Page images

airy beings, who formed an intermediate class between men and dæmons, and who, if not positively malignant to humanity, were yet to be avoided and feared, on account of their capricious, vindictive and irritable disposition.

The Highlanders suppose that mortal men cohabit with the female Schi'ichs. By the assistance of their fairy mistresses, they are favoured with a knowledge of many things concealed to other men. The connection with these women was thought to be attended with a pleasure more exquisite and more lasting, than that with “ the daughters of Eve,” The Schi'ichs are still believed to carry off into their subterraneous retreats, new-born chil. dren, and women in child-bed; thus they are guarded with care till the child is baptized, when the power of the fairies with regard to them is thought to be at an end. Finally, the Schi'ichs are supposed present at festivals, weddings, and funerals; and although they are invisible to mortal eye, they are said to carry off the “ funeral baked meats” and the best morsels, and to substitute unreal forms in their stead. The more prudent of the

guests abstain from the food; probably for fear of suffering the punishment inflicted on the followers of Satan, who, instead of fruit, chewed bitter ashes, and

" With hatefullest disrelish writhed their jaws
With soot and cinders filled.” (Par. Lost.)

It has been conjectured that the popular su.

perstition of Daoine Shi, originated in the abolition and proscription of the Druidical order under the Fingalian dynasty.

The ancient Scots believed that the elements were the residence of the spirits of the deceased; and they supposed that storms, whirlwinds and inundations were created by these aerial beings. Thus Ossian: “ The night was stormy. From these hills the groaning oaks came down, The sea darkly tumbled beneath the blast. The roaring waves climbed against our rocks. The lightning came often and showed the blasted fern. I saw the ghost who embroiled the night. Silent he stood on that bank. His robe of mist flew on the wind.” Again:“ Wide over Lara's stream is poured the vapour dark and deep: the moon like a dim shield, is swimming through its folds. With this, clothe the spirits of old their sudden gestures on the wind, when they stride, from blast to blast, along the dusky night.”

In the tragedy of Douglas, we are presented with a beautiful allusion to this agency of the spirits in producing storms:

" Red came the river down, and loud and oft

The angry spirit of the water shriek’d." Every lake had its kelpie, or water horse, which was one of the most malignant spirits in the Highland mythology. This baneful genius was often seen dashing along the surface of the deep, or browsing on the pasture ground near the shore, He was held in great terror by

women and children, whom he was supposed to allure into his caverns and devour. When a traveller was on the verge of the lake, the kelpie would swell the torrent beyond its bed, and thus overwhelm him in its waves.

The Urisks were thought to be a mischievous set of beings, in a condition between mortal men and spirits. They were a sort of lubbary supernaturals, like the satyrs of the ancients; they were not so spiritual as the other beings of the Highland code, but could be gain. ed over to do the drudgery of the farm. The Urisks were supposed to be dispersed over the country, each residing in its own wild recess; but their stated meetings were held in the Goblins' Cave, at the basis of Benvenue.

No omnipotent, no superintending Deity was admitted into this singular mythology: it was a sort of aristocracy of ghosts! These phantoms were believed to “ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm;" to keep the keys of futurity; to possess among them the attributes of Omnipotence. The Celtic nations entertained an idea, that for three nights preceding the death of a warrior of great celebrity, the ghosts of departed bards sang on the spot where his sepulchre was to be erected, and round an aerial figure of his body. The warrior was forewarned of his impending fate by a vision, or by some “unreal mockery” haunting his imagination. In - Waverley," we are presented with a striking instance of this superstition, in the chivalrous Fergus Mac Ivor,

whose unhappy end was revealed to him by the ghost of Gray. Another opinion was, that the spirit of the nearest relative to the departed warrior, collected his vapours over his grave. Thus Ossian says: “Often, blended with the gale, to some warrior's grave, the spirits roll the mist, a gray dwelling to his ghost, until the songs arise."

These superstitions have been rendered sacred by some of the most exquisite poetry in the world, which displays a system with regard to spirits, of the most fascinating description. “ Ossian describes ghosts, (says Dr. Blair,) with all the peculiarity of one who had seen and conversed with them, and whose imagination was full of the impression they had made upon it. He calls up those awful and tremendous ideas which the Simulacra modis pallentia miris' are fitted to raise in the human mind; and which, in Shakspeare's style, harrow up the soul.”


The band of commerce was designed
T'associate all the branches of mankind;
And if a boundless plenty be the robe,
Trade is the golden girdle of the globe. COWPER.

Glasgow, May 18, 1819. Our party arrived here in a steam-boat. Thirteen of these vessels sail from Greenock

to Glasgow, on the river Clyde, the scenery of which is not remarkably beautiful; but our voyage of two hours was rendered agreeable by the charming weather which we enjoyed. The Scotch steam-boats bear no comparison with those majestic structures which sweep over our immense rivers. Our beautiful vessels glide over the stream

swift as the tempest travels on the deep.” Neither the size, cabbins, construction or rapidity of motion of the Scotch or English steam-boats, can be brought into parallel with ours; although I was prudent not to tell


passengers so, well knowing the mean jealousy of the British of every thing American.

Glasgow derives its name from two Celtic words, which mean a place situated on the slope of a verdant hill: it stands partly on a gentle declivity—but the greatest part of it is in a gentle plain, watered by the Clyde. To say that this city was founded by St. Kentigern is to give but a poor account of its origin; its early history is involved in much obscurity, which let dull Antiquarians dispel, if they can! Nothing worth notice can be said of it before the year 1180, when the village of Glasgow was erected into a burgh by king William the Lion. It was at Glasgow that the great Wallace stood forth the champion of his country's independence. After the infamous massacre of the Scotch patriots at Ayr by or. ders of Edward I., Wallace with 300 cavalry,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »