum heir, ye freely feed,
"And lay your head low on my knee;
"The heaviest weird I will you read,
"That ever was read to gaye ladye.
"O meikle dolour sall ye dree,
"And aye the salt seas o'er ye'se swim;
"And far mair dolour sall ye dree
"On Estmere crags, when ye them climb.
"I weird ye to a fiery beast,
"And relieved sall ye never be,
"Till Kempion, the kingis son,
"Cum to the crag, and thrice kiss thee."
[Pg 27]
O meikle dolour did she dree,
And aye the salt seas o'er she swam;
And far mair dolour did she dree
On Estmere crags, e'er she them clamb.
And aye she cried for Kempion,
Gin he would but cum to her hand:
Now word has gane to Kempion,
That sicken a beast was in his land.
"Now, by my sooth," said Kempion,
"This fiery beast I'll gang and see."
"And, by my sooth," said Segramour,
"My ae brother, I'll gang wi' thee."
Then bigged hae they a bonny boat,
And they hae set her to the sea;
But a mile before they reached the shore,
Around them she gar'd the red fire flee.
"O Segramour, keep the boat afloat,
"And lat her na the land o'er near;
"For this wicked beast will sure gae mad,
"And set fire to a' the land and mair."
[Pg 28]
Syne has he bent an arblast bow,
And aim'd an arrow at her head;
And swore if she didna quit the land,
Wi' that same shaft to shoot her dead.
"O out of my stythe I winna rise,
"(And it is not for the awe o' thee)
"Till Kempion, the kingis son,
"Cum to the crag, and thrice kiss me."
He has louted him o'er the dizzy crag,
And gien the monster kisses ane:
Awa she gaed, and again she cam,
The fieryest beast that ever was seen.
"O out o' my stythe I winna rise,
"(And not for a' thy bow nor thee)
"Till Kempion, the kingis son,
"Cum to the crag, and thrice kiss me."
He's louted him o'er the Estmere crags,
And he has gien her kisses twa:
Awa she gaed, and again she cam,
The fieryest beast that ever you saw.
[Pg 29]
"O out of my den I winna rise,
"Nor flee it for the fear o' thee,
"Till Kempion, that courteous knight,
"Cum to the crag, and thrice kiss me."
He's louted him o'er the lofty crag,
And he has gien her kisses three:
Awa she gaed, and again she cam,
The loveliest ladye e'er could be!
"And by my sooth," says Kempion,
"My ain true love (for this is she)
"They surely had a heart o' stane,
"Could put thee to such misery.
"O was it warwolf in the wood?
"Or was it mermaid in the sea?
"Or was it man, or vile woman,
"My ain true love, that mishaped thee?"
"It was na warwolf in the wood,
"Nor was it mermaid in the sea;
"But it was my wicked step-mother,
"And wae and weary may she be!"
[Pg 30]
"O a heavier weird[7] shall light her on,
"Than ever fell on vile woman;
"Her hair shall grow rough, and her teeth grow lang,
"And on her four feet shall she gang.
"None shall take pity her upon;
"In Wormeswood she aye shall won;
"And relieved shall she never be,
"Till St Mungo[8] come over the sea."
And sighing said that weary wight,
"I doubt that day I'll never see!"
[Pg 31]


On Estmere crags, when ye them climb.—P. 26. v. 2.

If by Estmere crags we are to understand the rocky cliffs of Northumberland, in opposition to Westmoreland, we may bring our scene of action near Bamborough, and thereby almost identify the tale of Kempion with that of the Laidley Worm of Spindleston, to which it bears so strong a resemblance.

I weird ye to a fiery beast.—P. 26. v. 3.

Our ideas of dragons and serpents are probably derived from the Scandinavians. The legends of Regnar Lodbrog, and of the huge snake in the Edda, by whose folds the world is encircled, are well known. Griffins and dragons were fabled, by the Danes, as watching over, and defending, hoards of gold.—Bartholin. de caus. cont. mortis, p. 490. Saxo Grammaticus, lib. 2. The Edda also mentions one Fafner, who, transformed into a serpent, brooded over his hidden treasures. From these authorities, and that of Herodotus, our Milton draws his simile—

As when a Gryphon, through the wilderness,
With winged course, o'er hill or moory dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who, by stealth,
Had from his wakeful custody purloin'd
The guarded gold.
[Pg 32]
O was it warwolf in the wood?—P. 29. v. 4.

Warwolf, or Lycanthropus, signifies a magician, possessing the power of transforming himself into a wolf, for the purpose of ravage and devastation. It is probable the word was first used symbolically, to distinguish those, who, by means of intoxicating herbs, could work their passions into a frantic state, and throw themselves upon their enemies with the fury and temerity of ravenous wolves. Such were the noted Berserker of the Scandinavians, who, in their fits of voluntary frenzy, were wont to perform the most astonishing exploits of strength, and to perpetrate the most horrible excesses, although, in their natural state, they neither were capable of greater crimes nor exertions than ordinary men. This quality they ascribed to Odin. "Odinus efficere valuit, ut hostes ipsius inter bellandum cæci vel surdi vel attoniti fierent, armaque illorum instar baculorum obtusa essent. Sui vero milites sine loricis incedebant, ac instar canum vel luporum furebant, scuta sua arrodentes: et robusti ut ursi vel tauri, adversarios trucidabant: ipsis vero neque ignis neque ferrum nocuit. Ea qualitas vocatur furor Berserkicus."—Snorro Sturleson, quoted by Bartholin. de causis contemptæ mortis, p. 344. For a fuller account of these frantic champions, see the Hervorar Saga published by Suhm; also the Christni Saga, and most of the ancient Norwegian histories and romances. Camden explains the tales of the Irish, concerning men transformed into wolves, upon nearly the same principle.—Gough's edition of Camden's Britannia, Vol. III. p. 520.

But, in process of time, the transformation into a wolf was believed to be real, and to affect the body as well as the mind; and to such transformations our faithful Gervase of Tilbury bears evidence, as an eye-witness. "Vidimus frequenter in Anglia per lunationes homines in lupos mutari, quod hominum genus Gerulfos Galli vocunt, Angli vero WER-WLF dicunt. Wer enim Anglice virum sonat, WLF lupum." Ot. Imp. De oculis apertis post peccatum. The learned commentators, upon the art of sorcery, differ widely concerning the[Pg 33] manner in which the arch fiend effects this change upon the persons of his vassals; whether by surrounding their bodies with a sort of pellice of condensed air, having the form of an wolf; or whether by some delusion, affecting the eyes of the spectators; or, finally, by an actual corporeal transformation. The curious reader may consult Delrii Disquisitiones Magicæ, p. 188; and (if he pleases) Evvichius de natura Sagarum.—Fincelius, lib. 2. de Mirac.—Remigius. lib. 2. de Dæmonolat.—Binsfeld. de confession, maleficarum. Not to mention Spondanus, Bodinus, Peucerus, Philippus Camerarius, Condronchus, Petrus Thyræus, Bartholomeus Spineus, Sir George Mackenzie, and King James I., with the sapient Monsieur Oufle of Bayle. The editor presumes, it is only since the extirpation of wolves, that our British sorceresses have adopted the disguise of hares, cats, and such more familiar animals.

A wild story of a warwolf, or rather a war-bear, is told in Torfœus' History of Hrolfe Kraka. As the original is a scarce book, little known in this country, some readers may be interested by a short analysis of the tale.

Hringo, king of Upland, had an only son, called Biorno, the most beautiful and most gallant of the Norwegian youth. At an advanced period of life, the king became enamoured of a "witch lady," whom he chose for his second wife. A mutual and tender affection had, from infancy, subsisted betwixt Biorno, and Bera, the lovely daughter of an ancient warrior. But the new queen cast upon her step-son an eye of incestuous passion; to gratify which, she prevailed upon her husband, when he set out upon one of those piratical expeditions, which formed the summer campaign of a Scandinavian monarch, to leave the prince at home. In the absence of Hringo, she communicated to Biorno her impure affection, and was repulsed with disdain and violence. The rage of the weird step-mother was boundless. "Hence to the woods!" she exclaimed, striking the prince with a glove of wolf-skin; "Hence to the woods! subsist only on thy father's herds; live pursuing, and die pursued!" From this time the prince Biorno was no more seen, and the herdsmen of the king's cattle soon obser[Pg 34]ved, that astonishing devastation was nightly made among their flocks, by a black bear, of immense size, and unusual ferocity. Every attempt to snare or destroy this animal was found vain; and much was the unavailing regret for the absence of Biorno, whose delight had been in extirpating beasts of prey. Bera, the faithful mistress of the young prince, added her tears to the sorrow of the people. As she was indulging her melancholy, apart from society, she was alarmed by the approach of the monstrous bear, which was the dread of the whole country. Unable to escape, she waited its approach, in expectation of instant death; when, to her astonishment, the animal fawned upon her, rolled himself at her feet, and regarded her with eyes, in which, spite of the horrible transformation, she still recognized the glances of her lost lover. Bera had the courage to follow the bear to his cavern, where, during certain hours, the spell permitted him to resume his human shape. Her love overcame her repugnance at so strange a mode of life, and she continued to inhabit the cavern of Biorno, enjoying his society during the periods of his freedom from enchantment. One day, looking sadly upon his wife, "Bera," said the prince, "the end of my life approaches. My flesh will soon serve for the repast of my father and his courtiers. But, do thou beware lest either the threats or entreaties of my diabolical step-mother induce thee to partake of the horrid banquet. So shalt thou safely bring forth three sons, who shall be the wonder of the North." The spell now operated, and the unfortunate prince sallied from his cavern to prowl among the herds. Bera followed him, weeping, and at a distance. The clamour of the chace was now heard. It was the old king, who, returned from his piratical excursion, had collected a strong force to destroy the devouring animal which ravaged his country. The poor bear defended himself gallantly, slaying many dogs, and some huntsmen. At length, wearied out, he sought protection at the feet of his father. But his supplicating gestures were in vain, and the eyes of paternal affection proved more dull than those of love. Biorno died by the lance of his father, and his flesh was prepared for the royal banquet. Bera was recognised, and[Pg 35] hurried into the queen's presence. The sorceress, as Biorno had predicted, endeavoured to prevail upon Bera to eat of what was then esteemed a regal dainty. Entreaties and threats being in vain, force was, by the queen's command, employed for this purpose, and Bera was compelled to swallow one morsel of the bear's flesh. A second was put into her mouth, but she had an opportunity of putting it aside. She was then dismissed to her father's house. Here, in process of time, she was delivered of three sons, two of whom were affected variously, in person and disposition, by the share their mother had been compelled to take in the feast of the king. The eldest, from his middle downwards, resembled an elk, whence he derived the name of Elgfrod. He proved a man of uncommon strength, but of savage manners, and adopted the profession of a robber. Thorer, the second son of Bera, was handsome and well shaped, saving that he had the foot of a dog; from which he obtained the appellation of Houndsfoot. But Bodvar, the third son, was a model of perfection in mind and body. He revenged upon the necromantic queen the death of his father, and became the most celebrated champion of his age.

Historia Hrolfi Krakæ, Haffniæ, 1715.



Poich' ebbe il verso Brandimarte letto,
La lapida pesante in aria alzava:
Ecco fuor una serpe insin' al petto,
La qual, forte stridendo, zufolava,
Di spaventoso, e terribil' aspetto,
A prendo il muso gran denti mostrava,
De' quali il cavalier non si fidando,
Si trasse a dietro, et mise mano al brando.
Ma quella Donna gridava "non fate"
Col viso smorto, e grido tremebondo,
"Non far, che ci farai pericolare,
E cadrem' tutti quanti nel profondo:
A te convien quella serpe baciare,
O far pensier di non esser' al Mondo,
Accostar la tua bocca con la sua,
O perduta tener la vita tua."
"Come? non vedi, che i denti degrigna,
Che pajon fatti a posta a spiccar' nasi,
E fammi un certo viso de matrigna,"
Disse il Guerrier, "ch'io me spavento quassi."
"Anzi t' invita con faccia benigna;"
Disse la Donna, "e molti altri rimasi
Per vilta sono a questa sepolture:
Or la t' accosta, e non aver paura."
Il cavalier s' accosta, ma di passo,
Che troppo grato quel baciar non gli era,
Verso la serpe chinandosi basso,
Gli parvo tanto orrenda, e tanto fera,
Che venne in viso freddo, com' un sasso;
E disse "si fortuna vuol' ch'io pera,
Fia tanto un altra volta, quanto addeso
Ma cagion dar non me ne voglio io stesso."
"Fuss' io certo d'andare in paradiso,
Come son' certo, chinandomi un poco,
Che quella bestia mi s'avvento al viso,
E mi piglia nel naso, o altro loco:
Egli e proprio cosi, com' io m'avviso,
Ch' altri ch'io stato e colto a questo gioco,
E che costei mi da questo conforto
Per vindicarsi di colui, ch'ho morto."[5]
Cosi dicendo, a rinculare attende,
Deliberato piu non s'accostare:
La Donna si dispera, e lo reprende,
"Ah codardo," dicea, "che credi fare?
Perche tanta vilta, l'alma t'offende,
Che ti fara alla fin mal capitare?
Infinita paura e poca fede,
La salute gli mostro, e non mi crede."
Punto il Guerrier de questi agre parole,
Torna de nuovo ver la sepoltura,
Tinsegli in rose il color de viole,
In vergogna mutata la paura:
Pur stando ancor' fra due, vuole, e non vuole,
Un pensier lo spaventa, un l'assicura
Al fin tra l'animoso, e'l disperato,
A lei s'accosta, ed halle un bacio dato.
Un ghiaccio proprio gli parse a toccare
La bocca, che parea prima di foco:
La serpe se commincia a tramutare
E diventa donzella a poco a poco:
Febosilla costei si fa chiamare,
Un fata, che fece quel bel loco,
E quel giardino, e quella sepoltura,
Ove gran tempo e stato in pena dura, &c.

[5] Un cavalier occiso per Brandimarte nel entrare del palazzo incantato.

[6] An altar, dedicated to Sylvan Mars, was found in a glen in Weardale, in the bishopric of Durham. From the following votive inscription, it appears to have been erected by C. T. V. Micianus, a Roman general, upon taking an immense boar, which none of his predecessors could destroy:

"Silvano invicto sacrum. C. Tetius Veturius Micianus Præf. Alae Sebosinae ob aprum eximiæ formæ captum, quem multi antecessores ejus prædari non potuerunt, Votum solvens lubenter possuit."

Lamb's Notes on Battle of Flodden, 1774, p. 67.

[7] Weird—From the German auxiliary verb werden, "to become."

[8] St Mungo—Saint Kentigern.

[Pg 36]




This ballad is now, for the first time, published in a perfect state. A fragment, comprehending the 2d, 4th, 5th, and 6th verses, as also the 17th, has appeared in several collections. The present copy is chiefly taken from the recitation of an old woman, residing near Kirkhill, in West Lothian; the same from whom were obtained the variations in the tale of Tamlane, and the fragment of the Wife of Usher's Well, which is the next in order.

The tale is much the same with the Breton romance, called Lay le Frain, or the Song of the Ash. Indeed, the editor is convinced, that the farther our researches are extended, the more we shall see ground to believe, that the romantic ballads of later times are, for the most part, abridgments of the ancient metrical romances, narrated[Pg 37] in a smoother stanza, and more modern language. A copy of the ancient romance, alluded to, is preserved in the invaluable collection (W. 4. 1.) of the Advocates' Library, and begins thus:

We redeth oft and findeth ywrite
And this clerkes wele it wite
Layes that ben in harping
Ben yfound of ferli thing
Sum beth of wer and sum of wo
Sum of joye and mirthe also
And sum of trecherie and of gile
Of old aventours that fel while
And sum of bourdes and ribaudy
And many ther beth of faery
Of al thinges that men seth
Maist o' love forsoth yai beth
In Breteyne bi hold time
This layes were wrought so seithe this rime
When kinges might our y here
Of ani mervailes that ther wer
They token a harp in glee and game
And maked a lay and gaf it name
Now of this aventours that weren y falle
Y can tel sum ac nought alle
Ac herkeneth Lordinges sothe to sain
I chil you tel Lay le Frain
Bifel a cas in Breteyne
Whereof was made Lay le Frain
In Ingliche for to tellen y wis
Of ane asche forsothe it is
On ane ensammple fair with alle
That sum time was bi falle &c.
[Pg 38]


"Its narrow, narrow, make your bed,
"And learn to lie your lane;
"For I'm ga'n o'er the sea, Fair Annie,
"A braw bride to bring hame.
"Wi' her I will get gowd and gear;
"Wi' you I ne'er got nane.
"But wha will bake my bridal bread,
"Or brew my bridal ale?
"And wha will welcome my brisk bride,
"That I bring o'er the dale?"
"Its I will bake your bridal bread,
"And brew your bridal ale;
"And I will welcome your brisk bride,
"That you bring o'er the dale."
[Pg 39]
"But she that welcomes my brisk bride,
"Maun gang like maiden fair;
"She maun lace on her robe sae jimp,
"And braid her yellow hair."
"But how can I gang maiden-like,
"When maiden I am nane?
"Have I not borne seven sons to thee,
"And am with child again?"
She's ta'en her young son in her arms,
Another in her hand;
And she's up to the highest tower,
To see him come to land.
"Come up, come up, my eldest son,
"And look o'er yon sea-strand,
"And see your father's new-come bride,
"Before she come to land."
"Come down, come down, my mother dear!
"Come frae the castle-wa'!
"I fear, if langer ye stand there,
"Ye'll let yoursell down fa'."
[Pg 40]
And she gaed down, and farther down,
Her love's ship for to see;
And the top-mast and the main-mast
Shone like the silver free.
And she's gane down, and farther down,
The bride's ship to behold;
And the top-mast and the main-mast
They shone just like the gold.
She's ta'en her seven sons in her hand;
I wot she didna fail!
She met Lord Thomas and his bride,
As they cam o'er the dale.
"You're welcome to your house, Lord Thomas;
"You're welcome to your land;
"You're welcome, with your fair ladye,
"That you lead by the hand.
"You're welcome to your ha's, ladye;
"You're welcome to your bowers;
"You're welcome to your hame, ladye:
"For a' that's here is yours."
[Pg 41]
"I thank thee, Annie; I thank thee, Annie;
"Sae dearly as I thank thee;
"You're the likest to my sister, Annie,
"That ever I did see.
"There came a knight out o'er the sea,
"And steal'd my sister away;
"The shame scoup[9] in his company,
"And land where'er he gae!"
She hang ae napkin at the door,
Another in the ha';
And a' to wipe the trickling tears,
Sae fast as they did fa'.
And aye she served the lang tables,
With white bread and with wine;
And aye she drank the wan water,
To had her colour fine.[10]
And aye she served the lang tables,
With white bread and with brown;
And aye she turned her round about,
Sae fast the tears fall down.
And he's ta'en down the silk napkin,
[Pg 42] Hung on a silver pin;
And aye he wipes the tear trickling
Adown her cheik and chin.
And aye he turned him round about,
And smil'd amang his men:
Says—"Like ye best the old ladye,
"Or her that's new come hame?"
When bells were rung, and mass was sung,
And a' men bound to bed,
Lord Thomas and his new-come bride,
To their chamber they were gaed.
Annie made her bed a little forebye,
To hear what they might say;
"And ever alas!" fair Annie cried,
"That I should see this day!
"Gin my seven sons were seven young rats,
"Running on the castle-wa',
"And I were a grey cat mysell!
"I soon would worry them a'.
[Pg 43]
"Gin my seven sons were seven young hares,
"Running o'er yon lilly lee,
"And I were a grew hound mysell!
"Soon worried they a' should be."
And wae and sad fair Annie sat,
And drearie was her sang;
And ever, as she sobb'd and grat,
"Wae to the man that did the wrang!"
"My gown is on," said the new-come bride,
"My shoes are on my feet,
"And I will to fair Annie's chamber,
"And see what gars her greet.
"What ails ye, what ails ye, Fair Annie,
"That ye make sic a moan?
"Has your wine barrels cast the girds,
"Or is your white bread gone?
"O wha was't was your father, Annie,
"Or wha was't was your mother?
"And had ye ony sister, Annie,
"Or had ye ony brother?"
[Pg 44]
"The Earl of Wemyss was my father,
"The Countess of Wemyss my mother;
"And a' the folk about the house,
"To me were sister and brother."
"If the Earl of Wemyss was your father,
"I wot sae was he mine;
"And it shall not be for lack o' gowd,
"That ye your love sall tyne.
"For I have seven ships o' mine ain,
"A' loaded to the brim;
"And I will gie them a' to thee,
"Wi' four to thine eldest son.
"But thanks to a' the powers in heaven,
"That I gae maiden hame!"


[9] Scoup—Go, or rather fly.

[10] To keep her from changing countenance.

[Pg 45]




There lived a wife at Usher's Well,
And a wealthy wife was she;
She had three stout and stalwart sons,
And sent them o'er the sea.
They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely ane,
Whan word came to the carline wife,
That her three sons were gane.
[Pg 46]
They hadna been a week from her,
A week but barely three,
Whan word came to the carline wife,
That her sons she'd never see.
"I wish the wind may never cease,
"Nor fishes in the flood,
"Till my three sons come hame to me,
"In earthly flesh and blood!"
It fell about the Martinmass,
Whan nights are lang and mirk,
The carline wife's three sons came hame,
And their hats were o' the birk.
It neither grew in syke nor ditch,
Nor yet in ony sheugh;
But at the gates o' Paradise,
That birk grew fair eneugh.
[Pg 47]

"Blow up the fire, my maidens!
"Bring water from the well!
"For a' my house shall feast this night,
"Since my three sons are well."
And she has made to them a bed,
She's made it large and wide;
And she's ta'en her mantle her about,
Sat down at the bed-side.

then crew the red red cock,
And up and crew the gray;
The eldest to the youngest said,
"'Tis time we were away."
The cock he hadna craw'd but once,
And clapp'd his wings at a',
Whan the youngest to the eldest said,
"Brother, we must awa.
[Pg 48]
"The cock doth craw, the day doth daw,
"The channerin'[11] worm doth chide;
"Gin we be mist out o' our place,
"A sair pain we maun bide.
"Fare ye weel, my mother dear!
"Fareweel to barn and byre!
"And fare ye weel, the bonny lass,
"That kindles my mother's fire."
[Pg 49]


I wish the wind may never cease, &c.—P. 46. v. 2.

The sense of this verse is obscure, owing, probably, to corruption by reciters. It would appear, that the mother had sinned in the same degree with the celebrated Lenoré.

And their hats were o' the birk.—P. 46. v. 3.

The notion, that the souls of the blessed wear garlands, seems to be of Jewish origin. At least, in the Maase-book, there is a Rabbinical tradition, to the following effect:—

"It fell out, that a Jew, whose name was Ponim, an ancient man, whose business was altogether about the dead, coming to the door of the school, saw one standing there, who had a garland upon his head. Then was Rabbi Ponim afraid, imagining it was a spirit. Whereupon he, whom the Rabbi saw, called out to him, saying, 'Be not afraid, but pass forward. Dost thou not know me?' Then said Rabbi Ponim, 'Art not thou he whom I buried yesterday?' And he was answered,[Pg 50] 'Yea, I am he.' Upon which Rabbi Ponim said, 'Why comest thou hither? How fareth it with thee in the other world?' And the apparition made answer, 'It goeth well with me, and I am in high esteem in paradise.' Then said the Rabbi, 'Thou wert but looked upon in the world as an insignificant Jew. What good work didst thou do, that thou art thus esteemed?' The apparition answered, 'I will tell thee: the reason of the esteem I am in, is, that I rose every morning early, and with fervency uttered my prayer, and offered the grace from the bottom of my heart: for which reason I now pronounce grace in paradise, and am well respected. If thou doubtest whether I am the person, I will show thee a token that shall convince thee of it. Yesterday, when thou didst clothe me in my funeral attire, thou didst tear my sleeve.' Then asked Rabbi Ponim, 'What is the meaning of that garland?' The apparition answered, 'I wear it, to the end the wind of the world may not have power over me; for it consists of excellent herbs of paradise.' Then did Rabbi Ponim mend the sleeve of the deceased: for the deceased had said, that if it was not mended, he should be ashamed to be seen amongst others, whose apparel was whole. And then the apparition vanished. Wherefore, let every one utter his prayer with fervency; for then it shall go well with him in the other world. And let care be taken that no rent, nor tearing, be left in the apparel in which the deceased are interred."—Jewish Traditions, abridged from Buxtorf, London, 1732, Vol. II. p. 19.

Gin we be mist out o' our place,
A sair pain we maun bide.—P. 48. v. 1.

This will remind the German reader of the comic adieu of a heavenly apparition:—

Doch sieh! man schliesst die himmels thür
Adieu! der himmlische Portier
Ist streng und hält auf ordnung.



[11] Channerin'—Fretting.

[Pg 51]



A copy of this Ballad, materially different from that which follows, appeared in "Scottish Songs," 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1792, under the title of Lord Bothwell. Some stanzas have been transferred from thence to the present copy, which is taken down from the recitation of a Lady, nearly related to the Editor. Some readings have been also adopted from a third copy, in Mrs Brown's MS., under the title of Child Brenton. Cospatrick (Comes Patricius) was the designation of the Earl of Dunbar, in the days of Wallace and Bruce.

Cospatrick has sent o'er the faem;
Cospatrick brought his ladye hame;
And fourscore ships have come her wi',
The ladye by the grene-wood tree.
[Pg 52]
There were twal' and twal' wi' baken bread,
And twal' and twal' wi' gowd sae reid,
And twal' and twal' wi' bouted flour,
And twal' and twal' wi' the paramour.
Sweet Willy was a widow's son,
And at her stirrup he did run;
And she was clad in the finest pall,
But aye she let the tears down fall.
"O is your saddle set awrye?
"Or rides your steed for you owre high?
"Or are you mourning, in your tide,
"That you suld be Cospatrick's bride?"
"I am not mourning, at this tide,
"That I suld be Cospatrick's bride;
"But I am sorrowing, in my mood,
"That I suld leave my mother good.
"But, gentle boy, come tell to me,
"What is the custom of thy countrie?"
"The custom thereof, my dame," he says,
"Will ill a gentle ladye please.
[Pg 53]
"Seven king's daughters has our lord wedded,
"And seven king's daughters has our lord bedded;
"But he's cutted their breasts frae their breast-bane,
"And sent them mourning hame again.
"Yet, gin you're sure that you're a maid,
"Ye may gae safely to his bed;
"But gif o' that ye be na sure,
"Then hire some damsell o' your bour."
The ladye's called her bour maiden,
That waiting was into her train;
"Five thousand merks I'll gie to thee,
"To sleep this night with my lord for me."
When bells were rung, and mass was sayne,
And a' men unto bed were gane,
Cospatrick and the bonny maid,
Into ae chamber they were laid.
"Now, speak to me, blankets, and speak to me, bed,
"And speak, thou sheet, enchanted web;
"And speak up, my bonny brown sword, that winna lie,
"Is this a true maiden that lies by me?"
[Pg 54]
"It is not a maid that you hae wedded,
"But it is a maid that you hae bedded;
"It is a leal maiden that lies by thee,
"But not the maiden that it should be."
O wrathful he left the bed,
And wrathfully his claiths on did;
And he has ta'en him through the ha',
And on his mother he did ca'.
"I am the most unhappy man,
"That ever was in christen land!
"I courted a maiden, meik and mild,
"And I hae gotten naething but a woman wi' child."
"O stay, my son, into this ha',
"And sport ye wi' your merrymen a';
"And I will to the secret bour,
"To see how it fares wi' your paramour."
The carline she was stark and sture,
She aff the hinges dang the dure;
"O is your bairn to laird or loun,
"Or is it to your father's groom?"
[Pg 55]
"O! hear me, mother, on my knee,
"Till my sad story I tell thee:
"O we were sisters, sisters seven,
"We were the fairest under heaven.
"It fell on a summer's afternoon,
"When a' our toilsome task was done,
"We cast the kevils us amang,
"To see which suld to the grene-wood gang.
"O hon! alas, for I was youngest,
"And aye my weird it was the hardest!
"The kevil it on me did fa',
"Whilk was the cause of a' my woe,
"For to the grene-wood I maun gae,
"To pu' the red rose and the slae;
"To pu' the red rose and the thyme,
"To deck my mother's bour and mine.
"I hadna pu'd a flower but ane,
"When by there came a gallant hende,
"Wi' high coll'd hose and laigh coll'd shoon,
"And he seemed to be sum king's son.
[Pg 56]
"And be I maid, or be I nae,
"He kept me there till the close o' day;
"And be I maid, or be I nane,
"He kept me there till the day was done.
"He gae me a lock o' his yellow hair,
"And bade me keep it ever mair;
"He gae me a carknet[12] o' bonny beads,
"And bade me keep it against my needs.
"He gae to me a gay gold ring,
"And bade me keep it abune a' thing."
"What did ye wi' the tokens rare,
"That ye gat frae that gallant there?"
"O bring that coffer unto me,
"And a' the tokens ye sall see."
"Now stay, daughter, your bour within,
"While I gae parley wi' my son."
O she has ta'en her thro' the ha',
And on her son began to ca';
"What did you wi' the bonny beads,
"I bade ye keep against your needs?
[Pg 57]
"What did you wi' the gay gold ring,
"I bade ye keep abune a' thing?"
"I gae them to a ladye gay,
"I met in grene-wood on a day.
"But I wad gie a' my halls and tours,
"I had that ladye within my bours;
"But I wad gie my very life,
"I had that ladye to my wife."
"Now keep, my son, your ha's and tours;
"Ye have that bright burd in your bours:
"And keep, my son, your very life;
"Ye have that lady to your wife."
Now, or a month was cum and gane,
The ladye bore a bonny son;
And 'twas weel written on his breast bane,
"Cospatrick is my father's name."
O row my ladye in satin and silk,
And wash my son in the morning milk.


[12] Carknet—A necklace. Thus:

"She threw away her rings and carknet cleen."—Harrison's Translation of Orlando Furioso—Notes on book 37th.

[Pg 58]




Prince Robert has wedded a gay ladye,
He has wedded her with a ring;
Prince Robert has wedded a gay ladye,
But he darna bring her hame.
"Your blessing, your blessing, my mother dear!
"Your blessing now grant to me!"
"Instead of a blessing ye sall have my curse,
"And you'll get nae blessing frae me."
[Pg 59]
She has called upon her waiting maid,
To fill a glass of wine;
She has called upon her fause steward,
To put rank poison in.
She has put it to her roudes[13] lip,
And to her roudes chin;
She has put it to her fause fause mouth,
But the never a drap gaed in.
He has put it to his bonny mouth,
And to his bonny chin,
He's put it to his cherry lip,
And sae fast the rank poison ran in.
"O ye hae poisoned your ae son, mother,
"Your ae son and your heir;
O ye hae poisoned your ae son, mother,
"And sons you'll never hae mair.
"O where will I get a little boy,
"That will win hose and shoon,
To run sae fast to Darlinton,
"And bid fair Eleanor come?"
[Pg 60]
Then up and spake a little boy,
That wad win hose and shoon,—
"O I'll away to Darlinton,
"And bid fair Eleanor come."
O he has run to Darlinton,
And tirled at the pin;
And wha was sae ready as Eleanor's sell
To let the bonny boy in.
"Your gude-mother has made ye a rare dinour,
"She's made it baith gude and fine;
"Your gude-mother has made ye a gay dinour,
"And ye maun cum till her and dine."
Its twenty lang miles to Sillertoun town,
The langest that ever were gane;
But the steed it was wight, and the ladye was light,
And she cam linkin'[14] in.
But when she cam to Sillertoun town,
And into Sillertoun ha',
The torches were burning, the ladies were mourning,
And they were weeping a'.
[Pg 61]
"O where is now my wedded lord,
"And where now can he be?
"O where is now my wedded lord?
"For him I canna see."
"Your wedded lord is dead," she says,
"And just gane to be laid in the clay;
"Your wedded lord is dead," she says,
"And just gane to be buried the day.
"Ye'se get nane o' his gowd, ye'se get nane o' his gear,
"Ye'se get nae thing frae me;
"Ye'se no get an inch o' his gude broad land,
"Tho' your heart suld burst in three."
"I want nane o' his gowd, I want nane o' his gear,
"I want nae land frae thee;
"But I'll hae the ring that's on his finger,
"For them he did promise to me."
"Ye'se no get the ring that's on his finger,
"Ye'se no get them frae me;
"Ye'se no get the ring that's on his finger,
"An' your heart suld burst in three."
[Pg 62]
She's turned her back unto the wa',
And her face unto a rock;
And there, before the mother's face,
Her very heart it broke.
The tane was buried in Mary's kirk,
The tother in Marie's quair;
And out o' the tane there sprang a birk,
And out o' the tother a brier.
And thae twa met, and thae twa plat,
The birk but and the brier;
And by that ye may very weel ken
They were twa lovers dear.[15]


[13] Roudes—Haggard.

[14] Linkin'—Riding briskly.

[15] The last two verses are common to many ballads, and are probably derived from some old metrical romance, since we find the idea occur in the conclusion of the voluminous history of Sir Tristrem. "Ores veitil que de la tumbe Tristan yssoit une belle ronce verte et feuilleue, qui alloit par la chapelle, et descendoit le bout de la ronce sur la tumbe d'Ysseult et entroit dedans." This marvellous plant was three times cut down; but, continues Rusticien de Puise, "Le lendemain estoit aussi belle comme elle avoit cy-devant ètè, et ce miracle ètoit sur Tristan et sur Ysseult a tout jamais advenir."

[Pg 63]



This ballad is edited from the MS. of Mrs Brown, corrected by a recited fragment. A modernized copy has been published, under the title of "Courteous King Jamie."—Tales of Wonder, Vol. II. p. 451.

The legend will remind the reader of the "Marriage of Sir Gawain," in the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, and of the "Wife of Bath's Tale," in Father Chaucer. But the original, as appears from the following quotation from Torfœus, is to be found in an Icelandic Saga:

"Hellgius, Rex Daniæ, mœrore ob amissam conjugem vexatus, solus agebat, et subducens se hominum commercio, segregem domum, omnis famulitii impatiens, incolebat. Accidit autem, ut nocte concubia, lamentabilis cujusdam ante fores ejulantis sonus auribus ejus obreperet. Expergefactus igitur, recluso ostio, informe quoddam mulieris simulacrum,[Pg 64] "habitu corporis fœdum, veste squalore obsita, pallore, macie frigorisque tyrannide prope modum peremptum, deprehendit; quod precibus obsecratus, ut qui jam miserorum ærumnas ex propria calamitate pensare didicisset, in domum intromisit; ipse lectum petit. At mulier, ne hac quidem benignitate contenta, thori consortium obnixè flagitabat, addens id tanti referre, ut nisi impetraret, omnino sibi moriendum esset. Quod, ea lege, ne ipsum attingeret, concessum est. Ideo nec complexu eam dignatus rex, avertit sese. Cum autem prima luce forte oculos ultro citroque converteret, eximiæ formæ virginem lecto receptam animadvertit; quæ statim ipsi placere cœpit: causam igitur tam repentinæ mutationis curiosius indaganti, respondit virgo, se unam e subterraneorum hominum genere diris novercalibus devotam, tam tetra et execrabili specie, quali primo comparuit, damnatam, quoad thori cujusdam principis socia fieret, multos reges hac de re sollicitasse. Jam actis pro præstito beneficio gratiis, discessum maturans, a rege formæ ejus illecebris capto comprimitur. Deinde petit, si prolem ex hoc congressu progigni contigerit, sequente hyeme, eodem anni tempore, ante fores positam in ædes reciperet, seque ejus patrem profiteri non gravaretur, secus non leve infortunium insecuturum prædixit: a quo præcepto cum rex postea exorbitasset, nec præ foribus jacentem infantem pro suo agnoscere voluisset, ad eum iterum, sed corrugata fronte, accessit, obque violatam fidem acrius objurgatum ab imminente periculo, præstiti olim beneficii gratia, exempturam pollicebatur, ita tamen ut tota ultionis rabies in filium ejus[Pg 65] "effusa graves aliquando levitatis illius pænas exigeret. Ex hac tam dissimilium naturarum commixtione, Skulda, versuti et versatilis animi mulier, nata fuisse memoratur; quæ utramque naturam participans prodigiosorum operum effectrix perhibetur."—Hrolffi Krakii, Hist. p. 49, Hafn. 1715.

[Pg 66]



Let never a man a wooing wend,
That lacketh thingis thrie:
A rowth o' gold, an open heart,
And fu' o' courtesey.
And this was seen o' King Henrie,
For he lay burd alane;
And he has ta'en him to a haunted hunt's ha',
Was seven miles frae a toun.
He's chaced the dun deer thro' the wood,
And the roe doun by the den,
Till the fattest buck, in a' the herd,
King Henrie he has slain.
[Pg 67]
He's ta'en him to his hunting ha',
For to make burly cheir;
When loud the wind was heard to sound,
And an earthquake rocked the floor.
And darkness cover'd a' the hall,
Where they sat at their meat:
The gray dogs, youling, left their food,
And crept to Henrie's feet.
And louder houled the rising wind,
And burst the fast'ned door;
And in there came a griesly ghost,
Stood stamping on the floor.
Her head touched the roof-tree of the house;
Her middle ye weel mot span:
Each frighted huntsman fled the ha',
And left the king alone.
Her teeth were a' like tether stakes,
Her nose like club or mell;
And I ken naething she appeared to be,
But the fiend that wons in hell.
[Pg 68]
"Sum meat, sum meat, ye King Henrie!
"Sum meat ye gie to me!"
"And what meat's in this house, ladye,
"That ye're na wellcum tee?"[16]
"O ye'se gae kill your berry-brown steed,
"And serve him up to me."
O when he killed his berry-brown steed,
Wow gin his heart was sair!
She eat him a' up, skin and bane,
Left naething but hide and hair.
"Mair meat, mair meat, ye King Henrie!
"Mair meat ye gie to me!"
"And what meat's i' this house, ladye,
"That ye're na wellcum tee?"
"O ye do slay your gude gray houndes,
"And bring them a' to me."
O when he slew his gude gray houndes,
Wow but his heart was sair!
She's ate them a' up, ane by ane,
Left naething but hide and hair.
[Pg 69]
"Mair meat, mair meat, ye King Henrie!
"Mair meat ye gie to me!"
"And what meat's i' this house, ladye,
"That I hae left to gie?"
"O ye do fell your gay goss-hawks,
"And bring them a' to me."
O when he felled his gay goss-hawks,
Wow but his heart was sair!
She's ate them a' up, bane by bane,
Left naething but feathers bare.
"Some drink, some drink, ye King Henrie!
"Sum drink ye gie to me!"
"And what drink's in this house, ladye,
"That ye're na wellcum tee?"
"O ye sew up your horse's hide,
"And bring in a drink to me."
O he has sewed up the bluidy hide,
And put in a pipe of wine;
She drank it a' up at ae draught,
Left na a drap therein.
[Pg 70]
"A bed, a bed, ye King Henrie!
"A bed ye mak to me!"
"And what's the bed i' this house, ladye,
"That ye're na wellcum tee?"
"O ye maun pu' the green heather,
"And mak a bed to me."
O pu'd has he the heather green,
And made to her a bed;
And up he has ta'en his gay mantle,
And o'er it he has spread.
"Now swear, now swear, ye King Henrie,
"To take me for your bride!"
"O God forbid," King Henrie said,
"That e'er the like betide!
"That e'er the fiend, that wons in hell,
"Should streak down by my side."
[Pg 71]

When day was come, and night was gane,
And the sun shone through the ha',
The fairest ladye, that e'er was seen,
Lay atween him and the wa'.
"O weel is me!" King Henrie said,
"How lang will this last wi' me?"
And out and spak that ladye fair,
"E'en till the day ye die.
"For I was witched to a ghastly shape,
"All by my stepdame's skill,
"Till I should meet wi' a courteous knight,
"Wad gie me a' my will."


[16] Tee, for to, is the Buchanshire and Gallovidian pronunciation.

[Pg 72]



The following verses are the original words of the tune of "Allan Water," by which name the song is mentioned in Ramsay's Tea Table Miscellany. The ballad is given from tradition; and it is said, that a bridge, over the Annan, was built in consequence of the melancholy catastrophe which it narrates. Two verses are added in this edition, from another copy of the ballad, in which the conclusion proves fortunate. By the Gatehope Slack, is perhaps meant the Gate Slack, a pass in Annandale. The Annan, and the Frith of Solway, into which it falls, are the frequent scenes of tragical accidents. The editor trusts he will be pardoned for inserting the following awfully impressive account of such an event, contained in a letter from Dr Currie, of Liverpool, by whose correspondence, while in the course of preparing these volumes for the press, he has been alike honoured and instructed. After stating, that he had some recollection of the ballad which follows,[Pg 73] the biographer of Burns proceeds thus: "I once in my early days heard (for it was night, and I could not see) a traveller drowning; not in the Annan itself, but in the Frith of Solway, close by the mouth of that river. The influx of the tide had unhorsed him, in the night, as he was passing the sands from Cumberland. The west wind blew a tempest, and, according to the common expression, brought in the water, three foot a-breast. The traveller got upon a standing net, a little way from the shore. There he lashed himself to the post, shouting for half an hour for assistance—till the tide rose over his head! In the darkness of night, and amid the pauses of the hurricane, his voice, heard at intervals, was exquisitely mournful. No one could go to his assistance—no one knew where he was—the sound seemed to proceed from the spirit of the waters. But morning rose—the tide had ebbed—and the poor traveller was found lashed to the pole of the net, and bleaching in the wind."

[Pg 74]


"Annan water's wading deep,
"And my love Annie's wondrous bonny;
"And I am laith she suld weet her feet,
"Because I love her best of ony.
"Gar saddle me the bonny black;
"Gar saddle sune, and make him ready:
"For I will down the Gatehope-slack,
"And all to see my bonny ladye."
He has loupen on the bonny black,
He stirr'd him wi' the spur right sairly;
But, or he wan the Gatehope-slack,
I think the steed was wae and weary.
[Pg 75]
He has loupen on the bonny gray,
He rade the right gate and the ready;
I trow he would neither stint nor stay,
For he was seeking his bonny ladye.
O he has ridden ower field and fell,
Through muir and moss, and mony a mire;
His spurs o' steel were sair to bide,
And frae her fore-feet flew the fire.
"Now, bonny gray, now play your part!
"Gin ye be the steed that wins my deary,
"Wi' corn and hay ye'se be fed for aye,
"And never spur sall make you wearie."
The gray was a mare, and a right good mare;
But when she wan the Annan water,
She could na hae ridden a furlong mair,
Had a thousand merks been wadded[17] at her.
"O boatman, boatman, put off your boat!
"Put off your boat for gowden monie!
"I cross the drumly stream the night,
"Or never mair I see my honey."
[Pg 76]
"O I was sworn sae late yestreen,
"And not by ae aith, but by many;
"And for a' the gowd in fair Scotland,
"I dare na take ye through to Annie."
The side was stey, and the bottom deep,
Frae bank to brae the water pouring;
And the bonny gray mare did sweat for fear,
For she heard the water kelpy roaring.
O he has pou'd aff his dapperpy[18] coat,
The silver buttons glanced bonny;
The waistcoat bursted aff his breast,
He was sae full of melancholy.
He has ta'en the ford at that stream tail;
I wot he swam both strong and steady;
But the stream was broad, and his strength did fail,
And he never saw his bonny ladye.
"O wae betide the frush[19] saugh wand!
"And wae betide the bush of briar!
"It brake into my true love's hand,
"When his strength did fail, and his limbs did tire.
[Pg 77]
"And wae betide ye, Annan water,
"This night that ye are a drumlie river!
"For over thee I'll build a bridge,
"That ye never more true love may sever."


[17] Wadded—Wagered.

[18] Quære—Cap-a-pee?

[19] Frush—Brittle.

[Pg 78]


This ballad differs essentially from that which has been published in various collections, under the title of Binnorie. It is compiled from a copy in Mrs Brown's MSS., intermixed with a beautiful fragment, of fourteen verses, transmitted to the editor by J. C. Walker, Esq. the ingenious historian of the Irish bards. Mr Walker, at the same time, favoured the editor with the following note:—"I am indebted to my departed friend, Miss Brook, for the foregoing pathetic fragment. Her account of it was as follows: This song was transcribed, several years ago, from the memory of an old woman, who had no recollection of the concluding verses: probably the beginning may also be lost, as it seems to commence abruptly." The first verse and burden of the fragment run thus:—

O sister, sister, reach thy hand!
Hey ho, my Nanny, O;
And you shall be heir of all my land,
While the swan swims bonny, O.
[Pg 79]

The first part of this chorus seems to be corrupted from the common burden of Hey, Nonny, Nonny, alluded to in the song, beginning, "Sigh no more, ladye." The chorus, retained in this edition, is the most common and popular; but Mrs Brown's copy bears a yet different burden, beginning thus:—

There were twa sisters sat in a bour,
Edinborough, Edinborough;
There were twa sisters sat in a bour,
Stirling for aye;
There were twa sisters sat in a bour,
There cam a knight to be their wooer,
Bonny St Johnston stands upon Tay.
[Pg 80]


There were two sisters sat in a bour;
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
There came a knight to be their wooer;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
He courted the eldest with glove and ring;
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
But he lo'ed the youngest aboon a' thing;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
He courted the eldest with broach and knife;
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
But he lo'ed the youngest abune his life;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
[Pg 81]
The eldest she was vexed sair;
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And sore envied her sister fair;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
The eldest said to the youngest ane,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"Will ye go and see our father's ships come in?"
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
She's ta'en her by the lilly hand,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And led her down to the river strand;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
The youngest stude upon a stane,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
The eldest came and pushed her in;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
She took her by the middle sma',
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And dashed her bonny back to the jaw,
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
[Pg 82]
"O sister, sister, reach your hand,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And ye shall be heir of half my land."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"O sister, I'll not reach my hand,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And I'll be heir of all your land;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"Shame fa' the hand that I should take,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"Its twin'd me, and my world's make."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"O sister, reach me but your glove,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And sweet William shall be your love."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"Sink on, nor hope for hand or glove!
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And sweet William shall better be my love."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
[Pg 83]
"Your cherry cheeks and your yellow hair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"Garr'd me gang maiden evermair."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
Sometimes she sunk, and sometimes she swam,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
Until she cam to the miller's dam,
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"O father, father, draw your dam!
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"There's either a mermaid, or a milk-white swan."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
The miller hasted and drew his dam,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And there he found a drowned woman,
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
You could not see her yellow hair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
For gowd and pearls that were sae rare,
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
[Pg 84]
You could na see her middle sma',
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
Her gowden girdle was sae bra';
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
A famous harper passing by,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
The sweet pale face he chanced to spy;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
And when he looked that lady on,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
He sighed, and made a heavy moan;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
He made a harp of her breast-bone,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
Whose sounds would melt a heart of stone;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
The strings he framed of her yellow hair,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
Whose notes made sad the listening ear;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
[Pg 85]
He brought it to her father's hall;
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And there was the court assembled all;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
He laid this harp upon a stone,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
And straight it began to play alone;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"O yonder sits my father, the king,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And yonder sits my mother, the queen;
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
"And yonder stands my brother Hugh,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
"And by him my William sweet and true."
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.
But the last tune that the harp play'd then,
Binnorie, O Binnorie;
Was—"Woe to my sister, false Helen!"
By the bonny milldams of Binnorie.

