« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
runs that he may marry whichever of the sisters be chooses to select. Thus stands the opening narrative, when we are introduced to new and more comic personages in Triptolemus Yellowley and his sister Barbara, whose family lineaments are drawn with the author's happiest naiveté."
"Old Jasper Yellowley, the Father of Triptolemus," having married a certain Mrs. Barbara Clinkscale, finds "the dominion which his wife began to assume over him much confirmed by her proving to be,-let me see!-what is the prettiest mode of expressing it?-in the family way. On this occasion, Mrs. Yellowley had a remarkable dream, as is the usual practice of teeming mothers previous to the birth of an illustrious offspring. She was a-dreamed,' as her husband expressed it, that she was safely delivered of a plough, drawn by three yoke of Angus-shire oxen; and being a mighty in vestigator into such portents, she sat herself down with her gossips, to consider what the thing might mean. Honest Jasper ventered, with much hesitation, to intimate his own opinion, that the vision had reference rather to things past than things present, and might have been occasioned by his wife's nerves having been a little startled by meeting in the loan above the house his own great plough with the six oxen, which were the pride of his heart. But the good cummers raised such a hue and cry against this exposition, that Jasper was fain to put his fingers in his ears, and to run out of the apartment.
Hear to him,' said an old whigamore carline, hear to him, wi' his owsen, that are as an idol to him, even as the calf of Bethel! Na, na, it's nae pleugh of the flesh that the bonnie lad bairn, for a lad it sall be,-shall e'er striddle between the stilts o'-it's the pleugh of the spirit, and I trust mysell to see him wag the head o' him in a pu' pit; or' at the warst, on a hill-side.'
I do not know whether it was impatience to give to the light a being destined to such high and doubtful fates, or whether poor Dame Yellowley was rather frightened at the hurly-burley which had taken place in her presence, but she was taken suddenly ill; and, contrary to the formula in such cases used and provided, was soon reported to be a good deal worse than was to be expected.' She took the opportunity, having still all her wits about her, to extract from her sympathetic husband two promises; first, that he would christen the child, whose birth was like to cost her so dear, by a name indicative of the vision with which she
had been favoured; and next, that he would educate him for the ministry. The canny Yorkshireman, thinking she had a good title at present to dictate in such matters, subscribed to all she required. A man-child was accordingly born under these conditions, but the state of the mother did not permit her for some days to enquire how far they had been complied with. When she was in some degree convalescent, she was informed, that as it was thought fit the child should be immediately christened, it bad received the name of Triptolemus; the Curate, who was a man of some classical skill, conceiving that this epithet contained a handsome and classical allusion to the visionary plough, with it's triple yoke of oxen.
"Meanwhile, and within a year after the birth of Triptolemus, Mrs. Yellowley bore a daughter, named after herself, Barbara, who, even in earliest infancy, exhibited the pinched nose and thin lips by which the Clinkscale family were distinguished amongst the inhabitants of the Mearns; and as her childhood advanced, the readiness with which she seized, and the tenacity wherewith she detained, the playthings of Triptolemus, besides a desire to bite, pinch, and scratch, on slight, or no provocation, were all considered by attentive observers as proofs that Miss Baby would prove 'her mother over again.' Malicious people did not stick to say, that the acrimony of the Clinkscale blood had not on this occasion been cooled, and sweetened by that of old England; that young Deilbelicket was much about the house, and they could not but think it odd that Mrs. Yellowley, who, as the whole, world knew, gave nothing for nothing,, should be so uncommonly attentive to. heap the trencher, and to fill the caup, of an idle blackguard ne'er-do-weel. But when folks had once looked upon the austere and awfully virtuous countenance of Mrs. Yellowley, they did full justice to her propriety of conduct, and Ďeilbelicket's delicacy of taste."
drew's to be educated; but the vision Triptolemus is sent to Saint Anof the plough predominates, and his fate is decisively to be a great agricul-' turist and improver. He hated all the Classics but those who treated of rural affairs, such as Virgil in his Georgics, Cato de re Rustica; and, of later authors, Columella, Tusser, Hartlib, and similar worthies. On the death of his mother, his master-passion is gratified, and he is recalled from college to assist his father in the farm:
"And here it might have been supposed that our Triptolemus, summoned to carry
into practice what he had so fondly studied in theory, must have been, to use a simile which he would have thought lively, like a cow entering upon a clover park. Alas, mistaken thoughts, and deceitful hopes of mankind!
