Rokeby St. III. p. 208.
The ancient castle of Rokeby stood exactly upon the site of the present mansion, by which a part of its walls is inclosed. It is surrounded by a profusion of fine wood, and the park in which it stands is adorned by the junction of the Greta and of the Tees. The title of Baron Rokeby of Armagh was in 1777 conferred on the Right Reverend Richard Robinson, Primate of Ireland, descended of the Robinsons, formerly of Rokeby in Yorkshire.
Rokeby’s lords of martial fame,
I can count them name by name. — St. IX. p. 218.
The following brief pedigree of this very ancient and once powerful family, was kindly supplied to the author by Mr Rokeby of Northamptonshire, descended of the ancient Barons of Rokeby:—
1. Sir Alex. Rokeby, Knt. married to Sir Hump. Liftle’s1 daughter.
2. Ralph Rokeby, Esq. to Tho. Lumley’s daughter.
3. Sir Tho. Rokeby, Knt. to Tho. Hubborn’s daughter.
4. Sir Ralph Rokeby, Knt. to Sir Ralph Biggott’s daughter.
5. Sir Tho. Rokeby, Knt. to Sir John de Mclsass’ daughter of Bennet–Hall in Holderness.
6. Ralph Rokeby, Esq. to Sir Bryan Stapleton’s daughter of Weighill.
7. Sir Thomas Rokeby, Knt. to Sir Ralph Ury’s daughter.2
8. Ralph Rokeby, Esq. to daughter of Mansfield, heir of Morton.3
9. Sir Tho. Rokeby, Knt. to Stroode’s daughter and heir.
10. Sir Ralph Rokeby, Knt. to Sir Jas. Strangwayes’ daughter.
11. Sir Thomas Rokeby, Knt. to Sir John Hotham’s daughter.
12. Ralph Rokeby, Esq. to Danby of Yafforth daughter and heir.4
13. Tho. Rokeby, Esq. to Rob. Constable’s daughter of Cliff, serjt. at law.
14. Christopher Rokeby, Esq. to Lasscells of Brackenburgh’s daughter.5
15. Thos. Rokeby, Esq. to the daughter of Thweng.
16. Sir Thomas Rokeby, Knt. to Sir Ralph Lawson’s daughter of Brough.
17. Frans. Rokeby, Esq. to Faucett’s daughter, citizen of London.
18. Thos. Rokeby, Esq. to the daughter of Wicliffe of Gales,
2 Temp. Edw. 2di.
3 Temp. Edw. 3tii.
4 Temp. Henr. 7mi. and from him is the house of Skyers of a fourth brother.
5 From him is the house of Hotham, and of the second brother that had issue.
|1337.||11 Edw. 3.||Ralph Hastings and Thos. de Rokeby.|
|1343.||17 Edw. 3.||Thos. de Rokeby, pro sept, annis.|
|1358.||25 Edw. 3.||Sir Thomas Rokeby, Justiciary of Ireland for six years; died at the castle of Kilka.|
|1407.||8 Hen. 4.||Thos. Rokeby Miles, defeated and slew the Duke of Northumberland at the battle of Bramham Moor.|
|1411.||12 Hen. 4.||Thos. Rokeby Miles.|
|1686.||. . . . . . . . .||Thos. Rokeby, Esq.|
|1539.||. . . . . . . . .||Robert Holgate, Bish. of Landaff, afterwards P. of York, Ld President of the Council for the Preservation of Peace in the North.|
|1564.||6 Eliz.||Tho. Younge, Archbishop of Yorke, Ld President.|
|30 Hen. 8.||Tho. Rokeby, L.L.D. one of the Council.|
|Jn Rokeby, L.L.D. one of the Council.|
|1572.||15 Eliz.||Hen. Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, Ld President.|
|Jo. Rokeby, Esq. one of the Council.|
|Jo, Rokeby, L.L.D. ditto.|
|Ralph Rokeby, Esq. one of the Secretaries.|
|1574.||17 Eliz.||Jo. Rokeby, Precentor of York.|
|7 Will. 3.||Sir J. Rokeby, Knt. one of the Justices of the King's Bench.|
The family of De Rokeby came over with the Conqueror.
The old motto belonging to the family is In Bivio Deitia.
The arms, argent, cherron sable, between three rooks proper.
There is somewhat more to be found in our family in the Scottish History about the affairs of Dun–Bretton town, but what it is, and in what time, I know not, nor can have convenient leisure to search. But Parson Blackwood, the Scottish chaplain to the Lord of Shrewsbury, recited to me once a piece of a Scottish song, wherein was mentioned that Wm Wallis, the great deliverer of the Scotts from the English bondage, should, at Dun–Bretton, have been brought up under a Rokeby, captain then of that place; and as he walked on a cliff, should thrust him on a sudden into the sea, and thereby have gotten that hold, which, I think, was about the 33d of Edw. I. or before. Thus, leaving our ancestors of record, we must also with them leave the Chronicle of Malmesbury Abbey, called Eulogium Historiarum, out of which Mr Leland reporteth this history, and coppy down unwritten story, the which have yet the testimony of later times, and the fresh memory of men yet alive, for their warrant and creditt, of whom I have learned it, that in K. Henry the 7th’s reign, one Ralph Rokeby, Esq. was owner of Morton, and I guess that this was he that deceived the fryars of Richmond with his felon swine, on which a jargon was made.
