IF thou would’st view fair Melrose aright,
Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins grey.
Where the broken arches are black in night,
And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
When the cold light’s uncertain shower
Streams on the ruin’d central tower;
When buttress and buttress, alternately,
Seem fram’d of ebon and ivory;10
When silver edges the imagery,
And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;1
When distant Tweed is heard to rave
And the owlet to hoot o’er the dead man’s grave
Then go — but go alone the while —
Then view St. David’s ruin’d pile;2
And, home returning, soothly swear,
Was never scene so sad and fair!
Short halt did Deloraine make there;
Little reck’d he of the scene so fair:20
With dagger’s hilt, on the wicket strong,
He struck full loud, and struck full long
The porter hurried to the gate —
“Who knocks so loud, and knocks so late?”
“From Branksome I,” the warrior cried;
And straight the wicket open’d wide:
For Branksome’s Chiefs had in battle stood,
To fence the rights of fair Melrose;
And lands and livings, many a rood,
Had gifted the shrine for their souls’ repose.330
Bold Deloraine his errand said;
The porter bent his humble head;
With torch in hand, his feet unshod,
And noiseless step, the path he trod;
The arched cloister, far and wide,
Rang to the warrior’s clanking stride,
Till, stooping low his lofty crest,
He enter’d the cell of the ancient priest,
And lifted his barred aventayle,4
To hail the Monk of St. Mary’s aisle.40
“The Ladye of Branksome greets thee by me;
Says, that the fated hour is come,
And that to-night I shall watch with thee,
To win the treasure of the tomb.”
From sackcloth couch the Monk arose,
With toil his stiffen’d limbs he rear’d;
A hundred years had flung their snows
On his thin locks and floating beard.
And strangely on the Knight look’d he,
And his blue eyes gleam’d wild and wide;50
“And dar’st thou, Warrior! seek to see
What heaven and hell alike would hide?
My breast, in belt of iron pent,
With shirt of hair and scourge of thorn;
For threescore years, in penance spent,
My knees those flinty stones have worn;
Yet all too little to atone
For knowing what should ne’er be known.
Would’st thou thy every future year
In ceaseless prayer and penance drie,60
Yet wait thy latter end with fear —
Then, daringWarrior, follow me!”
“Penance, father, will I none;
Prayer know I hardly one;
For mass or prayer can I rarely tarry,
Save to patter an Ave Mary,
When I ride on a Border foray.5
Other prayer can I none;
So speed me my errand, and let me be gone.”
Again on the Knight look’d the Churchman old,70
And again he sighed heavily;
For he had himself been a warrior bold,
And fought in Spain and Italy.
And he thought on the days that were long since by
When his limbs were strong, and his courage was high:
Now, slow and faint, he led the way,
Where, cloister’d round, the garden lay;
The pillar’d arches were over their head
And beneath their feet were the bones of the dead.6
Spreading herbs, and flowerets bright,80
Glisten’d with the dew of night;
Nor herb, nor floweret, glisten’d there,
But was carv’d in the cloister-arches as fair.
The Monk gazed long on the lovely moon,
Then into the night he looked forth;
And red and bright the streamers light
Were dancing in the glowing north.
So had he seen, in fair Castile,
The youth in glittering squadrons start,7
Sudden the flying jennet wheel,90
And hurl the unexpected dart.
He knew, by the streamers that shot so bright,
That spirits were riding the northern light.
By a steel-clench’d postern door,
They enter’d now the chancel tall;
The darken’d roof rose high aloof
On pillars lofty and light and small:
The key-stone, that lock’d each ribbed aisle
Was a fleur-de-lys, or a quatre-feuille
The corbells8 were carv’d grotesque and grim;100
And the pillars, with cluster’d shafts so trim,
With base and with capital flourish’d around,
Seem’d bundles of lances which garlands had bound.
Full many a scutcheon and banner riven,
Shook to the cold night-wind of heaven,
Around the screened altar’s pale
And there the dying lamps did burn,
Before thy low and lonely urn
O gallant Chief of Otterburne!9
And thine, dark Knight of Liddesdale!10110
O fading honors of the dead!
O high ambition, lowly laid!
The moon on the east oriel shone
Through slender shafts of shapely stone
By foliaged tracery combin’d;
Thou would’st have thought some fairy’s hand
‘Twixt poplars straight the ozier wand
In many a freakish knot, had twin’d;
Then fram’d a spell, when the work was done
And chang’d the willow-wreaths to stone.120
The silver light, so pale and faint,
Shew’d many a prophet, and many a saint
Whose image on the glass was dyed
Full in the midst, his Cross of Red
Triumphant Michael brandished
And trampled the Apostate’s pride.
The moon-beam kiss’d the holy pane11
And threw on the pavement a bloody stain
They sate them down on a marble stone — 12
(A Scottish monarch slept below):130
Thus spoke the Monk, in solemn tone:
“I was not always a man of woe;
For Paynim countries I have trod
And fought beneath the Cross of God:
Now, strange to my eyes thine arms appear,
And their iron clang sounds strange to my ear.
“In these far climes it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott13
A wizard, of such dreaded fame,
That when, in Salamanca’s cave14140
Him listed his magic wand to wave,
The bells would ring in Notre Dame!15
Some of his skill he taught to me
And, Warrior, I could say to thee
The words that cleft Eildon hills in three,
And bridled the Tweed with a curb of stone:16
But to speak them were a deadly sin
And for having but thought them my heart within
A treble penance must be done.
‘“When Michael lay on his dying bed,150
His conscience was awakened:
He bethought him of his sinful deed,
And he gave me a sign to come with speed.
I was in Spain when the morning rose
But I stood by his bed ere evening close.
