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Popular Superstitions of the Highlands
Wakes


But turn to yonder cloister’d gloom,
Where pallid Sorrow leads the way,
To muse upon some hallow’d tomb,
Where Friendship’s dearest relics lie."
W. S.

SHORT and unstable are the joys of man!— How often does it happen, that such ardent scenes of pleasure as we have been just endeavouring to describe, are but like the gleam which precedes the storm—a prelude to direful woe! Oft has the tender parent, or loving child, who but yesterday animated such a scene of festivity, to-day exhibited the most desponding spectacle which human nature can witness. Those eyes, which then sparkled at the pibroch’s harmonious sounds, are now sealed for ever; and his relations and friends are involved in grief more vehement than their former joys.

Prone to partake in his neighbour’s joys, the Highlander, on such occasions as this, is equally ready to share in his sorrows; and will not grudge to contribute his exertions, by night as well as by day, to add to his comfort or consolation. On the last offices of friendship being performed, the body is laid on a bed in that apartment of the house most commodious and suitable, for the company; and the neighbours immediately collect in bands, to watch over the remains of departed friendship. During the silent hours of midnight, the solemnity of the occasion is heightened by the sound of sacred praise, and reading of the blessed Gospel. Such are now the laudable employments which have assumed the place of that revelry which formerly disgraced the Highland wakes—when immoderate thinking, dancing, wanton levity, and profane amusements, were the prominent features of such an assembly. It is true, the moderate use of liquor, and singing of songs, are still tolerated; but excess on these occasions is now unknown. On the departure of every group, one of the friends in attendance conducts them to the melancholy bier, when each generally testifies the ardour of his friendship by shaking the hand, which now cannot feel his proffered kindness, and retires full of those solemn reflections which the scene is calculated to produce.


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