Primroses and Daisies in early March—"The Posie
"—Burns—"The Ancient Mariner"— William Tennant, Author ofAnster
Bard's Blessing—A Translation—Macleod of Berneray.
[March 1868] with us here still continues wonderfully genial and mild :
taken all in all, the season may be noted as in this respect perhaps
without precedent in our meteorological annals. The sun, with nearly
eight degrees of southern declination, is not yet halfway throughPisccs;we
are still three weeks from the vernal equinox, and yet on our table
before us, as we write these lines, there is as pretty a posy of
wild-flowers as you could wish to see, consisting of daisies, primroses,
and other modest beauties, the " firstlings of the year," culled from
bank and brae at a date when in ordinary seasons the country,
snow-covered or ice-bound, is but a bleak and barren waste. Older andAnsterpeople
than ourselves confidently predict "a winter in mid-spring"as
yet in store for us; butmeh'ora
had rather believe that to one of the mildest winters on record will
succeed a genial spring, a splendid summer, and an abundant harvest. In
any case, as somebody said of Scaliger and Clavius,Mallem
cum Scaligero errare quam cum Clavio rede sapcre:I
had rather, that is, be a partaker in the errors of Scaliger, than a
sharer in all the wisdom of Clavius. Even so, we had rather err with the
optimists than be ranked with the pessimists, even when their
predictions turn out the truest. In our forenoon ramble on Friday last
did we not find a merle's nest in the close and well-guarded embrace of
an old thorn root, with its pretty treasure of four brown-spotted,
greyish-green eggs and with our wild-flower bouquet before us, are we
not better employed in crooning one of Burns' sweetest lyrics than in
predicting evil, even if we were certain that our prediction should
become true?—said lyric being that entitledThe
dear reader, if you do not know it already, you should incontinently get
by heart. Here is a verse or two :—
"Oh, luve will venture in where it daurna weel be seen;
Oh, luve will venture in, where wisdom ance has been;
But I will down yon river rove, amang the wood sac green—
And a' to pu' a posie to my ain dear May.
"The primrose I will pu', the firstling o' the year,
And I will pu' the pink, the emblem o' my dear;
For she's the pink o' womankind, and blooms without a peer—
And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.
lily it if pure, and the lily it is fair.
And in her lovely bosom I'll place the lily there;
The daisy's for simplicity and unaffected air—
And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.
"The hawthorn I will pu', wi' its locks o' siller grey,
Where, like an aged man, it stands at break o' day;
But the sonqster's nest within the bush I winna tak away—
And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May."
Mark that line in italics, and ponder its exquisite
tenderness. How it must have irradiated, like a sudden flood of sunshine
over a mountain landscape, the poet's heart as he penned it! Here you
have the germ of the doctrine afterwards more broadly taught by
Coleridge in the well-known lines of theAncient
"Farewell, farewell, but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding Guest,
He praycth well, who loveth well
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things, both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."'
Burns for its own sake, but we love it all the more, perhaps, because
our attention was first directed to its sweet simplicity and tender
beauty by one of our earliest and kindest friends, himself a poet of no
mean order, the late Professor William Tennant, author ofAnster
all its fantastical gaiety and homely mirth the most original poem,
perhaps, to be found in the literature of our country.
A gentleman who resides at present in Cheltenham, a cadet
of one of the oldest and most respectable families on the West Coast,
and himself the head of a house not unknown in Highland story, has been
so good as to send us a short Gaelic poem in manuscript, with a request
that we should give an English version of it. With this request we very
readily comply, such a task being to us a labour of love; the poem
itself, besides, being very beautiful, and the history of its
composition extremely interesting, as throwing some light on the manners
and customs of the olden times. The following prefatory note from the
MS. itself sufficiently explains the origin of this quaint and curious
was the custom in the West Highlands of Scotland in the olden time to
meet the bride coming forth from her chamber with her maidens on the
morning after her marriage, and to salute her with a poetical blessing
the occasion of the marriage of the Eev. Donald Macleod of Durinish, in
the Isle of Skye, this practice having then got very much into
desuetude, and none being found prepared to salutehisbride
agreeably to it, lie himself came forward and received her with the
following beautiful address." "We present our readers with the original
as they stand in the MS., only omitting two lines that are partly
illegible from their falling into the sharp foldings of the sheet. The
sense and tenor of these lines, however, we have ventured to guess at
and to incorporate with our English version:—
Whether with the sense of the above we have succeeded in
catching anything of its quaint beauty and tenderness in the following
lines, is for the reader to judge:—
A Baud's Blessing
fresh and fair,
All hail and welcome! joy and peace be thine;
Of happiness and health a bounteous share
Be shower'd upon thee from the hand divine.
