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A FRAGMENT. BY WALTER SCOTT.
The imperfect state of this ballad, which was written several years ago, is not a circumstance affected for the purpose of giving it that peculiar interest, which is often found to arise from ungratified curiosity. On the contrary, it was the Editor's intention to have completed the tale, if he had found himself able to succeed to his own satisfaction. Yielding to the opinion of persons, whose judgment, if not biassed by the partiality of friendship, is entitled to deference, he has preferred inserting these verses as a fragment, to his intention of entirely suppressing them.
The tradition, upon which the tale is founded, regards a house upon the barony of Gilmerton, near Lasswade, in Mid-Lothian. This building, now called Gilmerton Grange, was originally named Burndale, from the following tragic adventure. The barony of Gilmerton belonged, of yore, to a gentleman named Heron, who had one beautiful daughter. This young lady was seduced by the Abbot of Newbattle, a richly endowed abbey, upon the banks of the South Esk, now a seat of the Marquis of Lothian. Heron came to the knowledge of this circumstance, and learned also, that the lovers carried on their guilty intercourse by the connivance of the lady's nurse, who lived at this house of Gilmerton Grange, or Burndale. He formed a resolution of bloody vengeance, undeterred by the supposed sanctity of the clerical character, or by the stronger claims of natural affection. Choosing, therefore, a dark and windy night, when the objects of his vengeance were engaged in a stolen interview, he set fire to a stack of dried thorns, and other combustibles, which he had caused to be piled against the house, and reduced to a pile of glowing ashes the dwelling, with all its inmates.1
The scene with which the ballad opens, was suggested by the following curious passage, extracted from the Life of Alexander Peden, one of the wandering and persecuted teachers of the sect of Cameronians, during the reign of Charles II. and his successor, James. This person was supposed by his followers, and, perhaps, really believed himself, to be possessed of supernatural gifts; for the wild scenes which they frequented, and the constant dangers which were incurred through their proscription, deepened upon their minds the gloom of superstition, so general in that age.
1 This tradition was communicated to me by John Clerk, Esq. of Eldin, author of an Essay upon Naval Tactics, who will be remembered by posterity, as having taught the genius of Britain to concentrate her thunders, and to launch them against her foes with an unerring aim.
"About the same time he [Peden] came to Andrew Normand's house, in the parish of Alloway, in the shire of Ayr, being to preach at night in his barn. After he came in, he halted a little, leaning upon a chair-back, with his face covered; when he lifted up his head, he said, 'They are in this house that I have not one word of salvation unto ;' he halted a little again, saying, 'This is strange, that the devil will not go out, that we may begin our work!' Then there was a woman went out, ill-looked upon almost all her life, and to her dying hour, for a witch, with many presumptions of the same. It escaped me, in the former passages, what John Muirhead (whom I have often mentioned) told me, that when he came from Ireland to Galloway, he was at family-worship, and giving some notes upon the Scripture read, when a very ill-looking man came, and sat down within the door, at the back of the hallan [partition of the cottage]: immediately he halted and said, 'There is some unhappy body just now come into this house. I charge him to go out, and not stop my mouth!' The person went out, and he insisted, [went on,] yet he saw him neither come in nor go out."— The Life and Prophecies of Mr Alexander Peden, late Minister of the Gospel at New Glenluce, in Galloway, part ii. § 26.
A friendly correspondent remarks," that the incapacity of proceeding in the performance of a religious duty, when a contaminated person is present, is of much higher antiquity than the era of the Reverend Mr Alexander Peden."— Vide Hygini Fabulas, cap. 26. "Medea Oorintho exul, Atkenas, ad JEgewn Pandionis fclium devenit in hospitium, eique nupsit.
"Postea sacerdos Dianas Medeam exagitare
ccepit, regique negabat sacra caste facere posse, eo quod in ea civitate esset mulier venefica et scelerata; tunc exulatwt"
The Pope he was saying the high, high mass,
All on Saint Peter's day, With the power to him given, by the saints in heaven,
To wash men's sins away.
The Pope he was saying the blessed mass,
And the people kneel'd around,
As he kiss'd the holy ground.
And all, among the crowded throng,
Was still, both limb and tongue,
The holy accents rung.
At the holiest word he quiver'd for fear,
And falter'd in the sound—
He dropp'd it to the ground.