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Rambles Round Glasgow
The Earn, Mearns Castle and Moorhouse


"That’s the Forth,’ said the Baillie, with an air of reverence which I have observed the Scotch usually pay to their distinguished rivers. The Clyde, the Tweed, the Forth, and the Spey are usually named by those who dwell on their banks with a sort of respect sad pride."—Rob Roy.

Not only are the above remarks of the author of Waverly true with regard to the larger rivers of Scotland, but they also hold good with respect to the most diminutive of her streamlets and burns. The Scotch have a perfect passion, indeed, for the "living waters" with which their beautiful country is everywhere so delightfully intersected. Every one of them, from the greatest even unto the least, is duly named, or christened if you will; and the music of their names—for they are nearly all concords of sweetest sound— flows into the very hearts of those who dwell among their green banks and braes, and not unfrequently comes welling forth again in never-dying melody. Glance at the glowing pages of Scotia’s matchless book of song, and you will at once learn the depth and fervour of that affection which the natives of the cannie North bear to the running waters of their "ain countrie." Beyond the Tweed the traveller often asks in vain at the dull chawbacon the designation of brook or stream. The wee’est toddlin’ bairn in Scotland, with the faintest development even of "the gift of the gab," can at once name its own natal burn; and not only that, but would volunteer on the instant to show the stranger the favourite pools where the little minnow and the "beardie" have their haunts, and the shallows where the weans of the clachan best love to paidle among the tiny wavelets. The bard of Coila, who has invested many waters with a music sweeter than their own, never touched a deeper chord than when, in his love-fraught lay of Langsyne, he makes the long-parted friends recall the wadings of life’s young day. How many bosoms have melted in tearful sympathy over the two simple lines,

"We twa hae paldl’t in the burn,
True morning sun till dine."

We have seen gray-headed men, "loof locked in loof," crooning them in trembling tones together; while the saut, saut pearls of memory were trickling down each furrowed cheek; and we have seen young men and maidens fair encircling in alternate links the festive board, and chanting them in loving and heartfelt harmony. In the lowly cottage and in the lofty hall they find a sympathetic echo; at home, amongst our own gray hills, or ayont the faem in the land of the stranger, wherever two or three of Scotia’s callants are gathered together, there is heard, midst mingling tears and smiles, the song of songs that brings them back the happy days of youth, and the remembrance of their ain burn-side,

First, and most beautiful of rivers to our heart and eye, is our own dear Clyde.

"Let others love the tangled Forth,
Or mountain-shadowed Spey,
The Don, the Dee, wake others’ glee,
Fair Tweed or queenly Tay.

"From all their charms, with open arms,
We turn in love and pride
To thy green ways and flow’ry braes,
Our own, our native Clyde."

Yet is our love anything but exclusive. We love thee also, O sylvan Tweed! although to us thou art but a name. Yarrow, albeit unvisited, is dear unto our heart, for sake of those who have sorrowed and sung by her side. The Doon, the Lugar, and the Cart have, since our earliest days, been in name familiar as household words to our ear and our soul in the lyrics of Scotland’s sweetest singers and we have since gazed upon their material charms with ever-increasing admiration and delight. As well attempt to

"Count the leaves of aft the trees,
Count the waves of all the seas,"

as to reckon the number of our beloved waters. Yet we have undoubtedly favourites among the wimpling murmurers. Clyde is, of course, the foremost and the best; then there is the tiny Earn, the beautiful brown-tinted Earn, that winsome wanderer by lonely paths, whom we are now about to unveil. Thou too, reader, must be numbered among her admirers, or we shall henceforth have serious doubts of thy taste.

Our first introduction, we may premise, to the Earn was through the inspired writings of Christopher North, some score of years ago. How lovingly the "old man eloquent" babbled of its charms! It was the stream of his boyhood; and the golden light of langsyne flickered round his pen as in memory he delineated its beauties. He was once again the yellow-haired stripling, roving at will among the wild moors—a lonely but happy familiar of bird, and beast, and flower, with insatiate spirit feeding on the beautiful. He had again donned for the first time the sporting jacket, and was treading the plashy brink of the brother loch, or threading the. mazes of the amber Earn, waging deadly war with the red-speckled front. The description was, in truth, steeped in richest poesy, and made such an impression on our youthful imagination, that we determined to make a pilgrimage to the locality for the express purpose of gazing upon the loveliness of what seemed to our mind’s eye a species of fairy land. Years passed away, however, and the Earn was still to us a waking ,dream. The Course of Time, which afterwards fell into our hands, recalled it more vividly to our memory. The author of that noble poem was born in the immediate vicinity of this moorland stream, and spent the happiest portion of his too brief existence "here below" amongst its lonely banks and braes. Again we purposed a ramble amid the scenery which genius had hallowed by the light of its presence but again time was permitted to slip away, and although we obtained on several occasions a passing glimpse of the Earl, our resolve to spend a long summer day

"Adown its sweet meander"

remained unaccomplished. A friend, who is familiar with every turn and winding of the stream, however, has at length persuaded us to include the vale of the Earn in our series of Rambles, and we have consequently now to request the company of our readers on this our long-proposed and long deferred excursion.

