Page images
PDF
EPUB

MALCOLM III,
KING OF SCOTLAND,

BESIRGING
ALNWICK CASTLE,

WAS SLAIN BEBE
NOV. XIII. AN. AXCIII.

AND
K. MALCOLN'S CROSS,
DECAYED BY TIME,

WAS EXSTORED BY
HIS DESCENDANT,

NORTHUMBERLAND,

XDCCLXXIV.

ALNWICK CASTLE AND THE BORDER

apartments, the portraits of earls and countesses,

dukes and duchesses, gorgeous and costly furniture, WARS.

may be seen anywhere. Even the bed that was to “ The battled towers, the donjon keep,

have been used by George iv. on his return from The loop-hole grates where captives weep, his memorable journey to Scotland, and “the bowl The flanking walls that round it sweep,

that was provided for washing his majesty's head,” In yellow lustre shone. The warriors on the turrets high,

(to which the housekeeper did not fail to direct our Moving athwart the evening sky,

attention), produced no excitement in our cold Seem'd forms of giant height:

heart! But the scene which presented itself from Their armour, as it caught the rays,

some of the windows riveted soul and body. The Flash'a back again the western blaze In lines of dazzling light.”

Alne, flowing more peacefully than it was allowed

to do in days whose memory we could not dissociate It was in the good old times of stage-coaching that from the scene, and a noble expanse of wooded hill we first saw Alnwick Castle. The sun was declining and dale lying under a bright sunshine, exhibited in the west when we gained the summit of the hill points of beauty which it would be difficult to which forms the northern boundary of the valley of transcend. the Ame. It was one of those bright and genial days Leaving the precincts of the castle, we cross the which make all things look pleasant and fair. The Alne by the north road, and in a few minutes reach panting of our steeds and the crack of the coach. Malcolm's Cross, on which we find these inscripman's whip suggested to us no thoughts of toil or tions, on the east and west sides respectively :pain, but of elastic energy and eager business. We, whose only care was to be borne along safely, were indulging in a quiet reverie, when we were suddenly startled by a vision, which seemed to combine the romance and wars of feudal story with the peace and industry of our own better times. From the summit of the hill we gazed down into a valley of exquisite beauty, wood and meadow and cultivated field intermingled, and the clear waters of

ELIZABETH, DUCHESS OP the Alne pursuing their merry course far below us. On the top of the opposite hill, as seen from our position, in the very line of the horizon, there stood "The king of Scotland besieging Alnwick Casà pile of building glittering in the sunshine, whose tle.” Alnwick is within thirty miles of the Scottish massive proportions became still more massive by border. The whole country around, its people, its the peculiar light which fell on them. Its walls and language, and its manners, are more Scottish than battlements seemed covered with warriors in full English. And yet the England of the eleventh armour, engaged in active defence of their lord's century extended not merely to the Tweed, but to domain. We soon discovered that the rapid motions the Forth, and included the rich lands of Lothian, of these stone heroes along the walls were, as astro- with their stronghold, Edinburgh Castle. Malcolm nomers say, apparent, not real, being produced by Great-Head (for such is the meaning of Canmore) the rapid and varying motion of our own convey resided originally at the town of Dunfermline, on ance. But the illusion was complete for a moment. the north side of the Forth, and there welcomed It was to our eye a battle-scene. And when we the Saxon exiles, who fled before the cruel power of passed the great gateway, and saw those effigies in William the Conqueror, among whom was the the armour of the middle ages, and scanned the Saxon heir to the English throne, Edgar Etheling, walls, which inclose a space of five acres, we and his two sisters, the princesses Margaret and received a deeper impression of baronial grandeur Christian. The Scots king married the princess and feudal turbulence than we had ever realized Margaret, who exercised great influence over her before.