The words may not again be said,
That he spoke to me, on death-bed laid
They would rend this Abbaye’s massy nave,
And pile it in heaps above his grave.
“I swore to bury his Mighty Book,160
That never mortal might therein look;
And never to tell where it was hid,
Save at his Chief of Branksome’s need:
And when that need was past and o’er
Again the volume to restore.
I buried him on St. Michael’s night,
When the bell toll’d one, and the moon was bright,
And I dug his chamber among the dead
When the floor of the chancel was stained red,
That his patron’s cross might over him wave,170
And scare the fiends fromthe Wizard’s grave.
“It was a night of woe and dread,
When Michael in the tomb I laid!
Strange sounds along the chancel pass’d,
The banners wav’d without a blast”—
— Still spoke the Monk, when the bell toll’d one! —
I tell you, that a braver man
Than William of Deloraine, good at need,
Against a foe ne’er spurr’d a steed
Yet somewhat was he chill’d with dread,180
And his hair did bristle upon his head.
“Lo, Warrior! now, the Cross of Red
Points to the grave of the mighty dead;
Within it burns a wondrous light,
To chase the spirits that love the night:
That lamp shall burn unquenchably
Until the eternal doom shall be."— 17
Slow mov’d the Monk to the broad flag-stone,
Which the bloody cross was trac’d upon:
He pointed to a secret nook;190
An iron bar the Warrior took;
And the Monk made a sign with his wither’d hand,
The grave’s huge portal to expand.
With beating heart to the task he went;
His sinewy frame o’er the grave-stone bent
With bar of iron heav’d amain,
Till the toil-drops fell from his brows, like rain.
It was by dint of passing strength,
That he moved the massy stone at length.
I would you had been there, to see200
How the light broke forth so gloriously,
Stream’d upward to the chancel roof
And through the galleries far aloof!
No earthly flame blazed e’er so bright:
It shone like heaven’s own blessed light,
And, issuing from the tomb,
Show’d the Monk’s cowl, and visage pale,
Danc’d on the dark-brow’d Warrior’s mail,
And kiss’d his waving plume.
Before their eyes the Wizard lay,210
As if he had not been dead a day.
His hoary beard in silver roll d,
He seem’d some seventy winters old;
A palmer’s amice wrapp’d him round
With a wrought Spanish baldric bound
Like a pilgrim from beyond the sea:
His left hand held his Book of Might;
A silver cross was in his right;
The lamp was placed beside his knee:
High and majestic was his look,220
At which the fellest fiends had shook,
And all unruffled was his face:
They trusted his soul had gotten grace.
Often had William of Deloraine
Rode through the battle’s bloody plain,
And trampled down the warriors slain,
And neither known remorse nor awe;
Yet now remorse and awe he own’d;
His breath came thick, his head swam round,
When this strange scene of death he saw.230
Bewilder’d and unnerv’d he stood,
And the priest pray’d fervently and loud:
With eyes averted prayed he;
He might not endure the sight to see,
Of the man he had lov’d so brotherly.
And when the priest his death-prayer had pray’d,
Thus unto Deloraine he said:—
“Now, speed thee what thou hast to do,
Or, Warrior, we may dearly rue;
For those thou may’st not look upon240
Are gathering fast round the yawning stone!”
Then Deloraine, in terror, took
From the cold hand the Mighty Book,
With iron clasp’d, and with iron bound:
He thought, as he took it, the dead man frown’d:18
But the glare of the sepulchral light,
Perchance, had dazzled the warrior’s sight.
When the huge stone sunk o’er the tomb,
The night return’d in double gloom
For the moon had gone down, and the stars were few,250
And, as the Knight and Priest withdrew,
With wavering steps and dizzy brain,
They hardly might the postern gain.
’Tis said, as through the aisles they pass’d,
They heard strange noises on the blast;
And through the cloister-galleries small,
Which at mid-height thread the chancel wall
Loud sobs, and laughter louder, ran,
And voices unlike the voice of man
As if the fiends kept holiday,260
Because these spells were brought today.
I cannot tell how the truth may be
I say the tale as ’twas said to me.
“Now, hie thee hence,” the Father said,
“And when we are on death-bed laid
O may our dear Ladye, and sweet St. John
Forgive our souls for the deed we have done!”
The Monk return’d hirn to his cell,
And many a prayer and penance sped;
When the convent met at the noontide bell —270
The Monk of St. Mary’s aisle was dead!
Before the cross was the body laid
With hands clasp’d fast, as if still he pray’d.
The Knight breath’d free in the morning wind,
And strove his hardihood to find:
He was glad when he pass’d the tombstones grey,
Which girdle round the fair Abbaye;
For the mystic Book, to his bosom prest,
Felt like a load upon his breast
And his joints, with nerves of iron twin’d,280
Shook, like the aspen leaves in wind.
Full fain was he when the dawn of day
Began to brighten Cheviot grey;
He joy’d to see the cheerful light,
And he said Ave Mary, as well as he might.
The sun had brighten’d Cheviot grey,
The sun had brighten’d the Carter’s 19
And soon beneath the rising day
Smil’d Branksome towers and Teviot’s tide.
Thewild birds told theirwarbling tale,290
And waken’d every flower that blows;
And peeped forth the violet pale,
And spread her breast the mountain rose.
And lovelier than the rose so red,
Yet paler than the violet pale,
She early left her sleepless bed,
The fairest maid of Teviotdale.
Why does fair Margaret so early awake,
And don her kirtle so hastilie
And the silken knots, which in hurry she would make,300
Why tremble her slender fingers to tie;
Why does she stop, and look often around,
As she glides down the secret stair;
And why does she pat the shaggy blood-hound,
As he rouses him up from his lair;
And, though she passes the postern alone
Why is not the watchman’s bugle blown?
