precipice, from one tree to another, till fastened by a broach of massy silver, I found myself standing on a green and She sat basking herself in the beams of sunny mound or promontory, half way the new risen sun, and spread out her between the vale and the inoor.' The wrinkled and palsied hands, to the geriver had here accomplished its first nial warmth of the luininary. I could fearful leap, and was preparing for not look, without emotion, on this ananother of less depth, but of equal beau- cient and solitary being, and it was evty. I advanced along the green sward ident she felt sensible of the presence mound, which bore evident marks of of some stranger, for she glanced her recent cultivation. A few flowers and large gray eyes sharply and suspiciousshrubs, not native to the soil, remained ly around, but screened by the thick clinging to the spot in stunted and and leafy hedge, I continued concealed neglected beauty, and a fruit tree from her eye, though I was certainly or two, long past their prime, had sub- present to her other senses. While I mitted to the blast, and bowed down was considering of some suitable mode to the earth, leaned over the rapid cur- of introducing myself to the ancient rent, till their branches glistened with dame, I observed her stoop and lift a moisture. On the limit of this mound, roke or distaff, from which thread, I stood and gazed on a scene equally black as the back of a raven, depended, singular and unexpected. At the bots and a small fleece of the same ominous tom of this upper promontory, another colour lay at her feet.

This primitive still more beautiful and broad, and edg- instrument she soon put in motion, and ed with rock, to resist the perpetual while she whirled it round, to give conchafing of the stream, seemed projecting sistency and twirl to her thread, she belike a fairy table from the face of the gan to chant a song addressed to her cliff, and a time-worn and bumble cot- ROKE, which disclosed something of her tage occupied its abrupt extremity. history, her calling, and the merits of The mouod might be a good penny- this gifted implement of industry. stone cast in breadth, and twice as much in length. The earth seemed

THE WITCH OF AE's SONG. once to have owed much to cultivation,

1. At present it was a level and smooth "Turn round, thou bit of the rarest timmer green sward, and owned neither flower Ere bore a bud to the dew o'simmer,

Thou wert nursed in a cleugh o' blood and strife, nor bush, except a natural enclosure of the mirkest nook o’ the haunted Dryfe ; wild plum-trees, on which the ripe Nor wert thou plucked by steel or airn, fruit hung in thick and black powdry But by the cauld hand o' a strangled bairn, . clusters. This bedge-row surrounded

When the stars fell siek, and the moon grew dull,

By the will-o'-wisp gleam frae a dead man's skull. the cottage, and completely hemmed in

2. the mound, and rendered it one of the Thou ae best friend i' my starkest need, loveliest spots I ever looked upon. The That grinds my corn, and bakes my bread ; station from which I looked was eleva- That frae the bawk the fat hen wiles, ted about fifteen feet above its neigh- That keeps me cozie, and brings to me,

And milks the kye for a thousand miles; bour mound, and the wild plum trees, The bird frae the bush, an'the fruit fine the tree; ascending to the level of the upper That reaps me riggs I never plowed, ground, came witb their dark clustering And melis men's hearts like minted gowd.

3. fruit to my very feet. I stooped to pluck and taste the productions of Gainst the flight o' the sun,as I spin thee about, this fairy region, wheo lo! to my As I turn thee around wi’ the warid, I win utter fear and astonishment, I observed A thousand lives to this land o' sin. seated on a large squared block of sand- Muckle dool last thou done-an’gory wark, stone, an old and feeble, and withered Muckle dool hast thou dove, and may do stair

To unbaptized brows, and the cruel Turk; WOMAN. She wore a lappeted mutch To th’unwelcome foot in thy owner's lair. over her gray hairs, a kind of cloth cap

4. surmounted this, and around her shoul. A bonnie ship o'er the Solway went, ders was a lowland maud, or plaid, I turned my timmer. the shriek frue the sea

An'spored through the brine wi’her white sails bent, 2Z ATHENEUM VOL. 7.

Came far up Criffels' green mountain to me

[ocr errors]

I turned it back, with a moistened wing,

thou abide till the hooded craws fill Away shot the ship, and I beard the men sing, An' the maids o' Colvend, with a startling laugh,

their crapins frae atween tby bosomGrat an' shouted for joy to see her safe.

bages !-bonest looking woman, my 5.

certy! The terror of her words—the "There was dool to win-there was dool to pu, anger of her looks—and the eagerness Frae the bird o'the fiend this sooty woo.

with which I gazed on her fearful and A strange black raven, wi'croak and peck, Poud this lock at midnight frae a black tup's neck;

antique face, made me forget myself; I turned my timmer-and now I twine

and, having stood too close to the borMy thread, an' sing i' the bonnie sunshine; der of the mound, the green turf sudBut I hae a drag i'the dwine o' the moon, To do, an'syne my song is done.'

