Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Reiver Raid


Eilean Donan Castle,
Ross and Cromatry.

Certain names and incidents in the twisted branches of the family tree induced a child to dig the book out of a box at a street-side yard sale and buy it for me.

It's an old book with a light-bleached spine and a thistle in gold embossed on its deep red cover.

The book had gone into fourteen editions before my copy. In Search of Scotland by H.V Morton was first published by Methuen in 1929.

Such books may fascinate like old photographs as snap-shots of social history. The writer makes reference to the Great War.

The book is more than a travelogue. The author describes a journey of afffirmation, a ritual of belief. He'd read Scott and Burns; he remembered the Border Ballads - and he dedicated the book to the memory of Margaret Constance Maclean Ewart.

He describes the Border as " a queer compromise between fairyland and battlefield," of "moorland "stained with heather like blood" where "the land might leap violently to life in pin-points of fire from tree-top to peel tower, from ridge to ridge, filling the dusk with the sound of swords and the mad gallop of horses and the wild clamour of a border raid. "

He describes Dunvegan Castle as "surrounded on three sides by water and on four by ghosts."

He mentions " a majestic room once occupied by Queen Victoria. It still rustles furtively in the small hours, as with black silk."

In Jedburgh, he goes to bed in an "experienced iron bedstead" and notes that "in the wardrobe lived that faint scent of departed women, always to the lonely and thoughtful traveller the most provoking ghost in a strange room."

It's one of those books that is an invitation to theft - that makes one want to lift lines and images like cattle.

21 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

What is the name of this book? The lines you quoted are wonderful. :) I liked the experienced iron bed a lot.

Steve G said...

It's one of those books that is an invitation to theft - that makes one want to lift lines and images like cattle.

I sure most of us do this. Not verbatim or intentionally, but it has to happen with good lines.

Ric said...

What a marvelous find! Not to mention the pride in your children who would snatch it up for you!

"in the wardrobe lived that faint scent of departed women, always to the lonely and thoughtful traveller the most provoking ghost in a strange room."

Ah, the Scots were always the best poets. Simply lovely.

Robyn said...

"in the wardrobe lived that faint scent of departed women, always to the lonely and thoughtful traveller the most provoking ghost in a strange room."

Beautiful.

Bernita said...

"In Search of Scotland," Written.
He speaks also of "sinful old houses..."

He is so vivid, Steve.

Just one of many passages, Ric.
He says "In the Border ballads the peel towers rise whole again from Berwick to Carlisle. The night is alive with riders. Through the gloom of green woods comes the knight in search of love or pain, or both..."

Yes, Robyn. The line itself lingers and provokes.

Savannah Jordan said...

What a blessing and a treasure, Bernita! This, "surrounded on three sides by water and on four by ghosts." of course, hote closest to home with me. I love the imagery conjured by a castle wall guarded by ghosts. *sigh*

Jaye Wells said...

Sounds like a real treasure. That's the kind of nonfiction you want to wallow in until your fingers are pruney.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, some great lines for sure. Maybe if I steal them from your post instead of directly from the source it won't quite be stealing.

spyscribbler said...

My favorite is an "experienced iron bedstead." I get nostalgic for that style of writing, sometimes!

I'm probably too ADD myself to sit through a whole book of it, but ... what vivid, beautiful writing!

Bernita said...

He obviously felt the same, Savannah.
He writes: " Everything you ever read about enchanted castles, captured princesses,...victims dying of thirst in dungeons, merimaids swimming up by moonlight to lure a man to his death, men beaten back to the whistle of swords and a hail of arrows, comes true as you see the turrets of Dunvegan lifted in the dusk above the trees on a spur of rock that leans over an arm of the sea in Skye."

Indeed it is, Jaye. And his voice is very modern.

Charles, you freebooter... He says of the tales and ballads" It is all sublimated journalism. Most of it happened." They "are as real as a sword dug up on a battlefield."

Bernita said...

It's the sort of book that one may dip into at will, Natasha. It does not demand or expect a chronological read.

ORION said...

I LOVE the "experienced iron bedstead!"
BTW Bernita thanks for commenting.
I may tell the interviewer that the noise they hear in the background is a hurricane...

Jon M said...

Sounds brilliant. Heading up that way in August so might seek out some experienced bedsteads! Probably end up with ghosts! :-)

Bernita said...

I lurk everyday, Pat. That was such a hoot! And you were so quick!

Lucky man, Jon. Definitely ghosts.Oh yes.

LadyBronco said...

Amazing.

I am not one for more literary prose, but those lines are absolutely astounding.

And you always find such an appropriate visual for your posts, Bernita. ;0)

Seeley deBorn said...

Funny that ladybronco calls it literary prose. I was leaning to the other side of the spectrum. It reminds me of the lush description of the bodice rippers of yore.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lady B. I wouldn't call his style "literary" - very first person, very immediate, and lacking entirely in pretension.

He is an unabashed and unashamed romantic, Seeley.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS, Bernita, I ordered the book via amazon. Gotta have something with that sort of prose. Occasional poetic inspiration is required!

Bernita said...

Oh, Written! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Kate Thornton said...

I must have it, too, Bernita. I'm delighted it is still available.

You are a treasure yourself for unearthing these treasures.

Bernita said...

You're a dear person, Kate...
A book so popular is bound to be still available, if only from second-hand sites.