The Lady of the Lake/Notes to Canto 3

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4471893The Lady of the Lake — Notes to Canto ThirdWalter Scott


Note I.

And while the Fiery Cross glanced like a meteor round.

St. I. p. 98.

When a chieftain designed to summon his clan, upon any sudden or important emergency, he slew a goat, and making a cross of any light wood, seared its extremities in the fire, and extinguished them in the blood of the animal. This was called the Fiery Cross, also Crean Tarigh, or the Cross of Shame, because disobedience to what the symbol implied, inferred infamy. It was delivered to a swift and trusty messenger, who ran full speed with it to the next hamlet, where he presented it to the principal person, with a single word, implying the place of rendezvous. He who received the symbol was bound to send it forwards, with equal dispatch, to the next village; and thus it passed with incredible celerity through all the district which owed allegiance to the chief, and also among his allies and neighbours, if the danger was common to them. At sight of the Fiery Cross, every man, from sixteen years old to sixty, capable of bearing arms, was obliged instantly to repair, in his best arms and accoutrements, to the place of rendezvous. He who failed to appear, suffered the extremities of fire and sword, which were emblematically denounced to the disobedient by the bloody and burnt marks upon this warlike signal. During the civil war of 1745-6, the Fiery Cross often made its circuit; and upon one occasion it passed through the whole district of Breadalbane, a tract of thirty-two miles, in three hours. The late Alexander Stuart, Esq. of Invernahyle, described to me his having sent round the Fiery Cross through the district of Appine, during the same commotion. The coast was threatened by a descent from two English frigates, and the flower of the young men were with the army of Prince Charles Edward, then in England; yet the summons was so effectual, that even old age and childhood obeyed it; and a force was collected in a few hours, so numerous and so enthusiastic, that all attempt at the intended diversion upon the country of the absent warriors, was in prudence abandoned, as desperate.

This practice, like some others, is common to the Highlanders with the ancient Scandinavians, as will appear by the following extract from Olaus Magnus:

"When the enemy is upon the sea-coast, or within the limits of northern kingdomes, then presently, by the command of the provincial governours, with the counsel and consent of the old souldiers, who are notably skilled in such like business, a staff of three hands length, in the common sight of them all, is carried, by the speedy running of some active young man, unto that village or city, with this command,-that on the 3. 4. or 3. day. one, two, or three, or else every man in particular, from 15 years old, shall come with his arms, and expences for ten or twenty days, upon pain that his or their houses shall be burnt, (which is intimated by the burning of the staff) or else the master to be hanged, (which is signified by the cord tied to it,) to appear speedily on such a bank, or field, or valley, to hear the cause he is called, and to receive orders from the said provincial governours what he shall do. Wherefore that messenger, swifter than any post or waggon, having done his commission, comes slowly back again, bringing a token with him that he hath done all legally; and every moment one or another runs to every village, and tells those places what they must do."———"The messengers, therefore, of the footmen, that are to give warning to the people to meet for the battail, run fiercely and swiftly; for no snow, nor rain, nor heat can stop them, nor night hold them; but they will soon run the race they undertake. The first messenger tells it to the next village, and that to the next; and so the hubbub runs all over, till they all know it in that stift or territory, where, when, and wherefore they must meet."—Olaus Magnus' History of the Goths, englished by J. S. Lond. 1658. book iv. chap. 3, 4.

Note II.

That Monk of savage form and face.—St. IV. p. 101.