The Ladye steps in doubt and dread,
Lest her watchful mother hear her tread;
The Ladye caresses the rough bloodhound310
Lest his voice should waken the castle round
The watchman’s bugle is not blown,
For he was her foster-father’s son;
And she glides through the greenwood at dawn of light
To meet Baron Henry, her own true knight.
The Knight and Ladye fair are met,
And under the hawthorn’s boughs are set.
A fairer pair were never seen
To meet beneath the hawthorn green.
He was stately, and young, and tall;320
Dreaded in battle, and lov’d in hall:
And she, when love, scarce told, scarce hid,
Lent to her cheek a livelier red;
When the half sigh her swelling brest
Against the silken ribbon prest;
When her blue eyes their secret told,
Though shaded by her locks of gold —
Where would you find the peerless fair,
With Margaret of Branksome might compare!
And now, fair dames, methinks I see330
You listen to my minstrelsy;
Your waving locks ye backward throw,
And sidelong bend your necks of snow:
Ye ween to hear a melting tale,
Of two true lovers in a dale;
And how the Knight, with tender fire
To paint his faithful passion strove;
Swore he might at her feet expire,
But never, never cease to love;
And how she blush’d, and how she sigh’d340
And, half consenting, half denied,
And said that she would die a maid —
Yet, might the bloody feud be stay’d,
Henry of Cranstoun, and only he,
Margaret of Branksome’s choice should be.
Alas! fair dames, your hopes are vain!
My harp has lost the enchanting strain;
Its lightness would my age reprove:
My hairs are grey, my limbs are old,
My heart is dead, my veins are cold:350
I may not, must not, sing of love.
Beneath an oak, moss’d o’er by eld,
The Baron’s Dwarf his courser held,20
And held his crested helm and spear:
That Dwarf was scarce an earthly man,
If the tales were true that of him ran
Through all the Border, far and near.
’Twas said, when the Baron a-hunting rode
Through Reedsdale’s glens, but rarely trod,
He heard a voice cry, “Lost! lost! lost!”360
And, like tennis-ball by racket toss’d,
A leap, of thirty feet and three,
Made from the gorse this elfin shape,
Distorted like some dwarfish ape,
And lighted at Lord Cranstoun’s knee.
Lord Cranstoun was some whit dismay’d;
’Tis said that five good miles he rade,
To rid him of his company;
But where he rode onemile,the Dwarf ran four,
And the Dwarf was first at the castle door.370
Use lessens marvel, it is said:
This elvish Dwarf with the Baron staid
Little he ate, and less he spoke,
Nor mingled with the menial flock:
And oft apart his arms he toss’d,
And often mutter’d “Lost! lost! lost!”
He was waspish, arch, and litherlie,
But well Lord Cranstoun served he:
And he of his service was full fain;
For once he had heen ta’en or slain,380
An it had not been for his ministry.
All between Home and Hermitage,
Talk’d of Lord Cranstoun’s Goblin-Page.
For the Baron went on pilgrimage,
And took with him this elvish Page,
To Mary’s Chapel of the Lowes:
For there, beside our Ladye’s lake,
An offering he had sworn to make,
And he would pay his vows.
But the Ladye of Branksome gather’d a band390
Of the best that would ride at her command:21
The trysting place was Newark Lee.
Wat of Harden came thither amain,
And thither came John of Thirlestane,
And thither came William of Deloraine;
They were three hundred spears and three.
Through Douglas-burn, up Yarrow stream,22
Their horses prance, their lances gleam.
They came to St. Mary’s lake ere day;
But the chapel was void, and the Baron away.400
They burn’d the chapel for very rage,
And curs’d Lord Cranstoun’s Goblin-Page
And now, in Branksome’s good greenwood,
As under the aged oak he stood,
The Baron’s courser pricks his ears,
As if a distant noise he hears
The Dwarf waves his long lean arm on high,
And signs to the lovers to part and fly;
No time was then to vow or sigh
Fair Margaret through the hazel grove,410
Flew like the startled cushat-dove:23
The Dwarf the stirrup held and rein;
Vaultedthe Knight on his steed amain,
And, pondering deep that morning’s scene,
Rode eastward through the hawthorns green.
WHILE thus he pour’d the lengthen’d tale,
The Minstrel’s voice began to fail:
Full slyly smiled the observant page,
And gave the wither’d hand of age
A goblet, crown’d with mighty wine,420
The blood of Velez’ scorched vine.
He raised the silver cup on high,
And, while the big drop fill’d his eye,
Pray’d God to bless the Duchess long,
And all who cheer’d a son of song.
The attending maidens smiled to see
How long, how deep, how zealously,
The precious juice the Minstrel quaff’d;
And he, embolden’d by the draught,
Look’d gaily back to them, and laugh’d.430
The cordial nectar of the bowl
Swell’d his old veins, and cheer’d his soul;
A lighter, livelier prelude ran,
Ere thus his tale again began.
1 The buttresses, ranged along the sides of the ruins of Melrose Abbey, are, according to the Gothic style, richly carved and fretted, containing niches for the statues of saints, and labelled with scrolls, bearing appropriate texts of Scripture. Most of these statues have been demolished.
2 David I. of Scotland, purchased the reputation of sanctity, by founding, and liberally endowing, not only the monastery of Melrose, but those of Kelso, Jedburgh, and many others; which led to the well-known observation of his successor, that he was a sore saint for the crown.
3 The Buccleuch family were great benefactors to the Abbey of Melrose. As early as the reign of Robert II., Robert Scott, Baron of Murdieston and Rankleburn, (now Buccleuch,) gave to the monks the lands of Hinkery, in Ettrick Forest, pro salute animæ suæ. — Chartulary of Melrose, 28th May, 1415.
