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and peculiar circumstances of their flock. Rob-
in Hood, it is well known, had his celebrated
domestic chaplain Friar Tuck.

5. Of Brian's birth, etc. Scott says that the
legend which follows is not of his invention,
and goes on to show that it is taken with slight
variation from "the geographical collections
made by the Laird of Macfarlane."

$. Snood. The snood, or riband, with which
a Scottish lass braided her hair, had an em-
blematical signification, and applied to her
maiden character. It was exchanged for the
curch, toy, or coif, when she passed, by marriage,



into the matron state. But if the damsel was
so unfortunate as to lose pretensions to the
name of maiden without gaining a right to that
of matron, she was neither permitted to use
the snood, nor advanced to the graver dignity
of the curch.

7. The desert gave him, etc. In adopting the
legend concerning the birth of the Founder of
the Church of Kilmallie, the author has en-
deavored to trace the effects which such a
belief was likely to produce in a barbarous age
on the person to whom it related. It seems
likely that he must have become a fanatic, or
an impostor, or that mixture of both which
forms a more frequent character than either of
them, as existing separately.

7. The fatal Ben- Slue's boding scream. Most
great families in the Highlands were supposed
to have a tutelar, or rather a domestic, spirit,
attached to them, who took an interest in their
prosperity, and intimated, by its wailings, any
approaching disaster. That of Grant of Grant
was called May Moullach, and appeared in the
form of a girl, who had her arm covered with
hair. Grant of Rothiemurcus had an attend-
ant called Bodach-an-dun, or the Ghost of the
Hill; and many other examples might be men-
tioned. The Ben-Shie implies the female fairy
whose lamentations were often supposed to
precede the death of a chieftain of particular
families. When she is visible, it is in the form
of an old woman, with a blue mantle and stream-
ing hair. A superstition of the same kind is,
I believe, universally received by the inferior
ranks of the native Irish.

7. Sounds, too, had come, etc. A presage of
the kind alluded to in the text, is still believed
to announce death to the ancient Highland
family of M'Lean of Lochbuy. The spirit of an
ancestor slain in battle is heard to gallop along
a stony bank, and then to ride thrice around
the family residence, ringing his fairy bridle, and
thus intimating the approaching calamity.

8. Jnch-Cailliach, the Isle of Nuns, or of Old
Women, is a most beautiful island at the lower
extremity of Loch Lomond. The church be-
longing to the former nunnery was long used
as the place of worship for the parish of Bu-
chanan, but scarce any vestiges of it now re-
main. The burial-ground continues to be used,
and contains the family places of sepulture of
several neighboring clans.

13. The dun deer's hide, etc. The present
brogue of the Highlanders is made of half-dried
leather, with holes to admit and let out the
water; for walking the moors dry-shod is a
matter altogether out of question. The an-
cient buskin was still ruder, being made of un-
dressed deer's hide, with the hair outwards, —
a circumstance which procured the Highlanders
the well-known epithet of Red-shanks.

16. Coronach. The Coronach of the High-
landers, like the Ululatus of the Romans, and
the Ululoo of the Irish, was a wild expression
of lamentation, poured forth by the mourners
over the body of a departed friend. When
the words of it were articulate, they expressed

the praises of the deceased, and the loss the
clan would sustain by his death.

19. Benledi saw the cross of fire, etc. The
first stage of the Fiery Cross is to Duncraggan,
a place near the Brigg of Turk, where a short
stream divides Loch Achray from Loch Ven-
nachar. From thence it passes towards Cal-
lander, and then, turning to the left up the
pass of Leny, is consigned to Norman at the
Chapel of Saint Bride, which stood on a small
and romantic knoll in the middle of the valley,
called Strath-Ire. Tombea and Arnandave, or
Ardmandave, are names of places in the vicinity.
The alarm is then supposed to pass along the
Lake of Lubnaig, and through the various glens
in the district of Balquidder, including the neigh-
boring tracts of Glenfinlas and Strath-Gartney.

24. Balquidder. It may be necessary to in-
form the Southern reader that the heath on the
Scottish moorlands is often set fire to, that the
sheep may have the advantage of the young
herbage produced, in room of the tough old
heather plants. This custom (execrated by
sportsmen) produces occasionally the most
beautiful nocturnal appearances, similar al-
most to the discharge of a volcano. This
simile is not new to poetry. The charge of
a warrior, in the fine ballad of Hardyknute,
is said to be " like fire to heather set."

