Rokeby, by Walter Scott

Notes to Canto Third.

Note I.

The Indian, providing for his prey.

Who hears the settlers track his way. — St. II. p. 102.

The patience, abstinence, and ingenuity exerted by the North American Indians, when in pursuit of plunder or vengeance, is the most distinguished feature in their character; and the activity and address which they display in their retreat is equally surprising. Adair, whose absurd hypothesis and turgid style do not affect the general authenticity of his anecdotes, has recorded an instance which seems incredible.

“When the Chickasah nation was engaged in a former war with the Muskohge, one of their young warriors set off against them to revenge the blood of a near relation. He went through the most unfrequented and thick parts of the woods as such a dangerous enterprise required, till he arrived opposite to the great and old-beloved town of refuge, Koosah, which stands high on the eastern side of a bold river, about 250 yards broad, that runs by the late dangerous Alebahma-Fort, down to the black poisoning Mobille, and so into the gulph of Mexico. There he concealed himself under cover of the top of a fallen pine-tree, in view of the ford of the old trading path, where the enemy now and then pass the river in their light poplar canoes. All his war store of provisions consisted in three stands of barbicued venison, till he had an opportunity to revenge blood, and return home. He waited with watchfulness and patience almost three days, when a young man, a woman, and a girl, passed a little wide of him about an hour before sunset. The former he shot down, tomohawked the other two, and scalped each of them in a trice, in full view of the town. By way of bravado, he shaked the scalps before them, sounded the awful death whoop, and set off along the trading path, trusting to his heels, while a great many of the enemy ran to their arms, and gave chace. Seven miles from thence he entered the great blue ridge of the Apalahche mountains. About an hour before day he had run over seventy miles of that mountainous tract; then, after sleeping two hours in a sitting posture, leaning his back against a tree, he set ofi” again with fresh speed. As he threw away the venison when he found himself pursued by the enemy, he was obliged to support nature with such herbs, roots, and nuts as his sharp eyes, with a running glance, directed him to snatch up in his course. Though I often have rode that war-path alone, when delay might have proved dangerous, and with as fine and strong horses as any in America, it took me five days to ride from the aforesaid Koosali to this sprightly warrior’s place in the Chickasah country, the distance of 300 computed miles; yet he ran it, and got home safe and well at about eleven o’clock of the third day, which was only one day and a half and two nights.” — Adair’s History of the American Indians, Lond. 1775, 4to. p. 395.

Note ii.

In Redesdale his yovith had heard

Each art her wily dalesmen dared, — St. II. p. 103.

“What manner of cattle-stealers they are that inhabit these valleys in the marches of both kingdoms, John Lesley, a Scotchman himself, and Bishop of Ross, will inform you. They sally out of their own borders in the night, in troops, through unfrequented by-ways and many intricate windings. All the day-time they refresh themselves and their horses in lurking holes they had pitched upon before, till they arrive in the dark in those places they have a design upon. As soon as they have seized upon the booty, they in like manner return home in the night, through blind ways, and fetching many a compass. The more skilful any captain is to pass through those wild deserts, crooked turnings, and deep precipices in the thickest mis£s, his reputation is the greater, and he is looked upon as a man of an excellent head. And they are so very cunning that they seldom have their booty taken from them, unless sometimes when, by the help of bloodhounds following them exactly upon the track, they may chance to fall into the hands of their adversaries. When being taken, they have so much persuasive eloquence, and so manv smooth insinuating words at command, that if they do not move their judges, nay, and even their adversaries, (notwithstanding the severity of their natures,) to have mercy, yet they incite them to admiration and compassion.” — Camden’s Britannia.

The inhabitants of the valleys of Tyne and Reed were, in ancient times, so inordinately addicted to these depredations, that in 1564 the Tnrorporatpd Merchant-adventurers of Newcastle made a law that none born in these districts should be admitted apprentice. The inhabitants are stated to be so generally addicted to rapine, that no faith should be reposed in those proceeding from “such lewde and wicked progenitors.” This regulation continued to stand unrepealed until 1771. A beggar, in an old play, describes himself as “born in Redesdale, in Northumberland, and come of a wight-riding surname, called the Robsons, good honest men and true, saving a little shifting for their living, God help them ” — a description which would have applied to most borderers on both sides.

