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blackened with algae, and around which a shoal of porpoises are gambolling, the summit of Arthur Seat 1 The wide sound, now a rich agricultural valley, is here studded by its fleets of tall icebergs,—there cumbered by its level fields of drift-ice. Nature sports wantonly amid every variety of form; and the motion of the great floating masses, cast into shapes with which we associate moveless solidity, adds to the magical effect of the scene. Here a flat-roofed temple, surrounded by colonnades of hoar and wasted columns, comes drifting past; there a cathedral, furnished with towers and spire, strikes heavily against the rocky bottom, many fathoms beneath, and its nodding pinnacles stoop at every blow. Yonder, already fast aground, there rests a ponderous castle, with its curtained towers, its arched gateway, and its multitudinous turrets, reflected on the calm surface beneath; and pyramids and obelisks, buttressed ramparts, and embrasured watch-towers, with shapes still more fantastic,— those of ships, and trees, and brute and human forms,— crowd the retiring vista beyond. There is a scarce less marked variety of colour. The intense white of the fieldice, thinly covered with snow, and glittering without shade in the declining sun, dazzles the eye. The taller icebergs gleam in hues of more softened radiance,—here of an emerald green, there of a sapphire blue, yonder of a paly marble grey; the light, polarized by a thousand cross reflections, sports amid the planes and facets, the fissures and pinnacles, in all the rainbow gorgeousness of the prismatic hues. And bright over all rise on the distant horizon the detached mountain-tops, now catching a flush of crimson and gold from the setting luminary. But the sun sinks, and the clouds gather, and the night comes on black with tempest; and the grounded masses, moved by the violence of the aroused winds, grate heavily along the bbttom; and while the whole heavens are foul with sleet and snow-rack, and the driving masses clash in rude collision, till all beneath is one wide stunning roar, the tortured sea boils and dashes around them, turbid with the comminuted debris of the fretted rocks below.
The vision belongs to an early age of the boulder-clay: it changes to a later time; and the same sea spreads out as before, laden by what seem the same drifting ice-floes. But the lower hills, buried in the profound depths of ocean, are no longer visible; the Lammermuirs have disappeared; and the slopes of Braid and Duddingstone, with "North Berwick Law, with cone of green, And Bass amid the waters;"
and we can only determine their place by the huger icebergs that lie stranded and motionless on their peaks; while the lesser masses drift on to the east. Moons wax and wane, and tides rise and fall; and still the deep current of the gulf-stream flows ever from the west, traversing the wide Atlantic, like some vast river winding through an enormous extent of meadow; and, in eddying over the' submerged land, it arranges behind the buried eminences, in its own easterly line, many a long trail of gravel and debris, to form the Crag and Tail phenomenon of future geologists. As we extend our view, we may mark, far in the west, where the arctic current, dotted white with its ice-mountains and floes, impinges on the gulf stream; and where, sinking from its chill density to a lower stratum of sea, it gives up its burden to the lighter and more tepid tide. A thick fog hangs over the junction, where the warmer waters of the west and south encounter the chill icy air of the north; and, steaming forth into the bleak atmosphere like a seething caldron, the cloud, when the west wind blows, fills with its thick grey reek the recesses of the half-foundered land, and obscures the prospect.
Anon there is another change in the' dream. The long period of submergence is past; the country is again rising; and, under a climate still ungenial and severe, the glaciers lengthen out seawards, as the land broadens and extends, till the northern and western Highlands seem manacled in ice. Even the lower hill-tops exhibit an alpine vegetation, beautiful, though somewhat meagre; while in the firths and bays, the remote ancestors of many of our existing shells that thrive in the higher latitudes, still mix, as at an earlier period, with shells whose living representatives are now to be sought on the coasts of northern Scandinavia and Greenland. Ages pass; the land rises slowly over the deep, terrace above terrace; the thermal line moves gradually to the north; the line of perpetual snow ascends beyond the mountain summits; the temperature increases; the ice disappears ; the semi-arctic plants creep up the hill-sides, to be supplanted on the plains by the leafy denizens of happier climates; and at length, under skies such as now look down upon us, and on nearly the existing breadth of land, the human period begins. The half-naked hunter, armed with his hatchet or lance of stone, pursues the roe or the wild ox through woods that, though comparatively but of yesterday, already present appearances of a hoar antiquity; or, when the winter snows gather around his dwelling, does battle at its beleaguered threshold with the hungry wolf or the bear. The last great geologic change takes place; the coast line is suddenly elevated; and the country presents a new front to the sea. And on the widened platform, when yet other ages have come and gone, the historic period commences, and the light of a classical literature falls for the first time on the incidents of Scottish story, and on the bold features of Scottish character.
It is said that modern science is adverse to the exercise and development of the imaginative faculty. But is it really so 1 Are visions such as those in which we have been indulging less richly charged with that poetic pabulum on which fancy feeds and grows strong, than those ancient tales of enchantment and faery which beguiled of old, in solitary homesteads, the long winter nights. Because science flourishes, must poesy decline? The complaint serves but to betray the weakness of the class who urge it. True, in an age like the present,—considerably more scientific than poetical,—science substitutes for the smaller poetry of fiction, the great poetry of truth; and as there is a more general interest felt in new revelations of what God has wrought, than in exhibitions of what the humbler order of poets have half-borrowed, half-invented, the disappointed dreamers complain that the 'material laws' of science have pushed them from their place. As well might the Arab who prided himself upon the beauty of some white tent which he had reared in some green oasis of the desert, complain of the dull tools of Belzoni's labourers, when engaged in clearing from the sands the front of some august temple of the ancient time. It is not the tools, it might be well said to the complainer, that are competing with your neat little tent; it is the sublime edifice, hitherto covered up, which the tools are laying bare. Nor is it the material laws, we may, on the same principle, say to the poets of the querulous cast, that are overbearing your little inventions, and making them seem small; but those sublime works and wonderful actings of the Creator which they unveil, and bring into comparison with yours. But from His works and His actings have the masters of the lyre ever derived their choicest materials; and whenever a truly great poet arises,—one that will add a profound intellect to a powerful imagination,—he will find science not his enemy, but an obsequious caterer and a devoted friend. He will find sermons in stones, and more of the suggestive and the sublime in a few broken scaurs of clay, a few fragmentary shells, and a few green reaches of the old coast line, than versifiers of the ordinary calibre in their once fresh gems and flowers,—in sublime ocean, the broad earth, or the blue firmament and all its stars.
The Poet Delta (Dr. Moir)—His Definition of Poetry—His Death—His Burialplace at Inveresk—Vision, Geological and Historical, of the Surrounding Country—What it is that imparts to Nature its Poetry—The Tertiary Formation in Scotland—In Geologic History all Ages contemporary—Amber the Resin of the Pinus succinifer—A Vegetable Production of the Middle Tertiary Ages —Its Properties and Uses—The Masses of Insects enclosed in it—The Structural Geology of Scotland—Its Trap Rock—The Scenery usually associated with the Trap Rock—How formed—The Cretaceous Period in Scotland—Its Productions—The Chalk Deposits—Death of Species dependent on Laws different from those which determine the Death of Individuals—The Two great Infinites.
The members of the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh enjoyed the privilege last season of listening to one of the sweetest and tenderest of modern British poets eloquently descanting on the history of modern British poetry. Rarely had master established for himself a better claim to teach. And, regarding the elegant volume produced on that occasion, so exquisite in its taste and so generous in its criticisms, it may justly be said that perhaps its only, at all events its gravest defect, is the inevitable one that, in exhibiting all that during the bypast generation was most characteristic and best in the poesy of our country, it should have taken no cognizance of the poetry of Delta. Dr. Moir had just finished his course, but his volume had not yet appeared, when, urged by a friend, I perhaps too rashly consented to contribute two lectures to a course then delivering in the native town of the poet; and in one of these I expressed the conviction to which I gave utterance last season in this place, that there is no incompatibility between the pursuit of geologic science and a genial