The state of religion in the middle ages afforded considerable facilities for those whose mode of life excluded them from regular worship, to secure, nevertheless, the ghostly assistance of confessors, perfectly willing to adapt the nature of their doctrine to the necessities and peculiar circumstances of their flock. Robin Hood, it is well known, had his celebrated domestic chaplain Friar Tuck. And that same curtal friar was probably matched in manners and appearance by the ghostly fathers of the Tynedale robbers, who are thus described in an excommunication fulminated against their patrons by Richard Fox, Bishop of Durham, tempore Henrici VIII. "We have further understood, that there are many chaplains in the said territories of Tynedale and Redesdale, who are public and open maintainers of concubinage, irregular, suspended, excommunicated, and interdicted persons, and withal so utterly ignorant of letters, that it has been found by those who objected this to them, that there were some who, having celebrated mass for ten years, were still unable to read the sacramental service. We have also understood there are persons among them, who, although not ordained, do take upon them the offices of priesthood; and, in contempt of God, celebrate divine and sacred rites, and administer the sacraments, not only in sacred and dedicated places, but in those which are prophane and interdicted, and most wretchedly ruinous; they themselves being attired in ragged, torn, and most filthy vestments, altogether unfit to be used in divine or even in temporal offices. The which said chaplains do administer sacraments and sacramental rites to the aforesaid manifest and infamous thieves, robbers, depredators, receivers of stolen goods, and plunderers, and that without restitution, or intention to restore, as is evinced by the fact; and do also openly admit them to the rites of ecclesiastical sepulture, without exacting security for restitution, although they are prohibited from doing so by the sacred canons, as well as by the institutes of the saints and fathers. All which infers the heavy peril of their own souls, and is a pernicious example to the other believers in Christ, as well as no slight, but an aggravated injury to the numbers despoiled and plundered of their goods, gear, herds, and chattels."[1]

To this lively and picturesque description of the confessors and churchmen of predatory tribes, there may be added some curious particulars respecting the priests attached to the several septs of native Irish, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. These friars had indeed to plead, that the incursions, which they not only pardoned, but even encouraged, were made upon those hostile to them, as well in religion as from national antipathy. But by protestant writers they are uniformly alledged to be the chief instruments of Irish insurrection, the very wellspring of all rebellion towards the English government. Lithgow, the Scottish traveller, declares the Irish wood-kerne, or predatory tribes, to be but the hounds of their hunting priests, who directed their incursions by their pleasure, partly for sustenance, partly to gratify animosity, partly to foment general division, and always for the better security and easier domination of the friars.[2] Derrick, the liveliness and minuteness of whose descriptions may frequently apologize for his doggrel verses, after describing an Irish feast, and the encouragement given, by the songs of the bards, to its termination in an incursion upon the parts of the country more immediately under the dominion of the English, records the no less powerful arguments used by the friar to excite their animosity:

And more t'augment the flame,
and rancour of their harte,
The friar, of his counsells vile,
to rebelles doth imparte,
Affirming that it is
an almose deede to God,
To make the English subjects taste
the Iriske rebells rodde.
To spoile, to kill, to burne,
this frier's counsell is;
And for the doing of the same,
he warrantes heavenlie blisse.
He tells a holie tale;
the white he tournes to blacke;
And through the pardons in his male,
he workes a knavishe knacke.

The wreckful invasion of a part of the English pale is then described with some spirit; the burning of houses, driving off cattle, and all pertaining to such predatory inroads, is illustrated by a rude cut. The defeat of the Irish, by a party of English soldiers from the next garrison, is then commemorated, and in like manner adorned with an engraving, in which the friar is exhibited mourning over the slain chieftain; or, as the rubric expresses it,

The friar then, that treacherous knave, with ough ough-hone lament.
To see his cousin Devill's-son to have so foul event.

