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a spaeman, came to the residence of Tran, the provost, and
dropped explicit hints that the ship was lost, and that the
good woman of the house was a widow. The sad truth was
afterward learned on more certain information. Two of the
seamen, after a space of doubt and anxiety, arrived with the
melancholy tidings that the bark of which John Dein was
skipper and Provost Tran part-owner had been wrecked on
the coast of England, near Padstow, when all on board had
been lost, except the two sailors who brought the notice.
Suspicion of sorcery, in those days easily awakened, was
fixed on Margaret Barclay, who had imprecated curses on
the ship ; and on John Stewart, the juggler, who had seemed
to know of the evil fate of the voyage before he could have
become acquainted with it by natural means.

Stewart, who was first apprehended, acknowledged that
Margaret Barclay, the other suspected person, had applied
to him to teach her some magic arts, " in order that she might
get gear, kye's milk, love of man, her heart's desire on such
persons as had done her wrong, and, finally, that she might
obtain the fruit of sea and land." Stewart declared that he
denied to Margaret that he possessed the said arts himself,
or had the power of communicating them. So far was well ;
but, true or false, he added a string of circumstances, whether
voluntarily declared or extracted by torture, which tended to
fix the cause of the loss of the bark on Margaret Barclay.
He had come, he said, to this woman's house in Irvine,
shortly after the ship set sail from harbor. He went to
Margaret's house by night, and found her engaged, with other
two women, in making clay figures ; one of the figures was
made handsome, with fair hair, supposed to represent Pro-
vost Tran. They then proceeded to mould a figure of a ship
in clay, and during this labor the Devil appeared to the
company in the shape of a handsome black lapdog, such as
ladies u=e to keep He added that the whole party left the


house together, and went into an empty waste-house nearer
the seaport, which house he pointed out to the city magis-
trates. From this house they went to the seaside, followed
by the black lapdog aforesaid, and cast hi the figures of claj
representing the ship and the men ; after which the sea raged
roared, and became red like the juice of madder in a dyer'*

This confession having been extorted from the unfortunate
juggler, the female acquaintances of Margaret Barclay were
next convened, that he might point out her associates in form-
ing the charm, when he pitched upon a woman called Isobel
Insh, or Taylor, who resolutely denied having ever seen him
before. v She was imprisoned, however, in the belfry of the
church. An addition to the evidence against the poor old
woman Insh was then procured from her own daughter, Mar-
garet Tailzeour, a child of eight years old, who lived as ser-
vant with Margaret Barclay, the person principally accused.
This child, who was keeper of a baby belonging to Margaret
Barclay, either from terror, or the innate love of falsehood
which we have observed as proper to childhood, declared,
.that she was present when the fatal models of clay were
formed, and that, in plunging them in the sea, Margaret Bar-
clay, her mistress, and her mother, Isobel Insh, were assisted
by another woman, and a girl of fourteen years old, who
dwelt at the town-head. Legally considered, the evidence
of this child was contradictory, and inconsistent with the con-
fession of the juggler, for it assigned other particulars and
dramatis persona in many respects different. But all was
accounted sufficiently regular, especially since the girl failed
not to swear to the presence of the black dog, to whose ap-
pearance she also added the additional terrors of that of a
black man. The dog also, according to her account, emitted
flashes from its jaws and nostrils, to illuminate the witches
during the performance of the spell. The child maintained
this tory even to her mother's face only alleging that Isobel


Insli remained behind in the waste-house, and was not pres-
cut when tlic images were, put into the sea. Kor her own
countenance and presence on the occasion, and to insure her
secrecy, her mistress promised her a pair of new shoes.

John Stewart, being re-examined, and confronted with the
child, was easily compelled to allow that the "little smatoh-
et" was there, and to give; that marvellous account of hid
correspondence with Klfland, which we have given else-

The conspiracy thus far, ;us they conceived, disclosed, the
magistrates and ministers wrought hard with Jsohel Insh, tc
prevail upon her to tell the, truth ; and she at len-jth acknowl-
edged her presence at the time when the models of the ship
and mariners were destroyed, but endeavored 80 to modify
her declaration as to deny all personal accession to the guilt.
This poor creature almost admitted the supernatural powers
imputed to her, promising liailie Dunlop (also a mariner),
by whom she was imprisoned, that if he would dismi.-s her,
he should never make a had voyage, hut have success in all
his dealings by sea and land. She was finally brought to
promise that she would fully confess the whole that she knew
of the affair on the morrow.

