Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

exactly than the word “rave,” which the poet has chosen. It was the precise accuracy of this little item of description which made me feel as if Scott must have been here in the night. I walked up into the old chancel, and sat down where William of Deloraine and the monk sat, on the Scottish monarch's tomb, and thought over the words

“Strange sounds along the chancel passed,
And banners wave without a blast;
Still spake the monk when the bell tolled one."

And while we were there the bell tolled twelve.

And then we went to Michael Scott's grave, and we looked through the east oriel, with its

“Slender shafts of shapely stone,

By foliage tracery combined.”

The fanciful outlines showed all the more distinctly for the entire darkness within, and the gloaming moonlight without. The tall arches seemed higher in their dimness, and vaster than they did in the daytime. “Hark!” said I; “what's that?" as we heard a rustling and flutter of wings in the ivy branches over our heads. Only a couple of rooks, whose antiquarian slumbers were disturbed by the unwonted noise there at midnight, and who rose and flew away, rattling down some fragments of the ruin as they went. It was somewhat odd, but I could not help fancying, what if these strange, goblin rooks were the spirits of old monks coming back to nestle and brood among their ancient cloisters! Rooks are a ghostly sort of bird. I think they were made on purpose to live in old yew trees and ivy, as much as yew trees and ivy were to grow round old churches and al beys. If we once could get inside

a

of a rook's skull, to find out what he is thinking of, I'll warrant that we should know a great deal more about these old buildings than we do now. I should not wonder if there were long traditionary histories handed down from one generation of rooks to another, and that these are what they are talking about when we think they are only chattering. I imagine I see the whole black fraternity the next day, sitting, one on a gargoyle, one on a buttress, another on a shrine, gossiping over the event of our nightly visit.

We walked up and down the long aisles, and groped out into the cloisters; and then I thought, to get the full ghost

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]

liness of the thing, we would go up the old, ruined staircase into the long galleries, that

“Midway thread the abbey wall.”

We got about half way up, when there came into our faces one of those sudden, passionate puffs of mist and rain which Scotch clouds seem to have the faculty of getting up at a minute's notice. Whish! came the wind in our faces, like the rustling of a whole army of spirits down the staircase; whereat we all tumbled back promiscuously on to each other, and concluded we would not go up. In fact we had done the thing, and so we went home; and I dreamed of arches, and corbels, and gargoyles all night. And so, farewell to Melrose Abbey.

LETTER IX.

EDINBURGH, April. MY DEAR SISTER:

Mr. S. and returned from their trip to Glasgow much delighted with the prospects indicated by the results of the temperance meetings they attended there.

They were present at the meeting of the Scottish Temperance League, in an audience of about four thousand people. The reports were encouraging, and the feeling enthusiastic. One hundred and eighty ministers are on the list of the League, forming a nucleus of able, talented, and determined operators. It is the intention to make a movement for a law which shall secure to Scotland some of the benefits of the Maine law.

It appears to me that on the questions of temperance and antislavery, the religious communities of the two countries are in a situation mutually to benefit each other. Our church and ministry have been through a long struggle and warfare on this temperance question, in which a very valuable experience has been elaborated. The religious people of Great Britain, on the contrary, have led on to a successful result a great antislavery experiment, wherein their experience and success can be equally beneficial and encouraging to us.

The day after we returned from Melrose we spent in resting and riding about, as we had two engagements in the evening—one at a party at the house of Mr. Douglas, of Cavers, and the other at a public temperance soirée. Mr. Douglas is VOL. I.

15

[ocr errors]

up the gravel walk, looking much, I inly fancied, like a set of discomforted fowls fleeing to covert. We entered the great court yard, surrounded with a high wall, into which were built sundry fragments of curious architecture that happened to please the poet's fancy.

I had at the moment, spite of the rain, very vividly in my mind Washington Irving's graceful account of his visit to Abbotsford while this house was yet building, and the picture which he has given of Walter Scott sitting before his door, humorously descanting on various fragments of sculpture, which lay scattered about, and which he intended to immortalize by incorporating into his new dwelling.

Viewed as a mere speculation, or, for aught I know, as an architectural effort, this building may, perhaps, be counted as a mistake and a failure. I observe, that it is quite customary to speak of it, among some, as a pity that he ever undertook it. But viewed as a development of his inner life, as a working out in wood and stone of favorite fancies and cherished ideas, the building has to me a deep interest. The gentlehearted poet delighted himself in it; this house was his stone and wood poem, as irregular, perhaps, and as contrary to any established rule, as his Lay of the Last Minstrel, but still wild and poetic. The building has this interest, that it was throughout his own conception, thought, and choice; that he expressed himself in every stone that was laid, and made it a kind of shrine, into which he wove all his treasures of antiquity, and where he imitated, from the beautiful, old, mouldering ruins of Scotland, the parts that had touched him most deeply.

The walls of one room were of carved oak from the Dunfermline Abbey ; the ceiling of another imitated from Roslin Castle ; here a fireplace was wrought in the image of a favor

« ZurückWeiter »