"Wearing the matron's coif, thou seem'st to be
Even lovelier now than erst, when fancy-free,
Thou in thy beauty's strength did'st steal my heart from me.
Though young in years thou 'rt now a wedded wife;
O seek His guidance who can guide aright.
With aid from Him, the rugged path of life
May still be trod with pleasure and delight;
For He who made us bids us not forego
A single, sinless pleasure in this world of woe.
Be open-hearted, but beeidenttoo,
Be strong anil full of courage, but be staid;
Aught like unseemly folly still eschew—
Be faultluss wife as thou wast faultless maid!
Guard against hasty speech and temper violent,
And knowing when to speak, know also to be silent.
Guard thy good name and mine from smallest stain;
In manner still be kindly, frank, and free;
If thou 'rt reviled, revile not thou again;
In hour of trial calm and patient be;
And when thy cup is full, walk humbly still,
A careless, proud, rash step the blissful cup may spill!
With this bard's blessing on thy wedded morn,
All at thy bridal chamber-door we greet thee;
May every joy of truth and goodness born
Through all thy life-long journey crowd to meet thee;
And may the God of Peace now richly shed
A blessing on thy kerchief-cinctured head!
the original, which we have renderedkerchiefandcoif,
was in the olden times the peculiar head-dress of married females, while
virgins wore their braided locks uncovered, a simple ribbon to bind the
hair, and occasionally a sprig of heather or modest flower by way of
ornament, being the only head-dress that could with propriety be worn by
a maiden in the good old anti-chignon days of our grandmothers. The
Highland maiden's narrow ribbon for binding the hair was in the south of
Scotland called asnood,probably
from the old Englishsnod—"neat,
handsome"—a word still in use in the English border counties. In the
south, even more pointedly than in the north, the emblematical character
of the maiden ribbon or snood was recognised. It was only when a maiden
became an honest, lawful wife that the coif—also calledcurchandtoy—could
be worn with propriety. If a damsel was so unfortunate as to lose
pretentions to the name of maiden, without acquiring a right to that of
matron, she was neither permitted to wear that emblem of virgin purity,
the snood, nor advanced to the graver dignity of the coif or curch. In
old Scottish songs there occur many sly allusions to such misfortunes,
as in the original words of the popular tune of "Ovver the muir amang
"Down amang the broom, the broom,
Down among the broom, my dearie,
The lassie lost her silken snood,
That gart her greet till she was wearie."
And in a verse of a curious old ballad that we took down
some years ago from the recitation of a grey-headed Paisley weaver—
"And did ye say ye lo'ed me weel?
Then, kind sir, ye maun marrie me;
For that I maunna wear my snood
Aft brings the saut tear to my ee."
The reverend author of the above lines was probably born
about the year 1700, or perhaps ten or twenty years earlier, for we find
that he died a man well advanced in years in 1760. In theScots
that year there is the following notice of Mr Macleod's death :—"Jan.
Durinish, in the Isle of Skye, the Rev. Donald Macleod, minister of that
parish, a gentleman, says our correspondent, who adorned his profession,
not so much by a literary merit, of which he possessed a considerable
share, as by a consistent practice of the most useful and excellent
virtues. To do good was the ruling passion of his heart; in composing
differences, in diffusing the spirit of peace and friendship, in
relieving the distressed, in promoting the happiness of the widow and
orphan, his zeal was almost unexampled, his activity unmeasured, his
success remarkable. It is almost unnecessary to add that he lived with a
most amiable character, and died universally regretted."
A somewhat curious circumstance is the following :—One of
the Rev. Mr. Macleod's daughters was married to Macleod of Berneray, she
being that gentleman'sthirdwife.
Berneray was at the date of this third marriage seventy-five years of
age, notwithstanding which he became by this lady the father ofnine
lived a hale and hearty old man till he was upwards of ninety. He was
reckoned in his day a splendid specimen of the stalwart, sterling,
straight-forward, and chivalrous Highland gentleman, "all of the olden
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