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Byways of the Scottish Border
The Downie Dens o' Yarrow

THE sunshine falls warmly in the inn doorway and on the road in front; and the sky, despite the ominous darkness of last night, is all but clear of cloud. No sound of rude traffic breaks upon the pastoral stillness of the spot. Only the river below, murmuring over its pebbles, seems recounting to itself the old-world memories of the banks between which it runs. Though it is not yet nine o’clock, yonder blithe lass in shepherd-tartan plaid, and with a basket on her arm, singing to herself as she comes up the road, has been down to Yarrow Feus already. She turns across the bridge a hundred yards off, on her way, says the landlady, to Hogg’s Farm of Altrive Lake. The place lies less than a mile away, and the road thither leads on through the hills to the ruined keep of Tushielaw on the Ettrick—a pleasant forenoon’s ramble. It would surely be a mistake to pass through the most storied valley of the Border without making a pilgrimage to the home of its sweet singer. A word, then, to "mine hostess;" as to fare later on, a moment to pocket some temporary provender, and then away after yonder gentle pioneer.

Hogg had dedicated his "Queen’s Wake" to the Duchess of Buccleuch, and she on her deathbed besought her husband to "remember her poor poet." The Duke accordingly bestowed the little farm of Altrive Lake upon Hogg for life, without rent or fee; and, grateful to his patron, the Ettrick Shepherd came to live on the spot in 1815. Here in 1819, he brought his lady wife, to make it "the dearest spot on earth to him;" here he reared the "flowers of the forest," as he called his children; and here, in 1835, he died, three years after Sir Walter Scott. A thousand times, one cannot help remembering, must the bright-eyed poet have strolled down this road, carrying in his heart, as Christopher North averred, the dream of Kilmeny, or, as is perhaps more likely, with the smile wreathing his lip at some remembered word of wife or child. In one of the Noctes Ambrosiana, he is himself made to describe his winter life here: "Mony and mony a day o’ drivin’ rain and blastin’ ‘sleet and driftin’ snaw hae I been out frae morn till nicht amang the hills—ay, sir, frae nicht till morn—a’ through the wild sughing hours o’ the mirk nichts o’ winter." Certain it is that upon many a summer morning he gathered inspiration from these quiet hills. Carlyle has left a vivid, if somewhat depreciating sketch of the Shepherd. "Hogg," he says, "is a little red-skinned, stiff rack of a body, with quite the common air of an Ettrick shepherd, except that he has a highish, though sloping brow, among his yellow grizzled hair, and two clear little beads of blue or grey eyes that sparkle, if not with thought, yet with animation." The sage of Craigenputtock proceeds further to condescend upon the social qualities of "this poor man," remarking especially that along with his boundless good nature, his vanity seemed to be immense.

This charge of vanity has been made the occasion for much indulgent patronizing of the poet, but it has been well answered by Mr Borland in Yarrow, its Poets and Poetry. " Even in this respect," he says, "Hogg compares not unfavourably with his contemporaries. He was certainly less self-conscious than either Byron or Keats, or for that matter, Wordsworth—humble as he was to all outward seeming; and in Hogg’s case there was more excuse for such a failing. He was all but uneducated, and consequently the distinction he attained as a man of letters was due to his genius and indomitable perseverance. From the obscurity of his shepherd life he suddenly burst upon the world as a great poet. He could number among his friends many of the foremost men of his age in learning, intellect, and social position. In these circumstances his vanity, such as it was, need surprise no one. The wonder really is, all things considered, that he was so well able to keep his feet on the ground." Of the Shepherd’s further qualities, on the other hand, perhaps Carlyle was not in all respects the best judge. During his twenty years’ residence at Altrive Lake, Hogg probably entertained, freely and heartily, more visitors to the neighbourhood than, to judge from all accounts, the friends who were received critically, and afterwards cynically pulled to pieces, by Carlyle during all his long life. A thousand times the Shepherd has betaken himself, rod in hand, and in the company of some chosen guest, to angle in the rushing Yarrow; and as often has he returned at night with heavy basket, to install his tired friend by the genial hearth at Altrive. For Hogg, with the narrow estate of a yeoman, had the hospitable heart of a prince. The Shepherd was, in fact, in his time, the indispensable cicerone to Yarrow and St Mary’s Loch, and of the throngs of guests who were entertained with such boundless hospitality at Abbotsford by Scott, no small proportion sooner or later found themselves visiting the classic springs of Yarrow under the guidance of Hogg. Wordsworth, in the opening stanzas of his poem on Hogg’s death, gives an indication of what was almost a custom.

When first, descending from the moorlands,

I saw the stream of Yarrow glide
Along a bare and open valley,
The Ettrick Shepherd was my guide.
When last along its banks I wandered,
Through groves that had begun to shed
Their golden leaves upon the pathways,
My steps the Border Minstrel led.

Wordsworth’s first visit to Yarrow was in 1814. In the note to his poem of the occasion, which has been already quoted on a former page, he says: "We had lodged the night before at Traquhair, where Hogg had joined us, and also Dr Anderson, the editor of the ‘British Poets,’ who was on a visit at the Manse. Dr A. walked with us till we came in view of the Vale of Yarrow, and being advanced in life he then turned back." Upon the Lake Poet’s last visit to the neighbourhood, of which his ‘Yarrow Revisited’ was a memorial, he stayed at Abbotsford, and visited the scenes of interest on the lower reaches of the stream in the company of his host.

Throughout the many years of their acquaintance, Hogg held a warm place in the regard of Scott himself. While by no means blind to the Shepherd’s failings, the great novelist had an eye to perceive the true genius and heart of his humbler friend.

Sir Walter’s last meeting with Hogg may be given as narrated by Professor Veitch. "Scott had sent him word that he was to pass down the Yarrow from Drumlanrig, on his way to Abbots-ford. The carriage stopped at the small inn, the Gordon Arms, and here the Shepherd met Sir Walter. They walked down the road past Mount Benger, Sir Walter leaning heavily on Hogg’s arm, and walking very feebly. The Shepherd noticed the change, bodily and mental, in the great man whom he honoured — almost worshipped. There was some talk, not of a very clear kind, but kindly and affectionate. It was exactly twenty-nine years before, that Hogg, a young man, had met Scott in his mother’s cottage at Ettrick Hall, when the editor of the Minstrelsy was sowing the seed that had ripened during those intervening years into that glorious golden harvest of poem and romance—as rich an outcome of one man’s life as the world had ever seen. Here, appropriately enough, in beloved Yarrow—dear to Hogg, and dearest vale on earth to Scott—the two poets whom Yarrow herself had quickened and nourished, parted for the last time on earth."

All day might be spent lingering here amid the scenes of old Border memories—the Hart’s Leap, marked by two stones, where the last hart in Ettrick, shot by Andrew Telfer, James VI.’s hunts-man, made a dying spring of 27 feet; the ruined keep of Tushielaw on Ettrick bank, where, if tradition were to be believed, James V., in. 1529, executed swift, sharp justice by hanging the reiver Adam Scott over his own gate; Ettrick Kirk, where Thomas Boston spent the years of his ministry, writing the once famous "Fourfold State," "The Crook in the Lot," and other books; and where, far from the haunts of busy men, he raised himself to be one of the greatest scholars and theologians of his

day; and Ettrick Kirkyard, where, close by the vault of the Scotts of Thiristane, lie the remains of James Hogg and of his quondam hostess, Tibbie Shiel.1 [1 ‘When Hogg was buried here in 1835, three years after the death of Scott, his genial caricaturist and comrade of other times, the author of the Noctes Ambrosiana, was not absent from the funeral. "Who that was present," says Dr Russell when describing the scene in his ‘Reminiscences,’ "could forget the noble form of John Wilson—a model for a sculptor—as he stood at the top of the grave, his cloak wrapped round him, his head uncovered, his long auburn hair streaming in the wind, while tears flowed down his manly countenance?"] But the countryside by Yarrow Water remains to be traversed yet, and the hours wear all too quickly on.

Below the Gordon Arms Inn on Yarrow side stands the monument of one of the Ettrick Shepherd’s many misfortunes — Mount Benger farm. In the famous Noctes he is made to speak with high hope of his new adventure here; but the leasing of the place tied a millstone round his neck which dragged upon him till his last day. Hogg, it is to be feared, was, like his master Burns, no great farmer. His ear had caught the music of the horns of elfland, and his heart thenceforth was in that enchanted world.

Below the windows of the house the river runs, growing in volume, to the village of Yarrow Feus; and here, in the heart of Border song-land, lies the scene of the fatal combat so greatly renowned in minstrelsy.

"Annan-street," to the west of Yarrow Kirk, is the spot pointed out by tradition as the scene of the fight. The legend of the locality simply runs that here a deadly feud was settled by force of arms. The two lords, or leaders, it is said, fell at the upright stones, and the bodies of the other slain were thrown into "The Dead Lake," a marshy pool in the haugh close by. Scott conjectured, from this tradition and a passage in Nisbet’s Heraldry, that this was the Deucharswyre, where Walter, third son of Robert Scott of Thiristane, was waylaid and slain by his brother-in-law, John Scott of Tushielaw, the feud having been caused by the lady’s father allotting her a dowry larger than her grasping brother could approve. By Mr T. Craig-Brown’s "History of Selkirkshire," however, a new light has been shed on the subject. The slain Walter Scott of the duel at Deucharswyre, it appears, was not a brother-in-law of Scott of Tushielaw, his opponent, his wife being a daughter of Sir Patrick Porteous. Deuchar, moreover, lies somewhat further down the Yarrow—a peel called Deuchar Tower having stood at the north-west end of the old bridge over the river below Yarrow Kirk. The ballad must therefore be taken to refer to another incident. This seems to be furnished by the records of the Presbytery of Selkirk. In these it is recorded that in 1616 Walter Scott of Tushielaw made "an informal and inordinat marriage with Grizell Scott of Thiristane, without consent of her father." Three months after the elopement, the same records contain entry of a summons to Simeon Scott of Bonytoun, an adherent of Thiristane, and three other Scotts, "to compear in Melrose to hear themselves excommunicat for the horrible slaughter of Walter Scott." Here then, it would appear, is the most probable subject of the ballad, agreeing both with tradition and with the narrative of the unknown poet.


Late at e’en, drinking the wine,
And ere they paid the lawing, [Reckoning]
They set a combat them between,
To fight it in the dawing.

"O, stay at hame, my noble lord,
O, stay at hame, my marrow !
My cruel brother will you betray
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow."

"O, fare ye wee!, my lady gay!
Fareweel, my winsome marrow!
For I maim gae, though I ne’er return
Frae the dowie houms o’ Yarrow."

She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair,
As oft she had done before, O;
She belted him with his noble brand,
And he’s away to Yarrow.

As he gaed up the Tennies bank
I wot he gaed with sorrow,
Till he espied nine armed men
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow.

"O, come ye here to part your land,
The bonnie Forest thorough?
Or come ye here to wield your brand,
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow?"

"I come not here to part my land,
And neither to beg nor borrow;
I come to wield my noble brand,
On the bonnie banks o’ Yarrow.

If I see all, ye’re nine to ane,
And that’s an unequal marrow;
Yet will I fight, while lasts my brand,
On the bonnie banks o’ Yarrow."

Four has he hurt, and five has slain,
On the bloody braes o’ Yarrow;
Till a coward knight came him behind,
And ran his body thorough.

"Gae hame, gae hame, good-brother John,
And tell my winsome marrow
To come and lift her leafu’ lord,
He’s sleeping sound on Yarrow."

As he gaed o’er yon high, high hill,
As he had done before, O,
It’s there he met his sister dear,
Fast running on to Yarrow.

"Yestreen I dreamed a dolefu’ dream,
I fear there will be sorrow!
I dreamed I pu’d the birk sae green
Wi’ my true love on Yarrow.

"O, gentle wind, that bloweth south
From where my love repaireth,
Convey a kiss from his dear mouth,
And tell me how he fareth!

For in the glen strive armed men;
They ‘ye wrought me dule and sorrow;
They ‘ye slain—the comeliest knight they’ve slain—
He bleeding lies on Yarrow."

As she sped down yon high, high hill,
She gaed wi dule and sorrow
And in the den spied ten slain men,
On the dowie banks o’ Yarrow.

She kissed his cheek, she kaimed his hair,
She searched his wounds all thorough;
She kissed him till her lips grew red,
On the dowie houms o’ Yarrow.

"Now haud your tongue, my daughter dear!
For a’ this breeds but sorrow;
I’ll wed you to a better lord
Than him ye lost on Yarrow."

"O, haud your tongue, my father dear!
Ye mind me but of sorrow;
A fairer rose did never bloom
Than now lies cropped on Yarrow."

Such is the pitiful story of the place as told by tradition and song—the story to which, most of all, perhaps, the quiet little valley owes its fame.

Another ballad exists in fragmentary form, which is supposed by some to refer to the same incident as the ballad just quoted. It refers, at any rate, to a similar tragedy—one which must have been frequent enough in the days when might was right— of a lady losing her lover by violence or accident; but the finding of the slain man occurs in a different way.


"Willie’s rare and Willie’s fair,
And Willie’s wondrous bonnie,
And Willie hecht to marry me
Gin e’er he married ony.

"Yestreen I made my bed fu’ braid,
The nicht I‘ll make it narrow;
For a’ the live-lang winter nicht,
I’ll lie twined’ o’ my marrow.

"O cam’ ye by yon water side?
Pu’d you the rose or lily?
Or cam’ you by yon meadow green?
Or saw you my sweet Willie?"

"She sought him east, she sought him west,
She sought him braid and narrow;
Syne, in the cleavin’ o’ a craig,
She found him drowned in Yarrow.

She ‘s ta’en three links o’ her yellow hair,
That hung down lang and yellow,
And she’s tied it about sweet Willie’s waist,
And drawn him out o’ Yarrow.

In the early part of last century a sequel to the ancient ballad of "The Dowie Dens," was written by Hamilton of Bangour.2 [William Hamilton of Bangour—so called to distinguish him from William Hamilton of Gilbertfleld, the translator of Henry the Minstrel’s Wallace into modern Scots—was born in 1704, of an ancient Ayrshire family. Before the age of twenty he was a contributor to Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany, and for his refinement and accomplishments he was presently spoken of in the fashionable world of his time as "the elegant and amiable Hamilton." He joined the rising of ‘45, and distinguished himself by an ode on Gladsmuir (otherwise Prestonpans) as laureate of the Jacobites. After Cuiloden he shared the perils and privations of the Prince’s other followers among the mountains, before escaping to France. Afterwards pardoned, and having his estates restored to him, he returned home; but failing ill of consumption, he died at Lyons in 1754. Sir George Douglas, Bart., to whose very interesting collection of Scottish Minor Poets these particulars are owed, adds :—" It is probably unnecessary to remind the reader that ‘The Braes of Yarrow,’ with its yearning pathos, its fresh touches of nature, its tragic passion, and its haunting tune, has the distinction of having served as a source of inspiration to Wordsworth."] This for its beauty and pathos merits a place in the poetry of the spot only second to the traditional song.


Busk ye, busk ye, my bonnie, bonnie bride!
Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow!
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonnie, bonnie bride,
And think nae mair on the braes of Yarrow!"

"Where got ye that bonnie, bonnie bride?
Where got ye that winsome marrow!"
I got her where I durst not weel be seen—
Pu’ing the birks on the braes of Yarrow.

Weep not, weep not, my bonnie, bonnie bride!
Weep not, weep not, my winsome marrow!
Nor let thy heart lament to leave
Pu’ing the birks on the braes of Yarrow."

Why does she weep, thy bonnie, bonnie bride?
Why does she weep, thy winsome marrow?
And why dare ye nae mair wee! be seen
Pu’ing the birks on the braes of Yarrow?"

Lang maun she weep, lang maun she, maun she weep,
Lang maun she weep with dule and sorrow;
And lang maun I nae mair weel be seen
Pu’ing the birks on the braes of Yarrow.

‘For she has tint her lover, lover dear—
Her lover dear, the cause of sorrow;
And I have slain the comeliest swain
That e’er pu’d birks on the braes of Yarrow!

"Why runs thy stream, O Yarrow, Yarrow, reid?
Why on thy braes is heard the voice of sorrow?
And why yon melancholious weeds
Hung on the bonnie birks of Yarrow?

"What ‘s yonder floats on the rueful, rueful flood?
What ‘s yonder floats? O dule and sorrow1
‘T is he, the comely swain I slew
Upon the duleful braes of Yarrow.

"Wash, O wash his wounds, his wounds in tears—
His wounds in tears of dule and sorrow;
And wrap his limbs in mourning weeds,
And lay him on the braes of Yarrow.

"Then build, then build, ye sisters, sisters sad,
Ye sisters sad, his tomb with sorrow;
And weep around, in woeful wise,
His hapless fate on the braes of Yarrow.

Curse ye, curse ye, his useless, useless shield,
My arm that wrought the deed of sorrow,
The fatal spear that pierced his breast—
His comely breast on the braes of Yarrow!

‘ Did I not warn thee not to, not to love,
And warn from fight? but, to my sorrow,
Too rashly bold! a stronger arm
Thou met’st—and fell on the braes of Yarrow!"

Sweet smells the birk, green grows, green grows the grass,
Yellow on Yarrow’s braes the gowan;
Fair hangs the apple fran the rock,
Sweet the wave of Yarrow flowing!"

Flows Yarrow sweet? As sweet, as sweet flows Tweed,
As green its grass, its gowan as yellow;
As sweet smells on its braes the birk,
The apple from its rocks as mellow.

Fair was thy love, fair, fair indeed thy love;
In flowery bands thou didst him fetter;
Though he was fair, and well beloved again,
Than me he never loved thee better.

"Busk ye then, busk, my bonnie, bonnie bride!
Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow!
Busk ye, and lo’e me on the banks of Tweed,
And think nan mair on the braes of Yarrow."

"How can I busk, a bonnie, bonnie bride?
How can I busk, a winsome marrow?
How lo’e him on the banks of Tweed
That slew my love on the braes of Yarrow?

