WITH the exception of a
brief visit to Scotland, he remained at Moreby from April, 1835, when he
returned from the Continent, till October of the same year. He then went
to Glasgow to resume his theological studies. As his father was at that
time leaving Campsie for his new charge of St. Columba, Glasgow, he lived
with his valued friend and relative, Mr. William Gray, in Brandon Place.
He at once devoted himself to hard study. Not only do his notebooks show
the extensive field of reading he went over, but his former
fellow-students were surprised at the rapid mastery he had obtained over
various branches of theological learning in which he had before shown only
a passing interest. For although his previous education had not been
favourable to scholarship in the technical sense, yet from this time to
his latest day he cultivated accurate methods, read extensively on
whatever subjects he was professionally occupied with, worked daily at his
Greek Testament, and kept himself well informed as to the results of
modern criticism. He had the rare faculty of rapidly getting the gist of a
book, and, without toiling over every page, he seemed always to grasp the
salient points, and in a marvellously short time carried away all that was
In the May of 1836, his
father having been elected Moderator of the Church of Scotland, he went to
Edinburgh, and listened with great interest to the debates of an Assembly,
the attention of which was directed to Church work rather than to Church
The passages from his
journals referring to his spiritual condition, which are given throughout
this memoir, while no more than specimens of very copious entries, are yet
thoroughly just representations of the self-scrutiny to which he subjected
himself during his whole life. Those who knew him only in society, buoyant
and witty, over-flowing with animal spirits, the very soul of laughter and
enjoyment, may feel surprised at the almost morbid self-condemnation and
excessive tenderness of conscience which these journals display, still
more at the tone of sadness which so frequently pervades them. For while
such persons may remember how his merriest talk generally passed
imperceptibly into some graver theme—so naturally, indeed, at the listener
could scarcely tell how it was that the conversation had changed its
tone—yet only those who knew him very intimately were aware that, although
his outer life had so much of apparent abandon, he not only preserved a
habit of careful spiritual self-culture, but was often subject to great
mental depression, and was ever haunted with a consciousness of the
solemnity, if not the sadness, of life.
In point of fact, much of his self-reproach
arose from the earnestness of the conflict which he waged against his own
natural tendency to self-indulgence. For if on one side he had deep
spiritual affinities and a will firmly resolved on the attainment of
holiness, he had on the other a temperament to which both "the world and
the flesh" appealed with tremendous power. His abounding humour and
geniality had, as usual, their source in a deeply emotional region;
rendering him quickly susceptible to impressions from without, and easily
moved by what appealed strongly to his tastes. This rich vein of human
feeling, which constituted him many-sided and sympathetic, and gave him so
much power over others, laid him also open to peculiar trials in his
endeavour after a close life with God. Besides, as if to be the better
fitted for dealing with others, there was given to him more than the usual
share of the experiences of "life;" for he was frequently brought
strangely and closely into contact with various forms of evil—subtle and
fascinating ; thus gaining an insight into the ways of sin—though, by
God's grace, he remained unscathed by its evil.
And not only this self-scrutiny, but the tone
of sadness also which pervades these journals, must sound strange from one
generally so buoyant. The tendency to reaction common to all sanguine
natures, combined with his Celtic blood, may perhaps have helped to give
it the shape it so frequently takes, for the way in which he moralises
even in youth upon approaching age, and ever and anon speaks of death, and
of the transitoriness of the present, is quite typical of the temperament
of the Highlanders of the Western Islands. But there was an element in his
own character strong yet subtle in its influence, which produced finer
veins of melancholy. The more than childlike intensity with which his
affections clung to persons, places, associations, made him dread
separation, and that very dread suggested all manner of speculations as to
the future. He was continually forecasting change. There was assuredly
throughout this more of a longing for "the larger life and fuller" than a
mawkish bewailing of the vanishing present. His views of the glorious
purpose of God in creation were from the first healthy and hopeful, and
became one of the strongest points in his creed. Nevertheless, it served
to produce a side of character which was deeply solemn, so that when left
alone with his own thoughts a kind of eerie sadness was cast over his
views of life. The deep undertones of death and eternity sounded
constantly in his ear, even when he seemed only beat on amusement. His
favourite quotation literally expressed his experience—
"I hear the mighty waters rolling evermore."
From his Journal:—
"Moreby, April 30, 1835.—I have at last
returned from the Continent this morning. With how many feelings of the
past do I write it! I read over many old letters and journals, and I felt
the old man, which I supposed one little year had crushed, to be as strong
as ever. No, not quite so strong; hut still he was there, and I could
recognise many of his old familiar features. This last year has been quite
an episode in my life; it does not seem to chime in with the rest of the
story, and yet it is a material and important part of it.
