Rokeby, by Walter Scott

Notes to Canto Fourth.

Note I.

When Denmark’s Raven soared on high.

Triumphant through Northumbrian sky,

Till, hovering near, their fatal croak

Bade Reged’s Briton a dread, the yoke. — St. I. p. 153.

About the year of God 866, the Danes, under their celebrated leaders Inguar (more properly Agnar) and Hubba, sons, it is said, of the still more celebrated Regnar Lodbrog, invaded Northumberland, bringing with them the magical standard, so often mentioned in poetry, called Reafen, or Raunfan, from its bearing the figure of a Raven:

Wrought by the sisters of the Danish king,

Of furious Ivar in a midnight hour:

While the sick moon, at their enchanted song

Wrapt in pale tempest, laboured thro’ the clouds,

The demons of destruction then, they say.

Were all abroad, and mixing with the woof

Their baleful power: The sisters ever sung;

“Shake, standard, shake this ruin on our foes.”

Thomson and Mallet’s Alfred.

The Danes renewed and extended their incursions, and begun to colonize, estabhshing a kind of capital at York, from which they spread their conquests and incursions in every direction. Stanemore, which divides the mountains of Westmoreland and Cumberland, was probably the boundary of the Danish kingdom in that direction. The district to the west, known in ancient British history by the name of Reged, had never been conquered by the Saxons, and continued to maintain a precarious independence until it was ceded to Malcolm, King of Scots, by William the Conqueror, probably on account of its similarity in language and manners to the neighbouring British kingdom of Strath Clyde.

Upon the extent and duration of the Danish sovereignty in Northumberland, the curious may consult the various authorities quoted in the Gesta et Vestigia Danorum extra Daniam, tom. II. p. 40. The most powerful of their Northumbrian leaders seems to have been Ivar, called, from the extent of his conquests, Widfami, that is. The Strider,

Note ii.

Where Tees in tumult leaves his source,

Thundering der Caldron and High–Force. — St. I. p. 153.

The Tees rises about the skirts of Crossfell, and falls over the cataracts named in the text before it leaves the mountains which divide the North Riding from Cumberland. High–Force is seventy-five feet in height.

Note iii.

Beneath the shade the Northmen came.

Fixed on each vale a Runic name. — St. I. p. 154.

The heathen Danes have left several traces of their religion in the upper part of Teesdale. Balder-garth, which derives its name from the unfortunate son of Odin, is a tract of waste land on the very ridge of Stanemore, and a brook, which falls into the Tees near Barnard Castle, is named after the same deity. Thorsgill, of which a description is attempted in Stanza II., is a beautiful little brook and dell, running up behind the ruins of Eglistone Abbey, Thor was the Hercules of the Scandinavian mythology, a dreaded giant-queller, and in that capacity the champion of the gods and the defender of Asgard, the northern Olympus, against the frequent attacks of the inhabitants of Jotunheim. There is an old poem in the Edda of Soemund, called the Song of Thrym, which turns upon the loss and recovery of the Mace, or Hammer, which was Thor’s principal weapon, and on which much of his power seems to have depended. It may be read to great advantage in a version, equally spirited and literal, among the Miscellaneous Translations and Poems of the Honourable William Herbert.

Note iv.

Who has not heard how brave O’Neale

In English blood emhrued his steel. — St. VI. p. 161.