A laughing philosopher, the Demoeritus of our day, once compared human life to a table pierced with a number of holes, each of which has a pin made exactly to fit it, but which pins being stuck in hastily, and without selection, chance leads inevitably to the most awkward mistakes. For, how often do we see,' the ora tor pathetically concluded, how often, I say, do we see the round man stuck into the three-corned hole?' This new illustration of the vagaries of fortune set every one present into convulsions of laughter, excepting one fat alderman, who seemed to make the case his own, and insisted that it was no jesting matter. To take up the simile, however, which is an excellent one, it is plain that Triptolemus Yellowtey had been shaken out of the bag at least a hundred years too soon. If he had come on the stage in our own time, that is, if he had flourished at any time within these thirty or forty years, he could not have missed to have held the office of vice-president of some eminent agricultural society, and to have transacted all the business thereof under the auspices of some noble Duke or Lord, who, as the matter might happen, either knew, or did not know, the difference betwixt a horse and a cart and a cart-horse. He could not have missed such preferment, for he was exceedingly learned in all those particulars, which, being of no consequence in actual practice, go of course a great way to constitute the character of a connoiseur in any art, but especially in agricalture. But, alas! Triptolemus Yellowley had, as we already have hinted, come into the world at least a century too soon; for, instead of sitting in an arm-chair, with a hammer in his hand, and a bumper of port before him, giving forth the toast, -To breeding, in all it's branches,' his father planted him betwixt the stilts of a plough, and invited him to guide the oxen, on whose beauties he would, in our day, have descanted, and whose rumps he would not have goaded, but have carved. Old Jasper complained, that although no one talked so well of common and several, wheat and rape, fallow and lea, as his learned son, (whom he always called Tolimas,) yet, dang it,' added the Seneca, ' nought thrives wi' un,-nought thrives wi' un.' It was still worse, when Jasper, becoming frail and ancient, was obliged, as happened in the course of a few years, gradually to yield up the reins of govern ment to the academical neophyte.
Ear. Mag. Vol. 81. Jan. 1822.
06 But although Mrs. Barbara brought faithfully to the joint stock all savings which her awful powers of economy accomplished to scrape together, and although the dower of their mother was by degrees expended, or nearly so, in aiding them upon extreme occasions, the term at length approached when it seemed impossible that they could sustain the conflict any longer againt the evil star of Triptolemus, as he called it himself, or the natural result of his absurd speculations, as it was termed by others. Luckily at this sad crisis a god jumped down to their relief ont of a machine. In plain English, the noble Lord, who owned their farm, arrived at his Mansion-house in the neighbourhod, with his coach and six, and his running footmen, in the full splendour of the seventeenth century."
By this nobleman, who happens to hold the office of Royal Chamberlain of the Orkneys and Shetland, and is, like Triptolemus, a great experimen talist in his way, the latter is appointed his factor, to reside in Zetland, and carry agricultural improvement into the barren soil of those storm-swept and treeless isles. He accordingly establishes himself and Baby at the farm of Stourbrugh, or Harfra, which lies in the dreary track between BurghWestra and Jarlshof; determined to introduce new ploughs, new breeds of cattle, and innovations of every kind. Into which abode Mordaunt, returning home from a visit to the Udaller, is driven by the storm of that peculiar dread which is not uncommon in those tempestuous latitudes:
He "had not advanced three hours upon his journey, before the wind, which had been so deadly still in the morning, began at first to wail and sigh, is if bemoaning beforehand the evils which it might per-, petrate in it's fury, like a madmau in the gloomy state of dejection which precedes his fit of violence; then gradually en creasing, the gale howled, raged, and roared, with the full fury of a northern storm. It was accompanied by showers of rain mixed with hail, which were dashed with the most unrelenting rage against the hills and rocks with which the travel. ler was surrounded, distracting his attention, in spite of his uttermost exertions, and rendering it very difficult for him to keep the direction of his journey in a coun-, try where is neither road, nor even the slightest track to direct the steps of the wanderer, and where he is often interrupted by large pools of water, lakes, and lagoons. All these inland waters were now lashed into sheets of tumbling
foam, much of which, carried off by the fury of the whrilwind, was mingled with the gale, and transported far from the waves of which they had lately made a part; while the salt relish of the drift which was pefted against his face, shewed Mordaunt that the spray of the more distant ocean, disturbed to frenzy by the storm, was mingled with that of the inland lakes and streams.
