A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland

A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland

第59章 MULL(2)

It is natural,in traversing this gloom of desolation,to inquire,whether something may not be done to give nature a more cheerful face,and whether those hills and moors that afford heath cannot with a little care and labour bear something better?The first thought that occurs is to cover them with trees,for that in many of these naked regions trees will grow,is evident,because stumps and roots are yet remaining;and the speculatist hastily proceeds to censure that negligence and laziness that has omitted for so long a time so easy an improvement.

To drop seeds into the ground,and attend their growth,requires little labour and no skill.He who remembers that all the woods,by which the wants of man have been supplied from the Deluge till now,were self-sown,will not easily be persuaded to think all the art and preparation necessary,which the Georgick writers prescribe to planters.Trees certainly have covered the earth with very little culture.They wave their tops among the rocks of Norway,and might thrive as well in the Highlands and Hebrides.

But there is a frightful interval between the seed and timber.He that calculates the growth of trees,has the unwelcome remembrance of the shortness of life driven hard upon him.He knows that he is doing what will never benefit himself;and when he rejoices to see the stem rise,is disposed to repine that another shall cut it down.

Plantation is naturally the employment of a mind unburdened with care,and vacant to futurity,saturated with present good,and at leisure to derive gratification from the prospect of posterity.He that pines with hunger,is in little care how others shall be fed.

The poor man is seldom studious to make his grandson rich.It may be soon discovered,why in a place,which hardly supplies the cravings of necessity,there has been little attention to the delights of fancy,and why distant convenience is unregarded,where the thoughts are turned with incessant solicitude upon every possibility of immediate advantage.

Neither is it quite so easy to raise large woods,as may be conceived.Trees intended to produce timber must be sown where they are to grow;and ground sown with trees must be kept useless for a long time,inclosed at an expence from which many will be discouraged by the remoteness of the profit,and watched with that attention,which,in places where it is most needed,will neither be given nor bought.That it cannot be plowed is evident;and if cattle be suffered to graze upon it,they will devour the plants as fast as they rise.Even in coarser countries,where herds and flocks are not fed,not only the deer and the wild goats will browse upon them,but the hare and rabbit will nibble them.It is therefore reasonable to believe,what I do not remember any naturalist to have remarked,that there was a time when the world was very thinly inhabited by beasts,as well as men,and that the woods had leisure to rise high before animals had bred numbers sufficient to intercept them.

Sir James Macdonald,in part of the wastes of his territory,set or sowed trees,to the number,as I have been told,of several millions,expecting,doubtless,that they would grow up into future navies and cities;but for want of inclosure,and of that care which is always necessary,and will hardly ever be taken,all his cost and labour have been lost,and the ground is likely to continue an useless heath.

Having not any experience of a journey in Mull,we had no doubt of reaching the sea by day-light,and therefore had not left Dr.

Maclean's very early.We travelled diligently enough,but found the country,for road there was none,very difficult to pass.We were always struggling with some obstruction or other,and our vexation was not balanced by any gratification of the eye or mind.

We were now long enough acquainted with hills and heath to have lost the emotion that they once raised,whether pleasing or painful,and had our mind employed only on our own fatigue.We were however sure,under Col's protection,of escaping all real evils.There was no house in Mull to which he could not introduce us.He had intended to lodge us,for that night,with a gentleman that lived upon the coast,but discovered on the way,that he then lay in bed without hope of life.

We resolved not to embarrass a family,in a time of so much sorrow,if any other expedient could he found;and as the Island of Ulva was over-against us,it was determined that we should pass the strait and have recourse to the Laird,who,like the other gentlemen of the Islands,was known to Col.We expected to find a ferry-boat,but when at last we came to the water,the boat was gone.

We were now again at a stop.It was the sixteenth of October,a time when it is not convenient to sleep in the Hebrides without a cover,and there was no house within our reach,but that which we had already declined.

Samuel Johnson