SHEPHERDS, SHEEP, AND DOGS*.
WREN a poet takes to prose, we are apt to expect too much from him : whether from this or some other cause, we have never been entirely satisfied with Mr. HoGG's performances out of metre. He reserves his imagination for his verse, and he hampers himself be- tween fictitious events and faithfully-recorded anecdotes. He would at the same time illustrate the shepherd's life both by fact and fic- tion ; and his is not the first failure in a similar attempt. We were in great hopes, from the title of this his last production, that he had confined himself to the recording of the real experience of a shepherd's life : we hoped he had incorporated all his observations of nature—all his remarks upon the character and condition of his brother shepherds—their superstitions, their amusements, their peculiarities, and a description of the scenery amidst which they pursue their toilsome and perilous calling; we expected, in short, a complete picture of a shepherd's life, with its pains and pleasures, its enjoyments, and its hairbreadth escapes. That the Ettrick Shepherd is fully qualified to form an interesting work out of such materials, if any person cduld doubt it, may be amply proved by a reference to three admirable chapters in the Shepherds Calendar, of a nature different from the rest of the work, entitled Sheep, Snow-storms, and Dogs : they are chapters full of interest both to the naturalist and the philanthropist, as well as to the general reader. The remainder of the volume consists chiefly of anecdotic tales similar to those at the end of the Brownie of' Bodsbeek and the Winter Tales. From any one but the author of the Qtleeh'S Wake, we might be well content to praise them : as it is, we read them with pleasure, and then, with critical ingratitude, observe that -Air. Hoc o might have done better. We will make amends, however, by saying, that the three chapters we have spoken of are worth half a dozen fashionable novels, a score of treatises on di- gestion, five quarto volumes of travels in Italy, and a considerable number of such sermons as have lately issued from the press. We very much wish that we could compress into a reasonable compass only the cream of our author's anecdotes and descriptions. The first relate to sheep. It is only a shepherd who can write of sheep. The unpractised eye can see no difference between one sheep and another ; they are not to the spectator a collection of in- dividuals, but a moving mass of animal matter: the shepherd and his dog, however, have eyes for shades of difference ; they know the countenance and the character of every unit of their fleck. The most remarkable properties of sheep are their attachment to the place of their birth, and their strong natural affection for their offspring. In order to return to the place of their birth, they have been known to perform,journies of an-immense length—even from Yorkshire to the Scottish Highlands ; and in spite of numerous obstacles and various kinds of opposition, which it required a species of reasoning to avoid or over- come. For instance, on one occasion, a sheep which was making with her lamb an extraordinary anabasis from Glenlyon in the Highlands to a farm in Tweeddale, arrived unluckily at Stirling on the morning of a great annual fair : judging it imprudent to venture through the crowd with her lamb, she halted on the north side of the town till break of day next morning, when she was seen to steal through the town. This love of the birth-place assumes the character of an instinct : we are told of a ewe that used invariably to go ten miles to a wild hill where she herself was born, to pen' her lambs; but what is most extraordinary is, that the lambs them- selves, when they grew up, had the same inconvenient habit, so that the shepherd was obliged to sell the whole brood. Of the attachment to offspring several touching stories are told: not the least so is the following.
" One of the two years while I remained on this farm, a severe blast of snow came on by night about the latter end of April, which destroyed several scores of our lambs ; and as we had not enow of twins and (aid lambs for the mothers that had lost theirs, of course we selected the best ewes, and put lambs to them. As we were making the distribution, I re- quested of my master to spare me a lamb for a hawked ewe which he knew, and which was standing over a dead lamb in the head of the hope, about four miles from the house. He would nut do it, but bid me let her stand over her lamb for a day or two, and perhaps a twin would be forth- coming. I did so, and faithfully she did stand to hercharge ; so faithfully, that I think the like never was equalled by any of the woolly race. I visited her every morning and evening, and for the first eight days never found her above two or three yards from the lamb ; and always, as I went my rounds, she eyed me long ere I came near her, and kept trampling with her foot, and whistling through her nose, to frighten away the dog ; he got a regular chase twice a-day as I passed by ; but, however excited and tierce a ewe may be, she never offers any resistance to mankind, being perfectly and meekly passive to them. The weather grew tine and warns, and the dead lamb soon decayed, which the body of a dead lamb does particularly soon ; but still this affectionate and desolate creature kept hanging over the poor remains with an attachment that seemed to be nourished by hopelessness. It often drew the tears from my eyes to see her hanging with such fondness over a few bones, mixed with a small por- tion of wool. For the first fortnight she never quitted the spot, and for another week she visited it every morning and evening, uttering a few kindly and heart-piercing bleats east time ; till at length every remnant of her offspring vanished, mixing with the soil, or wafted away by the winds."
