Hecate joined the witches on the heath, and upbraided them for trading and trafficking with Macbeth without consulting her, the mistress of their charms. Away the witches were sent, with instructions to meet at the pit of Acheron in the morning. There Macbeth was to know his destiny. Vessels and spells the hags were to provide, while Hecate was to catch a vaporous drop that hung on the corner of the moon, before it touched the ground. That drop, distilled by magic sleights, would raise such sprites, that by the strength of their illusion would draw Macbeth to confusion. Such, Hecate declared, would be his doom for spurning fate, scorning death, and bearing his hopes above wisdom, grace, and fear.
The three witches met in a dark cave, and, while the thunder rolled without, they boiled a cauldron of hellish soup, the ingredients of which may be gathered from the following lines:—
1 Witch. "Thrice the brindled cat hath mew'd.
2 Witch. Thrice; and once the hedge-pig whined.
3 Witch. Harper cries: 'Tis time, 'tis time.
1 Witch. Round about the cauldron go; In the poison'd entrails throw.— Toad, that under coldest stone, Days and nights has thirty-one Swelter'd venom sleeping got, Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.
All. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire, burn; and, cauldron, bubble.
2 Witch. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
All. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire, burn; and, cauldron, bubble.
3 Witch. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf; Witches' mummy; maw and gulf Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark; Root of hemlock, digg'd i' the dark; Liver of blaspheming Jew; Gall of goat; and slips of yew, Silver'd in the moon's eclipse; Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips; Finger of birth-strangled babe, Ditch delivered by a drab,— Make the gruel thick and slab: Add thereto a tiger's chaudron, For the ingredients of our cauldron.
All. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire, burn; and, cauldron, bubble.
2 Witch. Cool it with a baboon's blood; Then the charm is firm and good.
Hecate. O, well done! I commend your pains; And every one shall share i' the gains. And now about the cauldron sing, Like elves and fairies in a ring, Enchanting all that you put in.
'Black spirits and white, Red spirits and grey; Mingle, mingle, mingle, You that mingle may.'
2 Witch. By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes:— Open, locks, whoever knocks."
Macbeth appeared and demanded what the midnight hags were about. The reply was, "A deed without a name." He entreated them, by that which they professed, to answer him. One of the witches asked whether he would rather have his answer from their mouths or from their masters'. On Macbeth desiring to see the masters, witch No. 1 directed that the blood of a sow that had eaten her nine farrow, and grease that had been sweaten from the murderer's gibbet, should be thrown into the flame. Accompanied by a clap of thunder, an armed head rose, and admonished Macbeth to beware of Macduff. Another demon, more potent, in the shape of a bloody child, rose and bade Macbeth be courageous; to laugh to scorn the power of man, for none born of woman could harm him. A second child, after the first had descended into the bowels of the earth, told the king that he would not be vanquished till great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill should come against him. The monarch was admonished to ask no more, but he disregarded the warning. "Why sinks that cauldron? and what noise is this?" he asked. Eight kings, and Banquo following, appeared to Macbeth's vision. The whole vision, if such it could be called, surprised him greatly; but no part of it so much as the spirit of Banquo, whom he had cruelly put to death with the intention of frustrating destiny, as revealed to him by the weird sisters, when he first met them on the heath. Seeing the king dejected, the witches, to cheer him, danced and sang for a time, and then suddenly disappeared.
Before Macbeth had time to recover from his reverie, a messenger arrived to inform him that Macduff, whom he dreaded, had fled to England. So greatly was he exasperated by the tidings, that he declared his intention of seizing Macduff's castle, giving to the sword his wife, babes, and all his other relations of whatever degree. This threat he partly carried into execution.
The day of vengeance was near. Macbeth, mad with fear and ambition, strove to avert the evil brooding over him, but he could not succeed. The fiat had gone forth: he was king, as the weird sisters had foretold he would be, but all his bloody deeds, and the scheming of his queen, unscrupulous like himself, could not change the decree. Birnam wood seemed to come to Dunsinane, and Banquo's seed came in due time to inherit the throne the fates had reserved for them.
In King Henry the Sixth more light is thrown on the doings of evil spirits. On a deep dark night, the time when owls cried, dogs howled, spirits walked, and ghosts broke up their graves, a spirit rose, in compliance with certain ceremonies for making demons appear. Bolingbroke inquired of the evil one what would become of the king? The reply was, "The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose. But him outlive, and die a violent death." In answer to the question, "What fate awaits the Duke of Suffolk?" came the reply, "By water shall he die." The Duke of Somerset was advised by the spirit to shun castles. Having thus delivered itself, the evil spirit descended to the burning lake. Farther on in the piece we are told of a witch that was condemned to be burned at Smithfield.
Passing from Henry the Sixth, we come to Antony and Cleopatra, and proceed to glean a few sentences bearing on superstition.
Charmian, addressing Alexas in a flattering manner, asked where was the soothsayer he praised so much. The soothsayer, who was immediately forthcoming, told those who listened to him that he knew "things" from nature's book of secrecy. A banquet was prepared, at which Charmian asked the soothsayer to give him good luck. "I make not, but foresee," was the response. Charmian, Alexas, and their companions seek to hear their fortunes told, but the soothsayer did not choose to reveal anything important at that time.
We shall take leave of Shakspeare by noticing, in a few sentences, the ghost of Hamlet's father.
Bernardo, Marcellus, and Horatio were met at a late hour to talk over a dreadful apparition that had disturbed the two former on the previous night, when they were startled by the same apparition—a ghost making its appearance. They observed it resembled the king who was dead. Horatio charged it to speak, but it stalked away without deigning a reply. It reappeared, but suddenly vanished on hearing the cock crow. How long elapsed we are not informed; but on a certain night, just after the clock had struck twelve, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus were engaged in earnest conversation when they were alarmed. The first entreats the ghost to say wherefore it visited them. It beckoned to Hamlet to follow it; and he did so, despite those who were with him, and saw the spirit as well as he did. The ghost's tongue was unloosed, and thus it spake: "Lend thy serious hearing to what I shall unfold: My hour is almost come, when I must render up myself to sulphurous and tormenting flames. I am thy father's spirit; and, for the day, confined to fast in fires, till the foul crimes, done in my days of nature, are burnt and purged away. Were I not forbidden to tell the secrets of my prison-house, I could a tale unfold that would harrow up thy soul; freeze thy young blood; make thy eyes start; and make thy locks part like quills upon the fretful porcupine: but this eternal blazon must not be. If ever thou didst love thy father, revenge his foul and most unnatural murder." "Murder!" exclaimed Hamlet. "Murder," said the ghost, "most foul, as in the best it is." "Reveal it," gasped Hamlet, "that I may with swift wings sweep to my revenge." "Thou shouldst be duller than the fat weed that rots itself on Lethe's wharf, wert thou not to stir in this," ejaculated the spirit. The ghost continued: "It has been given out, that, when sleeping in mine orchard, a serpent stung me to death; but know thou that the serpent that did sting thy father now wears his crown.... Sleeping within my orchard, as my custom was in the afternoon, on my secure hour thy uncle stole with cursed juice of hebenon in a vial, and did pour the leprous distilment into mine ears, that curdled my blood. Thus was I, by a brother's hand, despatched from crown and queen; cut off in the blossoms of my sin, unprepared, disappointed, and, without extreme unction, sent to my account with all my imperfections on my head. O, horrible! most horrible! Let not the royal bed be a couch for luxury and damned incest. Farewell; the glow-worm shows the morning to be near, and begins to pale his ineffectual fire: Adieu! Remember me." The king's death was avenged. The treacherous queen, and he who murdered the monarch, drank a poisoned cup, and thus received measure for measure.
The Poet Gay—The "Spell"—Hobnelia—Lubberkin going to Town—A Maiden fine—Spells resorted to—Marking the Ground, and turning three times round—Hempseed as a Charm—Valentine Day—A Snail used in Divination—Burning Nuts—Pea-cods as a Spell—Ladybird sent on a Message of Love—Pippin Parings—Virtue of United Garters—Love Powder—Gipsies' Warnings—Knives sever Love—Story of Boccaccio—Apparition of a Deceased Lover—Poems by Burns—"Address to the Deil"—"Tam o' Shanter."
John Gay, the old English poet, writes in his Spell:
"Hobnelia, seated in a dreary vale, In pensive mood rehearsed her piteous tale; Her piteous tale the winds in sighs bemoan, And pining Echo answers groan for groan. I rue the day, a rueful day I trow, The woeful day, a day indeed of woe! When Lubberkin to town his cattle drove, A maiden fine bedight he kept in love; The maiden fine bedight his love retains, And for the village he forsakes the plains. Return, my Lubberkin, these ditties hear, Spells will I try, and spells shall ease my care. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. When first the year I heard the cuckoo sing, And call with welcome note the budding spring, I straightway set a-running with such haste, Deb'rah that won the smock scarce ran so fast; Till, spent for lack of breath, quite weary grown, Upon a rising bank I sat adown, Then doff'd my shoe, and, by my troth, I swear, Therein I spy'd this yellow frizzled hair, As like to Lubberkin's in curle and hue, As if upon his comely pate it grew. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. At eve last summer no sleep I sought, But to the field a bag of hempseed brought, I scattered round the seed on every side, And three times in a trembling accent cry'd: This hempseed with my virgin hand I sow, Who shall my true love be, the crop shall mow. I straight look'd back, and if my eyes speak true, With his keen scythe behind me came the youth. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind Their paramours with mutual chirping find, I early rose, just at the break of day, Before the sun had chas'd the stars away; Afield I went, amid the morning dew, To milk my kine (for so should housewives do). The first I spy'd, and the first swain we see, In spite of fortune shall our true love be; See, Lubberkin, each bird his partner take, And canst thou then thy sweetheart dear forsake? With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. Last May-day fair I searched to find a snail That might my secret lover's name reveal; Upon a gooseberry bush a snail I found, For always snails nearest sweetest fruit abound. I seiz'd the vermin, home I quickly sped, And on the hearth the milk-white embers spread. Slow crawl'd the snail, and, if I right can spell, In the soft ashes mark'd a curious L: O may this wonderous omen luck prove! For L is found in Lubberkin and love. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. Two hazel nuts I threw into the flame, And to each nut I gave a sweetheart's name, This with the loudest bounce me sore amaz'd, That in a flame of brightest colour blaz'd. As blaz'd the nut, so may thy passion grow, For 'twas thy nut that did so brightly glow. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. As pea-cods once I pluck'd, I chanc'd to see One that was closely fill'd with three times three, Which, when I crop't, I safely home convey'd, And o'er the door the spell in secret laid, My wheel I turn'd, and sung a ballad new, While from the spindle I the fleeces drew; The latch mov'd up, when who should first come in, But in his proper person—Lubberkin. I broke my yarn, surpris'd the sight to see, Sure sign that he would break his word with me. Eftsoons I joined it with my wonted slight, So may his love again with mine unite. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. This lady-fly I take from off the grass, Whose spotted back might scarlet red surpass. Fly, lady-bird, north, south, or east, or west, Fly where the man is found that I love best. He leaves my hand; see, to the west he's flown, To call my true love from the faithless town. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. I pare my pippin round and round again, My shepherd's name to flourish on the plain, I fling th' unbroken paring o'er my head, Upon the grass a perfect L I read; Yet on my heart a fairer L is seen Than what the paring marks upon the green. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. This pippin shall another trial make, See from the core two kernels brown I take; This on my cheek for Lubberkin is worn, And Boobyclod on t' other side is borne. But Boobyclod soon drops upon the ground, A certain token that his love's unsound, While Lubberkin sticks firmly to the last; O were his lips to mine but joined so fast! With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. As Lubberkin once slept beneath a tree, I twitch'd his dangling garter from his knee; He wist not when the hempen string I drew. Now mine I quickly doff of inkle blue; Together fast I tye the garters twain, And while I knit the knot, repeat the strain: Three times a true-love's knot I tye secure, Firm be the knot, firm may his love endure. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. As I was wont, I trudged last market day To town with new-laid eggs preserved in hay. I made my market long before 'twas night, My purse grew heavy, and my basket light. Straight to the 'pothecary's shop I went, And in love powder all my money spent; Behap what will, next Sunday, after prayers, When to the ale-house Lubberkin repairs, The golden charm into his mug I'll throw, And soon the swain with fervent love shall glow. With my sharp heel I three times mark the ground, And turn me thrice around, around, around. But hold: our Lightfoot barks and cocks his ears, O'er yonder stile see Lubberkin appears. He comes, he comes, Hobnelia's not bewray'd, Nor shall she, crown'd with willow, die a maid. He vows, he swears he'll give me a green gown; O dear! I fall adown, adown, adown."