But finding herself in so hard a strait, the unfortunate
woman made use of the darkness to attempt an escape.
AVith this view she got out by a hack window of the belfry,
although, says the report, there were "iron bolts, locks, and
fetters on her"; and attained the roof of the church, where,
losing her footing, she sustained a severe fall, and was greatly
bruised. IJcing apprehended, ]>ailie Dunlop again urged
her to confess; but the poor woman was determined to ap-
peal to a more merciful tribunal, and maintained her inno-
cence to the last minute of her life, denying all that she had
formerly admitted, and dying five days after her fall from
the roof of the church. The inhabitants of Irvine attributed
her death to poisqn.


The seem thicken, for a commission was grunted

for the trial of the two remaining persons accused, namely,
Stewart the juggler and Margaret Barclay. The day of
trial being arrived, the following singular events took place,
which we give as stated in the record.

" My Lord and Earl of Kglintoune (who Iwelln -vitliin
the space of one mile to the said burgh), having eomo
to the said burgh at the earnest request of the said Justices,
.ing to them of his lordship's countenance, concur-
and assistance, in trying of the aforesaid devilish
practices, conform to the tenor of the foresaid commission,
the said John Stewart, for his better preserving to the
day of the'^issize, was put in a sure lockfast booth, where
no manner of person might have accc.-s to him till the
-Siting of the Justice Court, and for avoiding of putting
violent hands on himself, he was very strictly guarded, and
fettered by the arms, as use is. And upon that same day
of the assize, about half an hour before the downsitting oi'
the Justice Court, Mr. David Dickson, minister at Irvine,
and Mr. George Dunbar, minister of Air, having gone to
him, to exhort him to call on his God for mercy for his by-
gone wicked and evil life, and that God would of his infinite
mercy loose him out of the bonds of the Devil, whom he
had served these many years bygone, he acquiesced in their
prayer and godly exhortation, and uttered these words : ' I
am so straitly guarded, that it lies not in my power to get rny
hand to take off my bonnet, nor to get bread to my mouth.'
And immediately after the departing of the two ministers
from him, the juggler being sent for at the desire of my Lord
of Kglintoune, to be confronted with a woman of the burgh
of Air, called Janet Bous, who was apprehended by the
rates of the burgh of Air for witchcraft, and sent to
the burgh of Irvine purposely for that affair, he was found
by the burgh officers who went about him, strangled and
hanged by the cruik of the door, with a tail of hemp, or

32 ,:>iR WALTER SCOfT.

a string made of hemp, supposed to have been his garter
or string of his bonnet, not above the length of two span
long, his knees not being from the ground half a span,
and was brought out of the house, his life not being totally
expelled. But, notwithstanding of whatsoever means used
in the contrary for remeid of his life, he revived not, but
so ended his life miserably, by the help of the Devil his

" And because there was then only in life the said ulaaga-
ret Barclay, and that the persons summoned to pass upon her
assize, and upon the assize of the juggler, who, by the help
of the Devil his master, had put violent hands on himself,
were all present within the said burgh ; therefore, and for
eschewing of the like in the person of the said Margaret,
our sovereign lord's justices in that part, particularly above-
named, constituted by commission, after solemn deliberation
and advice of the said noble lord, whose concurrence and
advice was chiefly required and taken in this matter, con-
cluded with all possible diligence before the downsitting of
the Justice Court, to put the said Margaret in torture ; in
respect the Devil, by God's permission, had made her asso-
ciates, who were the lights of the cause, to be their own
burr toes (slayers). They used the torture underwritten, as
being most safe and gentle (as the said noble lord assured
the said justices), by putting of her two bare legs in a pair
of stocks, and thereafter by onlaying of certain iron gauds
(bars), severally, one by one, and then eiking and augment-
ing the weight by laying on more gauds, and in easing of
her by offtaking of the iron gauds one or more, as occasion
offered, which iron gauds were but little short gauds, and
broke not the skin of her legs, &c.

