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"Take a thousand in calculation,
under three various disguises, inquiring each time in what manner the person should die. To the first demand Merlin answered, the party should perish by a fall from a rock; to the second, that he should die by a tree; and to the third, that he should be drowned. The youth perished, while hunting, in the mode imputed by Fordun to Merlin himself.
Fordun, contrary to the Welch authorities, confounds this person with the Merlin of Arthur; but concludes by informing us, that many believed him
The date, above hinted at, seems to be 1549, to be a different person. The grave of Merlin is pointwhen the Scottish regent, by means of some suc-ed out at Drummelzier, in Tweeddale, beneath an cours derived from France was endeavouring to aged thorn-tree. On the east side of the churchrepair the consequences of the fatal battle of Pin-yard, the brook, called Pausayl, falls into the kie. Allusion is made to the supply given to the Tweed; and the following prophecy is said to have Moldwarte (England) by the fained hart" (the been current concerning their union:
earl of Angus.) The regent is described by his bearing the antelope; large supplies are promised from France, and complete conquest predicted to Scotland and her allies. Thus was the same hackneyed stratagem repeated, whenever the interest of the rulers appeared to stand in need of it. The regent was not, indeed, till after this period, created duke of Chatelherault; but that honour was the object of his hopes and expectations.
The name of our renowned soothsayer is liberally used as an authority, throughout all the prophecies, published by Andro Hart. Besides those expressly put in his name, Gildas, another assum-ners similar to his own. ed personage, is supposed to derive his knowledge from him; for he concludes thus:
"True Thomas me told in a troublesome time In a harvest morn at Eldoun hills."
The Prophecy of Gildas. In the prophecy of Berlington, already quoted, we are told,
When Tweed and Pausayl join at Merlin's grave, Scotland and England shall one monarch have. On the day of the coronation of James VI, the Tweed accordingly overflowed, and joined the Pausay at the prophet's grave.-Pennycuick's History of Tweeddale, p. 26. These circumstances would seem to infer a communication betwixt the south-west of Scotland and Wales, of a nature peculiarly intimate; for I presume that Merlin would retain sense enough to choose, for the scene of his wanderings, a country having a language and man
Sude perfossus, lapide percussus et unda, Hæc tria Merlinum fertur inire necem, Sicque ruit, mersusque fuit lignoque pependit, Et fecit vatem per terna pericula verum. But, in a metrical history of Merlin of Caledonia, compiled by Geoffrey of Monmouth, from the traditions of the Welch bards, this mode of death is attributed to a page, whom Merlin's sister, desirous to convict the prophet of falsehood, because he had betrayed her intrigues, introduced to him,
Be this as it may, the memory of Merlin Sylvester, or the Wild, was fresh among the Scots during the reign of James V. Waldhave, under whose name a set of prophecies was published, describes himself as lying upon Lomond Law: he hears a voice, which bids him stand to his defence; he looks around, and beholds a flock of hares and foxest pursued over
I do not know whether the person here meant be Waldhave, an abbot of Melrose, who died in the odour of sanctity, about 1160.
