Rambles of a Geologist (5)

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CHAPTER XI.


THE "upper storey" of the bishop's palace, in which grim old Haco died,—thanks to the economic burghers who converted the stately ruin into a quarry,—has wholly disappeared.  Though the death of this last of the Norwegian invaders does not date more than ten years previous to the birth of the Bruce, it seems to belong, notwithstanding, to a different and greatly more ancient period of Scottish history; as if it came under the influence of a sort of aerial perspective, similar to that which makes a neighbouring hill in a fog appear as remote as a distant mountain when the atmosphere is clearer.  Our national wars with the English were rendered familiar to our country folk of the last age, and for centuries before, by the old Scotch "Makkaris," Barbour and Blind Harry, and in our own times by the glowing narratives of Sir Walter Scott,—magicians who, unlike those ancient sorcerers that used to darken the air with their incantations, possessed the rare power of dissipating the mists and vapours of the historic atmosphere, and rendering it transparent.  But we had no such chroniclers of the time, though only half an age further removed into the past,


When Norse and Danish galleys plied
Their oars within the Frith of Clyde,
And floated Race's banner trim
Above Norweyan warriors grim,
Savage of heart and large of limb.


And hence the thick haze in which it is enveloped.  Curiously enough, however, this period, during which the wild Scot had to contend with the still wilder wanderers of Scandinavia in fierce combats that he was too little skilful to record, and which appears so obscure and remote to his descendants, presents a phase comparatively near, and an outline proportionally sharp and well-defined, to the intelligent peasantry of Iceland.  Their Barbours and Blind Harries came a few ages sooner than ours, and the fog, in consequence, rose earlier; and so, while Scotch antiquaries of no mean standing can say almost nothing about the expedition or deathbed of Haco, even the humbler Icelanders, taught from their Sagas in the long winter nights, can tell how, harassed by anxiety and fatigue, the monarch sickened, and recovered, and sickened again; and how, dying in the bishop's palace, his body was interred for a winter in the Cathedral, and then borne in spring to the burying-place of his ancestors in Norway.  The only clear vista on the death of Haco which now exists is that presented by an Icelandic chronicler; to which, as it seems so little known even in Orkney that the burying-place of the monarch is still occasionally sought for in the Cathedral, I must introduce the reader.  I quote from an extract containing the account of Haco's expedition against Scotland, which was "translated from the original Icelandic by the Rev. James Johnstone, chaplain to his Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary at the court of Denmark," and appeared in the "Edinburgh Magazine" for 1787.  "King Haco," says the chronicler,


    "now in the seven and fortieth year of his reign, had spent the summer in watchfulness and anxiety.  Being often called to deliberate with his captains, he had enjoyed little rest; and when he arrived at Kirkwall, he was confined to his bed by his disorder.  Having lain for some nights, the illness abated, and he was on foot for three days.  On the first day he walked about in his apartments; on the second he attended at the bishop's chapel to hear mass; and on the third he went to Magnus Church, and walked round the shrine of St Magnus, Earl of Orkney.  He then ordered a bath to be prepared, and got himself shaved.  Some nights after, he relapsed, and took again to his bed.  During his sickness he ordered the Bible and Latin authors to be read to him.  But finding his spirits were too much fatigued by reflecting on what he had heard, he desired Norwegian books might be read to him night and day: first the lives of saints; and, when they were ended, he made his attendants read the Chronicles of our Kings, from Holden the Black, and so of all the Norwegian monarchs in succession, one after the other.  The king still found his disorder increasing.  He therefore took into consideration the pay to be given to his troops, and commanded that a merk of fine silver should be given to each courtier, and half a merk to each of the masters of the lights, chamberlain, and other attendants on his person.  He ordered all the silver-plate belonging to his table to be weighed, and to be distributed if his standard silver fell short. * * * King Haco received extreme unction on the night before the festival of St Lucia.  Thorgisl, Bishop of Stravanger, Gilbert, Bishop of Hamar, Henry, Bishop of Orkney, Albert Thorleif, and many other learned men, were present; and, before the unction, all present bade the king farewell with a kiss. * * * The festival of the Virgin St Lucia happened on a Thursday; and on the Saturday after, the king's disorder increased to such a degree, that he lost the use of his speech; and at midnight Almighty God called King Haco out of this mortal life.  This was matter of great grief to all those who attended, and to most of those who heard of the event.  The following barons were present at the death of the king:—Briniolf Johnson, Erling Alfson, John Drottning, Ronald Urka, and some domestics who had been near the king's person during his illness.  Immediately on the decease of the king, bishops and learned men were sent for to sing mass. * * * On Sunday the royal corpse was carried to the upper hall, and laid on a bier.  The body was clothed in a rich garb, with a garland on its head, and dressed out as became a crowned monarch.  The masters of the lights stood with tapers in their hands, and the whole hall was illuminated.  All the people came to see the body, which appeared beautiful and animated; and the king's countenance was as fair and ruddy as while he was alive.  It was some alleviation of the deep sorrow of the beholders to see the corpse of their departed sovereign so decorated.  High mass was then sung for the deceased.  The nobility kept watch by the body during the night.  On Monday the remains of King Haco were carried to St Magnus Church, where they lay in state that night.  On Tuesday the royal corpse was put in a coffin, and buried in the choir of St Magnus Church, near the steps leading to the shrine of St Magnus, Earl of Orkney.  The tomb was then closed, and a canopy was spread over it.  It was also determined that watch should be kept over the king's grave all winter.  At Christmas the bishop and Andrew Plytt furnished entertainments, as the king had directed; and good presents were given to all the soldiers.  King Haco had given orders that his remains should be carried east to Norway, and buried near his fathers and relatives.  Towards the end of winter, therefore, that great vessel which he had in the west was launched, and soon got ready.  On Ash Wednesday the corpse of King Haco was taken out of the ground: this happened the third of the nones of March.  The courtiers followed the corpse to Skalpeid, where the ship lay, and which was chiefly under the direction of the Bishop Thorgisl and Andrew Plytt.  They put to sea on the first Saturday in Lent; but, meeting with hard weather, they steered for Silavog.  From this place they wrote letters to Prince Magnus, acquainting him with the news, and then sailed for Bergen.  They arrived at Laxavog before the festival of St Benedict.  On that day Prince Magnus rowed out to meet the corpse.  The ship was brought near to the king's palace, and the body was carried up to a summer-house.  Next morning the corpse was removed to Christ's Church, and was attended by Prince Magnus, the two queens, the courtiers, and the town's people.  The body was then interred in the choir of Christ's Church; and Prince Magnus addressed a long and gracious speech to those who attended the funeral procession.  All the multitude present were much affected, and expressed great sorrow of mind."


    So far the Icelandic chronicle.  Each age has as certainly its own mode of telling its stories as of adjusting its dress or setting its cap; and the mode of this northern historian is somewhat prolix.  I am not sure, however, whether I would not prefer the simple minuteness with which he dwells on every little circumstance, to that dissertative style of history characteristic of a more reflective age, that for series of facts substitutes bundles of theories.  Cowper well describes the historians of this latter school, and shows how, on selecting some little-known personage of a remote time as their hero,


They disentangle from the puzzled skein
In which obscurity has wrapped them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design
That ran through all his purposes, and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or, having, kept concealed.


