Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 1920

Up early, wandered through the grounds for an hour before breakfast and wrote two letters before leaving. The view and the place is so entrancing that we feel like Gray one time when he was leaving Keswick, when he said he “had almost a mind to have gone back again.” Our first stop, after boarding tram, was at Penrith, the early home and first school of Wordsworth. There is also an old castle ruin here. We found a very comfortable waiting room at the station with a fire - think of it!, the first we have seen. At Carlisle Eng. we enjoyed lunch at the station. We seem to be always hungry and almost anything tastes good. Passed through Melrose on to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Any lover of Scott will have his enthusiasm increased ten fold by a pilgrimage through this section that he has immortalized in song, romance, and history. Abbotsford contains 1500 acres and cost Scott his life in sacrifice and hard work to pay for the castle he had built. His publishers, who held much of his funds, failed, and Scott felt honor bound to make good the loss. The library contains 20000 volumes. A great grand-daughter (who died six weeks ago) owned the place and her son now comes in as heir. Abbotsford faces the river Tweed. Probably there is as fine a collection of antiques and curies as can be found anywhere at Abbotsford, the most of them gathered by Scott himself in his wide travels. Perhaps in the way of curies, nothing interested me so much as the beautifully carved, old antique chest of Ginevra, which we had read about in our school-days. When the guide was showing us this chest and telling the story, under my breath I repeated the poem which came to me as fresh as if only yesterday I had read it at school.

“If ever you should come to Modena, stop at the palace near the Regio gate, dwelt in of old by one of the Donati - Enter the house and look upon a picture there.

She was an only child, her name Ginevra.

The joy, the pride of an indulgent father,

And in her fifteenth year became a bride,

Marrying an only son, Francesco Dona,

Her playmate from her birth and her first love.

There then had she found a grave:

Within that chest had she concealed herself,

Fluttering with joy, the happiest of the happy

When a Spring lock, that lay in ambush there,

Fastened her down forever.”

There were hundreds of historical and interesting relics. Rob Roy’s purse, Napoleon’s blotter and cloak clasps, the Mother of Pearl cross, which Mary Queen of Scotts carried on her way to execution, etc. The walls and cases of the library are of Sandal wood and handsome chairs and desk presented by King George IV are here. I sat in the chair at the desk lost in thought, while the guide talked on. The place seemed so sacred - too much so for speech.

From Abbotsford we went back to Melrose to visit the Abbey. It needs a more versatile pen than mine to describe Melrose Abbey, now in ruins. We had a very good guide who quoted much from Scott’s “Lay of the last Minstrel” and told what many selections were taken from or had reference to, - some of the quotations seemed strangely familiar, for example - “Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, “This is my own, my native land!” And the heart of Bruce lies buried here We remembered that it was the wish of Bruce that his heart might be taken to Palestine and the story of the attempt to take it there.

Scott tells us “Those who would view fair Melrose aright, must visit it by the pale moonlight.” This was not our privilege but we could imagine the soft evening lights though the rose window and were filled with thoughts we cannot express.

Scotland looks different from England. The houses are low with fewer flowers and there are no stone fences. Sheep and baby lambs are on every hillside. The Scotch have fine, sturdy faces. Everything Scotch appeals to me. We have steps to get in and out of the charabanc, which are a great convenience. Now we are trying to remember Scotch history and Scotch ballads. Of the latter, - one of the first to come to mind is Annie Laurie, and the days of “Auld Lang Syne.” To many of us, Annie Laurie had meant nothing but an ideal, but we are told that she is real and that in old Maxwelton House on the river Cairn in Dumfrieshire, near where we passed to-day, hangs the portrait of the woman, whose charm the world has been singing for nearly a century. Perhaps to every “swain” who has hummed the melody so familiar, has come a separate vision of loveliness. Not far from Maxwelton was the estate of the Douglasses of Fingland. Wm. Douglass and Annie Laurie as children, romped over the banks of the Cairn. As they grew older, William wooed his childhood playmate and when Annie was a lass of 17 they plighted their troth on the braes of Maxwelton. The stories differ as to why Annie broke the engagement, to marry a certain Alexander Fergueson of Draigdarrach. I have already met enough Scotch people to know that even with the aid of phonetic spelling, I cannot indicate the Scotch pronunciations, much less speak them.

It has been said that Lowland Scotland as a distinct nationality, came in with two warriors (William Wallace and Robert Bruce) and went out with two Bards (Robert Burns and Walter Scott)- We are looking forward with intense pleasure to a closer knowledge of this interesting little country. Our train speeded on to Edinburgh which we reached at 7, & a good supper.

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