Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


Volume 11 Page 2
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- GENERAL DESCRIPTION. 3 There on their brows the moonbeam broke, Through the faint wreaths of silvery smoke, And on the casements played, And other light was none to see, Save torches gliding far.' We need here but allude to his prose touches of description-rapid and decisive-of the view of the Firth of Forth and the northem part of Edinburgh, in Guy Mannerhg, and of the city as seen in the morning froin Salisbury Crags, in the Heart of Mik'Zuthian. Yet, with the exception of the first-mentioned splendid burst in Ma?-mion, it is curious that Sir Walter Scott has painted no scene in or about or near Edinburgh with half such a powerful pencil as he has, in Rob Roy, the Cathedral and its environments in the ancient city of St. Mungo-a passage we have always considered as among the most sublime and suggestive pictures Scott ever drew, and as ranking among the first masterpieces of descriptive composition in the world. Scott, indeed, as a native of Edinburgh, could never have looked at it with the same fresh and new enthusiasm with which it has been beheld by many strangers seeing it for the first time. Haydon's exclamation when he saw it first was, "Tis a giant's dream ! ' And such is the feeling of many who never dared to use the words. It seemed as if it had been built to some unearthly music, or after a model suspended in the clouds, and formed by the hands of Air and Sunshine. Stone and Rock seemed here moulded into the express image of Genius, and Nature and Art were apparently reconciled. Religion, too, had hung up toward the glowing west the dome of St. George's, as if challenging the whole proud city as her own. And the marriage of man's perfect work and of God's ideal of beauty and grandeur had for witnesses the everlasting hills- Arthur's Seat and the rest-seeming guardians, too, over a dream city, and fixing what otherwise, like dreams, seemed ready to vanish away. We believe that in these words and images we have not exaggerated the feelings wherewith young imaginative minds were filled to ecstatic confusion on their first visit to Edinburgh. There was at first all the delight and delirium of a dream; nor did the disenchantment come soon, even after the bewildering whole had been resolved into its component parts. The fragments, like those of a cloud, were as aerial as the cloud itself. From Arthur's Seat Edinburgh rather dwindles and is drowned in the midst of its environments-the blue shores and indented hills of Fife; the ocean stretching eastwards to enfold the Bass Rock and North Berwick Law; the garden-land toward Berwick, dotted with little hills and half encircled by
Volume 11 Page 3
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