"It was a dream; its people were images in a
dream, never seen before or to be seen again. Everything was, and flashed
upon me. I am awake, and the dream is past.
"Hawes, Aug. 13th.—Spent this morning in
fishing, and, after walking eight or nine miles, returned as I went. I
had, however, for my guide and companion a most rare specimen of a
Yorkshireman. He is the village cobbler. He and his have been here from
generation to generation; and what part of the shire is more secluded than
Hawes! We spent the time in 'chat and clatter;' and with his peculiar
drawl and stories I was much amused:— 'Ise deena believe measell what
foaks sea like, boot t' wutches beean in 'deals like, boot thea sea hoa
there weas yance in t' time ot t' wear maebea hoondred year and mear a man
wid ceart an harse gang i-oop bye t' Fell theare, and in t' ceart was a
kist and gooald; an t' neame ot hoarse was Ham. Soa t' driver sead, 'Che
wo hoop, Ham. We God's mind or noa oop heel thou man gang.' Soa t' heel
opened like, and t' keest fell een, and thear weas nought mear aboot eet!
Boot yance seex parsons were tae conjor it oot, and toald t' wae or 't
foar leads we them to say nout; and soa they prayed and prayed teelt they
gat thee keest and youked t' harse, boot yan o' t' leads said—'Gad lads!
wese geet eet yeet.' When t' keest howped oop t' heel an' weas seen nea
once talked with a man who had gone to Kendall to see the Highlanders pass
north. They had no shoes, and looked miserable; plundering, but not
slaying. The landlord with whom he staid had his shoes taken off him
thrice, by successive parties.
"Ambleside, 19th August.—I have to-day
accomplished what I have long sought. I have seen, talked, and spent two
or three hours with Wordsworth. I set off in the morning with a note of
introduction by myself, for myself. I arrived at the door of a sweet,
beautiful cottage, and was ushered into a small parlour with a small
library, chiefly rilled with books of poetry, among which was a fine
edition of Dante. Presently the old man came in in an old brown
great-coat, large straw hat, and umbrella, and ushered me into a small,
plainly furnished parlour. Here we sat some time, talking about Germany,
its political state, and the character of its inhabitants,—of the Scotch
Church and the levelling system, and right of voting; and here he read me
the note from his last volume. We then went out and stood on the lovely
green mound commanding views of Rydal and Windermere. There I said to him,
'We are sorry that you are not a friend of Ossian.'
This set him a-going, in which he defended
himself against the charge, and laying 'that although self-praise was no
honour, yet he thought he might say that no man had written more feelingly
than he in his favour. Not the Ossian of McPherson, which was trash, but
the spirit of Ossian was glorious; and this he had maintained.' He then
brought his works and read many passages in the bower showing this. He
said that he had more enemies in Scotland than elsewhere; that his little
volume could not fight against all the might of a long-established
Review—it was stupidity or envy; but that his book had now got greater
circulation than they or it ever had. His books must be studied to be
understood—they were not for ladies, to be read lounging on a sofa.
"He said that Professor Wilson was an
exceedingly clever man, and that it was such a pity that his talents and
energies were not directed to one point. On our return to the house, he
said he had suffered much distress. His dear sister was dead, his daughter
was lying ill with spine, and now an old family servant was dying, ' but I
endeavour to amuse myself as I can.'
"I blessed the dear old man, came away; and he
said he might wander into my house some day or other in Scotland. Oh, how
I felt as I heard him read in his deep voice some of his own imperishable
verses—the lovely evening—the glorious scene—the poetry and the man!
"Aug. 24th.—I received from home a parcel, and
a letter from my father, who is in London about the Psalms. The event
which he communicates is to me all-important—he leaves Campsie and goes to
Glasgow. What are my feelings? I can hardly express them. It is a struggle
between the ideal and real ! On calmly considering it, I do think that the
change is much for the better. A large family is nowhere in such an
advantageous position for every improvement and advancement as in a town;
which is also, I believe, more economical. Yet to leave Campsie! Spot of
my earnest feelings, and of the dearest associations of the happiest
period of my life ! Gone are the continued presence of green fields and
free air—gone the identifying of every lovely spot with the bright
thoughts of youthful existence.