It is a lovely August morning. Phœbus, to use the words of honest Allan Ramsay, has begun

"To sped the Olympian brae
Wi’ a cart-lade o’ bleezin’ day;"

while the yellow fields below reflect untarnished the radiance of his slanting beams. Leaving the city and its smoky atmosphere, how deliciously fresh and cool is the breath of the young autumn as we meet it among the dewy hedge-rows! A slight touch of frost lingers In the air, and the beads of evening are still unmelted on the lace-work of the field-spider, which clings to bush and tree. How loudly sounds the horn of chantieleer among the scattered farmsteads! how liquid soft the pipings of the robin among the rustling foliage of the birch! Blessings upon thy bright black eye and thy swelling breast of red, sweet songster of’ the autumn day! The blackbird’s golden hill is silent now in the woodland glade; the voice of the throstle is mute in the leafy choir, while the lark is heard no more in the far blue vault of heaven, showering his merry music-drops o’er mead and moor; but thou hast still a lay of love for the waning year, "most musical, most melancholy." When the fields are bare, and the barn-yards are crowded; when the plough is at rest, and the stream has ceased to flow; when the glory has departed from the forest, and the storm sweeps pitiless over the flowerless lea, thou art still heard in the fitful pauses of the blast, like hope in the breast of affliction, singing thy notes of solace and of "promised joy." But whence come those jocund voices—those loud-ringing bursts of laughter? From the gladsome harvest field, from amid the fast-falling grain. See, here are the reapers, a merry, motley crew of many-coloured garb, with the waving gold before them, and thick-strewn stooks in lengthening rows behind. Old age and youth side by side are striving here together. That ancient matron with the flannel mutch would scorn to lag behind the blooming buff-capped kimmer on the next rig; yon gray-haired carle, observe, is in advance of the swankie chiel who calls him neighbour. "There is life in the old dog yet." Cupid, with a reaping-hook instead of his customary bow, is also there. How slyly that swain with the blue plush vest is shearing his way into the affections of the sonsie queen beyond him! The fellow is actually doing half her work, although sorely tantalized for his gallantry by that wicked wag of an Irishman, whose rude jest brings the burning blush to the cheek of the conscious maiden, and sets the field in a roar. But we must end our contemplation of the picturesque group, and move upon our way. We too have a harvest to gather. Passing bonny Cathcart, with its blue smoke curling over the trees, its fine old castle, and its fine new kirk; Clarkston, with its roadside cottages; and Busby, with its hives of industry; we soon arrive at Waterfoot, the lovely meeting-place of Earn and Cart, and the last sweet scene in the former streamlet’s devious but withal brief pilgrimage. By the by, while waiting for our friend, who trysted to foregather with us here, we may mention that we have "a craw to pick" with Christopher the Great in regard to this same water of Cart. In his most beautiful article "Our Parish," when talking of the stream which is even now murmuring a welcome to its amber tributary at our feet, he says, "The Cart!—ay, the river Cart—not that on which pretty Paisley stands, but the Black Cart, beloved by us chiefly for sake of Cathcart Castle, which, when a collegian at Glasgow, we visited every play-Friday, and deepened the ivy on its walls with our first sombre dreams." Now, old man (though Heaven bless thee for thy remembrance of the castle of our boyish love), we have here caught thee tripping. This is in truth none other than the veritable White Cart which, far below, and after many a beauteous sweep and playful winding, washes the walls of Paisley’s time-honoured town, thy own loved place of birth. That thistle-top, which with our trusty switch we send whizzing into the yeasty foam, will, mill-dam interruptions excepted, most assuredly, ere tomorrow’s dawn, dance over the "Hammils" and past the fragrant Sneddon to meet the Black Cart at Inchinnan Bridge.