Reidswair, famed for a skirmish to which it gives name, is on the very edge of the Carter–Fell, which divides England from Scotland. The Rooken is a place upon Reed-water. Rertram, being described as a native of these dales, where the habits of hostile depredation long survived the union of the crowns, may have been, in some degree, prepared by education for the exercise of a similar trade in the wars of the buccaneers.

Note iii.

Hiding his face, lest foemen spy

The sparkle of his swarthy eye. — St. IV. p. 106.

After one of the recent battles, in which the Irish rebels were defeated, one of their most active leaders was found in a bog, in which he was immersed up to the shoulders, while his head was concealed by an impending ledge of turf. Being detected and seized notwithstanding his precaution, he became solicitous to know how his retreat had been discovered. “I caught,” answered the Sutherland Highlander, by whom he was taken, “the sparkle of your eye.” Those who are accustomed to mark hares upon their form, usually discover them by the same circumstance.

Note iv.

And throatwort with its azure hell. — St. VIII. p. 112.

The Campanula latifolia. Grand Throatwort, or Canterbury hells, grows in profusion upon the beautiful banks of the river Gi’eta, where it divides the manors of Brignal and Scargill, about three miles above Greta–Bridge.

Note V.

Here stood a wretch, prepared to change

His soul’s redemption for revenge! — St. IX. p. 115.

It is agreed by all the writers upon magic and witchcraft, that revenge was the most common motive for the pretended compact between Satan and his vassals. The ingenuity of Reginald Scot has very happily stated how such an opinion came to root itself, not only in the mind of the public and of the judges, but even in that of the poor wretches themselves who were accused of sorcery, and were often firm believers in their own power and their own guilt.

“One sort of such as are said to be witches, are women which be commonly old, lame, blear-eyed, pale, foul, and full of wrinkles; poor, sullen, superstitious, or papists, or such as know no religion; in whose drowsie minds the devil hath gotten a fine seat; so as what mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to pass, they are easily perswaded the same is done by themselves, imprinting in their minds an earnest and constant imagination thereof.

These go from house to house, and from door to door, for a pot of milk, yest, drink, pottage, or some such relief, without the which they could hardly live; neither obtaining for their service or pains, nor yet by their art, nor yet at the devil’s hands, (with whom they are said to make a perfect and visible bargain,) either beauty, money, promotion, wealth, pleasure, honour, knowledge, learning, or any other benefit whatsoever.

“It falleth out many time, that neither their necessities nor their expectation is answered or served in those places where they beg or borrow, but rather their lewdness is by their neighbours reproved. And farther, in tract of time the witch waxeth odious and tedious to her neighbours, and they again are despised and despited of her; so as sometimes she curseth one, and sometimes another, and that from the master of the house, his wife, children, cattel, &c. to the little pig that heth in the stie. Thus, in process of time, they have all displeased her, and she hath wished evil luck unto them all; perhaps with curses and imprecations made in form. Doubtless (at length) some of her neighbours die or fall sick, or some of their children are visited with diseases that vex them strangely, as apoplexies, epilepsies, convulsions, hot fevers, worms, &c. which, by ignorant parents, are supposed to be the vengeance of witches.

“The witch, on the other side, expecting her neighbours mischances, and seeing things sometimes come to pass according to her wishes, curses, and incantations, (for Bodin himself confesses, that not above two in a hundred of their witchings or wishings take effect,) being called before a justice, by due examination of the circumstances, is driven to see her imprecations and desires, and her neighbours harms and losses to concur, and, as it were, to take effect; and so confesseth that she (as a goddess) hath brought such things to pass. Wherein not only she, but the accuser, and also the justice, are foully deceived and abused, as being, through her confession, and other circumstances, perswaded (to the injury of God’s glory) that she hath done, or can do, that which is proper only to God himself.” — Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft, Loud. 1655, fol. i). 4, 5.

Note vi.

Of my marauding on the clowns

Of Calverley and Bradford downs. — St. XI. p. 118.

