BETA

The Tower of Erceldoune.

Quilum spak Thomas
O Ersyldoune, that sayd in Derne,
Thare suld meit stalwartly, starke, and sterne
He sayd it in his prophecy :
But how he wyst it was ferly.
Wynton’s Cronykil.
There is a stillness on the night, 1
Glimmers the ghastly moonshine white 2
On Learmont woods, and Leader’s streams, 3
Till Earth looks like a land of dreams ; 4
Upon me, in this eerie hush, 5
A thousand wild emotions rush, 6
As gazing spell-bound o’er the scene7
Beside thy haunted walls I lean, 8
Grey Erceldoune, and feel the past9
Its charmed mantle o’er me cast ; 10
Visions and thoughts, unknown by day, 11
Bear o’er the fancy wizard sway, 12
And all the strange traditions told13
Of him who sojourn’d here of old.14
What stirs within thee ? ’ Tis the owl15
Nursing amid thy chambers foul16
Her impish brood ; the nettles rank17
Are seeding on thy wild-flower bank, 18
And all around thee speaks the sway19
Of desolation and decay.— 20
In outlines dark the shadows fall21
Of each grotesque and crumbling wall, 22
Extinguish’d long hath been the strife 23
Within thy courts of human life ; 24
Thou scowlest like a spectre vast25
Of silent generations past ; 26
And all about thee wears a gloom27
Of something sterner than the tomb.28
Backward my spirit to the sway29
Of shadowy Eld is led away, 30
When underneath thine ample dome, 31
Thomas the Rhymer made his home, 32
The wondrous Poet-seer, whose name, 33
Still floating on the breath of fame, 34
Hath overpast five hundred years, 35
And fresh as yesterday appears.— 36
Secluded here, in chamber lone, 37
Often the light of genius shone38
Upon his pictured page, which told39
Of Tristrem brave, and fair Isolde, 40
And how their faith was sorely tried, 41
And how they would not move, but died42
Together, and the fatal stroke, 43
Which still’d one heart, the other broke.— 44
And here, on midnight-couch reclined, 45
Hearken’d his gifted ear the wind46
Of dark Futurity, as on47
Through shadowy ages swept the tone, 48
A mystic voice, whose murmurs told49
The acts of ages yet unroll’d ; 50
While Leader sang a low, wild tune, 51
And redly set the waning moon,52
Amid the west’s pavilion grim, 53
O’er Soltra’s mountains vast and dim.54
Methinks the vision’d Bard I see55
Beneath the mystic Eildon tree ; 56
His mantle dark, his bosom bare, 57
His floating eyes, and flowing hair, 58
Piercing the shadowy depths of time, 59
And weaving the prophetic rhyme ; 60
Beings around him that had birth61
Neither in heaven, nor yet on earth ; 62
And at his feet the broken law63
Of Nature, through whose night he saw.64
The Eildon tree hath pass’d away65
By natural process of decay ; 66
We search around and see it not67
Yet still a grey stone marks the spot68
Where erst its boughs, with quivering fear, 69
O’erarch’d the sprite-attended seer ; 70
And still the Goblin burn steals round71
The purple heath, with lonely sound, 72
As when its waters still’d their noise73
To listen to the silver voice, 74
Which sang, in wild prophetic strains, 75
Of Scotland’s perils and her pains76
Of dire defeat on Flodden Hill77
Of Pinkyn-Cleuch’s blood-crimson’d rill78
Of coming woes, of coming wars79
Of endless battles, broils, and jars ; 80
Till France’s queen should bear a son, 81
To make two rival nations one ; 82
And many a wound of many a field83
Of blood, in Bruce’s blood be heal’d.84
Where gain’d the man this wondrous dower85
Of song and super-human power ? 86
Tradition answers—Elfland’s Queen87
Beheld the boy-bard on the green, 88
Nursing pure thoughts and feelings high89
With poesy’s abstracted eye, 90
Bewitch’d him with her sibyl charms, 91
Her tempting lips, and wreathing arms, 92
And lured him from the earth away93
Into the light of milder day. 94
They pass’d through deserts wide and wild, 95
Whence living things were far exiled ; 96
Shadows, and clouds, and silence drear, 97
And shapes and images of fear; 98
Until they reach’d the land where run99
Rivers of blood, and shines no sun100
By day—no moon, no star by night101
But glows a fair, a fadeless light; 102
The realm of Faery.—— 103
There he dwelt, 104
Till seven sweet years had o’er him stealt, 105
A long deep rapturous trance, ’ mid bowers106
O’er-blossom’d with perennial flowers ; 107
And when, by Learmont’s turrets gray, 108
Which long had mourn’d their lord’s delay, 109
Again ’ mid summer’s twilight seen, 110
His velvet shoon were Elfin green,—111
The livery of the tiny train, 112
Who held him, and would have again.113
Smil’st thou at this, prosaic age, 114
Whom seldom other thoughts engage115
Than those of miserable self, 116
The talismans of power and pelf ? — 117
It must be so—but yet to him, 118
Who wanders ’ mid the relics dim119
Of ages, whose existence seems120
To us, not actual life, but dreams, 121
A raptured, an ecstatic trance,— 122
A gorgeous vision of romance,— 123
It yields a sadly pleasing joy, 124
To feel in soul once more a boy ; 125
To leave the a paths of Truth, 126
For fancies that illumined youth, 127
And threw enchantment’s colours o’er 128
The forest dim, the ruin hoar ; 129
The walks, where musing genius stray’d ; 130
The spot where faith life’s forfeit paid ; 131
The battle field where sleep the slain ; 132
The pastoral hill, and breezy plain.133
Airy delusion this may be,— 134
But ever such remain for me ; 135
Still may the earth with beauty glow, 136
Beneath the storm’s illumined bow,— 137
God’s promised sign,—and be my mind138
To science, when it deadens, blind.139

