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* And whoart thou, thou Gray Brother.
That I should shrive to thee, When He, to whom are given the keys
of earth and heaven,
• O come ye from east, or come ye
from west, Or bring reliques from over the sea ? Or come ye from the shrine of
Saint James the divine, Or Saint John of Beverley?' I come
not from the shrine of Saint James the divine, Norbring reliques from over the sea; I bring but a curse from our father,
the Pope, Which for ever will cling to me.' Now, woful pilgrim, say not so!
But kneel thee down to me,
O I am sent from a distant clime,
Five thousand miles away, And all to absolve a foul foul crime,
Done here 'twixt night and day.'
The pilgrim kneeld him on the sand,
And thus began his sayeWhen on his neck an ice-cold hand
Did that Gray Brother laye
END OF IMITATIONS OF THE ANCIENT BALLAD.
Notes to Imitations of the Ancient Ballad.
THOMAS THE RHYMER.
FEW personages are so renowned in tra. dition Thomas of Ercildoune, known by the appellation of The Rhymer. Uniting, or supposed to unite, in his
powers of poctical composition, and of vaticination, his memory, even after the lapse of five hundred years, is regarded with veneration by his countrymen. To give anything like a certain history of this remarkable man would be indeed difficult; but the curious may derive some satisfaction from the particulars here brought together.
It is agreed on all hands that the residence, and probably the birthplace, of this ancient bard, was Ercildoune, a village situated upon the Leader, two miles above its junction with the Tweed. The ruins of an ancient tower are still pointed out as the Rhymer's castle. The uniform tradition bears, that his sirname was Lermont, or Learmont; and that the appellation of The Rhymer was conferred on him in consequence of his poetical compositions. There remains, nevertheless, some doubt upon the subject. In a charter, which is subjoined at length', the son of our poet designed himself. Thomas of Ercildoun, son and heir of Thomas Rymour of Ercildoun, which seems to imply that the father did not bear the hereditary name of Learmont; or, at least, was better known and distinguished by the epithet which he had acquired by his personal accomplishments. I inust, however, remark that, down to a very late period, the practice of distingụishing the parties, even in formal writings, by the epithets which had been bestowed on them from personal circumstances, instead of the proper sirnames of their families, was common, and indeed necessary, ainong the Border clans. So early
as the end of the thirteenth century, when sirnames were hardly introduced in Scotland, this custom must have been universal. There is, therefore, nothing inconsistent in supposing our poet's name to have been actually Learmont, although, in this charter, he is distinguished by the popular appellation of The Rhymer.
We are better able to ascertain the period at which Thomas of Ercildoune lived, being the latter end of the thirteenth century. I am inclined to place his death a little farther back than Mr. Pinkerton, who supposes that he was alive in 1300 (List of Scottish Poets), which is hardly, I think, consistent with the charter already quoted, by which his son, in 1299, for himself and his heirs, conveys to the convent of the Trinity of Soltra, the teneinent which he possessed by inheritance (hereditarie) in Ercildoune, with all claim which he or his predecessors could pretend thereto. From this we may infer that the Rhymer was now dead, since we find the son disposing of the family property. Still, however, the argument of the learned historian will remain unimpeached as to the time of the poet's birth. For if, as we learn from Barbour, his prophecies were held in reputation as early as 1306, when Bruce slew the Red Cummin, the sanctity, and (let me add to Mr. Pinkerton's words) the uncertainty of antiquity, must have already involved his character and writings. In a charter of Peter de Haga de Bemersyde, which unfortunately wants a date, the Rhymer, a near neighbour, and, if we may trust tradition, a friend of the family, appears as a witness.-Chartulary of Mél
It cannot be doubted that Thomas of Ercildoune was a remarkable and important person in his own time, since, very shortly after his death, we find him celebrated as a prophet and as a poet. Whether he himself made any pretensions to the first of these characters, or whether it was gratuitously conferred upon him by the credulity of pos
1 Vote I, p. 68o.
terity, it secins difficult to decide. If we may Rhymer, lived for many years in very good believe Mackenzie, Learmont only versified credit as a wizard. the prophecies delivered by Eliza, an inspired It seemed to the Editor unpardonable to nun of a convent at Haddington. But of this dismiss a person so important in Border there seems not to be the most distant proof. tradition as the Rhyıner, without some farther On the contrary, all ancient authors, who notice than a simple commentary upon the quote the Rhymer's prophecies, uniformly ancient ballad. It is given from a cop! suppose them to have been emitted by him obtained from a lady residing not far from self. Thus, in Winton's Chronicle
Ercildoune, corrected and enlarged by one
in Mrs. Brown's MSS. The former copy; Of this fycht quilum spak Thomas
however, as might be expected, is far more Of Ersyldoune, that sayd in derne, There suld eit stalwartly, starke and sterne.
ininute as to local description. To this old lle sayd it in his prophecy;
tale the Editor has ventured to add a Second But how he wist it was ferly.'
