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Still nods their palace to its fall,
Thy pride and sorrow, fair Kirkwall.—St. XXI. p. 187.
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 account 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; 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 ancestour'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 occasions, 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 onlie 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 makeing 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 familie 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 Clair.
Kings of the main, their leaders brave,
Their barks, the dragons of the wave.—St. XXII. p. 188. The chiefs of the Vikingr, 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.
Of that Sea-Snake, tremendous curled, Whose monstrous circle girds the world.—St. XXII. p. 188. 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.
Of those dread Maids, whose hideous yell Maddens the battle's bloody swell.—St. XXII. p. 189. 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.
Ransacked the graves of warriors old,
St. XXII. p. 189. The northern warriors were usually entombed with their arms, and their other treasures. Thus, Angantyr, before commencing the duel in which he was slain, stipulated, that, if he fell, his sword Tyrfing should be buried with him. His daughter, Hervor, afterwards took it from his tomb. The dialogue which past betwixt her and Angantyr's spirit on this occasion has been often translated. The whole history may be found in the Hervarar-Saga. Indeed the ghosts of the northern warriors were not wont tamely to suffer their tombs to be plundered; and hence the mortal heroes had an additional temptation to attempt such adventures; for they held nothing more worthy of their valour than to encounter supernatural beings.—Bartholinus De causis contempts a Danis mortis, lib. I. cap. 2. 9. 10. 13.
—, Rosabelle — St. XXIII. p. 189.
This was a family name in the house of St Clair. Henry St Clair, the second of the line, married Rosabelle, fourth daughter of the Earl of Stratherne.
Castle Ravensheuch.—St. XXIII. p. 190.
A large and strong castle, now ruinous, situated betwixt Kirkaldy and Dysart, on a steep crag, washed by the Firth of Forth. It was conferred on Sir William St Clair, as a slight compensation for the earldom of Orkney, by a charter of King James HI. dated in 1471, and is now the property of Sir James St Clair Erskine, (now Earl of Rosslyn) representative of the family. It was long a principal residence of the Barons of Roslin.
Seemed all on fire that chapel proud,
Where Roslin's chiefs uncoffined lie; Each Baron, for a sqble shroud, Sheathed in his iron panoply.—St. XXIII. p. 191. The beautiful chapel of Roslin is still in tolerable preservation. It was founded in 1446 by William St Clair, Prince of Orkney, Duke of Oldenbourgh, Earl of Cathness and Stratherne, Lord Saint Clair, Lord Niddesdale, Lord Admiral of the Scottish seas, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, Lord Warden of the three marches, Baron of Roslin, Pentland, Eentlandmoor, &c, Knight of the Cockle and of the Garter (as is affirmed) High Chancellor, Chamberlain, and Lieutenant of Scotland. This lofty person, whose titles, says Godscroft,