Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

If you can, pray have the grace

To put it solely in the face
Of the urchin that is likest me;

I think 'twas solely mine, indeed :
But that's no matter, -puint it so;

The eyes of our mother-(take good heed) -
Looking not on the nest-full of eggs,
Nor the fluttering bird, held so fast by the legs,
But straight through our faces down to our lies,

And ob, with such injured, reproachful surprise,
I felt my heart bleed where that glance went, as though

A sharp blade struck through it.

10. You, sir, know,
That you on the canvas are to repeat
Things that are fairest, things most sweet,-
Woods and cornfields and mulberry tree, -
The mother,--the lads, with their bird, at her knee,

But, oh that look of reproachful woe!
High as the heavens your name I'll shout,
If you paint me the picture, and leave that out.

LXXV.-SHALLOW SEA, IN SCOTLAND.

HUGH MILLER,

1. The first scene in the Tempest opens amid the confusion and turmoil of the hurricane-amid thunders and lightnings, the roar of the wind, the shouts of the seamen, the rattling of cordage, and the wild dash of the billows. The history of the period represented by the Old Red Sandstone seems, in what now forms the northern half of Scotland, to have opened in a similar manner. The finely-laminated lower tilestones of England were deposited evidently in a calm sea.

vast space

During the contemporary period in our own country, the

which now includes Orkney and Lochness, Dingwall and Gamrie, and many a thousand square mile besides, was the scene of a shallow ocean, perplexed by powerful currents, and agitated by waves.

2. A vast stratum of water-rolled pebbles, varying in depth from a hundred feet to a hundred yards, remains in a thousand different localities to testify of the disturbing agencies of this time of commotion. The hardest masses which the stratum encloses,-porphyries of vitreous fracture that cut glass as readily as flint, and masses of quartz that strike fire quite as profusely from steel, -are yet polished and ground down into bullet-like forms, not an angular fragment appearing in some parts of the mass for yards together. The debris of our harder rocks rolled for centuries in the beds of our more impetuous rivers, or tossed for ages along our more exposed and precipitous sea-shores, could not present less equivocally the marks of violent and prolonged attrition than the pebbles of this bed.

3. And yet it is surely difficult to conceive how the bottom of any sea should have been so violently and so equally agitated for so greatly extended a space as that which intervenes between Mealforvony in Inverness-shire, and Pomona in Orkney, in one direction; and between Applecross and Trouphead in another,—and for a period so prolonged that the entire area should have come to be covered with a stratum of rolled pebbles of almost every variety of ancient rock, fifteen stories' hight in thickness. The very variety of its contents shows that the period must have been prolonged. A sudden flood sweeps away with it the accun ated debris of a range of mountains; but to blend together, in equal mixture the debris of so many ranges, as well as to grind down their roughness and angularities, and fill up the interstices with the sand and gravel produced in the process, must be a work of time.

4. I have examined with much interest, in various localities, the fragments of ancient rock inclosed in this formation. Many of them are no longer to be found in situ, and the group is essentially different from that presented by the more modern gravels. On the shores of the Frith of Cromarty, for instance, by far the most abundant pebbles are of a blue schistose gneiss; fragments of gray granite and white quartz are also common; and the sea-shore at half ebb presents at a short distance the appearance of a long belt of bluish gray, from the color of the prevailing stones which compose

it. 5. The prevailing color of the conglomerate of the district, on the contrary, is a deep red. It contains pebbles of small-grained red granite, red quartz rock, red feldspar, red porphyry, an impure red jasper, red hornstone, and a red granite gneiss, identical with the well-marked gneiss of the neighboring sutors. This last is the only rock now found in the district, of which fragments occur in the conglomerate.

6. It must have been exposed at the time to the action of the waves, though afterwards buried deep under succeeding formations, until again thrust to the surface by some great internal convulsion of a date comparatively recent.

LXXVI.-ICHTHYOLITIC BEDS.

HUGH MILLER.

1. The period of this shallow and stormy ocean passed. The bottom composed of the identical conglomerate which now forms the summit of sone of our loftiest mountains, sank throughout its wide area to a depth so profound as to be little affected by tides or tempests. During this second period there took place a vast deposit of coarse sandstone strata, with here and there a few thin beds of rolled pebbles. The general subsidence of the bottom still continued, and, after a deposit of full ninety feet had overlain the conglomerate, the depth became still more profound than at first. A fine semi-calcareous, semi-aluminous deposition took place in waters perfectly undisturbed. And here we first find proof that this ancient ocean literally swarmed with life—that its bottom was covered with miniature forests of algæ, and its waters darkened by immense shoals of fish.

2. In middle autumn, at the close of the herring season, when the fish have just spawned, and the congregated masses are breaking up on shallow and skerry, and dispersing by myriads over the deeper seas, they rise at times to the surface by a movement so simultaneous that for miles and miles around the skiff of the fisherman nothing may be seen but the bright glitter of scales, as if the entire face of the deep were a blue robe spangled with silver.

3. I have watched them at sunrise at such seasons, on the middle of the Moray Frith, when, far as the eye could reach, the surface has been ruffled by the splash of fins, as if a light breeze swept over it, and the red light has flashed in gleams of an instant on the millions and tens of millions that were leaping around me, a handbreadth into the air, thick as hailstones in a thunder shower. The amazing amount of life which the scene included has imparted to it an indescribable interest.

4. On most occasions the inhabitants of ocean are seen but by scores and hundreds; for, in looking down into their green twilight haunts, we find the view bounded by a few yards, or at most a few fathoms; and we can but calculate on the unseen myriads of the surrounding expanse by the seen few that occupy the narrow space visible. Here, however, it was not the few, but the myriads, that were seen- - the innumerable and inconceivable whole — all palpable to the sight as a flock on a hill-side ; or, at least, if all was not palpable, it was only because sense has its limits in the lighter as well as the denser medium — that the multitudinous distracts it, and the distant eludes it, and the far horizon bounds it. If the scene spoke not of infinity in the sense in which Deity comprehends it, it spoke of it in at least the only sense in which man can comprehend it.

5. Now, we are much in the habit of thinking of such amazing multiplicity of being, when we think of it at all, with reference to but the later times of the world's history. We think of the remote past as a time of comparative solitude. We forget that the now uninhabited desert was once a populous city. Is the reader prepared to realize in connection with the lower old red sandstone—the second period of vertebrated existence -scenes as amazingly fertile in life as the scene just described-oceans as thoroughly occupied with being as our friths and estuaries when the herrings congregate most abundantly on our coasts ?

7. There are evidences too sure to be disputed that such must have been the case. I have seen the ichthyolite beds, where washed bare in the line of the strata, as thickly covered with oblong spindle-shaped nodules, as I have ever seen a fishing bank covered with herrings; and have ascertained that every

individual nodule had its nucleus of animal matter - that it was a stone coffin, in miniature, holding enclosed its organic mass of bitumen or bone,-its winged or enameled or thorn-covered ichthyolite.

« ForrigeFortsett »