of the Scottish Border "By Lone
and clear out of the east comes the morning wind up the loch, ruffling the
water freshly and rustling the few remaining leaves of the trees about the
inn. Not too cold is it, considering the time of the year; and with such
bracing air to quicken the pulse and make exercise enjoyable, a better day
could scarcely have been chosen for exploring on foot the historic scenes
of this most famous angling region.
Here, more than anywhere else in Scotland, perhaps,
meet memories of the congenial arts of the pen and the angle; for here, as
has been said, Christopher North caroused and fished, and found the
materials for some of his Noctes; here Hogg wandered, rod in hand,
while he dreamed his dream of Kilmeny; here, in more recent years, have
happened many meetings of doctors and brothers of learning, as when, in
1856, Professor Veitch, after tramping up from Moffat, on coming through
garden gate, heard the whisper of his friend,
"There is Shairp!" and saw before the door, plashed to the waist
with a long day~ez_rsquo~s fishing among the hills, the "fair-haired,
ruddy-faced, manly man," then a master of Rugby, who was to become,
later, Principal of St Andrews; and here, in every nook of the quiet
shore, the follower of the gentle craft, in the intervals of casting his
line, can recall some deed of ancient days chronicled of the spot in
Border song. If he have in his pocket the second canto of Marmion, so
much the better. Most of the region~ez_rsquo~s memories are storied there in
stirring lines, and reading these amid their native scenes the rambler
will find endless interests to repay his reverie.
In the early light the mountains behind, through which the road
descends from the outer world, appear dark and gloomy, with rain-mists
hanging low yet among them. In front, however, though the clouds are still
heavy and grey, a gleam of bright sunshine chases the shadows upon the
mountain side, and sweeps the blue surface of the lake. Revealed by it,
far along the water~ez_rsquo~s margin, their white wings gleaming against the
dark background of trees, sail the wild swans of St Mary~ez_rsquo~s, famous long
Border lays. The hills at this time of year are brown with withered
windlestrae, varied by the richer patches of russet bracken, while not
much heather is to be seen. Here, though trees are scattered but thinly
now along the lake~ez_rsquo~s edge and by the mouths of streams, roamed in bygone
times the largest stags in Scotland, with wild boars in plenty, and even
wolves. The huntsmen of the district were for long the most famous of the
Scottish archers, and the ancient character of the countryside survives in
its name of Ettrick Forest. It is the spirit rather than the detail of
this scene which has been rendered in the famous lines of Scott.
When, musing on companions gone,
We doubly feel ourselves alone,
Something, my friend, we yet may gain,
There is a pleasure in this pain:
It soothes the love of lonely rest
Deep in each gentle heart impressed.
. . . . . . . . . .
Oft in my mind such thoughts awake
By lone St Mary~ez_rsquo~s silent lake.
Thou know~ez_rsquo~st it well,~ez_mdash~nor fen nor sedge
Pollute the pure lake~ez_rsquo~s crystal edge.
Abrupt and sheer the mountains sink
At once upon the level brink,
And just a trace of silver sand
Marks where the water meets the land.
Far in the mirror, bright and blue,
Each hill~ez_rsquo~s huge outline you may view.
Shaggy with heath, but lonely bare,
Nor tree, nor bush, nor brake is there,
Save where, of land, yon slender line
Bears thwart the lake the scattered pine.
Yet even this nakedness has power.
And aids the feeling of the hour:
Nor thicket, dell, nor copse you spy
Where living thing concealed might lie;
Nor point, retiring, hides a deli
Where swain, or woodman lone, might dwell.
There ~ez_lsquo~s nothing left to fancy~ez_rsquo~s guess,
You see that all is loneliness.
And silence aids~ez_mdash~though the steep hills
Send to the lake a thousand rills;
In summer tide so soft they weep,
The sound but lulls the ear asleep;
Your horse~ez_rsquo~s hoof-tread sounds too rude,
So stilly is the solitude.