[Pg 86]



"In the very time of the General Assembly, there comes to public knowledge a haynous murther, committed in the court; yea, not far from the queen's lap: for a French woman, that served in the queen's chamber, had played the whore with the queen's own apothecary.—The woman conceived and bare a childe, whom, with common consent, the father and mother murthered; yet were the cries of a new-borne childe hearde, searche was made, the childe and the mother were both apprehended, and so was the man and the woman condemned to be hanged in the publicke street of Edinburgh.—The punishment was suitable, because the crime was haynous. But yet was not the court purged of whores and whoredoms, which was the fountaine of such enormities; for it was well known that shame hasted mar[Pg 87]riage betwixt John Sempill, called the Dancer, and Mary Leringston[20], sirnamed the Lusty. What bruit the Maries, and the rest of the dancers of the court had, the ballads of that age do witnesse, which we, for modestie's sake, omit: but this was the common complaint of all godly and wise men, that, if they thought such a court could long continue, and if they looked for no better life to come, they would have wished their sonnes and daughters rather to have been brought up with fiddlers and dancers, and to have been exercised with flinging upon a floore, and in the rest that thereof followes, than to have been exercised in the company of the godly, and exercised in virtue, which, in that court was hated, and filthenesse not only maintained, but also rewarded; witnesse the abbey of Abercorne, the barony of Auchvermuchtie, and divers others, pertaining to the patrimony of the crown, given in heritage to skippers and dancers, and dalliers with dames. This was the beginning of the regiment of Mary, queen of Scots, and these were the fruits that she brought forth of France.—Lord! look on our miseries! and deliver us from [Pg 88]the wickednesse of this corrupt court!"—Knox's History of the Reformation, p. 373-4.

Such seems to be the subject of the following ballad, as narrated by the stern apostle of presbytery. It will readily strike the reader, that the tale has suffered great alterations, as handed down by tradition; the French waiting-woman being changed into Mary Hamilton,[21] and the queen's apothecary, into Henry Darnley. Yet this is less surprising, when we recollect, that one of the heaviest of the queen's complaints against her ill-fated husband, was his infidelity, and that even with her personal attendants. I have been enabled to publish the following complete edition of the ballad, by copies from various quarters; that principally used, was communicated to me, in the most polite manner, by Mr Kirkpatricke Sharpe, of Hoddom, to whom I am indebted for many similar favours.

[Pg 89]


Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' ribbons on her hair;
The king thought mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than ony that were there.
Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' ribbons on her breast;
The king thought mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than he listen'd to the priest.
Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' gluves upon her hands;
The king thought mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than the queen and a' her lands.
[Pg 90]
She hadna been about the king's court
A month, but barely one,
Till she was beloved by a' the king's court,
And the king the only man.
She hadna been about the king's court
A month, but barely three,
Till frae the king's court Marie Hamilton,
Marie Hamilton durst na be.
The king is to the Abbey gane,
To pu' the Abbey tree,
To scale the babe frae Marie's heart;
But the thing it wadna be.
O she has row'd it in her apron,
And set it on the sea,—
"Gae sink ye, or swim ye, bonny babe,
"Ye'se get na mair o' me."
Word is to the kitchen gane,
And word is to the ha',
And word is to the noble room,
Amang the ladyes a',
[Pg 91] That Marie Hamilton's brought-to-bed,
And the bonny babe's mist and awa.
Scarcely had she lain down again,
And scarcely fa'n asleep,
When up then started our gude queen,
Just at her bed-feet;
Saying—"Marie Hamilton, where's your babe?
"For I'm sure I heard it greet."
"O no, O no, my noble queen!
"Think no such thing to be;
"'Twas but a stitch into my side,
"And sair it troubles me."
"Get up, get up, Marie Hamilton;
"Get up, and follow me;
"For I am going to Edinburgh town,
"A rich wedding for to see."
O slowly, slowly, raise she up,
And slowly put she on;
And slowly rode she out the way,
Wi' mony a weary groan.
[Pg 92]
The queen was clad in scarlet,
Her merry maids all in green;
And every town that they cam to,
They took Marie for the queen.
"Ride hooly, hooly, gentlemen,
"Ride hooly now wi' me!
"For never, I am sure, a wearier burd
"Rade in your cumpanie."
But little wist Marie Hamilton,
When she rade on the brown,
That she was ga'en to Edinburgh town,
And a' to be put down.
"Why weep ye so, ye burgess wives,
"Why look ye so on me?
"O, I am going to Edinburgh town,
"A rich wedding for to see."
When she gaed up the tolbooth stairs,
The corks frae her heels did flee;
And lang or e'er she cam down again,
She was condemned to die.
[Pg 93]
When she cam to the Netherbow port,
She laughed loud laughters three;
But when she cam to the gallows foot,
The tears blinded her e'e.
"Yestreen the queen had four Maries,
"The night she'll hae but three;
"There was Marie Seaton, and Marie Beaton,
"And Marie Carmichael, and me.
"O, often have I dress'd my queen,
"And put gold upon her hair;
"But now I've gotten for my reward,
"The gallows to be my share;
"Often have I dress'd my queen,
"And often made her bed;
"But now I've gotten for my reward
"The gallows tree to tread.
"I charge ye all, ye mariners,
"When ye sail ower the faem,
"Let neither my father nor mother get wit,
"But that I'm coming hame.
[Pg 94]
"I charge ye all, ye mariners,
"That sail upon the sea,
"Let neither my father nor mother get wit
"This dog's death I'm to die.
"For if my father and mother got wit,
"And my bold brethren three,
"O, mickle wad be the gude red blude,
"This day wad be spilt for me!
"O little did my mother ken,
"The day she cradled me,
"The lands I was to travel in,
"Or the death I was to die!"
[Pg 95]


When she cam to the Netherbow port.—P. 93, v. 1.

The Netherbow port was the gate which divided the city of Edinburgh from the suburb, called the Canongate. It had towers and a spire, which formed a fine termination to the view from the Cross. The gate was pulled down, in one of those fits of rage for indiscriminate destruction, with which the magistrates of a corporation are sometimes visited.

Yestreen the queen had four Maries,
The night she'll hae but three, &c.—P. 93. v. 2.

The queen's Maries were four young ladies of the highest families in Scotland, who were sent to France in her train, and returned with her to Scotland. They are mentioned by Knox, in the quotation introductory to this ballad. Keith gives us their names, p. 55. "The young queen, Mary, embarked at Dunbarton for France, ... and with her went ..., and four young virgins, all of the name of Mary, viz. Livingston, Fle[Pg 96]ming, Seaton, and Beatoun." The queen's Maries are mentioned again by the same author, p. 288, and 291, in the note. Neither Mary Livingston, nor Mary Fleming, are mentioned in the ballad; nor are the Mary Hamilton, and Mary Carmichael, of the ballad mentioned by Keith. But if this corps continued to consist of young virgins, as when originally raised, it could hardly have subsisted without occasional recruits; especially if we trust our old bard, and John Knox.

The following additional notices of the queen's Maries occur, in Monteith's Translation of Buchanan's Epigrams, &c.

Page 60. Pomp of the Gods at the Marriage of Queen Mary, 29th July, 1565, a Dialogue.

"Great father, Maries[22] five late served me,
"Were of my quire the glorious dignitie:
"With these dear five the heaven I'd regain,
"The happiness of other gods to stain;
"At my lot, Juno, Venus, were in ire,
"And stole away one——"
P. 61. Apollo.
"Fear not, Diana, I good tidings bring,
"And unto you glad oracles I sing;
"Juno commands your Maries to be married,
"And, in all state, to marriage-bed be carried."
P. 62. Jupiter.
"Five Maries thine;
"One Marie now remains of Delia's five,
"And she at wedlock o'er shortly will arrive."
[Pg 97]
P. 64. To Mary Fleming, the king's valentyn—
65. To Mary Beton, queen by lot, the day before the coronation.

Sundry Verses.

The queen's Maries are mentioned in many ballads, and the name seems to have passed into a general denomination for female attendants:

Now bear a hand, my Maries a',
And busk me brave, and make me fine.

Old Ballad.


[20] The name should be Livingston. "John Semple, son of Robert, Lord Semple, (by Elizabeth Carlisle, a daughter of the Lord Torthorald) was ancestor of the Semples of Beltrees. He was married to Mary, sister to William Livingston, and one of the maids of honour to Queen Mary; by whom he had Sir James Semple of Beltrees, his son and heir," &c.; afterwards ambassador to England, for King James VI. in 1599.—Crawford's History of Renfrew, p. 101.

[21] One copy bears, "Mary Miles."

[22] The queen seems to be included in this number.

[Pg 98]


From Mr Herd's MS., where the following Note is prefixed to it—"Copied from the mouth of a Milkmaid, 1771, by W. L."

It was originally the intention of the Editor to have omitted this ballad, on account of the disagreeable nature of the subject. Upon consideration, however, it seemed a fair sample of a certain class of songs and tales, turning upon incidents the most horrible and unnatural, with which the vulgar in Scotland are greatly delighted, and of which they have current amongst them an ample store. Such, indeed, are the subjects of composition in most nations, during the early period of society; when the feelings, rude and callous, can only be affected by the strongest stimuli, and where the mind does not, as in a more refined age, recoil, disgusted, from the means by which interest has been excited. Hence incest, parricide—crimes,[Pg 99] in fine, the foulest and most enormous, were the early themes of the Grecian muse. Whether that delicacy, which precludes the modern bard from the choice of such impressive and dreadful themes, be favourable to the higher classes of poetic composition, may perhaps be questioned; but there can be little doubt, that the more important cause of virtue and morality is advanced by this exclusion. The knowledge, that enormities are not without precedent, may promote, and even suggest, them. Hence, the publication of the Newgate Register has been prohibited by the wisdom of the legislature; having been found to encourage those very crimes, of which it recorded the punishment. Hence, too, the wise maxim of the Romans, Facinora ostendi dum puniantur, flagitia autem abscondi debent.

The ballad has a high degree of poetical merit.

[Pg 100]




IN 1771.

O May she comes, and May she goes,
Down by yon gardens green;
And there she spied a gallant squire,
As squire had ever been.
And May she comes, and May she goes,
Down by yon hollin tree;
And there she spied a brisk young squire,
And a brisk young squire was he.
[Pg 101]
"Give me your green manteel, fair maid;
"Give me your maidenhead!
"Gin ye winna give me your green manteel,
"Give me your maidenhead!"

"Perhaps there may be bairns, kind sir;
"Perhaps there may be nane;
"But, if you be a courtier,
"You'll tell me soon your name."
"I am nae courtier, fair maid,
"But new come frae the sea;
"I am nae courtier, fair maid,
"But when I court with thee.
"They call me Jack, when I'm abroad;
"Sometimes they call me John;
"But, when I'm in my father's bower,
"Jock Randal is my name."
[Pg 102]
"Ye lee, ye lee, ye bonny lad!
"Sae loud's I hear you lee!
"For I'm Lord Randal's ae daughter,
"He has nae mair nor me."
"Ye lee, ye lee, ye bonny May!
"Sae loud's I hear ye lee!
"For I'm Lord Randal's ae ae son,
"Just now come o'er the sea."
She's putten her hand down by her gare,
And out she's ta'en a knife;
And she has put it in her heart's bleed,
And ta'en away her life.
And he has ta'en up his bonny sister,
With the big tear in his e'en;
And he has buried his bonny sister
Amang the hollins green.
And syne he's hyed him o'er the dale,
His father dear to see—
"Sing, Oh! and Oh! for my bonny hind,
"Beneath yon hollin tree!"
[Pg 103]
"What needs you care for your bonny hind?
"For it you needna care;
"Take you the best, gi' me the warst,
"Since plenty is to spare."
"I carena for your hinds, my lord;
"I carena for your fee;
"But, Oh! and Oh! for my bonny hind,
"Beneath the hollin tree!"
"O were ye at your sister's bower,
"Your sister fair to see,
"You'll think nae mair o' your bonny hind,
"Beneath the hollin tree."
[Pg 104]



O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa',
And I mysell a drap of dew,
Down on that red rose I would fa'.
O my love's bonny, bonny, bonny;
My love's bonny and fair to see:
Whene'er I look on her weel far'd face,
She looks and smiles again to me.
O gin my love were a pickle of wheat,
And growing upon yon lily lee,
And I mysell a bonny wee bird,
Awa wi' that pickle o' wheat I wad flee.
O my love's bonny, &c.
[Pg 105]
O gin my love were a coffer o' gowd,
And I the keeper of the key,
I wad open the kist whene'er I list,
And in that coffer I wad be.
O my love's bonny, &c.

[Pg 106]


The following verses are taken down from recitation, and are averred to be of the age of Charles I. They have, indeed, much of the romantic expression of passion, common to the poets of that period, whose lays still reflected the setting beams of chivalry; but, since their publication in the first edition of this work, the Editor has been informed, that they were composed by the late Mr Graham of Gartmore.

If doughty deeds my ladye please,
Right soon I'll mount my steed;
And strong his arm, and fast his seat,
That bears frae me the meed.
I'll wear thy colours in my cap,
Thy picture in my heart;
And he, that bends not to thine eye,
Shall rue it to his smart.
Then tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I'll take,
Tho' ne'er another trow me.
[Pg 107]
If gay attire delight thine eye,
I'll dight me in array;
I'll tend thy chamber door all night,
And squire thee all the day.
If sweetest sounds can win thy ear,
These sounds I'll strive to catch;
Thy voice I'll steal to woo thysell,
That voice that nane can match.
Then tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I'll take,
Tho' ne'er another trow me.
But if fond love thy heart can gain,
I never broke a vow;
Nae maiden lays her skaith to me,
I never loved but you.
For you alone I ride the ring,
For you I wear the blue;
For you alone I strive to sing,
O tell me how to woo.
O tell me how to woo thee, love;
O tell me how to woo thee!
For thy dear sake, nae care I'll take,
Tho' ne'er another trow me.

[Pg 108]


This little lyric piece, with those which immediately follow in the collection, relates to the fatal battle of Flodden, in which the flower of the Scottish nobility fell around their sovereign, James IV.

The ancient and received tradition of the burgh of Selkirk affirms, that the citizens of that town distinguished themselves by their gallantry on that disastrous occasion. Eighty in number, and headed by their town-clerk, they joined their monarch on his entrance into England. James, pleased with the appearance of this gallant troop, knighted their leader, William Brydone, upon the field of battle, from which few of the men of Selkirk were destined to return. They distinguished themselves in the conflict, and were almost all slain. The few survivors, on their return home, found, by the side of Lady-Wood Edge, the corpse of a female, wife to one of their fallen comrades, with a child sucking at her breast. In memory of this latter event, continues the tradition, the present arms of the[Pg 109] burgh bear, a female, holding a child in her arms, and seated on a sarcophagus, decorated with the Scottish lion; in the back-ground a wood.

A learned antiquary, whose judgment and accuracy claim respect, has made some observations upon the probability of this tradition, which the editor shall take the liberty of quoting, as an introduction to what he has to offer upon the same subject. And, if he shall have the misfortune to differ from the learned gentleman, he will at least lay candidly before the public the grounds of his opinion.

"That the souters of Selkirk should, in 1513, amount to fourscore fighting men, is a circumstance utterly incredible. It is scarcely to be supposed, that all the shoemakers in Scotland could have produced such an army, at a period when shoes must have been still less worn than they are at present. Dr Johnson, indeed, was told at Aberdeen, that the people learned the art of making shoes from Cromwell's soldiers.—'The numbers,' he adds, 'that go barefoot, are still sufficient to show that shoes may be spared: they are not yet considered as necessaries of life; for tall boys, not otherwise meanly dressed, run without them in the streets; and, in the islands, the sons of gentlemen pass several of their first years with naked feet.'—(Journey to the Western Islands, p. 55.) Away, then, with the fable of the souters of Selkirk. Mr Tytler, though he mentions it as the subject of a song, or ballad, 'does not remem[Pg 110]ber ever to have seen the original genuine words,'—as he obligingly acknowledged in a letter to the editor. Mr Robertson, however, who gives the statistical account of the parish of Selkirk, seems to know something more of the matter—'Some,' says he, 'have very falsely attributed to this event (the battle of Flowden), that song,

'Up wi' the souters of Selkirk,
'And down with the Earl of Hume.'

"There was no Earl of Hume,' he adds, 'at that time, nor was this song composed till long after. It arose from a bet betwixt the Philiphaugh and Hume families; the souters (or shoemakers) of Selkirk, against the men of Hume, at a match of foot-ball, in which the souters of Selkirk completely gained, and afterwards perpetuated their victory in that song.'—This is decisive; and so much for Scottish tradition."—Note to Historical Essay on Scotish Song, prefixed to Scotish Songs in 2 vols. 1794.

It is proper to remark, that the passage of Mr Robertson's statistical account, above quoted, does not relate to the authenticity of the tradition, but to the origin of the song, which is obviously a separate and distinct question. The entire passage in the statistical account (of which a part only is quoted in the essay) runs thus:

"Here, too, the inhabitants of the town of Selkirk, who breathed the manly spirit of real freedom, justly merit particular attention. Of one hundred citizens, who fol[Pg 111]lowed the fortunes of James IV. on the plains of Flowden, a few returned, loaded with the spoils taken from the enemy. Some of these trophies still survive the rust of time, and the effects of negligence. The desperate valour of the citizens of Selkirk, which, on that fatal day, was eminently conspicuous to both armies, produced very opposite effects. The implacable resentment of the English reduced their defenceless town to ashes; while their grateful sovereign (James V.) showed his sense of their valour, by a grant of an extensive portion of the forest, the trees for building their houses, and the property as the reward of their heroism."—A note is added by Mr Robertson.—"A standard, the appearance of which bespeaks its antiquity, is still carried annually (on the day of riding their common) by the corporation of weavers, by a member of which it was taken from the English in the field of Flowden. It may be added, that the sword of William Brydone, the town clerk, who led the citizens to the battle (and who is said to have been knighted for his valour), is still in the possession of John Brydon, a citizen of Selkirk, his lineal descendant."—An additional note contains the passage quoted in the Essay on Scotish Song.

If the testimony of Mr Robertson is to be received as decisive of the question, the learned author of the essay will surely admit, upon re-perusal, that the passage in the statistical account contains the most positive and unequivocal declaration of his belief in the tradition.

[Pg 112]

Neither does the story itself, upon close examination, contain any thing inconsistent with probability. The towns upon the border, and especially Selkirk and Jedburgh, were inhabited by a race of citizens, who, from the necessity of their situation, and from the nature of their possessions (held by burgage tenure), were inured to the use of arms. Selkirk was a county town, and a royal burgh; and when the array of the kingdom, amounting to no less than one hundred thousand warriors, was marshalled by the royal command, eighty men seems no unreasonable proportion from a place of consequence, lying so very near the scene of action.

Neither is it necessary to suppose, literally, that the men of Selkirk were all souters. This appellation was obviously bestowed on them, because it was the trade most generally practised in the town, and therefore passed into a general epithet. Even the existence of such a craft, however, is accounted improbable by the learned essayist, who seems hardly to allow, that the Scottish nation was, at that period, acquainted with the art "of accommodating their feet with shoes." And here he attacks us with our own weapons, and wields the tradition of Aberdeen against that of Selkirk. We shall not stop to enquire, in what respect Cromwell's regiment of missionary cobblers deserves, in point of probability, to take precedence of the souters of Selkirk. But, allowing that all the shoemakers in England, with Praise-the-Lord Barebones at their head, had generously combined to instruct the men of Aber[Pg 113]deen in the arts of psalmody and cobbling, it by no means bears upon the present question. If instruction was at all necessary, it must have been in teaching the natives how to make shoes, properly so called, in opposition to brogues: For there were cordiners in Aberdeen long before Cromwell's visit, and several fell in the battle of the bridge of Dee, as appears from Spalding's History of the Troubles in Scotland, Vol. II. p. 140. Now, the "single-soaled shoon," made by the souters of Selkirk, were a sort of brogues, with a single thin soal; the purchaser himself performing the further operation of sewing on another of thick leather. The rude and imperfect state of this manufacture sufficiently evinces the antiquity of the craft. Thus, the profession of the citizens of Selkirk, instead of invalidating, confirms the traditional account of their valour.

The total devastation of this unfortunate burgh, after the fatal battle of Flodden, is ascertained by the charters under which the corporation hold their privileges. The first of these is granted by James V., and is dated 4th March, 1535-6. The narrative, or inductive clause of the deed, is in these words: "Sciatis quia nos considerantes et intelligentes quod Carte Evidencie et litere veteris fundacionis et infeofamenti burgi nostri de Selkirk et libertatum ejusdem burgensibus et communitati ipsius per nobilissimos progenitores nostros quorum animabus propicietur Deus dat. et concess. per guerrarum assultus pestem combustionem et alias pro majore parte vastantur et distruuntur unde mercantiarum usus inter ipsos burgenses cessavit in eorum magnam[Pg 114] lesionem ac reipublice et libertatis Burgi nostri antedict. destruccionem et prejudicium ac ingens nobis dampnum penes nostras Custumas et firmas burgales et eodem nobis debit. si subitumin eisdem remedium minime habitum fuerit NOS igitur pietati et justicia moti ac pro policia et edificiis infra regnum nostrum habend. de novo infeodamus," &c. The charter proceeds, in common form, to erect anew the town of Selkirk into a royal burgh, with all the privileges annexed to such corporations. This mark of royal favour was confirmed by a second charter, executed by the same monarch, after he had attained the age of majority, and dated April 8, 1538. This deed of confirmation first narrates the charter, which has been already quoted, and then proceeds to mention other grants, which had been conferred upon the burgh, during the minority of James V., and which are thus expressed: "We for the gude trew and thankful service done and to be done to ws be owre lovittis the baillies burgesses and communite of our burgh of Selkirk and for certaine otheris reasonable causis and considerationis moving ws be the tennor hereof grantis and gevis license to thame and thair successors to ryfe out breke and teil yeirlie ane thousand[23] acres of thair common landis of our said burgh in what part thairof [Pg 115]thea pleas for polecy strengthing and bigging of the samyn for the wele of ws and of liegis repairand thairto and defence againis owre auld innemyis of Ingland and other wayis and will and grantis that thai sall nocht be callit accusit nor incur ony danger or skaith thairthrow in thair personis landis nor gudis in ony wise in time cuming Nochtwithstanding ony owre actis or statutis maid or to be maid in the contrar in ony panys contenit tharein anent the quhilkis we dispens with thame be thir owre letters with power to them to occupy the saidis landis with thare awne gudis or to set theme to tenentis as thai sall think maist expedient for the wele of our said burgh with frei ische and entri and with all and sindry utheris commoditeis freedomes asiamentis and richtuis pertinentis whatsumever pertenyng or that rychtuisly may pertene thairto perpetually in tyme cuming frelie quietlie wele and in peace but ony revocatioun or agane calling whatsumever Gevin under owre signet and subscrivit with owre hand at Striveling the twenty day of Junii The yere of God ane thousand five hundreth and thretty six yeris and of our regne the twenti thre yere." Here follows another grant: "We Understanding that owre burgh of Selkirk and inhabitants thairof continualie sen the field of Flodoune[Pg 116] hes been oppressiit heriit and owre runin be theves and traitors whairthrow the hant of merchandice has cessit amangis thame of langtyme bygane and thai heriit thairthrow and we defraudit of owre custumis and dewites Thairfor and for divers utheris resonable causis and considerationes moving us be the tenor heirof of our kinglie power fre motive and autorite ryall grantis and gevis to thame and thair successors ane fair day begynand at the feist of the Conception of owre Lady next to cum aftere the day of the date hereof and be the octavis of the sammyn perpetualy in time cuming To be usit and exercit be thame als frelie in time cuming as ony uther fair is usit or exercit be ony otheris owre burrowis within our realme payand yeirlie custumis and doweities aucht and wont as effeiris frelie quietlie wele and in pece but ony revocation obstakill impediment or agane calling whatsumever subscrivet with owre hand and gevin under owre Signet at Kirkcaldy the secund day of September The yere of God ane thousand five huudreth and threty sex yeris and of our regne the twenty three yeir." The charter of confirmation, in which all these deeds and letters of donation are engrossed, proceeds to ratify and confirm them in the most ample manner. The testing clause, as it is termed in law language, is in these words: "In cujus rei Testimonium huic presente carte nostre confirmationis magnum sigillum nostrum apponi precepimus Testibus Reverendissimo reverendisque in Christo Patribus Gawino Archiepisco Glasguen.[Pg 117] Cancellario nostro Georgio Episcopo Dunkelden. Henrico Episcopo Candide Case nostreque Capelle regie Strivilengen. dilectis nostris consanguineis Jacobo Moravie Comite &c. Archibaldo Comite de Ergile Domino Campbell et Lorne Magistro Hospicii nostri Hugone Comite de Eglinton Domino Montgomery Malcolmo Domino Flemyng magno Camerario nostro Venerabilibus in Christo Patribus Patricio Priore Ecclesie Metropolitane Sanctiandree Alexandro Abbate Monasterii nostri de Cambuskynneth dilectis familiaribus nostris Thoma Erskin de Brechin Secretario nostro Jocobo Colville de Estwemis compotorum nostrorum rotulatore et nostre cancellarie directore militibus et Magistro Jacobo Foulis de Colintoun nostrorum rotulorum Registri et Concilii clerico apud Edinburgh octavo die mensis Aprilis Anno Domini millesimo quingentesimo trigesimo octavo et regni nostri vicesimo quinto."

From these extracts, which are accurately copied from the original charters,[24] it may be safely concluded, 1st, that Selkirk was a place of importance before it was ruined by the English; and, 2d, "that the voice of merchants had ceased in her streets," in consequence of the fatal field of Flodden. But further, it seems reasonable to infer, that so many marks of royal favour, granted within so short a time of each other, evince the gratitude, as well as the compassion, of the monarch, and were intended to reward the valour, as well as to relieve the distress, of the men of Selkirk. Thus, every circumstance of the written [Pg 118]evidence, as far as it goes, tallies with the oral tradition of the inhabitants; and, therefore, though the latter may be exaggerated, it surely cannot be dismissed as entirely void of foundation. That William Brydone actually enjoyed the honour of knighthood, is ascertained by many of the deeds, in which his name appears as a notary public. John Brydone, lineal descendant of the gallant town-clerk, is still alive, and possessed of the reliques mentioned by Mr Robertson. The old man, though in an inferior station of life, receives considerable attention from his fellow-citizens, and claims no small merit to himself on account of his brave ancestor.

Thus far concerning the tradition of the exploits of the men of Selkirk, at Flodden field. Whether the following verses do, or do not, bear any allusion to that event, is a separate and less interesting question. The opinion of Mr Robertson, referring them to a different origin, has been already mentioned; but his authority, though highly respectable, is not absolutely decisive of the question.

The late Mr Plummer, sheriff-depute of the county of Selkirk, a faithful and accurate antiquary, entertained a very opposite opinion. He has thus expressed himself, upon the subject, in the course of his literary correspondence with Mr Herd:

"Of the Souters of Selkirk, I never heard any words but the following verse:

[Pg 119]

'Up with the Sutors of Selkirk,
'And down wi' the Earl of Home;
'And up wi' a' the bra' lads
'That sew the single-soled shoon.'

"It is evident, that these words cannot be so ancient as to come near the time when the battle was fought; as Lord Home was not created an earl till near a century after that period.

"Our clergyman, in the "Statistical Account," Vol. II. p. 48, note, says, that these words were composed upon a match at foot-ball, between the Philiphaugh and Home families. I was five years at school at Selkirk, have lived all my days within two miles of that town, and never once heard a tradition of this imaginary contest till I saw it in print.

"Although the words are not very ancient, there is every reason to believe, that they allude to the battle of Flodden, and to the different behaviour of the souters, and Lord Home, upon that occasion. At election dinners, &c. when the Selkirk folks begin to get fou', (merry) they always call for music, and for that tune in particular.[25] At such times I never heard a souter hint at the foot-ball, but many times speak of the battle of "Flodden."—Letter from Mr Plummer to Mr Herd, 13th January, 1793.

[Pg 120]

The editor has taken every opportunity, which his situation[26] has afforded him, to obtain information on this point, and has been enabled to recover two additional verses of the song.

The yellow and green, mentioned in the second verse, are the liveries of the house of Home. When the Lord Home came to attend the governor, Albany, his attendants were arrayed in Kendal-green.—Godscroft.

[Pg 121]


Up wi' the Souters of Selkirk,
And down wi' the Earl of Home;
And up wi' a' the braw lads,
That sew the single-soled shoon.
Fye upon yellow and yellow,
And fye upon yellow and green;
But up with the true blue and scarlet,
And up wi' the single-soled sheen.
Up wi' the Souters of Selkirk,
For they are baith trusty and leal;
And up wi' the men of the Forest,[27]
And down with the Merse[28] to the deil.
[Pg 122]


It is unnecessary here to enter into a formal refutation of the popular calumny, which taxed Lord Home with being the murderer of his sovereign, and the cause of the defeat at Flodden. So far from exhibiting any marks of cowardice or disaffection, the division, headed by that unfortunate nobleman, was the only part of the Scottish army which was conducted with common prudence on that fatal day. This body formed the vanguard, and entirely routed the division of Sir Edmund Howard, to which they were opposed; but the reserve of the English cavalry rendered it impossible for Home, notwithstanding his success, to come to the aid of the king, who was irretrievably ruined by his own impetuosity of temper.—Pinkerton's History, Vol II. p. 105. The escape of James from the field of battle, has been long deservedly ranked with that of King Sebastian, and similar speciosa miracula with which the vulgar have been amused in all ages. Indeed, the Scottish nation were so very unwilling to admit any advantage on the English part, that they seem actually to have set up pretensions to the victory.[29] The same temper of mind led them eagerly to ascribe the loss of their monarch, and his army, to any caus[Pg 123]e, rather than to his own misconduct, and the superior military skill of the English. There can be no doubt, that James actually fell on the field of battle, the slaughter-place of his nobles.—Pinkerton, ibid. His dead body was interred in the monastery of Sheen, in Surrey; and Stowe mentions, with regard to it, the following degrading circumstances.

"After the battle, the bodie of the said king, being found, was closed in lead, and conveyed from thence to London, and to the monasterie of Sheyne, in Surry, where it remained for a time, in what order I am not certaine; but, since the dissolution of that house, in the reigne of Edward VI., Henry Gray, Duke of Norfolke, being lodged, and keeping house there, I have been shewed the same bodie, so lapped in lead, close to the head and bodie, throwne into a waste room, amongst the old timber, lead, and other rubble. Since the which time, workmen there, for their foolish pleasure, hewed off his head; and Lancelot Young, master glazier to Queen Elizabeth, feeling a sweet savour to come from thence, and seeing the same dried from all moisture, and yet the form remaining, with haire of the head, and beard red, brought it to London, to his house in Wood-street, where, for a time, he kept it, for its sweetness, but, in the end, [Pg 124]caused the sexton of that church (St Michael's, Wood-street) to bury it amongst other bones taken out of their charnell."—Stowe's Survey of London, p. 539.


[23] It is probable that Mr Robertson had not seen this deed, when he wrote his statistical account of the parish of Selkirk; for it appears, that, instead of a grant of lands, the privilege granted to the community was a right of tilling one thousand acres of those which already belonged to the burgh. Hence it follows, that, previous to the field of Flodden, the town must have been possessed of a spacious domain, to which a thousand acres in tillage might bear a due proportion. This circumstance ascertains the antiquity and power of the burgh; for, had this large tract of land been granted during the minority of James V., the donation, to be effectual, must have been included in the charters of confirmation.

[24] The charters are preserved in the records of the burgh.

[25] A singular custom is observed at conferring the freedom of the burgh. Four or five bristles, such as are used by shoemakers, are attached to the seal of the burgess ticket. These the new-made burgess must dip in his wine, and pass through his mouth, in token of respect for the souters of Selkirk. This ceremony is on no account dispensed with.

[26] That the editor succeeded Mr Plummer in his office of sheriff-depute, and has himself the honour to be a souter of Selkirk, may perhaps form the best apology for the length of this dissertation.

[27] Selkirkshire, otherwise called Ettrick Forest.

[28] Berwickshire, otherwise called the Merse.


"Against the proud Scottes' clattering,
That never wyll leave their tratlying;
Wan they the field and lost theyr kinge?
They may well say, fie on that winning!
Lo these fond sottes and tratlying Scottes,
How they are blinde in theyr own minde,
And will not know theyr overthrow.
At Branxton moore they are so stowre,
So frantike mad, they say they had,
And wan the field with speare and shielde:
That is as true as black is blue, &c.

Skelton Laureate against the Scottes.

[Pg 125]


The following well known, and beautiful stanzas, were composed many years ago, by a lady of family, in Roxburghshire. The manner of the ancient minstrels is so happily imitated, that it required the most positive evidence to convince the editor that the song was of modern date. Such evidence, however, he has been able to procure; having been favoured, through the kind intervention of Dr Somerville (well known to the literary world, as the historian of King William, &c.), with the following authentic copy of the Flowers of the Forest.

From the same respectable authority, the editor is enabled to state, that the tune of the ballad is ancient, as well as the two following lines of the first stanza:

I've heard them lilting at the ewes milking,
The flowers of the forest are a' wede away.

Some years after the song was composed, a lady, who is now dead, repeated to the author another imperfect line of[Pg 126] the original ballad, which presents a simple and affecting image to the mind:

"I ride single on my saddle,
"For the flowers of the forest are a' wede away."

The first of these trifling fragments, joined to the remembrance of the fatal battle of Flodden (in the calamities accompanying which, the inhabitants of Ettrick Forest suffered a distinguished share), and to the present solitary and desolate appearance of the country, excited, in the mind of the author, the ideas, which she has expressed in a strain of elegiac simplicity and tenderness, which has seldom been equalled.

[Pg 127]


I've heard them lilting, at the ewe milking,
Lasses a' lilting, before dawn of day;
But now they are moaning, on ilka green loaning;
The flowers of the forest are a' wede awae.
At bughts, in the morning, nae blithe lads are scorning;
Lasses are lonely, and dowie, and wae;
Nae daffing, nae gabbing, but sighing and sabbing;
Ilk ane lifts her leglin, and hies her awae.
In har'st, at the shearing, nae youths now are jearing;
Bandsters are runkled, and lyart or gray;
At fair, or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching;
The flowers of the forest are a' wede awae.
At e'en, in the gloaming, nae younkers are roaming
'Bout stacks, with the lasses at bogle to play;
But ilk maid sits dreary, lamenting her deary—
The flowers of the forest are weded awae.
[Pg 128]
Dool and wae for the order, sent our lads to the border!
The English, for ance, by guile wan the day;
The flowers of the forest, that fought aye the foremost,
The prime of our land, are cauld in the clay.
We'll hear nae mair lilting, at the ewe milking;
Women and bairns are heartless and wae:
Sighing and moaning, on ilka green loaning—
The flowers of the forest are a' wede awae.

The following explanation of provincial terms may be found useful.

Lilting—Singing cheerfully. Loaning—A broad lane. Wede awae—Weeded out. Scorning—Rallying. Dowie—Dreary. Daffing and gabbing—Joking and chatting. Leglin—Milk-pail. Har'st—Harvest. Shearing—Reaping. Bandsters—Sheaf-binders. Runkled—Wrinkled. Lyart—Inclining to grey. Fleeching—Coaxing. Gloaming—Twilight.

[Pg 129]


At fair, or at preaching, &c.—P. 127. v. 3.

These lines have been said to contain an anachronism; the supposed date of the lamentation being about the period of the field of Flodden. The editor can see no ground for this charge. Fairs were held in Scotland from the most remote antiquity; and are, from their very nature, scenes of pleasure and gallantry. The preachings of the friars were, indeed, professedly, meetings for a graver purpose; but we have the authority of the Wife of Bath (surely most unquestionable in such a point), that they were frequently perverted to places of rendezvous:

I had the better leisur for to pleie,
And for to see, and eke for to be seie
Of lusty folk. What wist I where my grace
Was shapen for to be, or in what place?
Therefore I made my visitations
To vigilies and to processions:
To preachings eke, and to thise pilgrimages,
To plays of miracles, and marriages, &c.

Canterbury Tales.

[Pg 130]


The following verses, adapted to the ancient air of the Flowers of the Forest, are, like the elegy which precedes them, the production of a lady. The late Mrs Cockburn, daughter of Rutherford of Fairnalie, in Selkirkshire, and relict of Mr Cockburn of Ormiston (whose father was lord justice-clerk of Scotland), was the authoress. Mrs Cockburn has been dead but a few years. Even at an age, advanced beyond the usual bounds of humanity, she retained a play of imagination, and an activity of intellect, which must have been attractive and delightful in youth, but was almost preternatural at her period of life. Her active benevolence, keeping pace with her genius, rendered her equally an object of love and admiration. The editor, who knew her well, takes this opportunity of doing justice to his own feelings; and they are in unison with those of all who knew his regretted friend.

The verses, which follow, were written at an early period[Pg 131] of life, and without peculiar relation to any event, unless it were the depopulation of Ettrick Forest.

[Pg 132]


I've seen the smiling of fortune beguiling,
I've tasted her favours, and felt her decay;
Sweet is her blessing, and kind her caressing,
But soon it is fled—it is fled far away.
I've seen the forest adorned of the foremost,
With flowers of the fairest, both pleasant and gay:
Full sweet was their blooming, their scent the air perfuming,
But now they are wither'd, and a' wede awae.
I've seen the morning, with gold the hills adorning,
And the red storm roaring, before the parting day;
I've seen Tweed's silver streams, glittering in the sunny beams,
Turn drumly[30] and dark, as they rolled on their way.
O fickle fortune! why this cruel sporting?
Why thus perplex us poor sons of a day?
Thy frowns cannot fear me, thy smiles cannot cheer me,
Since the flowers of the forest are a' wede awae.
[Pg 133]


[30] Drumly—Discoloured.

[Pg 134]


This Ballad is a fragment from Mr Herd's MS., communicated to him by J. Grossett Muirhead, at Breadesholm, near Glasgow; who stated, that he extracted it, as relating to his own Family, from the complete Song, in which the names of twenty or thirty gentlemen were mentioned, contained in a large Collection, belonging to Mr Alexander Monro, merchant in Lisbon, supposed now to be lost.

It appears, from the Appendix to Nesbit's Heraldry, p. 264, that Muirhead of Lachop and Bullis, the person here called the Laird of Muirhead, was a man of rank, being rentaller, or perhaps feuar, of many crown lands in Galloway; and was, in truth, slain "in Campo Belli de Northumberland sub vexillo Regis," i.e. in the Field of Flodden.

Afore the king in order stude
The stout laird of Muirhead,
Wi' that sam twa-hand muckle sword
That Bartram felled stark deid.
He sware he wadna lose his right
To fight in ilka field;
Nor budge him from his liege's sight,
Till his last gasp should yield.
[Pg 135]
Twa hunder mair, of his ain name,
Frae Torwood and the Clyde,
Sware they would never gang to hame,
But a' die by his syde.
And wond'rous weil they kept their troth;
This sturdy royal band
Rush'd down the brae, wi' sic a pith,
That nane cou'd them withstand.
Mony a bludey blow they delt,
The like was never seen;
And hadna that braw leader fallen,
They ne'er had slain the king.

[Pg 136]



Green Flodden! on thy blood-stained head
Descend no rain nor vernal dew;
But still, thou charnel of the dead,
May whitening bones thy surface strew!
Soon as I tread thy rush-clad vale,
Wild fancy feels the clasping mail;
The rancour of a thousand years
Glows in my breast; again I burn
To see the bannered pomp of war return,
And mark, beneath the moon, the silver light of spears.
Lo! bursting from their common tomb,
The spirits of the ancient dead
[Pg 137] Dimly streak the parted gloom,
With awful faces, ghastly red;
As once, around their martial king,
They closed the death-devoted ring,
With dauntless hearts, unknown to yield;
In slow procession round the pile
Of heaving corses, moves each shadowy file,
And chaunts, in solemn strain, the dirge of Flodden field.
What youth, of graceful form and mien,
Foremost leads the spectred brave,
While o'er his mantle's folds of green
His amber locks redundant wave?
When slow returns the fated day,
That viewed their chieftain's long array,
Wild to the harp's deep, plaintive string,
The virgins raise the funeral strain,
From Ord's black mountain to the northern main,
And mourn the emerald hue which paints the vest of spring.
Alas! that Scottish maid should sing
The combat where her lover fell!
[Pg 138] That Scottish bard should wake the string,
The triumph of our foes to tell!
Yet Teviot's sons, with high disdain,
Have kindled at the thrilling strain
That mourned their martial fathers' bier;
And, at the sacred font, the priest,
Through ages left the master-hand unblest,
To urge, with keener aim, the blood-encrusted spear.
Red Flodden! when thy plaintive strain,
In early youth, rose soft and sweet,
My life-blood, through each throbbing vein,
With wild tumultuous passion beat.
And oft, in fancied might, I trod
The spear-strewn path to Fame's abode,
Encircled with a sanguine flood;
And thought I heard the mingling hum,
When, croaking hoarse, the birds of carrion come
Afar, on rustling wing, to feast on English blood.
Rude border chiefs, of mighty name,
[Pg 139] And iron soul; who sternly tore
The blossoms from the tree of fame,
And purpled deep their tints with gore,
Rush from brown ruins, scarred with age,
That frown o'er haunted Hermitage;
Where, long by spells mysterious bound,
They pace their round, with lifeless smile,
And shake, with restless foot, the guilty pile,
Till sink the mouldering towers beneath the burdened ground.
Shades of the dead! on Alfer's plain,
Who scorned with backward step to move,
But, struggling mid the hills of slain,
Against the sacred standard strove;
Amid the lanes of war I trace
Each broad claymore and ponderous mace:
Where'er the surge of arms is tost,
Your glittering spears, in close array,
Sweep, like the spider's filmy web, away
The flower of Norman pride, and England's victor host.
But distant fleets each warrior ghost,
With surly sounds, that murmur far;
[Pg 140] Such sounds were heard when Syria's host
Roll'd from the walls of proud Samàr
Around my solitary head
Gleam the blue lightnings of the dead,
While murmur low the shadowy band—
"Lament no more the warrior's doom!
Blood, blood alone, should dew the hero's tomb,
Who falls, 'mid circling spears, to save his native land."
[Pg 141]


And mourn the emerald hue which paints the vest of spring.—P. 137. v. 2.

Under the vigorous administration of James IV. the young Earl of Caithness incurred the penalty of outlawry and forfeiture, for revenging an ancient feud. On the evening preceding the battle of Flodden, accompanied by 300 young warriors, arrayed in green, he presented himself before the king, and submitted to his mercy. This mark of attachment was so agreeable to that warlike prince, that he granted an immunity to the Earl and all his followers. The parchment, on which this immunity was inscribed, is said to be still preserved in the archives of the earls of Caithness, and is marked with the drum-strings, having been cut out of a drum-head, as no other parchment could be found in the army. The Earl, and his gallant band, perished to a man in the battle of Flodden; since which period, it has been reckoned unlucky in Caithness to wear green, or cross the Ord on a Monday, the day of the week on which the chieftain advanced into Sutherland.

[Pg 142]

Through ages left the master-hand unblest, &c.—P. 138. v. 1.

In the border counties of Scotland, it was formerly customary, when any rancorous enmity subsisted between two clans, to leave the right hand of male children unchristened, that it might deal the more deadly, or, according to the popular phrase, "unhallowed" blows, to their enemies. By this superstitious rite, they were devoted to bear the family feud, or enmity. The same practice subsisted in Ireland, as appears from the following passage in Campion's History of Ireland, published in 1633. "In some corners of the land they used a damnable superstition, leaving the right armes of their infants, males, unchristened (as they termed it), to the end it might give a more ungracious and deadly blow." P. 15.

Till sink the mouldering towers beneath the burdened ground.—P. 139. v. 1.

Popular superstition in Scotland still retains so formidable an idea of the guilt of blood, that those ancient edifices, or castles, where enormous crimes have been committed, are supposed to sink gradually into the ground. With regard to the castle of Hermitage, in particular, the common people believe, that thirty feet of the walls sunk, thirty feet fell, and thirty feet remain standing.

Against the sacred standard strove, &c.—P. 139. v. 2.

The fatal battle of the standard was fought on Cowton Moor, near Northallerton (A.S. Ealfertun), in Yorkshire, 1138. David I. commanded the Scottish army. He was opposed by Thurston, archbishop of York, who, to animate his followers, had recourse to the impressions of religious enthusiasm. The mast of a ship was fitted into the perch of a four-wheeled carriage; on its top was placed a little casket, containing a consecrated host. It also contained the banner of St Cuthbert, round which were displayed those of St Peter of York, St John of Beverly, and St Wilfred of Rippon. This was the English standard, and was stationed in the centre of the army. Prince Henry, son of David, at the head of the men of arms,[Pg 143] chiefly from Cumberland and Teviotdale, charged, broke, and completely dispersed, the centre; but unfortunately was not supported by the other divisions of the Scottish army. The expression of Aldred (p. 345), describing this encounter, is more spirited than the general tenor of monkish historians;—"Ipsa globi australis parte, instar cassis araneæ dissipata"—that division of the phalanx was dispersed like a cobweb.

[Pg 144]
[Pg 145]



[Pg 146]
[Pg 147]


In the reign of Charles I., when the moss-trooping practices were not entirely discontinued, the tower of Gilnockie, in the parish of Cannoby, was occupied by William Armstrong, called, for distinction's sake, Christie's Will, a lineal descendant of the famous John Armstrong, of Gilnockie, executed by James V.[31] The hereditary love of plunder had descended to this person with the family mansion; and, upon some marauding party, he was seized, and imprisoned in the tolbooth of Jedburgh. The Earl of Traquair, lord high treasurer, happening to visit Jedburgh, and knowing Christie's Will, enquired the cause of his confinement. Will replied, he was imprisoned for stealing two tethers (halters); but, upon being more closely interrogated, acknowledged, there were two delicate colts at the end of them. The joke, such as it was, amused the Earl, who exerted his interest, and succeeded in releasing Christie's Will from bondage. Some time afterwards, a law-suit, of importance to Lord Traquair, was to be decided [Pg 148]in the Court of Session; and there was every reason to believe, that the judgment would turn upon the voice of the presiding judge, who has a casting vote, in case of an equal division among his brethren. The opinion of the president was unfavourable to Lord Traquair; and the point was, therefore, to keep him out of the way, when the question should be tried. In this dilemma, the Earl had recourse to Christie's Will; who, at once, offered his service, to kidnap the president. Upon due scrutiny, he found it was the judge's practice frequently to take the air, on horseback, on the sands of Leith, without an attendant. In one of these excursions, Christie's Will, who had long watched his opportunity, ventured to accost the president, and engage him in conversation. His address and language were so amusing, that he decoyed the president into an unfrequented and furzy common, called the Frigate Whins, where, riding suddenly up to him, he pulled him from his horse, muffled him in a large cloak, which he had provided, and rode off, with the luckless judge trussed up behind him. Will crossed the country with great expedition, by paths, only known to persons of his description, and deposited his weary and terrified burden in an old castle, in Annandale, called the Tower of Graham.[32] The judge's horse being found, it was concluded he had thrown his rider into the sea; his friends went into mourning, and a successor was appointed to his office. Meanwhile, the poor president spent a heavy time [Pg 149]in the vault of the castle. He was imprisoned, and solitary; receiving his food through an aperture in the wall, and never hearing the sound of a human voice, save when a shepherd called his dog, by the name of Batty, and when a female domestic called upon Maudge, the cat. These, he concluded, were invocations of spirits; for he held himself to be in the dungeon of a sorcerer. At length, after three months had elapsed, the law-suit was decided in favour of Lord Traquair; and Will was directed to set the president at liberty. Accordingly, he entered the vault, at dead of night, seized the president, muffled him once more in the cloak, without speaking a single word, and, using the same mode of transportation, conveyed him to Leith sands, and set down the astonished judge on the very spot where he had taken him up. The joy of his friends, and the less agreeable surprise of his successor, may be easily conceived, when he appeared in court, to reclaim his office and honours. All embraced his own persuasion, that he had been spirited away by witchcraft; nor could he himself be convinced of the contrary, until, many years afterwards, happening to travel in Annandale, his ears were saluted, once more, with the sounds of Maudge and Batty—the only notes which had solaced his long confinement. This led to a discovery of the whole story; but, in these disorderly times, it was only laughed at, as a fair ruse de guerre.

