23 DECEMBER 1905, Page 21

" THE intention of the book," says the author, "

is to provide what might be learned from the conversation of an intelligent native by one making a leisurely progress through the scenes described." Certainly we could not wish for a more learned or sympathetic guide, for Sir Herbert Maxwell knows every burn and every scrap of legend in all Tweedside, and the glamour of the magical valley has long been over him. With- out rhetoric or pedantry, he tells of that long cycle of Border war and minstrelsy which has made the Tweed one of the historic streams of the world; and he has succeeded in reproducing for his readers something of its fascination, so far as prose can ever catch the true aura of a land- scape. Many before him have tried the task in verse, from Nicol Brune the Violer down to Mr. Andrew Lang, whose beautiful poem, quoted by Sir Herbert, is the finest of modern tributes. In prose, too, we have a long list, from Sir Walter Scott and Scrope down to the unforgettable opening chapter of Weir of Hermiston. And yet the charm still evades us, for, like all true charm, it is subtle and recondite, and the most delicate style is too blunt for the purpose. We wish that we could say that the drawings were fit company for the letterpress. Brilliant as many of them are, they have no hint of the peculiar glamour of the Border. They show great skill in dealing with wide spaces, and in such a picture as "Traquair" the lines of an old house are admirably rendered. But in the best of them there is something hard and prosaic, something foreign to the atmosphere of the valley. The Eildons are shown in snow, which is surely their least characteristic mood, and some of the most gentle and pastoral landscapes look as if the Day of Judgment had over- taken them.

The Tweed rises in a moorland meadow, close to the wells of the Annan and Clyde, and for the first twenty miles of its course flows in a narrow glen between bare green hills. History greets us at the start, for at Tweedshaws Robert Bruce first met the young James of Douglas, who was to be the most trusted of his captains. At Mossfennan Yett the ballads begin, and with Drummelzier we come into the authentic land of the turbulent Border houses. But the place has older memories, for Arthur fought his battles among these hills, and Merlin sleeps at the foot of Powsail Burn. At Stobo the vale becomes wooded, and the moorland character of the stream disappears. The first great house is Traquair, whose "Bear Gates" Scott borrowed for Tullyveolan. There is a pleasant but apocryphal tale that these gates have never been opened since Prince Charlie rode through them on his way to Derby,—apocryphal, for the Stuarts of Traquair were but fickle Jacobites. Their family had the misfortune in Scottish history always to choose the losing cause, and always to betray it. It was on the " Bush aboon Traquair "—a patch of birches in the Quair glen—that Principal Shairp composed that song which is the finest written in Scots since Burns. At Elibank Tower we get the tale of Muckle-Mou'ed. Meg, whom young Scott of Harden was compelled to marry to save his neck,—a doubtful legend also, for no Murray of Elibank would have dared to lay hands on the heir of the most powerful Border clan. At Yair the hills recede and the glen broadens into a valley, and we enter the domain of Thomas the Rhymer, where the triple summit of the Eildon looks down on Melrose and Abbotsford. Onward to Kelso every field by the riverside has its tale, and the side glens are scarcely less storied,—Lauder on the left, from whose bridge Archibald Bell-the-Cat swung the King's favourites, and Yarrow, Ettrick, and Teviot on the right, and all the glories of the Forest. The land was the cockpit of war between Scots and English, and of bitter clan feuds between Kers and Scotts and their allied houses. The Scotts, be it said, to their honour, were one of the few families on the Border who were not prepared to sell their swords to the English invaders, and if, as the Outlaw Murray said, they had a shrewd eye to their own advantage, they were good chiefs and stern men of their bands. Sir Herbert tells with much picturesqueness the tale of Johnnie Armstrong The Story of the Tweed. By the Right Hon. Sir Herbert Maxwell, Bart. With Illustrations by D. Y. Cameron. London; J. Nibbet and Co. [B5 5s. net.]

a quiet man when ruffians like the Turnbulls were abroad, and there is something pathetic in the Black Laird of Ormiston's confession on the scaffold. "It is not merveill that I have

been wickit, for the wickit companie that ever I have been in; hot speciallie within this seaven yeiris by-past, gwhilk I never saw twa guid men or ane guid deed."

With commendable restraint, Sir Herbert refrains from any mention of fishing till his last chapter. We are glad to read his praise of that half-forgotten poet of the Tweed and mighty angler, Thomas Tod Stoddart. One of his poems is quoted—in the rollicking vein—but he had other styles, and could write verses of great simplicity and beauty. Take this

from "The Angler's Grave" :- "Sorrow, sorrow, speed away To our angler's quiet mound,

With the old pilgrim, twilight grey, Enter thou on the holy ground ; There he sleeps, whose heart was twined With wild stream and wandering burn,

Wooer of the western wind Watcher of the April morn !"

The fishing chronicle of Tweedside is now almost wholly of

salmon, and the great casts and the great deeds done in them lose nothing in Sir Herbert's narrative. But once it was otherwise, when Stoddart killed with the fly forty-two pounds' weight of brown trout in one day in Megget Water. All the bill-streams are unpreserved, and in these days of cheap

week-end fares Glasgow and Edinburgh send their artisans in hundreds to fish them. We are far from wishing it other-

wise, but surely in self-defence the most democratic fisherman should desire to see some rules made and observed in the game.

We close these pleasant pages with regret, for they have caught something of the charm of their subject. How to define it we do not know, but long generations of lovers' testify to its reality. Partly it is that memory of "old,

unhappy, far-off things" which belongs to a countryside where men bad no time to settle, like Moab, upon their lees. Any night might see the Red-Cock crowing on their roof- tree, and swords were ever sharp and eyes keen on the Border. Partly it is that air of feudalism which survived longer there than anywhere in the Lowlands. Tweeddale, except in its upper glens, produced few Whigamores. Its strifes were always secular, house against house, Scotland against England; and these stories have more romance in the retro- spect than struggles for politics or conscience. Something belongs, too, to the landscape itself, which is the perfection of pastoral,—green rolling hills, bright streams, and wida

horizons. More, perhaps, is due to the long roll of bards, from True Thomas and the unknown balladista

down to Sir Walter Scott and the Ettrick Shepherd, who have left no glen without its appropriate song. But most of all the charm seems to us to be found in the way in which the past marches sharply with the present. In the midst of a settled modern world ancient peel towers raise their grey heads as a mute reminder of the tragedy of time and change. And so it comes that Nicol the Violet. has written the old rude stanza which embodies most fully the "pastoral melancholy" of the Tweed :- " But Minstrel Borne cannot assuage His grief while life endureth, To see the changes of this age Which fleeting time procureth. For many a place stands in hard case, Where blythe folk kent nae sorrow, With Homes that dwelt on Leader side, And Scotts that dwelt on Yarrow."