The O’Neale here meant, for more than one succeeded to the chieftainship dm’ing the reign of Elizabeth, was Hugh, the grandson of Con O’Neale, called Con Bacco, or the Lame. His father, Matthew O’ Kelly, was illegitimate, and, being the son of a blacksmith’s wife, was usually called Matthew the Blacksmith. His father, nevertheless, destined his succession to him; and he was created, by Elizabeth, Baron of Dungannon. Upon the death of Con–Bacco, this Matthew was slain by his brother. Hugh narrowly escaped the same fate, and was protected by the English. Shane O’Neale, his uncle, called Shane Dymas, was succeeded by Turlough Lynogh O’Neale, after whose death, Hugh, having assumed the chieftainship, became nearly as formidable to the English as any by whom it had been possessed. He rebelled repeatedly, and as often made submissions, of which it was usually a condition that he should not any longer assume the title of O’Neale; in lieu of which he was created Earl of Tyrone. But this condition he never observed longer than until the pressure of superior force was withdrawn. His baffling the gallant Earl of Essex in the field, and over-reaching him in a treaty, was the induction to that nobleman’s tragedy. Lord Mountjoy succeeded in finally subjugating O’Neale; but it was not till the succession of Jamesj to whom he made personal submission, and was received with civility at court. Yet, according to Morrison, “no respect to him could containe many weomen in those parts, who had lost husbands and children in the Irish warres, from flinging durt and stones at the earle as he passed, and from reuiling him with bitter words: yea, when the earle had been at court, and there obtaining his majesties direction for his pardon and performance of all conditions promised him by the Lord Mountjoy, was about September to returne, hee durst not passe by those parts without direction to the shiriffes, to conuay him with troopes of horse from place to place, till he was safely imbarked and put to sea for Ireland.” — Itinerary p. 296.

Note V.

But chief arose his victor pride,

When that brave Marshal fought and died. — St. VI. p. 161.

The chief victory which Tyrone obtained over the English was in a battle fought near Blackwater, while he besieged a fort garrisoned by the English, which commanded the passes into his country.

“The captaine and his few warders did with no less courage suffer hunger, and, having eaten the few horses they had, lived vpon hearbes growing in the ditches and wals, suffering all extremities, till the lord-lieutenant, in the moneth of August, sent Sir Henry Bagnal, marshall of Ireland, with the most choice companies of foote and horse troopes of the English army, to victual this fort, and to raise the rebels siege. When the English entered the place and thicke woods beyond Armagh, on the east side, Tyrone (with all the rebels assembled to him) pricked forward with rage, enuy, and setled rancour against the marshal, assayled the English, and turning his full force against the marshal’s person, had the successe to kill him valiantly fighting among the thickest of the rebels. Whereupon the English, being dismayed with his death, the rebels obtained a great victory against them. I terme it great, since the English, from their first arriuall in that kingdome, neuer had receiued so great an ouerthrow as this, commonly called The Defeat of Blacke-water; thirteene valiant captaines and 1500 common souldiers (whereof many were of the old companies which had serued in Brittany vnder Generall Norreys) were slaine in the field. The yielding of the fort of Blackwater followed this disaster, when the assaulted guard saw no hope of reliefe; but especially vpon messages sent to Captaine Williams from our broken forces, retired to Armagh, professing that all their safety depended vpon his yielding the fort into the hands of Tyrone, without which danger Captaine Williams professed that no want or miserie should have induced him thereunto.” — Fynes Moryson’s Itinerary, London, 1617, fol part II. p. 24:,

Tyrone is said to have entertained a personal animosity against the knight-marshal. Sir Henry Bagnal, whom he accused of detaining the letters which he sent to Queen Elizabeth, explanatory of his conduct, and offering terms of submission. The river, called by the English Blackwater, is termed, in Irish, Avon–Duff, which has the same signification. Both names are mentioned by Spenser in his “Marriage of the Thames and the Medway:” —

Swift Avon–Duff, which of the Englishmen

Is called Blackwater

Note vi.

The Tanist lie to great O’Neale. — St VL p. 162.

“Eudox. Wliat is this which you call Tanist and Tanistry? These be names and termes never heard of nor known to us.

“Iren. It is a custome amongst all the Irish, that, presently after the death of one of their chiefe lords or captaines, they doe presently assemble themselves to a place generally appointed and knowne unto them, to choose another in his stead, where they doe nominate and elect, for the most part, not the eldest sonne, nor any of the children of the lord deceased, but the next to him in blood, that is, the eldest and worthiest, as commonly the next brother unto him, if he have any, or the next cousin, or so forth, as any is elder in that kindred or sept; and then next to him doe they choose the next of the blood to be Tanist, who shall next succeed him in the said captainry, if he live thereunto.

“Eudox. Do they not use any ceremony in this election, for all barbarous nations are commonly great observers of ceremonies and superstitious rites?

“Iren. They use to place him that shall be their captaine upon a stone, always reserved to that purpose, and placed commonly upon a hill. In some of which I have seen formed and engraven a foot, which they say was the measure of their first captaine’s foot; whereon hee standing, receives an oath to preserve all the auncient former customes of the countrey inviolable, and to deliver up the succession peaceably to his Tanist, and then hath a wand delivered unto him by some whose proper office that is; after which, descending from the stone, he turneth himself round, thrice forwards and thrice backwards.

“Eudox. But how is the Tanist chosen?

“Iren. They say he setteth but one foot upon the stone, and receiveth the like oath that the captaine did.” — Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland, apud Works, Lond. 1805, Svo. vol. VI 11. p. 306.

The Tanist, therefore, of O’Neale, was the heir-apparent of his power. This kind of succession appears also to have regulated, in very remote times, the succession to the crown of Scotland. It would have been imprudent, if not impossible, to have asserted a minor’s right of succession in those stormy days, when the principles of policy were summed up in my friend Mr Wordsworth’s lines:—

the good old rule

Sufficeth them; the simple plan.

That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.

Note vii.

His plaited hair in elf-locks spread, &c. — St. VIII. p. 164.

There is here an attempt to describe the ancient Irish dress, of which a poet of Queen Elizabeth’s day has given us the following, particulars:—

I mervailde in my mynde,

and thereupon did muse,

To see a bride of heavenlie hewe

an ouglie fere to chuse.

This bride it is the soile,

the bridegroom is the karne,

With writhed glibbes, hke wicked sprits,

with visage rough and stearne;

“With sculles upon their poales,

instead of civill cappes;

With speares in hand, and swordes by sidesj

to beare of after clappes;

With jackettes long and large,

which shroud simplicities

Though spitfull dartes which they do beare

importe iniquitie.

Their shirtes be very strange,

not reaching past the thie;

With pleates on pleates thei pleated are

as thicke as pleates may lye.

Whose sleaves hang trailing doune

almost unto the shoe;

And with a mantell commonlie

the Irish karne do goe.

Now some amongst the reste

doe use another weede;

A coate I meane, of strange devise,

which fancie first did breade.

His skirts be very shorte,

with pleates set thick about,

And Irish trouzes moe to put

their strange protactours out.

Derrick’s Image of Ireland, apud Somers’

Tracts, Edin. 1809, 4to. vol. I. p. 585.

Some curious wooden engravings accompany this poem, from which it would seem that the ancient Irish dress was (the bonnet excepted) very similar to that of the Scottish highlanders. The want of a covering on the head was supplied by the mode of plaiting and arranging their hair, which was called the glibbe. These glibbes, according to Spenser, were fit masks for a thief, since, when he wished to disguise himself, he could either cut it off entirely, or so pull it over his eyes as to render it very hard to recognize him. This, however, is nothing to the reprobation with which the same poet regards that favourite part of the Irish dress, the mantle. —

