Page images
PDF
EPUB

were tied up, except a few ratches, or slow-hounds, to put up the deer; while Sir William St Clair, posting himself in the best situation for slipping his dogs, prayed devoutly to Christ, the blessed Virgin, and St Katherine. The deer was shortly after roused, and the hounds slipped; Sir William following on a gallant steed, to cheer his dogs. The hind, however, reached the middle of the brook, upon which the hunter threw himself from his horse in despair. At this critical moment, however, Hold stopped her in the brook; and Help, coming up, turned her back, and killed her on Sir William's side. The king descended from the hill, embraced Sir William, and bestowed on him the lands of Kirkton, Logan-house, Earncraig, &c. in free forestrie. Sir William, in acknowledgment of St Katherine's intercession, built the chapel of St Katherine in the Hopes, the churchyard of which is still to be seen. The hill, from which Robert Bruce beheld this memorable chase, is still called the King's Hill; and the place where Sir William hunted is called the Knight's Field.*—MS. History of the fa

* The tomb of Sir William St Clair, on which he appears sculptured in armour, with a greyhound at his feet, is still to be seen in Roslin chapel. The person, who shows it, always tells the story of his hunting-match, with some addition to Mr Hay's account; as that the knight of Rosline's fright made him poetical, and that, in the last emergency, he shouted,

Help, baud, an' ye may, Or Roslin will lose his head ibis day.

My of St Clair, by Richard Augustin Hay, Canon of St Genevieve.

This adventurous huntsman married Elizabeth, daughter of Malice Spar, Earl of Orkney and Stratherne, in whose right their son Henry was, in 1379, created Earl of Orkney, by Haco, king of Norway. His title was recognised by the kings of Scotland, and remained with his successors until it was annexed to the crown, in 1471, by act of parliament. In exchange for this earldom, the castle and domains of Ravenscraig, or Ravensheuch, were conferred on William Saintclair, Earl of Caithness.

Note XIV. Still nods their palace to its fall, Thy pride and sorrow, fair Kirkwall.—P. 193. The castle of Kirkwall was built by the St Clairs, while Earls of Orkney. It was dismantled by the Earl of Caithness about 1615, having been garrisoned against the government by Robert Stewart, natural son to the Earl of Orkney.

Its ruins afforded a sad subject of contemplation to John, Master of St Clair, who, flying from his native country, on ao

If this couplet does him no great honour as a poet, the conclusion of the story does him still less credit. He set his foot on the dog, says the narrator, and killed him on the spot, saying, he would never again put his neck in such a risque. As Mr Hay does not mention this circumstance, I hope it is only founded on the couchant posture of the hound on the monument.

count of his share in the insurrection 1715, made some stay at Kirkwall.

"I had occasion to entertain myself at Kirkwall with the melancholie prospect of the ruins of an old castle, the seat of the old Earls of Orkney, my ancestors; and of a more melancholy reflection, of so great and noble an estate as the Orkney and Shetland isles being taken from one of them by James the Third for faultrie, after his brother Alexander, Duke of Albany, had married a daughter of my family, and for protecting and defending the said Alexander against the king, who wished to kill him, as he had done his youngest brother, the Earl of Mar; and for which, after the forfaultrie, he gratefully divorced my forfaulted ancestor's sister; though I cannot persuade myself that he had any misalliance to plead against a familie in whose veins the blood of Robert Bruce run as fresh as in his own j for their title to the crowne was by a daughter of David Bruce, son to Robert; and our alliance was by marrying a grandchild of the same Robert Bruce, and daughter to the sister of the same David, out of the familie of Douglass, which at that time did not much sullie the blood, more than my ancestor's, having not long before had the honour of marrying a daughter of the king of Denmark's, who was named Florentine, and has left in the town of Kirkwall a noble monument of the grandeur of the times, the finest church ever I saw entire in Scotland. I then had no small reason to think, in that unhappy state, on the many not inconsiderable services rendered since to the royal familie, for these many years by-gone, on all occa

sions, when they stood most in need of friends, which they have thought themselves very often obliged to acknowledge by letters yet extant, and in a stile more like friends than souveraigns; our attachment to them, without anie other thanks, having brought upon us considerable losses, and among others, that of our all in Cromwell's time; and left in that condition, without the least relief except what we found in our own virtue. My father was the only man of the Scots nation who had courage enough to protest in parliament against King William's title to the throne, which was lost, God knows how: and this at a time when the losses in the cause of the royall familie,and their usual gratitude, had scarce left him bread to maintain a numerous familie of eleven children, who had soon after sprung up on him, in spite of all which, he had honourably persisted in his principle. I say, these things considered, and after being treated as I was, and in that unluckie state, when objects appear to men in their true light, as at the hour of death, could I be blamed for making some bitter reflections to myself, and laughing at the extravagance and unaccountable humour of men, and the singularitie of my own case (an exile for the cause of the Stuart family), when I ought to have known, that the greatest crime I, or my family, could have committed, was persevering, to my own destruction, in serving the royal family faithfully, though obstinately, after so great a share of depression, and after they had been pleased to doom me and my familie to starve."—MS. Memoirs of John, Master of St Cluir

Note XV. Kings of the main their leaders brave, Their barks the dragons of the wave.—P. 194. The chiefs of the Vakingr,or Scandinavian pirates, assumed the title of Sakonungr, or Sea-kings. Ships, in the inflated language of the Scalds, are often termed the serpents of the ocean.

Note XVI. Of that Sea-Snake, tremendous curled, Whose monstrous circle girds the world.—P. 194. The jormungandr, or Snake of the Ocean, whose folds surround the earth, is one of the wildest fictions of the Edda. It was very nearly caught by the god Thor, who went to fish for it with a hook baited with a bull's head. In the battle betwixt the evil daemons and the divinities of Odin, which is to precede the Ragnarockr, or Twilight of the Gods, this Snake is to act a conspicuous part.

Note XVII. Of those dread Maids, whose hideous yell Maddens the battle's bloody swell—P. 195. These were the Valkyriur, or Selectors of the Slain, dispatched by Odin from Valhalla, to choose those who were to die, and to distribute the contest. They are well known to the English reader,as Gray's Fatal Sisters.

« PreviousContinue »