To Thomas Keats (Belantree, July 10-14)
Belantree, July 10
Ah! ken ye what I met the day
Out oure the Mountains
A coming down by craggies gray
An mossie fountains—
Ah goud-hair’d Marie yeve I pray
Ane minute’s guessing—
For that I met upon the way
Is past expressing.
As I stood where a rocky brig
A torrent crosses
I spied upon a misty rig
A troup o’ Horses—
And as they trotted down the glen
I sped to meet them
To see if I might know the Men
To stop and greet them.
First Willie on his sleek mare came
At canting gallop
His long hair rustled like a flame
On board a shallop,
Then came his brother Rab and then
Young Peggy’s Mither
And Peggy too—adown the glen
They went togither—
I saw her wrappit in her hood
Frae wind and raining—
Her cheek was flush wi’ timid blood
Twixt growth and waning—
She turn’d her dazed head full oft
For there her Brithers
Came riding with her Bridegroom soft
And mony ithers.
Young Tam came up and eyed me quick
With reddened cheek—
Braw Tam was daffed like a chick—
He could na speak—
Ah Marie they are all gane hame
Through blustering weather
An’ every heart is full on flame
An’ light as feather.
Ah! Marie they are all gone hame
Frae happy wadding,
Whilst I—Ah is it not a shame?
Sad tears am shedding.
My dear Tom
The reason for my writing these lines was that Brown wanted to impose a Galloway song upon Dilke—but it won’t do. The subject I got from meeting a wedding just as we came down into this place—where I am afraid we shall be imprisoned a while by the weather. Yesterday we came 27 Miles from Stranraer—entered Ayrshire a little beyond Cairn, and had our path through a delightful Country. I shall endeavour that you may follow our steps in this walk—it would be uninteresting in a Book of Travels—it can not be interesting but by my having gone through it. When we left Cairn our Road lay half way up the sides of a green mountainous shore, full of clefts of verdure and eternally varying—sometimes up sometimes down, and over little Bridges going across green chasms of moss, rock and trees—winding about everywhere. After two or three Miles of this we turned suddenly into a magnificent glen finely wooded in Parts—seven Miles long—with a Mountain stream winding down the Midst—full of cottages in the most happy situations—the sides of the Hills covered with sheep—the effect of cattle lowing I never had so finely. At the end we had a gradual ascent and got among the tops of the Mountains whence in a little time I descried in the Sea Ailsa Rock 940 feet high—it was 15 Miles distant and seemed close upon us. The effect of Ailsa with the peculiar perspective of the Sea in connection with the ground we stood on, and the misty rain then falling gave me a complete Idea of a deluge. Ailsa struck me very suddenly—really I was a little alarmed.
Girvan, same day, July 10
Thus far had I written before we set out this morning. Now we are at Girvan 13 Miles north of Belantree. Our Walk has been along a more grand shore to-day than yesterday—Ailsa beside us all the way.—From the heights we could see quite at home Cantire and the large Mountains of Arran, one of the Hebrides. We are in comfortable Quarters. The Rain we feared held up bravely and it has been “fu fine this day.”——To-morrow we shall be at Ayr.
Kirkoswald, July 11
’Tis now the 11th of July and we have come 8 Miles to Breakfast to Kirkoswald. I hope the next Kirk will be Kirk Alloway. I have nothing of consequence to say now concerning our journey—so I will speak as far as I can judge on the Irish and Scotch—I know nothing of the higher Classes—yet I have a persuasion that there the Irish are victorious. As to the profanum vulgus I must incline to the Scotch. They never laugh—but they are always comparatively neat and clean. Their constitutions are not so remote and puzzling as the Irish. The Scotchman will never give a decision on any point—he will never commit himself in a sentence which may be referred to as a meridian in his notion of things—so that you do not know him—and yet you may come in nigher neighbourhood to him than to the Irishman who commits himself in so many places that it dazes your head. A Scotchman’s motive is more easily discovered than an Irishman’s. A Scotchman will go wisely about to deceive you, an Irishman cunningly. An Irishman would bluster out of any discovery to his disadvantage. A Scotchman would retire perhaps without much desire for revenge. An Irishman likes to be thought a gallous fellow. A Scotchman is contented with himself. It seems to me they are both sensible of the Character they hold in England and act accordingly to Englishmen. Thus the Scotchman will become over grave and over decent and the Irishman over-impetuous. I like a Scotchman best because he is less of a bore—I like the Irishman best because he ought to be more comfortable.—The Scotchman has made up his Mind within himself in a sort of snail shell wisdom. The Irishman is full of strongheaded instinct. The Scotchman is farther in Humanity than the Irishman—there he will stick perhaps when the Irishman will be refined beyond him—for the former thinks he cannot be improved—the latter would grasp at it for ever, place but the good plain before him.
Maybole, same day, July 11
Since breakfast we have come only four Miles to dinner, not merely, for we have examined in the way two Ruins, one of them very fine, called Crossraguel Abbey—there is a winding Staircase to the top of a little Watch Tower.
Kingswells, July 13
I have been writing to Reynolds—therefore any particulars since Kirkoswald have escaped me—from said Kirk we went to Maybole to dinner—then we set forward to Burness’ town Ayr—the approach to it is extremely fine—quite outwent my expectations—richly meadowed, wooded, heathed and rivuleted—with a grand Sea view terminated by the black Mountains of the isle of Arran. As soon as I saw them so nearly I said to myself “How is it they did not beckon Burns to some grand attempt at Epic?”
The bonny Doon is the sweetest river I ever saw—overhung with fine trees as far as we could see—We stood some time on the Brig across it, over which Tam o’ Shanter fled—we took a pinch of snuff on the Key stone—then we proceeded to the “auld Kirk Alloway.” As we were looking at it a Farmer pointed the spots where Mungo’s Mither hang’d hersel’ and “drunken Charlie brake’s neck’s bane.” Then we proceeded to the Cottage he was born in—there was a board to that effect by the door side—it had the same effect as the same sort of memorial at Stratford on Avon. We drank some Toddy to Burns’s Memory with an old Man who knew Burns—damn him and damn his anecdotes—he was a great bore—it was impossible for a Southron to understand above 5 words in a hundred.—There was something good in his description of Burns’s melancholy the last time he saw him. I was determined to write a sonnet in the Cottage—I did—but it was so bad I cannot venture it here.
Next we walked into Ayr Town and before we went to Tea saw the new Brig and the Auld Brig and Wallace tower. Yesterday we dined with a Traveller. We were talking about Kean. He said he had seen him at Glasgow “in Othello in the Jew, I mean er, er, er, the Jew in Shylock.” He got bother’d completely in vague ideas of the Jew in Othello, Shylock in the Jew, Shylock in Othello, Othello in Shylock, the Jew in Othello, etc. etc. etc.—he left himself in a mess at last.—Still satisfied with himself he went to the Window and gave an abortive whistle of some tune or other—it might have been Handel. There is no end to these Mistakes—he’ll go and tell people how he has seen “Malvolio in the Countess”—“Twelfth night in Midsummer night’s dream”—Bottom in much ado about Nothing—Viola in Barrymore—Antony in Cleopatra—Falstaff in the mouse Trap.
Glasgow, July 14
We enter’d Glasgow last Evening under the most oppressive Stare a body could feel. When we had crossed the Bridge Brown look’d back and said its whole population had turned out to wonder at us—we came on till a drunken Man came up to me—I put him off with my Arm—he returned all up in Arms saying aloud that, “he had seen all foreigners bu-u-ut he never saw the like o’ me.” I was obliged to mention the word Officer and Police before he would desist.—The City of Glasgow I take to be a very fine one—I was astonished to hear it was twice the size of Edinburgh. It is built of Stone and has a much more solid appearance than London. We shall see the Cathedral this morning—they have devilled it into “High Kirk.” I want very much to know the name of the ship George is gone in—also what port he will land in—I know nothing about it. I hope you are leading a quiet Life and gradually improving. Make a long lounge of the whole Summer—by the time the Leaves fall I shall be near you with plenty of confab—there are a thousand things I cannot write. Take care of yourself—I mean in not being vexed or bothered at anything.
God bless you!