Page images
PDF
EPUB

the echoes around Edinburgh are extremely grand; what would they then be were the hills covered with wood? I have witnessed nothing more romantic than from a situation behind the Pleasance, where all the noises of the city are completely hushed, to hear the notes of the drum, trumpet, and bugle, poured from the cliffs of Salisbury, and the viewless cannons thundering from the rock. The effect is truly sublime.

Note XVII. Mary Scott.—P. 208. This ballad is founded on the old song of The Grey Goss Hawk. The catastrophe is the same, and happens at the same place, namely, in St Mary's churchyard. The castle of Tushilaw, where the chief scene of the tale is laid, stood on a shelve of the hill which overlooks the junction of the rivers Ettrick and Ranlleburn. It is a singular situation, and seems to have been chosen for the extensive prospect of the valley which it commands both to the east and west. It was the finest old baronial castle of which the Forest can boast, but the upper arches and turrets fell in, of late years, with a crash that alarmed the whole neighbourhood. It is now a huge heap of ruins. Its last inhabitant was Adam Scott, who was long denominated in the south the King of the Border, but the courtiers called him the King of Thieves. King James V. acted upon the same principle with these powerful chiefs, most of whom disregarded his authority, as Bonaparte did with the sovereigns of Europe. He always managed matters so as to take each of them single-handed—made a rapid and secret march—overthrew one or two of them, and then returned directly home till matters were ripe for taking the advantage of some other. He marched on one day from Edinburgh to Meggatdale, accompanied by a chosen body of horsemen, surprised Peres Cockburn, a bold and capricious outlaw who tyrannized over those parts, hanged him over his own gate, sacked and burnt his castle of Henderland, and divided his lands between two of his principal followers, Sir James Stuart and the Lord Hume. From Henderland he marched across the mountains by a wild unfrequented path, still called the King's Road, and appeared before the gates of Tushilaw about sun-rise. Scott was completely taken by surprise; he, however, rushed to arms with his few friends who were present, and, after a desperate but unequal conflict, King James overcame him, plundered his castle of riches and stores to a prodigious amount, hanged the old Border King over a huge tree which is still growing' in the corner of the castleyard, and over which he himself had hanged many a one, carried his head with him in triumph to Edinburgh, and placed it on a pole over one of the ports. There was a long and deadly feud between the Scotts and the Kers in those days; the Pringles, Murrays, and others around, always joined with the latter, in order to keep down the too powerful Scotts, who were not noted as the best of neighbours.

[ocr errors]

Note XVIII. King Edward's dream.—P. 257The scene of this ballad is on the banks of the Eden in Cumberland, a day's march back from Burgh, on the sands of Solway, where King Edward I. died, in the midst of an expedition against the Scots, in which he had solemnly sworn to extirpate them as a nation.

Note XIX. Dumlanrig.—P. 266. This ballad relates to a well-known historical fact, of which tradition has preserved an accurate and feasible detail. The battles took place two or three years subsequent to the death of King James V. I have heard that it is succintly related by some historian, but I have forgot who it is. Hollingshed gives a long bungling account of the matter, but places the one battle a year before the other; whereas it does not appear that Lennox made two excursions into Nithsdale, at the head of the English forces, or fought two bloody battles with the laird of Dumlanrig on the same ground, as the historian would insinuate. He says, that Dumlanrig, after pursuing them cautiously for some time, was overthrown in attempting to cross a ford of the river too rashly; that he lost two of his principal kinsmen, and 200 of his followers; had several spears broken upon his body, and escaped only by the goodness of his horse. The battle which took place next night, he relates as having happened next year; but it must be visible to every reader that he is speaking of the same incidents in the annals of both years. In the second engagement he acknowledges that Dumlanrig defeated the English horse, which he attributes to a desertion from the latter, but that, after pursuing them as far as Dalswinton, they were joined by the foot, and retrieved the day. The account given of the battles, by Lesleus and Fran. Thin, seems to have been so different, that they have misled the chronologer; the names of the towns and villages appearing to him so different, whereas a local knowledge of the country would have convinced him that both accounts related to the same engagement.

Note XX. M'Kinrum, the Abbot.—P. 298. To describe the astonishing scenes to which this romantic tale relates, Icolmkill and Staffa, so well known to the curious, would only be multiplying pages to no purpose. By the Temple of the ocean is meant the Isle of Staffa, and by its chancel the cave of Fingal.

Note XXI. O, wise was the founder, and well said he, "Where there are women mischief must be!"—P. 300. St Columba placed the nuns in an island at a little distance from I, as the natives call Iona. He would not suffer either a cow or a woman to set foot on it; "for where there are cows," said he, "there must be women; and where there are women, there must be mischief."

« PreviousContinue »