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Edinburgh Past and Present


I2 EDINBURGH PAST AND PRESENT. intricacies and associations of the other. Even now, although many changes have occurred since his day, and more are rapidly occurring, it is still possible to throw yourself back into the ‘Foreworld,’ and to dream your delightful way through the old courts and streets which, though dim and dusky with years, are burnished and gilded, as it were, with memories, and illuminated by ‘ The light which never was on sea or shore.’ In our early days, at all events, a thousand histories were round us as we walked or rather loitered on through regions where to loiter was still possible to all and inevitable to some; and where %e were waylaid at every step by the ghosts of Knox and Murray and Mary, and James IV. and George Buchanan, and Rizzio and Darnley, and Andrew Melville and Henderson of Leuchars, and Argyll and Montrose, and Jenny Geddes and Samuel Rutherfurd, and Fletcher of Saltoun, and Principal Robertson and Hugh Blair, and Robert Bums and William Smellie, and David Hume, and a hundred more of actual historical characters, as well as by the ‘shadows of shades ’-the simuZmnz of fictitious creatures, of Waverley and Fergus Mac- Ivor and the Baron of Bradwardine, and Jeanie Deans and David Deans, and Sir George Staunton and Madge Wildfire, and Dandie Dinmont and Colonel Mannering and Councillor Pleydell, and Peter Peebles and Saunders Fairford, and the others with which Scott has replenished the Old Town, till, ‘ between life-like dreams and dream-like realities, it is the most crowded city in the world ! Apart from the Old Town as a ‘ populous solitude’ of beings and characters, fictitious or real, it has many elements of interest, internal and external, peculiar to itself. To it belongs that feature alluded to in our former paper, and which Thomas Aird thus beautifully, and in his own best descriptive manner, characterises. ‘The New Town,’ he says, ‘is surpassingly fair, but there is far too much regularity, division, and dissipation of effect about it for commanding greatness. The only vast and overawing feature of the city is the backbone of the Old Town from the Castle to Holyrood, seen from the Calton, with all its evening lights, or in the smokeless air of the clear morning. Such a far grasping of the most irregular and daring piles in every form of jags in the enormous spine is absolutely tremendous.’ How finely he adds, too, in reference to Arthur‘s Seat :-‘ I have seen no hill so perfect of beauty. It is like a vase: look at it from all points and you have the same unique symmetry of form. The suffusion of sunny air on its lofty shoulders on a -
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'THE OLD TOWN. 13 ~ clear April day, and the ethereal blue' of the heavens above its grey rocks, are exquisite.' The general view of the Old Town referred to here by Aird is certainly the most imposing, but in its details and component parts it is scarcely less interesting. To it belongs the Castle, as itself an object of view. And here let us quote from PeteJs Utm-the best description we have read, or that probably exists, now, we fear, little read-of this great old antiquity :- 'From whatever side you approach the city, whether by water or by land, whether your foreground consist of height or of plain, of heath, of trees, or of the buildings of the city itself, this gigantic rock lifts itself high above all that surrounds it, and breaks upon the sky with the same commanding blackness of mingled cliffs, buttresses, and battlements, These indeed shift a d vary their outlines at every step, but everywhere there is the same unmoved effect of general impression, the same lofty and imposing image to which the eye tuns with the same unquestioning worship. Whether you pass on the southern side, close under the bare and shattered blocks of granite, where the crumbling turrets on the summit seem as if they had shot out of the kindred rock in some fantastic freak of Nature, and where, amidst the overhanging mass of darkness, you vainly endeavour to descry the track by which Wallace scaled; or whether you look from the north, where the rugged cliffs find room for some scanty patches of moss and broom to diversify their barren grey, and where the whole mass is softened into beauty by the wild green glen which inteienes between the spectator and the foundations ;-wherever you are placed, and wherever it is viewed, you feel at once that here is the eye of the landscape and €he essence of the grandeur. ' Neither is it possible to say under what sky or atmosphere all this appears to the greatest advantage. The heavens may put on what aspect they choose, they never fail to adorn it. If the air be cloudless and serene, what canbe finer than the calm reposing dignity of those old towers, every delicate angle of the fissured rock, every loophole and every lineament seen clearly and distinctly in all their minuteness ! Or if the mist be wreathed around the bases ofthe rock, and frowning fragments of the citadel emerge only here and there from the racking clouds that envelop them, the mystery and the gloom only rivet the eye the faster, and half-baffled'imagination does more than the work of sight. At times the whole detail is lost to the eye,-one murky tinge of impenetrable brown wraps rock and fortress from the root to the summit ; all is lost but the outline ; but the outline atones abundantly for all that is lost. The cold glare of the sun, plunging slowly down into a
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