On closer approach the few remaining trees by the lochside~ez_mdash~hoary
silver birches, many-gnarled and knotted ~ez_mdash~ show themselves old enough to
have shaded the ambuscade of the Scottish lover, when, according to the
ancient ballad, he came to St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Kirk to carry off his English bride
from the funeral bier. Among them, high-perched on the hillside above the
road, nestles the comfortable hostelry of Rodono~ez_mdash~a lonely spot, after
the poet and sportsman~ez_rsquo~s own heart, and a modern rival to the more
famous inn of Tibbie Shiel.
A story which throws a lurid light upon the possibilities of life among
these hills during the feudal centuries, belongs to a spot at hand. The
Meggat Water, haunt of historic anglers, comes down here between the
hills. By the side of this stream, about a castle whose vestiges may still
be traced, hangs the tragic if somewhat uncertain legend. The place was
the stronghold of Pierce Cockburne, one of those freebooters whose lawless
deeds were, during the régime of the early Stuarts, the terror of
the Borders. As a matter of history, in the reign of James V. the ravages
of these self-made barons became so notorious that the king determined to
vindicate the law upon them. Accordingly, on a summer day in 1529,having
first taken the precaution of shutting up the greater Border lords in
Edinburgh, he made a sudden and unexpected descent upon the neighbourhood.
Here tradition takes up the tale, and relates how James, appearing before
Henderland Tower, surprised Cockburne at dinner, with short shrift hanged
the reiver and his men over their own gate, and forthwith marched, by the
path still known as the King~ez_rsquo~s Road, between St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Loch and the
Loch o~ez_rsquo~ the Lowes, and through the mountains beyond, to surprise in
similar fashion for his misdeeds Adam Scott, in his tower of Tushielaw,
and to visit afterwards with a like fate at Caerlanrig the famous Border
bandit Johnnie Armstrong. By the same tradition it is recorded that the
wife of Cockburne fled to the recesses of the Dow-glen, near the castle,
and at a place still called the "Lady~ez_rsquo~s Seat" strove to drown
in the roar of the cataract the shouts which greeted the accomplishment of
her husband~ez_rsquo~s doom. There is an ancient ballad, which was long known in
the district, said to refer to this circumstance. The pathos of its lines
suits well with the popular tradition :~ez_mdash~
THE LAMENT OF THE BORDER WIDOW.
My love he built me a bonnie bower,
And clad it a~ez_rsquo~ wi~ez_rsquo~ lily flower;
A brawer bower ye ne~ez_rsquo~er did see
Than my true love he built for me.
There came a man by middle day,
He spied his sport and went away;
And brought the king that very night,
Who brake my bower and slew my knight.
He slew my knight, to me sae dear;
He slew my knight and poin~ez_rsquo~d his gear.
My servants all for life did flee,
And left me in extremitie.
I sewed his sheet, making my mane;
I watched the corpse myself alane;
I watched the body night and day~ez_mdash~
No living creature came that way.
I took his body on my back,
And whiles I gaed, and whiles I sat.
I digged a grave and laid him in,
And happed him wi~ez_rsquo~ the sod sae green.
But think na ye my heart was sair
When I laid the moul on his yellow hair?
O think na ye my heart was wae
When I turned about away to gae?
Nae living man I~ez_rsquo~ll love again,
Since that my lovely knight is slain;
Wi~ez_rsquo~ ae lock of his yellow hair
I~ez_rsquo~ll chain my heart for evermair.
[1William Motherwell, in his ~ez_lsquo~Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern,~ez_rsquo~
ventured the hypothesis, which receives the support of Professor Child in
~ez_lsquo~English and Scottish Ballads,~ez_rsquo~ that this lament is merely a fragment
of the English ballad, ~ez_lsquo~The Famous Flower of Servingmen.~ez_rsquo~ The only
ground for this supposition appears to be that some nine lines of the
lament have been included in the English ballad, where they have been
awkwardly tacked on to form a quite redundant preface. The lines
appropriated are entirely at variance with the actual pleasant dénouement
of the English story, which has nothing whatever in common with the
passionate and utter grief that breathes in the Scottish ballad.]
