Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER IV.

LEGEND OF THE FIRST CASTLE OF CLAMIS.

How rich with legends is our land!
Its hills and dales and rock-girt strand—
Each doth its dread, mysterious tale,
Low ominous whisper in the gale:
The scowling loop-holed donjon keep,
The frowning walls that round it sweep,
The mouldering castle, grey and grim,
All chant some sad funereal hymn.

How varied, and antagonistic to each other, are the impressions produced on differently constituted minds by the outward aspects of nature, or by the historical traditions of an ancient, classical land like our own! Some expatiate on the richness of the fields, their high state of cultivation, and the comparative produce they yield in return for the diligent labours of the scientific and skilful husbandman. Others exult in the splendid garniture of the straths and valleys, aglow with the golden tints of autumnal fruitage, without one passing thought as to the probable yield per acre of barley, oats, or wheat. Many, while gazing on the far-stretching forests, or on the heath and grass-covered hills, only calculate on the capabilities of the one for the building of so many ships, or speculate on the capacities of the other to rear and fatten so many sheep; while the poetical few luxuriate only in the loveliness of the waving woodlands, ringing out their joyous chimes to fill the soul with melody, or, in a wild transport of luxurious rapture, enjoy with a passionate delight the beauty of the landscape, in all its variety of hill, and dale, and breezy upland, alive with the bleeting of lambs, and

vocal with the songs of children and of birds. Some regard with holy reverence the traditionary lore of our country, and are more engrossed with the mere romance of the legend than with its strict historical accuracy. Others, not content with ransacking musty, moth-eaten parchments and chronicles, and grubbing laboriously amongst the debris of decaying antiquarian relics, must needs throw doubts, if not direct discredit, on every startling and romantic incident which does not square with their prosaic ideas, or strictly harmonise with the dry and literal interpretation of history.

What is it that constitutes the grand difference between the scenery of the Western Hemisphere and that of our own beloved land? Is it not the associations, historical and otherwise, that encompass the land at every point, like a starry atmosphere of refulgent, unfading glory? The prairies of America may be more vast; her forests may cover, in all their primeval grandeur, an immeasurably greater extent and variety of space; her mountains may soar to a loftier altitude, approaching nearer the gates of the Celestial City, and the throne of the Great Eternal; her rivers may flow on in their stately course in mightier volume, and with greater majesty of power; her lakes may be more capacious, and her cataracts more ravishingly sublime. What of that? There is not a valley, forest, mountain, or glen; there is not a river, a lake, a cascade, or a burn throughout the length and breadth of the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland but hath each its separate history-its tale of love, of war, romance, or song-connecting the present with the past in a mystic, weird-like chain, whose golden links stretch far away in traditionary indistinctness to the remote and fabulous ages of antiquity. Nay, there is not a moss-covered stone in the plain, a rugged cairn upon the hill, a willowed or birch-shaded streamlet in the glen, or a lonely tarn in the bosom of the mist-enshrouded mountain but tell us, as in a dream, some wondrous legend of imaginative mystery or thrillingly-bewitching story of chase, foray, or daring, gallant deeds of wild, romantic chivalry.

And what of the old, grey ivy-mantled castles which stud the lovely glens, and perch, like the eyry of the eagle, on the rugged slopes of the rocky hills, or on the surf-beaten lofty cliffs by the ever-surging sea? What of the mouldering ruins still beautiful in their premature decay-of the abbeys, the monasteries, the ancient houses of God, which throw around their holy shrines a rainbow instructive radiance of the never-to-be-forgotten past? What of the still existing magnificent cathedrals, with their noble proportions of transept, nave, and pillared aisle; their delicate tracery of sculptured choir and frescoed dome; their internal garniture of matchless splendour, and their external surroundings of majestic tower and lofty spire?

Each hath its intensely interesting associations; each hath its authentic, undying history. From the weird old castles, hoary with age-from the depths of their donjon keeps, from the heights of their battlemented towers-still come the rolling peals of martial music, the fitful strains of the minstrel harp, and the loud wassail roar of the midnight revel, all softly blent with the low-whispered roundelay issuing sweetly from the boudoirs of ladyes fair in the witching twilight of summer eves. From the mouldering abbeys, as well as from the existent cathedrals, arise alike the thunder-notes of the organ, and the softly-chanted songs of the white-robed choir. The aromatic incense still fragrantly perfumes the morning air, and the rolling anthems re-echo back, as of old, from the distant sky.