Part, consisting of a kind of cento, from the Book VIII, chap. 32. printed prophecies vulgarly ascribed to the
Rhymer; and a Third Part, entirely modern, There could have been no ferly (marvel), in founded upon the tradition of his having Winton's eyes at least, how Thomas came by returned with the hart and hind to the Land his knowledge of future events, had he ever of Faëry. To make his peace with the more heard of the inspired nun of Haddington, severe antiquaries, the Editor has furnished which, it cannot be doubted, would have been the Second Part with some remarks on Leara solution of the mystery much to the taste mont's prophecies. of the Prior of Lochleven.
Whatever doubts, however, the learned inight have as to the source of the Rhymer's
Part II.-ADAPTED. prophetic skill, the vulgar had no hesitation to ascribe the whole to the intercourse between The prophecies ascribed to Thomas of the bard and the Queen of Faëry. The
Ercildoune have been the principal means of popular tale bears that Thomas was carried securing to him remembrance amongst the off, at an early age, to the Fairy Land, where sons of his people. The author of Sir Trishe acquired all the knowledge which inade trem would long ago have joined, in the vale him afterwards so famous. After seven years'
of oblivion, 'Clerk of Tranent, who wrote the residence, he was permitted to return to the
adventures of Schir Gawain,'if, by good hap, carth, to enlighten and astonish his country
the same current of ideas respecting antiquity; inen by his prophetic powers; still, however,
which causes Virgil to be regarded as a remaining bound to return to his royal mis. inagician by the Lazaroni of Naples, had not tress, when she should intimate her pleasure.
exalted the bard of Ercildoune to the proAccordingly, while Thomas was making phetic character. Perhaps, indeed, he himself inerry with his friends in the Tower of Ercil affected it during his life. We know at least, doune, a person came running in, and told,
for certain, that a belief in his supernatural with marks of fear and astonishment, that knowledge was current soon after his death. a hart and hind had left the neighbouring
His prophecies are alluded to by Barbour, by forest, and were, composedly and slowly,
Winton, and by Henry the Minstrel, or Blind parading the street of the village. The pro
Harry, as he is usually termed. None of phet instantly arose, left his habitation, and these authors, however, give the words of any followed the wonderful animals to the forest,
of the Rhymer's vaticinations, but inerely whence he was never seen to return. Accord narrate, historically, his having predicted the ing to the popular belief, he still drees his events of which they speak. The earliest of weird'in Fairy Land, and is one day expected
the prophecies ascribed to him, which is now to revisit earth. In the meanwhile, his
extant, is quoted by. Mr. Pinkerton from memory is held in the most profound respect.
a MS.' It is supposed to be a response from The Erldon-tree, from beneath the shade of
Thomas of Ercildoune to a question from the which he delivered his prophecies, now no
heroic Countess of March, renoweed for the longer exists; but the spot is marked by a
defence of the castle of Dunbar against the largestone, called Eildon-tree Stone. A neigh
English, and termed, in the familiar dialect bouring rivulet takes the name of the Bogle
of her time, Black Agnes of Dunbar. This Burn (Goblin Brook) from the Rhymer's prophecy is remarkable, in so far as it bears supernatural visitants. The veneration paid
very little resemblance to any verses published to his dwelling place even attached itself in
in the printed copy of the Rhymer's supposed some degree to a person, who within the prophecies. The verses are as follows : Inemory of man, chose to set up his residence 'La Countesse de Donbar demande a Thomas de in the ruins of Learmont's tower. The name Essedoune quant la guerre d'Escoce prendreit of this man was Murray, a kind of herbalist ;
fyn. Eyl i'a repoundy et dyt. who, by dint of some knowledge in siinples, When inan is mad a kyng of a capped man; the possession of a musical clock, an electrical
When inan is levere other mones thyng than his owen machine, and a stuffed alligator, added to
When londe thouys forest, ant forest is feide;
When hares kendles o' the her'stane; a supposed communication with Thomas the
When Wyt and Wille werres togedere
When mon makes stables of kyrkes, and steles castels and a quarter of 'whaty (indifferent] wheat,' with stye;
seems to allude to the dreadful famine, about When Rokesboroughe nys no burgh ant market is at Forwyleye;
the year 1388. The independence of Scotland When Bambourne is donged with dede men;
was, however, as impregnable to the mines of When men ledes men in ropes to buyen and to sellen; superstition, as to the steel of our more powerWhen a quarter of whaty whete is chaunged for a colt
ful and more wealthy neighbours. The war of ten markes ; When prude (pride) prikes and pees is leyd in prisoun;
of Scotland is, thank God, at an end; but it When a Scot ne me hym hude ase hare in forme that is ended without her people having either the English ne shall hym fynde;
crouched like hares in their form, or being When rycht ant wronge astente the togedere; drowned in their flight, 'for faute of ships,'When laddes weddeth lovedies;
thank God for that too.—The prophecy When Scottes flen so faste, that, for faute of shep, hy drowneth heinselve ;
quoted in the preceding page is probably of When shal this be?
the same date, and intended for the same Nouther in thine tyme ne in mine ;
purpose. Ah comen ant gone
A minute search of the records of the time Withinne twenty winter ant one.'
would, probably, throw additional light upon PINKERTON'S Poems, from MAITLAND'S MISS. quoting from Harl. Lib. 2253, f. 127.
the allusions contained in these ancient
legends. Among various rhymes of prophetic As I have never seen the MS. from which import, which are at this day current amongst Mr. Pinkerton makes this extract, and as the the people of Teviotdale, is one, supposed to date of it is fixed by him (certainly one of the be pronounced by Thomas the Rhymer, most able antiquaries of our age) to the presaging the destruction of his habitation reign of Edward I or II, it is with great and family :diffidence that I hazard a contrary opinion.
