Bridge of Doune
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Title: BRIDGE OF DOUNE (Tam O' Shanter) - Dedicated To Allan Cunningham, Esqr. (the Biographer of Burns)

Artist: WILLIAM HENRY BARTLETT (1800-1854), English painter and illustrator. - Engraver: G. K. Richardson

From an old descriptive: ....the Brig o' Doon, where Tam o' Shanter's mare-pursued by the witches whose orgies the hero had so rashly interrupted in Alloway kirk,-

"Brought off his master haill,

But left behind her ain grey tail."


This inimitable story, which contains more wondrous variety of genius within small compass than any other poem in the language, was struck off at the first heat of the poet's fancy, and for its ground-work chose the following popular tradition, as recorded by his biograper: - One stormy night, amid squalls of wind and blasts of hail-on such a night, in short, as the devil would choose to take the air in - a farmer was plashing homewards from the forge with plough-irons on his shoulder. As he approached Alloway kirk he was startled by a light glimmering in the haunted edifice, and walking up to the door, he saw a caldron suspended over the fire, in which the heads and limbs of unchristened children were beginning to simmer. As there was neither fiend nor witch to protect it at the moment, he unhooked the caldron, poured out the contents, and carried his trophy home, where it long remained in evidence of the truth of his story. We may observe in the poem the fine use made by Burns of this Kyle legend. Another story supplied him with two of his chief characters: - A farmer having been detained by business in Ayr, found himself crossing the "old bridge of Doon" about the middle of the night. When he reached the gate of Alloway kirk-yard, a light came streaming from a Gothic window in the gable, and he saw with surprise a batch of witches dancing merrily round their master, the devil, who was keeping them in motion by the sound of his bagpipe. The farmer stopped his horse, and gazed at their gambols; he saw several old dames of his acquaintance among them; they were footing it nimbly in their smocks. Unfortunately for him, one of them wore a ssmock too short by a span or so, which so tickled the yeoman, that he butst out with, "Weel luppen, Maggie wie the short sark!" but suddenly recollecting himself, he turned round his horse's head, and spurred and switched with all his might towards the Brig o'Doon, well knowing that "witches dare not cross a running stream." When he reached the middle of the arch, one of the hags sprang forward to seize him, but nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse's tail, which gave way to her grasp, as if touched by lightning.