“It is a fit house for an outlaw, a meet bed for a rebel, and an apt cloke for a thiefe. First, the outlaw being for his many crimes and villanyes banished from the townes and houses of honest men, and wandring in waste places far from danger of law, maketh his mantle his house, and under it covereth himself from the wrath of heaven, from the offence of the earth, and from the sight of men. When it raineth, it is his penthouse; when it bloweth, it is his tent; when it freezeth, it is his tabernacle. In sommer he can wear it loose, in winter he can wrap it close; at all times he can use it; never heavv, never cumbersome. Likewise for a rebel it is as serviceable: for in his warre that he maketh, (if at least it desene the name of warre.) when he still flveth from his foe, and lurketh in the thicke woods and straite passages, waiting for advantages, it is his bed. yea, and almost his household stuff. For the wood is his house against all weathers, and his mantle is his couch to sleep in. Therein he wrapeth himself round, and coucheth himselfe strongly against the gnats, which, in that countrv, doe more annov the naked rebels while they keep the woods, and doe more sharply wound them, then all their enemies swords or speares, which can seldom come nigh them: yea, and oftentimes their mantle serveth them when they are neere driven, being wrapped about their left arme, instead of a target, for it is hard to cut thoroucrh with a sword; besides it is light to beare, light to throw away, and being (as they commonly are) naked, it is to them all in all. Lastly, for a thiefe it is so handsome as it may seem it was first invented for him, for mider it he may cleanly convey any fit pillage that commeth handsomely in his way, and when he goeth abroad in the night in free-booting, it is his best and surest friend; for lying, as they often do, two or three nights together abroad to watch for their booty, with that they can prettily shroud themselves under a bush or a bankside till they may conveniently do their errand; and when all is over, he can in his mantle passe through any toun or company, being close hooded over his head, as he useth, from knowledge of any to whom he is indangered. Besides this, he, or any man els that is disposed to mischief or villany, may, under his mantle, goe privily armed without suspicion of any, carry his headpiece, his skean, or pistol if he please, to be always in readiness.” — Spenser’s View of the State of Ireland, apud Works, ut supra, VIII. 367.

The javelins, or darts, of the Irish, which they threw with great dexterity, appear, from one of the prints already mentioned, to have been about four feet long, with a strong steel head and thick knotted shaft.

Note viii.

With wild majestic port and tone.

Like envoy of some barbarous throne. — St. VIII. p. 164.

The Irish chiefs, in their intercourse with the English, and with each other, were wont to assume the language and style of independent royalty. Morrison has preserved a summons from Tyrone to a neighbouring chieftain, which runs in the following terms:—

“O’Neale commendeth him unto you, Morish Fitz Thomas; O’Neale requesteth you, in God’s name, to take part with him, and fight for your conscience and right; and in so doing, O’Neale will spend to see you righted in all your affaires, and will help you. And if you come not at O’Neale betwixt this and tomorrow at twelve of the clocke, and take his part, O’Neale is not beholding to you, and will doe to the uttermost of his power to overthrow you if you come not to him at furthest by Satturday noone. From Knocke Dumayne in Calrie, the fourth of February, 1599.

“O’Neale requesteth you to come speake with him, and doth giue you his word that you shall receive no harme neither in comming nor going from him, whether you be friend or not, and bring with you to O’Neale Gerat Fitzgerald.

“Subscribed O’Neale.”

Nor did the royalty of O’Neale consist in words alone. Sir John Harrington paid him a visit at the time of his truce with Essex, and after mentioning “his fern table, and fern forms, spread under the stately canopy of heaven,” he notices what constitutes the real power of every monarch, the love, namely, and allegiance of his subjects. “His guard, for the most part, were beardless boys without shirts; who in the frost wade as familiarly through rivers as water-spaniels. With what charm such a master makes them love him I know not, but if he bid come, they come; if go, they do go; if he say do this, they do it.” — NugcB Antiques, Lond. 1784, Svo. vol. I. p. 251,

Note ix.

His foster-father was his guide. — St. X. p. 168.

There was no tie more sacred among the Irish than that which connected the foster-father, as well as the nurse herself, with the child they brought up.

“Foster-fathers spend much more time, money, and affection on their foster children than their own; and in return take from them clothes, money for their several professions, and arms, and even for any vicious purposes; fortunes and cattle, not so much by a claim of right as by extortion; and they will even carry those things off as plunder. All who have been nursed by the same person preserve a greater mutual affection and confidence in each other than if they were natural brothers, whom they will even hate for the sake of these. When chid by their parents, they fly to their foster-fathers, who frequently encourage them to make open war on their parents, train them up to every excess of wickedness, and make them most abandoned miscreants: as, on the other hand, the nurses make the young women, whom they bring up for every excess. If a foster-child is sick, it is incredible how soon the nurses hear of it, however distant, and with what solicitude they attend it by day and night.” — Giraldus Cambrensis, quoted by Camden, IV. 368.

