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Full text of "Where the forest murmurs. Nature essays"

©tjr S. B. Bill Htbrarg 




53urtt? Oiarolina §>tate ffnlUne 

QH81 
S53 



This book is due on the date indicated below 
and is subject to a fine of FIVE CENTS a 
day thereafter. 



Where the Forest Murmurs 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

Pharais : A Romance of the Isles. 
The Mountain Lovers : A Romance. 
The Sin-Eater, and other Tales. 
The Washer of the Ford. 
Reissue Shorter Tales, with others. 
I. Spiritual Tales. 
II. Barbaric Tales. 
III. Tragic Romances. 

(Reissued by David Nutt. ) 

The Laughter of Peterkin : Old Celtic Tales 

Retold. 
From the Hills of Dream : Poems. 
The Dominion of Dreams. 
The Divine Adventure. 
The Winged Destiny. 

To appear Shortly. 

Torches of Love and Death : Poems Old and 

New. 
The Immortal Hour : Two Dramas and a 

Fragment. 



WHERE THE FOREST 
MURMURS. NATURE 
ESSAYS. BY FIONA 
MACLEOD 



' There through the branches go the ravens 
of unresting thought.' — W. B. Yeats. 



LONDON : PUBLISHED AT THE OFFICES 
OF < COUNTRY LIFE,' Ltd. TAVISTOCK 
STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C., fcf BY 
GEORGE NEWNES, Ltd. SOUTHAMPTON 
STREET, STRAND, W.C. NEW YORK: 

CHARLES SCRIBNERS' SONS 



First Edition, October 1906. 
Second Impression, September 1907. 



' The net-work of words is like a big forest : 
it is the cause of curious wanderings.'' — Indian 
Saying. 



TO 
MR. P. ANDERSON GRAHAM 

Dear Mr. Graham— To whom so fittingly as to you could I 
inscribe this book ? It was you who suggested it ; you who in 
Country Life published at intervals, longer or shorter as the errant 
spirit of composition moved me, the several papers which make it 
one book ; you without whose encouragement and good counsel 
this volume would probably not have been written. Then, per- 
chance, it might have gone to that Y-Brasil Press in the Country 
of the Young wherefrom are issued all the delightful books which, 
though possible and welcome in Tir-na-n' Og, are unachieved in this 
more difficult world, except in dreams and hopes. It would be good 
to have readers among the kindly Shee ... do not the poets there 
know an easy time, having only to breathe their thought on to a 
leaf and to whisper their music to a reed, and lo the poem is public 
from the caverns of Tir-fo-tuinn to the hills of Flatheanas ! . . . 
but, till one gets behind the foam yonder, the desire of the heart is 
for comrades here. These hours of beauty have meant so much to 
me, somewhat in the writing, but much more in the long, incalcul- 
able hours and days out of which the writing has risen like the blue 
smoke out of woods, that I want to share them with others, who 
may care for the things written of as you and I care for them, and 
among whom may be a few who, likewise, will be moved to garner 
from each day of the eternal pageant one hour of unforgettable 
beauty. 

FIONA MACLEOD. 



CONTENTS 



Where the Forest Murmurs 








PAGE 
1 


The Mountain Charm 






13 


The Clans of the Grass 








26 


The Tides .... 








37 


The Hill-Tarn 








47 


At the Turn of the Year . 








56 


The Sons of the North Wind 








66 


St. Bridget of the Shores 








16 


The Heralds of March . 








87 


The Tribe of the Plover 








99 


The Awakener of the Woods 








112 


The Wild Apple 








124 


Running Waters 








136 


The Summer Heralds 








146 


The Sea-Spell 








158 


Summer Clouds 








168 


The Cuckoo's Silence 








178 


The Coming of Dusk 








188 


At the Rising of the Moon . 








200 


ix 











Contents. ^ PAGE 

The Gardens of the Sea 211 

The Milky Way 221 

September 232 

The Children of Wind and the Clan of Peace . 242 

Still Waters ........ 255 

The Pleiad-Month ...... 265 

The Rainy Hyades ...... 277 

Winter Stars. I 290 

Winter Stars. II . . . . . .301 

Beyond the Blue Septentrions. Two Legends of 

the Polar Stars ...... 312 

White Weather: A Mountain Reverie . . 327 

Rosa Mystica (and Roses of Autumn) . . . 337 

The Star of Rest : A Fragment .... 349 



Many runes the cold has taught me, 
Many lays the rain has brought me, 
Other songs the winds have sung me 
Many birds from many forests 
Oft have sung me lays in concord ; 
Waves of sea, and ocean billows, 
Music from the many waters, 
Music from the whole creation, 
Oft have been my guide and master. 

The Kalevala. 



XI 



WHERE THE FOREST MURMURS 

It is when the trees are leafless, or when the 
last withered leaves rustle in the wintry air, 
creeping along the bare boughs like tremulous 
mice, or fluttering from the branches like the 
tired and starving swallows left behind in the 
ebbing tides of migration, that the secret 
of the forest is most likely to be surprised. 
Mystery is always there. Silence and whispers, 
still glooms, sudden radiances, the passage of 
wind and idle airs, all these inhabit the forest 
at every season. But it is not in their ampli- 
tude that great woodlands reveal their secret 
life. In the first vernal weeks the wave of 
green creates a mist or shimmering veil of 
delicate beauty, through which the missel- 
thrush calls, and the loud screech of the jay 
is heard like a savage trumpet-cry. The woods 
then are full of a virginal beauty. There is 
intoxication in the light air. The cold azure 

I B 



Where among the beech -spaces or where the tall 
the Forest elms sway in the east wind, is, like the sea, 
Murmurs, exquisitely desirable, exquisitely unfamiliar, 
inhuman, of another world. Then follow 
the days when the violets creep through the 
mosses at the base of great oaks, when the 
dust of snowbloom on the blackthorn gives 
way to the trailing dog-rose, when myriads 
of bees among the chestnut-blossoms fill the 
air with a continuous drowsy unrest, when 
the cushat calls from the heart of the fir, 
when beyond the green billowy roof of elm 
and hornbeam, of oak and beach, of sycamore 
and lime and tardy ash, the mysterious bells 
of the South fall through leagues of warm air, 
as the unseen cuckoo sails on the long tides 
of the wind. Then, in truth, is there magic 
in the woods. The forest is alive in its divine 
youth. Every bough is a vast plume of joy : 
on every branch a sunray falls, or a thrush 
sways in song, or the gauzy ephemeridse dance 
in rising and falling aerial cones. The wind 
moves with the feet of a fawn, with the wings 
of a dove, with the passing breath of the white 
owl at dusk. There is not a spot where is 
neither fragrance nor beauty nor life. From 
the tiniest arch of grass and twig the shrew- 
mouse will peep : above the shallowest rain- 
pool the dragon-fly will hang in miraculous 



suspense, like one of the faery javelins of Where 
Midir which in a moment could be withheld the Forest 
m mid - flight. The squirrel swings from M umiurs. 
branch to branch: the leveret shakes the 
dew from the shadowed grass: the rabbits 
flitter to and fro like brown beams of life : 
the robin, the chaffinch, the ousel, call through 
the warm green-glooms : on the bramble-spray 
and from the fern-garth the yellow-hammer 
reiterates his gladsome single song: in the 
cloudless blue fields of the sky the swifts 
weave a maze of shadow, the rooks rise and 
fall in giddy ascents and descents like black 
galleys surmounting measureless waves and 
sinking into incalculable gulfs. 

Then the forest wearies of this interminable 
exuberance, this daily and nightly charm of 
exultant life. It desires another spell, the 
enchantment of silence, of dreams. One day 
the songs cease : the nests are cold. In the 
lush meadows the hare sleeps, the corncrake 
calls. By the brook the cattle stand, motion- 
less, or with long tails rhythmically a-swing 
and ears a-twitch above the moist amber- 
violet dreamless eyes. The columnar trees are 
like phantom -smoke of secret invisible fires. 
In the green -glooms of the forest a sigh is 
heard. A troubled and furtive moan is audible 
m waste indiscoverable places. The thunder- 

3 



Where time is come. Now in the woods may be 
the Forest se en and heard and felt that secret presence 
Murmurs. w hich in the spring months hid behind songs 
and blossom, and later clothed itself in dense 
veils of green and all the magic of June. 
Something is now evident, that was not 
evident : somewhat is entered into the forest. 
The leaves know it : the bracken knows it : 
the secret is in every copse, in every thicket, 
is palpable in every glade, is abroad in every 
shadow -thridden avenue, is common to the 
spreading bough and the leaning branch. It 
is not a rumour ; for that might be the wind 
stealthily lifting his long wings from glade to 
glade. It is not a whisper ; for that might 
be the secret passage of unquiet airs, furtive 
heralds of the unloosening thunder. It is 
not a sigh ; for that might be the breath of 
branch and bough, of fern-frond and grass, 
obvious in the great suspense. It is an 
ineffable communication. It comes along the 
ways of silence ; along the ways of sound : its 
light feet are on sunrays and on shadows. Like 
dew, one knows not whether it is mysteriously 
gathered from below or secretly come from 
on high : simply it is there, above, around, 
beneath. 

But the hush is dispelled at last. The 
long lances of the rain come slanting through 

4 



the branches ; they break, as against invisible Where 
barriers, and fall in a myriad pattering rush, the Forest 
The hoarse mutter ings and sudden crashing Murmurs - 
roar of the thunder possess the whole forest. 
There are no more privacies, the secrecies are 
violated. From that moment the woods are 
renewed, and with the renewal the secret spirit 
that dwells within them withdraws, is not to 
be surprised, is inaudible, indefinitely recedes, 
is become remote, obscure, ineffable, incom- 
municable. And so, through veils of silence, 
and hot noons and husht warm midnights, the 
long weeks of July and August go by. 

In the woods of September surely the forest- 
soul may be surprised, will be the thought of 
many. In that month the sweet incessant 
business of bird and beast lessens or is at an 
end. The woodpecker may still tap at the 
boles of gnarled oaks and chestnuts ; the 
squirrel is more than ever mischievously gay ; 
on frosty mornings, when the gossamer webs 
are woven across every bramble, and from 
frond to frond of the bronze-stained bracken, 
the redbreast tries and retries the poignant 
new song he has somehow learned since first 
he flaunted his bright canticles of March and 
April from the meadow-hedge or the sunned 
greenness of the beech-covert. But there is a 
general silence, a present suspense, while the 

5 



Where lime yellows, and the birch takes on her pale 
the Forest gold, and oak and sycamore and ash slowly 
Murmurs, transmute their green multitudes into a new 
throng clad in russet or dull red or sunset- 
orange. The forest is full of loveliness : in 
her dusky ways faint azure mists gather. 
When the fawn leaps through the fern it is no 
longer soundlessly : there is a thin dry rustle, 
as of a dove brushing swiftly from its fastness 
in an ancient yew. One may pass from covert 
to covert, from glade to glade, and find the 
Secret just about to be revealed . . . some- 
where beyond the group of birches, beside that 
oak it may be, just behind that isolated thorn. 
But it is never quite overtaken. It is as 
evasive as moonlight in the hollows of waves. 
When present, it is already gone. When 
approached, it has the unhasting but irretriev- 
able withdrawal of the shadow. In October 
this bewildering evasion is still more obvious, 
because the continual disclosure is more near 
and intimate. When, after autumns of rain 
and wind, or the sudden stealthy advent of 
nocturnal frosts, a multitude of leaves becomes 
sere and wan, and then the leaves strew every 
billow of wind like clots of driven foam, or fall 
in still wavering flight like flakes of windless 
snow, then, it is surely then that the great 
surprise is imminent, that the secret and furtive 

6 



whisper will become a voice. And yet there Where 
is something withheld. In November itself the Forest 
there are days, weeks even, when a rich Mu ™- 
autumn survives. The oaks and ashes will 
often keep their red and orange till after St. 
Luke's Peace ; in sheltered parts of the forest 
even the plane, the sycamore, and the chestnut 
will flaunt their thin leopard -spotted yellow 
bannerets. I remember coming upon a 
Spanish chestnut in the centre of a group of 
all but leafless hornbeams. There seemed to 
be not a leaf missing from that splendid con- 
gregation of scarlet and amber and luminous 
saffron. A few yards on and even the hardy 
beeches and oaks were denuded of all but a 
scattered and defeated company of brown or 
withered stragglers. Why should that single 
tree have kept its early October loveliness 
unchanged through those weeks of rain and 
wind and frosts of midnight and dawn ? There 
was not one of its immediate company but was 
in desolate ruin, showing the bare nests high 
among the stark boughs. Through the whole 
forest the great unloosening had gone. Even 
the oaks in hollow places which had kept 
greenness like a continual wave suspended 
among dull masses of seaweed, had begun to 
yield to the vanishing call of the last voices of 
summer. Day by day their scattered tribes, 

7 



Where then whole clans, broke up the tents of home 
the Forest and departed on the long mysterious exile. 
Murmurs. Ye t this sentinel at the Gate of the North 
stood undaunted, splendid in warrior array. 
The same instinct that impels the soul from 
its outward home into the incalculable void 
moves the leaf with the imperious desire of the 
grey wind. But as, in human life, there are 
some who retain a splendid youth far into the 
failing regions of grey hair and broken years, 
so in the forest life there are trees which seem 
able to defy wind and rain and the consuming 
feet of frost. 

The most subtle charm of the woods in 
November is in those blue spaces which lie at 
so brief a distance in every avenue of meeting 
boughs, under every enclosing branch. This 
azure mist which gathers like still faint smoke 
has the spell of silent waters, of moonlight, of 
the pale rose of serene dawns. It has a light 
that is its own, as unique as that unnameable 
flame which burns in the core of the rainbow. 
The earth breathes it ; it is the breath of the 
fallen leaves, the moss, the tangled fern, the 
undergrowth, the trees ; it is the breath also 
of the windless grey-blue sky that leans so 
low. Surely, also, it is the breath of that 
other world of which our songs and legends 
are so full. It has that mysteriousness, that 

8 



spell, with which in imagination we endow the Where 
noon silences, the eves and dawns of faery the Forest 
twilights. Murmurs. 

Still, the silence and the witchery of the 
forest solitudes in November are of the spell 
of autumn. The last enchantment of mid- 
winter is not yet come. 

It is in 'the dead months' that the forest 
permits the last disguises to fall away. The 
forest -soul is no longer an incommunicable 
mystery. It is abroad. It is a communicable 
dream. In that magnificent nakedness it 
knows its safety. For the first time it stands 
like a soul that has mastered all material 
things and is fearless in face of the immaterial 
things which are the only life of the spirit. 

In these 'dead months' of December and 
January the forest lives its own life. It is 
not asleep as the poets feign. Sleep has 
entered into the forest, has made the deep 
silence its habitation : but the forest itself is 
awake, mysterious, omnipresent, a creature 
seen at last in its naked majesty. 

One says lightly, there is no green thing 
left. That, of course, is a mere phrase of 
relativity. There is always green fern some- 
where, even in the garths of tangled yellow- 
brown bracken. There is always moss some- 
where, hidden among the great serpentine 

9 



Where roots of the beeches. The ilex will keep its 
the Forest dusty green through the harvest winter: the 
Murmurs. yew? t | ie CV p re ss, the holly, have no need of 
the continual invasion of the winds and rains 
and snows. On the ash and elm the wood-ivy 
will hang her spiked leaves. On many of the 
oaks the lovely dull green of the mistletoe will 
droop in graceful clusters, the cream -white 
berries glistening like innumerable pleiads of 
pearls. But these are lost in the immense 
uniformity of desolation. They are accidents, 
interludes. The wilderness knows them, as 
the grey wastes of tempestuous seas know a 
Avave here and there that lifts a huge ram- 
part of jade crowned with snow, or the long 
resiliency of gigantic billows which reveal 
smooth falling precipices of azure. The waste 
itself is one vast desolation, the more grey and 
terrible because in the mass invariable. 

To go through those winter -aisles of the 
forest is to know an elation foreign to the 
melancholy of November or to the first fall of 
the leaf. It is not the elation of certain days 
in February, when the storm- cock tosses his 
song among the wild reefs of naked bough 
and branch. It is not the elation of March, 
when a blueness haunts the myriad unburst 
buds, and the throstle builds her nest and calls 
to the South. It is not the elation of April, 

10 



when the virginal green is like exquisite music Where 
of life in miraculous suspense, nor the elation the Forest 
of May, when the wild rose moves in soft Murmurs - 
flame upon the thickets and the returned 
magic of the cuckoo is an intoxication, nor 
the elation of June, when the merle above the 
honeysuckle and the cushat in the green- 
glooms fill the hot noons with joy, and when 
the long fragrant twilights are thrilled with 
the passion of the nightjar. It has not this 
rapture nor that delight ; but its elation is an 
ecstasy that is its own. It is then that one 
understands as one has never understood. It 
is then that one loves the mystery one has but 
fugitively divined. Where the forest murmurs 
there is music : ancient, everlasting. Go to 
the winter woods : listen there, look, watch, 
and ' the dead months ' will give you a subtler 
secret than any you have yet found in the 
forest. Then there is always one possible 
superb fortune. You may see the woods in 
snow. There is nothing in the world more 
beautiful than the forest clothed to its very 
hollows in snow. That is a loveliness to which 
surely none can be insensitive. It is the still 
ecstasy of Nature, wherein every spray, every 
blade of grass, every spire of reed, every 
intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance, and 
myriad form is renewed in continual change as 

ii 



Where though in the passionate delight of the white 

the Forest Artificer. Jt is beauty so great and complex 

Murmurs. ^ the imagination \ s stilled into an aching 

hush. There is the same trouble in the soul 

as before the starry hosts of a winter night. 



12 



THE MOUNTAIN CHARM 

A famous writer of the eighteenth century 
declared that to a civilised mind the moun- 
tain solitude was naturally abhorrent. To be 
impressed was unavoidable, he allowed ; to 
love barrenness and the wilderness, to take 
delight in shadow and silence, to find peace 
in loneliness, was unnatural. It is humanity 
that redeems nature, he added in effect. The 
opinion is not one commonly held now, or not 
admitted. But many hold it who would not 
admit that they so felt or thought. I have 
often asked summer wanderers if they have 
no wish to see the solitudes in early spring, 
when the ptarmigan's wing begins to brown ; 
in November, when the rust of the bracken 
can loom through the hill-mist like the bronze 
shields of the sleeping Fianna ; in December, 
when the polar wind frays the peaks into 
columns of smoke, the loose, dry snow on the 

13 



The northward foreheads of ancient summits ; in 

Mountain January, when there is white silence, and the 
Charm. ^ ue fluting shadow of the merlin's wing ; in 
March, when in the south glens the cries of 
lambs are a lamenting music, and the scream 
of the eagle is like a faint bugle-call through 
two thousand feet of flowing wind. Few, 
however, would really care 'to be away from 
home' in those months when snow and wind 
and cloud and rain are the continually recurrent 
notes in the majestic Mountain Symphony. 
6 To see in a picture, to read of in a story or 
poem, that is delightful ; but . . . well, one 
needs fine weather to enjoy the hills and the 
moorlands.' That, in effect, is what I have 
commonly heard, or discerned in the evasive 
commonplace. It is not so with those who 
love the mountain-lands as the cushat loves 
the green twilight of beech or cedar, as the 
mew loves troubled waters and the weaving of 
foam. I remember, a year or so ago, being 
impressed by the sincerity of a lowlander 
whom I met on the road among the Perth- 
shire mountains, in a region where the hills 
frowned and there was silence save for the 
hoarse sea-murmur of pines and the surge of 
a river hidden under boughs of hornbeam 
and leaning birch. I forget whence he had 
come, but it was from a place where the low 

14 



lineaments of the fields were hardly more than The 
long wave-lines on a calm sea ; the only heights Mountain 
were heaps of 'shag' by old mines, scattered arm * 
columnar chimney-stacks. The man had trod 
far afoot, and was eager for work. I told him 
to go on toward the pass for about a mile, and 
then to a big farm he would see to his right, 
and ask there, and probably he would get 
work and good pay. Some three hours later 
I was returning by the same road, and again 
met the wayfarer, but southward set. I asked 
him why he had turned, for I knew labour 
was wanted at the farm, and the man was 
strong, and seemed willing, and was of decent 
mien. " No," he said, " he had not got work 
up yonder." I knew he prevaricated, and he 
saw it. With sudden candour he added, " It's 
no the good man at the farm — nor the work — 
nor the pay. It's just this : I'm fair clemmed 
at the sight o' yon hills ... eh, but they're 
just dreidful. I couldna' abide them. They're 
na human. I've felt it all along since I cam 
up beyont the Ochils, but it's only the now 
I've kent weel I couldna' live here amang 
them." " Weel, first and foremost," he added, 
when I pressed him further, "it's the silence. 
It fair kills me. An' what's more, it would 
kill me if I stayed. The wife up yonder gave 
me a sup o' milk an' a bannock, an' when I 

15 



The was at them I sat on a bench an' looked about 

Mountain me . Naething but hills, hills, hills : hills an' 
Charm. b]ack gloom an » that awfu > s ii en ce. An' there 

was a burd — a whaup we ca' it in the south- 
lands — which fair shook my mind. It went 
lamentin' like a grave-bell, an' I heard it long 
after it was out o' sicht. Then there wasn't 
another sound. Na, na, wark or no wark, I'm 
awa' south." 

And so the wayfarer set foot to the white 
road again, the south spelling home and human 
solace to him. Those dreary coal-lands, where 
the green grass is wan and the thorn hedge 
sombre, and any wandering water illucid and 
defiled, those hideous heaps of ' shag,' those 
gaunt mine-chimneys, those squalid hamlets 
in a populous desolation — these meant ' human 
comfort ' to him. Or, if they did not, at least 
they gave him somewhat which the mountain 
silence denied, which the gathered hills with- 
held, which the moorland solitudes overbore 
and refuted. 

An extreme case, no doubt. But the deep 
disquietude of hill silence, of the mountain 
solitude, is felt by most habitual dwellers in 
towns and thronged communities. There is 
no mountain charm for these except the 
charm of release, of holiday, of novelty, of 
an imagined delight, of contrast, of unwonted 

16 



air, of unfamiliar aspect. One of the popular The 
excursion resorts in the near highlands of Mountain 
Argyll and Dumbarton is Loch Goil Head. 
A dweller there told me last autumn that of 
the hundreds who land every week, and 
especially on Saturdays and Fair holidays, and 
generally with an impatient eagerness, by far 
the greater number soon tire of the loneliness 
of the hills a brief way inland, and become 
depressed, and with a new and perhaps per- 
turbing eagerness seek again the house-clad 
ways and the busy shore ; and seem content, 
an hour or two before their steamer sails, to 
sit where they can see the movement of 
familiar life, and turn their back upon the 
strangely oppressive loneliness, so perturbingly 
remote, so paralyzingly silent. 

But for those who love the hills as 
comrades, what a spell, what enchantment ! 
To wander by old grassy ways, old 'pack- 
road ' or timeless mountain path ; to go 
through the bracken, by grey boulders tufted 
with green moss and yellow lichen, and see 
nothing but great rounded shoulders or sudden 
peaks overhead or beyond, nothing near but 
the yellow-hammer or wandering hawk or 
raven : to feel the pliant heather underfoot, 
and smell the wild thyme, and watch a cloud 
trail a purple shadow across the grey-blue 

17 c 



The slope rising like a gigantic wave from a sea 

Mountain of moors, rising and falling against the azure 
walls, but miraculously suspended there, a 
changeless vision, an eternal phantom : to go 
up into solitary passes, where even the June 
sunshine is hardly come ere it is gone, where 
the corbie screams, and the stag tramples the 
cranberry scrub and sniffs the wind blowing 
from beyond the scarlet-fruited rowan leaning 
from an ancient fallen crag : to see slope 
sinking into enveloping slope, and height up- 
lifted to uplifting heights, and crags gathered 
confusedly to serene and immutable summits : 
to come at last upon these vast foreheads, and 
look down upon the lost world of green glens 
and dusky forests and many waters, to look 
down, as it were, from eternity into time . . . 
this indeed is to know the mountain charm, 
this is enchantment. 

For the mountain-lover it would be hard to 
choose any pre-eminent season. The highland 
beauty appeals through each of the months, 
and from day to day. But, for all the glory 
of purple heather and dim amethystine slopes, 
it is perhaps not the early autumnal mountain 
charm, so loved of every one, that ranks first 
in one's heart. For myself I think midwinter, 
June, and the St. Martin's Summer of late 
October, or early November, more intimately 

18 



compel in charm. And of these, I think June The 
is not least. In midwinter the mountains Mountain 
have their most ideal beauty. It is an austere 
charm, the charm of whiteness and stillness. 
It is akin to the ineffable charm of a white 
flood of moonshine on a stilled ocean ; but it 
has that which the waters do not have, the 
immobility of trance. There is nothing more 
wonderful in dream -beauty than vast and 
snow-bound mountain -solitudes in the dead 
of winter. That beauty becomes poignant 
when sea-fjords or inland waters lie at the 
sheer bases of the white hills, and in the 
luminous green or shadowy blue the heights 
are mirrored, so that one indeed stands be- 
tween two worlds, unknowing the phantom 
from the real. There is a dream-beauty also 
in that lovely suspense between the last wild 
winds of the equinox and ' the snow-bringer,' 
that period of hushed farewell which we call 
St. Martin's Summer. The glory of the 
heather is gone, but the gold and bronze of 
the bracken take on an equal beauty. The 
birch hangs her still tresses of pale gold, * that 
beautiful wild woman of the hills,' as a Gaelic 
poet says. The red and russet of rowan and 
bramble, the rich hues of the haw, the sloe, 
the briony, all the golds and browns and 
delicate ambers of entranced autumn are 

19 



The woven in a magic web. In the mornings, the 

Mountain gossamer hangs on every bush of gorse and 
juniper. Through the serene air, exquisitely 
fresh with the light frosts which from day set 
to dawn have fallen idly, rings the sweet and 
thrilling song of the robin, that music of 
autumn so poignant, so infinitely winsome. 
In what lovely words our Elizabethan Chap- 
man wrote of the robin, of which we also of 
the North speak lovingly as ' St. Colum's 
Friend,' ' St. Bride's Sweetheart,' and the 
' little brother of Christ ' : 

" the bird that loves humans best, 

That hath the bugle eyes and ruddy breast, 
And is the yellow autumn's nightingale." 

But it is in June, I think, that the mountain 
charm is most intoxicating. The airs are 
lightsome. The hill-mists are seldom heavy, 
and only on south- wind mornings do the lovely 
grey- white vapours linger among the climbing 
corries and overhanging scarps. Many of the 
slopes are blue as a winter sky, palely blue, 
aerially delicate, from the incalculable myriad 
host of the bluebells. The green of the bracken 
is more wonderful than at any other time. 
When the wind plays upon it the rise and fall 
is as the breathing of the green seas among 
the caverns of Mingulay or among the savage 

20 



rock-pools of the Seven Hunters or where the The 
Summer Isles lie in the churn of the Atlantic Mountain 
tides. Everything is alive in joy. The arm * 
young broods exult. The air is vibrant with 
the eddies of many wings, great and small. 
The shadow-grass sways with the passage of 
the shrewmouse or the wings-breath of the 
darting swallow. The stillest pool quivers, 
for among the shadows of breathless reeds the 
phantom javelin of the dragon-fly whirls for a 
second from silence to silence. In the morning 
the far lamentation of the flocks on the summer 
shielings falls like the sound of bells across 
water. The curlew and the plover are not 
spirits of desolation, but blithe children of the 
wilderness. As the afternoon swims in blue 
haze and floating gold the drowsy call of the 
moorcock stirs the heather-sea. The snorting 
of trampling deer may be heard. The land- 
rail sweeps the dew from the tall grass and 
sends her harsh but summer-sweet cry in long 
monotonous echoes, till the air rings with the 
resonant krek-crake. And that sudden break 
in the silences of the dusk, when . . . beyond 
the blossoming elder, or the tangle of wild 
roses where the white moths rise and fall in 
fluttering ecstasy, or, yonder, by the black- 
green juniper on the moorland . . . the low 
whirring note of the nightjar vibrates in a 

21 



The continual passionate iterance ! There, in truth, 

Mountain we } mve the passionate whisper of the heart of 
Charm. j une> t h a t most wonderful, that most thril- 
ling of the voices of summer. 

It is in June, too, that one mountain charm 
in particular may be known with rapt delight. 
It is when one can approach mountains whose 
outlying flanks and bases are green hills. The 
bright green of these under-slopes, these swell- 
ing heights and rolling uplands, is never more 
vivid. Near, one wonders why grasses so 
thick with white daisy and red sorrel and purple 
orchis and blue harebell can be green at all ! 
But that wonderful sea-green of the hills near 
at hand gives way soon to the still more 
wonderful blue as the heights recede. The 
glens and wooded valleys grow paler. Rock 
and tree and heather blend. "What colour 
is that?" I asked a shepherd once. "The 
blueness of blueness," he answered, in Gaelic. 
It is so. It is not blue one sees, but the bloom 
of blue ; as on a wild plum, it is not the purple 
skin we note, but the amethyst bloom of purple 
which lies upon it. It is beauty, with its own 
loveliness upon it like a breath. Then the blue 
deepens, or greys, as the hour and the light 
compel. The most rare and subtle loveliness 
is when the grey silhouette of the mountain- 
ridge, serrated line, or freaked and tormented 



22 



peaks, or vast unbroken amplitude, sinks into The 

the sudden deep clearness of the enveloping Mountain 

sky. ' Charm. 

Even in June, however, the mountain 
charm is not to be sought, as in a last sanctuary, 
on the summits of the hills. I believe that to 
be a delusion, a confusion, which asserts the 
supreme beauty of the views from mountain 
summits. I have climbed many hills and not 
a few mountains, and, except in one or two 
instances (as Hecla in the Hebrides), never 
without recognition that, in beauty, one does 
not gain, but loses. There are no heights in 
Scotland more often climbed by the holiday 
mountaineer than Ben Nevis in Argyll and 
Goat Fell in the Isle of Arran. Neither, in 
beauty or grandeur of view, repays the ascent. 
Goat Fell is a hundred times lovelier seen 
from the shores or glens of its own lower 
slopes, or from a spur of the Eastern Caisteall 
Abhaill : the boatmen on the waters of Lome, 
the shepherd on the hills of Morven, the way- 
farer in the wilds of Appin, they know the 
beauty of 'the Sacred Hill' as none knows 
it who thinks he has surprised the secret on 
the vast brows overhanging the inchoate 
wilderness. At its best, we look through a 
phantasmal appearance upon a phantasmal 
world, and any artist will tell us that the 

23 



The disappointment is because every object is seen 

Mountain m its high light, none in its shadowed portion ; 

Charm. that the j n , ect sunlight being over all is 

reflected back to us from every surface ; that 

the downward vision means a monotony of 

light and a monotony of colour. 

The supreme charm of the mountain-lands 
in June is their investiture with the loveliest 
blue air that the year knows, and the entrance- 
ment of summer cloud. Small feathery cirrus 
or salmon - pink and snow - white cumulus 
emerging behind the shoulder of a mountain 
or drifting above the vast silent brows have an 
infinite beauty. We should be cloud-climbers 
rather than mere mountain - climbers ; we 
should climb to see the heights recede in con- 
tinual fold of loveliness, and the clouds lift 
their trailing purple shadows and sail slowly or 
hang motionless beyond the eternal buttresses. 
And it is but an added poignancy to the sense 
of infinite beauty to know that this word 
* eternal' is, even for those ancient 'change- 
less ' hills, but the idlest hyperbole — as though 
one were to call the breaking wave everlasting, 
or the blowing seed of the meadows as timeless 
as the wind. There is not a vast and lonely 
mountain that has not a fallen comrade among 
the low undulating ridges of the continual low- 
land ; not one of these that has not in turn to 

24 



feed the white dust of the plain or the sea- The 
gathered sand of ancient or as yet unformed Mountain 
shores. For the hills pass, even as we, or the arm * 
green leaf become sere, or the fruit that ripens 
to its fall ; though we speak of them as ever- 
lasting, and find the subtlest spell of their 
incalculable charm in the overwhelming sense 
of their imagined eternity. 



25 



THE CLANS OF THE GRASS 

Of all the miracles of the green world none 
surpasses that of the grass. It has many 
names, many raiments even, but it is always 
that wonderful thing which the poets of all 
time have delighted in calling the green hair 
of earth. * Soft green hair of the rocks,' says 
a Breton poet. Another Celtic poet has used 
the word alike for the mosses which clothe 
the talons of old trees and for the forests 
themselves. No fantastic hyperbole this : 
from a great height forests of pine and oak 
seem like reaches of sombre grass. To the 
shrewmouse the tall grasses of June are green 
woods, and the slim stems of the reddening 
sorrels are groves of pinetrees. I remember 
having read somewhere of a lovely name given 
to the grass by the Arabs of the desert . . . 
' the Bride of Mahomet.' What lovelier and 
more gracious thing in the world, in their 
eyes, than this soft cool greenness of the oasis, 

26 



this emerald carpet below the green shadowy The Clans 

roof of waving palms ; and as of all women in °f tne 

Grass 
the world there could be but one, according to 

the old legend, worthy to be the supreme 
bride of the Prophet, what poetic name for 
her so fitting as this exquisite apparition of 
the desert, so beautiful, so evernew in itself, 
so welcome for its association with sweet 
waters and shade and coolness. A Gaelic 
poet calls the grass the Gift of Christ, literally 
slender - greenness of Christ (uaineachd - caol 
Chriosde), and another has written of how it 
it came to be called Green-Peace — both from 
an old tale (one of the many ebbed, forgotten 
tales of the isles) that, when God had created 
the world, Christ said " Surely one thing yet 
lacks, My Father : soft greenness for the barren 
mountain, soft greenness for rocks and cliffs, 
soft greenness for stony places and the wilder- 
ness, soft greenness for the airidhs of the poor." 
Whereupon God said " Let thy tenderness be 
upon these things, O my Son, and thy peace 
be upon them, and let the green grass be the 
colour of peace and of home " — and thereafter, 
says the taleteller, the Eternal Father turned 
to the Holy Spirit and said of the Son that 
from that hour He should be named the 
Prince of Peace, Prionnsa na Sioth-cainnt 
canar ris. 

27 



The Clans Grass is as universal as dew, as common - 
of the place as light. That which feels the seawind 
Grass. m t j ie i one ii es t Hebrides is brother to that 
which lies on Himalaya or is fanned by the 
hot airs of Asian valleys. That which covers 
a grey scarp in Iceland is the same as that on 
Adam's Peak in Ceylon, and that which in 
myriad is the prairie of the north is in myriad 
the pampas of the south ; that whose multitude 
covers the Gaelic hills is that whose multitude 
covers the Russian steppes. It is of all the 
signature of Nature that which to us is nearest 
and homeliest. The green grass after long 
voyaging, the grass of home-valley or hillside 
after long wayfaring, the green grass of the 
Psalmist to souls athirst and weary, the grass 
of El Dorado to the visionary seeking the 
gold of the spirit, the grass of the Fortunate 
Isles, of the Hills of Youth, to the poets and 
dreamers of all lands and times . . . every- 
where and ever has this omnipresent herb that 
withereth and yet is continually reborn, been 
the eternal symbol of that which passes like a 
dream, the symbol of everlasting illusion, and 
yet, too, is the symbol of resurrection, of all 
the old divine illusion essayed anew, of the 
inexplicable mystery of life recovered and 
everlastingly perpetrated. 

When we speak of grass we generally mean 
28 



one thing, the small slim green herb which The Clans 
carpets the familiar earth. But there are of the 
many grasses, from the smooth close-set herb 
of our lawns or the sheep -nibbled downy 
greenness of mountain-pastures, to the forest- 
like groves which sway in the torrid winds of 
the south. Of these alone much might be 
written. I prefer, however, that name I have 
placed at the head of this article — taken, if I 
remember rightly, from a poem by the Gaelic 
mountain-poet, Duncan Ban Macintyre — and 
used in the sense of the original. In this 
sense, the Clans of the Grass are not only the 
grasses of the pasture, the sand-dune, the 
windy down, not only the sorrel-red meadow- 
grass or the delicate quaking-grass, but all the 
humbler greengrowth which covers the face 
of the earth. In this company are the bee- 
loved clover, the trailing vetch, the yellow-sea 
clover and the sea-pink ; the vast tribe of the 
charlock or wild mustard which on showery 
days sometimes lights up field or hill-meadow 
with yellow flame so translucent that one 
thinks a sudden radiant sunflood burns and 
abides there. In it too are all the slim peoples 
of the reed and rush, by streams and pools and 
lochans : of the yellow iris by the sea-loch and 
the tall flag by the mountain-tarn : the grey 
thistle, the sweet-gale, and all the tribe of the 

29 



The Clans bog -cotton or canna (ceann-ban-a-mhonaidh, 
of the the white head of the hillside, as we call it in 
Gaelic), those lovers of the wilderness and 
boggy places. With these is the bindweed 
that with the salt bent holds the loose shores. 
With these are all the shadow-loving clans of 
the fern, from the bracken, whose April-green 
lightens the glens and whose autumnal bronze 
and dull gold make the hillsides so resplendent, 
to the stone wort on the dykes, the lady-fern 
in the birch-woods, the maidenhair by springs 
and falls, the hart's -tongue in caverns, the 
Royal fern whose broad fronds are the pride 
of heather-waste and morass. The mosses, too, 
are from this vast clan of the earth-set, from 
the velvet-soft edging of the oak-roots or the 
wandering greenness of the swamp to the ashy 
tresses which hang on spruce or hemlock or 
the grey fringes of the rocks by northern 
seas. And with them are the lichens, that 
beautiful secret company who love the shadow- 
side of trees, and make stones like flowers, and 
transmute the barrenness of rock and boulder 
with dyes of pale gold and blazing orange, and 
umber rich as the brown hearts of tarns, and 
pearl -grey delicate as a cushat's breast, and 
saffron as yellow-green as the sunset-light after 
the clearing of rains. To all these, indeed, 
should be added the greater grasses which we 

3o 



know as wheat and oats, as rye and maize. The Clans 
Thus do we come to 'the waving hair of the JJ the 
ever- wheeling earth,' and behold the unresting 
Mother as in a vision, but with the winds of 
space for ever blowing her waving tresses in a 
green gladness, or in a shimmer of summer- 
gold, or in the bronze splendour of the 
autumnal passage. 

But the grasses proper, alone: the green 
grass itself — what a delight to think of these, 
even if the meaning of the title of this paper 
be inclusive of them and them only. What 
variety, here, moreover. The first spring- 
grass, how welcome it is. What lovely 
delicacy of green. It is difficult anywhere to 
match it. Perhaps the first greening of the 
sallow, that lovely hair hung over ponds and 
streams or where sloping lawns catch the 
wandering airs of the south : or the pale green- 
flame of the awakening larch : or the tips of 
bursting hawthorn in the hedgerows — perhaps, 
these are nearest to it in hue. But with 
noonlight it may become almost the pale- 
yellow of sheltered primroses, or yellow-green 
as the cowslip before its faint gold is minted, 
and in the mellowing afternoon it may often 
be seen as illuminated (as with hidden delicate 
flame) as the pale -emerald candelabra of the 
hellebore. How different is the luxuriant 

3i 



The Clans grass in hollows and combes and along watered 
of the meadows in June, often dark as pine-green or 
as sunlit jade, and in shadowy places or in 
twilight sometimes as lustrously sombre-green 
as the obsidian, that precious stone of the 
Caucasus now no longer a rarity among us. 
How swiftly, too, that changes after the heats 
of midsummer, often being threaded with grey 
light before the dog-days are spent. More- 
over, at any season there is a difference between 
down-grass and mountain-grass, between sea- 
grass and valley-grass, between moor-grass and 
wood-grass. It may be slight, and not in 
kind but only in shadowy dissemblances of 
texture and hue ; still one may note the 
difference. More obvious, of course, is the 
difference between, say, April -grass and the 
same grass when May or June suffuses it with 
the red glow of the seeding sorrel, or between 
the sea-grass that has had the salt wind upon 
it since its birth, the bent as it is commonly 
called, and its brother among the scarps and 
cliff-edges of the hills, so marvellously soft and 
hairlike for all that it is not long since the 
snows have lifted or since sleet and hail have 
harried the worn faces of boulder and crag. 
Or, again, between even the most delicate 
wantonness of the seeding hay, fragrant with 
white clover and purple vetch, and the light 

3 2 



aerial breathfulness, frail as thistledown, of The Clans 
the quaking-grass. How it loves the wood's- °^ tne 
edge, this last, or sheltered places by the rass * 
hedgerows, the dream - hollows of sloping 
pastures, meadow -edges where the cow- 
parsley whitens like foam and the meadow- 
sweet floats cream white and the white 
campions hang in clotted froth over the long- 
surge of daisies : or, where, like sloops of 
the nautilus on tropic seas, curved blossoms 
of the white wild -rose motionlessly suspend 
or idly drift, hardly less frail less wantonly 
errant than the white bloomy dust of the 
dandelion. 

Caran-cheami-air-chiith, ' little friend of the 
quaking-grass,' is one of the Gaelic names of 
the wagtail, perhaps given to it because of a 
like tremulous movement, as though invisible 
wings of gossamer shook ever in a secret wind. 
Or given to it, perhaps, because of a legend 
which puts the common grass, the quaking- 
grass, the wagtail, the cuckoo, the aspen, and 
the lichen in one traditional company. In 
the Garden of Gethsemane, so runs the Gaelic 
folk-tale as I heard it as a child, all Nature 
suddenly knew the Sorrow of Christ. The 
dew whispered it : it was communicated in 
the dusk : in pale gold and shaken silver it 
stole from moon and star into the green dark- 

33 D 



The Clans ness of cypress and cedar. The grass-blades 
of the p U t a ll their green lips into one breath, and 
sighed Peace, Brother ! Christ smiled in His 
sorrow, and said, Peace to you for ever. But 
here and there among the grasses, as here 
and there among the trees, and as here and 
there among the husht birds, were those who 
doubted, saying, ' It is but a man who lies 
here. His sorrow is not our sorrow.' Christ 
looked at them, and they were shaken with 
the grief of all grief and the sorrow of all 
sorrow. And that is why to this day the 
quaking-grass and the aspen are forever a- 
tremble, and why the wagtail has no rest but 
quivers along the earth like a dancing shadow. 
But to those mosses of Gethsemane which 
did not give out the sympathy of their kin 
among the roots of cedar and oak, and to the 
cuckoo who rang from her nest a low chime of 
All's well! AlVs well! Christ's sorrowful eyes 
when He rose at dawn could not be endured. 
So the cuckoo rose and flew away across the 
Hill of Calvary, ringing through the morning 
twilight the bells of sorrow, and from that day 
was homeless and without power anywhere 
to make a home of her own. As for the 
mosses that had refused love, they wandered 
away to desolate places and hung out forlorn 
flags of orange-red and pale-yellow and faded- 

34 



Grass. 



silver along the grey encampments of the The Clans 
rocks. of the 

Often I have thought of this when lying in 
the mountain-grass beside one of those ancient 
lichened boulders which strew our hillsides. 
The lichen is the least of the grasses — and let 
us use the term in its poetic sense — but how 
lovely a thing it is ; almost as lovely in endless 
variety of form as the frost-flower. In a sense 
they are strangely akin, these two ; the frost- 
flower, which is the breath of Beauty itself, 
lasting a briefer hour than the noontide dew, 
and the moss-flower which the barren rock 
sustains through all the changing seasons. 

Who is that Artificer who has subtly and 
diversely hidden the secret of rhythm in the 
lichen of the rock and in the rock's heart 
itself; in the frost-flower, so perfect in beauty 
that a sunbeam breathes it away ; in the falling 
star, a snowflake in the abyss, yet with the 
miraculous curve in flight which the wave has 
had, which the bent poplar has had, which the 
rainbow has had, since the world began ? The 
grey immemorial stone and the vanishing 
meteor are one. Both are the offspring of 
the Eternal Passion, and it may be that 
between the aeon of the one and the less than 
a minute of the other there shall not, in the 
divine reckoning, be more than the throb of 

35 



The Clans a pulse. For who of us can measure even 
of the Time, that the gnat measures as well as we, 
Grass. Qr ^ Q ea gi e> or t | ie anc i e nt yew, or the moun- 
tain whose granite brows are white with ages 
— much less Eternity, wherein Time is but a 
vanishing pulse ? 



36 



THE TIDES 

I remember that one of the most strange and 
perturbing pleasures of my childhood was in 
watching, from a grassy height, the stealthy 
motions of the tides. The fascination never 
waned, nor has it yet waned : to-day, as then, 
I know at times the old thrill, almost the old 
fear, when through a white calm or up some 
sea -loch I watch those dark involutions, in 
sudden twists and long serpentine curves, as 
the eddies of the tide force their mysterious 
way. For one thing my childish imagination 
was profoundly impressed by the words of an 
old islander whom I had asked where the tides 
came from and what they were and had they 
names. We were on the steep slope of a small 
grassy hill, and overlooked the eastern end of 
an island where the troubled waters of a caoileas 
or strait to the south met the vast placid reach 
of ocean on the north. Through the lustrous 
green of the Sound, fleckt with long mauve 

37 



The shadows or clouded here and there with great 
Tides, splatches of purple-brown ; and, again, to the 
left through the near calm heave of deep 
water so blue that as a child I could not 
understand why the shells which were washed 
up from it were not blue also : to right and to 
left I saw the sudden furtive motions of the 
flowing tide. I had often watched the blind- 
worm move thus through the coarse sea-grasses, 
and again and again had seen the adder dart 
through the bracken like one of those terrible 
living arrows of Faerie of which I had heard : 
often, too, I had followed the shadow-swift 
underwave glide of the hunting seal : and once, 
in a deep brown pool in Morven, when I was 
looking with trembling hope for the floating 
hair or dim white face of a kelpie, I had seen 
an otter rise from the depths . . . rise like a 
fantastic elfin face and half-human figure in a 
dream . . . make a soundless sinuous plunge 
and in less than a moment vanish utterly, still 
without sound or the least ruffling of the brown 
depths. So, it was natural that I should 
associate those mysterious gliding things of 
the sea with these sinuous things of the grass 
and heather and the shadowy pool. They, 
too, I thought, were furtive and sinister. 
There was something as of the same evil 
enchantment in their abrupt and inexplicable 

38 



appearing and in their soundless departures. The 
Thus it was I felt no surprise when my old Tides, 
island-friend Sheumais remarked to me : 
"They are creatures of the sea." 
" What are they, Sheumais ? " I urged ; " are 
they great eels, or adders, or what ? Can they 
put death on a swimmer ? Have you ever 
caught one ? Have " 



"Ay, for sure they might put death on a 
swimmer : and by the same token I will be 
remembering that Ruaridh Stewart, the Appin 
poet, has a rann about them as the Hounds of 
the Sea." 

" And have they names ? " 

"For sure, that : Luath (Swift) and Grorm- 
Dhu (Blue-Black), Luath-Donn (Fleet-brown- 
one) and Braco (Speckled), Run-fo-tuinne 
(Underwave Secret) and Cu-Bhais (Hound of 
Death), and others that I will be forgetting." 

"But, Sheumais," I persisted, "are they 
male-seafolk and women-seafolk like the seals, 
and have they little ones, and where do they 
go, and where do the big tides come from ? " 

" Well, well, I will not be knowing that, 
though, for sure, it is likely. But as to where 
they come from, and where they go, there will 
be none in all the world who can tell that ; no, 
not one. They will be just like the wind, that 
no one knows the road of, behind or before. 

39 



The Ay, the sea's just like the grey road : the green 
Tides. roac i an ' the grey road, they show no tracks. 
The wind an' the tides, they just come an 
they just go. 'Blind as the wind,' 'blind as 
the tide ... ay, it may be ; but not so blind 
as we are, for they know their way, an' 
brightest noon an' darkest night, an' summer 
an' winter, an' calm an' storm, are one an' the 
same to them." 

It is long ago now since I heard these words 
from old Sheumais Macleod, but I am certain 
(so deeply did they impress my childish 
imagination, and sink into a child's mind) that 
I repeat them almost exactly. I had no 
hesitation in believing in Gorm-Dhu and 
Luath-Donn, and the rest, and took these 
names to be real names of actual creatures, as 
JDaoine- Vhara (folk of the sea) for seals, or as 
piocach for the brown saithe I was wont to 
watch swimming amid the fronds of the 
seaweed, or as sgadan for the flashing herring 
whose shoals so often made a dazzle in the 
offing beyond the strait, and whose radiant 
scales glorified as with gems the nets hauled 
up in the moonshine or in the pale rose and 
cowslip-yellow of August dawns. 

And, in truth, I am not much the wiser 
now. There is no great gain in wisdom in the 
knowledge that the tides are not mysterious 

40 



creatures of the deep, and are nameless as the The 
winds, as homeless as they, as silent, furtive, Tides, 
as formless, as incalculable almost, as variable. 
The old islander knew how to turn into service 
their comings and goings, how to meet them 
when friendly, how to evade them when hostile, 
how to wonder continually at their strange 
beauty, how to reverence the terrible order of 
their rhythmic flow and ebb. What matter if, 
also, his old-world Gaelic imagination imaged 
to him these dark forces of the sea as living 
creatures ; not of flesh and blood as the slim 
brown seals who, too, can glide not less swiftly 
and secretly through dusky green water-ways ; 
not even of such consistency as the tide-wrack 
floating on the wave, or the dim, wandering 
medusse which drift like pale, quenchless fires 
in the untroubled stillness of the twilit under- 
world ; but at least of the company of 
lightning, of fire, of the wind, of dew, of 
shadow . . . creatures without form as we 
know form, but animate with a terrible and 
mysterious life of their own — a secret brother- 
hood among the visible and invisible clans of 
the world. What matter if, remembering songs 
and old tales and incalculable traditions, he 
thought of them with names, as the 'fleet- 
brown-one,' as 'swift-darkness,' as 'the dark- 
courser,' as 'the untameable,' as 'the hound 

4i 



The of death ' ? These tell us neither more nor 
Tides. i ess (to many of us more, not less) than the 
abstruse algebraical formulas of Newton and 
Laplace. The imagination does not move like 
flame among intricate calculations, though the 
mind may be compelled and convinced ; and 
some of us at least would learn more of the 
tides and their occult nature and laws from an 
old islesman telling of lionadh and sruth-mara 
than from the bewildering maze of the five- 
and-fifty columns which the Encyclopaedia 
Britannica devotes to the subject. 

Everywhere this tidal mystery, this beauty 
of flood and ebb, is to be seen . . . along what- 
ever coasts sea-waters move or wherever they 
penetrate. The 'tideless Mediterranean' is 
but a phrase. Even along the shores of Malta 
and Sicily there is a perceptible rise and fall, 
and at a thousand points between Marseilles 
or Tangier and Venice or Cape Matapan the 
tidal movement is as mysterious and impressive 
as among the shoals of Ushant or in the Norsk 
fjords. There are few places where the 
trained eye could not perceive a difference of 
rise or fall. I recollect being shown a spot on 
the Argive coast of the Peloponnesus where, 
it was said, the tidal difference was non- 
existent. On that very day, a day of windless 
calm, I noticed a fall of over a foot in depth. 

