Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

along the firths, and by the sea, small fields of barley and oats, which would not yield the most scanty subsistence to the poor inhabitants if the rocks did not afford pasture for cattle and numerous flocks of sheep; and if the sea, the firths, which abound with fish, as well as the rivers and lakes, did not contribute some part of their riches. The hardy Highland Scots, a great part of whom do not understand, or at all events do not speak English, but still commonly use the Celtic or Gaelic tongue, live here thinly scattered in poor and low peat cabins, which it is often difficult to distinguish from the surrounding rocks. The Highlanders in the districts farthest towards the west and north have preserved their language and other national characteristics purest; for farther towards the Lowlands, a more modern civilization has gradually forced its way forwards, in spite of the mountains. The old warlike dress which formerly distinguished the Highlander, particularly so long as clanship was in full vigour, has, since the annihilation of that system, become every day more rare. The kilt, or short skirt, has almost entirely given place to more modern clothing; the tartan plaid alone is still seen wrapped in the old fashion round the shoulders of the Highlander.

In our days the various tribes of the Highland and Lowland populations live in peaceful union under one and the same government. But during several centuries Scotland was the theatre of the most sanguinary contests between the Celtic Highlanders and the Teutonic Lowlanders. The former, who were animated with an inveterate hatred of the Lowlanders, continually made hostile incursions into the Lowlands, and, after burning and ravaging the country, retired with cattle and other booty to their mountains, whither they knew well the Lowlanders durst not follow them. The exasperation and hatred of the Highlanders were not entirely without foundation. In ancient times they had been sole masters in Scotland, from the Cheviot Hills to the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea; and they had retained this mastery even long after their kinsmen, the Britons in England, had been compelled to yield to the Romans and Anglo-Saxons.

The celebrated Roman commander, Agricola, had, it is true, in the first century after the birth of Christ, made his way so far into the Lowlands that, as a defence against the Highlanders—the much-dreaded Caledonians, or Picts —he constructed a wall with a deep ditch before it, from the Firth of Forth to that of Clyde, in the low tract through which the Glasgow Canal has since been conducted. The Romans even extended their conquests farther northwards, as far as Burghead on the Moray Firth, to which place they formed regular high roads. But they were not able to defend themselves against the persevering attacks of the Caledonians, or Picts, and were soon obliged to retreat to the south of the Cheviot Hills; where the great wall, with its many towers and deep ditches, which they had built from the Solway Firth to the River Tyne, became their chief defence against the harassing inroads of the Highland warriors. But this wall also was surmounted by the Picts, whose courage and daring increased in proportion as the power of the Romans, both at home and abroad, was rapidly waning. At last the Picts destroyed the wall, and after the fall of the Roman dominion, made incursions into England, where neither the descendants of the Romans, nor the Britons, found any means to repel them. It was not till the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England that the Picts were again compelled to fly towards the north over the Cheviot Hills, where they found sufficient employment in defending their own homes.

For, whilst they were spreading themselves over the rich plains of the north of England, a foreign, though nearly related, Celtic people, the Scots from Ireland, had taken possession of their south-western frontier districts. Hence they spread themselves to such a degree over the Lowlands that both these and the Highlands, though the

r

latter were almost entirely independent of the Scottish sovereigns, were called by one name, Scotland. After many battles the older Pictish inhabitants were, about the year 900, entirely amalgamated with the Scots in the Lowlands. Meanwhile a storm had gathered which threatened no less danger to the Scots in the Lowlands, than to their kinsmen, the Picts, in the Highlands. The dominion of the Celts, which had long before ceased in other and more accessible lands, was no longer to find a sure place of refuge even in Scotland, though its coasts were protected by the stormy Northern Sea, and its interior filled with rocks and warlike men.

Section II.

The Anglo-Saxons.—The Danes and Norwegians.—Effects of their Expeditions.

