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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 online

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_nolens volens_. The place has, however, a Continental air, caused
principally by the very curious clock tower in the market place; a
quaint spire, in the background, adding to the effect of the
architectural picture.

At one end of the town is St. Michael's church - a huge, square box,
pierced by windows, and guarded by a big sentinel of a bell tower,
surmounted by another quaint spire. The graveyard is one of the oddest
in the kingdom, presenting long rows of huge tombstones, twelve or
fifteen feet high, usually painted of a muddy cream color, each one
serving for an entire family, and recording the trades or professions as
well as the names and ages of the deceased. One of these enormous stones
is in commemoration of the victims of the cholera in 1832.

In one corner of the cemetery is the tasteless mausoleum of Burns - a
circular Grecian temple, the spaces between the pillars glazed, and a
low dome, shaped like an inverted washbowl, clapped on top. The interior
is occupied by Turnerelli's fine marble group of Burns at the plough,
interrupted by the Muse of Poetry. At the foot of this group, and
covering the poet's remains, is the freshly painted slab, bearing these
inscriptions:

IN MEMORY OF
ROBERT BURNS,
WHO DIED THE 21ST OF JULY, 1796,
IN THE 37TH YEAR OF HIS AGE:

AND

MAXWELL BURNS,
WHO DIED THE 25TH APRIL, 1799,
AGED 2 YEARS AND 9 MONTHS;

FRANCIS WALLACE BURNS,
WHO DIED THE 9TH JULY, 1803,
AGED 14 YEARS - HIS SONS.

THE REMAINS OF BURNS,
REMOVED INTO THE VAULT BELOW
19TH SEPTEMBER, 1815 - AND HIS TWO SONS.

ALSO THE REMAINS OF
JEAN ARMOUR,
RELICT OF THE POET,
BORN 6TH FEBRUARY, 1765,
DIED 26TH MARCH, 1834;

AND ROBERT, HIS ELDEST SON,
DIED MAY 14, 1857,
AGED 70 YEARS.

Visitors are allowed to enter the cheerful, if not elegant mausoleum,
though all it contains can be seen through the windows. All the
memorials of Burns, by the way, seem to be of the same tasteless
style - the same wearisome imitation of the antique. The monument at Ayr,
and that on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, are but additional examples.

Before leaving Dumfries, let me allude to a very curious custom,
observed only in St. Michael's church, and even there beginning to fall
into desuetude. The Scotch, who are alike noted for snuff and religious
austerity, are equally devoted to footstools. In many families, where
economy is the rule, one footstool - they are mere little wooden
benches - serves both for the fireside and the kirk. To facilitate
transportation, these benches are provided with little holes perforating
the centre of the seat, large enough to admit the ferule of an umbrella
or cane; and thus, borne aloft on these articles, the little benches are
carried proudly above the shoulders of the bearers, like triumphant
banners. In order to avoid the noise arising from the clatter of these
benches as they are lowered into the pews, the congregation are
accustomed to assemble some time before divine service begins.

A similar custom once prevailed in the cathedral at Glasgow. In 1588 the
kirk session decided that seats in the church would be a great luxury,
and certain ash trees in the churchyard were cut down, and devoted to
the then novel purpose; but ungallantly enough, the women of the
congregation were forbidden to sit on the new seats, and were ordered to
bring stools along with them. Tradition, however, fails to record
whether the Glasgow ladies carried their stools on the tops of
umbrellas, like their sisters of Dumfries.

The grave of Burns owes to its uncouth monument the unsatisfactory
feeling which it inspires in visitors. Alloway kirk is the place where
the remains of the favorite Scottish poet should lie. Instead of
artificial temples, badly copied from a clime and nation with which he
had no sympathy or affinity, the young daisy and the fresh grass should
mark his resting place.

'Alloway's kirk haunted wall' is preserved with such faithful care, that
this year it looks very much the same as it did when Burns knew it. As a
ruin, apart from the interest with which the poet has invested it, it
possesses nothing to attract attention. Two end walls, which once
supported a gable roof, and two low side walls, all without ornament of
any kind - without gothic tracing or oriel wonders - without even
graceful ivy flung over its ruggedness - are all that remain of Alloway,
if we except the old bell, which yet hangs in the little belfry; a sign
board below insulting visitors by requesting them not to throw stones at
it!

