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Title: The Genius of Scotland
or Sketches of Scottish Scenery, Literature and Religion
Author: Robert Turnbull
Release Date: February 10, 2012 [eBook #38822]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GENIUS OF SCOTLAND***
ROBERT CARTER, 58 CANAL STREET
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1847,
BY ROBERT CARTER,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States
for the Southern District of New York.
STEREOTYPED BY THOMAS B. SMITH,
216 WILLIAM STREET, NEW YORK
Having been born and educated in Scotland, and possessing a tolerable acquaintance with its History and Literature, the Author of the following Work felt that he had some facilities for giving to the people of this country a just idea of his native Land. The plan of his work is somewhat new, combining in a larger degree, than he has hitherto seen attempted, descriptions of Scenery, with Literary and Biographical Sketches, portraitures of character social and religious, incidents of travel, and reflections on matters of local or general interest. Hence he has omitted many things which a mere tourist would not fail to notice, and supplied their place with sketches of more enduring interest. He would particularly invite attention to the sketches of Knox, Burns, Wilson, Chalmers, Bruce, 'The Ettrick Shepherd,' and Sir Walter Scott. His rambles through fair or classic scenes are thus enlivened with useful information. In a word, it has been his endeavor, in an easy natural way, to give his readers an adequate conception of the Scenery, Literature, and Religion of Scotland.
|Beauty an Element of the Mind—Our Native Land—Auld Lang Syne—General Description of Scotland—Extent of Population—Spirit of the People—The Highlands—The Lowlands—Burns's 'Genius of Scotland'—Natural and Moral Aspects of the Country—'The Cotter's Saturday Night'—Sources of Prosperity||11|
|The city of Edinburgh—Views from Arthur's Seat—The Poems of Richard Gall—'Farewell to Ayrshire'—'Arthur's Seat, a Poem'—Extracts—Craigmillar Castle—The Forth, Roslin Castle and the Pentland Hills—Liberty||32|
|Walk to the Castle—The Old Wynds and their Occupants—Regalia of Scotland—Storming of the Castle—Views from its Summit—Heriot's Hospital—Other Hospitals—St. Giles's Cathedral—Changes—The Spirit of Protestantism||42|
|John Knox's House—History of the Reformer—His Character—Carlyle's View—Testimony of John Milton||53|
|Edinburgh University—Professor Wilson—His Life and Writings, Genius and Character||62|
|The Calton Hill—Burns's Monument—Character and Writings of 'the Peasant Poet'—His Religious Views—Monument of Professor Dugald Stewart—Scottish Metaphysics—Thomas Carlyle||77|
|Preaching in Edinburgh—The Free Church—Dr. Chalmers—A Specimen of his Preaching—The Secret of his Eloquence||99|
|Biographical Sketch of Dr. Chalmers||113|
|Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh—Rev. John Brown of Whiteburn—Professor John Brown of Haddington—Rev. Dr. Candlish—Specimen of his Preaching||126|
|Ride into the Country—The Skylark—Poems on the Skylark by Shelley and the 'Ettrick Shepherd'—Newhall—'The Gentle Shepherd'—Localities and Outlines of the Story—Its Popularity in Scotland||138|
|Biographical Sketch of Allan Ramsay—Lasswade—Ramble along the banks of the North Esk—Glenesk—A Character—Anecdote of Sir Walter Scott—Hawthornden—Drummond, the Poet—His Character and Genius—Sonnets—Chapel and Castle of Roslin—Barons of Roslin—Ballad of Rosabella—Hunting Match between Robert Bruce and Sir William St. Clair||157|
|Ramble through the Fields—Parish Schools—Recollections of Dominie Meuross—The South Esk—Borthwick and Crichtoun Castles—New Battle Abbey—Dalkeith—Residence of the Duke of Buccleugh—'Scotland's Skaith,' by Hector Macneil—His Character and Writings—Extracts from the 'History of Will and Jean'||183|
|City of Glasgow—Spirit of the Place—Trade and Manufactures—The Broomielaw—Steam—George's Square—Monuments to Sir Walter Scott, Sir John Moore, and James Watt—Sketch of the Life of Watt—Glasgow University—Reminiscences—Brougham—Sir D. K. Sandford—Professor Nichol and others—High Kirk, or Glasgow Cathedral—Martyrdom of Jerome Russel and John Kennedy||197|
|The Necropolis—Jewish Burial Place—Monument to John Knox—Monuments of William Macgavin and Dr. Dick—Reminiscences—Character and Writings of Dr. Dick—Pollok and 'the Course of Time'—Grave of Motherwell—Sketch of his Life—His Genius and Poetry—'Jeanie Morrison'—'My Heid is like to rend, Willie'—'A Summer Sabbath Noon'||209|
|Dumbarton Castle—Lochlomond—Luss—Ascent of Benlomond—Magnificent Views—Ride to Loch-Katrine—Rob Roy Macgregor—'Gathering of Clan Gregor'—Loch-Katrine and the Trosachs—The City of Perth—Martyrdom of Helen Stark and her husband||231|
|Sabbath Morning—'The Sabbath,' by James Grahame—Sketch of his Life—Extracts from his Poetry—The Cameronians—'Dream of the Martyrs,' by James Hislop—Sabbath Morning Walk—Country Church—The Old Preacher—The Interval of Worship—Conversation in the Church-yard—Going Home from Church—Sabbath Evening||244|
|Lochleven—Escape of Queen Mary from Lochleven Castle—Michael Bruce—Sketch of his Life—Boyhood—College Life—Poetry—'Lochleven'—Sickness—'Ode to Spring'—Death—'Ode to the Cuckoo'||260|
|Dunfermline—Ruins of the Abbey—Grave of Robert Bruce—Malcolm Canmore's Palace—William Henryson, the poet—William Dunbar—Stirling Castle—Views from its Summit—City of Stirling—George Buchanan and Dr. Arthur Johnston—Falkirk—Linlithgow—Story of the Capture of Linlithgow Castle—Spirit of War—Arrival in Edinburgh||284|
|Journey to Peebles—Characters—Conversation on Politics—Scottish Peasantry—Peebles—'Christ's Kirk on the Green'—A Legend—An old Church—The Banks of the Tweed—Its ancient Castles—The Alarm Fire—Excursion to the Vales of Ettrick and Yarrow—Stream of Yarrow—St. Mary's Lake and Dryhope Tower—'The Dowie Dens of Yarrow'—Growth of Poetry—Ballads and Poems on Yarrow by Hamilton, Logan and Wordsworth||295|
|Hamlet and Church-yard of Ettrick—Monument to Thomas Boston—Birth-place of the Ettrick Shepherd—Altrieve Cottage—Biographical Sketch of the Ettrick Shepherd—The Town of Selkirk—Monument to Sir Walter Scott—Battle-field of Philiphangh||319|
|Return to the Banks of the Tweed—Abbotsford—The Study—Biographical Sketch of Sir Walter Scott—His Early Life—Residence in the Country—Spirit of Romance—Education—First Efforts as an Author—Success of 'Marmion'—Character of his Poetry—Literary Change—His Novels—Pecuniary Difficulties—Astonishing Efforts—Last Sickness—Death and Funeral||334|
|Melrose Abbey—The Eildon Hills—Thomas the Rhymer—Dryburgh—Monuments to the Author of 'The Seasons' and Sir William Wallace—Kelso—Beautiful Scenery—A Pleasant Evening—Biographical Sketch of Leyden, Poet, Antiquary, Scholar and Traveller—The Duncan Family—Journey Resumed—Twisel Bridge—Battle of Flodden—Norham Castle—Berwick upon Tweed—Biographical Sketch of Thomas Mackay Wilson, author of 'The Border Tales'—Conclusion—'Auld Lang Syne'||351|
Beauty an Element of the Mind—Our Native Land—Auld Lang Syne—General Description of Scotland—Extent of Population—Spirit of the People—The Highlands—The Lowlands—Burns's 'Genius of Scotland'—Natural and Moral Aspects of the Country—'The Cotter's Saturday Night'—Sources of Prosperity.
The theory has become prevalent among philosophers, and even among literary men, that beauty is more an element of the mind than of external objects. Things, say they, are not what they seem. Their aspects are ever varying with the minds which gaze upon them. They change even under the eyes of the same individuals. A striking illustration of this may be found in the opening stanza of Wordsworth's Ode to Immortality.
It is the mind then, which transfers its own ethereal colors to the forms of matter, and invests scenes and places with new and peculiar attractions. Like the light of the moon streaming through a leafy grove and transforming its darkness into its own radiant beauty, the spirit of man diffuses its own inspiration through the universe,
Now if this theory be true, it follows that no country will appear to us so beautiful as the one which happens to be endeared to our hearts by early recollections and pleasant associations. No matter how rude and wild,—that spot of all others on earth, will appear to us the sweetest and most attractive! 'New England,' says a native of Massachusetts or of Vermont, 'is the glory of all lands. No hills and vales are more picturesque than hers, no rivers more clear and beautiful.' 'Visit Naples, and die!' exclaims the Neapolitan, proud of his classic home. 'Green Erin, my darling,' is the fond language of the Hibernian, 'first gem of the ocean, first flower of the sea.' 'Here's a health,' shouts the native of Caledonia, 'bonny Scotland to thee!' Others may speak disparagingly of the sour climate and barren soil of Scotland; but to a native of that country, the land of his fathers is invested with all the charms of poetry and romance. Every spot of its varied surface is hallowed ground. He sees its rugged rocks and desolate moors mantled with the hoary memories of by-gone days, the thrilling[Pg 13] associations of childhood and youth. Therefore, with a meaning and emphasis, which all who love their native land will appreciate, he appropriates the words of the poet:—
Does not Scotland, however inferior, in some respects it may be deemed to other lands, possess a peculiar charm to all cultivated minds? What[Pg 14] visions of ancient glory cluster around the time-honored name! What associations of 'wild native grandeur,'—of wizard beauty, and rough[Pg 15] magnificence. What gleams of 'poetic sunlight,'—what recollections of martial daring by flood and field,—what hallowed faith and burning zeal,—what martyr toils and martyr graves, monuments of freedom's struggles and freedom's triumphs in moor or glen,—what 'lights and shadows' of love and passion,—what ancient songs, echoing among the hills,—what blessed sabbath calm,—what lofty inspiration of the Bible and covenant,—in a word, what dear and hallowed memories of that 'Auld lang syne,' indigenous only to Scotland, though known throughout the world! Should this be deemed enthusiastic, let it, and all else of a similar character which may be found in this volume, be ascribed to a natural and not unpardonable feeling on the part of the writer. The remembrance of 'Auld lang syne' can never be extinguished. Except the hope of heaven, it is our best and holiest heritage.
Beautiful is New England, resembling as she[Pg 16] does, in many of her features, 'Auld Scotia's hills and dales,' and moreover being much akin to her, in religious sentiment and the love of freedom; so that a native of either might well be forgiven for clinging with peculiar fondness to the land of his birth, and, in certain moods of mind, prefering it to all the world beside. Though far away, and even loving the place of his estrangement, he cannot, if he would, altogether renounce those ties which bind him to his early home. A 'viewless chain,' which crosses ocean and continent, conveys from the one to the other that subtle, yet gracious influence, which is quicker and stronger than the lightning's gleam. Let no one then be surprised if a Scotsman in New England, the cherished land of his adoption, should solace his mind with the recollection of early days, and endeavor to set before others the characteristic beauties and excellences of his native country.
"Scotland," as one of her own sons has expressed it, "is a wee bit country," but possessed of "muckle pith and spirit." Its surface is rough and mountainous, with beautiful patches of rich arable land along the courses of its streams, and extensive level meadows, called Carses, as the Carse of[Pg 17] Falkirk, and the Carse of Gowrie. It is of unequal breadth, being much indented with bays and creeks, and stretches some two hundred and eighty miles in length, reckoning from its most southerly point, the Mull of Galloway, to Dunnet's Head, its most northern extremity. This probably would be a little farther than from "Maiden Kirk to Johnny Groat's," the "from Dan to Beersheba" of Scotland. Clustering around its western and northern sides are the Hebrides, the Shetland and the Orkney islands; wild and rocky isles, with rude and primitive inhabitants, constituting the Ultima Thule of Great Britain. In Scotland, a considerable portion of the land is uncultivated, consisting of heathy hills, mountains and moors; and the most of that which is cultivated has been rendered productive by the hand of art and industry. Like Switzerland, it is comparatively a poor country, but has been made rich by the generative powers of mind. Her wealth consists in the brawny arms and vigorous intellects of her sons. The climate is cold and variable, though milder in winter than that of New England, and in summer cooler, and upon the whole, more agreeable, except when dense fogs and long-continued rains prevail.
The population is over two millions and a half, and is gradually increasing, though the people, like those of New England, are greatly given to migration, and may be found in every part of the world. Its commerce and manufactures are, for its size, very extensive. They have increased, since 1814, from twenty-five to thirty per cent. Agriculture and[Pg 18] the mechanic arts have been carried to a high degree of perfection. While the people are characteristically cautious and slow, "looking before they leap," to quote one of their favorite proverbs, they are bold and enterprising, and thus leap long and successfully. Few nations have accomplished so much in literature or trade, in science or the arts of industry. Their highest distinction, however, consists in their spirit of love and fealty, their leal-heartedness, their contempt of sham, their passionate love of freedom, their zeal for God and the truth! Obstinate and wrong-headed at times, characteristically dogmatic, and perhaps a little intolerant, their very faults lean to virtue's side, and go to the support of goodness. Their punctiliousness and pride, their dogged adherence to what they conceive to be right, and their vehement mode of defending it, constitute the rough and prickly bark which defends the precious tree. One thing is certain, they are transparent as daylight, and honest as their own heathy hills.
They are preëminently a religious people, protestant to the backbone, occasionally rough and impetuous in the expression of their opinions, but never formal, never indecorous. A profound enthusiasm, bordering on fanaticism, a passionate, though not boisterous or canting devotion, a fine sense of the grand and beautiful, intermingled with a keen conscientiousness, an ardent love of freedom, with a boundless trust in God, form the great elements of their religious life. Their theology is chiefly Calvinistic, apparently philosophical and[Pg 19] dogmatic, but rather less so than popular and practical. Of cathedrals, old and dim, of masses, chants and processions, the pomp and circumstance of a magnificent ritual, they have none. But of old and glorious memories, solemn temples among the woods and hills, hallowed grave-yards, blessed sacraments, and national enthusiasm, they have abundance. Their religion is a part of the soil. It is indigenous to the country. It grew up among the mountains, was nursed by 'wizard streams,' and 'led forth' with the voice of psalms, among 'the green pastures of the wilderness.' Somewhat forbidding at first, like the rough aspect of the country, it appears equally picturesque and beautiful, when really known and loved. It is the religion not of form but of substance, of deep inward emotion, not of outward pretension and show. Neither is it a sickly sentimentalism which lives on poetic musings, and matures only in cloistered shades and moonlight groves; but it is a healthy, robust principle which goes forth to do and to suffer the will of Heaven. Its head and heart are sound, and its works praise it in the gate. Beautiful as the visions of fancy, it is yet strong as the everlasting hills among which it was reared. In a word, it is the religion of faith and love, the religion of the old puritans, of the martyrs and confessors of primitive times. Welling out forever from the unstained fountains of the Word of God, it has marked its course over the fair face of Scotland, with the greenest verdure, the sweetest flowers.
Scotland is naturally divided into Highlands and Lowlands. The former includes, besides the various groups of islands on the north and north-west coast, the counties of Argyle, Inverness, Nairn, Ross, Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness, with portions of Dumbarton, Stirling, Perth, Forfar, "Aberdeen awa," Banff and Elgin, or the more northerly regions of the country, protected and beautified by the mighty range of the Grampians, commencing at the southern extremity of Loch Etive, and terminating at the mouth of the Dee on the eastern coast. The Highlands again are divided into two unequal portions by the beautiful chain of lochs, or lakes running through the Glenmore-Nan-Albin, or Great Glen of Caledonia, forming some of the wildest and richest scenery in the world. To the north are the giant mountains of Macdui, Cairngorm, Ben-Aven and Ben-More, while nearer the Lowlands, rise the lofty Ben-Lomond, and the hoary Ben-Awe. Under their shadows gleam the storied lochs, the wild tarns and trosachs, whose picturesque and romantic beauties have been immortalized by the pens of Burns, Scott, and Wilson.
To the south and east of the Grampian range, and running parallel to them, you discover a chain of lower and more verdant hills, bearing the well known and poetical names of the Sidlaw, Campsie and Ochil hills. These are divided by the fertile valleys of the Tay and Forth. Between them and the Grampians lies the low and charming valley of Strathmore. The "silver Tay," one of the finest[Pg 21] rivers in Scotland, rises in Breadalbane, expands into lake Dochart, flows in an easterly direction through the vale of Glendochart, expands again into the long and beautiful Loch Tay, which runs like a belt of silver among the hills, whence issuing, it receives various accessions from other streams, passes on in a southerly direction to Dunkeld, famous for its ancient Abbey and lovely scenery, skirts the ancient and delightful city of Perth, below which it is joined by its great tributary the Earn, which flows, in serpentine windings, through the rich vale of Strath-Earn, touches the populous and thriving town of Dundee, and gradually widens into the Firth of Tay, whose clear waters mirror the white skiff or magnificent steamer, and imperceptibly mingle with the waves of the Northern Sea. Further north, the rapid Spey, springing from the 'braes of Badenoch' near Lochaber, passes tumultuously through a rough and mountainous country, lingering occasionally, as if to rest itself in some deep glen, crosses the ancient province of Moray, famous for its floods, so admirably described by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, passes Kinrara, "whence, for a few miles, it is attended by a series of landscapes, alike various, singular and magnificent," after which, it moves, with a monotonous aspect, and a steady pace, to the sea. Portions of the country through which this river passes are exceedingly sterile and wild. Covered with the birch, the alder and the pine, varied by rugged rocks and desolate moors, it admirably corresponds to our[Pg 22] notions of Caledonia, in her ancient and primitive integrity.
In the more remote and northern regions of the Highlands, and in most of the Scottish isles, the Gaelic, or Erse, a primitive and energetic tongue, somewhat akin to the Welsh or Irish, is spoken by a majority of the inhabitants. In other parts of Scotland, the English, with a Scottish idiom, is the prevalent speech. The literature of the Gaelic is exceedingly limited, confined chiefly to old ballads, songs and traditionary stories. The poems of Ossian are doubtless the production of Macpherson, their professed translator, while they probably contain a few translated fragments, and some traditionary facts and conceptions afloat among the Highlanders, ingeniously interwoven with the main fabric of the work.
The Highlanders are a simple-hearted, primitive race, mostly poor, and imperfectly educated. Those of them that are wealthy and well educated, are said to be remarkably acute, courteous, and agreeable.
The Lowlands of Scotland comprehend the south and southeastern portions of the country, and though not the grandest and most romantic, are by far the best cultivated, and in some respects the most beautiful. Including the level ground on the eastern coast to the south of the Moray Firth, they stretch along the coast through portions of Perthshire, and the old kingdom of Fife, towards the regions bounded on either side, by the river and the Firth of Forth, and thence to Kircudbright and the English[Pg 23] border, including the principal cities, the most fertile tracts of arable land, the rivers Forth, Clyde and Tweed, and the range of the Cheviot hills, which extend from the north of England towards the north-west, join the Louther hills in the region of Ettrick and Yarrow, with their 'silver streams,' pass through the southern part of Ayrshire and terminate at Loch Ryan, in the Irish Channel. The Clyde is the most important commercial river in Scotland. Taking its origin among the mountains of the south, not far from the early home of its beautiful and more classic sisters, the Tweed and the Annan, it runs in many capricious windings, in a northwesterly direction, leaps in foaming cascades first at Bonnington, and then at Cora Linn, rushes on through the fine country of Lanarkshire, till, joined by many tributary streams, it passes through the large and flourishing city of Glasgow, bearing upon its bosom the vast commerce and population of the neighboring regions, flows around the walls of old Dumbarton Castle, with its time-worn battlements and glorious memories, in sight, too, of the lofty Ben Lomond, and the beautiful lake which it protects, touches the ancient city of Greenock, expands into the Firth of Clyde, and gradually loses itself amid the picturesque islands which adorn the western coast of Scotland.
Were it possible, by placing ourselves upon some lofty elevation, to take in at one glance, the whole of this varied landscape of lake, river, and mountain; of tarn, trosach and moor, with verdant vales, and woody slopes between, we should confess[Pg 24] that it was one of as rare beauty and wild magnificence as ever greeted the vision of man. And were our minds steeped in ancient and poetic lore, we should be prepared to appreciate the faithfulness and splendor of Burns's allegorical description of the "Genius of Scotland."
Now, imagine the whole of this country, studded at no remote intervals, with churches and schools well supported, and well attended by young and old. Think of her ancient and able Universities, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Aberdeen, including in the last, Marischal College and Kings College, with an average attendance of from 2500 to 3000 students, with their learned and amiable professors, extensive libraries, and fine collections in Natural History. Think of her innumerable high schools, private schools, public and private libraries, literary institutes and ancient hospitals, some for the body and some for the mind, and connect the whole with her heroic history, her poetical enthusiasm, her religious faith, her fealty to God and man, and you will have some faint conception of the beauty and glory of Scotland.
But the impression would be deepened, could you behold the land, beautified and ennobled by her sabbath calm, as once in seven days, she rests and worships before the Lord. Could you but hear[Pg 26] the voice of her church-going bells, and go to the house of God, in company with her thoughtful but cheerful population; could you sit in some "auld warld" kirk, and hear some grey-haired holy man dispense, with deep and tender tones, the word of everlasting life; could you hear a whole congregation of devout worshippers make the hills ring again, with their simple melody; above all, could you place yourself in some deep shady glen, by the "sweet burnie," as it "wimples" among the waving willows, or the yellow broom, or sit down on the green "brae side," enamelled with "gowans," on some sacramental occasion, when thousands are gathered to hear the preaching of the gospel, and with simple ritual, to commemorate the dying love of the Redeemer! Could you see the devout and happy looks of the aged, and the sweet but reverent aspect of children and youth, as the tones of some earnest preacher thrilled them with emotions of holy gratitude, in view of the "loving kindness of the Lord," you would instinctively feel that Scotland,—free, Protestant Scotland, was a happy land, and would be prepared to exclaim with the sweet singer of Israel: "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance."
Or you might leave this scene, and study the Scottish character with some shepherd boy on the hills, as he reads God's word upon the greensward, and meditates on things divine, while tending his flocks far from the house of God, on the sabbath day, a circumstance to which Grahame in his poem of the Sabbath, has touchingly referred, and which Telford has thus described:
The scenes of "the Cotter's Saturday Night," one of the sweetest poems in any language, are exact transcripts from real life, as Burns himself intimates. His father was "a godly man," and was wont, morning and evening, to "turn o'er, wi' patriarchal grace, the big ha' Bible," and worship God, with his family. Where in Italy or in Austria will you meet aught so beautiful or thrilling as the following?
These are the elements of a people's greatness. These are the perennial sources of their ruth and loyalty, their freedom and virtue. These guard the domestic graces, these bind the commonwealth in holy and enduring bands. Better than splendid mausoleums and gorgeous temples, better than costly altars and a pompous ritual, better than organ blasts and rolling incense, better by far than mass and breviary, confessional and priestly absolution! For while the most imposing forms of Religion are often heartless and dead, these sacred rites of a Christianity pure and practical, ever possess a vital power,—a power to quicken and save.
But we have dwelt long enough on general[Pg 31] topics. If the reader will accompany us, we will ramble together in some particular scenes, meditating, as we go, on things new and old, and chatting, in lively or in sombre mood, as the humor may seize us. First of all then, let us visit "Auld Reekie," as the inhabitants often call it, or more classically, "the modern Athens," the beautiful and far famed metropolis of Scotland.
The city of Edinburgh—Views from Arthur's Seat—The Poems of Richard Gall—"Farewell to Ayrshire"—"Arthur's Seat, a Poem"—Extracts—Craigmillar Castle—The Forth, Roslin Castle and the Pentland Hills—Liberty.
We will enter the city on the west side, as if we were coming from Glasgow, pass through Prince's Street, with its elegant buildings and fine promenades, skirting that enclosure of walks and shrubbery, just under the frowning battlements of the Castle, and adorned with the superb statue of Sir Walter Scott, rising rapidly to its completion; then turn the corner at right-angles, cross the North Bridge, enter High Street, and thence plunge down the hill into the old Canongate; and without waiting to look at "the Heart of Midlothian," or even the beautiful ruins of Holyrood House, at the foot of the hill, let us turn to the right, and climb the rocky sides of "Arthur's Seat" with its summit of verdure overlooking the city and the neighboring country. For there the whole panorama of the city will spread itself before us, surrounded with magnificent scenery, stretching far and wide from the Pentland Hills on the one side to the Firth of Forth on the other, from Stirling Castle on the west to the German Ocean on the east. Here we are then, on the very highest point of the mountain, with the warm sunshine[Pg 33] around us, tempered as it is by the fresh "westlin wind," at once so sweet and bland. Aye, aye! this is beautiful! What a landscape! How varied and yet how harmonious! Not only beautiful exceedingly, but ineffably grand and striking! Beneath us is the fine old city—new and old at the same time, lying nearly square, with its lofty buildings and elegant monuments, handsome parks and green shrubberies. To the left is the older part of the city, rising gradually from the palace of Holyrood at our feet, and crowned by the Castle, which is built upon a granite rock, whose rough sides, terminating abruptly to the north and west, hang over Prince's Street and the lower part of the city.
Before us and stretching away towards the Forth and the city of Leith is "the new town," surmounted on this side by the Calton Hill, on which stand the monuments of Dugald Stewart and Admiral Nelson, the unfinished Parthenon, and the monument of Robert Burns,—beautiful and imposing objects, reminding us of the Acropolis of Athens, and affording fine relief to the long ranges of smooth and polished buildings beyond. Behind us[Pg 34] are the Pentland Hills with their verdant slopes and historic recollections. To the right lie the city and bay of Leith, "the Piræus" of Edinburgh, the long winding shore in the direction of Portobello, and "the dark blue deep" of the ocean, studded with white sails, glistening in the summer radiance. To the north, at a distance of a few miles, you see the majestic Firth of Forth, and beyond, "in cultur'd beauty," the "Kingdom of Fife," with the distant range of the Ochil and Campsie hills. From this point also you can see, at a distance of some three miles, the gray ruins of Craigmillar Castle, famous in the annals of Scotland, as the residence of Queen Mary, and the scene of those secret machinations, which ended in the tragedy of Holyrood; Inch Keith with its lofty lighthouse; the isle of May, once consecrated to St. Adrian, and on which stands another "star of hope" to the mariner; and old Inchcolm, famous for its ancient convent founded by St. Colomba, one of the patron saints of Scotland. How gloriously, light and shade, land and ocean, park and woodland, old castles and hoary ruins, frowning rocks and smiling meadows mingle and blend in this rare and magnificent landscape.
Here you can easily understand the reason why Edinburgh has been thought to resemble the city of Athens. Mr. Stuart, author of the "Antiquities of Athens," was the first to call attention to this fact, and his opinion has often been confirmed since. Dr. Clarke remarks that the neighborhood of Athens is just the Highlands of Scotland, enriched with the splendid remains of art. Another acute observer states that the distant view of Athens from the Ægean Sea is extremely like that of Edinburgh from the Firth of Forth, "though," he adds, "certainly the latter is considerably superior." "The resemblance," says J. G. Kohl, the celebrated German traveller, "is indeed very striking. Athens, like Edinburgh, was a city of hills and valleys, and its Ilissus was probably not much larger than the Water of Leith. Athens, like Edinburgh, was an inland town, and had its harbor, Piræus, on the sea-coast. The mountains near Edinburgh very much resemble those near Athens. I have little doubt, however, that Athens is more honored by being compared to Edinburgh, than Edinburgh to Athens; for it is probable that the scenery and position of the Northern are more grand and striking in their beauty, than those of the Southern Athens."
By the way there is a beautiful poem in the Scottish dialect, entitled "Arthur's Seat," written by[Pg 36] Richard Gall, a young man of great promise, the friend and correspondent of Burns. He struggled with poverty, and like Fergusson and Michael Bruce, was cut off prematurely, but not before he had written some exquisite poems, in the style of Burns, whom he greatly admired. He was contemporary with the unfortunate but gifted Tannahill of Paisley, and possessed a kindred taste in song writing. His "Farewell to Ayrshire," commencing—
has been often printed, on account of its locality and associations, as the composition of Burns. He is doubtless greatly inferior to Burns, and not quite equal to Bruce or even Tannahill, but his verses possess great sweetness, and contain some graphic and beautiful descriptions. This is the case especially, with "Arthur's Seat," his longest and most elaborate poem. As its sketches of scenery in and around Edinburgh, are at once accurate and pleasing, and as it is entirely unknown in America, we will take the liberty of quoting some of its finest passages.
Gazing from Arthur's Seat, the poet invokes the genius of Burns—
He aptly and strikingly interweaves historical and poetical allusions. The following contains a fine contrast, and a striking description of the ruins of Craigmillar Castle, in the vicinity of Edinburgh.
Craigmillar Castle naturally suggests the name of the beautiful and unfortunate Mary, Queen of Scots, who once resided within its lordly but now forsaken halls. The poet therefore breaks out into the following animated and pathetic strains, which, it has been said, will bear a comparison with Mr. Burke's celebrated rhapsody on the unfortunate Queen of France.
His descriptions of the Forth and the neighboring regions, of the Pentland hills, and the scenery of the Esk, are strikingly beautiful.
How exquisite, and how entirely and peculiarly Scottish is the following:
The genius of Scotland is one of freedom, of independent thought, and unfettered action in matters civil and religious. This produced the Reformation; this generated the recent secession from the 'Kirk;' this characterizes the literature of the nation. We cannot, therefore, refrain from making one more quotation, which breathes the lofty spirit of freedom:
Walk to the Castle—The old Wynds and their Occupants—Regalia of Scotland—Storming of the Castle—Views from its Summit—Heriot's Hospital—Other Hospitals—St. Giles's Cathedral—Changes—The Spirit of Protestantism.
Let us now descend into the city. We will not linger long in old Holyrood Palace, interesting as it is, nor dwell upon "the stains" of Rizzio's blood in Queen Mary's room, as these have been described a thousand times, and are familiar to every one. Neither will we spend time in gazing upon the spot where once stood that quaint old gaol, called "The Heart of Midlothian," made classic by the pen of Scott, in the beautiful story of Jeanie Deans. Neither will we visit the old "Parliament House" and the "Advocates' Library;" but we will pass right up through High Street, amid those colossal buildings, rising, on either side, to the height of six, seven, and even eight and ten stories, swarming with inhabitants; and dive into one or two of those close, dark wynds, where reside, in countless multitudes, the poorest and most vicious of the people. Here, it must be confessed, are some strange sights and appalling noises. Yet it is not quite so bad as some have represented it. All large cities have their poor and vicious inhabitants, and although those of the Scottish metropolis are tolerably[Pg 43] dirty and vastly degraded, they bear no comparison to the lazzaroni of Naples and the beggars of Rome. Some of the streets and wynds are narrow enough and vile enough, but they contain, after all, many worthy people, who own a Bible, and read it too; and were you only to become thoroughly acquainted with them, you would be surprised to find how much of honesty and kindly affection still dwell in their hearts. In ancient times the houses in these very "closes" or "wynds" were inhabited by the nobility and gentry. Hence Grey's Close, Morrison's Close, Stewart's Close, &c. They built their houses in these narrow streets in order to be more secure from the attacks of their enemies, and to be the better able to defend the principal thoroughfares into which they opened. In Blythe's Close may be seen the remains of the palace of the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise. In another stand the old houses of the Earls of Gosford and Moray. One of the largest old palaces is now inhabited by beggars and rats.
It would be a great improvement if these miserable dwellings could be removed, and replaced by better streets and houses; a still greater one, if the people could only be induced to abandon the use of whiskey, for then they would abandon their hovels as a matter of course. Their besetting sin is the love of strong drink, though this has been gradually diminishing for the last few years throughout Scotland. It is to be hoped that the pious and moral portion of the community will unite in a strong effort to reclaim this degraded class of their[Pg 44] fellow-townsmen, and that the time will speedily come when the only reproach which rests upon their fair fame shall be wholly obliterated.
But let us leave this region, the only unpleasant one in the whole of this magnificent city, and ascend to the old Castle, where we shall see the Regalia of Scotland, preserved in a little room at the top of the Castle. These regalia consist of the crown of Robert Bruce the hero of Bannockburn, the sceptre of James the Fifth, a sword presented by Pope Julius the Second to James the Sixth, and other articles of inferior note. It is somewhat singular that the Regalia should have lain concealed from 1745 to the year 1818. At the time of the Union in 1707 between England and Scotland, they were walled up by some Scottish patriots, in order to prevent their being removed to London.
What recollections of the stormy but glorious history of Scotland cluster around the mind, while gazing at that antique-looking crown which adorned the head of the Bruces and the ill-fated Mary. The freedom and prosperity now enjoyed by the nation had a gloomy and tempestuous birth. Their very religion, placid and beautiful now, was cradled amid the war of elements and the shock of battle. But, thanks to God, it is all the purer and stronger for its rough and tempestuous youth.
Draw near to the edge of that battlement, and look down over the frowning rock. Would it be possible, think you, to storm the Castle from that side? One would suppose it beyond the power of man. It has been done, however, and the circumstance[Pg 45] illustrates the spirit of hardihood and enterprise which has ever distinguished the people of Scotland. In the year 1313, when the Castle was in the possession of the English, Randolph, Earl of Moray, was one day surveying the gigantic rock, when he was accosted by one of his men at arms with the question, "Do you think it impracticable, my lord?" Randolph turned his eyes upon the speaker, a man a little past the prime of life, but of a firm well-knit figure, and bearing in his keen eye and open forehead marks of intrepidity which had already gained him distinction in the Scottish army. "Do you mean the rock, Francis?" said the Earl; "perhaps not, if we could borrow the wings of our gallant hawks."
"There are wings," replied Francis, with a thoughtful smile, "as strong, as buoyant, and as daring. My father was keeper of yonder fortress."
"What of that? You speak in riddles."
"I was then young, reckless, high-hearted: I was screwed up in that convent-like castle; my sweetheart was in the plain below"—
"Well, what then?"
"'Sdeath, my lord, can you not imagine that I speak of the wings of love? Every night I descended that steep at the witching hour, and every morning before the dawn I crept back to my[Pg 46] barracks. I constructed a light twelve-foot ladder, by means of which I was able to pass the places that are perpendicular; and so well, at length, did I become acquainted with the route, that in the darkest and stormiest night, I found my way as easily as when the moonlight enabled me to see my love in the distance waiting for me at the cottage door."
"You are a daring, desperate, noble fellow, Francis! However, your motive is now gone; your mistress"—
"She is dead; say no more; but another has taken her place."
"Ay, ay, it's the soldier's way. Women will die or even grow old; and what are we to do? Come, who is your mistress now?"
"My Country! What I have done for love, I can do again for honor; and what I can accomplish, you, noble Randolph, and many of our comrades can do far better. Give me thirty picked men, and a twelve-foot ladder, and the fortress is our own!"
"The Earl of Moray, whatever his real thoughts of the enterprise might have been, was not the man to refuse such a challenge. A ladder was provided, and thirty men chosen from the troops; and in the middle of a dark night, the party, commanded by Randolph himself, and guided by William Francis, set forth on their desperate enterprise.
"By catching at crag after crag, and digging their fingers into the interstices of the rocks, they succeeded in mounting a considerable way; but the weather was now so thick, they could receive[Pg 47] but little assistance from their eyes; and thus they continued to climb, almost in utter darkness, like men struggling up a precipice in the night-mare. They at length reached a shelving table of the cliff, above which the ascent, for ten or twelve feet, was perpendicular; and having fixed their ladder, the whole party lay down to recover breath.
"From this place they could hear the tread and voices of the 'check watches,' or patrol, above; and, surrounded by the perils of such a moment, it is not wonderful that some illusions may have mingled with their thoughts. They even imagined that they were seen from the battlements, although, being themselves unable to see the warders, this was highly improbable. It became evident, notwithstanding, from the words they caught here and there in the pauses of the night-wind, that the conversation of the English soldiers above related to a surprise of the Castle; and at length these appalling words broke like thunder on their ears: 'Stand! I see you well!' A fragment of the rock was hurled down at the same instant; and as rushing from crag to crag it bounded over their heads, Randolph and his brave followers, in this wild, helpless, and extraordinary situation, felt the damp of mortal terror gathering upon their brow, as they clung with a death-grip to the precipice.
"The startled echoes of the rock were at length silent, and so were the voices above. The adventurers paused, listening breathless; no sound was heard but the sighing of the wind, and the measured tread of the sentinel who had resumed his[Pg 48] walk. The men thought they were in a dream, and no wonder; for the incident just mentioned, which is related by Barbour, was one of the most singular coincidences that ever occurred. The shout of the sentinel and the missile he had thrown, were merely a boyish freak; and while listening to the echoes of the rock, he had not the smallest idea that the sounds which gave pleasure to him carried terror and almost despair into the hearts of the enemy.
"The adventurers, half uncertain whether they were not the victims of some illusion, determined that it was as safe to go on as to turn back; and pursuing their laborious and dangerous path, they at length reached the bottom of the wall. This last barrier they scaled by means of their ladder; and leaping down among the astonished check-watches, they cried their war-cry, and in the midst of answering shouts of 'treason! treason!' notwithstanding the desperate resistance of the garrison, captured the Castle of Edinburgh."
Sit down here on the edge of this parapet. That huge cannon there is called Mons Meg, from being cast at Mons, in Flanders, and reminds us, somewhat significantly, of the terrible use to which all the arrangements of the Castle are applied. How singular, that men have to be governed and controlled like bull-dogs, that castles and dungeons, halters, and cannon, are necessary to keep them[Pg 49] from stealing each other's property, or cutting each other's throats! Surely mankind have ills enough to bear without turning upon each other like tigers.
But all is quiet now. The tendency of the times is to peace; and Edinburgh Castle, Mons Meg, and the whole array of cannon bristling over the precipice, are but objects of natural curiosity or of poetical interest.
Do you see yonder turreted building, with high pointed gables and castellated walls, in the Elizabethan style, just beyond the Grass Market. That is George Heriot's Hospital, one of the proudest monuments of the city, and one of the most beautiful symbols of its peaceful prosperity. It was founded by the rich and benevolent George Heriot, jeweller to King James the Sixth, "Jingling Geordie," as he is quaintly termed in the "Fortunes of Nigel." It is of vast extent, as you perceive, and presents a good specimen of the mixed style of architecture prevalent in the days of Queen Mary. The object of this noble institution is the maintenance and education of poor and fatherless boys, or of boys in indigent circumstances, "freemen's sons[Pg 50] of the town of Edinburgh." Of these, one hundred and eighty receive ample board and education within its walls. By this means they are thoroughly prepared for the active business of life, each receiving at his dismissal a Bible, and other useful books, with two suits of clothes chosen by himself. Those going out as apprentices are allowed $50 per annum for five years, and $25 at the termination of their apprenticeship. Boys of superior scholarship are permitted to stay longer in the institution, and are fitted for college. For this purpose they receive $150 per annum, for four years. Connected with this institution are seven free schools, in the different parishes of the city, for the support of which its surplus funds are applied. In these upwards of two thousand children receive a good common school education. The girls, in addition to the ordinary branches, are taught knitting and sewing.
In addition to these provisions for the education of the poor, there are also ten "bursaries," or university scholarships, open to the competition of young men, not connected with the institution. The successful candidates receive $100 per annum for four years. No wonder that Sir Walter Scott felt authorized to put into the mouth of the princely founder of these charities the striking sentiment: "I think mine own estate and memory, as I shall order it, has a fair chance of outliving those of greater men."
Edinburgh abounds in charitable hospitals, and particularly in free educational institutions, in the[Pg 51] support of which the citizens evince a laudable enthusiasm. Thus, for example, we have Watson's Hospital, the Merchant Maiden's Hospital, the Trades' Maiden Hospital, Trinity College Hospital, Cauvin's Hospital, a little out of the city; Gillespie's Hospital, Donaldson's Hospital, Chalmers's Hospital, the House of Refuge, the House of Industry, the Strangers' Friend Society, the Institution for the Relief of poor old Men, and another for the Relief of indigent old Women, and many others.
Below us, on one side of High Street, you see the fine old Gothic Cathedral of St. Giles. It was founded in the twelfth or thirteenth century, and named after St. Giles, abbot and confessor, and tutelar saint of Edinburgh in the olden time. The Scottish poet, Gavin Douglas, bishop of Dunkeld, was sometime provost of St. Giles. He translated Virgil into English, the first version of a classic ever made in Britain, and was the author of "The Palace of Honor," from which some have absurdly supposed that John Bunyan borrowed the idea of the "Pilgrim's Progress." This edifice is interesting, chiefly as connecting the past with the present condition of Scotland, and indicating the mighty transitions through which it has passed. In the fifteenth century incense ascended from forty different altars within its walls; now it contains three Protestant places of worship. Once it enshrined the relics of St. Giles; now its cemetery contains the body of John Knox! On the 13th of October, 1643, "the solemn League and Covenant" was sworn to and subscribed within its walls, by the Committee[Pg 52] of the Estates of Parliament, the Commission of the Church, and the English Commission. The sacred vessels and relics which it contained, including the arm-bone of the patron saint, were seized by the magistrates of the city, and the proceeds of their sale applied to the repairing of the building. Puritanism has thus often showed itself a rough and tempestuous reformer; nevertheless it possesses wonderful vitality, and has conferred upon Scotland the blessings of civil and religious liberty. Its outer form is often hard and defective, and its movements irregular and convulsive, but its inner spirit is ever generous and free. Its rudeness and excess none will approve; its life, energy, and activity, all will admire. It came forth, like a thunder-cloud, from the mountains. Its quick lightning-flashes went crashing amid the old images of papal worship. The atmosphere of spiritual pollution was agitated and purified. Upon the parched ground fell gentle and refreshing showers. The sun of freedom began to smile upon hill and valley, and the whole land rejoiced under its placid influence.
John Knox's House—History of the Reformer—His Character—Carlyle's View—Testimony of John Milton.
Let us now descend from the Castle, and, passing down High Street, turn to the left, at the head of the Nether-bow, where we shall see the house of that stern but glorious old reformer, John Knox. There it is, looking mean enough now among those miserable gin-shops, paint-shops, and so forth; yet hallowed by the recollections of the past. Over the door is an inscription, invisible from the numerous sign-boards that cover it, containing the spirit and essence of that lofty Puritanism which Knox preached:
"LUFE . GOD . ABOVE . ALL . AND . YOUR . NICHBOUR . AS . YOURSELF."
In this house Knox lived many years; here also he died in holy triumph; and from that little window he is said frequently to have addressed the populace. A rude stone effigy of the Reformer may be seen at the corner, and near it, cut in the stone, the name of God, in Greek, Latin, and English. It is gratifying to know that measures have recently been taken to erect a monument to Knox, near this spot, which shall be worthy of his memory.