After lingering for a brief space at Waterfoot, gazing on the mingling waters as they gush in music over the shelving rocks, and watching the wagtails flitting in graceful curves from stone to stone, we are greeted with the blythe good-morrow and kindly smile of our friend Mr. Pollok, brother of the bard, who has left his haymaking for a day to introduce us with all the honours to his native stream. "Cobbie’s isle" first claims our attention. This is an insular patch of land, situated in a fork of the Earn, which flows into the Cart by two channels—one a mill-lade, the other the natural bed of the water. On this tiny isle there is a one-storeyed cottage, which for many years was inhabited by an eccentric old man, a cooper to profession, who had a pet gander called "Cobbie," which he loved exceedingly. The snow-white bird, indeed, was the pride of the venerable cooper’s heart. He loved to see it gliding over the smooth mill-dam with its companion shadow, or breasting the dancing foam-flakes below the rocky linn. Often, in the summer afternoons, would he stand for hours at the end of his cot, gazing upon the evolutions of his feathered favourite, or feeding it from his hand as it floated near the gravelled margin. But "all that’s bright must fade," and poor Cobbie went at length the way of all living. The man of hoops and staves was disconsolate, and mourned his bereavement many days. To perpetuate the name of the lost one, however, be conferred its name upon the island of his habitation. The neighbours around, to please the old man, adopted the designation; and now, though years have elapsed since he has passed away, the name of Cobbie still clings to the spot.

Along the flowery margin of the Earn, in a south-westerly direction, we now wend our devious way. With daylight brilliance in the picture, instead of the moon’s pale beams, the playful streamlet here realizes, in the minutest feature, Burns’s inimitable description,—

"Whiles ower a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimples,
While, round a roeky scaur it strays,
While, in a well it dimples;
Whiles glitterin’ in the noontide rays,
wi' bickering dancing dazzle,
Whiles cookin’ underneath the brass
Below the spreading hazel."

Now it is leaping in whiteness over some channel stone; now it sweeps sullenly ‘neath some overhanging cliff, libhened and gray, or velveted with the greenest of moss; and anon it reflects in its glassy bosom some solitary birch or drooping group of saughs. How richly tangled with vegetation is its brink at every sunny turn! The wild rose-bush with its fast reddening hips, the bramble with its tempting bunches of ebon-dye, and the hazel with its clear brown clusters, in bosky luxuriance, are projecting over the steep banks, and form a screen of beauty to the jinking, gurgling, foam-fretted wanderer below. Didst ever see such stately thistles as compose yon hoary-headed group, now flinging their fairy parachutes to the passing breeze? We trow not;—and. see, here is Scotland’s ain blue-bell, not "lurking lowly unseen," but trailing with a graceful pride over the brow of yonder precipice in miniature, and side by side with the crimson belts of heather, and the bright golden tufts of the bird-foot trefoil, while the green plume of the bracken hangs sweetly over them, and curtains their loveliness from "the garish eye of day." This is Windmill farm-steading to the left, and you may observe that, compared with the crops we have seen in our own warm isle, the "stuff hereabouts is still unco green." It promises well, however, and we doubt not that yonder now empty barn-yard will see another sight and tell a far other tale some half dozen weeks hence. The district around us is rather of a pastoral than an agricultural character. The spiky wheat is seldom seen here; but it is from these green hills that Glasgow receives her spates of sour dook, her humplucks of rich yellow butter, and her kebbucks innumerable of palatable cheese.

After pursuing for an hour or so "the linked sweetness long drawn out" of the sportive Earn, which in truth does not seem to know its own mind for two consecutive minutes, but keeps turning and winding, now hither, now yont, zigzagging fantastically from right to left, and occasionally even manifesting a decided inclination to retrace its steps; we arrive opposite the firm of Floors, at a picturesque bend where formerly stood the mill of Ross. There is here a fine lion, some ten feet in height, which in bygone days gave motion to the wheel, but which is now singing its eerie tune to the echoes of an unbroken solitude. Of the mill not one stone remains upon another. A few stately ash trees, through which the blue smoke from the miller’s hearth may have curled long ago, wave drearily over the spot—sole vestiges of what has been. In his boyhood, our friend remembers coming with a "melder" to the miller of Ross, who had a bien and a braw house then:

"Hens on the midden, ducks in the burn were seen,"

while a gaucy gudewife, with a bairn in her arms, graced the door-cheek, and watched with motherly pride a number of wee toddlin’ things, with flaxen hair and rosy cheeks, who were tumbling before her on the green. But all is dull and lifeless now. The cheerful din of the happer is heard no more; the loud laugh of the jolly miller, the prattle of playful children, and the crowing of the household cock, all, all are now silent. Nature has resumed her peaceful sway. The rank nettle waves on the site of cheery but-and-ben, and the solitary hare may kittle undisturbed on the cold hearth-stone.