Gay also writes:
"Last Friday's eve, when, as the sun was set, I, near yon stile, three sallow gipsies met, Upon my hand they cast a poring look, Bid me beware, and thrice their heads they shook; They said that many crosses I must prove, Some in my worldly gain, but most in love. Next morn I missed three hens and our old cock, And off the hedge two pinners and a smock. I bore these losses with a Christian mind, And no mishap could feel while thou wert kind; But since, alas! I grew my Colin's scorn, I've known no pleasure, night, or noon, or morn. Help me, ye gipsies, bring him home again, And to a constant lass give back her swain. Have I not sat with thee full many a night, When dying embers were our only light, When every creature did in slumber lie, Besides our cat, my Colin Clout, and I? No troublous thoughts the cat or Colin move, While I alone am kept awake by love. Remember, Colin, when at last year's wake I bought the costly present for thy sake: Could thou spell o'er the posy on thy knife, And with another change thy state of life? If thou forget'st, I wot I can repeat, My memory can tell the verse so sweet: 'As this is grav'd upon this knife of thine, So is thy image on this heart of mine.' But woe is me! such presents luckless prove, For knives, they tell me, always sever love."
In the story of Isabella, by Boccaccio, there are touching incidents of the apparition of a deceased lover appearing to his mistress. The tale is thus rendered by Keats:
"It was a vision. In the drowsy gloom, The dull of midnight, at her couch's foot Lorenzo stood and wept: the forest tomb Had marr'd his glossy hair, which once could shoot Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute From his lorn voice, and passt his loomed ears Had made a miry channel for his tears.
Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spoke; For there was striving in its piteous tongue, To speak as when on earth it was awake, And Isabella on its music hung: Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake, As in a palsied Druid's harp unstrung; And through it moaned a ghostly under-song, Like hoarse night gusts sepulchral biers among.
Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof From the poor girl by magic of their bright, The while it did unthread the horrid woof Of the late darkened time—the murd'rous spite Of pride and avarice—the dark pine roof In the forest—and the sodden turfed dell, When, without any word, from stabs it fell.
Saying moreover, 'Isabel, my sweet! Red whortle-berries droop above my head, And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet, Around me beeches and high chesnuts shed Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat Comes from beyond the river to my bed: Go shed one tear upon my heather-bloom, And it shall comfort me within the tomb.
'I am a shadow now, alas! alas! Upon the skirts of human nature dwelling Alone: I chaunt alone the holy mass, While little sounds of life around me knelling, And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass, And many a chapel bell the hour is telling, Paining me through: these sounds grow strange to me, And thou art distant in humanity.'"
Let us now see what Burns, the never-to-be-forgotten Scottish poet, says in his Address to the Deil and Tam o' Shanter. In his own felicitous way he brings out the belief the ancient inhabitants had of visible devils, water-kelpies, spunkies, witches, charms, spells, and many other forms of superstition.
ADDRESS TO THE DEIL.
"O thou! whatever title suit thee, Auld Hornie, Satan, Nick, or Clootie, Wha in yon cavern grim an' sootie, Closed under hatches, Spairges about the brunstane cootie, To scaud poor wretches.
Hear me, auld Hangie, for a wee, An' let poor damned bodies be; I'm sure sma' pleasure it can gie, E'en to a deil, To skelp and scaud poor dogs like me, An' hear us squeel?
Great is thy pow'r, and great thy fame; Far kend and noted is thy name: An' tho' yon lowin' heugh's thy hame, Thou travels far; An' faith! thou's neither lag nor lame, Nor blate nor scaur.
Whyles ranging like a roarin' lion For prey, a' holes and corners tryin'; Whyles on the strong-winged tempest flyin', Tirling the kirks; Whyles, in the human bosom pryin', Unseen thou lurks.
I've heard my reverend grannie say, In lanely glens you like to stray; Or where auld ruined castles grey Nod to the moon, Ye fright the nightly wand'rer's way, Wi' eldritch croon.
When twilight did my grannie summon To say her prayers, douce honest woman! Aft yont the dyke she's heard you bummin' Wi' eerie drone; Or, rustlin', thro' the boortrees comin', Wi' heavy groan.
Ae dreary, windy, winter night, The stars shot down wi' sklentin' light, Wi' you, mysel', I got a fright, Ayont the lough; Ye, like a rash-bush stood in sight, Wi' waving sough.
The cudgel in my nieve did shake, Each bristled hair stood like a stake, When wi' an eldritch stour, quaick—quaick— Amang the springs, Awa ye squatter'd like a drake, On whistling wings.
Let warlocks grim, and wither'd hags, Tell how wi' you on ragweed nags, They skim the muirs, and dizzy crags, Wi' wicked speed; And in kirk-yards renew their leagues Owre howkit dead.
Thence countra wives, wi' toil an' pain, May plunge an' plunge the kirn in vain; For oh! the yellow treasure's ta'en By witching skill; An' dawtet, twal-pint Hawkie's gaen As yell's the bill.
Then mystic knots mak great abuse, On young guidman, fond, keen, and crouse, When the best wark-lume i' the house, By cantrip wit, Is instant made no worth a louse, Just at the bit.
When thaws dissolve the snawy hoord, An' float the jinglin' icy-boord, Then water-kelpies haunt the foord, By your direction, An' 'nighted trav'llers are allured To their destruction.
An' aft your moss-traversing spunkies Decoy the wight that late and drunk is; The bleezin', curst, mischievous monkeys Delude his eyes, Till in some miry slough he sunk is, Ne'er mair to rise.
When masons' mystic word an' grip In storms an' tempests raise you up, Some cock or cat your rage maun stop, Or, strange to tell, The youngest brother ye wad whip Aff straught to hell!
Lang syne, in Eden's bonnie yaird, When youthfu' lovers first were pair'd, An' a' the soul of love they shared, The raptured hour, Sweet on the fragrant flowery swaird In shady bower!
Then you, ye auld, sneck-drawing dog! Ye came to Paradise incog., An' played on man a cursed brogue, (Black be your fa'!) An' gied the infant world a shog, 'Maist ruined a'.
D'ye mind that day, when in a bizz, Wi' reekit duds and reestit gizz, Ye did present your smoutie phiz 'Mang better folk, An' sklented on the man of Uz Your spitefu' joke?
An' how ye gat him in your thrall, An' brak him out o' house an' hall, While scabs and blotches did him gall Wi' bitter claw, An' lowsed his ill-tongued wicked scaw, Was warst ava?
But a' your doings to rehearse, Your wily snares an' fechtin' fierce, Sin' that day Michael did you pierce, Down to this time, Wad ding a Lallan tongue, or Erse, In prose or rhyme.
An' now, auld Cloots, I ken ye're thinkin' A certain Bardie's rantin', drinkin', Some luckless hour will send him linkin' To your black pit; But faith, he'll turn a corner, jinkin', And cheat you yet.
But, fare ye weel, auld Nickie-ben! O wad ye tak a thought and men'! Ye aiblins might—I dinna ken— Still hae a stake— I'm wae to think upon yon den, Even for your sake!"
TAM O' SHANTER.
"When chapman billies leave the street, And drouthy neebors, neebors meet, As market days are wearing late, An' folk begin to tak the gate; While we sit bousing at the nappy, An' gettin' fou an' unco happy, We think na on the lang Scots miles, The mosses, waters, slaps, an' styles, That lie between us and our hame, Where sits our sulky sullen dame, Gathering her brows like gathering storm, Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter, As he frae Ayr ae night did canter; (Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a toun surpasses, For honest men and bonny lasses.)
O Tam! hadst thou but been sae wise, As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice! She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum; That frae November till October Ae market-day thou was na sober; That ilka melder, wi' the miller, Thou sat as lang as thou had siller; That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on, The smith and thee gat roaring fou on; That at the L—d's house, even on Sunday, Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday. She prophesy'd that, late or soon, Thou would be found deep drown'd in Doon; Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk, By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.
Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, To think how mony counsels sweet, How mony lengthen'd sage advices, The husband frae the wife despises!
But to our tale: Ae market night Tam had got planted unco right; Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, Wi' reaming swats, that drank divinely: And at his elbow, Souter Johnny, His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony; Tam lo'ed him like a vera brither; They had been fou for weeks thegither. The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter; And aye the ale was growing better: The landlady and Tam grew gracious, Wi' favours, secret, sweet, and precious; The souter tauld his queerest stories; The landlord's laugh was ready chorus: The storm without might rair and rustle, Tam did na mind the storm a whistle.
