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The chant of distant choristers -- the sigh at early
dawn, Amidst the desert's silent wastes, from fabled Memnon
drawn; The murmur of Æolian tones, that tremble and expire, All the soul's hoarded sweets are poor, to breathe Her
Name, my lyre!
Low be it breathed, as whispered prayer — and yet un
bidden rise In every burst of jubilee that rends the jocund skies; Be it the hallowed lamp that lights the spirit's inmost
fane, The sacred watchword from within, that ne'er is heard
O friends! ere in her daring flight my Muse in words
of flame Mingles with names profaned by pride, love's sacred,
treasured name, Let it, in hymns of holiest swell, the soul's deep echoes
ring, As though some passing angel shook Elysium from
Some years have elapsed (I am sometimes tempted to forget how many) since I endeavoured to compensate the deficiencies of a neglected education on my own side the Tweed, by voluntary studies at the University of Edinburgh. As a relaxation from severer pursuits, and an excuse for rambles in a country whose novelty alone was attraction enough to an untravelled Englishman, I occasionally accompanied a young artist of liberal education and pleasing manners, with whom I was acquainted, in his sketching expeditions in the romantic neighbourhood of his native city, the very contiguity of which to a great town rendered it more piquant and striking.
In one of these excursions, when, by the uncommon fineness of the weather and greater distance of the style of scenery requisite for his purpose, we were tempted to proceed beyond the brief limits of an autumnal day, instead of returning by the light of a
rather waning moon to Edinburgh, G- proposed that we should take up our quarters for the night at a neat little mountain inn, much frequented at various seasons by fishers and grouse-shooters, and affording in consequence, accommodations of a description its unpretending aspect would scarcely have led one to expect. On nearing this rustic hostelry, kept by an antique of the true Meg Dods' character, we were a good deal surprised to hear, issuing from its usually quiet haven, sounds of the most exuberant and unrestrained mirth, blending with, and nearly overpowering, the discordant strains of a brace of evidently belligerent fiddles.
“A penny wedding-by all that's lucky !” exclaimed my companion. “ At least you, sir, as a stranger, will no doubt think one night's rest well sacrificed for a peep at these fast-waning saturnalia.”
“ Pray explain,” said I, delighted to witness, under any circumstances, so lively a scene of national festivity; “ what do you mean by a “penny wedding?'”
“ Why, Sir, in pastoral and primitive districts which, strange to say, though within a dozen miles of a capital, these hills seem likely long to remain — when a couple, of the lowest order, of course, are too poor to muster the sum requisite for marrying, their neighbours and acquaintance good-humouredly set on foot a subscription, out of which is first defrayed such a merry-making as you see going on yonder, while
the surplus generally suffices to place the improvident pair beyond immediate want. It is not, you will say, a very eligible mode of settling in the world, nor is it so considered in these days, even among themselves. It is generally, indeed, more a frolic of the neighbouring young people, at the expense of some pair of elderly paupers, determined to marry for worse, instead of better, than, as it once was, a creditable scheme of establishment for a deserving young couple.”
As he spoke, we descended the green shoulder of one of the pastoral hills, whose recesses of unsuspected beauty we had been all day exploring, and came full upon the little inn, its front beaming with unwonted illumination, and steam-savoury as the cauldron of Meg Merrilies, amidst which my English organs readily detected the national perfume of “ mountain dew” — issuing from every open door and window.
The fiddles, whose dismal scraping accorded ill with their accompaniments, might almost have been dispensed with, so completely were they drowned by yells and shrieks of frantic merriment, and so well was the time of the tune marked by the snapping of fingers and thumping of heels on the sanded floor of the kitchen. I scarcely know which expressed most surprise, my face, as I caught, over the shoulder of a tall, white-headed old Bluegown (the fac-simile of Edie Ochiltree), a glimpse of the scene within, or that of Luckie Cairns, the usually staid and somewhat aristo
cratical hostess, when the nakedness of her, for once, disorderly house was discovered to a couple of stranger gentlemen. She soon, however, recognised her old acquaintance, G- , and addressed to him—though with the tail of her eye all the time on the “ Englisher”_her characteristic apology.
It began, more Scotico, with a question, and with what G- called “the first word o' flytin.”
“ Lord guides! Mr. G- , what 's brought ye here the day, wi' your pents and your nick-nacks, and a stranger comrade wi' ye, that's used to things wiselike, nae doubt,— and the house a' disjeskit this gait, wi' the first and last ploy the callants ere got me to countenance within my door? And they had nae hae gotten it now, but the silly body, Sanders, took it aye up and down wi' the gentle's fish to the carrier's, and their letters frae the post, and they persuaded me he was a kind o’ serving body o' my ain; and traiking Tibbie had sell’t my butter and eggs may be thretty years and mair ; so what could I do but let my house be made a public ae night in the thretty ?—and gentles to light on 't, for a clean bed and hot supper! It's a judgment on me for being sae simple!”
“Keep yourself easy, Luckie!” answered G- , in her own style. “My friend here can get clean beds and hot suppers in England, but penny weddings are scarce enough, even in Scotland.”
“ The scarcer the better,” said the hostess, drawing