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might mention a remark that my father has often made, that had you gone through this village at nine o'clock in the evening (when he was a young man), you would have found every household engaged in family worship.
One morning I arose early to take a stroll, while breakfast was preparing. The sun was shining brilliantly over me, every breeze wafted the fragrance of some neighboring garden, and every tree was vocal with the music of birds. I followed the meanderings of the beauteous Leader, its waters sparkling in the sunbeams, and the yellow trout gliding through its tiny waves. I soon found myself in a rich meadow. No one, who has not seen it, can conceive of the peculiar verdure and softness of a Scottish meadow. It sometimes happens that these lawns are allowed to lie for half a century, or more, without ever being disturbed by the ruthless plough—some of them, in fact, have lain for ages undisturbed. They thus acquire a softness which I can compare to nothing but a rich and downy carpet. In strolling along, ere I was aware of it, I found myself on the estate called the “ Cowdenknowes,” celebrated in song for its bonny broom which waves from a neighboring hill. The house
is pleasantly situated on the banks of the Leader. As I wandered through these grounds, laid out with all the skill that art can lavish upon nature, I ceased to wonder that Scotland, where the elements of the romantic and the beautiful so richly abound, should be a land of poetry.
One of the first objects that arrests the eye of a stranger on entering this town, is an old ruined wall, the greater part of which has crumbled to the dust, though one firm corner remains, defying, as it were, the rage of the elements. Every stone which remains seems to grow firmer in its bed of mortar as years roll on—and I doubt not it will remain, unless removed by the ruthless hand of modern improvement, till that day when the “ elements shall melt with fervent heat." This was a place of no ordinary interest to me, as I am somewhat of an antiquarian. Ages have succeeded ages since this once lordly mansion became a ruin. For centuries it was the family residence of the noble Learmonts, and was called “ Learmont Hall.” Its last and most renowned occupant was the great Sir Thomas, commonly called " Thomas the Rhymer.” He was esteemed a prophet not only by the ignorant populace of a succeeding generation, but by many
of the peasantry even to the present day. He lived · in the 13th century, when Earlstown, or Ercil.
downe, as it was called, was a greater place than it is now. Tradition says that, when young, he was carried away by the Queen of the Fairies to Elin land, where he lived seven years, during which time he acquired the power of foretelling future events. He was permitted to revisit the world again, under obligations, however, to return to his royal mistress, when she should intimate her pleasure. After seven years spent in the world, it happened that
“The feast was spread in Ercildowne,
In Learmont's high and ancient hall,
And ladies dressed in pall."
Sir Thomas arose with harp in hand, the harp that he had brought from fairy land.
“In numbers high the witching tale
The prophet poured along;
Those numbers to prolong."
The feast breaks up, and the guests are soon locked in slumber. Lord Douglas, whose camp was pitched in Ercildowne, hearing a strange sound,
starts from his couch, just in time to see a hart and hind, both white as snow, rush rapidly by.
“ To Learmont's hall a message sped,
As fast as page might run,
And soon his clothes did on.
Never a word he spoke but three,
This sign regardeth me.""
Binding his harp around his neck, he proposes to return with the white messengers to fairy land. In parting
“ • Farewell, my father's ancient towers
A long farewell,' said he;
Thou never more shalt be.
Shall here again belong;
The hare shall leave her young.'”
The hart and hind approached, and with them Sir Thomas crossed the river Leader.
“Lord Douglas leap'd on his berry-brown steed,
And spurred him the Leader o'er ;
He never saw them more.
Their wondrous course had been ;
Again was Thomas seen.”
Such is the legend with regard to “ Thomas the Rhymer.” That he was a real character there is no reason to doubt. He appears to have been a man superior to the age in which he lived, and predictions which his far-seeing sagacity enabled him to make, were received by an ignorant people as evidence of the possession of supernatural powers. It is not probable that he laid any claim to the character of prophet himself. That he was a poet is evident from the fact that the metrical romance of Sir Tristem, of which he was the author, still remains. Of this once admired poem, only one copy is known to exist, which is in the Advocates' library in Edinburgh. This curious work is one of the earliest specimens of Scottish poetry now in existence.
I used to clamber up the old ruined wall, and seating myself on a projecting stone, it was an easy matter, in imagination, to reconstruct the old hall and people it with the lords and ladies of the olden times.