We are now in the immediate vicinity of the ancient castle of Mearns, and for a brief space must turn aside from the Earn to visit the time-honoured edifice. A few minutes’ uphill walk brings us to Auldtoun Farm, where we are welcomed with a delicious bowl of cold milk, and are introduced by our friend to the farmer’s niece, Katie Pollok, a bonnie bit sonsie Scotch lassie, dressed becomingly in shortgown and coat. Katie we soon discover to be fond of flowers, and enthusiastically in love with the auld tower. After showing us her pansies, which she denominates "step-mothers and daughters," a goodly show, we proceed to the castle-hill, accompanied by a sagacious collie,

Whase gaucy tall, wi’ upward cur’,
Rings ower his hurdies wi’ a swirl.-'

The Castle of Mearns is situated on the summit of a commanding knoll, the steep and somewhat rugged sides of which are densely covered, with wood. The structure consists of a strong quadrangular tower, the walls of which are from seven to eight feet in thickness, and are pierced at irregular intervals by windows and loopholes. In former times this sturdy keep, which is still in an excellent state of preservation, was surrounded by a thick wall, which has now disappeared, with the exception of a few vestiges of the foundation. There are also traces of an ancient drawbridge. But little is known of the origin or history of Mearns Castle. According to tradition it was erected at an early period by a chief of Mearns, named Johnston, whose residence previously was on a less elevated position in the neighbourhood. Being disturbed one morning while at breakfast by a party of his enemies, Johnston, who seems to have been too partial to a quiet meal for that rude age, resolved to build a place of strength wherein he could enjoy himself without fear of his foes. The present edifice was the result; but it is said that its erection cost the chief so many slices of his barony that, when it was finished, he had scarcely wherewithal to purchase a breakfast. In the pithy words of Katie Pollok, "for sake o’ his guts he had e’en biggit himsel’ oot at the door." The first authentic circumstance regarding the Mearns Castle which occurs in history, was its transfer by marriage, with an heiress who bore the surname of Macgeachin, to the Maxwells of Carlaverock, in the reign of Alexander the Second. After remaining for several centuries in the family of Maxwell, it was ultimately sold by the Earl of Nithsdale about the year 1648 to Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok, from whom it shortly afterwards passed into the possession of Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackhall, whose descendant, Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, is the present proprietor.

The interior of the edifice, which is still in good preservation, has in recent times been the scene of more than one festive assemblage. The members of the Mearns troop of Yeomanry cavalry, previous to their disembodiment, held several of their annual balls within the precincts of the ancient hall, when the rank and beauty of the district graced it with their presence. For a number of years past, however, it has been entirely deserted, the doors and windows having been securely blocked up, while the minister of the parish has been entrusted with the keys. Under these circumstances we might have found some difficulty in effecting an entrance, but for an event which, to the serious injury of the castle, had occurred a short time previous to our visit. The fortalice, during a late thunder-storm, was actually struck with a shaft from heaven, which effectually demolished the barricades in the windows, and thus cleared a passage which affords free ingress. A flag-staff on the summit had apparently attracted the electric fluid, which, in its passage to the earth, caused a large rent in the wall from top to bottom, and, with the force of the concussion, drove the window-boards out with such force that some of the splinters were afterwards found at a distance of many yards. We now make our way into the hall without leave of the minister, for which his reverence, we dare say, will readily excuse us. It is a spacious apartment, of somewhat modern aspect, having been replastered and otherwise altered, apparently to render it more suitable for ball-room purposes. Descending by a narrow staircase, we next enter a dark vaulted chamber underneath, the gloom of which is only rendered visible by the scanty radiance admitted by a narrow loop-hole in the thick wall. This was probably the prison or dungeon of the establishment in "the brave days of old" when mercy to a vanquished foe was a virtue somewhat sparingly exercised. Our fair friend, Katie, seems rather unwilling to enter this dreary den, and on our asking the reason of her reluctance, says—"I dinna ken, but folk say it’s no a canny place. I've never seen onything ill in’t mysel’; but some tinkler bodies that took up their lodgings in the ha’ abune got sic a fricht wi’ something doon here that they were fain to take French leave, and never durst venture back again. So I think we’ll be jist as weel to slip awa’ up the stairs." Taking Katie’s advice, we now ascend to the battlements of the tower, from which we obtain a splendid prospect of the surrounding country. To the south are the dreary moors of Eaglesham, swelling gradually upwards to Ballygeich, and fretted with numerous flocks and herds. Westward, amidst a very sea of verdant knolls, dumps of wood, and yellow fields, are Mearns Kirk and the Newton, with Dod Hill and Neilston Pad in the distance. To the north and east is the great valley of the Clyde, studded with towns, villages, and mansions, while the Renfrewshire, Kilpatrick, and Campsie hills rise proudly beyond, and the blue mountains of the Gael are faintly visible on the misty horizon. Beautiful, indeed, is the wavy bosom of the Means, as it lies outspread before us in the warm sunshine of the autumn noon. Merry groups are busy in the fields, and the blue smoke curling over cottage and hall gives pleasant indication of happy hearths. Yonder, observe, is the fine old baronial house of Nether Pollok; there again is Broomhouse, with its green lawn and shadowy trees; while here is the manse of Mearns, half hidden among foliage—the home of Christopher North’s boyhood. Could you fancy a more appropriate place for the nurture of a youthful poet? Over these sunny braes ran the yellow-haired boy, gathering insensibly the rich stores of natural imagery with which he has since delighted the world. Where we are now sitting he has sat; and often, in his dreams of day or night, would the features of the landscape on which we are now gazing in rap-tune flit across the inward eye of that eloquent old man,—

"For there’s no place half so sweet on earth,
As the home of life’s young day.’

