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view. About half-way up the mountain, we were much surprised on seeing, all at once, a little to the right of our path, a field-officer's large plain pavilion standing pitched in the jungle. On inquiring we found that old Joe, the major of a detachment, who had preceded us, in spite of his age and infirmities, had attained this altitude, but was unable, with all the mountain contrivances, to proceed further; the thing was impracticable. Unable to ascend, and disdaining to retreat, he resolved to hold the position he had attained during the campaign ; and all allowed that the intrepidity required on his part to abide in this solitary spot, surrounded by ravenous beasts of prey, and inviting, by his unprotected situation, the roving, predatory bands of the enemy, was greater than bearing his share in all the conflicts that could possibly take place during the Nepaul war. Finding, however, that his was to be a standing camp, he resolved, after the old Bengal fashion, to make his abode in the wilderness as comfortable as possible. With great difficulty he had, therefore, contrived to get his large tent of the plains conveyed piecemeal to this unwonted encamping ground, and there, putting them together, might really be said to reign the prince of the desert. Had I time, or the gentle reader patience, I think I could furnish an interesting episode on old Joe, who was indeed a character of the Clive school ; but we must leave him for the present in his jungle and glory, and perhaps shall give him a call on our way back to the plains.
It is curious to observe how circumstances change our appreciation of things. In Scotland a mass of nettles is to some people a disagreeable sight, associated with the description of the sluggard's garden and the weed's envenomed sting; but the sight of them on the mountain-side of Nepaul was hailed with a shout of exultation. Bring me," said a waggish young officer to a sepoy, “a slip of that plant, Jack.” Jack, ever eager to serve his officer, rushed forward to cull a stalk; but what a rebound took place amid the shout of laughter from the Europeans, and wonderment and pain from the stung Hindoo. A somewhat affecting scene took place at the first pine-tree that was met on the march; a young Highlander ran forward, and fondly embraced it.
The lower parts of the mountains were beginning to darken in with the shades of evening, when, through the foliage overhead, suddenly the summit of the mountain was seen, crowned with domes, and minarets, temples, palaces, and handsome dwelling-houses. In most other countries the top of a mountain two thousand feet high is generally left to nature's solitary desolateness; here the character was most interestingly reversed, and after a day's journey up a gloomy, uninhabited mountain, the haunts, of bears, tigers, and elephants, we entered an elegantı city, with its bustling market, cheerful streets, with elegant white stuccoed houses with their arched porticoes, temples lighted for evening service, and vocal with sweeter Hindoo vespers than ever I heard in the cities of the plain ; whilst the noble palace of the old dynasty of Nahn, on the most elevated part of the city, gave to the whole its crowning charm.
Our regiments proceeding through the city, soon found itself on the verge of the northern stupendous declivity of the mountain. Sheer down it went to a depth nearly equal to that from which we bad ascended, where flowed a narrow, dimly seen river; and from it the second range of mountains, rugged, stern, and denuded, rose to the height, as has been already observed, of four thousand feet above the plain. Along the summit of that wild range directly before us, lay the scene of operations then going on; and beyond them the pure white peaks of the Himalaya were still glowing with the lovely blushes of the long-set sun. From the somewhat level outline of the opposite mountain-ridge just mentioned, rose an isolated conical eminence five hundred feet still higher, which I cannot better describe than by desiring the reader to conceive Arthur's Seat placed on the top of that ridge, for it is almost a fac-simile. Fancy, then, the peak of this eminence (Jeytock), five thousand feet above the plain, crowned with a citadel, and we have realised the poetical allusion to “a castle in the air.”
Brave as the Goorkas were, they showed little skill in the art of war. What a fine opportunity, and fearful advantage, they possessed to dispute every step of our advance up the mountain, where, by laying obstacles across the narrow path, and practising the guerilla system from the concealment of the jungle on all sides, they might have rendered an entrance into their mountains almost impracticable, or at least to be effected only after great delay, labour, and bloodshed. Instead of this, however, they retired at once to their strongholds on the peaks, which they considered invulnerable, and where, had they been versed in British literature, they would have exclaimed in the words of Macbeth
“The cry is still, they come ; our castle's strength
Till famine and the ague eat them up." The fortified peak of Jeytuck formed the eastern extremity of the ridge. Upon a rounded eminence on the western end we could distinguish white specks, the British encampment, a mile intervening between the two forces. About half-way, but scarcely distinguishable, little dark mounds marked the position of the British batteries; and betwixt them and Jeytuck stood, in more prominent relief against the snowy range, a Hindoo temple, which was frequented, by turns, by worshippers from both armies.