Care, mad to see a man sae happy, E'en drown'd himself amang the nappy; As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure, The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure: Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, O'er a' the ills o' life victorious!
But pleasures are like poppies spread— You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed! Or like the snow-fall in the river, A moment white—then melts for ever; Or like the borealis race, That flit ere you can point their place; Or like the rainbow's lovely form, Evanishing amid the storm.— Nae man can tether time nor tide: The hour approaches Tam maun ride— That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane, That dreary hour he mounts his beast in, And sic a night he taks the road in, As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.
The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last; The rattlin' showers rose on the blast: The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd; Loud, deep, and lang the thunder bellow'd; That night a child might understand The deil had business on his hand.
Weel mounted on his grey mare, Meg— A better never lifted leg— Tam skelpit on through dub and mire, Despising wind, and rain, and fire; Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet; Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet; Whiles glow'ring round wi' prudent cares, Lest bogles catch him unawares; Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, Whare ghaists and houlets nightly cry.
By this time he was 'cross the foord, Whare in the snaw the chapman smoor'd; And past the birks and meikle stane, Whare drucken Charlie brak's neck bane; And thro' the whins, and by the cairn, Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn; And near the thorn, aboon the well, Whare Mungo's mither hang'd hersel.— Before him Doon pours all his floods! The doubling storm roars thro' the woods; The lightnings flash from pole to pole; Near and more near the thunders roll; When glimmering thro' the groaning trees, Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze; Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing, And loud resounded mirth and dancing.
Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! What dangers thou canst make us scorn! Wi' tippenny we fear nae evil; Wi' usquebae we'll face the devil.— The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle, Fair play, he cared na deils a boddle. But Maggie stood right sair astonish'd, Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd, She ventured forward on the light; And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight! Warlocks and witches in a dance; Nae cotillon brent new frae France, But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels Put life and mettle in their heels. A winnock-bunker in the east, There sat auld Nick in shape o' beast; A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large, To gie them music was his charge: He screw'd his pipes and gart them skirl Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. Coffins stood round like open presses, That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses; And by some devilish cantrip sleight, Each in its cauld hand held a light, By which heroic Tam was able To note upon the haly table, A murderer's banes in gibbet airns; Twa span-lang, wee unchristen'd bairns, A thief, new cutted frae a rape, Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape: Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted; Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted; A garter which a babe had strangled; A knife a father's throat had mangled, Whom his ain son o' life bereft, The grey hairs yet stack to the heft Wi' mair o' horrible and awfu' Which ev'n to name wad be unlawfu'.
As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd and curious, The mirth and fun grew fast and furious: The piper loud and louder blew, The dancers quick and quicker flew; They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit Till ilka carlin swat and reekit, And coost her duddies to the wark And linket at it in her sark!
Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queens A' plump an' strapping, in their teens; Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen, Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen! Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair, That ance were plush o' guid blue hair, I wad hae gi'en them aff my hurdies, For ae blink o' the bonnie burdies!
But wither'd beldames auld and droll, Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal, Louping and flinging on a crummock, I wonder didna turn thy stomach.
But Tam kenn'd what was what fu' brawlie, There was a winsome wench and walie, That night enlisted in the core, (Lang after kenn'd on Carrick shore! For monie a beast to dead she shot, And perish'd monie a bonnie boat, And shook baith meikle corn and bear, And kept the country side in fear). Her cutty sark o' Paisley harn, That while a lassie she had worn, In longitude though sorely scanty, It was her best, and she was vauntie: Ah! little kenn'd thy reverend grannie, That sark she coft for her wee Nannie, Wi' twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches), Wad ever graced a dance o' witches!
But here my muse her wing man cour: Sic flights are far beyond her power: To sing how Nannie lap and flang, (A souple jade she was an' strang), An' how Tam stood like ane bewitch'd, An' thought his very een enrich'd: Even Satan glowr'd and fidg'd fu' fain, And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main: Till first ae caper, syne anither, Tam tint his reason a' thegither, And roars out, 'Weel done, Cutty sark!' And in an instant all was dark; And scarcely had he Maggie rallied, When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke, When plundering herds assail their byke; As open pussie's mortal foes, When, pop! she starts before their nose; As eager runs the market crowd, When 'Catch the thief!' resounds aloud,— So Maggie runs, the witches follow, Wi' monie an eldritch screetch and hollow.
Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin'! In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'! In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin'! Kate soon will be a waefu' woman! Now do thy speedy utmost, Meg, And win the key-stane o' the brig; There at them thou thy tail may toss, A running stream they darena cross. But ere the key-stane she could make, The fient a tail she had to shake! For Nannie, far before the rest, Hard upon noble Maggie press'd, And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle; But little wist she Maggie's mettle— Ae spring brought aff her master hale, But left behind her ain grey tail: The carlin caught her by the rump, An' left poor Maggie scarce a stump.
Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read, Ilk man and mother's son take heed: Whene'er to drink you are inclined, Or cutty sarks run in your mind, Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear, Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare."
Sir Walter Scott, the "Great Unknown"—His belief in Superstition—How his Tales of Fiction are composed—A Town-Clerk frightened by an Apparition—A Ghost that did not understand Erse, but could communicate in Latin—Lovel and Edie Ochiltree—Discovery of Hidden Treasure by Occult Science—"Rob Roy"—Fairies' Caverns—Supposed Apparition in the Trossachs—Elfin People at the Firth of Forth—A Minister taken away by Fairies—Dame Glendinning's Tale—Lines from "Marmion"—A Fairy Knight—Mysterious Steed.
Sir Walter Scott, the "Great Unknown," was sensibly affected by his country's tales of witches, fairies, and ghosts. Whether the fear he entertained proceeded from early impressions, or whether an awe imperceptibly crept over him, through his frequent communings with old people (when he was in more advanced life) who had no doubt of the existence of witches and spirits, good and bad, visiting the earth, and performing acts of benevolence or malevolence, according to the inclination or caprice of the uncanny or unearthly agent, we cannot say; but of one thing there can be no doubt, that even in years of maturity he believed there were spirits that appeared to men, and assisted them to perform actions they could not have done without superhuman aid, and that by such beings future events were made known. Were it not for the dash of superstition he threw here and there into his tales, they would be comparatively of a commonplace description. Like other writers of fiction, or authors whose writings rest on a slender foundation of truth, Sir Walter Scott often brings forward a witch, wizard, gipsy, fairy, ghost, and other spirits. A haunted castle, a fortune-teller, and a good or evil genius are as indispensable in a good story as a cruel parent, a rich uncle, and a disappointed lover. None knew better than the great Scottish novelist how to work on his readers' feelings; and hence his success.
Sir Walter tells, in the Antiquary, a story of Rab Tull, the town-clerk, being in an old house searching for important documents, but who was obliged to go to bed without finding them. The bodie had got such a custom of tippling and tippling with his drunken cronies, that he could not sleep without his punch, and as usual he took his glass that evening. In the middle watches of night he had a fearful wakening—he was never himself after it—and was stricken with the dead palsy that very day four years. He thought he heard the bed curtains move, and out he looked. Before him appeared an old gentleman in a queer-fashioned dress. Rab, greatly frightened, asked the apparition (for it was a spirit that stood before him) what it wanted. The spirit answered in an unknown tongue. Rab replied in Erse, but the spirit did not seem to understand this language. In his strait, the clerk bethought him of two or three words of Latin he used in making out the town's deeds; and no sooner had he tried the strange object before him with these, than out came such a blatter of Latin, that Rab Tull—who with all his pretensions was no great scholar—was overwhelmed. It then made a sign to Rab to follow it. He followed up-stairs and down-stairs to a tower in a corner of the house. There the ghost pointed out a cabinet, and suddenly disappeared. In a drawer of that repository the missing deed was found.
Lovel, after shooting M'Intyre in a duel, fled from justice, under the guidance of old Edie Ochiltree. Exhausted by excitement and a long walk through a thicket, they reached a cave with narrow entrance, concealed by the boughs of an oak. Passing through the aperture, not much larger than a fox-hole, they reached the interior. Lovel was led to a narrow turnpike stair leading to a church above. In the evening they reached a spot which commanded a full view of the chancel in every direction. Ere long, Lovel was startled by the sound of human voices. Two persons, with a dark lantern, entered the chancel. After conversing together some time in whispers, Lovel recognised the voice of Dousterswivel, pronouncing in a smothered tone, "Indeed, mine goot sir, dere cannot be one finer hour nor season for dis great purpose.... I will show you all de secrets dat art can show—ay, de secret of de great Pymander." The other individual turned out to be Sir Arthur Wardour, and their business evidently had reference to the discovery of hidden treasure, by means of consulting the heavenly bodies or some friendly spirit. Before Sir Arthur and Dousterswivel left the ruins of St. Ruth, they found a casket containing gold and silver coins. These two worthies, along with Mr. Oldenbuck, set out, on another occasion to search for treasure at the ruins of St. Ruth. Arrived at the scene of operations, the Antiquary addressed the adept Dousterswivel: "Pray, Mr. Dousterswivel, shall we dig from east to west, or from west to east? or will you assist us with your triangular vial of May-dew, or with your divining-rod of witch-hazel?" This was said tauntingly, yet nevertheless they proceeded to dig, in the hope of finding treasure; and sure enough, a chest containing ingots of silver to the value of a thousand pounds was discovered. Dousterswivel claimed the credit of bringing about the discovery. Mr. Oldenbuck refused to give him any credit, telling him that he came without weapons, and did not use charms, lamen-sigel, talisman, spell-crystal, pentacle, magic-mirror, nor geomantic figure. "Where," asked the Antiquary, "be your periapts, and your abracadabras, man? your May-fern, your vervain—
"Your toad, your crow, your dragon, and your panther, Your sun, your moon, your firmament, your adrop, Your Lato, Azoch, Zernich, Chibrit, Heautarit, With all your broths, your menstrues, your materials, Would burst a man to name?"
Dousterswivel, like all others who resort to enchantments, believing in the existence of hobgoblins and divination, was not certain but his own art had really contributed to the success of his party. Chagrined at the treatment of Mr. Oldenbuck, and separated for a time from Sir Arthur, he was glad to enter into conversation with Edie Ochiltree, who witnessed the finding of the treasure with a keen eye to future operations. Edie had surreptitiously obtained possession of the treasure box-lid, and on it he and the conjurer were able to decipher, "Search number one." The old beggar, who knew many of the traditions of the country, told Dousterswivel that the remains of Malcolm the Misticot were, along with a large amount of gold and silver, buried somewhere at St. Ruth. Moreover, he recited the old prophecy:
"If Malcolm the Misticot's grave were fun', The lands of Knockwinnock are lost and won."