husband, and did much to soften his fierce and We have lately renewed and enlarged our ac. passionate nature. Totally illiterate, the king was quaintance with Alnwick Castle. Its gates opened unable to peruse his wife's missals and prayerto us on a recent visit without clang of arms or books; but it is said that he had them gorgeously bloody struggle. The huge old man, with that large bound, and expressed his veneration for what he stone which he has held in his hands for centuries, could not understand, by frequently kissing them. looked down upon us very innocently, and allowed His power gradually increasing, Malcolm ventured us to enter with an unbroken head. No portcullis across the Frith of Forth, and took possession of descended to exclude or crush us. The machicola- Edinburgh, the strength of whose castle, situated tions poured down no melted lead. A modern on a lofty rock, led him to choose that town for his porter opened the gate in peace, and our eye rested frequent residence, so that in course of time it besuddenly on a scene of beauty and grandeur. The came the metropolis of Scotland. His complete great body of the inner castle stood at sufficient conquest of Lothian encouraged him to invade the distance to be well seen, in the centre of the in- great English province of Northumberland, to closed area, presenting a pleasing contrast to the which he no doubt thought he had a better right grass around it, which shone in all the freshness of in virtue of his connexion with the old English spring. Through massy towers we passed the royalty than any possessed by the Normans. His second and third courts into the in court, the successes in Cumberland and Northumberland were very centre of this great citadel. Our journey considerable. But William Rufus, after establishthrough the interior, we confess, did not interest ing himself on the throne of his father, the Conus much. Beautiful staircases, large suites of queror, prepared to dispossess him. Malcolm, in

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic][ocr errors]

order to prevent hostilities, to which his age pro- Queen Margaret of Scotland, we are told, was bably disinclined him, repaired to the court of the extremely ill at the time her husband marched English king. On his arrival, Rufus treated him against England. When she was lying on her with great insolence and disdain, refused him access deathbed, she saw her second son, who had escaped to his presence, and insisted that he should submit from the fatal battle, approach her bed. "How the matter in dispute to the judgment of the peers fares it," said the expiring queen, “with your father of England. The Scottish king was too proud to and your brother Edward ?" The young man stood accede to this proposal, and retired in high dis- silent. “I conjure you,” she added, " by the Holy pleasure to his own kingdom. The reader of Rood, and by the duty you owe me, to tell me the English history will recollect the events that fol. truth." “ Your husband and your son are both lowed. Malcolm and his son Edward soon after. slain.” “The will of God be done," the queen wards entered Northumberland with a great army, answered, and expired. and, ravaging the country with fire and sword, We return to Alnwick, from Malcolm's Cross, laid siege to the castle of Alnwick. The castle, and direct our steps to the west of the town. A although too strong to be taken by assault, was on ten minutes' walk brings us to a small monument, the point of surrendering, being cut off from all almost hidden from view by overhanging trees. It hopes of succour, when one of the garrison under- bears this inscription : took its rescue by the following stratagem. He rode forth completely armed, with the keys of the castle tied to the end of his spear, and presented himself in a suppliant manner before the king's pavilion, as having come to surrender up the possession. Malcolm too hastily came forth to receive him, and was suddenly pierced in the eye with a The story of this inscription also may be briefly mortal wound. The assailant escaped by the fleet- told. Williain the Lion was the great-grandson of ness of his horse. The Scottish army fell into con- Malcolm Canmore. During an invasion of England fusion, while their enemies made a fierce attack upon which he attempted, he lay in careless security in them and put them wholly to the rout. Prince the neighbourhood of Alnwick, while his numerous Edward advanced to revenge his father's death, but barbarous and undisciplined army were inflictbut received a wound of which he died three days ing their cruel pleasure on the country around, after.

burning and destroying wherever they came. Some

WILLIAN THE LION, KING OF SCOTLAND,

BESIEGING
ALNWICK CASTLE,

WAS HERR
TAKEN PRISONER,

MCLXXIV.

men.

