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MEN AND WOMEN:
(Continued from Vol. 2. No. 5. page 289.) FROM
ROM Perth, which is a neat, comfortable, elegant little
town, Edward proceeded onward towards Dunkeld, within a few miles of which place the country began to assume a more rugged and terrific form. He was shut in by mountains, on the right hand and on the left; the vallies were nearly desolate and void of cultivation; the river had contented itself with a narrower channel, through which it toiled and fretted over many a broken rock, and many a jutting precipice: its banks were thinly fringed with wood, which, also, slightly skirted the hills mid-way up their heights ; but their broad bare backs upheaved themselves to the clouds, their tops ascended to the sky, in the naked grandeur of sterility. Edward walked on in pleasing, pensive contemplation of the surrounding objects, enjoying the luxury of his own emotions in the profoundest silence, a silence that made itself to be felt. He came, when the thickening shades of night began to darken the surface of the water, and to wrap creation round in her misty mantle of indistinctness, to Dunkeld ferry, which he crossed, and passed the night in the town of Dunkeld.
Here Edward learned, that the duke of Athol was proceeding to lay waste and depopulate Dunkeld, in order to increase the extent of his pleasure ground and park; and that he had already executed half his purpose, for the church, which -originally stood in the middle of the town, was now close to his grace's park wall ; nearly half the houses had been pulled down, and their inhabitants driven out upon the wide world to roam in quest of food and of shelter in countries less inhospitable, and in more genial climes. The duke calculates upon being able, in the course of a few years, to raze the town of Dunkeld to the earth, not leaving one stone upon another, and to convert the whole into a lawn and shrubbery ;
while the people must seek for an abode and the means of existence in some strange land, far from their native home.
Edward went to survey the domains of Athol's duke. The walks were spacious, and the plantations extensive, and judiciously situated, on eminences, or in vallies, so as every where to present objects of delight to the eye of the enraptured beholder. Edward sate under the shed of a rude and moss
s-grown canopy, and surveyed the tumbling of a cataract, as it laboured from rock to rock, and wasted its idle fury in sheets of foam upon
bed below. This scene raised in Edward's mind sensations truly sublime and elevated; he felt himself lifted up in the scale of being, as he contemplated this bold and magnificent torrent. While he was gazing intently on the scene before him, his guide, one of the duke's servants, said that he would now show him the bonniest and the bravest sight in all the grounds of his grace of Athol. Edward
and followed his conductor into a room, which was furnished quite in the modern style, and was told to look at a mirror, placed on one side of the apartment; he did so, and saw the resemblance of the cascade, as if in the very act of rushing down upon him. Edward's mind, full of the emotions, which the view of the fall had excited, had been raised to the utmost stretch of expectation by being told of something still more noble and sublime to be seen ; and then, to be dragged into a little, snug, painted room, to look at a mirror, which shewed him the appearance of what he knew to be false, fairly disgusted him, and filled him with something very much unlike compassion, for the childish, trifling taste, that could stoop to devise such a petty artifice.
The imagination but ill brooks being checked in her loftiest flights, and circumscribed in her widest range, by the paltry intrusion of art, clumsily obtruded on its notice, and compelling the mind to associate the handy-work of a small and a narrow animal with the bold and magnificent operations of nature. Edward listened not again to the suggestions of his guide, but roved in silence through all the winding walks, and embosomed recesses of this enchanting spot, which is justly and deservedly celebrated as one of the most paradisiacal places on the face of the earth.
Edward walked forward, contemplating the scenery of the surrounding country, 'till he came to the pass of Killakranky, when he paused with wonder and dismay; the objects all around were terrifically grand; far as the eye could range, the prospect was bounded by an eternal chain of mountains, whose summits were buried in the clouds.
He crawled, at the imminent hazard of breaking his neck, down some very steep rocks, in order to bathe in the river Garry. At length, he reached the lower-most ledge of the precipice, against which the unwearied waves beat in hoarse cadence. The water was clear and limpid, so as to enable him to see and to avoid the sunken masses of stone, that lay a few feet under its surface.