"I wish I could write a series of sonnets
entitled 'Influences;' viz. : all those projections which turn the stream
of life out of its course, bending it. slightly without giving it a new
direction. Nothing makes a man so contented as an experience gathered from
a well-watched past. As the beauty of the finest landscape is sometimes
marred on actual inspection by a nauseous weed at your feet, or painful
headache, or many little things, which detract from a loveliness only
fully felt in the recollection when those trifles are forgotten—so, our
chief happiness is too often in recollection of the past, or anticipation
of the future. Now, it is knowing what the past really was, which we now
recall with so much pleasure, and over which there seems 'a light which
never was on sea or land,' that we are able to estimate the amount of
happiness and value of the present. And I think he who does this will
seldom be discontented; for the miseries of life are few, and its
blessings are ' new to us every morning and evening.'
"I have just returned from a pleasant walk,
with a lovely sunset, and the cushats weeping and wailing in the wood.
"September 15th.—The long-expected
festival-week is past! I never have in my life, nor ever expect again to
have, such a glorious treat—I have heard The Creation.
"I shall not attempt to offer a criticism upon
the music which I heard during the festival. Whoever has seen York
Minster, may fancy the effect of a grand chorus of 640 performers before
an assembled multitude of perhaps 7,000 people, with Braham, Phillips,
Rubini, Lablache, Grisi, &c.
"We had very delightful company in the
house—Sir Charles Dolbiac, (M.P.) and daughter; Milnes Gaskill, M.P., wife
and sister-in-law; Miss Wynn Smith; Wright, with his wife and daughter;
Lady Sitwell; Mr. and Mrs. Norton; Mr. and Miss Forbes, Edinburgh; Captain
Campbell, 7th Hussars; Lord Grey. I had the most interesting conversation
with Gaskill, Wright, and Lady Sitwell.
"Gaskill mentioned the following things:—Peel
does not confide sufficiently in his own party, he tells nothing to them;
but if you do make a good speech, he will shake you by the hand and talk
kindly. His difficulties on the Catholic question were great. His
principal adviser and confidential friend was Dr. Lloyd, of Oxford. The
Duke, who looks at a question of politics like men in a field of battle,
after two hours' conversation, told Peel that he had agreed. Peel knew
there was no use fighting in the council, and he determined to resign. He
went to Windsor to do so. The King, who had all the feelings of his father
on the subject, remonstrated, and asked Peel if he could form a Ministry
which would resist. Peel saw it was impossible. The King then said, that
what he would not do as an individual he was compelling him to do by
asking him to change. Would he desert him? Would he leave the onus on him?
Peel came home, and for two nights never went to bed. Wrote to his friend
Dr. Lloyd that he knew that in sticking to the King, from the most loyal
motives, he was sacrificing his political character, &c.; and so he passed
it: and now he would willingly change his mind!
"Peel's memory is amazing. 'Can you forget all
this trash V said he to a friend, as a member was speaking. 'I can't;' and
so he never did, but would recall words and circumstances a year
night Mr. Gaskill was at a party at the Duke of---------'s; Peel,
Wellington, and some others, were playing whist; Croker was learning
écarté at another table. 'Go,' said Peel to one of his friends—' go and
ask if he ever learned the game before.' 'Never,' said Croker, ' upon my
soul.' 'Well,' said Peel to his friend, who returned, 'I'll bet, in twenty
minutes by my watch, Croker tells his teacher that he does not know how to
play. In five minutes Croker was heard saying, 'Well, do you know, I
should not have thought that the best way of playing.' This was received
with a roar of laughter.
"September 16th.'—O God, I am a weak, poor,
sinful man, unmindful of past mercies, and of a hardened heart. Merciful
Father, I implore pardon from Thee for my sins, and entreat the aid of thy
Holy Spirit, by which alone I can fight the evil one. Hear me, for the
sake of the atoning blood of Thy dear Son, in whose eternal merits I trust
alone for salvation.
"September 28th, 1835.—G. was staying with us. He is the editor of a
periodical called The Churchman, and is a most violent Episcopalian of the
old school, as he was once as violent a dissenter of the new. There are
few liberal Churchmen—very few; and to me nothing is more absurd than the
violence of men professing the same faith in all its essentials, and, in
the present state of things, cutting one another's throats. England is
beginning to reform her clergy; and good morals, with a sound Calvinistic
neology, are rapidly gaining ground. I have myself seen so much wickedness
in manners and opinions that my heart bows before a good Christian
wherever I meet him. We had good sacred music on Sunday evening.
