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After the date of our Lord 1513, and thrice three thereafter;
There cannot be any doubt that this prophecy was intended to excite the confidence of the Scottish nation in the Duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, who arrived from France in 1515, two years after the death of James IV. in the fatal field of Flodden. The Regent was descended of Bruce by the left, i. e. by the female side, within the ninth degree. His mother was daughter of the Earl of Boulogne, his father banished from his country—" fleemit of fair Scotland." His arrival must necessarily be by sea, and his landing was expected at Aberlady, in the Frith of Forth. He was a duke's son, dubbed knight; and nine years, from 1513, are allowed him, by the pretended prophet, for the accomplishment of the salvation of his country, and the exaltation of Scotland over her sister and rival. All this was a pious fraud, to excite the confidence and spirit of the country.
The prophecy, put in the name of our Thomas the Rhymer, as it stands in Hart's book, refers to a later period. The narrator meets the Rhymer upon a land beside a lee, who shows him many emblematical visions, described in no mean strain of poetry. They chiefly relate to the fields of Flodden and Pinkie, to the national distress which followed these defeats, and to future halcyon days, which are promised to Scotland. One quotation or two will be sufficient to establish this fully:—
"Our Scottish King sal come ful keene,
The red lyon beareth he;
A feddered arrow sharp, I ween,
Shall make him winke and warre to see.
Out of the field he shall be led,
When he is bludie and woe for blood;
Yet to his men shall he say,
'For God's love turn you againe,
And give yon sutherne folk a frey!
Why should I lose the right is mine?
My date is not to die this day.'"
Who can doubt, for a moment, that this refers to the battle of Flodden, and to the popular reports concerning the doubtful fate of James IV.? Allusion is immediately afterwards made to the death of George Douglas, heir apparent of Angus, who fought and fell with his sovereign :—
"The sternes three that day shall die,
The well-known arms of the Douglas family are the heart and three stars. In another place, the battle of Pinkie is expressly mentioned by name:
"At Pinken Cluch there shall be spilt
To the end of all this allegorical and mystical rhapsody, is interpolated, in the later edition by Andro Hart, a new edition of Berlington's verses, before quoted, altered and manufactured, so as to bear reference to the accession of James VI., which had just then taken place. The insertion is made with a peculiar degree of awkwardness, betwixt a question, put by the narrator, concerning the name and abode of the person who showed him these strange matters, and the answer of the prophet to that question:—
"Then to the Beirne could I say,
There is surely no one, who will not conclude, with Lord Hailes, that the eight lines, enclosed in brackets, are a clumsy interpolation, borrowed from Berlington, with such alterations as might render the supposed prophecy applicable to the union of the crowns.
While we are on this subject, it may be proper briefly to notice the scope of some of the other predictions, in Hart's Collection. As the prophecy of Berlington was intended to raise the spirits of the nation, during the regency of Albany, so those of Sybilla and Eltraine refer to that of the Earl of Arran, afterwards Duke of Chatelherault, during the minority of Mary, a period of similar calamity. This is obvious from the following verses:
"Take a thousand in calculation,
The date, above hinted at, seems to be 1549, when the Scottish Regent, by means of some succours derived from France, was endeavouring to repair the consequences of the fatal battle of Pinkie. Allusion is made to the supply given to the " Moldwarte [England] by the fained hart," (the Earl of Angus.) The Regent is described by his bearing the antelope; large supplies are promised from France, and complete conquest predicted to Scotland and her allies. Thus was the same hackneyed stratagem repeated, whenever the interest of the rulers appeared to stand in need of it. The Regent was not, indeed, till after this period, created Duke of Chatelherault; but that honour was the object of his hopes and expectations.
The name of our renowned soothsayer is liberally used as an authority, throughout all the prophecies published by Andro Hart. Besides those expressly put in his name, Gildas, another assumed personage, is supposed to derive his knowledge from him; for he concludes thus :—
"True Thomas me told in a troublesome time,
The Prophecy of Gildas.
In the prophecy of Berlington, already quoted, we are told,
"Marvellous Merlin, that many men of tells,
While I am upon the subject of these prophecies may I be permitted to call the attention of antiquaries to Merdwynn Wyllt, or Merlin the Wild, in whose name, and by no means in that of Ambrose Merlin, the friend of Arthur, the Scottish prophecies are issued? That this personage resided at Drummelziar, and roamed, like a second Nebuchadnezzar, the woods of Tweeddale, in remorse for the death of his nephew, we learn from Fordun. In the Scotichronicon, lib. 3, cap.