MEMORIALS OF A TOUR IN SCOTLAND
IN this tour, my wife and her sister Sara were my companions.
The account of the "Brownie's Cell" and the Brownies was given me
by a man we met with on the banks of Loch Lomond, a little above
Tarbert, and in front of a huge mass of rock, by the side of
which, we were told, preachings were often held in the open air.
The place is quite a solitude, and the surrounding scenery very
striking. How much is it to be regretted that, instead of writing
such Poems as the "Holy Fair" and others, in which the religious
observances of his country are treated with so much levity and too
often with indecency, Burns had not employed his genius in
describing religion under the serious and affecting aspects it
must so frequently take.
SUGGESTED BY A BEAUTIFUL RUIN UPON ONE OF THE ISLANDS OF LOCH
LOMOND, A PLACE CHOSEN FOR THE RETREAT OF A SOLITARY INDIVIDUAL,
FROM WHOM THIS HABITATION ACQUIRED THE NAME OF
THE BROWNIE'S CELL
To barren heath, bleak moor, and quaking fen,
Or depth of labyrinthine glen;
Or into trackless forest set
With trees, whose lofty umbrage met;
World-wearied Men withdrew of yore;
(Penance their trust, and prayer their store;)
And in the wilderness were bound
To such apartments as they found,
Or with a new ambition raised;
That God might suitably be praised.
High lodged the 'Warrior', like a bird of prey;
Or where broad waters round him lay:
But this wild Ruin is no ghost
Of his devices--buried, lost!
Within this little lonely isle
There stood a consecrated Pile;
Where tapers burned, and mass was sung,
For them whose timid Spirits clung
To mortal succour, though the tomb
Had fixed, for ever fixed, their doom!
Upon those servants of another world
When madding Power her bolts had hurled,
Their habitation shook;--it fell,
And perished, save one narrow cell;
Whither, at length, a Wretch retired
Who neither grovelled nor aspired:
He, struggling in the net of pride,
The future scorned, the past defied;
Still tempering, from the unguilty forge
Of vain conceit, an iron scourge!
Proud Remnant was he of a fearless Race,
Who stood and flourished face to face
With their perennial hills;--but Crime,
Hastening the stern decrees of Time,
Brought low a Power, which from its home
Burst, when repose grew wearisome;
And, taking impulse from the sword,
And, mocking its own plighted word,
Had found, in ravage widely dealt,
Its warfare's bourn, its travel's belt!
All, all were dispossessed, save him whose smile
Shot lightning through this lonely Isle!
No right had he but what he made
To this small spot, his leafy shade;
But the ground lay within that ring
To which he only dared to cling;
Renouncing here, as worse than dead,
The craven few who bowed the head
Beneath the change; who heard a claim
How loud! yet lived in peace with shame.
From year to year this shaggy Mortal went
(So seemed it) down a strange descent:
Till they, who saw his outward frame,
Fixed on him an unhallowed name;
Him, free from all malicious taint,
And guiding, like the Patmos Saint,
A pen unwearied--to indite,
In his lone Isle, the dreams of night;
Impassioned dreams, that strove to span
The faded glories of his Clan!
Suns that through blood their western harbour sought,
And stars that in their courses fought;
Towers rent, winds combating with woods,
Lands deluged by unbridled floods;
And beast and bird that from the spell
Of sleep took import terrible;--
These types mysterious (if the show
Of battle and the routed foe
Had failed) would furnish an array
Of matter for the dawning day!
How disappeared He?--ask the newt and toad,
Inheritors of his abode;
The otter crouching undisturbed,
In her dank cleft;--but be thou curbed,
O froward Fancy! 'mid a scene
Of aspect winning and serene;
For those offensive creatures shun
The inquisition of the sun!
And in this region flowers delight,
And all is lovely to the sight.
Spring finds not here a melancholy breast,
When she applies her annual test
To dead and living; when her breath
Quickens, as now, the withered heath;--
Nor flaunting Summer--when he throws
His soul into the briar-rose;
Or calls the lily from her sleep
Prolonged beneath the bordering deep;
Nor Autumn, when the viewless wren
Is warbling near the BROWNIE'S Den.
Wild Relique! beauteous as the chosen spot
In Nysa's isle, the embellished grot;
Whither, by care of Libyan Jove,
(High Servant of paternal Love)
Young Bacchus was conveyed--to lie
Safe from his step-dame Rhea's eye;
Where bud, and bloom, and fruitage, glowed,
Close-crowding round the infant-god;
All colours,--and the liveliest streak
A foil to his celestial cheek!