This may be abused ; and then, perhaps, it is wrong. But certainly to me
it is infinitely more sacred than the chatter around the fireside on stuff
and nonsense, such as I have frequently heard. But remember Paul and the '
29th.—I had to-night a long argument with an atheist, Mr. C------. I have
known intimately many strange thinkers, from fanatics to atheists. All
sceptics whom I have ever met have been very ignorant of the argument and
facts of the case. This has been my confirmed experience in Germany and
England. Fanatics knew and felt ten times more. Believing too much is more
philosophical than believing nothing at all.
"I finished Heine's 'History of Modern German
Literature.' His German style is beautiful; his remarks astonishingly
striking, original, and pointed; his character of the poetry, painting,
architecture of the Middle Ages admirable.
"Sunday, 11th.—This is the last Sunday I shall
spend in Moreby for some time. How many pleasant ones have I had in the
old church at Stillingfleet, in its antique pew and oak seats, worn away
by numberless generations ! I trust I have seen enough of the English
Church to love her capabilities and to admire her mode of worship ; and
while I enter with heart into that mode and form in which I have been born
and bred, I trust to have for ever an affection for the venerable Liturgy
and those institutions which so well accomplish their purpose of diffusing
the Gospel of Christ among the nations. O Lord, I thank Thee for the many
peaceful Sabbaths which I have enjoyed. Forgive their much abuse, and
still preserve my mind more and more for that eternal Sabbath which I hope
one day, through the blood of the Atonement, to spend with Thee in heaven.
"October 13th.—The last night at Moreby. How
much could I now say on my leaving this excellent family whom I esteem so
much and highly ! Mr. Preston has been as a father. God bless them all!
"I thank Thee, O God, through Jesus Christ,
for all Thou hast done for me since I came into this family. Lord, may Thy
kindness not be thrown away, but may everything work for my good. Amen,
December.—This day two years ago James died. I shall ever consider this
day as worthy of my remembrance, because to me it marks the most important
era of my life. Amidst temptations it has warned me; in my Christian
course it has cheered me. In far other scenes than these I have remembered
it with solemn feelings, and I trust I may never forget it or the habits
it has engendered. The more I see of the world, the more I look upon the
dear boy as the purest being I ever met with; and now I rejoice he is in
heaven. Lord, may I never forget that time.
"27th; last Sunday of 1835.—I never felt a
greater zest for study than now. The truth, sincerity, simplicity, and the
eloquence, of the older divines is a source of much pleasure. I have
adopted the plan of keeping a note-book which I call 'Hints for Sermons,'
in which I put down whatever may prove useful for my future ministrations.
Unfortunately what is useful is not nowadays the most taking, and we have
lost much of our simple-hearted Christianity. Our very clergy are dragging
us down to lick the dust, and the influence of the mob is making our young
men a subservient set of fellows. I see among our better-thinking clergy a
strong episcopalian spirit; they are beginning to see the use of a set
form of worship. And who can look at the critical, self-sufficient faces
of the one-half of our congregations during prayers, and the labour and
puffing and blowing of some aspirant to a church, and not deplore the
absence of some get prayers which would keep the feelings of many
right-thinking Christian from being hurt every Sabbath.
"January 6th, 1836.—I went down to Campbeltown,
and I returned today with Scipio and George Beatson. What were my feelings
when I saw Campbeltown—aye, what were they? Almost what I anticipated;—a
half breaking up of the ideal. Gone was the glory and the dream—gone the
old familiar faces. Everything seemed changed, save the old hills; and it
was only when I gazed on them that I felt a return of the old feelings,
glimpses of boyhood, short but beautiful, that soon passed away, and I
felt I was a changed man—how changed since those days!
"We were gay to our 'hearts' content:' a ball
every night and breakfasts every morning, with interludes of dinners. I
never received more kindness in my life.
"Be honest! In Campbeltown I forgot God
altogether. If ever there was a cold, forgetful sinner, I am the man. If
it was not for my peculiarly fortunate circumstances of life, I would have
been a thorough-going sinner. My heart is blunt; every time I fall back I
am so much the worse—it quenches faith, resolution, hope. Well may I say,
' Lord save me, or I perish.'
"Poor dear------! I received such a letter
from him in answer to an earnest exhortation to him to change his ways.
The Lord bless him!
"Is it proper to endeavour to convert a man by any other but Christian
motives—prudential or moral? I think it is. A hardened sinner must have
motives addressed to him which he can feel and understand. Let this be a
matter for thought. My mother denies its truth."