Wild and strange as this tradition may seem, there is[Pg 150] little doubt of its foundation in fact. The judge, upon whose person this extraordinary stratagem was practised, was Sir Alexander Gibson, Lord Durie, collector of the reports, well known in the Scottish law, under the title of Durie's Decisions. He was advanced to the station of an ordinary lord of session, 10th July, 1621, and died, at his own house of Durie, July 1646. Betwixt these periods his whimsical adventure must have happened; a date which corresponds with that of the tradition.

"We may frame," says Forbes, "a rational conjecture of his great learning and parts, not only from his collection of the decisions of the session, from July 1621 till July 1642, but also from the following circumstances: 1. In a tract of more as twenty years, he was frequently chosen vice-president, and no other lord in that time. 2. 'Tis commonly reported, that some party, in a considerable action before the session, finding, that the Lord Durie could not be persuaded to think his plea good, fell upon a stratagem to prevent the influence and weight, which his lordship might have to his prejudice, by causing some strong masked men kidnap him, in the links of Leith, at his diversion on a Saturday afternoon, and transport him to some blind and obscure room in the country, where he was detained captive, without the benefit of day-light, a matter of three months (though otherways civilly and well entertained); during which time his lady and children went in mourning for him, as dead. But, after the cause aforesaid was decided, the Lord Durie was carried back by incognitos, and dropt[Pg 151] in the same place where he had been taken up."—Forbes's Journal of the Session, Edin. 1714. Preface, p. 28.

Tradition ascribes to Christie's Will another memorable feat, which seems worthy of being recorded. It is well known, that, during the troubles of Charles I., the Earl of Traquair continued unalterably fixed in his attachment to his unfortunate master, in whose service he hazarded his person, and impoverished his estate. It was of consequence, it is said, to the king's service, that a certain packet, containing papers of importance, should be transmitted to him from Scotland. But the task was a difficult one, as the parliamentary leaders used their utmost endeavours to prevent any communication betwixt the king and his Scottish friends. Traquair, in this strait, again had recourse to the services of Christie's Will; who undertook the commission, conveyed the papers safely to his majesty, and received an answer, to be delivered to Lord Traquair. But, in the mean time, his embassy had taken air, and Cromwell had dispatched orders to intercept him at Carlisle. Christie's Will, unconscious of his danger, halted in the town to refresh his horse, and then pursued his journey. But, as soon as he began to pass the long, high, and narrow bridge, which crosses the Eden at Carlisle, either end of the pass was occupied by a party of parliamentary soldiers, who were lying in wait for him. The borderer disdained to resign his enterprise, even in these desperate circumstances; and at once forming his resolution, spurred his horse ov[Pg 152]er the parapet. The river was in high flood. Will sunk—the soldiers shouted—he emerged again, and, guiding his horse to a steep bank, called the Stanners, or Stanhouse, endeavoured to land, but ineffectually, owing to his heavy horseman's cloak, now drenched in water. Will cut the loop, and the horse, feeling himself disembarrassed, made a desperate exertion, and succeeded in gaining the bank. Our hero set off, at full speed, pursued by the troopers, who had for a time stood motionless, in astonishment at his temerity. Will, however, was well mounted; and, having got the start, he kept it, menacing, with his pistols, any pursuer, who seemed likely to gain on him—an artifice which succeeded, although the arms were wet and useless. He was chaced to the river Eske, which he swam without hesitation; and, finding himself on Scottish ground, and in the neighbourhood of friends, he turned on the northern bank, and, in the true spirit of a border rider, invited his followers to come through, and drink with him. After this taunt, he proceeded on his journey, and faithfully accomplished his mission. Such were the exploits of the very last border freebooter of any note.

The reader is not to regard the ballad as of genuine and unmixed antiquity, though some stanzas are current upon the border, in a corrupted state. They have been eked and joined together, in the rude and ludicrous manner of the original; but as it is to be considered as a modern [Pg 153]ballad, it is transferred to this department of the work.


[Pg 154]

Traquair has ridden up Chapelhope,
And sae has he down by the Gray Mare's Tail;[33]
He never stinted the light gallop,
Untill he speer'd for Christie's Will.
Now Christie's Will peep'd frae the tower,
And out at the shot-hole keeked he;
"And ever unlucky," quo' he, "is the hour,
"That the warden comes to speer for me!"
"Good Christie's Will, now, have na fear!
"Nae harm, good Will, shall hap to thee:
"I saved thy life at the Jeddart air,
"At the Jeddart air frae the justice tree.
"Bethink how ye sware, by the salt and the bread,[34]
"By the lightning, the wind, and the rain,
"That if ever of Christie's Will I had need,
"He would pay me my service again."
[Pg 155]
"Gramercy, my lord," quo' Christie's Will,
"Gramercy, my lord, for your grace to me!
"When I turn my cheek, and claw my neck,
"I think of Traquair, and the Jeddart tree."
And he has opened the fair tower yate,
To Traquair and a' his companie;
The spule o' the deer on the board he has set,
The fattest that ran on the Hutton Lee.
"Now, wherefore sit ye sad, my lord?
"And wherefore sit ye mournfullie?
"And why eat ye not of the venison I shot,
"At the dead of night, on Hutton Lee?"
"O weel may I stint of feast and sport,
"And in my mind be vexed sair!
"A vote of the canker'd Session Court,
"Of land and living will make me bair.
"But if auld Durie to heaven were flown,
"Or if auld Durie to hell were gane,
"Or ... if he could be but ten days stown....
"My bonny braid lands would still be my ain."
[Pg 156]
"O mony a time, my lord," he said,
"I've stown the horse frae the sleeping loun;
"But for you I'll steal a beast as braid,
"For I'll steal Lord Durie frae Edinburgh town.
"O mony a time, my lord," he said,
"I've stown a kiss frae a sleeping wench;
"But for you I'll do as kittle a deed,
"For I'll steal an auld lurdane aff the bench."
And Christie's Will is to Edinburgh gane;
At the Borough Muir then entered he;
And as he pass'd the gallow-stane,
He cross'd his brow, and he bent his knee.
He lighted at Lord Durie's door,
And there he knocked most manfullie;
And up and spake Lord Durie, sae stoor,
"What tidings, thou stalward groom, to me?"
"The fairest lady in Teviotdale,
"Has sent, maist reverent Sir, for thee;
"She pleas at the session for her land, a' haill,
"And fain she wad plead her cause to thee."
[Pg 157]
"But how can I to that lady ride,
"With saving of my dignitie?"
"O a curch and mantle ye may wear,
"And in my cloak ye sall muffled be."
Wi' curch on head, and cloak ower face,
He mounted the judge on a palfrey fyne;
He rode away, a right round pace,
And Christie's Will held the bridle reyn.
The Lothian Edge they were not o'er,
When they heard bugles bauldly ring,
And, hunting over Middleton Moor,
They met, I ween, our noble king.
When Willie look'd upon our king,
I wot a frightened man was he!
But ever auld Durie was startled more,
For tyning of his dignitie.
The king he cross'd himself, I wis,
When as the pair came riding bye—
"An uglier crone, and a sturdier lown,
"I think, were never seen with eye!"
[Pg 158]
Willie has hied to the tower of Græme,
He took auld Durie on his back,
He shot him down to the dungeon deep,
Which garr'd his auld banes gie mony a crack.
For nineteen days, and nineteen nights,
Of sun, or moon, or midnight stern,
Auld Durie never saw a blink,
The lodging was sae dark and dern.
He thought the warlocks o' the rosy cross
Had fang'd him in their nets sae fast;
Or that the gypsies' glamour'd gang,
Had lair'd[35] his learning at the last.
"Hey! Batty, lad! far yaud! far yaud!"[36]
These were the morning sounds heard he;
And "ever alack!" auld Durie cried,
"The deil is hounding his tykes on me!"
And whiles a voice on Baudrons cried,
With sound uncouth, and sharp, and hie;
"I have tar-barrell'd mony a witch,
[Pg 159] "But now, I think, they'll clear scores wi' me!"
The king has caused a bill be wrote,
And he has set it on the Tron,—
"He that will bring Lord Durie back,
"Shall have five hundred merks and one."
Traquair has written a braid letter,
And he has seal'd it wi' his seal,—
"Ye may let the auld brock[37] out o' the poke;
"The land's my ain, and a's gane weel."
O Will has mounted his bonny black,
And to the tower of Græme did trudge,
And once again, on his sturdy back,
Has he hente up the weary judge.
He brought him to the council stairs,
And there full loudly shouted he,
"Gie me my guerdon, my sovereign liege,
"And take ye back your auld Durie!"
[Pg 160]


He thought the warlocks o' the rosy cross.—P. 158. v. 4.

"As for the rencounter betwixt Mr Williamson, schoolmaster at Cowper (who has wrote a grammar), and the Rosicrucians, I never trusted it, till I heard it from his own son, who is present minister of Kirkaldy. He tells, that a stranger came to Cowper, and called for him: after they had drank a little, and the reckoning came to be paid, he whistled for spirits; one, in the shape of a boy, came, and gave him gold in abundance; no servant was seen riding with him to the town, nor enter with him into the inn. He caused his spirits, against next day, bring him noble Greek wine, from the Pope's cellar, and tell the freshest news then at Rome; then trysted Mr Williamson at London, who met the same man, in a coach, near to London bridge, and who called on him by his name; he marvelled to see any know him there; at last he found it was his Rosicrucian. He pointed to a tavern, and desired Mr Williamson to do him the favour to dine with him at that house; whither he came at twelve o'clock, and found him, and many others of good fashion there, and a most splendid and magnificent table, furnished with all the varieties of delicate meats, where they are all served by spirits. At dinner, they debated upon the excellency of being attended by spirits; and, after dinner, they[Pg 161] proposed to him to assume him into their society, and make him participant of their happy life; but, among the other conditions and qualifications requisite, this was one, that they demanded his abstracting his spirit from all materiality, and renouncing his baptismal engagements. Being amazed at this proposal, he falls a praying; whereat they all disappear, and leave him alone. Then he began to forethink what would become of him, if he were left to pay that vast reckoning; not having as much on him as would defray it. He calls the boy, and asks, what was become of these gentlemen, and what was to pay? He answered, there was nothing to pay, for they had done it, and were gone about their affairs in the city."—Fountainhall's Decisions, Vol. I. p. 15. With great deference to the learned reporter, this story has all the appearance of a joke upon the poor schoolmaster, calculated at once to operate upon his credulity, and upon his fears of being left in pawn for the reckoning.

Or that the gypsies' glamour'd gang, &c.—P. 158. v. 4.

Besides the prophetic powers, ascribed to the gypsies in most European countries, the Scottish peasants believe them possessed of the power of throwing upon by-standers a spell, to fascinate their eyes, and cause them to see the thing that is not. Thus, in the old ballad of Johnie Faa, the elopement of the countess of Cassillis, with a gypsey leader, is imputed to fascination:

As sune as they saw her weel-far'd face,
They cast the glamour ower her.

Saxo Grammaticus mentions a particular sect of Mathematicians, as he is pleased to call them, who "per summam ludificandorum oculorum peritiam, proprios alienosque vultus, variis rerum imaginibus, adumbrare callebant; illicibusque formis veros obscurare conspectus." Merlin, the son of Ambrose, was particularly skilled in this art, and displays it often in the ol[Pg 162]d metrical romance of Arthour and Merlin:

Tho' thai com the kinges neighe
Merlin hef his heued on heighe
And kest on hem enchauntement
That he hem alle allmest blent
That non other sen no might
A gret while y you plight &c.

The jongleurs were also great professors of this mystery, which has in some degree descended, with their name, on the modern jugglers. But durst Breslaw, the Sieur Boaz, or Katterfelto himself, have encountered, in magical slight, the tregetoures of father Chaucer, who

---- within a hall large
Have made come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and down;
Somtime hath semed come a grim leoun,
And somtime flowres spring as in a mede;
Somtime a vine and grapes white and rede,
Somtime a castel al of lime and ston;
And when hem liketh voideth it anon.
Thus seemeth it to every mannes sight.—

Frankeleene's Tale.

And, again, the prodigies exhibited by the clerk of Orleans to Aurelius:—

He shewd him or they went to soupere
Forestes, parkes, ful of wilde dere;
Ther saw he hartes with hir hornes hie,
The gretest that were ever seen with eie:
He saw of hem an hundred slain with houndes,
And some with arwes blede of bitter woundes:
He saw, when voided were the wilde dere,
Thise fauconers upon a fair rivere,
That with hir haukes han the heron slain:
Tho saw he knightes justen on a plain;
And after this he did him swiche plesance,
That he him shewd his lady on a dance,
[Pg 163] On which himselven danced, as him thought:
And whan this maister that this magike wrought,
Saw it was time, he clapt his handes two,
And farewell! all the revel is ago.
And yet remued they never out of the house,
While they saw all thise sights merveillous:
But in his studie ther his bookes be,
They saten still and no wight but this three.


Our modern professors of the magic natural would likewise have been sorely put down by the Jogulours and Enchantours of the Grete Chan; "for they maken to come in the air the sone and the mone, beseminge to every mannes sight; and aftre, they maken the nyght so dirke, that no man may se no thing; and aftre, they maken the day to come agen, fair and plesant, with bright sone to every mannes sight; and than, they bringin in daunces of the fairest damyselles of the world, and richest arrayed; and after, they maken to comen in other damyselles, bringing coupes of gold, fulle of mylke of diverse bestes; and geven drinke to lordes and to ladyes; and than they maken knyghtes to justen in arms fulle lustyly; and they rennen togidre a gret randoun, and they frusschen togidere full fiercely, and they broken her speres so rudely, that the trenchouns flen in sprotis and pieces alle aboute the halle; and than they make to come in hunting for the hert and for the boor, with houndes renning with open mouthe: and many other things they dow of her enchauntements, that it is marveyle for to se."—Sir John Mandeville's Travels, p. 285. I question much, also, if the most artful illuminatus of Germany could have matched the prodigies exhibited by Pacolet and Adramain. "Adonc Adramain leva une cappe par dessus une pillier, et en telle sort, qu'il sembla a ceux qui furent presens, que parmi la place couroit, une riviere fort grande et terrible. Et en icelle riviere sembloit avoir poissons en grand abondance, grands et petits. Et quand ceux de palaís virent l'eau si grande, ils commencer[Pg 164]ent tous a lever leur robes et a crier fort, comme sils eussent eu peur d'estre noye; et Pacolet, qui l'enchantement regarda, commenca a chanter, et fit un sort si subtil en son chant qui sembla a tous ceux de lieu que parmy la riviere couroit un cerf grand et cornu, qui jettoit et abbatoit a terre tout ce que devant lui trouvoit, puis leur fut advis que voyoyent chasseurs et veneurs courir apris le Cerf, avec grande puissance de levriers et des chiens. Lors y eut plusieurs de la compagnie qui saillirent au devant pour le Cerf attraper et cuyder prendre; mais Pacolet fist tost le Cerf sailler. "Bien avez joué," dit Orson, "et bien scavez vostre art user."—L'Histoire des Valentin et Orson, a Rouen, 1631. The receipt, to prevent the operation of these deceptions, was, to use a sprig of four-leaved clover. I remember to have heard (certainly very long ago, for, at the time, I believed the legend), that a gypsey exercised his glamour over a number of people at Haddington, to whom he exhibited a common dung-hill cock, trailing, what appeared to the spectators, a massy oaken trunk. An old man passed with a cart of clover; he stopped, and picked out a four-leaved blade; the eyes of the spectators were opened, and the oaken trunk appeared to be a bulrush.

I have tar-barrell'd mony a witch.—P. 159. v. 1.

Human nature shrinks from the brutal scenes, produced by the belief in witchcraft. Under the idea, that the devil imprinted upon the body of his miserable vassals a mark, which was insensible to pain, persons were employed to run needles into the bodies of the old women who were suspected of witchcraft. In the dawning of common sense upon this subject, a complaint was made before the Privy Council of Scotland, 11th September, 1678, by Catherine Liddell, a poor woman, against the baron-bailie of Preston-Grange, and David Cowan (a professed pricker), for having imprisoned, and most cruelly tortured her. They answered, 1st, She was searched by her own consent, et volenti non fit injuria; 2d, The pricker had learned his trade from Kincaid, a famed pricker; 3d, He never acte[Pg 165]d, but when called upon by magistrates or clergymen, so what he did was auctore prætore; 4th, His trade was lawful; 5th, Perkins, Delrio, and all divines and lawyers, who treat of witchcraft, assert the existence of the marks, or stigmata sagarum; and, 6thly, Were it otherwise, Error communis facit jus.—Answered, 1st, Denies consent; 2d, Nobody can validly consent to their own torture; for, Nemo est dominus membrorum suorum; 3d, The pricker was a common cheat. The last arguments prevailed; and it was found, that inferior judges "might not use any torture, by pricking, or by with-holding them from sleep;" the council reserving all that to themselves, the justices, and those acting by commission from them. But Lord Durie, a lord of session, could have no share in these inflictions.


[31] For his pedigree, the reader may consult the Appendix to the ballad of Johnie Armstrong, Vol. I.

[32] It stands upon the water of Dryfe, not far from Moffat.

[33] Gray Mare's Tail—A cataract above Moffat, so called.

[34] "He took bread and salt by this light, that he would never open his lips." The Honest Whore, act 5, scene 12.

[35] Lair'd—Bogged.

[36] Far yaud. The signal made by a shepherd to his dog, when he is to drive away some sheep at a distance. From Yoden, to go. Ang. Sax.

[37] Brock—Badger.

[Pg 166]




Few personages are so renowned in tradition as Thomas of Erceldoune, known by the appellation of The Rhymer. Uniting, or supposed to unite, in his person, the powers of poetical composition, and of vaticination, his memory, even after the lapse of five hundred years, is regarded with veneration by his countrymen. To give any thing like a certain history of this remarkable man, would be indeed difficult; but the curious may derive some satisfaction from the particulars here brought together.

It is agreed, on all hands, that the residence, and probably the birth-place, of this ancient bard, was Erceldoune, a village situated upon the Leader, two miles above its junction with the Tweed. The ruins of an ancient tower are still pointed out as the Rhymer's castle. The uniform tradition bears, that his sirname was Lermont, or Learmont; and that the appellation of The Rhymer was conferred on him in consequence of his poetical compositions. There remains, nevertheless, some doubt upon this subject. In a charter, which is subjoined at lengt[Pg 167]h,[38] the son of our poet designs himself "Thomas of Ercildoun, son and heir of Thomas Rymour of Ercildoun," which seems to imply, that the father did not bear the hereditary name of Learmont; or, at least, was better known and distinguished by the epithet, which he had acquired by his personal accomplishments. I must, however, remark, that, down to a very late period, the practice of distinguishing the parties, even in formal writings, by the epithets which had been bestowed on them from personal circumstances, instead of the proper sirnames of their families, was common, and indeed necessary, among the border clans. So early as the end of the thirteenth century, when sirnames were hardly introduced in Scotland, this [Pg 168]custom must have been universal. There is, therefore, nothing inconsistent in supposing our poet's name to have been actually Learmont, although, in this charter, he is distinguished by the popular appellation of The Rhymer.

We are better able to ascertain the period at which Thomas of Ercildoune lived, being the latter end of the thirteenth century. I am inclined to place his death a little farther back than Mr Pinkerton, who supposes that he was alive in 1300 (List of Scottish Poets); which is hardly, I think, consistent with the charter already quoted, by which his son, in 1299, for himself and his heirs, conveys to the convent of the Trinity of Soltre, the tenement which he possessed by inheritance (hereditarie) in Ercildoun, with all claim which he, or his predecessors, could pretend thereto. From this we may infer, that the Rhymer was now dead; since we find his son disposing of the family property. Still, however, the argument of the learned historian will remain unimpeached, as to the time of the poet's birth. For if, as we learn from Barbour, his prophecies were held in reputation[39] as early as 1306, when Bruce slew the Red Cummin, the sanctity, and (let me add to Mr Pinkerton's words) the uncertainty of antiquity, must have already involved his character and writings. In a charter of Peter de Haga de Bemersyde, which unfortunately wants a date, the Rhymer, a near neighbour, [Pg 169]and, if we may trust tradition, a friend of the family, appears as a witness.—Cartulary of Melrose.

It cannot be doubted, that Thomas of Ercildoun was a remarkable and important person in his own time, since, very shortly after his death, we find him celebrated as a prophet, and as a poet. Whether he himself made any pretensions to the first of these characters, or whether it was gratuitously conferred upon him by the credulity of posterity, it seems difficult to decide. If we may believe Mackenzie, Learmont only versified the prophecies delivered by Eliza, an inspired nun, of a convent at Haddington. But of this there seems not to be the most distant proof. On the contrary, all ancient authors, who quote the Rhymer's prophecies, uniformly suppose them to have been emitted by himself. Thus, in Wintown's Chronicle,

Of this fycht quilum spak Thomas
Of Ersyldoune, that sayd in Derne,
Thare suld meit stalwartly, starke and sterne.
He sayd it in his prophecy;
But how he wist it was ferly.

Book VIII. chap. 32.

There could have been no ferly (marvel) in Wintown's eyes, at least, how Thomas came by his knowledge of future events, had he ever heard of the inspired nun of Haddington; which, it cannot be doubted, would have been a solution of the mystery, much to the taste of the prior of Lochleven.[40]

Whatever doubts, however, the learned might have, as[Pg 170] to the source of the Rhymer's prophetic skill, the vulgar had no hesitation to ascribe the whole to the intercourse between the bard and the queen of Faëry. The popular tale bears, that Thomas was carried off, at an early age, to the Fairy Land, where he acquired all the knowledge, which made him afterwards so famous. After seven years residence, he was permitted to return to the earth, to enlighten and astonish his countrymen by his prophetic powers; still, however, remaining bound to return to his royal mistress, when she should intimate her pleasure.[41] Accordingly, while Thomas was making merry with his friends, in the tower of Ercildoun, a person came running in, and told, with marks of fear and astonishment, that a hart and hind had left the neighbouring forest, and were, composedly and slowly, parading the street of the village.[42] The prophet instantly arose, left his habitation, and followed the wonderful animals to the forest, whence he was never seen to return. According to the popular [Pg 171]belief, he still "drees his weird" in Fairy Land, and is one day expected to revisit earth. In the meanwhile, his memory is held in the most profound respect. The Eildon Tree, from beneath the shade of which he delivered his prophecies, now no longer exists; but the spot is marked by a large stone, called Eildon Tree Stone. A neighbouring rivulet takes the name of the Bogle Burn (Goblin Brook) from the Rhymer's supernatural visitants. The veneration paid to his dwelling place, even attached itself in some degree to a person, who, within the memory of man, chose to set up his residence in the ruins of Learmont's tower. The name of this man was Murray, a kind of herbalist; who, by dint of some knowledge in simples, the possession of a musical clock, an electrical machine, and a stuffed aligator, added to a supposed communication with Thomas the Rhymer, lived for many years in very good credit as a wizard.

It seemed to the editor unpardonable to dismiss a person, so important in border tradition as the Rhymer, without some farther notice than a simple commentary upon the following ballad. It is given from a copy, obtained from a lady, residing not far from Ercildoun, corrected and enlarged by one in Mrs Brown's MSS. The former [Pg 172]copy, however, as might be expected, is far more minute as to local description. To this old tale the editor has ventured to add a Second Part, consisting of a kind of Cento, from the printed prophecies vulgarly ascribed to the Rhymer; and a Third Part, entirely modern, founded upon the tradition of his having returned with the hart and hind, to the land of Faërie. To make his peace with the more severe antiquaries, the editor has prefixed to the second part some remarks on Learmont's prophecies.

[Pg 173]

True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;
A ferlie he spied wi' his e'e;
And there he saw a ladye bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.
Her shirt was o' the grass-green silk,
Her mantle o' the velvet fyne;
At ilka tett of her horse's mane,
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.
True Thomas, he pull'd aff his cap,
And louted low down to his knee,
"All hail, thou mighty queen of heav'n!
"For thy peer on earth I never did see."
"O no, O no, Thomas," she said;
"That name does not belang to me;
[Pg 174] "I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
"That am hither come to visit thee.
"Harp and carp, Thomas," she said;
"Harp and carp along wi' me;
"And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
"Sure of your bodie I will be."
"Betide me weal, betide me woe,
"That weird[43] shall never danton me."
Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Eildon Tree.
"Now, ye maun go wi' me," she said;
"True Thomas ye maun go wi' me;
"And ye maun serve me seven years,
"Thro' weal or woe as may chance to be."
She mounted on her milk-white steed;
She's ta'en true Thomas up behind;
And aye, whene'er her bridle rung,
The steed flew swifter than the wind.
O they rade on, and farther on;
The steed gaed swifter than the wind;
[Pg 175] Until they reached a desart wide,
And living land was left behind.
"Light down, light down, now, true Thomas,
"And lean your head upon my knee:
"Abide and rest a little space,
"And I will shew you ferlies three.
"O see ye not yon narrow road,
"So thick beset with thorns and briers?
"That is the path of righteousness,
"Though after it but few enquires.
"And see not ye that braid braid road,
"That lies across that lily leven?
"That is the path of wickedness,
"Though some call it the road to heaven.
"And see not ye that bonny road,
"That winds about the fernie brae?
"That is the road to fair Elfland,
"Where thou and I this night maun gae.
"But, Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
"Whatever ye may hear or see;
[Pg 176] "For, if you speak word in Elflyn land,
"Ye'll ne'er get back to your ain countrie."
O they rade on, and farther on,
And they waded through rivers aboon the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.
It was mirk mirk night, and there was nae stern light,
And they waded through red blude to the knee;
For a' the blude, that's shed on earth,
Rins through the springs o' that countrie.
Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu'd an apple frae a tree—
"Take this for thy wages, true Thomas;
"It will give thee the tongue that can never lie."
"My tongue is mine ain," true Thomas said;
"A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!
"I neither dought to buy nor sell,
"At fair or tryst where I may be.
"I dought neither speak to prince or peer,
"Nor ask of grace from fair ladye."
[Pg 177] "Now hold thy peace!" the lady said,
"For, as I say, so must it be."
He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green;
And, till seven years were gane and past,
True Thomas on earth was never seen.
[Pg 178]

She pu'd an apple frae a tree, &c.—P. 176. v. 5.

The traditional commentary upon this ballad informs us, that the apple was the produce of the fatal Tree of Knowledge, and that the garden was the terrestrial paradise. The repugnance of Thomas to be debarred the use of falsehood, when he might find it convenient, has a comic effect.

The reader is here presented, from an old, and unfortunately an imperfect MS., with the undoubted original of Thomas the Rhymer's intrigue with the queen of Faëry. It will afford great amusement to those who would study the nature of traditional poetry, and the changes effected by oral tradition, to compare this ancient romance with the foregoing ballad. The same incidents are narrated, even the expression is often the same; yet the poems are as different in appearance, as if the older tale had been regularly and systematically modernized by a poet of the present day.

Incipit Prophesia Thomæ de Erseldoun.

[Pg 179]

In a lande as I was lent,
In the gryking of the day,
Ay alone as I went,
In Huntle bankys me for to play:
I saw the throstyl, and the jay,
Ye mawes movyde of her song,
Ye wodwale sange notes gay,
That al the wod about range.
In that longyng as I lay,
Undir nethe a dern tre,
I was war of a lady gay,
Come rydyng ouyr a fair le;
Zogh I suld sitt to domysday,
With my tong to wrabbe and wry,
Certenly all hyr aray,
It beth neuyr discryuyd for me.
Hyr palfra was dappyll gray,
Sycke on say neuer none,
As the son in somers day,
All abowte that lady shone;
Hyr sadyl was of a rewel bone,
A semly syght it was to se,
Bryht with many a precyous stone,
And compasyd all with crapste;
Stones of oryens gret plente,
Her hair about her hede it hang,
She rode ouer the farnyle.
A while she blew a while she sang,
Her girths of nobil silke they were,
Her boculs were of beryl stone,
Sadyll and brydil war——:
With sylk and sendel about bedone,
Hyr patyrel was of a pall fyne,
And hyr croper of the arase,
Hyr brydil was of gold fyne,
On euery syde forsothe hong bells thre,
Hyr brydil reynes—-
A semly syzt——
Crop and patyrel—-
In every joynt——
[Pg 180] She led thre grew houndes in a leash,
And ratches cowpled by her ran;
She bar an horn about her halse,
And undir her gyrdil mene flene.
Thomas lay and sa—-
In the bankes of——
He sayd yonder is Mary of Might,
That bar the child that died for me,
Certes bot I may speke with that lady bright,
Myd my hert will breke in three;
I schal me hye with all my might,
Hyr to mete at Eldyn Tree.
Thomas rathly up he rase,
And ran ouer mountayn hye,
If it be sothe the story says,
He met her euyn at Eldyn Tre.
Thomas knelyd down on his kne
Undir nethe the grenewood spray,
And sayd, lovely lady thou rue on me,
Queen of heaven as you well may be;
But I am a lady of another countrie,
If I be pareld most of prise,
I ride after the wild fee,
My ratches rinnen at my devys.
If thou be pareld most of prise,
And rides a lady in strang foly,
Lovely lady as thou art wise,
Giue you me leue to lige ye by.
Do way Thomas, that wert foly,
I pray ye Thomas late me be,
That sin will forde all my bewtie:
Lovely ladye rewe on me,
And euer more I shall with ye dwell,
Here my trowth I plyght to thee,
Where you beleues in heuin or hell.
Thomas, and you myght lyge me by,
Undir nethe this grene wode spray,
Thou would tell full hastely,
That thou had layn by a lady gay.
[Pg 181] Lady I mote lyg by the,
Under nethe the grene wode tre,
For all the gold in chrystenty,
Suld you neuer be wryede for me.
Man on molde you will me marre,
And yet bot you may haf you will,
Trow you well Thomas, you cheuyst ye warre;
For all my bewtie wilt you spill.
Down lyghtyd that lady bryzt,
Undir nethe the grene wode spray,
And as ye story sayth full ryzt,
Seuyn tymes by her he lay.
She seyd, man you lyste thi play,
What berde in bouyr may dele with thee,
That maries me all this long day;
I pray ye Thomas lat me be.
Thomas stode up in the stede,
And behelde the lady gay,
Her heyre hang down about hyr hede,
The tone was blak, the other gray.
Her eyn semyt onte before was gray,
Her gay clethyng was all away,
That he before had sene in that stede;
Hyr body as blow as ony bede.
Thomas sighede, and sayd allas,
Me thynke this a dullfull syght,
That thou art fadyd in the face,
Before you shone as son so bryzt.
Tak thy leue Thomas, at son and mone,
At gresse, and at euery tre.
This twelmonth sall you with me gone,
Medyl erth you sall not se.
Alas he seyd, ful wo is me,
I trow my dedes will werke me care,
Jesu my sole tak to ye,
Whedir so euyr my body sal fare.
She rode furth with all her myzt,
Undir nethe the derne lee,
It was as derke as at mydnizt,
[Pg 182] And euyr in water unto the kne;
Through the space of days thre,
He herde but swowyng of a flode;
Thomas sayd, ful wo is me,
Nowe I spyll for fawte of fode;
To a garden she lede him tyte,
There was fruyte in grete plente,
Peyres and appless ther were rype,
The date and the damese,
The figge and als fylbert tre;
The nyghtyngale bredyng in her neste,
The papigaye about gan fle,
The throstylcok sang wold hafe no rest.
He pressed to pulle fruyt with his hand
As man for faute that was faynt;
She seyd, Thomas lat al stand,
Or els the deuyl wil the ataynt.
Sche said, Thomas I the hyzt,
To lay thi hede upon my kne,
And thou shalt see fayrer syght,
Than euyr sawe man in their kintre.
Sees thou, Thomas, yon fayr way,
That lyggs ouyr yone fayr playn?
Yonder is the way to heuyn for ay,
Whan synful sawles haf derayed their payne.
Sees thou, Thomas, yon secund way,
That lygges lawe undir the ryse?
Streight is the way sothly to say,
To the joyes of paradyce.
Sees thou, Thomas, yon thyrd way,
That ligges ouyr yone how?
Wide is the way sothly to say,
To the brynyng fyres of hell.
Sees thou, Thomas, yone fayr castell,
That standes ouyr yone fayr hill?
Of town and tower it beereth the belle,
In middell erth is non like theretill.
Whan thou comyst in yone castell gaye,
I pray thu curteis man to be;
[Pg 183] What so any man to you say,
Soke thu answer non but me.
My lord is servyd at yche messe,
With xxx kniztes feir and fre;
I sall say syttyng on the dese,
I toke thy speche beyonde the le.
Thomas stode as still as stone,
And behelde that ladye gaye;
Than was sche fayr and ryche anone,
And also ryal on hir palfreye.
The grewhoundes had fylde them on the dere,
The raches coupled, by my fay,
She blewe her horn Thomas to chere,
To the castell she went her way.
The ladye into the hall went,
Thomas folowyd at her hand;
Thar kept hyr mony a lady gent,
With curtasy and lawe.
Harp and fedyl both he fande,
The getern and the sawtry,
Lut and rybid ther gon gan,
Thair was al maner of mynstralsy.
The most fertly that Thomas thoght,
When he com emyddes the flore,
Fourty hertes to quarry were broght,
That had ben befor both long and store.
Lymors lay lappyng blode,
And kokes standyng with dressyng knyfe,
And dressyd dere as thai wer wode,
And rewell was thair wonder
Knyghtes dansyd by two and thre,
All that leue long day.
Ladyes that wer gret of gre,
Sat and sang of rych aray.
Thomas sawe much more in that place,
Than I can descryve,
Til on a day alas, alas,
My lovelye ladye sayd to me,
Busk ye Thomas you must agayn,
[Pg 184] Here you may no longer be:
Hy then zerne that you were at hame,
I sal ye bryng to Eldyn Tre.
Thomas answerd with heuy cher,
And sayd, lowely ladye lat me be,
For I say ye certenly here
Haf I be bot the space of dayes three.
Sothely Thomas as I telle ye,
You hath ben here thre yeres,
And here you may no longer be;
And I sal tele ye a skele,
To-morowe of helle ye foule fende
Amang our folke shall chuse his fee;
For you art a larg man and an hende,
Trowe you wele he will chuse thee.
Fore all the golde that may be,
Fro hens unto the worldes ende,
Sall you not be betrayed for me,
And thairfor sall you hens wend.
She broght hym euyn to Eldon Tre,
Undir nethe the grene wode spray,
In Huntle bankes was fayr to be,
Ther breddes syng both nyzt and day.
Ferre ouyr yon montayns gray,
Ther hathe my facon;
Fare wele, Thomas, I wende my way.

[The elfin queen, after restoring Thomas to earth, pours forth a string of prophecies, in which we distinguish references to the events and personages of the Scottish wars of Edward III. The battles of Duplin and Halidon are mentioned, and also Black Agnes, Countess of Dunbar. There is a copy of this poem in the museum in the cathedral of Lincoln, another in the collection in Peterborough, but unfortunately they are all in an imperfect state. Mr Jamieson, in his curious Collection of Scottish Ballads and Songs, has an entire copy of this ancient poem, with all the collations, whi[Pg 185]ch is now in the press, and will be soon given to the public. The lacunæ of the former edition have been supplied from his copy.]


[38] From the Chartulary of the Trinity House of Soltra, Advocates' Library, W. 4. 14.


Omnibus has literas visuris vel audituris Thomas de Ercildoun filius et heres Thomæ Rymour de Ercildoun salutem in Domino.—Noveritis me per fustem et baculum in pleno judicio resignasse ac per presentes quietem clamasse pro me et heredibus meis Magistro domus Sanctæ Trinitatis de Soltre et fratribus ejusdem domus totam terram meam cum omnibus pertinentibus suis quam in tenemento de Ercildoun hereditarie tenui renunciando de toto pro me et heredibus meis omni jure et clameo que ego seu antecessores mei in eadem terra alioque tempore de perpetua habuimus sive de futuro habere possumus. In cujus rei testimonio presentibus his sigillum meum apposui data apud Ercildoun die Martis proximo post festum Sanctorum Apostolorum Symonis et Jude Anno Domini Millessimo cc. Nonagesimo Nono.

[39] The lines alluded to are these:—

I hope that Tomas's prophesie,
Of Erceldoun, shall truly be.
In him, &c.

[40] Henry the Minstrel, who introduces Thomas into the history of Wallace, expresses the same doubt as to the source of his prophetic knowledge:

Thomas Rhymer into the faile was than
With the minister, which was a worthy man.
He used oft to that religious place;
The people deemed of wit he meikle can,
And so he told, though that they bless or ban,
Which happened sooth in many divers case;
I cannot say by wrong or righteousness.
In rule of war whether they tint or wan:
It may be deemed by division of grace, &c.

History of Wallace, Book II.

[41] See the Dissertation on Fairies, prefixed to Tamlane, Vol. II. p. 109.

[42] There is a singular resemblance betwixt this tradition, and an incident occurring in the life of Merlin Caledonius, which, the reader will find a few pages onward.

[43] That weird, &c.—That destiny shall never frighten me.

[Pg 186]



The prophecies, ascribed to Thomas of Ercildoune, have been the principal means of securing to him remembrance "amongst the sons of his people." The author of Sir Tristrem would long ago have joined, in the vale of oblivion, Clerk of Tranent, who wrote the adventure of "Schir Gawain," if, by good hap, the same current of ideas respecting antiquity, which causes Virgil to be regarded as a magician by the Lazaroni of Naples, had not exalted the bard of Ercildoune to the prophetic character. Perhaps, indeed, he himself affected it during his life. We know at least, for certain, that a belief in his supernatural knowledge was current soon after his death. His prophecies are alluded to by Barbour, by Wintoun, and by Henry the Minstrel, or Blind Harry, as he is usually termed. None of these authors, however, give the words of any of the Rhymer's vaticinations, but merely narrate, historically, his having predicted the events of which they speak. The earliest of the prophecies ascribed to him, which is now extant, is quoted by Mr Pinkerton [Pg 187]from a MS. It is supposed to be a response from Thomas of Ercildoune, to a question from the heroic Countess of March, renowned for the defence of the castle of Dunbar against the English, and termed, in the familiar dialect of her time, Black Agnes of Dunbar. This prophecy is remarkable, in so far as it bears very little resemblance to any verses published in the printed copy of the Rhymer's supposed prophecies. The verses are as follows:

"La Countesse de Donbar demande a Thomas de Essedoune quant la guerre d'Escoce prendreit fyn. E yl l'a repoundy et dyt,

"When man is mad a kyng of a capped man;
"When man is lever other mones thyng than is owen;
"When londe thouys forest, ant forest is felde;
"When hares kendles o' the her'ston;
"When Wyt and Wille weres togedere:
"When mon makes stables of kyrkes; and steles castels with styes;
"When Rokesboroughe nys no burgh ant market is at Forwyleye:
"When Bambourne is donged with dede men;
"When men ledes men in ropes to buyen and to sellen;
"When a quarter of whaty whete is chaunged for a colt of ten markes;
"When prude (pride) prikes and pees is leyd in prisoun;
"When a Scot ne me hym hude ase hare in forme that the English ne shall hym fynde;
"When rycht ant wronge astente the togedere;
"When laddes weddeth lovedies;
"When Scottes flen so faste, that for faute of shep, hy drowneth hemselve;
"When shall this be?
"Nouther in thine tyme ne in mine;
"Ah comen ant gone
[Pg 188] "Withinne twenty winter ant one."

Pinkerton's Poems, from Maitland's MSS. quoting from Harl. Lib. 2253. F. 127.

As I have never seen the MS. from which Mr Pinkerton makes this extract, and as the date of it is fixed by him (certainly one of the most able antiquaries of our age), to the reign of Edward I. or II., it is with great diffidence that I hazard a contrary opinion. There can, however, I believe, be little doubt, that these prophetic verses are a forgery, and not the production of our Thomas the Rhymer. But I am inclined to believe them of a later date than the reign of Edward I. or II.

The gallant defence of the castle of Dunbar, by Black Agnes, took place in the year 1337. The Rhymer died previous to the year 1299 (see the charter, by his son, in the introduction to the foregoing ballad). It seems, therefore, very improbable, that the Countess of Dunbar could ever have an opportunity of consulting Thomas the Rhymer, since that would infer that she was married, or at least engaged in state matters, previous to 1299; whereas she is described as a young, or a middle-aged, woman, at the period of her being besieged in the fortress, which she so well defended. If the editor might indulge a conjecture, he would suppose, that the prophecy was contrived for the encouragement of the English invaders, during the Scottish wars; and that the names of the Countess of Dunbar, and of Thomas of Ercildoune, were used for the greater credit of the forgery. According to this hypothesis,[Pg 189] it seems likely to have been composed after the siege of Dunbar, which had made the name of the Countess well known, and consequently in the reign of Edward III. The whole tendency of the prophecy is to aver, "that there shall be no end of the Scottish war (concerning which the question was proposed), till a final conquest of the country by England, attended by all the usual severities of war. When the cultivated country shall become forest—says the prophecy;—when the wild animals shall inhabit the abode of men;—when Scots shall not be able to escape the English, should they crouch as hares in their form—all these denunciations seem to refer to the time of Edward III., upon whose victories the prediction was probably founded." The mention of the exchange betwixt a colt worth ten markes, and a quarter of "whaty (indifferent) wheat," seems to allude to the dreadful famine, about the year 1388. The independence of Scotland was, however, as impregnable to the mines of superstition, as to the steel of our more powerful and more wealthy neighbours. The war of Scotland is, thank God, at an end; but it is ended without her people having either crouched, like hares, in their form, or being drowned in their flight "for faute of ships,"—thank God for that too. The prophecy, quoted in p. 179., is probably of the same date, and intended for the same purpose. A minute search of the records of the time would, probably, throw additional light upon the allusions contained in these ancient legends. Among various rhymes of prophetic import,[Pg 190] which are at this day current amongst the people of Teviotdale, is one, supposed to be pronounced by Thomas the Rhymer, presaging the destruction of his habitation and family:

The hare sall kittle (litter) on my hearth stane,
And there will never be a laird Learmont again.

The first of these lines is obviously borrowed from that in the MS, of the Harl. Library.—"When hares kendles o' the her'stane"—an emphatic image of desolation. It is also inaccurately quoted in the prophecy of Waldhave, published by Andro Hart, 1613:

"This is a true talking that Thomas of tells,
The hare shall hirple on the hard (hearth) stane."

Spottiswoode, an honest, but credulous historian, seems to have been a firm believer in the authenticity of the prophetic wares, vended in the name of Thomas of Ercildoun. "The prophecies, yet extant in Scottish rhymes, whereupon he was commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, may justly be admired; having foretold, so many ages before, the union of England and Scotland in the ninth degree of the Bruce's blood, with the succession of Bruce himself to the crown, being yet a child, and other divers particulars, which the event hath ratified and made good. Boethius, in his story, relateth his prediction of King Alexander's death, and that he did foretell the same to the Earl of March, the day before it fell out; saying, 'That before the next day at noon, such a tempest should blow, as Scotland had not felt for many yea[Pg 191]rs before.' The next morning, the day being clear, and no change appearing in the air, the nobleman did challenge Thomas of his saying, calling him an impostor. He replied, that noon was not yet passed. About which time, a post came to advertise the earl, of the king his sudden death. 'Then,' said Thomas, 'this is the tempest I foretold; and so it shall prove to Scotland.' Whence, or how, he had this knowledge, can hardly be affirmed; but sure it is, that he did divine and answer truly of many things to come."—Spottiswoode, p. 47. Besides that notable voucher, master Hector Boece, the good archbishop might, had he been so minded, have referred to Fordun for the prophecy of King Alexander's death. That historian calls our bard "ruralis ille vates."—Fordun, lib. x. cap. 40.

What Spottiswoode calls "the prophecies extant in "Scottish rhyme," are the metrical predictions ascribed to the prophet of Ercildoun, which, with many other compositions of the same nature, bearing the names of Bede, Merlin, Gildas, and other approved soothsayers, are contained in one small volume, published by Andro Hart, at Edinburgh, 1615. The late excellent Lord Hailes made these compositions the subject of a dissertation, published in his Remarks on the History of Scotland. His attention is chiefly directed to the celebrated prophecy of our bard, mentioned by Bishop Spottiswoode, bearing, that the crowns of England and Scotland should be united in the person of a king, son of a French queen, and rel[Pg 192]ated to Bruce in the ninth degree. Lord Hailes plainly proves, that this prophecy is perverted from its original purpose, in order to apply it to the succession of James VI. The ground-work of the forgery is to be found in the prophecies of Berlington, contained in the same collection, and runs thus:

Of Bruce's left side shall spring out as a leafe,
As neere as the ninth degree;
And shall be fleemed of faire Scotland,
In France farre beyond the sea.
And then shall come againe ryding,
With eyes that many men may see.
At Aberladie he shall light,
With hempen helteres and horse of tre.
However it happen for to fall,
The lyon shall be lord of all;
The French quen shal bearre the sonne,
Shal rule all Britainne to the sea;
Ane from the Bruce's blood shal come also,
As neere as the ninth degree.
Yet shal there come a keene knight over the salt sea,
A keene man of courage and bold man of armes;
A duke's son dowbled (i.e. dubbed), a borne mon in France,
That shall our mirths augment, and mend all our harmes;
After the date of our Lord 1513, and thrice three thereafter;
Which shall brooke all the broad isle to himself,
Between 13 and thrice three the threip shal be ended,
The Saxons sall never recover after.

There cannot be any doubt, that this prophecy was inten[Pg 193]ded to excite the confidence of the Scottish nation in the Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, who arrived from France in 1515, two years after the death of James IV. in the fatal field of Flodden. The regent was descended of Bruce by the left, i.e. by the female side, within the ninth degree. His mother was daughter of the Earl of Boulogne, his father banished from his country—"fleemit of fair Scotland." His arrival must necessarily be by sea, and his landing was expected at Aberlady, in the Frith of Forth. He was a duke's son, dubbed knight; and nine years, from 1513, are allowed him, by the pretended prophet, for the accomplishment of the salvation of his country, and the exaltation of Scotland over her sister and rival. All this was a pious fraud, to excite the confidence and spirit of the country.

The prophecy, put in the name of our Thomas the Rhymer, as it stands in Hart's book, refers to a later period. The narrator meets the Rhymer upon a land beside a lee, who shows him many emblematical visions, described in no mean strain of poetry. They chiefly relate to the fields of Flodden and Pinkie, to the national distress which followed these defeats, and to future halcyon days, which are promised to Scotland. One quotation or two will be sufficient to establish this fully:

Our Scottish king sal come ful keene,
The red lyon beareth he;
A feddered arrow sharp, I weene,
[Pg 194] Shall make him winke and warre to see.
Out of the field he shall be led,
When he is bludie and woe for blood;
Yet to his men shall he say,
"For God's luve, turn you againe,
"And give yon sutherne folk a frey!
"Why should I lose the right is mine?
"My date is not to die this day."—

Who can doubt, for a moment, that this refers to the battle of Flodden, and to the popular reports concerning the doubtful fate of James IV.? Allusion is immediately afterwards made to the death of George Douglas, heir apparent of Angus, who fought and fell with his sovereign:

The sternes three that day shall die,
That bears the harte in silver sheen.

The well-known arms of the Douglas family are the heart and three stars. In another place, the battle of Pinkie is expressly mentioned by name:

At Pinken Cluch there shall be spilt,
Much gentle blood that day;
There shall the bear lose the guilt,
And the eagill bear it away.

To the end of all this allegorical and mystical rhapsody, is interpolated, in the later edition by Andro Hart, a new edition of Berlington's verses, before quoted, altered and manufactured so as to bear reference to the accession of James VI., which had just then taken place. The insertion is[Pg 195] made with a peculiar degree of awkwardness, betwixt a question, put by the narrator, concerning the name and abode of the person who shewed him these strange matters, and the answer of the prophet to that question:

"Then to the Bairne could I say,
"Where dwells thou, or in what countrie?
"[Or who shall rule the isle of Britane,
"From the north to the south sey?
"A French queene shall beare the sonne,
"Shall rule all Britaine to the sea;
"Which of the Bruce's blood shall come,
"As neere as the nint degree:
"I frained fast what was his name,
"Where that he came, from what country.]
"In Erslingtoun I dwell at hame,
"Thomas Rymour men cals me."

There is surely no one, who will not conclude, with Lord Hailes, that the eight lines, inclosed in brackets, are a clumsy interpolation, borrowed from Berlington, with such alterations as might render the supposed prophecy applicable to the union of the crowns.

While we are on this subject, it may be proper briefly to notice the scope of some of the other predictions, in Hart's Collection. As the prophecy of Berlington was intended to raise the spirits of the nation, during the regency of Albany, so those of Sybilla and Eltraine refer to that of the Earl of Arran, afterwards Duke of Chatelherault, during the minority of Mary, a period of similar calamity. This is obvious from the following verses:

Take a thousand in calculation,
[Pg 196] And the longest of the lyon,
Four crescents under one crowne,
With Saint Andrew's croce thrise,
Then threescore and thrise three:
Take tent to Merling truely,
Then shall the warres ended be,
And never againe rise.
In that yere there shall a king,
A duke, and no crowned king;
Becaus the prince shall be yong,
And tender of yeares.

The date, above hinted at, seems to be 1549, when the Scottish regent, by means of some succours derived from France, was endeavouring to repair the consequences of the fatal battle of Pinkie. Allusion is made to the supply given to the "Moldwarte" (England) by the fained "hart" (the Earl of Angus). The regent is described by his bearing the antelope; large supplies are promised from France, and complete conquest predicted to Scotland and her allies. Thus was the same hackneyed stratagem repeated, whenever the interest of the rulers appeared to stand in need of it. The regent was not, indeed, till after this period, created Duke of Chatelherault; but that honour was the object of his hopes and expectations.

The name of our renowned soothsayer is liberally used as an authority, throughout all the prophecies published by Andro Hart. Besides those expressly put in his name, Gildas, another assumed personage, is supposed to derive his knowledge from him; for he concludes thus:

[Pg 197]
"True Thomas me told in a troublesome time,
"In a harvest morn at Eldoun hills."

The Prophecy of Gildas.

In the prophecy of Berlington, already quoted, we are told,

"Marvellous Merlin, that many men of tells,
"And Thomas's sayings comes all at once."

While I am upon the subject of these prophecies, may I be permitted to call the attention of antiquaries to Merdwynn Wyllt, or Merlin the Wild, in whose name, and by no means in that of Ambrose Merlin, the friend of Arthur, the Scottish prophecies are issued. That this personage resided at Drummelziar, and roamed, like a second Nebuchadnezzar, the woods of Tweeddale, in remorse for the death of his nephew, we learn from Fordun. In the Scotichronicon, lib. 3, cap. 31. is an account of an interview betwixt St Kentigern and Merlin, then in this distracted and miserable state. He is said to have been called Lailoken, from his mode of life. On being commanded by the saint to give an account of himself, he says, that the penance, which he performs, was imposed on him by a voice from heaven, during a bloody contest betwixt Lidel and Carwanolow, of which battle he had been the cause. According to his own prediction, he perished at once by wood, earth, and water; for, being pursued with stones by the rustics, he fell from a rock into the river [Pg 198]Tweed, and was transfixed by a sharp stake, fixed there for the purpose of extending a fishing-net:

Sude perfossus, lapide percussus et unda
Haec tria Merlinum fertur inire necem.
Sicque ruit, mersusque fuit lignoque perpendi,
Et fecit vatem per terna pericula verum.

But, in a metrical history of Merlin of Caledonia, compiled by Geoffrey of Monmouth, from the traditions of the Welch bards, this mode of death is attributed to a page, whom Merlin's sister, desirous to convict the prophet of falsehood, because he had betrayed her intrigues, introduced to him, under three various disguises, enquiring each time in what manner the person should die. To the first demand Merlin answered, the party should perish by a fall from a rock; to the second, that he should die by a tree; and to the third, that he should be drowned. The youth perished, while hunting, in the mode imputed by Fordun to Merlin himself.

Fordun, contrary to the Welch authorities, confounds this person with the Merlin of Arthur; but concludes by informing us, that many believed him to be a different person. The grave of Merlin is pointed out at Drummelziar, in Tweeddale, beneath an aged thorn-tree. On the east side of the church-yard, the brook, called Pausayl, falls into the Tweed; and the following prophecy is said to have been current concerning their union:

When Tweed and Pausayl join at Merlin's grave,
[Pg 199] Scotland and England shall one monarch have.

On the day of the coronation of James VI. the Tweed accordingly overflowed, and joined the Pausayl at the prophet's grave.—Pennycuick's History of Tweeddale, p. 26. These circumstances would seem to infer a communication betwixt the south-west of Scotland and Wales, of a nature peculiarly intimate; for I presume that Merlin would retain sense enough to chuse, for the scene of his wanderings, a country, having a language and manners similar to his own.

Be this as it may, the memory of Merlin Sylvester, or the Wild, was fresh among the Scots during the reign of James V. Waldhave,[44] under whose name a set of prophecies was published, describes himself as lying upon Lomond Law; he hears a voice, which bids him stand to his defence; he looks around, and beholds a flock of hares and foxes[45] pursued over the mountain by a savage figure, to whom he can hardly give the name of man. At the sight of Waldhave, the apparition leaves the objects of his pursuit, and assaults him with a club. Waldhave defends himself with his sword, throws the savage to the earth, and refuses to let him arise till he swear, by the law and lead he lives upon, "to do him no harm." This done, he permits him to arise, and marvels at his strange appearance:

[Pg 200]
"He was formed like a freike (man) all his four quarters;
"And then his chin and his face haired so thick,
"With haire growing so grime, fearful to see."

He answers [Pg 201]briefly to Waldhave's enquiry, concerning his name and nature, that he "drees his weird," i.e. does penance, in that wood; and, having hinted that questions as to his own state are offensive, he pours forth an obscure rhapsody concerning futurity, and concludes,

"Go musing upon Merlin if thou wilt;
"For I mean no more man at this time."

This is exactly similar to the meeting betwixt Merlin and Kentigern in Fordun. These prophecies of Merlin seem to have been in request in the minority of James V.; for, among the amusements, with which Sir David Lindsay diverted that prince during his infancy, are,

The prophecies of Rymer, Bede, and Merlin.

Sir David Lindsay's Epistle to the King.

And we find, in Waldhave, at least one allusion to the very ancient prophecy, addressed to the countess of Dunbar:

This is a true token that Thomas of tells,
When a ladde with a ladye shall go over the fields.
[Pg 202]

The original stands thus:

When laddes weddeth lovedies.

Another prophecy of Merlin seems to have been current about the time of the regent Morton's execution.—When that nobleman was committed to the charge of his accuser, captain James Stewart, newly created Earl of Arran, to be conducted to his trial at Edinburgh, Spottiswoode says, that he asked, "Who was earl of Arran?" "and being answered that Captain James was the man, after a short pause he said, 'And is it so? I know then what I may look for!' meaning, as was thought, that the old prophecy of the 'Falling of the heart[46] by the mouth of Arran,' should then be fulfilled. Whether this was his mind or not, it is not known; but some spared not, at the time when the Hamiltons were banished, in which business he was held too earnest, to say, that he stood in fear of that prediction, and went that course only to disappoint it. But, if so it was, he did find himself now deluded; for he fell by the mouth of another Arran than he imagined."—Spottiswoode, 313. The fatal words, alluded to, seem to be these in the prophecy of Merlin:

"In the mouth of Arrane a selcouth shall fall,
"Two bloodie hearts shall be taken with a false traine,
"And derfly dung down without any dome."
[Pg 203]

To return from these desultory remarks, into which the editor has been led by the celebrated name of Merlin, the style of all these prophecies, published by Hart, is very much the same. The measure is alliterative, and somewhat similar to that of Pierce Plowman's Visions; a circumstance, which might entitle us to ascribe to some of them an earlier date than the reign of James V., did we not know that Sir Galloran of Galloway, and Gawaine and Gologras, two romances rendered almost unintelligible by the extremity of affected alliteration, are perhaps not prior to that period. Indeed, although we may allow, that, during much earlier times, prophecies, under the names of those celebrated soothsayers, have been current in Scotland, yet those published by Hart have obviously been so often vamped and re-vamped, to serve the political purposes of different periods, that it may be shrewdly suspected, that, as in the case of Sir John Cutler's transmigrated stockings, very little of the original materials now remains. I cannot refrain from indulging my readers with the publisher's title to the last prophecy; as it contains certain curious information concerning the queen of Sheba, who is identified with the Cumæan Sybil: "Here followeth a prophecie, pronounced by a noble queene and matron, called Sybilla, Regina Austri, that came to Solomon. Through the which she compiled four bookes, at the instance and request of the said king Sol. and others divers: and the fourth book was directed to a noble king, called Baldwine, king of the broad isle of Britain; in the which sh[Pg 204]e maketh mention of two noble princes and emperours, the which is called Leones. How these two shall subdue, and overcome all earthlie princes to their diademe and crowne, and also be glorified and crowned in the heaven among saints. The first of these two is Constantinus Magnus; that was Leprosus, the son of Saint Helene, that found the croce. The second is the sixty king of the name of Steward of Scotland, the which is our most noble king." With such editors and commentators, what wonder that the text became unintelligible, even beyond the usual oracular obscurity of prediction?

If there still remain, therefore, among these predictions, any verses having a claim to real antiquity, it seems now impossible to discover them from those which are comparatively modern. Nevertheless, as there are to be found, in these compositions, some uncommonly wild and masculine expressions, the editor has been induced to throw a few passages together, into the sort of ballad to which this disquisition is prefixed. It would, indeed, have been no difficult matter for him, by a judicious selection, to have excited, in favour of Thomas of Erceldoune, a share of the admiration, bestowed by sundry wise persons upon Mass Robert Fleming. For example:

"But then the lilye shal be loused when they least think;
Then clear king's blood shal quake for fear of death;
For churls shal chop off heads of their chief beirns,
[Pg 205] And carfe of the crowns that Christ hath appointed.
Thereafter, on every side, sorrow shal arise;
The barges of clear barons down shal be sunken;
Seculars shal sit in spiritual seats,
Occupying offices anointed as they were."

Taking the lilye for the emblem of France, can there be a more plain prophecy of the murder of her monarch, the destruction of her nobility, and the desolation of her hierarchy?

But, without looking farther into the signs of the times, the editor, though the least of all the prophets, cannot help thinking, that every true Briton will approve of his application of the last prophecy quoted in the ballad.

Hart's collection of prophecies was frequently reprinted during the last century, probably to favour the pretensions of the unfortunate family of Stewart. For the prophetic renown of Gildas and Bede, see Fordun, lib. 3.

Before leaving the subject of Thomas's predictions, it may be noticed, that sundry rhymes, passing for his prophetic effusions, are still current among the vulgar. Thus, he is said to have prophecied of the very ancient family of Haig of Bemerside,

Betide, betide, whate'er betide,
Haig shall be Haig of Bemerside.

The grandfather of the present proprietor of Bemerside had twelve daughters, before his lady brought him a male heir. The common people trembled for the credit of their favourite soothsayer. The late Mr Haig was at length born, and their belief in the prophecy confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt.

[Pg 206]

Another memorable prophecy bore, that the Old Kirk at Kelso, constructed out of the ruins of the abbey, should fall when "at the fullest." At a very crowded sermon, about thirty years ago, a piece of lime fell from the roof of the church. The alarm, for the fulfilment of the words of the seer, became universal; and happy were they, who were nearest the door of the predestined edifice. The church was in consequence deserted, and has never since had an opportunity of tumbling upon a full congregation. I hope, for the sake of a beautiful specimen of Saxo-Gothick architecture, that the accomplishment of this prophecy is far distant.

Another prediction, ascribed to the Rhymer, seems to have been founded on that sort of insight into futurity, possessed by most men of a sound and combining judgement. It runs thus:

At Eildon Tree if you shall be,
A brigg ower Tweed you there may see.

The spot in question commands an extensive prospect of the course of the river; and it was easy to foresee, that, when the country should become in the least degree improved, a bridge would be somewhere thrown over the stream. In fact, you now see no less than three bridges from that elevated situation.

Corspatrick (Comes Patrick), Earl of March, but more commonly taking his title from his castle of Dunbar, acted a noted part during the wars of Edward I. in Scotland. As Thomas of Erceldoune is said to have delivered to [Pg 207]him his famous prophecy of King Alexander's death, the editor has chosen to introduce him into the following ballad. All the prophetic verses are selected from Hart's publication.


[Pg 208]
When seven years were come and gane,
The sun blinked fair on pool and stream;
And Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
Like one awakened from a dream.
He heard the trampling of a steed,
He saw the flash of armour flee,
And he beheld a gallant knight,
Come riding down by the Eildon-tree.
He was a stalwart knight, and strong;
Of giant make he 'peared to be:
He stirr'd his horse, as he were wode,
Wi' gilded spurs, of faushion free.
Says—"Well met, well met, true Thomas!
Some uncouth ferlies shew to me."
Says—"Christ thee save, Corspatrick brave!
Thrice welcome, good Dunbar, to me!
"Light down, light down, Corspatrick brave,
"And I will shew thee curses three,
"Shall gar fair Scotland greet and grane,
[Pg 209] "And change the green to the black livery.
"A storm shall roar, this very hour,
"From Rosse's Hills to Solway sea.
"Ye lied, ye lied, ye warlock hoar!
"For the sun shines sweet on fauld and lea."
He put his hand on the earlie's head;
He shewed him a rock, beside the sea,
Where a king lay stiff, beneath his steed,[47]
And steel-dight nobles wiped their e'e.
"The neist curse lights on Branxton hills:
"By Flodden's high and heathery side,
"Shall wave a banner, red as blude,
"And chieftains throng wi' meikle pride.
"A Scottish king shall come full keen;
"The ruddy lion beareth he:
"A feather'd arrow sharp, I ween,
"Shall make him wink and warre to see.
"When he is bloody, and all to bledde,
"Thus to his men he still shall say—
'For God's sake, turn ye back again,
[Pg 210] 'And give yon southern folk a fray!
'Why should I lose the right is mine?
'My doom is not to die this day.'[48]
"Yet turn ye to the eastern hand,
"And woe and wonder ye sall see;
"How forty thousand spearmen stand,
"Where yon rank river meets the sea.
"There shall the lion lose the gylte,
"And the libbards bear it clean away;
"At Pinkyn Cleuch there shall be spilt
"Much gentil blude that day."
"Enough, enough, of curse and ban;
"Some blessing shew thou now to me,
"Or, by the faith o' my bodie," Corspatrick said,
"Ye shall rue the day ye e'er saw me!"
"The first of blessings I shall thee shew,
"Is by a burn, that's call'd of bread;[49]
"Where Saxon men shall tine the bow,
[Pg 211] "And find their arrows lack the head.
"Beside that brigg, out ower that burn,
"Where the water bickereth bright and sheen,
"Shall many a falling courser spurn,
"And knights shall die in battle keen.
"Beside a headless cross of stone,
"The libbards there shall lose the gree;
"The raven shall come, the erne shall go,
"And drink the Saxon blude sae free.
"The cross of stone they shall not know,
"So thick the corses there shall be."
"But tell me now," said brave Dunbar,
"True Thomas, tell now unto me,
"What man shall rule the isle Britain,
"Even from the north to the southern sea?"
"A French queen shall bear the son,
"Shall rule all Britain to the sea:
"He of the Bruce's blude shall come,
[Pg 212] "As near as in the ninth degree.
"The waters worship shall his race;
"Likewise the waves of the farthest sea;
"For they shall ride ower ocean wide,
"With hempen bridles, and horse of tree."

[44] I do not know, whether the person here meant be Waldhave, an abbot of Melrose, who died in the odour of sanctity, about 1160.

[45] The strange occupation, in which Waldhave beholds Merlin engaged, derives some illustration from a curious passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth's life of Merlin, above quoted. The poem, after narrating, that the prophet had fled to the forests in a state of distraction, proceeds to mention, that, looking upon the stars one clear evening, he discerned, from his astrological knowledge, that his wife, Guendolen, had resolved, upon the next morning, to take another husband. As he had presaged to her that this would happen, and had promised her a nuptial gift (cautioning her, however, to keep the bridegroom out of his sight), he now resolved to make good his word. Accordingly, he collected all the stags and lesser game in his neighbourhood; and, having seated himself upon a buck, drove the herd before him to the capital of Cumberland, where Guendolen resided. But her lover's curiosity leading him to inspect too nearly this extraordinary cavalcade, Merlin's rage was awakened, and he slew him with the stroke of an antler of the stag. The original runs thus:

Dixerat: et silvas et saltus circuit omnes,
Cervorumque greges agmen collegit in unum,
Et damas, capreasque simul, cervoque resedit;
Et veniente die, compellens agmina præ se,
Festinans vadit quo nubit Guendolna.
Postquam venit eo, pacienter coegit
Cervos ante fores, proclamans, "Guendolna,
"Guendolna, veni, te talia munera spectant."
Ocius ergo venit subridens Guendolna
Gestarique virum cervo miratur, et illum
Sic parere viro, tantum quoque posse ferarum
Uniri numerum quas præ se solus agebat,
Sicut pastor oves, quas ducere suevit ad herbas.
Stabat ab excelsa, sponsus spectando fenestra
In solio mirans equitem risumque movebat.
Ast ubi vidit eum vates, animoque quis esset,
Calluit, extemplo divulsit cornua cervo
Quo gestabatur, vibrataque jecit in illum
Et caput illius penitus contrivit, eumque
Reddidit exanimem, vitamque fugavit in auras;
Ocius inde suum, talorum verbere, cervum
Diffugiens egit, silvasque redire paravit.

For a perusal of this curious poem, accurately copied from a MS. in the Cotton Library, nearly coeval with the author, I was indebted to my learned friend, the late Mr Ritson. There is an excellent paraphrase of it in the curious and entertaining Specimens of Early English Romances, lately published by Mr Ellis.

[46] The heart was the cognizance of Morton.

[47] King Alexander; killed by a fall from his horse, near Kinghorn.

[48] The uncertainty which long prevailed in Scotland, concerning the fate of James IV., is well known.

[49] One of Thomas's rhymes, preserved by tradition, runs thus:

The burn of breid
Shall run fow reid."

Bannockburn is the brook here meant. The Scots give the name of bannock to a thick round cake of unleavened bread.

[Pg 213]



Thomas the Rhymer was renowned among his contemporaries, as the author of the celebrated romance of Sir Tristrem. Of this once admired poem only one copy is now known to exist, which is in the Advocates' Library. The editor, in 1804, published a small edition of this curious work; which, if it does not revive the reputation of the bard of Ercildoune, will be at least the earliest specimen of Scottish poetry, hitherto published. Some account of this romance has already been given to the world in Mr Ellis's Specimens of Ancient Poetry, Vol. I. p. 165, 3d. p. 410; a work, to which our predecessors and our posterity are alike obliged; the former, for the preservation of the best selected examples of their poetical taste; and the latter, for a history of the English language, which will only cease to be interesting with the existence of our mother-tongue, and all that genius and learning have recorded in it. It is sufficient here to mention, that, so great was the reputation of the romance of Sir Tristrem, that few were thought capable of reciting it after the manner of the author—a circumstance alluded to by Robert de Brunne, the annalist:

[Pg 214]

I see in song, in sedgeyng tale,
Of Erceldoun, and of Kendale.
Now thame says as they thame wroght,
And in thare saying it semes nocht.
That thou may here in Sir Tristrem,
Over gestes it has the steme,
Over all that is or was;
If men it said as made Thomas, &c.

It appears, from a very curious MS. of the thirteenth century, penes Mr Douce, of London, containing a French metrical romance of Sir Tristrem, that the work of our Thomas the Rhymer was known, and referred to, by the minstrels of Normandy and Bretagne. Having arrived at a part of the romance, where reciters were wont to differ in the mode of telling the story, the French bard expressly cites the authority of the poet of Erceldoune:

Plusurs de nos granter ne volent,
Co que del naim dire se solent,
Ki femme Kaherdin dut aimer,
Li naim redut Tristram narrer,
E entusché par grant engin,
Quant il afole Kaherdin;
Pur cest plaie e pur cest mal,
Enveiad Tristran Guvernal,
En Engleterre pur Ysolt
Thomas ico granter ne volt,
Et si volt par raisun mostrer,
Qu' ico ne put pas esteer, &c.
[Pg 215]

The tale of Sir Tristrem, as narrated in the Edinburgh MS., is totally different from the voluminous romance in prose, originally compiled on the same subject by Rusticien de Puise, and analysed by M. de Tressan; but agrees in every essential particular with the metrical performance, just quoted, which is a work of much higher antiquity.

The following attempt to commemorate the Rhymer's poetical fame, and the traditional account of his marvellous return to Fairy Land, being entirely modern, would have been placed with greater propriety among the class of Modern Ballads, had it not been for its immediate connection with the first and second parts of the same story.


[Pg 216]
When seven years more were come and gone,
Was war through Scotland spread,
And Ruberslaw shew'd high Dunyon,
His beacon blazing red.
Then all by bonny Coldingknow,
Pitched palliouns took their room,
And crested helms, and spears a rowe,
Glanced gaily through the broom.
The Leader, rolling to the Tweed,
Resounds the ensenzie;[50]
They roused the deer from Caddenhead,
To distant Torwoodlee.
The feast was spread in Ercildoune,
In Learmont's high and ancient hall;
And there were knights of great renown,
And ladies, laced in pall.
Nor lacked they, while they sat at dine,
The music, nor the tale,
Nor goblets of the blood-red wine,
[Pg 217] Nor mantling quaighs[51] of ale.
True Thomas rose, with harp in hand,
When as the feast was done;
(In minstrel strife, in Fairy Land,
The elfin harp he won.)
Hush'd were the throng, both limb and tongue,
And harpers for envy pale;
And armed lords lean'd on their swords,
And hearken'd to the tale.
In numbers high, the witching tale
The prophet pour'd along;
No after bard might e'er avail[52]
Those numbers to prolong.
Yet fragments of the lofty strain
Float down the tide of years,
As, buoyant on the stormy main,
A parted wreck appears.
He sung King Arthur's table round:
The warrior of the lake;
How courteous Gawaine met the wound,
[Pg 218] And bled for ladies' sake.
But chief, in gentle Tristrem's praise,
The notes melodious swell;
Was none excelled, in Arthur's days,
The knight of Lionelle.
For Marke, his cowardly uncle's right,
A venomed wound he bore;
When fierce Morholde he slew in fight,
Upon the Irish shore.
No art the poison might withstand;
No medicine could be found,
Till lovely Isolde's lilye hand
Had probed the rankling wound.
With gentle hand and soothing tongue,
She bore the leech's part;
And, while she o'er his sick-bed hung,
He paid her with his heart.
O fatal was the gift, I ween!
For, doom'd in evil tide,
The maid must be rude Cornwall's queen,
[Pg 219] His cowardly uncle's bride.
Their loves, their woes, the gifted bard
In fairy tissue wove;
Where lords, and knights, and ladies bright,
In gay confusion strove.
The Garde Joyeuse, amid the tale,
High rear'd its glittering head;
And Avalon's enchanted vale
In all its wonders spread.
Brangwain was there, and Segramore,
And fiend-born Merlin's gramarye;
Of that fam'd wizard's mighty lore,
O who could sing but he?
Through many a maze the winning song
In changeful passion led,
Till bent at length the listening throng
O'er Tristrem's dying bed.
His ancient wounds their scars expand,
With agony his heart is wrung:
O where is Isolde's lilye hand,
[Pg 220] And where her soothing tongue?
She comes! she comes!—like flash of flame
Can lovers' footsteps fly:
She comes! she comes!—she only came
To see her Tristrem die.
She saw him die: her latest sigh
Joined in a kiss his parting breath:
The gentlest pair, that Britain bare,
United are in death.
There paused the harp: its lingering sound
Died slowly on the ear;
The silent guests still bent around,
For still they seem'd to hear.
Then woe broke forth in murmurs weak;
Nor ladies heaved alone the sigh;
But, half ashamed, the rugged cheek
Did many a gauntlet dry.
On Leader's stream, and Learmont's tower,
The mists of evening close;
In camp, in castle, or in bower,
[Pg 221] Each warrior sought repose.
Lord Douglas, in his lofty tent,
Dream'd o'er the woeful tale;
When footsteps light, across the bent,
The warrior's ears assail.
He starts, he wakes:—"What, Richard, ho!
"Arise, my page, arise!
"What venturous wight, at dead of night,
"Dare step where Douglas lies!"
Then forth they rushed: by Leader's tide,
A selcouth[53] sight they see—
A hart and hind pace side by side.
As white as snow on Fairnalie.
Beneath the moon, with gesture proud,
They stately move and slow;
Nor scare they at the gathering crowd,
Who marvel as they go.
To Learmont's tower a message sped,
As fast as page might run;
And Thomas started from his bed,
[Pg 222] And soon his cloaths did on.
First he woxe pale, and then woxe red;
Never a word he spake but three;—
"My sand is run; my thread is spun;
"This sign regardeth me."
The elfin harp his neck around,
In minstrel guise, he hung;
And on the wind, in doleful sound,
Its dying accents rung.
Then forth he went; yet turned him oft
To view his ancient hall;
On the grey tower, in lustre soft,
The autumn moon-beams fall.
And Leader's waves, like silver sheen,
Danced shimmering in the ray:
In deepening mass, at distance seen,
Broad Soltra's mountains lay.
"Farewell, my father's ancient tower!
"A long farewell," said he:
"The scene of pleasure, pomp, or power,
[Pg 223] "Thou never more shalt be.
"To Learmont's name no foot of earth
"Shall here again belong,
"And, on thy hospitable hearth,
"The hare shall leave her young.
"Adieu! Adieu!" again he cried,
All as he turned him roun'—
"Farewell to Leader's silver tide!
"Farewell to Ercildoune!"—
The hart and hind approached the place,
As lingering yet he stood;
And there, before Lord Douglas' face,
With them he cross'd the flood.
Lord Douglas leaped on his berry-brown steed,
And spurr'd him the Leader o'er;
But, though he rode with lightning speed,
He never saw them more.
Some sayd to hill, and some to glen,
Their wondrous course had been;
But ne'er in haunts of living men
[Pg 224] Again was Thomas seen.
[Pg 225]

And Ruberslaw shew'd high Dunyon.—P. 216. v. 1.

Ruberslaw and Dunyon are two hills above Jedburgh.

Then all by bonny Coldingknow.—P. 216. v. 2.

An ancient tower near Ercildoune, belonging to a family of the name of Home: One of Thomas's prophecies is said to have run thus:

Vengeance! vengeance! when and where?
On the house of Coldingknow, now and ever mair!

The spot is rendered classical by its having given name to the beautiful melody, called the Broom o' the Cowdenknows.

They roused the deer from Caddenhead,
To distant Torwoodlee.—P. 216. v. 3.

Torwoodlee and Caddenhead are places in Selkirkshire.

How courteous Gawaine met the wound.—P. 218. v. 2.

See, in the Fabliaux of Monsieur le Grand, elegantly translated by the late Gregory Way, Esq. the tale of the Knight and the Sword.

As white as snow on Fairnalie.—P. 221. v. 5.
[Pg 226]

An ancient seat upon the Tweed, in Selkirkshire. In a popular edition of the first part of Thomas the Rhymer, the Fairy Queen thus addresses him:

"Gin ye wad meet wi' me again,
Gang to the bonny banks of Fairnalie."

[50] Ensenzie—War-cry, or gathering word.

[51] Quaighs—Wooden cups, composed of staves hooped together.

[52] See introduction to this ballad.

[53] Selcouth—Wondrous.

[Pg 227]



Smaylho'me, or Smallholm Tower, the scene of the following ballad, is situated on the northern boundary of Roxburghshire, among a cluster of wild rocks, called Sandiknow-Crags, the property of Hugh Scott, Esq. of Harden. The tower is a high square building, surrounded by an outer wall, now ruinous. The circuit of the outer court, being defended, on three sides, by a precipice and morass, is accessible only from the west, by a steep and rocky path. The apartments, as is usual in a border-keep, or fortress, are placed one above another, and communicate by a narrow stair; on the roof are two bartizans, or platforms, for defence or pleasure. The inner door of the tower is wood, the outer an iron gate; the distance between them being nine feet, the thickness, namely, of the wall. From the elevated situation of Smaylho'me Tower, it is seen many miles in every direction. Among the crags, by which it is surrounded, one, more eminent, is called the Watchfold, and is said to have been the station of a beacon, in the times of war with England. Without the tower-court is a ruined chapel. Brotherstone is a heath, in the neighbourhood of Smaylho'me Tower.

This ballad was first printed in Mr Lewis[Pg 228]'s Tales of Wonder. It is here published, with some additional illustrations, particularly an account of the battle of Ancram Moor; which seemed proper in a work upon border antiquities. The catastrophe of the tale is founded upon a well-known Irish tradition.[54] This ancient fortress and its vicinity formed the scene of the editor's infancy, and seemed to claim from him this attempt to celebrate them in a Border Tale.

[Pg 229]


The Baron of Smaylho'me rose with day,
He spurr'd his courser on,
Without stop or stay, down the rocky way,
That leads to Brotherstone.
He went not with the bold Buccleuch,
His banner broad to rear;
He went not 'gainst the English yew,
To lift the Scottish spear.
Yet his plate-jack[55] was braced, and his helmet was laced,
And his vaunt-brace of proof he wore;
At his saddle-gerthe was a good steel sperthe,
Full ten pound weight and more.
The Baron return'd in three days space,
And his looks were sad and sour;
And weary was his courser's pace,
As he reached his rocky tower.
He came not from where Ancram Moor[56]
Ran red with English blood;
Where the Douglas true, and the bold Buccleuch,
[Pg 230] 'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood.
Yet was his helmet hack'd and hew'd,
His acton pierc'd and tore;
His axe and his dagger with blood embrued,
But it was not English gore.
He lighted at the Chapellage,
He held him close and still;
And he whistled thrice for his little foot-page,
His name was English Will.
"Come thou hither, my little foot-page;
"Come hither to my knee;
"Though thou art young, and tender of age,
"I think thou art true to me.
"Come, tell me all that thou hast seen,
"And look thou tell me true!
"Since I from Smaylho'me tower have been,
"What did thy lady do?"
"My lady, each night, sought the lonely light,
"That burns on the wild Watchfold;
"For, from height to height, the beacons bright
[Pg 231] "Of the English foemen told.
"The bittern clamour'd from the moss,
"The wind blew loud and shrill;
"Yet the craggy pathway she did cross,
"To the eiry Beacon Hill.
"I watched her steps, and silent came
"Where she sat her on a stone;
"No watchman stood by the dreary flame;
"It burned all alone.
"The second night I kept her in sight,
"Till to the fire she came,
"And, by Mary's might! an armed Knight
"Stood by the lonely flame.
"And many a word that warlike lord
"Did speak to my lady there;
"But the rain fell fast, and loud blew the blast,
"And I heard not what they were.
"The third night there the sky was fair,
"And the mountain-blast was still,
"As again I watched the secret pair,
[Pg 232] "On the lonesome Beacon Hill.
"And I heard her name the midnight hour,
"And name this holy eve;
"And say, 'Come this night to thy lady's bower;
"Ask no bold Baron's leave.
'He lifts his spear with the bold Buccleuch;
'His lady is all alone;
'The door she'll undo, to her knight so true,
'On the eve of good St John.'
'I cannot come; I must not come;
'I dare not come to thee;
'On the eve of St John I must wander alone:
'In thy bower I may not be.'
'Now, out on thee, faint-hearted knight!
'Thou should'st not say me nay;
'For the eve is sweet, and when lovers meet,
'Is worth the whole summer's day.'
'And I'll chain the blood-hound, and the warder shall not sound,
'And rushes shall be strewed on the stair;
"So, by the black rood-stone,[57] and by holy St John,
[Pg 233] 'I conjure thee, my love, to be there!'
'Though the blood-hound be mute, and the rush beneath my foot,
'And the warder his bugle should not blow,
'Yet there sleepeth a priest in the chamber to the east,
'And my foot-step he would know.'
'O fear not the priest, who sleepeth to the east!
"For to Dryburgh[58] the way he has ta'en;
'And there to say mass, till three days do pass,
"For the soul of a knight that is slayne.'
"He turn'd him around, and grimly he frown'd;
"Then he laughed right scornfully—
'He who says the mass-rite for the soul of that knight,
'May as well say mass for me.
'At the lone midnight-hour, when bad spirits have power,
'In thy chamber will I be.'
"With that he was gone, and my lady left alone,
[Pg 234] "And no more did I see."—
Then changed, I trow, was that bold Baron's brow,
From the dark to the blood-red high;
"Now, tell me the mien of the knight thou hast seen,
"For, by Mary, he shall die!"
"His arms shone full bright, in the beacon's red light;
"His plume it was scarlet and blue;
"On his shield was a hound, in a silver leash bound,
"And his crest was a branch of the yew."
"Thou liest, thou liest, thou little foot-page,
"Loud dost thou lie to me!
"For that knight is cold, and low laid in the mould,
"All under the Eildon-tree."[59]
"Yet hear but my word, my noble lord!
"For I heard her name his name;
"And that lady bright, she called the knight,
[Pg 235] "Sir Richard of Coldinghame."
The bold Baron's brow then chang'd, I trow,
From high blood-red to pale—
"The grave is deep and dark—and the corpse is stiff and stark—
"So I may not trust thy tale."
"Where fair Tweed flows round holy Melrose,
"And Eildon slopes to the plain,
"Full three nights ago, by some secret foe,
"That gay gallant was slain."
"The varying light deceived thy sight,
"And the wild winds drown'd the name;
"For the Dryburgh bells ring, and the white monks do sing,
"For Sir Richard of Coldinghame!"
He pass'd the court-gate, and he oped the tower grate,
And he mounted the narrow stair,
To the bartizan-seat, where, with maids that on her wait,
[Pg 236] He found his lady fair.
That lady sat in mournful mood;
Look'd over hill and vale;
Over Tweed's fair flood, and Mertoun's[60] wood,
And all down Tiviotdale.
"Now hail, now hail, thou lady bright!"
"Now hail, thou Baron true!
"What news, what news, from Ancram fight?
"What news from the bold Buccleuch?"
"The Ancram Moor is red with gore,
"For many a southern fell;
"And Buccleuch has charged us, evermore,
"To watch our beacons well."
The lady blush'd red, but nothing she said;
Nor added the Baron a word:
Then she stepp'd down the stair to her chamber fair,
And so did her moody lord.
In sleep the lady mourn'd, and the Baron toss'd and turn'd,
And oft to himself he said—
"The worms around him creep, and his bloody grave is deep.....
[Pg 237] It cannot give up the dead!"
It was near the ringing of matin-bell,
The night was well nigh done,
When a heavy sleep on that Baron fell,
On the eve of good St John.
The lady looked through the chamber fair,
By the light of a dying flame;
And she was aware of a knight stood there—
Sir Richard of Coldinghame!
"Alas! away, away!" she cried,
"For the holy Virgin's sake!"
"Lady, I know who sleeps by thy side;
But, lady, he will not awake.
"By Eildon-tree, for long nights three,
"In bloody grave have I lain;
"The mass and the death-prayer are said for me,
"But, lady, they are said in vain.
"By the Baron's brand, near Tweed's fair strand,
"Most foully slain I fell;
"And my restless sprite on the beacon's height,
[Pg 238] "For a space is doom'd to dwell.
"At our trysting-place,[61] for a certain space,
"I must wander to and fro;
"But I had not had power to come to thy bower,
"Had'st thou not conjured me so."
Love master'd fear—her brow she crossed;
"How, Richard, hast thou sped?
"And art thou saved, or art thou lost?"
The Vision shook his head!
"Who spilleth life, shall forfeit life;
"So bid thy lord believe:
"That lawless love is guilt above,
"This awful sign receive."
He laid his left palm on an oaken beam;
His right upon her hand:
The lady shrunk, and fainting sunk,
For it scorch'd like a fiery brand.
The sable score, of fingers four,
Remains on that board impress'd;
And for evermore that lady wore
[Pg 239] A covering on her wrist.
There is a nun in Dryburgh bower,
Ne'er looks upon the sun:
There is a monk in Melrose tower,
He speaketh word to none.
That nun, who ne'er beholds the day,
That monk, who speaks to none—
That nun was Smaylho'me's Lady gay,
That monk the bold Baron.
[Pg 240]



Lord Evers, and Sir Brian Latoun, during the year 1544, committed the most dreadful ravages upon the Scottish frontiers, compelling most of the inhabitants, and especially the men of Liddesdale, to take assurance under the king of England. Upon the 17th November, in that year, the sum total of their depredations stood thus, in the bloody ledger of Lord Evers:

Towns, towers, barnekynes, parish churches, bastille houses, burned and destroyed 192
Scots slain 403
Prisoners taken 816
Nolt (cattle) 10,386
Sheep 12,492
Nags and geldings 1,296
Gayt 200
Bolls of corn 850
Insight gear, &c. (furniture) an incalculable quantity.

Murdin's State Papers, Vol. I. p. 51.

The king of England had promised to these two barons a feudal grant of the country, which they had thus reduced to a desert; upon hearing which, Archibald Douglas, the seventh Earl of Angus, is said to have sworn to write the deed of investiture upon their skins, with sharp pens and bloody ink, in resentment for their having defaced the tombs of his ancestors, at[Pg 241] Melrose.—Godscroft. In 1545, Lord Evers and Latoun again entered Scotland, with an army consisting of 3000 mercenaries, 1500 English borderers, and 700 assured Scottish-men, chiefly Armstrongs, Turnbulls, and other broken clans. In this second incursion, the English generals even exceeded their former cruelty. Evers burned the tower of Broomhouse, with its lady (a noble and aged woman, says Lesley), and her whole family. The English penetrated as far as Melrose, which they had destroyed last year, and which they now again pillaged. As they returned towards Jedburgh, they were followed by Angus, at the head of 1000 horse, who was shortly after joined by the famous Norman Lesley, with a body of Fife-men. The English, being probably unwilling to cross the Teviot, while the Scots hung upon their rear, halted upon Ancram Moor, above the village of that name; and the Scottish general was deliberating whether to advance or retire, when Sir Walter Scott,[62] of Buccleuch, came up at full speed, with a small, but chosen body of his retainers, the rest of whom were near at hand. By the advice of this experienced warrior (to whose conduct Pitscottie and Buchanan ascribe the success of the engagement), Angus withdrew from the height which he occupied, and drew up his forces behind it, upon a piece of low flat ground, called Panier-heugh, or Peniel-heugh. The spare horses being sent to an eminence in their rear, appeared [Pg 242]to the English to be the main body of the Scots, in the act of flight. Under this persuasion, Evers and Latoun hurried precipitately forwards, and, having ascended the hill, which their foes had abandoned, were no less dismayed than astonished, to find the phalanx of Scottish Spearmen drawn up, in firm array, upon the flat ground below. The Scots in their turn became the assailants. A heron, roused from the marshes by the tumult, soared away betwixt the encountering armies: "O!" exclaimed Angus, "that I had here my white goss-hawk, that we might all yoke at once!"—Godscroft. The English, breathless and fatigued, having the setting sun and wind full in their faces, were unable to withstand the resolute and desperate charge of the Scottish lances. No sooner had they begun to waver, than their own allies, the assured borderers, who had been waiting the event, threw aside their red crosses, and, joining their countrymen, made a most merciless slaughter among the English fugitives, the pursuers calling upon each other to "remember Broomhouse!"—Lesley, p. 478. In the battle fell Lord Evers, and his son, together with Sir Brian Latoun, and 800 Englishmen, many of whom were persons of rank. A thousand prisoners were taken. Among these was a patriotic alderman of London, Read by name, who, having contumaciously refused to pay his portion of a benevolence, demanded from the city by Henry VIII., was sent by royal authority to serve against the Scots. These, at settling his ransom, he found still more exorbitant in their exactions than the monarch.—Redpath's Border History, p. 553. Evers was much regretted by King Henry, who swore to avenge his death upon Angus, against whom he conceived himself to have particular grounds of resentment, on account of favours received by the Earl at his hands. The answer of Angus was worthy of a Douglas: "Is our brother-in-law offended,"[63] said he, "that I, as a good Scotsman, have avenged my ravaged country, and the defaced tombs of my ancestors, upon Ralph Evers? They were better men than he, and I was bound to do no less—and will he take my life for that? Little knows King [Pg 243]Henry the skirts of Kirnetable:[64] I can keep myself there against all his English host."—Godscroft.

Such was the noted battle of Ancram Moor. The spot, on which it was fought, is called Lyliard's Edge, from an Amazonian Scottish woman of that name, who is reported, by tradition, to have distinguished herself in the same manner as squire Witherington. The old people point out her monument, now broken and defaced. The inscription is said to have been legible within this century, and to have run thus:

Fair maiden Lylliard lies under this stane,
Little was her stature, but great was her fame;
Upon the English louns she laid mony thumps,
And, when her legs were cutted off, she fought upon her stumps.

Vide Account of the Parish of Melrose.

It appears, from a passage in Stowe, that an ancestor of Lord Evers held also a grant of Scottish lands from an English monarch. "I have seen," says the historian, "under the broad-seale of the said King Edward I., a manor, called Ketnes, in the countie of Ferfare, in Scotland, and neere the furthest part of the same nation northward, given to John Eure and his heiress, ancestor to the Lord Eure, that now is, for his service done in these partes, with market, &c. dated at Lanercost, the 20th day of October, anno regis, 34."—Stowe's Annals, p. 210. This grant, like that of Henry, must have been dangerous to the receiver.

There is a nun in Dryburgh bower.—P. 239. v. 3.

The circumstance of the nun, "who never saw the day," is not entirely imaginary. About fifty years ago, an unfortunate female-wanderer took up her residence in a dark vault, among the ruins of Dryburgh abbey, which, during the day, she never quitted. When night fell, she issued from this miserable habitation, and went to the house of Mr Halliburton of [Pg 244]Newmains, the editor's great-grandfather, or to that of Mr Erskine of Sheilfield, two gentlemen of the neighbourhood. From their charity, she obtained such necessaries as she could be prevailed upon to accept. At twelve, each night, she lighted her candle, and returned to her vault; assuring her friendly neighbours, that, during her absence, her habitation was arranged by a spirit, to whom she gave the uncouth name of Fatlips; describing him as a little man, wearing heavy iron shoes, with which he trampled the clay floor of the vault, to dispel the damps. This circumstance caused her to be regarded, by the well-informed, with compassion, as deranged in her understanding; and by the vulgar, with some degree of terror. The cause of her adopting this extraordinary mode of life she would never explain. It was, however, believed to have been occasioned by a vow, that, during the absence of a man, to whom she was attached, she would never look upon the sun. Her lover never returned. He fell during the civil-war of 1745-6, and she never more would behold the light of day.

The vault, or rather dungeon, in which this unfortunate woman lived and died, passes still by the name of the supernatural being, with which its gloom was tenanted by her disturbed imagination, and few of the neighbouring peasants dare enter it by night.


[54] The following passage, in Dr Henry More's Appendix to the Antidote against Atheism, relates to a similar phenomenon: "I confess, that the bodies of devils may not only be warm, but sindgingly hot, as it was in him that took one of Melanchthon's relations by the hand, and so scorched her, that she bare the mark of it to her dying day. But the examples of cold are more frequent; as in that famous story of Cuntius, when he touched the arm of a certain woman of Pentoch, as she lay in her bed, he felt as cold as ice; and so did the spirit's claw to Anne Styles."—Ed. 1662. p. 135.

[55] The plate-jack is coat-armour; the vaunt-brace, or wam-brace, armour for the body; the sperthe, a battle-axe.

[56] See an account of the battle of Ancram Moor, subjoined to the ballad.

[57] The black-rood of Melrose was a crucifix of black marble, and of superior sanctity.

[58] Dryburgh Abbey is beautifully situated on the banks of the Tweed. After its dissolution, it became the property of the Halliburtons of Newmains, and is now the seat of the Right Honourable the Earl of Buchan. It belonged to the order of Premonstratenses.

[59] Eildon is a high hill, terminating in three conical summits, immediately above the town of Melrose, where are the admired ruins of a magnificent monastery. Eildon-tree is said to be the spot where Thomas the Rhymer uttered his prophecies. See p. 173.

[60] Mertoun is the beautiful seat of Hugh Scott, Esq. of Harden.

[61] Trysting-place—Place of rendezvous.

[62] The editor has found in no instance upon record, of this family having taken assurance with England. Hence, they usually suffered dreadfully from the English forays. In August, 1544 (the year preceding the battle), the whole lands belonging to Buccleuch, in West Teviotdale, were harried by Evers; the outworks, or barmkin, of the tower of Branxholm, burned; eight Scotts slain, thirty made prisoners, and an immense prey of horses, cattle, and sheep, carried off. The lands upon Kale water, belonging to the same chieftain, were also plundered, and much spoil obtained; 30 Scotts slain, and the Moss Tower (a fortress near Eckford), smoked very sore. Thus Buccleuch had a long account to settle at Ancram Moor.—Murdin's State Papers, pp. 45, 46.

[63] Angus had married the widow of James IV., sister to King Henry VIII.

[64] Kirnetable, now called Cairntable, is a mountainous tract at the head of Douglasdale.

