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was in unnaturally high spirits, as if the winding-sheet far up his breast had been a wedding-robe.
It is the evening of the 20th of February 1437. James and his nobles and ladies are seated at table till deep into the night, engaged in chess, music, and song. Athole, like another Judas, has supped with them, and gone out at a late hour. A tremendous knocking is heard at the gate. It is the Highland prophetess, who, having followed the monarch to Perth, is seeking to force her way into the room. The King tells her, through his usher, that he cannot receive her to-night, but will hear her tidings to-morrow. She retires reluctantly, murmuring that they will for ever rue their refusal to admit her into the royal presence. About an hour after this, James calls for the Voidee, or parting-cup, and the company disperse. Sir Robert Stewart, the chamberlain, who is in the confidence of the conspirators, is the last to retire, having previously destroyed the locks and removed the bars of the doors of the royal bed-chamber and the outer room adjoining. The King is standing before the fire, in his night-gown and slippers, and talking gaily with the Queen and her ladies, when torches are seen flashing up from the garden, and the clash of arms and the sound of angry voices is heard from below. A sense of the dread reality bursts on them in an instant. The Queen and the ladies run to secure the door of the chamber, while James, seizing the tongs, wrenches up one of the boards of the floor and takes refuge in a vault beneath. This was wont to have an opening to the outer court, but it had unfortunately been built up of late by his own orders. There, under the replaced boards, cowers the King, while the Queen and her women seek to barricade the door. One brave young lady, Catherine Douglas, thrusts her beautiful arm into the staple from which the bolt had been removed. It is broken in a moment, and she sinks back, to bear, with her descendants—a family well known in Scotland—the name of Barlass ever since. The murderers, who had previously killed in the passage one Walter Straiton, a page, rush in, with naked swords, wounding the ladies, striking, and well-nigh killing the Queen, and crying, with frantic imprecations, “This is but a woman! Where is James?' Finding him not in the chamber, they leave it, and disperse through the neighbouring apartments in search.
James, who had become wearied of his immurement, and thought the assassins were gone, calls now on one of the ladies to aid him in coming out of his place of concealment. But while this is being effected, one of the murderers returns. The cry, 'Found, found, rings through the halls; and after a violent but unarmed resistance, the King is, with circumstances of horrible barbarity, first mangled, then run through the body, and then despatched with daggers. In vain he offers half his kingdom for his life ; and when he seeks a confessor from Grahame, the ruffian replies, Thou shalt have no confessor but this sword.' It is satisfactory to know that the Queen made her escape, and that the criminals were punished, although the tortures they endured are such as human nature shrinks from conceiving, and history with a shudder records.
We turn with pleasure from King James's life and death to his poetry, although there is so little of it that a sentence or two will suffice. "The King's Quhair' is a poem conceived very much in the spirit, and written in the style of Chaucer, whose works were favourites with James. There is the same sympathy with nature, and the same perception of its relation to and unconscious sympathy with human feelings, and the same luscious richness in the description, alike of the early beauties of spring and of youthful feminine loveliness, although this seems more natural in the young poet James than in the sexagenarian author of The Canterbury Tales.' There is nothing even in Chaucer we think finer than the picture of Lady Jane Beaufort in the garden, particularly in the lines—
Or are ye god Cupidis own princess,
This garden full of flowers as they stand ?'
And above all this there was, well I wot,
Or where, describing a ruby on her bosom, he says,
"That as a spark of lowl so wantonly
Seemed burning upon her whitë throat.' Besides this precious little poem, King James is believed by some to have written several poems on Scottish subjects, such as * Christis Kirk on the Green,''Peblis to the Play,' &c., but his claim to these is uncertain. The first describes the mingled merrymaking and contest common in the old rude marriages of Scotland, and, whether by James or not, is full of burly, picturesque force. Take the Miller
*The Miller was of manly make,
To meet him was no mowes.2
So cowèd he their powes.3
And bicker'd him with bows.
Behind that day.'
Of all these maidens mild as mead,
Was none so jimp as Gillie.
Her lire 5 like any lillie.
And she of love so silly;
Alone that day.
"She scorn'd Jock, and scrippèd at him,
And murgeon'd him with mocks-
For all his yellow locks.
She counted him not two clocks.
Or rungs that day.' 1 Low:' fire.— Mowes :' joke.—8 Powes:' heads. - 'Rude:' complexion. 6Lire:' flesh, skin._ 'Jack:' jacket.
Our readers will perceive the resemblance, both in spirit and in form of verse, between this old poem and the Holy Fair,' and other productions of Burns.
James, cut off in the prime of life, may almost be called the abortive Alfred of Scotland. Had he lived, he might have made important contributions to her literature as well as laws, and given her a standing among the nations of Europe, which it took long ages, and even an incorporation with England, to secure. As it is, he stands high on the list of royal authors, and of those kings who, whether authors or not, have felt that nations cannot live on bread alone, and who have sought their intellectual culture as an object not inferior to their physical comfort. It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that no man or woman of genius has sate either on the Scottish or English throne since, except Cromwell, to whom, however, the term "genius, in its common sense, seems ludicrously inadequate. James V. had some of the erratic qualities of the poetic tribe, but his claim to the songs—such as the Gaberlunzie Man'—which go under his name, is exceedingly doubtful. James VI. was a pedant, without being a scholar-a rhymester, not a poet. Of the rest we need not speak. Seldom has the sceptre become an Aaron's rod, and flourished with the buds and blossoms of song. In our annals there has been one, and but one · Royal Poet.'
THE KING THUS DESCRIBES THE APPEARANCE OF HIS MISTRESS,
WHEN HE FIRST SAW HER FROM A WINDOW OF HIS PRISON
The longë dayës and the nightës eke,
By thee came I to joy out of torment;
Bewailing in my chamber, thus alone,
Now was there made fast by the toweris wall
2 Hve:hasia Herbere: "Lerbary, er garien of simpies