"From morning sun till dine" we could linger in truth on this venerable tower, companion of the waIl-flower which nods at our feet to the passing gale, and monarch of the wide realm of beauty which we survey; but the day is wearing on apace, and we have still many links of the Earn to unravel ere our darg is done. So, fair Kate, we must descend to Collie, who is waiting patiently for us behind the stile. What a delicious spring we have here under the trees—clear as the glittering crystal, and cool as December’s ice! Doubtless thou hast arranged thy snood in this unwrinkled mirror ere now, Kate, as the flowers even now are doing. That drooping foxglove seems to admire its own fair image exceedingly, and stoops as if it fain would kiss the purpled water. It is a pleasing floral illustration indeed of the old song—

"Keek into the draw-well, Janet, Janet,
There thou’ll see thy bonnie sel’,
My Jo, Janet.

Bidding Katie a kind farewell, we now return to the margin of the Earn. For some distance above Ross mill, the course of the stream is somewhat tame. It still keeps turning and winding playfully; but the banks are less bold, and the channel is less frequently interrupted by those shelving rocks which prevail farther down. Now and then we meet with a murmuring rapid, however, where the angler might linger with a fair hope of tempting the speckled trout to rise to the treacherous fly. The sand-lark loves these gravelly shallows, and as we move along it keeps fluttering before us with its querulous cry of "kee-lee-Ieep," from which it has received its common Scottish name. Vegetation is gradually becoming less dense as we advance into the breast of the moor. The iris and the meadow-sweet still accompany us, however, with the "leddie’s thistle" and a rich variety of tall grasses, which wave gracefully to and fro with every breath of zephyr. Occasionally a field of oats steals down almost to the edge of the water, "a’ fading green and yellow," and every now and then the potato ridges intercept our path with their crowns of mingled thaw and bloom. Few and far between we meet a tuft of saugh, a stunted hazel, or a scraggy mountain ash devoid of berries. Yet there is a pleasing appearance of coming plenty on the neighbouring braes and round the cosie-looking farmsteads. The golden feet of autumn indeed are visibly advancing o’er the rustling grain; and are not her blushes beginning to be obvious on the cheek of the apple? Well, indeed might our friend, the author of" Wee Willie Winkie," exclaim—were he now by our side, as we could almost wish for his own sake he were,—

"O hairst time’s like a lippen cup
That, glen wi furthy glee;
The fields are rich wi' yellow corn—
Red apples bow the tree;
The genty air, sae leddy like,
Has on a scented gown;
And wi' an airy string she leads
The thistle-seed balloon."

Passing "Humbie Brig," and the fine farm of Titwood, we soon arrive at the bleachwork of Hazelden, where we cross to the south or Eaglesham side of the Earn. A few minutes’ walk farther, during which we pass Hazelden Head, Hazelden Mains, and various other places with Hazelden prefixes, brings us to the lands of North Moorhouse, the birth-place of Robert Pollok, the gifted author of The Course of Time. The banks of the stream are here of the most beautiful description. On either side they rise, in softest verdure, to a considerable height in natural terraces, some of which are scooped out into smooth green dells, with a regularity of outline which seems to be rather the production of art than of nature. This indentation, carpeted with horsetail, which is known by the name of "Chaumer Braes," looks as if it had been designed for a Covenanting place of worship. How beautifully adapted it is to be the local habitation of such a group as the pencil of Haney can so well delineate! Or might it not rather be a meeting-place for the moonlight fairies, a fit spot for Oberon and Titania to hold their mimic court? The thick-coming fancies of a Noel Paton could not, I ween, be introduced on a more appropriately decorated stage. Here the youthful poet spent his early days. When a wee, wee boy, our companion, his elder brother, has often taken him to these green and lonely bites for company when watching his father’s kine. Together they have paidled in the stream which murmurs even now as sweetly as in other days at our feet; together they have gathered the wild flowers, which then, even as now, adorned each sunny nook; and who can doubt that the scenery of this very spot mingled in the heaven of his imagination, afterwards so beautifully depicted in the great poem which has become even as a household word in the religious homes of his country! Like Robert Nicoll, another true poet of the hillside, he might well have said,—

"I thought the little burnie ran,
And sang the while to me;
To glad me, flowers came on the earth,
And leaves upon the tree;
And heather on the moorlands grew,
And tarns in glens did lie.
Of beauteous things like these I dream't
When I was herdin’ kye"

But let us turn aside to yonder knoll, to visit the poet’s favourite gowk (Anglice, cuckoo) stone. This was a ponderous mass of granite, whereon it was observed the cuckoo, on its annual migrations to the vale, loved to sit and pipe its cheery but monotonous song. Here it was first seen in the early summer by the neighbouring peasantry, and here, when the "pea puts on its bloom," it chanted its farewell strain. Alas! alas! it is rent and shivered now. We were not destined to witness it in its entirety. Two short weeks since a bolt from on high alighted upon the gowk stone, and shattered it fearfully. Several massive fragments still mark the spot, but a considerable portion has been scattered, like chaff to the winds, by the resistless stroke of the lightning. ‘Tis a "sorry sight" to our companion, who loved the stone for its association with memories of sweet langsyne; and we sympathizingly assist him to gather the debris into its place, that the gowk in future springs may still continue to haunt the spot.

Resuming our walk by the Earn we encounter two notaries of the "gentle art," earnestly lashing the rippled bosom of the stream. "Well, what luck have ye had to-day, lads?" was our inquiry, after the usual compliments had passed. "Oh, jist middlin’," Was the reply of the foremost disciple of old Izaak; "the Water’s o’er clear an’ the licht ower strong the day for the burn-trout." "We’ve had a rise or twa, though," interposed the other, "and I daursay, if we had twa-three worms, we micht dae no that ill yet." Patience and hope are indeed necessary mental qualifications for successful angling. The weather, somehow or other, is almost always adverse to the sport—at lest if we are entitled to form an opinion from the answers, evasive or apologetical, which we have invariably received from the numerous piscators encountered in our walks. A well-filled creel is a thing we have seldom or never seen. Yet hear the burn-side Munchausens over their toddy, and miraculous indeed are the draughts which they have one and all brought home! Well, well, it is doubtless a harmless hobby; but how we have enjoyed the quiet meaning smile which has played over a conscious matron’s features the while her lord and master was triumphantly recounting the number and weight of his tinny captures!

Immediately after taking leave of the anglers, which we do with the expression of a hope that their sport may prove better farther down, we pass a little ford where the Moor-house people are in the habit of crossing the stream when making a "short cut" to the village of Mearns. Many a time and oft the future poet has "buckled his breeks’ and forded the Earn at this spot, when on his way to school at the Kirktoun. Here, also, it was that, in company with a cousin of his own, he concocted a notable scheme for outwitting honest "uncle Andrew," the particulars of which, as they exhibit the quiet humour of the youth, we may as well narrate. Andrew Pollok, a brother of the poet’s father, and then, as now, tenant of North Moorhouse, had been troubled, it appears, for some time with a pain in his back, and, complaining of it, was advised by some of the neighbours to take the doctor’s breath on the subject. Outdoor wark, as it so happened, was geyan thrang at the time, and it was not convenient for the gudeman to go over to Mearns in person. As young Robin Pollok and his cousin went daily to school at the village, however, it was settled that they should call on the medico, and get something from him to rub the place affected with the painful symptoms. Accordingly, having received their instructions and a small phial to bring the desired lotion, the two boys set out for school. Lingering at the ford, however, a notion struck the young poet (who, by the by, had then no love for doctors or their stuffs) that were they to fill the phial with the amber-coloured water of the Earn, it would not only save them the trouble of going out of their usual course, but would perhaps be as effectual a cure to uncle Andrew’s back as anything in the shop of the village Esculapius. On submitting the project to his equally mischievous cousin, he of course declared it excellent, and at once agreed that it should be put in practice. On returning from school, accordingly, the phial was filled, and carefully corked, after which it was placed in the hands of the expectant patient. "An’ what did the doctor say, callants, when he gied ye this?" quoth the unsuspecting uncle. "Oh, he jist said ye were to keep your back close to the fire, and get the balsam weel rubbit in till’t," was the unhesitating reply. The prescription was immediately applied; and whether from the effects of imagination, or, as is more probable, from those of the heat and friction combined, uncle Andrew at once declared that he felt considerably relieved. The mischievous urchins, who had been gravely watching the operation, no sooner heard this, however, than with a glance at each other they both burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter, and made with all speed for the door. Suspicion being aroused by these circumstances, an examination of the contents of the phial was instituted, when the trick was discovered. "Wait till I catch the young scoondrels," says uncle Andrew, who started up in wrath; "Lod, I’ll thraw their necks for daurin’ to mak’ game o’ me." They were of course wise enough to keep out of his reach while the anger continued, and, as his back was really the better of the operation it had undergone, his temper was soon mollified, and the "twa Rabs" were again admitted to the old man’s good graces.

