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Title: Recreations of Christopher North, Volume 2
Author: Wilson, John, 1785-1854
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Recreations of Christopher North, Volume 2" ***

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MAY-DAY                                         1


    CHAPTER I.,                                38

    CHAPTER II.,                               53

    CHAPTER III.,                              75

    CHAPTER IV.,                               88


    FIRST CANTICLE,                            98

    SECOND CANTICLE,                          125

    THIRD CANTICLE,                           149

    FOURTH CANTICLE,                          165


    FIRST COURSE,                             182

    SECOND COURSE,                            194

    THIRD COURSE,                             203

    FOURTH COURSE,                            212


    FIRST RHAPSODY,                           224

    SECOND RHAPSODY,                          239

A FEW WORDS ON THOMSON,                       253


CHRISTMAS DREAMS,                             285

OUR WINTER QUARTERS,                          304


    FIRST SAUNTER,                            327

    SECOND SAUNTER,                           355

L'ENVOY                                       369

       *       *       *       *       *






Art thou beautiful, as of old, O wild, moorland, sylvan, and pastoral
Parish! the Paradise in which our spirit dwelt beneath the glorious
dawning of life--can it be, beloved world of boyhood, that thou art
indeed beautiful as of old? Though round and round thy boundaries in
half an hour could fly the flapping dove--though the martens, wheeling
to and fro that ivied and wall-flowered ruin of a Castle, central in its
own domain, seem in their more distant flight to glance their crescent
wings over a vale rejoicing apart in another kirk-spire, yet how rich in
streams, and rivulets, and rills, each with its own peculiar murmur--art
Thou with thy bold bleak exposure, sloping upwards in ever lustrous
undulations to the portals of the East! How endless the interchange of
woods and meadows, glens, dells, and broomy nooks, without number, among
thy banks and braes! And then of human dwellings--how rises the smoke,
ever and anon, into the sky, all neighbouring on each other, so that the
cock-crow is heard from homestead to homestead; while as you wander
onwards, each roof still rises unexpectedly--and as solitary, as if it
had been far remote. Fairest of Scotland's thousand parishes--neither
Highland, nor Lowland--but undulating--let us again use the descriptive
word--like the sea in sunset after a day of storms--yes, Heaven's
blessing be upon thee! Thou art indeed beautiful as of old!

The same heavens! More blue than any colour that tinges the flowers of
earth--like the violet veins of a virgin's bosom. The stillness of those
lofty clouds makes them seem whiter than the snow. Return, O lark! to
thy grassy nest, in the furrow of the green brairded corn, for thy
brooding mate can no longer hear thee soaring in the sky. Methinks there
is little or no change on these coppice-woods, with their full budding
branches all impatient for the spring. Yet twice have axe and bill-hook
levelled them with the mossy stones, since among the broomy and briery
knolls we sought the grey linnet's nest, or wondered to spy, among the
rustling leaves, the robin-redbreast, seemingly forgetful of his winter
benefactor, man. Surely there were trees here in former times, that now
are gone--tall, far-spreading single trees, in whose shade used to lie
the ruminating cattle, with the small herd-girl asleep. Gone are they,
and dimly remembered as the uncertain shadows of dreams; yet not more
forgotten than some living beings with whom our infancy and boyhood held
converse--whose voices, laughter, eyes, forehead--hands so often
grasped--arms linked in ours, as we danced along the braes--have long
ceased to be more than images and echoes, incapable of commanding so
much as one single tear. Alas! for the treachery of memory to all the
holiest human affections, when beguiled by the slow but sure sorcery of

It is MAY-DAY, and we shall be happy as the season. What although some
sad and solemn thoughts come suddenly across us, the day is not at
nightfall felt to have been the less delightful, because shadows now and
then bedimmed it, and moments almost mournful, of an unhymning hush,
took possession of field or forest. We are all alone--a solitary
pedestrian; and obeying the fine impulses of a will, whose motives are
changeable as the cameleon's hues, our feet shall bear us glancingly
along to the merry music of streams--or linger by the silent shores of
lochs--or upon the hill-summit pause, ourselves the only spectator of a
panorama painted by Spring, for our sole delight--or plunge into the old
wood's magnificent exclusion from sky--where, at midsummer, day is as
night--though not so now, for this is the season of buds and blossoms;
and the cushat's nest is yet visible on the half-leafed boughs, and the
sunshine streams in upon the ground-flowers, that in another month will
be cold and pale in the forest gloom, almost as those that bedeck the
dead when the vault door is closed and all is silence.

What! shall we linger here within a little mile of the MANSE, wherein
and among its pleasant bounds our boyish life glided murmuring away,
like a stream that never, till it leaves its native hills, knows taint
or pollution, and not hasten on to the dell, in which nest-like it is
built, and guarded by some wonderful felicity of situation equally
against all the winds? No. Thither as yet have we not courage to direct
our footsteps--for that venerable Man has long been dead--not one of his
ancient household now remains on earth. There the change, though it was
gradual and unpainful, according to the gentlest laws of nature, has
been entire and complete. The "old familiar faces" we can dream of, but
never more shall see--and the voices that are now heard within those
walls, what can they ever be to us, when we would fain listen in the
silence of our spirit to the echoes of departed years? It is an
appalling trial to approach a place where once we have been
happier--happier far than ever we can be on this earth again; and a
worse evil doth it seem to our imagination to return to Paradise, with a
changed and saddened heart, than at first to be driven from it into the
outer world, if still permitted to carry thither something of that
spirit that had glorified our prime.

But yonder, we see, yet towers the Sycamore on the crown of the
hill--the first great Tree in the parish that used to get green; for
stony as seems the hard glebe, constricted by its bare and gnarled
roots, they draw sustenance from afar; and not another knoll on which
the sun so delights to pour his beams. Weeks before any other Sycamore,
and almost as early as the alder or the birch--the GLORY OF MOUNT
PLEASANT, for so we schoolboys called it, unfolded itself like a banner.
You could then see only the low windows of the dwelling--for eaves,
roof, and chimneys all disappeared--and then, when you stood beneath,
was not the sound of the bees like the very sound of the sea itself,
continuous, unabating, all day long unto evening, when, as if the tide
of life had ebbed, there was a perfect silence!

MOUNT PLEASANT! well indeed dost thou deserve the name, bestowed on
thee perhaps long ago, not by any one of the humble proprietors, but by
the general voice of praise, all eyes being won by thy cheerful beauty.
For from that shaded platform, what a sweet vision of fields and
meadows, knolls, braes, and hills, uncertain gleamings of a river, the
smoke of many houses, and glittering perhaps in the sunshine, the spire
of the House of God! To have seen Adam Morrison, the Elder, sitting with
his solemn, his austere Sabbath-face, beneath the pulpit, with his
expressive eyes fixed on the Preacher, you could not but have judged him
to be a man of a stern character and austere demeanour. To have seen him
at labour on the working days, you might almost have thought him the
serf of some tyrant-lord, for into all the toils of the field he carried
the force of a mind that would suffer nothing to be undone that strength
and skill could achieve; but within the humble porch of his own house,
beside his own board, and his own fireside, he was a man to be kindly
esteemed by his guests, by his own family tenderly and reverently
beloved. His wife was the comeliest matron in the parish, a woman of
active habits and a strong mind, but tempering the natural sternness of
her husband's character with that genial and jocund cheerfulness, that
of all the lesser virtues is the most efficient to the happiness of a
household. One daughter only had they, and we could charm our heart even
now, by evoking the vanished from oblivion, and imaging her over and
over again in the light of words; but although all objects, animate and
inanimate, seem always tinged with an air of sadness when they are
past--and as at present we are resolved to be cheerful--obstinately to
resist all access of melancholy--an enemy to the pathetic--and a scorner
of shedders of tears--therefore let Mary Morrison rest in her grave, and
let us paint a pleasant picture of a May-Day afternoon, and enjoy it as
it was enjoyed of old, beneath that stately Sycamore, with the
grandisonant name of THE GLORY OF MOUNT PLEASANT.

There, under the murmuring shadow round and round that noble stem, used
on MAY-DAY to be fitted a somewhat fantastic board, all deftly arrayed
in home-spun drapery, white as the patches of unmelted snow on the
distant mountain-head; and on various seats--stumps, stones, stools,
creepies, forms, chairs, armless and with no spine, or high-backed and
elbowed, and the carving-work thereof most intricate and
allegorical--took their places, after much formal ceremony of scraping
and bowing, blushing and curtsying, old, young, and middle-aged, of high
and low degree, till in one moment all were hushed by the Minister
shutting his eyes, and holding up his hand to ask a blessing. And "well
worthy of a grace as lang's a tether," was the MAY-DAY meal spread
beneath the shadow of the GLORY OF MOUNT PLEASANT. But the Minister
uttered only a few fervent sentences, and then we all fell to the curds
and cream. What smooth, pure, bright burnished beauty on those
horn-spoons! How apt to the hand the stalk--to the mouth how apt the
bowl! Each guest drew closer to his breast the deep broth-plate of
delft, rather more than full of curds, many million times more
deliciously desirable even than blanc-mange, and then filled to
overflowing with a blessed outpouring of creamy richness that
tenaciously descended from an enormous jug, the peculiar expression of
whose physiognomy, particularly the nose, we will carry with us to the
grave! The dairy at MOUNT PLEASANT consisted of twenty cows--almost all
spring calvers, and of the Ayrshire breed--so you may guess what cream!
The spoon could not stand in it,--it was not so thick as that--for that
was too thick,--but the spoon, when placed upright in it, retained its
perpendicularity for a while, and then, when uncertain on which side to
fall, was grasped by the hand of hungry schoolboy, and steered with its
fresh and fragrant freight into a mouth already open in wonder. Never
beneath the sun, moon, and stars, were such oatmeal cakes, pease-scones,
and barley-bannocks, as at MOUNT PLEASANT. You could have eaten away at
them with pleasure, even although not hungry--and yet it was impossible
of them to eat too much--Manna that they were!! Seldom indeed is butter
yellow on May-day. But the butter of the gudewife of Mount
Pleasant--such, and so rich was the old lea-pasture--was coloured like
the crocus, before the young thrushes had left the nest in the
honey-suckled corner of the gavel-end. Not a single hair in the churn.
Then what honey and what jam! The first, not heather, for that is too
luscious, especially after such cream, but the pure white virgin honey,
like dew shaken from clover, but now _querny_ after winter keep; and oh!
over a layer of such butter on such barley bannocks was such honey, on
such a day, in such company, and to such palates, too divine to be
described by such a pen as that now wielded by such a writer! The Jam!
It was of gooseberries--the small black hairy ones--gathered to a very
minute from the bush, and boiled to a very moment in the pan! A bannock
studded with some dozen or two of such grozets was more beautiful than a
corresponding expanse of heaven adorned with as many stars. The
question, with the gaucy and generous gudewife of Mount Pleasant, was
not--"My dear laddie, which will ye hae--hinny or jam?" but, "Which will
ye hae first?" The honey, we well remember, was in two huge brown jugs,
or jars, or crocks; the jam, in half-a-dozen white cans of more moderate
dimensions, from whose mouths a veil of thin transparent paper was
withdrawn, while, like a steam of rich distilled perfumes, rose a fruity
fragrance, that blended with the vernal balminess of the humming
Sycamore. There the bees were all at work for next May-day, happy as
ever bees were on Hybla itself; and gone now though be the age of gold,
happy as Arcadians were we, nor wanted our festal-day or pipe or song;
for to the breath of Harry Wilton, the young English boy, the flute gave
forth tones almost as liquid sweet as those that flowed from the lips of
Mary Morrison herself, who alone, of all singers in hut or hall that
ever drew tears, left nothing for the heart or the imagination to desire
in any one of Scotland's ancient melodies.

Never had Mary Morrison heard the old ballad-airs sung, except during
the mid-day hour of rest, in the corn or hay field--and rude singers are
they all--whether male or female voices--although sometimes with a touch
of natural pathos that finds its way to the heart. But as the
nightingale would sing truly its own variegated song, although it never
were to hear any one of its own kind warbling from among the
shrub-roots, and the lark, though alone on earth, would sing the hymn
well known at the gate of heaven, so all untaught but by the nature
within her, and inspired by her own delightful genius alone, did Mary
Morrison feel all the measures of those ancient melodies, and give them
all an expression at once simple and profound. People who said they did
not care about music, especially Scottish music, it was so monotonous
and insipid, laid aside their indifferent looks before three notes of
the simplest air had left Mary Morrison's lips, as she sat faintly
blushing, less in bashfulness than in her own emotion, with her little
hands playing perhaps with flowers, and her eyes fixed on the ground,
or raised, ever and anon, to the roof. "In all common things," would
most people say, "she is but a very ordinary girl--but her musical turn
is really very singular indeed;"--but her happy father and mother knew,
that in all common things--that is, in all the duties of an humble and
innocent life, their Mary was by nature excellent as in the melodies and
harmonies of song--and that while her voice in the evening-psalm was as
angel's sweet, so was her spirit almost pure as an angel's, and nearly
inexperienced of sin.

Proud, indeed, were her parents on that May-day to look upon her--and to
listen to her--as their Mary sat beside the young English boy--admired
of all observers--and happier than she had ever been in this world
before, in the charm of their blended music, and the unconscious
affection--sisterly, yet more than sisterly, for brother she had
none--that towards one so kind and noble was yearning at her heart.

Beautiful were they both; and when they sat side-by-side in their music,
insensible must that heart have been by whom they were not both admired
and beloved. It was thought that they loved one another too, too well;
for Harry Wilton was the grandson of an English Peer, and Mary Morrison
a peasant's child; but they could not love too well--she in her
tenderness--he in his passion--for, with them, life and love was a
delightful dream, out of which they were never to be awakened. For as by
some secret sympathy, both sickened on the same day--of the same
fever--and died at the same hour;--and not from any dim intention of
those who buried them, but accidentally, and because the burial-ground
of the Minister and the Elder adjoined, were they buried almost in the
same grave--for not half a yard of daisied turf divided them--a curtain
between the beds on which brother and sister slept.

In their delirium they both talked about each other--Mary Morrison and
Harry Wilton--yet their words were not words of love, only of common
kindness; for although on their death-beds they did not talk about
death, but frequently about that May-day Festival, and other pleasant
meetings in neighbours' houses, or in the Manse. Mary sometimes rose up
in bed, and in imagination joined her voice to that of the flute which
to his lips was to breathe no more; and even at the very self-same
moment--so it wonderfully was--did he tell all to be hushed, for that
Mary Morrison was about to sing the Flowers of the Forest.

Methinks that no deep impressions of the past, although haply they may
sleep for ever, and seem as if they had ceased to be, are ever utterly
obliterated; but that they may, one and all, reappear at some hour or
other however distant, legible as at the very moment they were first
engraven on the memory. Not by the power of meditation are the long-ago
vanished thoughts or emotions restored to us, in which we found delight
or disturbance; but of themselves do they seem to arise, not undesired
indeed, but unbidden, like sea-birds that come unexpectedly floating up
into some inland vale, because, unknown to us who wonder at them, the
tide is flowing and the breezes blow from the main. Bright as the living
image stands now before us the ghost--for what else is it than the
ghost--of Mary Morrison, just as she stood before us on one particular
day--in one particular place, innumerable years ago! It was at the close
of one of those midsummer days which melt away into twilight, rather
than into night, although the stars are visible, and bird and beast
asleep. All by herself, as she walked along between the braes, was she
singing a hymn,--

    "And must this body die?
      This mortal frame decay?
    And must these feeble limbs of mine
      Lie mouldering in the clay?"

Not that the child had any thought of death, for she was as full of life
as the star above her was of lustre--tamed though they both were by the
holy hour. At our bidding she renewed the strain that had ceased as we
met, and continued to sing it while we parted, her voice dying away in
the distance, like an angel's from a broken dream. Never heard we that
voice again, for in three little weeks it had gone, to be extinguished
no more, to join the heavenly choirs at the feet of the Redeemer.

Did both her parents lose all love to life, when their sole daughter was
taken away? And did they die finally of broken hearts? No--such is not
the natural working of the human spirit, if kept in repair by pure and
pious thought. Never were they so happy indeed as they had once
been--nor was their happiness of the same kind. Oh! different far in
resignation that often wept when it did not repine--in faith that now
held a tenderer commerce with the skies! Smiles were not very long of
being again seen at Mount Pleasant. An orphan cousin of Mary's--they had
been as sisters--took her place, and filled it too, as far as the living
can ever fill the place of the dead. Common cares continued for a while
to occupy the Elder and his wife, for there were not a few to whom their
substance was to be a blessing. Ordinary observers could not have
discerned any abatement of his activities in field or market; but others
saw that the toil to him was now but a duty that had formerly been a
delight. Mount Pleasant was let to a relative, and the Morrisons retired
to a small house, with a garden, a few hundred yards from the kirk. Let
him be strong as a giant, infirmities often come on the hard-working man
before you can well call him old. It was so with Adam Morrison. He broke
down fast, we have been told, in his sixtieth year, and after that
partook but of one sacrament. Not in tales of fiction alone do those who
have long loved and well, lay themselves down and die in each other's
arms. Such happy deaths are recorded on humble tombstones; and there is
one on which this inscription may be read--"HERE LIE THE BODIES OF ADAM
JUNE 2, 17--." The headstone is a granite slab--as they almost all are
in that kirkyard--and the kirk itself is of the same enduring material.
But touching that grave is a Marble Monument, white almost as the very
snow, and, in the midst of the emblazonry of death, adorned with the
armorial bearings belonging to a family of the high-born.

Sworn Brother of our soul! during the bright ardours of boyhood, when
the present was all-sufficient in its own bliss, the past soon
forgotten, and the future unfeared, what might have been thy lot,
beloved Harry Wilton, had thy span of life been prolonged to this very
day? Better--oh! far better was it for thee and thine that thou didst so
early die; for it seemeth that a curse is on that lofty lineage; and
that, with all their genius, accomplishments, and virtues, dishonour
comes and goes, a familiar and privileged guest, out and in their house.
Shame never veiled the light of those bold eyes, nor tamed the
eloquence of those sunny lips, nor ever for a single moment bowed down
that young princely head that, like a fast-growing flower, seemed each
successive morning to be visibly rising up towards a stately manhood.
But the time was not far distant, when to thee life would have undergone
a rueful transformation. Thy father, expatriated by the spells of a
sorceress, and forced into foreign countries, to associate with vice,
worthlessness, profligacy, and crime! Thy mother, dead of a broken
heart! And that lovely sister, who came to the Manse with her jewelled
hair--But all these miserable things who could prophesy, at the hour
when we and the weeping villagers laid thee, apart from the palace and
the burial-vault of thy high-born ancestors, without anthem or
organ-peal, among the humble dead? Needless and foolish were all those
floods of tears. In thy brief and beautiful course, nothing have we who
loved thee to lament or condemn. In few memories, indeed, doth thy image
now survive; for in process of time what young face fadeth not away from
eyes busied with the shows of this living world? What young voice is not
bedumbed to ears for ever filled with its perplexing din? Yet thou,
Nature, on this glorious May-day, rejoicing in all the plenitude of thy
bliss--we call upon thee to bear witness to the intensity of our
never-dying grief! Ye fields, that long ago we so often trode together,
with the wind-swept shadows hovering about our path--Ye streams, whose
murmur awoke our imaginations, as we lay reading, or musing together in
day-dreams, among the broomy braes--Ye woods, where we started at the
startled cushat, or paused, without a word, to hear the creature's
solitary moans and murmurs deepening the far-off hush, already so
profound--Ye moors and mosses, black yet beautiful, with your
peat-trenches overshadowed by the heather-blossoms that scented the
wilderness afar--where the little maiden, sent from the shieling on
errands to town or village in the country below, seemed, as we met her
in the sunshine, to rise up before us for our delight, like a fairy from
the desert bloom--Thou loch, remote in thy treeless solitude, and with
nought reflected in thy many-springed waters but those low pastoral
hills of excessive green, and the white-barred blue of heaven--no
creature on its shores but our own selves, keenly angling in the
breezes, or lying in the shaded sunshine, with some book of old
ballads, or strain of some Immortal yet alive on earth--one and all bear
witness to our undying affection, that silently now feeds on grief! And,
oh! what overflowing thoughts did that shout of ours now awaken from the
hanging tower of the Old Castle--"Wilton, Wilton!" The name of the
long-ago buried faintly and afar-off repeated by an echo!

A pensive shade has fallen across MAY-DAY; and while the sun is behind
those castellated clouds, our imagination is willing to retire into the
saddest places of memory, and gather together stories and tales of
tears. And many such there are, annually sprinkled all round the humble
huts of our imaginative and religious land, even like the wildflowers
that, in endless succession, disappearing and reappearing in their
beauty, Spring drops down upon every brae. And as ofttimes some one
particular tune, some one pathetic but imperfect and fragmentary part of
an old melody, will nearly touch the heart, when it is dead to the
finest and most finished strain; so now a faint and dim tradition comes
upon us, giving birth to uncertain and mysterious thoughts. It is an old
Tradition. They were called the BLESSED FAMILY! Far up at the head of
yonder glen of old was their dwelling, and in their garden sparkled the
translucent well that is the source of the stream that animates the
parish with a hundred waterfalls. Father, mother, and daughter--it was
hard to say which of the three was the most beloved! Yet they were not
native here, but brought with them, from some distant place, the soft
and silvery accents of the pure English tongue, and manners most
gracious in their serene simplicity; while over a life composed of acts
of charity was spread a stillness that nothing ever disturbed--the
stillness of a thoughtful pity for human sins and sorrows, yet not
unwilling to be moved to smiles by the breath of joy. In those days the
very heart of Scotland was distracted--persecution scattered her
prayers--and during the summer months, families remained shut up in fear
within their huts, as if the snowdrifts of winter had blocked up and
buried their doors. It was as if the shadow of a thunder-cloud hung over
all the land, so that men's hearts quaked as they looked up to
heaven--when, lo! all at once, Three gracious Visitants appeared!
Imagination invested their foreheads with a halo; and as they walked on
their missions of mercy, exclaimed--How beautiful are their feet! Few
words was the Child ever heard to speak, except some words of prayer;
but her image-like stillness breathed a blessing wherever it smiled, and
all the little maidens loved her, when hushed almost into awe by her
spiritual beauty, as she knelt with them in their morning and evening
orisons. The Mother's face, too, it is said, was pale as a face of
grief, while her eyes seemed always happy, and a tone of thanksgiving
was in her voice. Her Husband leant upon her on his way to the
grave--for his eye's excessive brightness glittered with death--and
often, as he prayed beside the sick-bed, his cheek became like ashes,
for his heart in a moment ceased to beat, and then, as if about to burst
in agony, sounded audibly in the silence. Journeying on did they all
seem to heaven; yet as they were passing by, how loving and how full of
mercy! To them belonged some blessed power to wave away the sword that
would fain have smitten the Saints. The dewdrops on the greensward
before the cottage door, they suffered not to be polluted with blood.
Guardian Angels were they thought to be, and such indeed they were, for
what else are the holy powers of innocence?--Guardian Angels sent to
save some of God's servants on earth from the choking tide and the
scorching fire. Often, in the clear and starry nights, did the dwellers
among all these little dells, and up along all these low hill-sides,
hear music flowing down from heaven, responsive to the hymns of the
Blessed Family. Music without the syllabling of words--yet breathing
worship, and with the spirit of piety filling all the Night-Heavens. One
whole day and night passed by, and not a hut had been enlightened by
their presence. Perhaps they had gone away without warning as they had
come--having been sent on another mission. With soft steps one maiden,
and then another, entered the door, and then was heard the voice of
weeping and of loud lament. The three lay, side by side, with their pale
faces up to heaven. Dora, for that is the name tradition has handed
down--Dorothea, the gift of God, lay between her Father and her Mother,
and all their hands were lovingly and peacefully entwined. No agonies
had been there--unknown what hand, human or divine, had closed their
eyelids and composed their limbs; but there they lay as if asleep, not
to be awakened by the burst of sunshine that dazzled upon their smiling
countenances, cheek to cheek, in the awful beauty of united death.

The deep religion of that troubled time had sanctified the Strangers
almost into an angelic character; and when the little kirk-bells were
again heard tinkling through the air of peace (the number of the martyrs
being complete), the beauty with which their living foreheads had been
invested, reappeared to the eyes of imagination, as the Poets whom
Nature kept to herself walked along the moonlight hills. "The Blessed
Family," which had been as a household word, appertaining to them while
they lived, now when centuries have gone by, is still full of a dim but
divine meaning; the spirit of the tradition having remained, while its
framework has almost fallen into decay.

How beautifully emerges that sun-stricken Cottage from the rocks, that
all around it are floating in a blue vapoury light! Were we so disposed,
methinks we could easily write a little book entirely about the obscure
people that have lived and died about that farm, by name LOGAN BRAES.
Neither is it without its old traditions. One May-day long ago--some two
centuries since--that rural festival was there interrupted by a
thunderstorm, and the party of youths and maidens, driven from the
budding arbours, were all assembled in the ample kitchen. The house
seemed to be in the very heart of the thunder; and the master began to
read, without declaring it to be a religious service, a chapter of the
Bible; but the frequent flashes of lightning so blinded him, that he was
forced to lay down the Book, and all then sat still without speaking a
word; many with pale faces, and none without a mingled sense of awe and
fear. The maiden forgot her bashfulness as the rattling peals shook the
roof-tree, and hid her face in her lover's bosom; the children crept
closer and closer, each to some protecting knee, and the dogs came all
into the house, and lay down in dark places. Now and then there was a
convulsive, irrepressible, but half-stifled shriek--some sobbed--and a
loud hysterical laugh from one overcome with terror sounded ghastly
between the deepest of all dread repose--that which separates one peal
from another, when the flash and the roar are as one, and the thick air
smells of sulphur. The body feels its mortal nature, and shrinks as if
about to be withered into nothing. Now the muttering thunder seems to
have changed its place to some distant cloud--now, as if returning to
blast those whom it had spared, waxes louder and fiercer than
before--till the Great Tree that shelters the house is shivered with a
noise like the masts of a ship carried away by the board. "Look, father,
look--see yonder is an Angel all in white, descending from heaven!" said
little Alice, who had already been almost in the attitude of prayer, and
now clasped her hands together, and steadfastly, and without fear of the
lightning, eyed the sky. "One of God's Holy Angels--one of those who
sing before the Lamb!" And with an inspired rapture the fair child
sprung to her feet. "See ye her not--see ye her not--father--mother! Lo!
she beckons to me with a palm in her hand, like one of the palms in that
picture in our Bible, when our Saviour is entering into Jerusalem! There
she comes, nearer and nearer the earth--Oh! pity, forgive, and have
mercy on me, thou most beautiful of all the Angels--even for His name's
sake." All eyes were turned towards the black heavens, and then to the
raving child. Her mother clasped her to her bosom, afraid that terror
had turned her brain--and her father going to the door, surveyed an
ampler space of the sky. She flew to his side, and clinging to him
again, exclaimed in a wild outcry, "On her forehead a star! on her
forehead a star! And oh! on what lovely wings she is floating away, away
into eternity! The Angel, father, is calling me by my Christian name,
and I must no more abide on earth; but, touching the hem of her garment,
be wafted away to heaven!" Sudden as a bird let loose from the hand,
darted the maiden from her father's bosom, and with her face upward to
the skies, pursued her flight. Young and old left the house, and at that
moment the forked lightning came from the crashing cloud, and struck the
whole tenement into ruins. Not a hair on any head was singed; and with
one accord the people fell down upon their knees. From the eyes of the
child, the Angel, or Vision of the Angel, had disappeared; but on her
return to heaven, the Celestial heard the hymn that rose from those that
were saved, and above all the voices, the small sweet silvery voice of
her whose eyes alone were worthy of beholding a Saint Transfigured.

For several hundred years has that farm belonged to the family of the
Logans, nor has son or daughter ever stained the name--while some have
imparted to it, in its humble annals, what well may be called lustre.
Many a time have we stood when a boy, all alone, beginning to be
disturbed by the record of heroic or holy lives, in the kirkyard, beside
the GRAVE OF THE MARTYRS--the grave in which Christian and Hannah Logan,
mother and daughter, were interred. Many a time have we listened to the
story of their deaths, from the lips of one who well knew how to stir
the hearts of the young, till "from their eyes they wiped the tears that
sacred pity had engendered." Nearly a hundred years old was she that
eloquent narrator--the Minister's mother--yet she could hear a whisper,
and read the Bible without spectacles--although we sometimes used to
suspect her of pretending to be reading off the Book, when, in fact, she
was reciting from memory. The old lady often took a walk in the
kirkyard--and being of a pleasant and cheerful nature, though in
religious principle inflexibly austere, many were the most amusing
anecdotes that she related to us and our compeers, all huddled round
her, "where heaved the turf in many a mouldering heap." But the evening
converse was always sure to have a serious termination--and the
venerable matron could not be more willing to tell, than we to hear
again and again, were it for the twentieth repetition, some old tragic
event that gathered a deeper interest from every recital, as if on each
we became better acquainted with the characters of those to whom it had
befallen, till the chasm that time had dug between them and us
disappeared, and we felt for the while that their happiness or misery
and ours were essentially interdependent. At first she used, we well
remember, to fix her solemn spirit-like eyes on our faces, to mark the
different effects her story produced on her hearers; but ere long she
became possessed wholly by the pathos of her own narrative, and with
fluctuating features and earnest action of head and hands poured forth
her eloquence, as if soliloquising among the tombs.

"Ay, ay, my dear boys, that is the grave o' the Martyrs. My father saw
them die. The tide o' the far-ebbed sea was again beginning to flow, but
the sands o' the bay o' death lay sae dry, that there were but few spots
where a bairn could hae wat its feet. Thousands and tens o' thousands
were standing a' roun' the edge of the bay--that was in shape just like
that moon--and then twa stakes were driven deep into the sand, that the
waves o' the returning sea michtna loosen them--and my father, who was
but a boy like ane o' yourselves noo, waes me, didna he see wi' his ain
een Christian Logan, and her wee dochter Hannah, for she was but eleven
years auld--hurried alang by the enemies o' the Lord, and tied to their
accursed stakes within the power o' the sea. He who holds the waters in
the hollow o' his hand, thocht my father, will not suffer them to choke
the prayer within those holy lips--but what kent he o' the dreadfu'
judgments o' the Almighty? Dreadfu' as those judgments seemed to be, o'
a' that crowd o' mortal creatures there were but only twa that drew
their breath without a shudder--and these twa were Christian Logan and
her beautifu' wee dochter Hannah, wi' her rosy cheeks, for they blanched
not in that last extremity, her blue een, and her gowden hair, that
glittered like a star in the darkness o' that dismal day. 'Mother, be
not afraid,' she was heard to say, when the foam o' the first wave broke
about their feet--and just as these words were uttered, all the great
black clouds melted away from the sky, and the sun shone forth in the
firmament like the all-seeing eye of God. The martyrs turned their faces
a little towards one another, for the cords could not wholly hinder
them, and wi' voices as steady and as clear as ever they sang the psalm
within the walls o' that kirk, did they, while the sea was mounting
up--up from knee--waist--breast--neck--chin--lip--sing praises and
thanksgivings unto God. As soon as Hannah's voice was drowned, it seemed
as if her mother, before the water reached her own lips, bowed and gave
up the ghost. While the people were all gazing the heads of both martyrs
disappeared, and nothing then was to be seen on the face o' the waters,
but here and there a bit white breaking wave or silly sea-bird floating
on the flow o' the tide into the bay. Back and back had aye fallen the
people, as the tide was roarin' on wi' a hollow soun'--and now that the
water was high aboon the heads o' the martyrs, what chained that dismal
congregation to the sea-shore? It was the countenance o' a man that had
suddenly come down frae his hiding-place amang the moors--and who now
knew that his wife and daughter were bound to stakes deep down in the
waters o' the very bay that his eyes beheld rolling, and his ears heard
roaring--all the while that there was a God in heaven! Naebody could
speak to him--although they all beseeched their Maker to have
compassion upon him, and not to let his heart break and his reason fail.
'The stakes! the stakes! O Jesus! point out to me, with thy own scarred
hand, the place where my wife and daughter are bound to the stakes--and
I may yet bear them up out of the sand, and bring the bodies ashore--to
be restored to life! O brethren, brethren!--said ye that my Christian
and my Hannah have been for an hour below the sea? And was it from fear
of fifty armed men, that so many thousand fathers and mothers, and sons
and daughters, and brothers and sisters, rescued them not from such
cruel, cruel death?' After uttering mony mair siclike raving words, he
suddenly plunged into the sea, and, being a strong swimmer, was soon far
out into the bay--and led by some desperate instinct to the very place
where the stakes were fixed in the sand. Perfectly resigned had the
martyrs been to their doom--but in the agonies o' that horrible death,
there had been some struggles o' the mortal body, and the weight o' the
waters had borne down the stakes, so that, just as if they had been
lashed to a spar to enable them to escape from shipwreck, baith the
bodies came floatin' to the surface, and his hand grasped, without
knowing it, his ain Hannah's gowden hair--sairly defiled, ye may weel
think, wi' the sand--baith their faces changed frae what they ance were
by the wrench o' death. Father, mother, and daughter came a'thegither to
the shore--and there was a cry went far and wide, up even to the
hiding-places o' the faithfu' among the hags and cleuchs i' the moors,
that the sea had given up the living, and that the martyrs were
triumphant, even in this world, over the powers o' Sin and o' Death.
Yea, they were indeed triumphant;--and well might the faithfu' sing
aloud in the desert, 'O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy
victory?' for these three bodies were but as the weeds on which they lay
stretched out to the pitying gaze of the multitude, but their spirits
had gane to heaven to receive the eternal rewards o' sanctity and

Not a house in all the parish--scarcely excepting Mount Pleasant
itself--all round and about which our heart could in some dreamy hour
raise to life a greater multitude of dear old remembrances, all touching
ourselves, than LOGAN BRAES. The old people, when we first knew them, we
used to think somewhat apt to be surly--for they were Seceders--and
owing to some unavoidable prejudices, which we were at no great pains to
vanquish, we Manse-boys recognised something repulsive in that most
respectable word. Yet for the sake of that sad story of the Martyrs,
there was always something affecting to us in the name of Logan Braes;
and though Beltane was of old a Pagan Festival, celebrated with grave
idolatries round fires ablaze on a thousand hills, yet old Laurence
Logan would sweeten his vinegar aspect on May-day, would wipe out a
score of wrinkles, and calm, as far as that might be, the terrors of his
shaggy eyebrows. A little gentleness of manner goes a long way with such
young folk as we were all then, when it is seen naturally and easily
worn for our sakes, and in sympathy with our accustomed glee, by one who
in his ordinary deportment may have added the austerity of religion to
the venerableness of old age. Smiles from old Laurence Logan, the
Seceder, were like rare sun-glimpses in the gloom--and made the hush of
his house pleasant as a more cheerful place; for through the restraint
laid on reverent youth by feeling akin to fear, the heart ever and anon
bounded with freedom in the smile of the old man's eyes. Plain was his
own apparel--a suit of the hodden-grey. His wife, when in full dress,
did not remind us of a Quakeress, for a Quakeress then had we never
seen--but we often think now, when in company with a still, sensible,
cheerful, and comely-visaged matron of that sect, of her of Logan Braes.
No waster was she of her tears, or her smiles, or her words, or her
money, or her meal--either among those of her own blood, or the stranger
or the beggar that was within her gates. You heard not her foot on the
floor--yet never was she idle--moving about in doors and out, from
morning till night, so placid and so composed, and always at small cost
dressed so decently, so becomingly to one who was not yet old, and had
not forgotten--why should she not remember it?--that she was esteemed in
youth a beauty, and that it was not for want of a richer and younger
lover that she agreed at last to become the wife of the Laird of Logan

Their family consisted of two sons and a niece;--and be thou who thou
mayest that hast so far read our May-day, we doubt not that thine eyes
will glance--however rapidly--over another page, nor fling it
contemptuously aside, because amidst all the chance and change of
administrations, ministries, and ministers in high places, there murmur
along the channels of our memory "the simple annals of the poor," like
unpolluted streams that sweep not by city walls.

Never were two brothers more unlike in all things--in mind, body,
habits, and disposition--than Lawrie and Willie Logan--and we see, as in
a glass, at this very moment, both their images. "Wee Wise Willie"--for
by that name he was known over several parishes--was one of those
extraordinary creatures that one may liken to a rarest plant, which
nature sows here and there--sometimes for ever unregarded--among the
common families of Flowers. Early sickness had been his lot--continued
with scarcely any interruption from his cradle to school-years--so that
not only was his stature stunted, but his whole frame was delicate in
the extreme; and his pale small-featured face, remarkable for large,
soft, down-looking, hazel eyes, dark-lashed in their lustre, had a sweet
feminine character, that corresponded well with his voice, his motions,
and his in-door pursuits--all serene and composed, and interfering with
the outgoings of no other living thing. All sorts of scholarship, such
as the parish schoolmaster knew, he mastered as if by intuition. His
slate was quickly covered with long calculations, by which the most
puzzling questions were solved; and ere he was nine years old, he had
made many pretty mechanical contrivances with wheels and pulleys, that
showed in what direction lay the natural bent of his genius. Languages,
too, the creature seemed to see into with quickest eyes, and with
quickest ears to catch their sounds--so that, at the same tender age, he
might have been called a linguist, sitting with his Greek and Latin
books on a stool beside him by the fireside during the long winter
nights. All the neighbours who had any books, cheerfully lent them to
"Wee Wise Willie," and the Manse-boys gave him many a supply. At the
head of every class he, of course, was found--but no ambition had he to
be there; and like a bee that works among many thousand others on the
clover-lea, heedless of their murmurs, and intent wholly on its own
fragrant toil, did he go from task to task--although that was no fitting
name for the studious creature's meditations on all he read or
wrought--no more a task for him to grow in knowledge and in thought,
than for a lily of the field to lift up its head towards the sun. That
child's religion was like all the other parts of his character--as prone
to tears as that of other children, when they read of the Divine Friend
dying for them on the cross; but it was profounder far than theirs, when
it shed no tears, and only made the paleness of his countenance more
like that which we imagine to be the paleness of a phantom. No one ever
saw him angry, complaining, or displeased; for angelical indeed was his
temper, purified, like gold in fire, by suffering. He shunned not the
company of other children, but loved all, as by them all he was more
than beloved. In few of their plays could he take an active share; but
sitting a little way off, still attached to the merry brotherhood,
though in their society he had no part to enact, he read his book on the
knoll, or, happy dreamer, sunk away among the visions of his own
thoughts. There was poetry in that child's spirit, but it was too
essentially blended with his whole happiness in life, often to be
embodied in written words. A few compositions were found in his own
small beautiful handwriting after his death--hymns and psalms. Prayers,
too, had his heart indited--but they were not in measured
language--framed, in his devout simplicity, on the model of our Lord's.
How many hundred times have we formed a circle round him in the
gloaming, all sitting or lying on the greensward, before the dews had
begun to descend, listening to his tales and stories of holy or heroic
men and women, who had been greatly good and glorious in the days of
old! Not unendeared to his imagination were the patriots, who, living
and dying, loved the liberties of the land--Tell--Bruce--or Wallace, he
in whose immortal name a thousand rocks rejoice, while many a wood bears
it on its summits as they are swinging to the storm. Weak as a reed that
is shaken in the wind, or the stalk of a flower that tremblingly
sustains its blossoms beneath the dews that feed their transitory
lustre, was he whose lips were so eloquent to read the eulogies of
mighty men of war riding mailed through bloody battles. What matters it
that this frame of dust be frail, and of tiny size--still may it be the
tenement of a lordly spirit. But high as such warfare was, it satisfied
not that thoughtful child--for other warfare there was to read of, which
was to him a far deeper and more divine delight--the warfare waged by
good men against the legions of sin, and closed triumphantly in the eye
of God--let this world deem as it will--on obscurest death-beds, or at
the stake, or on the scaffold, where a profounder even than Sabbath
silence glorifies the martyr far beyond any shout that from the immense
multitude would have torn the concave of the heavens.

What a contrast to that creature was his elder brother! Lawrie was
eighteen years old when first we visited Logan Braes, and was a perfect
hero in strength and stature--Bob Howie alone his equal--but Bob was
then in the West Indies. In the afternoons, after his work was over in
the fields or in the barn, he had pleasure in getting us Manse-boys to
accompany him to the Moor-Lochs for an hour's angling or two in the
evening, when the large trouts came to the gravelly shallows, and, as we
waded mid-leg deep, would sometimes take the fly among our very feet. Or
he would go with us into the heart of the great wood, to show us where
the foxes had their earths--the party being sometimes so fortunate as to
see the cubs disporting at the mouth of the briery aperture in the
strong and root-bound soil. Or we followed him, so far as he thought it
safe for us to do so, up the foundations of the castle, and in fear and
wonder that no repetition of the adventurous feat ever diminished, saw
him take the young starling from the crevice beneath the tuft of
wall-flowers. What was there of the bold and daring that Lawrie Logan
was not, in our belief, able to perform? We were all several years
younger--boys from nine to fifteen--and he had shot up into sudden
manhood--not only into its shape but its strength--yet still the boyish
spirit was fresh within him, and he never wearied of us in such
excursions. The minister had a good opinion of his principles, knowing
how he had been brought up, and did not discountenance his visits to the
Manse, nor ours to Logan Braes. Then what danger could we be in, go
where we might, with one who had more than once shown how eager he was
to risk his own life when that of another was in jeopardy? Generous and
fearless youth! To thee we owed our own life--although seldom is that
rescue now remembered--(for what will not in this turmoiling world be
forgotten?) when in pride of the newly-acquired art of swimming, we had
ventured--with our clothes on too--some ten yards into the Brother-Loch,
to disentangle our line from the water-lilies. It seemed that a hundred
cords had got entangled round our legs, and our heart quaked too
desperately to suffer us to shriek--but Lawrie Logan had his hand on us
in a minute, and brought us to shore as easily as a Newfoundland dog
lands a bit of floating wood.

But that was a momentary danger, and Lawrie Logan ran but small risk,
you will say, in saving us; so let us not extol that instance of his
intrepidity. But fancy to yourself, gentle reader, the hideous mouth of
an old coal-pit, that had not been worked for time immemorial, overgrown
with thorns, and briers, and brackens, but still visible from a small
mount above it, for some yards down its throat--the very throat of death
and perdition. But can you fancy also the childish and superstitious
terror with which we all regarded that coal-pit, for it was said to be a
hundred fathom deep--with water at the bottom--so that you had to wait
for many moments--almost a minute--before you heard a stone, first
beating against its sides--from one to the other--plunge at last into
the pool profound. In that very field, too, a murder had been
perpetrated, and the woman's corpse flung by her sweetheart into that
coal-pit. One day some unaccountable impulse had led a band of us into
that interdicted field--which we remember was not arable--but said to be
a place where a hare was always sure to be found sitting among the
binweeds and thistles. A sort of thrilling horror urged us on closer and
closer to the mouth of the pit--when Wee Wise Willie's foot slipping on
the brae, he bounded with inexplicable force along--in among the thorns,
briers, and brackens--through the whole hanging mat, and without a
shriek, down--down--down into destruction. We all saw it happen--every
one of us--and it is scarcely too much to say, that we were for a while
all mad with horror. Yet we felt ourselves borne back instinctively from
the horrible pit--and as aid we could give none, we listened if we could
hear any cry--but there was none--and we all flew together out of the
dreadful field, and again collecting ourselves together, feared to
separate on the different roads to our homes. "Oh! can it be that our
Wee Wise Willie has this moment died sic a death--and no a single ane
amang us a' greetin for his sake?" said one of us aloud; and then indeed
did we burst out into rueful sobbing, and ask one another who could
carry such tidings to Logan Braes? All at once we heard a clear, rich,
mellow whistle as of a blackbird--and there with his favourite collie,
searching for a stray lamb among the knolls, was Lawrie Logan, who
hailed us with a laughing voice, and then asked us, "Where is Wee
Willie?--hae ye flung him like another Joseph into the pit?" The
consternation of our faces could not be misunderstood--whether we told
him or not what had happened we do not know--but he staggered, as if he
would have fallen down--and then ran off with amazing speed--not towards
Logan Braes--but the village. We continued helplessly to wander about
back and forwards along the near edge of a wood, when we beheld a
multitude of people rapidly advancing, and in a few minutes they
surrounded the mouth of the pit. It was about the very end of the
hay-harvest--and many ropes that had been employed that very day in the
leading of the hay of the Landlord of the Inn, who was also an extensive
farmer, were tied together to the length of at least twenty fathom. Hope
was quite dead--but her work is often done by Despair. For a while there
was confusion all round the pit-mouth, but with a white fixed face and
glaring eyes, Lawrie Logan advanced to the very brink, with the rope
bound in many firm folds around him, and immediately behind him stood
his grey-headed father, unbonneted, just as he had risen from a prayer.
"Is't my ain father that's gaun to help me to gang doun to bring up
Willie's body? O! merciful God, what a judgment is this!
Father--father--Oh! lie doun at some distance awa frae the sicht o' this
place. Robin Alison, and Gabriel Strang, and John Borland 'ill haud the
ropes firm and safe. O, father--father--lie doun, a bit apart frae the
crowd; and have mercy upon him--O thou, great God, have mercy upon him!"
But the old man kept his place; and the only one son who now survived to
him disappeared within the jaws of the same murderous pit, and was
lowered slowly down, nearer and nearer to his little brother's corpse.
They had spoken to him of foul air, of which to breathe is death, but he
had taken his resolution, and not another word had been said to shake
it. And now, for a short time, there was no weight at the line, except
that of its own length. It was plain that he had reached the bottom of
the pit. Silent was all that congregation, as if assembled in divine
worship. Again, there was a weight at the rope, and in a minute or two,
a voice was heard far down the pit that spread a sort of wild
hope--else, why should it have spoken at all--and lo! the child--not
like one of the dead--clasped in the arms of his brother, who was all
covered with dust and blood. "Fall down on your knees--in the face o'
heaven, and sing praises to God, for my brother is yet alive!"

During that Psalm, father, mother, and both their sons--the rescuer and
the rescued--and their sweet cousin too, Annie Raeburn, the orphan, were
lying embraced in speechless--almost senseless trances; for the agony of
such a deliverance was more than could well by mortal creatures be

The child himself was the first to tell how his life had been
miraculously saved. A few shrubs had for many years been growing out of
the inside of the pit, almost as far down as the light could reach, and
among them had he been entangled in his descent, and held fast. For
days, and weeks, and months, after that deliverance, few persons visited
Logan Braes, for it was thought that old Laurence's brain had received a
shock from which it might never recover; but the trouble that tried him
subsided, and the inside of the house was again quiet as before, and its
hospitable door open to all the neighbours.

Never forgetful of his primal duties had been that bold youth--but too
apt to forget the many smaller ones that are wrapt round a life of
poverty like invisible threads, and that cannot be broken violently or
carelessly, without endangering the calm consistency of all its
ongoings, and ultimately causing perhaps great losses, errors, and
distress. He did not keep evil society--but neither did he shun it: and
having a pride in feats of strength and activity, as was natural to a
stripling whose corporeal faculties could not be excelled, he frequented
all meetings where he was likely to fall in with worthy competitors, and
in such trials of power, by degrees acquired a character for
recklessness, and even violence, of which prudent men prognosticated
evil, and that sorely disturbed his parents, who were, in their quiet
retreat, lovers of all peace. With what wonder and admiration did all
the Manse-boys witness and hear reported the feats of Lawrie Logan! It
was he who, in pugilistic combat, first vanquished Black King Carey the
Egyptian, who travelled the country with two wives and a waggon of
Staffordshire pottery, and had struck the "Yokel," as he called Lawrie,
in the midst of all the tents on Leddrie Green, at the great annual
Baldernoch fair. Six times did the bare and bronzed Egyptian bite the
dust--nor did Lawrie Logan always stand against the blows of one whose
provincial fame was high in England, as the head of the Rough-and-Ready
School. Even now--as in an ugly dream--we see the combatants alternately
prostrate, and returning to the encounter, covered with mire and blood.
All the women left the Green, and the old men shook their heads at such
unchristian work; but Lawrie Logan did not want backers in the shepherds
and the ploughmen, to see fair play against all the attempts of the
Showmen and the Newcastle horse-cowpers, who laid their money thick on
the King; till a right-hander in the pit of the stomach, which had
nearly been the gypsy's everlasting quietus, gave the victory to Lawrie,
amid acclamations that would have fitlier graced a triumph in a better
cause. But that day was an evil day to all at Logan Braes. A recruiting
sergeant got Lawrie into the tent, over which floated the colours of the
42d Regiment, and in the intoxication of victory, whisky, and the
bagpipe, the young champion was as fairly enlisted into his Majesty's
service, as ever young girl, without almost knowing it, was married at
Gretna Green; and as the 42d were under orders to sail in a week, gold
could not have bought off such a man, and Lawrie Logan went on board a

Logan Braes was not the same place--indeed, the whole parish seemed
altered--after Lawrie was gone, and our visits were thenceforth anything
but cheerful ones, going by turns to inquire for Willie, who seemed to
be pining away--not in any deadly disease, but just as if he himself
knew, that without ailing much he was not to be a long liver. Yet nearly
two years passed on, and all that time the principle of life had seemed
like a flickering flame within him, that when you think it expiring or
expired, streams up again with surprising brightness, and continues to
glimmer even steadily with a protracted light. Every week--nay, almost
every day, they feared to lose him--yet there he still was at morning
and evening prayers. The third spring after the loss of his brother was
remarkably mild, and breathing with west-winds that came softened over
many woody miles from the sea. He seemed stronger, and more cheerful,
and expressed a wish that the Manse-boys, and some others of his
companions, would come to Logan Braes, and once again celebrate May-day.
There we all sat at the long table, and both parents did their best to
look cheerful during the feast. Indeed, all that had once been harsh and
forbidding in the old man's looks and manners, was now softened down by
the perpetual yearnings at his heart towards "the distant far and absent
long," nor less towards him that peaceful and pious child, whom every
hour he saw, or thought he saw, awaiting a call from the eternal voice.
Although sometimes sadness fell across us like a shadow, yet the hours
passed on as May-day hours should do; and what with our many-toned talk
and laughter, the cooing of the pigeons on the roof, and the twittering
of the swallows beneath the eaves, and the lark-songs ringing like
silver bells over all the heavens, it seemed a day that ought to bring
good tidings--or, the Soldier himself returning from the wars to bless
the eyes of his parents once more, so that they might die in peace.
"Heaven hold us in its keeping, for there's his wraith!" ejaculated
Annie Raeburn. "It passed before the window, and my Lawrie, I now know,
is with the dead!"--Bending his stately head beneath the lintel of the
door, in the dress, and with the bearing of a soldier, Lawrie Logan
stepped again across his father's threshold, and, ere he well uttered
"God be with you all!" Willie was within his arms, and on his bosom. His
father and his mother rose not from their chairs, but sat still, with
faces like ashes. But we boys could not resist our joy, and shouted his
name aloud--while Luath, from his sleep in the corner, leapt on his
master breast-high, and whining his dumb delight, frisked round him as
of yore, when impatient to snuff the dawn on the hill-side. "Let us go
out and play," said a boy's voice, and issuing somewhat seriously into
the sunshine, we left the family within to themselves, and then walked
away, without speaking, down to the Bridge.

After the lapse of an hour or more, and while we were all considering
whether or no we should return to the house, the figure of Annie Raeburn
was seen coming down the brae towards the party, in a way very unlike
her usual staid and quiet demeanour, and stopping at some distance, to
beckon with her hand more particularly, it was thought, on ourselves, as
we stood a few yards apart from the rest. "Willie is worse," were the
only words she said, as we hastened back together; and on entering the
room, we found the old man uncertainly pacing the floor by himself, but
with a composed countenance. "He expressed a wish to see you--but he is
gone!" We followed into Willie's small bedroom and study, and beheld him
already _laid out_, and his mother sitting as calmly beside him as if
she were watching his sleep. "Sab not sae sair, Lawrie--God was gracious
to let him live to this day, that he micht dee in his brither's arms."

The sun has mounted high in heaven, while thus we have been dreaming
away the hours--a dozen miles at least have we slowly wandered over,
since morning, along pleasant by-paths, where never dust lay, or from
gate to gate of pathless enclosures, a trespasser fearless of those
threatening nonentities, spring-guns. There is the turnpike road--the
great north and south road--for it is either the one or the other,
according to the airt towards which you, choose to turn your face.
Behold a little WAYSIDE INN, neatly thatched, and with white-washed
front, and sign-board hanging from a tree, on which are painted the
figures of two jolly gentlemen, one in kilts and the other in breeches,
shaking hands cautiously across a running brook. The meal of all meals
is a paulopost-meridian breakfast. The rosiness of the combs of these
strapping hens is good augury;--hark, a cackle from the barn--another
egg is laid--and chanticleer, stretching himself up on claw-tip, and
clapping his wings of the bonny beaten gold, crows aloud to his sultana
till the welkin rings. "Turn to the left, sir, if you please," quoth a
comely matron; and we find ourselves snugly seated in an arm-chair, not
wearied, but to rest willing, while the clock ticks pleasantly, and we
take no note of time but by its gain; for here is our journal, in which
we shall put down a few jottings for MAY-DAY. Three boiled eggs--one to
each penny-roll--are sufficient, under any circumstances, along with the
same number fried with mutton ham, for the breakfast of a Gentleman and
a Tory. Nor do we remember--when tea-cups have been on a proper scale,
ever to have wished to go beyond the Golden Rule of Three. In politics,
we confess that we are rather ultra; but in all things else we love
moderation. "Come in, my bonny little lassie--ye needna keep keekin in
that gate fra ahint the door"--and in a few minutes the curly-pated
prattler is murmuring on our knee. The sonsy wife, well-pleased with
the sight, and knowing from our kindness to children, that we are on the
same side of politics with her gudeman--Ex-sergeant in the Black Watch,
and once Orderly to Garth himself--brings out her ain bottle from the
spence--a hollow square, and green as emerald. Bless the gurgle of its
honest mouth! With prim lips mine hostess kisses the glass, previously
letting fall a not inelegant curtsy--for she had, we now learned, been a
lady's maid in her youth to one who is indeed a lady, all the time her
lover was abroad in the army, in Egypt, Ireland, and the West Indies,
and Malta, and Guernsey, Sicily, Portugal, Holland, and, we think she
said, Corfu. One of the children has been sent to the field, where her
husband is sowing barley, to tell him that there is fear lest dinner
cool; and the mistress now draws herself up in pride of his noble
appearance, as the stately Highlander salutes us with the respectful but
bold air of one who has seen some service at home and abroad. Never knew
we a man make other than a good bow, who had partaken freely in a charge
of bayonets.

Shenstone's lines about always meeting the warmest welcome in an inn,
are very natural and tender--as most of his compositions are, when he
was at all in earnest. For our own part, we cannot complain of ever
meeting any other welcome than a warm one, go where we may; for we are
not obtrusive, and where we are not either liked, or loved, or esteemed,
or admired (that last is a strong word, yet we all have our admirers),
we are exceeding chary of the light of our countenance. But at an inn,
the only kind of welcome that is indispensable, is a civil one. When
that is not forthcoming, we shake the dust, or the dirt, off our feet,
and pursue our journey, well assured that a few milestones will bring us
to a humaner roof. Incivility and surliness have occasionally given us
opportunities of beholding rare celestial phenomena--meteors--falling
and shooting stars--the Aurora Borealis, in her shifting
splendours--haloes round the moon, variously bright as the
rainbow--electrical arches forming themselves on the sky in a manner so
wondrously beautiful, that we should be sorry to hear them accounted for
by philosophers--one-half of the horizon blue, and without a cloud, and
the other driving tempestuously like the sea-foam, with waves
mountain-high--and divinest show of all for a solitary night-wandering
man, who has anything of a soul at all, far and wide, and high up into
the gracious heavens, Planets and Stars all burning as if their urns
were newly fed with light, not twinkling as they do in a dewy or a
vapoury night, although then, too, are the softened or veiled luminaries
beautiful--but large, full, and free over the whole firmament--a galaxy
of shining and unanswerable arguments in proof of the Immortality of the

The whole world is improving; nor can there be a pleasanter proof of
that than this very wayside inn--ycleped the SALUTATION. What a
miserable pot-house it was long ago, with a rusty-hinged door, that
would neither open nor shut--neither let you out nor in--immovable and
intractable to foot or hand--or all at once, when you least expected it
to yield, slamming to with a bang; a constant puddle in front during
rainy weather, and heaped up dust in dry--roof partly thatched, partly
slated, partly tiled, and partly open to the elements, with its naked
rafters. Broken windows repaired with an old petticoat, or a still older
pair of breeches, and walls that had always been plastered and better
plastered and worse plastered, in frosty weather--all labour in vain, as
crumbling patches told, and variegated streaks, and stains of dismal
ochre, meanest of all colours, and still symptomatic of want,
mismanagement, bankruptcy, and perpetual flittings from a tenement that
was never known to have paid any rent. Then what a pair of drunkards
were old Saunders and his spouse! Yet never once were they seen drunk on
a Sabbath or a fast-day--regular kirk-goers, and attentive observers of
ordinances. They had not very many children, yet, pass the door when you
might, you were sure to hear a squall or a shriek, or the ban of the
mother, or the smacking of the palm of the hand on the part of the enemy
easiest of access; or you saw one of the ragged fiends pursued by a
parent round the corner, and brought back by the hair of the head till
its eyes were like those of a Chinese. Now, what decency--what
neatness--what order--in this household--this private public! into which
customers step like neighbours on a visit, and are served with a
heartiness and goodwill that deserve the name of hospitality, for they
are gratuitous, and can only be repaid in kind. A limited prospect does
that latticed window command--and the small panes cut objects into too
many parts--little more than the breadth of the turnpike road, and a
hundred yards of the same, to the north and to the south, with a few
budding hedgerows, half-a-dozen trees, and some green braes. Yet could
we sit and moralise, and intellectualise, for hours at this window, nor
hear the striking clock.

There trips by a blooming maiden of middle degree, all alone--the more's
the pity--yet perfectly happy in her own society, and one we venture to
say who never received a love-letter, valentines excepted, in all her
innocent days.--A fat man sitting by himself in a gig! somewhat red in
the face, as if he had dined early, and not so sure of the road as his
horse, who has drunk nothing but a single pailful of water, and is
anxious to get to town that he may be rubbed down, and see oats once
more.--Scamper away, ye joyous schoolboys, and, for your sake, may that
cloud breathe forth rain and breeze, before you reach the burn, which
you seem to fear may run dry before you can see the Pool where the
two-pounders lie.--Methinks we know that old woman, and of the first
novel we write she shall be the heroine.--Ha! a brilliant bevy of
mounted maidens, in riding-habits, and Spanish hats, with "swaling
feathers"--sisters, it is easy to see, and daughters of one whom we
either loved, or thought we loved; but now they say she is fat and
vulgar, is the devil's own scold, and makes her servants and her husband
lead the lives of slaves. All that we can say is, that once on a time it
was _tout une autre chose_; for a smaller foot, a slimmer ankle, a more
delicate waist, arms more lovely, reposing in their gracefulness beneath
her bosom, tresses of brighter and more burnished auburn--such starlike
eyes, thrilling without seeking to reach the soul--But phoo! phoo! phoo!
she married a jolter-headed squire with two thousand acres, and, in
self-defence, has grown fat, vulgar, and a scold.--There is a Head for a
painter! and what perfect peace and placidity all over the Blind Man's
countenance! He is not a beggar although he lives on alms--those
sightless orbs ask not for charity, nor yet those withered hands, as,
staff-supported, he stops at the kind voice of the traveller, and tells
his story in a few words. On the ancient Dervise moves, with his long
silvery hair, journeying contentedly in darkness towards the eternal
light.--A gang of gypsies! with their numerous assery laden with
horn-spoons, pots, and pans, and black-eyed children. We should not be
surprised to read some day in the newspapers, that the villain who leads
the van had been executed for burglary, arson, and murder. That is the
misfortune of having a bad physiognomy, a sidelong look, a scarred
cheek, and a cruel grin about the muscles of the mouth; to say nothing
about rusty hair protruding through the holes of a brown hat, not made
for the wearer--long, sinewy arms, all of one thickness, terminating in
huge, hairy, horny hands, chiefly knuckles and nails--a shambling gait,
notwithstanding that his legs are finely proportioned, as if the night
prowler were cautious not to be heard by the sleeping house, nor to
awaken--so noiseless his stealthy advances--the unchained mastiff in his

But, hark! the spirit-stirring music of fife and drum! A whole regiment
of soldiers on their march to replace another whole regiment of
soldiers--and that is as much as we can be expected to know about their
movements. Food for the cannon's mouth; but the maw of war has been
gorged and satiated, and the glittering soap-bubbles of reputation,
blown by windy-cheeked Fame from the bole of her pipe, have all burst as
they have been clutched by the hands of tall fellows in red raiment, and
with feathers on their heads, just before going to lie down on what is
called the bed of honour. Melancholy indeed to think, that all these
fine, fierce, ferocious, fire-eaters are doomed, but for some
unlooked-for revolution in the affairs of Europe and the world, to die
in their beds! Yet there is some comfort in thinking of the composition
of a Company of brave defenders of their country. It is, we shall
suppose, Seventy strong. Well, jot down three ploughmen, genuine
clodhoppers, chaw-bacons _sans peur et sans reproche_, except that the
overseers of the parish were upon them with orders of affiliation; add
one shepherd, who made contradictory statements about the number of the
spring lambs, and in whose house had been found during winter certain
fleeces, for which no ingenuity could account; a laird's son, long known
by the name of the Neerdoweel; a Man of tailors, forced to accept the
bounty-money during a protracted strike--not dungs they, but flints all
the nine; a barber, like many a son of genius, ruined by his wit, and
who, after being driven from pole to pole, found refuge in the army at
last; a bankrupt butcher, once a bully, and now a poltroon; two of the
Seven Young Men--all that now survive--impatient of the drudgery of the
compting-house, and the injustice of the age--but they, we believe, are
in the band--the triangle and the serpent; twelve cotton-spinners at the
least; six weavers of woollens; a couple of colliers from the bowels of
the earth; and a score of miscellaneous rabble--flunkies long out of
place, and unable to live on their liveries--felons acquitted, or that
have dreed their punishment--picked men from the shilling galleries of
playhouses--and the élite of the refuse and sweepings of the jails. Look
how all the rogues and reprobates march like one man! Alas! was it of
such materials that our conquering army was made?--were such the heroes
of Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria, and Waterloo?

Why not, and what then? Heroes are but men after all. Men, as men go,
are the materials of which heroes are made; and recruits in three years
ripen into veterans. Cowardice in one campaign is disciplined into
courage, fear into valour. In presence of the enemy, pickpockets become
patriots--members of the swell mob volunteer on forlorn hopes, and step
out from the ranks to head the storm. Lord bless you! have you not
studied sympathy and _l'esprit de corps_? An army fifty thousand strong
consists, we shall suppose, in equal portions of saints and sinners; and
saints and sinners are all English, Irish, Scottish. What wonder, then,
that they drive all resistance to the devil, and go on from victory to
victory, keeping all the cathedrals and churches in England hard at work
with all their organs, from Christmas to Christmas, blowing _Te Deum?_
You must not be permitted too curiously to analyse the composition of
the British army or the British navy. Look at them, think of them as
Wholes, with Nelson or Wellington the head, and in one slump pray God to
bless the defenders of the throne, the hearth, and the altar.

The baggage-waggons halt, and some refreshment is sent for to the women
and children. Ay, creatures not far advanced in their teens are there--a
year or two ago, at school or service, happy as the day was long, now
mothers, with babies at their breasts--happy still perhaps; but that
pretty face is woefully wan--that hair did not use to be so
dishevelled--and bony, and clammy, and blue-veined is the hand that lay
so white, and warm, and smooth in the grasp of the seducer.

Yet she thinks she is his wife; and, in truth, there is a ring on her
marriage-finger. But, should the regiment embark, so many women, and no
more, are suffered to go with a company; and, should one of the lots not
fall on her, she may take of her husband an everlasting farewell.

The Highflier Coach! carrying six in, and twelve outsides--driver and
guard excluded--rate of motion eleven miles an hour, with stoppages.
Why, in the name of Heaven, are all people nowadays in such haste and
hurry? Is it absolutely necessary that one and all of this dozen and a
half Protestants and Catholics--alike anxious for emancipation--should
be at a particular place, at one particular moment of time out of the
twenty-four hours given to man for motion and for rest? Confident are we
that that obese elderly gentleman beside the coachman--whose ample
rotundity is encased in that antique and almost obsolete invention, a
spenser--needed not to have been so carried in a whirlwind to his
comfortable home. Scarcely is there time for pity as we behold an honest
man's wife, pale as putty in the face at a tremendous swing, or lounge,
or lurch of the Highflier, holding like grim death to the balustrades.
But umbrellas, parasols, plaids, shawls, bonnets, and great-coats with
as many necks as Hydra--the Pile of Life has disappeared in a cloud of
dust, and the faint bugle tells that already it has spun and reeled
onwards a mile on its destination.

But here comes a vehicle at a more rational pace. Mercy on us--a hearse
and six horses returning leisurely from a funeral! Not improbable that
the person who has just quitted it, had never, till he was a corpse, got
higher than a single-horse Chay--yet no fewer than half-a-dozen hackneys
must be hired for his dust. But clear the way! "Hurra! hurra! he rides a
race, 'tis for a 'thousand pound!" Another, and another, and
another--all working away with legs and knees, arms and shoulders, on
cart-horses in the Brooze--the Brooze! The hearse-horses take no sort of
notice of the cavalry of cart and plough, but each in turn keeps its
snorting nostrils deep plunged in the pail of meal and water--for well
may they be thirsty--the kirkyard being far among the hills, and the
roads not yet civilised. "May I ask, friend," addressing ourself to the
hearseman, "whom you have had inside?" "Only Dr Sandilands, sir--if you
are going my way, you may have a lift for a dram!" We had always
thought there was a superstition in Scotland against marrying in the
month of May; but it appears that people are wedded and bedded in that
month too--some in warm sheets--and some in cold--cold--cold--dripping
damp as the grave.

But we must up, and off. Not many gentlemen's houses in the parish--that
is to say, old family seats; for of modern villas, or boxes, inhabited
by persons imagining themselves gentlemen, and, for anything we know to
the contrary, not wholly deceived in that belief, there is rather too
great an abundance. Four family seats, however, there certainly are, of
sufficient antiquity to please a lover of the olden time; and of those
four, the one which we used to love best to look at was--THE MAINS. No
need to describe it in many words. A Hall on a river-side, embosomed in
woods--holms and meadows winding away in front, with their low thick
hedgerows and stately single trees--on--on--on--as far as the eye can
reach, a crowd of grove-tops--elms chiefly, or beeches--and a beautiful
boundary of blue hills. "Good-day, Sergeant Stewart! farewell,
Ma'am--farewell!" And in half an hour we are sitting in the moss-house
at the edge of the outer garden, and gazing up at the many-windowed grey
walls of the MAINS, and its high steep-ridged roof, discoloured by the
weather-stains of centuries. "The taxes on such a house," quod Sergeant
Stewart, "are of themselves enough to ruin a man of moderate fortune--so
the Mains, sir, has been uninhabited for a good many years." But he had
been speaking to one who knew far more about the Mains than he could
do--and who was not sorry that the Old Place was allowed to stand,
undisturbed by any rich upstart, in the venerable silence of its own
decay. And this is the moss-house that we helped to build with our own
hands, at least to hang the lichen tapestry, and stud the cornice with
shells! We were one of the paviers of that pebbled floor--and that
bright scintillating piece of spar, the centre of the circle, came all
the way from Derbyshire in the knapsack of a geologist, who died a
Professor. It is strange the roof has not fallen in long ago; but what a
slight ligature will often hold together a heap of ruins from tumbling
into nothing! The old moss-house, though somewhat decrepit, is alive;
and, if these swallows don't take care, they will be stunning themselves
against our face, jerking out and in, through door and window, twenty
times in a minute. Yet with all that twittering of swallows--and with
all that frequent crowing of a cock--and all that cawing of rooks--and
cooing of doves--and lowing of cattle along the holms--and bleating of
lambs along the braes--it is nevertheless a pensive place; and here sit
we like a hermit, world-sick, and to be revived only by hearkening in
the solitude to the voices of other years.

What more mournful thought than that of a Decayed Family--a high-born
race gradually worn out, and finally ceasing to be! The remote ancestors
of this House were famous men of war--then some no less famous
statesmen--then poets and historians--then minds still of fine, but of
less energetic mould--and last of all, the mystery of madness breaking
suddenly forth from spirits that seemed to have been especially formed
for profoundest peace. There were three sons and two daughters,
undegenerate from the ancient stateliness of the race--the oldest on his
approach to manhood erect as the young cedar, that seems conscious of
being destined one day to be the tallest tree in the woods. The
twin-sisters were ladies indeed! Lovely as often are the low-born, no
maiden ever stepped from her native cottage-door, even in a poet's
dream, with such an air as that with which those fair beings walked
along their saloons and lawns. Their beauty no one could at all
describe--and no one beheld it who did not say that it transcended all
that imagination had been able to picture of angelic and divine. As the
sisters were, so were the brothers--distinguished above all their mates
conspicuously, and beyond all possibility of mistake; so that strangers
could single them out at once as the heirs of beauty, that, according to
veritable pictures and true traditions, had been an unalienable gift
from nature to that family ever since it bore the name. For the last
three generations none of that house had ever reached even the meridian
of life--and those of whom we now speak had from childhood been orphans.
Yet how joyous and free were they one and all, and how often from this
cell did evening hear their holy harmonies, as the Five united together
with voice, harp, and dulcimer, till the stars themselves rejoiced!--One
morning, Louisa, who loved the dewy dawn, was met bewildered in her
mind, and perfectly astray--with no symptom of having been suddenly
alarmed or terrified--but with an unrecognising smile, and eyes scarcely
changed in their expression, although they knew not--but rarely--on whom
they looked. It was but a few months till she died--and Adelaide was
laughing carelessly on her sister's funeral day--and asked why mourning
should be worn at a marriage, and a plumed hearse sent to take away the
bride. Fairest of God's creatures! can it be that thou art still alive?
Not with cherubs smiling round thy knees--not walking in the free realms
of earth and heaven with thy husband--the noble youth, who loved thee
from thy childhood when himself a child; but oh! that such misery can be
beneath the sun--shut up in some narrow cell perhaps--no one knows
where--whether in this thy native kingdom, or in some foreign land--with
those hands manacled--a demon-light in eyes once most angelical--and
ringing through undistinguishable days and nights imaginary shriekings
and yellings in thy poor distracted brain!--Down went the ship with all
her crew in which Percy sailed;--the sabre must have been in the hand of
a skilful swordsman that in one of the Spanish battles hewed Sholto
down; and the gentle Richard, whose soul--while he possessed it
clearly--was for ever among the sacred books, although too long he was
as a star vainly sought for in a cloudy region, yet did for a short time
starlike reappear--and on his death-bed he knew us, and the other mortal
creatures weeping beside him, and that there was One who died to save

Let us away--let us away from this overpowering place--and make our
escape from such unendurable sadness. Is this fit celebration of merry
May-day? Is this the spirit in which we ought to look over the bosom of
the earth, all teeming with buds and flowers just as man's heart should
be teeming--and why not ours--with hopes and joys? Yet beautiful as this
May-day is--and all the country round which it so tenderly illumines, we
came not hither, a solitary pilgrim from our distant home, to indulge
ourself in a joyful happiness. No, hither came we purposely to mourn
among the scenes which in boyhood we seldom beheld through tears. And
therefore have we chosen the gayest day of all the year, when all life
is rejoicing, from the grasshopper among our feet to the lark in the
cloud. Melancholy, and not mirth, doth he hope to find, who after a
life of wandering--and maybe not without sorrow--comes back to gaze on
the banks and braes whereon, to his eyes, once grew the flowers of
Paradise. Flowers of Paradise are ye still--for, praise be to Heaven!
the sense of beauty is still strong within us--and methinks we could
feel the beauty of this scene though our heart were broken.



We have often exposed the narrowness and weakness of that dogma, so
pertinaciously adhered to by persons of cold hearts and limited
understandings, that Religion is not a fit theme for poetical genius,
and that Sacred Poetry is beyond the powers of uninspired man. We do not
know that the grounds on which that dogma stands have ever been formally
stated by any writer but Samuel Johnson; and therefore with all respect,
nay, veneration, for his memory, we shall now shortly examine his
statement, which, though, as we think, altogether unsatisfactory and
sophistical, is yet a splendid specimen of false reasoning, and
therefore worthy of being exposed and overthrown. Dr Johnson was not
often utterly wrong in his mature and considerate judgments respecting
any subject of paramount importance to the virtue and happiness of
mankind. He was a good and wise being; but sometimes he did grievously
err; and never more so than in his vain endeavour to exclude from the
province of poetry its noblest, highest, and holiest domain. Shut the
gates of Heaven against Poetry, and her flights along this earth will be
feebler and lower,--her wings clogged and heavy by the attraction of
matter,--and her voice--like that of the caged lark, so different from
its hymning when lost to sight in the sky--will fail to call forth the
deepest responses from the sanctuary of our spirit.

"Let no pious ear be offended," says Johnson, "if I advance, in
opposition to many authorities, that poetical devotion cannot often
please. The doctrines of religion may indeed be defended in a didactic
poem; and he who has the happy power of arguing in verse, will not lose
it because his subject is sacred. A poet may describe the beauty and the
grandeur of nature, the flowers of spring and the harvests of autumn,
the vicissitudes of the tide and the revolutions of the sky, and praise
his Maker in lines which no reader shall lay aside. The subject of the
disputation is not piety, but the motives to piety; that of the
description is not God, but the works of God. Contemplative piety, or
the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical. Man
admitted to implore the mercy of his Creator, and plead the merits of
his Reedemer, is already in a higher state than poetry can confer.

"The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing
something unexpected, surprises and delights. The topics of devotion are
few, and being few are universally known: but few as they are, they can
be made no more; they can receive no grace from novelty of sentiment,
and very little from novelty of expression. Poetry pleases by exhibiting
an idea more grateful in the mind than things themselves afford. This
effect proceeds from the display of those parts of nature which attract,
and the concealment of those that repel, the imagination; but religion
must be shown as it is; suppression and addition equally corrupt it; and
such as it is, it is known already. From poetry the reader justly
expects, and from good poetry always obtains, the enlargement of his
comprehension and the elevation of his fancy; but this is rarely to be
hoped by Christians from metrical devotion. Whatever is great,
desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name of the Supreme Being.
Omnipotence cannot be exalted; Infinity cannot be amplified; Perfection
cannot be improved.

"The employments of pious meditation are _faith_, _thanksgiving_,
_repentance_, and _supplication_. Faith, invariably uniform, cannot be
invested by fancy with decorations. Thanksgiving, though the most joyful
of all holy effusions, yet addressed to a Being without passions, is
confined to a few modes, and is to be felt rather than expressed.
Repentance, trembling in the presence of the Judge, is not at leisure
for cadences and epithets. Supplication to man may diffuse itself
through many topics of persuasion; but supplication to God can only cry
for mercy.

"Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that the most simple
expression is the most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its power,
because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than
itself. All that pious verse can do is to help the memory and delight
the ear, and for these purposes it may be very useful; but it supplies
nothing to the mind. The ideas of Christian Theology are too simple for
eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestic for ornament; to
recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave mirror
the sidereal hemisphere."

Here Dr Johnson confesses that sacred subjects are not unfit--that they
are fit--for didactic and descriptive poetry. Now, this is a very wide
and comprehensive admission; and being a right, and natural, and just
admission, it cannot but strike the thoughtful reader at once as
destructive of the great dogma by which Sacred Poetry is condemned. The
doctrines of Religion may be defended, he allows, in a didactic
poem--and, pray, how can they be defended unless they are also
expounded? And how can they be expounded without being steeped, as it
were, in religious feeling? Let such a poem be as didactic as can
possibly be imagined, still it must be pervaded by the very spirit of
religion--and that spirit, breathing throughout the whole, must also be
frequently expressed, vividly, and passionately, and profoundly, in
particular passages; and if so, must it not be, in the strictest sense,
a Sacred poem?

"But," says Dr Johnson, "the subject of the disputation is not piety,
but the motives to piety." Why introduce the word "disputation," as if
it characterised justly and entirely all didactic poetry? And who ever
heard of an essential distinction between piety, and motives to piety?
Mr James Montgomery, in a very excellent Essay prefixed to that most
interesting collection, "The Christian Poet," well observes, that
"motives to piety must be of the _nature_ of piety, otherwise they could
never incite to it--the precepts and sanctions of the Gospel might as
well be denied to be any part of the Gospel." And, for our own parts, we
scarcely know what piety is, separated from its motives--or how, so
separated, it could be expressed in words at all.

With regard, again, to descriptive poetry, the argument, if argument it
may be called, is still more lame and impotent. "A poet," it is said,
"may describe the beauty and the grandeur of nature, the flowers of the
spring and the harvests of autumn, the vicissitudes of the tide and the
revolutions of the sky, and praise his Maker in lines which no reader
shall lay aside." Most true he may; but then we are told, "the subject
of the description is not God, but the works of God!" Alas! what
trifling--what miserable trifling is this! In the works of God, God is
felt to be by us His creatures, whom He has spiritually endowed. We
cannot look on them, even in our least elevated moods, without some
shadow of love or awe; in our most elevated moods, we gaze on them with
religion. By the very constitution of our intelligence, the effects
speak of the cause. We are led by nature up to nature's God. The Bible
is not the only revelation--there is another--dimmer but not less
divine--for surely the works are as the words of God. No great poet, in
describing the glories and beauties of the external world, is forgetful
of the existence and attributes of the Most High. That thought, and that
feeling, animate all his strains; and though he dare not to describe Him
the Ineffable, he cannot prevent his poetry from being beautifully
coloured by devotion, tinged by piety--in its essence it is religious.

It appears, then, that the qualifications or restrictions with which Dr
Johnson is willing to allow that there may be didactic and descriptive
sacred poetry, are wholly unmeaning, and made to depend on distinctions
which have no existence.

Of narrative poetry of a sacred kind, Mr Montgomery well remarks,
Johnson makes no mention, except it be implicated with the statement,
that "the ideas of Christian Theology are too sacred for fiction--a
sentiment more just than the admirers of Milton and Klopstock are
willing to admit, without almost plenary indulgence in favour of these
great, but not infallible authorities." Here Mr Montgomery expresses
himself very cautiously--perhaps rather too much so--for he leaves us in
the dark about his own belief. But this we do not hesitate to say, that
though there is great danger of wrong being done to the ideas of
Christian theology by poetry--a wrong which must be most painful to the
whole inner being of a Christian; yet that there seems no necessity of
such a wrong, and that a great poet, guarded by awe, and fear, and love,
may move his wings unblamed, and to the glory of God, even among the
most awful sanctities of his faith. These sanctities may be too awful
for "fiction"--but fiction is not the word here, any more than
disputation was the word there. Substitute for it the word poetry; and
then, reflecting on that of Isaiah and of David, conversant with the
Holy of Holies, we feel that it need not profane those other sanctities,
if it be, like its subject, indeed divine. True, that those bards were
inspired--with them

              ----"the name
    Of prophet and of poet was the same;"

but still, the power in the soul of a great poet, not in that highest of
senses inspired, is, we may say it, of the same kind--inferior but in
degree; for religion itself is always an inspiration. It is felt to be
so in the prose of holy men--Why not in their poetry?

If these views be just, and we have expressed them "boldly, yet
humbly"--all that remains to be set aside of Dr Johnson's argument is,
"that contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and man,
cannot be poetical. Man admitted to implore the mercy of his Creator,
and plead the merits of his Redeemer, is already in a higher state than
poetry can confer."

There is something very fine and true in the sentiment here; but the
sentiment is only true in some cases, not in all. There are different
degrees in the pious moods of the most pious spirit that ever sought
communion with its God and its Saviour. Some of these are awe-struck and
speechless. That line,

    "Come, then, expressive silence, muse his praise!"

denies the power of poetry to be adequate to adoration, while the line
itself is most glorious poetry. The temper even of our fallen spirits
may be too divine for any words. Then the creature kneels mute before
his Maker. But are there not other states of mind in which we feel
ourselves drawn near to God, when there is no such awful speechlessness
laid upon us--but when, on the contrary, our tongues are loosened, and
the heart that burns within will speak? Will speak, perhaps, in song--in
the inspiration of our piety breathing forth hymns and psalms--poetry
indeed--if there be poetry on this earth? Why may we not say that the
spirits of just men made perfect--almost perfect, by such visitations
from heaven--will break forth--"rapt, inspired," into poetry which may
be called holy, sacred, divine?

We feel as if treading on forbidden ground--and therefore speak
reverently; but still we do not fear to say, that between that highest
state of contemplative piety which must be mute, down to that lowest
state of the same feeling which evanishes and blends into mere human
emotion as between creature and creature, there are infinite degrees of
emotion which may be all embodied, without offence, in words--and if so
embodied, with sincerity and humility, will be poetry, and poetry too of
the most beautiful and affecting kind.

"Man, admitted to implore the mercy of his Creator, and plead the merits
of his Redeemer, is already in a higher state than poetry can confer."
Most true, indeed. But, though poetry did not confer that higher state,
poetry may nevertheless, in some measure and to some degree, breathe
audibly some of the emotions which constitute its blessedness; poetry
may even help the soul to ascend to those celestial heights; because
poetry may prepare it, and dispose it to expand itself, and open itself
out to the highest and holiest influences of religion; for poetry there
may be inspired directly from the word of God, using the language and
strong in the spirit of that word--unexistent but for the Old and the
New Testament.

We agree with Mr Montgomery, that the sum of Dr Johnson's argument
amounts to this--that contemplative piety, or the intercourse between
God and the human soul, _cannot be poetical_. But here we at once ask
ourselves, what does he mean by poetical? "The essence of poetry," he
says, "is invention--such invention as, by producing something
unexpected, surprises and delights." Here, again, there is confusion and
sophistry. There is much high and noble poetry of which invention, such
invention as is here spoken of, is not the essence. Devotional poetry is
of that character. Who would require something unexpected and surprising
in a strain of thanksgiving, repentance, or supplication? Such feelings
as these, if rightly expressed, may exalt or prostrate the soul, without
much--without any aid from the imagination--except in as far as the
imagination will work under the power of every great emotion that does
not absolutely confound mortal beings, and humble them down even below
the very dust. There may be "no grace from novelty of sentiment," and
"very little from novelty of expression"--to use Dr Johnson's words--for
it is neither grace nor novelty that the spirit of the poet is
seeking--"the strain we hear is of a higher mood;" and "few as the
topics of devotion may be," (but are they few?) and "universally known,"
they are all commensurate--nay, far more than commensurate, with the
whole power of the soul--never can they become unaffecting while it is
our lot to die;--even from the lips of ordinary men, the words that flow
on such topics flow effectually, if they are earnest, simple, and
sincere; but from the lips of genius, inspired by religion, who shall
dare to say that, on such topics, words have not flowed that are felt to
be poetry almost worthy of the Celestial Ardours around the Throne, and
by their majesty to "link us to the radiant angels," than whom we were
made but a little lower, and with whom we may, when time shall be no
more, be equalled in heaven?

We do not hesitate to say, that Dr Johnson's doctrine of the _effect_ of
poetry is wholly false. If it do indeed please, by exhibiting an idea
more grateful to the mind than things themselves afford, that is only
because the things themselves are imperfect--more so than suits the
aspirations of a spirit, always aspiring, because immortal, to a higher
sphere--a higher order of being. But when God himself is, with all awe
and reverence, made the subject of song--then it is the office--the
sacred office of poetry--not to exalt the subject, but to exalt the soul
that contemplates it. That poetry can do, else why does human nature
glory in the "Paradise Lost?"

"Whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name
of the Supreme Being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted--Infinity cannot be
amplified--Perfection cannot be improved." Should not this go to
prohibit all speech--all discourse--all sermons concerning the divine
attributes? Immersed as they are in matter, our souls wax dull, and the
attributes of the Deity are but as mere names. Those attributes cannot,
indeed, be exalted by poetry. "The perfection of God cannot be
improved"--nor was it worthy of so wise a man so to speak; but while the
Creator abideth in His own incomprehensible Being, the creature, too
willing to crawl blind and hoodwinked along the earth, like a worm, may
be raised by the voice of the charmer, "some sweet singer of Israel,"
from his slimy track, and suddenly be made to soar on wings up into the

Would Dr Johnson have declared the uselessness of Natural Theology? On
the same ground he must have done so, to preserve consistency in his
doctrine. Do we, by exploring wisdom, and power, and goodness, in all
animate and inanimate creation, exalt Omnipotence, amplify infinity, or
improve perfection? We become ourselves exalted by such divine
contemplations--by knowing the structure of a rose-leaf or of an
insect's wing. We are reminded of what, alas! we too often forget, and
exclaim, "Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name!" And
while science explores, may not poetry celebrate the glories and the
mercies of our God?

The argument against which we contend gets weaker and weaker as it
proceeds--the gross misconception of the nature of poetry on which it is
founded becomes more and more glaring--the paradoxes, dealt out as
confidently as if they were self-evident truths, more and more repulsive
alike to our feelings and our understandings. "The employments of pious
meditation are faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication. Faith,
invariably uniform, cannot be invested by fancy with decorations.
Thanksgiving, though the most joyful of all holy effusions, yet
addressed to a Being superior to us, is confined to a few modes, and is
to be felt rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling in the presence
of the Judge, is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. Supplication
to men may diffuse itself through many topics of persuasion; but
supplication to God can only cry for mercy." What a vain attempt
authoritatively to impose upon the common sense of mankind! Faith is not
invariably uniform. To preserve it unwavering--unquaking--to save it
from lingering or from sudden death--is the most difficult service to
which the frail spirit--frail even in its greatest strength--is called
every day--every hour--of this troubled, perplexing, agitating, and
often most unintelligible life! "Liberty of will," says Jeremy Taylor,
"is like the motion of a magnetic needle towards the north, full of
trembling and uncertainty till it be fixed in the beloved point; it
wavers as long as it is free, and is at rest when it can choose no more.
It is humility and truth to allow to man this liberty; and, therefore,
for this we may lay our faces in the dust, and confess that our dignity
and excellence suppose misery, and are imperfection, but the instrument
and capacity of all duty and all virtue." Happy he whose faith is
finally "fixed in the beloved point!" But even of that faith, what
hinders the poet whom it has blessed to sing? While, of its tremblings,
and veerings, and variations, why may not the poet, whose faith has
experienced, and still may experience them all, breathe many a
melancholy and mournful lay, assuaged, ere the close, by the descent of

Thanksgiving, it is here admitted, is the "most joyful of all holy
effusions;" and the admission is sufficient to prove that it cannot be
"confined to a few modes." "Out of the fulness of the heart the tongue
speaketh;" and though at times the heart will be too full for speech,
yet as often even the coldest lips prove eloquent in gratitude--yea, the
very dumb do speak--nor, in excess of joy, know the miracle that has
been wrought upon them by the power of their own mysterious and high

That "repentance, trembling in the presence of the Judge, should not be
at leisure for cadences and epithets," is in one respect true; but
nobody supposes that during such moments--or hours--poetry is composed;
and surely when they have passed away, which they must do, and the mind
is left free to meditate upon them, and to recall them as shadows of the
past, there is nothing to prevent them from being steadily and calmly
contemplated, and depictured in somewhat softened and altogether
endurable light, so as to become proper subjects even of poetry--that
is, proper subjects of such expression as human nature is prompted to
clothe with all its emotions, as soon as they have subsided, after a
swell or a storm, into a calm, either placid altogether, or still
bearing traces of the agitation that has ceased, and have left the whole
being self-possessed, and both capable and desirous of indulging itself
in an after-emotion at once melancholy and sublime. Then, repentance
will not only be "at leisure for cadences and epithets," but cadences
and epithets will of themselves move harmonious numbers, and give birth,
if genius as well as piety be there, to religious poetry. Cadences and
epithets are indeed often sought for with care, and pains, and
ingenuity; but they often come unsought; and never more certainly and
more easily than when the mind recovers itself from some oppressive
mood, and, along with a certain sublime sadness, is restored to the full
possession of powers that had for a short severe season been
overwhelmed, but afterwards look back, in very inspiration, on the
feelings that during their height were nearly unendurable, and then
unfit for any outward and palpable form. The criminal trembling at the
bar of an earthly tribunal, and with remorse and repentance receiving
his doom, might, in like manner, be wholly unable to set his emotions to
the measures of speech; but when recovered from the shock by pardon, or
reprieve, or submission, is there any reason why he should not calmly
recall the miseries and the prostration of spirit attendant on that
hour, and give them touching and pathetic expression?

"Supplication to man may diffuse itself through many topics of
persuasion; but supplication to God can only cry for mercy." And in that
cry we say that there may be poetry; for the God of Mercy suffers his
creatures to approach his throne in supplication, with words which they
have learned when supplicating one another; and the feeling of being
forgiven, which we are graciously permitted to believe may follow
supplication, and spring from it, may vent itself in many various and
most affecting forms of speech. Men will supplicate God in many other
words besides those of doubt and of despair; hope will mingle with
prayer; and hope, as it glows, and burns, and expands, will speak in
poetry--else poetry there is none proceeding from any of our most sacred

Dr Johnson says, "Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that
the most simple expression is the most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre
and its power, because it is applied to the decoration of something more
excellent than itself." Here he had in his mind the most false notions
of poetry, which he had evidently imagined to be an art despising
simplicity--whereas simplicity is its very soul. Simple expression, he
truly says, is in religion most sublime--and why should not poetry be
simple in its expression? Is it not always so--when the mood of mind it
expresses is simple, concise, and strong, and collected into one great
emotion? But he uses--as we see--the terms "lustre" and "decoration"--as
if poetry necessarily, by its very nature, was always ambitious and
ornate; whereas we all know, that it is often in all its glory direct
and simple as the language of very childhood, and for that reason

With such false notions of poetry, it is not to be wondered at that Dr
Johnson, enlightened man as he was, should have concluded his argument
with this absurdity--"The ideas of Christian theology are too simple for
eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestic for ornament; to
recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave mirror
the sidereal hemisphere." No. Simple as they are--on them have been
bestowed, and by them awakened, the highest strains of eloquence--and
here we hail the shade of Jeremy Taylor alone--one of the highest that
ever soared from earth to heaven; sacred as they are, they have not been
desecrated by the fictions--so to call them--of John Milton; majestic as
are the heavens, their majesty has not been lowered by the ornaments
that the rich genius of the old English divines has so profusely hung
around them, like dewdrops glistening on the fruitage of the Tree of
Life. Tropes and figures are nowhere more numerous and refulgent than in
the Scriptures themselves, from Isaiah to St John; and, magnificent as
are the "sidereal heavens" when the eye looks aloft, they are not to our
eyes less so, nor less lovely, when reflected in the bosom of a still
lake or the slumbering ocean.

This statement of facts destroys at once all Dr Johnson's splendid
sophistry--splendid at first sight--but on closer inspection a mere
haze, mist, or smoke, illuminated by an artificial lustre. How far more
truly, and how far more sublimely, does Milton, "that mighty orb of
song," speak of his own divine gift--the gift of Poetry! "These
abilities are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, and are of
power to inbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and
public civility; to allay the perturbation of the mind, and set the
affections to a right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the
throne and equipage of God's Almightiness, and what he suffers to be
wrought with high providence in his Church; to sing victorious agonies
of Martyrs and Saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations,
doing valiantly through faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore
the general relapse of kingdoms and states from virtue and God's true
worship. Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime, and in
virtue amiable or grave; whatsoever hath passion, or admiration in all
the changes of that which is called fortune from without, or the wily
subtleties and reflections of men's thoughts from within; all these
things, with a solid and treatable smoothness, to paint out and
describe--Teaching over the whole book of morality and virtue, through
all instances of example, with such delight to those, especially of soft
and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon Truth herself
unless they see her elegantly dressed; that, whereas the paths of
honesty and good life that appear now rugged and difficult, appear to
all men easy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult

It is not easy to believe that no great broad lights have been thrown on
the mysteries of men's minds since the days of the great poets,
moralists, and metaphysicians of the ancient world. We seem to feel more
profoundly than they--to see, as it were, into a new world. The things
of that world are of such surpassing worth, that in certain awe-struck
moods we regard them as almost above the province of Poetry. Since the
revelation of Christianity, all moral thought has been sanctified by
Religion. Religion has given it a purity, a solemnity, a sublimity,
which, even among the noblest of the heathen, we shall look for in vain.
The knowledge that shone but by fits and dimly on the eyes of Socrates
and Plato, "that rolled in vain to find the light," has descended over
many lands into "the huts where poor men lie"--and thoughts are familiar
there, beneath the low and smoky roofs, higher far than ever flowed from
the lips of Grecian sage meditating among the magnificence of his
pillared temples. The whole condition and character of the Human Being,
in Christian countries, has been raised up to a loftier elevation; and
he may be looked at in the face without a sense of degradation, even
when he wears the aspect of poverty and distress. Since that Religion
was given us, and not before, has been felt the meaning of that sublime
expression--The Brotherhood of Man.

Yet it is just as true that there is as much misery and suffering in
Christendom--nay, far more of them all--than troubled and tore men's
hearts during the reign of all those superstitions and idolatries. But
with what different feelings is it all thought of--spoken of--looked
at--alleviated--repented--expiated--atoned for--now! In the olden time,
such was the prostration of the "million," that it was only when seen in
high places that even Guilt and Sin were felt to be appalling;--Remorse
was the privilege of Kings and Princes--and the Furies shook their
scourges but before the eyes of the high-born, whose crimes had brought
eclipse across the ancestral glories of some ancient line.

But we now know that there is but one origin from which flow all
disastrous issues, alike to the king and the beggar. It is sin that does
"with the lofty equalise the low;" and the same deep-felt community of
guilt and groans which renders Religion awful, has given to poetry in a
lower degree something of the same character--has made it far more
profoundly tender, more overpoweringly pathetic, more humane and
thoughtful far, more humble as well as more high, like Christian Charity
more comprehensive; nay, we may say, like Christian Faith, felt by those
to whom it is given to be from on high; and if not utterly destroyed,
darkened and miserably weakened by a wicked or vicious life.

We may affirm, then, that as human nature has been so greatly purified
and elevated by the Christian Religion, Poetry, which deals with human
nature in all its dearest and most intimate concerns, must have partaken
of that purity and that elevation--and that it may now be a far holier
and more sacred inspiration, than when it was fabled to be the gift of
Apollo and the Muses. We may not circumscribe its sphere. To what
cerulean heights shall not the wing of Poetry soar? Into what
dungeon-gloom shall she not descend? If such be her powers and
privileges, shall she not be the servant and minister of Religion?

If from moral fictions of life Religion be altogether excluded, then it
would indeed be a waste of words to show that they must be worse than
worthless. They must be, not imperfect merely, but false; and not false
merely, but calumnious against human nature. The agonies of passion
fling men down to the dust on their knees, or smite them motionless as
stone statues, sitting alone in their darkened chambers of despair. But
sooner or later, all eyes, all hearts, look for comfort to God. The
coldest metaphysical analyst could not avoid _that_, in his sage
enumeration of "each particular hair" that is twisted and untwisted by
him into a sort of moral tie; and surely the impassioned and
philosophical poet will not, dare not, for the spirit that is within
him, exclude _that_ from his elegies, his hymns, and his songs, which,
whether mournful or exulting, are inspired by the life-long, life-deep
conviction, that all the greatness of the present is but for the
future--that the praises of this passing earth are worthy of his lyre
only because it is overshadowed by the eternal heavens.

But though the total exclusion of Religion from Poetry aspiring to be a
picture of the life or soul of man, be manifestly destructive of its
very essence--how, it may be asked, shall we set bounds to this
spirit--how shall we limit it--measure it--and accustom it to the curb
of critical control? If Religion be indeed all-in-all, and there are few
who openly deny it, must we, nevertheless, deal with it only in
allusion--hint it as if we were half afraid of its spirit, half
ashamed--and cunningly contrive to save our credit as Christians,
without subjecting ourselves to the condemnation of critics, whose
scorn, even in this enlightened age, has--the more is the pity--even by
men conscious of their genius and virtue, been feared as more fatal than

No: Let there be no compromise between false taste and true Religion.
Better to be condemned by all the periodical publications in Great
Britain than your own conscience. Let the dunce, with diseased spleen,
who edits one obscure Review, revile and rail at you to his heart's
discontent, in hollow league with his black-biled brother, who, sickened
by your success, has long laboured in vain to edit another, still more
unpublishable--but do you hold the even tenor of your way, assured that
the beauty which nature, and the Lord of nature, have revealed to your
eyes and your heart, when sown abroad will not be suffered to perish,
but will have everlasting life. Your books--humble and unpretending
though they be--yet here and there a page not uninspired by the spirit
of Truth, and Faith, and Hope, and Charity--that is, by Religion--will
be held up before the ingle light, close to the eyes of the pious
patriarch, sitting with his children's children round his knees--nor
will any one sentiment, chastened by that fire that tempers the sacred
links that bind together the brotherhood of man, escape the solemn
search of a soul, simple and strong in its Bible-taught wisdom, and
happy to feel and own communion of holy thought with one unknown--even
perhaps by name--who although dead yet speaketh--and, without
superstition, is numbered among the saints of that lowly household.

He who knows that he writes in the fear of God and in the love of man,
will not arrest the thoughts that flow from his pen, because he knows
that they may--will be--insulted and profaned by the name of cant, and
he himself held up as a hypocrite. In some hands, ridicule is indeed a
terrible weapon. It is terrible in the hands of indignant genius,
branding the audacious forehead of falsehood or pollution. But ridicule
in the hands either of cold-blooded or infuriated Malice, is harmless as
a birch-rod in the palsied fingers of a superannuated beldam, who in her
blear-eyed dotage has lost her school. The Bird of Paradise might float
in the sunshine unharmed all its beautiful life long, although all the
sportsmen of Cockaigne were to keep firing at the star-like plumage
during the Christmas holydays of a thousand years.

We never are disposed not to enjoy a religious spirit in metrical
composition, but when induced to suspect that it is not sincere; and
then we turn away from the hypocrite, just as we do from a pious
pretender in the intercourse of life. Shocking it is, indeed, to see
"fools rush in where angels fear to tread;" nor have we words to express
our disgust and horror at the sight of fools, not rushing in among those
awful sanctities before which angels vail their faces with their wings,
but mincing in, with red slippers and flowered dressing-gowns--would-be
fashionables, with crow-quills in hands like those of milliners, and
rings on their fingers--afterwards extending their notes into Sacred
Poems for the use of the public--penny-a-liners, reporting the judgments
of Providence as they would the proceedings of a police court.



The distinctive character of poetry, it has been said, and credited
almost universally, is _to please_. That they who have studied the laws
of thought and passion should have suffered themselves to be deluded by
an unmeaning word is mortifying enough; but it is more than
mortifying--it perplexes and confounds--to think that poets themselves,
and poets too of the highest order, have declared the same degrading
belief of what is the scope and tendency, the end and aim of their own
divine art--forsooth, _to please_! Pleasure is no more the end of
poetry, than it is the end of knowledge, or of virtue, or of religion,
or of this world. The end of poetry is pleasure, delight, instruction,
expansion, elevation, honour, glory, happiness here and hereafter, or it
is nothing. Is the end of "Paradise Lost" to please? Is the end of
Dante's Divine Comedy to please? Is the end of the Psalms of David to
please? Or of the songs of Isaiah? Yet it is probable that poetry has
often been injured or vitiated by having been written in the spirit of
this creed. It relieved poets from the burden of their duty--from the
responsibility of their endowments--from the conscience that is in
genius. We suspect that this doctrine has borne especially hard on all
sacred poetry, disinclined poets to devoting their genius to it--and
consigned, if not to oblivion, to neglect, much of what is great in that
magnificent walk. For if the masters of the Holy Harp are to strike it
but to please--if their high inspirations are to be deadened and dragged
down by the prevalent power of such a mean and unworthy aim--they will
either be contented to awaken a few touching tones of "those strains
that once did sweet in Zion glide"--unwilling to prolong and deepen them
into the diapason of praise--or they will deposit their lyre within the
gloom of the sanctuary, and leave unawakened "the soul of music sleeping
on its strings."