The little churchyard of Alloway continues to be a burial place; but the
gravestones seem, in many instances, sadly inconsistent with the
poetical associations of the place. As at Dumfries, the business
occupations of the deceased are mentioned; and we find here the family
tombs of 'Robert Anderson, molecatcher,' of 'James Wallace, blacksmith,'
and the like. David Watt Miller, who was buried here in 1823, was the
last person baptized in the old Alloway kirk - his tombstone recording
the fact. Near the entrance to the graveyard, and opposite the new
gothic edifice which has taken the place of the old kirk, is the slab to
the poet's father and sister, thus inscribed:

'Sacred to the memory of WILLIAM BURNS, farmer
in Lochie, who died February 13, 1784, in
the 63d year of his age.

Also of ISABELLA, relict of JOHN BELL; his
youngest daughter, born at Mount Oliphant,
June 27, 1771; died December 4, 1858, much
respected and esteemed by a wide circle of
friends, to whom she endeared herself by her
life of piety, her mild urbanity of manner, and
her devotion to the memory of BURNS.'

The reader is aware that Alloway's kirk, the Burns monument, the cottage
where the poet was born, the elaborate temple, erected to his memory,
and Tam O'Shanter's brig, are all within a few rods of each other, at
about two miles' distance from Ayr. The view of the temple, kirk, and
'brig,' from the opposite side of the stream, is worthy of Arcadia. The
temple is familiar from engravings; but the bridge, with its graceful
arch, draped by low-hanging ivy, is far more beautiful. Yet this
exquisite scene is identified with one of Burns's coarsest efforts - one
which, with all its vividness and humor, cannot be read aloud in the
family circle. Fortunately, however, for the poet, his fame by no means
rests on this unequal mixture of the humorous, the beautiful, and the
vulgar; and instead of admiring Tam O'Shanter's bridge itself, it is
much more pleasant to stand upon it, and gaze therefrom at the river
which laves the 'banks and braes o' bonnie Doon' - at the fields
besprinkled with the 'wee, crimsoned-tipped flower' - at the cottages
where once lived the 'auld acquaintance' of 'lang syne,' and where
occurred the scenes of 'The Cotter's Saturday Night.' 'Highland Mary'
has crossed this bridge, and this sanctifies it far more than the
imaginary terrors of Tam O'Shanter.

An hour's railway ride takes the tourist from the land of Burns to the
scenes rendered sacred by the genius of Scott.

Abbotsford, the favorite home, of course is still open to visitors, who
are hurried though it with the most disgusting celerity, by the guide
engaged by the family to 'do' - at a shilling a head - the hospitalities
of the place. The home of Scott retains all the characteristics it did
when he died; but is shown in such a heartless, museum-like manner, that
the visitor need not expect much gratification from the inspection.

A few miles farther up the Tweed is Ashetiel, the former home of Walter
Scott, a place seldom seen by tourists, though here he wrote his finest
poems. Some time ago I was invited to spend a night with a farmer who
resides on the estate. Those who have read Washington Irving's graphic
description of his visit to Abbotsford, will remember Mr. Laidlaw, of
whom he thus writes:

'One of my pleasant rambles with Scott, about the neighborhood of
Abbotsford, was taken in company with Mr. William Laidlaw, the steward
of his estate. This was a gentleman for whom Scott entertained a
particular value. He had been born to a competency, had been well
educated; his mind was richly stored with varied information, and he
was a man of sterling moral worth. Having been reduced by misfortune,
Scott had got him to take charge of his estate. He lived at a small farm
on the hillside above Abbotsford, and was treated by Scott as a
cherished and confidential friend, rather than a dependant.' My worthy
host was the son of this old gentleman, who is still alive and in good
health. Several years ago he emigrated to Australia, where he now
resides, still taking a lively interest in literary affairs, and
reading, though an octogenarian, all the new works, that are regularly
sent to him by his son. The old gentleman was as intimately acquainted
with Hogg as with Scott, and my host remembers both these personages,
though he was but a boy when they died.

Early one September morning Mr. Laidlaw was kind enough to take me about
the grounds of Ashestiel, where 'Sir Walter' (they never add the name of
Scott, in speaking of him here) passed thirteen of the best years of his
life, and where he wrote the greater parts of 'Marmion' and the 'Lay.'
We walked over the dewy fields (romantic but damp), and down to the
banks of the Tweed, where I was shown a large outspreading oak, under
which Sir Walter was wont to sit and frame his ideas into fitting words.
Under this tree, with Tweed rippling at his feet, he spent many an hour
in communion with himself, quietly weaving those strains that have
immortalized him. From this place we passed on to the house
itself - Ashestiel - now the residence of Sir William Johnstone, from
whose family Sir Walter had leased it during the building of Abbotsford.
It is a fine old building; but much altered and improved since it was
occupied by Scott. Lockhart says of this place: 'No more beautiful
situation, for the residence of a poet, could be imagined. The house was
then a small one; but, compared with the cottage of Lasswade, its
accommodations were amply sufficient. The approach was through an
old-fashioned garden, with holly hedges, and broad, green terrace walks.
On one side, close under the windows, is a deep ravine, clothed with
venerable trees, down which a mountain rivulet is heard, more than seen,
on its progress to the Tweed. The river itself is separated from the
high bank, on which the house stands, only by a narrow meadow, of the
richest verdure; while opposite, and all around are the green hills. The
valley there is narrow, and the aspect in every direction is that of
perfect pastoral repose.' This picture still holds good, with the
exception of the 'old-fashioned garden,' which has made way for a new
lawn and carriage road. The proprietor was an intimate friend of Walter
Scott, and an India officer of merit, who has now returned to his old
home, having bidden farewell to the neighing steed and all the pomp and
circumstance of war.

From the house I was conducted to another of Scott's haunts - a little
wooded grassy knoll, still known by the name of 'Wattie's Knowe,' or
'Sheriff's Knowe,' for Scott enjoyed both the familiar title of 'Wattie'
and the official one of 'Sheriff.' It is a lovely spot, this Wattie's
Knowe. The trees are old and gnarled; the grass is overrun with green
moss and graceful fern-leaves, and if you are quite still, you can hear
the murmur of Glenkinnon Burn, as it leaps over its pebbly bed, and
hastens on to the Tweed. Here, between the branching trunks of a huge
elm, Scott had fixed a rustic seat, to which he resorted nearly as often
as to his favorite oak tree on the banks of the Tweed. While he resided
here, Abbotsford was building; and almost daily he would ride over to
superintend its progress.

Melrose is this year guarded with unusual vigilance. Hitherto visitors
have been allowed to pass hours in the ruin, at their leisure, and read
the wizard scene of the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel,' in the very
locality where it is supposed to have occurred. At present, however, a
sable widow, of the most unimpeachable respectability, casts a
melancholy gloom over the place by the dejected yet resigned manner in
which she unlocks the wooden gate and ushers strangers through the nave
and transepts. Her orders, she says, are to allow no one to remain a
moment in the ruin without her superintending presence - which is safe,
but unpoetical.

Dryburgh, the ruin in which is the tomb of Walter Scott, is shown by an
intelligent man who oversees the place. At the foot of Sir Walter's
granite tomb is that recently erected to the memory of 'the son-in-law,
biographer, and friend,' Lockhart. A bronze medallion likeness of the
eminent reviewer adorns the red polished granite of his tomb. The
Erskine family, the Haigs of Bemerside, and the earls of Buchan, are the
only families, besides Sir Walter's ancestors, the Haliburtons, who are
allowed to bury in this ruin. It was of the Haigs that Thomas the
Rhymer, centuries ago, made a prediction to the effect that the line
would never become extinct - a prediction which threatens to fail, as two
maiden ladies now alone represent the family.

That 'proud chapelle,'

' - - where Roslyn's chiefs uncoffined lie,'

has seen some notable changes of late. A few years ago, it contained
only tombs; but the present Earl of Roslyn recently fitted it up for a
divine service, according to the Church of England ritual, though the
altar, the sedilia, the candles, the purple cloths, the painted organ,
and other ecclesiastical decorations suggest an imitation of the Roman
Catholic services, to which the chapel was formerly devoted. The people
in the vicinity, who are all Scotch Presbyterians, do not attend these
services, the select congregation being formed by 'the quality' - the
gentry and nobility, who have their country seats near by.

The readers of 'Marmion' will, of course, remember Norham and Twisell
castles. The former, as seen, from the railways, is a most uninviting
pile of rude masonry, worn and broken by time and decay; but a nearer
inspection reveals many phases of interest. The castle stands on the
summit of a cliff, overhanging the Tweed, yet almost buried in rich
foliage. The outer walls are crumbled away, and overgrown with short
grass, forming a series of green mounds, which mark the graves of feudal
grandeur. The south, east, and west walls of the keep, however, remain
standing, a huge shell or screen of dull red stone, while to the north
stretches a fragment of wall, along which it is easy to scramble to a
point overlooking the Tweed, the village of Norham, and the adjacent
scenery. Pleasant and thrilling it is to lie here on this deserted ruin,
and read that spirited opening canto! With what renewed brilliancy do
those chivalric lines bring back the long-past scenes of other days!

'Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Tweed's fair river broad and deep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone:
The battled towers, the donjon keep,
The loophole grates where captives weep,
The flanking walls that round them sweep,
In yellow lustre shone.'

And imagination can almost bring to the ear the welcome to Marmion:

'The guards their morrice pikes advanced,
The trumpets flourished brave,
The cannon from the ramparts glanced,
And thundering welcome gave.
A blythe salute in martial sort
The minstrels well might sound,
For, as Lord Marmion crossed the court,
He scattered angels round.
Welcome to Norham, Marmion!
Stout heart, and noble hand!
Well dost thou back thy gallant roan,
Thou flower of English land.'

* * * * *

'They marshall'd him to the castle hall,
Where the guests stood all aside,
And loudly flourished the trumpet call,
And the heralds loudly cried:
'Room, lordlings, room for Lord Marmion,
With the crest and helm of gold!
Full well we know the trophies won
In the lists at Cottiswold.
Place, nobles, for the Falcon Knight!
Room, room, ye gentles gay,
For him who conquered in the right,
Marmion of Fontenaye.''

Scott is already becoming old-fashioned, and his poems are not now
sought after, as they were ten years ago; but any one who wishes to
revive all the boyish enthusiasm with which he first read 'Marmion,' has
only to take the book with him to the ruins of Norham and again read the
glowing page!

The village of Norham is a quaint place dominated by the castle, and as
humble nowadays, with its little thatched cottages, as in the times when
the villagers were mere vassals of

'Sir Hugh, the Heron bold,
Baron of Twisell, and of Ford,
And Captain of the Hold.'

A limpid stream runs down the principal street of Norham - a gutter,
which in the sunlight gleams like a band of silver. Village damsels wash
potatoes therein. Among the residents of Norham, by the way, is the
hostess of the principal inn, who was in the train of Joseph Bonaparte,
during his stay in America, living in his household at Bordentown, New
Jersey. She claims to be a personal acquaintance of Napoleon III; but I
have not heard what strange wave of fortune stranded the friend of the
Emperor of the French in the remote and unknown port of Norham.

A curious family romance hangs about Twisell castle, also mentioned in
'Marmion.' The present building, an immense quadrangular edifice, was
begun by Sir Francis Drake, who never had means to finish it. His heirs
tried to complete the castle, which is now the property of a lady over
seventy years old, residing in Edinburgh, who devotes all her spare
means to the work. Indeed, the building of Twisell castle is a
hereditary monomania in the family; but the estate belonging to the
magnificent structure is only forty acres in extent - utterly
insufficient to support such a castle with the household it will
ultimately need. As yet Twisell is a granite shell; no partitions are
put up in the interior. Vast sums of money must be expended before it
can be made tenantable.

But I must forego any allusions to Crichton and Pantallon castles, the
former the place where Marmion was entertained, and the latter the spot
where the bold chief dared

' - - to beard the lion in his den,
The Douglas in his hall.'

And I must also omit 'Newark's stately tower,' where the last minstrel
sang his lay - and Branksome, the scene of the opening canto - and the
scenery of Lomond and Katrine, rendered famous by the success of the
Lady of the Lake. All these, and many other localities, hallowed by
poesy, can be easily visited by the enthusiastic tourist; but I prefer
to devote my pen and space to the most neglected and most beautiful of
them all - to Lindisfarn, the Holy Isle.

Though really in England, it is yet near enough to the border to be
included among the Lions of Scotland. It lies on the coast, about a
dozen miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the nearest approach to it,
being from the railway station of Beal. Here the visitor will find the
one-horse cart of the postmaster, offering the only conveyance to one of
the most romantic and retired spots in the kingdom.

Holy Island, in circumference about eight miles, lies three miles from
the land; but is only an island at high tide. At other times, the
receding waters leave the sands bare, with the exception of two or three
channels, not more than six inches deep, and afford a passage for
vehicles, marked by a long row of stakes, intended especially to guide
travellers in winter, when the snow falls thickly on the path. In summer
there is always a strong wind blowing over these sands, drying them
from the salt water, forming picturesque patterns along the
ever-changing ground, and dashing a thin veil of sand along the way. Woe
to the unlucky wight who loses his hat in this place! With nothing to
intercept it, the unfortunate headgear is at once taken by the wind and
sent flying over the sandy plain, faster than human foot can run, far
out to the island, and often over it to the sea beyond. The frolicsome
dog, which generally accompanies the postmaster's cart, is the only hope
on which the hatless wretch can then rely; and usually this reliance is
not in vain.