Early in the following morning we reversed the order of march, by descending the northern side of the mountain—a less arduous but stiil very fatiguing journey. Having, reached the bottom of the sublime chasm, we ascended the opposite range much in the style of the day before ; and just as the sun's last rays were still gilding the tops of the mountains, we were climbing the last feet of the eminence crowned with the British encampment. I shall never forget the sublimely ridiculous object that at this moment presented itself to my view. I was looking up to the turf-crowned rock just above my head, with its miniature hili tents, when, for the purpose of enjoying the evening air and contemplating the sublimity of these regions, stooping from under the low entrance of one of the small pavilions, an officer, famed over all India for his surpassing height and corresponding breadth, issued forth, and then stood erect, in supernatural-like relief against the unclouded sky. I gave vent to my surprise and wonderment by exclaiming, in the words of Byron, “ Lo, where the giant on the mountain stands."
On reaching the summit, and looking round me on an ocean-like tempest of rifted mountain billows, crested to the north with the white foam of Himalaya,
that heaved on all sides, far as the eye could reach, with the exception of the Punjaub champaign, which might be considered as the sea-shore, I turned round to my native tutor, who was an aspirer to the lyric laurel, but who, in his loftiest poetic flight from his native plains in spirit, never expected to be at such an elevation in the body, and said, “Well, Moonshee, in writing to your friends on the plains, how will you express your feelings at being here?” “I will merely say, sir," he replied,
" that if there is a spot on earth more favourable than another for holding communion with the skies, we have now attained it.” Our posts for the night were now assigned us. Mine, with a party of sepoys, was to occupy a succession of narrow rocky ledges projecting from the northern side of the mountain. Here we were stuck upindurance for the night; a false step in front would have precipitated us to destruction into the fearful gulf below. My servants contrived to lower my little sleeping cot to the ledge on which I stood, but the pleasure of occupying it was greatly diminished by the danger of its sliding with its reposer into empty air; I found, however, a partial remedy against this, by stretching out my foot upon the stem of a solitary pine-tree rifted in the mountain-side. Night now “ descended with clouds" on our more than romantic perilous post; and to crown the gloomy grandeur of the whole, the breeze of night awoke its Æolian wild notes, heard for the first time after a long lapse of years, with its solemn sugh amongst the branches of my native pines. “And now," said I, pressing my foot firmly against the friendly fir, "who among the sepoys will give us a song on this great occasion." Ah, sir,” said one of the invisible guard, "how can you speak of singing in such a situation as this?” So for that night I had neither song nor supper.
Wishing the gentle readers serene slumbers in less insecure restingplaces; and, if not too tired with the first two days' journies, we invite them to meet us again, early in the morning, on the mountain-tops of Nepaul.
We place these two volumes together, though published at an interval of four years, because another edition of the first has been announced as forthcoming, and because we prefer to consider them, not as individual books, but as two chapters of a yet unfinished work. In reviewing them, our duties to the general reader will be particularly light, and our responsibilities towards the author especially heavy. Because these books are precisely those which the public should read for itself, from the first chapter to the last; and because the author has assumed function of paramount importance in these times a function which no man taketh to himself but he that is called," and which offers to its candidates the grave alternatives of the oil of anointing or the whip of cords. Of this function we shall speak more at large a few pages hence. And before proceeding to the intrinsic qualities of these “Galleries,” we must pause to take a preliminary objection to the title. A “Literary Portrait" may mean a pen and ink sketch of the outward visible signs which make up the personnel of a literary man, or it may signify a picture of his mental countenance. The “Portraits ” before us are not the first, and cannot be the second. Mr Gilfillan is too prudent to bring his pen into competition with the burin—he has a higher mission than “making faces.” In his two noble volumes there is hardly an attempt at personal delineation ; and in essaying a draft of an author's mental countenance, he would have undertaken what no right hand on earth but the one which was born with that countenance is competent to draw. His WORKS are the only “ Literary Portraits” which an author will acknowledge or posterity recognise.
