Monday, July 28, 2008
Samye-Ling from the North
Road to Samye-Ling from the North via Innerleithen, Tushi Law, Ettrick, just arriving. Along the way thoughts of James Hogg arose as I passed Ettrick Valley turn. I have made this journey many times from North Fife to Samye-Ling which I regard as home from home.
Portrait of James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd. James Hogg was born in 1770 at Ettrick Hall, at the top of the Ettrick Valley. The second of four sons of an impoverished farmer, he left school after six months' formal education. Aged seven, he began to work on the lowest rung of the farming ladder - as a cowherd.
But he had learned, at his mother's knee, the great oral tradition of ballads and folklore of the Borders. And her father, "the far-famed Will O'Phaup" was reputed to have been the last man to converse with the fairies. In his mid-teens, James Hogg taught himself to read and write, and to play the fiddle, and entered the skilled profession of shepherding. He began making songs and verses for local gatherings. The other young people of the valleys called him "Jamie the Poeter". His career had begun.
At the turn of the eighteenth century, Hogg was working as a shepherd on the farm on Blackhouse in Yarrow for the Laidlaw family, who opened their hearts and library to the young shepherd poet. It was at this time that Walter Scott, the newly appointed sheriff of Selkirk, was roaming the Border Valleys in pursuit of the disappearing ballads of the Borders. Through the Laidlaws, he met James Hogg and his mother who had a rich store of the ballads. The two young men were almost exact contemporaries. They began a friendship that was to last, despite many tensions, throughout their lives.
The pilgrims of the sun: a poem.
Of all the lasses in fair Scotland,
That lightly bound o'er muir and lea,
There's nane like the maids of Yarrowdale,
Wi' their green coats kilted to the knee.
O! there shines mony a winsom face,
And mony a bright and beaming ee;
For rosy health blooms on the cheek,
And the blink of love plays o'er the bree.
But ne'er by Yarrow's sunny braes,
Nor Ettrick's green and wizzard shaw,
Did ever maid so lovely won
As M\ary Lee of Carelha'.
O' round her fair and sightly form
The light hill-breeze was blythe to blow.
For the virgin hue her bosom wore
Was whiter than the drifted snow.