The strange occupation, in which Waldhave beholds Merlin engaged, derives some illustration from a curi
"Marvellous Merlin, that many men of tells, And Thomas's sayings con es all at once." While I am upon the subject of these prophecies, may I be permitted to call the attention of antiquaries to Merdwynn Wyllt, or Merlin the Wild, in whose name, and by no means in that of Am-ous passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth's life of Mer'in, above quoted. The poem, after narrating that the probrose Merlin, the friend of Arthur, the Scottish phet had fled to the forests in a state of distraction, pro prophecies are issued. That this personage resid-ceeds to mention, that, looking upon the stars one clear ed at Drummelzier, and roamed, like a second evening, he discerned, from his astronomical knowledge, had the next Nebuchadnezzar, the woods of Tweeddale, in re-morning, to take another husband. As he had presaged morse for the death of his nephew, we learn from to her that this would happen, and had promised her a Fordun. In the Scotichronicon, lib. iii, cap. 31, is nuptial gift (cautioning her, however, to keep the bridean account of an interview betwixt St. Kentigern groom out of his sight,) he now resolved to make good his and Merlin, then in this distracted and miserable word. Accordingly, he collected all the stags and lesser in his neighbourhood, and, having seated himself on state. He is said to have been called Lailoken, a buck, drove the herd before him to the capital of Cumfrom his mode of life. On being commanded by berland, where Guendolen resided. But her lover's eurithe saint to give an account of himself, he says, osity leading him to inspect too nearly this extraordinary that the penance which he performs was imposed cavalcade, Merlin's rage was awakened, and he slew him, with the stroke of an antler of the stag. The original rual on him by a voice from heaven, during a bloody thus: contest betwixt Lidel and Carwanolow, of which battle he had been the cause. According to his own prediction, he perished at once by wood, earth, and water: for, being pursued with stones by the rustics, he fell from a rock into the river Tweed, and was transfixed by a sharp stake, fixed there for the purpose of extending a fishing net:
Dixerat: et silvas et saltus circuit omnes,
the mountains by a savage figure, to whom he can measure is alliterative, and somewhat similar to hardly give the name of man. At the sight of that of Pierce Plowman's Visions; a circumstance Waldhave, the apparition leaves the objects of his which might entitle us to ascribe to some of them pursuit and assaults him with a club. Waldhave an earlier date than the reign of James V, did we defends himself with his sword, throws the savage not know that sir Galloran of Galloway, and Gato the earth, and refuses to let him arise, till he waine and Gologras, two romances rendered alswears by the law and lead he lives upon, "to most unintelligible by the extremity of affected do him no harm." This done, he permits him to alliteration, are perhaps not prior to that period. arise, and marvels at his strange appearance: Indeed, although we may allow, that during much “He was formed like a freike (man) all his four quarters; celebrated soothsayers, have been current in Scotearlier times, prophecies, under the names of those And then his chin and his face haired so thick, With haire growing so grime, fearful to see.” land, yet those published by Hart have obviously He answers briefly to Waldhave's inquiry con- been so often vamped and re-vamped, to serve the cerning his name and nature, that he "drees his political purposes of different periods, that it may weird," i. e. does penance, in that wood; and be shrewdly suspected, that, as in the case of sir having hinted that questions as to his own state John Cutler's transmigrated stockings, very little are offensive, he pours forth an obscure rhapsody of the original materials now remains. I cannot concerning futurity, and concludes, refrain from indulging any readers with the publisher's title to the last prophecy; as it contains certain curious information concerning the queen of Sheba, who is identified with the Cumaan sybil: -"Here followeth a prophecie, pronounced by a noble queene and matron, called Sybilla, Regina Austri, that came to Solomon. Through the which she compiled four bookes, at the instance and request of the said king Sol, and other divers: and the fourth book was directed to a noble king, called Baldwine, king of the broad isle of Britain; in the which she maketh mention of two noble princes and emperours, the which is called Leones. How these two shall subdue, and overcome all earthlie princes to their diademe and crowne, and also be glorified and crowned in the heaven among saints. The first of these two is Constantinus Magnus; that was Leprosus, the son of saint Helene, that found the croce. The second is the
"When laddes weddeth lovedies."
Another prophecy of Merlin seems to have been current about the time of the regent Morton's ex-sixt king of the name of Steward of Scotland, the ecution. When that nobleman was committed to which is our most noble king." With such editors the charge of his accuser, captain James Stewart, and commentators, what wonder that the text benewly created earl of Arran, to be conducted to came unintelligible, even beyond the usual oracuhis trial at Edinburgh, Spottiswoode says that he lar obscurity of prediction? asked, "Who was earl of Arran?' and being answered that captain James was the man, after a short pause he said, And is it so? I know then what I may look for!' meaning, as was thought, that the old prophecy of the falling of the heart by the mouth of Arran,' should then be fulfilled. Whether this was his mind or not, it is not known; but some spared not, at the time when the Hamiltons were banished, in which business he was held too earnest, to say, that he stood in fear of this prediction, and went that course only to disappoint it. But, if so it was, he did find himself now deluded; for he fell by the mouth of another Arran than he imagined."-Spottiswoode, p. 313. The fatal words alluded to seem to be these in the phecy of Merlin:
If there still remain, therefore, among these predictions, any verses having a claim to real antiquity, it seems now impossible to discover them from those which are comparatively modern. Nevertheless, as there are to be found, in these compositions, some uncommonly wild and masculine expressions, the editor has been induced to throw a few passages together, into the sort of ballad to which this disquisition is prefixed. It would, indeed, have been no difficult matter for him, by a judicious selection, to have excited, in favour of Thomas of Ercildoun, a share of the admiration bestowed by sundry wise persons upon Mass Robert Fleming. For example: pro-"But then the lilye shall be loused when they least think; Then clear king's blood shal quake for fear of death; For churls shal chop off heads of their chief beirns, And carfe of the crowns that Christ hath appointed.
