Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ROCKS AND RIVERS.

CORRACH-BAH; OR, A PLEA FOR THE WASTES.

How shrunk are Scotland's rugged untamed desolations ! We see those mushroom larch plantations skirting the steeps of our brown mountains, with their luxuriant verdure. The subsoil plough, tile-draining, and all the ingenious etceteras of modern invention, have reclaimed many a bleak and barren moor which once only served for pasture to the hardy black cattle, the unhoused hirsel of the hills. Thriving fields of yellow grain, and glancing sickles, and merry voices, swelling the autumn gale, now enliven those wastes once the chosen haunts of the bittern and the whaup. Many of the lords of the heather, themselves, have caught the improvement mania, and either modernize their "own great tower”* or pullit down; building a splendid

Fortunately for mankind, as some counterbalance to that wretched love of novelty, which originates in selfishness, narrowness, and conceit, and which especially characterises all vulgar minds, there is set in the deeper places of the heart such affection for the signs of age, that the eye is delighted even by injuries which are the work of time."--Modern Painters, by a Graduate of Oxford.

B

mansion in its honoured stead. The wild feudo-Highland grounds and scenery must, of course, be made to fit this upstart of a house, and many a knoll, covered with its tangled brushwood, and blazing with the yellow gold of the whin and the broom, must be levelled and swept away to convert the whole into an English lawn.

In addition to this we have the new law of entail, which will go a good way to destroy our famed nationality; and by introducing monied strangers who know nothing, and feel less of sympathy with the Highland character, will (unwittingly, perhaps) do all they can to extirpate it altogether. It is melancholy to hear some" nouveaux riches' at radical meetings spouting forth their untutored volubility upon this (to me) painful subject—“If the hereditary feudal lairds and lords cannot improve their estates, they ought to sell them to those who can!”-to those pioneers of civilization, whose chief idea of a Highland estate is that of a good bargain, and whose notion of raising the Highland character consists in assimilating it to their own! They may give employment, and money for money's worth, but all their efforts will be unavailing to transform the Gael into their beau idéal of a peasant, and never can they gain that place in his heart, only to be occupied by his feudal chief of ages past. Our Queen better knew her northern people, when, upon her first memorable visit to this land of Catarans, she, like the great chieftainess, cast herself freely, fully, upon the unbought devotion of her clans.

Perhaps I feel too strongly on this subject, and I know I am open to the remark that feudalism implies dependence, while no feeling of that sort is compatible with improvement in character or country. But are we sure that all

we term improvement is more than simply alteration ? And is there one mountain-born son of Albyn who will not agree with me in preferring our unspoiled, unplanted glens, our wild game, and our national distinctness, to all the busy important bustle of modern civilization, which has already transformed many of our most romantic nooks into models of “suburban villas." I well recollect offering to show an exquisite specimen of real Highland taste and beauty, with all its wild character preserved, to a worthy metropolitan: his answer was, “Ah, thumthing in the Englith thtyle!!” He had ascended Ben Lomond shortly before, the day lovely, only a few light clouds flitting over the brown heath or scattered rocks, between long intervals of brilliant sunshine: the lights and shadows upon the opposite mountains seemed formed to call up feelings and recollections long gone by. Our citizen, however, returned vastly delighted at having rather called up so good an appetite for dinner. After having satisfied his craving, he abruptly broke out, “Would it be pothible to fill up Loch Lomond ?” His own genius anticipated the reply: “Ah! by tumbling Ben Lomond into it, I thuppothe! Now, how many acres of good land would you gain ?” Well, thought I, this is improvement with a vengeance, and I should, with great pleasure, have pitched in his little fat body, by way of a sleeping partner to the doomed mountain! However, upon thinking over his strange proposal, it struck me that it was a plain, matter-of-fact, pounds,

shillings and pence view of the subject; and, if I was fairly 16 attacked upon that point, I should not stand half a chance

in the argument. No doubt the country will be richer, the more it is cultivated; but few Highlanders, with any touch of imagination, would barter, even for this, its former

lonely and desolate grandeur, with its accompaniments of wild birds and animals; or would, without a pang, change the bold heart and ready hand of the natives into those of passive and obedient serfs. If driven to make a choice, I must shelter myself under the shrewd logic of a fellow countryman, who, having affirmed that the grapes of Scotland were better than those of England, and being asked to prove it, coolly answered, “I maun premeese, I like them soor!” Like him, I must also premise, that I would not give the frowning crag, or barren fell, for all the rich slopes and verdant valleys of the Lowlands.

There are two kinds of wild scenery pre-eminently deserving the epithet “sublime;" but to feel their overpowering effect, they must be seen with every associated object. You cannot view the sea-cliff in perfection unless there is nothing before you but the boundless, fathomless

An arm of the sea, or a firth, will not do; their waves are never those rolling, booming surges, which impress one with the vastness from which they come. There must also be the countless variety of sea-birds *, some thickly studding every jagged projection, and others riding the swelling billow, their bright plumage glancing in the beams of the morning sun. My greater favourite, however, is the wild and lonely mountain, with its crags, its bare heath, its solitary moor-loch, and above all the eyrie of

ocean.

* The white-tailed eagle, or erne, not unfrequently hatches on the overhanging rocks of the sea, and by her gallant swoops and screams, when her territory is invaded, adds much to the impression of wildness and grandeur. As congenial a haunt for its nidification is the island of a moor-loch, if there are any old trees to fix the eyrie upon ; finding its hunting-ground in the neighbouring morasses ; whence it has acquired the name of the Bog-Eagle.

the golden eagle, dread monarch of the mist. Spring is the season to enjoy both in perfection, as all the winged tenants have then taken possession of their temporary abodes. Every variety may be seen and studied; while from their tameness a nearer view may be obtained than at any other time. Few springs have passed without my enjoying either a marine or mountain treat, sometimes both, and the pleasure has then been heightened by contrast. A slight sketch of one of these later excursions may perhaps be admissible here.

In the recesses of the Black Mount Forest, very considerably above the level of the sea, there is a muirland lochan, about a mile long by half a mile broad, called in Gaelic, Lochan Nahachalach; and a little to the east, connected by a rocky brook, is Loch Bah (the Drowning Loch), about three miles long by a mile broad. The shores of these lochs, if shores they may be called, which consist of an occasional strip of yellow sand, are seldom trodden by any foot but that of the wild deer or the otter. Jagged points of rock continually obtrude themselves above the blue-grey water, and the eyrie of the sea-eagle fixed upon the top of an old birch, on a rugged heathery islet of Loch Bah, while another eyrie graces an aged Scotch fir of Loch Nahachalach, complete a picture so exquisitely savage that fancy in its wildest mood could scarcely alter or amend.

On the south these lochs are bounded by an extensive morass, full of small tarns, intersected by a pretty large muir-burn; and on the east of Loch Nahachalach a steep craggy hill rises abruptly from its side. An eyrie of the golden eagle is placed on a shelf of rock half-way up, and I have enjoyed the rare luxury of seeing both eyries at the same moment, and both queens in un

« ForrigeFortsett »