They resolved to return to the ruins of St. Ruth at midnight to make another search, not on account of Sir Arthur or Mr. Oldenbuck, but for themselves. Neither gold nor silver were found; but those engaged in the search got a fright, one supposing he saw evil spirits rising from the earth's bowels, and the other that he was chased by a ghost on horseback. A series of interesting incidents connected with adventure, love, and crime follow. Dousterswivel was discovered to be an impostor; certain persons engaged in a dark plot were cut off by death, but the virtuous were rewarded.
Sir Walter Scott, in Rob Roy, makes mention of an eminence or mound near the upland hills, whence the Forth springs, supposed by the people in the neighbourhood to contain within its unseen caverns the palaces of fairies; and in his Notes to Rob Roy it is stated that the lakes and precipices, amidst which the river Forth has its birth, are still, according to popular tradition, haunted by elfin people. In one note the reader is informed that the Rev. Robert Kirk, who died at Aberfoyle in the year 1688, was supposed to have been taken away by fairies. Mr. Kirk was walking near his manse on a Dun Shie, or fairy mound, when he sank down apparently in a faint, and seemingly died. The body was supposed to be buried, but shortly afterwards he appeared in living form to a friend, to whom he told that he was not dead, but in fairyland, whither he was carried at the time he fell down in a swoon. The reverend captive gave directions how he might be rescued by him; but the person who was appointed to perform the prescribed ceremony failed to proceed as directed, and Mr. Kirk, who had been twice seen after his supposed death, never appeared again.
* * * * *
As we are writing of Rob Roy's country, and of an incident connected with the fate of a minister there, we suddenly break the thread of our narrative, to introduce the particulars of a most extraordinary circumstance connected with another clergyman in that quarter.
A few years ago, about 1870, a most respectable gentleman belonging to Edinburgh, devoid of superstitious fear, told the writer: "In the autumn I was enjoying the retirement and grandeur of the Trossachs and surrounding district. The lake, the hill, the dale, and, above all, the people, interested me. Often was I in the humble cot, and, although a sojourner, I became acquainted with families in the more exalted positions in society. Among others, I gained the friendship of a venerable clergyman, whose charity and piety were known far and near.
"While I had my residence in the Trossachs Hotel, the clergyman, I was told, one day was dangerously ill. Next morning, before starting with a few friends up Loch Katrine, I sent to inquire after the invalid's health. The answer returned conveyed the impression that he was fast sinking. We proceeded up the lake, and came back by the last boat for the day. We took outside seats on the coach, and while turning a corner of the road, about half-way between the lake and the hotel, I and several other passengers (including the captain of the Loch Katrine steamer and the driver) observed a gentleman passing us, whom we all declared was the clergyman. Trusting our sight, we thought it most extraordinary that a man, considered to be dying in the morning, should be seen in the evening on the highway, far from home.
"The steamboat being unusually late of arriving at her destination, the sun had gone down, and the shades of night were closing over us before half our journey by coach could be accomplished, still it was not so dark when the figure of the pious minister appeared but that one might not only see the figure of a man, but observe his every feature. The sight struck all, who recognised in the traveller the invalid minister with amazement, and some with fear. On the coach arriving at the hotel, a messenger was despatched to inquire after the reverend gentleman's health. The answer received disclosed the startling intelligence that the clergyman had expired shortly before the time we saw his figure walking with slow step and sad countenance towards Loch Katrine."
* * * * *
But we now return to Sir Walter Scott's works. Those who have read the Monastery (and who have not?) may recollect of Dame Glendinning telling Tibb what she had seen on a Hallowe'en in her youth—which was as follows:—
"Aweel, aweel, I had mair joes than ane, but I favoured nane o' them; and sae, at Hallowe'en, Father Nicolas the cellarer—he was cellarer before his father, Father Clement, that now is—was cracking his nuts and drinking his brown beer with us, and as blithe as might be, and they would have me try a cantrip to ken wha suld wed me; and the monk said there was nae ill in it, and if there was, he would assoil me for it. And awa' I went into the barn to winnow my three weights o' naething—sair, sair, my mind misgave me for fear of wrang-doing and wrang-suffering, baith; but I had aye a bauld spirit. I had not winnowed the last weight clear out, and the moon was shining bright upon the floor, when in stalked the presence of my dear Simon Glendinning, that is now happy. I never saw him plainer in my life than I did that moment; he held up an arrow as he passed me, and I swarf'd awa' wi' fright. Muckle wark there was to bring me to mysel' again, and sair they tried to make me believe it was a trick o' Father Nicolas and Simon between them, and that the arrow was to signify Cupid's shaft, as the Father called it; and mony a time Simon wad threep it to me after I was married—gude man, he liked not it suld be said that he was seen out o' the body!—But mark the end o' it, Tibb: we were married, and the grey-goose wing was the death o' him, after a'!"
The following lines appear in Marmion in reference to a combat with a goblin knight:—
"Soon as the midnight bell did ring, Alone, and armed, forth rode the King To that old camp's deserted round: Sir Knight, you well might mark the mound, Left hand the town,—the Pictish race The trench, long since, in blood did trace; The moor around is brown and bare, The space within is green and fair. The spot our village children know, For there the earliest wild flowers grow; But woe betide the wandering wight, That treads its circle in the night! The breadth across, a bowshot clear, Gives ample space for full career; Opposed to the four points of heaven, By four deep gaps is entrance given. The southernmost our monarch passed, Halted, and blew a gallant blast; And on the north, within the ring, Appeared the form of England's king, Who then a thousand leagues afar, In Palestine waged holy war: Yet arms like England's did he wield, Alike the leopards in the shield, Alike his Syrian courser's frame, The rider's length of limb the same: Long afterwards did Scotland know Fell Edward was her deadliest foe.
The vision made our monarch start, But soon he manned his noble heart, And in the first career they ran, The Elfin Knight fell horse and man; Yet did a splinter of his lance Through Alexander's visor glance, And razed the skin—a puny wound. The king, light leaping to the ground, With naked blade his phantom foe Compelled the future war to show. Of Largs he saw the glorious plain, Where still gigantic bones remain, Memorial of the Danish war; Himself he saw amid the field, On high his brandished war-axe wield, And strike proud Haco from his car, While all around the shadowy kings, Denmark's grim ravens cowered their wings. 'Tis said that, in that awful night, Remoter visions met his sight, Foreshowing future conquests far, When our sons' sons wage northern war; A royal city, tower and spire, Reddened the midnight sky with fire; And shouting crews her navy bore, Triumphant, to the victor shore. Such signs may learned clerks explain, They pass the wit of simple swain.
The joyful king turned home again, Headed his host and quelled the Dane; But yearly, when returned the night Of his strange combat with the sprite, His wound must bleed and smart; Lord Gifford then would gibing say, 'Bold as ye were, my liege, ye pay The penance of your start.' Long since, beneath Dunfermline's nave, King Alexander fills his grave, Our Lady give him rest! Yet still the nightly spear and shield The elfin warrior doth wield, Upon the brown hill's breast; And many a knight hath proved his chance In the charmed ring to break a lance, But have all foully sped; Save two, as legends tell, and they Were Wallace wight, and Gilbert Hay.— Gentles, my tale is said."
One of Sir Walter Scott's poetic effusions has reference to a popular story concerning a fairy knight:—
"Osbert, a bold and powerful baron, visited a noble family in the vicinity of Wandlebury, in the bishopric of Ely. Among other stories related in the social circle of his friends (who, according to custom, amused each other by repeating ancient tales and traditions), he was informed, that if any knight, unattended, entered an adjacent plain by moonlight, and challenged an adversary to appear, he would be immediately encountered by a spirit in the form of a knight. Osbert resolved to make the experiment, and set out, attended by a single squire, whom he ordered to remain without the limits of the plain, which was surrounded by an ancient entrenchment. On repeating the challenge, he was instantly assailed by an adversary, whom he quickly unhorsed, and seized the reins of his steed. During this operation, his ghostly opponent sprang up, and darting his spear like a javelin at Osbert, wounded him in the thigh. Osbert returned in triumph with the horse, which he committed to the care of his servants. The horse was of a sable colour, as well as his whole accoutrements, and apparently of great beauty and vigour. He remained with his keepers till cock-crowing, when, with eyes flashing fire, he reared, spurned the ground, and vanished. On disarming himself, Osbert perceived that he was wounded, and that one of his steel boots was full of blood. Gervase adds, that as long as he lived, the scar of his wound opened afresh on the anniversary of the eve on which he encountered the spirit."
Lord Byron taught Superstition by his Nurse and others—Byron and the Maid in Green—The Maid's Keepsake or Charm—Bridge of Balgonie—Byron's fear to ride over it—His belief in Unlucky Days and Presentiments—Socrates's Demon—Monk Lewis's Monitor—Napoleon's Warnings—A Sorrowful Tale—A Strange Story—Qualities of Mind descending from Sire to Son—Byron's Fortune told by a Sybil—Hebrew Camyo—Abracadabra—Loch-na-Garr—Oscar of Alva—Byron's last Instructions.
Lord Byron, who was taught superstition by his nurse, became acquainted with the peculiar belief of the Highlanders while, in early life, he dwelt within sight of "dark Loch-na-Garr." When wandering about Pannanich, the shepherds told him many strange legends, and the old dames often enticed him into their huts to amuse him with fairy tales and witch stories. It was thought by the old crones that the wonderful boy had communings with more uncanny neighbours than these simple-minded people, who no more doubted the existence of witches and fairies than they doubted that the Dee flowed from the mountains to the sea. If report spoke true, he was often heard in conversation with intelligent beings, though to ordinary human eyes no other form but that of his own was seen. After his fame was wide-spread, an old woman, who lived in a little straw-thatched cottage by the roadside near Balmoral, declared that she expected that he would enlighten the world, for she had often seen him with those who could instruct him and tell him of past and future events. One of those persons, she said, was a little maid dressed in green, whose beautiful face, flowing hair, and agile figure were faultless. Frequently was she seen climbing steep precipices on which human foot was never known to rest, and bring him flowers, and even the eagles' nests were not beyond her reach. While the young and middle-aged would wonder who she was, the aged shook their heads. Whoever the fair little maid was, one thing in connection with her was exceedingly strange. Either Byron did not know her relations and home, or, for reasons he kept to himself, he chose to conceal them. Her merry laugh, clear as the sound of a silver bell, or her sweet voice in song, was generally what indicated her approach. At one time she would emerge from a thicket, and rise at another, like a spectre from behind a rock. Her disappearance was equally mysterious. At their last parting she gave him a keepsake or charm, which he long wore, suspended by a ribbon, round his neck, and it was not till he threw it aside that he became unfortunate and unhappy. We cannot vouch for the truth of this story; but if Byron did not hold intercourse with unearthly beings, he has, by his writings and speech, left room for simple-minded people who have read his works and history, to suppose that he did. His belief in presentiment was very strong, as also visionary warnings of imminent danger or impending calamities.