" After using of the which kind of gentle torture, the said
Margaret began, according to the increase of the pain, to
cry, and crave for God's cause to take off her sliins the fore-
said irons, and she should declare truly the whole matter


Which being removed, she began at her former denial : and
being of new assayed in torture as of befoir, she then uttered
these words : ' Take off, take off, and before God I shall
show you the whole form ! '

" And the said irons being of new, upon her faithful!
promise, removed, she then desired my Lord of Eglintoune,
the said four justices, and the said Mr. David Dickson, min-
ister of the burgh, Mr. George Dunbar, minister of Ayr,
and Mr. Mitchell Wallace, minister of Kilmarnock, and Mr.
John Cunninghame, minister of Dairy, and Hugh Kennedy,
provost of Ayr, to come by themselves, and to remove all
others, and she should declare truly, as she should answer to
God, the whole matter. Whose desire hi that being fulfilled,
she made her confession in this manner, but (i. e. without)
any kind of demand, freely, without interrogation ; God's
name by earnest prayer being called upon for opening of
her lips, and easing of her heart, that she, by rendering of
the truth, might glorify and magnify his holy name, and dis-
appoint the enemy of her salvation." Trial of Margaret
Barclay, $c., 1618.

Margaret Barclay, who was a young and lively person,
had hitherto conducted herself like a passionate and high-
tempered woman innocently accused, and the only appear-
ance of conviction obtained against her was, that she carried
about her rowan-tree and colored thread, to make, as she
said, her cow give milk, when it began to fail. But the
gentle torture a strange junction of words recommended
as an anodyne by the good Lord Eglinton, the placing,
namely, her legs in the stocks, and loading her bare shins
with bars of iron, overcame her resolution : when, at her
screams and declarations that she was willing to tell all, the
weights were removed. She then told a story of destroying
the ship of John Dein, affirming that it was with the pur-
pose of killing only her brother-in-law and Provost Tran,
and saving the rest of the crew. She at the same time in-



volved in the guilt Isobel Crawford. This poor woman was
also apprehended, and, in great terror, confessed the imputed
crime, retorting the principal blame on Margaret Barclay
herself. The trial was then appointed to proceed, when
Alexander Dean, the husband of Margaret Barclay, ap-
peared in court with a lawyer to act in liis wife's behalf.
Apparently, the sight of her husband awakened some hope
and desire of life, for when the prisoner was asked by the
lawyer whether she wished to be defended, she answered,
'* As you please. But all I have confessed was in agony of
torture ; and, before God, all I have spoken is false and
untrue." To which she pathetically added, " Ye have been
too long in .coming."

The jury, unmoved by these affecting circumstances, pro-
ceeded upon the principle that the confession of the accused
could not be considered as made under the influence of tor-
ture, since the bars were not actually upon her limbs at the
time it was delivered, although they were placed at her
elbow, ready to be again laid on her bare shins, if she was
less explicit in her declaration than her auditors wished.
On this nice distinction, they in one voice found Margaret
Barclay guilty. It is singular that she should have again
returned to her confession after sentence, and died affirming
it ; the explanation of which, however, might be, either
that she had really in her ignorance and folly tampered
with some idle spells, or that an apparent penitence for her
offence, however imaginary, was the only mode in which she
could obtain any share of public sympathy at her death, or
a portion of the prayers of the clergy and congregation,
which, in her circumstances, she might be willing to pur-
chase, even by confession of what all believed respecting
her. It is remarkable, that she earnestly entreated the
magistrates that no harm should be done to Isobel Craw-
ford, the woman whom she had herself accused. This un-
fortunate young creature was strangled at the stake, and her


body burned to ashes, having died with many expressions of
religion and penitence.

It was one fatal consequence of these cruel persecutions,
that one pile was usually lighted at the embers of another.
Accordingly, in the present case, three victims having al-
ready perished by this accusation, the magistrates, incensed
at the nature of the crime, so perilous as it seemed to men
of a maritime life, and at a loss of several friends of their
own, one of whom had been their principal magistrate, did
not forbear to insist against Isobel Crawford, inculpated by
Margaret Barclay's confession. A new commission was
granted for her trial, and after the assistant minister of Ir-
vine, Mr.JDavid Dickson, had made earnest prayers to God
for opening her obdurate and closed heart, she was subjected
to the torture of iron bars laid upon her bare shins, her feet
being in the stocks, as in the case of Margaret Barclay.

She endured this torture with incredible firmness, since
she did " admirably, without any kind of din or exclamation,
suffer above thirty stone of iron to be laid on her legs, never
shrinking thereat in any sort, but remaining, as it were,
steady." But in shifting the situation of the iron bars, and
removing them to another part of her shins, her constanc-y
gave way; she broke out into horrible cries (though nol
more than three bars were then actually on her person)
of "Tak aff! tak aff!" On being relieved from the tor-
ture, she made the usual confession of all that she was
charged with, and of a connection with the Devil which had
subsisted for several years. Sentence was given against her
accordingly. After this had been denounced, she openly
denied all her former confessions, and died without any
sign of repentance, offering repeated interruptions to the
minister in his prayer, and absolutely refusing to pardon the

This tragedy happened in the year 1613, and recorded as
it is very particularly, and at considerable length, forms the


most detailed specimen I have met with, Df a Scottish trial
for witchcraft, illustrating, in particular, how poor wretches
abandoned, as they conceived, by God and the world, de-
prived of all human sympathy, and exposed to personal tor-
tures of an acute description, became disposed to throw away
the lives that were rendered bitter to them, by a voluntary
confession of guilt, rather than struggle hopelessly against
go many evils. Four persons here lost their lives, merely
because the throwing sorae clay models into the sea, a fact
told differently by tho vitnesses who spoke of it, corresponded
with the season, for no day was fixed, in which a particular
vessel was lost. It is scarce possible that, after reading such
a story, a man of sense can listen for an instant to the evi-
dence founded on confessions thus obtained, which has been
almost the sole reason by which a few individuals, even in
modern times, have endeavored to justify a belief in the
existence of witchcraft.

The result of the judicial examination of a criminal, when
extorted by such means, is the most suspicious of all evidence,
and even when voluntarily given, is scarce admissible, with-
out the corroboration of other testimony.


TO E. B. B.


fTlHERE they are, my fifty men and women

Naming me the fifty poems finished I
Take them, Love, the book * and me together.
Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.


Rafael made a century of sonnets,

Made and wrote them in a certain volume

Dinted with the silver-pointed pencil

Else he only used to draw Madonnas :

These, the world might view, but One, the volume.

Who that one, you ask ? Your heart instructs you.

Did she live and love it all her lifetime ?

Did she drop, his lady of the sonnets,

Die, and let it drop beside her pillow

Where it lay in place of Rafael's glory,

Rafael's cheek so duteous and so loving,

Cheek, the world was wont to hail a painter's,

Rafael's cheek, her love had turned a poet's ?

* Referring to his volume of Poems entitled " Men and Women."



You and I would rather read that volume,
(Taken to his beating bosom by it,)
Lean and list the bosom-beats of Rafael,
Would we not ? than wonder at Madonnas
. Her, San Sisto names, and Her, Foligno,
Her, that visits Florence in a vision,
Her, that 's left with lilies in the Louvre
Seen by us and all the world in circle.


You and I will never read that volume.

Guido Reni, like his own eye's apple

Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it.

Guido Reni dying, all Bologna

Cried, and the world with it, " Ours the treasure! 1

Suddenly, as rare things will, it vanished.


Dante once prepared to paint an angel :
Whom to please ? You whisper, " Beatrice."
While he mused and traced it and retraced it,
(Perad venture with a pen corroded
Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for,
When, his left-hand i' the hair o' the wicked,
Back he held the brow and pricked its stigma,
Bit into the live man's flesh for parchment,
Loosed Mm, laughed to see the writing rankle,
Let the wretch go festering through Florence,)
Dante, who loved well because he hated,
Hated wickedness that hinders loving,
Dante standing, studying his angel,
In there broke the folk of his Inferno.
Says he, " Certain people of importance "


(Such he gave his daily, dreadful line to)
Entered and would seize, forsooth, the poet.
Says the poet, " Then I stopped my painting."


You and I would rather see that angel,
Painted by the tenderness of Dante,
Would we not ? than read a fresh Inferno.


You and I will never see that picture.
Whilq he mused on love and Beatrice,
While he softened o'er his outlined angel,
In they broke, those " people of importance " :
We and Bice bear the loss forever.