The character of Knox has been terribly blackened by heartless and infidel historians, and[Pg 54] especially by sickly sentimentalists of the Werter school. Nevertheless, he was a noble-hearted, truth-loving, sham-hating, God-fearing, self-sacrificing man; a hero in the proper sense of the word, a minister of righteousness, an angel of Reform. Not, indeed, a soft, baby-faced, puling sentimentalist; but a lofty, iron-hearted man, who "never feared the face of clay," and did God's will, in spite of devils, popes, and kings. His history possesses the deepest and most romantic interest. It is one of the most magnificent passages in Scottish story. Bruce battled for a crown; Knox battled for the truth. Both conquered, after long toils and struggles; and conquered mainly by the might of their single arm. But the glory which irradiates the head of the Reformer far outshines that of the hero of Bannockburn, for the latter is earthly and evanescent; the former celestial and immortal.
John Knox was born in Haddington, not far from Edinburgh, of poor but honest parents, in the year 1505; grew up in solitude; was destined for the church; received a thorough collegiate education; became an honest friar; wore the monk's cowl for many years; adopted silently and unostentatiously the principles of the Protestant Reformation; spent much of his time in teaching, and in the prosecution of liberal studies, of which he was considered a master; was suddenly and unexpectedly called, at St. Andrews, by the unanimous voice of his brethren, to the preaching of the Word, and the defence of their religious liberties; after a brief struggle with himself yielded to the call, nobly threw[Pg 55] himself into the breach, at the hazard of his life, attacked "Papal idolatry" with unsparing vigor, was seized by the authorities, and sent a prisoner to France in 1547, where he worked in the galleys as a slave, but evermore maintaining his lofty courage and cheerful hope; was set at liberty two years afterwards; preached in England in the time of Edward the Sixth; refused a bishopric from the best of kings; retired to the continent at the accession of Mary, residing chiefly at Geneva and Frankfort; returned to Scotland in 1555; labored with indomitable perseverance to establish Protestantism; rebuked the great for immorality, profaneness and rapacity, and succeeded in greatly strengthening the cause of truth and freedom. At the earnest solicitation of the English congregation in Geneva, he went thither a second time; there he published "The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment (Government) of Women," directed principally against Mary, Queen of England, and Mary of Guise, Regent of Scotland, two narrow-minded miserable despots; returned to Scotland in 1559; continued his exertions in behalf of Christ's truth; did much to establish common schools; finally saw Protestantism triumphant in Scotland; and died in 1572, so poor that his family had scarce sufficient to bury him, but with the universal love and homage of his countrymen, a conscience void of offence, and a hope full of immortality. "He had a sore fight of an existence; wrestling with popes and principalities; in defeat, contention, life-long struggle; rowing as a galley-slave, wandering as an[Pg 56] exile. A sore fight, but he won it. 'Have you hope?' they asked him in his last moment when he could no longer speak. He lifted his finger, 'pointed upwards with his finger,' and so died. Honor to him! His works have not died. The letter of his work dies, as of all men's; but the spirit of it never."
Knox has been much abused for his violent treatment of Queen Mary. His addresses and appeals to her have been characterized as impudent and cruel; but, thoroughly inspected, they will be found the reverse. Strong and startling they were, but neither impudent nor cruel. Doubtless they fell upon her ear like the tones of some old prophet, sternly rebuking sin, or vindicating the rights of God. Mary was a woman of matchless beauty; and had she been educated differently, might have blessed the world with the mild lustre of her Scottish reign; but she was the dupe of bad counsels, in spirit and practice a despot, the plaything of passion, and the reckless opposer of the best interests of her country. Her beauty and sufferings have shed a false lustre over her character; above all, have aided in concealing the terrible stain of infidelity to her marriage vows, and the implied murder of her wretched husband, charges which her apologists can extenuate, but not deny. But, forsooth, it is an insufferable thing for a plain honest-hearted man like John Knox to tell the truth to such an one! She was young, beautiful, fascinating;[Pg 57] and however recklessly, madly, ruinously wrong, he must not advise her—above all, must not warn her! Now, such a notion may possibly commend itself to your "absolute gentlemen, of very soft society, full of most excellent differences and great showing; indeed, to speak feelingly of them, who are the card and calendar of gentry;" but it cannot be imposed upon our plain common sense. Mary was a queen, however, and John Knox a poor plebeian! Aye, aye! that is a difficulty! Kings and queens may do what they please. The people are made for them, not they for the people. And sure enough it is a vulgar thing to oppose them in their ambitious schemes, or to tell them the honest truth be-times! Poor John Knox! thou must fall down and worship "a painted bredd" after all. A beautiful queen must be spared, if Scotland should perish. But looking at the matter from the free atmosphere of New England, we maintain that John Knox was of higher rank than Mary Queen of Scots. He was more true, more heroic, more kingly, than all the race of the Stuarts. He had a right, in God's name, to speak the truth, "to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all long-suffering." Hence, though his words were stern and appalling, they were uttered with a kind and generous intention. "Madame," said Knox, when he saw Mary burst into tears from vexation and grief, "in God's presence I speak; I never delighted in the weeping of any of God's creatures, yea, I can scarcely well abide the tears of mine own boys, when mine own hands correct them, much less can I rejoice in your Majesty's[Pg 58] weeping; but seeing I have offered unto you no just occasion to be offended, I must sustain your Majesty's tears, rather than I dare hurt my conscience, or betray the commonwealth by silence."
Yes, he was a stern old puritan, a lion of a man, who made terrible havoc among the "painted bredds" of Popery, and turned back the fury of wild barons and persecuting priests. "His single voice," says Randolph, "could put more life into a host than six hundred blustering trumpets." Single handed, he met the rage of a disappointed government and an infuriated priesthood, and conquered by the silent might of his magnanimous audacity. In the wildest whirl of contending emotion, he never lost sight of the great end of his being, as a servant of God, nor swerved a hair's breadth from truth and right.
Yet this stern old Covenanter was not without a touch of gentleness and even of hilarity. He loved his home, his children, and his friends. An honest, quiet laugh often mantled his pale earnest visage. "They go far wrong," says Carlyle, whose thorough appreciation of such men as Luther, Cromwell, and Knox, is truly refreshing amid the vapid inanities or coarse prejudices of ordinary historians, "who think that Knox was a gloomy, spasmodic, shrieking fanatic. Not at all. He is one of the solidest of men. Practical, cautious, hopeful, patient; a most shrewd, observing, quietly discerning man. In fact, he has very much the type of character we assign to the Scotch at present: a certain sardonic taciturnity is in him;[Pg 59] insight enough; and a stouter heart than he himself knows of. * * An honest-hearted, brotherly man; brother to the high, brother also to the low; sincere in his sympathy with both."
Knox, doubtless, had his faults; and what of that? He made some mistakes! and what, too, of that? Was he not a true man, and a true minister of God's Word? Did he not accomplish a great and beneficial work of Reform; and, having done this, did he not die a sweet and triumphant death? God has set his seal upon him, and upon his work; and that is enough for us.
We hesitate not, with Carlyle, to name the Reformation under Knox as the great era in Scottish history, as the one glorious event which gave life to the nation. Thence resulted freedom, activity, purity of morals, science, national and individual greatness. Previous to this event Scotland possessed only a rough, tumultuous physical life; her politics—dissensions and executions; her religion—a puerile superstition;—her literature—ballads and monkish legends; her joy—hunting, fighting, and drinking! But the Reformation breathed into her the breath of a spiritual existence. Her national prosperity dates from that era. Thence proceeded faith and order, education, industry, and wealth. "It was not a smooth business; but it was welcome surely, and cheap at that price, had it been far rougher. On the whole, cheap at any price, as life is. The people began to live; they needed first of all to do that, at what cost and costs soever. Scottish literature and thought, Scotch industry, James[Pg 60] Watt, David Hume, Walter Scott, Robert Burns. I find Knox and the Reformation acting in the heart's core of every one of these persons and phenomena; I find that, without the Reformation, they would not have been. Or what of Scotland? The Puritanism of Scotland became that of England, of New England. A tumult in the High Church of Edinburgh spread into a universal battle and struggle over all these realms; and there came out of it, after fifty years' struggling, what we all call 'the Glorious Revolution,' a Habeas Corpus Act, Free Parliaments, and much else."
It has become fashionable of late, in certain quarters, to undervalue the Reformation, and contemn those great and rugged spirits by whom it was accomplished. A sentimental, baby-hearted, superstition-smitten generation, cannot appreciate those mighty men, and mightier reforms of the olden time. But how well and worthily does the large-hearted and ethereal Milton speak of it: "When I recall to mind, at last, after so many dark ages, wherein the huge over-shadowing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation, by Divine power, struck through the black and settled night of ignorance and anti-Christian tyranny, methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or hears, and the sweet odor of the returning Gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of Heaven. Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners, where profane falsehood and neglect had[Pg 61] thrown it, the schools opened, divine and human learning raked out of the embers of forgotten tongues; the princes and cities trooping apace to the new-erected banner of salvation; the martyrs, with the unresistible might of weakness, shaking the powers of darkness, and scorning the fiery rage of the red old dragon." A noble testimony like this far outweighs all the cant of a whining sentimentalism. Its truth, as well as its eloquence, all must admit.
Edinburgh University—Professor Wilson—His Life and Writings, Genius and Character.
We will now re-enter High Street, and thence turn at right angles into South-bridge Street, and proceed to the University. It is a large and imposing structure, but fails to produce its proper impression from the circumstance of being wedged in among such a mass of other buildings. We enter by a magnificent portico on the right, supported by Doric columns, twenty-six feet in height, each formed of a single block of stone, and find ourselves in a spacious quadrangular court, surrounded by the various college edifices. The buildings are of free stone, beautifully polished, and of recent erection, the old buildings, which were unsightly and incommodious, having been taken down to make way for this elegant and spacious structure. The University itself was founded by King James the Sixth, in the year 1582, and has enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity to the present time. The average number of students is from ten to twelve hundred. The Rev. Dr. Lee, one of the most amiable and learned men, is at present Principal of the University, and the various chairs are filled by gentlemen of distinguished talent. The students are not resident within the college, but choose their[Pg 63] boarding-houses, at pleasure, in any part of the city. They are not distinguished, as at Glasgow and Oxford by any peculiar badge; are of all ages, and enjoy the liberty of selecting the classes which they attend. Those however who take degrees are required to attend a particular course, but this is not done by more than one-half or at most two-thirds of the students. The government of the University is not particularly strict. The examinations are limited and imperfect; and hence it is very possible for a young man to slip through the University, without contracting any great tincture of scholarship. It is mainly the talent of the professors, and the high literary enthusiasm they inspire, which sustain the institution. There are thirty-four foundations for bursaries or scholarships, the benefit of which is extended to eighty students. The aggregate amount is about fifty dollars a year, for each. The Annual Session lasts from October to May, with an occasional holiday, and a week or two's vacation at Christmas. The rest of the year which includes most of the summer and autumn is vacation, which gives the professors an opportunity for rest and preparation, and the students facilities either for private study, or for teaching and other employments. This order prevails in all the other Scottish Universities, and is attended with many advantages. But a truce to general remarks.
We have not time to visit the Museum, which is quite extensive and admirably arranged, nor the Library, which is distinguished by its ample dimensions and beautiful decorations. Neither can we[Pg 64] dwell upon the celebrated men who have encircled this Institution with a halo of literary and scientific glory. But we will step into that door in front of us, ascend the stairs, and enter the lecture-room of Professor Wilson, the far famed "Christopher North," poet and novelist, orator, critic and philosopher. The young gentlemen have assembled, but the Professor has not yet come in. Good looking but noisy fellows these! Some of them, you perceive, are very young, others are considerably advanced in years. Most of them are well dressed, some poorly so. A few look studious and care-worn, but the majority hearty and joyous. How their clear loud laugh rings through the hall! They are from all ranks of society, some being the sons of noblemen, others of farmers and mechanics. Most of them probably have wherewithal to pay their college expenses, but not a few, you may rely on it, are sorely pinched. The Scots are an ambitious, study-loving race, and quite a number of these young men are struggling up from the depths of poverty; and if they do not die in the effort, will be heard of, one of these days, in the pulpit, or at the bar.
But there comes the Professor, bowing graciously to the students, while he receives from them a hearty "ruff," as the Scots call their energetic stamping. What a magnificent looking man! Over six feet high, broad and brawny, but of elegant proportions, with a clear, frank, joyous looking face, a few wrinkles only around the eye, in other respects hale and smooth, his fine locks sprinkled with gray,[Pg 65] flowing down to his shoulders, and his large lustrous eye beaming with a softened fire. His subject is "the Passions." He commences with freedom and ease, but without any particular energy,—makes his distinctions well, but without much precision or force; for, to tell the honest truth, philosophical analysis is not his particular forte. Still, it is good, so far as it goes, and probably appears inferior chiefly by contrast. But he begins to describe. The blood mantles to his forehead, thrown back with a majestic energy, and his fine eye glows, nay, absolutely burns. And now his impassioned intellect careers, as on the wings of the wind, leaping, bounding, dashing, whirling, over hill and dale, rises into the clear empyrean, and bathes itself in the beams of the sun. His audience is intent, hushed, absorbed, rapt! He begins, however, to descend, and O! how beautifully, like a falcon from "the lift," or an eagle from the storm-cloud. And, now he skims along the surface with bird-like wing, glancing in the sunlight, swiftly and gracefully. How varied and delicate his language, how profuse his images, his allusions how affecting, and his voice, ringing like a bell among the mountains. At such seasons his style, manner and tone, are unequalled. Chaste and exhilarating as the dew of the morning in the vale of Strathmore, yet rich and rare as a golden sunset on the brow of Benlomond. But listen, he returns to his philosophical distinctions,—fair, very fair, to be sure, but nothing special, rather clumsy perhaps, except in regard to his language. True, undoubtedly, but not[Pg 66] profound, not deeply philosophical, and to me, not particularly interesting. His auditors have time to breathe. You hear an occasional cough, or blowing of the nose. A few of the students are diligently taking notes, but the rest are listless. This will last only a moment, and now that he is approaching the close of his lecture, he will give us something worth hearing. There, again he is out upon the open sea. How finely the sails are set, and with what a majestic sweep the noble vessel rounds the promontory, and anchors itself in the bay.
Instead of spending our time gazing at public buildings, let us continue our conversation about the Professor, whose life has been a tissue of interesting and romantic events. We shall find it profitable as well as pleasant, to glance at the principal points in his history, as they tend to throw light on the Genius of Scotland.
John Wilson is the oldest son of a wealthy manufacturer in the city of Paisley, and was born there in the year 1788, and is now therefore fifty-eight years of age. He was reared and educated, with almost patrician indulgence, and inherited from his father a considerable amount of property, variously estimated from twenty to fifty thousand pounds sterling. Of course he enjoyed the best facilities for acquiring a thorough and polished education. His instructor in classical learning was Mr. Peddie of Paisley, to whom a public dinner was given in 1831 by his friends and pupils. Professor Wilson was present, and on proposing the health of his[Pg 68] venerable preceptor, delivered a brilliant oration, not the least interesting portion of which had reference to his somewhat erratic course at school. "Sometimes," said he, "I sat as dux—sometimes in the middle of the class—and I am obliged to confess, that on some unfortunate occasions, I was absolutely dolt!" The confession was received, of course, with roars of laughter.
From this school he was entered at the University of Glasgow, when he was little more than thirteen years of age. But he was tall for his years, and possessed an original and remarkably exuberant mind; and though distinguished at this time, more for the vigor of his physical constitution, and the buoyancy of his spirits, than for any particular attainments in literature, he generally kept his standing among his fellow students, many of whom were greatly his seniors.
From Glasgow he was transferred to Oxford, and here he first distinguished himself as a man of genius. He contended in the annual competition for the Newdigate prize of fifty guineas for the best fifty lines of English verse, and though the contest was open to not less than two thousand individuals, he carried off the palm from every competitor.
At Oxford as at Glasgow he was distinguished for his fine athletic frame, his joyous and even boisterous spirits, and his excessive devotion to all sorts of gymnastics, field sports and frolicking. This however was blended with an extraordinary devotion to literature, and a peculiar simplicity and[Pg 69] frankness of character, which rendered him a universal favorite. It is well known that at Oxford great latitude is enjoyed, especially by "gentlemen commoners," as they are called, to which class Wilson chose to belong. It is expected that the "gentlemen commoners" shall wear a more splendid costume,—spend a good deal more money,—and enjoy various immunities, which amount occasionally to a somewhat unbridled license. "Once launched on this orbit," says a fellow student of Wilson's, writing to a friend in America, "Mr. Wilson continued to blaze away for four successive years. * * * Never did a man, by variety of talents and variety of humors, contrive to place himself as the connecting link between orders of men so essentially repulsive of each other; from the learned president of his college, Dr. Routh, the Editor of parts of Plato, and of some theological selections, with whom Wilson enjoyed unlimited favor, down to the humblest student. In fact from this learned Academic Doctor, and many others of the same class, ascending and descending, he possessed an infinite gamut of friends and associates, running through every key; and the diapason closing full in groom, cobbler, stable boy, barber's apprentice, with every shade and hue of blackguard and ruffian. In particular, amongst this latter kind of worshipful society, there was no man who had any talents, real or fancied, for thumping, or being thumped, but had experienced some taste of his merits from Mr. Wilson. All other pretensions in the gymnastic arts he took a[Pg 70] pride in humbling or in honoring, but chiefly did his examinations fall upon pugilism; and not a man who could either 'give,' or 'take,' but boasted to have been punished by Wilson of Mallens (corruption of Magdalen) College."
Whether the statement of Wilson's pugilistic attainments is not somewhat exaggerated we have not the means of deciding. All reports however go to confirm its general accuracy. His career was certainly a wild and hazardous one, and would have ruined an ordinary man. But underlying the wild exuberance of Wilson's nature, there was a solid foundation of good feeling and good sense, which ever and anon manifested itself, and finally formed the principal element of his character. Besides, he could never forget the holy instructions of his childhood. Scotland throws a thousand sacred influences around the hearts of her children; and hence, wild and wayward in their youth, they not unfrequently live to be the safeguards of virtue and the ornaments of society.
It may be well supposed that on leaving Oxford, in the very hey-day of youth, with an amazing exuberance of animal spirits, and the command of an ample fortune, he must have run a somewhat extravagant career. He purchased a beautiful estate on the banks of Windermere, not far from the residences of Southey, Coleridge and Wordsworth, and yielded himself to the full enjoyment of every pleasure. Having built upon his estate a new and splendid edifice, he furnished it with every appliance of taste and luxury, and succeeded by his[Pg 71] "magnificent" style of housekeeping, in spending a large amount of his property. He gave himself up to the most diversified pursuits, now conning his literary treasures, and now frolicking in sailor jacket and trowsers, with the young men of the country.
The following, from a writer already quoted, will give a lively idea of Wilson's habits and appearance, at this period of his life. "My introduction to him—setting apart the introducee himself—was memorable from one circumstance, viz., the person of the introducer. William Wordsworth, it was, who in the vale of Grasmere, if it can interest you to know the place, and in the latter end of 1808, if you can be supposed to care about the time, did me the favor of making me known to John Wilson. I remember the whole scene as circumstantially as if it belonged to but yesterday. In the vale of Grasmere—that peerless little vale which you, and Gray, the poet, and so many others have joined in admiring as the very Eden of English beauty, peace, and pastoral solitude—you may possibly recall, even from that flying glimpse you had of it, a modern house called Allan Bank, standing under a low screen of woody rocks, which descend from the hill of Silver Horn, on the western side of the lake. This house had been recently built by a wealthy merchant of Liverpool; but for some reason, of no importance to you or me, not being immediately wanted for the family of the owner, had been let for a term of three years to Mr. Wordsworth. At the time I speak of, both Mr. Coleridge and myself were on[Pg 72] a visit to Mr. Wordsworth, and one room on the ground floor, designed for a breakfasting room, which commands a sublime view of the three mountains, Fairfield, Arthur's Chair, and Seat Sandal, was then occupied by Mr. Coleridge as a study. On this particular day, the sun having only just risen, it naturally happened that Mr. Coleridge—whose nightly vigils were long—had not yet come down to breakfast; meantime and until the epoch of the Coleridgean breakfast should arrive, his study was lawfully disposable to profane uses. Here, therefore, it was, that opening the door hastily in quest of a book, I found seated, and in earnest conversation, two gentlemen, one of them my host, Mr. Wordsworth, at that time about thirty-eight years old; the other was a younger man, by at least sixteen or seventeen years, in a sailor's dress, manifestly in robust health—fervidus juventa, and wearing upon his countenance a powerful expression of ardor and animated intelligence, mixed with much good nature. Mr. Wilson of Elleray—delivered as the formula of introduction, in the deep tones of Mr. Wordsworth—at once banished the momentary surprise I felt on finding an unknown stranger where I had expected nobody, and substituted a surprise of another kind. I now understood who it was that I saw; and there was no wonder in his being at Allan Bank, as Elleray stood within nine miles; but (as usually happens in such cases) I felt a shock of surprise on seeing a person so little corresponding to the one I had half unconsciously prefigured to myself."[Pg 73]
Mr. Wilson here appears in a comparatively grave and dignified aspect. The same writer describes him in quite a different scene. Walking in the morning, he met him, with a parcel of young "harum skarum" fellows on horseback, chasing an honest bull, which had been driven off in the night from his peaceful meadow, to furnish sport to these "wild huntsmen." About this time, also, he was the leader of a "boating club," which involved him in great expense. They had no less than two or three establishments for their boats and boat-men, and innumerable appendages, which cost each of them annually a little fortune. The number of their boats was so great as to form a little fleet, while some of them were quite large and expensive. One of these in particular, a ten-oared barge, was believed at the time to have cost over two thousand dollars. In consequence of these and other expenses, and perhaps the loss of some of his patrimony by the failure of a trustee, subjected him to the necessity of seeking a change of life. This led to his becoming a candidate for the chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh.
Previous to this he had formed plans of extensive travel. One was a voyage of exploration to Central Africa and the sources of the Nile. Another was concocted with two of his friends, with whom he proposed to sail from Falmouth to the Tagus, and landing wherever accident or fancy might determine, to purchase mules, hire Spanish servants, and travel extensively in Spain and[Pg 74] Portugal, for eight or nine months; then, by such of the islands in the Mediterranean as particularly attracted them, they were to pass over into Greece, and thence to Constantinople. Finally, they were to have visited the Troad, Syria, Egypt, and perhaps Nubia!
But the reduction of his means, and his marriage with a young and beautiful English lady, to whom he was greatly attached, broke up these extravagant schemes. His marriage took place in 1810. Two sons and three daughters were the fruits of it; and the connection has doubtless proved one of the happiest events in the Professor's life. Death however has entered this delightful circle. "How characteristic of him," says Gilfillan, "and how affecting, was his saying to his students, in apology for not returning their essays at the usual time, 'I could not see to read them in the Valley and the Shadow of Death.'"
His application in 1820 for the professorship of Moral Philosophy which he now fills, was successful, notwithstanding he had for his competitor one of the profoundest thinkers, and most accomplished writers of the age, Sir William Hamilton, who conducted himself in the affair with the greatest dignity and urbanity. Many things were said, at the time, derogatory to Wilson's personal character, and his fitness to fill the chair of Moral Philosophy. The matter probably was decided, more with reference to political considerations than any thing besides, as at that time party politics ran exceedingly high. Professor Wilson has disappointed[Pg 75] the expectations of his enemies, to say the least, and has been gaining in the esteem and good will of all classes of the community.
His splendid career as a poet, editor, critic and novelist, is well known. His poems, the principal of which are the "Isle of Palms," and the "City of the Plague," are exquisitely beautiful, but deficient in energy, variety and dramatic power. He excels in description, and touches, with a powerful hand, the strings of pure and delicate sentiment. Nothing can be finer than his "Address to a Wild Deer"—"A Sleeping Child"—"The Highland Burial Ground," and "The Home Among the Mountains" in the "City of the Plague." His tales and stories, such as "Margaret Lindsay," "The Foresters," and those in "The Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life," are well conceived, and charmingly written. They breathe a spirit of the purest morality, and are highly honorable not only to the head but to the heart of their eloquent author. But it is in criticism and occasional sketching in which he chiefly excels. In this field, so varied and delightful, he absolutely luxuriates. His series of papers on Spenser and Homer are remarkable for their delicate discrimination, strength and exuberance of fancy. No man loves Scotland more enthusiastically, or describes her peculiar scenery and manners with more success. Here his "meteor pen," as the author of the Corn Law Rhymes aptly called it, passes like sunlight over the glowing page. His descriptions of Highland scenery and Highland sports are instinct with life and beauty.[Pg 76] In a word, to quote the eulogy of the discriminating Hallam, "Wilson is a writer of the most ardent and enthusiastic genius, whose eloquence is as the rush of mighty waters."
Professor Wilson's nature is essentially poetical. It is sensitive, imaginative and generous. It is also said to be deeply religious. Age and experience, reflection, and the Word of God, which he greatly reveres, have tamed the wild exuberance of his youth, strengthened his better principles, and shed over his character the mellow radiance of faith and love. "The main current of his nature," says Gilfillan, "is rapt and religious. In proof of this we have heard, that on one occasion, he was crossing the hills from St. Mary's Loch to Moffat. It was a misty morning; but as he ascended, the mist began to break into columns before the radiant finger of the rising sun. Wilson's feelings became too much excited for silence, and he began to speak, and from speaking began to pray; and prayed aloud and alone, for thirty miles together in the misty morn. We can conceive what a prayer it would be, and with what awe some passing shepherd may have heard the incarnate voice, sounding on its dim and perilous way."
The Calton Hill—Burns's Monument—Character and Writings of "the Peasant Poet"—His Religious Views—Monument of Professor Dugald Stewart—Scottish Metaphysics—Thomas Carlyle.
Let us take a walk on the Calton Hill, this afternoon; we shall find some objects of interest there. At the termination of Prince's Street, commences Waterloo Place, in which are situated the Stamp Office, Post Office, Bridewell and the Jail. This also leads to Calton Hill, and is one of the most delightful promenades in the city. We skirt around the Hill, a little to the right, pass the beautiful and spacious buildings of the Edinburgh High School on the left, one of the best educational institutions in Scotland, continue our walk a short distance, and come to a round building on the farther declivity of the hill. That is "Burns's Monument." By giving a small douceur to the keeper, we are permitted to enter the interior, in the center of which stands a statue of the poet, by Flaxman. Beautiful and expressive certainly, as a work of art, but it is not quite equal to one's conception of the poet. The forehead is particularly fine—open, massive and high, with an air of lofty repose. The mouth is unpoetical and vulgar—at least something of this is visible in its expression. It wants the chiseled delicacy, as well as gracious expression[Pg 78] of noble and generous feeling which we naturally look for in the countenance of Burns. But the likeness, we understand, is defective. In his best days, Burns had a noble, and almost beautiful countenance. In stature he was about five feet ten inches, of great agility and muscular vigor. His countenance was open and ruddy, with a fine, frank, generous expression, eyes large and radiant, forehead arched and lofty, with curling hair clustering over it, and his mouth, especially when engaged in animated conversation, or lighted with a smile, wreathed with intelligence and good humor.
Burns has been termed "the Shakspeare of Scotland." And certainly no poet has ever been regarded, in that country, with such enthusiastic love and reverence. With all his faults, some of which were bad enough, all classes of the Scottish people, from the noble to the peasant, cherish him in their heart of hearts. Indeed he is a sort of national idol, to whom all feel bound to do reverence, notwithstanding his admitted failings. Nor is this a matter of surprise. For, taken as a whole, the poetry of Burns is the poetry of nature—of the heart—and especially of the Scottish heart. It represents the genius of the nation—wild, beautiful and free, shaded by thoughtfulness, and set off by devotion, at once merry as her mountain brooks, yet deep, strong and passionate as the stormy ocean which encircles her coast. "Tam O'Shanter," or "Halloween," the "Cotter's Saturday Night," or "Mary in Heaven," are the two[Pg 79] extremes of the picture. In Burns, Scotland saw incarnated her poetry and song, her music and passion, her love and devotion, her seriousness and merriment, her strong-hearted adherence to integrity and truth, her occasional recklessness and madness of spirit, her love of nature, her veneration for God. The grave and the gay, the old and the young, the religious and the reckless, all saw themselves represented in the glorious fragments of his witching poetry. Hence the enthusiasm with which his first volume of poems was received. It seemed as if a new realm had been added to the dominions of the British muse—a new and glorious creation fresh from the hand of nature. There the humor of Smollett, the pathos and tenderness of Sterne and Richardson, the real life of Fielding, and the description of Thomson, were all united in delineations of Scottish manners and scenery by the Ayrshire ploughman! The volume contained matter for all minds—for the lively and sarcastic, the wild and the thoughtful, the poetical enthusiast and the man of the world. So eagerly was the book sought after, that when copies of it could not be obtained, many of the poems were transcribed and sent round in manuscript among admiring circles. His songs are the songs of Scotland. A few have been furnished by Tannahill, Fergusson, Ramsay and others; but the main body of the most exquisite and most popular Scottish melodies are from the pen of Burns. Evermore they echo among her heathy hills and bosky dells. You hear them by the sides of her[Pg 80] "bonnie burns," and along the shores of her silver lakes and "rivers grand." At evening gray, they are heard resounding from gowan'd braes and "birken shaws," in the shadow of haunted woods, and hoary ruins; and especially, on winter nights, and "tween and supper times" from her ten thousand happy "inglesides." In Burns's "Cotter's Saturday Night" are seen his reverence for religion "pure and undefiled," combined with exquisite description and melodious verse; in "Tam O'Shanter," his vivid fancy and dramatic energy; in "Halloween," his spirit of humor and fun; in his "Lines to a Mountain Daisy," his fine moral sense and tenderness of spirit; and in his "Address to Mary in Heaven," his true heartedness, and sweet lyric power. His native country is beautifully pictured in all his poetry. The "Banks of the Dee," "Edina's lofty seat," "Old Coila's hills and streams"—the "Braes of Yarrow"—"Allan Water"—"Bonnie Doon"—"Sweet Afton among her green braes"—"Auld hermit Ayr," "Stately Irwine," "The birks of Aberfeldy,"—where "summer blinks o'er flowery braes," the "lovely Nith, with fruitful vales and spreading hawthorns,"—"Gowrie's rich valley and Firth's sunny shores," "the clear winding Devon,"—"Castle Gordon,—where waters flow and wild woods rave,"—"the banks and braes and streams around the Castle of Montgomery,"—Bannockburn, Ellerslie and Sheriff Muir;—these, and a thousand other beautiful or storied scenes, mirror themselves in the stream of his sweet and varied verse.[Pg 81]
Some vulgar and foolish things he has written; and we condemn them as heartily as others. But his poetry embodies much that is pure and beautiful and true, much of which Burns had no occasion to repent, even on a deathbed, and much of which his native country may well be proud. He was somewhat intemperate, but not to the extent which is generally supposed. Strong temptations,—the habits of the times—the folly of his friends, who thoughtlessly introduced him to the gaities of the metropolis, and then left him to contempt and penury, broke down his constitution, and consigned him to a premature grave. But he was not a man of base and vulgar passions. His was not the cold heart of the sceptic, nor the envenomed spirit of the villain. It was a wild and wayward heart, I grant, but honest and true, generous and kind. The temple was shattered by the lightnings of Heaven, but it was a temple still; and from its broken altars ever and anon ascended the sweet incense of prayer and praise. Burns could never forget his good old father, and the hallowed influences of religion, shed upon his young heart. He loved the Psalms of David, and the holy melodies of his native land; and we presume often sang them, of an evening, accompanied, as he himself intimates, with "the wild woodland note," of his beloved wife. Several of his letters to Miss Dunlop and others indicate a strong conviction of the Divine existence and the immortality of the soul, his struggles against the doubts which haunted his spirit, and his earnest longing for purity and[Pg 82] perfection. "You may perhaps think it an extravagant fancy," he says in a letter to Mr. Aiken, "but it is a sentiment which strikes home to my very soul; though sceptical on some points of our current belief, yet I think, I have every evidence for the reality of a life beyond the stinted bourn of our present existence;" and then adds—"O thou great, unknown Power, thou Almighty God! who has lighted up reason in my breast, and blessed me with immortality! I have frequently wandered from that order and regularity necessary for the perfection of thy works, yet thou hast never left me nor forsaken me." Having expressed to Mrs. Dunlop his strong conviction of the immortality of the soul, he writes as follows, "I know not whether I have ever sent you the following lines, or if you have ever seen them; but it is one of my favorite quotations, which I keep constantly by me in my progress through life, in the language of the Book of Job,
spoken of religion:
One of the most beautiful letters ever written by Burns has reference to this subject, and was[Pg 83] addressed to the same lady, on New Year's day.—"This, dear Madam, is a morning of wishes; and would to God that I came under the Apostle James's description!—'the prayer of the righteous man availeth much.' In that case, Madam, you should welcome in a year full of blessings: everything that obstructs or disturbs tranquillity and self-enjoyment should be removed, and every pleasure that frail humanity can taste should be yours. I own myself so little a Presbyterian, that I approve of set times and seasons of more than ordinary acts of devotion for breaking in on that habitual routine of life and thought, which is so apt to reduce our existence to a kind of instinct, or even sometimes, and with some minds, to a state very little superior to mere machinery.
"This day, the first Sunday of May, a breezy, blue skyed noon, sometime about the beginning, and a hoary morning and calm sunny day about the end of Autumn,—these, time out of mind, have been with me a kind of holy day. * * * * I believe I owe this to that glorious paper in the Spectator, "The Vision of Mirza;" a piece that struck my young fancy before I was capable of fixing an idea to a word of three syllables. 'On the fifth day of the moon, which, according to the custom of my forefathers, I always keep holy, after having washed myself, and offered up my morning devotions, I ascended the high hill of Bagdad, in order to pass the rest of the day in meditation and prayer.'
"We know nothing, or next to nothing of the[Pg 84] substance or structure of our souls, so cannot account for those seeming caprices in them, that one should be particularly pleased with this thing, or struck with that, which, on minds of a different cast, makes no extraordinary impression. I have some favorite flowers in spring, among which are the mountain daisy, the harebell, the foxglove, the wild brier rose, the budding birch, and the hoary hawthorn, that I view and hang over with particular delight. I never heard the loud solitary whistle of the curlew in a summer noon, or the wild, mixing cadence of a troop of gray plover in an autumnal morning, without feeling an elevation of soul like the enthusiasm of devotion or poetry. Tell me, my dear friend, to what can this be owing? Are we a piece of machinery, which like the Æolian harp, passive, takes the impression of the passing accident? Or do these workings argue something within us above the trodden clod? I own myself partial to such proofs of those awful and important realities—a God that made all things—man's immaterial and immortal nature—and a world of weal or woe beyond death and the grave."
A fit comment on this and other passages of similar import in his letters is the following affecting poem, entitled "A Prayer in the Prospect of Death." It seems to us to utter the deep throbbings of the poet's spirit:
After writing thus far, we read for the first time, "The Genius and Character of Burns," by Professor Wilson, the richest garland yet wreathed around the poet's brow; and we are happy to find the views expressed above fully corroborated by that distinguished writer. It is true that Wilson delineates the character of Burns with enthusiastic admiration; but his views are so discriminating, and withal backed by such an array of facts, that no candid man can deny their correctness. We cannot therefore resist the temptation of making the following extract, in which the finest discrimination[Pg 86] is blended with the largest charity. Long may the Literature of Scotland be guarded by such a critic! But one thing must not be forgotten here, namely, that no one, and especially one personally unacquainted with Burns, can pronounce in regard to his actual spiritual state. Whether he was truly 'born of God,' and notwithstanding the errors of his life, died a Christian and went to heaven, is happily not a question which we are called to decide.
"We have said but little hitherto of Burns's religion. Some have denied that he had any religion at all—a rash and cruel denial—made in the face of his genius, his character, and his life. What man in his senses ever lived without religion? "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God"—was Burns an atheist? We do not fear to say that he was religious far beyond the common run of men, even them who may have had a more consistent and better considered creed. The lessons he received in the "auld clay biggin" were not forgotten through life. He speaks—and we believe him—of his "early ingrained piety" having been long remembered to good purpose—what he called his "idiot piety"—not meaning thereby to disparage it, but merely that it was in childhood an instinct. "Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name!" is breathed from the lips of infancy with the same feeling at its heart that beats towards its father on earth, as it kneels in prayer by his side. No one surely will doubt his sincerity when he writes from Irvine to his father—"Honor'd[Pg 87] sir—I am quite transported at the thought, that ere long, perhaps soon, I shall bid an eternal adieu to all the pains, and uneasinesses, and disquietudes of this weary life; for I assure you I am heartily tired of it, and, if I do not very much deceive myself, I could contentedly and gladly resign it. It is for this reason I am more pleased with the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses of the 7th chapter of Revelations, than with any ten times as many verses in the whole Bible, and would not exchange the noble enthusiasm with which they inspire me, for all that this world has to offer. '15. Therefore are they before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17. For the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.'" When he gives lessons to a young man for his conduct in life, one of them is, "The great Creator to adore;" when he consoles a friend on the death of a relative, "he points the brimful grief-worn eyes to scenes beyond the grave;" when he expresses benevolence to a distressed family, he beseeches the aid of Him "who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb;" when he feels the need of aid to control his passions, he implores that of the "Great Governor of all below;" when in sickness, he has a prayer for the pardon of all his errors, and an expression of confidence[Pg 88] in the goodness of God; when suffering from the ills of life, he asks for the grace of resignation, "because they are thy will;" when he observes the sufferings of the virtuous, he remembers a rectifying futurity;—he is religious not only when surprised by occasions such as these, but also on set occasions; he had regular worship in his family while at Ellisland—we know not how it was at Dumfries, but we do know that there he catechised his children every Saturday evening;—Nay, he does not enter a Druidical circle without a prayer to God.
He viewed the Creator chiefly in his attributes of love, goodness and mercy. "In proportion as we are wrung with grief, or distracted with anxiety, the ideas of a superintending Deity, an Almighty protector, are doubly dear." Him he never lost sight of, or confidence in, even in the depths of his remorse. An avenging God was too seldom in his contemplations—from the little severity in his own character—from a philosophical view of the inscrutable causes of human frailty—and most of all, from a diseased aversion to what was so much the theme of the sour Calvanism around him; but which would have risen up an appalling truth in such a soul as his, had it been habituated to profounder thought on the mysterious corruption of our fallen nature.
Sceptical thoughts as to revealed religion had assailed his mind, while with expanding powers it "communed with the glorious universe;" and in 1787 he writes from Edinburgh to a "Mr. James M'Candlish, student in physic, College, Glasgow,"[Pg 89] who had favored him with a long argumentative infidel letter, "I, likewise, since you and I were first acquainted, in the pride of despising old women's stories, ventured on 'the daring path Spinoza trod;' but experience of the weakness, not the strength of human powers, made me glad to grasp at revealed religion." When at Ellisland, he writes to Mrs. Dunlop, "My idle reasonings sometimes make me a little sceptical, but the necessities of my heart always give the cold philosophizings the lie. Who looks for the heart weaned from earth; the soul affianced to her God; the correspondence fixed with heaven; the pious supplication and devout thanksgiving, constant as the vicissitudes of even and morn; who thinks to meet with these in the court, the palace, in the glare of public life! No: to find them in their precious importance and divine efficacy, we must search among the obscure recesses of disappointment, affliction, poverty and distress." And again, next year, from the same place to the same correspondent, "That there is an incomprehensibly Great Being, to whom I owe my existence, and that he must be intimately acquainted with the operations and progress of the internal machinery, and consequent outward deportment of this creature he has made—these are, I think, self-evident propositions. That there is a real and eternal distinction between vice and virtue, and consequently, that I am an accountable creature; that from the seeming nature of the human mind, as well as from the evident imperfection, nay positive injustice, in the administration[Pg 90] of affairs, both in the natural and moral worlds, there must be a retributive scene of existence beyond the grave, must, I think, be allowed by every one who will give himself a moment's reflection. I will go farther and affirm, that from the sublimity, excellence, and purity of his doctrine and precepts, unparalleled, by all the aggregated wisdom and learning of many preceding ages, though to appearance he was himself the obscurest and most illiterate of our species: therefore Jesus was from God." Indeed, all his best letters to Mrs. Dunlop are full of the expression of religious feeling and religious faith; though it must be confessed with pain, that he speaks with more confidence in the truth of natural than of revealed religion, and too often lets sentiments inadvertently escape him, that, taken by themselves, would imply that his religious belief was but a Christianized Theism. Of the immortality of the soul, he never expresses any serious doubt, though now and then, his expressions, though beautiful, want their usual force, as if he felt the inadequacy of the human mind to the magnitude of the theme. "Ye venerable sages, and holy flamens, is there probability in your conjectures, truth in your stories, of another world beyond death; or are they all alike baseless visions and fabricated fables? If there is another life, it must be only for the just, the amiable, and the humane. What a flattering idea this of the world to come! Would to God I as firmly believed it as I ardently wish it."
How, then, could honored Thomas Carlyle bring[Pg 91] himself to affirm, "that Burns had no religion?" His religion was in much imperfect—but its incompleteness you discern only on a survey of all his effusions, and by inference; for his particular expressions of a religious kind are genuine, and as acknowledgments of the superabundant goodness and greatness of God, they are in unison with the sentiments of the devoutest Christian. But remorse never suggests to him the inevitable corruption of man; Christian humility he too seldom dwells on, though without it there cannot be Christian faith: and he is silent on the need of reconcilement between the divine attributes of Justice and Mercy. The absence of all this might pass unnoticed, were not the religious sentiment so prevalent in his confidential communications with his friends in his most serious and solemn moods. In them there is frequent, habitual recognition of the Creator; and who that finds joy and beauty in nature has not the same? It may be well supposed that if common men are more ideal in religion than in other things, so would be Burns. He who has lent the colors of his fancy to common things, would not withhold them from divine. Something—he knew not what—he would exact of man—more impressively reverential than anything he is wont to offer to God, or perhaps can offer in the way of institution—in temples made with hands. The heartfelt adoration always has a grace for him—in the silent bosom—in the lonely cottage—in any place where circumstances are a pledge of its reality; but the moment it ceases to be heartfelt, and visibly[Pg 92] so, it loses his respect, it seems as profanation. "Mine is the religion of the breast;" and if it be not, what is it worth? But it must also revive a right spirit within us; and there may be gratitude for goodness, without such change as is required of us in the gospel. He was too buoyant with immortal spirit within him not to credit its immortal destination; he was too thoughtful in his human love not to feel how different must be our affections if they are towards flowers which the blast of death may wither, or towards spirits which are but beginning to live in our sight, and are gathering good and evil here for an eternal life. Burns believed that by his own unassisted understanding, and his own unassisted heart, he saw and felt those great truths, forgetful of this great truth, that he had been taught them in the Written Word. Had all he learned in the "auld clay biggin" become a blank—all the knowledge inspired into his heart during the evenings, when "the sire turned o'er wi' patriarchal air, the big ha'-bible, ance his father's pride," how little or how much would he then have known of God and Immortality? In that delusion he shared more or less with one and all—whether poets or philosophers—who have put their trust in natural Theology. As to the glooms in which his sceptical reason had been involved, they do not seem to have been so thick—so dense—as in the case of men without number, who have, by the blessing of God, become true Christians. Of his levities on certain celebrations of religious rites, we before ventured an explanation; and[Pg 93] while it is to be lamented that he did not more frequently dedicate the genius that shed so holy a lustre over "The Cotter's Saturday Night," to the service of religion, let it be remembered how few poets have done so—alas! too few—that he, like his tuneful brethren, must often have been deterred by a sense of his own unworthiness from approaching its awful mysteries—and above all, that he was called to his account before he had attained his thoughtful prime."
Speaking of Burns's last sickness, Professor Wilson says: "But he had his Bible with him in his lodgings, and he read it almost continually—often when seated on a bank, from which he had difficulty in rising without assistance, for his weakness was extreme, and in his emaciation he was like a ghost. The fire of his eye was not dimmed—indeed fever had lighted it up beyond even its natural brightness; and though his voice, once so various, was now hollow, his discourse was still that of a Poet. To the last he loved the sunshine, the grass, and the flowers; to the last he had a kind look and word for the passers-by, who all knew it was Burns. Laboring men, on their way from work, would step aside to the two or three houses called the Brow, to know if there was any hope of his life; and it is not to be doubted that devout people remembered him, who had written the Cotter's Saturday Night, in their prayers. His sceptical doubts no longer troubled him; they had never been more than shadows; and he had at last the faith of a confiding Christian."[Pg 94]
Leaving Burns's Monument, we ascend the hill, in the opposite direction, pass the unfinished Parthenon, consisting only of a few elegant columns, and intended to commemorate the battle of Waterloo, the Observatory, and the Monument of Professor Playfair, the celebrated mathematician and astronomer, and reach the elegant though not imposing monument of Professor Dugald Stewart, not the most acute, but certainly the most finished and instructive of all the writers of the Scottish metaphysical school. Let us linger here, a few moments, for the name of Professor Stewart is peculiarly dear to Scotland. No man was ever more enthusiastically regarded by his pupils, or more generally loved and revered by the community. Dr. Reid of Glasgow University, the immediate predecessor and preceptor of Stewart, was a man of an acute and original mind, though not possessed of half the grace and fluency of his illustrious pupil. It was Reid however that first gave clearness and method to the metaphysics of Scotland. His writings on first principles, or, as he called them, principles of Common Sense, gave a death-blow, at least in Scotland, to the ideal theory of Berkeley and Hume, and greatly affected the course of philosophical investigation not only in England but in France. In fact, his philosophy supplanted, for a time, the infidel metaphysics of Hume and the French rationalists. It cut the roots equally of idealism and sensualism, and was eagerly received by thoughtful men in Europe and in this country. It can be seen running like a sunbeam, through the[Pg 95] speculations of Royer Collard, Constant, Jouffroy and even of Cousin. Based on the Baconian method, it proceeded, modestly and unostentatiously, to ascertain, and then to classify the facts of mind; and, because it projected no splendid theories, or blazing fancies, it has been rejected by superficial and visionary thinkers, with some degree of contempt. After all, it may yet be recognized, by all genuine philosophers, as the only true scientific method. In the hands of Stewart and of Brown, his colleague and successor, it began to assume a lofty and attractive position; but alas! it has remained stationary for the want of strong and true-hearted defenders. Stigmatized by the Germans as "pallid and insular—timid and cold," it has been forsaken, of late, by the more popular metaphysical writers, for the brilliant and astounding, but ever varying visions of the Transcendental School. Smitten with the love of Ontology, or the doctrine of "the absolute and the essential," scorning the methods of Bacon and Newton as empirical and shallow, and setting their foot on the modest, perhaps timid speculations of Reid and Stewart, metaphysicians have plunged one after another into the abyss of an absolute Spiritualism, where, amid the glimmerings of a half-dark and lurid radiance, may be seen the disciples of Kant and Fichte, Hegel and Schelling, floundering in the gloom, changing places continually, now rising towards the light of heaven, and then sinking in the "abysmal dark."[Pg 96]
The writings of Reid, Stewart and Brown have exerted a great influence on the thinking of Scotland, which, even among the common people, has a somewhat metaphysical turn. Combining with religion and poetry, it has given to both a peculiar depth and earnestness of tone. In some it is deeply practical, in others speculative and visionary.
Thomas Carlyle, the product chiefly of Scotland, but partly also of Germany—or perhaps, rather, a magnificent "lusus naturæ," has a large amount of Scottish shrewdness, enthusiasm and speculation, overlaid and burnished with German spiritualism and romance. A native of Annandale, and imbued with the religion of the Covenant, and the poetry of the hills, he has wandered off into the fields of metaphysical speculation, where, amid dreams of gorgeous and beautiful enchantment, he is evermore uttering his burning oracular words, of half pagan, and half Christian, wisdom. A genuine TeufelsdrŚckh,—he is yet a genuine Scot, and cannot therefore forget the holy wisdom of his venerable mother, and his Annandale home.
Preaching in Edinburgh—The Free Church—Dr. Chalmers—A Specimen of his Preaching—The Secret of his Eloquence.
Edinburgh has ever been distinguished for its preachers. In former times the classic Blair, the fervid Walker, the impassioned Logan, the judicious Erskine, the learned Jamieson, the exquisite Alison, the candid Wellwood and the energetic Thomson delighted and instructed all classes of the community. To these have succeeded a host of learned and truly eloquent men, some of whom are members of "the Kirk," others of the Episcopal communion, and others of the various bodies of Presbyterian "Seceders," Congregationalists and Baptists. Among the clergymen of the Free Church, Dr. Chalmers of course is "facile princeps;" Dr. Candlish, in effectiveness and popularity probably stands next, while Drs. Cunningham, Bruce, Gordon and Buchanan, the Rev. James Begg, and one or two others form a cluster of influential and eloquent preachers. Among the Congregationalists, Rev. William L. Alexander is the most learned and polished. He has written ably on the Tractarian controversy and on the connection of the Old and New Testaments, and recently received a pressing invitation to become associated with Dr. Wardlaw of Glasgow, as assistant pastor and[Pg 100] Professor of Theology. He is a fine looking man, being some six feet high, with expressive features, dark penetrating eyes, and massive black hair, clustering over a fair and lofty forehead. His manner is dignified and agreeable, but not particularly impassioned.
Among the "seceding" Presbyterians, Dr. John Brown, minister of Broughton Place, and one of the Professors of Theology in the United Secession Church, the Rev. Dr. Johnstone and the Rev. James Robertson of the same communion are among the most effective preachers in Scotland. The Baptists are justly proud of the learned and polished Christopher Anderson, author of an able work on the "Domestic Constitution," and an elaborate "History of the English Bible"—the Rev. William Innes, one of the most amiable and pious of men, and the Rev. Jonathan Watson, whose earnest practical discourses are well appreciated by his intelligent audience. Mr. Innes at one time was a minister of the established Church, with a large salary and an agreeable situation, but abandoned it for conscience' sake, as he could not approve of the union of Church and State, nor of some of the peculiarities of Presbyterianism. His pious, consistent course, and liberal, catholic spirit, have won for him the admiration of all denominations of Christians.
Bishop Terrot of the Episcopal Church is somewhat high in his church notions, but is regarded as an amiable and learned man, while the Rev. Mr. Drummond and others of the same church,[Pg 101] are able and influential preachers. Among those who adhere to "the Kirk" as it was, the Rev. Dr. Muir is one of the most accomplished, and the Rev. Dr. Lee, of the University, the most learned and influential.
Taken as a whole, the Edinburgh clergy are fair representatives of the Scottish preachers generally. Those therefore who wish to form a just estimate of the spirit and power of the pulpit in Scotland, have only to hear them repeatedly, in their respective places of worship. They hold doctrinal views somewhat diverse, though essentially one, adopt different styles of preaching, and in certain aspects different styles of life. Yet they manifestly belong to the same great family, and preach the same glorious gospel. They are remarkably distinguished for their strong common sense, laborious habits, pious spirit and practical usefulness. Occasionally they come into keen polemical strife; but it amounts to little more than a gladiatorial exhibition, or rather a light skirmishing, without malice prepense, or much evil result. Generally speaking, they are not pre-eminently distinguished for their learning, though certainly well informed, and devoted to the great work of their ministry. They are more practical than speculative, more devout than critical, more useful than renowned. They live in the hearts of their flocks, and the results of their labors may be seen in the integrity, good order and industry of the people. It is not our purpose to say much on the subject of the recent "break" in the Scottish church, in which, as the members of the "Free Church" assert, the supremacy[Pg 102] of Jesus Christ is concerned. The intrusion by lay patrons, of unpopular ministers upon the churches, is certainly a vicious practice, and ought to be abolished. But this is only a fragment of a greater and more vital question, pertaining to the spirituality and authority of Christ's church, which must be settled one of these days. The Free Church movement has developed much fine enthusiasm, and no small amount of self-denial; and the results will doubtless be favorable to the progress of spiritual freedom; but this is only a single wave of a mighty and ever increasing tide, which is destined to sweep, not over Scotland alone, but over the world. In this place, however, we cannot refrain from expressing our conviction that this division in the Presbyterian ranks is not properly a schism or a heresy. It breaks up an existing organization, but affinity remains. The doctrines and discipline of the two churches are essentially the same. The one may be purer and stronger than the other, but they are members of the same family, professedly cherish the same spirit, and aim at the accomplishment of the same ends. This, too, may be said of nearly all the other sects; so that in Scotland, there is more real unity among Christians than there is in Papal Rome. The latter is one, only as a mountain of ice, in which all impurities are congealed, is one. The unity of the former is like that of the thousand streams which rush from the Alpine heights, proceeding, as they do, from a common source, and finally meeting and blending in a common ocean.[Pg 103]
But enough of general speculation and description. Dr. Chalmers is to preach at Dr. Candlish's church, so let us go to hear him. He has lost something of his early vigor, but retains enough of it to make him the most interesting preacher in Scotland or the world. Let us make haste, or we shall fail of obtaining a seat. Already the house is filled with an expectant congregation. The Doctor comes in, and all is hushed. He is dressed in gown and bands, and presents a striking and venerable appearance. His serious, earnest aspect well befits his high office. He is of the middle height, thick set and brawny, but not corpulent. His face is rather broad, with high cheek bones, pale, and as it were care-worn, but well formed and expressive. His eyes are of a leaden color, rather dull when in a state of repose, but flashing with a half-smothered fire when fairly roused. His nose is broad and lion-like, his mouth, one of the most expressive parts of his countenance, firm, a little compressed and stern, indicating courage and energy, while his forehead is ample and high, as one might naturally suppose, covered with thin, straggling grey hair. He reads a psalm in a dry, guttural voice—reads a few verses of Scripture, without much energy or apparent feeling, and then offers a brief, simple, earnest, and striking prayer. By the way, the Doctor's prayers are among his most interesting exercises. He is always simple, direct, reverent, and occasionally quite original and striking. You feel while joining in his devotions, that a man of genius and piety is[Pg 104] leading your willing spirit up to the throne of God. How striking, for example, when he calls us to remember "that every hour that strikes,—every morning that dawns, and every evening that darkens around us, brings us nearer to the end of our pilgrimage." Yet he has no mouthing or mannerism, in this solemn exercise. He is not making, but offering a prayer. His tones are earnest and solemn; most manifest it is that his soul is holding intimate fellowship with the Father of Spirits.
But he announces his text—1 John iv. 16. "God is love"—a text from which he has preached before; but no matter for that. He commences, with a few broken sentences, pronounced in a harsh tuneless voice, with a strong Scottish accent. The first feeling of a stranger would be that of disappointment, and apprehension that the discourse was to prove a failure. This was the case with Canning and Wilberforce, who went to hear Dr. Chalmers, when he preached in London. They had got into a pew near the door, when "the preacher began in his usual unpromising way, by stating a few nearly self-evident propositions, neither in the choicest language, nor in the most impressive voice; 'If this be all,' said Canning to his companion, 'it will never do.' Chalmers went on,—the shuffling in the congregation gradually subsided. He got into the[Pg 105] mass of his subject; his weakness became strength, his hesitation was turned into energy; and bringing the whole volume of his mind to bear upon it, poured forth a torrent of most close and conclusive argument, brilliant with all the exuberance of an imagination which ranged over all nature for illustrations, and yet managed and applied each of them with the same unerring dexterity, as if that single one had been the study of his whole life. 'The tartan beats us,' said Mr. Canning, 'we have no preaching like that in England.'"
It may be well to state here that Chalmers is a slavish reader,—that is, he reads every thing he says,—but then he reads so naturally, so earnestly, so energetically, that manuscript and everything else is speedily forgotten by the astonished and delighted hearer.
He proceeds with his subject—God is love. His object, as announced, is not so much to elucidate the thought or idea of the text, as to dislodge from the minds of his hearers, the dread and aversion for God, existing in all unregenerate men. He insists, in the first place, that it is not as a God of love, that the Deity is regarded by mankind—but simply as God, as a being mysterious and dreadful, a being who has displeasure towards them in his heart. This arises from two causes—the first, that they are ignorant of this great and awfully mysterious Being—the second, that they have sinned against him. This feeling then is displaced first by the incarnation of the Deity in the person of his Son, so that we may know him and love[Pg 106] him as a Father and a friend; and secondly, by the free pardon of our sin, through the sacrifice of the Cross. The division is rather awkward; but it serves the purpose of the preacher, who thus brings out some of the most sublime peculiarities of the Gospel, and applies them with overwhelming force and pathos to the sinner's heart. Under the first head, he shows, in language of uncommon energy, that it is impossible for man, in his present state, to regard a being so vast, so mysterious, and so little known as God, except with superstitious dread. "All regarding him," says he, "is inscrutable; the depths of his past eternity, the mighty and unknown extent of his creation, the secret policy or end of his government—a government that embraces an infinity of worlds, and reaches forward to an infinity of ages; all these leave a being so circumscribed in his faculties as man, so limited in his duration, and therefore so limited in his experience, in profoundest ignorance of God; and then the inaccessible retirement in which this God hides himself from the observation of his creatures here below, the clouds and darkness which are about the pavilion of his throne, the utter inability of the powers of man to reach beyond the confines of that pavilion, render vain all attempts to fathom the essence of God, or to obtain any distinct conception of his person or being, which have been shrouded in the deep silence of many centuries, insomuch that nature, whatever it may tell us of his existence, places between our senses and this mighty cause a veil of interception."[Pg 107]
It is not unnatural to dread such a being. Nature, though full of God, furnishes no clear and satisfying evidence of his designs; for sunshine and shower, green fields and waving harvests are intermingled with tempests and hurricane, blight and mildew, destruction and death. "While in one case we have the natural affection and unnumbered sweets of many a cottage, which might serve to manifest the indulgent kindness of him who is the universal parent of the human family; we have on the other hand the cares, the heart-burnings, the moral discomforts, often the pining sickness, or the cold and cheerless poverty, or, more palpably, the fierce contests and mutual distractions even among civilized men; and lastly, and to consummate all, the death,—the unshaken and relentless death with which generation after generation, whether among the abodes of the prosperous and the happy, or among the dwellings of the adverse and unfortunate, after a few years are visited, laying all the varieties of human fortune in the dust,—these all bespeak if not a malignant, an offended, God."
But this vague uncertainty and dread are corrected and displaced by the incarnation of the Deity in the person of Christ—"the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person." "The Godhead then became palpable to human senses, and man could behold, as in a picture, and in distinct personification, the very characteristics of the Being that made him."
Upon this idea, a favorite one with Dr. Chalmers, he dwells with the profoundest interest, presenting[Pg 108] it with a strength of conception and exuberance of illustration which makes it clear and palpable to the minds of all. How his heart glows, almost to bursting, with the sublime and thrilling idea that God is manifest in the flesh. How he pours out, as in a torrent of light, the swelling images and emotions of his throbbing spirit. "We could not scale the height of that mysterious ascent which brings us within view of the Godhead. It is by the descent of the Godhead unto us that this manifestation has been made; and we learn and know it from the wondrous history of him who went about doing good continually. We could not go in search of the viewless Deity, through the depths and vastnesses of infinity, or divine the secret, the untold purposes that were brooding there. But in what way could a more palpable exhibition have been made, than when the eternal Son, enshrined in humanity, stepped forth on the platform of visible things, and there proclaimed the Deity? We can now reach the character of God in the human looks, in the human language of Him who is the very image and visible representative of the Deity; we see it in the tears of sympathy he shed; we hear it in the accents of tenderness which fell from his lips. Even his very remonstrances were those of a deep and gentle nature; for they are remonstrances of deepest pathos—the complaints of a longing spirit against the sad perversity of men bent on their own ruin."
Not content with this clear and ample exhibition of his views, he returns to it, as if with redoubled[Pg 109] interest, and though presenting no new conception upon the point, delights to pour upon it the exuberant radiance of his teeming imagination. The hearers, too, are as interested as he, and catch with delight the varying aspects of his peculiar oratory. In fact, their minds are in perfect sympathy and harmony with his; and tears start to every eye, as he bursts out, as if applying the subject to himself, in the following beautiful and affecting style:—"Previous to this manifestation, as long as I had nothing before me but the unseen God, my mind wandered in uncertainty, my busy fancy was free to expatiate, and its images filled my heart with disquietude and terror; but in the life and person and history of Jesus Christ, the attributes of the Deity are brought down to the observation of the senses, and I can no longer mistake them, when, in the Son, who is the express image of his Father, I see them carried home to my understanding by the evidence and expression of human organs—when I see the kindness of the Father, in the tears that fell from the Son at the tomb of Lazarus—when I see his justice blended with his mercy, in the exclamation, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!' by Jesus Christ, uttered with a tone more tender than human bosom or human sympathy ever uttered—I feel the judgment of God himself flashing conviction on my conscience, and calling me to repent, while his wrath is suspended, and he still waiteth to be gracious!"
But a more distinct and well-grounded reason for distrust and fear in reference to the Deity arises[Pg 110] from the consciousness of guilt. In spite of ourselves, in spite of our false theology, we feel that God has a right to be offended with us, that he is offended with us, and not only so, but that we deserve his displeasure. This he shows is counteracted by the doctrine of the atonement: "Herein is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us, and sent his Son into the world to be a propitiation for our sins." By the fact of the incarnation, a conquest is gained over the imagination haunted with the idea of an unknown God; so also by that of the atonement, a conquest is gained over the solid and well-grounded fear of guilt. This idea the Doctor illustrates with equal force and beauty, showing that by means of the Sacrifice of the Cross, justice and mercy are brought into harmony, in the full and free pardon of the believing penitent. By this means the great hindrance to free communion with God is taken away. Guilt is cancelled, for the sake of Him who died, and the poor trembling sinner is taken to the bosom of Infinite Love. "In the glorious spectacle of the Cross, we see the mystery revealed, and the compassion of the parent meeting in fullest harmony with the now asserted and now vindicated prerogative of the Lawgiver. The Gospel is a halo of all the attributes of God, and yet the pre-eminent manifestation there is of God as love, which will shed its lustre amid all the perfections of the Divine nature. And here it should be specially remarked, that the atonement was made for the sins of the whole world; God's direct and primary object being to vindicate the truth and[Pg 111] justice of the Godhead. Instead of taking from his love, it only gave it more emphatic demonstration; for, instead of love, simple and bending itself without difficulty to the happiness of its objects, it was a love which, ere it could reach the guilty being it groaned after, had to force the barriers of a necessity which, to all human appearance, was insuperable." With this fine idea the Doctor concludes his discourse, presenting it with a mingled tenderness and vehemence of style and tone perfectly irresistible. "The love of God," he exclaims, "with such an obstacle and trying to get over it, is a higher exhibition than all the love which radiates from his throne on all the sinless angels. The affirmation that God is love, is strengthened by that other, to him who owns the authority of Scripture, that God so loved the world—I call on you to mark the emphatic so—as to give his only-begotten Son. 'He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all;' or that expression, 'herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.' There is a moral, a depth, an intensity of meaning, a richness of sentiment that Paul calls unsearchable, in the Cross of Christ, that tells emphatically that God is righteousness, and that God is love."
Such is a feeble and imperfect outline of a rich and eloquent discourse, from one of the richest and most expressive texts in the Bible. But we cannot transfer to the written or printed page the tone, look and manner, the vivida vis, the natural and overwhelming energy, the pathos and power of[Pg 112] tone, which thrill the hearer as with the shocks of a spiritual electricity. It is this peculiar energy which distinguishes Chalmers, and which distinguishes all great orators. His mind is on fire with his subject, and transfers itself all glowing to the minds of his hearers. For the time being all are fused into one great whole, by the resistless might of his burning eloquence. In this respect Chalmers has been thought to approach, nearer than any other man of modern times, the style and tone of Demosthenes. His manner has a torrent-vehemence, a sea-like swell and sweep, a bannered tramp as of armies rushing to deadly conflict. With one hand on his manuscript, and the other jerked forward with electric energy, he thunders out his gigantic periods, as if winged with "volleyed lightning." The hearers are astonished,—awed,—carried away,—lifted up as on the wings of the wind, and borne "whithersoever the master listeth."
Biographical Sketch of Dr. Chalmers.
As an evangelical divine, a preacher of great strength and earnestness, a man of a truly devout and generous spirit, of great independence, energy and perseverance, a leader of the Free Church of Scotland, and a successful advocate of the doctrine of Christ's supremacy, Dr. Chalmers may be regarded as a fair embodiment of the religious spirit of his native land. In his mode of thinking, in his doctrinal belief and practice, especially in his devout and fervid eloquence, the Doctor is eminently Scottish. His whole spirit is bathed in the piety of "the Covenant." On this account a brief sketch of his history will not be inappropriate in this place.
Thomas Chalmers, D. D., was born about the year 1780, in the town of Anstruther in Fifeshire, the birth-place of another man of genius, Professor Tennant, of St. Andrews, the celebrated author of "Anster Fair," one of the most facetious poems in the language, and making a near approach to the dramatic energy of "Tam O'Shanter." Young Chalmers gave decided indications of genius and energy, and was sent to the College of St. Andrews, and soon became "a mathematician, a natural philosopher, and though there was no regular[Pg 114] professor of that science at St. Andrews, a chemist." After having been licensed as a preacher, he officiated for sometime, as assistant minister, at Cavers in Roxburghshire. He was subsequently called to the care of the parish church in Kilmany, beautifully situated "amid the green hills and smiling valleys," of his native county. He was ordained on the 12th of May, 1803, and soon displayed the vigor and activity of his mind. In addition to his regular parochial engagements, he devoted much attention to botany and chemistry; lectured on the latter science and kindred subjects in the neighboring towns; became an officer in a volunteer corps; assisted the late Professor Vilant in teaching the mathematical class in the College of St. Andrews; on the succeeding session opened a private class of his own, on the same branch of science, to which all the students flocked; and wrote one or two books, and several pamphlets on the topics of the day. His first publication appeared at Cupar in Fife on what was called the Leslie Controversy. It was written in the form of a letter addressed to Professor Playfair; and abounds in talent, wit and humor. It was published anonymously, and for a long time was not known to be his. He vindicates in it very powerfully, the divines of the Church of Scotland, from the imputation of a want of mathematical talent, a reproach which he thought Professor Playfair had thrown upon them. He also wrote a volume on the resources of the country, which attracted much attention, as a work of ability and eloquence.[Pg 115]
From these statements it must be evident that Dr. Chalmers had but little time to devote to the spiritual interests of his parish. He performed his stated duties, it is true, but devoted his energies chiefly to literary and scientific pursuits. Indeed he was in religious belief a rationalist, and had not yet adopted those profound and spiritual convictions which subsequently formed the main-spring of his ministry. In 1805 he offered himself as a candidate for the vacant chair of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, with considerable chances of success, but afterwards withdrew his name at the earnest solicitation of his friends, who wished to retain him in the Church.
When Dr. Brewster's Edinburgh Encyclopedia was projected Dr. Chalmers was engaged as one of the contributors, and wrote the article "Christianity," which was subsequently published in a separate form. It was about this time that his mind underwent a radical change on the subject of vital religion. He discovered the utter inefficiency of a utilitarian morality, for the renovation and guidance of man, and eagerly embraced those peculiar views of evangelical faith, which recognize the sacrifice and intercession of Christ as a ground of hope to the fallen, the necessity of "being born of the Spirit," and the ineffable beauty and blessedness of "a life hid with Christ in God." It is said that this change took place while writing the article referred to; he then felt the necessity of acting upon his own principles, of yielding his heart absolutely and forever, to the truths of that Revelation, the reality[Pg 116] and authority of which he was called to prove. It will be remembered by those acquainted with the article in question, that he takes the ground that a divine revelation must necessarily be mysterious; that coming from God, it must belong to the infinite and the obscure, and thus contain many things which shock our preconceptions,—that a priori objections to its doctrines are therefore null and void, and that the whole must be received, without exception or modification. He insists that while we have experience of man, we have little or no experience of God, that the thoughts of such a Being must infinitely transcend ours, and in all probability contradict ours, especially with reference to the great problem touching the salvation of the guilty. If then the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred books can be proved as historical facts, we have nothing to do with the revelation which they contain, but to receive it with adoring gratitude and submission. The incarnation of the Godhead, the sacrifice of the Cross, justification by faith, the re-birth of the soul by the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the body, and eternal judgement are revealed facts or truths, already proved, and must therefore constitute the heart's-creed of every true believer. These doctrines consequently were embraced by Chalmers himself, and formed thenceforward the subjects of his preaching to the people. A great excitement ensued. The community was aroused—multitudes were converted. Chalmers preached with the greatest fervor and unction, and hundreds flocked to hear him[Pg 117] from the neighboring parishes. This produced inquiry, and he found it necessary to give explanations in reference to the causes which had effected such a change in his ministry. In this view the following will be read with interest and profit:
"And here I cannot but record the effect of an actual though undesigned experiment which I prosecuted upwards of twelve years amongst you. For the greater part of that time I could expatiate on the meanness of dishonesty, on the villany of falsehood, on the despicable arts of calumny—in a word upon all those deformities of character which awaken the natural indignation of the human heart against the pests and the disturbers of society. Now, could I, upon the strength of these warm expostulations, have got the thief to give up his stealing, and the evil speaker his censoriousness, and the liar his deviations from truth, I should have felt all the repose of one who had gotten his ultimate object. It never occurred to me that all this might have been done, and yet every soul of every hearer have remained in full alienation from God; and that even could I have established in the bosom of one who stole such a principle of abhorrence at the meanness of dishonesty that he was prevailed upon to steal no more, he might still have retained a heart as completely unturned to God, and as totally unpossessed of a principle of love to Him as before. In a word, though I might have made him a more upright and honorable man, I might have left him as destitute of the essence of religious[Pg 118] principle as ever. But the interesting fact is that during the whole of that period in which I made no attempt against the natural enmity of the mind to God, while I was inattentive to the way in which this enmity is dissolved, even by the free offer on the one hand, and the believing acceptance on the other, of the Gospel salvation; while Christ, through whose blood the sinner, who by nature stands afar off, is brought near to the Heavenly Lawgiver whom he has offended, was scarcely ever spoken of, or spoken of in such a way as stripped him of all the importance of his character and offices, even at this time I certainly did press the reformations of honor, and truth, and integrity among my people; but I never even heard of any such reformations being effected amongst them. If there was anything at all brought about in this way, it was more than I ever got any account of. I am not sensible that all the vehemence with which I urged the virtues and the proprieties of social life had the weight of a feather on the moral habits of my parishioners. And it was not till I got impressed with the utter alienation of the heart in its desires and affections from God; it was not till reconciliation to Him became the distinct and the prominent object of my ministerial exertions; it was not till I took the scriptural way of laying the method of reconciliation before them; it was not till the free offer of forgiveness through the blood of Christ was urged upon their acceptance, and the Holy Spirit given through the channel of Christ's mediatorship to all who ask him, was set[Pg 119] before them as the unceasing object of their dependence and their prayers; it was not, in one word, till the contemplations of my people were turned to these great and essential elements in the business of a soul providing for its interest with God, and the concerns of its eternity, that I ever heard of any of those subordinate reformations which I aforetime made the earnest and the zealous, but I am afraid, at the same time, ultimate object of my earlier ministrations. To servants, whose scrupulous fidelity has now attracted the notice and drawn forth, in my hearing, a delightful testimony from your masters, what mischief ye would have done, had your zeal for doctrines and sacraments been accompanied by the sloth and remissness, and what, in the prevailing tone of moral relaxation, is counted the allowable purloining of your earlier days! But a sense of your heavenly Master's eye has brought another influence to bear upon you; and while you are thus striving to adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things, you may, poor as you are, reclaim the great ones of the land to the acknowledgment of the faith. You have, at least, taught me that to preach Christ, is the only effective way of preaching morality in all its branches; and out of your humble cottages have I gathered a lesson, which I pray God I may be enabled to carry with all its simplicity into a wider theatre, and to bring, with all the power of its subduing efficacy upon the vices of a more crowded population."
In 1815 Dr. Chalmers was translated to the[Pg 120] Tron church of Glasgow, and here displayed all the resources of his brilliant and vigorous mind. Fired with a generous ardor for the salvation of souls, he poured the truth of God upon rapt and crowded congregations. In addition to the indefatigable performance of his ministerial duties, he embarked with eagerness in plans for the amelioration of the condition of the poor. He urged the importance of free school education, and although he had to encounter much prejudice, he accomplished a large amount of good for the city of Glasgow. His views upon this subject are developed in a large work, published at the time, on the "Christian and Civic Condition of Large Towns,"—a production somewhat elaborate and diffuse, but abounding in important suggestions and earnest appeals.
In 1816 he was invited to preach before the King's Commissioner in the High Church of Edinburgh. His discourse on that occasion comprised the essence of his astronomical sermons, and was probably "as magnificent a display of eloquence as was ever heard from the pulpit." The effect upon the audience was immediate and electric. It broke upon them like a shower of light from the opening heavens. By means of this discourse his fame was perhaps first widely established. From that day crowds followed him wherever he went, and, to quote his own words, he began to feel the burden "of a popularity of stare, and pressure and animal heat."
In 1819 Dr. Chalmers removed to the new church[Pg 121] and parish of St. John's, in which place the writer, while a student at Glasgow College, had the pleasure of hearing some of his thrilling discourses. He was then in the hey-day of life, full of mental and bodily vigor, and preached with a rapidity, force, and pathos perfectly overwhelming. He continued to devote himself to the interests of the poor, and indeed took part in every plan which contemplated the welfare of society.
In 1823 he was elected Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of St. Andrews, "where he imparted a very different character to this course from the mere worldly cast which it too generally assumes in our universities." Firmly convinced of the great truths of the Gospel, he infused into his prelections the spirit of a profound and earnest godliness. While here, he also delivered a separate course of lectures on Political Economy, as connected with the chair of Moral Philosophy.
It may be supposed from his frequent changes that Dr. Chalmers was either a fickle or an ambitious man. But those best acquainted with the circumstances, feel assured that this could not possibly have been the case. He neither increased his income nor his popularity by means of these changes, and all, we doubt not, were made with a view to greater usefulness. In one instance, certainly, he proved his disinterestedness by refusing the most wealthy living in the Church of Scotland, the west parish of Greenock, which was presented to him by the patron.
He was more than once offered an Edinburgh[Pg 122] church, but uniformly declined it; as he had long conceived that his widest sphere of usefulness was a theological chair. He was accordingly elected to this office, in the University of Edinburgh, and soon attracted the attention of a large and enthusiastic class of students. His lectures were able and brilliant; but this, in our judgment, was not the principal cause of his success. It consisted, as we believe, in his own ardor and enthusiasm, and the consequent ardor and enthusiasm which he inspired in his pupils. "At one time the object of the young men seemed to be to evade attendance on the Divinity Lecture; now the difficulty became to get a good place to hear their eloquent instructor." By this means much good was accomplished for the Church of Scotland, by diffusing amongst its ministry a true evangelical spirit. Still we believe that Dr. Chalmer's true sphere of labor was the pulpit, and that here alone he could exert his widest influence. It is true he preached occasionally while occupying the chair of Divinity, and gave a series of lectures on Church Establishments, which at that time he earnestly defended. "He considered that each established church throughout the land may be termed a centre of emanation, from which Christianity, with proper zeal, be made to move by an aggressive and converting operation, on the wide mass of the people; whilst a dissenting chapel he views as a centre of attraction only for those who are religiously disposed." Recently the Doctor has found his centre of emanation sadly curtailed. The union of church[Pg 123] and state has proved, even to him, a prodigious hindrance and difficulty—a proof this, that theory and fact are very different things.
It was while Professor of Theology in Edinburgh, as we believe, that he visited London, and attracted so much attention by his sermons and lectures. While there, Mr. Canning, Lord Castlereagh, Lord Eldon, the Duke of Sussex, with several branches of the Royal Family, whom, as the journals remarked, "they were not accustomed to elbow at a place of worship," were found anxiously waiting to hear this modern Chrysostom. Caught by the irresistible charm of true genius and piety, they listened with wonder and delight to his honest and earnest appeals. They felt and acknowledged that his sermons, "as far transcended those of the mawkish productions to be frequently met with, as does the genius of Milton or of Newton surpass that of the common herd of poets and philosophers." It was a sublime sight to behold crowds of all ranks and conditions listening devoutly to the vehement exhortations of this man of God.
Dr. Chalmers, as all are aware, is the principal leader of the Free Church movement. He has[Pg 124] uniformly asserted the supremacy of Christ in his own church, and the right of the people to the election of their pastors. This being denied and withheld by the legal authorities in Scotland, Dr. Chalmers, and the noble host of ministers and churches that agreed with him, departed in a body from "the Established Kirk." In 1843 he relinquished his station as Professor of Theology in the University; and since that time has occupied the same office, in connection with "the Free Church of Scotland." He is now considerably advanced in years. His head is silvered with gray, and much of his natural strength is abated. But his mind is yet clear and strong, his heart calm and joyful; and we can only hope and pray that he may be spared many years to come, as an ornament to his country, and an honor to the Church.
It is not our purpose in this place to say much on the subject of the published works of Dr. Chalmers. These are quite voluminous. The English edition of his works consists of twenty-five duodecimo volumes. Of these the two first volumes on Natural Theology, the third and fourth on the Evidences of Christianity, the fifth on Moral Philosophy, the sixth, Commercial Discourses, the seventh, Astronomical Discourses, and the last four on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, are the most interesting and valuable. In style and arrangement,[Pg 125] in logic and definition, they possess some obvious defects, but ever indicate a genius of the highest order, a heart burning with love and zeal, a conscience void of offence toward God and toward all men; and a devotion, akin to that of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.
Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh—Rev. John Brown of Whiteburn—Professor John Brown of Haddington—Rev. Dr. Candlish—Specimen of his Preaching.
Before leaving the Edinburgh clergy, I wish to give you some account of the Rev. Dr. John Brown, minister of Broughton Place Chapel, and Professor of exegetical Theology in the United Secession Church, one of the most amiable and accomplished of the Scottish ministers. He is the son of the Rev. John Brown of Whiteburn, and the grandson of the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, of whom I shall have something to say before the close of the chapter.
Dr. Brown is between fifty and sixty years of age, with a fine form and expressive countenance. Rather tall and slender, he looks much as one might conceive the Apostle John to have done. His countenance is mild and dignified, nose slightly aquiline, brow arched and high, eyes dark and piercing, and his mouth indicative of mingled firmness and delicacy of character. His hair, once dark as the ravens, bears the marks of age and thought. In his youth, he was extremely vigorous and active; but he is evidently passing into "the sere and yellow leaf."
Dr. Brown is a man of decided talent, though distinguished more for clearness and strength of[Pg 127] intellect, than for genius and imagination. His mind is highly cultivated, but it seldom glows and sparkles. His discourses are always interesting and instructive, but not often thrilling or overpowering. They never fall below mediocrity, are always clear, sensible and useful, but perhaps never rise to the highest heaven of invention. In this respect he much resembles the celebrated Dr. Wardlaw, though, as a speaker, he is more effective. Dr. Wardlaw uniformly reads his sermons, Dr. Brown does not even use notes. He preaches probably from memory, as is the case with most of the Scottish clergy. They practice "the committing" of their sermons from their youth, and acquire astonishing facility in this exercise, on which account their preaching is often distinguished as much for its accuracy, as its energy and freedom. Dr. Brown appears to great advantage in the pulpit. His ease, energy, gracefulness and variety of tone, attitude, and expression, are equally striking. Occasionally he hesitates for a word, but never fails to find the right one. His language is remarkably full and accurate. His topics, too are uniformly well selected, clearly divided and thoroughly discussed. If he does not, like Chalmers, awe and subdue his audience, he seldom fails to interest and instruct them. His style is lucid and vivacious, and well adapted to useful practical preaching. A tone of deep and fervid piety pervades the whole, giving the impression that a man of God is addressing to you the messages of Heaven.[Pg 128]
Dr. Brown is orthodox, but liberal in his views and feelings. As a theologian he belongs to the school of the moderate Calvinists. In connection with the late amiable and accomplished Dr. Balmer of Berwick, he was called to account some years ago, for his views of the atonement, which he regards not as a restricted, but as a universal blessing, that is to say, as a blessing, intended for the benefit not of a class, but of the whole world. This gave rise to a war of words, and to much useless recrimination in the courts of the United Secession Church, which have left the matter pretty much where it was before. Dr. Brown's views, however, are becoming prevalent in Scotland.
Dr. Brown has done much to promote the study of Biblical Literature, which has received comparatively little attention in Scotland. As theologians the Scottish preachers are sound and practical, but with the exception of Dr. Campbell of Aberdeen, and Dr. McKnight of Edinburgh, they have not distinguished themselves for their critical investigations. A new spirit begins to prevail among them. The highly respectable denomination with which Dr. Brown is connected, is making rapid advances in this interesting branch of Biblical study.
Dr. Brown has taken an active part in the discussion of the question touching the seperation of Church and State, and has published one or two pamphlets upon the subject. In polemics he has always evinced a sober and generous spirit.[Pg 129]
The family, from which the subject of these remarks is descended, has been highly distinguished for its talents and piety. The most of its members have been eminent and useful preachers for several generations. Dr. Brown's father, the Rev. John Brown, of Whiteburn, was for many years one of the most devout and useful ministers of the Secession Church. Indeed, he was a perfect patriarch in the rural district, where he exercised his ministry. Every one knew him and loved him, as a man of singular goodness and apostolic zeal. When a boy the writer used to attend his church, and well does he remember his meek and venerable countenance, and the thrilling tones of his musical voice. He rode about his parish on an old white pony, fat and good-natured like his master; and never failed, when he met one of his youthful parishioners, to stop and enter into conversation with him. "Weel, my lad," he would say, patting my head, "how d'ye do—and how's your faither, and how's your mither? And a' the family, are they weel? Gie them my compliments. And now you maun be a good boy; dinna forget to say your prayers, and God will bless you. Gude day!" So off he would amble with a benignant smile, leaving a sweet and holy impression behind him, not forgotten to this very day. In preaching, Mr. Brown had a peculiar tone or tune, which at times was perfectly thrilling. He frequently used the Scottish dialect in the more pathetic and practical parts of his discourses, and by this means produced a great impression upon his simple-hearted hearers. His[Pg 130] style, too, was naturally quaint and terse, and this, set off by his benignant look, his varied and tender tones, often made his sermons very memorable. Some of his illustrations I remember now, though I ceased to hear him preach in my eighth year, having been removed to another part of the country. The following are specimens, perhaps not the best that might be given, but certainly characteristic. "There are three sorts of folks in the world; the butterfly, the wasp, and the bee. The butterfly is the gaudy fool, the wasp is the malicious wicked, but the bee is the gude Christian!" Imagine this, and the following, uttered with a peculiar sing-song and most expressive look and emphasis. "When ye see reek coming out at the chimney, ye may conclude there's fire in the house; so, when ye hear a man cursing and swearing, ye may be sure that the fire of hell is kindled in that man's heart!" "O my friends, hold on and persevere in the good ways of the Lord. A few more losses and crosses, a few more troubles and trials, and we'll cross the swellings o' Jordan, and then, O then, we'll sit and sing thegither on the hills of Zion!" "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. O the heart of our heavenly Father is a heart of tenderness and love. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Why, only think on't—ye'r his ain dear bairns; he'll tak you by the han', and lead you through the wilderness, till he bring you safe to the Heavenly Canaan, the hame of his children, the inheritance of his family!"
Good old man! he has gone, long since, to that[Pg 131] blessed "hame" where faithful ministers meet their beloved flocks, and "sing together on the hills of Zion!"
Mr. Brown had a brother Ebenezer, minister of Inverkeithing, who was still more distinguished as a preacher. In his boyhood he was "a great rogue," and used to teaze his "douce" and pious brother John, and occasion a good deal of trouble to his worthy father. But he was converted when a young man, and became an exceedingly devout and eloquent preacher. I had the pleasure of hearing him preach once in the open air, at a sacramental occasion connected with his brother's congregation in Whiteburn, but have a very indistinct recollection of the discourse. But I well remember his earnest look, and the thrilling tones of his powerful voice. He was of small stature, but spoke with great force and vehemence, and occasionally with the same sing-song voice, common among the old Scottish preachers. The congregation was rapt: a solemn stillness pervaded the atmosphere all around, so that one could hear the chirpings of the grasshopper, and the song of the bird in the neighboring woods, during the pauses of his long and earnest sentences.
The father of John Brown of Whiteburn, and grandfather of Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, was the celebrated professor John Brown, author of the Self-Interpreting Bible, Exposition of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism, and other works; and teacher of Theology in the United Secession Church. He was an extraordinary man. When a poor[Pg 132] shepherd boy, he conceived the idea of learning Latin and Greek, and having procured a few old books, actually accomplished the task, while tending his cattle on the hills. So successful was he, that some of the old and superstitious people in the neighborhood concluded that he must have been assisted by "the evil spirit." On one occasion he went to Edinburgh, plaided and barefoot, walked into a bookseller's shop, and asked for a Greek Testament. "What are you going to do with a Greek Testament?" said the bookseller. "Read it," was the prompt reply. "Read it!" exclaimed the sceptical bookseller, with a smile; "ye may have it for nothing if ye'll read it." Taking the book, he quietly read off a few verses, and gave the translation; on which he was permitted to carry off the Greek Testament in triumph.
Professor Brown was an eminently holy man. He was equally distinguished for his simplicity and dignity of character. His preaching was much admired by old and judicious persons. On one occasion, when he and others were assisting a brother minister in services preparatory to the celebration of the Lord's Supper, which services in Scotland usually take place on the last days of the week preceding the "sacramental sabbath," and are frequently held in the open air, a couple of gay young men had been out hunting, and on their return home drew near to the large congregation who were listening at that moment to the preaching of an eloquent but somewhat showy divine. After standing a few moments, the one said to the other, "Did[Pg 133] you ever hear such preaching as that?" "No," he replied with an oath, "but he don't believe a word of it!" After this preacher had closed, there stood up, in the "tent," (a temporary pulpit erected in the open air for the accommodation of the ministers,) an old, humble looking man, who announced his text in a trembling voice, as if he were afraid to speak in God's name. He went on, and became more and more interesting, more and more impressive. The young men were awed, and listened with reverent attention to the close, when the one, turning to the other, said, "And what d'ye think of that?" "Think of it," he replied, "I don't know what to think. Why, didn't you see how every now and then he turned round in the tent, as if Jesus Christ were behind him, and he was asking, 'Lord, what shall I say next?'" This preacher was John Brown, the secret of whose pulpit eloquence was, the inspiration of an humble and contrite heart, touched by the finger of the Almighty; an eloquence as far transcending that of the mere orator as the divine and heavenly transcends the human and earthly. This too, was the eloquence of the early Scottish preachers,—of Knox and Rutherford, of Guthrie and Erskine, of Cameron and Boston. This fired the hearts of the people with a holy and all-conquering zeal; this shed a glory over the death of the martyrs, and diffused among their descendants the love of "the Covenant" and the love of God. May this ever continue to be the eloquence not only of the Church in Scotland but of the Church throughout the world!
There is one other preacher in Edinburgh, of[Pg 134] whom it would be desirable to give a full-length portrait. I refer to Dr. Candlish, certainly one of the most popular and effective preachers in the Free Church of Scotland. But I am not in possession of the materials for such a portrait, having heard him preach only once, and being imperfectly acquainted with the events of his life. He is probably about forty-five years of age, rather short of stature, and not particularly imposing or prepossessing in appearance. His face is rather long and sallow, but set off by an immense forehead, dark bushy hair, and a pair of fine black eyes. He stands bolt upright in the pulpit, and speaks in a clear, strong, deliberate, yet rapid voice. Judging from his published discourses, and the single specimen which I heard, I should think him destitute of pathetic power. He is evidently most at home in the regions of ratiocination. His language is copious, energetic, and harmonious. In clearness and finish it is decidedly superior to that of Chalmers, and little inferior to Robert Hall's. It possesses a stateliness, combined with a bounding energy, which render it very effective. His method is remarkably lucid, and his reasoning strong and convincing. In fancy, in touching pathos, in overwhelming energy, in the vivid lightning flashes of genius, he is greatly inferior to Chalmers; but in clearness of definition, in compactness and purity of style, in strength of logic, and in completeness of arrangement and finish, he must be acknowledged superior. His discourses are highly evangelical. They abound in clear and instructive statements, and defences of[Pg 135] the cardinal truths of the Gospel. If deficient, it is in directness and pungency of appeal, in holy pathos, in solemn and subduing unction.
As a debater, Dr. Candlish stands pre-eminent. He may not possess the ponderous strength of Cunningham, the overpowering energy of Chalmers, the quick and versatile humor of Guthrie, or the eloquent polish of Buchanan. But he possesses, in unusual combination, clearness of method, logical acumen, force and beauty of style, and an easy, graceful, commanding elocution. When Chalmers dies, we predict that Candlish will be the leader in the courts of the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr. Candlish has published quite a number of occasional sermons, and a volume of lectures on the record of the Creation in the book of Genesis. These lectures are interesting and instructive, but to our taste, they are too diffuse and elaborate, and not sufficiently critical, or rather exegetical and compact. They say much about a thing, without actually saying the thing itself. But this is rather the fault of their design or plan, than of their execution, which as a whole indicates a high degree of talent. They contain many fine passages, and valuable suggestions.
Among his published discourses, one of the best is on the "Incompetency of Reason, and the Fitness of Revelation;" from Acts xvii. 23. "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." The following passage from that discourse will give a fair idea of his power. Speaking of[Pg 136] the mournful condition of those who delight to investigate the works of God, but have never found God himself, he says:—"They may feel a proud and high satisfaction, arising from the importance of the knowledge acquired in the successful employment of their powers and faculties of mind. But brethren, they scarcely meet, in all the various and diversified tracks which they take, and in all the endless varieties of objects which encounter their judgments—they scarcely ever meet their God; they scarcely ever find him in the way; they scarcely ever seek him. In the wondrous elements, the richly scattered treasures of power, and wisdom and goodness, through which they make their progress, they cannot shut their eyes to the presence of God; they must acknowledge a God: but it is God with attributes of their own choosing, not the God of Scripture,—the God of nature, not the God of justice. Him they exclude from their view; Him they do not like to retain in their thoughts; and in the circumstances in which they cultivate the idea of a God, if mingling in their researches at all, they strip their ideas of all which might remind them of their unsettled controversy with Him. Conceive of a man in such a state, so blind as to have exercised his powers of discovery, in the full blaze of all the glory and the terrible majesty of a just God and a Saviour, without really finding him, condemned to carry on his future work of discovery with a clear and startling apprehension of all the moral attributes of God—his holiness,—his justice,—his truth—all as manifested[Pg 137] in the cross of Christ, and all still carried on in a carnal mind and a self-condemned heart. Where now will be the joy of his lofty inquiries? Where now the triumph of his lofty powers of knowledge? Every object he contemplates now, is connected with the idea of a righteous God; every subject he can examine now, is fraught with the presence of a righteous God; every new ray of light that meets his eye, reveals to him a righteous God; every sound carries to his ear the name of God, repeated by a thousand echoes. He can make no experiment now that will not show him more of the wonders and terrors of God. He can look at nothing, he can think of nothing, that does not speak to him of God, and remind him of his justice: and all the bold traces of his profound discoveries regarding nature, now do but suggest reminiscences of nature's God as a God of judgment; and so the very faculty which was ever his pride and admiration,—the capacity of deep reflection and enlightened inquiry, does but add new sting and torture to his reprobate mind, by suggesting always, everywhere, and in all things, new images and representations of that awful, that Almighty Being, whom he has chosen to make his foe."
Ride into the Country—The Skylark—Poems on the Skylark by Shelley and the 'Ettrick Shepherd'—Newhall—'The Gentle Shepherd'—Localities and Outlines of the Story—Its Popularity in Scotland.
'Tis a beautiful morning in early June. The sun is peeping over Arthur's Seat, and glancing from the turrets of the old Castle. The carriage is ready, and Sandy the driver is cracking his whip with impatience. So, take your place, and let us be off. Passing 'Bruntsfield Links' we plunge into the very heart of the country, so rich and varied, with park and woodland scenery, handsome villas, and sweet acclivities. Yonder is Merchiston Castle, the birth-place of the celebrated Napier, the inventor of Logarithms. A little further on, we reach the smiling village of Morningside, and pass some pretty country residences, with pleasant grounds and picturesque views. We enter a narrow and thickly wooded dell, through which tinkles a small rivulet, called the Braid Burn. At the bottom we come to the Braid Hermitage, as sweet a sylvan retreat as ever greeted the eye of the rural wanderer. Those rocky heights above us are the Braid Hills, from which can be enjoyed some of the most splendid views in Scotland. Leaving the carriage a few minutes we ascend that lofty eminence, and gaze, with delight upon[Pg 139] the vast and beautiful landscape, including the city of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth, with its "emerald islands," and the winding shores of Fife in the distance. Blackford hill, a little to the north of us is the spot mentioned in "Marmion:"
Descending from the hill we resume our journey, musing on the days of old, when "shrill fife and martial drum" awakened the echoes of these peaceful[Pg 140] vales, now resounding with the melody of birds. How delightful the gushing music of those sky-larks, which descends upon us from "heaven's gates," like a shower of "embodied gladness." Why, it seems as if a hundred of them were soaring "i' the lift," and singing with a joyous energy, akin to that of the blessed spirits in heaven. To me, the lark is the noblest of all birds, the most pure and spirit-like of all aerial songsters. In Scotland, too, she seems to sing the sweetest and strongest. Others may praise the nightingale, if they please, and my own heart has often thrilled, to hear, at the "witching time of night," her wild and melancholy strain from some English copsewood, or Italian grove. But nothing so rich and beautiful, so spirit-like and divine ever greeted my ear as the glad singing of the heaven-aspiring lark. It seemed as if the very spirit of song had taken wings, and were ascending to God, in a flood of melody. But listen to the following strains written by Shelley under the inspiration of the sky-lark's song:
Inferior to this, but still very beautiful, more natural, and more especially Scottish, are the following lines to the Skylark by the "Ettrick Shepherd:"[Pg 143]
Filled with these pleasant images, we pursue our journey, and wind along the edge of the Pentland Hills, with their thrilling memories of "Auld-lang-syne;" pass the "bonnie braes" of Woodhouselee, and reach old Glencorse Church, "bosomed high 'mong tufted trees;" cross "a bonnie burn," called "Logan Water," and get a glimpse of "House of Muir," in the vicinity of which the old Scottish Covenanters met with a terrible slaughter, from General Dalzell of Binns, the "bluidy Dalzell," as the Scots call him to this day. Passing through the humble village of Silver Burn, we reach Newhall,[Pg 144] once the residence of Dr. Pennycuick, a poet and an antiquary, and subsequently of the Forbes family highly distinguished for their talents and virtues. Disposing of our carriage, let us ramble, at our "own sweet will," amid those beautiful grounds. The mansion of Newhall, once a battlemented castle of the Crichtoun family, stands on the left bank of the North Esk, within a curvature of the stream, under the shadow of the Pentland Hills. On either side is a deep ravine, terminating in the glen of the Esk, one of the most romantic spots in Scotland. Passing round on the eastern side, we gaze down into the ravine, overhung by the remains of a small round tower, and densely shaded with tangled trees. A dark rill gurgles at the bottom, here and there leaping into beautiful cascades, and flinging its glittering spray among the dark woods. Passing to the other side, we come to what was formerly the site of an old prison and chapel, encircled by a pleasant walk. The ravine beneath is filled with trees and shrubbery, but has no stream. From this point the eye glances up through the wooded glen, echoing with the songs of the mavis and the linnet, and over to a mineral well, sheltered by copsewood and pines.
But Newhall, and the grounds around it, derive their chief interest from their connection with the well-known pastoral poem of "Allan Ramsay." The very air seems redolent with the poetry of "The Gentle Shepherd." Leaving the house, we reach a little "haugh," or low sheltered spot, where the Esk and the rivulets from the Harbour Craig[Pg 145] mingle their waters. At the side of the stream are some romantic gray crags, directly fronting the south, and looking up a turn in the glen. These, adorned with green birches, shrubs, and copsewood, and shading the limpid stream which makes a curve, and then glides underneath their overhanging cliffs, form "a shady bield," completely protected from observation. In this spot is laid the first act of "The Gentle Shepherd."
Ascending the vale, and just behind the house, we come to a considerable holm or green, with the babbling burn, now gentler in its movement, winding sweetly among the white pebbles. At the head of this quiet retreat, on the edge of the burn, are the ruins of an ancient washing-house, protected by an aged thorn. It was here that the "twa lasses" proposed to wash their "claes," unseen by their lovers.
A little further up the burn we come to a hollow, a little beyond what is called "Mary's Bower," where the Esk divides it in the middle, and forms a linn or cascade, called the "How Burn;" a small enclosure above is called the "Braehead Park;" and[Pg 146] this hollow beneath the cascade with its bathing pool and little green, its rocks and birches, its wild shrubs and natural flowers, and general air of sequestered and romantic beauty, in every respect corresponds with the poet's exquisite description of the spot called "Habbie's Howe."
Ascending yet further, at a place called the "Carlops," (a contraction of "Carline's Loups," so called, in consequence of a witch or carline having been seen leaping, at night, from one rock to another,) two tall rocks shoot up on either side. Near this, by the side of that old ash tree, stood Mause's Cottage.
With these localities in our mind, let us sit down on this "gowan'd brae," and run over the story of "The Gentle Shepherd," one of the most graphic[Pg 147] pictures of Scottish manners, and one of the sweetest pastorals in any language.
Patie or Patrick, a humble shepherd-lad, born and bred in the region we have entered, about the middle of the seventeenth century, was a handsome fellow, and remarkably distinguished for his good temper and rustic accomplishments. He was of a gay-hearted cheerful disposition, and made the woods and hills ring again with his mirthful songs. Moreover, he was sensible and well-informed. His mind, indeed, was superior to his station; still he was contented and happy.
Symon Scott, a worthy man and a wealthy farmer, with whom Patie had lived from his childhood, was a tenant of Sir William Preston's, owner of the neighboring lands, who, to save his head, he having taken part with the royalists, had fled his native country, and was living abroad, no one knew where.
Patie loved Peggy Forsyth, a "neebor lassie," of excellent character and great beauty, who fully requited his attachment. This girl was the reputed niece of Glaude Anderson, a comfortable farmer, and a tenant of Sir William's. He had found her one summer morning, at his door, carefully wrapped in swaddling clothes. Being a warm-hearted man, he had adopted the little stranger as his own relative.
The interviews and conversations of the lovers, and their friends, Roger and Jenny, who after some embarrassments from Jenny's independence, are found to be warmly attached to each other are[Pg 148] related by the dramatist with great beauty and simplicity. The reader sees them at early morn, or amid the shadows of the gloaming, wandering by the "bonnie burnie's side," and with hearts of innocence, giving themselves up to the full enjoyment of nature's beauties and their own sweet affections. Glaude and Symon are fine specimens of the honest and hospitable farmers of Scotland. The house of the former is such as one often sees in the rural districts:
The character and fate of Bauldy are graphically described. He is a wealthy but vulgar minded farmer, attached to Peggy, and resolved, if possible, to withdraw her affections from Patie and secure them for himself. For this purpose he has recourse to Mause, a sensible and worthy old woman, but reputed a witch, from her superiority to the common people. Mause agrees to assist him, but secretly resolves to expose his ignorance and punish his effrontery. The following is Bauldy's account of the matter:
Tidings had arrived that Sir William, who had now been absent several years, might be expected home, as the king was restored and the royal party was now predominant.
This tidings created the liveliest sensations of joy among Sir William's tenantry, as he was much beloved for his kindness and generosity of disposition. Old Symon Scott and Glaude Anderson were especially delighted, and resolved, each of them, to celebrate the event with a feast. Symon however had already begun to make preparations for a banquet, to which he invited Glaude and all the old and young people of the neighborhood:
While they are engaged Sir William appears among the young people on the green, in the garb of a fortune teller. Jenny runs into the house and tells her father, who, particularly good-natured and hospitable at such an hour, replies:—
This being the case, all are astonished at the old man's knowledge, who goes on to predict that Patie, one of these days, will be a rich laird.
Old Symon, by the request of the spaeman, goes out to meet him, and they have much conversation together. At length—
They converse concerning Patie, who is actually Sir William's son and heir, and agree to make known his true position. This is accordingly done, and produces great excitement among the parties. Patie is glad and sorrowful at the same time, and Peggy sees nothing in it but disappointment and grief. A gulf has intervened between her and Patie, and she feels that she must give him up for ever. But Patie assures her of his constant affection, and the "puir thing" absolutely "greets for joy to hear his words sae kind."[Pg 152]
But all parties are sent for to Symon's house—
All then are assembled—
Bauldy, however, confesses his wrong, and adds—
Mause then relates how Peggy's life being threatened by a wicked aunt, who wished to take possession of her estate, she herself had stolen her away, in the dead of night, and travelled with her some fifty miles, and left her at Glaud's door; that she had taken a cottage in the vicinity, and had watched over the child ever since. All of course are delighted with this discovery. The betrothment of Patie and Peggy is sanctioned by Sir William; and even Bauldy
Sir William bestows upon "faithful Symon," and "kind Glaud," and upon their heirs, "in endless fee," their "mailens," or farms, and takes old Mause into his family, in peace
Glaud consents to give Jenny to Roger, who says;
To which, Sir William adds, summing up the whole:
Thus ends the "Gentle Shepherd," which with all its faults, possesses an inimitable charm. In Scotland it is a sort of household poem. Every one, young and old, reads it with delight. Indeed,[Pg 156] it is probably the most popular pastoral drama ever written. The common people, in the rural districts of Scotland, know it by heart. The Bible, the Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe and "the Gentle Shepherd" are read by them a thousand times more than any other book.
Biographical Sketch of Allan Ramsay—Lasswade—Ramble along the banks of the North Esk—Glenesk—A Character—Anecdote of Sir W. Scott—Hawthornden—Drummond the Poet—His Character and Genius—Sonnets—Chapel and Castle of Roslin—Barons of Roslin—Ballad of Rosabelle—Hunting Match between Robert Bruce and Sir William St. Clair.
Leaving Habbie's Howe, we will let Sandy drive us along the banks of the river, through Auchindinny, Roslin and Hawthornden, to the pretty village of Lasswade, where we will spend the night. Sandy can take the carriage back to Edinburgh, and to-morrow we will ramble on foot through the classic shades of Roslin and Hawthornden, visit Dalkeith and some other places, and return to Edinburgh by the railway. In the meantime I will give you some account of Allan Ramsay.
Allan was born on the 15th of October, 1686, in Crawford Muir, Lanarkshire, and died in the city of Edinburgh, in the year 1784. He was at first a wigmaker, and afterwards a bookseller. In 1726 he kept a little bookstore opposite Niddry's Wynd in the city of Edinburgh, whence he removed to another, somewhat more commodious at the east end of the Luckenbooths, having exchanged his old sign of Mercury for the heads of Ben Jonson and Drummond of Hawthornden, whom he greatly[Pg 158] admired. His early education was limited. He attended the village school at Leadhills, where, as he himself informs us, he acquired just learning enough to read Horace "faintly in the original." Of a vigorous constitution, and a cheerful temper, he spent his time happily in the country, till his fifteenth year, though his lot seems to have been a hard one.
He went to Edinburgh, a poor country boy, and gradually made his way to competence, and respectability. Whether he was particularly successful as a wigmaker we are not informed; but he found the trade of bookseller infinitely more congenial. Ensconced behind his counter, he could study, write poetry, chat with his customers, and publish his own lucubrations. His first principal poem was "Christ's Kirk on the Green," a continuation of King James's poem of the same name, a rough but graphic and humorous picture of rustic revelry. Its indelicacy is rather gross, but it has all the vigor and humor of Hogarth's pictures. His other poems, containing songs, fables, pastorals, complimentary verses (of which he has a very large number,) stories and epistles are quite numerous. They contain a large amount of trash, with[Pg 159] here and there some beautiful gems. He is mainly successful in Scottish verse. His imitations of the English poets are rather poor. "The Vision" is one of his ablest productions. The Genius of Scotland is painted "with a touch of the old heroic Muse:"
But his most popular production is the "Gentle Shepherd" which appeared in 1725—and was received with enthusiasm, not only in Scotland, but in England and Ireland. It was much admired by Pope and Gay, the latter of whom, when on a visit to Scotland, with the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, used to lounge in Allan Ramsay's shop, and obtain from him explanations of the Scottish expressions that he might communicate them to Pope.
Allan uniformly had an eye to the "main chance." He sedulously courted the great, and[Pg 160] managed to accumulate a good many pennies. "In the mingled spirit of prudence and poetry," he contrived
He was foolish enough however to lay out his gains in the erection of a theatre which was prohibited by the magistrates, as an injury to good morals. So that Allan lost his cash and his pains together, and not only so, but his good temper. This exposed him to much obloquy, in part perhaps deserved. He was somewhat Jacobinical in his views, and hated the Presbyterian clergy, who were afraid of him, as "a half papist," and a some what licentious writer. Hence he lampooned them with great severity, in consequence of which he was pretty well lampooned in his turn.
After all Allan was a true poet, and by no means a bad man. He was honest, kind-hearted and cheerful. Some of his poetical strains indicate much elevation and tenderness of spirit.
In personal appearance he was somewhat peculiar. The following amusing description he has given of himself:
Allan never suffered his poetry to interfere with his business. Indeed he abandoned verse altogether in the latter part of his life, rightly judging that he might not equal his earlier productions, and feeling moreover that other and more serious engagements demanded his attention. The following epistle to Mr. Smibert, an eminent painter and intimate friend, dated Edinburgh, 10th May, 1736, is highly characteristic;
"My Dear old Friend:—
Your health and happiness are ever ane addition to my satisfaction. God make your life ever easy and pleasant. Half a century of years have now row'd oe'r my brow, that begins now to be[Pg 162] lyart; yet thanks to my Author, I eat, drink, and sleep as sound as I did twenty years syne; yes, I laugh heartily too, and find as many subjects to employ that faculty upon as ever; fools, fops and knaves, grow as rank as formerly, yet here and there are to be found good and worthy men, who are ane honor to human life. We have small hopes of seeing you again in our world; then let us be virtuous and hope to meet in heaven. My good auld wife is still my bedfellow; my son Allan has been pursuing your science since he was a dozen years auld—was with Mr. Hyffidg, at London, for some time, about two years ago—has been since at home, painting here like a Raphael—sets out for the seat of the beast, beyond the Alps, in a month hence—to be away about two years. I'm sweer to part with him, but canna stem the current which flows from the advice of his patrons and his own inclination. I have three daughters, one of seventeen, one of sixteen, and one of twelve years of old, and no rewayled dragle among them, all fine girls. These six or seven years past I have not written a line of poetry. I e'en gave over in good time, before the coolness of fancy, that attends advanced years, should make me risk the reputation I had acquired.Frae twenty-five to five and forty,
My muse was neither sweer nor dorty,
My Pegasus wad break her tether,
E'en at the shagging of a feather;[Pg 163]
And throw ideas scour like drift,
Streaking his wings up to the lift;
Then when my soul was in a low
That gart my numbers safely row;
But eild and judgment gin to say,
Let be your sangs and learn to pray.
I am, Sir, your friend and servant,
In 1743 his circumstances were such as enabled him to build a small octagon shaped house on the north side of the Castle Hill, which he named Ramsay Lodge, but which some of his witty friends compared to a goose pie. He told Lord Elibank one day of this ungracious comparison. "What," said the witty peer, "a goose pie! In good faith, Allan, now that I see you in it, I think the house is not ill named." He lived in this odd-looking edifice till the day of his death, enjoying the society of his friends, and cracking his jokes with perhaps greater quietness, but with as much gust and hilarity as ever. He was a man of genius, and has exerted great influence on the lighter literature of Scotland. He was an immense favorite with Burns, his equal in genius, his superior in depth of feeling, in tenderness and beauty of expression. But Burns doubtless owed something to the "wood notes wild," of his illustrious predecessor. Both have done much to illustrate and beautify their native land.
Next morning at early dawn we are rambling in[Pg 164] and around the pretty village of Lasswade, which lies so sweetly on the left bank of the North Esk. The river runs in many charming sinuosities through the parish, now passing over a smooth ledge of rocks, then "wimpling" over shining pebbles, then gliding with a scarcely perceptible motion "among the green braes," now wetting the pendant branches of the birch and broom, anon sleeping in a deep pellucid pool, then leaping "o'er a linn," and then gushing with a hollow murmur, among the loose gray rocks. Nothing can be more beautiful and picturesque. Many pretty cottages and handsome villas adorn the neighborhood. De Quincy, the celebrated English "opium eater" lives here, and Sir Walter Scott at one time occupied a cottage in the vicinity. The following is a happy description from his pen, of the enchanting scenes through which the North and South Esk flow. It is taken from his ballad of the "Grey Brother."
It is not surprising that multitudes from Edinburgh come to reside here in the summer time; for what with the varied scenery of rock and river, copsewood and fell, the pleasant associations of the present, and the thrilling memories of "Auld lang syne," no region can be more attractive and agreeable.
Sauntering along, we approach Glenesk, so called from the deep and charming glen, formed by the winding river. Yonder is an old man at work in his garden, who looks quite patriarchal, and I dare say knows a good deal of the neighborhood. Let us accost him.
"Good morning, sir!"
"Gude mornin' gentlemen!"
"You seem to be quite early in your garden this morning."
"Ou aye, we maun mak hay while the sun shines, ye ken, and this is a graund time for planting."[Pg 166]
"You have lived in the neighborhood a considerable time, I presume."
"A' my days."
"Well, it's a beautiful country."
"Ou aye, it's weel eneuch. My faither before me lived in that bit housie out yonder amang the trees, and he used aften to say, gude auld man! that the lines had fallen to us in pleasant places, and that we had a goodly heritage. For my pairt, I like the country unco weel. The burn there is verra pleasant, its sae caller like, wimpling amang the rocks and bushes. And what's mair to the pint, it has got a fouth of fine fish in 't, though thae new fangled mills are frightening them awa."
"Trout, I suppose."
"Yes, sir, and fine anes too. Ah! mony's the day I hae paidlt in that burn, when a wee bit callant, catching the trout amang the stanes, when the water was low."
"Did you know any thing of Sir Walter Scott? He used to live near Lasswade, and I dare say often wandered this way to fish."
"Ken him! That I did fu' weel. And an honest freendly man he was. He cam up the burn every noo and then, sometimes wi' a fishing-rod, and sometimes wi' a staff in his han. He and I got weel acquaint after a time, for he was nane o' your upstarts, but an unco frank, freespoken kind of a man. Not that he talked sae muckle himsel, but he was aye askin about something or ither, and[Pg 167] kept my tongue waggin' a' the time. Ah yes, Sir Walter was a canny man. He knew the hail kintra side, and used to spier a great many questions about the ways o' the auld folks. One day he cam alang the burn side, wi' anither gentleman. I happened to be working down there. His line got tangled in a stane, and he got me to fetch it out. He then coost it into the deep pule below, making the flee skim alang the top o' the water, as skeelfully as onything ye ever saw. When up louped a muckle spotted trout, and in a moment dragged the line to the other side, then spanked up the burn at an unco rate, running the line aff the reel, which birred like a spinnin' wheel. Sir Walter hobbled after it as weel as he could. He was lame, ye ken, but managed to move pretty quick. The trout plunged and flounced over the shallow water, got into another deep pule, and ran into the bank, in the hollow of twa big stanes that were lying there. Now, cried Sir Walter, I have you my boy; so he kept jerkin awa at him, and out he cam again, when Sir Walter gave him a wallop, and laid him flat amang the gowans. 'Twas a bonny sight, I tell you. The trout was nae less than a fit and a quarter lang, as thick as my arm, and spotted all o'er wi' shining spots, like a leopard. Sir Walter was unco pleased—rubbed his hans', and every now and then broke into a smile, as he cracked some joke about the trout. Hech! it was a guid sight for sair een—to see Sir Walter after the trout, and specially to see the trout walloping amang the gowans."[Pg 168]
"But don't you think that it was rather cruel sport?"
"Cruel! why man, the fish kens naething ava, and out o' its ain element, it gets choked in a minute. And, for my pairt, I dinna see what fish is guid for, if not to be catch'd and eaten, specially the big anes! My gude auld faither used often to say to us, 'Boys, ye mauna be cruel to the dumb beasts, and when ye gang a fishing, be sure to let the wee fish gae.'"
"Your father was a worthy man, I dare say."
"That he was, I can assure you. He was respeckit by the hail kintra side. When auld and feeble, he wud sit before the door, on a divot seat, the hail simmer day, wi' a braid bonnet on his head, and a lang staff by his side, reading the Bible, or maybe 'Pilgrim's Progress,' or takin' wi' the neebors wha cam to see him."
"Did he belong to the established kirk?"
"Na, na, he was ane o' the auld Covenanters, and used to talk a deal about Cameron and McMillen, as unco powerfu' preachers. He thocht the present times were wonderfu' degenerate, that the solemn League and Covenant o' Scotland was amaist forgotten, and that the people now-a-days were a sort o' inferior race. But he was a gude man; unco pleasant to look upon, and unco pleasant to hear, when he talked o' the faithfulness o' Israel's God, and the comfort and blessedness of being his children. When he deed, he seemed to fa' asleep. A smile was on his pale face, and his han' lay upon his breast, as it were in token of resignation to the will[Pg 169] o' heaven. He lies buried in the auld kirk-yard, o'er yonder, wi' the words on his head-stane at his ain request, 'Blessed are the deed that dee in the Lord.'"
"Are you too a Cameronian?"
"Why no, to tell ye the honest truth. The auld Cameronians are amaist a' gane; and I just gang o'er here to the free kirk, where, to my notion, we hae as guid sound preachin as ye'll meet wi' in the hail kintra side. I'm no sae gude a man as my faither; but I canna forget his counsels and his prayers."
"Have you any family, my friend?"
"Ou aye. A bit callant, and twa strapping lasses, one of whom is married."
"Well, that's a comfort."
"A great comfort, sir, in my auld days. Jeanie is weel married, and has bairns o' her ain. Marion wad a been married, but she was kind a skary, and so she stays at hame. The bit callant is no my ain, but a neebor's son that we adopted frae pity, seeing his mither is puir, and his faither was lost at sea."
"And your wife, is she well?"
"Well! Aye, that she is—in heaven! She's been gane these five years—(here the tears started in the old man's eyes.) We maun a' dee. (A brief pause.) But, as my gude auld faither used to say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.'"
"Yes, my good old friend, the hope of a Christian, which you seem to cherish, is a source of infinite comfort. It sweetens the cares of life, and robs death of its sting. Good morning."[Pg 170]
"Gude mornin; and the Lord bless you!"
Ascending the river a short distance, we come to Hawthornden, once the property and residence of the celebrated poet and historian, William Drummond, the friend of Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. The house, originally constructed with reference to strength, surmounts the very edge of a precipitous cliff, which rises above the river. Winding around it are charming walks, among the green foliage, which fringes the summit and sides of the rock, down to the very edge of the water. Wild tangled bushes, flowering shrubs, birches and oak trees, are mingled in most picturesque and delightful confusion; while the gray cliffs here and there, peep out from their sylvan garniture as if sunning themselves in the summer radiance. Below, the stream, impeded in its course by huge ledges of rocks, hurries unseen, but distinctly heard, amid the woods; further on, emerges into the light of day, and forms a broad clear pool, on the banks of which you may see some industrious fisherman plying his rod.
Standing in front of it you see certain artificial[Pg 171] caves, hollowed with immense labor, out of the solid rock. These communicate with each other, and contain a well of prodigious depth bored from the court-yard of the mansion. The caves are reported by tradition to have been a stronghold of the ancient Pictish kings, and three of them bear respectively the name of 'the king's Gallery, the king's Bed-chamber and the king's Guard-room.' They were doubtless hewn out, as places of refuge, during the terrible wars between the English and the Picts, or the English and the Scots. In the reign of David II, when the English had possession of Edinburgh, they and the neighboring caves of Gorton afforded shelter to the heroic Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie and his adventurous band.
Adjoining the house, and overlooking the stream, a kind of seat is cut in the face of the rock, called 'Cypress Grove,' where Drummond is reported to have sat, in the fine summer weather, and composed many of his poems. The magnificent woods in the vicinity suggested to Peter Pindar the caustic remark respecting Dr. Samuel Johnson, that he
Crossing the river at a suitable place, we will saunter towards Roslin on the other side, and while doing so, will beguile the way by talking of Drummond, whose genius haunts every nook and corner of the shady dell.
William Drummond was born in 1585 and died in 1649. His father, John Drummond, was gentleman[Pg 172] usher to King James. He was hence educated in profound reverence for royalty and its prerogatives. Indeed his feelings upon this subject were entirely slavish; and it is said that his strong grief at the death of Charles the First hastened his death.
He was well versed in classic literature, and enjoyed the advantages of a refined and liberal education. Having studied civil law for four years in France, he succeeded in 1611 to an independent estate, and took up his residence in Hawthornden. Its cliffs, caves, and wooded dells were in harmony with his genius, and he spent many happy years in this beautiful retreat. His first publication was a volume of occasional poems, of various merit, to which succeeded a moral treatise, in prose, called "Cypress Grove," in allusion probably to the fairy nook on the face of the rock where he meditated and wrote, and a second poetical work entitled "Flowers of Zion." He also wrote the History of the Five James's, a production of no great merit, in which he urges, to an extravagant length, the doctrine of the absolute supremacy of kings. "The Cypress Grove" contains reflections upon death, written in a solemn and agreeable strain, and contains some fine passages. "This earth," says he, "is as a table book, and men are the notes; the first are washen out, that new may be written in. They who forewent us did leave room for us; and should we grieve to do the same to those who should come after us? Who, being suffered to see the exquisite rarities of an antiquary's cabinet, is grieved that[Pg 173] the curtain be drawn, and to give place to new pilgrims? And when the Lord of the Universe hath shown us the amazing wonders of his various frame, should we think it hard, when he thinketh time, to dislodge? This is his unalterable and inevitable decree; as we had no part of our will in our entrance into this life, we should not presume to any in our leaving it; but soberly learn to will that which he wills, whose very will giveth being to all that it wills."
The death of a beautiful young lady, to whom he was betrothed, affected him deeply; and he sought relief to his wounded feelings in foreign travel. On returning, some years afterwards, he met a young lady by the name of Logan, bearing a strong resemblance to the former object of his affections; on account of which he solicited and obtained her hand in marriage.
Drummond was intimate with Drayton and Ben Jonson. The latter paid him a visit at Hawthornden, and they had much free conversation together. Drummond kept private notes of these conversations, which subsequently saw the light, and were found to be somewhat injurious to Jonson's memory. But Drummond himself had no hand in their publication.
As a poet Drummond belonged to the school of Spenser, though far inferior to the latter in strength of conception and splendor of imagination. His poems are distinguished for their singular harmony and sweetness of versification. They seem to partake of the character of the quiet romantic[Pg 174] scenery amid which they were composed. His "Tears on the Death of Moeliades," (Prince Henry, son of James I.,) and his "River Forth Feasting," have been much admired. His sonnets, however, are his best productions. They flow with as much grace and beauty, (though not perhaps with the same variety,) as the romantic river which murmurs past his "wooded seat." His madrigals, complimentary verses, and other short pieces, abound in foolish conceits, and what is worse, in coarse and licentious language. But he was one of the best poets of the age, and only inferior to two or three of his great contemporaries.
The following sonnet—"To His Lute"—is very sweet. It was probably written after the death of the lady to whom he was betrothed;
His sonnet "In Praise of a Solitary Life" was written, we can well imagine, in his summer bower[Pg 175] on the banks of the Esk. It is peculiarly harmonious:
The following, "To a Nightingale," is still more beautiful:
But we have entered the vale of Roslin, and there, in its beauty, stands the Chapel of Roslin, one of the most exquisite architectural ruins in Scotland. It was founded in 1484, or even earlier[Pg 176] than that, by the Earl of Caithness and Orkney. The whole Chapel is profusely decorated with the most delicate sculpture both within and without. The roof, the capitals, key-stones and architraves, are all overlaid with sculpture, representing foliage and flowers, grotesque figures, sacred history and texts of Scripture. The fine fluted column called the "Apprentice's Pillar," so named from a tradition which no one believes, and which therefore we do not repeat, is exceedingly beautiful, being ornamented with wreaths of foliage and flowers twining around it in spiral columns. So perfect are these alto relievos, that the author of a pamphlet describing them, says that he can liken them to nothing but Brussels lace.
How solemn a thing it is in this chequered light, to wander amid these sounding aisles and ancient monuments! In the vaults beneath lie the Barons of Roslin, all of whom, till the time of James the Seventh, were buried without a coffin, in complete armor. This circumstance, and the vulgar belief that on the night preceding the death of any of these barons, the chapel appeared in flames, has been finely described by Walter Scott, in his touching ballad of Rosabelle.
We now pass over a bridge of great height, spanning a deep cut in the solid rock, and reach Roslin Castle, with its triple tier of vaults, standing upon a peninsular rock overhanging the romantic glen of the Esk. This castle was, for ages, the seat of the St. Clairs, or Sinclairs, descended from William de Sancto Clare, the son of Waldernus de Clare, who came to England with William the Conqueror, and fought at the battle of Hastings. The enumeration of their titles, says Sir Walter Scott, would take away the breath of a herald. Among others, they were Princes of the Orcades, Dukes of Oldenburgh, Lord Admirals of the Scottish Seas, Grand Justiciaries of the kingdom, Wardens of the border, Earls of Caithness, titularies of more than fifty baronies, patrons and Grand Masters of Masonry in Scotland, &c. &c.
Of the grandeur and opulence of the family, some conception may be derived from the following description, given in a manuscript in the "Advocate's Library," of the state maintained by William St. Clare, founder of the chapel.—"About that time (1440) the town of Roslin, being next to Edinburgh and Haddington in East Lothian, became very populous by the great concourse of all ranks and degrees[Pg 179] of visitors that resorted to this Prince, at his palace of the Castle of Roslin; for he kept a great court, and was royally served at his own table, in vessels of gold and silver, Lord Dirleton being his master of the household, Lord Borthwick his cup-bearer, and Lord Fleming his carver, &c. He had his halls and other apartments richly adorned with embroidered hangings. He flourished in the reigns of James the First and Second. His princess, Elizabeth Douglass, was served by seventy-five gentlewomen, whereof fifty-three were daughters of noblemen, all clothed in velvets and silks, with their chains of gold and other ornaments, and was attended by two hundred riding gentlemen in all her journeys; and if it happened to be dark when she went to Edinburgh, where her lodgings were at the foot of Blackfriars' Wynd, eighty lighted torches were carried before her."
The old castle is almost entirely gone, and the present structure is a comparatively modern one. It belongs to the Earl of Rosslyn, descended from a collateral branch of the St. Clair family.
It is interesting to think of the magnificent old barons who kept state in the mouldering castles which everywhere adorn the Scottish landscape. Some of them were noble specimens of humanity, but the greater proportion of them were but splendid barbarians. They led a sort of rude animal life, and were distinguished chiefly for their towering pride and ungovernable passion. The following story of a hunting match between King Robert Bruce and Sir William St. Clair, throws an[Pg 180] interesting light on the spirit of the age and the history of the St. Clair family. "The king had been repeatedly baulked by a fleet white deer which he had started in his hunt among the Pentland Hills; and having asked an assembled body of his nobles whether any dogs in their possession could seize the game that had escaped the royal hounds, Sir William St. Clair promptly offered to pledge his head that two favorite dogs of his called 'Help and Hold,' would kill the deer before she crossed the March burn. The king instantly accepted the knight's bold and reckless offer, and promised himself to give the forest of Pentland Moor in guerdon of success. A few slow hounds having been let loose to beat up the deer, and the king having taken post on the best vantage-ground for commanding a view of the chase, Sir William stationed himself in the fittest position for slipping his dogs, and in the true style of a Romanist, who asks a blessing upon a sin, and supposes the giver of the blessing to be a creature, earnestly prayed to St. Katherine to give the life of the deer to his dogs. Away now came the raised deer, and away in full chase went Sir William on a fleet-footed steed; and hind and hunter arrived neck and neck at the critical March burn. Sir William threw himself in a desperate fling from his horse into the stream; 'Hold,' just at this crisis of fate, stopped the deer in the brook, and 'Help' the next instant came up, drove back the chase, and killed her on the winning side of the stream. The king, who had witnessed the nicely poised result, came speedily down from[Pg 181] his vantage-ground, embraced Sir William, and granted him, in free forestry, the lands of Logan House, Kirkton, and Carncraig. Sir William, in gratitude for the fancied interference of St. Katherine in his favor, built the chapel of St. Katherine in the Hopes. The tomb of the wildly adventurous knight who was so canine in his nature as to reckon his life not too high a pledge for the fleetness and fierceness of his dogs, is still to be seen in Roslin chapel; and it very properly represents the sculpture of his armed person to be attended by a greyhound, as a joint claimant of the honor and fame of his exploits."
In the neighboring moor of Roslin is the scene of a great battle, in 1302, in which the Scottish army gained, in one day, three successive victories, a circumstance touchingly referred to by Delta, Dr. Moir of Musselburgh, author of 'Casa Wappy,' 'Wee Willie,' and many other exquisite contributions to Blackwood's Magazine.
How delightful, as we wander amid these hoary ruins and leafy bowers, so still and beautiful under the rich light of a summer noon, to think that the[Pg 182] old stormy times of feudal warfare have passed away forever, and that peace, with balmy wing, is brooding over this and other Christian lands.
But in this everyday life, the wants of nature must be met. Let us hie then to the village inn, just beyond the chapel. With our keen appetites, a snug dinner there will relish better than the most splendid banquet of the St. Clairs.
Ramble through the Fields—Parish Schools—Recollections of Dominie Meuross—The South Esk—Borthwick and Crichtoun Castles—Newbattle Abbey—Dalkeith—Residence of the Duke of Buccleugh—"Scotland's Skaith," by Hector Macneil—His Character and Writings—Extracts from the "History of Will and Jean."
Recrossing the North Esk, we ramble through the country in a north-easterly direction, passing through highly cultivated farms, with large comfortable homesteads. The fields everywhere are filled with laborers, hoeing, ploughing, and weeding, most of them cheerful as larks, and making the woods ring with 'whistle and song.' That plain but substantial edifice, under the shadow of the great oak tree hard by the old church, is a parish school-house, in which perhaps are gathered some fifty or sixty boys and girls, from all ranks of society, plying their mental tasks, under the supervision of an intelligent schoolmaster. Every morning in that school-house the Word of God is reverently read, and earnest prayer offered, exerting upon all minds a healthful moral influence, and producing impressions of a religious kind, which may last forever. Any boy may be fitted for college, or for commercial pursuits, in such a school, and the expense to the parent will be next to nothing. What then must be the amount of good[Pg 184] accomplished by the combined influence of all the parish schools in Scotland, equally endowed, and supplied with adequate teachers? Popular education has made great advances in Scotland within a few years. The greatest zeal for learning exists among the people, and they require no compulsive acts, as in Germany, to induce them to send their children to school. Not to be able to read and write is regarded, in Scotland, as a great disgrace; and hence the poorest people are equally ready with the rich to avail themselves of the benefits of instruction. Good teachers are uniformly secured, because they receive an ample compensation, and none but well-educated and truly moral men would be accepted. In this respect their situation is greatly superior to that of parish schoolmasters in Germany or in the United States. On this subject, Kohl, the German traveller, mentions an amusing conversation which he had with the parish schoolmaster at Muthil. Having stated to the latter that the situation of Scottish teachers was far superior to that of teachers in his country, he inquired what was the average pay of schoolmasters there.
"It varies a good deal," was the reply of Kohl. "Some have a hundred, some a hundred and fifty, but many no more than fifty dollars."
"How many pounds go to a dollar?" asked he.
"Seven dollars go to a pound."
"What!" he exclaimed, springing up from his chair, "do you mean to tell me that they pay a schoolmaster with seven pounds a year?"[Pg 185]
"Even so," was the reply, "seven pounds; but how much then do they get with you?"
"I know no one who has less than from forty to fifty pounds in all Scotland; but the average is seventy or eighty pounds; and many go as high as a hundred and fifty pounds."
"What!" cried Kohl, springing up in his turn, "a hundred and fifty pounds! that makes one thousand and fifty dollars. A baron would be satisfied in Germany with such a revenue as that; and do you mean to say that there are schoolmasters who grumble at it?"
"Yes," said he; "but recollect how dear things are with us. Sugar costs eighteenpence a pound; coffee two shillings; chocolate is still dearer, and tea not much cheaper. And then how dear are good beef, and pork, and plums, and puddings, and everything else!"
"I could not deny this," adds Kohl; "but I thought that our poor schoolmasters were content if they had but bread."
In former times the parish schoolmasters did not receive so much as they now do; but then they were clerks of the parish, frequently precentors in the church, and received a multitude of little perquisites. Their support has been made quite ample, having an average salary of a hundred pounds, with a free house.
But the sight of that school-house brings back the days of "lang syne." Well do I remember the old parish school—a long thatched building, at the "Kirk of Shotts," where I received my preparation[Pg 186] for college, under the free and easy, but most efficient, administration of 'Dominie Meuross,' famed through all the country for his great classical attainments, his facetious disposition, his kind-heartedness, and his love of the pure 'Glenlivet.' Those were not the days of temperance societies, and the Dominie had so much to do with christenings and weddings, parish difficulties, "roups" and law-suits, that he was greatly tempted by the bottle. But he was a worthy man, and an enthusiastic teacher, especially of the classics. Teaching A, B, C, was rather a dull business to the Dominie; but oh, how merrily he would construe the Odes of Horace, what jokes he would crack over our lessons, and what effulgent light he would cast upon the classic page! Yet Dominie Meuross was a dignified man—no one more so. The boys, indeed, enjoyed considerable latitude, especially at that end of the school opposite the one in which the Dominie sat, and many facetious tricks were played upon the duller boys, the "sumphs," as we used to call them. But the Dominie had only to pull down his glasses from his forehead, where they were usually perched, and direct a keen glance to "the other end," instantly to bring us all to perfect order. Dear old man! he has long ago "gone to the yird," but his memory is green as the grass which waves upon his grave.
The school and the church, the light of learning, and the light of religion, form the glory of Scotland. These have twined around her rustic brow a wreath of fadeless glory. These have given her stability and worth, beauty and renown.[Pg 187]
But we have reached Dalhousie Castle, with its charming and romantic grounds, situated on a branch of the South Esk, a stream similar to the North Esk, and running in the same direction. These streams, after passing through scenery the most picturesque and beautiful, and watering a hundred spots consecrated by song and story, as if by a mutual attraction, unite a little above Dalkeith, and fall near the old town of Musselburgh into the Firth of Forth. Behind us, at the distance of a few miles, are the celebrated ruins of Borthwick and Crichtoun castles, the one on a branch of the South Esk, the other somewhat to the right, in the vale of Tyne. It was into Borthwick Castle that Queen Mary retired after the death of Darnley, and her unhappy marriage with Bothwell, and from which she was obliged, a few days afterwards, to flee to Dunbar in the guise of a page. Crichtoun Castle is beautifully described by Sir Walter Scott, in Marmion, and as we cannot visit this interesting ruin, take his description of it as the best substitute.
Proceeding along the stream, we pass Cockpen, reminding us of the Laird of Cockpen and his amusing courtship, when
We linger a few minutes by Newbattle Abbey, founded by David I., for a community of Cistercian monks, brought hither from Melrose, but now the residence of the Marquis of Lothian; and soon after reach the old "burgh town" of Dalkeith, most delightfully situated between the two Esks, and reminding us forcibly of "Mansie Waugh," the pawkie tailor of Dalkeith, whose amusing history we read in our boyhood. Dalkeith is a considerable place, and has many elegant residences. In its immediate vicinity is Dalkeith Palace, seat of the Duke of Buccleugh, standing on an overhanging bank of the North Esk. Here too, in earlier times, lived the Grahams, and the Douglases; and into this strong retreat, then called the "Lion's den," retired the celebrated Regent Morton, who was subsequently beheaded. We might enter the house, as this favor is often granted to strangers, but we will not now; though it boasts the possession of some fine old paintings, and some exquisite pieces of furniture. But the grounds around it are infinitely more attractive, adorned, as they are, with magnificent trees and shrubbery, and the serpentine windings of the two Esks, whose waters unite in the park, a little distance below the house. How placidly the stream glides through the verdant meadows, and mirrors the green foliage of the overhanging trees, or the branching horns of some deer, bent to drink its clear waters! How softly and delicately the pencil rays of green and yellow light glimmer[Pg 190] through those shady retreats to the right. See the startled deer bounding through the woods! How softly and lovingly sleeps the sunshine on that wide pool at the bottom of the green slope, adorned with flowers and honeysuckles! And see, through that shady vista the open sky in the distance, "so darkly, deeply, beautifully blue." The birds too, mavis, lintie, and bulfinch, are caroling among the trees, as if their little hearts were filled with boundless joy.
The cottage of "Jeanie Gairlace," supposed to be conferred upon her by the Duchess of Buccleugh, is placed by Macneil, the author of "Scotland's Skaith," in this beautiful vicinity. As we have yet to wait some time for the rail cars that are to take us to Edinburgh, let us sit down on this rustic seat, and I will give you some account of Macneil, and his touching poem of "Will and Jean."
Hector Macneil was born in 1746, and died in 1818. He was brought up to mercantile pursuits, but did not succeed in business. He cultivated in secret his passion for the muses, and published at intervals several poetical effusions, among which were "The Harp, a Legendary Poem,"—"The Links of the Forth, or a Parting Peep at the Carse of Sterling," and "Scotland's Skaith, or the History of Will and Jean," his most natural and successful production. Though not successful in lyrical effusions, or in song writing, he is the author, we believe, of that exquisite ballad, "Bonny Wee Mary o' Castlecary." He also wrote some prose tales, in which he laments the effects of modern changes and improvements. In the latter years of[Pg 191] his life, he resided in comparative comfort, at Edinburgh, enjoying the congenial society of its refined and literary circles.
"Scotland's Skaith (curse) or the History of Will and Jean," is intended to depict the ruinous effects of intemperance, and the possibility of reform, with the happiness thence resulting. A happy couple, in humble life are gradually drawn into the vortex of intemperance, and at last are reduced to the deepest extremities. The husband enlists as a soldier, and the wife is compelled, with her children, to beg her bread. In the commencement of the poem Willie is represented as passing a rustic alehouse, whose attractions prove too much for him. The situation of the alehouse, and the commencement of Willie's career as a drunkard, are admirably described. The rhythm of the poem is peculiarly harmonious and lively.
The two thoughtless friends have "a jolly meeting," and do not break up till "'tween twa and three" next morning. A weekly club is set up at the alehouse, a newspaper is procured, and things move on bravely. Willie becomes a "pot-house politician," and a hard drinker, the consequence of which is that he speedily goes to ruin. His wife also, to drown her sorrows, takes to drinking. The contrast between their past and present condition is touchingly described by the poet.
Fortunately, Jeanie attracts the attention of the Duchess of Buccleugh, and obtains from her a pretty cottage, rent free, and such aid and protection as her circumstances demand. Willie loses a leg in battle, and returns a changed man, with a pension from government. Finding his wife and family, he is received to their embrace. The soldier's return, and the situation of the cottage are beautifully depicted.
Accepting an invitation to take shelter in a neighboring cottage, slowfully and painfully he followed his guide.
But hark! the first bell rings for the cars; so let us be off, and get our places. The sun has slipped[Pg 196] down behind the trees yonder, and it will be gloaming, if not ''tween and supper time,' before we get to Edinburgh.
All is right, and off we go, whirring through the quiet and beautiful scenery of these highly cultivated regions. We pass through "Samson's ribs," that is, the granite rocks of Duddingston, by means of a tunnel, glide along the base of Arthur's Seat, on whose summit linger the last rays of evening; and land at the upper end of the city, well prepared to relish a Scottish supper of substantial edibles, and after that, "tired nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep."
City of Glasgow—Spirit of the place—Trade and Manufactures—The Broomielaw—Steam—George's Square—Monuments to Sir Walter Scott, Sir John Moore, and James Watt—Sketch of the Life of Watt—Glasgow University—Reminiscences—Brougham—Sir D. K. Sandford—Professor Nichol and others—High Kirk, or Glasgow Cathedral—Martyrdom of Jerome Russel and John Kennedy.
Taking the steam-cars from Edinburgh, we arrive at Glasgow, a distance of forty-four miles, in a couple of hours. As Edinburgh is the representative of Scottish literature and refinement, Glasgow is the representative of its commerce and manufactures. It is an immense city, and contains a prodigious number of inhabitants. At the period of the Union it had a population of only twelve thousand: since which time it has doubled this number twelve or thirteen times, and now contains nearly three hundred thousand inhabitants. It owes this unprecedented increase to its trade, domestic and foreign, which is almost unparalleled in its extent. There is probably not a single inland town in Great Britain, with the exception of London, which can show such a shipping list.
Glasgow has ever been distinguished for its mechanical ingenuity, its industry and enterprise. Its situation doubtless is highly favorable, but without[Pg 198] an intelligent, ingenious and active population, it could never have reached such a height of prosperity.
But it is not our intention to visit this commercial city as tourists. There are enough such to describe her agreeable situation, and handsome public edifices, her long and elegant streets, her beautiful "green," and magnificent river. At present we shall not fatigue ourselves with visiting the Royal Exchange, the Royal Bank, the Tontine and the Assembly Rooms. Neither shall we trouble our readers to go with us through Queen street, St. Vincent street, Greenhill Place, or Woodside Crescent.
It might be worth while however, to look into some of those immense factories; from which rise innumerable huge chimnies, some of which overtop the steeples and towers of the churches, and reach far up into the heavens. Thousands and thousands of spindles and power looms, with thousands and thousands of human hands and heads are moving there from morn to night, and from night to morn. What masses of complicated and beautiful machinery! What prodigious steam-engines, great hearts of power in the centres of little worlds, giving life energy and motion to the whole. Here is a single warehouse, as it is called, for the sale of manufactured goods, containing no less than two hundred clerks. What piles of silks and shawls, cottons and calicoes! The productions of Glasgow reach every part of the world. You will find them in India, China, and the United States, in the wilds of Africa[Pg 199] and the jungles of Burmah, amid the snows of Labrador, and the savannahs of Georgia.
But let us go down to the Broomielaw, and take a look at the river Clyde. That mile of masts, and those immense steamers, plying up and down the river, connect Glasgow with every part of the British Empire and the world.
What grand agency has accomplished all this? Steam!—steam, under the guidance and control of genius and enterprise. The extended prosperity of Glasgow commenced with the inventions of Watt, the greatest mechanical genius of the age, and the first man that constructed a steam-engine of much practical use. Steam has raised all those huge factories which we have been admiring, and keeps their innumerable wheels and pistons, spindles and power looms in motion. Steam it is which brings untold masses of coal and iron from the bowels of the earth, and converts them into machinery and motive power. Yonder it comes, rolling and dashing, in a long train of cars and carriages filled with the produce and population of the land. Here it gives life and energy to a cotton mill with a thousand looms! There it casts off, from day to day, the myriads of printed sheets which spread intelligence through the country. All around us it moves the cranks and pullies, ropes and wires, wheels and tools, which work such wonders in beating and grinding, cutting and carving, polishing and dyeing. Steam has added thousands, nay millions to the annual income of Glasgow. It has augmented the resources of Great Britain to such an extent that it saves[Pg 200] seventy millions of dollars annually in the matter of motive power alone! No pen can describe the additions which it has made in other parts of the world to their manufactures and commerce. It has brought all nations into more intimate relations, and is yet destined, in many respects, to revolutionize the world.
Let us go then to George's Square, near the centre of the city, and look at Chantrey's monument of the man who has done so much to bring about such a change. The Square contains also a fine monument of Sir Walter Scott, in the form of a fluted Doric column, about eighty feet high, surmounted by a colossal statue of "the great magician of the north." He is represented standing in an easy attitude, with a shepherd's plaid thrown half around his body. The likeness is said to be remarkably good. It has that expression of shrewdness, honesty and good nature for which he was distinguished, but none of that ideal elevation which graces the countenances of Schiller, Goethe and Shakspeare. Immediately in front of this monument, is a beautiful pedestrian statue in bronze, by Flaxman, of Sir John Moore, the subject of Wolfe's exquisite lyric,—
Sir John Moore was a citizen of Glasgow, and his townsmen have erected this statue as expressive of their veneration for his memory. To the right[Pg 201] of this monument, in the south-west angle of the square, you see in bronze, and of colossal magnitude, the noble figure of James Watt. He is represented in a sitting posture on a circular pedestal of Aberdeen granite. It is considered one of the happiest productions of the distinguished Chantrey. The fine meditative features of the great inventor are strikingly developed. Watt was born in Greenock, on the 19th of January, 1736, but conducted his experiments chiefly in Glasgow. He came thither in 1757, first as a mathematical instrument maker to the college, and subsequently as an engineer. In early life he gave indications of his peculiar genius, by various little mechanical contrivances. At the age of six years, he was occasionally found stretched on the floor, delineating with chalk the lines of a geometrical problem. At other times he greatly obliged his young companions by making and repairing their toys; and before he had reached his seventeenth year he had amused them with the wonders of an electrical machine of his own construction. He had also instructed himself by making experiments on the steam of a tea-kettle. He subsequently stored his mind with the wonders of physics, chemistry and medicine.
In the University of Glasgow, Watt was employed to fit up the instruments of the Macfarlane Observatory, which gave him an opportunity of becoming acquainted with Adam Smith, Joseph Black, and Robert Simson, names immortal in the scientific annals of Scotland. Here also he formed an intimacy with John Robinson, then a student at[Pg 202] college, and subsequently the celebrated Dr. Robinson, who first called the attention of Watt to the subject of steam engines, and threw out the idea of applying them to steam carriages and other purposes.
The steam-engine had existed before this time, but it was extremely imperfect, and, moreover, of no great practical use. Hence Mr. Watt was not, properly speaking, the inventor but the improver of the steam-engine. Still his improvement was equal to an invention of the highest order. It made the instrument available for the highest practical purposes. "He found the crazy machines of Savery and Newcomen laboring and creaking at our mine heads, and occupying the same rank as prime movers with the wind-mill and the water-wheel; and by a succession of inventions and discoveries, deduced from the most profound chemical knowledge, and applied by the most exquisite mechanical skill, he brought the steam-engine to such a degree of perfection as to stamp it the most precious gift which man ever bequeathed to his race."
Watt had "a sore fight of existence," at least in the early part of his career, and he came near being deprived of the emolument which was his just due as a benefactor of his race. But he eventually triumphed over all opposition, retired from business, and continued to reside during the rest of his life on his estate at Heathfield Soho. He was exceedingly happy in his domestic relations, though[Pg 203] called, in 1804, to suffer a painful bereavement in the loss of his youngest son Gregory, who had given high promise of literary and scientific eminence. In 1808 he was elected a corresponding member of the Institute of France; and in 1814, he was nominated by the Academy of Sciences as one of its eight foreign correspondents. In 1819 his health suffered a rapid decline, and he himself felt that this was his last illness. "Resigned, himself, he endeavored to make others resigned. He pointed out to his son the topics of consolation which should occupy his mind; and expressing his sincere gratitude to Providence for the length of days he had enjoyed, for his exemption from most of the infirmities of age, and for the serenity and cheerfulness which marked the close of his life; he expired at Heathfield on the 25th of August, 1819." He was interred in the parish church of Handsworth; and over his tomb his son erected an elegant Gothic chapel, containing a beautiful marble bust by Chantrey. Another bust by the same artist has been placed in one of the halls of Glasgow College. A colossal statue of Carrara marble, procured at great expense by public subscription, graces the recesses of Westminster Abbey.
The most useful memorial of Watt, however, exists in Greenock, in the form of a large and handsome building for a public library, erected by his son, in which the citizens have caused to be placed a handsome marble statue, with an inscription from the pen of Lord Jeffrey. Lord Brougham concluded an eloquent speech on the merits of Mr.[Pg 204] Watt, in the following striking terms:—"If in old times the temples of false gods were appropriately filled with the images of men who had carried devastation over the face of the earth, surely our temples cannot be more worthily adorned with the likenesses of those whose triumphs have been splendid indeed, but unattended by sorrow to any—who have achieved victories, not for one country only, but to enlarge the power and increase the happiness of the whole human race."
Passing up High Street, we come to an arched gateway, and find ourselves in a quadrangular court, with antique looking buildings on each side. Beyond this we come to another quadrangle, also surrounded by buildings of perhaps more recent date. Passing straight on we reach a handsome edifice of polished freestone, directly in front of us, and standing alone, which is nothing less than the Hunterian museum. These then are the buildings of Glasgow University. Beyond us is the college-green, ornamented with trees, and divided into two parts by a sluggish stream which passes through the centre. A number of the students, having laid aside their scarlet gowns, are playing at football, a violent but delightful and invigorating exercise.
The University of Glasgow was founded in 1450, in the time of James the Second. Bishop Turnbull was then in possession of the see, and his successors were appointed chancellors. The history of the institution has been various; but, generally speaking, it has enjoyed a high degree of prosperity.[Pg 205] Of late years the number of students has declined, from what cause we know not. The number, in all the departments, does not exceed a thousand, whereas, in 1824, when the writer was a student in Glasgow, there were from fourteen to fifteen hundred. Well does he remember the enthusiasm with which they welcomed their popular candidate for rector, Henry Brougham, Esq., M. P., as he was then termed, and the eager interest with which they listened to his inaugural discourse. Sir James McIntosh, a fine hearty looking man, with bland expressive eyes, and two of the sons of Robert Burns, tall, good looking young men, but with no particular resemblance to their illustrious father, were present, with others, to grace the occasion. Brougham was in the maturity of his strength, and the hey-day of his fame. Tall, muscular, and wiry, with searching visage, dark complexion, keen piercing eyes, ample forehead, and long outstretched finger, he stood up the very personification of strength and eloquence. But Brougham has been frequently described, and we therefore pass him by. The next rector that was chosen was Thomas Campbell, the poet, once a member of the college, and one of its most distinguished ornaments. A large portion, if not the whole of the "Pleasures of Hope" was written while he was a student at college.
Many distinguished men have been professors in this institution. Among these Dr. Reid and Dr. Hutcheson, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Moore, Adam Smith, and Professor Sandford stand pre-eminent. Well does the writer remember the accomplished,[Pg 206] but unfortunate Sandford, and the profound enthusiasm for the Greek classics which he inspired in his students. He was a son of the venerable Bishop Sandford, a distinguished graduate of Oxford, and a man of the highest attainments in Greek and English literature. Of small stature, he yet possessed an elegant and commanding form. His pale face, finely chiselled mouth, dark eyes, and marble forehead are before me now. I hear his clear, musical voice, rolling out, ore rotundo, the resounding periods of Homer, or the energetic lines of Eschylus. No man ever recited Greek with such enthusiasm and energy. It was a perfect treat to hear him read the odes of Anacreon or the choral hymns of Eschylus; to say nothing of his elegant translations, or his fine critical remarks. He was created a baronet by the government, and bade fair to be one of the most distinguished and influential literary men in the country. But he was seduced into party politics, was sent as the representative of Glasgow to parliament, and failed—failed utterly and forever; for his want of success in the House of Commons preyed upon his spirits, and caused his death.
Among the distinguished men now occupying places in this university we find Mr. Lushington, of Trinity College, Cambridge, professor of Greek, and Dr. Nichol, author of the popular Lectures on the Wonders of the Heavens, professor of practical astronomy. Mr. Mylne, professor of moral philosophy, and Mr. Buchanan, professor of logic, are acute and learned men.
Leaving the college, we ascend High Street, and[Pg 207] after reaching the top of the hill, a little to the right, we see before us the "High Kirk," or rather the old cathedral of Glasgow, one of the finest remains of antiquity, surrounded by a vast church-yard, containing many rich and ancient monumental tombs, and the mouldering bones of many by-gone generations. It has a superb crypt, "equalled by none in the kingdom,"—once used as a place of worship, but now as a place for burying the dead. The author of Waverley has invested it with additional interest by making it the scene of a striking incident in Rob Roy. The whole edifice has a most commanding appearance.
At the north-east end of the cathedral the spot is yet to be seen where papal bigotry and superstition lighted the fires of religious persecution. There in the year 1538, Jerome Russel, a member of the convent of Franciscan friars, in Glasgow, a man of considerable talents, and John Kennedy, a young man from Ayr, of high family, only about eighteen years of age, were burned for having embraced the doctrines of the infant Reformation. They sustained the terrible ordeal through which they passed to glory with a becoming dignity and fortitude. "This is your hour and power of darkness," said Russel, "now you sit as judges, and we are wrongfully condemned, but the day cometh which will clear our innocency, and you shall see your own blindness to your everlasting confusion—go on and fulfil the measure of your iniquity." Is it surprising that the reaction of reform which followed such proceedings should occasionally have gone to unjustifiable[Pg 208] lengths, and that the people should have torn down "the rookeries," which sheltered those birds of prey, as the papal tyrants of that day might well be termed? Never were a nobler or more heroic set of men than the martyrs and confessors of that trying time! Knox, Melville, and Wishart might be stern, but they were men of godlike temper and heroic zeal, of whom the world was not worthy; and whatever poetasters and novelists, sentimental journalists, and infidel historians may say of them, they will be found at last, occupying an honored place, at God's right hand.
The Necropolis—Jewish Burial Place—Monument to John Knox—Monuments of William Macgavin and Dr. Dick—Reminiscences—Character and Writings of Dr. Dick—Pollok and 'the Course of Time'—Grave of Motherwell—Sketch of his Life—His Genius and Poetry—'Jeanie Morrison.'—'My Heid is like to rend, Willie.'—'A Summer Sabbath Noon.'
East of the Cathedral, a few steps, lies the Necropolis, on the brow of a hill which overlooks the city and the surrounding regions. We pass over the "Bridge of Sighs," so named from its leading to the Cemetery, and consisting of a handsome arch, spanning the "Molendinar Burn," a brawling rivulet, whose waters, collected into a small basin, dash over an artificial cascade into the ravine below. The Necropolis covers the rocky eminence formerly crowned with dark firs, and supposed, in ancient times to have been a retreat of the Druids, who here performed their fearful rites. But how sweet and peaceful now, ornamented with fine trees and shrubbery, shady walks, and beautiful monuments, a serene retreat for the peaceful dead. In point of situation and appearance, the Necropolis is superior to "Pere la Chaise," though certainly inferior to "Greenwood" and "Mount Auburn," in our opinion the most attractive burying-places in the world. Still, each of these has a beauty of its own, well fitted to soften and subdue those feelings[Pg 210] of grief and horror naturally excited by death and the grave. Such sweet and attractive places of burial are in harmony with the genius of the Gospel. The ancient Greeks, from their very horror of death and their ignorance of futurity, endeavored to invest the tomb with festal associations. Why, then, should not we, upon whom the light of immortality has descended, lay those we love in scenes of quiet beauty, where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest?" Does not Holy Writ declare, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord?" It is therefore meet to place their bodies only in scenes which remind us of rest, of hope, and of Heaven.
Let affection, then, bury her dead and build her tombs amid the trees and the flowers, which preach to us of the resurrection-morn and the paradise of God.
This cemetery was founded in 1831, and the first sale was to the Jews, who require a burying-place for themselves. It lies in the north-west corner of the grounds. The enclosure contains the requisite[Pg 211] accommodations for washing the bodies before interment as required by the Jewish law, which also forbids one body to be deposited above another. The place is ornamented with excellent taste. On the left is a beautiful pillar, in imitation of Absalom's pillar in the "King's dale." On the front of this column, and immediately under its capital, is a piece of fret-work, formed of Hebrew letters, representing the words, "Who among the gods is like unto Jehovah?" On the shaft of the column are those touching stanzas from Byron's Hebrew Melodies, concluding thus:
On the lower part of the column is the following:
"Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widows trust in me."
On the other side of the gateway are engraved the following verses:
"A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping: Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not."
"Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy."
"And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border."
And on the opposite pillar is the following:
"How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Sion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven to the earth the beauty of Israel, and removed not his footstool in the day of his anger."
"But though he caused grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."
On the summit of the hill, and towering above the rest, is the commanding monument of John Knox, intended to be commemorative of the Reformation. On a lofty square pedestal, stands the statue of the stern old Reformer, with the Bible in one hand, and the other stretched out, as if in the act of addressing the multitude. On one side of the pedestal is the following inscription:
To testify gratitude for inestimable services
In the cause of Religion, Education, and Civil Liberty,
To awaken admiration
Of that Integrity, Disinterestedness and Courage,
Which stood unshaken in the midst of trials,
And in the maintenance of the highest objects—
To cherish unceasing reverence for the principles and blessings
of that Great Reformation, by the influence of which our
country, though in the midst of difficulties, has
risen to honor, prosperity, and happiness,
This Monument is erected by Voluntary Subscription,
To the Memory of
The chief instrument, under God, of the Reformation
On the 22d day of Sept. 1825.
He died rejoicing in the faith of the Gospel, at Edinburgh, on the
24th of Nov. 1532, in the 69th year of his age.
On the other sides are the following:[Pg 213]
"The Reformation produced a revolution in the sentiments of mankind, the greatest as well as most beneficial that has happened since the publication of Christianity."
"In 1547, and in the city where his friend George Wishart had suffered, John Knox, surrounded with dangers, first preached the doctrines of the Reformation. In 1559, on the 24th of August, the parliament of Scotland adopted the confession of faith, presented by the reformed ministers, and declared popery no longer to be the religion of this kingdom.
"John Knox became then a minister of Edinburgh, where he continued to his death, the incorruptible guardian of our best interests.
"'I can take God to witness,' he declared, 'that I never preached in contempt of any man, and wise men will consider that a true friend cannot flatter; especially in a case that involves the salvation of the bodies and the souls, not of a few persons, but of the whole realm.' When laid in the grave, the Regent said: 'There lieth he who never feared the face of man, who was often threatened with pistol and dagger, yet hath ended his days in peace and honor.'
"Patrick Hamilton, a youth of high rank and distinguished attainments, was the first martyr in Scotland in the cause of the Reformation. He was condemned to the flames in St. Andrews, in 1528, and the 24th year of his age.
"From 1530 to 1540, persecution raged in every quarter, many suffered the most cruel deaths, and many fled to England and the continent. Among these early martyrs were Jerome Russel and Alexander Kennedy, two young men of great piety and talent, who suffered at Glasgow. William Wishart returned to Scotland, from which he had been banished, and preached the Gospel in various quarters. In 1546, this heavenly-minded man, the friend and instructor of Knox, was committed to the flames at St. Andrews."
Let the thoughtful ponder these interesting memorials, and say whether the Reformation in Scotland was not a glorious event!
At a little distance from Knox's monument, is one to the memory of Mr. Macgavin, a banker in Glasgow, and author of "the Protestant;" and[Pg 214] another of great elegance and beauty, to the memory of Dr. Dick, late professor of theology in the United Secession Church. "Say not that the good ever die," and "he sleeps a sacred sleep," are engraven, in Greek, upon the sides of the monument, beautiful and appropriate sentiments for the tomb of a Christian. Dr. Dick was pre-eminently a good man, and not only so but a man of the highest attainments. Well does the writer remember his dignified bearing, fine countenance, and silver hair. But a few years ago, he sat at the feet of this venerable man, as his instructor in theology, and received from his lips lessons of holy wisdom. While professor of theology, the reverend doctor was also pastor of one of the largest and most influential of the Secession churches in the city of Glasgow. He was greatly venerated, both by the people of his charge and by his theological pupils, for his dignity and purity of character, his clear, well balanced intellect, his calm and consistent piety. He wrote lucidly and elegantly on the "Inspiration of the Scriptures," a work which a distinguished English bishop so much admired that he carried it about with him in his pocket. His "Lectures on the Acts of the Apostles," though inferior to the production just named, is also a valuable work. Since his death, his "Theological Prelections" have been published, and are much esteemed for their clear statement, and defence of evangelical truth. Always lucid, always logical and satisfactory, he is never profound or original. His style glides in pellucid beauty, like a rivulet through the meadow,[Pg 215] mirroring in its calm depths the green foliage which adorns its banks, and the blue heavens bending above it, but never cutting itself a new channel, or sweeping onward, with majestic force, like a torrent to the sea. The labors of Dr. Dick were pre-eminently useful; and a host of young men, educated under his influence, now fill posts of the highest responsibility in Scotland, and in other parts of the world. Pollok was a student of the Doctor's at the same time with the writer, but was not known to be possessed of any extraordinary genius till after the publication of "The Course of Time." He was considered a man of talent, however, and had written two or three sermons, containing passages of considerable power. But his heart was in his great poem during the whole of his student life. So intensely did he work upon it, that he had often to be assisted to bed, from sheer exhaustion. "The Course of Time" has many obvious faults, but abounds in strokes of genius and power. A great soul has poured itself into this rugged and sometimes gloomy channel, which, traversing the whole course of time, finally loses itself in the ocean of eternity. Pollok was tall, well proportioned, of a dark complexion, "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought," with deep-set eyes, heavy eyebrows and black bushy hair. A smothered light burned in his dark orbs, which flashed, with a meteor brilliancy, whenever he spoke with enthusiasm and energy. He was born in 1798, at North Muirhouse, in the parish of Eaglesham, Renfrewshire,[Pg 216]—
His father was an honest farmer, and his early home a scene of much domestic endearment. To the trees which overshadowed the paternal mansion he thus pays homage in his verse:
Pollok had just finished his studies, and was licensed as a preacher, by the United Secession Church, when he published his poem which thrilled all hearts in Scotland, and struck his fellow-students with perfect amazement, not unmingled, however, with delight. But he was then sick. His over-wrought frame began to yield, and he sought health in a foreign country, which he did not live to reach. He died in England in the autumn[Pg 217] of 1827, the same year in which he had published his poem, having lived just long enough to complete it, and receive the applause of his countrymen.
Before leaving the Necropolis, we must visit a grave at one corner of the grounds, in a quiet, shady spot, as if retired somewhat from the rest. There it is, the grave of William Motherwell, one of the sweetest of the Scottish poets, the author of "Bonnie Jeanie Morrison" and "My Heid is like to rend, Willie," and many other poems of exquisite grace and pathos.
William Motherwell was born in the city of Glasgow in the year 1797, and died there in 1835. In his eleventh year he was transferred to the care of his uncle in Paisley, who brought him up. Here he received a liberal education, and commenced the study of law. At the age of twenty-one he was appointed Deputy to the Sheriff-Clerk of Paisley, a highly respectable but not lucrative situation. He early evinced a love of poetry, and in 1819 became editor of a miscellany, called "The Harp of Renfrewshire," which he conducted with much taste and judgment. A relish for antiquarian research led him to investigate the subject of the ballad poetry of Scotland, the results of which he published in 1827, in two volumes, entitled "Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern." His introduction to this collection is admirably written, and must form the basis of all future investigations upon this subject. He seems to have been unusually successful in recovering many of the old ballads, which were[Pg 218] never committed to writing, and known to very few persons. Some of these, though rude and grotesque in thought or style, are exquisitely beautiful. Allan Cunningham, another of Scotland's sweetest poets, had labored in this field, but not with the same success. But the genius of both of these poets was deeply imbued with the spirit of the old ballad rhymes. They had conned them in their minds so frequently that they naturally wrote their own effusions in the same simple and touching style. Soon after the publication of his "Ancient Minstrelsy," Motherwell became editor of a weekly journal in Paisley, and established a magazine there, to which he contributed some of his finest poems. The talent and spirit which he evinced in these literary labors, were the occasion of his being removed to the city of Glasgow, to the editorial care of the Glasgow Courier, in which situation he continued till his death. He conducted this paper with great ability.
Motherwell was of small stature, but thick set and muscular. His head was large and finely formed; his eyes were bright and penetrating. In mixed society he was rather reserved, "but appeared internally to enjoy the feast of reason and the flow of soul." Somewhat pensive in his mood, he lived much in the solitude of his own thoughts, and at times gave way to a profound melancholy. This spirit pervades his poetry. The wailings of a wounded heart mingle with his fine descriptions of nature, and his lofty aspirations after the beautiful and true.[Pg 219]
In 1832 he collected and published his poems in one volume. He was also associated with the Ettrick Shepherd in editing the works of Burns, and at the time of his death was collecting materials for the life of Tannahill, an humble weaver in Paisley, but one of the finest song-writers Scotland has ever produced. "Accompanied by a literary friend, on the first of November, 1835, he had been dining in the country, about a couple of miles from Glasgow, and on his return home, feeling indisposed, he went to bed. In a few hours thereafter he awakened, and complained of a pain in the head, which increased so much as to render him speechless. Medical assistance was speedily obtained; but alas! it was of no avail—the blow was struck, and the curtain had finally fallen over the life and fortunes of William Motherwell. One universal feeling of regret and sympathy seemed to extend over society, when the sudden and premature decease of this accomplished poet and elegant writer became known. His funeral was attended by a large body of the citizens, by the most eminent and learned of the literary professions, and by persons of all shades of political opinions. He was interred in the Necropolis of Glasgow, not far from the resting-place of his fast friend, Mr. William Henderson."
Though Motherwell's death was thus sudden and unexpected, he seems to have had something like a premonition of it. The following touching lines were given to a friend, a day or two before his decease:[Pg 220]
These are mournful, but somewhat hopeful[Pg 221] strains; for one who feels that "time has long been knelling, sad one, depart!" must, if not a sceptic, have looked beyond the grave, and descried in better worlds, rest and solace for the aching heart. Here, in his "narrow dwelling," he gently sleeps, while pilgrims from afar drop tears of sympathy upon its "grassy mound."
Motherwell was a man of pure genius. His poems are distinguished for their deep tenderness and exquisite melody. They are gemmed, moreover, with beautiful conceptions, with original and striking expressions. There is nothing, in the whole range of Scottish poetry, except Burns's "Highland Mary," equal in beauty and pathos to
Equally beautiful and still more pathetic, is "My Heid is like to rend, Willie." Indeed, we know of nothing so affecting as the last stanzas of this exquisite ballad. The poor heart-broken girl gives abundant evidence of her profound penitence:
As a specimen of Motherwell's descriptive powers, the exquisite grace of his diction, and the deep-toned melody of his verse, and not only so, but of his high devotional feelings, we give the following:
It would be pleasant, but we have not time, to make the acquaintance of some of the Glasgow clergy, particularly of the classic Wardlaw, the vigorous Heugh, the accomplished King, the[Pg 229] energetic Robson, the intelligent Buchanan, the eloquent Willis, the strong "in knee'd" Anderson, and others of equal distinction. A fair specimen[Pg 230] of the Scottish clergy has been given in the ministers of Edinburgh, and that must suffice for the present.
Dumbarton Castle—Lochlomond—Luss—Ascent of Benlomond—Magnificent Views—Ride to Loch-Katrine—Rob Roy Macgregor—'Gathering of Clan Gregor'—Loch-Katrine and the Trosachs—The city of Perth—Martyrdom of Helen Stark and her husband.
Embarking in a steamer at Glasgow, we glide down the Clyde as far as Dumbarton Castle, which rises, in stern and solitary majesty, from the bosom of the river,—
In ancient times, however, those old battlements frequently stood the shock of invading war. Dumbarton was the "Alcluith" of the ancient Britons, subsequently "Dumbriton," or "the fortified hill of the Britons." The vale of the Clyde was called "Strathclutha," and here was the capital of the kingdom of the "Strathclyde Britons." "Alcluith" is the "Balclutha" of Ossian; balla signifying a wall or bulwark, from the Latin vallum, a wall. "I have seen the walls of Balclutha," sings Ossian, in the poem of Carron, "but they were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls; and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of the Clutha (Clyde) was removed from its place by the[Pg 232] fall of the walls. The thistle shook here its lonely head; the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass of the walls waved round its head. Desolate is the dwelling of Morna; silence is in the house of her fathers." In the reign of Queen Mary this stronghold was taken by an escalade. This was accomplished by Captain Crawford, an officer of great energy and talent, who acted for the confederated lords who opposed Queen Mary after the death of her husband, Henry Darnley. Provided with scaling-ladders, and whatever else was necessary, Crawford set out from Glasgow with a small but determined body of men. The night was dark and misty, when they reached the castle-walls. Crawford, and a soldier who acted as a guide, scrambled up to a ledge of rock, where they fastened a ladder to a tree, which grew on one of its cliffs. Ascending by this means, the whole party stood together with their chief on this natural parapet. But they were far from the point which they hoped to reach. Again the ladder was planted, and the ascent begun. But all at once one of the foremost soldiers, when half way up the ladder, was seized with a sudden fit, and clung to the ladder stiff and motionless. All further progress was at an end. What to do they knew not. To cut him down would be cruel, and besides might awaken the garrison. In this emergency, Crawford had the man secured, by means of ropes to the ladder, which was turned over and all passed up in safety to the foot of the wall. Day began to break, and[Pg 233] they hastened to scale the wall. The first man who reached the parapet was seen by a sentinel, who was quickly knocked in the head. The whole party, with furious shouts, rushed over the wall, and took possession of the magazine, seized the cannon, and before the besieged could help themselves, had entire control of the Castle.
But we cannot linger here; so, bidding adieu to Dumbarton, with its martial associations, we strike off from the river at right angles, and, after a pleasant ride of four or five miles, through a peaceful and agreeable country, we reach the south end of Lochlomond, the "Queen of the Scottish lakes," where we find a little steamer in waiting, which takes us, and a company of sportsmen, travellers and others, over the placid waves of this magnificent sheet of water. The lake is some thirty miles in length, and of unequal breadth, being sometimes four or five miles, and then again not more than a single mile in width, gorgeously begemmed with verdant and beautifully wooded islands, of larger and smaller size, to the number of thirty, and shaded here and there by mountains, covered with verdure and trees to their summits, or grim cliffs, towering, in solitary grandeur, above the dark and heaving waters beneath. How finely our little steamer dashes the water from her prow, as if she really enjoyed the trip, among the beautiful scenery of this charming lake! What variety of light and shade! What diversity of scene, as isle after isle, bold headland, lofty cliff, or wooded acclivity, meets the gaze! How earth and air and sky, yon[Pg 234] fleecy clouds that skirt the horizon, wild crags, and verdant slopes, clumps of trees on the water's edge, islands of green mirroring their foliage in the bosom of the lake, mingle and intermingle in ever varying forms of beauty and grandeur! Yonder, too, is Benlomond, the genius of the place, towering above the lesser mountains, and looking down, as if protectingly, upon the lake he loves. The shores are exceedingly beautiful; on one side lying low, "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." "The islands," continues Professor Wilson, from whom we make this fine extract, "are forever 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."
The southern part of the lake is the most beautiful, but the northern the most sublime. The channel narrows, and the mountains rise higher and higher, casting dark shadows into the water. For a moment it seems gloomy, but high up in the[Pg 235] mountains you discover spots of green; and the sunlight glancing down, between the masses of shadow, lights up the waves of the lake with a strange beauty, as if it were something purer and more spirit-like than the beauty of the ordinary world.
But we will stop at the village of Luss, near the edge of the lake, surrounded by mountain scenery, in some places rough and bleak, but charmingly diversified by deep wooded glens, and romantic ravines.
The sun is sinking behind the western hills—the evening shadows are resting in the vallies, while the tops of those craggy heights around us are still burning with the last rays of departing day. We wander towards the southern part of the parish, with feelings subdued by the magnificent scenery which everywhere meets our gaze, and the solemn stillness which reigns among the mountains, broken only by the tinkling of a small stream winding its way to the lake, as if seeking a home in its bosom, like the soul of a true Christian, which is ever tending onward to the infinite and immortal. At length, while the sweet and long continued "gloaming" of the Scottish summer envelopes everything in its soft and dubious light, we reach the remains of a large cairn, a mound of stones and earth, called "Carn-na-Cheasoig," the cairn of St. Kessog. Here then, according to tradition, lies the dust of St. Kessog, who is said to have suffered martyrdom near the site of this cairn, in the sixth century, and who anciently was venerated as the guardian saint[Pg 236] of Luss. Was St. Kessog a true martyr? We trust he was, and can easily imagine the cruel but triumphant death of the holy man. At such an hour, and in such a scene, with the shadow of these great, sky-pointing mountains, resting on our spirits, we might almost believe anything; anything, at least, lofty and heart-stirring. It is not surprising that the Highlanders are superstitious: but it is surprising that they are not more religious. An infidel or a fanatic among the hills seems an impossibility. Nor are the inhabitants of these high regions inclined either to scepticism or fanatacism. But they are ignorant of Christianity in its purer forms; and hence are easily subjected to superstitious fears. But we are not yet among the Highlanders; for Luss and the regions around are naturally subjected to Lowland influences.
Next morning we pass over the lake in a small boat to Rowardennan, on the eastern shore, whence we commence the ascent of Benlomond, which rises to a height of something more than three thousand feet. The distance from Rowardennan to the top is generally reckoned about six miles. Wending along the sides of the mountain we gradually ascend to the bare and craggy summit, but not without resting here and there, and stopping to gaze upon the expanding landscape, as it spreads further and further towards the distant seas. We are somewhat fatigued, but how refreshing the mountain breeze, and how exhilarating the magnificent scenery which opens on every side, and absolutely reaches from sea to sea! There, beneath[Pg 237] us, like a belt of liquid light, stretches the long and beautiful Lochlomond, sparkling under the rays of the sun, fringed with hills, rocks, and woods, and adorned with green isles, reposing on its heaving bosom, like gems of emerald chased in gold. Far off are the islands of Bute and Arran, and nearer the fertile Strath-Clutha, through which flows the river Clyde, adorned with villages, castles and country-seats, the city of Glasgow, covered with a misty vapor, the whole of Lanarkshire, the city of Edinburgh, and the vast and delightful tract of country beyond, the Firth of Forth, Stirling Castle, and the links of the Forth gliding in peaceful beauty through its green and wooded vale. To the north a scene presents itself of wild and varied grandeur, long ranges of Alpine heights, mighty crags towering to the sky, dark lakes, and deep-cloven ravines, wild and desolate moors, straggling forests, and rich secluded vales. Near us rises the hoary Benvoirloich; and further north, among inferior mountains, Bencruachan and Bennevis lift their lofty heads. Taking a wider range we get a distant glimpse of the wide Atlantic, and the coast of green Erin, the mountains of Cumberland, and the German Ocean, washing the north-eastern coasts of Scotland. But the eye rests, as if by enchantment, upon the magnificent mountain scenery to the north, inferior only in grandeur and beauty to the mountains of Switzerland.
How elevating such a position, and such scenery. How the soul dilates and rejoices, as if it were a part of the mighty spectacle. Ah! this were a place for angels to light upon, and hymn the praise of that infinite Being "whose are the mountains, and the vallies, and the resplendent rivers."
But it is time to descend, though it would be pleasant, doubtless, to linger here till sunset, and see those mountain heights shining like stars in the departing radiance, while all beneath was covered with shadow; and if the evening were still, to listen to the mingled murmur which ever ascends through the calm air, from a region of streams and torrents.
Coasting along the lake we reach Inversnaid mill at its upper extremity, and securing some Highland ponies, little tough shaggy fellows, sure-footed and self-willed, we ramble through a lonely, rock-bound glen, the scene of the feats of Rob Roy Macgregor. In one of the smoky huts of this glen we are shown a long Spanish musket, six feet and a half in length, said to have belonged to the famous outlaw, whose original residence was in this lonely region. We also pass the hut in which Helen Macgregor, his wife, was born and brought up. By forgetting a few years, one can easily imagine the whole region filled with wild 'kilted' Highlanders, shouting the war-cry of Macdonald, Glengarry, or Macgregor. The spirit of these wild clans has been admirably depicted by Sir[Pg 239] Walter Scott. Nothing can be more spirited than his "Gathering of Clan-Gregor," which in this rough glen, seems to gather a peculiar intensity of meaning.
We reach Lochkatrine, a narrow sheet of water, ten miles in length, winding, in serpentine turns, among the huge mountains which guard it on every side. This, and the wild glen called the Trosachs, are embalmed in the poetry of Sir Walter Scott, whose ethereal genius has imparted to them a[Pg 240] charm which they would not otherwise possess. Wild and grand the scenery certainly is, secluded so far among the mountains, and guarded so wondrously by
which, gleaming under the rays of the morning sun, appeared to the eye of poetical inspiration,
And not only so, but richly adorned with forest-trees and wild flowers among the rifted rocks and the "smiling glades between," lovelier by far than ever met any but a poet's eye.
The scenery at the east end of Lochkatrine, where the lake narrows, like a placid river, under the eye of Benvenue, the lower parts of which are richly wooded, is exceedingly beautiful. Through the whole of this glen, the Highland guides point out the localities and incidents mentioned in the "Lady of the Lake," as if it were a historical verity. Such is the power of genius, which "gives to airy nothings a local habitation and a name."
Leaving Lochkatrine, we pass in a south-easterly direction, through Callendar to Auchterarder, a parish famous in the annals of the Free Church of Scotland, and thence, travelling through a delightful country, reach "the bonnie town o'[Pg 242] Perth," which lies so charmingly on the banks of the Tay. Surrounded by some of the finest scenery in Scotland, with Kinnoul House and Kinfauns Castle on the one side, and Scone, the old palace in which the kings of Scotland were crowned, on the other, clustering with memories of the olden time, and withal being a well-built city, with some venerable churches and handsome public edifices, Perth is one of the most interesting places in Scotland. Moreover, it was anciently the capital of the kingdom, and contains a good many relics of its former glory. Here the doctrines of the Reformation early took root, and some of the citizens suffered martyrdom for Christ's sake. Helen Stark and her husband, for refusing to pray to the Virgin Mary, were condemned to die. She desired to be executed with her husband, but her request was refused. On the way to the scaffold, she exhorted him to constancy in the cause of Christ, and as she parted with him, said, "Husband, be glad; we have lived together many joyful days, and this day of our death we ought to esteem the most joyful of them all, for we shall have joy forever; therefore, I will not bid you good night, for we shall shortly meet in the kingdom of Heaven." After the men were executed, Helen was taken to a pool of water yard by, when, having recommended her dear children to the charity of her neighbors, her infant having been taken from her breast, "she was drowned, and died," says the historian of the town, "with great courage and comfort."
Perth rejoices in the possession of two beautiful[Pg 243] "Commons," or "Inches," as they are called, green as emerald, and bordered by long avenues of magnificent trees. The Tay gleams through the verdant foliage, and is seen winding, in serene beauty, far down among the rich meadows and smooth lawns which adorn its banks. Behind it are the Sidlaw hills, and looming up, in the distance, the blue ridges of the Grampians. The lands around it are highly cultivated, and support a numerous race of farmers, many of whom have grown rich from the produce of the soil.
But the shadows of evening are beginning to fall upon the landscape; to-morrow is "the rest of the holy Sabbath," and a comfortable "'tween and supper-time" awaits us at the house of a friend at some distance from Perth, which we must immediately leave.
Sabbath Morning— 'The Sabbath,' by James Grahame—Sketch of his Life—Extracts from his Poetry—The Cameronians—'Dream of the Martyrs,' by James Hislop—Sabbath Morning Walk—Country Church—The old Preacher—The Interval of Worship—Conversation in the Church-yard—Going Home from Church—Sabbath Evening.
Sabbath morning dawns upon us, bright and clear, and all around a hushed stillness pervades the air.
Thus sang Leyden, the celebrated scholar, poet, and traveller, who, like all true sons of Scotland, revered the holy Sabbath, regarding it as the best of days, the sweetest, purest, calmest of the seven! The same images, borrowed not from Leyden, but from nature and his own heart, are used by Grahame, in his delightful poem of 'The Sabbath,' a[Pg 245] production not without defects, but one of the most popular in Scotland.
The Rev. James Grahame, the author of 'The Sabbath,' 'The Birds of Scotland,' 'Biblical Pictures,' and so forth, was born in 1765, in the city of Glasgow. He studied law, but afterwards took orders in the Church of England, and officiated as curate in the counties of Gloucester and Durham. He is said to have been a popular and useful preacher. Possessed of great simplicity of character, purity of morals, and kindness of heart, he won the affections of all his parishioners. Suffering from ill health, he gave up his curacy, and returned to Scotland, where he acted, we believe, as a school-teacher. His poems, particularly that of 'The Sabbath,' attracted much attention in his native land, which he dearly loved. A deep[Pg 246] religious vein pervades the whole. Attached to the ritual of his own church, he could yet appreciate the solemn 'hill worship' of the Covenanters. His descriptions of Scottish scenery are accurate and beautiful. His Sabbath is the Sabbath of Scotland. All its pictures are drawn from real life. His verse may seem prosaic at times, but it is melodious as a whole. Nothing can be more natural or agreeable, in its easy gentle flow. Moreover, it often sparkles with original turns of thought, and felicitous expressions.
An interesting anecdote is told of Grahame in connection with the publication of 'The Sabbath.' He had finished the poem, and sent it to the press unknown to his wife. When it was issued he brought her a copy, and requested her to read it. As his name was not prefixed to the work, she did not dream that he had anything to do with it. As she went on reading, the sensitive author walked up and down the room. At length she broke out in praise of the poem, and turning to him said: "Ah! James, if you could but produce a poem like this." Judge then of her delighted surprise when told that he was its author. The effect upon her is said to have been almost overwhelming.
After describing the solemn and delightful worship of God's house, particularly the music, ascending in 'a thousand notes symphonious,' he touchingly adds:
His description of the shepherd boy's Sabbath worship among the hills is a passage of great beauty.
The hill worship of the Covenanters is also described with much beauty and pathos.
This is finely pictured; and, coming from a member of the Episcopal Church, does honor to his heart and head. Sir Walter Scott has somewhat injured the memory of the Scottish Covenanters, by presenting the darker features of their character, and forgetting utterly their earnest piety, their generous fervor, their heroic endurance. Many of them, doubtless, were deficient in high-bred courtesy and learned refinement. Others were narrow-minded and superstitious. But the great mass of them were men of lofty faith, of generous self-sacrifice. They feared God, and perilled their lives for freedom, in the high places of the field. "Lately," says a vigorous writer in Blackwood's Magazine, "the Mighty Warlock of Caledonia has shed a natural and a supernatural light round the founders of the Cameronian dynasty; and as his business was to grapple with the ruder and fiercer[Pg 250] portion of their character, the gentle graces of their nature were not called into action, and the storm and tempest and thick darkness of John Balfour of Burley, have darkened the whole breathing congregation of the Cameronians, and turned their sunny hillside into a dreary desert." It requires men of no ordinary character to become martyrs for principle, especially when that principle is one of the highest order, and has been chosen calmly, deliberately, and in the fear of God. When such men go forth to defend the right, and shed their life's blood for its enthronement, their's is no vulgar enthusiasm, no unnatural and infuriate fanaticism. Read the following from James Hislop, once a poor shepherd boy, and afterwards a school-teacher, written near the grave of the pious and redoubtable Cameron, and several of his followers, slain by tyrants in the moor of Aird's-moss, and say whether such martyrs for truth are worthy of our reverence!
But we are forgetting ourselves; and as we propose spending the Sabbath in a small country hamlet, at some distance, we must be off immediately. It would be gratifying to return to Perth and hear some of the clergymen there, Dr. Young especially, who is a preacher of great depth and energy; but the Sabbath will be sweeter amidst the woods and hills.
We enter a quiet unfrequented road, skirting around those fine clumps of trees, and that green hill to the west, and after wandering a few miles, we pass into a narrow vale, through which a small wooded stream makes its noiseless way, and adorned on either side with rich green slopes, clumps of birches, and tufts of flowering broom. As you ascend the vale, it gradually widens, the acclivities on either side recede to a considerable distance, and the road, taking a sudden turn, runs over the hill to the left, and dives into a sort of natural amphitheatre, formed by the woods and braes around it. On the further side you descry a small antique-looking church, with two or three huge ash trees, and one or two silver larches shading it, at one end, a pretty mansion built of freestone, and handsomely slated, at a little distance at the other. Approaching, we find a few[Pg 253] stragglers, as if in haste, entering the church door; the bell has ceased tolling, and the service probably is about to commence. We enter, and find seats near the door. How tenderly and solemnly that old minister, with his bland look, and silver locks, reads the eighty-fourth psalm, and how reverently the whole congregation, with book in hand, follow him to the close. A precentor, as he is called, sitting in a sort of desk under the pulpit, strikes the tune, and all, young and old, rich and poor, immediately accompany him. The minister then offers a prayer, in simple Scripture language, somewhat long, but solemn and affecting. He then reads another psalm, which is sung, as the first was, by the whole congregation, and with such earnest and visible delight, that you feel at once that their hearts are in the service. The preacher then rises in the pulpit and reads the twenty-third psalm, as the subject of his exposition, or lecture, as the Scottish preachers uniformly style their morning's discourse. His exposition is plain and practical, occasionally rising to the pathetic and beautiful. Ah, how sweetly he dwells upon the good Shepherd of the sheep, and how tenderly he depicts the security and repose of the good man passing through the dark valley and the shadow of death. His reverend look, the tremulous tones of his voice, his Scottish accent, and occasionally Scottish phrases, his abundant use of Scriptural quotations, and a certain Oriental cast of mind, derived, no doubt, from intimate communion with prophets and apostles, invest his discourse with a peculiar[Pg 254] charm. It is not learned; neither is it original and profound; but it is good, good for the heart—good for the conscience and the life. Old preachers, like old wine, in our humble opinion, are by far the best. Their freedom from earthly ambition, their deep experience of men and things, their profound acquaintance with their own heart, their evident nearness to heaven, their natural simplicity and authority, their reverend looks and tremulous tones, all unite to invest their preaching with a peculiar spiritual interest, such as seldom attaches to that of young divines. Everything, of course, depends upon personal character, and a young preacher may be truly pious, and thus speak with much simplicity and power. But, other things being equal, old preachers and old physicians, old friends and old places possess qualities peculiar to themselves.
After the sermon, prayer is offered, and the whole congregation unite in a psalm of praise. The interval of worship, it is announced, will be one hour. A portion of the congregation return to their homes, but most of them remain. Some repair to a house of refreshment in the neighborhood, where they regale themselves on the simplest fare, such as bread and milk, or bread and beer. Others wander off, in parties, to the green woods or sunny knolls around, and seated on the greensward, eat their bread and cheese, converse about the sermon, or such topics as happen to interest them most. The younger people and children are inclined to ramble, but are not permitted to do so. Yet the[Pg 255] little fellows will romp, 'a very little,' and occasionally run off, but not so far as to be beyond call. A large number of the people have gone into the grave-yard connected with the church. Some are seated on the old flat tombstones, others on the greensward, dotted all around with the graves of their fathers. See that group there. The old man, with "lyart haffets" and broad bonnet, looks like one of the old Covenanters. The old lady, evidently his wife, wears a sort of hooded cloak, from which peeps forth a nicely plaited cap of lace, which wonderfully sets off her demure but agreeable features. These young people around them are evidently their children and grandchildren. How contented they look, and how reverently they listen to the old man. Let us draw near, and hear the conversation.
"Why, grandfaither," says one of the younger lads, "don't you think the auld Covenanters were rather sour kind o' bodies?"
"Sour!" replies the old man, "they had eneuch to mak' them sour. Hunted from mountain to mountain, like wild beasts, it's nae wonder if they felt waefu' at times, or that they let human passion gain a moment's ascendancy. But they were guid men for a' that. They were the chosen o' God, and wrastled hard against principalities and powers, against the rulers o' the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Reading their lives, I've aften thocht they must ha'e been kind o' inspired. Like the auld prophets and martyrs, they were very zealous for the Lord God,[Pg 256] and endured, cheerfully, mair distress and tribulation than we can well imagine."
"Weel, weel!" says one of the girls, "I wish they had been a wee bit gentler in their ways, and mair charitable to their enemies."
"Ah, Nancy," is the quick reply of the old man, "ye ken but little about it. A fine thing it is for us, sitting here in this peacefu' kirk-yard, wi' nane to molest us or mak' us afraid, to talk about gentleness and charity. But the auld Covenanters had to encounter fire and steel. They wandered over muir and fell, in poverty and sorrow, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. But oh, my bairns! they loved and served the Lord! They endured as seeing him who is invisible; and when they cam' to dee, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for his name. Nae doot, some of them were carnal men, and ithers o' them had great imperfections. But the maist o' them were unco holy men, men o' prayer, men o' faith, aye, and men of charity of whom the world was not worthy."
This answer silences all objections.
But the bell, from the old church tower, begins to toll.
The services of the afternoon are much the same as those of the morning, except that the preacher comments briefly on the portion of Scripture read at the opening of the service, and delivers a regular discourse, from a single text. The congregation follow the preacher with evident attention, and look up in their Bibles, which all have in their hands, the passages of Scripture cited as proofs and illustrations. This, with an occasional cough, and a little rustling from the children, are the only sounds which break the solemn stillness of the scene.
Dismissed, with a solemn benediction, all take their several ways homeward. The sun is going down; but its mellow light yet lingers upon the uplands, and tinges the foliage of the trees with supernal tints. A sabbath stillness reigns over hill and dale. The very trees appear to slumber; the birds are silent, except a single thrush, which, in the deep recesses of that shadowy copsewood, appears to be singing "her hymn to the evening." A little later, you might hear the voice of psalms from the low thatched cottage, on the hillside or in the glen. For, in Scotland, family worship is generally maintained, and singing, in which the whole family join, always forms a part of the exercises.
Wandering thus, through the fields, with Sabbath influences all around us, it is impossible not to be grateful and devout. A holy calm steals upon the mind—a heavenly beatitude, akin to that of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect.
Thus, in his own simple and charming style, Grahame describes the Sabbath evening. So beautiful it is, so Sabbath-like, in its spirit and tone, that we venture one extract more.
Lochleven—Escape of Queen Mary from Lochleven Castle—Michael Bruce—Sketch of his Life—Boyhood—College Life—Poetry—"Lochleven"—Sickness—"Ode to Spring"—Death—"Ode to the Cuckoo."
Pursuing our journey southward, next day finds us on the banks of Lochleven, distinguished not so much from the beauty of its situation, as from its poetic and historical associations. It is adorned with four small islands, the principal of which are St. Serf's Isle near the east end, so called from its having been the site of a priory dedicated to St. Serf, and another near the shore on the west side, which immediately attracts the eye, from its containing the picturesque ruins of Lochleven Castle, in which Mary, Queen of Scots, was confined, and from which she made her wonderful escape. Here, also, Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St. Andrews, and grandson of Robert the Third, was imprisoned, in consequence of a generous attempt to reform the profligate lives of the Catholic clergy. In this place he died, and was buried in the monastery of St. Serf. The keys of the castle, thrown into the lake at the time of Queen Mary's flight, have recently been found by a young man belonging to Kinross, and are now in the possession of the Earl of Morton.[Pg 261]
The castle, with its massive tower yet standing, looks dismal enough, but how much it is beautified by the fine old trees and shrubbery which encircle it, and the mellow light which mantles its hoary sides!
This description is by Michael Bruce, whose early promise and premature death have awakened so much sympathy among all classes in Scotland. He was born in the vicinity of Lochleven, and has written a poem of considerable merit descriptive of the lake and surrounding scenery. His "Ode to Spring," and especially his "Ode to the Cuckoo," now universally acknowledged to be his, are among the most beautiful poems in the English language. He was born at Kinnesswood, parish of Portmoak, on the 27th of March, 1746. By going round to the north-east bank of the lake, we shall find this village, insignificant in itself, but sweetly situated on the south-west declivity of the Lomond hills. Ascending a narrow lane, we reach, near its centre, the house in which Bruce was born. It consists of two stories, with a thatched roof. Michael's[Pg 262] parents were very poor, and occupied only the upper part of the house, which served them at once for a workshop and dwelling. "A true nestling place of genius," exclaims his biographer, quoting the words of Washington Irving respecting the birth-place of Shakspeare, "which delights to hatch its offspring in bye corners." Mean as it is, an angelic soul has been here, and a charm lingers upon its homely walls. Dr. Huie of Edinburgh has given the following touching account of a visit which he paid to this place, in company with one of Bruce's old friends. "On returning," says he, "from Portmoak church-yard, where Bruce is buried, I attended my venerable guide to the lowly dwelling where the parents of the poet resided. We first entered the garden: 'This,' said Mr. B. 'was a spot of much interest to Michael. Here he used alternately to work and to meditate. There stood a row of trees which he particularly cherished, but they are now cut down,' added the good old man, and as he said this, he sighed. 'Here again,' said he, 'was a bank of soft grass on which Michael was accustomed to recline after he became too weak to walk; and here his father would sit beside him in the evening, and read to amuse him.' We next entered the house. I experienced an involuntary feeling of awe when I found myself in the humble abode, where neglected worth and talents had pined away and died. The little square windows cast but a feeble light over the apartment, and the sombre shades of evening, for the sun had now set, were strikingly[Pg 263] in unison with the scene. 'There,' said my conductor, 'auld Saunders used to sit at his loom. In that corner stood the bed where the auld couple slept, in this the bed which was occupied by Michael, and in which he died,' The good old man's eyes filled as he spoke. I found it necessary to wipe my own. I was not ashamed of my tears. They were a tribute to departed genius, and there was nothing unmanly in their flow."
Saunders Bruce, as he was called, the father of Michael, had eight children, and as the business of weaving has always been a poor one in Scotland, it was with extreme difficulty that he was enabled to give Michael a suitable education, though early perceiving in him the seeds of genius. Saunders was a pious thoughtful man, universally respected, and a sort of village chronicle. He is supposed to be referred to in the poem of Lochleven, in the lines commencing,—
Of his mother we have no means of forming a judgment, and suspect that her character was not particularly marked. It is his father to whom Michael himself, and the friends that knew him, chiefly refer in connection with his early studies and pursuits. Some indeed have intimated that the stern orthodoxy of the old man was called into requisition to repress the youthful aspirings of his son, particularly in the matter of books, but of this not the slightest evidence can be adduced.[Pg 264]
He succeeded in procuring copies of Shakspeare, Pope, Milton, Fontenelle and Young, all of which he devoured with avidity and delight. The Scriptures he read at home and at school, and thus became familiar with the magnificent images and thrilling conceptions of oriental inspiration.
Michael was a great favorite at school, and made rapid progress in his studies. But he was frequently called away from school, partly by sickness, to which he was subject at an early age, and partly by his fathers straitened circumstances. On this latter account he was employed for a time as a shepherd, on the Lomond hills, which rise in verdant beauty behind his native village. This, however, was rather a benefit than an injury to his mind as well as body. His poem of "Lochleven" is made up of reminiscences of the romantic scenes with which at that time he became familiar:—
"The late proprietor of the upper Kinneston, a small estate upon the south-west declivity of the Lomond hills, used to relate with much feeling, the amusing stories told him, and the strange questions put to him by Michael when herding his father's cattle, and how he would offer his services to carry the boys' meals to the hill, for the sake of having half an hour's conversation with this interesting youth." While his progress in learning was much[Pg 265] interrupted in this way, his mind was advancing, nevertheless, by communion with nature and his own individual heart. Besides, his frequent absence from school was compensated by the prosecution of his studies on the hillside, or by his father's ingle, so that when he returned to school, it took him but a few days to reach the top of his class. Though modest, and even shy, he had great influence with his school-fellows. Somehow they regarded him as a sort of superior being, and his word among them was law. This, doubtless, arose from the originality of his character, which developed itself at a very early age.
The same deference, it is said, was paid him at home. Indeed, he was the pet of the family, and all vied to make Michael comfortable and happy, a homage to genius and worth infinitely more precious than the plaudits of the world.
While attending school, he formed some interesting friendships, particularly with William Arnot, a peculiarly amiable young man, who died in early life, and to whom Bruce makes a touching reference in "Lochleven." Through the son he became acquainted with the father, a wise and liberal[Pg 266] man, who greatly assisted Michael in his studies, and gave him the free use of his library. It is to him the following description refers.
He found an opportunity of acquiring the Latin[Pg 267] language and preparing for college, with a Mr. Dun, who, for the sake of his son, formed a class of boys, of which Michael was decidedly the best scholar, as all acknowledged.
But he was of a slender make, and gave early indications of pulmonary consumption. In his personal appearance he is said to have resembled Shelley; having yellowish curling hair, a long neck and narrow chest, skin white and shining, and his cheeks "tinged with red rather than ruddy." He was "early smitten with the love of song," and began occasionally to write verses. Possessed of a fine musical ear, he was impatient to get hold of all sorts of old ballads and songs; and while the other children of the village or school were amusing themselves with play, or spending their money on trash, he was poring with delighted eyes over "Chevy Chase," or "The Flowers of the Forest." When he had made himself familiar with the music and sentiments of these ballads, he would endeavor "to supply his lack of novelty with verses of his own." It is in this way, probably, that his fine ballad of "Sir James the Ross," and some of his pastorals originated.
After he had left school, and saw no way of pursuing his studies, a relative left him the sum of two hundred merks Scots, about sixty dollars, when it was resolved forthwith that Michael should repair to Edinburgh University. Mr. Arnot encouraged him in this enterprise, and promised some assistance, in the shape of provisions and so forth. Accordingly he set out for the metropolis, and[Pg 268] entered college. But he was often subjected to severe privations. Some of his fellow students who suspected his poverty were willing to share their meals with him, but he could not bear the thought of being fed out of pity, and whenever he imagined the invitation to proceed from this feeling he uniformly declined it. He was high-spirited; and yet he was truly pious. Indeed, he had devoted himself to Heaven in his boyhood, and never swerved from the high principles of Christian integrity.
At college Bruce became acquainted with several young men who subsequently acquired distinction. Dr. Lawson and the Rev. John Logan were his fellow students and warmly attached friends. His relations with Logan subsequently became involved, much to the discredit of the latter, who is suspected of having dealt ungenerously with his friend's poems, which, after the death of Bruce, were committed to his care. He is charged particularly with purloining the "Ode to the Cuckoo," and publishing it as his own. Logan was a singular man—an orator of a high order, an accomplished scholar, and an elegant poet. Some of his poems, particularly his "Visit to the Country in Autumn," "The Braes of Yarrow," "The Lament of Nature," and other odes and hymns, are beautiful and finished productions. Some of his discourses, preached at Leith, though not profound, are eloquent and effective. But he was imperfectly imbued with the high principles which he endeavored to recommend to others, and he has[Pg 269] greatly tarnished his fair fame by the use which he is supposed to have made of the labors of Bruce. It is probable, however, that the "Ode to the Cuckoo" was only drafted by Bruce, and subsequently polished into its present state of perfection by the classic pen of Logan.
The companion to whom, of all others, Bruce became the most attached at college, was Mr. William Dryburgh, from Dysart. Like Bruce, he was possessed of piety and genius, and like him, too, suffered from pulmonary disease, and died in early life. Both had a presentiment that they were destined to a premature grave. And this, with their bright hope of a blessed immortality, was the frequent subject of their conversations. Dryburgh died in his eighteenth year, and Bruce followed him in less than a year after. How keenly he felt this separation may be gathered from the following letter to a friend, written on receiving the intelligence of Dryburgh's death:—
"I have not many friends, but I love them well. Death has been among the few I have. Poor Dryburgh!—but he is happy. I expected to have been his companion through life, and that we should have stepped into the grave together; but Heaven has seen meet to dispose of him otherwise. What think you of this world? I think it very little worth. You and I have not a great deal to make us fond of it; and yet I would not exchange my condition with any unfeeling fool in the universe, if I were to have his dull hard heart into the bargain. Farewell, my rival in immortal hope! My[Pg 270] companion, I trust, for eternity! Though far distant, I take thee to my heart; souls suffer no separation from the obstruction of matter, or distance of place. Oceans may roll between us, and climates interpose in vain—the whole material creation is no bar to the winged mind. Farewell! through boundless ages, fare thee well! May'st thou shine when the sun is darkened. May'st thou live and triumph when time expires! It is at least possible that we meet no more in this foreign land, in this gloomy apartment of the universe of God. But there is a better world in which we may meet to part no more. Adieu."
But the grief of a true poet embodies itself in verse. The following lines, on the death of Dryburgh, were found among Bruce's papers.
Bruce's father made great efforts, by means of[Pg 271] saving and borrowing, to assist his son during his college course, and Mr. Arnot continued to send him occasional supplies from his farm and dairy. But he was sadly straitened in the matter of books. The following letter upon this subject is characteristic and striking.
"Edinburgh, Nov. 27, 1764.—I daily meet with proofs that money is a necessary evil. When in an auction, I often say to myself, how happy should I be if I had money to purchase such a book! How well should my library be furnished, 'nisi obstat res angusta domi,'
Whether any virtues would have accompanied me in a more elevated station is uncertain, but that a number of vices of which my sphere is incapable, would have been its attendants, is unquestionable. The Supreme Wisdom has seen this meet, and the Supreme Wisdom cannot err."
The annual session in the colleges of Scotland lasts only from six to eight months, and thus leaves considerable time for relaxation and private study, or for other occupations necessary to recruit the students' exhausted finances. At the end of each of these terms, Michael returned home, much exhausted by his application to study. His system, however, soon recovered its wonted energy in the congenial scenes of his boyhood, and the kind attentions of the proprietor of Portmoak. Still he was seldom in perfect health, and often complained[Pg 272] of headache and depression of spirits. Most of his time during the summer months, the season of vacation, was spent either in reading or in writing poetry.
During his last session at College, Michael accepted a proposal to teach a small school at Gairney Bridge, which lies on a small stream running into Lochleven. He finished his collegiate studies honorably, having distinguished himself chiefly in rhetoric and belles lettres. At Gairney Bridge he had some thirty or forty pupils under his care, whom he governed entirely without the rod, then pretty thoroughly used in Scotland. But the compensation was a mere trifle, not exceeding more than sixty or seventy dollars a year.
It was in this place that he wrote several of his poems, and became deeply attached to a beautiful young woman in the neighborhood, to whom, however, he never declared his passion.
About this time he joined the church in Kinross, under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. Swanston, recently appointed professor of Theology in the United Secession Church. This learned and amiable man conceived a strong attachment for Michael, and ever treated him with the greatest consideration and kindness. Subsequently he engaged to teach a school at Forest Mill, a dreary sort of place, with miserable school accommodations. His health too, was declining. While fording the Devon on horseback, the horse stumbled and immersed him in the stream, a circumstance which greatly aggravated his consumptive tendency. Moreover he[Pg 273] was disappointed in his school, and his health and spirits rapidly declined. In a letter to Mr. Arnot, he says, "I expected to be happy here, but I am not. The easiest part of my life is past. I sometimes compare my condition with that of others, and imagine if I was in theirs it would be well. But is not everybody thus! Perhaps he whom I envy thinks he would be glad to change with me, and yet neither would be better for the change. Since it is so, let us, my friend, moderate our hopes and fears, resign ourselves to the will of Him who doeth all things well, and who hath assured us that he careth for us.
"Things are not very well in the world, but they are pretty well. They might have been worse, and such as they are may please us who have but a few short days to use them. This scene of affairs, though a very perplexed, is a very short one, and in a little while all will be cleared up. Let us endeavor to please God, our fellow creatures and ourselves. In such a course of life we shall be as happy as we can expect in such a world as this. Thus you, who cultivate your farm with your own hands, and I who teach a dozen blockheads for bread, may be happier than he, who having more than he can use, tortures his brain to invent some new methods of killing himself with the superfluity." In this letter, worthy of Cowper or of Foster, we see a brave spirit struggling with the direst misfortunes, poverty[Pg 274] and disease, and overcoming both by the silent might of a believing spirit.
Another thing which greatly afflicted Bruce at Forest Mill, was the total want of agreeable scenery, and it was only by an effort of memory and imagination that he could, in some measure make up this deficiency, by recalling the delightful scenery of his early home. To this combination of unfavorable circumstances he touchingly refers in the poem of Lochleven, which was actually produced under their influence, as a means of relaxation and enjoyment.
"Lochleven" is his longest, and in most respects, his most beautiful poem. It has defects, obvious enough to a critical eye, but its general excellence strikes every reader. Its descriptions and delineations are natural and striking, its imagery is simple and poetical, and its measure sweet and melodious. Nearly the whole of it has been "used up," in beautiful extracts by different writers of distinction.
But the composition of this poem seems to have been too much for Bruce's shattered frame; for he was compelled almost immediately to relinquish his school. He had just strength to walk home to[Pg 275] Kinnesswood, a distance of nearly twenty miles, resting only a short time at Turf-hills on the way. Though nowhere on earth could he be happier than in the humble cottage of his parents, it was yet the worst place in the world for his disease. "The vapors rising from the lake," says his biographer, "particularly in spring, keep the atmosphere constantly in a state of moisture, whilst in the mornings and evenings the eastern haars, as the fogs which come up from the sea are called by the inhabitants, come rolling down the hills, and hang suspended over Kinnesswood like a dripping curtain."
He had expected, in the quiet of his father's home and in the vicinity of his dear Lochleven, a restoration of health; but in this hope he was disappointed. The mark of death was upon him. The heart of the beauteous tree was poisoned by disease, and all its leaves faded and fell to the ground. It was under the consciousness of this fact, that he wrote his beautiful and affecting "Ode to Spring," which he sent to a dear friend to apprise him of his approaching dissolution. The following are its concluding stanzas.
He intimated his approaching death to another friend, in prose, as affecting as his poetry, and if possible, more instructive.
"A few mornings ago, as I was taking a walk on an eminence which commands a view of the Forth, with the vessels sailing along, I sat down, and taking out my Latin Bible, opened by accident, at a place in the Book of Job, chap, ix: 23, 'Now my days are passed away as the swift ships.'[Pg 277] Shutting the book, I fell a musing on this affecting comparison. Whether the following happened to me in a dream or waking reverie I cannot tell, but I fancied myself on the bank of a river or sea, the opposite side of which was hid from view, being involved in clouds of mist. On the shore stood a multitude, which no man could number, waiting for passage. I saw a great many ships taking in passengers, and several persons going about in the garb of pilots, offering their service. Being ignorant, and curious to know what all these things meant, I applied to a grave old man who stood by giving instructions to the departing passengers. His name, I remember, was the Genius of Human Life. 'My son,' said he, 'you stand on the banks of the stream of Time. All these people are bound for ETERNITY, that undiscovered country whence no traveller ever returns. The country is very large, and divided into two parts, the one is called the Land of Glory, the other the Kingdom of Darkness. The names of those in the garb of pilots, are Religion, Virtue, Pleasure. They who are so wise as to choose Religion for their guide, have a safe, though frequently a rough passage; they are at last landed in the happy climes where sorrow and sighing forever flee away. They have likewise a secondary director, Virtue; but there is a spurious Virtue, who pretends to govern by himself; but the wretches who trust to him, as well as those who have Pleasure for their pilot, are either shipwrecked or are cast away on the Kingdom of Darkness. But the vessel in which you must embark, approaches, and you must[Pg 278] be gone. Remember what depends upon your conduct.' No sooner had he left me, than I found myself surrounded by those pilots I mentioned before. Immediately I forgot all that the old man said to me, and seduced by the fair promises of Pleasure, chose him for my director. We weighed anchor with a fair gale, the sky serene, the sea calm. Innumerable little isles lifted their green heads around us, covered with trees in full blossom; dissolved in stupid mirth, we were carried on regardless of the past, of the future unmindful. On a sudden the sky was darkened, the winds roared, the seas raged; red rose the sand from the bottom of the deep. The angel of the waters lifted up his voice. At that instant, a strong ship passed by; I saw Religion at the helm. 'Come out from among these,' he cried. I and a few others threw ourselves out into his ship. The wretches we left were now tossed on the swelling deep. The waters on every side poured, through the riven vessel. They cursed the Lord; when lo! a fiend rose from the deep, and in a voice like distant thunder, thus spoke:—'I am Abaddon, the first-born of death;—ye are my prey. Open thou abyss to receive them!' As he thus spoke they sunk, and the waves closed over their heads. The storm was turned into a calm, and we heard a voice saying, 'Fear not, I am with you. When you pass through the waters they shall not overflow you.' Our hearts were filled with joy. I was engaged in discourse with one of my new companions, when one from the top of the mast cried out, 'Courage, my friends, I see the[Pg 279] fair haven, the land that is yet afar off.' Looking up, I found it was a certain friend, who had mounted up for the benefit of contemplating the country before him. Upon seeing you, (the friend to whom he was writing,) I was so affected that I started and awaked. Farewell, my friend,—Farewell!"
See that fragile form, then, with the glowing spirit within, panting for freedom and its "native skies," borne along in the vessel of Religion, upon a calm and sunny sea. He looks aloft, and anticipates with serene and joyful trust, his entrance into the port of everlasting peace. The vessel glides, with increasing velocity, her sails all set, and gleaming in the reflected radiance of the spirit-world. Now she enters the port, and nears that blessed shore,
The few days which remained to Michael on earth, he spent in correcting his poem of the "Last Judgment," and in pluming his spirit for its upward flight. His bodily strength was exhausted, and he was obliged to keep his bed. His mind was meditative and hopeful, dwelling almost wholly upon various passages of Holy Writ, which he would repeat and comment upon to his friends.
Mr. George Lawson, afterwards Dr. Lawson, professor of theology in the "Secession Church," being called to preach for a settlement in the neighborhood of Kinnesswood, hastened upon his arrival there, to see his friend Bruce. He found him in bed, with his countenance pale as death, while his eyes shone like lamps in a sepulchre. The poet[Pg 280] was delighted to see him, and spoke with as much ease and freedom as if he had been in perfect health. Mr. Lawson remarked to him that he was glad to see him so cheerful. "And why," said he, "should not a man be cheerful on the verge of heaven?" "But," said Mr. L., "you look so emaciated. I am afraid you cannot last long." "You remind me," he replied, "of the story of the Irishman, who was told that his hovel was about to fall, and I answer with him, Let it fall, it is not mine!"
This cheerfulness continued during his illness, till his mother, one morning, announced to him, just as he was awaking out of sleep, that Mr. Swanston was dead. He looked at her with a fixed stare, as if stunned by the intelligence. Upon recovering he satisfied himself as to the correctness of the statement, and was never afterwards seen to smile! Still we do not attach much importance to this circumstance; for it often happens that when the countenance is cold and ghastly, the heart within is warm and serene. He lingered for a month, manifesting little interest in what was said or done around him, and on the 5th of July, calmly and imperceptibly fell asleep, aged twenty-one years and three months.
His Bible was found upon his pillow, marked down at Jer. xxii: 10, "Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him;" and on the blank leaf this homely but expressive verse was written:—
He was buried in the church-yard of Portmoak, in the very centre of the scenes hallowed and beautified by his muse. A monument has been erected to Bruce through the subscription of his friends, of which the following is the simple but appropriate inscription:
Born in 1747 at Kinnesswood,
In the County of Kinross,
Died at the age of twenty-one.
In this brief space,
Under the pressure of indigence and sickness,
He displayed talents truly
For his aged mother's and his own support
He taught a school here.
The village was then skirted with old ash trees,
The cottage in which he dwelt
Was distinguished by a honeysuckle
Which he had trained round its
Certain inhabitants of his native county,
Have erected this stone
To mark the abode
Genius and Virtue.
Bruce was designed for the service of the church. In this view, as well as with reference to the cultivation of his fine poetical talents, his death may be deemed a calamity. And yet, such a view of the case may fairly be questioned. For himself, is he not happier, in the bosom of his God; and for us, does he not, by means of his Christian life, his heroic death, his ethereal strains, embalmed in blessed memories of the past, preach more effectually than he could have done, even had he lived to occupy a material pulpit. "Being dead he yet speaketh," and speaketh with a power and pathos which can be reached only by the dead.
Had we room we might give many pleasant extracts from his poetry; but we must content ourselves with his "Ode to the Cuckoo," in our judgment one of the most beautiful and perfect little poems in any language.
Dunfermline—Ruins of the Abbey—Grave of Robert Bruce—Malcolm Canmore's Palace—William Henryson, the poet—William Dunbar—Stirling Castle—Views from its Summit—City of Stirling—George Buchanan and Dr. Arthur Johnston—Falkirk—Linlithgow—Story of the Capture of Linlithgow Castle—Spirit of War—Arrival in Edinburgh.
Bidding adieu to Lochleven, we journey slowly through a pleasant and highly cultivated region, till we reach the ancient town of Dunfermline, in which some of the old Scottish kings formerly held court, and which is yet adorned with the remains of a magnificent abbey. Robert Bruce was interred here, in complete armor, and much interest was excited, a few years ago, by the discovery of his skeleton. In the vicinity are the ruins of Malcolm Canmore's palace and stronghold, standing on the edge of a deep romantic glen, in which, more than three hundred years ago, the poet Henryson, a schoolmaster in Dunfermline, was wont to wander, singing his beautiful lays, in the quaint and difficult dialect of former times.
Henryson was contemporary with William Dunbar, a poet, says Sir Walter Scott, unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced. He flourished at the court of James IV. His poems are of all sorts, allegorical, moral and comic. The following lines on the brevity of human existence are a fair specimen of his style.
In another poem he takes a more cheerful view of life.
From Dunfermline, we cross the country in the[Pg 286] direction of Stirling, and of course linger to view the famous battle-ground of Bannockburn, immortalized by the prowess of Scotland, and the poetry of Burns.
But we approach Stirling Castle, one of the oldest and most imposing strongholds in the country. How often have these old rocks rung again, "with blast of bugle free;" and how frequently has the ground at its base been soaked with human blood! The castle stands on a huge ledge of basaltic rock, rising rapidly from the plain, and overlooking the country far and near, and backed by the rising ground on which the city is built. Ascending to the summit we pass round it, by a narrow pathway cut in the sides of the mountain, and thence enjoy the most extensive and delightful views. How charmingly the Links of the Forth, as the serpentine windings of the river are called, adorn the rich vale, in which they love to linger, as if loth to depart. To the north and east are the Ochil hills, "vestured" in blue, and looking down upon fertile fields, umbrageous woods, and stately mansions. On the west lies the vale of Menteith, and far off the Highland mountains, lost in the mist. On another side are the pastoral hills of Campsie, and underneath our eye the town of Stirling, the Abbey Craig, and the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey. The Forth, with "isles of emerald," and white sails skimming its glassy surface, expands into the German Ocean; and Edinburgh Castle, just descried amid the haze, crowns the distant landscape. Stirling was a favorite residence[Pg 287] of the Stuarts; but the castle is now employed only as a barracks for soldiery.
Leaving the castle we pass into the city, by High Street, adorned with several palaces of the old nobility, antique-looking edifices, of a solid structure. Here was the palace of the Regent, Earl of Mar, whose descendants were the keepers of Stirling Castle. Here too was the palace of Sir William Alexander, "the philosophical poet" of the court of James the Sixth, and tutor to Charles the First, who created him Earl of Stirling. But an object of still greater interest is the tower where George Buchanan, the historian of Scotland, and one of the first scholars of his age, lived and wrote. He was tutor to James the Sixth of Scotland, and First of England. He wrote a paraphrase of the Psalms in elegant Latin verse, of which he was a perfect master. Most of this work was composed in a monastery in Portugal, to which he had been confined by the Inquisition about the year 1550. It was continued in France, and finished in Scotland. His prose works, particularly his history of Scotland, are characterized by clearness and research. His celebrated contemporary, Dr. Arthur Johnston, was equally distinguished for the variety of his attainments, and his perfect command of the Latin tongue; so that the one has been called the Scottish Virgil, and the other the Scottish Ovid. The Latin version of the Psalms by Buchanan is still used in some of the Scottish schools. It is elegant and faithful, but somewhat formal and paraphrastic.[Pg 288]
There are many objects of interest in Stirling, and the scenery around is rich and beautiful, and, moreover, associated in every part, with recollections of the olden time; but we cannot linger here. The stage-coach is waiting to take us to Falkirk, a town of great antiquity, having been the site of one of those military stations on the wall made by the Romans at their invasion of the country, known by the name of the Forts of Agricola. It was also the scene of one or two famous battles in the days of Wallace and Bruce. Being the principal town in the midst of a rich agricultural country, it is now the scene of immense fairs or trysts, as they are called, to which large droves of Highland cattle are brought annually for sale, and where an immense amount of business is transacted. But there is nothing here of sufficient interest to detain us; so we proceed in the rail-cars to Edinburgh. In passing, we get a glimpse of the castle and palace of Linlithgow; in the twefth century one of the most important burghs in Scotland, the residence of several of the kings of Scotland, and the birth-place of Queen Mary.
When Robert Bruce was lying in Torwood Castle, not far from Falkirk, a man by the name of Binnoch, a farmer in the neighborhood, who supplied the garrison at Linlithgow, then in possession of the English king, proposed to Bruce to take possession of the garrison by a stratagem, which he accomplished. This incident has been wrought into a lively form by Wilson, not Professor Wilson, but John Mackie Wilson, author of the Border Tales, of whom I shall have something to say by and by. The following is his account of the matter, somewhat condensed.
Having been introduced to Bruce at Torwood, Binnoch intimated that he had something of great importance to communicate, and inquired whether he might speak with confidence. Being assured that he might, he proceeded thus:
"Aweel sir, the business I cam' upon is just this. I supply the garrison, ye see sir, o' Lithgow wi' hay; now I've observed that they're a' wheen idle, careless fellows, mair ta'en up wi' their play than their duty."
Bruce's eye here kindled with a sudden fire, and his whole countenance became animated with an expression of fierce eagerness that strongly contrasted with its former placidity. He was now all attention to the communication of his humble visitor.
"What! the castle of Linlithgow, friend!" exclaimed Bruce, with a slight smile of mingled surprise and incredulity. "You take the castle of[Pg 290] Linlithgow! Pray, my good fellow, how would you propose to do that?"
"Why sir, by a very simple process," replied Binnoch, undauntedly, "I wad put a dizen or fifteen stout weel armed, resolute fellows, in my cart, cover them owre wi' hay, and introduce them into the garrison as a load o' provender. If they were ance in, an' the cheils were themselves of the richt stuff, I'll wad my head to a pease bannock that the castle's ours in fifteen minutes."
"And would you undertake to do this, my good friend?" said Bruce, gravely, struck with the idea, and impressed with its practicability.
"Readily, and wi' a richt guid will, sir," replied Binnoch, "provided ye fin' me the men; but they maun be the very wale o' your flock; its no a job for faint hearts or nerveless arms."
"The men ye shall have, my brave fellow; and if ye succeed your country will be indebted to you. But it is a perilous undertaking; there will be hard fighting, and ye may lose your head by it. Have you thought of that?"
"I have, sir," replied Binnoch, firmly. "As to the fechtin', we are like to gie them as guid as we get. And for the hangin', the Scotsman is no deservin' o' the name that's no ready to brave death, in any form, for his country."
Bruce caught the enthusiasm of the speaker; a tear started into his eye, and seizing the hand of the humble patriot—
"My noble fellow," he said, "would to God all Scotsmen were like thee. Beneath that homely[Pg 291] plaid of thine there beats a heart of which any knight in Christendom might be proud. Lose or win, this shall not be forgotten."
Having made the necessary arrangements, and agreed upon a sign, for communicating with each other, Binnoch took his departure from the castle of Torwood.
The next day the men selected by Bruce were at Binnoch's house, having been admitted through the preconcerted signal. They repaired to the barn, and were snugly packed away in the hay cart, armed with steel caps and short swords. Everything being in readiness, Binnoch hid a sword amongst the hay, for his own use, and in such a situation that he could easily seize it when wanted. He also provided himself with a poniard, which he concealed beneath his waistcoat. Thus prepared at all points, the intrepid peasant set forward with his load of daring hearts, and having arrived at the castle, he and his cart were immediately admitted. They proceeded onwards till they came to the centre of the court-yard, when Binnoch gave the preconcerted signal to his associates, which was conveyed in the words, spoken in a loud voice—"Forward, Greystail, forward!" as if addressing his horse, which he at the same time struck with his whip to complete the deception.
These words were no sooner uttered than the hay, with which the daring adventurers were covered, was seen to move, and the next instant it was thrown over upon the pavement, to the[Pg 292] inexpressible amazement of the idlers who were looking on; and, to their still greater surprise, fifteen armed men leapt, with fearful shouts, into the court-yard, when, being instantly headed by Binnoch, the work of death began. Every man within their reach at the moment was cut down. The guard-room was assailed, and all in it put to death, and passing from apartment to apartment, they swept the garrison, and took possession of it. The attack had been so sudden, so unexpected, and so vigorous, that its unfortunate occupants, six times their number, had no time to rally or defend themselves, and thus fell an easy prey to the bold adventurers.
We have only to add that Binnoch was rewarded by Bruce, for this important service, with some valuable lands in the parish of Linlithgow; and that his descendants had for their arms a hay-wain, with the motto, virtute doloque.
By the way, these two words, courage and stratagem, express the very spirit and essence of ancient war, and indeed of all war, a relic of barbarism, the most foul and horrible the world has ever seen. Defensible, perhaps, in cases of extremity, when it is the last and only means of protecting our homes and altars, but in all other cases a fearful atrocity, fit only for cannibals and demons!
But yonder are the peaceful towers of[Pg 294] Edinburgh, bathed in the sombre light of evening. The very castle looks like an image of repose, as it silently looms up amid the smoke and hum of the busy city. Signs of peace and prosperity are every where around us, indicating, if we have not yet reached, that at least we are approaching that happy time when "men shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning hooks."
Journey to Peebles—Characters—Conversation on Politics—Scottish Peasantry—Peebles—"Christ's Kirk on the Green"—A Legend—An old Church—The Banks of the Tweed—Its ancient Castles—The Alarm Fire—Excursion to the Vales of Ettrick and Yarrow—Stream of Yarrow—St. Mary's Lake and Dryhope Tower—"The Dowie Dens of Yarrow"—Growth of Poetry—Ballads and Poems on Yarrow by Hamilton, Logan and Wordsworth.
On a cold, drizzly morning we start, in a substantial stage-coach, well lined with cushions inside, for the ancient town of Peebles, which lies to the south of Edinburgh, some twenty-five miles or more. The 'outsides' are wrapped in cloaks and overcoats, and literally covered in with umbrellas; and from their earnest talking seem to be tolerably comfortable. The "Scottish mist," cold and penetrating, would soon reach the skin of an unsheltered back; all hands, therefore, and especially the driver in front, and the guard behind, are muffled to the neck with cravats and other appliances. Eyes and mouth only are visible, not indeed to the passers by, but to the denizens of the stage-coach, who cling together for warmth and sociability. Our travelling companions inside are a Dominie from Auchingray, fat as a capon, with face round, sleek and shiny, little gray eyes glancing beneath a placid forehead, and indicating intelligence and good[Pg 296] nature; and a south-country laird, a large, brawny man, with a huge face and huger hat, corduroy breeches and top boots, a coat that nearly covers the whole of his body, and a vest of corresponding dimensions. A mighty cravat is tied neatly around his capacious throat, and a couple of large gold seals dangle from beneath his vest. In addition to these two, a little man, thin and wrinkled, but with a clear, quick, restless eye, is sitting in the corner, squeezed into a rather straight place by the laird and the dominie. From his appearance and conversation, we should take him to be a lawyer. With some little difficulty we get into conversation, but once set agoing, it jogs on at a pretty fair pace. Insensibly it glides into politics, and becomes rather lively. The lawyer is evidently a whig, the laird a tory of the old stamp, and the dominie neither the one nor the other, but rather more of a tory than anything else, as he is dependent, in some sense, upon 'the powers that be.'
"For my part," says the laird, taking hold of his watch-seals, and twirling them energetically, "I do not believe in your two-faced radicals, who have more impudence in their noddles than money in their pockets, and who go routing about the country, crying up democracy and all that sort of stuff, to the great injury of her majesty's subjects."
"But, my dear sir," replies the lawyer, "you forget that money is not the summum bonum of human life, and that the gentlemen to whom you refer are not impudent radicals, but clear-headed and patriotic whigs."[Pg 297]
"All gammon, sir! all gammon!" is the rejoinder of the laird, "I wouldn't give a fig for the whole pack. One or two of them, I admit, are tolerably respectable men. Lord John Russel belongs to the old nobility, and is a man of some sense, but sadly deceived, full of nonsensical plans and dangerous reforms. As to Dan. O'Connel, he is an old fox, a regular Irish blackguard, who has not heart enough to make a living by honest means, but fleeces it out of the starving Irish, in the shape of repeal rent! Hang the rascal, I should be glad to see him gibbeted! Hume is a mean, beggarly adventurer. And even Sir Robert Peel, with all his excellences, has made sad mistakes on the subject of reform and the corn laws. He's not the thing, after all! Sadly out of joint, sir, sadly out of joint!"
All this is said with such terrible energy, and such a menacing frown, that even the lawyer cowers a little, and the dominie is almost frightened. We think it best, upon the whole, to say little. But, plucking up courage, the lawyer replies:
"Sir, you come to conclusions that are too sweeping. That Lord John Russel is a man of clear intellect and admirable forethought no one will think of denying. His plans are well matured, and, moreover, aim at the good of his country. Hume is a great political economist: Sir R. Peel is a man of the highest order of mind; and Daniel O'Connel, with all his faults, possesses uncommon[Pg 298] powers of eloquence, and, doubtless, seeks the good of his country."
"The good of his country! All humbug, sir! If you had said his own good, you would have come nearer the mark. He's a rascal, sir, rely on it, a mean cowardly rascal, who, pretending to benefit the poor Irish, fills his own pockets with their hard earnings. I appeal to Mr. Cooper here, my respected friend, the parish schoolmaster of Auchingray."
To which the dominie replies demurely:
"As to my opinion, gentlemen, it is not of much consequence, but such as it is I give with all candor. In the first place I opine that we are liable somewhat to yield to our prejudices in estimating the characters of public men; for, as my old friend, the Rev. Mr. Twist, used to say, they have 'twa maisters to serve, the government and the public, and it's unco difficult sometimes to sail between Scylla and Charybdis.' Moreover, these are trying times, and much of primitive integrity and patriotism are lost. For myself, I do not approve altogether of the course of the whigs, and especially of the radicals. Daniel O'Connel is a devoted Catholic, with no generous aspirations, or enlarged conceptions of the public weal. A great man, certainly, a wonderful orator, no doubt, but much tinctured with selfishness, and carried away by wild and prurient schemes. Lord John Russel is a man of decided talent and fine character, but I have not much confidence, after all, in his practical wisdom, and good common sense. Sir Robert[Pg 299] Peel, however is, with some slight exceptions, a model statesman, a man of a wonderfully clear, well balanced mind, and a deep insight into men and things. Still, as my friend on the left says, he's somewhat out of joint just now, and, for my own part, I could never altogether approve his schemes."
"There sir," quickly interposed the laird, "There sir! didn't I tell you, sir? All humbug, sir! Nothing safe—nothing useful about the whigs! Give me the good old days of my grandfather, when the rascals dared not peep or mutter!"
"But you forget, sir," is the answer of the lawyer, "that your friend, the schoolmaster here, has admitted nearly all for which I contend."
"Admitted nothing, sir! Comes to nothing, sir! And to tell you the plain honest truth, I believe the whole pack of them are a set of humbugs! All sham, sir! nothing but hypocrisy and humbug!"
"But a modification of the corn laws is certainly desirable for the sake of the poorer classes, many of whom are living upon the merest trifle:"—we venture to remark.
"All a mistake, sir! all a mistake! An honest, sensible man can always make his way, and secure bread for his family!"
"Well, but surely you consider a shilling or eighteen pence a day rather miserable support!"
"Not at all, sir! not at all! They're used to it, and thousands of them are happier than you or I!"
"Upon this point we beg leave to doubt, and hope the time is not far distant when the common people will have cheap bread:"—we quietly rejoin.[Pg 300]
"Amen!" responds the dominie. "That I am confident would be an improvement; but how it is to be brought about is a question of great difficulty. The common people of Scotland are not so poorly off as foreigners represent them. Their habits are primitive and simple, and I certainly have known many families, particularly in the country, make themselves very comfortable on eighteen pence or a couple of shillings a day."
"Give us an example, if you please!"
"Why, there is James Thomson, a working man, who makes, upon an average, say eighteen pence or a couple of shillings sterling (fifty cents) daily, through the year. He has a wife and four children. He built himself a kind of stone and turf cottage on the edge of one of Lord B.'s plantations, with a but and a ben, and a little out-house. One day I called in to see him about one of his children, and, in the course of conversation, asked him how he got along."
"Brawly;" was the reply.
"Can you make 'the twa ends meet' at the close of the year?"
"Yes," said he, "and something mair than that. Last Candlemas I laid up nae less than ten and saxpence."
"But how can you do it. Have you any land to cultivate?"
"A wee bittock," was the answer, "but it's graund for taties and turnips."[Pg 301]
"Have you a cow?"
"O aye, we have a coo, and a gude coo she is."
"Well, what have you for victuals?"
"The best o' parritch and milk in the morning, and at nicht. And as for denner, we ha' nae great variety, but what's wholesome eneuch. And ye ken, Dominie C., that hunger's the best sauce."
"True enough, but excuse me, I should like to know what you generally have for dinner."
"Ou," said he, laughing, "the graundest kail i' the world, made o' barley, butter and vegetables, wi' a bit o' beef, or a marrow bane in't once in a while, and mealy tatties, scones and cakes, the very best in the kintra!"
"Well, you're content!"
"To be sure we are! and gratefu', besides, to the Giver o' a' gude."
"But you have a little pinch occasionally—in the cold and stormy winter weather?"
"Why ye-s—but it's nae mair than a body may expeck, and it's a great deal less than we deserve. For mysel' I ha' nae great reason to complain, but Sandy Wilson, ower the way, has had a sair time on't."
"What's the matter?"
"Why, ye see, Sandy is no very able-bodied, and maybe a little shiftless, and he fell sick about the middle o' winter. His wife is a proud kind o' body, and she said naething to the neebors, and I jalouse they had a sair pinching time on't. The wee bit lassie seemed to be dwining awa', and Sandy, puir fellow, was just at death's door. But[Pg 302] the minister o' the parish found it out, and Sandy was soon provided for. Hech sir! we ought to be thankfu' that we hae our health. It's a great blessing. For if a man only has health and a clear conscience he needna fear famine or the deevil."
"Sandy then got over his troubles, did he?"
"In a measure," was the cautious reply, "but the puir wee lassie grew paler and paler; and noo her bonny brown hair is covered wi' the yird. She was a sweet bit lassie, but she was frail in the constitootion, ye see, and the hard famishing winter was ower muckle for her feeble frame. But she was weel cared for on her sick bed. And when she died, the hail kintra side turned out to attend the funeral, and mony tears were shed upon her wee bit grave. My Mary, who gaed to school wi' her, canna get ower it to this day. She was an unco bonny thing—sweet as the mornin' wat wi' dew, and gentle as a pet lamb. But her grave is green by this time, and Sandy is better off than he used to be."
The burly laird listened attentively to this narrative, and at the close of it, a tear dimmed his eye. He gave a slight cough, as if to repress and to hide his rising emotion, and looking out the coach window, exclaimed, "There's Peebles, at last, and yonder's the sign of the Black Bull," as if he were prodigiously relieved.
The day is brightening, and this ancient city on the Tweed, looks quite agreeable, reminding us of the days of old, when the kings and nobles of Scotland used to witness, on its beautiful green, games of[Pg 303] archery, golf, and so forth. It is supposed to be the scene referred to in the opening stanza of "Christ's Kirk on the Green," by James the First, the royal poet of Scotland.
This old town was burnt and laid waste more than once during the invasions of the English. Still, from its sequestered situation, it never figured largely in any great event. An antique bridge, consisting of five arches, connects the old and new towns, which lie on either bank of the river. Rambling through the place, we come to a large massive building, in a castellated form, known to have belonged to the Queensberry family, and believed to be the scene of a romantic incident, thus related by Sir Walter Scott:—"There is a tradition in Tweedale, that when Nidpath castle, near Peebles, was inhabited by the Earls of March, a mutual passion subsisted between a daughter of that noble family and the son of the Laird of Tushielaw, in Ettrick Forest. As the alliance was thought unsuitable by her parents, the young man went abroad. During his absence, the young lady fell into a consumption, and at length, as the only means of saving[Pg 304] her life, her father consented that her lover should be recalled. On the day when he was expected to pass through Peebles, on the road to Tushielaw, the young lady, though much exhausted, caused herself to be carried to the balcony of a house in Peebles, belonging to the family, that she might see him when he rode past. Her anxiety and eagerness gave such force to her organs that she is said to have distinguished his horses' footsteps at an incredible distance. But Tushielaw, unprepared for the change in her appearance, and not expecting to see her in that place, rode on, without recognizing her, or even slackening his pace. The lady was unable to support the shock, and after a short struggle died in the arms of her attendants."
Here are the ruins of some very old churches, one in particular, at the western extremity of the old town. This was the original parish church of Peebles, and was built upon the site of one still more ancient, occupied by the Culdees, (probably from Cultores Dei, worshipers of God,) an ancient class of monks, whose forms of worship and doctrinal belief were extremely simple, and, as some suppose, evangelical. They had monasteries at Jona, and in various parts of Scotland, before the Anglo-Saxon period, and preserved for many years, the pure worship of God. An altar in St. Andrew's church, was dedicated to St. Michael, with a special endowment for the services of "a chapellane, there perpetually to say mes, efter the valow of the rents and possessions gevin thereto, in honor of Almighty God, Mary his Modyr, and Saint Michael,[Pg 305] for the hele of the body and the sawl of Jamys, King of Scotts, for the balyheis, ye burges, and ye communite of the burgh of Peebles, and for the hele of their awn sawlis, thair fadyris sawlis, thair modyris sawlis, thair kinnis sawlis, and al Chrystyn sawlis." Part of the tithes of this church are now used to support a Grammar school, and while the people still worship Almighty God, they have but little reverence for "Mary his modyr, and St. Michael."
Let us wander along the banks of this far-famed and beautiful river, gliding sweetly through one of the most beautiful vales in Scotland, and once adorned with numerous castles and monasteries, whose mouldering remains yet diversify the landscape. The whole vale of the Tweed, both above and below Peebles, was studded with a chain of castles, built in the shape of square towers, and ordinarily consisting of three stories, to serve as a defence against the invasion of the English freebooters. They were built alternately on each side of the river, and at such distances that one could be seen from the other. A fire kindled on the top of one of these, to give warning of a hostile incursion, could thus be perpetuated through the whole, till a tract of country seventy miles long, "from Berwick to the Bield," and fifty broad, was alarmed in a few hours. What objects of terror and sublimity these blazing summits, lighting, in a dark night, the whole valley of the Tweed, and flashing their ruddy gleam upon copsewood and river, hill-top and castle turret![Pg 306]
But the grey mist of evening is beginning to settle upon the vale of the Tweed, and the quaint old town of Peebles, "with its three old bridges, and three old steeples, by three old churches borne."
With fair weather, and in admirable spirits, we set off next morning, after breakfast, and travel at an easy pace down the fair banks of the "silver Tweed," till we reach the pretty village of Innerleithen, at the bottom of a sequestered dell, encircled on one side by high and partially wooded hills, and enlivened by the clear waters of the Tweed, rolling in front. Passing a handsome wooden bridge which crosses the river, we reach the hamlet of Traquair and Traquair house, and naturally enquire for the far-famed "Bush aboon Traquair." It is pointed out at the bottom of the hill which overlooks the lawn, where a few birch trees may be seen, the only remains of that dear old spot, made sacred by melody and song. Continuing our journey across the country, we get among the hills, and after travelling some time through a deep glen,[Pg 307] we see before us the "haunted stream of Yarrow," the very name of which has become a synonym for all that is tender in sentiment and beautiful in poetry.
Following in somewhat pensive mood, "its beautiful meanderings" through this hill-guarded valley, we come to St. Mary's Lake, lying in solemn but beautiful serenity among the mountains, whose heathy sides and bare cliffs are mirrored in her pellucid depths.
Passing to the eastern extremity of the Lake, we come to Dryhope Tower, the birth-place of Mary Scott, the famous "Flower of Yarrow." Her lover, or husband, was slain by Scott of Tushielaw, from jealousy, or from a desire to secure her fortune, her father having promised to endow her with half his property. Seized by the imagination of the ancient Minnesingers, this incident became the subject of a ballad, or ballads of great beauty and pathos, well known through Scotland, and frequently sung "amang her green braes." This has invested Yarrow with a deep poetical charm, and given rise to a great variety of sweet and pathetic strains, affording a fine exemplification of the manner in which poetry grows, as by a natural law of progress. A single incident gathers around itself all beautiful images, all tender thoughts, feelings and passions, till the region in which it occurred becomes instinct with fantasy, and absolutely glows with a sort of conscious beauty. The very air is burdened with a melancholy charm. The stream meandering through the vale, and the winds whispering through the mountain glens or rippling the surface of St. Mary's lake, "murmur a music not their own." In a word, we have come from the real, everyday world, into one that is ideal, where, in the deep stillness of nature, the voices of the past reveal themselves to the listening soul. In this view we know not a more interesting or instructive series of poems than those relating to Yarrow. The first is the[Pg 309] ballad of the "Dowie Dens," or rather, "Downs of Yarrow." This is variously printed, but we give the version of Motherwell.
More than a century ago, William Hamilton, of Bangor, a gentleman of rank, education, and poetical talents, wrote the following exquisite ballad:
Somewhat more than half a century later, Logan wrote a song with the same title, of which the following are the concluding stanzas.
We are now prepared to read Wordsworths' two exquisite poems, "Yarrow Unvisited," and "Yarrow Visited," the splendid flowering, so to speak, of this poetical growth.
This is beautiful, but the following is more so. Indeed it is the very perfection of descriptive poetry.
Hamlet and Church-yard of Ettrick—Monument to Thomas Boston—Birth-place of the Ettrick Shepherd—Altrieve Cottage—Biographical Sketch of the Ettrick Shepherd—The Town of Selkirk—Monument to Sir Walter Scott—Battle-field of Philiphaugh.
Proceeding westward from St. Mary's Lake about half a mile, we come to the hill of Merecleughhead, where King James the Fifth entered the district to inflict summary vengeance upon the outlaws who frequented the Ettrick Forest in the days of old, a circumstance which gave rise to many of the old Scottish ballads. At the centre of the parish lie the hamlet and church-yard of Ettrick, on the stream of that name. Entering the burying-ground we behold the recently erected tomb of Thomas Boston, author of the well known work called "The Fourfold State," one of the best and holiest men that ever "hallowed" the "bushy dells" of Ettrick. With apostolic fervor did he preach the Gospel among these hills and vales, and his work, for more than three generations, has instructed the Scottish peasantry in the high doctrines of the Christian faith. His memory will ever be fragrant among the churches of Scotland. Not far from the burying-ground a house is pointed out in which the celebrated "Ettrick Shepherd" was born. Passing to the east end of the lake we see[Pg 320] before us Altrieve Cottage, "bosomed low mid tufted trees," and nearly encircled by the "sweet burnie," in whose limpid waters the green foliage is mirrored. Here the poet lived, in the latter period of his life, and here also he died. The scenes around, moor, mountain and glen, lake, river and ruin, are hallowed by the genius of the "shepherd bard," who, to quote his own words,
James Hogg, born in 1772, was descended from a family of shepherds, and spent his boyhood and youth herding his flocks among the hills. Far from the bustle of the world, in the deep solitudes of nature, his young and vigorous imagination became familiar with all wild and beautiful sights, all sweet and solemn sounds. Alone with nature during the day, he spent his evening hours in listening to ancient ballads and legends, of which his mother was a great reciter. This fed his imagination, and supplied it with an infinite variety of strange and beautiful imagery. To this fact he has himself thus strikingly referred.[Pg 321]
Another circumstance in the early life of Hogg tended to nurse his fancy. He had, in all, something like six months' schooling, and having entered the service of Mr. Laidlaw, another great lover of legends, songs and stories of the olden time, he subscribed to a circulating library at Peebles, whose diversified contents he devoured within a short time. He read poetry, romances and tales with avidity, and stored his mind with traditionary[Pg 322] ballads, songs and stories. This circumstance will account for his wayward, changeable life, as well as for the wildness and strength of his imagination. In the field of reality he was nothing, in that of fancy everything.
He is said to have been a remarkably fine-looking young man, having a florid complexion, and a profusion of light brown hair, which he wore, coiled up, beneath his "blithe blue bonnet." An attack of illness induced by over-exertion, on a hot summer's day, so completely altered his appearance, that his friends scarcely recognized him as the same person. Of a jovial and merry disposition, he was a great favorite in all companies, and at times partook too freely of "the mountain dew."
Being introduced by the son of his employer to Sir Walter Scott, the Ettrick Shepherd assisted him in the collection of old ballads for the "Border Minstrelsy." He soon began to try his own hand in imitation of these traditionary poems, and published a volume of ballads, which attracted some attention, but never became very popular. Having embarked in sheep farming, and attempted one or two speculations in which he failed utterly, he resolved to repair to the city of Edinburgh, and support himself by his pen. "The Forest Minstrel," a collection of songs, was his first publication here; his second, "The Spy," a light periodical, which enjoyed a brief and precarious existence. It was not till the publication, in 1813, of his principal poetical production, "The Queen's Wake," that his reputation as a poet was firmly established. The[Pg 323] plan was so simple and striking, and the execution so vigorous and delightful, that it "took" at once, and became universally popular. The old "Wake" or festival in Scotland was ordinarily celebrated with various kinds of diversions, among which music and song held the principal place. The "Queen's Wake" consists of a collection of tales and ballads supposed to be sung by different bards to the young Queen of Scotland,—
The various productions of the minstrels are strung together by a thread of light and graceful narrative. The "Wake" lasts three successive nights, and a richly ornamented harp is the victor's reward. Rizzio is among the number of the competitors; but Gardyne, a native bard, obtains the prize. The plan supplies the Ettrick Shepherd with an opportunity of displaying the extreme facility with which he could adapt himself to all kinds of style, a facility so great that he subsequently published, under the title of "The Mirror of the Poets," a collection of poems ascribed by him to Byron, Campbell, Scott, Southey, Crabbe, Wordsworth and others, in which the deception is so admirable, that multitudes actually supposed them genuine productions. Conscious of his strength, he breaks forth in the "Queen's Wake," in the following exulting strains.
Scott had advised him to abandon poetry, as "a bootless task," a circumstance to which he thus refers:
Scott, it is said, was grieved at this reference to his friendly counsel, given at a time when he knew not the powers of Hogg. This, however, illustrates a fact often occurring in the history of genius, which often struggles hard to develop itself,[Pg 325] alone conscious of its native powers. When Sheridan first spoke in the house of commons he made an utter failure. But instead of being discouraged, he remarked with energy, "I know that it is in me, and I must have it out!" Campbell offered his "Pleasures of Hope" to nearly all the book publishers in Scotland, who refused it. Not one of them could be prevailed upon even to risk paper and ink upon the chance of its success; and at last, it was only with considerable reluctance that Mundell & Son, printers to the University, undertook its publication, with the liberal condition that the author should be allowed fifty copies at the trade price, and in the event of its reaching a second edition, a thing hardly anticipated, that he should receive the immense sum of fifty dollars!
The Ettrick Shepherd continued for a number of years to publish sketches, stories, and so forth, in prose and verse. He describes well, and in his prose compositions often breaks out into flashes of keen broad humor, but he is not particularly successful in the construction of plots, or in the arrangement of incidents. He is most at home in the regions of pure fancy. The moment he sets foot in fairyland he becomes inspired, and pours out "in delightful profusion" his beautiful imaginings. Inferior to Burns in depth of passion, in keen perception of the beautiful, and in the description of actual scenes, he is perhaps superior to him in the wild delicacy of his inventions and in the rich coloring of his imaginative pictures. Burns was the poet of nature, and went far beyond his[Pg 326] Scottish contemporaries and successors, in strength of conception, beauty of imagery, intensity of feeling, and melody of verse. But Hogg excelled in imaginative musing, and became, by natural right, the acknowledged "bard of fairyland." His legend of "Bonny Kilmeny" has been universally admired.
The close of "The Queen's Wake" is graceful and touching.
Hogg was unfortunate in all business transactions. But the Duchess of Buccleugh made him a present of some seventy acres of moorland, on which he built a pretty cottage. Here he lived during the latter years of his life, engaged in literary labors, which he relieved by angling and field sports, for which he had quite a passion. When he could no longer fish and hunt, he avowed his belief that his death was near. He was seized with a dropsical complaint in the autumn of 1835, and died, after some days of insensibility, "with as little pain as he ever fell asleep in his gray plaid upon the hillside." With many imperfections, he possessed a leal Scottish heart, and has left behind him memorials of genius, which posterity will not "let die."
But we have arrived at the ancient town of Selkirk, on the Ettrick, famous for its 'sutors' or[Pg 333] shoemakers, from time immemorial burgesses of the town, and distinguished for their loyalty. In the market-square are a public well, ornamented with the arms of the city, and a handsome monument erected by the county, in 1839, in memory of Sir Walter Scott, who was sheriff of the county from 1800 to 1832. On one of its sides are the following lines from one of his poems:
In the immediate neighborhood of Selkirk is Philiphaugh, the celebrated battle-field, where General Leslie, fighting for freedom and the Covenant, routed the fierce Montrose, who cut his way through the enemy and fled for his life. This defeat destroyed the fruit of Montrose's six splendid victories, and ruined the royal cause in Scotland.
Return to the banks of the Tweed—Abbotsford—The Study—Biographical Sketch of Sir Walter Scott—His Early life—Residence in the Country—Spirit of Romance—Education—First Efforts as an Author—Success of 'Marmion'—Character of his Poetry—Literary Change—His Novels—Pecuniary Difficulties—Astonishing Efforts—Last Sickness—Death and Funeral.
Leaving the Ettrick, we proceed once more in the direction of the Tweed, which we soon reach. How sweetly the river winds through this wooded region—quick and even impetuous in its flow, but so translucent that the white pebbles at the bottom are distinctly visible. What a picture of peaceful enjoyment is presented by that shepherd boy, leaning against the rock, and basking himself in the sun, while his sheep are nibbling the short grass on the edge of the water. But yonder is Abbotsford, with its castellated walls and pointed gables, shooting up from a sylvan declivity on the banks of the river, which almost encircles the place with a graceful sweep, and contrasts beautifully with the deep-green foliage of the straggling clumps of trees. But every traveller in Scotland visits Abbotsford, and therefore we say nothing about its singular construction, its curious ornaments, its ancient relics, its broad-swords and battle-axes, its coats armorial, oak carvings and blazoned windows, its old[Pg 335] portraits and fine library. We will not describe the door taken from the old Tolbooth in Edinburgh, nor the pulpit from which Ralph Erskine preached; nay more, we shall not even moralize on "the broad-skirted blue coat, with metal buttons, the plaid trowsers, heavy shoes, broad-brimmed hat and stout walking stick," the last worn by "the Great Magician of the north," when he took to his bed in his last illness. We will pass, however, into his study, a room about twenty-five feet square, containing a small writing table in the centre, on which Sir Walter was accustomed to write, and a plain arm-chair, covered with black leather, on which he sat. A subdued light enters from a single window, and a few books lie on the shelves, used chiefly for reference. By the permission of the good lady who has charge of the house, we are permitted to seat ourselves, and linger here for an hour, calling up the memory of the most wonderful genius that Scotland has ever produced.
The father of Sir Walter Scott was a writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, an excellent and highly respectable man. His mother, Anne Rutherford, a noble and gentle-hearted woman, was the daughter of a physician, in extensive practice, and Professor of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh. By both parents he was remotely connected with some ancient and respectable Scottish families, a circumstance to which he frequently referred with satisfaction. He was born on the 15th of August, in the year 1771. In consequence of lameness and a delicate state of health, produced by a fall, he[Pg 336] was sent, in early life to Sandyknowe, a romantic situation near Kelso, and placed under the care of his grandfather. Here he fortified his constitution by long rambles on foot and on horseback among the picturesque scenery and old ruins of the neighborhood. Smallholm, a ruined tower, and the scene of Scott's ballad, "The Eve of St. John's," was close to the farm, and beside it were the Eildon Hills, the ruins of Ercildoune, the residence, in ancient times, of Thomas the Rhymer, Dryburgh Abbey, the "silver Tweed," with its storied banks, and other localities renowned in song and story. It was here also that he delighted in supplying his memory with the tales of his nurse, and some old grandames, deeply versed in the traditions of the country. All these left indelible impressions on his young imagination, and nursed the latent germ of poetry and romance, so late, but so beautiful in its flowering. Subsequently he resided with another relation at Kelso. Here, under the shadow of a great platanus or oriental palm tree, in an old garden, he devoured "Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry," and permitted his fancy to wander at will amid the scenes of Border romance. This explains, in some degree, the peculiar characteristics of his first poems, and that fine strain of romantic feeling which runs through his tales. Speaking of this matter, he says himself: "In early youth I had been an eager student of ballad poetry, and the tree is still in my recollection beneath which I lay and first entered upon the enchanting perusal of 'Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry,' although it[Pg 337] has long perished in the general blight which affected the whole race of oriental platanus, to which it belonged. The taste of another person had strongly encouraged my own researches into this species of legendary lore. But I had never dreamed of an attempt to imitate what gave me so much pleasure. Excepting the usual tribute to a mistress's eyebrow, which is the language of passion rather than poetry, I had not for ten years indulged the wish to couple so much as love and dove, when finding Lewis in possession of so much reputation, and conceiving that, if I fell behind him in poetical powers, I considerably exceeded him in general information, I suddenly took it into my head to attempt the style by which he had raised himself to fame." He refers to the same thing in the following lines:
In addition to this, young Scott was a perfect helluo librorum. He had access to a large library filled with romances, histories, biographies, and so[Pg 339] forth, which he indiscriminately devoured. His memory was quick and tenacious, and his mind became stored with all sorts of facts, fables and fancies. Still, even in youth, he possessed a sound judgment, a clear, well balanced mind, and separated the chaff from the wheat with tolerable discrimination. His father was a good Presbyterian, and did what he could to imbue his mind with religious principles, which never deserted him. Among the first lines he is known to have written are the following. They were found wrapped up in a paper inscribed by Dr. Adam of the Edinburgh High School, 'Walter Scott, July, 1783.'
Scott was educated at the Edinburgh High School, and University. He had an aversion to Greek, a singular fact, but made some proficiency in Latin, moral philosophy and history. He also made himself tolerably familiar with the French, German and Italian tongues. Being much at home, he indulged in reading romances and poetry. From early life, he was an industrious collector of old[Pg 340] ballads, many of which he committed to memory. Apprenticed to his father, as "a writer," he commenced the study of law, and began to practice in his twenty-first year. As his health was now vigorous, he made long excursions into the country, which he facetiously denominated raids, rambling over scenes of external beauty or of historic interest, making acquaintance with the country people, and picking up information about men and things. By this means he amassed an immense store of everyday facts, and an intimate knowledge of character, which were of immense service to him in the construction of his novels.
Scott's first appearance as an author was in the translation from the German of Burger's Leonore, and "Der Wilde Jäger," or the "Wild Huntsman," ballads of singular wildness and power. These, however, made little impression on the public mind. Of this he says, "The failure of my first publication did not operate, in any unpleasant degree, either on my feelings or spirits. To speak candidly, I found pleasure in the literary labor in which I had, almost by accident, become engaged, and labored less in the hope of pleasing others, though certainly without despair of doing so, than in the pursuit of a new and agreeable amusement to myself." He continued to read the German, and to make translations from it, and became more and more interested in the ballad poetry. He was delighted to find the affinity of the old English, and especially of the Scottish language to the German, not in sound merely, but in the turn of phrase, so[Pg 341] that they were capable of being rendered line for line, with very little variation.
By degrees he acquired sufficient confidence to attempt the imitation of what he so much admired. His first original poem was "Glenfinlas." Next followed "The Eve of St. John." Owing to unfortunate circumstances these had no great success. Nothing daunted, however, he again appeared before the public with his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," which immediately became popular. The success of this last work, not only established his reputation as an author, but encouraged him to devote himself to literary pursuits. Under appointment as Sheriff of Selkirkshire, he enjoyed the kind of associations and employments favorable to the cultivation of his poetical powers. Among other things, he edited the metrical romance of "Sir Tristrem," supposed to be written by "Thomas the Rhymer," or Thomas of Ercildoune, laird, poet and prophet, who flourished about the year 1280. The dissertations which accompanied this work, and the imitation of the original to complete the romance, evinced his antiquarian attainments and fine poetical taste. At length appeared "The Lay of the Last Minstrel," a higher, purer strain, which was received with universal enthusiasm, and stamped him a great and original poet. His fine conception of the minstrel, his easy versification, his admirable narrative, his glowing pictures, his wild ballad enthusiasm, his legendary lore, and his exquisite touches of the marvellous and supernatural, combined to render the poem popular beyond[Pg 342] all precedent. Thirty thousand copies were speedily sold by the trade. Then, in quick succession, followed that splendid series of poems, so popular in their day, and still so interesting and delightful. Intrinsically, they are inferior to some of the higher strains of English poetry, but they possess certain qualities which gained the public ear, and found a place in the national heart. These doubtless were the novelty of their style, their natural and simple versification, their easy, dramatic narrative, and their lively descriptions of national scenes and manners, in contrast with the formal hexameters, with "all their buckram and binding," of which the public had become tired.
Being in easy, and almost in affluent circumstances, Scott became ambitious of founding a family. For this purpose he bought land on the banks of the Tweed, and built Abbotsford, at a very considerable expense. He received the order of knighthood, and looked forward to days of ease and prosperity. Devoting himself almost entirely to literary pursuits, he formed connections in business with James Ballantyne, then rising into extensive business in the city of Edinburgh. This involved the necessity of large advances, and Scott became involved in large pecuniary responsibilities. He received an appointment as one of the principal Clerks of the Court of Session, with perhaps six thousand dollars per annum. This, with the gains of the printing establishment, and other sources of revenue, would have secured to him and his family an ample provision.[Pg 343]
With his customary sagacity, Sir Walter perceived that his peculiar style of poetry would not continue popular, and therefore he betook himself to a new field of literary enterprise, which proved still richer, and, by far, more congenial. Then appeared his historical novels, which became so popular, that his fame as a poet was almost forgotten. Volume after volume came from the press, and spread like wildfire over the land. Translated into French, German, and Italian, they reached every part of Europe, and completely superseded the old run of novels, with their unnatural plots and extravagant nonsense. It was Scott's ambition to elevate this species of literature, and whatever objections may be made against it, on the score of moral influence, this much must be conceded to him. In his hands novel writing became comparatively pure and dignified, nay, as some, with considerable show of reason, contend, beneficial. The moral tone of all Sir Walter's productions is pre-eminently pure. They are characterized by shrewd sense, a profound insight into men and things, a keen perception of the beautiful and brave, the generous and leal, a fine sense of honor, reverence for God, and a deep sympathy with all the wants and woes, the hopes and joys of our common humanity. Sir Walter is the Shakspeare of novel writing, and if he falls below the great dramatic poet, in the quickness and universality of his genius, he approaches him in the soundness of his intellect, the breadth of his imagination, and the versatility of his powers. From his Tory and High Church predilections he[Pg 344] has done some injustice to the old Covenanters and Puritans of Scotland; but he possessed a noble and generous heart, a spirit of faith and reverence, a love for God and all his creatures. His soul was naturally blithe and joyous, hopeful and strong. He loved Scotland with intense affection, and has spread the light of his genius over all her hills and vales. Under the magic influence of his pen the hoary mountains, the dark tarns and trosachs of the Highlands gleam with supernal beauty. Tweed murmurs his name, while the Firth and Tay repeat it through all their windings. His "own romantic town" glories in his memory; every city, village and hamlet of the Lowlands, with strath, meadow and moorland, echo his praise. The Genius of his country has crowned him with the same wild wreath which erst she hung upon the head of Burns, and the world has acknowledged the consecration.
It was in the year 1826 that Ballantyne and Company became insolvent, and Sir Walter Scott, in the very midst of his splendid career, found himself involved to the amount of $600,000. But he nobly refused to become a bankrupt, considering, says Allan Cunningham, "like the elder Osbaldistone of his own immortal pages, commercial honor as dear as any other honor." All he asked for was time; and in seven years he paid off more than the half of this sum by the labors of his pen. His efforts to accomplish this sublime purpose were gigantic, but they broke down his constitution. "Sometime in the beginning of the year 1831,"[Pg 345] says his friend Cunningham, "a sore illness came upon him; his astonishing efforts to satisfy his creditors, began to exhaust a mind apparently exhaustless; and the world heard with concern that a paralytic stroke had affected his speech and his right hand, so much as to render writing a matter of difficulty. One of his letters to me at this period, is not written with his own hand: the signature is his, and looks cramped and weak. I visited him at Abbotsford, about the end of July, 1831: he was a degree more feeble than I had ever seen him, and his voice seemed affected; not so his activity of fancy, and surprising resources of conversation. He told anecdotes and recited scraps of verse, old and new, always tending to illustrate something passing. He showed me his armory, in which he took visible pleasure; and was glad to hear me commend the design of his house, as well as the skill with which it was built. * * * In a small room, half library and half armory, he usually sat and wrote: here he had some remarkable weapons, curious pieces of old Scottish furniture, such as chairs and cabinets, and an antique sort of a table, on which lay his writing materials. A crooked headed staff of Abbotsford oak or hazel usually lay beside him to support his steps as he went and came."
"When it was known," continues Cunningham, "that Sir Walter Scott's health declined, the deep solicitude of all ranks became manifest; strangers came from far lands to look on the house which contained the great genius of our times; inquirers[Pg 346] flocked around, of humble and of high degree, and the amount of letters of inquiry or condolence was, I have heard, enormous. Amongst the visitors, not the least welcome was Wordsworth, the poet, who arrived when the air of the northern hills was growing too sharp for the enfeebled frame of Scott, and he had resolved to try if the fine air and climate of Italy would restore him to health and strength.
"When Government heard of Sir Walter's wishes, they offered him a ship; he left Abbotsford as many thought forever, and arrived in London, where he was welcomed as never mortal was welcomed before. He visited several friends, nor did he refuse to mingle in company, and having written something almost approaching to a farewell to the world, which was published with 'Castle Dangerous,' the last of his works, he set sail for Italy, with the purpose of touching at Malta. He seemed revived, but it was only for a while: he visited Naples, but could not enjoy the high honors paid to him: he visited Rome, and sighed amid its splendid temples and glorious works of art, for gray Melrose and the pleasant banks of Tweed, and passing out of Italy, proceeded homewards down the Rhine. Word came to London, that a dreadful attack of paralysis had nearly deprived him of life, and that but for the presence of mind of a faithful servant he must have perished. This alarming news was followed by his arrival in London: a strong desire of home had come upon him; he travelled with rapidity, night and day, and was[Pg 347] all but worn out, when carried into St. James's Hotel, Jermyn street, by his servants."
As soon as he recovered a little, he resumed his journey to Scotland, reached Abbotsford, and seemed revived, smiled when he was borne into his library, and enjoyed the society of his children. When he was leaving London the people, wherever he was recognized, took off their hats, saying, "God bless you, Sir Walter!" His arrival in Scotland was hailed with equal enthusiasm and sympathy; and so much was he revived that hopes were entertained of his recovery. But he gradually declined, listening occasionally to passages from the Bible, and from the poems of Crabbe and Wordsworth. Once he tried to write, but failed in the attempt. "He never spoke of his literary labors or success." Occasionally his mind wandered, and then he was preparing for the reception of the Duke of Wellington at Abbotsford, or exercising the functions of a judge, as if presiding at the trial of members of his own family. It may be regarded as a singular fact, that in his delirium, his mind never wandered toward those works which had filled the world with his fame. But the flame of life now flickered feebly in its socket, and gave unerring indications of its speedy extinction. "About half past one, P. M.," says Mr. Lockhart, his son-in-law and biographer, "on the 21st of September, 1832, Sir Walter breathed his last, in the presence of all his children. It was a beautiful day—so warm that every window was open—and so perfectly still that the sound, of all others most[Pg 348] delicious to his ear, the gentle ripple of the Tweed over its pebbles, was distinctly audible, as we knelt around his bed, and his eldest son kissed and closed his eyes."
The remains of Sir Walter were buried in Dryburgh Abbey. "As we advanced," says one who was present at the funeral, which was conducted with the greatest simplicity and solemnity, "the ruined abbey disclosed itself through the trees; and we approached its western extremity, where a considerable portion of vaulted roof still remains to protect the poet's family place of interment, which opens to the sides in lofty Gothic arches, and is defended by a low rail of enclosure. At one extremity of it, a tall thriving young cypress rears its spiral form. Creeping plants of different kinds, 'with ivy never sere,' have spread themselves very luxuriantly over every part of the Abbey. These perhaps were in many instances the children of art; but however this may have been, nature had herself undertaken their education. In this spot especially, she seems to have been most industriously busy in twining her richest wreaths around those walls which more immediately form her poet's tomb. Amongst her other decorations, we observed a plum tree, which was perhaps at one period a prisoner, chained to the solid masonry, but which having long since been emancipated, now threw out its wild pendent branches, laden with purple fruit, ready to drop, as if emblematical of the ripening and decay of human life.
"In such a scene as this, then, it was that the[Pg 349] coffin of Sir Walter Scott was set down on trestles placed outside the iron railing; and here that solemn service, beginning with those words, so cheering to the souls of Christians, 'I am the resurrection and the life,' was solemnly read. The manly soldier-like features of the chief mourner, on whom the eyes of sympathy were most naturally turned, betrayed at intervals the powerful efforts which he had made to master his emotions, as well as the inefficiency of his exertions to do so. The other relatives who surrounded the bier were deeply moved; and amid the crowd of weeping friends, no eye, and no heart could be discovered that was not altogether occupied in that sad and impressive ceremonial, which was so soon to shut from them forever, him who had been so long the common idol of their admiration, and of their best affections. Here and there, indeed, we might have fancied that we detected some early and long tried friends of him who lay cold before us, who, whilst tears dimmed their eyes, and whilst their lips quivered, were yet partly engaged in mixing up and contrasting the happier scenes of days long gone by, with that which they were now witnessing, until they became lost in dreamy reverie, so that even the movement made when the coffin was carried under the lofty arches of the ruin, and when dust was committed to dust, did not entirely snap the thread of their visions. It was not until the harsh sound of the hammers of the workmen who were employed to rivet those iron bars covering the grave, to secure it from violation, had begun to[Pg 350] echo from the vaulted roof, that some of us were called to the full conviction of the fact, that the earth had forever closed over that form which we were wont to love and reverence; that eye which we had so often seen beaming with benevolence, sparkling with wit, or lighted up with a poet's frenzy; those lips which we had so often seen monopolizing the attention of all listeners, or heard rolling out, with nervous accentuation, those powerful verses with which his head was continually teeming; and that brow, the perpetual throne of generous expression, and liberal intelligence. Overwhelmed by the conviction of this afflicting truth, men moved away without parting salutation, singly, slowly, and silently. The day began to stoop down into twilight; and we, too, after giving a last parting survey to the spot where now repose the remains of our Scottish Shakspeare, a spot lovely enough to induce his sainted spirit to haunt and sanctify its shades, hastily tore ourselves away."
Melrose Abbey—The Eildon Hills—Thomas the Rhymer—Dryburgh—Monuments to the Author of 'The Seasons' and Sir William Wallace—Kelso—Beautiful scenery—A Pleasant Evening—Biographical Sketch of Leyden, Poet, Antiquary, Scholar and Traveller—The Duncan Family—Journey Resumed—Twisel Bridge—Battle of Flodden—Norham Castle—Berwick upon Tweed—Biographical Sketch of Thomas Mackay Wilson, author of 'The Border Tales'—Conclusion—'Auld Lang Syne.'
After visiting "fair Melrose," whose rains, rising in the centre of a rich landscape, and rendered immortal by the exquisite descriptions of Sir Walter Scott, are the most interesting and beautiful of any in Scotland;—wandering over the Eildon Hills, the Trimontium of the Romans, from the summits of which some thirty miles of wild and varied scenery can be surveyed; gazing on the ruins of Ercildoune, the manor-house of Thomas the Rhymer, whose real name was Thomas Learmont, author of "The Romance of Tristan," a poem of the thirteenth century, in the language of antique Chaucer; lingering in Dryburgh Abbey, embosomed in a richly wooded haugh on the banks of the Tweed; and especially gazing, in reverent homage, on the grave of "the Great Magician of the North," in St. Mary's Aisle, so sad and yet so fair; crossing the Tweed, and pausing a few moments, to examine a circular temple on the banks[Pg 352] of the river, dedicated to the Muses, and surmounted by a bust of Thomson, author of "The Seasons," and a little further on the colossal statue of Sir William Wallace, the hero of Scotland, which stands upon a rocky eminence and overlooks the river, and a fine prospect of "wood and water, mountain and rock scenery," we pass along the banks of the Tweed, till we come to the handsome town of Kelso, on the margin of the river, with its ancient Abbey and delightful environs.
As the day is far spent, we will stay here for the night. But, before the sun goes down, let us wander over the neighborhood, which is singularly beautiful, and redolent with the genius of Scott and of Leyden, who has described it in his "Scenes of Infancy."
As the view from the bridge which spans the river is said to be one of the richest in Scotland, we linger there till the sun goes down. 'Tis a soft, still, summer afternoon, beginning to glide into the long and beautiful twilight. The rays of the sun are yet upon the mountains, and tinge the summits of the woods, the rocks, and the castellated edifices, which adorn the landscape. The Tweed is gliding, in shadow, through the wooded vale, and[Pg 353] the songs of the mavis and blackbird are echoing among the trees. A little above the bridge the clear waters of the Teviot and the Tweed flow together, as if attracted by each other's beauty. Beyond are the picturesque ruins of Roxburgh Castle, and somewhat nearer the ducal palace of Fleurs, rising amid a rich expanse of wooded decorations, sloping down to the very margin of the river; in front are gleaming two green islets of the Tweed, and between that river and the Teviot reposes the beautiful peninsula of Friar's Green, with the soft meadow in its foreground. On the south bank of the river are the mansion and woods of Springwood Park, and the bridge across the Teviot, on which are reposing the mellow rays of the setting sun. On the right the town lies along the bank of the river, with its elegant mansions and venerable abbey. There too is Ednam House, near which the poet Thomson had his birth. Far beyond these, the eye rests pleasantly on "the triple summits" of the Eildon Hills, looking down protectingly upon the vale of Tweed, the hills of Stitchell and Mellerstain, and the striking ruin of Home Castle, still arrayed in the purple and gold of departing day. Intermingled with all these are the windings and rippling currents of the river, clumps of rich green foliage, orchards laden with fruit, tufted rocks, verdant slopes, single trees of lofty stature, standing out from the rest, in the pride and pomp of their "leafy umbrage," cattle browsing peacefully on the banks of the stream, here and there a sylvan cottage, and an infinite[Pg 354] variety of light and shade, of blending colors and changing forms, hallowed, moreover, by the hoary memories and poetical associations of by-gone days. No wonder that Leyden loved to wander in such scenes, or that Scott, a more transcendent genius, should have ascribed to this influence the awakening in his soul "of that insatiable love of natural scenery, more especially when combined with ancient ruins, or remains of our fathers' piety and splendor," which gave a charm to his life, and imparted to the productions of his genius a warmth and richness of coloring unequalled in the history of literature.
But it is time to return to our comfortable hotel in Kelso, where mine host, who is an honest, round-faced, rosy-cheeked, good-natured Scot, will give us good cheer for supper, and a bed soft as down upon which to repose our weary limbs.
Well now, this is pleasant! Here in this snug room, with a cheerful cup of tea, and such toast, broiled chicken, and other edibles, as mine host only can produce, we feel as easy and independent as kings, aye, and a great deal more so; for who so satisfied and happy as the man, whatever his estate, who has a clear conscience, a mind brimful of sweet memories, a heart grateful to God and attached to those he loves? Let any person only do what is right, trust in God, enjoy nature, cultivate his mind, exercise his body, and he may secure as much happiness as falls to the lot of mortals. Trials may come, but joys will come also. All things shall "work together for good."[Pg 355]
But it is easy moralizing over a good cup of tea, with a cheerful fire blazing in the grate, and a soft bed in prospect for weary limbs. Moreover, I promised to give you some account of Leyden, poet and antiquary, scholar and traveler.
John Leyden was born in 1775, in Denholm, Roxburghshire, not far from Kelso, of poor but honest parents. He displayed in early life the most eager desire for learning, but possessed few opportunities for gratifying it, as he had to spend much of his time in manual toil. His parents, however, seeing his thirst for knowledge, resolved to send him to Edinburgh University. He entered this institution in his fifteenth year, and made unusual progress in his studies. He distinguished himself in the Latin and Greek languages, acquired the French, Spanish, Italian and German, besides forming some acquaintance with the Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. During his college vacations he returned to the humble roof of his parents, and as the accommodations of the house were scanty, he looked for a place of study elsewhere. "In a wild recess," says Sir Walter Scott, who has furnished an animated biography of Leyden, "in the den or glen which gives name to the village of Denholm, he contrived a sort of furnace for the purpose of such chemical experiments as he was adequate to performing. But his chief place of retirement was the small parish church, a gloomy and ancient building, generally believed in the neighborhood to be haunted. To this chosen place of study, usually locked during week days, Leyden made[Pg 356] entrance by means of a window, read there for many hours in the day, and deposited his books and specimens in a retired pew. It was a well chosen spot for seclusion, for the kirk, (excepting during divine service,) is rather a place of terror to the Scottish rustic, and that of Cavers was rendered more so by many a tale of ghosts and witchcraft, of which it was the supposed scene, and to which Leyden, partly to indulge his humor, and partly to secure his retirement, contrived to make some modern additions. The nature of his abstruse studies, some specimens of natural history, as toads and adders, left exposed in their spirit vials, and one or two practical jests played off upon the more curious of the peasantry, rendered his gloomy haunt, not only venerated by the wise, but feared by the simple of the parish."
Leyden was originally intended for the clerical profession, but abandoned it for more secular employments. His spirit was intense, restless and ambitious, and he longed for foreign travel and literary distinction. After spending five years at college, he became tutor to a highly respectable family, with whose sons he repaired to the University of St. Andrews, where he pursued his Oriental studies, and in 1799 published a History of African Discoveries. He was the author, also, of various translations and poems, which attracted considerable attention and introduced him to the best society. In 1800 he was ordained as a minister, and his discourses were highly popular; but he was dissatisfied with them, and felt that he was called[Pg 357] to a different sphere. He continued to write and compose, contributed to Lewis's "Tales of Wonder," and Scott's "Border Minstrelsy." He was an enthusiastic admirer of the old ballads, and on one occasion actually walked between forty and fifty miles for the sole purpose of visiting an old person who possessed an ancient historical ballad. He edited the "Scot's Magazine," for a year, and published "The Complaynt of Scotland," an old work written about 1548, which he accompanied with a learned dissertation, notes and a glossary. His strong desire to visit foreign lands induced his friends to procure for him an appointment in India, where he might study the oriental languages and literature. The only situation which they found available was that of assistant surgeon, for which it was necessary to have a medical diploma. But such was the energy, decision and perseverance of Leyden's character, that he qualified himself in six months; and not long after set out for Madras. Before taking his departure he finished his "Scenes of Infancy," as it were, the last token of his love for Scotland, which he never again beheld. He was resolved to distinguish himself or die in the attempt. Indeed a premonition of such an issue seems to have haunted his mind, and was expressed, with touching beauty, in his "Scenes of Infancy."
After his arrival in Madras, his health became impaired, and he removed to Prince of Wales Island. He resided there some time, visiting the neighboring countries, and amassing curious information on the literature and history of the Indo-Chinese, which he embodied in an elaborate dissertation read before the Asiatic Society at Calcutta. Quitting Prince of Wales Island, Leyden was appointed a professor in the Bengal College, which he soon exchanged for the office of judge, a more lucrative employment. His spare time was devoted to the prosecution of his oriental studies. "I may die in the attempt," he wrote to a friend, "but if I die without surpassing Sir William Jones a hundredfold in oriental learning, let never a tear for me profane the eye of a borderer." In 1811 he accompanied the governor general to Java.[Pg 359] His spirit of bold adventure led him literally to rush upon death. He threw himself into the surf in order to be the first Briton who should set foot upon Java. When the invaders had taken possession of Batavia, the same reckless eagerness took him into a cold damp library, in which were many books and manuscripts. Affected perhaps by the disease of the climate he had a fit of shivering on leaving the library, and declared that the atmosphere was enough to give any one a mortal fever. In three days after he died, August 28, 1811, on the eve of the battle which secured Java to the British Empire.
Leyden's Poetical Remains were published in 1819, with a memoir. In addition to the "Scenes of Infancy," it contains some vigorous ballads. To one of these, "The Mermaid," as well as to the untimely death of its author, Sir Walter Scott has referred in his "Lord of the Isles."
His "Scenes of Infancy" is distinguished for the sweetness of its versification, and its pleasant pictures of the vale of Teviot. In strength and enthusiasm, it is much inferior to his ballads. The[Pg 360] opening of "The Mermaid," has been praised by Sir Walter Scott "as exhibiting a power of numbers, which for mere melody of sound has rarely been excelled."
But better known, and far more affecting, is Leyden's "Ode to an Indian Gold Coin," written in Cherical, Malabar, which in addition to its vigor and beauty, has a fine moral which it is not necessary to point out.
While conversing about Leyden, we must not forget a gentler, purer spirit, Mary Lundie Duncan, who first saw the light "amid the blossoms of Kelso," and whose young heart first warbled its poetic strains on the banks of the Tweed. Her "Memoir," by her gifted mother, is one of the[Pg 362] most beautiful and touching biographies in the English language. Possessed of genius and piety, at once pure and tender, her brief life was the fair but changeful spring-time which preceded the long summer of eternity.
Some of Mary Lundie Duncan's poems are characterized not merely by purity and elevation of sentiment, but by sweetness and melody of versification. The following written at "Callander," though not without defects, indicates the possession of true poetical genius.
Mary's contributions to "The Philosophy of the Seasons," over the signature of M. L. D., such as "The Rose," "The Bat," "Sabbath Morning," an "Autumnal Sabbath Evening," are simple and elegant, indicating the possession of good sense and a refined imagination. Like her brother Archibald Lundie, who went to the South Sea Islands in order to benefit his health, and to labor in the sublime work of Christian missions, Mary passed away in the morning of her days, but not without leaving a blessed fragrance behind her, which yet lingers, not over Scotland alone, but over the whole Christian world. And well might her stricken yet resigned and hopeful mother say, in the words quoted at the close of her daughter's Memoir:
The Duncan family to which Mary Lundie, by her marriage with one of the sons, belonged, is one of the most interesting in Scotland. All of its members seem possessed of fine talents, devoted piety, and generous affections. Two of the sons, with the father, were ministers of the established church of Scotland at the time of the secession of the Free Church from that body, and made a sacrifice, for conscience' sake, of agreeable situations and handsome incomes. Without the slightest hesitation, and without a murmur even, they abandoned their beautiful manses, their churches and people, and threw themselves, with their brethren of the Free Church, upon the providence of God, not knowing what might be the issues of that sublime movement. "The Philosophy of the Seasons," though written mainly by the father, the Rev. Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell, received contributions from all the members of the family,[Pg 366] and remains a splendid monument of their talents, piety and mutual affection. It is fast becoming a classic. Filled with information, and imbued with a spirit of fervid piety, and, moreover, written in a lucid, flowing style, it is well fitted at once to instruct and please.
As Dr. Duncan has recently deceased, a brief sketch of his life may not be uninteresting in this connection.
Dr. Henry Duncan was "a son of the Manse." He was born in 1774, at Lochrutton, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, of which his father and his grandfather were ministers successively, during a period of eighty years, a striking instance of pastoral permanence. If wealth consists "in the number of things we love," then those good men must have been rich beyond the common lot of ministers; and young Henry must have received from them a rich heritage of blessings. He was educated at the Universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. While attending the latter he was a member of the "Speculative Society," to which many of the most distinguished literary characters belonged, and associated freely with Lord Brougham, the Marquis of Landsdowne, Dr. Andrew Thomson and others. He became the pastor of the Established church in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, where he labored with great success for many years. He died in the forty-seventh year of his ministry.
Dr. Duncan was imbued with a spirit of enlarged Christian benevolence, and felt a peculiar interest[Pg 367] in the amelioration of the condition of the poorer classes. Hence he formed the scheme of the "Cheap Repository Tracts," addressed to the working classes, and designed to enforce the most useful lessons suited to their condition. It was in this collection that his "Cottage Fireside" was first published, a production which became exceedingly popular, and passed through many editions. The book abounds in happy delineations of Scottish manners, fine strokes of humor, and admirable lessons of practical wisdom. "The South Country Weaver," possesses the same qualities and aims; and, in a time of excessive political excitement, did much to allay the discontent and revolutionary tendency of the people. He is also said to be the author of another work of a higher grade, written in the same style of fictitious narrative, and intended to vindicate the principles and proceedings of the Scottish Covenanters, from the aspersions cast upon them by the author of Waverley. This production has been highly esteemed by good judges of literary merit, but it never became popular.
It may well be supposed that Dr. Duncan felt a peculiar interest, not only in the spiritual but also in the temporal condition of his own parish, and hence he was ever devising plans for its benefit. In this respect he much resembled the benevolent Oberlin, whose well directed schemes turned the barren parish of Waldbach into a little paradise. Entering upon the duties of his charge at a time of national scarcity and distress, he imported from Liverpool, at considerable expense, and with great[Pg 368] personal inconvenience, large quantities of food which he distributed among his poor parishioners He also devised new modes and sources of employment, and cheered them amid their privations by his counsel and sympathy. He instituted among them two admirable "Friendly Societies," one for males and another for females, the advantages of which are enjoyed to this day. But perhaps his highest claim to distinction as a philanthropist was the establishment of "The Ruthwell Parish Bank," the first "Savings Bank" in Europe, which, it is said, was suggested to him partly by the beneficial results and partly by the admitted defects of the Friendly Societies. His undoubted title to be regarded as the originator of "Savings Banks," has been acknowledged by the highest authorities; but it is not so generally known at what an immense expenditure of time, talent, energy and pecuniary means he succeeded in accomplishing this good object.
Dr. Duncan's learning and talents were of a high order, and these were devoted exclusively to the benefit of his fellow men. His principal literary work, "The Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons," was planned and written in a single year, an astonishing instance of mental energy, industry and talent. "Never were the different kingdoms and varying aspects of nature, the characteristics of the seasons, and all the grand and beautiful phenomena of the year, more philosophically and more eloquently described than in this charming book. The comprehensive views of the philosopher, the[Pg 369] poetic feeling of the lover of nature, and the pious reflection of the Christian divine, are all combined in its pages, and win at once the admiration and affection of the reader." Here genius and piety, the love of nature and the love of God spread their sunlight over the face of creation, and make visible to all reverent and thoughtful minds
As a preacher Dr. Duncan was interesting and instructive, but not particularly striking and popular. In 1839 he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly, the highest honor the church could confer. Warmly attached to evangelical religion, and deeply interested in the purity and progress of the church of Christ throughout the world, he earnestly promoted the cause of Christian missions, and kindred schemes of benevolence. He was intimately associated with Dr. Chalmers and others, in sustaining the great principles of vital Christianity, the supremacy of Christ in his own church, and particularly the freedom and independence of his ministers. "True, therefore, to the principles he had espoused, and ever warmly defended—true to what he considered the genuine constitution of the Scottish church, this venerable and amiable father left, in the ever memorable year 1843, that manse, which he had inhabited for four and forty long and happy years, and which his own fine taste had so greatly beautified and adorned—that hallowed home in which his dutiful and attached children had been reared—in which his[Pg 370] first beloved wife had died, and which was associated with many delightful recollections of joy and kindness, and prayer, indelibly engraven on many hearts—for there was many a young idea fostered, and many a guest and many a stranger hospitably entertained. But with a cloud of many eminent witnesses, whose names will be embalmed in the records of their country, Dr. Duncan lifted up his testimony for the glorious prerogative of Zion's King, and counted the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of earth. And actuated by the same spirit of faith as the martyrs and confessors of other days—the men of whom the world was not worthy—he abandoned, at an advanced age, all the comforts of his lovely and endeared home, and all the emoluments and delights connected with it, and meekly took up his lowly dwelling in an humble cottage by the way-side, willingly enduring hardship, and submitting to ingratitude from man, that he might honor his God and hold fast his integrity, dearer to him than life. He was one of seven moderators of the old General Assembly, men like himself of high name and holy deeds, who sacrificed all their honors and emoluments, and cast in their lot with the Free Church of Scotland, that they might display a banner for the truth, and who, when driven by a cruel and miserable policy from those altars which they sanctified, went forth, a veteran band of Christian heroes, and preached the Gospel of peace and salvation under the broad canopy of heaven, with gray hairs streaming in the breeze."[Pg 371]
During the summer of 1843 Dr. Duncan preached in the open air, but finally succeeded by great efforts, in securing a site, and erecting upon it a church and a manse, a school and a schoolmaster's house. A suitable successor was appointed to this charge, and Dr. Duncan removed his residence to the city of Edinburgh. But his affections lingered around his beloved Ruthwell, and he undertook a journey to England to secure funds to pay off the debt upon the new buildings and bring them to a state of completion. Having accomplished his object, he returned to Scotland in excellent spirits, and reached Comlogan Castle, the residence of his brother-in-law. On that and the succeeding day he occupied himself in laying out the grounds about the manse and giving directions respecting the buildings. On the following Sabbath he preached to an overflowing audience. Monday and Tuesday were devoted to visiting his old parishioners. He was invited to address a prayer meeting at the house of an elder of the Established church, and it was while engaged in the performance of that duty that the messenger of Death met him. He had not spoken ten minutes, when his voice trembled, his body shuddered, and it was evident to all that he was struck with a sudden paralysis. He was immediately conveyed to Comlogan Castle. "On his way, though his speech was much affected, his consciousness was entire, and he repeatedly lifted up his hand, in devout admiration of God's beautiful works, for the moon, surrounded by thousands of stars, was shedding its calm and chastened lustre[Pg 372] over the face of Nature, and presented a meet emblem of the inward peace of the dying saint, whose characteristic taste and love of Nature's beauties were still manifested even in this trying hour." After two days, in which he suffered little pain, he gently "fell asleep in Jesus," on Thursday evening, 12th of February, 1846.
Daylight is on the hills, and we are off once more down the Tweed, which gathers volume by accessions from tributary streams, and mirrors in its clear bosom many a happy home, nestling among the trees on its banks. We pass Coldstream, on the north bank of the Tweed, from its proximity to England a sort of Gretna Green in former times, where Lord Brougham was married at one of the hotels; whence we journey to Tillmouth; at which place the Till, a narrow, deep, sullen stream, flows into the Tweed. Beneath Twisel Castle, which stands upon its banks, you see the ancient bridge by which the English crossed the Till before the battle of Flodden.
Flodden Field, on which the "flowers of the forest," were cut down so mercilessly, is not far from[Pg 374] here, and the whole region seems invested with an air of "dule and wae."
Pursuing our way, we come to Norham Castle, so magnificently described in Marmion.
Nine miles further on, we arrive at "Berwick upon Tweed," where the river falls into the German Ocean, and where our wanderings in Scotland cease,—the scene of fierce struggles between the Scots and English. North Berwick was sometimes in the hands of the one, sometimes in the hands of the other. Its streets often ran blood; its walls echoed the tramp of armies, the shrieks of the wounded and the groans of the dying. Its old ramparts are yet standing; but all is quiet and[Pg 375] passionless now. A sort of stillness pervades the place, in striking contrast with the havoc and turmoil of the ancient Border wars. The environs are full of historic recollections, which have been well illustrated in the "Border Tales," by John Mackie Wilson, who was a native of Berwick, and resided here till his death. This event took place, suddenly and unexpectedly, on the 2d of September, 1835, when he was only thirty-one years of age. His early days were spent, in peace and happiness, under the parental roof. At school he was distinguished for his love of knowledge, and the rapidity with which he executed all his tasks. At a suitable age he was apprenticed to a printer, and found the employment congenial, as it brought him into contact with books. Eagerly thirsting for knowledge, he soon exhausted his scanty means of gratifying his taste in Berwick on Tweed, and leaving the place of his nativity, repaired to London, where he encountered the greatest difficulties and hardships. It is said that some of the most touching descriptions of the sufferings endured by the aspirant for fame were actually endured by himself, and "that the sobs and tears which involuntarily burst from the family circle when these tales were read, were poured forth for him whose pen had described them." Often amid the splendor of London, did he wander "homeless and friendless." But nothing could repress the native ardor and buoyancy of his mind. And amid all the darkness of the night which enveloped his pathway, he[Pg 376] was ever looking for sunrise. Despair and poverty, however, drove him from the British metropolis, and he was forced to seek in the provinces what he could not find in London, nor did he seek in vain. He reaped "a golden harvest of opinions;" but poverty continued to be his companion for years. During a sojourn in the city of Edinburgh, he published several dramas and other poems, which had a share of success. He wrote a series of "Lectures and Biographical Sketches," which he delivered with considerable eclat in different towns of Scotland and England. Three years before his death "he rested from his wanderings," in his native village, among his friends and early associates, having been invited to become editor of "The Berwick Advertiser," which he conducted with great spirit. Amid his labors as an editor, he found time to indulge his taste for literature, and the matter of his journal was often enlivened by his own literary and poetical effusions. But it was "The Border Tales," which made him a decided favorite with the public, and gave him a warm place in the Scottish heart. They were published in a fugitive form, and commanded a circulation far beyond the author's most sanguine hopes. It was from these that he and his friends saw a prospect of reward for his toils. But the scene which was thus opening upon him was blighted,—and from the high place which he had gained in the estimation of his townsmen, from the caresses of his friends, and from the reproaches of his foes, he now lies "where[Pg 377] the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest."
We do not admire Wilson's poetry as a whole; and yet some beautiful strains might be culled from it. He wrote rapidly and diffusely; throwing off everything at a first draft, without much correction or polish. His "Border Tales" are quite miscellaneous in their character, and contain much that he would doubtless have thrown out, had he lived to place them in a permanent form. They are written diffusely and carelessly. But with all their faults, they give indications of genius, humor and pathos, a keen insight into character, great descriptive powers, and a fine conception of the beautiful and true. Some of them are told with great pith and raciness; and though inferior in some respects, to Professor Wilson's "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life," are more natural and easy, more characteristic and amusing. Upon the whole, they give a better idea of the Scottish character than the Professor's splendid, but exaggerated pictures. James Mackay Wilson died too young for his fame; but his simple tales will be read, for many a day, in the homes of "bonny Scotland." Among other things, they give a just representation of the religious character of the Scottish peasantry. While their faults and foibles are depicted with graphic power, their solemn faith, their profound enthusiasm, and their leal-hearted piety are exhibited in beautiful relief. Justice is done to the old Covenanters, whose rough patriotism and burning zeal[Pg 378] were the salvation of their native land. Long may their martyr spirit, softened by charity, prevail in Scotland; and generations yet unborn shall "rise up and call her blessed."
In this series of sketches, now brought to a close, it has been the author's aim to make a contribution to literature, which, while it might prove attractive, would yet exert a pure moral influence. Such an excursion beyond the peculiar limits of his profession, he thinks, was permitted him, and may tend in some slight degree to promote the great object for which he desires to live. At all events, if he has accomplished nothing more, he has yet succeeded in calling up "a gentle vision" of "Auld Lang Syne," by which his own heart has been solaced and cheered.
 The following eloquent passage from an address by the Honorable Edward Everett, before the "Scots' Charitable Society," Boston, well illustrates the fact referred to.
"Not to speak of the worthies of ages long passed; of the Knoxes, the Buchanans, and the early minstrelsy of the border; the land of your fathers, sir, since it ceased to be a separate kingdom, has, through the intellect of her gifted sons, acquired a supremacy over the minds of men more extensive and more enduring, than that of Alexander or Augustus. It would be impossible to enumerate them all,—the Blairs of the last generation, the Chalmerses of this; the Robertsons, and Humes; the Smiths, the Reids, the Stuarts, the Browns; the Homes, the Mackenzies; the Mackintoshes, the Broughams, the Jeffreys, with their distinguished compeers, both on physical and moral science. The Marys and the Elizabeths, the Jameses and the Charleses will be forgotten, before these names will perish from the memory of men. And when I add to them those other illustrious names—Burns, Campbell, Byron, and Scott, may I not truly say, sir, that the throne and the sceptre of England will crumble into dust like those of Scotland: and Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey will lie in ruins as poor and desolate as those of Scone and Iona, before the lords of Scottish song shall cease to reign in the hearts of men.
For myself, sir, I confess that I love Scotland. I have reason to do so. I have trod the soil of the
I have looked up to the cloud-capt summit of Ben Lomond; have glided among the fairy islets of Loch Katrine; and from the battlements of Stirling Castle, have beheld the links of Forth sparkling in the morning sun. I have done more, sir; I have tasted that generous hospitality of Scotland, which her Majesty's Consul has so justly commemorated; I have held converse with her most eminent sons; I have made my pilgrimage to Melrose Abbey, in company with that modern magician, who, mightier than the magician of old that sleeps beneath the marble floor of its chancel, has hung the garlands of immortal poesy upon its shattered arches, and made its moss-clad ruins a shrine, to be visited by the votary of the muse from the remotest corners of the earth, to the end of time. Yes, sir, musing as I did, in my youth, over the sepulchre of the wizard, once pointed out by the bloody stain of the cross and the image of the archangel:—standing within that consecrated enclosure, under the friendly guidance of him whose genius has made it holy ground; while every nerve within me thrilled with excitement, my fancy kindled with the inspiration of the spot. I seemed to behold, not the vision so magnificently described by the minstrel,—the light, which, as the tomb was opened,
But I could fancy that I beheld, with sensible perception, the brighter light, which had broken forth from the master mind; which had streamed from his illumined page all-gloriously upward, above the pinnacles of worldly grandeur, till it mingled its equal beams, with that of the brightest constellations, in the intellectual firmament of England."
 This is spoken, of course, of the great body of the people.
 Letter to Robert Burns, by Mr. Telford, of Shrewsbury, a native of Scotland.
 Withered cheeks.
 Supposed to be Dr. Moir.
 Tannahill was a weaver in Paisley. He excelled in song writing. Under the pressure of poverty and deep depression of spirits he committed suicide.
 The reference here is to the residence, or rather imprisonment of Mary in Lochleven Castle.
 Roslin Castle, on the banks of the Esk, about seven miles from Edinburgh.
 Brow, in Scotland, is often pronounced as if spelt brue.
 Ewes, pronounced as if it were yowes.
 We give the version of Leitch Ritchie, who has thrown the facts into the form of a dialogue, and given a false name to the hero; otherwise the narration is entirely authentic.
 At present it is used as a barracks for soldiers and a magazine of arms.
 Carlyle—"Hero Worship," p. 174.
 "Of Reformation in England." By John Milton.
 The writer describes not an imaginary, but an actual lecture of Professor Wilson's, which he heard some years ago.
We have honestly given our own impressions relative to Wilson's metaphysical powers, and stated simply what we heard and saw while attending his Lectures in Edinburgh University. Others however may have different impressions; and we cheerfully append the following from Gilfillan as an offset to our strictures:
"It is probable that the very variety and versatility of Wilson's powers have done him an injury in the estimation of many. They can hardly believe that an actor, who can play so many parts, is perfect in all. Because he is, confessedly, one of the most eloquent of men, it is doubted whether he can be profound: because he is a fine poet, he must be a shallow metaphysician;—because he is the Editor of Blackwood, he must be an inefficient professor. There is such a thing on this round earth, as diffusion along with depth, as the versatile and vigorous mind of a man of genius mastering a multitude of topics, while others are blunderingly acquiring one, or as a man 'multiplying himself among mankind, the Proteus of their talents,' and proving that the Voltairian activity of brain has been severed, in one splendid instance, at least, from the Voltairian sneer and the Voltairian shallowness. Such an instance as that of our illustrious Professor, who is ready for every tack,—who can, at one time, scorch a poetaster to a cinder, at another cast illumination into the 'dark deep holds' of a moral question, by a glance of his genius; at one time dash off the picture of a Highland glen, with the force of a Salvator, at another, lay bare the anatomy of a passion with the precision and force of an Angelo,—write, now, the sweetest verse, and now the most energetic prose,—now let slip, from his spirit, a single star, like the 'evening cloud,' and now unfurl a Noctes upon the wondering world,—now paint Avarice till his audience are dying with laughter, and now Emulation and Sympathy till they are choked with tears,—write now 'the Elder's Deathbed,' and now the 'Address to a Wild Deer,'—be equally at home in describing the Sufferings of an Orphan girl, and the undressing of a dead Quaker, by a congregation of ravens, under the brow of Helvellyn."—Literary Portraits, p. 209.
 The following graphic description of the residence, personal appearance and conversation of Carlyle is from the pen of Elizur Wright, Junr. "Passing the long lines of new buildings which have stretched from Westminster up the Thames, and engulphed the old village of Chelsea, in omnivorous London, you recognize at last the old Chelsea Hospital, one of the world-famous clusters of low brick palaces, where Britain nurses her fighting men when they can fight no more. A little past this and an old ivy-clad church, with its buried generations lying around it, you come to an antique street running at right angles with the Thames, and a few steps from the river, you find Carlyle's name on the door. A Scotch lass ushers you into the second story front chamber, which is the spacious workshop of the world-maker. Here are lots of books—ponderous tomes in Latin, Greek, and black letter English,—some are on shelves occupying nearly all the walls, and some are piled on tables and a reading rack as having just been read. The furniture speaks of Scotch economy, and the whole face of things of more than common Scotch tidiness. In fact, a superbly wrought bell-rope indicates that the wife is a true hero worshipper. Carlyle is a mere man, ordinary size, lofty and jutting brow, keen—exceedingly keen eye, and modest unassuming manners. His voice is melodious, and with its rich Scotch cadence, and rapid flow, reminds you of Thalberg's music in some strange out of the way key. Just set him agoing, and he runs without stopping, giving you whole masses of history, painting and poetry, and a great mass of the boundless system of Carlyleism. There is nothing which he does not touch; and figures of speech come tumbling in from all corners, top and bottom of the universe, as the merest matter of course. Doubt, hesitation or qualification have no place among his opinions, he having kicked them all out of doors when he began his philosophy."
Many inquiries have been made respecting Carlyle's religious opinions; but it is difficult to say anything very decisive in reply. That he has a deep reverence for the Christian faith,—that he strongly inclines to a sort of transcendental orthodoxy,—that he loves, moreover, true-hearted piety, and is himself a model of integrity and affection cannot be doubted. He often speaks of Jesus as divine,—as the most perfect of all heroes—as the God man—as the Divine man. He possesses a profound sympathy for the higher and more beautiful forms of Christian virtue, and describes the lives and characters of good men with the liveliest relish. We incline therefore to believe, that notwithstanding his transcendental speculations, and philosophical doubts, he has a true (though not thoroughly defined) heart faith in the essential doctrines of the Christian system. Clouds and darkness hang upon the horizon of his spiritual vision, but gloriously irradiated with light from heaven, and here and there opening into vistas of serene and ineffable beauty. Many of his followers, we think, do not understand him, and we fear, will never reach his purity and elevation of mind. They are more likely to be led astray, by the magnificent illusions of his gifted but somewhat erring fancy. Instead of resting in the simple-hearted and heroic faith which he loves so much to describe, they may plunge into the abysses of doubt and despair.
 In looking over the Doctor's printed works, we have found this discourse in a somewhat different garb from that in which we have presented it. We were not at first aware of this, or we might have selected some other discourse; for it was our good fortune to hear the Doctor frequently. This and other delineations, however, are taken from personal observation.
 All these, with the addition of four volumes of Sermons, forming the Theological Works of Dr. Chalmers, have been republished, in handsome form, by Mr. Carter of New York.
 In the introduction to "Vinet's Vital Christianity," I have given a more elaborate estimate of the mental peculiarities of Dr. Chalmers, in connection with those of Vinet, "the Chalmers of Switzerland."
Since the above sketch was written Dr. Chalmers has gone to his rest. He died suddenly and unexpectedly on the 31st of May, 1847.
 Singing noise.
 Old woman.
 Barn for the cows.
 Place or socket.
 Examine it.
 A fire of peats.
 In Scotland the old peasant houses have the fire in their centre.
 Cups of beech wood.
 Shelves opposite the door.
 Brown ale.
 Your health.
 Good befall.
 A glass of beer.
 Clear up, unravel.
 Birch or strap.
 Two years.
 Since then.
 Know not.
 Sorely frightened.
 Fuss or perhaps flattering speech.
 Keep off.
 Tassels or dangles.
 Of a dark complexion.
 Does this mean Spectator?
 Uncouth sloven.
 Proud or stiff.
 Pennycuick House, the romantic and elegant residence of Sir George Clerk, Baronet. "It stands on a flat, in a curve of the river, with a picturesque glen behind, carrying up the view to the ruins of Branstane Castle, and the western extremity of the Pentlands—a a little plain in front, gemmed with a beautiful artificial pond, and overhung by ascents which are mantled all over with wood—and swells and eminences on each side, dissevered by ravines, and moulded into many curvatures of beauty. On the opposite side of the river, at the end of an avenue at the top of a bank, stands an obelisk, raised by Sir James Clerk, to the memory of his friend and frequent inmate, Allan Ramsay."
 The prison vault.
 Hollow, or glen.
 Serene and lonely.
 Rattling, or running.
 Fine clothing and money.
 Stubble field.
 Sold at auction.
 You shall.
 As much as possible.
 One of these chimnies is said to be over 400 feet high.
 Edinburgh Review.
 Holyrood day.
 Gleams, or flashes.
 Each other.
 Low bench.
 To teach.
 School children.
 Thrush or mavis.
 A darting pain.
 Since the above was written, the Rev. Dr. Heugh has gone to his reward in heaven. He was a man of fine talents, deep piety, and most engaging manners. We met him some years ago on the banks of Lake Leman, whither he had gone for his health, in company with Merle D'Aubigne, Joseph J. Gurney and others; on which occasion Dr. Heugh gave an interesting and graphic account of the Free Church movement, which was translated for the benefit of those who did not understand English, by Professor La Harpe. Never shall we forget that interview. There were present, French and English, German and Swiss, Scots and Americans. Some of these were Presbyterians, others Episcopalians, and others Baptists, Lutherans and Quakers; but all were "one in Christ Jesus." Joseph J. Gurney closed our interview with a prayer in the French language, the most simple, solemn, and touching we ever heard. Ah! little did we think that one of the most agreeable of that happy company was so soon to pass away from the scenes of earth. The following sketch of Dr. Heugh as a preacher, is from a funeral sermon by Dr. John Brown, of Edinburgh.
"As a preacher, he was judicious, faithful, discriminating; not exclusively doctrinal or practical, or experimental, but all by turns, and often all in the same discourse. The matter of his discourses was drawn from the living oracles, and his constant aim was to explain and to apply the saving doctrines of the cross—to bring the mind and hearts of men into harmony with the mind and will of God, especially as those are revealed in the person and work of his incarnate Son. He was eminently a scriptural preacher, both in substance and in form. The commands of the Master, 'Divide rightly the word of truth,' 'Feed my sheep,' 'Feed my lambs,' seemed to be ever present to his mind, and to guide all his ministerial studies; and hence it was that his pulpit services were marked by a lucid, pointed, and affectionate inculcation of those varied truths which the circumstances of his hearers required. There was nothing trivial or extraneous in his discussions. He stated massy important thoughts, wide and comprehensive views—the result of much reflection and experience—illustrative of his subject and suited to the occasion—in simple and appropriate words; and the hearer was made to feel that he was not listening to human speculations, but that Christ was, by the preacher, unfolding his mind and will—'making manifest the savor of his knowledge.'
"His manner in the pulpit was singularly easy, graceful and pleasing. All that he said and did was natural and becoming. His fine open countenance, his animated appearance, his fluency of utterance, the pleasantly modulated tones of his voice, his graceful action, and the solemn devotional feeling which obviously pervaded all these, rivetted attention, and threw a peculiar charm over his whole discourse. There was no seeking for effect, no going out of the way for ornaments, no efforts to dazzle and to overwhelm. He was occupied with his subject, and sought to fill the minds of his hearers with it, as his own mind was filled with it. There were occasionally passages of great beauty, touchingly tender statements, stirring suddenly the deeper emotions of the heart; but the ordinary character of his eloquence was instructive and pleasing, rather than affecting or overpowering."
 Memoir of Bruce, by Dr. Mackelvie, to which I am chiefly indebted for the facts of which the accompanying sketch is composed.
 In his own copy Bruce had written, "Starts thy curious voice to hear;" curious is a Scotticism, being equivalent to strange. This Logan probably altered to save the quantity. But the original expression is preferred by good judges, as more natural and poetical. "It marks the unusual resemblance of the note of the cuckoo to the human voice the cause of the start and imitation which follow."
 The following is a different, and probably a more correct version of Binnoch's adventure, from Sir W. Scott's Tales of a Grandfather. "Binnoch had been ordered by the English governor to furnish some cart-loads of hay, of which they were in want. He promised to bring it accordingly; but the night before he drove the hay to the castle, he stationed a party of his friends, as well armed as possible, near the entrance, where they could not be seen by the garrison, and gave them directions that they should come to his assistance as soon as they should hear him cry a signal, which was to be, 'Call all, call all!' Then he loaded a great waggon with hay. But in the waggon he placed eight strong men, well armed, lying flat on their breasts, and covered over with hay, so that they could not be seen. He himself walked carelessly beside the waggon; and he chose the stoutest and bravest of his servants to be the driver, who carried at his belt a strong axe or hatchet. In this way Binnoch approached the castle, early in the morning; and the watchmen, who only saw two men, Binnoch being one of them, with a cart of hay, which they expected, opened the gates, and raised up the portcullis, to permit them to enter the castle. But as soon as the cart had gotten under the gateway, Binnoch made a sign to his servant, who, with his axe, suddenly cut asunder the soam, that is, the yoke which fastens the horses to the cart, and the horses finding themselves free, naturally started forward, the cart remaining behind under the arch of the gate. At the same time Binnoch cried, as loud as he could, 'Call all, call all!' and drawing his sword, which he had under his country habit, he killed the porter. The armed men then jumped up from under the hay where they lay concealed, and rushed on the English guard. The Englishmen tried to shut the gates, but they could not, because the cart of hay remained in the gateway, and prevented the folding doors from being closed. The portcullis was also let fall, but the grating was caught in the cart, and so could not drop to the ground. The men who were in ambush near the gate hearing the cry, 'Call all, call all!' ran to assist those who had leaped out from among the hay; the castle was taken, and all the Englishmen killed or made prisoners. King Robert rewarded Binnoch by bestowing on him an estate, which his posterity long afterward enjoyed. The Binnings of Wallyford, descended from that person, still bear in their coat armorial a wain loaded with hay, with the motto, 'virtute doloque.'"
 Two apartments.
 The Scottish eagle.
 We quote only a portion of Hamilton's ballad.
 Lonesome flame.
 Hollow and den.
 Snood or headband.
 Swelled or swept.
 Briefly the meaning is, that in the greenwood there is a sweet lonely place where a spiritual being wanders alone.
 Swept or spirited away, with a rapid motion.
 Published by R. Carter, in four handsome octavos.
 "Dumfries Advertiser and Galloway Standard," from which we quoted a preceding extract.
 "The Flowers of the Forest," by Miss Jane Elliot, one of the sweetest and most affecting ballads of Scotland. By the 'Flowers of the Forest' are meant the young men of Ettrick Forest, slain at Flodden Field.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GENIUS OF SCOTLAND***
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