42 



Dark, steep rocks shelved to deep waters, and The 
to all ordinary appearance there was nothing Tides - 
to indicate the slightest variance between flow 
and ebb. Even a Morean Greek declared 
'there is no flood, no ebb, here.' 

But, in our own home - waters, what 
marvellous changes take place under the 
strong continuous pull of the lunar reins. 
Think of wind and flood-tide on the Channel 
coasts, with the strange sound as of a mur- 
murous host confusedly marching : think of 
the daily two-fold flooding of estuaries, and 
the sinuous invasion of the sea past curving 
banks and among remote inland meadows. 
Are rivers not enhanced in mystery when 
through the downward flow a salt serpentine 
envoy from the distant sea forces its way, 
revealing itself in circuitous eddies, in dark 
revolving rings, in troubled surface - seethe : 
bringing to the flags and rushes, to the leaning 
grasses and gold kingcup and purple mallow 
that salt lip, which a score or half-score miles 
away had been laid on the sea-grapes of the 
bladder-wrack, or on the slow-involving tresses 
of the twisting long-weed. Then there is that 
miraculous halt, when the cold hand of the 
tide can reach no farther : when at a boat's 
helm a curl of dark brackish water will 
indolently lapse, while at the prow the clear- 

43 



The brown rippling rush will be fresh with gathered 
Tides. ra j ns an d dews and the unsullied issues of 
wellsprings and sunlit sources. 

The tide-flow may be more beautiful and 
obvious seen from the high shores of certain 
estuaries, as, say, from the Falmouth uplands, 
or from the hillsides of our narrow Highland 
sea-lochs, but the mind is deeplier impressed 
and the imagination compelled by the more 
obscure, menacing, and almost terrifying swift 
arrivals along vast shallow estuaries, such as 
The Wash or the inner reaches of Solway 
Firth or by the Sands o' Dee. With what 
abrupt turbulence the calms are violated, with 
what a gathering sound the invisible host is 
marshalled, with what impetuous surge the 
immeasurable sortie advances ! Of a sudden 
those little shallows in the sands, those little 
weed-hung pools below slippery rocks covered 
with mussel and dog-whelk, shiver. A faint 
undulation thrills the still small world. A 
shrimp darts from a sand-mound : a blood-red 
anemone thrusts out feathered antennse : now 
one, now another shell-fish stirs, lifts, gapes. 
It is the response of the obscure, the in- 
significant, and the silent, to that mighty 
incalculable force which is hastening from the 
fathomless depths and across countless leagues 
of the great Sea. Soon the flood will come : 

44 



perhaps in furtive swiftness and silence, perhaps The 
with a confused multitudinous noise among Tides, 
which are inchoate cries and fragmentary 
bewildering echoes of muffled songs and 
chants, perhaps as in charging hordes of wild 
sea-horses where the riders are not seen in the 
dazzle of spray nor their shouting heard in the 
tumult of wave dashed against wave and 
billow hurled on billow. 

To be in some such place . . . say, again, 
where the Breton tide races against the flank 
of Normandy and in a few minutes isolates 
Mont St. Michel from the mainland ; or where 
the Northumbrian flood pours across the 
narrow sands of Lindisfarne ; or, more than 
everywhere else I think, where the fierce 
Atlantic tides leap with bewildering surge and 
clamour across the vast sea-gates of Uist and 
rush like a cataract into the Hebrid Sea . . . 
to be in some such place and at the first 
mysterious signals of the oncoming flood, by 
night, is to meet the unforgettable, and, as 
Blake says, to be at one with the eternal 
mystery. 

Flow and ebb, ebb and flow ... it is that 
ancient inexplicable mystery, the everlasting 
and unchanging rhythm which holds star to 
star in infinite procession, which lifts and 
lowers the poles of our sun -wheeling world, 

45 



The which compels the great oceans to arise and 
Tides. f u ow the mysterious bidding of the moon. 
It is wonderful that the moon travels along 
the equator at the rate of a thousand miles an 
hour : but more wonderful that these loose, 
formless, blind and insensate waters should 
awake at the touch of that pale hand, should 
move to it and follow it as the flocks of the 
hills to the voice of the shepherd. 

Flow and ebb, ebb and flow ... it is the 
utterance of the divine law, the eternal word 
of Order. It is life itself. What life is there, 
from the phosphorescent atom in the running 
wave to the enfranchised soul stepping west- 
ward beyond the twilights of time, that is not 
subject to this ineffable rhythmic law. The 
tides of the world, the tides of life : the grey 
sap, the red blood, the secret dews, the tame- 
less seas, birth and death, the noons and 
midnights of the mind of man, the evening 
dusk and the morning glory of the soul . . . 
one and all move inevitably, and in one way : 
in one way come, and go, and come again. 

" Mar a bha, " As it tvas, 
Mar a tha, As it is, 

Mar a bhitkeas As it shall be 

Gu brath Evermore 



Ri tragadh, With the ebb, 

'S ri Honadk." With the flow. 

4 6 



THE HILL-TARN 

Isolated, in one of the wildest and loneliest 
mountain-regions of the Highlands of Ross, I 
know a hill-tarn so rarely visited that one 
might almost say the shadow of man does not 
fall across its brown water from year's end to 
year's end. It lies on the summit of a vast 
barren hill, its cradle being the hollow of a 
crater. Seven mountains encircle Maoldhu 
from north, south, east, and west. One of 
these is split like a hayfork, and that is why 
it is called in Gaelic the Prong of Fionn. 
Another, whose furrowed brows are dark with 
the immemorial rheum of the Atlantic, is called 
the Organ of Oisin, because at a height of about 
two thousand feet it shows on its haggard 
front a black colonnade of basalt, where all the 
winds of the west make a wild and desolate 
music. I have heard its lamentation falling 
across the hill-solitudes and down through the 
mountain-glens with a sound as of a myriad 

47 



The confused sobs and cries, a sound that is now 

Hill-Tarn. a forlorn ecstasy and now the voice of the 
abyss and of immeasurable desolation. Another, 
that on the east, is an unscalable cone, from 
whose crest, when sunrise flames the serrated 
crags into a crown of burning bronze, the 
golden eagle sways like a slow-rising and slow- 
falling meteor. All day, save for a brief hour 
at noon, shadow dwells about its knees, and 
never lifts from the dark grassy lochan at its 
feet. It is called Maol Athair-Uaibhreach, the 
Hill of the Haughty Father : I know not why. 
4 The Haughty Father' is a Gaelic analogue 
for the Prince of Darkness — son of Saturn, 
as he is called in an old poem : ' God's Elder 
Brother,' as he is named in a legend that I 
have met or heard of once only — a legend 
that He was God of this world before * Mac 
Greinne ' (lit. : Son of the Sun) triumphed 
over him, and drove him out of the East and 
out of the South, leaving him only in the 
West and in the North two ancient forgotten 
cities of the moon, that in the West below the 
thunder of grey seas and that in the North 
under the last shaken auroras of the Pole. 

It is not easy to reach this tarn of Maoldhu 
even when the hillways are known. The 
mountain-flanks have so vast a sweep, with 
such wide tracts of barren declivity, where the 

48 



loose stones and boulders seem to hang in the The 
air like a grey suspended fruit though the first Hill-Tarn, 
tempest will set them rolling in avalanche ; 
there are so many hidden ravines, and sudden 
precipices that lean beneath tangled brows like 
smooth appalling faces ; on the eastern slopes 
the mountain-sheep cannot climb more than 
halfway ; on the south and west the wailing 
curlews are in continual flight above wide 
unfrontiered reaches of peat-bog and quaking 
morass ; so many crags lead abruptly to long- 
shelving ledges shelterless and slippery as ice, 
and twice an abyss of a thousand feet falls 
sheer from loose rock covered by treacherous 
heather for a yard or more beyond the last 
gnarled, twisted roots. 

But, when it is once reached, is there any 
solitude in the world more solitary than here. 
The tarn, or lochan rather — for if it is not 
wide enough to be called a loch it is larger 
than the ordinary tarn one is familiar with on 
high moorlands and among the hills — has no 
outlook save to the lonely reach of sky just 
above it. A serrated crest of herbless and 
lifeless precipice circles it. On the lower 
slopes a rough grass grows, and here and there 
a little bog-myrtle may be seen. At one end 
a small dishevelled array of reed disputes the 
water-edge, in thin, straggling, disconsolate 

49 e 



The lines. There is nothing else. Sometimes the 

Hill-Tarn, ptarmigan will whirr across it, though they do 
not love crossing water. Sometimes the 
shadow of an eagle's wing darkens the already 
obscure depths. But the mountain -sheep 
never reach this height, and even the red deer 
do not come here to drink these still, brown 
waters : ' One sees no antlers where the 
heather ceases,' as the shepherds say. The 
clouds rise above the crests of the west and 
pass beyond the crests of the east : snow, the 
steel-blue sleet, the grey rains, sweep past 
overhead. In summer, a vast cumulus will 
sometimes for hours overlean the barren crater 
and fill the tarn with a snowy wonderland and 
soft abysses of rose and violet : sometimes a 
deep, cloudless azure will transmute it to a 
still flame of unruffled, shadowless blue. At 
night, when it is not a pit of darkness to which 
the upper darkness is twilight, it will hold 
many stars. For three hours Arcturus will 
pulsate in it like a white flame. Other planets 
will rise, and other stars. Their silver feet 
tread the depths in silence. Sometimes the 
moon thrusts long yellow lances down into its 
brooding heart, or will lie on its breast like the 
curled horn of the honeysuckle, or, in autumn, 
like a floating shell filled with fires of 
phosphorescence. Sunset never burns there, 

50 



though sometimes the flush of the afterglow The 
descends as on soft impalpable wings from the Hill-Tarn, 
zenith. At dawn, in midsummer, long scarlet 
lines will drift from its midmost to the south 
and west, like blood-stained shafts and battle- 
spears of a defeated aerial host. 

Few sounds are heard by that mountain- 
tarn. The travelling cloud lets fall no echo 
of its fierce frost-crashing shards. Dawn and 
noon and dusk are quiet-footed as mist. The 
stars march in silence. The springing Northern 
Lights dance in swift fantastic flame, but are 
voiceless as the leaping shadows in a wood. 
Only those other wayfarers of the mountain- 
summit, tempest, thunder, the streaming wind, 
the snow coming with muffled rush out of the 
north, wild rains and whirling sleet, the sharp 
crackling tread of the hosts of frost : only 
these break the silence ; or, at times, the cries 
of 'the eldest children of the hill 5 as the 
mountain- Gael calls the eagle, the hill-fox, and 
the ptarmigan — the only creatures that have 
their home above the reach of the heatner and 
in the grey stony wildernesses where only the 
speckled moss and the lichen thrive. 

When I was last at this desolate and remote 
tarn I realised the truth of that hill -saying. 
After the farthest oaks on Sliabh Gorm, as 
the ridge to the south-west is called and up 

5i 



The which alone is a practicable if rough and often 

Hill-Tarn, broken way, came scattered groups and then 
isolated trees of birch and mountain -ash. 
Thereafter for a long way the heather climbed. 
Then it gave way more and more to bracken. 
In turn the bracken broke like the last faint 
surf against huge boulders and waste stony 
places. The grouse called far below. The 
last deer were browsing along their extreme 
pastures, some five hundred to eight hundred 
feet below the precipitous bastions of Maoldhu. 
Higher than they I saw a circling hawk and 
three ravens flying slowly against the wind. 
Then came the unpeopled wilderness, or so it 
seemed till I heard the wail of a solitary curlew 
(that spirit of the waste, for whom no boggy 
moors lie too low and desolate, for whom no 
mountain -ranges are too high and wild and 
solitary), and once, twice, and again in harsh 
response but faint against the wind, the barking 
of a hill-fox and its mate. All life had ceased, 
I thought, after that, save an eagle which in 
a tireless monotony swung round and round 
the vast summit of Maoldhu. But suddenly, 
perhaps a hundred feet above me, six or seven 
ptarmigan rose with a whirr, made a long 
sailing sweep, and settled (slidingly and gradu- 
ally as flounders in shallow waters among grey 
pebbles and obscuring sand-furrows) among the 

52 



lichened boulders and loose disarray of speckled The 
granite and dark and grey basalt and trap — an Hill-Tarn, 
ideal cover, for even a keen following gaze 
could not discern the living from the inanimate. 

Truly the eagle, the hill-fox, and the ptar- 
migan are Hhe eldest children of the hill.' 
The stag may climb thus high too at times, 
for outlook, or for the intoxication of desola- 
tion and of illimitable vastness ; sometimes the 
hawks soar over the wilderness ; even the 
mountain -hares sometimes reach and race 
desperately across these high arid wastes. But 
these all come as men in forlorn and lonely 
lands climb the grey uninhabitable mountains 
beyond them, seeking to know that which they 
cannot see beneath, seeking often for they know 
not what. They are not dwellers there. The 
stag, that mountain-lover, cannot inhabit waste 
rock ; the red grouse would perish where the 
ptarmigan thrives and is content. 

How little has been written about these 
birds of the mountain-brow. What poetry is 
in their name, for those who know the hills. 
They dwell higher than the highest June-flight 
of the tireless swift, higher than the last reaches 
of the sunrise -leaping larks. Cities might 
crumble away in pale clouds of dust, floods 
might whelm every lowland, great fires might 
devour the forests and the red insatiable myriad 

53 



The of flame lap up the last high frontiers of bracken 

Hill-Tarn. an j climbing heather, and the ptarmigan would 
know nothing of it, would not care. Their 
grey home would be inviolate. No tempest 
can drive them forth. Even the dense snows 
of January do not starve them out. Do they 
not mock them by then taking the whiteness 
of the snow for their own ? They have nothing 
to fear save the coming of a black frost so 
prolonged and deathly that even the sunfire in 
the eagle's blood grows chill, and the great 
pinions dare no more face the icy polar breath. 
'They'll be the last things alive when the 
world is cold,' said an old gillie to me, speaking 
of these storm -swept lichen -fed children of 
the upper-wild. 

The same old gillie once saw a strange sight 
at my mountain-tarn. He had when a youth 
climbed Maoldhu to its summit in midwinter, 
because of a challenge that he could not do 
what no other had ever done at that season. 
He started before dawn, but did not reach the 
lochan till a red fire of sunset flared along the 
crests. The tarn was frozen deep, and for all 
the pale light that dwelled upon it was black 
as basalt, for a noon -tempest had swept its 
surface clear of snow. At first he thought 
small motionless icebergs lay in it, but 
wondered at their symmetrical circle. He 

54 



descended as far as he dared, and saw that The 

seven wild-swans were frozen on the tarn's face. Hill-Tarn. 

They had alit there to rest, no doubt : but a 

fierce cold had numbed them, and an intense 

frost of death had suddenly transfixed each as 

they swam slowly circlewise as is their wont. 

They may have been there for days, perhaps 

for weeks. A month later the gillie repeated 

his arduous and dangerous feat. They were 

still there, motionless, ready for flight as it 

seemed. 

How often in thought I have seen that 
coronal of white swans above the dark face of 
that far, solitary tarn : in how many dreams I 
have listened to the rustle of unloosening 
wings, and seen seven white phantoms rise 
cloud-like, and like clouds at night drift swiftly 
into the dark ; and heard, as mournful bells 
through the solitudes of sleep, the honk-honk 
of the wild -swans traversing the obscure 
forgotten ways to the secret country beyond 
sleep and dreams and silence. 



55 



AT THE TURN OF THE YEAR 

When one hears of 'the dead months/ of 
'dead December' and 'bleak January,' the 
best corrective is to be found in the coppice 
or by the stream-side, by the field-thicket, in 
the glens, and even on the wide moors if the 
snow is not everywhere fallen, a coverlet so 
dense and wide that even the juniper has not 
a green spike to show, or the dauntless bunting 
a clean whin -branch to call from on the 
broomieknowe. Even the common sayings 
reveal a knowledge hidden from those to whom 
winter is ' a dead season . . . and it is a 
continual surprise to find how many people 
believe that from the fall of the leaf or the 
first sleet and snow, till the thrush doubles and 
trebles his note in the February wet-shine, 
that bird and insect and all green life have 
gone, that all Nature is dead or asleep. Thus, 
for example, 'as keen in the hearing as a 
winter-plover ' must have been uttered, when 

56 



first said, by a watcher of the multiform bird- At the 
life of our winter-fields and fallow lands, one Turn of 
who knew that the same drama of life and 
death is enacted in midwinter as in midspring 
or midsummer, a drama only less crowded, 
less complex and less obvious, but not less 
continual, not less vital for the actors. Who 
that has watched the pee-wits seeking worms 
on ploughed lands at midwinter, and seen 
them poise their delicate heads and listen for 
the phantom rustle of a worm in this clod or 
under yonder fallow, while the greedy but 
incapable seamews, inland come from frost- 
bound coasts or on the front of prolonged 
gales, hear nothing of 'the red people' and 
trust only to bulk and fierce beak to snatch 
the prey from hungry plover-bills . . . who 
that has seen this can fail to recognise the 
aptness of the saying, 'as keen in the hearing 
as a winter-plover ' ? Who that has watched 
the ebb and flow of lark-life, resident and 
immigrant ; the troubled winter-days of the 
field-travellers (as the familiar word ' fieldfare ' 
means) and the wandering thrushes ; the 
vagrant rooks, the barn-haunting hoodie ; the 
yellow-hammer flocks and the tribes of the 
finch ; the ample riverside life, where heron 
and snipe, mallard and moor-hen, wren and 
kingfisher, and even plover and the everywhere 

57 



the Year. 



At the adaptable starling are to be found with ease 
Turn of by quick eyes and careful ears : who that has 
seen the sudden apparition of the bat, or the 
columnar dance of the ephemeridae, or the 
flight of the winter-moth along the dishevelled 
hedgerows : or who that, besides the mistletoe 
and the ivy, the holly and the fir, the box and 
the late-flowering clematis, and many other of 
the green and flowering clans of the forest and 
the garden, has noted the midwinter-blooming 
shepherd's purse, healing groundsel, bright 
chickweed, and red deadnettle, can think of 
nature as lifeless at this season ? When amid 
the rains and storms of December an old 
gardener, instead of saying that spring was on 
the move, remarked to me that ''Twill be 
starling days soon,' he gave voice to a truth 
of observation as impressive as it is beautiful. 
For often December has not lapsed before the 
mysterious breeding-change of the Vita Nuova, 
the New Life that spreads like a flowing wave 
so early in the coming year will begin to be 
obvious on the dun-hued lapwing, on the 
inland-wandering gull, and even on one or 
other of the small ' clan of the bushes ' more 
dear and familar to us. On none, however, is 
the change so marked as on the blithe starling, 
surely the bird of cheerfulness, for he will sing 
(does he ever cease that ever-varying call or 

58 



flute or whistle of his ?) when the lark cannot At the 

rise in the polar air. when the missel-thrush Turn of 

• the Year 
will not throw a challenge on the wet wind, 

and long before the most jubilant great-tit in 
the forest will ring his early tinkling bell under 
leafless boughs. For, even at Christmastide, 
though rarely perhaps quite so early, the dark 
bill will suddenly yellow, and a green and 
purple sheen will come over the russet 
plumage. Already Nature has looked north- 
ward again. And, when she looks, there is at 
once a first movement of the infinite sweet 
trouble of the New Life once more. The 
Creative Spirit is come again from the sun- 
ways of the South. ' 'Twill be starling days 
soon' — what is that but a homely way of 
saying that the old year has not lapsed before 
the new year has already stirred with the 
divine throes of rebirth. * The King is dead : 
Long live the King ! ' is the human analogue. 
There is no interregnum. The cuckoo may 
have fled before the swallow, the landrail 
before the wild swan, but during the grey ebb 
of autumn ten thousand wings have rustled 
in the dawn as the migrants from oversea 
descend at last on our English and Scottish 
shores. A myriad host may have fled at the 
equinox, or lingered till the wet winds of the 
west and the freezing blasts of the north swept 

59 



At the them from November ; but on those east 

Turn of w i n ds from Norway and the Baltic, from 
the Year 

' Jutland and Friesland, on those south winds 

leaping upward from the marshes of Picardy 
and the Breton heathlands and from all of the 
swarm-delivering South behind, on those south- 
west gales warm with the soft air of the isles 
of the west, and wet with the foam over lost 
Ys and sunken Lyonesse, what an incalculable 
host has come hither ward. Like great fans, 
the invisible pinions of the Bird-God, that 
Winged Spirit whom a Finnish legend images 
in continual suspense at the Crossways of the 
Four Winds, beat this way and that : so that 
when already the lament of the wild-geese in 
storm -baffled flight from the South ulules in 
our norland dawns, clouds of larks are gathered 
like dust from the North- Sea lands, and are 
blown upon our shores, a multitude of thrush 
turn westward, the rook and the hoodie rise 
on the Danish wind, and yonder shadow drift- 
ing over the woods of Norway is none other 
than ten thousand fieldfares whose congrega- 
tion will soon be spilt like rain upon our fields 
and pastures. 

When is the turn of the year ? We have 
certainly not to wait till the missel-thrush calls 
down the wind on the moist south-wester that 
comes in February. The changing seasons are 

60 



indifferent to our calendars. Autumn may At the 
burn the lime and chestnut while Summer is T^y^ 
still in her glory ; Summer may steal back 
upon us through the September haze, or even 
after we have heard the dry rustle in the 
woods of October. We are familiar with the 
return of halcyon days when St. Luke's Peace 
follows the wind Euroclydon, or when St. 
Martin's summer gleams like a quiet sunset 
on the stormy brows of Winter. In mid- 
December the gnat may still be seen spinning 
her dance by the hedgerow, the warmth-loving 
bat may still wheel through silent afternoon 
dusks, the robin will pitch his blithe song 
from holly to holly, the hedgesparrow will 
chase the winter moth, the chaffinch will 
challenge the marauding tit. In January, 
when the snow-lids open and the blue is seen, 
a lark will spray his sudden music from far 
up in the pale azure, and as the long notes 
tinkle and the interwoven song falls down the 
blue invisible ways, we almost imagine that 
sky-glimpse to be the very face of spring. 

Thus we have to wait for no day on which 
to note from the calendar that the New Year 
is come, or on which to exclaim that Winter 
is gone and Spring has arrived. A day may 
come, in February, perhaps, when, suddenly, 
one will realise, as after sleep one realises one 

61 



the Year. 



At the is awake, that the hands of the South are in 
Turn^of the woods, that the eyes of the South are 
looking into the white sleep of blossom and 
flower, that the breath of the South has 
awakened love, has stirred music in the hearts 
of all the clans of song. But if we had not 
ourselves been asleep we should not have 
waited thus long for the exquisite surprise. 
We should have known the divine conspiracy 
by which the North and South are lovers, and 
the West comrade to the East. The con- 
spiracy of the eternal passion by which power 
desires power, and dominion lusteth after 
dominion : so that all the effort of the North 
is to touch the lips of the South, all the dream 
of the East is to reach the sunset-gardens of 
the West. We should have known, when 
out of December frost or January snow the 
redbreast thrilled a canticle of joy, or the russet 
moth sought his wingless love in windless 
flame -set twilights, that the Grey Lover 
already felt the breath from those ardent lips. 
We should have realised that when across the 
snow -silence the fieldfares no longer edged 
southward, that when on the upland-pasture 
the lapwing began his bridal change and in 
the bare orchard the starling began to glisten 
as though he had bathed at the edge of the 
rainbow, or to wonder, in some ice-set mirror, 

62 



at his dun beak now grown yellow as the At the 

sheltered crocus he knows of under the garden- Tu i*n of 

the Year 
yew ... we should have realised that while 

this dark -browed barbarian from the North 
slept, the fair woman of the South had passed 
smiling by, and kissed him as she passed. 

The breeding -change that may be seen 
even before Christmas, the January stir that 
becomes so obvious a week or so, or any day, 
after the New Year is come, here and now we 
are at the turn of the year. By mid-January, 
even, here and there, the song-thrush and the 
missel may have begun to build, and even the 
great-tit's bell may tinkle in the coppice or 
wind -spared russet oak -glade. Already the 
snowdrop and the Christmas-rose, the green- 
white aconite and the pale winter- iris are 
become old acquaintances : many a primrose 
may have adventured in shy retreats : any 
day a wandering minstrel will spill a tinkle of 
music from among the first yellow spray of 
hazel catkins, the hedgesparrow may unloosen 
song under the early-opening woodbine-buds, 
the corn-bunting may crack his fairy-hammer 
or the wren try his new-year flute among the 
yellowing gorse : any day, at the sight of the 
first nomad daisies or the first gay vagrant 
dandelion, the yellow-hammer may become a 
lover and a poet. It is this unchanging 'any- 

63 



At the day ' element that redeems even the longest 

Turn of an d dreariest midwinter ; the sense of the 

the Year. eve r-moving ichor in the eternal veins ; the 

inward exultation at the ever-quickening and 

ever -slowing, but never-ceasing fans of life 

and death. 

Yesterday, rain - fog ; to - day, frost - mist. 
But how fascinating each. How vast and 
menacing the familiar oaks looked, leaning 
gigantic over dim lapsing hedgerows. How 
phantom-like and processional, the elms steal- 
ing into view one after the other ; the birches 
disclosing tresses wet with dews from the 
secret woods they are gliding from to regain 
the secret lands beyond the misty river where 
I can hear the mallard call, like a sudden 
tocsin among the falling towers and silent 
avalanches of Cloudland. 

It is desolate here, where I stand. 

" Cinnidh feanntag 's a ghdradh 
'N uair thig faillinn 'san rds'' 

" Nettles grow in the garden, 
While the roses decay." 

A long way off yet till the wood-thrush rings 
his falling chime from the April-Tree or French- 
Broom, as the laburnum is called in some parts 
of the Highlands. I know a wood where a 
great Bealaidh Fhrangach sleeps, to awake 

64 



months hence in sun-gold beauty. The wood- At the 

thrush will be its flute. Already I have to- Turn of 

the Year 
day cut a slip from a garden-laburnum, for a 

friend who wants 'a flute of the April-Tree' 
(feadan na Craobh Abraon) . . . for there is 
no timber better for the whistle wood of the 
bagpipe than this. And what more fit for 
the Strayed Pan, if perchance he follow the 
Phantom Call in the Hills of the North ? But 
see . . . the mist has gone like a haze from 
blue water. I hear starling-music over yonder 
in the Talamh nan Ramh, as Ossian calls the 
Country of the Woods. The Flute of the April- 
Tree, and snow at my feet ! • The Flute of 
the April- Tree ' : it has the yellow and white 
magic of spring in it. 



65 



THE SONS OF THE NORTH WIND 



Down thro 1 the Northlands 
Come the White Brothers, 
One clad in foam 
And one mailed in water — 
Foam white as bear-felt, 
Water like coat of mail. 
Snow is the Song of Me, 
Singeth the one ; 
Silence the Breath of Me, 
Whispers the other. 



So sings a Swedish poet, a lineal descendant 
of one of the Saga-men whose songs the vikings 
carried to the ends of the world of that day. 
The song is called ' The Sons of the North 
Wind,' and the allusion is to an old ballad-saga 
common in one form or another throughout 
all the countries of both the Gall and the Gael 
. . . from Finland to the last of the island- 
kingdoms between Ultima Thule and the Gaelic 
West. The White Brothers are familiar indeed, 
though with us they come oftener clothed with 
beauty than with terror, with strange and 

66 



beautiful new life rather than with the solemnity The Sons 
and dread aspect of death. °J tne l 

Among the Gaelic hills we have a prose ^ind 
variant of 'The Sons of the North Wind,' 
which I suppose is still told to children by the 
hreglow on winter evenings, as, when a child, 
the present writer was told it and retold it by 
the fireglow on many a winter evening when 
the crackling fall of icicles from fir-sprays near 
the window could be heard, or the sudden 
shuffle of snow in the declivities of the steep 
glen hard-by. The story is generally told as a 
tale, but sometimes the teller chants it as a 
duan or poem. For it is more a poem than a 
prose narrative on the lips of Gaelic speakers. 

The North Wind had three sons. These 
Sons of the North Wind were called White- 
Feet and White- Wings and White-Hands. 
When White-Feet and White- Wings and 
White -Hands first came into our world from 
the invisible palaces, they were so beautiful 
that many mortals died from beholding them, 
while others dared not look, but fled affrighted 
into woods or obscure places. So when these 
three sons of the Great Chieftain saw that they 
were too radiant for the eyes of the earth-bound 
they receded beyond the gates of the sunset, 
and took counsel with the Allfather. When, 
through the gates of dawn, they came again 

6 7 



The Sons they were no longer visible to men, nor, in all 
of the the long grey reaches of the years, has any since 
W'd been seen of mortal eyes. How are they 
known, these Sons of the North Wind ? They 
were known of old, they are known still, only 
by the white feet of one treading the waves of 
the sea ; and by the white rustle and sheen of 
a myriad tiny plumes as the other unfolds great 
pinions above hills and valleys, woodlands and 
garths, and the homes of men ; and by the white 
silence of dream that the third lays upon 
moving waters, and the windless boughs of 
trees, upon the reed by the silent loch, upon 
the grass by the silent tarn, upon the bracken 
by the unfailing hill-stream hanging like a scarf 
among; the rock and mountain-ash. We know 
them no more by their ancient names or in 
their immortal body, but only thus by the 
radiance of their passing, and we call them the 
Polar Wind, and Snow, and Ice. 

It is at this season, in all northern lands, that 
the miracle of the snow-change, the new beauty 
of the snow- world, is transcendent. Truly, it is 
miraculous, that change : that new world, what 
a revelation it is, showing us the familiar as we 
have never known it or have of it but a dream- 
like remembrance, showing it to us at times as 
we can hardly conceive it. To the continual 
element of surprise much has to be attributed, 

68 



in our country at least. In lands like Scandi- The Sons 
navia and Russia the periodicity and uniformity °f tne 
of the snow-raiment of earth take much from yj^d 
this element of surprise. Hardly have the 
inhabitants grown used to the greenness of 
grass and sprouting grain and fluttering leaf, 
after the long months of a silent whiteness 
become dreadful as a shroud, when a grey pall 
is spun out of the east once more and out of 
the north comes the wind of death, and the 
leaf is gone away on the polar air, the grain is 
gathered or withered, the sere grass fades like 
wintry grey-green seas fading into continual 
foam. 

Not so with us, who have those visitors, who 
can be so dread even here, for so short a time. 
The dark sword-thrust of the ice, compelling 
moving waters to silence and the blue rigour 
of steel, may reign for weeks in the Anglian 
fen-lands. Dense mantles of snow may cover 
the hills of the north for months, and the 
foreheads of Nevis and Schiehallion be white 
from the autumnal equinox till cuckoo -cry : 
for weeks the hill-fox and the mountain-hare 
may not drink at the frozen tarns, the moor- 
pastures may be lost to deer and sheep, and 
only the ptarmigan survive in the waste white 
places : for a week or two the boughs of the 
oak and chestnut, the plumes of the spruce 

6 9 



The Sons and hemlock, the tresses of the larch and birch, 
of the ma y bend with the unmelting snowfall. But, 

Wind a ^ ^ ne wors ^ ** * s never l° n g before a wind out 
of the south, or from the wet mouth of the 
west, breathes upon the fens, and the silence 
is become a faint stir, a whisper, a rustle ; till 
the moveless steel is become a film, to be 
gathered some noon, like May-dew from the 
thickets, the autumn-frost from the whin and 
gorse. It is never long till the meh-ing of the 
sheep is again a sweet lamentation upon the 
hill-pastures, or till the fox dusts the last snow 
from his root-roof in the wintry glen, or till the 
jay screams in the woodlands as from fir-plume 
and oak-bough slip or fall with heavy thump 
their unloosened burthens. True, the Sons of 
the North Wind, as in the Highland West and 
North we know so well and often to such bitter 
cost, may come to us with suddenness of 
tempest, raging in their mysterious wrath, and 
may long endure, trampling upon life, as, in 
the old legend, the gigantic phantom-men of 
the Northern Lights trample the souls of the 
dead condemned to Ifurin, the Gaelic hell. 
Every year there is sorrow upon some strath, 
grief in the glens, lamentation by hillside and 
moor. From the Ord of Sutherland to Land's 
End there may be a tale of disaster. Snow- 
drift, snow-storm, snow -fog may paralyse 

70 



communications and bring deep anxiety or The Sons 
irremediable grief to an incalculable number, of the 
Yet, we must admit that even our severest sjj[ n( * 
winter is but a fierce reminder of times lonxr 
past for us, the times of the mail-coach, the 
rude cart, the mountain-pony, that the worst 
we ever have is tolerable beside the bleak 
wretchedness of Pomerania, the frightful cold 
of Esthonia, the death-in-life of Muscovy — to 
say nothing of lands still more wild and remote. 
One cannot say, here is snow at its loveliest, 
here is ice in a unique beauty. Frozen lochs 
by moonlight, frozen fens under the pale azure 
of cloudless noons, dark winding rivers, lifeless 
seemingly in the grip of frost, traversed by 
star shine under overhanging boughs, lagoons 
where the dark-blue or steel-blue ice mirrors 
the drifting cloud or the flying skater, village- 
ponds, canals, the water-ways of towns and 
cities, in all, in each, the radiant miracle is 
evident. Like moonshine, this beauty of ice 
or snow may be omnipresent. If it inhabits 
the wilderness, it is fulfilled also in the streets 
of cities. Who has not looked out on the 
sordid thoroughfares of a town, and seen the 
poor ignoble disarray of chimney-tops and slated 
roofs and crude angles and ornamentations 
take on a new and entrancing aspect, so that 
even the untidy shops and tawdry dwellings 

7i 



The Sons assume a crown of loveliness, and the long, 
of the dui^ perspectives of monotonous roads might 
Wind ^ e the trampled avenues about the gates of 
fairyland ? The most sordid hamlet in the 
dreariest manufacturing-region may, suddenly, 
awake to a dawn so wonderful in what it 
reveals that the villagers might well believe, as 
in the old folk-tale, that Christ had passed that 
way in the night and left the world white and 
husht, stainlessly pure. But, of course, we 
have each of us our preferences. Some love 
best to see the long swelling reaches of ploughed 
lands covered with new fallen snow not too 
heavy to hide the wave-like procession of the 
hidden furrows. Some love best to look on 
wide interminable wolds, a solitude of unbroken 
whiteness, without even the shadow of a cloud 
or the half-light of a grey sky : some, upon 
familiar pastures now changed as though in 
the night the fields had receded into the earth 
and the fields of another world had silently 
sunk into their place : some, upon mountain- 
slopes, on whose vast walls the shadows of 
wheeling hawks and curlews pass like pale blue 
scimetars : some, on woodlands, where from 
the topmost elm-bough to the lowest fir-plume 
or outspread bough of cedar the immaculate 
soft burthens miraculously suspend. For 
myself — after the supreme loveliness of snowy 

72 



mountain-ranges at dawn or sunset or moon- The Sons 
glow — I am most entranced by snow in a pine- °f tne 
forest. The more so if, as in one my mind ^yj nc j 
recreates for me as I write, there are glades 
where I can come to a rock whence an over- 
leaning white hill may be seen as though falling 
out of heaven, with white mountains beyond, 
white shoulders lapsing on white shoulders, 
white peaks rising beyond white peaks, white 
crests fading into further snowy crests, and, 
nearer, it may be, glens sinking into glens, no 
longer a sombre green, but as though stilled 
avalanches awaiting a magician's unloosening 
spell. Once, just there, in just such a place, I 
saw a wonderful sight. The January frosts 
had gone, and February had come in with the 
soft sighing of a wind out of the south. The 
snows faded like morning -mists. But after 
three days the north wind came again in the 
night. At dawn it veered, and a light snow 
fell once more, then thick and moist and flaky, 
and by noon had changed to rain. But an 
hour or so later the polar breath once more 
came over the brows of the hills, and with 
midwinter intensity. The rain was frozen on 
every bough, on every branch, on every spray, 
on every twig, on every leaf, on every frond of 
bracken, on every spire of reed, on every blade 
of grass. The world had become cased in 

73 



Wind. 



The Sons shining ice, crystalline, exquisite in radiant 
of the beauty, ineffable, as in a trance, the ecstasy of 
$1??}*} the Unknown Dreamer. At sundown the 
vast orb of blood-red flame sank over the glens 
and burned among the aisles of the forest. 
Looking at the ice-mailed wilderness of bole 
and bough and branch between me and the 
sun I saw a forest of living fire, wherein, as 
a wind stirred and threw sudden shadows, 
phantoms of flame moved to and fro, or stood, 
terrible children of light, as though entranced, 
as though listening, as though looking on Life 
or on Death. When at last the flame was all 
gathered up out of the west, and an aura of 
faint rose hung under the first glittering stars, 
an extraordinary ocean of yellow spread from 
the horizons serrated with immense mauve 
peninsulas and long narrow grass-green lagoons. 
But the mass of the western firmament was 
yellow, from the orange-yellow of lichen and 
the orange-red of the dandelion to the faint 
vanishing yellows of cowslip and primrose. 
How lovely then were the trees which had been 
set on fire by the unconsuming flames of the 
sunset : what a fairyland, now, of delicate 
amber and translucent topaz. What mysterious 
colonnades, what avenues of lovely light ! And 
then, later, to turn, and see the chill grey-blue 
ice-bound trees behind one filling slowly with 

74 



moonshine, as the immensity of ocean fills, The Sons 
wave after wave, at moonrise, when a cloud is °f the 
slowly uplifted by mysterious withdrawing m° ? 
airs ! Then, truly, was Dreamland no longer 
a phantasy of sleep, but a loveliness so great 
that, like deep music, there could be no words 
wherewith to measure it, but only the breath- 
less unspoken speech of the soul upon whom 
has fallen the secret dews. 



75 



ST. BRIDGET OF THE SHORES 

I have heard many names of St. Bridget, most 
beloved of Gaelic saints, with whom the month 
of February is identified . . . the month of 
'Bride min, gentle St. Bride' . . . Brigkid 
boidheach Muime Chriosd, Bride the Beautiful, 
Christ's Foster Mother . . . but there are 
three so less common that many even of my 
readers familiar with the Highland West may 
not know them. These are ' the Fair Woman 
of February,' < St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,' 
and 'St. Bride (or Bridget) of the Shores.' 
They are of the Isles, and may be heard in 
some of the sgeulachdan gaidhealach, or Gaelic 
tales, still told among seafaring and hill folk, 
where the curse of cheap ignoble periodicals 
is unknown and books are rare. True, in 
several of the isles . . . Colonsay, Tiree, the 
Outer Hebrides . . . ' St. Bride of the Shores ' 
is not infrequent in songs and seasonal hymns, 
for when her signals are seen along the grey 

76 



beaches, on the sandy machars, by the meadow St. 
path, the glen-track, the white shore-road, the Bridget 
islanders know that the new year is disclosed shores, 
at last, that food, warmth, and gladness are 
coming out of the south. As 'the Fair 
Woman of February,' though whatever other 
designation St. Bride goes by, she is often 
revealed. Her humble yellow fires are lit 
among the grasses, on the shore-ways, during 
this month. Everywhere in the Gaelic lands 
' Candlemas- Queen ' is honoured at this time. 
Am Fheill Bhride, the Festival of St. Bridget, 
was till recently a festival of joy throughout 
the west, from the Highland Line to the last 
weedy shores of Barra or the Lews : in the 
isles and in the remote Highlands, still is. 

It is an old tale, this association of St. 
Bridget with February. It goes further back 
than the days of the monkish chroniclers who 
first attempted to put the disguise of verbal 
Christian raiment on the most widely -loved 
and revered beings of the ancient Gaelic 
pantheon. Long before the maiden Brigida 
(whether of Ireland or Scotland matters little) 
made her fame as a ' daughter of God ' ; long 
before to Colum in lona or to Patrick 'the 
great Cleric' in Ireland 'Holy St. Bride' 
revealed in a vision the service she had done 
to Mary and the Child in far-away Bethlehem 

77 



St. in the East ; before ever the first bell of Christ 

Bridget was heard by startled Druids coming across 

Shores the hills and forGSt lands ° f Gau1, the GadS 
worshipped a Brighde or Bride, goddess of 

women, of fire, of poetry. When, to-day, a 

Gaelic islcsman alludes to Bridget of the 

Songs, or when a woman of South Uist prays 

to Good St. Bride to bless the empty cradle 

that is soon to be filled, or when a shennachie 

or teller of tales speaks of an oath taken by 

Bridget of the Flame, they refer, though 

probably unconsciously, to a far older Brighid 

than do they who speak with loving familiarity 

of Muime Chriosd, Christ's Foster Mother, or 

Brigkid-nam-Bratta, St. Bride of the Mantle. 

They refer to one who in the dim, far-off days 

of the forgotten pagan world of our ancestors 

was a noble and great goddess. They refer to 

one to whom the women of the Gael went 

with offerings and prayers, as went the women 

of ancient Hellas to the temples of Aphrodite, 

as went the Syrian women to the altars of 

Astarte, as went the women of Egypt to the 

milk-fed shrines of Isis. They refer to one 

whom the Druids held in honour as a torch 

bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the 

Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a 

little yellow flame, and in the other held the 

red flower of fire without which men would 

78 



be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, St. 
or as the dark Fomor who have their habita- Bridget 
tions in cloud and wind and the wilderness. ? h 
They refer to one whom the bards and singers " 
revered as mistress of their craft, she whose 
breath was a flame, and that flame song : she 
whose secret name was fire and whose inmost 
soul was radiant air, she therefore who was 
the divine impersonation of the divine thing 
she stood for, Poetry. 

' St. Bride of the Kindly Fire,' of whom 
one may hear to-day as 'oh, just Bhrighde 
mm Muim (gentle St. Bride the Foster 
Mother), she herself an no other,' is she, 
that ancient goddess, whom our ancestors saw 
lighting the torches of sunrise on the brows of 
hills, or thrusting the quenchless flame above 
the horizons of the sea : whom the Druids 
hailed with hymns at the turn of the year, 
when, in the season we call February, the 
firstcomers of the advancing Spring are to be 
seen on the grey land or on the grey wave or 
by the grey shores : whom every poet, from 
the humblest wandering singer to Oisin of the 
Songs, from Oisin of the Songs to Angus Og 
on the rainbow or to Midir of the Under-world, 
blessed, because of the flame she put in the 
heart of poets as well as the red life she put 
in the flame that springs from wood and peat. 

79 



St. None forgot that she was the daughter of the 

Bridget ancient God of the Earth, but greater than 

Shores lie ' because m mm tliere was but eartn and 
water, whereas in her veins ran the elements 

of air and fire. Was she not born at sunrise ? 

On the day she reached womanhood did not 

the house wherein she dwelled become wrapped 

in a flame which consumed it not, though the 

crown of that flame licked the high unburning 

roof of Heaven? In that hour when, her 

ancient divinity relinquished and she reborn 

a Christian saint, she took the white veil, did 

not a column of golden light rise from her 

head till no eyes could follow it ? In that 

moment when she died from earth, having 

taken mortality upon her so as to know a 

divine resurrection to a new and still more 

enduring Country of the Immortal, were there 

not wings of fire seen flashing along all the 

shores of the west and upon the summits of 

all Gaelic hills ? And how could one forget 

that at any time she had but to bend above 

the dead, and her breath would quicken, and 

a pulse would come back into the still heart, 

and what was dust would arise and be once 

more glad. 

The Fair Woman of February is still loved, 

still revered. Few remember the last fading 

traditions of her ancient greatness : few, even, 

80 



know that she lived before the coming of the St. 
Cross : but all love her, because of her service Bridget 
to Mary in Her travail and to the newborn 1 ^ 
Child, and because she looks with eyes of love 
into every cradle and puts the hand of peace 
on the troubled hearts of women : and all 
delight in her return to the world after the 
ninety days of the winter -sleep, when her 
heralds are manifest. 

What, then, are the insignia of St. Bridget 
of the Shores ? They are simple. They are 
the dandelion, the lamb, and the sea-bird 
popularly called the oyster-opener. From 
time immemorial, this humble, familiar yellow 
plant of the wayside has been identified with 
St. Bride. To this day shepherds, on Am 
Fheill Bhrighde, are wont to hear among the 
mists the crying of innumerable young lambs, 
and this without the bleating of ewes, and so 
by that token know that Holy St. Bride has 
passed by, coming earthward with her flock 
of the countless lambs soon to be born on all 
the hillsides and pastures of the world. Fisher- 
folk on the shores of the west and on the far 
isles have gladdened at the first prolonged re- 
petitive whistle of the oyster-opener, for its 
advent means that the hosts of the good fish 
are moving towards the welcoming coasts once 
more, that the wind of the south is unloosened, 

81 G 



St. that greenness will creep to the grass, that 

Bridget birds will seek the bushes, that song will come 
Shores to them, and that everywhere a new gladness 
will be abroad. By these signs is St. Bridget 
of the Shores known. One, perhaps, must 
live in the remote places, and where wind 
and cloud, rain and tempest, great tides and 
uprising floods are the common companions 
of day and night, in order to realise the joy 
with which things so simple are welcomed. 
To see the bright sunsweet face of the 
dandelion once more — an dealan JDhe, the 
little flame of God, am bear nan Bhrighde, St. 
Bride's forerunner — what a joy this is. It 
comes into the grass like a sunray. Often 
before the new green is in the blade it flaunts 
its bright laughter in the sere bent. It will lie 
in ditches and stare at the sun. It will climb 
broken walls, and lean from nooks and corners. 
It will come close to the sands and rocks, 
sometimes will even join company with the 
sea-pink, though it cannot find footing where 
later the bindweed and the horned poppy, 
those children of the seawind who love to be 
near and yet shrink from the spray of the salt 
wave, defy wind and rain. It is worthier the 
name ' Traveller's Joy ' than the wild clematis 
of the autumnal hedgerows : for its bright 
yellow leaps at one from the roadside like a 

82 



smile, and its homeliness is pleasant as the St. 
gladness of playing children. Bridget 

It is a herald of Spring that precedes even au the 
the first loud flute-like calls of the missel- 
thrush. When snow is still on the track of 
the three winds of the north it is, by the 
wayside, a glad companion. Soon it will be 
everywhere. Before long the milk-white 
sheen of the daisy and the moon-daisy, the 
green-gold of the tansy, the pale gold of the 
gorse and the broom, the yellow of the 
primrose and wild colchicum, of the cowslip 
and buttercup, of the copse-loving celandine 
and meadow-rejoicing crowsfoot, all these 
yellows of first spring will soon be abroad : 
but the dandelion comes first. I have known 
days when, after midwinter, one could go a 
mile and catch never a glimpse of this bright 
comrade of the ways, and then suddenly see 
one or two or three, and rejoice forthwith as 
though at the first blossom on the blackthorn, 
at the first wild-roses, at the first swallow, at 
the first thrilling bells of the cuckoo. We 
are so apt to lose the old delight in familiar 
humble things. So apt to ignore what is by 
the way, just because it is by the way. I 
recall a dour old lowland gardener in a loch- 
and- hill -set region of Argyll, who, having 
listened to exclamations of delight at a rain- 

83 



St. bow, muttered, "Weel, T juist think naethin 

Bridget ava ' ' thon rainbows ... ye can see one 
Shores wnenever vou ta ^ the trouble to look for 
them hereaboots." He saw them daily, or so 
frequently that for him all beauty and strange- 
ness had faded from these sudden evanescent 
Children of Beauty. Beauty has only to be 
perceptible to give an immediate joy, and it is 
no paradoxical extravagance to say that one 
may receive the thrilling communication from 

* the little flame of God ' by the homely road- 
side as well as from these leaning towers built 
of air and water with a mysterious alchemy 
reveals to us on the cloudy deserts of heaven. 

* Man is surprised,' Emerson says, ' to find that 
tilings near and familiar are not less beautiful 
and wondrous than things remote.' Certainly 
no Gaelic lover of St. Bride's Flower, of the 
Flower of February, but rejoices to see its 
welcome face after the snow and sleet of 
winter have first sullenly receded, if only for 
a time, and to know that St. Bride of the 
Shores wears it at her breast, and that when 
she throws it broadcast the world is become 
a green place again and the quickening sun- 
light a gladsome reality. 

In these desolate far isles where life is so 
hard, where the grey winds from the north 
and east prevail for weeks at a time on the 

84 



grey tempestuous seas, and where so much St. 
depends on such small things — a little drift- Bridget 
wood, a few heaps of peat, a few shoal of fish ^ores 
now of one kind now of another, a few cartloads 
of seaweed, a rejoicing sound is that in truth 
when the Gille-Bhride is heard crying along 
the shores. Who that has heard its rapid 
whirling cry as it darts from haunt to haunt 
but will recognise its own testimony to being 
8 Servant of Breed ' (the common pronuncia- 
tion of the Gaelic Brighid or Bride) — for does 
it not cry over and over again with swift 
incessant iterance, Gilly -breed, gilly-breed, 
gilly-breed, gilly-breed, gilly-breed. 

" White may my milking be, 

White as thee ; 
Thy face is white, thy neck is white, 
Thy hands are white, thy feet are white, 
For thy sweet soul is shining bright — 

O dear to me, 

O dear to see, 

St. Bridget White ! 
Yellow may my butter be, 

Firm, and round : 
Thy breasts are sweet, 
Finn, round, and sweet, 
So may my butter be : 
So may my butter be, O 

Bridget Sweet ! 
Safe thy way is, safe, O 

Safe, St. Bride : 

85 



3t. May my kye come home at even, 

Bridget None be falling none be leaving 

of the Dusky even, breath-sweet even, 

Shores. Here, as there, where O 

St. Bride thou 
Keepest tryst with God in heav'n, 
Seest the angels bow 
And souls be shriven — 
Here, as there, 'tis breath-sweet even 

Far and wide — 
Singeth thy little maid 
Safe in thy shade 

Bridget, Bride ! " 

When the first lambs appear, many are the 
invocations among the Irish and Hebridean 
Gaels to good St. Bride. At the hearth-side, 
too, the women, carding wool, knitting, telling 
tales, singing songs, dreaming — these know 
her whether they name her in thought, or 
have forgotten what was dear wisdom to their 
mothers of old. She leans over cradles, and 
when babies smile they have seen her face. 
When the crathull swings in the twilight, the 
slow rhythm, which is music in the mother's 
ear, is the quiet clapping of her hushing hands. 
St Bride, too, loves the byres or the pastures 
when the kye are milked, though now she is 
no longer 'the Woman of February,' but 
simply 'good St. Bride of the yellow hair.' 



86 



THE HERALDS OF MARCH 

Under this heading I had meant to deal with 
the return of the Plover and Lapwing, having 
in mind a Galloway rhyme, 

" Whaup, Whimbrel, an' Plover, 
Whan these whustle the worst o' t's over! " 

Tut on consideration it was evident that 
March has so complicated an orchestral pre- 
lude that the name could hardly be given to 
any one group of birds. Does not another 
rhyme go, 

" The Lavrock, the Mavis, 
The Woodlark, the Plover, 
March brings them back 
Because Winter is over." 

