Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- "I do love these ancient ruins;
- We never tread upon them, but we set
- Our foot upon some reverend history."
This fine ruin has a double interest attached to it, for, independent of that which is created by the antiquity and splendour of the edifice, the visiter should bear in mind that it is the Kennaquhair of the northern magician; and here the scenes so finely depicted in the Monastery are vividly brought to our recollection; it gives a "local habitation and a name" to some of the most interesting creations of Sir Walter Scott's genius. The abbey is situated in a valley, surrounded by the Eildon hills. Some ruins of the abbey mill, with the dam belonging to "Hob Miller," the father of the "lovely Mysinda," are still to be seen; and the ford across the Tweed, where the worthy Sacristan was played so scurvy a trick by the White Lady, is also pointed out. Some miles off, on a wild and romantic spot on the course of the river, Elwin, or Allan, is Fairy Dean, or Nameless Dean, which is at once identified to be that place above the tower and vale of Glendearg, which was the favourite haunt of the White Lady, and the spot where Sir Piercie Shafton's stoccatas, embroccatas, and passados first failed him, when opposed to the less polished and rustic skill of Halbert Glendinning, assisted by the machinations of the queen of the elfin tribe. On this place are found a number of small stones, of a singular shape and appearance, resembling guns, cradles with children in them, bonnets, &c., several of which I obtained in a tour to Scotland. They are called elf-stones by the neighbouring peasantry.
Many parts of the abbey are still in a state of tolerable preservation; the marks of cannon-shot and fire are visible on the walls in some places, the abbey having been bombarded by Oliver Cromwell, with his usual zeal against every thing that adorned the country. Many Roman medals of Vespasian, Adrian, &c. have been found about it. Melrose and its neighbourhood are a very interesting place to visit; while the abbey affords a fine moral lesson on the instability and perishableness of even the most magnificent works raised by human skill and industry.
- "Here naked stand the melancholy walls,
- Lash'd by the wint'ry tempests, cold and bleak,
- That whistle mournful through the empty aisles,
- And piece-meal crumble down the towers to dust,"
When viewed by moonlight, the solemnity and grandeur of the effect is charming. The impression made on Sir Walter Scott by the ruins may be inferred from the following lines:—
- "If thou would'st view fair Melrose aright,
- Go visit it by the pale moonlight;
- For the gay beams of lightsome day
- Gild but to flout the ruins grey.
- When the broken arches are black in night,
- And each shafted oriel glimmers white;
- When the cold light's uncertain shower
- Streams on the ruin'd central tower,
- When buttress and buttress, alternately,
- Seem framed of ebon and ivory;
- When silver edges the imagery,
- And the scrolls that teach thee to live and die;
- When distant Tweed is heard to rave,
- And the owlet to hoot o'er the dead man's grave;
- Then go—but go alone the while—
- Then view St. David's ruin'd pile;
- And home returning, soothly swear,
- Was never scene so sad and fair!"
The subjoined epitaph is copied from a very ancient tomb-stone in Melrose Abbey:
- The earth goeth on the earth,
- Glist'ring like Gold;
- The earth goes to the earth sooner than it wold.
- The earth builds on the earth castles and towers;
- The earth says to the earth, all shall be ours.
Here the contemplative wanderer may pass many an hour, with profit and pleasure,
- "Mid epitaphs and tombs,
- Wrapt in the dreams of other days."
A few particulars of the history, &c. of this relic of monkish times will form an appropriate conclusion to these desultory remarks.
- "Hail! ye bold turrets, and thou rev'rend pile,
- That seem in age's hoary rest to smile!
- All trail! for here creative fancy reads
- Of ages past the long-forgotten deeds.
- With trembling footsteps I approach thy gates,
- The massy door upon the hinges grates!
- Hark! as it opens what a hollow groan
- 'Cross the dark hall and down the aisles is thrown!"
- SIR EGERTON BAYDGES.
