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Scotland's Influence on Civilization
The Two Principal Cities


LET us now turn for a moment to survey the two principal cities of this historic Northland, Edinburgh—or Edinboro', as the Scots call it--overlooking the Forth from an elevation of several hundred feet, the most picturesque city in Europe, and Glasgow, the city of the Clyde, the great metropolis of manufacture and commerce, the one commanding the eastern, and the other the western, waters. These two great cities, some forty miles apart, may be called the eyes of Scotland—organs of vision and high intelligence through which she gives expression to the thought of her people and holds daily communication with all the world.

Glasgow, the grand commercial emporium, far surpasses the sister-city in wealth and trade, and also in population, which now reaches about half a million, while Edinburgh has less than a quarter of a million. But for what is lacking in wealth and power Edinburgh is fully compensated in splendor of situation, in glorious memories of the past, and in the magnificence of her educational and religious institutions. Glasgow, the queenly city of the Clyde, with her ocean-steamers, her iron-clad ships of war, her vast cotton-mills, her merchant-princes and her colossal fortunes, that has in recent times grown to be one of the chief builders of the British navy, is not, indeed, without historic associations linking her to the memorable past. Tracing her foundations back into the sixth century—even earlier than those of Edinburgh—she bore her full share in all the terrific conflicts that wrought out the deliverance of Scotland. She can to-day point with just pride not only to her marts of trade and the palatial residences of her citizens, but to her ancient and magnificent cathedral, that survived the disasters of centuries—perhaps the most perfect entire specimen of Gothic architecture now in the realm. She can point, also, with equal satisfaction to her churches, ancient and modern, to her educational and benevolent institutions and to her great university, rivaling in learning and number of students the more famous city of the Forth.

Edinburgh—or Edwin's Burg, so called from the Saxon king of England who laid its foundations in the seventh century—now covers those parallel ridges and the deep valleys between which extend east and west along the Firth of Forth about a mile's distance from the water. The old city was built on the middle and highest of the ridges. The ground gradually rises toward the west until it culminates in the great massive rock on which the castle stands, commanding the whole city and its environs. Along the summit of the ridge for about a mile, from Holyrood Palace at the east up to Castle Rock, forming, as it were, the backbone of the town, was thickly built the old Canongate, or high street, lined with the residences of nobility and gentry. On this street stood the famous cathedral of St. Giles, the Tron church, John Knox's house, and other notable edifices. Here dwelt the lordly Stuart kings in the palace of Holyrood. Here the young and beautiful queen of Scots held her court until she wantonly threw away her crown. Here the first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met, in 1560, in the little Magdalen chapel, deep down in the ravine to the north of the street. It was a sort of Thermopylae where this band of heroes pledged themselves to maintain against all the world of papal power the divine rights of Presbytery. Here, on the hill, in old St. Giles church, John Knox--a man whom his enemies hated while living, and of whom they said when dead, "Here lies one who never feared the face of man"—poured forth his fiery eloquence. Here are the spots where Rizzio fell, where the ill-fated Darnley was blown up, where the daring Montrose was dragged to execution, frowning defiance on his foes, and not far off is the place where the great regent Murray was assassinated. And here stood the scaffold on which the noble Morton, and the still nobler statesman the marquis of Argyle, were beheaded.

Edinburgh is full of such memorials. The past confronts us at every step. The castle looks down upon us out of history. To the poet, the historian and the artist almost every foot of Scotland is classic ground. The traveler is scarcely ever out of sight of places of historic interest or scenes of surpassing beauty--battlefields like Bannockburn, Falkirk, Bothwell Bridge and Culloden, that once shook under the fierce onset of opposing hosts; venerable abbeys like Melrose, Dryburgh and Dunfermline, fast crumbling to decay; castles once impregnable, like those of Stirling, Berwick, Roslin, Dumbarton and Loch Levin; mountain-peaks and highland lakes: Ben Lomond, Ben Lide and Ben Nevis rising in solitary grandeur to the clouds, Loch Katrine, Loch Lomond and Loch Ness with banks of sylvan beauty mirrored in their crystal depths,--all new-daguerrotyped for the world and made immortal for ever by the pen of the great enchanter Walter Scott, in this respect the Scot of all the Scots.