Proceeding onward, we shortly afterwards arrive at the embouchure of the Langlee burn, a tributary of the Earn. At Logan’s Well, a short distance farther west, the stream whose course we have been pursuing divides into Blackloch burn and Flock burn, its two principal sources, and loses its distinctive name. We are now at the head of the vale, and in the very heart of the Means Moor. Around us, on every side, a dreary expanse of brown heathy hills and dark morasses stretches away to the horizon. Here and there a few comparatively fertile spots enliven the waste each with a cluster of ash trees, and a little wreath of blue smoke marking the sites of the thin strewn pastoral farms. Yet there is a peculiar beauty in the wild landscape, all bleak and dreary as it is. Ascending the heights of North Langlee, a quiet secluded farm, the peeseweep flutters round our head with its plaintive cry, and the snipe starts from our path on its tortuous flight; while at our feet we have the meeting of the various waters which form the lovely Earn. The Black Loch, the Flock, the Lochcraig, the Wintry Wells, and the Langlee Burns, within the compass of a few acres, are seen turning and twining, each in its own little vale, as they severally hasten to the congregated stream in which they are so soon to lose their individual existence. "Frae a' the airts the wind can blaw" they seem to gush to this lovely tryst; and, as we gaze upon their rippled links, all glittering in the light of the bright autumn sun, there is a pleasing harmony in the music of their many waters. The age of kelpies is past, we fear; but were it not so, we should almost expect to find one of these water-demons lurking among the plashy nooks below our present position. If Dr. Jamieson’s description of the water-kelpie is true, however, we can very well dispense with his presence. Just fancy such a monster as the following lines depict coming up that green dell:—

"He rushes bare, and seggs for hair
Whaur ramper-eels entwined;
Of filthy gar his eebroos war,
W' esks and horsegells lined.

‘And for his een wi’ dowie sheen,
Twa huge horse-mussels glared;
From his wide mou a torrent flew,
And soop’t his reedy beard.

"Twa slauky stanes were his spule banes,
His brisket braid a whin;
Ilk rib aa bare a skelvie skair,
Ilk arm a monstrous fin.

"He free the wame a fish became,
Wi’ shells a’ covered ower;
And for his tail the grisly whale
Could never match its power."

A gruesome tyke, indeed, the kelpie must have been. At Benan Linn, where we now turn, however, we meet nothing so dreadful. A delicious little picture it is, with. its foamy fall often feet or so, its deep dark pool below, and its fine bosky banks. Our friend says it is just a Fall of Foyers in miniature—a statement which we can neither controvert nor affirm, as we have never seen that most romantic of Highland cascades. But sea! there is the water-ousel, disturbed by our presence, flitting away down the stream. A lonely and a lovely little bird it is, haunting such scenes as this, and seldom seen but by "untrodden ways." Oh that we had the pencil of a Harvey, that we might delineate this picturesque nook, and bear a reflex of its quiet loveliness to our city home! This may not be, however, and wherefore should we repine? It is already engraven ineffaceably on our memory, and amidst the haunts of men and the withering cares of life, it will be to us a solace and a joy; for true it is that

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever."

Turning eastward, and passing the North and South Langlees, a brief walk brings us to South Moorhouse, the residence during youth and the greater portion of the brief period of manhood allotted to him on earth, of Robert Pollok. It is an ordinary farm-steading, no way distinguishable in appearance from the other establishments of a similar nature scattered over the moor. The buildings are plain, one storeyed edifices, and consist of the usual "but-and-ben" for the accommodation of the farmer’s family, with barns, byres, milkhouses, &c. To the west of the house is a garden, screened on three sides by a belt of trees, all planted, we understand, by the poet’s father, with the exception of three tall ashes, which, with an elm unfortunately blown down some years since, have stood there from time immemorial. To these the poet in his great work makes affectionate illusion, in the following lines:—

"Four trees I pass not by,
Which o’er our house their evening shadow threw;—
Three ash, and one of elm. Tall trees they were,
And old, and had been old a century
Before my day. None living could say aught
About their youth: but they were goodly trees;
And oft I wonder’d, as I sat and thought
Beneath their summer shade, or in the night
Of winter heard the spirits of the wind
Growling among their houchs—how they had grown
So high in such a rough tempeatuous place;
And when a hapless branch, torn by the blast,
Fell down, I mourn’d as if a friend had fallen."

