« AnteriorContinuar »
cities, man is shut out from his fellows if he is poor; the cottager must be very dirty, and very wretched, if she be not thrifty-the present state of society demands this, and this convinces me that the world is very young, and in a very ignorant state. We live in a barbarous age. I would sooner be a wild deer, than a girl under the dominion of the Kirk; and I would sooner be a wild hog, than be the occasion of a poor creature's penance before those execrable elders.
It is not so far to the Giant's Causeway as we supposed: we thought it seventy, and we hear it is only forty-eight miles ;-so we shall leave one of our knapsacks here at Donaghadee, take our immediate wants, and be back in a week, when we shall proceed to the county of Ayr. In the packet, yesterday, we heard some ballads from two old men. One was a romance, which seemed very poor; then there was "The Battle of the Boyne," then "Robin Huid," as they call him-"Before the king you shall go, go, go; before the king you shall go."
July 9th.-We stopped very little in Ireland; and that you may not have leisure to marvel at our speedy return to Port Patrick, I will tell you it is as dear living in Ireland as at the Hummums-thrice the expense of Scotland-it would have cost us £15 before our return; moreover we found those forty-eight miles to be Irish ones, which reach to seventy English; so having walked to Belfast one day, and back to Donaghadee the next, we left Ireland with a fair breeze. We slept last night at Port Patrick, when I was gratified by a letter from you. On our walk in Ireland, we had too much opportunity to see the worse than nakedness, the rags, the dirt, and misery, of the poor common Irish. A Scotch cottage, though in that sometimes the smoke has no exit but at the door, is a palace to an Irish one. We had the pleasure of finding our way through a peat-bog, three miles long at leastdreary, flat, dank, black, and spongy-here and there were poor dirty creatures, and a few strong men cutting or carting peat. We heard, on passing into Belfast, through a most wretched suburb, that most disgusting of all noises, worse than the bag-pipes, the laugh of a monkey, the chatter of women, the scream of macaw-I mean the sound of the shuttle. What a tremendous diffi. culty is the improvement of such people. I cannot conceive how
a mind "with child" of philanthropy could grasp at its possibility with me it is absolute despair. At a miserable house of entertainment, half-way between Donaghadee and Belfast, were two men sitting at whisky-one a laborer, and the other I took to be a drunken weaver: the laborer took me to be a Frenchman, and the other hinted at bounty-money, saying he was ready to take it. On calling for the letters at Port Patrick, the man snapped out, "What regiment?" On our return from Belfast we met a sedan -the Duchess of Dunghill. It is no laughing matter though. Imagine the worst dog-kennel you ever saw, placed upon two poles from a mouldy fencing. In such a wretched thing sat a squalid old woman, squat like an ape half-starved from a scarcity of biscuit in its passage from Madagascar to the Cape, with a pipe in her mouth, and looking out with a round-eyed, skinny-lidded inanity, with a sort of horizontal idiotic movement of her head: squat and lean she sat, and puffed out the smoke, while two ragged, tattered girls carried her along. What a thing would be a history of her life and sensations; I shall endeavor, when I have thought a little more, to give you my idea of the difference between the Scotch and Irish. The two Irishmen I mentioned were speaking of their treatment in England, when the weaver said— "Ah! you were a civil man, but I was a drinker."
Till further notice, you must direct to Inverness.
Returning from Ireland, the travelers proceeded northwards by the coast, Ailsa Rock constantly in their view. That fine object appeared to them, in the full sunlight, like a transparent tortoise asleep on the calm water, then, as they advanced, displaying its lofty shoulders, and, as they still went on, losing its distinctness in the mountains of Arran and the extent of Cantire that rose behind. At the inn at Girvan Keats wrote this
SONNET ON AILSA ROCK.*
Harken, thou craggy ocean-pyramid,
Thee heave to airy sleep from fathom dreams—
First with the whales, last with the eagle-skies!
MAYBOLE, July 11 .
MY DEAR REYnolds,
I'll not run over the ground we have passed; that would be nearly as bad as telling a dream—unless, perhaps, I do it in the manner of the Laputan printing press; that is, I put down mountains, rivers, lakes, dells, glens, rocks, with beautiful, enchanting, gothic, picturesque, fine, delightful, enchanting, grand, sublime-a few blisters, &c.-and now you have our journey thus far; where I begin a letter to you because I am approaching Burns's cottage very fast. We have made continual inquiries from the time we left the tomb at Dumfries. His name, of course, is known all about: his great reputation among the plodding people is, "that he wrote a good mony sensible things." One of the pleasant ways of annulling self is approaching such a shrine as the Cottage of Burns: we need not think of his misery -that is all gone, bad luck to it! I shall look upon it hereafter with unmixed pleasure, as I do on my Stratford-on-Avon day with Bailey. I shall fill this sheet for you in the Bardie's country, going no further than this, till I get to the town of Ayr, which will be a nine miles' walk to tea.
* In the collected Works.
We were talking on different and indifferent things, when, on a sudden, we turned a corner upon the immediate country of Ayr. The sight was as rich as possible. I had no conception that the native place of Burns was so beautiful; the idea I had was more desolate his "Rigs of Barley" seemed always to me but a few strips of green on a cold hill-Oh, prejudice !-It was as rich as Devon. I endeavored to drink in the prospect, that I might spin it out to you, as the silk-worm makes silk from mulberry leaves. I cannot recollect it. Besides all the beauty, there were the mountains of Annan Isle, black and huge over the sea. We came down upon every thing suddenly; there were in our way the " bonny Doon," with the brig that Tam o' Shanter crossed, Kirk Alloway, Burns's Cottage, and then the Brigs of Ayr. First we stood upon the Bridge across the Doon, surrounded by every phantasy of green in tree, meadow, and hill: the stream of the Doon, as a farmer told us, is covered with trees "from head to foot." You know those beautiful heaths, so fresh against the weather of a summer's evening; there was one stretching along behind the
I wish I knew always the humor my friends would be in at opening a letter of mine, to suit it them as nearly as possible. I could always find an egg-shell for melancholy, and, as for merriment, a witty humor will turn any thing to account. My head is sometimes in such a whirl in considering the million likings and antipathies of our moments, that I can get into no settled strain in my letters. My wig! Burns and sentimentality coming across you and Frank Floodgate in the office. Oh, Scenery, that thou shouldst be crushed between two puns! I venture the rascalliest in the Scotch region. does not put them in his journal: if he does, I must sit on the cutty-stool all next winter. We went to Kirk Alloway. "A prophet is no prophet in his own country." We went to the Cottage and took some whisky. I wrote a sonnet for the mere sake of writing some lines under the roof: they are so bad I cannot transcribe them. The man in the cottage was a great bore with his anecdotes. I hate the rascal. His life consists in fuzy, fuzzy, fuzziest. He drinks glasses, five for the quarter, and twelve for the hour; he is a mahogany-faced old jackass who knew Burns:
As for them, I hope Brown
he ought to have been kicked for having spoken to him. He calls himself “a curious old bitch," but he is a flat old dog. I should like to employ Caliph Vathek to kick him. Oh, the flummery of a birth-place! Cant! cant! cant! It is enough to give a spirit the guts-ache. Many a true word, they say, is spoken in jestthis may be because his gab hindered my sublimity: the flat dog made me write a flat sonnet. My dear Reynolds, I cannot write about scenery and visitings. Fancy is indeed less than present palpable reality, but it is greater than remembrance. You would lift your eyes from Homer only to see close before you the real Isle of Tenedos. You would rather read Homer afterwards than remember yourself. One song of Burns's is of more worth to you than all I could think for a whole year in his native country. His misery is a dead weight upon the nimbleness of one's quill; I tried to forget it—to drink toddy without any care—to write a merry sonnet-it won't do-he talked, he drank with blackguards; he was miserable. We can see horribly clear, in the works of such a man, his whole life, as if we were God's spies. What were his addresses to Jean in the after part of his life? I should not speak so to you-Yet, why not? You are not in the` same case-you are in the right path, and you shall not be deceived. I have spoken to you against marriage, but it was general. The prospect in these matters has been to me so blank, that I have not been unwilling to die. I would not now, for I have inducements to live-I must see my little nephews in America, and I must see you marry your lovely wife. My sensations are sometimes deadened for weeks together-but, believe me, I have more than once yearned for the time of your happiness to come, as much as I could for myself after the lips of Juliet. From the tenor of my occasional rhodomontade in chit-chat, you might have been deceived concerning me in these points. Upon my soul, I have been getting more and more close to you every day, ever since I knew you, and now one of the first pleasures I look to is your happy marriage-the more, since I have felt the pleasure of loving a sister-in-law. I did not think it possible to become so much attached in so short a time. Things like these, and they are real, have made me resolve to have a care of my health-you must be as careful.