True of all authors, in the main, this is especially true of the poets, and theirs are the names which shine most thickly down on us from the walls of these “Galleries." Every true poet is a Proteus, and every work of a true poet—in the whole and in its parts, be those parts never 80 varied—is a portrait of one of his many faces ; daguerreotyped often in some moment of unwonted gesticulation, some abnormal attitude or expression—but portrait no less. A dewdrop blood-red with the slanting sun is the same dewdrop that was colder than the stars. When the imagination is so strong as to supply the place of reality, the man who owns it, cæteris non imparibus, is a poet. Ideal circumstances act on his other mental faculties, as real circumstances act on the minds of ordinary men. And herein arises one great distinction between the poet and the poetaster. The poet imagines the circumstances, and feels as a man under them; the poetaster imagines feelings and all. He has no alternative, for the creations of his feeble ideality cannot act upon his passions. The poetaster, therefore, writes in Arabesque. The poet is always true to nature, because he is true to himself; and it is happy for us that he speaks from a heart which if “marred more than that of man" is still human. If the harp were as celestial as the band that strikes it, what mortal bosom could give sympathetic chords? The poetic imagination, then, is supplementary, complementary, and deplementary. Supplementary only as regards the circumstances, complementary and deplementary as regards the mind, of the poet ; for we have every one of us the germs of all good and bad passions, which have only to be magnified or diminished to the relative intensities of the character required. This power of changing the stop of the moral feelings, of regulating and inverting the perspective of the soul, this transmutation which is not metempsychosis, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of “the poet's dream.” Reverse the passes_lay the imagination, and he awakes from the mesmeric sleep to his normal character.
We have been tempted to this digression by the fact that the popular penchant for extremes makes it very difficult to view this subject justly. Nothing is more true than that, in the majority of cases, a poet's life does not harmonise with his works. Nothing is more false than to suppose that a real poet ever created any character, high or low, great or small, male or female, young or old, good or bad, human, angel, or demon, which—by virtue of the poetic metastasis—he was not himself. The mistake is in supposing that he is permanently what he has been temporarily. The children of Florence were right when they cried, “ See the man who was in hell ;” the blunder lies in fancying that he eats, drinks, sleeps, and prays there.
To resume: a“ Literary Portrait ” is equivalent to an author's life and works. A gallery of thirty-six such portraits is synonymous with a respectable library. We cannot, therefore, look upon the books before us as such a gallery, and shall not treat them as “Literary Portraits " at all. We prefer to consider them the studio-talk of an accomplished artist. We need no reference to title-pages for the respective dates of the volumes, they are written in every line. In the first we hear the lectures of the young professor, proud of his subject, fresh from his books, and blood-warm to the tips of his ears. Healthy, hearty, vigorous, clear-eyed, deep-lunged, as a mountaineer, with the fervid gesture of unaffected zeal, the fine self-sufficing enthusiasm of genius and youth, he goes through his part in a rapturous energy, which never acknowledges, by one stray glance, the presence of an audience. No man will criticise him at the first reading. The vigorous home-thrusts of his shortsentences, the earnest thundering momentum of his long stops, startle the reader from his critical equilibrium, and hurry him, panting, till his blood is up, and “ the pace is too good to inquire.” In the second, we have the gossip of the maturer artist, striding, brush in hand, from favourite to favourite on the wall, here bringing out some old "fade" colour with a careless, passing touch, there stopping to point with hairbreadth pencil-tip to some unnoticed stroke, some strange chromatic, some glaze of atmosphere. Now loud in the enthusiasm of sympathy with aspiring excellence—now hushed and reverent before the consummated glories of some “Michel piu che mortale Angelo divino!" or standing wrapt and earnest, as some significant face, or historic group, or beloved memorial, warms him to the eloquence of panegyric or reproof, dissertation or disquisition, elegiac sighs, or heartfelt benediction.
Each volume has its peculiar excellencies and characteristic faults. We lay down the first with a warmer cheek than the second, but we feel that we could less easily dispense with the second than the first. Some grand fundamental properties are common to both. Honesty, charity, poetry, and courage, appear to be the leading features of the author's mind; and these features, informed and vivified by an unfailing faith, look out from every chapter in his work. And uncompleted as we must consider that work, it would be injustice to view it otherwise than as a whole. There are some houses-Aristophanes to the contrary, notwithstanding—which can be very fairly bought and sold by the brick; we are not now dealing with one of those. True, there are stones, not a few, about the building which one might pick out and set like jewels. Such gems as these : “Milton drew sometimes out of other mens wells with a golden pitcher, which consecrated and hallowed what he drew." He plagiarised" as Apollo might place upon his own golden bow arrows cut from the woods of Delphi.” “The Milky-way—that unbanked river of stars-that abyss which is foaming with worlds.” “Keats's genius lay in his body like sunfire in a dewdrop-at once beautifying and burning it up." * Byron-a demoniac, exceeding fierce, and dwell ing among the tombs." "Paradise Lost-it stands alone unequalled';