But March brings back so many birds ! There 
is another bird-rhyme . . . 

" When the Song-Thrush is ready to laugh, 
Ye'll hear the Woodlark an' the Wheatear an' the Chaff." 

Well, the Song-Thrush has been * ready to 

87 



The laugh ' a good while back, now : his ' laughter ' 

Heralds nas already whirled the flute-notes of Spring, 
arc ' amid branches swelling to leaf-break, but not 
yet at the greening. The Chiff-Chaff has been 
heard on many a common, or on the ridge of 
a stone-dyke, or calling from the blackthorn 
thickets. The Wheatear has by this time 
delighted many a superstitious yokel who has 
caught his first glimpse of it sitting on a 
grassy tuft, or on a low spray of gorse or 
juniper, or depressed him sorely if he has 
come upon it for the first time when seen 
perched on a stone. But all three are birds 
which are with us long before the real Spring 
is come. With the missel-thrush on the elm- 
bole, the song-thrush in the copses, the black- 
bird calling from the evergreens, it does not 
follow, alas! that, as in the fairy-tale, the 
north wind has become a feeble old man and 
the east wind a silly old wife. Frost and 
snow and sleet, rain and flood, and the dull 
greyness of returned winter, may only too 
likely succeed these blithe heralds, have so 
succeeded, this year, as we know to our 
cost. There was jubilation in some places 
at January -end because of the early singing 
of the larks, which here and there had been 
heard soon after the New Year ; but those 
who rejoiced untimely at the advent of spring- 
es 



weather must have forgot the north-country The 
proverb, 'As long as the laverock sings before Heralds 
Candlemas it will greet after it' of March - 

The lark and the blackbird are, in truth, 
such irresponsible singers, have such glad 
irrepressible hearts, that they will sing in the 
dead of winter, if only the wind slides through 
a windless air and the sunshine is unclouded. 
Tens of thousands have gone oversea, but 
thousands remain ; and these are not to be 
chilled into silence if but the least excuse be 
given for the unsealing of the founts of joy. 
In green Decembers one may hear the merle's 
notes fluting down the wet alleys as though 
Christinas were still a long way off; but the 
wary will recall another north-country saying 
akin to that just quoted concerning the lave- 
rock . . . 'When the blackbird sings before 
Christmas she will cry before Candlemas.' 

So now I shall leave the Tribe of the Plover 
to a succeeding article, and, speaking of the 
skylark and his spring comrades, allude to 
that mysterious March wayfaring of the 
winged people which is so enthralling a 
problem in the psychology of bird-life. 

The whole problem of Migration is still a 
mystery, but an enhancement of this mystery 
is in the irregularity and incompleteness of the 
working out of this all but universal instinct, 

8 9 



of March 



The this inscrutable rhythmic law. Both the 

Heralds^ skylark and the blackbird, for example, are 
migratory birds, and yet larks and merles by 
the thousand remain in our northlands through 
the winter, and even come to us at that season. 
The skylark in particular puzzles the orni- 
thologist. While certain birds appear and 
disappear with an astonishing regularity, as 
though they heard the pealing of aerial chimes 
afar off and knew the bells of home . . . the 
swallow, for example ; or, again, the tiny 
gold-crested wren, in some parts called 'the 
woodcock- pilot ' because in two or at most 
three days after its appearance the first wood- 
cocks are invariably seen . . . there are others, 
like the song-thrush, which will pass away in 
the great migratory clouds that like with- 
drawing veils every autumn carry the winged 
clans oversea ; which will pass so absolutely 
that for a hundred miles not one of its kind 
will be observed, not even a straggler : and 
yet, in some other direction, others will be 
seen weeks later and perhaps even through 
the winter. We are all familiar with the 
homestay of the Redbreast, and many people 
believe that it is not a migrant because of 
its frequency about our garden- ways even in 
the hardest winter : and yet, in incalculable 
myriads, the redbreast migrates as far south 

90 



as the Sahara, and its sweet home-song of the The 
north may be heard in Greece, by the banks ** e J"?^ s 
of the Nile, throughout Palestine even, from 
the cedars of Lebanon to the valleys about 
Jerusalem. 

It is the skylark, however, more than any 
other bird which so often upsets rules and 
calculations. Even people who do not observe 
the ways of birds must be struck by the 
numbers of larks which may be met with in 
the course of several midwinter walks, by the 
occasional outbreak of brief song, even, though 
snow be upon the wolds and a grey wind blow 
through the sere leaves of the oak-coppice or 
among the desolate hedgerows ; must be the 
more struck by this, or by mention of it on 
the part of others, when they read of the 
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dead larks 
found on nights of storm or bitter frost, on 
the rocks below lighthouses, along the great 
lines of migration during the season of the 
vast inscrutable ebb or of the as vast and in- 
scrutable vernal arrival. Incalculable hosts 
leave our shores every autumn, and along the 
bleak fen -lands, by wave-set lighthouses, on 
isles such as Ushant or Heligoland, thousands 
of wings flutter and fail ; and the host passes 
on; and the sea- wave, the fierce gull, the 
shore-hawk, all the tribe of the owl, all the 

9i 



The innumerable foes which prey upon the help- 

Heralds i ess> give scant grace to the weaklings and 
of March. ^ baffled and weary But wfay should ftU 

this immense congregation have listened to the 
ancestral cry, and from meadow and moor and 
the illimitable dim-sea of the fallowlands come 
singly and in flocks and in immense herds and 
in a cloudlike multitude, as sheep at the cry 
of the herdsman, as hounds at the long ulula- 
tion of a horn, while thousands of their clan 
remain deaf to the mysterious Voice, the im- 
perative silent mandate from oversea ? Of 
these, again, countless numbers merely move 
to another region, and mayhap some cross the 
salt straits only to return ; or as many, it may 
be, leave not at all the familiar solitudes, and 
at most show by cloudy flights and wild and 
fluctuating gyrations the heritage of blind 
instinct, which, if it cannot be satiated by far 
pilgrimage, must at least shake these troubled 
hearts with sudden inexplicable restlessness. 
It is calculated, again, that myriads of skylarks 
merely use our coasts as highways on their 
journey from the far south to the far north 
... in this, too, exemplifying another strange 
law or manifestation of the mystery of 
migration, that the birds which move furthest 
north in their vernal arrival are those which 
penetrate furthest south when they turn again 

92 



upon the autumnal wind of exile. Naturalists The 
have proved, however, that countless hordes of Heralds 
skylarks actually arrive from Northern Europe 
to winter in our country. Are these birds 
moved by a different instinct from that which 
impels the majority of their kind ? Have they, 
through generations following one another in 
the path of an accident, forgotten the sunlands 
of the common ancestral remembrance, and, 
having found Britain less snowbound and 
frostbound than the wastes of Esthonia and 
Pomerania, been content, when driven before 
the icy east wind, to fare no further than our 
bleak, and yet, save in the worst winters, 
relatively habitable inlands ? Again, naturalists 
have observed a like movement hitherward in 
winter from Central Europe. There may be 
observed in the early spring as regular an 
emigration as, on a perhaps not vaster scale, 
an incalculable immigration. Apparently, 
most if not all of the myriads of skylarks 
which are undoubtedly with us throughout 
the winter are these immigrants from Northern 
and Central Europe. Those who come in 
February and in still greater numbers in March 
and April (and the later the arrivals the 
further north the goal, it is said) are the 
' strayed revellers ' from the South, the home- 
bred birds home again. In our remote 

93 



The Hebrides the nesting season is hardly over before 

Heralds £] ie island-bred skylarks, so late in coming, 

of March. . , „ . J c . \ ^ -. to 

are on the Great South lioad once more. 

What with the habitual two and the not in- 
frequent three broods raised in a single season, 
particularly in Southern England, South- West 
Scotland, and Ireland, and the enormous influx 
of aliens from Northern and Central Europe, 
our skylark population is at its highest, not, 
as most people might think, in May, or even 
about the season of the autumnal equinox, 
but at the beginning of November, when 
already the great tides of migration have 
ebbed. Another puzzling problem is the 
rhythmic regularity of the arrivals and depar- 
tures of the incomers and the outgoers. For, 
while the latter will not take the high-road 
of the upper air till nightfall or at least until 
dusk, the former travel by day : and the goings 
and comings are so timed, or to observation 
appear so timed, that about four o'clock on a 
late October day the first cohort of the in- 
vaders may in the wide lonely desert overhead 
pass the first caravans of the exiles. In March, 
again, the two currents may once more meet : 
the home-bred birds are on their return, the 
aliens are on the wing for the hill-pastures and 
the vales and uplands of their native countries. 
This will account for how, say in the Hebrides, 

94 



one observer will chronicle the departure of The 
the skylarks before Summer-end, at the early Heralds 
close there of the nesting season, and how 
another, not less accurate, will note the 
presence weeks later of larks in apparently as 
great a number as ever. The islanders have 
gone, to seek the south : the newcomers from 
Scandinavia have taken their place. But here 
also, as elsewhere, the conditions of the weather 
will be more potent than even the summons 
of the spirit of migration : a severe frost will 
for a time clear a whole region of the tufted 
birdeens, a prolonged frost will drive them 
away from that region for the winter. 

The Lark, then, so often apostrophised as the 
first voice of Spring, is by no means specifically 
the Herald of March. When we see his brown 
body breasting the air - waves of the March 
wind, it may not be the welcome migrant 
from the South we see, with greenness in his 
high aerial note and the smell of hay and wild 
roses in the o'ercome of his song, but a winter- 
exile from a far mountain -vale in Scandinavia 
or from the snowbound wastes of Courland or 
Westphalia. 

The Woodlark, the Chiff-Chaff, and the rest, 
all are heralds of March. But as we identify 
certain birds with certain seasons and certain 
qualities ... as the Swallow with April, and 

95 



of March. 



The the Cuckoo with May, and the Dove with 

Heralds peace ... so we have come to think of the 
Mavis and the Merle, but, above all, of the Sky- 
lark as the true heralds of March, the month 
when the Flutes of Pan sound from land's end 
to land's end, for all that tempest and flood, 
sleet and the polar blast and the bitter wind of 
the east, may ravage the coverts of the winged 
clans. 

To write of all the birds who come back to 
us in the Spring, even so early as the front of 
March, would be, here, a mere catalogue, and 
then be incomplete. For the hidden places in 
the woods, in the meadows, in the hedgerows, 
on the moors, in the sandy dunes, in the 
hollowed rocks, on the ledges over green water 
and on the wind-scooped foreheads of cliffs 
and precipices ; everywhere, from the heather- 
wilderness on the unsnowed hills to the tangled 
bent on the little windswept eyot set in the 
swing of the tides, the secret homes are wait- 
ing, or are already filled, and glad with that 
everlasting and unchanging business of the 
weaving anew of life which has the constancy 
of sunrise, the rhythmic certitude of day and 
night. 

The spiritual secret of our delight in the 
joyousness of the lark's song, or in that of 
mavis or merle, is because the swift music is a 

96 



rapture transcending human utterance. There The 
is not less joy in the screech of the jay, in the *l e J? lds 
hoarse cry of the cormorant, in the scream of ° arC ' 
the gannet poised like a snowflake two 
thousand feet above the turbulent surge of 
blue and white, or green and grey, to its vision 
but a vast obscurity of calm filled with phan- 
tom life, a calm moveless seen from that 
great height, wrinkled only with perplexing 
interplay of wave and shadow. These have 
their joy, and to the open ear are joy ; not 
less than the merle singing among wet lilac, 
the mavis calling from the swaying poplar, the 
lark flinging the largesse of his golden music 
along the high devious azure roads. Can one 
doubt that this is so . . . that, listening with 
the inward ear, we must hold as dear the wail 
of the curlew, the mournful cry of the lapwing, 
when on the hill -slope or in the wild grass 
these call rejoicingly in life and love and the 
mute ecstasy of implicit duty. 

As long, however, as we impose our own 
needs and our own desires on the indifferent 
tribes of the earth and air, so long shall we 
take this or that comrade of the elements 
and say it is the voice of Peace, or War, or 
Love, or Joy. March, we say, is the month 
of gladness. A new spirit is awake, is 
abroad. The thrush and the blackbird are 

97 h 



of March. 



The our clarions of rejoicing. The lark, supremely, 

Heralds^ i s our lyric of joy. 

Joy, the poet tells us, is the Mother of 
Spring, and of Joy has it not been said that 
there is no more ancient God ? What fitter 
symbol for this divine uplift of the year than 
this bird whose ecstasy in song makes the very 
word Spring an intoxication in our ears ? We 
have a Gaelic legend that the first word of 
God spoken to the world became a lark . . . 
the eternal joy translated into a moment's 
ecstasy. But further back has not Aristo- 
phanes told us that the lark existed, not only 
before the green grass where it nests or the 
blue lift into which it soars, but before Zeus 
and Kronos themselves, before the Creation, 
before Time. It is but a symbol of the divine 
Joy which is Life : that most ancient Breath, 
that Spirit whose ieast thought is Creation, 
whose least motion is Beauty, whose least 
glance is that eternal miracle which we, seeing 
dimly and in the rhythmic rise of the long 
cadence of the hours, call by a word of out- 
welling, of measureless effluence, the Spring. 



9 8 



THE TRIBE OF THE PLOVER 

In the preceding paper I alluded to a 
Galloway rhyme — 

" Whaup, Whimbrel, an' Plover, 
Whan these whustle the worst o't 's over." 

By this time the neatherd by Loch Ken 
and the shepherd among the wilds of Kirk- 
cudbright, like their kin from the Sussex 
downs, to the last sliabh or maol'm Sutherland, 
may repeat the rhyme with safety. * The 
worst o't 's over.' For to-day the curlews cry 
above the moors, the whimbrel's warning note 
echoes down the long sands o' Solway, and 
everywhere, from the salt bent by the coasts 
to the loneliest inlands, the lapwing wails. 
The Tribe of the Plover is in the land once 
more, and so Spring is with us. Not, perhaps, 
the Spring of the poets, who look (as Ailil in 
the old Celtic tale) under boughs of white 

99 



The Tribe blossom to where the sunlight moves like a 
of the fawn of gold in a windless land, where the 
songs of birds turn to flowers, and where 
flowers change in the twilights of dawn into 
singing birds. Not thus does Spring come to 
us in the north. The black-headed gull scream- 
ing on the east wind, restless before his long 
flight to the wilderness and the grassy homes 
of the mating season : the hoodie-crow, weary 
of the south, heard on grey mornings when 
sleet whips the uplands : the troubled field- 
fares, eager for lands oversea : the curlews 
crying along the Anglian fens and lamenting 
over Sol way Moss : the mallard calling to his 
mate in the chill waters : the shadow of 
harrier and peregrine from Surrey upland to 
the long braes of Lammermuir — these, rather, 
are the signals of our bleak northern Spring. 
What though the song-thrush and the skylark 
have long sung, though the wheatear and 
chiff-chaff have been late in coming, though 
the first swallows have not had the word 
passed on by the woodpecker, and somewhere 
in the glens of Greece and Sicily the cuckoo 
lingers ? How often the first have called 
Spring to us, and, while we have listened, the 
wind has passed from the south to the north 
and the rains have become sleet or snow : how 
often the missel-thrush has rung-in the tides 

ioo 



of blossom, and the woods have but grown The Tribe 

darker with gloom of the east while the first °^ the 

yellow clans along the hedgerows have been over * 

swept by hail. How often, again, the wind of the 

west has been fragrant with cowslip and ox-eye, 

with daffodil and wallflower, with the pungent 

growing -odours of barberry and butcher's- 

broom and the unloosening larch, when, 

indeed, the sallow-blooms have put on their 

gold, and the green woodpecker is calling his 

love-notes in the copses, and yet the delaying 

swallow has not been seen north of the Loire 

or where the Loiny winds between Moret and 

the woods of Fontainebleau ? How often the 

wild-rose has moved in first-flame along the 

skirts of hornbeam-hedge or beech-thicket, or 

the honeysuckle begun to unwind her pale 

horns of ivory and moongold, and yet across 

the furthest elm-tops to the south the magic 

summons of the cuckoo has been still unheard 

in the windless amber dawn, or when, as in the 

poet's tale, the myriad little hands of Twilight 

pull the shadows out of the leaves and weave 

the evening dark. But when the cry of the 

plover is abroad we know that our less ideal 

yet hardly less lovely and welcome Spring is 

come at last : that Winter is old and broken 

and shuffling north, clinging to the bleak 

uplands and windygates : and this, even 

IOI 



Plover. 



The Tribe though Summer tarries still among the fields 

of the of France. 

Because of their association with solitary 
and waste places it is not strange that these 
harbingers of Swallow-time should everywhere 
have an evil repute. Even amid the un- 
imaginative Sussex or Wilts peasants, the cry 
of the curlew, the wail of the lapwing, 
forebode sorrow, cover a vague menace : 
heard, at least, at dusk or at night, or in the 
grey gloaming at the edge of day. 

The Cornish or Devon moorlander has 
many wild tales of the whimbrel, whose swift- 
repeated whistle hurtling suddenly in lonely 
places has given rise to innumerable legends 
of the Seven Whistlers, the Demon Huntsmen, 
the Hunted Souls. In Iona and along the 
Earraid of Mull, where the whimbrel or ' little 
curlew ' is rarely heard till May, though it is 
generally called Gruilbinnach, a diminutive of 
the Gaelic name of the curlew, Guilbin 
(pronounced sometimes Kooley-pin or guley- 
pin and sometimes gwilley-pin), a compound 
word signifying wailing music, I have heard 
it called Guilbhron (Kwillyvrone), Wail of 
Sorrow, and again ' Keenyvlis ' or Death-Cry, 
and once, either in a tale or poem, by the 
singular name Guilchaismeachd, the Wail of 
AVarning. Any lowland cottar, from west of 

102 



Lammermuir to east of Ballantrae, will ' ken The Tribe 
a wheen strange tales o' the whaup,' as the of the 
curlew is commonly called north of the Tweed over * 
and south of the Highland Line : and in some 
parts it is not only the children who shudder 
at its cry in lonely places at dusk, fearing ' the 
bogle wi 1 the lang neb ' like a pair of tongs, 
emissary of the Evil One, who gave this bird 
his long curved beak so that in the dark he 
might, like tongs lifting a stray coal or a 
nightjar snatching a wandering moth, carry 
off wrongdoers, unrepentant sinners, truants, 
and all naughty children generally. As for 
the lapwing, though more familiar than the 
curlew, and for many of us associated only 
with pastures and pleasant wilds, in the 
countries of the Gael dark things are whispered 
of the Adharcan-luachrach, or Little Horn of 
the Rushes . . . thus poetically called from 
the pretty tuft of the male weep or peaseweep, 
curving like a horn over the delicately poised 
head, and from the bird's fondness for nesting 
in rushy places or among tangled grasses. Is 
he not said to be one of the bitter clan who 
mocked on the day of the Crucifixion, and so 
was made homeless for ever, with a cry that 
should be for ever like the cry of wandering 
sorrow ? It is of little avail to say that love 
among the rushes is as sweet as elsewhere, 

103 



The Tribe that the wilderness can be home, and that the 
of the wailing of repentant souls may be no more 
oven than angry vituperations against the hoodie- 
crow or laughing-gull or other marauders after 
lapwing-eggs. Is the weep not a spirit of the 
waste that was once human, but lost his soul, 
and so can never reach heaven nor yet dwell 
on earth, but must night and day be restless 
as the sea, and wail the long hours away from 
grey dawn to moonrise, from darkness to the 
paling of the stars ? So they say, they who 
know : and who know with the unshakable 
surety of the unlettered peasant? In the 
Gaelic imagination the lapwing is something 
stranger and wilder still : a bird of the ancient 
world, of the dispossessed gods, nameless in 
truth because in truth a god nameless and 
homeless. The Gaelic poet hears in its lament 
the lamentation of what is gone never to come 
again, of what long since went away upon the 
wind, of what is going away on the wind : and 
he has called the weep the Birds of the 
Sorrowful Past. Is not the lapwing the 
bird of Dalua, that unknown mysterious god, 
that terrible Shadow who is the invisible, 
inaudible, secret, and dread divinity of weari- 
ness, separation, gloom, sadness, decay, desola- 
tion, madness, despair ? 

It is not only in our own land that the 
104 



lapwing and all the tribe of the plover bear so The Tribe 
evil a repute. Not always thus, however : for °* the 
in some parts of Germany this plover, I do over - 
not know why, is called the Virgin Mary's 
Dove, and is greeted with welcome. Even in 
Argyll there is a lost or confused kindly legend, 
for sometimes when children run along the 
moorland mocking the Pibhinn (pee-veen . . . 
the Gaelic equivalent of the lowland peaseweep 
and the southern -pee-weet) they cry 

" Welcome back, welcome back, Pee-veen, Pee-veen I 
But keep the wind and the rain behind your tail, 
Or you'll never see the fields of heaven again ! ..." 

or words to that effect. In the East the 
Mohammedan women have a beautiful name 
for this bird . . . the Sister of the Brother : 
and, says the authority whence in some 
forgotten reading I took this note, 'when 
these women hear the cry in the evening, they 
run from their houses and throw water in the 
air, that the bird may use it to assuage the 
pain of the burn on the top of the head, still 
marked by some black feathers.' This is in 
allusion to an oriental legend that the lapwing- 
was once a princess. This princess had a 
passionate love for a brother who had long- 
been absent, and when one day she heard that 
he was on his return and close at hand and 

105 



Plover. 



The Tribe weary, she snatched a bowl of hot milk from 
of the the fire and hastened to meet him. But an 
evil-wisher, knowing her great love and how 
she would not rest till she found her brother, 
had misinformed her, and for all the pain on 
her head caused by the heated bowl, she ran 
now this way and now that, continually crying 
Brother! O Brother! Hours passed, and 
then days, and week after week and month 
after month the girl vainly sought her loved 
one. At last, feeling her strength ebbing, she 
cried aloud to Allah. Allah, moved by 
compassion, gave her wings and changed her 
into a lapwing or black-plover, the better to 
accomplish her purpose. Hence, when the 
little brown children on the desert or on the 
sun-scorched ways of the East look up and see 
the lapwings wheeling overhead in long circling 
flights and sudden dashes, they hear, in the 
wailing voices, either the long yearning or the 
sudden eager hope in the cry which to their 
ears sounds as Brother ! O Brother ! 

Perhaps the German name of the Virgin 
Mary's Dove is merely a variant of the Swedish 
folk-legend concerning the lapwing. The tale 
goes that this bird was once one of Mary's 
handmaidens, but lost place and honour because 
of her theft of a pair of scissors. The punish- 
ment was transformation into a bird with a 

1 06 



forked scissor -tail, and to go out across the The Tribe 
fjords and above all the meadows and pastures °f the 
and keep crying incessantly T*yvit- Tyvit- Tyvit 
(i.e., I stole them ! I stole them !). I think, 
however, I have heard or read the same story 
in connection with the wagtail. In his in- 
teresting book on the Manners and Customs 
of the Russian People, Mr. Ralston has the 
following Slavonic plover-legend. When God 
had created the earth, and wished to supply it 
with seas and lakes and rivers, He ordered the 
birds to convey the waters to their appointed 
places. All obeyed except the lapwing, whose 
reason for this indolence and impiety was that 
it had no need of seas, lakes, or rivers, to slake 
its thirst. At that the Lord waxed wroth, 
and forbade it and its posterity ever to 
approach a sea or stream, and that it might 
quench its thirst only with that water which 
remains in hollows and among stones after 
rain. So from that time this sorrowful 
plover has never ceased its wailing cry of 
Peet-peet! (i.e., Drink! Drink!). In another 
northern book (Thiel's Danish Traditions, 
vol. ii.) there are two lapwing -legends not 
less homely than the Russian and the Swedish. 
When Christ, says one, was a bairn, He 
took a walk one day and came to an old crone 
who was busy baking. She said she would 

107 



The Tribe give Him a new cake for His trouble, if He 
of the would go and split her a little wood for the 

over ' oven. Christ did as she wanted, and the old 
wife put aside a small bit of dough for the 
promised cake. When the batch was drawn 
from the oven, however, she saw to her surprise 
and chagrin that the wee bit cake was equally 
large with the rest. So again she broke off a 
small bit of dough ; but again the same thing 
happened. Hereupon she broke out with, 
' That's a vast oure-muckle cake for the likes 
o' you ; thee's get thy cake anither time.' At 
this injustice Christ was angered, so He said 
to the old crone, ' I split your wood as you 
asked me, and you would not give me the little 
cake you promised. Now you in turn shall 
go and cleave wood, and that, too, as long as 
the world shall last!' And with that Our 
Lord turned her into a vipa (a weep). 'So 
the weep fares betwixt heaven and earth as 
long as the world lasts ; and fare where she 
will she says no other words than Klyfved! 
Klyfvedf {i.e., Cleave wood ! Cleave wood !). 
The other Danish plover -tale given by 
Thiel is one of the familiar Crucifixion legends. 
While Christ still hung upon the Cross, three 
birds came flying towards Calvary, the Styrk- 
ham (the Stork), the Svalham (the Swallow), 
and the Pun-ham (Pee-weet). As they flew 

108 



overhead each cried a cry. The stork cried, The Tribe 

Styrk ham! Styrk ham! {i.e., Strengthen of the 

Him !), and so has this bird called ever since, Ploven 

and been under God's blessing and man's care. 

The swallow cried, Sval ham! Sval ham! (i.e., 

Cool or refresh Him !), and so is evermore 

known by that name, and likewise is loved by 

man and guided by God. But the weep 

wheeled about the Cross, shrieking derisively, 

Pun ham! Pun ham! (i.e., Pine Him, make 

Him suffer !), and so is not only accursed by 

men from then till now, but is under God's 

ban till the Last Day, after which the lapwing's 

wail will never be heard again. 

Although Guilbinn, or Wailing Music, is, 
as I have said, the common Gaelic name for 
the Curlew, as the Whaup in the lowlands, it 
is also often called the Crann-toch, the long- 
beaked one, or Coulter -neb, as they say in 
Dumfries and Galloway. Of the mythical 
origin of the name Crann-toch (a very obvious 
designation, and needing no mythical legend 
one would think) I remember hearing a year 
or so ago from a boatman of Lismore a wild 
and romantic legend, but it is too long to 
quote now. Few Gaelic tales, few poems, in 
which are not to be heard the voices of the 
wind or the sea or the wailing curlew. We 
have perhaps no bird more wild and solitary : 

109 



Plover. 



The Tribe a Highland saying places it with the herons 
of the an( j wild-geese. 'When a man has shot six 

herons, six wild-geese, and six curlews, he 
may call himself a sportsman.' 

When the Golden Plover, or Grey Plover 
as he is sometimes called, wheels in Spring 
above the fallowlands of the North the 
ploughman hears in his cry Plough noeel! Sow 
zveelf Harrow weel! This beautiful bird — of 
whom no poet has written a finer line than 
Burns in 

"The deep-toned plover grey, wild whistling on the hill " — 

is not exempt from the common tradition of 
uncanniness. He, too, is classed with the 
dreaded ' Seven Whistlers ' : and from Corn- 
wall to Iceland he is often vituperated as one 
of these, or as of the spectral pack called 
Gabriel's Hounds, or as of Odin's Phantom 
Chase. I spoke of a name I had heard in 
Iona and Mull for the whimbrel, but applicable 
also to any plover or curlew . . . the Guilchais- 
meachd or Wail of Warning, the Alarm Bird 
so to say : and this repute is held by the 
plover in many mining parts of England, 
where it is said that the miners will not 
descend a pit if the * Whistlers ' be heard 
lamenting overhead. To this day there are 
many regions not only in our own country 

no 



but abroad where the plovers are called the The Tribe 

of the 
Plover. 



Wandering Jews, from an old legend that the 2f. the 



first of the clan were the transmuted souls of 
those Jews who assisted at the Crucifixion. 
An old woman who gave me some plovers' 
eggs told me in all good faith that the feadag 
(the Gaelic name, equivalent to flute-note or 
mellow whistle) neither ate nor drank but fed 
upon the wind ... a superstition said to have 
been almost universal in the Middle Ages. 

As for many of us, surely they are birds of 
our love. The cry of the curlew on the hill, 
the wail of the lapwing in waste places, have 
not these something of the same enthralling 
spell, the same entrancing call — the summons 
to the wilderness, whether that be only to 
solitude, or to wild loneliness, or to the 
lonelier solitudes, the dim limitless wilderness 
of the imagination — that the wind has, at 
night, coming with rain through woods, or 
that the sea has, heard in inland hollows, or 
when athwart a long shore or among fallen 
rocks the tide rises on the breast -swell of 
coming storm ? They call us to the wild. 



in 



THE AWAKENER OF THE 
WOODS 

The Spirit of Spring is abroad. There is no 
one of our island coasts so lone and forlorn 
that the cries of the winged newcomers have 
not lamented down the wind. There is not 
an inland valley where small brown birds from 
the South have not penetrated, some from 
Mediterranean sunlands, some from the Desert, 
some from the hidden homes on unknown 
isles, some from beyond the foam of unfamiliar 
shores. Not a backwater surely but has heard 
the flute of the ouzel, or the loud call of the 
mallard. The wren, that sweet forerunner of 
'the little clan of the bushes' as we say in 
Gaelic, clann bheag nam preas, the robin, the 
mavis, the merle, have been heard in every 
coppice and wildgrowth from the red combes 
of the winding Dart to the granite-ledges by 
the rushing Spey. From the last Cornish 
upland to the last brown moor on the Ord of 

I 12 



Sutherland the curlew and the lapwing have The 
wheeled with wailing cry or long melancholy Awakener 
flutelike whistle. The gorse, whose golden \Voods 
fires have been lit, has everywhere heard the 
prolonged sweet plaintive note of the yellow- 
hammer. From the greening boughs the 
woodpeckers call. 

The tides of Blossom have begun to flow. 
The land soon will be inundated. Already 
a far and wide forethrow of foam is flung 
along the blackthorn hedges. Listen . . . 
that chaffinch's blithe song comes from the 
flowering almond ! . . . that pipit's brief lay 
fell past yonder wild-pear ! In the meadows 
the titlarks are running about looking in the 
faces of the daisies, as children love to be 
told. On the fenlands and mosses the 
windy whimper of the redshank is heard like 
the cry of a phantom : and like a * bogle,' 
too, is the perturbing drumming of the snipe 
falling swiftly on sloping wings back to the 
marsh. 

The shores, the meadows, the uplands, on 
each there is a continual rumour. It is the 
sound of Spring. Listen . . . put your ear 
to the throbbing earth that is so soon to be- 
come the green world : you will hear a voice 
like the voice which miraculously evades in the 
hollow curves of a shell. Faint, mysterious, 

113 1 



The yet ever present, a continual rhythm. Already 

Awakener that rhythm is become a cadence : the birds 
?^. th ^ chant the strophes, flower and blossom and 
green leaf yield their subtler antiphones, the 
ancient yet ever young protagonist is the 
heart of man. Soon the cadence will be a 
song, a paean. The hour of the rose and the 
honeysuckle will come, the hour of the swallow 
hawking the grey gnat above the lilied stream, 
the hour when the voice of the cuckoo floats 
through ancient woods rejoicing in their green 
youth, that voice which has in it the magic of 
all springs, the eternal cry of the renewal of 
delight. 

True, one may as yet more universally see 
the feet of Spring, or the blossom-touch of 
her hands, in the meadows and by the shores, 
than in the woods. She passes by the hedge- 
rows or along the pastures, and her trail has 
the sheen of gold. Do not the celandine and 
the flaming dandelion, the pale cowslip and 
delicate crowsfoot, the jonquil and daffodil, 
the yellow of the broom and the bee-loved 
gorse, everywhere show it ? She goes by the 
upland meadows, and touches the boughs of 
the wild-apple or leaning pear, stoops by the 
quince or the wild-cherry, and the white foam 
of the miraculous wind that is in the hollow 
of her hand is left upon the branches. The 

114 



slim gean at the edge of the woodland catches The 
the spray, the twisted crab is an old woman Awakener 
suddenly become a lovely girl cream-white and Woods 
rose-flusht. Or she goes down the island- 
shores, or by the brackened coasts of inland 
lochs, or along the overhanging brows of 
streams, or where brooks glide between grassy 
banks ; or, facing northward, she wanders 
where the hill-burn falls from ledge to ledge, 
or leaps past the outswung roots of mountain- 
ash or birch, or steals between peaty grasses 
where the wren has her nest in the pendent 
bramble and the greenfinch calls across the 
fern. And wherever she goes the yellow iris 
is left by her feet, the yellow-white willow- 
catkins have become musical with a myriad 
bees, dust of gold has fallen into the milk- 
white snow of the countless clans of the daisy, 
tides of an invisible flood have foamed along 
the hawthorns, the wild crocus has shone like 
the spear of Pisarr, the buttercup is brimmed 
with golden wine, and even the kingcup-ingots 
are melted in the waters — for whence else can 
come that flowing gold which is blent with 
yonder moving emerald that is as the breath of 
the grass, yonder floating azure as of drowned 
speedwells, yonder wandering violet, child of 
shadow and the wind, yonder mysterious 
phantom of pale mauve which tells that a 

"5 



The becalmed cloud-ship drifts on the deeps of 

Awakener heaven. 

Woods Nevertheless it is in the woods that the 

miracle may be more intimately seen. The 
Presence perchance is not universally abroad 
so much as immediately evident. A hand 
touched that larch yonder : for why is it so 
suddenly green, with a greenness as of a sea- 
wave, or as the wet emerald crystal one finds 
on the sands of Iona, or, rather, with the 
softer, moister, the indescribable greenness of 
the rainbow's breast ? A foot leaned upon the 
moss beneath that vast oak, on whose southern 
slopes the russet leaves still hang like a multi- 
tude of bats along dark ragged cliffs : for why 
has the cyclamen suddenly burned in a faint 
flame, there ; why has the sky suddenly come 
up through the moss, in that maze of speed- 
wells ? Who rose, yonder, and passed like a 
phantom westward ? Some one, surely, of 
the divine race, for the tips of the sycamore- 
boughs have suddenly burned with a bronze- 
hued fire. Who went suddenly down that 
mysterious alley of dim columnar pines, stirring 
the untrodden silent ways ? For, look, the air 
is full of delicate golden dust. The wind-wooer 
has whispered, and the pine tree has loved, 
and the seed of the forests to come floats like 
summer-dust along the aerial highways. 

116 



But what of the Forest- Awakener ? Who The 
is he ? Her name, is it known of men ? Who Awakener 
can it be but the Wind of the South, that Woods 
first-born of the wooing Year and sweetheart 
Spring ? But what if the name be only that 
of a bird ? Then, surely, it must be the wood- 
thrush, or perchance the cushat, or, no, that 
wandering Summer-herald, the Cuckoo ! Not 
the skylark, for he is in the sunlight, lost above 
the pastures : not the merle, for he is flooding 
the wayside elms with ancient music of ever- 
young love : not the blithe clans of the Finch, 
for one and all are gypsies of the open. Per- 
chance, then, the Nightingale ? No, he is a 
moon- worshipper, the chorister of the stars, the 
incense-swinger before the altars of the dawn : 
and though he is a child of the woods, he loves 
the thickets also. Besides, he will not come 
far north. Are there not deep woods of 
silence and dream beyond the banks of the 
Tyne ? Are there no forest sanctuaries north 
of the green ramparts which divide North um- 
bria from the glens of Tweed and the solitudes 
of the shadowy Urr ? Are there no inland 
valleys buried in sea-sounding woods beyond 
the green vale of Quair ? Alas, the sweet 
Songmaker from the South does not think so, 
does not so dream. In moon-reveries in the 
woods of Surrey, in starry serenades along 

117 



The the lanes of Devon, in lonely nocturnes in the 

Awakener shadowy groves of the New Forest, he has 
W^d no thought of more vast, more secret and 
impenetrable woods through which move 
mountain -airs from Schiehallion, chanting 
winds from the brows of the Grampians : he 
has no ancestral memory of the countless 
battalions of the red pine which throng the 
wilds of Argyll or look on the grey shoreless 
seas of the west, these green pillars which 
once covered the barren braes of Balquhidder, 
the desolate hill-lands of the Gregara, and, 
when the world was young, were wet with the 
spray of the unquiet wastes wherein are set 
the treeless Hebrides. 

No, in the north at least, we cannot call 
the nightingale the Forest -Awakener. In 
truth, nowhere in our land. For he comes 
late when he comes at all. The great 
awakening has already happened. Already 
in the south the song-thrush, the dandelion, the 
blackthorn -snow are old tales: far in Ultima 
Thule to the north-west the gillebride has 
whistled the tidings to Gaelic ears, far in 
Ultima Thule to the north-east the Shetlander 
has rejoiced in that blithest thicket-signal of 
spring, the tossed lilt of the wren. 

It is of the green woodpecker I speak. 
We do not know him well, most of us : but 

118 



then most of us are alien to the woods. The 
Town -dwellers and homestayers know little Awakener 
or nothing of the secret signals. It is only ^r 00 ^ 
the obvious that they note, and seldom read 
in the great Script of Nature anything more 
than the conventional signature of certain 
loved and familiar names and tokens. 

It was in the Forest of Fontainebleau I 
first heard the green woodpecker called by 
this delightful name, the Awakener of the 
Woods, le Reveilleur de la Foret. My 
French friend told me it was not a literary 
name, as I fancied, but one given by the 
foresters. And how apt it is. In the first 
weeks of March — in the first week of April, 
it may be, as the scene moves northward — 
there is no more delightful, and certainly no 
more welcome, sound than the blithe bugle- 
call of the green woodpecker calling through 
the woods for love, and, after long expectant 
pauses, hearing love call back in thrilling 
response, now a flute-note of gladness, now a 
challenging clarion -cry. True, whether in the 
vast forest of Fontainebleau or in our northern 
woods, the woodpecker is not so readily to be 
heard in the inward solitudes. He loves the 
open glades, and commonly the timbered 
park-land is his favourite resort. Still, save 
in the deepest and darkest woods, that 

119 



The delightful rejoicing note is now everywhere 

Awakener to be heard fluting along the sunlit ways of 

Woods the wind> Jt awakes the f° rest - When the 
voice of the woodpecker is heard it is the 
hour for Nature to celebrate her own Ides of 
March. Elsewhere the song-thrush and the 
skylark have been the first heralds. Even in 
the woods the missel-thrush may have flung 
a sudden storm of song out on the cold tides 
of the wind swaying the elm-tops like dusky 
air weed of the upper ocean. But, in the 
glades themselves, in the listening coverts, 
it is the call of the green woodpecker that has 
awakened the dreaming forest. 

And what an ancient old-world tale Picus 
could tell. For, in the long ago, was he not 
Picus the antique Italiot god. A forest-god 
he was, son of ancient Saturn, and himself 
the father of that beautiful being of the 
woods, Faunus. And how far he wandered 
from Thracian valley and Sabine oak -grove 
. . . for in that far northern Finland, which 
to the Latins was but an unknown remote 
waste under the star Septentrion, he and his 
son reappear, though now his name is Tapio 
and Faunus is become Nyyrikki . . . 

" O Nyyrikki, mountain-hero, 
Son of Tapio of forests, 
Hero with the scarlet headgear, 
I 20 



Notches make along the pathway, The 

Landmarks upward on the mountain, Awakener 

That the hunter may not wander." of the 

Woods. 
Still does Nyyrikki, or Pikker as he was called 

by the northmen long before the Kalevala 
was wrought into Finnish runes, make notches 
along the pathways of the woods, still the 
huntsman on the hillside sees his signals on 
the oak -boles. Perhaps to this day the 
Esthonian peasant offers in his heart a prayer 
to Pikker the woodpecker-god, god of thunder 
and storm, so god too of the glades and fields 
where these can devastate — a prayer such as 
that which Johann Gutsloff, a Finnish author 
of the seventeenth century, cites as the 
supplication of an old Esthonian farmer : 
' . . . Beloved Pikker, we will sacrifice to 
thee an ox with two horns and four hoofs, and 
want to beg you as to our ploughing and 
sowing that our straw shall be red as copper 
and our grain as yellow as gold. Send 
elsewhere all thick black clouds over great 
swamps, high woods, and wide wastes. But 
give to us ploughmen and sowers a fertile 
season and sweet rain/ 

In Gaelic lands many an old name has been 
dropped from common use, because thus as- 
sociated with some shy and yet never -far 
divinity, and so too the Finn and the Esth 

121 



The ceased to call the woodpecker Pikker (a word 

Awakener so strangely like Picus) and thus it is that now 
Woods ^ ie P easan t knows him only as Tikka. With 
the Romans, Picus the god was figured with 
a woodpecker on his head, and all of us who 
have read Pliny will remember the great store 
laid by the auspices of Rome on the flight 
and direction and general procedure of this 
forest -traveller. Recently a sculptor, I know 
not of what nationality, exhibited in Paris a 
statue of the Unknown Pan, and on his 
shoulder perched a woodpecker. Was this a 
reminiscence, or ancestral memory, or the 
divining vision of the imagination ? I have 
some fifty pages or more of MS. notes dealing 
with the folklore and legendary names and 
varying ways and habits of the fascinating 
woodlander, from his Greek appearance as 
Pelekas, the axe-hewer (Aristophanes calls him 
the oak-striker) — whence no doubt ' Picus ' 
and 'Pikker' and 'Peek' and the rest — to 
Latin Tindareas, mortal father of Leda, to 
the White Woodpecker, the magic bird of 
mediaeval legend, to ' der olle Picker,' the 
horrible laughing god of human sacrifice in 
ancient Prussia, to Pak-a-Pak, ' the lost lover 
of the woman in the oak,' in a strange tale I 
heard once in the woods of Argyll. But of all 
this I would recall to-day only that tradition of 

122 



the woodpecker which describes her (she is a The 
wise -woman in the folk -tales) as knowing Awakener 
where the spring-wurzel grows, that mys- Woods, 
terious plant of Pan and the sun with which 
one may open the faces of cliffs with a breath, 
as did the deer -mother of Oisin of the Songs, 
with which too one may find the secret ways 
of Venusberg and behold incalculable treasure. 
For hark ! . . . Pak-a-Pak, and the long 
cry of love ! It is answered from the listening 
woods ! Here must ' the spring-wurzel ' grow 
. . . here, for sure, are the green palaces of 
Venusberg, here, at very hand, are the incal- 
culable treasures of the awakened Forest. 



123 



THE WILD APPLE 

The foam of the White Tide of blossom has 
been flung across the land. It is already 
ebbing from the blackthorn hedges ; the wild- 
cherry herself is no longer so immaculately 
snow-white. It drifts on the wind that has 
wooed the wild -apple. The plum is like a 
reef swept with surf. Has not the laurustinus 
long been as cream -dappled as, later, the elder 
will be in every hedgerow or green lane or 
cottage - garden ? Not that all the tides of 
blossom are like fallen snow : is not the apple- 
bloom itself flushed with the hearts of roses ? 
Think of the flowering almond, that cloud of 
shell-heart pink : of the delicate bloom of the 
peach that lives on the south wind : of the 
green-gold of the sallow catkins : of the blazing- 
yellow of the gorse : of the homely flowering- 
currant, which even by mid-March had hung 
out her gay tangle of pinky blooms : of the 
purple-red of the deadnettle in the ditch, and 

124 



of the ruddy -hued fallaways of the poplar The Wild 
overhead. I wonder if in most places the Apple, 
flowering-currant is no more than an ordinary 
shrub. Here, where I write, there are several 
small trees of it, taller than the general growth 
of the lilac, tall as the laburnum, though at 
the time of their unloosening the one had not 
revealed her delicate mauve and white, while 
the other was still a miser of the countless 
gold he will now soon be spreading upon the 
wind. The pink blooms, carmine-ended where 
the five or six unfolded blossoms hang like 
fruit, droop in a roseal shower, as innumerous 
as the golden drops of the laburnum-rain or 
the suspended snowflakes of the white lilac 
themselves. The brown bees have long dis- 
covered this flusht Eden ; their drowsily sweet 
murmurous drone is as continuous as though 
these slow -swaying pastures were of linden- 
bloom, and the hour the heart of summer. 

Everywhere the largesse of Spring has 
followed her first penury in the scanty snow 
of the blackthorn on bare boughs. What, by 
the way, is the origin of the phrase * Black- 
thorn-sorrow ' ? I heard it again recently, as 
though to say that summer was safely at hand 
so that now there was no more fear of the 
blackthorn sorrow. However, as later I hope 
to deal with the complex folklore of the Thorn, 

125 



The Wild I need not let the subject delay me now, ex- 
Apple. ce pt to say that in the North-West Highlands 
I have heard the blackthorn called Bron 
Lochlannach, the Northman's woe, literally 
Norse or Norland Sorrow or Mourning, . . . 
a legendary designation to which there is, I 
believe, a North-German analogue. The idea 
here is that the blackthorn sprang from the 
blood of the slain Norse invaders, the ' pagans 
from Lochlin ' of mediaeval Gaelic story. In 
many parts of the kingdom it is looked on 
askance, and cut sprays of it brought into a 
house are considered as a menace of ill, as a 
death-token even ; and it has been surmised 
that this is due to some confused memory of a 
druidical or other early symbolism of the com- 
mingling of winter and summer, in other 
words of life and death, in the blackthorn's 
blossom-strewn leafless branches. It may be 
so, but does not seem to me likely, for by far 
the greater part of flower and tree folklore 
has little to do with such subtle conceptions. 
Too many of these are as vague and fantastical 
as that legend which says that one must not 
taste of the root of the peony if a woodpecker 
be in sight, or else the penalty may be blind- 
ness : a safe prognostication ! 

It is that other thorn which holds us now, 
that lovely torch of blossom which has taken 

126 



to itself the name of the lovers'-month. Not The Wild 
that the hawthorn has unchallenged use of Apple. 
May as a name. In Devon the white lilac is 
often called the May, and elsewhere too the 
'laylock' is spoken of as May-bloom. The 
laurustinus, again, is thus named in some 
parts of Somerset, and I have heard lilies of- 
the-valley called May-blossoms. In Scotland 
I have often heard the hawthorn -in -bloom 
called Queen of the May and even Queen of 
the Meadow, though neither name properly 
belongs to it, and the latter is the inalienable 
title of the meadowsweet. But of all wild- 
blossom nothing surpasses in mass that of the 
hawthorn. It, truly, is the foam of the groves 
and hollows. From the south to the north 
it flows in a foaming tide. ' Bride of the 
world ' I have heard it called in a Gaelic song, 
and long ago an ancient Celtic bard spoke of 
it lovingly . . . 'white is every green thorn, 
and honey sweet.' 

But it is of the Apple I want to write just 
now, she whose coronal of blossom is surely 
loveliest of all fruitbearers : Bride of the 
Wind we may say — 'Persephone herself as 
a modern Italian poet calls her. 

In the Highlands to-day the Apple ( Ubhal), 
or the Wild -Apple or Crab -Apple (Ubhal- 
fiadhaick), is still common in woods and by 

127 



The Wild stream-sides. The bitter juice of the fruit is 

Apple. still used for sprains and bruises, and to-day 

as of old the Gaelic poet has no more frequent 

comparison of his sweetheart's charm than to 

the delicate-hued, sweet-smelling apple — e.g., 

" Iseabail dg 

An or-fhuilt bhuidhe — 
Do ghruaidh mar ros 
'S do phdg mar ubhal," 

where the poet praises his Isabel of the yellow 
tresses and rose-flusht cheek and kissing-mouth 
sweet as an apple. Once the apple was far 
more common in Scotland than it is now. An 
old authority, Solinus, says that Moray and all 
the north-east abounded in the third century 
with fruit-bearing apple-trees, and Buchanan 
even speaks of Inverness-shire as being un- 
surpassed for the fruit. Visitors to Iona, 
to-day, who see it a sandy treeless isle, may 
hardly credit that it was once famous for its 
apple-orchards, and that too as late as the 
ninth century, till the monks of Iona were 
slain and the orchards destroyed by the 
ravaging vikings out of Norway. Beautiful 
Arran, too, was once lovelier still, so lovely 
with apple-blossom and ruddy yellow fruit that 
it was called Emhain Abhlach, the Avalon of 
the Gael. 

To come in a waste piece of tangled woods, 
128 



or on some lapwing-haunted pasture-edge, or The Wild 
in the heathy wilderness, on the wild-apple in A PP le - 
bloom, is to know one of the most thrilling 
experiences of the Spring. As a rule the wild- 
apple stands solitary. Seen thus, it has often 
something of the remote element of dreamland. 
I came once, in the heart of a beechwood, on 
a single tree of laburnum, in full glory of dense 
unfallen gold. How did it come to be there, 
what wind had first brought it on the tides of 
birth, what friendly nurture had led the seed- 
ling to the sapling and the sapling to lovely 
youth ? I wondered ; but most I wondered 
at the sudden beauty, at the unexpected 
revelation of vistas other than those of the 
woodland, at the unloosening of the secret 
gates of dreams and the imagination. Faerie 
stood open. Angus Og, the Celtic Apollo 
Chrusokumos, the golden Balder of the Gael, 
stood yonder just a moment ago, surely ? 
Yonder, in the sunlit greenness, Midir of the 
Dew it was who passed swiftly among the bat- 
wings of disguising shadows ? Was that 
Findabair going like a moonbeam, there in 
the sea-caverns of the green leaf? Or was it 
Fand, whose laughter the storm-thrush caught, 
long, long ago ? Surely that was an echo of 
old forgotten song in the gloom of the beeches ? 
Could it be Fedelm of the Sid/ie, s the young 

129 K 



The Wild girl of the mouth of red berries, with voice 
Apple. sweeter than the strings of a curved harp, and 
skin showing like the snow of a single night ' ? 
And there, vanishing in the sunlit cataract of 
gold itself, like a rainbow behind falling water, 
was not that Niamh of the Golden Tresses ? 
. . . Niamh, whose beauty was so great that 
the poets of the Other-world and those who 
died of love for her called her Love Entangled, 
she whose beauty filled three hundred years in 
the single hour that Fionn thought he was 
with her, in the days when the ancient world 
had suddenly grown old, and the little bell of 
Patrick the Christ-Bringer had tinkled sorrow 
and desolation and passing away across the 
Irish hills. Up among the devious green path- 
ways of the travelling wood what lost king's 
voice was that ? . . . 

