The Lady of the Lake/Notes to Canto 4

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4495558The Lady of the Lake — Notes to Canto FourthWalter Scott


Note I.

The Taghairm call'd, by which, afar.
Our sires foresaw the events of war.—St. IV. p. 146.

The Highlanders, like all rude people, had various superstitious modes of enquiring into futurity. One of the most noted was the Taghairm, mentioned in the text. A person was wrapped up in the skin of a newly-slain bullock, and deposited beside a water-fall, or at the bottom of a precipice, or in some other strange, wild, and unusual situation, where the scenery around him suggested nothing but objects of horror. In this situation he revolved in his mind the question proposed, and whatever was impressed upon him by his exalted imagination, passed for the inspiration of the disembodied spirits, who haunt these desolate recesses. In some of the Hebrides, they attributed the same oracular power to a large black stone by the sea-shore, which they approached with certain solemnities, and considered the first fancy which came into their own minds, after they did so, to be the undoubted dictate of the tutelar deity of the stone, and as such, to be, if possible, punctually complied with. Martin has recorded the following curious modes of Highland augury, in which the Taghairm, and its effects upon the person who was subjected to it, may serve to illustrate the text.

"It was an ordinary thing among the over-curious to consult an invisible oracle, concerning the fate of families and battles, &c. This was performed three different ways: the first was by a company of men, one of whom being detached by lot, was afterwards carried to a river, which was the boundary between two villages; four of the company laid hold on him, and, having shut his eyes, they took him by the legs and arms, and then, tossing him to and again, struck his hips with force against the bank. One of them cried out, What is it you have got here? another answers, A log of birch-wood. The other cries again, Let his invisible friends appear from all quarters, and let them relieve him by giving an answer to our present demands; and in a few minutes after, a number of little creatures came from the sea, who answered the question, and disappeared suddenly. The man was then set at liberty, and they all returned home, to take their measures according to the prediction of their false prophets; but the poor deluded fools were abused, for the answer was still ambiguous. This was always practised in the night, and may literally be called the works of darkness.

"I had an account from the most intelligent and judicious men in the Isle of Skie, that, about sixty-two years ago, the oracle was thus consulted only once, and that was in the parish of Kilmartin, on the east side, by a wicked and mischievous race of people, who are now extinguished, both root and branch.

"The second way of consulting the oracle was by a party of men, who first retired to solitary places, remote from any house, and there they singled out one of their number, and wrapt him in a big cow's hide, which they folded about him; his whole body was covered with it, except his head, and so left in this posture all night, until his invisible friends relieved him, by giving a proper answer to the question in hand; which he received, as he fancied, from several persons that he found about him all that time. His consorts returned to him at the break of day, and then he communicated his news to them; which often proved fatal to those concerned in such unwarrantable enquiries.

"There was a third way of consulting, which was a confirmation of the second above-mentioned. The same company who put the man into the hide, took a live cat, and put him on a spit; one of the number was employed to turn the spit, and one of his consorts enquired of him, What are you doing? he answered, I roast this cat, until his friends answer the question; which must be the same that was proposed by the man shut up in the hide. And afterwards, a very big cat[1] comes attended by a number of lesser cats, desiring to relieve the cat turned upon the spit, and then answers the question. If this answer proved the same that was given to the man in the hide, then it was taken as a confirmation of the other, which, in this case, was believed infallible.

"Mr Alexander Cooper, present minister of North-Vist, told me that one John Erach, in the Isle of Lewis, assured him, it was his fate to have been led by his curiosity with some who consulted this oracle, and that he was a night within the hide, as above-mentioned; during which time he felt and heard such terrible things, that he could not express them; the impression it made on him was such as could never go off, and he said for a thousand worlds he would never again be concerned in the like performance, for this had disordered him to a high degree. He confessed it ingenuously, and with an air of great remorse, and seemed to be very penitent under a just sense of so great a crime; he declared this about five years since, and is still living in the Lewis, for any thing I know."—Description of the Western Isles, p. 110. See also Pennant's Scottish Tour, vol. II. p. 361.

Note II.

The choicest of the prey we had,
When swept our merry-men Gallan-gad.—St. IV. p. 147.

I know not if it be worth observing, that this passage is taken almost literally from the mouth of an old Highland Kern, or Ketteran, as they were called. He used to narrate the merry doings of the good old time when he was follower of Rob Roy Macgregor. This leader, on one occasion, thought proper to make a descent upon the lower part of the Loch-Lomond district, and summoned all the heritors and farmers to meet at the Kirk of Drymen, to pay him black-mail, i. e. tribute for forbearance and protection. As this invitation was supported by a band of thirty or forty stout fellows, only one gentleman, an ancestor, if I mistake not, of the present Mr Grahame of Gartmore, ventured to decline compliance. Rob Roy instantly swept his land of all he could drive away, and among the spoil was a bull of the old Scottish wild breed, whose ferocity occasioned great plague to the Ketterans. "But ere we had reached the Row of Dennan," said the old man, "a child might have scratched his ears."[2] The circumstance is a minute one, but it paints the times when the poor beeve was compelled

To hoof it o'er as many weary miles,
With goading pikemen hollowing at his heels,
As e'er the bravest antler of the woods.

Note III.

——that huge cliff, whose ample verge
Tradition calls the Hero's Targe.—St. V. p. 148.

There is a rock so named in the forest of Glenfinlas, by which a tumultuary cataract takes its course. This wild place is said in former times to have afforded refuge to an outlaw, who was supplied with provisions by a woman, who lowered them down from the brink of the precipice above. His water he procured for himself, by letting down a flaggon tied to a string, into the black pool beneath the fall.