A school-fellow of Byron had a small pony, and one day they went to the Don to bathe. When they came to the bridge of Balgownie, the young poet remembered the old prophecy:
"Brig o' Balgownie! wight is thy wa', Wi' a wife's ae son, an' a mare's ae foal, Down shalt thou fa'."
He immediately stopped his companion, who was then riding, and asked him if he recollected the prophecy, saying, that as they were both only sons, and as the pony might be "a mare's ae foal," he would rather ride over first, because he had only a mother to lament him should the bridge fall, whereas he, his companion, had both a father and mother to grieve for him if he perished. Byron, however, was not the only one who put faith in such prophecies. Leslie says, "Persons have been known to dismount when they came to the brig o' Balgownie, and send their horses over before them."
Byron had a belief in unlucky days. He once refused to be introduced to a lady because the day was Friday; and on this day of the week he would not visit his friends. "Something," he said, "whispered to me at my wedding that I was signing my death warrant. I am a great believer in presentiments. Socrates's demon was no fiction; Monk Lewis had his monitor, and Napoleon many warnings. At the last moment I would have retreated if I could have done so."
The poet had a high opinion of Monk Lewis. Here are two stories told by Byron:
"Whilst Lewis was residing at Mannheim, every night at the same hour, he heard, or thought he heard, in his room, when he was lying in bed, a crackling noise like that produced by parchment or thick paper. This circumstance caused inquiry, when it was told him that the sounds were attributable to the following cause:—The house in which he lived had belonged to a widow who had an only son. In order to prevent him marrying a poor but amiable girl to whom he was attached, he was sent to sea. Years passed, and the mother heard no tidings of him nor of the ship in which he had sailed. It was supposed the vessel had been wrecked, and that all on board had perished. The reproaches of the girl, the upbraidings of her own conscience, and the loss of her child, crazed the old lady's mind. Her only pursuit was to turn over the gazettes for news. Hope at length left her: she did not live long, and continued her old occupation after death."
The other story runs thus:
"Two Florentine lovers, who had been attached to each other almost from childhood, made a vow of eternal fidelity. Mina was the name of the lady; her husband's I forget, but it is not material. They parted. He had been some time absent with his regiment, when, as his disconsolate lady was sitting alone in her chamber, she distinctly heard the well-known sound of his footsteps, and, starting up, beheld not her husband, but his spectre, with a deep ghastly wound across his forehead. She swooned with horror. When she recovered, the ghost told her that in future his visits should be announced by a passing bell, and the words distinctly whispered, 'Mina, I am here!' Their interviews became frequent, till the woman fancied herself as much in love with the ghost as she had been with the man. But it was soon to prove otherwise. One fatal night she went to a ball. She danced, and, what was worse, her partner was a young Florentine, so much the counterpart of her lover, that she became estranged from the ghost. Whilst the young gallant conducted her in the waltz, and her ear drank in the music of his voice and words, a passing bell tolled. She had been accustomed to the sound till it hardly excited her attention, and, now lost in the attractions of her fascinating partner, she heard, but regarded it not. A second peal!—she listened not to its warnings. A third time the bell, with its deep and iron tongue, startled the assembled company, and silenced the music. Mina turned her eyes from her partner, and saw, reflected in the mirror, a form, a shadow, a spectre: it was her husband. He was standing between her and the young Florentine, and whispered, in a solemn and melancholy tone, the accustomed accents, 'Mina, I am here!' She instantly fell down dead. The two ghosts walked out of the room arm in arm."
Byron believed that the quality of mind descended from sire to son, and contended that any passion might be worn out of a family by skilful culture. To his uncle, who was very superstitious, and fed crickets, he ascribed his superstition; to another of his ancestors, who died laughing, he ascribed his buoyant spirits. Two of his relations had such an affection for each other, that they both died at the same time. "There seems," he said, "to have been a flaw in my escutcheon there, or that that loving couple have monopolised all the connubial bliss of the family."
Byron's superstition was so great that it led him to have his fortune told by a sybil. It was prophesied that his twenty-seventh and thirty-seventh years would prove unlucky to him. Some people have thought that the prophecy was fulfilled: he was married in his twenty-seventh, and died in his thirty-seventh year.
He was convinced that the principal charms of the Scotch resembled those of other nations. He was not ignorant of the supposed virtue of the mountain ash as an antidote against witchcraft. Everything pertaining to superstition was interesting to him. He had stored up in his memory many curious anecdotes. On being told of a particular race of men skilled in Cabala, who by a single gaze of their "evil eye" could level an enemy to the earth and occasion instantaneous death, and of parents who had handsome children hanging cameos round their necks to protect them from the evil consequences of a wicked eye, his Lordship said, "I remember reading somewhere that Serenus Samonicus, preceptor to a young Gordian, recommended the Abracadabra or Abrasadabra as a charm or amulet in curing agues, and preventing other diseases."
A Hebrew Camyo, supposed to have been handed down from father to son since the building of the first temple, has a similar effect. Lucky is the circumcised Jew who has, in the time of need, the good fortune to have the Hebrew charm applied to his leprously-inclined body; and thrice fortunate is he, whoever he may be, that has it constantly at his command, and can claim it as his family relic.
The word Abracadabra or Abrasadabra must be written on parchment, or other suitable substance, in the manner below, omitting in every new line the last letter of the former line, so that the whole may form a kind of inverted cone:
A b r a c a d a b r a A b r a c a d a b r A b r a c a d a b A b r a c a d a A b r a c a d A b r a c a A b r a c A b r a A b r A b A
Byron looked as if he had added greatly to his stock of knowledge when he learned that, which way soever the letters of the charms might be taken, beginning from the lower point and ascending from the left to the right, they make the same word.
To every one who has read Loch-na-Garr, it must be evident that Byron believed, or wished it to appear that he believed, like the Highlanders, that the voices of the dead were heard in the storm, that the souls of departed heroes rode on the wind, and that the dark clouds encircled the forms of chieftain sires that added lustre to their country's glory. But the poet shall speak for himself:—
"Away, ye gay landscapes, ye gardens of roses! In you let the minions of luxury rove; Restore me the rocks where the snow-flake reposes, Though still they are sacred to freedom and love: Yet, Caledonia, beloved are thy mountains, Round their white summits though elements war; Though cataracts foam 'stead of smooth-flowing fountains, I sigh for the valley of dark Loch-na-Garr.
Ah! there my young footsteps in infancy wander'd; My cap was the bonnet, my cloak was the plaid: On chieftains long perish'd my memory ponder'd, As daily I strode through the pine-cover'd glade; I sought not my home till the day's dying glory Gave place to the rays of the bright polar star; For fancy was cheer'd by traditional story, Disclosed by the natives of dark Loch-na-Garr.
'Shades of the dead! have I not heard your voices Rise on the night-rolling breath of the gale?' Surely the soul of the hero rejoices, And rides on the wind, o'er his own Highland vale. Round Loch-na-Garr, while the stormy mist gathers, Winter presides in his cold icy car: Clouds there encircle the forms of my fathers; They dwell in the tempests of dark Loch-na-Garr.
'Ill-starr'd, though brave, did no visions foreboding Tell you that fate had forsaken your cause?' Ah! were you destined to die at Culloden, Victory crown'd not your fall with applause: Still were you happy in death's earthy slumber, You rest with your clans in the caves of Braemar; The pibroch resounds to the piper's loud number, Your deeds on the echoes of dark Loch-na-Garr.
Years have roll'd on, Loch-na-Garr, since I left you, Years must elapse ere I tread you again: Nature of verdure and flowers has bereft you, Yet still are you dearer than Albion's plain. England! thy beauties are tame and domestic To one who has roved o'er the mountains afar: O for the crags that are wild and majestic! The steep frowning glories of dark Loch-na-Garr!"
In Oscar of Alva will also be found something of popular superstition. Passing over a part of the tale, Byron says:—
"From high Southannon's distant tower Arrived a young and noble dame; With Kenneth's lands to form her dower, Glenalvon's blue-eyed daughter came.
And Oscar claimed the beauteous bride, And Angus on his Oscar smiled; It soothed the father's feudal pride Thus to obtain Glenalvon's child.
Hark to the pibroch's pleasing note! Hark to the swelling nuptial song! In joyous strains the voices float, And still the choral peal prolong.
* * * * *
But where is Oscar? Sure 'tis late: Is this a bridegroom's ardent flame? While thronging guests and ladies wait Nor Oscar nor his brother came.
At length young Allan join'd the bride; 'Why comes not Oscar?' Angus said: 'Is he not here?' the youth replied; 'With me he roved not o'er the glade.'
* * * * *
'O search, ye chiefs! O search around! Allan, with these through Alva fly; Till Oscar, till my son is found, Haste, haste, nor dare attempt reply.'
Three days, three sleepless nights, the chief For Oscar searched each mountain cave Then hope is lost: in boundless grief His locks in grey torn ringlets wave.
* * * * *
Days rolled along: the orb of light Again had run his destined race; No Oscar bless'd his father's sight, And sorrow left a fainter trace.
For youthful Allan still remain'd, And now his father's only joy: And Mora's heart was quickly gain'd, For beauty crown'd the fair-hair'd boy.
She thought that Oscar low was laid, And Allan's face was wondrous fair: If Oscar lived, some other maid Had claim'd his faithless bosom's care.
And Angus said, if one year more In fruitless hope was pass'd away, His fondest scruples should be o'er, And he would name their nuptial day.
Slow roll'd the moons, but blest at last Arrived the dearly destined morn; The year of anxious trembling past, What smiles the lovers' cheeks adorn!
Hark to the pibroch's pleasing note! Hark to the swelling nuptial song! In joyous strains the voices float, And still the choral peal prolong.
Again the clan, in festive crowd, Throng through the gate of Alva's hall; The sounds of mirth re-echo loud, And all their former joy recall.
