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As on the topmost ridge he homeward hies.
Lochleven-Escape of Queen Mary from Lochleven Castle-Michael Bruce-Sketch of his Life-Boyhood-College LifePoetry-"Lochleven"-Sickness-"Ode to Spring"-Death"Ode to the Cuckoo."
PURSUING Our journey southward, next day finds us on the banks of Lochleven, distinguished not so much from the beauty of its situation, as from its poetic and historical associations. It is adorned with four small islands, the principal of which are St. Serf's Isle near the east end, so called from its having been the site of a priory dedicated to St. Serf, and another near the shore on the west side, which immediately attracts the eye, from its containing the picturesque ruins of Lochleven Castle, in which Mary, Queen of Scots, was confined, and from which she made her wonderful escape. Here, also, Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and grandson of Robert the Third, was imprisoned, in consequence of a generous attempt to reform the profligate lives of the Catholic clergy. In this place he died, and was buried in the monastery of St. Serf. The keys of the castle, thrown into the lake at the time of Queen Mary's flight, have recently been found by a young man belonging to Kinross, and are now in the possession of the Earl of Morton.
The castle, with its massive tower yet standing, looks dismal enough, but how much it is beautified by the fine old trees and shrubbery which encircle it, and the mellow light which mantles its hoary sides!
"Gothic the pile, and high the solid walls,
With warlike ramparts, and the strong defence
No more its arches echo to the noise
Of joy and festive mirth. No more the glance
Lash'd by the wint'ry tempest, cold and bleak
This description is by Michael Bruce, whose early promise and premature death have awakened so much sympathy among all classes in Scotland. He was born in the vicinity of Lochleven, and has written a poem of considerable merit descriptive of the lake and surrounding scenery. His "Ode to Spring," and especially his "Ode to the Cuckoo," now universally acknowledged to be his, are among the most beautiful poems in the English language. He was born at Kinnesswood, parish of Portmoak, on the 27th of March, 1746. By going round to the north-east bank of the lake, we shall find this village, insignificant in itself, but sweetly situated on the south-west declivity of the Lomond hills. Ascending a narrow lane, we reach, near its centre, the house in which Bruce was born. of two stories, with a thatched roof.
parents were very poor, and occupied only the upper part of the house, which served them at once for a workshop and dwelling. "A true nestling place of genius," exclaims his biographer, quoting the words of Washington Irving respecting the birth-place of Shakspeare," which delights to hatch its offspring in bye corners." Mean as it is, an angelic soul has been here, and a charm lingers upon its homely walls. Dr. Huie of Edinburgh has given the following touching account of a visit which he paid to this place, in company with one of Bruce's old friends. "On returning," says he, "from Portmoak church-yard, where Bruce is buried, I attended my venerable guide to the lowly dwelling where the parents of the poet resided. We first entered the garden: This,' said Mr. B. was a spot of much interest to Michael. Here he used alternately to work and to meditate. There stood a row of trees which he particularly cherished, but they are now cut down,' added the good old man, and as he said this, he sighed. Here again,' said he,' was a bank of soft grass on which Michael was accustomed to recline after he became too weak to walk; and here his father would sit beside him in the evening, and read to amuse him.' We next entered the house. I experienced an involuntary feeling of awe when I found myself in the humble abode, where neglected worth and talents had pined away and died. The little square windows cast but a feeble light over the apartment, and the sombre shades of evening, for the sun had now set, were strikingly
in unison with the scene.
There,' said my conductor, 'auld Saunders used to sit at his loom. In that corner stood the bed where the auld couple slept, in this the bed which was occupied by Michael, and in which he died.' The good old man's eyes filled as he spoke. I found it necessary to wipe my own. I was not ashamed of my tears. They were a tribute to departed genius, and there was nothing unmanly in their flow."
Saunders Bruce, as he was called, the father of Michael, had eight children, and as the business of weaving has always been a poor one in Scotland, it was with extreme difficulty that he was enabled to give Michael a suitable education, though early perceiving in him the seeds of genius. Saunders was a pious thoughtful man, universally respected, and a sort of village chronicle. He is supposed to be referred to in the poem of Lochleven, in the lines commencing,—
"I knew an aged swain whose hoary head
Was bent with years, the village chronicle,” etc.
Of his mother we have no means of forming a judgment, and suspect that her character was not particularly marked. It is his father to whom Michael himself, and the friends that knew him, chiefly refer in connection with his early studies and pursuits. Some indeed have intimated that the stern orthodoxy of the old man was called into requisition to repress the youthful aspirings of his son, particularly in the matter of books, but of this not the slightest evidence can be adduced.