Sivut kuvina

tree, the eye rests on the far-receding and hazy distance !"

These passages serve to corroborate the opinion we have ventured to state respecting the connection of Christianity with the revival of a genuine love of nature. We may not trace here the varying fortunes of this feeling, or mark with any degree of precision the epochs in Europe's history when it waxed or waned. It is, however, impossible to overlook the important influence modern poets have exerted in rekindling this admiration. Pre-eminent amongst these for the influence they have exerted, is William Wordsworth. At an epoch when Europe was steeped in a materialistic philosophy, and when a sneering and critical spirit mocked at all that was deep or sincere, his was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, calling men to return from their false worships and literary idolatry, and, renouncing the gods of their poetical pantheon, listen anew to the melody of the voice of nature, which even now in the old age of the world sounds fresh and solemn as on creation's dawn. Wordsworth more than any other poet, if, perhaps, we may except Dante, has seized the evanescent points of nature's beauty. The daisy with its eye of gold looking up into the sky o'erhead, the solitary star shedding its reflex on the November ice, the mists that mantled his native mountains or slumbered over the stillness of the lakes, all that ever-shifting yet beautiful scenery midst which he dwelt was familiar to him, not merely in outline, but in each minutest detail.

Quite independently of Wordsworth's influence, though after a similar manner, had Hugh Miller become a worshipper in the same temple; amidst the serenity of the external world his mind became attuned to nature's harmonies; the scenes amidst which he laboured were, even more than books, the ministrants to his genius the hidden manna on which his spiritual nature fed. He communed with rock, flower, and stream, until each inanimate object was clothed in attributes and surrounded with associations that awoke within him feelings of almost human affection. Quitting the longwrought quarries of his native town, and crossing the Moray Frith, Hugh Miller began to work in one recently opened in an inferior member of the Old Red Sandstone. He had not been long employed on this northern shore, ere he discovered by the hill of Eathie, a liasic deposit, amazingly rich in organisms. The description he has given of this early discovery, will, we think, amply sustain all we have just said of his sympathy with nature, while illustrating the range and delicacy of his descriptive powers. “I can scarce hope to communicate to the reader, after the lapse of so many years, an adequate idea of the feeling of wonder which the marvels of this deposit excited in my mind, wholly new as they were to me at the time. Even the fairy lore of my first formed library--that of the birchen box-had impressed me less. The general tone of the colouring of these written leaves, though dimmed by the action of untold centuries, is still very striking. The ground is invariably of a deep neutral gray, verging on black, while the flattened organisms, which present about the same degree of relief as one sees in the figures of an embossed card, contrast with it in tints that vary from opaque to silvery white, and from pale yellow to an umbry or chestnut-brown. Groups of ammonites appear as if drawn in white chalk; clusters of a minute undescribed bivalve are still plated with thin films of the silvery nacre; the mytilaceæ usually bear a warm tint of yellowish brown, and must have been brilliant shells in their day; gryphites and oysters are always of a dark gray, and plagiostomæ ordinarily of a blueish or neutral tint. On some of the leaves curious pieces of incident seem recorded. We see fleets of minute terebratule that appear to have been covered up by some sudden deposit from above, when riding at their anchors; and whole argosies of ammonites that seem to have been wrecked at once by some untoward accident, and sent crushed and dead to the bottom. Assemblages of bright black plates, that shine like pieces of japan work, with numerous parallelogrammical scales, bristling with naillike points, indicate where some armed fish of the old ganoid order lay down and died, and groups of belem. nites, that lie like heaps of boarding-pikes thrown carelessly on a vessel's deck on the surrender of the crew, tell where sculls of cuttle-fishes of the ancient type had ceased to trouble the waters. I need scarce add that these spear-like belemnites formed the supposed thunderbolts of the deposit. Lying athwart some of the pages thus strangely inscribed, we occasionally find, like the dark hawthorn leaf in Bewick's well-known vignette, slim-shaped leaves coloured in deep umber; and branches of extinct pines, and fragments of strangely-fashioned ferns, form their more ordinary garnishing. Page after page, for tens and hundreds of feet together, repeat the same wonderful story. The great Alexandrian library, with its tomes of ancient literature, the accumulation of long ages, was but a meagre collection—not less puny in bulk than recent in date--compared with this marvellous library of Scotch Lias.” . This description were of itself enough to indicate that here was a mind not meant to vegetate among the flats and shallows of science, but possessing sufficient strength to scale her loftiest heights, or penetrate her most abysmal depths and subterranean recesses, clothing the while every nook and cranny, and mantling even her sternest cliffs with the enamel of its own gorgeous and picturesque vocabulary.

The profession of a mason had been chosen by Hugh Miller because of its winter leisure; and now his first winter is come, his year of labour is over, and the next three months are all his own. His cousin George is about to visit his father-in-law, an aged shepherd residing in the upper recesses of Strathcarron. Hugh is invited to accompany him, and gladly he accepts the invitation. The road from Cromarty to Strathcarron was a dreary moor unopened by any public way. The journey enabled him to see something more of the devastating influence of the clearance system. The noonday refreshment of the cousins was eaten in an uninhabited valley, among the ruins of fallen cottages, where once had dwelt some of the best swordsmen in Ross, lost to Scotland by a compulsory emigration. Cousin George came out strongly against the lairds. On arriving at the cottage of their friend, the shepherd, a highlander of large proportions, but hard and thin, and worn by the cares and toils of at least sixty winters, sat moodily beside the fire. Disease had smitten his flocks, and his mind was filled with strange forebodings. He had gone out after nightfall on a previous evening to a dark hollow in which many of his sheep had died. The rain had ceased a few hours before, and a smart frost had set in that filled the whole valley with a wreath of silvery vapour, dimly lighted by the thin fragment of a moon that appeared as if resting on the hill top; when suddenly, the figure of a man, formed as of heated metal,

« EdellinenJatka »