" Say, down those halls of Quiet 

Doth he cry upon his Queen ? 
Or doth he sleep, contented 

To dream of what has been ? " 

. . . what poet of long ago, living in a flame 
of passion still, a wandering breath for ever, 
went by on that drowsy wind ? — 

" Across the world my sorrow flies, 
A-hunger for the grey and wistful 
Beauty of Feithfailge's eyes." 
130 



Something of that emotion as of ancestral The Wild 
memories, as of an awakened past, of an un- Apple, 
loosening of the imagination, may well come 
to any imaginative nature encountering sud- 
denly a wild-apple in blossom in some solitary 
place. To people of a Celtic race or having a 
dominant Celtic strain, in particular, perhaps ; 
for to the Gael, the Cymru and the Breton 
the Apple-tree is associated with his most 
sacred traditional beliefs. Of old it was sacro- 
sanct. It was the Celtic Tree of Life, what 
Yggdrasil was to the ancient dreamers of 
Scandinavia. He cannot think of it, but of 
the kingdom of eternal youth : of Emhain 
Abhlach, of Y Breasil, of Avalon, of drowned 
Avillion. It waves over the lost Edens. In 
Tir-na-n'Og its boughs, heavy with blossom, 
hang above the foam of the last pale waters 
of doom. The tired islander, who has put 
away hunger and weariness and dreams and 
the old secret desire of the sword, lays himself 
down below its branches in Flatheanas, and 
hears the wild harpers of Rinn in a drowsy 
hum like the hum of wild bees. Grey -haired 
men and women on the shores of Connemara 
look out across the dim wave and see the 
waving of its boughs. The Breton peasant, 
standing at twilight on the rock-strewn beaches 
of Tregastel, will cross himself as he smells the 

!3i 



The Wild fragrance of apple-blossom coming from sunken 
Apple. i s ] es across the long rolling billows, and re- 
member, perhaps, how of old in moonlit nights 
he has seen his keel drive through the yielding 
topmost branches of the woods of Avalon. 
Many poets have wandered in the secret 
valleys of Avillion, and have passed under 
boughs heavy with foam of dreams, and have 
forgotten all things and been uplifted in joy. 
In the glens of the Land of Heart's Desire 
the tired singers of the world have become 
silent under the windless branches, snow-white 
in the moonshine, having found the Heart of 
Song. 

The cross and death-coffer of apple-wood, 
the crown of wild-apple, the apple-staff, the 
poet's tablets of apple-wood, all the apple- 
myths and apple-legends, how could one tell 
of them in a few words. They are in old 
songs and old tales of all lands. Our Gaelic 
literature alone is fragrant with apple-bloom, 
is lovely with the flickering shadow of the 
apple-leaf, mysterious with symbol of fruit 
and the apple- wood that holds life and death 
in one embrace. Many readers will at once 
recall that lovely old iale of Baile the Sweet- 
spoken and Ailinn Honeymouth, whose love 
was so great that when in their beautiful youth 
they died and were buried, one in a grave to 

132 



the north and one in a grave to the south, The Wild 
grave-wood grew into grave-wood, and green Apple, 
branches from the north and the south became 
one overhanging branch, under which the winds 
murmured of passion that winter-death could 
not kill nor the hot noons of summer lull into 
forgetfulness. There is an older and less- 
known sgeul of how Ana, that most ancient 
goddess, the Mother, after she had fashioned 
all the gods, and had made man out of rock 
and sand and water and the breathing of her 
breath, made woman out of the body of a 
wave of the sea and out of foam of apple- 
blossom and out of the wandering wind. And 
there are many tales that, in this way or a 
like way, have in them the mysterious wind 
of the wild - apple, many poems on whose 
shadowy waters float the rose-flusht snow of 
the scattered blossoms of dreams and desires. 
Was not the apple - blossom first stained 
through the inappeasable longing of a poet- 
king, who, yet living, had reached Y Breasil ? 
Ulad saw there a garth of white blossom, and 
of this he gathered, and warmed all night 
against his breast, and at dawn breathed into 
them. When the sunbreak slid a rising line 
along the dawn he saw that what had been 
white blooms, made warm by his breath and 
flusht by the beating of his heart, was a 

133 



The, Wild woman. And how at the end Fand became 
Apple. once m0 re a drift of white blossom upon the 
deerskin. For, when the longing and the 
sorrow of all sorrows in the heart of Ulad 
wrapt his heart in flame, suddenly a wind-eddy 
scattered the blossoms upon the deerskin, so 
that they wavered hither and thither, but 
some were stained by the wandering fires of 
a rainbow that drifted out of the rose-red 
thickets of the dawn. 

How far back do these apple-legends go ? 
I know not. But when Aphrodite was born 
of the Idalian foam she held an apple in her 
hand, as Asia or Eve looked long upon the 
fruit of life and death in Eden. In Hades 
itself was it not the lure and the bitterness of 
Tantalus ? All old poems and tales, as I have 
said, have it, whether as legend, or dream, or 
metaphor, or as a simile even, as in the 
seventh-century MS. of the Cain Adamnain, 
where Adamnan's old mother cries mo maccan- 
sa sunt amail bis ubull fd tuind . . . 'my dear 
son yonder is like an apple on a wave ' : [i.e.] 
little is his hold on the earth. And those of 
us who have read, and remember, the Prose 
Edda, will recall how Iduna ' keeps in a box, 
Apples, which the gods, when they feel old 
age approaching, have only to taste to become 
young again.' 

134 



Is that too a dream, or is there no Rag- The Wild 
narok for the gods to fear ? This at least we Apple, 
know, that as the winter-tide, the death -tide, 
eternally recurs, so is the foam-white Dream 
continually rewoven, so everlastingly does 
Spring come again in the green garment that 
is the symbol of immortality and wearing the 
white coronals of blossom which stand for the 
soul's inalienable hope, for the spirit's in- 
calculable joy. For Avalon is not a dream. 
It is with us still. It is here indeed, though 
set within no frontiers, and unlimned in any 
chart. And even the apples of Iduna grow 
within reach : the least of us may eat of the 
fruit . . . till the coming of Ragnarok. 



135 



RUNNING WATERS 

Is it because the wild -wood passion of Pan 
still lingers in our hearts, because still in our 
minds the voice of Syrinx floats in melancholy 
music, the music of regret and longing, that 
for most of us there is so potent a spell in 
running waters ? We associate them with 
loneliness and beauty. Beauty and solitude 
. . . these are still the shepherd -kings of 
the imagination, to compel our wandering 
memories, our thoughts, our dreams. There 
is a story of one snatched from the closing 
hand of death, who, when asked if he had 
been oppressed by dark confusion and terror, 
answered that he had known no terror and no 
confusion but only an all-embracing and in- 
tensifying silence, till at the last, deep within 
it as in a profound chasm, he had caught the 
low, continuous sound of running waters. 
That I can well believe. At the extremes of 
life thought naturally returns to the things 

*36 



that first communicated to the shaken mind Running 
of childhood the sense of mystery, the summons Waters, 
and the elation of that which reveals in 
beauty and utters the vibration of wonder. 
The first coming of snow, the noise of wind in 
trees, the gathering murmur of the tide heard 
in the night's darkness and silence, music or 
songs borne across water, the first falling 
meteors with their terrifying suggestion that 
all these familiar stellar fires may likewise at 
any time be blown abroad by some obscure 
and awful wind, the furtive whisperings and 
inexplicable confused speech of running waters, 
of such are these primitive and unforgettable 
experiences. 

The burn, the brook, the rivulet, what 
memories of them are possessed by those whose 
childhood has not been wholly spent in towns, 
or at those thronged seaside resorts where the 
bounteous green life of Nature is even more 
absent than in many cities, at least an those 
which have their wooded parks, in which there 
may be flowing or still waters, where the cushat 
may be heard among the cedars or beeches, 
and where, above the tall elms, the noisy 
coming and going of rooks seems to the exile 
the very voice of the country-side. The linn 
of brown foaming water, the amber surge of 
the hill-stream, the stealthy if swift rush of the 

*37 



Running brown flood beloved of the salmon, or the curve 
Waters. an d sweep of the grass -green river flowing 
between meadows and under alders and past 
rocky fastnesses and linking green valleys as a 
winding snake barred with emerald, what 
memories these suggest to every lad or lass, 
to every man or woman who has ever thrown 
a cast or trailed a line, or, for that matter, who 
has lain on their leaning banks, book in hand, 
or lost in dreams, or wandered the dewy ways 
at dusk. Does not the very mention of 
torrent and cataract and waterfall evoke happy 
memories ? One can hear the tumultuous 
surge between heather-held banks, and see the 
rock -rooted bracken shake with the ceaseless 
spray : can see the wild leap and foaming 
collapse, so habitual, so orderly in disorder, 
that the ring- ousel flies heedlessly from her 
fragile eggs which a handful of this whirling 
water would crush and sweep away : can recall, 
as in dreams the mind rebuilds the phantoms 
of natural imagery, the long, white, wavering 
smoke down the sheer slope of some mountain- 
bastion, or the filmy yet motionless veils of 
delicate gauze hung high on the breasts of 
silent and remote hills. 

What differences there are in these running 
waters. We hear much of ' blue ' rivers, of 
the silver flood of azure, and so forth. But 

138 



few rivers or brooks or burns are blue. Their Running 
azure colour is a mirage wrought by distance Waters, 
and the angle of vision, affected by the play 
of wind, by the quality of light, by the blue- 
ness of the sky. Every German poet has 
sung of the blue Danube, the blue Rhine. 
These rivers have no quality of blueness, save 
by reflection from above, at a distance, and at 
a certain angle of vision. Waters flowing 
from the Lake of Geneva and from the Lake 
of Lucerne are blue even on grey days and if 
looked at on the shadow -side of a bridge. 
We have many grey-blue and blue-white and 
azure-shadowed running waters, but we have 
more that are grass-green and far more that 
are dappled hazel and nut-brown and golden- 
brown and amber-shot black-brown. It is 
not easy to say which of these running waters 
one loves best : nor need one, nor should one 
try. It would be like thinking of a garden- 
close filled with wallflower and mignonette, 
carnations and sweet -peas, dark violets and 
yellow pansies and blue love-in-a-mist, white 
tulips and lilies-of-the-valley and white roses, 
damask rose and the flusht morning-glory and 
the pink moss-rose and brier and eglantine, 
and saying which is best of these, which 
loveliest, which the most dear to the mind 
as well as to the eyes. But, still, we have 

139 



Running doubtless each some happy choice, some 
Waters, hidden predilection. That will depend on 
memories and associations. I read some- 
where recently that a certain traveller could 
not anywhere find, could nowhere recall, any 
stream or river for him so poetical, so lovely 
in quiet beauty as the Yorkshire Ouse. My 
knowledge of that river is restricted to a brief 
intimacy at and near York, and my recollec- 
tion of it is of a broad turbid stream between 
muddy banks. But that does not interfere 
with the giving full credit to that traveller's 
loyal affection. He would remember the 
Ouse among the sands of Egypt or by the 
yellow flow of the Hooghly or perhaps by the 
surge of some great river as the Mississippi, 
and it would flow through his mind in a 
serene pastoral beauty, bluer than any river 
that ever flowed in our grey North, and in a 
changeless light of May or June, with calling 
cuckoo and thridding swallow unmindful of 
seasons that come and go, and with green flag 
and tufted reed and trailing willow-branch as 
unfading as the memories to which they are 
for evermore wed. It would not be the Ouse 
that you or I look at from the muddy banks 
on a dull November day, or catch a glimpse 
of as the North Express whirls by. It would 
be the Ouse of boyhood and youth and the 

140 



heart filled with a sweet trouble, perplext by Running 
a strange ache. It would be the Ouse at its Waters, 
loveliest, on a rare day, in an hour of the 
hours, flowing in midsummer- air fragrant 
with meadow-hay and wild-roses. It would 
be an Ouse more beautiful still : it would be 
subtly present in * the quiet waters ' of the 
Psalmist, wherever the painter limned that 
delicate unrest, wherever the poet sang of the 
Stream's Secret. It would be, for him, the 
archetype of the flowing stream : the river. 

And so, each will have his preference, if it 
be only one of temperament rather than of 
sentiment. The deep, broad, swirling river 
has its incalculable fascination. Its mysterious 
volume, so great a flood from perhaps so in- 
significant a source, from mayhap some shallow 
pool among stagnant marsh-lands with nothing 
of stir or motion but the hovering dragon-fly, 
the wheeling and wailing lapwing, and the 
slow, voiceless passage of wayfaring cloud : 
its devious way, like an interminable procession 
or the continuous winding column of an army 
seen from a great height : its arrivals and 
departures at quiet towns and noisy and de- 
filing cities : its destiny, its ultimate blending 
with the devouring tide and the overrunning 
wave ... all this has become the common- 
place of the poet and the romancist. Thames 

141 



Running filled with every craft possible to be seen 
Waters, betwixt the Nore and Oxford; the Forth, 
winding in still loops under the walls of 
Stirling and grey Cambuskenneth ; the Clyde, 
running past the hills of Dumbarton and 
Argyll, already salt with the sea-flood pouring 
in by the ocean-gates of Arran and Ailsa ; the 
deep flood of Tay or Shannon ; these, and 
others, will always have a host to praise and 
magnify. But many of us will dream rather 
of chalk-streams in Devon, of the rippling 
amber-yellow flood of Derwent in the Peakland 
valleys, of Tweed and Teviot, of slow streams 
among woods and bright rivers going like 
cold flame through wide straths and lowlands : 
of small narrow waters whose very names are 
wedded to beauty and to 'old, unhappy, far- 
off things,' Otterbourne, the Water of Urr, 
the Water of Quair, Allan Water. Above 
all will some of us think of those peat-stained 
bracken-dyed burns, that leap and dance and 
sing down the steep ways of rock and heather 
in the Scotland of our love. 

For my own part I find myself in so great 
agreement with a friend, who expresses better 
than I can do the love and haunting spell of 
the brown hill- water (which is neither a river 
nor exactly a stream nor yet a rivulet, but 
with something of each and more of what in 

142 



the lowlands is a brook and in the highlands Running 
a burn, yet than the one is swifter and than Waters, 
the other is less debonair and impetuous) that 
I have been constrained to ask leave to let it 
appear here as a natural close of running 
waters at the end of this brief paper on a 
theme in whose very title lie old music and 
dream and subtly incalculable spell. 

The Hill-Water 

There is a little brook, 

I love it well : 

It hath so sweet a sound 

That even in dreams my ears could tell 

Its music anywhere. 

Often I wander there, 

And leave my book 

Unread upon the ground, 

Eager to quell 

In the hush'd air 

That dwells above its flowing forehead fair 

All that about my heart hath wound 

A trouble of care : 

Or, it may be, idly to spell 

Its runic music rare, 

And with its singing soul to share 

Its ancient lore profound : 

For sweet it is to be the echoing shell 

That lists and inly keeps that murmurous miracle. 

About it all day long 
In this June-tide 
There is a myriad song. 

H3 



Running From ever y side 

Waters. There comes a breath, a hum, a voice : 

The hill-wind fans it with a pleasant noise 

As of sweet rustling things 

That move on unseen wings, 

And from the pinewood near 

A floating whisper oftentimes I hear, 

As when, o'er pastoral meadows wide, 

Stealeth the drowsy music of a weir. 

The green reeds bend above it ; 

The soft green grasses stoop and trail therein ; 

The minnows dart and spin ; 

The purple-gleaming swallows love it : 

And, hush, its innermost depths within, 

The vague prophetic murmur of the linn ! 

But not in summertide alone 

I love to look 

Upon this rippling water in my glen . 

Most sweet, most dear my brook, 

And most my own, 

When the grey mists shroud every ben, 

And in its quiet place 

The stream doth bare her face 

And lets me pore deep down into her eyes, 

Her eyes of shadowy grey 

Wherein from day to day 

My soul is spellbound with a new surmise, 

Or doth some subtler meaning trace 

Reflected from unseen invisible skies. 

Dear mountain-solitary, dear lonely brook, 
Of hillside rains and dews the fragrant daughter, 
Sweet, sweet thy music when I bend above thee, 
When in thy fugitive face I look : 
144 






Yet not the less I love thee, Running; 

When, far away, and absent from thee long, Waters. 

I yearn, my dark hill-water, 

I yearn, I strain to hear thy song, 

Brown, wandering water, 

Dear, murmuring water ! 



145 



THE SUMMER HERALDS 

If the cuckoo, the swallow, and the nightjar 
be pre-eminently the birds of Summer (though, 
truly, the swift, the flycatcher, and the corn- 
crake have as good a title) the rear-guard of 
Spring may be said to be the house-martin, the 
cushat, and the turtle. Even the delaying 
wheatear, or the still later butcher-bird may 
have come, and yet Sweep -Sweep may not 
have been heard about the eaves of old houses 
or under and over the ruined clay of last year's 
nests ; the cushat's voice may not have become 
habitual in the greening woods ; and the tire- 
less wings of the turtle may not have been 
seen clipping the invisible pathways between 
us and the horizons of the south. But, when 
these come, we know that Spring has traversed 
the whole country, and is now standing ankle- 
deep in thrift and moondaisies in the last rocky 
places fronting the north sea. No one doubts 
that summer is round the corner when the 

146 



flycatcher hawks the happy hunting-grounds The 
of the apple-blossom, when the swift wheels ^^ 
over the spire of the village church, and when 
the wild-dove is come again. The first call 
of the cuckoo unloosened the secret gates. 
We are across the frontier in that first gloam- 
ing when we hear 

The clamour musical of culver wings 
Beating the soft air of the dewy dusk. 

To these familiar and loved harbingers from 
the south should be added yet another welcome 
friend who comes to us in the rear-guard of 
the Spring, though, rather, we should say he 
becomes visible now, for the Bat has never 
crossed the seas. The house-martin has not 
had time to forget the sands of Africa before 
her wing has dusked the white pansies on the 
sunside of old redbrick English manors : but 
the bat has only to stretch his far stronger yet 
incalculably less enduring pinions and then 
loop through the dusk from ivied cave or tree- 
hollow or the sombre silences of old barns, 
ruined towers, or ancient belfries sheltered 
from rain and wind. 

The Awakening of the Bat . . . yes, that 
too is a sign that Spring has gone by, singing 
on her northward way and weaving coronals 
of primrose and cowslip, or from her unfolded 

H7 



The lap throwing clouds of blossom on this haw- 

Summer thorn or on this apple-orchard, or where the 
era s * wind-a-quiver pear leans over the pasture from 
the garden-edge, or where in green hollows the 
wild-cherry holds the nest of a speckled thrush. 
She will be gone soon. Before the cuckoo's 
sweet bells have jangled she will be treading 
the snows of yesteryear. But no, she never 
leaves the circling road, Persephone, Earth's 
loveliest daughter. Onward forever she goes, 
young, immortal, singing the greening song of 
her ancient deathless magic far down below 
the horizons, beyond the lifting line of the 
ever upwelling world. And already Summer 
is awake. She hears the nightjar churring 
from the juniper to his mate on the hawthorn- 
bough, and in the dew among the green corn 
or from the seeding pastures the crek-crake! 
crek-crake! of the ambiguous landrail. This 
morning, when she woke, the cushats were 
calling from the forest-avenues, the bumble- 
bee droned in the pale horns of the honey- 
suckle, and from a thicket newly covered with 
pink and white blossoms of the wild -rose a 
proud mavis saw her younglings at last take 
flight on confident wing. 

A (good symbol, that of the Awakening of 
the Bat. Darkness come out of the realm of 
sleep and dreams : the realm itself filled with 

148 



the west wind and the dancing sunlight, sleep The 
put away like a nomad's winter-tent and dreams Summer 
become realities. Often I have wondered how era s * 
it is that so little is commonly known of the 
bat-lore of our own and other races. Doubt- 
less there is some book which deals with this 
lore. There may be some familiar one for 
aught I know, but I have never met with or 
heard of it. 

Recently I tried in vain to get some such 
book dealing with the folklore and mythology 
of the bat. And yet in the traditional lore of 
all countries there are many allusions to this 
'blind bird of the dusk.' The Greeks, the 
Romans, the Celts of Europe, the westering 
Gaels, had many legends and superstitions 
connected with it. To-day the Finn, the 
Magyar, the Basque and the island Gael 
keep some of the folklore that has ebbed 
away from other nations, or become confused 
or remembered only by old folk in old out-of- 
the-way places. Somewhere I have notes of 
several bat-legends and fragments of bat-lore 
collected once for a friend, who after all went 
'to hunt the bat' before he could use them. 
That was the phrase which started the quest. 
He had read it, or heard it I think, and wrote 
to me asking if I had ever heard the phrase 
' to hunt the bat ' as synonymous with death. 

149 



The I have heard it once or twice in the last few 
Summer years, and once in a story where the teller, 
era s ' speaking of an outlaw who was a great deer- 
hunter in the wilds of Inverness, was found 
dead ' with the fork of an ash-root through 
his breast, pinned like a red fox he was, and 
he by that time hunting the bat in the black 
silence.' It would be inapposite, here, to 
linger on this theme, but I am tempted to 
record one or two of these bat-lore fragments 
which I recall : and perhaps, from the scarcity 
of such traditional flotsam and jetsam, some 
readers and bat-lovers may be interested. 

The bat, commonly called in Gaelic an 
ialtag, or dialtag, though even in the one 
Shire of Argyll at least six other common 
names might as likely be heard, is occasionally 
poetically called the Bad liar an- dim, the dark 
wandering one. I remember being told that 
the reason of the name was as follows. In 
the early days of the world the bat was blue 
as the kingfisher and with a breast white as 
that of the swallow, and its eyes were so large 
and luminous that because of this and its 
whirling flight its ancient name was a name 
signifying 'flash-fire' — though now become, 
with the Gaelic poet who told me this, dealan- 
dhu badhalaiche ckoille, 'the little black wander- 
ing flame of the woods.' But on the day of 

*5Q 



the Crucifixion the bat mocked at the agony The 
of the Saviour, and while the redbreast was ^ umi ? d er 
trying to pull out a thorn, now from Christ's 
hand, now from His foot, the bat whirled to 
and fro crying, 'See how lovely I am! See 
how swift I am!' Christ turned His eyes 
and looked at it, and the blue and the white 
went out of the bat like the ebbing wave out 
of a pool, and it became blind and black and 
whirled away till it met the rising of night 
and was drowned in that darkness for ever- 
more. And that is why the bat is seen in 
the dusk and at night, and wheels to and fro 
in such aimless wandering flight, with his thin 
almost inaudible voice crying, * See how blind 
I am ! See how ugly I am ! ' 

From the same source I had dealan-dhu 
bats, the little black flame (or flash) of death, 
and a still stranger note to the effect that bats 
are the offspring of lightning and smitten 
trees : the connection being more obvious to 
Gaelic ears, because dealan-bas is one of the 
names of lightning. 

The other name I heard as a child, and it 
long puzzled me. Beuban - an - A thar - Uai - 
bhreach: literally, the malformed one of the 
Haughty Father. Now why should the bat 
be called beuban, a thing spoiled, wilfully 
malformed? 'An t 1 Athair Uaibhreach ' (of 

151 



The which an athar is the genitive) is one of the 

Summer evasive names used by the Gael for Satan 
era s. ^ \\\&t proud and glorious angel, the 

Father of Evil, who fell from his high estate 
through ineonquerabie pride. Why, then, 
was the bat the malformed creature of Satan ? 
It was years afterwards before I had the story 
told me, for my old nurse (from whom I heard 
the phrase) did not think the tale fitting for a 
child's ears. When Judas hanged himself on 
a tree, so the tale ran, and his soul went out 
lamenting on the wind, the Haughty Father 
flung that wretched spirit contemptuously 
back into the world. But first he twisted it 
and altered it four hundred and forty -four 
times, till it was neither human nor bird nor 
beast, but was likest a foul rat with leathern 
wings. * Stay there till the last day,' he said, 
'in blindness and darkness, and be accursed 
for ever' . . . and that is why the bat (the 
triollachan dhorcliadas, 'the little waverer of 
the dark,' or triollachan fheasgair, or little 
waverer of the dusk, as a more merciful 
legend has it) flies as he does, maimed, blind, 
accursed and feared, and shrieking in his 
phantom voice Gu la bais ! Gu Id bais ! 
('till the day of death' . . . i.e., the Last 
Day). 

In some parts of Argyll the bat is said to 
152 



live for three generations of an eagle, six The 
generations of a stag, and nine generations of Summer 
a man. With less poetic exactitude I have era 
been told that it lives thirteen years in flight 
and thirty -three years in all ! . . . though 
equally authentic information avers that the 
average life of the bat is twenty-one years. 
A forester told me once that he did not think 
any bat lived longer than nine years, but he 
thought fifteen as likely as nine. On the 
other hand, he himself spoke, and as though 
for all he knew it might well be so, of an 
old tradition that a bat lives to a hundred 
years. This, I may add, I have heard again 
and again. The other day a fisherman from 
the island of Lismore gave the unexpected 
answer : ' How old will the ialtag be ? 
Well, now, just exactly what the age of 
Judas was the hour he kissed Christ and 
betrayed Him, and not a day more and not a 
day less.' Nothing explicit as to that, 
however, could be obtained. A gardener 
told me once a rhyme about how to get at 
the age of man, but I have forgotten it except 
that it was to the effect that a losgunn (a 
toad) was twice the age of an easgunn (an 
eel), and that a dialtag (bat) was twice the 
age of a losgunn, and that am fiad/i (the stag) 
was twice the age of a dialtag, 'and put ten 

153 



The to that and you'll have the allotted age of 

Summer ma n' [i.e., an eel is supposed to live about 
era as. seven vears to seven and a half years : a frog 
or toad to about fifteen : a bat to about 
thirty : a deer to about sixty. I should add, 
however, that my informant was not sure if in 
the third instance it wasn't a iolair (eagle) 
instead of a deer]. 

One of the strangest English names for the 
bat (among over a score only less strange) is 
the Athern-bird — a Somerset term, I believe, 
whose meaning I do not know. 

But now to return to the rear-guard of 
Spring of whom we spoke first. Yet the 
folklore of the house -martin is so familiar 
that it need not be alluded to. We all know 
that it is time to think of summer when the 
martin clings once more to her last year's 
clay-house under the eaves. 

It is when the wild-doves are heard in the 
woods that one realises the Spring- Summer 
borderland is being crossed. When the 
cushat calls, all the clans of the bushes are at 
home, runs a Highland saying : meaning that 
every mavis and merle and finch is busy with 
hatching the young brood, or busier still 
feeding the callow nestlings. But when the 
voice of the turtle is heard in the land, then 
Summer has come over the sea on the south 

154 



wind, and is weaving roses for her coronal and The 
will be with us while we are yet unaware. Summer 

What a quantity of old lore one might era s ' 
collect about the dove, and as for the allusions 
in ancient and modern literature they must be 
legion — from the familiar Scriptural phrase 
about the turtle to Chaucer's 'the wedded 
turtil with her hearte trewe,' from Greek 
myth or Roman poem to Tennyson's 'moan 
of doves in immemorial elms.' Doubtless 
much of the dove-lore is so well known that 
it would be superfluous to repeat it here. As 
the symbol of peace, of the Spirit, the dove 
herself is universally familiar. The turtle is 
also a symbol of mourning, and of old, as 
among the oak-groves of Dodona or before the 
fane of Hierapolis, was held sacred as the bird 
of prophecy, of the soul, and of the life after 
death. It is because of the loving faithfulness 
of the cushat that this bird was long ago dedi- 
cated to Venus ; and it was because Venus 
presided over both birth and death that the 
dove became associated of old with scenes so 
opposite as marriage festivals and funeral rites. 
We are all familiar with the legend that the 
soul of a dying person may be seen departing 
like a flying dove, and so it was that even a 
tame pigeon came to be an unwelcome sight 
at the window where any one lay in serious 

155 



The illness. In a word, the peasant-invalid might 

Summer t a k e the bird to be a death-messenger, the bird 
Heralds 

' of the grave. The most singular of these folk- 

superstitions, I think, is that in whose exercise 

a living pigeon used to be placed on the head 

of a dying man in order to attract the pain to 

the bird and so ease the sufferer. One wonders 

what became of the unfortunate pigeon. 

The strangest of the northern legends is 
that Swedish one which makes the wild-dove 
the confidant of Baldur, the Scandinavian god 
of song and beautiful love, before he died 'the 
white death ' when the ancient world receded 
for ever at the advent of Christ. Still do they 
murmur in the woods of the immortal passion, 
the deathless love of the old gods, they who 
long ago passed away one knows not whither, 
with Baldur going before them harping, and 
singing a strange song. One Gaelic poetic 
name for the cushat is poetry itself ; Caoirean- 
na-coille, 'the murmur of the woods.' The 
subtlest legend is that old world Finnish 
identification of Aino the dove -maiden and 
Vaino, the male -Venus of the North, like 
Venus sea-born, like Venus the offspring of 
Zeus and Destiny, and as Aino or Vaino now 
the singer, now the presiding deity at marriage 
festival or during the lamentations for the dead. 

How little we know of this Vaino of the 

156 



Kalevala, or of that not less mysterious ancient The 
Teutonic nature-god Wunsch, or of our Gaelic Summer 
Angus Og, son of heaven and earth ; each of ra s * 
whom has the wild -dove for his own, his 
symbol and his mortal image. Each wove 
grass and plants and greenness of trees out of 
the earth and the rain, out of the sunshine and 
the wind ; each spun flowers out of dew and 
moonlight and the rose and saffron of dawns 
and sunsets. Each, too, created strength in 
the hearts of men and power in their bodies, 
and wove beauty on the faces of women and 
children. Each became, thus, the god of 
happiness, of youth, of joy. And to each, 
finally, the doves were dedicated as their sacred 
birds, their mortal image among the illusions 
of the world. So here we pass back, pass away 
from the later tradition of mourning and 
death, to the old joyousness of Spring, of 
Spring who creates grass and plant and flower, 
the strength of men and the beauty of women 
and the gladness of children, Spring who turns 
when the apple -blossom fades and lets loose 
the doves of Summer. 



157 



THE SEA-SPELL 

Old magical writers speak of the elemental 
affinity which is the veiled door in each of us. 
Find that door, and you will be on the secret 
road to the soul, they say in effect. Some 
are children of fire, and some of air, some are 
of earth, and some of water. They even re- 
solve mortal strength and weakness, our virtue 
and our evil, into the movement of these 
elements. This virtue, it is of fire: this quality, 
it is of air : this frailty, it is of water. How- 
soever this may be, some of us are assuredly 
of that ancient clan in whose blood, as an old 
legend has it, is the water of the sea. Many 
legends, many poems, many sayings tell of the 
Chloinn-na-Mhara, the children of the sea. I 
have heard them from fishermen, from inland- 
shepherds, from moorlanders in inland solitudes 
where the only visitors from the mysterious 
far-off deep are the wandering sea-mews or 
the cloud that has climbed out of the south. 

158 



Some tell of the terror of the sea, some of its The 

mysteriousness, some of the evil and of the Sea-Spell. 

evil things that belong to it and are in it, some 

of its beauty, some of its fascination (as the 

Greeks of old-time told of the sirens, who 

were the voices and fatal music and the strange 

and perilous loveliness of alien waters), some 

of the subtle and secret spell deep-buried in 

the hearts of certain men and women, the 

Chloinn-na-Mhara, a spell that will brood 

there, and give no peace, but will compel the 

spirit to the loneliness of the wind, and the 

outward life to the wayward turbulence of the 

wave. More than two thousand years ago 

the great Pindar had these in mind when 

he wrote of that strange tribe among men 

'who scorn the things of home, and gaze 

on things that are afar off, and chase a 

cheating prey with hopes that shall never be 

fulfilled.' 

Elsewhere I have written much of this sea- 
spell, of the Bronavara (to Anglicise an island 
word), or Sorrow of the Sea, and do not wish 
to write here of that strange passion or sinister 
affinity : but of that other and happier Spell 
of the Sea which so many of us feel, with 
pleasure always, with delight often, at times 
with exultation, as though in our very heart 
were the sharp briny splash of the blue wave 

J 59 



The tossing its white crest, or of the green billow 

Sea-Spell, falling like a tower of jade in a seething flood. 
But, first, I recall that old legend to which I 
have alluded. Perhaps some folklorist may 
recognise it as gathered out of the drift 
common to many shores, may trace it even 
to those Asian inlands where so many of our 
most ancient tales mysteriously arose ; but I 
have nowhere met with it in print, nor seen 
nor heard allusion to it, other than in a crude 
fashioning on the lips of simple Gaelic folk, 
nor even there for years upon years. There 
were once four cities (the Western Gael will 
generally call them Gorias and Falias, Finias 
and Murias), the greatest and most beautiful 
of the cities of those ancient tribes of beauty, 
the offspring of angels and the daughters of 
earth. The fair women were beautiful, but 
lived like flowers, and like flowers faded and 
were no more, for they were filled with happi- 
ness, as cups of ivory filled with sunlit dancing 
wine, but were soulless. Eve, that sorrowful 
loveliness, was not yet born. Adam was not 
yet lifted out of the dust of Eden. Finias 
was the gate of Eden to the South, Murias to 
the West : in the North, Falias was crowned 
by a great star : in the East, Gorias, the city 
of gems, flashed like sunrise. There the death- 
less clan of the sky loved the children of Lilith. 

1 60 



On the day when Adam uttered the sacred The 
name and became king of the world, a great Sea-Spell, 
sighing was heard in Gorias in the East and in 
Finias in the South, in Murias in the West 
and in Falias in the North : and when morn 
was come the women were no more awakened 
by the stirring of wings and the sunrise-flight 
of their angelic lovers. They came no more. 
And when Eve awoke by the side of Adam, 
and he looked on her, and saw the immortal 
mystery in the eyes of this mortal loveliness, 
lamentations and farewells and voices of twi- 
light were heard in Murias by the margin of 
the sea and in Gorias high -set among her 
peaks ; in the secret gardens of Falias, and 
where the moonlight hung like a spear above 
the towers of Finias upon the great plain. 
The children of Lilith were gone away upon 
the wind, as lifted dust, as dew, as shadow, as 
the unreturning leaf. Adam rose, and bade 
Eve go to the four solitudes, and bring back 
the four ancient secrets of the world. So Eve 
went to Gorias, and found nothing there but 
a flame of fire. She lifted it and hid it in her 
heart. At noon she came to Finias, and 
found nothing there but a spear of white light. 
She took it and hid it in her mind. At dusk 
she came to Falias, and found nothing there but 
a star in the darkness. She hid the darkness, 

161 M 



The and the star within the darkness, in her womb. 

Sea-Spell. At moonrise she came to Murias, by the shores 
of the ocean. There she saw nothing but a 
wandering light. So she stooped, and lifted a 
wave of the sea and hid it in her blood. And 
when Eve was come again to Adam, she gave 
him the flame she had found in Gorias, and the 
spear of light she had found in Finias. ' In 
■ Falias,' she said, * I found that which I cannot 
give, but the darkness I have hidden shall be 
your darkness, and the star shall be your star.' 
'Tell me what you found in Murias by the 
sea ? ' asked Adam. ' Nothing,' answered Eve. 
But Adam knew that she lied. 'I saw a 
wandering light,' she said. He sighed, and 
believed. But Eve kept the wave of the sea 
hidden in her blood. So has it been that a 
multitude of women have been homeless as 
the wave, and their heritage salt as the sea : 
and that some among their sons and daughters 
have been possessed by that vain cold fire, and 
that inappeasable trouble, and the restlessness 
of water. So it is that to the end of time 
some shall have the salt sea in the blood, 
and the troubled wave in the heart, and be 
homeless. 

But thoughts like these, legends like these, 
are for the twilight hour, or for the silent 
people who live in isles and remote places. 

162 



For most of us, for those of us who do not The 
dwell by lonely shores and seldom behold the Sea-Spell, 
sea but in the quiet seasons, it is either a 
delight or an oppression. Some can no more 
love it, or can have any well-being or com- 
posure near it, than others can be well or 
content where vast moors reach from skyline 
to skyline, or amid the green solemnities of 
forests, or where stillness inhabits the hollows 
of hills. But for those who do love it, what 
a joy it is ! The Sea . . . the very words 
have magic. It is like the sound of a horn 
in woods, like the sound of a bugle in the 
dusk, like the cry of wind leaping the long 
bastions of silence. To many of us there 
is no call like it, no other such clarion of 
gladness. 

But when one speaks of the sea it is as 
though one should speak of summer or winter, 
of spring or autumn. It has many aspects : it 
is not here what it is yonder, yonder it is not 
what it is afar off: here, even, it is not in 
August what it is when the March winds, 
those steel-blue coursers, are unleashed ; the 
grey-green calms of January differ from the 
purple-grey calms of September, and November 
leaning in mist across the dusk of wavering 
horizons is other than azure-robed and cirrus- 
crowned May moving joyously across a glorious 

163 



The tossing wilderness of blue and white. The 

Sea-Spell. b] ue se a frothed with wind has ever been a 
salutation of joy. iEschylos sounded the note of 
rapture which has since echoed through poetry 
and romance : that ' multitudinous laughter ' 
struck a vibration which time has never dulled 
nor lessened. It has been an exultation above 
all in the literatures of the north. Scandinavian 
poetry is full of the salt brine ; there is not a 
viking-saga that is not wet with the spray of 
surging seas. Through all the primitive tales 
and song's of the Gael one feels the intoxication 
of the blue wine of the running wave. In the 
Icelandic sagas it is like a clashing of shields. 
It calls through the Ossianic chants like a tide. 
Every Gaelic song of exile has the sound of it, 
as in the convolutions of a shell. The first 
Gaelic poet rejoiced at the call of the sea, and 
bowed before the chanting of a divine voice. 
In his madness, Cuchulain fought with the 
racing billows on the Irish Coast, striving with 
them as joy-intoxicated foes, laughing against 
their laughter : to the dark waves of Coruisk, 
in the Isle of Skye, he rushed with a drawn 
sword, calling to these wise warriors of the 
sea to advance in their proud hosts that he 
might slay them. Sigurd and Brynhild, 
Gunhild and Olaf, Torquil and Swaran and 
Haco, do they not sound like the names 

164 



of waves ? How good that old - world The 

rejoicing in the great green wilderness of Sea-Spell. 

waters, in the foam-swept blue meads, in the 

cry of the wind and the chant of the billows 

and the sharp sting of flying scud ? It is of 

to-day also. A multitude of us rejoice as those 

of old rejoiced, though we have changed in so 

much with all the incalculable change of the 

years. To-day as then the poets of the isles 

. . . the poet in the heart of each of us who 

loves the glory and beauty and in any degree 

feels the strong spell of the sea . . . answer to 

that clarion-music : as in this Evoe ! by one 

of the latest among them : — 

" Oceanward, the sea-horses sweep magnificently, champing 
and whirling white foam about their green flanks, and tossing on 
high their manes of sunlit rainbow-gold, dazzling white and 
multitudinous far as sight can reach. 

" 0, champing horses of my soul, toss, toss on high your sun- 
lit manes, your manes of rainbow-gold, dazzling-white and 
multitudinous, for I too rejoice, rejoice ! " 

And who of us will forget that great English 
poet of to-day, that supreme singer of — 

" Sky, and shore, and cloud, and waste, and sea," 

who has written so often and so magically of 
the spell of the sea and of the elation of those 
who commit themselves to the sway and 
rhythm of its moving waters : — 

165 



The " The grey sky gleams and the grey seas glimmer, 

Sea-Spell. P&le ar| d sweet as a dream's delight, 

As a dream's where darkness and light seem dimmer, 

Touched by dawn or subdued by night. 
The dark wind, stern and sublime and sad, 
Swings the rollers to westward, clad 
With lustrous shadow that lures the swimmer, 
Lures and lulls him with dreams of light. 

" Light, and sleep, and delight, and wonder, 
Change, and rest, and a charm of cloud, 
Fill the world of the skies whereunder 
Heaves and quivers and pants aloud 
All the world of the waters, hoary 
Now, but clothed with its own live glory, 
That mates the lightning and mocks the thunder 
With light more living and word more proud. 

" A dream, and more than a dream, and dimmer 
At once and brighter than dreams that flee, 

The moment's joy of the seaward swimmer 
Abides, remembered as truth may be. 

Not all the joy and not all the glory 

Must fade as leaves when the woods wax hoary ; 

For there the downs and the sea-banks glimmer, 
And here to south of them swells the sea." 

What swimmer too, who loves this poet, but 
will recall the marvellous sea -shine line in 
* Thalassius ' : 

" Dense water-walls and clear dusk waterways . . . 
The deep divine dark dayshine of the sea " 

It is this exquisite miracle of transparency 

1 66 



which gives the last secret of beauty to water. The 
All else that we look upon is opaque : the Sea-Spell, 
mountain in its sundown purple or noon-azure, 
the meadows and fields, the gathered greenness 
of woods, the loveliness of massed flowers, the 
myriad wonder of the universal grass, even the 
clouds that trail their shadows upon the hills 
or soar so high into frozen deeps of azure that 
they pass shadowless like phantoms or the 
creatures of dreams — the beauty of all these is 
opaque. But the beauty of water is that it is 
transparent. Think if the grass, if the leaves 
of the tree, if the rose and the iris and the pale 
horns of the honeysuckle, if the great mountains 
built of grey steeps of granite and massed 
purple of shadow were thus luminous, thus 
transparent ! Think if they, too, as the sea, 
could reflect the passage of saffron-sailed and 
rose-flusht argosies of cloud, or mirror as in 
the calms of ocean the multitudinous undula- 
tion of the blue sky ! This divine translucency 
is but a part of the Sea-Spell, which holds us 
from childhood to old age in wonder and 
delight, but that part is its secret joy, its 
incommunicable charm. 



167 



SUMMER CLOUDS 

For one who has lived so much among the 
hills and loves the mountain solitude it may 
seem strange to aver that the most uplifting 
and enduring charm in Nature is to be found 
in amplitude of space. Low and rolling lands 
give what no highlands allow. If in these the 
miraculous surprise of cloud is a perpetual new 
element of loveliness, it is loveliness itself that 
unfolds when an interminable land recedes from 
an illimitable horizon, and, belonging to each 
and yet remote from either, clouds hang like 
flowers, or drift like medusge, or gather 
mysteriously as white bergs in the pale azure 
of arctic seas. 

We are apt to be deceived by the formal 
grandeur of mountains, by the massed colours 
and contours of upbuilded heights, whether 
lying solitarily like vast sleeping saurians, or 
gathered in harmonious, if tumultuous, disarray. 
There is a beauty that is uniquely of the hills. 

168 



The mountain lands have that which no low- Summer 
land has. But in that company we shall not Clouds, 
find what the illimitable level lands will afford, 
what inhabits the wilderness, what is the 
revelation of the desert, what is the lovely 
magic of the horizons of the sea. By the 
sombre reaches of the Solway, in the fen- 
lands of East Anglia, in the immensity of 
the great bog which cinctures Ireland, in the 
illimitable lowland from Flanders to the last 
brine-whitened Frisian meadows, I have seen 
a quality of aerial beauty that I have not in 
like loveliness elsewhere found. Who that 
in mid-ocean has long watched the revelation 
of distance and the phantasmagoria of cloud 
during serene days, or from island shores 
looked across limitless waters till the far 
blue line seemed lifted to the purple-shadowed 
bases of leaning palaces, can think of an excel- 
ling loveliness ? Who that has seen the four- 
fold azure, in east and west, in north and 
south, over the desert, and watched the secret 
veils of a single pavilion of rose-flusht cumulus 
slowly be undone, till the vision is become a 
phantom, and the phantom is become a dream, 
and the dream is become a whiteness and still- 
ness deep -sinking into fathomless blue, can 
forget that the impassive beauty of the 
wilderness is more searching and compelling 

169 



Summer than the continual miracle of wind-swept Alp 

Clouds. an d cloud-shadowed highland ; that it has, in 

its majesty of silence and repose, that which 

is perpetual on the brows of Andes and does 

not pass from Himalaya ? 

Perhaps in sheer beauty of pictorial isolation 
clouds are most lovely when viewed above sea 
horizons, from shores of islands, or promon- 
tories, or remote headlands. In the South 
this beauty is possibly more dream - like, 
more poignantly lovely, than in the North. 
Certainly, I have nowhere known cloud 
beauty excelling that in the Mediterranean 
and Ionian seas, viewed from the Spanish 
coast, from the Balearic Isles, over against 
the mountain-bastions of Sardinia and Corsica, 
from the headlands of Sicily, where Ithaka 
and Zante are as great galleys in a magic 
ocean, where for weeks at midsummer the 
wine-dark waters are untroubled between the 
cliffs of Hellas and the sands of Alexandria. 
Perhaps. It is difficult to say of any region 
that there beauty is more wonderfully revealed 
than elsewhere. It comes, and is present, and 
is upgathered ; as the wind, that has no home, 
that the shaken reed knows, that crumbles the 
crests of ancient hills ; as the rainbow, which is 
the same aerial flame upon Helicon, upon Ida, 
on the green glen of Aghadoe, on the steeps 

170 



of Hecla in the Hebrides, that gives majesty Summer 
and wonder to the village green, and delivers Clouds, 
mystery on the horizons of the frequented 
common. It is like light, whose incalculable 
arrivals are myriad, but which when most 
steadfast is most dreamlike, a phantom : as 
moonlight on the mysterious upturned face 
of great woods ; or as when, on illimitable 
moors, the dew glistens on the tangled bent 
and pale flood of orchis where the lapwings 
nest ; or in golden fire, as when at the solstice 
the sorrel in the meadows and the tansy in 
the wastes and the multitude of the dandelion 
are transmuted into a mirage of red and yellow 
flame ; or in rippling flood of azure and silver, 
when the daysprings loosen ; or in scarlet and 
purple and chrysoprase, when the South is as 
a clouded opal and the West is the silent con- 
flagration of the world. There is not a hidden 
glen among the lost hills, there is not an 
unvisited shore, there is not a city swathed 
in smoke and drowned in many clamours, 
where light is not a continual miracle, where 
from dayset to dawn, from the rising of the 
blue to the gathering of shadow, the wind is 
not habitual as are the reinless, fierce, unswerv- 
ing tides of the sea. Beauty, and Light, and 
Wind : they who are so common in our com- 
panionship and so continual in mystery, are 

171 



Summer as one in this — that none knows whence the 
Clouds. one or the other is come, or where any has 
the last excellence or differs save in the vibra- 
tion of ecstasy, or whither the one or the 
other is gone, when the moment, on whose 
wings it came or on whose brows it stood 
revealed, is no longer Eternity speaking the 
language of Time, but the silence of what is 
already timeless and no more. 

It has been said, less wisely than disdainfully, 
that the chief element of beauty is destroyed 
when one knows the secret of semblance. 
Clouds, then, are forfeit in loveliness when 
one knows the causes of their transformation, 
their superb illusion ? Not so. Has the rose 
lost in beauty, has she relinquished fragrance, 
for all that we have learned of her blind roots, 
the red ichor in her petals, the green pigment 
in her stem, her hunger that must be fed in 
coarse earth, her thirst that must be quenched 
in rain and dew, her desire that must mate 
with light ? Is the rainbow the less a lovely 
mystery because we know that it is compact 
of the round, colourless raindrops such as fall 
upon us in any shower? Is the blue of an 
unclouded sky the less poignant for us if we 
know that the sunlight which inhabits it is 
there, not the yellow or red or suffused white 
which we discern, but itself an ineffable azure ; 

172 



that, there, the sun itself is not golden or Summer 
amber or bronze, but violet-blue ? Clouds. 

I remember it was complained once of 
something I wrote ... in effect, that cloud 
was the visible breathing, the suspended breath 
of earth . . . that the simile was as inept as 
it was untrue. None who knows how cloud 
is formed will dispute the truth in similitude : 
as to disillusion, can that be 'unpoetic' which 
is so strange and beautiful a thing ? The 
breath of a little child born in the chill of 
dawn, the breath of old age fading into the 
soon untroubled surface of the mirror held 
against silent lips, the breath of the shepherd 
on the hills, of the seamen on dark nights 
under frost-blue stars, the breath of cows on 
the morning pastures, of the stag panting by 
the tarn, the breath of woods, of waters, of 
straths, of the plains, of the brows of hills, the 
breath of the grass, the breathing of the 
tremulous reed and the shaken leaf . . . are 
not these the continual vapour of life ; and 
what is cloud but the continual breath of our 
most deep and ancient friend, the brown earth, 
our cradle, our home, and our haven ? 

If any reader wish to feel the invisible 
making of the cloud that shall afterward rise 
on white wings or stream like a banner from 
mountain-bastions, let him stand on the slopes 

173 



Summer of a furrowed hill in this midsummer season. 

Clouds. He will then feel the steady, upflowing tide of 
the warm air from the low-lying glens and 
valleys, a constant tepid draught, the breath 
of the earth. It will not be long before the 
current which shook yonder rose-flusht briar, 
which swayed these harebells as foam is blown, 
which lifted yonder rowan-branch and softly 
trampled this bracken underfoot, is gathered 
by scaur and sudden corrie to the sheer scarps 
of the mountain-summit, to be impelled thence, 
as a geyser is thrown from an imperious fount, 
high into the cold and windy solitude. There 
it may suddenly be transmuted to an incalcul- 
able host of invisible ice-needles, and become 
cirrus ; to float like thistledown, or to be in- 
numerably scattered in wisps and estrays, or 
long ' grey-mares'-tails,' or dispersed like foam 
among vast, turbulent shallows. Or it may keep 
to the lee-side of the mountain-summit, and 
stretch far like a serrated sword, or undulat- 
ingly extend like a wind-narrowed banner, 
covering as a flag the climbing armies of pine 
and boulder and the inscrutable array of 
shadow. 

Cirrus . . . what a beauty there is in the 
familiar name : what beauty of association for 
all who love the pageant of cloud, and, loving, 
know somewhat of the science of the meteor- 

174 



ologist. It is not alone in this : memory and Summer 
imagination are alike stirred by the names of Clouds, 
the three other of the four main divisions of 
Cloud — the Cumulus, the Stratus, the Nimbus. 
From the grey and purple of earthward 
nimbus to the salmon-pink bastions of the 
towering cumuli, those unloosened mountains 
of the middle air, those shifting frontiers of 
the untravelled lands of heaven, and thence to 
the dazzling whiteness of the last frozen pin- 
nacles of cirrus, all loveliness of colour may be 
found. Neither brush of painter nor word of 
poet can emulate those apparitions of gold and 
scarlet, of purple and emerald, of opal and 
saffron and rose. There every shade of dove- 
brown and willow-grey, every subterfuge of 
shadow and shine, can be seen. 

The cloud-lover will know that these four 
great divisions are but terms of convenience. 
There are intervening children of beauty. 
Betwixt the earth-held, far-reaching nimbus 
and the climbing cumulus, whose forehead is 
so often bathed in the rarest fires of sunset, is 
the cumulo-nimbus. Between the cumulus 
and the stratus, whose habitual grey robe can 
be so swiftly made radiant in yellow and 
orange and burning reds, is the strato-cumulus : 
a sombre clan in the upper wilderness, heavy 
with brooding rains, moving in dark folds, less 

175 



Summer persuaded of the great winds which may drive 
Clouds, the as silent seeming stratus, some ten thousand 
feet higher it may be, at the lightning speed 
of the eagle. Between the stratus and cirrus 
there are the cirro-cumulus and the cirro- 
stratus. The former is in one form as 
commonly welcome as beautiful, the familiar 
* mackerel-sky,' harbinger of fair weather — in 
another, it is the soft dappled sky that moon- 
light will turn into the most poignant loveli- 
ness, a wilderness of fleecy hillocks and 
delicate traceries. The latter is that drift-ice 
or broken-up snow-field enmassing which is so 
familiar. Both march from horizon to horizon 
in ordered majesty, though when they seem 
like idle vapours motionlessly suspended along 
the blue walls of heaven they are rustling their 
sheaves of frost-fire armour, are soaring to 
more than twenty thousand feet above the 
earth, and are surging onward with impetuous 
rush at the rate of from seventy to eighty 
miles an hour. 