The above is a quotation from a manuscript written by Ralph Rokeby; when he lived is uncertain.
To what metrical Scottish tradition Parson Blackwood alluded, it would be now in vain to enquire. But in Blind Harry’s History of Sir William Wallace, we find a legend of one Rukbie, whom he makes keeper of Stirling Castle under the English usurpation, and whom Wallace slays with his own hand:
In the great press Wallace and Rukbie met,
With his good sword a stroke upon him set;
Derfly to death the old Rukbie he drave.
But his two sons scaped among the lave.
These sons, according to the romantic minstrel, surrendered the castle on conditions, and went back to England, but returned to Scotland in the days of Bruce, when one of them became again keeper of Stirling Castle. Immediately after this achievement follows another engagement, between Wallace and those Western Highlanders who embraced the English interest, at a pass in Glendonchart, where many were precipitated into the lake over a precipice. These circumstances may have been confused in the narrative of Parson Blackwood, or in the recollection of Mr Rokebj.
In the old ballad of Chevy Chace, there is mentioned, among the English warriors, “Sir Raff the ryche Rugbe,” which may apply to Sir Ralph Rokeby, the tenth baron in the pedigree. The more modern copy of the ballad runs thus:—
Good Sir Ralph Raby there was slain,
Whose prowess did surmount.
This would rather seem to relate to one of the Nevilles of Raby. But as the whole ballad is romantic, accuracy is not to be looked for.
the Felon Sow. — St. IX. p. 219.
The ancient minstrels had a comic as well as a serious strain of romance, and although the examples of the latter are by far the most numerous, they are, perhaps, the less valuable. The comic romance was a sort of parody upon the usual subjects of minstrel poetry. If the latter described deeds of heroic achievement, and the events of the battle, the tourney, and the chace, the former, as in the tournament of Tottenham, introduced a set of clowns debating in the field, with all the assumed circumstances of chivalry; or, as in the Hunting of the Hare (see Weber’s Metrical Romances, vol. III.) persons of the same description, following the chace, with all the grievous mistakes and blunders incident to such unpractised sportsmen. The idea, therefore, of Don Quixote’s frenzy, although inimitably embodied and brought out, was not perhaps in the abstract altogether original. One of the very best of these mock romances, and which has no small portion of comic humour, is the Hunting of the Felon Sow of Rokeby by the Friars of Richmond. Ralph Rokeby, who (for the jest’s sake apparently) bestowed this intractable animal on the convent of Richmond, seems to have flourished in the time of Henry VII. which, since we know not the date of Friar Theobald’s Wardenship, to which the poem refers us, may indicate that of the composition itself Morton, the Mortham of the text, is mentioned as being this facetious baron’s place of residence; accordingly Leland notices that “Mr Rokeby hath a place caulled Mortham, a litle beneth Grentey-bridge, almost on the mouth of Grentey.” That no information may be lacking which is in my power to supply, I have to notice, that the Mistress Rokeby of the romance, who so charitably refreshed the sow after she had discomfited Friar Middleton and his auxiliaries, was, as appears from the pedigree of the Rokeby family, daughter and heir of Danby of Yaiforth.
This curious poem was first published in Mr Whitaker’s History of Craven, but from an inaccurate manuscript, not corrected very happily. It was transferred by Mr Evans to the new edition of his ballads, with some well-judged conjectural improvements. I have been induced to give a more authentic and full, though still an imperfect, edition of this humorous composition, from being furnished with a copy from a manuscript in the possession of Mr Rokebj, to whom I have acknowledged my obligations in the last note. It has three or four stanzas more than that of Mr Whitaker, and the language seems, where they differ, to have the more ancient and genuine readings,
Ye men that will of aunters 6 winne,
That late within this land hath beene,
Of one I will you tell;
Alas! that ever she lived sea lang,
She was mare11 than other three,
The griseliest beast that ere might bee,
Her head was great and gray;
She was bred in Rokeby wood,
There was few that thither goed,12
That came on live awav,13
6 Both the MS. and Mr Whitaker’s copy read ancestors, evidently a corruption of aunters, adventures, as corrected by Mr Evans.
7 Sow, according to provincial pronunciation.
8 So; Yorkshire dialect.
9 Fele, many, Sax.
10 A corruption of quell, to kill.
11 More, greater.
Her walk was endlong14 Greta side;
There was no bren 15 that durst her bide,
That was froe16 heaven to hell;
Nor never man that had that might,
That ever durst come in her sight.
Her force it was so fell.