"Amidst this hideous combustion of the elements, Mordaunt Mertonn struggled forward, as one to whom such elemental war was familar, and who regarded the exertions which it required to withstand it's fury, but as a mark of resolution and manhood. He felt even, as happens usually to those who endure great hardships, that the exertion necessary to subdue them, is in itself a kind of elevating triumph. To see and distinguish his path when the cattle were driven from the hill, and the very fowls from the firmament, was but the stronger proofs of his own superiority. They shall not hear of me at Burgh-Westra,' said he to himself, as they heard of old doited Ringan Ewenson's boat, that foundered betwist roadstead and key. I am more of a cragsman than to mind fire or water, wave by sea, or quagmire by land.'”
His reception by the Yellowleys is whimsically described; whose terrors, parsimony, and selfish humanity, however, end in affording him a rather unwilling shelter, and boiling a salted goose for his dinner. The table is just prepared for this repast, when another unwelcome stranger encroaches, namely, Bryce Snaelsfoot, a pedlar or Jagger, whose appearance almost entirely overthrows the patience of the penurious Baby; and her utter discomfiture ensues, when a third intruder enters, in the shape of Norna of the Fitful-Head,-the most striking and important personage in all the drama. It will not be easy for us to convey an adequate idea of this admirably drawn character; for so much depends on the nice shades between insanity, and actual power; superstition, reality, and delusion, that what might appear inconsistent in a sketch, is feasible in the view of the extraordinary whole. With this remark, in justice to our author, we present his extraordinary heroine :—
"What new tramper is this?' echoed the distracted Baby, whom the quick succession of guests had driven well nigh crazy with vexation. I'll soon settle her wandering, I sall warrant, if my bro
ther has but the soul of a man in him, or if there be a pair of jougs at Scalloway.'
The iron was never forged on stithy that would hauld her,' said the old maid servant. She comes,-she comes, -God's sake speak her fair and canny, or we will have a ravelled hasp on the yarnwindles.'
"As she spoke, a woman, tall enough almost to touch the top of the door with her cap, stepped into the room, signing the cross as she entered, and pronounc ing, with a solemn voice. The blessing of God and Saint Ronald on the open door, and their braid malison and mine upon close-handed churls!'
And wha are ye, that are so bauld wi' your blessing and banning in other folks' houses? What kind of country is this, that folks cannot sit quiet for an hour, and serve heaven, and keep their bit gear togither, without gangrel men and women coming thigging and soruing ane after another, like a string of wildgeese?'
"This speech, the understanding reader will easily saddle on Mistress Baby; and what effects it might have produced on the last stranger, can only be matter of conjecture; for the old servant and Mordaunt applied themselves at once to the party addressed, in order to deprecate her resentment; the former speaking to her some words of Norse, in a tone of intercession, and Mordaunt saying in English, They are strangers, Norna, and know not your name or qualities; they are unacquainted, too, with the ways of this country, and therefore we must hold them excused for their lack of hospitality.'
I fack no hospitality, young man,' said Triptolemus, miseris succurrere disco, -the goose that was destined to roost in the chimney till Michaelmas is boiling in the pot for you: but if we had twenty geese, I see we are like to find mouths to eat them every feather,-this must be amended.'
