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The Highlanders are naturally a courageous people, and make most excellent soldiers. The British armies, during the last war, received their choicest supplies from them; and it is well known, that Napoleon paid them a high compliment, which, coming from such a man, must have been very flattering to their feelings. By the abolition of the feudal jurisdiction, the wild and lawless system which formerly distinguished these men, has been destroyed. They are no longer the satellites of a bloodthirsty chieftain. Every individual is now obliged to provide for his “are et foci,” by honest labour, and subordination to the wholesome regulations of a general police; and he no longer depends on the bounty of his chief for subsistence, nor ministers to his rapacity or vengeance, out of gratitude for his rude hospitality.
I have seen but few handsome lassies during this journey. Their features are contracted by the sharp grasp of poverty, and their skin loses its softness in the blasts, and its whiteness by exposure. But there are some exceptions; and I witnessed scenes, not unlike that 80 beautifully described by the author of
Waverley.” “ Three or four village girls, returning from the well or brook, with pitchers and pails upon their heads, formed pleasing objects; and with their short gowns and single petticoats, bare arms, legs and feet, uncovered heads and braided hair, somewhat resembled Italian forms of landscape.” One evening, as
I was approaching Loch Achray, which has been so exquisitely painted by Walter Scott, I perceived a couple of girls bathing in the transparent stream: how strongly did this scene recal to my mind the luscious, yet delicate description, which Thomson gives of Musidora bathing! The transparent waves seemed to multiply the charms of these lovely girls like so many mirrors. I compared them to the nymphs which Tasso places at the entrance of Armida's palace! The lake, expanded in soft tranquillity, displayed
“ The most living crystal that was e'er
The Highland lassies are very awkward and bashful. I spoke to a handsome girl, whom I found “culling of simples” in a valley near Dunkeld. In answering me, her emotion sent her whole blood at once to her face and neck; her complexion was so pure as to seem transparent; and when a blush mantled her cheek with its crimson, she looked as guilty as if she had been caught en fagiant delit!
It is evident that poverty must prevail in a country like the Highlands, where the demand for money is unceasing and merciless, and the inhabitants have no other resource but smug: gling whiskey, to satisfy their rapacious em ployers, and unrelenting tax-gatherers, Emigration will therefore occur to them as the only means of saving their families from beg
gary and imprisonment. This, however, is still the last resource: for their transparent streams, beautiful lakes, romantic mountains, and solitary heaths, have, in spite of all, a strong hold on the Highlanders' bosom; and they cannot leave the land of their birth, with. out the deepest regret. “My heart would sink, and my arm would shrink and wither like · fern in the frost, (said Rob Roy,) were I to lose sight of my native hills; nor has the world a scene that would console me for the loss of the rocks and cairns, wild as they are, that you see around us.”
With bold imagination warm
Rear on the bill his cloud-built throne;
SUPERSTITION, says Burke, is the religion of ignorant minds. But the objects of belief to the Highlander are founded on such romantic scenery, are connected with such exquisite poetry, and unfold so beautiful a system with regard to the agency of departed spirits, that We feel an involuntary respect for them; and these peculiar opinions are clothed with such a fascinating embroidery of the imagination,
that the classical scholar regards them as equally sacred to poetry with the mythology of the ancients.
The superstitions of the Highlanders seem to have been borrowed from the nature of their scenery. Their rugged mountains, barren heaths, dreadful precipices and widestretched lakes; the habitual contemplation of the grandest scenery in nature; the thunder of heaven reverberating in repeated peals among the mountains; and the pressure of misfortune had naturally a powerful effect on their imaginations--and led them to ascribe every disaster to the agency of malignant spirits, and to believe in the influence of those spiritual beings “ who walk unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.”
The most beautiful creation of their mythology, is that which relates to the Daoine Shi', (men of peace,) who were regarded as a repining set of beings, envying mankind their more complete enjoyments. They are supposed to enjoy, in their invisible dwellings, a sort of unsubstantial bliss, a shadow of earthly splendour, which they consider as inferior to the more solid delights of mortal man. They are believed to be always clothed in-green; and they are supposed to take offence, when any man dares to put on their favourite livery: The famous Viscount of Dundee, (spoken of in Old Mortality,) was clad in battle of Killicrankie; and to this circumstance
green the Highlanders ascribe his fall on that fatal
day. Near the source of the Forth, there is a place called Coirshi 'an, which is imagined to be a favourite haunt of these fairies. It is said that many of the “ children of men” have been entertained in the subterraneous abodes of the Daoine Shi', at this spot. There they have been received, (says Dr. Graham,) into the most splendid apartments, and regaled with the most sumptuous banquets and delicious wines. Their females surpass the daughters of men in beauty; the seemingly happy inhabitants pass their time in festivity, and in daneing to notes of the softest music. But unhappy is the mortal who joios in their joys, or ventures to partake of their dainties. By this indulgence he forfeits for ever the society of men, and is bound down irrevocably to the condition of a Shi'ich, or man of peace!
There is a passage in “Rob Roy" which hints to the Schi'ichs, near the source of the Forth, just spoken of. A beautiful eminence of the most regular round shape, and clothed with copsewood of hazels, mountain-ash and dwarf.oak, intermixed with a few magnificent old trees, which, rising above the underwood, exposed their forked and bared branches to the silver moonshine, seemed to protect the sources from which the river sprung. This hill, so regularly formed, so beautiful, and garland. ed with such a beautiful variety of ancient trees and thriving copsewood, was held by the neighbourhood to contain, within its unseen caverns, the palaces of the fairies, à race of