This custom, like many other Irish usages, prevailed till of late in the Scottish Highlands, and was cherished by the chiefs as an easy mode of extending their influence and connection: and even in the Lowlands, during the last century, the connection between the nurse and foster-child was seldom dissolved but by the death of one party.

Note X.

Great Nial of the Pledges Nine.-— St XIV. p. 174.

Niell Naighvallach, or Of the Nine Hostages, is said to have been monarch of all Ireland, during the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century. He exercised a predatory warfare on the coasts of England and of Bretagne, or Armorica; and from the latter country brought off the celebrated Saint Patrick, a youth of sixteen, among other captives, whom he transported to Ireland. Neal derived his epithet from nine nations, or tribes, whom he held under his subjection, and from whom he took hostages’. From one of Neal’s sons were derived the Kineleoguin, or Race of Tyrone, which afforded monarchs both to Ireland and to Ulster. Neill (according to O’Flaherty’s Ogygia) was killed by a poisoned arrow, in one of his descents on the coast of Bretagne.

Note xi.

Shane–Dymas wild St. XIV. p. 174.

This Shane–Dymas, or John the Wanton, held the title and power of O’Neale in the earlier part of Elizabeth’s reign, against whom he rebelled repeatedly.

“This chieftain is handed down to us as the most proud and profligate man on earth. He was immoderately addicted to Avomen and wine. He is said to have had 200 tuns of wine at once in his cellar at Dandram, but usquebaugh was his favourite liquor. He spared neither age nor condition of the fair sex. Altho’ so illiterate that he could not write, he was not destitute of address; his understanding was strong, and his courage daring. He had 600 men for his guard, 4000 foot, 1000 horse for the field. He claimed superiority over all the lords of Ulster, and called himself king thereof. When commissioners were sent to treat with him, he said, ‘That, tho’ the queen were his sovereign lady, he never made peace with her but at her lodging; that she had made a wise Earl of Macartymore, but that he kept as good a man as he; that he cared not for so mean a title as earl; that his blood and power were better than the best; that his ancestors were kings of Ulster; and that he would give place to none.’ His kinsman, the Earl of Kildare, having persuaded him of the folly of contending with the crown of England, he resolved to attend the queen, but in a style suited to his princely dignity. He appeared in London with a magnificent train of Irish Galloglasses, arrayed in the richest habiliments of their country, their heads bare, their hair flowing on their shoulders, with their long and open sleaves dyed with saffron. Thus dressed, and surcharged with military harness, and armed with battle-axes, they afforded an astonishing spectacle to the citizens, who regarded them as the intruders of some very distant part of the globe. But at court his versatility now prevailed, his title to the sovereignty of Tyrone was pleaded from English laws and Irish institutions, and his allegations were so specious, that the queen dismissed him with presents and assurances of favour. In England this transaction was looked on as the humiliation of a repenting rebel; in Tyrone it was considered as a treaty of peace between two potentates.” — Camden’s Britannia, by Gough, Lond, 1806, fol. vol. IV. p. 442.

When reduced to extremity by the Enghsh, and forsaken by his allies, this Shane–Dymas fled to Clandeboy, then occupied by a colony of Scottish highlanders of the family of MacDonell. He was at first courteously received, but by degrees they began to quarrel about the slaughter of some of their friends whom Shane–Dymas had put to death, and, advancing from words to deeds, fell upon him with their broad-swords, and cut him to pieces. After his death a law was made that none should presume to take the name and title of O’Neale.

Note xii.

Geraldine. — St. XIV. p. 174.

The O’Neales were closely allied with this powerful and warlike family, for Henry Owen O’Neale married the daughter of Thomas Earl of Kildare, and their son Con–More married his cousin-german, a daughter of Gerald Earl of Kildare. This Con–More cursed any of his posterity who should learn the English language, sow corn, or build houses, so as to invite the English to settle in their country. Others ascribe this anathema to his son Con–Bacco. Fear-flatha O’Gnive, bard to the O’Neales of Clannaboy, complains in the same spirit of the towers and ramparts with which the strangers had disfigured the fair sporting fields of Erin. See Walker’s Irish Bards, p. 140.