The associations? They remain for ever! Gold will not buy them; time cannot destroy them; new places cannot bribe them. From the old they never can be separated.

Ye Goths and Vandals, do your worst? Uproot each sacred vestige to faithful memory's eye most dear; raze, raze the well-remembered walls; waft, scatter rude to merciless, devastating blasts each palace hall and hospitable roof! Associations mock, defy your power; the heart's affections laugh your wrath to scorn! Ye cannot still the echoes of the

past-gag,, silence memory's hallowed voice-rude hush the heavenly music of these holy, cherished songs!

In accompanying me, therefore, through the classical and traditional region of Strathmore, I wish the reader not to be too exacting in regard to places and dates, nor too rigidly examine into, and prosaically compare the startling legendary incidents narrated with the pretended revelations of unauthenticated history.

It is essential ever to bear in mind, while descanting on events so remote, that the earlier period of the history of Scotland is involved in great obscurity; that the first historical chronicles were compiled by the unlettered monks, chiefly from oral tradition; and that the oldest history of Scotland extant is of a comparatively recent date. John Fordoun, a canon of Aberdeen, who flourished in the fourteenth century, was the writer of the first history of Scotland; and, although Hailes and Chalmers have somewhat dispelled the darkness which had so long overhung the early period of Scottish history, their discoveries must necessarily be still received with extreme caution, if not with pardonable doubt.

It may be assumed, therefore, that I have no sympathy with those who would obscure the golden radiance of our legendary lore, or sacrilegiously attempt to obliterate the landmarks of poetry and song. In the hurry and excitement of this tumultuous and practically progressive age, let us admire and reverence the more the sacred impositions of genius, and cling with the greater fondness and tenacity to the loved and hallowed associations of the past. Premonitions are not awanting that the termination of the waning era of romance too assuredly draweth nigh. Let us not unfeelingly hasten prematurely the-bitter end.

Although record shows that the present Castle of Glamis was not begun to be built until the time of the first Earl of Kinghorn in 1578, yet for ages before the existence of written records, and claiming remote antiquity, there was a castle and royal residence of considerable extent within the

C

parish. It is quite certain there was a hill fort upon an isolated rocky eminence in the Glen of Denoon, in the Sidlaw district of the parish. This glen, altogether, is a very lovely and romantic spot, reposing calmly among the bleak and barren hills, and forming a pleasant contrast to the gorgeous luxuriance of the "Great Valley."

A sunny nook of Highland glen

Peeps out behind yon mossy den.

Lone spot! enshrined 'mong heather hills,
And watered fresh by mountain rills,

In modest loveliness afar,

Thou shinest bright, like distant star,
The rosy morning glad to greet,
In all thy loneliness-how sweet !

The Hill of Denoon is steep, and of considerable height, one side of the rock being nearly perpendicular, while the other sides are of tolerably easy ascent. A stone wall, eight or nine feet in thickness, is carried obliquely round the Hill, encircling a space of 340 or 350 yards in circumference. Within this semi-circular and extensive rampart, there are scattered vestiges of the foundations of an immense castellated edifice, with traces of several entrances in the external walls. It is to this Castle, therefore, the following short legend refers.

Eight hundred years have rolled away since the erection of the first Castle of Glamis; yet from the darkness, turmoil, and strife of that early time comes, weird-like, a legend's muffled chime.

The Hill of Denoon was at that remote period accounted sacred or haunted ground. It was the mythical abode of the elfins and fairies, and formerly a fitting haunt for their midnight revelries.

When the silvery moonbeams lovingly slept in dreamy beauty on the green slopes of the enchanted Hill, and the blue bells and the purple heather were wet with the dew of angels' tears, arrayed in gossamer robes of bespangled gold, with wands of dazzling sheen and lances of magical bright

« PoprzedniaDalej »