I have called them the children of beauty. 
But these children of cloud are many. In 
each division, in each subdivision, there is 
again complex division. In a Gaelic story or 
poem -saga they are called 'the Homeless 
Clan.' It is a beautiful name. But they are 
not homeless whom the great winds of the 

176 



upper world eternally shepherd, who have Summer 
their mortal hour in beauty and strength and Clouds, 
force, and, instead of the havens and graves 
and secret places of the creatures of earth, 
know a divine perpetual renewal. 



177 N 



THE CUCKOOS SILENCE 

There is silence now in the woods. That 
spirit of the south wind, that phantom voice 
of the green tides of May, has passed : that 
which was a wandering dream is become a 
haunting memory. Whence is the cuckoo 
come, whither does the cuckoo go ? When 
our leaves grow russet and the fern clothes 
herself in bronze and pale gold, what land 
hears that thrilling call in ancient groves, or 
above old unvisited forests, or where arid 
declivities plunge into the gathering sands of 
the desert ? Whither is gone Sinlinda, the 
summer bird, as the Esthonians call her : she 
who has been a voice in the far Orkneys (a 
daughter, it may be, of that cuckoo -queen 
who bore Modred to King Arthur, Modred 
the Pict who afterward wrought so great evil 
upon Arthur and his knights), or cried the 
sighing of vain love above the hills of the 
Gael, or in Sweden swung on the north wind 

i 7 8 



as the sorg-gok, uttering 'sorrow,' or floated The 

out of the east as the tr'6$te-g'6k, calling ' con- Cuckoo's 

Silencp 
solation ' ? When Finland loses her, and the 

Baltic peasant no more counts with dread the 

broken cries, and she has passed from the Irish 

valleys, so that men and women are safe for 

another year from the wildness of wild love, 

whither is she gone ? Like a dream her voice 

fades from Broceliande, is heard no more by 

Fontarabia, has no echo in the wood of Vallom- 

brosa. In the last reaches of the Danube she 

no longer mocks love ; above the Siberian 

steppe the exile no more hears her ironic Go ! 

Go ! : from the dim Campagna she is lifted 

into silence, sospir d amove : she is not heard 

across the waters of Corinth from that fallen 

temple where Zeus took her form upon him, 

nor is the shadow of her wings in that wild 

mountain-valley of Mykenai, where Agamemnon 

and Clytaimnestra sleep, where once the marble 

statue of divine Hera stood bearing on a 

sceptre her perilous image. Where, then, is 

she gone, she who from the dim Asian valleys 

to the Aztec wilderness, from one world to 

another, is the mysterious voice of wandering 

love ; she who is, in one place, to be hailed 

with hymns of gladness, in another to be 

hearkened to with bowed head or averted eyes ? 

For thus it is, even to-day, among the ancient 

179 



The remnant in Mexico and the Californian wilds, 

Cuckoo's wno hear with terror that foreboding flute-like 
1 ence. vo j ce ca nj n g Q ut of the unseen world : thus it 
was in the Himalayan solitudes of old when 
the Sanskrit villagers hailed the cuckoo as a 
divine messenger, Kakila, the bird who knows 
all things, not only what has happened, but 
what shall happen. 

She has troubled many minds, this wanderer. 
It could not be otherwise. What mysterious 
music, this, when through the grey lands 
of the north the south wind went laughing 
on a vast illimitable surge of green and foam 
of blossom ? One morning, when the missel- 
thrush was silent and even the skylarks sank 
through the hazy stillness, a far cry would be 
heard, a sound from the unknown, a bell out 
of heaven. It would float bodiless through 
the blue air, or call softly like an imprisoned 
echo in the coverts of grey cloud. Then 
those who heard would know that Summer 
had ceased from wearing her robe of white 
and green and yellow, and with sun-browned 
hands was gathering roses for her May garland, 
her June coronal. The bird of love is come. 
The sighing heart, the beating pulse, know it. 
She is come, voice out of the sea, voice across 
waters, Aphrodite of sound. Long, long ago 
this voice, this dim -remembered myth, was 

180 



transmuted into Orpheus in the south, into The 
Lemminkainen by the singers of the Kalevala, Cuckoo's 
into Sigurd across the Scandinavian fjords, ence * 
into Kukkolind along the Esthonian wastes 
into Cuchulaind among the Irish hills, into 
Coohoolin beside the foam of the Hebrides. 
My old nurse had a Gaelic song I have for- 
gotten, all save its refrain, which was 

" Gu-Gu, Gii-Gu, 
A cuisilin a-gkraidh, 
Cuisilin mo-chridhe ! " 

" Cuckoo ! Cuckoo ! 
pulse of love, 
Pulse of my heart ! " 

In the first movement of the oran the singer 
called to the cuckoo to come, * Blue-bird of 
love.' Why 'blue-bird' I am unaware, though 
among the Finns and Esths 'blue-bird' is a 
poetic analogue for the cuckoo. In the second 
lift of the oran, the singer cried, ' It is come, 
it is come, bird of love, bird of joy.' In the 
third fall the singer crooned, ' It is gone, bird 
of sorrow, bird of foam, bird of the grey wind/ 
And after each the swift and passionate or 
long, melancholy, and sorrowful refrain 

«Gu-Gii! Gii-Gii! 
cushleen a-ghray 
Cushleen mo-chree ! " 

181 



The ' The returning one ' the cuckoo is called in an 

Cuckoo's old saga. It is the ancient mystery, Love, the 
Silence. gon of Earth : the wildwood brother of him, 
that other Love, who puts aside the green 
branches of home to long for the shining stars, 
who sighs unappeased by white breasts and 
dreams of one beautiful and far-off, made of 
the wandering rainbow, of the dew, of the 
fragrance of flowers. The one comes with the 
green wind and goes with the grey wind : the 
other puts on blindness as divine vision, and 
deafness as a sacred veil, and wooes Psyche. 

All old primitive tales know the advent of 
this mysterious bird. Was not, as I have said, 
the divine Hera herself wooed thus by Zeus ? 
In that ancient Heraion, in the heart of the 
Peloponnesos which Pausanias saw, he tells us 
of a statue of the goddess whose sceptre bore 
the image of this spring-born voice of eternal 
love and eternal illusion. The people loved it 
not, for in their eyes the story covered an evil 
thing : but the priests bowed before an ancient 
mystery, and the poets smiled, and the 
musicians paused and wondered and struck a 
new vibrant note. In every country there are 
oldtime tales of the cuckoo with the attributes 
of a god, or demigod, or at least of magic and 
illusion. When, in the great Northern saga, 
Ilmarinen, the son of Wonder smith and the 

182 



Air, goes north to woo the snow-bound princess The 

. . . what but another lovely metaphor of Cuckoo's 

Spring calling to the North to cover herself w 

with the snow-blossom of betrothal and the 

roses and honeysuckles of procreant love . . . 

he orders thus the outbringing of his sleigh : 

" Take the fleetest of my racers, 
Put the grey steed in the harness, 
Hitch him to my sledge of magic : 
Place six cuckoos on the break-board, 
Seven blue-birds on the crossbow, 
Thus to charm the northland maidens, 
Thus to make them look and listen 
As the cuckoos call and echo." 

The wind, that grey steed, fleetest of racers, 
the calling of cuckoos, the northland maidens 
charmed to silence among awakening fields or 
amid the first green stirring of grass-blades 
and pointed leaf: is not llmarinen, son of 
Wondersmith and the Air, the veritable 
cuckoo-god ? 

If ever the cuckoo-myth find its historian 
one will learn how widespread and basic it is. 
We follow it from Orpheus himself to the 
myth of Saturn and Rhea, to that of Faunus 
and Fauna, to Siegfried in the north, to 
Cuchulain in the west — for the famous hero 
of the Gaels is, for all the bardic legends as 
to Setanta being Cu-chulain, the hound of 

183 



The Culain, as unmistakably a cuckoo-god as his 

Cuckoo's Finnish or Esthonian namesake, Kukkolind. 
The base of all is the divine inspiration, the 
mysterious wandering Breath, the incalculable 
Word, 'the heroic cuckoo,' who awakens the 
green world, the world of blossom and leaf and 
the songs of birds and the sap in the trees and 
the mounting warmth in the blood, who, as 
the chroniclers say, * rouses the enchanted 
maid of spring from her long sleep.' Of all 
these, whether it be Faunus, or Kullervo, or 
Kalevipoeg, or the Son of Mananan, or Cuchu- 
lain, the same thing may be said : they are 
bringers of Spring, champions of the sun, 
rhapsodes of the immemorial ecstasy, bacchids 
of the ancient intoxication. 

One of the loveliest of these mythopceic 
dreams I heard first, at the break of June, years 
ago, at Strachur of Loch Fyne, in a season 
of cloudless blue by day and mellow amber 
by night, and when in the long-delaying dusk 
the voices of many cuckoos floated across the 
narrow loch from the shadowy woods of 
Claondiri. It was of Manan, the son of that 
ancient Manan the Gaelic Poseidon ; and how 
he went to the north to woo his beautiful 
sister, and strew her way with the petals of 
wild-rose, and fill her ears with the songs of 
birds, and the sighing of waters, and the 

184 



longing of the wind of the west. But that I The 
have told, and am more fully telling, elsewhere. Cuckoo's 
Two summers ago, on the Sound of Morven, 
I was told a fragmentary legend of Conlay 
(Connleach), the son of Cuchulain, when a 
youth in Skye, and how he went to Ireland 
and, all unwitting, fought to the death with 
his father — as in the Greek tale of Oidipous, as 
in the Persian tale of Sohrab : and, unknowing 
relevancy or keeping to the ancestral word, 
the teller emphasised this old myth-tale of the 
cuckoo that knows not and is not known by 
its own offspring, by adding, * Aye, it was a 
meeting of cuckoos, that : father and son, the 
one not knowing the other any more than a 
cuckoo on the wind knows father or mother, 
brother or sister.' 

Of all the cuckoo-tales there is none lovelier 
than that told of our Gaelic hero in 'The 
Wooing of Blathmaid.' This sleeping queen 
or lost princess, whose name signifies 
'Blossom,' lives on a remote island. With the 
Gaelic teller this island will be the Isle of Man, 
home of Mananan, that ancient god whose cold 
hands grope blindly along the shores of the 
world : with the Swede or Finn or Esth it will 
be that other city set among cold forgotten 
waters, that other Mana. Cuchulain loves 
Blathmaid, and their wooing is so sweet that 

185 



The fragrance comes into flowers, and birds break 

Cuckoo's j n t song. The voice of Cuchulain is the music 
Silence 

of the world. Blathmaid hears it, awakes, 

moves to it in wondering joy. But a rival 
lord, Curoi the king, carries Blathmaid away. 
Cuchulain is left bound, and shorn of his long 
yellow hair. But he regains his strength and 
freedom, and follows Blathmaid. Her sign to 
him from the dun where she is kept a prisoner 
is milk poured into the water that makes a gulf 
between the fortress and the leaning banks. In 
the end, Curoi is slain or driven away ; Blath- 
maid hears the call of Cuchulain, and wanders 
into the beautiful green world with her lover. 
Here, every touch is symbolical. Cuchulain is 
the breath of returning life, Spring, symbolised 
in the Cuckoo, that * child of air ' as the old 
northland poet calls his dream. Blathmaid is 
the awakening world : Blossom. Curoi is the 
wind of autumn, the fierce and silent magician 
Winter. The milk is but the emblem of 
melting streams, of the fluent sap. 

But now, as I write, already midsummer is 
gone. The cuckoo is silent. The country-folk 
still think it is become a hawk. The old 
Cymric Gwalchmei (the cuckoo-son of Arthur 
and twin brother of Modred) is, Professor Rhys 
tells us, but an analogue of the Hawk of May. 
So, once more, we see the incalculable survival 

186 



of tradition. Some say that the wandering The 
clan has dispersed on the four winds. The Cuckoo's 
sweet mysterious voice will be heard no more 1 ence ' 
in the world till the wind of the south crosses 
the sea next far-off Spring, and the sound of 
the wings of swallows is come again. But 
* the bird of the sevens ' is not yet gone. 
Seven weeks from the coming of the Voice 
to the hunger of the fledgeling ; seventeen 
weeks, and the fledgeling has left foster-parents 
and gone out upon the wind ; seven and twenty 
weeks, and the bird fades away from the wood- 
lands like mist. 

It is gone : Midsummer, the songs of birds, 
the 'wandering Voice.' Already, with that 
old insatiate passion of the soul, we long for 
Blathmaid, so soon taken from us : long for 
that divine call to youth and love : long for 
Spring that shall come again, though it shall 
be but a sweet wandering voice, the call of the 
unknown, the promise of the unfulfilled. For 
we thirst for that invisible mystery whose voice 
floats above the veils of the world, and we 
would drink again of the old wonder and the 
old illusion. 



187 



THE COMING OF DUSK 

At all seasons the coming of dusk has its spell 
upon the imagination. Even in cities it puts 
something of silence into the turmoil, some- 
thing of mystery into the commonplace aspect 
of the familiar and the day- worn. The shadow 
of the great change that accompanies the 
passage of day is as furtive and mysterious, as 
swift and inevitable, amid the traffic of streets 
as in aisles of the forest, or in glens and on 
hills, on shores, or on the sea. It is every- 
where the hour of suspense. Day has not 
receded into the confused past, already a 
shadow in eternity, and night has not yet come 
out of the unknown. Instinctively one feels 
as though crossing an invisible bridge over a 
gulf, perchance with troubled glances at the 
already dimming shore behind, or with dream- 
ing eyes or watchful or expectant gaze on the 
veiled shore upon which we are almost come. 
In winter one can see dusk advancing like a 

188 



mountain-shadow. In lonely places there is The 
something ominous, menacing in the swift C f °j? in ? 
approach of the early winter -dusk, further 
gloomed perhaps by the oncome of snow or 
rain or of a soughing wind moving out of low 
congregated cloud. In thronged streets it is 
not less swift, not less sombre, but the falling 
veils have hardly been secretly unloosened 
before they are punctuated by the white or 
yellow flare of the street-lamps. Hardly is 
breathing-space, there, between the stepping 
out of day and the stepping into night. The 
fear of darkness, which possesses towns like 
a great dread, has broken the spell with ten 
thousand lights : as the mind of man, which 
likewise dreads the naked darkness of thought 
and the white, remote, passionless stars of the 
spirit, hastens to hide its shadowy dusks and 
brooding nights with a myriad frail paper 
lanterns that a flying hand of rain will ex- 
tinguish or a breath of wind carry in a moment 
to the outer darkness. 

But whatever hold upon the imagination 
the winter dusk may have, however subtle a 
spell there may be in the gloamings of autumn, 
surely the coming of dusk has at no other time 
the enchantment of the long midsummer eves. 
It is then that one feels to the utmost the 
magic influences of the dimsea or dimsee, to use 

:i89 



of Dusk. 



The the beautiful old English west-country word. 

9?!™ n ?> The further north one is the longer the sus- 
pense, the more magical the slow gradual 
recession of the day-glow from vast luminous 
skies, the slow swimming into the earthward 
gloaming of incalculable shadow. What a 
difference between the lands of the south and 
the light-lingering countries of the north ! The 
sudden night comes to the shores of Mediter- 
ranean while the rose of the west yet flames 
against the Cornish headlands, and the Sicilian 
wave is dark while the long green billow wash- 
ing over Lyonesse is still a wandering fire under 
cloudy banks of amethyst. And, in turn, 
shadow has come out of the sea upon Wales 
and fallen upon the upland watercourses from 
the norland fells, while in the Gaelic isles 
purple and gold cloths are still piled deep upon 
the fiery threshold of the sunset : and when 
the last isles themselves are like velvet-dark 
barques afloat in a universe of opal and pale 
yellow and faint crimson, a radiant sun still 
blooms like a flower of fire among the white 
pinnacles of wandering berg and the everlasting 
walls of ice. 

In June the coming of dusk is the audible 
movement of summer. The day is so full of 
myriad beauty, so full of sound and fragrance, 
that it is not till the hour of the dew that one 

190 



may hear the breathing of the miraculous The 
presence. The birds, who still sing early in Coming 
the month, and many even of those whose ° us ' 
songs follow the feet of May begin a new love- 
life at the coming of June, are silent : though 
sometimes, in the south, the nightingale will 
still suddenly put the pulse of song into the 
gloaming, though brieflier now ; and elsewhere 
the night-loving thrush will awake, and call 
his long liquid notes above the wild-growth of 
honeysuckle and brier. At the rising of the 
moon I have heard the cuckoos calling well 
after the date when they are supposed to be 
silent, and near midnight have known the 
blackcap fill a woodland hollow in Argyll with 
a music as solitary, as intoxicating, as that of 
a nightingale in a Surrey dell. The thrush, 
the blackbird, the blackcap, the willow-warbler 
and other birds may often be heard singing in 
the dusk, or on moonlit nights, in a warm 
May : and doubtless it is for this reason 
that many people declare they have heard the 
nightingale even in regions where that bird 
never penetrates. Often, too, the nightingale's 
song is attributed to the blackcap, and even 
to the thrush or merle, simply because heard 
by day, for there seems to be a common idea 
that this bird will not sing save at dusk or in 
darkness or in the morning twilight. I doubt 

191 



The if the nightingale ever sings in actual darkness, 

fD 1 ^ anc * tnou gh tne bird is most eager just before 
"" and at dawn, at moonlit or starlit dusk, or at 
full moon, it may be heard at any hour of the 
day. I have heard the song and watched the 
singer at full noon, and that not in deep woods 
but in a copse by the wayside. Strange that 
both name and legend survive in lands where 
the nightingale is now unseen. There is no 
question but that it was once plentiful, or at 
any rate often seen, in the Western Highlands ; 
though now, it is said, not a bird of its tribe 
has crossed the Solway since the Union ! It 
is still spoken of in Argyll and elsewhere, and 
not confusedly with any other woodlander. 
In no country has it a lovelier name than the 
Gaelic Ros-an-Ceol, the Rose of Music. I 
have heard it spoken of as the smiol or smiolach, 
the eosag, and the spideag, though this latter 
name, perhaps the commonest, is misleading, 
as it is applied to one or two other songsters. 
In Iona, Colonsay, Tiree, and other isles, I 
have heard the robin alluded to as the spideag. 
I remember the drift, but cannot recall the 
text of a Gaelic poem where the nightingale 
(for neither in literary nor legendary language 
is any other bird indicated by * Ros-an-Ceol ') 
is called the Sister of Sorrow, with an allusion 
to a singular legend, which in some variant or 

192 



another I believe is also found in the Austrian The 
highlands, parts of Germany, and elsewhere, Coming 
to the effect that if a nightingale come ' with ° us ' 
Song upon it' into the room of a sleeping- 
person, that person will go mad, or that if the 
eyes of a nightingale found dead or slain be 
dissolved in any liquid, the drinker will become 
blind. I have heard, too, a tale (though the 
bird was there alluded to as the smeorach- 
oidhche or ' night-thrush ') where the nightin- 
gale, the owl, and the bat are called moon- 
children, the Moon -Clan; three birds, it is 
said, with three animals of the land and three 
of the water, three fish, three insects, three 
trees, three plants, three flowers, and three 
stones were thrown to the earth as a farewell 
gift the day the Moon died. Among the 
three birds the teller included the bat, and I 
daresay there are many who still regard the 
bat as a bird. The three animals of land and 
water were the weasel, the badger, and the 
fox, the seal, the otter, and the kelpie (sic). 
The three fish were the fluke, the eel, and the 
moon -glistered herring. The three insects 
were the white moth, the grey gnat, and the 
cockchafer. The three trees were the ash, the 
thorn, and the elder. The three plants were 
the ivy, the moon-fern or bracken, and the 
mistletoe. The three flowers were the meadow- 

193 o 



of Dusk. 



The sweet, the white water-lily, and the ' lusavone ' 
Coming (? Liis-3fhonaidh . . .? Bog-cotton). The 
three stones were, I think, granite, basalt, and 
trap, though I am uncertain about the second 
and still more so about the third, which was 
called clach-liath, ' the grey stone.' 

But though in the north the nightingale is 
no longer a haunter of the dusk, the other 
clans of the night are to be met with every- 
where, 'from the Rhinns of Islay to the Ord 
of Sutherland' as the Highland saying goes 
in place of the wider 'from Land's End to 
John o' Groats.' First and foremost is the 
owl. But of the owl and the nightjar and 
the midsummer night I wish to speak in a 
succeeding paper. The corncrake will next 
occur to mind. 

The cry of the landrail is so like its popular 
name that one cannot mistake it. Some 
naturalists say the resemblance to the croak- 
ing of the frog may mislead the unwary, 
but there is an altogether different musical 
beat or emphasis in the call of the rail, a 
different quality of sound, a different energy ; 
and it is difficult to understand how any ear 
familiar with nocturnal sounds could err in 
detecting the monotonously uniform krex-kreoc 
of the bull -frog from the large, air-swimming, 
harshly musical crek-crake, with the singular 

194 



suspense so often to be noted after the first The 
syllable. For all its harshness there are few Coming 
sounds of the summer-dusk so welcome. It ° us ' 
speaks of heat : of long shadow-weaving after- 
noons : of labour ceased, of love begun, of 
dreams within dreams. The very memory of 
it fills the mind as with silent garths of hay, 
with pastures ruddy with sorrel, lit by the 
last flusht glow or by the yellow gold of the 
moon, paling as it rises. The white moth is 
out ; the dew is on the grass, the orchis, the 
ghostly clover ; the flittermouse is here, is 
yonder, is here again ; a late mallard flies like 
a whirring bolt overhead, or a homing cushat 
cleaves the air-waves as with rapid oars. As 
a phantom, a white owl drifts past and greys 
into the dusk, like flying foam into gathering 
mist. In the dew-moist air an innumerable 
rumour becomes a monotone : the breath of 
life, suppressed, husht, or palpitant. A wilder- 
ness of wild-roses has been crushed, and their 
fragrance diffused among the dove-grey and 
harebell-blue and pansy-purple veils of twi- 
light : or is it a wilderness of honeysuckle ; or 
of meadowsweet ; or of the dew-wet hay ; or 
lime-blossom and brier, galingale and the tufted 
reed and the multitude of the fern ? It is 
fragrance, ineffable, indescribable : odour born 
under the pale fire of the moon, under the 

195 



of Dusk. 



The lance -thrusting whiteness of the Evening 

Coming star. 

But before rain the persistent cry of the 
corncrake becomes loud, raucous, with a 
rasping intensity. The bird is commonly said 
to be a ventriloquist, but this I greatly doubt. 
I have watched the rail in many places, often 
within a few yards, more than once from the 
flat summit of a huge boulder set in the heart 
of a hillmeadow of grass and sorrel. Not once 
have I heard * the King of the quails ' un- 
mistakably throw his voice a few score of 
yards away. Often a crek-crake has resounded, 
and at some distance away, just as I have 
seen the stooping body of the dreaun (or tracm 
or treun-ri-treiin) slide through the grassy 
tangle almost at my feet : but the cry was not 
identical with that which a moment before 
I had heard, and surely it was not only dis- 
tance but the difference of sex and the pulse 
of love which softened it to a musical call. 
Once, however, watching unseen from the 
boulder I have spoken of, I saw and heard a 
landrail utter its crake in three ways, first and 
for over a minute with its head to one side 
while it moved jerkingly this way and that, 
then for a few seconds (perhaps four or five 
times) with its head apparently thrown back, 
and then after a minute or two's silence and 

196 



after a brief rapid run forward with out-thrust The 

Com 
of Dusk. 



neck and lowered head, as though calling along ^PJ™ 11 ? 



the ground. In no instance was the call 
thrown as though from a distance, but un- 
mistakably from where the bird moved or 
crouched. There had been no response to 
the first, a single echo-like crek-crdke followed 
the second, but to the third there came 
almost simultaneously calls from at least three 
separate regions. 

Nor is the rail so invariably shy, so heedful 
of cover, as commonly averred. With silence 
and patience it may often be discerned before 
the seeding grass is too dense or the corn high. 
In a lonely place on the east shore of West 
Loch Tarbert in Cantire I have seen several 
corncrakes leave cover as fearlessly as those 
two other ' sacred ' or ' blessed ' birds, the 
lark and the red grouse, will leave the shelter 
of heather-clutch or grassy tussock : and one 
morning I was awaked at dawn by so near 
and insistent an iterance of the singular call 
that I rose and looked out, to discover three 
corncrakes awkwardly perched on a low rabbit- 
fence, while I counted four others running to 
and fro in the rough dew-glistered grass just 
beyond. Here, by the way, a crofter spoke 
of the landrail as the cearrsach, a name I have 
not elsewhere heard and am not sure of the 

197 



of Dusk. 



The meaning, unless it is 'the lumpy' or 'awk- 

Cpming ward one ' ; while an English factor knew it 
as the grass-drake or meadow-drake, and again 
as the night-crow — the latter obviously a sur- 
vival from the Anglo-Saxon ' myghte-crake ' 
or a name re-given from like association of 
ideas. The same shrewd farmer quite believed 
that a corncrake is governor and leader of each 
flock of quails, at any rate in the season of 
migration — an idea held by the Greeks of old 
and retained by the Greek and Sicilian quail- 
shooters of to-day, and obviously wide-spread, 
as the Germans call the landrail the quail-king 
( Wachtelkonig), the French ' le vol des cailles,' 
the Italians ' il re di quaglie,' and the Spaniards 
* el rey de las cordonices.' However, if he had 
been a Gael he could have spoken of the quail 
only by hearsay most likely, for it is very rare 
in the Highlands, and for myself I have never 
seen one there. Its name (garra-gart or 
gartan) is not unique ; and the common term 
muir-eun is solely biblical, 'sea-bird' or 'bird- 
from- oversea,' because of the allusion in 
Numbers xii. 31. 

But the dew is heavy on the grass : the 
corncrake calls : on a cloudy juniper the night- 
jar churrs : the fhionna or white moth wavers 
above the tall spires of the foxglove. The 
midsummer eve is now a grey -violet dusk. 

198 



At the rising of the moon a sigh comes from The 
the earth. Down the moist velvety ledges of Coming 
the dark a few far -apart and low- set stars 
pulsate as though about to fall, but continu- 
ously regather their tremulous white rays. 
The night of summer is come. 



199 



AT THE RISING OF THE MOON 

' The dew is heavy on the grass : the corncrake 
calls : on a cloudy juniper the nightjar churrs : 
the fhionna or white moth wavers above the tall 
spires of the foxglove. The midsummer eve is 
now a grey-violet dusk. At the rising of the 
moon a sigh comes from the earth. Down 
the moist velvety ledges of the dark a few far- 
apart and low-set stars pulsate as though about 
to fall, but continuously regather their tremu- 
lous white rays. The night of summer is 
come.' 

With these words I ended my preceding 
article, 'The Coming of Dusk.' There was 
not space there to speak of other, of so many 
of those nocturnal things which add so much 
to the mystery and spell of the short nights of 
summer : the arrowy throw of the bat, a 
shadowy javelin flung by a shadowy hand 
against a shadowy foe ; the nightjar, the dusky 
clans of the owl, moonrise at sea or among 

200 



pinewoods, the dance of the moths round At the 
certain trees, the faint woven cadence of the Risin S of 
wheeling gnat-columns, the sudden scream of e 00n " 
the heron or the wailing of seafowl, or the 
mournful noise of the moon-restless lapwing, 
wind in the grass, wind in the hollows of 
woods, wind among the high corries of the 
hills. These and a hundred other sounds and 
sights fill the summer-darkness : the hill-fox 
barking at the moonshine, the heather-cock in 
defiance of alarm, deer panting among the 
bracken, the splash of herring or mackerel on 
the moonlit breast of the bay, dogs baying a 
long way off and from farmstead to farmstead. 
One could not speak of all these things, or of 
the hundred more. In the meadows, in woods, 
on upland pastures, from beech-thicket to pine- 
forest, on the moors, on the hills, in the long 
valleys and the narrow glens, among the dunes 
and sea-banks and along wave-loud or wave- 
whispering shores, everywhere the midsummer- 
night is filled with sound, with fragrance, with 
a myriad motion. It is an exquisite unrest : a 
prolonged suspense, to the day worn as silence 
is, yet is not silence, though the illusion is 
wrought out of the multitudinous silences 
which incalculably intersperse the continuous 
chant of death, the ceaseless hymn of life. 
Everywhere, but far north in particular, the 
201 



At the summer night has a loveliness to which the 

Rising of j eas ^ sensitive must in some degree vielcL 
the Moon. . „ ,. , , , 

creates a spell which must trouble even a 

dulled imagination, as moonlight and the 
faintest rippling breath will trouble un- 
quickened pools into a sudden beauty. It 
is a matter of temperament, of mood and 
circumstance rather, where one would find 
oneself, at the rising of the moon, in the 
prolonged twilights of summer. To be in a 
pinewood shelving to a calm sea breaking in 
continuous foam : or among mountain soli- 
tudes, where all is a velvety twilight deepening 
to a green darkness, till the sudden moon rests 
athwart one hill-shoulder like a bronze shield, 
and then slowly is lifted and dissolves into an 
amber glow along all the heights : or on great 
moors, where one can see for leagues upon 
leagues, and hear nothing but the restless 
crying of the curlew, the screech of a heron, 
the abrupt unknown cries and fugitive sounds 
and momentary stealthy rustlings of nocturnal 
solitudes. Or, again, on a white roadway 
passing through beech-woods : or on a gorse- 
set common, with the churring of a nightjar 
filling the dusk with the unknown surge and 
beat in one's own heart : or on the skirts of 
thatched hamlets, where a few lights linger, 
with perhaps the loud breathing and trampling 

202 



of cattle : or in a cottage-garden, with mignon- At the 
ette and cabbage-roses and ghostly phlox, or Rising of 
dew -fragrant with musk and southernwood : e oon ' 
or in an old manor-garden, with white array of 
lilies that seem to have drunk moonlight, and 
damask and tea-rose in odorous profusion, with 
the honey-loving moths circling from moss-rose 
to moss-rose, and the night-air delaying among 
tall thickets of sweet-pea. Or, it may be, on 
quiet sea-waters, along phantom cliffs, or under 
mossed and brackened rocky wastes : or on 
a river, under sweeping boughs of alder and 
willow, the great ash, the shadowy beech. 
But each can dream for himself. Memory and 
the imagination will create dream -pictures 
without end. 

Of all these midsummer -night creatures 
alluded to here or in the preceding article 
there may be none more allied to poetic 
association than the nightjar, but surely there 
is none more interesting than the owl itself, 
that true bird of the darkness. That phantom- 
flight, that silent passage as from the unseen 
to the unseen, that singular cry, whether a 
boding scream or a long melancholy hoot or a 
prolonged too-whoo, how blent they are with 
one's associations of the warm husht nights of 
summer. But is not the nightjar also of the 
same tribe? Fern-owl is a common name; 

203 



At the also jar-owl, heather- owl. I have heard it 

Rising- of called the heather-bleat, though probably that 
the Moon. , . -,. . .V • u 

name commonly indicates the snipe. How 

well I remember from childhood that puzzling 

riddle 

" The bat, the bee, the bidterfiee, the cuckoo and the gowk, 
The heather-bleat, the mire-snipe ; how many birds is that ?" 

I was never * taken-in ' by the first three, but 
as I had been told or had somehow discovered 
that the cuckoo was often companioned by the 
meadow-pipit I thought the latter must be the 
'gowk.' So I guessed 'four,' taking the 
heather-bleat to be the nightjar : and it was 
long before I discovered that the answer was 
two, for only the cuckoo and the snipe were 
really named. 

I wonder how many names the Owl has ! 
Those alone which, like the archetypal name, 
derive from the old root-word ul (to howl or 
hoot or screech), must run to some thirty to 
forty at least, from the Anglo-Saxon 'hule' 
and later 'ullet' to the familiar 'hoolet' or 
6 hoolit ' or ' howlet,' or, again, the still current 
south English < ullud,' < ullot,' or < ullyet' We 
have many Gaelic names also, as (for the 
snowy or barn owl) * cailleach-bhan,' the white 
auld wife, or ' cailleach-oidhche,' the night- 
witch ; or (for the tawny owl) « bodach-oidhche,' 

204 



the night-bogle ; or (for the screech-owl) the At the 
onomatopoeic ' corra-sgriachaig,' or several Rising of 
terms meaning ' long-eared ' or * homed ' ; and e Moon * 
three or four designations, either onomatopoeic, 
as perhaps * ulacan ' (though both in sound and 
meaning it is the same as the southland 
'hooligan'), or adaptations of the Teutonic 
root- word, as * Olcadan ' or ' ullaid.' The 
name ' yogle ' may be heard along the Lothian, 
Yorkshire, and East Anglian coast-lands, and 
is doubtless a 'lift' from the Danish ' Kat- 
yugle' or 'Katogle': indeed 'catyogle,' 'cat- 
ogle,' and ' catyool ' (with the quaint by-throw 
'cherubim') occur in several parts of England. 
In Clydesdale I have often heard the horned 
owl called the 'luggie' (long -ears). Some 
names with probably only local meaning I do 
not understand, as for example, the ' Wite ' 
(not the adjective, but possibly the old word 
for churchyard and even church) ; the 'padge' 
or ' pudge ' of Leicestershire ; the Jack-baker, 
billy-wix, and the eastland ' will-a-wix.' (Is 
this the cry of the young owl awaiting food ?) 
The 'jilly,' which I heard once at or near 
Windermere, is probably a corruption of the 
Gaelic 'gheaF (white), as many north-Celtic 
names survive in that region. Our commonest 
name in the Highlands is ' comhachag ' (co-ach- 
ak) probably as onomatopoeic a term as ' cuach ' 

205 



At the or 'cuthag' (coo-ak) for the cuckoo, or 'fitheach' 
Rising of (fee-ak) for the raven. It is said that the 
the Moon. , . *u r\ 1 ■ i 

longest poem on the Owl in any language is 

in Gaelic. The Or an na Comhachaig or Song 
of the Owl was composed by an aged Highland 
bard named Donald Finlay somewhere about 
three hundred years ago — about 1590 says one 
local account, though I do not know on what 
authority : a rinn Domhnull Mac Fhionnlaidh 
nan Dan, sealgair \cs bard ainmeil Abrach, 
mu thiomchioll 1590 (done by Donald Finlay 
of the Songs, the celebrated Lochaber hunts- 
man and poet, in or about 1590). I have again 
and again heard the second of its sixty-seven — 
in another version seventy — quatrains quoted 
in support of the theory that an owl lives at 
least a hundred years ; some are credited with 
far greater age : 

" 'S co-aoise mise don daraig, 
Bha na fhaillain ann sa ckoinnich, 
'S ioma linn a chuir mi romham, 
'S gar mi comhachag bhochd na sroine" 

(I am old as the oak . . . lit. 'the ancient- 
ness upon me is that of the oak ' . . . whose 
mossy roots spread wide : many a race have 
I seen come and go : and still I am the lonely 
owl of Srona.) 

In every country the owl is a bird of 
206 



mourning. It is also the bird of night pre- At the 
eminently (what a pity the old-English owl- Rising of 
light as a variant for twilight has become 
obsolete) ; the bird of moonlight or the Moon ; 
the bird of Silence, of Ruin, of the Grave, of 
Death. In some places a dead owl is still 
transfixed to the outside of a door, to avert 
lightning. Perhaps it is for the same reason 
that a caged owl is held to be a dangerous 
co-inmate of a house during a thunderstorm. 
A thousand legends have woven this sombre 
raiment of associations, though the owl's only 
distinction from other birds of prey is that it 
can see in the dark and is nocturnal in habit. 
It loves solitary places, because there undis- 
turbed, but is not all darkness solitary ? In 
Syria the peasant calls the owl 'the mother 
of ruins,' which is poetically apt, as is the 
German 'the sorrowing mother,' but our 
northern ' night- witch ' and the grim Breton 
* soul-harrier ' (surely a survival of the Greek 
idea of the owl as a soul-guide) are unjust to 
an inoffensive bird whose concern is not with 
souls and graves and ruins but with rats and 
mice. A German naturalist has even, I 
remember, written to prove that the owl is 
pre-eminently a bird of love, of single-hearted 
devotion, ' the dove of the night ' : and there 
is a Danish poem about ' the Silver-Spinner ' 

207 



At the weaving a thin invisible web in the dusk 
Rising of wherein to entangle and bring close the hearts 
the Moon. of ^^^ OM Donald Finlay f the Songs 

must have had some such idea in his mind 
when in his Song of the Owl he makes the 
bird say in effect, * I may be old and forlorn, 
but am not to be blamed for that : neither of 
rapine nor of lies have I ever been guilty : is 
there a grave anywhere that I have ever 
violated ? and to the mate of my choice have 
I ever been faithless ? ' 

This name of the Silver- Spinner, however, 
though often in Germany, Scandinavia, and 
our own country associated with the poetic 
legend alluded to, is really a romantic deriva- 
tive from the ancient connection of the small 
owl with the Maiden Maid goddess who pre- 
sided over spinning as one of her foremost 
womanly attributes. 'The Woman's Bird,' 
as the small owl is sometimes called, deserves 
the name, for in almost every language ancient 
and modern, except English and Finnish, its 
name is feminine. The sacred bird of Athens 
or the Lesbian Nyctimene is still 'the 
woman's bird' among the Australian abori- 
gines : Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Ice- 
landic, Vendish, German, French, Hungarian, 
all afford the same sex-indication. The great 
white owl, however, is the bird of heroes, 

208 



wanderers, the night -foray, Avar, lightning, At the 
desolation, solitude, and death. It is said, I Rising of 
know not how demonstrated or traced, that the Moon - 
the name Ulysses is but the variant of the 
Etruscan TJlixe or Sikulian Oulioces, words 
supposed to indicate the ululation of the owl's 
cry (in Italy I have heard the name of the 
sweet and plaintive little aziola or aziolo 
derived from the same source) : and that it 
was given to the Homeric hero because he 
was the first to adventure sea -voyaging on 
moonlit nights, because he too was a night- 
wanderer. But unless Ulixd or Oulixes be 
older than the Greek name, what of Odysseus ? 
In like fashion some speculative philologists 
derive 'Pallas' from the Turanian owl-name 
Polio. 

I heard a singular fragment of owl -folklore 
once on the island of Arran. The narrator 
said the white owl had seven distinct hoots, 
but all I need recall here is that the seventh 
was when the ' Reul Fheasgair ' ceased to be 
the Evening Star and became the ' Reul na 
Maidne,' the Day-Star. Was this a memory 
of some myth associating the owl with the 
otherworld (or darkness or moontide or Night) 
disclosed every eve at the opening of the Gates 
of Dusk ? . . . the time of sleep and dreams, 
of strange nocturnal life, of silence and mystery, 

209 p 



At the between the soft white fire of the Vesper Star, 

SeM g oon the Star ° f Labour as the Bretons call it, 
' meaning that with its advent the long day's 
labour ceases, and its cold serenity when it 
has climbed the ramparts of the mid-summer 
night, and, as Phosphoros, the Day-Star, Son 
of the Morning, flashes like a lance -point 
against the milky onflood of the dawn ? 



2IO 



THE GARDENS OF THE SEA 

(a midsummer noon's dream) 

I recall a singular legend, where heard, where 
read, I do not remember, nor even am I sure 
of what race the offspring, of what land the 
denizen. It was to the effect that, in the 
ancient days of the world, flowers had voices, 
had song to them as the saying is : and 
that there were kingdoms among these popula- 
tions of beauty, and that in the course of ages 
(would they be flower -geons, and so of a 
measure in time different from our longer 
or shorter periods ?) satraps revolted against 
the dominion of the Rose, and tropical princes 
led new hosts, and scarlet forest-queens filled 
the jungle and the savannah with their chants 
of victory. And the end was a conflict so 
great that even the isles of the sea were 
shaken by it, and the pale green moss of polar 
rocks whispered of the great world-war of the 

211 



The peoples of Flowry. At last, after the shadow- 
Gardens flitting passage of an aeon, the gods were 
Sea roused from their calm, and, looking down 

into the shaken mirror of the world, beheld all 
their dreams and visions and desires no longer 
children of loveliness and breaths of song. In 
these aeons while they had slept in peace the 
Empire of Flowry had come to a dissolution : 
race fought with race, tribe with tribe, clan 
with clan. Among all the nations there was 
a madness for supremacy, so that the weed in 
the grass and the flame-crowned spire of the 
aloe were at one in a fierce discontent and a 
blind lust of dominion. Thereupon the gods 
pondered among themselves. Kronos, who 
had been the last to wake and was already 
drowsy with old immemorial returning slumber, 
murmured : 6 A divine moment, O ye Brother- 
hood of Eternity, is a long time wherein to 
be disturbed by the mortal reflection of our 
dreams and the passions and emotions of our 
enchanted hearts/ 

And as all the calm-eyed Immortals agreed, 
Kronos sighed out the mandate of silence, and 
turning his face to Eternity was again among 
the august dreams of the Everlasting Ones. 

In that long moment — for there in the 
other world it was but a brief leaning on their 
elbows of the drowsy gods while the fans of 

212 



Immortal Sleep for a second stayed the vast The 
waves of Peace — the divine messengers, or Gardens 
were they the listening powers and dominions Sea** 
of the earth, fulfilled destiny. From every *" 
flower-nation, from every people by far waters, 
from every tribe in dim woods and the wilder- 
ness, from every clan habiting the most far 
hills beyond the ever - receding pale blue 
horizons, song was taken as stars are pluckt 
away from the Night by the grey fingers of the 
Dawn. The Rose breathed no more a flusht 
magic of sound ; the Lily no more exhaled 
a foamwhite cadence. Silence was come upon 
the wild chant of orchids in old, forgotten 
woods ; stillness upon the tinkling cymbals 
of the little hands of the dim, myriad, incalcul- 
able host of blossom ; a hush upon the songs 
of meadow-flowers ; a spell upon the singing 
of honeysuckles in the white dews at the 
rising of the moon. Everywhere, from all the 
green tribes, from all the glowing nations of 
Flowry, from each and every of the wandering 
folk of the Reed, the Moss, and the Lichen, 
from all the Clans of the Grass, the added 
loveliness of song was taken. Silence fell 
upon one and all : a strange and awful stillness 
came upon the woods and valleys. It was 
then that the God of Youth, wandering 
through the hushed world, took the last song 

213 



The of a single rose that in a secret place had not 
Gardens y e t heard the common doom, and with his 
Sea breath gave it a body, and a pulse to its heart, 

and fashioned for it a feather-covering made 
of down of the bog-cotton and the soft under- 
sides of alder-leaf and olive. Then, from a 
single blade of grass that still whispered in a 
twilight hollow, he made a like marvel, to be 
a mate to the first, and sent out both into the 
green world, to carry song to the woods and 
the valleys, the hills and the wildernesses, the 
furthest shores, the furthest isles. Thus was 
the nightingale created, the first bird, the 
herald of all the small clans of the bushes that 
have kept wild-song in the world, and are our 
delight. 

But in the hearts of certain of the green 
tribes a sullen anger endured. So the mys- 
terious Hand which had taken song and 
cadence away punished these sullen ones. 
From some, fragrance also was taken. There 
were orchid -queens of forest -loveliness from 
whom all fragrance suddenly passed like 
smoke : there were white delicate phantoms 
among the grasses, from whom sweet odour 
was lifted as summer dew : there were nomads 
of the hillways and gypsies of the plain to 
whom were given the rankness of the waste, 
the smell of things evil, of corruption, of the 

214 



grave. But to some, beautiful rebels of the The 
peoples of the Reed, the Grass, and the Fern, Gardens 
the doom went out that henceforth their place q f the 
should be in the waters . . . the running waters *" 
of streams and rivers, the quiet waters of pools 
and lakes, the troubled waters of the seas 
along the coasts of the world, the ocean 
depths. 

And that is how amid the salt bite of the 
homeless wave there grew the Gardens of the 
Sea. That is how it came about that the 
weed trailed in running waters, and the sea- 
moss swayed in brackish estuaries, and the 
wrack clung or swam in tangles of olive-brown 
and green and soft and dusky reds. 

What a long preamble to the story of how 
the Seaweeds were once sweet-smelling blooms 
of the shores and valleys ! Of how the flowers 
of meadow and woodland, of the sun-swept 
plain and the shadowy hill, had once song as 
well as sweet odours : how, of these, many lost 
not only fragrance but innocent beauty : and 
how out of a rose and a blade of grass and a 
breath of the wind the first birds were made, 
the souls of the green earth, winged, and 
voiced. 

To-day I sit amongst deep, shelving rocks 
by the shore, in a desolate place where basaltic 
cliffs shut away the familiar world, and where, 

215 



The in front, the otherworld of the sea reaches 
Gardens beyond sight to follow the lifted wave against 
g ea the grey skyline, or is it the grey lip of the 

fallen horizon ? Looking down I can perceive 
the olive-brown and green seaweed swaying in 
the slow movement of the tide. Like drifted 
hair, the long thin filaments of the Mermaid's 
Locks {Chorda Fihan) sinuously twist, inter- 
twine, involve, and unfold. It is as though a 
seawoman rose and fell, idly swam or idly 
swung this way and that, asleep on the tide : 
nothing visible of her wave-grey body but 
only her long fatal hair, that so many a 
swimmer has had cause to dread, from whose 
embrace so many a swimmer has never risen. 
In the rock-set pools the flesh-hued fans of 
the dulse indolently stir. Wave-undulated 
over them are fronds of a lovely green weed, 
delicate, transparent : above these, two phan- 
tom fish, rock- cod or saithe, float motionless. 

Idly watching, idly dreaming thus, I recall 
part of a forgotten poem about the woods of 
the sea, and the finned silent creatures that are 
its birds : and how there are stags and wolves 
in these depths, long hounds of the sea, mer- 
men and merwomen and seal -folk. Others, 
too, for whom we have no name, we being 
wave-blind and so unable to discern these 
comers and goers of the shadow. Also, how 

216 



old sea-divinities lie there asleep, and perilous The 
phantoms come out of sunken ships and Gardens 
ancient weed -grown towns; and how there g fthe 
roams abroad, alike in the flowing wave and *" 
along the sheer green-darkening bodiless walls, 
an incalculable Terror that may be manifold, 
the cold implacable demons of the deep, or 
may be One, that grey timeworn Death whom 
men have called Poseidon and Mananan and 
by many names. 

What a mysterious world this Tir-fo-Tuinn, 
this Land- Under- Wave. How little we know 
of it, for all that wise men have told us con- 
cerning the travelling tides, of currents as 
mysteriously steadfast in their comings and 
goings as the comets that from age to age 
loom briefly upon the stellar roads : how little, 
though they have put learned designations to 
a thousand weeds, and given names to ten 
thousand creatures to whom the whole world 
of man and all his hopes and dreams are less 
than a phantom, less than foam. The Gaelic 
poet who said that the man who goes to Tir- 
fo-Tuinn goes into another world, where the 
human soul is sand, and God is but the 
unloosened salt, tells us as much as the scientist 
who probes the ocean-mud and reveals dim 
crustacean life where one had believed to be 
only a lifeless dark. Above the weed-held 

217 



The palaces of Atlantis, over the soundless bells of 
Gardens Ys, above where Lyonesse is gathered in a 
g ea foamless oblivion, the plummet may sink and 

lift a few broken shells, the drag-net may 
bring to the surface an unknown sea-snail 
or such a microscopic green Alga as that 
Halosphoera viridis which science has dis- 
covered in the great depths beyond the reach 
of sunlight : but who can tell, perchance how 
few who care to know, what Love was, long 
ago, when there were poets in Lyonesse : what 
worship was served by white- robed priests 
among the sunken fanes of Ys : what dreams 
withstayed and what passions beset the noble 
and the ignoble in drowned Atlantis, what 
empires rose and fell there, what gods were 
lauded and dethroned, and for how long 
Destiny was patient. 

Even in the little pools that lie shoreward 
of the Gardens of the Sea what beauty there 
is, what obscure life, what fascinating * other- 
world ' association. This piece of kelp is at 
once Fucus vesiculosus and the long fingers of 
the Cailliach-Mhara, the Sea- Witch. This 
great smooth frond is ... I do not know, or 
forget : but it is the kale of Manan, in sea- 
groves of which that Shepherd pastures his 
droves of uncouth sea-swine. This green 
tracery has a Greek or Latin name, but in 

218 



legend it is called the Mermaid's Lace. This The 
little flame-like crest of undulating wrack has Gardens 
a designation longer than itself, but in tales of g ea e 
faerie we know it to be that of which the caps 
of the pool-elves are fashioned. 

In the Isles seaweed has many local names, 
but is always mainly divided into Yellow 
Tails, Dark Tails, and Red Tails (Feamainn 
bhuidhe, feamainn dub/i, and feamainn dearg). 
The first comprise all the yellowish, light- 
brown, and olive -brown seaware ; the second 
all the dark-green, and also all green wrack ; 
the third, the red. The common seaware or 
kelp or tang (Fucus vesiculosus) is generally 
called propach, or other variant signifying 
tangled : and the bladder - wrack, feamainn 
bholgainn or builgeach, ' baggy-tails.' I have 
at times collected many local names of these 
weeds, and not a few superstitions and legends. 
Naturally, the most poetic of these are con- 
nected with the Chorda filum or Dead Man's 
Hair, which has a score of popular names, from 
' corpsy-ropes ' to the occasional Gaelic gille- 
mu lunn, which may be rendered * the wave's 
gillie ' or * servant of the wave ' : with the 
drifted gulf-weed, whose sea-grapes are called 
uibhean sithein, fairy eggs, and are eagerly 
sought for : and with the duileasg, or dulse. 
Even to this day, in remote parts, an ancient 

219 



The seaweed - rite survives in the propitiatory 

Gar 

oft: 

Sea 



Gardens offerings (now but a pastime of island children) 
to the Hebridean sea-god Shony at Samhein 



(Hallowmass). This Shony, whose favours 
were won by a cup of ale thrown into the sea 
in the dark of the night, is none other than 
Poseidon, Neptune, Manan ; for he is the 
Scandinavian sea -god Sjoni, viking -brought 
from Lochlin in the far - off days when the 
Summer - sailors raided and laid waste the 
Gaelic Isles. 

It is singular how rarely seaweed has 
entered into the nomenclature and symbology 
of peoples, how seldom it is mentioned in 
ancient literature. Among our Gaelic clans 
there is only one (the M'Neil) which has sea- 
ware as a badge. Greek art has left us a few 
seaweed-filleted heads of Gorgons, and to sea- 
wrack the Latin poets have once or twice made 
but passing and contemptuous allusion. In 
the Bible ('whaur yell find everything frae a 
bat to a unicorn,' as an old man said to me 
once) there is one mention of it only, in 
Jonah's words : ' The depths closed me round 
about, the weeds were wrapped about my 
head.' 



220 



THE MILKY WAY 

With the first sustained breath of frost the 
beauty of the Galaxy becomes the chief glory 
of the nocturnal skies. But in midsummer 
even what amplitude of space, what infinite 
depths it reveals, and how mysterious that 
filmy stardrift blown like a streaming banner 
from behind the incalculable brows of an 
unresting Lord of Space, one of those Sons 
of the Invisible, as an oriental poet has it, 
whose ceaseless rush through eternity leaves 
but this thin and often scarce visible dust, 
'delicate as the tost veil of a dancing girl 
swaying against the wind.' Perhaps no one 
of our poets, and poetry ancient and modern 
and of every country and race is full of allu- 
sions to the Galaxy, has more happily imaged 
it in a single line than Longfellow has done in 

" Torrent of light and river of the air." 

As a river, or as a winding serpent, or as a 

221 



The stellar road, it has imaginatively been con- 
Milky ceived by almost every people, though many 
y * races have delighted in the bestowal of a 
specific name, as though it were not an 
aggregation of star- clusters and nebulas, but 
a marvellous creature of the heavens, as, 
perhaps, we may conceive the Great Bear, 
or Orion, or moons-beset Jupiter, or Saturn 
among his mysterious rings. Thus in the 
Book of Job it is called the Crooked Serpent ; 
the Hindus of Northern India call it the Dove 
of Paradise (Swarga Duari), though they have 
or had a still finer name signifying the Court 
of God ; and the Polynesians give it the 
strange but characteristic designation, ' The 
Long, Blue, Cloud-Eating Shark.' 

Last night I watched the immense tract 
for a long time. There was frost in the air, 
for I saw that singular pulsation which rightly 
or wrongly is commonly held to be an optical 
illusion, the aspect as of a pulse, or of an 
undulating motion of life such as one might 
dimly perceive in the still respiration of some 
sleeping saurian. There appeared to be count- 
less small stars, and in the darker spaces the 
pale vaporous drift became like the trail of 
phosphorescence in the wake of a vessel : at 
times it seemed almost solid, a road paven 
with diamonds and the dust of precious stones, 

222 



with flakes as of the fallen plumage of wings The 
— truly Aritnirod, the Silver Road, as the Milky 
Celts of old called it. Of course it was no ay " 
more than a fantasy of the dreaming imagina- 
tion, but it seemed to me more than once that 
as a vast indefinite sigh came from the wind- 
less but nevertheless troubled sea there was a 
corresponding motion in that white mysterious 
Milky Way, so infinitely remote. It was as 
though the Great Snake — as so many bygone 
peoples called and as many submerged races 
still call the Galaxy — lay watching from its 
eternal lair that other Serpent of Ocean which 
girdles the rolling orb of our onward-rushing 
Earth : and breathed in slow mysterious 
response : and, mayhap, sighed also into 
the unscanned void a sigh infinitely more 
vast, a sigh that would reach remote planets 
and fade along the gulfs of incalculable 
shores. 

As winter comes, the Milky Way takes on 
a new significance for pastoral and other lonely 
peoples, for shepherds and fisher-folk above all. 
Songs and poems and legends make it familiar 
to everyone. A hundred tales own it as a 
mysterious background, as Broceliande is the 
background of a hundred Breton ballads, or 
as Avalon is the background of a hundred 
romances of the Cymric and Gaelic Celt. 

223 



The The Hebridean islanders seldom look at it 
Milky on s till frosty nights without in the long idle 
ay * hours recalling some old name or allusion, 
some ancient rami or oran, some duan or 
iorram of a later day, related to the mystery 
and startling appealing beauty of the Silver 
Road. It has many names on the lips of 
these simple men, Avho have little learning 
beyond the Bible and what life on the waters 
and life in the hearts of other simple men and 
women have taught them. Sometimes these 
names are beautiful, as ' Dust of the World ' 
(or universe, an domhain) or the * Kyle of the 
Angels ' (the Strait or Sound) : sometimes apt 
and natural, as 'the Herring Way,' and 'the 
Wake ' : sometimes legendary, as ' the Road 
of the Kings ' (the old gods, from Fionn back 
to the Tuatha Dedannan) or as 'the Pathway 
of the Secret People ' : sometimes sombre or 
grotesque, as ' The Shroud ' or as ' the Bag of 
the Great Miller.' 

There is especial interest for us, of course, 
in the legendary associations of the Anglo- 
Saxon and Scandinavian and Celtic or Gaelic 
peoples. These, in common with the majority 
of western nations, image the Milky Way 
more as a ' road ' or ' street ' than as a serpent 
or than as a river — though the Norse have 
their Midhgardhsormr, connected in associa- 

224 



tion with the JVeltum- Spanner (' Stretcher- The 
round-the- World') or Ocean-Stream. w^ 

I do not know when the Milky Way as a 
designation first came into common English 
use. Possibly there is no prior mention to 
that in Chaucer's Hous of Fame : 

" Se yonder, lo, the Galaxye, 

Which men clepeth the Milky Wey " 

— an allusion which certainly points to already 
familiar usage. It is now, I fancy, almost 
universal. Perhaps the old translator Eden 
was among the first to popularise it, with his 
rendering of the Latin Via Lactis and Via 
Lactea as ' the Mylke way ' and * Mylke whyte 
way.' There has been no need to derive the 
term from the Italian Via lattea or the French 
Vote lactee, since Eden's use and Chaucer's 
preceded that of any French poet or romancist. 
Certainly the phrase became part of our 
literature after it passed golden from the mint 
of Milton (paraphrasing Ovid) — 

" Broad and ample road whose dust is gold, 
And pavement stars, as stars to thee appear 
Seen in the Galaxy, that milky way 
Which nightly as a circling zone thou seest 
Powdered with stars. ..." 

It is rarely now alluded to as the Galaxy, and 

225 Q 



The probably never by unlettered people. In most 
Milky parts of England for centuries, and it is said 
ay " in many parts still, the common designation is 
'The Way of Saint James.' This has a 
singular correspondence in the name popular 
among the French peasants, ' the Road of Saint 
Jacques of Compostella.' Originally a like 
designation was common in Spain, though for 
a thousand years the popular epithet runs El 
Camino de Santiago, after the Warrior-Saint 
of the Iberian peoples. I am told that 'the 
Way of Saint James ' is common in certain 
counties of England, but I have never heard 
it, nor do I wholly recall the reason of this 
particular nomenclature. In some form the 
road - idea continually recurs. How many 
readers of these notes will know that the 
familiar ' Watling Street ' — that ancient 
thoroughfare from Chester through the heart 
of London to Dover — was also applied to this 
Galaxy that perchance they may look at 
to-night from quiet country-side, or village, or 
distant towns, or by the turbulent seas of our 
unquiet coasts, or by still waters wherein 
the reflection lies and scintillates like a 
phantom phosphorescence. Watling Street 
does not sound a poetic equivalent for the 
Milky Way, but it has a finer and more 
ancient derivation than 'the Way of Saint 

226 






James.' The word goes back to Hoveden's The 
6 Watlinga-Strete,' itself but slightly anglicised Milk y 
from the Anglo - Saxon Waetlinga Straet, ay " 
where the words mean the Path of the Waet- 
lings, the giant sons of King Waetla, pos- 
sibly identical with the giant Sons of Turenn 
of ancient Gaelic legend, heroes who went out 
to achieve deeds impossible to men, and 
traversed earth and sea and heaven itself in 
their vast epical wanderings. Another curious 
old English name of the Galaxy, of great beauty 
in its significance, is 'Walsyngham Way.' 
Why the Galaxy should be so called might well 
puzzle us, were it not explained by the fact that 
up till near the middle of the sixteenth century 
one of the most common English names of the 
Virgin Mary was ' Our Lady of Walsyngham,' 
from the fact that the Blessed Mother's chief 
shrine in the country was at Walsyngham 
Abbey in Norfolk. Further, as 'the Way 
to Walsyngham ' in common parlance signified 
the road to the earthly tabernacle of Mary, 
so 'Walsyngham Way,' as applied to the 
Galaxy, signified the celestial road to the virgin 
Mother in heaven. Much more barbaric is a 
name for the Milky Way still to be heard 
in Celtic Wales, Caer Gwydyon, the Castle 
or Fortress of Gwython. This Gwython or 
Gwydyon was a kind of Merlin Sylvestris. 

227 



The He was known as the Enchanter, the Wizard 
Milky as we would say now, and was feared on this 
ay account, and because he was the son of Don, 
King of the Otherworld, Lord of the Secret 
People, the * fairies ' of later tradition. Like 
Grania, the beautiful wife of Fionn, whose 
elopement with Dermid and their subsequent 
epical odyssey is the subject of one of the 
greatest and to this day most popular of 
Gaelic legendary romances, the wife of Gwy- 
thon fled from his following vengeance from 
land to land, across seas, over mountains, 'to 
the ends of the earth,' and at last with her 
faery lover dared the vast untrodden ways of 
the remote skies. But long before they could 
reach Arcturus, or whatever the star or planet 
to which they fled, Gwython overtook them, 
led by the dust which these mortal if semi- 
divine fugitives made along the soundless dark 
blue roads of heaven. He slew them and their 
winged horses and their aerial hounds, and 
standing on the verge of space flung the heads 
and limbs and bodies into infinitude. Hence 
the meteors and falling stars which at the 
season of the autumnal equinox and at the 
approach of winter may still be seen whirling 
adown the bastions of high heaven. So terrible 
in tragedy, so titanic the deed, that to all 
eternity, or as long as our world endures, the 

228 



phantom iteration of that mighty vengeance The 
shall commemorate the inappeasable anger of ^ ilky 
Gwython the Enchanter. Is there not con- 
vincing evidence in the unpassing dust of that 
silent highway of the doomed lovers . . . the 
dust of the trampled star- way that no wind of 
space has blown to this side or to that, that no 
alchemy of sun or moon has burned up or like 
dew dissolved ? 

Besides ' Watling Street,' our Anglo-Saxon 
forebears had Iringes Weg or Wee and Bil- 
Iduris Weg ; Iringe and Eil-Idun having been 
famous descendants of the Waetla already 
alluded to. They were warders of the Bridge 
of Asgard, the Scandinavian Heaven. In time 
this Asgard-Bridge came to be given as a 
name to the Milky Way . . . though the 
later poets applied the epithet also to the 
Rainbow. Readers of Grimm's Teutonic 
Mythology will remember that he cites many 
collateral instances. Thus the Vikings knew 
the Galaxy as Wuotanes Straza, or ' Woden's 
Street ' ; the Dutch have in common use 
Vronelden Street, 'the women's Street'; and 
the German peasants commonly call it Jakob's 
Weg. The Westphalian term is singular and 
suggestive, 'Weather Street' One wonders 
if there is any common idea that weather is in 
any way as closely associated with the Milky 

229 



The Way as are the vernal floods and the autumnal 
^ llky rains with the Pleiades. Probably the bestowal 
y * of the name is due to the fact that when the 
Galaxy is clear and bright and scintillant the 
weather is serene and dry. A more poetic 
designation is that of the Finns, who delight 
in the term Linnunrata, the Birds' Way, 
either from an old Finnish and Esthonian 
legend that once by a miracle all the songs of 
all the birds of the world were turned into a 
cloud of snow-white tiny wings, or from the 
more likely belief that it is the road of winged 
spirits on their passage from earth to heaven. 
This is, of course, a very ancient conception. 
The ancient Hindus revealed it in the phrase 
* the Path of Ahriman ' : the ancient Norse as 
' the Path of the Ghosts ' going to Valhalla : 
the ancient Gaels as the Hero-Way, leading 
from Earth to Flatheanas, the Abode of Eternal 
Youth. It is strange and suggestive that not 
only the North American aborigines called it 
'the Trail to Ponemah' (the Hereafter), but 
that people so rude as the Eskimo and the 
Bushmen of South Africa call it ' the Ashen 
Path,' the road of fire-ember signals, for the 
ghosts of the dead. Even the Patagonians 
speak of the Milky Way as the white pampas 
where their dead are immortal huntsmen 
rejoicing in the pursuit of countless ostriches. 

230 



But of all popular names I do not think any The 
is more apt and pleasant than that common to ??3 y 
the Swedish peasantry, who call the Galaxy 
Winter Gatan — i.e., ' Winter Street.' It is 
the Winter Street we must all travel some 
day, if the old poets say true, when the green 
grass grows on our quiet beds, when the 
loudest wind will not fret the silence in our 
tired minds, and when day and night are 
become old forgotten dreams. May we too 
find it the Pathway of Peace . . . not the 
least beautiful of the names of the Milky 
Way, not the least beautiful of the legends 
connected with that lovely wonder of our 
nocturnal skies. 



231 



SEPTEMBER 

September : the very name has magic. In 
an old book, half in Latin half in English, 
about the months, which I came upon in a 
forgotten moth-eaten library years ago, and in 
part copied, and to my regret have not seen 
or heard of since, or anywhere been able to 
trace, I remember a singular passage about 
this month. Much had been said about the 
flowers of ' these golden weekes that doe lye 
between the thunderous heates of summer 
and the windy gioomes of winter ' ; of those 
flowers and plants which bloom in gardens, 
and those, as the harebell and poppy and late- 
flowering gorse, which light the green garths 
of meadow and woodland ; as the bryony, 
which trails among the broken copses and 
interweaves the ruddy masses of bramble ; as 
the traveller's-joy, which hangs its frail wreaths 
of phantom -snow along the crests of every 
hedgerow of beech and hornbeam. Of the 

232 



changing colours of the trees, too, the old Sep- 
writer had much to say : of the limes * that tember. 
become wan and spotted as a doe,' of the 
mountain-ash 'that has its long fingers dyed 
redd and browne,' of ' the wyche-elme whose 
gold is let loose on the wind after nighte- 
frosts and cold dawnes.' Nor did he forget 
that 'greate beautie of mistes' which we all 
know; and he reached eloquence when he 
spoke of the apple-orchards and of the wall- 
fruits of 'olde manor-gardenns ' — 'the peache 
that women and poetes doe make the queene 
of fruites,' ' the rich glowe and savour of the 
apricock,' 'the delicate jargonell that keepes 
the sweetes of France in olde warme English 
gardenns.' Of wild-fruit, also, he had dainty 
words and phrases. Blackberries, * the darke- 
blue bilberry,' the sloe 'whose excellent 
purple bloode maketh so fine a comfort,' ' the 
dusky clustres of the hasel,' ' the green-smockt 
fllberte,' and so forth. Even upon mushrooms 
he had words of sun and wind and dew, so 
lightsome were they, ardent and joyous, with 
a swift movement— as though writ by one 
who remembered gathering 'musherooms' in 
a sun-sweet dawn after a night of heavy dews, 
in company with another who laughed often 
in gladness and was dearest and fairest of all 
dear and fair things. ' Howbeit,' he added, 

233 



Sep- after sorrowing that 'many doe feare these 
tember. goodly musherooms as poysonis dampe weedes,' 
'this dothe in nowise abate the exceedynge 
excellence of Goddes providence that out of 
the grasse and dewe where nothing was, and 
where onlie the lytell worme turned in his 
sporte, come as at the shaky nge of bells these 
delicate meates.' 

Then, after some old-world lore about 'the 
wayes of nature with beastes and byrdes ' in 
this month, he goes further afield. 'And 
this monthe,' he says, 'is the monthe of 
dreames, and when there is a darke (or secret) 
fyre in the heartes of poetes, and when the god 
of Love is fierce and tyrannick in imaginings 
and dreames, and they doe saye in deedes also, 
yett not after the midwaye of the monthe ; 
butt whye I know not.' 

We hear so much of the poet-loved and 
poet- sung month of May, and the very name 
of June is sweet as its roses and white lilies 
and lavender, that it is become a romantic 
convention to associate them with 'dreames' 
and the 'tyrannick' season of 'the god of 
Love.' But I am convinced that the old 
Elizabethan or Jacobean naturalist was right. 
May and June are months of joy, but Sep- 
tember is the month of ' dreames ' and ' darke 
fyre.' Ask those who love nature as the poet 

234 



is supposed to love her, with something of Sep- 
ecstasy perhaps, certainly with underglow of tember. 
passion : ask those in whom the imagination is 
as a quickening and waning but never absent 
flame : ask this man who travels from month 
to month seeking what he shall never find, or 
this woman whose memories and dreams are 
many, howsoever few her hopes . . . and the 
chance will be that if asked to name the month 
of the heart's love, it will be September. I 
do not altogether know why this should be so, 
if so it is. There is that in June which has a 
time-defying magic : May has her sweet affini- 
ties with Spring in the human heart : in April 
are the flutes of Pan : March is stormy with 
the clarions of the winds : October can be wild 
with all wildness or be the calm mirror of the 
passing of the loveliness of the green -world. 
There is not a month that has not its own 
signal beauty, so that many love best February, 
because through her surge of rains appear days 
of blue wonder, with the song of the missel- 
thrush tost like spray from bare boughs — or 
November, because in the grey silence one 
may hear the fall of the sere leaves, and see 
mist and wan blueness make a new magic 
among deserted woods — or January, when all 
the visible world lies in a white trance, strange 
and still and miraculous as death transfigured 

235 



Sep- to a brief and terrible loveliness on the face of 
tember. one su dd e nry quiet from the fever of youth 
and proud beauty. There is not a month 
when the gold of the sun and the silver of the 
moon are not woven, when the rose of sunset 
does not lie upon hills which reddened to 
the rose of dawn, when the rainbow is not 
let loose from the tangled nets of rain and 
wind, when the morning-star and the evening- 
star do not rise and set. 

And yet, for some, there is no month that 
has the veiled magic of September. 

'The month of peace,' 'the month of 
beauty,' it is called in many Gaelic songs and 
tales; and often, 'Summer-end.' I remember 
an old rami, perhaps still said or sung before 
the peat-fires, that it was in this month God 
created Peace ; again, an island-tale of Christ 
as a shepherd and the months as sheep strayed 
upon the hills of time. The Shepherd went 
out upon the hills, and gathered them one by 
one, and led them to the fold : but, before the 
fold was reached, a great wind of snow came 
down out of the corries, and on the left a wild 
flood arose, and on the narrow path there was 
room only, and that hardly, for the Shepherd. 
So He looked to see which one of the twelve 
He might perchance save, by lifting it in His 
strong arms and going with it alone to the 

236 



fold. He looked long, for all were the children Sep- 
of His Father. Then He lifted September, tember. 
saying, ' Even so, because thou art the month 
of fulfilment, and because thy secret name is 
Peace.' But when He came out of the dark- 
ness to the fold, the Shepherd went back 
between the wild lips of flood and tempest, 
and brought to the fold June, saying, ' Because 
thy secret name is Joy ' : and, in turn, one by 
one, He brought each to the fold, saying unto 
each, in this order, 'May, because thy secret 
name is Love'; 'April, because thou art made 
of tears and laughter ' ; ' July, because thou 
art Beauty ' ; ' August, thou quiet Mother ' ; 
' October, because thy name is Content ' ; 
' March, because thy name is Strife ' ; * Febru- 
ary, because thy name is Hope ' ; ' November, 
because thy name is Silence ' ; ' January, 
because thou art Death ' ; and at the last, 
' December, whom I have left to the end, for 
neither tempest could whelm nor flood drown 
thee, for thy name is the Resurrection and 
the Life.' 

And when the tale was told, some one 
would say, 'But how, then, was September 
chosen first ? ' 

And the teller would say, ' Because its 
secret name is Peace, and Peace is the secret 
name of Christ.' 

237 



Sep- It is no wonder the poets have loved so 

tember. W e\\ this month whose name has in it all the 
witchery of the North. There is the majesty 
of the hill-solitudes in it, when the moorlands 
are like a purple sea. It has the freshness of 
the dew- white bramble- copses, of the bracken 
become russet and pale gold, of the wandering 
frostfire along the highways of the leaf, that 
mysterious breath whose touch is silent flame. 
It is the month when the sweet, poignant 
second-song of the robin stirs the heart as a 
child's gladness among tears. 'The singer 
of September,' a Gaelic poet calls it, and 
many will recall the lovely lines of the old 
half- forgotten Elizabethan poet on the bird 

" That hath the bugle eyes and ruddy breast 
And is the yellow autumn's nightingale." 

It is strange how much bird-lore and beast- 
lore lie with September. The moor- cock, 
the stag, the otter, the sea-wandering salmon, 
the corncrake, and the cuckoo and the swift, 
I know not how many others, have their tale 
told or their farewell sung to the sound and 
colour of September. The poets have loved it 
for the unreturning feet of Summer whose 
vanishing echoes are in its haunted aisles, and 
for the mysterious silences of the veiled 
arrivals of Winter. It is the month of the 
year's fulflllings — 

238 






" Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Sep- 

Close-bosom'd friend of the maturing sun." tember. 

And yet there are other Septembers than 
the Septembers of memory, than the Sep- 
tembers of the imagination. For three years 
past the month has come with rains from the 
sea and cold winds out of the east and north. 
The robin's song has been poignantly sweet as 
of yore, but the dream -glow has been rare 
upon the hill and valley, and in the woods and 
on the moor-slopes the leaf has hung bannerets 
of dusky yellow, and the bracken burned dully 
without amber and flamelit bronze. This 
year, though, there has been some return of 
those September days which we believe in 
while yet a long way off, as we believe in 
May, as we feel assured of June. This last 
June was truly a month of roses, and in May 
the east wind slept : but last year the roses 
trailed along flooded byways, and the east 
wind nipped bud and blossom through the 
bleak days of 'the merry month,' and a 
colourless and forlorn September must have 
chilled even that ' darke fyre in the heartes of 
poetes' of which the old naturalist wrote. 
There have been days of peace this year, and 
of the whole beauty of Summer-end. In the 
isles, among the hills, on forest lands and 
uplands, and by the long plains and valleys of 

239 



Sep- the south, the September blue — which is part 
tember. a flame of azure and part a haze of the dust of 
pearls — has lain over land and sea like a 
benediction. How purple the western moors, 
what depths of floating violet and pale trans- 
lucencies of amethyst on the transfigured 
mountains. What loveliness of pale blue mist 
in the hollows of quiet valleys ; what richness 
of reds and ambers where the scarlet-fruited 
ash hangs over the unruffled brown pool ; what 
profuse gold and ungathered amber where the 
yellow gorse climbs the hillside and the armies 
of the bracken invade every windy solitude. 
How lovely those mornings when the dew is 
frost -white and the gossamer is myriad in 
intricate interlacings that seem woven of 
aerial diamond -dust. What peace in that 
vast serenity of blue where not the smallest 
cloud is seen, where only seaward the gannet 
may hang immeasurably high like a winged 
star, or, above inland pastures, the windhover 
poise in his miraculous suspense. 

But, alas, only 'days.' It has not been 
the September of the heart's desire, of the 
poet's dream. The advance - guard of the 
equinox has again and again come in force : 
the grey wind has wailed from height to 
height, and moaned among the woods. Even 
in the gardens the wall-fruits have hardly given 

240 



the wonted rich warmth, though the apples Sep- 
have made a brave show. Yesterday there tember. 
was a hush in the wind ; a delicate frost 
lingered after a roseflusht dawn ; and the in- 
ward light came out of the heather, the bracken 
and the gorse, out of the yellow limes and the 
amber planes and the changing oaks, and upon 
the hillside turned the great pine on the 
further crag into a column of pale gold and 
made the lichened boulders like the half-sunken 
gates of buried cities of topaz and jasper and 
chalcedony. But to-day vast masses of sombre 
cloud have been swung inland from the 
Atlantic, and the gale has the wild mournful 
sough that we look for in the dark months. 
It is in the firelight that one must recapture 
September. It lies hidden in that warm heart, 
amid the red and yellow flowers of flame : and 
in that other heart, which, also, has its ' darke 
fyre,' that heart in whose lands lit by neither 
sun nor moon are the secret glens where old 
dreams live again, and where the dreams of 
the hour are radiant in their new wonder and 
their new beauty. 



241 



R 



THE CHILDREN OF WIND AND 
THE CLAN OF PEACE 

I was abroad on the moors one day in the 
company of a shepherd, and we were talking 
of the lapwing that were plentiful there, and 
were that day wailing continuously in an 
uneasy wavering flight. I had seen them 
act thus, in this excess of alarm, in this pro- 
longed restless excitement, when the hill- 
falcons were hovering overhead in the nesting 
season : and, again, just before the unloosening 
of wind and rain and the sudden fires of the 
thundercloud. But John Logan the shepherd 
told me that now it was neither coming light- 
nings nor drifting hawk nor eagle that made 
all this trouble among the 'peewits.' "The 
wind's goin' to mak' a sudden veer," he said — 
adding abruptly a little later, " an' by the same 
token we'll have rain upon us soon." 

I looked at the cold blue of the sky, and 
at the drift of the few clouds trailing out 

242 



of the east or south-east, and could see no The 
sign of any change of wind or likelihood of Children 

" What makes you think that ? " I asked. Clan of 

" Weel," he answered literally, " I don't Peace, 
think it. It's the peewits an' the craws that ken 
swifter than oursels ; it's they that tell, an' I 
think they're better at the business than thae 
folk wha haver awa' in the papers, an are 
sometimes richt because they canna help it 
an' oftener wrang because it's maistly guess- 
work." 

" Well, what do the peewits and the crows 
say ? — though I haven't seen crow or rook or 
corbie for the last hour." 

" Thae peewits an' a' the plovers are a' the 
same. If the win's gaun to leap out of the 
east intae the sooth -wast, or slide quickly 
from the north intae the wast, they'll gang 
on wheelin' an' wailin' like yon for an hour 
or mair, an' that afore there's the least sign 
o' a change. An' as for the craws . . . weel, 
if ye had been lookin' up a wee whilie ago ye'd 
'a seen a baker's dozen go by, slantin' on the 
edge o' the win', like boats before a stiff breeze. 
Aye, an' see there ! . . . there's a wheen mair 
comin' up overhead." 

I glanced skyward, and saw some eight or 
ten rooks flying high and evidently making for 

243 



The the mountain-range about two miles away to 

Children our i e ft. 

and the " ^V e see tnat • • • tnae falling birds ? " 

Clan of " Yes," I answered, noticing a singular occa- 

Peace. sional fall in the general steady flight, as though 
the suddenly wheeling bird had been shot : 
" and what o' that, John ? " 

"It's just this: when ye see craws flyin' 
steady like that an' then yince in a while 
drapping oot like yon, ye may tak' it as 
meanin' there's heavy rain no that great way 
aff : onyways, when ye see the like when thae 
black deils are fleein' straight for the hills, ye 
maun feel sure frae the double sign that ye'll 
hae a good chance o' being drookit afore twa- 
three hours." 

One question led to another, and I heard 
much crow and corbie lore from John Logan, 
some of it already familiar to me and some 
new to me or vaguely half- known — as the 
legend that the corbies or ravens, and with 
them all the crow-kind, were originally white, 
but at the time of the Deluge were turned 
sooty -black because the head of the clan, 
when sent out by Noah from the Ark, did 
not return, but stayed to feed on the bodies 
of the drowned. "So the blackness of death 
was put on them, as my old mother has it in 
her own Gaelic." 

244 



" Your old mother, John ? " I queried sur- The 

prisedly : " I did not know you had any one Children 
\ J ,., „ J J of Wind 

at your croft. ^ and the 

" Aye, but I have that, though she's a poor Clan of 
frail auld body an' never gangs further frae Pea ce. 
the hoose than the byre an' the hen-yaird. 
If ye want to hear more aboot thae birds 
an' the auld stories forenenst them, she'd mak 1 
you welcome, an' we'd be glad an' prood to 
offer ye tea : an' I'll just tell ye this, that 
ye'll gie her muckle pleasure if ye'll hae a 
crack wi' her in the Gaelic, an' let her tell 
her auld tales in't. She's Hielan', ye ken : 
tho' my faither was oot o' Forfar, Glen Isla 
way. She's never got hold o' the English yet 
varra weel, an' to my sorrow I've never learnt 
the auld tongue, takin' after my faither in 
that, dour lowland body as he was. I ken 
enough to follow her sangs, an' a few words 
forbye, just enough to gie us a change as ye 
micht say." 

I gladly accepted the shepherd's courteous 
offer ; and so it was that an hour later we 
found ourselves at Scaur -van, as his croft 
was called, from its nearness to a great 
bleached crag that rose out of the heather 
like a light-ship in a lonely sea. By this time, 
his prognostications — or those rather of the 
wheeling and wailing lapwings, and the moun- 

245 



The tain-flying rooks — had come true. Across the 

SnSr^f w ^ e d es °l a t e moors a grey wind soughed 

and the m0Llrn ^ u Wy from the south-west, driving before 

Clan of it long slanting rains and sheets of drifting 

Peace. m i s t. I was glad to be out of the cold wet, 

and in the warm comfort of a room lit with 

a glowing peat-fire on which lay one or two 

spurtling logs of pine. 

A dear old woman rose at my entrance. I 
could see she was of great age, because her 
face was like a white parchment seamed with 
a myriad wrinkles, and her hands were so sere 
and thin that they were like wan leaves of 
October. But she was fairly active, and her 
eyes were clear — and even, if the expression 
may be used, with a certain quiet fire in their 
core — and her features were comely, with a 
light on them as of serene peace. The old- 
fashioned white mutch she wore enhanced this 
general impression, and I remember smiling 
to myself at the quaint conceit that old Mrs. 
Logan was like a bed-spirit of ancient slumber 
looking out from an opening of frilled white 
curtains. 

It was pleasant to sit and watch her, as 
with deft hands she prepared the tea and laid 
on the table scones and butter and grey farrels 
of oatcake, while, outside, the wet wind 
moaned and every now and then a swirl of 

246 



rain splashed against the narrow panes of the The 
window, in whose inset stood three pots of Children 
geranium whose scarlet flowers caught the red ° nd t |" 
flicker of the fire-flaucht and warmed the grey Clan of 
dusk gathering without. Peace. 

Later, we began to speak of the things of 
which her son John and I had talked on the 
moor : and then of much else in connection 
with the legendary lore of the birds and beasts 
of the hills and high moorlands. 

As it was so much easier for her (and so 
far more vivid and idiomatic) she spoke in 
Gaelic, delighted to find one who could under- 
stand the ancient speech : for in that part of 
the country, though in the Highlands, no 
Gaelic is spoken, or only a few words or 
phrases connected with sport, sheep-driving, 
and the like. I had won her heart by saying 
to her soon after the tea — up to which time 
she had spoken in the slow and calculated but 
refined Highland-English of the north-west — 
Tha mi cinnteach gu bheil sibh aois mhbr . . . 
'I am sure that you have the great age on 
you.' She had feared that because I had 'the 
English way ' I would not know, or remember, 
or care to remember, the old tongue : and she 
took my hand and stroked it while she said 
with a quiet dignity of pleasure, Is taitneach 
learn nach 'eil y ur Gaidhlig air meirgeadh . . . 

247 



The (in effect) ' It is well pleased I am that your 

Children Gaelic has not become rusty.' 
and the ^ was a ^ er the tea-things had been set 
Clan of aside, and old Mrs. Logan had said reverently, 
Peace. larr amend beannachadh (' Let us ask a bless- 
ing '), that she told me, among other legendary 
things and fragments of old natural -history 
folklore, the following legend (or holy Christ- 
mas tale, as she called it) as to how the first 
crows were black and the first doves white. 

I will tell it as simply but also with what 
beauty I can, because her own words, which I 
recall only as the fluctuating remembrance 
from a dream and so must translate from the 
terms of dream into the terms of prose, 
though simple were beautiful with ancient 
idiom. 

Thus she began : — Feumaidh sinn dol air 
ar n-ais dliith ficliead ceud bliadhna, which is 
to say, ' We must go back near two thousand 
{lit: twenty hundred) years.' 

Yes, it is nigh upon twenty hundred years 
that we must go back. It was in the last 
month of the last year of the seven years' 
silence and peace. When would that be, you 
ask ? Surely what other would it be than the 
seven holy years when Jesus the Christ was a 
little lad. Do you not remember the lore of 

248 



the elders ? . . . that in the first seven years The 
of the life of the young Christ there was peace Children 
in the world, and that the souls of men were ° d /J 1 
like souls in a dream, and that the hearts of Clan of 
women were at rest. In the second seven Peace, 
years it is said that the world was like an 
adder that sloughs its skin : for there was 
everywhere a troubled sense of new things to 
come. So wide and far and deep was this, 
that men in remote lands began moving across 
swamps and hills and deserts ; that the wild 
beasts shifted their lairs and moaned and cried 
in new forests and upon untrodden plains ; 
that the storks and swallows in their migration 
wearied their wings in high, cold, untravelled 
ways ; that the narwhals and great creatures 
of the deep foamed through unknown seas ; 
that the grasses of the world wandered and 
inhabited hills ; that many waters murmured 
in the wilderness and that many waters 
mysteriously sank from pools and wellsprings. 
In the third seven years, men even on the last 
ocean-girdled shores were filled with further 
longing, and it is said that new stars were 
flung into the skies and ancient stars were 
whirled away, like dust and small stones 
beneath the wheels of a chariot. It was at 
the end of the third seven years that a Face 
looked out of Heaven, and that from the 

249 



The edges of the world men heard a confused and 

Children dreadful sound rising from the Abyss. Though 
and the ^ ne g rea ^ an( ^ the sma ^ are the same, it is the 
Clan of great that withdraws from remembrance and 
Peace, the small that remains, and that may be why 
men have grown old with time, and have 
forgotten, and remember only the little things 
of the common life : as that in these years the 
Herring became the king of all fishes, because 
his swift gleaming clan carried the rumour of 
great tidings to the uttermost places of ocean ; 
as that in these years the little fly became king- 
over lions and panthers and eagles and over all 
birds and beasts, because it alone of all created 
things had remained tameless and fearless ; as 
that in these years the wild-bees were called 
the clan of wisdom, because they carried the 
Word to every flower that grows and spread 
the rumour on all the winds of the world ; as 
that in these years the Cuckoo was called the 
Herald of God, because in his voice are heard 
the bells of Resurrection. 

But, as I was saying, it was in the last 
month of the last year of the seven years' 
silence and peace : the seventh year in the 
mortal life of Jesus the Christ. It was on the 
twenty-fifth day of that month, the day of His 
holy birth. 

It was a still day. The little white flowers 
250 



that were called Breaths of Hope and that The 
we now call Stars of Bethlehem were so hushed Children 
in quiet that the shadows of moths lay on and ^ 
them like the dark motionless violet in the Clan of 
hearts of pansies. In the long swards of Peace, 
tender grass the multitude of the daisies were 
white as milk faintly stained with rlusht dews 
fallen from roses. On the meadows of white 
poppies were long shadows blue as the blue 
lagoons of the sky among drifting snow-white 
moors of cloud. Three white aspens on the 
pastures were in a still sleep : their tremulous 
leaves made no rustle, though there was a 
soundless wavering fall of little dusky shadows, 
as in the dark water of a pool where birches 
lean in the yellow hour of the frostflre. Upon 
the pastures were ewes and lambs sleeping, 
and yearling kids opened and closed their onyx 
eyes among the garths of white clover. 

It was the Sabbath, and Jesus walked alone. 
When He came to a little rise in the grass He 
turned and looked back at the house where His 
parents dwelled. Joseph sat on a bench, with 
bent shoulders, and was dreaming with fixt 
gaze into the west, as seamen stare across the 
interminable wave at the pale green horizons 
that are like the grassy shores of home. Mary 
was standing, dressed in long white raiment, 
white as a lily, with her right hand shading 

251 



The her eyes as she looked to the east, dreaming 
Ch ^. r en } ier dream. 

and the ^ ne y oun & Christ sighed, but with the love 

Clan of of all love in His heart. " So shall it be till 
Peace, the day of days," He said aloud ; " even so 
shall the hearts of men dwell among shadows 
and glories, in the West of passing things : even 
so shall that which is immortal turn to the 
East and watch for the coming of Joy through 
the Gates of Life." 

At the sound of His voice He heard a 
sudden noise as of many birds, and turned and 
looked beyond the low upland where He stood. 
A pool of pure water lay in the hollow, fed 
by a ceaseless wellspring, and round it and 
over it circled birds whose breasts were grey 
as pearl and whose necks shone purple and 
grass-green and rose. The noise was of their 
wings, for though the birds were beautiful they 
were voiceless and dumb as flowers. 

At the edge of the pool stood two figures, 
whom He knew to be of the angelic world 
because of their beauty, but who had on them 
the illusion of mortality so that the child did 
not know them. But He saw that one was 
beautiful as Night, and one beautiful as 
Morning. 

He drew near. 

"I have lived seven years," He said, "and 
252 



I wish to send peace to the far ends of the The 
world." Children 

" Tell your secret to the birds," said one. and the 

" Tell your secret to the birds," said the Clan of 
other. Peace - 

So Jesus called to the birds. 

" Come," He cried ; and they came. 

Seven came flying from the left, from the 
side of the angel beautiful as Night. Seven 
came flying from the right, from the side of 
the angel beautiful as Morning. 

To the first He said : " Look into my heart." 

But they wheeled about Him, and with 
new-found voices mocked, crying, " How could 
we see into your heart that is hidden" . . . 
and mocked and derided, crying, "What is 
Peace ! . . . Leave us alone ! Leave us 
alone ! " 

So Christ said to them : 

" I know you for the birds of Ahriman, who 
is not beautiful but is Evil. Henceforth ye 
shall be black as night, and be children of the 
winds." 

To the seven other birds which circled 
about Him, voiceless, and brushing their wings 
against His arms, He cried : 

" Look into my heart." 

And they swerved and hung before Him in 
a maze of wings, and looked into His pure 

253 



The heart : and, as they looked, a soft murmurous 

Children sound came from them, drowsy-sweet, full of 

and the P eace : an( ^ as they hung there like a breath 

Clan of in frost they became white as snow. 

Peace. «Ye are the Doves of the Spirit," said 

Christ, " and to you I will commit that which 

ye have seen. Henceforth shall your plumage 

be white and your voices be the voices of 

peace." 

The young Christ turned, for He heard 
Mary calling to the sheep and goats, and knew 
that dayset was come and that in the valleys 
the gloaming was already rising like smoke 
from the urns of the twilight. When He 
looked back He saw by the pool neither the 
Son of Joy nor the Son of Sorrow, but seven 
white doves were in the cedar beyond the 
pool, cooing in low ecstasy of peace and 
awaiting through sleep and dreams the rose- 
red pathways of the dawn. Down the long 
grey reaches of the ebbing day He saw seven 
birds rising and falling on the wind, black as 
black water in caves, black as the darkness of 
night in old pathless woods. 

And that is how the first doves became 
white, and how the first crows became black 
and were called by a name that means the 
clan of darkness, the children of the wind. 

254 



STILL WATERS 

Perhaps at no season of the year is the beauty 
of still waters at once so obvious and so ethereal 
as in Autumn. All the great painters of 
Nature have realised this crowning secret of 
their delicate loveliness. Corot exclaimed to 
a friend who was in raptures about one of his 
midsummer river scenes . . . 'Yes, yes, but 
to paint the soul of October, voila mon ideal!" 
Daubigny himself, that master of slow winding 
waters and still lagoons, declared that if he had 
to be only one month out of his studio it 
would have to be October, ' for then you can 
surprise Nature when she is dreaming, then 
you may learn her most evanescent and most 
exquisite secrets.' And our own Millais, when 
he was painting * Chill October ' near Murthly, 
in Perthshire, wrote that nothing had ever 
caused him so much labour, if nothing had ever 
given him so much pleasure, in the painting, 
' for Nature now can be found in a trance, and 

255 



Still you can see her as she is.' A friend of the 
Waters, late Keeley Halswelle told me that this able 
artist (who was originally a 'figure' and 
'subject' painter) remarked to him that he 
had never realised the supreme charm of 
autumnal Nature among still waters till he 
found himself one day trying to translate to 
his canvas the placid loveliness of the wide, 
shallow reaches of the Avon around Christ- 
church. Doubtless many other painters, 
French and Dutch and English, have felt thus, 
and been glad to give their best to the inter- 
pretation of the supreme charm of still waters 
in autumn. What would Venice be without 
them . . . Amsterdam . . . Holland . . . 
Finland . . . Sweden ? Imagine Scotland 
without this water-beauty, from Loch Ken to 
Loch Maree, from the Loch of the Yowes 
to the ' thousand- waters ' of Benbecula : or 
Ireland, where the white clouds climbing out 
of the south may mirror themselves in still 
waters all day till they sink beyond the Lough 
of Shadows in the silent north. 

The phrase is as liberal as 'running 
water.' That covers all inland waters 
in motion, from the greatest rivers to 
the brown burn of the hillside, from the 
melting of the snows in fierce spate to the 
swift invasion and troubled floods of the 

256 



hurrying and confined tides. So ' still waters ' Still 
covers lakes and mountain-lochs, shallow meres, Waters, 
lagoons, the reaches of slow rivers, lochans, 
tarns, the dark brown pools in peat-moors, or 
the green -blue pools in open woods and 
shadowy forests, the duckweed-margined ponds 
at the skirts of villages, the lilied ponds of 
old manor-garths and of quiet gardens, asleep 
beneath green canopies or given over to the 
golden carp and the dragon-fly beneath mossed 
fountains or beyond time-worn terraces. Often, 
too, and in February and October above all, 
the low - lying lands are flooded, and the 
bewildered little lives of the pastures crowd 
the hedgerows and copses. Sometimes for 
days, motionless, these mysterious lake-arrivals 
abide under the grey sky, sometimes a week or 
weeks pass before they recede. The crow 
flying home at dusk sees the pale cloud and the 
orange afterglow reflected in an inexplicable 
mirror where of late the grey -green grass and 
brown furrow stretched for leagues : the 
white owl, hawking the pastures after dusk, 
swoops so low on his silent wings that he veers 
upward from a ghostly flying image under- 
neath, as a bat at sundown veers from the 
phantom of its purblind flight. 

Delicate haze, cloud-dappled serenity, and 
moonlight are the three chief qualities of 

257 s 



Still beauty in the charm of still waters. It is a 
Waters. ma tter of temperament, of the hour and occa- 
sion also no doubt, whether one prefer those 
where another dream-world, that of human 
life, companions them in the ineffable suspense 
of the ideal moment, the moment where the 
superfluous recedes and silence and stillness 
consummate the miraculous vision. Those 
moonlit lagoons of Venice, which become 
scintillating floods of silver or lakes of delicate 
gold, where the pole-moored sandolo thrusts 
a black wedge of shadow into the motionless 
drift, while an obscure figure at the prow idly 
thrums a mandolin or hums drowsily a can- 
zonnetto $ amove ; those twilit canals where old 
palaces lean and look upon their ancient beauty 
stilled and perfected in sleep ; how unforget- 
table they are, how they thrill even in remem- 
brance. In the cities of Holland, how at one 
are the old houses with the mirroring canals, 
in still afternoons when quiet light warms the 
red wall, and dwells on the brown and scarlet 
clematis in the cool violet and amber hollows 
of the motionless water wherein the red wall 
soundlessly slips and indefinitely recedes, hiding 
an undiscovered house of shadow with silent 
unseen folk dreaming out across invisible 
gardens. There are ancient towns like this in 
England also, as between Upsala and Elsinore 

258 



to where old chateaux in Picardy guard the Still 
pollarded marais or deserted Breton manoirs Waters, 
stand ghostly at the forest-end of untra versed 
meres. 

These have their charm. But have they 
for us the intimate and unchanging spell of 
the lakes and meres and other still waters of 
our own land ? Nothing, one might think, 
could be more beautiful than to see in the 
Lake of Como the cypresses of Bellaggio and 
the sloping gardens of Cadenabbia meeting in 
a new underwater wonderland : or to see 
Mont Blanc, forty miles away, sleeping in 
snow-held silence in the blue depths of Lac 
Leman : or to see Pilatus and a new city 
of Lucerne mysteriously changed and yet 
familiarly upbuilded among the moving green 
lawns and azure avenues of the Lake of the 
Four Cantons. And yet leaning boulders of 
granite, yellow with lichen and grey with 
moss and deep-based among swards of heather 
and the green nomad bracken, will create a 
subtler magic in the brown depths of any 
Highland loch. There is a subtler spell in 
the solitary tarn, where the birch leans out 
of the fern and throws an intricate tracery of 
bough and branch into the unmoving wave, 
where the speckled trout and the speckled 
mavis meet as in the strange companion- 

259 



Still ships of dreams. Enchantment lies amid 
Waters, the emerald glooms of pine and melancholy 
spruce, when a dream-world forest under- 
neath mirrors the last sunset-gold on bronze 
cones, and enfolds the one white wandering 
cloud miraculously stayed at last between two 
columnar green spires, flawless as sculptured 
jade. 

Is this because, in the wilderness, we re- 
cover something of what we have lost ? . . . 
because we newly find ourselves, as though 
surprised into an intimate relationship of 
which we have been unaware or have in- 
differently ignored ? What a long way the 
ancestral memory has to go, seeking, like a 
pale sleuth-hound among obscure dusks and 
forgotten nocturnal silences, for the lost trails 
of the soul. It is not we only, you and I, 
who look into the still waters of the wilder- 
ness and lonely places, and are often dimly 
perplext, are often troubled we know not how 
or why : some forgotten reminiscence in us is 
aroused, some memory not our own but yet 
our heritage is perturbed, footsteps that have 
immemorially sunk in ancient dust move 
furtively along obscure corridors in our brain, 
the ancestral hunter or fisher awakes, the 
primitive hillman or woodlander communicates 
again with old forgotten intimacies and the 

260 



secret oracular things of lost wisdoms. This Still 
is no fanciful challenge of speculation. In Waters, 
the order of psychology it is as logical as in 
the order of biology is the tracing of our 
upright posture or the deft and illimitable use 
of our hands, from unrealisably remote periods 
wherein the pioneers of man reached slowly 
forward to inconceivable arrivals. 

But whatever primitive wildness, whatever 
ancestral nearness we recover in communion 
with remote Nature, there is no question as 
to the fascination of beauty exercised by the 
still waters of which we speak, of their en- 
during spell. What lovelier thing in Nature 
than, on a serene and cloudless October day, 
to come upon a small lake surrounded by tall 
elms of amber and burnished bronze, by beech 
and maple and sycamore cloudy with superb 
fusion of orange and scarlet and every shade 
of red and brown, by limes and aspens 
tremulous with shaken pale gold ? Beautiful 
in itself, in rare and dreamlike beauty, the 
woods become more beautiful in this silent 
marriage with placid waters, take on a beauty 
more rare, a loveliness more dreamlike. There 
is a haze which holds the fluent gold of the 
air. Silence is no longer quietude as in June ; 
or a hushed stillness, as in the thunder-laden 
noons of July or August ; but a soundless 

261 



Still suspense wherein the spirit of the world, 
Waters, suddenly at rest, sleeps and dreams. 

The same ineffable peace broods over all 
still waters : on the meres of Hereford, on the 
fens of East Anglia, on lochs heavy with 
mountain-shadow, on the long grey Hebridean 
sheets where the call of the sea-wind or the 
sea- wave is ever near. 

Truly there must be a hidden magic in 
them, as old tales tell. I recall one where the 
poets and dreamers of the world are called 
'the children of pools.' The poet and 
dreamer who so called them must have meant 
by his metaphor those who look into the 
hearts of men and into the dim eyes of Life, 
troubled by the beauty and mystery of the 
world, insatiable in longing for the ineffable 
and the unattainable. So, long ago, even 
' ornamental waters ' may have been symbols 
of the soul's hunger and thirst, emblems of the 
perpetual silence and mystery of his fugitive 
destiny ! 

Somewhere, I think it is in the Kalevala, 
occurs the beautiful metaphor of still waters, 
' the mirrors of the world.' Whoever the 
ancient singer was who made the phrase, he 
had in his heart love for still waters as well as 
the poet's mind. The secret of their beauty 
is in that image. It may be a secret within a 

262 



secret, for the mirror may disclose a world Still 
invisible to us, may reflect what our own or Waters, 
an ancestral memory dimly recalls, may reveal 
what the soul perceives and translates from 
its secret silences into symbol and the 
mysterious speech of the imagination. 

Still waters ; it has the inward music that 
lies in certain words . . . amber, ivory, foam, 
silence, dreams ; that lies often in some 
marriage of words . . . moonlight at sea, 
wind in dark woods, dewy pastures, old 
sorrowful things : that dwells in some names 
of things, as chrysoprase ; or in some combina- 
tion of natural terms and associations, as 
wind and wave ; or in some names of women 
and dreams, Ruth, Alaciel, Imogen, Helen, 
Cleopatra ; or in the words that serve in the 
courts of music . . . cadence, song, threnody, 
epithalamion, viol, flute, prelude, fugue. One 
can often evade the heavy airs of the hours 
of weariness by the spell of one of these wooers 
of dreams. Foam — and the hour is gathered 
up like mist, and we are amid " perilous seas 
in faery lands forlorn " : Wind—^vA the noises 
of the town are like the humming of wild bees 
in old woods, and one is under ancient boughs, 
listening, or standing solitary in the dusk by 
a forlorn shore with a tempestuous sea filling 
the darkness with whispers and confused 

263 



Still rumours and incommunicable things : Ruth — 
Waters. an j sorrow and exile are become loveliness : 
Helen — and that immemorial desire is become 
our desire, and that phantom beauty is become 
our dream and our passion. Still Waters — 
surely through that gate the mind may slip 
away from the tedious and unwelcome, and 
be alone among forests where the birch leans 
and dreams into an amber-brown pool, or by 
a mountain-lake where small white clouds lie 
like sleeping birds, or on moonlit lagoons 
where the reed and the reed's image are as 
one, and the long mirrors are unshaken by 
any wandering air, unvisited but by the 
passing soundless shadows of travelling wings. 



264 



THE PLEIAD-MONTH 

From the Persian shepherd to the shepherd 
on the hills of Argyll — in a word, from the 
remote East to the remote West — November 
is known, in kindred phrase, as the Pleiad- 
Month. 

What a world of legend, what a greater 
world of poetry and old romance, centres in 
this little group of stars. ' The meeting-place 
in the skies of mythology and science,' as 
they have been called by one of our chief 
astronomers. From time immemorial this 
remote starry cluster has been associated with 
festivals and solemnities, with auguries and 
destinies. On November 17, the day of the 
midnight culmination of the Pleiades, the great 
Festival of Isis was begun at Busiris : in ancient 
Persia, on that day, no petition was presented 
in vain to the King of Kings : and on the first 
of the month the midnight rites of our own 
ancestral Druids were connected with the 

265, 



The rising of the Pleiades. To-day the South Sea 
Pleiad- Islanders of the Society and Tonga Isles 
divide the year by their seaward rising and 
setting. The Matarii i nia, or season of the 
' Pleiades Above,' begins when in the evening 
this stellar group appears on the horizon, and 
while they remain above it : the Matarii i 
raro, or season of the w Pleiades Below,' begins 
when after sunset they are no longer visible, 
and endures till once again they appear above 
the horizon. The most spiritual and the most 
barbaric races are at one in considering them 
centres of the divine energy. The Hindus 
imaged them as Flame, typical of Agni, God of 
Fire, the Creative Energy : the several Persian 
words, from the ancient Perv or the Pamir of 
Hafiz or the Parwin of Omar Khayyam— 
derive from Peru, a word signifying 'The 
Begetters ' : and we know that the Greeks 
oriented to them or to their lucida not only 
the first great temple of Athene on the 
Acropolis, but its successor four hundred years 
later, the Hecatompedon of 1150 B.C., and 
seven hundred years later the Parthenon on 
the same side. [The great shrine of Dionysos 
at Athens, the still earlier Asclepieion at 
Epidaurus, and the temple of Poseidon at 
Sunium, looked towards the Pleiades at their 
setting.] But far removed from these are the 

266 



Malays and Pacific islanders, who more vaguely The 
and crudely revere 'the central fires,' and Plei ad- 
even so primitive and remote a people as the Month * 
Abipones of the Paraguay liiver country wor- 
ship them as their Great Spirit — Groaperikie, 
or Grandfather — and chant hymns of joy to 
this Pleiad -Allfather when, after the vernal 
Equinox, the mysterious cluster once more 
hangs visible in the northern sky. 

It would be impossible, in a brief paper, to 
cover the ground of the nomenclature, of the 
literature, of scientific knowledge and specula- 
tion concerning the Pleiades. A long chapter 
in a book might be given to Alcyone alone — 
that bright particular star of which it has been 
calculated that, in comparison, our Sun would 
sink to a star below the tenth magnitude. 
Indeed, though the imagination strains after 
the astronomer's calm march with dazzled 
vision, our solar brilliancy is supposed to be 
surpassed by some sixty to seventy of the 
Pleiadic group, for all that our human eyes 
have from time immemorial seen therein only 
a small cluster of tiny stars, the 'seven' of 
Biblical and poetic and legendary lore, from 
4 the Seven Archangels ' to the popular ' Hen 
and her six chicks.' Alcyone, that terrible 
torch of the ultimate heavens, is eighty-three 
times more refulgent than that magnificent 

267 



The star Sirius, which has been called the 'Glory 
Pleiad- f the South ' : a thousand times larger than 
on ' our Sun. I do not know how Merope and 
Taygeta, Celeno and Atlas are, but Maia, 
that shaking loveliness of purest light, has 
been calculated to be four hundred times 
larger than the Sun, and Electra about four 
hundred and eighty times larger. When one 
thinks of this mysterious majesty, so vast that 
only the winged imagination can discern the 
illimitable idea, all words fail : at most one 
can but recall the solemn adjuration of the 
shepherd -prophet Amos, 'Seek Him that 
maketh Pleiades and Orion? or the rapt 
ecstasy of Isaiah, ' O day star, son of the 
morning' 

A Gaelic poet has called them the Lords 
of Water, saying (though under different 
names, from the Gaelic mythology) that 
Alcyone controls the seas and the tides, that 
Electra is mistress of flood, that Taygeta and 
Merope and Atlas dispense rains and augment 
rivers and feed the well-springs, and that Maia's 
breath falls in dew. The detail is fanciful ; 
the central thought is in accord with legend 
and old wisdom. I do not know how far back 
the connection of the Pleiades with water, 
particularly rains and the rising of rivers, has 
been traced. It runs through many ancient 

268 



records. True, in one place, Hesiod speaks The 
of * retreating from the burning heat of the ^J eiad " 
Pleiades,' and mention has already been made 
of the Hindu association of them with 'Flame.' 
But Hesiod's allusion is a seasonal trope, and 
natural to one living in a warm country where 
the coming of the autumnal rains coincides 
with days of sweltering closeness and heat. 
Moreover, Hesiod himself uses equally deftly 
other popular imagery as it occurs to him, 
speaking of the Pleiades, as Homer speaks, as 
Atlas-born ; and again (with Pindar, Simonides 
and others) likening them to rock-pigeons flying 
from the Hunter Orion, doubtless from earliest 
mention of them in ancient legend as a flock 
of doves, or birds ; and again as « the Seven 
Virgins ' and ' the Virgin stars ' — thus at one 
with his contemporary, the Hebrew Herdsman- 
prophet Amos, who called them by a word 
rendered in the Authorised Version of the 
Bible as 'the seven stars.' As for the Hindu 
symbol, it must be remembered that fire was 
the supreme sacred and primitive element, and 
that every begetter of life in any form would 
naturally be thus associate. The Hindus called 
the Pleiad-Month (October-November) Kartik, 
and the reason of the great star-festival Dlbali, 
the Feast of Lamps, was to show gratitude and 
joy, after the close of the wet season, for the 

269 



The coming of the Pleiad-days of dry warmth and 
Pleiad- beauty. The ' sweet influences ' of the Pleiades 
' thus indicated will come more familiarly to 
many readers in Milton's 

" the grey 
Dawn and the Pleiades before him danc'd, 
Shedding sweet influence, . . ." 

This ancient custom, the ' Feast of Lamps,' 
of the Western Hindus survives to-day in the 
* Feast of Lanterns ' in Japan, though few 
Europeans seem to perceive any significance 
in that popular festival. 

In general, however, we find the advent of 
the Pleiades concurrent, both in ancient and 
modern tradition, with springs and rains and 
floods : with the renewal of life. Thus the 
comment in the old Breeches Bible, opposite 
the mention of 'the mystic seven' in that 
supreme line in Job : ' which starres arise when 
the sunne is in Taurus, which is the spring 
time, and bring flowres.' A Latin poet, in- 
deed, used Pliada as a synonym of showers. 
Again and again we find them as the Vergiliae, 
Companions of the Spring. They are inti- 
mately connected too with traditions of the 
Deluge : and in this association, perhaps also 
with that of submerged Atlantis, it is suggestive 
to note that early in the sixteenth century 
Cortez heard in that remote, mysterious Aztec 

270 



otherworld to which he penetrated, a very The 
ancient tradition of the destruction of the ^J eia ^" 
world in some past age at the time of their 
midnight culmination. A long way thence to 
Sappho, who marked the middle of the night 
by the setting of those wild-doves of the sky ! 
Or, a century later, to Euripides, who calls 
them Aetos, our * Altair,' the nocturnal 
timekeepers. 

But to return to that mystery of seven. 
Although some scholars derive the word 
'Pleiades 1 or 'Pliades,' and in the singular 
6 Plias,' from the Greek word plein, * to sail,' 
because (to quote an eminent living authority) 
' the heliacal rising of the group in May marked 
the opening of navigation to the Greeks, as its 
setting in the late autumn did the close ' — and 
though others consider that the derivation is 
from pleios, the epic form of the Greek word 
for * full,' or, in the plural, ' many ' — and so to 
the equivalent ' a cluster,' corresponding to the 
Biblical Kimah and the Arabic Al Tkuruyya, 
the Cluster, the Many Little Ones— it is 
perhaps more likely that a less learned and 
ordinary classical reader may be nearer the 
mark in considering the most probable deriva- 
tion to be from Pleione, the nymph of Greek 
mythology — ' Pleione, the mother of the seven 
sisters,' as she was called of old. Such an one, 

271 



Month. 



The too, may remember that certain Greek poets 
;i ei ^" alluded to the Pleiades as the seven doves that 
carried ambrosia to the infant Zeus. 1 To this 
day, indeed, a common English designation for 
the group is 'the Seven Sisters ' : and lovers of 
English poetry will hardly need to be reminded 
of kindred allusions, from Chaucer's ' Atlantes 
doughtres sevene ' to Milton's ' the seven 
Atlantic sisters' (reminiscent here, of course, 
of Virgil's 'Eoae Atlantides') or to Keats' 
'The Starry Seven, old Atlas' children.' The 
mediaeval Italians had ' the seven doves ' again 
(sette palommiele), and to-day their compatriots 
speak of the 'seven dovelets.' It would be 
tiresome to go through the popular Pleiad- 
nomenclature of all the European races, and a 
few instances will equally indicate the preval- 
ence, since the Anglo-Saxon sifunsterri. Miles 
Coverdale, in the first complete English Bible, 
comments on the passage in Job, 'these vii. 
starres, the clocke henne with her chickens ' ; 
and to-day in Dorset, Devon, and other 
English counties ' the Hen and her Chickens ' 
is a popular term, as it is, in effect, with the 

1 On reading recently a work on mythological ornithology by 
Mr. D'Arcy Thompson I noticed that he traces the word Botrus, 
equivalent to a Bunch of Grapes (as the younger Theon likened 
the Pleiades) to obds, a dove, so called from its purple-red breast 
like wine, olvos, and naturally referred to a bunch of grapes ; or 
perhaps because the bird appeared in migration at the time of the 
Vintage. [And see his further evidence of Cilician coins.] 

272 



Wallachians, and indeed, with or without the The 
number seven, throughout Europe. The long P1 eiad- 
continuity and vast range of this association on ' 
with seven may be traced from the ancient 
Celtic ' The Seven Hounds ' to the still more 
ancient ' seven beneficent sky-spirits of the 
Vedas and the Zend-Avesta' or to the again 
more ancient * Seven Sisters of Industry ' of 
remote Chinese folklore. This feminine 
allusion in presumably the oldest mention 
of a popular designation for the Pleiades is the 
more singular from the kindred thought of the 
Roman writer Manilius — ' The narrow Cloudy 
Train of female stars'. . . i.e., no doubt, 
Pleione and her daughters. 

Nor, again, is it possible to record the many 
picturesque or homely Pleiad -designations, 
ancient and modern, in literature and folklore. 
What range, indeed, to cover . . . since we 
should have to go back to two thousand years 
B.C. to recover that fine name, General of the 
Celestial Armies ! It would be tempting to 
range through the poets of all lands. Think 
of such lovely words as those from the 
Muattakat, as translated by Sir William 
Jones : ' It was the hour when the Pleiades 
appeared in the firmament like the folds of a 
silken sash variously decked with gems ' : or 
that line in Grafs translation of Sadi's Giulistdii 

273 T 



The ... 'as though the tops of the trees were 
Pleiad- encircled by the necklace of the Pleiades ' : or, 
' of our own day, of a verse such as Roscoe 
Thayer's : 

" slowly the Pleiades 
Dropt like dew from bough to bough of the cinnamon trees," 

or lines such as that familiar but ever beautiful 
couplet in Locksley Hall : 

" Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow 
shade, 
Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid." 

As for many of the names, what store of old 
thought and legend they enshrine. ' Seamen's 
starres ' our own King Jamie called them, after 
the popular use. The Finns call them 'the 
Sieve,' and the Provencals ' the mosquito net,' 
and the Italians * the Battledore.' With the 
nomad Arabs they are 'the Herd of Camels.' 
Peoples so apart as the ancient Arabians, the 
Algerian Berbers of to-day, and the Dyaks 
of Borneo, have placed in them the seat 
of immortality. Races as widely severed 
as the Hebridean Gaels and certain Indian 
tribes have called them ' the Dancers ' : to the 
Solomon Islanders they are ' a group of girls,' 
and (strange, among so primitive and savage 
a race) the Australian aborigines thought of 
them as ' Young Girls playing to Young Men 

274 



dancing.' There is perhaps no stranger name The 
than our Gaelic Crannarain (though Griog- ^J eiad " 
lachan or Meanmnach is more common), i.e., 
the baker's peel or shovel, from an old legend 
about a Baker and his wife and six daughters, 
itself again related to a singular Cuckoo myth. 

But an end to this long excerpting from 
* starry notes ' ! In a later chapter, too, I pro- 
pose to write of * Winter Stars,' and the 
Great Bear, and Orion, and the Milky Way — 
and I must take warning in time to condense 
better and write ' more soothly ' as Chaucer 
has it. So, now, let me end with a quotation 
from Mr. D'Arcy Thompson's preface to his 
Greek Birds, to which I have alluded in a 
footnote. 'As the White Doves came from 
Babylon or the Meleagrian Birds from the 
further Nile, so over the sea and the islands 
came Eastern legends and Eastern names. 
And our Aryan studies must not blind us to 
the presence in an Aryan tongue of these 
immigrants from Semitic and Egyptian speech, 
or from the nameless and forgotten language 
that was spoken by the gods.' 

Food for thought there, and in many of the 
other alluded-to clues of old forgotten faiths 
and peoples, for the Pleiad-Month ! 

What ages, what rise and fall of kingdoms 
and great empires, since the Arabian shepherd 

275 



The looked up from the illimitable desert and called 
Pleiad- this dim cluster, this incalculable congregation 
' of majesty and splendour, Al Najm, 'the Con- 
stellation . . . ' the Constellation ' : since the 
first wandering Bedouins halted in the moonlit 
Sahara to bow before Al Wasat, the Central 
One : since the poets of the Zend-Avesta hailed 
the overlordship of the Holy Seven ! And 
still they rise, and set, changeless, mysterious. 
Still the old wonder, the old reverence lives 
. . . for not long ago I heard a tale told 
by a Gaelic story-teller who spoke of the 
Pleiades as the Seven Friends of Christ, and 
named them newly as Love, Purity, Courage, 
Tenderness, Faith, Joy, and Peace. 



276 



THE RAINY HYADES 

" Where is the star Irabrifer ? Let us adore it." 

Years ago I remember coming upon this 
mysterious phrase in a poem or poetic drama 
by a French writer. The pagans, led by 
a priest, then went into the woods ; and, in 
a hollow made of a hidden place swept by 
great boughs, worshipped a moist star. I 
forget whether the scourge of drought ended 
then, and if winds lifted the stagnant branches, 
if rains poured through the leaves and mosses 
and reached the well-springs. I recall only 
the invocation, and some faint and broken 
memory of the twilight-procession of bitter 
hearts and wild voices, weary of vain lamenta- 
tion and of unanswered prayers to sleeping or 
silent gods. But often I wondered as to 
Imbrifer, that dark lord with the sonorous 
name. Was he a Gaulish divinity, or, as his 
name signals, a strayed Latin ? And was he, 
as our Manan of the West, a sea-deity, or a 

277 



Hyades. 



The divinity of the clouds, clothed, like the 
Rainy shepherd Angus Sunlocks, in mist, so as the 
more secretly to drive before him down the 
hidden ways of heaven the myriad hosts of the 
rain ? Or had he an angelic crest, with wings 
of unfailing water, as a visionary once por- 
trayed for me a likeness of Midir, that ancient 
Gaelic god at whose coming came and still 
come the sudden dews, or whose presence or 
the signs of whose passage would be revealed 
and still are revealed by the white glisten on 
thickets and grasses, by the moist coolness on 
the lips of leaf and flower. 

The name, too, or one very like it, I heard 
once in a complicated (and, alas, for the most 
part forgotten) tale of the Kindred of Manan, 
the Poseidon of the Gael : remembered be- 
cause of the singular companionship of three or 
four other Latin-sounding names, which the 
old Schoolmaster-teller may have invented 
or himself introduced, or mayhap had in the 
sequence of tradition from some forgotten 
monkish reciter of old. Aquarius and either 
Cetus or Delphinius (quaintly given as the 
Pollack, the porpoise) were of the astronomi- 
cal company, I remember — and Neptheen or 
Nepthuinn (Neptune), notwithstanding his 
oneness with Manan's self. 

But Imbrifer had faded from my mind, as 
278 



though washed away by one of his waves of The 
rain or obliterated by one of his dense mists, Rainy 
till the other day. Then, as it happened, I H y ades - 
came upon the name once more, in a Latin 
quotation in an old book. So, he was of the 
proud Roman clan after all ! and, by the 
context, clearly a divinity of the autumnal 
rains, and of those also that at the vernal 
equinox are as a sound of innumerable little 
clapping hands. 

Could he be an astronomical figure, a 
Zodiacal prince of dominion, I wondered. In 
vain I searched through all available pages 
connected with the Hyades, the Stars of 
Water : in vain, the chronicles of Aquarius, 
of Cetus and the Dolphin, of Hydra and 
Pisces and Argo, that proud Ship of March. 
But last night, sitting by the fire and hearing 
the first sleet of winter whistle through the 
dishevelled oaks and soughing firs, when I was 
idly reading and recalling broken clues in 
connection with the astrological ' House of 
Seturn,' suddenly, in pursuit of a cross- 
reference to some detail in connection with the 
constellation of Capricorn, I encountered 
Imbrifer once more. ' Imbrifer, the Rain- 
Bringing One.' 

So, then, he is more than an obscure 
divinity of the woods and of remote ancestral 

279 



The clans ! Greater even than Midir of the Dews, 
Rainy one f ^ e g rea t Lords of Death : greater than 
' the Greek Poseidon or the Gaelic Manan, 
heaven-throned among the older gods though 
seen of mortals only on gigantic steeds of 
ocean, vast sea-green horses with feet of 
running waves and breasts of billows. For he 
is no other than one of the mightiest of the 
constellations, Capricorn itself ! The name, in 
a word, is but one of several more or less 
obscure or forgotten analogues of this famous 
constellation, concerning which the first printed 
English astrological almanac (1386) has ' whoso 
is born in Capcorn schal be ryche and wel 
lufyd ' ! 

Imbrifer himself ... or itself ... is 
certainly not 'wel lufyd' on many of these 
October and November days of floods and 
rains ! Imbrifer . . . the very name is a kind 
of stately, Miltonic, autumnal compeer of our 
insignificant (and, in Scotland, dreaded !) rain- 
saint of July, S within of dubious memory ! 
It would add dignity to the supplication or 
imprecation of the sleet- whipt citizen of 
Edinburgh or the rain-and-mud splashed way- 
farer in London, during the wet and foggy 
days of November, if, instead of associating 
the one or the other with 'the weather' or 
'our awful climate' he could invoke or abjure 

280 



so imposing and grandiloquent an abstraction The 
as < Imbrifer ' ! Rainy 

Truly a fit Constellation of late autumn, H y ades - 
Capricornus. 

" Thy Cold, for Thou o'er Winter Signs dost reign, 
Pullst back the Sun . . ." 

as a bygone astronomical versifier has it. 
Perhaps he had in mind Horace's 'tyrannus 
Hesperiae Capricornus undae,' who in turn may 
have recalled an earlier poet still, English'd 
thus : 

" . , . Then grievous blasts 
Break southward on the Sea, when coincide 
The Goat and Sun : and then a heaven-sent cold.'' 

Many of us will remember with a thrill 
Milton's magnificent image 

"... Thence down amain 
As deep as Capricorn," 

and others will recall the often-quoted line of 
Dante in the Paradiso (relative to the Sun's 
entrance into Capricorn between January 18 
and February 14). 

" The horn of the Celestial Goat doth touch the Sun.'" 

May and November are the two * fatal ' 
months with the Celtic peoples : the first 

281 



The because of the influence of the Queen of 
Rainy Faerie (she has many names), and the second 
Hyades. because f Midir, who sleeps in November, 
or, as another legend has it, 'goes away' in 
that month. In that month too the Daughter 
of Midir has departed on her long quest of her 
brother Aluinn Og (is this a legend or a con- 
fused traditionary remembrance, or a mytho- 
poeic invention ... I have come upon it 
once only), to find him asleep under the 
shaken fans of the Northern Lights, and to 
woo him with pale arctic fires, and auroras, 
and a faint music wrought out of the murmur 
of polar airs on a harp made of a seal's breast- 
bone. It is but in another guise the old 
Greek legend of Persephone in the Kingdom 
of Aidoneus. Again, it is in November that 
the touch of Dalua, the Secret Fool or the 
Accursed of the Everlasting Ones, gives death. 
Once more, it is in November that Lir holds 
his great banquet, a banquet that lasts three 
months, in Tir-fo-tuinn, the Country under 
the waves. In one way or another all these 
dreams are associated with the sea, with water 
and the Winter Solstice. By different ways 
of thought, of tradition, and of dreaming 
phantasy, the minds of this race or that 
people, of these scattered tribes or those 
broken clans, have reached the same strange 

282 



goals of the imagination. The spell of Capri- The 
corn may be of the Waters of all time, since ** ain J 
the Horned Goat of our Celtic forebears, the 
' Buccan Horn ' of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, 
the Latin ' Imbrifer ' or ' Gelidus ' or * Sea- 
Goat ' (in several variants), the Greek * Athal- 
pees ' or the commoner term signifying a 
Homed Goat, the ancient Egyptian Chnemu, 
God of the Waters, the perhaps as ancient 
Aztec Cipactli, imaged like the narwhal, the 
Chinese Mo Ki and the Assyrian Munaxa, 
both signifying Goat Fish — and so forth, 
East and West, in the dim past and the 
confused present, — are all directly or indirectly 
associated with the element of Water, with 
the Sea, or rains, storm and change and subtle 
regeneration. The Greek writers called the 
allied constellation of Aquarius Hydrochous, 
the Water-Pourer, in mythological connection 
(a Latin commentator avers) with Deucalion 
and the great Flood, that many believe to have 
been an ancestral memory of the Deluge which 
submerged Atlantis. The Anglo-Saxons gave 
it the same name, 'se waeter-gyt. 1 There is 
a Breton legend in connection with Ys, that 
dim Celtic remembrance of vanished Lyonesse 
or drowned Atlantis, to the effect (for I know 
it only in modern guise) that on the fatal night 
when King Gradlon saw his beautiful city 

283 



The unloosened to the devouring waves by Dahut 
g ain y the Red, his Daughter, the Stars of water 
'" shook a fiery rain upon land and sea and that 
the floods of heaven fell, from the wake of the 
Great Galley (the Great Bear) to the roots of 
the unseen tree that bears the silver Apples 
(the Pleiades), and as far as the hidden Well- 
springs (the Constellation of Capricorn) and The 
Mansion of the White King (the Constellation 
of Aquarius) — the White King being water 
personified. 

Nearly all the ancient Greek and Asian 
analogues for the last named, Aquarius, relate 
to water. One of the few old-world exceptions 
was that Roman Zodiac on which the constella- 
tion figured as a peacock, symbol of Here 
(Juno), because that in her month Gamelion 
(part January, part February) the sun enters 
this sign. The Greek Islanders of Ceos called 
it Aristaeus, in memory of a native Rain 
Bringer. Another name was Cecrops, because 
the Cicada or Field-cricket is nourished by 
the dews and has its eggs hatched by the 
vernal rains. It would be wearisome to 
collate superfluous instances. Enough, now, 
that the Arab, the Persian, the Syrian and 
the Israelite, were at one with the Hellene 
and the Anglo-Saxon in the designation of 
the Water-Pourer, or an equivalent such as 

284 



the Arabian Al Dalw, the Well-Bucket : that The 
in China of old its sign was recognised as a Rain y 
symbol of the Emperor Tchoun Hin, the ya 
Chinese Deucalion : and that still among the 
astrologers of Central Asia and Japan it has 
for emblem the Rat, the far- Asiatic ideograph 
for water. Strange too that Star- Seers so 
remote as the Magi of the East and the 
Druids of the West should centrate their 
stellar science on this particular constellation. 
And, once more, not less strange that alike by 
the banks of the Euphrates where it was 
called the Star of Mighty Destiny, on the 
Arabian Sands, where it was called the Fortune 
of all Fortune, and in the Druidic woods of 
the Gaul and the Gael where too it symbolised 
Fortune, a star of its group should be the Star 
of Fortune — the group alluded to by Dante in 
the Purgatorio : 

"... geomancers their Fortuna Major 
See in the Orient before the dawn ..." 

Again, is it tradition or coincidence that 
the Platonists of old held 'the stairs of 
Capricorn ' to be the stellar way by which the 
souls of men ascended to heaven, so that the 
constellation became known as the Gate of 
the Gods, and that to-day the astrologers and 
mystics of the West share the same belief? 

285 



The Even the Caer Arianrod of our Celtic forebears 
Rainy — t ne Silver Road, as generally given though 
y ' obviously very loosely . . . and may not the 
name more likely, especially in connection 
with a basic legend of the constellation of 
Corona Borealis, be the ' Mansion of Ariand ' 
(Ariadne) ? . . . though commonly applied to 
the Milky Way or less often to the Northern 
Crown, is sometimes in its modern equivalent 
used to designate Capricorn. Naturally, to 
astrologers, this Constellation with that of 
Aquarius, is of greatest import, for at a certain 
time 'the House of Saturn ' is here to be 
discerned. 

It is a drop from such sounding names as 
these to ' the Skinker.' Yet by this name our 
English forefathers probably knew in common 
speech the constellation of Aquarius. At 
any rate a Mr. Cock, * Philomathemat,' in a 
rare book of some 200 years ago, Meteorologiae, 
speaks of Aquarius by this singular name, and 
as though it were the familiar and accepted 
designation : ' Jupiter in the Skinker opposed 
by Saturn in the Lion did raise mighty South- 
west Winds.' Here again in this old English 
word, meaning a tapster, we have an analogue 
of the Water-Pourer, that universal Zodiacal 
sign of Aquarius. 

But for all that Horace, and following him 
286 



James Thomson in the Seasons ('Winter'), The 
say of ' Fierce Aquarius staining the inverted ^ ain J 
year,' the constellation is more associated with 
the rain-tides of spring. It is then, too, in 
mid-February to mid-March, that, following 
its passage through Capricorn, the Sun enters 
it — so that ' benign ' and not ' fierce ' becomes 
the apt epithet. 

All these 'watery constellations' — Aquarius, 
Capricorn, Cetus, the Dolphin, Hydra, Pisces 
— are set aside, in the mouths of poets and in 
the familiar lore of the many, for the Hyades, 
that lovely sestet of Taurus which in these 
winter-months are known to all of us, where 
they flash and dance south-east of the Silver 
Apples of childhood's sky — the clustered 
Pleiades. They have become the typical 
stars of the onset of winter — the Lords of 
Rain — 'sad companions of the turning year' 
as an old Roman poet calls them, ' the seaman- 
noted Hyades' of Euripides, 'the Boar- 
Throng' (feeders on the mast brought down 
in late October and November by the 
autumnal rains) of our Anglo-Saxon fathers, 
the 'Storm-Star ' of Pliny, the Moist Daughters 
of Spenser, so much more familiar to us in 
Tennyson's 

" Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
Vext the dim sea." 

287 



The Of old the whole group was called Aldebaran, 
Rainy Du t nQ w we recognise in that name only the 
superb star whose pale-rose flame lights 
gloriously 'the cold forehead of the wintry 
sky' to quote an undeservedly forgotten 
poet. And now, Aldebaran stands apart in 
Taurus, and the six storm -stars are torches 
set apart. 

Well, the Season of the Rainy Hyades has 
come. The Water-Pourer, the Whale and 
swift Dolphin, Pisces (' Leaders of the 
Celestial Host ' and 'the Diadem of November'), 
Hydra the Water-Snake, every Rain-Star, from 
flashing Corona, Bride of the White Hawk, 
to the far southern torch of splendid Achernar 
in Eridanus the Celestial River, all have lent 
the subtle influences of the first of the 
Elements, Water. In the mystic's language, 
we are now in the season when the soul may 
least confusedly look into its life as in a shaken 
mirror, and when the spirit may 'look before 
and after.' For, they tell us, in the occult 
sense, we are the Children of Water. 

To-night, looking at the Hyades, dimmed 
in a vaporous haze foretelling coming storm, 
as yet afar off, I find myself, I know not why, 
and in a despondency come I know not 
whence, thinking of and repeating words I 
read to-day in a translation of the Bhagavad 



Gita : — ' I am in the hearts of all. Memory The 
and Knowledge, and the loss of both, are all Rainy 
from Me. There are two entities in this world, Hyades - 
the Perishable and the Imperishable. All 
creatures are the Perishable and the un- 
concerned One is the Imperishable.' 
The unconcerned One ! 



289 u 



WINTER STARS 

I 

To know in a new and acute way the spell of 
the nocturnal skies, it is not necessary to go 
into the everlasting wonder and fascination 
of darkness with an astronomer, or with one 
whose knowledge of the stars can be expressed 
with scholarly exactitude. For the student it 
is needful to know, for example, that the 
Hyades are Alpha, Delta, Eeta, etc., of Tauri, 
and lie 10° south-east of the Pleiades. But as 
one sits before the fireglow, with one's book 
in hand to suggest or one's memory to remind, 
it is in another way as delightful and as fascin- 
ating to repeat again to oneself how Tennyson 
in Ulysses speaks of this stellar cluster as 

"Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades vext the dim 
sea . . ." 

or how Christopher Marlowe wrote of them 

290 



" As when the seaman sees the Hyades Winter 

Gather an army of Cimmerian clouds, Stars 

Auster and Aquilon with winged steeds ..." 

to recall how Spenser alludes to them as ■ the 
Moist Daughters,' or how our Anglo-Saxon 
ancestors called them 'the Boar-Throno-.' 
One must know that Alpha of Bootes is the 
astronomical signature of the greater Arcturus, 
but how much it adds to the charm of this 
stars interest for us to learn that among its 
popular names are the Herdsman, the Bear- 
Watcher, the Driver of the Wain, and to 
know why these now familiar names were 
given and by whom. One may grasp the 
significance of the acquired knowledge that 
this vast constellation of Bootes stretches from 
the constellation of Draco to that of Virgo, and 
the numeration of its degrees in declination and 
ascension, and (if one may thus choose between 
the 85 and the 140 of astronomers) that it 
contains a hundred stars visible to the naked 
eye. But, for some of us at least, there is 
something as memorable, something as reveal- 
ing, in a line such as that of the Persian poet 
Hafiz, as paraphrased by Emerson, 

" Poises Arcturus aloft morning and evening his spear" — 

or that superb utterance of Carlyle in Sartor 
Resartus, 

291 



Winter " What thinks Bootes of them, as he leads his Hunting 
Stars. Dogs over the zenith in their leash of sidereal fire ? " 

Not, I may add in parenthesis, that the seekers 
after astronomical knowledge should depend 
on the poets and romancers for even an 
untechnical accuracy. Literature, alas, is full 
of misstatements concerning the moon and 
stars. Few poets are accurate as Milton is 
magnificently accurate, his rare slips lying 
within the reach of a knowledge achieved 
since his day : or as Tennyson is accurate. 
Carlyle himself, quoted above in so beautiful a 
passage, has made more than one strange 
mistake for (as he once aspired to be) a student 
astronomer : not only, as in one instance, 
making the Great Bear for ever revolve round 
Bootes, but, in a famous passage in his French 
Revolution, speaking of Orion and the Pleiades 
glittering serenely over revolutionary Paris on 
the night of 9th August 1792, whereas, as some 
fact-loving astronomer soon pointed out, Orion 
did not on that occasion rise till daybreak. 
It has been said of the Moon, in fiction, that 
her crescents and risings and wanings are to 
most poets and novelists apparently an inex- 
plicable mystery, an unattainable knowledge. 
Even a writer who was also a seaman and 
navigator, Captain Marryat, writes in one of 
his novels of a waning crescent moon seen in 

292 



the early evening. The great Shakespeare Winter 
himself wrote of the Pole Star as immutable, Stars, 
as the one unpassing, the one fixt and un- 
deviating star — 

" . . . constant as the Northern Star, 
Of whose true fixed and lasting quality 
There is no fellow in the firmament." 

This was, of course, ignorance of what has 
since been ascertained, and not uninstructed- 
ness or mere hearsay. Possibly, too, he had 
in mind rather that apparent unchanging 
aloofness from the drowning sea -horizon to 
which Homer alludes in the line beautifully 
translated ' Arctos, sole star that never bathes 
in the ocean wave ... of which, no doubt, 
our great poet had read in the quaint delightful 
words of Chaucer (rendering Boetius) — 'Ne 
the sterre y-cleped " the Bere," that enclyneth 
his ravisshinge courses abouten the soverein 
heighte of the worlde, ne the same sterre Ursa 
nis never-mo wasshen in the depe westrene see, 
ne coveitith nat to deyen his flaumbe in the 
see of the occian, al-thogh he see other sterres 
y-plounged in the see.' 

That constellation ' y-cleped the Bere,' how 
profoundly it has impressed the imagination of 
all peoples. In every age, in every country, 
our kindred on lonely lands, on lonely seas, 

293 



Winter from caverns and camp-fires and great towers, 
Stars, have watched it ' incline its ravishing courses ' 
about the Mountain of the North, 'coveting 
not ' to drown its white fires in the polar seas. 
Here, however, it is strange to note the 
universality of the Ursine image with the 
Greeks and Romans and the nations of the 
South, and the universality with the Teutonic 
peoples of designations such as the Wain and 
the Plough. It was not till the Age of 
Learning set in among the Northern peoples 
that the classic term came into common use. 
Thus in a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon manual 
of astronomy the writer, in adopting the Greek 
Arctos (still used occasionally instead of the 
Bear), adds ' which untaught men call Carles- 
wsen/ that is Charles's Wain, the V\ T aggon. 
A puzzling problem is why a designation which 
primarily arose from an association of the early 
Greeks concerning Arkas, their imaginary 
racial ancestor, with Kallisto his mother, who 
had been changed into a great bear in the 
heavens, should also suggest itself to other 
peoples, to races so remote in all ways as the 
North American Indians. Yet before the 
white man had visited the tribes of North 
America the red men called the constellation 
by names signifying a bear. The historian 
Bancroft has proved that alike among the 

294 



Algonquins of the Atlantic and of the Mis- Winter 
sissippi, among the Eastern Narragansett Stars, 
nations and among the nations of the Illinois, 
the Bear was the accepted token. 

Bootes, the Great Bear, the Little Dipper 
or Ursa Minor, these great constellations, with 
their splendid beacons Arcturus, the Triones 
or the Seven Hounds of the North, and the 
Pole Star — 

" By them, on the deep, 
The Achaians gathered where to sail their ships " — 

and in like fashion all the races of man since 
Time was have ' gathered ' the confusing ways 
of night on all lonely seas and in all lonely 
lands. 

But best of all, to know this spell of the 
nocturnal skies, one should be in the company 
of fisher-folk or old seamen or shepherds, per- 
chance unlettered but wise in traditional lore 
and leal to the wisdom of their fathers. How 
much more I value what I have heard from 
some shepherd on the wide dark moors, or 
from some islesman in a fishing-coble or drift- 
ing wherry, on moonless nights filled with a 
skyey * phosphorescence ' as radiant as that 
a-dance and a-gleam in the long seethe of 
the wake of a ship, than what I have found 
concerning scientific star-names in books of 
astronomy. Nothing that I have since learned 

295 



Winter of * the Pointers ' has impressed me so much 
Stars. as what I learned as a child of 'the Hounds 
of Angus,' nor, in later and fuller knowledge 
of Polaris, has the child's first knowledge of 
the mystery and wonder of 'the Star of 
Wisdom,' as pointed out and tale-told by an 
old Hebridean fisherman, or of 'the House of 
Dreams,' as sung to me in a forgotten ballad 
by a Gaelic woman of Argyll, been surpassed. 
It was they — herdsmen and mariners, the 
wayfarer, the nomad, the desert -wanderer — 
who, of old, gave these names to which the 
nations have grown used. It was with the 
nomad that astronomy began. The Chaldasan 
shepherd, the Phoenician mariner, studied the 
stars and named them and the great constella- 
tions which group themselves from horizon to 
horizon in the nocturnal skies. They perceived 
strange symmetries, symbolic images, grotesque 
resemblances. The same instinct made the 
Arab of the Desert call the Pleiades the Herd 
of Camels, made the Akkadian call them the 
Wild Doves, made the Celtic hunter call them 
the Pack of Hounds, made the Teuton peasant 
call them the Hen and Chickens, made the 
Australian savage call them (in conjunction 
with the Bear) Young Girls playing to Young 
Men dancing : the same instinct, this, as made 
the ancient poet of the Zend-Avesta call them 

296 



the Seven Beneficent Spirits, or made the Winter 
modern poet of Locksley Hall liken them Stars. 
to a swarm of fireflies, or made the Gaelic 
poet of to-day image them as the Herring- 
Net. In a word, the instinct of poetry : 
which is as deep as hunger and thirst, as deep 
as love, as deep as fear, as deep as the desire 
of life. The instinct of the imagination to 
clothe the mysterious and the inexplicable in 
the raiment of the familiar or of recognisable 
and intimate symbol. 

How infinitely it adds to the beauty of star- 
names such as Aldebaran, Alcyone, Polaris, 
to know that to the swarthy nomads of the 
desert it imaged itself as one following in a 
skyey desert, a camel -driver tracking lost 
camels, a hound following a quarry, a warrior 
following a foe, a holy pilgrim tracking the 
difficult ways of God, so that no name seemed 
to them so apt as Al Dabaran, the Follower : 
or to know that to the pastoral Akkadians or 
the early tillers and hunters of sea-set Greece, 
looking at the Pleiades in winter, Alcyone in 
its lovely group suggested the Nest of the 
Halcyon, the summer-bird who had flown to 
the remote depths of the sky to sit and brood 
there on a windless wave-unreached nest till 
once again < the Halcyon days ' of calm settled 
on land and sea : or to know that to our own 

297 



Winter seafaring folk of old, the men who voyaged 
Stars, perilously in small and frail craft without 
compass and with little knowledge of the 
mysterious laws of the mysterious forces of 
earth and sea and heaven, Polaris was the 
one unchanging skyey beacon, the steadfast 
unswerving North Star ; and, so, lovingly 
called by our old Saxon forebears the Scip- 
steorra, the Ship-Star, and by the Elizabethan 
seafarers the Lodestar or Pilot-Star, and by 
the Hebridean fishermen the Home- Star, and 
by others the Star of the Sea. 

" Constellations come, and climb the heavens, and go. 
Star of the Pole ! and thou dost see them set. 

Alone in thy cold skies, 
Thou keep'st thy old unmoving station yet 
Nor join'st the dances of that glittering train, 
Nor dipp'st thy virgin orb in the blue western main. 

On thy unaltering blaze 
The half-wrecked mariner, his compass lost, 

Fixes his steady gaze, 
And steers, undoubting, to the friendly coast ; 
And they who stray in perilous wastes by night 
Are glad when thou dost shine to guide their footsteps 
right." 

The same spirit which animated Bryant when 
he wrote these verses in his beautiful ' Hymn 
to the North Star,' or made one of the 
Gaelic island-poets allude to it as the Star of 
Compassion, prevailed with these Chaldasan 

298 



shepherds and Arabian nomads of old. They Winter 
gave the familiar or beautiful names of love Stars, 
or intimate life, and in exchange the taciturn 
face of heaven lost its terrifying menace of 
silence, and the Night became a comrade, 
became the voice of the poets, of the sages, 
of the prophets and seers, the silver gateways 
of the Unknown. 

The Hunter, the Herdsman, the Bear- 
Watcher, the Driver of the Wain — how much 
more we love Bootes, or, as Chaucer called 
the constellation, 'ye sterres of Arctour,' 
because of these simple names. The Herds- 
man, the Hunter, . . . the words strike the 
primitive music. The youth of the world is 
in them. In these few letters what infinite 
perspectives, what countless images. The 
Golden Age lies hid in their now impene- 
trable thickets. Through their branches we 
may look at the tireless hunter of to-day on 
the interminable pampas, at the bowed trailer 
in the dim savannahs of the Amazon, at the 
swarthy nomad on the wastes of Sahara guard- 
ing his camels like ships becalmed in a vast 
sea of sand, or may see the solitary mountain- 
shepherd in the hill-wildernesses of Spain or 
Italy, or the Northern herdsman toiling 
against wind and snow on our Gaelic hills. 
Here also is the romance of the stars, as 
299 



Winter well as that deeper and perturbing romance 
Stars, which is disclosed to us in the revelations of 
science. That sense of incalculable distances, 
of immeasurable periods, of unknown destinies 
and amazing arrivals, which haunts the 
imagination of the astronomer when he looks 
beyond the frontiers of ascertained knowledge, 
half-doubting perhaps whether even that be 
not a terrible illusory logic, is also here. One 
goes back, as in thought one recedes into 
the beautiful, impassioned wonderland of 
childhood. One seems to see mankind itself 
as a child, gone but a little way even yet, 
looking up trustfully or fearfully to the 
mysterious mother-eyes of a Face it cannot 
rightly discern, in its breath being Immortality, 
Eternity in its glance, and on its brows 
Infinitude. 



300 



WINTER STARS 

II 

Of all winter stars surely the most familiar is 
Polaris, the Pole Star or Lodestar : of all 
winter Constellations, the Plough, the Little 
Dipper (to give the common designations), 
Orion, and the lovely cluster of the Pleiades, 
are, with the Milky Way, the most commonly 
observed stellar groups. One of our old 
Scottish poets, Gawain Douglas, writing 
towards the close of the fifteenth or early in 
the sixteenth century, thus quaintly brought 
them into conjunction — 

" Arthurys hous, and Hyades betaikning rane, 
Watling strete, the Home and the Charlewane, 
The fiers Orion with his goldin glave." 

Here possibly he has taken Arcturus for 
Polaris. Of old, the Lodestar and Arcturus 
(or, as often given in the North, * Arturus' or 

301 



Winter 'Arthur' ... a word itself signifying the 
Stars. Great or Wondrous Bear) were often confused. 
Sometimes, too, Arcturus stood for the whole 
constellation of Ursa Major — or, as we 
commonly call it, the Plough or the Wain, as, 
for example, in Scott's lines : 

" Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll, 
In utter darkness, round the Pole." 

But it is obvious Gawain Douglas did not 
mean this to be understood, for in the second 
line he speaks of ' Charlewane,' i.e., Charles's 
Wain . . . the Wain or Waggon being then, 
as it still is among country-folk, even more 
familiar a term than the Great Bear or than 
the Plough itself. Probably, then, he had in 
mind the Pole Star, the ' House of Arthur ' of 
the ancient British. His choice of the 'rain- 
betokening Hyades ' may be taken here as 
including the Pleiades, these * greater seven ' 
in whom centres so much poetry and 
old legend. A previous paper has been 
devoted to the Milky Way, so that there 
is no need to explain why Watling Street 
should be analogous with the Galaxy. The 
' Home ' is the Little Dipper or Ursa 
Minor. Than ' fierce Orion with his glistering 
sword ' there is no constellation so universally 
familiar. If, then, to this category of the old 



Scottish poet, we add the star Aldebaran, Winter 
and the constellation of Taurus or the Bull, Stars. 
we have more than enough Winter Lights to 
consider in one chapter. 

Having already, however, dealt with * the 
watery constellations' we can be the more 
content now to ignore Alcyone, Maia, Taygeta, 
Electra, and the other Pleiadic stars of Taurus. 
This great constellation is one of the earliest in 
extant astronomical records : the earliest, it is 
believed. The stellar image of a Bull has 
occurred to many nations since the designation 
first arose among the ancient Cretans or 
Akkadians — if, indeed, in its origin it was not 
immeasurably more remote. East and West, 
in the deserts of the South and among the grey 
isles of the North, ' the Bull ' was recognised. 
To-day the Scottish peasant still calls it ' the 
Steer,' as his German kinsman does in der 
Stier, his French kinsman in le Taureau, his 
Spanish or Italian kinsman in Toro. When 
certain of the Greeks and Latins used Kerdon 
and Comus instead of Tauros and Taurus, 
they said merely the same thing — the Horned 
One. Virgil, as many will remember, utilises 
the image in the first * Georgic ' : 

" When with his golden horns bright Taurus opes 
The year ..." 

303 



Winter just as a poet of our own time, in a beautiful 
Stars. < Hymn to Taurus,' writes : 

"... I mark, stern Taurus, through the twilight grey 
The glinting of thy horn 
And sullen front, uprising large and dim 
Bent to the starry Hunter's sword at bay." 

Among our own ancestors, the Druids made 
Taurus an object of worship, the Tauric 
Festival having been one of the great events 
of the year, signalised when the sun first 
entered the imagined frontiers of this constel- 
lation. To-day, among the homesteads of our 
Scottish lowlands, the farm -folk tell of the 
Candlemas Bull who may be seen to rise in the 
gloaming on New Year's Eve and move slowly 
to the dark pastures which await his coming. 

The particular stellar glory of this constel- 
lation is Aldebaran. This beautiful star has 
appealed to the imagination of all peoples. I 
do not know what were its earliest Celtic or 
Anglo-Saxon names. But as in Gaelic it is 
sometimes called ' the Hound,' this term may 
well be a survival from ancient days. If so, 
there is an interesting relation with the primi- 
tive Arabic name by which it is all but uni- 
versally known. Aldebaran is Al Dabardn, the 
Follower : and, figuratively, a follower could 
hardly be better symbolised than by a hound. 
I recall a Gaelic poem on a legendary basis 

304 



where the analogy is still further emphasised, Winter 
for there Aldebaran is called 'the Hound Stars. 
of the Pleiades,' which is exactly what the 
Arabian astronomers implied in ' the Follower.' 
Another interesting resemblance is between 
' the red hound ' of the Gaelic poet and legend 
and the Rohini of the Hindus, that word 
signifying ' a red deer ' . . . in each case the 
ruddy gleam of the star having suggested the 
name. Probably it was this characteristic 
which led Ptolemy to apply to the star the 
name ' Lampadias ' or the Torch-Bearer. In 
the narration of folk-tales I have more than 
once or twice heard Aldebaran alluded to as 
the star of good fortune, of 'the golden luck.' 
With us it is pre-eminently a winter-star, and 
may be seen at its finest from the latter part 
of January till the approach of the vernal 
equinox. Some idea of its luminosity may be 
gained from the fact that this is thrice the 
outglow of the Pole Star. How often I have 
stood on a winters night, and watched awhile 
this small red ' torch ' burning steadfastly in 
the unchanging heavens, and thought of its 
vast journeys, of that eternal, appalling pro- 
cession through the infinite deeps : how often 
I have felt the thrill of inexplicable mystery 
when, watching its silent fire in what appears 
an inexorable fixity, I recall what science tells 

305 x 



Winter us, that it is receding from our system at an 
Stars. a n Du t unparalleled velocity, a backward flight 
into the unknown at the rate of thirty miles a 
second. 

It would be hopeless to attempt here even 
the briefest account of the primitive and diverse 
nomenclature, the mythology, the folklore of 
Orion . . . the Winter-Bringer, as this con- 
stellation is called in an old Scandinavian saga, 
identical thus with the marginal reading in the 
Geneva Bible relative to the reference to 
Orion in Job — c which starre bringeth in 
winter,' an allusion to its evening appearance 
at the season of cold and storms. For these 
things are writ in the records of a hundred 
nations. They are alive in the poetry of all 
peoples. Centuries before our era, when 
Thebes was the greatest city of Greece, the 
poetess Corinna sang of this great Warrior, 
the Great Hunter, whose nightly course was 
so glorious above the dusky lands and waters 
of Hellas. Long after Pindar and the Greek 
poets, Catullus and Horace gave it a like pre- 
eminence in Latin literature. In our own 
poetry, many surely will recall from Paradise 
Lost : 

" . . . when with fierce winds Orion arm'd 
Hath vext the Red-sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew 
Busiris and his Memphian chivalry ..." 
306 



or Tennyson's beautiful line in Locksley Winter 
Hall : Stars. 

"Great Orion sloping slowly to the west ..." 

or, it may be, that epic of ' Orion ' upon which 
is based Richard Hengist Home's claim to re- 
membrance — or, once more, Matthew Arnold's 
fine allusion to Sirius and Orion in Sohrab 
and Rustum : 

"... the Northern Bear, 
Who from her frozen height with jealous eye 
Confronts the Dog and Hunter in the South." 

Before Catullus or Pindar the Egyptians had 
identified Orion both with Horus and Osiris. 
Among the peoples of Israel the poets ac- 
claimed the constellation as Nimrod, 'the 
mighty Hunter ' (or by another term signifying 
the Giant), * bound to the sky for rebellion 
against Jehovah.' Among the Celtic races it 
has had kindred names, sometimes abstract, 
sometimes personal, as the Gaelic Fionn. A 
year or so ago I was told a sea -tale of the 
Middle Isles, in which was an allusion to this 
constellation as The Bed of Diarmid. This is 
of especial interest, because of its connection 
with Fionn or Finn, the Nimrod, the great 
Hunter of the Gael. But in this story (a 
modern, not an ancient tale, though with more 
than one strange old survival) the major 

307 



Winter position is not held by Fionn, but by the 
Stars. Alban-Gaelic hero Diarmid, who is represented 
as succumbing under the spear thrust in his 
left side by the enraged Fionn, at last in grips 
with the daring chieftain who had robbed him 
of Grania. When questioned, my informant 
said he had heard a variant of this attribution, 
and that the constellation was an image of 
Diarmid with Grania hanging to his side in a 
swoon, because she and her lover have been 
overtaken by the wrath of Fionn . . . though 
from the description I could not make out 
whether the latter indicated the star Sirius, or 
the rival constellation of the Great Bear. The 
Gaels of old called Orion Caomai, sl name said 
to signify the Armed King : while the Gall 
(the Scandinavian races) applied the name 
OrwandiU but with what signification I do not 
know, though I have read somewhere that it 
stood for Hero, or for an heroic personage. 

Of the chief stars in Orion there is not 
space here to speak. But of the splendid 
Rigel — as affluent in the mysterious science 
of the astrologer as in nocturnal light — pearly 
Anilam, of the Belt or Sword — ominous 
Bellatrix — ruddy-flamed Betelgeuze— of these 
alone one might write much ... as one might 
write much of the Girdle or Staff itself, what 
Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel calls 

308 



' Orion's studded belt.' It has a score of Winter 
popular names, from the Danish Frigge Rok Stars. 
(Freya's Distaff) to the seamen's 'Yard-arm,' 
as, collectively, its three great stars have all 
manner of names in different countries, from 
the Magi, or the Three Kings or the Three 
Marys, to The Rake of the French Rhine- 
landers or the Three Mowers of the Silesian 
peasant. 

Those who have studied the mythology and 
folklore of the Pleiades will remember how 
universally the numeral seven is associated 
with their varying nomenclature. But there 
was, and still is among primitive peoples, not 
infrequent confusion in the use of ' The Seven 
Stars' as a specific name. Although from 
China to Arabia, from India and Persia to 
the Latin countries of the South, the term 
almost invariably designates the Pleiades, in 
the folklore of many Western nations it is 
used for the seven planets, and in many 
Northern races it is often used for the seven 
brilliant stars of the Great Bear. Even the 
Biblical allusion to ' The Seven Stars,' as our 
own Anglo-Saxon ancestral Sifunsterri, does 
not necessarily indicate the Pleiades : many 
consider the seven great planets to be meant. 
There is a Shetland rune, common to all the 
north isles and to be heard in Iceland and 

309 



Winter Norway, known as the rune of sevens, and of 
Stars, which one of the invocatory lines is ' And by 
da seven shiners.' All kinds of interpretation 
have explained this, from the obvious ' seven 
planets,' or else the Pleiades, to the Seven 
Candlesticks of Revelation and I know not 
what besides. I have again and again asked 
fisher- folk or others from the Orkneys and 
Shetlands, and in all but one or two instances 
the answer has clearly indicated the Great 
Bear, occasionally Polaris and the Ursine 
Arcturus and their nearest brilliant ' shiners.' 
Again, Crannarain, one of the Gaelic names 
for the Pleiades, is, perhaps, as often applied 
to the Great Bear : the curious legend of the 
Baker's Shovel, implied in the Gaelic term, 
fitting equally. 