[Pg 245]



The subject of the following ballad is a popular tale of the Scottish borders. It refers to transactions of a period so important, as to have left an indelible impression on the popular mind, and almost to have effaced the traditions of earlier times. The fame of Arthur, and the Knights of the Round Table, always more illustrious among the Scottish borderers, from their Welch origin, than Fin Maccoul, and Gow Macmorne, who seem not, however, to have been totally unknown, yielded gradually to the renown of Wallace, Bruce, Douglas, and the other patriots, who so nobly asserted the liberty of their country.—Beyond that period, numerous, but obscure and varying legends, refer to the marvellous Merlin, or Myrrdin the Wild, and Michael Scot, both magicians of notorious fame. In this instance the enchanters have triumphed over the true man. But the charge of magic was transferred from the ancient sorcerers to the objects of popular resentment of every age; and the partizans of the Baliols, the abettors of the English faction, and the enemies of the protestant, and of the presbyterian reformation, have been indiscriminately stigmatized as necromancers and warlocks. Thus, Lord Soulis, Archbishop Sharp, Grierson of Lagg,[Pg 246] and Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, receive from tradition the same supernatural attributes. According to Dalrymple,[65] the family of Soulis seem to have been powerful during the contest between Bruce and Baliol; for adhering to the latter of whom they incurred forfeiture. Their power extended over the south and west marches; and near Deadrigs,[66] in the parish of Eccles, in the east marches, their family-bearings still appear on an obelisk. William de Soulis, Justiciarius Laodoniæ, in 1281, subscribed the famous obligation, by which the nobility of Scotland bound themselves to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Maid of Norway, and her descendants. Rhymer, Tom. II. pp. 266, 279; and, in 1291, Nicholas de Soulis appears as a competitor for the crown of Scotland, which he claimed as the heir of Margery, a bastard daughter of Alexander II., and wife of Allan Durward, or Chuissier.—Carte, p. 177. Dalrymple's Annals, Vol. I. p. 203.

But their power was not confined to the marches; for the barony of Saltoun, in the shire of Haddington, derived its name from the family; being designed Soulistoun, in a charter to the predecessors of Nevoy of that ilk, seen by Dalrymple; and the same frequently appears among those of the benefactors and witnesses in the chartularies of abbeys, particularly in that of Newbottle. Ranulphus de Soulis occurs as a witness, in a charter, granted by [Pg 247]King David, of the teindis of Stirling; and he, or one of his successors, had afterwards the appellation of Pincerna Regis. The following notices of the family and its decline, are extracted from Robertson's Index of Lost Charters.[67] Various repetitions occur, as the index is copied from different rolls, which appear to have never been accurately arranged.

Charter to the Abbacie of Melross, of that part of the barony of Westerker, quhilk perteint to Lord Soulis—a Rob. I. in vicecom. Melrose.

---- To the abbey of Craigelton, quhilkis perteint to Lord Soulis—ab eodem—Candidæ Casæ.

---- To John Soullis, knight of the lands of Kirkanders and Brettalach—ab eodem—Dumfries.

---- To John Soullis, knight of the baronie of Torthorald, ab eodem—Dumfries.

Charter To John Soullis, of the lands of Kirkanders—ab eodem—Dumfries.

---- To John Soullis, of the barony of Kirkanders—quæ fuit quondam Johannis de Wak, Militis—ab eodem.

---- To James Lord Douglas, the half-lands of the barony of Westerker, in valle de Esk, quilk William Soullis [Pg 248]forisfecit—ab eodem.

---- To Robert Stewart, the son and heir of Walter Stewart, the barony of Nisbit, the barony of Longnewton, and Mertoun, and the barony of Cavirton, invicecomitatu de Roxburgh, quhilk William Soulis forisfecit.

---- To Murdoch Menteith, of the lands of Gilmerton, whilk was William Soullis, in vicecom. de Edinburgh—ab eodem.

---- To Robert Bruce, of the lands of Liddesdale, whilk William Soulis erga nos forisfecit—ab eodem.

---- To Robert Bruce, son to the king, the lands of Liddesdail, whilk William Soullis forisfecit erga nos, ab eodem—anno regni 16.

---- To Archibald Douglas, of the baronie of Kirkanders, quilk were John Soullis, in vicecom. de Dumfries.

---- To Murdoch Menteith, of the lands of Gilmerton, quilk Soullis forisfecit, in vicecom. de Edinburgh.

---- Waltero Senescallo Scotiæ of Nesbit (except and the valley of Liddell) the barony of Langnewton and Maxtoun, the barony of Cavertoun, in vicecom. de Roxburgh, quas Soullis forisfecit.

Charter To James Lord Douglas, of the barony of Westerker, quam Willielmus de Soullis forisfecit.

---- To William Lord Douglas, of the lands of Lyddal, [Pg 249]whilkis William Soullis forisfecit, a Davide secundo.

The hero of tradition seems to be William, Lord Soullis, whose name occurs so frequently in the foregoing list of forfeitures; by which he appears to have possessed the whole district of Liddesdale, with Westerkirk and Kirkandrews, in Dumfries-shire, the lands of Gilmertoun, near Edinburgh, and the rich baronies of Nisbet, Longnewton, Caverton, Maxtoun, and Mertoun, in Roxburghshire. He was of royal descent, being the grandson of Nicholas de Soulis, who claimed the crown of Scotland, in right of his grandmother, daughter to Alexander II.; and who, could her legitimacy have been ascertained, must have excluded the other competitors. The elder brother of William, was John de Soulis, a gallant warrior, warmly attached to the interests of his country, who, with fifty borderers, defeated and made prisoner Sir Andrew Harclay, at the head of three hundred Englishmen; and was himself slain, fighting in the cause of Edward the Bruce, at the battle of Dundalk, in Ireland, 1318. He had been joint-warden of the kingdom with John Cummin, after the abdication of the immortal Wallace, in 1300; in which character he was recognised by John Baliol, who, in a charter granted after his dethronement, and dated at Rutherglen, in the ninth year of his reign (1302), styles him "Custos regni "nostri." The treason of William, his successor, occasioned the downfall of the family. This powerful baron entered into a conspiracy against Robert the Bruce, in which many persons of rank were engaged. The object, according to Barbour, was to elevate Lord Soulis to the[Pg 250] Scottish throne. The plot was discovered by the Countess of Strathern. Lord Soulis was seized at Berwick, although he was attended, says Barbour, by three hundred and sixty squires, besides many gallant knights. Having confessed his guilt, in full parliament, his life was spared by the king; but his domains were forfeited, and he himself confined in the castle of Dumbarton, where he died. Many of his accomplices were executed; among others, the gallant David de Brechin, nephew to the king, whose sole crime was having concealed the treason, in which he disdained to participate.[68] The parliament, in which so much noble blood was shed, was long remembered by the name of the Black Parliament. It was held in the year 1320.

From this period the family of Soulis makes no figure in our annals. Local tradition, however, more faithful to the popular sentiment than history, has recorded the character of their chief, and attributed to him many actions [Pg 251]which seem to correspond with that character. His portrait is by no means flattering; uniting every quality which could render strength formidable, and cruelty detestable. Combining prodigious bodily strength with cruelty, avarice, dissimulation, and treachery, is it surprising that a people, who attributed every event of life, in a great measure, to the interference of good or evil spirits, should have added to such a character the mystical horrors of sorcery? Thus, he is represented as a cruel tyrant and sorcerer; constantly employed in oppressing his vassals, harassing his neighbours, and fortifying his castle of Hermitage against the king of Scotland; for which purpose he employed all means, human and infernal: invoking the fiends, by his incantations, and forcing his vassals to drag materials, like beasts of burden. Tradition proceeds to relate, that the Scottish king, irritated by reiterated complaints, peevishly exclaimed to the petitioners, "Boil him, if you please, but let me hear no more of him." Satisfied with this answer, they proceeded with the utmost haste to execute the commission; which they accomplished, by boiling him alive on the Nine-stane Rig, in a cauldron, said to have been long preserved at Skelf-hill, a hamlet betwixt Hawick and the Hermitage. Messengers, it is said, were immediately dispatched by the king, to prevent the eff[Pg 252]ects of such a hasty declaration; but they only arrived in time to witness the conclusion of the ceremony. The castle of Hermitage, unable to support the load of iniquity, which had been long accumulating within its walls, is supposed to have partly sunk beneath the ground; and its ruins are still regarded by the peasants with peculiar aversion and terror. The door of the chamber, where Lord Soulis is said to have held his conferences with the evil spirits, is supposed to be opened once in seven years, by that dæmon, to which, when he left the castle, never to return, he committed the keys, by throwing them over his left shoulder, and desiring it to keep them till his return. Into this chamber, which is really the dungeon of the castle, the peasant is afraid to look; for such is the active malignity of its inmate, that a willow, inserted at the chinks of the door, is found peeled, or stripped of its bark, when drawn back. The Nine-stane Rig, where Lord Soulis was boiled, is a declivity, about one mile in breadth, and four in length, descending upon the water of Hermitage, from the range of hills which separate Liddesdale and Teviotdale. It derives its name from one of those circles of large stones, which are termed Druidical, nine of which remained to a late period. Five of these stones are still visible; and two are particularly pointed out, as those which supported the iron bar, upon which the fatal cauldron was suspended.

The formation of ropes of sand, according to popu[Pg 253]lar tradition, was a work of such difficulty, that it was assigned by Michael Scot to a number of spirits, for which it was necessary for him to find some interminable employment. Upon discovering the futility of their attempts to accomplish the work assigned, they petitioned their task-master to be allowed to mingle a few handfuls of barley-chaff with the sand. On his refusal, they were forced to leave untwisted the ropes which they had shaped. Such is the traditionary hypothesis of the vermicular ridges of the sand on the shore of the sea.

Redcap is a popular appellation of that class of spirits which haunt old castles. Every ruined tower in the south of Scotland is supposed to have an inhabitant of this species.



[Pg 254]
Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage castle,
And beside him Old Redcap sly;—
"Now, tell me, thou sprite, who art meikle of might,
"The death that I must die?"
"While thou shalt bear a charmed life,
"And hold that life of me,
"'Gainst lance and arrow, sword and knife,
"I shall thy warrant be.
"Nor forged steel, nor hempen band,
"Shall e'er thy limbs confine,
"Till threefold ropes, of sifted sand,
"Around thy body twine.
"If danger press fast, knock thrice on the chest,
"With rusty padlocks bound;
"Turn away your eyes, when the lid shall rise,
"And listen to the sound."
Lord Soulis he sat in Hermitage castle,
And Redcap was not by;
And he called on a page, who was witty and sage,
[Pg 255] To go to the barmkin high.
"And look thou east, and look thou west,
"And quickly come tell to me,
"What troopers haste along the waste,
"And what may their livery be."
He looked o'er fell, and he looked o'er flat,
But nothing, I wist, he saw,
Save a pyot on a turret that sat
Beside a corby craw.
The page he look'd at the skrieh[69] of day,
But nothing, I wist, he saw,
Till a horseman gray, in the royal array,
Rode down the Hazel-shaw.
"Say, why do you cross o'er moor and moss?"
So loudly cried the page;
"I tidings bring, from Scotland's king,
"To Soulis of Hermitage.
"He bids me tell that bloody warden,
"Oppressor of low and high,
"If ever again his lieges complain,
[Pg 256] "The cruel Soulis shall die."
By traitorous slight they seized the knight,
Before he rode or ran,
And through the key-stone of the vault,
They plunged him, horse and man.

O May she came, and May she gaed,
By Goranberry green;
And May she was the fairest maid,
That ever yet was seen.
O May she came, and May she gaed,
By Goranberry tower;
And who was it but cruel Lord Soulis,
That carried her from her bower?
He brought her to his castle gray,
By Hermitage's side;
Says—"Be content, my lovely May,
[Pg 257] "For thou shalt be my bride."
With her yellow hair, that glittered fair,
She dried the trickling tear;
She sighed the name of Branxholm's heir,
The youth that loved her dear.
"Now, be content, my bonny May,
"And take it for your hame;
"Or ever and ay shall ye rue the day,
"You heard young Branxholm's name.
"O'er Branxholm tower, ere the morning hour,
"When the lift[70] is like lead so blue;
"The smoke shall roll white on the weary night,
"And the flame shine dimly through."
Syne he's ca'd on him Ringan Red,
A sturdy kemp was he;
From friend or foe, in border feid,
Who never a foot would flee.
Red Ringan sped, and the spearmen led,
Up Goranberry slack;
Aye, many a wight, unmatched in fight,
[Pg 258] Who never more came back.
And bloody set the westering sun,
And bloody rose he up;
But little thought young Branxholm's heir,
Where he that night should sup.
He shot the roe-buck on the lee,
The dun deer on the law;
The glamour[71] sure was in his e'e,
When Ringan nigh did draw.
O'er heathy edge, through rustling sedge,
He sped till day was set;
And he thought it was his merrymen true,
When he the spearmen met.
Far from relief, they seized the chief;
His men were far away;
Through Hermitage slack, they sent him back,
To Soulis' castle gray;
Syne onward fure for Branxholm tower,
Where all his merry men lay.
"Now, welcome, noble Branxholm's heir!
[Pg 259] "Thrice welcome," quoth Soulis, "to me!
"Say, dost thou repair to my castle fair,
"My wedding guest to be?
"And lovely May deserves, per fay,
"A brideman such as thee!"
And broad and bloody rose the sun,
And on the barmkin shone;
When the page was aware of Red Ringan there,
Who came riding all alone.
To the gate of the tower Lord Soulis he speeds,
As he lighted at the wall,
Says—"Where did ye stable my stalwart steeds,
"And where do they tarry all?"
"We stabled them sure, on the Tarras Muir;
"We stabled them sure," quoth he:
"Before we could cross that quaking moss,
"They all were lost but me."
He clenched his fist, and he knocked on the chest,
And he heard a stifled groan;
And at the third knock, each rusty lock
[Pg 260] Did open one by one.
He turned away his eyes, as the lid did rise,
And he listen'd silentlie;
And he heard breathed slow, in murmurs low,
"Beware of a coming tree!"
In muttering sound the rest was drowned;
No other word heard he;
But slow as it rose the lid did close,
With the rusty padlocks three.

Now rose with Branxholm's ae brother,
The Teviot, high and low;
Bauld Walter by name, of meikle fame,
For none could bend his bow.
O'er glen and glade, to Soulis there sped
[Pg 261] The fame of his array,
And that Tiviotdale would soon assail
His towers and castle gray.
With clenched fist, he knocked on the chest,
And again he heard a groan;
And he raised his eyes as the lid did rise,
But answer heard he none.
The charm was broke, when the spirit spoke,
And it murmur'd sullenlie,—
"Shut fast the door, and for evermore,
"Commit to me the key.
"Alas! that ever thou raised'st thine eyes,
"Thine eyes to look on me!
"Till seven years are o'er, return no more,
"For here thou must not be."
Think not but Soulis was wae to yield
His warlock chamber o'er;
He took the keys from the rusty lock,
That never was ta'en before.
He threw them o'er his left shoulder,
With meikle care and pain;
And he bade it keep them, fathoms deep,
[Pg 262] Till he returned again.
And still, when seven years are o'er,
Is heard the jarring sound;
When slowly opes the charmed door
Of the chamber under ground.
And some within the chamber door
Have cast a curious eye;
But none dare tell, for the spirits in hell,
The fearful sights they spy.

When Soulis thought on his merry men now,
A woeful wight was he;
Says—"Vengeance is mine, and I will not repine!
"But Branxholm's heir shall die."
Says—"What would ye do, young Branxholm,
[Pg 263] "Gin ye had me, as I have thee?"
"I would take you to the good greenwood,
"And gar your ain hand wale[72] the tree."
"Now shall thine ain hand wale the tree,
"For all thy mirth and meikle pride;
"And May shall chuse, if my love she refuse,
"A scrog bush thee beside."
They carried him to the good greenwood,
Where the green pines grew in a row;
And they heard the cry, from the branches high,
Of the hungry carrion crow.
They carried him on from tree to tree,
The spiry boughs below;
"Say, shall it be thine, on the tapering pine,
"To feed the hooded crow?"
"The fir-tops fall by Branxholm wall,
"When the night blast stirs the tree,
"And it shall not be mine to die on the pine,
"I loved in infancie."
Young Branxholm turned him, and oft looked back,
And aye he passed from tree to tree;
Young Branxholm peeped, and puirly[73] spake,
[Pg 264] "O sic a death is no for me!"
And next they passed the aspin gray;
Its leaves were rustling mournfullie:
"Now, chuse thee, chuse thee, Branxholm gay!
"Say, wilt thou never chuse the tree?"
"More dear to me is the aspin gray,
"More dear than any other tree;
"For beneath the shade, that its branches made,
"Have past the vows of my love and me."
Young Branxholm peeped, and puirly spake,
Until he did his ain men see,
With witches' hazel in each steel cap,
In scorn of Soulis gramarye;
Then shoulder height for glee he lap,
"Methinks I spye a coming tree!"
"Aye, many may come, but few return,"
Quo' Soulis, the lord of gramarye;
"No warrior's hand in fair Scotland
"Shall ever dint a wound on me!"
"Now, by my sooth," quo' bauld Walter,
"If that be true we soon shall see."
His bent bow he drew, and the arrow was true,
[Pg 265] But never a wound or scar had he.
Then up bespake him, true Thomas,
He was the lord of Ersyltoun:
"The wizard's spell no steel can quell,
"Till once your lances bear him down."
They bore him down with lances bright,
But never a wound or scar had he;
With hempen bands they bound him tight,
Both hands and feet on the Nine-stane lee.
That wizard accurst, the bands he burst;
They mouldered at his magic spell;
And neck and heel, in the forged steel,
They bound him against the charms of hell.
That wizard accurst, the bands he burst;
No forged steel his charms could bide;
Then up bespake him, true Thomas,
"We'll bind him yet, whate'er betide."
The black spae-book from his breast he took,
Impressed with many a warlock spell:
And the book it was wrote by Michael Scott,
[Pg 266] Who held in awe the fiends of hell.
They buried it deep, where his bones they sleep,
That mortal man might never it see:
But Thomas did save it from the grave,
When he returned from Faërie.
The black spae-book from his breast he took,
And turned the leaves with curious hand;
No ropes, did he find, the wizard could bind,
But threefold ropes of sifted sand.
They sifted the sand from the Nine-stane burn,
And shaped the ropes so curiouslie;
But the ropes would neither twist nor twine,
For Thomas true and his gramarye.
The black spae-book from his breast he took,
And again he turned it with his hand;
And he bade each lad of Teviot add
The barley chaff to the sifted sand.
The barley chaff to the sifted sand
They added still by handfulls nine;
But Redcap sly unseen was by,
[Pg 267] And the ropes would neither twist nor twine.
And still beside the Nine-stane burn,
Ribbed like the sand at mark of sea,
The ropes, that would not twist nor turn,
Shaped of the sifted sand you see.
The black spae-book true Thomas he took;
Again its magic leaves he spread;
And he found that to quell the powerful spell,
The wizard must be boiled in lead.
On a circle of stones they placed the pot,
On a circle of stones but barely nine;
They heated it red and fiery hot,
Till the burnished brass did glimmer and shine.
They rolled him up in a sheat of lead,
A sheat of lead for a funeral pall;
They plunged him in the cauldron red,
And melted him, lead, and bones, and all.
At the Skelf-hill, the cauldron still
The men of Liddesdale can shew;
And on the spot, where they boiled the pot,
[Pg 268] The spreat[74] and the deer-hair[75] ne'er shall grow.



[Pg 269]

The tradition regarding the death of Lord Soulis, however singular, is not without a parallel in the real history of Scotland. The same extraordinary mode of cookery was actually practised (horresco referens) upon the body of a sheriff of the Mearns. This person, whose name was Melville of Glenbervie, bore his faculties so harshly, that he became detested by the barons of the country. Reiterated complaints of his conduct having been made to James I. (or, as others say, to the Duke of Albany), the monarch answered, in a moment of unguarded impatience, "Sorrow gin the sheriff were sodden, and supped in broo'!" The complainers retired, perfectly satisfied. Shortly after, the lairds of Arbuthnot, Mather, Laurestoun, and Pittaraw, decoyed Melville to the top of the hill of Garvock, above Lawrencekirk, under pretence of a grand hunting party. Upon this place (still called the Sheriff's Pot), the barons had prepared a fire and a boiling cauldron, into which they plunged the unlucky sheriff. After he was sodden (as the king termed it), for a sufficient time, the savages, that they might literally observe the royal mandate, concluded the scene of abomination, by actually partaking of the hell-broth.

The three lairds were outlawed for this offence; and Barclay, one of their number, to screen himself from justice, erected[Pg 270] the kaim (i.e. the camp, or fortress) of Mathers, which stands upon a rocky, and almost inaccessible peninsula, overhanging the German ocean. The laird of Arbuthnot is said to have eluded the royal vengeance, by claiming the benefit of the law of clan Macduff, concerning which the curious reader will find some particulars subjoined. A pardon, or perhaps a deed of replegiation, founded upon that law, is said to be still extant among the records of the viscount of Arbuthnot.

Pellow narrates a similar instance of atrocity, perpetrated after the death of Muley Ismael, emperor of Morocco, in 1727, when the inhabitants of Old Fez, throwing off all allegiance to his successor, slew "Alchyde Boel le Rosea, their old governor, boiling his flesh, and many, through spite, eating thereof, and throwing what they could not eat of it to the dogs."—See Pellow's Travels in South Barbary. And we may add, to such tales, the oriental tyranny of Zenghis Khan, who immersed seventy Tartar Khans in as many boiling cauldrons.

The punishment of boiling seems to have been in use among the English at a very late period, as appears from the following passage in Stowe's Chronicle:—"The 17th of March (1524), Margaret Davy, a maid, was boiled at Smithfield, for poisoning of three households that she had dwelled in." But unquestionably the usual practice of Smithfield cookery, about that period, was by a different application of fire.


Though it is rather foreign to the proper subject of this work, many readers may not be displeased to have some account of the curious privilege enjoyed by the descendants of the famous [Pg 271]Macduff, thane of Fife, and thence called the Law of the Clan, or family, bearing his name.

When the revolution was accomplished, in which Macbeth was dethroned and slain, Malcolm, sensible of the high services of the thane of Fife, is said, by our historians, to have promised to grant the first three requests he should make. Macduff accordingly demanded, and obtained, first, that he and his successors, lords of Fife, should place the crown on the king's head at his coronation; secondly, that they should lead the vanguard of the army, whenever the royal banner was displayed; and, lastly, this privilege of clan Macduff, whereby any person, being related to Macduff within the ninth degree, and having committed homicide in chaude melle (without premeditation), should, upon flying to Macduff's Cross, and paying a certain fine, obtain remission of their guilt. Such, at least, is the account given of the law by all our historians. Nevertheless, there seems ground to suspect, that the privilege did not amount to an actual and total remission of the crime, but only to a right of being exempted from all other courts of jurisdiction, except that of the lord of Fife. The reader is presented with an old document, in which the law of clan Macduff is pleaded on behalf of one of the ancestors of Moray of Abercairny; and it is remarkable that he does not claim any immunity, but solely a right of being re-pledged, because his cause had already been tried by Robert earl of Fife, the sole competent judge. But the privilege of being answerable only to the chief of their own clan, was, to the descendants of Macduff, almost equivalent to an absolute indemnity.

Macduff's Cross was situated near Lindores, on the march dividing Fife from Strathern. The form of this venerable monument unfortunately offended the zeal of the reformer, Knox, and it was totally demolished by his followers. The pedestal,[Pg 272] a solid block of stone, alone escaped the besom of destruction. It bore an inscription, which, according to the apocryphal account of Sir Robert Sibbald, was a mixture of Latin, Saxon, Danish, and old French. Skene has preserved two lines:—

Propter Makgridim et hoc oblatum,
Accipe Smeleridem super lampade limpidæ labrum

Skene, de verb. sig. voce Clan Macduff.

The full inscription, real or pretended, may be found in Sir Robert Sibbald's History of Fife, and in James Cunninghame's Essay upon Macduff's Cross, together with what is called a translation, or rather paraphrase, of the piebald jargon which composes it. In Gough's edition of Camden's Britannia, a different and more intelligible version is given, on the authority of a Mr Douglas of Newburgh. The cross was dedicated to a St Macgider. Around the pedestal are tumuli, said to be the graves of those, who, having claimed the privilege of the law, failed in proving their consanguinity to the thane of Fife. Such persons were instantly executed. The people of Newburgh believe, that the spectres of these criminals still haunt the ruined cross, and claim that mercy for their souls, which they had failed to obtain for their mortal existence.

The late Lord Hailes gives it as his opinion, that the indulgence was only to last till the tenth generation from Macduff.

Fordun and Wintoun state, that the fine, to be paid by the person taking sanctuary, was twenty-four merks for a gentleman, and twelve merks for a yeoman. Skene affirms it to be nine cows, and a colpindach (i.e. a quey, or cow of one or two years old).—Fordun, lib. 5, cap. 9.; Wintoun's Cronykel, b. 6, ch. 19.; Skene, ut supra. The last cited author avers, that he has seen an old evident, bearing, that Spens of Wormestoun, being of Macduff's kin, enjoyed this privilege for the slaughter of one Kinnermonth. The following deed, of a like nature, is published from a copy, accurately transcribed from an original deed, in the hands of the late Mr Cuming, of the Herald-Office, Edinburgh, by Messrs Brown and Gibb, librarians to the [Pg 273]Faculty of Advocates. The blanks are occasioned by some parts of the deed having been obliterated.

"In nomine domini amen. Per presens publicum instrumentum, cunctis pateat evidenter quod anno ejusdem domini mo. cco. nonagesimo primo, indictione quinta decima Pontificatus sanctissimi in Christo Patris, ac domini nostri Clementis divina providentia Papæ septimi anno quarto decimo mensis Decembris die septimo. In mei notarii publici et testium subscriptorum presentia personaliter constitutus, nobilis et potens vir dominus Alexander de Moravia, miles, cum prolucutoribus suis, domino Bernardo de Howden, milite, et Johanne de Logie, vocatus per rotulos indictamentorum super interfectione Willielmi de Spalden coram Justiciariis; viz. Johanne de Drummond milite, Mauricio de Drummond.

"Filium Willielmi in judicio sedentibus apud Foulis et potestatus erat, quod ex quo semel pro interfectione dicti hominis antea fuit per indictamentum                 judicio vocatus et replegiatus ad legem de clan Macduff, per dominum Robertum comitem de Fyfe non tenebatur coram quocunque alio                 de dicta interfectione judiciari, quosque dicta lex de clan Macduff suo intemerata privilegio de ipso ut prædicitur ad ipsam legem                 atto. Petens ipsum legaliter deliberari, et per ipsos vel eorum indictamentis sic indebite ulterius non vexari. Quiquidem judicis                 nolle dictum dominum Alexandrum deliberarie si ipsum bene vellent respectuare eousque quod dominus de Brochepen justiciarius capitalis                 dicta actione ordinaverunt                 quod sibi et suo concilio expedientius videretur, quiquidem dominus Alexander et sui prolucutores eorum petitione et prestatione et predictorum judicum responsione, petierunt a me notario publico infra scripto præsentium                 acta fuerunt hæc apud Foulis in itinere justiciario ibidem tento anno mense die et pontificatu prescriptis per nobilibus et discretis viris dominis Mauricio archidiacono Dumblan, Willielmo de Grame, Vinfrido de Cunyngham, David de                 Militibus, Moritio de Drummond, Waltero de Drummond, Walter [Pg 274]de Moravia, Scutiferis testibus ad præmissa vocatis specialiter et rogatis.

"Et ego Johannes Symonis Clericus Dunkeldensis publicus imperial notarius prædicti domini Alexandri comparitione ipsius petitione et protestatione desuper justiciariorum responsione omnibusque aliis et singulis dum sic ut priusquam                 et agerentur una cum prenominatis testibus presens interfui eaque sic fieri vidi                 et in hanc forman publicam, redegi manuque mea propria scripsi requisitus et roga                 om omnium premissorum signo meo consueto signavi."

Alas! that e'er thou raised'st thine eyes,
Thine eyes to look on me.—P. 261. v. 5.

The idea of Lord Soulis' familiar seems to be derived from the curious story of the spirit Orthone and the lord of Corasse, which, I think, the reader will be pleased to see, in all its Gothic simplicity, as translated from Froissart, by the lord of Berners.

"It is great marveyle to consyder one thynge, the whiche was shewed to me in the earl of Foix house at Ortayse, of hym that enfourmed me of the busynesse at Juberothe (Aljubarota, where the Spaniards, with their French allies, were defeated by the Portugueze, A.D. 1385). He showed me one thyng that I have oftentymes thought on sithe, and shall do as longe as I live. As thys squyer told me that of trouthe the next day after the battayl was thus fought, at Juberoth, the erle of Foiz knewe it, whereof I had gret marveyle; for the said Sonday, Monday, and Tuesday, the erle was very pensyf, and so sadde of chere, that no man could have a worde of hym. And all the same three days he wold nat issue out of his chambre, nor speke to any man, though they were never so nere about hym. And, on the Tuesday night, he called to him his brother Arnault Guyllyam, and sayd to hym, with a soft voice, 'Our men hath had to do, whereof I am sorrie; for it is come of them, by their voyage, as I sayd or they departed.' Arnault Guyllyam, who was a sage knight, and knewe right well his brother's condicions (i.e. temper), stode still and gave none answere. And than the erle, wh[Pg 275]o thought to declare his mind more plainlye, for long he had borne the trouble thereof in his herte, spake agayn more higher than he dyd before, and sayd, 'By God, Sir Arnault, it is as I saye, and shortely ye shall here tidynges thereof; but the countrey of Byerne, this hundred yere, never lost such a losse, at no journey, as they have done now in Portugal.'—Dyvers knyghtes and squyers, that were there present, and herde hym say so, stode styll, and durst nat speke, but they remembered his wordes. And within a ten days after, they knewe the trouthe thereof, by such as had been at the busynesse, and there they shewed every thinge as it was fortuned at Juberoth. Than the erle renewed agayn his dolour, and all the countreye were in sorrowe, for they had lost their parentes, brethren, chyldren, and frendes. 'Saint Mary!' quod I to the squyer that shewed me thys tale, 'how is it, that the earl of Foiz could know, on one daye, what was done, within a day or two before, beyng so farre off?'—'By my faythe, Sir,' quod he, 'as it appeared well, he knewe it.'—Than he is a diviner,' quod I, 'or els he hath messangers, that flyethe with the wynde, or he must needs have some craft.' The squyer began to laugh, and sayd, "Surely he must know it, by some art of negromansye or otherwyse. To saye the trouthe, we cannot tell how it is, but by our ymaginacions.'—'Sir,' quod I, 'suche ymaginacions as ye have therein, if it please you to shew me, I wold be gladde therof; and if it be suche a thynge as ought to be secrete, I shall nat publysshe it, nor as long as I am in thys countrey I shall never speke worde thereof.'—'I praye you therof,' quod the squyer, 'for I wolde nat it shulde be knowen, that I shulde speke thereof. But I shall shewe you, as dyvers men speketh secretelye, whan they be togyder as frendes.' Than he drew me aparte into a corner of the chapell at Ortayse, and then began his tale, and sayd:

"It is well a twenty yeares paste, that there was, in this countre, a barone, called Raymond, lorde of Corasse, whyche is a sevyn leagues from this towne of Ortayse. Thys lord of Cora[Pg 276]sse had that same tyme, a plee at Avygnon before the Pope, for the dysmes (i.e. tithes) of his churche, against a clerk, curate there; the whiche priest was of Catelogne. He was a grete clerk, and claymed to have ryghte of the dysmes, in the towne of Corasse, which was valued to a hundred florens by the yere, and the ryghte that he had, he shewed and proved it; and, by sentence diffynitive, Pope Urbane the fythe, in consistory generall, condempned the knighte, and gave judgement wyth the preest, and of this last judgment he had letters of the Pope, for his possession, and so rode tyll he came into Berne, and there shewed his letters and bulles of the Popes for his possession of his dysmes. The lord of Corasse had gret indignacion at this preest, and came to hym, and said, 'Maister Pers, or Maister Martin (as his name was) thinkest thou, that by reason of thy letters I will lose mine herytage—be nat so hardy, that thou take any thynge that is myne; if thou do, it shall cost thee thy life. Go thy waye into some other place to get thee a benefyce, for of myne herytage thou gettest no parte, and ones for alwayes, I defende thee.' The clerk douted the knight, for he was a cruell man, therefore he durst nat parceyver.—Than he thoughte to return to Avignon, as he dyde; but, whan he departed, he came to the knight, the lord of Corasse, and sayd, 'Sir, by force, and nat by ryght, ye take away from me the ryght of my churche, wherein you greatly hurt your conscience.—I am not so strong in this countrey as ye be; but, sir, knowe, for trouthe, that as soon as I maye, I shall sende to you suche a champyon, whom ye shall doubte more than me.' The knight, who doubted nothyng his thretynges, said, 'God be with thee; do what thou mayst; I doute no more dethe than lyfe; for all thy wordes, I wyll not lese mine herytage.' Thus, the clerk departed from the lord of Corasse, and went I cannot tell wheder to Avygnon or into Catalogne, and forgat nat the promise that he had made to the lord of Corasse or he departed. For whan the knight thoughte leest on hym, about a three monethes after, as the knyght laye on a nyght a-bedde in his castelle of Corasse, with the lady, there came to hym messangers invisible, and made a marvellous tempest and noise[Pg 277] in the castell, that it seemed as thoughe the castell shulde have fallen downe, and strak gret strokes at his chambre dore, that the goode ladye, his wife, was soore afrayde. The knight herd alle, but he spoke no word thereof; bycause he wolde shewe no abasshed corage, for he was hardy to abyde all adventures. Thys noyse and tempest was in sundry places of the castell, and dured a long space, and, at length, cessed for that nyght. Than the nexte mornyng, all the servants of the house came to the lord, whan he was risen, and sayd, 'Sir, have you nat herde this night, that we have done?' The lord dissembled, and sayd, 'No! I herd nothyng—what have you herde?' Than they shewed him what noyse they hadde herde, and howe alle the vessel in the kechyn was overtowrned. Than the lord began to laugh, and sayd, 'Yea, sirs! ye dremed, it was nothynge but the wynde.'—'In the name of God!' quod the ladye, 'I herde it well.' The next nyght there was as great noyse and greatter, and suche strokes gyven at his chambre dore and windows, as alle shulde have broken in pieces. The knyghte starte up out of his bedde, and wolde not lette, to demaunde who was at his chambre dore that tyme of the nyght; and anone he was answered by a voyce that sayd, 'I am here.' Quod the knyght, 'Who sent thee hyder?'—'The clerk of Catelogne sent me hyder,' quod the voice, 'to whom thou dost gret wronge, for thou hast taken from hym the ryghtes of his benefyce; I will nat leave thee in rest tylle thou haste made hym a good accompte, so that he be pleased.' Quod the knight, 'What is thy name, that thou art so good a messangere?' Quod he, 'I am called Orthone.'—'Orthone!' quod the knight, 'the servyce of a clerke is lytell profyte for thee. He will putte thee to moche payne if thou beleve hym. I pray thee leave hym, and come and serve me; and I shall give thee goode thanke.' Orthone was redy to aunswere, for he was inamours with the knyghte, and sayde, 'Woldest thou fayne have my servyce?'—'Yea, truly,' quod the knyghte, 'so thou do no hurte to any persone in this house.'—'No more I will do,' quod Orthone, 'for I have no power to do any [Pg 278]other yvell, but to awake thee out of thy slepe, or some other.'—'Well,' quod the knyght, 'do as I telle thee, and we shall soone agree, and leave the yvill clerke, for there is no good thyng in him, but to put thee to payne; therefore, come and serve me.'—'Well,' quod Orthone, 'and sythe thou wilt have me, we are agreed.'

"So this spyrite Orthone loved so the knight, that oftentymes he wold come and vysyte hym, while he lay in his bedde aslepe, and outher pull him by the eare, or els stryke at his chambre dore or windowe. And, whan the knyght awoke, than he wolde saye, 'Orthone, lat me slepe.'—'Nay,' quod Orthone, 'that will I nat do, tyll I have shewed thee such tydinges as are fallen a-late.' The ladye, the knyghtes wyfe, wolde be sore afrayed, that her heer wald stand up, and hyde herself under the clothes. Than the knyght wolde saye, 'Why, what tidynges hast thou brought me?'—Quod Orthone, 'I am come out of England, or out of Hungry, or some other place, and yesterday I came hens, and such things are fallen, or such other.' So thus the lord of Corasse knewe, by Orthone, every thing that was done in any part of the worlde. And in this case he contynued a fyve yere, and could not kepe his own counsayle, but at last discovered it to the Erle of Foiz. I shall shewe you howe.

"The firste yere, the lord of Corasse came on a day to Ortayse, to the Erle of Foiz, and sayd to him, 'Sir, such things are done in England, or in Scotland, or in Almagne, or in any other countrey.' And ever the Erle of Foiz found his sayeing true, and had great marveyle how he shulde knowe such things so shortly. And, on a tyme the Erle of Foiz examined him so straitly, that the lord of Corasse shewed hym alle toguyder howe he knewe it, and howe he came to hym firste. When the Erle of Foiz hard that, he was joyfull, and said, Sir of Corasse, kepe him well in your love; I wolde I hadd suche an messanger; he costeth you nothyng, and ye knowe by him every thynge that is done in the worlde.' The knyght answered, and sayd, 'Sir, that is true.' Thus, the lord of Corasse was served with Orthone a long season. I can nat saye[Pg 279] if this Orthone hadde any more masters or nat; but every weke, twise or thrisse, he wolde come and vysite the lord of Corasse, and wolde shewe hym such tidyngs of any thing that was fallen fro whens he came. And ever the lord of Corasse, when he knewe any thynge, he wrote thereof to the Erle of Foiz, who had great joy thereof; for he was the lord, of all the worlde, that most desyred to here news out of straunge places. And, on a tyme, the lord of Corasse was wyth the Erle of Foiz, and the erle demaunded of hym, and sayd, 'Sir of Corasse, dyd ye ever as yet se your messengere?'—'Nay, surely, sir,' quod the knyghte, 'nor I never desyred it.'—'That is marveyle,' quod the erle; 'if I were as well acquainted with him as ye be, I wolde have desyred to have sene hym; wherefore, I pray you, desyre it of hym, and then telle me what form and facyon he is of. I have herd you say howe he speketh as good Gascon as outher you or I.'—'Truely, sir,' quod the knyght, 'so it is: he speketh as well, and as fayr, as any of us both do. And surely, sir, sithe ye counsayle me, I shall do my payne to see him as I can.' And so, on a night, as he lay in his bedde, with the ladye his wife, who was so inured to here Orthone, that she was no longer afrayd of him; than cam Orthone, and pulled the lord by the eare, who was fast asleep, and therewith he awoke, and asked who was there? 'I am here,' quod Orthone. Then he demaunded, 'From whens comest thou nowe?'—'I come,' quod Orthone, 'from Prague, in Eoesme.'—'How farre is that hens?' quod the knyght. 'A threescore days journey,' quod Orthone. 'And art thou come hens so soon?' quod the knyght. 'Yea truely,' quod Orthone, 'I come as fast as the wynde, or faster.'—'Hast thou than winges?' quod the knyght. 'Nay, truely,' quod he. 'How canst thou than flye so fast?' quod the knyght. 'Ye have nothing to do to knowe that,' quod Orthone. 'No?' quod the knyght, 'I wolde gladly se thee, to know what forme thou art of.'—'Well,' quod Orthone, 'ye have nothing to do to knowe: it sufficeth you to here me, and to shewe you tidynges.'—'In faythe,' quod the knyght, 'I wolde love the[Pg 280] moche better an I myght se thee ones.'—'Well,' quod Orthone, 'sir, sithe ye have so gret desyre to se me, the first thynge that ye se to-morrowe, whan ye ryse out of your bedde, the same shall be I.'—'That is sufficient,' quod the lorde. 'Go thy way; I gyve thee leave to departe for this nyght.' And the next mornynge the lord rose, and the ladye his wyfe was so afrayd, that she durst not ryse, but fayned herself sicke, and sayd she wolde not ryse. Her husband wolde have had her to have rysen. 'Sir,' quod she, 'than shall I se Orthone, and I wolde not se him by my gode wille.'—'Well,' quod the knyght, 'I wolde gladly se hym.' And so he arose, fayre and easily, out of his bedde, and sat down on his bedde-syde, wenying to have sene Orthone in his owne proper form; but he sawe nothynge wherbye he myght saye, 'Lo, yonder is Orthone.' So that day past, and the next night came, and when the knyght was in his bedde, Orthone came, and began to speke, as he was accustomed. 'Go thy waye,' quod the knyght, 'thou arte but a lyer; thou promysest that I shuld have sene the, and it was not so.'—'No?' quod he, 'and I shewed myself to the.'—'That is not so,' quod the lord. 'Why,' quod Orthone, 'whan ye rose out of your bedde, sawe ye nothynge?' Than the lorde studyed a lytell, and advysed himself well. 'Yes, truely,' quod the knyght, 'now I remember me, as I sate on my bedde-syde, thynking on thee, I sawe two strawes upon the pavement, tumblynge one upon another.'—'That same was I,' quod Orthone, 'into that fourme I dyd putte myself as than.'—'That is not enough to me,' quod the lord; 'I pray thee putte thyselfe into same other fourme, that I may better se and knowe thee.'—'Well,' quod Orthone, 'ye will do so muche, that ye will lose me, and I to go fro you, for ye desyre to moch of me.'—'Nay,' quod the knyght, 'thou shalt not go fro me, let me se thee ones, and I will desyre no more.'—'Well,' quod Orthone, 'ye shall se me to-morrowe; take hede, the first thyng that ye se after ye be out of your chamber, it shall be I.'—'Well,' quod the knyght, 'I am then content. Go thy way, lette me slepe.' And so Orth[Pg 281]one departed, and the next mornyng the lord arose, and yssued oute of his chambre, and wente to a windowe, and looked downe into the courte of the castell, and cast about his eyen. And the firste thyng he sawe was a sowe, the greattest that ever he sawe; and she seemed to be so leane and yvell-favoured, that there was nothyng on her but the skynne, and the bones, with long eares, and a long leane snout. The lord of Corasse had marveyle of that leane sowe, and was wery of the sighte of her, and comaunded his men to fetch his houndes, and sayd, 'Let the dogges hunt her to dethe, and devour her.' His servaunts opened the kenells, and lette oute his houndes, and dyd sette them on this sowe. And, at the last, the sowe made a great crye, and looked up to the lord of Corasse as he looked out at a windowe, and so sodaynely vanyshed awaye, no man wyste howe. Than the lord of Corasse entred into his chambre, right pensyve, and than he remembered hym of Orthone, his messangere, and sayd, 'I repent me that I set my houndes on him. It is an adventure, an I here any more of hym; for he sayd to me oftentymes, that if I displeased hym, I shulde lose hym.' The lord sayd trouthe, for never after he came into the castell of Corasse, and also the knyght dyed the same yere next followinge."

"So, sir," said the squyer, "thus have I shewed you the lyfe of Orthone, and howe, for a season, he served the lord of Corasse with newe tidynges."—"It is true, sir," sayd I, "but nowe, as to your firste purpose. Is the Earl of Foiz served with suche an messangere?"—"Surely," quod the squyer, it is the ymaginacion of many, that he hath such messengers, for ther is nothynge done in any place, but and he sette his mynde thereto, he will knowe it, and whan men thynke leest thereof. And so dyd he, when the goode knightes and squyers of this country were slayne in Portugale at Juberothe. Some saythe, the knowledge of such thynges hath done hym moche profyte, for and there be but the value of a spone lost in his house, anone he will know where it is.' So, thus, then I toke leave of the squyer, and went to [Pg 282]other company; but I bare well away his tale."—Bourchier's Translation of Froissart's Chronycle, Vol. II. chap. 37.

He took the keys from the rusty lock,
That never was ta'en before.
He threw them o'er his left shoulder,
With mickle care and pain;
And he bade it keep them, fathoms deep,
Till he returned again.—P. 262, v. 1. 2.

The circumstance of Lord Soulis having thrown the key over his left shoulder, and bid the fiend keep it till his return, is noted in the introduction, as a part of his traditionary history. In the course of this autumn (1806), the Earl of Dalkeith being encamped near the Hermitage Castle, for the amusement of shooting, directed some workmen to clear away the rubbish from the door of the dungeon, in order to ascertain its ancient dimensions and architecture. To the great astonishment of the labourers, and of the country people who were watching their proceedings, a rusty iron key, of considerable size, was found among the ruins, a little way from the dungeon door. The well-known tradition instantly passed from one to another; and it was generally agreed, that the malevolent dæmon, who had so long retained possession of the key of the castle, now found himself obliged to resign it to the heir-apparent of the domain. In the course of their researches, a large iron ladle, somewhat resembling that used by plumbers, was also discovered; and both the reliques are now in Lord Dalkeith's possession.

In the summer of 1805, another discovery was made in the haunted ruins of Hermitage. In a recess of the wall of the castle, intended apparently for receiving the end of a beam or joist, a boy, seeking for birds nests, found a very curious antique silver-ring, embossed with hearts, the well-known cognisance of the Douglas family, placed interchangeably with quatre-foils all round the circle. The workmanship has an uncommonly rude and ancient appearance, and warrants our believing that it may have belonged to one of the Earls of Angus, who carried the heart and quatre-foils[76] in their arms.[Pg 283] They parted with the castle and lordship of Liddesdale, in exchange for that of Bothwell, in the beginning of the 16th century. This ring is now in the editor's possession, by the obliging gift of Mr John Ballantyne, of the house of Ballantyne and Company, so distinguished for typography.


[65] Dalrymple's Collections concerning the Scottish History, p. 395.

[66] Transactions of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, Vol. I, p. 269.

[67] Index of many records of charters granted between 1309 and 1413, published by W. Robertson, Esq.

[68] As the people thronged to the execution of the gallant youth, they were bitterly rebuked by Sir Ingram de Umfraville, an English or Norman knight, then a favourite follower of Robert Bruce. "Why press you," said he, "to see the dismal catastrophe of so generous a knight? I have seen ye throng as eagerly around him to share his bounty, as now to behold his death." With these words he turned from the scene of blood, and, repairing to the king, craved leave to sell his Scottish possessions, and to retire from the country. "My heart," said Umfraville, "will not, for the wealth of the world, permit me to dwell any longer, where I have seen such a knight die by the hands of the executioner." With the king's leave, he interred the body of David de Brechin, sold his lands, and left Scotland for ever. The story is beautifully told by Barbour, book 19th.

[69] Skrieh—Peep.

[70] Lift—Sky.

[71] Glamour—Magical delusion.

[72] Wale—Chuse.

[73] Puirly—Softly.

[74] Spreat—The spreat is a species of water-rush.

[75] Deer-hair—The deer-hair is a coarse species of pointed grass, which, in May, bears a very minute, but beautiful yellow flower.

[76] Some heralds say, that they carried cinque-foils, others trefoils; but all agree they bore some such distinction to mark their cadency from the elder branch of Douglas.

[Pg 284]



The tradition on which the following ballad is founded, derives considerable illustration from the argument of the preceding. It is necessary to add, that the most redoubted adversary of Lord Soulis was the Chief of Keeldar, a Northumbrian district, adjacent to Cumberland, who perished in a sudden encounter on the banks of the Hermitage. Being arrayed in armour of proof, he sustained no hurt in the combat; but stumbling in retreating across the river, the hostile party held him down below water with their lances till he died; and the eddy, in which he perished, is still called the Cout of Keeldar's Pool. His grave, of gigantic size, is pointed out on the banks of the Hermitage, at the western corner of a wall, surrounding the burial-ground of a ruined chapel. As an enemy of Lord Soulis, his memory is revered; and the popular epithet of Cout, i.e. Colt, is expressive of his strength, stature, and activity. Tradition likewise relates, that the young chief of Mangerton, to whose protection Lord Soulis had, in some eminent jeopardy, been indebted for his life, was decoyed by that faithless tyrant into his castle of Hermitage, and insidiously murdered at a feast.

