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Gone was her maiden glee and sport,
VI. Alone, among his young compeers, Was Brian from his infant years ; A moody and heart-broken boy, Estranged from sympathy and joy, Bearing each taunt which careless tongue On his mysterious lineage flung. Whole nights he spent by moonlight pale, To wood and stream his hap to wail, Till, frantic, he as truth received 1 What of his birth the crowd believed, And sought, in mist and meteor fire, To meet and know his Phantom Sire! In vain, to soothe his wayward fate, The cloister oped her pitying gate; In vain, the learning of the age Unclasp'd the sable-letter'd page; Even in its treasures he could find Food for the fever of his mind.
1 [MS.—“Till driven to frenzy, he believed
The legend of his birth receivel.")
Eager he read whatever tells
1 In adopting the legend concerning the birth of the Founder of the Church of Kilmalee, the author has endeavoured to trace the effects which such a belief was likely to produce, in a bar. barous age, on the person to whom it related. It seems likely that he must have become a fanatic or an impostor, or that mix. ture of both which forms a more frequent character than either of them, as existing separately. In truth, mad persons are frequently more anxious to impress upon others a faith in their visions, than they are themselves confirmed in their reality; as, on the other hand, it is difficult for the most cool-headed impostor long to personate an enthusiast, without in some degree believing what he is so eager to have believed. It was a natural attribute of such a character as the supposed hermit, that he should credit the mumerous superstitions with which the minds of ordinary Highlanders are almost always imbued. A few of these are slightly alluded to in this stanza. The River Demon, or Riverhorse, for it is that form which he commonly assumes, is the Kelpy of the Lowlands, an evil and malicious spirit, delighting to forebode and to witness calamity. He frequents most Highland lakes and rivers; and one of his most memorable exploits
Where with black cliffs the torrents toil,
beheld the ranks of death :
was performed upon the banks of Loch Vennachar, in the very district which forms the scene of our action: it consisted in the destruction of a funeral procession with all its attendants. The * noontide hag,” called in Gaelic Glas-lich, a tall, emaciated, gigantic female figure, is supposed in particular to haunt the district of Knoidart. A goblin dressed in antique armour, and having one hand covered with blood, called from that circumstance, Lham dearg, or Red-hand, is a tenant of the forests of Glenmore and Rothiemurcus. Other spirits of the desert, all frightful in shape and malignant in disposition, are believed to frequent different moun. tains and glens of the Highlands, where any unusual appearance, produced by mist, or the strange lights that are sometimes thrown upon particular objects, never fails to present an apparition to the imagination of the solitary and melancholy mountaineer.
Late had he heard, in prophet's dream,
*[MS.—“The fatal Ben-Shie's dismal scream ;
And seen her wrinkled form, the sign
Of woe and death to Alpine's line."] Most great families in the Highlands were supposed to have a tutelar, or rather a domestic spirit, attached to them, who took an interest in their prosperity, and intimated, by its wailings, any approaching disaster. That of Grant of Grant was called May Moullach, and appeared in the form of a girl, who had her arm covered with hair. Grant of Rothiemurcus had an attendant called Bodach-an-dun, or the Ghost of the Hill; and many other examples might be mentioned. The Ban-Schie implies a female Fairy, whose lamentations were often supposed to precede the death of a chieftain of particular families. When she is visible, it is in the form of an old woman, with a blue mantle and streaming hair. A superstition of the same kind is, I believe, universally received by the inferior ranks of the native Irish.
The death of the head of a Highland family is also sometimes supposed to be announced by a chain of lights of different colours, called Drieug, or death of the Druid. The direction which it takes, marks the place of the funeral. [See the Essay on Fairy Superstitions in the Border Minstrelsy.]
? (See Appendix, Note H.]
And now stood prompt to bless or ban,
1 Inch-Cailliach, the Isle of Nuns, or of Old Women, is a most beautiful island at the lower extremity of Loch Lomond. The church belonging to the former nunnery was long used as the place of worship for the parish of Buchanan, but scarce any vestiges of it now remain. The burial-ground continues to be used, and contains the family places of sepulture of several neighbouring clans. The monuments of the lairds of Macgregor, and of other families, claiming a descent from the old Scottish King Alpine, are most remarkable. The Highlanders are as zealous of their rights of sepulture, as may be expected from a people whose whole laws and government, if clanship can be called so, turned upon the single principle of family descent.
May his asbes be scattered on the water," was one of the deepest and most solemn imprecations which they used against an enemy.