4 Aventayle, visor of the helmet.
5 The Borderers were, as may be supposed, very ignorant about religious matters. Colville, in his Paranesis, or Admonition, states, that the reformed divines were so far from undertaking distant journeys to convert the Heathen, “as I wold wis at God that ye wold only go bot to the Hielands and Borders of our own realm, to gain our awin countreymen, who, for lack of preching and ministration of the sacraments, must, with tyme, becum either infidells, or atheists.” But we learn, from Lesley, that, however deficient in real religion, they regularly told their beads, and never with more zeal than when going on a plundering expedition.
6 The cloisters were frequently used as places of spulture. An instance occurs in Dryburgh Abbey, where the cloister has an inscription, bearing, Hic jacet frater Archibaldus.
7 “By my faith,” said the Duke of Lancaster, (to a Portuguese squire,) “of all the feates of armes that the Castellyans, and they of your countrey doth use, the castynge of their dartes best pleaseth me, and gladly I wolde se it: for, as I hear say, if they strike one aryghte, without he be well armed, the dart will pierce him thrughe."—“By my fayth, sir,” sayd the squyer, “ye say trouth; for I have seen many a grete stroke given with them, which at one time cost us derely, and was to us great displeasure; for, at the said skyrmishe, Sir John Laurence of Coygne was striken with a dart in such a wise, that the head perced all the plates of his cote of mayle, and a sacke stopped with sylke, and passed thrughe his body, so that he fell down dead."— FROISSART, vol. ii. ch. 44. — This mode of fighting with darts was imitated in the military game called Juego de las canas, which the Spaniards borrowed from their Moorish invaders. A Saracen champion is thus described by Froissart: “Among the Sarazyns, there was a yonge knight called Agandinger Dolyferne; he was always wel mounted on a redy and a lyght horse; it seemed, when the horse ranne, that he did fly in the ayre. The knighte seemed to be a good man of armes by his dedes; he bar always of usage three fethered dartes, and rychte well he could handle them; and, according to their custome, he was clene armed, with a long white towell about his head. His apparell was blacke, and his own colour browne, and a good horseman. The Crysten men say, they thoughte he dyd such deeds of armes for the love of some yonge ladye of his countrey. And true it was, that he loved entirely the King of Thune’s daughter, named the Lady Azala: she was inherytour to the realme of Thune, after the decease of the kyng, her father. This Agadinger was sone to the Duke of Olyferne. I can nat telle if they were married together after or nat; but it was shewed me, that this knyght, for love of the sayd ladye, during the siege, did many feates of armes. The knyghtes of France wold fayne have taken hym; but they colde never attrape nor inclose him; his horse was so swyft, and so redy to his hand, that alwaies he escaped."— Vo. ii. ch. 71.
8 Corbells, the projections from which the arches spring, usually cut in a fantastic face, or mask.
9 The famous and desperate batle of Otterburne was fought 15th August 1388, betwixt Henry Percy, called Hotspur, and James, Earl of Douglas. Both these renowned champions were at the head of a chosen body of troops, and they were rivals in military fame; so that Froissart affirms, “Of all the battayles and enounteryings that I have made mencion of here before in all this hystoy, great or smalle, this battayle that I treat of nowe was one of the sorest and best foughten, without cowardes or faynte hertes: for there was neyther knyghte nor squyer but that dyde his devoyre, and foughte hande to hande. This batayle was lyke the batayle of Becherell, the which was valiauntly fought and endured.” The issue of the conflict is well known: Percy was made prisoner, and the Scots won the day, dearly purchased by the death of their gallant general, the Earl of Douglas, who was slain in the action. He was buried at Melrose, beneath the high altar. “His obsequye was done reverently, and on his bodye layde a tombe of stone, and his baner hangyng over hym."— FROISSART, vol. ii. p. 165.
10 William Douglas, called the Knight of Liddesdale, flourished during the reign of David II., and was so distinguished by his valour, that he was called the Flower of Chivalry. Nevertheless, he tarnished his renown by the cruel murder of Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, originally his friend and brother in arms. The King had conferred upon Ramsay the sheriffdom of Teviot-dale, to which Douglas pretended some claim. In revenge of this preference, the Knight of Liddesdale came down upon Ramsay, while he was administering justice at Hawick, seized and carried him off to his remote and inaccessible castle of Hermitage, where he threw his unfortunate prisoner, horse and man, into a dungeon, and left him to perish of hunger. It is said, the miserable captive prolonged his existence for several days by the corn which fell from a granary above the vault in which he was confined.* So weak was the royal authority, that David, although highly incensed at this atricious murder, found himself obliged to appoint the Knight of Liddesdale successor to his victim, as Sheriff of Teviotdale. But he was soon after slain, while hunting in Ettrick Forest, by his own godson and chieftain, William, Earl of Douglas, in revenge, according to some authors, of Ramsay’s murder; although a popular tradition, preserved in a ballad quoted by Godscroft, and some parts of which are still preserved, ascribe the resentment of the Earl to jealousy. The place where the Knight of Liddesdale was killed, is called, from his name, William-Cross, upon the ridge of a hill called William-hope, betwixt Tweed and Yarrow. His body, according to Godscroft, was carried to Lindean church the first night after his death, and thence to Melrose, where he was interred with great pomp, and where his tomb is till shown.
* There is something affecting in the manner in which the old Prior of Lochleven turns from describing the gallant Ramsay to the general sorrow which it excited:—
“To tell you there of the manere,
It is bot sorrow for til here;
He wes the grettast menyd man
That ony cowth have thoweht of than,
Of his state, or mare be fare;
All menyt him, bath bettyr and war;
The ryche and pure him menyde bath,
For his ded was mekil skath.”
