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Sigillum Nigelli de Campo bello Sigillum Morni de Musco Campo.
25. Nor for De Argentine alone,
Through Ninian's church these torches shone, And rose the death-prayer's awful tone.-P. 284. The remarkable circumstances attending the death of De Argentine have been already noticed, (p. 291.) Besides this renowned warrior, there fell many representatives of the noblest houses in England, which never sustained a more bloody and disastrous defeat. Barbour says that two hundred pairs of gilded spurs were taken from the field of battle; and that some were left the author can bear witness, who has in his possession a curious antique spur, dug up in the morass not long since.
"It was forsooth a great ferlie,
To see samyn sa fele dead lie.
Two hundred spurs that were reid†
I am now to take my leave of Barbour, not without a sincere wish that the public may encourage the undertaking of my friend, Dr. Jamieson, who has issued proposals for publishing an accurate edition of his poem, and of Blind Harry's Wallace. The only good edition of the Bruce was published by Mr. Pinkerton, in 3 vols., in 1790; and the learned editor having had no personal access to consult the manuscript, it is not without errors; and it has besides become scarce. Of WalJace there is no tolerable edition; yet these two poems do no small honour to the early state of Scottish poetry, and the Bruce is justly regarded as containing authentic historical facts.
The following list of the slain at Bannockburn, extracted from the continuator of Trivet's Annals, will show the extent of the national calamity. "LIST OF THE SLAIN. Barons and knight ban- Simon Ward, Robert de Felton, Michael Poyning, Edmund Maulley.
Gilbert de Clare, earl of
Barons and baronets.
Lord John Giffard,
John de Wevelmton,
Knights. Henry de Boun, Thomas de Ufford, John de Elsingfelde, John de Harcourt, Walter de Hakelut, Philip de Courtenay, Hugo de Scales, Radulph de Beauchamp, John de Penbrigge, With thirty-three others of the same rank, not named.
Few personages are so renowned in tradition as Thomas of Ercildoun, known by the appellation
Thomas de Berkely,
Thomas the Rhymer.
IN THREE PARTS.
+ Red, or gilded. Both these works have now been published, in a splendid form, and with extreme accuracy, by the learned and reverend doctor.
Thomas de Ferrers,
Radulph and Thomas
* Supposed Clinton.
John and Nicholas de
Thomas and Odo Lele
Robert Beaupel, (the son,)
John Mautrevers, (the
And in sum, there were there slain, along with the earl of Gloucester, forty-two barons and bannerets. The number of earls, barons, and bannerets made captive, was twenty-two, and sixty-eight knights. Many clerks and esquires were also there slain or taken. Roger de Northburge, keeper of the king's signet, (custos targiæ domini regis,) was made prisoner with his two clerks, Roger de Wakenfelde and Thomas de Swinton, upon which the king caused a seal to be made, and entitled it his privy seal, to distinguish the same from the signet so lost. The earl of Hereford was exchanged against Bruce's queen, who had been detained in captivity ever since the year 1506. The targia, or signet, was restored to England through the intercession of Ralph de Monthermer, ancestor of lord Moira, who is said to have found favour in the eyes of the Scottish king." "-Continuation of Trivet's Annals, Hall's edit. Oxford, 1712, vol. ií, p. 14.
Such were the immediate consequences of the field of Bannockburn. Its more remote effects, in completely establishing the national independence of Scotland, afford a boundless field for speculation.
son,) William and William Giffard.
And thirty-four other knights, not named by the historian.