• The hare sall kittle [litter) on my hearth stane, There can, however, I believe, be little doubt
And there will never be a Laird Learmont again.' that these prophetic verses are a forgery, and not the production of our Thomas the Rhymer. The first of these lines is obviously borrowed But I am inclined to believe them of a later from that in the MS. of the Harl. Library-date than the reign of Edward I or II.
"When hares kendles o' the her'stane '-an The gallant defence of the castle of Dunbar, emphatic image of desolation. It is also by Black Agnes, took place in the year 1337. inaccurately quoted in the prophecy of WaldThe Rhymer died previous to the year 1299 have, published by Andro Hart, 1613 :(see the charter, by his son, Note 1, p. 680).
. This is a true talking that Thomas of teils, It seems, therefore, very improbable, that
The hare shall hirple on the hard [hearth) stane.' the Countess of Dunbar could ever have an opportunity of consulting Thomas the Spottiswoode, an honest, but credulous Rhymer, since that would infer that she was historian, seems to have been a firm believer married, or at least engaged in state matters, in the authenticity of the prophetic wares previous to 1299; whereas she is described as vended in the name of Thomas of Ercildoune. a young, or a middle-aged woman, at the The prophecies, yet extantin Scottish rhymes, period of her being besieged in the fortress, whereupon he was commonly called Thomas which she so well defended. If the editor the Rhymer, may justly þe admired; having might indulge a conjecture, he would suppose foretold, so many ages before the union of that the prophecy was contrived for the England and Scotland in the ninth degree of encouragement of the English invaders during the Bruce's blood, with the succession of the Scottish wars; and that the names of the Bruce himself to the crown, being yet a child, Countess of Dunbar, and of Thomas of Ercil and other divers particulars, which the event doune, were used for the greater credit of the hath ratified and made good. Boethius, in his forgery. According to this hypothesis, it story, relateth his prediction of King Alexanseems likely to have been composed after the der's death, and that he did foretel the same to siege of Dunbar, which had made the name the Earl of March, the day before it fell out; of the Countess well known, and consequently saying, “That before the next day at noon, in the reign of Edward III. The whole ten such a tempest should blow, as Scotland had dency of the prophecy is to aver that there not felt for many years before.". The next shall be no end of the Scottish war (concerning morning, the day being clear, and no change which the question was proposed) till a final appearing in the air, the nobleman did conquest of the country by England, attended challenge Thomas of his saying, calling him by all the usual severities of war. When the an impostor. He replied, that noon was not cultivated country shall become forest,' says yet passed. About which time a post came the prophecy, ;-'when the wild animals shall to advertise the earl of the king his sudden inhabit the abode of men ;-when Scots shall death. “Then," said Thomas, this is the not be able to escape the English, should tempest I foretold; and so it shall prove to they crouch as hares in their form --all these Scotland.” Whence, or how, he had this knowdenunciations seem to refer to the time of ledge, can hardly be affirmed; but sure it is, Edward III, upon whose victories the predic that he did divine and answer truly of many tion was probably founded. The mention of things to come.'--SPOTTISWOODE, p. 47 the exchange betwixt a colt worth ten marks, 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 'ruralis ille vates.'- FORDUN, lib. x, cap. 40.
What Spottiswoode calls the prophecies extant in Scottish rhyrne,' 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 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 the 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:
or Bruce's left side shall spring out a lease,
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 tlie 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 pretende: 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 kvene,
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 inade to the death of George Douglas, heir-apparent of Angus, who fought and fell with his sovereign
• The sternes three that day shall die,
That bears the barte in silver sheen. The well-known arms of the Douglas family are the heart and three stars. In another place, the battle of Pinkie is expressly inentioned by name:
• At Pinken Cluch there shall be spilt
And the cagill bear it away.' 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 inanufactured, so as to bear reference to the accession of James VI, which had just then taken place. The insertion is inade with & peculiar degree of awkwardness, betwixt a question, put by the narrator, concerning the name and abode of the person who showed
However it happen for to fall,
Yet shal there come a keene knight over the salt sea,
harmes ; After the date of our Lord 1513, and thrice three
thereafter ; Which shall brooke all the broad isle to himself, Between thirteen and thrice three the threip shall
be ended, The Saxons shall never recover after.'
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
1 See Note III, p. 682.