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The Scottish Nation

RYMER, THOMAS, of Ercildoune, otherwise called Thomas the Rhymer, or Thomas Learmonth, which is erroneously supposed to be his family name, was a poet or romancer of high traditional reputation, who flourished about the close of the thirteenth century. Sir Walter Scott, who styles him the earliest Scottish poet, conjectures that he was born between 1226 and 1229. The family to which he belonged seems to have taken its territorial title from Ercildoune, or, according to the modern name, Earlstoun, a village in Berwickshire. He himself resided in a tower at the western extremity of this village, the ruins of which are still pointed out; and on a stone yet preserved in the front wall of the church of that place is the inscription: --

“Auld Rymer’s Race
Lies in this Place.”

Among his countrymen he is celebrated as a prophet as well as a poet, and many of the popular rhymes ascribed to him will be found in the second volume of ‘The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.’ ‘The Prophecies of Thomas the Rhymer’ were published in Latin and English, at Edinburgh, in 1691, and have been repeatedly reprinted. He is mentioned by Fordun, Barbour, Wintoun, Henry the Minstrel, and other early historians; and Robert de Brunne, an English poet who was contemporary with him, commemorates him as the author of a metrical Romance, entitled ‘Sir Tristrem,’ which was considered to be lost, till a copy of it was discovered among the Auchinleck manuscripts in the Advocates’ Library, and published in 1804, with an introduction and notes, by Sir Walter Scott. The day previously to the death of Alexander III. in 1286, Thomas the Rhymer foretold that disastrous event. He is supposed to have died before 1299.

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