ページの画像
PDF
ePub

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

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

On-on-on-farther into the forest !-unless indeed, O my soul! thou dreadest that the limbs that bear on thy fleshly tabernacle may fail, and the body left to itself sink down and die. Ha ! such fears thou laughest to scorn; for from youth upwards thou hast dallied with the wild and perilous; and what but the chill delight in which thou hast so often shivered in threatening solitude brought thee here? These dens are not dungeons, nor am I a thrall. Yet if dungeons they must be called, and they are deep, and dark, and grim,- ten thousand gates hath this great prison-house, and wide open are they all. So on-on-on-farther into the forest, even if to emerge from it into open daylight should take the whole of this nightlike day.

Lo! the reappearing sky and gloriously glittering with sunlight, a wooded mountain within the forest : But who shall ascend to its summit? Eagles and dreams. Round its base we go, rejoicing in the newfound day, and once more cheered and charmed with the music of birds. Say whence came, ye scientific world-makers, those vast blocks of granite ? Was it fire or water, think ye, that hung in air the semblance of that Gothic cathe. dral, without nave, or chancel, or aisle,--a mass of solid rock. Yet it looks like the abode of echoes; and haply when there is thunder, rolls out its lengthening shadow of sound to the ear of the solitary shepherd afar off on Cairn-gorm.

On-on-on-farther into the forest! Now on all sides leagues of ancient trees surround me, and I am safe as in the grave from the presecuting love or hatred of friends or foes. The sun shall not find me by day, nor the moon by night. Were my life forfeited to what are called the laws, for murder by the knife or poison, how could the laws discover the criminal? How could they drag me from the impenetrable gloom of this sylvan sanctuary? And if here I choose to perish by suicide or natural death,- what eye would ever look on my bones? Raving all; but so it ever is with my soul in severest solitude, her dreams must still be hideous with sin and death!

Hideous all, did I say, with sin and death? Thoughts that came flying against me like vultures, like vultures have disappeared, disappointed of their prey, and afraid to fix their talons in a thing alive. Thither-by some secret and sacred impulse within the soul, that often knoweth not the sovereign virtue of its own great desires,-have I been led as into a penitentiary, where, before the altar of nature, I may lay down the burthen of guilt and remorse, and walk out of the forest a heaven-pardoned man. What guilt ?-0 my soul! canst thou think of Him who inhabiteth eternity, and ask what guilt? What remorse? For the dereliction of duty every day since thou re. ceived'st from heaven the understanding of good and of evil. All my past existence gathers up into one dread conviction, that every man that is born of a woman is a sinner, and worthy of everlasting death. Yet with the same dread conviction is interfused a knowledge, clear as the consciousness of present being, that the soul will live for ever. What was the meaning, O my soul! of all those transitory joys and griefs,-of all those fears, hopes, loves, that so shook, each in its own fleeting season, the very foundation on which thy being in this life is laid? Anger, wrath, hatred, pride, and ambition, what are they all but so many shapes of sin coeval with thy birth? That sudden entrance of heaven's light into the forest was like the opening of the eye of God! and my spirit stands ashamed of its nakedness, because of the foulness and pollution of sin. But the awful thoughts that have travelled through its chainbers have ventilated, swept, and cleansed them, and let me break from beneath the weight of confession.

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

away! Sudden as a shooting star up springs the red. deer, and in the gloom as suddenly is lost.

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

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

15

VOL. III.

and that deep-blue atmosphere or say rather, that glimmer of purple air, lies over the strath in which a great river rolls along to the sea.

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

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

Was there ever such a descriptive dream of a coloured engraving of the Cushat, Quest, or Ring-Dove, dreamt before? Poor worn-out and glimmering candle! whose wick of light and life in a few more flickerings will be no more--what a contrast dost thou present with thyself of

« 前へ次へ »