Some years ago, a person digging for stones, about the old castle of Heritage, broke into a vault, containing a quantity of chaff, some bones, and pieces of iron; amongst others, the curb of an ancient bridle, which the author has since given to the Earl of Dalhousie, under the impression that it possibly may be a relic of his brave master. The worth clergyman of the parish has mentioned this discovery in his Statistical Account of Castletown.
11 It is impossible to conceive a more beautiful speciment of the lightness and elegance of Gothic architecture, when in its purity, than the eastern window of Melrose Abbey. Sir James Hall of Dunglans, Bart. has, with gerat ingenuity and plausibility, traced the Gothic order through its various forms and seemingly eccentric ornaments, to an architectural imitation of wicker work; of which, as we learn from some of the legends, the earliest Christian churches were constructed. In such an edifice, the original of the clustered pillars is traced to a set of round posts, begirt with slender rods of willow, whose loose summits were brought to meet from all quarters, and bound together artificially, so as to produce the frame-work of the roof: and the tracery of our Gothic windows is displayed in the meeting and interlacing of rods and hoops, affording an inexhaustible variety of beautiful forms of open work. This ingenious system is alluded to in the romance. Sir James Hall’s Essay on Gothic Architecture is published in The Edinburgh Philosophical Transactions.
12 A large marble stone, in the chancel of Melrose, is pointed out as the monument of Alexander II., one of the greatest of our early kings; others say, it is the resting place of Waldeve, one of the early abbots, who died in the odour of sanctity.
13 Sir Michael Scott of Balwearie flourished during the 13th century, and was one of the ambassadors sent to bring the Maid of Norway to Scotland upon the death of Alexander III. By a poetical anachronism, he is here placed in a later era. He was a man of much learning, chiefly acquired in foreign countries. He wrote a commentary upon Aristotle, printed at Venice in 1496; and several treatises upon natural philosophy, from which he appears to have been addicted to the abstruse studies of judicial astrology, alchymy, phisiognomy, and chiromancy. Hence he passed among his contemporaries for a skilful magician. Dempster informs us, that he remembers to have heard in his youth, that the magic books of Michael Scott were still in existence, but could not be opened without danger, on account of the malignant fiends who were thereby invoked. Dempsteri Historia Ecclesiastica, 1627, lib. xii. p. 495. Lesly characterizes Michael Scott as “singularie philosophiæ, astronomiæ, ac medicinæ laude prestans; dicebatur penitissimos magiæ recessus indagasse.” Dante also mentions him as a renowned wizard:—
Quell’ altro che ne’ fianchi e cosi poco,
Michele Scotto fu, che veramente
Delle magiche frode seppe il giuoco.”
Inferno, Canto xxmo.
A personage, thus spoken of by biographers and historians, loses little of his mystical fame in vulgar tradition. Accordingly, the memory of Sir Michael Scott survives in many a legend; and in the south of Scotland, any work of great labour and antiquity, is ascribed, either to the agency of Auld Michael, of Sir William Wallace, or of the devil. Tradition varies concerning the place of his burial; some contend for the Home Coltrame, in Cumberland; others for Melrose Abbey. But all agree, that his books of magic were interred in his grave, or preserved in the convent where he died. Satchells, wishing to give some authority for his account of the origin of the name of Scott, pretends, that, in 1629, he chanced to be at Burgh under Bowness, in Cumberland, where a person, named Lancelot Scott, showed him an extract from Michael Scott’s works, containing that story:—
“He said the book which he gave me
Was of Sir Michael Scott’s historie;
Which history was never yet read through,
Nor never will, for no man dare it do.
Young scholars have pick’d out something
From the contents, that dare not read within.
He carried me along the castle then,
And shew’d his written book hanging on an iron pin.
His writing pen did seem to me to be
Of hardened metal, like steel, or accumie;
The volume of it did seem so large to me,
As the Book of Martyrs and Turks historie
Then in the church he let me see
A stone where Mr. Michael Scott did lie;
I asked at him how that could appear,
Mr. Michael had been dead above five hundred year?
He shew’d me none durst bury under that stone,
More than he had been dead a few years agone;
For Mr. Michael’s name does terrifie each one.”
History of the Right Honourable Name of Scott.
14 Spain, from the relics, doubtless, of Arabian learning and superstition, was accounted a favourite residence of magicians. Pope Sylvester, who actually imported from Spain the use of the Arabian numerals, was supposed to have learned there the magic, for which he was stigmatized by the ignorance of his age. — WILLIAM of Malmsbury, lib. ii. cap. 10. There were public schools, where magic, or rather the sciences supposed to involve its mysteries, were regularly taught, at Toledo, Seville, and Salamanca. In the latter city, they were held in a deep cavern; the mouth of which was walled up by Queen Isabella, wife of King Ferdinant. — D’AUTON on Learned Incredulity, p. 45. These Spanish Schools of magic are celebrated also by the Italian poets of romance:—
“Questo citta di Tolleto solea
Tenere studio di negromanzia,
Quivi di magica arte si leggea
Pubblicamente, e di peromanzia;
E molti geomanti sempre avea,
Esperimenti assai d’idromanzia
E d’altre false opinion’ di sciocchi
Come e fatture, o spresso batter gli occhi.”
Il Morgante Maggiore, Canto xxv. St. 259.
