The Ayrshire Legatees (Chapter 2, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 2

The country in this season is, of course, seen to disadvantage, but still
it exhibits beauty enough to convince us what England must be when in
leaf. The old gentleman's admiration of the increasing signs of what he
called civilisation, as we approached London, became quite eloquent; but
the first view of the city from Blackheath (which, by the bye, is a fine
common, surrounded with villas and handsome houses) overpowered his
faculties, and I shall never forget the impression it made on myself.
The sun was declined towards the horizon; vast masses of dark low-hung
clouds were mingled with the smoky canopy, and the dome of St. Paul's,
like the enormous idol of some terrible deity, throned amidst the smoke
of sacrifices and magnificence, darkness, and mystery, presented
altogether an object of vast sublimity. I felt touched with reverence,
as if I was indeed approaching the city of THE HUMAN POWERS.

The distant view of Edinburgh is picturesque and romantic, but it affects
a lower class of our associations. It is, compared to that of London,
what the poem of the Seasons is with respect to Paradise Lost--the
castellated descriptions of Walter Scott to the Darkness of Byron--the
Sabbath of Grahame to the Robbers of Schiller. In the approach to
Edinburgh, leisure and cheerfulness are on the road; large spaces of
rural and pastoral nature are spread openly around, and mountains, and
seas, and headlands, and vessels passing beyond them, going like those
that die, we know not whither, while the sun is bright on their sails,
and hope with them; but, in coming to this Babylon, there is an eager
haste and a hurrying on from all quarters, towards that stupendous pile
of gloom, through which no eye can penetrate; an unceasing sound, like
the enginery of an earthquake at work, rolls from the heart of that
profound and indefinable obscurity--sometimes a faint and yellow beam of
the sun strikes here and there on the vast expanse of edifices; and
churches, and holy asylums, are dimly seen lifting up their countless
steeples and spires, like so many lightning rods to avert the wrath of
Heaven.

The entrance to Edinburgh also awakens feelings of a more pleasing
character. The rugged veteran aspect of the Old Town is agreeably
contrasted with the bright smooth forehead of the New, and there is not
such an overwhelming torrent of animal life, as to make you pause before
venturing to stem it; the noises are not so deafening, and the occasional
sound of a ballad-singer, or a Highland piper, varies and enriches the
discords; but here, a multitudinous assemblage of harsh alarms, of
selfish contentions, and of furious carriages, driven by a fierce and
insolent race, shatter the very hearing, till you partake of the activity
with which all seem as much possessed as if a general apprehension
prevailed, that the great clock of Time would strike the doom-hour before
their tasks were done. But I must stop, for the postman with his bell,
like the betherel of some ancient "borough's town" summoning to a burial,
is in the street, and warns me to conclude.--Yours, ANDREW PRINGLE.

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