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CHAPTER XIII.

THOMAS THE RHYMOUR, AND THE EARLY ROMANTIC

SCHOOL OF POETRY IN THE LOWLANDS.

The struggle with Edward I. not only interrupted the social prosperity of the kingdom ; it interfered seriously with the literary and intellectual development which had undoubtedly begun under David I. and the Alexanders, and of which we can still detect some faint traces. The Abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso, and Jedburgh were at this early period schools of a higher type—all that was to be found for High School and College. They preserved what kind of learning there was at the time, and, during the period of upwards of one hundred and sixty years, from David I. to the death of Alexander III., were useful as teaching institutions in the Lowlands. We find several references in the chronicles and charters to the sending of the sons of the lairds to those cloister schools. Matilda, the widowed Lady of Molle, a distinguished family of the thirteenth century, gave to the Abbot and Convent of Kelso a portion of her dower lands, on condition of their maintaining her son with the better and more worthy scholars in “ the poors' house” of the

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abbey. “Exhibebunt Willelmo filio meo in victualibus cum melioribus et dignioribus scholaribus qui reficiunt in domo pauperum.

The date is 1260. Michael Scot, the reputed “ Magus” or Wizard, but a perfectly definite historical character, several of whose writings we still have, was unquestionably connected with a Border family, and may have got his taste for science and philosophy quickened and fostered in some abbey school by the Tweed. He was born, according to tradition, in the Castle of Balwearie, in Fife. His father was a Sir Richard Scot, his mother Margaret Balwearie of that ilk, who brought the property to her husband. Michael, the son, was born in the early prosperous period of Scottish history under the Alexanders.

There was then some chance for the life of thought and study among the sons of the lairds ere the English ruffian came to trample the smaller kingdom down under his brutal violence. For some generations after Edward I. there was none. Scot acquired the more mature part of his education first at Oxford, then at Paris and Toledo. Recently a piece of evidence has turned up to show that he was living very early in the thirteenth century, as he had already risen to distinction in the pontificate of Honorius III., who died in 1227. He translated several of the Aristotelic treatises from the Arabic into Latin, with accompanying commentaries. He was employed for this purpose by Frederick II., who died in 1250; and he must have been among the earliest men

1 Liber de Calchou, Carta 173. On the phrase exhibcbunt in victualibus, Mr Innes remarks that it has given rise to the academical term of exhibi. tions (Preface). VOL. I.

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of letters who knew more than the scantling of Aristotle familiar to the schoolmen before the middle of the thirteenth century. In fact, the reputed wizard played a much more important part in the history of European thought and speculation than is commonly supposed. He was the first to translate from the Arabic and introduce Averroës to the Latin world, and thus give importance to the philosophy of Aristotle in Western Europe. Roger Bacon attributes the first of his translations to the year 1230, and adds that they were accompanied “ with wise commentaries.” The two expressly bearing his name are De Calo et Mundo and the De Anima. His work very probably included, besides these, the treatises on Generation and Corruption, The Meteors, Parva Naturalia, and commentaries on the Physics and Metaphysics. Scot translated the treatise of Alpetrangi in 1217, and it is probable that the Aristotelic translations were done about this date, as they were known to William of Auvergne and Alexander de Hales. He is said to have written also Imagines Astronomica, De Chiromantia, De Signis Planetarum, and several other treatises.

His works are usually dedicated to Etienne de Provins. A treatise entitled Michaelis Scoti Philosophi de Secretis Naturæ Opusculun (Lugd. 1580), was dedicated to the Emperor, Frederick II.2 Renan conjectures that the hard judgments passed on Scot by Roger Bacon, who also, however, commends him, by Albertus Magnus and Dante, are due to his being supposed to have veiled his unbelief in Church doctrines under Averroism. He was a cherished per

1 Opus Majus, 36, 37. Cf. Renan, Averroës, 205.
2 Draudius, 955.

mer.

sonage at the Court of the Ghibelin Hohenstaufenthe centre of Arabian culture, oriental manners, and relations in the popular imagination with Astaroth and Beelzebub. At the same time, he did not rate Aristotelianism highly. He had evidently a distinctly observational or scientific turn, and he was in philosophy a Platonist, with a tendency to mysticism and belief in supernatural agencies. He studied especially astronomy, alchemy, and medicineprobably also the magic or superstitious form of science of the time. Scot was indeed a man of very wide acquirements—mathematician, physician, linguist, and astrono

He had evidently studied the moral, psychological, and scientific side of Aristotle, rather than the logical, which was then the common one/indeed, that alone known to Western Europe. The latter part of his life was apparently spent in Scotland. He is said to have survived the death of Alexander III., and to have been one of the ambassadors sent to bring home the Maiden of Norway. If he was born about 1190, as seems likely from the date of his first work, these statements are hardly probable. It was possibly his son who was so employed. Michael Scot is said to have died a monk in the Abbey of Holme Cultram, and to be buried there. Tradition and Sir Walter Scott represent him as being laid in Melrose. For long after his death he was held in high repute on the Continent among the doctors of the thirteenth century. Roger Bacon, Joannes Picus, Count of Mirandole, and others refer to him in terms of commendation. He figures also in the Inferno, among the diviners who had sought illegitimately to

1 Renan, Averroës, 210, 288. Cf. Jourdain, Haureau, and Thurot.

wrest the secrets of God, and whose heads were consequently turned so as to overlook their shoulders. He is described as small about the flanks, and as knowing the play of magic fraud." Now his least worthy pursuits, exaggerated or imaginary, are those by which alone he is popularly remembered. The traditions which connect him with wizard deeds by the Tweed, and at the Tower of Oakwood, not far from fairy Carterhaugh, are all that represent his life-work. He has passed into the realm of weird imagination; and the ride of William of Deloraine from Branksome to Melrose, the dread opening of the wizard's tomb, and the finding of his "mighty book,” are conceptions too powerfully and vividly portrayed ever to give place to a general appreciation of his historical character. His illustrious namesake was not, however, the first to give prominence to his wizard fame, or to surround his name with a weird glamour. In the old ballad, we find that his memory was a source of awe even to the stout-hearted Scottish soldiers of the time of the Stewarts. For the following question is put to the troop who by chance spent a night in the tower where he was born :

“What gars ? ye gaunt,3 my merrie men a',

What gars ye look sae eerie, 4
What gars ye hing your heids sae sair,

In the Castle o' Balwearie ?

1“ Quell'altro che ne' fianchi è così poco,

Michele Scotto fu, che veramente

Delle magiche frode seppe il giuoco.”—Cant. xx. 116.
Makes, causes.

3 Yawn.
+ Afraid of the supernatural.

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