old;

gallant Yorkshire barons assembled four hundred imagine to be real. The Mount Carmel of Hulne men-at-arms, and made a forced march of twenty- Park is a high, bold, bluff elevation of several hunfour miles from Newcastle to Alnwick, without dred feet, now covered with heath and wood, all being discovered. On the morning a thick mist the more striking from the gentleness of the valley fell, they became uncertain of their road, and some and stream at its base. The monk may have found proposed to turn back..“ If you should all turn no difficulty, as he gazed upon it across that genback," said one of their leaders, “I would go for- tle valley, in imagining it the Carmel of his early ward alone." Thus stimulated, and concealed by love. the mist, they rode forward. On approaching The order of Carmelites was founded in 1122, by Alnwick, they suddenly encountered the Scottish Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem. They practised king, at the head of a small party of only sixty great austerities. Each friar had a coffin in his cell,

William so little expected a sudden attack in which he slept every night upon straw, and every of this nature, that at first he thought the body of morning dug a shovelful of earth for his grave. cavalry which he saw advancing was a part of his Those know little of life or of man who trust in the own army. When he was undeceived, he had too efficacy of such contrivances to produce any salutary much of the lion about him to fear. “Now shall result. We once lived next door to an aged gentlewe see," he said, “which of us are good knights;" man who had had his coffin prepared many years beand instantly charged the Yorkshire barons with fore, and kept it carefully preserved in an outhouse. the handful of men who attended him. But sixty Yet we have heard this man swear round, rough men-at-arms could make no impression on four oaths within hearing (as we were going to write) hundred; and as the rest of William's army were of his coffin-within a few feet of where the coffin too distant to give him assistance, he was, after lay! defending himself with the utmost gallantry, un- The walls of Hulne Abbey now alone remain. horsed and made prisoner. The English imme. These are extensive, and kept in good order, and diately retreated with their royal captive, after this afford shelter for a well-stocked pheasant aviary, bold and successful adventure. They carried him and a park-keeper's family, while they prove an to Newcastle, and from that town to Northampton, agreeable resort for picnic parties from the good where he was conducted to the presence of the town of Alnwick. When gazing on the ivy mantle English monarch, with his legs tied under the which covered them, we were forcibly reminded of horse's belly, as if he had been a common malefac- the words of a popular writer :tor or felon. The subsequent conduct of Henry II. was equally harsh and ungenerous. He would not

“A dainty plant is the ivy green, that creepeth o'er ruins release his captive till he had agreed to do homage of right choice food are his meals, I ween, in his cell so to the king of England, not only for his English lone and cold ; possessions, but also for Scotland.

The walls must be crumbled, the stones decayed, to From the scene of William the Lion's capture pleasure his dainty whim, we shall pursue our walk, and, being duly provided And the mouldering dust that years have made is a merry with the necessary passport, soon enter the park, whose inclosure measures fifteen miles. The deer “ Whole ages have fled and their works decay'd, and and other game that are preserved here others may But the stont old ivy shall never fade from his hiale and

nations have scatter'd been, speak of; we pass on to Hulne Abbey, which we find at a distance of three miles from the town. It The brave old plant in its lonely day's shall fatten upon

hearty green; stands on the summit of a gently-sloping green hill on the north bank of the river; and the beau- For the stateliest building man can raise, is the ivy's food tiful views presented by the winding stream, amid

at last.” the undulations of the surrounding country, constrained us, as we stood and gazed, to remark- before we leave this neighbourhood. This large

We must pay a short visit to Alnwick Moor " These monks were fellows of a fine taste; you common has been witness to scenes of very different never find the remains of a monastery but in a descriptions. The last time the plague prevailed choice situation.” Among the crusaders of the 13th century was William de Vesey, lord of Alnwick. in England, Alnwick was ravaged by it with great Led by curiosity or devotion, he visited the monks violence. The dead were conveyed to the place of of Mount Carmel, and there unexpectedly found a interment in carts, which traversed the town precountryman of his own, Ralph Fresborn, a North- ceded by a person ringing a bell as a signal to the umbrian gentleman, who had signalised himself people to bring out their dead. The market was in a former crusade, and, in consequence of a vow: Howl, about a mile and a half from the town.

removed to a place in the moor, called Branksmith's solitude. The lord of Alnwick importuned the The country-people stood on one side of the valley, superior of the Carmelites to permit his country: they bartered were placed in the middle of the

and the town's people on the other. The articles man to accompany him on his return a request valley, and conveyed away by one party when the which was granted on condition that he would

other had left them. found a monastery for Carmelites in England.