All arguments, or rather objections to, sacred poetry, dissolve as you
internally look at them, like unabiding mist-shapes, or rather like
imagined mirage where no mirage is, but the mind itself makes ocular
deceptions for its own amusement. By sacred poetry is mostly meant
Scriptural; but there are, and always have been, conceited and callous
critics, who would exclude all religious feelings from poetry, and
indeed from prose too, compendiously calling them all cant. Had such
criticasters been right, all great nations would not have so gloried in
their great bards. Poetry, it is clear, embraces all we can experience;
and every high, impassioned, imaginative, intellectual, and moral state
of being becomes religious before it passes away, provided it be left
free to seek the empyrean, and not adstricted to the glebe by some
severe slavery of condition, which destroys the desire of ascent by the
same inexorable laws that palsy the power, and reconcile the toilers to
the doom of the dust. If all the states of being that poetry illustrates
do thus tend, of their own accord, towards religious elevation, all high
poetry must be religious; and so it is, for its whole language is
breathing of a life "above the smoke and stir of this dim spot which men
call earth;" and the feelings, impulses, motives, aspirations,
obligations, duties, privileges, which it shadows forth or embodies,
enveloping them in solemn shade or attractive light, are all, directly
or indirectly, manifestly or secretly, allied with the sense of the
immortality of the soul, and the belief of a future state of reward and
retribution. Extinguish that sense and that belief in a poet's soul, and
he may hang up his harp.

Among the great living poets, Wordsworth is the one whose poetry is to
us the most inexplicable--with all our reverence for his transcendent
genius, we do not fear to say the most open to the most serious
charges--on the score of its religion. From the first line of the
"Lyrical Ballads" to the last of "The Excursion"--it is avowedly one
system of thought and feeling, embracing his experiences of human life,
and his meditations on the moral government of this world. The human
heart--the human mind--the human soul--to use his own fine words--is
"the haunt and main region of his song." There are few, perhaps none of
our affections--using that term in its largest sense--which have not
been either slightly touched upon, or fully treated, by Wordsworth. In
his poetry, therefore, we behold an image of what, to his eye, appears
to be human life. Is there, or is there not, some great and lamentable
defect in that image, marring both the truth and beauty of the
representation? We think there is--and that it lies in his Religion.

In none of Wordsworth's poetry, previous to his "Excursion," is there
any allusion made, except of the most trivial and transient kind, to
Revealed Religion. He certainly cannot be called a Christian poet. The
hopes that lie beyond the grave--and the many holy and awful feelings in
which on earth these hopes are enshrined and fed, are rarely if ever
part of the character of any of the persons--male or female--old or
young--brought before us in his beautiful Pastorals. Yet all the most
interesting and affecting ongoings of this life are exquisitely
delineated--and innumerable of course are the occasions on which, had
the thoughts and feelings of revealed religion been in Wordsworth's
heart during the hours of inspiration--and he often has written like a
man inspired--they must have found expression in his strains; and the
personages, humble or high, that figure in his representations, would
have been, in their joys or their sorrows, their temptations and their
trials, Christians. But most assuredly this is not the case; the
religion of this great Poet--in all his poetry published previous to
"The Excursion"--is but the "Religion of the Woods."

In "The Excursion," his religion is brought forward--prominently and
conspicuously--in many elaborate dialogues between Priest, Pedlar, Poet,
and Solitary. And a very high religion it often is; but is it
Christianity? No--it is not. There are glimpses given of some of the
Christian doctrines; just as if the various philosophical disquisitions,
in which the Poem abounds, would be imperfect without some allusion to
the Christian creed. The interlocutors--eloquent as they all are--say
but little on that theme; nor do they show--if we except the
Priest--much interest in it--any solicitude; they may all, for anything
that appears to the contrary, be deists.

Now, perhaps, it may be said that Wordsworth was deterred from entering
on such a theme by the awe of his spirit. But there is no appearance of
this having been the case in any one single passage in the whole poem.
Nor could it have been the case with such a man--a man privileged, by
the power God has bestowed upon him, to speak unto all the nations of
the earth, on all themes, however high and holy, which the children of
men can feel and understand. Christianity, during almost all their
disquisitions, lay in the way of all the speakers, as they kept
journeying among the hills,

    "On man, on nature, and on human life,
    Musing in Solitude!"

But they, one and all, either did not perceive it, or, perceiving it,
looked upon it with a cold and indifferent regard, and passed by into
the poetry breathing from the dewy woods, or lowering from the cloudy
skies. Their talk is of "Palmyra central, in the desert," rather than of
Jerusalem. On the mythology of the Heathen much beautiful poetry is
bestowed, but none on the theology of the Christian.

Yet there is no subject too high for Wordsworth's muse. In the preface
to "The Excursion," he says daringly--we fear too daringly,--

                    "Urania, I shall need
    Thy guidance, or a greater muse, if such
    Descend to earth, or dwell in highest heaven!
    For I must tread on shadowy ground, must sink
    Deep--and aloft ascending, breathe in worlds
    To which the heaven of heavens is but a veil.
    All strength--all terror--single or in bands,
    That ever was put forth in personal form,
    Jehovah with his thunder, and the choir
    Of shouting angels, and the empyreal thrones;
    I passed them unalarm'd!"

Has the poet, who believes himself entitled to speak thus of the power
and province given to him to put forth and to possess, spoken in
consonance with such a strain, by avoiding, in part of the very work to
which he so triumphantly appeals, the Christian Revelation? Nothing
could have reconciled us to a burst of such--audacity--we use the word
considerately--but the exhibition of a spirit divinely imbued with the
Christian faith. For what else, we ask, but the truths beheld by the
Christian Faith, can be beyond those "personal forms," "beyond Jehovah,"
"the choirs of shouting angels," and the "empyreal thrones?"

This omission is felt the more deeply--the more sadly--from such
introduction as there is of Christianity; for one of the books of "The
Excursion" begins with a very long, and a very noble eulogy on the
Church Establishment in England. How happened it that he who pronounced
such eloquent panegyric--that they who so devoutly inclined their ear to
imbibe it--should have been all contented with

    "That basis laid, these principles of faith

and yet throughout the whole course of their discussions, before and
after, have forgotten apparently that there was either Christianity or a
Christian Church in the world?

We do not hesitate to say, that the thoughtful and sincere student of
this great poet's works, must regard such omission--such inconsistency
or contradiction--with more than the pain of regret; for there is no
relief afforded to our defrauded hearts from any quarter to which we can
look. A pledge has been given, that all the powers and privileges of a
Christian poet shall be put forth and exercised for our behoof--for our
delight and instruction; all other poetry is to sink away before the
heavenly splendour; Urania, or a greater muse, is invoked; and after all
this solemn, and more than solemn preparation made for our initiation
into the mysteries, we are put off with a well-merited encomium on the
Church of England, from Bishop to Curate inclusive; and though we have
much fine poetry, and some high philosophy, it would puzzle the most
ingenious to detect much, or any, Christian religion.

Should the opinion boldly avowed be challenged, we shall enter into
further exposition and illustration of it; meanwhile, we confine
ourselves to some remarks on one of the most elaborate tales of domestic
suffering in "The Excursion." In the story of Margaret, containing, we
believe, more than four hundred lines--a tolerably long poem in
itself--though the whole and entire state of a poor deserted wife and
mother's heart, for year after year of "hope deferred, that maketh the
heart sick," is described, or rather dissected, with an almost cruel
anatomy--not one quivering fibre being left unexposed--all the
fluctuating, and finally all the constant agitations laid bare and naked
that carried her at last lingeringly to the grave--there is not--except
one or two weak lines, that seem to have been afterwards purposely
dropped in--one single syllable about Religion. Was Margaret a
Christian?--Let the answer be yes--as good a Christian as ever kneeled
in the small mountain chapel, in whose churchyard her body now waits for
the resurrection. If she was--then the picture painted of her and her
agonies, is a libel not only on her character, but on the character of
all other poor Christian women in this Christian land. Placed as she
was, for so many years, in the clutches of so many passions--she surely
must have turned sometimes--ay, often, and often, and often, else had
she sooner left the clay--towards her Lord and Saviour. But of such
"comfort let no man speak," seems to have been the principle of Mr
Wordsworth; and the consequence is, that this, perhaps the most
elaborate picture he ever painted of any conflict within any one human
heart, is, with all its pathos, repulsive to every religious
mind--_that_ being wanting without which the entire representation is
vitiated, and necessarily false to nature--to virtue--to resignation--to
life--and to death. These may seem strong words--but we are ready to
defend them in the face of all who may venture to impugn their truth.

This utter absence of Revealed Religion, where it ought to have been
all-in-all--for in such trials in real life it is all-in-all, or we
regard the existence of sin or sorrow with repugnance--shocks far deeper
feelings within us than those of taste, and throws over the whole poem
to which the tale of Margaret belongs, an unhappy suspicion of
hollowness and insincerity in that poetical religion, which at the best
is a sorry substitute indeed for the light that is from heaven. Above
all, it flings, as indeed we have intimated, an air of absurdity over
the orthodox Church-of-Englandism--for once to quote a not inexpressive
barbarism of Bentham--which every now and then breaks out either in
passing compliment--amounting to but a bow--or in eloquent laudation,
during which the poet appears to be prostrate on his knees. He speaks
nobly of cathedrals, and minsters, and so forth, reverendly adorning
all the land; but in none--no, not one of the houses of the humble, the
hovels of the poor into which he takes us--is the religion preached in
those cathedrals and minsters, and chanted in prayer to the pealing
organ, represented as the power that in peace supports the roof-tree,
lightens the hearth, and is the guardian, the tutelary spirit of the
lowly dwelling. Can this be right? Impossible. And when we find the
Christian religion thus excluded from Poetry, otherwise as good as ever
was produced by human genius, what are we to think of the Poet, and of
the world of thought and feeling, fancy and imagination, in which he
breathes, nor fears to declare to all men that he believes himself to be
one of the order of the High Priests of nature?

Shall it be said, in justification of the poet, that he presents a very
interesting state of mind, sometimes found actually existing, and does
not pretend to present a model of virtue?--that there are miseries which
shut some hearts against religion, sensibilities which, being too
severely tried, are disinclined, at least at certain stages of their
suffering, to look to that source for comfort?--that this is human
nature, and the description only follows it?--that when "in peace and
comfort" her best hopes were directed to "the God in heaven," and that
her habit in that respect was only broken up by the stroke of her
calamity, causing such a derangement of her mental power as should
deeply interest the sympathies?--in short, that the poet is an artist,
and that the privation of all comfort from religion completes the
picture of her desolation?

Would that such defence were of avail! But of whom does the poet so
pathetically speak?

                    "Of one whose stock
    Of virtues bloom'd beneath this lowly roof.
    She was a woman of a steady mind,
    Tender and deep in her excess of love;
    Not speaking much--pleased rather with the joy
    Of her own thoughts. By some especial care
    Her temper had been framed, as if to make
    A Being who, by adding love to fear,
    Might live on earth a life of happiness.
    Her wedded partner lack'd not on his side
    The humble worth that satisfied her heart--
    Frugal, affectionate, sober, and withal
    Keenly industrious. She with pride would tell
    That he was often seated at his loom
    In summer, ere the mower was abroad
    Among the dewy grass--in early spring,
    Ere the last star had vanish'd. They who pass'd
    At evening, from behind the garden fence
    Might hear his busy spade, which he would ply
    After his daily work, until the light
    Had fail'd, and every leaf and flower were lost
    In the dark hedges. So their days were spent
    In peace and comfort; and a pretty boy
    Was their best hope, next to the God in heaven."

We are prepared by that character, so amply and beautifully drawn, to
pity her to the utmost demand that may be made on our pity--to judge her
leniently, even if in her desertion she finally give way to inordinate
and incurable grief. But we are not prepared to see her sinking from
depth to depth of despair, in wilful abandonment to her anguish, without
oft-repeated and long-continued passionate prayers for support or
deliverance from her trouble, to the throne of mercy. Alas! it is true
that in our happiness our gratitude to God is too often more selfish
than we think, and that in our misery it faints or dies. So is it even
with the best of us--but surely not all life long--unless the heart has
been utterly crushed--the brain itself distorted in its functions, by
some calamity, under which nature's self gives way, and falls into ruins
like a rent house when the last prop is withdrawn.

                      "Nine tedious years
    From their first separation--nine long years
    She linger'd in unquiet widowhood--
    A wife and widow. Needs must it have been
    A sore heart-wasting."

It must indeed, and it is depicted by a master's hand. But even were it
granted that sufferings, such as hers, might, in the course of nature,
have extinguished all heavenly comfort--all reliance on God and her
Saviour--the process and progress of such fatal relinquishment should
have been shown, with all its struggles and all its agonies; if the
religion of one so good was so unavailing, its weakness should have
been exhibited and explained, that we might have known assuredly why, in
the multitude of the thoughts within her, there was no solace for her
sorrow, and how unpitying Heaven let her die of grief.

This tale, too, is the very first told by the Pedlar to the Poet, under
circumstances of much solemnity, and with affecting note of preparation.
It arises naturally from the sight of the ruined cottage near which
they, by appointment, have met; the narrator puts his whole heart into
it, and the listener is overcome by its pathos. No remark is made on
Margaret's grief, except that

    "I turn'd aside in weakness, nor had power
    To thank him for the tale which he had told.
    I stood, and leaning o'er the garden wall,
    Review'd that woman's sufferings; and it seem'd
    To comfort me, while, with a brother's love,
    I bless'd her in the impotence of grief.
    Then towards the cottage I return'd, and traced
    Fondly, though with an interest more mild,
    The sacred spirit of humanity,
    Which, 'mid the calm, oblivious tendencies
    Of nature--'mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers,
    And silent overgrowings, still survived."

Such musings receive the Pedlar's approbation, and he says,--

    "My friend! enough to sorrow you have given.
    The purposes of wisdom ask no more.
    Be wise and cheerful, and no longer read
    The forms of things with an unworthy eye.
    She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here."

As the Poet, then, was entirely satisfied with the tale, so ought to be
all readers. No hint is dropped that there was anything to blame in the
poor woman's nine years' passion--no regret breathed that she had sought
not, by means offered to all, for that peace of mind which passeth all
understanding--no question asked, how it was that she had not communed
with her own afflicted heart, over the pages of that Book where it is
written, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest!" The narrator had indeed said, that on revisiting
her during her affliction,--

                    "Her humble lot of books,
    Which in her cottage window, heretofore,
    Had been piled up against the corner panes
    In seemly order, now, with straggling leaves,
    Lay scatter'd here and there, open or shut,
    As they had chanced to fall."

But he does not mention the Bible.

What follows has always seemed to us of a questionable character:--

    "I well remember that those very plumes,
    Those weeds, and the high spear-grass on that wall,
    By mist and silent rain-drops silver'd o'er,
    As once I pass'd, into my heart convey'd
    So still an image of tranquillity,
    So calm and still, and look'd so beautiful
    Amid the uneasy thoughts which filled my mind,
    _That what we feel of sorrow and despair
    From ruin and from change, and all the griefs
    The passing shows of Being leave behind_,
    Appear'd an idle dream, that could not live
    Where meditation was. I turn'd away,
    And walk'd along my road in happiness."

These are fine lines; nor shall we dare, in face of them, to deny the
power of the beauty and serenity of nature to assuage the sorrow of us
mortal beings, who live for awhile on her breast. Assuredly there is
sorrow that may be so assuaged; and the sorrow here spoken of--for poor
Margaret, many years dead--was of that kind. But does not the heart of a
man beat painfully, as if violence were offered to its most sacred
memories, to hear from the lips of wisdom, that "sorrow and despair from
ruin and from change, and all the griefs" that we can suffer here below,
appear an idle dream among plumes, and weeds, and spear-grass, and
mists, and rain-drops? "Where meditation is!" What meditation? Turn
thou, O child of a day! to the New Testament, and therein thou mayest
find comfort. It matters not whether a spring-bank be thy seat by Rydal
Mere, "while heaven and earth do make one imagery," or thou sittest in
the shadow of death, beside a tomb.

We said, that for the present we should confine our remarks on this
subject to the story of Margaret; but they are, more or less,
applicable to almost all the stories in "The Excursion." In many of the
eloquent disquisitions and harangues of the Three Friends, they carry
along with them the sympathies of all mankind; and the wisest may be
enlightened by their wisdom. But what we complain of is, that neither in
joy nor grief, happiness nor misery, is religion the dominant principle
of thought and feeling in the character of any one human being with whom
we are made acquainted, living or dead. Of not a single one, man or
woman, are we made to feel the beauty of holiness--the power and the
glory of the Christian Faith. Beings are brought before us whom we pity,
respect, admire, love. The great poet is high-souled and
tender-hearted--his song is pure as the morning, bright as day, solemn
as night. But his inspiration is not drawn from the Book of God, but
from the Book of Nature. Therefore it fails to sustain his genius when
venturing into the depths of tribulation and anguish. Therefore
imperfect are his most truthful delineations of sins and sorrows; and
not in his philosophy, lofty though it be, can be found alleviation or
cure of the maladies that kill the soul. Therefore never will "The
Excursion" become a bosom-book, endeared to all ranks and conditions of
a Christian People, like "The Task" or the "Night Thoughts." Their
religion is that of revelation--it acknowledges no other source but the
word of God. To that word, in all difficulty, distress, and dismay,
these poets appeal; and though they may sometimes, or often,
misinterpret its judgment, that is an evil incident to finite
intelligence; and the very consciousness that it is so, inspires a
perpetual humility that is itself a virtue found to accompany only a
Christian's Faith.

We have elsewhere vindicated the choice of a person of low degree as
Chief of "The Excursion," and exult to think that a great poet should
have delivered his highest doctrines through the lips of a Scottish

                "Early had he learn'd
    To reverence the volume that displays
    The mystery of life that cannot die."

Throughout the poem he shows that he does reverence it, and that his
whole being has been purified and elevated by its spirit. But fond as he
is of preaching, and excellent in the art or gift, a Christian Preacher
he is not--at best a philosophical divine. Familiar by his parentage and
nurture with all most hallowed round the poor man's hearth, and guarded
by his noble nature from all offence to the sanctities there enshrined;
yet the truth must be told, he speaks not, he expounds not the Word as
the servant of the Lord, as the follower of Him Crucified. There is very
much in his announcements to his equals wide of the mark set up in the
New Testament. We seem to hear rather of a divine power and harmony in
the universe than of the Living God. The spirit of Christianity as
connected with the Incarnation of the Deity, the Human-God, the link
between heaven and earth, between helplessness and omnipotence, ought to
be everywhere visible in the religious effusions of a Christian
Poet--wonder and awe for the greatness of God, gratitude and love for
his goodness, humility and self-abasement for his own unworthiness.
Passages may perhaps be found in "The Excursion" expressive of that
spirit, but they are few and faint, and somewhat professional, falling
not from the Pedlar but from the Pastor. If the mind, in forming its
conceptions of divine things, is prouder of its own power than humbled
in the comparison of its personal inferiority; and in enunciating them
in verse, more rejoices in the consciousness of the power of its own
genius than in the contemplation of Him from whom cometh every good and
perfect gift--it has not attained Piety, and its worship is not an
acceptable service. For it is self-worship--worship of the creature's
own conceptions, and an overweening complacency with his own greatness,
in being able to form and so to express them as to win or command the
praise and adoration of his fellow-mortals. Those lofty speculations,
alternately declaimed among the mountains, with an accompaniment of
waterfalls, by men full of fancies and eloquent of speech, elude the
hold of the earnest spirit longing for truth; disappointment and
impatience grow on the humblest and most reverent mind, and escaping
from the multitude of vain words, the neophyte finds in one chapter of a
Book forgotten in that babblement, a light to his way and a support to
his steps, which, following and trusting, he knows will lead him to
everlasting life.

Throughout the poem there is much talk of the light of nature, little of
the light of revelation, and they all speak of the theological
doctrines of which our human reason gives us assurance. Such expressions
as these may easily lead to important error, and do, indeed, seem often
to have been misconceived and misemployed. What those truths are which
human reason, unassisted, would discover to us on these subjects, it is
impossible for us to know, for we have never seen it left absolutely to
itself. Instruction, more or less, in wandering tradition, or in
express, full, and recorded revelation, has always accompanied it; and
we have never had other experience of the human mind than as exerting
its powers under the light of imparted knowledge. In these
circumstances, all that can be properly meant by those expressions which
regard the power of the human mind to guide, to enlighten, or to satisfy
itself in such great inquiries is, not that it can be the discoverer of
truth, but that, with the doctrines of truth set before it, it is able
to deduce arguments from its own independent sources which confirm it in
their belief; or that, with truth and error proposed to its choice, it
has means, to a certain extent, in its own power, of distinguishing one
from the other. For ourselves, we may understand easily that it would be
impossible for us so to shut out from our minds the knowledge which has
been poured in upon them from our earliest years, in order to ascertain
what self-left reason could find out. Yet this much we are able to do in
the speculations of our philosophy: We can inquire, in this light, what
are the grounds of evidence which nature and reason themselves offer for
belief in the same truths. A like remark must be extended to the
morality which we seem now to inculcate from the authority of human
reason. We no longer possess any such independent morality. The spirit
of a higher, purer, moral law than man could discover, has been breathed
over the world, and we have grown up in the air and the light of a
system so congenial to the highest feelings of our human nature, that
the wisest spirits amongst us have sometimes been tempted to forget that
its origin is divine.

Had "The Excursion" been written in the poet's later life, it had not
been so liable to such objections as these; for much of his poetry
composed since that era is imbued with a religious spirit, answering the
soul's desire of the devoutest Christian. His Ecclesiastical Sonnets are
sacred Poetry indeed. How comprehensive the sympathy of a truly pious
heart! How religion reconciles different forms, and modes, and signs,
and symbols of worship, provided only they are all imbued with the
spirit of faith! This is the toleration Christianity sanctions--for it
is inspired by its own universal love. No sectarian feeling here, that
would exclude or debar from the holiest chamber in the poet's bosom one
sincere worshipper of our Father which is in heaven. Christian brethren!
By that mysterious bond our natures are brought into more endearing
communion--now more than ever brethren, because of the blood that was
shed for us all from His blessed side! Even of that most awful mystery
in some prayer-like strains the Poet tremblingly speaks, in many a
strain, at once so affecting and so elevating--breathing so divinely of
Christian charity to all whose trust is in the Cross! Who shall say what
form of worship is most acceptable to the Almighty? All are holy in
which the soul seeks to approach him--holy

          "The chapel lurking among trees,
    Where a few villagers on bended knees
    Find solace which a busy world disdains;"

we feel as the poet felt when he breathed to the image of some old

    "Once ye were holy, ye are holy still!"

And what heart partakes not the awe of his

              "Beneath that branching roof
    Self-poised and scoop'd into ten thousand cells
    Where light and shade repose, where music dwells
    Lingering--and wandering on as loth to die"?

Read the first of these sonnets with the last--and then once more the
strains that come between--and you will be made to feel how various and
how vast beneath the sky are the regions set apart by the soul for
prayer and worship; and that all places become consecrated--the high and
the humble--the mean and the magnificent--in which Faith and Piety have
sought to hold communion with Heaven.

But they who duly worship God in temples made with hands, meet every
hour of their lives "Devotional Excitements" as they walk among His
works; and in the later poetry of Wordsworth these abound--age having
solemnised the whole frame of his being, that was always alive to
religious emotions--but more than ever now, as around his paths in the
evening of life longer fall the mysterious shadows. More fervid lines
have seldom flowed from his spirit in its devoutest mood, than some
awakened by the sounds and sights of a happy day in May--to him--though
no church-bell was heard--a Sabbath. His occasional poems are often felt
by us to be linked together by the finest affinities, which perhaps are
but affinities between the feelings they inspire. Thus we turn from
those lines to some on a subject seemingly very different, from a
feeling of such fine affinities--which haply are but those subsisting
between all things and thoughts that are pure and good. We hear in them
how the Poet, as he gazes on a Family that holds not the Christian
Faith, embraces them in the folds of Christian Love--and how religion as
well as nature sanctifies the tenderness that is yearning at his heart
towards them--"a Jewish Family"--who, though outcasts by Heaven's
decree, are not by Heaven, still merciful to man, left forlorn on earth.

How exquisite the stanzas composed in one of the Catholic Chapels in

    "Doom'd as we are our native dust
    To wet with many a bitter shower,
    It ill befits us to disdain
    The Altar, to deride the Fane,
    Where patient sufferers bend, in trust
    To win a happier hour.

    I love, where spreads the village lawn,
    Upon some knee-worn Cell to gaze;
    Hail to the firm unmoving Cross,
    Aloft, where pines their branches toss!
    And to the Chapel far withdrawn,
    That lurks by lonely ways!

    Where'er we roam--along the brink
    Of Rhine--or by the sweeping Po,
    Through Alpine vale, or champaign wide,
    _Whate'er we look on, at our side
    Be Charity--to bid us think
    And feel, if we would know._"

How sweetly are interspersed among them some of humbler mood, most
touching in their simple pathos--such as a Hymn for the boatmen as they
approach the Rapids--Lines on hearing the song of the harvest damsels
floating homeward on the lake of Brientz--the Italian Itinerant and the
Swiss Goat-herd--and the Three Cottage Girls, representatives of
Italian, of Helvetian, and of Scottish beauty, brought together, as if
by magic, into one picture, each breathing in her natural grace the
peculiar spirit and distinctive character of her country's charms! Such
gentle visions disappear, and we sit by the side of the Poet as he gazes
from his boat floating on the Lake of Lugano, on the Church of San
Salvador, which was almost destroyed by lightning a few years ago, while
the altar and the image of the patron saint were untouched, and devoutly
listen while he exclaims,--

    "Cliffs, fountains, rivers, seasons, times,
    Let all remind the soul of heaven;
    Our slack devotion needs them all;
    And faith, so oft of sense the thrall,
    While she, by aid of Nature, climbs,
    May hope to be forgiven."

We do not hesitate to pronounce "Eclipse of the Sun, 1820," one of the
finest lyrical effusions of combined thought, passion, sentiment, and
imagery, within the whole compass of poetry. If the beautiful be indeed
essentially different from the sublime, we here feel that they may be
made to coalesce so as to be in their united agencies one divine power.
We called it lyrical, chiefly because of its transitions. Though not an
ode, it is ode-like in its invocations; and it might be set and sung to
music if Handel were yet alive, and St Cecilia to come down for an hour
from heaven. How solemn the opening strain! and from the momentary
vision of Science on her speculative Tower, how gently glides
Imagination down, to take her place by the Poet's side, in his bark
afloat beneath Italian skies--suddenly bedimmed, lake, land, and all,
with a something between day and night. In a moment we are conscious of
Eclipse. Our slight surprise is lost in the sense of a strange
beauty--solemn not sad--settling on the face of nature and the abodes of
men. In a single stanza filled with beautiful names of the beautiful, we
have a vision of the Lake, with all its noblest banks, and bays, and
bowers, and mountains--when in an instant we are wafted away from a
scene that might well have satisfied our imagination and our heart--if
high emotions were not uncontrollable and omnipotent--wafted away by
Fancy with the speed of Fire--lakes, groves, cliffs, mountains, all
forgotten--and alight amid an aerial host of figures, human and divine,
on a spire that seeks the sky. How still those imaged sanctities and
purities, all white as snows of Apennine, stand in the heavenly region,
circle above circle, and crowned as with a zone of stars! They are
imbued with life. In their animation the figures of angels and saints,
insensate stones no more, seem to feel the Eclipse that shadows them,
and look awful in the portentous light. In his inspiration he transcends
the grandeur even of that moment's vision--and beholds in the visages of
that aerial host those of the sons of heaven darkening with celestial
sorrow at the Fall of Man--when

        "Throngs of celestial visages,
    Darkening like water in the breeze,
    A holy sadness shared."

Never since the day on which the wondrous edifice, in its consummate
glory, first saluted the sun, had it inspired in the soul of kneeling
saint a thought so sad and so sublime--a thought beyond the reaches of
the soul of him whose genius bade it bear up all its holy adornments so
far from earth, that the silent company seem sometimes, as light and
shadow moves among them, to be in ascension to heaven. But the Sun
begins again to look like the Sun, and the poet, relieved by the joyful
light from that awful trance, delights to behold

              "Town and Tower,
    The Vineyard and the Olive Bower,
    Their lustre re-assume;"

and "breathes there a man with soul so dead," that it burns not within
him as he hears the heart of the husband and the father breathe forth
its love and its fear, remembering on a sudden the far distant whom it
has never forgotten--a love and a fear that saddens, but disturbs not,
for the vision he saw had inspired him with a trust in the tender
mercies of God? Commit to faithful memory, O Friend! who may some time
or other be a traveller over the wide world, the sacred stanzas that
bring the Poem to a close--and it will not fail to comfort thee when
sitting all alone by the well in the wilderness, or walking along the
strange streets of foreign cities, or lying in thy cot at midnight
afloat on far-off seas.

    "O ye, who guard and grace my Home
    While in far-distant lands we roam,
    Was such a vision given to you?
    Or, while we look'd with favour'd eyes,
    Did sullen mist hide lake and skies
    And mountains from your view?

    "I ask in vain--and know far less,
    If sickness, sorrow, or distress
    Have spared my Dwelling to this hour;
    Sad blindness! but ordained to prove
    Our faith in Heaven's unfailing love,
    And all-controlling power."

Let us fly from Rydal to Sheffield. James Montgomery is truly a
religious poet. His popularity, which is great, has, by some scribes
sitting in the armless chairs of the scorners, been attributed chiefly
to the power of sectarianism. He is, we believe, a sectary; and, if all
sects were animated by the spirit that breathes throughout his poetry,
we should have no fears for the safety and stability of the Established
Church; for in that self-same spirit was she built, and by that
self-same spirit were her foundations dug in a rock. Many are the
lights--solemn and awful all--in which the eyes of us mortal creatures
may see the Christian dispensation. Friends, looking down from the top
of a high mountain on a city-sprinkled plain, have each his own vision
of imagination--each his own sinking or swelling of heart. They urge no
inquisition into the peculiar affections of each other's secret
breasts--all assured, from what each knows of his brother, that every
eye there may see God--that every tongue that has the gift of lofty
utterance may sing His praises aloud--that the lips that remain silent
may be mute in adoration--and that all the distinctions of habits,
customs, professions, modes of life, even natural constitution and form
of character, if not lost, may be blended together in mild amalgamation
under the common atmosphere of emotion, even as the towers, domes, and
temples, are all softly or brightly interfused with the huts, cots, and
homesteads--the whole scene below harmonious because inhabited by beings
created by the same God--in his own image--and destined for the same

It is base therefore, and false, to attribute, in an invidious sense,
any of Montgomery's fame to any such cause. No doubt many persons read
his poetry on account of its religion, who, but for that, would not have
read it; and no doubt, too, many of them neither feel nor understand it.
But so, too, do many persons read Wordsworth's poetry on account of its
religion--the religion of the woods--who, but for that, would not have
read it; and so, too, many of them neither feel nor understand it. So is
it with the common-manners-painting poetry of Crabbe--the
dark-passion-painting poetry of Byron--the high-romance-painting poetry
of Scott--and so on with Moore, Coleridge, Southey, and the rest. But it
is to the _mens divinior_, however displayed, that they owe all their
fame. Had Montgomery not been a true poet, all the Religious Magazines
in the world could not have saved his name from forgetfulness and
oblivion. He might have flaunted his day like the melancholy
Poppy--melancholy in all its ill-scented gaudiness; but as it is, he is
like the Rose of Sharon, whose balm and beauty shall not wither, planted
on the banks of "that river whose streams make glad the city of the

Indeed, we see no reason why poetry, conceived in the spirit of a most
exclusive sectarianism, may not be of a very high order, and powerfully
impressive on minds whose religious tenets are most irreconcilable and
hostile to those of the sect. Feelings, by being unduly concentrated,
are not thereby necessarily enfeebled--on the contrary, often
strengthened; and there is a grand austerity which the imagination more
than admires--which the conscience scarcely condemns. The feeling, the
conviction from which that austerity grows, is in itself right; for it
is a feeling--a conviction of the perfect righteousness of God--the
utter worthlessness of self-left man--the awful sanctity of duty--and
the dreadfulness of the judgment-doom, from which no soul is safe till
the seals have been broken, and the Archangel has blown his trumpet. A
religion planted in such convictions as these, may become dark and
disordered in its future growth within the spirit; and the tree, though
of good seed and in a strong soil, may come to be laden with bitter
fruit, and the very droppings of its leaves may be pernicious to all who
rest within its shade. Still, such shelter is better in the blast than
the trunk of a dead faith; and such food, unwholesome though it be, is
not so miserable as famine to a hungry soul.

Grant, then, that there may be in Mr Montgomery's poetry certain
sentiments, which, in want of a better word, we call Sectarian. They are
not necessarily false, although not perfectly reconcilable to our own
creed, which, we shall suppose, is true. On the contrary, we may be made
much the better and the wiser men by meditating upon them; for while
they may, perhaps (and we are merely making a supposition), be too
strongly felt by him, they may be too feebly felt by us--they may,
perhaps, be rather blots on the beauty of his poetry than of his
faith--and if, in some degree, offensive in the composition of a poem,
far less so, or not at all, in that of a life.

All his shorter poems are stamped with the character of the man. Most of
them are breathings of his own devout spirit, either delighted or awed
by a sense of the Divine goodness and mercy towards itself, or
tremblingly alive--not in mere sensibility to human virtues and joys,
crimes and sorrows, for that often belongs to the diseased and
depraved--but in solemn, moral, and religious thought, to all of good or
evil befalling his brethren of mankind. "A sparrow cannot fall to the
ground"--a flower of the field cannot wither immediately before his
eyes--without awakening in his heart such thoughts as we may believe God
intended should be awakened even by such sights as these; for the fall
of a sparrow is a Scriptural illustration of His providence, and His
hand framed the lily, whose array is more royal than was that of Solomon
in all his glory. Herein he resembles Wordsworth--less profound
certainly--less lofty; for in its highest moods the genius of Wordsworth
walks by itself--unapproachable--on the earth it beautifies. But
Montgomery's poetical piety is far more prevalent over his whole
character; it belongs more essentially and permanently to the man.
Perhaps, although we shall not say so, it may be more simple, natural,
and true. More accordant it certainly is, with the sympathies of
ordinary minds. The piety of his poetry is far more Christian than that
of Wordsworth. It is in all his feelings, all his thoughts, all his
imagery; and at the close of most of his beautiful compositions, which
are so often avowals, confessions, prayers, thanksgivings, we feel, not
the moral, but the religion of his song. He "improves" all the
"occasions" of this life, because he has an "eye that broods on its own
heart;" and that heart is impressed by all lights and shadows, like a
river or lake whose waters are pure--pure in their sources and in their
course. He is, manifestly, a man of the kindliest home-affections; and
these, though it is to be hoped the commonest of all, preserved to him
in unabated glow and freshness by innocence and piety, often give vent
to themselves in little hymns and ode-like strains, of which the rich
and even novel imagery shows how close is the connection between a pure
heart and a fine fancy, and that the flowers of poetry may be brought
from afar, nor yet be felt to be exotics--to intertwine with the very
simplest domestic feelings and thoughts--so simple, so perfectly human,
that there is a touch of surprise on seeing them capable of such
adornment, and more than a touch of pleasure on feeling how much that
adornment becomes them--brightening without changing, and adding
admiration to delight--wonder to love.

Montgomery, too, is almost as much of an egotist as Wordsworth; and
thence, frequently, his power. The poet who keeps all the appearances of
external nature, and even all the passions of humanity, at arm's length,
that he may gaze on, inspect, study, and draw their portraits, either in
the garb they ordinarily wear, or in a fancy dress, is likely to produce
a strong likeness indeed; yet shall his pictures be wanting in ease and
freedom--they shall be cold and stiff--and both passion and imagination
shall desiderate something characteristic in nature, of the mountain or
the man. But the poet who hugs to his bosom everything he loves or
admires--themselves, or the thoughts that are their shadows--who is
himself still the centre of the enchanted circle--who, in the delusion
of a strong creative genius, absolutely believes that were he to die,
all that he now sees and hears delighted would die with him--who not
only sees

    "Poetic visions swarm on every bough,"

but the history of all his own most secret emotions written on the very
rocks--who gathers up the many beautiful things that in the prodigality
of nature lie scattered over the earth, neglected or unheeded, and the
more dearly, the more passionately loves them, because they are now
appropriated to the uses of his own imagination, who will by her alchymy
so further brighten them that the thousands of eyes that formerly passed
them by unseen or scorned, will be dazzled by their rare and
transcendent beauty--he is the "prevailing Poet!" Montgomery neither
seeks nor shuns those dark thoughts that will come and go, night and
day, unbidden, forbidden, across the minds of all men--fortified
although the main entrances may be; but when they do invade his secret,
solitary hours, he turns even such visitants to a happy account, and
questions them, ghost-like as they are, concerning both the future and
the past. Melancholy as often his views are, we should not suppose him a
man of other than a cheerful mind; for whenever the theme allows or
demands it, he is not averse to a sober glee, a composed gaiety that,
although we cannot say it ever so far sparkles out as to deserve to be
called absolutely brilliant, yet lends a charm to his lighter-toned
compositions, which it is peculiarly pleasant now and then to feel in
the writings of a man whose genius is naturally, and from the course of
life, not gloomy indeed, but pensive, and less disposed to indulge
itself in smiles than in tears.



People nowadays will write, because they see so many writing; the
impulse comes upon them from without, not from within; loud voices from
streets and squares of cities call on them to join the throng, but the
still small voice that speaketh in the penetralia of the spirit is mute;
and what else can be the result, but, in place of the song of lark, or
linnet, or nightingale, at the best a concert of mocking-birds, at the
worst an oratorio of ganders and bubbleys?

At this particular juncture or crisis, the disease would fain assume the
symptoms of religious inspiration. The poetasters are all pious--all
smitten with sanctity--Christian all over--and crossing and jostling on
the Course of Time--as they think, on the high road to Heaven and
Immortality. Never was seen before such a shameless set of hypocrites.
Down on their knees they fall in booksellers' shops, and, crowned with
foolscap, repeat to Blue-Stockings prayers addressed in doggrel to the
Deity! They bandy about the Bible as if it were an Album. They forget
that the poorest sinner has a soul to be saved, as well as a set of
verses to be damned; they look forward to the First of the Month with
more fear and trembling than to the Last Day; and beseech a critic to be
merciful upon them with far more earnestness than they ever beseeched
their Maker. They pray through the press--vainly striving to give some
publicity to what must be private for evermore; and are seen wiping
away, at tea-parties, the tears of contrition and repentance for capital
crimes perpetrated but on paper, and perpetrated thereon so paltrily,
that so far from being worthy of hell-fire, such delinquents, it is
felt, would be more suitably punished by being singed like plucked fowls
with their own unsaleable sheets. They are frequently so singed; yet
singeing has not the effect upon them for which singeing is designed;
and like chickens in a shower that have got the pip, they keep still
gasping and shooting out their tongues, and walking on tip-toe with
their tails down, till finally they go to roost in some obscure corner,
and are no more seen among bipeds.

Among those, however, who have been unfortunately beguiled by the spirit
of imitation and sympathy into religious poetry, one or two--who for the
present must be nameless--have shown feeling; and would they but obey
their feeling, and prefer walking on the ground with their own free
feet, to attempting to fly in the air with borrowed and bound wings,
they might produce something really poetical, and acquire a creditable
reputation. But they are too aspiring; and have taken into their hands
the sacred lyre without due preparation. He who is so familiar with his
Bible, that each chapter, open it where he will, teems with household
words, may draw thence the theme of many a pleasant and pathetic song.
For is not all human nature and all human life shadowed forth in those
pages? But the heart, to sing well from the Bible, must be imbued with
religious feelings, as a flower is alternately with dew and sunshine.
The study of THE BOOK must have been begun in the simplicity of
childhood, when it was felt to be indeed divine--and carried on through
all those silent intervals in which the soul of manhood is restored,
during the din of life, to the purity and peace of its early being. The
Bible must be to such a poet even as the sky--with its sun, moon, and
stars--its boundless blue with all its cloud-mysteries--its peace deeper
than the grave, because of realms beyond the grave--its tumult louder
than that of life, because heard altogether in all the elements. He who
begins the study of the Bible late in life, must, indeed, devote himself
to it--night and day--and with a humble and a contrite heart as well as
an awakened and soaring spirit, ere he can hope to feel what he
understands, or to understand what he feels--thoughts and feelings
breathing in upon him, as if from a region hanging, in its mystery,
between heaven and earth. Nor do we think that he will lightly venture
on the composition of poetry drawn from such a source. The very thought
of doing so, were it to occur to his mind, would seem irreverent; it
would convince him that he was still the slave of vanity, and pride, and
the world.

They alone, therefore, to whom God has given genius as well as faith,
zeal, and benevolence--will, of their own accord, fix their Pindus
either on Lebanon or Calvary--and of these but few. The genius must be
high--the faith sure--and human love must coalesce with divine, that the
strain may have power to reach the spirits of men, immersed as they are
in matter, and with all their apprehensions and conceptions blended with
material imagery, and the things of this moving earth and this restless

So gifted and so endowed, a great or good poet, having chosen his
subject well within religion, is on the sure road to immortal fame. His
work, when done, must secure sympathy for ever; a sympathy not dependent
on creeds, but out of which creeds spring, all of them manifestly
moulded by imaginative affections of religion. Christian Poetry will
outlive every other; for the time will come when Christian Poetry will
be deeper and higher far than any that has ever yet been known among
men. Indeed, the sovereign songs hitherto have been either religious or
superstitious; and as "the day-spring from on High that has visited us"
spreads wider and wider over the earth, "the soul of the world, dreaming
of things to come," shall assuredly see more glorified visions than have
yet been submitted to her ken. That poetry has so seldom satisfied the
utmost longings and aspirations of human nature, can only have been
because Poetry has so seldom dealt in its power with the only mysteries
worth knowing--the greater mysteries of religion, into which the
Christian is initiated only through faith, an angel sent from heaven to
spirits struggling by supplications and sacrifices to escape from sin
and death.

These, and many other thoughts and feelings concerning the "Vision and
the Faculty divine," when employed on divine subjects, have arisen
within us, on reading--which we have often done with delight--"The
Christian Year," so full of Christian poetry of the purest character. Mr
Keble is a poet whom Cowper himself would have loved--for in him piety
inspires genius, and fancy and feeling are celestialised by religion. We
peruse his book in a tone and temper of spirit similar to that which is
breathed upon us by some calm day in spring, when all imagery is serene
and still--cheerful in the main--yet with a touch and a tinge of
melancholy, which makes all the blended bliss and beauty at once more
endearing and more profound. We should no more think of criticising such
poetry than of criticising the clear blue skies--the soft green
earth--the "liquid lapse" of an unpolluted stream, that

    "Doth make sweet music with the enamell'd stones,
    Giving a gentle kiss to every flower
    It overtaketh on its pilgrimage."

All is purity and peace; as we look and listen, we partake of the
universal calm, and feel in nature the presence of Him from whom it
emanated. Indeed, we do not remember any poetry nearly so beautiful as
this, which reminds one so seldom of the poet's art. We read it without
ever thinking of the place which its author may hold among poets, just
as we behold a "lily of the field" without comparing it with other
flowers, but satisfied with its own pure and simple loveliness; or each
separate poem may be likened, in its
unostentatious--unambitious--unconscious beauty--to

    "A violet by a mossy stone,
    Half hidden to the eye."

Of all the flowers that sweeten this fair earth, the violet is indeed
the most delightful in itself--form, fragrance, and colour--nor less in
the humility of its birthplace, and its haunts in the "sunshiny shade."
Therefore, 'tis a meet emblem of those sacred songs that may be said to
blossom on Mount Sion.

The most imaginative poetry inspired by Nature, and dedicated to her
praise, is never perfectly and consummately beautiful till it ascends
into the religious; but then religion breathes from, and around, and
about it, only at last when the poet has been brought, by the leading of
his own aroused spirit, to the utmost pitch of his inspiration. He
begins, and continues long, unblamed in mere emotions of beauty; and he
often pauses unblamed, and brings his strain to a close, without having
forsaken this earth, and the thoughts and feelings which belong alone to
this earth. But poetry like that of the "Christian Year" springs at
once, visibly and audibly, from religion as its fount. If it, indeed,
issue from one of the many springs religion opens in the human heart, no
fear of its ever being dried up. Small indeed may seem the silver line,
when first the rill steals forth from its sacred source! But how soon it
begins to sing with a clear loud voice in the solitude! Bank and
brae--tree, shrub, and flower--grow greener at each successive
waterfall--the rains no more disturb that limpid element than the
dews--and never does it lose some reflection of the heavens.

In a few modest words, Mr Keble states the aim and object of his volume.
He says truly, that it is the peculiar happiness of the Church of
England to possess in her authorised formularies an ample and secure
provision, both for a sound rule of faith and a sober standard of
feeling in matters of practical religion. The object of his publication
will be attained, if any person find assistance from it in bringing his
own thoughts and feelings into more entire unison with those recommended
and exemplified in the Prayer-Book. We add, that its object has been
attained. In England, "The Christian Year" is already placed in a
thousand homes among household books. People are neither blind nor deaf
yet to lovely sights and sounds--and a true poet is as certain of
recognition now as at any period of our literature. In Scotland we have
no prayer-book printed on paper--perhaps it would be better if we had;
but the prayer-book which has inspired Mr Keble, is compiled and
composed from another Book, which, we believe, is more read in Scotland
than in any other country. Here the Sabbath reigns in power, that is
felt to be a sovereign power over all the land. We have, it may be said,
no prescribed holydays; but all the events recorded in the Bible, and
which in England make certain days holy in outward as well as inward
observances, are familiar to our knowledge and our feeling _here_; and
therefore the poetry that seeks still more to hallow them to the heart,
will find every good heart recipient of its inspiration--for the
Christian creed is "wide and general as the casing air," and felt as
profoundly in the Highland heather-glen, where no sound of psalms is
heard but on the Sabbath, as in the cathedral towns and cities of
England, where so often

    "Through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise."

Poetry, in our age, has been made too much a thing to talk about--to
show off upon--as if the writing and the reading of it were to be
reckoned among what are commonly called accomplishments. Thus, poets
have too often sacrificed the austere sanctity of the divine art to most
unworthy purposes, of which, perhaps, the most unworthy--for it implies
much voluntary self-degradation--is mere popularity. Against all such
low aims he is preserved, who, with Christian meekness, approaches the
muse in the sanctuaries of religion. He seeks not to force his songs on
the public ear; his heart is free from the fever of fame; his poetry is
praise and prayer. It meets our ear like the sound of psalms from some
unseen dwelling among the woods or hills, at which the wayfarer or
wanderer stops on his journey, and feels at every pause a holier
solemnity in the silence of nature. Such poetry is indeed _got by
heart_; and memory is then tenacious to the death, for her hold on what
she loves is strengthened as much by grief as by joy; and, when even
hope itself is dead--if, indeed, hope ever dies--the trust is committed
to despair. Words are often as unforgetable as voiceless thoughts; they
become very thoughts themselves, and _are_ what they represent. How are
many of the simply, rudely, but fervently and beautifully rhymed Psalms
of David, very part and parcel of the most spiritual treasures of the
Scottish peasant's being!

    "The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want.
      He makes me down to lie
    In pastures green: he leadeth me
      The quiet waters by."

These four lines sanctify to the thoughtful shepherd on the braes every
stream that glides through the solitary places--they have often given
colours to the greensward beyond the brightness of all herbage and of
all flowers. Thrice hallowed is that poetry which makes us mortal
creatures feel the union that subsists between the Book of Nature and
the Book of Life!

Poetry has endeared childhood by a thousand pictures, in which fathers
and mothers behold with deeper love the faces of their own offspring.
Such poetry has almost always been the production of the strongest and
wisest minds. Common intellects derive no power from earliest memories;
the primal morn, to them never bright, has utterly faded in the smoky
day; the present has swallowed up the past, as the future will swallow
up the present; each season of life seems to stand by itself as a
separate existence; and when old age comes, how helpless, melancholy,
and forlorn! But he who lives in the spirit of another creed, sees far
into the heart of Christianity. He hears a divine voice saying--"Suffer
little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the
kingdom of heaven!" Thus it is that Poetry throws back upon the New
Testament the light she has borrowed from it, and that man's mortal
brother speaks in accordance with the Saviour of Man. On a dead
insensible flower--a lily--a rose--a violet--a daisy, poetry may pour
out all its divinest power--just as the sun itself sometimes seems to
look with all its light on some one especial blossom, all at once made
transparently lustrous. And what if the flower be alive in all its
leaves--and have in it an immortal spirit? Or what if its leaves be
dead, and the immortal spirit gone away to heaven? Genius shall change
death into sleep--till the grave, in itself so dark and dismal, shall
seem a bed of bright and celestial repose. From poetry, in words or
marble--both alike still and serene as water upon grass--we turn to the
New Testament, and read of the "Holy Innocents." "They were redeemed
from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and to the Lamb." We
look down into the depths of that text--and we then turn again to
Keble's lines, which from those depths have flowed over upon the
uninspired page! Yet not uninspired--if that name may be given to
strains which, like the airs that had touched the flowers of Paradise,
"whisper whence they stole those balmy sweets." Revelation has shown us
that "we are greater than we know;" and who may neglect the Infancy of
that Being for whom Godhead died!

They who read the lines on the "Holy Innocents" in a mood of mind worthy
of them, will go on, with an equal delight, through those on "The
Epiphany." They are separated in the volume by some kindred and
congenial strains; but when brought close together, they occupy the
still region of thought as two large clear stars do of themselves seem
to occupy the entire sky.

How far better than skilfully--how inspiredly does this Christian poet
touch upon each successive holy theme--winging his way through the
stainless ether like some dove gliding from tree to tree, and leaving
one place of rest only for another equally happy, on the folding and
unfolding of its peaceful flight! Of late many versifiers have attempted
the theme; and some of them with shameful unsuccess. A bad poem on such
a subject is a sin. He who is a Christian indeed, will, when the star of
Bethlehem rises before his closed eyes, be mute beneath the image, or he
will hail it in strains simple as were those of the shepherds watching
their flocks by night when it appeared of old, high as were those of the
sages who came from the East bearing incense to the Child in the Manger.
Such are this Poet's strains, evolving themselves out of the few
words--"Behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them,
till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the
star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."

The transition from those affecting lines is natural and delightful to a
strain further on in the volume, entitled "Catechism." How soon the
infant spirit is touched with love--another name for religion--none may
dare to say who have watched the eyes of little children. Feeling and
thought would seem to come upon them like very inspiration--so strong it
often is, and sudden, and clear; yet, no doubt, all the work of natural
processes going on within Immortality. The wisdom of age has often been
seen in the simplicity of childhood--creatures but five or six years
old--soon perhaps about to disappear--astonishing, and saddening, and
subliming the souls of their parents and their parents' friends, by a
holy precocity of all pitiful and compassionate feelings, blended into a
mysterious piety that has made them sing happy hymns on the brink of
death and the grave. Such affecting instances of almost infantine
unfolding of the spirit beneath spiritual influences should not be
rare--nor are they rare--in truly Christian households. Almost as soon
as the heart is moved by filial affection, that affection grows reverent
even to earthly parents--and, ere long, becomes piety towards the name
of God and Saviour. Yet philosophers have said that the child must not
be too soon spoken to about religion. Will they fix the time? No--let
religion--a myriad-meaning word--be whispered and breathed round about
them, as soon as intelligence smiles in their eyes and quickens their
ears, while enjoying the sights and sounds of their own small yet
multitudinous world.

Let us turn to another strain of the same mood, which will be read with
tears by many a grateful heart--on the "Churching of Women." What would
become of us without the ceremonies of religion? How they strengthen the
piety out of which they spring! How, by concentrating all that is holy
and divine around their outward forms, do they purify and sanctify the
affections! What a change on his infant's face is wrought before a
father's eyes by Baptism! How the heart of the husband and the father
yearns, as he sees the wife and mother kneeling in thanksgiving after

"Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they toil not, neither
do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these." What is all the poetry that genius
ever breathed over all the flowers of this earth to that one divine
sentence! It has inspired our Christian poet--and here is his heartfelt


    "Sweet nurslings of the vernal skies,
      Bathed in soft airs, and fed with dew,
    What more than magic in you lies
      To fill the heart's fond view?
    In childhood's sports companions gay,
    In sorrow, on Life's downward way,
    How soothing! in our last decay
      Memorials prompt and true.

    Relics ye are of Eden's bowers,
      As pure, as fragrant, and as fair,
    As when ye crown'd the sunshine hours
      Of happy wanderers there.
    Fall'n all beside--the world of life,
    How is it stain'd with fear and strife!
    In Reason's world what storms are rife,
      What passions rage and glare!

    But cheerful and unchanged the while
      Your first and perfect form ye show,
    The same that won Eve's matron smile
      In the world's opening glow
    The stars of Heaven a course are taught
    Too high above our human thought;--
    Ye may be found if ye are sought,
      And as we gaze we know.

    Ye dwell beside our paths and homes,
      Our paths of sin, our homes of sorrow,
    And guilty man, where'er he roams,
      Your innocent mirth may borrow.
    The birds of air before us fleet,
    They cannot brook our shame to meet--
    But we may taste your solace sweet,
      And come again to-morrow.

    Ye fearless in your nests abide--
      Nor may we scorn, too proudly wise,
    Your silent lessons undescried
      By all but lowly eyes;
    For ye could draw th' admiring gaze
    Of Him who worlds and hearts surveys:
    Your order wild, your fragrant maze,
      He taught us how to prize.

    Ye felt your Maker's smile that hour,
      As when he paused and own'd you good;
    His blessing on earth's primal bower,
      Yet felt it all renew'd.
    What care ye now, if winter's storm
    Sweep ruthless o'er each silken form?
    Christ's blessing at your heart is warm,
      Ye fear no vexing mood.

    Alas! of thousand bosoms kind,
      That daily court you and caress,
    How few the happy secret find
      Of your calm loveliness!
    'Live for to-day! to-morrow's light
    To-morrow's cares shall bring to sight.
    Go, sleep like closing flowers at night,
      And Heaven thy morn will bless.'"

Such poetry as this must have a fine influence on all the best human
affections. Sacred are such songs to sorrow--and sorrow is either a
frequent visitor, or a domesticated inmate, in every household.
Religion may thus be made to steal unawares, even during ordinary hours,
into the commonest ongoings of life. Call not the mother unhappy who
closes the eyes of her dead child, whether it has smiled lonely in the
house, the sole delight of her eyes, or bloomed among other flowers, now
all drooping for its sake--nor yet call the father unhappy who lays his
sweet son below the earth, and returns to the home where his voice is to
be heard never more. That affliction brings forth feelings unknown
before in his heart; calming all turbulent thoughts by the settled peace
of the grave. Then every page of the Bible is beautiful--and beautiful
every verse of poetry that thence draws its inspiration. Thus in the
pale and almost ghost-like countenance of decay, our hearts are not
touched by the remembrance alone of beauty which is departed, and by the
near extinction of loveliness which we behold fading before our
eyes--but a beauty, fairer and deeper far, lies around the hollow eye
and the sunken cheek, breathed from the calm air of the untroubled
spirit that has heard resigned the voice that calls it away from the dim
shades of mortality. Well may that beauty be said to be religious; for
in it speaks the soul, conscious, in the undreaded dissolution of its
earthly frame, of a being destined to everlasting bliss. With every deep
emotion arising from our contemplation of such beauty as this--religious
beauty beaming in the human countenance, whether in joy or sadness,
health or decay--there is profoundly interfused a sense of the soul's
spirituality, which silently sheds over the emotion something celestial
and divine, rendering it not only different in degree, but altogether
distinct in kind, from all the feelings that things merely perishable
can inspire--so that the spirit is fully satisfied, and the feeling of
beauty is but a vivid recognition of its own deathless being and
ethereal essence. This is a feeling of beauty which was but faintly
known to the human heart in those ages of the world when all other
feelings of beauty were most perfect; and accordingly we find, in the
most pathetic strains of their elegiac poetry, lamentations over the
beauty intensely worshipped in the dust, which was to lie for ever over
its now beamless head. But to the Christian who may have seen the living
lustre leave the eye of some beloved friend, there must have shone a
beauty in his latest smile, which spoke not alone of a brief scene
closed, but of an endless scene unfolding; while its cessation, instead
of leaving him in utter darkness, seemed to be accompanied with a burst
of light.

Much of our most fashionable Modern Poetry is at once ludicrously and
lamentably unsuitable and unseasonable to the innocent and youthful
creatures who shed tears "such as angels weep" over the shameful sins of
shameless sinners, crimes which, when perpetrated out of Poetry, and by
persons with vulgar surnames, elevate their respective heroes to that
vulgar altitude--the gallows. The darker--the stronger passions,
forsooth! And what hast thou to do--my dove-eyed Margaret, with the
darker and stronger passions? Nothing whatever in thy sweet, still,
serene, and seemingly almost sinless world. Be the brighter and the
weaker passions thine--brighter indeed--yet say not _weaker_, for they
are strong as death;--Love and Pity, Awe and Reverence, Joy, Grief, and
Sorrow, sunny smiles and showery tears--be these all thy own--and
sometimes, too, on melancholy nights, let the heaven of thy imagination
be spanned in its starriness by the most celestial Evanescence--a Lunar

There is such perfect sincerity in the "Christian Year"--such perfect
sincerity, and consequently such simplicity--that though the production
of a fine and finished scholar, we cannot doubt that it will some day or
other find its way into many of the dwellings of humble life. Such
descent, if descent it be, must be of all receptions the most delightful
to the heart of a Christian poet. As intelligence spreads more widely
over the land, why fear that it will deaden religion? Let us believe
that it will rather vivify and quicken it; and that in time true poetry,
such as this, of a character somewhat higher than probably can be yet
felt, understood, and appreciated by the people, will come to be easy
and familiar, and blended with all the other benign influences breathed
over their common existence by books. Meanwhile the "Christian Year"
will be finding its way into many houses where the inmates read from the
love of reading--not for mere amusement only, but for instruction and a
deeper delight; and we shall be happy if our recommendation causes its
pages to be illumined by the gleams of a few more peaceful hearths, and
to be rehearsed by a few more happy voices in the "parlour twilight."

We cannot help expressing the pleasure it has given us to see so much,
true poetry coming from Oxford. It is delightful to see that classical
literature, which sometimes, we know not how, certainly has a chilling
effect on poetical feeling, there warming it as it ought to do, and
causing it to produce itself in song. Oxford has produced many true
poets; Collins, Warton, Bowles, Heber, Milman, and now Keble--are all
her own--her inspired sons. Their strains are not steeped in "port and
prejudice;" but in the--Isis. Heaven bless Iffley and Godstow--and many
another sweet old ruined place--secluded, but not far apart from her own
inspiring Sanctities! And those who love her not, never may the Muses



In his Poem, entitled, "The Omnipresence of the Deity," Mr Robert
Montgomery writes thus,--

    "Lo! there, in yonder fancy-haunted room,
    What mutter'd curses trembled through the gloom,
    When pale, and shiv'ring, and bedew'd with fear,
    The dying sceptic felt his hour drew near!
    From his parch'd tongue no sainted murmurs fell,
    No bright hopes kindled at his faint farewell;
    As the last throes of death convulsed his cheek,
    He gnash'd, and scowl'd, and raised a hideous shriek,
    Rounded his eyes into a ghastly glare,
    Lock'd his white lips--and all was mute despair!
    Go, child of darkness, see a Christian die;
    No horror pales his lip, or rolls his eye;
    No dreadful doubts, or dreamy terrors, start
    The hope Religion pillows on his heart,
    When with a dying hand he waves adieu
    To all who love so well, and weep so true:
    Meek as an infant to the mother's breast
    Turns fondly longing for its wonted rest,
    He pants for where congenial spirits stray,
    Turns to his God, and sighs his soul away."

First, as to the execution of this passage. "Fancy-haunted" may do, but
it is not a sufficiently strong expression for the occasion. In every
such picture as this, we demand appropriate vigour in every word
intended to be vigorous, and which is important to the effect of the

    "From his parch'd tongue no sainted murmurs fell,
    No bright hopes kindled at his faint farewell."

How could they?--The line but one before is,

    "What mutter'd curses trembled through the gloom."

This, then, is purely ridiculous, and we cannot doubt that Mr Montgomery
will confess that it is so; but independently of that, he is describing
the deathbed of a person who, _ex hypothesi_, could have no bright
hopes, could breathe no sainted murmurs. He might as well, in a
description of a negress, have told us that she had no long, smooth,
shining, yellow locks--no light-blue eyes--no ruddy and rosy cheeks--nor
yet a bosom white as snow. The execution of the picture of the Christian
is not much better--it is too much to use, in the sense here given to
them, no fewer than three verbs--"pales"--"rolls"--"starts," in four

    "The hope Religion pillows on his heart,"

is not a good line, and it is a borrowed one.

    "When with a dying hand he waves adieu,"

conveys an unnatural image. Dying men do not act so. Not thus are taken
eternal farewells. The motion in the sea-song was more natural--

    "She waved adieu, and kiss'd her lily hand."

"_Weeps so true_," means nothing, nor is it English. The grammar is not
good of,

    "He _pants for where_ congenial spirits"--

Neither is the word _pants_ by any means the right one; and in such an
awful crisis, admire who may the simile of the infant longing for its
mother's breast, we never can in its present shape; while there is the

    "Turns to his God, _and sighs his soul away_;"

a prettiness we very much dislike--alter one word, and it would be
voluptuous--nor do we hesitate to call the passage a puling one
altogether, and such as ought to be expunged from all paper.

But that is not all we have to say against it--it is radically and
essentially bad, because it either proves nothing of what it is meant to
prove--or what no human being on earth ever disputed. Be fair--be just
in all that concerns religion. Take the best--the most moral, if the
word can be used--the most enlightened Sceptic, and the true Christian,
and compare their deathbeds. That of the Sceptic will be disturbed or
disconsolate--that of the Christian confiding or blessed. But to
contrast the deathbed of an absolute maniac, muttering curses, gnashing
and scowling, and "raising a hideous shriek," and "rounding his eyes
with a ghastly glare," and convulsed, too, with severe bodily
throes--with that of a convinced, confiding, and conscientious
Christian, a calm, meek, undoubting believer, happy in the "hope
religion pillows on his heart," and enduring no fleshly agonies, can
serve no purpose under the sun. Men who have the misery of being
unbelievers, are at all times to be pitied--most of all in their last
hours; but though theirs be then dim melancholy, or dark despair, they
express neither the one state nor the other by mutterings, curses, and
hideous shrieks. Such a wretch there may sometimes be--like him "who
died and made no sign;" but there is no more sense in seeking to
brighten the character of the Christian by its contrast with that of
such an Atheist, than by contrast with a fiend to brighten the beauty of
an angel.

Finally, are the deathbeds of all good Christians so calm as this--and
do they all thus meekly

    "Pant for where congenial spirits stray,"

a line, besides its other vice, most unscriptural? Congenial spirit is
not the language of the New Testament. Alas! for poor weak human nature
at the dying hour! Not even can the Christian always then retain
unquaking trust in his Saviour! "This is the blood that was shed for
thee," are words whose mystery quells not always nature's terror. The
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is renewed in vain--and he remembers, in
doubt and dismay, words that, if misunderstood, would appal all the
Christian world--"My God--my God--why hast thou forsaken me?" Perhaps,
before the Faith, that has waxed dim and died in his brain distracted by
pain, and disease, and long sleeplessness, and a weight of woe--for he
is a father who strove in vain to burst those silken ties, that winding
all round and about his very soul and his very body, bound him to those
dear little ones, who are of the same spirit and the same flesh,--we
say, before that Faith could, by the prayers of holy men, be restored
and revivified, and the Christian once more comforted by thinking on
Him, who for all human beings did take upon him the rueful burden and
agonies of the Cross--Death may have come for his prey, and left the
chamber, of late so hushed and silent, at full liberty to weep! Enough
to know, that though Christianity be divine, we are human,--that the
vessel is weak in which that glorious light may be enshrined--weak as
the potter's clay--and that though Christ died to save sinners, sinners
who believe in Him, and therefore shall not perish, may yet lose hold of
the belief when their understandings are darkened by the shadow of
death, and, like Peter losing faith and sinking in the sea, feel
themselves descending into some fearful void, and cease here to be, ere
they find voice to call on the name of the Lord--"Help, or I perish!"

What may be the nature of the thoughts and feelings of an Atheist,
either when in great joy or great sorrow, full of life and the spirit of
life, or in mortal malady and environed with the toils of death, it
passes the power of our imagination even dimly to conceive; nor are we
convinced that there ever was an utter Atheist. The thought of a God
will enter in, barred though the doors be both of the understanding and
the heart, and all the windows supposed to be blocked up against the
light. The soul, blind and deaf as it may often be, cannot always resist
the intimations all life long, day and night, forced upon it from the
outer world; its very necessities, nobler far than those of the body,
even when most degraded, importunate when denied their manna, are to it
oftentimes a silent or a loud revelation. Then, not to feel and think as
other beings do with "discourse of reason," is most hard and difficult
indeed, even for a short time, and on occasions of very inferior moment.
Being men, we are carried away, willing or unwilling, and often
unconsciously, by the great common instinct; we keep sailing with the
tide of humanity, whether in flow or ebb--fierce as demons and the sons
of perdition, if that be the temper of the congregating hour--mild and
meek as Pity, or the new-born babe, when the afflatus of some divine
sympathy has breathed through the multitude, nor one creature escaped
its influence, like a spring day that steals through a murmuring forest,
till not a single tree, even in the darkest nook, is without some touch
of the season's sunshine. Think, then, of one who would fain be an
Atheist, conversing with the "sound, healthy children of the God of
heaven!" To his reason, which is his solitary pride, arguments might in
vain be addressed, for he exults in being "an Intellectual All in All,"
and is a bold-browed sophist to daunt even the eyes of Truth--eyes which
can indeed "outstare the eagle" when their ken is directed to heaven,
but which are turned away in aversion from the human countenance that
would dare to deny God. Appeal not to the intellect of such a man, but
to his heart; and let not even that appeal be conveyed in any fixed form
of words--but let it be an appeal of the smiles and tears of
affectionate and loving lips and eyes--of common joys and common griefs,
whose contagion is often felt, beyond prevention or cure, where two or
three are gathered together--among families thinly sprinkled over the
wilderness, where, on God's own day, they repair to God's own house, a
lowly building on the brae, which the Creator of suns and systems
despiseth not, nor yet the beatings of the few contrite hearts therein
assembled to worship Him--in the cathedral's "long-drawn aisles and
fretted vaults"--in mighty multitudes all crowded in silence, as beneath
the shadow of a thunder-cloud, to see some one single human being
die--or swaying and swinging backwards and forwards, and to and fro, to
hail a victorious armament returning from the war of Liberty, with him
who hath "taken the start of this majestic world" conspicuous from afar
in front, encircled with music, and with the standard of his unconquered
country afloat above his head. Thus, and by many thousand other potent
influences for ever at work, and from which the human heart can never
make its safe escape, let it flee to the uttermost parts of the earth,
to the loneliest of the multitude of the isles of the sea, are men, who
vainly dream that they are Atheists, forced to feel God. Nor happens
this but rarely--nor are such "angel-visits few and far between." As the
most cruel have often, very often, thoughts tender as dew, so have the
most dark often, very often, thoughts bright as day. The sun's golden
finger writes the name of God on the clouds, rising or setting, and the
Atheist, falsely so called, starts in wonder and in delight, which his
soul, because it is immortal, cannot resist, to behold that Bible
suddenly opened before his eyes on the sky. Or some old, decrepit,
greyhaired crone, holds out her shrivelled hand, with dim eyes patiently
fixed on his, silently asking charity--silently, but in the holy name of
God; and the Atheist, taken unawares, at the very core of his heart bids
"God bless her," as he relieves her uncomplaining miseries.

If then Atheists do exist, and if their deathbeds may be described for
the awful or melancholy instruction of their fellow-men, let them be
such Atheists as those whom, let us not hesitate to say, we may
blamelessly love with a troubled affection; for our Faith may not have
preserved us from sins from which they are free--and we may give even to
many of the qualities of their most imperfect and unhappy characters
almost the name of virtues. No curses on their deathbeds will they be
heard to utter. No black scowlings--no horrid gnashing of teeth--no
hideous shriekings will there appal the loving ones who watch and weep
by the side of him who is dying disconsolate. He will hope, and he will
fear, now that there is a God indeed everywhere present--visible now in
the tears that fall, audible now in the sighs that breathe for his
sake--in the still small voice. That Being forgets not those by whom he
has been forgotten; least of all, the poor "Fool who has said in his
heart there is no God," and who knows at last that a God there is, not
always in terror and trembling, but as often perhaps in the assurance of
forgiveness, which, undeserved by the best of the good, may not be
withheld even from the worst of the bad, if the thought of a God and a
Saviour pass but for a moment through the darkness of the departing
spirit--like a dove shooting swiftly, with its fair plumage, through the
deep but calm darkness that follows the subsided storm.

So, too, with respect to Deists. Of unbelievers in Christianity there
are many kinds--the reckless, the ignorant, the callous, the confirmed,
the melancholy, the doubting, the despairing--the _good_. At their
deathbeds, too, may the Christian poet, in imagination, take his
stand--and there may he even hear

    "The still sad music of humanity,
    Not harsh nor grating, but of amplest power
    To soften and subdue!"

Oftener all the sounds and sights there will be full of most rueful
anguish; and that anguish will groan in the poet's lays when his human
heart, relieved from its load of painful sympathies, shall long
afterwards be inspired with the pity of poetry, and sing in elegies,
sublime in their pathos, the sore sufferings and the dim distress that
clouded and tore the dying spirit, longing, but all unable--profound
though its longings be--as life's daylight is about to close upon that
awful gloaming, and the night of death to descend in oblivion--to
believe in the Redeemer.

Why then turn but to such deathbed, if indeed religion, and not
superstition, described that scene--as that of Voltaire? Or even of
Rousseau, whose dying eyes sought, in the last passion, the sight of the
green earth, and the blue skies, and the sun shining so brightly, when
all within the brain of his worshipper was fast growing dimmer and more
dim--when all the unsatisfied spirit, that scarcely hoped a future life,
knew not how it could ever take farewell of the present with tenderness
enough, and enough of yearning and craving after its disappearing
beauty, and when as if the whole earth were at that moment beloved even
as his small peculiar birthplace--

    "Et dulces moriens reminiscitur Argos."

The Christian poet, in his humane wisdom, will, for instruction's sake
of his fellow-men, and for the discovery and the revealment of
ever-sacred truth, keep aloof from such death-beds as these, or take his
awful stand beside them to drop the perplexed and pensive tear. For we
know not what it is that we either hear or see; and holy Conscience,
hearing through a confused sound, and seeing through an obscure light,
fears to condemn, when perhaps she ought only to pity--to judge another,
when perhaps it is her duty but to use that inward eye for her own
delinquencies. He, then, who designs to benefit his kind by strains of
high instruction, will turn from the deathbed of the famous Wit, whose
brilliant fancy hath waxed dim as that of the clown--whose malignant
heart is quaking beneath the Power it had so long derided, with terrors
over which his hated Christian triumphs--and whose intellect, once so
perspicacious that it could see but too well the motes that are in the
sun, the specks and stains that are in the flowing robe of nature
herself--prone, in miserable contradiction to its better being, to turn
them as proofs against the power and goodness of the Holy One who
inhabiteth eternity--is now palsy-stricken as that of an idiot, and
knows not even the sound of the name of its once vain and proud
possessor--when crowded theatres had risen up with one rustle to honour,
and then, with deafening acclamations,

    "Raised a mortal to the skies!"

There he is--it matters not now whether on down or straw--stretched,
already a skeleton, and gnashing--may it be in senselessness, for
otherwise what pangs are these!--gnashing his teeth, within lips once so
eloquent, now white with foam and slaver; and the whole mouth, of yore
so musical, grinning ghastly like the fleshless face of fear-painted
death! Is that Voltaire? He who, with wit, thought to shear the Son of
God of all His beams?--with wit, to loosen the dreadful fastenings of
the Cross?--with wit, to scoff at Him who hung thereon, while the blood
and water came from the wound in His blessed side?--with wit, to drive
away those Shadows of Angels, that were said to have rolled off the
stone from the mouth of the sepulchre of the resurrection?--with wit, to
deride the ineffable glory of transfigured Godhead on the Mount, and the
sweet and solemn semblance of the Man Jesus in the garden?--with wit, to
darken all the decrees of Providence?--and with wit,

    "To shut the gates of Mercy on mankind?"

Nor yet will the Christian poet long dwell in his religious strains,
though awhile he may linger there, "and from his eyelids wipe the tears
that sacred pity hath engendered," beside the dying couch of Jean Jaques
Rousseau--a couch of turf beneath trees--for he was ever a lover of
Nature, though he loved all things living or dead as madmen love. His
soul, while most spiritual, was sensual still, and with tendrils of
flesh and blood embraced--even as it did embrace the balm-breathing form
of voluptuous woman--the very phantoms of his most etherealised
imagination. Vice stained all his virtues--as roses are seen, in some
certain soils, and beneath some certain skies, always to be blighted,
and their fairest petals to bear on them something like blots of blood.
Over the surface of the mirror of his mind, which reflected so much of
the imagery of man and nature, there was still, here and there, on the
centre or round the edges, rust-spots, that gave back no image, and
marred the proportions of the beauty and the grandeur that yet shone
over the rest of the circle set in the rich carved gold. His disturbed,
and distracted, and defeated friendships, that all vanished in insane
suspicions, and seemed to leave his soul as well satisfied in its fierce
or gloomy void, as when it was filled with airy and glittering visions,
are all gone for ever now. Those many thoughts and feelings--so
melancholy, yet still fair, and lovely, and beautiful--which, like
bright birds encaged, with ruffled and drooping wings, once so apt to
soar, and their music mute, that used to make the wide woods to wring,
were confined within the wires of his jealous heart--have now all flown
away, and are at rest! Who sits beside the wild and wondrous genius,
whose ravings entrance the world? Who wipes the death-sweat from that
capacious forehead, once filled with such a multitude of disordered but
aspiring fancies? Who, that his beloved air of heaven may kiss and cool
it for the last time, lays open the covering that hides the marble
sallowness of Rousseau's sin-and-sorrow-haunted breast? One of Nature's
least-gifted children--to whose eyes nor earth nor heaven ever beamed
with beauty--to whose heart were known but the meanest charities of
nature; yet mean as they were, how much better in such an hour than all
his imaginings most magnificent! For had he not suffered his own
offspring to pass away from his eyes, even like the wood-shadows, only
less beloved and less regretted? And in the very midst of the
prodigality of love and passion, which he had poured out over the
creations of his ever-distempered fancy, let his living children, his
own flesh and blood, disappear as paupers in a chance-governed world? A
world in which neither parental nor filial love were more than the names
of nonentities--Father, Son, Daughter, Child, but empty syllables, which
philosophy heeded not--or rather loved them in their emptiness, but
despised, hated, or feared them, when for a moment they seemed pregnant
with a meaning from heaven, and each in its holy utterance signifying

No great moral or religious lesson can well be drawn, or say rather so
well, from such anomalous deathbeds, as from those of common
unbelievers. To show, in all its divine power, the blessedness of the
Christian's faith, it must be compared, rather than contrasted, with the
faith of the best and wisest of Deists. The ascendancy of the heavenly
over the earthly will then be apparent--as apparent as the superior
lustre of a star to that of a lighted-up window in the night. For above
all other things in which the Christian is happier than the Deist--with
the latter, the life beyond the grave is but a dark hope--to the former,
"immortality has been brought to light by the Gospel." That difference
embraces the whole spirit. It may be less felt--less seen when life is
quick and strong; for this earth alone has much and many things to
embrace and enchain our being--but in death the difference is as between
night and day.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.--In the later editions of "The Omnipresence of the Deity," the
passage animadverted on in the preceding chapter has been altered as

    "Lo! there, in yonder spectre-haunted room,
    What sightless demons horrified the gloom,
    When pale and shivering, and bedew'd with fear,
    The dying Sceptic felt his hour draw near!
    Ere the last throes with anguish lined his cheek,
    He yell'd for mercy with a hollow shriek,
    Mutter'd some accents of unmeaning prayer,
    Lock'd his white lips--let God the rest declare.
    Go, child of Darkness! see a Christian die;
    No horror pales his lip, or dims his eye;
    No fiend-shaped phantoms of destruction start
    The hope Religion pillows on his heart,
    When with a falt'ring hand he waves adieu
    To hearts as tender as their tears are true;
    Meek as an infant to the mother's breast
    Turns, fondly longing for its wonted rest,
    So to our God the yielding soul retires,
    And in one sigh of sainted peace expires."



The present Age, which, after all, is a very pretty and pleasant one, is
feelingly alive and widely awake to the manifold delights and advantages
with which the study of Natural History swarms, and especially that
branch of it which unfolds the character and habits, physical, moral,
and intellectual, of those most interesting and admirable
creatures--Birds. It is familiar not only with the shape and colour of
beak, bill, claw, talon, and plume, but with the purposes for which they
are designed, and with the instincts which guide their use in the
beautiful economy of all-gracious Nature. We remember the time when the
very word Ornithology would have required interpretation in mixed
company; when a naturalist was looked on as a sort of out-of-the-way but
amiable monster. Now, one seldom meets with man, woman, or child, who
does not know a hawk from a handsaw, or even, to adopt the more learned
reading, from a heron-shew; a black swan is no longer erroneously
considered a _rara avis_ any more than a black sheep; while the Glasgow
Gander himself, no longer apocryphal, has taken his place in the
national creed, belief in his existence being merely blended with wonder
at his magnitude, and some surprise perhaps among the scientific that he
should be as yet the sole specimen of that enormous Anser.

The chief cause of this advancement of knowledge in one of its most
delightful departments, has been the gradual extension of its study from
stale books written by men, to that book ever fresh from the hand of
God. And the second--another yet the same--has been the gradual change
wrought by a philosophical spirit in the observation, delineation, and
arrangement of the facts and laws with which the science is conversant,
and which it exhibits in the most perfect harmony and order. Neophytes
now range for themselves, according to their capacities and
opportunities, the fields, woods, rivers, lakes, and seas; and
proficients, no longer confining themselves to mere nomenclature, enrich
their works with anecdotes and traits of character, which, without
departure from truth, have imbued bird-biography with the double charm
of reality and romance.

Compare the intensity and truth of any natural knowledge insensibly
acquired by observation in very early youth, with that corresponding to
it picked up in later life from books! In fact, the habit of
distinguishing between things as different, or of similar forms,
colours, and characters, formed in infancy, and childhood, and boyhood,
in a free intercourse and communion with Nature, while we are merely
seeking and finding the divine joy of novelty and beauty, perpetually
occurring before our eyes in all her haunts, may be made the foundation
of an accuracy of judgment of inappreciable value as an intellectual
endowment. So entirely is this true, that we know many observant
persons--that is, observant in all things intimately related with their
own pursuits, and with the experience of their own early education--who,
with all the pains they could take in after life, have never been able
to distinguish by name, when they saw them, above half-a-dozen, if so
many, of our British singing-birds; while as to knowing them by their
song, that is wholly beyond the reach of their uninstructed ear, and a
shilfa chants to them like a yellow yoldrin. On seeing a small bird
peeping out of a hole in the eaves, and especially on hearing him
chatter, they shrewdly suspect him to be a sparrow, though it does not
by any means follow that their suspicions are always verified; and
though, when sitting with her white breast so lovely out of the "auld
clay bigging" in the window-corner, he cannot mistake Mistress Swallow,
yet when flitting in fly-search over the stream, and ever and anon
dipping her wing-tips in the lucid coolness, 'tis an equal chance that
he misnames her Miss Marten.

What constant caution is necessary during the naturalist's perusal even
of the very best books! From the very best we can only obtain knowledge
at second-hand, and this, like a story circulated among village gossips,
is more apt to gain in falsehood than in truth, as it passes from one to
another; but in field-study we go at once to the fountain-head, and
obtain our facts pure and unalloyed by the theories and opinions of
previous observers. Hence it is that the utility of books becomes
obvious. You witness with your own eyes some puzzling, perplexing,
strange, and unaccountable--fact; twenty different statements of it have
been given by twenty different ornithologists; you consult them all, and
getting a hint from one, and a hint from another, here a glimmer of
light to be followed, and there a gloom of darkness to be avoided--why,
who knows but that in the end you do yourself solve the mystery, and
absolutely become not only happy but illustrious? People sitting in
their own parlour with their feet on the fender, or in the sanctum of
some museum, staring at stuffed specimens, imagine themselves
naturalists; and in their presumptuous and insolent ignorance, which is
often total, scorn the wisdom of the wanderers of the woods, who have
for many studious and solitary years been making themselves familiar
with all the beautiful mysteries of instinctive life. Take two boys, and
set them respectively to pursue the two plans of study. How puzzled and
perplexed will be the one who pores over the "interminable terms" of a
system in books, having meanwhile no access to, or communion with
nature! The poor wretch is to be pitied--nor is he anything else than a
slave. But the young naturalist who takes his first lessons in the
fields, observing the unrivalled scene which creation everywhere
displays, is perpetually studying in the power of delight and wonder,
and laying up knowledge which can be derived from no other source. The
rich boy is to be envied, nor is he anything else than a king. The one
sits bewildered among words, the other walks enlightened among things;
the one has not even the shadow, the other more than the substance--the
very essence and life of knowledge; and at twelve years old he may be a
better naturalist than ever the mere bookworm will be, were he to
outlive old Tommy Balmer.

In education--late or early--for heaven's sake let us never separate
things and words! They are married in nature; and what God hath put
together let no man put asunder--'tis a fatal divorce. Without things,
words accumulated by misery in the memory, had far better die than drag
out an useless existence in the dark; without words, their stay and
support, things unaccountably disappear out of the store-house, and may
be for ever lost. But bind a thing with a word, a strange link, stronger
than any steel, and softer than any silk, and the captive remains for
ever happy in its bright prison-house. On this principle, it is indeed
surprising at how early an age children can be instructed in the most
interesting parts of natural history--ay, even a babe in arms. Remember
Coleridge's beautiful lines to the Nightingale:--

                  "That strain again!
    Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe,
    Who, capable of no articulate sound,
    Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
    How he would place his hand beside his ear,
    His little hand, the small forefinger up,
    And bid us listen! _and I deem it wise
    To make him Nature's child_."

How we come to love the Birds of Bewick, and White, and the two Wilsons,
and Montague, and Mudie, and Knapp, and Selby, and Swainson, and
Audubon, and many others familiar with their haunts and habits, their
affections and their passions, till we feel that they are indeed our
fellow-creatures, and part of one wise and wonderful system! If there be
sermons in stones, what think ye of the hymns and psalms, matin and
vesper, of the lark, who at heaven's gate sings--of the wren, who pipes
her thanksgivings as the slant sunbeam shoots athwart the mossy portal
of the cave, in whose fretted roof she builds her nest above the
waterfall! In cave-roof? Yea--we have seen it so--just beneath the
cornice. But most frequently we have detected her procreant cradle on
old mossy stump, mouldering walls or living rock--sometimes in cleft of
yew-tree or hawthorn--for hang the globe with its imperceptible orifice
in the sunshine or the storm, and St. Catharine sits within heedless of
the outer world, counting her beads with her sensitive breast that
broods in bliss over the priceless pearls.

Ay, the men we have named, and many other blameless idolaters of Nature,
have worshipped her in a truly religious spirit, and have taught us
their religion. All our great poets have loved the _Minnesingers_ of the
woods--Thomson, and Cowper, and Wordsworth, as dearly as Spenser, and
Shakespeare, and Milton. From the inarticulate language of the groves,
they have inhaled the enthusiasm that inspired some of the finest of
their own immortal strains. "Lonely wanderer of Nature" must every poet
be--and though often self-wrapt his wanderings through a spiritual world
of his own, yet as some fair flower silently asks his eye to look on it,
some glad bird his ear solicits with a song, how intense is then his
perception--his emotion how profound--while his spirit is thus appealed
to, through all its human sensibilities, by the beauty and the joy
perpetual even in the most solitary places!

Our moral being owes deep obligation to all who assist us to study
nature aright; for believe us, it is high and rare knowledge to know and
to have the true and full use of our eyes. Millions go to the grave in
old age without ever having learned it; they were just beginning,
perhaps, to acquire it when they sighed to think that "they who look out
of the windows were darkened;" and that, while they had been instructed
how to look, sad shadows had fallen on the whole face of Nature, and
that the time for those intuitions was gone for ever. But the science of
seeing has now found favour in our eyes; and blessings be with them who
can discover, discern, and describe the least as the greatest of
Nature's works--who can see as distinctly the finger of God in the
lustre of the humming-bird murmuring round a rose-bush, as in that of
the star of Jove shining sole in heaven.

Take up now almost any book you may on any branch of Natural History,
and instead of the endless, dry details of imaginary systems and
classifications, in which the ludicrous littlenesses of man's vain
ingenuity used to be set up as a sort of symbolical scheme of revelation
of the sublime varieties of the inferior--as we choose to call
it--creation of God, you find high attempts in an humble spirit rather
to illustrate tendencies, and uses, and harmonies, and order, and
design. With some glorious exceptions, indeed, the naturalists of the
day gone by showed us a science that was but a skeleton--little but dry
bones; with some inglorious exceptions, indeed, the naturalists of the
day that is now, have been desirous to show us a living, breathing, and
moving body--to explain, as far as they might, its mechanism and its
spirit. Ere another century elapse, how familiar may men be with all the
families of the flowers of the field, and the birds of the air, with
all the interdependencies of their characters and their kindreds,
perhaps even with the mystery of that instinct which now is seen working
wonders, not only beyond the power of reason to comprehend, but of
imagination to conceive!

How deeply enshrouded are felt to be the mysteries of Nature, when,
thousands of years after Aristotle, we hear Audubon confess his utter
ignorance of what migrations and non-migrations mean--that 'tis hard to
understand why such general laws as these should be--though their benign
operation is beautifully seen in the happiness provided alike for
all--whether they reside in their own comparatively small localities,
nor ever wish to leave them--or at stated seasons instinctively fly away
over thousands of miles, to drop down and settle for a while on some
spot adapted to their necessities, of which they had prescience afar
off, though seemingly wafted thither like leaves upon the wind! Verily,
as great a mystery is that Natural Religion by the theist studied in
woods and on mountains and by sea-shores, as that Revelation which
philosophers will not believe because they do not understand--"the
blinded bigot's scorn" deriding man's highest and holiest

We must not now go a bird-nesting, but first time we do we shall put
Bishop Mant's "Months" in our pocket. The good Bishop--who must have
been an indefatigable bird-nester in his boyhood--though we answer for
him that he never stole but one egg out of four, and left undisturbed
the callow young--treats of those beauteous and wondrous structures in a
style that might make Professor Rennie jealous, who has written like a
Vitruvius on the architecture of birds. He expatiates with uncontrolled
delight on the unwearied activity of the architects, who, without any
apprenticeship to the trade, are journeymen, nay, master-builders, the
first spring of their full-fledged lives; with no other tools but a
bill, unless we count their claws, which however seem, and that only in
some kinds, to be used but in carrying materials. With their breasts and
whole bodies, indeed, most of them round off the soft insides of their
procreant cradles, till they fit each brooding bunch of feathers to a
hairbreadth, as it sits close and low on eggs or eyeless young, a
_leetle_ higher raised up above their gaping babies, as they wax from
downy infancy into plumier childhood, which they do how swiftly! and
how soon have they flown! You look some sunny morning into the bush, and
the abode in which they seemed so _cosy_ the day before is utterly
forsaken by the joyous ingrates--now feebly fluttering in the narrow
grove, to them a wide world teeming with delight and wonder--to be
thought of never more. With all the various materials used by them in
building their different domiciles, the Bishop is as familiar as with
the sole material of his own wig--though, by the by, last time we had
the pleasure of seeing and sitting by him, he wore his own hair--"but
that not much;" for, like our own, his sconce was bald, and, like it,
showed the organ of constructiveness as fully developed as Christopher
or a Chaffinch. He is perfectly well acquainted, too, with all the
diversities of their modes of building--their orders of
architecture--and eke with all those of situation chosen by the
kinds--whether seemingly simple, in cunning that deceives by a show of
carelessness and heedlessness of notice, or with craft of concealment
that baffles the most searching eye--hanging their beloved secret in
gloom not impervious to sun and air--or, trustful in man's love of his
own home, affixing the nest beneath the eaves, or in the flowers of the
lattice, kept shut for their sakes, or half-opened by fair hands of
virgins whose eyes gladden with heart-born brightness as each morning
they mark the growing beauty of the brood, till they smile to see one
almost as large as its parent sitting on the rim of the nest, when all
at once it hops over, and, as it flutters away like a leaf, seems
surprised that it can fly!

Yet there are still a few wretched quacks among us whom we may some day
perhaps drive down into the dirt. There are idiots who will not even
suffer sheep, cows, horses, and dogs, to escape the disgusting
perversions of their anile anecdotage--who, by all manner of drivelling
lies, libel even the common domestic fowl, and impair the reputation of
the bantam. Newspapers are sometimes so infested by the trivial trash,
that in the nostrils of a naturalist they smell on the breakfast-table
like rotten eggs; and there are absolutely volumes of the slaver bound
in linen, and lettered with the names of the expectorators on the
outside, resembling annuals--we almost fear with prints. In such hands,
the ass loses his natural attributes, and takes the character of his
owner; and as the anecdote-monger is seen astride on his cuddy, you
wonder what may be the meaning of the apparition, for we defy you to
distinguish the one donk from the other, the rider from the ridden,
except by the more inexpressive countenance of the one, and the ears of
the other in uncomputed longitude dangling or erect.

We can bear this libellous gossip least patiently of all with birds. If
a ninny have some stories about a wonderful goose, let him out with
them, and then waddle away with his fat friend into the stackyard--where
they may take sweet counsel together in the "fause-house." Let him, with
open mouth and grozet eyes, say what he chooses of "Pretty Poll," as she
clings in her cage, by beak or claws, to stick or wire, and in her
naughty vocabulary let him hear the impassioned eloquence of an Aspasia
inspiring a Pericles. But, unless his crown itch for the Crutch, let him
spare the linnet on the briery bush among the broom--the laverock on the
dewy braird or in the rosy cloud--the swan on her shadow--the eagle in
his eyrie, in the sun, or at sea.

The great ornithologists and the true are the authorities that are
constantly correcting those errors of popular opinion about the fowls of
the air, which in every country, contrary to the evidence of the senses,
and in spite of observations that may be familiar to all, gain credence
with the weak and ignorant, and in process of time compose even a sort
of system of the vilest superstition. It would be a very curious inquiry
to trace the operation of the causes that, in different lands, have
produced with respect to birds national prejudices of admiration or
contempt, love or even hatred; and in doing so, we should have to open
up some strange views of the influence of imagination on the head and
heart. It may be remarked that an excuse will be generally found for
such fallacies in the very sources from which they spring; but no excuse
can be found--on the contrary, in every sentence the fool scribbles, a
glaring argument is shown in favour of his being put to a lingering and
cruel death--the fool who keeps gossiping every week in the year,
penny-a-line-wise, with a gawky face and a mawkish mind, about God's
creatures to whom reason has been denied, but instinct given, in order
that they may be happy on moor and mountain, in the hedge-roots and on
the tops of heaven-kissing trees--by the side of rills whose sweet low
voice gives no echo in the wild, and on the hollow thunder of seas on
which they sit in safety around the sinking ship, or from all her
shrieks flee away to some island and are at rest.

Turn to the true Ornithologist, and how beautiful, each in the
adaptation of its own structure to its own life, every bird that walks
the land, wades the water, or skims the air! In his pages, pictured by
pen or pencil, all is wondrous--as nature ever is to

                  "The quiet eye
    That broods and sleeps on its own heart,"

even while gazing on the inferior creatures of that creation to which we
belong, and are linked in being's mysterious chain--till our breath,
like theirs, expire. All is wondrous--but nothing monstrous in his
delineations--for the more we know of nature in her infinite varieties,
her laws reveal themselves to us in more majestic simplicity, and we are
inspired with awe, solemn but sweet, by the incomprehensible, yet in
part comprehended, magnificence of Truth. The writings of such men are
the gospel of nature--and if the apocrypha be bound up along with
it--'tis well; for in it, too, there is felt to be inspiration--and
when, in good time, purified from error, the leaves all make but one

Hark to the loud, clear, mellow, bold song of the BLACKBIRD. There he
flits along upon a strong wing, with his yellow bill visible in
distance, and disappears in the silent wood. Not long silent. It is a
spring-day in our imagination--his clay-wall nest holds his mate at the
foot of the Silver-fir, and he is now perched on its pinnacle. That
thrilling hymn will go vibrating down the stem till it reaches her
brooding breast. The whole vernal air is filled with the murmur and the
glitter of insects; but the blackbird's song is over all other symptoms
of love and life, and seems to call upon the leaves to unfold into
happiness. It is on that one Tree-top, conspicuous among many thousands
on the fine breast of wood--here and there, a pine mingling not unmeetly
with the prevailing oak--that the forest-minstrel sits in his
inspirations. The rock above is one which we have often climbed. There
lies the glorious Loch and all its islands--one dearer than the rest to
eye and imagination, with its old Religious House--year after year
crumbling away unheeded into more entire ruin. Far away, a sea of
mountains, with all their billowing summits distinct in the sky, and now
uncertain and changeful as the clouds. Yonder Castle stands well on the
peninsula among the trees which the herons inhabit. Those coppice-woods
on the other shore, stealing up to the heathery rocks and sprinkled
birches, are the haunts of the roe. That great glen, that stretches
sullenly away into the distant darkness, has been for ages the birth and
the death-place of the red-deer. The cry of an Eagle! There he hangs
poised in the sunlight, and now he flies off towards the sea. But again
the song of our BLACKBIRD rises like "a steam of rich distilled
perfumes," and our heart comes back to him upon the pinnacle of his own
Home-tree. The source of song is yet in the happy creature's heart--but
the song itself has subsided, like a rivulet that has been rejoicing in
a sudden shower among the hills; the bird drops down among the balmy
branches, and the other faint songs which that bold anthem had drowned,
are heard at a distance, and seem to encroach every moment on the

You say you greatly prefer the song of the THRUSH. Pray, why set such
delightful singers by the ears? We dislike the habit that very many
people have of trying everything by a scale. Nothing seems to them to be
good positively--only relatively. Now, it is true wisdom to be charmed
with what is charming, to live in it for the time being, and compare the
emotion with no former emotion whatever--unless it be unconsciously in
the working of an imagination set agoing by delight. Although,
therefore, we cannot say that we prefer the Thrush to the Blackbird, yet
we agree with you in thinking him a most delightful bird. Where a Thrush
is, we defy you to anticipate his song in the morning. He is indeed an
early riser. By the way, Chanticleer is far from being so. You hear him
crowing away from shortly after midnight, and, in your simplicity, may
suppose him to be up and strutting about the premises. Far from it;--he
is at that very moment perched in his polygamy, between two of his
fattest wives. The sultan will perhaps not stir a foot for several hours
to come; while all the time the Thrush, having long ago rubbed his eyes,
is on his topmost twig, broad awake, and charming the ear of dawn with
his beautiful vociferation. During mid-day he disappears, and is mute;
but again, at dewy even, as at dewy morn, he pours his pipe like a
prodigal, nor ceases sometimes when night has brought the moon and

Best beloved, and most beautiful of all Thrushes that ever broke from
the blue-spotted shell!--thou who, for five springs, hast "hung thy
procreant cradle" among the roses, and honeysuckles, and ivy, and
clematis that embower in bloom the lattice of our Cottage-study--how
farest thou now in the snow? Consider the whole place as your own, my
dear bird; and remember, that when the gardener's children sprinkle food
for you and yours all along your favourite haunts, that it is done by
our orders. And when all the earth is green again, and all the sky blue,
you will welcome us to our rural domicile, with light feet running
before us among the winter leaves, and then skim away to your new nest
in the old spot, then about to be somewhat more cheerful in the
undisturbing din of the human life within the flowery walls.

Nay--how can we forget what is for ever before our eyes! Blessed be
Thou--on thy shadowy bed, belonging equally to earth and heaven--O Isle!
who art called the Beautiful! and who of thyself canst make all the Lake
one floating Paradise--even were her shore-hills sylvan no
more--groveless the bases of all her remoter mountains--effaced that
loveliest splendour, sun-painted on their sky-piercing cliffs. And can
it be that we have forsaken Thee! Fairy-land and Love-land of our youth!
Hath imagination left our brain, and passion our heart, so that we can
bear banishment from Thee and yet endure life! Such loss not yet is
ours--witness these gushing tears. But Duty, "stern daughter of the
voice of God," dooms us to breathe our morning and evening orisons far
from hearing and sight of Thee, whose music and whose light continue
gladdening other ears and other eyes--as if ours had there never
listened--and never gazed. As if thy worshipper--and sun! moon! and
stars! he asks ye if he loved not you and your images--as if thy
worshipper--O Windermere! were--dead! And does duty dispense no reward
to them who sacrifice at her bidding what was once the very soul of
life? Yes! an exceeding great reward--ample as the heart's desire--for
contentment is borne of obedience--where no repinings are, the wings of
thought are imped beyond the power of the eagle's plumes; and happy are
we now--with the human smiles and voices we love even more than thine,
thou fairest region of nature! happier than when we rippled in our
pinnace through the billowy moonlight--than when we sat alone on the
mountain within the thunder-cloud.

Why do the songs of the Blackbird and Thrush make us think of the
songless STARLING? It matters not. We do think of him, and see him
too--a lovable bird, and his abode is majestic. What an object of wonder
and awe is an old Castle to a boyish imagination! Its height how
dreadful! up to whose mouldering edges his fear carries him, and hangs
him over the battlements! What beauty in those unapproachable wall
flowers, that cast a brightness on the old brown stones of the edifice,
and make the horror pleasing! That sound so far below, is the sound of a
stream the eye cannot reach--of a waterfall echoing for ever among the
black rocks and pools. The schoolboy knows but little of the history of
the old Castle--but that little is of war, and witchcraft, and
imprisonment, and bloodshed. The ghostly glimmer of antiquity appals
him--he visits the ruin only with a companion, and at midday. There and
then it was that we first saw a Starling. We heard something wild and
wonderful in their harsh scream, as they sat upon the edge of the
battlements, or flew out of the chinks and crannies. There were Martens
too, so different in their looks from the pretty
House-Swallows--Jack-daws clamouring afresh at every time we waved our
caps, or vainly slung a pebble towards their nests--and one grove of
elms, to whose top, much lower than the castle, came, ever and anon,
some noiseless Heron from the Muirs.

Ruins! Among all the external objects of imagination, surely they are
most affecting! Some sumptuous edifice of a former age, still standing
in its undecayed strength, has undoubtedly a great command over us, from
the ages that have flowed over it; but the mouldering edifice which
Nature has begun to win to herself, and to dissolve into her own bosom,
is far more touching to the heart, and more awakening to the spirit. It
is beautiful in its decay--not merely because green leaves, and wild
flowers, and creeping mosses soften its rugged frowns, but because they
have sown themselves on the decay of greatness; they are monitors to our
fancy, like the flowers on a grave, of the untroubled rest of the dead.
Battlements riven by the hand of time, and cloistered arches reft and
rent, speak to us of the warfare and of the piety of our ancestors, of
the pride of their might, and the consolations of their sorrow: they
revive dim shadows of departed life, evoked from the land of
forgetfulness; but they touch us more deeply when the brightness which
the sun flings on the broken arches, and the warbling of birds that are
nestled in the chambers of princes, and the moaning of winds through the
crevices of towers, round which the surges of war were shattered and
driven back, lay those phantoms again to rest in their silent bed, and
show us, in the monuments of human life and power, the visible footsteps
of Time and Oblivion coming on in their everlasting and irresistible
career, to sweep down our perishable race, and to reduce all the forms
of our momentary being into the undistinguishable elements of their
original nothing.