I have seen it elaborately argued by a writer of this class, that those wasting incursions of the Northmen which must have been such terrible plagues to the southern and western countries of Europe, ceased in consequence of their conversion to Christianity; for that, under the humanizing influence of religion, they staid at home, and cultivated the arts of peace.  But the hypothesis is, I fear, not very tenable.  Christianity, in even a purer form than that in which it first found its way among the ancient Scandinavians, and when at least as generally recognised nationally as it ever was by the subjects of Haco, has failed to put down the trade of aggressive war.  It did not prevent honest, obstinate George the Third from warring with the Americans or the French: it only led him to enjoin a day of thanksgiving when his troops had slaughtered a great many of the enemy, and to ordain a fast when the enemy had slaughtered, in turn, a great many of his troops.  And Haco, who, though he preferred the lives of the saints, and even of his ancestors, who could not have been very great saints, to the Scriptures, seems, for a king, to have been a not undevout man in his way, and yet appears to have had as few compunctious visitings on the score of his Scottish war as George the Third on that of the French or the American one.  Christianity, too, ere his invasion of Scotland, had been for a considerable time established in his dominions, and ought, were the theory a true one, to have operated sooner.  The Cathedral of St Magnus, when he walked round the shrine of its patron saint, was at least a century old.  The true secret of the cessation of Norwegian invasion seems to have been the consolidation, under vigorous princes, of the countries which had lain open to it,—a circumstance which, in all the later attempts of the invaders, led to results similar to those which broke the heart of tough old Haco in the bishop's palace at Kirkwall.

    From the ruins I passed to the town, and spent a not uninstructive half-hour in sauntering along the streets in the quiet of the evening, acquainting myself with the general aspect of the people.  I marked, as one of the peculiar features of the place, groups of tidily-dressed young women, engaged at the close-heads with their straw plait,—the prevailing manufacture of the town,—and enjoying at the same time the fresh air and an easy chat.  The special contribution made by the lassies of Orkney to the dress of their female neighbours all over the empire, has led to much tasteful dressing among themselves.  Orkney, on its gala days, is a land of ladies.  What seems to be the typical countenance of these islands unites an aquiline but not prominent nose to an oval face.  In the ordinary Scotch and English countenance, when the nose is aquiline it is also prominent, and the face is thin and angular, as if the additional height of the central feature had been given it at the expense of the cheeks, and of lateral shavings from off the chin.  The hard Duke-of-Wellington face is illustrative of this type.  But in the aquiline type of Orkney the countenance is softer and fuller, and, in at least the female face, the general contour greatly more handsome.  Dr Kombst, in his ethnographic map of Britain and Ireland, gives to the coast of Caithness and the Shetland Islands a purely Scandinavian people, but to the Orkneys a mixed race, which he designates the Scandinavian-Gaelic.  I would be inclined, however,—preferring rather to found on those traits of person and character that are still patent, than on the unauthenticated statements of—uncertain history,—to regard the people as essentially one from the northern extremity of Shetland to the Ord Hill of Caithness.  Beyond the Ord Hill, and on to the northern shores of the Frith of Cromarty, we find, though unnoted on the map, a different race,—a race strongly marked by the Celtic lineaments, and speaking the Gaelic tongue.  On the southern side of the Frith, and extending on to the Bay of Munlochy, the purely Scandinavian race again occurs.  The sailors of the Danish fleet which four years ago accompanied the Crown Prince in his expedition to the Faroe Islands were astonished when, on landing at Cromarty, they recognised in the people the familiar cast of countenance and feature that marked their country folk and relatives at home; and found that they were simply Scandinavians like themselves, who, having forgotten their Danish, spoke Scotch instead.  Rather more than a mite to the west of the fishing village of Avoch there commences a Celtic district, which stretches on from Munlochy to the river Nairne; beyond which the Scandinavian and Teutonic-Scandinavian border that fringes the eastern coast of Scotland extends unbroken southwards through Moray, Banff and Aberdeen, on to Forfar, Fife, the Lothians, and the Mearns.  These two intercalated patches of Celtic people in the northern tract,—that extending from the Ord Hill to the Cromarty Frith, and that extending from the Bay of Munlochy to the Nairne,—still retaining, as they do, after the lapse of ages, a sharp distinctness of boundary in respect of language, character, and personal appearance, are surely great curiosities.  The writer of these chapters was born on the extreme edge of one of these patches, scarce a mile distant from a Gaelic-speaking population; and yet, though his humble ancestors were located on the spot for centuries, he can find trace among them of but one Celtic name; and their language was exclusively the Lowland Scotch.  For many ages the two races, like oil and water, refused to mix.

    I spent the evening very agreeably with one of the Free Church elders of the place, Mr George Petrie, an accomplished antiquary; and found that his love of the antique, joined to an official connection with the county, had cast into his keeping a number of curious old papers of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries,—not in the least connected, some of them, with the legal and civic records of the place, but which had somehow stuck around these, in their course of transmission from one age to another, as a float of brushwood in a river occasionally brings down along with it, entangled in its folds, uprooted plants and aquatic weeds, that would otherwise have disappeared in the cataracts and eddies of the upper reaches of the stream.  Dead as they seemed, spotted with mildew, and fretted by the moth, I found them curiously charged with what had once been intellect and emotion, hopes and fears, stern business and light amusement.  I saw, among the other manuscripts, a thin slip of a book, filled with jottings, in the antique square-headed style of notation, of old Scotch tunes, apparently the work of some musical county-clerk of Orkney in the seventeenth century; but the paper, in a miserable state of decay, was blotted crimson and yellow with the rotting damps, and the ink so faded, that the notation of scarce any single piece in the collection seemed legible throughout.  Less valuable and more modern, though curious from their eccentricity, there lay, in company with the music, several pieces of verse, addressed by some Orcadian Claud Halcro of the last age, to some local patron, in a vein of compliment rich and stiff as a piece of ancient brocade.  A peremptory letter, bearing the autograph signature of Mary Queen of Scots, to Torquil M'Leod of Dunvegan, who had been on the eve, it would seem, of marrying a daughter of Donald of the Isles, gave the Skye chieftain "to wit" that, as he was of the blood royal of Scotland, he could form no matrimonial alliance without the royal permission,—a permission which, in the case in point, was not to be granted.  It served to show that the woman who so ill liked to be thwarted in her own amours could, in her character as the Queen, deal despotically enough with the love affairs of other people.  Side by side with the letter of Mary there were several not less peremptory documents of the times of the Commonwealth, addressed to the Sheriff of Orkney and Shetland, in the name of his Highness the Lord Protector, and that bore the signature of George Monck.  I found them to consist chiefly of dunning letters,—such letters as those duns write who have victorious armies at their back,—for large sums of money, the assessments laid on the Orkneys by Cromwell.  Another series of letters, some ten or twelve years later in their date, form portions of the history of a worthy covenanting minister, the Rev. Alexander Smith of Colvine, banished to North Ronaldshay from the extreme south of Scotland, for the offence of preaching the gospel, and holding meetings for social worship in his own house; and, as if to demonstrate his incorrigibility, one of the series,—a letter under his own hand, addressed from his island prison to the Sheriff-Depute in Kirkwall,—showed him as determined and persevering in the offence as ever.  It was written immediately after his arrival.  "The poor inhabitants," says the writer, "so many as I have yet seen, have received me with much joy.  I intend, if the Lord will, to preach Christ to them next Lord's day, wt.out  the least mixture of anything that may smell of sedition or rebellion.  If I be farther troubled for yt, I resolve to suffer with meekness and patience." [Ed.—sic]  The Galloway minister must have been an honest man.  Deeming preaching his true vocation,—a vocation from the exercise of which he dared not cease, lest he should render himself obnoxious to the woe referred to by the apostle,—he yet could not steal a march on even the Sheriff, whose professional duty it was to prevent him from doing his; and so he fairly warned him that he purposed breaking the law.  The next set of papers in the collection dated after the Revolution, and were full charged with an enthusiastic Jacobitism, which seems to have been a prevalent sentiment in Orkney from the death of Queen Anne, until the disastrous defeat at Culloden quenched in blood the hopes of the party.  There is a deep cave still shown on the shores of Westray, within sight of the forlorn Patmos of the poor Covenanter, in which, when the sun got on the Whig side of the hedge, twelve gentlemen, who had been engaged in the rebellion of 1745, concealed themselves for a whole winter.  So perseveringly were they sought after, that during the whole time they dared not once light a fire, nor attempt fishing from the rocks to supply themselves with food; and, though they escaped the search, they never, it is said, completely recovered the horrors of their term of dreary seclusion, but bore about with them, in broken constitutions, the effects of the hardships to which they had been subjected.  They must have had full time and opportunity, during that miserable winter, for testing the justice of the policy that had sent poor Smith into exile, from his snug southern parish in the Presbytery of Dumfries, to the remotest island of the Orkneys.  The great lesson taught in Providence during the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century to our Scottish country folk seems to have been the lesson of toleration; and as they were slow, stubborn scholars, the lash was very frequently and very severely applied.  One of the Jacobite papers of Mr Petrie's collection,—a triumphal poem on the victory of Gladsmuir, which, if less poetical than the Ode of Hamilton of Bangour on the same subject, is in no degree less curious,—serves to throw very decided light on a passage in literary history which puzzled Dr Johnson, and which scarce any one would think of going to Orkney to settle.