But who is he whose darken'd brow Glooms in the midst of general mirth? Before his eyes' far fiercer glow The blue flames curdle o'er the hearth.
Dark is the robe which wraps his form, And tall his plume of gory red; His voice is like the rising storm, But light and trackless is his tread.
'Tis noon of night, the pledge goes round, The bridegroom's health is deeply quaff'd; With shouts the vaulted roofs resound, And all combine to hail the draught.
Sudden the stranger chief arose, And all the clamorous crowd are hush'd; And Angus' cheek with wonder glows, And Mora's tender bosom blush'd.
'Old man!' he cried, 'this pledge is done; Thou saw'st was duly drunk by me: It hail'd the nuptials of thy son: Now will I claim, a pledge from thee.
While all around is mirth and joy, To bless thy Allan's happy lot, Say, had'st thou ne'er another boy? Say, why should Oscar be forgot?'
'Alas!' the hapless sire replied, The big tear starting as he spoke; When Oscar left my hall, or died, This aged heart was almost broke.
'Thrice has the earth revolved her course Since Oscar's form has bless'd my sight; And Allan is my last resource, Since martial Oscar's death or flight.'
''Tis well,' replied the stranger stern, And fiercely flashed his rolling eye; 'Thy Oscar's fate I fain would learn: Perhaps the hero did not die.
'Perchance if those whom most he loved Would call, thy Oscar might return; Perchance the chief has only roved; For him thy beltane yet may burn.
'Fill high the bowl the table round, We will not claim the pledge by stealth; With wine let every cup be crown'd: Pledge me departed Oscar's health.'
'With all my soul,' old Angus said, And fill'd his goblet to the brim; 'Here's to my boy! alive or dead, I ne'er shall find a son like him.'
'Bravely, old man, this health hath sped; But why does Allan trembling stand? Come, drink remembrance of the dead, And raise thy cup with firmer hand.'
The crimson glow of Allan's face Was turn'd at once to ghastly hue; The drops of death each other chase Adown in agonizing dew.
Thrice did he raise the goblet high, And thrice his lips refused to taste; For thrice he caught the stranger's eye On his with deadly fury placed.
'And is it thus a brother hails A brother's fond remembrance here; If thus affection's strength prevails, What might we not expect from fear?'
Roused by the sneer, he raised the bowl, 'Would Oscar now could share our mirth!' Internal fear appall'd his soul; He said, and dash'd the cup to earth.
'Tis he! I hear my murderer's voice!' Loud shrieks a darkly gleaming form; 'A murderer's voice!' the roof replies, And deeply swells the bursting storm.
The tapers wink, the chieftains shrink, The stranger's gone—amidst the crew A form was seen in tartan green, And tall the shade terrific grew.
His waist was bound with a broad belt round, His plume of sable stream'd on high; But his breast was bare, with the red wounds there And fixed was the glare of his glassy eye.
And thrice he smiled, with his eye so wild, On Angus bending low the knee: And thrice he frown'd on a chief on the ground, Whom shivering crowds with horror see.
The bolts loud roll from pole to pole, The thunders through the welkin ring; And the gleaming form, through the mist of the storm, Was borne on high by the whirlwind's wing.
Cold was the feast, the revel ceased, Who lies upon the stony floor? Oblivion press'd old Angus' breast, At length his life-pulse throbs once more.
Away! away! let the leech assay To pour the light on Allan's eyes: His sand is done—his race is run; O! never more shall Allan rise:
But Oscar's breast is cold as clay, His locks are lifted by the gale: And Allan's barbed arrow lay With him in dark Glentanar's vale.
And whence the dreadful stranger came, Or who, no mortal wight can tell; But no one doubts the form of flame, For Alva's sons knew Oscar well.
Ambition nerved young Allan's hand, Exulting demons wing'd his dart; While Envy waved her burning brand, And pour'd her venom round his heart.
Swift is the shaft from Allan's bow; Whose streaming life-blood stains his side? Dark Oscar's sable crest is low, The dart has drunk his vital tide.
And Mora's eye could Allan move, She bade his wounded pride rebel; Alas! that eyes which beam'd with love Should urge the soul to deeds of hell.
Lo! seest thou not a lonely tomb Which rises o'er a warrior dead? It glimmers through the twilight gloom: O! that is Allan's nuptial bed.
Far, distant far, the noble grave Which held his clan's great ashes stood; And o'er his corse no banners wave, For they were stain'd with kindred blood.
What minstrel grey, what hoary bard, Shall Allan's deeds on harp-strings raise? The song is glory's chief reward, But who can strike a murderer's praise?
Unstrung, untouch'd the harp must stand, No minstrel dare the theme awake; Guilt would benumb his palsied hand, His harp in shuddering chords would break.
No lyre of fame, no hallow'd verse, Shall sound his glories high in air: A dying father's bitter curse, A brother's death-groan echoes there."
The incidents immediately preceding Byron's death show that, to his last moments, he entertained what is generally regarded as superstitious sentiments. He thought it possible for him to waken from the sleep of death, and torment those he desired to punish. Perceiving that he was seriously ill, he called his faithful attendant Fletcher, and gave him several directions. The servant expressed a hope that he (his master) would live many years. To this Byron replied, "No, it is now nearly over;" and then added, "I must tell you all, without losing a single moment. Now pay attention—You will be provided for—Oh, my poor dear child, my dear Ada!—could I but see her—give her my blessing—and my dear sister Augusta and her children—you will go to Lady Byron, and say—tell her everything." Here his Lordship seemed to be greatly affected; his voice failed him so much that it was difficult to understand what he said. After remaining silent for a short time, he raised his voice and said, "Fletcher: now if you do not execute every order which I have given you, I will torment you hereafter, if possible." These were nearly the last words he spoke, having very soon afterwards fallen into an easy sleep, from which he never awoke.
Tale by Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd—Aikwood Castle—Black Pages in Livery—The Witch Henbane—Imps demanding Work—Michael Scott—Curious Sport—Dreadful Threat—Rats transformed into the form of Men—Inventor of Gunpowder—Witches' Operations—Summoning Evil Spirits to torture a Man—Latin the Language best understood by Satan and his Emissaries—Holy Signs and Charms—Two Captives—Effects of a Friar's Blessing—Magic Lantern—Man blown into the Air—Michael Scott's Sealed and Subscribed Conditions—Imps' Song—Spirits in the forms of Crows—Dreadful Storm—Warlocks' Hymn—Eildon Hill.
Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, whose memory will long be remembered in Scotland, particularly in the Border counties, introduces, in his Three Perils of Man, a party of travellers approaching Aikwood Castle, about nine miles from Melrose. The edifice scarcely seemed to be the abode of man. "Is that now to be my residence, Yardbire?" said the beautiful Delany. "Will you go away, and leave Elias and me in that frightsome and desolate-looking mansion?" "Thou art in good hands," said the friar. "But thou art perhaps going into a place of danger, and evil things may await thee. Here, take thou this, and keep it in thy bosom; and, by the blessing of the Holy Virgin, it will shield thee from all malevolent spirits, all enchantments, and all dangers of the wicked one." As he said this, he put into her hand a small gilded copy of the four Evangelists, which she kissed and put into her bosom. All the rest of the company saw the small volume, and took it for a book of the black art. Close to the castle gate there appeared three pages in black livery, although a moment before there was no living creature there. They seemed to have risen out of the ground. All at once the horses and mules on which the travellers rode became restive; at this, the elves set up a shout, and skipped about with the swiftness of lightning. Hearing the noise, the great master asked his only attendant, Gourlay, "What is the meaning of the uproar?" "It is only Prim, Prig, and Pricker making sport," replied the servant.
As soon as the mighty master knew of the friar and his companions being in the castle, he ordered them to be treated as spies. The old witch Henbane, who acted as housekeeper, and the three pages, were called into the presence of the wizard, to receive instructions from him. First the imps threatened Gourlay, and then rushed on Michael himself, as if they would tear him to pieces, and cried out with one voice:
"Work, master, work; work we need; Work for the living, or for the dead: Since we are called, work we will have, For the master, or for the slave. Work, master, work. What work now?"
Michael Scott (no doubt the reader has by this time discovered that he was the master of the castle), to keep the restless beings at work, told them to give Gourlay three varieties of punishment, but no more. They soon began their wicked pranks, first changing the seneschal from one grotesque form to another. Quickly transforming him into a dog, they chased him up and down and round about with a pan at its tail. Next they made him assume the shape of a hare, while to all appearance they became collie dogs. An exciting chase followed over hill and dale, but the poor hare succeeded in eluding its pursuers, and returned to the master, who, by one touch of his divining rod, changed Gourlay into his own natural shape. As soon as the poor ill-used servant recovered speech, he threatened to cut his throat, that he might be freed from his severe bondage. Michael dared him to do such a thing, as he had him wholly in his power, dead or alive. "Were you to take away your life by a ghastly wound," said the wizard, "I would even make one of these fiendish spirits enter into your body, reanimate it, and cause you to go about with your gaping wound, unclosed and unpurified, as when death entered thereat." "Cursed be the day that I saw you, and ten times cursed the confession I made, that has thus subjected me to your tyranny!" exclaimed Gourlay.
Michael again asked what living creatures were in the castle. The servant replied, "I again repeat it, that there is no mortal thing in the castle but the old witch, and perhaps two or three hundred rats." "Call out those rats," said Michael; "marshal them up in the court, and receive the visitors according to their demerits." At the same time the master gave the servant a small piece of parchment, with red characters traced on it, and told him to put it above the lock-hole of the door. "It shall serve as a summons, and Prig, Prim, and Pricker shall marshal your forces," continued the wizard. The citation was effective: the running and screaming of rats were heard in every corner of the castle, and forthwith a whole column of armed men marched into the court, led by the three pages, and headed by the seneschal in grey mantle and cap. In walked the strangers, and passed between two ranks of men, or rather rats, the appearance of which raised a suspicion that they were spirits or elves.
The friar, it should be noticed, was the great philosopher and chemist who invented gunpowder, and made many other wonderful discoveries, for which he was in danger of being burnt as a wizard and necromancer.
The friar, followed by his companions, found entrance to a room, where they expected to meet the great enchanter Michael, but instead of him they beheld an old woman, so busily engaged with something on the fire, that she scarcely deigned to notice their entrance. She had a wooden tube, with which she blew up the fire, and then spoke through it, saying:
"Sotter, sotter, my wee pan, To the spirit gin ye can; When the scum turns blue, And the blood bells through, There's something aneath that will change the man."
