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KING BRUCE'S BOWL,
A DRAMATIC LEGEND OF GALLOWAY.
Simon SPROTTE, of Kingsmount.
Hugh GLENDYNEN, of Glendynen.
Miles HERRIES, of Partoun.
Alice SPROTTE, her daughter.
Now hear his antique speech.
SPROTTE, and ALICE SPROTTE.
The sun's gone down on the hill-top red and rosy. The corn of Kingsmount, the bear of Braidislee, and the rye of Partoun-place, will soon be ready for the sickle. We must sharpen the reap-hook soon, Hugh Glens dynen, and stoop us to the stooking. Vol. VI.
HUGH GLENDYNEN. Aye, truly. The barley wags his yellow beard at us, and the lasses long to catch it atween their white hands. There will be thousands of sickles laid under the ripe ear soon. As I came down by Ernespie, who should I see but the laird standing midwaist deep in a cornfield, proving the ripeness of his grain between the remains of his foreteeth :-“ My sooth,” said he, “ if the reap-hook makes nae the greater speed, the top pickle will he shaken on the mools, and gang to the fairies of Glenesling-glen. Through the grace of him aboon, and the warmth of yon blessed sun, the corn is ready for the hook and the flail.”
As I came along the river-bank, who should I see but a lady of the auld blood of the Maxwells:-“ Will Candlish,” cried she to her steward, “ wherefore feed ye the pigeons with good grey peas, when I see ripe rye at Thunneram ;-wilful waste makes woeful want.
Aye, aye, our lady takes as sore a lift of the world as if she could carry it with her to the grave. Sorry am I for the bauld auld sirname of Maxwell. An ancient name and a renowned. The ladies had hands once milk-white and soft, and filled with bountith and largesse to many a needful body. But now their hands are of iron, and every finger they have is as sharp as a fish-hook. Sorry am I for the gallant name.
It is a pity that old and heroic blood should become as cold as dykewater in December. I have sung of many of the bold and chivalrous names which honour other days, and in the praise of the Maxwell would I wake my highest strain. But present feelings are too strong for ancient love, and I maun forget the living before I can do honour to the dead.
Honour the dead, and let the living go to the dust their own pitiful way. Thirty gentlemen and three have I numbered in my youth, all of that old name, and owners of lands and towers in Nithsdale and Galloway; but woe to foreign wars, and woe to domestic feuds-- sudden deaths and barren beds have thinned them out and given their lordships to strangers.
And let them go-and so their requiem's sung. We saw fairer faces fall at Clifton without dool or lament; and better warriors at Carlisle gate, who had fetters for their hands, and a sharp axe for their necks. Ah, my auld fere, we came through some peril when we drew our swords together for the love of King Bruce's blood. Mind ye, man, how we trimmed that three lads with the scarlet coats and Hanover belts, who overtook us at the end of Lochmaben town? And how, when we emptied the troopers' saddles and leaped into them ourselves, one of the bailies, who bore ou his back a burthen of broom, cried, “ Od, my lads, I wish Provost Johnstone saw ye, he would make ye glower through the harrow that forms our prison gate."
SIMON SPROTTE. Aye, that was none of our wisest pranks, and had near-band brought us acquaint with the red and ready hand of Duke Cumberland's merciless law. When I returned home I found cold comfort. Jabesh Cargil, with a company of wild Closeburn Cameronians, had herried my home and burned my books -- a Hebrew Bible and a Greek Testament among the rest-nor spared they my old original Homer. They kindled a fire on the top of the mount, and, with much of prayer and thanksgiving, committed the good old Greek, and, his holier companions, to the flames ; calling them brats and bastards of Rimmon and Moloch, and crying aloud, “ Consume with fire the session book in which the harlot of Rome has
written and recorded her longings and her sins." Ah, these were stirring and ticklish times.
HUGH GLENDYNEN. Plague on such times, say I, and the knaves and the fools who swell the ranks of discord and civil dissension. Come, man, let the memory of such misadventures die a natural death; and let us be blessed with the presence of the old charter-bowl-the glorious heir-loom of the house of Kingsmount -the noble bowl of Bruce the Brave, as my young friend Miles Herries will doubtless haptize it when he sees, for the first time, the wormeaten relique. Let its ancient lips overflow again, my friend, with rich and smoking potations. Let us perfume the roof of the house of Simon Sprotte, and intoxicate the sparrows with the fumes, as they roost beneath the eaves.
Now Alice Sprotte, my love-Alice, I say—my only child—ihe light of day to thy mother's eyes and mine, and the new bark to the withering tree of the old house of Sprotte of the Mount. Go to the charter-chest - the little old chest of moss-oak, ornamented with thistles, and strewn with Scripture expressions, and the names of any bold forbears. Open the lid, my love, and you will find, carefully wrapt in fine wool, the wassail-cup, the breakfast bowl of Robert the Bruce. Touch its ancient sides with awe, Alice, and bring it hither, wondering, between thy hands.
It is a lordly dish–I look indeed with awe on the ancient vessel which the lip and hand of a hero and a king have touched. Come out of thy safe sanctuary, thou relique of the Bruce and the Sprotte-my hand trembles to touch thee.
