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And here you may no longer be;
The Elfin Queen, after restoring Thomas to earth, pours forth a string of prophecies, in which we distinguish references to the events and personages of the Scottish wars of Edward III. The battles of Duplin and Halidon are mentioned, and also Black Agnes, Countess of Dunbar. There is a copy of this poem in the Museum of the Cathedral of Lincoln, another in the collection in Peterborough, but unfortunately they are all in an imperfect state. Mr. Jamieson, in his curious Collection of Scottish Ballads and Songs, has an entire copy of this ancient poem, with all the collations. The lacunm of the former editions have been supplied from his copy.
THOMAS THE RHYMER.
PART SECOND. ALTERED FROM ANCIENT PROPHECIES.
The prophecies ascribed to Thomas of Ercildoune, have been the principal means of securing to him remembrance "amongst the sons of his people." The author of Sir Tristrem would long ago have joined, in the vale of oblivion, "Clerk of Tranent, who wrote the adventure of Schir Gawain," if, by good hap, the same current of ideas respecting antiquity, which causes Virgil to be regarded as a magician by the Lazaroni of Naples, had not exalted the bard of Ercildoune to the prophetic character. Perhaps, indeed, he himself affected it during his life. We know at least, for certain, that a belief in his supernatural knowledge was current soon after his death. His prophecies are alluded to by Barbour, by Wintoun, and by Henry the Minstrel, or Blind Harry, as he is usually termed. None of these authors, however, give the words of any of the Rhymer's vaticinations, but merely narrate, historically, his having predicted the events of which they speak. The earliest of the prophecies ascribed to him, which is now extant, is quoted by Mr. Pinkerton from a MS. It is supposed to be a response from Thomas of Ercildoune to a question from the heroic Countess of March, renowned for the defence of the castle of Dunbar against the English, and termed, in the familiar dialect of her time, Black Agnes of Dunbar. This prophecy is remarkable, in so far as it bears very little resemblance to any verses published in the printed copy of the Rhymer's supposed prophecies. The verses are as follows :—
"La Countesse de Donbar demande a Thomas de Essedoune quant la guerre d'Escoce prendreit fyn. E yl Va repoundy et dyt,
When man is mad a kyng of a capped man; When man is levere other mones thyng than his owen; When londe thouys forest, ant forest is felde;When hares kendles o' the her'stane;When Wyt and Wille werres togedere;When mon makes stables of kyrkes, and steles castels with stye;When Rokesboroughe nys no burgh ant market is at Forwyl
eye;When Bambourne is donged with dede men; When men ledes men in ropes to buyen and to sellen; When a quarter of whaty whete is chaunged for a colt of ten
markes; When prude (pride) prikes and pees is leyd in prisoun: When a Scot ne me hym hude ase hare in forme that the English ne shall hym fynde;
When rycht ant wronge astente the togedere;When i:nIdes weddeth lovedies;
When Scottes flen so faste, that, for faute of shep, hy
Plnkerton's Poems, from Maitland's MS3. quoting
As I have never seen the MS. from which Mr. Pinkerton makes this extract, and as the date of it is fixed by him (certainly one of the most able antiquaries of our age) to the reign of Edward I. or II., it is with great diffidence that I hazard a contrary opinion. There can, however, I believe, be little doubt, that these prophetic verses are a forgery, and not the production of our Thomas the Rhymer. But I am inclined to believe them of a later date than the reign of Edward I. or II.
The gallant defence of the castle of Dunbar, by Black Agnes, took place in the year 1337. The Rhymer died previous to the year 1299, (see the charter, by his son, in the introduction to the foregoing ballad.) It seems, therefore, very improbable, that the Countess of Dunbar could ever have an opportunity of consulting Thomas the Rhymer, since that would infer that she was married, or at least engaged in state matters, previous to 1299; whereas she is described as a young, or a middle-aged woman, at the period of her being besieged in the fortress, which she so well defended. If the Editor might indulge a conjecture, he would suppose, that the prophecy was contrived for the encouragement of the English invaders, during the Scottish wars; and that the names of the Countess of Dunbar, and of Thomas of Ercildoune, were used for the greater credit of the forgery. According to this hypothesis, it seems likely to have been composed after the siege of Dunbar, which had made the name of the Countess well known, and consequently in the reign of Edward III. The whole tendency of the prophecy is to aver, that there shall be no end of the Scottish war (concerning which the question was proposed) till a final conquest of the country by England, attended by all the usual severities of war. "When the cultivated country shall become forest," says the prophecy;—" when the wild animals shall inhabit the abode of men ;— when Scots shall not be able to escape the English, should they crouch as hares in their form "— all these denunciations seem to refer to the time of Edward III., upon whose victories the prediction was probably founded. The mention of the exchange betwixt a colt worth ten marks, and a quarter of " whaty [indifferent] wheat," seems to allude to the dreadful famine, about the year 1388. The independence of Scotland, was, however, as impregnable to the mines of superstition,