What of Rafael's sonnets, Dante's picture ?


This : no artist lives and loves that longs not

Once, and only once, and for One only,

(Ah, the prize !) to find his love a language

Fit and fair and simple and sufficient

.Using nature that 's an art to others,

Not, this one time, art that 's turned his nature.

Ay, of all the artists living, loving,

None but would forego his proper dowry,

Does he paint ? he fain would write a poem,

Does he write ? he fain would paint a picture.

Put to proof art alien to the artist's,

Once, and only once, and for One only,

So to be the man and leave the artist,

Save the man's joy, miss the artist's sorrow.


Wherefore ? Heaven's gift takes earth's abatement !

He who smites the rock and spreads the water,

Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath him,

Even he, the minute makes immortal,

Proves, perchance, his mortal in the minute,

Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing.

While he smites, how can he but remember,

So he smote before, in such a peril,

When they stood and mocked, " Shall smiting help us ? '

When they drank and sneered, " A stroke is easy ! "

When they wiped their mouths and went their journey,

Throwing him for thanks, " But drought was pleasant."

Thus old memories mar the actual triumph ;

Thus the doing savors of disrelish ;

Thus achievement lacks a gracious somewhat ;

O'er-importuned brows becloud the mandate,

Carelessness or consciousness, the gesture.

For he bears an ancient wrong about him,

Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces,

Hears, yet one time more, the 'customed prelude,

" How should'st thou, of all men, smite, and save us ? "

Guesses what is like to prove the sequel,

" Egypt;' 8 flesh-pots, nay, the drought was better."


O, the crowd must have emphatic warrant !
Theirs, the Sinai-forehead's cloven brilliance,
Right-arm's rod-sweep, tongue's imperial fiat
Never dares the man put off the prophet


Did he love one face from out the thousands,
(Were she Jethro's daughter, white and wifely.


Were she but the ^Ethiopian bondslave,)
He would envy yon dumb, patient camel,
Keeping a reserve of scanty water
Meant to save his own life in the desert ;
Ready in the desert to deliver
(Kneeling down to let his breast be opened)
Hoard and life together for his mistress.


I shall never, in the years remaining,

Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues,

Make you music that should all-express me ;

So it seems : I stand on my attainment.

This of verse alone, one life allows me ;

Verse and nothing else have I to give you.

Other heights in other lives, God willing,

All the gifts from all the heights, your own, Love !


Yet a semblance of resource avails us,

Shade so finely touched, love's sense must seize it.

Take these lines, look lovingly and nearly,

Lines I write the first time and the last time.

He who works in fresco, steals a hair-brush,

Curbs the liberal hand, subservient proudly,

Cramps his spirit, crowds its all in little,

Makes a strange art of an art familiar,

Fills his lady's missal-marge with flowerets.

He who blows through bronze, may breathe through silver,

Fitly serenade a slumbrous princess.

He who writes, may write for once, as I do.


Love, you saw me gather men and women,
Live or dead or fashioned by my fancy,


Enter each and all, and use their service,

Speak from every mouth, the speech, a poem.

Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows,

Hopes and fears, belief and disbelieving :

I am mine and yours, the rest be all men's,

Karshook, Cleon, Norbert and the fifty.

Let me speak this once in my true person,

Not as Lippo, Roland, or Andrea,

Though the fruit of speech be just this sentence,

Pray you, look on these my men and women,

Take and keep my fifty poems finished ;

Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also !

Poor the speech ; be how I speak, for all things.


Not but that you know me ! Lo, the moon's self!
Here in London, yonder late in Florence,
Still we find her face, the thrice-transfigured.
Curving on a sky imbrued with color,
Drifted over Fiesole by twilight,
Came she, our new crescent of a hair's-breadth.
Full she flared it, lamping Samminiato,
Rounder 'twixt the cypresses and rounder,
Perfect till the nightingales applauded.
Now, a piece of her old self, impoverished,
Hard to greet, she traverses the house-roofs,
Hurries with unhandsome thrift of silver,
Goes dispiritedly, glad to finish.


What, there 's nothing in the moon noteworthy ?

Online Libraryi00bostFavorite authors in prose and poetry → online text (page 3 of 66)