Ralph of Rokeby with good will,
The fryers of Richmond gave her till,
Full well to garre17 them fare;
Fryar Middleton by his name,
He was sent to fetch her hame.
That rued him sine18 full sare.
With him tooke he wight men two,
Pater Dale was one of thoe,
That ever was brim as beare; 19
And well durst strike with sword and knife,
And fight full manly for his life.
What time as mister ware.20
These three men went at God’s will,
This wicked sew while they come till,
Liggan 21 under a tree;
Rugg and rusty was her haire;
She raise up with a felon fare,22
To fight against the three.
14 Along the side of Greta.
15 Barn, child, man in general.
19 Fierce as a bear. Mr Whitaker’s copy reads, perhaps in consequence of mistaking the MS. — T’other was Bryan of Bear.
20 Need were. Mr Whitaker reads musters
22 A fierce countenance or manner.
She was so grisely for to meete,
She rave the earth up with her feete,
And barke came fro the tree.;
When Fryar Middleton her saugh,23
Weet ye vrell he might not laugh,
Full earnestly look’t hee.
These men of aunters that was so wight24
They bound thera baudly25 for to fight,
And strike at her full sare;
Untill a kiln they garred her flee,
Wold God send them the victory,
They wold aske him noa mare.
The sew was in the kiln hole down,
As they were on the balke aboon,26
For27 hurting of their feet;
They were so saulted28 with this sew,
That among them was a stalworth stew.
The kelne began to reeke.
Durst noe man neigh her with his hand,
But putt a rape29 downe with his wand,
And haltered her full meete;
They hurled her forth against her will,
Whiles they came unto a hill
A little fro the streete.30
24 Wight, brave. The Rokeby MS. reads incountersy and Mr Whitaker, auncestors.
26 On the beam above.
27 To prevent.
30 Watling-street; see the sequel.
And there she made them such a fray,
If they should live to Doomesday,
They tharrow31 it ne’er forgett;
She braded32 upon every side,
And ran on them gaping full wide.
For nothing would she lett,33
She gave such brades34 at the band.
That Pater Dale had in his hand,
He might not hold his feet.
She chafed them to and fro,
The wight men was never soe woe,
Their measure was not so meete.
She bound her boldly to abide;
To Pater Dale she came aside
With many a hideous yell:
She gaped so wide and cried soe hee,
The fryar said, “I conjure thee,35
Thou art a feind of hell.
“Thou art come hither for some traine,36
I conjure thee to go againe
Where thou wast wont to dwell.”
He sayned37 him with crosse and creede,
Took forth a book, began to reade,
In St John his gospell.
33 Leave it.
35 This line is wanting in Mr Whitaker’s copy, whence it has been conjectured that something is wanting after this stanza, which now there is no occasion to suppose.
36 Evil device.
37 Blessed, Fr.
The sew she would not Latin heare,
But rudely rushed att the frear.
That blinked all his blee;38
And when she would have taken her hold,
The fryar leaped as Jesus wold,
And healed 39 him with a tree.
She was as brim40 as any beare,
For all their meete to labour there41
To them it was no boote:
Upon trees and bushes that by her stood,
She ranged as shee was wood,42
And rave them up by roote.
He sayd, “Alas, that I was frear!
And I shall be rugged43 in sunder here,
Hard is my destinie!
Wist 44 my brethren in this houre,
That I was sett in such a stoure,45
They would pray for me.”
This wicked beast that wrought this woe,
Tooke that rape from the other two,
And then they fledd all three;
They fledd away by Watling-streete,
They had no succour but their feet.
It was the more pitty.
38 Lost his colour.
39 Sheltered himself.
41 The MS. reads to labour weere. The text seems to mean that all their labour to obtain their intended meat was of no use to them. Mr Whitaker reads,
She was as brim as any boar,
And gave a grisly hideous roar,
To them it was no boot.
Besides the want of connection between the last line and the two former, the second has a very modern sound, and the reailing of the Rokeby MS. with the slight alteration in the text, is much better.
43 Torn, pulled.
45 Combat, perilous fight.
The feild it was both lost and wonne;46
The sew went hame, and that full soone,
To Morton on the Greene;
When Ralph of Rokeby saw the rape,47
He wist48 that there had been debate,
Whereat the sew had beene.
He bad them stand out of her way.
For she had had a sudden fray, —
“I saw never so keene;
Some new things shall we heare
Of her and Middleton the frear,
Some battell hath there beene.”
But all that served him for nought,
Had they not better succour sought,
They were served therefore loe.
Then Mistress Rokeby came anon.
And for her brought shee meate full soone,
The sew came her unto.
She gave her meate upon the flower,
* * * * * 49
[Hiatus valde deflendus.]
When Fryer Middleton came home.
His brethren was full fain ilkone,50
And thanked God of his life;
He told them all unto the end,
How he had foughten with a fiend.
And lived through mickle strife.
46 This stanza, with the two following, and the fragment of a fourth, are not in Mr Whitaker’s edition.
47 The rope about the sow’s neck.
49 This line is almost illegible.
50 Each one.
“We gave her battell half a day,
And sithen51 was fain to fly away,
For saving of our life.52
And Pater Dale would never blinn,53
But as fast as he could ryn,54
Till he came to his wife.”
The warden said, “I am full woe,
That ever ye should be torment so,
But wee with you had beene!
Had wee been there your brethren all.
Wee should have garred the warle55 fall,
That wrought you all this teyne.56
Fryer Middleton said soon, “Nay,
In faith you would have fled away,
When most mister57 had been;
You will all speake words at hame,
A man would ding 58 you every ilke ane.
And if it be as I weine.”
He look’t so griesly all that night.
The warden said, “Yon man will fight
If you say ought but good:
Yon guest 59 hath greived him so sare.
Hold your tongues and speake noe mare,
Hee looks as hee were wood,”
51 Since then, after that.
52 The above lines are wanting in Mr Whitaker’s copy.
53 Cease, stop.
55 Warlock, or wizzard.
58 Beat. The copy in Mr Whitaker’s History of Craven reads, perhaps better, — The fiend would ding you down ilk one.
59 “Yon guest” may be yon gest, i. e. that adventure; or it may mean yon ghuist, or apparition, which in old poems is applied sometimes to what is supernaturally hideous. The printed copy reads, — The beast hath, &c.
The warden waged60 on the morne.
Two boldest men that ever were borne,
I weine, or ever shall be;
The one was Gibbert Griffin’s son.
Full mickle worship has he wonne.
Both by land and sea.
The other was a bastard son of Spain,
Many a Sarazin hath he slain,
His dint 61 hath gart them die.
These two men the battle undertooke
Against the sew, as says the booke.
And sealed security.
That they should boldly bide and fight.
And skomfit her in maine and might,
Or therefore should they die.
The warden sealed to them againe.
And said, “In feild if ye be slain.
This condition make I:
“We shall for you pray, sing, and read
To doomesday with hearty speede,
“With all our progeny.”
Then the letters well was made.
Bands bound with scales brade,62
As deeds of amies should be.
60 Hired, a Yorkshire phrase.
62 Broad, large.
These men of armes that weere soe wight,
With armour and with brandes bright.
They went this sew to see;
She made on them slike a rerd,63
That for lier they were sare afer’d,
And almost bound to flee.
She came roveing them againe;
That saw the bastard son of Spaine,
He braded 64 out his brand;
Full spiteously at her he strake,
For all the fence that he could make,
She gat sword out of hand;
And rave in sunder half his sheilde,
And bare him backward in the feilde,
He might not her gain stand.
She would have riven his privich geare,
But Gilbert with his sword of werre,
He strake at her full strong,
On her shoulder till she held the swerd;
Then was good Gilbert sore afer’d,
When the blade brake in throng.65
Since in his hands he hath her tane.
She tooke him by the shoulder bane,66
And held her hold full fast,
She strave so stiffly in that stower,67
That thorough all his rich armour
The blood came at the last.
63 Such like a roar.
64 Drew out.
65 In the combat.
67 Meeting, battle.
Then Gilbert greived was sea sare,
That he rave off both hide and haire.
The flesh came fro the bone;
And all with force he fell’d her there,
And wann her worthily in werre,
And band her him alone.
And lift her on a horse sea hee,
Into two panyers well-made of a tree,
And to Richmond they did hay:68
When they saw her come.
They sang merrily Te Deum,
The fryers on that day.69
They thanked God and St Francis,
As they had won the beast of pris,70
And never a man was slaine:
There did never a man more manly,
Knight Marcus, nor yett Sir Gui,
Nor Loth of Louthyane.71
If ye will any more of this.
In the fryars of Richmond ’tis
In parchment good and fine;
And how Fryar Middleton that was so kend,72
At Greta-bridge conjur’d a feind
In likeness of a swine.
68 Hie, hasten.
69 The MS. reads mistakenly every day.
71 The father of Sir Gawain in the romance of Arthur and Merlin. The MS. is thus corrupted,-
More loth of Louth Rynie.
72 Well known, or perhaps kind, well disposed.
It is well known to many a man,
That Fryar Theobald was warden than.
And this fell in his time;
And Christ them bless both farre and neare,
All that for solace list this to heare,
And him that made the rhime.
Ralph Rokeby with full good will,
The fryars of Richmond he gave her till,
This sew to mend their fare:
Fryar Middleton by his name,
Would needs bring the fat sew hame,
That rued him since full sare.
The Filea of O’Neah was he.-St X. p. 220.