"O Yarrow fields, may never, never rain,
Nor dew, thy tender blossoms cover!
For there was basely slain my love—
My love, as he had not been a lover!

"The boy put on his robes, his robes of green,
His purple vest—’twas my ain sewin’ !
Ah, wretched me! I little, little knew
He was in these to meet his ruin!

"The boy took out his milk-white, milk-white steed,
Unheedful of my dule and sorrow;
But ere the to-fall of the night
He lay a corpse on the braes of Yarrow.

"Much I rejoiced that woeful, woeful day;
I sang—my voice the woods returning;
But long ere night the spear was flown
That slew my love and left me mourning.

"What can my barbarous, barbarous father do,
But with his cruel rage pursue me?
My lover’s blood is on thy spear;
How canst thou, barbarous man, then, woo me?

"My happy sisters may be, may be proud;
With cruel and ungentle scoffin’
May bid me seek on Yarrow’s braes
My lover nailed in his coffin.

"My brother Douglas may upbraid,
And strive with threatening words to move me :—
My lover’s blood is on thy spear,
How canst thou ever bid me love thee?

"Yes, yes, prepare the bed, the bed of love—
With bridal sheets my body cover;
Unbar, ye bridal maids, the door,
Let in the expected husband lover!

"But who the expected husband, husband is?
His hands, methinks, are bathed in slaughter:
Ah me! what ghastly spectre’s yon
Comes in his pale shroud bleeding after?

"Pale as he is, here lay him, lay him down;
O lay his cold head on my pillow;
Take off, take off these bridal weeds,
And crown my careful head with willow.

Pale though thou art, yet best, yet best beloved,
O, could my warmth to life restore thee,
Ye ‘d lie all night between my breasts—
No youth lay ever there before thee!

"Pale, pale indeed! O lovely, lovely youth,
Forgive, forgive so foul a slaughter,
And lie all night between my breasts—
No youth shall ever lie there after!"

Return, return, O mournful, mournful bride!
Return, and dry thy useless sorrow!
Thy lover heeds nought of thy sighs—
He lies a corpse on the braes of Yarrow."

Yarrow, however, it would appear, has reason much greater than has hitherto been generally supposed, to be looked on as a place of tragic grief. A still more ancient, if less known, interest exists about this spot; for the great stones standing here are not, as locally supposed, memorials of the conflict celebrated in the ballad of "The Dowie Dens." There are, in all, four stones standing — one close by the entrance to Yarrow Kirk; another, "The Warrior’s Rest," at the shepherd’s house; a third, said by tradition to be the scene of the tragedy, in the manse glebe; and the fourth, the stone containing the inscription, on the farm of Whitehope. Previous to 1808 the neighbourhood of the glebe was a low waste moor, with some twenty large cairns upon it, in which, when opened, were found some heaps of fine yellow dust and the head of an antique spear. About three hundred yards further to the west, when the strath was being broken in by the plough, a large flat stone was laid bare. It contained a Latin inscription, rudely engraved, and under it were discovered human bones and ashes. This block of greywacke is the famous Yarrow Stone, and the lettering upon it is said to be the only known inscription of the British Cymry, who, after the legions left, held the country between the Roman walls—the race of whom Arthur was king. The first part of the lettering has been made out as "Hic memoria Cetiloi ;" and an ingenious archaologist in the Glasgow Herald, a few years ago, by comparing the chronicles of Bede and Tighernae, identified in

the spot the Denisesburn, and, according to Nennius, the Catscaul (the latter name remains transposed in Catslack Burn close by), where in 632 A.D., in a great battle of rival races, Cation, King of the Britons, was defeated and slain by Oswald, King of the Angles of Northumbria. Following this clue the same writer suggested, as the complete rendering of the inscription: "This stone is in memory of Cetilon and his son, Princes and Imperators of Dumnogenium." By this rendering, he concludes, "the Cetilon of the Yarrow Stone would be proved to be the Cadwalla of Bede and of the Saxon Chronicle, who was a more cruel and bitter enemy to the Angles than Arthur." A strange and terrible chapter of history to be turned up by the share of a peaceful plough!

But memories of many centuries gather thickly in the little valley. At all times the Borderland has felt the stirring of the nation’s tides, and the legends of Yarrow form a fair index to the history of the country at large. During one of the Border feuds an ancestress of the -Buccleuch family was burned to death in Catslack Tower, now demolished. To the same tower, as a well - known ballad relates, came Jamie Telfer in distress, on his way to Branksome Ha’ to claim the help of Buccleuch, on a night of 1582—

And when he cam’ to the Catslack hill
He shouted loud, and cried weel hie,
Till out and spak’ him William’s Wat,
O wha ‘s this brings the fray to me?"

"It ‘s I, Jamie Telfer o’ the fair Dodhead,
A harried man I think I be!
The Captain of Bewcastle has driven my gear;
For God’s sake rise and succour me!"

The mighty "Beetle of Yarrow" lies buried in Yarrow Kirkyard, where also lies the great-grandfather of Sir Walter Scott. Further, beside the relics of mediaeval and prehistoric times, the history of the Covenanting struggle might be read by the light of its associations here. Yarrow Manse was the dwelling of John Brenner, of evil memory. One of the curates thrust upon the people by the prelatic acts of Charles II., he is notorious for having played the unworthy part of spy upon his flock. By means of a certain "strange gaunt woman," he was wont to furnish the Government with tidings of conventicles about to be held among the hills, and in this way betrayed the lives of many of the people among whom he was placed, until at last they shot him through his own parlour window.

Within the last hundred years Yarrow Manse has become famous in a gentler way, and has furnished more than one contribution to the literature of the countryside. It was in succession the abode of the Russells, father and son, to whose joint memories and knowledge of the district, its legends, history, and antiquities, are owed the delightful ‘Reminiscences of Yarrow,’ while its present occupant, the Rev. R. Borland, has but recently brought together most of the verse, ancient and modern, of the storied valley, in his book of ‘Yarrow, its Poets and Poetry.’

