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god Thor departed from this rule, and the instance is one in which the rule was suspended by a higher. "Salus populi suprema lex :" the safety of the universe was involved in Thor's recovery of Miölnir, his red-hot hammer, which had been stolen by the giant Thrym, and therefore it had to be recovered, even if it could be so only by the trickery of Loki. The Borderer had retained the spirit of his forefathers' religion, and an emergency justified him in a trick or a lie, though he was readier in the use of his muscle than in the exertion of brain which cunning requires. The desperate police expedients which the government at Edinburgh itself adopted in dealing with the Border chiefs, the equally desperate stratagems by which the contemporary English government attempted to secure the refractory chiefs of Ireland, the international diplomacy of Europe, at the time, exhibit the practical standard. of truthfulness in circles which claimed to represent the highest civilization of their age; and it would certainly have been surprising if we had found a virtue, which was practically discarded in such circles, shining with untarnished splendour in the semi-savage society of the Scottish Border.
But the genial writer of the Edinburgh Essay has not looked quite deep enough. In the ballad of Kinmont Willie, as we have seen, Dickie of Dryhope is the only one of his party who does not try to deceive Salkelde; and the reason why he did not follow the example of his comrades was the very satisfactory one that "he had nevir a word o' lear," he had not sufficient learning to concoct a lie! In the English
Border ballad, Northumberland betrayed by Douglas,1 an atrocious breach of faith is imputed to Hector of Harlaw. In the previously noticed ballad of Auld Maitland, which obviously exhibits a social condition not unlike that of the Borders at the time we speak of, the son of Maitland is represented as saying, in the English camp before "Billop-Grace" (Ville de Grace?) in France, that he was born in the North of England; and the falsehood is justified precisely as a murder in the same circumstances would have been :—
"It needed him to lie!"
In fact, the Borderer felt like Thomas the Rhymertrue Thomas though he is called, in simple sincerity, by the minstrel-in the ballad, of which an account was given in the first chapter. "The tongue that can never lie" is a gift, the offer of which the freebooter would have rejected with as much scorn as the mythical lover of the Fairy Queen; for his tongue was to him a weapon, like his arm or his sword, any use of which was allowable in order to attain his ends.
But though mistaken in attributing to the Borderers in any eminent degree the virtue of truthfulness, Mr. Smith is right in believing that the fierce fire of their nature did not dry its tenderness. A kindlier feeling often flashes its softer light up through the furious glare of their hotter passions, and a gentle voice of pity can be caught at times amid the din of their usual strife. We have seen already, in the ballad of Johnie
1 Child's "English and Scottish Ballads,” vol. vii. p. 92.
2 66 Edinburgh Essays," p. 229.
Armstrang, how their hard nature melts into sorrow at the fate of an admired leader; and in the fragment known as Armstrong's Goodnight, which professes to be the farewell of a Borderer belonging to that powerful clan, who was executed for the murder of Sir John Carmichael, there is a subdued sentiment which is not without its pathos :
"This night is my departing night,
What I hae done through lack o' wit
I never can recall,
I hope ye're a' my friends as yet,
Goodnight, and joy be with you all."1
Few can read, without feeling that the rude old singer must have been deeply affected as he chanted, the death of Douglas in The Battle of Otterbourne. In the ballad an old prophecy, that a dead man should gain a field, which was encouragingly quoted by Douglas as he was dying, is poetically transmuted into a dream which he
1 Buchan, in his " Songs of the North of Scotland," gives a version, thrice as long as this, which he looks upon as the original in its completeness ; but it is worthy of the neglect with which it has generally been
See Hume of Godscroft, quoted by Scott in the "Border Minstrelsy," vol. i. pp. 346, 347. The ballad runs :—
"But I have dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Sky;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."
had dreamt the night before the battle. When he felt that his wound was mortal, he sent his page to fetch his "ain dear sister's son, Sir Hugh Montgomery." Think of this interview between men who had just been fighting with the fury of the combatants at Otterburn!
"My nephew good,' the Douglas said,
What recks the death of ane!
Last night I dreamed a dreary dream,
My wound is deep; I fain would sleep;
"O bury me by the braken bush,
Let never living mortal ken
That ere a kindly Scot lies here.'
He lifted up that noble lord,
Wi' the saut tear in his ee;
He hid him in the braken bush,
That his merrie-men might not see.”
It will not be altogether out of place to introduce in this connection one of the most pathetic pictures which the ballad-singers of Scotland have drawn, though it is found in a ballad about an event which took place, not on the Border, but in a more northern part of the country; for the event originated from one of those feuds between the great families of the north, which resembled, in their savage displays, the feuds of the
Border tribes. The ballad bears the title, Edom o Gordon, which is but a corrupted form of the name of Adam Gordon of Auchendoun, brother to the Marquis of Huntly, and his deputy as a lieutenant of Queen Mary. The Gordons had long been at feud with their neighbours, the Forbeses, and took many opportunities of abusing their official position under the Queen for the purpose of private revenge. On one occasion Auchendoun commissioned a Captain Ker, or Car, with a party of soldiers to demand the surrender of the castle of Torvie, one of the chief seats belonging to the Forbeses. The lady, whose husband was absent at the time, not only refused to surrender the castle, but replied to Ker's demand in taunting language; upon which the irritated captain ordered the castle to be burnt with all its inmates, amounting to twenty-seven persons. As Ker was acting under the commission of Adam Gordon, and received no punishment for what he had done, the guilt of his crime was naturally charged upon the latter, who figures in the ballad as the perpetrator himself. The scene, in which the mother and her children appear as they see the flames climbing up the battlements and the smoke closing round them, is perhaps unsurpassed in popular poetry; while the picture of the beautiful dead face smiting even the ruffian soldier with a feeling which he cannot bear, is sketched as if by the hand of Nature herself:-
"O then bespake her youngest son,
Sat on the nurse's knee;
'O mother dear, gie ower your house,