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author of Sir Tristrem would long ago have joined, in the vale of oblivion, "Clerk of Tranent, who wrote the adventure of Schir Gawain," if, by good hap, the same current of ideas respecting antiquity, which causes Virgil to be regarded as a magician by the Lazaroni of Naples, had not exalted the bard of Ercildoune to the prophetic character. Perhaps, indeed, te himself affected it during his life. We know, at least, for certain, that a belief in his supernatural knowledge was current soon after his death. His prophecies are alluded to by Barbour, by Winton, and by Henry the Minstrel, or Blind Harry, as he is usually termed. None of these authors, however, give the words of any of the Rhymer's vaticinations, but merely narrate, historically, his having predicted the events of which they speak. The earliest of the prophecies ascribed to him, which is now extant, is quoted by Mr. Pinkerton from a MS. It is supposed to be a response from Thomas of Ercildoune to a question from the heroic Countess of March, renowned for the defence of the Castle of Dunbar against the English, and termed, in the familiar dialect of her time, Black Agnes of Dunbar. This prophecy is remarkable, in so far as it bears very little resemblance to any verses published in the printed copy of the Rhymer's supposed prophecies. The verses are as follows :

"La Countesse de Donbar demande a Thomas de Essedoune quant la guerre d'Escoce prendreit fyn. Eyl l'a repoundy et dyt.

When man is mad a kyng of a capped man;

When man is levere other mones thyng than his owen;
When londe thouys forest, ant forest is felde;
When hares kendles o' the her'stane;
When Wyt and Wille werres togedere;

When mon makes stables of kyrkes, and steles castels with


When Rokesboroughe nys no burgh ant market is at Forwyleye;

When Bambourne is donged with dede men;

When men ledes men in ropes to buyen and to sellen; When a quarter of whaty whete is chaunged for a colt of ten markes;

When prude (pride) prikes and pees is leyd in prisoun; When a Scot ne me hymn hude ase hare in forme that the English ne shall hym fynde;

When rycht ant wronge astente the togedere;

When laddes weddeth lovedies;

duction of our Thomas the Rhymer. But I am v clined to believe them of a later date than the reign of Edward I. or II.

The gallant defence of the castle of Dunbar, by Black Agnes, took place in the year 1337. The Rhymer died previous to the year 1299 (see the charter, by his son, in the Appendix.) It seems, therefore, very improbable, that the Countess of Dunbar could ever have an opportunity of consulting Thomas the Rhymer, since that would infer that she was married, or at least engaged in state matters, previous to 1299; whereas she is described as a young, or a middle-aged woman, at the period of her being besieged in the fortress, which she so well defended. If the editor might indulge a conjecture, he would suppose, that the prophecy was contrived for the encouragement of the English invaders, during the Scottish wars; and that the names of the Countess of Dunbar, and of Thomas of Ercildoune, were used for the greater credit of the forgery. According to this hy. pothesis, it seems likely to have been composed after the siege of Dunbar, which had made the name of the Countess well known, and consequently in the reign of Edward III. The whole tendency of the prophecy is to aver, that there shall be no end of the Scottisli war (concerning which the question was proposed,) till a final conquest of the country by England, attended by all the usual severities of war. "When the cultivated country shall become forest," says the prophecy;" when the wild animals shall inhabit the abode of men ;-when Scots shall not be able to escape the English, should they crouch as hares in their form" -all these denunciations seem to refer to the time of Edward III., upon whose victories the prediction was probably founded. The mention of the exchange betwixt a colt worth ten marks, and a quarter of "whaty [indifferent] wheat," seems to allude to the dreadful famine, about the year 1388. The independence of Scotland was, however, as impregnable to the mines of superstition, as to the steel of our more powerful and more wealthy neighbours. The war of Scotland is, thank God, at an end; but it is ended without her people having either crouched like hares in their form, or being drowned in their flight, " for faute of ships," -thank God for that too. The prophecy, quoted

When Scottes flen so faste, that, for faute of shep, hy drown-in the preceding page, is probably of the same date,

eth hemselve;

When shal this be?

Nouther in thine tyme ne in mine;

Ah comen ant gone

Withinne twenty winter ant one."

and intended for the same purpose.

A minute search of the records of the time would, probably, throw additional light upon the allusions contained in these ancient legends. Among various

PINKERTON'S Poems, from MAITLAND'S MSS. quoting rhymes of prophetic import, which are at this day

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 it is fixed by him (certainly one of the most able antiquarics of our age) to the reign of Edward I. or II., it is with great diffidence that I hazard a contrary opinion. There can, however, I believe, be little doubt, that these prophetic verses are a forgery, and not the pro

current amongst the people of Teviotdale, is one, supposed to be pronounced by Thomas the Rhymer, presaging the destruction of his habitation and family:

"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'stane"'-an emphatic image of desola


tion. It is also inaccurately quoted in the prophecy | nal purpose, in order to apply it to the succession of of Waldhave, published by Andro Hart, 1613:

"This is a true talking that Thomas of tells,

The hare shall hirple on the hard [hearth] stane."

James VI. The groundwork of the forgery is to be found in the prophecies of Berlington, contained in the same collection, and runs thus:

Spottiswoode, an honest, but credulous historian,« Of Bruce's left side shall spring out a leafe,


seems to have been a firm believer in the authenticity of the prophetic wares, vended in the name of Thomas of Ercildoune. "The prophecies, yet extant in Scottish rhymes, whereupon he was commonly called Thomas the Rhymer, may justly be admired; having foretold, so many ages before the union of England and Scotland in the ninth degree of the Bruce's blood, with the succession of Bruce himself to the crown, being yet a child, and other divers particulars, which the event hath ratified and made good. Boethius, in his story, relateth his prediction of King Alexander's death, and that he did foretel the same to the Earl of March, the day before it fell out; saying, That before the next day at noon, such a tempest should blow, as Scotland had not felt for many years before.' The next morning, the day being clear, and no change appearing in the air, the nobleman did challenge Thomas of his saying, calling him an impostor. He replied, that noon was not yet passed. 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 it shall 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.

As neere as the ninth degree;

And shall be fleemed of faire Scotland,
In France farre beyond the sea.
And then shall come again ryding,
With eyes that
many men may see.
At Aberladie he shall light,
With hempen helteres and horse of tre.

However it happen for to fall,

The lyon shall be lord of all;

The French Quen shall bearre the sonne,
Shall rule all Britainne to the sea;

Ane from the Bruce's blood shal come also,
As neer as the ninth degree.

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Yet shal there come a keene knight over the salt sea,
A keene man of courage and bold man of armes;
A duke's son dowbled [i. e. dubbed], a born man in France,
That shall our mirths augment, and mend all our harmes;
After the date of our Lord 1513, and thrice three thereafter;
Which shall brooke all the broad isle to himself,
Between thirteen and thrice three the threip shall be ended
The Saxons shall never recover after."


intended to excite the confidence of the Scottish naThere cannot be any doubt that this prophecy was tion 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 Refemale side, within the ninth degree. His mother was gent was descended of Bruce by the left, . e. by the daughter of the Earl of Boulogne, his father banished from his country-" fleemit of fair Scotland." His arrival must necessarily be by sea, and his landing was expected at Aberlady, in the Frith of Forth. He What Spottiswoode cails "the prophecies extant in Scottish rhyme," are the metrical productions from 1513, are allowed him, by the pretended prophet was a duke's son, dubbed knight; and nine years, ascribed to the seer of Ercildoune, which, with many | for the accomplishment of the salvation of his counother compositions of the same nature, bearing the try, and the exaltation of Scotland over her sister and names of Bede, Merlin, Gildas, and other approved soothsayers, are contained in one small volume, pub- dence and spirit of the country. All this was a pious fraud, to excite the confi lished by Andro Hart, at Edinburgh, 1615. Nisbet The prophecy, put in the name of our Thomas tho the herald (who claims the prophet of Ercildoune as Rhymer, as it stands in Hart's book, refers to a later a brother-professor of his art, founding upon the various allegorical and emblematical allusions to heral- beside a lee, who shows him many emblematical visions, period. The narrator meets the Rhymer upon a land dry) intimates the existence of some earlier copy of described in no mean strain of poetry. They chiefly his prophecies than that of Andro Hart, which, how-relate to the fields of Flodden and Pinkie, to the naever, he does not pretend to have seen.1 The late ex- tional distress which followed these defeats, and to cellent Lord Hailes made these compositions the sub-future halcyon days, which are promised to Scotland ject 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 the Bruce in the ninth degree. Lord Hailes plainly proves, that this prophecy is perverted from its origi

1 See Appendix, Note C.

One quotation or two will be sufficient to establish
this fully:-

"Our Scottish King sal come ful keene,
The red lyon beareth he;

A feddered arrow sharp, I ween,
Shall make him winke and warre to see.
Out of the field he shall be led,
When he is bludic and woe for blood;
Yet to his men shall he say,
'For God's love turn you againe,

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To the end of all this allegorical and mystical rhapsody, is interpolated, in the later edition by Andro Hart, a new edition of Berlington'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 b▾ 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 Beirne could I say,

Where dwells thou, or in what countrie?
[Or who shall rule the isle of Britane,
From the north to the south sey?
A French queene shall bear the sonne,
Shall rule all Britaine to the sea;
Which of the Bruce's blood shall come,
As neere as the nint degree:

I frained fast what was his name,
Where that he came, from what country.]
In Erslingtoun I dwell at hame,

Thomas Rymour men cals me."

There is surely no one, who will not conclude, with Lord Hailes, that the eight lines, enclosed in brackets, are a clumsy interpolation, borrowed from Berlington, with such alterations as might render the supposed prophecy applicable to the union of the crowns.

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 :—

"Take a thousand in calculation,
And the longest of the lyon,
Four crescents under one crowne,
With Saint Andrew's croce thrise,
Then threescore and thrise three:

Take tent to Merling truely
Then shall the wars ended be,
And never again rise.

In that yere there shall a king,

A duke, and no crown'd king: Becaus the prince shall be yong, And tender of yeares."

The date, above hinted at, seems to be 1549, when the Scottish Regent, by means of some succours de rived from France, was endeavouring to repair the consequences of the fatal battle of Pinkie. Allusion is made to the supply given to the "Moldwarte [England] by the fained hart," (the 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 assumed 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,

"Marvellous Merlin, that many men of tells,
And Thomas's sayings comes 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 Ambrose Merlin, the friend of Arthur, the Scottish prophecies are is. sued? That this personage resided at Drummelziar, and roamed, like a second Nebuchadnezzar, the woods of Tweeddale, in remorse for the death of his nephew, we learn from Fordun. In the Scotichronicon, lib. 3. cap. 31, is an account of an interview betwixt St. Kentigern and Merlin, then in this distracted and miserable state. He is said to have been called Lai

loken, from his mode of life. On being commanded by the saint to give an account of himself, he says, that the penance which he performs was imposed on him by a voice from heaven, during a bloody 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 & fishing-net :

"Sude perfossus, lapide percussus, et unda,
Hæc tria Merlinum fertur inire necem.



He answers briefly to Waldhave's enquiry concerning his name and nature, that he "drees his weird," i. e. does penance in that wood; and, having hinted that questions as to his own state are offensive, he pour forth an obscure rhapsody concerning futurity, and concludes,

"Go musing upon Merlin if thou wilt:

Sicque ruit, mersusque fuit lignoque prehensus, 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 Welsh 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, under three various disguises, enquiring each time in what manner This is exactly similar to the meeting betwixt Merthe person should die. To the first demand Merlin lin and Kentigern in Fordun. These prophecies of answered, the party should perish by a fall from a rock; to the second, that he should die by a tree; and Merlin seem to have been in request in the minority to the third, that he should be drowned. The youth of James V.; for, among the amusements with which perished, while hunting, in the mode imputed by For-Sir David Lindsay diverted that prince during his infancy, are,

dun to Merlin himself.

Fordun, contrary to the French authorities, confounds this person with the Merlin of Arthur; but concludes by informing us, that many believed him to be a different person. The grave of Merlin is pointed out at Drummelziar, in Tweeddale, beneath an aged thorn-tree. On the east-side of the churchyard, the brook, called Pausayl, falls into the Tweed; and the following prophecy is said to have been current concerning their union :

"When Tweed and Pausayl join at Merlin's grave, Scotland and England shall one monarch have."

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,

When a ladde with a ladye shall go over the fields." The original stands thus :

"When laddes weddeth lovedies."

On the day of the coronation of James VI., the Another prophecy of Merlin seems to have been Tweed accordingly overflowed, and joined the Pau- current about the time of the Regent Morton's exesayl at the prophet's grave.-PENNYCUICK'S History cution. When that nobleman was committed to the of Tweeddale, p. 26. These circumstances would charge of his accuser, Captain James Stewart, newly seem to infer a communication betwixt the south-created Earl of Arran, to be conducted to his trial at 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 manners similar to his own.

