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Committee of the Highland Society, to see and report on the wonders wrought there by Sir Henry Steuart, Bart., we have no doubt that he would have lifted up his hands in no little astonishment, and confessed, that in all his transplantings, from the cedar on Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall, he had never beheld such a sudden and fairy enchantment, not even raised by his own magical ring that built Balbec and Syrian Tadmor in the desert, as that now overshading that park and its own swan-frequented loch.
(Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, 1826.)
* * * * We had once intended to entitle our leading article, “ Characters of Living Poets.”
After dashing off the concluding words of our essay, (“ the most glorious age of British Poetry,”) our thoughts began to wander away, by some fine associations, into the woods of our childhood, “Bards of Scotland! Birds of Scotland !” and at that very moment, we heard the loud, clear, mellow, bold song of the BLACKBIRD. There he flits along upon a strong wing, with his yellow bill visible in distance, and disappears in the silent wood. Not long silent. It is a spring-day in our imagination, -his clay. wall nest holds his mate at the foot of the silver-fir, and he is now perched on its pinnacle. That thrilling hymn will go vibrating down the stem till it reaches her brooding breast. The whole vernal air is filled with the murmur and the glitter of insects,—but the blackbird's song is over all other symptoms of love and life, and seems to call upon the leaves to unfold into beauty. It is on that one tree. top, conspicuous among many thousands on the fine breast of wood, where, here and there, the pine mingles not unmeetly with the prevailing oak,—that the forest-minstrel sits in his inspiration. The rock above is one which we have often climbed. There lies the glorious loch and all its islands—one dearer than the rest to eye and imagination, with its old religious house,-year after year crumbling away unheeded into more entire ruin! Far away, a sea of mountains, with all their billowing summits distinct in the sky, and now uncertain and changeful as the clouds ! Yonder castle stands well on the peninsula among the trees which the herons inhabit. Those coppice woods on the other shore stealing up to the heathery rocks, and sprinkled birches, are the haunts of the roe! That great glen, that stretches sullenly away into the distant darkness, has been for ages the birth and the death-place of the red deer. Hark, 'tis the cry of an eagle! There he hangs poised in the sunlight, and now he flies off towards the sea. -But again the song of our BLACKBIRD " rises like a steam of rich distilled perfumes," and our heart comes back to him upon the pinnacle of his own home-tree. The source of song is yet in the happy creature's heartbut the song itself has subsided, like a mountain-torrent that has been rejoicing in a sudden shower among the hills; the bird drops down among the balmy branches ; and the other faint songs which that bold anthem had drowned, are heard at a distance, and seem to encroach every moment on the silence.
You say you greatly prefer the song of the THRUSH. Pray, why set such delightful singers by the ears? We dislike the habit that very many people have of trying every thing by a scale. Nothing seems to them to be good-positively-only relatively. Now, it is true wis. dom to be charmed with what is charming, to live in it, for the time being, and compare the emotion with no former edition whatever-unless it be unconsciously in the working of an imagination set a-going by delight. Who, in reading this magazine, for example, would compare or contrast it with any other periodical under heaven? You read it-and each article is felt to be admirable or execrablepurely for its own sake. You love or you hate it, as THE, not as a magazine. You hug it to your heart, or you make it spin to the other end of the room, simply because it is Blackwood's Magazine, without, during the intensity of your emotion, remembering that Colburn's or the Monthly, or the London, or the European, or the Ladies', or the Gentleman's, exists. No doubt, as soon as the emotion has somewhat subsided, you do begin to think of the other periodicals. On stooping to pick up the number that so aroused your wrath, you say, “I will subscribe for the New Monthly,” yet no sooner have the words escaped your lips than you blush, like a flower unseen, at VOL. I.
your own folly. Your own folly stares you in the face, and out of countenance—you bless your stars that nobody was in the room at the time you re-read the article, and perceive, in your amended temper, that it is full of the most important truths, couched in the most elegant language. You dissolve into tears of remorse and penitence, -and vow to remain a faithful subscriber on this side-at least of the grave.
Although, therefore, we cannot say that we prefer the thrush to the blackbird, yet we agree with you in thinking it a most delightful bird. Where a thrush is, we defy you to anticipate his song in the morning. He is indeed an early riser. By the way, chanticleer is far from being so. You hear him crowing away from shortly after midnight, and, in your simplicity, may suppose him to be up, and strutting about the premises. Far from it ;-he is at that very moment perched in his polygamy between two of his fattest wives. The sultan will perhaps not stir a foot for several hours to come; while all the time the thrush, hay. ing long ago rubbed his eyes, is on his topmost twig, broad awake, and charming the ear of dawn with his beautiful vociferation. During midday he disappears, and is mute ; but again at dewy even, as at dewy morn, he pours his pipe like a prodigal, nor ceases sometimes, when night has brought the moon and stars. Best beloved, and most beautiful of all thrushes that ever broke from the blue-spotted shell —thou who, for five springs, hast“hung thy procreant cradle” among the roses, and honeysuckles, and ivy, and clematis, that embower in bloom the lattice of my cottagestudy-how farest thou now in the snow !-Consider the whole place as your own, my dear bird ; and remember, that when the gardener's children sprinkle food for you and yours all along your favourite haunts, that it is done by our orders. And when all the earth is green again, and all the sky blue, you will welcome us to our rural domicile, with light feet running before us among the .winter leaves, and then skim away to your new nest in the old spot, then about to be somewhat more cheerful in the undisturbing din of the human life within the flowery walls.
Why do the songs of the Blackbird and Thrush make us think of the songless STARLING ? It matters not. We do think of him, and see him too-a beautiful bird, and his abode is majestic. What an object of wonder and awe is an old castle to a boyish imagination! Its height how dreadful! up to whose mouldering edges his fear carries him, and hangs him over the battlements! What beauty in those unapproachable wall-flowers, that cast a brightness on the old brown stones of the edifice, and make the horror pleasing! That sound so far below is the sound of a stream the eye cannot reach-of a waterfall echoing for ever among the black rocks and pools. The schoolboy knows but little of the history of the old castle-but that little is of war, and witchcraft, and imprisonment, and bloodshed. The ghostly glimmer of antiquity appals him -he visits the ruin only with a companion and at midday. There and then it was that we first saw a starling. We heard something wild and wonderful in their harsh scream, as they sat upon the edge of the battlements, or flew out of the chinks and crannies. There were martens too, so different in their looks from the pretty house-swallowsjackdaws clamouring afresh at every time we waved our hats, or vainly slung a pebble towards their nests-and one grove of elms, to whose 'top, much lower than the castle, came, ever and anon, some noiseless heron from the muirs. ,
Higher and higher than ever rose the tower of Belus, soars and sings the LARK, the lyrical poet of the sky. Listen, listen ! and the more remote the bird, the louder is his hymn in heaven. He seems in his lostiness, to have left the earth for ever, and to have forgotten his lowly nest. The primroses and daisies, and all the sweet hill-flowers, must be un remembered in the lofty region of light. But just as the lark is lost-he and his song together-both are again seen and heard wavering down the sky, and in a little while he is walking contented along the furrows of the brairded corn, or on the clover lea, that has not felt the plough-share for half a century.
In our boyish days, we never felt that the spring had really come, till the clear-singing lark went careering before our gladdened eyes away up to heaven. Then all the earth wore a vernal look, and ihe ringing sky said,