    Johnson states, in his Life of the poet Thomson, that the "first operation" of the act passed in 1739 "for licensing plays" was the "prohibition of 'Gustavus Vasa,' a tragedy of Mr Brook."  "Why such a work should be obstructed," he adds, "it is hard to discover."  We learn elsewhere, from the compiler of the "Modern Universal History," if I remember aright,—that "so popular did the prohibitory order of the Lord Chamberlain render the play," that, "on its publication the same year, not less than a thousand pounds were the clear produce."  It was not, however, until more than sixty years after, when both Johnson and Brook were in their graves, that it was deemed safe to license it for the stage.  Now, the fact that a drama, in itself as little dangerous as "Cato" or "Douglas," should have been prohibited by the Government of the day, in the first instance, and should have brought the author, on its publication, so large a sum in the second, can be accounted for only by a reference to the keen partizanship of the period, and the peculiar circumstances of parties.  The Jacobites, taught by the rebellion of 1715 at once the value of the Highlands and the incompetency of the Chevalier St George as a leader, had begun to fix their hopes on the Chevalier's son, Charles Edward, at that time a young but promising lad; and, with the tragedy of Brook before them, neither they nor the English Government of the day could have failed to see the foreigner George the Second typified—unintentionally, surely, on the part of Brook, who was a "Prince of Wales" Whig in the foreigner Christiern the Second, the Scotch Highlanders in the Mountaineers of Dalecarlia, and the young Prince in Gustavus.  In the Jacobite manuscript of Mr Petrie's collection, the parallelism is broadly traced; nor is it in the least probable, as the poem is a piece of sad mediocrity throughout, that it is a parallelism which was originated by its writer.  It must have been that of his party; and led, I doubt not, five years before, to the prohibition of Brook's tragedy, and to the singular success which attended its publication.  The passage in the manuscript suggestive of this view takes the form of an address to the victorious prince, and runs as follows:—


Meanwhile, unguarded youth, thou stoodst alone;
The cruel Tyrant urged his Armie on;
But Truth and Goodness were the Best of Arms;
And, fearless Prince, Thou smil'd at Threatened harms.
Thus, Glorious Vasa worked in Swedish mines,—
Thus, Helpless, Saw his Enemy's Designs,—
Till, roused, his Hardy Highlanders arose,
And poured Destruction on their foreign foes.


    I rose betimes next morning, and crossed the Peerie [little] Sea, a shallow prolongation of the Bay of Kirkwall, cut off from the main sea by an artificial mound, to the quarry of Pickoquoy, somewhat notable, only a few years ago, as the sole locality in which shells had been detected in the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland.  But these have since been found in the neighbourhood of Thurso, by Mr Robert Dick, associated with bones and plates of the Asterolepis, and by Mr William Watt on the opposite side of the Mainland of Orkney, at Marwick Head.  So far as has yet been ascertained, they are all of one species, and more nearly resemble a small Cyclas than any other shell.  They are, however, more deeply sulcated in concentric lines, drawn, as if by a pair of compasses, from the umbone, and somewhat resembling those of the genus Astarte, than any species of Cyclas with which I am acquainted.  In all the specimens I have yet seen, it appears to be rather a thick dark epidermis that survives, than the shell which it covered; nay, it seems not impossible that to its thick epidermis, originally an essentially different substance from that which composed the calcareous case, the shell may have owed its preservation as a fossil; while other shells, its contemporaries, from the circumstance of their having been unfurnished with any such covering, may have failed to leave any trace of their existence behind them.  It seems at least difficult to conceive of a sea inhabited by many genera of fishes, each divided into several species, and yet furnished with but one species of shell I found the quarry of Pickoquoy,—a deep excavation only a few yards beyond the highwater mark, and some two or three yards under the highwater level,—deserted by the quarrymen, and filled to the brim by the overflowing of a small stream.  I succeeded, however, in detecting its shells in situ.  They seem restricted chiefly to a single stratum, scarcely half an inch in thickness, and lie, not thinly scattered over the platform which they occupy, but impinging on each other, like all the gregarious shells, in thickly-set groups and clusters.  There occur among them occasional scales of Dipteri; and on some of the fragments of rock long exposed around the quarry-mouth to the weather I found them assuming a pale nacreous gloss,—an effect, it is not improbable, of their still retaining, attached to the epidermis, a thin film of the original shell.  The world's history must be vastly more voluminous now, and greatly more varied in its contents, than when the stratum which they occupy formed the upper layer of a muddy sea-bottom, and they opened their valves by myriads, to prey on the organic atoms which formed their food, or shut them again, startled by the shadow of the Dipterus, as he descended from the upper depths of the water to prey upon them in turn.  The palate of this ancient ganoid is furnished with a curious dental apparatus, formed apparently, like that of the recent wolf-fish, for the purpose of crushing shells.

