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‹‹‹ prev (25) [Page xxi][Page xxi]Flowers of the Forest

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Such is the early form of this melody, as preserved in the
Skene Manuscript (see Introduction). The first and fourth lines
of the verse set to it, are the remains of an old ballad, for which
probably it was the appropriate air, and of which Sir Walter
Scott caught up one other fragment, presenting, he remarked, 1 a
simple and affecting image to the mind :
[Now] I ride single on my saddle,
For the flowers of the forest are a' wede away.
It seems to relate to some depopulating blow sustained by the
district commonly called the Forest — namely, Selkirkshire.
Such an incident we readily discover in Scottish history, in
the overthrow of the army of James IV. at Flodden, September
In the last century, there lived in Edinburgh an unmarried
lady of family, who is remembered as the chief ornament of her
circle, through her talents, intelligence, and good sense — Miss
Jean Elliot of Minto. Her father was Sir Gilbert Elliot of
Minto, Lord Justice-clerk of Scotland, the able son of an able
father, who rose in high state employments under King William,
with whom he had returned from an unmerited exile, sustained
under the misgovernment of the Stuarts. A son of the Justice-
clerk, bearing his own name, was also a man of eminent talents,
which he did not disdain occasionally to exercise in penning
verses. It is stated that Miss Jeanie, who was born in 1727,
shewed such lively faculties in her girlhood, that even then her
father would employ her to read his law-papers to him, and
declared that he profited by the shrewdness of her remarks.
One day, having a conversation with her on the Battle of
Flodden, he offered a bet that she would not compose a ballad
on that subject ; 2 and thus it came to pass that she took up
the fragments of the old lost ballad, and restored them, as it
were, to life in the following composition :
1 Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, iii. 128.
2 Mr D. Laing's Notes on Stenhouse, Johnson's Museum, i. *I3I.

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