Friday, September 9th.
According to appointment, the gardener came with his keys in his hand, and we attended him whithersoever he chose to lead, in spite of past experience at Blair. We had, however, no reason to repent, for we were repaid for the trouble of going through the large gardens by the apples and pears of which he gave us liberally, and the walks through the woods on that part of the grounds opposite to where we had been the night before were very delightful. The Duke's house is neither large nor grand, being just an ordinary gentleman's house, upon a green lawn, and whitewashed, I believe. The old abbey faces the house on the east side, and appears to stand upon the same green lawn, which, though close to the town, is entirely excluded from it by high walls and trees.
We had been undetermined respecting our future course when we came to Dunkeld, whether to go on directly to Perth and Edinburgh, or to make a circuit and revisit the Trossachs. We decided upon the latter plan, and accordingly after breakfast set forward towards Crieff, where we intended to sleep, and the next night at Callander. The first part of our road, after having crossed the ferry, was up the glen of the Bran. Looking backwards, we saw Dunkeld very pretty under the hills, and surrounded by rich cultivated ground, but we had not a good distant view of the abbey.
Left our car, and went about a hundred yards from the road to see the Rumbling Brig, which, though well worth our going out of the way even much further, disappointed us, as places in general do which we hear much spoken of as savage, tremendous, etc., - and no wonder, for they are usually described by people to whom rocks are novelties. The gardener had told us that we should pass through the most populous glen in Scotland, the glen of Amulree. It is not populous in the usual way, with scattered dwellings; but many clusters of houses, hamlets such as we had passed near the Tummel, which had a singular appearance, being like small encampments, were generally without trees, and in high situations - every house the same as its neighbour, whether for men or cattle. There was nothing else remarkable in the glen. We halted at a lonely inn at the foot of a steep barren moor, which we had to cross; then, after descending considerably, came to the narrow glen, which we had approached with no little curiosity, not having been able to procure any distinct description of it.
At Dunkeld, when we were hesitating what road to take, we wished to know whether that glen would be worth visiting, and accordingly put several questions to the waiter, and, among other epithets used in the course of interrogation, we stumbled upon the word 'grand,' to which he replied, 'No, I do not think there are any gentlemen's seats in it.' However, we drew enough from this describer and the gardener to determine us finally to go to Callander, the Narrow Glen being in the way.
Entered the glen at a small hamlet at some distance from the head, and turning aside a few steps, ascended a hillock which commanded a view to the top of it - a very sweet scene, a green valley, not very narrow, with a few scattered trees and huts, almost invisible in a misty gleam of afternoon light. At this hamlet we crossed a bridge, and the road led us down the glen, which had become exceedingly narrow, and so continued to the end: the hills on both sides heathy and rocky, very steep, but continuous; the rocks not single or overhanging, not scooped into caverns or sounding with torrents: there are no trees, no houses, no traces of cultivation, not one outstanding object.
It is truly a solitude, the road even making it appear still more so: the bottom of the valley is mostly smooth and level, the brook not noisy: everything is simple and undisturbed, and while we passed through it the whole place was shady, cool, clear, and solemn. At the end of the long valley we ascended a hill to a great height, and reached the top, when the sun, on the point of setting, shed a soft yellow light upon every eminence. The prospect was very extensive; over hollows and plains, no towns, and few houses visible - a prospect, extensive as it was, in harmony with the secluded dell, and fixing its own peculiar character of removedness from the world, and the secure possession of the quiet of nature more deeply in our minds. The following poem was written by William on hearing of a tradition relating to it, which we did not know when we were there: -
In this still place remote from men
Sleeps Ossian, in the Narrow Glen,
In this still place where murmurs on
But one meek streamlet, only one.
He sung of battles and the breath
Of stormy war, and violent death,
And should, methinks, when all was pass'd,
Have rightfully been laid at last
Where rocks were rudely heap'd, and rent
As by a spirit turbulent;
Where sights were rough, and sounds were wild,
And everything unreconciled,
In some complaining, dim retreat
Where fear and melancholy meet;
But this is calm; there cannot be
A more entire tranquillity.
Does then the bard sleep here indeed?
Or is it but a groundless creed?
What matters it? I blame them not
Whose fancy in this lonely spot
Was moved, and in this way express'd
Their notion of its perfect rest.
A convent, even a hermit's cell
Would break the silence of this Dell;
It is not quiet, is not ease,
But something deeper far than these;
The separation that is here
Is of the grave; and of austere
And happy feelings of the dead:
And therefore was it rightly said
That Ossian, last of all his race,
Lies buried in this lonely place.
Having descended into a broad cultivated vale, we saw nothing remarkable. Observed a gentleman's house, which stood pleasantly among trees. It was dark some time before we reached Crieff, a small town, though larger than Dunkeld.
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