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NOTES TO CANTO FIFTH.
Note I. O'er chasms he pass'd, where fractures wide Craved wary eye and ample stride.—St. IV. p. 180. The interior of the island of Arran abounds with beautiful highland scenery. The hills, being very rocky and precipitous, afford some cataracts of great height, though of inconsiderable breadth. There is one pass over the river Machrai, renowned for the dilemma of a poor woman, who, being tempted by the narrowness of the ravine to step across, succeeded in making the first movement, but took fright when it became necessary to move the other foot, and remained in a posture equally ludicrous and dangerous, until some chance passenger assisted her to extricate herself. It is said she remained there some hours.
O'er many a heathen hero piled.--St. VI. p. 180. The isle of Arran, like those of Man and Anglesea, abounds with many reliques of heathen, and probably druidical, superstition. There are high erect columns of unhewn stone, the most early of all monuments, the circles of rude stones, commonly entitled druidical, and the cairns, or sepulchral piles, within which are usually found urns inclosing ashes. Much doubt necessarily rests upon the history of such monuments, nor is it possible to consider them as exclusively Celtie, or druidical. By much the finest circles of standing stones, excepting Stonehege, are those of Stenhouse, at Stennis, in the island of Pomona, the principal isle of the Orcades. These, of course, are neither Celtic nor druidical; and we are assured that many circles of the kind occur both in Sweden and Norway.
Note III. Old Brodick's gothic towers were seen. From Hastings late, their English lord, Douglas had won them by the sword.—St. VI. p. 181. Brodick or Brathwick castle, in the Isle of Arran, is an anoient fortress, near an open road-stead called Brodick bay, and
not distant far from a tolerable harbour, closed in by the island of Lamlash. This important place had been assailed a short time before Bruce's arrival in the island. James Lord Douglas, who accompanied Bruce to his retreat in Rachrine, seems, in the spring of 1306, to have tired of his abode there, and set out accordingly, in the phrase of the times, to see what adventure God would send him. Sir Robert Boyd accompanied him; and his knowledge of the localities of Arran appears to have directed his course thither. They landed in the island privately, and appear to have laid an ambush for Sir John Hastings, the English governor of Brodwick, and surprised a considerable supply of arms and provisions, and nearly took the castle itself. Indeed, that they actually did so, has been generally averred by historians, although it does not appear from the narrative of Barbour. On the contrary, it would seem that they took shelter within a fortification of the ancient inhabitants, a rampart called Tor an Schian. When they were joined by Bruce, it seems probable that they had gained Brodick castle. At least tradition says, that from the battlements of the tower he saw the supposed signal-fire on Turnberrynook.
The castle is now much modernized, but has a dignified appearance, being surrounded by flourishing plantations,
I language much unmeet he hears.–St. VII. p. 182. Barbour, with great simplicity, gives an anecdote, from which it would seem that the vice of profane swearing, afterwards too general among the Scottish nation, was, at this time, confined to military men. As Douglas, after Bruce's return to Scotland, was roving about the mountainous country of Tweeddale, near the water of Line, he chanced to hear some persons in a farm-house say “ the devil.” Concluding, from this hardy expression, that the house contained warlike guests, he immediately assailed it, and had the good fortune to make prisoners Thomas Randolph, afterward the famous Earl of Murray, and Alexander Stuart, Lord Bonkle. Both were then in the English interest, and had come into that country with the purpose of driving out Douglas. They afterwards ranked among Bruce's most zealous adherents.
For, see! the ruddy signal made,
Guards carelessly our father's hall.–St. IX. p. 185. The remarkable circumstances by which Bruce was induced to enter Scotland, under the false idea that a signal-fire was lighted upon
the shore near his maternal castle of Turnberry -the disappointment which he met with, and the train of