[Pg 285]

The Keeldar Stone, by which the Northumbrian chief passed in his incursion, is still pointed out, as a boundary mark, on the confines of Jed forest, and Northumberland. It is a rough insulated mass, of considerable dimensions, and it is held unlucky to ride thrice withershins[77] around it. Keeldar Castle is now a hunting seat, belonging to the Duke of Northumberland.

The Brown Man of the Muirs is a Fairy of the most malignant order, the genuine duergar. Walsingham mentions a story of an unfortunate youth, whose brains were extracted from his skull, during his sleep, by this malicious being. Owing to this operation, he remained insane many years, till the virgin Mary courteously restored his brains to their station.



[Pg 286]

The eiry blood-hound howled by night,
The streamers[78] flaunted red,
Till broken streaks of flaky light
O'er Keeldar's mountains spread.
The lady sigh'd as Keeldar rose:
"Come tell me, dear love mine,
"Go you to hunt where Keeldar flows,
"Or on the banks of Tyne?"
"The heath-bell blows where Keeldar flows,
"By Tyne the primrose pale;
"But now we ride on the Scottish side,
"To hunt in Liddesdale."
"Gin you will ride on the Scottish side,
"Sore must thy Margaret mourn;
"For Soulis abhorred is Lyddall's lord,
"And I fear you'll ne'er return.
"The axe he bears, it hacks and tears;
"'Tis formed of an earth-fast flint;
"No armour of knight, tho' ever so wight,
[Pg 287] "Can bear its deadly dint.
"No danger he fears, for a charm'd sword he wears;
"Of adderstone the hilt;
"No Tynedale knight had ever such might,
"But his heart-blood was spilt."
"In my plume is seen the holly green,
"With the leaves of the rowan tree;
"And my casque of sand, by a mermaid's hand,
"Was formed beneath the sea.
"Then, Margaret dear, have thou no fear!
"That bodes no ill to me,
"Though never a knight, by mortal might,
"Could match his gramarye."—
Then forward bound both horse and hound,
And rattle o'er the vale;
As the wintry breeze, through leafless trees,
Drives on the pattering hail.
Behind their course the English fells
In deepening blue retire;
Till soon before them boldly swells
[Pg 288] The muir of dun Redswire.
And when they reached the Redswire high,
Soft beam'd the rising sun;
But formless shadows seemed to fly
Along the muir-land dun.
And when he reached the Redswire high,
His bugle Keeldar blew;
And round did float, with clamorous note
And scream, the hoarse curlew.
The next blast that young Keeldar blew,
The wind grew deadly still;
But the sleek fern, with fingery leaves,
Waved wildly o'er the hill.
The third blast that young Keeldar blew,
Still stood the limber fern;
And a wee man, of swarthy hue,
Up started by a cairn.
His russet weeds were brown as heath,
That clothes the upland fell;
And the hair of his head was frizzly red,
[Pg 289] As the purple heather bell.
An urchin,[79] clad in prickles red,
Clung cowring to his arm;
The hounds they howl'd, and backward fled,
As struck by Fairy charm.
"Why rises high the stag-hound's cry,
"Where stag-hound ne'er should be?
"Why wakes that horn the silent morn,
"Without the leave of me?"
"Brown dwarf, that o'er the muir-land strays,
"Thy name to Keeldar tell!"—
"The Brown Man of the Muirs, who stays
"Beneath the heather bell.
"'Tis sweet, beneath the heather-bell,
"To live in autumn brown;
"And sweet to hear the lav'rocks swell
"Far far from tower and town.
"But woe betide the shrilling horn,
"The chace's surly cheer!
"And ever that hunter is forlorn,
[Pg 290] "Whom first at morn I hear."
Says, "Weal nor woe, nor friend nor foe,
"In thee we hope nor dread."
But, ere the bugles green could blow,
The Wee Brown Man had fled.
And onward, onward, hound and horse,
Young Keeldar's band have gone;
And soon they wheel, in rapid course,
Around the Keeldar Stone.
Green vervain round its base did creep,
A powerful seed that bore;
And oft, of yore, its channels deep
Were stained with human gore.
And still, when blood-drops, clotted thin,
Hang the grey moss upon,
The spirit murmurs from within,
And shakes the rocking stone.
Around, around, young Keeldar wound,
And called, in scornful tone,
With him to pass the barrier ground,
[Pg 291] The Spirit of the Stone.
The rude crag rocked; "I come for death!
"I come to work thy woe!"
And 'twas the Brown Man of the Heath,
That murmured from below.
But onward, onward, Keeldar past,
Swift as the winter wind,
When, hovering on the driving blast,
The snow-flakes fall behind.
They passed the muir of berries blae,
The stone cross on the lee;
They reached the green, the bonny brae,
Beneath the birchen tree.
This is the bonny brae, the green,
Yet sacred to the brave,
Where still, of ancient size, is seen
Gigantic Keeldar's grave.
The lonely shepherd loves to mark
The daisy springing fair,
Where weeps the birch of silver bark,
[Pg 292] With long dishevelled hair.
The grave is green, and round is spread
The curling lady-fern;
That fatal day the mould was red,
No moss was on the cairn.
And next they passed the chapel there;
The holy ground was by,
Where many a stone is sculptured fair,
To mark where warriors lie.
And here, beside the mountain flood,
A massy castle frown'd,
Since first the Pictish race in blood
The haunted pile did found.
The restless stream its rocky base
Assails with ceaseless din;
And many a troubled spirit strays
The dungeons dark within.
Soon from the lofty tower there hied
A knight across the vale;
"I greet your master well," he cried,
[Pg 293] "From Soulis of Liddesdale.
"He heard your bugle's echoing call,
"In his green garden bower;
"And bids you to his festive hall,
"Within his ancient tower."
Young Keeldar called his hunter train;
"For doubtful cheer prepare!
"And, as you open force disdain,
"Of secret guile beware.
"'Twas here for Mangerton's brave lord
"A bloody feast was set;
"Who, weetless, at the festal board,
"The bull's broad frontlet met.
"Then ever, at uncourteous feast,
"Keep every man his brand;
"And, as you mid his friends are placed,
"Range on the better hand.
"And, if the bull's ill-omened head
"Appear to grace the feast,
"Your whingers, with unerring speed,
[Pg 294] "Plunge in each neighbour's breast."
In Hermitage they sat at dine,
In pomp and proud array;
And oft they filled the blood-red wine,
While merry minstrels play.
And many a hunting song they sung,
And song of game and glee;
Then tuned to plaintive strains their tongue,
"Of Scotland's luve and lee."
To wilder measures next they turn:
"The Black Black Bull of Noroway!"
Sudden the tapers cease to burn,
The minstrels cease to play.
Each hunter bold, of Keeldar's train,
Sat an enchanted man;
For cold as ice, through every vein,
The freezing life-blood ran.
Each rigid hand the whinger wrung,
Each gazed with glaring eye;
But Keeldar from the table sprung,
[Pg 295] Unharmed by gramarye.
He burst the door; the roofs resound;
With yells the castle rung;
Before him, with a sudden bound,
His favourite blood-hound sprung.
Ere he could pass, the door was barr'd;
And, grating harsh from under,
With creaking, jarring noise, was heard
A sound like distant thunder.
The iron clash, the grinding sound,
Announce the dire sword-mill;
The piteous howlings of the hound
The dreadful dungeon fill.
With breath drawn in, the murderous crew
Stood listening to the yell;
And greater still their wonder grew,
As on their ear it fell.
They listen'd for a human shriek
Amid the jarring sound;
They only heard, in echoes weak,
[Pg 296] The murmurs of the hound.
The death-bell rung, and wide were flung
The castle gates amain;
While hurry out the armed rout,
And marshal on the plain.
Ah! ne'er before in border feud
Was seen so dire a fray!
Through glittering lances Keeldar hewed
A red corse-paven way.
His helmet, formed of mermaid sand,
No lethal brand could dint;
No other arms could e'er withstand
The axe of earth-fast flint.
In Keeldar's plume the holly green,
And rowan leaves, nod on,
And vain Lord Soulis's sword was seen,
Though the hilt was adderstone.
Then up the Wee Brown Man he rose,
By Soulis of Liddesdale;
"In vain," he said, "a thousand blows
[Pg 297] "Assail the charmed mail.
"In vain by land your arrows glide,
"In vain your faulchions gleam—
"No spell can stay the living tide,
"Or charm the rushing stream."
And now, young Keeldar reached the stream,
Above the foamy lin;
The border lances round him gleam,
And force the warrior in.
The holly floated to the side,
And the leaf of the rowan pale:
Alas! no spell could charm the tide,
Nor the lance of Liddesdale.
Swift was the Cout o' Keeldar's course,
Along the lily lee;
But home came never hound nor horse,
And never home came he.
Where weeps the birch with branches green,
Without the holy ground,
Between two old gray stones is seen
[Pg 298] The warrior's ridgy mound.
And the hunters bold, of Keeldar's train,
Within yon castle's wall,
In a deadly sleep must ay remain,
Till the ruined towers down fall.
Each in his hunter's garb array'd,
Each holds his bugle horn;
Their keen hounds at their feet are laid,
That ne'er shall wake the morn.
[Pg 299]


'Tis formed of an earth-fast flint.—P. 287. v. 2.

An earth-fast stone, or an insulated stone, inclosed in a bed of earth, is supposed to possess peculiar properties. It is frequently applied to sprains and bruises, and used to dissipate swellings; but its blow is reckoned uncommonly severe.

Of adderstone the hilt.—P. 287. v. 3.

The adderstone, among the Scottish peasantry, is held in almost as high veneration, as, among the Gauls, the ovum anguinum, described by Pliny.—Natural History, l. xxix. c. 3. The name is applied to celts, and other round perforated stones. The vulgar suppose them to be perforated by the stings of adders.

With the leaves of the rowan tree.—P. 287. v. 4.

The rowan tree, or mountain ash, is still used by the peasantry, to avert the effects of charms and witchcraft. An inferior degree of the same influence is supposed to reside in many evergreens; as the holly, and the bay. With the leaves of the bay, the English and Welch peasants were lately accustomed to adorn their doors at midsummer.—Vide Brand's Vulgar Antiquities.

And shakes the rocking stone.—P. 291. v. 1.

The rocking stone, commonly reckoned a Druidical monumen[Pg 300]t, has always been held in superstitious veneration by the people. The popular opinion, which supposes them to be inhabited by a spirit, coincides with that of the ancient Icelanders, who worshipped the dæmons, which they believed to inhabit great stones. It is related in the Kristni Saga, chap. 2. that the first Icelandic bishop, by chaunting a hymn over one of these sacred stones, immediately after his arrival in the island, split it, expelled the spirit, and converted its worshippers to Christianity. The herb vervain, revered by the Druids, was also reckoned a powerful charm by the common people; and the author recollects a popular rhyme, supposed to be addressed to a young woman by the devil, who attempted to seduce her in the shape of a handsome young man:

Gin ye wish to be leman mine,
Lay off the St John's wort, and the vervine.

By his repugnance to these sacred plants, his mistress discovered the cloven foot.

Since first the Pictish race in blood.—P. 292. v. 5.

Castles, remarkable for size, strength, and antiquity, are, by the common people, commonly attributed to the Picts, or Pechs, who are not supposed to have trusted solely to their skill in masonry, in constructing these edifices, but are believed to have bathed the foundation-stone with human blood, in order to propitiate the spirit of the soil. Similar to this is the Gaelic tradition, according to which St Columba is supposed to have been forced to bury St Oran alive, beneath the foundation of his monastery, in order to propitiate the spirits of the soil, who demolished by night what was built during the day.

And, if the bull's ill-omened head, &c.—P. 294. v. 2.

To present a bull's head before a person at a feast, was, in the ancient turbulent times of Scotland, a common signal for his assassination. Thus, Lindsay of Pitscottie relates in his History, p. 17. that "efter the dinner was endit, once alle the delicate courses taken away, the chancellor (Sir William[Pg 301] Crichton) presentit the bullis head befoir the Earle of Douglas, in signe and toaken of condemnation to the death."

Then tuned to plaintive strains their tongue,
"Of Scotland's luve and lee."—P. 294. v. 4.

The most ancient Scottish song known is that which is here alluded to, and is thus given by Wintoun, in his Chronykil, Vol. I. p. 401.

Quhen Alysandyr our kyng wes dede,
That Scotland led in luve and le,
Away wes sons of ale and brede,
Of wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle:
Oure gold wes changyd into lede,
Cryst, borne into virgynyte,
Succour Scotland and remede,
That stad is in perplexyte.

That alluded to in the following verse, is a wild fanciful popular tale of enchantment, termed "The Black Bull of Noroway." The author is inclined to believe it the same story with the romance of the "Three Futtit Dog of Noroway," the title of which is mentioned in the Complaynt of Scotland.

The iron clash, the grinding sound,
Announce the dire sword-mill.—P. 295. v. 5.

The author is unable to produce any authority, that the execrable machine, the sword-mill, so well known on the continent, was ever employed in Scotland; but he believes the vestiges of something very similar have been discovered in the ruins of old castles.

No spell can stay the living tide.—P. 297. v. 3.

That no species of magic had any effect over a running stream, was a common opinion among the vulgar, and is alluded to in Burn[Pg 302]s's admirable tale of Tam o' Shanter.


[77] Withershins.—German, widdersins. A direction contrary to the course of the sun; from left, namely, to right.

[78] Streamers—Northern lights.

[79] Urchin—Hedge-hog.

[Pg 303]



The simple tradition, upon which the following stanzas are founded, runs thus: While two Highland hunters were passing the night in a solitary bathy (a hut, built for the purpose of hunting), and making merry over their venison and whisky, one of them expressed a wish, that they had pretty lasses to complete their party. The words were scarcely uttered, when two beautiful young women, habited in green, entered the hut, dancing and singing. One of the hunters was seduced by the syren, who attached herself particularly to him, to leave the hut: the other remained, and, suspicious of the fair seducers, continued to play upon a trump, or Jew's harp, some strain, consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Day at length came, and the temptress vanished. Searching in the forest, he found the bones of his unfortunate friend, who had been torn to pieces and devoured by the fiend, into whose toils he had fallen. The place was from thence called the Glen of the Green Women.

[Pg 304]

Glenfinlas is a tract of forest-ground, lying in the Highlands of Perthshire, not far from Callender, in Menteith. It was formerly a royal forest, and now belongs to the Earl of Moray. This country, as well as the adjacent district of Balquidder, was, in times of yore, chiefly inhabited by the Macgregors. To the west of the forest of Glenfinlas lies Loch Katrine, and its romantic avenue, called the Troshachs. Benledi, Benmore, and Benvoirlich, are mountains in the same district, and at no great distance from Glenfinlas. The river Teith passes Callender and the castle of Doune, and joins the Forth near Stirling. The pass of Lenny is immediately above Callender, and is the principal access to the Highlands, from that town. Glenartney is a forest, near Benvoirlich. The whole forms a sublime tract of Alpine scenery.

This ballad first appeared in the Tales of Wonder.

[Pg 305]


"For them the viewless forms of air obey,
"Their bidding heed, and at their beck repair;
"They know what spirit brews the stormful day,
"And heartless oft, like moody madness, stare,
"To see the phantom-train their secret work prepare."[81]

"O hone a rie'! O hone a rie'![82]
"The pride of Albin's line is o'er,
"And fallen Glenartney's stateliest tree;
"We ne'er shall see Lord Ronald more!
O, sprung from great Macgillianore,
The chief that never feared a foe,
How matchless was thy broad claymore,
How deadly thine unerring bow!
Well can the Saxon widows tell,
How, on the Teith's resounding shore,
The boldest Lowland warriors fell,
[Pg 306] As down from Lenny's pass you bore.
But o'er his hills, on festal day,
How blazed Lord Ronald's beltane-tree;
While youths and maids the light strathspey
So nimbly danced with Highland glee.
Cheer'd by the strength of Ronald's shell,
E'en age forgot his tresses hoar;
But now the loud lament we swell,
O ne'er to see Lord Ronald more!
From distant isles a Chieftain came,
The joys of Ronald's halls to find,
And chase with him the dark-brown game,
That bounds o'er Albin's hills of wind.
'Twas Moy; whom in Columba's isle
The seer's prophetic spirit found,
As, with a minstrel's fire the while,
He waked his harp's harmonious sound.
Full many a spell to him was known,
Which wandering spirits shrink to hear;
And many a lay of potent tone,
[Pg 307] Was never meant for mortal ear.
For there, 'tis said, in mystic mood,
High converse with the dead they hold,
And oft espy the fated shroud,
That shall the future corpse enfold.
O so it fell, that on a day,
To rouse the red deer from their den,
The chiefs have ta'en their distant way,
And scour'd the deep Glenfinlas glen.
No vassals wait their sports to aid,
To watch their safety, deck their board?
Their simple dress, the Highland plaid,
Their trusty guard, the Highland sword.
Three summer days, through brake and dell,
Their whistling shafts successful flew;
And still, when dewy evening fell,
The quarry to their hut they drew.
In grey Glenfinlas' deepest nook
The solitary cabin stood,
Fast by Moneira's sullen brook,
[Pg 308] Which murmurs through that lonely wood.
Soft fell the night, the sky was calm,
When three successive days had flown;
And summer mist in dewy balm
Steep'd heathy bank, and mossy stone.
The moon, half-hid in silvery flakes,
Afar her dubious radiance shed,
Quivering on Katrine's distant lakes,
And resting on Benledi's head.
Now in their hut, in social guise,
Their sylvan fare the chiefs enjoy;
And pleasure laughs in Ronald's eyes,
As many a pledge he quaffs to Moy.
—"What lack we here to crown our bliss,
"While thus the pulse of joy beats high?
"What, but fair woman's yielding kiss,
"Her panting breath, and melting eye?
"To chase the deer of yonder shades,
"This morning left their father's pile
"The fairest of our mountain maids,
[Pg 309] "The daughters of the proud Glengyle.
"Long have I sought sweet Mary's heart,
"And dropp'd the tear, and heav'd the sigh;
"But vain the lover's wily art,
"Beneath a sister's watchful eye.
"But thou may'st teach that guardian fair,
"While far with Mary I am flown,
"Of other hearts to cease her care,
"And find it hard to guard her own.
"Touch but thy harp, thou soon shalt see
"The lovely Flora of Glengyle,
"Unmindful of her charge and me,
"Hang on thy notes, 'twixt tear and smile.
"Or, if she chuse a melting tale,
"All underneath the greenwood bough,
"Will good St Oran's rule prevail,
"Stern huntsman of the rigid brow?"—
—"Since Enrick's fight, since Morna's death,
"No more on me shall rapture rise,
"Responsive to the panting breath,
[Pg 310] "Or yielding kiss, or melting eyes.
"E'en then, when o'er the heath of woe,
"Where sunk my hopes of love and fame,
"I bade my harp's wild wailings flow,
"On me the Seer's sad spirit came.
"The last dread curse of angry heaven,
"With ghastly sights and sounds of woe,
"To dash each glimpse of joy, was given—
"The gift, the future ill to know.
"The bark thou saw'st, yon summer morn,
"So gaily part from Oban's bay,
"My eye beheld her dash'd and torn,
"Far on the rocky Colonsay.
"Thy Fergus too—thy sister's son,
"Thou saw'st, with pride, the gallant's power,
"As marching 'gainst the Lord of Downe,
"He left the skirts of huge Benmore.
"Thou only saw'st their tartans[83] wave,
"As down Benvoirlich's side they wound,
"Heard'st but the pibroch[84], answering brave
[Pg 311] "To many a target clanking round.
"I heard the groans, I mark'd the tears,
"I saw the wound his bosom bore,
"When on the serried Saxon spears
"He pour'd his clan's resistless roar.
"And thou, who bidst me think of bliss,
"And bidst my heart awake to glee,
"And court, like thee, the wanton kiss—
"That heart, O Ronald, bleeds for thee!
"I see the death damps chill thy brow;
"I hear thy Warning Spirit cry;
"The corpse-lights dance—they're gone, and now....
"No more is given to gifted eye!"——
----"Alone enjoy thy dreary dreams,
"Sad prophet of the evil hour!
"Say, should we scorn joy's transient beams,
[Pg 312] "Because to-morrow's storm may lour?
"Or false, or sooth, thy words of woe,
"Clangillian's chieftain ne'er shall fear;
"His blood shall bound at rapture's glow,
"Though doom'd to stain the Saxon spear.
"E'en now, to meet me in yon dell,
"My Mary's buskins brush the dew;"
He spoke, nor bade the chief farewell,
But call'd his dogs, and gay withdrew.
Within an hour return'd each hound;
In rush'd the rouzers of the deer;
They howl'd in melancholy sound,
Then closely couch beside the seer.
No Ronald yet; though midnight came,
And sad were Moy's prophetic dreams,
As, bending o'er the dying flame,
He fed the watch-fire's quivering gleams.
Sudden the hounds erect their ears,
And sudden cease their moaning howl;
Close press'd to Moy, they mark their fears
[Pg 313] By shivering limbs, and stifled growl.
Untouch'd, the harp began to ring,
As softly, slowly, oped the door;
And shook responsive every string,
As light a footstep press'd the floor.
And, by the watch-fire's glimmering light,
Close by the minstrel's side was seen
An huntress maid, in beauty bright,
All dropping wet her robes of green.
All dropping wet her garments seem;
Chill'd was her cheek, her bosom bare,
As, bending o'er the dying gleam,
She wrung the moisture from her hair.
With maiden blush she softly said,
"O gentle huntsman, hast thou seen,
"In deep Glenfinlas' moon-light glade,
"A lovely maid in vest of green:
"With her a chief in Highland pride;
"His shoulders bear the hunter's bow,
"The mountain dirk adorns his side,
[Pg 314] "Far on the wind his tartans flow?"
"And who art thou? and who are they?"
All ghastly gazing, Moy replied:
"And why, beneath the moon's pale ray,
"Dare ye thus roam Glenfinlas' side?"
"Where wild Loch Katrine pours her tide,
"Blue, dark, and deep, round many an isle,
"Our father's towers o'erhang her side,
"The castle of the bold Glengyle.
"To chase the dun Glenfinlas deer,
"Our woodland course this morn we bore,
"And haply met, while wandering here,
"The son of great Macgillianore.
"O aid me, then, to seek the pair,
"Whom, loitering in the woods, I lost;
"Alone, I dare not venture there,
"Where walks, they say, the shrieking ghost."
"Yes, many a shrieking ghost walks there;
"Then, first, my own sad vow to keep,
"Here will I pour my midnight prayer,
[Pg 315] "Which still must rise when mortals sleep."
"O first, for pity's gentle sake,
"Guide a lone wanderer on her way!
"For I must cross the haunted brake,
"And reach my father's towers ere day."
"First, three times tell each Ave-bead,
"And thrice a Pater-noster say;
"Then kiss with me the holy reed;
"So shall we safely wind our way."
"O shame to knighthood, strange and foul!
"Go, doff the bonnet from thy brow,
"And shroud thee in the monkish cowl,
"Which best befits thy sullen vow.
"Not so, by high Dunlathmon's fire,
"Thy heart was froze to love and joy,
"When gaily rung thy raptured lyre,
"To wanton Morna's melting eye."
Wild stared the Minstrel's eyes of flame,
And high his sable locks arose,
And quick his colour went and came,
[Pg 316] As fear and rage alternate rose.
"And thou! when by the blazing oak
"I lay, to her and love resign'd,
"Say, rode ye on the eddying smoke,
"Or sailed ye on the midnight wind!
"Not thine a race of mortal blood,
"Nor old Glengyle's pretended line;
"Thy dame, the Lady of the Flood,
"Thy sire, the Monarch of the Mine."
He mutter'd thrice St Oran's rhyme,
And thrice St Fillan's powerful prayer;
Then turn'd him to the eastern clime,
And sternly shook his coal-black hair.
And, bending o'er his harp, he flung
His wildest witch-notes on the wind;
And loud, and high, and strange, they rung,
As many a magic change they find.
Tall wax'd the Spirit's altering form,
Till to the roof her stature grew;
Then, mingling with the rising storm,
[Pg 317] With one wild yell, away she flew.
Rain beats, hail rattles, whirlwinds tear:
The slender hut in fragments flew;
But not a lock of Moy's loose hair
Was waved by wind, or wet by dew.
Wild mingling with the howling gale,
Loud bursts of ghastly laughter rise;
High o'er the minstrel's head they sail,
And die amid the northern skies.
The voice of thunder shook the wood,
As ceased the more than mortal yell;
And, spattering foul, a shower of blood
Upon the hissing firebrands fell.
Next, dropp'd from high a mangled arm;
The fingers strain'd an half-drawn blade:
And last, the life-blood streaming warm,
Torn from the trunk, a gasping head.
Oft o'er that head, in battling field,
Stream'd the proud crest of high Benmore;
That arm the broad claymore could wield,
[Pg 318] Which dyed the Teith with Saxon gore.
Woe to Moneira's sullen rills!
Woe to Glenfinlas' dreary glen!
There never son of Albin's hills
Shall draw the hunter's shaft agen!
E'en the tired pilgrim's burning feet
At noon shall shun that sheltering den,
Lest, journeying in their rage, he meet
The wayward Ladies of the Glen.
And we—behind the chieftain's shield,
No more shall we in safety dwell;
None leads the people to the field—
And we the loud lament must swell.
O hone a rie'! O hone a rie'!
The pride of Albin's line is o'er,
And fallen Glenartney's stateliest tree;
We ne'er shall see Lord Ronald more!
[Pg 320]
[Pg 319]


Well can the Saxon widows tell.—P. 306. v. 2.

The term Sassenach, or Saxon, is applied by the Highlanders to their low-country neighbours.

How blazed Lord Ronald's beltane-tree.—P. 306. v. 3.

The fires lighted by the Highlanders on the first of May, in compliance with a custom derived from the Pagan times, are termed, The Beltane-Tree. It is a festival celebrated with various superstitious rites, both in the north of Scotland and in Wales.

The seer's prophetic spirit found, &c.—P. 307. v. 1.

I can only describe the second sight, by adopting Dr Johnson's definition, who calls it "An impression, either by the mind upon the eye, or by the eye upon the mind, by which things distant and future are perceived and seen as if they were present." To which I would only add, that the spectral appearances, thus presented, usually presage misfortune; that the faculty is painful to those who suppose they possess it; and that they usually acquire it, while themselves under the pressure of melancholy.

Will good St Oran's rule prevail.—P. 310. v. 1.

St Oran was a friend and follower of St Columba, and was buried in Icolmkill. His pretensions to be a saint were rather dubious. According to the legend, he consented to [Pg 321]be buried alive, in order to propitiate certain dæmons of the soil, who obstructed the attempts of Columba to build a chapel. Columba caused the body of his friend to be dug up, after three days had elapsed; when Oran, to the horror and scandal of the assistants, declared, that there was neither a God, a judgment, nor a future state! He had no time to make further discoveries, for Columba caused the earth once more to be shovelled over him with the utmost dispatch. The chapel, however, and the cemetery, was called Reilig Ouran; and, in memory of his rigid celibacy, no female was permitted to pay her devotions, or be buried, in that place. This is the rule alluded to in the poem.

And thrice St Fillan's powerful prayer.—P. 316. v. 5.

St Fillan has given his name to many chapels, holy fountains, &c. in Scotland. He was, according to Camerarius, an abbot of Pittenweem, in Fife; from which situation he retired, and died a hermit in the wilds of Glenurchy, A.D. 649. While engaged in transcribing the Scriptures, his left hand was observed to send forth such a splendour, as to afford light to that with which he wrote; a miracle which saved many candles to the convent, as St Fillan used to spend whole nights in that exercise. The 9th of January was dedicated to this saint, who gave his name to Kilfillan, in Renfrew, and St Phillans, or Forgend, in Fife. Lesley, lib. 7., tells us, that Robert the Bruce was possessed of Fillan's miraculous and luminous arm, which he inclosed in a silver shrine, and had it carried at the head of his army. Previous to the battle of Bannockburn, the king's chaplain, a man of little faith, abstracted the relique, and deposited it in some place of security, lest it should fall into the hands of the English. But, lo! while Robert was addressing his prayers to the empty casket, it was observed to open and shut suddenly; and, on inspection, the saint was found to have himself deposited his arm in the shrine, as an assurance of victory. Such is the tale of Lesley. But though Bruce little needed that the arm of St Fillan should assist his own, he dedicated to him, in gratitude, a priory at Killin, upon Loch Tay.

[Pg 322]

In the Scots Magazine for July 1802, (a national periodical publication, which has lately revived with considerable energy,) there is a copy of a very curious crown grant, dated 11th July, 1487, by which James III. confirms to Malice Doire, an inhabitant of Strathfillan, in Perthshire, the peaceable exercise and enjoyment of a relique of St Fillan, called the Quegrich, which he, and his predecessors, are said to have possessed since the days of Robert Bruce. As the Quegrich was used to cure diseases, this document is, probably, the most ancient patent ever granted for a quack medicine. The ingenious correspondent, by whom it is furnished, further observes, that additional particulars, concerning St Fillan, are to be found in Ballenden's Boece, Book 4. folio ccxiii., and in Pennant's Tour in Scotland, 1772, pp. 11. 15.


[80] Coronach is the lamentation for a deceased warrior, sung by the aged of the clan.

[81] [Transcriber: Citation from a poem by William Collins]

[82] O hone a rie' signifies—"Alas for the prince, or chief."

[83] Tartans—The full Highland dress, made of the chequered stuff so termed.

[84] Pibroch—A piece of martial music, adapted to the Highland bag-pipe.

[Pg 323]



The following poem is founded upon a Gaelic traditional ballad, called Macphail of Colonsay, and the Mermaid of Corrivrekin. The dangerous gulf of Corrivrekin lies between the islands of Jura and Scarba, and the superstition of the islanders has tenanted its shelves and eddies with all the fabulous monsters and dæmons of the ocean. Among these, according to a universal tradition, the Mermaid is the most remarkable. In her dwelling, and in her appearance, the mermaid of the northern nations resembles the syren of the ancients. The appendages of a comb and mirror are probably of Celtic invention.

The Gaelic story bears, that Macphail of Colonsay was carried off by a mermaid, while passing the gulf above mentioned: that they resided together, in a grotto beneath the sea, for several years, during which time she bore him five children: but, finally, he tired of her society, and, having prevailed upon her to carry him near the shore of Colonsay, he escaped to land.

The inhabitants of the Isle of Man have a number of such stories, which may be found in Waldron. One bears, that a very beautiful mermaid fell in love with a young shepherd, who kept his flocks beside a creek, much frequented by these marine people. She frequently caressed[Pg 324] him, and brought him presents of coral, fine pearls, and every valuable production of the ocean. Once upon a time, as she threw her arms eagerly round him, he suspected her of a design to draw him into the sea, and, struggling hard, disengaged himself from her embrace, and ran away. But the mermaid resented either the suspicion, or the disappointment, so highly, that she threw a stone after him, and flung herself into the sea, whence she never returned. The youth, though but slightly struck with the pebble, felt, from that moment, the most excruciating agony, and died at the end of seven days.—Waldron's Works, p. 176.

Another tradition of the same island affirms, that one of these amphibious damsels was caught in a net, and brought to land, by some fishers, who had spread a snare for the denizens of the ocean. She was shaped like the most beautiful female down to the waist, but below trailed a voluminous fish's tail, with spreading fins. As she would neither eat nor speak, (though they knew she had the power of language), they became apprehensive that the island would be visited with some strange calamity, if she should die for want of food; and therefore, on the third night, they left the door open, that she might escape. Accordingly, she did not fail to embrace the opportunity; but, gliding with incredible swiftness to the sea-side, she plunged herself into the waters, and was welcomed by a number of her own species, who were heard to enquire, what she had seen among the natives of the earth; "Nothing," she answered, "won[Pg 325]derful, except that they were silly enough to throw away the water in which they had boiled their eggs."

Collins, in his notes upon the line,

"Mona, long hid from those who sail the main,"

explains it, by a similar Celtic tradition. It seems, a mermaid had become so much charmed with a young man, who walked upon the beach, that she made love to him; and, being rejected with scorn, she excited, by enchantment, a mist, which long concealed the island from all navigators.

I must mention another Mankish tradition, because, being derived from the common source of Celtic mythology, they appear the most natural illustrations of the Hebridean tale. About fifty years before Waldron went to reside in Man (for there were living witnesses of the legend, when he was upon the island), a project was undertaken, to fish treasures up from the deep, by means of a diving-bell. A venturous fellow, accordingly, descended, and kept pulling for more rope, till all they had on board was expended. This must have been no small quantity, for a skilful mathematician, who was on board, judging from the proportion of line let down, declared, that the adventurer must have descended at least double the number of leagues which the moon is computed to be distant from the earth. At such a depth, wonders might be expected, and wonderful was the account given by the adventurer, when drawn up to the air.

[Pg 326]

"After," said he, "I had passed the region of fishes, I descended into a pure element, clear as the air in the serenest and most unclouded day, through which, as I passed, I saw the bottom of the watery world, paved with coral, and a shining kind of pebbles, which glittered like the sun-beams, reflected on a glass. I longed to tread the delightful paths, and never felt more exquisite delight, than when the machine, I was inclosed in, grazed upon it.

"On looking through the little windows of my prison, I saw large streets and squares on every side, ornamented with huge pyramids of crystal, not inferior in brightness to the finest diamonds; and the most beautiful building, not of stone, nor brick, but of mother-of-pearl, and embossed in various figures, with shells of all colours. The passage, which led to one of these magnificent apartments, being open, I endeavoured, with my whole strength, to move my enclosure towards it; which I did, though with great difficulty, and very slowly. At last, however, I got entrance into a very spacious room, in the midst of which stood a large amber table, with several chairs round, of the same. The floor of it was composed of rough diamonds, topazes, emeralds, rubies, and pearls. Here I doubted not but to make my voyage as profitable as it was pleasant; for, could I have brought with me but a few of these, they would have been of more value than all we could hope for in a thousand wrecks; but they were so closely wedged in, and[Pg 327] so strongly cemented by time, that they were not to be unfastened. I saw several chains, carcanets, and rings, of all manner of precious stones, finely cut, and set after our manner; which I suppose had been the prize of the winds and waves: these were hanging loosely on the jasper walls, by strings made of rushes, which I might easily have taken down; but, as I had edged myself within half a foot reach of them, I was unfortunately drawn back through your want of line. In my return, I saw several comely mermen, and beautiful mermaids, the inhabitants of this blissful realm, swiftly descending towards it; but they seemed frighted at my appearance, and glided at a distance from me, taking me, no doubt, for some monstrous and new-created species."—Waldron, ibidem.

It would be very easy to enlarge this introduction, by quoting a variety of authors, concerning the supposed existence of these marine people. The reader may consult the Telliamed of M. Maillet, who, in support of the Neptunist system of geology, has collected a variety of legends, respecting mermen and mermaids, p. 230, et sequen. Much information may also be derived from Pontoppidan's Natural History of Norway, who fails not to people her seas with this amphibious race.[85] An older authority is to be found in the Kongs skugg-sio, or Royal Mirror, written, as it is believed, about 1170. The mermen, there mentioned, are termed hafstrambur (sea-giants), and are said to have the upper parts resembling [Pg 328]the human race; but the author, with becoming diffidence, declines to state, positively, whether they are equipped with a dolphin's tail. The female monster is called Mar-Gyga (sea-giantess), and is averred, certainly, to drag a fish's train. She appears, generally, in the act of devouring fish, which she has caught. According to the apparent voracity of her appetite, the sailors pretended to guess what chance they had of saving their lives in the tempests, which always followed her appearance.—Speculum Regale, 1768, p. 166.

Mermaids were sometimes supposed to be possessed of supernatural powers. Resenius, in his life of Frederick II., gives us an account of a syren, who not only prophesied future events, but, as might have been expected from the element in which she dwelt, preached vehemently against the sin of drunkenness.

The mermaid of Corrivrekin possessed the power of occasionally resigning her scaly train; and the Celtic tradition bears, that when, from choice or necessity, she was invested with that appendage, her manners were more [Pg 329]stern and savage than when her form was entirely human. Of course, she warned her lover not to come into her presence, when she was thus transformed. This belief is alluded to in the following ballad.

The beauty of the syrens is celebrated in the old romances of chivalry. Doolin, upon beholding, for the first time in his life, a beautiful female, exclaims, "Par sainte Marie, si belle creature ne vis je oncque en ma vie! Je crois que c'est un ange du ciel, ou une seraine de mer; Je crois que homme n'engendra oncque si belle creature."—La Fleur de Battailles.

[Pg 330]


To brighter charms depart, my simple lay,
Than graced of old the maid of Colonsay,
When her fond lover, lessening from her view,
With eyes reverted, o'er the surge withdrew!
But, happier still, should lovely Campbell sing
Thy plaintive numbers to the trembling string,
The mermaid's melting strains would yield to thee,
Though poured diffusive o'er the silver sea.
Go boldly forth—but ah! the listening throng,
Rapt by the syren, would forget the song!
Lo! while they pause, nor dare to gaze around,
Afraid to break the soft enchanting sound,
While swells to sympathy each fluttering heart,
'Tis not the poet's, but the syren's art.
Go forth, devoid of fear, my simple lay!
First heard, returning from Iona's bay,
When round our bark the shades of evening drew,
And broken slumbers prest our weary crew;
While round the prow the sea-fire, flashing bright,
Shed a strange lustre o'er the waste of night;
While harsh and dismal screamed the diving gull,
Round the dark rocks that wall the coast of Mull;
[Pg 331] As through black reefs we held our venturous way,
I caught the wild traditionary lay.
A wreath, no more in black Iona's isle
To bloom—but graced by high-born Beauty's smile.


On Jura's heath how sweetly swell
[Pg 332] The murmurs of the mountain bee,
How softly mourns the writhed shell
Of Jura's shore, its parent sea!
But softer, floating o'er the deep,
The mermaid's sweet sea-soothing lay,
That charmed the dancing waves to sleep,
Before the bark of Colonsay.
Aloft the purple pennons wave,
As parting gay from Crinan's shore,
From Morven's wars the seamen brave
Their gallant chieftain homeward bore.
In youth's gay bloom, the brave Macphail
Still blamed the lingering bark's delay;
For her he chid the flagging sail,
The lovely maid of Colonsay.
"And raise," he cried, "the song of love,
"The maiden sung with tearful smile,
"When first, o'er Jura's hills to rove,
[Pg 333] "We left afar the lonely isle!
'When on this ring of ruby red
'Shall die,' she said, 'the crimson hue,
'Know that thy favourite fair is dead,
'Or proves to thee and love untrue.'
Now, lightly poised, the rising oar
Disperses wide the foamy spray,
And, echoing far o'er Crinan's shore,
Resounds the song of Colonsay.
"Softly blow, thou western breeze,
"Softly rustle through the sail,
"Sooth to rest the furrowy seas,
"Before my love, sweet western gale!
"Where the wave is tinged with red,
"And the russet sea-leaves grow,
"Mariners, with prudent dread,
"Shun the shelving reefs below.
"As you pass through Jura's sound,
"Bend your course by Scarba's shore,
"Shun, O shun, the gulf profound,
[Pg 334] "Where Corrivrekin's surges roar!
"If, from that unbottomed deep,
"With wrinkled form and writhed train,
"O'er the verge of Scarba's steep,
"The sea-snake heave his snowy mane,
"Unwarp, unwind his oozy coils,
"Sea-green sisters of the main,
"And in the gulf, where ocean boils,
"The unwieldy wallowing monster chain.
"Softly blow, thou western breeze,
"Softly rustle through the sail,
"Sooth to rest the furrowed seas,
"Before my love, sweet western gale!"
Thus, all to sooth the chieftain's woe,
Far from the maid he loved so dear,
The song arose, so soft and slow,
He seemed her parting sigh to hear.
The lonely deck he paces o'er,
Impatient for the rising day,
And still, from Crinan's moonlight shore,
[Pg 335] He turns his eyes to Colonsay.
The moonbeams crisp the curling surge,
That streaks with foam the ocean green;
While forward still the rowers urge
Their course, a female form was seen.
That sea-maid's form, of pearly light,
Was whiter than the downy spray,
And round her bosom, heaving bright,
Her glossy, yellow ringlets play.
Borne on a foamy-crested wave,
She reached amain the bounding prow,
Then, clasping fast the chieftain brave,
She, plunging, sought the deep below.
Ah! long beside thy feigned bier,
The monks the prayers of death shall say,
And long for thee, the fruitless tear
Shall weep the maid of Colonsay!
But downwards, like a powerless corse,
The eddying waves the chieftain bear;
He only heard the moaning hoarse
[Pg 336] Of waters, murmuring in his ear.
The murmurs sink, by slow degrees;
No more the surges round him rave;
Lulled by the music of the seas,
He lies within a coral cave.
In dreamy mood reclines he long,
Nor dares his tranced eyes unclose,
Till, warbling wild, the sea-maid's song,
Far in the crystal cavern, rose;
Soft as that harp's unseen controul,
In morning dreams that lovers hear,
Whose strains steal sweetly o'er the soul,
But never reach the waking ear.
As sunbeams, through the tepid air,
When clouds dissolve in dews unseen,
Smile on the flowers, that bloom more fair,
And fields, that glow with livelier green—
So melting soft the music fell;
It seemed to soothe the fluttering spray—
"Say, heardst thou not these wild notes swell?"
[Pg 337] "Ah! 'tis the song of Colonsay."
Like one that from a fearful dream
Awakes, the morning light to view,
And joys to see the purple beam,
Yet fears to find the vision true.
He heard that strain, so wildly sweet,
Which bade his torpid languor fly;
He feared some spell had bound his feet,
And hardly dared his limbs to try.
"This yellow sand, this sparry cave,
"Shall bend thy soul to beauty's sway;
"Can'st thou the maiden of the wave
"Compare to her of Colonsay?"
Roused by that voice, of silver sound,
From the paved floor he lightly sprung,
And, glancing wild his eyes around,
Where the fair nymph her tresses wrung,
No form he saw of mortal mould;
It shone like ocean's snowy foam;
Her ringlets waved in living gold,
[Pg 338] Her mirror crystal, pearl her comb.
Her pearly comb the syren took,
And careless bound her tresses wild;
Still o'er the mirror stole her look,
As on the wondering youth she smiled.
Like music from the greenwood tree,
Again she raised the melting lay;
—"Fair warrior, wilt thou dwell with me,
"And leave the maid of Colonsay?
"Fair is the crystal hall for me,
"With rubies and with emeralds set,
"And sweet the music of the sea
"Shall sing, when we for love are met.
"How sweet to dance, with gliding feet,
"Along the level tide so green,
"Responsive to the cadence sweet,
"That breathes along the moonlight scene!
"And soft the music of the main
"Rings from the motley tortoise-shell,
"While moonbeams, o'er the watery plain,
[Pg 339] "Seem trembling in its fitful swell.
"How sweet, when billows heave their head,
"And shake their snowy crests on high,
"Serene in Ocean's sapphire bed,
"Beneath the tumbling surge, to lie;
"To trace, with tranquil step, the deep,
"Where pearly drops of frozen dew
"In concave shells, unconscious, sleep,
"Or shine with lustre, silvery blue!
"Then shall the summer sun, from far,
"Pour through the wave a softer ray,
"While diamonds, in a bower of spar,
"At eve shall shed a brighter day.
"Nor stormy wind, nor wintery gale,
"That o'er the angry ocean sweep,
"Shall e'er our coral groves assail,
"Calm in the bosom of the deep.
"Through the green meads beneath the sea,
"Enamoured, we shall fondly stray—
"Then, gentle warrior, dwell with me,
[Pg 340] "And leave the maid of Colonsay!"—
"Though bright thy locks of glistering gold,
"Fair maiden of the foamy main!
"Thy life-blood is the water cold,
"While mine beats high in every vein.
"If I, beneath thy sparry cave,
"Should in thy snowy arms recline,
"Inconstant as the restless wave,
"My heart would grow as cold as thine."
As cygnet down, proud swelled her breast;
Her eye confest the pearly tear;
His hand she to her bosom prest—
"Is there no heart for rapture here?
"These limbs, sprung from the lucid sea,
"Does no warm blood their currents fill,
"No heart-pulse riot, wild and free,
"To joy, to love's delirious thrill?"
"Though all the splendour of the sea
"Around thy faultless beauty shine,
"That heart, that riots wild and free,
[Pg 341] "Can hold no sympathy with mine.
"These sparkling eyes, so wild and gay,
"They swim not in the light of love:
"The beauteous maid of Colonsay,
"Her eyes are milder than the dove!
"Even now, within the lonely isle,
"Her eyes are dim with tears for me;
"And canst thou think that syren smile
"Can lure my soul to dwell with thee?"
An oozy film her limbs o'erspread;
Unfolds in length her scaly train;
She tossed, in proud disdain, her head,
And lashed, with webbed fin, the main.
"Dwell here, alone!" the mermaid cried,
"And view far off the sea-nymphs play;
"Thy prison-wall, the azure tide,
"Shall bar thy steps from Colonsay.
"Whene'er, like ocean's scaly brood,
"I cleave, with rapid fin, the wave,
"Far from the daughter of the flood,
[Pg 342] "Conceal thee in this coral cave.
"I feel my former soul return;
"It kindles at thy cold disdain:
"And has a mortal dared to spurn
"A daughter of the foamy main?"
She fled; around the crystal cave
The rolling waves resume their road,
On the broad portal idly rave,
But enter not the nymph's abode.
And many a weary night went by,
As in the lonely cave he lay,
And many a sun rolled through the sky,
And poured its beams on Colonsay;
And oft, beneath the silver moon,
He heard afar the mermaid sing,
And oft, to many a melting tune,
The shell-formed lyres of ocean ring;
And when the moon went down the sky,
Still rose, in dreams, his native plain,
And oft he thought his love was by,
[Pg 343] And charmed him with some tender strain;
And, heart-sick, oft he waked to weep,
When ceased that voice of silver sound,
And thought to plunge him in the deep,
That walled his crystal cavern round.
But still the ring, of ruby red,
Retained its vivid crimson hue,
And each despairing accent fled,
To find his gentle love so true.
When seven long lonely months were gone,
The mermaid to his cavern came,
No more mishapen from the zone,
But like a maid of mortal frame.
"O give to me that ruby ring,
"That on thy finger glances gay,
"And thou shalt hear the mermaid sing
"The song, thou lovest, of Colonsay."
"This ruby ring, of crimson grain,
"Shall on thy finger glitter gay,
"If thou wilt bear me through the main,
[Pg 344] "Again to visit Colonsay."
"Except thou quit thy former love,
"Content to dwell, for ay, with me,
"Thy scorn my finny frame might move,
"To tear thy limbs amid the sea."
"Then bear me swift along the main,
"The lonely isle again to see,
"And, when I here return again,
"I plight my faith to dwell with thee."
An oozy film her limbs o'erspread,
While slow unfolds her scaly train,
With gluey fangs her hands were clad,
She lashed with webbed fin the main.
He grasps the mermaid's scaly sides,
As, with broad fin, she oars her way;
Beneath the silent moon she glides,
That sweetly sleeps on Colonsay.
Proud swells her heart! she deems, at last,
To lure him with her silver tongue,
And, as the shelving rocks she past,
[Pg 345] She raised her voice, and sweetly sung.
In softer, sweeter strains she sung,
Slow gliding o'er the moonlight bay,
When light to land the chieftain sprung,
To hail the maid of Colonsay.
O sad the mermaid's gay notes fell,
And sadly sink, remote at sea!
So sadly mourns the writhed shell
Of Jura's shore, its parent sea.
And ever as the year returns,
The charm-bound sailors know the day;
For sadly still the mermaid mourns
The lovely chief of Colonsay.
[Pg 346]


The sea-snake heave his snowy mane.—P. 334. v. 3.