Sir Walter Scott chose to follow this popular tradition, both in his
~ez_lsquo~Border Minstrelsy~ez_rsquo~ and in his "Tales of a Grandfather;" and
in a note to the ballad he endeavours to furnish another link to the
story. On a broken tombstone, still lying in the deserted burial-place
which once surrounded the chapel of the castle, he deciphered, with
armorial bearings, the inscription "Here lyes Perys of Cockburne and
his wyfe Marjory." As a matter of fact, however, the Cockburne of
James V.~ez_rsquo~s time was not executed here. It is clearly set forth in
Pitcairn~ez_rsquo~s "Criminal Trials of Scotland" that he, along with
Scott of Tushielaw, was duly tried, condemned, and executed at Edinburgh.
Further, the tombstone deciphered by Scott cannot cover the famous
freebooter, since the name of the latter was not Pierce, but William,
Cockburne. Taken altogether, the probability is that tradition here has
mixed up the circumstances of more than one event. Certainly, while the
ballad may reasonably relate to the historic occurrence, the story of the
summary execution is altogether apocryphal, and the tombstone belongs to
another man. A tragedy of this nature might of course have happened at any
time in the troublous history of the Borders, and should the popular
tradition have truth in it, and be really connected with the subject of
the tombstone, it is possible that the story refers to some occurrence in
an earlier century, before the Norman prefix of "de" died out.
Professor Veitch has a fine poem on the subject of the tragedy,
entitled "The Dow Glen," in which, after describing the rocky
recess, with the burn, and its deep, dark pool, rowan-hung, he recalls the
place~ez_rsquo~s memory of "passion thrown to heaven."
As from the wife heart-broken
The waters bore the cry,
And the forest hills in echo
Woke the world~ez_rsquo~s sympathy.
Ah, me! she hears the shouting
Where she cowers beside the Linn;
Around her lord men crowding,
And all the dying din.
And now none knows her story,
Where human heart doth dwell,
But weeps the woman watching
The dead she loved so well.
Linn! in mine ear thy cadence
Hath its own peculiar fall,
As echo of a sorrow
Through time which softens all.
Clings to thy rock thy ivy
To keep faith~ez_rsquo~s memory green;
And the red rose of the briar
Glows where her love hath been.
High on the lonely hillside further on, where a few bushes wave out of
sight of the road, rises a green mound~ez_mdash~all that is left of the chapel of
St Mary. Lonely as the spot is now, it is renowned in Border legend, has
constant mention in the ancient ballads, and has been the scene of more
than one historic incident. More tradition and poetry, indeed, probably
gathers about this ancient dependency of Melrose Abbey than about any
other kirk of its size in Scotland. It has been said that St Mary~ez_rsquo~s at
Carluke, and not the ruined fane here, was the "Forest Kirk" in
which Wallace was chosen Warden of Scotland; but the point has by no means
been finally settled. The precincts here remain, according to tradition,
the burial-place of the lovers whose heroic story is told in the ballad of
"The Douglas Tragedy," to be referred to presently. Here also,
according to some versions, is set the dramatic ending of the ballad
"The Gay Goshawk," a composition which seems to have furnished
Hogg with part of the idea for his poem of "Mary Scott," and the
machinery of which presents so curious a resemblance to that of
"Romeo and Juliet," that it would almost appear as if some
Scottish minstrel had turned Shakespeare~ez_rsquo~s play into a ballad, but with
a happier ending. A Scottish lover, debarred by the parents of his English
mistress from pressing his suit in person, sends her a letter by means of
his goshawk demanding when he can see her, as otherwise "he cannot
live ava." The lady returns the reply :~ez_mdash~
"I send him the rings from my white fingers,
The garlands off my hair;
I send him the heart that~ez_rsquo~s in my breast;
What would my love have mair?
And at the fourth kirk in fair Scotland,
Yell bid him meet me there."
She then exacts a promise from father, mother, sister, and brothers
respectively, that if she dies in fair England they will bury her in
Scotland, performing certain memorials at three kirks there before
entombing her at the fourth. The promise exacted, she forthwith drops down
apparently dead at her mother~ez_rsquo~s knee. An old witch-wife, however, who
sits by the fire, suspects illusion :~ez_mdash~
Says, "Drap the het lead on her cheek,
And drap it on her chin,
And drap it on her rose-red lips,
And she will speak again:
For much a lady young will do
To her true love to win."