of The Rhymer. Uniting, or supposed to unite, in his person, the powers of poetical composition, and of vaticination, his memory, even after the lapse of five hundred years, is regarded with veneration by his countrymen. To give any thing like a certain history of this remarkable man, would be indeed
difficult; but the curious may derive some satis-words) the uncertainty of antiquity, must have af faction from the particulars here brought together. ready involved his character and writings. In a It is agreed, on all hands, that the residence, charter of Peter de Haga de Bemersyde, which and probably the birth-place, of this ancient bard, unfortunately wants a date, the Rhymer, a near was Ercildoun, a village situated upon the Leader, neighbour, and, if we may trust tradition, a friend two miles above its junction with the Tweed. of the family, appears as a witness.—Chartulary of The ruins of an ancient tower are still pointed out Melrose. as the Rhymer's castle. The uniform tradition It cannot be doubted, that Thomas of Ercildoun bears, that his surname was Lermont, or Lear-was a remarkable and important person in his own mont; and that the appellation of The Rhymer was time, since, very shortly after his death, we find conferred on him in consequence of his poetical him celebrated as a prophet, and as a poet. Whecompositions. There remains, nevertheless, some ther he himself made any pretensions to the first doubt upon this subject. In a charter, which is of those characters, or whether it was gratuitously subjoined at length, the son of our poet designs conferred upon him by the credulity of posterity, himself, "Thomas of Ercildoun, son and heir of it seems difficult to decide. If we may believe Thomas Rymour of Ercildoun," which seems to Mackenzie, Learmont only versified the propheimply, that the father did not bear the hereditary cies delivered by Eliza, an inspired nun, of a con name of Learmont; or, at least, was better known vent at Haddington. But of this there seems not and distinguished by the epithet which he had ac- to be the most distant proof. On the contrary, all quired by his personal accomplishments. I must, ancient authors, who quote the Rhymer's prophehowever, remark, that, down to a very late period, cies, uniformly suppose them to have been emitted the practice of distinguishing the parties, even in by himself. Thus, in Winton's Chronicle, formal writings, by the epithets which had been bestowed on them from personal circumstances, instead of the proper surnames of their families, was common, and indeed necessary, among the border clans. So early as the end of the thirteenth century, when surnames were hardly introduced There could have been no ferly, (marvel,) in Win in Scotland, this custom must have been universal. ton's eyes at least, how Thomas came by his There is, therefore, nothing inconsistent in sup-knowledge of future events, had he ever heard of posing our poet's name to have been actually Lear- the inspired nun of Haddington; which, it cannot mont, although, in this charter, he is distinguish-be doubted, would have been a solution of the ed by the popular appellation of The Rhymer. mystery, much to the taste of the prior of Lochlevin.
Book viii, chap. 32.
Whatever doubts, however, the learned might have, as to the source of the Rhymer's prophetic skill, the vulgar had no hesitation to aser the whole to the intercourse between the bard and the queen of Faery. The popular tale bears, that Thomas was carried off, at an early age, to the Fairy Land, where he acquired all the knowledge which made
We are better able to ascertain the period at which Thomas of Ercildoun lived; being the latter end of the thirteenth century. I am inclined to place his death a little farther back than Mr. Pinkerton, who supposes that he was alive in 1300; (List of Scottish Poets:) which is hardly, I think, consistent with the charter already quoted, by which his son, in 1299, for himself and his heirs, conveys to the convent of the Trinity of Soltre, the him afterwards so famous. After seven years retenement which he possessed by inheritance (he-sidence he was permitted to return to the earth, reditarie) in Ercildoun, with all claim which he, to enlighten and astonish his countrymen by his or his predecessors, could pretend thereto. From prophetic powers; still, however, remaining bound this we may infer, that the Rhymer was now dead; to return to his royal mistress, when she should since we find his son disposing of the family pro-intimate her pleasure. Accordingly, while Thoperty. Still, however, the argument of the learn-mas was making merry with his friends in the ed historian will remain unimpeached, as to the tower of Ercildoun, a person came running in, and time of the poet's birth. For if, as we learn from told, with marks of fear and astonishment, that a Barbour,t his prophecies were held in reputation hart and hind had left the neighbouring forest, and as early as 1306, when Bruce slew the Red Comyn, were composedly and slowly parading the street the sanctity, and (let me add to Mr. Pinkerton's of the village. The prophet instantly arose, left From the Chartulary of the Trinity House of Soltre, his habitation, and followed the wonderful animals Advocates' Library, W. 4. 14. to the forest, whence he was never seen to return. ERSYLTON. According to the popular belief, he still "drees
Omnibus has literas visuris vel audituris Thomas de Ercildoun filius et heres Thomæ Rymour de Ercildoun salutem in Domino. Noveritis me per fustem et baculum in pleno judicio resignasse ac per presentes quietem clamasse pro me et heredibus meis Magistro domus Sanctæ Trinitatis de Soltre et fratribus ejusdem domus totam terram meam cum omnibus pertinentibus suis quam in tenemento de Ercildoun hereditarie tenui renunciando de toto pro me et heredibus meis omni jure et clameo quæ ego seu antecessores mei in eadem terra alioque tempore de perpetuo habuimus sive de futuro habere possumus. In cujus rei testimonio presentibus his sigillum meum apposui data apud Ercildoun die Martis proximo post festum Sanctorum Apostolorum Symonis et Jude Anno Domini Millesimo cc Nonagesimo Nono.
The lines alluded to are these:
I hope that Tomas's prophesie,
Of this fycht quilum spak Thomas
Thare suld meit stalwarthly, starke, and sterne.
Henry, the minstrel, who introduces Thomas into the history of Wallace, expresses the same doubt as to the source of his prophetic knowledge.
Thomas Rhymer into the faile was than
The people deemed of wit he meikle can,
"True Thomas, ye maun go wi' me;
his weird” in Fairy Land, and is expected one day" Now, ye maun go wi' me,” she said;
The steed flew swifter than the wind.