After all, it is in and around Edinburgh that these precious and sacred memorabilia cluster the thickest. Here it is that the history of a thousand years has been fossilized without losing its living interest—written on the very streets of a crowding population, graven as with an iron pen on rocks and crags and castle-walls. In this respect there is no city in Europe except Rome or Athens that can be compared with Edinburgh. Edinburgh is to Scotland what Rome is to Italy, what Athens was to Greece, what Jerusalem was to Palestine.

The splendid modern city, with its magnificent Prince's street and its classical monument to Walter Scott, is chiefly built on the northern ridge, nearest the Forth, while the southern ridge is largely given up to great manufacturing establishments. Along the bottom of the south valley runs the old Cowgate street, once famous in history, now crowded with the humble tenements of the poor. Through the corresponding north ravine extend the great railways connecting the city at the west end with Glasgow and at the east with London. These deep valleys are now bridged over with solid masonry and crossed by streets running north and south at the summit-level of the ridges, some hanging high in air on stone arches, and the one nearest the castle built on an artificial mound constructed for the purpose. Edinburgh thus presents the unique spectacle not only of an old city and a new looking each other in the face from opposite hills, but of an upper and a lower city—one bright and beautiful on her airy elevations, the other dark and damp in the gloom of her sunken valleys.

Take now a picture of the city as viewed from Calton Hill and drawn by the graphic pen of a Scotsman, Alexander Smith:

"Straight before the mound crosses the valley, leaving the white academy buildings; beyond, the castle lifts from grassy slopes and billows of summer foliage its weather-stained towers and fortifications, the Half-Moon battery giving the folds of its standard to the wind. Living in Edinburgh, there abides among all things a sense of its beauty. Hill, crag, castle, rock, blue stretch of sea, the picturesque ridge of the Old Town, the squares and terraces of the New,—these things, seen once, are not to be forgotten. The quick life of to-day, sounding around the relics of antiquity and overshadowed by the august traditions of a kingdom, makes residence in Edinburgh more impressive than residence in any other British city. What a poem is that Prince's street! The puppets of the busy many-colored hour move about on its pavements, while across the ravine Time has piled up the Old Town, ridge on ridge, gray as a rocky coast washed and worn by the foam of centuries, peaked and jagged by gable and roof, windowed from basement to cope, the whole surmounted by St. Giles's airy crown.

"The New is there looking at the Old. Two periods are brought face to face, and are yet separated by a thousand years. Wonderful on winter nights, when the galley is filled with darkness and out of it rises against the sombre blue and the frosty stars that mass and bulwark of gloom pierced and quivering with innumerable lights. There is nothing in Europe to match it. Could you but roll a river down the valley, it would be sublime. That ridged and chimneyed bulk of blackness with splendor bursting out at every pore is the wonderful Old Town, where Scottish history mainly transacted itself, while, opposite, the modern Prince's street is blazing throughout its length. During the day the castle looks down upon the city as out of another world, stern with all its peacefulness, its garniture of trees, its slopes of grass. The rock is dingy enough in color, but after a shower its lichens laugh out greenly in the returning sun while the rainbow is brightening on the lowering cloud beyond. How deep the shadow which the castle throws at noon over the gardens at its feet where the children play! How grand where giant bulk and towery crown blacken against the sunset!

"Fair, too, the New Town, sloping to the sea. From George's street, which crowns the ridge, the eye is led down sweeping streets of stately architecture to villas and woods that fill the lower ground and fringe the shore; to the bright azure belt of the Forth, with its smoking steamer or its creeping sail; beyond, to the shores of Fife, soft, blue and flecked with fleeting shadows in the keen, clear light of spring, dark purple in the summer heat, tarnished gold in the autumn haze; and farther away still, just distinguishable on the paler sky, the crest of some distant peak, carrying the imagination into the illimitable world. Residence in Edinburgh is an education in itself. It is perennial, like a play of Shakespeare. Nothing can stale its infinite variety. Its beauty refreshes one like being in love."

Such is the estimate of one who had felt the poetic inspiration of this scene of varied loveliness. It is a glowing picture, indeed, not unlike that drawn by a greater master, the author of Marrnion and Waverley, whose genius was nurtured amid its scenes, and who rejoiced to call Dun Edin "mine own romantic town." Here Art and Nature conspire with all the glorious history to give the world assurance of a finished city. Not inappropriately may the lines of Tennyson be applied to this romantic spot:

"The Past and Present here unite
Beneath Time's rolling tide,
As footprints hidden by a brook
Are seen on either side."


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