denly gave way, and down I plunged

headlong into the beldame's gardeo, “During the chanting of this infer- crushing down an entire plumb-tree

, nal lyric, I felt all those terrors which and leaving a gap in her fruit-tree fence • tradition says men feel when some spell wide enough for the passage of a loaded

or charm freezes up their spirit, and car. Up I started, more alarmed at my roots them to the earth as motionless as intrusion than injured by my fall, and a stone or tree. With every turn of confronted the owner of the garden the roke, a new verse succeeded, and the holding a 'broken branch loaded with mysterious woman looked around with ripe plums in one hand, and a green torf the light of satisfaction glimmering in in the other, tokens of my involuntary her eyes-pleased to think of the suc- descent, and the pains I had taken to cess of her evil hymo. Such sorcery aveft it or render it easy. On me lookdid these verses, and the person that ed the old woman for a minute's space, uttered them, exercise over my facul. more in commiseration than anger, ties, that I could not help repeating down she laid her roke, seized an old them in a kind of unconsenting 'mutter staff, the head of which still retained after her, and the peculiar emphasis with marks of having woru a covering of which she announced dool to the unwel- precious metal, said, • list the roke, come foot, rung in my ear like a psalm Mark Macrabin, and follow- I have sung on a scaffold.

At last she arose, wark for thee!' and away she halted and, turning slowly to the west, and into her cottage, with slow steps, and bowing her charmed roke thrice, she efforts that cost her pain. I lifted her exclaimed, in a tone rivalling is harmo. roke, not with my bared band, but, pasny the note of the raven when the sing part of she plum-tree branch be. schoolboy climbs to her

young, “ Woe neath it, I bore it after her as a timid and dool to the secret foot-stranger schoolboy carries a live eel, and intercome forth." Whether the charm she nally blessing myself; for it seemed a employed compelled me to obey her, perilous undertaking. Into the cotor that it was predestined I should be tage, the door of which, from the rudewaiting-man to all the curious dames in ness of its architecture and lowness of its the district, I stept involuntarily for- lintle, resembled a cavern more than an ward to the projecting pinnacle of the entrance to a human abode, I followed promontory, and, bowing to the bel- her. The passage required me to dame,said, “Honest looking woman, sloop, and I soon found myself in a kiad I have oo mind to molest ye, -can you of chamber, filled with that thick and show me the way to John Macmuc- bitter smoke which arises from burning kle’s ?' O, honest looking woman,' green wood. Living thing I could not reiterated the dame of Ae Glen, turning discern, till on advancing I saw like a her withered and brown visage full on dim hearth fire, struggling for existence, me, displaying a large black mole that amidst the very cloud it had produced shaded the whole of her left eye-brow, the form of a buman being seated on and a variety of teeth which upsparing one side, and a similar form seated on time bad mutilated into short and rusty the other. I stood stone-still, and gazfangs, and wherefore no honest wom. ed on these guardians of the hearth, an, pe unsoosy callan--inint another sic neither of whom uttered a word, nor