Edward stood on the shelving ledge of a rock, close by the water's side, and surveyed the scenery of this enchanting spot, with inexpressible ecstacy. The vast masses of rocks had been, in many places, rifted by the lightning's blast, and, here and there, disclosed an awful chasm. At their base, and far up the steep, the hills were naked and bare, but above, thinly skirted with hardy trees and shrubs, as the mountain ash, the elm, and the hazel. The arch of a bridge, which led to a stately mansion near, reared itself full sixty feet above the bed of the river, although in the winter season, when the floods roll down the impetuous tide of their torrents from the mountain-heights, the waters rise above the level of the arch, and find their way through some round apertures at its side, made for the purpose of affording an outlet to the streams, lest the great weight of accumulated waters should press upon and sweep the whole fabric into destruction.
From the spot where Edward stood, as he looked through the arch of the bridge, he beheld a noble country open on his view. The banks of the river, (which tumbles its foaming flood over many a rough and broken fragment of rock, that impeded its course through the channel) were smiling with verdure, the plains beyond exhibited the marks of cultivation; and the whole of the prospect was terminated by a range of mountains, some of which were slightly clothed with wood, while the rest in bleak and sullen majesty, exposed their bare heads to the storm, and defied the ravages of time.
In the British rebellion of 1745, when the Hessian troops came to this spot, they declared, that they would go no farther, for that these were the confines of the world. And, no wonder; for before General Wade had caused the famous military road, which now runs over all this tract of country, to be constructed, half a dozen highlanders, with a few loose stones, might have defended the pass against a whole army of assailants.
Gray, the poet, says, that he never experienced the sensations of sublimity from the moment he crossed the Alps, 'till he arrived at this spot. In the ruder times of ancient days, a poet might, surely, have been forgiven, if he had placed the nether regions directly in this spot, which might then have appeared to him to be the bones and skeleton of the world. Here the bard might have imagined, that airy forms and shadowy spectres took up their habitation, whether they hung on the rude fragment of a rock, or came riding upon the viewless wings of the blast.
Edward crawled up the rocks, and wound his way up towards the road, along the coppice paths of Sir James Pultney, still shut in, on all sides, by mountains, of which those immediately near him, were hung with wood, and well dressed with foliage, but beyond, and elevated above all, the hills were naked to their summits, not even scantily covered with heath. The river rolled itself along at his left hand, now opening upon him its white and perturbed stream, labouring to find its way among the rocks, which opposed its passage, then entirely hidden from his sight by the out-jutting and over-hanging hills, it allowed him only to imagine the difficulties, with which it struggled, by the hoarse murmur of its waters, coming with deep and solemn tones upon his ear, amid the awful silence, in which all around was hushed. Here Edward
“ Himself, could catch the landscape, gliding swift
Ten thousand wandering images of things,
Sooth every gust of passion into peace,
That waken, not disturb th' enraptur'd mind." Edward got, at length, by a gradual ascent into the road, where the scenery still preserved the same sublimity of feature. Trees were to be seen on the lower ridges or tiers of mountains, with here and there, a little hut or cabin, suspended at the side of the hill, and apparently hanging in the air, owing to the distance; the topmost range of the mountains, was very lofty, and enveloped in eternal clouds.
He marched onward, and soon saw, at the distance of some miles, Blair Athol. It was more extensive but not so interesting as Dunkeld; the great plantations of firs showed that the hand of art was labouring to supply what nature had refused spontaneously to bestow. Edward looked in vain for the tumbling of the torrents and the huge masses of rock, which he had surveyed at Dunkeld, with such emotions of unmixed but inexpressible delight.
On his arrival at Blair Athol he repaired to an inn kept by a highland peasant, who received him with all that genuine welcome and cordiality, which so strongly marks the character of the Scottish highlander. Edward observed his host attentively; he was short of stature, and rather slightly made ; his face bore strong marks of close and deep thinking, blended with many a line of wo, and many a furrow of heart-felt grief.
As they sate down together on a verdant hillock, which over-looked the duke of Athol's extended domains, he related to Edward his little history, which was brief and simple, unmarked by variety, and unchequered by abundance of incident. He had passed his youth as a peasant, in the bosom of his native hills, in peace and in comfort, supplying all his wants by the labour of his hands; while yet young, ere the down had well shaded his chin, he had married her whom his soul loved, and was blessed beyond the lot of mortals in her affection, and in the contemplation of the opening charms of their little ones, who had come to twist the links of mutual love, and of reciprocal attachment, still more closely round every fibre of their hearts.