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usual ardour; and under circumstances of long confinement and solitude, singularly calculated to impart to his compositions that "plaintive and melancholy" air which Tassoni tells us was regarded as the characteristic of the kind of music which he invented, and which we know to be the characteristic of the national music of Scotland, as existing from the remotest periods. If we combine with these strong circumstances the fact, that James gave to his country a richer and a purer vein of poetry than it before possessed, and reflect how extremely natural it was, that a poet scientifically skilled iu the rules of musical composition, should be fond of singing his own songs to tunes of his own composing, we can scarcely hesitate in coming to the conclusion, that no tradition was ever founded on stronger circumstances of probability, than that which ascribes to the same illustrious prince, who may be said to have given, or at least, restored to us the lyre, a knowledge of the choicest melody to which it might be strung.
THOMAS THE RHYMER.
Thomas the Rhymer, or Thomas of Ercildoune, as the father of Scottish poets is commonly called, is supposed to have been born about the end of the twelfth century at Erceldoune, or, according to moder n corruption, Earlstoun, a village in the county of Berwick. His history is involved in so much obscurity, that even his name is a subject of dispute among antiquaries. The uniform tradition of centuries had ascribed to him the family name of Learmont, and in all our biographical collections, he takes his place as Thomas Learmont. Later writers, however, have been led, by a reference to ancient authorities, to doubt the correctness of the common fame on this point. In a charter, granted by the poet's son and heir to the convent of Soltre or Soultra, he callshimself " Filius et lucres Thorruc Rymour de Ercildon." Robert de Brunne, Fordun, Barbour, and Winton, the writers most nearly contemporary with him, style him simply, Thomas of Ercildoune; while Blind Henry the Minstrel, and Boece, authors of a later period, call him "Thomas Rymour." Mr.* Scott says, that Henry the Minstrel styles him, "Thomas the Rhymer;" but this is a mistake; the very passages which he quotes from Henry shew the contrary.
"Thomas Rymour into the Feale was then," &c.
* Now Sir Walter.
As none of these authorities, embracing a period of two centuries, mention the name of Learruont, nothing can be more reasonable than the inference which is drawn, that it has been improperly ascribed to the bard. But how is the subsequent variation in the popular tradition attempted to be explained? Macpherson supposes, that Thomas or his predecessor had married an heiress of the family of Lcarmont, and thus occasioned the mistake, as if it ever were, at any time, a common thing for husbands to assume the names of their wives. Mr. Scott suggests, that "it may also have arisen from some family of that name, tracing their descent from him by the female side"—a fancy so difficult to trace, that any other "also" might have served as well.
Were it not a common fault of antiquarianism to drag at the bottom for what is swimming on the surface, some credit might be taken for. pointing out where the real explanation undoubtedly lies. In the charter before quoted, the son of the poet,—not speaking, it will be observed, with that vernacular familiarity which might admit of his calling his father by any appellation by which he was popularly known, such as "the Rhymer but with all the solemn precision necessary in a legal deed of conveyance, where correctness of family names was the last thing likely to be disregarded—calls himself the son and heir, "ThomtE Rymour de Erci/don." The word "Rymour" appears here in the Latin deed as a proper name, and there is not the least pretence for supposing that it could be meant to designate that the person spoken of was a rhymer by profession. Robert de Brunne and the other authorities, next in weight to the son, call the poet "Thomas of Ercildoune," dropping, it would seem, the family name, and retaining only that of the family property, a practice common all over Europe from the remotest periods of feudalism. The first who deviate from this style are Henry the Minstrel and Boece, who call him by the family name of "Thomas Rymour," leaving out the property surname of Ercildon, for one good reason, if a reason is wanting, that the property had, by this time, passed away from the family. What reason then is there to doubt, that Rhymour, Rimour, or Rymer, was in reality the family name of the poet? It is a name which existed in the Merse and in Northumberland before the remotest period to which that of Learmont can be traced. In the list of those who did homage to Edward I. in 1296, about twelve years after the reputed period of Thomas the Rhymer's death, mention is made of "John Rymour, a freeholder of Berwickshire while the earliest instance of the name of Learmont which we meet with is, at least, a generation later in date. Among some antient writings, preserved in the Register Office at Edinburgh, which belonged to a family now extinct, the Learmonths of Balcomie, there is one in a hand of the seventeenth century, entitled " the Genealogy of the honorable and ancient surname of Learmont," in which we are told, that "the chief of the name was the Laird of Ersilmont in the Merse, whose predecessor, Thomas Learmonth*, lived in the reign of King Alexander III." Er&ilm&nt is here evidently a sub
* The writer evidently speaks here of Thomas by the surname, under which he was known in later times, A.s. stitution for ErcilAon, cither of the names being sufficiently descriptive of an eminence at the western extremity of the village of Earlston, on which there was formerly a tower or castle, the residence of" the Lairds," the ruins of which are still shewn to the inquisitive traveller. As the style of " Laird of Ersilmont" supplanted that of " Laird of Ercildon," so "Laird of Ersilmont" became, in process of time, corrupted into Lairsilmont, Lairmont, or Learmonth; and so, in like manner, the name of "Thomas Rymour" became, from a natural collision of sense and sound, converted, in the mouths of the vulgar, into "Thomas the Rhymer; while the true name of the poet was neither Thomas Lairmont nor Thomas the Rhymer, but Thomas Rymoub, of Ersilmont or Ercildon.
Thomas Rymour, as we may now venture to call him, appears to have lived during nearly the whole of the thirteenth century. He could not well have been less than thirty years of age in 1232, about which time we find his romance of Sir Tristrem quoted by Gottfried of Strasburgh, as a production then well known; at the death of Alexander ILL in 1286, he was most certainly alive; and, if Henry the Minstrel may be credited, he even survived 1296, the year when Wallace, in whose adventures Henry makes him act a part, took arms for the deliverance of his country from the yoke of England. He must, however, have been dead before 1289, which is the date of the charter before mentioned, granted by his son as films et hares Thoma Rymour.
It was, for a long time, to Robert de Brunne alone that we owed the preservation of Thomas Rymour's fame as a poet. In the " Prolog" to his Annals, written