NOTES.
1.
All about thee wears a gloom
Of something sterner than the tomb.
The ruins of the Tower of Erceldoune, once the abode of the famous True Thomas,
are still to be seen at a little distance from the village of the same name, which in
pronunciation has been corrupted into Earlston. It is situated on the Leader, about
two miles from where that stream falls into the Tweed.  About the ruins themselves
there is nothing remarkable, farther than their known antiquity, and the renown shed
upon them by the Rhymer.
It was on a beautiful morning in September that the Castle was first pointed out
to me; and at a time when I was ignorant of the existence of such a venerable relic.
That it awakened a thousand stirring associations, is not to be wondered at.
I am told that it is still regarded with feelings of awe by the peasantry ; and to
express a doubt to such of its being haunted, would imply the sceptical hardihood
of the Sadducee.
Of this, Sir Walter Scott tells a good story.— “ The veneration,” he says, “ paid to
his dwelling-place, even attached itself, in some degree, to a person, who, within the
memory of man, chose to set up his residence in the ruins of Learmont’s Tower. The
name of this man was Murray ; a kind of herbalist, who, by dint of some knowledge
in simples, the possession of a musical clock, an electrical machine, and a stuffed alli-
gator, added to a supposed communication with Thomas the Rhymer, lived for many
years in very good credit as a wizard.”
2.
Of Tristrem brave, and fair Isolde.
It is now, perhaps, sufficiently known, that Thomas of Erceldoune, alias True
Thomas, alias the Rhymer, was the author of Sir Tristrem, a romance which obtain
-ed almost universal popularity in its own day ; and which was paraphrased, or rather
imitated, by the minstrels of Normandy and Bretagne.  Such, however, before the in-
vention of printing, was the instability of literary popularity, that, at last, only one
copy was known to exist.  From this, which belongs to the Library of Advocates in
Edinburgh, and is the earliest specimen of Scottish poetry extant, the author of
Marmion gave the world his edition, filling up the blanks in the narrative, and fol-
lowing out the story in a style of editorial emendation not often to be met with. In-
deed, this rifacimento is not one of the least extraordinary achievements of a most
extraordinary literary career.
For an account of it, the more hurried reader may consult Ellis’s Specimens
of Ancient Poetry, Vol. I.
where it is treated of with much taste and critical discrimi-
nation.
3.
Beneath the mystic Eildon tree.
Tradition reports, that from beneath the boughs of this tree, the Rhymer was wont to utter his prophecies ; and also, that it was here he was enticed away by the Queen of Fairyland.
True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank ;
A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee ;
And there he saw a lady bright
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.
Her shirt was of the grass green silk,
Her mantle of the velvet fine;
At ilka tett of her horse’s mane,
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.
4.
And still the Goblin burn steals round
The purple heath, with lonely sound.
A small stream in the neighbourhood of the Eildon Tree, (or rather Stone, as its
quondam site is now pointed out by a piece of rock,) has received the name of the
Bogle Burn, from the spirits which were thought to haunt the spot, in attendance of
the prophet.
5.
And many a wound of many a field
Of blood, in Bruce’s blood he heal’d.
Among the prophecies ascribed to the Rhymer is the following, evidently relating to
the crowns under James VI.
Then to the Beirn I could say,
Where dwellest thou, in what countrye ?
Or who shall rule the isle Britain,
From the north to the south sea ?
The French wife shall bear the son
Shall rule all Britain to the sea :
Which from the Bruce’s blood shall come,
As near as the ninth degree :
That severe and acute examinator of historical truth, the late Lord Hailes, in a
Dissertation devoted to the Prophecies of Bede, Merlin, Gildas, and our Bard, makes
it distinctly appear, that the lines just quoted are an interpolation, and belong to
erlington, another approved soothsayer
6.
—————— Elfland’s Queen
Beheld the boy-bard on the green.
The description of their journey to Fairyland, in the Old Ballad, is exquisitely
poetical.
Oh see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset wi’ thorns and briers ?
That is the path of righteousness,
Though after it but few enquires,
And see not ye that braid braid road,
That lies across that lily leven ?
That is the path of wickedness,
Though some call it the road to heaven.
And see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fernie brae ?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae.”

*****

O they rode on, and farther on,
And they waded through rivers aboon the knee ;
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.
It was mirk mirk night, there was nae stern light,
And they waded through red blude to the knee ;
For a’ the blude that’s shed on earth,
Rins thro’ the springs o’ that countrie.
Border Minstrelsy.