'y word, and on that cliff shalt did I attempt to break the silence, but

stood looking on the one and looking was wreathed around with a century's on the other, with the witch's roke in soot. All that the apartment contained my right hand, and wiping the tears was three square blocks of freestone, which the bitter smoke brought abun- placed as seats round the heartb fire, on dantly from my eyes with the left. iwo of which sat my conductress and The old woman, my conductress, pitied her companion. The third stood unocme, and pulling a pair of “fall-boards' cupied for me, and into this uncomfortbelonging to a window, instantly open- able resting-place was I speedily moed, and through the apertures the smoke tioned by the yellow band of Janet escaped in volumes. She held out her Morison, the candie cummer of Ae Glen. hand-snatched her roke, and begin “ I had now leisure and resolution ning to spin, said, not to her compan- also to turn my eye on the silent figure ion por to me, but evidently to herself, beside me. The thick smoke that though she spoke in her usual audible shrouded her before was now passed tone Sackless callant! sackless callant! away, but a dark mantle thrown over louping on the green tap of Laggbill wi' her bead, and reaching down to the a gang of raving gomerals,-then snool- floor like a sbroud, wrapped her all ing amang rags and ram horns, with a round—I never beheld any shape that horde of deaving gypsies. Its a sad awakened my curiosity so much, but and sair pity to behold youthfu' blood my desire to know more of this mystegaun a gate sae gray. Janet Morison, rious figure was soon redoubled ye maun e'en try to make a saut some. Nannie, my sweet and lost lass,' said thing out o' this sackless callant.' And the beldame, in a tone far sweeter than then she looked on me with her great her common speech lang looked for's gray eyes, and then towards the figure come at lastmihe tbing that maun be seated opposite, with a look of pitying maun be—and sic is the wierd of a bureflection. The smoke bad now eddy- man flesh, I maun e'en set a stout beart ed completely out of the chamber, and to the darke-sair, sair hae I pled that I obtained a full view of the apartment. the ripe ear might drop to the sickle, and It contained no furniture to impede my the green ear remain unshorn-but it examination. The walls that had once wasnae to be!- The voice called once, been plastered, were naked and shining and the voice called twice-wi' the with soot; the rooftree and rafters were third call auld Janet Morison maun seen bare, and two large pieces of timber buckle and gang. As the old woman that supported the whole trusted not to spoke, the agitation of the mantled figure the walls, which were of loose stones, became extreme-at first something of but descending to the floor, grooved an involuntary shuddering came over theic bases in the ground, which was of her, and the folds of the mantle shook gravelly clay. Where the rooftrec join- and undulated over her bosom, like ed the gabel, an aperture had been made ripening grain moving in the windfor the smoke, but this was nearly chok- the shudderings ceased, and sighs auded up with soot, and so slight was the ible and deep were heard, and through indraught of air, that the reek, after the folds of the mantle-held with both having filled all the roof, descended hands to her eyes, the tears seemed to cloud after cloud to the very floor, come--drop succeeding drop. My where it stood motionless and still, un- heart, that bad turned from the old less the supplemental chimney or win- woman and her whole establishment at dow opened its oaken fall-boards to per. the first interview, began now to take a

From the rooftree, di- deep interest in her fate, which all that rectly over the fire, a long iron chain I heard and saw induced me to condepended, and from the chain a bar of clude was involved in some strange iron hooked at the lower end for the pur- mystery—above all, I longed to take pose of suspending vessels over the fire; the mantled figure by the hand, and but this seemed to be seldom trusted say, in the tender language of the Scripwith the weight of cooking utensils, and ture, alas, why art thou disquieted!

mit its escape.

The old woman guessed, or knew what her face alone was bare—and a face was passing in my thoughts, and resum- more lovely--sublimed by melancholy ing her croaking noie, said “Sackless thought-and washen with dropping callan ! sackless callan! eighty and tears—it has never been my lot to look eighteen years hae I dwalt in this glen upon. Her brow had more the icy gloss --and a flesh that smiled as I smiled of polished marble than the living glow -that I hae nursed i' my heart, and of breathing beauty; and ber eyes

, dandled on my knee, is raked wi' the which were large and round, and fring. inools—that stream that comes drap- ed with the longest black silken lashes ping down, singing wi' a gladsome din I ever bebeld, had something of a wild amang the lang green birks—had the and uneartbly expression—but still an same voice then as it has now—yon expression of gentleness. She glided rising sun gleamed as brightly then as past me, and casting her long and round is does now--and the same sweet sang and wbite arms about the neck of the o'the mavis and the laverock--the tane old woman, walked into the sunny on the craig, and the tither 'neath the air. I followed-for I found myself cloud, was heard at my bridal-was linked to this pair by something like a heard at the death of my goodman- charm-and the deep interest that I felt and the burial o’a' my bairns—bow- about a dame so old and so singular, bow, never stand against the blast, and a maiden so young and so beautiful, stoop, stoop--and let the tempest fly was chastened by something like awe. o'er ye---men are no made to rio for They walked or rather tottered forward ever like the streams--women are not to the brink of the mound—before them made to smile for ever like this sweet the remains of an old oak wood, blanchinorning--we may gang soon-or weed and blasted, and lifeless with exmay gang syne, but gang we maun— treme age, covered by the aid of dwarf. therefore come wi' me, and let me look holly, sparkling with moist leafs and at yon bonnie beaming sun-It's the ruddy berries, the slope on the opposite last time I shall ever see it arise !'-The side, and beneath their feet the stream voice of the old woman as she proceed- toiled among rocks and roots of trees, ed became soft and even pathetic, and diving into profound linns, and then swelling to a tone of deep seriousness, emerging, wheeling and undulating, and and the mantled figure, who had be- whitened with foam. The sud, cloud. come calm and tranquil, now appeared less and clear, had now arisen fully moved and agitated, and her sighs and over the eastern slope, and its beams sobbings were renewed. But when the slanted across the flood, fell aloog the old dame desired me to come and look sward, at the feet of the old beldame at the full risen sun, she arose, not slow and the lovely and melancholy creature and by degrees as her more aged com- that accompanied ber. On the running panion did—but starting to her feet at stream and then on the risen sun the old once, she dropped from her head and woman looked—and on them ber comshoulders the large mantlemand the panion looked too--but with an uuselmost beautiful apparition appeared that iled and bewildered glance, that did ever blessed the sight of man. She not seem to associate living thing wilk seemed to be about seventeen-tall, the inanimate but beautiful scene before slender, and handsome--her bead was ber. But Janet Morison's mind was uncovered---nor was her forehead busy with other days, she spoke or bound in that fillet of maidenbood pe- rather thought aloud--for her speech culiar to Scotland-the snood—her was addressed to do living thing. locks descended in wild and untame- •Stately and green in your bonny bonable profusion down her back and over ny ranks--green wi' yere simmer livery her shoulders, parting in the middle of were ye whan I first 'saw this lanesome her forehead, and shrouding her bosom glen--where the Morisons bae been like the divine Madonna of Corregio. Morisons longer than tongue can cougs Amid this streaming luxuriance of locks the blacks blood-raven and the bood