    About mid-day I set out by the mail-gig for Stromness.  For the first few miles the road winds through a bare, solitary valley, overlooked by ungainly heath-covered hills of no great altitude, though quite tall enough to prevent the traveller from seeing anything but themselves.  As he passes on, the valley opens in front on an arm of the sea, over which the range of hills on the right abruptly terminates, while that on the left deflects into a line nearly parallel to the shore, leaving a comparatively level strip of moory land, rather more than a mile in breadth, between the steeper acclivities and the beach.  A tall naked house rises between the road and the sea.  Two low islands immediately behind it, only a few acres in extent,—one of them bearing a small ruin on its apex,—give a little variety to the central point in the prospect which the naked house forms; but the arm of the sea, bordered, at the time I passed, by a broad brown selvage of seaweed, is as tame and flat as a Dutch lake; the background beyond, a long monotonous ridge, is bare and treeless; and in front lies the brown moory plain, bordered by the dull line of hills, and darkened by scattered stacks of peat.  The scene is not at all such a one as a poet would, for its own sake, delight to fancy; and yet, in the recollection of at least one very pleasing poet, its hills, and islands, and blue arm of the sea, its brown moory plain, and tall naked house rising in the midst, must have been surrounded by a sunlit atmosphere of love and desire, bright enough to impart to even its tamest features a glow of exquisiteness and beauty.  Malcolm the poet was born, and spent his years of boyhood and early youth, in the tall naked house; and the surrounding landscape is that to which he refers in his "Tales of Flood and Field," as rising in imagination before him, bright in the red gleam of the setting sun, when, on the steep slopes of the Pyrenees, the "silent stars of night were twinkling high over his head," and the "tents of the soldiery glimmering pale through the gloom."  The tall house is the manse of the parish of Frith and Stennis; and the poet was the son of the Rev. John Malcolm, its minister.  Here, when yet a mere lad, dreaming, in the quiet obscurity of an Orkney parish, far removed from the seat of war and the literary circles, of poetic celebrity and military renown, he addressed a letter to the Duke of Kent, the father of our Sovereign Lady the reigning Monarch, expressing an ardent wish to obtain a commission in the army then engaged in the Peninsula.  The letter was such as to excite the interest of his Royal Highness, who replied to it by return of post, requesting the writer to proceed forthwith to London; for which he immediately set out, and was received by the Duke with courtesy and kindness.  He was instructed by him to take ship for Spain, in which he arrived as a volunteer; and, joining the army, engaged at the time in the siege of St Sebastian, under General Graham, he was promoted shortly after, through the influence of his generous patron, to a lieutenancy in the 42d Highlanders.  He served in that distinguished regiment on to the closing campaign of the Pyrenees; but received at the battle of Toulouse a wound so severe as to render him ever after incapable of active bodily exertion; and so he had to retire from the army on half-pay, and a pension honourably earned.  The history of his career as a soldier he has told with singular interest, in one of the earlier volumes of "Constable's Miscellany;" and his poems abound in snatches of description painfully true, drawn from his experience of the military life,—of scenes of stern misery and grim desolation, of injuries received, and of sufferings infficted,—that must have contrasted sadly in his mind, in their character as gross realities, with the dreamy visions of conquest and glory in which he had indulged at an earlier time.  The ruin of St Sebastian, complete enough, and attended with circumstances of the horrible extreme enough, to appal men long acquainted with the trade of war, must have powerfully impressed an imaginative susceptible lad, fresh from the domesticities of a rural manse, in whose quiet neighbourhood the voice of battle had not been heard for centuries, and surrounded by a simple people, remarkable for the respect which they bear to human life.  In all probability, the power evinced in his description of the siege, and of the utter desolation in which it terminated, is in part owing to the fresh impressibility of his mind at the time. [14]  Such, at least, was my feeling regarding it, as I caught myself muttering some of its more graphic passages, and saw, from the degree of alarm evinced by the boy who drove the mail-gig, that the sounds, were not quite lost in the rattle of that somewhat rickety vehicle, and that he had come to entertain serious doubts respecting the sanity of his passenger:—


Sebastian, when I saw thee last,
    It was in Desolation's day,
As through thy voiceless streets I passed,
    Thy piles in heaps of rubbish lay;
The roofless fragments of each wall
Bore many a dent of shell and ball;
With blood were all thy gateways red,
And thou,—a city of the dead!

    With fire and sword thy walks were swept;
Exploded mines thy streets had heaped
In hills of rubbish; they had been
Traversed by gabion and fascine,
With cannon lowering in the rear
In dark array,—a deadly tier,—
Whose thunder-clouds, with fiery breath,
Sent far around their iron death.
The bursting shell, in fragments flung
Athwart the skies, at midnight sung,
Or, on its airy pathway sent,
Its meteors swept the firmament.
Thy castle, towering o'er the shore,
Reeled on its rock amidst the roar
Of thousand thunders, for it stood
In circle of a fiery flood;
And crumbling masses fiercely sent
From its high frowning battlement,
Smote by the shot and whistling shell,
With groan and crash in ruin fell.

    Through desert streets the mourner passed,
Midst walls that spectral shadows cast,
Like some fair spirit wailing o'er
The faded scenes it loved of yore;
No human voice was heard to bless
That place of waste and loneliness.

    I saw at eve the night-bird fly,
And vulture dimly flitting by,
To revel o'er each morsel stolen
From the cold corse, all black and swoln,
That on the shattered ramparts lay,
Of him who perished yesterday,—
Of him whose pestilential steam
Rose reeking on the morning beam,—
Whose fearful fragments, nearly gone,
Were blackening from the bleaching bone.

    The house-dog bounded o'er each scene
Where cisterns had so lately been:
Away in frantic haste he sprung,
And sought to cool his burning tongue.
He howled, and to his famished cry
The dreary echoes gave reply;
And owlet's dirge, through shadows dim.
Rolled back in sad response to him.


    The father was succeeded in his parish by the brother of Malcolm,—a gentleman to whom, during my stay in Orkney, I took the liberty of introducing myself in his snug little Free Church manse at the head of the bay, and in whose possession I found the only portrait of the poet which exists.  It is that of a handsome and interesting-looking young man, though taken not many years before his death; for, like the greater number of his class, he did not live to be an old one, dying under forty.  His brother the clergyman kindly accompanied me to two quarries in the neighbourhood of his new domicile, which I found, like almost all the dry-stone fences of the district, speckled with scales, occipital plates, and gill-covers, of Osteolepides and Dipteri, but containing no entire ichthyolites.  He had taken his side in the Church controversy, he told me, firmly, but quietly; and when the Disruption came, and he found it necessary to quit the old manse, which had been a home to his family for well nigh two generations, and in which both he and his brother had been born, he scarce knew what his people were to do, nor in what proportion he was to have followers among them.  Somewhat to his surprise, however, they came out with him almost to a man; so that his successor in the parish church had sometimes, he understood, to preach to congregations scarcely exceeding half a dozen.  I had learned elsewhere how thoroughly Mr Malcolm was loved and respected by his parishioners; and that unconsciousness on his own part of the strength of their affection and esteem, which his statement evinced, formed, I thought, a very pleasing trait, and one that harmonized well with the finely-toned unobtrusiveness and unconscious elegance which characterized the genius of his deceased brother.  A little beyond the Free Church manse the road ascends between stone walls, abounding in fragments of ichthyolites, weathered blue by exposure to the sun and wind; and the top of the eminence forms the water shed in this part of the Mainland, and introduces the traveller to a scene entirely new.  The prospect is of considerable extent; and, what seems strange in Orkney, nowhere presents the traveller—though it contains its large inland Lake—with a glimpse of the sea.


 
CHAPTER XII.


