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know a country so thoroughly well, outside and in, from mountain to molehill, that you get mutually tired of one another's company, and are ready to vent your quarrel in reciprocal imprecations.
So was it once with us and the Highlands. That “ too much familiarity breeds contempt” we learned many a long year ago, when learning to write large text; and passages in our life have been a running commentary on the theme then set us by that incomparable caligraphist, Butterworth. All “ the old familiar faces” occasionally come in for a portion of that feeling; and on that account, we are glad that we saw, but for one day and one night, Charles Lamb's. Therefore, some dozen years ago we gave up the Highlands, not wishing to quarrel with them, and confined our tender assiduities to the Lowlands, while, like two great Flats as we were, we kept staring away at each other, with our lives on the same level. All the consequences that might naturally have been expected have ensued; and we are now as heartily sick of the Lowlands, and they of us. What can we do but return to our First Love?
Allow us to offer another view of the subject. There is not about Old Age one blessing more deserving gratitude to Heaven, than the gradual bedimming of memory brought on by years. In youth, all things, internal and external, are unforgetable, and by the perpetual presence of passion oppress the soul. The
eye of a woman haunts the victim on whom it
have given a glance, till he leaps perhaps out of a four-story window. A beautiful lake, or a sublime mountain,
drives a young poet as mad as a March hare. He loses himself in an interminable forest louring all round the horizon of a garret six feet square. It matters not to him whether his eyes be open or shut. He is at the mercy of all Life and all Nature, and not for one hour can he escape from their persecutions. His soul is the slave of the Seven Senses, and each is a tyrant with instruments of torture, to whom and to which Phalaris, with his brazen bull, was a pointless joke. But in old age " the heart of a man is oppressed with care” no longer ; the Seven Tyrants have lost their sceptres, and are dethroned; and the greyheaded gentleman feels that his soul has " set up its rest.” His eyes are dazzled no more with insufferable light—no more his ears tingle with music too exquisite to be borne—no more his touch is transport. The scents of nature, stealing from the balmy mouths of lilies and roses, are deadened in his nostrils. He is above and beyond the reach of all the long arms of many-handed misery, as he is out of the convulsive clutch of bliss. And is not this the state of best happiness for mortal man? Tranquillity! The peaceful air that we breathe as we are westering towards the sunset-regions of our Being, and feel that we are about to drop down for ever out of sight behind the Sacred Mountains.
All this may be very fine, but cannot be said to help us far on with our Prologue. Let us try it again. Old men, we remarked, ought to be thankful to Heaven for their dim memories. Never do we feel that more profoundly than when dreaming about the Highlands. All
is confusion. Nothing distinctly do we remember—not even the names of lochs and mountains. Where is Ben Cru-Cru-Cru—what's-his-name? Ay-ay-Cruachan. At this blessed moment we see his cloud-capped head—but we have clean forgotten the silver sound of the name of the county he encumbers. Ross-shire ? Nay, that won't do—he never was at Tain. We are assured by Dr Reid's, Dr Beattie's, and Dugald Stewart's great Instinctive First Principle Belief, that oftener than once, or ten times either, have we been in a day-long hollow among precipices dear to eagles, called GlenEtive. But where begins or where ends that “ severe sojourn,” is now to us a mystery—though we hear the sound of the sea and the dashing of cataracts. Yet though all is thus dim in our memory, would you believe it that nothing is utterly lost ? No, not even the thoughts that soared like eagles vanishing in the light—or that dived like ravens into the gloom. They all re-appearthose from the Empyrean—these from Hades—reminding us of the good or the evil borne in other days, within the spiritual regions of our boundless being. The world of
eye and ear is not in reality narrowed because it glimmers; ever and anon as years advance, a light direct from heaven dissipates the gloom, and bright and glorious as of yore the landscape laughs to the sea, the sea to heaven, and heaven back again to the gazing spirit that leaps forward to the hailing light with something of the same divine passion that gave wings to our youth. All this
may be still finer, yet cannot be said, any more than the preceding paragraph, much to help us on with
our Prologue. To come then, if possible, to the point at
We are happy that our dim memory and our dim imagination restore and revive in our mind none but the characteristic features of the scenery of the Highlands, unmixed with baser matter, and all floating magnificently through a spiritual haze, so that the whole region is now more than ever idealized ; and in spite of all his present, past, and future prosiness-Christopher North, soon as in thought his feet touch the heather,
becomes a poet.
It has long been well known to the whole world that we are a sad egotist-yet our egotism, so far from being a detraction from our attraction, seems to be the very soul of it, making it impossible in nature for any reasonable being to come within its sphere, without being drawn by sweet compulsion to the old wizard's heart. He is so humane! Only look at him for a few minutes, and liking becomes love-love becomes veneration. And all this even before he has opened his lips—by the mere power of his ogles and his temples. In his large mild blue eyes is written not only his nature, but miraculously, in German text, his very name, Christopher North. Mrs Gentle was the first to discover it; though we remember having been asked more than once in our youth, by an alarmed virgin on whom we happened at the time to be looking tender, “ If we were aware that there was something preternatural in our eyes?” Christopher is conspicuous in our right eye—North) in our left; and when we wish to be incog., we either draw their fringed curtains, or, nunlike, keep the telltale
orbs fixed on the ground. Candour whispers us to confess, that some years ago a child was exhibited at sixpence with WILLIAM Wood legible in its optics—having been affiliated, by ocular evidence, on a gentleman of that name, who, with his dying breath, disowned the soft impeachment. But in that case nature had written a vile scrawl-in ours her hand is firm, and goes off with a flourish.
Have you ever entered, all alone, the shadows of some dilapidated old burial-place, and in a nook made beautiful by wild-briers and a flowering thorn, beheld the stone image of some long-forgotten worthy lying on his grave? Some knight who perhaps had fought in Palestine—or some holy man, who in the Abbey—now almost gone -had led a long still life of prayer? The moment you knew that you were standing among the dwellings of the dead, how impressive became the ruins ! Did not that stone image wax more and more lifelike in its repose ? And as you kept your eyes fixed on the features Time had not had the heart to obliterate, seemed not your soul to hear the echoes of the Miserere sung by the brethren?
So looks Christopher-on his couch—in his ALCOVE. He is taking his siesta—and the faint shadows you see coming and going across his face are dreams. 'Tis a pensive dormitory, and hangs undisturbed in its spiritual region as a cloud on the sky of the Longest Day when it falls on the Sabbath.
What think you of our FATHER, alongside of the Pedlar in the Excursion? Wordsworth says
“ Amid the gloom, Spread by a brotherhood of lofty elms,