Note IV.

Or raven on the blasted oak,
That, watching while the deer is broke,
His morsel claims with sullen croak.—St. V. p. 148.

Every thing belonging to the chace was matter of solemnity among our ancestors, but nothing was more so than the mode of cutting up, or, as it was technically called, breaking the slaughtered stag. The forester had his allotted portion; the hounds had a certain allowance; and, to make the division as general as possible, the very birds had their share also. "There is a little gristle," says Turberville, "which is upon the spoone of the brisket, which we call the raven's bone; and 1 have seen in some places a raven so wont and accustomed to it, that she would never fail to croak and cry for it all the time you were in breaking up of the deer, and would not depart till she had it." In the very ancient metrical romance of Sir Tristrem, that peerless Knight, who is said to have been the very deviser of all rules of chase, did not omit this ceremony:

"The raven he yaf his yiftes
Sat on the fourched tree."
Sir Tristrem, 2d Edition, p. 34.

The raven might also challenge his rights by the Book of Saint Albans; for thus says Dame Juliana Berners:—

—————————Slitteth anon
The bely to the side from the corbyn bone;
That is corbins fee, at the death he will be.

Jonson, in "The Sad Shepherd," gives a more poetical account of the same ceremony.

Marian.——He that undoes him,
Doth cleave the brisket bone upon the spoon,
Of which a little gristle grows―you call it―
Robin Hood. The raven's bone.
Marian————————Now o'er head sat a raven
On a sere bough, a grown, great bird and hoarse,
Who, all the time the deer was breaking up,
So croaked and cried for it, as all the huntsmen,
Especially old Scathlocke, thought it ominous."

Note V.

Which spills the foremost foeman's life,
That party conquers in the strife.—St. VI. p. 150.

Though this be in the text described as the response of the Taghairm, or Oracle of the Hide, it was of itself an augury frequently attended to. The fate of the battle was often anticipated in the imagination of the combatants, by observing which party first shed blood. It is said that the Highlanders under Montrose, were so deeply embued with this notion, that on the morning of the battle of Tippermoor, they murdered a defenceless herdsman, whom they found in the fields, merely to secure an advantage of so much consequence to their party.

Note VI.

Alice Brand.—St. XII. p. 158.

This little fairy tale is founded upon a very curious Danish ballad, which occurs in the Kiempe Viser, a collection of heroic songs, first published in 15:1, and re-printed in 1695, inscribed by Anders Sofrensen, the collector and editor, to Sophia Queen of Denmark. I have been favoured with a literal translation of the original, by my learned friend Mr Robert Jamieson, whose deep knowledge of Scandinavian antiquities will, I hope, one day be displayed in illustration of the history of Scottish Ballad and Song, for which no man possesses more ample materials. The story will remind the readers of the Border Minstrelsy of the tale of the Young Tamlane. But this is only a solitary and not very marked instance of coincidence, whereas several of the other ballads in the same collection, find exact counterparts in the Kiempe Viser. Which may have been the originals will be a question for future antiquarians. Mr Jamieson, to secure the power of literal translation, has adopted the old Scottish idiom, which approaches so near to that of the Danish, as almost to give word for word, as well as line for line, and indeed in many verses the orthography alone is altered. As Wester Haf, mentioned in the first stanza of the ballad, means the West Sea, in opposition to the Baltic, or East Sea, Mr Jamieson inclines to be of opinion, that the scene of the dis-enchantment is laid in one of the Orkney or Hebride Islands. To each verse in the original is added a burden, having a kind of meaning of its own, but not applicable, at least not uniformly applicable, to the sense of the stanza to which it is subjoined: this is very common both in Danish and Scottish song.



Der ligger en vold i Vester Haf,
Der agter en bondè at higgè:
Hand förer did baadề hög og hund,
Og agter dar om vinteren at liggè.
(De vilde diur og durene udi skofven.)

There liggs a wold in Wester Haf,
There a husbande means to bigg,
And thither he carries baith hawk and bound,
There meaning the winter to ligg.
  (The wild deer and daes i the shaw out.)

He taks wi' him baith hound and cock,
The langer he means to stay,
The wild deer in the shaws that are
May sairly rue the day.
  (The wild deer, &c.)

He's hew'd the beech, and he's fell'd the aik,
Sae has he the poplar gray:
And grim in mood was the growsome elf,
That be sae bald he may.

He hew'd him kipples, he hew'd him bawks,
Wi' mickle moil and haste;
Syne speer'd the elf in the knock that bade,
"Wha's hacking here sae fast?"

Syne up and spak the weiest elf,
Crean'd as an immert sma:
"It's here is come a christian man;—
I'll fley him or be ga."

It's up syne started the firsten elf,
And glowr'd about sae grim:
"It's we'll awa' to the husbande's house,
And hald a court on him.

"Here hews he down baith skugg and shaw,
And wirks us skaith and scorn:
His huswife he shall gie to me;
They's rue the day they were born!"

The elfen a' i'the knock that were
Gaed dancing in a string;
They nighed near the husband's house;—
Sae lang their tails did hing.

The hound he yowls i' the yard;
The herd toots in his horn;
The earn scraichs, and the cock craws,
As the husbande had gi'en him his corn.[3]

The Elfen were five score and seven,
Sae laidly and sae grim;
And they the husbande's guests maun be,
To eat and drink wi' him.

The husbande out o' Villenshaw
At his winnock the Elves can see:
"Help me, now, Jesu, Mary's son;
Thir Elves they mint at me!"