The troops of the king, when they first took the field, were as well disciplined as could be expected from circumstances. But as the circumstances of Charles became less favourable, and his funds for regularly paying his forces decreased, habits of military license prevailed among them in greater excess. Lacy the player, who served his master during the civil war, brought out, after the Restoration, a piece called the Old Troop, in which he seems to have commemorated some real incidents which occurred in his military career. The names of the officers of the Troop sufficiently express their habits. We have Flea-flint Plunder–Master — General, Captain Ferret-farm, and Quarter–Master Burndorp. The officers of this Troop are in league with these worthies, and connive at their plundering the country for a suitable share in the plunder. All this was undoubtedly drawn from the life which Lacy had an opportunity to study. The moral of the whole is comprehended in a rebuke given to the lieutenant, whose disorders in the country are said to prejudice the king’s cause more than his courage in the field could recompence. The piece is by no means void of farcical humour.

Note vii.

Brngnal’s woods, and Scargill’s, wave

E’en now o’er many a sister cave. — St. XIV. p. 122.

The banks of the Greta, below Rutherford-bridge, abounds in seams of a greyish slate, which are wrought in some places to a very great depth under ground, thus forming artificial caverns, which, when the seam has been exhausted, are gradually hidden by the underwood which grows in profusion upon the romantic banks of the river. In times of public confusion, they might be well adapted to the purposes of banditti.

Note viii.

When Spain waged warfare with our land. — St. XX. p. 132.

There was a short war with Spain in 1625–6, which will be found to agree pretty well with the chronology of the poem. But probably Bertram held an opinion very common among the maritime heroes of the age, that “there was no peace beyond the Line.” The Spanish guar da costas were constantly employed in aggressions upon the trade and settlements of the English and French, and by their own severities gave room for the system of buccaneering, at first adapted in self-defence and retaliation, and afterwards persevered in from habit and a thirst of plunder.

Note ix.

our comrades’ strife. — St. XXIII. p. 136.

The laws of the buccaneers, and their successors the pirates, however severe and equitable, were, like other laws, often set aside by the stronger party. Their quarrels about the division of the spoil fill their history, and they as frequently arose out of mere frolic, or the tyrannical humour of their chiefs. An anecdote of Teach (called Blackbeard) shews that their habitual indifference for human life extended to their companions as well as their enemies and captives.

“One night drinking in his cabin with Hands, the pilot, and another man, Blackbeard, without any provocation, privately draws out a small pair of pistols, and cocks them under the table, which being perceived by the man, he withdrew upon deck, leaving Hands, the pilot, and the captain together. When the pistols were ready, he blew out the candles, and, crossing his hands, discharged them at his company; Hands the master was shot through the knee, and lamed for life; the other pistol did no execution.” — Johnson’s History of Pirates, Lo7id. 1724, Svo. vol. I. j). 88.

Another anecdote of this worthy may be also mentioned. “The hero of whom we are writing was thoroughly accomplished this way, and some of his frolicks of wickedness were so extravagant, as if he aimed at making his men believe he was a devil incarnate; for being one day at sea, and a little flushed with drink, ‘Come,’ says he, ‘let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it;’ accordingly he, with two or three others, went down into the hold, and, closing up all the hatches, filled several pots full of brimstone and other combustible matter, and set it on fire, and so continued till they were almost suffocated, when some of the men cried out for air; at length he opened the hatches, not a little pleased that he held out the longest.” — Ibid, p. 90.

Note X.

my rangers go

Even now to track a milk-white doe. — St. XXV. p. 139.