Of the Great Bear, of the North Star, 
however, I have already spoken. Of Polaris 
itself, indeed, there is more than enough 
to draw upon. Years ago I began an MS. 
book called 'The Book of the North Star,' 
and from my recollection of it (for at the 
moment of writing I am far from my books) 
I should say there is enough folklore 
and legend and various interest connected 
with this star wherefrom to evolve a volume 
solely devoted to it. It is strange that 'the 
Lamp of the North ' should have so fascinated 

310 



all the poets from the time of Homer till to- Winter 
day, and yet that all have dwelled in the same Stars, 
illusion as to its absolute steadfastness. Never- 
theless, Homer's 

" Arctos, sole star that never bathes in the ocean wave " 

has both poetic truth and the truth of 
actuality. 

It is a relief to put aside notes and pen and 
paper, and to go out and look up into the 
darkness and silence, to those 'slow-moving 
palaces of wandering light ' of which one has 
been writing. How overwhelmingly futile 
seems not only the poor written word, but 
even the mysterious pursuit of the far-fathom- 
ing thought of man. By the sweat of the 
brow, by the dauntless pride of the mind, we 
mortal creatures have learned some of the 
mysteries of the coming and going in infini- 
tude of these incalculable worlds, of their vast 
procession from the unknown to the unknown 
Then, some night, one stands solitary in the 
darkness, and feels less than the shadow of a 
leaf that has passed upon the wind, before 
these still, cold, inevitable, infinitely remote 
yet overwhelmingly near Children of Immor- 
tality. 



3" 



BEYOND THE BLUE 
SEPTENTRIONS 

TWO LEGENDS OF THE POLAR STARS 

The star Septentrion is, for the peoples of the 
North and above all for the shepherd, the 
seaman and the wayfarer, the star of stars. A 
hundred legends embody its mystery, its 
steadfast incalculable service, its unswerving 
isolation over the Pole. Polaris, the North 
Star, the Pole- Star, the Lodestar, the Seaman's 
Star, the Star of the Sea, the Gate of Heaven, 
Phoenice, Cynosure, how many names, in all 
languages, at all times. The Mongolian nomad 
called it the Imperial Ruler of Heaven : the 
Himalayan shepherd, Grahadara, the Pivot of 
the Planets : the Arab knows it as the Torch 
of Prayer, burning for ever at the portal of the 
heavenly Mecca. It shines through all litera- 
ture, since (and indeed long before) Euripides 
wrote his superb verse of how the two great 



Northern constellations which encircle Polaris, Beyond 
Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the two 'swift- tne Blue 
wandering' Bears, 'guard the Atlantean Pole,' Septen- 
till a poet of our own time wrote the less 
majestic but not less lovely line relating to 
these constellations which gives the title to 
this paper. In all ages, too, the dreaming 
mind of man has imagined here the Throne of 
the Gods, the Seat of the Mighty, the last 
Portal of the Unknown. It is the Flatheansas 
of our Gaelic ancestors, the ultimate goal of 
the heroic spirit : the Himinbiorg, or Hill of 
Heaven, of the Norsemen of old, and the abode 
of Heimdallr, the guardian of the bridge 
Bifrost (the Rainbow) which unites Asgard the 
Everlasting with that brief whirling phantom, 
the Earth. It is Albordy, 'the dazzling 
mountain on which was held the Assembly of 
the Gods ' of the ancient Teutonic peoples : 
the mysterious Mount Meru, the seat of the 
gods, of the Aryan dreamers of old, and the 
Hindu sages of later time : ' the holy mountain 
of God ' alluded to in Ezekiel — so, at least, it 
has been surmised. 

'The blue Septentrions ' . . . Bootes with 
Arcturus, the Great Bear, the Lesser Bear, 
the Pointers or the Northern Hounds, the 
North Star . . . what legend, what poetry, 
what romance, what wonder belongs to these 

3*3 



Beyond stars and constellations which guard the 
the Blue marches of the Arctic North. To the mass of 
trions " wna ^ * s already extant, what need to add 
further matter ? And yet there is ever new 
justification in that continual need of the soul 
to hear over and over again and in ever- vary- 
ing ways even the most fragmentary runes or 
sagas of this unfathomably mysterious stellar 
universe which encloses us with Silence and 
Beauty and Wonder, the three Veils of God — 
as the Hebridean islesman, the Irish Gael of 
the dreaming west, and the Arab of the 
Desert alike have it. 

I have elsewhere spoken of the legendary 
association of Arthur (the Celtic- British King 
and the earlier mythical Arthur, semi-divine, 
and at last remote and celestial) with Arcturus, 
that lovely Lamp of the North, the glory of 
Bootes. But now, I may add what there I 
had to omit. 

In all European lands, and above all in the 
countries of the West, there is none without 
its legend of King Arthur. The Bretons claim 
him as theirs, and the places of his passage and 
exploit are familiar, though only the echo, only 
the phantom of a great fame ever reached 
Arvor. In the Channel and Scilly Isles the 
story runs that there is Lyonesse, and that 
Arthur sleeps in a cavern of the seas. The 

3i4 



Cornish folk and their kindred of Somerset Beyond 
and Devon believe there is not a rood of tne Blu e 
ground between Camelot and Tintagel where tr ^Q ten 
the great King has not dwelt or passed. 
Wales calls him her son, and his chivalry her 
children, and the Cymric poets of a thousand 
mabinogion have sung his heroic fame. Clydes- 
dale, that more ancient home of the Cymri, 
has dim memories older than what Taliesin 
sang : Arthur's Seat hangs above Edinburgh, 
a city so old that a thousand years ago its 
earlier name was forgotten ; and from the 
Sidlaw to the Ochil, from blue Demyat to grey 
Schiehallion, old names and broken tradition 
preserve the obscure trails of a memory fallen 
into oblivion, but not so fallen that the names 
of Arthur and Queen Guinevere and wild-eyed 
Merlin of the Woods have ceased to stir the 
minds of the few who still care for the things 
that moved our fathers from generation to 
generation. The snow of the Grampians have 
not stayed the wandering tale : and there are 
still a few old people who recall at times, in 
the winter story-telling before farm-kitchen 
fires, how the fierce Modred, King of the 
North, made Queen Gwannole his own, and 
how later, in a savage revenge, Arthur con- 
demned her to be torn asunder by wild horses. 
Lancelot passes from the tale before it crosses 

315 



Beyond the Border, and as it goes north (or is it not 
the Blue that as it comes south ?) Merlin is no more a 
trions courtier but a wild soothsayer of the woods, 
Queen Wanders or Gwannole or Guinevere is 
tameless as a hawk, and Arthur himself, 
though a hero and great among his kind, is of 
the lineage of fire and sword. 

Where is Joyeuse Gard ? Some say it is 
in the isle Avillion off the Breton shores : 
some that it is in Avalon, under the sacred 
hill of Glastonbury : some that it is wet with 
the foam of Cornish Seas : others aver that it 
lies in fathomless silence under the sundown 
wandering wave and plunging tide. Another 
legend tells that it leaned once upon the sea 
from some lost haven under Berwick Law, 
perhaps where North Berwick now is, or where 
Dhieton looks across to Fidra, or where the 
seamews on ruined Tantallon scream to the 
Bass. 

Arthur himself has a sleeping-place (for 
nowhere is he dead, but sleeps, awaiting a 
trumpet-call) in 'a lost land' in Provence, in 
Spain, under the waters of the Rhine. To-day 
one may hear from Calabrian shepherd or 
Sicilian fisherman that the Great King sleeps 
in a deep hollow underneath the Straits of 
Messina. And strangest of all (if not a new 
myth of the dreaming imagination, for I have 

3i6 



not been able to trace the legend beyond a Beyond 
modern Slavonic ballad) among the Carpathian the Blue 
Highlands is a nameless ancient tomb lost in a pP ten " 
pine-forest, where at mid-winter a bear has 
been seen to rise, walking erect like a man, 
crowned with a crown of iron and gold holding 
a single shining stone magnificent as the Pole 
Star, and crying in a deep voice, '/ am Arthur 
of the West, who shall yet be king of the World.' 

Strange indeed, for here among the debris 
of the lost history of Arthur, that vast 
shadowy kingly figure whose only kingdom 
may have been the soul of primitive races, and 
whose sword may have been none other than 
the imagination that is for ever on its beautiful 
and perilous quest, here among that debris of 
legend scattered backward from the realms of 
the north across Europe is one, remote as it is, 
which brings us back to the early astro- 
nomical myth which identifies the great Celtic 
champion with the chief constellation of the 
north. 

But as I have heard this fragment of our 
old lost mythology related in a way I have 
not seen in any book, I will give it here altered 
but slightly if at all from one of the countless 
legends told to me in my childhood. 

At sunset the young son of the great King 
3*7 



Beyond Pendragon came over the brow of a hill that 
the Blue stepped forward from a dark company of 
trions " moun tains and leaned over the shoreless sea 
which fills the west and drowns the north. 
All day he had been wandering alone, his 
mind heavy with wonder over many things. 
He had heard strange tales of late, tales about 
his heroic father and the royal clan, and how 
they were not as other men, but half divine. 
They were not gods, he knew, for they could 
be slain in battle or could die with the crowd- 
ing upon them of many years : but they were 
more terrible in battle than were the greatest 
of men, and they had vision and knowledge 
beyond the vision and knowledge of the druids, 
and were lordly beyond all men in mien and 
the beauty of courtesy, and lived beyond the 
common span of years, and had secret com- 
munion with the noble and invisible company. 
He had heard, too, of his destiny : that he, 
too, was to be a great king, as much greater 
than Pendragon, than Pendragon was above 
all the kings of the world. What was 
Destiny, he wondered. Then, again, he 
turned over and over in his mind all the names 
he could think of that he might choose for his 
own : for the time was come for him to put 
away the name of his childhood and to take on 
that by which he should be known among men. 

318 



He came over the brow of the hill, and out Beyond 
of the way of the mountain-wind, and, being tne Blue 
tired, lay down among the heather and stared pP ten " 
across the grey wilderness of the sea. The 
sun set, and the invisible throwers of the nets 
trailed darkness across the waves and up the 
wild shores and over the faces of the cliffs. 
Stars climbed out of shadowy abysses, and the 
great chariots of the constellations rode from 
the west to the east and from the north to the 
south. His eyes closed, but when he opened 
them again to see if a star quivering on the 
verge of the horizon had in that brief moment 
sprung like a deer above the drowning wave 
or had sunk like a white seabird passing out 
of sight, he saw a great and kingly figure 
standing beside him. So great in stature, so 
splendid in kingly beauty was the mysterious 
one who had so silently joined him, that he 
thought this must be one of the gods. 

"Do you not know me, my son?" said the 
kingly stranger. 

The boy looked at him in awe and wonder, 
but unrecognisingly. 

" Do you not know me, my son ? " he heard 
again ..." for I am your father Pendragon. 
But my home is yonder, and there I go before 
long, and that is why I have come to you as a 
vision in a dream ..." and, as he spoke, he 

319 



Beyond pointed to the constellation of the Arth, or 
the Blue Bear, which nightly prowls through the vast 
trions" aDvsses of the polar sky. 

When the boy turned his gaze from the 
great constellation which hung in the dark 
wilderness overhead, he saw that he was alone 
again. While he yet wondered in great awe 
at what he had seen and heard, he felt himself 
float like a mist and become like a cloud, and, 
as a cloud, rise beyond the brows of the hills, 
and ascend the invisible stairways of the sky. 

When for minutes that were as hours he 
had moved thus mysteriously into the pathless 
and unvisited realms of the air, he saw that he 
had left the highest clouds like dust on a 
valley-road after one has climbed to the 
summit of a mountain : nor could he see the 
earth save as a blind and obscure thing that 
moved between the twilights of night and 
dawn. 

It seemed to him thereafter that a swoon 
came over him, in which he passed beyond the 
far-off blazing fires of strange stars. At last, 
suddenly, he stood on the verge of Arth, or 
Arth Uthyr, the Great Bear. There he saw, 
with the vision of immortal not of mortal eyes, 
a company of most noble and majestic figures 
seated at what he thought a circular abyss but 
which had the semblance of a vast table. Each 

320 



of these seven great knights or lordly kings had Beyond 
a star upon his forehead, and these were the tne Blu e 
stars of the mighty constellation of the Hear p?P ten - 
which the boy had seen night after night from 
his home among the mountains by the sea. 

It was with a burning throb at his heart 
that he recognised in the King of all these 
kings no other than himself. 

While he looked, in amazement so great 
that he could hear the pulse of his heart, as in 
the silence of a wood one hears the tapping of 
a woodpecker, he saw this mighty phantom- 
self rise till he stood towering over all there, 
and heard a voice as though an ocean rose and 
fell through the eternal silences. 

"Comrades in God," it said, "the time is 
come when that which is great shall become 
small." 

And when the voice was ended, the mighty 
figure faded into the blue darkness, and only 
a great star shone where the uplifted dragon- 
helm had brushed the roof of heaven. One 
by one the white lords of the sky followed in 
his mysterious way, till once more were to be 
seen only the stars of the Bear. 

The boy- king dreamed that he fell as a 
falling meteor, and then that he floated over 
land and sea as a cloud, and then that he sank 
as mist upon the hills of his own land. 

321 Y 



Beyond A noise of wind stirred in his ears, and he 

the Blue f e lt the chill dew creep over his hands like 
Septen- the stea i t i iy co \& ftp f the tide. He rose 

stumblingly, and stood, staring around him. 
He was on the same spot, under the brow of 
the hill that looked over the dim shoreless 
seas, now obscure with the dusk. He glanced 
upward and saw the stars of the Great Bear 
in their slow majestic march round the Pole. 
Then he remembered. 

He went slowly down the hillside, his 
mind heavy with thought. When he was 
come to the place of the King his father, lo, 
Pendragon and all his fierce chivalry came out 
to meet him, for the archdruid had foretold that 
the great King to be had received his mystic 
initiation among the holy silence of the hills. 

"I am no more Snowbird the child," the 
boy said, looking at them fearlessly, and as 
though already King. "Henceforth I am 
Arth-Uthyr, 1 for my place is in the Great 
Bear which we see yonder in the north." 

So all there acclaimed him as Arthur, the 
wondrous one of the stars, the Great Bear. 

" I am old," said Pendragon, " and soon you 
shall be King, Arthur my son. So ask now a 
great boon of me and it shall be granted to you." 

1 Pronounced Arth-Uir, or Arth-Ur. In ancient British Arth 
means Bear, and Uthyr great, wondrous. 

322 



Then Arthur remembered his dream. Beyond 

" Father and King," he said, " when I am the Blu e 
King after you I shall make a new order of ~epten- 
knights, who shall be strong and pure as the 
Immortal Ones, and be tender as women, and 
simple as little children. But first I ask of 
you seven flawless virgin knights to be of my 
chosen company. To-morrow let the wood- 
wrights make for me a round dais or table 
such as that where we eat our roasted meats 
and drink from the ale-horns, but round and of 
a size whereat I and my chosen knights may 
sit at ease." 

The King listened, and all there. 

"So be it," said the King. 

Then Arthur chose the seven flawless virgin 
knights, and called them to him. 

"Ye are now Children of the Great Bear," 
he said, "and comrades and liegemen to me, 
Arthur, who shall be King of the West. 
And ye shall be known as the Knights of the 
Round Table. But no man shall make a mock 
of that name and live : and in the end that 
name shall be so great in the mouths and 
minds of men that they shall consider no glory 
of the world to be so great as to be the 
youngest and frailest of that knighthood." 

And that is how Arthur, the son of Pen- 
3 2 3 



Beyond dragon, who three years later became King of 
the Blue the West, read the Rune of the Stars that are 
Septen- ca n e( j t h e Q rea t Bear, and took their name 
upon him, and from the strongest and purest 
and noblest of the land made Knighthood, 
such as the world had not seen, such as the 
world since has not known. 

Very different, a cruder legend of the Pole- 
star, the drift of which I heard some months 
ago from a fisherman of Ross, 'forgathered 
with ' in the Sound of Morvern. 

One day, Finn, before he was born the 
King of the West, a thousand years earlier 
than that and maybe thousands more on the 
top of that thousand, went hunting a great 
bear beyond the highest mountains in Ross 
and Sutherland. It came to the Ord, and 
then, seeing there was no more land, it went 
into the sea with an awesome plunge, like Ice- 
land in the story before it swam away from 
Scotland, so that the fish were knocked out of 
the nets and the fishing cobles were thrown on 
the shores like buckies, and the tides ran like 
hares till they leaped into the sea again at the 
rocks of Wick and over Cromarty Cliffs. 
Aye, it is said a green wave ran right through 
the great Kirk at Inverness ; and that away 
across the lands of Mackenzie and Chisholm, 

324 



trions. 



of Fraser and Gordon, a storm of foam blew Beyond 
like snow against the towers and steeples of tne Blue 
Aberdeen. At least all this might well have ?J: pten ~ 
been, if in those old ancient days there had been 
any Aberdeen or Inverness to see it, or if there 
were cobles and nets then, as, for all you or I or 
the wind know, there may have been. Well, 
the Bear swam away due north, and Finn after 
it and his great hounds Luath and Dorch. It 
took them a month to come up with it, and 
then it was among mountains of solid ice with 
the sea between hard as granite. Then it 
came to the place where there's an everlasting 
Rainbow. The Bear climbed this, to jump to 
the other side of the Pole, but Luath ran up 
one side and Dorch the other and Finn hurled 
his great shining spears, one after the other: 
so that down the bear came with a rush, and 
so great was the noise and stramash that the 
icebergs melted, and out flew thousands of 
solanders and grey swans and scarts and God 
knows what all, every kind of bird that is with 
a web to its foot. The hounds fell into the 
water, and the Bear lay on a floe like a 
wounded seal, but Finn never moved an inch 
but put spear after spear into the Bear. "Well, 
you're dead now," he said ; " and if you're not, 
you ought to be," he added, seeing that the 
Bear was up again and ready to be off. 

325 



Beyond "This can't go on," said God Allfather, so 

the Blue ]-[e swung a noose and sagged up the Bear 

<.-?™ n ~ into the black Arctic sky. But the hounds 
tnons. .-in 

hung on to its tail, and so were carried up too. 

And as for Finn, he took the hero-leap, and 
with one jump was on the Pole, and with the 
next was in the Northman's Torch {Arctarus), 
and with the third was on the Hill of Heaven 
itself. And that's where he went back to on 
the day he died after his three hundred years 
of mortal life. He's never moved since, and 
he won't move again, till Judgment Day. 
And by the same token, you can see the 
Great Bear prowling round the Pole still, and 
Finn the Watchman never letting him go by, 
night or day, day or night, and far away down 
are the two Hounds that herd the Great Bear 
and his mate. And when these come too 
near, Finn hurls his spears, and that's when 
we see the Northern Lights. And behind 
the streamers and the auroras and the rain- 
bows and the walls of ice Finn looks into the 
Garden of Eden — Paradise as they say, just 
the Flatheanas of the old tales, the old songs. 
And who would be doubting it ? 



326 



WHITE WEATHER 

A MOUNTAIN REVERIE 

To be far north of the Highland Line and 
among the mountains, when winter has not 
only whitened the hill-moors but dusted the 
green roofs of every strath and corrie, may 
not have for many people the charm of the 
southward flight. But to the hill-born it is a 
call as potent as any that can put the bitter- 
sweet ache into longing hearts. There is 
peace there : and silence is there : and, withal, 
a beauty that is not like any other beauty. 
The air and wind are auxiliary ; every cloud 
or mist -drift lends itself to the ineffable 
conspiracy ; the polar breath itself is a weaver 
of continual loveliness often more exquisitely 
delicate than the harebell, often incalculable 
or immeasurable, or beautiful with strangeness, 
as moonlight on great waters, or the solitary 
torch of Jupiter burning his cold flame in the 

3 2 7 



White heart of a mountain - tarn. There is no 
Weather, soundlessness like it. And yet the silence is 
relative ; is, in a word, but an imagination laid 
upon an illusion. If there is no wind on the 
moor, there may be a wandering air among 
the lower heights. If so, many hollows of 
rocks, caverns lost in bracken, caves of hill- 
fox and badger, sudden ledges haunted by the 
daw and the hoodie and filled with holes as 
though the broken flutes of the dead forgotten 
giants of old tales, will make a low but audible 
music : a lifting and falling sighing, with 
singular turnings upon itself of an obscure 
chant or refrain, that just as one thinks is 
slipping into this side knowledge and is almost 
on the edge of memory, slides like rain along 
that edge and vanishes, vague as an unre- 
membered fragrance. Or if the suspense be 
so wide that not a breath moves lower than 
where the corries climb towards the very 
brows of the mountains, one will surely hear, 
far up among the time-hollowed scarps and 
weather-sculptured scaurs, that singular sound 
which can sink to a whimpering, as of 
unknown creatures or lost inhuman clans 
strayed and bewildered, or can be as though 
unseen nomads were travelling the mountain- 
way with songs and strange flutes and thin 
wailing fifes, or can rise to a confused tumult 

32S 



as of embattled hosts, or to a crying and a White 
lamentation more desperate than the cries of Weather. 
men and a lamenting as of that mysterious 
and dreaded clan, the Grey Children of the 
Wind. The wind, in truth, is almost always 
to be heard, near or far. Sometimes the eye 
may learn, where the ear fails : as when one is 
in a glen or strath or on a shore or moor, and, 
looking up, may see smoke rising from the 
serrated crests or the curving sky-lines, like 
the surf of vast billows — to realise soon, that 
this volcanic apparition means no more than 
that vast volumes of driven snow are being 
lifted by the north wind and whirled against 
and over the extreme mountain - bastions. 
Troth chaidleas *s a ghleann an t-aile, ' when 
the air sleeps in the glens,' goes a Gaelic 
saying, * you may hear the wind blowing in the 
high corries ma?~ chaithream chlar,' like the 
symphony of harps. 

Then, too, it is rare that the snowy 
wilderness is without voice of mountain 
torrent, for even when frost holds the hill- 
world in a grip so terrible that the smaller 
birds cannot fly in the freezing air, there are 
rushing burns of so fierce a spate that the 
hands-of-ice are whirled aside like foam, and 
the brown wave leaps and dashes from rock to 
rock, from granite ledge to peaty hollow, 

329 



White from brief turbulent channels to chasms and 
Weather, crevasses whence ceaselessly ascends the damp 
smell of churned surge, above which as cease- 
lessly rises a phantom spray. Again, there 
is that strange, continual earth -movement, 
the alarm of all unfamiliar wayfarers. Who 
suddenly unloosened that rush of rock and 
earth yonder? What enemy moved that 
boulder that leapt and hurtled and crashed 
downward and beyond, but a score yards 
away ? Of what elfin - artillery are those 
rattling stones the witness ? What hand, in 
the silence, thrust itself through the snow and 
crumbled that old serrated ledge, where, a 
week ago, the red deer stood sniffing the 
wind, where, yesterday perhaps, the white 
ptarmigan searched the heather ? 

Moreover we are in the domain of the eagle, 
the raven, and the corbie. They are seldom 
long silent there. And that sudden call on 
the wind ? . . . what but the Merry Folk, 
Clann Aighean Siubhlach, the Wandering 
Deer- Clan, passing like drifting shadows over 
white heather-pastures lost to view ? It is 
long since the love-belling of the stags made 
musical the mountain - side : was not 'the 
Silence of the Deer' the first sign of winter 
come again ? But that cry was the cry of 
hunger — a guth acaimeach, a sobbing voice, 

330 



as once I heard a prosaic roadmender unpro- White 
saically and with kindly sympathy allude to Weather. 
the winter-bleat of the snow-famished deer. 
And that other bleating : of sheep left upon 
the hills, and overtaken by the White Weather. 
How goes the sound, the translated echo of 
their mournful iteration, that is now a long 
ul ulation of lament and now a rising and falling 
bleating as of confused words ? The same 
roadmender I speak of said — after himself 
lamenting in sympathy tha 'mfuachd a muigh \s 
a staigh an diugh . . . ' the cold is outside and 
inside to-day ' — that it went like this : Tha sinn 
cearr, tha sinn cearr, tha sinn cearr \s gun fhios 
againn ! . . . ' We are astray, we are astray, we 
are astray and have lost our bearings ! ' 

Up here everything may have a snow-change 
' into something rich and rare.' It was in a 
hill-solitude, in white weather such as this, 
that, for example, I heard from an old shepherd 
names for the eagle, the corbie, and the 
ptarmigan that I had not elsewhere heard, nor 
have seen in print, though for long now I have 
been collecting all whenever and wherever 
chance permits the Gaelic and Lowland names 
of birds and animals. The corbie he called 
An t-Eun Acarachd, the Merciless, literally, 
4 the bird without compassion/ no doubt with 
thought of its love for young lambs or its 

33* 



White savage lust for the eyes of stricken or dying 
Weather, sheep. The ptarmigan he called An t-Eun 
(Adhar or Aidkre), the bird of the snow or 
frost — though this is but a variant, of course, 
of the more familiar Sneacag or Eun-an- 
Sneachel. When he spoke of the eagle simply 
as An t~Eun M6r 9 the great bird, that seemed 
less noteworthy, but when he added, Abu ! An 
t-Eun Mbr Abu, I was puzzled. I thought he 
meant aboo to simulate the Iohir's cry, though 
it sounded much more like the muffled hoot of 
the great owl than the eagle's screech. He said 
he remembered that was the eagle's name in 
an old tale he had often heard his mother tell 
when he was a child. I never thought of it as 
Abu, however, till one day I came upon this 
word in a Gaelic dictionary and found it entered 
as being an ancient war-cry of the Gael. 
Truly, a fit survival, for a wild slogan that has 
ages ago died away from the Gaelic hills : to 
live still among these desolate mountains, 
around those wind-tortured scarps and scaurs, 
in the scream of the golden eagle. The old 
man had a special bird-name for most of the 
birds he spoke of or about which I asked him. 
Doubtless he was as good a naturalist and 
with as good a right to make names as any 
ornithologist who would know what the old 
man could not know, and would be familiar 

332 



with common and other names that would be White 
unfamiliar there among the far hills, or, at least, Weather. 
to the old mountaineer, for whom the hill- 
birds were the best of company. For the 
curlew, for instance, though he knew the 
common Scots name, Whaup, he had the good 
name An t-Eun Chaismeachd, 'the bird of alarm' 
— how good a name (though perhaps equally 
applicable to the grey plover, the green 
whistler, or the lapwing) must be obvious to 
all who have walked the moorland or travelled 
the hillside. And where an islesman or a man 
of the mainland coasts would, for swiftness, use 
a comparison such as cho luath ri sgadan, ' as 
swift as a herring,' he would say, cho luath vis 
nafeadag, ' as swift as the plover.' 

White Weather, he said, was always first 
' called ' by the linnet, the ' heather Untie ' so 
loved of Scots song-writers, to which he gave 
several names (' out of a good ten that will be 
known to any one whatever '), one a curious 
blend of Scots-Gaelic, Shilfe-monaidh (i.e., the 
moor - chaffinch), another a pretty name, 
Breacan-Beithe, 'little speckled one of the 
birch.' But even he, for all his hill-wisdom, 
could not tell me why it is that when the 
lapwing come again after the great winter-end 
storm about mid-March, welcome pioneers of 
the Spring that is stealing slowly up through 

333 



White the glens and straths of the south, they always, 
Weather, jf they nest on the slope of a hillside, choose 
the east side for their unsheltered homes and 
where to lay their eggs. Do they so love 
the bleak wind of the east ? Hardly any bird 
takes so little trouble with the nest : often it is 
but the frost-hardened delve of a cow's hoof, a 
tangle of bent, or the hollow of a misplaced 
stone. I have heard that this is truer of the 
mainland than of the isles, but I have not 
found it so. Last March or April I remember 
that on the long, low-hilled and mainly 'upland' 
island where I then was, not a single lapwing's 
nest but was on the east slope of grassy brae or 
sloping moor or pasture. But though he could 
not say a w r ord on so strange, almost so inex- 
plicable a habit, he could be positive as to the 
age of the eagle, and especially as to one aged 
iolair that he often saw on Maol-Aitionnach, 
the great hill that was half the world and more 
to him : namely, that the king-bird lived to be 
three hundred years. And he computed it 
thus : that an eagle lives three times less than 
an oak, and three times more than a deer. 
There is a familiar proverb that ' Tri aoisfeidh 
aois fir ein ; tri aois fir ein aois crsoibh dharaich? 
6 Thrice the age of a deer, the age of an eagle ' 
('ferain,' 'fireun,' and 'fiolair' are variants of 
'iolair,' whose more ancient name is 'antar' 

334 



(an t-ar) 9 one of the oldest names in the Gaelic White 
language) ; ' thrice the age of an eagle, the age Weather. 
of an oak.' The stag lives a hundred years, or 
so it is universally believed : therefore the eagle 
lives three hundred, and the oak's age is at least 
nine hundred years. I recall, in connection 
with the eagle, a singular saying which I heard 
many years ago and have not since heard or 
anywhere encountered, to the effect that be- 
tween dusk and dawn a bat's flight will be the 
equivalent of a thousand miles, that between 
dawn and dusk a swallow will cover a 
thousand miles, and that a thousand miles is 
the measure of an eagle's flight between sun- 
rise and sunset. 

Well, I must leave Maol-Aitionnach, and 
the snow -held hills. Everywhere, now, the 
White Weather may have spread. Far south, 
listeners may hear the honk-honk of the travel- 
ling solander, that most musical and thrilling 
of all nocturnal sounds or of winter-dawns : 
or, like phantom - voices from the world of 
dreams, the kuilliyak-ee, kuilliyak-o of the 
wild swans, the Clann righ fo gheasan, the 
Enchanted sons of Kings, who, as they wheel 
through the snowy twilight under the dawn- 
star may remember the dim lands of the north, 
and a great mountain that rises among white 
and silent hills and looks down upon a black 

335 



White tarn I know of, so dark in the grip of black- 
Weather. f r ost, and so strangely spared of the snow, 
that not a white wing rests there, or floats 
overhead, but is mirrored as an enchanted sail 
in an enchanted sea. 



336 



ROSA MYSTICA 

(and roses of autumn] 



. . . Rosa Sem})it> ma 

Che si dilata, rigrada, e ridolt 

Odor di lode al Sol. . . . 



Sitting here, in an old garden by the sea, it 
is difficult for me to realise that the swallow 
has gone on her long flight to the South, that 
last night I heard countless teal flying over- 
head, and before dawn this morning the 
mysterious honk-honk of the wild-geese. A 
white calm prevails. A sea of faint blue and 
beaten silver, still molten, still luminous as 
with yet unsubdued flame, lies motionless 
beneath an immeasurable dome of a blue as 
faint, drowned in a universal delicate haze of 
silver-grey and pearl. But already a change 
to pale apple-green and mauve is imminent. 
A single tern flashes a lonely wing along a 
grey-green line that may be where sky and 

337 7 



Rosa sea meet, or may be the illusion of the tide 
Mystica. refluent from green depths. On the weedy 
rocks I cannot see even a sleeping seamew : 
on the havened stretch of yellow-white sand 
a dotterel runs to and fro in sudden aimless 
starts, but as suddenly is still, is all but unseen 
with her breast against a rock covered with 
the blue-bloom of mussels, and now is like a 
shadow licked up by twilight. 

Along the husht garden-ways beside me 
and behind me are roses, crimson and yellow, 
sulphur-white and pale carnation, the blood- 
red damask, and a trailing-rose, brought from 
France, that looks as though it were live flame 
miraculously stilled. It is the hour of the 
rose. Summer has gone, but the phantom- 
summer is here still. A yellow butterfly 
hangs upon a great drooping Marechal Niel : 
two white butterflies faintly flutter above a 
corner-group of honey-sweet roses of Provence. 
A late hermit-bee, a few lingering wasps, and 
the sweet, reiterated, insistent, late-autumn 
song of the redbreast. That is all. It is the 
hour of the rose. 

" Cest Vheure de la rose 

L'heure d'ambre etflamme, 
Quand dans mon ame 
Je sens une Blanche Rose 
Eclose." 

338 



To-night the sea-wind will go moaning from Rosa 
the west into the dark north : before dawn a Mystica. 
steely frost will come over the far crests 
of the hills. To-morrow the garden will 
be desolate : a garden of phantom dreams. 
They have waited long, spell-bound ! but the 
enchantment is fallen ; in a few hours all shall 
be a remembrance. What has so marvellously 
bloomed thus late, so long escaped devastating 
wind and far-drifting rains and the blight of 
the sea, will pass in a night. Already, a long 
way off, I hear a singular, faint, humming 
sound, like stifled bees. So . . . the foam 
of storm is on the skerries of the seaward 
isles. Already from the north, a faint but 
gathering chill comes on the slanting wings 
of twilight. I rise with a sigh, thinking of 
an old forgotten refrain in an old forgotten 
poem : 

" Ged tha thu 'n diugh 'a d'aibheis fhuar, 
Bha thu nair '« d'aros righ — " 

"(Though thou art to-day a cold ruin 
Thou wert once the dwelling of a king.) " 

In the long history of the Rose, from the 
time when the Babylonians carried sceptres 
ornamented now with this flower now with 
the apple or lotus, to the coming of the 
Damask Rose into England in the time of 
Henry VII. : from the straying into English 

339 



Rosa gardens, out of the Orient, of that lovely 
Mystica. yellow cabbage-rose which first came into 
notice shortly after Shakespeare's death, or 
from Shakespeare's own 'Provencal rose,' 
which is no other than the loved and common 
cabbage-rose of our gardens : from the combes 
of Devon to the straths of Sutherland, to that 
little clustering rose which flowered in Surrey 
meads in the days of Chaucer and has now 
wandered so far north that the Icelander can 
gather it in his brief hyperborean summer : 
from Keat's musk-rose — 

" The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, 
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves — " 

to that Green Rose which for more than half 
a century has puzzled the rose-lover and been 
a theme of many speculations ... a thousand 
wise and beautiful things have been said of 
this most loved of flowers and not a few errors 
been perpetuated. 

What has become of the Blue Roses to 
which in 1800 a French writer, Guillemeau, 
alludes as growing wild near Turin ? They 
are no less phantoms than some of the rose- 
allusions which the poet has made sacrosanct, 
that to the Rhetorician have become an 
accepted convention. Again, we are told and 
retold that the cult of the rose is a modern 

340 



and not an ancient sentiment. Even, it is Rosa 
said, the allusions of the Latin poets are not Mystica. 
those of lovers and enthusiasts. It is the 
Rose of Catullus, we are reminded, that 
blooms in the old Italic literature, the flower 
of festival, of Venus and Bacchus, alluded to 
more for its associations and its decorative 
value than for love borne to it or enthusiasm 
lit by it as by a fragrant flame. 

All this may be so, and yet I am not 
persuaded that the people of ancient days did 
not love this flower of flowers as truly as, if 
perhaps differently than, we do. It is true 
that the ancients do not appear to have 
regarded nature, either in the abstract or in 
the particular, in the way characteristic of 
peoples of modern times and above all of our 
own time. But literary allusiveness does not 
reveal the extent or the measure of the love of 
objects and places. It is almost inconceivable, 
for example, that so beauty-loving a people as 
the Greeks did not delight in the rose. The 
fact that only a mere handful of roses may be 
culled from all the poetry of Hellas, here a 
spray from Sappho, a wine-flusht cluster from 
Anacreon, a dew-wet bloom from Theocritus, 
a few wild - roses from the Anthology, an 
epithet from Homer, an image from Simonides 
or Pindar, a metaphor in some golden mouth, 

34i 



Rosa this paucity — so singular compared with the 
Mystica. Rose of Poetry in our English speech, from 
Chaucer's 'Rose of Rhone' to Mr. Yeats's 
6 Rose on the Rood of Time,' loved and sung 
through a thousand years. Such paucity does 
not necessarily mean that only a few poets 
casually alluded to this supreme flower, and 
that it was unnoticed or unloved of the many. 
Doubtless rose-chaplets were woven for lovers, 
and children made coronals, and at mourning 
ceremonies and marriage festivals these flowers 
were strewn. The very fact that Sappho 
called the rose the queen of flowers showed 
that it was distinguished from and admired 
among even the violets, pre-eminently the 
flowers of Athens. That she likened a young 
maiden to a rose is as indicative as when an 
Arab poet likens his love to a delicate green 
palm, or as when a northern poet speaks of 
her as a pine-tree swaying in the wind or a 
wave dancing on the sea. 

Then, again, the Rose would not have been 
consecrated to Venus, as an emblem of 
beauty : to Eros, as an emblem of love : to 
Aurora, as an emblem of Youth : and to 
Harpocrates, as an emblem of silence : if this 
symbolic usage were not such as would seem 
fit and natural. That roses, too, were in 
general demand is evident alone from their far- 

342 - 



famed culture and the great trade in them at Rosa 
Paestum, the Lucanian town colonised by the Mystica. 
Greek Sybarites five hundred years b.c. All 
mediaeval and later literature is full of the 
beauty and fragrance of the rose, but were it 
not so, one could infer that the flower was 
held in high esteem from the fact that it has 
for ages been the wont of the Popes to have 
a golden rose exquisitely finished, and, when 
consecrated, to present it to some Catholic 
monarch as a token of special regard. Thus 
it seems to me that were there not a single 
allusion to the rose by any great poet from 
Homer to Sappho, from Anacreon to Theo- 
critus, we might yet discern the love of the 
ancient Greeks for this flower from, let us 
say, a single surviving phrase such as the 
anonymous lovely epitaph ial prayer-poem in 
the Anthology : — ' May many flowers grow on 
this newly-built tomb; not the dried- up 
Bramble, or the red flower loved by goats ; 
but Violets and Marjoram, and the Narcissus 
growing in water ; and around thee may all 
Roses grow.' 

In Persia and the East, from Hindustan to 
Palestine, from remotest Asia to Abyssinia 
and Barbary, the Rose has ever been loved 
and honoured. Sadi of the Rose-garden and 
many another has sung of it with ecstasy. 

343 



Rosa The Hindu god Indra, even Buddha himself, 
Mystica. suffered for robbing a paradisaical garden of a 
rose. How suggestive it is, that the Eve of 
the Aztec garden of Eden sinned, not for 
plucking an apple but a rose : it was a fatal 
rose, too, that the Eve of primitive Mexican 
legend gathered to her undoing and that of all 
her descendants. 

What innumerable legends centre round 
this flower. In every country and in either 
hemisphere, north of the Equator, the poet 
and the myth -maker and the legend- weaver 
have occupied their imaginations to enhance 
its beauty, to deepen its significance. 

Long ago Bion told how the rose sprang 
from the blood of the wounded Adonis, the 
supreme type of beauty, and of the tears of 
Venus. An older Hellenic legend declares 
that the rose was originally white, till Eros, 
dancing among the gods, upset a goblet of 
nectar upon Venus's flower, which thereupon 
became red. Christian legend, on the other 
hand, would have it that the red rose sprang 
from the brands which had been lighted at 
Bethlehem to burn to death a Christian virgin- 
martyr. Remote from Syria as from Greece, 
the Scandinavian legend arose that this flower 
was white till Baldur, the god of Youth and 
Love, bled at the coming of Christ — akin to 

344 



which is a Gaelic legend, that the flower was Rosa 
white till a drop of Christ's blood fell from the Mystica. 
Cross ... a variant of which is that the 
robin, who plucked at the thorns in Christ's 
forehead till they stained its breast red, leaned 
exhausted against a wild white-rose on Calvary, 
which ever after was red as blood. I do not 
know the origin of the legend save that it is 
Teutonic in its present colour and shape, of 
how the Crown of Thorns was woven of 
the Briar-Rose, and how the drops that fell 
from the thorns became blood-hued blooms. 
Teutonic also, I think, is the legend that 
Judas made a ladder of the rose-briar with 
which to reach the closed doors of heaven : 
hence why it is that the name Judas- Stairs is 
given to the Briar in some parts of Germany 
to this day, and why the scarlet hips are called 
Judasbeeren. 

Most beautiful of surviving rose- customs is 
that akin to what is still done in some remote 
parts of Europe, the placing of an apple into 
the hand of a dead child, so that the little one 
may have something to play with in Paradise. 
I know of a dead Irish girl into whose right 
hand was placed a white rose, and of a drowned 
fisherman in whose hand was placed a red rose, 
symbols of spiritual rebirth and of deathless 
youth. Against this must be set the strange 

345 



Rosa and widespread aversion to throwing a rose 
Mystica. j n t a grave, or even letting one fall or be 
lowered there. ('It is throwing red life away ' 
it was explained to me once, — with the grim 
addition, 'and Death will at once be hungry 
for more of the rose-thrower.') 

Again, I recall an old legend of the last rose 
of summer, long anterior to the familiar song 
so named : a legend of how at Samhain (Hallow- 
mass) when of old was held the festival of 
summer ended and of winter begun, a young- 
Druid brought a rose to the sunward Stones 
and, after consecration and invocation, threw 
it into the sea. 

To-day, sitting in my old garden amid many 
roses, and looking westward across a waveless, 
a moveless sea, now of faint apple-green and 
fainter mauve lost in a vast luminous space of 
milky, violet-shadowed translucency, I dream 
again that old dream, and wonder what its 
portent then, what its ancient significance, of 
what the symbol now, the eternal and un- 
changing symbol. For nothing is more strange 
than the life of natural symbols. We may 
discern in them a new illusion, a new meaning : 
the thought we slip into them may be shaped 
to a new desire and coloured with some new 
fantasy of dreams or of the unspoken and 
nameless longing in the heart : but the symbol 

346 



has seen a multitude of desires come and go Rosa 
like shadows, has been troubled with many Cystica. 
longings and baffled wings of the veiled pas- 
sions of the soul, and has known dreams, many 
dreams, dreams as the uncounted sand, the 
myriad wave, the illimitable host of cloud, rain 
that none hath numbered. The Symbol of 
the Lily has been the chalice of the world's 
tears ; the symbol of the Rose, the passion of 
uplifted hearts and of hearts on fire ; in the 
symbol of the Cross has dwelled, like fragrance 
in a flower, the human Soul. The salt, mutable, 
and yet unchanging sea has been the phantom 
in which empires have seen Time like a shadow, 
the mirage by which kings have wept and 
nations been amorous in a great pride. The 
Wind, that no man has seen, on whose rushing 
mane no hand has been laid, and in whose 
mouth has been set no bridle since the world 
swung out of chaos on chariots of flame, . . . 
has not that solitary and dread creature of the 
deeps been fashioned in our minds to an image 
of the Everlasting, and in our hearts been 
shaped to the semblance of a Spirit ? 

A rose, laid on a stone-altar in the sunrire, 
and thrown into the sea, with strange hymns, 
with supplication . . . what a symbol this of 
the desires that do not die with nations, the 
longings that outlive peoples, the grass of 

347 



Rosa prayer that Time has trampled upon and left 
Mystica. an( j forever leaves green and virginal ? 

To give that, that lovely fragrant flame of 
the old material earth, to the altars of the 
bowed spirit : to clothe it in the fire of heaven : 
to commit it to the unassuaged thirst of the 
everlasting graves of the sea. — Surely, here, an 
image of that Rosa Mundi which has been set 
upon the forehead of the world since time was, 
that Rose of Beauty, that Rose of Time, that 
Rose of the world which the passion of the 
soul has created as a prayer to the Inscrutable : 
the Rose of the Soul, of you, of me, of all 
that have been, of all that are, of all unborn, 
that we lay upon our places of prayer, and 
offer to the Secret Fires, and commit to 
desolation, and sorrow, and the salt and avid 
hunger of Death ? What came of that 
mystical wedding, of the world we know and 
the world we do not know, by that rose of the 
spirit, committed thus in so great a hope, so 
great a faith ? The Druid is not here to tell. 
Faith after Faith has withered like a leaf. 
But still we stand by ancestral altars, still offer 
the Rose of our Desire to the veiled Mystery, 
still commit this our symbol to the fathomless, 
the everlasting, the unanswering Deep. 



348 



THE STAR OF REST 

A FRAGMENT 

Rest — what an oceanic word ! I have been 
thinking of this unfathomable, unpenetrable 
word with mingled longing, and wonder, and 
even awe. 

What depths are in it, what infinite spaces, 
what vast compassionate sky, what tenderness 
of oblivion, what husht awakenings, what 
quiet sinkings and fadings into peace. 

Waking early, I took the word as one 
might take a carrier-dove and loosed it into 
the cloudy suspense of the stilled mind — and 
it rose again and again in symbolic cloud- 
thought, now as an infinite green forest 
murmurous with a hidden wind, now in 
some other guise and once as Ecstasy herself, 
listening. 



349 



Dear soft, sweet breath of the hills, 
Good-night ! 



Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh. 



SOME PRESS NOTICES 

" Not beauty alone, but that element of strangeness in beauty 
which Mr. Pater rightly discerned as the inmost spirit of romantic 
art — it is this which gives to Miss Macleod's work its peculiar 
aesthetic charm." — Mr. Ashcroft Nohle. 

" Miss Macleod is a poet. Her prose w prose— it is a poet- 
prose. . . . She excels in the very quality most Celtic literature 
so signally wants —namely, form. . . . But more than a sense 
of form is evident in her stories. She has the seeing eye, the 
hearing ear, the attentive spirit, the brooding mind. She has 
caught and construed into sweet words all the magical beauty of 
the themes, nor has she shrunk from their horror ; and in 
almost all one is conscious of that unknown something that 
' moves in the shadow of life.' l It is Destiny,' she tells us, 
' that is the Protagonist in the Celtic drama.' "—To-day. 

" Miss Macleod's genius has long been recognised as repre- 
senting most completely the revival of the Celtic spirit in 
modern English literature."— The Manchester Guardian. 

"Miss Macleod is a Celt of the Celts; her theme is the 
ancient trouble of her race. . . . She appeals to a little clan of 
her own, to whom the wild bees of the spirit come, as secret 
wings in the dark, with the sound and breath of forgotten things. 
To that clan The Winged Destiny will be more than welcome. 
It shows in abundance all the writer's usual qualities of charm 



Some Press and manner. . . . Criticism bends before the magic glamour 

Notices* of the north, where the sea foam is white and the skies are dark 

with cloud and wind. The land of the Gael is something rare 

and -"apart ; and rare and apart, judge it as you will, is the art of 

Fiona Macleod." — The Glasgow Herald. 

" What I admire in the work of Miss Fiona Macleod is her 
infinite sympathy for all that is beautiful, either in what we 
usually call inanimate nature, or in the deeds and words of men. 
She too— and this is no mean compliment— respects her own 
gift, and bestows it royally."— Country Life. 

" e There is no mystery in them, or anywhere, except the 
eternal mystery of beauty '—and Miss Macleod certainly possesses 
the master key to the heart of that mystery."— The Daily 
Chronicle. 

" Miss Macleod persuades one more than ever that she is the 
possessor of that rare and precious thing, genius. . . . Her 
work has energy, passion, beauty, and sweetness."— The National 
Observer. 

" ' J'avais le sentiment de l'iufini et de l'e'ternel et de la mes 
sourires pour les choses qui passent. Mais l'Esprit ne passe 
point.' Cette belle phrase de Renan s' applique assez exactment a 
l'auteur de The Winged Destiny, Miss Fiona Macleod. Ce livre 
qui s'est ' dresse comme un fantome hors des bois hautes ' a le 
charme indicible des precedents ceuvres de cet auteur. Miss 
Macleod a quelque chose de visionnaire et d'indefini, d'etrange- 
ment melancolique, de profondement emouvant. . . . Tout cela, 
c'est bien ' le reve de la vie vue en beaute', et voir les choses 
dans leur beaute c'est les voir dans leur verite, comme l'a dit 
Matthew Arnold." — Le Mercure de France. 



SOME PRESS NOTICES 

of 
44 Where the Forest Murmurs" 

" Fiona Macleod's prose baffles description. It is perhaps 
hardly prose at all. It is melody in words suggesting scene- as 
much by sound as by the passage of ideas. . . . But it is, when 
all analysis is ended , something quite alone : pure music of a 
strange and curious quality, that is neither prose nor poetry, 
but thrilling with the pain and passion of a Gaelic chant." — The 
Contemporary Review. 

" Beyond any other writer whom one may allege for the 
comparison, this writer has chosen to saturate her work in 
beauty. The sense of it is, for her, a perpetual touchstone— a 
touchstone for the apperception of sheer natural presences, of 
dream and vision and intimation, of that miraculous and super- 
sensuous world in which the spirit of the essential mystic has its 
intensest life. . . . She has played, from the first, ' upon the 
silent flutes, upon the nerves wherein the soul sits enmeshed.' 
Always she has made her command over beauty serve the needs 
of an exquisite spiritual consciousness."— Mr. Lawrence Oilman 
in The North American Review. 

"Fiona Macleod had imagination and sympathy of a rare 
kind, and will rank high among the writers of sonorous and 
beautiful English."— The Speaker. 

"In a slipshod, slapdash age, there is a great relief to be 
found in books like this, with its exquisite sense of style, its 
almost supersensitive feeling for the beauty of words. . . . 
Where the Forest Murmurs is haunting and unforgettable. It 



Some Press is one of those pieces of nature-study in which, in Matthew 
Notices* Arnold's phrase, we have that rarest of all modern qualities, 
' healing power.'" — Mr. Alfred Noyes in The Bookman. 

" The genius of ' Fiona Macleod ' is a thing subtle, elusive, 
apart, defying classification and analysis alike. . . . The appeal 
of this book is to such as love the earth in her varied moods — 
such as delight in the delicate shades of colour and form, the 
subtle changes of light and sound which make up the magnificent 
pageant of the year. ... Is it this subtle sense of the imagina- 
tive values of words which is the secret of these haunting 
pictures ? " — The Academy. 

" In the present volume the late William Sharp bequeaths to 
us a delightful legacy, embodying the chief teachings of his 
prose and verse." — The Manchester Courier. 

" Here, again, we have the old, beautiful web made of dreams 
and fantasies, shot through with the colour of folklore, of 
legends and traditions — exquisitely chosen, if they were not, 
indeed, made by Fiona Macleod — above all, a passionate delight 
in the beauty of the world. And all set forth in an ordered 
procession of words which are as beautiful as the things they 
represent. Fiona Macleod had the Celtic gift of eloquence in 
a superlative degree. ... To open this book anywhere is to be 
pelted with words like jewels with fire at the heart of them. 
And in our drab days we shall miss the Wonder-Worker 
sadly."— The Pall Mall Gazette. 

<e Where the Forest Murmurs seems to contain sure and certain 
signs that it is not the work of a woman. It is full of a love of 
abstract beauty, of a nearness to Nature herself, Nature Pagan 
and primaeval. . . . Women have done many things in the 
world of letters, but they have not yet written with the purely 
impersonal passion that burns in these pages, touching us with 
an art at once profoundly melancholy and profoundly moving." 
— The Irish Times. 

" Fiona Macleod is here revealed as the interpreter of Nature, 
who has an intimacy with her in many moods. ... In every 
page there is a call to see and hear and love Nature, to share 
the writer's joy and passionate delight — a call framed in words 
so fitting and so strangely beautiful that there is no resisting 
it." — The Dundee Advertiser. 



LlB%A%Y. 

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TREES AND SHRUBS 
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By E. T. COOK, Editorof The Garden. 12s. 6d. Net, by post 12s nd. 

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This interesting subject has never been treated in the same way as set forth in this illustrated 
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on each subject. 

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MY GARDEN. 

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