Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

MACLEOD OF BERNERAY.

7

[ocr errors]

who adorned his profession, not so much by a literary merit, of which he possessed a considerable share, as by a consistent practice of the most useful and excellent virtues. To do good was the ruling passion of his heart; in composing differences, in diffusing the spirit of peace and friendship, in relieving the distressed, in promoting the happiness of the widow and orphan, his zeal was almost unexampled, his activity unmeasured, his success remarkable. is almost unnecessary to add that he lived with a most amiable character, and died universally regretted.”

A somewhat curious circumstance is the following :-One of the Rev. Mr. Macleod's daughters was married to Macleod of Berneray, she being that gentleman's third wife. Berneray was at the date of this third marriage seventy-five years of age, notwithstanding which he became by this lady the father of nine children. He lived a hale and hearty old man till he was upwards of ninety. He was reckoned in his day a splendid specimen of the stalwart, sterling, straight-forward, and chivalrous Highland gentleman, "all of the olden time.”

CHAPTER II.

Autumnal Tints-Solomon and the Queen of Sheba-Sortes Sacra-Sortes Virgilianu

Charles the First and Lord Falkland-Virgilius the Magician-- Thomas of Ercildoune.

With occasional gales of wind and blustering showers [October 1868], that, from their chilliness and snellness, you suspect to be sleet, although you don't like as yet exactly to say so—meteorological phenomena, however, in no way strange or unusual on the back of the autumnal equinox—the weather with us here continues delightfully bright and breezy, and the country looks beautiful. Field and upland are still as freshly green as at midsummer, while the deep, rich russet hues and golden tints of the declining year, gleaming in the fitful sunlight, and intermingling their glories with the still beautifully fresh and unspotted foliage of our hardier trees and shrubs ; with the ripe, ruddy bloom of the heather empurpling the moorland and the hill, and a perfect sea of “brackens brown ” mantling the mountain side, and fringing, in loving companionship with the birch, the alder, and the hazel, the torrent's brink, as it leaps in foam from rock to rock and dashes downwards with its wild music to the sea, -all this, with a thousand indescribable accessories, scarcely perceptible indeed in the general effect, but all bearing their fitting part in the delightful whole, presents at this season, and never more markedly than this year, a scene that you never tire of gazing at, and declaring again and again, and with all your heart, to be “ beautiful exceedingly.” As you gaze on such a scene as this, you feel that no painter could paint it; that there is a something in it all too subtile and spiritual to be transferred

AUTUMNAL TINTS.

9

to canvas by any art whatever. An imitation, indeed, of all that is palpable and tangible about it you may get, and it may be very beautiful perhaps, and a triumph of art in a way; but, even as you gaze in admiration, ready to grant the artist all the praise that is his due, are you not apt, remembering the scene as nature has it, to

Start, for soul is wanting there ?"

a

But we must not be misunderstood. Painters and painting we love, and have always loved, and should be sorry, indeed, to be considered as in any way dead or indifferent to the power and beauty of the art. Painting, after all, however, and especially landscape painting, is but an imitative art, and the longer we live, and the more we are brought face to face with nature, the more shall we feel that there is a charm, an attractiveness, and a loveliness about her all her own—a something that you feel but cannot describe, that the artist as he gazes feels too, and strives to grasp and instil into his picture, but cannot charm into interminglement with his colours, "charm he never so wisely." Viewed æsthetically, nature in sooth consists not of matter only, but of matter and spirit, and therein is the secret of her surpassing power over us. You may subtly imitate and reproduce exact representations of her more prominent features and general outlines, and the painter, according as he is more or less gifted with the poetic mens divina, may infuse a moral meaning into his work, and a subtile beauty entirely independent of the mere manipulation of his subject—be it landscape, seascape, or cloudscape—and his work may impart instruction as well as pleasure and delight; but, granting all this, there shall still be something awanting even in the finest pictures, that something which we have ventured to call spirit—the spirit that pervades and permeates nature in all her works, that is her life, that may be “spiritually discerned” in her, but cannot be transferred to canvas.

In the collection of Jewish traditions known as the Talmud there is a very pretty story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, that will serve to illustrate our meaning better than the longest dissertation could be. It is to the following effect :- Attracted by his wealth, and wisdom, and power—the fame whereof had gone forth into all lands—the Queen of Sheba, the Beautiful, paid a visit to Solomon, the Wise, at his own court, that she might there admire the splendour of his throne and be instructed of his wisdom. Charmed with the courtesy and gallantry of the accomplished King, delighted with the magnificence and splendour of his court, and amazed at his surpassing wisdom, which, indeed, exceeded all that she had heard reported of it, the Queen still thought that Solomon could be outwitted, and she resolved to have the glory of puzzling and outwitting one so wise. To this end she one day presented herself before the King, bearing in one of her hands a wreath of natural flowers, the most beautiful she could gather, and in the other a similar wreath of artificial flowers, the most beautiful and like unto natural flowers that the cunning of herself and her handmaidens could fashion. Of the two wreaths the hues were of the brightest, and the flowers of the one wreath were as if they had been pulled off the same stalks that bore the flowers of the other. “ Tell me now, O King,” said the Queen as she stood at some distance from the throne whereon the monarch sate, “Tell me now, O King, which of these wreaths I hold in my hands is fashioned of artificial flowers, for one of them is so fashioned ; and which of them of natural flowers, that grew from out the earth, and imbibed their beauty and their brightness from the sun, for of such of a truth is one of them formed ?” And, lo, the King was perplexed and sorely troubled, for he wist not what answer to make, seeing that the two wreaths were as like one to another as twin sisters at their mother's breast, or twin lilies on the same stalk. And the courtiers of the King, and his princes, and his servants,

a

[ocr errors]

SOLOMON AND THE QUEEN OF SHEBA.

II

were sorely grieved that the sagacity of the King should be at fault, and his superhuman wisdom at last fail. But, lo, the spirit of wisdom came upon the King in his perplexity. Observing some bees clustering outside, he ordered the window to be opened, and soon the bees came swarming into the court, and after hovering for a moment about the one wreath, they straightway left it and settled upon the other, which observing, That,said the King, that, and not the other, is the wreath of the flowers that grew from out the earth and in the sun, and were not fashioned with hands." And the Queen was mightily surprised at the exceeding wisdom of the King, and did obeisance unto Solomon, laying the wreaths of flowers upon the steps of the ivory throne that was overlaid with gold, and of which there was not the like made in any kingdom. And the courtiers, and the princes, and the servants of the King clapped their hands and cried, “O King ! live for ever.” If we are wise and judge aright, we shall always, like the bees of Solomon, be attracted by nature rather than by art, however beautiful. Our doctrine was never, perhaps, so briefly and pithily enforced as by the Macedonian conqueror on a certain occasion. A courtier one day asked him to listen to him how well he could, whistling, imitate the notes of the nightingale. Alexander declined the proffered musical entertainment with the contemptuous remark, I have heard the nightingale herself.” No wonder that the would-be melodist slunk away abashed; and such be the fate of all mere echoers and imitators when at any time they claim more than is their due, or would have us appraise their pinchbeck at the value of sterling gold. There is an amount of truth, and a hidden meaning and beauty, in Byron's lines, that he was himself perhaps unconscious of in the ribald mood of the moment, when, alluding to the statuary's art, he exclaimed

I've seen much finer women, ripe and real,

Than all the nonsense of their stone ideal."

« AnteriorContinuar »