The same want of unity and the same internal disputes which had brought ruin on the Celts in other places, prepared the way for foreign conquerors in Scotland. An indomitable fate decreed that the newer and higher civilization of Christianity should here, as in the rest of Europe, be founded and promoted by a Teutonic people. But though the Anglo-Saxons had conquered almost all England, they were not able, by their own power, to subdue the Celts in Scotland. The Anglo-Saxon kings undertook, indeed, several expeditions against that country, in which they were at times pretty successful; but they were not able to hold steady possession even of the Lowlands. Subsequently, however, the Anglo-Saxons wandered by degrees, and in a more peaceful manner, from the northernmost parts of England over the Scottish border, and established themselves both in the towns and in the rural districts. The number of these emigrants appeal's to have increased very considerably after the con

K a

quests of the Danes and Norwegians in the midland and northern districts of England in the ninth and tenth centuries, when a great part of the Anglo-Saxons were driven from their old dwellings, and obliged to fly towards the north. Saxon institutions may even have been introduced into the Lowlands in the tenth and eleventh centuries, after an expedition of the Anglo-Saxon king Edgar. But the rocky highlands of the interior constantly defied all conquest; and the northern and western coasts, together with the surrounding islands, could be subdued only by considerable fleets, which the Anglo-Saxons did not possess.

But what in this respect the Anglo-Saxons were obliged to leave undone, was for the most part accomplished by the warlike and shrewd men of the Scandinavian North, who were then masters of the sea. Even from the oldest times, connections, both of a warlike and peaceful nature, had existed between Scotland and the opposite shores of Scandinavia. The old Sagas, for instance, bear witness that the Danish king Frode's daughter, Ulfhilde, was married to " the founder of the Scottish kingdom;" and that the Danish prince Amleth (Hamlet) married the Scotch queen, Hermuntrude. From Denmark, moreover, and particularly from Jutland, many colonists afterwards emigrated to the Scotch Lowlands, whose coasts were, besides, plundered by the Danish Vikings.

The Danish colonists, even in the north of England, were much mixed with Norwegians, and this was still more the case in the Scottish Lowlands, The more north the districts lay, the farther were they removed from Denmark, and the nearer did they approach Norway; whilst the features of the country much more resembled the Norwegian fiords, valleys, and rocks. Whilst, therefore, the Scandinavian colonists in the Lowlands were of NorwegianDanish descent, the Highlands and islands farthest towards the north and west, were conquered, and in part peopled, by Norwegians only. This happened about the same time

k

as the Danish conquests and settlements in England. The Norwegians founded kingdoms on the northern and western coasts of Scotland, which existed for centuries after the destruction of the Danish power in England. They introduced their own manners, customs, and laws, and gave Norwegian names to the places colonized by them. They appear not unfrequently to have married native Celts; at least it is often stated that Norwegian chiefs married daughters of the Celtic, or Pictish, and Scotch aristocracy, whose pure nationality and power were thus gradually broken down. The unfortunate Celts were now in a painful position. The Celtic Scots in the Lowlands were pressed upon by the Anglo-Saxons and Northmen, whilst the Pictish Highlanders were assailed both from the Lowlands and from the Norwegian kingdoms in the west and north. The most essential result of the Norwegian conquests and settlements in the Scotch Highlands was, that the Northmen, in conjunction with the Norwegian-Danish colonists in the Lowlands, and with the Anglo-Saxons who dwelt there, overthrew the Celtic dominion, and, like the Danes in England, prepared the way for the eventual triumph of the Norman spirit and Norman institutions. In the Lowlands this took place in the twelfth century, but much later in the Highlands and surrounding islands.

As a close union was thus effected between the longseparated Highlands and Lowlands, and a higher and more widely-diffused civilization introduced among the people in both, it may justly be asserted that the Norwegian conquests in the Highlands, and the Norwegian-Danish settlements in the Lowlands, were particularly fortunate for Scotland. It must always, indeed, be a subject of regret that so brave, and in many respects so noble, a people as the Caledonians and their descendants, should be exterminated. Who can observe without a feeling of sadness how the last feeble remnants of Scotland's ancient masters, after having been expelled from the glorious Lowlands, cannot even now find rest among the barren rocks, and in the few

« НазадПродовжити »