We have often heard of the sagacity and intelligence of the shepherd's dog, the orieinal of his genus, as it is supposed ; but we never met with so well-authenticated and curious a hist'ory of his remarkable qualities as in Mr. HOGG'S Dog chapter. 1Ve have the history of the author's dog Sirrah and all his race, Hector and his * The Shepherd's Calendar, By James Boa, Author of "The Queen's Wake:, 2 vols. Edinburgh, la9. Blackwood. descendants : it is very curious and very amusing: We will se- lect an anecdote or two.
" I was a shepherd for ten yearSon the same farm, where I had always about seven hundred lambs put under my charge every year at weaning- . time. As they were of the short, or black-faced breed, the breaking of them was a very ticklish and difficult task. I was obliged to watch them night and day for the first four days, during which time I had always a person to assist me. It happened one year, that just about midnight the lambs broke, and came up the moor upon us, making a noise with their running louder than thunder. We got up and waved our plaids, and shouted, in hopes to turn them ; but we only made matters worse, for in a moment they were all around U3, and by our exertions we cut them into three di- visions ; one of these ran north, another south, and those who came up between us straight up the moor to the westward. I called out Sirrah, my man, they're a' away ;' the word, of all others, that set him most upon the alert, hut owing to the darkness of the night, and blackness of the moor, I never saw him at all. As the division of the lambs that ran southward were going straight towards the fold, where they had been that day taken from their dams,- I was afraid they would go there, and again mix with them ; so I threw off part of my clothes, and pursued them, and by great personal exertion, and the help of another old dog that I had besides Sirrah, I turned them, but in a few minutes afters ards lost them altogether. I rah here and there, not knowing what to do, hut always, at intervals, gave a loud whistle to Sirrah, to let him know that I was depending on him. By that whistling, the lad who was as- sisting me found me out ; but he likewise had lost all trace whatsoever of the lambs. I asked if he had never seen Sirrah ? He said, he had not ; but that after I left him, a wing of the lambs had come round him with a swirl, and that he supposed Sirrah had then given them a turn, 'though he could not see him for the darkness. We both concluded, that what- ever way the lambs ran at first, they would finally land at the fold where they left their mothers, and without delay we bent our course towards that ; but when we came there, there was nothing of them, nor any kind of bleating to be heard, and we discovered with vexation that we had come on a wrong tract.
" My companion then bent his course towards the farm of Glen on the north, and I ran away westward for several miles, along the wild track where the lambs had grazed while following their dams. We met after it was day, far up in a place called the Black Cleuch ; hut neither of Us had been able to discover our lambs, nor any traces of them. it was the most extraordinary circumstance that had ever occurred in the annals of the pastoral life ! We had nothing for it but to return to our master, and to inform him that we had lost his whole flock of lambs, and knew not what was become of one of them. " On our way home, however, we discovered a body of lambs at the bottom of a deep ravine, called the Flesh Clutch, and the indefatigable Sirrah standing in front of them, looking all around for some relief, but still standing true to his charge. The sun was then up ; and when we first came in view of them, we concluded that it was one of the divisions of the lambs, which Sirrah had been unable to manage until he came to that commanding situation, for it was about a mile and a half distant from the place where they first broke and scattered. But what was our asto- nishment, when we discovered by degrees that not one lamb of the whole
Hock was wanting! How he had got all the divisions collected in the dark, is beyond my comprehension. The charge was left entirely to himself
from midnight until the rising of the sun; and if all the shepherds in the Forest had been there to assist him, they could not have effected it with greater propriety. All that I can say further is, that I never felt so grate- ful to any creature below the sun as I did to Sirrah that morning."
Another achievement is told as follows.
" I was sent to a place in Tweeddale, called Stanhope, to bring home a wild ewe that had strayed frorhshome. The place lay at the distance of about fifteen miles, and my way to it was over steep hills, and athwart deep glens ;—there was no path, and neither Sirrah nor I had ever tra- velled the road before. The ewe was brought in and put into a barn over night ; and, after being frightened in this way, was set out to me in the morning to be driven home by herself. She was as wild as a roe, and bounded away to the side of the mountain like one. I sent Sirrah on a circular route wide before her, and let bins know that he had the charge of her. When I left the people at the house, Mr. Tweedie, the farmer, said to me, ' Do you really suppose that you will drive that sheep over these hills, and out through the midst of all the sheep in the country ?' I said I would try to do it. Then let me tell you,' said he, that you may as well try to travel to yen sun.' The man did not know that I was destined to do both the one and the other! Our way, as I said, lay all over wild hills, and through the middle of docks of sheep. I seldom got a sial it of the ewe, for she was sometimes a mile before me, sometimes two; hut Sirrah kept her in command the whole way—never suffered her to mix with other sheep—nor, as far as I could judge, ever to deviate taenty yards from the track by which he and I went the day before. When we came over the great height towards Manor Water, Sirrah and his charge happened to cross it a little before me, and our way lying down bill for several miles, I lost all traces of them, but still held on my track. I came to two shepherds' houses, and asked if they had seen any thing of a black dog, with a branded face and a long taiaidriving a sheep ? No; they had seen no such thing ; and, besides, all their sheep, both above and below the houses, seemed to be unmoved. I had nothing for it but to hold on my way homeward; and at length, on the corner of a hill at the side of the wilier, I discovered my trusty coal-black friend sitting with his eye fixed intently on the burn below him, and sometimes giving a casual glance behind to see if I was coming :—he had the ewe standing there, safe and unhurt.
When I got her home, and set her at liberty among our own sheep, he took it highly amiss. I could scarcely prevail with him to let her go ; and so dreadfully was he affronted, that she should have been let go free after all his toil and trouble, that he would not conic near me all the way to the house, nor yet taste any supper when we got there. I believe he wanted me to take her home and kill her."
This dog had a laughable peculiarity, which created no little disturbance in the shepherd's domestic circle : it arose either from a great love or a great hatred to music.
" He never heard music but he drew towards it ; and he never drew towards it but he joined in it with all his vigour. Many a good psalm, song, and tune, was lie the cause of spoiling ; for when he set fairly to, at which he was not slack, the voices of all his coadjutors had no chance with his. It was customary with the worthy old farmer with whom I re- sided, to perform family worship evening and morning ; and before he began, it was always necessary to drive Sirrah to the fields, and close the door. lf this was at any time forgot or neglectea, the moment that the psalm was raised, be joined with all his zeal, and at such a rate that he drowned the voices of the family before three lines could be sung. No- thing further could be done till Sirrah was expelled. But then 1 when be got to the peat-stack knowe before the door, especially if he got a blow in going out, he did give his powers of voice full scope without mitiga- tion; and even at that distance he was often a hard match for us all.
" Some imagined that it was from a painful sensation that he did this. No such thing. Music was his delight : it always drew him towards it like a charm. I slept in the byre-loft, Sirrah in the hay-nook in a cor- ner below. When sore fatigued, I sometimes retired to my bed before the hour of family worship. la such cases' whenever the psalm was raised in the kitchen, which was but a short distance, Sirrah left his lair ; and laying his earclose to the bottom of the door to hear more distinctly, he growled a low note in accompaniment, till the sound expired ; and then rose, shook his ears, and returned to his hay-nook. pacred music affected him most ; but in either that or any slow tune, when the tones dwelt upon the key-note, they put him quite beside himself; his eyes had the gleam of madness in them ; and he sometimes quitted singing, and literally fell to barking. All his race have the same qualities of voice and ear in a less or greater degree."
Hector the son of Sirrah used to take a still more singular in- terest in the family prayers.
" It will appear strange to hear a dog's reasoning faculty mentioned, as it has been ; hut I have hardly ever seen a shepherd's dog do any thing without perceiving his reasons for it. I have often amused myself in cal- culating what his motives were for such and such things, and I generally found them very cogent ones. But Hector had a droll stupidity about him, and took up forms and rules of his own, fqr which I could never per- ceive any motive that was not even further* out of the way than the action itself. He had one uniform practice, and a very bad one it was, during the time of family worship,—that just' three or four seconds before the conclusion of the prayer, he started to his feet, and ran barking round the apartment like a crazed beast. My father was so much amused with this, that he would never suffer me to correct him for it, and I scarcely ever saw the old man rise from the prayer without his endea- vouring to suppress a smile at the extravagance of Hector. None of us ever could find out how he knew that the prayer was near done, for my father was not formal in his prayers ; but certes he did know,—of that we had nightly evidence. There never was any thing for which I was so puzzled to discover a reason as this ; but, from accident, I did discover it, and, however ludicrous it may appear, I am certain I was correct. It was much in character with many of Hector's feats, and rather, I think, the most outré of any principle he ever acted on. As I said, his chief daily occupation was pointing the cat. Now, when he saw us all kneel down in a circle, with our faces couched on our paws, in the same posture with himself, it struck his absurd head, that we were all engaged in pointing the cat. He lay on tenters all the time, but the acuteness of his ear en- abling him, through time, to ascertain the very moment when we would all spring to our feet, he thought himself, 'I shall be first after her, for you all I' " The following is an affecting anecdote of a dog which belonged to Mr. STEEL, " flesber in Peebles."
" Mr. Steel lad such an implicit dependence on the attention of this animal to his orders, that whenever he put a lot of sheep before her, lie took a pride in leaving it to herself, and either remained to take a glass with the farmer of whom he had made the purchase, or took another road, to look after bargains or other business. But one time he chanced to commit a drove to her charge at a placed called Willenslee, without at- tending to her condition, as he ought to have done. This farm ia five miles from Peebles, over wild hills, and there is no regularly-defined path to it. Whether Mr. Steel remained behind, or took another road, I know not ; but on coming home late in the evening, he was astonished at hearing that his faithful animal had never made her appearance with the drove. He and his son, or servant, instantly prepared to set out by different paths in search of her; but on theit going out to the street, there was she coming with the drove, no on Missing; and, marvellous to re- late, she was carrying a young pup in her mouth ! She had been taken in travail on the hills ; and how the poor beast had contrived to manage her drove in her state of suffering, is beyond human calculation ; for her road lay though sheep the whole way. Her master's heart smote him when he saw what she had suffered and effected; but she was nothing daunted; and having deposited her young one in a place of safety, she again set out full speed to the hills, and brought another, and another, till she brought her whole litter, one by one ; but the last one was dead. I give this as I have heard it related by the country people ; for though I knew Mr. Walter Steel well enough, I cannot say I ever heard it from his own mouth. I never entertained any doubt, kowever, of the truth of the relation, and certainly it is worthy of being preserved, for the credit of that most docile and affectionate of all animals—tht shepherd's dog" The stories told of the dogs of the sheep-stealers are truly mar- vellous: but as we have them not on Mr. HOGG'S own authority, we prefer to select another remarkable instance either of nice ob- servation, the mode of which is beyond the detection of human powers, or what is perhaps the same thing, an instinctive sagacity —from the chapter on Snow-storms. It is wonderful.
"When we came to the ground where the sheep should have been
there was not one of them above the snow. Here and there, at a great distance from each other, we could perceive the heads or horns of stragglers appearing ; and these were easily got out : but when we had collected these few, we could find no more. They had been lying all abroad in a scattered state when the stormeame on, and were covered over just as they had been lying. It was on a kind of sloping ground, that lay half beneath the wind, and the snow was uniformly from six to eight feet deep. Under this the hogs were lying scattered over at least one hundred acres of heathery ground. It was a very ill-looking concern. We went about boring with our lung poles, and often did not find one hog in a quarter of an hour. But at length a white shaggy colly, named Sparkle, that belonged to the cowherd boy, seemed to have comprehended some- thing of our perplexity, for we observed him plying and scraping in the snow with great violence, and always looking over his shoulder to us. On spiag to the spot, we found that he had marked straight above a sheep. From that he flew to another, and so on to another, as fast as we could dig them out, and ten times faster, for he sometimes had twenty or thirty holes marked beforehand. "We got out three hundred of that division before night, and about half as many on the other parts of the farm, in addition to those we had rescued the day before; and the greater part of these would have been lost had it not been for the voluntary exertions of Sparkle. Before the snow went away (which lay only eight days) we had got out every sheep on the farm, either dead or alive, except four ; and that these were not found was not Sparkie's blame, for though, they were buried below a mum. tam of snow at least fifty feet deep, he had again and again marked on the top 0/it above them. The sheep were all living when we found them ; but those that were buried in the snow to a certain depth, being, I suppose, in a warm, half-suffocated state, though on being taken out they bounded away like roes, were instantly after paralyzed by the sudden change of atmosphere, and fell down, deprived of all power in their limbs. We had great numbers of these to carry home and feed with the hand ; but others that were buried very deep, died outright in a few minutes. We did not, however, lose above sixty in all ; but I am certain Sparkle saved us at least two hundred."
We have trespassed to such an unusual extent in the article of extract, that we have no room left for an adequate specimen of the delightful chapter called " Prayers." It is long, very long, since we met with anything so heart-warming, so beautiful, so simple, as the picture of practical religion presented in this chapter; and the touch of the ludicrous, which will be readily felt by all, only makes it more natural. It would be profane in us to speculate on what is and what is not acceptable Above ; but v.3ry sure we are, that the family devotions of these poor shepherds, as described by JAMES HOGG, are far more nearly in the spirit of him who said " Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," than either the gorgeous ceremonies of cathedrals, or the pompous discourses which we sometimes hear from behind cushions of scarlet and velvet.
We saw a story lately in the newspapers about the Duke of BUCCLEUGH and Mr. HOGG. The Duke is said to have asked him, since he was in arrear, whether he could make his farm an- swer rent-free ? The poet is said to have replied, "We'll try." We hope this is not true, and we should not be surprised if a liberty had been taken with his name. Surely poetry, fame, and Edinburgh company, have not been able to spoil so clever a shep- herd and farmer as it would seem the author was in his time: this would be another melancholy trait to add to the history of genius.