"What must be amended, sordid slave?' said the stranger, Norna, turning made him start,- What must be amendat once upon him with an emphasis that ed? Bring hither, if thou wilt, thy newfangled coulters, spades and harrows, alter the implements of our fathers from the ploughshare to the mouse-trap; but know thou art in the land that was won of old by the flaxen-haired Kempions of the North, and leave us their hospitality at least, to shew we come of what was once noble and generous. I say to you, beware,-while Norna looks forth at the measureless water from the crest of Fitful-head, something is yet left that resembles power of defence. If the men
of Thule have ceased to be champions, and to spread the banquet for the raven, the women have not forgotten the arts that lifted them of yore into queens and prophetesses.'
The woman who pronounced this singular tirade, was as striking in appearance as extravagantly lofty in her pretensions and in her language. She might well have represented on the stage, so far as features, voice, and stature were concerned, the Bonduca, or Boadicea of the Britons, or the sage Velleda, Auriniæ, or any other fated Pythoness, who ever led to battle a tribe of the ancient Goths.
Her features were high and well formed, and would have been handsome but for the ravages of time, and the effects of exposure to the severe weather of her coun
try. Age, and perhaps sorrow, had quenched, in some degree, the fire of a dark blue eye, whose hue almost approached to black, and had sprinkled snow on such part of her tresses as had escaped from under her cap, and were dishevelled by the rigour of the storm. Her upper garment, which dropped with water, was of a coarse dark-coloured stuff, called Wadmaral, then much used in the Zetland Island, as also in Iceland and Norway. But as she threw this cloak back from her shoulders, a short jacket, of dark blue velvet, stamped with figures, became visible, and the vest, which corresponded to it, was of crimson colour, and embroidered with tarnished silver. Her girdle was plated with silver ornaments, cut into the shape of planetary signs, her blue apron was embroidered with similar devices, and covered a petti coat of crimson cloth. Strong thick enduring shoes, of the half-dressed leather of the country, were tied with straps like those of the Roman buskins, over her scarlet stockings. She wore in her belt an ambiguous looking weapon, which might pass for a sacrificing knife or dagger, as the imagination of the spectator chose to assign to the wearer the character of a priestess or of a sorceress. In her hand she held a staff, squared on all sides, and engraved with Runic characters and figures, forming one of those portable and perpetual calendars which were used among the ancient natives of Scandinavia, and which to a superstitious eye, might have passed for a divining
and hung round his neck a Runic chain of fairy gold. Before leaving Yellowley's, she predicts a wreck from the storm, which she exhibits her power by allaying with incantations, and then departs, bidding Mordaunt speed home to Jarlshof, with which injunc tion he complies. On the ensuing day, Mertoun and his son ascend the promontory, to view the finalé of the storm, when a dismasted vessel, apparently deserted by her crew, is seen drifting in the roost, or rapid stream, that runs against the Head which she approaches, and is dashed in pieces. One man, clinging to a spar, emerges, from the wreck, and Mordaunt gal
lantly saves his life. In this scene, Snaelsfoot, Norna, and the natives, all eager for plunder, are conspicuously engaged: the single survivor from the furious element proves to be Captain Cleveland, the Pirate, a bold, free, young and handsome man, of a brave nature, and not unpleasing address. From Jarlshofhe goes to BurghWestra, where his reception is warm and hospitable. Here he obtains a firm footing, and Mordaunt's star declines as his ascends. This galls the ingenuous youth, who is stung almost to madness, by the report brought to him by Snaelsfoot of the estimation in which the Captain is held, and of preparations for observing the festival of St. John, where he is to lead the revels, instead of the once favoured Mordaunt. This temperament is excellently painted; he wanders forth to a voe or lake, where the strange and unearthly Norna breaks suddenly upon his musings: and at her instigation, with a hint that his early friends are in danger, he goes to the feast uninvited, and is coldly received by Magnus and his daughters. Among the company assembled on this festive occasion, are Mr. and Miss Yellowley, Lady Glowrorum and two nieces, and Claud Halcro, a good-natured Zetland poet and musician, who in the great world, London, has met with the wits of the age, including Dryden, or glorious John," as he calls this idol of his worship, and is now the Halcro's is a playfully drawn characowner of one of his native rocky islets. ter, with the inveterate habits of a confirmed proser; holding the buttons of his wearied auditors, and eternally repeating the same anecdotes with the most minute and tedions digres
