Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The River Jordon
By Sir Thomas Dick Lauder

We have been much gratified by the perusal of some well-written and interesting articles on Irish rivers, which have appeared in the numbers of our able contemporary, the Dublin University Magazine. It has occurred to us that we might, now and then, say a few words about our Scottish rivers. We are ready to admit that we owe the idea to our much-respected brother, and to thank him for having inspired us with it; but, at the same time, we are fully disposed to exercise that discretion which we both wish and require to maintain within the regions of our own particular domain, and to do the matter entirely after our own taste and fancy. We, who have served in our younger days, cannot forget the military lessons which our much-lamented friend, old Major Ramsbottom, used to take every opportunity of impressing or us, under the firm conviction which the good and brave man held, that we had been born to die a Field-Marshal. “When you are about to fight the enemy, my boy,” said he, “whether it may be with a small or a large force, never bring the elite of your troops prominently forward at first. Begin with the rapscallions— if, indeed, any such fellows are ever to be found in any British army—and then, by afterwards supporting them with your more choice corps "Parmee, you will annihilate the enemy, without any serious loss to yourself.” Peace to the manes of the brave and kind-hearted Major! His doating affection for us was such, and his augury of our future military fame was so wonderful, that, if he had had any control over us, we never should have got leave to have quitted the service as we did; and all his life afterwards he solemnly declared that, if we had only stuck to the red coat, the ran of the great Duke of Wellington never would hare risen above the horizon, for that its beams would have been utterly quenched beneath the superior splendour of our military career.

But the reader may well ask what has Major Ramsbottom, or our undeveloped military fame, to do with the Scottish rivers? Gentlest of friends, we shall explain and endeavour to satisfy you in regard to this in a moment. It is quite true we are not about to fight against an enemy, but we are going to bring out the gallant array of our Scottish streams. If Ireland has her Shannon, have we not our Clyde?—and are there not “salmons in both?” But if you, dear sir, think that we are to begin with the king of our Scottish streams and estuaries, you are doing that which it is extremely foolish in so wise a man, as we took you to be, to do—that is, you are reckoning without your host. We mean to apply that most sensible advice given to us by our kind old friend Ramsbottom in regard to our military career, to that which we now occasionally follow in the literary line ; and although we shall not— and, indeed, cannot—go so low as to march our rapscallions to the front, seeing that we do not possess any such fellows among the whole of the aqueous divinities of Scotland, yet we shall not send any of our more powerful forces into the field until we shall have been enabled to afford an opportunity to some of our humbler, and less generally known, streams to exhibit themselves. But, indeed, this, as you must be aware, is not only the tactique of the tented field, but it is equally pursued in bringing forward both opera-dancers and singers, et hoc genus omne. With such views as these strongly impressed upon our mind, we shall begin with the little stream that chances to be our nearest neighbour, upon the principle that, by so doing, we are, at least, doing a neighbourly act.

This stream, then, to which we would now especially direct our reader’s attention, is the Jordan. Nay, start not! We have no need to send out to Syria to import for our purpose the sacred Scriptural river which our earliest religious associations have taught us so long and so devotedly to reverence. We possess a Jordan of our own, and we mean to give you some account of it. W e admit that, by the vulgar, it is sometimes called the Pow; but that being a mere corruption of the word pool, is found to be frequently applied to such portions of rivers as, being very deep and tranquil, chance to come within the daily observation of those peasants who live near them on their banks. Vf e farther admit that the stream is not even navigable by boats, and that, unlike both the rivers alluded to by Flaellen, as already quoted, there are no salmons in it; and that, indeed, whilst it might be considered by Americans or by East Indians hardly to deserve the name of a river, it might, perhaps, be looked upon, by the inhabitants of the banks of the Mississippi or the Ganges, as little better than a brook. But still it is not, on that account, to be altogether overlooked as insignificant. It is not always the fattest and biggest man who is the greatest hero. They know that Horatio Lord Nelson was little, and Arthur Duke of Wellington himself is no giant; and small as our little Jordan is, we trust that we shall be able to show, before we are done with it, that, if we had been as great a poet as Spenser, we might have spun as many verses on its banks as he ever did on those of his Mulla, or Molle. It is to the size, the form, and the purity of the pearls to which one’s attention is called, and not to the thread that strings them together.

Small as is the stream of oar Jordan, and short as is its course, the ascertainment of the exact position of its source has been productive of much contradictory speculation. We need not tell our readers that a company composed entirely of scientific men is always apt to be the most stupid party imaginable. The reason of this is obvious: all are ready to instruct, but, unfortunately, no one is thereto be informed, for every one knows all that any of the others can speak about. Every mouth, therefore, is busily engaged in swallowing the delicate solids and fluids that may be provided for them by their host; and, beyond some half-muttered observations on the respective merits of the various eatables and drinkables, replied to, as it may be, by a grunt of assent, or a snort of denial, we have heard just as much science from a parcel of pigs over a trough, as from such a party of philosophers. Now, gentle reader, I dare say you begin to think that the thread of our stream is so very small that we have lost it altogether. But have patience, and you will find that we are quite right after all. We had, on one occasion, collected together about a round dozen of these sages of the Modern Athens to dine, for the purpose of making them known to a stranger friend of ours, a noble Lord, who was naturally enough possessed by a huge desire to make the acquaintance of, and to converse with, men of whose gigantic minds he had. already had some knowledge through the perusal of their writings. “I should much wish,” said he to us, “to witness the playful struggle of minds so mighty, in regard to truths so vast.” In vain did he, and in vain did we, look for even a glimpse of science, always saving and excepting some slight gastronomic mutterings. We tried all manner of ways of lugging in science head and shoulders, apropos de bottes, and tabled it so broadly before them, that it was impossible for them to blink it. But it was all in vain. We might just as well have put down a sirloin of beef to the horses in a stable, and have expected them to carve and to eat it. At last, in utter despair, we bethought ourselves of a stratagem to make them, at least, speak which we brought to bear in this manner:—

“It is a strange thing,” said we, “that although the little stream of the Jordan runs through our grounds here, and within less than half a mile of this house, that no one can tell us where its source is.”