This cruel test is applied without effect, and preparations are
therefore made for the maiden~ez_rsquo~s funeral as had been promised. Her
brothers make her a bier of cedar-wood, while her sisters sew her a shroud
of satin and silken work. The cortege then sets out.
At the first kirk of fair Scotland,
They gar~ez_rsquo~d the bells be rung;
At the second kirk of fair Scotland,
They gar~ez_rsquo~d the mass be sung.
At the third kirk of fair Scotland,
They dealt gold for her sake.
The fourth kirk of fair Scotland
Her truelove met them at.
"Set down, set down the corpse," he said,
Till I look on the dead,
The last time that I saw her face
She ruddy was and red;
But now, alas, and woe is me!
She~ez_rsquo~s wallowit like a weed."
He rent the sheet upon her face,
A little above her chin:
With lily-white cheeks and leamin~ez_rsquo~ een
She looked and laughed to him.
"Give me a chive of your bread, my love,
A bottle of your wine,
For I have fasted for your love
These weary lang days nine.
There~ez_rsquo~s not a steed in your stable
But would have been dead ere syne.
"Gae hame, gae hame, my seven brothers,
Gae hame and blaw the horn;
For you can say in the south of England
Your sister gave you a scorn.
I came not here to fair Scotland
To lie amang the meal;
But I came here to fair Scotland
To wear the silks so weel.
"I came not here to fair Scotland
To lie amang the dead;
But I came here to fair Scotland
To wear the gold so red."
Covenanter and Catholic, Scotts and Kerrs and Pringles, all sorts and
conditions of men, sleep their long sleep here at peace together. Even
that "Wizard Priest," once tenant of the chaplainry, whose story
is sung in Hogg~ez_rsquo~s "Mess John," and whose bones, according to
Scott, were "thrust from company of sacred dust," lies under the
little stone-capped mount at hand, locally known as Binram~ez_rsquo~s Cross.
Scott informs us that the kirk was wrecked by the clan of Buccleuch in the
course of a feud with the Cranstouns in 1557.The historic
circumstance is introduced as an episode in "The Lay of the Last
Minstrel," Canto II.
For the Baron went on pilgrimage,
And took with him this elvish Page,
To Mary~ez_rsquo~s chapel of the Lowes:
For there beside our Ladye~ez_rsquo~s lake,
An offering he had sworn to make,
And he would pay his vows.
But the Ladye of Branksome gathered a band
Of the best that would ride at her command;
The trysting place was Newark Lea.
Wat of Harden came thither amain,
And thither came John of Thirlestane,
And thither came William of Deloraine;
They were three hundred spears and three.
Through Douglas burn, up Yarrow stream,
Their horses prance, their lances gleam.
They came to St Mary~ez_rsquo~s lake ere day;
But the chapel was void, and the Baron away.
They burned the chapel for very rage,
And cursed Lord Cranstoun~ez_rsquo~s Goblin-Page.
Long, at any rate, it is since the last mass was sung here, and the
light went out above the altar. Knight and monk and friar rode from the
place for the last time into the darkness of oblivion three hundred years
ago. Its latest tenants, the upholders of the Covenant, themselves have
passed away, and, as the somewhat sarcastic folk-rhyme has it,
St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Loch lies shimmering still,
But St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Kirk bell~ez_rsquo~s lang dune ringing;
There ~ez_lsquo~s naething now but the gravestane hill
To tell o~ez_rsquo~ a~ez_rsquo~ their loud psalm-singing.
The pageantry of arms, too, has bidden the spot a long farewell. From
the green ruin mound, towards the close of that fateful year in Scotland,
the ~ez_lsquo~45, might have been seen one of the divisions of Prince Charles
Edward~ez_rsquo~s Highland army making its way southward towards Carlisle along
the old road on the further side of the loch~ez_mdash~the last sign of war among
these hills.1 [1This tradition is recorded, from
information furnished by Lord Napier and Ettrick, in the preface by
Professor Campbell Fraser to Dr Russell~ez_rsquo~s "Reminiscences of
A pleasant place it is for the storied old-time lovers of the Douglas
ballad to rest in, visited only by sun and rain and mist, with the silent
hills watching above, and, far below, the lake murmuring in the sunshine
as it is driven into flakes of silver by the wind. Like the grave of Keats
outside the walls of Rome, "it would almost make one in love with
death to be buried in so sweet a spot."