The steed gaed swifter than the wind:
And living land was left behind.
It seemed to the author unpardonable to dismiss a person, so important in border tradition as the Rhymer, without some farther notice than a simple commentary upon the following ballad. It is given from a copy, obtained from a lady, residing not far from Ercildoun, corrected and enlarged by one in Mrs. Brown's MSS. The former copy, however, as might be expected, is far more minute as to local description.' To this old tale the author has ventured to add a second part, consisting of a kind of cento, from the printed prophecies vulgarly ascribed to the Rhymer; and a third part, entirely modern, founded upon the tradition of his having returned with the hart and hind to the land of Faerie. To make his peace with the more severe antiquaries, the author has prefixed to the second part some remarks on Learmont's prophe-O cies.
TRUE Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.
And louted low down to his knee, "All hail, thou mighty queen of heaven! For thy peer on earth I never did see.” "O no, O no, Thomas," she said;
"That name does not belang to me; I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
That am hither come to visit thee. "Harp and carp, Thomas," she said;
"Harp and carp along with me; And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your body I will be." "Betide me weal, betide me wo,
That weird shall never danton me. Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Eildon tree.
The author has been sace informed, by a most eminent antiquary, that there is in existence a MS. copy of this baliad, of very considerable antiquity, of which he hopes to avail himself on some future occasion.
†That weird,c. That destiny shall never frighten me.
'Light down, light down, now, true Thomas,
And I will show you ferlies three.
So thick beset with thorns and briers?
Though after it but few inquires.
That lies across that lily leven?
Though some call it the road to heaven.
That winds about the fernie brae?
Where thou and I this night maun gae:
And they waded through rivers aboon the knee, And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.
It was mirk, mirk night, and there was nae stern light,
And they waded through red blude to the knee, For a' the blude that's shed on earth,
Rins through the springs o' that countrie.
Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu'd an apple frae a tree;1
It will give thee the tongue that can never lie."
At fair or tryst, where I may be.
"I dought neither speak to prince or peer,
He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green;
The prophecies, ascribed to Thomas of Ereildoun, have been the principal means of securing to him remembrance" amongst the sons of his people." The author of Sir Tristrem would long go have joined, in the vale of oblivion," Clerk of Tranent, who wrote the adventures of Schir Gawain," if, by good hap, the same current of
ideas respecting antiquity, which causes Virgil to for the encouragement of the English invaders,
"When man is mad a kyng of a capped man;
When Bambourne is donged with dede men;
colt of ten markes;
When prude(pride) prikes and pees is leyd in prisoun;
When Scottes flen so faste, that for faute of shep, hy
When shal this be?
Nonther in thine tyme ne in mine;
Pinkerton's Poems, from Maitland's MSS. ing from Harl. Lib. 2253. f. 127. As I have never seen the MS. from which Mr. Pinkerton makes this extract, and as the date of This is a true talking that Thomas of tells, it is fixed by him (certainly one of the most able The hare shall hirple on the hard (hearth) stane. antiquaries of our age) to the reign of Edward I Spottiswoode, an honest, but credulous histoor II, it is with great diffidence that 1 hazard a rian, seems to have been a firm believer in the contrary opinion. There can, however, I believe, authenticity of the prophetic wares, vended in the be little doubt, that these prophetic verses are a name of Thomas of Ercildoun. "The prophecies, forgery, and not the production of our Thomas yet extant in Scottish rhymes, whereupon he was the Rhymer. But I am inclined to believe them commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, may justly of a later date than the reign of Edward I or II. be admired; having foretold, so many ages before, The gallant defence of the castle of Dunbar, by the union of England and Scotland in the ninth Black Agnes, took place in the year 1337. The degree of the Bruce's blood, with the succession Rhymer died previous to the year 1299 (see the of Bruce himself to the crown, being yet a child, charter, by his son, in the introduction to the and other divers particulars, which the event hath foregoing ballad.) It seems, therefore, very im- ratified and made good. Boethius, in his story, probable, that the countess of Dunbar could ever relateth his prediction of king Alexander's death, have an opportunity of consulting Thomas the and that he did foretel the same to the earl of Rhymer, since that would infer that she was mar-March, the day before it fell out; saying, that ried, or at least engaged in state matters, previous before the next day at noon, such a tempest should to 1299; whereas, she is described as a young, or blow, as Scotland had not felt for many years bea middle-aged woman, at the period of her being fore.' The next morning, the day being clear, and beseiged in the fortress, which she so well defend-no change appearing in the air, the nobleman did ed. If the editor might indulge a conjecture, he challenge Thomas of his saying, calling him an would suppose, that the prophecy was contrived impostor. He replied, that noon was not yet passed
The hare sall kittle (litter) on my hearth-stane, And there will never be a laird Learmont again. The first of these lines is obviously borrowed from that in the MS. of the Harl. library. When hares kendles o' the her'ston"-an emphatic imquot-age of desolation. It is also inaccurately quoted in the prophecy of Waldhave, published by Andro Hart, 1613:
About which time, a post came to advertise the earl of the king his sudden death. Then,' said Thomas, 'this is the tempest I foretold; and so shall it prove to Scotland. Whence, or how, he had this knowledge, can hardly be affirmed; but sure it is, that he did divine and answer truly of many things to come."-Spottiswoode, p. 47. Besides that notable voucher, master Hector Boece, the good archbishop might, had he been so minded, have referred to Fordun for the prophecy of king Alexander's death. That historian calls our bard "ruralis ille vates."-Fordun, lib. x, cap. 40.
