The George Beattie Project - A Poet Lost in Time


The House of Dun...
together with the adjacent Montrose Basin nature reserve, is a National Trust for Scotland property in Angus, Scotland.

The Dun Estate was home to the Erskine (later Kennedy-Erskine) family from 1375 until 1980. John Erskine of Dun was a key figure in the Scottish Reformation. The current house was designed by William Adam and was finished in 1730. There is elaborate plasterwork in some of the rooms. The writer and poet Violet Jacob was a member of the Kennedy-Erskine family and was born in the house.

Ancient history

The proximate area evinces archaeological evidence of early man dating back 9000 years. Besides finds at the House of Dun property itself, there is a large standing stone a few miles to the north known as the Stone of Morphie.

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George Beattie, Esquire

HOW sweitlie shonne the morning sunne
Upon the bonnie Ha’-house o’ Dun:
Siccan a bien and lovelie abode
Micht wyle the pilgrime aff his road;
But the awneris’ hearte was harde as stane,
And his Ladye’s was harder still, I weene.
They neur gaue amous to the poore,
And they turnit the wretchit frae thair doore,
Quhile the strainger, as he passit thair yett,
Was by the wardowre and tykkes besett.
Oh there livit there ane bonnie Maye,
Mylde and sweit as the morning raye,
Or the gloamin of ane summeris daye:
Hir haire was faire, hir eyne were blue,
And the dymples o’ luve playit round hir sweit mou;
Hir waiste was sae jimp, her anckil sae sma,
Hir bosome as quhyte as the new-driven snawe
Sprent o’er the twinne mountains of sweit Caterthunne,
Beamand mylde in the rayes of a wynterie sunne,
Quhair the myde of a fute has niver bein,
And not a cloud in the lift is sein;
Quhen the wynd is slumb’ring in its cave,
And the barke is sleeping on the wave,
And the breast of the ocean is as still
As the morning mist upon Morven Hill.
Oh sair did scho rue, baith nighte and daye,
Hir hap was to be thiss Ladye’s Maye.

Ae morning a Mynstrell, aged and poore,
Came harping to thiss Ha’-house doore;
His heart seimit light, thoch his hewit was bare,
And spairlie covent wi’ thinne quhyte haire;
His bearde adown his bosome fell
Streamand like snowe in a wynterie gale.
Sae sweit and blythesome was his laye,
The gowd-spinke dancit upon the spraye;
The lint-quhite chirpit frae the busch,
And sweetlie sang the lark and the thrusch;
Quhyle dyght in grein, the fairie crew
Dancit frae the grass the morning dew,
For the daemons of nighte had taken their flighte
As soon as they saw the morning lighte,
And the ghaistis had left the drearie yewe;
Oh they trippit sae lightlie over the lea,
Thair nymble feet scant mocht ane see;
Thair doublettes were grein, as grein mocht be,
And they shonne in the sunne lyke the Spainzie flee.
And aye the Mynstrell harpit and sang,
Till his notes throu’ ilka chamber rang:
Thoch decrepit, forlorne, and raggie was he,
There was merghe in his fingeris, and fyre in his e’e;
Thoch his voice it was broken, and tremmult full sore,
He sung Caledonia’s battels of yore;
Hir mountains sae wylde, and her sweit smyling playns,
And the graces and luves of hir nymphs and hir swayns.
He brushit the wyre wi’ mickle glee;
He lyltit his notes righte merrilie,
As giff nae dolowre michen he dree.

The Ladye of Dun scho rung hir bell-
"Quhat noyse is thiss - pray quicklie tell;
Quhat meins thiss lylting and deray?
A bonnie-lyke rippit thiss, by my fay!"
"A Mynstrell, Madam, aged and poore,"
Quod the Damischell, "is harping at the doore:
And oh, my Ladye, I’m wae to see him,
And wishe I had onlie somethyng to gie him,
For his doublette is raggie, his hewit is bare,
And the wind sings throu’ his thinne quhyte haire,
Albeit his layes be blythsome and sweit,
He hasna a bachel to cover his feit."-
"Harping at thiss tyme of the morne,
Upon my lyfe it canna be borne;
Ye menseless woman, gae tell my men
To flyng the catyffe o’er the Denn,
And let him perische i’ the deip,
For raisand the Ladye o’ Dun frae her sleip."

The Damischell lookit sae wae and sae meik,
And a pearl of pity stood cleir on ilk cheik,
"Shall I tell him, my Ladye, to wend o’er the lea,
And he winna come back for bountith or fee;
The sillie auld carl, may peace gae wi’ him,
I’m sure, dear Ladye, thiss tyme ye’ll forgie him."
Her voice was sae sweit, and she bendit hir knee,
And the moisture of ruthe dimm’d hir bonnie blue e’e,
Quhilk glissent lyke the sunne throu’ a cloud in June,
Or the mylder radiance of the moone,
As scho rides in the heavens all alone,
And the thinne mysts of summer sail round her throne:
Ane angell from God mocht hae kisst that sweit face,
And returnit to Heaven all pure from the embrace.
"Swythe, out of my presence! ye heard quhat I said,"
Quod the Ladye - "‘Tis meit that my behests be obey’d."

The men they had dancit to the Mynstrell’s laye,
But readie their Ladye’s behests to obeye-
Thae fleichin, sinfu’, murtherous men,
They flang the harper o’er the Denn,
And loot him perische i’ the deip,
For raisand the Ladye o’ Dun frae hir sleip.
He priggit for mercie - he prayit for grace,
Quhyle the tearis ran doun his aged face;
He vowit to Heiven he maint nae offence,
And beggit the men to lett him gae hence-
To hirple his waas to the cot - house doore,
And cheir with his layes the semple and poore;
For thoch his comforts here were but few,
His bosome beat to Nature trewe.
"Nae mercie here," quod the men "can be given,
But we hope, auld man, you’ll meet it in Heiven;
Our Ladye’s behests we are bound to obey,
Albeit we hae dancit to your roundelay;
Then stryke on your harpe the last sound of woe,
Before that you sleip in your cauld bed below!"
The Laird o’ Dun had power of the law;
The Mynstrell was flung in, harpe an a’:
The Mynstrell he groan’d, and his harpe it rung,
And mute for aye was his tunefu’ tongue!
A waesome syght it was to see
Him launchit sae quick to eternitie!
Ance kythit o’er the streame his bearde sae hoare-
Syne his spirit wingit its way to gloare;
And niver mair was that Mynstrell sein;
But aye and anon, at morn and at e’en,
His harpe it sounded to the breize,
And a figure was sein to glide throu’ the trees,
And groans were heard, sae loud and sae deip,
The Ladye o' Dun could niver mair sleip;
But aye the mament scho winkit an e’e,
Scho saw before hir, as plain as mocht be,
The Mynstrell wyde gapin and wreathin in paine,
And suein for mercie he couldna obtaine,
And wringin his hands in wylde despaire,
And waggin his head and his thinne quhyte haire,
Quhyle veive in her fancie wad scho see,
The ghastlie glowre of his death-set e’e;
And his clay-cauld hand wad presse hir cheike;
Oh then wad scho start frae hir bedde and shreike,-
"Haud aff that hand! oh, withdraw that e’e;
For Heiven’s sake, take him away from me!
His bearde seemis smearit over wi’ feame:
Oh! I wish it were, but its nae - _a dreame!_
For he looks sae wyldie in my face
That I wish to God he had metten wi’ grace!
Lord! send to my saul the balsame of peace:
Oh, quhen shall I fynde it?  Neuer - neuer!
It has fledde this bosome for euer and euer!"

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