Newark Castle
Newark Castle

Point after point as the valley descends strikes a chord of old-world interest. Presently the road plunges into the darkness under the heavy woods of Hangingshaw. Here, where the air is rich with wandering forest-scents, stood the stronghold of the Outlaw Murray, prince of the Ishmaelites of the Border, whose famous "Sang," or ballad, Scott says, was popular for ages in Selkirkshire. Not one stone now remains upon another of a stronghold which was once alike the pride and menace of all Ettrick Forest. For centuries it was the seat of the family of Murray, afterwards of Philiphaugh, of which the famous Outlaw was, in the time of James IV., the head. According to tradition, he was a man of immense strength, who, with a huge beetle or club, laid waste the country for miles around. Whether or not the "Sang" relates an actual incident in the life of this warrior remains uncertain. So early as the time of Bruce and Baliol the Philiphaugh family were settled in the district, and it seems more likely that the ballad refers to some incident during the feeble reigns of David II., Robert II., or Robert III. By a charter of James IV., dated November 30, 1509, the hereditary sheriffship of Ettrick Forest was vested in John Murray of Philiphaugh; and it seems probable, as Scott suggests, that the bard, willing to pay his court to the family, has connected the grant of the sheriffship by James IV. with some earlier dispute occurring between the Murrays and their sovereign. In any case, the ballad affords one of the best pictures extant of a medi~val Border episode. The scene of the incidents which it describes was probably the neighbourhood of Hangingshaw itself. Mr Plummer, sheriff-depute of Selkirk, indeed, informed Scott that he remembered over the castle doorway the insignia of the unicorns, &c., so often mentioned in the ballad.


Ettrick Forest is a fair forest,
In it grows mony a seemly tree;
There’s hart and hind, and dae and rae,
And of a’ wild beasts great plentie.

There’s a fair castle, bigg’d’ wi’ lime and stane;
O! gin it stands not pleasantly!
In the forefront o’ that castle fair
Twa unicorns are braw to see;
There’s the picture of a knight, and a lady bright,
And the green hollin abune their brie.

There an Outlaw keeps five hundred men;
He keeps a royal company;
His merrymen are a’ in ae livery clad,
O’ the Lincoln green so gay to see;
He and his lady in purple clad,
O! gin they lived not royally!

Word is gane to our noble king
In Edinburgh, where that he lay,
That there was an outlaw in Ettrick Forest,
Counted him nought, nor a’ his courtrie gay,’

I make a vow," then the gude king said,
"Unto the Man that dear bought me,
I’ll either be king of Ettrick Forest,
Or king of Scotland that Outlaw shall be!"

Then spak’ the lord, hight’ Hamilton,
And to the noble king said he,
"My sovereign prince, some counsel take,
First at your nobles, syne at me.

"I rede ye, send yon braw Outlaw till,
And see if your man come will he;
Desire him come and be your man,
And hold of you yon Forest free.

"If he refuses to do that,
We’ll conquess baith his lands and he,
Or else we’ll throw his castle down,
And make a widow of his gay ladye.’

The king then called a gentleman,
James Boyd (the Earl of Arran his brother was he).
When James he cam’ before the king,
He knelt before him on his knee.

"Welcome, James Boyd!" said our noble king;
"A message ye mann gang for me;
Ye mann hie to Ettrick Forest,
To yon outlaw, where bideth he:

"Ask him of whom he halds his lands,
Or man, wha may his master be;
And desire him come and be my man,
And bald of me yon Forest free.

"To Edinburgh to come and gang,
His safe warrant I shall gi’e;
And gif he refuses to do that,
We‘ll conquess baith his lands and he.

"Thou may’st vow I’ll cast his castle down,
And mu’ a widow of his gay ladye;
I‘ll hang his merrymen pair by pair,
In ony frith where I may them see."

James Boyd took his leave o’ the noble king,
To Ettrick Forest fair cam’ he;
Down Birkendale Brae when that he cam’,
He saw the fair Forest with his e’e.

Baith dae and rae, and hart and hind,
And of all wild beasts great plentie;
He heard the bows that bauldly ring,
And arrows whidderan him near by.

Of that fair castle he got a sight;
The like he ne’er saw with his e’e!
On the forefront o’ that castle fair
Twa unicorns were gay to see,
The picture of a knight, and a lady bright,
And the green hollin abune their brie.

Thereat he spied five hundred men,
Shooting with bows on Newark Lea;
They were a’ in ae livery clad,
O’ the Lincoln green so gay to see.

His men were a’ clad in the green,
The knight was armed cap à pie,
With a bended bow, on a milk-white steed,
And I wot they ranked right bonnily.

Thereby Boyd kenn’d he was master man,
And served him in his am degree.
"God mot thee save, brave Outlaw Murray!
Thy lady, and all thy chivalry!"
"Marry, thou’s welcome, gentleman,
Some king’s messenger thou seems to be."

"The king of Scotland sent me here,
And, gude Outlaw, I am sent to thee.
I would wot of whom ye hold your lands,
Or man, wha may thy master be?"

"These lands are mine !" the Outlaw said;
I ken nae king in Christentie;
Frae Southron I this Forest wan,
When the king nor his knights were not to see."

"He desires you‘ll come to Edinburgh,
And hold of him this Forest free;
And, gif ye refuse to do this,
He‘ll conquess baith thy lands and thee—
He bath vowed to cast thy castle down,
And make a widow of thy gay ladye;

"He‘ll hang thy merrymen pair by pair,
In ony frith where he may them find."
"Aye, by my troth !" the Outlaw said, "
Then would I think me far behind.

Ere the king my fair country get—
This land that‘s nativest to me—
Mony o’ his nobles shall be cauld,
Their ladies shall be right wearie."

Then spake his lady, fair of face;
She said, "Without consent of me,
That an outlaw should come before a king—
I am right rad’ of treasonrie.
Bid him be gude to his lords at hame,
For Edinburgh my lord shall never see."

James Boyd took his leave o’ the Outlaw keen,
To Edinburgh bonn is he;
When James he cam’ before the king
He knelit lowly on his knee.

"Welcome, James Boyd!" said our noble king;
"What forest is Ettrick Forest free?"
"Ettrick Forest is the fairest forest
That ever man saw wi’ his e’e.