This same moor is famous for a truly barbarous The engagement was not forgotten. Ralph Fres. born, after examining all the solitudes around Aln- custom, which all the civilization of the age has wick, fixed at length on this spot, induced, it is initiation to the “freedom” of the town.* Early

not sufficed to destroy. It is the ceremony of said, by the great resemblance which a neighbouring hill, the nearest and most prominent object on which the eye rested from this place, bore to 1852, - that the custom of going through the well is still

* "I can testify," writes an Alnwick gentleman in April 19, Mount Carmel. The resemblance we can very well observed. I had myself an opportunity on Monday last of

the past,

on the morning of St. Mark's day, April 25th, the of its associations with enthusiasm," with even houses of the new freemen are distinguished by a some of the small evils oecasionally arising out of holly tree planted before each door, as a signal for it, I would venture to hope that the revolutionary their friends to assemble and make merry with waves which are sweeping away the customs of them. Forthwith the young freemen, accompanied olden times may still spare to 'canny Annick and by a numerous cavalcade, and with music playing its ten miles round,' the picturesque and joyous before them, proceed to the ceremonial well, four spectacle of going through the well”-a hope miles distant. It is a dirty stagnant pool, nearly , beneath which we cannot prevail on ourselves to twenty yards in length, and is suffered to run out write“ Amen.” during the rest of the year ; but those who are intrusted with this matter take special care that it shall not lose any of its depth or size at the

AN APOLOGY FOR THE ASS. approach of St. Mark's day; and while they are preparing the well for the ceremonial plunge, they THERE exists in all languages, and probably among use various artful contrivances, making holes and all nations upon the face of the earth, certain timedikes, and fixing straw ropes at the bottom, to honoured phrases and figures of speech, more sig. entrap the heedless and unsuspecting novices into nificant it may be than refined, the use of which a miry plight.

has prevailed from time immemorial, and whose On arriving at the well

, the young freemen equip origin, if it could be traced at all, would be found themselves in a white dress, and prepare for im- buried in the traditions of a very remote antiquity. mersion. The sons of the oldest freemen have the What they are we need but intimate to the general honour of taking the first leap. When the signal reader. They are embodied in the forms of maxis given they all plunge in, and scramble through ims, axioms, distichs, phrases, and proverbs; and the noisome pool with great labour and difficulty; inasmuch as they generally contain a great deal of and after being well drenched and half suffocated truth locked up in the compass of a very few syllain mud, they are assisted out of the puddle at the bles, and have been characterized by more than further end, in a rueful condition, to the great one philosopher of note as the quintessence of amusement of the spectators. After this aquatic worldly wisdom, we feel that they are entitled to excursion, they speedily resume their former dresses, respect, and respect them accordingly, and proremount their horses and perambulate the remain- foundly. But not all of them. And hence the der of the large common, of which they are become article which we are going to write, and which is "free" by this achievement. When within two intended to show, among other things, that the miles of the town, they arrange themselves in order, wisdom of nations, like that of individuals, may be and, to prove their equestrian abilities, set off with sometimes at fault. We have taken up the pen great speed over bogs, ditches, whins, rocks, and with the express purpose of quarrelling with one rugged declivities, till they arrive at Rotten Row of these supposed verbal embodiments of human Tower, on the confines of the town; the foremost wisdom and sagacity, which, in the shape of the claiming the honour of what is termed“ winning phrases,“ stupid ass," " senseless donkey,” “ blunthe boundaries," and of being entitled to the tem- dering jackass,” is so frequently heard in the porary triumphs of the day. The succeeding even months of those who wish to employ a coarse ing is spent in festivities, which courtesy may call term of contemptuous abuse. social, but which often become anti-social and The ass, in whose behalf we desire to plead, immoral. Indeed, the whole affair is disgusting. however thus associated with terms of contempt in