The crone continued her orgies, one time blowing her fire, again stirring the liquid in the caldron, and then making it run from the end of a stick that she might note its gelidity. All her operations were being gone through to call up certain familiar spirits whose presence she desired.
In another apartment sat Michael Scott. He wore a turban of crimson velvet, ornamented with mystic figures in gold, and on the front of it was a dazzling star. His eyes were bright and piercing, resembling those of a serpent. He was stout-made, and had a strong bushy beard, turning grey. On beholding Charlie Scott (he alone entered the wizard's sanctum sanctorum), the wizard stamped three times on the floor, and in a moment Prim, Prig, and Pricker stood beside him. "Work, master, work—what work now?" demanded they. "Take that burly housebreaker, bind him, and put him to the test," were the instructions they received. When the elves were about to seize Charlie, he drew his sword, and thrust out right and left, but his blade did nothing more than whistle through vacancy. In an instant he was thrown down and bound with cords. The master and his familiars then had a conversation in Latin (the language best understood by Satan and his emissaries) concerning the prisoner's baptism. They stripped him, and were about to begin a painful operation, when Charlie, bound though he was, succeeded in crossing himself and pronouncing a sacred name. That instant the pages started back trembling, and their weapons fell from their hands. Another of the company was thrown down and bound by the imps; but when they attempted to seize the friar, they could not so much as touch his frock. The fair Delany stood trembling behind the pious father; and on the fiends feeling their want of power over him, they rushed at the young virgin. But the moment they touched her garments, they retired in dismay. The friar, remembering that the maid had the blessed Gospel concealed in her bosom, concluded that in that precious book she found protection. As to his own personal safety he had no fear, as he possessed a charm, proof against Satan himself. "He drew his cross from below his frock—that cross which had been consecrated at the shrine of Saint Peter, bathed in holy water, and blessed with many blessings from the mouths of ancient martyrs—had done wondrous miracles in the hands of saints of former days—and lifting that reverently on high, he pronounced the words from holy writ, against which no demon or false spirit's power could prevail. In one moment the three imps fled yelling from the apartment." At the same time the countenance of the enchanter fell, and his whole body quaked. The friar then unloosed those that were bound.
"Great and magnificent Master of Arts," said the friar, addressing Michael Scott, "we are come to thee from the man that ruleth over the borders of the land, and leadeth forth his troops to battle. He sendeth unto thee greeting, and beseecheth to know of thee what shall befall unto his people and to his house in the latter days. It is thy counsel alone that he asketh, for thou art renowned for wisdom and foresight to the farthest corners of the earth. The two nations are engaged in a great and bloody contest, and high are the stakes for which they play. The man who sent us entreateth of thee to disclose unto thy servants who shall finally prevail, and whether it behoveth him to join himself to the captain of his people. He hath moreover sent unto thee, by our hand, these two beautiful captives, the one to be thine handmaiden, and the other to be thy servant, and run at thy bidding."
The wizard, highly flattered, listened with patience to the friar, and answered that the request made would take many days to consider, as he had to deal with those who were more capricious than the changing seasons, and more perverse than opposing winds and tides. Reluctantly the friar and his friends were prevailed on to remain at the goblin castle, and how it fared with them we shall soon see.
Gourlay was summoned into the presence of Scott, who instructed him to provide an entertainment for the strangers. In due time the steward appeared with his rod of office in his hand, and with great ceremony marshalled his guests upstairs to an apartment, where there was a table covered with rich viands in great abundance. A few graceless fellows in the company began to eat and drink before a blessing was asked, and seemingly fared well. But with the holy friar it was different. In conformity with a good old custom, he lifted up his hands, closed his eyes, and, leaning forward, repeated his oft-said stereotyped phrases. In his respectful attitude, he came in close contact with what appeared to be a beautiful smoking sirloin of beef. So near was he to it that he actually breathed upon it, and was nearly overcome by its savoury flavour. Never had blessing a more baneful effect on meat: when the friar opened his eyes the beef was gone—there was nothing left but an insignificant thing resembling the joint of a frog's leg, or that of a rat.
A contention arose between Michael Scott and the friar as to which of them could perform the most wonderful feats; and when the former discovered that he was in conversation with no less a personage than the Primate of Douay, author of the book of arts, he was much pleased. By means of a curious lantern, he made it appear that the mountain Cape-Law was rent and divided into three parts. This was only an optical delusion, but he in reality blew poor Gourlay into the air by an explosion of gunpowder, the composition and power of which were unknown to the wizard, or to any one except the friar. The master could not bear the idea of being outdone by any one. He strode the floor in gloomy indignation. "Look," he shouted, "at that mountain on the east. It is known to you all—the great hill of Eildon. You know and see that it is one round, smooth, and unbroken cone." He then gave three knocks with his heel on the floor, and called the names of his three pages, Prig, Prim, and Pricker. As at other times, these infernal spirits were before him, exclaiming, "Work, master, work; what work now?" "Look at that mountain yclept the hill of Eildon. Go and twist me it into three." The imps looked with Satanic glare. "The hill is granite," said one. "And five arrows' flight high," said another. "And seventy round the base," said the first. "All the power of earth and hell to boot are unmeet to the task," added the third. In an imperious manner, the master declared the thing must be done. "I know my conditions; they are sealed and subscribed, and I am not to be disobeyed," continued he. The three pages began singing:
"Pick and spade To our aid! Flaught and flail, Fire and hail: Winds arise, and tempests brattle, And, if you will, the thunders rattle. Come away, Elfin grey, Much to do ere break of day! Come with spade, and sieve, and shovel; Come with roar, and rout, and revel; Come with crow, and come with crane, Strength of steed, and weight of wain. Crash of rock, and roar of river, And, if you will, with thunders shiver! Come away, Elfin grey; Much to do ere break of day."
As they sang the last line, they sped away, in the forms of three crows, toward Eildon Hill.
That night was a dreadful one. A storm burst forth in all its fury, sweeping over hill and dale. The woods roared and crashed before the blast, and a driving rain dashed with such violence on the earth, that it seemed as if a thousand cataracts poured from the western heaven to mix with the tempest below. Now and again eldritch shrieks, as of some one perishing, were heard, and then the voices of angry spirits, yelling through the tempest, reached the ear. One of the inmates of the castle was reminded, by the raging storm, of the warlocks' hymn:
"Pother, pother, My master and brother, Who may endure thee, Thus failing in fury? King of the tempest that travels the plain King of the snow, and the hail, and the rain, Lend to thy lever yet seven times seven, Blow up the blue flame for bolt and for levin, The red forge of hell with the bellows of heaven! With hoop and with hammer! With yell and with yammer, Hold them in play Till the dawn of day! Pother, pother! My sovereign and brother. O strain to thy lever, This world to sever In two or in three— What joy it would be! What toiling and mailing, and mighty commotions! What rending of hills, and what roaring of oceans! Ay, that is thy voice, I know it full well; And that is thy whistle's majestic swell; But why wilt thou ride thy furious race Along the bounds of vacant space, While there is tongue of flesh to scream, And life to start, and blood to stream? Yet pother, pother! My sovereign and brother And men shall see, ere the rising sun, What deeds thy mighty arm hath done."
Michael Scott and his guests kept watch together during the eventful night; and when the friar and Charlie stepped out to the battlements in the morning, they beheld the great mountain of Eildon, which before then had but one cone, piled up in three hills, as described by us in chapter XVI.
Allan Ramsay—"The Gentle Shepherd"—Bauldy the Clown—Mause the reputed Witch—A Witch's Crantraips—Praying Backwards—Sad Misfortunes attributed to Mause—Supposed Power of the Devil to raise the Wind and send Rain and Thunder—Mause's Reflections—Sir William disturbed—Symon's Announcement—Promise to gain a Lassie's Heart—Doings of the supposed Witch—Witches' Tricks—Longfellow's "Golden Legend"—"Song of Hiawatha."
Allan Ramsay, who wrote in the first half of the eighteenth century, does not appear to have believed in witches or evil spirits. He, however, like other poets, found it convenient to introduce superstition into his poetical effusions. This will be seen from the following extracts from his Gentle Shepherd.
BAULDY. "What's this?—I canna bear't!—'tis worse than hell, To be sae burnt with love, yet daurna tell! O Peggy! sweeter than the dawning day; Sweeter than gowany glens or new-mawn hay; Blyther than lambs that frisk out o'er the knows; Straighter than aught that in the forest grows; Her een the clearest blob of dew outshines; The lily in her breast its beauty tines; Her legs, her arms, her cheeks, her mouth, her een, Will be my dead, that will be shortly seen! For Pate looes her—waes me!—and she looes Pate And I with Neps, by some unlucky fate, Made a daft vow. O, but ane be a beast, That makes rash aiths till he's afore the priest! I darna speak my mind, else a' the three, But doubt, wad prove ilk ane my enemy. 'Tis sair to thole;—I'll try some witchcraft art, To break with ane, and win the other's heart. Here Mausy lives, a witch that for sma' price Can cast her cantraips, and gie me advice. She can o'ercast the night, and cloud the moon, And make the deils obedient to her crune; At midnight hours, o'er the kirk-yard she raves, And howks unchristen'd weans out of their graves; Boils up their livers in a warlock's pow; Rins withershins about the hemlock low; And seven times does her prayers backwards pray, Till Plotcock comes with lumps of Lapland clay, Mixt with the venom of black taids and snakes: Of this unsonsy pictures aft she makes Of ony ane she hates,—and gars expire With slow and racking pains afore a fire, Stuck fu' of pins; the devilish pictures melt; The pain by fowk they represent is felt. And yonder's Mause: Ay, ay, she kens fu' weel, When ane like me comes rinning to the deil! She and her cat sit beeking in her yard: To speak my errand, faith, amaist I'm fear'd! But I maun do't, tho' I should never thrive: They gallop fast that deils and lasses drive.
* * * * *
How does auld honest lucky of the glen? Ye look baith hale end fair at threescore-ten.
MAUSE. E'en twining out a thread with little din, And beeking my cauld limbs afore the sun. What brings my bairn this gate sae air at morn? Is there nae muck to lead? to thresh nae corn?
BAULDY. Enough of baith: but something that requires Your helping hand employs now all my cares.
MAUSE. My helping hand! alake, what can I do, That underneith baith eild and poortith bow?
BAULDY. Ay, but you're wise, and wiser far than we; Or maist part of the parish tells a lie.
MAUSE. Of what kind wisdom think ye I'm possest, That lifts my character aboon the rest?
BAULDY. The word that gangs, how ye're sae wise and fell, Ye'll maybe tak it ill gif I should tell.