The celebrated magician Maugis, cousin to Rinaldo of Montalban, called, by Ariosto, Malagigi, studied the black art at Toledo, as we learn from L’Histoire de Maugis D’Aygremont. He even held a professor’s chair in the necromantic university; for so I interpret the passage, “qu’on tous les sept ars de enchantement, des charmes et conjurations, il n’y avoit meillieur maistre que lui; et en tel renom qu’on le laissoit enchaise, et l’appelloit on maistre Maugris.” This Salamancan Domdaniel is said to have been founded by Hercules. If the classic reader inquires where Hercules himself learned magic, he may consult “Les faicts et proesses du noble et vaillant hercules,” where he will learn, that the fable, of his aiding Atlas to suppor the heavens, arose from the said Atlas having taught Hercules, the noble knight-errant, the seven liberal sciences, and in particular, that of judicial astrology. Such, according to the idea of the middle ages, were the studies, “maximus quæ docuit Atlas.” — In a romantic history of Roderic, the last Gothic King of Spain, he is said to have entered on of those enchanted caverns. It was situated beneath an ancient tower near Toledo; and when the iron gates, which secured the entrance, were unfolded, there rushed forth so dreadful a whirlwind, that hitherto no one had dared to penetrate into its recesses. But Roderic, threatened with an invasion of the Moors, resolved to enter the cavern, where he expected to find some prophetic intimation of the event of the war. Accordingly, his train being furnished with torches, so artificially composed that the tempest could not extinguish them, the King, with great difficulty, penetrated into the square hall, inscribed all over with Arabian characters. In the midst stood a colossal statue of brass, representing a Saracen wielding a Moorish mace, with which it discharged furious blows on all sides, and seemed thus to excite the tempest which raged around. Being conjured by Roderic, it ceased from striking, until he read inscribed on the right hand, “Wretched Monarch, for thy evil hast thou come hither;” on the left hand, “Thou shalt be dispossessed by a strange people;” on one shoulder, “I inovke the sons of Hagar;” on the other, “I do mine office.” When the King had deciphered these ominous inscriptions, the statue returned to its exercise, the tempest commenced anew, and Roderic retired, to mourn over the predeicted evils which approached his throne. He caused the gates of the cavern to be locked and barricaded; but, in the course of the night, the tower fell with a tremendous noise, and under its ruins concealed for ever the entrance to the mystic cavern. The conquest of Spain by the Saracens, and the death of the unfortunate Don Roderic, fulfilled the prophecy of the brazen statue. Historia verdadera del Rey Don Rodrigo por el sabio Alcayde Abulcacim, traduzeda de la lengua Arabiga por Miquel de Luna, 1654, cap. vi.
15 “Tantamne rem tam negligenter?” says Tyrwhitt, of his predecessor, Speight; who, in his commentary on Chaucer, had omitted, as trivial and fabulous, the story of Wade and his boat Guingelot, to the great prejudice of posterity, the memory of the hero and the boat being now entirely lost. That future antiquaries may lay no such omission to my charge, I have noted one or two of the most current traditions concerning Michael Scott. He was chosen, it is said, to go upon an embassy, to obtain from the King of France satisfaction for certain piracies committed by his subjects upon those of Scotland. Instead of preparing a new equipage and splendid retinue, the ambassador retreated to his study, opened his book, and evoked a fiend in the shape of a huge black horse, mounted upon his back, and forced him to fly through the air towards France. As they crossed the sea, the devil insidiously asked his rider, What it was that the old women of Scotland muttered at bed-time? A less experienced wizard might have answered that it was the Pater Noster, which would have licensed the devil to throw him from his back. But Michael sternly replied, “What is that to thee? — Mount, Diabolus, and fly!” When he arrived at Paris, he tied his horse to the gate of the palace, entered, and bodily delivered his message. An ambassador, with so little of the pomp and circumstance of diplomacy, was not received with much respect, and the King was about to return a contemptuous refusal to his demand, when Michael besought him to suspend his resolution till he had seen his horse stamp three times. The first stamp shook every steeple in Paris, and caused all the bells to ring; the secnod threw down three of the towers of the palace; and the infernal steed had lifted his hoof to give the third stamp, when the King rather chose to dismiss Michael, with the most ample concessions, than to stand to the probable consequences. Another time, it is said, that, when residing at the Tower of Oakwood, upon the Ettrick, about three miles above Selkirk, he heard of the fame of a sorceress, called the Witch of Falsehope, who lived on the opposite side of the river. Michael went one morning to put her skill to the test, but was disappointed, by her denying positively any knowledge of the necromantic art. In his discourse with her, he laid his wand inadvertently on the table, which the hag observing, suddenly snatched it up, and struck him with it. Feeling the force of the charm, he rushed out of the house; but as it had conferred upon him the external appearance of a hare, his servant, who waited without, haloo’d upon the discomfited wizard his own greyhounds, and pursued him so close, that in order to obtain a moment’s breating to reverse the charm, Michael, after a very fatiguing course, was fain to take refuge in his own jawhole(Anglice, common sewer.) In order to revenge himself of the witch of Falshope, Michael, one morning in the ensuing harvest, went to the hill above the house with his dogs, and sent down his servant to ask a bit of bread from the goodwife for his greyhounds, with instructions what to do if he met with a denial. Accordingly, when the witch had refused the boon with contumely, the servant, as his master had directed, laid above the door a paper which he had given him, containing amongst many cabalistical words, the well known rhyme —
“Maister Michael Scott’s man
Sought meat, and gat nane.”
