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myself in front of an aristocratic looking farm house. Tapping nervously at the door it was opened by a cheerful, motherlylooking woman, who upon learning that I was a pilgrim and a stranger in the land enquiring about Burns, invited me in, and before long I found myself seated in the kitchen with a
” of cheese and bread, and a basin of milk before me talking with the household as familiarly as if I had been an old acquaintance. Mr and Mrs Black were assiduous in their attentions, and showed me everything about the place in which they thought I would be interested.
When the house at Ellisland was being built, Burns lodged with the out-going tenant in a hovel which stood under the shadow of the ancient tower of Isle. According to him it
“impervious to every blast that blew and every shower that fell”-indeed, from the glimpse we have of it in a poetic epistle to Hugh Parker, Kilmarnock, its interior appears to have been anything but pleasant :
“Here, ambush'd by the chimla cheek,
Hid in an atmosphere of reek,
I sit and count my sins by chapters." His Jean of a necessity was left in Mauchline for some time after his arrival in Nithsdale, and in his solitary hours his thoughts constantly reverted to Ayrshire ; and in one of the numerous flirtations with the muse which he enjoyed during their separation, he declared that “ day and night his fancy's flight was ever with her.
" Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw,
I dearly lo'e the west,
The lass that I lo'e best :
And mony a hill between ;
Is ever wi' my Jean.
I see her fresh and fair ;
I hear her charm the air,
There's no' a bonnie flower that springs
By fountain, shaw, or green,
But minds me o' my Jean." We have a peep at the bard while living at the Isle in the valuable " Memoranda " already quoted. The name of the out-going tenant was David Cullie. “ David,” says the writer, "was an antiburgher, and belonged to the congregation of the late Rev. Mr Inglis--a clergyman for whom Burns contracted a great veneration.
David by this time was about seventy years old, and had a wife nearly the same age. He was well to live in worldly circumstances. His family were grown up and settled in the world, and therefore he declined the farm. Mrs Burns joined her husband at Martinmas and lived for about five months at the Isle-a place that I know well. David Cullie used to visit at Ellisland farmhouse, and tho' the cheese was Dunlop, Mrs B. used to remark that he never took cheese but he took butter also. Burns used to laugh heartily at this.
“ Before this time, Burns had written the 'Holy Fair,' and an impression had gone abroad that he was a scoffer or a free thinker. D. Cullie.and his wife were aware of this, and although they treated him civilly as the incoming tenant, during the five months he resided under their roof, still they felt for him as for one who was by no means on the right path. On one occasion, Nance and the bard were sitting in the spence, when the former turned the conversation on her favourite topic-religion. Mr Burns, from whatever motive, sympathised with the matron, and quoted so much Scripture that she was fairly astonished, and staggered in the opinion she formerly entertained. When she went ben [ ? but] she said to her husband, Oh! David Cullie, hoo they have wranged
for I think he has mair o' the Bible aff his tongue than Mr Inglis himsel'. The bard enjoyed the compliment ; and almost the first thing he communicated to his wife on her arrival was 'the lift he had got from auld Nance.'
When the dwelling house of Ellisland was finished Burns and his Jean proposed to take up their residence in it; and to do so in a proper manner, and according to an ancient custom which was meant to insure good luck, they along with a few friends formed a procession, and marched behind a
that man ;
woman bearing a family Bible and a bowl of salt to the new abode. The little cavalcade must have been grotesque in the extreme as it wound along the romantic path on the verge of the river, and doubtless Burns smiled at it as with mock solemnity and measured paces he entered into the spirit of the thing, for, as Chambers remarks,“ Like a man of imagination, he delighted in such ancient observances, albeit his understand ing on a rigid tasking would have denied their conclusions."
Having taken leave of my new friends at the Isle, I directed my steps to the highway, bade Ellisland and its surroundings
a heart-fond, warm adieu," and walked briskly in the direction of Dumfries. The five miles that lay before me failed to damp my enthusiasm or disturb my equanimity, for the long stretch of road I had to traverse winds through a rich agricultural district; and as the pedestrian plods onward, his eye roves over a gorgeous panorama of hills, woods, valleys, and cultivated fields, which are interspersed with snug farm-houses and gentlemen's residences.
After a long, pleasant walk, I reached Holywood—an unimportant village whose humble tenements line both sides of the road—and wended my way towards its Kirktown, another hamlet (if it deserves the name) which stands off the highway, a good half mile farther on.