"They, who, in works of navigation, on the coasts of Norway, employ themselves in fishing or merchandize, do all agree in this strange story, that there is a serpent there, which is of a vast magnitude, namely, two hundred feet long, and moreover twenty feet thick; and is wont to live in rocks and caves, toward the sea-coast about Berge; which will go alone from his holes, in a clear night in summer, and devours calves, lambs, and hogs; or else he goes into the sea to feed on polypus, locusts, and all sorts of sea-crabs. He hath commonly hair hanging from his neck a cubit long, and sharp scales, and is black, and he hath flaming shining eyes. This snake disquiets the skippers, and he puts up his head on high, like a pillar, and catcheth away men, and he devours them; and this hapneth not but it signifies some wonderful change of the kingdom near at hand; namely, that the princes shall die, or be banished; or some tumultuous wars shall presentlie follow."—Olaus Magnus, London, 1558, rendered into English by J. S. Much more of the sea-snake may be learned from the credible witnesses cited by Pontoppidan, who saw it raise itself from the sea, twice as high as the mast of their vessel. The tradition probably originates in the immense snake of the Edda, whose folds were supposed to girdle the earth.


[85] I believe something to the same purpose may be found in the school editions of Guthrie's Geographical Grammar; a work, which, though, in general, as sober and dull as could be desired by the gravest preceptor, becomes of a sudden uncommonly lively, upon the subject of the seas of Norway; the author having thought meet to adopt the Right Reverend Erick Pontopiddon's account of mermen, sea-snakes, and krakens.

[Pg 347]
[Pg 348]





Hoddom castle is delightfully situated on the banks of the river Annan. It is an ancient structure, said to have been built betwixt the years 1437 and 1484, by John Lord Herries, of Herries, a powerful border baron, who possessed extensive domains in Dumfries-shire. This family continued to flourish until the death of William, Lord Herries, in the middle of the 16th century, when it merged in heirs female. Agnes, the eldest of the daughters of Lord William, was married to John, master of Maxwell, afterwards created Lord Herries, and a strenuous partizan of Queen Mary. The castle and barony of Hoddom were sold, about 1630, and were then, or soon afterwards, acquired by John Sharpe, Esq., in whose family they have ever since continued. Before the accession of James VI. to the English crown, Hoddom castle was appointed to be kept "with ane wise stout man, and to have with him four well-horsed men, and there to have two stark footmen, [Pg 349]servants, to keep their horses, and the principal to have ane stout footman."—Border Laws, Appendix.

On the top of a small, but conspicuous hill, near to Hoddom castle, there is a square tower, built of hewn stone, over the door of which are carved the figures of a dove and a serpent, and betwixt them the word Repentance. Hence the building, though its proper name is Trailtrow, is more frequently called the Tower of Repentance. It was anciently used as a beacon, and the border laws direct a watch to be maintained there, with a fire-pan and bell, to give the alarm when the English crossed, or approached, the river Annan. This man was to have a husband-land for his service.—Spottiswoode, p. 306.

Various accounts are given of the cause of erecting the Tower of Repentance. The following has been adopted by my ingenious correspondent, as most susceptible of poetical decoration. A certain Lord Herries—about the date of the transaction, tradition is silent—was famous among those who used to rob and steal (convey, the wise it call). This lord, returning from England, with many prisoners, whom he had unlawfully enthralled, was overtaken by a storm, while passing the Solway Firth, and, in order to relieve his boat, he cut all their throats, and threw them into the sea. Feeling great qualms of conscience, he built this square tower, carving over the door, which is about half way up the building, and had formerly no stair to it, the figures above mentioned, of a dove and a serpent, emblems of remorse and grace, and the motto—"Repentance."

[Pg 350]

I have only to add, that the marauding baron is said, from his rapacity, to have been surnamed John the Reif; probably in allusion to a popular romance; and that another account says, the sin, of which he repented, was the destruction of a church, or chapel, called Trailtrow, with the stones of which he had built the castle of Hoddom.—Macfarlane's MSS.

It is said, that Sir Richard Steele, while riding near this place, saw a shepherd boy reading his Bible, and asked him, what he learned from it? "The way to heaven," answered the boy. "And can you show it to me?" said Sir Richard, in banter. "You must go by that tower," replied the shepherd; and he pointed to the tower of "Repentance."

[Pg 351]



Bright shone the moon on Hoddom's wall,
Bright on Repentance Tower;
Mirk was the lord of Hoddom's saul,
That chief sae sad and sour.
He sat him on Repentance hicht,
And glowr'd upon the sea;
And sair and heavily he sicht,
But nae drap eased his bree.
"The night is fair, and calm the air,
"No blasts disturb the tree;
"Baith men and beast now tak their rest,
"And a's at peace but me.
"Can wealth and power in princely bower,
"Can beauty's rolling e'e,
"Can friendship dear, wi' kindly tear,
"Bring back my peace to me?
"No! lang lang maun the mourner pine,
"And meikle penance dree,
"Wha has a heavy heart like mine,
[Pg 352] "Ere light that heart can be.
"Under yon silver skimmering waves,
"That saftly rise and fa',
"Lie mouldering banes in sandy graves,
"That fley my peace awa.

"To help my boat I pierc'd the throat
"Of him whom ane lo'ed dear;
"Nought did I spare his yellow hair,
"And ee'n sae bricht and clear.
"She sits her lane, and makith mane,
"And sings a waefu sang,—
'Scotch rievers hae my darling ta'en;
'O Willie tarries lang!'
"I plunged an auld man in the sea,
"Whase locks were like the snaw;
"His hairs sall serve for rapes to me,
[Pg 353] "In hell my saul to draw.
"Soon did thy smile, sweet baby, stint,
"Torn frae the nurse's knee,
"That smile, that might hae saften'd flint,
"And still'd the raging sea.
"Alas! twelve precious lives were spilt,
"My worthless spark to save;
"Bet[86] had I fallen, withouten guilt,
"Frae cradle to the grave.
"Repentance! signal of my bale,
"Built of the lasting stane,
"Ye lang shall tell the bluidy tale,
"Whan I am dead and gane.
"How Hoddom's lord, ye lang sall tell,
"By conscience stricken sair,
"In life sustain'd the pains of hell,
"And perish'd in despair.


[86] Bet—better.

[Pg 355]
[Pg 354]




The tragical event which preceded, or perhaps gave rise to, the successful insurrection of Robert Bruce, against the tyranny of Edward I., is well known. In the year 1304, Bruce abruptly left the court of England, and held an interview, in the Dominical church of Dumfries, with John, surnamed, from the colour of his hair, the Red Cuming, a powerful chieftain, who had formerly held the regency of Scotland. It is said, by the Scottish historians, that he upbraided Cuming with having betrayed to the English monarch a scheme, formed betwixt them, for asserting the independence of Scotland. The English writers maintain, that Bruce proposed such a plan to Cuming, which he rejected with scorn, as inconsistent with the fealty he had sworn to Edward. The dispute, however it began, soon waxed high betwixt two fierce and independent barons. At length, standing before the high altar of the church, Cuming gave Bruce the lie, and Bruce retaliated by a stroke of his poniard. Full of confusion and remorse, for a homicide committed in a sanctuary, the future monarch of Scotland rushed out of the church, with the bloody poniard in his hand. Kirkpatrick and Lindsay, two barons,[Pg 356] who faithfully adhered to him, were waiting at the gate. To their earnest and anxious enquiries into the cause of his emotion, Bruce answered, "I doubt I have slain the Red Cuming".—"Doubtest thou?" exclaimed Kirkpatrick, "I make sure!"[87] Accordingly, with Lindsay and a few followers, he rushed into the church, and dispatched the wounded Cuming.

A homicide, in such a place, and such an age, could hardly escape embellishment from the fertile genius of the churchmen, whose interest was so closely connected with the inviolability of a divine sanctuary. Accordingly, Bowmaker informs us, that the body of the slaughtered baron was watched, during the night, by the Dominicans, with the usual rites of the church. But, at midnight, the whole assistants fell into a dead sleep, with the exception of one aged father, who heard, with terror and surprise, a voice, like that of a wailing infant, exclaim, "How long, O Lord, shall vengeance be deferred?" it was answered, in an awful tone, "Endure with patience, until the anniversary of this day shall return for the fifty-second time." In the year 1357, fifty-two years after Cuming's death, James of Lindsay was hospitably feasted in the castle of Caerlaveroc, in Dumfries-shire, belonging to Roger Kirkpatrick. They were the sons of the murderers of the regent. In the dead of night, for some [Pg 357]unknown cause, Lindsay arose, and poniarded in his bed his unsuspecting host. He then mounted his horse to fly; but guilt and fear had so bewildered his senses, that, after riding all night, he was taken, at break of day, not three miles from the castle, and was afterwards executed, by order of King David II.

The story of the murder is thus told by the prior of Lochlevin:—

That ilk yhere in our kynryk
Hoge was slayne of Kilpatrik
Be schyr Jakkis the Lyndessay
In-til Karlaveroc; and away
For til have bene with all his mycht
This Lyndyssay pressyt all a nycht
Forth on hors rycht fast rydand.
Nevyrtheless yhit thai hym fand
Nocht thre myle fra that ilk place;
Thare tane and broucht agane he was
Til Karlaveroc, be thai men
That frendis war til Kirkpatrik then;
Thare was he kepyd rycht straytly.
His wyf[88] passyd till the king Dawy,
And prayid him of his realté,
Of Lauche that scho mycht serwyd be.
The kyng Dawy than also fast
Till Dumfres with his curt he past,
As Lawche wald. Quhat was thare mare?
This Lyndessay to deth he gert do thare.
[Pg 358]

Wintownis Cronykill, B. viii. cap. 44.


[Pg 359]
"Now, come to me, my little page,
"Of wit sae wond'rous sly!
"Ne'er under flower, o' youthfu' age,
"Did mair destruction lie.
"I'll dance and revel wi' the rest,
"Within this castle rare;
"Yet he sall rue the drearie feast,
"Bot and his lady fair.
"For ye maun drug Kirkpatrick's wine,
"Wi' juice o' poppy flowers;
"Nae mair he'll see the morning shine
"Frae proud Caerlaveroc's towers.
"For he has twin'd my love and me,
"Ihe maid of mickle scorn—
"She'll welcome, wi' a tearfu' e'e,
"Her widowhood the morn.
"And saddle weel my milk-white steed,
"Prepare my harness bright!
[Pg 360] "Giff I can mak my rival bleed,
"I'll ride awa this night."
"Now haste ye, master, to the ha'!
"The guests are drinking there;
"Kirkpatrick's pride sall be but sma',
"For a' his lady fair."

In came the merry minstrelsy;
Shrill harps wi' tinkling string,
And bag-pipes, lilting melody,
Made proud Caerlaveroc ring.
There gallant knights, and ladies bright,
Did move to measures fine,
Like frolic Fairies, jimp and light,
Wha dance in pale moonshine.
The ladies glided through the ha',
Wi' footing swift and sure—
Kirkpatrick's dame outdid them a',
[Pg 361] Whan she stood on the floor.
And some had tyres of gold sae rare,
And pendants[89] eight or nine;
And she, wi' but her gowden hair,
Did a' the rest outshine.
And some, wi' costly diamonds sheen,
Did warriors' hearts assail—
But she, wi' her twa sparkling een,
Pierc'd through the thickest mail.
Kirkpatrick led her by the hand,
With gay and courteous air:
No stately castle in the land
Could shew sae bright a pair.
O he was young—and clear the day
Of life to youth appears!
Alas! how soon his setting ray
Was dimm'd wi' showring tears!
Fell Lindsay sicken'd at the sight,
And sallow grew his cheek;
He tried wi' smiles to hide his spite,
[Pg 362] But word he cou'dna speak.
The gorgeous banquet was brought up,
On silver and on gold:
The page chose out a crystal cup,
The sleepy juice to hold.
And whan Kirkpatrick call'd for wine,
This page the drink wou'd bear;
Nor did the knight or dame divine
Sic black deceit was near.
Then every lady sung a sang;
Some gay—some sad and sweet—
Like tunefu' birds the woods amang,
Till a' began to greet.
E'en cruel Lindsay shed a tear,
Forletting malice deep—
As mermaids, wi' their warbles clear,
Can sing the waves to sleep.
And now to bed they all are dight,
Now steek they ilka door:
There's nought but stillness o' the night,
[Pg 363] Whare was sic din before.
Fell Lindsay puts his harness on,
His steed doth ready stand;
And up the stair-case is he gone,
Wi' poniard in his hand.
The sweat did on his forehead break,
He shook wi' guilty fear;
In air he heard a joyfu' shriek—
Red Cumin's ghaist was near.
Now to the chamber doth he creep—
A lamp, of glimmering ray,
Show'd young Kirkpatrick fast asleep,
In arms of lady gay.
He lay wi' bare unguarded breast,
By sleepy juice beguil'd;
And sometimes sigh'd, by dreams opprest,
And sometimes sweetly smiled.
Unclosed her mouth o' rosy hue,
Whence issued fragrant air,
That gently, in soft motion, blew
[Pg 364] Stray ringlets o' her hair.
"Sleep on, sleep on, ye luvers dear!
"The dame may wake to weep—
"But that day's sun maun shine fou clear,
"That spills this warrior's sleep."
He louted down—her lips he prest—
O! kiss, foreboding woe!
Then struck on young Kirkpatrick's breast
A deep and deadly blow.
Sair, sair, and mickle, did he bleed:
His lady slept till day,
But dream't the Firth[90] flow'd o'er her head,
In bride-bed as she lay.
The murderer hasted down the stair,
And back'd his courser fleet:
Than did the thunder 'gin to rair,
Than show'rd the rain and sleet.
Ae fire-flaught darted through the rain,
Whare a' was mirk before,
And glinted o'er the raging main,
[Pg 365] That shook the sandy shore.
But mirk and mirker grew the night,
And heavier beat the rain;
And quicker Lindsay urged his flight,
Some ha' or beild to gain.
Lang did he ride o'er hill and dale,
Nor mire nor flood he fear'd:
I trow his courage 'gan to fail
When morning light appear'd.
For having hied, the live-lang night,
Through hail and heavy showers,
He fand himsel, at peep o' light,
Hard by Caerlaveroc's towers.
The castle bell was ringing out,
The ha' was all asteer;
And mony a scriech and waefu' shout
Appall'd the murderer's ear.
Now they hae bound this traitor strang,
Wi' curses and wi' blows;
And high in air they did him hang,
[Pg 366] To feed the carrion crows.

"To sweet Lincluden's[91] haly cells
"Fou dowie I'll repair;
"There peace wi' gentle patience dwells,
"Nae deadly feuds are there."
"In tears I'll wither ilka charm,
"Like draps o' balefu' yew;
"And wail the beauty that cou'd harm
"A knight, sae brave and true."


[87] Hence the crest of Kirkpatrick is a hand, grasping a dagger, distilling gouts of blood, proper; motto; "I mak sicker."

[88] That is, Kirkpatrick's wife.

[89] Pendants—Jewels on the forehead.

[90] Caerlaveroc stands near Solway Firth.

[91] Lincluden Abbey is situated near Dumfries, on the banks of the river Cluden. It was founded and filled with Benedictine nuns, in the time of Malcolm IV., by Uthred, father to Roland, lord of Galloway—these were expelled by Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas.—Vide Pennant.

[Pg 367]

[Pg 368]



Oh! gentle huntsman, softly tread,
And softly wind thy bugle-horn;
Nor rudely break the silence shed
Around the grave of Agilthorn!
Oh! gentle huntsman, if a tear
E'er dimmed for other's woe thine eyes,
Thoul't surely dew, with drops sincere,
The sod, where Lady Eva lies.
Yon crumbling chapel's sainted bound,
Their hands and hearts beheld them plight,
Long held yon towers, with ivy crowned,
The beauteous dame and gallant knight.
Alas! the hour of bliss is past,
For hark! the din of discord rings;
War's clarion sounds, Joy hears the blast,
And trembling plies his radiant wings.
And must sad Eva lose her lord?
And must he seek the martial plain?
Oh! see, she brings his casque and sword!
[Pg 369] Oh! hark, she pours her plaintive strain!
"Blest is the village damsel's fate,
"Though poor and low her station be;
"Safe from the cares which haunt the great,
"Safe from the cares which torture me!
"No doubting fear, no cruel pain,
"No dread suspense her breast alarms;
"No tyrant honour rules her swain,
"And tears him from her folding arms.
"She, careless wandering 'midst the rocks,
"In pleasing toil consumes the day;
"And tends her goats, or feeds her flocks,
"Or joins her rustic lover's lay.
"Though hard her couch, each sorrow flies
"The pillow which supports her head;
"She sleeps, nor fears at morn her eyes
"Shall wake, to mourn an husband dead.
"Hush, impious fears! the good and brave
"Heaven's arm will guard from danger free;
"When Death with thousands gluts the grave,
[Pg 370] "His dart, my love, shall glance from thee:
"While thine shall fly direct and sure,
"This buckler every blow repell;
"This casque from wounds that face secure,
"Where all the loves and graces dwell.
"This glittering scarf, with tenderest care,
"My hands in happier moments wove;
"Curst be the wretch, whose sword shall tear
"The spell-bound work of wedded love!
"Lo! on thy faulchion, keen and bright,
"I shed a trembling consort's tears;
"Oh! when their traces meet thy sight,
"Remember wretched Eva's fears!
"Think, how thy lips she fondly prest;
"Think, how she wept, compelled to part;
"Think, every wound, which scars thy breast,
"Is doubly marked on Eva's heart!"
"O thou! my mistress, wife, and friend!"
Thus Agilthorn with sighs began;
"Thy fond complaints my bosom rend,
[Pg 371] "Thy tears my fainting soul unman:
"In pity cease, my gentle dame,
"Such sweetness and such grief to join!
"Lest I forget the voice of Fame,
"And only list to Love's and thine.
"Flow, flow, my tears! unbounded gush!
"Rise, rise, my sobs! I set ye free;
"Bleed, bleed, my heart! I need not blush
"To own, that life is dear to me.
"The wretch, whose lips have prest the bowl,
"The bitter bowl of pain and woe,
"May careless reach his mortal goal,
"May boldly meet the final blow:
"His hopes destroyed, his comfort wreckt,
An happier life he hopes to find;
But what can I in heaven expect,
Beyond the bliss I leave behind?
"Oh, no! the joys of yonder skies
To prosperous love present no charms;
My heaven is placed in Eva's eyes,
[Pg 372] My paradise in Eva's arms.
"Yet mark me, sweet! if Heaven's command
Hath doomed my fall in martial strife,
Oh! let not anguish tempt thy hand
To rashly break the thread of life!
"No! let our boy thy care engross,
Let him thy stay, thy comfort, be;
Supply his luckless father's loss,
And love him for thyself and me.
"So may oblivion soon efface
The grief, which clouds this fatal morn;
And soon thy cheeks afford no trace
Of tears, which fall for Agilthorn!"
He said, and couched his quivering lance;
He said, and braced his moony shield;
Sealed a last kiss, threw a last glance,
Then spurred his steed to Flodden Field.
But Eva, of all joy bereft,
Stood rooted at the castle gate,
And viewed the prints his courser left,
[Pg 373] While hurrying at the call of fate.
Forebodings sad her bosom told,
The steed, which bore him thence so light,
Her longing eyes would ne'er behold
Again bring home her own true knight.
While many a sigh her bosom heaves,
She thus addrest her orphan page—
"Dear youth, if e'er my love relieved
The sorrows of thy infant age;
"If e'er I taught thy locks to play,
Luxuriant, round thy blooming face;
If e'er I wiped thy tears away,
And bade them yield to smiles their place;
"Oh! speed thee, swift as steed can bear,
Where Flodden groans with heaps of dead,
And, o'er the combat, home repair,
And tell me how my lord has sped.
"Till thou return'st, each hour's an age,
An age employed in doubt and pain;
Oh! haste thee, haste, my little foot-page,
[Pg 374] Oh! haste, and soon return again!"
"Now, lady dear, thy grief assuage!
Good tidings soon shall ease thy pain:
I'll haste, I'll haste, thy little foot-page,
I'll haste, and soon return again."
Then Oswy bade his courser fly;
But still, while hapless Eva wept,
Time scarcely seemed his wings to ply,
So slow the tedious moments crept.
And oft she kist her baby's cheek,
Who slumbered on her throbbing breast;
And now she bade the warder speak,
And now she lulled her child to rest.
"Good warder, say, what meets thy sight?
What see'st thou from the castle tower?"
"Nought but the rocks of Elginbright,
Nought but the shades of Forest-Bower."
"Oh! pretty babe! thy mother's joy,
Pledge of the purest, fondest flame,
To-morrow's sun, dear helpless boy!
[Pg 375] Must see thee bear an orphan's name.
"Perhaps, e'en now, some Scottish sword
The life-blood of thy father drains;
Perhaps, e'en now, that heart is gor'd,
Whose streams supplied thy little veins.
"Oh! warder, from the castle tower,
Now say, what objects meet thy sight?"
"None but the shades of Forest-Bower,
None but the rocks of Elginbright."
"Smil'st thou, my babe? so smiled thy sire,
When gazing on his Eva's face;
His eyes shot beams of gentle fire,
And joy'd such beams in mine to trace.
"Sleep, sleep, my babe! of care devoid;
Thy mother breathes this fervent vow—
Oh! never be thy soul employed
On thoughts so sad, as her's are now!
"Now warder, warder, speak again!
What see'st thou from the turret's height?"
"Oh! lady, speeding o'er the plain,
[Pg 376] The little foot-page appears in sight."
Quick beat her heart; short grew her breath;
Close to her breast the babe she drew—
"Now, Heaven," she cried, "for life or death!"
And forth to meet the page she flew.
"And is thy lord from danger free?
And is the deadly combat o'er?"
In silence Oswy bent his knee,
And laid a scarf her feet before.
The well-known scarf with blood was stained,
And tears from Oswy's eye-lids fell;
Too truly Eva's heart explained,
What meant those silent tears to tell.
"Come, come, my babe!" she wildly cried,
"We needs must seek the field of woe;
Come, come, my babe! cast fear aside!
To dig thy father's grave we go."
"Stay, lady, stay! a storm impends;
Lo! threatening clouds the sky o'erspread;
The thunder roars, the rain descends,
[Pg 377] And lightning streaks the heavens with red.
"Hark! hark! the winds tempestuous rave!
Oh! be thy dread intent resigned!
Or, if resolved the storm to brave,
Be this dear infant left behind!"
"No! no! with me my baby stays;
With me he lives; with me he dies!
Flash, lightnings, flash! your friendly blaze
Will shew me where my warrior lies."
O see she roams the bloody field,
And wildly shrieks her husband's name;
Oh! see she stops and eyes a shield,
An heart, the symbol, wrapt in flame.
His armour broke in many a place,
A knight lay stretched that shield beside;
She raised his vizor, kist his face,
Then on his bosom sunk, and died.
Huntsman, their rustic grave behold:
'Tis here, at night, the Fairy king,
Where sleeps the fair, where sleeps the bold,
[Pg 378] Oft forms his light fantastic ring.
'Tis here, at eve, each village youth,
With freshest flowers the turf adorns;
'Tis here he swears eternal truth,
By Eva's faith and Agilthorn's.
And here the virgins sadly tell,
Each seated by her shepherd's side,
How brave the gallant warrior fell,
How true his lovely lady died.
Ah! gentle huntsman, pitying hear,
And mourn the gentle lovers' doom!
Oh! gentle huntsman, drop a tear,
And dew the turf of Eva's tomb!
So ne'er may fate thy hopes oppose;
So ne'er may grief to thee be known:
They, who can weep for others' woes,
Should ne'er have cause to weep their own.
[Pg 379]
[Pg 380]




Farewell my ingle, bleezing bright,
When the snell storm's begun;
My bouris casements, O! sae light,
When glints the bonnie sun!
Farewell my deep glens, speck't wi' sloes,
O' tangled hazles full!
Farewell my thymy lea, where lows
My kine, and glourin bull.
Farewell my red deer, jutting proud,
My rooks, o' murky wing!
Farewell my wee birds, lilting loud,
A' in the merry spring!
Farewell my sheep, that sprattle on
In a lang line, sae braw!
Or lie on yon cauld cliffs aboon,
[Pg 381] Like late-left patch o' snaw!
Farewell my brook, that wimplin rins,
My clattering brig o' yew;
My scaly tribes wi' gowden fins,
Sae nimbly flickering through!
Farewell my boat, and lusty oars,
That scelp'd, wi' mickle spray!
Farewell my birks o' Teviot shores,
That cool the simmer's day!
Farewell bauld neighbours, whase swift steed
O'er Saxon bounds has scowr'd,
Swoom'd drumlie floods when moons were dead,
And ilka star was smoor'd.
Maist dear for a' ye shar'd wi' me,
When skaith and prey did goad,
And danger, like a wreath, did flee
Alang our moon-dead road.
Farewell my winsome wife, sae gay!
Fu' fain frae hame to gang,
Wi' spunkie lads to geck and play,
[Pg 382] The flow'rie haughs amang!
Farewell my gowk, thy warning note
Then aft-times ca'd aloud,
Tho' o' the word that thrill'd thy throat,
Gude faith, I was na proud!
And, pawkie gowk, sae free that mad'st,
Or ere I hanged be,
Would I might learn if true thou said'st,
When sae thou said'st to me!

[Pg 383]



The principal design of the author of this piece, was to give a specimen of Scottish writing, more nearly approaching to the classical compositions of our ancient bards, than that which has been generally followed for seventy or eighty years past. As the poem is descriptive of the superstitions of the vulgar, in the county of Angus, the scene is laid on the banks of South Esk, near the castle of Inverquharity, about five miles north from Forfar.

It is with pleasure that the editor announces to the literary world, that Dr Jamieson is about to publish a complete Dictionary of the Scottish Dialect; his intimate acquaintance with which is evinced in the following stanzas.


Aft, owre the bent, with heather blent,
[Pg 384] And throw the forest brown,
I tread the path to yon green strath,
Quhare brae-born Esk rins down.
Its banks alang, quhilk hazels thrang,
Quhare sweet-sair'd hawthorns blow,
I lufe to stray, and view the play
Of fleckit scales below.
Ae summer e'en, upon the green,
I laid me down to gaze;
The place richt nigh, quhare Carity
His humble tribute pays:
And Prosen proud, with rippet loud,
Cums ravin' frae his glen;
As gin he might auld Esk affricht,
And drive him back agen.
An ancient tour appear't to lour
Athort the neibourin plain,
Quhais chieftain bauld, in times of auld,
The kintre callit his ain.
Its honours cowit, its now forhowit,
And left the houlat's prey;
Its skuggin' wude, aboon the flude,
With gloom owrespreads the day.
[Pg 385]
A dreary shade the castle spread,
And mirker grew the lift;
The croonin' kie the byre drew nigh,
The darger left his thrift.
The levrock shill on erd was still,
The westlin wind fell loun;
The fisher's houp forgat to loup,
And aw for rest made boun.
I seemit to sloom, quhan throw the gloom
I saw the river shake,
And heard a whush alangis it rush,
Gart aw my members quake;
Syne, in a stound, the pool profound
To cleave in twain appear'd:
And huly throw the frichtsom how
His form a gaist uprear'd.
He rashes bare, and seggs, for hair,
Quhare ramper-eels entwin'd;
Of filthy gar his ee-brees war,
With esks and horse-gells lin'd.
And for his een, with dowie sheen,
Twa huge horse-mussels glar'd:
From his wide mow a torrent flew,
And soupt his reedy beard.
[Pg 386]
Twa slauky stanes seemit his spule-banes;
His briskit braid, a whin;
Ilk rib sae bare, a skelvy skair;
Ilk arm a monstrous fin.
He frae the wame a fish became,
With shells aw coverit owre:
And for his tail, the grislie whale
Could nevir match its pow'r.
With dreddour I, quhen he drew nigh,
Had maistly swarfit outricht:
Less fleyit at lenth I gatherit strenth,
And speirit quhat was this wicht.
Syne thrice he shook his fearsum bouk,
And thrice he snockerit loud;
From ilka ee the fire-flauchts flee,
And flash alangis the flude.
Quhan words he found, their elritch sound
Was like the norlan blast,
Frae yon deep glack, at Catla's back,
That skeegs the dark-brown waste.
The troublit pool conveyit the gowl
Down to yon echoin rock;
And to his maik, with wilsum skraik,
Ilk bird its terror spoke.
[Pg 387]
"Vile droich," he said, "art nocht afraid
"Thy mortal life to tyne?
"How dar'st thou seik with me till speik,
"Sae far aboon thy line?
"Yet sen thou hast thai limits past,
"That sinder sprites frae men,
"Thy life I'll spare, and aw declare,
"That worms like thee may ken.
"In kintries nar, and distant far,
"Is my renoun propalit;
"As is the leid, my name ye'll reid,
"But here I'm Kelpie callit.
"The strypes and burns, throw aw their turns,
"As weel's the waters wide,
"My laws obey, thair spring heads frae,
"Doun till the salt sea tide.
"Like some wild staig, I aft stravaig,
"And scamper on the wave:
"Quha with a bit my mow can fit,
"May gar me be his slave.
"To him I'll wirk baith morn and mirk
"Quhile he has wark to do;
"Gin tent he tak I do nae shak
"His bridle frae my mow.
[Pg 388]
"Quhan Murphy's laird his biggin rear'd,
"I carryit aw the stanes;
"And mony a chiell has heard me squeal
"For sair-brizz'd back and banes.
"Within flude-mark, I aft do wark
"Gudewillit, quhan I please;
"In quarries deep, quhile uthers sleep,
"Greit blocks I win with ease.
"Yon bonny brig quhan folk wald big,
"To gar my stream look braw;
"A sair-toil'd wicht was I be nicht;
"I did mair than thaim aw.
"And weel thai kent quhat help I lent,
"For thai yon image framit,
"Aboon the pend quhilk I defend;
"And it thai Kelpie namit.
"Quhan lads and lasses wauk the clais,
"Narby yon whinny hicht,
"The sound of me their daffin lays;
"Thai dare na mudge for fricht.
"Now in the midst of them I scream,
"Quhan toozlin' on the haugh;
"Than quhihher by thaim doun the stream,
"Loud nickerin in a lauch.
[Pg 389]
"Sicklike's my fun, of wark quhan run;
"But I do meikle mair:
"In pool or ford can nane be smur'd
"Gin Kelpie be nae there.
"Fow lang, I wat, I ken the spat,
"Quhair ane sall meet his deid:
"Nor wit nor pow'r put aff the hour,
"For his wanweird decreed.
"For oulks befoir, alangis the shoir,
"Or dancin' down the stream,
"My lichts are seen to blaze at een,
"With wull wanerthly gleam.
"The hind cums in, gif haim he win,
"And cries, as he war wode;
'Sum ane sall soon be carryit down
'By that wanchancy flude.'
"The taiken leil thai ken fow weel,
"On water sides quha won;
"And aw but thai, quha's weird I spae,
"Fast frae the danger run.
"But fremmit fouk I thus provoke
"To meit the fate thai flee:
"To wilderit wichts thai're waefow lichts,
"But lichts of joy to me.
[Pg 390]
"With ruefow cries, that rend the skies,
"Thair fate I seem to mourn,
"Like crocodile, on banks of Nile;
"For I still do the turn.
"Douce, cautious men aft fey are seen;
"Thai rin as thai war heyrt,
"Despise all reid, and court their deid:
"By me are thai inspir't.
"Yestreen the water was in spate,
"The stanners aw war cur'd:
"A man, nae stranger to the gate,
"Raid up to tak the ford.
"The haill town sware it wadna ride;
"And Kelpie had been heard:
"But nae a gliffin wad he bide,
"His shroud I had prepar'd.
"The human schaip I sumtimes aip:
"As Prosenhaugh raid haim,
"Ae starnless nicht, he gat a fricht,
"Maist crack't his bustuous frame.
"I, in a glint, lap on ahint,
"And in my arms him fangit;
"To his dore-cheik I keipt the cleik:
"The carle was sair bemangit.
[Pg 391]
"My name itsell wirks like a spell,
"And quiet the house can keep;
"Quhan greits the wean, the nurse in vain,
"Thoch tyke-tyrit, tries to sleip.
"But gin scho say, 'Lie still, ye skrae,
"There's Water-Kelpie's chap;'
"It's fleyit to wink, and in a blink
"It sleips as sound's a tap."
He said, and thrice he rais't his voice,
And gaif a horrid gowl:
Thrice with his tail, as with a flail,
He struck the flying pool.
A thunderclap seem't ilka wap,
Resoundin' throw the wude:
The fire thrice flash't; syne in he plash't,
And sunk beneath the flude.
[Pg 392]


The fisher's houp forgat to loup.—P. 385. v. 2.

The fishes, the hope of the angler, no more rose to the fly.

And aw for rest made boun.—P. 385. v. 2.

All commonly occurs in our old writers. But aw is here used, as corresponding with the general pronunciation in Scotland; especially as it has the authority of Dunbar, in his Lament for the Deth of the Makaris.

His form a gaist uprear'd.—P. 385. v. 8.

It is believed in Angus, that the spirit of the waters appears sometimes as a man, with a very frightful aspect; and, at other times, as a horse. The description, here given, must therefore be viewed as the offspring of fancy. All that can be said for it is, that such attributes are selected as are appropriate to the scenery.

Twa huge horse-mussells glar'd.—P. 386. v. 1.

South-Esk abounds with the fresh water oyster, vulgarly called the horse-mussel; and, in former times, a pearl fishery was carried on here to considerable extent.

Frae yon deep glack, at Catla's back.—P. 387. v. 1.

Part of the Grampian mountains. Catla appears as a promontory, jutting out from the principal ridge, towards the plain. Th[Pg 393]e Esk, if I recollect right, issues from behind it.

Thy mortal life to tyne.—P. 387. v. 2.

The vulgar idea is, that a spirit, however frequently it appear, will not speak, unless previously addressed. It is, however, at the same time believed, that the person, who ventures to speak to a ghost, will soon forfeit his life, in consequence of his presumption.

His bridle frae my mow.—P. 388. v. 1.

The popular tradition is here faithfully described; and, strange to tell! has not yet lost all credit. In the following verses, the principal articles of the vulgar creed in Angus, with respect to this supposed being, are brought together and illustrated by such facts as are yet appealed to by the credulous. If I mistake not, none of the historical circumstances mentioned are older than half a century. It is only about thirty years since the bridge referred to was built.

For sair-brizz'd back and banes.—P. 388. v. 2.

It is pretended that Kelpie celebrated this memorable event in rhyme; and that for a long time after he was often heard to cry, with a doleful voice,

"Sair back and sair banes,
Carryin' the laird of Murphy's stanes."
And it thai Kelpie namit.—P. 388. v. 3.

A head, like that of a gorgon, appears above the arch of the bridge. This was hewn in honour of Kelpie.

His shroud I had prepar'd.—P. 390. v. 3.

A very common tale in Scotland is here alluded to by the poet. On the banks of a rapid stream the water spirit was heard repeatedly to exclaim, in a dismal tone, "The hour is come, but not the man;" when a person coming up, contrary to all remonstrances, endeavoured to ford the stream, and perished in the attempt. The original story is to be found in Gervase of Tilbury.—In the parish of Castleton, the same story is told, with this variation, that the by-standers prevented, by force, the predestined individual from entering the river, and shut him up in the church, where he was next morning[Pg 394] found suffocated, with his face lying immersed in the baptismal font. To a fey person, therefore, Shakespeare's words literally apply:

---- Put but a little water in a spoon,
And it shall be as all the ocean,
Enough to swallow such a being up.
[Pg 395]


Aboon. Above.

Ahint. Behind.

Aip. Ape, imitate.

Alangis. Alongst.

Bemangit. Injured, whether in mind or body; a word much used in Angus.

Be. By.

Big. Build.

Biggin. Building, house.

Blink. Moment.

Bonny. Handsome, beautiful.

Boun. Ready.

Bouk. Body.

Braw. Fine.

Briskit. Breast.

Bustuous. Huge.

Byre. Cow-house.

Chap. Rap.

Chiell. Fellow.

Cleik. Hold.

Cowit. Shorn, cut off.

Croonin. Bellowing—most properly with a low and mournful sound.

Cur'd. Covered.

Darger. Labourer, day-worker.

Daffin. Sport.

Deid. Death.

Do the turn. Accomplish the fatal event.

Dore-cheek. Door-post.

Dowie. Melancholy, sad.

[Pg 396]Douce. Sober, sedate.

Dreddour. Dread, terror.

Droich. Dwarf, pigmy.

Een. Eyes.

Eebrees. Eyebrows.

Elritch. Wild, hideous, not earthly.

Erd. Earth.

Esks. Newts, or efts.

Fey. Affording presages of approaching death, by acting a part directly the reverse of their proper character.

Fire-flauchts. Lightnings.

Fleckit-scales. Spotted shoals, or troops of trouts and other fishes.

Fleyd. Frighted.

Forhowit. Forsaken.

Fow. Full.

Fangit. Seized.

Fleyit. Affrighted.

Frightsum. Frightful.

Fremmit fouk. Strange folk.

Gaist. Ghost.

Gaif. Gave.

Gart. Caused, made.

Gar. The slimy vegetable substance in the bed of a river.

Gate. Road.

Glack. A hollow between two hills or mountains.

Gliffin. A moment.

Glint. Moment.

Gowl. Yell.

Greits. Cries, implying the idea of tears.

Gudewillit. Without constraint, cheerfully.

Haill. Whole.

Haugh. Low, flat ground on the side of a river.

Heyrt. Furious.

Howlat. Owl.

Horse-gells. Horse-leeches.

Huly. Slowly.

Ilk. Each.

In a stound. Suddenly.

Ken. Know.

Kie. Cows.

Kintrie. Country.

Lavrock. Lark.

Lauch. Laugh.

Leid. Language.

Leil. True, not delusive.

Lift. Sky.

Loun'. Calm.

Loup. Leap.

Maik. Companion, mate.

Mirk. During night.

Mirker. Darker.

Mow. Mouth.

Mudge. Budge, stir.

Nar. Near.
[Pg 397]
Narby. Near to.

Nickerin. Neighing.

Nocht. Not.

Norlan. Northern.

Oulks. Weeks.

Pend. Arch.

Quhihher. The idea is nearly expressed by whiz.

Quhilk. Which.

Ramper-eels. Lampreys.

Rashes. Rushes.

Rede. Council.

Reid. Read.

Rippet. Noise, uproar.

Sair brizz'd. Sore bruised.

Sall. Shall.

Sen. Since.

Seggs. Sedges.

Sheen. Shine.

Shill. Shrill.

Sicklike. Of this kind.

Sinder. Separate.

Skelvy skair. A rock presenting the appearance of a variety of lamina.

Skeegs. Lashes.

Skrae. Skeleton.

Skuggin. Overshadowing, protecting wood.

Sloom. Slumber.

Slauky. Slimy.

Smur'd. Smothered.

Snockerit. Snorted.

Soupt. Drenched.

Spae. Predict.

Spat. Spot.

Spate. Flood.

Speirit. Asked.

Spule-banes. Shoulder-blades.

Stanners. Gravel on the margin of a river, or any body of water.

Staig. A young horse.

Starnless. Without stars.

Stravaig. Stray, roam.

Strypes. Rills of the smallest kind.

Swarfit. Fainted.

Sweet sair'd. Sweet savoured.

Syne. Then.

Taiken. Token.

Tap. A child's top.

Tent. Take care, be attentive.

Thai. These.

Than. Then.

Toozlin. Toying, properly putting any thing in disorder.

Tyke-tyrit. Tired as a dog after coursing.

Tyne. Lose.

Waefou. Fatal, causing woe.

Wald. Would.

Wanweirid. Unhappy fate.

Wanchancy. Unlucky, causing misfortune.

[Pg 398]Wanerthly. Preternatural.

Wap. Stroke, flap.

War. Were.

Wauk the claes. Watch the clothes.

Wean. Child.

Weird. Fate.

Whush. A rustling sound.

Wilsum skraik. Wild shriek.

Wirk. Work.

Wode. Deprived of reason.

Win. Dig from a quarry.

Wull. Wild.

Yestreen. Yesternight.

[Pg 399]




Ellandonan Castle stands on a small rocky isle, situated in Loch Duich (on the west coast of Ross), near the point where the western sea divides itself into two branches, forming Loch Duich and Loch Loung. The magnificence of the castle itself, now a roofless ruin, covered with ivy, the beauty of the bay, and the variety of hills and valleys that surround it, and particularly the fine range of hills, between which lie the pastures of Glensheal, with the lofty summit of Skooroora, overtopping the rest, and forming a grand back-ground to the picture; all contribute to make this a piece of very romantic Highland scenery.[92]

The castle is the manor-place of the estate of Kintail, which is denominated the barony of Ellandonan. That estate is the property of Francis, Lord Seaforth. It has descended to him, through a long line of gallant ancestors; having been originally conferred on Colin Fitzgerald, son to the Earl of Desmond and Kildare, in the kingdom of Ireland, by a charter, dated 9th January, 1266, granted [Pg 400]by King Alexander the third, "Colino Hybernio," and bearing, as its inductive cause, "pro bono et fideli servitio, tam in bello, quam in pace." He had performed a very recent service in war, having greatly distinguished himself in the battle of Largs, in 1263, in which the invading army of Haco, King of Norway, was defeated. Being pursued in his flight, the king was overtaken in the narrow passage which divides the island of Skye from the coasts of Inverness and Ross, and, along with many of his followers, he himself was killed, in attempting his escape through the channel dividing Skye from Lochalsh. These straits, or kyles, bear to this day appellations, commemorating the events by which they were thus distinguished, the former being called Kyle Rhee, or the King's Kyle, and the latter Kyle Haken.

The attack on Ellandonan Castle, which forms the subject of the following poem, lives in the tradition of the country, where it is, at this day, a familiar tale, repeated to every stranger, who, in sailing past, is struck with admiration at the sight of that venerable monument of antiquity. But the authenticity of the fact rests not solely on tradition. It is recorded, by Crawford, in his account of the family of Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, and reference is there made to a genealogy of Slate, in the possession of [Pg 401]the family, as a warrant for the assertion. The incident took place in 1537.

The power of the Lord of the Isles was at that time sufficiently great to give alarm to the crown. It covered not only the whole of the Western Isles, from Bute northwards, but also many extensive districts on the main-land, in the shires of Ayr, Argyle, and Inverness. Accordingly, in 1535, on the failure of heirs-male of the body of John, Lord of the Isles, and Earl of Ross, as well as of two of his natural sons, in whose favour a particular substitution had been made, King James the fifth assumed the lordship of the Isles. The right was, however, claimed by Donald, fifth baron of Slate, descended from the immediate younger brother of John, Lord of the Isles. This bold and high-spirited chieftain lost his life in the attack on Ellandonan Castle, and was buried by his followers on the lands of Ardelve, on the opposite side of Loch Loung.

The barony of Ellandonan then belonged to John Mackenzie, ninth baron of Kintail. Kenneth, third baron, who was son to Kenneth, the son of Colin Fitzgerald, received the patronimic appellation of Mac Kenneth, or Mac Kennye, which descended from him to his posterity, as the sirname of the family. John, baron of Kintail, took a very active part in the general affairs of the kingdom. He fought gallantly at the battle of Flodden, under the banners of King James the fourth, was a member of the privy council in the re[Pg 402]ign of his son, and, at an advanced age, supported the standard of the unfortunate Mary, at the battle of Pinkie.

In the sixth generation from John, baron of Kintail, the clan was, by his lineal descendant, William, fifth earl of Seaforth, summoned, in 1715, to take up arms in the cause of the house of Stuart. On the failure of that spirited, but ill-fated enterprize, the earl made his escape to the continent, where he lived for about eleven years. Meantime his estate and honours were forfeited to the crown, and his castle was burnt. A steward was appointed to levy the rents of Kintail, on the king's behalf; but the vassals spurned at his demands, and, while they carried on a successful defensive war, against a body of troops sent to subdue their obstinacy, in the course of which the unlucky steward had the misfortune to be slain, one of their number made a faithful collection of what was due, and carried the money to the earl himself, who was at that time in Spain. The descendants of the man, to whom it was entrusted to convey to his lord this unequivocal proof of the honour, fidelity, and attachment of his people, are at this day distinguished by the designation of Spaniard; as Duncan, the Spaniard, &c. The estate was, a few years after the forfeiture, purchased from government, for behoof of the family, and re-invested in the person of his son.

[Pg 403]



[Pg 404]
O wot ye, ye men of the island of Skye,
That your lord lies a corpse on Ardelve's rocky shore?
The Lord of the Isles, once so proud and so high,
His lands and his vassals shall never see more.
None else but the Lord of Kintail was so great;
To that lord the green banks of Loch Duich belong,
Ellandonan's fair castle and noble estate,
And the hills of Glensheal and the coasts of Loch Loung.
His vassals are many, and trusty, and brave,
Descended from heroes, and worthy their sires;
His castle is wash'd by the salt-water wave,
And his bosom the ardour of valour inspires.
M'Donald, by restless ambition impell'd
To extend to the shores of Loch Duich his sway,
With awe Ellandonan's strong turrets beheld,
And waited occasion to make them his prey.
And the moment was come; for M'Kenneth, afar,
To the Saxon opposed his victorious arm;
Few and old were the vassals, but dauntless in war,
[Pg 405] Whose courage and skill freed his towers from alarm.
M'Donald has chosen the best of his power;
On the green plains of Slate were his warriors arrayed;
Every Islander came before midnight an hour,
With the sword in his hand, and the belt on his plaid.
The boats they are ready, in number a score;
In each boat twenty men, for the war of Kintail;
Iron hooks they all carry, to grapple the shore,
And ladders, the walls of the fortress to scale.
They have pass'd the strait kyle, thro' whose billowy flood,
From the arms of Kintail-men, fled Haco of yore,
Whose waves were dyed deep with Norwegian blood,
Which was shed by M'Kenneth's resistless claymore.
They have enter'd Loch Duich—all silent their course,
Save the splash of the oar on the dark-bosom'd wave,
Which mingled with murmurs, low, hollow, and hoarse,
That issued from many a coralline cave.
Either coast they avoid, and right eastward they steer;
Nor star, nor the moon, on their passage has shone;
Unexpecting assault, and unconscious of fear,
[Pg 406] All Kintail was asleep, save the watchman alone.
"What, ho! my companions! arise, and behold
"Where Duich's deep waters with flashes are bright!
"Hark! the sound of the oars! rise, my friends, and be bold!
"For some foe comes, perhaps, under shadow of night."
At the first of the dawn, when the boats reach'd the shore,
The sharp ridge of Skooroora with dark mist was crown'd,
And the rays, that broke thro' it, seem'd spotted with gore,
As M'Donald's bold currach first struck on the ground.
Of all the assailants, that sprung on the coast,
One of stature and aspect superior was seen;
Whatever a lord or a chieftain could boast,
Of valour undaunted, appear'd in his mien.
His plaid o'er his shoulder was gracefully flung;
Its foldings a buckle of silver restrain'd;
A massy broad sword on his manly thigh hung,
Which defeat or disaster had never sustain'd.
Then, under a bonnet of tartan and blue,
Whose plumage was toss'd to and fro by the gale,
[Pg 407] Their glances of lightning his eagle-eyes threw,
Which were met by the frowns of the sons of Kintail.
'Twas the Lord of the Isles; whom the chamberlain saw,
While a trusty long bow on his bosom reclin'd—
Of stiff yew it was made, which few sinews could draw;
Its arrows flew straight, and as swift as the wind.
With a just aim he drew—the shaft pierced the bold chief:
Indignant he started, nor heeding the smart,
While his clan pour'd around him, in clamorous grief,
From the wound tore away the deep-rivetted dart.
The red stream flowed fast, and his cheek became white:
His knees, with a tremor unknown to him, shook,
And his once-piercing eyes scarce directed his sight,
As he turn'd towards Skye the last lingering look.
Surrounded by terror, disgrace, and defeat,
From the rocks of Kintail the M'Donalds recoil'd;
No order was seen in their hasty retreat,
And their looks with dismay and confusion were wild.
While thine eyes wander oft from the green plains of Slate,
In pursuit of thy lord, O M'Donald's fair dame,
[Pg 408] Ah! little thou know'st 'tis the hour, mark'd by Fate,
To close his ambition, and tarnish his fame.
On the shore of Ardelve, far from home, is his grave,
And the news of his death swiftly fly o'er the sea—
Thy grief, O fair dame! melts the hearts of the brave,
Even the bard of Kintail wafts his pity to thee.
And thou, Ellandonan! shall thy tow'rs ere again
Be insulted by any adventurous foe,
While the tale of the band, whom thy heroes have slain,
Excites in their sons an inherited glow?
Alas! thou fair isle! my soul's darling and pride!
Too sure is the presage, that tells me thy doom,
Tho' now thy proud towers all invasion deride,
And thy fate lies far hid in futurity's gloom.
A time shall arrive, after ages are past,
When thy turrets, dismantled, in ruins shall fall,
When, alas! thro' thy chambers shall howl the sea-blast,
And the thistle shall shake his red head in thy hall.
Shall this desolation strike thy towers alone?
No, fair Ellandonan! such ruin 'twill bring,
[Pg 409] That the whirl shall have power to unsettle the throne,
And thy fate shall be link'd with the fate of thy king.
And great shall thy pride be, amid thy despair;
To their chief, and their prince, still thy sons shall be true;
The fruits of Kintail never victor shall share,
Nor its vales ever gladden an enemy's view.
And lovely thou shalt be, even after thy wreck;
Thy battlements never shall cease to be grand;
Their brown rusty hue the green ivy shall deck,
And as long as Skooroora's high top shall they stand.