Lo! here the relique comes, a lordly vessel borne in a white and shapely hand. Off with all bonnets—each lay his right hand on the cup of Kingsmount-kneel on the floor, and let the venerable owner of this ancient house pray for bright days for poor
The stripling's mad-moon-struck and muse-struck-over head in hot love and heroics ; seven words of simple prose are no more to be hoped for from him, than a shower of pearls when the wind's westerly: Ah, my old reverend acquaintance, fair fall the white hand that placed thee before me. Cup of a king, thou bast a smell and a perfume about thee grateful to a humble subject like me. Many a time have I sat down beside thee in sorrow and staggered from thee in joy. Often have I sat before thee in humility and submission--the first cupful made me a lord, and the last one crowned me a king. Fifty years and odd bear ( on my back now, but beneath the burthen of years thou wilt make me leap with the limbs of eighteen.
SIMON SPROTTE. The rashness of youth has descended on my friend again, and a singer and a dancer will he become in the presence of this noble vessel. There ! on that table stands the grace and glory of my house, and the charter by which I hold my land. Ah, King Bruce's bowl, many a heroic hand has been upon thee of old at burials, and bridals, and baptisms, and banquetings. Among the brave, and the sage, and the fair, hast thou appeared ;a Bruce has not scorned thy humble sweets-a Douglas has tasted of thy strength-a Randolph has stayed his fiery steed to partake of thy blessings -many a Maxwell, many a Ramsay, many a gentle Kirkpatrick, many a hot and headlong Johnstone, and gay Macartney, and blythe Maclellan, have partaken of thy liquid delights. Thou hast never been profaned by rude and vulgar lips, and I would sooner see thee feed the fire, or hold husks for swine, than behold thee gracing the mean and the sordid:
Let me view this princely vessel round and around. It was cut from the stem of a scented sycamore, and polished into a cup of honour by some wise and cunning hand. Nor has the hand of De Bruce given it all its glory. The thistle has lately been carved about its brim, and some affectionate hand has hooped it with silver. And Saint Andrew, what have we here! A scene of Scottish glory cut by no common and servile hand. Who is he with spear in hand, spurring on his steed ?-Ah, 'tis Henry de Bohunfor here De Bruce is at his bosom-his crown above his helmet-his waraxe descending in a hand that gives no second blow; a heroic might seems in his frame to confound the foes of Scotland.
Ah, Miles Herries, I will show thee a far fairer scene than that, and cut too by no hired hand. See here is the feat—a humble, but an useful one, by which we won our lands of yore. A woman's deed too !-the work of woman's hand and woman's wit! When will the slim and the scented madams of this degenerate day work for the gain or the glory of man? As idle and as frail as the lilies in Scripture- light of head and light of havings, when will one of them win a lairdship of land, or bear on her back two bushels of barley?
By the white hand and blue eye of my love, here's a curious scene indeed. This is Kingsmount house, and hill, and holmland and river. Two warriors sit on the threshold ; between them stands a lordly dish. But who is this with hair flowing in loosened ringlets, with lips apart and body bent forward, flying as swift as the gos-hawk which won by its flight the broad carse of Gowrie? This is the dame who fought for King Robert, and prepared food for the hungry hero, and became lady of all the land she could run round while he emptied the mighty bowl.
The same the same,-I have heard the story a thousand and a thousand times, with all its variations. It is told by the old, and marvelled at by the young. I have seventeen versions of the tale myself, and have told it from Crawfuird moor to Caerlaverock, and from Caerlaverock to Dundrennan. It's as old as the hills, and as long as Orr water with all its loops and windings. I would as soon sit sarkless on Skiddaw, and hearken the crake of the curlew, as listen to the story of Kingsmount won by woman's wit, with reverence be it spoken.
Come, Alice, love-come, Alice. Go, bring me one of the old cobwebbed gardevines, smuggled hither by William Armstrong, whom men called Wilful Willie. Many an anker of the right geneva has he brought to gladden the men of Galloway, and the women too, else there's no more trust in an ancient saye. It was a sad day for us all, when black Jock Johnstone the gauger-called by the dames of the district, Satan's Jock, shot at and lamed Wilful Willie among the cliffs of Colvend. But bring me the gardevine, Alice, my love, and the pure geneva shall simmer and sing among sugar and smoking water, to the comfort of us all.
ALICE SPROTTE. The pure water of the well, or the sweet milk from the loan, or whey pressed from the curd, is pleasanter than this wild and venomous liquor, which makes wise men fools, and fools mad. It would never be tasted here, save for the sake of this ancient bowl.
Pour it out, my winsome Alice. Ah, water, sugar, and geneva, form the richest alliance ever made for the pleasure of humble men. Look at the rising of that fragrant vapour, and taste the scent which it diffuses over the house of Kingsmount. How gladsome is the flavour of this delicious compound. Ah! thou deceitful beverage, thou hast unsettled the sanctity of many a sound divine, and made douce dames keep ill-barred doors.
Let us pronounce a minstrel-blessing on this ancient cup—the rough, the rude and ready rhyme has come to my lips in honour of the Bruce-and thus do I chaunt it :
De Bruce, De Bruce.
Thy glens, green Galloway,
And plumes in close array ;
They fall like winter snow;
The earth is shuddering so-
Down to old Solway's flood,-
Along thy greenwood banks
And broke the English ranks;
He and the gallant Graeme ;
Here fiery Randolph came;
And spared nor strength nor steel,
Fair Alice, it shines sweet,
The sod aneath our feet-
The sea that sweeps its foot-
And earth and air be mute;
And woman's love-shall be
And on Orr's silver side,
Than war-shouts answering wide:
Beneath the golden grain
Glad all the glens again.
And heavenly libertie-
To thy good sword and thee.