"There’s the dae, the rae, the hart, the hind,
And of a’ wild beasts great plentie;
There’s a pretty castle o’ lime and stane;
O gif it stands not pleasantly!

"There ‘s in the forefront o’ that castle
Twa unicorns, sae bmw to see;
There’s the picture of a knight, and a lady bright,
Wi’ the green hollin abune their brie.

"There the Outlaw keeps five hundred men;
He keeps a royal company;
His merrymen in ae livery clad,
O’ the Lincoln green sae gay to see;
He and his lady in purple clad;
O! gin they live not royally!

He says yon Forest is his own;
He wan it frae the Southronie;
Sae as he wan it, sae will he keep it,
Contrair all kings in Christentie."

‘Gar warn me Perthshire and Angus baith;
Fife up and down, and the Lothians three,
And graith my horse!" said our noble king,
"For to Ettrick Forest hie will I me."

Then word is gane the Outlaw till,
In Ettrick Forest, where dwelleth he,
That the king was coming to his country,
To conquess baith his lands and he.

I mak’ a vow," the Outlaw said,
"I mak’ a vow, and that truly,
Were there but three men to take my part,
Yon king’s coming full dear should be!"

Then messengers he called forth,
And bade them hie them speedily :—
Ane of ye gae to Halliday,
The laird of the Corehead is he.

"He certain is my sister’s son;
Bid him come quick and succour me;
The king comes on for Ettrick Forest,
And landless men we a’ will be."

"What news? What news?" said Halliday,
"Man, frae thy master unto me?"
"Not as we would; seeking your aid;
The king’s his mortal enemy."

"Aye, by my troth!" said Halliday,
"Even for that it repenteth me;
For gif ye lose fair Ettrick Forest,
He‘ll tak’ fair Moffatdale frae me.

I ‘11 meet him wi five hundred men,
And surely mair, if mae may be;
And before he gets the Forest fair,
We a’ will die on Newark Lea!"

The Outlaw called a messenger,
And bid him hie him speedily
To Andrew Murray of Cockpool :—
"That man ‘s a dear cousin to me;
Desire him come, and make me aid,
With a’ the power that he may be."

"It stands me hard," Andrew Murray said,
"Judge gif it stands na hard with me;
To enter against a king wi’ crown,
And set my lands in jeopardy!
Yet, if I come not on the day,
Surely at night he shall me see."

To Sir James Murray of Traquair,
A messenger came right speedily.
"What news? What news?" James Murray said,
"Man, frae thy master unto me?"

"What needs I tell? for weel ye ken,
The king ‘s his mortal enemy;
And now he is coming to Ettrick Forest,
And landless men ye a’ will be."

"And, by my troth," James Murray said,
"Wi’ that Outlaw will I live and dee;
The king has gifted my lands lang syne—
It cannot be nae worse wi me."

The king was coming through Caddon Ford,
And full five thousand men was he;
They saw the dark Forest them before,
They thought it awesome for to see.

Then spak’ the lord, hight Hamilton,
And to the noble king said he—
"My sovereign liege, some counsel tak’,
First at your nobles, syne at me.

"Desire him met thee at Penmanscore,
And bring four in his company;
Five earls shall gang yoursel’ before,
Gude cause that you should honoured be.

"And gif he refuses to do that,
We’ll conquess baith his lands and he;
There shall never a Murray, after him,
Hold land in Ettrick Forest free."

Then spak’ the keen laird of Buccleuch,
A stalwart man, and stern was he :—
"For a king to gang an Outlaw till,
Is beneath his state and dignity.

"The man that wons yon forest intil,
He lives by reif and felony!
Wherefore, braid on, my sovereign liege!
Wi’ fire and sword we‘ll follow ye;
Or, gif your courtrie lords fa’ back,
Our Borderers shall the onset gie."

Then out and spake the noble king,
And round him cast a wily e’e
"Now haud thy tongue, Sir Walter Scott,
Nor speak of reif nor felony;
For had every honest man his am kye,
A right pair clan thy name would be!"

The king then called a gentleman,
Royal banner-bearer there was he;
James Hop Pringle of Torsonse, by name
He cam’ and knelt upon his knee.

"Welcome, James Pringle of Torsonse!
A message ye maun gang for me;
Ye maun gae to yon Outlaw Murray,
Surely where bauldly bideth he.

"Bid him meet me at Penmanscore,
And bring four in his company;
Five earls shall come wi’ mysel’,
Gude reason I should honoured be.

"And, gif he refuses to do that,
Bid him look for nae good o’ me!
There shall never a Murray, after him,
Have land in Ettrick Forest free."

James cam’ before the Outlaw keen,
And served him in his am degree :—
Welcome, James Pringle of Torsonse!
What message frae the king to me?"

"He bids ye meet him at Penmanscore,
And bring four in your company;
Five earls shall gang himself before,
Nae mair in number will he be.

And, gif you refuse to do that,
(I freely here upgivel wi’ ye),
He‘ll cast yon bonnie castle down,
And make a widow o’ that gay ladye.

"He’ll loose yon bluidhound Borderers,
Wi’ fire and sword to follow thee;
There will never a Murray, after thysel’,
Have land in Ettrick Forest free."

"It stands me hard," the Outlaw said;
"Judge gif it stands na hard wi’ me!
Wha reck not losing of mysel’,
But a’ my offspring after me.

"My merrymen’s lives, my widow’s tears—
There lies the pang that pinches me!
When I am straught in bluidy eard,
Yon castle will be right dreary.

"Auld Halliday, young Halliday,
Ye shall be twa to gang wi’ me;
Andrew Murray and Sir James Murray,
We‘ll be nae mae in company."

When that they cam’ before the king
They fell before him on their knee:—
Grant mercy, mercy, noble king !
E’en for His sake that died on tree."

"Siccan like mercy shall ye have:
On gallows ye shall hangit be!"
"Over God’s forbode," quoth the Outlaw then,
"I hope your grace will better be!
Else ere you come to Edinburgh port,
I trow thin guarded shall ye be.

These lands of Ettrick Forest fair,
I wan them from the enemy;
Like as I wan them, sae will I keep them,
Contrair a’ kings in Christentie."

All the nobles the king about
Said, "Pity it were to see him dee!"
"Yet grant me mercy, sovereign prince—
Extend your favour unto me!

I‘ll give thee the keys of my castle,
Wi’ the blessing o’ my gay ladye,
Gin thou’lt make me Sheriff of this Forest,
And a’ my offspring after me."

"Wilt thou give me the keys of thy castle,
Wi’ the blessing o’ thy gay ladye?
I’ll make thee sheriff of Ettrick Forest,
Surely while upward grows the tree
If you be not traitor to the king,
Forfaulted’ shalt thou never be.’

"But, Prince, what shall come o’ my men?
When I go back, traitor they‘ll ca’ me.
I had rather lose my life and land,
Ere my merrymen rebuked me."

Will your merrymen amend their lives?
And a’ their pardons I grant thee.
Now, name thy lands where’er they lie,
And here I render them to thee."

"Fair Philiphaugh is mine by right,
And Lewinshope still mine shall be;
Newark, Foulshiels, and Tinnies baith,
My bow and arrow purchased me.

"And I have native steads to me,
The Newark Lea and Hanging Shaw;
I have mony steads in the Forest shaw,
But them by name I dinna knaw."

The keys of the castle he gave the king,
Wi’ the blessing o’ his fair ladye;
He was made Sheriff of Ettrick Forest,
Surely while upward grows the tree;
And if he was na traitor to the king,
Forfaulted he should never be.

Wha ever heard, in ony times,
Siccan an Outlaw in his degree,
Sic favour get before a king,
As did the Outlaw Murray of the Forest free?

After passing, close to the stream, under the shade of the wooded heights on the opposite bank, the village of Yarrowford, with its lights twinkling through the dusk, its pleasant sound of voices, and the tinkle of the village smithy, the road crosses the Yarrow. Swift and dark, and with deep, cool gurgle, the river runs here below its bridge. A lonely and eerie spot it is at such an hour, in the heart of the dark, still woods—the haunt, it well might be, of the ghosts of old marauders, booted and spurred.

The road at this point runs through a sharp angle of the lands of "Sweet Bowhill," a favourite Scottish seat of the Duke of Buccleuch; then the river, murmuring underneath, is crossed again, and the path makes downwards for Foulshiels.

Roofless and tenantless now, the roadside cottage, though humble enough, was a comfortable farmhouse when Mungo Park was born there on 10th September, 1771. The holding was tenanted by his family; hither, after his first adventurous journey into the interior of Africa, he returned to rest, and to taste the early sweets of married life; and from this home he finally started on the Niger journey from which he was never to return. It was just before leaving on that final expedition that the explorer paid a visit to Scott at Ashiestiel which, ending as it did, has become historic. According to Lockhart, it was towards the end of autumn when Park made his farewell visit. After sleeping at Ashiestiel, he set off to ride home across the hills, his host accompanying him. The departing guest, who was full of the project of his new journey, talked of little else. He had but lately married an amiable and beautiful wife, and, among other matters, he mentioned that to save the pain of parting he had determined to say that he had business for a day or two in Edinburgh, and to send his farewells from there. As the riders reached Williamhope ridge, and looked down on Yarrow, the mists floating in the valley below struck Scott’s mind as an emblem of the uncertain prospect lying before his friend. He hinted his thought, but his companion, whose mind was made up, was not to be moved. At last they reached the spot where they had agreed to separate. Here, in crossing the small ditch which divided the road from the moor, Park’s horse stumbled and nearly fell. "I am afraid, Mungo," said Scott, "that is a bad omen." Park, however, answered with an old adage, "Freits follow them that look to them ;" and in a few moments the friends had parted for the last time.

Opposite, crowning the south bank of the Yarrow, rises "the shattered front of Newark’s towers." Once a hunting-seat of James II., the stronghold became, later, the castle of "the bold Buccleuch," and chivalry and tragedy in turn found their home within its walls. In its courtyard the Covenanters massacred their royalist prisoners in cold blood after Philiphaugh;’ burying them in the field to the south still known as "The Slain Men’s Lea." And in Newark, Scott pitched the scene of his first great poem, "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," reviving the old tower’s memories of the past to such effect that to the fancy the place is peopled for all time, by his wizard touch, with dame, and squire, and knight, maiden and minstrel, of a vanished age.

The wanderer to-day about the spot may come upon a little mount, fir-clad, that seems waiting for its story. It is said to have been part of the ancient garden of the castle, and tradition runs that there the Outlaw Murray was at last slain by one of the Scotts.

Carterhaugh, the woody tongue of land below Bowhill, where Yarrow and Ettrick "rush into each other’s arms," is the scene of one of the most famous and most ancient, as it is certainly one of the finest, of the Scottish fairy ballads. This may be left to tell its own tale.


"O I forbid ye, maidens a’,
That wear gowd on your hair,
To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
For young Tamlane is there.

"There ‘s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh,
But they leave him a wad,
Either their rings or green mantles,
Or else their maidenhead,"

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee;
And she has braided her yellow hair
A little abune her bree;
And she ‘s awa’ to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can hie.

When she came to Carterhaugh,
Tamlane was at the well;
And there she fand his steed standing,
But away was himsel’.

She hadna pu’d a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
Till up there started young Tamlane,
Says, "Lidy, thou’s pu’ nae mae.

"Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet?
And why breaks thou the wand?
Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
Withouten my command?"

"Carterhaugh it is my am;
My daddie gave it me;
I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
And ask nae leave at thee."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle,
A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair,
A little abune her bree,
And she is to her father’s ha’
As fast as she can hie.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the ba’;
And out then cam’ the fair Janet,
Ance the flower amang them a’.

Four and twenty ladies fair
Were playing at the chess,
And out then cam’ the fair Janet,
As green as ony glass.

Out then spak’ an old grey knight,
Lay o’er the castle wa’,
And says, "Alas! fair Janet, for thee,
But we‘ll be blamed a’!"

"Haud your tongue, ye auld-faced knight;
Some ill death may ye dee!
Father my bairn on whom I will,
I‘ll father nane on thee."

Out then spak’ her father dear,
And he spak’ meek and mild;
And ever, "Alas! sweet Janet," he says,
"I fear thou gaes wi’ child."

