“About three miles up the river we came upon the beautiful ruins of the abbey of Lincluden, standing on an elevated mound overlooking the junction of the Cluden and the Nith, and overlooked by a sort of large tumulus covered with larches, where the monks are said to have sat to contemplate the country, and where the country people still resort to loiter or read on Sundays. A profound tranquillity reigns over all the scene—a charm indescribable, which Burns, of all men, must have felt. For myself, I knew not where to stop. I advanced up the left bank of the river, opposite to the ruins, now treading the soft turf of the Nith's margin, now pent in a narrow track close on the brink of the stream among the alders, now emerging into a lofty fir clump, and now into a solemn grove of beech overhanging the stream. Further on lay the broad old meadows again, the fisher watching in his wooden hut the ascent of the salmon, the little herdboy tending his black cattle in the solitary field, old woods casting a deep gloom on the hurrying water, gray old halls standing on fine slopes above the Nith, amid trees of magnificent size and altitude. The mood of mind which comes over you here is that of unwritten poetry.
When one thinks of Burns wandering amid this congenial nature, where the young now wander and sing his songs, one is apt to forget that he bore with him a sad heart and a sinking frame.”
— William Howitt
Robert Burns (1759–1796)
As I stood by yon roofless tower,
Where the wa’-flower scents the dewy air,
Where the howlet mourns in her ivy bower,
And tells the midnight moon her care,
The winds were laid, the air was still,
The stars they shot alang the sky;
The fox was howling on the hill,
And the distant-echoing glens reply.
The stream, adown its hazelly path,
Was rushing by the ruined wa’s,
Hasting to join the sweeping Nith,
Whase distant roaring swells and fa’s.
The cauld blue north was streaming forth
Her lights, wi’ hissing, eerie din;
Athort the lift they start and shift,
Like fortune’s favors, tint as win.
By heedless chance I turned mine eyes,
And by the moonbeam shook to see
A stern and stalwart ghaist arise,
Attired as minstrels wont to be.
Had I a statue been o’ stane,
His darin’ look had daunted me;
And on his bonnet graved was plain,
The sacred posy,—Libertie!
And frae his harp sic strains did flow,
Might roused the slumbering dead to hear;
But O, it was a tale of woe,
As ever met a Briton’s ear!
He sang wi’ joy his former day,
He weeping wailed his latter times;
But what he said it was nae play,
I winna ventur ’t in my rhymes.
The collected work Views of the Haunts and Homes of the British Poets, Oct. 19 1850., found by Christopher Ricks in the little bookshop in Nailsworth just a few miles from his home in Gloucestershire, contains the original mixed media/watercolour illustrations for the Howitt Haunts and Homes, presumably made by either one or both of the Measom brothers, George Samuel and William, (The London edition credits “The Illustrations by W. and G. Measom”) and bound for preservation in 1850, after the publication of the two Howitt volumes.