The matter is handled at great length in the text, of which the following verses are more than sufficient sample:—

The frier seying this,
lamentes that lucklesse parte,
And curseth to the pitte of hell
the death man's sturdie harte:
Yet for to quight them with
the frier taketh paine,
For all the synnes that ere he did
remission to obtaine.
And therefore swerves his booke,
the candell and the bell;
But thinke you that suche apishe toies
bring damned souls from hell?
It 'longs not to my parte
infernall things to knowe;
BI beleve till later daie,
thei rise not from belowe.
Yet hope that friers give
to this rebellious rout,
If that their soules should chaunce in hell,
to bring them quicklie out,
Doeth make them lead suche lives,
as neither God nor man,
Without revenge for their desartes,
permitte or suffer can.
Thus friers are the cause,
the fountain and the spring,
Of hurleburles in this laude,
of eche unhappie thing.
Thei cause them to rebell
against their soveraigne quen;
And through rebellion often tymes,
their lives doe vanishe clene.
So as by friers meanes,
in whom all follie swimme,
The Irishe karne doe often lose
the life, with hedde and limme.[3]

As the Irish tribes, and those of the Scottish Highlands, are much more intimately allied, by language, manners, dress, and customs, than the antiquaries of either country have been willing to admit, I flatter myself I have here produced a strong warrant for the character sketched in the text. The following picture, though of a different kind, serves to establish the existence of ascetic religionists, to a comparatively late period, in the Highlands and Western Isles. There is a great deal of simplicity in the description, for which, as for much similar information, I am obliged to Dr John Martin, who visited the Hebrides, at the suggestion of Sir Robert Sibbald, a Scottish antiquary of eminence, and early in the eighteenth century published a description of them, which procured him admission into the Royal Society. He died in London about 1719. His work is a strange mixture of learning, observation, and gross credulity.

"I remember," says this author, "I have seen an old lay-capuchin here, (in the island of Benbecula,) called in their language Brahir-bocht, that is, Poor Brother; which is literally true; for he answers this character, having nothing but what is given him: he holds himself fully satisfied with food and rayment, and lives in as great simplicity as any of his order; his diet is very mean, and he drinks only fair water: his habit is no less mortifying than that of his brethren elsewhere: he wears a short coat, which comes no farther than his middle, with narrow sleeves like a waistcoat: he wears a plad above it, girt about the middle, which reaches to his knee: the plad is fastened on his breast with a wooden pin, his neck bare, and his feet often so too: he wears a hat for ornament, and the string about it is a bit of a fisher's line, made of horse-hair. This plad he wears instead of a gown, worn by those of his order in other countries. I told him he wanted the flaxen girdle that men of his order usually wear: he answered me, that he wore a leather one, which was the same thing. Upon the matter, if he is spoke to when at meat, he answers again; which is contrary to the custom of his order. This poor man frequently diverts himself with angling of trouts: he lies upon straw, and has no bell (as others have) to call him to his devotion, but only his conscience, as he told me."—Martin's Description of the Western Islands, p. 82.

Note III.

Of Brian's birth strange tales were told.—St. V. p. 102.

The legend which follows is not of the author's invention. It is possible he may differ from modern critics, in supposing that the records of human superstition, if peculiar to, and characteristic of, the country in which the scene is laid, are a legitimate subject of poetry. He gives, however, a ready assent to the narrower proposition, which condemns all attempts of an irregular and disordered fancy to excite terror, by accumulating a train of fantastic and incoherent horrors, whether borrowed from all countries, and patched upon a narrative belonging to one which knew them not, or derived from the author's own imagination.

In the present case, therefore, I appeal to the record which I have transcribed, with the variation of a very few words, from the geographical collections made by the laird of Macfarlane. I know not whether it be necessary to remark, that the miscellaneous concourse of youths and maidens on the night, and on the spot where the miracle is said to have taken place, might, in an incredulous age, have somewhat diminished the wonder which accompanied the conception of Gilli-Doir-Magrevollich.

"There is bot two myles from Inverloghie, the church of Kilmalee, in Loghyeld. In ancient tymes there was ane church builded upon ane hill, which was above this church, which doeth now stand in this toune; and ancient men doeth say, that there was a battell foughten on ane litle hill not the tenth part of a myle from this church, be certaine men which they did not know what they were. And long tyme thereafter, certaine herds of that toune, and of the next toune, called Unnatt, both wenches and youthes, did on a tyme conveen with others on that hill; and the day being somewhat cold, did gather the bones of the dead men that were slayne long tyme before in that place, and did make a fire to warm them. At last they did all remove from the fire, except one maid or wench, which was verie cold, and she did remaine there for a space. She being quyethe her alone, without anie other companie, took up her cloaths above her knees, or thereby, to warm her; a wind did come and caste the ashes upon her, and she was conceived of ane man-child. Severall tymes thereafter she was verie sick, and at last she was knowne to be with chyld. And then her parents did ask at her the matter heiroff, which the wench could not weel answer which way to satisfie them. At last she resolved them with ane answer. As fortune fell upon her concerning this marvellous miracle, the chyld being borne, his name was called Gili-doir Maghrevollich, that is to say, the Black child, Son to the Bones. So called, his grandfather sent him to school, and so he was a good schollar, and godlie. He did build this church which doeth now stand in Lochyeld, called Kilmalic."-Macfarlane, ut supra, II. 188.

Note IV.

Yet ne'er again to braid her hair,
The virgin snood did Alice wear.—St. V. p. 103.

The snood, or ribband, with which a Scottish lass braided her hair, had an emblematical signification, and applied to her maiden character. It was exchanged for the curch, toy, or coif, when she passed, by marriage, into the matron state. But if the damsel was so unfortunate as to lose pretensions to the name of maiden, without gaining a right to that of matron, she was neither permitted to use the snood, nor advanced to the graver dignity of the curch. In old Scottish songs there occur many sly allusions to such misfortune, as in the old words to the popular tune of "Ower the muir amang the heather:"

Down amang the broom, the broom,
Down amang the broom, my dearie,
The lassie lost her silken snood,
That gard her greet till she was wearie.

Note V.

The desert gave him visions wild,
Such as might suit the spectre's child.—St. VII. p. 105.

In adopting the legend concerning the birth of the Founder of the Church of Kilmallie, the author has endeavoured to trace the effects which such a belief was likely to produce, in a barbarous age, on the person to whom it related. It seems likely that he must have become a fanatic or an impostor, or that mixture of both which forms a more frequent character than either of them, as existing separately. In truth, mad persons are frequently more anxious to impress upon others a faith in their visions, than they are themselves confirmed in their reality: as, on the other hand, it is difficult for the most cool-headed impostor long to personate an enthusiast, without in some degree believing what he is so eager to have believed. It was a natural attribute of such a character as the supposed hermit, that he should credit the numerous superstitions with which the minds of ordinary Highlanders are almost always embued. A few of these are slightly alluded to in this stanza. The River Dæmon, or River-horse, for it is that form which he commonly assumes, is the Kelpy of the lowlands, an evil and malicious spirit, delighting to forebode and to witness calamity. He frequents most Highland lakes and rivers; and one of his most memorable exploits was performed upon the banks of Loch Vennachar, in the very district which forms the scene of our action: it consisted in the destruction of a funeral procession, with all its attendants. The "noontide hag," called in Gaelic Glas-lich, a tall, emaciated, gigantic female figure, is supposed in particular to haunt the district of Knoidart. A goblin dressed in antique armour, and having one hand covered with blood, called, from that circumstance, Lham-dearg, or Red-hand, is a tenant of the forests of Glenmore and Rothemurcus. Other spirits of the desert, all frightful in shape, and malignant in disposition, are believed to frequent different mountains and glens of the Highlands, where any unusual appearance, produced by mist, or the strange lights that are sometimes thrown upon particular objects, never fails to present an apparition to the imagination of the solitary and melancholy mountaineer.

Note VI.

The fatal Ben-Shie's boding scream.—St. VII. p. 106.

Most great families in the Highlands were supposed to have a tutelar, or rather a domestic spirit, attached to them, who took an interest in their prosperity, and intimated, by its wailings, any approaching disaster. That of Grant of Grant was called May Moullach, and appeared in the form of a girl, who had her arm covered with hair. Grant of Rothemurcus had an attendant called Bodach-an-dun, or the Ghost of the Hill; and many other examples might be mentioned. The BenShie[4] implies the female Fairy, whose lamentations were often supposed to precede the death of a chieftain of particular families. When she is visible, it is in the form of an old woman, with a blue mantle, and streaming hair. A superstition of the same kind is, I believe, universally received by the inferior ranks of the native Irish.

The death of the head of a highland family is also sometimes supposed to be announced by a chain of lights of different colours, called Dr'eug, or Death of the Druid. The direction which it takes marks the place of the funeral.

Note VII.

Sounds, too, had come in midnight blast,
Of charging steeds, careering fast
Along Benharrow's shingly side,
Where mortal horseman ne'er might ride.—St. V. p. 106.

A presage of the kind alluded to in the text is still believed to announce death to the ancient highland family of M'Lean of Lochbuy. The spirit of an ancestor slain in battle, is heard to gallop along a stony bank, and then to ride thrice around the family residence, ringing his fairy bridle, and thus intimating the approaching calamity. How easily the eye as well as the ear may be deceived upon such occasions, is evident from the stories of armies in the air, and other spectral phœnomena with which history abounds. Such an apparition is said to have been witnessed upon the side of Southerfell mountain, between Penrith and Keswick, upon the 23d June, 1744, by two persons, William Lancaster of Blakehills, and Daniel Stricket his servant, whose attestation to the fact, with a full account of the apparition, dated the 21st July, 1785, is printed in Clarke's Survey of the Lakes. The apparition consisted of several troops of horse moving in regular order, with a steady rapid motion, making a curved sweep around the fell, and seeming to the spectators to disappear over the ridge of the mountain. Many persons witnessed this phenomenon, and observed the last, or last but one, of the supposed troop, occasionally leave his rank, and pass, at a gallop, to the front, when he resumed the same steady pace. This curious appearance, making the necessary allowance for imagination, may be perhaps sufficiently accounted for by optical deception.—Survey of the Lakes, p. 35.

Supernatural intimations of approaching fate are not, I believe, confined to highland families. Howel mentions having seen at a lapidary's, in 1632, a monumental stone, prepared for four persons of the name of Oxenham, before the death of each of whom, the inscription stated a white bird to have appeared, and fluttered around the bed, while the patient was in the last agony.—Familiar Letters, Edit. 1726, p. 247. Glanville mentions one family, the members of which received this solemn sign by music, the sound of which floated from the family residence, and seemed to die in a neighbouring wood; another, that of Captain Wood of Bampton, to whom the signal was given by knocking. But the most remarkable instance of the kind, occurs in the MS. Memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, so exemplary for her conjugal affection. Her husband, Sir Richard, and she, chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, the head of a sept, who resided in his ancient baronial castle, surrounded with a moat. At midnight, she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and looking out of bed, beheld, by the moonlight, a female face and part of the form, hovering at the window. The distance from the ground, as well as the circumstance of the moat, excluded the possibility that what she beheld was of this world. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale, and the hair, which was reddish, loose and dishevelled. The dress, which Lady Fanshaw's terror did not prevent her remarking accurately, was that of the ancient Irish. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks similar to that which had first excited Lady Fanshaw's attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what she had witnessed, and found him prepared not only to credit but to account for the apparition. "A near relation of my family," said he, "expired last night in this castle. We disguised our certain expectation of the event from you, lest it should throw a cloud over the cheerful reception which was your due. Now, before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen always is visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done to his family, he caused to be drowned in the Castle Moat."

Note VIII.

Whose parents in Inch-Cailliach wave
Their shadows o'er Clan-Alpine's grave.—St. VIII. p. 107.

Inch-Cailliach, the Isle of Nuns, or of Old Women, is a most beautiful island at the lower extremity of Loch-Lomond The church belonging to the former nunnery was long used as the place of worship for the parish of Buchanan, but scarce any vestiges of it now remain. The burial ground continues to be used, and contains the family places of sepulture of several neighbouring clans. The monuments of the lairds of Macgregor, and of other families, claiming a descent from the old Scottish King Alpine, are most remarkable. The Highlanders are as jealous of their rights of sepulchre, as may be expected from a people whose whole laws and government, if clan-ship can be called so, turned upon the single principle of family descent. "May his ashes be scattered on the water," was one of the deepest and most solemn imprecations which they used against an enemy.

Note IX.

——The dun deer's hide
On fleeter foot was never tied.—St. XIII. p. 113.

The present brogue of the Highlanders is made of half-dried leather, with holes to admit and let out the water; for walking the moors dry-shod, is a matter altogether out of question. The ancient buskin was still ruder, being made of the undress'd deer's hide, with the hair outwards, a circumstance which procured the Highlanders the well-known epithet of Red-shanks. The process is very accurately described by one Eldar (himself a Highlander) in the project for a union between England and Scotland, addressed to Henry VIII. "We go a hunting, and after that we have slain red-deer, we flay off the skin by and by, and setting of our bare-foot on the inside thereof, for want of cunning shoemakers, by your grace's pardon, we play the coblers, compassing and measuring so much thereof, as shall reach up to our ancles, pricking the upper part thereof with holes, that the water may repass where it enters, and stretching it up with a strong thong of the same above our said ancles. So, and please your noble grace, we make our shoes. Therefore, we using such manner of shoes, the rough hairy side outwards, in your grace's dominions of England we be called Rough-footed Scots."-Pinkerton's History, vol. II. p. 397.

Note X.

The dismal Coronach.—St. XV. p. 116.

The Coronach of the Highlanders, like the Ululatus of the Romans, and the Ulaloo of the Irish, was a wild expression of lamentation poured forth by the mourners over the body of a departed friend. When the words of it were articulate, they expressed the praises of the deceast, and the loss the clan would sustain by his death. The following is a lamentation of this kind, literally translated from the Gælic, to some of the ideas of which the text stands indebted. The tune is so popular, that it has since become the war-march, or Gathering of the clan.

Coronach on Sir Lauchlan, Chief of Maclean.

Which of all the Sennachies Can trace thy line from the root, up to Paradise,
But Macvuirih, the son of Fergus?
No sooner had thine ancient stately tree
Taken firm root in Albin,
Than one of thy forefathers fell at Harlaw.—
'Twas then we lost a chief of deathless name!—

'Tis no base weed—no planted tree,
Nor a seedling of last autumn;
Nor a sapling planted at Beltain;[5]
Wide, wide around, were spread its lofty branches——
But the topmost bough is lowly laid!
Thou hast forsaken us before Sawaine.[6]

Thy dwelling is the winter house;—
Loud, sad, and mighty is thy death song!—
Oh! courteous champion of Montrose!
Oh! stately warrior of the Celtic Isles!
Thou shalt buckle thy harness on no more!

The coronach has for some years past been superseded at funerals by the use of the bag-pipe, and that also is, like many other Highland peculiarities, falling into disuse, unless in rcmote districts.

Note XI.

Benledi saw the Cross of Fire,
It glanced like lightning up Strath-Ire.—St. XVIII. p. 122.

A glance at the provincial map of Perthshire, or at any large map of Scotland, will trace the progress of the signal through the small district of lakes and mountains, which, in exercise of my poetical privilege, I have subjected to the authority of my imaginary chieftain; and which, at the period of my romance, was really occupied by a clan who claimed a descent from Alpine, a clan the most unfortunate, and most persecuted, but neither the least distinguished, least powerful, or least brave, of the tribes of the Gael.

Sliochd nan Righre Duchasach,
Bha shios an Dùn Staibhinish,
Aig an robh Crùn na h' alba o thùs,
S'aig a bheil Duchas fathast ris.

The first stage of the Fiery Cross is to Duncraggan, a place near the Brigg of Turk, where a short stream divides Loch-Achray from Loch-Vennachar. From thence, it passes towards Callender, and then, turning to the left up the pass of Lennie, is consigned to Norman at the chapel of Saint Bride, which stood on a small and romantic knoll in the middle of the valley, called Strath-Ire. Tombea and Arnandave, or Ardmandave, are names of places in the vicinity. The alarm is then supposed to pass along the lake of Lubnaig, and through the various glens in the district of Balquidder, including the neighbouring tracts of Glenfinlas and Strathgartney.

Note XII.

Not faster o'er thy heathery braes,
Balquidder, speeds the midnight blaze.—St. XXIII. p. 128.

It may be necessary to inform the southern reader, that the heath on the Scottish moor-lands is often set fire to, that the sheep may have the advantage of the young herbage produced in room of the tough old heather-plants. This custom (execrated by sportsmen,) produces occasionally the most beautiful nocturnal appearance, similar almost to the discharge of a volcano. The simile is not new to poetry. The charge of a warrior, in the fine ballad of Hardyknute, is said to be "like a fire to heather set."

Note XIII.

—————By his Chieftain's hand.—St. XXIII. p. 180.

The deep and implicit respect paid by the highland clansmen to their chief, rendered this both a common and a solemn oath. In other respects, they were like most savage nations, capricious in their ideas concerning the obligatory power of oaths. One solemn mode of swearing was by kissing the dirk, imprecating upon themselves death by that, or a similar weapon, if they broke their vow. But for oaths in the usual form, they are said to have had little respect. As for the reverence due to the chief, it may be guessed from the following odd example, of a Highland point of honour.

"The clan whereto the abovementioned tribe belongs, is the only one I have heard of, which is without a chief; that is, being divided into families, under several chieftains, without any particular patriarch of the whole name. And this is a great reproach, as may appear from an affair that fell out at my table, in the Highlands, between one of that name and a Cameron. The provocation given by the latter, was—Name your chief.—The return to it, at once, was—You are a fool. They went out next morning, but having early notice of it, I sent a small party of soldiers after them, which, in all probability, prevented some barbarous mischief, that might have ensued; for the chiefless Highlander, who is himself a petty chieftain, was going to the place appointed with a small sword and pistol, whereas the Cameron (an old man) took with him only his broad-sword, according to agreement.

"When all was over, and I had, at least seemingly, reconciled them, I was told the words, of which I seemed to think but slightly, were, to one of that clan, the greatest of all provocations."—Letters from the North of Scotland, vol. II. p. 221.

Note XIV.

——Coir-nan-Uriskin.—St. XXIV. p. 131.

This is a very steep and most romantic hollow in the mountain of Benvenue, overhanging the south-eastern extremity of Loch-Katrine. It is surrounded with stupendous rocks, and overshadowed with birch-trees, mingled with oaks, the spontaneous production of the mountain, even where its cliffs appear denuded of soil. A dale in so wild a situation, and amid a people whose genius bordered on the romantic, did not remain without appropriate deities. The name literally implies the Corri, or Den, of the Wild or Shaggy Men. Perhaps this, as conjectured by Mr Alexander Campbell,[7] may have originally only implied its being the haunt of a ferocious banditti. But tradition has ascribed to the Urisk, who gives name to the cavern, a figure between a goat and a man; in short, however much the classical reader may be startled, precisely that of the Grecian Satyr. The Urisk seems not to have inherited, with the form, the petulance of the sylvan deity of the classics: his occupations, on the contrary, resembled those of Milton's lubbar fiend, or of the Scottish Brownie, though he differed from both in name and appearance. "The Urisks," says Dr Graham, "were a sort of lubberly supernaturals, who, like the Brownies, could be gained over by kind attention, to perform the drudgery of the farm, and it was believed that many of the families in the Highlands had one of the order attached to it. They were supposed to be dispersed over the Highlands, each in his own wild recess, but the solemn stated meetings of the order were regularly held in this cave of Benvenew. This current superstition, no doubt, alludes to some circumstance in the ancient history of this country."—Scenery on the Southern Confines of Perthshire. 1806. p. 19.