It was at South Moorhouse that The Course of Time was written; and on expressing a desire to see the room in which the poet sat when engaged in the work of composition, we are considerably shocked on being shown into a place now occupied as a stable. This in former times was the "spence;" but on a strange tenant coming to the farm, some seven or eight years ago, he took up his residence in another part of the establishment, and turned his horses into what had previously been the haunt of the Muses. This is really too bad and most certainly evinces a sad deficiency of taste somewhere. Surely such a spot, hallowed as it is by the most interesting associations, might well have been devoted to nobler uses. Every season the fame of Pollok attracts numerous visitors to Moorhouse; and there is something absolutely humiliating in the idea that the very scene which is perhaps most intimately associated with his memory should be thus degraded. We nevertheless linger for a considerable time within the precincts of the apartment, picturing to ourselves the pale student over the midnight oil, giving "a local habitation and a name" to the bright forms which his teeming imagination so abundantly bodied forth. In this corner stood the little table on which he wrote, and which had to be altered to suit his sore breast, for even then death was wrestling with him. Often during the progress of the work he required to pause from sheer fatigue or bodily weakness, when with a sigh he would gaze out of this little window on the silent hills, or take a short walk to a neighbouring height, to inhale the free winds as they came fresh and cool from the bosom of his beloved Earn. Alas! his was a melancholy fate. In the hour of hope, when fortune was just beginning to smile upon his prospects, he was stricken down. In the same year he was ordained to the ministry, published his great poem, and died. The completion of his work was indeed the signal of his departure. We may mention that some kind hand has planted an ivy at the door of the poet’s study, and that it is creeping with its green leaves over the lowly wall. We pull a sprig from it as a memorial of our visit, on taking leave of the spot.

From the braes in the vicinity of South Moorhouse an extensive and beautiful prospect of the country for many miles around is obtained. One commanding height, called the Head of the Moyle, brings at a glance the whole course of the Earn, from Waterfoot to Logan’s Well, before the spectator’s eye, with North Moorhouse, the poet’s birthplace, and South Moorhouse, the residence of his early years. Here it was proposed to erect a monument to his memory, and certainly a more appropriate site could not have been selected for the purpose. We trust, for the honour of Scotland, that the scheme may be yet accomplished. Alter lingering here for some time, we visit North Moorhouse, the scene of the poet’s birth. It is situated on an eminence which slopes beautifully downwards to the margin of the Earn. It is a low thatched edifice, resembling considerably the "auld day biggin" on the banks of Doon, where Burns made his entrée into the light of this nether world. The farm consists of about 100 acres, and was rented by the poet’s father from the Earl of Eglinton. Robert Pollok was born here in 1798. On our arrival at the door we are warmly received by a couple of sagacious collies, who are evidently not much accustomed to the visitations of strangers, and are consequently exceedingly desirous of making an acquaintance with our nether extremities. We keep them at bay, however, with the aid of our trusty hazel, until a young female makes her appearance from the interior, when we are speedily relieved from their boisterous attentions, and at once invited to "come ben." The picture that presents itself to our gaze on entering would delight a Landseer. The apartment is a perfect model of the cosie auld warld Scottish fanner’s ha’. A large fire-place projects from the wall, over which is suspended an immense cauldron simmering on a blazing peat-fire. Around the sides and against the rafters are hung fowling-pieces, fishing-rods, and a variety of agricultural implements; while tables and chairs of venerable fashion are scattered in picturesque confusion athwart the floor. Our friends the collies—their passion having rapidly subsided—are already disposing themselves in attitudes of gracefulness and ease in their accustomed nooks beside the ingle, while a sedate cat is composedly washing her face in the winnock bole.

On explaining our errand, we are civilly requested by the girl to step into the spence, where we are shown the "very bedstead" in which the poet was born. The chamber has been but little altered since the event which gave to Scotland another child of song. We need scarcely say that we inspect the place with feelings of no ordinary description. Pollok’s Tales of the Covenanters were among our earliest Sabbath-school prizes, and their perusal was to us a source of deep and tearful interest. The Course of Time in after years, despite its gloomier features, we read with anything but a limited degree of admiration; while the sad fate of the bard, struck down in the very noon of hope, and long ere the noon of life, lends a tragic hue to his memory which but the more endears it to our heart. Yet somehow we cannot associate the bard with the humble apartment of his nativity. It is too "cabined, cribbed, confined;" and our fancy keeps wandering away to the realms beyond the Course of Time which he has so powerfully and vividly described, and in which alone his imagination had "ample scope and verge enough" for its due exercise. Pollok died of consumption at Millbrook, Southampton, in the twenty-ninth year of his age. He was buried at the locality where he died, and the place which hew him once shall know him no more for ever, although for his sake it will long be visited and venerated by the pensive rambler.

Leaving Moorhouse we cross the Earn, and proceed to Hazeldenhead, the residence of our obliging friend, Mr. Pollok, where we are indeed most hospitably received by his good lady, and where, after our devious pilgrimage, we certainly do ample justice to the good things set before us. The sun is setting in the ruddy west before we tear ourselves away, but a lippin’ "doch-an-dhoris" from the hand of our kindly hostess sends us lightly on our homeward path; and passing by the fine hamlet of Mearns Kirk to Clarkston and Cathcart, we arrive within the smoky precincts of the city just as the stars are beginning to twinkle over the darkening world below.


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