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Weather just as we saw Staffa at which it is impossible to land but in a tolerable Calm sea. But I will first mention Icolmkill—I know not whether you have heard much about this Island ; I never did before I came nigh it. It is rich in the most interesting Antiquities. Who would expect to find the ruins of a fine Cathedral Church, of Cloisters Colleges Monasteries and Nunneries in so remote an Island ? The Beginning of these things was in the sixth Century, under the superstition of a wouldbe-Bishop-saint, who landed from Ireland, and chose the spot from its Beauty—for at that time the now treeless place was covered with magnificent Woods. Columba in the Gaelic is Colm, signifying Dove-Kill signifies church, and I is as good as Island—so I-colm-kill means the Island of Sai Columba's Church. Now this Saint Columba became the Dominic of the barbarian Christians of the north and was famed also far south—but more especially was reverenced by the Scots the Picts the Norwegians the Irish. In a course of years perhaps the Island was considered the most holy ground of the north, and the old Kings of the aforementioned nations chose it for their burial-place. We were shown a spot in the Churchyard where they say 61 Kings
buried 48 Scotch from Fergus II. to Macbeth 8 Irish 4 Norwegians and 1 French—they lie in rows compact. Then we were shown other matters of later date, but still very ancient-many tombs of Highland Chieftains—their effigies in complete armour, face upwards, black and moss-covered—Abbots and Bishops of the island always of one of the chief Clans.
There were plenty Macleans and Macdonnels; among these latter, the famous Macdonel Lord of the Isles. There have been 300 Crosses in the Island but the Presbyterians destroyed all but two, one of which is a very fine one, and completely covered with a shaggy coarse Moss. The old Schoolmaster, an ignorant little man but reckoned very clever, showed us these things. He is a Maclean, and as much above 4 foot as he is under 4 foot three
inches. He stops at one glass of whisky unless you press another and at the second unless you press a third
I am puzzled how to give you an Idea of Staffa. It can only be represented by a first-rate drawing. One may compare the surface of the Island to a roof—this roof is supported by grand pillars of basalt standing together as thick as honeycombs. The finest thing is Fingal's Cave—it is entirely a hollowing out of Basalt Pillars. Suppose now the Giants who rebelled against Jove had taken a whole Mass of black Columns and bound them together like bunches of matches—and then with immense axes had made a cavern in the body of these columns-Of course the roof and floor must be composed of the broken ends of the Columns—such is Fingal's Cave, except that the Sea has done the work of excavations, and is continually dashing there—80 that we walk along the sides of the cave on the pillars which are left as if for convenient stairs. The roof is arched somewhat gothic-wise, and the length of some of the entire side-pillars is fifty feet. About the island you might seat an army of Men each on a pillar. The length of the Cave is 120 feet, and from its extremity the view into the sea, through the large Arch at the entrance—the colour of the columns is a sort of black with a lurking gloom of purple therein. For solemnity and grandeur it far surpasses the finest Cathedral. At the extremity of the Cave there is a small perforation into another cave, at which the waters meeting and buffeting each other there is sometimes produced a report as of a cannon heard as far as Iona, which must be 12 Miles. As we approached in the boat, there was such a fine swell of the sea that the pillars appeared rising immediately out of the crystal. But it is impossible to describe it
Not Aladdin magian
Not St. John in Patmos Isle In the passion of his toil When he saw the churches seven Golden-aisled built up in heaven Gaz'd at such a rugged wonder. As I stood its roofing under Lo! I saw one sleeping there On the marble cold and bare. While the surges wash'd his feet And his garments white did beat Drench'd about the sombre rocks, On his neck his well-grown locks Lifted dry above the Main Were upon the curl again, “What is this? and what art thou ?” Whisper'd I, and touch'd his brow; “What art thou ? and what is this !" Whisper'd I, and strove to kiss The Spirit's hand, to wake his eyes ; Up he started in a trice : “I am Lycidas, "said he, “ Fam'd in funeral MinstrelsyThis was architected thus By the great Oceanus. Here his mighty waters play Hollow Organs all the day, Here, by turns, his dolphins all, Finny palmers great and small, Come to pay devotion dueEach a mouth of pearls must strew! Many a Mortal of these days Dares to pass our sacred ways, Dares to touch, audaciously This Cathedral of the seaI have been the Pontiff-priest, Where the Waters never rest, Where a fledgy sea-bird choir Soars for ever-holy fire I have hid from Mortal Man. Proteus is my Sacristan. But the stupid eye of Mortal Hath pass'd beyond the Rocky portal, So for ever will I leave Such a taint and soon unweave All the magic of the place'Tis now free to stupid faceTo cutters and to fashion boats,
To cravats and to Petticoats.
I am sorry I am so indolent as to write such stuff as this. It can't be helped. The western coast of Scotland is à most strange place—it is composed of rocks, Mountains, mountainous and rocky Islands intersected by lochs—you can go but a short distance anywhere from salt water in the highlands.
I have a slight sore throat and think it best to stay a day or two at Oban—then we shall proceed to Fort William and Inverness, where I am anxious to be on account of a Letter from you. Brown in his Letters puts down every little circumstance. I should like to do the same, but I confess myself too indolent, and besides next winter everything will come up in prime order as we verge on such and such things.
Have you heard in any way of George? I should think by this time he must have landed. I in my carelessness never thought of knowing where a letter would find him on the other side—I think Baltimore, but I am afraid of directing it to the wrong place. I shall begin some chequer work for him directly, and it will be ripe for the post by the time I hear from you next after this. I assure you I often long for a seat and a Cup o' tea at Well Walk, especially now that mountains, castles, and Lakes are becoming common to me. Yet I would rather summer it out, for on the whole I am happier than when I have time to be glum-perhaps it may cure me. Immediately on my return I shall begin studying hard, with a peep at the theatre now and then—and depend upon it I shall be very luxurious.
With respect to Women I think I shall be able to conquer my passions
1 The six lines from "place" to "dance” were judiciously omitted by Keats in copying these verses later.
hereafter better than I have yet done. You will help me to talk of George next winter, and we will go now and then to see Fanny. Let me hear a good account of your health and comfort, telling me truly how you do alone. Remember me to all including Mr. and Mrs. Bentley. Your most affectionate Brother
LXIV.-TO THOMAS KEATS.
Letter Findlay, August 3 .
Ah mio Ben. My dear Tom—We have made but poor progress lately, chiefly from bad weather, for my throat is in a fair way of getting quite well, so I have had nothing of consequence to tell you till yesterday when we went up Ben Nevis, the highest Mountain in Great Britain. On that account I will never ascend another in this empire—Skiddaw is nothing to it either in height or in difficulty. It is above 4300 feet from the Sea level, and Fortwilliam stands at the head of a Salt water Lake, consequently we took it completely from that level.
I am heartily glad it is done—it is almost like a fly crawling up a wainscoat. Imagine the task of mounting ten Saint Pauls without the convenience of Staircases. We set out about five in the morning with a Guide in the Tartan and Cap, and soon arrived at the foot of the first ascent which we immediately began upon. After much fag and tug and a rest and a glass of whisky apiece we gained the top of the first rise and saw then a tremendous chap above us, which the guide said was still far from the top. After the first Rise our way lay along a heath valley in which there was a Loch—after about a Mile in this Valley we began upon the next ascent, more formidable by far than the last, and kept mounting with short intervals of rest until we got above all vegetation, among nothing but loose Stones which lasted us to the very top. The Guide said we had three Miles of a stony ascent-we gained the