Immediately the good old woman, instead of pursuing her domestic occupation, which was baking bread for the reapers, began to dance round the fire, repeating the rhyme, and continued this exercise till her husband sent the reapers to the house, one after another, to see what had delayed their provision; but the charm caught each as they entered, and, loosing all idea of returning, they joined in the dance and chorus. At length the old man himself went to the house; but as his wife’s frolic with Mr. Michael, whom he had seen on the hill, made him a little cautious, he contented himself with looking in at the window, and saw the reapers at their involuntary exercise, dragging his wife, now completely exhausted, sometimes round, and sometimes through, the fire, which was, as usual in the midst of the house. Instead of entering, he saddled a horse, and rode up the hill, to humble himself before Michael, and beg a cessation of the spell; which the good-natured warlock immediately granted, directing him to enter the house backwards, and with his left hand, take the spell from above the door; which accordingly ended the supernatural dance. — This tale was told less particularly in former editions, and I have been censured for inaccuracy in doing so. — A similar charm occurs in Huon de Bourdeaux, and in the ingenious Oriental tale, called the Caliph Vathek.
Notwithstanding his victory over the witch of Falsehope, Michael Scott, like his predecessor Merlin, fell at last a victim to female art. His wife, or concubine, elicited from him the secret that his art could ward off any danger except the poisonous qualities of broth, made of the flesh of a breme sow. Such a mess she accordingly administered to the wizard, who died in consequent of eating it; surviving, however, long enough to put to death his treacherous confidant.
16 Michael Scott was, once upon a time, much embarrassed by a spirit for whom he was under the necessity of finding constant employment. He commanded him to build a cauld, or dam-head, across the Tweed at Kelso; it was accomplished in one night, and still does honour to the infernal architect. Michael next ordered that Eildon hill, which was then a uniform cone, should be divided into three. Another night was sufficient to part its summit into the three picturesque peaks which it now bears. At length the enchanter conquered this indefatigable demon, by employing him in the hopeless and endless task of making ropes out of sea-sand.
17 Baptista Porta, and other authors who treat of natural magic, talk much of eternal lamps, pretended to have been found burning in ancient sepulchres. Fortunius Licetus investigates the subject in a treatise, Le Lucernis Antiquorum Reconditits, published at Venice in 1621. One of these perpetual lamps is said to have been discovered in the tomb of Tulliola, the daughter of Cicero. The wick was supposed to be composed of asbestos. Kircher enumerates three different recipes for constructing such lamps; and wisely concludes, that the thing is nevertheless impossible:— Mundus Subterranneus, p. 72. Delrio imputes the fabrication of such lights to magical skill. — Disquisitiones Magicæ, p. 58. In a very rare romance, which “treateth of the life of Virgilius, and of his deth, and many marvayles that he dyd in his lyfe-time, by wyche-crafte and nygramancye, throughe the helps of the devyls of hell,” mention is made of a very extraordinary process, in which one of these mystical lamps was employed. It seems that Virgil, as he advanced in years, became desirous of renovating his youth by magical art. For this purpose he constructed a solitary tower, having only one narrow portal, in which he placed twenty-four copper figures, armed with iron flails, twelve on each side of the porch. These enchanted statues struck with their flails incesantly, and rendered all entrance impossible, unles when Virgil touched the spring, which stopped their motion. To this tower he repaired privately, attended by one trusty servant, to whom he communicated the secret of the entrance, and hither they conveyed all the magician’s treasure. “Then sayde Virgilius, my dere beloved frende, and he that I above alle men truste and knowe mooste of my secret;” and then he led the man into a cellar, where he made a fayer lamp at all seasons burnynge. “And then sayd Virgilius to the man, ‘Therein must thou put me: fyrst ye must slee me, and hewe me smalle to pieces, and cut my hed in iiii pieces, and salte the heed under the bottom, and then the pieces there after, and my herte in the myddel, and then set the barrel under the lampe, that nyghte and day the fat therein may droppe and leake; and ye shall ix dayes long, ones in the day, fyll the lampe, and fayle nat. And when this is all done, then sall I be renued, and made yonge agen.’” At this extraordinary proposal, the confidant was sore abashed, and made some scruple of obeying his master’s commands. At length, however, he complied, and Virgil was slain, pickled, and barrelled up, in all respects according to his own direction. The servant then left the tower, taking care to put the copper thrashers in motion at his departure. He continued daily to visit the tower with the same precaution. Meanwhile, the emperor, with whom Virgil was a great favourite, missed him from the court, and demanded of his servant where he was. The domestic pretended ignorance, till the emperor threatened him with death, when at length he conveyed him to the enchanted tower. The same threat extorted a discovery of the mode of stopping the statues from wielding their flails. “And then the emperour entered into the castle with all his folke, and sought all aboute in every corner after Virgilius; and at the laste they soughte so longe, that they came to the sellor, where they sawe the lampe hang over the barrell, where Virgilius lay in deed. Then asked the emperour the man, who had made hym so herdy to put his mayster Virgilius so to dethe; and the man ansered no worde to the emperour. And then the emperour, with great anger, drewe out his sworde, and slewe he there Virgilius’ man. And when all this was done, then sawe the emperour, and all his folke, a naked child iii tymes rennynge about the barrell, saynge with these wordes, ‘Cursed be the tyme that ye ever came here.’ And with these words vanyshed the chylde awaye, and was never sene ageyn; and thus abyd Virgilius in the barrell deed."— Virgilius, bl. let., printed at Antwerpe by John Doesborcke. This curious volume is in the valuable library of Mr. Douce; and is supposed to be a translation from the French, printed in Flanders for the English market. See Goujet Biblioth. Franc. ix. 225. Catalogue de la Bibliotheque Nationale, tom. ii. p. 5. De Bure, No. 3847.
