Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


Volume 11 Page 78
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EDINBURGH FROM WARRISTON CEMETERY. 5' What the capital of Scotland does lack is climate. That, no genius of Scott and no engineering skill can 'procure for her. Her streets are swept by cold north-east winds, and her skies are heavy with the rain-clouds that alternately roll in from the ocean, or drift down upon her from the neighbouring hills. Yet still, in the hundred changeful effects of light and shade, she has a beauty more effective and appropriate than if she stood out in the bold relief of perfect and unclouded sunshine, Far to the southward drenching showers are sweeping along, and they obliterate the half-circle of the Moorfoot Hills, but in the slant rays of the afternoon sun all the spires and towers catch a pale splendour, and round their feet the city's smoke drifts away with the light westerly wind. How striking from here, rising above all the hazy wreaths, is the crowned belfry of old St. Giles's 1 It takes us back to the Edinburgh of Queen Mary and of John Knox, and we seem to live again in that time of fierce [email protected] strife. On the one side, we see ' the scarlet prelates' insolently maintaining ]he rights of tradition and the unity of a Church that they would fain keep as indivisible as was the seamless garment of Christ. On the other-side, are the black-robed preachers of the Geneva school, boldly claiming the liberty of the human conscience, and declaring the equality of priest and laic before the laws, and before Almighty God I These Reformers developed, through spiritual liberty, the progress of the Scottish nation: nor must it be forgotten that they helped to form the language of their country; what Calvin and Bonnivard did for the French language, Knox and Wishart and Henderson did for the vulgar tongue of Scotland. Through it they appealed to the heart of the people, and they used it as a weapon to combat tradition. Latin at that epoch was being exquisitely handled by George Buchanan, but the Reformers discarded it, and substituted for it the homely vernacular of their native land. Native eloquence, once planted, did not fail to grow, and the language, then first turned to noble uses, has since become history in the hands of Hume, philosophy in those of Dugald Stewart and of the elder Mill, criticism in those of Jeffrey, theology from the pulpits of Chalmers, MZeod, and Tulloch, and unequalled and undying fiction under the magic wand of Walter Scott. How close the great buildings seem to press on one another, as banks, colleges, hotels, churches, and galleries rise on either side of the valley of the old ' Nor' Loch ' 1 From the spot where we now stand, the horizontal l i e of the houses is Of how much does it not remind us I
Volume 11 Page 79
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