The Lady of the Lake/Notes to Canto 6

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4497383The Lady of the Lake — Notes to Canto SixthWalter Scott


Note I.

These drew not for their fields the sword,
Like tenants of a feudal lord,
Nor own'd the patriarchal claim
Of chieftain in their leader's name;
Adventurers they.———St. III. p. 245.

The Scottish armies consisted chiefly of the nobility and barons, with their vassals, who held lands under them, for military service by themselves and their tenants. The patriarchal influence exercised by the heads of clans in the Highlands and Borders was of a different nature, and sometimes at variance with feudal principles. It flowed from the Patria Potestas, exercised by the chieftain as representing the original father of the whole name, and was often obeyed in contradiction to the feudal superior. James V. seems first to have introduced, in addition to the militia furnished from these sources, the service of a small number of mercenaries, who formed a body-guard, called the Foot-Band. The satirical poet, Sir David Lindsay, (or the person who wrote the prologue to his play of the "Three Estaites,") has introduced Finlay of the Foot-Band, who, after much swaggering upon the stage, is at length put to flight by the fool, who terrifies him by means of a sheep's skull upon a pole. I have rather chosen to give them the harsh features of the mercenary soldiers of the period, than of this Scottish Thraso. These partook of the character of the Adventurous Companions of Froissart, or the Condottieri of Italy.

One of the best and liveliest traits of such manners is the last will of a leader, called Geffroy Tete Noir, who having been slightly wounded in a skirmish, his intemperance brought on a mortal disease. When he found himself dying, he summoned to his bed-side the adventurers whom he commanded, and thus addressed them:

"Fayre sirs, quod Geffray, I knowe well ye have alwayes served and honoured me as men ought to serve their soveraygne and capitayne, and I shal be the gladder if ye will agre to have to your capitayne one that is descended of my blode. Behold here Aleyne Roux, my cosyn, and Peter his brother, who are men of armes and of my blode. I require you to make Aleyne your capitayne, and to swere to him faythe, obeysaunce, love, and loyalte, here in my presence, and also to his brother: howe be it, I wyll that Aleyne have the soverayne charge. Sir, quod they, we are well content, for ye bauve ryght well chosen. There all the companyons made theym servyant to Aleyne Roux and to Peter his brother. Whan all that was done, then Geffraye spake agayne, and sayd: Nowe, sirs, ye hauve obeyed to my pleasure, I canne you great thanke; wherefore, sirs, I wyll ye have parte of that ye have holpen to conquere. I say unto you, that in yonder chest that ye se stande yonder, therin is to the some of xxx thousande frankes,—I wyll give them accordynge to my conscyence. Wyll ye all be content to fulfil my testament; how saye ye? Sir, quod they, we be ryght well contente to fulfyl your commaundement. Thane firste, quod he, I wyll and give to the chapell of Saynt George, here in this castell, for the reparacions therof, a thousand and five hundrede franks and I give to my lover, who hath truly served me, two thousand and five hundrede frankes: and also I give to Aleyne Roux, your newe capitayne, foure thousande frankes: also to the varlettes of my chambre I gyve fyve hundrede frankes. To mine offycers I gyve a thousand and five hundred frankes. The rest I gyve and bequeth as I shall shew you. Ye be upon a thyrtie companyons all of one sorte: ye ought to be bretherne, and all of one alyaunce, without debate, ryotte, or stryfe among you. All this that I have shewed you ye shall fynde in yonder cheste. I wyll that ye departe all the resydue equally and truelly bitwene you thyrtie. And if ye be nat thus contente, but that the devylle wyll set debate bytwene you, than beholde yonder is a strong axe, breke up the coffer, and gette it who can. To those words every man ansuered and said, Sir, and dere maister, we are and shall be all of one accorde. Sir, we have so moche loved and douted you, that we will breke no coffer, nor breke no poynt of that ye have ordayned and commanded."—Lord Berner's Froissart.

Note II.

Thou now hast glee-maiden and harp;
Get thee an ape, and trudge the land,
The leader of a juggler band.—St. VI. p. 250.