Note xiii.

He chose that honoured flag to hear. — St. XVI. p. 176.

Lacy informs us, in the old play already quoted, how the cavalry raised by the country gentlemen for — Charles’s service were usually officered. “You, cornet, have a name that’s proper for all cornets to be called by, for they are all beardless boys in our army. The most part of our horse were raised thus:— The honest country gentleman raises the troop at his own charge; then he gets a low-country lieutenant to fight his troop safely; then, he sends for his son from school to be his cornet; and then he puts off his child’s coat to put on a buff coat: and this is the constitution of our army.”

Note xiv.

his page, the next degree

In that old time to chivalry. — St. XVI. p. 176.

Originally the order of chivalry embraced three ranks:— 1 . The Page; 2. The Squire; 3. The Knight; — a gradation which seems to have been imitated in the mystery of freemasonry. But before the reign of Charles I. the custom of serving as a squire had fallen into disuse, though the order of the page was still, to a certain degree, in observance. This state of servitude was so far from inferring any thing degrading, that it was considered as the regular school for acquiring every quality necessary for future distinction. The proper nature, and the decay of the institution, are pointed out by old Ben Jonson, with his own forcible moral colouring. The dialogue occurs between Lovel, “a compleat gentleman, a soldier, and a scholar, known to have been page to the old Lord Beaufort, and so to have followed him in the French wars, after companion of his studies, and left guardian to his son,” and the facetious Goodstock, host of the Light Heart. Lovel had offered to take Goodstock’s son for his page, which the latter, in reference to the recent abuse of the establishment, declares as “a desperate course of life:” —

Lovell. Call you that desperate, which by a line

Of institution, from our ancestors

Hath been derived down to us, and received

In a succession, for the noblest way

Of breeding up our youth, in letters, arms,

Fair mien, discourses, civil exercise,

And all the blazon of a gentleman?

Where can he learn to vault, to ride, to fence,

To move his body gracefuller? to speak

His language purer? or to tune his mind,

Or manners, more to the harmony of nature.

Than in the nurseries of nobility?.

Host. Aye, that was when the nursery’s self was noble,

And only virtue made it, not the market,

That titles were not vented at the drum.

Or common outcry; goodness gave the greatness,

And greatness worship: every house became

An academy of honour; and those parts

We see departed, in the practice, now.

Quite from the institution.

Lot. Why do you say so?

Or think so enviously? do they not still

Learn there the Centaur’s skill, the art of Thrace,

To ride? or, Pollux’ mystery, to fence?

The Pyrrhic gestures, both to dance and spring

In armour, to be active in the wars?

To study figures, numbers, and proportions,

May yield ’em great in counsels, and the arts

Grave Nestor and the wise Ulysses practised?

To make their English sweet upon their tongue!

As reverend Chaucer says?

Host. Sir, you mistake;

To play Sir Pandarus my copy hath it.

And carry messages to Madam Cressida j

Instead of backing the brave steed o’ mornings.

To court the chambermaid; and for a leap

O’ the vaulting horse to ply the vaulting house:

For exercise of arms a bale of dice,

Or two or three packs of cards to shew the cheat,

And nimbleness of hand; mistake a cloak

Upon my lord’s back, and pawn it; ease his pocket

Of a superfluous watch; or geld a jewel

Of an odd stone or so; twinge two or three buttons

From off my lady’s gown: these are the arts

Or seven liberal deadly sciences

Of pagery, or rather paganism,

As the tides run; to which, if he apply him,

He may perhaps take a degree at Tyburn

A year the earlier; come to take a lecture

Upon Aquinas at St Thomas a Waterings,

And so go forth a laureat in hemp circle!

Ben Jonson’s ISew Inn, Act L Scene HI.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00