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says, that he asked, "' Who was Earl of Arran?' and being answered that Captain James was the man, after a short pause, he said, 'And is it so? I know then what I may look for!' meaning, as was thought, that the old prophecy of the 'Falling of the heart1 by the mouth of Arran,' should then be fulfilled. Whether this was his mind 01 not, it is not known; but some spared not, at the time when the Hamiltons were banished, in which business he was held too earnest, to say, that he stood in fear of that prediction, and went that course only to disappoint it. But if so it was, he did find himself now deluded; for he fell by the mouth of another Arran than he imagined."— Spottiswoode, 313. The fatal words alluded to seem to be these in the prophecy of Merlin:—
"In the mouthe of Arrane a selcouth shall fall, Two bloodie hearts shall be taken with a false traine, And derfly dung down without any dome."
To return from these desultory remarks, into which I have been led by the celebrated name of Merlin, the style of all these prophecies, published by Hart, is very much the same. The measure is alliterative, and somewhat similar to that of Pierce Plowman's Visions; a circumstance which might entitle us to ascribe to some of them an earlier date than the reign of James V., did we not know that Sir Galloran of Galloway, and Gawaine and Golograss, two romances rendered almost unintelligible by the extremity of affected alliteration, are perhaps not prior to that period. Indeed, although we may allow, that, during much earlier times, prophecies, under the names of those celebrated soothsayers, have been current in Scotland, yet those published by Hart have obviously been so often vamped and revamped, to serve the political purposes of different periods, that it may be shrewdly suspected, that, as in the case of Sir John Cutler's transmigrated stockings, very little of the original materials now remains. I cannot refrain from indulging my readers with the publisher's title to the last prophecy, as it contains certain curious information concerning the Queen of Sheba, who is identified with the Cumaean Sibyl: "Here followeth a prophecie, pronounced by a noble queene and matron, called Sybilla, Re- gina Austri, that came to Solomon. Through the which she compiled four bookes, at the instance of the said King Sol, and others divers: and the fourth book was directed to a noble king, called Baldwine, King of the broad isle of Britain; in the which she maketh mention of two noble princes and emperours, the which is called Leones. How these two shall subdue and overcome all earthlie princes to their diademe and crowne, and also be glorified and crowned in the heaven among saints. The first of these two is Constantinus Magnus; that was Leprosus, the son of Saint Helena, that found the croce. The second is the sixt king of the name of Steward of Scotland, the which is our most noble king." With such editors and commentators, what wonder that the text became unintelligible, even beyond the usual oracular obscurity of prediction?
1 The heart was the cognizance of Morton.
If there still remain, therefore, among these predictions, any verses having a claim to real antiquity, it seems now impossible to discover them from those which are comparatively modern. Nevertheless, as there are to be found, in these compositions, some uncommonly wild and masculine expressions, the Editor has been induced to throw a few passages together, into the sort of ballad to which this disquisition is prefixed. It would, indeed, have been no difficult matter for him, by a judicious selection, to have excited, in favour of Thomas of Ercildoune, a share of the admiration bestowed by sundry wise persons upon Mass Robert Fleming.1 For example :—
"But then the lilye shal be loused when they least think;
1 [The Rev. R. Fleming, pastor of a Scotch congregation in London, published in 1701, " Discourses on the Rise and Fall of Papacy," in which he expressed his belief, founded on a text in the Apocalypse, that the French Monarchy would undergo some remarkable humiliation about 1794.—Ed.]
Thereafter, on every side, sorrow shal arise;
Taking the lily for the emblem of France, can there be a more plain prophecy of the murder of her monarch, the destruction of her nobility, and the desolation of her hierarchy?
But, without looking farther into the signs of the times, the Editor, though the least of all the prophets, cannot help thinking, that every true Briton will approve of his application of the last prophecy quoted in the ballad.
Hart's collection of prophecies was frequently reprinted during the last century, probably to favour the pretensions of the unfortunate family of Stuart. For the prophetic renown of Gildas and Bede, see Fordun, lib. 3.
Before leaving the subject of Thomas's predictions, it may be noticed, that sundry rhymes, passing for his prophetic effusions, are still current among the vulgar. Thus, he is said to have prophesied of the very ancient family of Haig of Bemerside,
"Betide, betide, whate'er betide,
The grandfather of the present proprietor of Bemerside had twelve daughters, before his lady brought him a male heir. The common people trembled for the credit of their favourite soothsayer. The late Mr. Haig was at length born, and their belief in the prophecy confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt.
Another memorable prophecy bore, that the Old Kirk at Kelso, constructed out of the ruins of the Abbey, should "fall when at the fullest." At a very crowded sermon, about thirty years ago, a piece of lime fell from the roof of the church. The alarm, for the fulfilment of the words of the seer, became universal; and happy were they, who were nearest the door of the predestined edifice. The church was in consequence deserted, and has never since had an opportunity of tumbling upon a full congregation. I hope, for the sake of a beautiful specimen of Saxo-Gothic architecture, that the accomplishment of this prophecy is far distant.
Another prediction, ascribed to the Rhymer, seems to have been founded on that sort of insight into futurity, possessed by most men of a sound and combining judgment. It runs thus:—
"At Eldon Tree if you shall be,
A brigg ower Tweed you there may see."
The spot in question commands an extensive prospect of the course of the river; and it was easy to foresee, that when the country should become in the least degree improved, a bridge would be somewhere thrown over the stream. In fact, you now see no less than three bridges from that elevated situation.