If we had thrown a parboiled potato into a poultry yard, we could not have produced a greater sensation, excitement, commotion, and noise among the army of fowls of all kinds, than this simple statement did among our philosophic friends,

"Ho!” cried one gentleman, “every one can tell you that. It rises in the Pentland hills, just above Bonaly.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” shouted another immediately; “why, you are giving it a course as long as that of the Nile!”

"Where do you say it rises then?” demanded the first gentleman, a little pettishly.

"Somewhere about the Hunter’s Tryst,” replied he, “although I am not absolutely certain of the precise spot.”

“Phoo, phoo! you are quite wrong,” said another. “You forget that you have the burn of Braid between you and the Hunter’s Tryst; and unless you carry your Jordan, across that in an aqueduct, how could you bring it to this side of it, where its course is?”

In an instant, the two first disputants had each his section of supporters, the dozen of philosophers being about equally divided in support of the two theories that had been started of the rise and course of this truly important stream. The combat of words waxed loud and vociferous. We are old enough to have witnessed some of those battles which were fought in support of the opposite opinions of the Huttonians and the Wernerians, or the Plutonists and the Neptunists, as they were called, but on none of those occasions did we ever listen to so long, so stormy, or so uproarious a debate as was begotten by this apple of discord which we had thus flung among them; and then, after a three hours' discussion, which, judging from the numerous bottles of claret which they emptied, could by no means be called a dry one, and just as the tempest of argument seemed to have exhausted itself, and appeared to be about to sink into a calm, one of the party happened to make the following remark:—

“Well, de lana caprina agitur; but after all, I think I ought to know the whole course of the little stream till it enters and passes through Duddingstone Loch, and then ”

"Duddingstone Loch!” cried one of the others, interrupting him, “I know that part of it well, and it has nothing to do with Duddingstone Loch more than it has to do with Lake Ontario. It runs along through the flat ground at some half-a-quarter of a mile to the south of the Loch, and receives the little stream which the Loch discharges.”

This gentleman was, in fact, quite right; but there was no convincing those who assumed the opposite side of the question. The new argument raged as hotly as the old one had done. We ordered broiled bones and devilled gizzards, with hot water and ardent spirits, as fitting food and drink for disputants so angrily excited, and the result was, that it was far beyond midnight before the discussion was brought to a close; and as neither party in either of the questions would yield one jot of opinion to the other, the partisans on both sides remained as undecided as to the truth as they were when they were first started. Thus it was that we at least succeeded in bringing out for our friend all the characters of the different individuals he had been invited to meet, though, indeed, he benefited but little by the deep science with which each of them individually was filled. After they were all gone, however, he retired, declaring that he had never been more thoroughly amused in all his life, and thus we had some reason to congratulate ourselves on our ingenuity.

We sincerely hope that the two chief disputants in regard to the question as to where our little Jordan rises may be beyond hearing, while we whisper that both of them were egregiously wrong. Each, indeed, seemed to be much more bent on, and more successful in, upsetting the theory of his opponent, than in establishing his own. The fact is, that both its early branches have their origin in a beautiful hill that rises picturesquely to the south-westward of Edinburgh, called the Graighouse Hill. A ramble over and about this hill on a fine day will yield very great enjoyment to the lover of nature. In the bottom, at its western extremity, are the remains of an ancient castle or tower, now much encumbered by the modern buildings of a farm. But the ruin is full of interest, both in regard to its position and the numerous associations with the olden time which it awakens ; and we cannot peep into those queer dilapidated apartments without reflecting on that curious state of society and civilization, if it could be so called, which existed at the time when men, aye, and women too, were caged up in such voluntary prisons of defence, in which they concealed themselves like ruthless spiders, ready to issue out, when occasion offered, for the purpose of preying on their fellow-creatures. At the northern base of the hill the ground falls towards it from all directions, and forms a beautiful agricultural dale, whence the face of the hill itself rises in high steep difis, intermixed with slopes, entirely covered with tall and thriving wood, and everywhere enriched with a profusion of ivy. Here you might sit for hours in perfect and uninterrupted solitude, save and except on such occasions as you may be pleased to come accompanied by that beloved one to whom you may have plighted your troth, and for whom your fingers are employed in culling a nosegay from among the wildlings of the glen. But if really and entirely alone, and that your soul is properly constituted for such high converse, you might here hold holy communion with that omnipotent and beneficent Being, without whose mighty fiat the smallest floweret among those around you would have had no existence, who fills and animates all space, to whom the grateful though inaudible hymns of your heart might acceptably rise amidst the general chorus of the worshipping feathered songsters. And then, if you feel disposed to clamber up the face of the steeps over your head, what a magnificent extent of prospect unfolds itself to your eyes from the brow of the bill—the great and rich plain of Corstorphine stretching westward from Edinburgh—its antique church and pretty village—the lovely Corstorphine hills with their woods, villas, and pleasure-grounds—the city, with its grand castle, and some of its more recently built hospitals, advanced on prominent sites, and standing like palaces in the country—the bills around Edinburgh, and the distant sea—and the whole scene animated by the rash of the distant train across the eye, leaving its long stream of white smoke behind it, annihilating, as it were, the space between the two great cities which the railway connects; or by the more laboriously toiling pace of the horses dragging the boats and lighters on the nearer canal, which winds through the landscape, and gleams here and there in the sunshine, with an effect which we have hardly, if ever, noticed in any other artificial work of the kind.

The source of the principal branch of our river Jordan is extremely mysterious, for it rushes suddenly out, in all the vigour of well-grown youth, from a subterranean opening, where its birth and earlier nurture have been concealed. This is immediately at the southern base of the hill, and thence it runs, skirting it, and so eastward 'through a long natural valley in the agricultural fields. It then turns northwards, and, in its gentle course down the hill, it imitates the Rhine and many other great rivers, by playfully diving underground for a considerable space, after which it re-appears and holds on its way rejoicing, tall it joins the other branch which we are now about to describe.