sions. When he could pounce upon a patient listener, he is delineated with amusing truth; and with Mordaunt, the listless spectator of the drinking bout, at the feast we have mentioned,
"he was the more meet prey for the story-telling Halcro, who had fixed upon him, as in a favourable state to play the part of listener, with something of the same instinct that directs the hooded crow to the sick sheep, which will most patiently suffer itself to be made a prey of, Joyfully did the poet avail himself of the advantages afforded by Mordaunt's absence of mind, and unwillingness to exert himself in measures of active defence. With the unfailing dexterity peculiar to prosers, he contrived to dribble out his tale to double it's usual length, by the exercise of the privilege of unli mited digressions; so that the story, like a horse on the grand pas, seemed to be advancing with rapidity, while, in reality, it scarce was progressive at the rate of a yard in the quarter of an hour. At length, how ever, he had discussed, in all it's various bearings and relations, the history of his friendly landlord, the master fashioner in Russel-street, including a short sketch of five of his relations, and anecdotes of three of his principal rivals, together with some general observations upon the dress and fashion of the period; and having marched thus far through the environs and outworks of his story, he arrived at the body of the place,"
The revels at Westra, it's masques, balls,&c. are then faithfully pourtrayed; and a Whale Hunt, which accidentally constitutes a part of the amusements, enables Cleveland to acquit his obligation to Mordaunt by saving his life. The enmity between these two parties, however, breaks out on every opportunity, and is only restrained from open outrage by the influence of Brenda over her old friend, whom she trusts with the secret of her sister's love for Cleveland, and becomes the single object of his attachment. In the midst of the festival, the Jagger brings accounts of the arrival of a ship at Kirkwall, which proves to be the consort of the Pirate's lost vessel. This news, and concurrent circumstances, lead to much agitation. The sisters, sleeping together, are disturbed by boding dreams,-Minna of a melancholy cave, and mermaid prophecy; Brenda of endeavouring to sing a lively song, which she can only execute in the harsh notes of the Reim-kennar, Norna.
They start, and find the latter not purely imaginary, for Norna herself is trimming her lamp in the chamber, and muttering discordant sounds. With many fearful rites she unfolds her mysterious history to the appalled daughters of Troil, whose near rela tion she is, as the daughter of their grandfather's brother. A heated enthusiast when young, and nurtured in the firmest belief of Norwegian Drows and Scaldic supernatural agencies, she is rapt in an ideal creation, A storm which assails her at the Dwarfie Stone, produces so strong an effect on her brain, that in a vision or trance, she meets Trolld the Dwarf, who pronounces her doom to be," to reeve her life's giver of the gift which he gave"-and thenceforward to have authority to controul the elements, The monstrous prediction is confirmed by her accidentally destroying her father, in escaping to a forbidden lover; and she becomes the wild being described in the Pirate, fancying herself the most wretched, and the most potent of human creatures. An interesting example of this, and of the manners of the age, is given in an account of her acting the Volupsa, or answerer of questions, in a kind of runic sortes, played in sport by the visitors at Westra, but which is turned from jest to gloom by her reply to Minna's enquiry:
Is like the snow on Rona's crest;
Disturbed by this response, Minna cannot rest; and while her innocent sister reposes on her neck, she is serenaded by Cleveland, who is to depart for Kirkwall by day-break to ascertain the situation of his old companions. His music is interrupted by Mordaunt's voice; and an altercation, a struggle, and a groan, are heard by poor Minna. She rushes to the window, and sees one man bear off another; leaps to the ground, and desperately attempts to follow them, but encounters Halero the poet, and is obliged to return to her sleepless.