25. Coir-nan- Uriskin. This is a very steep
and most romantic hollow in the mountain of
Benvenue, overhanging the southeastern ex-
tremity of Loch Katrine.- It is surrounded
with stupendous rocks, and overshadowed with
birch-trees, mingled with oaks, the spontaneous
production of the mountain, even where its
cliffs appear denuded of soil. A dale in so
wild a situation, and amid a people whose
genius bordered on the romantic, did not re-
main without appropriate deities. The name
literally implies the Corri, or Den, of the Wild
or Shaggy Men. Tradition has ascribed to the
Urisk, who gives name to the cavern, a figure be-
tween a goat and a man ; in short, however much
the classical reader maybe startled, precisely that
of the Grecian Satyr. The Urisk seems not to
have inherited, with the form, the petulance of
the sylvan deity of the classics ; his occupation,
on the contrary, resembled those of Milton's Lu fa-
bar Fiend, or of the Scottish Brownie, though he
differed from both in name and appearance.


4. The Taghairm. The Highlanders, like
all rude people, had various superstitious
modes of inquiring into futurity. One of the
most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in
the text. A person was wrapped up in the
skin of a newly slain bullock, and deposited
beside a waterfall, or at the bottom of a pre-
cipice, or in some other strange, wild, and
unusual situation, where the scenery around
him suggested nothing but objects of horror.
In this situation he revolved in his mind the



question proposed ; and whatever was im-
pressed upon him by his exalted imagination,
passed for the inspiration of the disembodied
spirits who haunt these desolate recesses.

5. The Herd's Targe. There is a rock so
named in the Forest of Glenfinlas, by which
a tumultuary cataract takes its course. This
wild place is said in former times to have
afforded refuge to an outlaw, who was sup-
plied with provisions by a woman, who lowered
them down from the brink of the precipice
above. His water he procured for himself,
by letting down a flagon tied to a string into
the black pool beneath the fall.

6. Which spills the foremost foemarCs life.
Though this be in the text described as a
response of the Taghairm, or Oracle of the
Hide, it was of itself an augury frequently
attended to. The fate of the battle was often
anticipated, in the imagination of the combat-
ants, by observing which party first shed blood.
It is said that the Highlanders under Montrose
were so deeply imbued with this notion, that
on the morning of the battle of Tippermoor
they murdered a defenceless herdsman, whom
they found in the fields, merely to secure an
advantage of so much consequence to their party.

13. 1 he fairies' fatal green. As the Daoine
Shi\ or Men of Peace, wore green habits, they
were supposed to take offence when any mor-
tals ventured to assume their favorite color.
Indeed, from some reason, which has been
perhaps originally a general superstition, green
is held in Scotland to be unlucky to particular
tribes and counties. The Caithness men, who
hold this belief, allege as a reason that their
bands wore that color when they were cut off
at the battle of Flodden ; and for the same
reason they avoid crossing the Ord on a Mon-
day, being the day of the week on which their
ill-omened array set forth. Green is also dis-
liked by those of the name of Ogilvy ; but
more especially it is held fatal to the whole
clan of Grahame. It is remembered of an
aged gentleman of that name that when his
horse fell in a fox-chase, he accounted for it
at once by observing that the whipcord attached
to his lash was of this unlucky color.

13. Wert christened man. The Elves were
supposed greatly to envy the privileges ac-
quired by Christian initiation, and they gave
to those mortals who had fallen into their
power a certain precedence, founded upon this
advantageous distinction.

30. Who ever recked, etc. Saint John actually
used this illustration when engaged in confuting
the pica of law proposed for the unfortunate
Earl of Strafford : " It was true, we gave laws
to hares and deer, because they are beasts of
chase ; but it was never accounted either cruelty
or foul play to knock foxes or wolves on the
head as they can be found, because they are
prey, fa a word, the law and hu-
manity were alike : the one being more fal-
lacious, and the other more barbarous, than in
any age had been vented in such an authority"
(Clarendon's History of the Rebellion).

31. The hardened flesh of mountain deer. The
Scottish Highlanders, in former times, had a
concise mode of cooking their venison, or
rather of dispensing with cooking it, which
appears greatly to have surprised the French,
whom chance -made acquainted with it. The
Vidame of Chartres, when a hostage in Eng-
land, during the reign of Edward VI., was per-
mitted to travel into Scotland, and penetrated
as far as to the remote Highlands (au fin fond
des Sauvages). After a great hunting-party, at
which a most wonderful quantity of game was
destroyed, he saw these Scottish savages devour
a part of their venison raw, without any farther
preparation than compressing it between two
batons of wood, so as to force out the blood,
and render it extremely hard, This they reck-
oned a great delicacy ; and when the Vidame
partook of it, his compliance with their taste
rendered him extremely popular.


6. Albany. There is scarcely a more disor-
derly period of Scottish history than that which
succeeded the battle of Flodden, and occupied
the minority of James V. Feuds of ancient
standing broke out like old wounds, and every
quarrel among the independent nobility, which
occurred daily, and almost hourly, gave r4se to
fresh bloodshed. /

II. / only meant, etc. This incident, like
some other passages in the poem, illustrative
of the character of the ancient Gael, is not
imaginary, but borrowed from fact. The High-
landers, with the inconsistency of most nations
in the same state, were alternately capable of
great exertions of generosity and of cruel re-
venge and perfidy. Early in the last century,
John Gunn, a noted Highland robber, infested
Inverness-shire, and levied black-mail up to the
walls of the provincial capital. A garrison was
then maintained in the castle of that town, and
their pay (country banks being unknown) was
usually transmitted in specie under the guard
of a small escort. It chanced that the officer
who commanded this little party was unexpect-
edly obliged to halt, about thirty miles from
Inverness, at a miserable inn. About nightfall,
a stranger in the Highland dress, and of very
prepossessing appearance, entered the same
house. Separate accommodation being impos-
sible, the Englishman offered the newly arrived
guest a part of his supper, which was accepted
with reluctance. By the conversation he found
his new acquaintance knew well all the passes
of the country, which induced him eagerly to
request his company on the ensuing morning.
He neither disguised his business and charge,
nor his apprehensions of that celebrated free-
booter, John Gunn. The Highlander hesitated
a moment, and then frankly consented to be his
guide. Forth they set in the morning ; and in
travelling through a solitary and dreary glen,
the discourse again turned on John Gunn.



" Would you like to see him ? " said the guide ;
and without waiting an answer to this alarming
question he whistled, and the English officer,
with his small party, were surrounded by a body
of Highlanders, whose numbers put resistance
out of question, and who were all well armed.
" Stranger," resumed the guide, " I am that
very John Gunn by whom you feared to be in-
tercepted, and not without cause ; for I came
to the inn last night with the express purpose
of learning your route, that I and my followers
might ease you of your charge by the road.
But I am incapable of betraying the trust you
reposed in me, and having convinced you that
you were in my power, I can only dismiss you
unplundered and uninjured." He then gave
the officer directions for his journey, and dis-
appeared with his party as suddenly as they had
presented themselves.

12. Three mighty lakes. The torrent which
discharges itself from Loch Vennachar, the
lowest and eastmost of the three lakes which
form the scenery adjoining to the Trosachs,
sweeps through a flat and extensive moor,
called Bochastle. Upon a small eminence
called the Dun of Bochastle, and indeed on
the plain itself, are some intrenchments which
have been thought Roman.

15. His targe. Around target of light-wood,
covered with strong leather and studded with
brass or iron, was a necessary part of a High-
lander's equipment. In charging regular troops
they received the thrust of the bayonet in this
buckler, twisted it aside, and used the broad-
sword against the encumbered soldier. In the
civil war of 1745 most of the front rank of the
clans were thus armed; and Captain Grose
(Military Antiquities, vol. i. p. 164) informs us
that in 1747 the privates of the 43d regiment,
then in Flanders, were for the most part per-
mitted to carry targets. A person thus armed
had a considerable advantage in private fray.

20. The burghers hold their sports to-day. Ev-
ery burgh of Scotland of the least note, but
more especially the considerable towns, had
their solemn .play, or festival, when feats of
archery were exhibited, and prizes distributed
to those who excelled in wrestling, hurling the
bar, and the other gymnastic exercises of the
period. Stirling, a usual place of royal resi-
dence, was not likely to be deficient in pomp
upon such occasions, especially since James V.
was very partial to them. His ready partici-
pation in these popular amusements was one
cause of his acquiring the title of the King of
the Commons, or Rex Plebeiorum, as Lesley has
latinized it. The usual prize to the best shooter
was a silver arrow.

22. Robin Hood. The exhibition of this re-
nowned outlaw and his band was a favorite
frolic at such festivals as we are describing.
This sporting, in which kings did not disdain
to be actors, was prohibited in Scotland upon
the Reformation, by a statute of the 6th parlia-
ment of Queen Mary, c. 61, a. d. 1555, which
ordered, under heavy penalties, that "na man-
ner of person be chosen Robert Hude, nor

Little John, Abbot of Unreason, Queen of May,
nor otherwise." But in 1561 the "rascal mul-
titude," says John Knox, " were stirred up to
make a Robin Hude, whilk enormity was of
mony years left and damned by statute and act
of Parliament ; yet would they not be forbid-
den." Accordingly they raised a very serious
tumult, and at length made prisoners the magis-
trates who endeavored to suppress it, and would
not release them till they extorted a formal
promise that no one should be punished for his
share of the disturbance. It would seem, from
the complaints of the General Assembly of the
Kirk, that these profane festivities were con-
tinued down to 1592 (Book of the Universal
Kirk, p. 414).


3. Adventurers they, etc. The Scottish ar-
mies consisted chiefly of the nobility and bar-
ons, with their vassals, who held lands under
them for military service by themselves and
their tenants. The patriarchal influence exer-
cised by the heads of clans in the Highlands
and Borders was of a different nature, and
sometimes at variance with feudal principles.
It flowed from the Patria Potestas, exercised by
the chieftain as representing the original father
of the whole name, and was often obeyed in
contradiction to the feudal superior. James
V. seems first to have introduced, in addition
to the militia furnished from these sources, the
service of a small number of mercenaries, who
formed a body guard, called the Foot- Band.

6. The leader of a juggler band. The jong-
leurs, or jugglers, as we learn from the elabo-
rate work of the late Mr. Strutt, on the sports
and pastimes of the people of England, used to
call in the aid of various assistants, to render
these performances as captivating as possible.
The glee-maiden was a necessary attendant.
Her duty was tumbling and dancing ; and there-
fore the Anglo-Saxon version of Saint Mark's
Gospel states Herodias to have vaulted or tum-
bled before King Herod.

14. Strike it! There are several instances,
at least in tradition, of persons so much at-
tached to particular tunes as to require to hear
them on their death-bed. Such an anecdote is
mentioned by the late Mr. Riddel of Glenrid-
del, in his collection of Border tunes, respect-
ing an air called the Dandling of the Bairns,
for which a certain Gallovidian laird is said to
have evinced this strong mark of partiality.
It is popularly told of a famous freebooter, that
he composed the tune known by the name of
Macpherson's Rant while under sentence of
death, and played it at the gallows-tree. Some
spirited words have been adapted to it by
Burns. A similar >tory is recounted of a Welsh
bard, who composed and played on his death-
bed the air called Dafyddy Garregg Wen.

15. Battle of Bear an Duine. A skirmish
actually took place at a pass thus called in the
Trosachs, and closed with the remarkable in-



cident mentioned in the text. It was greatly
posterior in date to the reign of James V.

17. Tinchel. A circle of sportsmen, who, by
surrounding a great space, and gradually nar-
rowing, brought immense quantities of deer
together, which usually made desperate efforts
to break through the Tinchel.

26. And Snowdoun's Knight is Scotland's
King. This discovery will probably remind'
the reader of the beautiful Arabian tale of 77
Bondocani. Yet the incident is not borrowed
from that elegant story, but from Scottish tra-
dition. James V., of whom we are treating,
was a monarch whose good and benevolent in-
tentions often rendered his romantic freaks
venial, if not respectable, since, from his anx-
ious attention to the interests of the lower and
most oppressed class of his subjects, he was, as
we have seen, popularly termed the King of the
Commons. For the purpose of seeing that jus-

tice was regularly administered, and frequently
from the less justifiable motive of gallantry, he
used to traverse the vicinage of his severaf pal-
aces in various disguises. The two excellent
comic songs entitled The Gaberlunzie Man and
We '11 gae nae mair a roving are said to have
been founded upon the success of his amorous
adventures when travelling in the disguise of a
beggar. The latter is perhaps the best comic
ballad in any language.

