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Hamlet and Church-yard of Ettrick-Monument to Thomas Boston-Birth-place of the Ettrick Shepherd-Altrieve CottageBiographical Sketch of the Ettrick Shepherd-The Town of Selkirk-Monument to Sir Walter Scott-Battle-field of Philip
PROCEEDING Westward from St. Mary's Lake about half a mile, we come to the hill of Merecleughhead, where King James the Fifth entered the district to inflict summary vengeance upon the outlaws who frequented the Ettrick Forest in the days of old, a circumstance which gave rise to many of the old Scottish ballads. At the centre of the parish lie the hamlet and church-yard of Ettrick, on the stream of that name. Entering the burying-ground we behold the recently erected tomb of Thomas Boston, author of the well known work called "The Fourfold State," one of the best and holiest men that ever "hallowed" the " 'bushy dells" of Ettrick. With apostolic fervor did he preach the Gospel among these hills and vales, and his work, for more than three generations, has instructed the Scottish peasantry in the high doctrines of the Christian faith. His memory will ever be fragrant among the churches of Scotland. Not far from the burying-ground a house is pointed out in which the celebrated" Ettrick Sepherd" was born. Passing to the east end of the lake we see
before us Altrieve Cottage, "bosomed low mid tufted trees," and nearly encircled by the "sweet burnie," in whose limpid waters the green foliage is mirrored. Here the poet lived, in the latter
period of his life, and here also he died. scenes around, moor, mountain and glen, lake, river and ruin, are hallowed by the genius of the "shepherd bard," who, to quote his own words,
"Found in youth a harp among the hills,
Dropt by the Elfin people; and whilst the moon
Far in the bosom of the hill-so wild!
So sweet! so sad! flowed forth that shepherd's lay."
James Hogg, born in 1772, was descended from a family of shepherds, and spent his boyhood and youth herding his flocks among the hills. Far from the bustle of the world, in the deep solitudes of nature, his young and vigorous imagination became familiar with all wild and beautiful sights, all sweet and solemn sounds. Alone with nature during the day, he spent his evening hours in listening to ancient ballads and legends, of which his mother was a great reciter. This fed his imagination, and supplied it with an infinite variety of strange and beautiful imagery. To this fact he has himself thus strikingly referred.
"O list the mystic lore sublime,
I learned them in the lonely glen,
Where never stranger came our way,
By summer night or winter day;
Where neighboring hind or cot was none
Our converse was with heaven alone-
Of themes like these, when darkness fell
Another circumstance in the early life of Hogg tended to nurse his fancy. He had, in all, something like six months' schooling, and having entered the service of Mr. Laidlaw, another great lover of legends, songs and stories of the olden time, he subscribed to a circulating library at Peebles, whose diversified contents he devoured within a short time. He read poetry, romances and tales with avidity, and stored his mind with traditionary bal
lads, songs and stories. This circumstance will account for his wayward, changeable life, as well as for the wildness and strength of his imagination. In the field of reality he was nothing, in that of fancy everything.
He is said to have been a remarkably fine-looking young man, having a florid complexion, and a profusion of light brown hair, which he wore, coiled up, beneath his "blithe blue bonnet." An attack of illness induced by over-exertion, on a hot summer's day, so completely altered his appearance, that his friends scarcely recognized him as the same person. Of a jovial and merry disposition, he was a great favorite in all companies, and at times partook too freely of "the mountain dew."
Being introduced by the son of his employer to Sir Walter Scott, the Ettrick Shepherd assisted him in the collection of old ballads for the "Border Minstrelsy." He soon began to try his own hand in imitation of these traditionary poems, and published a volume of ballads, which attracted some attention, but never became very popular. Having embarked in sheep farming, and attempted one or two speculations in which he failed utterly, he resolved to repair to the city of Edinburgh, and support himself by his pen. "The Forest Minstrel," a collection of songs, was his first publication here; his second, "The Spy," a light periodical, which enjoyed a brief and precarious existence. It was not till the publication, in 1813, of his principal poetical production, "The Queen's Wake," that his reputation as a poet was firmly established. The
plan was so simple and striking, and the execution so vigorous and delightful, that it "took" at once, and became universally popular. The old "Wake" or festival in Scotland was ordinarily celebrated with various kinds of diversions, among which music and song held the principal place. The "Queen's Wake" consists of a collection of tales and ballads supposed to be sung by different bards to the young Queen of Scotland,
"When royal Mary, blithe of mood,
Kept holyday at Holyrood."
The various productions of the minstrels are strung together by a thread of light and graceful narrative. The "Wake" lasts three successive nights, and a richly ornamented harp is the victor's reward. Rizzio is among the number of the competitors; but Gardyne, a native bard, obtains the prize. The plan supplies the Ettrick Shepherd with an opportunity of displaying the extreme facility with which he could adapt himself to all kinds of style, a facility so great that he subsequently published, under the title of "The Mirror of the Poets," a collection of poems ascribed by him to Byron, Campbell, Scott, Southey, Crabbe, Wordsworth and others, in which the deception is so admirable, that multitudes actually supposed them genuine productions. Conscious of his strength, he breaks forth in the "Queen's Wake," in the following exulting strains.
"The land was charmed to list his lays;