An old grassy road slopes down the hillside eastward from St Mary~ez_rsquo~s
Kirk~ez_mdash~doubtless the path trodden long since by priest and penitent. Half
way down its length, on the heath above the track, lie unnoticed the
remains of a still older place of burial. The existence of these remains
appears to be unrecorded; but a careful observer can still make out among
the heather several prehistoric cairns, most of them overgrown with the
peat deposit of centuries; and examination puts it beyond doubt that these
represent the resting-spot of some forgotten race.
Most appropriate here seems the loneliness which is characteristic of
all the pensive Borderside. From it one derives an impression as if the
hills and dales themselves were thinking of the days and the scenes that
have been. Amid the silence only the chip of a solitary stonebreaker~ez_rsquo~s
hammer is to be heard, as, far off upon the road, he splits for rustic
feet "fragments of some old continent." An isolated existence
the stonebreaker must lead amid this solitude; but his life among these
hills, as the reflective angler knows, will have its own pleasures. His
cares will be as few as his possessions; he will enjoy his simple fare
with an appetite a duke might envy; and his sleep will be sound of nights
after his work is done. The man, however, is compelled to own that he
knows but little of the famous places in "the Forest." He is
only aware that some interest is attached to Dryhope Tower, by the Dryhope
burn, a little further on.
Tower! The name summons to mind a vista of Border memories. The place was
the home of Mary Scott, that "Flower of Yarrow" of whom long
since sung Allan Ramsay and minor bards unnumbered. Through its low
doorway and up its broken stair her light step has trod; and her presence
amid the rude surroundings of a Border chieftain~ez_rsquo~s stronghold casts
about the spot to the present hour something of "the tender grace of
a day that is dead." Fierce and fast must have been the maiden~ez_rsquo~s
wooing by that fiery young Borderer, Walter Scott of Harden; for the
legend runs that he paid her father the significant price of "a moon
in Northumberland" to support his bride at Dryhope for a time after
her marriage. One almost wonders if she felt no feir when her
strong-handed lover carried her home to the tower which hangs yet, though
in ruins, on the edge of its own dark glen near Hawick. Certain it is,
however, that she knew how to manage that impetuous heart, for she was
first sung as the Flower of Yarrow, they say, by an English youth whom she
had saved from her husband~ez_rsquo~s doom-tree. She it was, too, who, when
provisions ran short in the larder, uncovered on the table, in place of
the smoking haunch, a pair of clean spurs~ez_mdash~a strong hint that cattle were
to be found south of the Border. There was a fire in that gentle blood
which time had no power to cool; for sixth in descent from this union
sprang, as he himself proudly records in his all too short autobiography,
the Minstrel of Abbotsford, who was to throw its most lasting glory round
the name of Scott.
Further up "the Hope," the " Auld Wa~ez_rsquo~s" represent
the keep of that daring Dick of Dryhope, who in 1596 helped Buccleuch to
rescue Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Tower, sadly, it is said, to Queen
Elizabeth~ez_rsquo~s annoyance. The story, which forms the subject of one of the
best-known historical ballads, [The ballad of "Kinmont Willie,"
in Scott~ez_rsquo~s ~ez_lsquo~Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.] affords a good
illustration of the manners of the Borders in the sixteenth century. On
the day of a Warden meeting, and in violation of safe-conduct, William
Armstrong of Kinninmonth had been seized and thrown into the keep of
Carlisle by Salkeld, deputy of Lord Scroope, the English Warden. Upon
hearing of the transaction, Buccleuch first tried remonstrance with Lord
Scroope and the English ambassador, and this proving futile, determined
upon the bold expedient of effecting Armstrong~ez_rsquo~s release by a midnight
raid. Mustering some two hundred horse at Morton Tower, in the Debateable
Land, an hour before sunset, he set out with scaling-ladders and
prison-breaking instruments, and reached Carlisle before daybreak. There,
his enterprise being concealed from the sentinels by a night of pitchy
darkness and a tempest of wind and rain, he forced his way in at a
postern, and found and carried off the prisoner before the garrison could
muster strength to resist. The ballad writer, in the dramatic fashion
peculiar to this class of composition, pictures Salkeld meeting the
expedition on its way, and accosting one company after another. At last he
reaches and accosts the band commanded by the doughty Dick of Dryhope.
