« PředchozíPokračovat »
Oxford he purchased a charming property, Elleray, on Lake Winder
At this period he published the first of his beautiful poems, The Isle of Palms. Subsequently he became a member of the Scottish bar, and in a few years received the appointment to that chair which he has so long filled with honour. His permanent reputation will, we think, rest upon his prose writings. His contributions to · Blackwood's Magazine' raised the whole tone and character of periodical literature. The keenest wit, the most playful fancy, the most genial criticism, the deepest pathos, were lavished year after year with à profusion almost miraculous. Some of the finest of these productions have been collected as · The Recreations of Christopher North.' It would be difficult to point to three volumes of our own times that have an equal chance of becoming immortal.]
One family lived in Glencreran, and another in Glenco-the families of two brothers ---seldom visiting each other on working days, seldom meeting even on sabbaths, for theirs was not the same parish kirkseldom coming together on rural festivals or holidays, for in the Highlands now these are not so frequent as of yore; yet, all these sweet seldoms, taken together, to loving hearts made a happy many, and thus, though each family passed its life in its own home, there were many invisible threads stretched out through the intermediate air, connecting the two dwellings together,--as the gossamer keeps floating from one tree to another, each with its own secret nest. And nestlike both dwellings were. That in Glenco, built beneath a treeless but high-heathered rock,-lone in all storms,--with greensward and garden on a slope down to a rivulet, the clearest of the clear (oh ! once wofully reddened !) and growing, so it seems, in the mosses of its own roof, and the huge stones that overshadow it, out of the earth. That in Glencreran more conspicuous, on a knoll among the pastoral meadows, midway between mountain and mountain, so that the grove which shelters it, except when the sun is shining high, is darkened by their meeting shadows,--and dark indeed, even in the sunshine, for 'tis a low but wide-armed grove of old oak-like pines. A little further down, and Glencreran is very sylvan ; but this dwelling is the highest up of all, the first you descend upon, near the foot of that wild hanging staircase between you and Glen-Etive. And, except this old oak-like grove of pines, there is not a tree, and hardly a bush, on bank or brae, pasture or hay-field, though these are kept by many a rill, there mingling themselves into one stream, in a perpetual lustre, that seems to be as native to the grass as its light is to the glow-worm. Such are the two huts--for they are huts and no more—and you may see them still, if you know how to discover the beautiful sights of nature from descriptions treasured in your heart, and if the spirit of change, now nowhere at rest on the earth, not even in its most solitary places, have not swept from the scenes the beautified, the humble, but hereditary dwellings that ought to be allowed, in the fulness of the quiet time, to relapse back into the bosom of nature, through insensible and unperceived decay.
These huts belonged to brothers, and each had an only child—a son and a daughter-born on the same day, and now blooming on the verge of youth. A year ago, and they were but mere children; but what wondrous growth of frame and spirit does nature at that season of life often present before our eyes! So that we almost see the very change going on between morn and morn, and feel that these objects of our affection are daily brought closer to ourselves, by partaking daily more and more in all our most sacred thoughts, in our cares and in our duties, and in knowledge of the sorrows as well as the joys of our common lot. Thus had these cousins grown up before their parents' eyes-Flora Macdonald, a name hallowed of yore, the fairest, and Ronald Cameron, the boldest of all the living flowers in Glenco and Glencreran. It was now their seventeenth birthday, and never had a winter sun smiled more serenely over a knoll of snow. Flora, it had been agreed on, was to pass that day in Glencreran, and Ronald to meet her among the mountains, that he might bring her down the many precipitous passes to his parents' hut. It was the middle of February, and the snow had lain for weeks with all its drifts unchanged, so calm had been the weather and so continued the frost. At the same hour, known by horologe on the cliff touched by the finger of dawn, the happy creatures left each their own glen, and mile after mile of the smooth surface glided away past their feet, almost as the quiet water glides by the little boat that in favouring breezes walks merrily along the sea. And soon they met at the trysting place-a bank of birch trees beneath a cliff that takes its name from the eagles.
On their meeting, seemed not to them the whole of nature suddenly inspired with joy and beauty ? Insects, unheard by them before, hummed and glittered in the air; from tree roots, where the snow was thin, little flowers, or herbs flower-like, now for the first time were seen looking out as if alive; the trees themselves seemed budding, as if it were already spring; and rare as in that rocky region are the birds of song, a faint trill for a moment touched their ears, and the flutter of a wing, telling them that somewhere near there was preparation for a nest. Deep down beneath the snow they listened to the tinkle of rills unreached by the frost, and merry, thought they, was the music of these contented prisoners. Not Summer's self, in its deepest green, so beautiful had ever been to them before, as now the mild white of Winter; and as their eyes were lifted up to heaven, when had they ever seen before a sky of such perfect blue, a sun so gentle in its brightness, or altogether a week-day in any season so like a sabbath in its stillness, so like a holiday in its joy? Lovers were they, although as yet they scarcely knew it; for from love only could have come such bliss as now was theirs,-a bliss, that while it beautified was felt to come from the skies.
