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Edinburgh Past and Present


ROS L I N, H A W T H O R N D EN, AND THE VALE OF T H E ESK. BY FLORA MASSON. ‘ SWEET are the paths, 0 passing sweet, O’er airy steep, thro’ copsewood deep, By Esk’s fair streams that run, Impervious to the sun ; From that fair dome where suit is paid By blast of bugle free, To Auchendinny’s hazel shade, And haunted Woodhouselee. Who knows not Melville’s beechy grove, Dalkeith, which all the virtues love, And Roslin’s rocky glen, And classic Hawthornden 7’ So wrote Scott of the Esk; and he maintained that no river in Scotland could boast such a varied succession of interesting objects, as well as of the most romantic and beautiful scenery,’ In his boyhood he delighted to ramble along its banks, The happy summers of his early married life were spent in a cottage at Lasswade; and more than once he has celebrated the little river in song. His Gray Brother, Ca&ow Casfle, and the story of Fair Rosabelle in the f i y offhe Last MinsfreA are all legends of the Vale of the Esk. Much of its romantic and beautiful scenery remains to this day. True, the mills along its course have discoloured its waters, and here and there we come upon a chimney-stalk discreetly nestled among trees ; but the Vale of the Esk remains ;-thickly-wooded, rich in associations, dotted with ruins, bordered by 1 See the Gray B.o&r, and Note to Appendix.
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128 ROSLIN, HAWTHORNDEN, battle-fields. The stream has played no unimportant part in Scottish literature and history. In war its waters have been stained with blood, in peace our poets and philosophers have mused upon its banks; and in spite of the reverses of fortune it is a proud little river to this day, and one of which the people of Mid-Lothian are naturally fond. There are in reality two Esks: the South Esk, rising on the borders of Mid-Lothian and Tweeddale among the Moorfoot Hills, and flowing northwards to the Forth ; and the North Esk, rising on the southern slope of the Pentlands, and also flowing northwards. These streams unite at Dalkeith to form the Esk proper, which falls into the sea at Musselburgh. By our title ‘The Vale of the Esk’ we mean rather the vale of the North Esk, and of the Esk proper after the confluence of the sister streams. We have nothing to do, therefore, with the South Esk until it reaches Dalkeith, but must find our way to the foot of the Pentlands, where the North Esk begins its seaward journey. Here at once we are on interesting ground, the site of a religious house and hospice for benighted travellers, on the old high-road to the capital. The names Monkshaugh and F~iarrtona re found in the neighbourhood, as also a farm called the SpittaZ, where a few years back wayfarers were still made welcome to bed and board according to the ancient custom. Here also is Newhall House, in the early part of last century the property of Mr. John Forbes, an Edinburgh advocate, and the rendezvous of the wigged wits and savans of the metropolis. The Scottish poet Allan Ramsay used to spend many a long summer day at Newhall when he could get away from his book-shop in the old town of Edinburgh; and the Vale of the Esk at Newhall is generally considered to be the scene of his exquisite little pastoral, 2% GeplfIe [email protected] The scenery of the place accords exactly to his descriptions. The ‘trottin’ burnie’ may be seen ‘ wimplin thro’ the ground.’ Primroses ‘ paint the green,’ the laverocks chant to their hearts’ content, and the ‘ westlin’ winds sough thro’ the reeds.’ Or let us, with pretty Peggy, ‘ Gae far‘er up the burn to Habbie’s Howe, Where a’ the sweets 0’ spring and summer grow : There ’tween twa birks, out ower a little lin, The water fa’s and mak‘s a singin’ din ; A pool breast-deep beneath, as clear as glass, Kisses, wi’ easy whirls, the bord‘ring grass.’ At this part of the Vale we find Pufie’s RiZ and Pe&s Lea; but whether
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