"If that I gae wi’ child, father,
Mysel’ maim bear the blame;
There ‘s ne’er a laird about your ha’
Shall get the bairn’s name.

"If my love were an earthly knight,
As he ‘s an elfin grey,
I wadna gi’e my am true love,
For nae lord that ye ha’e.

"The steed that my true love rides on
Is lighter than the wind;
Wi’ siller he is shod before,
Wi’ burning gowd behind."

Janet has kilted her green kirtle
A little abune her knee,
And she has snooded her yellow hair
A little abune her bree,
And she ‘s awa’ to Carterhaugh
As fast as she can Me.

When she cam’ to Carterhaugh,
Tamlane was at the well,
And there she fand Ms steed standing,
But away was himsel’.

She hadna pu’d a double rose,
A rose but only twa,
When up there started young Tamlane,
Says, "Lady, thou pu’s nae mae.

"Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
Amang the groves sae green,
And a’ to kill the bonnie babe,
That we gat us between?"

"O tell me, tell me, Tamlane," she says,
"For ‘s sake that died on tree,
If e’er ye was in holy chapel,
Or Christendom did see?"

"Roxburgh he was my grandfather,
Took me with him to bide,
And ance it fell upon a day
That wae did me betide.

"And ance it fell upon a day,
A cauld day and a snell ;
When we were frae the hunting come,
That frae my horse I fell,
The Queen o’ Fairies she caught me,
In yon green bill to dwell.

"And pleasant is the fairy land,
But, an eerie tale to tell;
Aye, at the end of seven years,
We pay a teind to hell;
I am sae fair and fu’ o’ flesh,
I ‘m feared it be mysel’.

"But the night is Halloween, lady,
The morn is Hallowday;
Then win me, win me, an ye will,
For wee! I wat ye may.

"Just at the mirk and midnight hour,
The fairy folk will ride;
And they that wad their true love win
At Miles Cross they maun bide."

"But how shall I thee ken, Tamlane,
Or how my true love know,
Among sae mony unco1 knights,
The like I never saw?"

O first let pass the black, lady,
And syne let pass the brown;
But quickly run to the milk-white steed
Pu’ ye his rider down.

"For I‘ll ride on the milk-white steed,
And ay nearest the town;
Because I was an earthly knight,
They gi’e me that renown.

"My right hand will be gloved, lady,
My left hand will be bare;
Cocked up shall my bonnet be,
And kaimed down shall my hair;
And thae ‘s the tokens I gi’e thee :—
Nae doubt I will be there.

"They‘ll turn me in your arms, lady,
Into an esk and adder;
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I am your bairn’s father.

They‘ll turn me to a bear sae grim,
And then a lion bold;
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
As ye shall love your child.

"Again they‘ll turn me in your arms,
To a red-het gaud of aim ;‘
But hold me fast, and fear me not,
I‘ll do to you nae harm.

"And last they‘ll turn me in your arms
Into the burning lead,
Then throw me into well water;
O throw me in wi’ speed!

"And then I’ll be your am true love—
I‘ll turn a naked knight;
Then cover me wi’ your green mantle,
And cover me out o’ sight."

Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
And eerie was the way,
As fair Janet in her green mantle,
To Miles Cross she did gae.

About the middle o’ the night
She heard the bridles ring;
The lady was as glad at that
As ony earthly thing.

First she let the black pass by,
And syne she let the brown;
But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
And pu’d the rider down.

Sae weel she minded what he did say,
And young Tamlane did win;
Syne covered him wi’ her green mantle,
As blythe ‘s a bird in spring.

Then out spak’ the Queen o’ Fairies,
Out of a bush o’ broom:
"Them that has gotten young Tamlane,
Has gotten a stately groom."

Out then spak’ the Queen o’ Fairies,
And an angry quean was she:
"Shame betide her ill-faured face,
And an ill death may she dee!
For she’s ta’en awa’ the bonniest knight
In a’ my company.

"But had I kenn’d, Tamlane," she says,
"What now this night I see,
I wad ha’e ta’en out thy twa grey een,
And put in twa een o’ tree."

The ballad records, it is said, the last appearance of the fairy-folk to mortal eyes in Scotland, though on the grass are still pointed out the rings traced by their starlight revels.

Carterhaugh for many a day was the scene of the local rustic sports, and one game at "the ba’" there, is especially on record, at which the Duke of Buccleuch led out the lads of one half of the shire, to contest the day with the lads of the other half, backed by the Laird of Abbotsford.

One more point of interest remains—the wood-hung battlefield, now the park about the mansion-house of Philiphaugh, the seat, till 1890, of the descendants of the Outlaw Murray. Here, by Leslie’s surprise and defeat of Montrose, in 1645, the cause of the First Charles was finally lost in Scotland. By some strange oversight Montrose had left his infantry encamped on the field, while he himself, with the cavalry, quartered in Selkirk, a mile away. Leslie, coming up at dawn from Melrose, seized the opportunity, and cut the Royalist infantry to - pieces before the cavalry could come to their assistance; and dire and effectual was the work done here by the Covenanting broadswords on that misty September morning. This fray—in which the Great Montrose, the noble "who, with resources which seemed as none, gained six victories and reconquered a kingdom; who, a poet, a scholar, a cavalier, and a general, could alike grace a court and govern a camp," was finally overthrown—is celebrated in a bald Covenanting ballad preserved in Scott’s "Minstrelsy of the Border." The first three verses afford some light on the encounter—

On Philiphaugh the fray began,
At Harehead wood it ended;
The Scots out o’er the Graemes they ran;
Sae merrily they bended.

Sir David frae the Border came,
Wi’ heart and hand came he;
Wi’ him three thousand bonnie Scots
To bear him company.

Wi’ him three thousand valiant men,
A noble sight to see !
A cloud o’ mist them weel concealed,
As close as e’er might be.

But presently, to the belated wanderer, the lights of Selkirk appear, begemming like fireflies the darkness of the opposite hillside. There the touch of the busy world—newspapers and letters—will be felt again; and there, after the long day’s ramble among the storied scenes of this quiet Border valley, will be found rest and refreshment amid the comforts of "mine inn."

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