THE Orkneys, like the mainland of Scotland, exhibit their higher hills and precipices on their western coasts: the Ward Hill of Hoy attains to an elevation of sixteen hundred feet; and there are some of the precipices which skirt the island of which it forms so conspicuous a feature, that rise sheer over the breakers from eight hundred to a thousand.  Unlike, however, the arrangement on the mainland, it is the newer rocks that attain to the higher elevations: the heights of Hoy are composed of that arenaceous upper member of the Lower Old Red Sandstone,—the last formed of the Palæozoic deposits of Orkney,—which overlies the ichthyolitic flagstones and shales of Caithness at Dunnet Head, and the ichthyolitic nodular beds of Inverness, Ross, and Cromarty, at Culloden, Tarbet Ness, within the Northern Sutor, and along the bleak ridge of the Maolbuie.  It is simply a tall upper storey of the formation, erected along the western line of coast in the Orkneys, which the eastern line wholly wants.  Its screen of hills forms a noble background to the prospect which opens on the traveller as he ascends the eminence beyond the Free Church manse of Frith and Stennis.  A large lake, bare and treeless, like all the other lakes and lochs of Orkney, but picturesque of outline, and divided into an upper and lower sheet of water by two low, long promontories, that jut out from opposite sides, and so nearly meet as to be connected by a thread-like line of road, half-mound half bridge, occupies the middle distance.  There are moory hills and a few rude cottages in front; and on the promontories, conspicuous in the landscape, from the relief furnished by the blue ground of the surrounding waters, stand the tall stones of Stennis,—one group on the northern promontory, the other on the south.  A gray old-fashioned house, of no very imposing appearance, rises between the road and the lake.  It is the house of Stennis or Turmister, in which Scott places some of the concluding scenes of the "Pirate," and from which he makes Cleveland and his fantastic admirer Jack Bunce witness the final engagement, in the bay of Stromness, between the Halcyon sloop of war and the savage Goffe.  Nor does it matter anything that neither sea nor vessels can be seen from the house of Turmister: the fact which would be so fatal to a dishonest historian tells with no effect against the honest "maker," responsible for but the management of his tale.

    I got on to Stromness; and finding, after making myself comfortable in my inn, that I had a fine bright evening still before me, longer by some three or four degrees of north latitude than the July evenings of Edinburgh, I set out, hammer in hand, to explore.  Stromness is a long, narrow, irregular strip of a town, fairly thrust by a steep hill into the sea, on which it encroaches in a broken line of wharf-like bulwarks, along which, at high water, vessels of a hundred tons burden float so immediately beside the houses, that their pennants on gala days wave over the chimney-tops.  The steep hill forms part of a granitic axis, about six miles in length by a mile in breadth, which forms the backbone of the district, and against which the Great Conglomerate and lower schists of the Old Red are upturned at a rather high angle.  It is wrapped round in some places by a thin caul of the stratified primary rocks.  Immediately over the town, on the brow of the eminence, where the granitic axis had been laid bare in digging a foundation for the Free Church manse, I saw numerous masses of schistose-gneiss, passing in some of the beds into a coarse-grained mica-schist, and a lustrous hornblendic slate, that had been quarried from over it, and which may be still seen built up into the garden-wall of the erection.  I walked out towards the west, to examine the junction of the granite and the Great Conglomerate, where it is laid bare by the sea, little more than a quarter of a mile outside the town.  There was a horde of noisy urchins a little beyond the inn, who, having seen me alight from the mail-gig, had determined in their own minds that I was engaged in the political canvass going forward at the time, but had not quite ascertained my side.  They now divided into two parties; and when the one, as I passed, set up a "Hurra for Dundas," the other met them from the opposite side of the street, with a counter cry of "Anderson for ever."  Immediately after clearing the houses, I was accosted by a man from the country.  "Ye'll be seeking beasts," he said: "what price are cattle gi'en the noo?"  "Yes, seeking beasts," I replied, "but very old ones: I have come to hammer your rocks for petrified fish."  "I see, I see," said the man; "I took ye by ye'er gray plaid for a drover; but I ken something about the stane fish too: there's lots o' them in the quarries at Skaill."

    I found the Great Conglomerate in immediate contact with the granite, which is a ternary of the usual components, somewhat intermediate in colour between that of Peterhead and Aberdeen, and which at this point bears none of the caul of stratified primary rock by which it is overlaid on the brow of the hill.  When the Great Conglomerate, which is mainly composed of it here, was in the act of forming, this granite must have been one of the surface rocks of the locality, and in no respect a different stone from what it is now.  The widely-spread Conglomerate base of the Old Red Sandstone, which presents, over an area of so many thousand square miles, such an identity of character, that specimens taken from the neighbourhood of Lerwick, in Shetland, can scarce be distinguished from specimens detached from the hills which rise over the Great Caledonian Valley, contains in various places, as under the Northern Sutor, for instance, and along the shores of Navity, fragments of rock which have not been detected in situ in the districts in which they occur as agglomerated pebbles.  In general, however, we find it composed of the debris of those very granites and gneisses which, as in the case of the granitic axis here, were forced through it, and through the overlying deposits, by deep-seated convulsions, long posterior in date to its formation.  It appears to have been formed in a vast oceanic basin of primary rock,—a Palæozoic Hudson's or Baffin's Bay,—partially surrounded, mayhap, by bare primary continents, swept by numerous streams, rapid and headlong, and charged with the broken debris of the inhospitable regions which they drained.  The graptolite-bearing grauwacke of Banffshire seems to have been the only fossiliferous rock that occurred throughout the entire extent of this ancient northern basin.  The Conglomerate of Orkney, like that of Moray and Ross, varies from fifty to a hundred yards in thickness.  It is not overlaid in this section by the thick bed of coarse-grained sandstone, so well-marked a member of the formation at Cromarty, Nigg, and Gamrie, and along the northern shores of the Beauly Frith; but at once passes into those gray bituminous flagstones so immensely developed in Caithness and the Orkneys.  I traced the formation upwards this evening, walking along the edges of the upheaved strata, from where the Conglomerate leans against the granite, till where it merges into the gray flagstones, and then pursued these from older and lower to newer and higher layers, anxious to ascertain at what distance over the base the more ancient organisms of the system first appear, and what their character and kind.  And little more than a hundred yards over the granite, and somewhat less than a hundred feet over the upper stratum of the Great Conglomerate, I found what I sought,—a well-marked bone, perhaps the oldest vertebrate remain yet discovered in Orkney, embedded in a light grayish-coloured layer of hard flag.

    What, asks the reader, was the character of the ancient denizen of the Palæozoic basin of which it had formed a part?  Was it a large or small fish, or of a high or low order?  Not certainly of a low order, and by no means of a small size.  The organism in the rock was a specimen of that curious nail-shaped bone of the Asterolepis which occurs as a central ridge in the single plate that occupies in this genus the wide curve of the under jaw; and as it was fully five inches in length from head to point, the plate to which it belonged must have measured at least ten inches across, and the frontal occipital buckler with which it was associated, one foot two inches in length (not including the three accessory plates at the nape), by ten inches in breadth.  And if built, as it probably was, in the same massy proportions as its brother Cœlacanths the Holoptychius or Glyptolepis, the individual to which the nail-shaped bone belonged must have been, judging from the size of the corresponding parts in these ichthyolites, at least twice as large an animal as the splendid Clashbennie Holoptychius of the Upper Old Red, now in the British Museum.  The bulkiest ichthyolites yet found in any of the divisions of the Old Red system are of the genus Asterolepis; and to this genus, and to evidently an individual of no inconsiderable size, this oldest of the organisms of Orkney belonged.  I was so interested in the fact, that before ultimately leaving this part of the country I brought Dr Garson, Stromness, and Mr William Watt, jun., Skaill, both very intelligent palæontologists, to mark the place and character of the fossil, that they might be able to point it out to geological visitors in the future, or, if they preferred removing it to their town Museum, to indicate to them the stratum in which it had lain.  For the present I merely request the reader to mark, in the passing, that the most ancient organic remain yet found in the Old Red of this part of the country, nay, judging from its place, one of the most ancient yet found in Scotland,—so far as I know, absolutely the most ancient,—belonged to a ganoid as bulky as a large porpoise, and which, as shown by its teeth and jaws, possessed that peculiar organization which characterized the reptile fish of the Upper Devonian and Carboniferous periods.  As there are, however, no calculations more doubtful or more to be suspected than those on which the size and bulk of the extinct animals are determined from some surviving fragment of their remains,—plate or bone,—I must attempt laying before the scientific reader at least a portion of the data on which I found.

    This figure represents not inadequately one of the most characteristic plates of the Asterolepis.  A very consider-able fragment of what seems to be the same plate has been figured by Agassiz, from a cast of one of the huge specimens of Professor Asmus ("Old Red," Table 32, Fig. 13); but as no evidence regarding its true place had turned up at the time, it was supposed by the naturalist to form part of the opercular covering of the animal.  It belonged, however, to a different portion of the head.  In almost all the fish that appear at our tables the space which occurs within the arched sweep of the lower jaws is mainly occupied by a complicated osseous mechanism, known to anatomists as the hyoid bone and branchiostegous rays; and which serves both to support the branchial arches and the branchiostegous membrane.  Now, in the fish of the Old Red Sandstone, if we except some of the Acanthodians, we find no trace of this piece of mechanism: the arched space is covered over with dermal plates of bone, as a window is filled up with panes.  Three plates, resembling very considerably the three divisions of a pointed Gothic window, furnished with a single central mullion, divided atop into two branches, occupied the space in the genera Osteolepis and Diplopterus; and two plates resembling the divisions of a pointed Gothic window, whose single central mullion does not branch atop, filled it up in the genera Holoptychius and Glyptolepis.  In the genus Asterolepis this arch-shaped space was occupied, as I have said, by a single plate,—that represented in the wood-cut; and the nail-shaped bone rose on its internal surface along the centre,—the nail-head resting immediately beneath the centre of the arch, and the nail-point bordering on the isthmus below, at which the two shoulder-bones terminated.  Now, in all the specimens which I have yet examined, the form and proportions of this plate are such that it can be very nearly inscribed in a semicircle, of which the length of the nail forms the radius.  A nail five inches in length must have belonged to a plate ten inches in its longer diameter.  I have ascertained further, that this longer diameter was equal to the shorter diameter of the creature's frontal buckler, measured across about two-thirds of its entire length from the nape; and that a transverse diameter of ten inches at this point was associated in the buckler with a longitudinal diameter of fourteen inches from the nape to the snout.  Thus five inches along the nail represent fourteen inches along the occipital shield.  The proportion, however, which the latter bore to the entire body in this genus has still to be determined.  The corresponding frontal shield in the Coccosteus was equal to about one-fifth the creature's entire length, and in the Osteolepis and Diplopterus, to nearly one-seventh its length; while the length of the Glyptolepis leptopterus, a fish of the same family as the Asterolepis, was about five and a half times that of its occipital shield.  If the Asterolepis was formed in the proportions of the Diplopterus, the ancient individual to which this nail-like bone belonged must have been about eight feet two inches in length; but if moulded, as it more probably was, in the proportions of the Glyptolepis, only six feet five inches.  All the Coelacanths, however, were exceedingly massive in proportion to their length: they were fish built in the square, muscular, thick-set, Dirk-Hatterick and Balfour-of-Burley style; and of the Russian specimens, some of the larger bones must have belonged to individuals of from twice to thrice the length of the Stromness one.

    Passing upwards along the strata, step by step, as along a fallen stair, each stratum presenting a nearly perpendicular front, but losing, in the downward slant of the tread, as a carpenter would say, the height attained in the rise, I came, about a quarter of a mile farther to the west, and several hundred feet higher in the formation, upon a fissile dark-coloured bed, largely charged with ichthyolites.  The fish I found ranged in three layers,—the lower layer consisting almost exclusively of Dipterians, chiefly Osteotepides; the middle layer, of Acanthodians, of the genera Cheiracanthus and Diplacanthus; and the upper layer, of Cephalaspides, mostly of one species, the Coccosteus decipiens.  I found exactly the same arrangement in a bed considerably higher in the system, which occurs a full mile farther on,—the Dipterians at the bottom, the Acanthodians in the middle, and the Cephalaspides atop; and was informed by Mr William Watt, a competent authority in the case, that the arrangement is comparatively a common one in the quarries of Orkney.  How account for the phenomenon?  How account for the three storeys, and the apportionment of the floors, like those of a great city, each to its own specific class of society?  Why should the first floor be occupied by Osteolepides, the second by Cheiracanthi and their cogeners, and the third by Coccostei?  Was the arrangement an effect of normal differences in the constitutions of the several families, operated upon by some deleterious gas or mineral poison, which, though it eventually destroyed the whole, did not so simultaneously, but consecutively,—the families of weakest constitution first, and the strongest last?  Or were they exterminated by some disease, that seized upon the families, not at once, but in succession?  Or did they visit the locality serially, as the haddock now visits our coasts in spring, and the herring towards the close of summer; and were then killed off, whether by poison or disease, as they came?  These are questions which may never be conclusively answered.  It is well, however, to observe, as a curious geological fact, that peculiar arrangement of the fossils by which they are suggested, and to record the various instances in which it occurs.  The minerals which I remarked among the schists here as most abundant are a kind of black ironstone, exceedingly tough and bard, occurring in detached masses, and a variety of bright pyrites disseminated among the darker flagstones, either as irregularly-formed, brassy-looking concretions of small size, or spread out on their surfaces in thin leaf-like films, that resemble, in some of the specimens, the icy foliage with which a severe frost encrusts a window-pane.  Still further on I came upon a vein of galena; but a miner's excavation in the solid rock, a little above high-water mark, quite as dark and nearly as narrow as a fox-earth, showed me that it had been known long before, and, as the workings seemed to have been deserted for ages, known to but little purpose.  The crystals of ore, small and thinly scattered, are embedded in a matrix of barytes, stromnite, and other kindred minerals, and the thickness of the entire vein is not very considerable.  I have since learned, from the "Statistical Account of the Parish of Sandwick," that the workings of the mine penetrate into the rock for about a hundred yards, but that it has been long abandoned, "as a speculation which would not pay."

    I observed scattered over the beach, in the neighbourhood of the lead mine, considerable quantities of the hard chalk of England; and, judging there could be no deposits of the hard chalk in this neighbourhood, I addressed myself, on my way back, to a kelp-burner engaged in wrapping up his fire for the night with a thick covering of weed, to ascertain how it had come there.  "Ah, master," he replied, "that chalk is all that remains of a fine large English vessel, that was knocked to pieces here a few years ago.  She was ballasted with the chalk; and as it is a light sort of stone, the surf has washed it ashore from that low reef in the middle of the tideway where she struck and broke up.  Most of the sailors, poor fellows, lie in the old churchyard, beside the broken ruin yonder.  It is a deadly shore this to seafaring-men."  I had understood that the kelp-trade was wholly at an end in Orkney; and, remarking that the sea-weed which he employed was chiefly of one kind,—the long brown fronds of tang dried in the sun,—I inquired of him to what purpose the substance was now employed, seeing that barilla and the carbonate of soda had supplanted it in the manufacture of soap and glass, and why he was so particular in selecting his weed.  "It's some valuable medicine," he said, "that's made of the kelp now: I forget its name; but it's used for bad sores and cancer; and we must be particular in our weed, for it's not every kind of weed that has the medicine in't.  There's most of it, we're told, in the leaves of the tang."  "Is the name of the drug," I asked, "iodine?"  "Ay, that must be just it," he replied,—"iodine;" but it doesn't make such a demand for the kelp as the glass and the soap."  I afterwards learned that the kelp-burner's character of this strip of coast, as peculiarly fatal to the mariner, was borne out by many a sad casualty, too largely charged with the wild and the horrible to be lightly forgotten.  The respected Free Church clergyman of Stromness, Mr Learmonth, informed me that, ere the Disruption, while yet minister of the parish, there were on one sad occasion eight dead bodies carried of a Sabbath morning to his manse door.  Some of the incidents connected with these terrible shipwrecks, as related with much graphic effect by a boatman who carried me across the sound, on an exploratory ramble to the island of Hoy, struck me as of a character considerably beyond the reach of the mere dealer in fiction.  The master of one hapless vessel, a young man, had brought his wife and only child with him on the voyage destined to terminate so mournfully; and when the vessel first struck, he had rushed down to the cabin to bring them both on deck, as their only chance of safety.  He had, however, unthinkingly shut the cabin-door after him; a second tremendous blow, as not unfrequently happens in such cases, so affected the framework of the sides and deck, that the door was jambed fast in its frame.  And long ere it could be cut open,—for no human hand could unfasten it,—the vessel had filled to the beams, and neither the master nor his wife and child were ever seen more.  In another ship, wrecked within a cable-length of the beach, the mate, a man of Herculean proportions, and a skilful swimmer, stripped and leaped overboard, not doubting his ability to reach the shore.  But he had failed to remark what in such circumstances is too often forgotten, that the element on which he flung himself, beaten into foam against the shallows, was, according to Mr Bremner's shrewd definition, not water, but a mixture of water and air, specifically lighter than the human body; and so at the shore, though so close at hand, he never arrived, disappearing almost at the vessel's side.  "The ground was rough," said my informant, "and the sea ran mountains high; and I can scarce tell you how I shuddered on finding, long ere his corpse was thrown up, his two eyes detached from their sockets, staring from a wreath of sea-weed."  There is in this last circumstance, horrible enough surely for the wildest German tale ever written, a unique singularity, which removes it beyond the reach of invention.

    At my inn I found a pressing invitation awaiting me from the Free Church manse, which I was urged to make my home so long as I remained in that part of the country.  A geologist, however, fairly possessed by the enthusiasm without which weak man can accomplish nothing,—whether he be a deer-stalker or a mammoth-fancier, or angle for live salmon or dead Pterichthyes,—has a trick of forgetting the right times of dining and taking tea, and of throwing the burden of his bodily requirements on early extempore breakfasts and late suppers; and so, reporting myself a man of irregular habits and bad hours, whose movements could not in the least be depended upon, I had to decline the hospitality which would fain have adopted me as its guest, notwithstanding the badness of the character that, in common honesty, I had to certify as my own.  Next morning I breakfasted at the manse, and was introduced by Mr Learmonth to two gentlemen of the place, who had been kindly invited to meet with me, and who, from their acquaintance with the geology of the district, enabled me to make the best use of my time, by cutting direct on those cliffs and quarries in the neighbourhood in which organic remains had been detected, instead of wearily re-discovering them for myself.  There is a small but interesting museum in Stromness, rich in the fossils of the locality; and I began the geologic business of the day by devoting an hour to the examination of its organ isms, chiefly ichthyolites.  I saw among them several good specimens of the genus Pterichthys, and of what is elsewhere one of the rarer genera of the Dipterians,—the Diplopterus.  A well-marked individual of the latter genus had, I found, been misnamed Dipterus by some geological visitor who had recently come the way,—a mistake which, as in both ichthyolites the fins are similarly placed, occasionally occurs, but which may be easily avoided, when the specimens are in a tolerable state of preservation, by taking note of a few well-marked characteristics by which the genera are distinguished.  In both Dipterus and Diplopterus the bright enamel of the scales was thickly punctulated by microscopic points,—the exterior terminations of funnel-shaped openings, that communicated between the surface and the cells of the middle table of the scale; but the form of the scales themselves was different,—that of the Dipterus being nearly circular, and that of the Diplopterus, save on the dorsal ridge, rhomboidal.  Again, the lateral line of the Diplopterus was a raised line, running as a ridge along the scales; whereas that of the Dipterus was a depressed one, existing as a furrow.  Their heads, too, were covered by an entirely dissimilar arrangement of plates.  The rounded snout-plate of the Diplopterus was suddenly contracted to nearly one-half its breadth by two semicircular inflections, which formed the orbits of the eyes; full in the centre, a little above these, a minute lozenge-shaped plate seemed as if inlaid in the larger one, the analogue, apparently, of the anterior frontal; and over all there expanded a broad plate, the superior frontal, half-divided vertically by a line drawn downwards from the nape, which, however, stopt short in the middle; and fretted transversely by two small but deeply-indented rectangular marks, which, crossing from the central to two lateral plates, assumed the semblance of connecting pins.  The snout of the Dipterus was less round; it bore no mark of the eye-orbits; and the frontal buckler, broader in proportion to its length than that of the Diplopterus, consisted of many more plates.  I may here mention that the frontal buckler of Diplopterus has not yet been figured nor described; whereas that of Dipterus, though unknown as such, has been given to the world as the occipital covering of a supposed Cephalaspian,—the Polyphractus.  Polyphractus is, however, in reality a synonym for Dipterus,—the one name being derived from a peculiarity of the animal's fins; the other, from the great number of its occipital plates.  There is no science founded on mere observation that can be altogether free, in its earlier stages, from mistakes of this character,—mistakes to which the palaeontologist, however skilful, is peculiarly liable.  The teeth of the two genera were essentially different.  Those of the Dipterus, exclusively palatal, were blunt and squat, and ranged in two rectangular patches; [15] while those of the Diplopterus bristled along its jaws, and were slender and sharp.  Their tails, too, though both heterocercal, were diverse in their type.  In each, an angular strip of gradually-diminishing scales,—a prolongation of the scaly coat which protected the body, and which covered here a prolongation of the vertebral column,—ran on to the extreme termination of the upper lobe; but there was in the Diplopterus a greatly larger development of fin on the superior or dorsal side of the scaly strip than on that of the Dipterus.  If the caudal fin of the Osteolepis be divided longitudinally into six equal parts, it will be found that one of these occurs on the upper side of the vertebral prolongation, and five on the under; in the caudal fin of the Diplopterus so divided, rather more than two parts will be found to occur on the upper side, and rather less than four on the under; while in the caudal fin of the Dipterus the development seems to have been restricted to the under side exclusively; at least, in none of the many individuals which I have examined have I found any trace of caudal rays on the upper side.  These are minute and somewhat trivial particulars; but the geologist may find them of use; and the non-geologist may be disposed to extend to them some little degree of tolerance, when he considers that they distinguished two largely-developed genera of animals, to which the Author of all did not deem it unworthy his wisdom to impart, in the act of creation, certain marked points of resemblance, and other certain points of dissimilarity.

    From the Museum, accompanied by one of the gentlemen to whom Mr Learmonth had introduced me at breakfast, and who obligingly undertook to act as my guide on the occasion, I set out to visit a remarkable stack on the sea-coast, about four miles north and west of Stromness. We scaled together the steep granitic hill immediately over the town, and then cut on the stack, straight as the bird flies, across a trackless common, bare and stony, and miserably pared by the flaugthter spade.  The landed proprietors in this part of the mainland are very numerous, and their properties small; and there are vast breadths of undivided common that encircle their little estates, as the Atlantic encircles the Orkneys.   But the state in which I found the unappropriated parts of the district had in no degree the effect of making me an opponent of appropriation or the landholders.  Our country, had it been left as a whole to all its people, as the Communist desiderates, would ere now be of exceedingly little value to any portion of them.  The soil of the Orkney commons has been so repeatedly pared off and carried away for fuel, that there are now wide tracts on which there is no more soil to pare, and which present, for the original covering of peaty mould, a continuous surface of pale boulder-clay, here and there mottled by detached tufts of scraggy heath, and here and there roughened by projections of the underlying rock.  All is unredeemable barrenness.  On the other hand, wherever a bit of private property appears, though in the immediate neighbourhood of these ruined wastes, the surface is swarded over, and the soil is the better, not the worse, for the services which it has rendered to man in the past.  Whatever the Chartist and the Leveller may think of the matter, it is, I find, virtually on behalf of the many that the soil has been appropriated by the few.  After passing from off the tract of moor which overlies the granitic axis of the district, to a tract equally moory which spreads over the gray flagstones, I marked, more especially in the hollows and ravines, where minute springs oose from the rock, vast quantities of bog iron embedded in the soil, and presenting greatly the appearance of the scoria of a smith's forge.  The apparent scoria here is simply a reproduction of the iron of the underlying flagstones, transferred, through the agency of water, to that stratum of vegetable mould and boulder-clay which represents the recent period.

    I found the stack which I had been brought to see forming the picturesque centre of a bold tract of rock scenery.  It stands out from the land as a tall insulated tower, about two hundred feet in height, sorely worn at its base by the breakers that ceaselessly fret against its sides, but considerably broader atop, where it bears a flat cover of sward on the same level with the tops of the precipices which in the lapse of ages have receded from around it.  Like the sward-crested hummock left by a party of labourers, to mark the depth to which they have cut in removing a bank or digging a pond, it remains to indicate how the attrition of the surf has told upon the iron-bound coast; demonstrating that lines of precipices hard as iron, and of giddy elevation, are in full retreat before the dogged perseverance of an assailant that though baffled in each single attack, ever returns to the charge, and gains by an aggregation of infinitesimals,—the result of the whole.  From the edge of a steep promontory that commands an inflection of the coast, and of the wall of rock which sweeps round it, I watched for a few seconds the sea,—greatly heightened at the time by the setting in of the flood-tide,—as it broke, surge after surge, against the base of the tall dark precipices; and marked how it accomplished its work of disintegration.  The flagstone deposit here abounds in vertical cracks and flaws; and in the line of each of the many fissures which these form the waves have opened up a cave; so that for hundreds of yards together the precipices seem as if founded on arch-divided piers, and remind one of those ancient prints or drawings of Old London Bridge in which a range of tall sombre buildings is represented as rising high over a line of arches; or of rows of lofty houses in those cities of southern Europe in which the dwellings fronting the streets are perforated beneath by lines of squat piazzas, and present above a dingy and windowless breadth of wall.  In course of time the piers attenuate and give way; the undermined precipices topple down, parting from the solid mass behind in those vertical lines by which they are traversed at nearly right angles with their line of stratification; the perpendicular front which they bad covered comes to be presented, in consequence, to the sea; its faults and cracks gradually widen into caves, as those of the fallen front had gradually widened at an earlier period; in the lapse of centuries, it too, resigning its place, topples over headlong, an undermined mass; the surge dashes white and furious where the dense rock had rested before; and thus, in its slow but irresistible march, the sea gains upon the land.  In the peculiar disposition and character of the prevailing strata of Orkney, as certainly as in the power of the tides which sweep athwart its coasts, and the wide extent of sea which, stretching around it, gives the waves scope to gather bulk and momentum, may be found the secret of the extraordinary height to which the surf sometimes rises against its walls of rock.  During the fiercer tempests, masses of foam shoot upwards against the precipices, like inverted cataracts, fully two hundred feet over the ordinary tide-level, and, washing away the looser soil from their summits, leaves in its place patches of slaty gravel, resembling that of a common sea-beach.  Rocks less perpendicular, however great the violence of the wind and sea, would fail to project upwards bodies of surf to a height so extraordinary.  But the low angle at which the strata lie, and the rectangularity maintained in relation to their line of bed by the fissures which traverse them, give to the Orkney precipices,—remarkable for their perpendicularity and their mural aspect,—exactly the angle against which the waves, as broken masses of foam, beat up to their greatest possible altitude.  On a tract of iron-bound coast that skirts the entrance of the Cromarty Frith I have seen the surf rise, during violent gales from the north-west especially, against one rectangular rock, known as the White Rock, fully an hundred feet; while against scarcely any of the other precipices, more sloping, though equally exposed, did it rise more than half that height.



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NOTES.

 
14.    Ed.—"John Malcolm was the second son of the Rev. John Malcolm, minister of the parish of Firth and Stennis, Orkney, where he was born about 1795.  Through a personal application to the Duke of Kent, he was enabled to proceed as a volunteer to join the army in Spain.  Arriving at the period when the army under General Graham (afterwards Lord Lynedoch) was besieging St Sebastian, he speedily obtained a lieutenancy in the 42d Regiment, in which he served to the close of the Pyrenees' campaign.  Wounded at the battle of Toulouse, by a musket-ball penetrating his right shoulder, and otherwise debilitated, he retired from active service on half-pay, and with a pension for his wound.  He now fixed his abode in Edinburgh, and devoted himself to literary pursuits.  He contributed to Constable's Magazine, and other periodicals.  For one of the earlier volumes of 'Constable's Miscellany,' he wrote a narrative of the Peninsular War.  As a poet, he became known by some stanzas on the death of Lord Byron, which appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal.  In 1828, he published 'Scenes of War, and other Poems;' and subsequently contributed numerous poetical pieces to the pages of the Edinburgh Literary Journal.  A small volume of prose sketches also appeared from his pen, under the title of 'Tales of Field and Flood.'  In 1831 he undertook the editorship of the Edinburgh Observer newspaper, which he held till the period of his death.  He died at Edinburgh, of a pulmonary complaint, in September 1835." (From The Modern Scottish Minstrel, by Charles Rogers, LL.D, Vol. III. - Project Gutenberg).
 
15.    I can entertain no doubt that the angular groups of palatal teeth figured by Agassiz and the Russian geologists as those of a supposed Placoid termed the Ctenodus, are in reality groups of the palatal teeth of Dipterns.  In some of my specimens the frontal buckler of Polyphractus is connected with the gill-covers and scales of Dipterus, and bears in its palate what cannot be distinguished from the teeth of Ctenodus.  The three genera resolve themselves into one.

 


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