MAUSE. What folk say of me, Bauldy, let me hear; Keep naething up, ye naething have to fear.
BAULDY. Well, since ye bid me, I shall tell ye a' That ilk ane talks about you, but a flaw. When last the wind made Glaud a roofless barn; When last the burn bore down my mither's yarn; When Brawny, elf-shot, never mair came hame; When Tibby kirn'd, and there nae butter came; When Bessy Freetock's chuffy-cheeked wean To a fairy turn'd, and cou'dna stand its lane; When Wattie wander'd ae night thro' the shaw And tint himsell amaist amang the snaw; When Mungo's mare stood still and swat wi' fright, When he brought east the howdy under night; When Bawsy shot to dead upon the green; And Sara tint a snood was nae mair seen;— You, lucky, gat the wyte of a' fell out; And ilka ane here dreads ye round about,— And say they may that mint to do ye skaith: For me to wrang ye I'll be very laith; But when I neist make groats, I'll strive to please You with a firlot of them mixt with pease.
MAUSE. I thank ye, lad!—Now tell me your demand; And, if I can, I'll lend my helping hand.
BAULDY. Then, I like Peggy; Neps is fond of me; Peggy likes Pate; and Patie's bauld and slee, And looes sweet Meg; but Neps I downa see. Could ye turn Patie's love to Neps, and then Peggy's to me, I'd be the happiest man.
MAUSE. I'll try my airt to gar the bowls row right; Sae gang your ways and come again at night; 'Gainst that time I'll some simple things prepare, Worth all your pease and groats, tak ye nae care.
BAULDY. Well, Mause, I'll come, gif I the road can find; But if ye raise the deil, he'll raise the wind; Syne rain and thunder, maybe, when 'tis late Will make the night sae mirk, I'll tine the gate. We're a' to rant in Symie's at a feast,— O! will ye come, like badrans, for a jest? And there you can our different haviours spy; There's nane shall ken o't there but you and I.
MAUSE. 'Tis like I may: But let na on what's past 'Tween you and me, else fear a kittle cast.
BAULDY. If I aught of your secrets e'er advance, May ye ride on me ilka night to France!
MAUSE. This fool imagines—as do many sic— That I'm a witch in compact with Auld Nick, Because by education I was taught To speak and act aboon their common thought: Their gross mistake shall quickly now appear; Soon shall they ken what brought, what keeps me here. Now since the royal Charles, and right's restor'd, A shepherdess is daughter to a lord. The bonny foundling that's brought up by Glaud, Wha has an uncle's care on her bestow'd,— Her infant life I sav'd, when a false friend Bow'd to the usurper, and her death design'd, To establish him and his in all these plains That by right heritage to her pertains. She's now in her sweet bloom, has blood and charms Of too much value for a shepherd's arms. None know't but me!—And if the morn were come, I'll tell them tales will gar them a' sing dumb.
* * * * *
SIR WILLIAM. How goes the night? does day-light yet appear Symon, you're very timeously asteer.
SYMON. I'm sorry, sir, that we've disturb'd your rest; But some strange thing has Bauldy's spirit opprest, He's seen some witch, or wrestled with a ghaist.
BAULDY. O! ay; dear sir, in troth, 'tis very true; And I am come to make my plaint to you.
SIR WILLIAM. I lang to hear 't.
BAULDY. Ah! sir, the witch ca'd Mause, That wins aboon the mill amang the haws, First promis'd that she'd help me with her art, To gain a bonny thrawart lassie's heart. As she had trysted, I met wi'er this night; But may nae friend of mine get sic a fright! For the curst hag, instead of doing me good— The very thought o't's like to freeze my blood! Rais'd up a ghaist, or deil, I kenna whilk, Like a dead corse in sheet as white as milk; Black hands it had, and face as wan as death. Upon me fast the witch and it fell baith, And gat me down, while I, like a great fool, Was labour'd as I wont to be at school. My heart out of its hool was like to loup; I pithless grew with fear, and had nae hope; Till, with an elritch laugh, they vanished quite. Syne I half dead with anger, fear, and spite, Crap up and fled straight frae them, sir, to you, Hoping your help to gie the deil his due. I'm sure my heart will ne'er gie o'er to dunt, Till in a fat tar-barrel Mause be burnt!
* * * * *
SIR WILLIAM. Troth, Symon, Bauldy's more afraid than hurt; The witch and ghaist have made themselves good sport. What silly notions crowd the clouded mind, That is through want of education blind!
SYMON. But does your honour think there's nae sic thing As witches raising deils up through a ring? Syne playing tricks—a thousand I could tell— Cou'd ne'er be contriv'd on this side hell.
SIR WILLIAM. Such as the devil's dancing in a moor, Amongst a few old women craz'd and poor, Who were rejoiced to see him frisk and lowp O'er braes and bogs with candles in * * * Appearing sometimes like a black-horn'd cow, Aft-times like Bawty, Badrans, or a sow; Then with his train through airy paths to glide, While they on carts, or clowns, or broomstaffs ride; Or in an egg-shell skim out o'er the main, To drink their leader's health in France or Spain; Then aft by night bumbaze hare-hearted fools, By tumbling down their cupboards, chairs, and stools. Whate'er's in spells, or if there witches be, Such whimsies seem the most absurd to me."
To glean from Cowper, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and the many other poets who have contributed to superstitious lore, would swell this portion of our work (The Poets and Superstition) to an undue proportion; and therefore we take leave of the poets, after giving extracts from Longfellow, whose talented effusions are not only read and appreciated in America and England, but over the whole world.
FROM "THE GOLDEN LEGEND."
LUCIFER. "Hasten! hasten! O ye spirits! From its station drag the ponderous Cross of iron, that to mock us Is uplifted high in air!
VOICES. O, we cannot! For around it All the saints and guardian angels Throng in legions to protect it; They defeat us everywhere!
THE BELLS. Laudo Deum verum! Plebem voco! Congrego clerum!
LUCIFER. Lower! lower! Hover downward! Seize the loud, vociferous bells, and Clashing, clanging, to the pavement Hurl them from their windy tower!
VOICES. All thy thunders Here are harmless! For these bells have been anointed, And baptised with holy water! They defy our utmost power.
THE BELLS. Defunctos ploro! Pestem fugo! Festa decoro!
LUCIFER. Shake the casements! Break the painted Panes, that flame with gold and crimson; Scatter them like leaves of autumn, Swept away before the blast!
VOICES. O, we cannot! The archangel Michael flames from every window, With the sword of fire that drove us Headlong out of heaven, aghast!
THE BELLS. Funera plango! Fulgura frango! Sabbata pango!
LUCIFER. Aim your lightnings At the oaken, Massive, iron-studded portals! Sack the house of God, and scatter Wide the ashes of the dead!
VOICES. O, we cannot! The apostles And the martyrs, wrapped in mantles, Stand as warders at the entrance, Stand as sentinels o'erhead!
THE BELLS. Excito lentos! Dissipo ventos! Paco cruentos!
LUCIFER. Baffled! baffled! Inefficient, Craven spirits! leave this labour Unto Time, the great destroyer! Come away, ere night is gone!
VOICES. Onward! onward! With the night wind, Over field and farm and forest, Lonely homestead, darksome hamlet, Blighting all we breathe upon!"
THE SONG OF HIAWATHA.
"Should you ask me whence these stories? Whence these legends and traditions, With the odours of the forest, With the dew and damp of meadows, With the curling smoke of wigwams, With the rushing of great rivers, With their frequent repetitions, And their wild reverberations, As of thunder in the mountains? I should answer, I should tell you: 'From the forests and the prairies, From the great lakes of the Northland, From the land of the Ojibways, From the land of the Dacotahs, From the mountains, moors, and fenlands, Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah, Feeds among the reeds and rushes. I repeat them as I heard them From the lips of Nawadaha, The musician, the sweet singer.'
* * * * *
Can it be the sun descending O'er the level plain of water? Or the red swan floating, flying, Wounded by the magic arrow, Staining all the waves with crimson, With the crimson of its life-blood, Filling all the air with splendour, With the splendour of its plumage? Yes, it is the sun descending, Sinking down into the water; All the sky is stained with purple, All the water flushed with crimson! No; it is the red swan floating, Diving down beneath the water; To the sky its wings are lifted, With its blood the waves are reddened Over it the star of evening Melts and trembles through the purple Hangs suspended in the twilight. No; it is a bead of wampum On the robes of the Great Spirit, As he passes through the twilight, Walks in silence through the heavens! This with joy beheld Iagoo, And he said in haste, 'Behold it! See the sacred star of evening! You shall hear a tale of wonder; Hear the story of Osseo, Son of the evening star Osseo. 'Once, in days no more remembered, Ages nearer the beginning, When the heavens were closer to us, And the gods were more familiar, In the Northland lived a hunter, With ten young and comely daughters, Tall and lithe as wands of willow; Only Oweenee, the youngest, She the wilful and the wayward, She the silent, dreamy maiden, Was the fairest of the sisters. 'All these women married warriors, Married brave and haughty husbands; Only Oweenee, the youngest, Laughed and flouted all her lovers, All her young and handsome suitors, And then married old Osseo, Old Osseo, poor and ugly, Broken with age and weak with coughing, Always coughing like a squirrel. 'Ah, but beautiful within him Was the spirit of Osseo, From the evening star descended, Star of evening, star of woman, Star of tenderness and passion! All its fire was in his bosom, All its beauty in his spirit, All its mystery in his being, All its splendour in his language! 'And her lovers, the rejected, Handsome men with belts of wampum, Handsome men with paint and feathers, Pointed at her in derision, Followed her with jest and laughter, But she said, "I care not for you, Care not for your belts of wampum, Care not for your paint and feathers, Care not for your jests and laughter: I am happy with Osseo!" 'Once to some great feast invited, Through the damp and dusk of evening Walked together the ten sisters, Walked together with their husbands; Slowly followed old Osseo, With fair Oweenee beside him; All the others chatted gaily, These two only walked in silence. 'At the western sky Osseo Gazed intent, as if imploring, Often stopped and gazed imploring At the trembling star of evening, At the tender star of woman; And they heard him murmur softly, "Ah, showain nemeshin, Nosa! Pray, pity me, my father!" '"Listen!" said the elder sister, "He is praying to his father! What a pity that the old man Does not stumble in the pathway, Does not break his neck by falling!" And they laughed till all the forest Rang with their unseemly laughter. 'On their pathway through the woodlands Lay an oak by storms uprooted, Lay the great trunk of an oak-tree Buried half in leaves and mosses, Mouldering,