Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 97 More recent evils, stranger, I deplore, The Gael are banished from their native shore ! Shepherds, a sordid few, their lands possess :- System accursed. What scenes of dire distress Hath this not caused 0 See you deserted glen, Of late the blessed abode of happy men ; ‘Tis now a dreary void ! Save where you tree, By bleak winds blasted, marks the stern decree Which doomed to ruin all the hamlet round, And changed to shep-waZks this devoted ground ! ” These lines, certainly among the best, embody the substance of the Poem, which is branched out into six books, or chapters. The object of the publication was to expose the depopulation policy of the Highland proprietors, and to induce legislative attention to the subject. The proceeds of the sale were to be given to a proposed fund for cultivating waste lands, that the Gael, in place of expatriation, might be employed advantageously in their own country. In the attainment of these patriotic objects, Mr. Campbell’s poetical efforts fell short ; but there is one circumstance, of a local nature, connected with the “ Grampians Desolate,” which we cannot pass over in silence, strongly indicative of the author’s active benevolence, in so far as his influence and means extended. The story is related by himself in a note to the following couplet :- “ Wearied and faint, they search, and find at last A wretched hovel-share a poor repast.” “It was in the depth of winter (in the year 1784) ; a heavy fall of mow had lain long on the ground ; the north wind blew keenly, and chilled one almost to death, when Alexander Lawson, a well-disposed penon (by trade a weaver) came to me and requested my chanty for a poor, destitute family, who had taken shelter in a wretched hovel, a few doors from his workshop. My curiosity being excited by the description he gave of their deplorable condition, I followed him to the spot. We descended a few steps into what had once, perhaps, been a cellar, A small lamp, placed in one corner of this hole, for it could not be called a habitable place, gave hardly Rufficient light to show the miserable state of those persons who had taken shelter in it from the inclemency of the storm. In one row, on a bed of straw made on the cold damp floor, were laid three men ; their only coveiing plaids, for they were Highlanders, and their dissolution seemed fast approaching. A woman, apparently past the middle period of life, who supported the head of the eldest on her lap, lifted up her eyes as we entered, looked wistfully at us, and shook her head, but uttered not a word, nor did a sigh escape her. ‘Alas ! good.woman,’ said I, ‘have you no one to look after you in this destitute condition ?’-‘She can converse in no other save her native tongue,’ said my conductor ; and I addressed her in that language ; when she instantly raised her eyes, in which a faint gleam of joy seemed for a moment to sparkle. Laying the head of her husband (for such the eldest of the three men was) gently down on the straw, she suddenly sprang up, came forward, seized me by both hands, cast a look upwards, and exclaimed, ‘ 0 God ! whom hast Thou sent to comfort us !’ Then looking me stedfastly in the face, she said, ‘In this wretched condition you thus see me among strangen. My husband and these my two sons are fast hastening to their graves. Nine days and nights have their blood boiled in the malignant illness you now see wasting them. It is now almost three days since I tasted the last morsel of bread.’ She then turned to her dying family, wrung her hands, and remained silent. On turning from this affecting scene, I observed a decent old woman coming forward to inquire for the unhappy sufferers; and, by the interest she seemed to take in their welfare, it led me to hope that, through her kind assistance, I should be enabled to afford them some relief. Having in the meantime ordered them an immediate supply of things absolutely necessary, I made haste to call in medical assistance ; but, alas ! it was too late ; for the fever had already wasted the living energy in them ; and, notwithstanding every1 possible aid art’ could administer under such unfavourable circumstances as their cases presented, when I called next morning, I found the father and his eldest son in the agonies of death. AU was silent. In a few VOL 11. 0
Volume 9 Page 130
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print