Tradition ascribes this “passing through the modern times, is never mentioned with disrespect well” to king John. It is said that he was once by the most ancient writers. He appears to have immersed in the pool now called the “ Freemen's been the first animal of burden whom man reWell,” while on a hunting party in the forest of duced to subjection, domesticated to his own use, Haydon. His attendants could with difficulty ex- and constituted his property. “ His ass” was from tricate the royal rider and his steed, and the surly the earliest period a portion of a inan's worldly monarch became so enraged at the inhabitants of goods; and on the tables of Sinai he stands, coupled the adjoining town for not keeping the adjacent with his fellow-labourer, the ox, an object of deficountry in a better condition for his favourite sports, nite, perhaps of equal, value to his owner. To that he passed a decree to oblige every man, pre- catch, to subdue, and to domesticate the wild horse, vious to his being invested with the freedom of the was probably an exploit of much later date, and boroagh, to encounter a danger similar to that may have been instigated by the angry passions which his sovereign had experienced before him. and terrible necessities of

war, for the purposes of A very sage and John-like decree, certainly ; and which, there is little doubt, he was first trained to far more potent it has proved than others from the the service of man. His superior strength and same source. “Going through the well has lived spirit threw the more modest qualities of the ass in unimpaired vigour for more than six centuries, into the shade ; but we know that patriarch, priest, through many political and social changes. and prophet, made the latter the companion of their And with all its ludicrousness," says one who writes travels through the wildernesses of Syria, and that,

in enumerating the stores of royal and patriarchal witnessing this singular ceremony. The concomitant oddities wealth, he held a conspicuous rars in the cataalso continue

to be practised, though perhaps in the attention logue. scrupulousness as to mode which was seen in former years.

Man is ever prone to exercise his wit upon his The interest felt and displayed in the town depends, I sup- benefactors. The ass, whose unresenting patience thirty, this year there were only seven; so that perhaps i rarely rebelled against tyranny, naturally fell inhave not seen the matter to advantage.”