It is handed down by tradition that an abbey was founded at Melrose about the end of the sixth century. The famous St. Cuthbert was one of the abbots in 643; he, however, left, and went to Holy Island, in Northumberland. Many wonderful stories are related of St. Cuthbert; that eleven years after his death in Holy Island, (in 687,) his body, on being taken up, exhibited no marks of corruption, seeming as if asleep, &c. &c. Ethelwold succeeded St. Cuthbert, and sometime after the monastery was ruined by the Danes. The place where this abbey is supposed to have stood is called Old Melrose, and is a mile and a half from the present abbey.
Melrose Abbey was founded by king David of Scotland in 1136. It is supposed to have been built in ten years. The church of the convent was dedicated to St. Mary on the 28th of July, 1146. It was the mother church of the Cistertian order in Scotland. The monks were brought from Rievaulx Abbey, in Yorkshire. Their habit was white; and they soon superseded the order of the Benedictines.
The abbey is built in the form of St. John's cross, of the Gothic style of architecture, and is 258 feet in length; the breadth 137-1/2 feet; and 943 feet in circumference. A considerable part of the principal tower is now in ruins; its present height is 84 feet. There are many very superb windows; the principal one at the east end (which is the top nave of the cross,) appears to have been more recently built than the others, and is 57 feet in extreme height, and 28 feet wide. It has been ornamented with statues, &c. The beauty of the carved work, with which the abbey is profusely decorated, is seldom equalled, and deservedly celebrated:
- "Spreading herbs and flow'rets bright,
- Glisten'd with the dew of night;
- Nor herb nor flow'ret glisten'd there,
- But was carved in the cloister'd arches as fair."
There are in the external view of the building 50 windows, 4 doors, 54 niches, and above 50 buttresses. The abbey was much injured by the English in 1322 and 1384. Richard II. made it a grant in 1389, as some compensation for the injuries it had sustained in the retreat of his army. It was also greatly defaced during the reformation. A stronger proof of their infatuated and (partly) misplaced zeal cannot be adduced, than the destruction of religious edifices by the reformers. There were one hundred monks, without including the abbot and dignitaries. The last abbot was James Stuart, natural son of James V., who died in 1559. The privileges and possessions of the abbey were very extensive,.and it was endowed by its founder, David, with the lands of Melrose, Eildon, &c., &c., right of fishery on the Tweed, &c.; and succeeding monarchs increased its property. Sixty of the monks, it is said, renounced popery at the reformation. In 1542, the revenue of the abbey was, "1758l. in money, 14 chalders nine bolls of wheat, 56 chal. 5 bolls of barley, 78 chal. 13 bolls of meal, 44 chal. 10 bolls of oats, 84 capons, 620 poultry, 105 stone of butter, 8 chal. of salt, 340 loads of peats, and 500 carriages;" besides 60 bolls of corn, 300 barrels of ale, and 18 hogsheads of wine, for the service of the mass: a large quantity for the entertainment of strangers; 4,000l. for the care of the sick; and 400l. to the barber. These were given up at the commencement of the reformation in 1561. The lands were either seized by the crown, or divided amongst the nobles. A large portion fell into the hands of the Buccleugh family.
A stone coffin, supposed to be that of the famous Michael Scott, the wizard, was found in the small aisle on the south of the chancel in 1812. It was authenticated that his remains had been laid here. There was an altar erected to say mass for his soul. The length of the skeleton was six feet. A stone head at the foot of the coffin bears a very rude wizard-like appearance. Alexander II. and many of the Scottish kings and nobles are buried here. The best view is obtained of the building from the south east, which, indeed, commands the whole of the ruin. The village contains 500 or 600 inhabitants, and is 35 miles distant from Edinburgh. The remains of several Roman camps are to be seen in its neighbourhood, and one of the hills bears the marks of having been a volcano. Sir Walter Scott's residence at Abbotsford is within a few miles.
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