It must be owned that the Coir, or den, does not, in itspresent state, meet our ideas of a subterranean grotto or cave, being only a small and narrow cavity, among huge fragments of rocks, rudely piled together. But such a scene is liable to convulsions of nature, which a lowlander cannot estimate, and which may have choaked up what was originally a cavern. At least the name and tradition authorize the author of a fictitious talc, to assert its having been such at the remote period in which his scene is laid.

Note XV.

——The wild pass of Beal'-nam-Bo.—St. XXVI. p. 118.

Bealach-nam-Bo, or the pass of cattle, is a most magnificent glade, overhung with aged birch trees, a little higher up mountain than the Coir-nan-Uriskin, treated of in the last note. The whole composes the most sublime piece of scenery that imagination can conceive.

Note XVI.

A single page to bear his sword,
Alone attended on his Lord.—St. XXVI. p. 134.

A Highland chief being as absolute in his patriarchal authority as any prince, had a corresponding number of officers attached to his person. He had his body-guards, called Luicht-tach, picked from his clan for strength, activity, and entire devotion to his person. These, according to their deserts, were sure to share abundantly in the rude profusion of his hospitality. It is recorded, for example, by tradition, that Allan Mac Lean, chief of that clan, happened upon a time to hear one of these favourite retainers observe to his comrade, that their chief grew old—"Whence do you infer that?" replied the other. "When was it," rejoined the first, "that a soldier of Allan's was obliged, as I am now, not only to eat the flesh from this bone, but even to tear off the inner skin, or filament?" The hint was quite sufficient, and Mac Lean next morning, to relieve his followers from such dire necessity, undertook an inroad on the mainland, the ravage of which altogether effaced the memory of his former expeditions for the like purpose.

Our officer of Engineers, so often quoted, has given us a distinct list of the domestic officers who, independent of Luicht-tach, or gardes de corps, belonged to the establishment of a Highland Chief. These are, 1. The Hench-man. See these notes, p. 331. 2. The Bard. See p. 30. 3. Bladier, or spokesman. 4. Gillie-more, or Sword-bearer, alluded to in the text. 5. Gillie-casflue, who carried the chief, if on foot, over the fords. 6. Gillie-comstraine; who leads the chief's horse. 7. Gillie-Trushunarinsh; the baggage-man, 8. The piper. 9. The piper's gillie, or attendant, who carries the bagpipe.[8] Although this appeared, naturally enough, very ridiculous to an English officer, who considered the master of such a retinue as no more than an English gentleman of 500l. a year; yet, in the circumstances of the chief, whose strength and importance consisted in the number and attachment of his followers, it was of the last consequence, in point of policy, to have in his gift, subordinate offices, which called immediately round his person those who were most devoted to him, and, being of value in their estimation, were also the means of rewarding them.

  1. The Monition against the Robbers of Tynedale and Redesdale, with which I was favoured by my friend Mr Surtees, of Mainsforth, may be found in the original Latin, in the Appendix to the Introduction to the Border Minstrelsy, No. VII. fourth edition.
  2. Lithgow's Travels, first edit. p. 431.
  3. This curious Picture of Ireland was inserted by the author in the republication of Sonmers' Tracts, Vol. I., in which the plates have been also inserted, from the only impressions known to exist, belonging to the copy in the Advocate's Library. See Somers' Tracts, Vol. I. p. 591, 594.
  4. In the first edition this was erroneously explained as equivalent to Ben-Schichian, or the Head of the Fairies.
  5. Bel's fire, or Whitsunday.
  6. Halloween.
  7. Journey from Edinburgh, 1802, p. 109.
  8. Letters from Scotland, vol. II. p. 158.