ed gore-crow sang amang yere branch- me -I have weeded ye away one by es when I first pou'd the witch-gowan one-thou alone remain'st-and may and the hollow hemlock. Sair, sair al remain for me, I might as well shoot tered are we since we first became ac at the blessed sun with the hope of marquaint-leafless is the tape and lockless ring its sbining.' And curse the evil is the tither—my hooded craws and my be

ng that shot my bonny black raven poor ravens have alane remained-and and her bonny brood," said Janet Morthe young lord—black and bloody will rison, shaking her withered hand at the be his cast—shot the tane on the top of object of her wrath— For this, and the auld tree, three mornings syne- for sins deep and dark--that winna do and its lyart marrow has flown away 10 be named in sunshine—have thy far, far, and will never see cummer who days been numbered— listen the amount fed ber so kindly again.'

ibe last of three simmer suns sball “ Even as old Janet lamented, the see the limit of thy life-a brief space rustling of wings was heard, and pres for a face so young-nor shall it be ently up the deep gorge of the glen-spent-wi' filling the grave with the sailing slowly along on the bosom of ruins of thy last-woes me !—but in the water, came a large raven-The sorrow that knows no mirth-in tears crown of its bead was bald from ex- many and bitter—not tears of repenttreme age-its back was as hoary as if ance.' The person this remarkable it had been sprinkled with meal—its woman addressed was the last child of bosom and wings alone retained their a far descended and renowned race of original hue. When this faithful old noble blood and lordly inheritances bird came beneath the mound where we but early left to bis own will, he surren* stood, it arose perpendicularly into the dered himself to the indulgence of guilair, and seating itself on the topmost ty passions, and ere bis twentieth year, stem of a withered oak, turned its head be fled to a foreign land--leaving ruined to the cottage, and gave one low croak maids and weeping mothers in his naof recognizance.

• And

yere there, my tive country–whose cries were not black and my bonny bird,' said the old heard in vain. Towards the old wowoman—' come marrowless back to man he gazed with a look, not of scorn your leafless tree and your sorrowing or contempt, but of terror and affrightinistress. While she uttered these he stept several paces back, like one words, a bunter emerged at once from afraid to be seen or heard, and dropthe bowers of holly, and, presenting his ping his carbine, held both hands becarbioe as he appeared, fired at the old fore his face, as if to screen his eyes and solitary raven. The raven uttered, from some sudden and offensive light. as the shot struck it-not a croak, but · Saints and souls of men,' he muttered something between a croak and a moan, in a voice choking with emotion, . It is and spreading its wings, away it soared her! It is HER! I shall trust the perpendicularly into the sky-lessening kirk-yard turf no longer--hell and to the eye every moment of its rapid heaven fail to bold what we give them flight. The hunter stept to the summit —it is ner, as sure as light itself.'—He of a little hillock, and stood gazing up- seemed willing to fly—his feet refused wards at the wounded bird, unconscious to move-his knees were shaking with of our presence. He was a tall, hand- agony, and the colour was chased from some, and rather slender, youth, with bis cheek by some fearful sight, which bold martial features, and a careless and it was not my fortune to behold. At gay and dissipated air. He wore a this moment the wounded raven, that bonnet with a black feather, and a low- bad soared wholly out of sight, fell at land mantle of the finest texture, fasten- the foot of the old woman, its head ed on his left shoulder by a broach of stretched out, its wings expanded, and pure gold. •Curse the evil bird,' ex- all its feathers agitated with the shiverclaimed the youth--much good pow- ings of death. der thee and thy blasted brood bas cost " I listed the poor bird, and it was

« VorigeDoorgaan »