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 foxes pursued over the mountain by a savage figure, to whom he can hardly give the name of man. At the sight of Waldhave, the apparition leaves the objects of his pursuit, and assaults him with a club. Waldhave defends himself with his sword, throws the savage to the earth, and refuses to let him arise till he swear, by the law and lead he lives upon, "to do him no harm." This done, he permits him to arise, and marvels at his strange appearance:

"He was formed like a freike [man] all his four quarters;
And then his chin and his face haired so thick,
With haire growing so grime, fearful to see."

I do not know whether the person here meant be Waldhave, an abbot of Melrose, who died in the odour of sanctity, about 1160.

Edinburgh, Spottiswoode says, that he asked, “Who
was Earl of Arran?' and being answered that Cap-
tain James was the man, after a short pause, he said,
And is it so? I know then what
may look for?'

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meaning, as was thought, that the old prophecy of the Falling of the heart 3 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 that 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."-SPOTTIS WOODE, 313. The fatal words alluded to seem to be these in the prophecy of Merlin :

"In the mouthe of Arrane a selcouth shall fall,

Two bloodie hearts shall be taken with a false traine,
And derfly dung down without any dome."

To return from these desultory remarks, into which I have been led by the celebrated name of Merlin, the style of all these prophecies, published by Hart, is very much the same. The measure is alliterative,

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and somewhat similar to that of Pierce Plowman's
Visions; a circumstance which might entitle us to
ascribe to some of them an earlier date than the reign
of James V., did we not know that Sir Galloran of
Galloway and Gawaine and Gologras, two romances
rendered almost unintelligible by the extremity of
affected alliteration, are perhaps not prior to that
period. Indeed, although we may allow that, during
much earlier times, prophecies, under the names of
those celebrated soothsayers, have been current in
Scotland, yet those published by Hart have obviously
been so often vamped and re-vamped, to serve the
political purposes of different periods, that it may be
shrewdly suspected, that, as in the case of Sir John
Cutler's transmigrated stockings, very little of the
original materials now remains. I cannot refrain
from indulging my 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 Sibyl: "Here followeth
a prophecie, pronounced by a noble queene and mat-
ron, called Sybilla, Regina Austri, that came to Solo-
mon. Through the which she compiled four bookes,
at the instance of the said King Sol, and others
divers and the fourth book was directed to a noble
king, called Baldwine, King of the broad isle of Bri-
tain; 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 Helena, that found
the croce. The second is the sixt king of the name
of Steward of Scotland, the which is our most noble
king." With such editors and commentators, what
wonder that the text became unintelligible, even be-
yond the usual oracular obscurity of prediction ?

If there still remain, therefore, among these pre-
dictions, 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 to-
gether, into the sort of ballad to which this disquisi-
tion is prefixed. It would, indeed, have been no
difficult matter for him, by a judicious selection, to
have excited, in favour of Thomas of Ercildoune, a
share of the admiration bestowed by sundry wise per-
sons upon Mass Robert Fleming. For example :-
"But then the lilye shal 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.

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The barges of clear barons down shal be sunke!;
Seculars shall sit in spiritual seats,

Occupying offices anointed as they were.'

Taking the lily for the emblem of France, can there be a more plain prophecy of the murder of her monarch, the destruction of her nobility, and the desolation of her hierarchy?

But, without looking farther into the signs of the times, the Editor, though the least of all the prophets, cannot help thinking, that every true Briton will approve of his application of the last prophecy quoted in the ballad.

Hart's collection of prophecies was frequently reprinted during the last century, probably to favour the pretensions of the unfortunate family of Stuart. For the prophetic renown of Gildas and Bede, see Fordun, lib. 3.

Before leaving the subject of Thomas's predictions, it may be noticed, that sundry rhymes, passing for his prophetic effusions, are still current among the vulgar. Thus, he is said to have prophesied of the very ancient family of Haig of Bemerside,

"Betide, betide, whate'er betide,

Haig shall be Haig of Bemerside."

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, and their belief in the prophecy confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt.

Another memorable prophecy bore, that the Old Kirk at 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 never since had an opportunity of tumbling upon a full congregation. I hope, for the sake of a beautiful specimen of SaxoGothic 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:

"At Eldon Tree if you shall be,

A brigg ower Tweed you there may see." 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.

text in the Apocalypse, that the French Monarchy would undergo some remarkable humiliation about 1794.-KD

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