Entering a field a short distance beyond the road leading to the Kirktown, I walked up to and examined a curious row of stones which is said to be the remains of a Druidical Temple. They are huge fragments of rock, and by their systematicarrange ment appear to have been planted in position by the hands of man, a task certainly which must have been attended with many difficulties, for one of the blocks is estimated to weigh nearly twelve tons. According to tradition, these stones were surrounded by a grove of oak trees which the Druids deemed sacred, and on that account (or rather, it may be supposed, of a religious enthusiast who took up his abode in its umbrageous recess when Druidism was superseded by a purer faith), was styled the Holy Wood, a term from which the
parish derives its name. At an early date a splendid abbey was reared on the site of the hermit's cell, which flourished until the iconoclasts of the Reformation destroyed it, like many another monument of ancient architecture, and left it a prey to wreck and dismemberment.
Passing the manse---a snug old-fashioned building standing off the road in the midst of a nice garden and a row of homely cottages, I went up to the gate of the churchyard, and to my mortification found it locked. Looking about for the best means of obtaining admission to the spot where
“ Servants, masters, small, and great,
Partake the same repose ;
Of those who once were foes,”
“ Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,” began to stray among the grassy hillocks.
This little place of burial is shaded with some fine old trees, and thickly studded with tombstones, several of which commemorate members of influential local families, but I failed to discover any very old or remarkable memorial. The church is a curiously formed plain building, with a square tower of simple architecture at its front. The abbey which it superseded has wholly disappeared. Indeed, the only remnant of it I could discover was a stone with two rudely executed figures, which are said to represent the Saviour and the disciple whom he loved some boor having built this memorial into the back wall of a pigstye near the churchyard gate.
After strolling through the tangled grass of this little churchyard, I acted on the advice of a passing wayfarer and forsook the highway, for what appeared a more circuitous route to Dumfries-namely, the old road passing through the Kirktown. Old roads generally wind over heights commanding delightful prospects, and this one is no exception to the rule, for from an elevation at no great distance from the church a wide range of landscape bursts on the view. The spires and tall chimneys of Dumfries are seen peering from a dell in the distance, which, to all appearance, is wholly surrounded by a richly fertile and beautifully wooded country.
The bulky Criffel, too, and the range of hills of which it is the termination, loom against the sky, and the lovely valley of the Nith appears more like a paradisiacal scene than a portion of a common-place world.
After passing an interesting group of“ toddlin' wee things"
enjoying themselves “ wi' flichterin' noise and glee" in front of a row of humble thatched cottages, I turned into a road striking off to the right, and in a short time arrived at the Cairn--a picturesque shallow stream, which is easily forded by vehicles and conveniently crossed by means of a small foot-bridge. Having dallied on the bridge for a short time, watching the rippling water and enjoying the scenery, I resumed
the journey, and in due time descried Lincluden's ruined abbey peering from a shady retreat in the distance. Knowing it to have been a favourite resort of Burns when he resided in Dumfries, and that the Muse granted him many favours while straying under the shadow of its dismantled walls, I sought out the approach and found it to be a lane skirting a small farmstead near the highway I was journeying. Having passed through a turnstile, and followed a beaten path running zig-zag through the grass, I reached the elevation on which the
ruin stands. Lincluden Abbey never has been an extensive religious house, but to judge by the crumbling Gothic walls it has not only been chaste in design but elaborately 'embellished with ornamental sculpture, which, alas! is sadly defaced, for to all appearance wreck and decay have been allowed to run riot and hold high revelry about the pile until a recent date. Oppressed by the solemn stillness which reigned, I approached a splendid Gothic doorway over which there are two lines of faded carving, which are said to have represented the birth and early history of Christ, and upon opening a small iron gate entered a spacious but roofless sculpture-bedecked apartment of great antiquarian interest. In a finely sculptured recess in the left wall of this once splendid hall is the tomb of Margaret Stewart, daughter of Robert III. and wife of an Earl of Douglas. It bears this inscription on the back wall :“ HIC JACET DNA MARGARETA REGIS SCOTIAE FILIA QUODAM
DOUGLAS DNO GALLOVIDIAE ANNANDIAE. When Pennant visited the ruin in 1772 the mutilated recumbent statue of this lady was in the recess, but the bones of the deceased, he states, were scattered about in an indecent manner by some wretches who broke open
the repository in search of treasure.”
Translation :-“flere lies Lady Margaret, daughter of the King of Scotland,
Countess of Douglas, and Lady of Galloway and Annandale."