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The Highlands

Look now only at the Linnhe Loch - it gladdens Argyle! Without it and the sound of Mull how sad would be the shadows of Morven! Eclipsed the splendours of Loin! Ascend one of the heights of Appin, and as the waves roll in light, you will feel how the mountains are beautified by the sea. There is a majestic rolling onwards there that belongs to no land-loch——only to the world of waves. There is no nobler image of ordered power than the tide, whether in flow or in ebb; and on all now it is felt to be beneficent, coming and going daily, to enrich and adorn. Or in fancy will you embark, and let the "Amethyst" bound away "at her own sweet will," accordant with yours, till she reach the distant and long-desired loch.

'Loch-Sunart! who, when tides and tempests roar,
Comes in among these mountains from the main,
‘Twixt wooded Ardnamurchan’s rocky cape
And Ardmore’s shingly beach of hissing spray;
And, while his thunders bid the sound of Mull
Be dumb, sweeps onwards past a hundred bays
Hill-sheltered from the wrath that foams along
'The mad mid-channel,—All as quiet they
As little separate worlds of summer dreams,-
And by storm-loving birds attended up
The mountain-hollow, white in their career
As are the breaking billows, spurns the Isles
Of craggy Carnich, and Green Oronsay
Drench’d in that sea-born shower o’er tree-tops driven
And ivied stones of what was once a tower 
Now hardly known from rocks—and gathering might
In the long reach between Dungallan caves
And point of Arderinis ever fair
With her Elysian groves, bursts through that strait
Into another ampler inland sea;
Till lo! subdued by some sweet influence, — 
And potent is she though so meek the Eve, — 
Down sinketh wearied the old Ocean
Insensibly into a solemn calm, - 
And all along that ancient burial-ground,
(its kirk is gone,) that seemeth now to lend
Its own eternal quiet to the waves,
Restless no more, into a perfect peace
Lulling and lull’d at last, while drop the airs
Away as they were dead, the first risen star
Beholds that lovely Archipelago,
All shadow’d there as in a spiritual world,
Whore time’s mutations shall come never more!"

These lines describe but one of innumerable lochs that owe their greatest charm to the sea. It is indeed one of those on which nature has lavished all her infinite varieties of loveliness; but Loch Leven is scarcely less fair, and perhaps grander; and there is matchless magnificence about Loch Etive. All round about Ballachulish and Invercoe the scenery of Loch Leven is the sweetest ever seen overshadowed by such mountains; the deeper their gloom the brighter its lustre; in all weathers it wears a cheerful smile; and often while up among the rocks the tall trees are tossing in the storm, the heart of the woods beneath is calm, and the vivid fields they shelter look as if they still enjoyed the sun. Nor closes the beauty there, but even animates the entrance into that dreadful glen—Glencoe. All the way up its river, Loch Leven would be fair, were it only for her hanging woods. But though the glen narrows, it still continues broad, and there are green plains between her waters and the mountains, on which stately trees stand single, and there is ample room for groves. The returning tide tells us, should we forget it, that this is no inland loch, for it hurries away back to the sea, not turbulent, but fast as a river in flood. The river Leven is one of the finest in the Highlands, and there is no other such series of waterfalls, all seen at once, one above the other, along an immense vista; and all the way up to the farthest there are noble assemblages of rocks— nowhere any want of wood—and in places, trees that seem to have belonged to some old forest. Beyond, the opening in the sky seems to lead into another region, and it does so; for we have gone that way, past some small lochs, across a wide wilderness, with mountains on all sides, and descended on Loch Treag,

"A loch whom there are none to praise
And very few to love,

but overflowing in our memory with all pleasantest images of pastoral contentment and peace.

Loch Etive, between the ferries of Connel and Bunawe, has been seen by almost all who have visited the Highlands but very imperfectly; to know what it is you must row or aail up it, for the banks on both sides are often richly wooded, assume many fine forms, anti are frequently well embayed, while the expanse of water is sufficiently wide to allow you from its centre to command a view of many of the distant heights. But above Bunawe it is not like the same loch. For a couple of miles it is not wide, and. it is so darkened by enormous shadows that it looks even less like a strait than a gulf—huge overhanging rocks on both sides ascending high, and yet felt to belong but to the bases of mountains that sloping far back have their summits among clouds of their own in another region of the sky. Yet are they not all horrid; for nowhere else is there such lofty heather—it seems a wild sort of brushwood; tall trees flourish, single or in groves, chiefly birches, with now and then an oak—and they are in their youth or their prime—and even the prodigious trunks, some of which have been dead for centuries, are not all dead, but shoot from their knotted rhind symptoms of life inextinguishable by time and tempest. Out of this gulf we emerge into the Upper Loch, and its amplitude sustains the majesty of the mountains, all of the highest order, and seen from their feet to their crests. Cruachan wears the crown, and reigns over them all—king at once of Loch Etive and of Loch Awe. But Buachaille Etive, though afar off, is still a giant, and in some lights comes forwards, bringing with him the Black Mount and its dependents, so that they all seem to belong to this most magnificent of all Highland lochs. "I know not," says Macculloch, "that Loch Etive could bear an ornament without an infringement on that aspect of solitary vastness which it presents throughout. Nor is there one. The rocks and bays on the shore, which might elsewhere attract attention, are here swallowed up in the enormous dimensions of the surrounding mountains, and the wide and ample expanse of the lake. A solitary house, here fearfully solitary, situated far up in Glen Etive, is only visible when at the upper extremity; and if there be a tree, as there are in a few places on the shore, it is unseen; extinguished as if it were a humble mountain flower, by the universal magnitude around." This is finely felt and expressed; but even on the shores of Loch Etive there is much of the beautiful; Ardmatty smiles with its meadows, and woods, and bay, and sylvan stream; other sunny nooks repose among the grey granite masses; the colouring of the banks and braes is often bright; several houses or huts become visible no long way up the glen; and though that long hollow—half a day’s journey—till you reach the wild road between Inveruran and King’s House—lies in gloom, yet the hillsides are cheerful, and you delight in the greensward, wide and rock-broken, should you ascend the passes that lead into Glencreran or Glencoe. But to feel the full power of Glen Etive you must walk up it till it ceases to be a glen. When in the middle of the moor, you see far off a solitary dwelling indeed—perhaps the loneliest house in all the Highlands—and the solitude is made profounder, as you pass by, by the voice of a cataract, hidden in an awful chasm, bridged by two or three stems of trees, along which the red-deer might fear to venture —but we have seen them and the deer-hounds glide over it, followed by other fearless feet, when far and wide the Forest of Dalness was echoing to the hunter’s horn.



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