to discredit among warlike nations, with whom

to these there is not shown the same enthusiasm or zest and

violence was virtue, and became the butt of their Donkey, the authenticity of which there is no ridicule because he submitted with fortitude to reason to question. their oppression. We find him figuring in the At a farm in Somersetshire, it happened some earliest fables as the personification of dulness and years ago that a team of horses, who had been pretence-qualities to which he has really no more ploughing all day, were turned loose in the evening natural claim than he has to a musical voice or a at the top of a long winding lane, at the bottom delicate appetite: and, later, we see bim in the of which stood the farm-honse; the straw-yard, or secular literature of civilized countries transformed barton," as it is there called, was divided from into a figure of speech, to express everything that the lane by a five-barred gate, so hung as to swing is unworthy and contemptible. How much he has to of its own accord if left open, and was fassuffered in his generation from the universal injus- tened, when fastened at all, which was but rarely, tice of mankind may be best estimated by contrast- by inserting a wooden plug in a staple driven into ing his present condition with that of his ancestors the side-post. The horses, on being turned loose in the infancy of humanity. That he has been , from work, were daily accustomed to push the gate undeservedly degraded is sufficiently evident from open with their chests, and walk into the stable to the fact, that though the whole world has united in their suppers. On the present occasion the plug depreciating his merits, they have never dreamed happened to be in the staple, and the four horses for a single day of dispensing with his services; and, pushed at the ate in vain. The farmer, who from age to age, he and his have sustained the watched them from the parlour window, sat still hapless position of an enslaved and oppressed smoking his pipe, knowing that the ploughmen drudge, doing valuable work and receiving neglect would be there in a few minutes to look after them. and ill-treatment as a recompence. The time is In the meantime, however, a "stupid ass” belonglong passed away since prince or potentate gloried ing to the farmer's wife, and who had been brows. in the possession of thousands of asses ; but the ing thistles in the lane, walks up to the gate, whips thousands have multiplied into millions, and passed his thick head over the top bar, and draws out the into the possession of the people, and now, as the plug with his teeth, and then, with a "hehaw,” as burden-bearers and locomotives of the undiscrimi- much as to say, " That's the way to do it,” throws nating multitude, perform an amount of unre- 'open the entrance to his burly brethren. In this warded labour the sum total of which it would case, it will be acknowledged that the “stupid ass” not be very easy to specify. Suppose, only for a was much more wise than the proverbially sagacious moment, that the ass were to become suddenly horse, to say nothing of the politeness of the act, extinct-his patient back no longer subjectable to by which perhaps he profited as much as they. the load, or his galled shoulders tolerant of the col. Between five and six-and-twenty years ago, lar-what an amount of the world's industry, and while residing in a country hamlet, we were induced of the world's pleasures too, would be brought to by the entreaties of a poor man, who did not know a sudden stand; what a commotion would arise in very well what to do with him, to invest threekitchen and hall and coal-cellar ; and what clouds and-sixpence in the purchase of a young male ass, of despair would descend on consumptive patients whose mother's milk was bespoke for a clergyman's and languishing invalids! Few persons, compar. daughter, then in declining health. At first, the atively, are aware to what a prodigious extent the creature, not bigger than many a pet-lamb, was diligent donkey serves the land in which we live. treated as a domestic favourite, and passed a good Those who rush along the iron road from city to deal of his time within doors, or browsing on the city are practically ignorant of his labours and his lawn. He soon learned to follow the housekeeper haunts; but the pedestrian who wanders through --who fed him every morning with milk from the by-roads, green lanes, and winding ways of which the cream had been taken for breakfast the country, meets him at every turn, bowing his upstairs and down to all parts of the house, and head and bending back his ears beneath the burden was always found at the pantry-door, awaiting her of coal and sand and earthenware, and plodding, presence when she came down in the morning. in long trains of single file, through many a weary He grew very rapidly, and acquired habits of cleanleague of mud and rut, to carry to the abodes of liness with his growth. But he soon became much man the produce of the mine, the factory, or the too clever for an inmate, and acquired a taste for field. Then look at London : how many donkeys bread-and-butter, apple-pies, and such delicacies, are there in London ?-(we mean no play on the which led him into a series of experiments upon word)—to how many costers, peripatetic traders, cupboard-doors, dresser-shelves, and the applemarket-women, etc., etc., is the donkey the basis of closet in particular, which we felt bound to discoucompetence and independence. And why is it!

rage. He was therefore banished to the stable, that he is so, but because, in return for the and commenced his education. Under proper hardest labour, he is content with the hardest management, and without stint of food, or ill. fare, and is willing to sacrifice himself for the ' treatment of any kind, save a little necessary disadvantage of his owner ?

cipline to break him in, he grew up a perfect model These considerations, and many more which the of symmetry, excelling the pony, his companion, in compassionate reader will suggest to himself, will the neatness of his legs and feet, equalling him in furnish a sound argument for the merciful treat speed, and far surpassing him in endurance. He ment of our long-eared friend ; and they ought to never showed the slightest symptoms of obstinacy be sufficient of themselves to secure him from in his disposition, being ever ready and willing to unmerited abuse and reproach. But there are work; and, so far from being stupid, gave repeated reasons of a different class, which we shall adduce instances of sagacity beyond that of his companionin his favour, and which we shall take the liberty often helping himself to food while the other fasted. of exemplifying by one or two anecdotes of Master He ran in harness without blinkers or bridle, and

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »