BETA

The Bass Rock.

I.

Twas Summer, and a more enlivening sun1
Never drank up the gelid morning dews,2
Or lighted, with its glow, the July flowers,3
Than that on which our boat left Canta Bay,4
And through the freshening tide, with eager prow,5
Bore onward to thy base, horrific Bass !6

II.

’Mid clouds of sea-fowl, whose unceasing screams7
Uncouth, fill’d all the empty heavens with sound,8
Forward we row’d : at times the solan’s wing,—9
As if to shew its majesty of strength,—10
Brush’d near us with a roughly winnowing noise ;11
And now aloft, a lessening speck, was seen,12
Over the cloudlets, ’ mid engulfing blue.13
Around us and around the plovers wheel’d,14
Wedgelike, at intervals their inner plumes15
Glancing like silver in the sunny ray ;16
The parrot dived beside us ; and the snipe,17
With shrilly scream, wing’d past us in alarm,—18
Until thy sole and narrow landing-place19
We reach’d ; and, grappling with the naked crags,20
Wound to a smoother ledge our sheer ascent.21

III.

Never was transit so electrical !22
An hour ago,—and by thy traceried walls23
We drove, Newbyth, beneath the o’erhanging boughs24
Of forests old, wherein the stock-doye plain’d,25
And lay our path ’ mid bright and bloomy fields,26
Where woke the lyric lark her fitful song,27
And linnets, from each brake, responsively28
Piped to each other, till the scented groves29
Of Tyningham seem’d melody’s abode—30
Every thing breathed of life ; the hillside farms31
Bask’d in the sunshine, with their yellow cones32
Of gather’d grain ; the ploughboy, with his team,33
Stalk’d past us whistling ; and from cottage roofs,34
Bluely ascended to the soft blue sky35
The spiral smoke, which spake domestic love,36
In household duties cheerfully perform’d : —37
And now, as if communion were cut off38
Utterly with mankind and his concerns,—39
Amid the bleak and barren solitude40
Of that precipitous and sea-girt isle,41
We found ourselves—the waves their orison42
Howl’d to the winds, which from the breezy North,43
Over the German Ocean came, as ’ twere44
To moan in anger through the rifted caves,45
Whose echoes gave a desolate response !46

IV.

Far in the twilight of primeval time,47
This must have been a place (thus to myself48
I thought) where Aboriginal men pour’d forth49
Their erring worship to the elements ;50
Ere yet the Druid, in the sullen night51
Of old oak-forests, tinged his altar stone52
With blood of brotherhood : —it must be so—53
So awful doth the spirit of their powers—54
The desolating winds and trampling waves—55
Here, in this solitude, impress the mind ;56
Yet human hearts have beat in this abode,57
And captive eyes, for many a joyless month,58
Have marked the sun, that rose o’er eastward May,59
Expire in glory o’er the summits dun60
Of the far Grampians, in the golden west ;61
And still some ruins, motleyed with the weeds62
That love the salt-breeze,—tell of prisons grim,63
Where, in an age as rude, through less remote,64
The fearless champions of our faith reform’d,65
Shut up, and severed from the land they loved,—66
Breathed out their prayers,—that day-spring from on high67
Should visit us,—to God’s sole listening ear !68

V.

All glorious was the prospect from thy peak,69
Thou thunder-cloven Island of the main !70
Landward Tantallon lay, with ruin’d walls71
Majestic,—like a giant in old age,72
Smote by the black’ning lightning-flash, and left73
A prostrate corse, upon the sounding shore.74
Remoter, mingling with the blue of heaven,75
Pale Cheviot told, where, stretching by his feet,76
Bloom’d the fair valleys of Northumberland : —77
Seaward, the Forth, a glowing green expanse,78
Studded with many a white, majestic sail,79
Winded its serpent form—the Ochills rich80
Down gazing in its mirror ; —while, beyond,81
The Grampians rear’d their bare untrodden scalps.—82
Fife shew’d her range of scattery coast towns white,83
From western Culross to the dwindling point84
Of famed and far St Andrews—all beyond85
Was Ocean’s billowy and unbounded waste,86
Sole-broken by thy verdant islet, May,87
Whose fitful light, amid impending gloom,88
From danger warns the pesos mariner ;89
And one black speck—a distant sail—which told,90
Where mingled with its line the horizon dim.91

VI.

Who were thy visitants, lone Isle, since man92
Shrank from thy sea-flower solitudes, and left93
His blackening ruins ’ mid thy barren rocks ? —94
Up came the cormorant, with dusky wing,95
From northern Orkney, an adventurous flight,96
Floating far o’er us in the liquid blue ;97
While many a hundred fathom in the abyss98
Below, where lash’d the foaming surge unheard,99
Dwindled by distance, flocks of mighty fowl100
Floated like feathery specks upon the wave.101
The rower with his boat-hook struck the mast,—102
And, lo ! the myriad wings, that like a sheet103
Of snow o’erspread the crannies, all were up !104
Thousands on, thousands, an inumerous throng,105
Darkening the noontide with their winnowing plumes,106
A cloud of animation ! —the wide air107
Resounding with their mingling cries uncouth.108

VII.

Words-cannot tell the sense of loneliness,109
Which then and there, cloudlike, across my soul,110
Fell, as our weary steps clomb that ascent.—111
Amid encompassing mountains I have stood,112
At twilight, when alone the little stars,113
Brightening amid the wilderness of blue,114
Proclaim’d a world not God-forsaken quite : —115
I have walk’d, at midnight, on the hollow shore,116
In darkness, when the trampling of the waves,—117
The demon-featured clouds,—and howling gales,—118
Seem’d like returning chaos ; all the fierce,119
Terrific elements in league with night ;120
Earth crouching underneath their tyrannous sway ;121
And the lone sea-bird screaming from his rock ! —122
And I have mused in churchyards old and rude,123
And long forsaken, even by the dead,124
Beneath the waning moon, whose mournful ray125
Shew’d but the grey hawk sleeping on his stone : —126
But never, in its moods of phantasy,127
Had to itself my spirit shaped a scene128
Of sequestration more profound than thine,129
Grim throne of solitude, stupendous Bass ! —130
Oft in the populous city, ’ mid the stir131
And strife of hurrying thousands, to thy cliffs132
Precipitous and wild—the solan’s home—133
Wander my reveries ; and thoughts of thee,—134
(While scarcely stirs the ivy round the porch,)—135
Oft make the hush of midnight more profound.136