What is there below the skies like the place of mighty and departed
cities? the vanishing or vanished capitals of renowned empires? There is
no other such desolation. The solitudes of nature may be wild and drear,
but they are not like the solitude from which human glory is swept away.
The overthrow or decay of mighty human power is, of all thoughts that
can enter the mind, the most overwhelming. The whole imagination is at
once stirred by the prostration of that, round which so many high
associations have been collected for so many ages. Beauty seems born but
to perish, and its fragility is seen and felt to be inherent in it by a
law of its being. But power gives stability, as it were, to human
thought, and we forget our own perishable nature in the spectacle of
some abiding and enduring greatness. Our own little span of years--our
own confined region of space--are lost in the endurance and far-spread
dominion of some mighty state, and we feel as if we partook of its
deep-set and triumphant strength. When, therefore, a great and ancient
empire falls into pieces, or when fragments of its power are heard rent
asunder, like column after column disparting from some noble edifice, in
sad conviction, we feel as if all the cities of men were built on
foundations beneath which the earthquake sleeps. The same doom seems to
be imminent over all the other kingdoms that still stand; and in the
midst of such changes, and decays, and overthrows--or as we read of
them of old--we look, under such emotions, on all power as
foundationless, and in our wide imagination embrace empires covered only
with the ruins of their desolation. Yet such is the pride of the human
spirit, that it often unconsciously, under the influence of such
imagination, strives to hide from itself the utter nothingness of its
mightiest works. And when all its glories are visibly crumbling into
dust, it creates some imaginary power to overthrow the fabrics of human
greatness--and thus attempts to derive a kind of mournful triumph even
in its very fall. Thus, when nations have faded away in their sins and
vices, rotten at the heart and palsied in all their limbs, we strive not
to think of that sad internal decay, but imagine some mighty power
smiting empires and cutting short the records of mortal magnificence.
Thus Fate and Destiny are said in our imagination to lay our glories
low. Thus, even, the calm and silent air of Oblivion has been thought of
as an unsparing Power. Time, too, though in moral sadness wisely called
a shadow, has been clothed with terrific attributes, and the sweep of
his scythe has shorn the towery diadem of cities. Thus the mere sigh in
which we expire, has been changed into active power--and all the nations
have with one voice called out "Death!" And while mankind have sunk, and
fallen, and disappeared in the helplessness of their own mortal being,
we have still spoken of powers arrayed against them--powers that are in
good truth only another name for their own weaknesses. Thus imagination
is for ever fighting against truth--and even when humbled, her visions
are sublime--conscious even amongst saddest ruin of her own immortality.

Higher and higher than ever rose the tower of Belus, uplifted by
ecstasy, soars the LARK, the lyrical poet of the sky. Listen, listen!
and the more remote the bird the louder seems his hymn in heaven. He
seems, in such altitude, to have left the earth for ever, and to have
forgotten his lowly nest. The primroses and the daisies, and all the
sweet hill-flowers, must be unremembered in that lofty region of light.
But just as the Lark is lost--he and his song together--as if his
orisons had been accepted--both are seen and heard fondly wavering
earthwards, and in a little while he is walking with his graceful crest
contented along the furrows of the brairded corn, or on the clover lea
that in man's memory has not felt the ploughshare; or after a pause, in
which he seems dallying with a home-sick passion, drooping down like one
dead, beside his mate in her shallow nest.

Of all birds to whom is given dominion over the air, the Lark alone lets
loose the power that is in his wings only for the expression of love and
gratitude. The eagle sweeps in passion of hunger--poised in the sky his
ken is searching for prey on sea or sward--his flight is ever animated
by destruction. The dove seems still to be escaping from something that
pursues--afraid of enemies even in the dangerless solitudes where the
old forests repose in primeval peace. The heron, high over houseless
moors, seems at dusk fearful in her laborious flight, and weariedly
gathers her long wings on the tree-top, as if thankful that day is done,
and night again ready with its rest. "The blackening trains o' craws to
their repose" is an image that affects the heart of "mortal man who
liveth here by toil," through sympathy with creatures partaking with him
a common lot. The swallow, for ever on the wing, and wheeling fitfully
before fancy's eyes in element adapted for perpetual pastime, is flying
but to feed--for lack of insects prepares to forsake the land of its
nativity, and yearns for the blast to bear it across the sea. Thou
alone, O Lark! hast wings given thee that thou mayest be perfectly
happy--none other bird but thou can at once soar and sing--and
heavenward thou seemest to be borne, not more by those twinkling pinions
than by the ever-varying, ever-deepening melody effusing from thy heart.

How imagination unifies! then most intensive when working with and in
the heart. Who thinks, when profoundly listening with his eyes shut to
the warbling air, that there is another lark in creation? _The_
lark--sole as the season--or the rainbow. We can fancy he sings to charm
our own particular ear--to please us descends into silence--for our
sakes erects his crest as he walks confidingly near our feet. Not till
the dream-circle, of which ourselves are the centre, dissolves or
subsides, do the fairest sights and sweetest sounds in nature lose their
relationship to us the beholder and hearer, and relapse into the common
property of all our kind. To self appertains the whole sensuous as well
as the whole spiritual world. Egoism is the creator of all beauty and
all bliss, of all hope and of all faith. Even thus doth imagination
unify Sabbath worship. All our beloved Scotland is to the devout breast
on that day one House of God. Each congregation--however far
apart--hears but one hymn--sympathy with all is an all-comprehensive
self--and Christian love of our brethren is evolved from the conviction
that we have ourselves a soul to be saved or lost.

Yet, methinks, imagination loveth just as well to pursue an opposite
process, and to furnish food to the heart in separate picture after
separate picture, one and all imbued not with the same but congenial
sentiment, and therefore succeeding one another at her will, be her will
intimated by mild bidding or imperial command. In such mood imagination,
in still series, visions a thousand parish-kirks, each with its own
characteristic localities, Sabbath-sanctified; distributes the beauty of
that hallowed day in allotments all over the happy land--so that in one
Sabbath there are a thousand Sabbaths.

Keep carolling, then, all together, ye countless Larks, till heaven is
one hymn! Imagination thinks she sees each particular field that sends
up its own singer to the sky--the spot of each particular nest. And of
the many hearts all over loveliest Scotland in the sweet vernal season
a-listening your lays, she is with the quiet beatings of the happy, with
the tumult in them that would wish to break! The little maiden by the
well in the brae-side above the cottage, with the Bible on her knees,
left in tendance of an infant--the palsied crone placed safely in the
sunshine till after service--the sickly student meditating in the shade,
and somewhat sadly thinking that these spring flowers are the last his
eyes may see--lovers walking together on the Sabbath before their
marriage to the house of God--life-wearied wanderers without a
home--remorseful men touched by the innocent happiness they cannot help
hearing in heaven--the sceptic--the unbeliever--the atheist to whom
"hope comes not that comes to all." What different meanings to such
different auditors hath the same music at the same moment filling the
same sky!

Does the Lark ever sing in winter? Ay, sometimes January is visited with
a May-day hour; and in the genial glimpse, though the earth be yet barer
than the sky, the Lark, mute for months, feels called on by the sun to
sing, not so near to heaven's gate, and a shorter than vernal lyric, or
during that sweetest season when neither he nor you can say whether it
is summer or but spring. Unmated yet, nor of mate solicitous, in pure
joy of heart he cannot refrain from ascent and song; but the snow-clouds
look cold, and ere he has mounted as high again as the church-spire, the
aimless impulse dies, and he comes wavering down silently to the yet
unprimrosed brae.

In our boyish days, we never felt that the Spring had really come till
the clear-singing Lark went careering before our gladdened eyes away up
to heaven. Then all the earth wore a vernal look, and the ringing sky
said, "Winter is over and gone." As we roamed, on a holiday, over the
wide pastoral moors, to angle in the lochs and pools, unless the day
were very cloudy the song of some lark or other was still warbling
aloft, and made a part of our happiness. The creature could not have
been more joyful in the skies than we were on the greensward. We, too,
had our wings, and flew through our holiday. Thou soul of glee! who
still leddest our flight in all our pastimes--representative child of
Erin!--wildest of the wild--brightest of the bright--boldest of the
bold!--the lark-loved vales in their stillness were no home for thee.
The green glens of ocean, created by swelling and subsiding storms, or
by calms around thy ship transformed into immeasurable plains, they
filled thy fancy with images dominant over the memories of the steadfast
earth. The petterel and the halcyon were the birds the sailor loved, and
he forgot the songs of the inland woods in the moanings that haunt the
very heart of the tumultuous sea. Of that ship nothing was ever known
but that she perished. He, too, the grave and thoughtful English boy,
whose exquisite scholarship we all so enthusiastically admired, without
one single particle of hopeless envy--and who accompanied us on all our
wildest expeditions, rather from affection to his playmates than any
love of their sports--he who, timid and unadventurous as he seemed to
be, yet rescued little Marian of the Brae from a drowning death when so
many grown-up men stood aloof in selfish fear--gone, too, for ever art
thou, our beloved Edward Harrington! and, after a few brilliant years in
the Oriental clime,

                  ----"on Hoogley's banks afar,
    Looks down on thy lone tomb the Evening Star."

How genius shone o'er thy fine features, yet how pale thou ever wast;
thou who sat'st then by the Sailor's side, and listened to his sallies
with a mournful smile--friend! dearest to our soul! loving us far better
than we deserved; for though faultless thou, yet tolerant of all our
frailties--and in those days of hope from thy lips how elevating was
praise! Yet how seldom do we think of thee! For months--years--not at
all--not once--sometimes not even when by some chance we hear your name!
It meets our eyes written on books that once belonged to you and that
you gave us--and yet of yourself it recalls no image. Yet we sank down
to the floor on hearing thou wast dead--ungrateful to thy memory for
many years we were not--but it faded away till we forgot thee utterly,
except when sleep showed thy grave!

Methinks we hear the song of the GREY LINTIE, the darling bird of
Scotland. None other is more tenderly sung of in our old ballads. When
the simple and fervent love-poets of our pastoral times first applied to
the maiden the words, "my bonnie burdie," they must have been thinking
of the Grey Lintie--its plumage ungaudy and soberly pure--its shape
elegant yet unobtrusive--and its song various without any effort--now
rich, gay, sprightly, but never rude nor riotous--now tender, almost
mournful, but never gloomy or desponding. So, too, are all its habits,
endearing and delightful. It is social, yet not averse to solitude,
singing often in groups, and as often by itself in the furze brake, or
on the briery knoll. You often find the lintie's nest in the most
solitary places--in some small self-sown clump of trees by the brink of
a wild hill-stream, or on the tangled edge of a forest; and just as
often you find it in the hedgerow of the cottage garden, or in a bower
within, or even in an old gooseberry bush that has grown into a sort of

One wild and beautiful place we well remember--ay, the very bush, in
which we first found a grey lintie's nest--for in our parish, from some
cause or other, it was rather a rarish bird. That far-away day is as
distinct as the present NOW. Imagine, friend, first, a little well
surrounded with wild cresses on the moor; something like a rivulet flows
from it, or rather you see a deep tinge of verdure, the line of which,
you believe, must be produced by the oozing moisture--you follow it, and
by-and-by there is a descent palpable to your feet--then you find
yourself between low broomy knolls, that, heightening every step, become
ere long banks, and braes, and hills. You are surprised now to see a
stream, and look round for its source--and there seem now to be a
hundred small sources in fissures and springs on every side--you hear
the murmurs of its course over beds of sand and gravel--and hark, a
waterfall! A tree or two begins to shake its tresses on the horizon--a
birch or a rowan. You get ready your angle--and by the time you have
panniered three dozen, you are at a wooden bridge--you fish the pool
above it with the delicate dexterity of a Boaz, capture the monarch of
the flood, and on lifting your eyes from his starry side as he gasps his
last on the silvery shore, you behold a Cottage, at one gable-end an
ash, at the other a sycamore, and standing perhaps at the lonely door, a
maiden like a fairy or an angel.

This is the Age of Confessions; and why, therefore, may we not make a
confession of first-love? We had finished our sixteenth year--and we
were almost as tall as we are now; for our figure was then straight as
an arrow, and almost like an arrow in its flight. We had given over
bird-nesting--but we had not ceased to visit the dell where first we
found the Grey Lintie's brood. Tale-writers are told by critics to
remember that the young shepherdesses of Scotland are not beautiful as
the fictions of a poet's dream. But SHE was beautiful beyond poetry. She
was so then, when passion and imagination were young--and her image, her
undying, unfading image, is so now, when passion and imagination are
old, and when from eye and soul have disappeared much of the beauty and
glory both of nature and life. We loved her from the first moment that
our eyes met--and we see their light at this moment--the same soft,
burning light, that set body and soul on fire. She was but a poor
shepherd's daughter; but what was that to us, when we heard her voice
singing one of her old plaintive ballads among the braes?--When we sat
down beside her--when the same plaid was drawn over our shoulders in the
rain-storm--when we asked her for a kiss, and was not refused--for what
had she to fear in her beauty, and her innocence, and her filial
piety?--and were we not a mere boy, in the bliss of passion, ignorant of
deceit or dishonour, and with a heart open to the eyes of all as to the
gates of heaven? What music was in that stream! Could "Sabean odours
from the spicy shores of Araby the Blest" so penetrate our soul, as that
breath, balmier than the broom on which we sat, forgetful of all other
human life! Father, mother, brothers, sisters, uncles, and aunts, and
cousins, and all the tribe of friends that would throw us off--if we
should be so base and mad as to marry a low-born, low-bred, ignorant,
uneducated, crafty, ay, crafty and designing beggar--were all forgotten
in our delirium--if indeed it were delirium--and not an
everlastingly-sacred devotion to nature and to truth. For in what were
we deluded? A voice--a faint and dewy voice--deadened by the earth that
fills up her grave, and by the turf that, at this very hour, is
expanding its primroses to the dew of heaven--answers, "In nothing!"

"Ha! ha! ha!" exclaims some reader in derision. "Here's an attempt at
the pathetic!--a miserable attempt indeed; for who cares about the death
of a mean hut girl?--we are sick of low life." Why, as to that matter,
who cares for the death of any one mortal being? Who weeps for the death
of the late Emperor of all the Russias? Who wept over Napoleon the
Great? When Chatham or Burke, Pitt or Fox died--don't pretend to tell
lies about a nation's tears. And if yourself, who, perhaps, are not in
low life, were to die in half an hour (don't be alarmed), all who knew
you--except two or three of your bosom friends, who, partly from being
somewhat dull, and partly from wishing to be decent, might whine--would
walk along George Street, at the fashionable hour of three, the very day
after your funeral. Nor would it ever enter their heads to abstain from
a dinner at the Club, ordered perhaps by yourself a fortnight ago, at
which time you were in rude health, merely because you had foolishly
allowed a cold to fasten upon your lungs, and carry you off in the prime
and promise of your professional life. In spite of all your critical
slang, therefore, Mr Editor, or Master Contributor to some Literary
Journal, SHE, though a poor _Scottish Herd_, was most beautiful; and
when, but a week after taking farewell of her, we went, according to our
tryst, to fold her in our arms, and was told by her father that she was
dead,--ay, dead--that she had no existence--that she was in a
coffin,--when we awoke from the dead-fit in which we had lain on the
floor of that cottage, and saw her in her grave-clothes within an hour
to be buried--when we stood at her burial--and knew that never more were
we or the day to behold her presence--we learned then how immeasurably
misery can surpass happiness--that the soul is ignorant of its own
being, till all at once a thunder-stone plunges down its depths, and
groans gurgle upwards upbraiding heaven.

How easily can the heart change its mood from the awful to the
solemn--from the solemn to the sweet--and from the sweet to the
gay--while the mirth of this careless moment is unconsciously tempered
by the influence of that holy hour that has subsided but not died, and
continues to colour the most ordinary emotion, as the common things of
earth look all lovelier in imbibed light, even after the serene moon
that had yielded it is no more visible in her place! Most gentle are
such transitions in the calm of nature and of the heart; all true poetry
is full of them; and in music how pleasant are they, or how affecting!
Those alternations of tears and smiles, of fervent aspirations and of
quiet thoughts! The organ and the Æolian harp! As the one has ceased
pealing praise, we can list the other whispering it--nor feels the soul
any loss of emotion in the change--still true to itself and its wondrous
nature--just as it is so when from the sunset clouds it turns its eyes
to admire the beauty of a dewdrop or an insect's wing.

Now, we hear many of our readers crying out against the barbarity of
confining the free denizens of the air in wire or wicker Cages. Gentle
readers, do, we pray, keep your compassion for other objects. Or, if you
are disposed to be argumentative with us, let us just walk down stairs
to the larder, and tell the public truly what we there behold--three
brace of partridges, two ditto of moorfowl, a cock pheasant, poor
fellow,--a man and his wife of the aquatic or duck kind, and a woodcock,
vainly presenting his long Christmas bill,--

        "Some sleeping kill'd--
    All murder'd."

Why, you are indeed a most logical reasoner, and a most considerate
Christian, when you launch out into an invective against the cruelty
exhibited in our Cages. Let us leave this den of murder, and have a
glass of our home-made frontignac in our own Sanctum. Come, come,
sir,--look on this newly-married couple of CANARIES.--The architecture
of their nest is certainly not of the florid order, but my Lady
Yellowlees sits on it a well-satisfied bride. Come back in a day or two,
and you will see her nursing triplets. Meanwhile, hear the ear-piercing
fife of the bridegroom!--Where will you find a set of happier people,
unless perhaps it be in our parlour, or our library, or our nursery?
For, to tell you the truth, there is a cage or two in almost every room
of the house. Where is the cruelty--here, or in your blood-stained
larder? But you must eat, you reply. We answer--not necessarily birds.
The question is about birds--cruelty to birds; and were that sagacious
old wild-goose, whom one single moment of heedlessness brought last
Wednesday to your hospitable board, at this moment alive, to bear a part
in our conversation, can you dream that, with all your ingenuity and
eloquence, you could persuade him--the now defunct and disjected--that
you had been under the painful necessity of eating him with stuffing and

It is not in nature that an ornithologist should be cruel--he is most
humane. Mere skin-stuffers are not ornithologists--and we have known
more than one of that tribe who would have had no scruple in strangling
their own mothers, or reputed fathers. Yet if your true ornithologist
cannot catch a poor dear bird alive, he must kill it--and leave you to
weep for its death. There must be a few victims out of myriads of
millions--and thousands and tens of thousands are few; but the
ornithologist knows the seasons when death is least afflictive--he is
merciful in his wisdom--for the spirit of knowledge is gentle--and
"thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears," reconcile him to the
fluttering and ruffled plumage blood-stained by death. 'Tis hard, for
example, to be obliged to shoot a Zenaida dove! Yet a Zenaida dove must
die for Audubon's Illustrations. How many has he loved in life, and
tenderly preserved! And how many more pigeons of all sorts, cooked in
all styles, have you devoured--ay, twenty for his one--you being a
glutton and epicure in the same inhuman form, and he being contented at
all times with the plainest fare--a salad perhaps of water-cresses
plucked from a spring in the forest glade, or a bit of pemmican, or a
wafer of portable soup melted in the pot of some squatter--and shared
with the admiring children before a drop has been permitted to touch his
own abstemious lips.

The intelligent author of the "Treatise on British Birds" does not
condescend to justify the right we claim to encage them; but he shows
his genuine humanity in instructing us how to render happy and
healthful their imprisonment. He says very prettily, "What are town
gardens and shrubberies in squares, but an attempt to ruralise the city?
So strong is the desire in man to participate in country pleasures, that
he tries to bring some of them even to his room. Plants and birds are
sought after with avidity, and cherished with delight. With flowers he
endeavours to make his apartments resemble a garden; and thinks of
groves and fields, as he listens to the wild sweet melody of his little
captives. Those who keep and take an interest in song-birds, are often
at a loss how to treat their little warblers during illness, or to
prepare the proper food best suited to their various constitutions; but
that knowledge is absolutely necessary to preserve these little
creatures in health: for want of it, young amateurs and bird-fanciers
have often seen, with regret, many of their favourite birds perish."

Now, here we confess is a good physician. In Edinburgh we understand
there are about five hundred medical practitioners on the human
race--and we have dog-doctors, and horse-doctors, who come out in
numbers--but we have no bird-doctors. Yet often, too often, when the
whole house rings, from garret to cellar, with the cries of children
teething, or in the hooping-cough, the little linnet sits silent on his
perch, a moping bunch of feathers, and then falls down dead, when his
lilting life might have been saved by the simplest medicinal food
skilfully administered. Surely if we have physicians to attend our
treadmills, and regulate the diet and day's work of merciless ruffians,
we should not suffer our innocent and useful prisoners thus to die
unattended. Why do not the ladies of Edinburgh form themselves into a
Society for this purpose?

Not one of all the philosophers in the world has been able to tell us
what is happiness. Sterne's Starling is weakly supposed to have been
miserable. Probably he was one of the most contented birds in the
universe. Does confinement--the closest, most uncompanioned
confinement--make one of ourselves unhappy? Is the shoemaker, sitting
with his head on his knees, in a hole in the wall from morning to night,
in any respect to be pitied? Is the solitary orphan, that sits all day
sewing in a garret, while the old woman for whom she works is out
washing, an object of compassion? or the widow of fourscore, hurkling
over the embers, with the stump of a pipe in her toothless mouth? Is it
so sad a thing indeed to be alone? or to have one's motions
circumscribed within the narrowest imaginable limits? Nonsense all!

Then, gentle reader, were you ever in a Highland shieling? Often since
you read our Recreations. It is built of turf, and is literally alive;
for the beautiful heather is blooming, wildflowers and walls and roof
are one sound of bees. The industrious little creatures must have come
several long miles for their balmy spoil. There is but one human
creature in that shieling, but he is not at all solitary. He no more
wearies of that lonesome place than do the sunbeams or the shadows. To
himself alone he chants his old Gaelic songs, or frames wild ditties of
his own to the raven or red-deer. Months thus pass on; and he descends
again to the lower country. Perhaps he goes to the
wars--fights--bleeds--and returns to Badenoch or Lochaber; and once
more, blending in his imagination the battles of his own regiment, in
Egypt, Spain, or Flanders, with the deeds done of yore by Ossian sung,
sits contented by the door of the same shieling, restored and
beautified, in which he had dreamt away the summers of his youth.

What has become--we wonder--of Dartmoor Prison? During that long war its
huge and hideous bulk was filled with Frenchmen--ay,

    "Men of all climes--attach'd to none--were there;"

--a desperate race--robbers and reavers, and ruffians and rapers, and
pirates and murderers--mingled with the heroes who, fired by freedom,
had fought for the land of lilies, with its vine-vales and "hills of
sweet myrtle"--doomed to die in captivity, immured in that doleful
mansion on the sullen moor. There thousands pined and wore away and
wasted--and when not another groan remained within the bones of their
breasts, they gave up the ghost. Young heroes prematurely old in baffled
passions--life's best and strongest passions, that scorned to go to
sleep but in the sleep of death. These died in their golden prime. With
them went down into unpitied and unhonoured graves--for pity and honour
dwell not in houses so haunted--veterans in their iron age--some
self-smitten with ghastly wounds that let life finally bubble out of
sinewy neck or shaggy bosom--or the poison-bowl convulsed their giant
limbs unto unquivering rest. Yet there you saw a wild strange tumult of
troubled happiness--which, as you looked into its heart, was
transfigured into misery. There volatile spirits fluttered in their
cage, like birds that seem not to hate nor to be unhappy in confinement,
but, hanging by beak or claws, to be often playing with the glittering
wires--to be amusing themselves, so it seems, with drawing up, by small
enginery, their food and drink, which soon sickens, however, on their
stomachs, till, with ruffled plumage, they are often found in the
morning lying on their backs, with clenched feet, and neck bent as if
twisted, on the scribbled sand, stone-dead. There you saw pale
youths--boys almost like girls, so delicate looked they in that hot
infected air which, ventilate it as you will, is never felt to breathe
on the face like the fresh air of liberty--once bold and bright
midshipmen in frigate or first-rater, and saved by being picked up by
the boats of the ship that had sunk her by one double-shotted broadside,
or sent her in one explosion splintering into the sky, and splashing
into the sea, in less than a minute the thunder silent, and the fiery
shower over and gone--there you saw such lads as these, who used almost
to weep if they got not duly the dear-desired letter from sister or
sweetheart, and when they did duly get it, opened it with trembling
fingers, and even then let drop some natural tears--there we saw them
leaping and dancing, with gross gesticulations and horrid oaths obscene,
with grim outcasts from nature, whose mustached mouths were rank with
sin and pollution--monsters for whom hell was yawning--their mortal mire
already possessed with a demon. There, wretched, woe-begone, and wearied
out with recklessness and desperation, many wooed Chance and Fortune,
who they hoped might yet listen to their prayers--and kept rattling the
dice--cursing them that gave the indulgence--even in their cells of
punishment for disobedience or mutiny. There you saw some, who in the
crowded courts "sat apart retired,"--bringing the practised skill that
once supported, or the native genius that once adorned life, to bear on
beautiful contrivances and fancies elaborately executed with meanest
instruments, till they rivalled or outdid the work of art assisted by
all the ministries of science. And thus won they a poor pittance
wherewithal to purchase some little comfort or luxury, or ornament to
their persons; for vanity had not forsaken some in their rusty squalor,
and they sought to please her, their mistress or their bride. There you
saw accomplished men conjuring before their eyes, on the paper or the
canvass, to feed the longings of their souls, the lights and the shadows
of the dear days that far away were beautifying some sacred spot of "_la
belle France_"--perhaps some festal scene, for love in sorrow is still
true to remembered joy, where once with youths and maidens

    "They led the dance beside the murmuring Loire."

There you heard--and hushed then was all the hubbub--some clear silver
voice, sweet almost as woman's, yet full of manhood in its depths,
singing to the gay guitar, touched, though the musician was of the best
and noblest blood of France, with a master's hand, "La belle Gabrielle!"
And there might be seen, in the solitude of their own abstractions, men
with minds that had sounded the profounds of science, and, seemingly
undisturbed by all that clamour, pursuing the mysteries of lines and
numbers--conversing with the harmonies and lofty stars of heaven, deaf
to all the discord and despair of earth. Or religious still even more
than they--for those were mental, these spiritual--you beheld there men,
whose heads before their time were becoming grey, meditating on their
own souls, and in holy hope and humble trust in their Redeemer, if not
yet prepared, perpetually preparing themselves for the world to come!

To return to Birds in Cages;--they are, when well, uniformly as happy as
the day is long. What else could oblige them, whether they will or no,
to burst out into song--to hop about so pleased and pert--to play such
fantastic tricks, like so many whirligigs--to sleep so soundly, and to
awake into a small, shrill, compressed twitter of joy at the dawn of
light? So utterly mistaken was Sterne, and all the other
sentimentalists, that his Starling, who he absurdly opined was wishing
to get out, would not have stirred a peg had the door of his cage been
flung wide open, but would have pecked like a very game-cock at the hand
inserted to give him his liberty. Depend upon it, that Starling had not
the slightest idea of what he was saying; and had he been up to the
meaning of his words, would have been shocked at his ungrateful folly.
Look at Canaries, and Chaffinches, and Bullfinches, and "the rest," how
they amuse themselves for a while flitting about the room, and then,
finding how dull a thing it is to be citizens of the world, bounce up to
their cages, and shut the door from the inside, glad to be once more at
home. Begin to whistle or sing yourself, and forthwith you have a duet
or a trio. We can imagine no more perfectly tranquil and cheerful life
than that of a Goldfinch in a cage in spring, with his wife and his
children. All his social affections are cultivated to the utmost. He
possesses many accomplishments unknown to his brethren among the
trees;--he has never known what it is to want a meal in times of the
greatest scarcity; and he admires the beautiful frostwork on the
windows, when thousands of his feathered friends are buried in the snow,
or, what is almost as bad, baked up into pies, and devoured by a large
supper-party of both sexes, who fortify their flummery and flirtation by
such viands, and, remorseless, swallow dozens upon dozens of the
warblers of the woods.

Ay, ay, Mr Goldy! you are wondering what we are now doing, and
speculating upon the scribbler with arch eyes and elevated crest, as if
you would know the subject of his lucubrations. What the wiser or better
wouldst thou be of human knowledge? Sometimes that little heart of thine
goes pit-a-pat, when a great, ugly, staring contributor thrusts his
inquisitive nose within the wires--or when a strange cat glides round
and round the room, fascinating thee with the glare of his fierce fixed
eyes;--but what is all that to the woes of an Editor?--Yes, sweet
simpleton! do you not know that we are the editor of _Blackwood's
Magazine_--Christopher North! Yes, indeed, we are that very man--that
self-same much-calumniated man-monster and Ogre. There, there!--perch on
our shoulder, and let us laugh together at the whole world.



The golden eagle leads the van of our Birds of Prey--and there she sits
in her usual carriage when in a state of rest. Her hunger and her thirst
have been appeased--her wings are folded up in a dignified
tranquillity--her talons, grasping a leafless branch, are almost hidden
by the feathers of her breast--her sleepless eye has lost something of
its ferocity--and the Royal Bird is almost serene in her solitary state
in the cliff. The gorcock unalarmed crows among the moors and
mosses--the blackbird whistles in the birken shaw--and the cony erects
his ears at the mouth of his burrow, and whisks away frolicsome among
the whins or heather.

There is no index to the hour--neither light nor shadow--no cloud. But
from the composed aspect of the Bird, we may suppose it to be the hush
of evening after a day of successful foray. The imps in the eyrie have
been fed, and their hungry cry will not be heard till the dawn. The
mother has there taken up her watchful rest, till in darkness she may
glide up to her brood--the sire is somewhere sitting within her view
among the rocks--a sentinel whose eye, and ear, and nostril are true, in
exquisite fineness of sense, to their trust, and on whom rarely, and as
if by a miracle, can steal the adventurous shepherd or huntsman, to
wreak vengeance with his rifle on the spoiler of sheep-walk and

Yet sometimes it chanceth that the yellow lustre of her keen, wild,
fierce eye is veiled, even in daylight, by the film of sleep. Perhaps
sickness has been at the heart of the dejected bird, or fever wasted her
wing. The sun may have smitten her, or the storm driven her against a
rock. Then hunger and thirst--which in pride of plumage she scorned, and
which only made her fiercer on the edge of her unfed eyrie, as she
whetted her beak on the flint-stone, and clutched the strong
heather-stalks in her talons, as if she were anticipating prey--quell
her courage, and in famine she eyes afar off the fowls she is unable to
pursue, and with one stroke strike to earth. Her flight is heavier and
heavier each succeeding day--she ventures not to cross the great glens
with or without lochs--but flaps her way from rock to rock, lower and
lower down along the same mountain-side--and finally, drawn by her
weakness into dangerous descent, she is discovered at grey dawn far
below the region of snow, assailed and insulted by the meanest carrion;
till a bullet whizzing through her heart, down she topples, and soon is
despatched by blows from the rifle-butt, the shepherd stretching out his
foe's carcass on the sward, eight feet from wing-tip to wing-tip, with
leg thick as his own wrist, and foot broad as his own hand.

But behold the Golden Eagle, as she has pounced, and is exulting over
her prey! With her head drawn back between the crescent of her uplifted
wings, which she will not fold till that prey be devoured, eye glaring
cruel joy, neck-plumage bristling, tail-feathers fan-spread, and talons
driven through the victim's entrails and heart--there she is new lighted
on the ledge of a precipice, and fancy hears her yell and its echo. Beak
and talons, all her life long, have had a stain of blood, for the
murderess observes no Sabbath, and seldom dips them in loch or sea,
except when dashing down suddenly among the terrified water-fowl from
her watch-tower in the sky. The week-old fawn had left the doe's side
but for a momentary race along the edge of the coppice; a rustle and a
shadow--and the burden is borne off to the cliffs of Benevis. In an
instant the small animal is dead--after a short exultation torn into
pieces, and by eagles and eaglets devoured, its unswallowed or
undigested bones mingle with those of many other creatures, encumbering
the eyrie, and strewed around it over the bloody platform on which the
young demons crawl forth to enjoy the sunshine.

Oh for the life of an eagle written by himself! It would outsell the
Confessions even of the English Opium-Eater. Proudly would he, or she,
write of birth and parentage. On the rock of ages he first opened his
eyes to the sun, in noble instinct affronting and outstaring the light.
The Great Glen of Scotland--hath it not been the inheritance of his
ancestors for many thousand years? No polluting mixture of ignoble
blood, from intermarriages of necessity or convenience with kite,
buzzard, hawk, or falcon. No, the Golden Eagles of Glen-Falloch,
surnamed the Sun-starers, have formed alliances with the Golden Eagles
of Cruachan, Benlawers, Shehallion, and Lochnagair--the
Lightning-Glints, the Flood-fallers, the Storm-wheelers, the
Cloud-cleavers, ever since the deluge. The education of the
autobiographer had not been intrusted to a private tutor. Parental eyes,
beaks, and talons, provided sustenance for his infant frame; and in that
capacious eyrie, year after year repaired by dry branches from the
desert, parental advice was yelled into him, meet for the expansion of
his instinct, as wide and wonderful as the reason of earth-crawling man.
What a noble naturalist did he, in a single session at the College of
the Cliff, become! Of the customs, and habits, and haunts of all
inferior creatures, he speedily made himself master--ours included. Nor
was his knowledge confined to theory, but reduced to daily practice. He
kept himself in constant training--taking a flight of a couple of
hundred miles before breakfast--paying a forenoon visit to the farthest
of the Hebride Isles, and returning to dinner in Glenco. In one day he
has flown to Norway on a visit to his uncle by the mother's side, and
returned the next to comfort his paternal uncle, lying sick at the Head
of the Cambrian Dee. He soon learned to despise himself for having once
yelled for food, when food was none; and to sit or sail, on rock or
through ether, athirst and an hungered, but mute. The virtues of
patience, endurance, and fortitude, have become with him, in strict
accordance with the Aristotelian Moral Philosophy--habits. A Peripatetic
Philosopher he could hardly be called--properly speaking, he belongs to
the Solar School--an airy sect, who take very high ground, indulge in
lofty flights, and are often lost in the clouds. Now and then a light
chapter might be introduced, setting forth how he and other youngsters
of the Blood Royal were wont to take an occasional game at High-Jinks,
or tourney in air lists, the champions on opposite sides flying from the
Perthshire and from the Argyllshire mountains, and encountering with a
clash in the azure common, six thousand feet high. But the fever of love
burned in his blood, and flying to the mountains of another continent,
in obedience to the yell of an old oral tradition, he wooed and won his
virgin bride--a monstrous beauty, wider-winged than himself, to kill or
caress, and bearing the proof of her noble nativity in the radiant Iris
that belongs in perfection of fierceness but to the Sun-starers, and in
them is found, unimpaired by cloudiest clime, over the uttermost parts
of the earth. The bridegroom and his bride, during the honey-moon, slept
on the naked rock--till they had built their eyrie beneath its
cliff-canopy on the mountain-brow. When the bride was "as Eagles wish to
be who love their lords"--devoted unto her was the bridegroom, even as
the cushat murmuring to his brooding mate in the central pine-grove of a
forest. Tenderly did he drop from his talons, close beside her beak, the
delicate spring lamb, or the too early leveret, owing to the hurried and
imprudent marriage of its parents before March, buried in a living tomb
on April's closing day. Through all thy glens, Albyn! hadst thou reason
to mourn, at the bursting of the shells that Queen-bird had been
cherishing beneath her bosom. Aloft in heaven wheeled the Royal Pair,
from rising to setting sun. Among the bright-blooming heather they
espied the tartan'd shepherd, or hunter creeping like a lizard, and from
behind the vain shadow of a rock watching with his rifle the flight he
would fain see shorn of its beams. The flocks were thinned--and the
bleating of desolate dams among the woolly people heard from many a
brae. Poison was strewn over the glens for their destruction, but the
Eagle, like the lion, preys not on carcasses; and the shepherd dogs
howled in agony over the carrion in which they devoured death. Ha! was
not that a day of triumph to the Sun-starers of Cruachan, when
sky-hunting in couples, far down on the greensward before the ruined
gateway of Kilchurn Castle, they saw, left all to himself in the
sunshine, the infant heir of the Campbell of Breadalbane, the child of
the Lord of Glenorchy and all its streams! Four talons in an instant
were in his heart. Too late were the outcries from all the turrets; for
ere the castle-gates were flung open, the golden head of the royal babe
was lying in gore, in the Eyrie on the iron ramparts of Ben-Slarive--his
blue eyes dug out--his rosy cheeks torn--and his brains dropping from
beaks that revelled yelling within the skull!--Such are a few hints for
"Some Passages in the Life of the Golden Eagle, written by
Himself,"--in one volume crown octavo--Blackwoods, Edinburgh and

O heavens and earth!--forests and barn-yards! what a difference with a
distinction between a GOLDEN EAGLE and a GREEN GOOSE! There, all neck
and bottom, splay-footed, and hissing in miserable imitation of a
serpent, lolling from side to side, up and down like an ill-trimmed
punt, the downy gosling waddles through the green mire, and, imagining
that King George the Fourth is meditating mischief against him, cackles
angrily as he plunges into the pond. No swan that "on still St Mary's
lake floats double, swan and shadow," so proud as he! He prides himself
on being a gander, and never forgets the lesson instilled into him by
his parents, soon as he chipt the shell in the nest among the nettles,
that his ancestors saved the Roman Capitol. In process of time, in
company with swine, he grazes on the common, and insults the Egyptians
in their roving camp. Then comes the season of plucking--and this very
pen bears testimony to his tortures. Out into the houseless winter is he
driven--and, if he escapes being frozen into a lump of fat ice, he is
crammed till his liver swells into a four-pounder--his cerebellum is cut
by the cruel knife of a phrenological cook, and his remains buried with
a cerement of apple sauce in the paunches of apoplectic aldermen, eating
against each other at a civic feast! Such are a few hints for "Some
Passages in the Life of a Green Goose," written by himself--in foolscap
octavo--published by Quack and Co., Ludgate Lane, and sold by all
booksellers in town and country.

Poor poets must not meddle with eagles. In the "Fall of Nineveh," Mr
Atherstone describes a grand review of his army by Sardanapalus. Two
million men are put into motion by the moving of the Assyrian flag-staff
in the hand of the king, who takes his station on a mount conspicuous to
all the army. This flag-staff, though "tall as a mast"--Mr Atherstone
does not venture to go on to say with Milton, "hewn on Norwegian hills,"
or "of some tall ammiral," though the readers' minds supply the
deficiency--this mast was, we are told, for "_two strong men_ a task;"
but it must have been so for twenty. To have had the least chance of
being all at once seen by two million of men, it could not have been
less than fifty feet high--and if Sardanapalus waved the royal standard
of Assyria round his head, Samson or O'Doherty must have been a joke to
him. However, we shall suppose he did; and what was the result? Such
shouts arose that the solid walls of Nineveh were shook, "and the firm
ground made tremble." But this was not all.

                              "At his height,
    A speck scarce visible, the eagle heard,
    And felt his strong wing falter: terror-struck,
    Fluttering and wildly screaming, down he sank--
    Down through the quivering air: another shout,--
    His talons droop--his sunny eye grows dark--
    His strengthless pennons fail--plump down he falls,
    Even like a stone. Amid the far-off hills,
    With eye of fire, and shaggy mane uprear'd,
    The sleeping lion in his den sprang up;
    Listen'd awhile--then laid his monstrous mouth
    Close to the floor, and breathed hot roarings out
    In fierce reply."

What think ye of that, John Audubon, Charles Buonaparte, J. Prideaux
Selby, James Wilson, Sir William Jardine, and ye other European and
American ornithologists? Pray, Mr Atherstone, did you ever see an
eagle--a speck in the sky? Never again suffer yourself, oh, dear sir! to
believe old women's tales of men on earth shooting eagles with their
mouths; because the thing is impossible, even had their mouthpieces had
percussion-locks--had they been crammed with ammunition to the muzzle.
Had a stray sparrow been fluttering in the air, he would certainly have
got a fright, and probably a fall--nor would there have been any hope
for a tom-tit. But an eagle--an eagle ever so many thousand feet
aloft--poo, poo!--he would merely have muted on the roaring multitude,
and given Sardanapalus an additional epaulette. Why, had a string of
wild-geese at the time been warping their way on the wind, they would
merely have shot the wedge firmer and sharper into the air, and answered
the earth-born shout with an air-born gabble--clangour to clangour.
Where were Mr Atherstone's powers of ratiocination, and all his
acoustics? Two shouts slew an eagle. What became of all the other
denizens of air--especially crows, ravens, and vultures, who, seeing two
millions of men, must have come flocking against a day of battle? Every
mother's son of them must have gone to pot. Then what scrambling among
the allied troops! And what was one eagle doing by himself "up-by
yonder?" Was he the only eagle in Assyria--the secular bird of ages? Who
was looking at him, first a speck--then faltering--then fluttering and
wildly screaming--then plump down like a stone? Mr Atherstone talks as
if he saw it. In the circumstances he had no business with his "sunny
eye growing dark." That is entering too much into the medical, or rather
anatomical symptoms of his apoplexy, and would be better for a medical
journal than an epic poem. But to be done with it--two shouts that slew
an eagle a mile up the sky, must have cracked all the tympana of the two
million shouters. The entire army must have become as deaf as a post.
Nay, Sardanapalus himself, on the mount, must have been blown into the
air as by the explosion of a range of gunpowder-mills; the campaign
taken a new turn; and a revolution been brought about, of which, at this
distance of place and time, it is not easy for us to conjecture what
might have been the fundamental features on which it would have
hinged--and thus an entirely new aspect given to all the histories of
the world.

What is said about the lion, is to our minds equally picturesque and
absurd. He was among the "far-off hills." How far, pray? Twenty miles?
If so, then without a silver ear-trumpet he could not have heard the
huzzas. If the far-off hills were so near Nineveh as to allow the lion
to hear the huzzas even in his sleep, the epithet "far-off" should be
altered, and the lion himself brought from the interior. But we cannot
believe that lions were permitted to live in dens within ear-shot of
Nineveh. Nimrod had taught them "never to come there no more"--and
Semiramis looked sharp after the suburbs. But, not to insist unduly upon
a mere matter of police, is it the nature of lions, lying in their dens
among far-off hills, to start up from their sleep, and "breathe hot
roarings out" in fierce reply to the shouts of armies? All stuff! Mr
Atherstone shows off his knowledge of natural history, in telling us
that the said lion, in roaring, "laid his monstrous mouth close to the
floor." We believe he does so; but did Mr Atherstone learn the fact from
Cuvier or from Wombwell? It is always dangerous to a poet to be too
picturesque; and in this case, you are made, whether you will or no, to
see an old, red, lean, mangy monster, called a lion, in his unhappy den
in a menagerie, bathing his beard in the sawdust, and from his toothless
jaws "breathing hot roarings out," to the terror of servant-girls and
children, in fierce reply to a man in a hairy cap and full suit of
velveteen, stirring him up with a long pole, and denominating him by the
sacred name of the great asserter of Scottish independence.

Sir Humphry Davy--in his own science the first man of his age--does not
shine in his "Salmonia"--pleasant volume though it be--as an
ornithologist. Let us see.

"POIET.--The scenery improves as we advance nearer the lower parts of
the lake. The mountains become higher, and that small island or
peninsula presents a bold craggy outline; and the birch-wood below it,
and the pines above, make a scene somewhat Alpine in character. But what
is that large bird soaring above the pointed rock, towards the end of
the lake? Surely it is an eagle!

"HAL.--You are right; it is an eagle, and of a rare and peculiar
species--the grey or silver eagle, a noble bird! From the size of the
animal, it must be the female; and her eyrie is in that high rock. I
dare say the male is not far off."

Sir Humphry speaks in his introductory pages of Mr Wordsworth as a lover
of fishing and fishermen; and we cannot help thinking and feeling that
he intends Poietes as an image of that great Poet. What! William
Wordsworth, the very high-priest of nature, represented to have seen an
eagle for the first time of his life only then, and to have boldly
ventured on a conjecture that such was the name and nature of the bird!
"But what is that large bird soaring above the pointed rock, towards the
end of the lake? Surely it is an eagle!" "Yes, you are right--it is an
eagle." Ha--ha--ha--ha--ha--ha! Sir Humphry--Sir Humphry--that guffaw
was not ours--it came from the Bard of Rydal--albeit unused to the
laughing mood--in the haunted twilight of that beautiful--that solemn

Poietes having been confirmed, by the authority of Halieus, in his
belief that the bird is an eagle, exclaims, agreeably to the part he
plays, "Look at the bird! She dashes into the water, _falling like a
rock_ and raising a column of spray--she has _fallen from a great
height_. And now she rises again into the air--_what an extraordinary
sight_!" Nothing is so annoying as to be ordered to look at a sight
which, unless you shut your eyes, it is impossible for you not to see. A
person behaving in a boat like Poietes, deserved being flung overboard.
"Look at the bird!" Why, every eye was already upon her; and if Poietes
had had a single spark of poetry in his composition, he would have been
struck mute by such a sight, instead of bawling out, open-mouthed and
goggle-eyed, like a Cockney to a rocket at Vauxhall. Besides, an eagle
does not, when descending on her prey, fall like a rock. There is
nothing like the "_vis inertiæ_" in her precipitation. You still see the
self-willed energy of the ravenous bird, as the mass of plumes flashes
in the spray--of which, by the by, there never was, nor will be, a
column so raised. She is as much the queen of birds as she sinks as when
she soars--her trust and her power are still seen and felt to be in her
pinions, whether she shoots to or from the zenith--to a falling star she
might be likened--just as any other devil--either by Milton or
Wordsworth--for such a star seems to our eye and our imagination ever
instinct with spirit, not to be impelled by exterior force, but to be
self-shot from heaven.

Upon our word, we begin to believe that we ourselves deserve the name of
Poietes much better than the gentleman who at threescore had never seen
an eagle. "She has fallen from a great height," quoth the
gentleman--"What an extraordinary sight!" he continueth--while we are
mute as the oar suspended by the up-gazing Celt, whose quiet eye
brightens as it pursues the Bird to her eyrie in the cliff over the cove
where the red-deer feed.

Poietes having given vent to his emotions in such sublime
exclamations--"Look at the bird!" "What an extraordinary sight!" might
have thenceforth held his tongue, and said no more about eagles. But
Halieus cries, "There! you see her rise with a fish in her talons"--and
Poietes, very simply, or rather like a simpleton, returns for answer,
"She _gives an interest which I hardly expected to have found in this
scene_. Pray, are there _many of these animals_ in this country?" A poet
hardly expecting to find interest in such a scene as a great Highland
loch--Loch Maree! "Pray, are there many _of these hanimals in this
country_?" Loud cries of Oh! oh! oh! No doubt an eagle is an animal;
like Mr Cobbett or Mr O'Connell--"a very fine animal;" but we
particularly, and earnestly, and anxiously, request Sir Humphry Davy
not to call her so again--but to use the term bird, or any other term he
chooses, except animal. Animal, a living creature, is too general, too
vague by far; and somehow or other it offends our ear shockingly when
applied to an eagle. We may be wrong, but in a trifling matter of this
kind Sir Humphry surely will not refuse our supplication. Let him call a
horse an animal, if he chooses--or an ass--or a cow--but not an
eagle--as he loves us, not an eagle; let him call it a bird--the Bird of
Jove--the Queen or King of the Sky--or anything else he chooses--but not
an animal--no--no--no--not an animal, as he hopes to prosper, to be
praised in Maga, embalmed and immortalised.

Neither ought Poietes to have asked if there were "_many_ of these
animals" in this country. He ought to have known that there are not
_many_ of these animals in any country. Eagles are proud--apt to hold
their heads very high--and to make themselves scarce. A great many
eagles all flying about together would look most absurd. They are aware
of that, and fly in "ones and twos"--a couple perhaps to a county.
Poietes might as well have asked Mungo Park if there were a great many
lions in Africa. Mungo, we think, saw but one; and that was one too
much. There were probably a few more between Sego and Timbuctoo--but
there are not a "great many of those animals in that country"--though
quite sufficient for the purpose. How the Romans contrived to get at
hundreds for a single show, perplexes our power of conjecture.

Halieus says--with a smile on his lip surely--in answer to the query of
Poietes--"Of this species I have seen but these two; and, I believe, the
young ones migrate as soon as they can provide for themselves; for this
solitary bird requires a large space to move and feed in, and does not
allow its offspring to partake its reign, or to live near it." This is
all pretty true, and known to every child rising or risen six, except
poor Poietes. He had imagined that there were "many of these animals in
this country," that they all went a-fishing together as amicably as five
hundred sail of Manksmen among a shoal of herrings.

Throughout these Dialogues we have observed that Ornither rarely opens
his mouth. Why so taciturn? On the subject of birds he ought, from his
name, to be well informed; and how could he let slip an opportunity,
such as will probably never be afforded him again in this life, of being
eloquent on the Silver Eagle? Ornithology is surely the department of
Ornither. Yet there is evidently something odd and peculiar in his
idiosyncrasy; for we observe that he never once alludes to "these
animals," birds, during the whole excursion. He has not taken his gun
with him into the Highlands, a sad oversight indeed in a gentleman who
"is to be regarded as generally fond of the sports of the field."
Flappers are plentiful over all the moors about the middle of July; and
hoodies, owls, hawks, ravens, make all first-rate shooting to sportsmen
not over anxious about the pot. It is to be presumed, too, that he can
stuff birds. What noble specimens might he not have shot for Mr Selby!
On one occasion, "the SILVER EAGLE" is preying in a pool within slug
range, and there is some talk of shooting him--we suppose with an oar,
or the butt of a fishing-rod, for the party have no firearms--but
Poietes insists on sparing his life, because "these animals" are a
picturesque accompaniment to the scenery, and "give it an interest which
he had not expected to find" in mere rivers, lochs, moors, and
mountains. Genus Falco must all the while have been laughing in his
sleeve at the whole party--particularly at Ornither--who, to judge from
his general demeanour, may be a fair shot with number five at an old
newspaper expanded on a barn-door twenty yards off, but never could have
had the audacity to think in his most ambitious mood of letting off his
gun at an Eagle.

But further, Halieus, before he took upon him to speak so
authoritatively about eagles, should have made himself master of their
names and natures. He is manifestly no scientific ornithologist. We are.
The general question concerning Eagles in Scotland may now be squeezed
into very small compass. Exclusive of the true Osprey (Falco Haliætus),
which is rather a larger fishing-hawk than an eagle, there are two
kinds, viz.--the GOLDEN EAGLE (F. Chrysaëtos), and the WHITE-TAILED or
CINEROUS EAGLE (F. Albicilla). The other two _nominal_ species are
disposed of in the following manner:--First, the RING-TAILED EAGLE (F.
Fulvus) is the young of the Golden Eagle, being distinguished in early
life by having the basal and central portion of the tail white, which
colour disappears as the bird attains the adult state. Second, the SEA
EAGLE (F. Ossifragus), commonly so called, is the young of the
White-tailed Eagle above named, from which it differs in having a brown
tail; for in this species the white of the tail becomes every year more
apparent as the bird increases in age, whereas, in the Golden Eagle, the
white altogether disappears in the adult.

It is to the RING-TAILED EAGLE, and, by consequence, to the GOLDEN
EAGLE, that the name of BLACK EAGLE is applied in the Highlands.

The White-tailed or Sea Eagle, as it becomes old, attains, in addition
to the pure tail, a pale or bleached appearance, from which it may merit
and obtain the name of Grey or SILVER EAGLE, as Sir Humphry Davy chooses
to call it; but it is not known among naturalists by that name. There is
no other species, however, to which the name can apply; and, therefore,
Sir Humphry has committed the very gross mistake of calling the Grey or
Silver Eagle (to use his own nomenclature) a very rare Eagle, since it
is the most common of all the Scots, and also--_a fortiori_--of all the
English Eagles--being in fact the SEA EAGLE of the Highlands.

It preys often on fish dead or alive; but not exclusively, as it also
attacks young lambs, and drives off the ravens from carrion prey, being
less fastidious in its diet than the GOLDEN EAGLE, which probably kills
its own meat--and has been known to carry off children; for a striking
account of one of which hay-field robberies you have but a few minutes
to wait.

As to its driving off its young, its habits are probably similar in this
respect to other birds of prey, none of which appear to keep together in
families after the young can shift for themselves; but we have never met
with any one who has seen them in the act of driving. It is stated
vaguely, in all books, of all eagles.

As to its requiring a large range to feed in--we have only to remark
that, from the powerful flight of these birds, and the wild and barren
nature of the countries which they inhabit, there can be no doubt that
they fly far, and "prey in distant isles"--as Thomson has it; but
Halieus needed not have stated this circumstance as a character of this
peculiar eagle--for an eagle with a small range does not exist; and
therefore it is to be presumed that they require a large one.

Further, all this being the case, there seems to be no necessity for the
old eagles giving themselves the trouble to drive off the young ones,
who by natural instinct will fly off of their own accord, as soon as
their wings can bear them over the sea. If an eagle were so partial to
his native vale, as never on any account, hungry or thirsty, drunk or
sober, to venture into the next parish, why then the old people would be
forced, on the old principle of self-preservation, to pack off their
progeny to bed and board beyond Benevis. But an Eagle is a Citizen of
the World. He is friendly to the views of Mr Huskisson on the Wool
Trade, the Fisheries, and the Colonies--and acts upon the old adage,

    "Every bird for himself, and God for us all!"

To conclude, for the present, this branch of our subject, we beg leave
humbly to express our belief, that Sir Humphry Davy never saw the Eagle,
by him called the Grey or Silver, hunting for fish in the style
described in "Salmonia." It does not dislike fish--but it is not its
nature to keep hunting for them so, not in the Highlands at least,
whatever it may do on American continent or isles. Sir Humphry talks of
the bird dashing down repeatedly upon a pool within shot of the anglers.
We have angled fifty times in the Highlands for Sir Humphry's once, but
never saw nor heard of such a sight. He has read of such things, and
introduced them into this dialogue for the sake of effect--all quite
right to do--had his reading lain among trustworthy Ornithologists. The
common Eagle--which he ignorantly, as we have seen, calls so rare--is a
shy bird, as all shepherds know--and is seldom within range of the
rifle. Gorged with blood, they are sometimes run in upon and felled with
a staff or club. So perished, in the flower of his age, that Eagle whose
feet now form handles to the bell-ropes of our Sanctum at Buchanan
Lodge--and are the subject of a clever copy of verses by Mullion,
entitled "All the Talons."

We said in "The Moors," that we envied not the eagle or any other bird
his wings, and showed cause why we preferred our own feet. Had Puck
wings? If he had, we retract, and would sport Puck.


    "Fetch me this herb--and be thou here again,
    Ere the Leviathan can swim a league."


    "I'll put a girdle round about the earth
    In forty minutes."

How infinitely more poetical are wings like these than seven-league
boots! We declare, on our conscience, that we would not accept the
present of a pair of seven-league boots to-morrow--or, if we did, it
would be out of mere politeness to the genie who might press them on us,
and the wisest thing we could do would be to lock them up in a drawer
out of the reach of the servants. Suppose that we wished to walk from
Clovenford to Innerleithen--why, with seven-league boots on, one single
step would take us up to Posso, seven miles above Peebles! That would
never do. By mincing one's steps, indeed, one might contrive to stop at
Innerleithen; but suppose a gad-fly were to sting one's hip at the
Pirn--one unintentional stride would deposit Christopher at Drummelzier,
and another over the Cruik, and far away down Annan water! Therefore,
there is nothing like wings. On wings you can flutter--and glide--and
float and soar--now like a humming-bird among the flowers--now like a
swan, half rowing, half sailing, and half flying adown a river--now like
an eagle afloat in the blue ocean of heaven, or shooting sunwards,
invisible in excess of light--and bidding farewell to earth and its
humble shadows. "O that I had the wings of a dove, that I might flee
away and be at rest!" Who hath not, in some heavy hour or other, from
the depth of his very soul, devoutly--passionately--hopelessly--breathed
that wish to escape beyond the limits of woe and sin--not into the world
of dreamless death; for weary though the immortal pilgrim may have been,
never desired he the doom of annihilation, untroubled although it be,
shorn of all the attributes of being--but he has prayed for the wings of
the dove, because that fair creature, as she wheeled herself away from
the sight of human dwellings, has seemed to disappear to his imagination
among old glimmering forests, wherein she foldeth her wing and falleth
gladly asleep--and therefore, in those agitated times when the spirits
of men acknowledge kindred with the inferior creatures, and would fain
interchange with them powers and qualities, they are willing even to lay
down their intelligence, their reason, their conscience itself, so that
they could but be blessed with the faculty of escaping from all the
agonies that intelligence, and reason, and conscience alone can know,
and beyond the reach of this world's horizon to flee away and be at

Puck says he will put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.
At what rate is that per second, taking the circumference of the earth
at 27,000 miles, more or less? There is a question for the mechanics,
somewhat about as difficult of solution as Lord Brougham's celebrated
one of the Smuggler and the Revenue Cutter--for the solution of which he
recommended the aid of algebra. It is not so quick as you would imagine.
We forget the usual rate of a cannon-ball in good condition, when he is
in training--and before he is at all blown. So do we forget, we are
sorry to confess, the number of centuries that it would take a good,
stout, well-made, able-bodied cannon-ball, to accomplish a journey to
our planet from one of the fixed stars. The great difficulty, we
confess, would be to get him safely conveyed thither. If that could be
done, we should have no fear of his finding his way back, if not in our
time, in that of our posterity. However red-hot he might have been on
starting, he would be cool enough, no doubt, on his arrival at the goal;
yet we should have no objection to back him against Time for a
trifle--Time, we observe, in almost all matches being beat, often indeed
by the most miserable hacks, that can with difficulty raise a gallop.
Time, however, possibly runs booty; for when he does make play, it must
be confessed that he is a spanker, and that nothing has been seen with
such a stride since Eclipse.

O beautiful and beloved Highland Parish! in whose dashing glens our
beating heart first felt the awe of solitude, and learned to commune
(alas! to what purpose?) with the tumult of its own thoughts! The
circuit of thy skies was indeed a glorious arena spread over the
mountain-tops for the combats of the great birds of prey! One wild cry
or another was in the lift--of the hawk, or the glead, or the raven, or
the eagle--or when those fiends slept, of the peaceful heron, and
sea-bird by wandering boys pursued in its easy flight, till the
snow-white child of ocean wavered away far inland, as if in search of a
steadfast happiness unknown on the restless waves. Seldom did the eagle
stoop to the challenge of the inferior fowl; but when he did, it was
like a mailed knight treading down unknown men in battle. The hawks, and
the gleads, and the ravens, and the carrion-crows, and the hooded-crows,
and the rooks, and the magpies, and all the rest of the rural militia,
forgetting their own feuds, sometimes came sallying from all quarters,
with even a few facetious jackdaws from the old castle, to show fight
with the monarch of the air. Amidst all that multitude of wings
winnowing the wind, was heard the sough and whizz of those mighty vans,
as the Royal Bird, himself an army, performed his majestic evolutions
with all the calm confidence of a master in the art of aerial war, now
shooting up half-a-thousand feet perpendicular, and now suddenly
plump-down into the rear of the croaking, cawing, and chattering
battalions, cutting off their retreat to the earth. Then the rout became
general, the missing, however, far outnumbering the dead. Keeping
possession of the field of battle, hung the eagle for a short while
motionless--till with one fierce yell of triumph he seemed to seek the
sun, and disappear like a speck in the light, surveying half of Scotland
at a glance, and a thousand of her isles.

Some people have a trick of describing incidents as having happened
within their own observation, when in fact they were at the time lying
asleep in bed, and disturbing the whole house with the snore of their
dormitory. Such is too often the character of the eyewitnesses of the
present age. Now, we would not claim personal acquaintance with an
incident we had not seen--no, not for a hundred guineas per sheet; and,
therefore, we warn the reader not to believe the following little story
about an eagle and child (by the way, that is the Derby crest, and a
favourite sign of inns in the north of England) on our authority. "I
tell the tale as 'twas told to me," by the schoolmaster of Naemanslaws,
in the shire of Ayr; and if the incident never occurred, then must he
have been one of the greatest liars that ever taught the young idea how
to shoot. For our single selves, we are by nature credulous. Many
extraordinary things happen in this life, and though "seeing is
believing," so likewise "believing is seeing," as every one must allow
who reads these our Recreations.

Almost all the people in the parish were leading in their meadow-hay
(there were not in all its ten miles square twenty acres of ryegrass)
on the same day of midsummer, so drying was the sunshine and the
wind,--and huge heaped-up wains, that almost hid from view the horses
that drew them along the sward, beginning to get green with second
growth, were moving in all directions towards the snug farmyards. Never
had the parish seemed before so populous. Jocund was the balmy air with
laughter, whistle, and song. But the Tree-gnomons threw the shadow of
"one o'clock" on the green dial-face of the earth--the horses were
unyoked, and took instantly to grazing--groups of men, women, lads,
lasses, and children collected under grove, and bush, and
hedgerow--graces were pronounced, some of them rather too tedious in
presence of the mantling milk-cans, bullion-bars of butter, and
crackling cakes; and the great Being who gave them that day their daily
bread, looked down from his Eternal Throne, well pleased with the piety
of his thankful creatures.

The great Golden Eagle, the pride and the pest of the parish, stooped
down, and away with something in his talons. One single sudden female
shriek--and then shouts and outcries as if a church spire had tumbled
down on a congregation at a sacrament. "Hannah Lamond's bairn! Hannah
Lamond's bairn!" was the loud fast-spreading cry. "The Eagle's taen aff
Hannah Lamond's bairn!" and many hundred feet were in another instant
hurrying towards the mountain. Two miles of hill and dale, and copse and
shingle, and many intersecting brooks, lay between; but in an incredibly
short time the foot of the mountain was alive with people. The eyrie was
well known, and both old birds were visible on the rock-ledge. But who
shall scale that dizzy cliff, which Mark Steuart the sailor, who had
been at the storming of many a fort, once attempted in vain? All kept
gazing, or weeping, or wringing of hands, rooted to the ground, or
running back and forwards, like so many ants, essaying their new wings,
in discomfiture. "What's the use--what's the use o' ony puir human
means? We have nae power but in prayer!" And many knelt down--fathers
and mothers thinking of their own babies--as if they would force the
deaf heavens to hear.

Hannah Lamond had been all this while sitting on a stone, with a face
perfectly white, and eyes like those of a mad person, fixed on the
eyrie. Nobody noticed her; for strong as all sympathies with her had
been at the swoop of the Eagle, they were now swallowed up in the agony
of eyesight. "Only last Sabbath was my sweet wee wean baptised in the
name o' the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost!" and on uttering
these words, she flew off through the brakes and over the huge stones,
up--up--up--faster than ever huntsman ran in to the death--fearless as a
goat playing among the precipices. No one doubted, no one could doubt,
that she would soon be dashed to pieces. But have not people who walk in
their sleep, obedient to the mysterious guidance of dreams, clomb the
walls of old ruins, and found footing, even in decrepitude, along the
edge of unguarded battlements, and down dilapidated stair-cases deep as
draw-wells or coal-pits, and returned with open, fixed, and unseeing
eyes, unharmed, to their beds at midnight? It is all the work of the
soul, to whom the body is a slave; and shall not the agony of a mother's
passion--who sees her baby, whose warm mouth had just left her breast,
hurried off by a demon to a hideous death--bear her limbs aloft wherever
there is dust to dust, till she reach that devouring den, and fiercer
and more furious than any bird of prey that ever bathed its beak in
blood, throttle the fiends that with their heavy wing would fain flap
her down the cliffs, and hold up her child in deliverance?

No stop--no stay--she knew not that she drew her breath. Beneath her
feet Providence fastened every loose stone, and to her hands
strengthened every root. How was she ever to descend? That fear, then,
but once crossed her heart, as up--up--up--to the little image made of
her own flesh and blood. "The God who holds me now from perishing--will
not the same God save me when my child is at my breast?" Down came the
fierce rushing of the Eagle's wings--each savage bird dashing close to
her head, so that she saw the yellow of their wrathful eyes. All at once
they quailed, and were cowed. Yelling, they flew off to the stump of an
ash jutting out of a cliff, a thousand feet above the cataract; and the
Christian mother, falling across the eyrie, in the midst of bones and
blood, clasped her child--dead--dead--no doubt--but unmangled and
untorn, and swaddled up just as it was when she laid it down asleep
among the fresh hay in a nook of the harvest-field. Oh! what pang of
perfect blessedness transfixed her heart from that faint, feeble
cry--"It lives! it lives! it lives!" and baring her bosom, with loud
laughter, and eyes dry as stones, she felt the lips of the unconscious
innocent once more murmuring at the fount of life and love. "O, thou
great and thou dreadful God! whither hast thou brought me--one of the
most sinful of thy creatures? Oh! save me lest I perish, even for thy
own name's sake! O Thou, who died to save sinners, have mercy upon me!"
Cliffs, chasms, blocks of stone, and the skeletons of old
trees--far--far down--and dwindled into specks a thousand creatures of
her own kind, stationary, or running to and fro! Was that the sound of
the waterfall, or the faint roar of voices? Is that her native
strath?--and that tuft of trees, does it contain the hut in which stands
the cradle of her child? Never more shall it be rocked by her foot! Here
must she die--and when her breast is exhausted--her baby too. And those
horrid beaks, and eyes, and talons, and wings will return, and her child
will be devoured at last, even within the dead arms that can protect it
no more.

Where, all this while, was Mark Steuart, the sailor? Half-way up the
cliffs. But his eyes had got dim, and his head dizzy, and his heart
sick--and he who had so often reefed the topgallant-sail, when at
midnight the coming of the gale was heard afar, covered his face with
his hands, and dared look no longer on the swimming heights. "And who
will take care of my poor bedridden mother?" thought Hannah, who,
through exhaustion of so many passions, could no more retain in her
grasp the hope she had clutched in despair. A voice whispered, "God."
She looked round expecting to see a spirit; but nothing moved except a
rotten branch, that, under its own weight, broke off from the crumbling
rock. Her eye--by some secret sympathy with the inanimate
object--watched its fall; and it seemed to stop, not far off, on a small
platform. Her child was bound upon her shoulders--she knew not how or
when--but it was safe--and scarcely daring to open her eyes, she slid
down the shelving rocks, and found herself on a small piece of firm
root-bound soil, with the tops of bushes appearing below. With fingers
suddenly strengthened into the power of iron, she swung herself down by
brier, and broom, and heather, and dwarf-birch. There, a loosened stone
leapt over a ledge and no sound was heard, so profound was its fall.
There, the shingle rattled down the screes, and she hesitated not to
follow. Her feet bounded against the huge stone that stopped them; but
she felt no pain. Her body was callous as the cliff. Steep as the wall
of a house was now the side of the precipice. But it was matted with ivy
centuries old--long ago dead, and without a single green leaf--but with
thousands of arm-thick stems petrified into the rock, and covering it as
with a trellice. She felt her baby on her neck--and with hands and feet
clung to that fearful ladder. Turning round her head, and looking down,
she saw the whole population of the parish--so great was the
multitude--on their knees. She heard the voice of psalms--a hymn
breathing the spirit of one united prayer. Sad and solemn was the
strain--but nothing dirge-like--sounding not of death, but deliverance.
Often had she sung that tune--perhaps the very words--but them she heard
not--in her own hut, she and her mother--or in the kirk, along with all
the congregation. An unseen hand seemed fastening her fingers to the
ribs of ivy, and in sudden inspiration, believing that her life was to
be saved, she became almost as fearless as if she had been changed into
a winged creature. Again her feet touched stones and earth--the psalm
was hushed--but a tremulous sobbing voice was close beside her, and a
she-goat, with two little kids at her feet. "Wild heights," thought she,
"do these creatures climb--but the dam will lead down her kids by the
easiest paths; for in the brute creatures holy is the power of a
mother's love!" and turning round her head, she kissed her sleeping
baby, and for the first time she wept.

Overhead frowned the front of the precipice, never touched before by
human hand or foot. No one had ever dreamt of scaling it, and the Golden
Eagles knew that well in their instinct, as, before they built their
eyrie, they had brushed it with their wings. But the downwards part of
the mountain-side, though scarred, and seamed, and chasmed, was yet
accessible--and more than one person in the parish had reached the
bottom of the Glead's Cliff. Many were now attempting it--and ere the
cautious mother had followed her dumb guides a hundred yards, through
among dangers that, although enough to terrify the stoutest heart, were
traversed by her without a shudder, the head of one man appeared, and
then the head of another, and she knew that God had delivered her and
her child into the care of their fellow-creatures. Not a word was
spoken--she hushed her friends with her hands--and with uplifted eyes
pointed to the guides sent to her by Heaven. Small green plats, where
those creatures nibble the wildflowers, became now more
frequent--trodden lines, almost as plain as sheep-paths, showed that the
dam had not led her young into danger; and now the brushwood dwindled
away into straggling shrubs, and the party stood on a little eminence
above the stream, and forming part of the strath.

There had been trouble and agitation, much sobbing and many tears, among
the multitude, while the mother was scaling the cliffs--sublime was the
shout that echoed afar the moment she reached the eyrie--then had
succeeded a silence deep as death--in a little while arose that hymning
prayer, succeeded by mute supplication--the wildness of thankful and
congratulatory joy had next its sway--and now that her salvation was
sure, the great crowd rustled like a wind-swept wood. And for whose sake
was all this alternation of agony? A poor humble creature, unknown to
many even by name--one who had had but few friends, nor wished for
more--contented to work all day, here--there--anywhere--that she might
be able to support her aged mother and her child--and who on Sabbath
took her seat in an obscure pew, set apart for paupers, in the kirk.

"Fall back, and give her fresh air," said the old minister of the
parish; and the ring of close faces widened round her lying as in death.
"Gie me the bonny bit bairn into my arms," cried first one mother and
then another, and it was tenderly handed round the circle of kisses,
many of the snooded maidens bathing its face in tears. "There's no a
single scratch about the puir innocent, for the Eagle, you see, maun hae
stuck its talons into the lang claes and the shawl. Blin', blin' maun
they be who see not the finger o' God in this thing!"

Hannah started up from her swoon--and, looking wildly round, cried, "Oh!
the Bird--the Bird!--the Eagle--the Eagle!--the Eagle has carried off my
bonny wee Walter--is there nane to pursue?" A neighbour put her baby
into her breast; and shutting her eyes, and smiting her forehead, the
sorely bewildered creature said in a low voice, "Am I wauken--oh! tell
me if I'm wauken--or if a' this be but the wark o' a fever."

Hannah Lamond was not yet twenty years old, and although she was a
mother--and you may guess what a mother--yet--frown not, fair and gentle
reader--frown not, pure and stainless as thou art--to her belonged not
the sacred name of wife--and that baby was the child of sin and of
shame--yes--"the child of misery, baptised in tears!" She had
loved--trusted--been betrayed--and deserted. In sorrow and
solitude--uncomforted and despised--she bore her burden. Dismal had been
the hour of travail--and she feared her mother's heart would have
broken, even when her own was cleft in twain. But how healing is
forgiveness--alike to the wounds of the forgiving and the forgiven! And
then Hannah knew that, although guilty before God, her guilt was not
such as her fellow-creatures deemed it--for there were dreadful secrets
which should never pass her lips against the father of her child. So she
bowed down her young head, and soiled it with the ashes of
repentance--walking with her eyes on the ground as she again entered the
kirk--yet not fearing to lift them up to heaven during the prayer. Her
sadness inspired a general pity--she was excluded from no house she had
heart to visit--no coarse comment, no ribald jest accompanied the notice
people took of her baby--no licentious rustic presumed on her frailty;
for the pale, melancholy face of the nursing mother, weeping as she sung
the lullaby, forbade all such approach--and an universal sentiment of
indignation drove from the parish the heartless and unprincipled
seducer--if all had been known, too weak word for his crime--who left
thus to pine in sorrow, and in shame far worse than sorrow, one who till
her unhappy fall had been held up by every mother as an example to her

Never had she striven to cease to love her betrayer--but she had
striven--and an appeased conscience had enabled her to do so--to think
not of him now that he had deserted her for ever. Sometimes his image,
as well in love as in wrath, passed before the eye of her heart--but she
closed it in tears of blood, and the phantom disappeared. Thus all the
love towards him that slept--but was not dead--arose in yearnings of
still more exceeding love towards his child. Round its head was gathered
all hope of comfort--of peace--of reward of her repentance. One of its
smiles was enough to brighten up the darkness of a whole day. In her
breast--on her knee--in its cradle, she regarded it with a perpetual
prayer. And this feeling it was, with all the overwhelming tenderness of
affection, all the invigorating power of passion, that, under the hand
of God, bore her up and down that fearful mountain's brow, and after the
hour of rescue and deliverance, stretched her on the greensward like a

The rumour of the miracle circled the mountain's base, and a strange
story without names had been told to the Wood-ranger of the
Cairn-Forest, by a wayfaring man. Anxious to know what truth there was
in it, he crossed the hill, and making his way through the sullen crowd,
went up to the eminence, and beheld her whom he had so wickedly ruined,
and so basely deserted. Hisses, and groans, and hootings, and fierce
eyes, and clenched hands assailed and threatened him on every side.

His heart died within him, not in fear, but in remorse. What a worm he
felt himself to be! And fain would he have become a worm, that, to
escape all that united human scorn, he might have wriggled away in slime
into some hole of the earth. But the meek eye of Hannah met his in
forgiveness--an un-upbraiding tear--a faint smile of love. All his
better nature rose within him, all his worse nature was quelled. "Yes,
good people, you do right to cover me with your scorn. But what is your
scorn to the wrath of God? The Evil One has often been with me in the
woods; the same voice that once whispered me to murder her--but here I
am--not to offer retribution--for that may not--will not--must not
be--guilt must not mate with innocence. But here I proclaim that
innocence. I deserve death, and I am willing here, on this spot, to
deliver myself into the hands of justice. Allan Calder--I call on you to
seize your prisoner."

The moral sense of the people, when instructed by knowledge and
enlightened by religion, what else is it but the voice of God! Their
anger subsided into a stern satisfaction--and that soon softened, in
sight of her who alone aggrieved alone felt nothing but forgiveness,
into a confused compassion for the man who, bold and bad as he had been,
had undergone many solitary torments, and nearly fallen in his
uncompanioned misery into the power of the Prince of Darkness. The old
clergyman, whom all reverenced, put the contrite man's hand in hers,
whom he swore to love and cherish all his days. And, ere summer was
over, Hannah was the mistress of a family, in a house not much inferior
to a Manse. Her mother, now that not only her daughter's reputation was
freed from stain, but her innocence also proved, renewed her youth. And
although the worthy schoolmaster, who told us the tale so much better
than we have been able to repeat it, confessed that the wood-ranger
never became altogether a saint--nor acquired the edifying habit of
pulling down the corners of his mouth, and turning up the whites of his
eyes--yet he assured us that he never afterwards heard anything very
serious laid to his prejudice--that he became in due time an elder of
the Kirk--gave his children a religious education--erring only in making
rather too much of a pet of his eldest born, whom, even when grown up to
manhood, he never called by any other name than the Eaglet.



The Raven! In a solitary glen sits down on a stone the roaming
pedestrian, beneath the hush and gloom of a thundery sky that has not
yet begun to growl, and hears no sounds but that of an occasional big
rain-drop, plashing on the bare bent; the crag high overhead sometimes
utters a sullen groan--the pilgrim, starting, listens, and the noise is
repeated, but instead of a groan, a croak--croak--croak! manifestly from
a thing with life. A pause of silence! and hollower and hoarser the
croak is heard from the opposite side of the glen. Eyeing the black
sultry heaven, he feels the warm plash on his face, but sees no bird on
the wing. By-and-by something black lifts itself slowly and heavily up
from a precipice, in deep shadow; and before it has cleared the
rock-range, and entered the upper region of air, he knows it to be a
Raven. The creature seems wroth to be disturbed in his solitude, and in
his strong straight-forward flight aims at the head of another glen; but
he wheels round at the iron barrier, and, alighting among the heather,
folds his huge massy wings, and leaps about as if in anger, with the
same savage croak--croak--croak! No other bird so like a demon--and
should you chance to break a leg in the desert, and be unable to crawl
to a hut, your life is not worth twenty-four hours' purchase. Never was
there a single hound in Lord Darlington's packs, since his lordship
became a mighty hunter, with nostrils so fine as those of that feathered
fiend, covered though they be with strong hairs or bristles, that grimly
adorn a bill of formidable dimensions, and apt for digging out
eye-socket and splitting skull-structure of dying man or beast. That
bill cannot tear in pieces like the eagle's beak, nor are its talons so
powerful to smite as to compress--but a better bill for
cut-and-thrust--- push, carte, and tierce--the dig dismal and the plunge
profound--belongs to no other bird. It inflicts great gashes; nor needs
the wound to be repeated on the same spot. Feeder foul and obscene! to
thy nostril upturned "into the murky air, sagacious of thy quarry from
afar," sweeter is the scent of carrion, than to the panting lover's
sense and soul the fragrance of his own virgin's breath and bosom, when,
lying in her innocence in his arms, her dishevelled tresses seem laden
with something more ethereally pure than "Sabean odours from the spicy
shores of Araby the Blest."

The Raven dislikes all animal food that has not a deathy smack. It
cannot be thought that he has any reverence or awe of the mystery of
life. Neither is he a coward; at least, not such a coward as to fear the
dying kick of a lamb or sheep. Yet so long as his victim can stand, or
sit, or lie in a strong struggle, the raven keeps aloof--hopping in a
circle that narrows and narrows as the sick animal's nostrils keep
dilating in convulsions, and its eyes grow dimmer and more dim. When the
prey is in the last agonies, croaking, he leaps upon the breathing
carcass, and whets his bill upon his own blue-ringed legs, steadied by
claws in the fleece, yet not so fiercely inserted as to get entangled
and fast. With his large level-crowned head bobbing up and down, and
turned a little first to one side and then to another, all the while a
self-congratulatory leer in his eye, he unfolds his wings, and then
folds them again, twenty or thirty times, as if dubious how to begin to
gratify his lust of blood; and frequently, when just on the brink of
consummation, jumps off side, back, or throat, and goes dallying about,
round and round, and off to a small safe distance, scenting, almost
snorting, the smell of the blood running cold, colder, and more cold. At
last the poor wretch is still; and then, without waiting till it is
stiff, he goes to work earnestly and passionately, and taught by horrid
instinct how to reach the entrails, revels in obscene gluttony, and
preserves, it may be, eye, lip, palate, and brain, for the last course
of his meal, gorged to the throat, incapacitated to return thanks, and
with difficulty able either to croak or to fly.

The Raven, it is thought, is in the habit of living upwards of a hundred
years, perhaps a couple of centuries. Children grow into girls, girls
into maidens, maidens into wives, wives into widows, widows into old
decrepit crones, and crones into dust; and the Raven who wons at the
head of the glen, is aware of all the births, baptisms, marriages,
deathbeds, and funerals. Certain it is--at least so men say--that he is
aware of the deathbeds and the funerals. Often does he flap his wings
against door and window of hut, when the wretch within is in extremity,
or, sitting on the heather-roof, croaks horror into the dying dream. As
the funeral winds its way towards the mountain cemetery he hovers aloft
in the air--or, swooping down nearer to the bier, precedes the corpse
like a sable saulie. While the party of friends are carousing in the
house of death, he too, scorning funeral-baked meats, croaks hoarse
hymns and dismal dirges as he is devouring the pet-lamb of the little
grandchild of the deceased. The shepherds maintain that the Raven is
sometimes heard to laugh. Why not, as well as the hyena? Then it is that
he is most diabolical, for he knows that his laughter is prophetic of
human death. True it is, and it would be injustice to conceal the fact,
much more to deny it, that Ravens of old fed Elijah; but that was the
punishment of some old sin committed by Two who before the Flood bore
the human shape, and who, soon as the Ark rested on Mount Ararat, flew
off to the desolation of swamped forests and the disfigured solitude of
the drowned glens. Dying Ravens hide themselves from daylight in
burial-places among the rocks, and are seen hobbling into their tombs,
as if driven thither by a flock of fears, and crouching under a remorse
that disturbs instinct, even as if it were conscience. So sings and says
the Celtic superstition--muttered to us in a dream--adding that there
are Raven ghosts, great black bundles of feathers, for ever in the
forest, night-hunting in famine for prey, emitting a last feeble croak
at the blush of dawn, and then all at once invisible.

There can be no doubt that that foolish Quaker, who some twenty years
ago perished at the foot of a crag near Red Tarn, "far in the bosom of
Helvyllyn," was devoured by ravens. We call him foolish, because no
adherent of that sect was ever qualified to find his way among mountains
when the day was shortish, and the snow, if not very deep, yet wreathed
and pit-falled. In such season and weather, no place so fit for a Quaker
as the fireside. Not to insist, however, on that point, with what glee
the few hungry and thirsty old Ravens belonging to the Red Tarn Club
must have flocked to the Ordinary! Without asking each other to which
part this, that, or the other croaker chose to be helped, the maxim
which regulated their behaviour at table was doubtless, "First come,
first served." Forthwith each bill was busy, and the scene became
animated in the extreme. There must have been great difficulty to the
most accomplished of the carrion in stripping the Quaker of his drab.
The broad-brim had probably escaped with the first intention, and after
going before the wind half across the unfrozen Tarn, capsized, filled,
and sunk. Picture to yourself so many devils, all in glossy black
feather coats and dark breeches, with waistcoats inclining to blue,
pully-hawlying away at the unresisting figure of the follower of Fox,
and getting first vexed and then irritated with the pieces of choking
soft armour in which, five or six ply thick, his inviting carcass was so
provokingly insheathed! First a drab duffle cloak--then a drab
wraprascal--then a drab broadcloth coat, made in the oldest
fashion--then a drab waistcoat of the same--then a drab under-waistcoat
of thinner mould--then a linen-shirt, somewhat drabbish--then a
flannel-shirt, entirely so, and most odorous to the nostrils of the
members of the Red Tarn Club. All this must have taken a couple of days
at the least; so, supposing the majority of members assembled about
eight A.M. on the Sabbath morning, it must have been well on to twelve
o'clock on Monday night before the club could have comfortably sat down
to supper. During these two denuding days, we can well believe that the
President must have been hard put to it to keep the secretary,
treasurer, chaplain, and other office-bearers, ordinary and
extraordinary members, from giving a sly dig at Obadiah's face, so
tempting in the sallow hue and rank smell of first corruption. Dead
bodies keep well in frost; but the subject had in this case probably
fallen from a great height, had his bones broken to smash, his flesh
bruised and mangled. The President, therefore, we repeat it, even
although a raven of great age and authority, must have had inconceivable
difficulty in controlling the Club. The croak of
"Order!--order!--Chair!--chair!"--must have been frequent; and had the
office not been hereditary, the old gentleman would no doubt have thrown
it up, and declared the chair vacant. All obstacles and obstructions
having been by indefatigable activity removed, no attempt, we may well
believe, was made by the seneschal to place the guests according to
their rank, above or below the salt, and the party sat promiscuously
down to a late supper. Not a word was tittered during the first
half-hour, till a queer-looking mortal, who had spent several years of
his prime of birdhood at old Calgarth, and picked up a tolerable command
of the Westmoreland dialect by means of the Hamiltonian system,
exclaimed, "I'se weel nee brussen--there be's Mister Wudsworth--Ho, ho,
ho!" It was indeed the bard, benighted in the Excursion from Patterdale
to Jobson's Cherry-Tree; and the Red Tarn Club, afraid of having their
orgies put into blank verse, sailed away in floating fragments beneath
the moon and stars.

But over the doom of one true Lover of Nature let us shed a flood of
rueful tears; for at what tale shall mortal man weep, if not at the tale
of youthful genius and virtue shrouded suddenly in a winding-sheet
wreathed of snow by the pitiless tempest! Elate in the joy of solitude,
he hurried like a fast-travelling shadow into the silence of the frozen
mountains, all beautifully encrusted with pearls, and jewels, and
diamonds, beneath the resplendent night-heavens. The din of populous
cities had long stunned his brain, and his soul had sickened in the
presence of the money-hunting eyes of selfish men, all madly pursuing
their multifarious machinations in the great mart of commerce. The very
sheeted masts of ships, bearing the flags of foreign countries, in all
their pomp and beauty sailing homeward or outward-bound, had become
hateful to his spirit--for what were they but the floating enginery of
Mammon? Truth, integrity, honour, were all recklessly sacrificed to gain
by the friends he loved and had respected most--sacrificed without shame
and without remorse--repentance being with them a repentance only over
ill-laid schemes of villany--plans for the ruination of widows and
orphans, blasted in the bud of their iniquity. The brother of his bosom
made him a bankrupt--and for a year the jointure of his widow-mother was
unpaid. But she died before the second Christmas--and he was left alone
in the world. Poor indeed he was, but not a beggar. A legacy came to him
from a distant relation--almost the only one of his name--who died
abroad. Small as it was, it was enough to live on--and his enthusiastic
spirit gathering joy from distress, vowed to dedicate itself in some
profound solitude to the love of Nature, and the study of her Great
Laws. He bade an eternal farewell to cities at the dead of midnight,
beside his mother's grave, scarcely distinguishable among the thousand
flat stones, sunk, or sinking into the wide churchyard, along which a
great thoroughfare of life roared like the sea. And now, for the first
time, his sorrow flung from him like a useless garment, he found himself
alone among the Cumbrian mountains, and impelled in strong idolatry
almost to kneel down and worship the divine beauty of the moon, and
"stars that are the poetry of heaven."

Not uninstructed was the wanderer in the lore that links the human heart
to the gracious form and aspects of the Mighty Mother. In early youth he
had been intended for the Church, and subsequent years of ungrateful and
ungenial toils had not extinguished the fine scholarship that native
aptitude for learning had acquired in the humble school of the village
in which he was born. He had been ripe for College when the sudden death
of his father, who had long been at the head of a great mercantile
concern, imposed it upon him, as a sacred duty owed to his mother and
his sisters, to embark in trade. Not otherwise could he hope ever to
retrieve their fortunes--and for ten years for their sake he was a
slave, till ruin set him free. Now he was master of his own destiny--and
sought some humble hut in that magnificent scenery, where he might pass
a blameless life, and among earth's purest joys prepare his soul for
heaven. Many such humble huts had he seen during that one bold, bright,
beautiful spring winter-day. Each wreath of smoke from the breathing
chimneys, while the huts themselves seemed hardly awakened from sleep in
the morning-calm, led his imagination up into the profound peace of the
sky. In any one of those dwellings, peeping from sheltered dells, or
perched on wind-swept eminences, could he have taken up his abode, and
sat down contented at the board of their simple inmates. But in the very
delirium of a new bliss, the day faded before him--twilight looked
lovelier than dream-land in the reflected glimmer of the snow--and thus
had midnight found him, in a place so utterly lonesome in its remoteness
from all habitations, that even in summer no stranger sought it without
the guidance of some shepherd familiar with the many bewildering passes
that stretched away in all directions through among the mountains to
distant vales. No more fear or thought had he of being lost in the
wilderness, than the ring-dove that flies from forest to forest in the
winter season, and, without the aid even of vision, trusts to the
instinctive wafting of her wings through the paths of ether.

As he continued gazing on the heavens, the moon all at once lost
something of her brightness--the stars seemed fewer in number--and the
lustre of the rest as by mist obscured. The blue ethereal frame grew
discoloured with streaks of red and yellow--and a sort of dim darkness
deepened and deepened on the air, while the mountains appeared higher,
and at the same time further off, as if he had been transported in a
dream to another region of the earth. A sound was heard, made up of
far-mustering winds, echoes from caves, swinging of trees, and the
murmur as of a great lake or sea beginning to break on the shore. A few
flakes of snow touched his face, and the air grew cold. A clear tarn had
a few minutes before glittered with moonbeams, but now it had
disappeared. Sleet came thicker and faster, and ere long it was a storm
of snow. "O God! my last hour is come!" and scarcely did he hear his own
voice in the roaring tempest.

Men have died in dungeons--and their skeletons been found long years
afterwards lying on the stone floor, in postures that told through what
hideous agonies they had passed into the world of spirits. But no eye
saw, no ear heard, and the prison-visitor gathers up, as he shudders,
but a dim conviction of some long horror from the bones. One day in
spring--long after the snows were melted--except here and there a patch
like a flock of sheep on some sunless exposure--a huge Raven rose
heavily, as if gorged with prey, before the feet of a shepherd, who,
going forward to the spot where the bird had been feeding, beheld a
rotting corpse! A dog, itself almost a skeleton, was lying near, and
began to whine at his approach. On its collar was the name of its
master--a name unknown in that part of the country--and weeks elapsed
before any person could be heard of that could tell the history of the
sufferer. A stranger came and went--taking the faithful creature with
him that had so long watched by the dead--but long before his arrival
the remains had been interred; and you may see the grave, a little way
on from the south gate, on your right hand as you enter, not many yards
from the Great Yew-Tree in the churchyard of----, not far from the foot
of Ullswater.

Gentle reader! we have given you two versions of the same story--and
pray, which do you like the best? The first is the most funny, the
second the most affecting. We have observed that the critics are not
decided on the question of our merits as a writer; some maintaining that
we are strongest in humour--others, that our power is in pathos. The
judicious declare that our forte lies in both--in the two united, or
alternating with each other. "But is it not quite shocking," exclaims
some scribbler who has been knouted in Ebony, "to hear so very serious
an affair as the death of a Quaker in the snow among mountains, treated
with such heartless levity? The man who wrote that description, sir, of
the Ordinary of the Red Tarn Club, would not scruple to commit murder!"
Why, if killing a scribbler be murder, the writer of that--this--article
confesses that he has more than once committed that capital crime. But
no intelligent jury, taking into consideration the law as well as the
fact--and it is often their duty to do so, let high authorities say what
they will--would for a moment hesitate, in any of the cases alluded to,
to bring in a verdict of "Justifiable homicide." The gentleman or lady
who has honoured us so far with perusal, knows enough of human life, and
of their own hearts, to know also that there is no other subject which
men of genius--and who ever denied that we are men of genius?--have been
accustomed to view in so many ludicrous lights as this same subject of
death; and the reason is at once obvious--yet _recherché_--videlicet,
Death is, in itself and all that belongs to it, such a sad, cold, wild,
dreary, dismal, distracting, and dreadful thing, that at times men
talking about it cannot choose but laugh!

Too-hoo--too-hoo--too-whit-too-hoo!--we have got among the OWLS.
Venerable personages, in truth, they are--perfect Solomons! The
spectator, as in most cases of very solemn characters, feels himself at
first strongly disposed to commit the gross indecorum of bursting out
a-laughing in their face. One does not see the absolute necessity either
of man or bird looking at all times so unaccountably wise. Why will an
Owl persist in his stare? Why will a Bishop never lay aside his wig?

People ignorant of Ornithology will stare like the Bird of Wisdom
himself on being told that an OWL is an Eagle. Yet, bating a little
inaccuracy, it is so. Eagles, kites, hawks, and owls, all belong to the
genus Falco. We hear a great deal too much in poetry of the moping Owl,
the melancholy Owl, the boding Owl, whereas he neither mopes nor bodes,
and is no more melancholy than becomes a gentleman. We also hear of the
Owl being addicted to spirituous liquors; and hence the expression, as
drunk as an Owl. All this is mere Whig personality, the Owl being a Tory
of the old school, and a friend of the ancient establishments of church
and state. Nay, the same political party, although certainly the most
shortsighted of God's creatures, taunt the Owl with being blind. As
blind as an Owl, is a libel in frequent use out of ornithological
society. Shut up Lord Jeffrey himself in a hay-barn with a well-built
mow, and ask him in the darkness to catch you a few mice, and he will
tell you whether or not the Owl be blind. This would be just as fair as
to expect the Owl to see, like Lord Jeffrey, through a case in the
Parliament House during daylight. Nay, we once heard a writer in Taylor
and Hessey call the Owl stupid, he himself having longer ears than any
species of Owl extant. What is the positive character of the Owl may
perhaps appear by-and-by; but we have seen that, describing his
character by negations, we may say that he resembles Napoleon Buonaparte
much more than Joseph Hume or Alderman Wood. He is not moping--not
boding--not melancholy--not a drunkard--not blind--not stupid; as much
as it would be prudent to say of any man, whether editor or contributor,
in her Majesty's dominions.

We really have no patience with people who persist in all manner of
misconceptions regarding the character of birds. Birds often appear to
such persons, judging from, of, and by themselves, to be in mind and
manners the reverse of their real character. They judge the inner bird
by outward circumstances inaccurately observed. There is the owl. How
little do the people of England know of him--even of him the barn-door
and domestic owl--yea, even at this day--we had almost said the Poets!
Shakespeare, of course, and his freres, knew him to be a merry
fellow--quite a madcap--and so do now all the Lakers. But Cowper had his
doubts about it; and Gray, as every schoolboy knows, speaks of him like
an old wife. The force of folly can go no further, than to imagine an
owl complaining to the moon of being disturbed by people walking in a
country churchyard. And among all our present bardlings, the owl is
supposed to be constantly on the eve of suicide. If it were really so,
he ought in a Christian country to be pitied, not pelted, as he is sure
to be when accidentally seen in sunlight--for melancholy is a
misfortune, especially when hereditary and constitutional, as it is
popularly believed to be in the Black-billed Bubo, and certainly was in
Dr Johnson. In young masters and misses we can pardon any childishness;
but we cannot pardon the antipathy to the owl entertained by the manly
minds of grown-up English clodhoppers, ploughmen, and threshers. They
keep terriers to kill rats and mice in barns, and they shoot the owls,
any one of whom we would cheerfully back against the famous Billy. "The
very commonest observation teaches us," says the author of the "Gardens
of the Menagerie," "that they are in reality the best and most efficient
protectors of our cornfields and granaries from the devastating pillage
of the swarms of mice and other small _rodents_." Nay, by their constant
destruction of these petty but dangerous enemies, the owls, he says,
"earn an unquestionable title to be regarded as among the _most active
of the friends of man_; a title which only one or two among them
occasionally forfeit by their aggressions on the defenceless poultry."
Roger or Dolly beholds him in the act of murdering a duckling, and, like
other light-headed, giddy, unthinking creatures, they forget all the
service he has done the farm, the parish, and the state; he is shot _in
the act_, and nailed, wide-extended in cruel spread-eagle, on the
barn-door. Others again call him dull and shortsighted--nay, go the
length of asserting that he is stupid--as stupid as an owl. Why, our
excellent fellow, when you have the tithe of the talent of the common
owl, and know half as well how to use it, you may claim the medal.

The eagles, kites, and hawks, hunt by day. The Owl is the Nimrod of the
Night. Then, like one who shall be nameless, he sails about seeking
those whom he may devour. To do him justice, he has a truly ghost-like
head and shoulders of his own. What horror to the "small birds rejoicing
in spring's leafy bowers," fast-locked we were going to say in each
other's arms, but sitting side by side in the same cosy nuptial nest, to
be startled out of their love-dreams by the great lamp-eyed, beaked face
of a horrible monster with horns, picked out of feathered bed, and
wafted off in one bunch, within talons, to pacify a set of hissing, and
snappish, and shapeless powder-puffs, in the loophole of a barn? In a
house where a cat is kept, mice are much to be pitied. They are so
infatuated with the smell of a respectable larder, that to leave the
premises, they confess, is impossible. Yet every hour--nay, every minute
of their lives--must they be in the fear of being leaped out upon by
four velvet paws--and devoured with kisses from a whiskered mouth, and a
throat full of that incomprehensible music--a purr. Life, on such terms,
seems to us anything but desirable. But the truth is, that mice in the
fields are not a whit better off. Owls are cats with wings. Skimming
along the grass tops, they stop in a momentary hover, let drop a talon,
and away with Mus, his wife, and small family of blind children. It is
the white, or yellow, or barn, or church, or Screech-Owl, or
Gilley-Owlet, that behaves in this way; and he makes no bones of a
mouse, uniformly swallowing him alive. Our friend, we suspect, though no
drunkard, is somewhat of a glutton. In one thing we agree with him, that
there is no sort of harm in a heavy supper. There, however, we are
guilty of some confusion of ideas; for what to us, who rise in the
morning, seems a supper, is to him who gets up at evening twilight, a
breakfast. We therefore agree with him in thinking that there is no sort
of harm in a heavy breakfast. After having passed a pleasant night in
eating and flirting, he goes to bed betimes about four o'clock in the
morning; and, as Bewick observes, makes a blowing hissing noise,
resembling the snoring of a man. Indeed nothing can be more diverting to
a person annoyed by blue devils, than to look at a white Owl and his
wife asleep. With their heads gently inclined towards each other, there
they keep snoring away like any Christian couple. Should the one make a
pause, the other that instant awakes, and, fearing something may be
wrong with his spouse, opens a pair of glimmering winking eyes, and
inspects the adjacent physiognomy with the scrutinising stare of a
village apothecary. If all be right, the concert is resumed, the snore
sometimes degenerating into a sort of snivel, and the snivel into a
blowing hiss. First time we heard this noise was in a churchyard when we
were mere boys, having ventured in after dark to catch the minister's
colt for a gallop over to the parish capital, where there was a
dancing-school ball. There had been a nest of Owls in some hole in the
spire; but we never doubted for a moment that the noise of snoring,
blowing, hissing, and snapping proceeded from a testy old gentleman that
had been buried that forenoon, and had come alive again a day after the
fair. Had we reasoned the matter a little, we must soon have convinced
ourselves that there was no ground for alarm to us at least; for the
noise was like that of some one half stifled, and little likely to heave
up from above him a six-feet-deep load of earth--to say nothing of the
improbability of his being able to unscrew the coffin from the inside.
Be that as it may, we cleared about a dozen of decent tombstones at
three jumps--the fourth took us over a wall five feet high within and
about fifteen without, and landed us, with a squash, in a
cabbage-garden, enclosed on the other three sides by a house and a
holly-hedge. The house was the sexton's, who, apprehending the stramash
to proceed from a resurrectionary surgeon mistaken in his latitude,
thrust out a long duck-gun from a window in the thatch, and swore to
blow out our brains if we did not instantly surrender ourselves, and
deliver up the corpse. It was in vain to cry out our name, which he knew
as well as his own. He was deaf to reason, and would not withdraw his
patterero till we had laid down the corpse. He swore that he saw the
sack in the moonlight. This was a horse-cloth with which we had intended
to saddle the "cowt," and that had remained, during the supernatural
agency under which we laboured, clutched unconsciously and convulsively
in our grasp. Long was it ere Davie Donald would see us in our true
light--but at length he drew on his Kilmarnock nightcap, and coming out
with a bouet, let us through the trance and out of the front door,
thoroughly convinced, till we read Bewick, that old Southfield was not
dead, although in a very bad way indeed. Let this be a lesson to
schoolboys not to neglect the science of natural history, and to study
the character of the White Owl.

OWLS--both White and common Brown, are not only useful in a mountainous
country, but highly ornamental. How serenely beautiful their noiseless
flight; a flake of snow is not winnowed through the air more
softly-silent! Gliding along the dark shadows of a wood, how spiritual
the motion--how like the thought of a dream! And then, during the hushed
midnight hours, how jocund the whoop and hollo from the heart of a
sycamore--grey rock, or ivied Tower! How the Owls of Windermere must
laugh at the silly Lakers, that under the garish eye of day, enveloped
in clouds of dust, whirl along in rattling post-shays in pursuit of the
picturesque! Why, the least imaginative Owl that ever hunted mice by
moonlight on the banks of Windermere, must know the character of its
scenery better than any poetaster that ever dined on char at Bowness or
Lowood. The long quivering lines of light illumining some sylvan
isle--the evening-star shining from the water to its counterpart in the
sky--the glorious phenomenon of the double moon--the night-colours of
the woods--and, once in the three years perhaps, that loveliest and most
lustrous of celestial forms, the lunar rainbow--all these and many more
beauteous and magnificent sights are familiar to the Owls of Windermere.
And who know half so well as they do the echoes of Furness, and
Applethwaite, and Loughrigg, and Landale, all the way on to Dungeon-Gill
and Pavey-Ark, Scawfell and the Great Gable, and that sea of mountains,
of which every wave has a name? Midnight--when asleep so still and
silent--seems inspired with the joyous spirit of the Owls in their
revelry--and answers to their mirth and merriment through all her
clouds. The Moping Owl, indeed!--the Boding Owl, forsooth!--the
Melancholy Owl, you blockhead!--why, they are the most
cheerful--joy-portending--and exulting of God's creatures! Their flow of
animal spirits is incessant--crowing-cocks are a joke to them--blue
devils are to them unknown--not one hypochondriac in a thousand
barns--and the Man-in-the-Moon acknowledges that he never heard one of
them utter a complaint.

But what say ye to an Owl, not only like an eagle in plumage, but equal
to the largest eagle in size--and therefore named, from the King of
Birds, the EAGLE OWL. Mr Selby! you have done justice to the monarch of
the Bubos. We hold ourselves to be persons of tolerable courage, as the
world goes--but we could not answer for ourselves showing fight with
such a customer, were he to waylay us by night in a wood. In comparison,
Jack Thurtell looked harmless. No--that bold, bright-eyed murderer, with
Horns on his head like those on Michael Angelo's statue of Moses, would
never have had the cruel cowardice to cut the weasand, and smash out the
brains of such a miserable wretch as Weare! True, he is fond of
blood--and where's the harm in that? It is his nature. But if there be
any truth in the science of Physiognomy--and be that of Phrenology what
it will, most assuredly there is truth in it--the original of that Owl,
for whose portrait the world is indebted to Mr Selby, and Sir Thomas
Lawrence never painted a finer one of Prince or Potentate of any Holy or
Unholy Alliance, must have despised Probert from the very bottom of his
heart. No prudent Eagle but would be exceedingly desirous of keeping on
good terms with him--devilish shy, i' faith, of giving him any offence
by the least hauteur of manner, or the slightest violation of etiquette.
An Owl of this character and calibre is not afraid to show his horns at
mid-day on the mountain. The Fox is not over and above fond of him--and
his claws can kill a cub at a blow. The Doe sees the monster sitting on
the back of her fawn, and, maternal instinct overcome by horror, bounds
into the brake, and leaves the pretty creature to its fate. Thank
Heaven, he is, in Great Britain, a rare bird! Tempest-driven across the
Northern Ocean from his native forests in Russia, an occasional visitant
he "frightens this isle from its propriety," and causes a hideous
screaming through every wood he haunts. Some years ago, one was killed
in the upland moors in the county of Durham--and, of course, paid a
visit to Mr Bullock's Museum. Eagle-like in all its habits, it builds
its nest on high rocks--sometimes on the loftiest trees--and seldom lays
more than two eggs. One is one more than enough--and we who fly by night
trust never to fall in with a live specimen of the Strix-Bubo of

But largest and loveliest of all the silent night-gliders--the SNOWY
OWL! Gentle reader--if you long to see his picture, we have told you
where it may be found;--and in the College Museum, within a glass vase
on the central table in the Palace of Stuffed Birds, you may admire his
outward very self--the semblance of the Owl he was when he used to eye
the moon shining over the Northern Sea:--but if you would see the noble
and beautiful Creature himself, in all his living glory, you must seek
him through the long summer twilight among the Orkney or the Shetland
Isles. The Snowy Owl dearly loves the snow--and there is, we believe, a
tradition among them, that their first ancestor and ancestress rose up
together from a melting snow-wreath on the very last day of a Greenland
winter, when all at once the bright fields reappear. The race still
inhabits that frozen coast--being common, indeed, through all the
regions of the Arctic Circle. It is numerous on the shores of Hudson's
Bay, in Norway, Sweden, and Lapland--but in the temperate parts of
Europe and America "rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno."

We defy all the tailors on the face of the habitable globe; and what
countless cross-legged fractional parts of men--who, like the beings of
whom they are constituents, are thought to double their numbers every
thirty years--must not the four quarters of the earth, in their present
advanced state of civilisation, contain!--we defy, we say, all the
tailors on the face of the habitable globe to construct such a surtout
as that of the Snowy Owl, covering him, with equal luxury and comfort,
in summer's heat and winter's cold. The elements, in all their freezing
fury, cannot reach the body of the bird through that beautiful
down-mail. Well guarded are the opening of those great eyes. Neither the
driving dust, nor the searching sleet, nor the sharp frozen snow-stour,
give him the ophthalmia. Gutta Serena is to him unknown--no Snowy Owl
was ever couched for cataract--no need has he for an oculist, should he
live an hundred years; and were they to attempt any operation on his
lens or iris, how he would hoot at Alexander and Wardrope!

Night, doubtless, is the usual season of his prey; but he does not shun
the day, and is sometimes seen hovering unhurt in the sunshine. The red
or black grouse flies as if pursued by a ghost; but the Snowy Owl,
little slower than the eagle, in dreadful silence overtakes his flight,
and then death is sudden and sure. Hawking is, or was, a noble
pastime--and we have now prevented our eyes from glancing at
Jer-falcon, Peregrine, or Goshawk; but Owling, we do not doubt, would be
noways inferior sport; and were it to become prevalent in modern times,
as Hawking was in times of old, why, each lady, as Venus already fair,
with an Owl on her wrist, would look as wise as Minerva.

But our soul sickens at all those dreams of blood! and fain would turn
away from fierce eye, cruel beak, and tearing talon--war-weapons of them
that delight in wounds and death--to the contemplation of creatures
whose characteristics are the love of solitude--shy gentleness of
manner--the tender devotion of mutual attachment--and, in field or
forest, a lifelong passion for peace.



Welcome then the RING-DOVE--the QUEST--or CUSHAT, for that is the very
bird we have had in our imagination. There is his full-length portrait,
stealthily sketched as the Solitary was sitting on a tree. You must
catch him napping, indeed, before he will allow you an opportunity of
colouring him on the spot from nature. It is not that he is more jealous
or suspicious of man's approach than other bird; for never shall we
suffer ourselves to believe that any tribe of the descendants of the
Dove that brought to the Ark the olive tidings of reappearing earth, can
in their hearts hate or fear the race of the children of man. But Nature
has made the Cushat a lover of the still forest-gloom; and therefore,
when his lonesome haunts are disturbed or intruded on, he flies to some
yet profounder, some more central solitude, and folds his wing in the
hermitage of a Yew, sown in the time of the ancient Britons.

It is the Stock-Dove, we believe, not the Ring-Dove, from whom are
descended all the varieties of the races of Doves. What tenderer praise
can we give them all, than that the Dove is the emblem of Innocence, and
that the name of innocence--not of frailty--is Woman? When Hamlet said
the reverse, he was thinking, you know, of the Queen--not of Ophelia. Is
not woman by nature chaste as the Dove--as the Dove faithful? Sitting
all alone with her babe in her bosom, is she not as a Dove devoted to
her own nest? Murmureth she not a pleasant welcome to her wearied
home-returned husband, even like the Dove among the woodlands when her
mate re-alights on the pine? Should her spouse be taken from her and
disappear, doth not her heart sometimes break, as they say it happens to
the Dove? But oftener far, findeth not the widow that her orphans are
still fed by her own hand, that is filled with good things by
Providence; till grown up, and able to shift for themselves, away they
go--just as the poor Dove lamenteth for her mate in the snare of the
fowler, yet feedeth her young continually through the whole day, till
away too go they--alas, in neither case, perhaps, ever more to return!

We dislike all favouritism, all foolish and capricious partiality for
particular bird or beast; but dear, old, sacred associations, will
_tell_ upon all one thinks or feels towards any place or person in this
world of ours, near or remote. God forbid we should criticise the
Cushat! We desire to speak of him as tenderly as of a friend buried in
our early youth. Too true it is, that often and oft, when schoolboys,
have we striven to steal upon him in his solitude, and to shoot him to
death. In morals, and in religion, it would be heterodox to deny that
the will is as the deed. Yet in cases of high and low-way robbery and
murder, there does seem, treating the subject not in philosophical but
popular style, to be some little difference between the two; at least we
hope so, for otherwise we can with difficulty imagine one person not
deserving to be ordered for execution, on Wednesday next, between the
hours of eight and nine ante-meridian. Happily, however, for our future
peace of mind, and not improbably for the whole confirmation of our
character, our Guardian Genius--(every boy has one constantly at his
side, both during school and play hours, though it must be confessed
sometimes a little remiss in his duty, for the nature even of angelical
beings is imperfect)--always so contrived it, that with all our cunning
we never could kill a Cushat. Many a long hour--indeed whole
Saturdays--have we lain perdue among broom and whins, the beautiful
green and yellow skirting of sweet Scotia's woods, watching his egress
or ingress, our gun ready cocked, and finger on trigger, that on the
flapping of his wings not a moment might be lost in bringing him to the
ground. But couch where we might, no Cushat ever came near our insidious
lair. Now and then a Magpie--birds who, by the by, when they suspect you
of any intention of shooting them, are as distant in their manners as
Cushats themselves, otherwise as impudent as Cockneys--would come,
hopping in continual tail-jerks, with his really beautiful plumage, if
one could bring oneself to think it so, and then sport the pensive
within twenty yards of the muzzle of Brown-Bess, impatient to let fly.
But our soul burned, our heart panted for a Cushat; and in that strong
fever-fit of passion, could we seek to slake our thirst for that wild
blood with the murder of a thievish eavesdropper of a Pye? The
Blackbird, too, often dropt out of the thicket into an open glade in the
hazel-shaws, and the distinctness of his yellow bill showed he was far
within shot-range. Yet, let us do ourselves justice, we never in all our
born days dreamt of shooting a Blackbird--him that scares away sadness
from the woodland twilight gloom, at morn or eve; whose anthem, even in
those dim days when Nature herself it might be well thought were
melancholy, forceth the firmament to ring with joy. Once "the snow-white
cony sought its evening meal," unconscious of our dangerous vicinity,
issuing with erected ears from the wood edge. That last was, we confess,
such a temptation to touch the trigger, that had we resisted it we must
have been either more or less than boy. We fired; and kicking up his
heels, doubtless in fright, but as it then seemed to us, during our
disappointment, much rather in frolic--nay, absolute derision--away
bounced Master Rabbit to his burrow, without one particle of soft
silvery wool on sward or bush, to bear witness to our unerring aim. As
if the branch on which he had been sitting were broken, away then went
the crashing Cushat through the intermingling sprays. The free flapping
of his wings was soon heard in the air above the tree-tops, and ere we
could recover from our almost bitter amazement, the creature was
murmuring to his mate on her shallow nest--a far-off murmur, solitary
and profound--to reach unto which, through the tangled mazes of the
forest, would have required a separate sense, instinct, or faculty,
which we did not possess. So, skulking out of our hiding-place, we made
no comment on the remark of homeward-plodding labourer, who had heard
the report, and now smelt the powder--"Cushats are geyan kittle birds to
kill"--but returned, with our shooting-bag as empty as our stomach, to
the Manse.

"Why do the birds sing on Sunday?" said once a little boy to us--and we
answered him in a lyrical ballad, which we have lost. But although the
birds certainly do sing on Sunday--behaviour that with our small gentle
Calvinist, who dearly loved them, caused some doubts of their being so
innocent as during the week-days they appeared to be--we cannot set
down their fault to the score of ignorance. Is it in the holy
superstition of the world-wearied heart that man believes the inferior
creatures to be conscious of the calm of the Sabbath, and that they know
it to be the day of our rest? Or is it that we transfer the feeling of
our inward calm to all the goings-on of Nature, and thus imbue them with
a character of reposing sanctity, existing only in our own spirits? Both
solutions are true. The instincts of those creatures we know only in
their symptoms and their effects, in the wonderful range of action over
which they reign. Of the instincts themselves--as feelings or ideas--we
know not anything, nor ever can know; for an impassable gulf separates
the nature of those that may be to perish, from ours that are to live
for ever. But their power of memory, we must believe, is not only
capable of minutest retention, but also stretches back to afar--and some
power or other they do possess, that gathers up the past experience into
rules of conduct that guide them in their solitary or gregarious life.
Why, therefore, should not the birds of Scotland know the Sabbath-day?
On that day the Water-Ouzel is never disturbed by angler among the
murmurs of his own waterfall; and, as he flits down the banks and braes
of the burn, he sees no motion, he hears no sound about the cottage that
is the boundary of his furthest flight--for "the dizzying mill-wheel
rests." The merry-nodding rooks, that in spring-time keep following the
very heels of the ploughman--may they not know it to be Sabbath, when
all the horses are standing idle in the field, or taking a gallop by
themselves round the head-rig? Quick of hearing are birds--one and
all--and in every action of their lives are obedient to sounds. May they
not, then--do they not connect a feeling of perfect safety with the
tinkle of the small kirk-bell? The very jay himself is not shy of people
on their way to worship. The magpie, that never sits more than a minute
at a time in the same place on a Saturday, will on the Sabbath remain on
the kirkyard wall with all the composure of a dove. The whole feathered
creation know our hours of sleep. They awake before us; and ere the
earliest labourer has said his prayers, have not the woods and valleys
been ringing with their hymns? Why, therefore, may not they, who know,
each week-day, the hour of our lying down and our rising up, know also
the day of our general rest? The animals whose lot is labour, shall
they not know it? Yes; the horse on that day sleeps in shade or sunshine
without fear of being disturbed--his neck forgets the galling collar,
"and there are forty feeding like one," all well knowing that their
fresh meal on the tender herbage will not be broken in upon before the
dews of next morning, ushering in a new day to them of toil or travel.

So much for our belief in the knowledge, instinctive or from a sort of
reason, possessed by the creatures of the inferior creation of the
heaven-appointed Sabbath to man and beast. But it is also true that we
transfer our inward feelings to their outward condition, and with our
religious spirit imbue all the ongoings of animated and even inanimated
life. There is always a shade of melancholy, a tinge of pensiveness, a
touch of pathos, in all profound rest. Perhaps because it is so much in
contrast with the turmoil of our ordinary being. Perhaps because the
soul, when undisturbed, will, from the impulse of its own divine nature,
have high, solemn, and awful thoughts. In such state, it transmutes all
things into a show of sympathy with itself. The church-spire, rising
high above the smoke and stir of a town, when struck by the sun-fire,
seems, on a market-day, a tall building in the air, that may serve as a
guide to people from a distance flocking into the bazaars. The same
church-spire, were its loud-tongued bell to call from aloft on the
gathering multitude below, to celebrate the anniversary of some great
victory, Waterloo or Trafalgar, would appear to stretch up its stature
triumphantly into the sky--so much the more triumphantly, if the
standard of England were floating from its upper battlements. But to the
devout eye of faith, doth it not seem to express its own character, when
on the Sabbath it performs no other office than to point to heaven?

So much for the second solution. But independently of both, no wonder
that all nature seems to rest on the Sabbath; for it doth rest--all of
it, at least, that appertains to man and his condition. If the Fourth
Commandment be kept--at rest is all the household--and all the fields
round it are at rest. Calm flows the current of human life, on that
gracious day, throughout all the glens and valleys of Scotland, as a
stream that wimples in the morning sunshine, freshened but not flooded
with the soft-falling rain of a summer night. The spiral smoke-wreath
above the cottage is not calmer than the motion within. True, that the
wood warblers do not cease their songs; but the louder they sing, the
deeper is the stillness. And what perfect blessedness, when it is only
joy that is astir in rest!

Loud-flapping Cushat! it was thou that inspiredst these solemn fancies;
and we have only to wish thee, for thy part contributed to our
Recreations, now that the acorns of autumn must be well-nigh consumed,
many a plentiful repast, amid the multitude of thy now congregated
comrades, in the cleared stubble lands--as severe weather advances, and
the ground becomes covered with snow, regales undisturbed by fowler, on
the tops of turnip, rape, and other cruciform plants, which all of thy
race affect so passionately--and soft blow the sea-breezes on thy
unruffled plumage, when thou takest thy winter's walk with kindred
myriads on the shelly shore, and for a season minglest with gull and
seamew--apart every tribe, one from the other, in the province of its
own peculiar instinct--yet all mysteriously taught to feed or sleep
together within the roar or margin of the main.

Sole-sitting Cushat! We see thee through the yew-tree's shade, on some
day of the olden time, but when or where we remember not--for what has
place or time to do with the vision of a dream? That we see thee is all
we know, and that serenely beautiful thou art! Most pleasant is it to
dream, and to know we dream! By sweet volition we keep ourselves half
asleep and half awake; and all our visions of thought, as they go
swimming along, partake at once of reality and imagination. Fiction and
truth--clouds, shadows, phantoms and phantasms--ether, sunshine,
substantial forms and sounds that have a being, blending together in a
scene created by us, and partly impressed upon us, and which one motion
of the head on the pillow may dissolve, or deepen into more oppressive
delight! In some such dreaming state of mind are we now; and, gentle
reader, if thou art broad awake, lay aside the visionary volume, or read
a little longer, and likely enough is it that thou too mayest fall half
asleep. If so, let thy drowsy eyes still pursue the glimmering
paragraphs--and wafted away wilt thou feel thyself to be into the heart
of a Highland forest, that knows no bounds but those of the uncertain

Away from our remembrance fades the noisy world of men into a silent
glimmer--and now it is all no more than a mere faint thought.
On--on--on! through briery brake--matted thicket--grassy
glade--On--on--on! further into the Forest! What a confusion of huge
stones, rocks, knolls, all tumbled together into a chaos--not without
its stern and sterile beauty! Still are there, above, blue glimpses of
the sky--deep though the umbrage be, and wide-flung the arms of the
oaks, and of pines in their native wilderness gigantic as oaks, and
extending as broad a shadow. Now the firmament has vanished--and all is
twilight. Immense stems, "in number without number
numberless,"--bewildering eye and soul--all
still--silent--steadfast--and so would they be in a storm. For what
storm--let it rage aloft as it might, till the surface of the forest
toss and roar like the sea--could force its path through these many
million trunks? The thunder-stone might split that giant there--how
vast! how magnificent!--but the brother by his side would not tremble;
and the sound--in the awful width of the silence--what more would it be
than that of the woodpecker alarming the insects of one particular tree!

Poor wretch that we are!--to us the uncompanioned silence of the
solitude hath become terrible. More dreadful is it than the silence of
the tomb; for there, often arise responses to the unuttered soliloquies
of the pensive heart. But this is as the silence, not of Time, but of
Eternity. No burial heaps--no mounds--no cairns! It is not as if man had
perished here, and been forgotten; but as if this were a world in which
there had been neither living nor dying. Too utter is the solitariness
even for the ghosts of dead! For they are thought to haunt the
burial-places of what once was their bodies--the chamber where the
spirit breathed its final farewell--the spot of its transitory love and
delight, or of its sin and sorrow--to gaze with troubled tenderness on
the eyes that once they worshipped--with cold ear to drink the music of
the voices long ago adored; and in all their permitted visitations, to
express, if but by the beckoning of the shadow of a hand, some
unextinguishable longing after the converse of the upper world, even
within the gates of the grave.

A change comes over us. Deep and still as is the solitude, we are
relieved of our awe, and out of the forest-gloom arise images of beauty
that come and go, gliding as on wings, or, statue-like, stand in the
glades, like the sylvan deities to whom of old belonged, by birthright,
all the regions of the woods. On--on--on!--further into the Forest!--and
let the awe of imagination be still further tempered by the delight
breathed even from any one of the lovely names sweet-sounding through
the famous fables of antiquity. Dryad, Hamadryad! Faunus!
Sylvanus!--Now, alas! ye are but names, and no more! Great Pan himself
is dead, or here he would set up his reign. But what right has such a
dreamer to dream of the dethroned deities of Greece? The language they
spoke is not his language; yet the words of the great poets who sang of
gods and demigods, are beautiful in their silent meanings as they meet
his adoring eyes; and, mighty Lyrists! has he not often floated down the
temple-crowned and altar-shaded rivers of your great Choral Odes?

On--on--on!--further into the Forest!--unless, indeed, thou dreadest
that the limbs that bear on thy fleshy tabernacle may fail, and the
body, left to itself, sink down and die. Ha! such fears thou laughest to
scorn; for from youth upwards thou hast dallied with the wild and
perilous: and what but the chill delight in which thou hast so often
shivered in threatening solitude brought thee here! These dens are not
dungeons, nor are we a thrall. Yet if dungeons they must be called--and
they are deep, and dark, and grim--ten thousand gates hath this great
prison-house, and wide open are they all. So on--on--on!--further into
the Forest! But who shall ascend to its summit? Eagles and dreams. Round
its base we go, rejoicing in the new-found day, and once more cheered
and charmed with the music of birds. Say whence came, ye scientific
world-makers, these vast blocks of granite? Was it fire or water, think
ye, that hung in air the semblance of yon Gothic cathedral, without
nave, or chancel, or aisle--a mass of solid rock? Yet it looks like the
abode of Echoes; and haply when there is thunder, rolls out its
lengthening shadow of sound to the ear of the solitary shepherd afar off
on Cairngorm.

On--on--on!--further into the Forest! Now on all sides leagues of
ancient trees surround us, and we are safe as in the grave from the
persecuting love or hatred of friends or foes. The sun shall not find us
by day, nor the moon by night. Were our life forfeited to what are
called the laws, how could the laws discover the criminal? How could
they drag us from the impenetrable gloom of this sylvan sanctuary? And
if here we chose to perish by suicide or natural death--and famine is a
natural death--what eye would ever look on our bones? Raving all; but so
it often is with us in severest solitude--our dreams will be hideous
with sin and death.

Hideous, said we, with sin and death? Thoughts that came flying against
us like vultures, like vultures have disappeared, disappointed of their
prey, and afraid to fix their talons in a thing alive. Hither--by some
secret and sacred impulse within the soul, that often knoweth not the
sovereign virtue of its own great desires--have we been led as into a
penitentiary, where, before the altar of nature, we may lay down the
burden of guilt or remorse, and walk out of the Forest a heaven-pardoned
man. What guilt?--O my soul! canst thou think of Him who inhabiteth
eternity, and ask what guilt? What remorse?--For the dereliction of duty
every day since thou received'st from Heaven the understanding of good
and of evil. All our past existence gathers up into one dread
conviction, that every man that is born of woman is a sinner, and worthy
of everlasting death. Yet with the same dread conviction is interfused a
knowledge, clear as the consciousness of present being, that the soul
will live for ever. What was the meaning, O my soul! of all those
transitory joys and griefs--of all those fears, hopes, loves, that so
shook, each in its own fleeting season, the very foundations on which
thy being in this life is laid? Anger, wrath, hatred, pride, and
ambition--what are they all but so many shapes of sin coeval with thy
birth? That sudden entrance of heaven's light into the Forest, was like
the opening of the eye of God! And our spirit stands ashamed of its
nakedness, because of the foulness and pollution of sin. But the awful
thoughts that have travelled through its chambers have ventilated,
swept, and cleansed them--and let us break away from beneath the weight
of confession.

Conscience! Speak not of weak and fantastic fears--of abject
superstitions--and of all that wild brood of dreams that have for ages
been laws to whole nations; though we might speak of them--and, without
violation of the spirit of true philosophy, call upon them to bear
testimony to the truth. But think of the calm, purified, enlightened,
and elevated conscience of the highest natures--from which objectless
fear has been excluded--and which hears, in its stillness, the eternal
voice of God. What calm celestial joy fills all the being of a good man,
when conscience tells him he is obeying God's law! What dismal fear and
sudden remorse assail him, whenever he swerves but one single step out
of the right path that is shining before his feet! It is not a mere
selfish terror--it is not the dread of punishment only that appals
him--for, on the contrary, he can calmly look on the punishment which he
knows his guilt has incurred, and almost desires that it should be
inflicted, that the incensed power may be appeased. It is the
consciousness of offence that is unendurable--not the fear of consequent
suffering; it is the degradation of sin that his soul deplores--it is
the guilt which he would expiate, if possible, in torments; it is the
united sense of wrong, sin, guilt, degradation, shame, and remorse, that
renders a moment's pang of the conscience more terrible to the good than
years of any other punishment--and it thus is the power of the human
soul to render its whole life miserable by its very love of that virtue
which it has fatally violated. This is a passion which the soul could
not suffer--unless it were immortal. Reason, so powerful in the highest
minds, would escape from the vain delusion; but it is in the highest
minds where reason is most subjected to this awful power--they would
seek reconcilement with offended Heaven by the loss of all the happiness
that earth ever yielded--and would rejoice to pour out their heart's
blood if it could wipe away from the conscience the stain of one deep
transgression! These are not the high-wrought and delusive states of
mind of religious enthusiasts, passing away with the bodily agitation of
the dreamer; but they are the feelings of the loftiest of men's
sons--and when the troubled spirit has escaped from their burden, or
found strength to support it, the conviction of their reasonableness and
of their awful reality remains; nor can it be removed from the minds of
the wise and virtuous, without the obliteration from the tablets of
memory of all the moral judgments which conscience has there recorded.

It is melancholy to think that even in our own day, a philosopher, and
one of high name too, should have spoken slightingly of the universal
desire of immortality, as no argument at all in proof of it, because
arising inevitably from the regret with which all men must regard the
relinquishment of this life. By thus speaking of the desire as a
delusion necessarily accompanying the constitution of mind which it has
pleased the Deity to bestow on us, such reasoners but darken the mystery
both of man and of Providence. But this desire of immortality is not of
the kind they say it is, nor does it partake, in any degree, of the
character of a blind and weak feeling of regret at merely leaving this
present life. "I would not live alway," is a feeling which all men
understand--but who can endure the momentary thought of annihilation?
Thousands, and tens of thousands--awful a thing as it is to die--are
willing to do so--"passing through nature to eternity"--nay, when the
last hour comes, death almost always finds his victim ready, if not
resigned. To leave earth, and all the light both of the sun and of the
soul, is a sad thought to us all--transient as are human smiles, we
cannot bear to see them no more--and there is a beauty that binds us to
life in the tears of tenderness that the dying man sees gushing for his
sake. But between that regret for departing loves and affections, and
all the gorgeous or beautiful shows of this earth--between that love and
the dread of annihilation, there is no connection. The soul can bear to
part with all it loves--the soft voice--the kindling smile--the starting
tear--and the profoundest sighs of all by whom it is beloved; but it
cannot bear to part with its existence. It cannot even believe the
possibility of that which yet it may darkly dread. Its loves--its
passions--its joys--its agonies are _not itself_. They may perish, but
it is imperishable. Strip it of all it has seen, touched, enjoyed, or
suffered--still it seems to survive; bury all it knew, or could know in
the grave--but itself cannot be trodden down into the corruption. It
sees nothing like itself in what perishes, except in dim analogies that
vanish before its last profound self-meditation--and though it parts
with its mortal weeds at last, as with a garment, its life is felt at
last to be something not even in contrast with the death of the body,
but to flow on like a flood, that we believe continues still to flow
after it has entered into the unseen solitude of some boundless desert.

                  "Behind the cloud of death,
    Once, I beheld a sun; a sun which gilt
    That sable cloud, and turn'd it all to gold.
    How the grave's alter'd! fathomless as hell!
    A real hell to those who dream'd of heaven,
    ANNIHILATION! How it yawns before me!
    Next moment I may drop from thought, from sense,
    The privilege of angels and of worms,
    An outcast from existence! and this spirit,
    This all-pervading, this all-conscious soul,
    This particle of energy divine,
    Which travels nature, flies from star to star,
    And visits gods, and emulates their powers,
    _For ever is extinguish'd._"

If intellect be, indeed, doomed utterly to perish, why may not we ask
God, in that deep despair which, in that case, must inevitably flow from
the consciousness of those powers with which He has at once blessed and
cursed us--why that intellect, whose final doom is death, and that final
doom within a moment, finds no thought that can satisfy it but that of
Life, and no idea in which its flight can be lost but that of Eternity?
If this earth were at once the soul's cradle and her tomb, why should
that cradle have been hung amid the stars, and that tomb illumined by
their eternal light? If, indeed, a child of the clay, was not this
earth, with all its plains, forests, mountains, and seas, capacious
enough for the dreams of that creature whose course was finally to be
extinguished in the darkness of its bosom? What had we to do with
planets, and suns, and spheres, "and all the dread magnificence of
heaven?" Were we framed merely that we might for a few years rejoice in
the beauty of the stars, as in that of the flowers beneath our feet? And
ought we to be grateful for those transitory glimpses of the heavens, as
for the fading splendour of the earth? But the heavens are not an idle
show, hung out for the gaze of that idle dreamer Man. They are the work
of the Eternal God, and He has given us power therein to read and to
understand His glory. It is not our eyes only that are dazzled by the
face of heaven--our souls can comprehend the laws by which that face is
overspread by its celestial smiles. The dwelling-place of our spirits is
already in the heavens. Well are we entitled to give names unto the
stars; for we know the moment of their rising and their setting, and
can be with them at every part of their shining journey through the
boundless ether. While generations of men have lived, died, and are
buried, the astronomer thinks of the golden orb that shone centuries ago
within the vision of man, and lifts up his eye undoubting, at the very
moment when it again comes glorious on its predicted return. Were the
Eternal Being to slacken the course of a planet, or increase even the
distance of the fixed stars, the decree would be soon known on earth.
Our ignorance is great, because so is our knowledge; for it is from the
mightiness and vastness of what we do know that we imagine the
illimitable unknown creation. And to whom has God made these
revelations? To a worm that next moment is to be in darkness? To a piece
of earth momentarily raised into breathing existence? To a soul
perishable as the telescope through which it looks into the gates of

    "Oh! star-eyed science, hast thou wander'd there
    To waft us home--the message of despair?"

No; there is no despair in the gracious light of heaven. As we travel
through those orbs, we feel indeed that we have no power, but we feel
that we have mighty knowledge. We can create nothing, but we can dimly
understand all. It belongs to God only to _create_, but it is given to
man to _know_--and that knowledge is itself an assurance of immortality.

    "Renounce St Evremont, and read St Paul.
    Ere rapt by miracle, by reason wing'd,
    His mounting mind made long abode in heaven.
    This is freethinking, unconfined to parts,
    To send the soul, on curious travel bent,
    Through all the provinces of human thought:
    To dart her flight through the whole sphere of man;
    Of this vast universe to make the tour;
    In each recess of space and time, at home;
    Familiar with their wonders: diving deep;
    And like a prince of boundless interests there,
    Still most ambitious of the most remote;
    To look on truth unbroken, and entire;
    Truth in the system, the full orb; where truths,
    By truths enlighten'd and sustain'd, afford
    An archlike, strong foundation, to support
    Th' incumbent weight of absolute, complete
    Conviction: here, the more we press, we stand
    More firm; who most examine, most believe.
    Parts, like half-sentences, confound: the whole
    Conveys the sense, and GOD is understood,
    Who not in fragments writes to human race.
    Read his whole volume, sceptic! then reply."

Renounce St Evremont! Ay, and many a Deistical writer of high repute now
in the world. But how came they by the truths they did know? Not by the
work of their own unassisted faculties--for they lived in a Christian
country; they had already been imbued with many high and holy beliefs,
of which--had they willed it--they could never have got rid; and to the
very last the light which they, in their pride, believed to have
emanated from the inner shrine--the penetralia of Philosophy--came from
the temples of the living God. They walked all their lives long---
though they knew it not, or strived to forget it--in the light of
revelation, which, though often darkened to men's eyes by clouds from
earth, was still shining strong in heaven. Had the New Testament never
been--think ye that men in their pride, though

    "Poor sons of a day,"

could have discerned the necessity of framing for themselves a _religion
of humility_? No. As by pride we are told the angels fell--so by pride
man, after his miserable fall, strove to lift up his helpless being from
the dust; and though trailing himself, soul and body, along the soiling
earth, and glorying in his own corruption, sought to eternise here his
very sins by naming the stars of heaven after heroes, conquerors,
murderers, violators of the mandates of the Maker whom they had
forgotten, or whose attributes they had debased by their own foul
imaginations. They believed themselves, in the delusion of their own
idolatries, to be "Lords of the world and Demigods of Fame," while they
were the slaves of their own sins and their own sinful Deities. Should
we have been wiser in our generation than they, but for the Bible? If in
moral speculation we hear but little--too little--of the confession of
what it owes to the Christian religion--in all the Philosophy,
nevertheless, that is pure and of good report, we _see_ that "the
dayspring from on high has visited it." In all philosophic inquiry there
is, perhaps, a tendency to the soul's exaltation of itself--which the
spirit and genius of Christianity subdues. It is not sufficient to say
that a natural sense of our own infirmities will do so--for seldom
indeed have Deists been lowly-minded. They have talked proudly of
humility. Compare their moral meditations with those of our great
divines. Their thoughts and feelings are of the "earth earthy;" but when
we listen to those others, we feel that their lore has been God-given.

    "It is as if an angel shook his wings."

Thus has Christianity glorified Philosophy; its celestial purity is now
the air in which intellect breathes. In the liberty and equality of that
religion, the soul of the highest Philosopher dare not offend that of
the humblest peasant. Nay, it sometimes stands rebuked before it--and
the lowly dweller in the hut, or the shieling on the mountain-side, or
in the forest, could abash the proudest son of Science, by pointing to
the Sermon of our Saviour on the Mount--and saying, "I see my duties to
man and God _here_!" The religious establishments of Christianity,
therefore, have done more not only to support the life of virtue, but to
show all its springs and sources, than all the works of all the
Philosophers who have ever expounded its principles or its practice.

Ha! what has brought thee hither, thou wide-antlered king of the
red-deer of Braemar, from the spacious desert of thy hills of storm? Ere
now we have beheld thee, or one stately as thee, gazing abroad, from a
rock over the heather, to all the points of heaven, and soon as our
figure was seen far below, leading the van of the flight thou went'st
haughtily away into the wilderness. But now thou glidest softly and
slowly through the gloom--no watchfulness, no anxiety in thy large
beaming eyes; and, kneeling among the hoary mosses, layest thyself down
in unknown fellowship with one of those human creatures, a glance of
whose eye, a murmur of whose voice, would send thee belling through the
forest, terrified by the flash or sound that bespoke a hostile nature
wont to pursue thy race unto death.--The hunter is upon
thee--away--away! Sudden as a shooting-star up springs the red-deer, and
in the gloom as suddenly is lost.

On--on--on! further into the Forest!--and now a noise as of "thunder
heard remote." Waterfalls--hundreds of waterfalls sounding for
ever--here--there--everywhere--among the remoter woods. Northwards one
fierce torrent dashes through the centre--but no villages--only a few
woodmen's shielings will appear on its banks; for it is a torrent of
precipices, where the shrubs that hang midway from the cleft are out of
the reach of the spray of its cataracts, even when the red Garroch is in

Many hours have we been in the wilderness, and our heart yearns again
for the cheerful dwellings of men. Sweet infant streamlet, that flows by
our feet without a murmur, so shallow are yet thy waters--wilt
thou--short as hitherto has been thy journeying--wilt thou be our guide
out into the green valleys and the blue heaven, and the sight once more
of the bright sunshine and the fair fleecy clouds? No other clue to the
labyrinth do we seek but that small, thin, pure, transparent thread of
silver, which neither bush nor brier will break, and which will wind
without entanglement round the roots of the old trees, and the bases of
the shaggy rocks. As if glad to escape from its savage birthplace, the
small rivulet now gives utterance to a song; and sliding down shelving
rocks, so low in their mossy verdure as hardly to deserve that name,
glides along the almost level lawns, here and there disclosing a little
hermit flower. No danger now of its being imbibed wholly by the thirsty
earth; for it has a channel and banks of its own--and there is a
waterfall! Thenceforwards the rivulet never loses its merry voice--and
in an hour it is a torrent. What beautiful symptoms now of its approach
to the edge of the Forest! Wandering lights and whispering airs are here
visitants--and there the blue eye of a wild violet looking up from the
ground! The glades are more frequent--more frequent open spaces cleared
by the woodman's axe--and the antique Oak-Tree all alone by itself,
itself a grove. The torrent may be called noble now; and that deep blue
atmosphere--or say rather, that glimmer of purple air--lies over the
Strath in which a great River rolls along to the Sea.

Nothing in all nature more beautiful than the boundary of a great
Highland Forest. Masses of rocks thrown together in magnificent
confusion, many of them lichened and weather-stained with colours
gorgeous as the eyed plumage of the peacock, the lustre of the rainbow,
or the barred and clouded glories of setting suns--some towering aloft
with trees sown in the crevices by bird or breeze, and checkering the
blue sky--others bare, black, abrupt, grim as volcanoes, and shattered
as if by the lightning-stroke. Yet interspersed, places of perfect
peace--circles among the tall heather, or taller lady-fern, smoothed
into velvet, it is there easy to believe, by Fairies' feet--rocks where
the undisturbed linnet hangs her nest among the blooming briers, all
floating with dew-draperies of honeysuckle alive with bees--glades green
as emerald, where lie the lambs in tempered sunshine, or haply a lovely
doe reposes with her fawn; and further down, where the fields half
belong to the mountain and half to the strath, the smoke of hidden
huts--a log-bridge flung across the torrent--a hanging-garden, and a
little broomy knoll, with a few laughing children at play, almost as
wild-looking as the wanderers of the woods!

Turn your eyes, if you can, from that lovely wilderness, and behold down
along a mile-broad Strath, fed by a thousand torrents, floweth the
noblest of Scotia's rivers, the strong-sweeping Spey! Let Imagination
launch her canoe, and be thou a solitary steersman--for need is none of
oar or sail; keep the middle course while all the groves go by, and ere
the sun has sunk behind yon golden mountains--nay, mountains they are
not, but a transitory pomp of clouds--thou mayest list the roaring, and
behold the foaming of the Sea.

Was there ever such a descriptive dream of a coloured engraving of the
Cushat, Quest, or Ring-Dove, dreamt before? Poor worn-out and glimmering
candle!--whose wick of light and life in a few more flickerings will be
no more--what a contrast dost thou present with thyself of eight hours
ago! Then, truly, wert thou a shining light, and high aloft in the
room-gloaming burned thy clear crest like a star--during its midnight
silence, a _memento mori_ of which our spirit was not afraid. Now thou
art dying--dying--dead! Our cell is in darkness. But methinks we see
another--a purer--a clearer light--one more directly from Heaven. We
touch but a spring in a wooden shutter--and lo! the full blaze of day.
Oh! why should we mortal beings dread that night-prison--the Grave?



It greatly grieved us to think that Dr Kitchiner should have died before
our numerous avocations had allowed us an opportunity of dining with
him, and subjecting to the test-act of our experienced palate his claims
to immortality as a Cook and a Christian. The Doctor had, we know, a
dread of Us--not altogether unalloyed by delight; and on the dinner to
Us, which he had meditated for nearly a quarter of a century, he knew
and felt must have hung his reputation with posterity--his posthumous
fame. We understand that there is an unfinished sketch of that Dinner
among the Doctor's papers, and that the design is magnificent. Yet,
perhaps, it is better for his glory that Kitchiner should have died
without attempting to embody in forms the Idea of that Dinner. It might
have been a failure. How liable to imperfection the _matériel_ on which
he would have had to work! How defective the instruments!
Yes--yes!--happier far was it for the good old man that he should have
fallen asleep with the undimmed idea of that unattempted Dinner in his
imagination, than, vainly contending with the physical evil inherent in
matter, have detected the Bishop's foot in the first course, and died of
a broken heart!

"Travelling," it is remarked by our poor dear dead Doctor in his
"Traveller's Oracle," "is a recreation to be recommended, especially to
those whose employments are sedentary--who are engaged in abstract
studies--whose minds have been sunk in a state of morbid melancholy by
hypochondriasis, or, by what is worst of all, a lack of domestic
felicity. Nature, however, will not suffer any sudden transition; and
therefore it is improper for people accustomed to a sedentary life to
undertake suddenly a journey, during which they will be exposed to long
and violent jolting. The case here is the same as if one accustomed to
drink water should, all at once, begin to drink wine."

Had the Doctor been alive, we should have asked him what he meant by
"long and violent jolting?" Jolting is now absolutely unknown in
England, and it is of England the Doctor speaks. No doubt, some
occasional jolting might still be discovered among the lanes and
cross-roads; but, though violent, it could not be long: and we defy the
most sedentary gentleman living to be more so, when sitting in an
easy-chair by his parlour fireside, than in a cushioned carriage
spinning along the turnpike. But for the trees and hedgerows all
galloping by, he would never know that he was himself in motion. The
truth is, that no gentleman can be said, nowadays, to lead a sedentary
life, who is not constantly travelling before the insensible touch of
M'Adam. Look at the first twenty people that come towering by on the
roof of a Highflier or a Defiance. What can be more sedentary? Only look
at that elderly gentleman with the wig, evidently a parson, jammed in
between a brace of buxom virgins on their way down to Doncaster races.
Could he be more sedentary, during the psalm, in his own pulpit?

We must object, too, to the illustration of wine and water. Let no man
who has been so unfortunate as to be accustomed to drink water, be
afraid all at once to begin to drink wine. Let him, without fear or
trembling, boldly fill bumpers to the Throne--the Navy--and the Army.
These three bumpers will have made him a new man. We have no objection
whatever to his drinking, in animated succession, the Apotheosis of the
Whigs--the Angler's delight--the cause of Liberty all over the
World--Christopher North--Maga the Immortal.--"Nature will not suffer
any sudden transition!" Will she not? Look at our water-drinker now! His
very own mother could not know him--he has lost all resemblance to his
twin-brother, from whom, two short hours ago, you could not have
distinguished him but for a slight scar on his brow--so completely is
his apparent personal identity lost, that it would be impossible for him
to establish an _alibi_. He sees a figure in the mirror above the
chimney-piece, but has not the slightest suspicion that the rosy-faced
Bacchanal is himself, the water-drinker; but then he takes care to
imitate the manual exercise of the phantom--lifting his glass to his
lips at the very same moment, as if they were both moved by one soul.

The Doctor then wisely remarks, that it is "impossible to lay down any
rule by which to regulate the number of miles a man may journey in a
day, or to prescribe the precise number of ounces he ought to eat; but
that nature has given us a very excellent guide in a sense of lassitude,
which is as unerring in exercise as the sense of satiety is in eating."

We say the Doctor wisely remarks, yet not altogether wisely; for the
rule does not seem to hold always good either in exercise or in eating.
What more common than to feel oneself very much fatigued--quite done up
as it were, and unwilling to stir hand or foot. Up goes a lark in
heaven--tira-lira--or suddenly the breezes blow among the clouds, who
forthwith all begin campaigning in the sky, or, quick as lightning, the
sunshine in a moment resuscitates a drowned day--or tripping along, all
by her happy self, to the sweet accompaniment of her joy-varied songs,
the woodman's daughter passes by on her way, with a basket in her hand,
to her father in the forest, who has already laid down his axe on the
meridian shadow darkening one side of the straight stem of an oak,
beneath whose grove might be drawn up five-score of plumed chivalry!
Where is your "sense of lassitude now, nature's unerring guide in
exercise?" You spring up from the mossy wayside bank, and renewed both
in mind and body, "rejoicing in Nature's joy," you continue to pass over
houseless moors, by small, single, solitary, straw-roofed huts, through
villages gathered round Stone Cross, Elm Grove, or old Monastic Tower,
till, unwearied in lith and limb, you see sunset beautifying all the
west, and drop in, perhaps, among the hush of the Cottar's Saturday
Night--for it is in sweet Scotland we are walking in our dream--and know
not, till we have stretched ourselves on a bed of rushes or of heather,
that "kind Nature's sweet restorer balmy sleep," is yet among the number
of our bosom friends--alas! daily diminishing beneath fate or fortune,
the sweeping scythe-stroke of death, or the whisper of some one poor,
puny, idle, and unmeaning word!

Then, as to "the sense of satiety in eating." It is produced in us by
three platefuls of hotch-potch--and, to the eyes of an ordinary
observer, our dinner would seem to be at an end. But no--strictly
speaking, it is just going to begin. About an hour ago did we, standing
on the very beautiful bridge of Perth, see that identical salmon, with
his back-fin just visible above the translucent tide, arrowing up the
Tay, bold as a bridegroom, and nothing doubting that he should spend his
honeymoon among the gravel-beds of Kinnaird or Moulinearn, or the rocky
sofas of the Tummel, or the green marble couches of the Tilt. What has
become now of "the sense of satiety in eating?" John--the
castors!--mustard--vinegar--cayenne--catchup--pease and potatoes, with a
very little butter--the biscuit called "rusk"--and the memory of the
hotch-potch is as that of Babylon the Great. That any gigot of mutton,
exquisite though much of the five-year-old blackfaced must assuredly be,
can, with any rational hopes of success, contend against a haunch of
venison, will be asserted by no devout lover of truth. Try the two by
alternate platefuls, and you will uniformly find that you leave off
after the venison. That "sense of satiety in eating," of which Dr
Kitchiner speaks, was produced by the Tay salmon devoured above--but of
all the transitory feelings of us transitory creatures on our transit
through this transitory world, in which the Doctor asserts nature will
not suffer any sudden transitions, the most transitory ever experienced
by us is "the sense of satiety in eating." Therefore, we have now seen
it for a moment existing on the disappearance of the hotch-potch--dying
on the appearance of the Tay salmon--once more noticeable as the last
plate of the noble fish melted away--extinguished suddenly by the vision
of the venison--again felt for an instant, and but for an instant--for a
brace and a half of as fine grouse as ever expanded their voluptuous
bosoms to be devoured by hungry love! Sense of satiety in eating indeed!
If you please, my dear friend, one of the backs--pungent with the most
palate-piercing, stomach-stirring, heart-warming, soul-exalting of all
tastes--the wild bitter-sweet.

But the Doctor returns to the subject of travelling--and fatigue. "When
one begins," he says, "to be low-spirited and dejected, to yawn often
and be drowsy, when the appetite is impaired, when the smallest movement
occasions a fluttering of the pulse, when the mouth becomes dry, and is
sensible of a bitter taste, _seek refreshment and repose_, if you wish
to PREVENT ILLNESS, already beginning to take place." Why, our dear
Doctor, illness in such a deplorable case as this, is just about to end,
and death is beginning to take place. Thank Heaven, it is a condition to
which we do not remember having very nearly approximated! Who ever saw
us yawn? or drowsy? or with our appetite impaired, except on the
withdrawal of the table-cloth? or low-spirited, but when the Glenlivet
was at ebb? Who dare declare that he ever saw our mouth dry? or sensible
of a bitter taste, since we gave over munching rowans? Put your ringer
on our wrist, at any moment you choose, from June to January, from
January to June, and by its pulsation you may rectify Harrison's or
Kendal's chronometer.

But the Doctor proceeds--"By raising the temperature of my room to about
65°, a broth diet, and taking a tea-spoonful of Epsom salts in half a
pint of warm water, and repeating it every half-hour till it moves the
bowels twice or thrice, and retiring to rest an hour or two sooner than
usual, I have often very speedily got rid of colds, &c."

Why, there may be no great harm in acting as above; although we should
far rather recommend a screed of the Epsoms. A tea-spoonful of Epsom
salts in half a pint of warm water, reminds one, somehow or other, of
Tims. A small matter works a Cockney. It is not so easy--and that the
Cockneys well know--to move the bowels of old Christopher North. We do
not believe that a tea-spoonful of anything in this world would have any
serious effect on old "Ironsides." We should have no hesitation in
backing him against so much corrosive sublimate. He would dine out on
the day he had bolted that quantity of arsenic;--and would, we verily
believe, rise triumphant from a tea-spoonful of Prussic acid.

We could mention a thousand cures for "colds, et cetera," more
efficacious than a broth diet, a warm room, a tea-spoonful of Epsom
salts, or early roosting. What say you, our dear Dean, to half-a-dozen
tumblers of hot toddy? Your share of a brown jug to the same amount? Or
an equal quantity, in its gradual decrease revealing deeper and deeper
still the romantic Welsh scenery of the Devil's Punch-Bowl? _Adde tot_
small-bearded oysters, all redolent of the salt-sea foam, and worthy, as
they stud the Ambrosial brodd, to be licked off all at once by the
lambent tongue of Neptune. That antiquated calumny against the
character of toasted cheese--that, forsooth, it is indigestible--has
been trampled under the march of mind; and therefore, you may tuck in a
pound of double Gloucester. Other patients, labouring under catarrh,
may, very possibly, prefer the roasted how-towdy--or the green goose
from his first stubble-field--or why not, by way of a little variety, a
roasted maukin, midway between hare and leveret, tempting as maiden
between woman and girl, or, as the Eastern poet says, between a frock
and a gown? Go to bed--no need of warming-pans--about a quarter before
one;--you will not hear that small hour strike--you will sleep sound
till sunrise, sound as the Black Stone at Scone, on which the Kings of
Scotland were crowned of old. And if you contrive to carry a cold about
you next day, you deserve to be sent to Coventry by all sensible
people--and may, if you choose, begin taking, with Tims, a tea-spoonful
of Epsom salts in a half-pint of warm water every half-hour, till it
moves your bowels twice or thrice; but if you do, be your sex, politics,
or religion what they may, never shall ye be suffered to contribute even
a bit of Balaam to the Magazine.

The Doctor then treats of the best Season for travelling, and very
judiciously observes that it is during these months when there is no
occasion for a fire--that is, just before and after the extreme heat. In
winter, Dr Kitchiner, who was a man of extraordinary powers of
observation, observed, "that the ways are generally bad, and often
dangerous, especially in hilly countries, by reason of the snow and ice.
The days are short--a traveller comes late to his lodging, and is often
forced to rise before the sun in the morning--besides, the country looks
dismal--nature is, as it were, half dead. The summer corrects all these
inconveniences." Paradoxical as this doctrine may at first sight
appear--yet we have verified it by experience--having for many years
found, without meeting with one single exception, that the fine, long,
warm days of summer are an agreeable and infallible corrective of the
inconveniences attending the foul, short, cold days of winter--a season
which is surly without being sincere, blustering rather than bold--an
intolerable bore--always pretending to be taking his leave, yet
domiciliating himself in another man's house for weeks together--and, to
be plain, a season so regardless of truth, that nobody believes him till
frost has hung an ice-padlock on his mouth, and his many-river'd voice
is dumb under the wreathed snows.

"Cleanliness when travelling," observes the Doctor, "is doubly
necessary; to sponge the body every morning with tepid water, and then
rub it dry with a rough towel, will greatly contribute to preserve
health. To put the feet into warm water for a couple of minutes just
before going to bed, is very refreshing, and inviting to sleep; for
promoting tranquillity, both mental and corporeal, a clean skin may be
regarded as next in efficacy to a clear conscience."

Far be it from us to seek to impugn such doctrine. A dirty dog is a
nuisance not to be borne. But here the question arises--who--what--is a
dirty dog? Now there are men (no women) naturally--necessarily--dirty.
They are not dirty by chance--or accident--say twice or thrice per diem;
but they are always dirty--at all times and in all places--and never and
nowhere more disgustingly so than when figged out for going to church.
It is in the skin, in the blood--in the flesh, and in the bone--that
with such the disease of dirt more especially lies. We beg pardon--no
less in the hair. Now, such persons do not know that they are
dirty--that they are unclean beasts. On the contrary, they often think
themselves pinks of purity--incarnations of carnations--impersonations
of moss-roses--the spiritual essences of lilies, "imparadised in form of
that sweet flesh." Now, were such persons to change their linen every
half-hour, night and day, that is, were they to put on forty-eight clean
shirts in the twenty-four hours--and it might not be reasonable,
perhaps, to demand more of them under a government somewhat too
Whiggish--yet though we cheerfully grant that one and all of the shirts
would be dirty, we as sulkily deny that at any given moment from sunrise
to sunset, and over again, the wearer would be clean. He would be just
every whit and bit as dirty as if he had known but one single shirt all
his life--and firmly believed his to be the only shirt in the universe.

Men again, on the other hand, there are--and, thank God, in great
numbers--who are naturally so clean, that we defy you to make them _bonâ
fide_ dirty. You may as well drive down a duck into a dirty puddle, and
expect lasting stains on its pretty plumage. Pope says the same thing of
swans--that is, Poets--when speaking of Aaron Hill diving into the

    "He bears no tokens of the sabler streams,
    But soars far off among the swans of Thames."

Pleasant people of this kind of constitution you see going about of a
morning rather in dishabille--hair uncombed haply--face and hands even
unwashed--and shirt with a somewhat day-before-yesterdayish hue. Yet are
they, so far from being dirty, at once felt, seen, and smelt, to be
among the very cleanest of her Majesty's subjects. The moment you shake
hands with them, you feel in the firm flesh of palm and finger that
their heart's-blood circulates purely and freely from the point of the
highest hair on the apex of the pericranium, to the edge of the nail on
the large toe of the right foot. Their eyes are as clear as unclouded
skies--the apples on their cheeks are like those on the tree--what need,
in either case, of rubbing off dust or dew with a towel? What though,
from sleeping without a nightcap, their hair may be a little toozy? It
is not dim--dull--oily--like half-withered sea-weeds! It will soon comb
itself with the fingers of the west wind--that tent-like tree its
toilette--its mirror that pool of the clear-flowing Tweed.

Some streams, just like some men, are always dirty--you cannot possibly
tell why--unproducible to good pic-nic society either in dry or wet
weather. In dry, the oozy wretches are weeping among the slippery weeds,
infested with eels and powheads. In wet, they are like so many
common-sewers, strewn with dead cats and broken crockery, and
threatening with their fierce fulzie to pollute the sea. The sweet,
soft, pure rains, soon as they touch the flood are changed into filth.
The sun sees his face in one of the pools, and is terrified out of his
senses. He shines no more that day. The clouds have no notion of being
caricatured, and the trees keep cautiously away from the brink of such
streams--save, perchance, now and then, here and there, a weak
well-meaning willow--a thing of shreds and patches--its leafless wands
covered with bits of old worsted stockings, crowns of hats, a bauchle
(see Dr Jamieson), and the remains of a pair of corduroy breeches, long
hereditary in the family of the Blood-Royal of the Yetholm Gypsies.

Some streams, just like some men, are always clean--you cannot well tell
why--producible to good pic-nic society either in dry or wet weather. In
dry, the pearly waters are singing among the freshened flowers--so that
the trout, if he chooses, may breakfast upon bees. In wet, they grow, it
is true, dark and drumly--and at midnight, when heaven's candles are put
out, loud and oft the angry spirit of the water shrieks. But Aurora
beholds her face in the clarified pools and shallows--far and wide
glittering with silver or with gold. All the banks and braes reappear
green as emerald from the subsiding current--into which look with the
eye of an angler, and you behold a Fish--a twenty-pounder--steadying
himself--like an uncertain shadow; and oh! for George Scougal's leister
to strike him through the spine! Yes, these are the images of trees far
down, as if in another world; and, whether you look up or look down,
alike in all its blue, braided, and unbounded beauty, is the morning

Irishmen are generally men of the kind thus illustrated--generally
sweet--at least in their own green Isle; and that was the best argument
in favour of Catholic Emancipation.--So are Scotsmen. Whereas,
blindfolded, take a London, Edinburgh, or Glasgow Cockney's hand,
immediately after it has been washed and scented, and put it to your
nose--and you will begin to be apprehensive that some practical wit has
substituted in lieu of the sonnet-scribbling bunch of little fetid
fives, the body of some chicken-butcher of a weasel, that died of the
plague. We have seen as much of what is most ignorantly and malignantly
denominated dirt--one week's earth--washed off the feet of a pretty
young girl on a Saturday night, at a single sitting in the little
rivulet that runs almost round about her father's hut, as would have
served him to raise his mignonette in, or his crop of cresses. How
beautifully glowed the crimson-snow of the singing creature's new-washed
feet! First, as they shone almost motionless beneath the lucid
waters--and then, fearless of the hard bent and rough roots of the
heather, bore the almost alarming Fairy dancing away from the eyes of
the stranger; till the courteous spirit that reigns over all the
Highland wilds arrested her steps knee-deep in bloom, and bade her bow
her auburn head, as, blushing, she faltered forth, in her sweet Gaelic
accents, a welcome that thrilled like a blessing through the heart of
the Sassenach, nearly benighted, and wearied sore with the fifty
glorious mountain-miles that intermit at times their frowning forests
from the corries of Cruachan to the cliffs of Cairngorm.

It will be seen from these hurried remarks, that there is more truth
than perhaps Dr Kitchiner was aware of in his apothegm--"that a clean
skin may be regarded as next in efficacy to a clear conscience." But the
Doctor had but a very imperfect notion of the meaning of the words
"clean skin"--his observation being not even skin-deep. A wash-hand
basin, a bit of soap, and a coarse towel, he thought would give a
Cockney on Ludgate-hill a clean skin--just as many good people think
that a Bible, a prayer-book, and a long sermon, can give a clear
conscience to a criminal in Newgate. The cause of the evil, in both
cases, lies too deep for tears. Millions of men and women pass through
nature to eternity clean-skinned and pious--with slight expense either
in soap or sermons; while millions more, with much week-day bodily
scrubbing, and much Sabbath spiritual sanctification, are held in bad
odour here, while they live, by those who happen to sit near them, and
finally go out like the stink of a candle.

Never stir, quoth the Doctor, "without paper, pen, and ink, and a
note-book in your pocket. Notes made by pencils are easily obliterated
by the motion of travelling. Commit to paper whatever you see, hear, or
read, that is remarkable, with your sensations on observing it--do this
upon the spot, if possible, at the moment it first strikes you--at all
events do not delay it beyond the first convenient opportunity."

Suppose all people behaved in this way--and what an absurd world we
should have of it--every man, woman, and child who could write, jotting
away at their note-books! This committing to paper of whatever you see,
hear, or read, has, among many other bad effects, this one
especially--in a few years it reduces you to a state of idiocy. The
memory of all men who commit to paper becomes regularly extinct, we have
observed, about the age of thirty. Now, although the Memory does not
bear a very brilliant reputation among the faculties, a man finds
himself very much at a stand who is unprovided with one; for the
Imagination, the Judgment, and the Reason walk off in search of the
Memory--each in opposite directions; and the Mind, left at home by
itself, is in a very awkward predicament--gets comatose--snores loudly,
and expires. For our own part, we would much rather lose our Imagination
and our Judgment--nay, our very Reason itself--than our Memory--provided
we were suffered to retain a little Feeling and a little Fancy.
Committers to paper forget that the Memory is a tablet, or they
carelessly fling that mysterious tablet away, soft as wax to receive
impressions, and harder than adamant to retain, and put their trust in a
bit of calf-skin, or a bundle of old rags.

The observer who instantly jots down every object he sees, never,
properly speaking, saw an object in his life. There has always been in
the creature's mind a feeling alien to that which the object would, of
its pure self, have excited. The very preservation of a sort of style in
the creature's remarks, costs him an effort which disables him from
understanding what is before him, by dividing the small attention of
which he might have been capable, between the jotting, the jotter, and
the thing jotted. Then your committer to paper of whatever he sees,
hears, or reads, forgets or has never known that all real knowledge,
either of men or things, must be gathered up by operations which are in
their very being spontaneous and free--the mind being even unconscious
of them as they are going on--while the edifice has all the time been
silently rising up under the unintermitting labours of those silent
workers--Thoughts; and is finally seen, not without wonder, by the Mind
or Soul itself, which, gentle reader, was all along Architect and
Foreman--had not only originally planned, but had even daily
superintended the building of the Temple.

Were Dr Kitchiner not dead, we should just put to him this simple
question--Could you, Doctor, not recollect all the dishes of the most
various dinner at which you ever assisted, down to the obscurest kidney,
without committing every item to your note-book? Yes, Doctor, you could.
Well, then, all the universe is but one great dinner. Heaven and earth,
what a show of dishes! From a sun to a salad--a moon to a mutton chop--a
comet to a curry--a planet to a pâté! What gross ingratitude to the
Giver of the feast, not to be able, with the memory he has given us, to
remember his bounties! It is true, what the Doctor says, that notes made
with pencils are easily obliterated by the motion of travelling; but
then, Doctor, notes made by the Mind herself, with the Ruby Pen Nature
gives all her children who have also discourse of Reason, are with the
slightest touch, easilier far than glass by the diamond, traced on the
tablets that disease alone seems to deface, death alone to break, but
which, ineffaceable, and not to be broken, shall with all their
miscellaneous inscriptions endure for ever--yea, even to the great Day
of Judgment.

If men will but look and listen, and feel and think--they will never
forget anything worth being remembered. Do we forget "our children, that
to our eyes are dearer than the sun?" Do we forget our
wives--unreasonable and almost downright disagreeable as they sometimes
will be? Do we forget our triumphs--our defeats--our ecstasies, our
agonies--the face of a dear friend, or "dearest foe"--the ghost-like
voice of conscience at midnight arraigning us of crimes--or her seraph
hymn, at which the gates of heaven seem to expand for us that we may
enter in among the white-robed spirits, and

    "Summer high in bliss upon the hills of God?"

What are all the jottings that ever were jotted down on his jot-book, by
the most inveterate jotter that ever reached a raven age, in comparison
with the Library of Useful Knowledge, that _every_ man--who is a
man--carries within the Ratcliffe--the Bodleian of his own breast?

What are you grinning at in the corner there, you little ugly Beelzebub
of a Printer's Devil? and have you dropped through a seam in the
ceiling? More copy do you want? There, you imp--vanished like a



Above all things, continues Dr Kitchiner, "avoid travelling through the
night, which, by interrupting sleep, and exposing the body to the night
air, is always prejudicial, even in the mildest weather, and to the
strongest constitutions." Pray, Doctor, what ails you at the night air?
If the night air be, even in the mildest weather, prejudicial to the
strongest constitutions, what do you think becomes of the cattle on a
thousand hills? Why don't all the bulls in Bashan die of the asthma--or
look interesting by moonlight in a galloping consumption? Nay, if the
night air be so very fatal, how do you account for the longevity of
owls? Have you never read of the Chaldean shepherds watching the courses
of the stars? Or, to come nearer our own times, do you not know that
every blessed night throughout the year, thousands of young lads and
lasses meet, either beneath the milk-white thorn--or on the lea-rig,
although the night be ne'er sae wet, and they be ne'er sae weary--or
under a rock on the hill--or--no uncommon case--beneath a frozen
stack--not of chimneys, but of corn-sheaves--or on a couch of snow--and
that they are all as warm as so many pies; while, instead of feeling
what you call "the lack of vigour attendant on the loss of sleep, which
is as enfeebling and as distressing as the languor that attends the want
of food," they are, to use a homely Scotch expression, "neither to haud
nor bind;" the eyes of the young lads being all as brisk, bold, and
bright as the stars in Charles's Wain, while those of the young lasses
shine with a soft, faint, obscure, but beautiful lustre, like the dewy
Pleiades, over which nature has insensibly been breathing a mist almost
waving and wavering into a veil of clouds?

Have you, our dear Doctor, no compassion for those unfortunate blades,
who, _nolentes-volentes_, must remain out perennially all night--we mean
the blades of grass, and also the flowers? Their constitutions seem
often far from strong; and shut your eyes on a frosty night, and you
will hear them--we have done so many million times--shivering, ay,
absolutely shivering under their coat of hoar-frost! If the night air be
indeed what Dr Kitchiner has declared it to be--Lord have mercy on the
vegetable world! What agonies in that field of turnips! Alas, poor
Swedes! The imagination recoils from the condition of that club of
winter cabbages--and of what materials, pray, must the heart of that man
be made, who could think but for a moment on the case of those carrots,
without bursting into a flood of tears!

The Doctor avers that the firm health and fine spirits of persons who
live in the country, are not more from breathing a purer air, than from
enjoying plenty of sound sleep; and the most distressing misery of "this
Elysium of bricks and mortar," is the rareness with which we enjoy "the
sweets of a slumber unbroke."

Doctor--in the first place, it is somewhat doubtful whether or not
persons who live in the country have firmer health and finer spirits
than persons who live in towns--even in London. What kind of persons do
you mean? You must not be allowed to select some dozen or two of the
hairiest among the curates--a few chosen rectors whose faces have been
but lately elevated to the purple--a team of prebends issuing sleek from
their golden stalls--a picked bishop--a sacred band the élite of the
squirearchy--with a corresponding sprinkling of superior noblemen from
lords to dukes--and then to compare them, cheek by jowl, with an equal
number of external objects taken from the common run of Cockneys. This,
Doctor, is manifestly what you are ettling at--but you must clap your
hand, Doctor, without discrimination, on the great body of the rural
population of England, male and female, and take whatever comes
first--be it a poor, wrinkled, toothless, blear-eyed, palsied hag,
tottering horizontally on a staff, under the load of a premature old age
(for she is not yet fifty), brought on by annual rheumatism and
perennial poverty;--Be it a young, ugly, unmarried woman, far advanced
in pregnancy, and sullenly trooping to the alehouse, to meet the
overseer of the parish poor, who, enraged with the unborn bastard, is
about to force the parish bully to marry the parish prostitute;--Be it a
landlord of a rural inn, with pig eyes peering over his ruby cheeks, the
whole machinery of his mouth so deranged by tippling that he
simultaneously snorts, stutters, slavers and
snores--pot-bellied--shanked like a spindle-strae--and bidding fair to
be buried on or before Saturday week;--Be it a half-drunk horse-cowper,
swinging to and fro in a wraprascal on a bit of broken-down blood that
once won a fifty, every sentence, however short, having but two
intelligible words, an oath and a lie--his heart rotten with falsehood,
and his bowels burned up with brandy, so that sudden death may pull him
from his saddle before he put spurs to his sporting filly that she may
bilk the turnpike man, and carry him more speedily home to beat or
murder his poor, pale, industrious char-woman of a wife;--Be it--not a
beggar, for beggars are prohibited from this parish--but a pauper in the
sulks, dying on her pittance from the poor-rates, which altogether
amount in merry England but to about the paltry sum of, more or less,
six millions a-year--her son, all the while, being in a thriving way as
a general merchant in the capital of the parish, and with clear profits
from his business of £300 per annum, yet suffering the mother that bore
him, and suckled him, and washed his childish hands, and combed the
bumpkin's hair, and gave him Epsoms in a cup when her dear Johnny-raw
had the belly-ache, to go down, step by step, as surely and as obviously
as one is seen going down a stair with a feeble hold of the banisters,
and stumbling every foot-fall down that other flight of steps that
consist of flags that are mortal damp and mortal cold, and lead to
nothing but a parcel of rotten planks, and overhead a vault dripping
with perpetual moisture, green and slobbery, such as toads delight in
crawling heavily through with now and then a bloated leap, and hideous
things more worm-like, that go wriggling briskly in and out among the
refuse of the coffins, and are heard, by imagination at least, to emit
faint angry sounds, because the light of day has hurt their eyes, and
the air from the upper world weakened the rank savoury smell of
corruption, clothing, as with a pall, all the inside walls of the
tombs;--Be it a man yet in the prime of life as to years, six feet and
an inch high, and measuring round the chest forty-eight inches (which is
more, reader, than thou dost by six, we bet a sovereign, member
although thou even be'st of the Edinburgh Six Feet Club), to whom
Washington Irving's Jack Tibbuts was but a Tims--but then ever so many
gamekeepers met him all alone in my lord's pheasant preserve, and though
two of them died within the month, two within the year, and two are now
in the workhouse--one a mere idiot, and the other a madman--both
shadows--so terribly were their bodies mauled, and so sorely were their
skulls fractured;--yet the poacher was taken, tried, hulked; and there
he sits now, sunning himself on a bank by the edge of the wood whose
haunts he must thread no more--for the keepers were grim bone-breakers
enough in their way--and when they had gotten him on his back, one
gouged him like a Yankee, and the other bit off his nose like a Bolton
Trotter--and one smashed his _os frontis_ with the nailed heel of a
two-pound wooden clog, a Preston Purrer;--so that Master Allonby is now
far from being a beauty, with a face of that description attached to a
head wagging from side to side under a powerful palsy, while the
Mandarin drinks damnation to the Lord of the Manor in a horn of
eleemosynary ale, handed to him by the village blacksmith, in days of
old not the worst of the gang, and who, but for a stupid jury, a
merciful judge, and something like prevarication in the circumstantial
evidence, would have been hanged for a murderer--as he was--dissected,
and hung in chains;--Be it a red-haired woman, with a pug nose, small
fiery eyes, high cheekbones, bulging lips, and teeth like
swine-tusks,--bearded--flat-breasted as a man--tall, scambling in her
gait, but swift, and full of wild motions in her weather-withered arms,
all starting with sinews like whipcord--the Pedestrian Post to and fro
the market town twelve miles off--and so powerful a pugilist that she
hit Grace Maddox senseless in seven minutes--tried before she was
eighteen for child-murder, but not hanged, although the man-child, of
which the drab was self-delivered in a ditch, was found with blue
finger-marks on its windpipe, bloody mouth, and eyes forced out of their
sockets, buried in the dunghill behind her father's hut--not hanged,
because a surgeon, originally bred a sow-gelder, swore that he believed
the mother had unconsciously destroyed her offspring in the throes of
travail, if indeed it had ever breathed, for the lungs would not swim,
he swore, in a basin of water--so the incestuous murderess was let
loose; her brother got hanged in due time after the mutiny at the
Nore--and her father, the fishmonger--why, he went red raving mad as if
a dog had bitten him--and died, as the same surgeon and sow-gelder
averred, of the hydrophobia, foaming at the mouth, gnashing his teeth,
and some said cursing, but that was a calumny, for something seemed to
be the matter with his tongue, and he could not speak, only
splutter--nobody venturing, except his amiable daughter--and in that
particular act of filial affection she was amiable--to hold in the
article of death the old man's head;--Be it that moping idiot that would
sit, were she suffered, on, on, on--night and day for ever, on the
self-same spot, whatever that spot might be on which she happened to
squat at morning, mound, wall, or stone--motionless, dumb, and, as a
stranger would think, also blind, for the eyelids are still shut--never
opened in sun or storm;--yet that figure--that which is now, and has for
years been, an utter and hopeless idiot, was once a gay, laughing,
dancing, singing girl, whose blue eyes seemed full of light, whether
they looked on earth or heaven, the flowers or the stars--her
sweetheart--a rational young man, it would appear--having leapt out upon
her suddenly, as she was passing through the churchyard at night, from
behind a tombstone, in a sack which she, having little time for
consideration, and being naturally superstitious, supposed to be a
shroud, and the wearer thereof, who was an active stripling of sound
flesh and blood, to be a ghost or skeleton, all one horrid rattle of
bones; so that the trick succeeded far beyond the most sanguine
expectation of the Tailor who played the principal part--and sense,
feeling, memory, imagination, and reason, were all felled by one blow of
fear--as butcher felleth ox--while by one of those mysteries, which
neither we, nor you, nor anybody else, can understand, life remained not
only unimpaired, but even invigorated; and there she sits, like a clock
wound up to go a certain time, the machinery of which being good, has
not been altogether deranged by the shock that sorely cracked the case,
and will work till the chain is run down, and then it will tick no
more;--Be it that tall, fair, lovely girl, so thin and attenuated that
all wonder she can walk by herself--that she is not blown away even by
the gentle summer breeze that wooes the hectic of her cheek--dying all
see--and none better than her poor old mother--and yet herself
thoughtless of the coming doom, and cheerful as a nest-building
bird--while her lover, too deep in despair to be betrayed into tears, as
he carries her to her couch, each successive day feels the dear and
dreadful burden lighter and lighter in his arms. Small strength will it
need to support her bier! The coffin, as if empty, will be lowered
unfelt by the hands that hold those rueful cords!

In mercy to our readers and ourselves, we shall endeavour to prevent
ourselves from pursuing this argument any further--and perhaps quite
enough has been said to show that Dr Kitchiner's assertion, that persons
who live in the country have firmer health and finer spirits than the
inhabitants of towns--is exceedingly problematical. But even admitting
the fact to be as the Doctor has stated it, we do not think he has
attributed the phenomenon to the right cause. He attributes it to "their
enjoying plenty of sound sleep." The worthy Doctor is entirely out in
his conjecture. The working classes in the country enjoy, we don't doubt
it, sound sleep--but not plenty of it. They have but a short allowance
of sleep--and whether it be sound or not, depends chiefly on themselves;
while as to the noises in towns and cities, they are nothing to what one
hears in the country--unless, indeed, you perversely prefer private
lodgings at a pewterer's. Did we wish to be personal, we could name a
single waterfall who, even in dry weather, keeps all the visitors from
town awake within a circle of four miles diameter; and in wet weather,
not only keeps them all awake, but impresses them with a constantly
recurring conviction during the hours of night, that there is something
seriously amiss about the foundation of the river, and that the whole
parish is about to be overflowed, up to the battlements of the old
castle that over-looks the linn. Then, on another point, we are
certain--namely, that rural thunder is many hundred times more powerful
than villatic. London porter is above admiration--but London thunder
below contempt. An ordinary hackney-coach beats it hollow. But, my
faith! a thunderstorm in the country--especially if it be mountainous,
with a few fine Woods and Forests, makes you inevitably think of that
land from whose bourne no traveller returns; and even our town readers
will acknowledge that country thunder much more frequently proves mortal
than the thunder you meet with in cities. In the country, few
thunderstorms are contented to pass over without killing at least one
horse, some milch-kine, half-a-dozen sucking pigs or turkeys, an old
woman or two, perhaps the Minister of the parish, a man about forty,
name unknown, and a nursing mother at the ingle, the child escaping with
singed eyebrows, and a singular black mark on one of its great toes. We
say nothing of the numbers stupified, who awake the day after, as from a
dream, with strange pains in their heads, and not altogether sure about
the names or countenances of the somewhat unaccountable people whom they
see variously employed about the premises, and making themselves pretty
much at home. In towns, not one thunderstorm in fifty that performs an
exploit more magnanimous than knocking down an old wife from a
chimney-top--singeing a pair of worsted stockings that, knit in an
ill-starred hour, when the sun had entered Aries, had been hung out to
dry on a line in the backyard, or garden as it is called--or cutting a
few inches off the tail of an old Whig weathercock that for years had
been pecking the eyes out of all the airts the wind can blaw, greedy of
some still higher preferment.

Our dear deceased author proceeds to tell his Traveller how to eat and
drink; and remarks, "that people are apt to imagine that they may
indulge a little more in high living when on a journey. Travelling
itself, however, acts as a stimulus; therefore less nourishment is
required than in a state of rest. What you might not consider
intemperate at home, may occasion violent irritation, fatal
inflammations, &c., in situations where you are least able to obtain
medical assistance."

All this is very loosely stated, and must be set to rights. If you shut
yourself up for some fifty hours or so in a mail-coach, that keeps
wheeling along at the rate of ten miles an hour, and changes horses in
half a minute, certainly for obvious reasons the less you eat and drink
the better; and perhaps an hourly hundred drops of laudanum, or
equivalent grain of opium, would be advisable, so that the transit from
London to Edinburgh might be performed in a phantasma. But the free
agent ought to live well on his travels--some degrees better, without
doubt, than when at home. People seldom live very well at home. There is
always something requiring to be eaten up, that it may not be lost,
which destroys the soothing and satisfactory symmetry of an
unexceptionable dinner. We have detected the same duck through many
unprincipled disguises, playing a different part in the farce of
domestic economy, with a versatility hardly to have been expected in one
of the most generally despised of the web-footed tribe. When travelling
at one's own sweet will, one feeds at a different inn every meal; and,
except when the coincidence of circumstances is against you, there is an
agreeable variety both in the natural and artificial disposition of the
dishes. True that travelling may act as a stimulus--but false that
therefore less nourishment is required. Would Dr Kitchiner, if now
alive, presume to say that it was right for him, who had sat all day
with his feet on the fender, to gobble up, at six o'clock of the
afternoon, as enormous a dinner as we who had walked since sunrise forty
or fifty miles? Because our stimulus had been greater, was our
nourishment to be less? We don't care a curse about stimulus. What we
want, in such a case, is lots of fresh food; and we hold that, under
such circumstances, a man with a sound Tory Church-and-King stomach and
constitution cannot over-eat himself--no, not for his immortal soul.

We had almost forgot to take the deceased Doctor to task for one of the
most free-and-easy suggestions ever made to the ill-disposed, how to
disturb and destroy the domestic happiness of eminent literary
characters. "An introduction to eminent authors may be obtained," quoth
he slyly, "from the booksellers who publish their works."

The booksellers who publish the works of eminent authors have rather
more common sense and feeling, it is to be hoped, than this comes
to--and know better what is the province of their profession. Any one
man may, if he chooses, give any other man an introduction to any third
man in this world. Thus the tailor of any eminent author--or his
bookseller--or his parish minister--or his butcher--or his baker--or his
"man of business"--or his house-builder--may, one and all, give such
travellers as Dr Kitchiner and others, letters of introduction to the
said eminent author in prose or verse. This, we have heard, is sometimes
done--but fortunately we cannot speak from experience, not being
ourselves an eminent author. The more general the intercourse between
men of taste, feeling, cultivation, learning, genius, the better; but
that intercourse should be brought about freely and of its own accord,
as fortunate circumstances permit, and there should be no impertinent
interference of selfish or benevolent go-betweens. It would seem that Dr
Kitchiner thought the commonest traveller, one who was almost, as it
were, bordering on a Bagman, had nothing to do but call on the publisher
of any great writer, and get a free admission into his house. Had the
Doctor not been dead, we should have given him a severe rowing and
blowing-up for this vulgar folly; but as he is dead, we have only to
hope that the readers of the Oracle who intend to travel will not
degrade themselves, and disgust "authors of eminence," by thrusting
their ugly or comely faces--both are equally odious--into the privacy of
gentlemen who have done nothing to exclude themselves from the
protection of the laws of civilised society--or subject their fire-sides
to be infested by one-half of the curious men of the country, two-thirds
of the clever, and all the blockheads.



Having thus briefly instructed travellers how to get a look at Lions,
the Doctor suddenly exclaims--"IMPRIMIS, BEWARE OF DOGS!" "There have,"
he says, "been many arguments, _pro_ and _con_, on the dreadful disease
their bite produces--it is enough to prove that multitudes of men,
women, and children have died in consequence of having been bitten by
dogs. What does it matter whether they were the victims of bodily
disease or mental irritation? The life of the most humble human being is
of more value than all the dogs in the world--dare the most brutal cynic
say otherwise?"

Dr Kitchiner always travelled, it appears, in chaises; and a chaise of
one kind or other he recommends to all his brethren of mankind. Why,
then, this intense fear of the canine species? Who ever saw a mad dog
leap into the mail-coach, or even a gig? The creature, when so
afflicted, hangs his head, and goes snapping right and left at
pedestrians. Poor people like us, who must walk, may well fear
hydrophobia--though, thank Heaven, we have never, during the course of a
tolerably long and well-spent life, been so much as once bitten by "the
rabid animal!" But what have rich authors, who loll in carriages, to
dread from dogs, who always go on foot? We cannot credit the very
sweeping assertion, that multitudes of men, women, and children have
died in consequence of being bitten by dogs. Even the newspapers do not
run up the amount above a dozen per annum, from which you may safely
deduct two-thirds. Now, four men, women, and children, are not "a
multitude." Of those four, we may set down two as problematical--having
died, it is true, _in_, but not _of_ hydrophobia--states of mind and
body wide as the poles asunder. He who drinks two bottles of pure
spirit every day he buttons and unbuttons his breeches, generally dies
_in_ a state of hydrophobia--for he abhorred water, and knew
instinctively the jug containing that insipid element. But he never dies
at all _of_ hydrophobia, there being evidence to prove that for twenty
years he had drank nothing but brandy. Suppose we are driven to confess
the other two--why, one of them was an old woman of eighty, who was
dying as fast as she could hobble, at the very time she thought herself
bitten--and the other a nine-year-old brat, in hooping-cough and
measles, who, had there not been such a quadruped as a dog created,
would have worried itself to death before evening, so lamentably had its
education been neglected, and so dangerous an accomplishment is an
impish temper. The twelve cases for the year of that most horrible
disease, hydrophobia, have, we flatter ourselves, been satisfactorily
disposed of--eight of the alleged deceased being at this moment engaged
at various handicrafts, on low wages indeed, but still such as enable
the industrious to live--two having died of drinking--one of extreme old
age, and one of a complication of complaints incident to childhood,
their violence having, in this particular instance, been aggravated by
neglect and devilish temper. Where now the "multitude" of men, women,
and children, who have died in consequence of being bitten by mad dogs?

Gentle reader--a mad dog is a bugbear; we have walked many hundred times
the diameter and the circumference of this our habitable globe--along
all roads, public and private--with stiles or turnpikes--metropolitan
streets and suburban paths--and at all seasons of the revolving year and
day; but never, as we padded the hoof along, met we nor were over-taken
by greyhound, mastiff, or cur, in a state of hydrophobia. We have many
million times seen them with their tongues lolling out about a
yard--their sides panting--flag struck--and the whole dog showing
symptoms of severe distress. That such travellers were not mad we do not
assert--they may have been mad--but they certainly were fatigued; and
the difference, we hope, is often considerable between weariness and
insanity. Dr Kitchiner, had he seen such dogs as we have seen, would
have fainted on the spot. He would have raised the country against the
harmless jog-trotter. Pitchforks would have gleamed in the setting sun,
and the flower of the agricultural youth of a midland county, forming a
levy _en masse_, would have offered battle to a turnspit. The Doctor,
sitting in his coach--like Napoleon at Waterloo--would have cried "_Tout
est perdu--sauve, qui peut!_"--and re-galloping to a provincial town,
would have found refuge under the gateway of the Hen and Chickens.

"The life of the most humble human being," quoth the Doctor, "is of more
value than all the dogs in the world--dare the most brutal cynic say

This question is not put to us; for so far from being the most brutal
Cynic, we do not belong to the Cynic school at all--being an Eclectic,
and our philosophy composed chiefly of Stoicism, Epicureanism, and
Peripateticism--with a fine, pure, clear, bold dash of Platonicism. The
most brutal Cynic, if now alive and snarling, must therefore answer for
himself--while we tell the Doctor, that so far from holding, with him,
that the life of the most humble human being is of more value than all
the dogs in the world, we, on the contrary, verily believe that there is
many a humble dog whose life far transcends in value the lives of many
men, women, and children. Whether or not dogs have souls, is a question
in philosophy never yet solved; although we have ourselves no doubt on
the subject, and firmly believe that they have souls. But the question,
as put by the Doctor, is not about souls, but about lives; and as the
human soul does not die when the human body does, the death of an old
woman, middle-aged man, or young child, is no such very great calamity,
either to themselves or to the world. Better, perhaps, that all the dogs
now alive should be massacred, to prevent hydrophobia, than that a human
soul should be lost;--but not a single human soul is going to be lost,
although the whole canine species should become insane to-morrow. Now,
would the Doctor have laid one hand on his heart and the other on his
Bible, and taken a solemn oath that rather than that one old woman of a
century and a quarter should suddenly be cut off by the bite of a mad
dog, he would have signed the warrant of execution of all the packs of
harriers and fox-hounds, all the pointers, spaniels, setters, and
cockers, all the stag-hounds, greyhounds, and lurchers, all the
Newfoundlanders, shepherd-dogs, mastiffs, bull-dogs, and terriers, the
infinite generation of mongrels and crosses included, in Great Britain
and Ireland--to say nothing of the sledge-drawers in Kamtschatka, and in
the realms slow-moving near the Pole? To clench the argument at
once--What are all the old women in Europe, one-half of the men, and
one-third of the children, when compared, in value, with any one of
Christopher North's Newfoundland dogs--Fro--Bronte--or O'Bronte?
Finally, does he include in his sweeping condemnation the whole brute
creation, lions, tigers, panthers, ounces, elephants, rhinoceroses,
hippopotami, camelopardales, zebras, quaggas, cattle, horses, asses,
mules, cats, the ichneumon, cranes, storks, cocks-of-the-wood, geese,
and how-towdies?

"Semi-drowning in the sea"--he continues--"and all the pretended
specifics, are mere delusions--there is no real remedy but cutting the
part out immediately. If the bite be near a blood-vessel, that cannot
always be done, nor when done, however well done, will it always prevent
the miserable victim from dying the most dreadful of deaths. Well might
St Paul tell us to '_beware of dogs_.' First Epistle to Philippians,
chap. iii., v. 2."

Semi-drowning in the sea is, we grant, a bad specific, and difficult to
be administered. It is not possible to tell, _a priori_, how much
drowning any particular patient can bear. What is mere semi-drowning to
James, is total drowning to John;--Tom is easy of resuscitation--Bob
will not stir a muscle for all the Humane Societies in the United
Kingdoms. To cut a pound of flesh from the rump of a fat dowager, who
turns sixteen stone, is within the practical skill of the veriest
bungler in the anatomy of the human frame--to scarify the fleshless
spindle-shank of an antiquated spinstress, who lives on a small annuity,
might be beyond the scalpel of an Abernethy or a Liston. A large
blood-vessel, as the Doctor well remarks, is an awkward neighbour to the
wound made by the bite of a mad dog, "when a new excision has to be
attempted"--but will any Doctor living inform us how, in a thousand
other cases besides hydrophobia, "the miserable victim may always be
prevented from dying?" There are, probably, more dogs in Britain than
horses; yet a hundred men, women, and children are killed by kicks of
sane horses, for one by bites of insane dogs. Is the British army,
therefore, to be deprived of its left arm, the cavalry? Is there to be
no flying artillery? What is to become of the horse-marines?

Still the Doctor, though too dogmatical, and rather puppyish above, is,
at times, sensible on dogs.

"Therefore," quoth he, "never travel without a good tough Black Thorn in
your Fist, not less than three feet in length, on which may be marked
the Inches, and so it may serve for a measure.

"Pampered Dogs, that are permitted to prance about as they please, when
they hear a knock, scamper to the door, and not seldom snap at unwary
visitors. Whenever _Counsellor Cautious_ went to a house, &c., where he
was not quite certain that there was no Dog, after he had rapped at the
door, he retired three or four yards from it, and prepared against the
Enemy: when the door was opened, he desired, if there was any Dog, that
it might be shut up till he was gone, and would not enter the House till
it was.

"_Sword_ and _Tuck Sticks_, as commonly made, are hardly so good a
weapon as a stout Stick--the Blades are often inserted into the Handles
in such a slight manner, that one smart blow will break them out;--if
you wish for a _Sword-Cane_, you must have one made with a good
Regulation Blade, which alone will cost more than is usually charged for
the entire Stick.--I have seen a Cane made by Mr PRICE, _of the Stick
and Umbrella Warehouse, 221, in the Strand_, near Temple Bar, which was
excellently put together.

"A powerful weapon, and a very smart and light-looking thing, is _an
Iron Stick_ of about four-tenths of an inch in diameter, with a Hook
next the Hand, and terminating at the other end in a Spike about five
inches in length, which is covered by a Ferrule, the whole painted the
colour of a common walking-stick; it has a light natty appearance, while
it is in fact a most formidable Instrument."

We cannot charge our memory with this instrument, yet had we seen one
once, we hardly think we could have forgot it. But Colonel de Berenger
in his _Helps and Hints_ prefers the umbrella. Umbrellas are usually
carried, we believe, in wet weather, and dogs run mad, if ever, in dry.
So the safe plan is to carry one all the year through, like the Duke.

"I found it a valuable weapon, although by mere chance; for, walking
alone in the rain, a large mad dog, pursued by men, suddenly turned upon
me, out of a street which I had just approached; by instinct more than
judgment, I gave point at him severely, opened as the umbrella was,
which, screening me at the same time, _was an article from which he did
not expect thrusts_; but which, although made at guess, for I could not
see him, turned him over and over, and before he could recover himself,
his pursuers had come up immediately to despatch him; the whole being
the work of even few seconds; but for the umbrella the horrors of
hydrophobia might have fallen to my lot."

There is another mode, which, with the omission or alteration of a word
or two, looks feasible, supposing we had to deal not with a bull-dog,
but a young lady of our own species. "If," says the Colonel, "you can
seize a dog's front paw neatly, and immediately squeeze it sharply, he
cannot bite you till you cease to squeeze it; therefore, by keeping him
thus well pinched, you may lead him wherever you like; or you may, with
the other hand, seize him by the skin of the neck, to hold him thus
without danger, provided your strength is equal to his efforts at
extrication." But here comes the Colonel's infallible _vade-mecum_.

"Look at them with your face from between your opened legs, holding the
skirts away, and running at them thus backwards, of course head below,
stern exposed, and above all growling angrily; most dogs, seeing so
strange an animal, the head at the heels, the eyes below the mouth, &c.,
are so dismayed, that, with their tails between their legs, they are
glad to scamper away, some even howling with affright. I have never
tried it with a thorough-bred bull-dog, nor do I advise it with them;
though I have practised it, and successfully, with most of the other
kinds; it might fail with these, still I cannot say it will."

Thus armed against the canine species, the Traveller, according to our
Oracle, must also provide himself with a portable case of instruments
for drawing--a sketch and note-book--paper--ink--and PINS--NEEDLES--AND
THREAD! A ruby or Rhodium pen, made by Doughty, No. 10, Great Ormond
Street--pencils from Langdon's of Great Russell Street--a folding
one-foot rule, divided into eighths, tenths, and twelfths of inches--a
hunting-watch with seconds, with a detached lever or Dupleix escapement,
in good strong silver cases--a Dollond's achromatic opera-glass--a
night-lamp--a tinder-box--two pair of spectacles, with strong silver
frames--an eye-glass in a silver ring slung round the neck--a
traveller's knife, containing a large and a small blade, a saw, hook for
taking a stone out of a horse's shoe, turnscrew, gun-picker, tweezers,
and long corkscrew--galoches or paraloses--your own knife and fork, and
spoon--a Welsh wig--a spare hat--umbrella--two great-coats, one for cool
and fair weather (_i.e._ between 45° and 55° of Fahrenheit), and another
for cold and foul weather, of broad cloth, lined with fur, and
denominated a "dreadnought."

Such are a few of the articles with which every sensible traveller will
provide himself before leaving _Dulce Domum_ to brave the perils of a
Tour through the Hop-districts.

"If circumstances compel you," continues the Doctor, "to ride on the
outside of a coach, put on two shirts and two pair of stockings, turn up
the collar of your great-coat, and tie a handkerchief round it, and have
plenty of dry straw to set your feet on."

In our younger days we used to ride a pretty considerable deal on the
outside of coaches, and much hardship did we endure before we hit on the
discovery above promulgated. We once rode outside from Edinburgh to
London, in winter, without a great-coat, in nankeen trousers _sans_
drawers, and all other articles of our dress thin and light in
proportion. That we are alive at this day, is no less singular than
true--no more true than singular. We have known ourselves so firmly
frozen to the leathern ceiling of the mail-coach, that it required the
united strength of coachman, guard, and the other three outsides, to
separate us from the vehicle, to which we adhered as part and parcel.
All at once the device of the double shirt flashed upon us--and it
underwent signal improvements before we reduced the theory to practice.
For, first, we endued ourselves with a leather shirt--then with a
flannel one--and then, in regular succession, with three linen shirts.
This concluded the Series of Shirts. Then commenced the waistcoats. A
plain woollen waistcoat without buttons--with hooks and eyes--took the
lead, and kept it; it was closely pressed by what is, in common palaver,
called an under-waistcoat--the body being flannel, the breast-edges
bearing a pretty pattern of stripes or bars--then came a natty red
waistcoat, of which we were particularly proud, and of which the effect
on landlady, bar-maid, and chamber-maid, we remember was
irresistible--and, fourthly and finally, to complete that department of
our investiture, shone with soft yet sprightly lustre--the
double-breasted bright-buttoned Buff. Five and four are nine--so that
between our carcass and our coat, it might have been classically said of
our dress--"Novies interfusa coercet." At this juncture of affairs began
the coats, which--as it is a great mistake to wear too many coats--never
exceeded six. The first used generally to be a pretty old coat that had
lived to moralise over the mutability of human
affairs--thread-bare--napless--and what ignorant people might have
called shabby-genteel. It was followed by a plain, sensible, honest,
unpretending, commonplace, everyday sort of a coat--and not, perhaps, of
the very best merino. Over it was drawn, with some little difficulty,
what had, in its prime of life, attracted universal admiration in
Princes Street, as a blue surtout. Then came your regular olive-coloured
great-coat--not braided and embroidered _à la militaire_--for we scorned
to sham travelling-captain--but _simplex munditiis_, plain in its
neatness; not wanting then was your shag-hued wraprascal, betokening
that its wearer was up to snuff--and to close this strange eventful
history, the seven-caped Dreadnought, that loved to dally with the
sleets and snows--held in calm contempt Boreas, Notus, Auster, Eurus,
and "the rest"--and drove baffled Winter howling behind the Pole.

The same principle of accumulation was made applicable to the neck. No
stock. Neckcloth above neckcloth--beginning with singles--and then
getting into the full uncut squares--the amount of the whole being
somewhere about a dozen: The concluding neckcloth worn cravat-fashion,
and flowing down the breast in a cascade, like that of an
attorney-general. Round our cheek and ear, leaving the lips at liberty
to breathe and imbibe, was wreathed, in undying remembrance of the
bravest of the brave, a Jem Belcher Fogle--and beneath the
cravat-cascade a comforter netted by the fair hands of her who had
kissed us at our departure, and was sighing for our return. One hat we
always found sufficient--and that a black beaver--for a lily castor
suits not the knowledge-box of a friend to "a limited constitutional and
hereditary monarchy."

As to our lower extremities--One pair only of roomy shoes--one pair of
stockings of the finest lamb's-wool--another of common close worsted,
knit by the hand of a Lancashire witch--thirdly, Shetland hose. All
three pair reaching well up towards the fork--each about an
inch-and-a-half longer than its predecessor. Flannel drawers--one pair
only--within the lamb's-wool, and touching the instep--then one pair of
elderly casimeres, of yore worn at balls--one pair of Manchester white
cords--ditto of strong black quilt trousers, "capacious and serene"--and
at or beneath the freezing-point, overalls of the same stuff as
"Johnny's grey breeks"--neat but not gaudy--mud-repellers--themselves a
host--never in all their lives "thoroughly wet
through"--frost-proof--and often mistaken by the shepherd on the wold,
as the Telegraph hung for a moment on the misty upland, for the philibeg
of Phoebus in his dawn-dress, hastily slipt on as he bade farewell to
some star-paramour, and, like a giant about to run a race, devoured the
cerulean course of day, as if impatient to reach the goal set in the
Western Sea.



Pray, reader, do you know what line of conduct you ought to pursue if
you are to sleep on the road? "The earlier you arrive," says the Doctor,
"and the earlier after your arrival you apply, the better the chance of
getting a good bed--this done, order your luggage to your room. A
travelling-bag, or a 'sac de nuit,' in addition to your trunk, is very
necessary; it should be large enough to contain one or two changes of
linen--a night-shirt--shaving apparatus--comb, clothes, tooth and hair
brushes, &c. Take care, too, to see your sheets well aired, and that you
can fasten your room at night. Carry firearms also, and take the first
unostentatious opportunity of showing your pistols to the landlord.
However well-made your pistols, however carefully you have chosen your
flint, and however dry your powder, look to the priming and touch-hole
every night. Let your pistols be double-barrelled, and with spring

Now, really, it appears to us, that in lieu of double-barrelled pistols
with spring bayonets, it would be advisable to substitute a brace of
black-puddings for daylight, and a brace of Oxford or Bologna sausages
for the dark hours. They will be equally formidable to the robber, and
far safer to yourself. Indeed we should like to see duelling
black-puddings, or sausages, introduced at Chalk-Farm;--and, that
etiquette might not be violated, each party might take his antagonist's
weapon, and the seconds, as usual, see them loaded. Surgeons will have
to attend as usual. Far more blood, indeed, would be thus spilt, than
according to the present fashion.

The Doctor, as might be expected, makes a mighty rout--a prodigious
fuss--all through the Oracle, about damp sheets; he must immediately see
the chambermaid, and overlook the airing with his own hands and eyes.
He is also an advocate of the warming-pan--and for the adoption, indeed,
of every imaginable scheme for excluding death from his chamber. He goes
on the basis of everything being as it should not be in inns--and often
reminds us of our old friend Death-in-the-Pot. Nay, as Travellers never
can be sure that those who have slept in the beds before them were not
afflicted with some contagious disease, whenever they can they should
carry their own sheets with them--namely, a "light eider-down quilt, and
two dressed hart-skins, to be put on the mattresses, to hinder the
disagreeable contact. These are to be covered with the traveller's own
sheets--and if an eider-down quilt be not sufficient to keep him warm,
his coat put upon it will increase the heat sufficiently. If the
traveller is not provided with these accommodations, it will sometimes
be prudent not to undress entirely; however, the neckcloth, gaiters,
shirt, and everything which checks the circulation, must be loosened."

Clean sheets, the Doctor thinks, are rare in inns; and he believes that
it is the practice to "take them from the bed, sprinkle them with water,
fold them down, and put them into a press. When they are wanted again,
they are, literally speaking, shown to the fire, and, in a reeking
state, laid on the bed. The traveller is tired and sleepy, dreams of
that pleasure or business which brought him from home, and the remotest
thing from his mind is, that from the very repose which he fancies has
refreshed him, he has received the rheumatism. The receipt, therefore,
to sleep comfortably at inns, is to take your own sheets, to have plenty
of flannel gowns, and to promise, and take care to pay, a handsome
consideration for the liberty of choosing your bed."

Now, Doctor, suppose all travellers behaved at inns on such principles,
what a perpetual commotion there would be in the house! The kitchens,
back-kitchens, laundries, drying-rooms, would at all times be crammed
choke-full of a miscellaneous rabble of Editors, Authors, Lords,
Baronets, Squires, Doctors of Divinity, Fellows of Colleges, Half-pay
Officers, and Bagmen, oppressing the chambermaids to death, and in the
headlong gratification of their passion for well-aired sheets, setting
fire so incessantly to public premises as to raise the rate of insurance
to a ruinous height, and thus bring bankruptcy on all the principal
establishments in Great Britain. But shutting our eyes, for a moment,
to such general conflagration and bankruptcy, and indulging ourselves in
the violent supposition that some inns might still continue to exist,
think, O think, worthy Doctor, to what other fatal results this system,
if universally acted upon, would, in a very few years of the transitory
life of man, inevitably lead! In the first place, in a country where all
travellers carried with them their own sheets, none would be kept in
inns except for the use of the establishment's own members. This would
be inflicting a vital blow, indeed, on the inns of a country. For mark,
in the second place, that the blankets would not be long of following
the sheets. The blankets would soon fly after the sheets on the wings of
love and despair. Thirdly, are you so ignorant, Doctor, of this world
and its ways, as not to see that the bed-steads would, in the twinkling
of an eye, follow the blankets? What a wild, desolate, wintry appearance
would a bedroom then exhibit!

The foresight of such consequences as these may well make a man shudder.
We have no objections, however, to suffer the Doctor himself, and a few
other occasional damp-dreading old quizzes, "to see the bed-clothes put
to the fire in their presence," merely at the expense of subjugating
themselves to the derision of all the chambermaids, cooks, scullions,
boots, ostlers, and painters. (The painter is the artist who is employed
in inns, to paint the buttered toast. He always works in oils. As the
Director-General would say--he deals in buttery touches.) Their feverish
and restless anxiety about sheets, and their agitated discourse on damps
and deaths, hold them up to vulgar eyes in the light of lunatics. They
become the groundwork of practical jokes--perhaps are bitten to death by
fleas; for a chambermaid, of a disposition naturally witty and cruel,
has a dangerous power put into her hands, in the charge of blankets. The
Doctor's whole soul and body are wrapt up in well-aired sheets; but the
insidious Abigail, tormented by his flustering, becomes in turn the
tormentor--and selecting the yellowest, dingiest, and dirtiest pair of
blankets to be found throughout the whole gallery of garrets (those for
years past used by long-bearded old-clothesmen Jews), with a wicked leer
that would lull all suspicion asleep in a man of a far less inflammable
temperament, she literally envelopes him in vermin, and after a night of
one of the plagues of Egypt, the Doctor rises in the morning, from top
to bottom absolutely tattooed!

The Doctor, of course, is one of those travellers who believe that
unless they use the most ingenious precautions, they will be uniformly
robbed and murdered in inns. The villains steal upon you during the
midnight hour, when all the world is asleep. They leave their shoes down
stairs, and leopard-like, ascend with velvet, or--what is almost as
noiseless--worsted steps, the wooden stairs. True, that your breeches
are beneath your bolster--but that trick of travellers has long been "as
notorious as the sun at noonday;" and although you are aware of your
breeches, with all the ready money perhaps that you are worth in this
world, eloping from beneath your parental eye, you in vain try to cry
out--for a long, broad, iron hand, with ever so many iron fingers, is on
your mouth; another, with still more numerous digits, compresses your
windpipe, while a low hoarse voice, in a whisper to which Sarah
Siddons's was empty air, on pain of instant death enforces silence from
a man unable for his life to utter a single word; and after pulling off
all the bed-clothes, and then clothing you with curses, the ruffians,
whose accent betrays them to be Irishmen, inflict upon you divers wanton
wounds with a blunt instrument, probably a crow-bar--swearing by Satan
and all his saints, that if you stir an inch of your body before
daybreak, they will instantly return, cut your throat, knock out your
brains, sack you, and carry you off for sale to a surgeon: Therefore you
must use pocket door-bolts, which are applicable to almost all sorts of
doors, and on many occasions save the property and life of the
traveller. The corkscrew door-fastening the Doctor recommends as the
simplest. This is screwed in between the door and the door-post, and
unites them so firmly, that great power is required to force a door so
fastened. They are as portable as common cork-screws, and their weight
does not exceed an ounce and a half. The safety of your bedroom should
always be carefully examined; and in case of bolts not being at hand, it
will be useful to hinder entrance into the room by putting a table and
chair upon it against the door. Take a peep below the bed, and into the
closets, and every place where concealment is possible--of course,
although the Doctor forgets to suggest it, into the chimney. A friend of
the Doctor's used to place a bureau against the door, and "thereon he
set a basin and ewer in such a position as easily to rattle, so that, on
being shook, they instantly became _molto agitato_." Upon one alarming
occasion this device frightened away one of the chambermaids, or some
other Paulina Pry, who attempted to steal on the virgin sleep of the
travelling Joseph, who all the time was hiding his head beneath the
bolster. Joseph, however, believed that it was a horrible midnight
assassin, with mustaches and a dagger. "The chattering of the crockery
gave the alarm, and the attempt, after many attempts, was abandoned."

With all these fearful apprehensions--in his mind, Dr Kitchiner must
have been a man of great natural personal courage and intrepidity, to
have slept even once in his whole lifetime from home. What dangers must
we have passed, who used to plump in, without a thought of damp in the
bed, or scamp below it--closet and chimney uninspected, door unbolted
and unscrewed, exposed to rape, robbery, and murder! It is mortifying to
think that we should be alive at this day. Nobody, male or female,
thought it worth their while to rob, ravish, or murder us! There we lay,
forgotten by the whole world--till the crowing of cocks, or the ringing
of bells, or blundering Boots insisting on it that we were a Manchester
Bagman, who had taken an inside in the Heavy at five, broke our repose,
and Sol laughing in at the unshuttered and uncurtained window showed us
the floor of our dormitory, not streaming with a gore of blood. We
really know not whether to be most proud of having been the favourite
child of Fortune, or the neglected brat of Fate. One only precaution did
we ever use to take against assassination, and all the other ills that
flesh is heir to, sleep where one may, and that was to say inwardly a
short fervent prayer, humbly thanking our Maker for all the
happiness--let us trust it was innocent--of the day; and humbly
imploring his blessing on all the hopes of to-morrow. For, at the time
we speak of, we were young--and every morning, whatever the atmosphere
might be, rose bright and beautiful with hopes that, far as the eyes of
the soul could reach, glittered on earth's, and heaven's, and life's

But suppose that after all this trouble to get himself bolted and
screwed into a paradisaical tabernacle of a dormitory, there had
suddenly rung through the house the cry of FIRE--FIRE--FIRE! how was Dr
Kitchiner to get out? Tables, bureaus, benches, chairs, blocked up the
only door--all laden with wash-hand basins and other utensils, the whole
crockery shepherdesses of the chimney-piece, double-barrelled pistols
with spring bayonets ready to shoot and stab, without distinction of
persons, as their proprietor was madly seeking to escape the roaring
flames! Both windows are iron-bound, with all their shutters, and over
and above tightly fastened with "the cork-screw fastening, the simplest
that we have seen." The wind-board is in like manner, and by the same
unhappy contrivance, firmly jammed into the jaws of the chimney, so
egress to the Doctor up the vent is wholly denied--no fire-engine in the
town--but one under repair. There has not been a drop of rain for a
month, and the river is not only distant but dry. The element is
growling along the galleries like a lion, and the room is filling with
something more deadly than back-smoke. A shrill voice is heard
crying--"Number 5 will be burned alive! Number 5 will be burned alive!
Is there no possibility of saving the life of Number 5?" The Doctor
falls down before the barricado, and is stretched all his hapless length
fainting on the floor. At last the door is burst open, and landlord,
landlady, chambermaid, and boots--each in a different key--from manly
bass to childish treble, demand of Number 5 if he be a murderer or a
madman--for, gentle reader, it has been a--Dream.

We must hurry to a close, and shall perform the short remainder of our
journey on foot. The first volume of the Oracle concludes with
"Observations on Pedestrians." Here we are at home--and could, we
imagine, have given the Doctor a mile in the hour in a year-match. The
strength of man, we are given distinctly to understand by the Doctor, is
"in the ratio of the performance of the restorative process, which is as
the quantity and quality of what he puts into his stomach, the energy of
that organ, and the quantity of exercise he takes." This statement of
the strength of man may be unexceptionably true, and most philosophical
to those who are up to it--but to us it resembles a definition we have
heard of thunder, "the conjection of the sulphur congeals the matter."
It appears to us that a strong stomach is not the sole constituent of a
strong man--but that it is not much amiss to be provided with a strong
back, a strong breast, strong thighs, strong legs, and strong feet. With
a strong stomach alone--yea, even the stomach of a horse--a man will
make but a sorry Pedestrian. The Doctor, however, speedily redeems
himself by saying admirably well, "that nutrition does not depend more
on the state of the stomach, or of what we put into it, than it does on
the stimulus given to the system by exercise, which alone can produce
that perfect circulation of the blood which is required to throw off
superfluous secretions, and give the absorbents an appetite to suck up
fresh materials. This requires the action of every petty artery, and of
the minutest ramifications of every nerve and fibre in our body." Thus,
he remarks, a little further on, by way of illustration, "that a man,
suffering under a fit of the vapours, after half an hour's brisk
ambulation, will often find that he has walked it off, and that the
action of the body has exonerated the mind."

The Doctor warms as he walks--and is very near leaping over the fence of
Political Economy. "Providence, he remarks, furnishes materials, but
expects that we should work them up for ourselves. The earth must be
laboured before it gives its increase, and when it is forced to produce
its several products, how many hands must they pass through before they
are fit for use! Manufactures, trade, and agriculture, naturally employ
more than nineteen persons out of twenty; and as for those who are, by
the condition in which they are born, exempted from work, they are more
miserable than the rest of mankind, unless they daily and duly employ
Inflexible justice, however, forces us to say, that although the Doctor
throws a fine philosophical light over the most general principles of
walking, as they are involved in "that voluntary labour which goes by
the name of exercise," yet he falls into frequent and fatal error when
he descends into the particulars of the practice of pedestrianism. Thus,
he says, that no person should sit down to a hearty meal immediately
after any great exertion, either of mind or body--that is, one might
say, after a few miles of Plinlimmon, or a few pages of the Principia.
Let the man, quoth he, "who comes home fatigued by bodily exertion,
especially if he feel heated by it, throw his legs upon a chair, and
remain quite tranquil and composed, that the energy which has been
dispersed to the extremities may have time to return to the stomach,
when it is required." To all this we say--Fudge! The sooner you get hold
of a leg of roasted mutton the better; but meanwhile, off rapidly with
a pot of porter--then leisurely on with a clean shirt--wash your face
and hands in gelid--none of your tepid water. There is no harm done if
you should shave--then keep walking up and down the parlour rather
impatiently, for such conduct is natural, and in all things act
agreeably to nature--stir up the waiter with some original jest by way
of stimulant, and to give the knave's face a well-pleased stare--and
never doubting "that the energy which has been dispersed to the
extremities" has had ample time to return to the stomach, in God's name
fall to! and take care that the second course shall not appear till
there is no vestige left of the first--a second course being looked on
by the judicious moralist and pedestrian very much in the light in which
the poet has made a celebrated character consider it,--

    "Nor fame I slight--nor for her favours call--
    She comes unlook'd for--if she comes at all."

To prove how astonishingly our strength may be diminished by indolence,
the Doctor tells us, that meeting a gentleman who had lately returned
from India, to his inquiry after his health he replied, "Why,
better--better, thank ye--I think I begin to feel some symptoms of the
return of a little English energy. Do you know that the day before
yesterday I was in such high spirits, and felt so strong, I actually put
on one of my stockings myself?"

The Doctor then asserts, that it "has been repeatedly proved that a man
can travel further for a week or a month than a horse." On reading this
sentence to Will Whipcord--"Yes, sir," replied that renowned Professor
of the Newmarket Philosophy, "that's all right, sir--a man can beat a

Now, Will Whipcord may be right in his opinion, and a man may beat a
horse. But it never has been tried: There is no match of pedestrianism
on record between a first-rate man and a first-rate horse; and as soon
as there is, we shall lay our money on the horse--only mind, the horse
carries no weight, and he must be allowed to do his work on turf. We
know that Arab horses will carry their rider, provision and provender,
arms and accoutrements (no light weight) across the desert, eighty miles
a-day, for many days--and that for four days they have gone a hundred
miles a-day. That would have puzzled Captain Barclay in his prime, the
Prince of Pedestrians. However, be that as it may, the comparative
pedestrian powers of man and horse have never yet been ascertained by
any accredited match in England.

The Doctor then quotes an extract from a Pedestrian Tour in Wales by a
Mr Shepherd, who, we are afraid, is no great headpiece, though we shall
be happy to find ourselves in error. Mr Shepherd, speaking of the
inconveniencies and difficulties attending a pedestrian excursion, says,
"that at one time the roads are rendered so muddy by the rain, that it
is almost impossible to proceed;"--"at other times you are exposed to
the inclemency of the weather, and by wasting time under a tree or a
hedge are benighted in your journey, and again reduced to an
uncomfortable dilemma." "Another disadvantage is, that your track is
necessarily more confined--a deviation of ten or twelve miles makes an
important difference, which, if you were on horseback, would be
considered as trivial." "Under all these circumstances," he says, "it
may appear rather remarkable that we should have chosen a pedestrian
excursion--_in answer to which, it may be observed, that we were not
apprised of these things till we had experienced them_." What! Mr
Shepherd, were you, who we presume have reached the age of puberty, not
apprised, before you penetrated as a pedestrian into the Principality,
that "roads are rendered muddy by the rain?" Had you never met, either
in your experience of life, or in the course of your reading, proof
positive that pedestrians "are exposed to the inclemency of the
weather?" That, if a man will linger too long under a tree or a hedge
when the sun is going down, "he will be benighted?" Under what serene
atmosphere, in what happy clime, have you pursued your preparatory
studies _sub dio_? But, our dear Mr Shepherd, why waste time under the
shelter of a tree or a hedge? Waste time nowhere, our young and unknown
friend. What the worse would you have been of being soaked to the skin?
Besides, consider the danger you ran of being killed by lightning, had
there been a few flashes, under a tree? Further, what will become of
you, if you addict yourself on every small emergency to trees and
hedges, when the country you walk through happens to be as bare as the
palm of your hand? Button your jacket, good sir--scorn an
umbrella--emerge boldly from the sylvan shade, snap your fingers at the
pitiful pelting of the pitiless storm--poor spite indeed in Densissimus
Imber--and we will insure your life for a presentation copy of your Tour
against all the diseases that leapt out of Pandora's box, not only till
you have reached the Inn at Capel-Cerig, but your own home in England
(we forget the county)--ay, till your marriage, and the baptism of your

Dr Kitchiner seems to have been much frightened by Mr Shepherd's picture
of a storm in a puddle, and proposes a plan of alleviation of one great
inconvenience of pedestrianising. "Persons," quoth he, "who take a
pedestrian excursion, and intend to subject themselves to the
uncertainties of accommodation, by going across the country and visiting
unfrequented paths, will act wisely to carry with them a _piece of
oil-skin_ to sit upon while taking refreshments out of doors, which they
will often find needful during such excursions." To save trouble, the
breech of the pedestrian's breeches should be a patch of oil-skin. Here
a question of great difficulty and importance arises--Breeches or
trousers? Dr Kitchiner is decidedly for breeches. "The garter," says he,
"should be below the knee, and breeches are much better than trousers.
The general adoption of those which, till our late wars, were
exclusively used by 'the Lords of the Ocean,' has often excited my
astonishment. However convenient trousers may be to the sailor who has
to cling to slippery shrouds, for the landsman nothing can be more
inconvenient. They are heating in summer, and in winter they are
collectors of mud. Moreover, they occasion a necessity for wearing
garters. Breeches are, in all respects, much more convenient. These
should have the knee-band three quarters of an inch wide, lined on the
upper side with a piece of plush, and fastened with a buckle, which is
much easier than even double strings, and, by observing the strap, you
always know the exact degree of tightness that is required to keep up
the stocking; any pressure beyond that is prejudicial, especially to
those who walk long distances."

We are strongly inclined to agree with the Doctor in his panegyric on
breeches. True, that in the forenoons, especially if of a dark colour,
such as black, and worn with white, or even grey or bluish, stockings,
they are apt, in the present state of public taste, to stamp you a
schoolmaster, or a small grocer in full dress, or an exciseman going to
a ball. We could dispense too with the knee-buckles and plush
lining--though we allow the one might be ornamental and the other
useful. But what think you, gentle reader, of walking with a Pedometer?
A Pedometer is an instrument cunningly devised to tell you how far and
how fast you walk, and is, quoth the Doctor, a "perambulator in
miniature." The box containing the wheels is made of the size of a
watch-case, and goes into the breeches pocket, and by means of a string
and hook, fastened at the waistband or at the knee, the number of steps
a man takes, in his regular paces, are registered from the action of the
spring upon the internal wheel-work at every step, to the amount of
30,000. It is necessary, to ascertain the distance walked, that the
average length of one pace be precisely known, and that multiplied by
the number of steps registered on the dial-plate.

All this is very ingenious; and we know one tolerable pedestrian who is
also a Pedometrist. But no Pedometrician will ever make a fortune in a
mountainous island, like Great Britain, where pedestrianism is
indigenous to the soil. A good walker is as regular in his going as
clock-work. He has his different paces--three, three and a half--four,
four and a half--five, five and a half--six miles an hour--toe and heel.
A common watch, therefore, is to him, in the absence of milestones, as
good as a Pedometer, with this great and indisputable advantage, that a
common watch continues to go even after you have yourself stopped,
whereas, the moment you sit down on your oil-skin patch, why, your
Pedometer (which, indeed, from its name and construction, is not
unreasonable) immediately stands still. Neither, we believe, can you
accurately note the pulse of a friend in a fever by a Pedometer.

What pleasure on this earth transcends a breakfast after a twelve-mile
walk? Or is there in this sublunary scene a delight superior to the
gradual, dying-away, dreamy drowsiness that, at the close of a long
summer day's journey up hill and down dale, seals up the glimmering eyes
with honey-dew, and stretches out, under the loving hands of nourrice
Nature, the whole elongated animal economy, steeped in rest divine from
the organ of veneration to the point of the great toe, be it on a bed
of down, chaff, straw, or heather, in palace, hall, hotel, or hut? If in
an inn, nobody interferes with you in meddling officiousness; neither
landlord, bagman, waiter, chambermaid, boots;--you are left to yourself
without being neglected. Your bell may not be emulously answered by all
the menials on the establishment, but a smug or shock-headed drawer
appears in good time; and if mine host may not always dignify your
dinner by the deposition of the first dish, yet, influenced by the
rumour that soon spreads through the premises, he bows farewell at your
departure, with a shrewd suspicion that you are a nobleman in disguise.



No weather more pleasant than that of a mild WINTER day. So gracious the
season, that Hyems is like Ver--Januarius like Christopher North. Art
thou the Sun of whom Milton said,--

    "Looks through the horizontal misty air,
    Shorn of his beams,"

an image of disconsolate obscuration? Bright art thou as at meridian on
a June Sabbath; but effusing a more temperate lustre, not unfelt by the
sleeping though not insensate earth. She stirs in her sleep, and
murmurs--the mighty mother; and quiet as herself, though broad awake,
her old ally the ship-bearing sea. What though the woods be
leafless--they look as alive as when laden, with umbrage; and who can
tell what is going on now within the heart of that calm oak grove? The
fields laugh not now--but here and there they smile. If we see no
flowers we think of them--and less of the perished than of the unborn;
for regret is vain, and hope is blest; in peace there is the promise of
joy--and therefore in the silent pastures a perfect beauty how
restorative to man's troubled heart!

The Shortest Day in all the year--yet is it lovelier than the Longest.
Can that be the voice of birds? With the laverock's lyric our fancy
filled the sky--with the throstle's roundelay it awoke the wood. In the
air life is audible--circling unseen. Such serenity must be inhabited by
happiness. Ha! there thou art, our Familiar--the self-same Robin
Redbreast that pecked at our nursery window, and used to warble from the
gable of the school-house his sweet winter song!

In company we are silent--in solitude we soliloquise. So dearly do we
love our own voice that we cannot bear to hear it mixed with that of
others--perhaps drowned; and then our bashfulness tongue-ties us in the
hush expectant of our "golden opinions," when all eyes are turned to the
speechless "old man eloquent," and you might hear a tangle dishevelling
itself in Neæra's hair. But all alone by ourselves, in the country,
among trees standing still among untrodden leaves--as now--how we do
speak! All thoughts--all feelings--desire utterance; left to themselves
they are not happy till they have evolved into words--winged words that
sometimes settle on the ground, like moths on flowers--sometimes seek
the sky, like eagles above the clouds.

No such soliloquies in written poetry as these of ours--the act of
composition is fatal as frost to their flow; yet composition there is at
such solitary times going on among the moods of the mind, as among the
clouds on a still but not airless sky, perpetual but imperceptible
transformations of the beautiful, obedient to the bidding of the spirit
of beauty.

Who but Him who made it knoweth aught of the Laws of Spirit? All of us
may know much of what is "wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best," in
obedience to them; but leaving the open day, we enter at once into
thickest night. Why at this moment do we see a spot once only visited by
us--unremembered for ever so many flights of black or bright winged
years--see it in fancy as it then was in nature, with the same dewdrops
on that wondrous myrtle beheld but on that morning--such a myrtle as no
other eyes beheld ever on this earth but ours, and the eyes of one now
in heaven?

Another year is about to die--and how wags the world? "What great events
are on the gale?" Go ask our statesmen. But their rule--their guidance
is but over the outer world, and almost powerless their folly or their
wisdom over the inner region in which we mortals live, and move, and
have our being, where the fall of a throne makes no more noise than that
of a leaf!

Thank Heaven! Summer and Autumn are both dead and buried at last, and
white lie the snow on their graves! Youth is the season of all sorts of
insolence, and therefore we can forgive and forget almost anything in
SPRING. He has always been a privileged personage; and we have no doubt
that he played his pranks even in Paradise. To-day, he meets you
unexpectedly on the hill-side; and was there ever a face in this world
so celestialised by smiles! All the features are framed of light. Gaze
into his eyes, and you feel that in the untroubled lustre there is
something more sublime than in the heights of the cloudless heavens, or
in the depths of the waveless seas. More sublime, because essentially
spiritual. There stands the young Angel, entranced in the conscious
mystery of his own beautiful and blessed being; and the earth becomes
all at once fit region for the sojourn of the Son of the Morning. So
might some great painter image the First-born of the Year, till nations
adored the picture.--To-morrow you repair, with hermit steps, to the
Mount of the Vision, and,

    "Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,"

Spring clutches you by the hair with the fingers of frost; blashes a
storm of sleet in your face, and finishes, perhaps, by folding you in a
winding-sheet of snow, in which you would infallibly perish but for a
pocket-pistol of Glenlivet.--The day after to-morrow, you behold
him--Spring--walking along the firmament, sad, but not sullen--mournful,
but not miserable--disturbed, but not despairing--now coming out towards
you in a burst of light--and now fading away from you in a gathering of
gloom--even as one might figure in his imagination a fallen Angel. On
Thursday, confound you if you know what the deuce to make of his
Springship. There he is, stripped to the buff--playing at hide-and-seek,
hare-and-hound, with a queer crazy crony of his in a fur cap, swan-down
waistcoat, and hairy breeches, Lodbrog or Winter. You turn up the whites
of your eyes, and the browns of your hands in amazement, till the Two,
by way of change of pastime, cease their mutual vagaries, and, like a
couple of hawks diverting themselves with an owl, in conclusion buffet
you off the premises. You insert the occurrence, with suitable
reflections, in your Meteorological Diary, under the head--Spring.--On
Friday, nothing is seen of you but the blue tip of your nose, for you
are confined to bed by rheumatism, and nobody admitted to your sleepless
sanctum but your condoling Mawsey. 'Tis a pity. For never since the
flood-greened earth on her first resurrection morn laughed around
Ararat, spanned was she by such a Rainbow! By all that is various and
vanishing, the arch seems many miles broad, and many miles high, and all
creation to be gladly and gloriously gathered together without being
crowded--plains, woods, villages, towns, hills, and clouds, beneath the
pathway of Spring, once more an Angel--an unfallen Angel! While the
tinge that trembles into transcendent hues fading and
fluctuating--deepening and dying--now gone, as if for ever--and now back
again in an instant, as if breathing and alive--is felt, during all that
wavering visitation, to be of all sights the most evanescent, and yet
inspirative of a beauty-born belief, bright as the sun that flung the
image on the cloud--profound as the gloom it illumines--that it shone
and is shining there at the bidding of Him who inhabiteth eternity.--The
grim noon of Saturday, after a moaning morning, and one silent
intermediate lour of grave-like stillness, begins to gleam fitfully with
lightning like a maniac's eye; and is not that

                    "The sound
    Of thunder heard remote?"

On earth wind there is none--not so much as a breath. But there is a
strong wind in heaven--for see how that huge cloud-city, a night within
a day, comes moving on along the hidden mountain-tops, and hangs over
the loch all at once black as pitch, except that here and there a sort
of sullen purple heaves upon the long slow swell, and here and there
along the shores--how caused we know not--are seen, but heard not, the
white melancholy breakers! Is no one smitten blind? No! Thank God! But
ere the thanksgiving has been worded, an airquake has split asunder the
cloud-city, the night within the day, and all its towers and temples are
disordered along the firmament, to a sound that might waken the dead.
Where are ye, ye echo-hunters, that grudge not to purchase gunpowder
explosions on Lowood bowling-green at four shillings the blast? See!
there are our artillerymen stalking from battery to battery--all hung up
aloft facing the west--or "each standing by his gun" with lighted match,
moving or motionless, Shadow-figures, and all clothed in black-blue
uniform, with blood-red facings portentously glancing in the sun, as he
strives to struggle into heaven. The Generalissimo of all the forces,
who is he but--Spring?--Hand in hand with Spring, Sabbath descends from
heaven unto earth; and are not their feet beautiful on the mountains?
Small as is the voice of that tinkling bell from that humble spire,
overtopped by its coeval trees, yet is it heard in the heart of
infinitude. So is the bleating of these silly sheep on the braes--and
so is that voice of psalms, all at once rising so spirit-like, as if the
very kirk were animated, and singing a joyous song in the wilderness to
the ear of the Most High. For all things are under his care--those that,
as we dream, have no life--the flowers, and the herbs, and the
trees--those that some dim scripture seems to say, when they die,
utterly perish--and those that all bright scripture, whether written in
the book of God, or the book of Nature, declares will live for ever!

If such be the character and conduct of Spring during one week, wilt
thou not forget and forgive--with us--much occasional conduct on his
part that appears not only inexplicable, but incomprehensible? But we
cannot extend the same indulgence to Summer and to Autumn. SUMMER is a
season come to the years of discretion, and ought to conduct himself
like a staid, sober, sensible, middle-aged man, not past, but passing,
his prime. Now, Summer, we are sorry to say it, often behaves in a way
to make his best friends ashamed of him--in a way absolutely disgraceful
to a person of his time of life. Having picked a quarrel with the
Sun--his benefactor, nay, his father--what else could he expect but that
that enlightened Christian would altogether withhold his countenance
from so undutiful and ungrateful a child, and leave him to travel along
the mire and beneath the clouds? For some weeks Summer was sulky--and
sullenly scorned to shed a tear. His eyes were like ice. By-and-by, like
a great school-boy, he began to whine and whimper--and when he found
that would not do, he blubbered like the booby of the lowest form. Still
the Sun would not look on him--or if he did, 'twas with a sudden and
short half-smile half-scowl that froze the ingrate's blood. At last the
Summer grew contrite, and the Sun forgiving, the one burst out into a
flood of tears, the other into a flood of light. In simple words, the
Summer wept and the Sun smiled--and for one broken month there was a
perpetual alternation of rain and radiance! How beautiful is penitence!
How beautiful forgiveness! For one week the Summer was restored to his
pristine peace and old luxuriance, and the desert blossomed like the

Therefore ask we the Summer's pardon for thanking Heaven that he was
dead. Would that he were alive again, and buried not for ever beneath
the yellow forest leaves! O thou first, faint, fair, finest tinge of
dawning Light that streaks the still-sleeping yet just-waking face of
the morn, Light and no-Light, a shadowy Something, that as we gaze is
felt to be growing into an emotion that must be either Innocence or
Beauty, or both blending together into devotion before Deity, once more
duly visible in the divine colouring that forebodes another day to
mortal life--before Thee what holy bliss to kneel upon the greensward in
some forest glade, while every leaf is a-tremble with dewdrops, and the
happy little birds are beginning to twitter, yet motionless among the
boughs--before Thee to kneel as at a shrine, and breathe deeper and
deeper--as the lustre waxeth purer and purer, brighter and more bright,
till range after range arise of crimson clouds in altitude sublime, and
breast above breast expands of yellow woods softly glittering in their
far-spread magnificence--then what holy bliss to breathe deeper and
deeper unto Him who holds in the hollow of his hand the heavens and the
earth, our high but most humble orisons! But now it is Day, and broad
awake seems the whole joyful world. The clouds--lustrous no more--are
all anchored on the sky, white as fleets waiting for the wind. Time is
not felt--and one might dream that the Day was to endure for ever. Yet
the great river rolls on in the light--and why will he leave those
lovely inland woods for the naked shores? Why--responds some
voice--hurry we on our own lives--impetuous and passionate far more than
he with all his cataracts--as if anxious to forsake the regions of the
upper day for the dim place from which we yet recoil in fear--the dim
place which imagination sometimes seems to see even through the
sunshine, beyond the bourne of this our unintelligible being, stretching
sea-like into a still more mysterious night! Long as a Midsummer Day is,
it has gone by like a Heron's flight. The sun is setting!--and let him
set without being scribbled upon by Christopher North. We took a
pen-and-ink sketch of him in a "Day on Windermere." Poor nature is much
to be pitied among painters and poets. They are perpetually falling into

    "Such perusal of her face
    As they would draw it."

And often must she be sick of the Curious Impertinents. But a Curious
Impertinent are not we--if ever there was one beneath the skies, a
devout worshipper of Nature; and though we often seem to heed not her
shrine--it stands in our imagination, like a temple in a perpetual

It was poetically and piously said by the Ettrick Shepherd, at a Noctes,
that there is no such thing in nature as bad weather. Take Summer, which
early in our soliloquy we abused in good set terms. Its weather was
broken, but not bad; and much various beauty and sublimity is involved
in the epithet "broken," when applied to the "season of the year."
Commonplace people, especially town-dwellers, who _flit_ into the
country for a few months, have a silly and absurd idea of Summer, which
all the atmospherical phenomena fail to drive out of their foolish
fancies. They insist on its remaining with us for half a year at least,
and on its being dressed in its Sunday's best every day in the week as
long as they continue in country quarters. The Sun must rise, like a
labourer, at the very earliest hour, shine all day, and go to bed late,
else they treat him contumeliously, and declare that he is not worth his
meat. Should he retire occasionally behind a cloud, which it seems most
natural and reasonable for one to do who lives so much in the public
eye, why, a whole watering-place, uplifting a face of dissatisfied
expostulation to heaven, exclaims, "Where is the Sun? Are we never to
have any Sun?" They also insist that there shall be no rain of more than
an hour's duration in the daytime, but that it shall all fall by night.
Yet when the Sun does exert himself, as if at their bidding, and is
shining, as he supposes, to their heart's content, up go a hundred green
parasols in his face, enough to startle the celestial steeds in his
chariot. A _broken_ summer for us. Now and then a few continuous
days--perhaps a whole week--but, if that be denied, now and then,

    "Like angels' visits, few and far between,"

one single Day--blue-spread over heaven, green-spread over earth--no
cloud above, no shade below, save that dove-coloured marble lying
motionless like the mansions of peace, and that pensive gloom that falls
from some old castle or venerable wood--the stillness of a sleeping joy,
to our heart profounder than that of death, in the air, in the sky, and
resting on our mighty mother's undisturbed breast--no lowing on the
hills, no bleating on the braes--the rivers almost silent as lochs, and
the lochs, just visible in their aerial purity, floating dream-like
between earth and sky, imbued with the beauty of both, and seeming to
belong to either, as the heart melts to human tenderness, or beyond all
mortal loves the imagination soars! Such days seem now to us--as memory
and imagination half restore and half create the past into such weather
as may have shone over the bridal morn of our first parents in
Paradise--to have been frequent--nay, to have lasted all the Summer
long--when our boyhood was bright from the hands of God. Each of those
days was in itself a life! Yet all those sunny lives melted into one
Summer--and all those Summers formed one continuous bliss. Storms and
snows vanished out of our ideal year; and then morning, noon, and night,
wherever we breathed, we _felt_, what now we but _know_, the inmost
meaning of that profound verse of Virgil the Divine--

    "Devenere locos lætos, et amoena vireta
    Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas.
    Largior hîc campos æther et lumine vestit
    Purpureo: solemque suum, sua sidera norunt."

Few--no such days as those seem now ever to be born. Sometimes we indeed
gaze through the face into the heart of the sky, and for a moment feel
that the ancient glory of the heavens has returned on our dream of life.
But to the perfect beatitude of the skies there comes from the soul
within us a mournful response, that betokens some wide and deep--some
everlasting change. Joy is not now what joy was of yore; like a fine
diamond with a flaw is now Imagination's eye; other motes than those
that float through ether cross between its orb and the sun; the "fine
gold has become dim," with which morning and evening of old embossed the
skies; the dewdrops are not now the pearls once they were, left on

    "Flowers, and weeds as beautiful as flowers,"

by angels' and by fairies' wings; knowledge, custom, experience, fate,
fortune, error, vice, and sin, have dulled, and darkened, and deadened
all things; and the soul, unable to bring over the Present the ineffable
bliss and beauty of the Past, almost swoons to think what a ghastly
thunder-gloom may by Providence be reserved for the Future!

Nay--nay--things are not altogether so bad with us as this
strain--sincere though it be as a stream from the sacred
mountains--might seem to declare. We can yet enjoy a _broken_ Summer. It
would do your heart good to see us hobbling with our crutch along the
Highland hills, _sans_ great-coat or umbrella, in a summer-shower,
aiblins cap in hand that our hair may grow, up to the knees in the bonny
blooming heather, or clambering, like an old goat, among the cliffs.
Nothing so good for gout or rheumatism as to get wet through, while the
thermometer keeps ranging between 60° and 70°, three times a-day. What
refreshment in the very sound--Soaking! Old bones wax dry--nerves
numb--sinews stiff--flesh frail--and there is a sad drawback on the
Whole Duty of Man. But a sweet, soft, sou'-wester blows "caller" on our
craziness, and all our pores instinctively open their mouths at the
approach of rain. Look but at those dozen downward showers, all denizens
of heaven; how black, and blue, and bright they in their glee are
streaming, and gleaming athwart the sunny mountain-gloom, while ever as
they descend on earth, lift up the streams along the wilderness louder
and louder a choral song. Look now at the heather--and smile whenever
henceforth you hear people talk of _purple_. You have been wont to call
a gold guinea or a sovereign _yellow_--but if you have got one in your
pocket, place it on your palm, and in the light of that broom is it not
a _dirty brown_? You have an emerald ring on your finger--but how grey
it looks beside the _green_ of those brackens, that pasture, that wood!
Purple, yellow, and green, you have now seen, sir, for the first time in
your life. Widening and widening over your head, all the while you have
been gazing on the heather, the broom, the bracken, the pastures, and
the woods, have the eternal heavens been preparing for you a vision of
the sacred _Blue_. Is not that an Indigo Divine? Or, if you scorn that
mercantile and manufacturing image, steal that blue from the sky, and
let the lady of your love tinge but her eyelids with one touch, and a
saintlier beauty will be in her upward looks as she beseeches Heaven to
bless thee in her prayers! Set slowly--slowly--slowly--O Sun of Suns! as
may be allowed by the laws of Nature. For not long after Thou hast sunk
behind those mountains into the sea, will that celestial ROSY-RED be
tabernacled in the heavens!

Meanwhile, three of the dozen showers have so soaked and steeped our old
crazy carcass in refreshment, and restoration, and renewal of youth,
that we should not be surprised were we to outlive that raven croaking
in pure _gaieté du coeur_ on the cliff. Threescore and ten years!
Poo--'tis a pitiful span! At a hundred we shall cut capers--for twenty
years more keep to the Highland fling--and at the close of other twenty,
jig it into the grave to that matchless strathspey, the Reel of

Having thus made our peace with last Summer, can we allow the Sun to go
down on our wrath towards the AUTUMN, whose back we yet see on the
horizon, before he turn about to bow adieu to our hemisphere? Hollo! I
meet us half-way in yonder immense field of potatoes, our worthy Season,
and among these peacemakers, the Mealies and the Waxies, shall we two
smoke together the calumet or cigar of reconciliation. The floods fell,
and the folk feared famine. The people whined over the smut in wheat,
and pored pale on the Monthly Agricultural Report. Grain grew greener
and greener--reapers stood at the crosses of villages, towns, and
cities, passing from one to another comfortless quaichs of sma' yill,
with their straw-bound sickles hanging idle across their shoulders, and
with unhired-looking faces, as ragged a company as if you were to dream
of a Symposium of Scarecrows. Alarmed imagination beheld harvest
treading on the heels of Christmas,

    "And Britain sadden'd at the long delay!"

when, whew! to dash the dismal predictions of foolish and false
prophets, came rustling from all the airts, far, far and wide over the
rain-drenched kingdom, the great armament of the Autumnal Winds! Groaned
the grain, as in sudden resurrection it lifted up its head, and knew
that again the Sun was in Heaven. Death became life; and the hearts of
the husbandmen sang aloud for joy. Like Turks, the reapers brandished
their sickles in the breezy light, and every field glittered with
Christian crescents. Auld wives and bits o' weans mingled on the
rig--kilted to the knees, like the comely cummers, and the handsome
hizzies, and the lo'esome lassies wi' their silken snoods--among the
heather-legged Highlandmen, and the bandy Irishers, brawny all, and with
hook, scythe, or flail, inferior to none of the children of men. The
scene lies in Scotland--but now, too, is England "Merry England"
indeed, and outside passengers on a thousand coaches see stooks rising
like stacks, and far and wide, over the tree-speckled champaign, rejoice
in the sun-given promise of a glorious harvest-home. Intervenes the rest
of two sunny Sabbaths sent to dry the brows of labour, and give the last
ripeness to the overladen stalks that, top-heavy with aliment, fall over
in their yellowy whiteness into the fast reaper's hands. Few fields
now--but here and there one thin and greenish, of cold, unclean, or
stony soil--are waving in the shadowy winds; for all are cleared, but
some stooked stubbles from which the stooks are fast disappearing, as
the huge wains seem to halt for a moment, impeded by the gates they
hide, and then, crested perhaps with laughing boys and girls,

    "Down the rough slope the ponderous waggon rings,"

no--not rings--for Beattie, in that admirable line, lets us hear a cart
going out empty in the morning--but with a _cheerful dull_ sound,
ploughing along the black soil, _the clean dirt_ almost up to the
axletree, and then, as the wheels, rimmed you might always think with
silver, reach the road, macadamised till it acts like a railway, how
glides along downhill the moving mountain! And see now, the growing
Stack glittering with a charge of pitchforks! The trams fly up from
Dobbin's back, and a shoal of sheaves overflows the mire. Up they go,
tossed from sinewy arms like feathers, and the Stack grows before your
eyes, fairly proportioned as a beehive, without line or measure, but
shaped by the look and the feel, true almost as the spring instinct of
the nest-building bird. And are we not heartily ashamed of ourselves,
amidst this general din of working mirthfulness, for having, but an hour
ago, abused the jovial and generous Autumn, and thanked Heaven that he
was dead? Let us retire into the barn with Shoosy, and hide our blushes.

Comparisons are odoriferous, and therefore for one paragraph let us
compare AUTUMN with SPRING. Suppose ourselves sitting beneath THE
SYCAMORE of Windermere! Poets call Spring Green-Mantle--and true it is
that the groundwork of his garb is green--even like that of the proud
peacock's changeful neck, when the creature treads in the circle of his
own splendour, and the scholar who may have forgotten his classics, has
yet a dream of Juno and of her watchful Argus with his hundred, his
thousand eyes. But the coat of Spring, like that of Joseph, is a coat of
many colours. Call it patch-work if you choose,

    "And be yourself the great sublime you draw."

Some people look on nature with a milliner's or a mantua-maker's
eye--arraying her in furbelows and flounces. But use your own eyes and
ours, and from beneath THE SYCAMORE let us two, sitting together in
amity, look lovingly on the SPRING. Felt ever your heart before, with
such an emotion of harmonious beauty, the exquisitely delicate
distinctions of character among the lovely tribes of trees! That is
BELLE ISLE. Earliest to salute the vernal rainbow, with a glow of green
gentle as its own, is the lake-loving ALDER, whose home, too, is by the
flowings of all the streams. Just one degree fainter in its hue--or
shall we rather say brighter--for we feel the difference without knowing
in what it lies--stands, by the Alder's rounded softness, the spiral
LARCH, all hung over its limber sprays, were you near enough to admire
them, with cones of the Tyrian dye. That stem, white as silver, and
smooth as silk, seen so straight in the green sylvan light, and there
airily overarching the coppice with lambent tresses, such as fancy might
picture for the mermaid's hair, pleasant as is her life on that
Fortunate Isle, is yet said by us, who vainly attribute our own sadness
to unsorrowing things--to belong to a Tree that _weeps_,--though a
weight of joy it is, and of exceeding gladness, that thus depresses the
BIRCH'S pendent beauty, till it droops--as we think--like that of a
being overcome with grief! Seen standing all along by themselves, with
something of a foreign air, and an exotic expression, yet not unwelcome
or obtrusive among our indigenous fair forest-trees, twinkling to the
touch of every wandering wind, and restless even amidst what seemeth now
to be everlasting rest, we cannot choose but admire that somewhat darker
grove of columnar Lombardy POPLARS. How comes it that some SYCAMORES so
much sooner than others salute the Spring? Yonder are some but budding,
as if yet the frost lay on the honey-dew that protects the beamy germs.
There are others warming into expansion, half-budded and half-leaved,
with a various light of colour visible in that sun-glint distinctly from
afar. And in that nook of the still sunnier south, trending eastward, a
few are almost in their full summer foliage, and soon will the bees be
swarming among their flowers. A HORSE CHESTNUT has a grand oriental air,
and like a satrap uplifts his green banner yellowing in the light--that
shows he belongs to the line of the Prophet. ELMS are then most
magnificent--witness Christ-Church walk--when they hang over head in
heaven like the chancel of a cathedral. Yet here, too, are the
august--and methinks "a dim religious light" is in that vault of
branches just vivifying to the Spring, and though almost bare, tinged
with a coming hue that ere long will be majestic brightness. Those old
OAKS seem sullen in the sunshine, and slow to put forth their power,
like the Spirit of the Land they emblem. But they, too, are relaxing
from their wonted sternness--soon will that faint green be a glorious
yellow; and while the gold-laden boughs stoop boldly to the storms with
which they love to dally, bounds not the heart of every Briton to the
music of his national anthem,

    "Rule, Britannia,
    Britannia rules the waves!"

The ASH is a manly tree, but "dreigh and dour" in the leafing; and
yonder stands an Ash-grove like a forest of ships with bare poles in the
docks of Liverpool. Yet like the town of Kilkenny

    "It shines well where it stands;"

and the bare grey-blue of the branches, apart but not repulsive, like
some cunning discord in music, deepens the harmony of the Isle of
Groves. Contrast is one of the finest of all the laws of association, as
every philosopher, poet, and peasant kens. At this moment, it brings, by
the bonds of beauty, though many glades intervene, close beside that
pale grey-blue leafless Ash-Clump, that bright black-green PINE Clan,
whose "leaf fadeth never," a glorious Scottish tartan triumphing in the
English woods. Though many glades intervene, we said; for thou seest
that BELLE ISLE is not all one various flush of wood, but bedropt all
over--bedropt and besprinkled with grass-gems, some cloud-shadowed, some
tree-shaded, some mist-bedimmed, and some luminous as small soil-suns,
on which as the eye alights, it feels soothed and strengthened, and
gifted with a profounder power to see into the mystery of the beauty of
nature. But what are those living Hills of snow, or of some substance
purer in its brightness even than any snow that fades in one night on
the mountain-top! Trees are they--fruit-trees--The WILD CHERRY, that
grows stately and widespreading even as the monarch of the wood--and can
that be a load of blossoms! Fairer never grew before poet's eye of old
in the fabled Hesperides. See how what we call snow brightens into
pink--yet still the whole glory is white, and fadeth not away the purity
of the balmy snow-blush. Ay, balmy as the bliss breathing from virgin
lips, when, moving in the beauty left by her morning prayers, a glad
fond daughter steals towards him on the feet of light, and as his arms
open to receive and return the blessing, lays her innocence with smiles
that are almost tears, within her father's bosom.

              "As when to those who sail
    Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
    Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow
    Sabæan odours from the spicy shore
    Of Araby the Blest; with such delay
    Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league,
    Cheer'd with the grateful smell, old Ocean smiles."

Shut your eyes--suppose five months gone--and lo! BELLE ISLE in Autumn,
like a scene in another hemisphere of our globe. There is a slight frost
in the air, in the sky, on the lake, and mid-day is as still as
midnight. But, though still, it is cheerful; for close at hand Robin
Redbreast--God bless him!--is warbling on the copestone of that old barn
gable; and though Millar-Ground Bay is half a mile off, how distinct the
clank of the two oars like one, accompanying that large wood-boat on its
slow voyage from Ambleside to Bowness, the metropolitan port of the
Queen of the Lakes. The water has lost, you see, its summer sunniness,
yet it is as transparent as ever it was in summer; and how close
together seem, with their almost meeting shadows, the two opposite
shores! But we wish you to look at BELLE ISLE, though we ourselves are
almost afraid to do so, so transcendently glorious is the sight that we
know will disturb us with an emotion too deep to be endured.--Could you
not think that a splendid sunset had fallen down in fragments on the
Isle called Beautiful, and set it all ablaze! The woods are on fire, yet
they burn not; beauty subdues while it fosters the flame; and there, as
in a many-tented tabernacle, has Colour pitched his royal residence, and
reigns in glory beyond that of any Oriental king. What are all the
canopies, and balconies, and galleries of human state, all hung with
the richest drapery that ever the skill of Art, that Wizard, drew forth
in gorgeous folds from his enchanted loom, if ideally suspended in the
air of imagination beside the sun-and-storm-stained furniture of these
Palaces of Autumn, framed by the Spirit of the Season, of living and
dying umbrage, for his latest delight, ere he move in annual migration,
with all his Court, to some foreign clime far beyond the seas! No names
of trees are remembered--a glorious confusion comprehends in one the
whole leafy race--orange, and purple, and scarlet, and crimson, are all
seen to be there, and interfused through the silent splendour is aye
felt the presence of that terrestrial green, native and unextinguishable
in earth's bosom, as that celestial blue is that of the sky. That trance
goes by, and the spirit, gradually filled with a stiller delight, takes
down all those tents into pieces, and contemplates the encampment with
less of imagination, and with more of love. It knows and blesses each
one of those many glorious groves, each becoming, as it gazes, less and
less glorious, more and more beautiful; till memory revives all the
happiest and holiest hours of the Summer and the Spring, and re-peoples
the melancholy umbrage with a thousand visions of joy, that may return
never more! Images, it may be, of forms and faces now mouldering in the
dust! For as human hearts have felt, and all human lips have
declared--melancholy making poets of us all, ay, even prophets--till the
pensive air of Autumn has been filled with the music of elegiac and
foreboding hymns--as is the Race of Leaves--now old Homer speaks--so is
the Race of Men! Nor till time shall have an end, insensate will be any
creature endowed "with discourse of reason" to those mysterious
misgivings, alternating with triumphant aspirations more mysterious
still, when the Religion of Nature leans in awe on the Religion of God,
and we hear the voice of both in such strains as these--the earthly, in
its sadness, momentarily deadening the divine:--

    "But when shall Spring visit the mouldering urn?
    Oh! when shall it dawn on the night of the grave?"



Have we not been speaking of all the Seasons as belonging to the
masculine gender? They are generally, we believe, in this country,
painted in petticoats, apparently by bagmen, as may be daily seen in the
pretty prints that bedeck the paper-walls of the parlours of inns.
Spring is always there represented as a spanker in a blue symar, very
pertly exposing her budding breast, and her limbs from feet to fork, in
a style that must be very offensive to the mealy-mouthed members of that
shamefaced corporation, the Society for the Suppression of Vice. She
holds a flower between her finger and her thumb, crocus, violet, or
primrose; and though we verily believe she means no harm, she no doubt
does look rather leeringly upon you, like one of the frail sisterhood of
the Come-atables. Summer again is an enormous and monstrous mawsey, _in
puris naturalibus_, meant to image Musidora, or the Medicean, or rather
the Hottentot Venus.

    "So stands the statue that enchants the world!"

She seems, at the very lightest, a good round half hundred heavier than
Spring; and, when you imagine her plunging into the pool, you think you
hear a porpus. May no Damon run away with her clothes, leaving behind in
exchange his heart! Gadflies are rife in the dogdays, and should one
"imparadise himself in form of that sweet flesh," there will be a cry in
the woods that will speedily bring to her assistance Pan and all his
Satyrs. Autumn is a motherly matron, evidently _enceinte_, and, like
Love and Charity, who probably are smiling on the opposite wall, she has
a brace of bouncing babies at her breast--in her right hand a formidable
sickle, like a Turkish scymitar--in her left an extraordinary utensil,
bearing, we believe, the heathenish appellation of cornucopia--on her
back a sheaf of wheat--and on her head a diadem--planted there by John
Barleycorn. She is a fearsome dear; as ugly a customer as a lonely man
would wish to encounter beneath the light of a September moon. On her
feet are bauchles--on her legs huggers--and the breadth of her soles,
and the thickness of her ankles, we leave to your own conjectures. Her
fine bust is conspicuous in an open laced boddice--and her huge hips are
set off to the biggest advantage, by a jacket that she seems to have
picked up by the wayside, after some jolly tar, on his return from a
long voyage, had there been performing his toilet, and, by getting rid
of certain encumbrances, enabled to pursue his inland journey with less
resemblance than before to a walking scarecrow. Winter is a withered old
beldam, too poor to keep a cat, hurkling on her hunkers over a feeble
fire of sticks, extinguished fast as it is beeted, with a fizz in the
melted snow which all around that unhoused wretchedness is indurated
with frost; while a blue pool close at hand is chained in iciness, and
an old stump, half buried in the drift. Poor old, miserable, cowering
crone! One cannot look at her without unconsciously putting one's hand
in his pocket, and fumbling for a tester. Yes, there is pathos in the
picture, especially while, on turning round your head, you behold a big
blockhead of a vulgar bagman, with his coat-tails over his arms, warming
his loathsome hideousness at a fire that would roast an ox.

Such are the Seasons! And though we have spoken of them, as mere critics
on art, somewhat superciliously, yet there is almost always no
inconsiderable merit in all prints, pictures, paintings, poems, or
prose-works, that--pardon our tautology--are popular with the people.
The emblematical figments now alluded to, have been the creations of
persons of genius, who had never had access to the works of the old
masters; so that, though the conception is good, the execution is, in
general, far from perfect. Yet many a time, when lying at our ease in a
Wayside Inn, stretched on three wooden chairs, with a little round
deal-table before us, well laden with oatmeal cakes and cheese and
butter, nor, you may be sure, without its "tappit hen"--have we after a
long day's journey--perhaps the longest day--

    "Through moors and mosses many, O,"

regarded with no imaginative spirit--when Joseph and his brethren were
wanting--even such symbols of the Seasons as these--while arose to
gladden us many as fair an image as ever nature sent from her woods and
wildernesses to cheer the heart of her worshipper who, on his pilgrimage
to her loftiest shrines, and most majestic temples, spared not to stoop
his head below the lowest lintel, and held all men his equal who earned
by honest industry the scanty fare which they never ate without those
holy words of supplication and thanksgiving, "Give us this day our daily

Our memory is a treasure-house of written and unwritten poetry--the
ingots, the gifts of the great bards, and the bars of bullion--much of
the coin our own--some of it borrowed mayhap, but always on good
security, and repaid with interest--a legal transaction, of which even a
not unwealthy man has no need to be ashamed--none of it stolen, nor yet
found where the Highlandman found the tongs. But our riches are like
those that encumbered the floor of the Sanctum of the Dey of Algiers,
not very tidily arranged; and we are frequently foiled in our efforts to
lay our hand, for immediate use or ornament, on a ducat or a diamond, a
pistole or a pearl, a sovereign, or only his crown. We feel ourselves at
this moment in that predicament, when trying to recollect the genders of
Thomson's "Seasons"--

    "Come, gentle Spring, ethereal mildness, come,
    And from the bosom of yon dropping cloud,
    While music wakes around, veil'd in a shower
    Of shadowing roses, on our plains descend!"

That picture is indistinctly and obscurely beautiful to the imagination,
and there is not a syllable about sex--though "ethereal mildness," which
is an Impersonation, and hardly an Impersonation, must be, it is felt, a
Virgin Goddess, whom all the divinities that dwell between heaven and
earth must love. Never to our taste--but our taste is inferior to our
feeling and our genius--though you will seldom go far wrong even in
trusting it--never had a poem a more beautiful beginning. It is not
simple--nor ought it to be--it is rich, and even gorgeous--for the Bard
came to his subject full of inspiration; and as it was the inspiration,
here, not of profound thought, but of passionate emotion, it was right
that music at the very first moment should overflow the page, and that
it should be literally strewed with roses. An imperfect Impersonation is
often proof positive of the highest state of poetical enthusiasm. The
forms of nature undergo a half humanising process under the intensity of
our love, yet still retain the character of the insensate creation, thus
affecting us with a sweet, strange, almost bewildering, blended emotion
that scarcely belongs to either separately, but to both together clings
as to a phenomenon that only the eye of genius sees, because only the
soul of genius can give it a presence--though afterwards all eyes dimly
recognise it, on its being shown to them, as something more vivid than
their own faint experience, yet either kindred to it, or virtually one
and the same. Almost all human nature can, in some measure, understand
and feel the most exquisite and recondite image which only the rarest
genius could produce. Were it not so, great poets might break their
harps, and go drown themselves in Helicon.

    "From brightening fields of ether fair disclosed,
    Child of the Sun, refulgent SUMMER comes,
    In pride of youth, and felt through Nature's depth:
    He comes attended by the sultry hours,
    And ever-fanning breezes, on his way;
    While, from his ardent look, the turning Spring
    Averts her blushful face, and earth, and skies,
    All smiling, to his hot dominion leaves."

Here the Impersonation is stronger--and perhaps the superior strength
lies in the words "child of the Sun." And here in the words describing
Spring, she too is more of an Impersonation than in the other
passage--averting her blushful face from the Summer's ardent look. The
poet having made Summer masculine, very properly makes Spring feminine;
and 'tis a jewel of a picture--for ladies should always avert their
blushful faces from the ardent looks of gentlemen. Thomson, indeed,
elsewhere says of an enamoured youth overpowered by the loving looks of
his mistress,--

    "From the keen gaze her lover turns away,
    Full of the dear ecstatic power, and sick
    With sighing languishment."

This, we have heard, from experienced persons of both sexes, is as
delicate as it is natural; but for our own simple and single selves, we
never remember having got sick on any such occasion. Much agitated, we
cannot deny--if we did, the most credulous would not credit us--much
agitated we have been, when our lady-love, not contented with fixing
upon us her dove-eyes, began billing and cooing in a style from which
the cushat might have taken a lesson with advantage, that she might the
better perform her innocent part on her first assignation with her
affianced in the pine-grove on St Valentine's day; but never in all our
long lives got we absolutely _sick_--nor even _squeamish_--never were we
obliged to turn away with our hand to our mouth--but, on the contrary,
we were commonly as brisk as a bee at a pot of honey; or, if that be too
luscious a simile, as brisk as that same wonderful insect murmuring for
a few moments round and round a rose-bush, and then settling himself
down seriously to work, as mute as a mouse, among the half-blown petals.
However, we are not now writing our Confessions--and what we wished to
say about this passage is, that in it the one sex is represented as
turning away the face from that of the other, which may be all natural
enough, though polite on the gentleman's part we can never call it; and,
had the female virgin done so, we cannot help thinking it would have
read better in poetry. But for Spring to avert _his_ blushful face from
the ardent looks of Summer, has on us the effect of making both Seasons
seem simpletons. Spring, in the character of "ethereal mildness," was
unquestionably a female; but here she is "unsexed from the crown to the
toe," and changed into an awkward hobbletehoy, who, having passed his
boyhood in the country, is a booby who blushes black at the gaze of his
own brother, and if brought into the company of the lasses, would not
fail to faint away in a fit, nor revive till his face felt a pitcherful
of cold water.

    "Crown'd with the sickle and the wheaten sheaf,
    While Autumn, nodding o'er the yellow plain,
    Comes jovial on," &c.,

is, we think, bad. The Impersonation here is complete, and though the
sex of Autumn is not mentioned, it is manifestly meant to be male. So
far, there is nothing amiss either one way or another. But "nodding o'er
the yellow plain" is a mere statement of a fact in nature--and
descriptive of the growing and ripening or ripened harvest--whereas it
is applied here to Autumn, as a figure who "comes jovial on." This is
not obscurity--or indistinctness--which, as we have said before, is
often a great beauty in Impersonation; but it is an inconsistency and a
contradiction--and therefore indefensible on any ground either of
conception or expression.

"There are no such essential vices as this in the "Castle of
Indolence"--for by that time Thomson had subjected his inspiration to
thought--and his poetry, guided and guarded by philosophy, became
celestial as an angel's song.

    "See, Winter comes, to rule the varied year,
    Sullen and sad, with all his rising train,
    Vapours, and clouds, and storms. Be these my theme,
    These! that exalt the soul to solemn thought,
    And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms!
    Congenial horrors, hail! with frequent foot,
    Pleased have I, in my cheerful morn of life,
    When nursed by careless Solitude I lived,
    And sung of Nature with unceasing joy,
    Pleased have I wander'd through your rough domain;
    Trod the pure virgin-snows, myself as pure;
    Heard the winds roar, and the big torrents burst;
    Or seen the deep-fermenting tempest brew'd
    In the grim evening sky. Thus passed the time,
    Till through the lucid chambers of the south
    Look'd out the joyous Spring, look'd out, and smiled!"

Divine inspiration indeed! Poetry, that if read by the bedside of a
dying lover of nature, might

    "Create a soul
    Under the ribs of death!"

What in the name of goodness makes us suppose that a mean, and miserable
November day, even while we are thus Rhapsodising, is drizzling all
Edinburgh with the worst of all imaginable Scottish mists--an Easterly
Haur? We know that he infests all the year, but shows his poor spite in
its bleakest bitterness in March and in November. Earth and heaven are
not only not worth looking at in an Easterly Haur, but the Visible is
absolute wretchedness, and people wonder why they were born. The
visitation begins with a sort of characterless haze, waxing more and
more wetly obscure, till you know not whether it be rain, snow, or
sleet, that drenches your clothes in dampness, till you feel it in your
skin, then in your flesh, then in your bones, then in your marrow, and
then in your mind. Your blinking eyes have it too--and so, shut it as
you will, has your moping mouth. Yet the streets, though looking blue,
are not puddled, and the dead cat lies dry in the gutter. There is no
eavesdropping--no gushing of waterspouts. To say it rained would be no
breach of veracity, but a mere misstatement of a melancholy fact. The
truth is, that _the weather cannot rain_, but keeps spit, spit,
spitting, in a style sufficient to irritate Socrates--or even Moses
himself; and yet true, veritable, sincere, genuine, and authentic Rain
could not--or if he could would not--so thoroughly soak you and your
whole wardrobe, were you to allow him a day to do it, as that shabby
imitation of a tenth-rate shower, in about the time of a usual sized
sermon. So much cold and so much wet, with so little to show for it, is
a disgrace to the atmosphere, which it will take weeks of the sunniest
the weather can afford to wipe off. But the stores of sunniness which it
is in the power of Winter in this northern latitude to accumulate,
cannot be immense; and therefore we verily believe that it would be too
much to expect that it ever can make amends for the hideous horrors of
this Easterly Haur. The Cut-throat!

On such days suicides rush to judgment. That sin is mysterious as
insanity--their graves are unintelligible as the cells in Bedlam. Oh!
the brain and the heart of man! Therein is the only Hell. Small these
regions in space, and of narrow room--but haunted may they be with all
the Fiends and all the Furies. A few nerves transmit to the soul despair
or bliss. At the touch of something--whence and wherefore sent, who can
say--something that serenes or troubles, soothes or jars--she soars up
into life and light, just as you may have seen a dove suddenly cleave
the sunshine--or down she dives into death and darkness, like a shot
eagle tumbling into the sea!

Materialism! Immaterialism! Why should mortals, whom conscience tells
that they are immortals, bewildered and bewildering ponder upon the
dust! Do your duty to God and man, and fear not that, when that dust
dies, the spirit that breathed by it will live for ever. Feels not that
spirit its immortality in each sacred thought? When did ever religious
soul fear annihilation? Or shudder to think that, having once known, it
could ever forget God? Such forgetfulness is in the idea of eternal
death. Therefore is eternal death impossible to us who can hold
communion with our Maker. Our knowledge of Him--dim and remote though it
be--is a God-given pledge that He will redeem us from the doom of the

Let us then, and all our friends, believe, with Coleridge, in his
beautiful poem of the "Nightingale," that

    "In Nature there is nothing melancholy,"

not even November. The disease of the body may cause disease in the
soul; yet not the less trust we in the mercy of the merciful--not the
less strive we to keep feeding and trimming that spiritual lamp which is
within us, even when it flickers feebly in the dampy gloom, like an
earthly lamp left in a vaulted sepulchre, about to die among the dead.
Heaven seems to have placed a power in our Will as mighty as it is
mysterious. Call it not Liberty, lest you should wax proud; call it not
Necessity, lest you should despair. But turn from the oracles of
man--still dim even in their clearest responses--to the Oracles of God,
which are never dark; or if so, but

    "Dark with excessive bright"

to eyes not constantly accustomed to sustain the splendour. Bury all
your books, when you feel the night of scepticism gathering around
you--bury them all, powerful though you may have deemed their spells to
illuminate the unfathomable--open your Bible, and all the spiritual
world will be as bright as day.

The disease of the body may cause disease to the soul. Ay, madness. Some
rapture in the soul makes the brain numb, and thence sudden or lingering
death;--some rupture in the brain makes the soul insane, and thence life
worse than death, and haunted by horrors beyond what is dreamt of the
grave and all its corruption. Perhaps the line fullest of meaning that
ever was written, is--

    "Mens sana in corpore sano."

When nature feels the flow of its vital blood pure and unimpeded, what
unutterable gladness bathes the spirit in that one feeling of--health!
Then the mere consciousness of existence is like that emotion which
Milton speaks of as breathed from the bowers of Paradise--

    "Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
    All sadness but despair"

It does more--for despair itself cannot prevail against it. What a dawn
of bliss rises upon us with the dawn of light, when our life is
healthful as the sun! Then

    "It feels that it is greater than it knows."

God created the earth and the air beautiful through the senses; and at
the uplifting of a little lid, a whole flood of imagery is let in upon
the spirit, all of which becomes part of its very self, as if the
enjoying and the enjoyed were one. Health flies away like an angel, and
her absence disenchants the earth. What shadows then pass over the
ethereal surface of the spirit, from the breath of disordered
matter!--from the first scarcely-felt breath of despondency, to the last
scowling blackness of despair! Often men know not what power placed the
fatal fetters upon them--they see even that a link may be open, and that
one effort might fling off the bondage; but their souls are in slavery,
and will not be free. Till something like a fresh wind, or a sudden
sunbeam, comes across them, and in a moment their whole existence is
changed, and they see the very vanishing of their most dismal and
desperate dream.

"Somewhat too much of this"--so let us strike the chords to a merrier
measure--to a "livelier lilt"--as suits the variable spirit of our
Soliloquy. Be it observed, then, that the sole certain way of getting
rid of the blue devils, is to drown them in a shower-bath. You would not
suppose that we are subject to the blue devils? Yet we are sometimes
their very slave. When driven to it by their lash, every occupation,
which when free we resort to as pastime, becomes taskwork; nor will
these dogged masters suffer us to purchase emancipation with the
proceeds of the toil of our groaning genius. But whenever the worst
comes to the worst, and we almost wish to die so that we might escape
the galling pressure of our chains, we sport buff, and into the
shower-bath. Yet such is the weakness of poor human nature, that like a
criminal on the scaffold, shifting the signal kerchief from hand to
hand, much to the irritation of his excellency the hangman, one of the
most impatient of men--and more to the satisfaction of the crowd, the
most patient of men and women--we often stand shut up in that
sentry-looking canvass box, dexterously and sinistrously fingering the
string, perhaps for five shrinking, and shuddering, and _grueing_
minutes, ere we can summon up desperation to pull down upon ourselves
the rushing waterfall! Soon as the agony is over, we bounce out the
colour of beetroot, and survey ourselves in a five-foot mirror, with an
amazement that, on each successive exhibition, is still as fresh as when
we first experienced it,

    "In life's morning march, when our spirits were young."

By-and-by we assume the similitude of an immense boiled lobster that has
leapt out of the pan--and then, seeming for a while to be an
emblematical or symbolical representation of the setting Sun, we sober
down into a faint pink, like that of the Morn, and finally subside into
our own permanent flesh-light, which, as we turn our back upon
ourselves, after the fashion of some of his majesty's ministers, reminds
us of that line in Cowper descriptive of the November Moon--

    "Resplendent less, but of an ampler round!"

Like that of the eagle, our youth is renewed--we feel strong as the
horse in Homer--a divine glow permeates our being, as if it were the
subdued spiritual essence of caloric. An intense feeling of self--not
self-love, mind ye, and the farthest state imaginable in this wide world
from selfishness--elevates us far up above the clouds, into the loftiest
regions of the sunny blue, and we seem to breathe an atmosphere, of
which every glorious gulp is inspiration. Despondency is thrown to the
dogs. Despair appears in his true colours, a more grotesque idiot than
Grimaldi, and we treat him with a guffaw. All ante-bath difficulties
seem now--what they really are--facilities of which we are by far too
much elated to avail ourselves; dangers that used to appear appalling
are felt now to be lulling securities--obstacles, like mountains, lying
in our way of life as we walked towards the temple of Apollo or Plutus,
we smile at the idea of surmounting, so molehillish do they look, and we
kick them aside like an old footstool. Let the country ask us for a
scheme to pay off the national debt--_there she has it_; do you request
us to have the kindness to leap over the moon--here we go; excellent Mr
Blackwood has but to say the word, and a ready-made Leading Article is
in his hand, promotive of the sale of countless numbers of "my
Magazine," and of the happiness of countless numbers of mankind. We
feel--and the feeling proves the fact--as bold as Joshua the son of
Nun--as brave as David the son of Jesse--as wise as Solomon the son of
David--and as proud as Nebuchadnezzar the son of Nebopolazzar. We survey
our image in the mirror--and think of Adam. We put ourselves into the
posture of the Belvidere Apollo.

    "Then view the Lord of the unerring bow,
    The God of life, and poesy, and light,
    The Sun in human arms array'd, and brow
    All radiant from his triumph in the fight.
    The shaft hath just been shot--the arrow bright
    With an immortal vengeance; in his eye
    And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
    And majesty flash their full lightnings by,
    Developing in that one glance the Deity."

Up four flight of stairs we fly--for the bath is in the double-sunk
story--ten steps at a bound--and in five minutes have devoured one
quartern loaf, six eggs, and a rizzar, washing all over with a
punch-bowl of congou and a tea-bowl of coffee.

                      "Enormous breakfast,
    Wild without rule or art! Where nature plays
    Her virgin fancies."

And then, leaning back on our Easy-chair, we perform an exploit beyond
the reach of Euclid--why, WE SQUARE THE CIRCLE, and to the utter
demolition of our admirable friend Sir David Brewster's diatribe, in a
late number of the _Quarterly Review_, on the indifference of Government
to men of science, chuckle over our nobly-won order K.C.C.B., Knight
Companion of the Cold Bath.

Many analogies between the seasons of the year and the seasons of life,
being natural, have been a frequent theme of poetry in all countries.
Had the gods made us poetical, we should now have poured forth, a few
exquisite illustrations of some that are very affecting and impressive.
It has, however, often been felt by us, that not a few of those one
meets with in the lamentations of whey-faced sentimentalists, are false
or fantastic, and do equal violence to all the seasons, both of the year
and of life. These gentry have been especially silly upon the similitude
of Old Age to Winter. Winter, in external nature, is not the season of
decay. An old tree, for example, in the very _dead_ of winter, as it is
figuratively called, though bare of leaves, is full of life. The sap,
indeed, has sunk down from his bole and branches--down into his toes or
roots. But there it is, ready, in due time, to reascend. Not so with an
old man--the present company always excepted;--his sap is not sunk down
to his toes, but much of it is gone clean out of the system--therefore,
individual natural objects in Winter are not analogically emblematical
of people stricken in years. Far less does the Winter itself of the
year, considered as a season, resemble the old age of life considered as
a season. To what peculiarities, pray, in the character and conduct of
aged gentlemen in general, do rain, sleet, hail, frost, ice, snow,
winds, blasts, storms, hurricanes, and occasional thunder and lightning,
bear analogy? We pause for a reply. Old men's heads, it is true, are
frequently white, though more frequently bald, and their blood is not so
hot as when they were springalds. But though there be no great harm in
likening a sprinkling of white hair on mine ancient's temples to the
appearance of the surface of the earth, flat or mountainous, after a
slight fall of snow--and indeed, in an impassioned state of mind, we
feel a moral beauty in such poetical expression as "sorrow shedding on
the head of youth its untimely snows"--yet the natural propriety of such
an image, so far from justifying the assertion of a general analogy
between Winter and Old Age, proves that the analogies between them are
in fact very few, and felt to be analogies at all, only when touched
upon very seldom, and very slightly, and, for the most part, very
vaguely--the truth being, that they scarcely exist at all in reality,
but have an existence given to them by the power of creative passion,
which often works like genius. Shakespeare knew this well--as he knew
everything else; and, accordingly, he gives us Seven Ages of Life--not
Four Seasons. But how finely does he sometimes, by the mere use of the
names of the Seasons of the Year, intensify to our imagination the
mental state to which they are for the moment felt to be analogous?--

    "Now is the winter of our discontent
    Made glorious summer by the sun of York!"

That will do. The feeling he wished to inspire, is inspired; and the
further analogical images which follow add nothing to _our_ feeling,
though they show the strength and depth of _his_ into whose lips they
are put. A bungler would have bored us with ever so many ramifications
of the same idea, on one of which, in our weariness, we might have
wished him hanged by the neck till he was dead.

We are an Old Man, and though single not singular; yet, without vanity,
we think ourselves entitled to say, that we are no more like Winter, in
particular, than we are like Spring, Summer, or Autumn. The truth is,
that we are much less like any one of the Seasons, than we are like the
whole Set. Is not Spring sharp? So are we. Is not Spring snappish? So
are we. Is not Spring boisterous? So are we. Is not Spring "beautiful
exceedingly?" So are we. Is not Spring capricious? So are we. Is not
Spring, at times, the gladdest, gayest, gentlest, mildest, meekest,
modestest, softest, sweetest, and sunniest of all God's creatures that
steal along the face of the earth? So are we. So much for our
similitude--a staring and striking one--to Spring. But were you to stop
there, what an inadequate idea would you have of our character! For only
ask your senses, and they will tell you that we are much liker Summer.
Is not Summer often infernally hot? So are we. Is not Summer sometimes
cool as its own cucumbers? So are we. Does not Summer love the shade? So
do we. Is not Summer, nevertheless, somewhat "too much i' the sun?" So
are we. Is not Summer famous for its thunder and lightning? So are we.
Is not Summer, when he chooses, still, silent, and serene as a sleeping
seraph? And so too--when Christopher chooses--are not we? Though, with
keen remorse we confess it, that, when suddenly wakened, we are too
often more like a fury or a fiend--and that completes the likeness; for
all who know a Scottish Summer, with one voice exclaim--"So is he!" But
our portrait is but half-drawn; you know but a moiety of our character.
Is Autumn jovial?--ask Thomson--so are we. Is Autumn melancholy?--ask
Alison and Gillespie--so are we. Is Autumn bright?--ask the woods and
groves--so are we. Is Autumn rich?--ask the whole world--so are we. Does
Autumn rejoice in the yellow grain and the golden vintage, that, stored
up in his great Magazine of Nature, are lavishly thence dispensed to all
that hunger, and quench the thirst of the nations? So do we. After that,
no one can be so pur-and-bat-blind as not see that North is, in very
truth, Autumn's gracious self, rather than his Likeness or Eidolon.

    "Lo, Winter comes to rule th' inverted year!"

So do we,

    "Sullen and sad, with all his rising train--
    Vapours, and clouds, and storms!"

So are we. The great author of the "Seasons" says, that Winter and his

        "Exalt the soul to solemn thought,
    And heavenly musing!"

So do we. And, "lest aught less great should stamp us mortal," here we
conclude the comparison, dashed off in few lines by the hand of a great
master, and ask, Is not North, Winter? Thus, listener after our own
heart! thou feelest that we are imaged aright in all our attributes
neither by Spring, nor Summer, nor Autumn, nor Winter; but that the
character of Christopher is shadowed forth and reflected by the Entire


Poetry, one might imagine, must be full of Snow-scenes. If so, they have
almost all dissolved--melted away from our memory--as the transiencies
in nature do which they coldly pictured. Thomson's "Winter," of course,
we do not include in our obliviousness--and from Cowper's "Task" we
might quote many a most picturesque Snow-piece. But have frost and snow
been done full justice to by them or any other of our poets? They have
been well spoken of by two--Southey and Coleridge--of whose most
poetical compositions respectively, "Thalaba" and the "Ancient Mariner,"
in some future volume we may dissert. Thomson's genius does not so often
delight us by exquisite minute touches in the description of nature as
that of Cowper. It loves to paint on a great scale, and to dash objects
off sweepingly by bold strokes--such, indeed, as have almost always
distinguished the mighty masters of the lyre and the rainbow. Cowper
sets nature before your eyes--Thomson before your imagination. Which do
you prefer? Both. Be assured that both poets had pored night and day
upon her--in all her aspects--and that she had revealed herself fully to
both. But they, in their religion, elected different modes of
worship--and both were worthy of the mighty mother. In one mood of mind
we love Cowper best, in another Thomson. Sometimes the Seasons are
almost a Task--and sometimes the Task is out of Season. There is
delightful distinctness in all the pictures of the Bard of
Olney--glorious gloom or glimmer in most of those of the Bard of Ednam.
Cowper paints trees--Thomson woods. Thomson paints, in a few wondrous
lines, rivers from source to sea, like the mighty Burrampooter--Cowper,
in many no very wondrous lines, brightens up one bend of a stream, or
awakens our fancy to the murmur of some single waterfall. But a truce to
antithesis--a deceptive style of criticism--and see how Thomson sings
of Snow. Why, in the following lines, as well as Christopher North in
his Soliloquy on the Seasons--

                    "The cherish'd fields
    Put on their winter-robe of purest white.
    'Tis brightness all; save where the new snow melts
    Along the mazy current."

Nothing can be more vivid. 'Tis of the nature of an ocular spectrum.

Here is a touch like one of Cowper's. Note the beauty of the epithet
"brown," where all that is motionless is white--

                "The foodless wilds
    Pour forth their _brown_ inhabitants."

That one word proves the poet. Does it not?

The entire description from which these two sentences are selected by
memory--a critic you may always trust to--is admirable; except in one or
two places where Thomson seems to have striven to be strongly pathetic,
and where he seems to us to have overshot his mark, and to have ceased
to be perfectly natural. Thus--

                          "Drooping, the ox
    Stands cover'd o'er with snow, and then demands
    The fruit of all his toil."

The image of the ox is as good as possible. We see him, and could paint
him in oils. But, to our mind, the notion of his "demanding the fruit of
all his toils"--to which we freely acknowledge the worthy animal was
well entitled--sounds, as it is here expressed, rather fantastical. Call
it doubtful--for Jemmy was never utterly in the wrong in any sentiment.

                        "The bleating kind
    Eye the bleak heaven, and next the glistening earth,
    _With looks of dumb despair._"

The second line is perfect; but the Ettrick Shepherd agreed with us--one
night at Ambrose's--that the third was not quite right. Sheep, he agreed
with us, do not deliver themselves up to despair under any
circumstances; and here Thomson transferred what would have been his own
feeling in a corresponding condition, to animals who dreadlessly follow
their instincts. Thomson redeems himself in what immediately succeeds--

                          "Then, sad dispersed,
    Dig for the wither'd herb through heaps of snow."

For, as they disperse, they do look very sad--and no doubt are so; but
had they been in despair, they would not so readily, and constantly, and
uniformly, and successfully, have taken to the digging, but whole flocks
had perished.

You will not, we are confident, be angry with us for quoting a few lines
that occur soon after, and which are a noble example of the sweeping
style of description which, we said above, characterises the genius of
this sublime poet:--

                  "From the bellowing east,
    In this dire season, oft the whirlwind's wing
    Sweeps up the burden of whole wintry plains
    At one wide waft, and o'er the hapless flocks,
    Hid in the hollow of two neighbouring hills,
    The billowy tempest whelms; till, upward urged,
    The valley to a shining mountain swells,
    Tipp'd with a wreath high-curling in the sky."

Well might the Bard, with such a snow-storm in his imagination, when
telling the shepherds to be kind to their helpless charge, addressed
them in language which, in an ordinary mood, would have been bombast.
"Shepherds," says he, "baffle the raging year!" How? Why merely by
filling their pens with food. But the whirlwind was up--

    "Far off its coming _groan'd_,"

and the poet was inspired. Had he not been so, he had not cried, "Baffle
the raging year;" and if you be not so, you will think it a most absurd

Did you ever see water beginning to change itself into ice? Yes. Then
try to describe the sight. Success in that trial will prove you a poet.
People do not prove themselves poets only by writing long poems. A
line--two words--may show that they are the Muse's sons. How exquisitely
does Burns picture to our eyes moonlight water undergoing an ice-change!

    "The chilly frost beneath the silver beam,
    Crept, gently crusting o'er the glittering stream!"

Thomson does it with an almost finer spirit of perception--or
conception--or memory--or whatever else you choose to call it; for our
part, we call it genius--

    "An icy gale, oft shifting, o'er the pool
    _Breathes a blue film_, and in its mid career
    Arrests the bickering stream."

And afterwards, having frozen the entire stream into a "crystal
pavement," how strongly doth he conclude thus--

    "_The whole imprison'd river growls below._"

Here, again, 'tis pleasant to see the peculiar genius of Cowper
contrasted with that of Thomson. The gentle Cowper delighting, for the
most part, in tranquil images--for his life was passed amidst tranquil
nature; the enthusiastic Thomson, more pleased with images of power.
Cowper says--

                        "On the flood,
    Indurated and fixed, the snowy weight
    Lies undissolved, _while silently beneath,
    And unperceived, the current steals away_."

How many thousand times the lines we are now going to quote have been
quoted, nobody can tell; but we quote them once more for the purpose of
asking you, if you think that any one poet of this age could have
written them--could have chilled one's very blood with such intense
feeling of cold! Not one.

    "In these fell regions, in Arzina caught,
    _And to the stony deep his idle ship
    Immediate seal'd_, he with his hapless crew,
    Each full exerted at his several task,
    _Froze into statues; to the cordage glued
    The sailor, and the pilot to the helm!_"

The oftener--the more we read the "Winter"--especially the last two or
three hundred lines--the angrier is our wonder with Wordsworth for
asserting that Thomson owed the national popularity that his "Winter"
immediately won, to his "commonplace sentimentalities, and his vicious
style!" Yet true it is, that he was sometimes guilty of both; and, but
for his transcendent genius, they might have obscured the lustre of his
fame. But such sins are not very frequent in the "Seasons," and were all
committed in the glow of that fine and bold enthusiasm, which to his
imagination arrayed all things, and all words, in a light that seemed to
him at the time to be poetry--though sometimes it was but "false
glitter." Admitting, then, that sometimes the style of the "Seasons" is
somewhat too florid, we must not criticise single and separate passages,
without holding in mind the character of the poet's genius and his
inspirations. He luxuriates--he revels--he wantons--at once with an
imaginative and a sensuous delight in nature. Besides, he was but young;
and his great work was his first. He had not philosophised his poetical
language, as Wordsworth himself has done, after long years of
profoundest study of the laws of thought and speech. But in such study,
while much is gained, may not something be lost? And is there not a
charm in the free, flowing, chartered libertinism of the diction and
versification of the "Seasons"--above all, in the closing strains of the
"Winter," and in the whole of the "Hymn," which inspires a delight and
wonder seldom breathed upon us--glorious poem, on the whole, as it
is--from the more measured march of the "Excursion?"

All those children of the Pensive Public who have been much at school,
know Thomson's description of the wolves among the Alps, Apennines, and

    "Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave!
    Burning for blood, bony and gaunt and grim!" &c.

The first fifteen lines are equal to anything in the whole range of
English descriptive poetry; but the last ten are positively bad. Here
they are:--

    "The godlike face of man avails him nought!
    Even beauty, force divine! at whose bright glance
    The generous lion stands in soften'd gaze,
    Now bleeds, a hapless undistinguish'd prey.
    But if, apprised of the severe attack,
    The country be shut up, lured by the scent,
    On churchyard drear (inhuman to relate!)
    The disappointed prowlers fall, and dig
    The shrouded body from the grave; o'er which,
    Mix'd with foul shades and frighted ghosts, they howl."

Wild beasts do not like the look of the human eye--they think us ugly
customers--and sometimes stand shilly-shallying in our presence, in an
awkward but alarming attitude, of hunger mixed with fear. A single wolf
seldom or never attacks a man. He cannot stand the face. But a person
would need to have a godlike face indeed to terrify therewith an army of
wolves some thousand strong. It would be the height of presumption in
any man, though beautiful as Moore thought Byron, to attempt it. If so,

    "The godlike face of man avails him nought,"

is, under the circumstances, ludicrous. Still more so is the trash about
"beauty, force divine!" It is too much to expect of an army of wolves
some thousand strong, "and hungry as the grave," that they should all
fall down on their knees before a sweet morsel of flesh and blood,
merely because the young lady was so beautiful that she might have sat
to Sir Thomas Lawrence for a frontispiece to Mr Watts's "Souvenir." 'Tis
all stuff, too, about the generous lion standing in softened gaze at
beauty's bright glance. True, he has been known to look with a certain
sort of soft surliness upon a pretty Caffre girl, and to walk past
without eating her--but simply because, an hour or two before, he had
dined on a Hottentot Venus. The secret lay not in his heart, but in his
stomach. Still the notion is a popular one, and how exquisitely has
Spenser changed it into the divinest poetry in the character of the
attendant lion of

    "Heavenly Una, with her milk-white lamb!"

But Thomson, so far from making poetry of it in this passage, has
vulgarised and blurred by it the natural and inevitable emotion of
terror and pity. Famished wolves _howking_ up the dead is a dreadful
image--but "_inhuman to relate_," is not an expression heavily laden
with meaning; and the sudden, abrupt, violent, and, as we feel,
unnatural introduction of ideas purely superstitious, at the close, is
revolting, and miserably mars the terrible _truth_.

    "Mix'd with foul shades and frighted ghosts, they howl."

Why, pray, are the shades foul, and the ghosts only frightened? And
wherein lies the specific difference between a shade and a ghost?
Besides, if the ghosts were frightened, which they had good reason to
be, why were not they off? We have frequently read of their wandering
far from home, on occasions when they had no such excellent excuse to
offer. This line, therefore, we have taken the liberty to erase from our
pocket-copy of the "Seasons"--and to draw a few keelavine strokes over
the rest of the passage--beginning with "man's godlike face."

Go read, then, the opening of "Winter," and acknowledge that, of all
climates and all countries, there are none within any of the zones of
the earth that will bear a moment's comparison with those of Scotland.
Forget the people if you can, and think only of the region. The lovely
Lowlands undulating away into the glorious Highlands--the spirit of
sublimity and the spirit of beauty one and the same, as it blends them
in indissoluble union. Bury us alive in the dungeon's
gloom--incommunicable with the light of day as the grave--it could not
seal our eyes to the sight of Scotland. We should see it still by rising
or by setting suns. Whatever blessed scene we chose to call on would
become an instant apparition. Nor in that thick-ribbed vault would our
eyes be deaf to her rivers and her seas. We should say our prayers to
their music, and to the voice of the thunder on a hundred hills. We
stand now in no need of senses. They are waxing dim--but our spirit may
continue to brighten long as the light of love is allowed to dwell
therein, thence proceeding over nature like a victorious morn.

There are many beautiful passages in the poets about RAIN; but who ever
sang its advent so passionately as in these strains?--

                          "The effusive south
    Warms the wide air, and o'er the void of heaven
    Breathes the big clouds with vernal showers distent.
    At first a dusky wreath they seem to rise,
    Scarce staining ether; but by swift degrees,
    In heaps on heaps, the doubling vapour sails
    Along the loaded sky, and mingling deep
    Sits on th' horizon round a settled gloom:
    Not such as wintry storms on mortals shed,
    Oppressing life; but lovely, gentle, kind,
    And full of every hope and every joy,
    The wish of nature. Gradual sinks the breeze
    Into a perfect calm, that not a breath
    Is heard to quiver through the closing woods,
    Or rustling turn the many-twinkling leaves
    Of aspen tall. Th' uncurling floods diffused
    In glassy breadth, seem through delusive lapse
    Forgetful of their course. 'Tis silence all
    And pleasing expectation. Herds and flocks
    Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye
    The falling verdure!"

All that follows is, you know, as good--better it cannot be--till we
come to the close, the perfection of poetry, and then sally out into the
shower, and join the hymn of earth to heaven--

    "The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard
    By such as wander through the forest walks,
    Beneath th' umbrageous multitude of leaves.
    But who can hold the shade, while heaven descends
    In universal bounty, shedding herbs,
    And fruits, and flowers, on Nature's ample lap?
    Swift Fancy fired anticipates their growth;
    And, while the milky nutriment distils,
    Beholds the kindling country colour round."

Thomson, they say, was too fond of epithets. Not he, indeed. Strike out
one of the many there--and your sconce shall feel the crutch. A poet
less conversant with nature would have feared to say, "sits on the
horizon round _a settled gloom_," or rather, he would not have seen or
thought it was a settled gloom; and, therefore, he could not have said--

        ----"But lovely, gentle, kind,
    And full of every hope and every joy,
    _The wish of Nature._"

Leigh Hunt--most vivid of poets, and most cordial of critics--somewhere
finely speaks of a ghastly line in a poem of Keats'--

    "Riding to Florence with the murder'd man;"

that is, the man about to be murdered--imagination conceiving as one,
doom and death. Equally great are the words--

                      "Herds and flocks
    Drop the dry sprig, and, mute-imploring, eye
    The falling verdure."

The verdure is seen in the shower--to be the very shower--by the poet at
least--perhaps by the cattle, in their thirsty hunger forgetful of the
brown ground, and swallowing the dropping herbage. The birds had not
been so sorely distressed by the drought as the beasts, and therefore
the poet speaks of them, not as relieved from misery, but as visited
with gladness--

                "Hush'd in short suspense,
    The plumy people streak their wings with oil,
    To throw the lucid moisture trickling off,
    And wait th' approaching sign, to strike, at once,
    Into the general choir."

Then, and not till then, the _humane_ poet bethinks him of the insensate
earth--insensate not; for beast and bird being satisfied, and lowing and
singing in their gratitude, so do the places of their habitation yearn
for the blessing--

              "E'en mountains, vales,
    And forests, seem impatient, to demand
    The promised sweetness."

The _religious_ Poet then speaks for his kind--and says devoutly--

            "Man superior walks
    Amid the glad creation, musing praise,
    And looking lively gratitude."

In that mood he is justified to feast his fancy with images of the
beauty as well as the bounty of nature; and genius in one line has
concentrated them all--

    "Beholds the kindling country colour round."

'Tis "an a' day's rain"--and "the well-showered earth is deep-enriched
with vegetable life." And what kind of an evening? We have seen many
such--and every succeeding one more beautiful, more glorious to our eyes
than another--because of these words in which the beauty and the glory
of one and all are enshrined--

    "Till, in the western sky, the downward sun
    Looks out, effulgent, from amid the flush
    Of broken clouds, gay-shifting to his beam.
    The rapid radiance, instantaneous, strikes
    Th' illumined mountain, through the forest streams,
    Shakes on the floods, and in a yellow mist,
    Far smoking o'er th' interminable plain,
    In twinkling myriads lights the dewy gems.
    Moist, bright, and green, the landscape laughs around.
    Full swell the woods; their every music wakes,
    Mix'd in wild concert with the warbling brooks
    Increased, the distant bleatings of the hills,
    And hollow lows responsive from the vales,
    Whence, blending all, the sweeten'd zephyr springs.
    Meantime, refracted from yon eastern cloud,
    Bestriding earth, the grand ethereal bow
    Shoots up immense; and every hue unfolds
    In fair proportion, running from the red
    To where the violet fades into the sky."

How do you like our recitation of that surpassing strain? Every shade of
feeling should have its shade of sound--every pause its silence. But
these must all come and go, untaught, unbidden, from the fulness of the
heart. Then indeed, and not till then, can words be said to be set to
music--_to a celestial sing-song_.

The mighty Minstrel recited old Ballads with a warlike march of sound
that made one's heart leap, while his usually sweet smile was drawn in,
and disappeared among the glooms that sternly gathered about his
lowering brows, and gave his whole aspect a most heroic character. Rude
verses, that from ordinary lips would have been almost meaningless, from
his came inspired with passion. Sir Philip Sidney, who said that "Chevy
Chase" roused him like the sound of a trumpet, had he heard Sir Walter
Scott recite it, would have gone distracted. Yet the "best judges" said
he murdered his own poetry--we say about as much as Homer. Wordsworth
recites his own Poetry (catch him reciting any other)
magnificently--while his eyes seem blind to all outward objects, like
those of a somnambulist. Coleridge was the sweetest of sing-songers--and
his silver voice "warbled melody." Next to theirs, we believe our own
recitation of Poetry to be the most impressive heard in modern times,
though we cannot deny that the leathern-eared have pronounced it
detestable, and the long-eared ludicrous; their delight being in what is
called Elocution, as it is taught by player-folk.

O friendly reader of these our Recreations! thou needst not to be
told--yet in love let us tell thee--that there are a thousand ways of
dealing in description with Nature, so as to make her poetical; but
sentiment there always must be, else it is stark nought. You may infuse
the sentiment by a single touch--by a ray of light no thicker, nor one
thousandth part so thick, as the finest needle ever silk-threaded by
lady's finger; or you may dance it in with a flutter of sunbeams; or you
may splash it in as with a gorgeous cloud-stain stolen from sunset; or
you may bathe it in with a shred of the rainbow. Perhaps the highest
power of all possessed by the sons of song, is to breathe it in with the
breath, to let it slip in with the light of the common day!

Then some poets there are, who show you a scene all of a sudden, by
means of a few magical words--just as if you opened your eyes at their
bidding--and in place of a blank, a world. Others, again, as good and as
great, create their world gradually before your eyes, for the delight of
your soul, that loves to gaze on the growing glory; but delight is lost
in wonder, and you know that they, too, are warlocks. Some heap image
upon image, piles of imagery on piles of imagery, as if they were
ransacking and robbing, and red-reavering earth, sea, and sky; yet all
things there are consentaneous with one grand design, which, when
consummated, is a Whole that seems to typify the universe. Others give
you but fragments--but such as awaken imaginations of beauty and of
power transcendent, like that famous Torso. And some show you Nature
glimmering beneath a veil which, nunlike, she has religiously taken; and
then call not Nature ideal only in that holy twilight, for then it is
that she is spiritual, and we who belong to her feel that we shall live
for ever.

Thus--and in other wondrous ways--the great poets are the great
painters, and so are they the great musicians. But how they are so, some
other time may we tell; suffice it now to say, that as we listen to the
mighty masters--"sole or responsive to each other's voice"--

    "Now, 'tis like all instruments,
    Now like a lonely lute;
    And now 'tis like an angel's song
    That bids the heavens be mute!"

Why will so many myriads of men and women, denied by nature "the vision
and the faculty divine," persist in the delusion that they are
poetising, while they are but versifying "this bright and breathing
world?" They see truly not even the outward objects of sight. But of all
the rare affinities and relationships in Nature, visible or audible to
Fine-ear-and-Far-eye the Poet, not a whisper--not a glimpse have they
ever heard or seen, any more than had they been born deaf-blind.

They paint a landscape, but nothing "prates of their whereabouts," while
they were sitting on a tripod, with their paper on their knees,
drawing--their breath. For, in the front ground is a castle, against
which, if you offer to stir a step, you infallibly break your head,
unless providentially stopped by that extraordinary vegetable-looking
substance, perhaps a tree, growing bolt upright out of an intermediate
stone, that has wedged itself in long after there had ceased to be even
standing-room in that strange theatre of nature. But down from "the
swelling instep of a mountain's foot," that has protruded itself through
a wood, while the body of the mountain prudently remains in the extreme
distance, descends on you, ere you have recovered from your unexpected
encounter with the old Roman cement, an unconscionable cataract. There
stands a deer or goat, or rather some beast with horns, "strictly
anonymous," placed for effect, contrary to all cause, in a place where
it seems as uncertain how he got in as it is certain that he never can
get out till he becomes a hippogriff.

The true poet, again, has such potent eyes, that when he lets down the
lids, he sees just as well, perhaps better than when they were up; for
in that deep, earnest, inward gaze, the fluctuating sea of scenery
subsides into a settled calm, where all is harmony as well as
beauty--order as well as peace. What though he have been fated, through
youth and manhood, to dwell in city smoke? His childhood--his
boyhood--were overhung with trees, and through its heart went the murmur
of waters. Then it is, we verily believe, that in all poets, is filled
with images up to the brim, Imagination's treasury. Genius, growing, and
grown up to maturity, is still a prodigal. But he draws on the Bank of
Youth. His bills, whether at a short or long date, are never
dishonoured; nay, made payable at sight, they are as good as gold. Nor
cares that Bank for a run, made even in a panic, for besides bars and
billets, and wedges and blocks of gold, there are, unappreciable beyond
the riches which against a time of trouble

    "The Sultaun hides in his ancestral tombs,"

jewels and diamonds sufficient

    "To ransom great kings from captivity."

We sometimes think that the power of painting Nature to the life,
whether in her real or ideal beauty (both belong to _life_,) is seldom
evolved to its utmost, until the mind possessing it is withdrawn in the
body from all rural _environment_. It has not been so with Wordsworth,
but it was so with Milton. The descriptive poetry in "Comus" is indeed
rich as rich may be, but certainly not so great, perhaps not so
beautiful, as that in "Paradise Lost."

It would seem to be so with all of us, small as well as great; and were
_we_--Christopher North--to compose a poem on Loch Skene, two thousand
feet or so above the level of the sea, and some miles from a house, we
should desire to do so in a metropolitan cellar. Desire springs from
separation. The spirit seeks to unite itself to the beauty it loves, the
grandeur it admires, the sublimity it almost fears; and all these being
o'er the hills and far away, or on the hills cloud-hidden, why it--the
spirit--makes itself wings--or rather wings grow up of themselves in its
passion, and naturewards it flies like a dove or an eagle. People
looking at us believe us present, but they never were so far mistaken in
their lives; for in the Seamew are we sailing with the tide through the
moonshine on Loch Etive--or hanging o'er that gulf of peril on the bosom
of Skyroura.

We are sitting now in a dusky den--with our eyes shut--but we see the
whole Highlands. Our Highland Mountains are of the best possible
magnitude--ranging between two and four thousand feet high--and then in
what multitudes! The more familiar you become with them, the mightier
they appear--and you feel that it is all sheer folly to seek to dwindle
or dwarf them, by comparing them as they rise before your eyes with your
imagination of Mont Blanc and those eternal glaciers. If you can bring
them under your command, you are indeed a sovereign--and have a noble
set of subjects. In some weather they are of any height you choose to
put them--say thirty thousand feet--in other states of the atmosphere
you think you could walk over their summits and down into the region
beyond in an hour. Try. We have seen Cruachan, during a whole black day,
swollen into such enormous bulk, that Loch Awe looked like but a sullen
river at his base, her woods bushes, and Kilchurn no bigger than a
cottage. The whole visible scene was but he and his shadow. They seemed
to make the day black, rather than the day to make them so--and at
nightfall he took wider and loftier possession of the sky--the clouds
congregated round without hiding his summit, on which seemed to twinkle,
like earth-lighted fires, a few uncertain stars. Rain drives you into a
shieling--and you sit there for an hour or two in eloquent confabulation
with the herdsman, your English against his Gaelic. Out of the door you
creep--and gaze in astonishment on a new world. The mist is slowly
rolling up and away in long lines of clouds, preserving, perhaps, a
beautiful regularity on their ascension and evanescence, and between

    "Tier above tier, a wooded theatre
    Of stateliest view,"

or cliff galleries with strange stone-images sitting up aloft; and yet
your eyes have not reached the summits, nor will they reach them, till
all that vapoury ten-mile-long mass dissolve, or be scattered, and then
you start to see them, as if therein had been but their bases, THE
MOUNTAINS, with here and there a peak illumined, reposing in the blue
serene that smiles as if all the while it had been above reach of the

The power of Egoism accompanies us into solitude; nay, is even more
life-pervading there than in the hum of men. There the stocks and stones
are more impressible than those we sometimes stumble on in human
society, and, moulded at our will, take what shape we choose to give
them; the trees follow our footsteps, though our lips be mute, and we
may have left at home our fiddle--more potent we in our actuality than
the fabled Orpheus. Be hushed, ye streams, and listen unto Christopher!
Be chained, ye clouds, and attentive unto North! And at our bidding
silent the cataract on the cliff--the thunder on the sky. The sea
beholds us on the shore--and his one huge frown transformed into a
multitudinous smile, he turns flowing affections towards us along the
golden sands--and in a fluctuating hindrance of lovely foam-wreaths
envelopes our feet!

To return to Thomson. Wordsworth labours to prove, in one of his
"postliminious prefaces," that the true spirit of "The Seasons," till
long after their publication, was neither felt nor understood. In the
conduct of his argument he does not shine. That the poem was at once
admired he is forced to admit; but then, according to him, the
admiration was false and hollow--it was regarded but with that wonder
which is the "natural product of ignorance." After having observed that,
excepting the "Nocturnal Reverie" of Lady Winchilsea, and a passage or
two in the "Windsor Forest" of Pope, the poetry of the period
intervening between the publication of the "Paradise Lost" and "The
Seasons" does not contain a single new image of external nature, he
proceeds to call the once well-known verses of Dryden in the "Indian
Emperor," descriptive of the hush of night, "vague, bombastic, and
senseless," and Pope's celebrated translation of the moonlight scene in
the "Iliad," altogether "absurd,"--and then, without ever once dreaming
of any necessity of showing them to be so, or even, if he had succeeded
in doing so, of the utter illogicality of any argument drawn from their
failure to establish the point he is hammering at, he all at once says,
with the most astounding assumption, "_having shown_ that much of what
his [Thomson's] biographer deemed genuine admiration, must, in fact,
have been blind wonderment--how is the rest to be accounted for?"
_"Having shown"!!!_ Why, he has shown nothing but his own arrogance in
supposing that his mere _ipse dixit_ will be taken by the whole world as
proof that Dryden and Pope had not the use of their eyes. "Strange to
think of an enthusiast," he says (alluding to the passage in Pope's
translation of the "Iliad"), "as may have been the case with thousands,
reciting those verses under the cope of a moonlight sky, without having
his raptures in the least disturbed by a suspicion of their
_absurdity_!" We are no enthusiasts--we are far too old for that folly;
but we have eyes in our head, though sometimes rather dim and motey, and
as good eyes, too, as Mr Wordsworth, and we often have recited--and hope
often will recite them again--Pope's exquisite lines, not only without
any "suspicion of their absurdity," but with the conviction of a most
devout belief that, with some little vagueness perhaps, and repetition,
and a word here and there that might be altered for the better, the
description is most beautiful. But grant it miserable--grant all Mr
Wordsworth has so dictatorially uttered--and what then? Though
descriptive poetry did not flourish during the period between "Paradise
Lost" and "The Seasons," nevertheless, did not mankind enjoy the use of
their seven senses? Could they not see and hear without the aid of those
oculists and aurists, the poets? Were all the shepherds and
agriculturists of England and Scotland blind and deaf to all the sights
and sounds of nature, and all the gentlemen and ladies too, from the
king and queen upon the throne, to the lowest of their subjects? Very
like a whale! Causes there were why poetry flowed during that era in
another channel than that of the description of natural scenery; and if
it flowed too little in that channel then--which is true--equally is it
true that it flows now in it too much--especially among the poets of the
Lake School, to the neglect, not of sentiments and affections--for there
they excel--but of strong direct human passion applied to the stir and
tumult--of which the interest is profound and eternal--of all the great
affairs of human life. But though the descriptive poets during the
period between Milton and Thomson were few and indifferent, no reason is
there in this world for imagining, with Mr Wordsworth, that men had
forgotten both the heavens and the earth. They had not--nor was the
wonder with which they must have regarded the great shows of nature, the
"natural product of ignorance," then, any more than it is now, or ever
was during a civilised age. If we be right in saying so--then neither
could the admiration which "The Seasons," on the first appearance of
that glorious poem, excited, be said, with any truth, to have been but a
"wonder, the natural product of ignorance."

Mr Wordsworth having thus signally failed in his attempt to show that
"much of what Thomson's biographer deemed genuine admiration, must, in
fact, have been blind wonderment," let us accompany him in his equally
futile efforts to show "how the rest is to be accounted for." He
attempts to do so after this fashion: "Thomson was fortunate in the very
title of his poem, which seemed to bring it home to the prepared
sympathies of every one; in the next place, notwithstanding his high
powers, he writes a vicious style; and his false ornaments are exactly
of that kind which would be most likely to strike the undiscerning. He
likewise abounds with sentimental commonplaces, that, from the manner in
which they were brought forward, bore an imposing air of novelty. In any
well-used copy of 'The Seasons,' the book generally opens of itself with
the Rhapsody on Love, or with one of the stories, perhaps of Damon and
Musidora. These also are prominent in our Collections of Extracts, and
are the parts of his work which, after all, were probably most efficient
in first recommending the author to general notice."

Thomson, in one sense, _was fortunate_ in the _title_ of his poem. But a
great poet like Wordsworth might--nay, ought to have chosen another
word--or have given of that word a loftier explanation, when applied to
Thomson's _choice_ of the Seasons for the subject of his immortal poem.
Genius made that choice--not fortune. The "Seasons" are not merely the
"_title_" of his poem--they are his poem, and his poem is the Seasons.
But how, pray, can Thomson be said to have been _fortunate_ in the
_title_ or the subject either of his poem, in the sense that Mr
Wordsworth means? Why, according to him, people knew little, and cared
less, about the Seasons. "The art of seeing had in some measure been
learned!" That he allows--but that was all--and that all is but
little--and surely far from being enough to have disposed people in
general to listen to the strains of a poet who painted nature in all her
moods, and under all her aspects. Thomson, then, we say, was either most
_unfortunate_ in the title of his poem, or there was not with the many
that indifference to, and ignorance of natural scenery, on which Mr
Wordsworth so strenuously insists as part, or rather whole, of his
preceding argument.

The title, Mr Wordsworth says, seemed "to bring the poem home to the
_prepared sympathies_ of every one!" What! to the prepared sympathies of
those who had merely, in some measure, learned the "art of seeing," and
who had "paid," as he says in another sentence, "little accurate
attention to the appearances of nature!" Never did the weakest mind ever
fall into grosser contradictions than does here one of the strongest, in
vainly labouring to bolster up a silly assertion, which he has
desperately ventured on from a most mistaken conceit that it was
necessary to account for the kind of reception which his own poetry had
met with from the present age. The truth is, that had Mr Wordsworth
known, when he indited these luckless and helpless sentences, that his
own poetry was, in the best sense of the word, a thousand times more
popular than he supposed it to be--and Heaven be praised, for the honour
of the age, it was and is so!--never had they been written, nor had he
here and elsewhere laboured to prove that in proportion as poetry is
bad, or rather as it is no poetry at all, is it, has been, and always
will be, more and more popular in the age contemporary with the writer.
That Thomson, in "The Seasons," _sometimes_ writes a _vicious style_,
may be true; but it is not true that he _often_ does so. His style has
its faults, no doubt, and some of them inextricably interwoven with the
web of his composition. It is a dangerous style to imitate--especially
to dunces. But its _virtue is divine_; and that _divine virtue_, even in
this low world of ours, wins admiration more surely and widely than
_earthly vice_--be it in words, thoughts, feelings, or actions--is a
creed that we will not relinquish at the beck or bidding even of the
great author of "The Excursion."

That many did--do--and will admire the bad or indifferent passages in
"The Seasons"--won by their false glitter or commonplace sentimentalism,
is no doubt true: but the delight, though as intense as perhaps it may
be foolish, with which boys and virgins, woman-mantuamakers and
man-milliners, and "the rest," peruse the Rhapsody on Love--one passage
of which we ventured to be facetious on in our Soliloquy on the
Seasons--and hang over the picture of Musidora undressing, while Damon
watches the process of disrobement, panting behind a tree, will never
account for the admiration with which the whole world hailed the
"Winter," the first published of "The Seasons;" during which, Thomson
had not the barbarity to plunge any young lady naked into the cold bath,
nor the ignorance to represent, during such cold weather, any young lady
turning her lover sick by the ardour of her looks, and the vehemence of
her whole enamoured deportment. The time never was--nor could have
been--when such passages were generally esteemed the glory of the poem.
Indeed, independently of its own gross absurdity, the assertion is at
total variance with that other assertion, equally absurd, that people
admired most in the poem what they least understood; for the Rhapsody on
Love is certainly very intelligible, nor does there seem much mystery in
Musidora going into the water to wash and cool herself on a hot day. Is
it not melancholy, then, to hear such a man as Mr Wordsworth,
earnestly, and even somewhat angrily, trying to prove that "these are
the parts of the work which, after all, were probably most efficient in
first recommending the author to general notice?"

With respect to the "sentimental commonplaces with which Thomson
abounds," no doubt they were and are popular; and many of them deserve
to be so, for they are on a level with the usual current of human
feeling, and many of them are eminently beautiful. Thomson had not the
philosophical genius of Wordsworth, but he had a warm human heart, and
its generous feelings overflow all his poem. These are not the most
poetical parts of "The Seasons," certainly, where such effusions
prevail; but still, so far from being either _vicious_ or _worthless_,
they have often a virtue and a worth that must be felt by all the
children of men. There is something not very credible in the situation
of the parties in the story of the "lovely young Lavinia," for example,
and much of the sentiment is commonplace enough; but will Mr Wordsworth
say--in support of his theory, that the worst poetry is always at first
(and at last too, it would seem, from the pleasure with which that tale
is still read by all simple minds) the most popular--that that story is
a bad one? It is a very beautiful one.

Mr Wordsworth, in all his argumentation, is so blinded by his
determination to see everything in but one light, and that a most
mistaken one, that he is insensible to the conclusion to which it all
leads, or rather, which is involved in it. Why, according to him, _even
now_, when people have not only learned the "art of seeing"--a blessing
for which they can never be too thankful--but when descriptive poetry
has long flourished far beyond its palmiest state in any other era of
our literature, still are we poor common mortals who admire "The
Seasons," just as deaf and blind now, or nearly so, to their real
merits--allowed to be transcendent--as our unhappy forefathers were when
that poem first appeared, "a glorious apparition." The Rhapsody on Love,
and Damon and Musidora, are still, according to him, its chief
attraction--its false ornaments--and its sentimental commonplaces--such
as those, we presume, on the benefits of early rising, and,

    "Oh! little think the gay licentious proud!"

What a nest of ninnies must people in general be in Mr Wordsworth's
eyes! And is "The Excursion" not to be placed by the side of "Paradise
Lost," till the Millennium?

Such is the _reasoning (!)_ of one of the first of our English poets,
against not only the people of Britain, but mankind. One other sentence
there is which we had forgotten--but now remember--which is to help us
to distinguish, in the case of the reception "The Seasons" met with,
between "wonder and legitimate admiration!" "The subject of the work is
the changes produced in the appearances of nature by the revolution of
the year; _and, undertaking to write in verse, Thomson pledged himself
to treat his subject as became a poet_!" How original and profound!
Thomson redeemed his pledge; and that great pawnbroker, the public,
returned to him his poem at the end of a year and a day. Now, what is
the "mighty stream of tendency" of that remark? Were the public, or the
people, or the world, gulled by this unheard-of pledge of Thomson, to
regard his work with that "wonder which is the natural product of
ignorance!" If they were so in his case, why not in every other? All
poets pledge themselves to be poetical, but too many of them are
wretchedly prosaic--die and are buried, or what is worse, protract a
miserable existence, in spite of their sentimental commonplaces, false
ornaments, and a vicious style. But Thomson, in spite of all these,
leapt at once into a glorious life, and a still more glorious

There is no mystery in the matter. Thomson--a great poet--poured his
genius over a subject of universal interest; and "The Seasons" from that
hour to this--then, now, and for ever--have been, are, and will be
loved, and admired by all the world. All over Scotland "The Seasons" is
a household book. Let the taste and feeling shown by the Collectors of
Elegant Extracts be poor as possible; yet Thomson's countrymen, high and
low, rich and poor, have all along not only gloried in his illustrious
fame, but have made a very manual of his great work. It lies in many
thousand cottages. We have ourselves seen it in the shepherd's shieling,
and in the woodsman's bower--small, yellow-leaved, tatter'd, mean,
miserable, calf-skin-bound, smoked, _stinking_ copies--let us not fear
to utter the word, ugly but true--yet perused, pored, and pondered over
by those humble dwellers, by the winter ingle or on the summer brae,
perhaps with as enlightened--certainly with as imagination-overmastering
a delight as ever enchained the spirits of the high-born and
highly-taught to their splendid copies lying on richly-carved tables,
and bound in crimson silk or velvet, in which the genius of painting
strives to embody that of poetry, and the printer's art to lend its
beauty to the very shape of the words in which the bard's immortal
spirit is enshrined. "The art of seeing" has flourished for many
centuries in Scotland. Men, women, and children, all look up to her
loveful blue or wrathful black skies, with a weather-wisdom that keeps
growing from the cradle to the grave. Say not that 'tis alone

    "The poor Indian, whose untutor'd mind
    Sees God in clouds, and hears Him in the wind!"

In Scriptural language, loftier even than that, the same imagery is
applied to the sights seen by the true believer. Who is it "that maketh
the clouds His chariot?" The Scottish peasantry--Highland and
Lowland--look much and often on nature thus; and they live in the heart
of the knowledge and of the religion of nature. Therefore do they love
Thomson as an inspired bard--only a little lower than the Prophets. In
like manner have the people of Scotland--from time immemorial--enjoyed
the use of their ears. Even persons somewhat hard of hearing, are not
deaf to her waterfalls. In the sublime invocation to Winter, which we
have quoted--we hear Thomson recording his own worship of nature in his
boyish days, when he roamed among the hills of his father's parish, far
away from the manse. In those strange and stormy delights did not
thousands of thousands of the Scottish boyhood familiarly live among the
mists and snows? Of all that number he alone had the genius to "here
eternise on earth" his joy--but many millions have had souls to join
religiously in the hymns he chanted. Yea, his native land, with one
mighty voice, has for upwards of a century responded,

    "These, as they change, Almighty Father, these
      Are but the varied God!"


Beautiful as Snow yet is to our eyes, even through our spectacles, how
grey it looks beside that which used to come with the long winters that
glorified the earth in our youth, till the white lustre was more
delightful even than the green--and we prayed that the fine fleecy
flakes might never cease falling waveringly from the veil of the sky! No
sooner comes the winter now, than it is away again to one of the Poles.
Then, it was a year in itself--a whole life. We remember slides a
quarter of a mile long, on level meadows; and some not less steep, down
the sides of hills that to us were mountains. No boy can slide on one
leg now--not a single shoe seems to have sparables. The florid style of
skating shows that that fine art is degenerating; and we look in vain
for the grand simplicity of the masters that spread-eagled in the age of
its perfection. A change has come over the spirit of the curler's dream.
They seem to our ears indeed to have "quat their roaring play." The cry
of "swoop-swoop" is heard still--but a faint, feeble, and unimpassioned
cry, compared with that which used, on the Mearns Brother-Loch, to make
the welkin ring, and for a moment to startle the moon and stars--those
in the sky, as well as those below the ice--till again the tumult
subsided--and all the host of heaven above and beneath became serene as
a world of dreams. Is it not even so, Shepherd? What is a rink now on a
pond in Duddingston policy, to the rinks that rang and roared of old on
the Loch o' the Lowes, when every stone circled in a halo of spray,
seemed instinct with spirit to obey, along all its flight, the voice of
him that launched it on its unerring aim, and sometimes, in spite of his
awkward skillessness, when the fate of the game hung on his own single
crank, went cannonading through all obstacles, till it fell asleep,
like a beauty as it was, just as it kissed the Tee!

Again we see--again we sit in the Snow-house, built by us boys out of a
drift in the minister's glebe, a drift--judging by the steeple, which
was sixty--about twenty feet high--and purer than any marble. The roof
was all strewed with diamonds, which frost saved from the sun. The porch
of the palace was pillared--and the character of the building outside
was, without any servile imitation--for we worked in the glow of
original genius, and none of us had then ever seen itself or its
picture--wonderfully like the Parthenon. Entering, you found yourself in
a superb hall, lighted up--not with gas, for up to that era gas had not
been used except in Pandemonium--but with a vast multitude of farthing
candles, each in a turnip stuck into the wall--while a chandelier of
frozen snow-branches pendent from the roof set that presence-chamber in
a blaze. On a throne at the upper end sat young Christopher North--then
the king of boys, as now of men--and proud were his subjects to do him
homage. In niches all around the sidewalls were couches covered with
hare, rabbit, foumart, and fox's skins--furnished by these animals slain
by us in the woods and among the rocks of that sylvan and moorland
parish--the regal Torus alone being spread with the dun-deer's hide from
Lochiel Forest in Lochaber. Then old airs were sung--in sweet single
voice--or in full chorus that startled the wandering night traveller on
his way to the lone Kings-well; and then in the intermediate hush, old
tales were told "of goblin, ghost, or fairy," or of Wallace Wight at the
Barns of Ayr or the Brig o' Stirling--or, a glorious outlaw, harbouring
in caves among the Cartlane Craigs--or of Robert Bruce the Deliverer, on
his shelty cleaving in twain the skull of Bohun the English knight, on
his thundering war-steed, armed cap-à-pie, while the King of Scotland
had nothing on his unconquered head but his plain golden crown. Tales of
the Snow-house! Had we but the genius to recall you to life in undying

Nor was our frozen hall at times uncheered by the smiles of beauty. With
those smiles was heard the harmless love-whisper, and the harmless kiss
of love; for the cottages poured forth their little lasses in
flower-like bands, nor did their parents fear to trust them in the fairy
frozen palace, where Christopher was king. Sometimes the old people
themselves came to see the wonders of the lamp, and on a snow-table
stood a huge bowl--not of snow--steaming with nectar that made Hyems
smile as he hung his beard over the fragrant vapour. Nay, the minister
himself--with his mother and sister--was with us in our fantastic
festivities, and gave to the architecture of our palace his wondering
praise. Then Andrew Lyndsey, the blind Paisley musician, a Latin
scholar, who knew where Cremona stood, struck up on his famous fiddle
jig or strathspey--and the swept floor, in a moment, was alive with a
confused flight of foursome reels, each begun and ended with kisses, and
maddened by many a whoop and yell--so like savages were we in our glee,
dancing at the marriage of some island king!

Countless years have fled since that Snow-palace melted away--and of all
who danced there, how many are now alive! Pshaw! as many probably as
then danced anywhere else. It would never do to live for ever--let us
then live well and wisely; and when death comes--from that sleep how
blessed to awake! in a region where is no frost--no snow--but the sun of
eternal life.

Mercy on us! what a hubbub!--Can the harriers be hunting in such a
snowfall as this, and is poor pussy in view before the whole murderous
pack, opening in full cry on her haunches? Why--Imagination, thou art an
ass, and thy long ears at all times greedy of deception! 'Tis but a
country Schoolhouse pouring forth its long-imprisoned stream of life as
in a sudden sunny thaw, the Mad Master flying in the van of his
helter-skelter scholars, and the whole yelling mass precipitated, many
of them headlong, among the snow. Well do we know the fire-eyed Poet
pedagogue, who, more outrageous than Apollo, has "ravished all the
Nine." Ode, elegy, epic, tragedy, or farce--all come alike to him; and
of all the bards we have ever known--and the sum total cannot be under a
thousand--he alone, judging from the cock and the squint of his eye,
labours under the blessing or the curse--we wot not whilk it be--of
perpetual inspiration. A rare eye, too, is his at the setting of a
springe for woodcocks, or tracking a maukin on the snow. Not a daredevil
in the school that durst follow the indentations of his toes and fingers
up the wall of the old castle, to the holes just below the battlements,
to thrust his arm up to the elbows harrying the starlings' nests. The
corbies ken the shape of his shoulders, as craftily he threads the wood;
and let them build their domicile as high as the swinging twigs will
bear its weight, agile as squirrel, and as foumart ferocious, up speels,
by the height undizzied, the dreadless Dominie; and should there be
fledged or puddock-haired young ones among the wool, whirling with
guttural cawings down a hundred feet descent, on the hard rooty ground
floor from which springs pine, oak, or ash, driven out is the life, with
a squelsh and a squash, from the worthless carrion. At swimming we
should not boggle to back him for the trifle of a cool hundred against
the best survivor among those water-serpents, Mr Turner, Dr Bedale,
Lieutenant Ekenhead, Lord Byron, Leander, and Ourselves--while, with the
steel shiners on his soles, into what a set of ninnies in their ring
would he not reduce the Edinburgh Skating Club?

Saw ye ever a Snowball Bicker? Never! Then look there with all the eyes
in your head--only beware of a bash on the bridge of your nose, a bash
that shall dye the snow with your virgin blood. The Poet-pedagogue,
_alias_ the Mad Dominie, with Bob Howie as his Second in Command, has
chosen the Six stoutest striplings for his troop, and, at the head of
that Sacred Band, offers battle to Us at the head of the whole School.
Nor does that formidable force decline the combat. War levels all
foolish distinctions of scholarship. Booby is Dux now, and Dux
Booby--and the obscure dunce is changed into an illustrious hero.

    "The combat deepens--on, ye brave,
    Who rush to glory or the grave!
    Wave, Nitton, all thy banners wave,
      And charge with all thy schoolery!"

Down from the mount on which it had been drawn up in battle array, in
solid square comes the School army, with shouts that might waken the
dead, and inspire with the breath of life the nostrils of the great
Snow-giant built up at the end of yonder avenue, and indurated by last
night's frost. But there lies a fresh fall--and a better day for a
bicker never rose flakily from the yellow East. Far out of distance, and
prodigal of powder lying three feet deep on the flats, and heaped up in
drifts to tree and chimney-top, the tirailleurs, flung out in front,
commence the conflict by a shower of balls that, from the bosom of the
yet untrodden snow between the two battles, makes spin like spray the
shining surface. Then falling back on the main body, they find their
places in the front rank, and the whole mottled mass, grey, blue, and
scarlet, moves onwards o'er the whiteness, a moment ere they close,

    "Calm as the breeze, but dreadful as the storm!"

"Let fly," cries a clear voice--and the snowball storm hurtles through
the sky. Just then the valley-mouth blew sleety in the faces of the
foe--their eyes, as if darkened with snuff or salt, blinked
bat-like--and with erring aim flew their feckless return to that shower
of frosty fire. Incessant is the silent cannonade of the resistless
School--silent but when shouts proclaim the fall or flight of some
doughty champion in the adverse legion.

See--see--the Sacred Band are broken! The cravens take ignominiously to
flight--and the Mad Dominie and Bob Howie alone are left to bear the
brunt of battle. A dreadful brotherhood! But the bashing balls are
showered upon them right and left from scores of catapultic arms--and
the day is going sore against them, though they fight less like men than
devils. Hurra! the Dominie's down, and Bob staggers. "Guards, up and at
them!" "A simultaneous charge of cocks, hens, and earocks!" No sooner
said than done. Bob Howie is buried--and the whole School is trampling
on its Master!

    "Oh, for a blast of that dread horn,
    On Fontarabian echoes borne,
      That to King Charles did come,
    When Rowland brave and Olivier,
    And every paladin and peer,
      On Roncesvalles died!"

The smothered ban of Bob, and the stifled denunciations of the Dominie,
have echoed o'er the hill, and,

    "Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,"

the runaways, shaking the snows of panic from their pows,

    "Like dewdrops from the lion's mane,"

come rushing to the rescue. Two of the Six tremble and turn. The high
heroic scorn of their former selves urges four to renew the charge, and
the sound of their feet on the snow is like that of an earthquake. What
bashes on bloody noses! What bungings-up of eyes! Of lips what
slittings! Red is many a spittle! And as the coughing urchin groans, and
claps his hand to his mouth, distained is the snowball that drops
unlaunched at his feet. The School are broken--their hearts die within
them--and--can we trust our blasted eyes?--the white livers show the
white feather, and fly! O shame! O sorrow! O sin! they turn their backs
and fly! Disgraced are the mothers that bore them--and "happy in my
mind," wives and widows, "were ye that died," undoomed to hear the
tidings of this wretched overthrow! Heavens and earth! sixty are flying
before Six!--and half of sixty--oh! that we should record it!--_are
pretending to be dead!!_ Would indeed that the snow were their
winding-sheet, so that it might but hide our dishonour!

Look, we beseech you, at the Mad Dominie! like Hector issuing from the
gates of Troy, and driving back the Greeks to their ships; or
rather--hear, spirit of Homer!--like some great, shaggy, outlandish
wolf-dog, that hath swum ashore from some strange wreck, and, after a
fortnight's famine on the bare sea-cliffs, been driven by the hunger
that gnaws his stomach like a cancer, and the thirst-fever that can only
be slaked in blood, to venture prowling for prey up the vale, till,
snuffing the scent of a flock of sheep, after some grim tiger-like
creeping on his belly, he springs at last, with huge long spangs, on the
woolly people, with bull-like growlings quailing their poor harmless
hearts, and then fast throttling them, one after another--till, as it
might seem rather in wantonness of rage than in empty pangs, he lies
down at last in the midst of all the murdered carcasses, licking the
blood off his flews and paws--and then, looking and listening round with
his red turbid eyes, and sharp-pointed ears savagely erect, conscious of
crime and fearful of punishment, soon as he sees and hears that all the
coast is clear and still, again gloatingly fastens his tusks behind the
ears, and then eats into the kidneys of the fattest of the flock, till,
sated with gore and tallow, he sneaks stealthily into the wood, and
coiling himself up all his wiry length--now no longer lank, but swollen
and knotted like that of a deer-devouring snake--he falls suddenly
asleep, and re-banquets in a dream of murder.

That simile was conceived in the spirit of Dan Homer, but delivered in
that of Kit North. No matter. Like two such wolf-dogs are now Bob Howie
and the Mad Dominie--and the School like such silly sheep. Those other
hell-dogs are leaping in the rear--and to the eyes of fear and flight
each one of the Six seems more many-headed than Cerberus, while their
mouths kindle the frosty air into fire, and thunder-bolts pursue the
pell-mell of the panic.

Such and so imaginative is not only mental but corporeal fear. What
though it be but a Snowball bicker! The air is darkened--no, brightened
by the balls, as in many a curve they describe their airy flight--some
hard as stones--some soft as slush--some blae and drippy in the cold-hot
hand that launches them on the flying foe, and these are the
teazers--some almost transparent in the cerulean sky, and broken ere
they reach their aim, abortive "armamentaria coeli"--and some useless
from the first, and felt, as they leave the palm, to be fozier than the
foziest turnip, and unfit to bash a fly.

Far and wide, over hill, bank, and brae, are spread the flying School!
Squads of us, at sore sixes and sevens, are making for the frozen woods.
Alas! poor covert now in their naked leaflessness for the stricken deer!
Twos and threes in miserable plight floundering in drift-wreaths! And
here and there--woefullest sight of all--single boys distractedly
ettling at the sanctuaries of distant houses--with their heads all the
while insanely twisted back over their shoulders, and the glare of their
eyes fixed frightfully on the swift-footed Mad Dominie, till souse over
neck and ears, bubble and squeak, precipitated into traitorous pitfall,
and in a moment evanished from this upper world!

Disturbed crows fly away a short distance and alight silent,--the
magpies chatter pert even in alarm,--the lean kine, collected on the
lown sides of braes, wonder at the rippet--their horns moving, but not
their tails,--while the tempest-tamed bull--almost dull now as an
ox--gives a short sullen growl as he feebly paws the snow.

But who is he--the tall slender boy--slender, but sinewy--a wiry
chap--five feet eight on his stocking-soles--and on his stocking-soles
he stands--for the snow has sucked his shoes from his feet--that plants
himself like an oak sapling, rooted ankle-deep on a knoll, and there, a
juvenile Jupiter Stator, with voice and arm arrests the Flight, and
fiercely gesticulating vengeance on the insolent foe, recalls and
rallies the shattered School, that he may re-lead them to victory? The
phantom of a visionary dream! KIT NORTH HIMSELF--

    "In life's morning march when his spirit was young."

And once on a day was that figure--ours! Then like a chamois-hunter of
the Alps! Now, alas! like--

    "But be hush'd, my dark spirit--for wisdom condemns,
      When the faint and the feeble deplore;
    Be strong as a rock of the ocean that stems
      A thousand wild waves on the shore.
    Through the perils of chance and the scowl of disdain,
      Let thy front be unalter'd, thy courage elate;
    _Yea! even the name we have worshipp'd in vain_
    Shall awake not a pang of remembrance again;
      _To bear, is to conquer our fate!_"

Half a century is annihilated as if it had never been: it is as if young
Kit had become not old Kit--but were standing now as then front to
front, with but a rood of trampled snow between them, before the Mad
Dominie and Bob Howie--both the bravest of the brave in Snowball or
Stone bicker--in street, lane, or muir fight--hand to hand,
single-pitched with Black King Carey of the Gypsies--or in irregular
high-road row--two to twelve--with a gang of Irish horse-coupers from
the fair of Glasgow returning by Portpatrick to Donaghadee. 'Tis a
strange thing so distinctly to see One's Self as he looked of yore--to
lose one's present frail personal identity in that of the powerful past.
Or rather to admire One's Self as he _was_, without consciousness of the
mean vice of egotism, because of the pity almost bordering on contempt
with which One regards One's Self as he _is_, shrivelled up into a sort
of shrimp of a man--or blown out into a flounder.

The Snowball bicker owns an armistice--and Kit North--that is, we of the
olden and the golden time--advance into the debatable ground between the
two armies, with a frozen branch in our hand as a flag of truce. The Mad
Dominie loved us, because then-a-days--bating and barring the cock and
the squint of his eye--we were like himself a poet, and while a goose
might continue standing on one leg, could have composed one jolly act of
a tragedy, or book of an epic, while Bob--God bless him!--to guard us
from scathe would have risked his life against a whole craal of tinkers.
With open arms they come forward to receive us; but our blood is up--and
we are jealous of the honour of the School, which has received a stain
which must be wiped out in blood. From what mixed motives act boys and
men in the deeds deemed most heroic, and worthy of the meed of
everlasting fame! Even so is it now with us--when sternly eyeing the
other Six, and then respectfully the Mad Dominie, we challenge--not at
long bowls--but toe to toe, at the scratch on the snow, with the naked
mawlies, the brawny boy with the red shock-head, the villain with the
carrots, who, by moonlight nights,

    "Round the stacks with the lasses at bogles to play,"

had dared to stand between us and the ladye of our love. Off fly our
jackets and stocks--it is not a day for buff--and at it like bull-dogs.
Twice before had we fought him--at our own option--over the bonnet; for
'twas a sturdy villain, and famous for the cross-buttock. But now, after
the first close, in which we lose the fall--with straight right-handers
we keep him at off-fighting--and that was a gush of blood from his
smeller. "How do you like that, Ben?" Giving his head, with a mad rush,
he makes a plunge with his heavy left--for he was ker-handed--at our
stomach. But a dip of our right elbow caught the blow, to the loud
admiration of Bob Howie--and even the Mad Dominie, the umpire, could not
choose but smile. Like lightning, our left returns between the
ogles--and Ben bites the snow. Three cheers from the School--and, lifted
on the knee of his second, James Maxwell Wallace, since signalised at
Waterloo, and now a knighted colonel of horse, "he grins horribly a
ghastly smile," and is brought up staggering to the scratch. We know
that we have him--and ask considerately, "what he means by winking?" And
now we play around him,

    "Just like unto a trundling mop,
    Or a wild-goose at play."

He is brought down now to our own weight--then nine stone jimp--his
eyes are getting momently more and more pig-like--water-logged, like
those of Queen Bleary, whose stone image lies in the echoing aisle of
the old Abbey Church of Paisley--and bat-blind, he hits past our head
and body, like an awkward hand at the flail, when drunk, thrashing corn.
Another hit on the smeller, and a stinger on the throat-apple--and down
he sinks like a poppy--deaf to the call of "time"--and victory smiles
upon us from the bright blue skies. "Hurra--hurra--hurra! Christopher
for ever!" and perched aloft, astride on the shoulders of Bob Howie--he,
the Invincible, gallops with us all over the field, followed by the
shouting School, exulting that Ben the Bully has at last met with an
overthrow. We exact an oath that he will never again meddle with Meg
Whitelaw--shake hands cordially, and

    "Off to some other game we all together flew."

And so ended the famous Snowball Bicker of Pedmount, now immortalised in
our Prose-Poem.

Some men, it is sarcastically said, are boys all life-long, and carry
with them their puerility to the grave. 'Twould be well for the world
were there in it more such men. By way of proving their manhood, we have
heard grown-up people abuse their own boyhood--forgetting what our great
Philosophical Poet--after Milton and Dryden--has told them, that

    "The boy is father of the man,"

and thus libelling the author of their existence. A poor boy indeed must
he have been, who submitted to misery when the sun was new in heaven.
Did he hate or despise the flowers around his feet, congratulating him
on being young like themselves? the stars, young always, though Heaven
only knows how many million years old, every night sparkling in
happiness which they manifestly wished him to share? Did he indeed in
his heart believe that the moon, in spite of her shining midnight face,
was made of green cheese? Not only are the foundations dug and laid in
boyhood, of all the knowledge and the feelings of our prime, but the
ground-flat too built, and often the second story of the entire
superstructure, from the windows of which, the soul looking out, beholds
nature in her state, and leaps down, unafraid of a fall on the green or
white bosom of earth, to join with hymns the front of the procession.
The soul afterwards perfects her palace--building up tier after tier of
all imaginable orders of architecture--till the shadowy roof, gleaming
with golden cupolas, like the cloud-region of the setting sun, set the
heavens ablaze.

Gaze up on the highest idea--gaze down on the profoundest emotion--and
you will know and feel in a moment that it is not a new birth. You
become a devout believer in the Pythagorean and Platonic doctrine of
metempsychosis and reminiscence, and are awed by the mysterious
consciousness of the thought "BEFORE!" Try then to fix its date, and
back travels your soul, now groping its way in utter darkness, and now
in darkness visible--now launching along lines of steady lustre, such as
the moon throws on the broad bosoms of starry lakes--now dazzled by
sudden contrast--

    "Blind with excess of light!"

But back let it travel, as best or worst it may, through and amidst eras
after eras of the wan or radiant past; yet never, except for some sweet
instant of delusion, breaking dewdrop-like at a touch or a breath,
during all that perilous pilgrimage--and perilous must it be, haunted by
so many ghosts--never may it reach the shrine it seeks--the fountain
from which first flowed that feeling whose origin seems to have been out
of the world of time--dare we say--in eternity!


How graciously provided are all the subdivisions of Time, diversifying
the dream of human life! And why should moralists mourn over the
mutability that gives the chief charm to all that passes so transitorily
before our eyes!--leaving image upon image in the waters of memory, that
can bear being stirred without being disturbed, and contain steadier and
steadier reflections as they seem to repose on an unfathomable
depth!--the years, the months, the weeks, the days, the nights, the
hours, the minutes, the moments, each in itself a different living, and
peopled, and haunted world. One life is a thousand lives, and each
individual, as he fully renews the past, reappears in a thousand
characters; yet all of them bearing a mysterious identity not to be
misunderstood, and all of them, while every passion has been shifting
and ceasing, and reascending into power, still under the dominion of the
same Conscience, that feels and knows it is from God.

Who will complain of the shortness of human life, that can re-travel all
the windings, and wanderings, and mazes that his feet have trodden since
the farthest back hour at which memory pauses, baffled and blindfolded,
as she vainly tries to penetrate and illumine the palpable, the
impervious darkness that shrouds the few first years of our inscrutable
being? Long, long, long ago seems it to be indeed, when we now remember
it, the Time we first pulled the primroses on the sunny braes, wondering
in our first blissful emotions of beauty at the leaves with a softness
all their own--a yellowness nowhere else so vivid--"the bright
consummate flower" so starlike to our awakened imagination among the
lowly grass--lovely indeed to our admiring eyes as any one of all the
stars that, in their turn, did seem themselves like flowers in the blue
fields of heaven! Long, long, long ago, the time when we danced hand in
hand with our golden-haired sister! Long, long, long ago, the day on
which she died--the hour, so far more dismal than any hour that can now
darken us on this earth, when her coffin descended slowly, slowly into
the horrid clay, and we were borne death-like, and wishing to die, out
of the churchyard, that, from that moment, we thought we could enter
never more! What a multitudinous being must ours have been, when, before
our boyhood was gone, we could have forgotten her buried face! or at the
dream of it, dashed off a tear, and away, with a bounding heart, in the
midst of a cloud of playmates, breaking into fragments on the hill-side,
and hurrying round the shores of those wild moorland lochs, in vain hope
to surprise the heron that slowly uplifted his blue bulk, and floated
away, regardless of our shouts, to the old castle woods. It is all like
a reminiscence of some other state of existence.

Then, after all the joys and sorrows of those few years, which we now
call transitory, but which our BOYHOOD felt as if they would be
endless--as if they would endure for ever--arose upon us the glorious
dawning of another new life--YOUTH--with its insupportable sunshine, and
its agitating storms. Transitory, too, we now know, and well deserving
the same name of dream. But while it lasted, long, various, and
agonising; as, unable to sustain the eyes that first revealed to us the
light of love, we hurried away from the parting hour, and, looking up to
moon and stars, invocated in sacred oaths, hugged the very heavens to
our heart. Yet life had not then nearly reached its meridian, journeying
up the sunbright firmament. How long hung it there exulting, when "it
flamed on the forehead of the noontide sky!" Let not the Time be
computed by the lights and shadows of the years, but by the innumerable
array of visionary thoughts, that kept deploying as if from one eternity
into another--now in dark sullen masses, now in long array, brightened
as if with spear-points and standards, and moving along through chasm,
abyss, and forest, and over the summits of the highest mountains, to the
sound of ethereal music, now warlike and tempestuous--now, as "from
flutes and soft recorders" accompanying not pæans of victory but hymns
of peace. That Life, too, seems, now that it is gone, to have been of a
thousand years. Is it gone? Its skirts are yet hovering on the horizon.
And is there yet another Life destined for us? That Life which men fear
to face--Age, Old Age! Four dreams within a dream--and _where_ to awake?

At dead of night--and it is now dead of night--how the heart quakes on a
sudden at the silent resurrection of buried thoughts! Perhaps the
sunshine of some one single Sabbath of more exceeding holiness comes
first glimmering, and then brightening upon us, with the very same
sanctity that filled all the air at the tolling of the kirk-bell, when
all the parish was hushed, and the voice of streams heard more
distinctly among the banks and braes. Then, all at once, a thunderstorm,
that many years before, or many years after, drove us, when walking
alone over the mountains, into a shieling, will seem to succeed; and we
behold the same threatening aspect of the heavens that then quailed our
beating hearts, and frowned down our eyelids before the lightning began
to flash, and the black rain to deluge all the glens. No need now for
any effort of thought. The images rise of themselves--independently of
our volition--as if another being, studying the working of our minds,
conjured up the phantasmagoria before us who are beholding it with love,
wonder, and fear. Darkness and silence have a power of sorcery over the
past; the soul has then, too, often restored to it feelings and thoughts
that it had lost, and is made to know that nothing it once experiences
ever perishes, but that all things spiritual possess a principle of
immortal life.

Why linger on the shadowy wall some of those phantasmagoria--returning
after they have disappeared--and reluctant to pass away into their
former oblivion? Why shoot others athwart the gloom, quick as spectral
figures seen hurrying among mountains during a great storm? Why do some
glare and threaten--why others fade away with a melancholy smile? Why
_that one_--a Figure all in white, and with white roses in her
hair--come forward through the haze, beautifying into distincter form
and face, till her pale beseeching hands almost touch our neck--and
then, in a moment, it is as nothing?

But now the room is disenchanted--and feebly our lamp is glimmering,
about to leave us to the light of the moon and stars. There it is
trimmed again--and the sudden increase of lustre cheers the heart within
us like a festal strain. And To-Morrow--To-Morrow is Merry Christmas;
and when its night descends there will be mirth and music, and the
light sound of the merry-twinkling feet within these now so melancholy
walls--and sleep, now reigning over all the house save this one room,
will be banished far over the sea--and morning will be reluctant to
allow her light to break up the innocent orgies.

Were every Christmas of which we have been present at the celebration,
painted according to nature--what a Gallery of Pictures! True that a
sameness would pervade them all--but only that kind of sameness that
pervades the nocturnal heavens. One clear night always is, to common
eyes, just like another; for what hath any night to show but one moon
and some stars--a blue vault, with here a few braided, and there a few
castellated, clouds? Yet no two nights ever bore more than a family
resemblance to each other before the studious and instructed eye of him
who has long communed with Nature, and is familiar with every smile and
frown on her changeful, but not capricious, countenance. Even so with
the Annual Festivals of the heart. Then our thoughts are the stars that
illumine those skies--and on ourselves it depends whether they shall be
black as Erebus, or brighter than Aurora.

    "Thoughts! that like spirits trackless come and go"--

is a fine line of Charles Lloyd's. But no bird skims, no arrow pierces
the air, without producing some change in the Universe, which will last
to the day of doom. No coming and going is absolutely trackless; nor
irrecoverable by Nature's law is any consciousness, however ghostlike;
though many a one, even the most blissful, never does return, but seems
to be buried among the dead. But they are not dead--but only sleep;
though to us who recall them not, they are as they had never been, and
we, wretched ingrates, let them lie for ever in oblivion! How passing
sweet when of their own accord they arise to greet us in our
solitude?--as a friend who, having sailed away to a foreign land in our
youth, has been thought to have died many long years ago, may suddenly
stand before us, with face still familiar and name reviving in a moment,
and all that he once was to us brought from utter forgetfulness close
upon our heart.

My Father's House! How it is ringing like a grove in spring, with the
din of creatures happier, a thousand times happier, than all the birds
on earth. It is the Christmas Holidays--Christmas Day itself--Christmas
Night--and Joy in every bosom intensifies Love. Never before were we
brothers and sisters so dear to one another--never before had our hearts
so yearned towards the authors of our being--our blissful being! There
they sit--silent in all that outcry--composed in all that
disarray--still in all that tumult; yet, as one or other flying imp
sweeps round the chair, a father's hand will playfully strive to catch a
prisoner--a mother's gentler touch on some sylph's disordered symar be
felt almost as a reproof, and for a moment slacken the fairy-flight. One
old game treads on the heels of another--twenty within the hour--and
many a new game never heard of before nor since, struck out by the
collision of kindred spirits in their glee, the transitory fancies of
genius inventive through very delight. Then, all at once, there is a
hush, profound as ever falls on some little plat within a forest when
the moon drops behind the mountain, and the small green-robed People of
Peace at once cease their pastime, and evanish. For She--the
Silver-Tongued--is about to sing an old ballad, words and air alike
hundreds of years old--and sing she doth, while tears begin to fall,
with a voice too mournfully beautiful long to breathe below--and, ere
another Christmas shall have come with the falling snows, doomed to be
mute on earth--but to be hymning in Heaven.

Of that House--to our eyes the fairest of earthly dwellings--with its
old ivied turrets, and orchard-garden bright alike with fruit and with
flowers, not one stone remains. The very brook that washed its
foundations has vanished along with them--and a crowd of other
buildings, wholly without character, has long stood where here a single
tree, and there a grove, did once render so lovely that small demesne;
which, how could we, who thought it the very heart of Paradise, even for
one moment have believed was one day to be blotted out of being, and we
ourselves--then so linked in love that the band which bound us all
together was, in its gentle pressure, felt not nor understood--to be
scattered far and abroad, like so many leaves that after one wild
parting rustle are separated by roaring wind-eddies, and brought
together no more! The old Abbey--it still survives; and there, in that
corner of the burial-ground, below that part of the wall which was
least in ruins, and which we often climbed to reach the flowers and
nests--there, in hopes of a joyful resurrection, lie the Loved and
Venerated--for whom, even now that so many grief-deadening years have
fled, we feel, in this holy hour, as if it were impiety so utterly to
have ceased to weep--so seldom to have remembered!--And then, with a
powerlessness of sympathy to keep pace with youth's frantic grief, the
floods we all wept together--at no long interval--on those pale and
placid faces as they lay, most beautiful and most dreadful to behold, in
their coffins.

We believe that there is genius in all childhood. But the creative joy
that makes it great in its simplicity dies a natural death or is killed,
and genius dies with it. In favoured spirits, neither few nor many, the
joy and the might survive; for you must know that unless it be
accompanied with imagination, memory is cold and lifeless. The forms it
brings before us must be inspired with beauty--that is, with affection
or passion. All minds, even the dullest, remember the days of their
youth; but all cannot bring back the indescribable brightness of that
blessed season. They who would know what they once were, must not merely
recollect, but they must imagine, the hills and valleys--if any such
there were--in which their childhood played, the torrents, the
waterfalls, the lakes, the heather, the rocks, the heaven's imperial
dome, the raven floating only a little lower than the eagle in the sky.
To imagine what he then heard and saw, he must imagine his own nature.
He must collect from many vanished hours the power of his untamed heart,
and he must, perhaps, transfuse also something of his maturer mind into
these dreams of his former being, thus linking the past with the present
by a continuous chain, which, though often invisible, is never broken.
So is it too with the calmer affections that have grown within the
shelter of a roof. We do not merely remember, we imagine our father's
house, the fireside, all his features then most living, now dead and
buried; the very manner of his smile, every tone of his voice. We must
combine with all the passionate and plastic power of imagination the
spirit of a thousand happy hours into one moment; and we must invest
with all that we ever felt to be venerable such an image as alone can
satisfy our filial hearts. It is thus that imagination, which first
aided the growth of all our holiest and happiest affections, can
preserve them to us unimpaired--

    "For she can give us back the dead,
    Even in the loveliest looks they wore."

Then came a New Series of Christmases, celebrated one year in this
family, another year in that--none present but those whom Charles Lamb
the Delightful calleth the "old familiar faces;" something in all
features, and all tones of voice, and all manners, betokening origin
from one root--relations all, happy, and with no reason either to be
ashamed or proud of their neither high nor humble birth--their lot being
cast within that pleasant realm, "the Golden Mean," where the dwellings
are connecting-links between the hut and the hall--fair edifices
resembling manse or mansion-house, according as the atmosphere expands
or contracts their dimensions--in which Competence is next-door
neighbour to Wealth, and both of them within the daily walk of

Merry Christmases they were indeed--one Lady always presiding, with a
figure that once had been the stateliest among the stately, but then
somewhat bent, without being bowed down, beneath an easy weight of most
venerable years. Sweet was her tremulous voice to all her
grandchildren's ears. Nor did those solemn eyes, bedimmed into a
pathetic beauty, in any degree restrain the glee that sparkled in orbs
that had as yet shed not many tears, but tears of joy or pity. Dearly
she loved all those mortal creatures whom she was soon about to leave;
but she sat in sunshine even within the shadow of death; and the "voice
that called her home" had so long been whispering in her ear, that its
accents had become dear to her, and consolatory every word that was
heard in the silence, as from another world.

Whether we were indeed all so witty as we thought ourselves--uncles,
aunts, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, cousins, and "the rest," it
might be presumptuous in us, who were considered by ourselves and a few
others not the least amusing of the whole set, at this distance of time
to decide--especially in the affirmative; but how the roof did ring with
sally, pun, retort, and repartee! Ay, with pun--a species of
impertinence for which we have therefore a kindness even to this day.
Had incomparable Thomas Hood had the good fortune to have been born a
cousin of ours, how with that fine fancy of his would he have shone at
those Christmas festivals, eclipsing us all! Our family, through all its
different branches, has ever been famous for bad voices, but good ears;
and we think we hear ourselves--all those uncles and aunts, nephews and
nieces, and cousins--singing now! Easy is it to "warble melody" as to
breathe air. But we hope harmony is the most difficult of all things to
people in general, for to us it was impossible; and what attempts ours
used to be at Seconds! Yet the most woeful failures were rapturously
encored; and ere the night was done we spoke with most extraordinary
voices indeed, every one hoarser than another, till at last, walking
home with a fair cousin, there was nothing left for it but a tender
glance of the eye--a tender pressure of the hand--for cousins are not
altogether sisters, and although partaking of that dearest character,
possess, it may be, some peculiar and appropriate charms of their own;
as didst thou, Emily the "Wild-cap!"--That _sobriquet_ all forgotten
now--for now thou art a matron, nay a Grandam, and troubled with an elf
fair and frolicsome as thou thyself wert of yore, when the gravest and
wisest withstood not the witchery of thy dancings, thy singings, and thy
showering smiles.

On rolled Suns and Seasons--the old died--the elderly became old--and
the young, one after another, were wafted joyously away on the wings of
hope, like birds almost as soon as they can fly ungratefully forsaking
their nests and the groves in whose safe shadow they first essayed their
pinions; or like pinnaces that, after having for a few days trimmed
their snow-white sails in the land-locked bay, close to whose shores of
silvery sand had grown the trees that furnished timber both for hull and
mast, slip their tiny cables on some summer-day, and gathering every
breeze that blows, go dancing over the waves in sunshine, and melt far
off into the main. Or, haply, some were like fair young trees,
transplanted during no favourable season, and never to take root in
another soil, but soon leaf and branch to wither beneath the tropic sun,
and die almost unheeded by those who knew not how beautiful they had
been beneath the dews and mists of their own native climate.

Vain images! and therefore chosen by fancy not too painfully to touch
the heart. For some hearts grow cold and forbidding with selfish
cares--some, warm as ever in their own generous glow, were touched by
the chill of Fortune's frowns, ever worst to bear when suddenly
succeeding her smiles--some, to rid themselves of painful regrets, took
refuge in forgetfulness, and closed their eyes to the past--duty
banished some abroad, and duty imprisoned others at home--estrangements
there were, at first unconscious and unintended, yet ere long, though
causeless, complete--changes were wrought insensibly, invisibly, even in
the innermost nature of those who being friends knew no guile, yet came
thereby at last to be friends no more--unrequited love broke some
bonds--requited love relaxed others--the death of one altered the
conditions of many--and so--year after year--the Christmas Meeting was
interrupted--deferred--till finally it ceased with one accord, unrenewed
and unrenewable. For when Some Things cease for a time--that time turns
out to be for ever.

Survivors of those happy circles! wherever ye be--should these imperfect
remembrances of days of old chance, in some thoughtful pause of life's
busy turmoil, for a moment to meet your eyes, let there be towards the
inditer a few throbs of revived affection in your hearts--for his,
though "absent long and distant far," has never been utterly forgetful
of the loves and friendships that charmed his youth. To be parted in
body is not to be estranged in spirit--and many a dream and many a
vision, sacred to nature's best affections, may pass before the mind of
one whose lips are silent. "Out of sight out of mind" is rather the
expression of a doubt--of a fear--than of a belief or a conviction. The
soul surely has eyes that can see the objects it loves, through all
intervening darkness--and of those more especially dear it keeps within
itself almost undimmed images, on which, when they know it not, think it
not, believe it not, it often loves to gaze, as on relics imperishable
as they are hallowed.

All hail! rising beautiful and magnificent through the mists of
morning--ye Woods, Groves, Towers, and Temples, overshadowing that
famous Stream beloved by all the Muses! Through this midnight
hush--methinks we hear faint and far-off sacred music--

    "Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
    The pealing anthem swells the note of praise!"

How steeped now in the stillness of moonlight are all those pale,
pillared Churches, Courts and Cloisters, Shrines and Altars, with here
and there a Statue standing in the shade, or Monument sacred to the
memory of the pious--the immortal dead. Some great clock is striking
from one of many domes--from the majestic Tower of St Mary Magdalen--and
in the deepened hush that follows the solemn sound, the mingling waters
of the Cherwell and the Isis soften the severe silence of the holy

Remote from kindred, and from all the friendships that were the native
growth of the fair fields where our boyhood and our youth had roamed and
meditated and dreamed, those were indeed years of high and lofty mood
which held us in converse with the shades of great Poets and Sages of
old in Rhedicyna's hallowed groves, still, serene, and solemn, as that
Attic Academe where divine Plato, with all Hybla on his lips, discoursed
such excellent music that his life seemed to the imagination
spiritualised--a dim reminiscence of some former state of being. How
sank then the Christmas Service of that beautiful Liturgy into our
hearts! Not faithless we to the simple worship that our forefathers had
loved; but Conscience told us there was no apostasy in the feelings that
rose within us when that deep organ began to blow, that choir of
youthful voices so sweetly to join the diapason,--our eyes fixed all the
while on that divine Picture over the Altar, of our Saviour

    "Bearing his cross up rueful Calvary."

The City of Palaces disappears--and in the setting sunlight we behold
mountains of soft crimson snow! The sun hath set, and even more
beautiful are the bright-starred nights of winter, than summer in all
its glories beneath the broad moons of June. Through the woods of
Windermere, from cottage to cottage, by coppice-pathways winding up to
dwellings among the hill-rocks where the birch-trees cease to grow--

    "Nodding their heads, before us go,
    The merry minstrelsy."

They sing a salutation at every door, familiarly naming old and young by
their Christian names; and the eyes that look upward from the vales to
the hanging huts among the plats and cliffs, see the shadows of the
dancers ever and anon crossing the light of the star-like window, and
the merry music is heard like an echo dwelling in the sky. Across those
humble thresholds often did we on Christmas-week nights of
yore--wandering through our solitary sylvan haunts, under the branches
of trees within whose hollow trunk the squirrel slept--venture in,
unasked perhaps, but not unwelcome, and, in the kindly spirit of the
season, did our best to merrify the Festival by tale or song. And now
that we behold them not, are all those woods, and cliffs, and rivers,
and tarns, and lakes, as beautiful as when they softened and brightened
beneath our living eyes, half-creating, as they gazed, the very world
they worshipped? And are all those hearths as bright as of yore, without
the shadow of our figure? And the roofs, do they ring as mirthfully,
though our voice be forgotten? We hang over Westmoreland, an
unobserved--but observant star. Mountains, hills, rocks, knolls, vales,
woods, groves, single trees, dwellings--all asleep! O Lakes! but ye are,
indeed, by far too beautiful! O fortunate Isles! too fair for human
habitation, fit abode for the Blest! It will not hide itself--it will
not sink into the earth--it will rise; and risen, it will stand steady
with its shadow in the overpowering moonlight, that ONE TREE! that ONE
HOUSE!--and well might the sight of ye two together--were it
harder--break our heart. But hard at all it is not--therefore it is but

Can it be that there we are utterly forgotten! No star hanging higher
than the Andes in heaven--but sole-sitting at midnight in a small
chamber--a melancholy man are we--and there seems a smile of
consolation, O Wordsworth! on thy sacred Bust.

Alas! how many heavenly days, "seeming immortal in their depth of rest,"
have died and been forgotten! Treacherous and ungrateful is our memory
even of bliss that overflowed our being as light our habitation. Our
spirit's deepest intercommunion with nature has no place in her
records--blanks are there that ought to have been painted with
imperishable imagery, and steeped in sentiment fresh as the morning on
life's golden hills. Yet there is mercy in this dispensation--for who
can bear to behold the light of bliss re-arising from the past on the
ghastlier gloom of present misery? The phantoms that will not come when
we call on them to comfort us, are too often at our side when in our
anguish we could almost pray that they might be reburied in oblivion.
Such hauntings as these are not as if they were visionary--they come and
go like forms and shapes still imbued with life. Shall we vainly stretch
out our arms to embrace and hold them fast, or as vainly seek to
intrench ourselves by thoughts of this world against their visitation?
The soul in its sickness knows not whether it be the duty of love to
resign itself to indifference or to despair. Shall it enjoy life, they
being dead! Shall we the survivors, for yet a little while, walk in
other companionship out into the day, and let the sunbeams settle on
their heads as they used to do, or cover them with dust and ashes, and
show to those in heaven that love for them is now best expressed by
remorse and penitence!

Sometimes we have fears about our memory--that it is decaying; for,
lately, many ordinary yet interesting occurrences and events, which we
regarded at the time with pain or pleasure, have been slipping away
almost into oblivion, and have often alarmed us of a sudden by their
return, not to any act of recollection, but of themselves, sometimes
wretchedly out of place and season, the mournful obtruding upon the
merry, and worse, the merry upon the mournful--confusion, by no fault of
ours, of piteous and of gladsome faces--tears where smiles were a duty
as well as a delight, and smiles where nature demanded, and religion
hallowed, a sacrifice of tears.

For a good many years we have been tied to town in winter by fetters as
fine as frostwork filigree, which we could not break without destroying
a whole world of endearment. That seems an obscure image; but it means
what the Germans would call in English--our winter environment. We are
imprisoned in a net of our own weaving--an invisible net; yet we can see
it when we choose--just as a bird can see, when he chooses, the wires of
his cage, that are invisible in his happiness, as he keeps hopping and
fluttering about all day long, or haply dreaming on his perch with his
poll under his plumes--as free in confinement as if let loose into the
boundless sky. That seems an obscure image too; but we mean, in truth,
the prison unto which we doom ourselves no prison is; and we have
improved on that idea, for we have built our own--and are prisoner,
turnkey, and jailer all in one, and 'tis noiseless as the house of
sleep. Or what if we declare that Christopher North is a king in his
palace, with no subjects but his own thoughts--his rule peaceful over
those lights and shadows--and undisputed to reign over them his right

The opening year in a town, now, answers in all things to our heart's
desire. How beautiful the smoky air! The clouds have a homely look as
they hang over the happy families of houses, and seem as if they loved
their birthplace; all unlike those heartless clouds that keep
_stravaiging_ over mountain-tops, and have no domicile in the sky! Poets
speak of living rocks, but what is their life to that of houses? Who
ever saw a rock with eyes--that is, with windows? Stone-blind all, and
stone-deaf, and with hearts of stone; whereas who ever saw a house
without eyes--that is, windows? Our own is an Argus; yet the good old
Conservative grudges not the assessed taxes--his optics are as cheerful
as the day that lends them light, and they love to salute the setting
sun, as if a hundred beacons, level above level, were kindled along a
mountain side. He might safely be pronounced a madman who preferred an
avenue of trees to a street. Why, trees have no chimneys; and, were you
to kindle a fire in the hollow of an oak, you would soon be as dead as a
Druid. It won't do to talk to us of sap, and the circulation of sap. A
grove in winter, bole and branch--leaves it has none--is as dry as a
volume of sermons. But a street, or a square, is full of "vital sparks
of heavenly flame" as a volume of poetry, and the heart's blood
circulates through the system like rosy wine.

But a truce to comparisons; for we are beginning to feel contrition for
our crime against the country, and, with humbled head and heart, we
beseech you to pardon us--ye rocks of Pavey-Ark, the pillared palaces of
the storms--ye clouds, now wreathing a diadem for the forehead of
Helvellyn--ye trees, that hang the shadows of your undying beauty over
the "one perfect chrysolite" of blessed Windermere!

Our meaning is transparent now as the hand of an apparition waving peace
and goodwill to all dwellers in the land of dreams. In plainer but not
simpler words (for words are like flowers, often rich in their
simplicity--witness the Lily, and Solomon's Song)--Christian people all,
we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New-Year, in town or in
country--or in ships at sea.

A Happy New-Year!--Ah! ere this ARIA, sung _sotto voce_, reach your ears
(eyes are ears, and ears eyes), the week of all weeks will be over and
gone, and the New-Year will seem growing out of the old year's
ashes!--for the year is your only Phoenix. But what with time to do
has a wish--a hope--a prayer! Their power is in the Spirit that gives
them birth. And what is Spirit but the well-head of thoughts and
feelings flowing and overflowing all life, yet leaving the well-head
full of water as ever--so lucid, that on your gazing intently into its
depths, it seems to become a large soft spiritual eye, reflecting the
heavens and the earth; and no one knows what the heavens and the earth
are, till he has seen them there--for that God made the heavens and the
earth we feel from that beautiful revelation--and where feeling is not,
knowledge is dead, and a blank the universe. Love is life. The unloving
merely breathe. A single sweet beat of the heart is token of something
spiritual that will be with us again in Paradise. "O, bliss and beauty!
are these our feelings"--thought we once in a dream--"all circling in
the sunshine--fair-plumed in a flight of doves!" The vision kept sailing
on the sky--"to and fro for our delight"--no sound on their wings more
than on their breasts; and they melted away in light as if they were
composed of light--and in the hush we heard high-up and far-off
music--as of an angel's song.

That was a dream of the mysterious night; but now we are broad
awake--and see no emblematical phantoms, but the mere sights of the
common day. But sufficient for the day is the beauty thereof--and it
inspires us with affection for all beneath the skies. Will the whole
world, then, promise henceforth to love us?--and we promise henceforth
to love the whole world.

It seems the easiest of all easy things to be kind and good--and then it
is so pleasant! "Self-love and social are the same," beyond all
question; and in that lies the nobility of our nature. The intensest
feeling of self is that of belonging to a brotherhood. All selves then
know they have duties which are in truth loves--and loves are
joys--whether breathed in silence, or uttered in words, or embodied in
actions; and if they filled all life, then all life would be good--and
heaven would be no more than a better earth. And how may all men go to
heaven? By making themselves a heaven on earth, and thus preparing their
spirits to breathe empyreal air when they have dropped the dust. And how
may they make for themselves a heaven on earth? By building up a happy
HOME FOR THE HEART. Much, but not all--oh! not nearly all--is in the
site. But it must be within the precincts of the holy ground--and within
hearing of the waters of life.

Pleasures of Imagination! Pleasures of Memory! Pleasures of Hope! All
three most delightful poems; yet all the thoughts and all the feelings
that inspired them--etherealised--will not make--FAITH! "The day-spring
from on high hath visited us!" Blessed is he who feels that line--nor
need his heart die within him, were a voice to be heard at midnight
saying--"This New-Year's day shall be thy last!"

One voice--one young voice--all by its sweet, sad, solitary self,
singing to us a Christmas Hymn! Listening to that music is like looking
at the sky with all its stars.

Was it a spirit?

    "Millions of spiritual creatures walk unseen,
    Sole or responsive to each other's voice,
    Hymning their great Creator."

No, the singer, like ourselves, is mortal; and in that thought, to our
hearts, lies the pathos of her prayers. The angels, veiling their faces
with their wings, sing in their bliss hallelujahs round the throne of
heaven; but she--a poor child of clay, with her face veiled but with the
shades of humility and contrition, while

    "Some natural tears she drops, but wipes them soon,"--

sings, in her sorrow, supplications to be suffered to see afar-off its
everlasting gates--opening not surely for her own sake--for all of woman
born are sinful--and even she in what love calls her innocence feels
that her fallen being does of itself deserve but to die. The hymn is
fading away, liker and liker an echo, and our spirit having lost it in
the distance, returns back holier to the heart-hush of home.

The million hunger and thirst after the stronger and darker passions;
nothing will go down with them but _the intense_. They are
intolerant--or careless--or even ashamed of those emotions and
affections that compose the blessing of our daily life, and give its
lustre to the fire on the hearth of every Christian household. Yet, for
all that, they are inexperienced in those same stronger and darker
passions of which they prate, and know nothing of the import of those
pictures of them painted, with background of gloom and foreground of
fire, in the works of the truly great masters. The disturbed spirit of
such delineations is far beyond the reaches of their souls; and they
mistake their own senseless stupor for solemn awe--or their own mere
physical excitement for the enthusiasm of imagination soaring through
the storm on the wings of intellect. There are such things in "Satan's
Invisible World Displayed" in poetry, as strong and dark passions; and
they who are acquainted with their origin and end call them _bad_
passions; but the good passions are not dark, but bright--and they are
strong too, stronger than death or the grave.

All human beings who know how to reap

        "The harvest of a quiet eye,
    That broods and sleeps on its own heart,"

feel, by the touch, the flowers of affection in every handful of beauty
they gather up from those fortunate fields on which shines, for ever
through all seasons, the sun of life. How soft the leaves! and, as they
meet the eye, how fair! Framed, so might it seem, of green dew
consolidated into fragrance. Nor do they fade when gently taken from
their stalk on its native bed. They flourish for ever if you bruise them
not--sensitive indeed; and, if you are so forgetful as to treat them
rashly, like those of the plant that bears that name, they shrink, and
seem to shrivel for a time--growing pale, as if upbraiding your
harshness; but cherished, they are seen to be all of

    "Immortal amaranth, the tree that grows
    Fast by the throne of God;"

for the seeds have fallen from heaven to earth, and for eighteen hundred
years have been spreading themselves over all soils fit for their
reception--and what soil is not fit? Even fit are stony places, and
places full of thorns. For they will live and grow there in spite of
such obstruction--and among rank and matted weeds will often be seen
peering out like primroses gladdening the desert.

That voice again--"One of old Scotland's songs, so sad and slow!" Her
heart is now blamelessly with things of earth. "Sad and slow!" and most
purely sweet. Almost mournful although it be, it breathes of
happiness--for the joy dearest to the soul has ever a faint tinge of
grief. O innocent enchantress! thou encirclest us with a wavering haze
of beautiful imagery, by the spell of that voice awakening after a mood
of awe, but for thy own delight. From the long dim tracts of the past
come strangely blended recognitions of woe and bliss, undistinguishable
now to our own heart--nor knows that heart if it be a dream of
imagination or of memory. Yet why should we wonder? In our happiest
hours there may have been something in common with our most
sorrowful--some shade of sadness cast over them by a passing cloud, that
now allies them in retrospect with the sombre spirit of grief; and in
our unhappiest hours there may have been gleams of gladness, that seem
now to give the return the calm character of peace. Do not all thoughts
and feelings, almost all events, seem to resemble each other--when they
are dreamt of as all past? All receive a sort of sanctification in the
stillness of the time that has gone by--just like the human being whom
they adorned or degraded--when they, too, are at last buried together in
the bosom of the same earth.

Perhaps none among us ever wrote verses of any worth, who had not been,
more or less, readers of our old ballads. All our poets have been
so--and even Wordsworth would not have been the veritable and only
Wordsworth, had he not in boyhood pored--oh, the miser!--over Percy's
"Reliques." From the highest to the humblest, they have all drunk from
those silver springs. Shepherds and herdsmen and woodsmen have been the
masters of the mighty--their strains have, like the voice of a solitary
lute, inspired a power of sadness into the hearts of great poets that
gave their genius to be prevalent over all tears, or with a power of
sublimity that gave it dominion over all terror, like the sound of a
trumpet. "The Babes in the Wood!" "Chevy Chace!" Men become women while
they weep--

    "Or start up heroes from the glorious strain."

Sing then "The Dirge," my Margaret, to the Old Man, "so tender and so
true" to the spirit of those old ballads, which we might think were
written by Pity's self.


    "O dig a grave, and dig it deep,
    Where I and my true love may sleep!
      We'll dig a grave, and dig it deep,
      Where thou and thy true love shall sleep!

    And let it be five fathom low,
    Where winter winds may never blow!--
      And it shall be five fathom low,
      Where winter winds shall never blow!

    And let it be on yonder hill,
    Where grows the mountain daffodil!--
      And it shall be on yonder hill,
      Where grows the mountain daffodil!

    And plant it round with holy briers,
    To fright away the fairy fires!--
      We'll plant it round with holy briers!
      To fright away the fairy fires!

    And set it round with celandine,
    And nodding heads of columbine!--
      We'll set it round with celandine,
      And nodding heads of columbine!

    And let the ruddock build his nest
    Just above my true love's breast!--
      The ruddock he shall build his nest
      Just above thy true love's breast!

    And warble his sweet wintry song
    O'er our dwelling all day long!
      And he shall warble his sweet song
      O'er your dwelling all day long.

    Now, tender friends, my garments take,
    And lay me out for Jesus' sake!
      And we will now thy garments take,
      And lay thee out for Jesus' sake!

    And lay me by my true love's side,
    That I may be a faithful bride!--
      We'll lay thee by thy true love's side,
      That thou may'st be a faithful bride!"

Ay--ay--thou too art gone, WILLIAM STANLEY ROSCOE! What years have flown
since we walked among the "alleys green" of Allerton with thee and thy
illustrious father! and who ever conversed with him for a few hours in
and about his own home--where the stream of life flowed on so full and
clear--without carrying away impressions that never seemed to be
remembrances--so vivid have they remained amidst the obscurations and
obliterations of Time, that sweeps with his wings all that lies on the
surface, but has no power to disturb, much less destroy, the record
printed on the heart.

We are all of us getting old--or older; nor would we, for our own
part--if we could--renew our youth. Methinks the river of life is nobler
as it nears the sea. The young are dancing in their skiffs on the
pellucid shallows near the source on the Sacred Mountains of the Golden
East. They whose lot it is to be in their prime, are dropping down the
longer and wider reaches, that seem wheeling by with their sylvan
amphitheatres, as if the beauty were moving morn-wards, while the
voyagers are stationary among the shadows, or slowly descending the
stream to meet the meridian day. Many forget

    "The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below,"

and are lost in the roaring whirlpool. Under Providence, we see
ourselves on the river expanded into a sea-like lake, or arm of the sea;
and for all our soul has escaped and suffered, we look up to the stars
in gratitude--and down to the stars--for the water too is full of stars
as well as the sky--faint and dim indeed--but blended by the pervading
spirit of beauty, with the brighter and bolder luminaries reposing on


BUCHANAN LODGE--for a few months--farewell! 'Tis the Twelfth of
November; and for the City we leave thee not without reluctance, early
in March by the blessing of Heaven again to creep into thy blooming
bourne. Yet now and then we shall take a drive down, to while away a
sunny forenoon among thy undecaying evergreens, to breathe the balm of
thy Christmas roses, and for one _Gentle_ bosom to cull the earliest
crocuses that may be yellowing through the thin snows of Spring.

In truth, we know not well why we should ever leave thee, for thou art
the Darling of all the Seasons; and Winter, so churlish elsewhere, is
ever bland to thee, and, daily alighting in these gardens, loves to fold
and unfold, in the cool sunshine, the stainless splendour of his
pale-plumaged wings. But we are no hermit. Dear to us though Nature be,
here, hand-in-hand with Art walking through our peaceful but not
unpeopled POLICY, a voice comes to us from the city-heart--winning us
away from the stillness of solitude into the stir of life. Milton speaks
of a region

    "Above the stir and smoke of this dim spot,
    Which men call earth;"

and oft have we visited it; but while yet we pursue the ends of this our
mortal being, in the mystery of the brain whence ideas arise, and in the
mystery of the heart whence emotions flow--kindred and congenial
all--thought ever blending with feeling, reason with imagination, and
conscience with passion--'tis our duty to draw our delight from
intercommunion with the spirit of our kind. Weakest or wickedest of
mortals are your soul-sick, life-loathing, world-wearied men. In
solitude we are prone to be swallowed up in selfishness; and out of
selfishness what sins and crimes may not grow! At the best, moral
stagnation ensues--and the spirit becomes, like "a green-mantled pool,"
the abode of reptiles. Then ever welcome to us be living faces, and
living voices, the light and the music of reality--dearer far than any
mere ideas or emotions hanging or floating aloof by themselves in the
atmosphere of imagination. Blest be the cordial grasp of the hand of
friendship--blest the tender embrace of the arms of love! Nay, smile
not, fair reader, at an old man's fervour; for Love is a gracious
spirit, who deserteth not declining age.

The DROSKY is at the door--and, my eye! what a figure is Peter! There he
sits, like a bear, with the ribbons in his paws--no part visible of his
human face or form divine, but his small red eyes--and his ruby nose,
whose re-grown enormity laughs at Liston. One little month ago, the
knife of that skilful chirurgeon pared it down to the dimensions of a
Christian proboscis. Again 'tis like a wart on a frost-reddened Swedish
turnip. Pretty Poll, with small delicate pale features, sits beside him
like a snowdrop. How shaggy since he returned from our last Highland
tour is Filho da Puta! His mane long as his tail--and the hair on his
ears like that on his fetlocks. He absolutely reminds us of Hogg's
Bonassus. Ay, bless these patent steps--on the same principle as those
by which we ascend our nightly couch--we are self-deposited in our
Drosky. Oh! the lazy luxury of an air-seat! We seem to be sitting on
nothing but a voluptuous warmth, restorative as a bath. And then what
furry softness envelopes our feet! Yes--Mrs Gentle--Mrs Gentle--thy
Cashmere shawl, twined round our bust, feels almost as silken-smooth as
thine own, and scented is it with the balm of thy own lips. Boreas blows
on it tenderly as a zephyr--and the wintry sunshine seems summery as it
plays on the celestial colours. Thy pelisse, too, over our old happy
shoulders, purple as the neck of the dove when careering round his mate.
Thy comforter, too, in our bosom--till the dear, delightful, delicious,
wicked worsted thrills through skin and flesh to our very heart. It
dirls. Drive away, Peter. Farewell Lodge--and welcome, in a jiffy, Moray

And now, doucely and decently sitting in our Drosky, behold us driven by
Peter, proud as Punch to tool along the staring streets the
great-grandson of the Desert-born! Yet--yet--couldst thou lead the
field, Filho, with old Kit Castor on thy spine. But though our day be
not quite gone by, we think we see the stealing shades of eve, and, a
little further on in the solemn vista, the darkness of night; and
therefore, like wise children of nature, not unproud of the past, not
ungrateful for the present, and unfearful of the future, thus do we now
skim along the road of life, broad and smooth to our heart's content,
able to pay the turnpikes, and willing, when we shall have reached the
end of our journey, to lie down, in hope, at the goal.

What pretty, little, low lines of garden-fronted cottages! leading us
along out of rural into suburban cheerfulness, across the Bridge, and
past the Oriental-looking Oil-Gas Works, with a sweep winding into the
full view of PITT Street (what a glorious name!) steep as some straight
cliff-glen, and an approach truly majestic--yea, call it at once
magnificent--right up to the great city's heart. "There goes Old
Christopher North!" the bright boys in the playground of the New Academy
exclaim. God bless you, you little rascals!--We could almost find it in
our heart to ask the Rector for a holiday. But, under him, all your days
are holidays--for when the precious hours of study are enlightened by a
classic spirit, how naturally do they melt into those of play!

    "Gay hope is yours, by fancy fed,
      Less pleasing when possest;
    The tear forgot as soon as shed,
      The sunshine of the breast;
    Yours buxom health, of rosy hue,
      Wild wit, invention ever new,
    And lively cheer, of vigour born;
      The thoughtless day, the easy night,
    The spirits pure, the slumbers light,
      That fly th' approach of morn."

Descending from our Drosky, we find No. 99 Moray Place, exhibiting
throughout all its calm interior the self-same expression it wore the
day we left it for the Lodge, eight months ago. There is our venerable
winter Hat--as like Ourselves, it is said, as he can stare--sitting on
the Circular in the Entrance-hall. Everything has been tenderly dusted
as if by hands that touched with a Sabbath feeling; and though the
furniture cannot be said to be new, yet while it is in all sobered, it
is in nothing faded. You are at first unaware of its richness on account
of its simplicity--its grace is felt gradually to grow out of its
comfort--and that which you thought but ease lightens into elegance,
while there is but one image in nature which can adequately express its
repose--that of a hill-sheltered field by sunset, under a fresh-fallen
vest of virgin snow. For then snow blushes with a faint crimson--nay,
sometimes when Sol is extraordinarily splendid, not faint, but with a
gorgeousness of colouring that fears not to face in rivalry the western

Let no man have two houses with one set of furniture. Home's deepest
delight is undisturbance. Some people think no articles fixtures--not
even grates. But sofas and ottomans, and chairs and footstools, and
screens--and above all, beds--all are fixtures in the dwelling of a wise
man, cognoscitive and sensitive of the blessings of this life. Each has
its own place assigned to it by the taste, tact, and feeling of the
master of the mansion, where order and elegance minister to comfort, and
comfort is but a homely word for happiness. In various moods we vary
their arrangement--nor is even the easiest of all Easy-chairs secure for
life against being gently pushed on his wheels from chimney-nook to
window-corner, when the sunshine may have extinguished the fire, and the
blue sky tempts the _Paterfamilias_, or him who is but an uncle, to lie
back with half-shut eyes, and gaze upon the cheerful purity, even like a
shepherd on the hill. But these little occasional disarrangements serve
but to preserve the spirit of permanent arrangement, without which the
very virtue of domesticity dies. What sacrilege, therefore, against the
Lares and Penates, to turn a whole house topsy-turvy, from garret to
cellar, regularly as May-flowers deck the zone of the year! Why, a
Turkey or a Persian, or even a Wilton or a Kidderminster carpet, is as
much the garb of the wooden floor inside, as the grass is of the earthen
floor outside of your house. Would you lift and lay down the greensward?
But without further illustration--be assured the cases are kindred--and
so, too, with sofas and shrubs, tent-beds and trees. Independently,
however, of these analogies, not fanciful, but lying deep in the nature
of things, the inside of one's tabernacle, in town and country, ought
ever to be sacred from all radical revolutionary movements, and to lie
for ever in a waking dream of graceful repose. All our affections
towards lifeless things become tenderer and deeper in the continuous and
unbroken flow of domestic habit. The eye gets lovingly familiarised with
each object occupying its own peculiar and appropriate place, and feels
in a moment when the most insignificant is missing or removed. We say
not a word about children, for fortunately, since we are yet unmarried,
we have none; but even they, if brought up Christians, are no dissenters
from this creed, and however rackety in the nursery, in an orderly-kept
parlour or drawing-room how like so many pretty little white mice do
they glide cannily along the floor! Let no such horror, then, as a
_flitting_ ever befall us or our friends! O mercy! only look at a long
huge train of waggons, heaped up to the windows of the first floors,
moving along the dust-driving or mire-choked streets with furniture from
a gutted town-house towards one standing in the rural shades with an
empty stomach! All is dimmed or destroyed--chairs crushed on the
table-land, and four-posted beds lying helplessly with their astonished
feet up to heaven--a sight that might make the angels weep!

People have wondered why we, an old barren bachelor, should live in such
a large house. It is a palace; but never was there a greater mistake
than to seek the solution in our pride. Silence can be had but in a
large house. And silence is the chief condition of home happiness. We
could now hear a leaf fall--a leaf of the finest wire-wove. Peter and
Betty, Polly and the rest, inhabit the second sunk story--and it is
delightful to know that they may be kicking up the most infernal
disturbance at this blessed moment, and tearing out each other's hair in
handfuls, without the faintest whisper of the uproar reaching us in our
altitude above the drawing-room flat. On New-Year's Day morning there is
regularly a competition of bagpipers in the kitchen, and we could fondly
imagine 'tis an Eolian Harp. In his pantry Peter practised for years on
the shrill clarion, and for years on the echoing horn; yet had he thrown
up both instruments in despair of perfection ere we so much as knew that
he had commenced his musical studies. In the sunk story, immediately
below _that_, having been for a season consumptive, we kept a Jenny ass
and her daughter--and though we believe it was not unheard around Moray
and Ainslie Places, and even in Charlotte Square, we cannot charge our
memory with an audit of their bray. In the sunk story immediately below
that again, that distinguished officer on half-pay, Captain Campbell of
the Highlanders--when on a visit to us for a year or two--though we
seldom saw him--got up a _Sma' still_--and though a more harmless
creature could not be, there he used to sit for hours together, with the
worm that never dies. On one occasion, it having been supposed by Peter
that the Captain had gone to the East Neuk of Fife, weeks elapsed, we
remember, ere he was found sitting dead, just as if he had been alive,
in his usual attitude in his arm-chair, commanding a view of the
precipice of the back court.

Just as quiet are the Attics. They, too, are furnished; for the feeling
of there being one unfurnished room, however small, in the largest
house, disturbs the entire state of mind of such an occupant, and when
cherished and dwelt on, which it must not unfrequently be, inspires a
cold air of desolation throughout the domicile, till "thoughts of
flitting rise." There is no lumber-room. The room containing
Blue-Beard's murdered wives might in idea be entered without distraction
by a bold mind.--But oh! the lumber-room, into which, on an early walk
through the house of a friend on whom we had been sorning, all
unprepared did we once set our foot! From the moment--and it was but for
a moment, and about six o'clock--far away in the country--that appalling
vision met our eyes--till we found ourselves, about another six o'clock,
in Moray Place, we have no memory of the flight of time. Part of the
journey--or voyage--we suspect, was performed in a steamer. The noise of
knocking, and puffing, and splashing seems to be in our inner ears; but
after all it may have been a sail-boat, possibly a yacht!--In the Attics
an Aviary open to the sky. And to us below, the many voices, softened
into one sometimes in the pauses of severer thought, are sometimes very
affecting, so serenely sweet it seems, as the laverock's in our youth at
the gates of heaven.

At our door stand the Guardian Genii, Sleep and Silence. We had an ear
to them in the building of our house, and planned it after a long summer
day's perusal of the "Castle of Indolence." O Jemmy Thomson! Jemmy
Thomson!--O that thou and we had been rowers in the same boat on the
silent river! Rowers, indeed! Short the spells and far between that we
should have taken--the one would not have turned round the other, but
when the oar chanced to drop out of his listless hand--and the canoe
would have been allowed to drift with the stream, unobservant we of our
backward course, and wondering and then ceasing to wonder at the
slow-receding beauty of the hanging banks of grove--the cloud-mountains,
immovable as those of earth, and in spirit one world.

Ay! Great noise as we have made in the world--our heart's desire is for
silence--its delight is in peace. And is it not so with all men,
turbulent as may have been their lives, who have ever looked into their
own being? The soul longs for peace in itself; therefore, wherever it
discerns it, it rejoices in the image of which it seeks the reality. The
serene human countenance, the wide water sleeping in the moonlight, the
stainless marble-depth of the immeasurable heavens, reflect to it that
tranquillity which it imagines within itself, though it never long dwelt
there, restless as a dove on a dark tree that cannot be happy but in the
sunshine. It loves to look on what it loves, even though it cannot
possess it; and hence its feeling, on contemplating such calm, is not of
simple repose, but desire stirs in it, as if it would fain blend itself
more deeply with the quiet it beholds! The sleep of a desert would not
so affect it; it is Beauty that makes the difference--that attracts
spirit to matter, while spirit becomes not thereby materialised--but
matter spiritualised; and we fluctuate in the air-boat of imagination
between earth and heaven. In most and in all great instances there is
apprehension, dim and faint, or more distinct, of pervasion of a spirit
throughout that which we conceive Beautiful. Stars, the moon, the deep
bright ether, waters, the rainbow, a pure lovely flower--none of them
ever appear to us, or are believed by us to be mere physical and
unconscious dead aggregates of atoms. That is what they are; but we
could have no pleasure in them, if we knew them as such. There is
illusion, then, of some sort, and to what does it amount? We cannot well
tell. But if there is really a love in human hearts to these distant
orbs--if there is an emotion of tenderness to the fair, opening,
breathing blossom that we would not crush it--"in gentleness of heart
touch, for there is a spirit in the leaves"--it must be that we do not
see them as they are, but "create a soul under the ribs of death." We
could not be touched, or care for what has no affinity to ourselves--we
make the affinity--we animate, we vivify them, and thenceforward,

    "Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus,
    Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet."

Now you do believe that we do love Silence--and every other thing worthy
to be loved--you and yours--and even that romp, your shock-headed Coz,
to whom Priscilla Tomboy was an Imogen.

All our ceilings are deadened--we walk ankle-deep in carpeting--nobody
is suffered to open a door but ourselves--and they are so constructed,
that it is out of their power to _slam_. Our winter furniture is all
massy--deepening the repose. In all the large rooms two fireplaces--and
fires are kept perpetually burning day and night, in them all, which,
reflected from spacious mirrors, give the mansion quite the appearance
of a Pandemonium. _Not gas always._ Palm-oil burns scentless as
moonlight; and when motion, not rest, in a place is signified, we
accompany ourselves with a wax candle, or taper from time immemorial
green. Yet think not that there is a blaze of light. We have seen the
midnight heaven and earth nearly as bright, with but one moon and a
small scatter of stars. And places of glimmer--and places of gloom--and
places "deaf to sound and blind to light" there are in this our mansion,
known but to ourselves--cells--penitentiaries--where an old man may sit
sighing and groaning, or stupified in his misery--or at times almost
happy. So senseless, and worse than senseless, seems then all mortal
tribulation and anguish, while the self-communing soul is assured, by
its own profound responses, that "whatever is, is best."

And thus is our domicile a domain--a kingdom. We should not care to be
confined to it all the rest of our days. Seldom, indeed, do we leave our
own door--yet call on us, and ten to one you hear us in winter chirping
like a cricket, or in summer like a grasshopper. We have the whole range
of the house to ourselves, and many an Excursion make we on the Crutch.
Ascending and descending the wide-winding stair-cases, each broad step
not above two inches high, we find ourselves on spacious landing-places
illumined by the dim religious light of stained windows, on which
pilgrims, and palmers, and prophets, single or in pairs or troops, are
travelling on missions through glens or forests or by sea-shores--or
shepherd piping in the shade, or poet playing with the tangles of
Neæra's hair. We have discovered a new principle on which, within narrow
bounds, we have constructed Panoramic Dioramas, that show splendid
segments of the great circle of the world. We paint all of them
ourselves--now a Poussin, now a Thomson, now a Claude, now a Turner, now
a Rubens, now a Danby, now a Salvator, now a Maclise.

Most people, nay, we suspect all people but ourselves, make a point of
sleeping in the same bed (that is awkwardly expressed) all life through;
and out of that bed many of them avow their inability to "bow an eye;"
such is the power of custom, of habit, of use and wont, over weary
mortals even in the blessing of sleep. No such slavish fidelity do we
observe towards any one bed of the numerous beds in our mansion. No one
dormitory is entitled to plume itself, in the pride of its heart, on
being peculiarly Ours; nor is any one suffered to sink into despondency
from being debarred the privilege of contributing to Our repose. They
are all furnished, if not luxuriously, comfortably in the extreme; in
number, nine--each, of course, with its two dressing-rooms--those on the
same story communicating with one another, and with the parlours,
drawing-rooms, and libraries--"a mighty maze, but not without a plan,"
and all harmoniously combined by one prevailing and pervading spirit of
quietude by day and by night, awake or asleep--the chairs being
couch-like, the couches bed-like, the beds, whether tent or canopy,
enveloped in a drapery of dreams.

We go to bed at no stated hour--but when we are tired of sitting up,
then do we lie down; at any time of the night or the day; and we rise,
neither with the lark, nor the swallow, nor the sparrow, nor the cock,
nor the owl, nor the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, nor Lucifer, nor
Aurora, but with Christopher North. Yellow, or green, or blue, or
crimson, or fawn, or orange, or pinky light salutes our eyes, as sleep's
visionary worlds recede and relapse into airy nothing, and as we know of
a certainty that _these_ are real web-and-woof damask curtains, _that_
flock palpable on substantial walls.

True wisdom soon accommodates itself even to involuntary or inevitable
change--but to that which flows from our own sweet will, however sudden
and strong, it instantly moulds itself in a novel delight, with all its
familiar and domestic habits. Why, we have not been in 99 Moray Place
for a week--nay, not for two days and nights--till you might swear we
had been all our life a Cit, we look so like a Native. The rustic air of
the Lodge has entirely left us, and all our movements are metropolitan.
You see before you a Gentleman of the Old School, who knows that the
eyes of the town are upon him when he seeks the open air, and who
preserves, even in the privacy of the parlour, that dignity of dress and
demeanour which, during winter, befits his age, his rank, and his
character. Now, we shave every morning; John, who in his boyish days
served under Barbarossa, lightly passes the comb through our "sable
silvered;" and then, in our shawl dressing-gown, we descend about ten to
our study, and sit, not unstately, beside the hissing urn at our
protracted breakfast. In one little month or less, "or ere our shoes are
old," we feel as if we had belonged to _this_ house alone, and it to us,
from our birth. The Lodge is seen to be standing in its stillness, far
away! Dear memories of the pensive past now and then come floating upon
the cheerful present--like birds of fairest plumage floating far inland
from the main. But there is no idle longing--no vain regret. This, we
say, is true wisdom. For each scene and season--each pleasure and
place--ought to be trusted to itself in the economy of human life, and
to be allowed its own proper power over our spirit. People in the
country are often restless to return to town--and people in town unhappy
till they rush away into the country--thus cheating their entire
existence out of its natural calm and satisfaction. Not so we. We give
both their due--and that due is an almost undivided delight in each
while we live under its reign. For Nature, believe us, is no jealous
mistress. She is an affectionate wife, who, being assured of his
fidelity, is not afraid to trust her husband out of her sight,

    "When still the town affairs do call him thence,"

and who waits with cheerful patience for his return, duly welcomed with
a conjugal shower of smiles and kisses.

But what is this we see before us? Winter--we declare--and in full fig
with his powdered wig! On the mid-day of November, absolutely snow! a
full, fair, and free fall of indisputable snow.

Not the slightest idea had we, the day before, that a single flake had
yet been formed in the atmosphere, which, on closing of our shutters,
looked through the clear-obscure, indicative of a still night and a
bright morning. But we had not seen the moon. She, we are told by an
eyewitness, early in the evening, _stared_ from the south-east, "through
the misty horizontal air," with a face of portentous magnitude and
brazen hue, symptomatic, so weatherwise seers do say, of the approach of
the Snow-king. On such occasions it requires all one's astronomical
science to distinguish between sun and moon; for then sister resembles
brother in that wan splendour, and you wonder for a moment, as the large
beamless orb (how unlike Dian's silver bow!) is in ascension, what can
have brought the lord of day, at this untimeous hour, from his sea-couch
behind the mountains of the west. Yet during the night-calm we suspected
snow--for the hush of the heavens had that downy feel, to our
half-sleeping fancy, that belongs to the eider-pillow in which
disappears our aged, honoured, and un-nightcap'd head. Looking out by
peep of day--rather a ghostlike appearance in our long night-shirt,
which trails a regal train--we beheld the fair feathers dimly descending
through the glimmer, while momently the world kept whitening and
whitening, till we knew not our home-returning white cat on what was
yesterday the back-_green_, but by the sable tail that singularly shoots
from the rump of that phenomenon. We were delighted. Into the cold
plunge-bath we played plop like a salmon--and came out as red as a cut
of that incomparable fish. One ply of leather--one of flannel--and one
of the linen fine; and then the suit of pepper-and-salt over all; and
you behold us welcoming, hailing, and blessing the return of day. Frost,
too, felt at the finger and toe tips--and in unequivocal true-blue at
the point, Pensive Public, of thy Grecian or Roman nose. Furs, at once,
are all the rage; the month of muffs has come; and round the neck of
Eve, and every one of all her daughters, is seen harmlessly coiling a
boa-constrictor. On their lovely cheeks the Christmas roses are already
in full blow, and the heart of Christopher North sings aloud for joy.
Furred, muffed, and boa'd, Mrs Gentle adventures abroad in the blast;
and, shouldering his Crutch, the rough, ready, and ruddy old man shows
how widows are won, whispers in that delicate ear of the publication of
bans, and points his gouty toe towards the hymeneal altar. In the
bracing air, his frame is strung like Paganini's fiddle, and he is felt
to be irresistible in the _piggicato_. "Lord of his presence, and small
land beside," what cares he even for a knight of the Guelphic order? On
his breast shines a star--may it never prove a cross--beyond bestowal by
king or kaisar; nor is Maga's self jealous or envious of these wedded
loves. And who knows but that ere another November snow sheets the
Shotts, a curious little Kit, with the word North distinctly traceable
in blue letters on the whites of his eyes, may not be playing antics on
his mother's knee, and with the true Tory face in miniature, smiling
upon the guardian of the merry fellow's own and his country's

What kind of a Winter--we wonder--are we to have in the way of wind and
weather? We trust it will be severe. As summer set in with his usual
severity, Winter must not be behindhand with him; but after an
occasional week's rain of a commendably boisterous character, must come
out in full fig of frost. He has two suits which we greatly admire,
combining the splendour of a court-dress with the strength of a work-day
garb--we mean his garments of black and his garments of white frost. He
looks best in the former, we think, on to about Christmas--and the
latter become the old gentleman well from that festival season, on to
about the day sacred to a class of persons who will never read our

Of all the months of the year, November--in our climate--whether in town
or country, bears the worst character. He is almost universally thought
to be a sour, sulky, sullen, savage, dim, dull, dark, disconsolate, yet
designing month--in fewer words, a month scarcely fit to live. Abhorring
all personalities, we repent having sometimes given in to this national
abuse of November. We know him well--and though we admit at once that he
is no beauty, and that his manners are at the best bluff, at the worst
repulsive, yet on those who choose to cultivate his acquaintance, his
character continues so to mellow and ameliorate itself, that they come
at last, if not to love, to like him, and even to prefer his company "in
the season of the year," to that of other more brilliant visitors. So
true is it with months and men, that it requires only to know the most
unpleasant of them, and to see them during a favourable phasis, in order
to regard them with that Christian complacency which a good heart sheds
over all its habits. 'Tis unlucky for November--poor fellow!--that he
follows October. October is a month so much admired by the world, that
we often wonder he has not been spoiled. "What a glorious October!"
"Why, you will surely not leave us till October comes!" "October is the
month of all months--and, till you see him, you have not seen the
Lakes." We acknowledge his claims. He is often truly delightful; but,
like other brilliant persons, thinks himself not only privileged to be
at times extremely dull, but his intensest stupidity is panegyrised as
wit of the first water--while his not unfrequent rudeness, of which many
a common month would be ashamed, passes for the ease of high birth or
the eccentricity of genius. A very different feeling indeed exists
towards unfortunate November. The moment he shows his face, all other
faces are glum. We defy month or man, under such a trial, to make
himself even tolerably agreeable. He feels that he is no favourite, and
that a most sinister misinterpretation will be put on all his motions,
manners, thoughts, words, and deeds. A man or a month so circumstanced
is much to be pitied. Think, look, speak, act as he will--yea, even more
like an angel than a man or a month--every eyebrow arches--every nostril
distends--every lip curls towards him in contempt, while blow over the
ice that enchains all his feelings and faculties, heavy-chill
whisperings of "who is that disagreeable fellow?" In such a frozen
atmosphere, eloquence would be congealed on the lips of an
Ulysses--Poetry prosified on those of an Apollo.

Edinburgh, during the dead of Summer, is a far more solitary place than
Glenetive, Glenevis, or Glenco. There is not, however, so much danger of
being lost in it as in the Moor of Rannoch--for streets and squares,
though then utterly tenantless, are useful as landmarks to the pilgrim
passing through what seems to be

    "A still forsaken City of the Dead!"

But, like a frost-bound river suddenly dissolved by a strong thaw, and
coming down in spate from the mountains to the low lands, about the
beginning of November life annually re-overflows our metropolis, with a
noise like "the rushing of many chariots." The streets, that for months
had been like the stony channels of dried-up streams--only not quite so
well paved--are again all a-murmur, and people addicted to the study of
political economy begin to hold

    "Each strange tale devoutly true"

in the Malthusian theory of population. What swarms keep hovering round
the great Northern Hive! Add eke after eke to the skep, and still seems
it too small to contain all the insects. Edinburgh is almost as large as
London. Nay, don't stare! We speak comparatively; and as England is
somewhere about six times more populous than Scotland, you may, by
brushing up your arithmetic, and applying to the Census, discover that
we are not so far wrong in our apparent paradox.

Were November in himself a far more wearifu' month than he is, Edinburgh
would nevertheless be gladsome in the midst of all his gloom, even as a
wood in May with the Gathering of the Clans. The country flows into the
town--all its life seems to do so--and to leave nothing behind but the
bare trees and hedges. Equipages again go glittering along all the
streets, squares, circuses, and crescents; and one might think that the
entire "nation of ladies and gentlemen"--for King George the Fourth, we
presume, meant to include the sex in his compliment--were moving through
their metropolis. Amusement and business walk hand-in-hand--you hardly
know, from their cheerful countenances, which is which; for the Scots,
though a high-cheeked, are not an ill-favoured folk in their
features--and though their mouths are somewhat of the widest, their
teeth are white as well as sharp, and on the opening of their ruddy
lips, their ivory-cases are still further brightened by hearty smiles.
'Twould be false to say that their figures are distinguished by an air
of fashion--for we have no court, and our nobles are almost all
absentees. But though, in one sense, the men are ugly customers, as they
will find

    "Who chance to tread upon their freeborn toe,"

yet, literally, they are a comely crew, and if formed into battalions in
marching order, would make the National Guard in Paris look like

                "That small infantry
    Warr'd on by cranes."

Our females have figures that can thaw any frost; and 'tis universally
allowed that they walk well, though their style of pedestrianism does
not so readily recall to the imagination Virgil's picture of Camilla
flying along the heads of corn without touching their ears, as the
images of paviers with post-looking mallets driving down dislodged
stones into the streets. Intermingling with the lighter and more elastic
footsteps of your Southron dames, the ongoings of our native virgins
produce a pleasant variety of motion in the forenoon mêlée that along
the Street of Princes now goes nodding in the sun-glint.

    "Amid the general dance and minstrelsy"

who would wear a long face, unless it were in sympathy with his length
of ears? A din of multitudinous joy hums in the air; you cannot see the
city for the houses, its inhabitants for the people; and as for finding
one particular acquaintance in the crowd, why, to use an elegant simile,
you might as well go search for a needle in a bottle of hay.

But hark! a hollow sound, distant, and as yet referred to no distinct
place--then a faint mixture of a clear chime that is almost music--now a
tune--and at last, rousing the massy multitude to enthusiasm, a military
march, swelling various, profound, and high, with drum, trombone,
serpent, trump, clarionet, fife, flute, and cymbal, bringing slowly on
(is it the measured tramp of the feet of men, or the confused trampling
of horses?) banners floating over the procession, above the glitter of
steel, and the golden glow of helmets. 'Tis a regiment of
cavalry--hurra! the Carbineers! What an Advanced Guard!

    "There England sends her men, of men the chief,"

still, staid, bold, bronzed faces, with keen eyes, looking straight
forward from between sabres; while beneath the equable but haughty
motion of their steeds, almost disciplined as their riders, with long
black horse-hair flowing in martial majesty, nod their high Roman
casques. The sweet storm of music has been passing by while we were
gazing, and is now somewhat deadened by the retiring distance and by
that mass of buildings (how the windows are alive, and agaze with
faces!) while troop after troop comes on, still moving, it is felt by
all, to the motion of the warlike tune, though now across the Waterloo
Bridge sounding like an echo, till the glorious war-pageant is all gone
by, and the dull day is deadened down again into the stillness and
silence of an ignoble peace.

    "Now all the youth of Scotland are on fire!"

All her cities and towns are rejoicing in the welcome Winter; and mind,
invigorated by holidays, is now at work, like a giant refreshed, in all
professions. The busy bar growls, grumphs, squeaks, like an old sow with
a litter of pigs pretending to be quarrelling about straws. Enter the
Outer or the Inner House, and you hear eloquence that would have put
Cicero to the blush, and reduced Demosthenes to his original stutter.
The wigs of the Judges seem to have been growing during the long
vacation, and to have expanded into an ampler wisdom. Seldom have we
seen a more solemn set of men. Every one looks more _gash_ than another,
and those three in the centre seem to us the embodied spirits of Law,
Equity, and Justice. What can be the meaning of all this endless
litigation? On what immutable principles in human nature depends the
prosperity of the Fee-fund? Life is strife. Inestimable the blessing of
the great institution of Property! For without it, how could people go
together by the ears, as if they would tear one another to pieces? All
the strong, we must not call them bad passions, denied their natural
element, would find out some channels to run in, far more destructive to
the commonweal than lawsuits, and the people would be reduced to the
lowest ebb of misery, and raised to the highest flow of crime. Our
Parliament House here is a vast safety-valve for the escape of the foul
steam that would otherwise explode and shatter the engine of the State,
blowing the body and members of society to smash. As it is, how the
engine works! There it goes! like Erickson's Novelty or Stephenson's
Rocket along a railroad; and though an accident may occur now and then,
such as an occasional passenger chucked by some uncalculated collision
into the distant horizon, to be picked up whole, or in fragments, by the
hoers in some turnip-field in the adjacent county, yet few or none are
likely to be fatal on a great scale; and on goes the Novelty or Rocket,
like a thought, with many weighty considerations after it, in the shape
of waggons of Christians or cottons, while Manufactures and Commerce
exult in the cause of Liberty and Locomotion all over the world.

But to us utter idlesse is perfect bliss. And why? Because, like a lull
at sea, or _lown_ on land, it is felt to descend from Heaven on man's
toilsome lot. The lull and the lown, what are they when most profound,
but the transient cessation of the restlessness of winds and waters--a
change wrought for an hour of peace in the heart of the hurricane!
Therefore the sailor enjoys it on the green wave--the shepherd on the
greensward; while the memory of mists and storms deepens the
enchantment. Even so, Idlesse can be enjoyed but by those who are
permitted to indulge it, while enduring the labours of an active or a
contemplative life. To use another, and a still livelier image--see the
pedlar toiling along the dusty road, with an enormous pack, on his
excursion; and when off his aching shoulders slowly falls back on the
bank the loosened load, in blessed relief think ye not that he enjoys,
like a very poet, the beauty of the butterflies that, wavering through
the air, settle down on the wildflowers around him that embroider the
wayside! Yet our pedlar is not so much either of an entomologist or a
botanist as not to take out his scrip, and eat his bread and cheese with
a mute prayer and a munching appetite--not idle, it must be confessed,
in that sense--but in every other idle even as the shadow of the
sycamore, beneath which, with his eyes half-open--for by hypothesis he
is a Scotsman--he finally sinks into a wakeful, but quiet half-sleep.
"Hallo! why are you sleeping there, you _idle_ fellow?" bawls some
beadle, or some overseer, or some magistrate, or perhaps merely one of
those private persons who, out of season and in season, are constantly
sending the sluggard to the ant to learn wisdom--though the ant, Heaven
bless her! at proper times sleeps as sound as a sick-nurse.

We are now the idlest, because once were we the most industrious of men.
Up to the time that we engaged to take an occasional glance over the
self-growing sheets of The Periodical, we were tied to one of the oars
that move along the great vessel of life; and we believe that it was
allowed by all the best watermen, that

    "We feather'd our oars with skill and dexterity."

But ever since we became an Editor, our repose, bodily and mental, has
been like that of a Hindoo god. Often do we sit whole winter nights,
leaning back on our chair, more like the image of a man than a man
himself, with shut eyes, that keep seeing in succession all the things
that ever happened to us, and all the persons that we ever loved, hated,
or despised, embraced, beat, or insulted, since we were a little boy.
They too have all an image-like appearance, and 'tis wondrous strange
how silent they all are, actors and actresses on the stage of that
revived drama, which sometimes seems to be a genteel comedy, and
sometimes a broad farce, and then to undergo dreadful transfiguration
into a tragedy deep as death.

We presume that the Public read in her own papers--we cannot be but hurt
that no account of it has appeared in the "Court Journal"--that on
Thursday the 12th current, No. 99 Moray Place was illuminated by our
annual Soireé, Conversazione, Rout, Ball, and Supper. A Ball! yes--for
Christopher North, acting in the spirit of his favourite James

                "No purpose gay,
    Amusement, dance, or song he sternly scorns;
    For happiness and true philosophy
    Are of the social, still, and smiling kind."

All the rooms in the house were thrown open, except the cellars and the
Sanctum. To the people congregated outside, the building, we have been
assured, had all the brilliancy of the Bude Light. It was like a palace
of light, of which the framework or skeleton was of white unveined
marble. So strong was the reflection on the nocturnal heavens, that a
rumour ran through the City that there was a great fire in Moray Place,
nor did it subside till after the arrival and departure of several
engines. The alarm of some huge conflagration prevailed during most part
of the night all over the kingdom of Fife; while, in the Lothians, our
illumination was much admired as an uncommonly fine specimen of the
Aurora Borealis.

                "From the arch'd roof,
    Pendent by subtle magic, many a row
    Of starry lamps and blazing cressets, fed
    With naphtha and asphaltus, yielded light
    As from a sky. The hasty multitude
    Admiring enter'd."

We need not say who received the company, and with what grace SHE did
so, standing at the first landing-place of the great staircase in sable
stole; for the widow's weeds have not _yet_ been doffed for the robes of
saffron--with a Queen-Mary cap pointed in the front of her serene and
ample forehead, and, to please us, a few pearls sprinkled among her
hair, still an unfaded auburn, and on her bosom one star-bright diamond.
Had the old General himself come to life again, and beheld her then and
there, he could not have been offended with such simple ornaments. The
weeds he would have felt due to him, and all that his memory was fairly
entitled to; but the flowers--to speak figuratively--he would have
cheerfully acknowledged were due to us, and that they well became both
face and figure of his lovely relict. As she moved from one room to
another, showering around her serene smiles, we felt the dignity of
those Virgilian words,

    "Incedit Regina."

Surely there is something very poetical in the gradual flowing in of the
tide of grace, elegance, and beauty, over the floors of a suite of
regal-looking rooms, splendidly illuminated. Each party as it comes on
has its own peculiar picturesqueness, and affects the heart or
imagination by some novel charm, gently gliding onward a little while by
itself, as if not unconscious of its own attractions, nor unproud of the
gaze of perhaps critical admiration that attends its progressive
movement. We confess ourselves partial to plumes of feathers above the
radiant braidings of the silken tresses on the heads of virgins and
matrons--provided they be not "dumpy women"--tall, white, blue, and pink
plumes, silent in their wavings as gossamer, and as finely delicate,
stirred up by your very breath as you bend down to salute their
cheeks--not with kisses--for they would be out of order both of time and
place--but with words almost as tender as kisses, and awakening almost
as tender a return--a few sweet syllables breathed in a silver voice,
with blushing cheeks, and downcast eyes that, when again uplifted, are
seen to be from heaven.

A long hour ago, and all the mansion was empty and motionless--with us
two alone sitting by each other's side affectionately and respectfully
on a sofa. Now it is filled with life, and heard you ever such a happy
murmur? Yet no one in particular looks as if he or she were speaking
much above breath, so gentle is true refinement, like a delightful

    "From the calm manners quietly exhaled."

Oh! the atrocious wickedness of a great, big, hearty, huge, hulking,
horse-laugh, in an assemblage of ladies and gentlemen, gathered
gracefully together to enjoy the courtesies, the amenities, the
urbanities, and the humanities of cultivated Christian life! The pagan
who perpetrates it should be burnt alive--not at a slow fire--though
that would be but justice--but at a quick one--that all remnants of him
and his enormity may be instantly extinguished. Lord Chesterfield has
been loudly laughed at with leathern lungs for his anathema against
laughter. But though often wrong, there his lordship was right, and for
that one single rule of manners he deserves a monument, as having been
one of the benefactors of his species. Let smiles mantle--and that
sweet, soft, low sound be heard, the _susurrus_. Let there be a
many-voiced quiet music, like that of the summer moonlight sea when the
stars are in its breast. But laughter--loud peals of laughter--are like
breakers--blind breakers on a blind coast, where no verdure grows except
that of tangle, and whatever is made into that vulgarist of all
commodities, kelp.

'Tis not a literary conversazione, mind ye, gentle reader; for we leave
that to S. T. Coleridge, the Monarch of the Monologue. But all
speak--talk--whisper--or smile, of all the speakable, talkable,
whisperable, and smileable little interesting affairs, incidents, and
occurrences, real or fabulous, of public, private, demi-public, or
demi-semi-private life. Topics are as plentiful as snow-flakes, and melt
away as fast in the stream of social pleasure,

    "A moment white, then gone for ever!"

Not a little scandal--much gossip, we daresay; but as for scandal, it
is the vulgarest error in the world to think that it either means, or
does any harm to any mortal. It does infinite good. It ventilates the
atmosphere, and prevents the "golden-fretted vault" from becoming "a
foul congregation of vapours." As for gossip, what other vindication
does it need, than an order for you to look at a soirée of swallows in
September on a slate-roof, the most innocent and white-breasted
creatures that pay

    "Their annual visits round the globe,
    Companions of the sun,"

but such gossipers that the whole air is a-twitter with their talk about
their neighbours' nest--when--whew! off and away they go, winnowing
their way westwards, through the setting sunlight, and all in perfect
amity with themselves and their kind, while

    "The world is all before them, where to choose,
    And Providence their guide."

And, madam, you do not matronise--and, sir, you do not
patronise--_waltzing_? 'Tis very O fie-fieish, you think--and in danger
of becoming very, very faux-papa-ish!

    "Oh! the great goodness of the knights of old,"

whose mind-motto was still--

    "_Honi soit qui mal y pense!_"

Judging by ourselves, 'tis a wicked world we unwillingly confess; but be
not terrified at trifles, we beseech you, and be not gross in your
censure of innocent and delicate delights. Byron's exquisitely sensitive
modesty was shocked by the sight of waltzing, which he would not have
suffered the Guiccioli, while she was in his keeping, to have indulged
in even with her own husband. Thus it is that sinners see sin only where
it is not--and shut their eyes to it when it comes upon them open-armed,
bare-bosomed, and brazen-faced, and clutches them in a grasp more like
the hug of a bear than the embrace of a woman. Away with such mawkish
modesty and mouthing morality--for 'tis the slang of the hypocrite.
Waltzing does our old eyes good to look on it, when the whole Circling
Flight goes gracefully and airily on its orbit, and we think we see the
realisation of that picture (we are sad misquoters) when the Hours--

    "Knit by the Graces and the Loves in dance,
    Lead on the eternal spring!"

But the Circling Flight breaks into airy fragments, the Instrumental
Band is hushed, and so is the whole central Drawing-room; for,
blushingly obedient to the old man's beck, THE STAR OF EVE--so call we
her who is our heart's-ease and heart's-delight--the granddaughter of
one whom hopelessly we loved in youth, yet with no unreturned

    "The course of true love never yet ran smooth"--

comes glidingly to our side, and having heard our wish breathed
whisperingly into her ear--a rare feature when small, thin, and delicate
as a leaf--just as glidingly she goes, in stature that is almost
stateliness, towards her Harp, and assuming at once a posture that would
have charmed Canova, after a few prelusive touches that betray the hand
of a mistress in the divine art, to the enchantment of the white motions
of those graceful arms and fingers fine, awakes a spirit in the strings
accordant to the spirit in that voice worthy to have blended with St
Cecilia's in her hymning orisons. A Hebrew melody! And now your heart
feels the utter mournfulness of these words,

    "By Babel's streams we sat and wept!"

How sudden, yet how unviolent, the transitions among all our feelings!
Under no other power so swift and so soft as that of Music. The soul
that sincerely loves Music, offers at no time the slightest resistance
to her sway, but yields itself up entirely to all its moods and
measures, led captive by each successive strain through the whole
mysterious world of modulated air. Not a smile over all that hush.
Entranced in listening, they are all still as images. A sigh--almost a
sob--is heard, and there is shedding of tears. The sweet singer's self
seems as if she felt all alone at some solitary shrine--

    "Her face, oh! call it fair, not pale!"

Yet pale now it is, as if her heart almost died within her at the
pathos of her own beautiful lament in a foreign land, and lovelier in
her captivity never was the fairest of the daughters of Zion!

How it howls! That was a very avalanche. The snow-winds preach charity
to all who have roofs overhead--towards the houseless and them who
huddle round hearths where the fire is dying or dead. Those blankets
must have been a God-send indeed to not a few families, and your plan is
preferable to a Fancy-Fair. Yet that is good too--nor do we find fault
with them who dance for the Destitute. We sanction amusements that give
relief to misery--and the wealthy may waltz unblamed for behoof of the

Again, what a howling in the chimney! What a blattering on the windows,
and what a cannonading on the battlements! What can the night be about?
and what has put old Nox into such a most outrageous passion? He has
driven our Winter Rhapsody clean out of our noddle--and to-morrow we
must be sending for the slater, the plumber, and the glazier. To go to
bed in such a hurly-burly, would be to make an Ultra-Toryish
acknowledgment, not only of the divine right, but of the divine power of
King Morpheus. But an Ultra-Tory we are not--though Ultra-Trimmers try
to impose upon themselves that fiction among a thousand others; so we
shall smoke a cigar, and let sleep go to the dogs, the deuce, the devil,
and the Chartists.



Companion of the Crutch! hast thou been a loving observer of the weather
of our island-clime? We do not mean to ask if you have from youth been
in the daily practice of rising from your study-chair at regular
intervals, and ascertaining the precise point of Mercury's elevation on
the barometrical scale. The idea of trusting, throughout all the
fluctuations of the changeful and capricious atmosphere in which we
live, to quicksilver, is indeed preposterous; and we have long noticed
that meteorologists make an early figure in our obituaries. Seeing the
head of the god above the mark "fair," or "settled," out they march in
thins, without great-coat or umbrella, when such a thunder-plump falls
down in a deluge, that, returning home by water and steam, they take to
bed, and on the ninth day fever hurries them off, victims to their
confidence in that treacherous tube. But we mean to ask have you an eye,
an ear, and a sixth sense, anonymous and instinctive, for all the
prognosticating sights and sounds, and motions and shapes, of nature?
Have you studied, in silence and solitude, the low, strange, and
spirit-like whisperings, that often, when bird and bee are mute, come
and go, here and there, now from crag, now from coppice, and now from
moor, all over the sultry stillness of the clouded landscape? Have you
listened among mountains to the voice of streams, till you heard them
prophesying change? Have you so mastered the occult science of mists, as
that you can foretell each proud or fair Emergency, and the hour when
grove, precipice, or plain, shall in sudden revelation be clothed with
the pomp of sunshine? Are all Bewick's birds, and beasts, and fishes
visible to your eyes in the woods, wastes, and waves of the clouds? And
know ye what aerial condor, dragon, and whale, respectively portend? Are
the Fata Morgana as familiar to you as the Aberdeen Almanac? When a
mile-square hover of crows darkens air and earth, or settling loads
every tree with sable fruitage, are you your own augur, equally as when
one raven lifts up his hoary blackness from a stone, and sails sullenly
off with a croak, that gets fiercer and more savage in the lofty
distance? Does the leaf of the forest twinkle futurity? the lonely
lichen brighten or pale its lustre with change? Does not the gift of
prophecy dwell with the family of the violets and the lilies? The
prescient harebells, do they not let drop their closing blossoms when
the heavens are niggard of their dews, or uphold them like cups thirsty
for wine, when the blessing, yet unfelt by duller animal life, is
beginning to drop balmily down from the rainy cloud embosomed in the
blue of a midsummer's meridian day?

Forgive these friendly interrogatories. Perhaps you are weather-wiser
than ourselves; yet for not a few years we bore the name of "The Man of
the Mountains;" and, though no great linguists, we hope that we know
somewhat more than the vocabulary of the languages of calm and storm.
Remember that we are now at Ambleside--and one week's residence there
may let you into some of the secrets of the unsteady Cabinet of St

One advice we give you, and by following it you cannot fail to be happy
at Ambleside, and everywhere else. Whatever the weather be, love,
admire, and delight in it, and vow that you would not change it for the
atmosphere of a dream. If it be close, hot, oppressive, be thankful for
the faint air that comes down fitfully from cliff and chasm, or the
breeze that ever and anon gushes from stream and lake. If the heavens
are filled with sunshine, and you feel the vanity of parasols, how cool
the sylvan shade for ever moistened by the murmurs of that fairy
waterfall! Should it blow great guns, cannot you take shelter in yonder
magnificent fort, whose hanging battlements are warded even from the
thunder-bolt by the dense umbrage of unviolated woods?
Rain--rain--rain--an even-down pour of rain, that forces upon you
visions of Noah and his ark, and the top of Mount Ararat--still, we
beseech you, be happy. It cannot last long at that rate; the thing is
impossible. Even this very afternoon will the rainbow span the blue
entrance into Rydal's woody vale, as if to hail the westering sun on
his approach to the mountains--and a hundred hill-born torrents will be
seen flashing out of the upfolding mists. What a delightful dazzle on
the light-stricken river! Each meadow shames the lustre of the emerald;
and the soul wishes not for language to speak the pomp and prodigality
of colours that Heaven now rejoices to lavish on the grove-girdled
Fairfield, who has just tossed off the clouds from his rocky crest.

You will not imagine, from anything we have ever said, that we are
enemies to early rising. Now and then, what purer bliss than to embrace
the new-wakened Morn, just as she is rising from her dewy bed! At such
hour, we feel as if there were neither physical nor moral evil in the
world. The united power of peace, innocence, and beauty subdues
everything to itself, and life is love.

Forgive us, loveliest of Mornings! for having overslept the assignation
hour, and allowed thee to remain all by thyself in the solitude,
wondering why thy worshipper could prefer to thy presence the fairest
phantoms that ever visited a dream. And thou hast forgiven us--for not
clouds of displeasure these that have settled on thy forehead: the
unreproaching light of thy countenance is upon us--a loving murmur
steals into our heart from thine--and pure as a child's, daughter of
Heaven! is thy breath.

In the spirit of that invocation we look around us, and as the idea of
morning dies, sufficient for our happiness is "the light of common
day"--the imagery of common earth. There has been rain during the
night--enough, and no more, to enliven nature--the mists are ascending
composedly with promise of gentle weather--and the sun, so mild that we
can look him in the face with unwinking eyes, gives assurance that as he
has risen so will he reign, and so will he set in peace.

Yet we cannot help thinking it somewhat remarkable, that, to the best of
our memory, never once were we the very first out into the dawn. We say
nothing of birds--for they, with their sweet jargoning, anticipate it,
and from their bed on the bough feel the forerunning warmth of the
sunrise; neither do we allude to hares, for they are "hirpling hame," to
sleep away the light hours, open-eyed, in the briery quarry in the
centre of the trackless wood. Even cows and horses we can excuse being
up before us, for they have bivouacked; and the latter, as they often
sleep standing, are naturally somnambulists. Weasels, too, we can pardon
for running across the road before us, and as they reach the
hole-in-the-wall, showing by their clear eyes that they have been awake
for hours, and have probably breakfasted on leveret. We have no spite at
chanticleer, nor the hooting owls against whom he is so lustily crowing
hours before the orient; nor do we care although we know that is not the
first sudden plunge of the tyrant trout into the insect cloud already
hovering over the tarn. But we confess that it is a little mortifying to
our pride of time and place, to meet an old beggar-woman, who from the
dust on her tattered brogues has evidently marched miles from her last
night's wayside howf, and who holds out her withered palm for charity,
at an hour when a cripple of fourscore might have been supposed sleeping
on her pallet of straw. A pedlar, too, who has got through a portion of
the Excursion before the sun has illumed the mountain-tops, is
mortifying, with his piled pack and ellwand. There, as we are a
Christian, is Ned Hurd, landing a pike on the margin of the Reed-pool,
on his way from Hayswater, where he has been all night angling, till his
creel is as heavy as a sermon; and a little further on, comes issuing
like a Dryad's daughter, from the gate in the lane, sweet little Alice
Elleray, with a basket dangling beneath her arm, going in her orphan
beauty to gather, in their season, wild strawberries or violets in the

Sweet orphan of Wood-edge! what would many a childless pair give for a
creature one-half so beautiful as thou, to break the stillness of a home
that wants but one blessing to make it perfectly happy! Yet there are
few or none to lay a hand on that golden head, or leave a kiss upon its
ringlets. The father of Alice Elleray was a wild and reckless youth,
and, going to the wars, died in a foreign land. Her mother soon faded
away of a broken heart;--and who was to care for the orphan child of the
forgotten friendless? An old pauper who lives in that hut, scarcely
distinguishable from the shielings of the charcoal-burners, was glad to
take her from the parish for a weekly mite that helps to eke out her own
subsistence. For two or three years the child was felt a burden by the
solitary widow; but ere she had reached her fifth summer, Alice Elleray
never left the hut without darkness seeming to overshadow it--never
entered the door without bringing the sunshine. Where can the small,
lonely creature have heard so many tunes, and airs, and snatches of old
songs--as if some fairy bird had taught her melodies of fairyland? She
is now in her tenth year, nor an idler in her solitude. Do you wish for
a flowery bracelet for the neck of a chosen one, whose perfumes may
mingle with the bosom-balm of her virgin beauty? The orphan of Wood-edge
will wreath it of blossoms cropt before the sun hath melted the dew on
leaf or petal. Will you be for carrying away with you to the far-off
city some pretty little sylvan toy, to remind you of Ambleside and
Rydal, and other beautiful names of beautiful localities near the lucid
waters of Windermere? Then, Lady! purchase, at little cost, from the
fair basket-maker, an ornament for your parlour, that will not disgrace
its fanciful furniture, and, as you sit at your dreamy needlework, will
recall the green forest glades of Brathy or Calgarth. Industrious
creature! each day is to thee, in thy simplicity, an entire life. All
thoughts, all feelings, arise and die in peace between sunrise and
sunset. What carest thou for being an orphan! knowing, as thou well
dost, that God is thy father and thy mother, and that a prayer to Him
brings health, food, and sleep to the innocent.

Letting drop a curtsy, taught by Nature, the mother of the Graces, Alice
Elleray, the orphan of Wood-edge, without waiting to be twice bidden,
trills, as if from a silver pipe, a wild, bird-like warble, that in its
cheerfulness has now and then a melancholy fall, and, at the close of
the song, hers are the only eyes that are not dimmed with the haze of
tears. Then away she glides with a thankful smile, and dancing over the
greensward, like an uncertain sunbeam, lays the treasure, won by her
beauty, her skill, and her industry, on the lap of her old guardian, who
blesses her with the uplifting of withered hands.

Meanwhile, we request you to walk away with us up to Stockgill-force.
There has been a new series of dry weather, to be sure; but to our
liking, a waterfall is best in a rainless summer. After a flood, the
noise is beyond all endurance. You get stunned and stupified till your
head splits. Then you may open your mouth like a barn-door--we are
speaking to you, sir--and roar into a friend's ear all in vain a remark
on the cataract. To him you are a dumb man. In two minutes you are as
completely drenched in spray as if you had fallen out of a boat--and
descend to dinner with a toothache that keeps you in starvation in the
presence of provender sufficient for a whole bench of bishops. In dry
weather, on the contrary, the waterfall is in moderation; and instead of
tumbling over the cliff in a perpetual peal of thunder, why, it slides
and slidders merrily and musically away down the green shelving rocks,
and sinks into repose in many a dim or lucid pool, amidst whose
foam-bells is playing or asleep the fearless Naiad. Deuce a headache
have you--speak in a whisper, and not a syllable of your excellent
observation is lost; your coat is dry, except that a few dewdrops have
been shook over you from the branches stirred by the sudden wing-clap of
the cushat--and as for toothache interfering with dinner, you eat as if
your tusks had been just sharpened, and would not scruple to discuss
nuts, upper-and-lower-jaw-work fashion, against the best crackers in the
county. And all this comes of looking at Stockgill-force, or any other
waterfall, in dry weather, after a few refreshing and fertilising
showers that make the tributary rills to murmur, and set at work a
thousand additional feeders to every Lake.

Ha! Matutine Roses!--budding, half-blown, consummate--you are, indeed,
in irresistible blush! We shall not say which of you we love best--_she
knows it_; but we see there is no hope to-day for the old man--for you
are all paired--and he must trudge it _solus_, in capacity of
Guide-General of the Forces. What! the nymphs are going to pony it? And
you intend, you selfish fellows, that we shall hold all the reins
whenever the spirit moveth you to deviate from bridle-path, to clamber
cliff for a bird's-eye view, or dive into dells for some rare plant?
Well, well--there is a tradition, that once we were young ourselves; and
so redolent of youth are these hills, that we are more than half
inclined to believe it--so blush and titter, and laugh and look down, ye
innocent wicked ones, each with her squire by her palfrey's mane, while
good old Christopher, like a true guide, keeps hobbling in the rear on
his Crutch. Holla there!--to the right of our friend Mr Benson's
smithy--and to Rothay-bridge. Turn in at a gate to the right hand,
which, twenty to one, you will find open, that the cattle may take an
occasional promenade along the turnpike, and cool their palates with a
little ditch grass, and saunter along by Millar-bridge and Foxgill on to
Pelter-bridge, and, if you please, to Rydal-mere. Thus, and thus only,
is seen the vale of Ambleside; and what a vale of grove, and glade, and
stream, and cliff, and cottage, and villa, and grassfield, and garden,
and orchard, and--But not another word, for you would forthwith compare
our description with the reality, and seeing it faint and feeble, would
toss it into the Rothay, and laugh as the Vol. plumped over a waterfall!

The sylvan--or say rather the forest scenery--(for there is to us an
indescribable difference between these two words)--of Rydal-park, was,
in memory of living men, magnificent, and it still contains a treasure
of old trees. Lady Diana's white pea-fowl, sitting on the limbs of that
huge old tree like creatures newly alighted from the Isles of Paradise!
all undisturbed by the waterfalls, which, as you keep gazing on the
long-depending plumage illumining the forest gloom, seem indeed to lose
their sound, and to partake the peace of that resplendent show--each
splendour a wondrous Bird! For they stretch themselves all up, with
their graceful crests, o'ercanopied by the umbrage draperied as from a
throne. And never surely were seen in this daylight world such
unterrestrial creatures--though come from afar, all happy as at home in
the Fairies' Oak.

By all means ride away into these woods, and lose yourself for half an
hour among the cooing of cushats, and the shrill shriek of startled
blackbirds, and the rustle of the harmless slow-worm among the last
year's red beech-leaves. No very great harm in a kiss under the shadow
of an oak (oh fie!) while the magpie chatters angrily at safe distance,
and the more innocent squirrel peeps down upon you from a bough of the
canopy, and, hoisting his tail, glides into the obscurity of the
loftiest umbrage. You still continue to see and hear; but the sight is a
glimmer, and the sound a hum, as if the forest-glade were swarming with
bees, from the ground-flowers to the herons' nests. Refreshed by your
dream of Dryads, follow a lonesome din that issues from a pile of wooded
cliffs, and you are led to a Waterfall. Five minutes are enough for
taking an impression, if your mind be of the right material, and you
carry it away with you further down the Forest. Such a torrent will not
reach the lake without disporting itself into many little cataracts; and
saw ye ever such a fairy one as that flowing through below an ivied
bridge into a circular basin overshadowed by the uncertain twilight of
many checkering branches, and washing the rook-base of a Hermitage, in
which a sin-sickened or pleasure-palled man might, before his hairs were
grey, forget all the gratifications and all the guilt of the noisy

You are now all standing together in a group beside Ivy-cottage, the
river gliding below its wooden bridge from Rydal-mere. It is a perfect
model of such architecture--breathing the very spirit of Westmoreland.
The public road, skirted by its front paling, does not in the least
degree injure its character of privacy and retirement; so we think at
this dewy hour of prime, when the gossamer meets our faces, extended
from the honey-suckled slate-porch to the trees on the other side of the
turnpike. And see how the multitude of low-hanging roofs and gable-ends,
and dovecot-looking windows, steal away up a green and shrubberied
acclivity, and terminating in wooded rocks that seem part of the
building, in the uniting richness of ivy, lichens, moss-roses, broom,
and sweet-brier, murmuring with birds and bees, busy near hive and nest!
It would be extremely pleasant to breakfast in that deep-windowed room
on the ground-floor, on cream and barley cakes, eggs, coffee, and
dry-toast, with a little mutton-ham not too severely salted, and at the
conclusion, a nut-shell of Glenlivet or Cognac. But, Lord preserve ye!
it is not yet six o'clock in the morning; and what Christian kettle
simmereth before seven? Yes, my sweet Harriet, that sketch does you
credit, and it is far from being very unlike the original. Rather too
many chimneys by about half-a-dozen; and where did you find that steeple
immediately over the window marked "Dairy?" The pigs are somewhat too
sumptuously lodged in that elegant sty, and the hen-roost might
accommodate a phoenix. But the features of the chief porch are very
happily hit off--you have caught the very attic spirit of the roof--and
some of the windows may be justly said to be staring
likenesses.--Ivy-cottage is slipped into our portfolio, and we shall
compare it, on our return to Scotland, with Buchanan Lodge.

Gallantry forbids, but Truth demands to say, that young ladies are but
indifferent sketchers. The dear creatures have no notion of perspective.
At flower-painting and embroidery, they are pretty fair hands, but they
make sad work among waterfalls and ruins. Notwithstanding, it is
pleasant to hang over them, seated on stone or stool, drawing from
nature; and now and then to help them in with a horse or a hermit. It is
a difficult, almost an impossible thing--that foreshortening. The most
speculative genius is often at a loss to conjecture the species of a
human being foreshortened by a young lady. The hanging Tower at Pisa is,
we believe, some thirty feet or so off the perpendicular, and there is
one at Caerphilly about seventeen; but these are nothing to the castles
in the air we have seen built by the touch of a female magician; nor is
it an unusual thing with artists of the fair sex to order their plumed
chivalry to gallop down precipices considerably steeper than a house, on
animals apparently produced between the tiger and the bonassus. When
they have succeeded in getting something like the appearance of water
between what may be conjectured banks, they are not very particular
about its running occasionally up-hill; and it is interesting to see a
stream stealing quietly below trees in gradual ascension, till,
disappearing for a few minutes over one summit, it comes thundering down
another, in the shape of a waterfall, on the head of an elderly
gentleman, unsuspectingly reading Mr Wordsworth's "Excursion," perhaps,
in the foreground. Nevertheless, we repeat, that it is delightful to
hang over one of the dear creatures, seated on stone or stool, drawing
from nature; for whatever may be the pencil's skill, the eye may behold
the glimpse of a vision whose beauty shall be remembered when even
Windermere herself has for a while faded into oblivion.

On such excursions there are sure to occur a few enviable adventures.
First, the girths get wrong, and, without allowing your beloved virgin
to alight, you spend more time than is absolutely necessary in arranging
them; nor can you help admiring the attitude into which the graceful
creature is forced to draw up her delicate limbs, that her fairy feet
may not be in the way to impede your services. By-and-by a calf--which
you hope will be allowed to grow up into a cow--stretching up her curved
red back from behind a wall, startles John Darby, albeit unused to the
starting mood, and you leap four yards to the timely assistance of the
fair shrieker, tenderly pressing her bridle-hand as you find the rein
that has not been lost, and wonder what has become of the whip that
never existed. A little further on, a bridgeless stream crosses the
road--a dangerous-looking ford indeed--a foot deep at the very least,
and scorning wet feet, as they ought to be scorned, you almost carry,
serene in danger, your affianced bride (or she is in a fair way of
becoming so) in your arms off the saddle, nor relinquish the delightful
clasp till all risk is at an end, some hundred yards on, along the
velvet herbage. Next stream you come to has indeed a bridge--but then
what a bridge! A long, coggly, cracked slate-stone, whose unsteady
clatter would make the soberest steed jump over the moon. You beseech
the timid girl to sit fast, and she almost leans down to your breast as
you press to meet the blessed burden, and to prevent the steady old
stager from leaping over the battlements. But now the chasm on each side
of the narrow path is so tremendous, that she must dismount, after due
disentanglement, from that awkward, old-fashioned crutch and pummel, and
from a stirrup, into which a little foot, when it has once crept like a
mouse, finds itself caught as in a trap of singular construction, and
difficult to open for releasement. You feel that all you love in the
world is indeed fully, freshly, and warmly in your arms, nor can you
bear to set the treasure down on the rough stony road, but look round,
and round, and round, for a soft spot, which you finally prophesy at
some distance up the hill, whitherwards, in spite of pouting Yea and
Nay, you persist in carrying her whose head is ere long to lie in your
tranquil bosom.

Ivy-cottage, you see, is the domicile of gentlemen and lady folk; but
look through yonder dispersion, and in a minute or two your eyes will
see distinctly, in spite of the trees, a _bonâ fide_ farmhouse,
inhabited by a family whose head is at once an agriculturist, a
shepherd, and a woodsman. A Westmoreland cottage has scarcely any
resemblance to a Scottish one. A Scottish cottage (in the Lowlands) has
rarely any picturesque beauty in itself--a narrow oblong, with steep
thatched roof, and an ear-like chimney at each of the two gable-ends.
Many of the Westmoreland cottages would seem, to an ignorant observer,
to have been originally built on a model conceived by the finest
poetical genius. In the first place, they are almost always built
precisely where they ought to be, had the builder's prime object been to
beautify the dale; at least, so we have often felt in moods, when
perhaps our emotions were unconsciously soothed into complacency by the
spirit of the scene. Where the sedgy brink of the lake or tarn circles
into a lone bay, with a low hill of coppice-wood on one side, and a few
tall pines on the other, no--it is a grove of sycamores--there, about a
hundred yards from the water, and about ten above its ordinary level,
peeps out from its cheerful seclusion that prettiest of all
hamlets--Braithwaite-fold. The hill behind is scarcely sylvan--yet it
has many hazels--a few bushes--here and there a holly--and why or
wherefore, who can now tell, a grove of enormous yews. There is sweet
pasturage among the rocks, and as you may suppose it a spring-day, mild
without much sunshine, there is a bleating of lambs, a twitter of small
birds, and the deep coo of the stock-dove. A wreath of smoke is always a
feature of such a scene in description; but here there is now none, for
probably the whole household are at work in the open air, and the fire,
since fuel is not to be wasted, has been wisely suffered to expire on
the hearth. No. There is a volume of smoke, as if the chimney were in
flame--a tumultuous cloud pours aloft, straggling and broken, through
the broad slate stones that defend the mouth of the vomitory from every
blast. The matron within is doubtless about to prepare breakfast, and
last year's rotten pea-sticks have soon heated the capacious grid-iron.
Let the smoke-wreath melt away at its leisure, and do you admire, along
with us, the infinite variety of all those little shelving and sloping
roofs. To feel the full force of the peculiar beauty of these antique
tenements, you must understand their domestic economy. If ignorant of
that, you can have no conception of the meaning of any one thing you
see--roofs, eaves, chimneys, beams, props, doors, hovels, and sheds, and
hanging staircase, being all huddled together, as you think, in
unintelligible confusion; whereas they are all precisely what and where
they ought to be, and have had their colours painted, forms shaped, and
places allotted by wind and weather, and the perpetually but pleasantly
felt necessities Of the natural condition of mountaineers.

Dear, dear is the thatch to the eyes of a son of Caledonia, for he may
remember the house in which he was born; but what thatch was ever so
beautiful as that slate from the quarry of the White-moss? Each
one--no--not each one--but almost each one--of these little overhanging
roofs seems to have been slated, or repaired at least, in its own
separate season, so various is the lustre of lichens that bathes the
whole, as richly as ever rock was bathed fronting the sun on the
mountain's brow. Here and there is seen some small window, before
unobserved, curtained perhaps--for the statesman, and the statesman's
wife, and the statesman's daughters, have a taste--a taste inspired by
domestic happiness, which, seeking simply comfort, unconsciously creates
beauty, and whatever its homely hand touches, that it adorns. There
would seem to be many fireplaces in Braithwaite-fold, from such a number
of chimney-pillars, each rising up to a different altitude from a
different base, round as the bole of a tree--and elegant, as if shaped
by Vitruvius. To us, we confess, there is nothing offensive in the most
glaring white rough-cast that ever changed a cottage into a patch of
sunny snow. Yet here that greyish-tempered unobtrusive hue does
certainly blend to perfection with roof, rock, and sky. Every instrument
is in tune. Not even in sylvan glade, nor among the mountain rocks, did
wanderer's eyes ever behold a porch of meeting tree-stems, or reclining
cliffs, more gracefully festooned than the porch from which now issues
one of the fairest of Westmeria's daughters. With one arm crossed before
her eyes in a sudden burst of sunshine, with the other Ellinor Inman
waves to her little brother and sisters among the bark-peelers in the
Rydal woods. The graceful signal is repeated till seen, and in a few
minutes a boat steals twinkling from the opposite side of the lake, each
tug of the youthful rowers distinctly heard through the hollow of the
vale. A singing voice rises and ceases--as if the singer were watching
the echo--and is not now the picture complete?

After a time old buildings undergo no perceptible change, any more than
old trees; and after they have begun to feel the touch of decay, it is
long before they look melancholy; for while they continue to be used,
they cannot help looking cheerful, and even dilapidation is painful only
when felt to be lifeless. The house now in ruins, that we passed a few
hundred yards ago without your seeing it--we saw it with a sigh--among
some dark firs, just before we began to ascend the hill, was many years
ago inhabited by Miles Mackareth, a man of some substance, and
universally esteemed for his honest and pious character. His integrity,
however, wanted the grace of courteousness, and his religion was
somewhat gloomy and austere, while all the habits of his life were sad,
secluded, and solitary. His fireside was always decent, but never
cheerful--there the passing traveller partook of an ungrudging, but a
grave hospitality; and although neighbours dropping in unasked were
always treated as neighbours, yet seldom were they invited to pass an
evening below his roof, except upon the stated festivals of the seasons,
or some domestic event demanding sociality, according to the country
custom. Year after year the gloom deepened on his strong-marked
intellectual countenance; and his hair, once black as jet, became
untimely grey. Indeed, although little more than fifty years old, when
you saw his head uncovered, you would have taken him for a man
approaching to threescore and ten. His wife and only daughter, both
naturally of a cheerful disposition, grew every year more retired, till
at last they shunned society altogether, and were seldom seen but at
church. And now a vague rumour ran through the hamlets of the
neighbouring valleys, that he was scarcely in his right mind--that he
had been heard by shepherds on the hills talking to himself wild words,
and pacing up and down in a state of distraction. The family ceased to
attend divine worship, and as for some time the Sabbath had been the
only day they were visible, few or none now knew how they fared, and by
many they were nearly forgotten. Meanwhile, during the whole summer, the
miserable man haunted the loneliest places; and, to the terror of his
wife and daughter, who had lost all power over him, and durst not speak,
frequently passed whole days they knew not where, and came home, silent,
haggard, and ghastly, about midnight. His widow afterwards told that he
seldom slept, and never without dreadful dreams--that often he would sit
up all night in his bed, with his eyes fixed and staring on nothing, and
uttering ejaculations for mercy for all his sins.

What these sins were he never confessed--nor, as far as man may judge of
man, had he ever committed any act that needed to lie heavy on his
conscience. But his whole being, he said, was one black sin--and a
spirit had been sent to tell him, that his doom was to be with the
wicked through all the ages of eternity. That spirit, without form or
shadow--only a voice--seldom left his side day or night, go where he
would; but its most dreadful haunt was under a steep rock called
Blakerigg-scaur; and thither, in whatever direction he turned his face
on leaving his own door, he was led by an irresistible impulse, even as
a child is led by the hand. Tenderly and truly had he once loved his
wife and daughter, nor less because that love had been of few words, and
with a shade of sorrow. But now he looked on them almost as if they had
been strangers--except at times, when he started up, kissed them, and
wept. His whole soul was possessed by horrid fantasies, of which it was
itself object and victim; and it is probable that had he seen them both
lying dead, he would have left their corpses in the house, and taken his
way to the mountains. At last one night passed away and he came not. His
wife and daughter, who had not gone to bed, went to the nearest house
and told their tale. In an hour a hundred feet were traversing all the
loneliest places--till a hat was seen floating on Loughrigg-tarn, and
then all knew that the search was near an end. Drags were soon got from
the fishermen on Windermere, and a boat crossed and recrossed the tarn
on its miserable quest, till in an hour, during which wife and daughter
sat without speaking on a stone by the water-edge, the body came
floating to the surface, with its long silver hair. One single shriek
only, it is said, was heard, and from that shriek till three years
afterwards, his widow knew not that her husband was with the dead. On
the brink of that small sandy bay the body was laid down and cleansed of
the muddy weeds--his daughter's own hands assisting in the rueful
work--and she walked among the mourners, the day before the Sabbath,
when the funeral entered the little burial-ground of Langdale chapel,
and the congregation sung a Christian psalm over the grave of the
forgiven suicide.

We cannot patronise the practice of walking in large parties of ten or a
score, ram-stam and helter-skelter, on to the front-green or gravel-walk
of any private nobleman's or gentleman's house, to enjoy, from a
commanding station, an extensive or picturesque view of the circumjacent
country. It is too much in the style of the Free and Easy. The family
within, sitting perhaps at dinner with the windows open, or sewing and
reading in a cool dishabille, cannot like to be stared in upon by so
many curious and inquisitive pupils all a-hunt for prospects; nor were
these rose-bushes planted there for public use, nor that cherry-tree in
vain netted against the blackbirds. Not but that a party may now and
then excusably enough pretend to lose their way in a strange country;
and looking around them in well-assumed bewilderment, bow hesitatingly
and respectfully to maid or matron at door or window, and, with a
thousand apologies, lingeringly offer to retire by the avenue gate, on
the other side of the spacious lawn, that terrace-like hangs over vale,
lake, and river. But to avoid all possible imputation of impertinence,
follow you our example, and make all such incursions by break of day. We
hold that, for a couple of hours before and after sunrise, all the earth
is common property. Nobody surely would think for a moment of looking
black on any number of freebooting lakers coming full sail up the
avenue, right against the front, at four o'clock in the morning? At that
hour, even the poet would grant them the privilege of the arbour where
he sits when inspired, and writing for immortality. He feels conscious
that he ought to have been in bed; and hastens, on such occasions, to
apologise for his intrusion on strangers availing themselves of the
rights and privileges of the Dawn.

Leaving Ivy-cottage, then, and its yet unbreathing chimneys, turn in at
the first gate to your right (if it be not built up, in which case leap
the wall), and find your way the best you can through among old
pollarded and ivied ash-trees, intermingled with yews, and over knolly
ground, brier-woven, and here and there whitened with the jagged thorn,
till you reach, through a slate-stile, a wide gravel walk, shaded by
pine-trees, and open on the one side to an orchard. Proceed--and little
more than a hundred steps will land you on the front of Rydal-mount, the
house of the great Poet of the Lakes. Mr Wordsworth is not at home, but
away to cloudland in his little boat so like the crescent moon. But do
not by too much eloquence awaken the family, or scare the silence, or
frighten "the innocent brightness of the new-born day." We hate all
sentimentalism; but we bid you, in his own words,

                "With gentle hand
    Touch, for there is a spirit in the leaves."

From a quaint platform of evergreens you see a blue gleam of Windermere
over the grove-tops--close at hand are Rydal-hall and its ancient
woods--right opposite the Loughrigg-fells, ferny, rocky, and sylvan, but
the chief breadth of breast pastoral--and to the right Rydal-mere,
seen, and scarcely seen, through embowering trees, and mountain-masses
bathed in the morning light, and the white-wreathed mists for a little
while longer shrouding their summits. A lately erected private chapel
lifts its little tower from below, surrounded by a green, on which there
are yet no graves--nor do we know if it be intended for a place of
burial. A few houses are sleeping beyond the chapel by the river-side;
and the people beginning to set them in order, here and there a pillar
of smoke ascends into the air, giving cheerfulness and animation to the

The Lake-Poets! ay, their day is come. The lakes are worthy of the
poets, and the poets of the lakes. That poets should love and live among
lakes, once seemed most absurd to critics whose domiciles were on the
Nor-Loch, in which there was not sufficient water for a tolerable
quagmire. Edinburgh Castle is a noble rock--so are the Salisbury Craigs
noble craigs--and Arthur's seat a noble lion couchant, who, were he to
leap down on Auld Reekie, would break her backbone and bury her in the
Cowgate. But place them by Pavey-ark, or Red-scaur, or the glamour of
Glaramara, and they would look about as magnificent as an upset pack of
cards. Who, pray, are the Nor-Loch poets? Not the Minstrel--he holds by
the tenure of the Tweed. Not Campbell--"he heard in dreams the music of
the Clyde." Not Joanna Baillie--her inspiration was nursed on the
Calder's sylvan banks and the moors of Strathaven. Stream-loving Coila
nurtured Burns; and the Shepherd's grave is close to the cot in which he
was born--within hearing of the Ettrick's mournful voice on its way to
meet the Yarrow. Skiddaw overshadows, and Greta freshens the bower of
him who framed,

    "Of Thalaba, the wild and wondrous song."

Here the woods, mountains, and waters of Rydal imparadise the abode of
the wisest of nature's bards, with whom poetry is religion. And where
was he ever so happy as in that region, he who created "Christabelle,"
"beautiful exceedingly;" and sent the "Auncient Mariner" on the wildest
of all voyagings, and brought him back with the ghastliest of all crews,
and the strangest of all curses that ever haunted crime?

Of all Poets that ever lived Wordsworth has been at once the most
truthful and the most idealising; external nature from him has received
a soul, and becomes our teacher; while he has so filled our minds with
images from her, that every mood finds some fine affinities there, and
thus we all hang for sustenance and delight on the bosom of our mighty
Mother. We believe that there are many who have an eye for Nature, and
even a sense of the beautiful, without any very profound feeling; and to
them Wordsworth's finest descriptive passages seem often languid or
diffuse, and not to present to their eyes any distinct picture. Perhaps
sometimes this objection may be just; but to paint to the eye is easier
than to the imagination--and Wordsworth, taking it for granted that
people can now see and hear, desires to make them feel and understand;
of his pupil it must not be said,

    "A primrose by the river's brim
    A yellow primrose is to him,
    And it is nothing more;"

the poet gives the something more till we start at the disclosure as at
a lovely apparition--yet an apparition of beauty not foreign to the
flower, but exhaling from its petals, which till that moment seemed to
us but an ordinary bunch of leaves. In these lines is a humbler example
of how recondite may be the spirit of beauty in any most familiar thing
belonging to the kingdom of nature; one higher far--but of the same
kind--is couched in two immortal verses--

    "To me the humblest flower that blows, can give
    Thoughts that too often lie too deep for tears."

In what would the poet differ from the worthy man of prose, if his
imagination possessed not a beautifying and transmuting power over the
objects of the inanimate world? Nay, even the naked truth itself is seen
clearly but by poetic eyes; and were a sumph all at once to become a
poet, he would all at once be stark-staring mad. Yonder ass licking his
lips at a thistle, sees but water for him to drink in Windermere a-glow
with the golden lights of setting suns. The ostler or the boots at
Lowood-inn takes a somewhat higher flight, and for a moment, pausing
with curry-comb or blacking-brush in his suspended hand, calls on Sally
Chambermaid for gracious sake to look at Pull-wyke. The waiter, who has
cultivated his taste from conversation with Lakers, learns their
phraseology, and declares the sunset to be exceedingly handsome. The
Laker, who sometimes has a soul, feels it rise within him as the rim of
the orb disappears in the glow of softened fire. The artist compliments
Nature, by likening her evening glories to a picture of Claud
Lorraine--while the poet feels the sense sublime

    "Of something far more deeply interfused,
    Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
    And the round ocean and the living air,
    And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
    A motion and a spirit that impels
    All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
    And rolls through all things."

Compare any one page, or any twenty pages, with the character given of
Wordsworth's poetry in the obsolete criticism that sought to send it to
oblivion. The poet now sits on his throne in the blue serene--and no
voice from below dares deny his supremacy in his own calm dominions. And
was it of him, whom devout imagination, dreaming of ages to come, now
sees, placed in his immortality between Milton and Spenser, that the
whole land once rang with ridicule, while her wise men wiped their eyes
"of tears that sacred _pity_ had engendered," and then relieved their
hearts by joining in the laughter "of the universal British nation?" All
the ineffable absurdities of the bard are now embodied in Seven
Volumes--the sense of the ridiculous still survives among us--our men of
wit and power are not all dead--we have yet our satirists, great and
small--editors in thousands, and contributors in tens of thousands--yet
not a whisper is heard to breathe detraction from the genius of the
high-priest of nature; while the voice of the awakened and enlightened
land declares it to be divine--using towards him not the language merely
of admiration but of reverence--of love and gratitude due to the
benefactor of humanity, who has purified its passions by loftiest
thoughts and noblest sentiments, stilling their turbulence by the same
processes that magnify their power, and showing how the soul, in ebb and
flow, and when its tide is at full, may be at once as strong and as
serene as the sea.

There are few pictures painted by him merely for the pleasure of the
eye, or even the imagination, though all the pictures he ever painted
are beautiful to both; they have all a moral meaning--many a meaning
more than moral--and his poetry can be comprehended, in its full scope
and spirit, but by those who feel the sublimity of these four lines in
his "Ode to Duty,"--

    "Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
    And fragrance in thy footing treads;
    Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
    And the most ancient heavens through thee are fresh and strong."

Is thy life disturbed by guilty or sinful passions? Have they gained a
mastery of thee--and art thou indeed their slave? Then the poetry of
Wordsworth must be to thee

    "As is a picture to a blind man's eye;"

or if thine eyes yet see the light in which it is enveloped, and thy
heart yet feels the beauty it reveals, in spite of the clouds that
overhang and the storms that trouble them, that beauty will be
unbearable, till regret become remorse, and remorse penitence, and
penitence restore thee to those intuitions of the truth that illumine
his sacred pages, and thou knowest and feelest once more that

    "The primal duties shine aloft--like stars,"

that life's best pleasures grow like flowers all around and beneath thy

Nor are we not privileged to cherish a better feeling than pride in the
belief, or rather knowledge, that WE have helped to diffuse Wordsworth's
poetry not only over this Island, but the furthest dependencies of the
British empire, and throughout the United States of America. Many
thousands have owed to us their emancipation from the prejudices against
it, under which they had wilfully remained ignorant of it during many
years; and we have instructed as many more, whose hearts were free, how
to look on it with those eyes of love which alone can discover the
Beautiful. Communications have been made to us from across the Atlantic,
and from the heart of India--from the Occident and the Orient--thanking
us for having vindicated and extended the fame of the best of our
living bards, till the name of Wordsworth has become a household word on
the banks of the Mississippi and the Ganges. It would have been so had
we never lived, _but not so soon_; and many a noble nature has
worshipped his genius, as displayed in our pages, not in fragments but
in perfect poems, accompanied with our comments, who had no means in
those distant regions of possessing his volumes, whereas Maga flies on
wings to the uttermost parts of the earth.

As for our own dear Scotland--for whose sake, with all her faults, the
light of day is sweet to our eyes--twenty years ago there were not
twenty copies--we question if there were ten--of the "Lyrical Ballads"
in all the land of the mountain and the flood. Now Wordsworth is studied
all Scotland over--and Scotland is proud and happy to know, from his
Memorials of the Tours he has made through her brown heaths and shaggy
woods, that the Bard's heart overflows with kindness towards her
children--that his songs have celebrated the simple and heroic character
of her olden times, nor left unhonoured the virtues that yet survive in
her national character. All her generous youth regard him now as a great
Poet; and we have been more affected than we should choose to confess,
by the grateful acknowledgment of many a gifted spirit, that to us it
was owing that they had opened their eyes and their hearts to the
ineffable beauty of that poetry in which they had, under our
instructions, found not a vain visionary delight, but a strength and
succour and consolation, breathed as from a shrine in the silence and
solitude of nature, in which stood their father's hut, sanctifying their
humble birthplace with pious thoughts that made the very weekdays to
them like Sabbaths--nor on the evening of the Sabbath might they not
blamelessly be blended with those breathed from the Bible, enlarging
their souls to religion by those meditative moods which such pure poetry
inspires, and by those habits of reflection which its study forms, when
pursued under the influence of thoughtful peace.

Why, if it were not for that everlasting--we beg pardon--immortal
Wordsworth--the LAKES, and all that belong to them, would be our
own--_jure divino_--for we are the heir-apparent to the

    "Sole King of rocky Cumberland."

But Wordsworth never will--never can die; and so we are in danger of
being cheated out of our due dominion. We cannot think this fatherly
treatment of such a son--and yet in our loftiest moods of filial
reverence we have heard ourselves exclaiming, while

            "The Cataract of Lodore
    Peal'd to our orisons,"

O King! live for ever!

Therefore, with the fear of "The Excursion" before our eyes, we took to
prose--to numerous prose--ay, though we say it that should not say it,
to prose as numerous as any verse--and showed such scenes

    "As savage Rosa dash'd, or learned Poussin drew."

Here an English Lake--there a Scottish loch--till Turner grew jealous,
and Thomson flung his brush at one of his own unfinished mountains--when
lo! a miracle! Creative of grandeur in his very despair, he stood
astonished at the cliff that came prerupt from his canvass, and
christened itself "the Eagle's Eyrie," as it _frowned serenely_ upon the
sea, maddening in a foamy circle at its inaccessible feet.

Only in such prose as ours can the heart pour forth its effusions like a
strong spring discharging ever so many gallons in a minute, either into
pipes that conduct it through some great Metropolitan city, or into a
water-course that soon becomes a rivulet, then a stream, then a river,
then a lake, and then a sea. Would Fancy luxuriate? Then let her expand
wings of prose. In verse, however irregular, her flight is lime-twigged,
and she soon takes to hopping on the ground. Would Imagination dive? Let
the bell in which she sinks be constructed on the prose principle, and
deeper than ever plummet sunk, it will startle monsters at the roots of
the coral caves, yet be impervious to the strokes of the most tremendous
of tails. Would she soar? In a prose balloon she seeks the stars. There
is room and power of ascension for any quantity of ballast--fling it
out, and up she goes! Let some gas escape, and she descends far more
gingerly than Mrs Graham and his Serene Highness; the grapnel catches a
stile, and she steps "like a dreadless angel unpursued" once more upon
_terra firma_, and may then celebrate her aerial voyage, if she choose,
in an Ode which will be sure near the end to rise--into prose.

Prose, we believe, is destined to drive what is called Poetry out of the
world. Here is a fair challenge. Let any Poet send us a poem of five
hundred lines--blanks or not--on any subject; and we shall write on that
subject a passage of the same number of words in prose; and the Editors
of the Quarterly, Edinburgh, and Westminster, shall decide which
deserves the prize. Milton was woefully wrong in speaking of "prose or
numerous verse." Prose is a million times more numerous than verse. Then
prose improves the more poetical it becomes; but verse, the moment it
becomes prosaic, goes to the dogs. Then, the connecting links between
two fine passages in verse, it is enjoined, shall be as little like
verse as possible; nay, whole passages, critics say, should be of that
sort; and why, pray, not prose at once? Why clip the King's English, or
the Emperor's German, or the Sublime Porte's Turkish, into bits of dull
jingle--pretending to be verses merely because of the proper number of
syllables--some of them imprisoned perhaps in parentheses, where they
sit helplessly protruding the bare soles of their feet, like folks that
have got muzzy, in the stocks?

Wordsworth says well, that the language of common people, when giving
utterance to passionate emotions, is highly figurative; and hence he
concludes not so well fit for a lyrical ballad. Their volubility is
great, nor few their flowers of speech. But who ever heard them, but by
the merest accident, spout verses? Rhyme do they never--the utmost they
reach is occasional blanks. But their prose! Ye gods! how they do talk!
The washerwoman absolutely froths like her own tub; and you never dream
of asking her "how she is off for soap?" Paradise Lost! The Excursion!
The Task indeed! No man of woman born, no woman by man begotten, ever
yet in his or her senses spoke like the authors of those poems. Hamlet,
in his sublimest moods, speaks in prose--Lady Macbeth talks prose in her
sleep--and so it should be printed. "Out damned spot!" are three words
of prose; and who that beheld Siddons wringing her hands to wash them of
murder, did not feel that they were the most dreadful ever extorted by
remorse from guilt?

A green old age is the most loving season of life, for almost all the
other passions are then dead or dying--or the mind, no more at the mercy
of a troubled heart, compares the little pleasure their gratification
can ever yield now with what it could at any time long ago, and lets
them rest. Envy is the worst disturber or embitterer of man's declining
years; but it does not deserve the name of a passion--and is a disease,
not of the poor in spirit--for they are blessed--but of the mean, and
then they indeed are cursed. For our own parts, we know Envy but as we
have studied it in others--and never felt it except towards the wise and
good; and then 'twas a longing desire to be like them--painful only when
we thought that might never be, and that all our loftiest aspirations
might be in vain. Our envy of Genius is of a nature so noble, that it
knows no happiness like that of guarding from mildew the laurels on the
brows of the Muses' Sons. What a dear kind soul of a critic is old
Christopher North! Watering the flowers of poetry, and removing the
weeds that might choke them--letting in the sunshine upon them, and
fencing them from the blast--proclaiming where the gardens grow, and
leading boys and virgins into the pleasant alleys--teaching hearts to
love and eyes to see their beauty, and classifying, by the attributes it
has pleased nature to bestow on the various orders, the plants of
Paradise--This is our occupation--and the happiness of witnessing them
all growing in the light of admiration is our reward.

Finding our way back as we choose to Ivy-cottage, we cross the wooden
bridge, and away along the western shore of Rydal-mere. Hence you see
the mountains in magnificent composition, and craggy coppices with
intervening green fields shelving down to the lake margin. It is a small
lake, not much more than a mile round, and of a very peculiar character.
One memorable cottage only, as far as we remember, peeps on its shore
from a grove of sycamores, a statesman's pleasant dwelling; and there
are the ruins of another on a slope near the upper end, the circle of
the garden still visible. Everything has a quiet but wildish pastoral
and sylvan look, and the bleating of sheep fills the hollow of the
hills. The lake has a reedy inlet and outlet, and the angler thinks of
pike when he looks upon such harbours. There is a single boat-house,
where the Lady of the Hall has a padlocked and painted barge for
pleasure parties; and the heronry on the high pine-trees of the only
island connects the scene with the ancient park of Rydal, whose oak
woods, though thinned and decayed, still preserve the majestic and
venerable character of antiquity and baronial state.

Having taken a lingering farewell of Rydal-mere, and of the new
Chapel-tower, that seems among the groves already to be an antique, we
may either sink down to the stream that flows out of Grassmere and
connects the two lakes, crossing a wooden bridge, and then joining the
new road that sweeps along to the Village, or we may keep up on the face
of the hill, and by a terrace-path reach the Loughrigg-road, a few
hundred yards above Tail-end, a pretty cottage-ornée which you will
observe crowning a wooded eminence, and looking cheerfully abroad over
all the vale. There is one Mount in particular, whence we see to
advantage the delightful panorama--encircling mountains--Grassmere Lake
far down below your feet, with its one green pastoral isle, sylvan
shores, and emerald meadows--huts and houses sprinkled up and down in
all directions--the village partly embowered in groves, and partly open
below the shadow of large single trees--and the Church-tower, almost
always a fine feature in the scenery of the north of England, standing
in stately simplicity among the clustering tenements, nor dwindled even
by the great height of the hills.

It is pleasant to lose sight entirely of a beautiful scene, and to plod
along for a few hundred yards in almost objectless shadow. Our
conceptions and feelings are bright and strong from the nearness of
their objects, yet the dream is somewhat different from the reality. All
at once, at a turning of the road, the splendour reappears like an
unfurled banner, and the heart leaps in the joy of the senses. This sort
of enjoyment comes upon you before you reach the Village of Grassmere
from the point of vision above described, and a stranger sometimes is
apt to doubt if it be really the same Lake--that one island, and those
few promontories, shifting into such varied combinations with the
varying mountain-ridges and ranges, that show top over top in
bewildering succession, and give hints of other valleys beyond, and of
Tarns rarely visited, among the moorland wastes. A single long dim
shadow, falling across the water, alters the whole physiognomy of the
scene--nor less a single bright streak of sunshine, brightening up some
feature formerly hidden, and giving animation and expression to the
whole face of the Lake.

About a short mile from the Village Inn, you will pass by without seeing
it--unless warned not to do so--one of the most singularly beautiful
habitations in the world. It belongs to a gentleman of the name of
Barber, and, we believe, has been almost entirely built by him--the
original hut on which his taste has worked having been a mere shell. The
spirit of the place seems to us to be that of Shadowy Silence. Its
bounds are small; but it is an indivisible part of a hill-side so secret
and sylvan, that it might be the haunt of the roe. You hear the tinkle
of a rill, invisible among the hazels--a bird sings or flutters--a bee
hums his way through the bewildering wood--but no louder sound. Some
fine old forest-trees extend widely their cool and glimmering shade; and
a few stumps or armless trunks, whose bulk is increased by a load of ivy
that hides the hollow wherein the owls have their domicile, give an air
of antiquity to the spot, that, but for other accompaniments, would
almost be melancholy. As it is, the scene has a pensive character. As
yet you have seen no house, and wonder whither the gravel-walks are to
conduct you, winding fancifully and fantastically through the
smooth-shaven lawn, bestrewed by a few large leaves of the
horse-chestnut or sycamore. But there are clustered verandas where the
nightingale might woo the rose, and lattice-windows reaching from eaves
to ground-sill, so sheltered that they might stand open in storm and
rain, and tall circular chimneys, shaped almost like the stems of the
trees that overshadow the roof irregular, and over all a gleam of blue
sky and a few motionless clouds. The noisy world ceases to be, and the
tranquil heart, delighted with the sweet seclusion, breathes, "Oh! that
this were my cell, and that I were a hermit!"

But you soon see that the proprietor is not a hermit; for everywhere you
discern unostentatious traces of that elegance and refinement that
belong to social and cultivated life; nothing rude and rough-hewn, yet
nothing prim and precise. Snails and spiders are taught to keep their
own places; and among the flowers of that hanging garden on a sunny
slope, not a weed is to be seen, for weeds are beautiful only by the
wayside, in the matting of hedge-roots, by the mossy stone, and the
brink of the well in the brae--and are offensive only when they intrude
into society above their own rank, and where they have the air and
accent of aliens. By pretty pebbled steps of stairs you mount up from
platform to platform of the sloping woodland banks--the prospect
widening as you ascend, till from a bridge that spans a leaping rivulet,
you behold in full blow all Grassmere Vale, Village, Church-tower, and
Lake, the whole of the mountains, and a noble arch of sky, the
circumference of that little world of peace.

Circumscribed as are the boundaries of this place, yet the grounds are
so artfully, while one thinks so artlessly, laid out, that, wandering
through their labyrinthine recesses, you might believe yourself in an
extensive wilderness. Here you come out upon a green open glade (you see
by the sun-dial it is past seven o'clock)--there the arms of an immense
tree overshadow what is in itself a scene--yonder you have an alley that
serpentises into gloom and obscurity--and from that cliff you doubtless
would see over the tree-tops into the outer and airy world. With all its
natural beauties is intermingled an agreeable quaintness, that shows the
owner has occasionally been working in the spirit of fancy, almost
caprice; the tool-house in the garden is not without its ornaments--the
barn seems habitable, and the byre has somewhat the appearance of a
chapel. You see at once that the man who lives here, instead of being
sick of the world, is attached to all elegant socialities and amities;
that he uses silver cups instead of maple bowls, shows his scallop-shell
among other curiosities in his cabinet, and will treat the passing
pilgrim with pure water from the spring, if he insists upon that
beverage, but will first offer him a glass of the yellow cowslip-wine,
the cooling claret, or the sparkling champagne.

Perhaps we are all beginning to get a little hungry, but it is too soon
to breakfast; so, leaving the village of Grassmere on the right, keep
your eye on Helm-crag, while we are finding, without seeking, our way up
Easdale. Easdale is an arm of Grassmere, and in the words of Mr Green
the artist, "it is in places profusely wooded, and charmingly
sequestered among the mountains." Here you may hunt the waterfalls, in
rainy weather easily run down, but difficult of detection in a drought.
Several pretty rustic bridges cross and recross the main stream and its
tributaries; the cottages, in nook and on hill-side, are among the most
picturesque and engaging in the whole country; the vale widens into
spacious and noble meadow-grounds, on which might suitably stand the
mansion of any nobleman in England--as you near its head, everything
gets wild and broken, with a slight touch of dreariness, and by no very
difficult ascent we might reach Easdale-tarn in less than an hour's
walking from Grassmere--a lonely and impressive scene, and the haunt of
the angler almost as frequently as of the shepherd.

How far can we enjoy the beauty of external nature under a sharp
appetite for breakfast or dinner? On our imagination the effect of
hunger is somewhat singular. We no longer regard sheep, for instance, as
the fleecy or the bleating flock. Their wool or their baaing is nothing
to us--we think of necks, and jigots, and saddles of mutton; and even
the lamb frisking on the sunny bank is eaten by us in the shape of
steaks and fry. If it is in the morning, we see no part of the cow but
her udder, distilling richest milkiness. Instead of ascending to heaven
on the smoke of a cottage chimney, we put our arms round the column, and
descend on the lid of the great pan preparing the family breakfast.
Every interesting object in the landscape seems edible--our mouth waters
all over the vale--as the village clock tolls eight, we involuntarily
say grace, and Price on the Picturesque gives way to Meg Dods's Cookery.

Mrs Bell of the Red Lion Inn, Grassmere, can give a breakfast with any
woman in England. She bakes incomparable bread--firm, close, compact,
and white, thin-crusted, and admirably raised. Her yeast always works
well. What butter! Before it a primrose must hide its unyellowed head.
Then jam of the finest quality, goose, rasp, and strawberry! and as the
jam is, so are her jellies. Hens cackle that the eggs are fresh--and
these shrimps were scraping the sand last night in the Whitehaven sea.
What glorious bannocks of barley-meal! Crisp wheaten cakes, too, no
thicker than a wafer. Do not, our good sir, appropriate that cut of
pickled salmon; it is heavier than it looks, and will weigh about four
pounds. One might live a thousand years, yet never weary of such
mutton-ham. Virgin honey, indeed! Let us hope that the bees were not
smothered, but by some gracious disciple of Bonar or Huber decoyed from
a full hive into an empty one, with half the summer and all the autumn
before them to build and saturate their new Comb-Palace. No bad thing
is a cold pigeon-pie, especially of cushats. To hear them cooing in the
centre of a wood is one thing, and to see them lying at the bottom of a
pie is another--which is the better, depends entirely on time, place,
and circumstance. Well, a beef-steak at breakfast is rather
startling--but let us try a bit with these fine ingenuous youthful
potatoes, from a light sandy soil on a warm slope. Next to the country
clergy, smugglers are the most spiritual of characters; and we verily
believe that to be "sma' still." Our dear sir--you are in orders, we
believe--will you have the goodness to return thanks? Yes, now you may
ring the bell for the bill. Moderate indeed! With a day's work before
one, there is nothing like the deep broad basis of breakfast.



It is yet only ten o'clock--and what a multitude of thoughts and
feelings, sights and sounds, lights and shadows, have been ours since
sunrise! Had we been in bed, all would have remained unfelt and unknown.
But, to be sure, one dream might have been worth them all. Dreams,
however, when they are over, are gone, be they of bliss or bale, heaven
or the shades. No one weeps over a dream. With such tears no one would
sympathise. Give us reality, "the sober certainty of waking bliss," and
to it memory shall cling. Let the object of our sorrow belong to the
living world, and, transient though it be, its power may be immortal.
Away then, as of little worth, all the unsubstantial and wavering world
of dreams, and in their place give us the very humblest humanities, so
much the better if enjoyed in some beautiful scene of nature like this,
where all is steadfast but the clouds, whose very being is change, and
the flow of waters that have been in motion since the Flood.

Ha! a splendid equipage with a coronet. And out steps, handed by her
elated husband, a high-born beautiful and graceful bride. They are
making a tour of the Lakes, and the honeymoon hath not yet filled her
horns. If there be indeed such a thing as happiness on this earth, here
it is--youth, elegance, health, rank, riches, and love--all united in
ties that death alone can sunder. How they hang towards each other--the
blissful pair! Blind in their passion to all the scenery they came to
admire, or beholding it but by fits and snatches, with eyes that can see
only one object. She hath already learnt to forget father and mother,
and sister and brother, and all the young creatures like herself--every
one--that shared the pastimes and the confidence of her virgin
youthhood. With her, as with Genevieve--

    "All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
      Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
    All are but ministers of Love,
      And feed his sacred flame!"

And will this holy state of the spirit endure? No--it will fade, and
fade, and fade away, so imperceptibly, so unconsciously (so like the
shortening of the long summer-days, that lose minute after minute of the
light, till again we hear the yellow leaves rustling in autumnal
twilight), that the heart within that snow-drifted bosom will know not
how great has been the change, till at last it shall be told the truth,
and know that all mortal emotion, however paradisiacal, is born to die.

Fain would we believe that forebodings like these are, on all such
occasions, whispered by a blind and ignorant misanthropy, and that of
wedded life it may generally be said,

    "O, happy state, where souls together draw,
    Where love is liberty, and nature law!"

What profound powers of affection, grief, pity, sympathy, delight, and
religion belong, by its constitution, to the frame of every human soul!
And if the courses of life have not greatly thwarted the divine
dispensations of nature, will they not all rise into genial play within
bosoms consecrated to each other's happiness, till comes between them
the cold hand of death? It would seem that everything fair and good must
flourish under that holy necessity--everything foul and bad fade away;
and that no quarrel or unkindness could ever be between pilgrims
travelling together through time to eternity, whether their path lead
through an Eden or a waste. Habit itself comes with humble hearts to be
gracious and benign; they who have once loved, will not, for that very
reason, cease to love; memory shall brighten when hope decays; and if
the present be not now so blissful, so thrilling, so steeped in rapture
as it was in the golden prime, yet shall it without repining suffice to
them whose thoughts borrow unconsciously sweet comforts from the past
and future, and have been taught by mutual cares and sorrows to indulge
tempered expectations of the best earthly felicity. And is it not so?
How much tranquillity and contentment in human homes! Calm onflowings of
life shaded in domestic privacy, and seen but at times coming out into
the open light! What brave patience under poverty! What beautiful
resignation in grief! Riches take wings to themselves and flee away--yet
without and within the door there is the decency of a changed, not an
unhappy lot--The clouds of adversity darken men's characters even as if
they were the shadows of dishonour, but conscience quails not in the
gloom--The well out of which humility hath her daily drink, is nearly
dried up to the very spring, but she upbraideth not Heaven--Children,
those flowers that make the hovel's earthen floor delightful as the
glades of Paradise, wither in a day, but there is holy comfort in the
mother's tears; nor are the groans of the father altogether without
relief--for they have gone whither they came, and are blooming now in
the bowers of heaven.

Reverse the picture--and tremble for the fate of those whom God hath
made one, and whom no one man must put asunder. In common natures, what
hot and sensual passions, whose gratification ends in indifference,
disgust, loathing, or hatred! What a power of misery, from fretting to
madness, lies in that mean but mighty word--Temper! The face, to whose
meek beauty smiles seemed native during the days of virgin love, shows
now but a sneer, a scowl, a frown, or a glare of scorn. The shape of
those features is still fine--the eye of the gazelle--the Grecian nose
and forehead--the ivory teeth, so small and regular--and thin line of
ruby lips breathing Circassian luxury--the snow-drifts of the bosom
still heave there--a lovelier waist Apollo never encircled stepping from
the chariot of the sun--nor limbs more graceful did ever Diana veil
beneath the shadows of Mount Latmos. But she is a fiend--a devil
incarnate, and the sovereign beauty of three counties has made your
house a hell.

But suppose that you have had the sense and sagacity to marry a homely
wife--or one comely at the best--nay, even that you have sought to
secure your peace by admitted ugliness--or wedded a woman whom all
tongues call--plain; then may an insurance-ticket, indeed, flame like
the sun in miniature on the front of your house--but what Joint-Stock
Company can undertake to repay the loss incurred by the perpetual
singeing of the smouldering flames of strife, that blaze up without
warning at bed and board, and keep you in an everlasting alarm of fire?
We defy you to utter the most glaring truth that shall not be instantly
contradicted. The most rational proposals for a day or hour of pleasure,
at home or abroad, are on the nail negatived as absurd. If you dine at
home every day for a month, she wonders why nobody asks you out, and
fears you take no trouble to make yourself agreeable. If you dine from
home one day in a month, then are you charged with being addicted to
tavern-clubs. Children are perpetual bones of contention--there is
hatred and sorrow in house-bills--rent and taxes are productive of
endless grievances; and although education be an excellent thing--indeed
quite a fortune in itself--especially to a poor Scotsman going to
England, where all the people are barbarous--yet is it irritatingly
expensive when a great Northern Nursery sends out its hordes, and gawky
hoydens and hobbletehoys are getting themselves accomplished in the
foreign languages, music, drawing, geography, the use of the globes, and
the dumb-bells.

    "Let observation, with extensive view,
    Survey mankind from China to Peru,"

(two bad lines, by the way, though written by Dr Johnson)--and
observation will find the literature of all countries filled with
sarcasms against the marriage-life. Our old Scottish songs and ballads
especially, delight in representing it as a state of ludicrous misery
and discomfort. There is little or no talk of horns--the dilemma of
English wit; but every individual moment of every individual minute, of
every individual hour of every individual day, and so on, has its
peculiar, appropriate, characteristic, and incurable wretchedness. Yet
the delightful thing is, that in spite of all this jeering and gibing,
and grinning and hissing, and pointing with the finger--marrying and
giving in marriage, births and christenings, continue their career of
prosperity; and the legitimate population doubles itself somewhere about
every thirty-five years. Single houses rise out of the earth--double
houses become villages--villages towns--towns cities--and our Metropolis
is itself a world!

While the lyrical poetry of Scotland is thus rife with reproach against
wedlock, it is equally rife with panegyric on the tender passion that
leads into its toils. In one page you shudder in a cold sweat over the
mean miseries of the poor "gudeman;" in the next you see, unconscious of
the same approaching destiny, the enamoured youth lying on his Mary's
bosom beneath the milk-white thorn. The pastoral pipe is tuned under a
fate that hurries on all living creatures to love; and not one lawful
embrace is shunned from any other fears than those which of themselves
spring up in the poor man's thoughtful heart. The wicked betray, and the
weak fall--bitter tears are shed at midnight from eyes once bright as
the day--fair faces never smile again, and many a hut has its broken
heart--hope comes and goes, finally vanquishing, or yielding to
despair--crowned passion dies the sated death, or, with increase of
appetite, grows by what it feeds on--wide, but unseen, over all the
regions of the land, are cheated hopes, vain desires, gnawing jealousy,
dispirited fear, and swarthy-souled revenge--beseechings, seductions,
suicides, and insanities--and all, all spring from the root of Love; yet
all the nations of the earth call the Tree blest, and long as time
endures, will continue to flock thither panting to devour the fruitage,
of which every other golden globe is poison and death.

Smile away then, with all thy most irresistible blandishments, thou
young and happy Bride! What business have we to prophesy bedimming tears
to those resplendent eyes? or that the talisman of that witching smile
can ever lose its magic? Are not the high-born daughters of England also
the high-souled? And have not honour and virtue, and charity and
religion, guarded for centuries the lofty line of thy pure and
unpolluted blood? Joyful, therefore, mayst thou be, as the dove in the
sunshine on the Tower-top--and as the dove serene, when she sitteth on
her nest within the yew-tree's gloom, far within the wood!

Passing from our episode, let us say that we are too well acquainted
with your taste, feeling, and judgment, to tell you on what objects to
gaze or glance, in such a scene as the vale and village of Grassmere. Of
yourselves you will find out the nooks and corners from which the pretty
white-washed and flowering cottages do most picturesquely combine with
each other, and with the hills, and groves, and old church-tower.
Without our guiding hand will you ascend knoll and eminence, be there
pathway or no pathway, and discover for yourselves new Lake-Landscapes.
Led by your own sweet and idle, chaste and noble fancies, you will
disappear, single, or in pairs and parties, into little woody
wildernesses, where you will see nothing but ground-flowers and a
glimmering contiguity of shade. Solitude sometimes, you know, is best
society, and short retirement urges sweet return. Various travels or
voyages of discovery may be undertaken, and their grand object attained
in little more than an hour. The sudden whirr of a cushat is an
incident, or the leaping of a lamb among the broom. In the quiet of
nature, matchless seems the music of the milkmaid's song--and of the
hearty laugh of the haymakers, crossing the meadow in rows, how sweet
the cheerful echo from Helm-crag! Grassmere appears by far the most
beautiful place in all the Lake-country. You buy a field--build a
cottage--and in imagination lie (for they are too short to enable you to
sit) beneath the shadow of your own trees!

In an English village--highland or lowland--seldom is there any spot so
beautiful as the churchyard. That of Grassmere is especially so, with
the pensive shadows of the old church-tower settling over its cheerful
graves. Ay, its cheerful graves! Startle not at the word as too
strong--for the pigeons are cooing in the belfry, the stream is
murmuring round the mossy churchyard wall, a few lambs are lying on the
mounds, and flowers laughing in the sunshine over the cells of the dead.
But hark! the bell tolls--one--one--one--a funeral knell, speaking not
of time, but of eternity! To-day there is to be a burial--and close to
the wall of the Tower you see the new-dug grave.

Hush! The sound of singing voices in yonder wood, deadened by the weight
of umbrage! Now it issues forth into the clear air, and now all is
silence--but the pause speaks of death. Again the melancholy swell
ascends the sky--and then comes slowly along the funeral procession, the
coffin borne aloft, and the mourners all in white; for it is a virgin
who is carried to her last home. Let every head be reverently uncovered
while the psalm enters the gate, and the bier is borne for holy rites
along the chancel of the church, and laid down close to the altar. A
smothered sobbing disturbeth not the service--'tis a human spirit
breathing in accordance with the divine. Mortals weeping for the
immortal--Earth's passions cleaving to one who is now in heaven.

Was she one flower of many, and singled out by death's unsparing finger
from a wreath of beauty, whose remaining blossoms seem now to have lost
all their fragrance and all their brightness? Or was she the sole
delight of her greyhaired parents' eyes, and is the voice of joy
extinguished in their low-roofed home for ever? Had her loveliness been
beloved, and had her innocent hopes anticipated the bridal-day, nor her
heart, whose beatings were numbered, ever feared that narrow bed? All
that we know is her name and age--you see them glittering on her
coffin--"Anabella Irvine, aged xix years"!

The day seems something dim, now that we are all on our way back to
Ambleside; and although the clouds are neither heavier nor more numerous
than before, somehow or other the sun is a little obscured. We must not
indulge too long in a mournful mood--yet let us all sit down under the
shadow of this grove of sycamores, overshadowing this reedy bay of
Rydal-mere, and listen to a Tale of Tears.

Many a tame tradition, embalmed in a few pathetic verses, lives for
ages, while the memory of the most affecting incidents, to which genius
has allied no general emotion, fades like the mist, and leaves
heart-rending griefs undeplored. Elegies and dirges might indeed have
well been sung amidst the green ruins of yonder Cottage, that looks now
almost like a fallen wall--at best, the remnants of a cattle-shed shaken
down by the storm.

Thirty years ago--how short a time in national history--how long in that
of private sorrows!--all tongues were speaking of the death that there
befell; and to have seen the weeping, you would have thought that the
funeral could never have been forgotten. But stop now the shepherd on
the hill, and ask him who lived in that nook, and chance is he knows not
even their name, much less the story of their afflictions. It was
inhabited by Allan Fleming, his wife, and an only child, known
familiarly in her own small world by the name of LUCY OF THE FOLD. In
almost every district among the mountains, there is its peculiar
pride--some one creature to whom nature has been especially kind, and
whose personal beauty, sweetness of disposition, and felt superiority of
mind and manner, single her out, unconsciously, as an object of
attraction and praise, making her the May-day Queen of the unending
year. Such a darling was Lucy Fleming ere she had finished her
thirteenth year; and strangers, who had heard tell of her loveliness,
often dropt in, as if by accident, to see the Beauty of Rydal-mere. Her
parents rejoiced in their child; nor was there any reason why they
should dislike the expression of delight and wonder with which so many
regarded her. Shy was she as a woodland bird, but as fond too of her
nest; and when there was nothing near to disturb her, her life was
almost a perpetual hymn. From joy to sadness, and from sadness to joy;
from silence to song, and from song to silence; from stillness like that
of the butterfly on the flower, to motion like that of the same creature
wavering in the sunshine over the wood-top--was to Lucy as welcome a
change as the change of lights and shadows, breezes and calms, in the
mountain-country of her birth.

One summer day, a youthful stranger appeared at the door of the house,
and after an hour's stay, during which Lucy was from home, asked if they
would let him have lodging with them for a few months--a single room for
bed and books, and that he would take his meals with the family.
Enthusiastic boy! to him poetry had been the light of life, nor did ever
creature of poetry belong more entirely than he to the world of
imagination. He had come into the free mountain region from the
confinement of college walls, and his spirit expanded within him like a
rainbow. No eyes had he for realities--all nature was seen in the light
of genius--not a single object at sunrise and sunset the same. All was
beautiful within the circle of the green hill-tops, whether shrouded in
the soft mists or clearly outlined in a cloudless sky. Home, friends,
colleges, cities--all sunk away into oblivion, and HARRY HOWARD felt as
if wafted off on the wings of a spirit, and set down in a land beyond
the sea, foreign to all he had before experienced, yet in its perfect
and endless beauty appealing every hour more tenderly and strongly to a
spirit awakened to new power, and revelling in new emotion. In that
cottage he took up his abode. In a few weeks came a library of books in
all languages; and there was much wondering talk over all the
countryside about the mysterious young stranger who now lived at the

Every day--and, when he chose to absent himself from his haunts among
the hills, every hour was Lucy before the young poet's eyes--and every
hour did her beauty wax more beautiful in his imagination. Who Mr Howard
was, or even if that were indeed his real name, no one knew; but none
doubted that he was of gentle birth, and all with whom he had ever
conversed in his elegant amenity, could have sworn that a youth so bland
and free, and with such a voice, and such eyes, would not have injured
the humblest of God's creatures, much less such a creature as Lucy of
the Fold. It was indeed even so--for, before the long summer days were
gone, he who had never had a sister, loved her even as if she had slept
on the same maternal bosom. Father or mother he now had none--indeed,
scarcely one near relation--although he was rich in this world's riches,
but in them poor in comparison with the noble endowments that nature had
lavished upon his mind. His guardians took little heed of the splendid
but wayward youth--and knew not now whither his fancies had carried him,
were it even to some savage land. Thus the Fold became to him the one
dearest roof under the roof of heaven. All the simple ongoings of that
humble home, love and imagination beautified into poetry; and all the
rough or coarser edges of lowly life were softened away in the light of
genius that transmuted everything on which it fell; while all the silent
intimations which nature gave there of her primal sympathies, in the hut
as fine and forceful as in the hall, showed to his excited spirit
pre-eminently lovely, and chained it to the hearth, around which was
read the morning and the evening prayer.

What wild schemes does not love imagine, and in the face of very
impossibility achieve! "I will take Lucy to myself, if it should be in
place of all the world. I will myself shed light over her being, till in
a new spring it shall be adorned with living flowers that fade not away,
perennial and self-renewed. In a few years the bright docile creature
will have the soul of a very angel--and then, before God and at His holy
altar, mine shall she become for ever--here and hereafter--in this
paradise of earth, and, if more celestial be, in the paradise of

Thus two summers and two winters wheeled away into the past; and in the
change, imperceptible from day to day, but glorious at last, wrought on
Lucy's nature by communication with one so prodigally endowed, scarcely
could her parents believe it was their same child, except that she was
dutiful as before, as affectionate, and as fond of all the familiar
objects, dead or living, round and about her birthplace. She had now
grown to woman's stature--tall, though she scarcely seemed so except
when among her playmates; and in her maturing loveliness, fulfilling,
and far more than fulfilling, the fair promise of her childhood. Never
once had the young stranger--stranger no more--spoken to daughter,
father, or mother, of his love. Indeed, for all that he felt towards
Lucy there must have been some other word than love. Tenderness, which
was almost pity--an affection that was often sad--wonder at her
surpassing beauty, nor less at her unconsciousness of its
power--admiration of her spiritual qualities, that ever rose up to meet
instruction as if already formed--and that heart-throbbing that stirs
the blood of youth when the innocent eyes it loves are beaming in the
twilight through smiles or through tears,--these, and a thousand other
feelings, and above all, the creative faculty of a poet's soul, now
constituted his very being when Lucy was in presence, nor forsook him
when he was alone among the mountains.

At last it was known through the country that Mr Howard--the stranger,
the scholar, the poet, the elegant gentleman, of whom nobody knew much,
but whom everybody loved, and whose father must at the least have been a
lord, was going--in a year or less--to marry the daughter of Allan
Fleming--Lucy of the Fold. O, grief and shame to the parents--if still
living--of the noble Boy! O, sorrow for himself when his passion
dies--when the dream is dissolved--and when, in place of the angel of
light who now moves before him, he sees only a child of earth, lowly
born, and long rudely bred--a being only fair as many others are fair,
sister in her simplicity to maidens no less pleasing than she, and
partaking of many weaknesses, frailties, and faults now unknown to
herself in her happiness, and to him in his love! Was there no one to
rescue them from such a fate--from a few months of imaginary bliss, and
from many years of real bale? How could such a man as Allan Fleming be
so infatuated as sell his child to fickle youth, who would soon desert
her broken-hearted? Yet kind thoughts, wishes, hopes, and beliefs
prevailed; nor were there wanting stories of the olden time, of
low-born maidens married to youths of high estate, and raised from hut
to hall, becoming mothers of a lordly line of sons, that were
counsellors to Kings and Princes.

In Spring, Mr Howard went away for a few months--it was said to the
great city--and on his return at midsummer, Lucy was to be his bride.
They parted with a few peaceful tears, and though absent were still
together. And now a letter came, saying that before another Sabbath he
would be at the Fold. A few fields in Easdale, long mortgaged beyond
their fee-simple by the hard-working statesman from whom they
reluctantly were passing away, had meanwhile been purchased by Mr
Howard, and in that cottage they were to abide, till they had built for
themselves a house a little further up the side of the sylvan hill,
below the shadow of Helm-crag. Lucy saw the Sabbath of his return and
its golden sun, but it was in her mind's eye only; for ere it was to
descend behind the hills, she was not to be among the number of living

Up Forest-Ullswater the youth had come by the light of the setting sun;
and as he crossed the mountains to Grassmere by the majestic pass of the
Hawse, still as every new star arose in heaven, with it arose as
lustrous a new emotion from the bosom of his betrothed. The midnight
hour had been fixed for his return to the Fold; and as he reached the
cliffs above White-moss, according to agreement a light was burning in
the low window, the very planet of love. It seemed to shed a bright
serenity over all the vale, and the moon-glittering waters of Rydal-mere
were as an image of life, pure, lonely, undisturbed, and at the pensive
hour how profound! "Blessing and praise be to the gracious God! who
framed my spirit so to delight in His beautiful and glorious
creation--blessing and praise to the Holy One, for the boon of my Lucy's
innocent and religious love!" Prayers crowded fast into his soul, and
tears of joy fell from his eyes, as he stood at the threshold, almost
afraid, in the trembling of life-deep affection, to meet her first

In the silence, sobs and sighs, and one or two long deep groans! Then in
another moment, he saw, through the open door of the room where Lucy
used to sleep, several figures moving to and fro in the light, and one
figure upon its knees--who else could it be but her father! Unnoticed he
became one of the pale-faced company--and there he beheld her on her
bed, mute and motionless, her face covered with a deplorable
beauty--eyes closed, and her hands clasped upon her breast! "Dead, dead,
dead!" muttered in his ringing ears a voice from the tombs, and he fell
down in the midst of them with great violence upon the floor.

Encircled with arms that lay round him softer and silkier far than
flower-wreaths on the neck of a child who has laid him down from play,
was he when he awoke from that fit--lying even on his own maiden's bed,
and within her very bosom, that beat yet, although soon about to beat no
more. At that blest awakening moment, he might have thought he saw the
first glimpse of light of the morning after his marriage-day; for her
face was turned towards his breast, and with her faint breathings he
felt the touch of tears. Not tears alone now bedimmed those eyes, for
tears he could have kissed away; but the blue lids were heavy with
something that was not slumber--the orbs themselves were scarcely
visible--and her voice--it was gone, to be heard never again, till in
the choir of white-robed spirits that sing at the right hand of God.

Yet no one doubted that she knew him--him who had dropt down, like a
superior being, from another sphere, on the innocence of her simple
childhood--had taught her to know so much of her own soul--to love her
parents with a profounder and more holy love--to see, in characters more
divine, Heaven's promises of forgiveness to every contrite heart--and a
life of perfect blessedness beyond death and the grave. A smile that
shone over her face the moment that she had been brought to know that he
had come at last, and was nigh at hand--and that never left it while her
bosom moved--no--not for all the three days and nights that he continued
to sit beside the corpse, when father and mother were forgetting their
cares in sleep--that smile told all who stood around, watching her
departure, neighbour, friend, priest, parent, and him the suddenly
distracted and desolate, that in the very moment of expiration she knew
him well, and was recommending him and his afflictions to the pity of
One who died to save sinners.

Three days and three nights, we have said, did he sit beside her who so
soon was to have been his bride; and come or go who would into the room,
he saw them not--his sight was fixed on the winding-sheet, eyeing it,
without a single tear, from feet to forehead, and sometimes looking up
to heaven. As men forgotten in dungeons have lived miserably long
without food, so did he--and so he would have done, on and on to the
most far-off funeral day. From that one chair, close to the bedside, he
never rose. Night after night, when all the vale was hushed, he never
slept. Through one of the midnights there had been a great thunderstorm,
the lightning smiting a cliff close to the cottage; but it seemed that
he heard it not--and during the floods of next day, to him the roaring
vale was silent. On the morning of the funeral, the old people--for now
they seemed to be old--wept to see him sitting still beside their dead
child; for each of the few remaining hours had now its own sad office,
and a man had come to nail down the coffin. Three black specks suddenly
alighted on the face of the corpse--and then off--and on--and away--and
returning--was heard the buzzing of large flies, attracted by beauty in
its corruption. "Ha--ha!" starting up, he cried in horror--"What birds
of prey are these, whom Satan has sent to devour the corpse?" He became
stricken with a sort of palsy--and, being led out to the open air, was
laid down, seemingly as dead as her within, on the green daisied turf,
where, beneath the shadow of the sycamore, they had so often sat,
building up beautiful visions of a long blissful life.

The company assembled--but not before his eyes--the bier was lifted up
and moved away down the sylvan slope, and away round the head of the
Lake, and over the wooden bridge, accompanied, here and there, as it
passed the wayside houses on the road to Grassmere, by the sound of
psalms--but he saw--he heard not;--when the last sound of the spade
rebounded from the smooth arch of the grave, he was not by--but all the
while he was lying where they left him, with one or two pitying dalesmen
at his head and feet. When he awoke again and rose up, the cottage of
the Fold was as if she had never been born--for she had vanished for
ever and aye, and her sixteen years' smiling life was all extinguished
in the dust.

Weeks and months passed on, and still there was a vacant wildness in his
eyes, and a mortal ghastliness all over his face, inexpressive of a
reasonable soul. It scarcely seemed that he knew where he was, or in
what part of the earth, yet, when left by himself, he never sought to
move beyond the boundaries of the Fold. During the first faint
glimmerings of returning reason, he would utter her name, over and over
many times, with a mournful voice, but still he knew not that she was
dead--then he began to caution them all to tread softly, for that sleep
had fallen upon her, and her fever in its blessed balm might abate--then
with groans too affecting to be borne by those who heard them, he would
ask why, since she was dead, God had the cruelty to keep him, her
husband, in life; and finally, and last of all, he imagined himself in
Grassmere Churchyard, and clasping a little mound on the green, which it
was evident he thought was her grave, he wept over it for hours and
hours, and kissed it, and placed a stone at its head, and sometimes all
at once broke out into fits of laughter, till the hideous fainting-fits
returned, and after long convulsions left him lying as if stone-dead. As
for his bodily frame, when Lucy's father lifted it up in his arms,
little heavier was it than a bundle of withered fern. Nobody supposed
that one so miserably attenuated and ghost-like could for many days be
alive--yet not till the earth had thrice revolved round the sun did that
body die, and then it was buried far away from the Fold, the banks of
Rydal-water, and the sweet mountains of Westmoreland; for after passing
like a shadow through many foreign lands, he ceased his pilgrimage in
Palestine, even beneath the shadow of Mount Sion, and was laid, with a
lock of hair--which, from the place it held, strangers knew to have
belonged to one dearly beloved--close to his heart, on which it had lain
so long, and was to moulder away in darkness together, by Christian
hands and in a Christian sepulchre.


Periodical literature is a type of many of the most beautiful things and
interesting events in nature; or say, rather, that _they_ are types of
_it_--the Flowers and the Stars. As to Flowers, they are the prettiest
periodicals ever published in folio--the leaves are wire-wove and
hot-pressed by Nature's self; their circulation is wide over all the
land; from castle to cottage they are regularly taken in; as old age
bends over them, his youth is renewed; and you see childhood poring upon
them pressed close to its very bosom. Some of them are ephemeral--their
contents are exhaled between the rising and setting sun. Once a-week
others break through their green, pink, or crimson cover; and how
delightful, on the seventh day, smiles in the sunshine the Sabbath
Flower--a Sunday publication perused without blame by the most
religious--even before morning prayer! Each month, indeed, throughout
the whole year, has its own Flower periodical. Some are annual, some
biennial, some triennial, and there are perennials that seem to live for
ever--and yet are still periodical--though our love will not allow us to
know when they die, and phoenix-like reappear from their own ashes. So
much for Flowers--typifying or typified;--leaves emblematical of
pages--buds of binding--dew-veils of covers--and the wafting away of
bloom and fragrance like the dissemination of fine feelings, bright
fancies, and winged thoughts.

The Flowers are the periodicals of the earth--the Stars are the
periodicals of heaven. With what unfailing regularity do the numbers
issue forth! Hesperus and Lucifer! ye are one concern. The Pole-star is
studied by all nations. How popular the poetry of the Moon! On what
subject does not the Sun throw light? No fear of hurting your eyes by
reading that fine clear large type on that softened page. As you turn
them over, one blue, another yellow, and another green, all are alike
delightful to the pupil, dear as the very apple of his eye. Yes, the
great Periodical Press of heaven is unceasingly at work--night and day;
the only free power all over the world--'tis indeed like the air we
breathe--if we have it not, we die.

Look, then, at all paper periodicals with pleasure, for sake of the
Flowers and the Stars. Suppose them all extinct, and life would be like
a flowerless earth, a starless heaven. We should soon forget the
Seasons. The periodicals of the External would soon all lose their
meaning, were there no longer any periodicals of the Internal. These are
the lights and shadows of life, merrily dancing or gravely stealing over
the dial; remembrancers of the past--teachers of the present--prophets
of the future hours. Were they all dead, Spring would in vain renew her
promise--wearisome would be the interminable summer days--the fruits of
autumn tasteless--the winter ingle blink mournfully round the hearth.
What are the blessed Seasons themselves, in nature and in Thomson, but
periodicals of a larger growth? We should doubt the goodness of that
man's heart, who loved not the periodical literature of earth and
sky--who would not weep to see one of its flowers wither--one of its
stars fall--one beauty die on its humble bed--one glory drop from its
lofty sphere. Let them bloom and burn on--flowers in which there is no
poison, stars in which there is no disease--whose blossoms are all
sweet, and whose rays are all sanative--both alike steeped in dew, and
both, to the fine ear of nature's worshipper, bathed in music.

Pomposo never reads Magazine poetry--nor, we presume, ever looks at a
field or wayside flower. He studies only the standard authors. He walks
only in gardens with high brick walls--and then admires only at a hint
from the head-gardener. Pomposo does not know that many of the finest
poems of our day first appeared in magazines--or, worse still, in
newspapers; and that in our periodicals, daily and weekly, equally with
the monthlies and quarterlies, is to be found the best criticism of
poetry anywhere extant, superior far, in that unpretending form, to
nine-tenths of the learned lucubrations of Germany--though some of it,
too, is good--almost as one's heart could desire. What is the
circulation even of a popular volume of verses--if any such there
be--to that of a number of Maga? Hundreds of thousands at home peruse it
before it is a week old--as many abroad ere the moon has thrice renewed
her horns; and the Series ceases not--regular as the Seasons that make
up the perfect year. Our periodical literature--say of it what you
will--gives light to the heads and heat to the hearts of millions of our
race. The greatest and best men of the age have not disdained to belong
to the brotherhood; and thus the hovel holds what must not be missing in
the hall--the furniture of the cot is the same as that of the
palace--and duke and ditcher read their lessons from the same page.

Good people have said, and it would be misanthropical to disbelieve or
discredit their judgment, that our Prose is original--nay, has created a
new era in the history of Periodical Literature. Only think of that,
Christopher, and up with your Tail like a Peacock! Why, there is some
comfort in that reflection, while we sit rubbing our withered hands up
and down on these shrivelled shanks. Our feet are on the fender, and
that fire is felt on our face; but we verily believe our ice-cold shanks
would not shrink from the application of the red-hot poker. Peter has a
notion that but for that red-hot poker the fire would go out; so to
humour him we let it remain in the ribs, and occasionally brandish it
round our head in moments of enthusiasm when the Crutch looks tame, and
the Knout a silken leash for Italian Greyhound.

Old Simonides--old Mimnermus--old Theognis--old Solon-old Anacreon--old
Sophocles--old Pindar--old Hesiod--old Homer--and old Methuselah! What
mean we by the word _old_? All these men are old in three lights--they
lived to a raven age--long long ago--and we heard tell of them in our
youth. Their glory dawned on us in a dream of life's golden prime--and
far away seems now that dawn, as if in another world beyond a million
seas! In that use of the word "old," far from us is all thought of
dotage or decay. Old are those great personages as the stars are old; a
heaven there is in which are seen shining, for ever young, all the most
ancient spiritual "orbs of Song."

In our delight, too, we love to speak of old Venus and of old Cupid--of
old Eve and of old Cleopatra--of old Helen and of old Dalilah; yea, of
old Psyche, though her aerial wings are as rainbow bright as the first
hour she waved them in the eye of the youthful Sun.

How full of endearment "old boy!"--"old girl!" "Old Christopher
North!"--"old Maga!" To our simplest sayings age seems to give a
consecration which youth reveres. And why may not our hand, withered
somewhat though it be, but yet unpalsied, point out aloft to heedless
eyes single light or constellation, or lily by herself or in groups
unsuspected along the waysides of our mortal pilgrimage?

Age like ours is even more lovable than venerable; and, thinking on
ourselves, were we a young woman, we should assuredly marry an old man.
Indeed, no man ought to marry before thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty;
and, were it not that life is so short, soon enough at threescore and
ten. At seventy you are sager than ever, though scarcely so strong. You
and life love each other as well as ever; yet 'tis unpleasant, when
sailing on Windermere or Lochlomond with your bride, to observe the Man
in the Honeymoon looking at you with a congratulatory grin of
condolence, to fear that the old villain will smile over your grave in
the Season of Kirns and Harvest Homes, when the fiddle is heard in every
farmhouse, and the bagpipes are lowing like cattle on a thousand hills.
Fain would he insure his life on the Tipperary Tables. But the enamoured
annuitant is haunted with visions of his own Funeral deploying in a long
line of chariots--one at the head of all armed with scythes--through the
city, into the wide gates of the Greyfriars. Lovely is his bride in
white, nor less so his widow in black--more so in grey, portentous of a
great change. Sad, too, to the Sage the thought of leaving his
first-born as yet unborn--or if born, haply an elfish Creature with a
precocious countenance, looking as if he had begun life with borrowing
ten years at least from his own father--auld-farrant as a Fairy, and
gash as the Last of the Lairds.

Dearly do we love the young--yea, the young of all animals--the young
swallows twittering from their straw-built shed--the young lambs
bleating on the lea--the young bees, God bless them! on their first
flight away off to the heather--the young butterflies, who, born in the
morning, will die of old age ere night--the young salmon-fry glorying in
the gravel at the first feeling of their fins--the young adders basking,
ere they can bite, in the sun, as yet unconscious, like sucking
satirists, of their stings--young pigs, pretty dears! all a-squeak with
their curled tails after prolific grumphie--young lions and tigers,
charming cubs! like very Christian children nuzzling in their nurse's
breast--young devils, ere Satan has sent them to Sin, who keeps a
fashionable boarding-school in Hades, and sends up into the world
above-ground only her finished scholars.

Oh! lad of the lightsome forehead! Thou art smiling at Us; and for the
sake of our own Past we enjoy thy Present, and pardon the contumely with
which thou silently insultest our thin grey hairs. Just such another
"were we at Ravensburg." "_Carpe Diem_" was then our motto, as now it is
yours; "no fear that dinner cool," for we fed then, as you feed now, on
flowers and fruits of Eden. We lived then under the reign of the Seven
Senses; Imagination was Prime Minister, and Reason, as Lord-Chancellor,
had the keeping of the Royal Conscience; and they were kings, not
tyrants--we subjects, not slaves. Supercilious as thou art, Puer, art
thou as well read in Greek as we were at thy flowering age? Come close
that we may whisper in thine ear--while we lean our left shoulder on
thine--our right on the Crutch. The time will come when thou wilt be, O
Son of the Morning! even like unto the shadow by thy side! Was he not
once a mountaineer? If he be a vainglorious boaster, give him the lie,
Ben-y-glo and thy brotherhood--ye who so often heard our shouts mixed
with the red-deer's belling--tossed back in exultation by Echo,
Omnipresent Auditress on youth's golden hills.

Know, all ye Neophytes, that three lovely Sisters often visit the old
man's solitude--Memory, Imagination, Hope. It would be hard to say which
is the most beautiful. Memory has deep, dark, quiet eyes, and when she
closes their light, the long eyelashes lie like shadows on her pensive
cheeks, that smile faintly as if the dreamer were half asleep--a
visionary slumber, which sometimes the dewdrop melting on the leaf will
break, sometimes not the thunder-peal with all its echoes. Imagination
is a brighter and bolder Beauty, with large lamping eyes of uncertain
colour, as if fluctuating with rainbow light, and with features fine as
those which Grecian genius gave to the Muses in the Parian Marble, yet
in their daring delicacy defined like the face of Apollo. As for
Hope--divinest of the divine--Collins, in one long line of light, has
painted the picture of the angel,--

    "And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair."

All our great prose-writers owe the glory of their power to our great
poets. Even Hobbes translated Homer as well--that is as ill--as
Thucidydes; the Epic in his prime after eighty; the History in his youth
at forty; and it is fearful to dream what the brainful and heartless
metaphysician would have been, had he never heard of the Iliad and the
Odyssey. What is the greatest of prose-writers in comparison with a
great poet? Nay--we shall not be deterred by the fear of
self-contradiction (see our "Stroll to Grassmere") from asking who is a
great prose-writer? We cannot name one; they all sink in Shakespeare.
Campbell finely asks and answers--

    "Without the smile from partial beauty won,
    Oh! what were man? a world without a sun."

Suppose the world without poetry--how absurd would seem the Sun! Strip
the word "phenomena" of its poetical meaning, and forthwith the whole
human race, "moving about in worlds _realised_," would lose their powers
of speech. But, thank Heaven! we are Makers all. Inhabiting, we verily
believe, a real, and substantial, and palpable outer world, which
nevertheless shall one day perish like a scroll, we build our bowers of
joy in the Apparent, and lie down to rest in a drapery of Dreams.

Thus we often love to dream our silent way even through the noisy world.
And dreamers are with dreamers spiritually, though in the body apart;
nor wandering at will think they whence they come, or whither they are
going, assured by delight that they will reach their journey's end--like
a bee, that in many a musical gyration goes humming round men's heads
and tree-tops, aimlessly curious in his joy, yet knowing instinctively
the straight line that intersects all those airy circles, leading to and
fro between his hive in the garden and the honey-dew on the heather

What can it be that now recalls to our remembrance a few lines of Esop,
the delightful old Fabulist, the Merry and Wise, who set our souls
a-thinking and our hearts a-feeling in boyhood, by moral lessons read to
them in almost every incident befalling in life's common walks--solemn
as Simonides in this his sole surviving elegiac strain?

    "What weary woe, what endless strife
    Bring'st thou to mortal men, O Life!
      Each hour they draw their breath.
    Alas! the wretches all despair
    To flee the ills they cannot bear,
      But through the gates of Death.

    And yet how beautiful art Thou
    On Earth and Sea--and on the brow
      Of starry Heaven! The Night
    Sends forth the moon Thee to adorn;
    And thee to glorify the Morn
      Restores the Orb of Light.

    Yet all is full of Pain and Dread;
    Bedrench'd in tears for ever shed;
      The darkness render'd worse
    By gleams of joy--and if by Heaven
    A Blessing seemeth to be given,
      It changes to a curse."

Even in our paraphrase are not these lines very impressive? In the
original they are much more solemn. They are not querulous, yet full of
lamentation. We see in them not a weak spirit quarrelling with fate, but
a strong spirit subdued by a sense of the conditions on which life has
been given; conditions against which it is vain to contend, to which it
is hard to submit, but which may yet be borne by a will deriving
strength from necessity, and in itself noble by nature. Nor, dark as the
doctrine is, can we say it is false. Intellect and Imagination may from
doleful experiences have too much generalised their inductions, so as to
seem to themselves to have established the Law of Misery as the Law of
Life. But perhaps it is only thus that the Truth can be made available
to man, as it regards the necessity of Endurance. All is not
wretchedness; but the soul seeks to support itself by the belief that it
is really so. Holding that creed, it has no excuse for itself, if at any
time it is stung to madness by misery, or grovels in the dust in a
passion of grief; none, if at any time it delivers itself wholly up,
abandoning itself to joy, and acts as if it trusted to the permanence
of any blessing under the law of Mutability. The Poet, in the hour of
profound emotion, declares that every blessing sent from heaven is a
Nemesis. That oracular response inspires awe. A salutary fear is kept
alive in the foolish by such sayings of the wise. Even to us--now--they
sound like a knell. Religion has instructed Philosophy; and for Fate we
substitute God. But all men feel that the foundations of Faith are laid
in the dark depths of their being, and that all human happiness is
mysteriously allied with pain and sorrow. The most perfect bliss is ever
awful, as if we enjoyed it under the shadow of some great and gracious
wing that would not long be detained from heaven.

It is not for ordinary minds to attempt giving utterance to such
simplicities. On their tongues truths become truisms. Sentiments, that
seem always fresh, falling from the lips of moral wisdom, are stale in
the mouths of men uninitiated in the greater mysteries. Genius colours
common words with an impressive light, that makes them moral to all
eyes--breathes into them an affecting music, that steals into all hearts
like a revelation and a religion. They become memorable. They pass, as
maxims, from generation to generation; and all because the divinity that
is in every man's bosom responds to the truthful strain it had of yore
itself inspired. Just so with the men we meet on our life-journey. One
man is impressive in all his looks and words, on all serious or solemn
occasions; and we carry away with us moral impressions from his eyes or
lips. Another man says the same things, or nearly so, and perhaps with
more fervour, and his locks are silver. But we forget his person in an
hour; nor does his voice ever haunt our solitude.
Simonides--Solon--Esop!--why do such lines of theirs as those assure us
they were Sages? The same sentiments are the staple of many a sermon
that has soothed sinners into snoring sleep.

Men take refuge even in ocular deception from despair. Over buried
beauty, that once glowed with the same passion that consumes themselves,
they build a white marble tomb, or a green grass grave, and forget much
they ought to remember--all profounder thoughts--while gazing on the
epitaph of letters or flowers. 'Tis a vision to their senses, with which
Imagination would fain seek to delude Love. And 'tis well that the
deception prospers; for what if Love could bid the burial-ground give
up or disclose its dead? Or if Love's eyes saw through dust as through
air? What if this planet--which men call Earth--were at all times seen
and felt to be a cemetery circling round the sun that feeds it with
death, and not a globe of green animated with life--even as the dewdrop
on the rose's leaf is animated with millions of invisible creatures,
wantoning in bliss born of the sunshine and the vernal prime.

Are we sermonising overmuch in this our L'ENVOY to these our misnamed
RECREATIONS? Even a sermon is not always useless; the few concluding
sentences are sometimes luminous, like stars rising on a dull twilight;
the little flower that attracted Park's eyes when he was fainting in the
desert, was to him beauteous as the rose of Sharon; there is solemnity
in the shadow of quiet trees on a noisy road; a churchyard may be felt
even in a village fair; a face of sorrow passes by us in our gaiety,
neither unfelt nor unremembered in its uncomplaining calm; and sweet
from some still house in the city stir is

    "The voice of psalms, the simple song of praise."

We daresay you are a very modest person; but we are all given to
self-glorification, private men and public, individuals and nations; and
every one Era and Ego has been prouder than another of its respective
achievements. To hear the Present Generation speak, such an elderly
gentleman as the Past Generation begins to suspect that his personal
origin lies hid in the darkness of antiquity; and worse--that he is of
the Pechs. Now, we offer to back the Past Generation against the Present
Generation, at any feat the Present Generation chooses, and give the
long odds. Say Poetry. Well, we bring to the scratch a few
champions--such as, Beattie, Cowper, Crabbe, Rogers, Bowles, Burns,
Baillie, Campbell, Graham, Montgomery, Scott, Southey, Coleridge,
Wordsworth, Hunt, Hogg, Shelley, Keates, Pollok, Cunningham, Bloomfield,
Clare, and _risum teneatis amici_--Ourselves.

    "All with waistcoats of red and breeches of blue,
    And mighty long tails that come swingeing through."

And at sight of the cavalcade--for each poet is on his Pegasus--the
champions of the Present Generation, accoutred in corduroy kilts and
top-boots, and on animals which, "well do we know, but dare not name,"
wheel to the right-about with "one dismal universal bray," brandishing
their wooden sabres, till, frenzied by their own trumpeters, they charge
madly a palisade in their own rear, and as dismounted cavalry make good
their retreat. This in their strategies is called a drawn battle.

Heroes, alive or dead, of the Past Generation, we bid you hail!
Exceeding happiness to have been born among such Births--to have lived
among such Lives--to be buried among such Graves. O great glory to have
seen such Stars rising one after another larger and more lustrous--at
times, when dilated with delight, more like Moons than Stars--like
Seraphs hovering over the earth they loved, though seeming so high up in

To whom now may the young enthusiast turn as to Beings of the same kind
with himself, but of a higher order, and therefore with a love that
fears no sin in its idolatry? The young enthusiast may turn to some of
the living, but he will think more of others who are gone. The dead know
not of his love, and he can hold no communion with the grave. But Poets
never die--immortal in their works, the Library is the world of spirits;
there they dwell, the same as in the flesh, when by meditation most
cleansed and purified--yet with some holy change it seems--a change not
in them but in us, who are stilled by the stillness, and attribute
something supernatural to the Living Dead.

Since first this Golden Pen of ours--given us by One who meant it but
for a memorial--began, many years ago, to let drop on paper a few
careless words, what quires so distained--some pages, let us hope, with
durable ink--have accumulated on our hands! Some haughty ones have
chosen to say rather, how many leaves have been wafted away to wither?
But not a few of the gifted--near and afar--have called on us with other
voices--reminding us that long ago we were elected, on sight of our
credentials--not indeed without a few black balls--into the Brotherhood.
The shelf marked with our initials exhibits some half-dozen volumes
only, and has room for scores. It may not be easily found in that vast
Library; but, humble member as we are, we feel it now to be a point of
honour to make an occasional contribution to the Club. So here is the
FIRST SERIES of what we have chosen to call our RECREATIONS. There have
been much recasting and remoulding--many alterations, believed by us to
have been wrought with no unskilful spirit of change--cruel, we confess,
to our feelings, rejections of numerous lucubrations to their father
dear--and if we may use such words, not a few new creations, in the same
_genial_ spirit in which we worked of old--not always unrewarded by
sympathy, which is better than praise.

For kindness shown when kindness was most needed--for sympathy and
affection--yea, love itself--for grief and pity not misplaced, though
bestowed in a mistaken belief of our condition, forlorn indeed, but not
wholly forlorn--for solace and encouragement sent to us from afar, from
cities and solitudes, and from beyond seas and oceans, from brethren who
never saw our face, and never may see it, we owe a debt of everlasting
gratitude; and life itself must leave our heart, that beats not now as
it used to beat, but with dismal trepidation, before it forget, or cease
to remember as clearly as now it hears them, every one of the many words
that came sweetly and solemnly to us from the Great and Good. Joy and
sorrow make up the lot of our mortal estate, and by sympathy with them,
we acknowledge our brotherhood with all our kind. We do far more. The
strength that is untasked, lends itself to divide the load under which
another is bowed; and the calamity that lies on the heads of men is
lightened, while those who at the time are not called to bear, are yet
willing to involve themselves in the sorrow of a brother. So soothed by
such sympathy may a poor mortal be, that the wretch almost upbraids
himself for transient gleams of gladness, as if he were false to the
sorrow which he sighs to think he ought to have cherished more sacredly
within his miserable heart.

One word embraces all these pages of ours--Memorials. Friends are lost
to us by removal--for then even the dearest are often utterly forgotten.
But let something that once was theirs suddenly meet our eyes, and in a
moment, returning from the region of the rising or the setting sun, the
friend of our youth seems at our side, unchanged his voice and his
smile; or dearer to our eyes than ever, because of some affecting
change wrought on face and figure by climate and by years. Let it be but
his name written with his own hand on the title-page of a book; or a few
syllables on the margin of a favourite passage which long ago we may
have read together, "when life itself was new," and poetry overflowed
the whole world; or a lock of _her_ hair in whose eyes we first knew the
meaning of the word "depth." And if death hath stretched out the absence
into the dim arms of eternity--and removed the distance away into that
bourne from which no traveller returns--the absence and the distance of
her on whose forehead once hung the relic we adore--what heart may abide
the beauty of the ghost that doth sometimes at midnight appear at our
sleepless bed, and with pale uplifted arms waft over us at once a
blessing and a farewell!

Why so sad a word--_Farewell_? We should not weep in wishing welfare,
nor sully felicity with tears. But we do weep because evil lies lurking
in wait over all the earth for the innocent and the good, the happy and
the beautiful; and, when guarded no more by our eyes, it seems as if the
demon would leap out upon his prey. Or is it because we are so selfish
that we cannot bear the thought of losing the sight of the happiness of
a beloved object, and are troubled with a strange jealousy of beings
unknown to us, and for ever to be unknown, about to be taken into the
very heart, perhaps, of the friend from whom we are parting, and to whom
in that fear we give almost a sullen farewell? Or does the shadow of
death pass over us while we stand for the last time together on the
sea-shore, and see the ship with all her sails about to voyage away to
the uttermost parts of the earth? Or do we shudder at the thought of
mutability in all created things--and know that ere a few suns shall
have brightened the path of the swift vessel on the sea, we shall be
dimly remembered--at last forgotten--and all those days, months, and
years that once seemed eternal, swallowed up in everlasting oblivion?

With us all ambitious desires some years ago expired. Far rather would
we read than write nowadays--far rather than read, sit with shut eyes
and no book in the room--far rather than so sit, walk about alone

    "Beneath the umbrage deep
    That shades the silent world of memory."

Shall we live? or "like beasts and common people die?" There is
something harsh and grating in the collocation of these words of the
"Melancholy Cowley;" yet he meant no harm, for he was a kind, good
creature as ever was born, and a true genius. He there has expressed
concisely, but too abruptly, the mere fact of their falling alike and
together into oblivion. Far better Gray's exquisite words,

    "On some fond breast the parting soul relies!"

The reliance is firm and sure; the "fond breast" is faithful to its
trust, and dying, transmits it to another; till after two or three
transmissions--holy all, but fainter and dimmer--the pious tradition
dies, and all memorial of the love and the delight, the pity and the
sorrow, is swallowed up in vacant night.

Posthumous Fame! Proud words--yet may they be uttered in a humble
spirit. The common lot of man is, after death--oblivion. Yet genius,
however small its sphere, if conversant with the conditions of the human
heart, may vivify with indestructible life some happy delineations, that
shall continue to be held dear by successive sorrowers in this vale of
tears. If the _name_ of the delineator continue to have something sacred
in its sound--obscure to the many as it may be, or non-existent--the
hope of such posthumous fame is sufficient to one who overrates not his
own endowments. And as the hope has its root in love and sympathy, he
who by his writings has inspired towards himself when in life, some of
these feelings in the hearts of not a few who never saw his face, seems
to be justified in believing that even after final obliteration of _Hic
jacet_ from his tombstone, his memory will be regarded with something of
the same affection in his REMAINS.







     [Professor Wilson's "Remarks on the Scenery of the Highlands" were
     first published as a Preface to _Swan's Select Views of the Lakes
     of Scotland_, 2d edition, 1836. They were not included originally
     in the "Recreations of Christopher North;" but the harmony of their
     tone and spirit seemed to recommend them as an appropriate sequel
     to that work; and accordingly they are now reprinted as such. The
     thanks of the Editor and Publishers of Professor Wilson's writings
     are due to the Messrs Fullarton, the proprietors of "Swan's Views,"
     for the liberal manner in which they have placed this valuable
     article at their disposal.]

       *       *       *       *       *

In no other country does nature exhibit herself in more various forms of
beauty and sublimity, than in the North of England and the Highlands of
Scotland. This is acknowledged by all who, having studied their
character, and become familiar with the feelings it inspires, have
compared the effects produced on their minds by our own mountainous
regions, with what they have experienced among the scenery of the Alps.
There, indeed, all objects are on so vast a scale, that we are for a
while astonished as we gaze on the gigantic; and all other emotions are
sunk in an overwhelming sense of awe that prostrates the imagination.
But on recovering from its subjection to the prodigious, that faculty
everywhere recognises in those mighty mountains of dark forests,
glittering glaciers, and regions of eternal snow--infinite all--the
power and dominion of the Sublime. True that all these are but
materials for the mind to work on, and that to its creative energy
nature owes much of that grandeur which seems to be inherent in her own
forms; yet surely she in herself is great, and there is a regality
belonging of divine right to such a monarch as Mont Blanc.

Those are the very regions of sublimity, and if brought into immediate
comparison with them in their immense magnitude, the most magnificent
scenery of our own country would no doubt seem to lose its character of
greatness. But such is not the process of the imagination in her
intercourse with Nature. To her sufficient for the day is the good
thereof; and on each new glorious sight being shown to her eyes, she
employs her God-given power to magnify or irradiate what she beholds,
without diminishing or obscuring what she remembers. Thus, to her all
things in nature hold their own due place, and retain for ever their own
due impressions, aggrandised and beautified by mutual reaction in those
visionary worlds, which by a thought she can create, and which as they
arise are all shadowy representations of realities--new compositions in
which the image of the earth we tread is reflected fairer or greater
than any realities, but not therefore less, but more true to the spirit
of nature. It is thus that Poets and Painters at once obey and control
their own inspirations. They visit all the regions of the earth, but to
love, admire, and adore; and the greatest of them all, native to our
soil, from their travel or sojourn in foreign lands, have always brought
home a clearer insight into the character of the scenery of their own, a
profounder affection for it all, and a higher power of imaging its
attributes in colours or in words. In our poetry, more than in any
other, nature sees herself reflected in a magic mirror; and though many
a various show passes processionally along its lustre, displaying the
scenery of "lands and seas, whatever clime the sun's bright circle
warms," among them all there are none more delightful or elevating to
behold, than those which genius, inspired by love, has framed of the
imagery, which in all her pomp and prodigality heaven has been pleased
to shower, through all seasons, on our own beautiful island. It is not
for us to say whether our native Painters, or the "old masters," have
shown the greatest genius in landscape; but if the palm must be yielded
to them whose works have been consecrated by a reverence, as often,
perhaps, superstitious as religious, we do not fear to say that their
superiority is not to be attributed in any degree to the scenery on
which they exercised the art its beauty had inspired. Whatever may be
the associations connected with the subjects of their landscapes--and we
know not why they should be higher or holier than those belonging to
innumerable places in our own land--assuredly in themselves they are not
more interesting or impressive; nay, though none who have shared with us
the spirit of the few imperfect sentences we have now written, will, for
a moment, suppose us capable of instituting an invidious comparison
between our own scenery and that of any other country, why should we
hesitate to assert that our own storm-loving Northern Isle is equally
rich in all kinds of beauty as the sunny South, and richer far in all
kinds of grandeur, whether we regard the forms or colouring of
nature--earth, sea, or air,--

    "Or all the dread magnificence of heaven."

What other region in all the world like that of the Lakes in the North
of England! And yet how the true lover of nature, while he carries along
with him its delightful character in his heart, and can so revive any
spot of especial beauty in his imagination, as that it shall seem in an
instant to be again before his very eyes, can deliver himself up, after
the lapse of a day, to the genius of some savage scene in the Highlands
of Scotland, rent and riven by the fury of some wild sea-loch! Not that
the regions do not resemble one another, but surely the prevailing
spirit of the one--not so of the other--is a spirit of joy and of peace.
Her mountains, invested, though they often be, in gloom--and we have
been more than once benighted during day, as a thunder-cloud thickened
the shadows that for ever sleep in the deepest dungeons of
Helvellyn--are yet--so it seems to us--such mountains as in nature ought
to belong to "merry England." They boldly meet the storms, and seen in
storms, you might think they loved the trouble; but pitch your tent
among them, and you will feel that theirs is a grandeur that is
congenial with the sunshine, and that their spirit fully rejoices in the
brightness of light. In clear weather, verdant from base to summit, how
majestic their repose! And as mists slowly withdraw themselves in
thickening folds up along their sides, the revelation made is still of
more and more of the beautiful--arable fields below--then coppice woods
studded with standard trees--enclosed pastures above and among the
woods--broad breasts of close-nibbled herbage here and there adorned by
rich dyed rocks, that do not break the expanse--till the whole veil has
disappeared, and, lo! the long lofty range, with its wavy line, rising
and sinking so softly in the blue serenity perhaps of an almost
cloudless sky. Yet though we have thus characterised the mountains by
what we have always felt to be the pervading spirit of the region,
chasms and ravines, and cliffs and precipices, are there; in some places
you see such assemblages as inspire the fear that quakes at the heart,
when suddenly struck in the solitude with a sense of the sublime; and
though we have called the mountains green--and during Spring and Summer,
in spite of frost or drought, they are green as emerald--yet in Autumn
they are many-coloured, and are girdled with a glow of variegated light,
that at sunset sometimes seems like fire kindled in the woods.

The larger Vales are all serene and cheerful, and among the sylvan
knolls with which their wide levels highly cultivated are interspersed,
cottages, single or in groups, are frequent, of an architecture always
admirably suited to the scenery, because in a style suggested not by
taste or fancy, which so often disfigure nature to produce the
picturesque, but resorted to for sake of the uses and conveniences of
in-door life, to weather-fend it in storms, and in calm to give it the
enjoyment of sunshine. Many of these dwellings are not what are properly
called cottages, but Statesmen's houses, of ample front, with their many
roofs, overshadowed by a stately grove, and inhabited by the same race
for many generations. All alike have their suitable gardens, and the
porches of the poorest are often clustered with roses; for everywhere
among these hills, even in minds the most rude and uncultivated, there
is a natural love of flowers. The villages, though somewhat too much
modernised in those days of improvement, and indeed not a few of them
with hardly any remains now of their original architecture--nothing old
about them but the church tower, perhaps the parsonage--are nevertheless
generally of a pleasing character, and accordant, if not with the great
features of nature, which are unchanged and unchangeable, with the
increased cultivation of the country, and the many villas and
ornamented cottages that have risen and are rising by every lake and
river side. Rivers indeed, properly so called, there are none among
these mountains; but every vale, great and small, has at all times its
pure and undefiled stream or rivulet; every hill has its hundreds of
evanescent rills, almost every one its own perennial torrent flowing
from spring, marsh, or tarn; and the whole region is often alive with
waterfalls, of many of which, in its exquisite loveliness, the scenery
is fit for fairy festivals--and of many, in its horrid gloom, for
gatherings of gnomes revisiting the glimpses of the moon from their
subterraneous prisons. One lake there is which has been called "wooded
Winandermere, the river lake;" and there is another--Ulswater--which you
might imagine to be a river too, and to have come flowing from afar: the
one excelling in isles, and bays, and promontories, serene and gentle
all, and perfectly beautiful; the other, matchless in its majesty of
cliff and mountain, and in its old forests, among whose hoary gloom is
for ever breaking out the green light of young generations, and
perpetual renovation triumphing over perpetual decay. Of the other
lakes--not river-like--the character may be imagined even from that we
have faintly described of the mountains:--almost every vale has its
lake, or a series of lakes--and though some of them have at times a
stern aspect, and have scenes to show almost of desolation, descending
sheer to the water's edge, or overhanging the depth that looks
profounder in the gloom, yet even these, to eyes and hearts familiar
with their spirit, wear a sweet smile which seldom passes away: witness
Wastwater--with its huge single mountains, and hugest of all the
mountains of England, Scawfell, with its terrific precipices--which, in
the accidents of storm, gloom, or mist, has seemed, to the lonely
passer-by, savage in the extreme--a howling or dreary wilderness--but in
its enduring character, is surrounded with all quiet pastoral imagery,
the deep glen in which it is imbedded being, in good truth, the abode of
Sabbath peace. That hugest mountain is indeed the centre from which all
the vales irregularly diverge; the whole circumjacent region may be
traversed in a week; and though no other district of equal extent
contains such variety of the sublime and beautiful, yet the beautiful is
so prevalent, that we feel its presence, even in places where it is
overpowered; and on leaving "The Lakes," our imagination is haunted and
possessed with images, not of dread, but of delight.

We have sometimes been asked, whether the North of England or the
Highlands of Scotland should be visited first; but, simple as the
question seems, it is really one which it is impossible to answer;
though we suspect it would equally puzzle Scotchman or Englishman to
give a sufficient reason for his wishing to see any part of any other
country before he had seen what was best worth seeing in his own. His
own country ought to be, and generally is, dearest to every man. There,
if nothing forbid, he should not only begin his study of nature, but
continue his education in her school, wherever it may happen to be
situated, till he has taken his first degree. We believe that the love
of nature is strong in the hearts of the inhabitants of our Island. And
how wide and profound may that knowledge of nature be, which the loving
heart has acquired, without having studied her anywhere but within the
Four Seas! The impulses that make us desire to widen the circle of our
observation, are all impulses of delight and love; and it would be
strange indeed, did they not move us, first of all, towards whatever is
most beautiful belonging to our own land. Were it otherwise, it would
seem as if the heart were faithless to the home-affections, out of
which, in their strength, spring all others that are good; and it is
essential, we do not doubt, to the full growth of the Love of Country,
that we should all have our earliest imaginative delights associated
with our native soil. Such associations will for ever keep it loveliest
to our eyes; nor is it possible that we can ever as perfectly understand
the character of any other; but we can afterwards transfer and transfuse
our feelings in imagination kindled by our own will; and the beauty,
born before our eyes, among the banks and braes of our childhood, and
then believed to be but there, and nothing like it anywhere else in all
the world, becomes a golden light, "whose home is everywhere," which if
we do not darken it, will shine unshadowed in the dreariest places, till
"the desert blossom like the rose."

For our own parts, before we beheld one of "the beautiful fields of
England," we had walked all Scotland thorough, and had seen many a
secret place, which now, in the confusion of our crowded memory, seem
often to shift their uncertain ground; but still, wherever they
glimmeringly reappear, invested with the same heavenly light in which,
long ago, they took possession of our soul. And now, that we are almost
as familiar with the fair sister-land, and love her almost as well as
Scotland's self, not all the charms in which she is arrayed, and they
are at once graceful and glorious, have ever for a day withdrawn our
deeper dreams from the regions where,

    "In life's morning march, when our spirit was young,"

unaccompanied but by our own shadow in the wilderness, we first heard
the belling of the red-deer and the eagle's cry.

In those days there was some difficulty, if not a little danger, in
getting in among some of the noblest regions of our Alps. They could not
be traversed without strong personal exertion; and a solitary pedestrian
excursion through the Grampians was seldom achieved without a few
incidents that might almost have been called adventures. It is very
different now; yet the _Genius Loci_, though tamed, is not subdued; and
they who would become acquainted with the heart of the Highlands, will
have need of some endurance still, and must care nothing about the
condition of earth or sky. Formerly, it was not possible to survey more
than a district or division in a single season, except to those
unenviable persons who had no other pursuit but that of amusement, and
waged a weary war with time. The industrious dwellers in cities, who
sought those solitudes, for a while to relieve their hearts from worldly
anxieties, and gratify that love of nature which is inextinguishable in
every bosom that in youth has beat with its noble inspirations, were
contented with a week or two of such intercommunion with the spirit of
the mountains, and thus continued to extend their acquaintance with the
glorious wildernesses, visit after visit, for years. Now the whole
Highlands, western and northern, may be commanded in a month. Not that
any one who knows what they are, will imagine that they can be exhausted
in a lifetime. The man does not live who knows all worth knowing there;
and were they who made the Trigonometrical Survey to be questioned on
their experiences, they would be found ignorant of thousands of sights,
any one of which would be worth a journey for its own sake. But now
steam has bridged the Great Glen, and connected the two seas.
Salt-water lochs the most remote and inaccessible, it has brought within
reach of a summer-day's voyage. In a week a joyous company can gather
all the mainland shores, leaving not one magnificent bay uncircled; and,
having rounded St Kilda and

                      "the Hebride Isles,
    Placed far amid the melancholy main,"

and heard the pealing anthem of waves in the cave-cathedral of Staffa,
may bless the bells of St Mungo's tolling on the first Sabbath.
Thousands and tens of thousands, who, but for those smoking sea-horses,
had never been beyond view of the city spires, have seen sights which,
though passing by almost like dreams, are not like dreams forgotten, but
revive of themselves in memory and imagination; and, when the heart is
weary with the work of the hand, quicken its pulses with a sudden
pleasure that is felt like a renovation of youth.

All through the interior, too, how many hundreds of miles of roads now
intersect regions not long ago deemed impracticable!--firm on the fen,
in safety flung across the chasm--and winding smoothly amidst
shatterings of rocks, round the huge mountain bases, and down the glens
once felt as if interminable, now travelled almost with the speed of the
raven's wing!

In the Highlands now, there is no _Terra Incognita_. But there are many
places yet well worth seeing, which it is not easy for all men to find,
and to which every man must be his own guide. It is somewhat of a
selfish feeling, indeed, but the pride is not a mean one, with which the
solitary pedestrian sits down to contemplate some strange, or wild, or
savage scene, or some view of surpassing sweetness and serenity, so far
removed from the track of men that he can well believe for a time that
his eyes have been the first to behold it, and that for them alone it
has now become a visible revelation. The memory of such places is
sometimes kept as a secret which we would not communicate but to a
congenial friend. They are hallowed by those mysterious "thoughts that,
like phantoms, trackless come and go;" no words can tell another how to
find his way thither; and were we ourselves to seek to return, we should
have to trust to some consciousness mysterious as the instinct of a
bird that carries it through the blind night to the place of its desire.

It is well to have in our mind the conception of a route: but without
being utterly departed from--nay, without ceasing to control us within
certain bounds--it admits of almost any degrees of deviation. We have
known persons apparently travelling for pleasure, who were afraid to
turn a few miles to the right or the left, for fear of subjecting
themselves to the reproach of their own conscience for infirmity of
purpose. They had "chalked out a route," and acted as if they had sworn
a solemn oath to follow it. This is to be a slave among the boundless
dominions of nature, where all are free. As the wind bloweth wherever it
listeth, so move the moods of men's minds, when there is nought to
shackle them, and when the burden of their cares has been dropt, that
for a while they may walk on air, and feel that they too have wings.

    "A voice calls on me from the mountain depths,
    And it must be obeyed."

The voice was our own--and yet though but a whisper from the heart, it
seemed to come from the front of yon distant precipice--sweet and wild
as an echo.

On rising at dawn in the shieling, why think, much less determine, where
at night we are to lay down our head? Let this be our thought:

    "Among the hills a hundred homes have I;
      My table in the wilderness is spread;
    In these lone spots one honest smile can buy
      Plain fare, warm welcome, and a rushy bed."

If we obey any powers external to our own minds, let them be the powers
of Nature--the rains, the winds, the atmosphere, sun moon, and stars. We
must keep a look-out--

    "To see the deep fermenting tempest brew'd,
    In the grim evening sky;"

that next day we may cross the red rivers by bridges, not by fords; and
if they roll along unbridged, that we may set our face to the mountain,
and wind our way round his shoulder by sheep-tracks, unwet with the
heather, till we behold some great strath, which we had not visited but
for that storm, with its dark blue river streaked with golden
light,--for its source is in a loch among the Eastern Range; and there,
during the silent hours, heather, bracken, and greensward rejoiced in
the trembling dews.

There is no such climate for all kinds of beauty and grandeur, as the
climate of the Highlands. Here and there you meet with an old shepherd
or herdsman, who has beguiled himself into a belief, in spite of many a
night's unforeseen imprisonment in the mists, that he can presage its
changes from fair to foul, and can tell the hour when the
long-threatening thunder will begin to mutter. The weather-wise have
often perished in their plaids. Yet among a thousand uncertain symptoms,
there are a few certain, which the ranger will do well to study, and he
will often exult on the mountain to feel that "knowledge is power." Many
a glorious hour has been won from the tempest by him before whose
instructed eye--beyond the gloom that wide around blackened all the
purple heather--"far off its coming shone." Leagues of continuous
magnificence have gradually unveiled themselves on either side to him,
as he has slowly paced, midway between, along the banks of the River of
Waterfalls; having been assured by the light struggling through the
mist, that it would not be long till there was a break-up of all that
ghastly dreariment, and that the sun would call on him to come forth
from his cave of shelter, and behold in all its pride the Glen
affronting the sea.

Some Tourists--as they call themselves--are provided with map and
compass; and we hope they find them of avail in extremities, though we
fear few such understand their use. No map can tell--except very
vaguely--how the aspect of the localities, looked at on its lines, is
likely to be affected by sun-rise, meridian, or sun-set. Yet, true it
is, that every region has its own happy hours, which the fortunate often
find unawares, and know them at once to be so the moment they lift up
their eyes. At such times, while "our hearts rejoice in Nature's joy,"
we feel the presence of a spirit that brings out the essential character
of the place, be it of beauty or of grandeur. Harmonious as music is
then the composition of colours and of forms. It becomes a perfect
picture in memory, more and more idealised by imagination, every moment
the veil is withdrawn before it; its aerial lineaments never fade; yet
they too, though their being be but in the soul, are mellowed by the
touch, of time--and every glimpse of such a vision, the longer we live,
and the more we suffer, seems suffused with a mournful light, as if seen
through tears.

It would serve no good purpose, supposing we had the power, to analyse
the composition of that scenery, which in the aggregate so moves even
the most sluggish faculties, as to make "the dullest wight a poet." It
rises before the mind in imagination, as it does before the eyes in
nature; and we can no more speak of it than look at it, but--as a whole.
We can indeed fix our mental or our visual gaze on scene after scene to
the exclusion of all beside, and picture it even in words that shall be
more than shadows. But how shall any succession of such pictures,
however clear and complete, give an idea of that picture which
comprehends them all, and infinite as are its manifestations,
nevertheless is imbued with one spirit?

Try to forget that in the Highlands there are any Lochs. Then the sole
power is that of the Mountains. We speak of a sea of mountains; but that
image has never more than momentary possession of us, because, but for a
moment, in nature it has no truth. Tumultuary movements envelope them;
but they themselves are for ever steadfast and for ever still. Their
power is that of an enduring calm no storms can disturb--and is often
felt to be more majestical, the more furious are the storms. As the
tempest-driven clouds are franticly hurrying to and fro, how serene the
summits in the sky! Or if they be hidden, how peaceful the glimpses of
some great mountain's breast! They disregard the hurricane that goes
crashing through their old woods; the cloud-thunder disturbs not them
any more than that of their own cataracts, and the lightnings play for
their pastime. All minds under any excitation, more or less personify
mountains. When much moved, that natural process affects all our
feelings, as the language of passion awakened by such objects vividly
declares; and then we do assuredly conceive of mountains as endued with
life--however dim and vague the conception may be--and feel their
character in their very names. Utterly strip our ideas of them of all
that is attached to them as impersonations, and their power is gone. But
while we are creatures of imagination as well as of reason, will those
monarchs remain invested with the purple and seated on thrones.

In such imaginative moods as these must every one be, far more
frequently than he is conscious of, and in far higher degrees, who, with
a cultivated mind and a heart open to the influences of nature, finds
himself, it matters not whether for the first or the hundredth time, in
the Highlands. We fancy the Neophyte wandering, all by himself, on the
"Longest Day;" rejoicing to think that the light will not fail him, when
at last the sun must go down, for that a starry gloaming will continue
its gentle reign till morn. He thinks but of what he sees, and that
is--the mountains. All memories of any other world but that which
encloses him with its still sublimities, are not excluded merely, but
obliterated: his whole being is there! And now he stands on table-land,
and with his eyes sweeps the horizon, bewildered for a while, for it
seems chaos all. But soon the mighty masses begin arranging themselves
into order; the confusion insensibly subsides as he comprehends more and
more of their magnificent combinations; he discovers centres round which
are associated altitudes towering afar off; and finally, he feels, and
blesses himself on his felicity, that his good genius has placed him on
the very centre of those wondrous assemblages altogether, from which
alone he could command an empire of realities, more glorious far than
was ever empire of dreams.

It is a cloudy, but not a stormy day; the clouds occupy but portions of
the sky,--and are they all in slow motion together, or are they all at
rest? Huge shadows stalking along the earth, tell that there are changes
going on in heaven; but to the upward gaze, all seems hanging there in
the same repose; and with the same soft illumination the sun to continue
shining, a concentration rather than an orb of light. All above is
beautiful, and the clouds themselves are like celestial mountains; but
the eye forsakes them, though it sees them still, and more quietly now
it moves along the pageantry below that endures for ever--till chained
on a sudden by that range of cliffs. 'Tis along them that the giant
shadows are stalking--but now they have passed by--and the long line of
precipice seems to come forward in the light. To look down from the
brink might be terrible--to look up from the base would be sublime--but
fronting the eye thus, horrid though it be, the sight is most beautiful;
for weather-stains, and mosses, and lichens, and flowering
plants--conspicuous most the broom and the heather--and shrubs that,
among their leaves of light, have no need of flowers--and hollies, and
birks, and hazels, and many a slender tree beside with pensile tresses,
besprinkle all the cliffs, that in no gloom could ever lose their
lustre; but now the day though not bright is fair, and brings out the
whole beauty of the precipice--call it the hanging garden of the

The Highlands have been said to be a gloomy region, and worse gloom than
theirs might well be borne, if not unfrequently illumined with such
sights as these; but that is not the character of the mountains, though
the purple light in which, for usual, they are so richly steeped, is
often for a season tamed, or for a short while extinguished, while a
strange night-like day lets fall over them all a something like a
shroud. Such days we have seen--but now in fancy we are with the
pilgrim, and see preparation making for a sun-set. It is drawing towards
evening, and the clouds that have all this time been moving, though we
knew it not, have assuredly settled now, and taken up their rest. The
sun has gone down, and all that unspeakable glory has left the sky.
Evening has come and gone without our knowing that she had been here;
but there is no gloom on any place in the whole of this vast wilderness,
and the mountains, as they wax dimmer and dimmer, look as if they were
surrendering themselves to a repose like sleep. Day had no voice here
audible to human ear--but night is murmuring--and gentle though the
murmur be, it filleth the great void, and we imagine that ever and anon
it awakens echoes. And now it is darker than we thought, for lo! one
soft-burning star! And we see that there are many stars; but not theirs
the light that begins again to reveal object after object as gradually
as they had disappeared; the moon is about to rise--is rising--has
arisen--has taken her place high in heaven; and as the glorious world
again expands around us, faintly tinged, clearly illumined, softly
shadowed, and deeply begloomed, we say within our hearts,

    "How beautiful is night!"

There are many such table-lands as the one we have now been imagining,
and it requires but a slight acquaintance with the country to conjecture
rightly where they lie. Independently of the panoramas they display,
they are in themselves always impressive; perhaps a bare level that
shows but bleached bent, and scatterings of stones, with here and there
an unaccountable rock; or hundreds of fairy greensward knolls, fringed
with tiny forests of fern that have almost displaced the heather; or a
wild withered moor or moss intersected with pits dug not by men's hands;
and, strange to see! a huge log lying half exposed, and as if blackened
by fire. High as such places are, on one of them a young gorcock was
stricken down by a hawk close to our feet. Indeed, hawks seem to haunt
such places, and we have rarely crossed one of them, without either
seeing the creature's stealthy flight, or hearing, whether he be alarmed
or preying, his ever-angry cry.

From a few such stations, you get an insight into the configuration of
the whole Western Highlands. By the dip of the mountains, you discover
at a glance all the openings in the panorama around you into other
regions. Follow your fancies fearlessly wherever they may lead; and if
the blue aerial haze that hangs over a pass winding eastward, tempt you
from your line of march due north, forthwith descend in that direction,
and haply an omen will confirm you--an eagle rising on the left, and
sailing away before you into that very spot of sky.

No man, however well read, should travel by book. In books you find
descriptions, and often good ones, of the most celebrated scenes, but
seldom a word about the vast tracts between; and it would seem as if
many Tourists had used their eyes only in those places where they had
been told by common fame there was something greatly to admire. Travel
in the faith, that go where you will, the cravings of your heart will be
satisfied, and you will find it so, if you be a true lover of nature.
You hope to be inspired by her spirit, that you may may read aright her
works. But such inspiration comes not from one object or another,
however great or fair, but from the whole "mighty world of eye and ear,"
and it must be supported continuously, or it perishes. You may see a
thousand sights never before seen by human eye, at every step you take,
wherever be your path; for no steps but yours have ever walked along
that same level; and moreover, never on the same spot twice rested the
same lights or shadows. Then there may be something in the air, and
more in your own heart, that invests every ordinary object with
extraordinary beauty; old images affect you with a new delight; a
grandeur grows upon your eyes in the undulations of the simplest hills;
and you feel there is sublimity in the common skies. It is thus that all
the stores of imagery are insensibly gathered, with which the minds of
men are filled, who from youth have communed with nature. And it is thus
that all those feelings have flowed into their hearts by which that
imagery is sanctified; and these are the Poets.

It is in this way that we become familiar with the mountains. Far more
than we were aware of have we trusted to the strong spirit of delight
within us, to prompt and to guide. And in such a country as the
Highlands, thus led, we cannot err. Therefore, if your desire be for the
summits, set your face thitherwards, and wind a way of your own, still
ascending and ascending, along some vast brow, that seems almost a whole
day's journey, and where it is lost from your sight, not to end, but to
go sweeping round, with undiminished grandeur into another region. You
are not yet half-way up the mountain, but you care not for the summit
now; for you find yourself among a number of green knolls--all of them
sprinkled, and some of them crowned with trees--as large almost as our
lowland hills--surrounded close to the brink with the purple
heather--and without impairing the majesty of the immense expanse,
imbuing it with pastoral and sylvan beauty;--and there, lying in a small
forest glade of the lady-fern, ambitious no longer of a throne on
Benlomond or Ben-nevis, you dream away the still hours till sunset, yet
then have no reason to weep that you have lost a day.

But the best way to view the mountains is to trace the Glens. To find
out the glens you must often scale the shoulders of mountains, and in
such journeys of discovery, you have for ever going on before your eyes
glorious transfigurations. Sometimes for a whole day one mighty mass
lowers before you unchanged; look at it after the interval of hours, and
still the giant is one and the same. It rules the region, subjecting all
other altitudes to its sway, though many of them range away to a great
distance; and at sunset retains it supremacy, blazing almost like a
volcano with fiery clouds. Your line of journey lies, perhaps, some two
thousand feet above the level of the sea, and seldom dips down to one
thousand; and these are the heights from which all above and all below
you looks most magnificent, for both regions have their full power over
you--the unscaleable cliffs, the unfathomable abysses--and you know not
which is the more sublime. The sublimity indeed is one. It is then that
you may do well to ascend to the very mountain-top. For it may happen to
be one of those heavenly days indeed, when the whole Highlands seem to
be reposing in the cloudless sky.

But we were about to speak of the Glens. And some of them are best
entered by such descents as these--perhaps at their very head--where all
at once you are in another world, how still, how gloomy, how profound!
An hour ago and the eye of the eagle had not wider command of earth,
sea, and sky, than yours--almost blinded now by the superincumbent
precipices that imprison you, and seem to shut you out from life.

    "Such the grim desolation, where Ben-Hun
    And Craig-na-Torr, by earthquake shatterings
    Disjoined with horrid chasms prerupt, enclose
    What superstition calls the Glen of Ghosts."

Or you may enter some great glen from the foot, where it widens into
vale or strath--and there are many such--and some into which you can
sail up an arm of the sea. For a while it partakes of the cultivated
beauty of the lowlands, and glen and vale seem almost one and the same;
but gradually it undergoes a strange wild change of character, and in a
few miles that similitude is lost. There is little or no arable ground
here; but the pasture is rich on the unenclosed plain--and here and
there are enclosures, near the few houses or huts standing, some of them
in the middle of the glen, quite exposed, on eminences above reach of
the floods--some more happily placed on the edge of the coppices, that
sprinkle the steep sides of the hills, yet barely mountains. But
mountains they soon become; and leaving behind you those few barren
habitations, you see before you a wide black moor. Beautiful hitherto
had been the river, for a river you had inclined to think it, long after
it had narrowed into a stream, with many a waterfall, and in one chasm a
cataract. But the torrent now has a wild mountain cry, and though there
is still beauty on its banks, they are bare of all trees, now swelling
into multitudes of low green knolls among the heather, now composed but
of heather and rocks. Through the very middle of the black moor it
flows, yet are its waters clear, for all is not moss, and it seems to
wind its way where there is nothing to pollute its purity, or tame its
lustre. 'Tis a solitary scene, but still sweet; the mountains are of
great magnitude, but they are not precipitous; vast herds of cattle are
browsing there, on heights from which fire has cleared the heather, and
wide ranges of greensward upon the lofty gloom seem to lie in perpetual

The moor is crossed, and you prepare to scale the mountain in front, for
you imagine the torrent by your side flows from a tarn in yonder cove,
and forms that series of waterfalls. You have been all along well
pleased with the glen, and here at the head, though there is a want of
cliffs of the highest class, you feel nevertheless that it has a
character of grandeur. Looking westward, you are astounded to see them
ranging away on either side of another reach of the glen, terrific in
their height, but in their formation beautiful, for like the walls of
some vast temple they stand, roofed with sky. Yet are they but as a
portal or gateway of the glen. For entering in with awe, that deepens,
as you advance, almost into dread, you behold, beyond, mountains that
carry their cliffs up into the clouds, seamed with chasms, and hollowed
out into coves, where night dwells visibly by the side of day; and still
the glen seems winding on beneath a purple light, that almost looks like
gloom; such vast forms and such prodigious colours, and such utter
stillness, become oppressive to your very life, and you wish that some
human being were by, to relieve, by his mere presence, the insupportable
weight of such a solitude.

But we should never have done were we to attempt to sketch, however
slightly, the character of all the different kinds of glens. Some are
sublime in their prodigious depth and vast extent, and would be felt to
be so, even were the mountains that enclose them of no great majesty;
but these are all of the highest order, and sometimes are seen from
below to the very cairns on their summits. Now we walk along a reach,
between astonishing ranges of cliffs, among large heaps of rocks--not a
tree--scarcely a shrub--no herbage--the very heather blasted--all
lifelessness and desolation. The glen gradually grows less and less
horrid, and though its sides are seamed with clefts and chasms, in the
gloom there are places for the sunshine, and there is felt to be even
beauty in the repose. Descends suddenly on either side a steep slope of
hanging wood, and we find ourselves among verdant mounds, and knolls,
and waterfalls. We come then into what seems of old to have been a
forest. Here and there a stately pine survives, but the rest are all
skeletons; and now the glen widens, and widens, yet ceases not to be
profound, for several high mountains enclose a plain on which armies
might encamp, and castellated clouds hang round the heights of the
glorious amphitheatre, while the sky-roof is clear, and as if in its
centre, the refulgent sun. 'Tis the plain called "The Meeting of the
Glens." From the east and the west, the north and the south, they come
like rivers into the sea.

Other glens there are, as long, but not so profound, nor so grandly
composed; yet they too conduct us nobly in among the mountains, and up
their sides, and on even to their very summits. Such are the glens of
Atholl, in the neighbourhood of Ben-y-gloe. From them the heather is not
wholly banished, and the fire has left a green light without quenching
the purple colour native to the hills. We think that we almost remember
the time when those glens were in many places sprinkled with huts, and
all animated with human life. Now they are solitary; and you may walk
from sunrise till sunset without seeing a single soul. For a hundred
thousand acres have there been changed into a forest, for sake of the
pastime, indeed, which was dear of old to chieftains and kings. Vast
herds of red-deer are there, for they herd in thousands--yet may you
wander for days over the boundless waste, nor once be startled by one
stag bounding by. Yet may a herd, a thousand strong, be drawn up, as in
battle array, on the cliffs above your head. For they will long stand
motionless, at gaze, when danger is in the wind--and then their antlers
to unpractised eyes seem but boughs grotesque, or are invisible; and
when all at once, with one accord, at signal from the stag, whom they
obey, they wheel off towards the Corries, you think it but thunder, and
look up to the clouds. Fortunate if you see such a sight once in your
life. Once only have we seen it; and it was, of a sudden, all by

    "Ere yet the hunter's startling horn was heard
    Upon the golden hills."

Almost within rifle-shot, the herd occupied a position, high up indeed,
but below several ridges of rocks, running parallel for a long distance,
with slopes between of sward and heather. Standing still, they seemed to
extend about a quarter of a mile, and as with a loud clattering of hoofs
and antlers, they took more open order, the line at least doubled its
length, and the whole mountain-side seemed alive. They might not be
going at full speed, but the pace was equal to that of any charge of
cavalry; and once and again the flight passed before us, till it
overcame the ridges, and then deploying round the shoulder of the
mountain, disappeared, without dust or noise, into the blue light of
another glen.

We question, if there be in the Highlands any one glen comparable with
Borrowdale in Cumberland. But there are several that approach it, in
that combination of beauty and grandeur, which perhaps no other scene
equals in all the world. The "Gorge" of that Dale exhibits the finest
imaginable assemblage of rocks and rocky hills, all wildly wooded;
beyond them, yet before we have entered into the Dale, the Pass widens,
with noble cliffs on one side, and on the other a sylvan stream, not
without its abysses; and we see before us some lovely hills, on which--

    "The smiling power of cultivation lies,"

yet leaves, with lines defined by the steeps that defy the ploughshare,
copses and groves; and thus we are brought into the Dale itself, and
soon have a vision of the whole--green and golden fields--for though
most are in pasture, almost all seem arable--sprinkled with fine single
trees--and lying in flats and levels, or swelling into mounds and
knolls, and all diversified with every kind of woods; single cottages,
with their out-buildings, standing everywhere they should stand, and
coloured like the rocks from which in some lights they are hardly to be
distinguished--strong-roofed and undilapidated, though many of them very
old; villages, apart from one another a mile--and there are three--yet
on their sites, distant and different in much though they be, all
associated together by the same spirit of beauty that pervades all the
Dale. Half way up, and in some places more, the enclosing hills and even
mountains are sylvan indeed, and though there be a few inoffensive
aliens, they are all adorned with their native trees. The mountains are
not so high as in our Highlands, but they are very majestic; and the
Passes over into Langdale, and Wastdalehead, and Buttermere, are
magnificent, and show precipices in which the Golden Eagle himself might

No--there is no glen in all the Highlands comparable with Borrowdale.
Yet we know of some that are felt to be kindred places, and their beauty
though less, almost as much affects us, because though contending, as it
were, with the darker spirit of the mountain, it is not overcome, but
prevails; and their beauty will increase with years. For while the rocks
continue to frown aloft for ever, and the cliffs to range along the
corries, unbroken by trees, which there the tempest will not suffer to
rise, the woods and groves below, preserved from the axe, for sake of
their needful shelter, shall become statelier, till the birch equal the
pine; reclaimed from the waste, shall many a fresh field recline among
the heather, tempering the gloom; and houses arise where now there are
but huts, and every house have its garden:--such changes are now going
on, and we have been glad to observe their progress, even though
sometimes they had removed, or were removing, objects dear from old
associations, and which, had it been possible, but it was not, we should
have loved to see preserved.

And one word on those sweet pastoral seclusions into which one often
drops unexpectedly, it may be at the close of day, and finds a night's
lodging in the only hut. Yet they lie, sometimes, embosomed in their own
green hills, among the most rugged mountains, and even among the wildest
moors. They have no features by which you can describe them; it is their
serenity that charms you, and their cheerful peace; perhaps it is wrong
to call them glens, and they are but dells. Yet one thinks of a dell as
deep, however small it may be; but these are not deep, for the hills
slope down gently upon them, and leave room perhaps between for a little
shallow loch. Often they have not any visible water at all, only a few
springs and rivulets, and you wonder to see them so very green; there is
no herbage like theirs; and to such spots of old, and sometimes yet,
the kine are led in summer, and there the lonely family live in their
shieling till the harvest moon.

We have all along used the same word, and called the places we have
spoken of--glens. A fine observer--the Editor of Gilpin's Forest
Scenery--has said: "The gradation from extreme width downwards should be
thus arranged,--strath, vale, dale, valley, glen, dell, ravine, chasm.
In the strath, vale, and dale, we may expect to find the large,
majestic, gently flowing river, or even the deeper or smaller lake. In
the glen, if the river be large, it flows more rapidly, and with greater
variety. In the dell the stream is smaller. In the ravine, we find the
mountain torrent and the waterfall. In the chasm, we find the roaring
cataract, or the rill, bursting from its haunted fountain. The chasm
discharges its small tribute into the ravine, while the ravine is
tributary to the dell, and thence to the glen; and the glen to the

These distinctions are admirably expressed, and perfectly true to
nature; yet we doubt if it would be possible to preserve them in
describing a country, and assuredly they are very often indeed confused
by common use in the naming of places. We have said nothing about
Straths--nor shall we try to describe one--but suggest to your own
imagination--as specimens--Strath-Spey, Strath-Tay, Strath-Earn. The
dominion claimed by each of those rivers, within the mountain ranges
that environ their courses, is a strath; and three noble straths they
are, from source to sea.

And now we are brought to speak of the Highland Rivers, Streams, and
Torrents; but we shall let them rush or flow, murmur or thunder in your
own ears, for you cannot fail to imagine what the waters must be in a
land of such glens and such mountains. The chief rivers possess all the
attributes essential to greatness--width--depth--clearness--rapidity--in
one word power. And some of them have long courses--rising in the
central heights, and winding round many a huge projection, against which
in flood we have seen them dashing like the sea. Highland droughts are
not of long duration; the supplies are seldom withheld at once by all
the tributaries; and one wild night among the mountains converts a calm
into a commotion--the many-murmuring voice into one roar. In flood they
are terrible to look at; and every whirlpool seems a place of torment.
Winds can make a mighty noise in swinging woods, but there is something
to our ears more appalling in that of the fall of waters. Let them be
united--and add thunder from the clouds--and we have heard in the
Highlands all three in one--and the auditor need not care that he has
never stood by Niagara. But when "though not o'erflowing full," a
Highland river is in perfection; far better do we love to see and hear
him rejoicing than raging; his attributes appear more his own in calm
and majestic manifestations, and as he glides or rolls on, without any
disturbance, we behold in him an image at once of power and peace.

Of rivers--comparatively speaking--of the second and third order--the
Highlands are full--and on some of them the sylvan scenery is beyond
compare. No need there to go hunting the waterfalls. Hundreds of
them--some tiny indeed, but others tall--are for ever dinning in the
woods; yet, at a distance from the cataract, how sweet and quiet is the
sound! It hinders you not from listening to the cushat's voice; clear
amidst the mellow murmur comes the bleating from the mountain; and all
other sound ceases, as you hearken in the sky to the bark of the
eagle--rare indeed anywhere, but sometimes to be heard as you thread the
"glimmer or the gloom" of the umbrage overhanging the Garry or the
Tummel--for he used to build in the cliffs of Ben-Brackie, and if he has
shifted his eyrie, a few minutes' waftage will bear him to Cairn-Gower.

In speaking of the glens, we but alluded to the rivers or streams, and
some of them, indeed, even the great ones, have but rivulets; while in
the greatest, the waters often flow on without a single tree, shadowed
but by rocks and clouds. Wade them, and you find they are larger than
they seem to be; for looked at along the bottom of those profound
hollows, they are but mere slips of sinuous light in the sunshine, and
in the gloom you see them not at all. We do not remember any very
impressive glen, without a stream, that would not suffer some diminution
of its power by our fancying it to have one; we may not be aware, at the
time, that the conformation of the glen prevents its having any
water-flow, but if we feel its character aright, that want is among the
causes of our feeling; just as there are some scenes of which the beauty
would not be so touching were there a single tree.

Thousands and tens of thousands there are of nameless perennial
torrents, and "in number without number numberless" those that seldom
live a week--perhaps not a day. Up among the loftiest regions you hear
nothing, even when they are all allow; yet, there is music in the sight,
and the thought of the "general dance and minstrelsy" enlivens the air,
where no insect hums. As on your descent you come within hearing of the
"liquid lapses," your heart leaps within you, so merrily do they sing;
the first torrent-rill you meet with you take for your guide, and it
leads you perhaps into some fairy dell, where it wantons awhile in
waterfalls, and then gliding along a little dale of its own with "banks
o' green bracken," finishes its short course in a stream--one of many
that meet and mingle before the current takes the name of river, which
in a mile or less becomes a small woodland lake. There are many such of
rememberable beauty; living lakes indeed, for they are but pausings of
expanded rivers, which again soon pursue their way, and the water-lilies
have ever a gentle motion there as if touched by a tide.

It used, not very long ago, to be pretty generally believed by our
southern brethren, that there were few trees in the Lowlands of
Scotland, and none at all in the Highlands. They had an obscure notion
that trees either could not or would not grow in such a soil and
climate--cold and bleak enough at times and places, heaven knows--yet
not altogether unproductive of diverse stately plants. They know better
now; nor were we ever angry with their ignorance, which was nothing more
than what was to be expected in persons living perpetually at home so
far remote. They rejoice now to visit, and sojourn, and travel here
among us, foreigners and a foreign land no more; and we rejoice to see
and receive them not as strangers, but friends, and are proud to know
they are well pleased to behold our habitation. They do us and our
country justice now, and we have sometimes thought even more than
justice; for they are lost in admiration of our cities--above all, of
Edinburgh--and speak with such raptures of our scenery, that they would
appear to prefer it even to their own. They are charmed with our bare
green hills, with our shaggy brown mountains they are astonished, our
lochs are their delight, our woods their wonder, and they hold up their
hands and clap them at our cliffs. This is generous, for we are not
blind to the fact of England being the most beautiful land on all the
earth. What are our woods to hers! To hers, what are our single trees!
We have no such glorious standards to show as her indomitable and
everlasting oaks. She is all over sylvan--Scotland but here and there;
look on England from any point in any place, and you see she is rich,
from almost any point in any place in Scotland, and you feel that
comparatively she is poor. Yet our Lowlands have long been beautifying
themselves into a resemblance of hers; as for our Highlands, though many
changes have been going on there too, and most we believe for good, they
are in their great features, and in their spirit unalterable by art,
stamped and inspired by enduring Nature.

We have spoken, slightly, of the sylvan scenery of the Highlands. In
Perthshire, especially, it is of rare and extraordinary beauty, and we
are always glad to hear of Englishmen travelling up the Tay and the
Earn. We desire that eyes familiar with all that is umbrageous should
receive their first impressions of our Scottish trees at Duneira and
Dunkeld. Nor will those impressions be weakened as they proceed towards
Blair Atholl. In that famous Pass, they will feel the power possessed by
the sweet wild monotony of the universal birch woods--broken but by grey
crags in every shape--grotesque, fantastical, majestic, magnificent, and
sublime--on the many-ridged mountains, that are loth to lose the green
light of their beloved forests, retain it as long as they can, and on
the masses of living lustre seem to look down with pride from their

An English forest, meaning thereby any one wide continuous scene of all
kinds of old English trees, with glades of pasture, and it may be of
heath between, with dells dipping down into the gloom, and hillocks
undulating in the light--ravines and chasms too, rills, and rivulets,
and a haunted stream, and not without some melancholy old ruins, and
here and there a cheerful cottage that feels not the touch of time--such
a forest there is not, and hardly can be imagined to be in Scotland. But
in the Highlands, there once were, and are still other forests of quite
a different character, and of equal grandeur. In his "Forest Scenery,"
Gilpin shows that he understood it well; all the knowledge, which as a
stranger, almost of necessity he wanted, Lauder has supplied in his
annotations; and the book should now be in the hands of every one who
cares about the woods. "The English Forest," says Gilpin, "is commonly
composed of woodland views, interspersed with extensive heaths and
lawns. Its trees are oak and beech, whose lively green corresponds
better than the gloomy pine with the nature of the scene, which seldom
assumes the dignity of a mountain one, but generally exhibits a cheerful
landscape. It aspires, indeed, to grandeur; but its grandeur does not
depend, like that of the Scottish forest, on the sublimity of the
objects, but on the vastness of the whole--the extent of its woods and
the wideness of its plains. In its inhabitants also the English forest
differs from the Scottish; instead of the stag and the roebuck, it is
frequented by cattle and fallow-deer, and exchanges the scream of the
eagle and the falcon for the crowing of pheasants, and the melody of the
nightingale. The Scottish forest, no doubt, is the sublimer scene, and
speaks to the imagination in a loftier language than the English forest
can reach. The latter, indeed, often rouses the imagination, but seldom
in so great a degree, being generally content with captivating the eye.
The scenery, too, of the Scottish forest is better calculated to last
through ages than that of the English. The woods of both are almost
destroyed. But while the English forest hath lost all its beauty with
its oaks, and becomes only a desolate waste, the rocks and the
mountains, the lakes and the torrents of the Scottish forest make it
still an interesting scene."

The Tree of the Highlands is the Pine. There are Scotch firs, indeed,
well worth looking at, in the Lowlands, and in England, but to learn
their true character you must see them in the glen, among rooks, by the
river-side and on the mountain. "We for our parts," says Lauder very
finely, "confess that when we have seen it towering in full majesty in
the midst of some appropriate Highland scene, and sending its limbs
abroad with all the unrestrained freedom of a hardy mountaineer, as if
it claimed dominion over the savage region round it, we have looked upon
it as a very sublime object. People who have not seen it in its native
climate and soil, and who judge of it from the wretched abortions which
are swaddled and suffocated in English plantations, among dark, heavy,
and eternally wet clays, may well call it a wretched tree; but when its
foot is among its own Highland heather, and when it stands freely in
its native knoll of dry gravel, or thinly covered rock, over which its
roots wander afar in the wildest reticulation, whilst its tall,
furrowed, and often gracefully sweeping red and grey trunk, of enormous
circumference, rears aloft its high umbrageous canopy, then would the
greatest sceptic on this point be compelled to prostrate his mind before
it with a veneration which perhaps was never before excited in him by
any other tree." The colour of the pine has been objected to as
murky--and murky it often is, or seems to be; and so then is the colour
of the heather, and of the river, and of the loch, and of the sky itself
thunder-laden, and murkiest of all are the clouds. But a stream of
sunshine is let loose, and the gloom is confounded with glory; over all
that night-like reign the jocund day goes dancing, and the forest revels
in green or in golden light. Thousands and tens of thousands of pines
are there, and as you gaze upon the whole mighty array, you fear, lest
it might break the spell, to fix your gaze on any one single tree. But
there are trees there that will force you to look on themselves alone,
and they grow before your eyes into the kings of the forest. Straight
stand their stems in the sunshine, and you feel that as straight have
they stood in the storm. As yet you look not up, for your heart is awed,
and you see but the stately columns reddening away into the gloom. But
all the while you feel the power of the umbrage aloft, and when
thitherwards you lift your eyes, what a roof to such a cathedral! A cone
drops at your feet--nor other sound nor other stir--but afar off you
think you hear a cataract. Inaudible your footsteps on the soft yellow
floor, composed of the autumnal sheddings of countless years. Then it is
true that you can indeed hear the beating of your own heart; you fear,
but know not what you fear; and being the only living creature there,
you are impressed with a thought of death. But soon to that severe
silence you are more than reconciled; the solitude, without ceasing to
be sublime, is felt to be solemn and not awful, and ere long, utter as
it is, serene. Seen from afar, the forest was one black mass; but as you
advance, it opens up into spacious glades, beautiful as gardens, with
appropriate trees of gentler tribes, and ground-flowering in the sun.
But there is no murmur of bee--no song of bird. In the air a thin
whisper of insects--intermittent--and wafted quite away by a breath. For
we are now in the very centre of the forest, and even the cushat haunts
not here. Hither the red-deer may come--but not now--for at this season
they love the hill. To such places the stricken stag might steal to lie
down and die.

And thus for hours may you be lost in the forest, nor all the while have
wasted one thought on the outer-world, till with no other warning but an
uncertain glimmer and a strange noise, you all at once issue forth into
the open day, and are standing on the brink of a precipice above a
flood. It comes tumbling down with a succession of falls, in a mile-long
course, right opposite your stance--rocks, cliffs, and trees, all the
way up on either side, majestically retiring back to afford ample
channel, and showing an unobstructed vista, closed up by the purple
mountain, that seems to send forth the river from a cavern in its
breast. 'Tis the Glen of Pines. Nor ash nor oak is suffered to intrude
on their dominion. Since the earthquake first shattered it out, this
great chasm, with all its chasms, has been held by one race of trees. No
other seed could there spring to life; for from the rocks has all soil,
ages ago, been washed and swept by the tempests. But there they stand
with glossy boles, spreading arms, and glittering crest; and those two
by themselves on the summit, known all over Badenoch as "the
Giants"--their "statures reach the sky."

We have been indulging in a dream of old. Before our day the immemorial
gloom of Glenmore had perished, and it ceased to be a forest. But there
bordered on it another region of night or twilight, and in its vast
depths we first felt the sublimity of lonesome fear. Rothiemurchus! The
very word blackens before our eyes with necromantic characters--again we
plunge into its gulfs desirous of what we dread--again, "in pleasure
high and turbulent," we climb the cliffs of Cairngorm.

Would you wish to know what is now the look of Glenmore? One now dead
and gone--a man of wayward temper, but of genius--shall tell you--and
think not the picture exaggerated--for you would not, if you were
_there_. "It is the wreck of the ancient forest which arrests all the
attention, and which renders Glenmore a melancholy, more than a
melancholy, a terrific spectacle. Trees of enormous height, which have
escaped alike the axe and the tempest, are still standing, stripped by
the winds, even of the bark, and, like gigantic skeletons, throwing far
and wide their white and bleached bones to the storms and rains of
heaven; while others, broken by the violence of the gales, lift up their
split and fractured trunks in a thousand shapes of resistance and of
destruction, or still display some knotted and tortuous branches,
stretched out, in sturdy and fantastic forms of defiance, to the
whirlwind and the winter. Noble trunks also, which had long resisted,
but resisted in vain, strew the ground; some lying on the declivity
where they have fallen, others still adhering to the precipice where
they were rooted, many upturned, with their twisted and entangled roots
high in air; while not a few astonish us by the space which they cover,
and by dimensions which we could not otherwise have estimated. It is one
wide image of death, as if the angel of destruction had passed over the
valley. The sight even of a felled tree is painful; still more is that
of the fallen forest, with all its green branches on the ground,
withering, silent, and at rest, where once they glittered in the dew and
the sun, and trembled in the breeze. Yet this is but an image of
vegetable death. It is familiar, and the impression passes away. It is
the naked skeleton bleaching in the winds, the gigantic bones of the
forest still erect, the speaking records of former life, and of strength
still unsubdued, vigorous even in death, which renders Glenmore one
enormous charnel-house."

What happened of old to the aboriginal Forests of Scotland, that long
before these later destructions they had almost all perished, leaving,
to bear witness what they were, such survivors? They were chiefly
destroyed by fire. What power could extinguish chance-kindled
conflagrations, when sailing before the wind? And no doubt fire was set
to clear the country at once of Scotch firs, wolves, wild-boars, and
outlaws. Tradition yet tells of such burnings; and, if we mistake not,
the pines found in the Scottish mosses, the logs and the stocks, all
show that they were destroyed by Vulcan, though Neptune buried them in
the quagmires. Storms no doubt often levelled them by thousands; but had
millions so fallen they had never been missed, and one Element
only--which has been often fearfully commissioned--could achieve the
work. In our own day the axe has indeed done wonders--and sixteen square
miles of the Forest of Rothiemurchus "went to the ground." John of
Ghent, Gilpin tells us, to avenge an inroad, set twenty-four thousand
axes at work in the Caledonian Forest.

Yet Scotland has perhaps sufficient forests at this day. For more has
been planted than cut down; Glenmore will soon be populous as ever with
self-sown pines, and Rothiemurchus may revive; the shades are yet deep
of Loch Arkaig, Glengarry, Glenmoriston, Strathglass, Glen-Strathfarrar,
and Loch-Shiel; deeper still on the Findhorn--and deepest of all on the
Dee, rejoicing in the magnificent pine-woods of Invercauld and Braemar.

We feel that we have spoken feebly of our Highland forests. Some,
perhaps, who have never been off the high-roads, may accuse us of
exaggeration too; but they contain wondrous beauties of which we have
said not a word; and no imagination can conceive what they may be in
another hundred years. But, apparently far apart from the forests,
though still belonging to them, for they hold in fancy by the tenure of
the olden time, how many woods, and groves, and sprinklings of fair
trees, rise up during a day's journey, in almost every region of the
North! And among them all, it may be, scarcely a pine. For the oak, and
the ash, and the elm, are also all native trees; nowhere else does the
rowan flush with more dazzling lustre; in spring, the alder with its
vivid green stands well beside the birk--the yew was not neglected of
yore, though the bow of the Celt was weak to that of the Saxon; and the
holly, in winter emulating the brightness of the pine, flourished, and
still flourishes on many a mountain-side. There is sufficient sylvan
scenery for beauty in a land of mountains. More may be needed for
shelter--but let the young plants and seedlings have time to grow--and
as for the old trees, may they live for ever! Too many millions of
larches are perhaps growing now behind the Tay and the Tilt; yet why
should the hills of Perthshire be thought to be disfigured by what
ennobles the Alps and the Apennines?

Hitherto we have hardly said a word about Lochs, and have been doing our
best to forget them, while imagining scenes that were chiefly
characterised by other great features of Highland Landscape. A country
thus constituted, and with such an aspect, even if we could suppose it
without lochs, would still be a glorious region; but its lochs are
indeed its greatest glory: by them its glens, its mountains, and its
woods, are all illumined, and its rivers made to sing aloud for joy. In
the pure element, overflowing so many spacious vales and glens profound,
the great and stern objects of nature look even more sublime or more
beautiful in their reflected shadows, which appear in that stillness to
belong rather to heaven than earth. Or the evanescence of all that
imagery at a breath may touch us with the thought, that all it
represents, steadfast as seems its endurance, will as utterly pass away.
Such visions, when gazed on in that wondrous depth and purity they are
sometimes seen to assume on a still summer day, always inspire some such
faint feeling as this; and we sigh to think how transitory must be all
things, when the setting sun is seen to sink beneath the mountain, and
all its golden pomp at the same instant to evanish from the lake.

The first that takes possession of the imagination, dreaming of the
Highlands as the region of Lochs, is the Queen of them all, Loch Lomond.
A great poet has said that, "in Scotland, the proportion of diffused
water is often too great, as at the Lake of Geneva, for instance, and in
most of the Scottish lakes. No doubt it sounds magnificent, and flatters
the imagination, to hear at a distance of masses of water, so many
leagues in length and miles in width; and such ample room may be
delightful to the fresh-water sailor, scudding with a lively breeze amid
the rapidly-shifting scenery. But who ever travelled along the banks of
Loch Lomond, variegated as the lower part is by islands, without feeling
that a speedier termination of the long vista of blank water would be
acceptable, and without wishing for an interposition of green meadows,
trees, and cottages, and a sparkling stream to run by his side? In fact,
a notion of grandeur, as connected with magnitude, has seduced persons
of taste into a general mistake upon this subject. It is much more
desirable, for the purposes of pleasure, that lakes should be numerous
and small or middle-sized, than large, not only for communication by
walks and rides, but for variety, and for recurrence of similar
appearances. To illustrate this by one instance: how pleasing is it to
have a ready and frequent opportunity of watching, at the outlet of a
lake, the stream, pushing its way among the rocks, in lively contrast
with the stillness from which it has escaped! and how amusing to compare
its noisy and turbulent motions with the gentle playfulness of the
breezes that may be starting up, or wandering here and there, over the
faintly-rippled surface of the broad water! I may add, as a general
remark, that in lakes of great width the shores cannot be distinctly
seen at the same time, and therefore contribute little to mutual
illustration and ornament; and if the opposite shores are out of sight
of each other, like those of the American and Asiatic lakes, then
unfortunately the traveller is reminded of a nobler object--he has the
blankness of a sea-prospect without the grandeur and accompanying sense
of power."

We shall not be suspected of an inclination to dissent, on light
grounds, from any sentiments of Wordsworth. But finely felt and
expressed as all this is, we do not hesitate to say that it is not
applicable to Loch Lomond. Far be it from us to criticise this passage
sentence by sentence; for we have quoted it not in a captious, but a
reverent spirit, as we have ever done with the works of this illustrious
man. He has studied nature more widely and profoundly than we have; but
it is out of our power to look on Loch Lomond without a feeling of
perfection. The "diffusion of water" is indeed great; but in what a
world it floats! At first sight of it, how our soul expands! The sudden
revelation of such majestic beauty, wide as it is and extending afar,
inspires us with a power of comprehending it all. Sea-like indeed it
is--a Mediterranean Sea--enclosed with lofty hills and as lofty
mountains--and these indeed are the Fortunate Isles! We shall not dwell
on the feeling which all must have experienced on the first sight of
such a vision--the feeling of a lovely and a mighty calm; it is manifest
that the spacious "diffusion of water" more than conspires with the
other components of such a scene to produce the feeling; that to it
belongs the spell that makes our spirit serene, still, and bright, as
its own. Nor when such feeling ceases so entirely to possess, and so
deeply to affect us, does the softened and subdued charm of the scene
before us depend less on the expanse of the "diffusion of water." The
islands, that before had lain we knew not how--or we had only felt that
they were all most lovely--begin to show themselves in the order of
their relation to one another and to the shores. The eye rests on the
largest, and with them the lesser combine; or we look at one or two of
the least, away by themselves, or remote from all a tufted rock; and
many as they are, they break not the breadth of the liquid plain, for
it is ample as the sky. They show its amplitude, as masses and
sprinklings of clouds, and single clouds, show the amplitude of the
cerulean vault. And then the long promontories--stretching out from
opposite mainlands, and enclosing bays that in themselves are
lakes--they too magnify the empire of water; for long as they are, they
seem so only as our eye attends them with their cliffs and woods from
the retiring shores, and far distant are their shadows from the central
light. Then what shores! On one side, where the lake is widest,
low-lying they seem, and therefore lovelier--undulating with fields and
groves, where many a pleasant dwelling is embowered, into lines of hills
that gradually soften away into another land. On the other side, sloping
back, or overhanging, mounts beautiful in their bareness, for they are
green as emerald; others, scarcely more beautiful, studded with fair
trees--some altogether woods. They soon form into mountains--and the
mountains become more and more majestical, yet beauty never deserts
them, and her spirit continues to tame that of the frowning cliffs. Far
off as they are, Benlomond and Benvorlich are seen to be giants;
magnificent is their retinue, but they two are supreme, each in his own
dominion; and clear as the day is here, they are diadem'd with clouds.

It cannot be that the "proportion of diffused water is here too great;"
and is it then true that no one "ever travelled along the banks of Loch
Lomond, variegated as the lower part is by islands, without feeling that
a speedier termination to the long vista of blank water would be
acceptable, and without wishing for an interposition of green meadows,
trees, and cottages, and a sparkling stream to run by his side?" We have
travelled along them in all weathers and never felt such a wish. For
there they all are--all but the "sparkling stream to run by our side,"
and we see not how that well could be in nature. "Streams that sparkle
as they run," cross our path on their own; and brighter never issued
from the woods. Along the margin of the water, as far as Luss--ay, and
much farther--the variations of the foreground are incessant; "had it no
other beauties," it has been truly said, "but those of its shores, it
would still be an object of prime attraction; whether from the
bright-green meadows sprinkled with luxuriant ash-trees, that sometimes
skirt its margin, or its white pebbled shores on which its gentle
billows murmur, like a miniature ocean, or its bold rocky promontories
rising from the dark water, rich in wildflowers and ferns, and tangled
with wild roses and honeysuckles, or its retired bays where the waves
dash, reflecting, like a mirror, the trees which hang over them, an
inverted landscape." The islands are for ever arranging themselves into
new forms, every one more and more beautiful; at least so they seem to
be, perpetually occurring, yet always unexpected, and there is a
pleasure even in such a series of slight surprises that enhances the
delight of admiration. And alongside, or behind us, all the while, are
the sylvan mountains, "laden with beauty;" and ever and anon open glens
widen down upon us from chasms; or forest-glades lead our hearts away
into the inner gloom--perhaps our feet; and there, in a field that looks
not as if it had been cleared by his own hands, but left clear by
nature, a woodsman's hut.

Half-way between Luss and Tarbet the water narrows, but it is still
wide; the new road, we believe, winds round the point of Firkin, the old
road boldly scaled the height, as all old roads loved to do; ascend it,
and bid the many-isled vision, in all its greatest glory, farewell.
Thence upwards prevails the spirit of the mountains. The lake is felt to
belong to them--to be subjected to their will--and that is capricious;
for sometimes they suddenly blacken it when at its brightest, and
sometimes when its gloom is like that of the grave, as if at their
biding, all is light. We cannot help attributing the "skyey influences"
which occasion such wonderful effects on the water, to prodigious
mountains; for we cannot look on them without feeling that they reign
over the solitude they compose; the lights and shadows flung by the sun
and the clouds imagination assuredly regards as put forth by the vast
objects which they colour; and we are inclined to think some such belief
is essential in the profound awe, often amounting to dread, with which
we are inspired by the presences of mere material forms. But be this as
it may, the upper portion of Loch Lomond is felt by all to be most
sublime. Near the head, all the manifold impressions of the beautiful
which for hours our mind had been receiving, begin to fade; if some
gloomy change has taken place in the air, there is a total obliteration,
and the mighty scene before us is felt to possess not the hour merely,
but the day. Yet should sunshine come, and abide a while, beauty will
glimpse upon us even here, for green pastures will smile vividly high up
among the rocks; the sylvan spirit is serene the moment it is touched
with light, and here there is not only many a fair tree by the
water-side, but yon old oak-wood will look joyful on the mountain, and
the gloom become glimmer in the profound abyss.

Wordsworth says that "it must be more desirable, for the purposes of
pleasure, that lakes should be numerous, and small or middle-sized, than
large, not only for communication by walks and rides, but for variety,
and for recurrence of similar appearances." The Highlands have them of
all sizes--and that surely is best. But here is one which, it has been
truly said, is not only "incomparable in its beauty as in its
dimensions, exceeding all others in variety as it does in extent and
splendour, but unites in itself every style of scenery which is found in
the other lakes of the Highlands." He who has studied, and understood,
and felt all Loch Lomond, will be prepared at once to enjoy any other
fine lake he looks on; nor will he admire nor love it the less, though
its chief character should consist in what forms but one part of that of
the Wonder in which all kinds of beauty and sublimity are combined.

We feel that it would be idle, and worse than idle, to describe any
number of the Highland lochs, for so many of the finest have been seen
by so many eyes that few persons probably will ever read these pages to
whom such descriptions would be, at the best, more than shadowings of
scenery that their own imaginations can more vividly re-create. There
are other reasons for not saying a single word about some of the most
beautiful; for genius has pictured and peopled them and the surrounding
regions in colours that will never fade. Besides, in the volumes to
which these "Remarks" are a preface--contributed with pleasure, somewhat
impaired indeed by the consciousness of their many defects and
imperfections--views of them all are submitted to the eye; and it is not
to be thought that we could by words add to the effect of the works of
such artists. These objections do not apply to what we have written
respecting the character of the Scenery of the Highlands, apart, as far
as that may be, from their lochs; and it may have in some measure
illustrated them also, if it has at all truly characterised the
mountains, the glens, the rivers, the forests, and the woods.

We may be allowed, however, to say, that there cannot be a greater
mistake than to think, as many, we believe, do who have only heard of
the Highland Lochs, that, with the exception of those famous for their
beauty as well as their grandeur, beauty is not only not the quality by
which they are distinguished, but that it is rarely found in them at
all. There are few, possessing any very marked character, in which
beauty is not either an ingredient or an accompaniment; and there are
many "beautiful exceedingly," which, lying out of the way even of
somewhat adventurous travellers, or very remote, are known, if even by
that, only by name. It does not, indeed, require much, in some
situations, to give a very touching beauty to water. A few trees, a few
knolls, a few tufted rocks, will do it, where all around and above is
stern or sterile; and how strong may be the gentle charm, if the torrent
that feeds the little loch chance to flow into it from a lucid pool
formed by a waterfall, and to flow out of it in a rivulet that enlivens
the dark heather with a vale of verdure over which a stag might
bound--and more especially if there be two or three huts in which it is
perceived there is human life! We believe we slightly touched before on
such scenes; but any little repetition will be excused for the sake of a
very picturesque passage, which we have much pleasure in quoting from
the very valuable "Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland," by
the brothers Anderson. We well remember walking into the scene here so
well painted, many long years ago, and have indeed, somewhere or other,
described it. The Fall of Foyers is the most magnificent cataract, out
of all sight and hearing, in Britain. The din is quite loud enough in
ordinary weather--and it is only in ordinary weather that you can
approach the place from which you have a full view of all its grandeur.
When the Fall is in flood--to say nothing of being drenched to the
skin--you are so blinded by the sharp spray-smoke, and so deafened by
the dashing and clashing, and tumbling and rumbling thunder, that your
condition is far from enviable, as you cling, "lonely lover of nature,"
to a shelf by no means eminent for safety, above the horrid gulf. Nor in
former times was there any likelihood of your being comforted by the
accommodations of the General's Hut. In ordinary Highland
weather--meaning thereby weather neither very wet nor very dry--it is
worth walking a thousand miles for one hour to behold the Fall of
Foyers. The spacious cavity is enclosed by "complicated cliffs and
perpendicular precipices" of immense height, and though for a while it
wears to the eye a savage aspect, yet beauty fears not to dwell even
there, and the horror is softened by what appears to be masses of tall
shrubs, or single shrubs almost like trees. And they are trees, which on
the level plain would look even stately; but as they ascend ledge above
ledge the walls of that awful chasm, it takes the eye time to see them
as they really are, while on our first discernment of their character,
serenely standing among the tumult, they are felt on such sites to be

"Between the Falls and the Strath of Stratherrik," says the Book we were
about to quote, "a space of three or four miles, the river Foyers flows
through a series of low rocky hills clothed with birch. They present
various quiet glades and open spaces, where little patches of cultivated
ground are encircled by wooded hillocks, whose surface is pleasingly
diversified by nodding trees, bare rocks, empurpled heath, and bracken
bearing herbage." It was the excessive loveliness of some of the scenery
there that suggested to us the thought of going to look what kind of a
stream the Foyers was above the Fall. We went, and in the quiet of a
summer evening, found it

    "Was even the gentlest of all gentle things."

But here is the promised description of it. "Before pursuing our way
westward, we would wish to direct the traveller's attention to a
sequestered spot of peculiar beauty on the river Foyers. This is a
secluded vale, called Killean, which, besides its natural
attractions--and these are many--is distinguished as one of the few
places where the old practice of resorting to the 'shieling' for summer
grazing of cattle is still observed. It is encompassed on all sides by
steep mountains; but at the north end there is a small lake, about a
mile and a half in length, and from one-third to half a mile in breadth.
The remainder of the bottom of the glen is a perfectly level tract, of
the same width with the lake, and about two miles and a half in length,
covered with the richest herbage, and traversed by a small meandering
river flowing through it into the lake. The surface of this flat is
bedecked with the little huts or bothies which afford temporary
accommodation to the herdsmen and others in charge of the cattle. This
portion of the glen is bordered on the west by continuous hills rising
abruptly in a uniformly steep acclivity, and passing above into a
perpendicular range of precipices, the whole covered with a scanty
verdure sprouted with heath. At a bend of the lake near its middle,
where it inclines from a northernly course towards the west, a
magnificent rounded precipice, which, like the continuous ranges, may be
about 1200 feet in height, rises immediately out of the water; and a few
narrow and inclined verdant stripes alone preserve it from exhibiting a
perfectly mural character. To this noble rock succeeds, along the rest
of the lake, a beautiful, lofty, and nearly vertical hill-side, clothed
with birch, intermingled with hanging mossy banks, shaded over with the
deeper-tinted bracken. The eastern side of the plain, and the adjoining
portion of the lake, are lined by mountains corresponding in height with
those opposed to them; but their lower extremities are, to a
considerable extent, strewed with broken fragments of rock, to which
succeeds an uninterrupted zone of birch and alder, which is again
overtopped in its turn by naked cliffs. An elevated terrace occupies the
remainder of this side of the lake; above the wooded face of which is
seen a sloping expanse of mingled heath and herbage. About half a mile
from the south end, Mr Fraser of Lovat, the proprietor, has erected a
shooting-lodge; viewed from which, or from either end, or from the top
of the platform on the north-east side of the lake, fancy could scarcely
picture a more attractive and fairy landscape than is unfolded by this
sequestered vale, to which Dr Johnson's description of the 'Happy
Valley' not inaptly applies. The milch cows, to the number of several
hundreds, are generally kept here from the beginning of June to the
middle of August, when they are replaced by the yeld cattle. The river
sweeps to the northward from Loch Killean through richly birch-clad
hills, which rise in swelling slopes from its banks. A large tarn which
immediately joins it from the east is crossed at its mouth by a rustic
bridge, from which a single footpath conducts across the brow of the
hill to Whitebridge, a small public-house or inn, four miles distant."

There is a loch of a very different character from Killean, almost as
little known (one view of it is given in the book), equal to anything in
the Highlands, only two miles distant from Loch Lochy, in the Great
Glen--Loch Arkaig. We first visited it many years since, having been
induced to do so by a passage in John Stoddart's "Remarks on the Local
Scenery and Manners of Scotland;" and it was then a very noble oak and
pine forest loch. The axe went to work and kept steadily at it; and a
great change was wrought; but it is still a grand scene, with a larger
infusion of beauty than it possessed of old. The scenery of the valley
separating it from Loch Lochy is very similar to that of the Trossachs;
through it there are two approaches to the loch, and the _Mile-Dubh_, or
the Dark Mile, according to our feeling, is more impressive than any
part of the approach to Loch Katrine. The woods and rocks are very
solemn, and yet very sweet; for though many old pines and oaks and ashes
are there, and the wall of rocks is immense, young trees prevail now on
many places, as well along the heights as among the knolls and hillocks
below, where alders and hawthorns are thick; almost everywhere the young
are intermingled with the old, and look cheerful under their protection,
without danger of being chilled by their shade. The loch, more or less
sylvan from end to end, shows on its nearer shores some magnificent
remains of the ancient forest, and makes a noble sweep like some great
river. There may be more, but we remember but one island--not large, but
wooded as it should be--the burying-place of the family of Lochiel. What
rest! It is a long journey from Loch Lochy to Kinloch Arkaig--and by the
silent waters we walked or sat all a summer's day. There was nothing
like a road that we observed, but the shores are easily travelled, and
there it is you may be almost sure of seeing some red-deer. They are no
better worth looking at from a window than Fallow--no offence to Fallow,
who are fine creatures; indeed, we had rather not see them so at all;
but on the shores or steeps of Loch Arkaig, with hardly a human
habitation within many, many miles, and these few rather known than seen
to be there, the huts of Highlanders contented to cultivate here and
there some spot that seems cultivatable, but probably is found not to
be so after some laborious years--there they are at home; and you, if
young, looking on them, feel at home too, and go bounding, like one of
themselves, over what, did you choose, were an evitable steep. Roe, too,
frequent the copses, but to be seen they must be started; grouse spring
up before you oftener than you might expect in a deer forest; but, to be
sure, it is a rough and shaggy one, though lovelier lines of verdure
never lay in the sunshine than we think we see now lying for miles along
the margin of that loch. The numerous mountains towards the head of the
loch are very lofty, and glens diverge in grand style into opposite and
distant regions. Glen Dessary, with its beautiful pastures, opens on the
loch, and leads to Loch Nevish on the coast of Knoidart--Glen Pæan to
Oben-a-Cave on Loch Morer, Glen Canagorie into Glenfinnan and Loch
Shiel; and Glen Kingie to Glengarry and Loch Quoich. There is a choice!
We chose Glen Kingie, and after a long climb found a torrent that took
us down to Glengarry before sunset. It is a loch little known, and in
grandeur not equal to Loch Arkaig; but at the close of such a day's
journey, the mind, elevated by the long contemplation of the great
objects of nature, cannot fail to feel aright, whatever it may be, the
spirit of the scene, that seems to usher in the grateful hour of rest.
It is surpassing fair--and having lain all night long on its gentle
banks, sleeping or waking we know not, we have never remembered it since
but as the Land of Dreams.

Which is the dreariest, most desolate, and dismal of the Highland Lochs?
We should say Loch Ericht. It lies in a prodigious wilderness, with
which perhaps no man alive is conversant, and in which you may travel
for days without seeing even any symptoms of human life. We speak of the
regions comprehended between the Forest of Atholl and Ben-nevis, the
Moor of Rannoch and Glen Spean. There are many lochs--and Loch Ericht is
their griesly Queen. Herdsmen, shepherds, hunters, fowlers, anglers,
traverse its borders, but few have been far in the interior, and we
never knew anybody who had crossed it from south to north, from east to
west. We have ourselves seen more of it, perhaps, than any other
Lowlander; and had traversed many of its vast glens and moors, before we
found our way to the southern solitude of Loch Ericht. We came into the
western gloom of Ben Auler from Loch Ouchan, and up and down for hours
dismal but not dangerous precipices that opened out into what might
almost be called passes--but we had frequently to go back, for they were
blind--contrived to clamber to the edge of one of the mountains that
rose from the water a few miles down the loch. All was vast, shapeless,
savage, black, and wrathfully grim; for it was one of those days that
keep frowning and lowering, yet will not thunder; such as one conceives
of on the eve of an earthquake. At first the sight was dreadful, but
there was no reason for dread; imagination remains not longer than she
chooses the slave of her own eyes, and we soon began to enjoy the gloom,
and to feel how congenial it was in nature with the character of all
those lifeless cliffs. Silence and darkness suit well together in
solitude at noonday, and settled on huge objects make them sublime. And
they were huge; all ranged together, and stretching away to a great
distance, with the pitchy water, still as if frozen, covering their

Loch Ericht is many miles long--nearly twenty; but there is a loch among
the Grampians not more than two miles round, if so much, which is
sublimer far--Loch Aven. You come upon the sight of it at once, a short
way down from the summit of Cairngorm, and then it is some two thousand
feet below you, itself being as many above the level of the sea. But to
come upon it so as to feel best its transcendent grandeur, you should
approach it up Glenaven--and from as far down as Inch-Rouran, which is
about half-way between Loch Aven and Tomantoul. Between Inch-Rouran and
Tomantoul the glen is wild, but it is inhabited; above that house there
is but one other; and for about a dozen miles--we have heard it called
far more--there is utter solitude. But never was there a solitude at
once so wild, so solemn, so serene, so sweet! The glen is narrow; but on
one side there are openings into several wider glens, that show you
mighty coves as you pass on; on the other side the mountains are without
a break, and the only variation with them is from smooth to shaggy, from
dark to bright; but their prevailing character is that of pastoral or of
forest peace. The mountains that show the coves belong to the bases of
Ben-Aven and Ben-y-buird. The heads of those giants are not seen--but it
sublimes the long glen to know that it belongs to their dominion, and
that it is leading us on to an elevation that ere long will be on a
level with the roots of their topmost cliffs. The Aven is so clear--on
account of the nature of its channel--that you see the fishes hanging in
every pool; and 'tis not possible to imagine how beautiful in such
transparencies are the reflections of its green ferny banks. For miles
they are composed of knolls, seldom interspersed with rocks, and there
cease to be any trees. But ever and anon we walk for a while on a level
floor, and the voice of the stream is mute. Hitherto sheep have been
noticed on the hill, but not many, and red and black cattle grazing on
the lower pastures; but they disappear, and we find ourselves all at
once in a desert. So it is felt to be, coming so suddenly with its black
heather on that greenest grass; but 'tis such a desert as the red-deer
love. We are now high up on the breast of the mountain, which appears to
be Cairngorm; but such heights are deceptive, and it is not till we
again see the bed of the Aven that we are assured we are still in the
glen. Prodigious precipices, belonging to several different mountains,
for between mass and mass there is blue sky, suddenly arise, forming
themselves more and more regularly into circular order, as we near; and
now we have sight of the whole magnificence; yet vast as it is, we know
not yet how vast; it grows as we gaze, till in a while we feel that
sublimer it may not be; and then so quiet in all its horrid grandeur we
feel too that it is beautiful, and think of the Maker.

This is Loch Aven. How different the whole region round from that
enclosing Loch Ericht! There, vast wildernesses of more than melancholy
moors--huge hollows hating their own gloom that keeps them
herbless--disconsolate glens left far away by themselves, without any
sign of life--cliffs that frown back the sunshine--and mountains, as if
they were all dead, insensible to the heavens. Is this all mere
imagination--or the truth? We deceive ourselves in what we call a
desert. For we have so associated our own being with the appearances of
outward things, that we attribute to them, with an uninquiring faith,
the very feelings and the very thoughts, of which we have chosen to make
them emblems. But here the sources of the Dee seem to lie in a region as
happy as it is high; for the bases of the mountains are all such as the
soul has chosen to make sublime--the colouring of the mountains all
such, as the soul has chosen to make beautiful; and the whole region,
thus imbued with a power to inspire elevation and delight, is felt to be
indeed one of the very noblest in nature.

We have now nearly reached the limits assigned to our "Remarks on the
Character of the Scenery of the Highlands;" and we feel that the
sketches we have drawn of its component qualities--occasionally filled
up with some details--must be very imperfect indeed without
comprehending some parts of the coast, and some of the sea-arms that
stretch into the interior. But even had our limits allowed, we do not
think we could have ventured on such an attempt; for though we have
sailed along most of the western shores, and through some of its sounds,
and into many of its bays, and up not a few of its reaches, yet they
contain such an endless variety of all the fairest and greatest objects
of nature, that we feel it would be far beyond our powers to give
anything like an adequate idea of the beauty and the grandeur that for
ever kept unfolding themselves around our summer voyagings in calm or
storm. Who can say that he knows a thousandth part of the wonders of
"the marine" between the Mull of Cantire and Cape Wrath? He may have
gathered many an extensive shore--threaded many a mazy multitude of
isles--sailed up many a spacious bay--and cast anchor at the head of
many a haven land-locked so as no more to seem to belong to the sea--yet
other voyagers shall speak to him of innumerable sights which he has
never witnessed; and they who are most conversant with those coasts,
best know how much they have left and must leave for ever unexplored.

Look now only at the Linnhe Loch--how it gladdens Argyll! Without it and
the Sound of Mull how sad would be the shadows of Morvern! Eclipsed the
splendours of Lorn! Ascend one of the heights of Appin, and as the waves
roll in light, you will see how the mountains are beautified by the sea.
There is a majestic rolling onwards there that belongs to no
land-loch--only to the world of waves. There is no nobler image of
ordered power than the tide, whether in flow or in ebb; and on all now
it is felt to be beneficent, coming and going daily, to enrich and
adorn. Or in fancy will you embark, and let the Amethyst bound away "at
her own sweet will," accordant with yours, till she reach the distant
and long-desired loch.

    "Loch-Sunart! who, when tides and tempests roar,
    Comes in among these mountains from the main,
    'Twixt wooded Ardnamurchan's rocky cape
    And Ardmore's shingly beach of hissing spray;
    And while his thunders bid the sound of Mull
    Be dumb, sweeps onwards past a hundred bays
    Hill-shelter'd from the wrath that foams along
    The mad mid-channel,--All as quiet they
    As little separate worlds of summer dreams,--
    And by storm-loving birds attended up
    The mountain-hollow, white in their career
    As are the breaking billows, spurns the Isles
    Of craggy Carnich, and green Oronsay
    Drench'd in that sea-horn shower o'er tree-tops driven,
    And ivied stones of what was once a tower,
    Now hardly known from rocks--and gathering might
    In the long reach between Dungallan caves
    And point of Arderinis ever fair
    With her Elysian groves, bursts through that strait
    Into another ampler inland sea;
    Till lo! subdued by some sweet influence,--
    And potent is she, though so meek the Eve,--
    Down sinketh wearied the old Ocean
    Insensibly into a solemn calm,--
    And all along that ancient burial-ground
    (Its kirk is gone), that seemeth now to lend
    Its own eternal quiet to the waves,
    Restless no more, into a perfect peace
    Lulling and lull'd at last, while drop the airs
    Away as they were dead, the first-risen star
    Beholds that lovely Archipelago,
    All shadow'd there as in a spiritual world,
    Where time's mutations shall come never more!"

These lines describe but one of innumerable lochs that owe their
greatest charm to the sea. It is indeed one of those on which nature has
lavished all her infinite varieties of loveliness; but Loch Leven is
scarcely less fair, and perhaps grander; and there is matchless
magnificence above Loch Etive. All round about Ballahulish and Inverco
the scenery of Loch Leven is the sweetest ever seen overshadowed by
such mountains; the deeper their gloom, the brighter its lustre; in all
weathers it wears a cheerful smile; and often while tip among the rocks
the tall trees are tossing in the storm, the heart of the woods beneath
is calm, and the vivid fields they shelter look as if they still enjoyed
the sun. Nor closes the beauty there, but even animates the entrance
into that dreadful glen--Glencoe. All the way up its river, Loch Leven
would be fair, were it only for her hanging woods. But though the glen
narrows, it still continues broad, and there are green plains between
her waters and the mountains, on which stately trees stand single, and
there is ample room for groves. The returning tide tells us, should we
forget it, that this is no inland loch, for it hurries away back to the
sea, not turbulent, but fast as a river in flood. The river Leven is one
of the finest in the Highlands, and there is no other such series of
waterfalls, all seen at once, one above the other, along an immense
vista; and all the way up to the furthest there are noble assemblages of
rocks--nowhere any want of wood--and in places, trees that seem to have
belonged to some old forest. Beyond, the opening in the sky seems to
lead into another region, and it does so; for we have gone that way,
past some small lochs, across a wide wilderness, with mountains on all
sides, and descended on Loch Treag,

    "A loch whom there are none to praise,
    And very few to love,"

but overflowing in our memory with all pleasantest images of pastoral
contentment and peace.

Loch Etive, between the ferries of Connel and Bunawe, has been seen by
almost all who have visited the Highlands--but very imperfectly; to know
what it is, you must row or sail up it, for the banks on both sides are
often richly wooded, assume many fine forms, and are frequently well
embayed, while the expanse of water is sufficiently wide to allow you
from its centre to command a view of many of the distant heights. But
above Bunawe it is not like the same loch. For a couple of miles it is
not wide, and it is so darkened by enormous shadows that it looks even
less like a strait than a gulf--huge overhanging rocks on both sides
ascending high, and yet felt to belong but to the bases of mountains
that sloping far back have their summits among clouds of their own in
another region of the sky. Yet are they not all horrid; for nowhere else
is there such lofty heather--it seems a wild sort of brushwood; tall
trees flourish, single or in groves, chiefly birches, with now and then
an oak--and they are in their youth or their prime--and even the
prodigious trunks, some of which have been dead for centuries, are not
all dead, but shoot from their knotted rind symptoms of life
inextinguishable by time and tempest. Out of this gulf we emerge into
the Upper Loch, and its amplitude sustains the majesty of the mountains,
all of the highest order, and seen from their feet to their crests.
Cruachan wears the crown, and reigns over them all--king at once of Loch
Etive and of Loch Awe. But Buachaille Etive, though afar off, is still a
giant, and in some lights comes forwards, bringing with him the Black
Mount and its dependents, so that they all seem to belong to this most
magnificent of all Highland lochs. "I know not," says Macculloch, "that
Loch Etive could bear an ornament without an infringement on that aspect
of solitary vastness which it presents throughout. Nor is there one. The
rocks and bays on the shore, which might elsewhere attract attention,
are here swallowed up in the enormous dimensions of the surrounding
mountains, and the wide and ample expanse of the lake. A solitary house,
here fearfully solitary, situated far up in Glen Etive, is only visible
when at the upper extremity; and if there be a tree, as there are in a
few places on the shore, it is unseen; extinguished as if it were a
humble mountain flower, by the universal magnitude around." This is
finely felt and expressed; but even on the shores of Loch Etive there is
much of the beautiful; Ardmatty smiles with its meadows, and woods, and
bay, and sylvan stream; other sunny nooks repose among the grey granite
masses; the colouring of the banks and braes is often bright; several
houses or huts become visible no long way up the glen; and though that
long hollow--half a day's journey--till you reach the wild road between
Inveruran and King's House--lies in gloom, yet the hillsides are
cheerful, and you delight in the greensward, wide and rock-broken,
should you ascend the passes that lead into Glencreran or Glencoe. But
to feel the full power of Glen Etive you must walk up it till it ceases
to be a glen. When in the middle of the moor, you see far off a
solitary dwelling indeed--perhaps the loneliest house in all the
Highlands--and the solitude is made profounder, as you pass by, by the
voice of a cataract, hidden in an awful chasm, bridged by two or three
stems of trees, along which the red-deer might fear to venture--but we
have seen them and the deer-hounds glide over it, followed by other
fearless feet, when far and wide the Forest of Dalness was echoing to
the hunter's horn.

We have now brought our Remarks on the Scenery of the Highlands to a
close, and would fain have said a few words on the character and life of
the people; but are precluded from even touching on that most
interesting subject. It is impossible that the minds of travellers
through those wonderful regions, can be so occupied with the
contemplation of mere inanimate nature, as not to give many a thought to
their inhabitants, now and in the olden time. Indeed, without such
thoughts, they would often seem to be but blank and barren wildernesses,
in which the heart would languish, and imagination itself recoil; but
they cannot long be so looked at, for houseless as are many extensive
tracts, and therefore at times felt to be too dreary even for moods that
for a while enjoyed the absence of all that might tell of human life,
yet symptoms and traces of human life are noticeable to the instructed
eye almost everywhere, and in them often lies the spell that charms us,
even while we think that we are wholly delivered up to the influence of
"dead insensate things." None will visit the Highlands without having
some knowledge of their history; and the changes that have long been
taking place in the condition of the people will be affectingly
recognised wherever they go, in spite even of what might have appeared
the insuperable barriers of nature.

                                  "Time and Tide
    Have washed away, like weeds upon the sands,
    Crowds of the olden life's memorials;
    And 'mid the mountains you as well might seek
    For the lone site of fancy's filmy dreams.
    Towers have decay'd and moulder'd from the cliffs,
    Or their green age, or grey, has help'd to build
    New dwellings sending up their household smoke
    From treeless places once inhabited
    But by the secret sylvans. On the moors
    The pillar-stone, reared to perpetuate
    The fame of some great battle, or the power
    Of storied necromancer in the wild,
    Among the wide change on the heather-bloom
    By power more wondrous wrought than his, its name
    Has lost, or fallen itself has disappear'd;
    No broken fragment suffer'd to impede
    The glancing ploughshare. All the ancient woods
    Are thinn'd and let in floods of daylight now,
    Then dark and dern as when the Druids lived.
    Narrow'd is now the red-deer's forest reign;
    The royal race of eagles is extinct.
    But other changes than on moor and cliff
    Have tamed the aspect of the wilderness;
    The simple system of primeval life,
    Simple but stately, hath been broken down;
    The clans are scatter'd, and the chieftain's power
    Is dead, or dying--but a name--though yet
    It sometimes stirs the desert; to the winds
    The tall plumes wave no more--the tartan green
    With fiery streaks among the heather-bells
    Now glows unfrequent; and the echoes mourn
    The silence of the music that of old
    Kept war-thoughts stern amid the calm of peace.
    Yet to far battle plains still Morven sends
    Her heroes, and still glittering in the sun,
    Or blood-dimm'd, her dread line of bayonets
    Marches with loud shouts straight to victory.
    A soften'd radiance now floats o'er her glens;
    No rare sight now upon her sea-arm lochs
    The sail oft-veering up the solitude;
    And from afar the noise of life is brought
    Within the thunders of her cataracts.
    These will flow on for ever; and the crests,
    Gold-tipt by rising and by setting suns,
    Of her old mountains inaccessible
    Glance down their scorn for ever on the toils
    That load with harvests now the humbler hills,
    Now shorn of all their heather bloom, and green
    Or yellow as the gleam of lowland fields.
    And bold hearts in broad bosoms still are there,
    Living and dying peacefully; the huts
    Abodes are still of high-soul'd poverty;
    And underneath their lintels beauty stoops
    Her silken-snooded head, when singing goes
    The maiden to her father at his work
    Among the woods, or joins the scanty line
    Of barley-reapers on their narrow ridge,
    In some small field among the pastoral braes.
    Still fragments dim of ancient poetry
    In melancholy music down the glens
    Go floating; and from shieling roof'd with boughs,
    And turf-wall'd, high up in some lonely place
    Where flocks of sheep are nibbling the sweet grass
    Of mid-summer, and browsing on the plants
    On the cliff mosses a few goats are seen
    Among their kids, you hear sweet melodies
    Attuned to some traditionary tale,
    By young wife sitting all alone, aware
    From shadow on the mountain horologe
    Of the glad hour that brings her husband home
    Before the gloaming, from the far-off moor
    Where the black cattle feed; there all alone
    She sits and sings, except that on her knees
    Sleeps the sweet offspring of their faithful loves."

We love the people too well to praise them--we have had too heartfelt
experience of their virtues. In castle, hall, house, manse, hut, hovel,
shieling--on mountain and moor, we have known, without having to study
their character. It manifests itself in their manners, and in their
whole frame of life. They are now, as they ever were, affectionate,
faithful, and fearless; and far more delightful surely it is to see such
qualities in all their pristine strength--for civilisation has not
weakened, nor ever will weaken them--without that alloy of fierceness
and ferocity which was inseparable from them in the turbulence of feudal
times. They are now indeed a peaceful people; severe as are the
hardships of their condition, they are, in the main, contented with it;
and nothing short of necessity can dissever them from their dear
mountains. We devoutly trust that there need be no more forced
emigration--that henceforth it will be free--at the option of the
adventurous--and that all who will, when the day cometh, may be gathered
to their fathers in the land that gave them birth. Much remains to be
done not only to relieve but enlighten; yet Christian benevolence has
not been forgetful of their wants; schools and churches are arising in
remote places; and that they are in good truth a religious as well as a
moral people is proved by the passionate earnestness with which, in
their worst destitution, they embrace every offer of instruction in the
knowledge that leads to everlasting life. The blessing of Heaven will
lie on all such missions as these; and the time will come when we shall
be able to contemplate, without any pain, the condition of a race who,
to use the noble language of one, though often scornful and sarcastic
overmuch, yet at heart their friend, "almost in an hour subsided into
peace and virtue, retaining their places, their possessions, their
chiefs, their songs, their traditions, their superstitions and peculiar
usages--even that language and those recollections which still separate
them from the rest of the nation. They retained even their pride, and
they retained their contempt of those who imposed that order on them,
and still they settled into a state of obedience to that government, of
which the world produces no other instance! It is a splendid moral
phenomenon, and reflects a lustre on the Highland character, whether of
the chiefs or the people, which extinguishes all past faults, and which
atones for what little remains to be amended. A peculiar political
situation was the cause of their faults; and that which swept away the
cause, has rendered the effects a tale of other times."



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