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NORTH. What colour would you call that Glare about the Crown of Cruachan ? Yellow?
SEWARD. You may just as well call it yellow as not. I never saw such a colour before-and don't care though I never see such again--for it is horrid. That is a-Glare.
NORTH. Cowper says grandly,
“ A terrible sagacity informs
The Poet's heart: he looks to distant storms;
He hears the thunder ere the tempest lowers." He is speaking of tempests in the moral world. You know the passage it is a fine one-so indeed is the whole Epistle–Table-Talk. I am a bit of a Poet myself in smelling thunder. Early this morning I set it down for midday-and it is mid-day now.
BULLER. Liker Evening
NORTH. Dimmish and darkish, certainly—but unlike Evening. I pray you look at the Sun,
BULLER. What about him?
NORTH. Though unclouded-he seems shrouded in his own solemn light-expecting thunder.
BULLER. There is not much motion among the clouds.
NORTH. Not yet. Merely what in Scotland we call & carry--yet that great central mass is double the size it was ten minutes ago—the City Churches are crowding round the Cathedral-and the whole assemblage lies under the shadow of the Citadel—with battlements and colonnades at once Fort and Temple.
NORTH. Weather-wise wizard-we are. That mutter was thunder. In five seconds you will hear some more. One-two-three-four-there; that was a growl. I call that good growling-sulky, sullen, savage growling, that makes the heart of Silence quake.
SEWARD. And mine.
NORTH. What? Dying away! Some incomprehensible cause is turning the thunderous masses round towards Appin.
SEWARD. And I wish them a safe journey.
NORTH. All right. They are coming this way-all at once the whole Thunderstorm. Flash-roar.
“ Be thou as lightning in the eyes of France;
For ere thou canst report I will be there,
The thunder of my cannon shall be heard." Who but Willy could have said that ?
SEWARD. Who said what?
NORTH. How ghastly all the trees !
BULLER. I gave him my handkerchief--for at this moment I know his head is like to rend. I wish I had kept it to myself; but no use-the lightning is seen through lids and hands, and would be through stone walls.
NORTH. Each flash has, of course, a thunder-clap of its own--if we knew where to look for it ; but, to our senses, all connexion between cause and effect is lost -such incessant flashings—and such multitudinous outbreaks--and such a continuous roll of outrageous echoes !
BULLER. Coruscation-explosion-are but feeble words.
NORTH. The Cathedral's on Fire.
BULLER. I don't mind so much those wide flarings among the piled clouds, as these gleams oh!
NORTH. Where art thou, Cruachan! Ay-methinks I see thec-methinks I do not-thy Three Peaks may not pierce the masses that now oppress theebut behind the broken midway clouds, those black purple breadths of solid earth are thine-thine those unmistakeable Cliffs—thine the assured beauty of that fearless Forest-and may the lightning scathe not one single tree!
BULLER, Nor man.
NORTA. This is your true total Eclipse of the Sun. Day, not night, is the time for thunder and lightning. Night can be dark of itself-nay, cannot help it; but when Day grows black, then is the blackness of darkness in the Bright One terrible ;-and terror-Burke said well—is at the heart of the sublime. The Light, such as it is, sets off the power of the lightning-it pales to that flashing—and is forgotten in Fire. It smells of hell.
NORTH. Give way to gasping—and lie down—nothing can be done for you. The · danger is not
SEWARD. I am not afraid -I am faint.
NORTH. You must speak louder, if you expect to be heard by ears of clay. Peals is not the word. “Peals on peals redoubled" is worse. There never was—and never will be a word in any language-for all that.
NORTH. Buller, you may count ten individual deluges-besides the descent of three at hand-conspicnous in the general Rain, which without them would be Rain sufficient for a Flood. Now the Camp has it-and let us enter the Pavilion.
I don't think there is much wind here-yet far down the black Loch is silently whitening with waves like breakers ; for here the Rain alone rules, and its rushing deadens the retiring thunder. The ebbing thunder! Still louder than any sea on any shore-but a diminishing loudness, though really vast, seems quelled; and, losing its power over the present, imagination follows it not into the distant region where it may be raging as bad as ever. Buller?
BULLER. What ?
NORTH. How's Seward ?
SEWARD. Much better. It was very, very kind of you, my dear sir, to carry me in your arms, and place me in your own Swing-chair. The change of atmosphere has revived me—but the Boys!
NORTH. The Boys-why, they went to the Black Mount to shoot an eagle, and see a thunder-storm, and long before this they have had their heart's desire. There are caves, Seward, in Buachail-Mor; and one recess I know-not a cave—but grander far than any cave-near the Fall of Eas-a-Bhrogich-far down below the bottom of the Fall, which in its long descent whitens the sable cliffs. Thither leads a winding access no storm can shake. In that recess you sit rock-surrounded—but with elbow-room for five hundred menand all the light you have and you would not wish for more--comes down upon you from a cupola far nearer heaven than that hung by Michacl Angelo.
SEWARD. The Boys are safe.
NORTH. Orthe lone House of Dalness has received them-hospitable now as of yore-or the Huntsman's hut—or the Shepherd's shieling—that word I love, and shall use it now—though shieling it is not, but a comfortable cottage—and the dwellers there fear not the thunder and the lightning-for they know they are in His hands—and talk cheerfully in the storm.
NORTH. In the Forests of the Marquis and of Monzie, the horns of the Red-deer are again in motion. In my mind's eye-Harry-I see one-an enormous fellowbigger than the big stag of Benmore himself—and not to be so easily brought to perform, by particular desire, the part of Moriens-giving himself a shake of his whole huge bulk, and a caive of his whole wide antlery--and then leading down from the Corrie, with Platonic affection, a herd of Hinds to the greensward islanded among brackens and heather-a spot equally adapted for feed, play, rumination, and sleep. And the Roes are glinting through the glades—and the Fleece are nibbling on the mountains' glittering breast-and the Cattle are grazing, and galloping, and lowing on the hills-and the furred folk, who are always dry, come out from crevices for a mouthful of the fresh air ; and the whole four-footed creation are jocund--are happy!
BULLER. What a picture!
NORTH. And the Fowls of the Air-think ye not the Eagle, storm-driven not unalarmed along that league-long face of cliff, is now glad at heart, pruning the wing that shall carry him again, like a meteor, into the subsided skies?
BULLER. Not possible. Strictly entailed.
NORTH. And the little wren flits out from the back door of her nest—too happy she to sing-and in a minute is back again, with a worm in her mouth, to her half-score gaping babies—the sole family in all the dell. And the seamews, sore against their will driven seawards, are returning by ones and twos, and thirties, and thousands, up Loch-Etive, and, dallying with what wind is still alive above the green transparency, drop down in successive parties of pleasure on the silver sands of Ardmatty, or lured onwards into the still leas of Glenliver, or the profounder quietude of the low mounds of Dalness.
NORTH. And thousands of Rills, on the first day of their apparent existence, are all happy too, and make me happy to look on them leaping and dancing down the rocks and the River Etive rejoicing in his strength, from far Kingshouse all along to the end of his journey, is happiest of them all ; for the storm that has swollen has not discoloured him, and with a pomp of clouds on his breast, he is flowing in his expanded beauty into his own desired Loch.
SEWARD. Is it fading—or is it brightening ?-no, it is not fading--and to brighten is impossible. It is the beautiful at perfection-it is dissolving—it is gone.
NORTH. I was waiting for the Rainbow. Many eyes besides ours are now regarding it-many hearts gladdened--but have you not often felt, Seward, as if such Apparitions came at a silent call in our souls—that we might behold them—and that the hour-or the moment—was given to us alone! So have I felt when walking alone among the great solitudes of Nature.
SEWARD. Lochawe is the name now for a dozen little lovely lakes! For, lo! as the vapours are rising, they disclose, here a bay that does not seem to be a bay, but complete in its own encircled stillness,—there a bare grass island-yes, it is Inishail—with a shore of mists,—and there, with its Pines and Castle, Freoch, as if it were Loch Freoch, and not itself an Isle. Beautiful bewilderment ! but of our own creating !—for thus Fancy is fain to dally with what we loveand would seek to estrange the familiar -as if Lochawe in its own simple grandeur were not all-sufficient for our gaze.
BULLER. Let me try my hand. No--10--10–I can see and feel, have an eye and a heart for Scenery, as it is called, but am no hand at a description. My dear, sweet, soft-breasted, fair-fronted, bright-headed, delightful Cruachanthy very name, how liquid with open vowels-not a consonant among them all-no Man-Mountain Thou—Thou art the LADY OF THE LAKE. I am in love with Thee-Thou must not think of retiring from the earth-Thou must not take the veil_off with it off with it from those glorious shoulders -and come, in all Thy loveliness, to my long-my longing arms!
SEWARD. Is that the singing of larks ?
NORTH. No larks live here. The laverock is a Lowland bird, and loves our brairded fields and our pastoral braes; but the Highland mountains are not for himhe knows by instinct that they are haunted-though he never saw the shadow nor heard the sugh of the eagle's wing.
SEWARD. The singing from the woods seems to reach the sky. They have utterly forgotten their fear; or think you, sir, that birds know that what frightened them is gone, and that they sing with intenser joy because of the fear that kept them mute ?
NORTH. The lambs are frisking-and the sheep staring placidly at the Tents. I hear the hum of bees-returned-and returning from their straw-built Citadels. In the primal hour of his winged life, that wavering butterfly goes by in search of the sunshine that meets him ; and happy for this generation of ephemerals that they first took wing on the afternoon of the day of the Great Storm.
NORTH. I am not a Laker-I am a Locher.
NORTH. I cannot accept a compliment at the expense of all the rest of my countrymen. I cannot indeed.