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Scotch accent, the passage which celebrated it. Thus, in passing through the cloisters, he made me remark the beautiful carvings of leaves and flowers wrought in stone with the most exquisite delicacy, and, notwithstanding the lapse of centuries, retaining their sharpness, as if fresh from the chisel, - rivalling, as Scott has said, the real objects of which they were imitations :
“ Nor herb nor floweret glisten'd there,
But was carved in the cloister arches as fair." He pointed out also, among the carved work, a nun's head of much beauty, which, he said, Scott always stopped to admire, “ for the Shirra' had a wonderful
for all sic matters.' I would observe, that Scott seemed to derive more consequence in the neighbourhood from being sheriff of the county, than from being poet.'
I found afterwards that Scott used to amuse himself with the sim. plicity of the old man, and his zeal in verifying every passage of the poem, as though it had been authentic history, and that he always acquiesced in his deductions.
The fictions of Scott had become facts with honest John Bower. From constantly living among the ruins of Melrose Abbey, and pointing out the scenes of the poem, the Lay of the Last Minstrel had, in a manner, become interwoven with his whole existence; and I doubt whether he did not, now and then, mix up his own identity with the personages of some of its cantos.
• He could not bear that any other production of the poet should be preferred to the Lay of the Last Minstrel. Faith,” said he,
- it's just e’en as gude a thing as Mr. Scott has written; an if he were stannin there, I'd tell him so—an' then he'd laugh!” • He was loud in his praises of the affability of Scott.
" He'll come here sometimes,” said he, “ with great folks in his company; and the first I'll know of it is hearing his voice calling out Johnny ! Johnny Bower !-an when I go out, I'm sure to be greeted with a joke or a pleasant word. He'll stand and crack an laugh wi' me, just like an auld wife ;- and to think that of a man that has such an awfu' knowledge o' history !"
• As Johnny Bower piqued himself upon showing every thing laid down in the poem, there was one passage that perplexed him sadly. It was the opening of one of the cantos :
« If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright,
Go, visit it by the pale moonlight;
Gild but to flout the ruins grey,” &c. In consequence of this admonition, many of the most devout pilgrims to the ruin could not be contented with a daylight inspection, and insisted it could be nothing unless seen by the light of the moon. Now unfortunately, the moon shines but for a part of the month, and what is still more unfortunate, is very apt, in Scotland, to be obscured by
clouds and mists. Johnny was sorely puzzled, therefore, how to accommodate his poetry-struck visiters with this indipensable moonshine. At length, in a lucky moment, he devised a substitute for the moon. This was a great double tallow candle stuck upon the end of a pole, with which he would conduct his visiters about the ruins on dark nights ; so much to their satisfaction, that, at length, he began to, think it even preferable to the moon itself. - It does na’ light up a' at once, to be sure,” he would
say, “ but then you can shift it about, and show the auld abbey, bit by bit, whilst the moon only shines on one side.”
· Honest Johnny Bower! so many years have elapsed since the time I treat of, that it is more than probable his simple head lies beneath the walls of his favourite abbey. It is to be hoped his humble ambition has been gratified, and his name recorded by the pen of the man he so loved and honoured.'
Mr. Irving is particularly happy in his pen and ink portraits of animals, and his description of Scott's canine attendants has the very spirit of Landseer. The Poet's domestic animals were
his friends. But we cannot make room for them in our pic. ture. On his return from Melrose Abbey, Scott proposed a ramble to shew his visiter something of the surrounding country.
• We rambled on among scenes which had been familiar in Scottish song, and rendered classic by the pastoral muse, long before Scott had thrown the rich mantle of his poetry over them. What a thrill of pleasure did I feel when I first saw the broom-covered tops of the Cowdenknowes peeping above the grey hills of the Tweed; and what touching associations were called up by the sight of Ettrick Vale, Gala Water, and the Braes of Yarrow. Every turn brought to mind some household air, some almost-forgotten song of the nursery, by which I had been lulled to sleep in my childhood ; and with them the looks and voices of those who had sung them, and who were now no
Scotland is eminently a land of song; and it is these melodies chanted in our ears in the days of infancy, and connected with the memory of those we have loved, and who have passed away, that clothe Scottish landscape with such tender associations,
• The Scottish songs in general have something intrinsically melancholy in them, owing, in all probability, to the pastoral and lonely life of those who composed them, who were often mere shepherds, tending their flocks in the solitary glens, or folding them
folding them among the naked hills. Many of these rustic bards have passed away without leaving a name behind them ; nothing remains of them but those sweet and touching little songs, which live like echoes about the places they once inhabited. Most of these simple effusions are linked with some favourite haunt of the poet ; and in this way, not a mountain or valley, a town or tower, green shaw or running stream, in Scotland, but has some popular air connected with it, that makes its very name a key-note to a whole train of delicious fancies and feel. ings.
Let me step forward in time, and mention how sensible I was ta
the power of these simple airs, in a visit which I made to Ayr, the birth-place of Robert Burns. I passed a whole morning about “ the banks and braes of bonnie Doon," with his tender little love verses running in my head. I found a poor Scotch carpenter at work among the ruins of Kirk Alloway, which was to be converted into a school-house. Finding the purpose of my visit, he left his work, sat down with me on a grassy grave close by where Burns's father was buried, and talked of the poet, whom he had known personally. He said, his writings were familiar to the poorest and most illiterate of the country folk;
os and it seemed to him as if the country had grown more beautiful since Burns had written his bonnie little songs about it.”'
The extensive prospect commanded by the hills, disappointed our Visiter, who was not prepared for the bare and monotonous scenery of the border country.
• I beheld a mere succession of grey waving hills, line beyond line, as far as my eye could reach, monotonous in their aspect, and so destitute of trees, that one could almost see a stout fly walking along their profile; and the far-famed Tweed appeared a naked stream, flowing between bare hills, without a tree or a thicket on its banks; and yet, such had been the magic web of poetry and romance thrown over the whole, that it had a greater charm for me than the richest scenery
I had beheld in England. I could not help giving utterance to my thoughts.
Scott hummed for a moment to himself, and looked grave; he had no idea of having his muse complimented at the expense of his native hills. “ It may be pertinacity,” said he, at length; “ but to my eye, these grey
hills and all this wild border country have beauties peculiar to themselves. I like the very nakedness of the land ; it has something bold, and stern, and solitary about it. When I have been for some time in the rich scenery about Edinburgh, which is like ornamented garden land, I begin to wish myself back again among my own honest grey hills; and if I did not see the heather at least once a year, I think I should die !”
* The last words were said with an honest warmth, accompanied by a thump on the ground with his staff, by way of emphasis, that showed his heart was in his speech. He vindicated the Tweed, too, as a beautiful stream in itself; and observed, that he did not dislike it for being bare of trees, probably from having been much of an angler in his time ; and an-angler does not like to have a stream overhung by. trees, which embarrass him in the exercise of his rod and line.
I took occasion to plead, in like manner, the associations of early life for my disappointment in respect to the surrounding scenery. I had been so accustomed to see hills crowned with forests, and streams breaking their way through a wilderness of trees, that all my ideas of romantic landscape were apt to be well wooded.
Ay, and that's the great charm of your country," cried Scott. ^ You love the forest as I do the heather, but I would not have you
think I do not feel the glory of a great woodland prospect. There is nothing I should like more than to be in the midst of one of your grand, wild, original forests, with the idea of hundreds of miles of untrodden forest around me. I once saw at Leith an immense stick of timber, just landed from America. It must have been an enormous tree when it stood in its native soil, at its full height, and with all its branches. I gazed at it with admiration : it seemed like one of the gigantic obelisks which are now and then brought from Egypt to shame the pigmy monuments of Europe ; and, in fact, these vast aboriginal trees, that have sheltered the Indians before the intrusion of the white men, are the monuments and antiquities of your country.”
The next morning, our Visiter rose early ; but, to his surprise, the Lord of Abbotsford was already up and forth, and was seen seated on a fragment of stone, chatting with the workmen employed in the new building. About the place were strewed various morsels from the ruins of Melrose Abbey, which were to be incorporated in his mansion. He had already constructed, out of similar materials, a kind of Gothic shrine over a spring, and surmounted it with a small stone cup.
Among the relics from the Abbey which lay scattered before us, was a most quaint and antique little lion, either of red stone, or painted red, which hit my fancy. I forget whose cognizance it was, or from whose monument it had been taken, but I shall never forget the delightful observations concerning old Melrose to which it accidentally gave rise. The Abbey was evidently a pile that called up all his poetic and romantic feelings; and one to which he was enthusiastically attached by the most fanciful and delightful of his early associations. “ There is no telling,” said he, “what treasures are hid in that glorious old pile. It is a famous place for antiquarian plunder. There are such rich bits of old-time sculpture for the architect, and old-time story for the poet. There is as rare picking in it as in a Stilton cheese, and in the same taste,the mouldier the better."
As Scott sat on a stone talking in this way, and knocking with his staff against the little red lion which lay prostrate at his feet, hia grey eyes kindled beneath his shagged eye-brows: scenes, images, incidents, kept breaking upon his mind as he proceeded ; mingled with touches of the mysterious and supernatural as connected with the heart of Bruce. It seemed as if a poem or romance were breaking vaguely on his imagination.
• A summons to breakfast broke upon our conversation, when I begged to recommend to Scott's attention my friend the little red lion, who had led to such an interesting topic, and hoped he might receive some niche or station in the future castle, worthy of his evident antiquity and apparent dignity. Scott assured me with comic gravity, that the valiant little lion should be most honourably entertained; I hope, therefore, that he still flourishes at Abbotsford.'
Various circumstances that Mr. Irving observed about. Scott,
during this visit, concurred to produce the persuasion that many
of the antiquarian humours of Monkhouse were taken from his own richly compounded character.' In a subsequent excursion to Dryburgh Abbey, Scott pointed to an old border keep, called Smailholm Tower, on the summit of a rocky knoll, the Sandy, knows Crags, as a place peculiarly dear to him from the recollections of childhood. His grandfather had lived there in the old Smailholm grange; and he had been sent there when about two years old, on account of his lameness, that he might have the benefit of the pure air of the hills, and be under the care of his grandmother and aunts. He has depicted this scene of his boyish years in the Introduction to one of the cantos of Marmion; and it is Smailholm Tower which he has clothed with such romantic associations in his tale of “ The Eve of St. John.”
It was, he said, during his residence at Smailholm Crags, that he first imbibed his passion for legendary tales, border traditions, and old national songs and ballads. His grandmother and aunts were well versed in that kind of lore, so current in Scottish country life. They used to recount them in long, gloomy, winter days, and about the ingle nook at night, in conclave with their gossip visiters; and little Walter would sit and listen with greedy ear, thus taking into his infant mind the seeds of many a splendid fiction.
• There was an old shepherd, he said, in the service of the family, who used to sit under the sunny wall and tell marvellous stories, and recite old-time ballads as he knitted stockings. Scott used to be wheeled out in his chair in fine weather, and would sit beside the old man, and listen to him for hours.
The situation of Sandyknows was favourable both for story-teller and listener. It commanded a wide view over all the border country, with its feudal towers, its haunted glens, and wizard streams. As the old shepherd told his tales, he could point out the very scene of action :: thus, before Scott could walk, he was made familiar with the scenes of his future stories; they were all seen as through a magic medium, and took that tinge of romance which they ever after retained in his imagination.'
"In reverting to the days of his childhood, Scott observed, that the lameness that had disabled him in infancy gradually decreased ; he soon acquired strength in his limbs, and though he always limped, he became, even in boyhood, a great walker. He used frequently to stroll from home, and wander about the country for days together, picking up all kinds of local gossip, and observing popular scenes and characters. His father used to be vexed with him for this wandering propensity, and, shaking his head, would say, he feared the boy would make nothing but a pedler. As he grew older, he became a keen sportsman, and passed much of his time hunting and shooting. His field sports led him into the most wild and unfrequented parts of the country, and in this way he picked up much of that local knowledge which he has since evinced in his writings:
· His first visit to Loch Katrine, he said, was in his boyish days, on VOL. XIV.N.S.