Flora sang to Ronald many of her old songs, to those wild Gaelic airs that sound like the sighing of winds among fractured cliffs, or the branches of storm-tossed trees, when the subsiding tempest is about to let them rest. Monotonous music! but irresistible over the heart it has once awakened and enthralled, so sincere seems to be the mournfulness it breathes—a mournfulness brooding and feeding on the same note, that is at once its natural expression and sweetest aliment, of which the singer never wearieth in her dream, while her heart all the time is haunted by all that is most piteous,-by the faces of the dead in their paleness returning to the shades of life, only that once more they may pour from their fixed eyes those strange showers of unaccountable tears !
How merry were they between those mournful airs! How Flora trembled to see her lover's burning brow and flashing eyes, as he told her tales of great battles fought in foreign lands, far across the sea tales which he had drunk in with greedy ears from the old heroes scattered all over Lochaber and Badenoch, on the brink of the grave still garrulous of blood !
“ The sun sat high in his meridian tower." But time had not been with the youthful lovers, and the blessed beings believed that 'twas but a little hour since beneath the Eagle Cliff they had met in the prime of the morn!
The boy starts to his feet, and his keen eye looks along the ready rifle—for his sires had all been famous deer-stalkers, and the passion of the chase was hereditary in his blood. Lo! a deer from Dalness, hound-driven, or sullenly astray, slowly bearing his antlers up the glen, then stopping for a moment to snuff the air, then away—away! The rifle-shot rings dully from the scarce echoing snow-cliffs, and the animal leaps aloft, struck by a certain but not sudden death-wound. Oh! for Fingal now to pull him down like a wolf! But labouring and lumbering heavily along, the snow spotted as he bounds with blood, the huge animal at last disappears round some rocks at the head of the glen. “ Follow me, Flora!” the boy-hunter cries; and flinging down their plaids, they turn their bright faces to the mountain, and away up the long glen after the stricken deer. Fleet was the mountain girl; and Ronald, as he ever and anon looked back to wave her on, with pride admired her lightsome motion as she bounded along the snow. Redder and redder grew that snow, and more heavily trampled, as they winded round the rocks. Yonder is the deer, staggering up the mountain, not half a mile off — now standing at bay, as if before his swimming eyes came Fingal, the terror of the forest, whose howl was known to all the echoes, and quailed the herd while their antlers were yet afar off. Rest, Flora, rest! while I fly to him with my rifle-and shoot him through the heart
Up-up-up the interminable glen, that kept winding and winding round many a jutting promontory and many a castellated cliff, the reddeer kept dragging his gore-oozing bulk, sometimes almost within, and then for some hundreds of yards just beyond, rifle-shot; while the boy, maddened by the chase, pressed forwards, now all alone, nor any more looking behind for Flora, who had entirely disappeared ; and thus he was hurried on for miles by the whirlwind of passion,--till at last he struck the noble quarry, and down sank the antlers in the snow, while the air was spurned by the convulsive beatings of feet. Then leaped Ronald upon the red-deer like a beast of prey, and lifted up a look of triumph to the mountain-tops.
Where is Flora ! Her lover has forgotten her—and he is alonenor knows it-he and the red-deer—an enormous animal, fast stiffening in the frost of death.
Some large flakes of snow are in the air, and they seem to waver and whirl, though an hour ago there was not a breath. Faster they fall and faster—the flakes are almost as large as leaves ; and overhead whence so suddenly has come that huge yellow cloud? Flora, where are you? where are you, Flora?" and from the huge hide the boy leaps up, and sees that no Flora is at hand. But yonder is a moving speck, far off upon the snow.
'Tis she’tis she; and again Ronald turns his eyes upon the quarry, and the heart of the hunter burns within him like a new-stirred fire. Shrill as the eagle's cry disturbed in his eyry he sends a shout down the glen, and Flora, with cheeks pale and bright by fits, is at last by his side. Panting and speechless she stands, and then dizzily sinks on his breast. Her hair is ruffled by the wind that revives her, and her face all moistened by the snowflakes, now not falling, but driven--for the day has undergone a dismal change, and all over the sky are now lowering savage symptoms of a fast-coming night-storm.
Bare is poor Flora's head, and sorely drenched her hair, that an hour or two ago glittered in the sunshine. Her shivering frame misses now the warmth of the plaid, which almost no cold can penetrate, and which had kept the vital current flowing freely in many a bitter blast. What would the miserable boy give now for the coverings lying far away, which, in his foolish passion, he flung down to chase that fatal deer! Oh, Flora! if you would not fear to stay here by yourself, under the protection of God, who surely will not forsake you, soon will I go and come from he place where our plaids are lying; and under the shelter of the deer we may be able to outlive the hurricane --you wrapped up in them-and folded, O my dearest sister, in my arms!” “I will go with you down the glen, Ronald !” and she left his breast; but, weak as a day-old lamb, tottered and sank down on the snow. The cold-intense as if the air were ice-had chilled her very heart, after the heat of that long race ; and it was manifest that here she must be for the night-to live or to die. . And the night seemed already come, so full was the lift of snow; while the glimmer every moment became gloomier, as if the day were expiring long before its time. Howling at a distance down the glen was heard a sea-born tempest from the Linnhe Loch, where now they both knew the tide was tumbling in, bringing with it sleet and snow-blasts from afar; and from the opposite quarter of the sky an inland tempest was