Edinburgh Bookshelf

Edinburgh Past and Present


8 EDINBURGH PAST AND PRESENT. bright bubbles which arise when a stone disturbs the dark rivers of Africa, and reveal their profundity. But finer than this is the aspect of the city, especially of the Old Town, sleeping in the pale^ moonbeam, the steady weathercocks and steeples, and churches ‘ steeped in silentness,’ the leagues of light contrasted with the long black massive shadows, the hills with the pillow of their repose softened and rounded by the ‘ holier day ’ which is in its turn sleeping upon them,-the statues of the mighty in the squares looking supernaturally large and awful in the weird light, and the sounds of solitary footsteps in distant streets, breaking the stillness with a far unearthly shock of sound-the scene altogether so wild and fair ‘ You scarce would start to meet a spirit there,’ and can easily imagine that the City gf Palaces has become the City of the Dead, and that you are one of the few last men,’ who are surviving the catastrophe. We had not the pleasure of seeing this great city set on fire, burning with the loyalty of the 10th of March 1863, and as it were transfigured in the gush of its self-kindled glory, nor had we the still greater luxury of witnessing its environs or itself on the memorable day of the Volunteer Review in August 1860, nor the unveiling of the Albert Memorial on the 17th of August 1876. But twice we have seen Edinburgh on an occasion and in an aspect worthy of itself. Once was, as already alluded to, when in September 1835 Daniel OConnell appeared on the Calton Hill. Never can we forget, or cease often to remember, the glorious autumn day, the multitude assembled from every part of the kingdom, the appearance of the orator and Member for all Ireland, then turned sixty years of age, with his tall broad figure, his keen crafty eye, his head concealed by a green cap with a golden binding, the rich deep mellow tones of his voice, the careless grandeur of his diction, the ease and power of the conversational manner he adopted, the blended refinement and coarseness of his speaking-no poetry finer, no sarcasm or invective fouler than that which came alternately from his lips,-the inspired fervour of his pantomime, which, seen by thousands who could not hear a syllable he uttered, yet told like the play of distant lightning, the silence of his auditory, and at the close the deep sigh which broke from 30,000 hearts, when what seemed a strain of matchless melody descending from the lofty platform, or rather from the air above it, came to a close ! Never did that familiar scene appear so beautiful as on that day; it seemed as if it too were welcoming by its sweetest smiles and most gorgeous array the great
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GENERAL DESCRIPTION. 9 stranger who had come to visit it ‘in Erin’s yellow vesture clad,’ and in’ bearing ‘ every inch a king.‘ The second time was when, in 1842, we saw the young Prince Albert and Victoria riding up from Holyrood to the Castle. Then too Nature was propitious, and her smile mingled with those of tens of thousands of the loyal and leal-hearted of the land, at the sight of the princely pair in ‘the day of their espousals, and in the day of the gladness of their heart’ Nor did any prophetic whisper then darken or disturb the general and enthusiastic joy. Surely it was one of the proudest and most magnificent days that our Scottish metropolis ever saw-and she looked that morning as if she herself felt that it was. OLD INPIRUARY TOWER
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