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The Heather in Lore, Lyric and Lay
Heather, the Martyr's Friend


In a dream of the night I was wafted away
To the moorland of mist where the martyrs lay;
Where Cameron's sword and his Bible are seen,
Engraved on the stone where the heather grows green.

'Twas a dream of those ages of darkness and blood,
When the minister's home was the mountain and wood;

When in Wellwood's dark moorlands the standard of Zion,
All bloody and torn 'mang the heather was lying.

It was morning and summer's young sun from the east
Lay in loving repose on the green mountain's breast,
On Wardlaw and Cairn-Table, the clear shining dew,
Glistened sheen 'mang the heather-bells and mountain flowers blue.

—From "The Cameronian's Dream," by James Hidop.

IN the troubled times when Scotsmen sought the seclusion of their country's mountains to worship God in their own way; when the sword held in place the leaves of the Bible against the rushing of the mountain wind; when the evening prayer was followed by the crash of battle, and the moans of the wounded and dying mingled in the glen with the fading echo of the melody of the last psalm, the Heather often proved of greatest service, as furnishing a hiding place for the hunted worshippers. Such a one, "The Cave of Garrick Fell," is thus described in "The Traditions of the Covenanters "This cave, the roof of which was the superincumbent mass of the mighty mountain, was capable of accommodating several persons at once. Its entrance, which was narrow, was concealed by a special provision of nature—a large bush of Heather growing from the turf on the upper part of the aperture, spreading downward like a thick veil, covered the upper half of the opening; and the lower part was screened by a green bracken bush, which, springing from the bottom, spread itself like a feathery fan till it met the pendent Heather, and then the two, like the folding doors of an inner chamber, closed the entrance in such a way that no individual in passing could possibly recognize the existence of any such place, however near he might approach it. What a slender barrier sometimes serves as a complete protection to those whom Providence would shield from harm."

Says Barbour, in his "Unique Traditions of Scotland," describing the persecutions and romantic refuge of these hunted Covenanters: "Often, in summer, on the edge of a lake, or by the banks of a beautiful stream, hath the Lord's Supper been dispensed in romantic Caledonia. But seldom has the Communion been dispensed under such peculiar circumstances as we now proceed to describe.

"There runs a small stream in the Parish of Kirkpatrick-Irongray, yet named the Auld Water. * * * Near one of the branches of this mossy stream, and on the side of a heathy hill, may yet be marked a large broad stone, with smaller ones set regularly, as diverging from it.

"And what was the use of this broad flat stone? And what were the uses of the smaller ones around it? When Grierson of Lag was hunting the Presbyterians from hill to hill this large stone served as a communion table, and the lesser ones around it served as seats for the communicants! * * *

"And often has the Communion been partaken of here. And sometimes, in summer, had the small birds joined the sacramental melody; and the lapwing, as if enamoured, had wheeled soothly around it; and the red-brown heath had smelled sweet beneath the communicants' feet. But in February, 1685, no birds were to sing around them, and the yet wintry heath was to be dyed with communicants' blood. * * *

"And shall not the sainted shades of these persecuted communicants—even the disembodied spirits of the martyrs—revisit, at times, this table in the wilderness?' And shall not they hover around these heaths. where their martyred dust reposes?"

The Covenanter's Tomb

Far inland, where the mountain's crest
O'erlooks the waters of the west,

And 'midst the moorland wilderness,
Dark moss-cleughs form a drear recess,

Curtain'd with ceaseless mists, which feed
The sources of the Clyde and Tweed;
There injured Scotland's patriot band,

For faith and freedom made their stand.
Their name shall nerve the patriot's hand.
Upraised to save a sinking land;
And piety shall learn to burn
With holiest transports o'er their urn!
Sequestered haunts !so still—so fair,
That holy faith might worship there—
The shaggy gorse and brown heath wave
O'er many a nameless warrior's grave.
—James Hogg.


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