“Immediately after supper, the huntsman should go to his master’s chamber, and if he serve a king, then let him go to the master of the game’s chamber, to know in what quarter he determineth to hunt the day following, that he may know his own quarter; that done, he may go to bed, to the end that he may rise the earlier in the morning, according to the time and season, and according to the place where he must hunt: then, when he is up and ready, let him drinke a good draught, and fetch his hound, to make him breake his fast a little: and let him not forget to fill his bottel with good wine; that done, let him take a little vinegar into the palme of his hand, and put it in the nostrils of his hound, for to make him snuffe, to the end his sent may be the perfecter, then let him go to the wood. ——— When the huntsman perceiveth that it is time to begin to beat, let him put his hound before him, and beat the outsides of springs or thickets; and if he find an hart or deer that hkes him, let him mark well whether it be fresh or not, which he may know as wel by the maner of his homids drawing as also by the eye. When he hath well considered what maner of hart it may be, and hath marked every thing to judge by, then let him draw till he come to the couert where he is gone to; and let him harbour him if he can, still marking all his tokens, as well by the slot as by the entries, foyles, or such-like. That done, let him plash or bruse down small twigges, some aloft and some below, as the art requireth, and there-withall, whilest his hound is hote, let him beat the outsides, and make his ring walkes twice or thrice about the wood.” — The Noble Art of Venerie, or Hunting, Lond. 1611, 4to. p.

Note xi.

He turned his charger as he spake, &c. — St. XXVIII. p. 144.

The last verse of this song is taken from the fragment of an old Scottish ballad of which I have only heard the following verses, relating perhaps to some of the followers of James II. who joined him in Ireland previous to the battle of the Boyne:—

It was all for my rightful king

I left my native strand.

It was all for my rightful king

I e’er saw Irish land.

The trooper turn’d him round about

Upon the Irish shore,

He gave his bridle reins a shake.

Said “Adieu for evermore,

My love!

And adieu for evermore.”

Note xii.

The Baron of Ravensworth. — St. XXX. p. 146.

The ruins of Ravensworth Castle stand in the North Riding of Yorkshire, about three miles from the town of Richmond, and adjoining to the waste called the Forest of Arkingarth. It belonged originally to the powerful family of Fitzhugh, from whom it passed to the Lords Dacre of the South.

Note xiii.

Rere-cross on Stanemore. — St. XXX. p. 1 47.

This is a fragment of an old cross with its pediment, surrounded by an entrenchment, upon the very summit of the waste ridge of Stanmore, near a small house of entertainment called the Spittal. It is called Rere-cross, or Ree-cross, of which Hollinshed gives us the following explanation:—

“At length a peace was concluded betwixt the two kings vnder these conditions, that Malcolme should enjoy that part of Northumberland which lieth betwixt Tweed, Cumberland, and Stainmore, and doo homage to the Kinge of England for the same. In the midst of Stainmore there shall be a crosse set up, with the Kinge of England’s image on the one side, and the Kinge of Scotland’s on the other, to signifie that one is march to England, and the other to Scotland. This crosse was called the Roicrosse, that is, the cross of the kinge.” — Holinshed, Lond. 1808, 4to. v. 280.

Hollinshed’s sole authority seems to have been Boethius. But it is not improbable that his account may be the true one, although the circumstance does not occur in Wintoun’s Chronicle. The situation of the cross, and the pains taken to defend it, seem to indicate that it was intended for a landmark of importance.

Note xiv.

— Hast thou lodged our deer? — St. XXXI. p. 148.

The duty of the ranger, or pricker, was first to lodge, or harbour, the deer; i.e. to discover his retreat, as described at length in Note X., and then to make his report to his prince, or master:—

Before the king I come report to make,

Then husht and peace for noble Tristrame’s sake

My liege, I went this morning on my quest.

My hound did sticke, and seem’d to vent some beast.

I held him short, and drawing after him,

I might behold the hart was feeding trym;

His head was high, and large in each degree,

Well paulmed eke, and seem’d full sound to be.

Of colour browne, he beareth eight and tenne,

Of stately height and long he seemed then.

His beam seem’d great, in good proportion led,

Well barred and round, well pearled neare his head.

He seemed fayre tweene blacke and berrie brounde.

He seemes well fed by all the signes I found.

For when I had well marked him with eye,

I stept aside, to watch where he would lye.

And when I so had wayted full an houre,

That he might be at layre and in his boure,

I cast about to harbour him full sure,*

My hound by sent did me thereof assure

Then if he ask what slot or view I found,

I say the slot or view was long on ground;

The toes were great, the joynt bones round and short,

The shinne bones large, the dew-claws close in port:

Short ioynted was he, hollow-footed eke,

An hart to hunt as any man can seeke.

The Art of Venerie, ut supra, p, 96.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/rokeby/notes3.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29