In every nook a cross be coost,
In his chalmer maist ava;
The Elfen a' were fley'd thereat,
And flew to the wild-wood shaw.

And some few east, and some flew west,
And some to the norwast flew;
And some they flew to the deep dale down,
There still they are, I trow.[4]

It was then the weiest Elf,
In at the door braids he;
A gast was the husbande, for that Elf
For cross nor sign wad flee.

The huswife she was a canny wife,
She set the Elf at the board;
She set before him baith ale and meat,
Wi' mouy a well-waled word.

"Hear thou, Gudeman o' Villenshaw,
What now I say to thee;
Wha bade thee bigg within our bounds,
Without the leave o' me?

"But, an thou in our bounds will bigg,
And bide, as well as may be,
Then thou thy dearest huswife maun
To me for a lemman gie.

Up spak the luckless busbande then,
As God the grace bim gae:
"Eline she is to me sae dear,
Her thou may na-gate hae."

Till the Elf he answer'd as he couth:
"Lat but my huswife be,
And tak whate'er o' gude or gear
Is mine, awa wi' thee."

"Then I'll thy Eline tak and thee
Aneath my feet to tread;
And hide thy goud and white monie
Aneath my dwalling-stead."

The husbande and his househald a'
In sary rede they join :
"Far better that she be now forfairn,
Nor that we a' should tyne."

Up, will of rede, the husbande stood,
Wi' heart fu' sad and sair;
And he has gien his huswife Eline
Wi' the young Elf to fare.

Then blyth grew he, and sprang about;
He took her in his arm:
The rud it left her comely cheek;
Her heart was clem'd wi' harm.

A waefu' woman than she was ane,
And the moody tears loot fa':
"God rew on me, unseely wife,
How hard a wierd I fa!

"My fay I plight to the fairest wight
That man on mold mat see;
Maun I now mell wi' a laidly El,
His light lemman to be?"

He minted ance—he minted twice,
Wae wax'd her heart that syth:
Syne the laidliest fiend he grew that e'er
To mortal ee did kyth.

When he the thirden time can mint,
To Mary's son she pray'd,
And the laidly elf was clean awa,
And a fair knight in his stead.

This fell under a linden green,
That again his shape he found;
O' wae and care was the word nae mair,
A' were sae glad that stound.

"O dearest Eline, hear thou this,
And thou my wife sal be,
And a' the goud in merry England
Sae freely I'll gie thee.

"Whan I was but a little wee bairn,
My mither died me frae;
My stepmither sent me awa frae her;
I turn'd till an Elfin Gray.

"To thy husband I a gift will gie,
Wi' mickle state and gear,
As mends for Eline his huswife;—
Thou's be my heartis dear."

"Thou nobil knyght, we thank now God
That has freed us frae skaith;
Sae wed thou thee a maiden free,
And joy attend ye baith!

"Sin I to thee na maik can be,
—My dochter may be thine;
And thy gude will right to fulfill,
Lat this be our propine."

"I thank thee, Eline, thou wise woman;
My praise thy worth sall hae;
And thy love gin I fail to win,
Thou here at hame sall stay."

The husbande biggit now on his öe,
And nae ane wrought him wrang;
is dochter wore crown in Engeland,
And happy liv'd and lang.

Now Eline the husbande's huswife has
Cour'd a' her grief and harms;
She's mither to a noble queen
That sleeps in a kingis arms.


St. 1. Wold, a wood; a woody fastness.
Husbande, from the Dan. hos, with, and bonde, a villain, or bondsman, who was a cultivator of the ground, and could not quit the estate to which he was attached, without the permission of his lord. This is the sense of the word, in the old Scottish records. In the Scottish "Burghe Laws," translated from the Rej. Majest. (Auchinleck MS. in the Adv. Lib.) it is used indiscriminately with the Dan. and Swed. bondè.
Bigg, build.
Ligg, lie.
Daes, does.
2. Shaw, wood.
Sairly, sorely.
3. Aik, oak.
Grousome, terrible.
Bald, bold.
Kipples, (couples,) beams joined at the top, for supporting a roof, in building.
Bawks, balks; cross beams.
Moil, laborious industry.
Speer'd, asked.
Knock, hillock,
5. Weiest, smallest.
Crean'd, shrunk, diminished; from the Gaelic, crian, very small.
Immert, emmit; ant.
Christian, used in the Danish ballads, &c. in contradistinction to demoniac, as it is in England, in contradistinction to brute; in which sense, a person of the lower class, in England, would call a Jew or a Turk, a Christian.
Fley, frighten.
6. Glowr'd, stared.
Hald, hold.
7. Skugg, shade.
Skaith, harm.
8. Nighed, approached.
9. Yowls, howls,
Toots—in the Dan. tude, is applied both to the howling of a dog, and the sound of a horn.
Scraichs, screams.
10. Laidly, loathly; disgustingly ugly.
Grim, fierce.
11. Winnock, window.
Mint, aim at.
12. Coost, cast.
Chalmer, chamber.
Maist, most.
Ava, of all.
13. Norwart, northward.
Trow, believe.
14. Braids, strides quickly forward.
Wad, would.
15. Canny, adroit.
Mony, many.
Well-waled, well chosen.
17. An, if.
Bide, abide.
Lemman, mistress.
18. Nagate, nowise.
19. Couth, could; knew how to.
Lat be, let alone.
Gude, goods; property.
20. Aneath, beneath.
Dwalling-stead, dwelling-place.
21. Sary, sorrowful.
Rede, counsel; consultation.
Forfairn, forlorn; lost; gone.
Tyne, (verb neut.) be lost; perish.
22. Will of rede, bewildered in thought; in the Danish original "vildraadige;" Lat. "inops consilii;" Gr. 'ἀπορων. This expression is left among the desiderata in the Glossary to Ritson's Romances, and has never been explained. It is obsolete in the Danish as well as in English.
Fare, go.
23. Rud, red of the cheek.
Clem'd, in the Danish, klemt; (which, in the north of England, is still in use, as the word starved is with us;) brought to a dying state. It is used by our old comedians.
Harm, grief; as in the original, and in the old Teutonic, English, and Scottish poetry.
24. Waefu, woeful.
Moody, strongly and wilfully passionate.
Rew, take ruth; pity.
Unseely, unhappy; unblest.
Wierd, fate.
Fa, (Isel. Dan. and Swed.) take; get; acquire; procure; have for my lot.—This Gothic verb answers, in its direct and secondary significations, exactly to the Latin capio; and Allan Ramsay was right in his definition of it. It is quite a different word from fa', an abbreviation of 'fall, or befall; and is the principal root in fangen, to fang, take, or lay hold of.
25. Fay, faith.
Mold, mould; earth.
Mat, mote; might.
Maun, must.
Mell, mix.
El, an elf. This term, in the Welch, signifies what has in itself the power of motion; a moving principle; an intelligence; a spirit; an angel. In the Hebrew, it bears the same import.
26. Minted, attempted; meant; shewed a mind, or intention to. The original is:

"Hand mindte hende först—og anden gang:—
Hun giordis i hiortet sa vee:
End blef hand den lediste diefvel
Mand kunde med oyen see.
Der hand vilde minde den tredie gang," &c.

Syth, tide; time.
Kyth, appear.
28. Stound, hour; time; moment.
29. Merry, (old Teut. meré,) famous; renowned; answering, in its etymological meaning, exactly to the Latin mactus. Hence merry-men, as the address of a chief to his followers; meaning not men of mirth, but of renown. The term is found in its original sense in the Gaël. mâr, and the Welsh mawr, great; and in the oldest Teut. Romances, mar, mer, and mere, have sometimes the same signification.
31. Mends, amends; recompence.
33. Maik, match; peer; equal. Propine, pledge; gift.
35. öe, an island of the second magnitude; an island of the first magnitude being called a land, and one of the third magnitude a holm.
36. Cour'd, recover'd.




By the permission of Mr Jamieson, this ballad is added from the same curious Collection. It contains some passages of great pathos.

Svend Dyring hand rider sig op under öè,
(Varè jeg selver ung)
Der fœste hand sig saa ven en möè.
(Mig lyster udi lunden at ridè,) &c.

Child Dyring has ridden him up under öe,[5]
(And O gin I were young!)
There wedded he him sae fair[6] a may.
(I' the greenwood it lists me to ride.)

Thegither they liv'd for seven lang year,
(And O, &c.)
And they seven bairns hae gotten in fere.
(I' the greenwood, &c.)

Sae Death's come there intill that stead,
And that winsome lily flower is dead.

That swain he has ridden him up under öe,
And syne he has married anither may.

He's married a may, and he's fessen her hame;
But she was a grim and a laidly dame.

When into the castell court drave she,
The seven bairns stuid wi' the tear in their ee.

The bairns they stood wi' dule and dout:

Nor ale nor mead to the bairnies she gave:
"But hunger and hate frae me ye's have."

She took frae them the bowster blae,
And said, "Ye sall ligg i' the bare strae!"

She took frae them the groff wax light;
Says, "Now ye sall ligg i' the mirk a' night!"

'Twas lang i' the night, and the bairnies grat:
Their mither she under the mools heard that;

That heard the wife under the eard that lay:
"Forsooth maun I to my bairnies gae!"

That wife can stand up at our lord's knee,
And "may I gang and my bairnies see?"

She prigged sae sair, and she prigged sae lang,
That he at the last gae her leave to gang.

"And thou sall come back whan the cock does craw,
For thou nae langer sall bide awa."

Wi' her banes sae stark, a bowt she gae;
She's riven baith wa' and marble gray.[7]

Whan near to the dwalling she can gang,
The dogs they wow'd till the lift it rang.

Whan she came till the castell yett,
Her eldest dochter stood thereat.

"Why stand ye here, dear dochter mine?
How are sma brithers and sisters thine?"

"For sooth ye're a woman baith fair and fine;
But ye are nae dear mither of mine."

"Och! how should I be fine or fair?
My cheek it is pale, and the ground's my lair."

"My mither was white, wi' lire sae red;
But thou art wan, and liker ane dead."

"Och! how should I be white and red,
Sae lang as I've been cauld and dead?"

When she cam till the chalmer in,
Down the bairns' cheeks the tears did rin.

She buskit the tane, and she brush'd it there;
She kem'd and plaited the tither's hair.

The thirden she doodl'd upon her knee,
And the fourthen*****

She's ta'en the fiften upon her lap,
And sweetly******

Till her eldest dochter syne said she,
"Ye bid Child Dyring come here to me."

Whan he cam till the chalmer in,
Wi' angry mood she said to him:

"I left you routh o' ale and bread;
My bairnies quail for hunger and need.

"I left ahind me braw bowsters blae;
My bairnies are liggin i' the bare strae.

"I left ye sae mony a groff wax light;
My bairnies ligg i' the mark a' night.

"Gin aft I come back to visit thee,
Wae, dowy, and weary thy luck shall be."

Up spak little Kirstin in bed that lay:
"To thy bairnies I'll do the best I may."

Ay when they heard the dog nir and bell,
Sae gae they the bairnies bread and ale.

Ay whan the dog did wow, in haste
They cross'd and sain'd themsells frae the ghaist.

Ay whan the little dog yowl'd wi' fear,
(And O gin I were young!)
They shook at the thought that the dead was near.
(I' the greenwood it lists me to ride,)
(Fair words sae mony a heart they cheer.)


St. 1. May, maid.
Lists, pleases.
2. Stead, place.
3. Bairns, children.
In fere, together.
Winsome, engaging; giving joy, (old Teut.)
4. Syne, then.
5. Fessen, fetched; brought.
6. Drave, drove.
7. Dule, sorrow.
Dout, fear.
9. Bowster, bolster; cushion; bed.
Blae, blue.
Strae, straw.
10. Groff, great; large in girt.
Mark, mirk; dark.
11. Lang i' the night, late.
Grat, wept.
Mools, mould; earth.
12. Eard, earth.
Gae, go.
14. Prigged, entreated earnestly and perseveringly.
Gang, go.
15. Craw, crow.
16. Banes, bones.
Stark, strong.
Bowt, bolt; elastic spring, like that of a bolt or arrow from a bow.
Riven, split asunder.
Wa', wall.
17. Wow'd, howled.
Lift, sky; firmament; air.
18. Yett, gate.
19. Sma, small.
22. Lire, complexion.
23. Cald, cold.
24. Till, to.
Rin, run.
25. Buskit, dressed.
Kem'd, combed.
Tither, the other.
28. Routh, plenty.
Quail, are quelled; die.
Need, want.
29. Ahind, behind.
Braw, brave; fine.
31 Dowy, sorrowful.
33. Nirr, snarl.
Bell, bark.
34. Sained, blessed; literally, signed with the sign of the cross. Before the introduction of Christianity, Runes were used in saining, as a spell against the power of enchantment and evil genii.
Ghaist, ghost.

Note VII.

Up spoke the moody Elfin King,
Who won'd within the hill.—St. XII. p. 160.

In a long dissertation upon the Fairy superstition, published in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, the most valuable part of which was supplied by my learned and indefatigable friend Dr John Leyden, most of the circumstances are collected which can throw light upon the popular belief which even yet prevails respecting them in Scotland. Dr Grahame, author of an entertaining work upon the Scenery of the Perthshire Highlands, already frequently quoted, has recorded, with great accuracy, the peculiar tenets held by the Highlanders on this topic, in the vicinity of Loch-Katrine. The learned author is inclined to deduce the whole mythology from the Druidical system,—an opinion to which there are many objections.

"The Daoine Shi', or Men of Peace of the Highlanders, though not absolutely malevolent, are believed to be a peevish, repining race of beings, who, possessing themselves but a scanty portion of happiness, are supposed to envy mankind their more complete and substantial enjoyment. They are supposed to enjoy, in their subterraneous recesses, a sort of shadowy happiness,—a tinsel grandeur; which, however, they would willingly exchange for the more solid joys of mortality.

"They are believed to inhabit certain round grassy eminences, where they celebrate their nocturnal festivities by the light of the moon. About a mile beyond the source of the Forth, above Lochcon, there is a place called Coirshi'an, or the Cove of the Men of Peace, which is still supposed to be a favourite place of their residence. In the neighbourhood, are to be seen many round conical eminences; particularly one, near the head of the lake, by the skirts of which many are still afraid to pass after sunset. It is believed, that if, on Hallow-eve, any person, alone, goes round one of these hills nine times, towards the left hand (sinistrorsum), a door shall open, by which he shall be admitted into their subterraneous abodes. Many, it is said, of mortal race have been entertained in their secret recesses. There they have been received into the most splendid apartments, and regaled with the most sumptuous banquets, and delicious wines. Their females surpass the daughters of men in beauty. The seemingly happy inhabitants pass their time in festivity, and, in dancing to notes of the softest music. But unhappy is the mortal who joins in their joys, or ventures to partake of their dainties. By this indulgence, he forfeits for ever the society of men, and is bound down irrevocably to the condition of a Shi'ich, or man of peace.

"A woman, as is reported in the Highland tradition, was conveyed, in days of yore, into the secret recesses of the men of peace. There she was recognised by one who had formerly been an ordinary mortal, but who had, by some fatality, become associated with the Shi'ichs. This acquaintance, still retaining some portion of human benevolence, warned her of her danger, and counselled her, as she valued her liberty, to abstain from eating and drinking with them, for a certain space of time. She complied with the counsel of her friend; and when the period assigned was elapsed, she found herself again upon earth, restored to the society of mortals. It is added, that when she examined the viands which had been presented to her, and which had appeared so tempting to the eye, they were found, now that the enchantment was removed, to consist only of the refuse of the earth."—P. 107–111.

Note VIII.

Why sounds yon stroke on beech and oak,
Our moonlight circle's screen?
Or who comes here to chace the deer,
Beloved of our Elfin Queen?—St. XII. p. 161.

It has been already observed, that fairies, if not positively malevolent, are capricious, and easily offended. They are, like other proprietors of forests, peculiarly jealous of their rights of vert and venison, as appears from the cause of offence taken, in the original Danish ballad. This jealousy was also an attribute of the northern Duergar, or dwarfs; to many of whose distinctions the fairies seem to have succeeded, if, indeed, they are not the same class of beings. In the huge metrical record of German chivalry, entitled the Helden-Buch, Sir Hildebrand, and the other heroes of whom it treats, are engaged in one of their most desperate adventures, from a rash violation of the rose-garden of an Elfin, or Dwarf King, There are yet traces of a belief in this worst and most malicious order of Fairies among the Border Wilds. Dr Leyden has introduced such a dwarf into his ballad entitled the Cout of Keeldar, and has not forgot his characteristic detestation of the chace.

"The third blast that young Keeldar blew,
Still stood the limber fern,
And a wee man, of swarthy hue,
Upstarted by a cairn.

"His russet weeds were brown as heath,
That clothes the upland fell;
And the hair of his head was frizzly red
As the purple heather-bell.

"An urchin, clad in prickles red,
Clung cow'ring to his arm;
The hounds they howl'd, and backward fled,
As struck by fairy charm.

"Why rises high the stag-hound's cry,
Where stag bound ne'er should be?
Why wakes that horn the silent morn,
Without the leave of me?

"Brown dwarf, that o'er the muirland strays,
Thy name to Keeldar tell!"—
"The Brown Man of the Muirs, who stays
Beneath the heather-bell.

"'Tis sweet beneath the heather-bell
To live in autumn brown;
And sweet to hear the lav rocks well,
Far, far from tower and town.

"But woe betide the shrilling horn,
The chace's surly cheer!
And ever that hunter is forlorn,
Whom first at morn I hear."

The poetical picture here given of the Duergar corresponds exactly with the following Northumbrian legend, with which I was lately favoured by my learned and kind friend, Mr Surtees of Mainsforth, who has bestowed indefatigable labour upon the antiquities of the English border counties. The subject is in itself so curious, that the length of the note will, I hope, be pardoned.

"I have only one record to offer of the appearance of our Northumbrian Duergar. My narratrix is Elizabeth Cockburn, an old wife of Offerton, in this county, whose credit, in a case of this kind, will not, I hope, be much impeached, when I add, that she is, by her dull neighbours, supposed to be occasionally insane, but, by herself, to be at those times endowed with a faculty of seeing visions, and spectral appearances, which shun the common ken.

"In the year before the great rebellion, two young men from Newcastle were sporting on the high moors above Elsdon, and after pursuing their game several hours, sat down to dine, in a green glen, near one of the mountain streams. After their repast, the younger lad ran to the brook for water, and after stooping to drink, was surprised, on lifting his head again, by the appearance of a brown dwarf, who stood on a crag covered with brackens, across the burn. This extraordinary personage did not appear to be above half the stature of a common man, but was uncommonly stout and broad built, having the appearance of vast strength. His dress was entirely brown, the colour of the brackens, and his head covered with frizzled red hair. His countenance was expressive of the most savage ferocity, and his eyes glared like a bull. It seems, he addressed the young man first, threatening him with his vengeance, for having trespassed on his demesnes, and asking him, if he knew in whose presence he stood? The youth replied, that he now supposed him to be the lord of the moors; that he offended through ignorance; and offered to bring him the game he had killed. The dwarf was a little mollified by this submission, but remarked, that nothing could be more offensive to him than such an offer, as he considered the wild animals as his subjects, and never failed to avenge their destruction. He condescended further to inform him, that he was, like himself, mortal, though of years far exceeding the lot of common humanity; and (what I should not have had an idea of) that he hoped for salvation. He never, he added, fed on any thing that had life, but lived, in the summer, on whortleberries, and in winter, on nuts and apples, of which he had great store in the woods. Finally, he invited his new acquaintance to accompany him home, and partake his hospitality; an offer which the youth was on the point of accepting, and was just going to spring across the brook, (which if he had done, says Elizabeth, the dwarf would certainly have torn him in pieces,) when his foot was arrested by the voice of his companion, who thought he tarried long; and on looking round again, "the wee brown man was fled." The story adds, that he was imprudent enough to slight the admonition, and to sport over the moors, on his way homewards; but, soon after his return, he fell into a lingering disorder, and died within the year."

Note IX.

Or who may dare on wold to wear
The fairy's fatal green.—St. XII. p. 161.

As the Daoine Shi', or Men of Peace, wore green habits, they were supposed to take offence when any mortals ventured to assume their favourite colour. Indeed, from some reason, which has been, perhaps, originally a general superstition, green is held in Scotland to be unlucky to particular tribes and counties. The Caithness men, who hold this belief, allege, as a reason, that their bands wore that colour when they were cut off at the battle of Flodden; and for the same reason they avoid crossing the Ord on a Monday, being the day of the week on which their ill-omened array set forth. Green is also disliked by those of the name of Ogilvy; but more especially is it held fatal to the whole clan of Grahame. It is remembered of an aged gentleman of that name, that when his horse fell in a fox-chase, he accounted for it at once, by observing, that the whip-cord attached to his lash was of this unlucky colour.

Note X.

For thou wert christen'd man.—St. XII. p. 161.

The Elves were supposed greatly to envy the privileges acquired by Christian initiation, and they gave to those mortals who had fallen into their power, a certain precedence, founded upon this advantageous distinction. Tamlane, in the old ballad, describes his own rank in the fairy procession:—

"For I ride on a milk-white steed,
And aye nearest the town;
Because I was a christened knight,
hey gie me that renown."

I presume, that, in the Danish ballad, the obstinacy of the "Weiest Elf," who would not flee for cross or sign, is to be derived from the circumstance of his having been "christen'd man."

How eager the elves were to obtain for their offspring the prerogatives of Christianity, will be proved by the following story: "In the district called Haga, in Iceland, dwelt a nobleman called Sigward Forster, who had an intrigue with one of the subterranean females. The elf became pregnant, and exacted from her lover a firm promise that he would procure the baptism of the infant. At the appointed time, the mother came to the church-yard, on the wall of which she placed a golden cup, and a stole for the priest, agreeable to the custom of making an offering at baptism. She then stood a little apart. When the priest left the church, he enquired the meaning of what he saw, and demanded of Sigward, if he avowed himself the father of the child. But Sigward, ashamed of the connection, denied the paternity. He was then interrogated if he desired that the child should be baptized; but this also he answered in the negative, lest, by such request, he should admit himself to be the father. On which the child was left untouched, and unbaptized. Whereupon the mother, in extreme wrath, snatched up the infant and the cup, and retired, leaving the priestly cope, of which fragments are still in preservation. But this female denounced and imposed upon Sigward, and his posterity, to the ninth generation, a singular disease, with which many of his descendants are afflicted at this day." Thus wrote Einar Gudmund, pastor of the parish of Garpsdale, in Iceland, a man profoundly versed in learning, from whose manuscript it was extracted by the learned Torfæus.—Historia Hrolfi Krakii, Hafniæ, 1715, prefatio.

Note XI.

And gaily shines the fairy land;
But all is glistening show.—St. XV. p. 163.

No fact respecting Fairy-land seems to be better ascertained than the fantastic and illusory nature of their apparent pleasure and splendour. It has been already noticed, in the former quotations from Dr Grahame's entertaining volume, and may be confirmed by the following Highland tradition. "A woman, whose new-born child had been conveyed by them into their secret abodes, was also carried thither herself, to remain, however, only until she should suckle her infant. She, one day, during this period, observed the Shi'ichs busily enployed in mixing various ingredients in a boiling cauldron; and, as soon as the composition was prepared, she remarked that they all carefully anointed their eyes with it, laying the remainder aside for future use. In a moment when they were all absent, she also attempted to anoint her eyes with the precious drug, but had time to apply it to one eye only, when the Daoine Shi returned. But with that eye she was henceforth enabled to see every thing as it really passed in their secret abodes:—she saw every object, not as she hitherto had done, in deceptive splendour and elegance, but in its genuine colours and form. The gaudy ornaments of the apartment were reduced to the walls of a gloomy cavern. Soon after, having discharged her office, she was dismissed to her own home. Still, however, she retained the faculty of seeing, with her medicated eye, every thing that was done, any where in her presence, by the deceptive art of the order. One day, amidst a throng of people, she chanced to observe the Shi'ich, or man of peace, in whose possession she had left her child; though to every other eye invisible. Prompted by maternal affection, she inadvertently accosted him, and began to enquire after the welfare of her child. The man of peace, astonished at being thus recognised by one of mortal race, demanded how she had been enabled to discover him. Awed by the terrible frown of his countenance, she acknowledged what she had done. He spat in her eye, and extinguished it for ever."—Grahame's Sketches, p. 116-118. It is very remarkable, that this story, translated by Dr Grahame from popular Gælic tradition, is to be found in the Otia Imperialia of Gervase of Tilbury. A work of great interest might be compiled upon the origin of popular fiction, and the transmission of similar tales from age to age, and from country to country. The mythology of one period would then appear to pass into the romance of the next century, and that into the nursery-tale of the subsequent ages. Such an investigation, while it went greatly to diminish our ideas of the richness of human invention, would also shew, that these fictions, however wild and childish, possess such charms for the populace, as enable them to penetrate into countries unconnected by manners and language, and having no apparent intercourse, to afford the means of transmission. It would carry me far beyond my bounds, to produce instances of this community of fable, among nations who never borrowed from each other any thing intrinsically worth learning. Indeed the wide diffusion of popular fictions may be compared to the facility with which straws and feathers are dispersed abroad by the wind, while valuable metals cannot be transported without trouble and labour. There lives, I believe, only one gentleman, whose unlimited acquaintance with this subject might enable him to do it justice; I mean my friend Mr Francis Douce, of the British Museum, whose usual kindness will, I hope, pardon my mentioning his name, while on a subject so closely connected with his extensive and curious researches.

Note XII.

——I sunk down in a sinful fray,
And 'twixt life and death was snatch'd away,
To the joyless fairy bower.

The subjects of Fairy Land were recruited from the regions of humanity by a sort of crimping system, which extended to adults as well as to infants. Many of those who were in this world supposed to have discharged the debt of nature, had only become denizens of the "Londe of Faery." In the beautiful fairy Romance of Orfee and Heurodiis (Orpheus and Eurydice) in the Auchinleck MS. is the following striking enumneration of persons thus abstracted from middle earth. Mr Ritson unfortunately published this romance from a copy in which the following, and many other highly poetical passages, do not occur:

"Then he gan biholde aboute al,
And seighe ful liggeand within the wal,
Of folk that wer thidder y-brought,
And thought dede and ne're nought;
Some stode withouten hadde;
And sum none armes nade;
And sum thurch the bodi hadde wounde:
And sum lay wode y-bounde;
And sum armed on hors sete;
And sum astrangled as thai ete;
And sum war in water adreynt;
And sum with fire al for-schreynt;
Wives ther lay on childe bedde;
Sum dede, and sun awedde;
And wonder fele ther lay besides,
Right as thai slepe her undertides;
Eche was thus in this warld y-nome,
With fairi thider y-come."

Note XIII.

Though space and law the stag we lend,
Who ever reck'd where, how, or when,
The prowling fox was trapped and slain.—St. XXX. p. 185.

St John actually used this illustration when engaged in confuting the plea of law proposed for the unfortunate Earl of Strafford: "It was true, we give laws to hares and deer, because they are beasts of chace; but it was never accounted either cruelty or foul play, to knock foxes or wolves on the head as they can be found, because they are beasts of prey.' In a word, the law and humanity were alike; the one being more fallacious, and the other more barbarous, than in any age had been vented in such an authority."—Clarendon's History of the Rebellion. Oxford, 1702. fol. vol. I. p. 183.

Note XIV.

—————————his Highland cheer,
The harden'd flesh of mountain-deer.—St. XXXI. p. 186.

The Scottish Highlanders, in former times, had a concise mode of cooking their venison, or rather of dispensing with cooking it, which appears greatly to have surprised the French, whom chance made acquainted with it. The Vidame of Chartres, when a hostage in England, during the reign of Edward VI., was permitted to travel into Scotland, and penetrated as far as to the remote Highlands, (au fin fond des Sauvages.) After a great hunting party, at which a most wonderful quantity of game was destroyed, he saw these Scottish savages devour a part of their venison raw, without any further preparation than compressing it between two battons of wood, so as to force out the blood, and render it extremely hard. This they reckoned a great delicacy; and when the Vidame partook of it, his compliance with their taste rendered him extremely popular. This curious trait of manners was communicated by Mons. de Montmorency, a great friend of the Vidame, to Brantome, by whom it is recorded in Vies des Hommes Illustres Discours, LXXXIX. art. 14. The process by which the raw venison was rendered eatable is described very minutely in the romance of Perceforest, where Estonne, a Scottish knight-errant, having slain a deer, says to his companion Claudius: "Sire, or mangerez vous et moy aussi. Voire si nous auions de feu, dit Claudius. Par l'ame de mon pere, dist Estonne, je vous atourneray et cuiray a la maniere de nostre pays comme pour cheualier errant. Lors tira son espec et sen vint a la branche dung arbre, et y fait vng grant trou, et puis fend al branche bien deux piedz et boute la cuisse du cerf entredeux, et puis prent le licol de son cheval et en lye la branche ct destraint si fort que le sang et les humeurs de la chair saillent hors et demeure la chair doulce et seiche. Lors prent la chair et oste ius le cuir et la chaire demeure aussi blanche comme si ce feust dung chappon. Dont dist a Claudius, Sire ie la vous ay cuiste a la guise de mon pays, vous en pouez manger hardyement, car ie mangeray premier. Lors met sa main a sa selle en vng lieu quil y auoit, et tire hors sel et poudre de poiure et gingembre, mesle ensemble, et le iecte dessus, et le frote sus bien fort, puis le couppe a moytie, et en donne a Claudius I'une des pieces, et puis mort en I'autre aussi sauoureusement quil est aduis que il an feist la pouldre voller. Quant Claudius veit quil le mangeoit de tel goust il en print grant fain et commence a manger tresvoulentiers, et dist a Estonne: Par I'ame de moy ie ne mangeay oncquesraais de chair atournee de telle guise: mais doresenauant ie ne me retoumeroye pas hors de mon chemin par auoir la cuite. Sire, dist Estonne, quant ie suis en desers d'Escosse, dont ie suis seigneur, ie cheuaucheray huit iours ou quinze que ie n'entreray en chastel ne en maison, et si ne verray feu ne personne viuant fors que bestes sauuages, et de celles mangeray atournees en ceste maniere, et mieulx me plaira que la viande de I'empereur. Ainsi sen vont mangeant et cheuauchant iusques adonc quilz arriuerent sur une moult belle fontaine qui estoit en vne valee. Quant Estonne la vit il dist a Claudius, allons boire a ceste fontaine. Or beuuons, dist Estonne, du boire que le grant dieu a pourueu a toutes gens, et qui me plaist mieulx que les ceruoises d'Angleterre."—La Treselegante Hystoire du tresnoble Hoy Perceforest. Paris, 1531, fol. tome I. fol. lv. vers.

After all, it may be doubted whether la chaire nostree, for so the French called the venison thus summarily prepared, was any thing more than a mere rude kind of deer-ham.

  1. The reader may have met with the story of the "King of the Cats," in Lord Littleton's Letters, It is well known in the Highlands as a nursery tale.
  2. This anecdote was, in former editions, inaccurately ascribed to Gregor Macgregor of Glengyle, called Ghlune Dhu, or Black-knee, a relation of Rob Roy, but, as I have been assured, not addicted to his predatory excesses.
  3. This singular quatrain stands thus in the original:
    "Hunden hand giör i gaarden;
    Hiorden tudè i sit horn;
    Œrnen skriger, og hanen galer,
    Som bonden hafdè gifvet sit korn."

  4. In the Danish:
    "Sommè flöyè oster, og sommè flöyè vester,
    Noglè flöyè nör paa;
    Nogle flöyè ned i dybeuè dalè,
    Jeg troer de erè der endnu."

  5. "Under öe."—The original expression has been preserved here and elsewhere, because no other could be found to supply its place. There is just as much meaning in it in the translation as in the original; but it is a standard Danish ballad phrase, and as such, it is hoped, will be allowed to pass.
  6. "fair."—The Dan. and Swed. ven, vœn, or vennè, and the Gaël bân, in the oblique cases bhân (ván,) is the origin of the Scottish bonny, which has so much puzzled all the etymologists.
  7. The original of this and the following stanza is very fine:
    "Hun sköd op sinè modigè been,
    Der revenedè muur og graa marmorsteen."
    "Der hun gik igennem den by,
    De hundè de tudè saa höjt i sky."