The Filea, or Ollamh Re Dan, was the proper bard, or, as the name hterally implies, poet. Each chieftain of distinction had one or more in his service, whose office was usually hereditary. The late ingenious Mr Cooper Walker has assembled a curious collection of particulars concerning this order of men in his Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards. There were itinerant bards of less elevated rank, but all were held in the highest veneration. The English, who considered them as chief supporters of the spirit of national independence, were much disposed to proscribe this race of poets, as Edward I. is said to have done in Wales. Spenser, while he admits the merit of their wild poetry, as “savouring of sweet wit and good invention, and sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their natural device,” yet rigorously condemns the whole application of their poetry, as abased to “the gracing of wickedness and vice.” The household minstrel was admitted even to the feast of the prince whom he served, and sat at the same table. It was one of the customs of which Sir Richard Sewrj, to whose charge Richard II. committed the instruction of four Irish monarchs in the civilization of the period, found it most difficult to break his royal disciples, though he had also much ado to subject them to other English rules, and particularly to reconcile them to wear breeches. “The kyng, my souerevigne lord’s entent was, that in maner, countenaunce, and apparell of clothyng they sholde use according to the maner of Englande, for the kynge thought to make them all four knyghtes: they had a fayre house to lodge in, in Duvelyn, and I was charged to abyde styll with them, and not to departe; and so two or three dayes I suffered them to do as they lyst, and sayde nothyng to them, but folowed their owne appetytes; they wolde sytte at the table, and make countenance nother good nor fayre. Than I thought I shulde cause them to chaunge that maner; they wolde cause their mynstrells, their seruauntes, and varlettes to sytte with them, and to eate in their owne dyssche, and to drinke of their cuppes; and they shewed me that the usage of their countre was good, for they sayd in all thyngs (except their beddes) they were and lyved as comen. So the fourthe day I ordayned other tables to be couered in the hall, after the usage of Englande, and I made these four knyghtes to sytte at the hyghe table, and there mynstrels at another borde, and their seruauntes and varlettes at another byneth them, wherof by semynge they were displeased, and beheld each other, and wolde not eate. and sayde, how I wolde take fro them their good usage, wherin they had been norished. Than I answered them, smylyng, to apeace them, that it was not honourable for their estates to do as they dyde before, and that they must leave it, and use the custom of Englande, and that it was the kynge’s pleasure they shulde so do, and how he was charged so to order them. Whan they harde that, they suffred it, by-cause they had putte themselfe under the obeysance of the kynge of England, and parceuered in the same as long as I was with them; yet they had one use which I knew was well used in their countre, and that was, they dyde were no breches; I caused breches of lynen clothe to be made for them. Whyle I was with them I caused them to leaue many rude thynges, as well in clothying as in other causes. Moche ado I had at the fyrst to cause them to weare gownes of sylke, furred with myneuere and gray: for before these kynges thought themselfe well apparelled whan they had on a mantell. They rode alwayes without saddles and styropes, and with great payne I made them to ride after our usage.” — Lord Berners’ Froissart, Lond. 1812, 4to. II. 621.
The influence of these bards upon their patrons, and their admitted title to interfere in matters of the weightiest concern, may be also proved from the behaviour of one of them at an interview between Thomas Fitzgerald, son of the Earl of Kildare, then about to renounce the English allegiance, and the Lord Chancellor Cromer, who made a long and goodly oration to dissuade him from his purpose. The young lord had come to the council “armed and weaponed,” and attended by seven score horsemen in their shirts of mail; and we are assured that the chancellor, having set forth his oration “with such a lamentable action as his cheekes were all beblubbered with teares, the horsemen, namelie, such as understood not English, began to diuine what the lord-chancelor meant with all this long circumstance; some of them reporting that he was preaching a sermon, others said that he stood making of some heroicall poetry in the praise of the Lord Thomas. And thus as every idiot shot his foolish bolt at the wise chancellor his discourse, who in eifect did nought else but drop pretious stones before hogs, one Bard de Nelan, an Irish rithmour, and a rotten sheepe to infect a whole flocke, was chatting of Irish verses, as though his toong had run on pattens, in commendation of the Lord Thomas, investing him with the title of Silken Thomas, because his horsemens jacks were gorgeously imbrodered with silke: and in the end he told him that he lingered there ouer long. Whereat the Lord Thomas being quickened,” 73 as Hollinshed expresses it, bid defiance to the chancellor, threw down contemptuously the sword of office, which, in his father’s absence, he held as deputy, and rushed forth to engage in open insurrection.
73 Holinshed, Lond. 1808, 4to. vol. VI. p. 291.
Ah, Clandeboy! thy friendly floor
Slieve–Donard’ s oak shall light no more. — St. X. p. 221.
Clandeboy is a district of Ulster, formerly possessed by the sept of the O’Neales, and Slieve–Donard a romantic mountain in the same province. The clan was ruined after Tyrone’s great rebellion, and their places of abode laid desolate. The ancient Irish, wild and uncultivated in other respects, did not yield even to their descendants in practising the most free and extended hospitality, and doubtless the bards mourned the decay of the mansion of their chiefs in strains similar to the verses of the British Llywarch Hen on a similar occasion, which are affecting, even through the discouraging medium of a literal translation. —
Silent-breathing gale, long wilt thou be heard!