18 William of Deloraine might be strengthened in this belief by the well-known story of the Cid Ruy Diaz. When the body of that famous Christian champion was sitting in state by the high altar of the cathedral church of Toledo, where it remained for ten years, a certain malicious Jew attempted to pull him by the beard; but he had no sooner touched the formidable whiskers, than the corpse started up, and half unsheathed his sword. The Israelite fled; and so permanent was the effect of his terror, that he became Christian. HEYWOOD’S Hierarchie, p. 480, quoted from Sebastian Cobarruvias Crozee.
19 A mountain on the Border of England, above Jedburgh.
20 The idea of Lord Cranstoun’s Goblin Page is taken from a being called Gilpin Horner, who appeared, and made some stay, at a farm-house among the Border-mountains. A gentleman of that country has noted down the following particulars concerning his appearance:—
“The only certain, at least most probable account, that every I heard of Gilpin Horner, was from an old man, of the name of Anderson, who was born, and lived all his life, at Todshaw-hill, in Eskedale-muir, the place where Gilpin appeared and staid for some time. He said there were two men, late in the evening, when it was growing dark, employed in fastening the horses upon the uttermost part of their ground, (that is, tying their forefeet together, to hinder them from travelling far in the night,) when they heard a voice, at some distance, crying, ‘Tint! tint! tint!’* One of the men, named Moffat, called out, ‘What deil has tint you? Come here.’ Immediately a creature, of something like a human form, appeared. It was surprisingly little, distorted in features, and misshapen in limbs. As soon as the two men could see it plainly, they ran home in a great fright, imagining they had met with some goblin. By the way Moffat fell, and it ran over him, and was home at the house as soon as either of them, and staid there a long time; but I cannot say how long. It was real flesh and blood, and ate and drank, was fond of cream, and, when it could get at it, would destroy a great deal. It seemed a mischievous creature; and any of the children whom it could master, it would beat and scratch without mercy. It was once abusing a child belonging to the same Moffat, who had been so frightened by its first appearance; and he, in a passion, struck it so violent a blow upon the side of the head, that it stumbled upon the ground; but it was not stunned; for it set up its head directly, and exclaimed, ‘Ah hah, Will o’ Moffat, you strike sair!’ (viz. sore.) After it had staid there long, one evening, when the women were milking the cows in the loan, it was playing among the children near them, when suddenly they heard a loud shrill voice cry, three times, ‘Gilpin Horner!’ It started, and said, ‘That is me, I must away,’ and instantly disappeared, and was never heard of more. Old Anderson did not remember it, but said, he had often heard his father, and other old men in the place, who were there at the time, speak about it; and in my younger years I have often heard it mentioned, and never met with any who had the remotest doubt as to the truth of the story; although, I must own, I cannot help thinking there must be some misrepresentation in it."— To this account, I have to add the following particulars from the most respectable authority. Besides constantly repeating the word tint! tint! Gilpin Horner was often heard to call upon Peter Bertram, or Be-te-ram, as he pronounced the word; and when the shrill voice called Gilpin Horner, he immediately acknowledged it was the summons of the said Peter Bertram: who seems therefore to have been the devil who had tint, or lost, the little imp. As much has been objected to Gilpin Horner on account of his being supposed rather a device of the author than a popular superstition, I can only say, that no legend which I ever heard seemed to be more universally credited and that many persons of very good rank and considerable information are well known to repose absolute faith in the tradition.
* Tint signifies lost.
21 “Upon 25th June, 1557, Dame Janet Beatoune Lady Buccleuch, and a great number of the name of Scott, delaitit (accused) for coming to the kirk of St. Mary of the Lowes, to the number of two hundred persons bodin in feire of weire, (arrayed in armour,) and breaking open the door of the said kirk, in order to apprehend the Laird of Cranstoune for his destruction.” On the 20th July, a warrant from the Queen is presented, discharging the justice to proceed against the Lady Buccleuch while new calling. — Abridgement of Books of Adjournal in Advocates’ Library. — The following proceedings upon this case appear on the record of the Court of Judiciary: On the 25th of June, 1557, Robert Scott, in Bowhill parish, priest of the kirk of St. Mary’s, accused of the convocation of the Queen’s lieges, to the number of 200 persons, in warlike array, with jacks, helmets, and other weapons, and marching to the chapel of St. Mary of the Lowes, for the slaughter of Sir Peter Cranstoun, out of ancient feud, and malice prepense, and of breaking the doors of the said kirk, is repledged by the Archbishop of Glasgow. The bail given by Robert Scott of Allanhaugh, Adam Scott of Burnfute, Robert Scott of Howfurde, Walter Scott in Todshwhaugh, Walter Scott younger of Synton, Thomas Scott of Hayning, Robert Scott, William Scott, and James Scott, and brothers of the said Walter Scott, Walter Harden, and James Wemyss in Eckford, all accused of the same crime, is declared to be forfeited. On the same day, Walter Scott of Synton, and Walter Chisholme of Chisholme, and William Scott of Harden, became bound, jointly and severally, that Sir Peter Cranstoun, and his kindred and servants, should receive no injury from them in future. At the same time, Patick Murray of Fallohill, Alexander Stuart, uncle to the Laird of Trakwhare, John Murray of Newhall, John Fairlye, residing in Selkirk, George Tait, younger of Pirn, John Pennycuke of Pennycuke, James Ramsay of Cokpen, the Laird of Fassyde, and the Laird of henderstoune, were all severally fined for not attending as jurors; being probably either in alliance with the accused parties, or dreading their vengeance. Upon the 20th of July following, Scott of Synton, Chisholme of Chisholme, Scott of Harden, Scott of Howpaslie, Scott of Burnfute, with many others, are ordered to appear at next calling, under pains of treason. But no further procedure seems to have taken place. It is said, that, upon this rising, the kirk of St. Mary was burnt by the Scotts.
22 See notes on The Douglas Tragedy in the Minstrelsy.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13