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I walked, indeed, by my old rivers, and carried my old stick with me; but it was the staff of Elisha in Gehazi's hands, and could not conjure any more. I met this year a person of great reputed talent, a preacher named Y. J., but did not take so much to him as I expected. He was a clever, sagacious man, but had become soured with disappointment, spoiled with sullen self-conceit; and his opinions of men and authors were, I thought, the reverse of true. He attacked the Lake school savagely; admitted Wordsworth to be a true poet, but thought him crazy; and ignored Shelley and Coleridge altogether. I repeated to him Coleridge's "Ode to Mont Blanc," and Shelley's "Cloud," and had the mortification to find them falling flat. It was casting pearls before swine, although I had been taught to consider Y. J. as rather a seraphic intelligence than anything else. Pollok's "Course of Time" was a favourite subject of his abuse. Some of his objections were just and well put; others the mere ravings of spite. He called the "Byron" of Pollok a piece of "bigmouthed talk." He objected to the expression in it applied to ocean, "hoary locks," because Byron had said
"Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow;"
in my notion, a very captious objection. Byron's idea of ocean is that of an old but unwrinkled countenance; and over such a face "hoary locks" may be lawfully represented as floating. He objected to the image of the comet
"Like some fierce comet of tremendous size,
To which the stars did reverence as it passed;"
and said, "Think of a star bowing!" To this I ventured to say: "Now, Mr. J——————, this will never do; how could any poetry, or poetical prose, stand such a test?" In short, we did not pull together, and I began, ere all was done, to think my seraph a mass of self-complacent conceit. He had some good sermons, but spoiled himself by a bad delivery, and his
voice was husky. He was latterly discovered to be a systematic plagiarist; which was, indeed, in perfect keeping with his dark, dungeon-like nature. He affected oracular utterances, and said, sometimes, really clever things. Many, however, of his sayings, as well as of his sermons, were pilfered. He was, altogether, a singular example of a man of ordinary abilities, half-soured and half-spoiled; soured by the neglect of the general public, and spoiled by the flatteries of cliques, coteries, and the "minnows who thought him a Triton."
Ar the close of this season, I went to attend the Moral Philosophy Class in Edinburgh. I came to Edinburgh up the Frith from Stirling on a fine October afternoon, and saw that splendid scene to the greatest advantage. A hoary light suited well that scene of antique grandeur, that magnificent mountain-city
"Stately Edinborough throned on crags."
I felt especially, or deemed I felt, "no common glow," when I stood under the shadow of the frowning brows of the Castle, bending over the Grass-market, and I thought of the Covenanters and the "Heart of Mid-Lothian." I reserve for an after-part of this volume a few remarks on Edinburgh, in its manners, morals, and literature; but this is the place to record the boundless enthusiasm with which I then, and still, regard the scenery around it. Haydon's first exclamation when he saw it conveyed very much my impressions, "A Giant's Dream." It seemed as if it had been built to some unearthly music, or after a model suspended in the clouds, and formed by the hands of Air and Sunshine. Stone and rock seemed here moulded in the express image of genius, and nature and art were apparently reconciled. Religion, too, had hung up toward the glowing west the dome of St. George's, as if challenging the whole proud city as her own. I revelled in the glories of the town and its environs; now standing on Arthur's Seat, and admiring the blue Pentlands, and the far
off hills of Lammermuir; now sitting on Mons Meg,* and watching a thunderstorm coming up from Rob Roy's country to deluge the Frith with darkness and with fire; now leaning over the North Bridge at evening, and looking to the dome of St. George's, relieved against a fading autumn sky; and now from Salisbury Crags contemplating, for a long hour, the ruined splendour of a summer-day in a sunset, which a hundred ordinary sunsettings seemed combined to producethe rapid shiftings of cloudy shapes — the flushings and fadings of colour-the aërial mimicry of the scenes below visible in the heavens-castles arising suddenly, to subside for ever-blue Grampians piled up and pulled down in a moment of time-rocks of ragged, tumbling into seas of molten, gold—the sun sinking out of the sight of all this "agony of glory," but sending up his last beams, to see the end—and a stern grey twilight casting a shroud over the memory of the day and its deathbed, on which the moon arose and poured a congenial ray. Such scenes, as well as the sight of the old town sleeping at midnight in the silence of the pale planet, were to me unspeakably dear; because, more fully than even my native scenery, combining the presence of nature, of art, and of that union between the two which we call poetry. How I sometimes wished to have Aladdin's Lamp, so that I could have transferred this stately city, or one of similar architecture, to my own native valley, and seen the mountains of Strath-Rennie standing in their bold towering lines of 3,000 feet, around the Modern Athens -dreams of mountains guarding a dream-city! In dreams, indeed, I have often compounded the varied elements of known and familiar scenes into new and gorgeous wholes; adding the loveliness of one glen to the grandeur of another, placing the mountains of one strath beside the long friths of others, introducing the roar of Staffa amidst the grim gorge of Glencoe, and piling some of my favourite hills on each
"Mons Meg;" the old cannon so called, which lies on the halfmoon battery in the Castle of Edinburgh.
other's heads, till they became snowless Andes with heather blooming up to their very summits. "Such tricks hath strong imagination!" and in these bright visions, up to this hour, the scenery of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth very frequently recurs, forming a kind of artistic centre to the wilder and more romantic glories which memory and fancy combine out of my early or recent impressions, or out of my readings. In that dream-land I have pictures, made by my own heart, of most of the famous scenery of the world; a Tempe of my own, a Mont Blanc of my own, sterner glaciers, hotter and higher Heclas, prairies of wider billow, and Niagaras of deeper sound. How often have I awaked, weeping with joy or with sorrow, from such night-spectacles— joy at the retrospect of the vision, and sorrow that it had passed away! I have no dreams I so much enjoy, or in which I find or fancy a better omen, than in those of beautiful scenes, although the effect has sometimes been to disappoint me with the sight of the actual realities of the natural world; and Foyers and Dunkeld have been again and again. dwindled and darkened, because I saw them side by side with imaginary cataracts and night-built hermitages. I never needed to resort to any stimulus, or particular kind of food to produce splendid dreams; in my earliest and healthiest days they came unbidden, and stood beside my couch in their beauty, their grandeur, or their terror. This I attribute greatly to the fact, that I was born in a district of country which saturated and steeped fancy in bold and beautiful forms.
In Edinburgh I did nothing, for two or three months, besides attending the class, but read in very diversified directions. I got access to one or two good libraries; and, from these, I culled the works that I thought most congenial I fed, not upon rule, but wherever my literary appetite impelled me. I set out with the determination to read no books but those possessing merit of some kind or other; yet I tried to act upon a principle of intellectual