Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine

The following is from Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine:

Lines Written In the Isle of Bute

By Delta


Ere yet dim twilight brighten'd into day,
Or waned the silver morning-star away,
Shedding its last, lone, melancholy smile,
Above the mountain-tops of far Argyle;
Ere yet the solan's wing had brush'd the sea,
Or issued from its cell the mountain bee;
As dawn beyond the orient Cumbraes shone,
Thy northern slope, Byrone,
From Ascog's rocks, o'erflung with woodland bowers,
With scarlet fuschias, and faint myrtle flowers,
My steps essay'd; brushing the diamond dew
From the soft moss, lithe grass, and harebell blue.
Up from the heath aslant the linnet flew
Startled, and rose the lark on twinkling wing,
And soar'd away, to sing
A farewell to the severing shades of night,
A welcome to the morning's aureate light.
Thy summit gain'd, how tranquilly serene,
Beneath, outspread that panoramic scene
Of continent and isle, and lake and sea,
And tower and town, hill, vale, and spreading tree,
And rock and ruin tinged with amethyst,
Half-seen, half-hidden by the lazy mist,
Volume on volume, which had vaguely wound
The far off hills around,
And now roll'd downwards; till on high were seen,
Begirt with sombre larch, their foreheads green.


There, save when all, except the lark, was mute,
Oh, beauty-breathing Bute
On thee entranced I gazed; each moment brought
A new creation to the eye of thought:
The orient clouds all Iris' hues assumed,
From the pale lily to the rose that bloom'd,
And hung above the pathway of the sun,
As if to harbinger his course begun;
When, lo! his disk burst forth--his beams of gold
Seem'd earth as with a garment to enfold,
And from his piercing eye the loose mists flew,
And heaven with arch of deep autumnal blue
Glow'd overhead; while ocean, like a lake,
Seeming delight to take
In its own halcyon-calm, resplendent lay,
From Western Kames to far Kilchattan bay.
Old Largs look'd out amid the orient light,
With its grey dwellings, and, in greenery bright,
Lay Coila's classic shores reveal'd to sight;
And like a Vallombrosa, veil'd in blue,
Arose Mount Stuart's woodlands on the view;
Kerry and Cowall their bold hill-tops show'd,
And Arran, and Kintire; like rubies glow'd
The jagged clefts of Goatfell; and below,
As on a chart, delightful Rothesay lay,
Whence sprang of human life the awakening sound,
With all its happy dwellings, stretching round
The semicircle of its sunbright bay.


Byrone, a type of peace thou seemest now,
Yielding thy ridges to the rustic plough,
With corn-fields at thy feet, and many a grove
Whose songs are but of love;
But different was the aspect of that hour,
Which brought, of eld, the Norsemen o'er the deep,
To wrest yon castle's walls from Scotland's power,
And leave her brave to bleed, her fair to weep;
When Husbac fierce, and Olave, Mona's king, [1]
Confederate chiefs, with shout and triumphing,
Bade o'er its towers the Scaldic raven fly,
And mock each storm-tost sea-king toiling by!--
Far different were the days,
When flew the fiery cross, with summoning blaze,
O'er Blane's hill, and o'er Catan, and o'er Kames,
And round thy peak the phalanx'd Butesmen stood, [2]
As Bruce's followers shed the Baliol's blood,
Yea! gave each Saxon homestead to the flames!


Proud palace-home of kings! what art thou now?
Worn are the traceries of thy lofty brow!
Yet once in beauteous strength like thee were none,
When Rothesay's Duke was heir to Scotland's throne; [3]
Ere Falkland rose, or Holyrood, in thee
The barons to their sovereign bow'd the knee:
Now, as to mock thy pride
The very waters of thy moat are dried;
Through fractured arch and doorway freely pass
The sunbeams, into halls o'ergrown with grass;
Thy floors, unroof'd, are open to the sky,
And the snows lodge there when the storm sweeps by;
O'er thy grim battlements, where bent the bow
Thine archers keen, now hops the chattering crow;
And where the beauteous and the brave were guests,
Now breed the bats--the swallows build their nests!
Lost even the legend of the bloody stair,
Whose steps wend downward to the house of prayer;
Gone is the priest, and they who worshipp'd seem
Phantoms to us--a dream within a dream;
Earth hath o'ermantled each memorial stone,
And from their tombs the very dust is gone;
All perish'd, all forgotten, like the ray
Which gilt yon orient hill-tops yesterday;
All nameless, save mayhap one stalwart knight,
Who fell with Graeme in Falkirk's bloody fight--
Bonkill's stout Stewart, [4] whose heroic tale
Oft circles yet the peasant's evening fire,
And how he scorn'd to fly, and how he bled--
He, whose effigies in St Mary's choir,
With planted heel upon the lion's head,
Now rests in marble mail.
Yet still remains the small dark narrow room,
Where the third Robert, yielding to the gloom
Of his despair, heart-broken, laid him down,
Refusing food, to die; and to the wall
Turn'd his determined face, unheeding all,
And to his captive boy-prince left his crown. [5]
Alas! thy solitary hawthorn-tree,
Four-centuried, and o'erthrown, is but of thee
A type, majestic ruin: there it lies,
And annually puts on its May-flower bloom,
To fill thy lonely courts with bland perfume,
Yet lifts no more its green head to the skies; [6]
The last lone living thing around that knew
Thy glory, when the dizziness and din
Of thronging life o'erflow'd thy halls within,
And o'er thy top St Andrew's banner flew.


Farewell! Elysian island of the west,
Still be thy gardens brighten'd by the rose
Of a perennial spring, and winter's snows
Ne'er chill the warmth of thy maternal breast!
May calms for ever sleep around thy coast,
And desolating storms roll far away,
While art with nature vies to form thy bay,
Fairer than that which Naples makes her boast!
Green link between the High-lands and the Low--
Thou gem, half claim'd by earth, and half by sea--
May blessings, like a flood, thy homes o'erflow,
And health--though elsewhere lost--be found in thee!
May thy bland zephyrs to the pallid cheek
Of sickness ever roseate hues restore,
And they who shun the rabble and the roar
Of the wild world, on thy delightful shore
Obtain that soft seclusion which they seek!
Be this a stranger's farewell, green Byrone,
Who ne'er hath trod thy heathery heights before,
And ne'er may see thee more
After yon autumn sun hath westering gone;
Though oft, in pensive mood, when far away,
'Mid city multitudes, his thoughts will stray
To Ascog's lake, blue-sleeping in the morn,
And to the happy homesteads that adorn
Thy Rothesay's lovely bay.

September 1843.

[1] Rothesay Castle is first mentioned in history in connexion with its siege by Husbac the Norwegian, and Olave king of Man, in 1228. Among other means of defence, it is said that the Scots poured down boiling pitch and lead on the heads of their enemies; but it was, however, at length taken, after the Norwegians had lost three hundred men. In 1263, it was retaken by the Scots after the decisive battle of Largs.

[2] This bid was the scene of a conflict between the men of Bute and the troops of Lisle, the English governor, in which that general was slain, and his severed head, presented to the Lord High Steward, was suspended from the battlements of the castle.

[3] In 1398, Robert the Third constituted his eldest son Duke of Rothesay, a title still held by every male heir-apparent to the British crown. It was the first introduction of the ducal dignity—originally a Norman one—into Scotland.

[4] The walls forming the choir of the very ancient church dedicated to the Holy Virgin are still nearly entire, and stand close to the present parish church of Rothesay. Within a traceried niche, on one side, is the recumbent figure of a knight in complete armour, apparently of the kind in use about the time of Robert the Second or Third. His feet are upon a lion couchant, and his head upon a faithful watch-dog, with a collar, in beautiful preservation, encircling its neck. The coat-of-arms denotes the person represented to have been of royal lineage. Popular tradition individualizes him as the "Stout Stewart of Bonkill" of Blind Harry the minstrel, who fell with Sir John the Grahame at the battle of Falkirk—although that hero was buried near the field of action, as his tombstone there in the old churchyard still records.

Sir John Stewart of Bonkill was uncle and tutor to the then Lord High Steward, at that time a minor.

A female figure and child recumbent, also elaborately sculptured in black marble, adorn the opposite niche, and under them, in alto-relievo, are several figures in religious habits. Another effigies of a knight, but much defaced, lies on the ground-floor of the choir—the whole of which was cleaned out and put in order by the present Marquis of Bute in 1827.

[5] On the 4th of April 1406, this unfortunate prince, overwhelmed with grief for the death of his eldest son, David, Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Carrick, who miserably perished of hunger in Falkland Castle; and the capture, during a time of truce, of his younger son, Prince James, by the English—died in the Castle of Rothesay of a broken heart. The closet, fourteen feet by eight, in which he breathed his last, is still pointed out, in the south-east corner of the castle.

[6] In the court of the castle is a remarkable thorn-tree, which for centuries had waved above the chapel now in ruins; and which, at the distance of a yard from the ground, measures six feet three inches in circumference. In 1839, it fell from its own weight, and now lies prostrate, with half its roots uncovered, but still vigorous in growth.

Magus Muir

Copyright © Scotland from the Roadside 2016