Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

friends for life. It is a romance. Laidlaw was of an old and famous but decayed family. The line had been cursed by a maternal ancestress, and they believed that the curse took effect: they all became lawless men. But Laidlaw went to live at Abbotsford, as the factor or steward of Scott; and in him Scott found one of the most faithful, intelligent, and sympathizing friends, ready either to plant his trees or write down his novels at his dictation, when his evil days came upon him. In our day-dreams we imagine such things as these. We lay out estates, and settle on them our friends and faithful adherents, and make about us a paradise of affection, truth, and intellect; but it was the fortune of Scott only to do this actually. Here, at his little farm of Kaeside, lived Laidlaw, and after Scott's death went to superintend estates in Rosshire; and his health at length giving way, he retired to the farm of his brother, a sheep-farmer of Contin; and there, in as beautiful scenery as Scotland or almost any country has to show, the true poet of nature, this true-hearted man, breathed his last on the 18th of May, 1845.

Those who wander through the woods of Abbotsford, and find their senses regaled by the rich odour of sweetbriar and woodbines, with shrubs oftener found in gardens, as I did with some degree of surprise, will read with interest the following direction of Scott to Laidlaw, in which he explains the mystery :-"George must stick in a few wild roses, honeysuckles, and sweetbriars in suitable places, so as to produce the luxuriance we see in the woods which Nature plants herself. We injure the effects of our plantings, so far as beauty is concerned, very much by neglecting underwood.” In the woods of Abbotsford, the memory of Laidlaw will be often recalled by the sight and odour of these fragrant plants.

Descending into a valley beyond Kaeside, I came to the forester's lodge, on the edge of a little solitary loch. Was this cottage formerly the abode of another worthy, Tom Purdie, whom Scott has, on his gravestone in Melrose abbey-yard, styled “ Wood-forester of Abbotsford" }-a double epithet which may be accounted for by foresters being often now-a-days keepers of forests where there is no wood, as in Ettrick, &c. Whether, however, this was Tom Purdie's abode or not, I found it inhabited by a very obliging and intelligent fellow, as porter there. The little loch here I understood him to be called Abbotsford loch, in contradiction to Cauldshiels loch, which is still further up the hills. This Cauldshiels loch was a favourite resort of Scott's at first. It had its traditions, and he had a boat upon it; but finding that it did not belong to his estate, as he supposed, by one of his purchases, he would never go upon it again, though requested to use it at his pleasure by the proprietor. By the direction of the forester, I now steered my way onward from wood to wood, towards the Eildon hills, in quest of the glen of Thomas the Rhymer. The evening was drawing on, and there was a deep solitude and solemnity over the dark pine woods through which I passed. The trees which Scott had planted were in active process of being thinned out, and piles of them lay here and there by the cart tracks

through the woods, and heaps of the peeled bark of the larch for sale. I thought with what pleasure would Scott have now surveved these operations, and the beginning of the marketable profit of the woods of his own planting. But that day was past. I went on over fields embosomed in the black forest, where the grazing herds gazad wildly at me, as if a stranger were not often seen there ; crossed the deep glen, where the little stream roared on, lost in the thick growth of now lofty trees; and then passed onward, down the Rhyner's glen, to Huntly burn-every step bearing fresh evidence of the vanished romance of Abbotsford. How long was it since Miss Edgeworth sate by the little waterfall in the Rhymer's glen, and gave he name to the stone on which she was seated? The house at Huntls burn, which Scott had purchased to locate his old friend Sir Adam Fergusson near him, was now the house of the wood-factor ; ald piles of timber, and sawn boards on all sides, marked its present use Lockhart was gone from the lovely cottage just by at Chiefswood and Scott himself, after his glory and his troubles, slept soundly at Dryburgh. The darkness that had now closed thickly on my way, seemed to my excited imagination to have fallen on the world What a day of broad hearts and broad intellects was that which had just passed! How the spirit of power, and of creative beauty, bad been poured abroad amongst men, and especially in our own country, as with a measureless opening of the Divine hand; and how rapidis and extensively had then the favoured ministers of this intellectus diffusion been withdrawn from the darkened earth! Scott, and almost all his family who had rejoiced with him-Abbotsford was an empty abode-the very woods had yielded up their faithful spirits Laidlaw and Purdie were in the earth-Hogg, the shepherd.poet, tad disappeared from the hills. And of the great lights from England, how many were put out !—Crabbe, Southey, Coleridge, Byron, Shel ley, Keats, Campbell, Mrs. Hemans, Miss Landon, Hood, and Lamb: many of them bidding farewell to earth amid clouds and melancholy, intense as was the contrasting brightness of their noonday fane “Sic transit gloria mundi.” The thought passed through me; but a second followed it, saying, “Not so—they by whom the glory is created are yet travelling onward in the track of their eternal destiny.

• Won is the glory, and the grief is past.""

The next morning I took my way to Dryburgh, the closing scene of the present paper. Dryburgh Abbey lies on the Tweed, abont four miles from Melrose. You turn off-when you have left the Lilden hills on your right, and have seen on your left, in the course of the river, the Cowdenknowes, Bemerside, and other classic spots-down a steep and woody lane, and suddenly come out at a wide beod oi the river, where, on your side, the gravel brought down by the floods spreads a considerable strand, and the lofty banks all round on the other are finely wooded. Few are the rivers which can show more beautiful scenery in their course than the Tweed. But wha! strikes you strangely are the ruins of a chain bridge, which some time ago was carried away by the wind. There stand aloft the tall white frames of wood to which the bridge was attached at each end, like great skeletons; and the two main chains stretch across, and fragments of others dangle in the air-iron rags of ruin. It has a most desolate and singular look. This, I suppose, was put up by the late whimsical Earl of Buchan, to whom Dryburgh belonged, as now to his nephew. At the opposite end of the bridge peeps out of the trees the top of a little temple. It is a temple of the Muses, where the nine sisters are represented consecrating Thomson the poet. Aloft, at some distance in a wood, you descry a gigantic figure of stone ; and this, on inquiry, you find to be William Wallace, who, I believe, was never here, any more than Thomson. It was intended for Burns ; but as the block was got out of the quarry on the opposite side of the river, close to where you land from the ferryboat, the fantastic old fellow took it into his head that, as it was so large a block, it should be Wallace.

As you ascend a lane from the ferry to go to the Abbey, you find a few cottages, and a great gate built in the style of an old castle gateway, with round stone pillars with lantern summits, and the cross displayed on each-a sort of poor parody on the gateway at Abbotsford. This castle gateway is the entrance, however, to no castle, but to a large orchard ; and over the gate is inscribed—“Hoc Pomarium sua manus satum Parentibus suis optimis sac: D. S. Buchaniæ Comes." That is, “ This orchard, sown by his own hands, the Earl of Buchan dedicates to his best of parents.” The whole is worthy of the man. If there be any sense in it, the orchard was sown by this silly old lord, not the trees ; and these were merely soun by him, and not planted. And why dedicate an orchard to his deceased parents ? Were they so excessively fond of apples? Why not satisfy himself with some rational monument? But then he must have been rational himself ; and it must be recollected that this was the man who, when Scott was once very ill, forced himself into the house, in order to get at the invalid, and arrange with him in his last moments the honours of a great heraldic funeral procession,—the same man that Scott afterwards congratulated himself was dead first, lest he should have made some foolish extravagance of the sort over his remains.

But to return to the orchard gateway-it is droll enough, imme diately under the pious and tender inscription to his parents, in Latin, to see standing this sentence in plain English-“MAN-TRAPS AND SPRING-GUNS PLACED IN THIS ORCHARD.” Query? Are they too dedicated to his best of parents, or only to his poor brethren of mankind ?

Dryburgh is a sweet old monastic seclusion. Here, lying deep below the surrounding country, the river sweeps on between high, rocky banks, overhung with that fine growth of trees which no river presents in more beauty, abundance, and luxuriance. A hush pre vails over the spot, which tells you that some ancient sanctity is there. You feel that there is some hidden glory of religious art and piety somewhere about, though you do not see it. As you advance, it is up a lane overhung with old ashes. There are primitive-look: cottages, also overshadowed by great trees. There are crofts, with thick tall hedges, and cattle lying in them with a sybaritic luxury or indolence. You are still, as you proceed, surrounded by an ocean of foliage and ancient stems; and a dream-like feeling of past ages seems to pervade not only the air but the ground. I do not know how it is, but I think it must be by a mesmeric influence that the monks and the holy dreamers of old have left on the spots which they inhabited their peculiar character. You could not construc: such a place now, taking the most favourable materials for it. Tale a low, sequestered spot, full of old timber and cottages, and old grey walls; and employ all the art that you could, to give it a monastic character-it would be in vain. You would feel it at once ; the mind would not admit it to be genuine. No, the old monastic spots are full of the old monastic spirit. The very ground, and the rich old turf are saturated with it. Dig up the soil, it has a monastery look. It is fat, and black, and crumbling. The trees are actual monks themselves. They stand and dream of the Midule Asro With the present age and doings they have no feelings, no sym pathies. They keep a perpetual vigil, and the sound of anthems has entered into their very substance. They are solemn piles of the condensed silence of ages, of cloistered musings ; and the very whisperings of their leaves seemed to be muttered aves and ora in nobises.