To A. Clerk:—
"10, Brandon Place, Glasgow, January 13, 1836.
"For once in my life I am working for the
class, writing essays for a prize! Are you not astonished? Fleming gives
out five or six subjects. The first was on the Mosaic account of the
Creation; and I sent him in one of eighty pages crammed with geology,
which even ' the Doctor's' (Sinclair) most scientific conversations (which
used to bore you) were nothing to. Fleming had the good sense to
appreciate it; and he said privately to my father that ' it had more in it
than all the others put together.' But you never saw such fellows! Some of
them open their goggle eyes, when I dare to speculate on some of the great
doctor's ipse dixits. Think of them the other day! there was a meeting in
the Hall, and M'Gill in the chair, to determine whether Blackwood should
be kicked out of the Hall Library and sent in search of the Edinburgh
Review, long ago black-balled! Poor Maga was peppered with a whole volley
of anathemas; and if it was not for some fellows of sense who were
determined to give old Christopher a lift on his stilts, he would have
hobbled down the turnpike stair to make room for a dripping Baptist or
oily-haired Methodist. Oh, I hate cant—I detest it, Clerk, from my 'heart
of hearts!' There is a manliness about true Christianity, a consciousness
of strength, which enables it to make everything its own " The people are
becoming all in all. And what are the forthcoming ministers? The people's
slaves or deceivers. It is, I admit, the opinion of a young man; but I
feel that we are going down hill—talk, talk, talk—big
words—popularity—that god which is worshipped wherever a chapel stands.
This is what I fear we are coming to—our very prayers are the subjects of
display and criticism. I rejoice to think there is One who guides all to
good, that the world on the whole is ever advancing in the right, though
poor Scotland may, perhaps, lag behind for a season."
During the session of 1835-36 a coterie of
young men, possessed of kindred genius and humour, used to meet for the
interchange of wit, and of literary productions, whose chief merit was
their absurdity. Horatio M'Culloch, the landscape painter, and his brother
artist, Mac-Nee; the late Principal Leitch, and his brother, Mr. John
Leitch, a well-known litterateur; the Dean of Argyll, and his brother, Mr.
Mac-George; M'Nish, the author of the "Anatomy of Drunkenness;" and Norman
Macleod, were the leading spirits of the fraternity. One of the chief ties
which bound them in fellowship was the presence of Dugald M------, poet
and local celebrity. M------was not without talent, and made several
creditable attempts in verse; but his extraordinary self-importance, his
unconsciousness of ridicule, and the bombastic character of many of his
productions made him a ready butt for the shafts of drollery with which
the young fellows who met at those suppers were abundantly armed.
[Once at a public dinner, when the toast of
"the poets of Scotland, coupled with the name of Dugald M------" was
proposed, in terms which seemed to disparage the practical importance of
their art, Dugald, rising in great indignation, determined to give the
ignoramus a lesson on the grandeur of the offended muse. "I will tell the
gentleman," he shouted, "what poetry is. Poetry is the language of the
tempest when it roars through the crashing forest. The waves of ocean
tossing their foaming crests under the lash of the hurricane—they, sir,
speak in poetry. Poetry, sir ! poetry was the voice in which the Almighty
thundered through the awful peaks of Sinai; and I myself, sir, have
published five volumes of poetry, and the last, in its third edition, can
be had for the price of five shillings and sixpence!"]
Before the year was out they printed a series
of squibs written for their gatherings. The volume was entitled, "Sparks
of Promethean Fire; or Chips from the Thunderbolts of Jove," and professed
to be published at Stromboli, for the firm of Gog, Magog, and Co.
These poems were indirectly meant as
caricatures of the pompous emptiness, the incongruous magnificence, and
the grandiose scene-painting of the poet Dugald. Hades and the Arctic
Pole, the volcanic fires and sulphurous craters of Etna and Hecla, whales,
mammoths, and mastodons, had therefore to lend their aid in the production
of a jumble of astounding nonsense.
Only one specimen of the volumes has been
reprinted—"The Death of Space," by Mr. John Leitch, which was engrossed in
"Bon Gual-tier." Norman Macleod contributed four pieces—"The Reign of
Death," "The Phantom Festival," "Professor Boss's ["Boss" was the bye-name
he had for his very dear friend, the late Principal Leitch, one of the
ablest and best of men.] Drinking-Song," and "Invocation to Professor
Boss, who fell into the Crater of Hecla." We give the two last.
PROFESSOR BOSS' DRINKING-SONG.
Air—"Bekranzt mit Laub den liebevollen Becher,"
or—" The Rhine! the Rhine!" &c., &c.
Drink, drink and swill, ye jolly old
You'll find it royal stuff,
You'll find it royal stuff;
What though the waves of ocean roll above us,
We do not care a snuff!
We do not care a snuff!
Diodati, Kent, Gleim, Mendelssohn, Swighausen,
Ich bin Ihr Bruder Boss!
Ich bin Ihr Bruder Boss!
Pass round the jorum, and with all the honours,
Drink to Commander Ross!
Drink to Commander Ross!
Ices I've eat in Paris at Tortoni's;
Broiled chicken too in Wien,
Broiled chicken too in Wien;
But who would talk of such barbaric messes,
Who our turns-out had seen!
Who our turns-out had seen!
For here we dine on whales and fossil
With walrus for our lunch,
With walrus for our lunch;
We've Hecla's flames to warm our glass of toddy,
And ice to cool our punch!
And ice to cool our punch!
See how our smoke is curling up the crater,
Ho, spit and rouse its fires!
Ho, spit and rouse its fires!
Hurrah! hurrah! for Deutschland's old Professors,
We're worthy of our sires!
We're worthy of our sires!
INVOCATION TO PROFESSOR BOSS, WHO FELL INTO
THE CRATER OF MOUNT HECLA.
Oh what a grim gigantic tomb is thine,
Immortal Boss ! The sepulchres which yawn
For the obscure remains of common men
Were all unworthy thee ! Their narrow bounds
Thou heldest in unutterable disdain,
And soughtest for a grave amid the vaults
Of Iceland's belching, bellowing, groaning Mount.
Stupendous walls of flame surround thee now;
Thy mausoleum is a hell on earth,
Where spluttering bursts of pandemoniac fire
Shake their rude tongues against the vault of heaven,
And lick the stars, and singe the comet's tail.
Peace to thine ashes, Boss! Thy soul shall
Like an inflated phoenix, from the mouth
Of that infernal hill, whose crater wide,
Like a vast trumpet, shall thy praises sound,
What time its ashes rise beyond the moon,
And blind with clouds of dust the morning star.
And from thy lofty watch-tower in the sky
Spitzbergen thou shalt see, and Greenland, where
The spermaceti whale rolls floundering on,
And dares to combat the pugnacious shark;
The morse, with teeth of steel and snout of brass,
The mighty kraken, and the ocean snake,
The salamander, with its soul of fire,
The mammoth and the mastodon sublime,—
Them shalt thou see, and with their spirits thou
Shalt hold sweet converse, as they move along,
Shaking the curdling deep with shaven tails,
And drowning Hecla's thunder in their own.
And from the mountain's bosom thou shalt call
The swarthy Vulcan, and his one-eyed sons—
The Atlantian Cyclops—to thine aid,
While thou assailest Woden, Teusco, Thor,
And all the Scandinavian gods accursed,
Who in Valhalla hold their dreaded reign.
And Vulcan at thy bidding shall appear,
With Polyphemus and his brethren vast;
And, armed with Jove's resistless thunderbolts
And Hecla's flames, the huge monopian brood
Shall rise with fury irresistible,
And from their gory seats of human skulls
Hurl the grim tyrants down with muttering yell;
While thou ascendest the Valhalla throne
And at the prostrate gods dost shake thy fist!
Immortal Boss! while seas of dark-ribbed ice
Lock the leviathan in their solid jaws,
While the substantial firmament resounds
With yells and curses from the frozen tongues
Of shipwrecked mariners, thy sceptre gaunt
Shall thunder on the grim Icelandic shore,
And loose the chains that fetter Nature round!
Then, then shall Hecla sing aloud to thee
A dread volcanic hymn. His monstrous throat,
In honour of thy name, shall swallow up
The sun, the moon, the stars; all, save thy throne,
Shall be absorbed in that enormous maw;
And ghosts of mighty men shall crowd around
Thine ample table in Valhalla spread
And feast with thee; the hippopotamus,
The whale, the shark, shall on thy table lie,
Cooked to thy taste before grim Hecla's fire ;
And all shall eat, and chaunt thy name and drink
Potations deep from Patagonian skulls.
My song is done: oceans of endless bliss
Shall roll within thy kingdom; cataracts
Of matchless eloquence shall hymn thy praise;
Mountains of mighty song—mightier by far
Than Hecla, where thine ashes lie entombed,
Shall lift their heads beyond the top of space,
And prove thy deathless monuments of fame;
While thou with kingly, bland, benignant smile,
Look'st down upon the earth's terraqueous ball,
And quell'st with thunder Neptune's blustering mood.
"March 2nd.—Strange, marvellous, and
unintelligible world ! My brain gets dizzy when I allow myself to reflect
upon the extraordinary journey we are all pursuing. I heard old Weimar
tunes upon the piano. Was it a dream? am I here? am I the same being? What
means this springing into existence, the joys and sorrows, happiness to
ecstasy, friendships formed and decaying, death at the end of all? Are we
mad? Do our souls inhabit bodies which are dying about us? But I write
like a fool, for my heart is overflowing with thoughts which I cannot
March.—Exactly, Norman. You wrote the above the other night when some old
tunes roused up the old man which you thought was dead. Tell us how he
April 23.—After studying to-day and yesterday, I have had an evening
stroll down the street. The aurora was bright and lovely—now forming an
arch along the sky, now shooting up like an archangel's sword over the
world, or forming streaming rays of light, which the soul of mortal might
deem a seraph's crown. How strange are the glimpses which we sometimes
have of something beyond the sense—a strange feeling, flitting as the
aurora, but as bright, of a spiritual world, with which our souls seem,
longing to mingle, and, like a bird which, from infancy reared in a cage,
has an instinctive love for scenes more congenial to its habits, and
utters about when it sees green woods and a summer sky, and droops its
head when it feels they are seen through the bars of its prison! But the
door shall yet be opened, and the songs it has learnt in confinement shall
yet be heard in the sunny sky; and it shall be joined by a thousand other
birds, and a harmonious song will rise on high!
Oh, if we could but keep
the purity of the soul! but sense is the giant which fetters us and gains
the victory. We have dim perceptions of the pure and elevated spiritual
world. We truly walk by sight, and not by faith.
"Mere descriptive poets may be compared to
those who have shrewdness enough to copy the best sets of hieroglyphics,
but who have not skill enough to give to them more than a partial
interpretation. They decipher enough to know that the writing has much
fine meaning, which, as it pleases themselves, may also give pleasure to
others. The reflective poet is one who deciphers the writing which he
copies, appropriates its truth to himself, and makes it a part of his own
existence ; and when he gives it to the world, he adds to it his own
glorious comments and illustrations, and thus makes others feel like
himself. And yet the highest and brightest world in which the poet exists
cannot be shown to another. It is incommunicable. If in his spirit he
reaches the high peaks of the Himalaya, he can bring none there with him;
and should he know there are others there, the rarity of the air prevents
"June 6th, Gourock.—My journal has been sadly neglected, and that too at a
time when sunshine and cloud have not been unfrequent in my trivial
my college labours by getting the essay prize—not much, in truth ; but I
shall not venture to express my little opinion of prizes. They a test of
talent or labour—bah! Last winter was, however, a useful one to me. How
different from the one before—hardly an ounce of the ideal, and a ton of
of May I came down here, where I staid for a short time, until I went to
the Assembly on the 16th, when my father was Moderator. When I think of
that fortnight, my head is filled with a confused mass of speeches,
dinners, suppers, breakfasts, crowded houses, familiar faces, old
acquaintances, and all that makes an assemby interesting and tiresome to
one who is in the middle of the bustle. I became acquainted with a great
many people—the most interesting was Dr. Cooke, of Belfast—a splendid man,
who, I think, beats Chalmers in thinking, and equals him in genius. The
concluding scene of the Assembly is the finest thing I ever saw—the whole
clergy and people singing a psalm, and praying for the peace of Jerusalem
! Grieved on my return to find poor Mary so unwell: for my own part I have
"To-morrow I start for the Highlands, intending, God willing, to return in
a month. Into Thy hands I commit myself.
"Fiunary, 8th.—The name, which stares me in
the face, alone convinces me that I am here. Against this I have a
thousand melancholy feelings to persuade me that I am not. Yes, it is so :
for the first time in my life, I have walked up the 'brae face' without a
smile upon my face. The past was too vividly present—when a revered old
man was blessed in his old age by a large and dear family—when my own
days, young though I be, were yet 'clothed in no earthly light,' and had
all the 'glory of a dream,' and myself the object of ' kind words, kind
looks, and tender greetings.'
"It is a solemn thing when the faces and
voices of the lost and gone are vividly recalled—when chambers are again
peopled by their former inmates —and when you start to find it all a
dream;—that what was life is now death!
"We, too, are passing on! Can I forget this
here? Oh, may I be enabled, in much weakness and sin, still to fight so as
to gain the prize!
"Portree, 21st June.—I have been reading for three days back Coleridge's
'Table Talk,' and Byron.
"What a contrast is there between the two! I
pretend not to fathom Byron's character: it has puzzled wiser heads than
mine. But how different were these men, as far as their characters can be
gathered from their conversation! Coleridge ever struggling after truth;
diving into every science, and discovering affinities between them;
holding communion ever with ideas and principles, and caring for things
only as they led to these; and, as a consequence from this pursuit and
love of truth, a humble believing disciple of Christ. Byron viewing
everything through his own egotism; selfish in the extreme; anxious to be
the man of fashion, and 'receiving his inspiration from gin and water;'
laughing at England and admiring Greece; doubting Scripture and admiring
Shelley. Coleridge wishing to publish his philosophy for the glory of God
and the good of men; Byron writing his poetry 'to please the women.' In
short, I believe, Byron's fame is on the decline. His literature has never
sent a man a mile on in the mighty pursuit after truth. Coleridge must
live and be beloved by all who study him. He was a truly noble fellow!
* * * * *
"A man's charity to those who differ from him
upon great and difficult questions will be in the ratio of his own
knowledge of them: the more knowledge, the more charity.
* * * * *
"The difference in height between the Scotch
and Swiss mountains is compensated for by the ever-changing shape of the
former, arising from their lowness.
"Portree, Skye, August, 1836.—Early in the
month of July I went with Professor Forbes to Quirang and the north end of
Skye. My next trip was to Storr, the finest thing I ever saw. The day
promised well as we ascended, but when near the top, thick mist suddenly
came on, which prevented us from seeing a yard in front. We, however,
against hope, climbed to the summit. When we arrived, the mist, in a
thousand graceful columns, cleared away, and a thick, black curtain, which
concealed the country from our view, slowly rose and presented to us a
panorama such as might put all such in Europe to shame. Beneath us lay
Skye, with its thousand sea lochs, bounded to the south by the jagged
Coolins, between which we got peeps of the distant sea. On every other
side was water calm as glass, specked by ships in sunshine, sailing far
away. Along the mainland, from Cape Wrath to Kyle Rhea, was a vast chain
of hills, seen under every variety of light and shade, while distant
mountain tops appear marching towards Ardnamurchan. To the west lay the
Lewis at full length: a gorgeous canopy of clouds was piled over it. Bays
of silver light fell at once on the Minch and on the far-distant horizon
beyond Uist, where no and breaks the vista to America. The precipice is a
thousand feet high: a stone took nine seconds to reach the bottom. In
fine, a largo whale was spouting in the sea below us after a herring
September.—The feeling at present next to my heart is the state of V or,
dear Mary. Her hour, I see, is not far distant. She knows this herself:
she expressed her fears perfectly calmly to my mother, and was thankful
that she had got so long a time to prepare. Her patience is amazing. Oh,
may God her Father, and Christ her Saviour, grant her peace and rest!
"I want steadiness. O God, give me consistency
in words, in thoughts; in company; in private! May I in everything see
what Thy law demands, and may I receive strength to obey it.
"My mother and aunt have both told me, in
strong language, that I am most irritable in my temper, and very
unpleasant. My mother told me more than this, which there is no use
she is wrong. I am grieved for this because it is unchristian; therefore,
under the strength of God, feel anxious and resolved to—1. Be always calm
and collected, and never talk impetuously, and as if out of temper. 2. To
give greater deference to my mother; to stop arguing with her; and,
however much she mistakes my feelings, still to act as I shall one day
"This I wish
to do under God's guidance.
"Clerk, MacConochie and Nairne have come as
boarders. They are, I think, three as fine lads as ever I saw. Enable me,
0 God, to remember that I am responsible for sowing all the Gospel seed I
can in their minds. Amen.
"I am making slow progress; I am sadly behind.
What signifies talk if the actions be awanting?
"November 3rd.—I was this morning called up at
five to go for the doctor for dear Mary. She was in great agony, such as I
never saw before. The doctor gave her relief; and she gently fell asleep
in Christ at half past nine o'clock.
"November 9th.—It is all over: we buried Mary
to-day beside James. They both lie near the home where they spent many
happy days ; and we laid them down, thank God, in full faith and assurance
of a blessed resurrection!
"I have only to pray God Almighty, through
Jesus Christ, that I may not only persevere myself, but induce others to
persevere in the same Christian course, that ' where they are we may be