"Where be ye gaun, ye broken men ?
Quo~ez_rsquo~ fause Sakeld; "come tell to me!"
Now Dickie of Dryhope led that band,
And the never a word of lear [learning] had he.
"Why trespass ye on the English side?
Row-footed ["Wheel-footed," equivalent to
"gallows-necked."] outlaws, stand?" quo~ez_rsquo~ he.
The never a word had Dickie to say,
So he thrust the lance through his fause bodie.
The natural beauty of the surroundings them. selves tempts the wanderer
to linger in this hollow among the low green hills. But there remains
another and subtler spell about the spot.
Of old the grey heron fed below in these narrow meadows through which
the Yarrow, freshly poured from the lake, runs, gently murmuring. Ever and
anon in ancient times the hill-foot has seen portly abbot and stalwart
earl go by; and across its "holm so green," her funeral train
"stemming the Yarrow~ez_rsquo~s silver wave," that other and scarcely
less real Mary Scott, the creation of the Ettrick Shepherd, can be
pictured, as, clad in "golden gear and cramasye," she was borne
on her bier to her unhoped-for bridal at St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Kirk with Lord
Pringle of Torwoodlee. The place is silent now. Only the kine come lowing
under the grey walls in the gloaming, and for a pennon the long grass
waves from the ruin top. Yet lhe beating here once of happy hearts, the
love, the laughter, and the sorrow that have passed away, make the sunny
knoll a haunt of pensive musings, and endue the worn stones with eloquent
It was the spell of these things which was felt by Wordsworth, and of
which his lines remain the finest expression.
And is this Yarrow ?~ez_mdash~This the stream
Of which my fancy cherished,
So faithfully, a waking dream?
An image that hath perished!
O that some minstrel~ez_rsquo~s harp were near,
To utter notes of gladness,
And chase this silence from the air,
That fills my heart with sadness.
Yet why ?~ez_mdash~a silvery current flows
With uncontrolled meanderings;
Nor have these eyes by greener hills
Been soothed, in all my wanderings.
And through her depths, Saint Mary~ez_rsquo~s Lake
Is visibly delighted;
For not a feature of those hills
Is in the mirror slighted.
A blue sky bends o~ez_rsquo~er Yarrow vale,
Save where that pearly whiteness
Is round the rising sun diffused,
A tender hazy brightness;
Mild dawn of promise! that excludes
All profitless dejection;
Though not unwilling here to admit
A pensive recollection.
Where was it that the famous Flower
Of Yarrow Vale lay bleeding?
His bed perchance was yon smooth mound
On which the herd is feeding;
And haply from this crystal pool,
Now peaceful as the morning,
The water-wraith ascended thrice~ez_mdash~
And gave his doleful warning.
Delicious is the lay that sings
The haunts of happy lovers,
The path that leads them to the grove,
The leafy grove that covers:
And pity sanctifies the verse
That paints, by strength of sorrow,
The unconquerable strength of love;
Bear witness, rueful Yarrow I
But thou, that didst appear so fair
To fond imagination,
Dost rival in the light of day
Her delicate creation.
Meek loveliness is round thee spread,
A softness still and holy;
The grace of forest charms decayed,
And pastoral melancholy.
That region left, the vale unfolds
Rich groves of lofty stature,
With Yarrow winding through the pomp
Of cultivated nature;
And, rising from those lofty groves,
Behold a ruin hoary!
The shattered front of Newark~ez_rsquo~s towers,
Renowned in Border story.
Fair scenes for childhood~ez_rsquo~s opening bloom,
For sportive youth to stray in;
For manhood to enjoy his strength;
And age to wear away in!
Yon cottage seems a bower of bliss,
A covert for protection
Of tender thoughts, that nestle there~ez_mdash~
The brood of chaste affection.
How sweet, on this autumnal day,
The wildwood fruits to gather,
And on my true-love~ez_rsquo~s forehead plant
A crest of blooming heather!
And what if I unwreathed my own!
~ez_lsquo~T were no offence to reason;
The sober hills thus deck their brows
To meet the wintry season.
I see~ez_mdash~but not by sight alone,
Loved Yarrow, have I won thee;
A ray of fancy still survives~ez_mdash~
Her sunshine plays upon thee!
Thy ever-youthful waters keep
A course of lively pleasure;
And gladsome notes my lips can breathe,
Accordant to the measure.
The vapours linger round the heights,
They melt, and soon must vanish;
One hour is theirs, nor more is mine~ez_mdash~
Sad thought, which I would banish,
But that I know, where~ez_rsquo~er I go,
Thy genuine image, Yarrow!
Will dwell with me~ez_mdash~to heighten joy,
And cheer my mind in sorrow.
From the home of Mary Scott, a mile to the east by the side of
Blackhouse Farm, the Douglas Burn comes down to join the Yarrow, and the
murmur of its waters is the "Open, Sesame," to another cluster
of old-world associations. The quiet farm-house itself, at the glen mouth,
was the home of William Laidlaw, the amanuensis and friend of Sir Walter
Scott, and author of the simple and beautiful verses, ~ez_lsquo~Lucy~ez_rsquo~s Flittin~ez_rsquo~;~ez_rsquo~
and on the Blackhouse heights above it was that for ten years the Ettrick
Shepherd tended his flocks. It was on one of these heights, the Hawkshaw
Rig, past which the Blackhope burn comes down to join the Douglas, that
upon a summer day in 1796 an interesting thing happened. As the young
herdsman was watching his sheep, a half-daft wanderer of the countryside,
named Jock Scott, lying near him on the heather, recited a marvellous poem
called ~ez_lsquo~Tam o~ez_rsquo~ Shanter,~ez_rsquo~ made, said the reciter, by an Ayrshire
peasant, lately dead, of the name of Robert Burns. As he listened, it is
said, big tears of joy and surprise rolled down Hogg~ez_rsquo~s quivering cheek.
Again and again he had the poem repeated till he knew by heart every word
of it; and forthwith he resolved to serve himself the successor of the
ploughman poet. Thanks to the old songs and ballads crooned to his
childish ears by his mother at Ettrick Hall, "he could tell more
stories and sing more songs," he felt sure, "than ever ploughman
could in the world." Thus casually fell the spark which set the
lonely herdsman~ez_rsquo~s heart on fire. Well, however, might that herdsman
sing, spending the long days, as he did, alone amid such scenes and
memories, and within the hearing of so many traditions. It would be
difficult in all broad Scotland to find a spot more fit for the dreaming
of a poet.
Two miles up the Douglas water, in the very heart of the quiet hills,
lies the tower of the Good Lord James, who strove to carry the heart of
the Bruce to the Holy Land. The Douglases were early settled here. Sir
John, eldest son of William, first Lord Douglas, is recorded by Hume of
Godscroft, the family historian, to have sat as baronial lord of Douglas
Burn, in a parliament of Malcolm Canmore, held at Forfar; and here the
companion of Bruce was wont sometimes to retire to gather fresh forces for
the cause of the king. A crumbling ruin now, the home of the Border lord
is abandoned to the last neglect. Within the walls which cradled that
haughty race are kennelled a shepherd~ez_rsquo~s dogs, and rubbish and filth
cover the hearth and threshold of the Black Douglas. A silent reproach
exists in the aspect of the broken ruin, desecrated by mean uses,
unvisited and uncared-for in its decay.
From this tower it was, as the ballad of ~ez_lsquo~The Douglas Tragedy~ez_rsquo~
tells, that Fair Margaret was carried off by her lover. A mile further up
the solitary glen stand seven great stones, marking, it is said, the spot
where Lord William alighted and slew the lady~ez_rsquo~s seven pursuing brothers;
and the bridle road, one of the disused mediaeval paths from tower to
tower, which the fleeing lovers are said to have followed, can still
easily be traced across the hills, The words of the ancient composition
possess a strange vividness when read with a knowledge of the locality,
and at the foot of these grey walls.
THE DOUGLAS TRAGEDY.
"Rise up, rise up, now, Lord Douglas," she
"And put on your armour so bright;
Let it never be said that a daughter of thine
Was married to a lord under night!
"Rise up, rise up, my seven bold sons,
And put on your armour so bright,
And take better care of your youngest sister,
For your eldest~ez_rsquo~s away the last night!"
He ~ez_lsquo~s mounted her on a milk-white steed,
And himself on a dapple gray,
With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
And lightly they rode away.
Lord William lookit o~ez_rsquo~er his left shoulder
To see what he could see,
And there he spied her seven brethren bold
Come riding o~ez_rsquo~er the lea.
"Light down, light down, Lady Marg~ez_rsquo~ret," he
And hold my steed in your hand,
Until that against your seven brethren bold,
And your father, I make a stand."
She held his steed in her milk-white hand,
And never shed one tear,
Until that she saw her seven brethren fa~ez_rsquo~,
And her father hard-fighting, who loved her so dear.
O, hold your hand, Lord William!" she said,
For your strokes they are wondrous sair;
True lovers I can get mony a ane,
But a father I can never get mair."
O, she ~ez_lsquo~s ta~ez_rsquo~en out her handkerchief,
It was o~ez_rsquo~ the holland sae fine;
And aye she dighted her father~ez_rsquo~s bloody wounds
That were redder than the wine.
O choose, O choose, Lady Marg~ez_rsquo~ret," he said;
O whether will ye gang or bide?"
"I~ez_rsquo~ll gang, I~ez_rsquo~ll gang, Lord William," she said; "
For you have left me nae other guide."
He~ez_rsquo~s lifted her on a milk-white steed,
And himsel~ez_rsquo~ on a dapple grey,
With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
And slowly they baith rude away.
O they rude on, and on they rade,
And a~ez_rsquo~ by the light o~ez_rsquo~ the moon,
Until they came to yon wan water,
And then they lighted down.
They lighted down to tak~ez_rsquo~ a drink
O~ez_rsquo~ the spring that ran sae clear;
And down the stream ran his gude heart~ez_rsquo~s blood,
And sair she began to fear.
"Hold up, hold up, Lord William," she said,
"For I fear that you are slain!"
"~ez_lsquo~T is naething but the shadow o~ez_rsquo~ my scarlet cloak
That shines in the water sae plain."
O they rude on, and on they rade,
And a~ez_rsquo~ by the light o~ez_rsquo~ the moon,
Until they cam~ez_rsquo~ to his mother~ez_rsquo~s ha~ez_rsquo~ door,
And there they lighted doun.
"Get up, get up, lady mother," he says,
Get up and let me in
Get up, get up, lady mother," he says,
"For this night my fair lady I~ez_rsquo~ve win.
"O, mak~ez_rsquo~ my bed, lady mother," he says,
"O, mak~ez_rsquo~ it braid and deep,
And lay Lady Marg~ez_rsquo~ret close at my hack,
And the sounder I will sleep."
Lord William was dead lang ere midnight,
Lady Marg~ez_rsquo~ret lang ere day;
And all true lovers that go thegither,
May they have mair luck than they!
Lord William was buried in St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Kirk,
Lady Marg~ez_rsquo~ret in Mary~ez_rsquo~s quire:
Out o~ez_rsquo~ the lady~ez_rsquo~s grave grew a bonnie red rose,
And out o~ez_rsquo~ the knight~ez_rsquo~s a brier.
And they twa met, and they twa plat,
And fain they wad be near;
And a~ez_rsquo~ the world might ken right weel
They were twa lovers dear.
But bye and rude the Black Douglas,
And wow but he was rough!
For he pulled up the bonnie brier,
And fang it in St Mary~ez_rsquo~s Loch.
As one lingers in the silent glen, the scene of this strange romance
and of its tragic outcome, a "breath of the time that has been"
seems to hover about it, with the sadness of these old forgotten days.
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