What Spottiswoode calls "the prophecies extant in Scottish rhyme," are the metrical predictions ascribed to the prophet of Ercildoun, which, with many other compositions of the same nature, bearing the names of Bede, Merlin, Gildas, and other approved soothsayers, are contained in one small volume, published by Andro Hart, at Edinburgh, 1615. The late excellent lord Hailes made these compositions the subject of a dissertation, published in his Remarks on the History of Scotland. His attention is chiefly directed to the celebrated prophecy of our bard, mentioned by bishop Spottiswoode, bearing, that the crowns of England and Scotland should be united in the person of a king, son of a French queen, and related to Bruce in the ninth degree. Lord Hailes plainly proves, that this prophecy is perverted from its original purpose, in order to apply it to the succession of James VI. The ground-work of the forgery is to be found in the prophecies of Berlington, contained in the same collection, and runs thus:
The prophecy, put in the name of our Thomas the Rhymer, as it stands in Hart's book, refers to a later period. The narrator meets the Rhymer upon a land, beside a lee, who shows him many emblematical visions, described in no mean strain of poetry. They chiefly relate to the fields of Flodden and Pinkie, to the national distress which followed these defeats, and to future halcyon days, which are promised to Scotland. One quotation or two will be sufficient to establish this fully:
"Our Scottish king sal come ful keene,
A feddered arrow sharp, I weene,
For God's luve, turn you againe,
Who can doubt, for a moment, that this refers to the battle of Flodden, and to the popular reports concerning the doubtful fate of James IV? Alluof George Douglas, heir apparent of Angus, who sion is immediately afterwards made to the death fought and fell with his sovereign:
"The sternes three that day shall die, That bears the harte in silver sheen." The well known arms of the Douglas family are the heart and three stars. In another place, the battle of Pinkie is expressly mentioned by name:
"At Pinken Cluch there shall be spilt
There shall the bear lose the guilt,
To the end of all this allegorical and mystical rhapsody is interpolated, in the later edition by Andro Hart, a new edition of Be gton's verses, before quoted, altered and manufactured so as to bear reference to the accession of James VI, which had just then taken place. The insertion is made, with a peculiar degree of awkwardness, betwixt a question put by the narrator, concerning the name and abode of the person who showed him these strange matters, and the answer of the prophet to that question;
"Then to the Bairne could I say,
Where dwells thou, or in what countrie?
A French queene shall beare the sonne,
Which of the Bruce's blood shall come,
As neere as the nint degree:
I frained fast what was his name,
There cannot be any doubt, that this prophecy was intended to excite the confidence of the Scot tish nation in the duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, who arrived from France in 1515, two years after the death of James IV, in the fatal field of Flodden. The regent was descended of Bruce by the left, i. e. by the female side, within the ninth degree. His mother was daughter to the earl of Boulogne, his father banished from his country-union of the crowns. "fleemit of fair Scotland." His arrival must necessarily be by sea, and his landing was expected at Aberlady, in the Frith of Forth. He was a duke's son, dubbed knight; and nine years from 1513 are allowed him, by the pretended prophet, for the accomplishment of the salvation of his country, and the exaltation of Scotland over her sister and rival. All this was a pious fraud, to excite the confidence and spirit of the country.
Where that he came, from what country.]
In Erslingtoun I dwell at hame,
There is surely no one, who will not conclude, with lord Hailes, that the eight lines, inclosed in brackets, are a clumsy interpolation, borrowed from Berlington, with such alterations as might render the supposed prophecy applicable to the
While we are on this subject, it may be proper briefly to notice the scope of some of the other predictions in Hart's collection. As the prophecy of Berlington was intended to raise the spirits of the nation, during the regency of Albany, so those of Sybilla and Eltraine refer to that of the earl of Arran, afterwards duke of Chatelherault, during the minority of Mary, a period of similar calamity This is obvious from the following verses: