the luminous morning mist, amid a line of masts and rigging,
the steamboat sailed down the Clyde to the sea. We proceeded
along the indented and rugged coast from one bay to another.
These bays, being almost entirely closed in, resemble lakes,
and the large sheets of water
mirror an amphitheater of green hills. All the corners and windings
of the shore are strewn with white villas; the water is crowded
with ships; a height was pointed out to me whence three hundred
sail may often be counted at a time; a three-decker floats in
the distance like a swan
among sea-mews. This vast space spread forth and full of life,
dilates the mind, one's chest expands more freely, one joyfully
inhales the fresh and keen breeze. But the effect upon the nerves
and the heart does not resemble that of the Mediterranean; this
air and country, instead of pre-disposing to pleasure, dispose
enter a small vessel drawn by three horses, which transports
us along the Crinan canal, between two banks of green turf.
On the one side are rocks covered with brushwood; on the other,
steep declivities of a gray
or reddish tinge; this, indeed, is color at least, a pleasure
for the eye, well mingled, matched, and blended tints. On the
bank and amid the bushes are wild roses, and fragile plants
with white tufts smile with a delicate and charming grace.
the outlet from the canal we go on board a large steamer, and
the sea opens out wider than ever. The sky is exceedingly clear
and brilliant, and the waves break in the sunlight, quivering
with reflections of molten tin. The vessel continues her course,
leaving in her track a
bubbling and boiling path; sea gulls follow unweariedly behind
her. On both sides, islands, rocks, boldly-cut promontories
stand in sharp relief in the pale azure; the scene changes every
quarter of an hour. But on rounding every point the infinite
ocean reappears, mingling its
almost flat line with the curve of the white sky.
sun sets, we pass by Glencoe, and Ben Nevis appears sprinkled
with snow; the bay becomes narrower, and the mass of water,
confined amid barren mountains, assumes a tragic appearance.
Human beings have come
hither to little purpose. Nature remains indomitable and wild;
one feels oneself upon a planet.
disembark near Fort William; the dying twilight, the fading
red rays on the horizon enable us to get a glimpse of a desolate
country; acres of peat-bog, eminences rising from the valley
between two ranges of huge
mountains. A bird of prey screams amid the stillness. Here and
there we see some wretched hovels; I am told that those on the
heights are dens without windows, and from which the smoke escapes
through a hole in the roof. Many of the old men are blind. What
an unpropitious abode for man!
the morrow we voyaged during four hours on the Caledonian canal
amidst solitudes, a monotonous row of treeless mountains, enormous
green eminences, dotted here and there with fallen stones. A
few sheep of a
dwarf breed crop the scanty herbage on the slopes; sometimes
the winter is so severe that they die; in the distance we perceive
a shaggy ox, with savage eyes, the size of a small ass. Both
plants and animals perish, or are stunted. In order to make
such a land yield anything it
must first be replanted with trees, as has been done in Sutherlandshire;
a tree renews the soil; it also shelters crops, flocks and herds,
and human beings.
canal terminates in a series of lakes. Nothing is more noble
than their aspect, nothing more touching. The water, embrowned
by the peat, forms a vast shining plain, surrounded by a circle
of mountains. In proportion as we advance each mountain slowly
grows upon us, becomes more conspicuous, stands forth with its
form and physiognomy; the farther blue peaks melt the one behind
the other, diminishing toward the horizon, which they enclose.
Thus they stand in position like an
assemblage of huge, mournful beings around the black water wherein
they are mirrored, while above them and the lake, from time
to time, the sun flashes through the shroud of clouds.
last the solitude becomes less marked. The mountains are half-wooded
at first, and then wholly so; they dwindle down; the widening
valleys are covered with harvest; the fresh and green verdure
of the herbage
which supplies forage begins to clothe the hollows and the slopes.
We enter Inverness, and we are surprised to find at almost the
extreme north of Scotland, on the border of the Highlands, a
pretty and lively modern town. It stretches along the two banks
of a clear and rapid
river. Many houses are newly-built; we note a church, a castle,
an iron bridge. In every part are marks of cleanliness, forethought,
and special care. The window-panes shine, the frames have been
painted; the bell-handles are of copper; there are flowers in
the windows; the poorest nouses are freshly whitewashed. Well-drest
ladies and carefully drest gentlemen walk along the streets.
Even a desire to possess works of art is shown by Ionian pillars,
specimens of pure Gothic, and other
architectural gimcrackery, and these prove at least the search
after improvement. The land itself is clearly of inferior quality;
industry, order, economy and labor have done everything. How
great the contrast between all this and the aspect of a small
town on the shores of the
Mediterranean, so neglected and filthy, where the lower middle
class exist like worms in a worm-eaten beam!
By Adolphe Taine.
To Tour Inverness