This feeling lies all over Dryburgh like a living trance ; and the arrangements of these odd Buchans for admitting you to the tomb of Scott, enable you to see the most of it. You perceive a guide-post and this tells you to go on to the house where the keys are kept. You descend a long lane amid these old trees and crofts, and arrive at a gate and lodge, which seem the entrance to some gentleinan's grounds. Here probably you see too a gentleman's carriage waiting, and present yourself to go in. But you are told that, though this is the place, you must not enter there. You must go on still further to the house where the keys are kept. At length you find your elf at the bottom of another stretch of lane, and here you stop for the simple reason that you can go no further—you have arrived at the bank of the river. Necessarily then looking about you, you see on one side a gate in a tall wall, which looks into an orchard, and on the other a cottage in a garden. On this cottage there is a board bearing this long-sought inscription—“The Abbey keys kept here." You knock, and ask if you can see the Abbey ; and a very careless “ Yes," assures you that you can. The people appointed to show the ruins and Scott's grave are become notorious for their lumpish, unciril behaviour. It would seem as if the owner of the place had ordered them to make it as unpleasant to visitors as possible; a thing very impolitic in them, for they are making a fortune by it. Indeed Scott is the grand benefactor of all the neighbourhood, Dryburgh, Melrose, and Abbotsford. At Abbotsford and Melrose they are civil, & Dryburgh the very reverse. They seem as though they would make you feel that it was a favour to be admitted to the grounds of Land

Buchan ; and you are pointed away at the gate of exit with a manner which seems to say, “ There !-begone!”

The woman of the cottage was already showing a party; and her sistor, just as sulky, ungracious a sort of body as you could meet with, was my guide. The gate in the wall was thrown open, and she said, “ You must go across the grass there." I saw a track across the grass, and obediently pursued it; but it was some time before I could see anything but a very large orchard of young trees, and I began to suppose this another Pomarium dedicated by old Lord Buchan to his parents, and to wish him and his Pomaria under the care of a certain old gentleman ; but anon !—the ruins of the Abbey began to tower magnificently above the trees, and I forgot the planter of orchards and his gracious guides. The ruins are certainly very fine, and finely relieved by the tall, rich trees which have sprung up in and around them. The interior of the church is now greensward, and two rows of cedars grow where formerly stood the pillars of the aisles. The cloisters and south transept are more entire, and display much fine workmanship. There is a window aloft, I think in the south transept, peculiarly lovely. It is formed of I believe, five stars cut in stone, so that the open centre within them forms a rose. The light seen through this window gives it a beautiful effect. There is the old chapter-house also entire, with an earthen floor, and a circle drawn in the centre, where the bodies

of the founder and his lady are said to lie. But even here the old i lord has been with his absurdities; and at one end, by the window,

stands a fantastic statue of Locke, reading in an open book, and pointing to his own forehead with his finger. The damp of the place has blackened and mildewed this figure, and it is to be hoped will speedily eat it quite up. What has Locke to do in the chapterbouse of a set of ancient friars ?

The grave of Scott-for a tomb he had not yet got_was a beau

tiful fragment of the ruined pile, the lady aisle. The square from i one pillar

one pillar of the aisle to the next, which in many churches, as in

Melrose, formed a confessional, forms here a burial-place. It is that 27 of the Scotts of Haliburton, from whom Scott was descended; and that

was probably one reason why he chose this place, though its monastic i beauty and associations were, no doubt, the main causes. The frag

tuent consists of two arches' length, and the adjoining one is the family burial-place of the Erskines. The whole, with its tier of small Norman sectional arches above, forms, in fact, a glorious tomb, much reserabling one of the chapel tombs in Winchester ; and the troes about it are dispersed by nature and art so as to give it the atrnost picturesque effect. It is a mausoleum well befitting the author of the Lay of the Last Minstrel; and, though many wonder that he should have chosen to be interred in another man's ground and property, yet, independent of all such considerations, we must say that it would be difficult to select a spot more in keeping with Scott's character, genius, and feelings. But that which surprised every one, was the neglect in which the grave itself remained. After thirteen years, it was still a mere dusty and slovenly heap of earth.

[ocr errors]

DO

« AnteriorContinuar »