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LOCH AWE.-ISLE OF BEAUTY.
of maidens fair and chieftains bold, that will be rehearsed by Gaël and Sassenach, when these very ruins shall have disappeared in the boiling wave at their base.”
We now proceed to a survey of the beautiful Loch-awe, whose isle-bestudded bosom and castellated banks give it a just precedence over its surrounding competitors. History and tradition have both united to throw a charm over the scene; the records of war and the wonder-working spirit of romance, have combined to infuse a spell into all its varied features. Its islands, floating like buoyant gardens on the sunny water, have each some relic of ancient timessome stirring tradition to engage the feelings or enliven the fancy. On one of these, religion has left the pleasing evidence of its reign-the remains of a secluded sanctuary, to which the disconsolate repaired for solace, the persecuted for refuge, the tempted for fortitude, the forsaken for comfort, the faltering for the gifts of renewing grace, and all of them, in their turn, for that untroubled repose
“ That dreamless rest,
The islet to which we allude, is the poetical Inishail, or the “ Isle of Beauty;" and the deserted sanctuary, that of a Cistercian nunnery, where the silent victim of unrequited love sought consolation in the soothing arms of religion.
On another island, the name of which-Fraoch-Elan-still recalls its poetical origin, stand the ruins of a castle which Gilbert Macnaughten received as a royal grant from Alexander III. The island was called the “ Hesperides" of the country, from the flowers and fruit which enriched it being of the most exquisite fragrance and flavour. The following legend, however, gives a still more striking feature to the resemblance it was supposed to bear to the classic Hesperides-the “ Afræ Serores” of Latin poets. An adventurous lover, named Fraoch, seeing that Scotland had her Garden of the Hesperides, resolved that she should also have her Hercules; and at the instigation of a fair idol, named Mego, who had conceived an irresistible desire to taste the enchanted fruit which the island produced, determined to gratify her innocent longing, by laying a full basket of it at her feet. She knew, however, as well as himself, that this fruit was guarded by a huge serpent, the coils of which would have encompassed half the island ; but, along with the desire of the fruit, she had a desire to try the faith and fortitude of her lover, and sanctioned—if she did not exactly command—the enterprize. Love, they say, is blind; but, in the present instance, he was bold in proportion to his blindness, and scorned every danger and impediment that stood between him and the forbidden tree. Casing himself, therefore, in complete armour, with a dirk-for they had no “Doune pistols" in those days—in his belt, and a huge claymore that descended in a steel scabbard to his left heel, he sallied forth at that favourable hour when the snake was wont to indulge in the luxury of a siesta. As he rowed towards the little bay which indented the island paradise, he felt his courage even greater than the occasion which called it forth. The charms of Mego--the gentle “fruitfancying” Mego-gave fervour to his heart, and fluency to his lips. His voice kept tune, and his oars kept time; and, chanting her praises as the little prow skimmed the blue wave, he soon - reached the calm anchorage, and felt through his whole frame the breezy fragrance of a celestial atmosphere. This, however, did not in the least enervate him; he had come to slay the snake, and secure the fruit in good earnest; and, having quite another scent to gratify, he resolutely shut his olfactories against the intruding perfumes, and, directed by the sense of sight only, sprang desperately on shore. At this instant-a new world opened upon him; over his head, boughs laden with delicious fruit, as various in hue as the rainbow, tempted him to indulge his taste. Flowers sprang up at his feet, and filled the whole air with aromatic odours. Leaves and plants distilled ambrosia, celestial music issued from every recess, and he felt as if he had been translated, bodily, into the habitation of spirits. He thought he heard the harp of Ossian, saw the heroes of Fingal gliding through the leafy walks, and almost forgot the lover's errand on which he had come. Collecting his scattered ideas, upbraiding himself with criminally indulging his own pleasure, and never thinking of the fruit, he made up instantly to one of the finest trees in the garden, and set about stripping it in the name of his beloved Mego. “ Why," said he to himself, as he crammed the corners of his flowing plaid and philibeg with the precious fruit—" why, they told me of a snake !... I see no snake, and fear none !” And so he continued the plunder. The next moment, however, the huge monster was in motion. Opening its hideous jaws, and uncoiling its scaly circles, it advanced in a series of terrible gyrations towards the rash depredator. “So, so!" said Fraoch, with an air of supreme indifference, and, drawing his claymore, placed himself in an attitude of perfect defiance. This, however, did not arrest the scaly monster; on the contrary, he showed an additional length of sting, and a determination to act on the offensive. “ Take that,” said Fraoch, "and that !"-striking most manfully to right and left. But, alas! the edge of his well-tempered blade fell on its scaly armour as if it had fallen upon Macnab's anvil !* His blows were redoubled; but the snake
LEGEND OF FRAOCH.-PASS OF AWE.
was sword-proof, hissed vehemently, and protruded its forked tongue in such a way, that it might have put a whole battalion of the “ Black Watch” into bodily fear: but Fraoch thought only of Mego. “ Shall the lover of Mego," he asked, “ succumb to a snake ?-Never!" And he made another swinging stroke with his claymore. Alas, for that stroke !—it so irritated the dreadful monster, by shearing a slice from its forked sting, that the combat now proceeded to extremities—and literally so; for while Fraoch was recovering his weapon, he got entangled in one of the coils, and there stood fixed like a nail in Macnuithear's vice.* The horrid animal, too, profiting by the advantage, seized upon that part of his body which some physiologists have described as the seat of honour. We need hardly observe, that as no man has a keener sense of honour than a Highlander, no man resents an insult—even from a snake—with more desperate courage. Though writhing under the torture, Fraoch could not die unrevenged ; and, summoning his whole mental and corporeal vigour into one terrible effort, let fall such a blow upon the remaining prong of the monster's sting, that, from the agony it suffered, its coils were relaxed, and the captive was released from their horrid grasp. The snake, having thus lost its sting, rolled itself up in agony and died, while Fraoch had just sufficient strength left to reach, and deposit the hard-earned fruit in the lap of his mistress. “Fairest of the forms of earth,” said he," and gentle as thou art fair, behold the fruit !.. The snake is slain—the fruit is sweet!... but Fraoch—thy lover Fraoch, is numbered with the ghosts in the airy halls." Mego was inconsolable. Her restless eye wandered between the pale youth at her feet, and the bright peaches in her lap. The bloom on the latter was irresistible, and she resolved, painful as it was, first to enjoy the dessert, and then indulge her unbounded sorrow for the dead. The fruit, indeed, was as sweet to the taste as it was pleasant to the eye; and as she stripped peach after peach, her relish for the after-part diminished in proportion, and she determined to continue the feast to-day, and defer her sorrow till the morrow. But mark how she was punished: the fruit for which she had so much longed, contained, like other forbidden fruits, a subtle poison, and before sunset Mego ended her life with her repast.
The Pass of Awe-grand and imposing throughout—is beyond dispute one of the most striking defiles in the Highlands. The scene so ably represented in the engraving, recals one of the most remarkable events in the life of Bruce, namely his advance into the west, which John of Lorn had vainly endeavoured to withstand. Here, having gained a vantage-ground, which the latter had unwarily left