Holy Island contains a population of some 600 souls, mostly fishermen.
Not a tree grows on the island; but at the south end, where a low
village crouches down against the continual sweepings of the stormy
winds, are a few fields, fragrant with clover, and gleaming with
buttercups; and, in one of these fields, scarce a stone's throw from the
beating surf, stand the ruins of Lindisfarn Abbey, one of the earliest
seats of Christianity in Great Britain, and one closely identified with
the traditionary career of St. Cuthbert. The front walls, portions of
the side walls, a diagonal arch richly ornamented, and the chancel
recently repaired to arrest further decay, remain to tell of its former
beauty. The area within the ruins is strewn with sea shells and pebbles,
while about the bases, whence once sprang aloft the clustered pillars of
the nave, grow in rich profusion hardy yellow flowers. The sharp sea
winds have eaten into the stone in many places, reducing it to an
apparent honeycomb. No ripple of gentle streamlet falls on the ear; no
luxuriant foliage offers its pleasant shade; no ivy drapery, stirred by
the summer breeze, floats from the decaying walls; but instead of these
gentle attractions, which Tinter and Bolton and Valle Crucis offer, we
have at Lindisfarn the boom of the ocean surf and the biting freshness
of the keen sea wind.

Scott thus describes Holy Island and Lindisfarn:

'The tide did now its floodmark gain,
And girdled in the saint's domain:
For, with the flow and ebb, its style
Varied from continent to isle;
Dryshod, o'er sands, twice every day,
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day, the waves efface
Of staves and sandalled feet the trace.
As to the port the galley flew,
Higher and higher rose to view
The castle, with its battled walls,
The ancient monastery's halls -
A solemn, huge, and dark-red pile,
Placed on the margin of the isle.
In Saxon strength that abbey frowned,
With massive arches broad and round,
That rose alternate, row on row,
On ponderous columns, short and low,
Built ere the art was known,
By pointed aisle, and shafted stalk,
The arcades of an alley'd walk,
To emulate in stone.'

The scenes of Sarrow and Ettrick vales, associated with the life and
described in the poetry of the Ettrick shepherd, deserve more attention
from tourists than they usually receive. The single tomb in Ettrick
kirkyard, the site of his birthplace near by, marked by a stone in the
wall, bearing the letters J. H., Poet; Chapelhope, the scene of the
'Brownie o' Bodsbeck,' 'Sweet St. Mary's Lake,' Mount Benger, and the
new monument recently erected on the shores of St. Mary's, representing
the poet seated on a rock, his plaid thrown loosely over his shoulders,
and his shepherd's dog by his side - all these localities cannot fail to
interest those who know James Hogg, either by his works, or by his
character, so powerfully and singularly delineated in the pages of
'Noctes Ambrosianæ.'

Burns, the Ploughman - Scott, the Minstrel - Hogg, the Shepherd! How much
does Scotland owe to the magic of their pens! Without them, her
mountains and lakes and streams would never have known the presence of
that indefatigable, money-spending feature of modern life - the tourist;
for, without them, few indeed would be the Lions of Scotland.




WE TWO.


We own no houses, no lots, no lands;
No dainty viands for us are spread;
By sweat of our brows, and toil of our hands,
We earn the pittance that buys us bread.
And yet we live in a grander state,
Sunbeam and I, than the millionaires
Who dine off silver or golden plate,
With liveried lacqueys behind their chairs.

We have no riches in bonds or stocks;
No bank books show, our balance to draw;
Yet we carry a safe-key, that unlocks
More treasure than Croesus ever saw.
We wear no velvets, nor satins fine;
We dress in a very homely way;
But, ah! what luminous lustres shine
About Sunbeam's gowns and my hodden gray.

When we walk together - (we do not ride,
We are far too poor) - it is very rare
We are bowed unto from the other side
Of the street - but not for this do we care.
We are not lonely; we pass along,
Sunbeam and I, and you cannot see
(We can) what tall and beautiful throng
Of angels we have for company.


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 5, November, 1863 → online text (page 17 of 20)