[92] We learn from Wintoun, that, in 1331, this fortress witnessed the severe justice of Randolph, Earl of Murray, then warden of Scotland. Fifty delinquents were there executed, by his orders, and, according to the prior of Lochlevin, the earl had as much pleasure in seeing their ghastly heads encircle the walls of the castle, as if it had been surrounded by a chaplet of roses.

[Pg 410]



The ruins of Cadyow, or Cadzow Castle, the ancient baronial residence of the family of Hamilton, are situated upon the precipitous banks of the river Evan, about two miles above its junction with the Clyde. It was dismantled, in the conclusion of the civil wars, during the reign of the unfortunate Mary, to whose cause the house of Hamilton devoted themselves with a generous zeal, which occasioned their temporary obscurity, and, very nearly, their total ruin. The situation of the ruins, embosomed in wood, darkened by ivy and creeping shrubs, and overhanging the brawling torrent, is romantic in the highest degree. In the immediate vicinity of Cadyow is a grove of immense oaks, the remains of the Caledonian Forest, which anciently extended through the south of Scotland, from the eastern to the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these trees measure twenty-five feet, and upwards, in circumference; and the state of decay, in which they now appear, shews, that they may have witnessed the rites of the Druids.—The whole scenery is included in the magnificent and extensive park of the Duke of Hamilton. There was long preserved in this forest the breed of the Scottish wild cattle, until their ferocity occasioned their being extirpated, about forty years ago. Their appearance was beautiful, being milk-white, with black muzzles, horns, and hoofs. The bulls are described by ancient aut[Pg 411]hors, as having white manes; but those of latter days had lost that peculiarity, perhaps by intermixture with the tame breed.[93]

In detailing the death of the regent Murray, which is made the subject of the following ballad, it would be injustice to my reader to use other words than those of Dr Robertson, whose account of that memorable event forms a beautiful piece of historical painting.

"Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh was the person who committed this barbarous action. He had been condemned to death soon after the battle of Langside, as we have already related, and owed his life to the regent's clemency. But part of his estate had been bestowed upon one of the regent's favourites,[94] who seized his house, and turned out his wife, naked, in a cold night, into the open fields, where, before next morning, she became furiously mad. This injury made a deeper impression on him than the benefit he had received, and from that moment he vowed to be revenged of the regent. Party rage strengthened and inflamed his private resentment. His kinsmen, the Hamiltons, applauded the enterprize. The maxims of that age justified the most desperate [Pg 412]course he could take to obtain vengeance. He followed the regent for some time, and watched for an opportunity to strike the blow. He resolved, at last, to wait till his enemy should arrive at Linlithgow, through which he was to pass, in his way from Stirling to Edinburgh. He took his stand in a wooden gallery,[95] which had a window towards the street; spread a feather-bed on the floor, to hinder the noise of his feet from being heard; hung up a black cloth behind him, that his shadow might not be observed from without; and, after all this preparation, calmly expected the regent's approach, who had lodged, during the night, in a house not far distant. Some indistinct information of the danger which threatened him had been conveyed to the regent, and he paid so much regard to it, that he resolved to return by the same gate through which he had entered, and to fetch a compass round the town. But, as the crowd about the gate was great, and he himself unacquainted with fear, he proceeded directly along the street; and the throng of people obliging him to move very slowly, gave the assassin time to take so true an [Pg 413]aim, that he shot him, with a single bullet, through the lower part of his belly, and killed the horse of a gentleman, who rode on his other side. His followers instantly endeavoured to break into the house, whence the blow had come; but they found the door strongly barricaded, and, before it could be forced open, Hamilton had mounted a fleet horse,[96] which stood ready for him at a back-passage, and was got far beyond their reach. The regent died the same night of his wound."—History of Scotland, book v.

Bothwellhaugh rode straight to Hamilton, where he was received in triumph; for the ashes of the houses in Clydesdale, which had been burned by Murray's army, were yet smoking; and party prejudice, the habits of the age, and the enormity of the provocation, seemed, to his kinsmen, to justify his deed. After a short abode at Hamilton, this fierce and determined man left Scotland, and served in France, under the patronage of the family of Guise, to whom he was doubtless recommended by having avenged the cause of their niece, Queen Mary, upon her ungrateful brother. De Thou has recorded, that an attempt was made to engage him to assassinate Gaspar de Coligni, the famous admiral of France, and the buckler of the Huguenot cause. But the character of Bothwellhaugh was mistaken. He was no mercenary trader in blood, and rejected the offer with contempt and indignation. He [Pg 414]had no authority, he said, from Scotland, to commit murders in France; he had avenged his own just quarrel, but he would neither, for price nor prayer, avenge that of another man.—Thaunus, cap. 46.

The regent's death happened 23d January, 1569. It is applauded or stigmatized, by contemporary historians, according to their religious or party prejudices. The triumph of Blackwood is unbounded. He not only extols the pious feat of Bothwellhaugh, "who," he observes, "satisfied, with a single ounce of lead, him, whose sacrilegious avarice had stripped the metropolitan church of St Andrew's of its covering;" but he ascribes it to immediate divine inspiration, and the escape of Hamilton to little less than the miraculous interference of the Deity.—Jebb, Vol. II. p. 263. With equal injustice, it was, by others, made the ground of a general national reflection; for, when Mather urged Berney to assassinate Burleigh, and quoted the examples of Poltrot and Bothwellhaugh, the other conspirator answered, "that neyther Poltrot nor Hambleton did attempt their enterpryse, without some reason or consideration to lead them to it; as the one, by hyre, and promise of preferment or rewarde; the other, upon desperate mind of revenge, for a lytle wrong done unto him, as the report goethe, accordinge to the vyle trayterous dysposysyon of the hoole natyon of the Scottes."—Murdin's State Papers, Vol. I. p. 197.

[Pg 416]



When princely Hamilton's abode
Ennobled Cadyow's Gothic towers,
The song went round, the goblet flowed,
And revel sped the laughing hours.
Then, thrilling to the harp's gay sound,
So sweetly rung each vaulted wall,
And echoed light the dancer's bound,
As mirth and music cheer'd the hall.
But Cadyow's towers, in ruins laid,
And vaults, by ivy mantled o'er,
Thrill to the music of the shade,
Or echo Evan's hoarser roar.
Yet still, of Cadyow's faded fame,
You bid me tell a minstrel tale,
[Pg 417] And tune my harp, of Border frame,
On the wild banks of Evandale.
For thou, from scenes of courtly pride,
From pleasure's lighter scenes, canst turn,
To draw oblivion's pall aside,
And mark the long forgotten urn.
Then, noble maid! at thy command,
Again the crumbled halls shall rise;
Lo! as on Evan's banks we stand,
The past returns—the present flies.—
Where with the rock's wood-cover'd side
Were blended late the ruins green,
Rise turrets in fantastic pride,
And feudal banners flaunt between:
Where the rude torrent's brawling course
Was shagg'd with thorn and tangling sloe,
The ashler buttress braves its force,
And ramparts frown in battled row.
'Tis night—the shade of keep and spire
Obscurely dance on Evan's stream,
[Pg 418] And on the wave the warder's fire
Is chequering the moon-light beam.
Fades slow their light; the east is grey;
The weary warder leaves his tower;
Steeds snort; uncoupled stag-hounds bay,
And merry hunters quit the bower.
The draw-bridge falls—they hurry out—
Clatters each plank and swinging chain,
As, dashing o'er, the jovial route
Urge the shy steed, and slack the rein.
First of his troop, the chief rode on;
His shouting merry-men throng behind;
The steed of princely Hamilton
Was fleeter than the mountain wind.
From the thick copse the roe-bucks bound,
The startling red-deer scuds the plain,
For the hoarse bugle's warrior sound
Has rouzed their mountain haunts again.
Through the huge oaks of Evandale,
Whose limbs a thousand years have worn,
[Pg 419] What sullen roar comes down the gale,
And drowns the hunter's pealing horn?
Mightiest of all the beasts of chace,
That roam in woody Caledon,
Crashing the forest in his race,
The Mountain Bull comes thundering on.
Fierce, on the hunters' quiver'd band,
He rolls his eyes of swarthy glow,
Spurns, with black hoof and horn, the sand,
And tosses high his mane of snow.
Aim'd well, the chieftain's lance has flown;
Struggling, in blood the savage lies;
His roar is sunk in hollow groan—
Sound, merry huntsmen! sound the pryse![97]
'Tis noon—against the knotted oak
The hunters rest the idle spear;
Curls through the trees the slender smoke,
Where yeomen dight the woodland cheer.
Proudly the chieftain mark'd his clan,
On greenwood lap all careless thrown,
[Pg 420] Yet miss'd his eye the boldest man,
That bore the name of Hamilton.
"Why fills not Bothwellhaugh his place,
"Still wont our weal and woe to share?
"Why comes he not our sport to grace?
"Why shares he not our hunter's fare?"
Stern Claud replied, with darkening face,
(Grey Pasley's haughty lord was he)
"At merry feast, or buxom chace,
"No more the warrior shalt thou see.
"Few suns have set, since Woodhouselee
"Saw Bothwellhaugh's bright goblets foam,
"When to his hearths, in social glee,
"The war-worn soldier turn'd him home.
"There, wan from her maternal throes,
"His Margaret, beautiful and mild,
"Sate in her bower, a pallid rose,
"And peaceful nursed her new-born child.
"O change accurs'd! past are those days;
"False Murray's ruthless spoilers came,
[Pg 421] "And, for the hearth's domestic blaze,
"Ascends destruction's volumed flame.
"What sheeted phantom wanders wild,
"Where mountain Eske through woodland flows,
"Her arms enfold a shadowy child—
"Oh is it she, the pallid rose?
"The wildered traveller sees her glide,
"And hears her feeble voice with awe—
'Revenge,' she cries, 'on Murray's pride!
'And woe for injured Bothwellhaugh!'
He ceased—and cries of rage and grief
Burst mingling from the kindred band,
And half arose the kindling chief,
And half unsheath'd his Arran brand.
But who, o'er bush, o'er stream and rock,
Rides headlong, with resistless speed,
Whose bloody poniard's frantic stroke
Drives to the leap his jaded steed;
Whose cheek is pale, whose eye-balls glare,
As one, some visioned sight that saw,
[Pg 422] Whose hands are bloody, loose his hair?—
—'Tis he! 'tis he! 'tis Bothwellhaugh.
From gory selle,[98] and reeling steed,
Sprung the fierce horseman with a bound,
And, reeking from the recent deed,
He dashed his carbine on the ground.
Sternly he spoke—"'Tis sweet to hear
In good greenwood the bugle blown,
But sweeter to Revenge's ear,
To drink a tyrant's dying groan.
"Your slaughtered quarry proudly trod,
At dawning morn, o'er dale and down,
But prouder base-born Murray rode
Thro' old Linlithgow's crowded town.
"From the wild Border's humbled side,
"In haughty triumph, marched he,
"While Knox relaxed his bigot pride,
"And smiled, the traitorous pomp to see.
"But, can stern Power, with all his vaunt,
"Or Pomp, with all her courtly glare,
[Pg 423] "The settled heart of Vengeance daunt,
"Or change the purpose of Despair?
"With hackbut bent[99], my secret stand,
"Dark as the purposed deed, I chose,
"And marked, where, mingling in his band,
"Troop'd Scottish pikes and English bows.
"Dark Morton, girt with many a spear,
"Murder's foul minion, led the van;
"And clashed their broad-swords in the rear,
"The wild Macfarlanes' plaided clan.
"Glencairn and stout Parkhead were nigh,
"Obsequious at their regent's rein,
"And haggard Lindesay's iron eye,
"That saw fair Mary weep in vain.
"Mid pennon'd spears, a steely grove,
"Proud Murray's plumage floated high;
"Scarce could his trampling charger move,
"So close the minions crowded nigh.
"From the raised vizor's shade, his eye,
"Dark-rolling, glanced the ranks along,
[Pg 424] "And his steel truncheon, waved on high,
"Seem'd marshalling the iron throng.
"But yet his sadden'd brow confess'd
"A passing shade of doubt and awe;
"Some fiend was whispering in his breast,
'Beware of injured Bothwellhaugh!'
"The death-shot parts—the charger springs—
"Wild rises tumult's startling roar!—
"And Murray's plumy helmet rings—
"—Rings on the ground, to rise no more.
"What joy the raptured youth can feel,
"To hear her love the loved one tell,
"Or he, who broaches on his steel
"The wolf, by whom his infant fell!
"But dearer, to my injured eye,
"To see in dust proud Murray roll;
"And mine was ten times trebled joy,
"To hear him groan his felon soul.
"My Margaret's spectre glided near;
"With pride her bleeding victim saw;
[Pg 425] "And shrieked in his death-deafen'd ear,
'Remember injured Bothwellhaugh!'
"Then speed thee, noble Chatlerault!
"Spread to the wind thy bannered tree!
"Each warrior bend his Clydesdale bow!—
"Murray is fallen, and Scotland free."
Vaults every warrior to his steed;
Loud bugles join their wild acclaim—
"Murray is fallen, and Scotland freed!
"Couch, Arran! couch thy spear of flame!"
But, see! the minstrel vision fails—
The glimmering spears are seen no more;
The shouts of war die on the gales,
Or sink in Evan's lonely roar.
For the loud bugle, pealing high,
The blackbird whistles down the vale,
And sunk in ivied ruins lie
The banner'd towers of Evandale.
For chiefs, intent on bloody deed,
And Vengeance, shouting o'er the slain,
[Pg 426] Lo! high-born Beauty rules the steed,
Or graceful guides the silken rein.
And long may Peace and Pleasure own
The maids, who list the minstrel's tale;
Nor e'er a ruder guest be known
On the fair banks of Evandale!


[Pg 427]
First of his troop, the chief rode on.—P. 418. v. 5.

The head of the family of Hamilton, at this period, was James, Earl of Arran, Duke of Chatelherault, in France, and first peer of the Scottish realm. In 1569, he was appointed by Queen Mary her lieutenant-general in Scotland, under the singular title of her adopted father.

The Mountain Bull comes thundering on.—P. 419. v. 3.

In Caledonia olim frequens erat sylvestris quidam bos, nunc vero rarior, qui colore candissimo, jubam densam et demissam instar leonis gestat, truculentus ac ferus ab humano genere abhorrens, ut quæcunque homines vel manibus contrectarint, vel halitu perflaverunt, ab iis multos post dies omnino abstinuerunt. Ad hoc tanta audacia huic bovi indita erat, ut non solum irritatus equites furenter prosterneret, sed ne tantillum lacessitus omnes promiscue homines cornibus, ac ungulis peteret; ac canum, qui apud nos ferocissimi sunt impetus plane contemneret. Ejus carnes cartilaginosæ sed saporis suavissimi. Erat is olim per illam vastissimam Caledoniæ sylvam frequens, sed humana ingluvie jam assumptus tribus tantum locis est reliquus, Strivilingii Cumbernaldiæ et Kincarniæ.—Leslæus Scotiæ Descriptio, p. 13.

Stern Claud replied, with darkening face,
(Grey Pasley's haughty lord was he).—P. 420. v. 4.
[Pg 428]

Lord Claud Hamilton, second son of the Duke of Chatelherault, and commendator of the abbey of Paisley, acted a distinguished part during the troubles of Queen Mary's reign, and remained unalterably attached to the cause of that unfortunate princess. He led the van of her army at the fatal battle of Langside, and was one of the commanders at the Raid of Stirling, which had so nearly given complete success to the queen's faction. He was ancestor of the present Marquis of Abercorn.

Few suns have set since Woodhouselee.—P. 420. v. 5.

This barony, stretching along the banks of the Esk, near Auchindinny, belonged to Bothwellhaugh, in right of his wife. The ruins of the mansion, from whence she was expelled in the brutal manner which occasioned her death, are still to be seen in a hollow glen beside the river. Popular report tenants them with the restless ghost of the lady Bothwellhaugh; whom, however, it confounds with Lady Anne Bothwell, whose Lament is so popular. This spectre is so tenacious of her rights, that, a part of the stones of the ancient edifice having been employed in building or repairing the present Woodhouselee, she has deemed it a part of her privilege to haunt that house also; and, even of very late years, has excited considerable disturbance and terror among the domestics. This is a more remarkable vindication of the rights of ghosts, as the present Woodhouselee, which gives his title to the honourable Alexander Fraser Tytler, a senator of the college of justice, is situated on the slope of the Pentland hills, distant at least four miles from her proper abode. She always appears in white, and with her child in her arms.

Whose bloody poniard's frantic stroke
Drives to the leap his jaded steed.—P. 422. v. 1.

Birrell informs us, that Bothwellhaugh, being closely pursued, "after that spur a[Pg 429]nd wand had fail'd him, he drew forth his dagger, and strocke his horse behind, whilk caused the horse to leap a verey brode stanke (i.e. ditch), by whilk means he escaipit, and gat away from all the rest of the horses."—Birrel's Diary, p. 18.

From the wild Border's humbled side,
In haughty triumph, marched he.—P. 423. v. 1.

Murray's death took place shortly after an expedition to the borders; which is thus commemorated by the author of his elegy:

"So having stablischt all thing in this sort,
"To Liddisdaill agane he did resort,
"Throw Ewisdail, Eskdail, and all the daills rode he,
"And also lay three nights in Cannabie,
"Whair na prince lay thir hundred yeiris before.
"Nae thief durst stir, they did him feir so sair;
"And, that thay suld na mair thair thift allege,
"Threescore and twelf he brocht of thame in pledge,
"Syne wardit thame, whilk maid the rest keep ordour,
"Than mycht the rasch-bus keep ky on the bordour."

Scottish Poems, 16th century, p. 232.

With hackbut bent, my secret stand.—P. 423, v. 3.

The carbine, with which the regent was shot, is preserved at Hamilton palace. It is a brass piece, of a middling length, very small in the bore, and, what is rather extraordinary, appears to have been rifled or indented in the barrel. It had a matchlock, for which a modern fire-lock has been injudiciously substituted.

Dark Morton, girt with many a spear.—P. 423. v. 4.

Of this noted person it is enough to say, that he was active in the murder of David Rizzio, and at least privy to that of Da[Pg 430]rnley.

The wild Macfarlanes' plaided clan.—P. 423. v. 4.

This clan of Lennox Highlanders were attached to the regent Murray. Holinshed, speaking of the battle of Langsyde, says, "in this batayle the valiancie of an hieland gentleman, named Macfarlane, stood the regent's part in great steede; for, in the hottest brunte of the fighte, he came up with two hundred of his friendes and countrymen, and so manfully gave in upon the flankes of the queen's people, that he was a great cause of the disordering of them. This Macfarlane had been lately before, as I have heard, condemned to die, for some outrage by him committed, and obtayning pardon through suyte of the Countesse of Murray, he recompenced that clemencie by this piece of service now at this batayle." Calderwood's account is less favourable to the Macfarlanes. He states that "Macfarlane, with his highlandmen, fled from the wing where they were set. The Lord Lindsay, who stood nearest to them in the regent's battle, said 'Let them go! I shall fill their place better:' and so, stepping forward, with a company of fresh men, charged the enemy, whose spears were now spent, with long weapons, so that they were driven back by force, being before almost overthrown by the avaunt-guard and harquebusiers, and so were turned to flight."—Calderwood's MS. apud Keith, p. 480. Melville mentions the flight of the vanguard, but states it to have been commanded by Morton, and composed chiefly of commoners of the barony of Renfrew.

Glencairn and stout Parkhead were nigh,
Obsequious at their regent's rein.—P. 423. v. 5.

The Earl of Glencairn was a steady adherent of the regent. George Douglas of Parkhead was a natural brother of the Earl of Morton, whose horse was killed by the same ball, by which Murray fell.

And haggard Lindesay's iron eye,
That saw fair Mary weep in vain.—P. 423. v. 5.

[Pg 431]

Lord Lindsay, of the Byres, was the most ferocious and brutal of the regent's faction, and, as such, was employed to extort Mary's signature to the deed of resignation, presented to her in Lochleven castle. He discharged his commission with the most savage rigour; and it is even said, that when the weeping captive, in the act of signing, averted her eyes from the fatal deed, he pinched her arm with the grasp of his iron glove.

Scarce could his trampling charger move,
So close the minions crowded nigh.—P. 424. v. 1.

Not only had the regent notice of the intended attempt upon his life, but even of the very house from which it was threatened.—With that infatuation, at which men wonder, after such events have happened, he deemed it would be a sufficient precaution to ride briskly past the dangerous spot. But even this was prevented by the crowd: so that Bothwellhaugh had time to take a deliberate aim.—Spottiswoode, p. 233. Buchanan.


[93] They were formerly kept in the park at Drumlanrig, and are still to be seen at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. For their nature and ferocity, see Notes.

[94] This was Sir James Ballenden, lord justice-clerk, whose shameful and inhuman rapacity occasioned the catastrophe in the text. Spottiswoode.

[95] This projecting gallery is still shown. The house, to which it was attached, was the property of the archbishop of St Andrews, a natural brother of the Duke of Chatelherault, and uncle to Bothwellhaugh. This, among many other circumstances, seems to evince the aid which Bothwellhaugh received from his clan in effecting his purpose.

[96] The gift of Lord John Hamilton, Commendator of Arbroath.

[97] Pryse—The note blown at the death of the game.

[98] Selle—Saddle. A word used by Spenser, and other ancient authors.

[99] Hackbut bent—Gun cock'd.

[Pg 432]




The imperfect state of this ballad, which was written several years ago, is not a circumstance affected for the purpose of giving it that peculiar interest, which is often found to arise from ungratified curiosity. On the contrary, it was the editor's intention to have completed the tale, if he had found himself able to succeed to his own satisfaction. Yielding to the opinion of persons, whose judgment, if not biassed by the partiality of friendship, is entitled to deference, the editor has preferred inserting these verses, as a fragment, to his intention of entirely suppressing them.

The tradition, upon which the tale is founded, regards a house, upon the barony of Gilmerton, near Laswade, in Mid-Lothian. This building, now called Gilmerton Grange, was originally named Burndale, from the following tragic adventure. The barony of Gilmerton belonged, of yore, to a gentleman, named Heron, who had one beautiful daughter. This yo[Pg 433]ung lady was seduced by the abbot of Newbottle, a richly endowed abbey, upon the banks of the south Esk, now a seat of the marquis of Lothian. Heron came to the knowledge of this circumstance, and learned also, that the lovers carried on their guilty intercourse by the connivance of the lady's nurse, who lived at this house of Gilmerton Grange, or Burndale. He formed a resolution of bloody vengeance, undeterred by the supposed sanctity of the clerical character, or by the stronger claims of natural affection. Chusing, therefore, a dark and windy night, when the objects of his vengeance were engaged in a stolen interview, he set fire to a stack of dried thorns, and other combustibles, which he had caused to be piled against the house, and reduced to a pile of glowing ashes the dwelling, with all its inmates.[100]

The scene, with which the ballad opens, was suggested by the following curious passage, extracted from the life of Alexander Peden, one of the wandering and persecuted teachers of the sect of Cameronians, during the reign of Charles II. and his successor, James. This person was supposed by his followers, and, perhaps, really believed himself, to be possessed of supernatural gifts; for the wild scenes, which they frequented, and the constant dangers, which were incurred through their proscription, deepened upon their minds the gloom of superstition, so general in [Pg 434]that age.

"About the same time he (Peden) came to Andrew Normand's house, in the parish of Alloway, in the shire of Ayr, being to preach at night in his barn. After he came in, he halted a little, leaning upon a chair-back, with his face covered; when he lifted up his head, he said, 'There are in this house that I have not one word of salvation unto;' he halted a little again, saying, 'This is strange, that the devil will not go out, that we may begin our work!' Then there was a woman went out, ill-looked upon almost all her life, and to her dying hour, for a witch, with many presumptions of the same. It escaped me, in the former passages, that John Muirhead (whom I have often mentioned) told me, that when he came from Ireland to Galloway, he was at family-worship, and giving some notes upon the Scripture, when a very ill-looking man came, and sate down within the door, at the back of the hallan (partition of the cottage): immediately he halted, and said, 'There is some unhappy body just now come into this house. I charge him to go out, and not stop my mouth!' The person went out, and he insisted (went on), yet he saw him neither come in nor go out."—The Life and Prophecies of Mr Alexander Peden, late Minister of the Gospel at New Glenluce, in Galloway, Part II. § 26.

[Pg 435]


The Pope he was saying the high, high mass,
[Pg 436] All on saint Peter's day,
With the power to him given, by the saints in heaven,
To wash men's sins away.
The pope he was saying the blessed mass,
And the people kneel'd around,
And from each man's soul his sins did pass,
As he kiss'd the holy ground.
And all, among the crowded throng,
Was still, both limb and tongue,
While thro' vaulted roof, and aisles aloof,
The holy accents rung.
At the holiest word, he quiver'd for fear,
And faulter'd in the sound—
And, when he would the chalice rear,
He dropp'd it on the ground.
"The breath of one of evil deed
"Pollutes our sacred day;
[Pg 437] "He has no portion in our creed,
"No part in what I say.
"A being, whom no blessed word
"To ghostly peace can bring;
"A wretch, at whose approach abhorr'd,
"Recoils each holy thing.
"Up! up! unhappy! haste, arise!
"My adjuration fear!
"I charge thee not to stop my voice,
"Nor longer tarry here!"
Amid them all a pilgrim kneel'd,
In gown of sackcloth gray;
Far journeying from his native field,
He first saw Rome that day.
For forty days and nights, so drear,
I ween, he had not spoke,
And, save with bread and water clear,
His fast he ne'er had broke.
Amid the penitential flock,
Seem'd none more bent to pray;
[Pg 438] But, when the Holy Father spoke,
He rose, and went his way.
Again unto his native land,
His weary course he drew,
To Lothian's fair and fertile strand,
And Pentland's mountains blue.
His unblest feet his native seat,
Mid Eske's fair woods, regain;
Thro' woods more fair no stream more sweet
Rolls to the eastern main.
And lords to meet the Pilgrim came,
And vassals bent the knee;
For all mid Scotland's chiefs of fame,
Was none more famed than he.
And boldly for his country, still,
In battle he had stood,
Aye, even when, on the banks of Till,
Her noblest pour'd their blood.
Sweet are the paths, O passing sweet!
By Eske's fair streams that run,
[Pg 439] O'er airy steep, thro' copsewood deep,
Impervious to the sun.
There the rapt poet's step may rove,
And yield the muse the day;
There Beauty, led by timid Love,
May shun the tell-tale ray;
From that fair dome, where suit is paid,
By blast of bugle free,
To Auchendinny's hazel glade,
And haunted Woodhouselee.
Who knows not Melville's beechy grove,
And Roslin's rocky glen,
Dalkeith, which all the virtues love,
And classic Hawthornden?
Yet never a path, from day to day,
The pilgrim's footsteps range,
Save but the solitary way
To Burndale's ruin'd Grange.
A woeful place was that, I ween,
As sorrow could desire;
[Pg 440] For, nodding to the fall was each crumbling wall,
And the roof was scathed with fire.
It fell upon a summer's eve,
While on Carnethy's head,
The last faint gleams of the sun's low beams
Had streak'd the gray with red;
And the convent-bell did vespers tell,
Newbottle's oaks among,
And mingled with the solemn knell
Our Ladye's evening song:
The heavy knell, the choir's faint swell,
Came slowly down the wind,
And on the pilgrim's ear they fell,
As his wonted path he did find.
Deep sunk in thought, I ween, he was,
Nor ever rais'd his eye,
Untill he came to that dreary place,
Which did all in ruins lie.
He gazed on the walls, so scathed with fire,
With many a bitter groan—
[Pg 441] And there was aware of a Gray Friar,
Resting him on a stone.
"Now, Christ thee save!" said the Gray Brother;
"Some pilgrim thou seemest to be."
But in sore amaze did Lord Albert gaze,
Nor answer again made he.
"O come ye from east, or come ye from west,
"Or bring reliques from over the sea,
"Or come ye from the shrine of St James the divine,
"Or St John of Beverly?"
"I come not from the shrine of St James the divine,
"Nor bring reliques from over the sea;
"I bring but a curse from our father, the Pope,
"Which for ever will cling to me."
"Now, woeful pilgrim, say not so!
"But kneel thee down by me,
"And shrive thee so clean of thy deadly sin,
"That absolved thou mayst be."
"And who art thou, thou Gray Brother,
"That I should shrive to thee,
"When he, to whom are giv'n the keys of earth and heav'n,
[Pg 442] "Has no power to pardon me?"
"O I am sent from a distant clime,
"Five thousand miles away,
"And all to absolve a foul, foul crime,
"Done here 'twixt night and day."
The pilgrim kneel'd him on the sand,
And thus began his saye—
When on his neck an ice-cold hand
Did that Gray Brother laye.


[Pg 443]
From that fair dome, where suit is paid,
By blast of bugle free.—P. 439. v. 4.

The barony of Pennycuik, the property of Sir George Clerk, Bart. is held by a singular tenure; the proprietor being bound to sit upon a large rocky fragment, called the Buckstane, and wind three blasts of a horn, when the king shall come to hunt on the Borough Muir, near Edinburgh. Hence, the family have adopted, as their crest, a demi-forester proper, winding a horn, with the motto, Free for a Blast. The beautiful mansion-house of Pennycuik is much admired, both on account of the architecture and surrounding scenery.

To Auchendinny's hazel glade.—P. 439. v. 4.

Auchendinny, situated upon the Eske, below Pennycuik, the present residence of the ingenious H. Mackenzie, Esq., author of the Man of Feeling, &c.

And haunted Woodhouselee.—P. 439. v. 4.

For the traditions connected with this ruinous mansion, see the Ballad of Cadyow Castle, p. 410.

[Pg 444]
Who knows not Melville's beechy grove.—P. 439. v. 5.

Melville Castle, the seat of the honourable Robert Dundas, member for the county of Mid-Lothian, is delightfully situated upon the Eske, near Laswade. It gives the title of viscount to his father, Lord Melville.

And Roslin's rocky glen.—P. 439. v. 5.

The ruins of Roslin Castle, the baronial residence of the ancient family of St Clair, the Gothic chapel, which is still in beautiful preservation, with the romantic and woody dell in which they are situated, belong to the Right Honourable the Earl of Rosslyn, the representative of the former lords of Roslin.

Dalkeith, which all the virtues love.—P. 439. v. 5.

The village and castle of Dalkeith belonged, of old, to the famous Earl of Morton, but is now the residence of the noble family of Buccleuch. The park extends along the Esk, which is there joined by its sister stream, of the same name.

And classic Hawthornden.—P. 439. v. 5.

Hawthornden, the residence of the poet Drummond. A house, of more modern date, is inclosed, as it were, by the ruins of the ancient castle, and overhangs a tremendous precipice, upon the banks of the Eske, perforated by winding caves, which, in former times, formed a refuge to the oppressed patriots of Scotland. Here Drummond received Ben Jonson, who journeyed from London, on foot, in order to visit him. The beauty of this striking scene has been much injured, of late years, by the indiscriminate use of the axe. The traveller now looks in vain for the leafy bower,

"Where Jonson sate in Drummond's social shade."

Upon the whole, tracing the Eske from its source, till it joins the sea, at Musselburgh, no stream in Scotland can boast such a varied succession of the most interesting objects, as well as of the most romantic and beautiful scenery.


[100] This tradition was communicated to me by John Clerk, Esq. of Eldin, author of an Essay upon Naval Tactics, who will be remembered by posterity, as having taught the Genius of Britain to concentrate her thunders, and to launch them against her foes with an unerring aim.

[Pg 445]
[Pg 446]



"Nennius. Is not peace the end of arms?
Caratach. Not where the cause implies a general conquest.
Had we a difference with some petty isle,
Or with our neighbours, Britons, for our landmarks,
The taking in of some rebellious lord,
Or making head against a slight commotion,
After a day of blood, peace might be argued:
But where we grapple for the land we live on,
The liberty we hold more dear than life,
The gods we worship, and, next these, our honours,
And, with those, swords, that know no end of battle—
Those men, beside themselves, allow no neighbour,
Those minds, that, where the day is, claim inheritance,
And, where the sun makes ripe the fruit, their harvest,
And, where they march, but measure out more ground
To add to Rome——
It must not be.—No! as they are our foes,
Let's use the peace of honour—that's fair dealing;
But in our hands our swords. The hardy Roman,
That thinks to graft himself into my stock,
Must first begin his kindred under ground,
And be allied in ashes."——


The following War-Song was written during the apprehension of an invasion. The corps of volunteers, to which it was addressed, was raised in 1797, consisting of gentlemen, mounted and armed at their own expence. It still subsists, as the Right Troop of the Royal Mid-Lothian Light Cavalry, commanded by the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel Du[Pg 447]ndas. The noble and constitutional measure of arming freemen in defence of their own rights, was no where more successful than in Edinburgh, which furnished a force of 3000 armed and disciplined volunteers, including a Regiment of Cavalry, from the city and county, and two Corps of Artillery, each capable of serving twelve guns. To such a force, above all others, might, in similar circumstances, be applied the exhortation of our ancient Galgacus: "Proinde ituri in aciem, et majores vestros et posteros cogitate."


[Pg 448]
To horse! to horse! the standard flies,
The bugles sound the call;
The Gallic navy stems the seas,
The voice of battle's on the breeze,
Arouse ye, one and all!
From high Dunedin's towers we come,
A band of brothers true;
Our casques the leopard's spoils surround,
With Scotland's hardy thistle crown'd;
We boast the red and blue.[101]
Though tamely crouch to Gallia's frown,
Dull Holland's tardy train;
Their ravish'd toys though Romans mourn,
Though gallant Switzers vainly spurn,
And, foaming, gnaw the chain;
O! had they mark'd the avenging call
Their brethren's murder gave,
[Pg 449] Disunion ne'er their ranks had mown,
Nor patriot valour, desperate grown,
Sought freedom in the grave!
Shall we, too, bend the stubborn head,
In Freedom's temple born,
Dress our pale cheek in timid smile,
To hail a master in our isle,
Or brook a victor's scorn?
No! though destruction o'er the land
Come pouring as a flood,
The sun, that sees our falling day,
Shall mark our sabres' deadly sway,
And set that night in blood.
For gold let Gallia's legions fight,
Or plunder's bloody gain;
Unbribed, unbought, our swords we draw,
To guard our King, to fence our Law,
Nor shall their edge be vain.
If ever breath of British gale
Shall fan the tri-color,
[Pg 450] Or footstep of invader rude,
With rapine foul, and red with blood,
Pollute our happy shore,—
Then farewell home! and farewell friends!
Adieu each tender tie!
Resolved, we mingle in the tide,
Where charging squadrons furious ride,
To conquer, or to die.
To horse! to horse! the sabres gleam;
High sounds our bugle call;
Combined by honour's sacred tie,
Our word is Laws and Liberty!
March forward, one and all!


[Pg 451]
O! had they mark'd the avenging call
Their brethren's murder gave.—P. 449. v. 2.

The allusion is to the massacre of the Swiss guards, on the fatal 10th August, 1792. It is painful, but not useless, to remark, that the passive temper with which the Swiss regarded the death of their bravest countrymen, mercilessly slaughtered in discharge of their duty, encouraged and authorized the progressive injustice, by which the Alps, once the seat of the most virtuous and free people upon the continent, have, at length, been converted into the citadel of a foreign and military despot. A state degraded is half enslaved.


[101] The Royal Colours.

[Pg 452]



In the account of Walter Scott of Harden's way of living, it is mentioned, that "when the last Bullock was killed and devoured, it was the Lady's custom to place on the table a dish, which, on being uncovered, was found to contain a pair of clean Spurs; a hint to the Riders, that they must shift for their next meal." See Introduction, p. 88.

The speakers in the following stanzas are Walter Scott of Harden, and his wife, Mary Scott, the Flower of Yarrow.

"Haste, ho! my dame, what cheer the night?
"I look to see your table dight,
"For I ha'e been up since peep o' light,
"Driving the dun deer merrilie.
"Wow! but the bonnie harts and raes
Are fleet o' foot on Ettricke braes;
My gude dogs ne'er, in a' their days,
Forfoughten were sae wearilie.
"Frae Shaws to Rankelburn we ran
A score, that neither stint nor blan;
[Pg 453] And now ahint the breckans[102] stan',
And laugh at a' our company.
"We've passed through monie a tangled cleugh,
We've rade fu' fast o'er haugh and heugh;
I trust ye've got gude cheer eneugh
To feast us a' right lustilie."—
"Are ye sae keen-set, Wat? 'tis weel;
Ye winna find a dainty meal;
It's a' o' the gude Rippon steel,
Ye maun digest it manfullie.
"Nae ky are left in Harden Glen;
Ye maun be stirring wi' your men;
Gin ye soud bring me less than ten,
I winna roose[103] your braverie."—
"Are ye sae modest ten to name?
"Syne, an I bring na twenty hame,
"I'll freely gi'e ye leave to blame
"Baith me, and a' my chyvalrie.
"I coud ha'e relished better cheer,
"After the chace o' sic-like deer;
"But, trust me, rowth o' Southern gear
[Pg 454] "Shall deck your lard'ner speedilie.
"When Stanegirthside I last came by,
"A bassened bull allured mine eye,
"Feeding amang a herd o' kye;
"O gin I looked na wistfullie!
"To horse! young Jock shall lead the way;
"And soud the warden tak the fray
"To mar our riding, I winna say,
"But he mote be in jeopardie.
"The siller moon now glimmers pale;
"But ere we've crossed fair Liddesdale,
"She'll shine as brightlie as the bale[104]
"That warns the water hastilie.
"O leeze me on her bonnie light!
"There's nought sae dear to Harden's sight,
"Troth, gin she shone but ilka night,
"Our clan might live right royallie.
"Haste, bring your nagies frae the sta',
"And lightlie louping, ane and a',
"Intull your saddles, scour awa',
[Pg 455] "And ranshakle[105] the Southronie.
"Let ilka ane his knapscap[106] lace;
"Let ilka ane his steil-jack brace;
"And deil bless him that sall disgrace
"Walter o' Harden's liverie!"—


Harden Glen.—P. 453. v. 5.
[Pg 456]

"Harden's castle was situated upon the very brink of a dark and precipitous dell, through which a scanty rivulet steals to meet the Borthwick. In the recess of this glen he is said to have kept his spoil, which served for the daily maintenance of his retainers." Notes on the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," Canto IV. stanza 9.

Warns the water.—P. 454. v. 5.

This expression signified formerly the giving the alarm to the inhabitants of a district; each district taking its name from the river that flowed through it.

O leeze me, &c.—P. 455. v. 1.

The esteem in which the moon was held in the Harden family may be traced in the motto they still bear: "Reparabit cornua Phœbe."


[102] Breckans—Fern.

[103] Roose—Praise.

[104] Bale—Beacon-fire.

[105] Ranshakle—Plunder.

[106] Knapscap—Helmet.

[Pg 457]




Abbots of Melrose, wont of yore
The dire anathema to pour
On England's hated name;
See, to appease your injured shades,
And expiate her Border raids,
She sends her fairest Dame.
Her fairest Dame those shrines has graced,
That once her boldest Lords defaced;
Then let your hatred cease;
The prayer of import dread revoke,
Which erst indignant fury spoke,
And pray for England's peace.
If, as it seems to Fancy's eye,
Your sainted spirits hover nigh,
And haunt this once-loved spot;
That Youth's fair open front behold,
His step of strength, his visage bold,
And hail a genuine Scott.
Yet think that England claims a part
[Pg 458] In the rich blood that warms his heart,
And let your hatred cease;
The prayer of import dread revoke,
Which erst indignant fury spoke,
And pray for England's peace.
Pray, that no proud insulting foe
May ever lay her temples low,
Or violate her fanes;
No moody fanatic deface
The works of wondrous art, that grace
Antiquity's remains.


[Pg 459]

Melrose Abbey was reduced to its present ruinous state, partly by the English barons in their hostile inroads, and partly by John Knox and his followers. For a reason why its abbots should be supposed to take an interest in the Buccleuch family, see the Notes to the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," octavo edition, p. 238.

[Pg 460]



As Archie passed the Brockwood-leys,
He cursed the blinkan moon,
For shouts were borne upo' the breeze
Frae a' the hills aboon.
A herd had marked his lingering pace
That e'enin near the fauld,
And warned his fellows to the chace,
For he kenn'd him stout and bauld.
A light shone frae Gilnockie tower;
He thought, as he ran past,—
"O Johnie ance was stiff in stour,
"But hangit at the last!"—
His load was heavy, and the way
Was rough, and ill to find;
But ere he reached the Stubholm brae,
His faes were far behind.
He clamb the brae, and frae his brow
The draps fell fast and free;
And when he heard a loud halloo,
[Pg 461] A waefu' man was he.
O'er his left shouther, towards the muir,
An anxious e'e he cast;
And oh! when he stepped o'er the door,
His wife she looked aghast.
"Ah wherefore, Archie, wad ye slight
"Ilk word o' timely warning?
"I trow ye will be ta'en the night,
"And hangit i' the morning."—
"Now haud your tongue, ye prating wife,
"And help me as ye dow;
"I wad be laith to lose my life
"For ae poor silly yowe."—
They stript awa the skin aff-hand,
Wi' a' the woo' aboon;
There's ne'er a flesher[107] i' the land
Had done it half sae soon.
They took the haggis-bag and heart,
The heart, but and the liver;
[Pg 462] Alake, that siccan a noble part
Should win intull the river!
But Archie he has ta'en them a',
And wrapt them i' the skin;
And he has thrown them o'er the wa',
And sicht whan they fell in.
The cradle stans by the ingle[108] toom,[109]
The bairn wi' auntie stays;
They clapt the carcase in its room,
And smoored it wi' the claes.
And down sate Archie daintilie,
And rocked it wi' his hand;
Siccan a rough nourice as he
Was not in a' the land.
And saftlie he began to croon,[110]
"Hush, hushabye, my dear."—
He had na sang to sic a tune,
I trow, for monie a year.
Now frae the hills they cam in haste,
A' rinning out o' breath;—
"Ah, Archie, we ha' got ye fast,
[Pg 463] "And ye maun die the death!
"Aft ha' ye thinned our master's herds,
"And elsewhere cast the blame;
"Now ye may spare your wilie words,
"For we have traced ye hame."—
"Your sheep for warlds I wad na take;
"Deil ha' me if I'm lying;
"But haud your tongues for mercie's sake,
"The bairn's just at the dying.
"If e'er I did sae fause a feat,
"As thin my neebor's faulds,
"May I be doomed the flesh to eat
"This vera cradle halds!
"But gin ye reck na what I swear,
"Go search the biggin[111] thorow,
"And if ye find ae trotter there,
"Then hang me up the morrow."—
They thought to find the stolen gear,
They searched baith but and ben;
But a' was clean, and a' was clear,
[Pg 464] And naething could they ken.
And what to think they could na tell,
They glowred at ane anither;—
"Sure, Patie, 'twas the deil himsel
"That ye saw rinning hither.
"Or aiblins Maggie's ta'en the yowe,
"And thus beguiled your e'e."—
"Hey, Robie, man, and like enowe,
"For I ha'e nae rowan-tree."—
Awa' they went wi' muckle haste,
Convinced 'twas Maggie Brown;
And Maggie, ere eight days were past,
Got mair nor ae new gown.
Then Archie turned him on his heel,
And gamesomelie did say,—
"I did na think that half sae weel
"The nourice I could play."
And Archie didna break his aith,
He ate the cradled sheep;
I trow he was na vera laith
[Pg 465] Siccan a vow to keep.
And aft sinsyne to England's king
The story he has told;
And aye when he gan rock and sing,
Charlie his sides wad hold.


[Pg 470]

The hero of this ballad was a native of Eskdale, and contributed not a little towards the raising his clan to that pre-eminence which it long maintained amongst the Border thieves, and which none indeed but the Elliots could dispute. He lived at the Stubholm, immediately below the junction of the Wauchope and the Esk; and there distinguished himself so much by zeal and assiduity in his professional duties, that at length he found it expedient to emigrate, his neighbours not having learned from Sir John Falstaff, that "it is no sin for a man to labour in his vocation." He afterwards became a celebrated jester in the English court. In more modern times, he might have found a court in which his virtues would have entitled him to a higher station. He was dismissed in disgrace in the year 1737, for his insolent wit, of which the following may serve as a specimen. One day when Archbishop Laud was just about to say grace before dinner, Archie begged permission of the king to perform that office in his stead; and having received it, said, "All praise to God, and little Laud to the deil." The exploit detailed in this ballad has been preserved, with many others of the same kind, by tradition, and is at this time current in Eskdale.

Or aiblin's Maggie's ta'en the yowe.—P. 464. v. 4.

There is no district wherein witches seem to have maintained a more extensive, or more recent influence than in Eskdale. It is not long since the system of brib[Pg 471]ery, alluded to in the next stanza, was carried on in that part of the country. The rowan-tree, or mountain-ash, is well known to be a sure preservative against the power of witchcraft.



[107] A Flesher—A Butcher.

[108] Ingle—Fire.

[109] Toom—Empty.

[110] Croon—To hum over a song.

[111] Biggin—Building.

Printed by James Ballantyne & Co.

Transcriber's Notes:

Simple typographical and spelling errors were corrected.

P. 310 added footnote attributing unidentified poem to William Collins.

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Volume III (of 3), by Walter Scott


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