ページの画像
PDF

as to the steel of our more powerful and more wealthy neighbours. The war of Scotland is, thank God, at an end; but it is ended without her people having either crouched like hares in their form, or being drowned in their flight," for faute of ships,"—thank God for that too.—The prophecy, quoted page 120, is probably of the same date, and intended for the same purpose.

A minute search of the records of the time would probably throw additional light upon the allusions contained in these ancient legends. Among various rhymes of prophetic import, which are at this day current amongst the people of Teviotdale, is one, supposed to be pronounced by Thomas the Rhymer, presaging the destruction of his habitation and family:

"The hare sail kittle [litter] on my hearth stane,
And there will never be a Laird Learmont again."

The first of these lines is obviously borrowed from that in the MS. of the Harl. Library.—" When hares kendles o' the her'stane"—an emphatic image of desolation. It is also inaccurately quoted in the prophecy of Waldhave, published by Andro Hart, 1613:

"This is a true talking that Thomas of tells,
The hare shall hirple on the hard [hearth] stane."

Spottiswoode, an honest, but credulous historian, seems to have been a firm believer in the authenticity of the prophetic wares, vended in the name of Thomas of Ercildoune. "The prophecies, yet extant in Scottish rhymes, whereupon he was commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, may justly be admired; having foretold, so many ages before, the union of England and Scotland, in the ninth degree of the Bruce's blood, with the succession of Bruce himself to the crown, being yet a child, and other divers particulars, which the event hath ratified and made good. Boethius, in his story, relateth his prediction of King Alexander's death, and that he did foretel the same to the Earl of March, the day before it fell out; saying, 'That before the next day at noon, such a tempest should blow, as Scotland had not felt for many years before.' The next morning, the day being clear, and no change appearing in the air, the nobleman did challenge Thomas of his saying, calling him an impostor. He replied, that noon was not yet passed. About which time a post came to advertise the earl of the king his sudden death. 'Then,' said Thomas, 'this is the tempest I foretold; and so it shall prove to Scotland.' Whence, or how, he had this knowledge, can hardly be affirmed; but sure it is, that he did divine and answer truly of many things to come."—Spottiswoode, p. 47. Besides that notable voucher, Master Hector Boece, the good archbishop might, had he been so minded, have referred to Fordun for the prophecy of King Alexander's death. That historian calls our bard "ruralist Me votes"Fordun, lib. x. cap. 40.

[graphic]

What Spottiswoode calls "the prophecies extant in Scottish rhyme," are the metrical productions ascribed to the seer of Ercildoune, which, with many other compositions of the same nature, bearing the names of Bede, Merlin, Gildas, and other approved soothsayers, are contained in one small volume, published by Andro Hart, at Edinburgh, 1615. Nisbet the herald (who claims the prophet of Ercildoune as a brother-professor of his art, founding upon the various allegorical and emblematical allusions to heraldry) intimates the existence of some earlier copy of his prophecies than that of Andro Hart, which, however, he does not pretend to have seen.1 The late excellent Lord Hailes made these compositions the subject of a dissertation, published in his Remarks on the

1 "The muscle is a square figure like a lozenge, but it is always voided of the field. They are carried as principal figures by the name of Learmont. Learmont of Earlstoun, in the Merss, carried or on a bend azure three muscles; of which family was Sir Thomas Learmont, who is well known by the name of Thomas the Rhymer, because he wrote his prophecies in rhime. This prophetick herauld lived in the days of King Alexander the Third, and prophesied of his death, and of many other remarkable occurrences; particularly of the union of Scotland with England, which was not accomplished until the reign of James the Sixth, some hundred years after it was foretold by this gentleman, whose prophecies are much esteemed by many of the vulgar even at this day. I was promised by a friend a sight of his prophecies, of which there is everywhere to bo had an epitome, which, I suppose, is erroneous, and differs in many things

from the original, it having been oft reprinted by some unskilful persons. Thus many things are amissing in the small book which are to be met with in the original, particularly these two lines concerning his neighbour, Bemerside:—

'Tyde what may betide,

Haig shall be laird of Bemerside.'

And indeed his prophecies concerning that ancient family have hitherto been true; for since that time to this day, the Haigs have been lairds of that place. They carrie, Azure a saltier cantoned with two stars in chief and in base argent, as many crescents in the flanques or; and for crest a rock proper, with this motto, taken from the above-written rhyme— 'Tide what may.'"—Nisbet on Marks of Cadency, p. 158. He adds, "that Thomas' meaning may be understood by heralds when he speaks of kingdoms whose insignia seldom vary, but that individual families cannot be discovered, either because they have altered their bearings, or because they are pointed out by their crests and exterior ornaments, which are changed at the pleasure of the bearer." Mr. Nisbet, however, comforts himself for this obscurity, by reflecting, that "we may certainly conclude, from his writings, that herauldry was in good esteem in his days, and well known to the vulgar."—Ibid. p. 160. It may be added, that the publication of predictions, either printed or hieroglyphical, in which noble families were pointed out by their armorial bearings, was, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, extremely common; and the influence of such predictions on the minds of the common people was so great as to occasion a prohibition, by statute, of prophecy by reference to heraldic emblems. Lord Henry Howard also (afterwards Earl of Northampton) directs against this practice, much of the reasoning in his learned treatise, entitled, "A Defensation against the Poyson of pretended Prophecies."

History of Scotland. His attention is chiefly directed to the celebrated prophecy of our bard, mentioned by Bishop Spottiswoode, bearing, that the crowns of England and Scotland should be united in the person of a King, son of a French Queen, and related to Bruce in the ninth degree. Lord Hailes plainly proves, that this prophecy is perverted from its original purpose, in order to apply it to the succession of James VI. The groundwork of the forgery is to be found in the prophecies of Berlington, contained in the same collection, and runs thus:—

"Of Brace's left side shall spring out a leafe,

As neere as the ninth degree;

And shall be fleemed of faire Scotland,

In France farre beyond the sea.

And then shall come again ryding,

With eyes that many men may see.

At Aberladie he shall light,

With hempen helteres and horse of tre.

However it happen for to fall,

The lyon shall be lord of all;

The French Quen shall bearre the sonne,

Shall rule all Britainne to the sea;

Ane from the Brace's blood shal come also,

As neere as the ninth degree.

Yet shal there come a keene knight over the salt sea, A keene man of courage and bold man of armes;A duke's son dowbled [i. e. dubbed], a born man:France, That shall our mirths augment, and mend all our harmes; VOL. VI. -4

« 前へ次へ »