"Go musing upon Merling if thou wilt; For I mean no more man at this time."" This is exactly similar to the meeting betwixt Merlin and Kentigern in Fordun. These prophecies of Merlin seem to have been in request in the minority of James V; for among the amusements with which sir David Lindesay diverted that prince during his infancy, are
"The prophecies of Rymer, Bede, and Merlin." Sir David Lindsay's Epistle to the King. And we find, in Waldhave, at least one allusion to the very ancient prophecy, addressed to the countess of Dunbar;
"This is a true token that Thomas of tells,
"In the mouth of Arrane a selcouth shall fall,
To return from these desultory remarks, into which the editor has been led by the celebrated name of Merlin, the style of all these prophecies, published by Hart, is very much the same. The
Ocius inde suum, talorum verbere, cervum Diffugiens egit, silvasque redire paravit." For a perusal of this curious poem, accurately copied from a MS. in the Cotton library, nearly coeval with the author, I was indebted to my learned friend, the late Mr. Ritson. There is an excellent paraphrase of it in the curious and entertaining Specimens of Early English Romances, published by Mr. Ellis.
The heart was the cognizance of Morton.
Hart's collection of prophecies has been fre- Says quently printed within the century, probably to favour the pretensions of the unfortunate family of Says Stuart. For the prophetic renown of Gildas and Bede, see Fordun, lib. 3.
Before leaving the subject of Thomas's predic-"Light down, light down, Corspatrick brave, And I will show thee curses three, tions, it may be noticed, that sundry rhymes, pass- Shall gar fair Scotland greet and grane, ing for his propleuc effusions, are still current And change the green to the black livery. among the vulgar. Thus, he is said to have prophesied of the very ancient family of Haig of Be-"A storm shall roar, this very hour, merside, From Rosse's hills to Solway sea.' "Ye lied, ye lied, ye warlock hoar!
For the sun shines sweet on fauld and lea."
"Betide, betide, whate'er betide,
"At Eildon tree if you shall be,
A brigg ower Tweed you there may see."
"Well met, well met, true Thomas! Some uncouth ferlies show to me."
The grandfather of the present proprietor of Bemerside had twelve daughters, before his lady brought him a male heir. The common people trembled for the credit of their favourite soothsayer. The late Mr. Haig was at length born,«The neist curse lights on Branxton hills; and their belief in the prophecy confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt.
The spot in question commands an extensive prospect of the course of the river; and it was easy to foresee, that when the country should become in the least degree improved, a bridge would be somewhere thrown over the stream. In fact, you now see no less than three bridges from that elevated situation.
"Christ thee save, Corspatriek brave! Thrice welcome, good Dunbar, to me!
He put his hand on the earlie's head;
Another memorable prophecy bore, that the old kirk of Kelso, constructed out of the ruins of the abbey, should fall when "at the fullest." At a very crowded sermon, about thirty years ago, a piece of lime fell from the roof of the church. The alarm, for the fulfilment of the words of the seer, became universal; and happy were they who were nearest the door of the predestined edifice. The church was in consequence deserted, and has ne-For ver since had an opportunity of tumbling upon a full congregation. I hope, for the sake of a beautiful specimen of Saxo-Gothic architecture, that the accomplishment of this prophecy is far distant.