This rises under the north-eastern angle of the hill, and just below that part of it where its slopes are found to be laid oat in richly-cultivated enclosures, bounded by belts of noble timber, amidst the ancient avenues of which the fine old, many-gabled Scottish mansion of Craighouse is embosomed, together with its old-fashioned dovecot This was one of the possessions belonging to a historically well-known man, Sir William Dick of Braid, Knight—not Baronet, as he is erroneously called in some of the books, and upon which false statement a baronet’s title has been borne by certain persons for some generations. His history is curious, and although we cannot pretend to give it at length in an article such as this, we may hastily sketch, for the reader’s information, that he was Lord Provost of Edinburgh in the days of Charles I., and that he was a merchant, so very wealthy, that his effects in money, and in landed estates, which he possessed extensively hereabouts, amounted, as we, his descendant, have documents to prove, to no less a gross sum than £226,000 sterling, being nearly equal to £2,000,000 of money at the present day. He had the power of coining money—we mean not only .metaphorically, but in reality—for we are possessed of a very pretty copper coin of his, with the insignia of Commerce on one side, surrounded by the motto, “Fortuna Comes Virtutiand on the obverse a house, with his name in the legend surrounding it “ Williame Dick of Braid.” After this statement, would any reader, who has not already been made acquainted with the facts, suppose it possible that this man, so wallowing in wealth, could have died in what was at that time the King’s Bench? And yet, such is the great uncertainty of all human affairs, that this is literally true. During the civil wars he was plucked by both the contending parties by forced loans. No less than £180,000 sterling of hard cash was taken from him in this way; and when he went to London, with his wife and five sons and two daughters, for the purpose of trying to recover it from the Parliament and the Government, he was arrested for some small debts incurred for the lodging and support of himself and family whilst there; and the residue of his funds being locked up in landed property, and in bonds and other investments which could not be immediately turned into money, he was thrown into prison, where he died 19th December, 1655. We are in possession of a very curious document, the bill for his funeral, paid by his daughter-in-law, Janet M‘Math, of the family of M'Math, in Dumfries-shire, who was the wife of William of Grange, his third son. Not only do we owe to this lady's wealthy private exchequer and excellent heart the possession of this very curious discharged account, and many others of a similar description, but that piece of land on the Jordan also, which, like this property of Craighouse, and the ether properties of Braid, Briggs, and Blackford which were settled on the other sons, would have been swallowed up by the mortgages upon it, if this guardian angel, for whose memory we have an especial and grateful respect, had not interfered with that concentration of wealth which descended on her from her father, from her sisters, and likewise from her first husband, Thomas Bannatine, whose memory she records in the following lines on his tombstone in the Greyfriars Churchyard of this city:—

“Ilodie mihl, Cras tibi.
Vita quid horainis  Flos, umbra et fumus, arista;
Ilia malls longs est; ilia bonis brevis est."

To-day is mine, to-morrow yours may be ;
Each mortal man should mind that he must die.
What is man’s life?—a shade, a smoak, a flower—
Short to the good, to the bad doth long endure.
If thou list, that passeth by,
Know, who in this tomb doth ly;
Thomas Bannatine, abroad
And at home who served God.
Though no children he possest,
Yet the Lord with means him blest.
He on them did well dispose,
Long ere death his eyes did close.
For the poor his helping hand,
And his friends his kindness fand;
And on his dear bedfellow,
Janet M'Math, he did bestow.
Out of his lovely affection,
A fit and goodly portion.
Thankful she herself to prove,
For a sign of mutual love,
Did no pains nor charges spare
To set up this fabrick rare;
As Artemise, that noble dame,
To her dear Mausolus’ name.
He died 16th July, 1635, of his age 65,

Know the multitude of those that are to be damned, the paucity of those that are to be saved, and the vanity of transitory things.

Oh! that men were wise to (Understand evil committed) good things omitted, and the loss of time.

Foresee the danger of death, the last judgment, and eternal punishment.”

Getting now into the richly-cultivated plain, this branch of our little stream moves onwards through the arable fields, which exhibit in autumn the heaviest crops of wheat, and it is soon afterwards joined by the more important branch already described. A great stretch of many acres of ground, on its northern bank, is devoted to the humane purposes of the Royal Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum, an institution which is now under the best management; so much so, that it is believed that it may be placed in favourable comparison with any other of a similar description in the kingdom. There are two most extensive buildings on the premises, and there are above four hundred inmates in it, of which rather the larger proportion are males. If we were to inquire into the history of every one of these unfortunates, we might be enabled to spin a tale from each case, many of them of more exciting interest than those which are generated by the dreams of fancy. Let us attend to some of “the causes of insanity in those admitted,” which are set down in the table with that title in the last report from the managers; and we find. Anxiety on account of friends going abroad. Bad treatment by stepmothers. Domestic misfortunes. Desertion by husbands and wives. Disappointed affections. Disappointments. Enlistment of sons. Fright. False accusation. Grief at the loss of relatives. Pecuniary losses and misfortunes. Political agitation. Poverty. Religious enthusiasm. Vanity. What a catalogue! and by the touching of these keys, what a complicated reticulation of chords of feeling might be awakened; and how strange and various must have been the combinations of events that in reality gave action to them! Here would be work for a life-time of writing. But we shall only notice the happy change that has taken place in the practice in such places generally, and especially as it is exemplified in that of this asylum, and the humane manner in which this worst of ills that flesh is heir to is now treated ; for it is, in fact, a bodily disease, which must be cured or treated on the same principles as other maladies. But in regard to moral treatment, we learn from Dr. Mackinnon’s Report, that kindness, occupation, and freedom from all unnecessary restraints, have been found highly efficacious. To the larger proportion of the inmates, a degree of liberty, little differing from that enjoyed by the sane, may be accorded with safety and advantage. They may daily extend their exercises beyond the enclosures, visit frequently the homes of their affections, and become spectators of whatever of interest or instruction is going on in the world without. Their honour may be appealed to, and their conduct, in certain circumstances, depended on, in a degree which scarcely, if at all, leaves them behind mankind generally. The effect of this treatment is, that many of them have considered the asylum as a second home, and, after having ceased to require its care, they continue to visit it from time to time, to renew the friendships which have been formed within its walls. What a contrast does this form to the dreadful and mysteriously concealed torments which, until of late years, were practised in all madhouses, though more cruelly, perhaps, in some than in others, and which furnished Godwin, and other such fiction writers, with horrors infinitely more terribly harrowing than anything that even such imaginations as their’s could have begotten.

In that department of the asylum which is devoted to the poorer and uneducated patients, schools have been established, which have an average of about sixty scholars, divided into three classes—two of males, and one of females. It is a strange and unexpected truth, to find that some patients have actually been taught to read who could not do so before they came here, although it does not appear so wonderful that Improvement in reading might here take place. Writing has been taught with a considerable degree of success, and a few have made progress in arithmetic; but the grand object of these schools is to afford an occupation to some of the inmates who are not otherwise employed. This object has been attained in a very interesting manner; for the teachers have chiefly been patients, who, according to their abilities, have taken a principal, or a secondary part, in it. The schoolmaster has thus been found to be at home, and usefully, so, and an increased degree of mental exertion has thus been produced, both in the teachers and scholars.

One of the most interesting circumstances of the whole establishment is the introduction of a printing press, by which not only the various schedules and lists used in the asylum are printed, but the reports also. But this is not all; a periodical paper has been got up, which is called The Momingside Mirror, which is printed by this press, and has proved a valuable means of affording occupation to some of the inmates, and amusement to all. It has now reached its frith number, and bids fair to continue and flourish, and most cordially do we, as a brother, wish it success. In contributing to this, some have been roused to exertion who were before listless and indolent. Contributions from two other asylums have appeared in its pages, as well as some from individuals who were once, but who are no longer, inmates of this institution. A bazaar for women’s work has been a great source of interest to the female inmates, as they look forward to its proceeds enabling them to acquire some article of permanent interest and utility, which may be regarded by them with some degree of pride, as a monument of their labour.

A weekly meeting of the inmates is held, at which the entertainment is either a concert or a ball, according to circumstances. On some recent occasions a spontaneous attempt has been made, on the part of the inmates, to introduce something like dramatic representations, in the form of a rustic comedy; and preparations are now making for an amusement of the same kind of a more perfect description, with the addition of the accessories of scenery and costume. The writer of the Report considers that, in some cases, an additional moral remedy may be supplied, from the belief that a melancholic could scarcely personate a merry part, even but for a time. Without losing some of his despondency. But, strange to say, the history of almost all comic actors teaches us the reverse of this. When the famous Carlini as performing every night so as to keep crowded houses in continual roar, a miserable man, malade imaginedre, and altogether drowned in melancholy, called one morning on an eminent physician to consult him about his case. The doctor felt his pulse, and took every means, by questions and otherwise, to discover some hidden source of disease, all without effect; and being quite satisfied in his own mind as to how the matter was—“My good sir,” said he, “you have little bodily ailment that I can discover. Your illness is in the mind. You want amusement. The best prescription I can give you is to go every night to see Carlini. He will make you laugh in spite of yourself; and he will very soon set you all right.** “Alas, doctor!” cried the patient, in a tone of voice, and with an action that exhibited the very depth of despair—“Alas, doctor, I am Carlini!” After washing the walls of the Morningside asylum, our little river Jordan crosses the Peebles road under an arch; and then, whilst the sloping country on its left bank is entirely covered with the handsome villas, gardens, and shrubberies of Morningside, Goshen, and Canaan, and where once stood the ancient chapel of St. Roque, it has on its right bank a pretty considerable extent of cultivated plain, which gradually rises southwards towards the edge of the glen, and the pretty hills of Braid. Our little stream then trots gently onward through rich arable fields that slope down towards it on either side, the view being confined on all hands, and being closely bounded towards the south by the abrupt face and green picturesque top of Blackford Hill. Blackford Hill! —what a place for linnets ’ nests and primroses in the lovely springtime of the year! How delightful to sit among its farzy knolls, with the sun beating hot upon them, and exhaling the sweet perfume from the yellow flowers! How pleasing to watch the little golden-crested wrens, as they hang on the thorny boughs, perking np their little bills, and spreading abroad their golden coronets to receive the bright rays! Here one might sit for a long day of summer, and hear no other sound but that of the bee brushing its filmy wings among the flowers of the wild thyme. We profess ourselves to he of that class of people who are easily satisfied in regard to our belief as to particular localities as connected with historical characters or events. We bowed with the most extreme reverence both at the tombs of Cicero and of Virgil; and we should be anything ba obliged to the offensively accurate and unpoetical gentleman, who should tell us that he could convince ns, by the most unquestionable evidence, that the one was an old windmill, and the other a place expressly constructed for cooling Falernian. But we go farther than all this. We delight in believing that Bailie Nicol Jarvie actually lived; and many a wander have we had through the Saltmarket of Glasgow, vainly endeavouring to discover that worthy magistrate's residence; and, forgetful of times in the midst of our reveries, we have totfi more tteu once deceived by fancying that we saw Matty herself looking out from one of the upper windows. We rejoice, we say, in believing that all Walter Scott’s characters were historical realities; and we therefore believe that Marmion, during his ride from Chrichton Castle on his mission to James IV., previous to the march of that monarch with his army to the fatal field of Flodden, certainly halted his fiery charger on the green brow of that beautiful Blackford Hill, and gazed with wonder and admiration over the wide-spread host that covered the Borough-moor below. And why do we believe all this? Why, because our own Sir Walter has told us so; for thus sayeth he:—

“Marmion, from the crown
Of Blackford, saw that martial scone
Upon the bent so brown :
Thousand pavilions, white as snow,
Spread all the Borough-moor below,
Upland, and dale, and down ;
A thousand did I say?—I ween,
Thousands on thousands there were seen.
That chequered all the heath between
The streamlet and the town;
In crossing ranks extending far,
Forming a camp irregular ;
Oft giving way where still there stood
Some reliques of the old oak wood,
That darkly huge did intervene,
And tamed th& glaring white with green ;
In these extended lines there lay
A martial kingdom’s vast array.”

We must here earnestly entreat our readers to remark, to what poor shifts poets are sometimes driven in the construction of their verses, as exemplified in this quotation, where we find the dignity of our river Jordan so much compromised ; for, in order to get the proper number of feet into Jiis line, he has unscrupulously diminished the number of those both of the depth and breadth of the river—

“The streamed and the town.”

Without the insertion of this “let” the line would have hobbled; but having satisfied ourselves, and, we trust, our readers, with this explanation, which we hold to be sufficient for re-establishing the dignity of our stream, we are contented to lot it pass without farther animadversion.

To those who are more scrupulous than we are in regard to belief in such apocryphal characters, we should offer the recommendation to turn up the pages of the various Scottish, and other historians, who have detailed the circumstances of this vast armament; and we must beg of them to observe, that it is not every river, or stream, or streamlet, in the world that has so much cause to vaunt of the importance of its historical association. How different, indeed, must the scene have then been from what it now is, in regard to the mere appearance of its surface, as well as from the countless hosts which then animated it! It presented, in many parts, wild woodland scenery, the timber being chiefly gigantic oaks, and, if we may believe tradition, there were large chestnuts likewise; but this last fact we are disposed to think somewhat doubtful. Now its surface covered over with villas and gardens, or with enclosures, chiefly of rich pasture, with intervening hedgerows in many parts, which are beginning to give way to an extension of the villas, with their surrounding patches of pleasure-grounds. One large space is occupied by the Great Southern Cemetery, which is now laying out m the most beautiful manner, with shrub-berries and walks, everything being done that refined taste in architecture or gardening can accomplish, to remove those dank and chilling associations, which have, hitherto, made us behold with shuddering disgust that grave which ought to be so full of attraction for the weary Christian. But if this great change on the mere surface of the Borough-moor has taken somewhat more than three centuries to work out, what was that change that a very few weeks effected on that proud and mighty living host assembled here under the Royal banner of King James IV., in August, 1513? But let our poet complete his description of the grand spectacle wliioh this vast army afforded to Marmion, and we are sure that the reader will say that he wishes that he had been at his side to have beheld the same.

“For from Hebrides, dark with rain,
To eastern Lodon’s fertile plain,
And from the Southern Redswire edge,
To farthest Rosse's rocky ledge;
From west to east, from south to north,
Scotland sent all her warriors forth.
Marmion might hear the mingled hum
Of myriads up the mountain come;
The horses' tramp, and tinkling clank,
Where chiefs reviewed their vassal rank,
And chargers* shrilling neigh ;
And see the shifting lines advance,
While frequent flashed, from shield and lance.
The sun's reflected ray.
Thin curling in the morning air,
The wreathes of felling smoke deolare,
To embers now the brands decayed,
Where the night watch their fires had made.
They saw, slow rolling on the plain,
Full many a baggage-cart and wain,
And dire artillery's clumsy car,
By sluggish oxen tugged to war;
And there were Borthwick’s Sisters Seven,
And Culverins which Franco had given.
Ill-omened gift!—the guns remain
The conqueror's spoil on Flodden plain.
Nor marked they less, where in the air
A thousand streamers flaunted fair;
Various in shape, device, and hue,
Green, sanguine, purple, red, and blue,
Broad, narrow, swallow-tailed, and square,
Scroll, pennon, peneil, baudrol, there
O’er the pavilions flew.
Highest and midmost, was descried
The Royal Banner floating wide;
The staff, a pine tree strong and straight,
Pitched deeply in a massive stone,
Which still in memory is shown,
Vet bent beneath the standard's weight,
When e’er the western wind unrolled,
With toil, the huge and cumbrous fold,
And gave to view the dazzling field,
Where, in proud Scotland's Royal shield,
The ruddy lion ramped in gold."

Well might the Bight of such a host as this have stirred up the warlike spirit of Lord Marmion. But alas! well, indeed, would, it have been for the unfortunate Scottish Monarch if he had taken the spectral warning which was given to him some time previously in St. Katharine's aisle, in Linlithgow Church, and that he had desisted from his attempt, or that he had heard and applied the words of the gentle Lyon King-at-Arms, which contain so excellent an advice to all monarchs whatsoever:—

“Fair is the sight—and yet 'twere good
That Kings would think withal.
When peace and wealth their land have blessed,
’Tis better to sit still at rest
Than rise perchanoe to fall."

We have reason to thank God that, through the rapid progress of free-trade opinions, nations will probably be henceforth so dependent on each other as customers, that even if their kings and governors do not show themselves to be disposed to follow this advice of the old minstrel, they are not very likely to persuade their subjects to be so great fools as to follow them. Alas! this glorious host, embracing all the choicest chivalry of Scotland, was left to moulder on the fatal field of Flodden! and that lovely, plaintive, Scottish song—“The Flowers of the Forest”— may, with truth, be Bard to be all that we have received—and it is, indeed, metaphorically speaking, a funereal chaplet only—for this terrible and afflicting national calamity.

Now, we ask our readers candidly to tell us, whether wo had not right good reason to say, as we did in an earlier part of this article, that if we had been gifted with the powers of poesy, we might have spun long Spencercan cantos on the banks of our beloved little Jordan; and at the time we did venture to make that assertion, we solemnly declare that we had utterly forgotten that so much of the fourth and fifth cantos of Marmion were so intimately linked with it as to be entirely dependent on it. We think we can perceive its very wavelets bubbling higher with the generous pride we have infused into it from this, to it, so highly flattering a communication. But, gentlest of all readers, although we neither mean to indulge you, nor ourselves, nor the musical river with a reprint of so large a portion of this most popular poem as that we have here alluded to, yet, we do entreat you, before we leave the breezy brow of Blackford, to listen to the poet’s description of tho objects which are to be seen from it, and which, we need not tell you who have had the experience of both, will come much better home both to your heart and your understanding through the language of his verse than through that of our prose, for all these grander features are still the same.

“Still on the spot Lord Marmion stayed.
For fairer scene he ne’er surveyed,
When sated with the martial show
That peopled all the plain below,
The wandering eye could o'er it go,
And mark the distant city glow
With gloomy splendour red;
For on the smoke-wreaths, huge and slow.
That round her sable turrets flow,
The morning beams were red,
And tinged them with a lustre proud,
Like that which streaks a thunder-cloud.
Such dusky grandeur clothed the height,
Where the huge castle holds its state,
And all the steep slope down,
Whose ridgy bask heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town !
But northward far, with purer blaze,
On Ochil mountains fell the rays,
And as each heathy top they kissed,
It gleamed a purple amethyst.
Yonder the shores of Fife you saw;
Here Preston Bay and Berwick-Law ;
And broad between them rolled,
The gallant Firth the eye might note,
Whose islands on its bosom float,
Like emeralds chased in gold.
Fits-Eustace’ heart felt closely pent;
As if to give his rapture rent,
The spur he to his charger lent,
And raised his bridle-hand,
And, making demi-volte in air,
Cried, *Where’s the coward that would not dare
To fight for such a land?”

The reader will probably think that we have detained him quite long enough upon Blackford Hill, hut we cannot quit its vicinity without noticing that beautiful little retired spot, the old place of Blackford, which lies at the bottom of its slope, and is watered by the stream of the Jordan passing through it. Lest it may have since undergone change, we proceed to describe it as we saw it some years ago; for, near as it lies to us, our feelings for old recollections connected with those that are gone have not permitted us to trust ourselves with a visit to it since. The house was old, and not very large, and in no very remarkable style of architecture; but what was of it—and there were a good many small rooms in it—might be said to be very rambling. There was something so venerable in the very 'air *of its front, that no one could lift its little brass knocker to strike for admission without a certain feeling of respectful awe. It was covered with the richest jessamines and roses, and the gravel circle before the door was always kept in a state of the most exact tidiness. On the south side of the premises there was a high and steep bank of shaven turf, with a pretty little parterre flower garden between its base and the house, and a broad terrace walk at top, that stretched along under some noble trees, close to^tbe boundary of the place in that direction. The fruit and vegetable garden, which had some variegated hollies of goodly size in it, occupied the gently-sloping ground at some little distance in front of the house, and beyond this there was, and, we think, we may say is, a fine open grove of old and well-grown trees. The whole grounds of the place, which cannot occupy much more than a couple of acres, slope down from either side to the brink of our stream, and these were entirely covered with green sward, through which the snowdrop, the crocus, and the pale primrose, and the pan By “prankt with jet,” showed their beauteous tender forms in spring; and the yellow daffodil—or, as we have always had an especial pleasure in calling it, the daffy-down-dilly—was wont to flaunt it gaudily here and there in the little glades that ran everywhere in mazes among the huge boles of the trees that embosomed without obscuring them. The entrance was by an old-fashioned gateway from the north, between two very aristocratic-looking pillars, and the approach wound gently down the bank to the right, and, crossing our Jordan by an arch, climbed the opposite bank by an easy and well-engineered sweep to the gravel in front of the door. From the very circumstance that this little place lies to the north of the hill, and, consequently, that the high ground rises to the south of it, the exquisite effects of sun-lights and of sky that are thereby produced might be enough to collect all the artists in Great Britain to the spot, in order to study them. And then how variable and changeful! At one moment lighting up this little fragment of lawn with a brilliancy that becomes the more intense from the mellow shadows around it, and anon, throwing that into clear obscurity, to bring another portion into light, and again flickering through the foliage, and checquering the shade below, or shooting down on the little curling eddies of the Jordan, and giving life to them with the most sparkling touches of illumination. Then think of the crash of the orchestra of birds that filled those trees, and those evergreen bushes, and that perpetually piled their little instruments from before sunrise until sunset, during what might be called the height of their season, and which was quite enough, if once heard, to have shut up any other opera house that might have dared to have ventured into competition with them in their neighbourhood. Among these feathered performers, we speak not of the blackbirds and the thrushes, that seemed to us to excel all the blackbirds and thrushes that we ever heard, and we have heard a great many, but the superior cheerfulness of the very sparrows of Blackford was something most remarkable. How often have their glad and clamorous chirpings come into harmony in our hearts with those sudden glints of sunshine which poured simultaneously down on us over the ridge of the hill, after one of those short spring showers that filled the air with perfume, and hung diamonds all over the surrounding spray! In addition to all those sources of calm enjoyment, this little nook was so retired, that for any intrusive thought that might have suggested the proximity of tho rest of the world, it might have been in the wildest part of Sutherlandshire, except when the distant city bell came through the calm air, and this only served to give an additional zest to its privacy. We have written in the past tense, but we have no reason to suspect that Blackford has undergone any very great change in any of the particulars we have described. But alas! the spirit of the place has flown! Our much-venerated friend, the good old lady, who so long dwelt there, is gone!

Bear with us, kind and gentle reader, whilst we ask yon to imagine to yourself our approaching the house, and lifting the little brass knocker of which we spoke, and the door being opened by a pretty, modest-looking young maiden, who smiles and curtsies as she perceives us to be a well-known friend, and readily replies to our question as to her mistress being at home. If the day or the ways have been in the least degree foul, conceive the solicitous seraping of shoes on our part, and the rubbing for at least five minutes on the mat, so as to render our feet pure enough to pass over the pavement of that little hall, which, in colour, is like the fairest virgin paper. At last something like cleanliness is effected, and, proceeding on tiptoe along the neat carpet, we are ushered into the parlour. There we find, seated in her arm-chair, but springing from it in a moment to meet us half-way across the room, an old lady, of a handsome dignified countenance, lighted up with clear, black, benevolent eyes, and of tall and commanding figure, though modified by a very slight bend; but, indeed, the mild expression of her features and general air was enough at once to satisfy the most perfect stranger, that the commanding tone was one she could never assume. No! every lineament of that face was replete with the kindliest human expression, and, if it had been otherwise, how much would they have proved false to the spirit within, which was indeed one of the gentlest and most beneficent that ever warmed human bosom? Those who did not know her so well as we did might have supposed her to have been but a little above seventy years of age only, from the freshness and vigour she displayed; but we, who were aware that in her younger days she had flirted with our father, knew that she had seen ninety years. But oh, how green and vigorous her old age was, both in body and mind ! and how fresh and warm were all her affections! and how very indefatigable she was in doing good! and how utterly careless she was as to everything that regarded her own personal happiness or comfort! How she used to walk off sturdily to town, about two miles distant, to pay her visits of friendship and of charity, and to return! and how numerous were those errands of benevolence which she thus did in her own person, in order that no one else might know anything about them!

We have shown that, by hereditary right, and, we may also add, that on our own proper account, we were excessively deep in her affections; and when we appeared, she not only sprung up, as we have already described, with great elasticity to meet us, but she led us to a chair, beside that which she occupied, and the longer we thus sat together, it always seemed to us to be tho more difficult to escape. How excellent were her buns, her shortbread, and her cakes, and how very good was her raspberry cordial and her cherry brandy, both of her own manufacture, and quite rivalling her noyaux, which came direct to her from France! But oh, how interesting were the old stories that she told! and how racily were they narrated in the purest Scottish vernacular, and how perfectly did she bring back and vivify people, of whom we have heard much, but whom we had not lived early enough to know personally! Scandal, either malevolent or idle, never came from her lips, which were continually employed in dropping kind and charitable expressions regarding all mankind. We shall never forget her feasts ! for, although we had often the good fortune to dine with her at other times, she had her regular seasons of festivity. A fat stot—which, for the benefit of Englishmen who have partaken of tho animal at the London coffee-house in the shape of a rump steak, without knowing its native name, we beg to translate as a fat Highland bullock— which had been fed on her brother the laird's ancient pasture, was slaughtered before Martinmas, and we had the honour to receive a kind invitation to dine on it every Sunday whilst it lasted. And what capital dinners! plain, but substantial, and always a small collection of nice people to eat them. And can we over forget the good-humourod discussions which we used to originate, proceeding on our old-established right to these annual festivals of love, as to the number of Sundays they ought in justice to endure ? This obviously much depended on the time at which the beast was slaughtered. If it chanced to be killed towards the end of a week, then a little more than three weeks made out the four Sunday dinners ; but if a termination was put to its existence early in a week, as on a Monday or Tuesday, the odds were ten to one against the endurance of the carcase for a fourth Sunday dinner. And stoutly and eloquently did we contend on such occasions for tho preservation of oar rights, and great was the hilarity produced by the manner in which our important legal case was conducted. Happy, happy and innocent hours of revelry ! Alas! they have passed away like the clouds of those years in which they took place ; and she who was then so perfect and beloved a reality—she to whose kind and benevolent heart we owed so much of gladness, and from whose bountiful hand the dinners of so many a poor family were dispensed—is now to us as much a dream of this earth as they were, for she now rests where we with tears beheld her deposited, to moulder into dost in the family mausoleum. Let the reader only in fancy recal the old place of Blackford, with the sun glinting down on the gravel before its door, and fully illuminating her aged but firm figure as she stands giving directions to her gardener, and then let him fancy how we can bear to revisit it, when everything we behold around us reminds us that we can never see her there again!

After leaving Blackford, the Jordan runs through a natural valley in the pastoral enclosures of the estate, which was the ancient Grange or Farm of St. Giles’s Cathedral. The old place itself, which, with its antique turrets, terraces, and gardens, are preserved in their original style, may be worth noticing as having been the residence, during the few last years of his life, of Dr. Robertson, the historian, author of the Histories of Scotland, of America, of Charles V., &c., and here it was that he died. It may be also worth remarking, that when Prince Charles held his court at Holyrood, he visited the family here, and presented them with the thistle from his bonnet, which is still preserved in the house with great care.

Escaping from the Grange property, the stream if, for tha first time, employed in contributing a share of its strength towards the promotion of the manufactures of its country, by affording the necessary supply of water to a pretty considerable tanning establishment; after which it runs down a continuance of the same valley, having gardens on its left bank, and a fine stretch of rich arable fields on the other. It then washes the walls of the new cemetery called the Newington Necropolis, which is partially laid out on the slopes of its left bank, and which is doubtless destined to contain the ashes of many a great and good man and woman. After leaving this, our little stream approaches a place called Sharpdale, nearly opposite to the pretty residence of “The Cameron,’’ which is a small appendage to the Prestonfield estate.

Here opens to us a field of geological and antiquarian research, and etymological disenssion, which, to folks of our speculative kidney, is almost too tempting to be resisted, did we not feel that it is much too extensive for ns to call upon our readers to follow us through it. But, on the other hand, we fear we might be accused of undue negligence, if we permitted ourselves to pass it by altogether without notice. To save time, however, we will ask of the reader, without putting us to the expense of finding arguments, or himself to that of finding patience to listen to them, to take it for granted, on our authority, that the Lake of Duddingstone, or some other lake of much larger extent, once covered all the plain here, and encircling a little islet where the house of “The Inch” stands—in this way conferred on it its name. In this state of things, “The Cameron” was “the crooked-nosed promontory” that here thrust itself into the lake. At the time when this was the condition of matters, our Jordan must have here finished its course; but since this large loch has disappeared, or receded from its ancient bounds, the existence of the stream has been extended, and it has been led to pursue a somewhat devious course, as it passes through the grounds of Prestonfield, afterwards to receive the stream of the Burn of Braid, near the place where it enters the Park of Budding-stone House. Just above this point, it is joined by the small stream supplied by and discharged from the loch. In this last part of its course, although it perfumes the summer air with its beds of Queen of the Meadow, its more immediate banks possess few features of interest either pictorial or historical. But the objects at some distance from them on either side are well worthy of notice. Prestonfield, the seat of Sir Robert Keith Bick Conynghame, is a fine old place, which has been a good deal modernised. It stands among some ancient trees; and, to the north of it, the bold face of Arthur Seat rises very grandly. It is now quite bare of timber, but we believe that not much more than a century and a half, or perhaps two centuries, have elapsed since it was covered with oak wood, for the destruction of which every possible encouragement was held out by the authorities, seeing that it served as a place of shelter “for all manner of thieves and lymmers.”

A lower projection of the hill exhibits, that curious basaltic series of prismatic bent columns which are known by the name of Samson's Ribs ; and above these, the line of the grand new Victoria Road, executed by the Honourable the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, in a style which might almost with troth be asserted to rival that of the Simplon itself, is seen stretching along the face of the hill, and affording, at every step you move, a changeful series of views of the utmost richness and grandeur, rendering this pleasing drive through the Royal Park of Holyrood altogether one of the most remarkable that the vicinity of any great European city can boast of. It was by this side of the hill that Prince Charles and his Highlanders marched both to and from the battle of Prestonpans in 1745, and their encampment was on the green slope nnder the rock of Dunsappio, and immediately over the village of Duddingstone.

This is a very pretty little village, chiefly composed of nice houses, each with its pleasant garden. The church, which stands on a knoll rising over the lake, is old and curious, and the manse and its terrace gardens, which are in themselves most lovely, are rendered doubly so to us from their association in our minds with many an innocent, happy, intellectual, and instructive hour which we have had the good fortune to pass there with a late incumbent, the Rev. John Thomson. In his parish he was warmly estimated for his deeds of Christian kindness and charity ; but by the world at large he was chiefly known by the exquisite landscapes he painted, which, in regard to composition and colouring, were always foil of the highest poetical imagination and feeling. To this day, he stands unrivalled in these particulars. But great as were his talents in this fascinating art, as well as in the sister art of music, the science of which he deeply understood, we who partook of the closest intimacy of friendship with him—who knew his head, and the wonderful extent of his information, and the acuteness of his perception, which enabled him to take an immediate grasp of any subject, and to discuss it with a truth and a clearness that rendered him almost unrivalled in conversation, and with a playfulness of manner, too, that made everything, however valuable, fall from him like dew-drops shaken from the lion's mane; and, above all, wo who knew that generous and feeling heart, which was at all times prompting him to afford ns lessons in his own person of pure practical Christianity—are disposed to give but a secondary place to that high accomplishment which has gained him so public and so permanent a name. How lovely has that retired lake often appeared to us, when, tired with the turmoil of the city, we, often in company with the late amiable Grecian Williams, have sought shelter for an hour or two from its bustle in his improving society! and how have we watched the effect of sunset, pouring its level rays past the southern shoulder of Arthur Seat, and lighting up the whole of its snrface into one golden flame!

Considerably to the right of the course of our Jordan, there is a very old Scottish mansion, known by the name of Peffer Mill, which most people have set down as the true and legitimate place of Dumbiedykes. But a still more striking feature in the surrounding landscape is that most interesting ruin, Craigmillar Castle, which crowns the rising ground to the south. As our tributary, the Burn of Braid, runs to the north of it, we should perhaps, under a more strict attention to order, have left it for notice whilst describing that stream; but, as it comes so prominently into view here, we may perhaps as well discuss it now. It was an ancient seat of the Prestons, who continued in possession of it for about three hundred years. Their arms are to be found upon it; and in one place, on the lintel of a doorway in the outer courtyard wall, a pun on the name is carved in the form of a wine press and a ton. The arms of the Cockburns of Ormiston, the Congaltons of Congalton, the Mowbrays of Barnbougle, and the Otterburns of Redford, all ancient families with whom the Prestons were intimately connected, are to be found here. King James V. resided here for some months during his minority, having been obliged to leave Edinburgh Castle on account of the plague. But the best known and most interesting association with this castle is, that Queen Mary frequently made it her residence after her return from France in 1561, and her French retinue were quartered in a small village at the foot of the southern side of the hill, which was thence called Petit France, a name which it still retains to this day.

We have now followed the Jordan from its source till it receives the Burn of Braid. Before tracing it hence downwards to the sea, we must give a short and very general notion of the beauties of this its sister stream. The Bum of Braid rises from two separate sources in the Pentland Hills, above Lord Cockbum’s residence of Bonaly ; and it was this fact which misled one of the disputants in regard to the source of the Jordan. These streams unite in, and give great additional beauty to, the lovely wilderness of sweets which art and taste have created here. The place itself is a beautiful retreat, and the views of the distant city and country from some of its terraces are matchless. But, interesting as it would be as a theme to expatiate upon, how much more interesting, and how much more extensive would be that which is famished by the very name of the owner! And we ask our reader, whether we are not really and truly merciful in quietly submitting to abandon so prolific a subject, which might have enabled us, without any great risk of being thought unreasonable, to have given an account of the origin and early history of the Edinburgh Review, together with a recapitulation of all the most celebrated criminal trials in Scotland for many years back, together with an outline of every rational scheme that has ever been brought forward in recent times for ameliorating the political, the physical, or the moral condition of the people?

After leaving Bonaly, the stream passes through the extensivo grounds of Dreghora, thence through an agricultural country, which is without any great or particular marked object of interest, until it throws itself into the deep and romantic rocky and grandly wooded Glen of Braid, whence it receives its name. This opens longitudinally between the two hills of Blackford and of Baird. A more wild or beautiful scene for solitary contemplation cannot be imagined ; and here is the House of Braid, which has fancifully been called "The Hermitage,” to which its position more than its architecture may give it some claim. This was the principal estate of Sir William Dick, whose history we have already given. It passed from him to his eldest son, and from him into the family of the Browns of Gorgie, who had heavy mortgages on it. After passing out of the eternal shade of this dark part of the glen, the stream runs sparkling along the more open part of it for more than a mile, where not a tree occurs to throw a shadow over its smiling surface. On the south side, there are fine sloping agricultural fields, and high up above them rises the very rude, old, peel tower of Libberton ; whilst, on the north, there are crags ' and large beds of furze, the haunts of linnets and goldfinches, and the immediate banks of the stream are covered with the broad leaves of the Tussllago Petasites, a plant which is so valuable to landscape painters for the enrichment of their foregrounds. The agricultural part of the valley then extends downwards for about a mile, after passing through which the stream skirts the place of "The Inch,” formerly noticed; whence it hurries past the ancient house of Peffer Mill, to form its junction with the Jordan immediately above the point where their united waters enter the park of the Marquis of Abercorn’s delightful residence of Duddingstone House. There, they are tastefully expanded into a very beautiful little lake ; and, upon leaving these grounds, they are made to give motion to some very important mills; after the performance of which duty, they quietly find their way onwards through an extremely rich agricultural district, passing near to the remains of an ancient Roman Road, vulgarly called the Fishwife’s Causeway, from the fisherwomen carrying basket loads of fish to Edinburgh, always preferring to take it in preference to the ordinary highway. This has been much obliterated by the operations of the Great North British Railway, under the viaduct of which the stream afterwards passes in its way to throw itself into the sea, at the northern extremity of the pretty and well-frequented bathing place of Portobello.

We have now completed a task, which we must confess to have been an extremely pleasant one to ourselves, however it may have affected our readers; and offering to them, as we now do, this account of our little Jordan as our primitice in regard to our articles on the Scottish Rivers, we leave them, upon the principle of “Ex pede Hercidem,” to judge as to what they may look for when we come to our Clyde or our Tweed, our Spey or our Findhorn.

Return to our Historic Articles Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus