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has tacked together in Gaelic ? - My life to a moor-fowl's feather, you are provided with a version; for I know you are in all the bard's councils, and acquainted with his songs long before he rehearses them in the hall.”
“How can you say so, Fergus? You know how little these verses can possibly interest an English stranger, even if I could translate them as you pretend.”
“Not less than they interest me, lady fair. To-day your joint composition for I insist you had a share in it — has cost me the last silver cup in the castle, and I suppose will cost me something else next time I hold cour plénière, is the muse descends on MacMurrough; for you know our proverb, When the hand of the chief ceases to bestow, the breath of the bard is frozen in the utterance. Well, I would it were even so: there are three things that are useless to a modern Highlander, a sword which he must not draw, a bard to sing of deeds which he dare not imitate, and a large goat-skin purse without a louis-d'or to put into it.”
“Well, brother, since you betray my secrets, you cannot expect me to keep yours. I assure you, Captain Waverley, that Fergus is too proud to exchange his broadsword for a marechal's baton; that he esteems Mac-Murrough a far greater poet than Homer, and would not give up his goat-skin purse for all the louisd'or which it could contain."
Well pronounced, Flora; blow for blow, as Conan* said to the devil. Now do you two talk of bards and poetry, if not of purses and claymores, while I return to do the final honours to the senators of the tribe of Ivor.” So saying, he left the room.
The conversation continued between Flora and Waverley; for two well-dressed young women, whose character seemed to hover between that of companions and dependents, took no share in it. They were both pretty girls, but served only as foils to the grace and beauty of their patroness. The discourse followed the turn which the Chieftain had given it, and Waverley was equally amused and surprised with the account which the lady gave him of Celtic poetry.
“The recitation,” she said, “of poems, recording the feats of heroes, the complaints of lovers, and the wars of contending
See Note Y. Conan the Jester,
tribes, forms the chief amusement of a winter fire-side in the Highlands. Some of these are said to be very ancient, and if they are ever translated into any of the languages of civilized Europe, cannot fail to produce a deep and general sensation. Others are more modern, the composition of those family bards whom the chieftains of more distinguished pame and power retain as the poets and historians of their tribes. These, of course, possess various degrees of merit; but much of it must evaporate in translation, or be lost on those who do not sympathize with the feelings of the poet.”
“And your bard, whose effusions seemed to produce such effect upon the company to-day, is he reckoned among the favourite poets of the mountains?”
“That is a trying question. His reputation is high among his countrymen, and you must not expect me to depreciate it."*
“But the song, Miss Mac-Iyor, seemed to awaken all those warriors, both
and old.” “The song is little more than a catalogue of names of the Highland clans under their distinctive peculiarities, and an exhortation to them to remember and to emulate the actions of their forefathers.”
“And am I wrong in conjecturing, however extraordinary the guess appears, that there was some allusion to me in the verses which he recited?”
“You have a quick observation, Captain Waverley, which in this instance has not deceived you. The Gaelic language, being uncommonly vocalic, is well adapted for sudden and extemporaneous poetry; and a bard seldom fails to augment the effects of a premeditated song, by throwing in any stanzas which may be suggested by the circumstances attending the recitation."
“I would give my best horse to know what the Highland bard could find to say of such an unworthy Southron as myself."
“It shall not even cost you a lock of his mane. Una, Mavourneen! (She spoke a few words to one of the young girls in attendance, who instantly curtsied, and tripped out of the room.) 1
The Highland poet almost always was an improvisatore. Captain Burt met one of them at Lovat's table.
have sent Una to learn from the bard the expressions he used, and you shall command my skill as dragoman.”
Una returned in a few minutes, and repeated to her mistress a sew lines in Gaelic. Flora seemed to think for a moment, and then, slightly colouring, she turned to Waverley—“It is impossible to gratify your curiosity, Captain Waverley, without exposing my own presumption. If you will give me a few moments for consideration I will endeavour to ingraft the meaning of these lines upon a rude English translation, which I have attempted, of a part of the original. The duties of the tea-table seem to be concluded, and, as the evening is delightful, Una will show you the way to one of my favourite haunts, and Cathleen and I will join you there.”
Una, having received instructions in her native language, conducted Waverley out by a passage different from that through which he had entered the apartment. At a distance he heard the ball of the Chief still resouuding with the clang of bagpipes and the high applause of his guests. Having gained the open air by a postern door, they walked a little way up the wild, bleak, and narrow valley in which the house was situated, following the course of the stream that winded through it. In a spot, about a quarter of a mile from the castle, two brooks, which formed the little river, had their junction. The larger of the two came down the long bare valley, which extended, apparently without any change or elevation of character, as far as the hills which formed its boundary permitted the eye to reach. But the other stream, which had its source among the mountains on the left hand of the strath, seemed to issue from a very narrow and dark opening betwixt two large rocks. These streams were different also in character. The larger was placid, and even sullen in its course, wheeling in deep eddies, or sleeping in dark blue pools; but the motions of the lesser brook were rapid and furious, issuing from between precipices; like a maniac from his confinement, all foam
It was up the course of this last stream that Waverley like a koight of romance, was conducted by the fair Highland damsel, his silent guide. A small path, which had been rendered easy in many places for Flora's accommodation, led him through scenery Waverley.
of a very different description from that wbich he had just quitted. Around the castle, all was cold, bare, and desolate, yet tame even in desolation; but this narrow glen, at so short a distance, seemed to open into the land of Romance. The rocks assumed a thousand peculiar and varied forms. In one place, a crag of huge size presented its gigantic bulk, as if to forbid the passenger's farther progress; and it was not until he approached its very base, that Waverley discerned the sudden and acute turn by which the pathway wheeled its course around this formidable obstacle. In another spot, the projecting rocks from the opposite sides of the chasm had approached so near to each other, that two pine-trees laid across, and covered with turf, formed a rustic bridge at the height of at least one hundred and fifty feet. It had no ledges, and was barely three feet in breadth.
While gazing at this pass of peril, which crossed, like a single black line, the small portion of blue sky not intercepted by the projecting rocks on either side, it was with a sensation of horror that Waverley beheld Flora and her attendant appear, like inhabitants of another region, propped, as it were, in mid air, upon this trembling structure. She stopped upon observing him below, and, with an air of graceful ease, which made him shudder, waved her handkerchief to bim by way of signal. He was unable, from the sense of dizziness which her situation conveyed, to return the salute; and was never more relieved than when the fair apparition passed on from the precarious eminence which she seemed to occupy with so much in difference, and disappeared on the other side.
Advancing a few yards, and passing under the bridge which he had viewed with so much terror, the path ascended rapidly from the edge of the brook, and the glen widened into a silvao amphitheatre, waving with birch, young oaks, and hazels, with here and there a scattered yew-tree. The rocks now receded, but still showed their grey and shaggy crests rising among the copse-wood. Still higher, rose eminences and peaks, some bare, some clothed with wood, some round and purple with heath, and others splintered into rocks and crags. At a short turning, the path, which had for some furlongs lost sight of the brook, suddenly placed
Waverley in front of a romantic waterfall. It was not so remarkable either for great height or quantity of water, as for the beautiful accompaniments which made the spot interesting. After a broken cataract of about twenty feet, the stream was received in a large natural basin filled to the brim with water, which, where the bubbles of the fall subsided, was so exquisitely clear, that although it was of great depth, the eye could discern each pebble at the bottom. Eddying round this reservoir, the brook fouod its way as if over a broken part of the ledge, and formed a second fall, which seemed to seek the very abyss; then, wheeling out beneath from among the smooth dark rocks, which it had polished for ages, it wandered murmuring down the glen, forming the stream up which Waverley had just ascended.* The borders of this romantic reservoir corresponded in beauty; but it was beauty of a stern and commanding cast, as if in the act of expanding into grandeur. Mossy banks of turf were broken and interrupted by huge fragments of rock, and decorated with trees and shrubs, some of which had been planted under the direction of Flora, but so cautiously, that they added to the grace, without diminishing the romantic wildness of the scene.
Here, like one of those lovely forms which decorate the landscapes of Poussin, Waverley found Flora gazing on the waterfall. Two paces farther back stood Cathleen, holding a small Scottish harp, the use of which had been taught to Flora by Rory Dall, one of the last harpers of the Western Highlands. The sun, now stooping in the west, gave a rich and varied tinge to all the objects which surrounded Waverley, and seemed to add more than human brilliancy to the full expressive darkness of Flora's eye, cxalted the richness and purity of her complexion, and enhanced the dignity and grace of her beautiful form. Edward thought he had never, even in his wildest dreams, imagined a figure of such exquisite and interesting loveliness. The wild beauty of the retreat, bursting upon him as if by magic, augmented the mingled feeling of delight and awe with which he approached her, like a fair enchantress of Boiardo or Ariosto, by whose nod the scenery around seemed to have been created, an Eden in the wilderness. See Nole 2. Waterfull.