The jongleurs, or jugglers, as we learn from the elaborate work of the late Mr Strutt, on the sports and pastimes of the people of England, used to call in the aid of various assistants, to render these performances as captivating as possible. The glee-maiden was a necessary attendant. Her duty was tumbling and dancing; and therefore the Anglo-Saxon version of Saint Mark's Gospel states Herodias to have vaulted or tumbled before King Herod. In Scotland, these poor creatures seem, even at a late period, to have been bonds-women to their masters, as appears from a case reported by Fountainhall. "Reid the mountebank pursues Scot of Harden and his lady, for stealing away from him a little girl, called the tumbling-lassie, that danced upon his stage: and he claimed damages, and produced a contract, whereby he bought her from her mother, for 30l. Scots. But we have no slaves in Scotland, and mothers cannot sell their bairns; and physicians attested, the employment of tumbling would kill her; and her joints were now grown stiff, and she declined to return; though she was at least a 'prentice, and so could not run away from her master: yet some cited Moses's Jaw, that if a servant shelter himself with thee, against his master's cruelty, thou shalt surely not deliver him up. The lords, renitente cancellario, assoilzied Harden, on the 27th of January, (1687.)"—Fountainhall's Decisions, vol. I. p 439.[1]

The facetious qualities of the ape soon rendered him an acceptable addition to the strolling band of the jongleur. Ben Jonson, in his splenetic introduction to the comedy of "Bartholomew Fair," is at pains to inform the audience "that he has ne'er a sword and buckler man in his fair, nor a juggler, with a well-educated ape, to come over the chaine for the king of England, and back again for the prince, and sit still on his haunches for the pope and the king of Spaine."

Note III.

That stirring air which peals on high,
O'er Dermid's race our victory,
Strike it.—St. XIV. p. 262.

There are several instances, at least in tradition, of persons so much attached to particular tunes, as to require to hear them on their death-bed. Such an anecdote is mentioned by the late Mr Riddel of Glenriddel, in his collection of Border tunes, respecting an air called the "Dandling of the Bairns," for which a certain Gallovidian laird is said to have evinced this strong mark of partiality. It is popularly told of a famous freebooter, that he composed the tune known by the name of Macpherson's Rant while under sentence of death, and played it at the gallows-tree. Some spirited words have been adapted to it by Burns. A similar story is recounted of a Welch bard, who composed and played on his death-bed the air called Dafyddy Garregg Wen.

But the most curious example is given by Brantome, of a maid of honour at the court of France, entitled, Mademoiselle de Limeuil. "Durant sa maladie, dont e le trespassa, jamais clle ne cessa, ains causa tousjours; car elle estoit fort grande parleuse, brocardeuse, et très-bien et fort à propos, et très-belle avec cela. Quand l'heure de sa fin fut venue, elle fit venir a soy son valet, (ainsi que le filles de la cour en ont chacune un) qui s'appelloit Julien, et scavoit très-bien jouer du violon. 'Julien, luy dit elle, prenez vostre violon et sonnez moy tousjours jusques a ce que me voyez morte (car je m'y en vais,) la défaite des Suisses, et le mieux que vous pourrez, et quand vous serez sur le mot: 'Tout est perdu,' sonnez le par quatre ou cing fois, le plus piteusement que vous pourrez,' ce qui fit l'autre, et elle-mesme luy aidoit de la voix, et quand ce vint tout est perdu,' elle le réïtera par deux fois; et se tournant de l'autre costé du chevet, elle dit à ses compagnes: Tout est perdu à ce coup, et à bon escient;' et ainsi décéda. Voila une morte joyeuse et plaisante. Je tiens ce conte de deux de ses compagnes, dignes de foi, qui virent jouer ce mystere."—Oeuvres de Brantome, III. 507.

The tune to which this fair lady chose to make her final exit was composed on the defeat of the Swiss at Marignano. The burden is quoted by Panurge, in Rabelais, and consists of these words, imitating the jargon of the Swiss, which is a mixture of French and German:

Tout est verlore
La Tintelore,
Tout est verlore bi Got!

Note IV.

Battle of Beal' an Duine.—St. XV. p. 263.

A skirmish actually took place at a pass thus called in the Trosachs, and closed with the remarkable incident mentioned in the text. It was greatly posterior in date to the reign of James V.

"In this roughly-wooded island,[2] the country people secreted their wives and children, and their most valuable effects, from the rapacity of Cromwell's soldiers, during their inroad into this country, in the time of the republic. These invaders, not venturing to ascend by the ladders, along the side of the lake, took a more circuitous road, through the heart of the Trosachs, the most frequented path at that time, which penetrates the wilderness about half way between Binean and the lake, by a tract called Yea-chilleach, or the Old Wife's Bog.

"In one of the defiles of this by-road, the men of the country at that time hung upon the rear of the invading enemy, and shot one of Cromwell's men, whose grave marks the scene of action, and gives name to that pass.[3] In revenge of this insult, the soldiers resolved to plunder the island, to violate the women, and put the children to death. With this brutal intention, one of the party, more expert than the rest, swam towards the island, to fetch the boat to his comrades, which had carried the women to their asylum, and lay moored in one of the creeks. His companions stood on the shore of the main land, in full view of all that was to pass, waiting anxiously for his return with the boat. But, just as the swimmer had got to the nearest point of the island, and was laying hold of a black rock, to get on shore, a heroine, who stood on the very point where he meant to land, hastily snatching a dagger from below her apron, with one stroke severed his head from the body. His party seeing this disaster, and relinquishing all future hope of revenge or conquest, made the best of their way out of their perilous situation. This anazon's great-grandson lives at Bridge of Turk, who, besides others, attests the anecdote."—Sketch of the Scenery near Callender. Stirling, 1806, p. 20. I have only to add to this account, that the heroine's name was Helen Stuart.

Note V.

And Snowdoun's knight is Scotland's king—St. XXVI. p. 283.

This discovery will probably remind the reader of the beautiful Arabian tale of Il Bondocani. Yet the incident is not borrowed from that elegant story, but from Scottish tradition. James V., of whom we are treating, was a monarch whose good and benevolent intentions often rendered his romantic freaks venial, if not respectable, since, from his anxious attention to the interests of the lower and most oppressed class of his subjects, he was, as we have seen, popularly termed the King of the Commons. For the purpose of seeing that justice was regularly administered, and frequently from the less justifiable motive of gallantry, he used to traverse the vicinage of his several palaces in various disguises. The two excellent comic songs, entitled "The Gaberlunzie Man," and "We'll gae nae mair a roving," are said to have been founded upon the success of his amorous adventures when travelling in the disguise of a beggar. The latter is perhaps the best comic ballad in any language.

Another adventure, which had nearly cost James his life, is said to have taken place at the village of Cramond, near Edinburgh, where he had rendered his addresses acceptable to a pretty girl of the lower rank. Four or five persons, whether relations or lovers of his mistress is uncertain, beset the disguised monarch, as he returned from his rendezvous. Naturally gallant, and an admirable master of his weapon, the king took post on the high and narrow bridge over the Almond river, and defended himself bravely with his sword. A peasant, who was threshing in a neighbouring barn, came out upon the noise, and, whether moved by compassion or by natural gallantry, took the weaker side, and laid about with his flail so effectually, as to disperse the assailants, well threshed, even according to the letter. He then conducted the king into his barn, where his guest requested a bason and towel, to remove the stains of the broil. This being procured with difficulty, James employed himself in learning what was the summit of his deliverer's earthly wishes, and found that they were bounded by the desire of possessing, in property, the farm of Braehead, upon which he laboured as a bondsman. The lands chanced to belong to the crown; and James directed him to come to the palace of Holy-Rood, and enquire for the Guidman (i.e. farmer) of Ballangiech, a name by which he was known in his excursions, and which answered to Il Bondocani of Haroun Alraschid. He presented himself accordingly, and found, with due astonishment, that he had saved his monarch's life, and that he was to be gratified with a crown-charter of the lands of Braehead, under the service of presenting an ewer, bason, and towel, for the king to wash his hands, when he shall happen to pass the Bridge of Cramond. This person was ancestor of the Howisons of Braehead, in Mid Lothian, a respectable family, who continue to hold the lands (now passed into the female line) under the same tenure.

Another of James's frolics is thus narrated by Mr Campbell, from the Statistical Account. "Being once benighted when out a hunting, and separated from his attendants, he happened to enter a cottage in the midst of a moor, at the foot of the Ochil hills, near Alloa, where, unknown, he was kindly received. In order to regale their unexpected guest, the gudeman, (i.e. landlord, farmer,) desired the gude-wife to fetch the hen that roosted nearest the cock, which is always the plumpest, for the stranger's supper. The king, highly pleased with his night's lodging and hospitable entertainment, told mine host, at parting, that he should be glad to return his civility, and requested that the first time he came to Stirling he would call at the castle, and enquire for the gude-man of Ballinguich. Donaldson, the landlord, did not fail to call on the gude-man of Ballinguich, when his astonishment at finding that the king had been his guest afforded no small amusement to the merry monarch and his courtiers; and, to carry on the pleasantry, he was thenceforth designated by James with the title of King of the Moors, which name and designation have descended from father to son ever since, and they have continued in possession of the identical spot, the property of Mr Erskine of Mar, till very lately, when this gentleman, with reluctance, turned out the descendant and representative of the King of the Moors, on account of his majesty's invincible indolence, and great dislike to reform or innovation of any kind, although, from the spirited example of his neighbour tenants on the same estate, he is convinced similar exertion would promote his advantage."

The author requests permission yet farther to verify the subject of his poem, by an extract from the genealogical work of Buchanan of Auchmar, upon Scottish surnames.

"This John Buchanan of Auchmar and Arnpryor was afterwards termed King of Kippen,[4] upon the following account. King James V., a very sociable, debonair prince, residing at Stirling, in Buchanan of Arnpryor's time, carriers were very frequently passing along the common road, being near Arnpryor's house, with necessaries for the use of the king's family, and he having some extraordinary occasion, ordered one of these carriers to leave his load at his house, and he would pay him for it; which the carrier refused to do, telling him he was the king's carrier, and his load for his majesty's use; to which Arnpryor seemed to have small regard, compelling the carrier, in the end, to leave his load; telling him, if King James was king of Scotland, he was king of Kippen, so that it was reasonable he should share with his neighbour king in some of these loads, so frequently carried that road. The carrier representing this usage, and telling the story, as Arnpryor spoke it, to some of the king's servants, it came at length to his majesty's ears, who, shortly thereafter, with a few attendants, came to visit his neighbour king, who was in the mean time at dinner. King James having sent a servant to demand access, was denied the same by a tall fellow with a battle-axe, who stood porter at the gate, telling, there could be no access till dinner was over. This answer not satisfying the king, he sent to demand access a second time; upon which he was desired by the porter to desist, otherwise he would find cause to repent his rudeness. His majesty finding this method would not do, desired the porter to tell his master that the good-man of Ballageigh desired to speak with the king of Kippen. The porter telling Arnpryor so much, he, in all humble manner, came and received the king, and having entertained him with much sumptuousness and jollity, became so agreeable to King James, that he allowed him to take so much of any provision he found carrying that road as he had occasion for; and, seeing he made the first visit, desired Arnpryor in a few days to return him a second to Stirling, which he performed, and continued in very much favour with the king, always thereafter being termed King of Kippen while he lived."—Buchanan's Essay upon the Family of Buchanan. Edin. 1775, 8vo. p. 74.

The readers of Ariosto must give credit for the amiable features with which he is represented, since he is generally considered as the prototype of Zerbino, the most interesting hero of the Orlando Furioso.

Note VI.

————————Stirling's Tower
Of yore the name of Snowdoun claims.—St. XXVIII. p. 286.

William of Worcester, who wrote about the middle of the fifteenth century, calls Stirling Castle Snowdoun. Sir David Lindsay bestows the same epithet upon it in his complaint of the Papingo:

Adieu, fair Snawdoun, with thy towers high,
Thy chaple-royal, park, and table round:
May, June, and July, would I dwell in thee,
Were I a man, to hear the birdis sound,
Whilk doth agane thy royal rock rebound.

Mr Chalmers, in his late excellent edition of Sir David Lindsay's works, has refuted the chimerical derivation of Snawdoun from snedding, or cutting. It was probably derived from the romantic legend which connected Stirling with King Arthur, to which the mention of the Round Table gives countenance. The ring within which justs were formerly practised, in the castle park, is still called the Round Table. Snawdoun is the official title of one of the Scottish heralds, whose epithets seem in all countries to have been fantastically adopted from ancient history or romance.

It appears from the preceding note, that the real name by which James was actually distinguished in his private excursions, was the Goodman of Ballenguich; derived from a steep pass leading up to the Castle of Stirling, so called. But the epithet would not have suited poetry, and would besides at once, and prematurely, have announced the plot to many of my countrymen, among whom the traditional stories above mentioned are still current.


The Author has to apologize for the inadvertent appropriation of a whole line from the tragedy of Douglas,

"I hold the first who strikes, my foe."

Printed by Jas. Ballantyne & Co.

  1. Though less to my purpose, I cannot help noticing a circumstance respecting another of this Mr Reid's attendants, which occurred during James II's zeal for catholic proselytism, and is told by Fountainhall, with dry Scottish irony. "January 17th, 1687—Reid the mountebank is received into the popish church, and one of his blackamoors was persuaded to accept of baptism from the popish priests, and to turn Christian papist; which was a great trophy: he was called James, after the king and chancellor, and the apostle James,"—Ibid, p. 440.
  2. That at the eastern extremity of Loch Katrine, so often mentioned in the text.
  3. Beallach an duine.
  4. A small district of Perthshire.