There is scarcely another deserving praise,
Since Urien is no more.
Many a dog that scented well the prey, and aerial hawk,
Have been trained on this floor
Before Erlleon became polluted . . .
This hearth, ah, will it not be covered with nettles!
Whilst its defender lived,
More congenial to it was the foot of the needy petitioner.
This hearth, will it not be covered with green sod!
In the lifetime of Owain and Elphin,
Its ample cauldron boiled the prey taken from the foe.
This hearth, will it not be covered with toad-stools!
Around the viand it prepared, more cheering was
The clattering sword of the fierce dauntless warrior.
This liearth, will it not be overgrown with spreading brambles!
Till now logs of burning wood lay on it,
Accustomed to prepare the gifts of Reged!
This hearth, will it not be covered with thorns!
More congenial on it would have been the mixed group
Of Owain’s social friends united in harmony.
This hearth, will it not be covered over with the ants!
More adapted to it would have been the bright torches
And harmless festivities!
This hearth, will it not be covered with dock-leaves!
More congenial on its floor would have been
The mead, and the talking of wine-cheer’d warriors.
This hearth, will it not be turned up by the swine!
More congenial to it would have been the clamour of men.
And the circling horns of the banquet.
Heroic Elegies of Llyware Hen, by Owen, Lond. 1792, 8vo. p. 41.
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night.
Without fire, without bed —
I must weep awhile, and then be silent!
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night.
Without fire, without candle —
Except God doth, who will endue me with patience
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night,
Without fire, without being lighted —
Be thou encircled with spreading silence!
The hall of Cynddylan, gloomy seems its roof,
Since the sweet smile of humanity is no more —
Woe to him that saw it, if he neglects to do good!
The hall of Cynddylan, art thou not bereft of thy appearance.
Thy shield is in the grave;
Whilst he lived there was no broken roof!
The hall of Cynddylan is without love this night,
Since he that owned it is no more —
Ah, death! it will be but a short time he will leave me!
The hall of Cynddylan is not easy this night,
On the top of the rock of Hydwyth,
Without its lord, without company, without the circling feasts!
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night.
Without fire, without songs —
Tears afflict the cheeks!
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night,
Without fire, without family —
My over-flowing tears gush out!
The hall of Cynddylan pierces me to see it,-
Without a covering, without fire —
My general dead, and I alive myself!
The hall of Cynddylan is the seat of chill grief this night.
After the respect I experienced;
Without the men, without the women, who reside there!
The hall of Cynddylan is silent this night,
After losing” its master —
The great merciful God, what shall I do!
Ibid. p. 77.
— Marwood-chace and Toller-hill. — St. XIL p. 225.
Marwood-chace is the old park extending along the Durham side of the Tees, attached to Barnard-castle. Toller-hill is an eminence on the Yorkshire side of the river, commanding a superb view of the ruins.
Hawthornden. — St XIV. p. 230.
Drummond of Hawthornden was in the zenith of his reputation as a poet during the civil wars. He died in 1649.
MacCurtin’s harp. — St. XIV. p. 230.
“MacCurtin, hereditary Ollamh of North Munster, and Filea to Donough, Earl of Thomond, and President of Munster. This nobleman was amongst those who were prevailed upon to join Elizabeth’s forces. Soon as it was known that he had basely abandoned the interests of his country, MacCurtin presented an adulatory poem to Mac Carthy, chief of South Munster, and of the Eugenian line, who, with O’Neil, O’Donnel, Lacy, and others, were deeply engaged in protecting their violated coimtry. In this poem he dwells with rapture on the courage and patriotism of MacCarthy; but the verse that should (according to an established law of the order of the bards) be introduced in the praise of O’Brien, he turns into severe satire; — ‘ How am I afflicted (says he) that the descendant of the great Brien Boiromh cannot furnish me with a theme worthy the honour and glory of his exalted race!’ Lord Thomond hearing this, vowed vengeance on the spirited bard, who fled for refuge to the county of Cork. One day, observing the exasperated nobleman and his equipage at a small distance, he thought it was in vain to fly, and pretended to be suddenly seized with the pangs of death; directing his wife to lament over him, and tell his lordship that the sight of him, by awakening the sense of his ingratitude, had so much affected him that he could not support it; and desired her at the same time to tell his lordship that he entreated, as a dying request, his forgiveness. Soon as Lord Thomond arrived, the feigned tale was related to him. The nobleman was moved to compassion, and not only declared that he most heartily forgave him, but, opening his purse, presented the fair mourner with some pieces to inter him. This instance of his lordship’s pity and generosity gave courage to the trembling bard, who, suddenly springing up, recited an extemporaneous ode in praise of Donough, and, reentering into his service, became once more his favourite.” — Walker’s Memoirs of the Irish Bards, Loncl 1786, 4to. }), 14L
The ancient English minstrel’s dress. — St. XV. p. 231.
Among the entertainments presented to Elizabeth at Kenelworth Castle, was the introduction of a person designed to represent a travelling minstrel, who entertained her with a solemn story out of the Acts of King Arthur. Of this person’s dress and appearance Mr Laneham has given us a very accurate account, transferred by Bishop Percy to the preliminary dissertation on minstrels, prefixed to his Reliques of Ancient Poetry, vol. L
Littlecote-hall — St. XXVII. p. 250.
The tradition from which the ballad is founded was supplied by a friend, whose account I will not do the injustice to abridge, as it contains an admirable picture of an old English hall. —
“Littlecote-house stands in a low and lonely situation. On three sides it is surrounded by a park that spreads over the adjoining hill; on the fourth, by meadows which are watered by the river Kennet. Close on one side of the house is a thick grove of lofty trees, along the verge of which runs one of the principal avenues to it through the park. It is an irregular building of great antiquity, and was probably erected about the time of the termination of feudal warfare, when defence came no longer to be an object in a country mansion. Many circumstances in the interior of the house, however, seem appropriate to feudal times. The hall is very spacious, floored with stones, and lighted by large transom windows, that are clothed with casements. Its walls are hung with old military accoutrements, that have long been left a prey to rust. At one end of the hall is a range of coats of mail and helmets, and there is on every side abundance of old-fashioned pistols and guns, many of them with matchlocks. Immediately below the cornice hangs a row of leathern jerkins, made in the form of a shirt, supposed to have been worn as armour by the vassals. A large oak table, reaching nearly from one end of the room to the other, might have feasted the whole neighbourhood, and an appendage to one end of it made it answer at other times for the old game of shuffleboard. The rest of the furniture is in a suitable style, particularly an armchair of cumbrous workmanship, constructed of wood, curiously turned, with a high back and triangular seat, said to have been used by Judge Popham in the reign of Elizabeth. The entrance into the hall is at one end by a low door, communicating with a passage that leads from the outer door in the front of the house to a quadrangle 74 within; at the other, it opens upon a gloomy staircase, by which you ascend to the first floor, and, passing the doors of some bedchambers, enter a narrow gallery, which extends along the back front of the house from one end to the other of it, and looks upon an old garden. This gallery is hung with portraits, chiefly in the Spanish dresses of the sixteenth century. In one of the bedchambers, which you pass in going towards the gallery, is a bedstead with blue furniture, which time has now made dinffv and threadbare, and in the bottom of one of the bed curtains you are shewn a place where a small piece has been cut out and sown in again, — a circumstance which serves to identify the scene of the following story:—
74 I think there is a chapel on one side of it, but am not quite sure.
“It was on a dark rainy night in the month of November, that an old midwife sate musing by her cottage fire-side, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded, but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and, therefore, she must submit to be blindfolded, and to be conducted in that condition to the bedchamber of the lady. With some hesitation the midwife consented; the horseman bound her eyes, and placed her on a pillion behind him. After proceeding in silence for many miles through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the midwife was led into a house, which, from the length of her walk through the apartment, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power. When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bedchamber, in which were the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire, that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself oft* upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and, raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life. The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must begone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home; he then paid her handsomely, and departed. The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night; and she immediately made a deposition of the fact before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed; one was, that the midwife, as she sate by the bedside, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed-curtain, and sown it in again; the other was, that as she had descended the staircase, she had counted the steps. Some suspicions fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecote–House and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law; but broke his neck by a fall from his horse in hunting, in a few months after. The place where this happened is still known by the name of Darrell’s Stile, — a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way.
“Littlecote–House is two miles from Hungerford, in Berkshire, through which the Bath road passes. The fact occurred in the reign of Elizabeth. All the important circumstances I have given exactly as they are told in the country; some trifles only are added, either to render the whole connected, or to increase the impression.”
With this tale of terror the author has combined some circumstances of a similar legend, which was current at Edinburgh during his childhood.
About the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the large castles of the Scottish nobles, and even the secluded hotels, like those of the French noblesse, which they possessed in Edinburgh, were sometimes the scenes of strange and mysterious transactions, a divine of singular sanctity was called up at midnight, to pray with a person at point of death. This was no unusual summons; but what followed was alarming. He was put into a sedan-chair, and, after he had been transported to a remote part of the town, the bearers insisted upon his being blindfolded. The request was enforced by a cocked pistol, and submitted to; but in the course of the discussion he conjectured, from the phrases employed by the chairmen, and from some part of their dress, not completely concealed by their cloaks, that they were greatly above the menial station they had assumed.
After many turns and windings, the chair was carried up stairs into a lodging, where his eyes were uncovered, and he was introduced into a bedroom, where he found a lady, newly delivered of an infant. He was commanded by his attendants to say such prayers by her bedside as were fitting for a person not expected to survive a mortal disorder. He ventured to remonstrate, and observe that her safe delivery warranted better hopes. But he was sternly commanded to obey the orders first given, and with difficulty recollected himself sufficiently to acquit himself of the task imposed on him. He was then again hurried into the chair; but as they conducted him down stairs, he heard the report of a pistol. He was safely conducted home; a purse of gold was forced upon him; but he was warned, at the same time, that the least allusion to this dark transaction would cost him his life. He betook himself to rest, and, after long and broken musing, fell into a deep sleep. From this he was awakened by his servant, with the dismal news, that a fire of uncommon fury had broken out in the house of — — near the head of the Canongate, and that it was totally consumed; with the shocking addition, that the daughter of the proprietor, a young lady eminent for beauty and accomplishments, had perished in the flames. The clergyman had his suspicions, but to have made them public would have availed nothing. He was timid; the family was of the first distinction; above all, the deed was done, and could not be amended. Time wore away, however, and with it his terrors. He became unhappy at being the solitary depositary of this fearful mystery, and mentioned it to some of his brethren, through whom the anecdote acquired a sort of pubhcity. The divine, however, had been long dead, and the story in some degree forgotten, when a fire broke out again on the very same spot where the house of —— had formerly stood, and which was now occupied by buildings of an inferior description. When the flames were at their height, the tumult, which usually attends such a scene, was suddenly suspended by an unexpected apparition. A beautiful female, in a nightdress, extremely rich, but at least half a century old, appeared in the very midst of the fire, and uttered these tremendous words, in her vernacular idiom: “Anes burned, twice burned; the third time I’ll scare you all!” The belief in this story was formerly so strong, that on a fire breaking out, and seeming to approach the fatal spot, there was a good deal of anxiety testified lest the apparition should make good her denunciations.
As thick a smoke these hearths have given
At Hallowtide or Christmas even. — St. XXXIII. p. 259.
Such an exhortation was, in similar circumstances, actually given to his followers by a Welch chieftain:—
“Enmity did continue betweene Howell ap Rys ap Howell Vaughan and the sonnes of John ap Meredith. After the death of Evan ap Robert, Griffith ap Gronw (cozen-german to John ap Meredith’s sonnes of Gwjnfryn, who had long served in France, and had charge there) comeing home to live in the countrey, it happened that a servant of his, comeing to fish in Stjmllyn, his fish was taken away, and the fellow beaten by Howell ap Rys his servants, and by his commandment. Griffith ap John ap Gronw took the matter in such dudgeon that he challenged Howell ap Rys to the field, which he refusing, assembling his cosins John ap Meredith’s sonnes and his friends together, assaulted Howell in his own house, after the manner he had seene in the French warres, and consumed with fire his barnes and his out-houses. Whilst he was thus assaulting the hall, which Howell ap Rys and many other people kept, being a very strong house, he was shot out of a crevice of the house, through the sight of his beaver into the head, and slayne out-right, being otherwise armed at all points. Notwithstanding his death, the assault of the house was continued with great vehemence, the doores fired with great burthens of straw; besides this, the smoake of the out-houses and barnes not farre distant annoyed greatly the defendants, for that most of them lay under boordes and benches upon the floore, in the hall, the better to avoyd the smoake. During this scene of confusion onely the old man, Howell ap Rys, never stooped, but stood valiantly in the middest of the floore, armed with a gleve in his hand, and called unto them, and bid them arise like men, for shame, for he had knowne there as greate a smoake in that hall upon Christmas even. In the end, seeing the house could noe longer defend them, being overlayed with a multitude, upon parley betweene them, Howell ap Rys was content to yeald himself prisoner to Morris ap John ap Meredith, John ap Meredith’s eldest sonne, soe as he would swear unto him to bring him safe to Carnarvon Castle, to abide the triall of the law for the death of Graff’ ap John ap Gronw, who was cosen-german removed to the said Howell ap Rys, and of the very same house he was of. Which Morris ap John ap Meredith undertaking, did put a guard about the said Howell of his trustiest friends and servants, who kept and defended him from the rage of his kindred, and especially of Owen ap John ap Meredith, his brother, who was very eager against him. They passed by leisure thence like a campe to Carnarvon: the whole countrie being assembled, Howell his friends posted a horseback from one place or other by the way, who brought word that he was come thither safe, for they were in great fear lest he should be murthered, and that Morris ap John ap Meredith could not be able to defend him, neither durst any of Howell’s friends be there, for fear of the kindred. In the end, being delivered by Morris ap John ap Meredith to the constable of Carnarvon Castle, and there kept safely in ward untill the assises, it fell out by law, that the burning of Howell’s houses, and assaulting him in his owne house, was a more hay nous offence in Morris ap John ap Meredith and the rest, than the death of Gruff’ ap John ap Gronw in Howell, who did it in his own defence; whereupon Morris ap John ap Meredith, with thirty-five more, were indicted of felony, as appeareth by the copie of the indictment, which I had from the records.” — Sir John Wynne’s History of the Gwydir Family, Lond, 1770, 8vo. p. 116.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13