28. The name of Snowdoun. William of
Worcester, who wrote about the middle of the
fifteenth century, calls Stirling Castle Snow-
doun. Sir David Lindesay bestows the same
epithet upon it in his Complaint of the Pa-
pingo : —

" Adieu, fair Snawdoun, with thy towers high,
Thy chaple-royal, park, and table round ;
May, June, and July, would I dwell in thee,
Were I a man, to hear the birdis sound,
Whilk doth agane thy royal rock rebound."

€l)e Ufeton of Don iRoHencfe.

The Vision of Don Roderick was published
July 15, 181 1, and had the following preface : —

"The following Poem is founded upon a
Spanish Tradition, particularly detailed in the
Notes ; but bearing, in general, that Don Rod-
erick, the last Gothic King of Spain, when the
Invasion of the Moors was impending, had the
temerity to descend into an ancient vault, near
Toledo, the opening of which had been de-
nounced as fatal to the Spanish Monarchy.
The legend adds, that his rash curiosity was
mortified by an emblematical representation of
those Saracens who, in the year 714, defeated
him in battle, and reduced Spain under their
dominion. I have presumed to prolong the
Vision of the Revolutions of Spain down to
the present eventful crisis of the Peninsula;
and to divide it, by a supposed change of scene,
into Three Periods. The First of these repre-
sents the Invasion of the Moors, the Defeat
and Death of Roderick, and closes with the
peaceful occupation of the country by the Vic-
tors. The Second Period embraces the state
of the Peninsula, when the conquests of the
Spaniards and Portuguese in the East and
West Indies had raised to the highest pitch
the renown of their arms; sullied, however, by
superstition and cruelty. An allusion to the
i nh u m a ni ties of the Inquisition terminates this
picture. The Last Part of the Poem opens
with the state of Spain previous to the unpar-
alleled treachery of Bonaparte; gives a sketch
of the usurpation attempted upon that unsus-
picious and friendly kingdom, and terminates
with the arrival of the British succors. It may
be further proper to mention that the object of
the Poem is less to commemorate or detail
particular incidents, than to exhibit a general
and impressive picture oi the several periods
brought upon the stage.

" I am too sensible of the respect due to the
Public, especially by one who has already ex-
perienced more than ordinary indulgence, to
offer any apology for the inferiority of the
poetry to the subject it is chiefly designed to
commemorate. Yet I think it proper to men-
tion that while I was hastily executing a work,
written for a temporary purpose, and on passing
events, the task was most cruelly interrupted
by the successive deaths of Lord President
Blair and Lord Viscount Melville. In those
distinguished characters I had not only to re-
gret persons whose lives were most important
to Scotland, but also whose notice and patron-
age honored my entrance upon active life ;
and, I may add, with melancholy pride, who
permitted my more advanced age to claim no
common share in their friendship. Under such
interruptions, the following verses, which my
best and happiest efforts must have left far
unworthy of their theme, have, I am myself
sensible, an appearance of negligence and inco-
herence, which, in other circumstances, I might
have been able to remove.
"Edinburgh, June 24, 181 1."


4. And Cattreath's glens with voice of triumph
rung, etc. This locality may startle those
readers who do not recollect that much of the
ancient poetry preserved in Wales refers less
to the history of the Principality to which that
name is now limited, than to events which
happened in the northwest of England, and
southwest of Scotland, where the Britons for
a long time made a stand against the Saxons.



The battle of Cattreath, lamented by the cele-
brated Aneurin, is supposed, by the learned
Dr. Leyden, to have been fought on the skirts
of Ettrick Forest. It is known to the English
reader by the paraphrase of Gray, beginning, —

" Had I hut the torrent's might,
With headlong rage and wild affright,'' etc.

But it is not so generally known that the cham-
pions, mourned in this beautiful dirge, were the
British inhabitants of Edinburgh, who were
cut off by the Saxons of Deiria, or Northum-
berland, about the latter part of the sixth

8. Minchmore's haunted spring. A belief in
the existence and nocturnal revels of the fairies
still lingers among the vulgar in Selkirkshire.
A copious fountain upon the ridge of Minch-
more, called the Cheesewell, is supposed to be
sacred to these fanciful spirits, and it was
customary to propitiate them by throwing in
something upon passing it. A pin was the
usual oblation ; and the ceremony is still some-
times practised, though rather in jest than

9. In verse spontaneous chants some favored
name. The flexibility of the Italian and Spanish
languages, and perhaps the liveliness of their
genius, renders these countries distinguished

Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 69 of 78)