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Or come ye from the shrine of Saint James the divine,
I come not from the shrine of Saint James the divine,
I bring but a curse from our father, the Pope,
"Now, woeful pilgrim, say not so!
And shrive thee so clean of thy deadly sin,
And who art thou, thou Grey Brother,
That I should shrive to thee,
When he, to whom are given the keys of earth and
Has no power to pardon me ?"
"O I am sent from a distant clime,
The pilgrim kneeled him on the sand,
THOMAS THE RHYMER.
IN THREE PARTS.
FEW personages are so renowned in tradition as Thomas of Ercildoune, known by the appellation of The Rhymer. Uniting, or supposing 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 anything like a certain history of this remarkable man would be indeed difficult; but the curious may derive some satisfaction from the particulars here brought together.
It is agreed on all hands, that the residence, and probably the birthplace, of this ancient bard, was Ercildoune, a village situated upon the Leader, two miles above its junction with the Tweed. The ruins of an ancient tower are still pointed out as the Rhymer's castle. The uniform tradition bears, that his surname was Lermont, or Learmont; and that the appellation of The Rhymer was conferred upon him in conse
quence of his poetical compositions. There remains, nevertheless, some doubt upon the subject.
We are better able to ascertain the period at which Thomas of Ercildoune 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). It cannot be doubted, that Thomas of Ercildoune was a remarkable and important person in his own time, since, very shortly after his death, we find him celebrated as a prophet and as a poet. Whether he himself made any pretensions to the first of these characters, or whether it was gratuitously conferred upon him by the credulity of posterity, it seems difficult to decide. If we may believe Mackenzie, Learmont only versified the prophecies delivered by Eliza, an inspired nun of a convent at Haddington. But of this there seems not to be most distant proof. On the contrary, all ancient authors, who quote the Rhymer's prophecies, uniformly suppose them to have been emitted by himself.
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 him afterwards so famous. After seven years' residence, he was permitted to return to the earth, to enlighten and astonish his countrymen by his prophetic powers; still, however, remaining bound to return to his royal mistress, when she should intimate her pleasure. Accordingly, while Thomas was making merry with his friends in the Tower of Ercildoune, a person came running in, and told, with marks of fear and astonishment, that a hart and hind had left the neighbouring forest, and were, composedly and slowly, parading the street of the village. The prophet instantly arose, left his habitation, and followed the wonderful animals to the forest, whence he was never seen to return. According to the popular belief, he still "drees his weird" in Fairy Land, and is one day expected to revisit earth. In the meanwhile, his memory is held in the most profound respect. The Eildon Tree, from beneath the shade of which he delivered his prophecies, now no longer exists; but the spot is marked by a large stone, called the Eildon Tree Stone. A neighbouring rivulet takes the name of the Bogle Burn (Goblin Brook) from the Rhymer's supernatural visitants.
It seemed to the Editor 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 Ercildoune, 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 Editor 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 Faërie. To make his peace with the more severe antiquaries, the Editor has prefixed to the Second Part some remarks on Learmont's prophecies.
TRUE Thomas lay on Huntlie bank;
Her shirt was o' the grass-green silk,
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.
True Thomas, he pulled aff his cap,
And louted low down to his knee,-
"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,i Thomas," she said; "Harp and carp along with me; And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your bodie I will be."
That weird shall never danton me."
All underneath the Eildon Tree.
'Now, ye maun go wi' me," she said;
Through weal or woe as may chance to be."
She mounted on her milk-white steed;
The steed flew swifter than the wind.
O they rade on, and farther on;
The steed gaed swifter than the wind,
And living land was left behind.
"Light down, light down, now, true Thomas,
And I will show you ferlies three.
"O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briers?—
Though after it but few inquires.
"And see not ye that braid, braid road,
Though some call it the road to heaven.
That winds about the fernie brae ?-
Where thou and I this night maun gae.
Ye'll ne'er get back to your ain countrie."
O they rade on, and farther on,
And they waded through rivers aboon1 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"
And they waded through red blude to the knee,
Rins through the springs o' that countrie.
Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu'd an apple frae a tree"Take this for thy wages, true Thomas;
It will give thee the tongue that can never lie.”
"My tongue is mine ain," true Thomas said;
I neither dought P to buy nor sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be.
"I dought neither speak to prince or peer,
"Now hold thy peace!" the ladye said,
For, as I say, so must it be."
Lily leven is a lawn overspread with lilies or flowers.-Jamieson. 1 Above. m Dark. n Star. • The traditional commentary upon this ballad informs us, that the apple was the produce of the fatal Tree of Knowledge, and that the garden was the terrestrial paradise. The repugnance of Thomas to be debarred the use of falsehood when he might find it convenient, has a comic effect. P Am able.
He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
ALTERED FROM ANCIENT PROPHECIES.
THE prophecies, ascribed to Thomas of Ercildoune have been the principal means of securing to him remembrance "amongst the sons of his people." The 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, he 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.
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 Ercildoune is said to have delivered to him his famous prophecy 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.
WHEN seven years were come and gane,
And Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
He heard the trampling of a steed,