Another prediction, ascribed to the Rhymer, seems to have been founded on that sort of insight into futurity, possessed by most men of a sound and combining judgment. It runs thus:
ALTERED FROM ANCIENT PROPHECIES.
WHEN seven years were come and gane,
Like one awakened from a dream.
He saw the flash of armour flee,
Come riding down by the Eildon tree.
By Flodden's high and heathery side,
And chieftains throng wi' mickle pride.
The ruddy lion beareth he;
Shall make him wink and warre to see.
And wo and wonder ye sall sec;
Where yon rank river meets the sea.
And the libbards bear it clean away;
At Pinkyn Cleuch there shall be spilt'
Some blessing show thou now to me,
And find their arrows lack the head.
Corspatrick (Comes Patrick,) earl of March, but more commonly taking his title from his castle of Dunbar, acted a noted part during the wars of Edward I in Scotland. As Thomas of Ercildoun is said to have delivered to him his famous pro-"Beside that brigg, out-ower that burn, phecy of king Alexander's death, the author has chosen to introduce him into the following ballad. All the prophetic verses are selected from Hart's publication.
Where the water biekereth bright and sheen, Shall many a falling courser spurn,
And knights shall die in battle keen.
The libbards there shall lose the gree;
And drink the Saxon blood sae free.
So thick the corses there shall be."
"But tell me now," said brave Dunbar, "True Thomas, tell now unto me, What man shall rule the isle Britain,
Even from the north to the southern sea?" "A French queen shall bear the son, Shall rule all Britain to the sea: He of the Bruce's blood shall come, As near as in the ninth degree. "The waters worship shall his race,
Likewise the waves of the farthest sea; For they shall ride ower ocean wide, With hempen bridles, and horse of tree."
THOMAS THE RHYMER was renowned among his contemporaries, as the author of the celebrated romance of Sir Tristrem. Of this once admired poem only one copy is known to exist, which is in the Advocates' Library. The author, in 1804, published a small edition of this curious work, which, if it does not revive the reputation of the bard of Erceldoune, is at least the earliest specimen of Scottish poetry hitherto published. Some account of this romance has already been given to the world in Mr. Ellis's Specimens of Ancient Poetry, vol. i, p. 165, iii, p. 410; a work, to which our predecessors and our posterity are alike obliged; the former, for the preservation of the best selected examples of their poetical taste; and the latter, for a history of the English language, which will only cease to be interesting with the existence of our mother-tongue, and all that genius and learning have recorded in it. It is sufficient here to mention, that, so great was the reputation of the romance of Sir Tristrem, that few were thought| capable of reciting it after the manner of the author;-a circumstance alluded to by Robert de Brune, the annalist:
"I see in song, in sedgeyng tale, Of Erceldoun, and of Kendale.
Now thame says as they thame wroght,
just quoted, which is a work of much higher antiquity.
If men it said as made Thomas," &c. It appears, from a very curious MS. of the thirteenth century, penes Mr. Douce of London, containing a French metrical romance of Sir Tristrem, that the work of our Thomas the Rhymer was known, and referred to, by the minstrels of Normandy and Bretagne. Having arrived at a part of the romance, where reciters were wont to differ in the mode of telling the story, the French bard expressly cites the authority of the poet of Erceldoune:
"Plusurs de nos granter ne volent,
The tale of Sir Tristrem, as narrated in the Edinburgh MS., is totally different from the voluminous romance in prose, originally compiled on the same subject by Rusticien de Puise, and analysed by M. de Tressan; but agrees in every assential particular with the metrical performance
The reader is here presented, from an old, and unfortunately an imperfect MS., with the undoubted original of Thomas the Rhymer's intrigue with the queen of Faery. It will afford great amusement to those, who would study the nature of traditional poetry, and the changes effected by oral tradition, to compare this ancient romance with the foregoing ballad. The same incidents are narrated, even the expression is often the same, yet the poems are as different in appearance, as if the older tale had been regularly and systematically modernized by a poet of the present day.
Incipit Prophesia Thome de Erseldoun.
In a lande as I was lent,
In the gryking of the day,
Ay alone as I went,
In Huntle bankys me for to play: